Ages 9-11 [Upper Key Stage 2] 2018

More reviews added November 2nd 2018

The Afterwards, A. F. Harrold, illustrated by Emily Gravett

Bloomsbury ISBN 9781408894316 £12.99

Remarkably powerful friendships are becoming a trademark of A.F. Harrold. For those who enjoyed The Imaginary, here is another very different tale of loyalty: comical, moving, yet darkly disturbing by turns. Ember and Ness are best friends who lark about and share everything- then Ness dies suddenly and Ember is utterly bereft. When, through the disturbed behaviour of her Uncle Graham she finds herself in the Afterworld, Ember determines to rescue her friend who is fading fast. Enter one extraordinary cat, the irksome Mrs Todd, a colourless Afterworld and something lurking in the front room of a house. This is an unsettling book, despite the warm and witty illustrations by Gravett. Written for children aged 8/9 upwards, it is, in parts, really scary. It tackles deep loss and at times, the protagonist puts herself at great risk. The behaviour of some of the adult characters is profoundly unnerving, so thank goodness for the cat! Don’t forget to re-read the fabulously illustrated prologue at the end.
Sue Barrett, retired teacher and lecturer

Back on Weird Street, Anne Fine

Barrington Stoke ISBN 9781781129 £5.99

A three-story collection ideal for children who like their stories to be scary but set among familiar surroundings. Three friends share tales about strange happenings in houses in their street - a deserted garden, a spooky cellar which hides a sad story and a message in a dream which leads to the finding of treasure. The short, well-spaced paragraphs make this book an attractive option for emerging readers who are growing in confidence. Anne Fine’s descriptions are deceptively simple but well- executed giving the reader a feeling that they are reading a ‘proper book’. The past and the present are believably mixed up and all three stories contain aspects such as ravens, whispers, creaks and chills down spines that children will recognise as elements of a ghost tale. Back on Weird Street would also make a good book for reading aloud or adapting for drama. Age range: 8 to 12.
Helen Cook, retired Primary School teacher

Bombs and Blackberries: A World War Two Play, Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Thomas Docherty

Hodder Children’s Books ISBN 9781444938791 £12.99

This is the hard-pressed teacher’s answer to prayer, especially but not essentially if they are still including a study of WW2 in their history curriculum: a play about the evacuation, the Manchester blitz and its effects on the lives of all those caught up in any or all of it. Written by Julia Donaldson, it has all the necessary ingredients: lots of parts, short lines that are more likely to be memorised and suggestions for staging and costumes. Whilst the endpoint might be a production – there are rich seams to be mined in terms of developing children’s understanding of a major event in our history and the social mores of the time, together with developing an understanding of the structure of a play and all the skills necessary for a public performance. Thomas Docherty’s illustrations enhance the text and provide a very useful set of reference points for those pupils tasked with staging and costume production. One minor quibble: the introduction suggests that this can be staged, read in class or at home. Why read a play at home alone? Age range: 8+.
Elizabeth Broad, former Head of Primary ITT, University of Roehampton and UKLA National Council member

The Book of Boy, Catherine Gilbert-Murdock

Chicken House ISBN 9781911490579 £6.99

The Book of Boy is a fantasy adventure story set in Europe in the year 1350, just after the death and destruction caused by the Black Death, when over a third of Europe’s population died. It is the story of Boy, a hunchback goat-herd on a French estate, who can communicate with animals but not with humans. He is taken along by the mystery man Secundus on his quest to steal seven precious relics. Boy hopes that collecting these relics will alter his misshapen appearance. This story reminds us of the importance of the Church in medieval times, and the part played in that by relics. Relics brought pilgrims, money and wealth to churches and monasteries. Owning relics made Kings and Queens important and helped them to get God to do their bidding. The story unfolds rapidly, keeping readers fully engaged with the plot. Boy grows up as he discovers things on his adventure, and we realise that appearances aren’t everything. Amusing and shocking in turn, this is a great read for older pupils. Age range: upper KS2.
Alf Wilkinson, The Historical Association

The Boy at the Back of the Class, Onjali Q Raúf

Orion Children’s Books ISBN 9781510105010 £6.99

An accomplished novel for children aged 9-11 examining the issues surrounding the current refugee problem. Onjali Q Raúf has created a very recognisable group of friends and their classroom life through her careful characterisation and descriptions of events. Most children will recognise the school bully, the unpopular teacher and the respected adults in the school environment as well as the intricacies of friendships and family life. Four children are keen to make friends with a new boy who has arrived in their Year 5 class at a school in London. The new pupil, Ahmet, is a mystery. He is uncommunicative and frightened, spending all his time with an adult helper. Slowly the friends discover that he is a refugee from Syria and that he is living in Britain without his parents. So begins an excellently handled exploration of the issues surrounding the refugee situation, and a resolution for Ahmet is reached through the straightforward problem solving skills of four nine year olds. This novel is full of wonderful opportunities for PHSE work as well as looking into how the media works and asking questions about the ways in which facts can be skewed to fuel bigotry and ignorance. It also sends out a strong message that ordinary people can make a difference where it is needed. Highly recommended as an important read for both older children and adults.
Helen Cook, retired KS2 teacher at St Illtyd’s Primary School, Llantwit Major

The Company of Eight, Harriet Whitehorn

Stripes Publishing ISBN 9781847159229 £6.99

This is a fantasy adventure story set in the Longest World, a series of islands and archipelagos. It is the story of Cass, a young acrobat who wants to join the renowned Circus Ship touring the world. It is a story of pirates, swords and magic – set in the world of circus, where anything is possible and probably will happen! The mysterious ‘Company of Eight’ is out to save the world and end a trade in slaves, and Cass is invited to join them. Needless to say all is well in the end. Some of the language might be a little difficult for KS2, but strong readers will enjoy the fantasy world created by the author, featuring life in the circus. Adventures happen at a relentless pace, keeping the reader gripped. If you like fantasy worlds of circus and pirates then this book is a treat.
Alf Wilkinson, The Historical Association

The Girl Who Saw Lions, Berlie Doherty

Andersen Press ISBN 9781783446469 £6.99

This is a reissue of a book published in 2007 called Abela, but if you do not have a copy it is well worth buying. It is the story of two young girls, Abela who lives in Tanzania and Rosa who lives in England. It follows the girls through trauma and tragedy until their stories finally come together. Abela, in particular, has a terrible time as her family die of Aids; she suffers FGM and is then brought to England as an illegal immigrant. Rosa’s mother wants to adopt a child and Rosa has to overcome all the concerns that she has about sharing her mother and her life being turned upside down. This is a truly stunning book but I quite agree with the recommendation that it is for 11+, the very top of our range. Whilst the subject matter is dealt with sympathetically most readers would need some support in understanding and talking about the major issues raised. The emotions that this book raises are strong and I don’t think that it can fail to make people think about what is going on. It is highly recommended as a focal point for discussion and further research. Berlie Doherty has given us a book that soaks into our hearts and is one of those wonderful books that swirl around in your head for a long time.
Margaret Pemberton, School Library Adviser

The Girl with the Lost Smile, Miranda Hart, illustrated by Kate Hindley

Hodder Children's Books ISBN 9781444941845 £6.99

I found this book rather a struggle to engage with initially. The somewhat simplistic, and at times clumsy, language jarred as I read and I found the consistent emboldening of selected words and phrases throughout the text rather distracting. It tells the tale of Chloe, who on her eleventh birthday, miserable with her parents’ seemingly dismissive attitude towards her, lost her smile. The subsequent quest to find it takes us on a journey into Chloe’s own imaginary land where she finds her wildest joys alongside a raft of quests and challenges. The more I read the more it absorbed me, and the ultimate message of the story, that if one has hope, courage and love you can always find a smile, is salutary. There is of course the obligatory happy-ending, and there are no sophisticated surprises but that is fine. I ended up really enjoying the story, and although I maintain that I have read better fiction from far lesser known authors, The Girl with the Lost Smile really found its way into my head. Of all the children’s books that I have read recently this is the one I find myself thinking about and I keep finding myself smiling at dour strangers – just like Chloe! Age range: 9 to 11.
Laura Manison Shore, Senior Lecturer in Early Years & Primary Education, UWE, Bristol

The Great Sea Dragon Discovery, Pippa Goodhart

Catnip ISBN 9781910611081 £6.99

An informative adventure story set in Cambridgeshire in 1860. Bill is curious about the world around him. One of his experiments causes his father to lose his job. We feel his father’s pain and shame. Bill tries to help his family by selling fossils he has found, but he does not make much money. Then he makes an amazing discovery of a crocodile head. This is an exciting story that provides insight into life in Victorian days - a time when Darwin and dinosaurs were changing people’s perspective on the world. The subject matter is a mix of historical fact and fiction. We learn about coprolites and why they were mined, Mary Anning, Adam Sedgwick and ichthyosaurs. An excellent introduction to natural history, and an enjoyable read for children aged 9 upwards.
Brenda Marshall, SATIPS Council

Human World A Visual Compendium of Wonders From Human History, Amanda Wood and Mike Jolley

Wide Eyed Editions ISBN 9781847809933 £17.99

A stunning collection of 60 information charts about human history that follow cultures and civilisations from prehistoric times through to modern times. We learn about the world’s first cities, how writing evolved, the history of money, and the invention of everyday things like soap and false teeth. I particularly enjoyed the sections on The Discovery of Metal, The Great Food Exchange, The Story of Salt, and A Brief History of Boats. There is plenty of information, and the pages are a good balance of text and illustration. The charts are colour-coded according to human history, art and culture and science, trade and technology. The reader can browse, read the book from beginning to end, or use the coloured arrows to lead backwards or forwards to related information. This adds to the book’s appeal as each visit can be a new journey. The book jacket opens out into a poster about Life in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds. This visual history of mankind informs and inspire young minds and is highly recommended for children aged 9+.
Brenda Marshall, SATIPS Council

The Ice Garden, Guy Jones

Chicken House ISBN 9781911490043 £6.99

Jess lives her life, quite literally, in the shadows; she suffers from a skin condition which is triggered by exposure to light and when she goes out she is dressed like an astronaut or beekeeper. Then she sneaks out to the local park at night and discovers a weird and wonderful garden that is totally frozen. When she meets a boy called Owen, made of ice, she discovers a new world of opportunities, but how does all of this link with the unconscious boy called Davey, she has seen in hospital? This really is a magical story about coping with adversity and learning to be happy about yourself. Jess is a strong-willed character who is frustrated by the limitations put upon her, so she keeps testing the boundaries. She loves writing stories and this helps her cope although she misses going to school and making friends. At a personal level this story leaves you with a warm glow and a sense of hope as we see Jess work her way through a series of problems. As a text for school this is a brilliant book for supporting empathy, discussing disability in its many forms and understanding that we are not limited by our circumstances.
Margaret Pemberton, School Library Adviser

Jake Atlas and the Hunt for the Feathered God, Rob Lloyd Jones

Walker Books ISBN 9781406377712 £6.99

In this second instalment of the adventures of the Atlas family, treasure-hunters extraordinaire, Jake and Pandora are in training in England until they are whisked off to the steamy jungles of Honduras to find another of the hidden tablets. The People of the Snake are causing trouble and trying to obliterate the secret history of humankind. Jake and his family must solve the clues to find the tablet before it disappears forever. A mixture of cheeky intuition and high-tech gadgetry is involved in the hunt, which ends inside a mountain in the lost city of the Aztecs where, despite all the clever traps set by the Aztecs, they find the crystal coffin of Quetzalcoatl containing the tablet. Can they get the tablet away from the other treasure-hunters and defeat the aims of the People of the Snake again as the mountain crumbles around and above them? The incessant bickering of the family gives the high-tech adventures a realistic touch, but the action is nonstop. Once you get into this book I defy you to put it down! Age range: 9-12.
Alf Wilkinson, The Historical Association

Kidglovz, Julie Hunt, illustrated by Dale Newman

The Australian Coucil of Arts/Allen and Unwin ISBN 9781742378527 £9.99

A pleasingly hefty book of 270 pages, at first this appears to be a lengthy read, but when you open the pages and see it is a graphic novel, your perceptions change. This is a strange and other-worldly tale of young piano prodigy Kidglovz whose unbelievable talents are woven into the gloves he wears and that give him his name. He is being exploited by the wicked Dr Eronius Spin, and immediately our sympathies are with the young boy. The story is thrilling and tense, cleverly told by a perfect combination of text, mainly in speech bubbles, and black and white comic-strip type illustrations. Julie Hunt has dreamed up a most unusual storyline and Dale Newman’s sensitive visuals help to make this a most accessible book. There are plenty of baddies and some interesting goodies woven into the tale, to keep us involved, and wondering what will happen next as Kidglovz tries to escape. It’s interesting that this has been published by the Australia Council for the Arts, an indication of the realisation that graphic novels are an increasingly important and popular genre. Age range: 8–11.
Pam Dowson, retired primary teacher and PGCE tutor

Living on the Veg A kids' guide to life without meat, Clive Gifford and Jacqueline Meldrum

Wayland ISBN 9781526306098 £12.99

This is a bright, inviting book for children who want to find out more about going veggie. It starts with a section on the history of vegetarianism, and mentions some vegetarians in history, including Leonardo da Vinci and Mary Shelley. Different vegetarian diets are explained, and the book explores some of the reasons why people turn vegetarian. Gifford then includes answers to a range of questions that vegetarians are asked. The need for a balanced diet and healthy eating is explained, and practical tips and suggestions are included. There are warnings about non-vegetarian ingredients that are sometimes found in what seem to be suitable foods, and tips about how to cope when eating out. Jacqueline Meldrum, the vegetarian blogger of www., contributes over 20 pages of vegetarian recipes and at the end of the book there is a list of websites, glossary and index. The book is informative, interesting and friendly in its approach and is recommended for Upper KS2.
Brenda Marshall, SATIPS Council’

The Mediterranean, Armin Greder

Allen & Unwin ISBN 9781760634018 £12.99

For those who read The Island by the same author, this is another hard hitting, thought provoking wordless picture book with a powerful message. This one, I think, would suit not only upper end primary years but also early secondary pupils. In addition, the context and content have a dual audience too and adults should read it. The book tells the important story of what happened in the Mediterranean when a small vessel sank off the Sicilian Coast with three hundred migrants on board. The illustrations are unflinching in their subject matter, but are not gratuitous in any way. Rather they tell the story of the shared sea that has become a mass grave through devastating images of swirling charcoal. The story is illuminated in words in the afterword by Alessandro Leogrande. This book offers an opportunity to discuss issues of migration, injustice and refugees and the risks and choices that have to be made in harrowing circumstances. The Mediterranean demonstrates that an image can tell a thousand stories and that words can, at times, not be necessary to make people aware of the plights of thousands across the world today. Age range: 9-13.
Isabel Macdonald, Professional Tutor, Institute of Education

Music Legends: 40 Inspiring Icons, Hervé Guilleminot, illustrated by Jérôme Masi

Wide Eyed Editions ISBN 9781786031495 £9.99

An excellent introduction to 40 musicians. Each entry has an illustration, a biography and additional information that explains what makes the icon distinctive. There is also background information such as a description of the Hippy Movement, the protest songs of the 70s and punk rock, and rap and grime in the 80’s and 90’s. Musicians include Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Madonna, Beyoncé, Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, The Sex Pistols, U2, Blur and Wu-Tang Clan. Information is presented in a clear, accessible way, with a chronology that gives a sense of development. The book offers much to inspire KS2 children. At £9.99 for a hardback it is good value for money. Age range: 7 to 10.
Brenda Marshall, SATIPS Council

The Mystery of the Colour Thief, Ewa Jozefkowicz, illustrated by Sophie Gilmour

Zephyr ISBN 9781786698940 £10.99

This is a haunting and moving debut novel with a mystery that grips the reader to the end. Twelve-year-old Izzy is going through a dreadful time in her life: her mother lies in an induced coma after an accident for which Izzy blames herself; her father is finding it difficult to cope, her best friend has just deserted her for someone ‘cooler’ and now she is experiencing nightmares. This last involves someone stealing colours from her, so that they leach out of the beloved mural painted by her mother above her bed. This is just one of the ways in which the author explores the mood and mental state of her heroine. Fortunately, an unexpected school friend and a new neighbour, Toby, not to mention a small cygnet called Spike all contribute to bringing Izzy’s resilience to the fore and the start of the healing process. Not nearly as gloomy as it sounds, this book has humour, brilliant characterisation and a page-turning plot which balances both pace and reflection. Y5/6 will have much to discuss and explore through drama here which could lead to some sensitive writing. A real find.
Sue Barrett, retired teacher and lecturer

The People Awards, Lily Murray, illustrated by Ana Alberto

Lincoln Children’s Books ISBN 9781786030634 £12.99

A beautiful book that celebrates fifty historical figures who changed the world. Interesting prizes are awarded such as The Curiosity Award (Albert Einstein), The One Voice Award (Malala Yousafzai), The Express Yourself Award (David Bowie), Ernö Rubik. Some are famous, such as Vincent Lingiari, Sejong the Great and Katherine Johnson, are less well-known. Biographical information is provided on all prize winners, explaining why they deserve their awards. A bypresentations. Thought-provoking and inspirational, the book is highly recommended for children aged 9 +.
Brenda Marshall, SATIPS Council

Poetry for a Change: A National Poetry Day Anthology, compiled by the Forward Arts Foundation, illustrated by Chie Hosaka

Otter-Barry Books ISBN 9781910959503 £6.99

This slim volume, published in time for National Poetry Day (October 4th in 2018) contains new poems by well-known, award-winning poets, who have also chosen favourite poems to share. The whole is thus a rich seam which yields much material to support poetry work in the classroom, and not only in October. The notion of asking living poets to contribute not only a work of their own, but a poem that has inspired them, ensures that there is breadth and depth, with modern poems juxtaposed with much, much older material. A message for pupils that poems that have been around for some time still have relevance and can provide inspiration for living writers is a powerful one. The book also contains short biographies of the contributors and some useful notes on ways to approach poetry. A lot packed into a small space. Age range: 8+.
Elizabeth Broad, former Head of Primary ITT, University of Roehampton and UKLA National Council member

Run Wild, Gill Lewis

Barrington Stoke ISBN 9781781128282 £6.99

Izzy and her friend Asha are determined to follow their hobby of skateboarding, but using the board park is almost impossible because of the two ‘Skull’ brothers, the local bullies. When they find a way into a local disused gasworks it seems to be the answer to their problems. Then they find that the site is already occupied – by an injured wolf. Added to all of this they discover that the site is about to be sold and the Skull brothers have also found their new hideout. Trying to save their haven and the wolf seems impossible, but Izzy and Asha are determined to preserve the amazing wilderness that they have found. This is a truly delightful story about family, friendship and bullying and the way in which children can support each other when times are bad. However it also reminds us that there are times when you have to actually ask for help. This is also an evocation and celebration of nature and the need to have somewhere that is open and gives a sense of freedom, especially when you live in an urban environment. This is an excellent read aimed at the 8-12 age range but with a reading age of 8 years. Gill Lewis is well known for her wonderful books in which the natural world takes a starring role. In this book she has given us a great story but also an excellent text for use in the classroom when discussing wildlife, environment etc. It is thoroughly recommended. Age range: 8 to 12
Margaret Pemberton, School Library Adviser

Speed Birds, Alan Snow

OUP ISBN 9780192758729 £14.99

An exceptional book. A young crow is impressed by the speed of a peregrine falcon, the world fastest bird. He is inspired to work with other crows and create the Speed Bird, a car that will enable him to go faster than any other bird. This is a fascinating story about inspiration, creativity, curiosity, self-belief, perseverance and team work. There is also much information about how cars work. The illustrations are stunning and repay close observation. Each double page is a visual treat. Highly recommended for Upper KS2.
Brenda Marshall, SATIPS Council

Tomi: Tomi Reichental’s Holocaust Story retold by Eithne Massey

O’Brien Press ISBN 9781847179753 £8.99

Tomi is the story of Tomi Reichental, a young boy growing up in a small village in Slovakia in the late 1930s and 1940s, who gets caught up in the cataclysmic events of World War Two. Tomi is Jewish. He describes an ideal rural childhood, growing up in an extended family on a small farm – hard work but rewarding. All this changed when the Nazis occupied Slovakia in 1944. After years of minor persecution by Slovaks, Jews were now rounded up and deported to concentration camps. At the age of 9, Tomi found himself in Bergen-Belsen camp, along with many members of his family. Altogether, 35 members of his extended family were to die in concentration camps. Tomi describes growing up and his experiences of anti-Semitism in a matter of fact way, which actually seems to make them more shocking. He describes the greed and selfishness of ordinary Slovak people, as well as the fanaticism of the Nazis. There are also acts of kindness by inmates, and, surprisingly, by one or two of the guards. Tomi is one of the lucky ones. He survived, and returned briefly to his home village. He then moved to Israel to rebuild his life, and wouldn’t talk about his experiences for many, many years. This is an extremely readable book, dealing with emotive and controversial issues in a sensitive way. Upper KS 2 pupils will find it thought-provoking and some of the content challenging. I t is a perfect way into the topic of the Holocaust.
Alf Wilkinson, The Historical Association

Warrior Boy, Virginia Clay

Chicken House ISBN 9781911490371 £6.99

13-year-old Ben knows that he is half Kenyan; that his father who died before he was born was a Maasai warrior and that there is a whole part of his family he has never met in Africa. Ben also knows that he finds it hard to forge a place for himself in his London school; that the dreams he has of becoming a doctor are hard to fulfil because of his phobia of blood. Warrior Boy tells the exciting story of Ben’s journey to understand his African roots, the conquering of his phobia and his growing understanding of who he is and what he is capable of. Virginia Clay has written with the confidence of someone who knows and understands the subject she is examining. The details of Maasai culture and tradition are incorporated effortlessly into the story and make for very interesting reading. Ben and his cousin Kip encounter just enough danger and peril to test their rites of passage into young manhood and this is handled well by the writer. Issues surrounding identity, culture, adolescence, wildlife and environmental responsibility run throughout the novel and would make good topics for discussion with Year 5 and 6 children. The story moves along at a good pace and could easily be split up into sections if read aloud as a class reader. Confident readers will appreciate the mature tone and I believe that Warrior Boy will appeal to boys as well as girls. Highly recommended. Age range: 10/11.
Helen Cook, retired Primary School teacher.
Publication date September 2018

What Manor of Murder? Christopher William Hill

Orchard Books ISBN 9781408332931 £ 6.99

Enid Blyton meets Agatha Christie in this retro crime mystery. Twins Eustace and Horatio leave their boarding school for Michaelmas to stay with their Aunt and Uncle at Bleakley Manor for a family gathering collecting Oliver, a ‘Poor Unfortunate’ (orphan) on the way. Eustace is hoping for a mystery to solve and buys a notebook just in case. Other guests arrive including an eccentric Egyptologist, a crime writing great aunt and a light fingered Reverend. The scene is set. Unsurprisingly Eustace’s wishes come true when first one then two bodies are found. Has the legendary creature Old Bramble Head risen up from the marshes? Or was it the likely suspect, Percival, a servant who has spent time behind bars? Predictably, the inspector who arrives to apprehend the murderer proves incompetent. It is up to the ‘Adventurous Four’ Eustace, Horatio, Oliver and Cousin Loveday to solve the mystery. In the style of many a crime classic, the suspects are summoned to the drawing room for the culprit’s unveiling by the young sleuths. Suitable as a group reader for ages 9-11, children may enjoy the humour as the crime genre is parodied and wealthy context lampooned. Unfamiliar vocabulary such as rotters and bounders, lacrosse sticks and gobstoppers could be a point of discussion. Children could create character profiles and speculate on likely suspects.
Sue McGonigle, Independent Consultant and Co Creator of

You Are Awesome, Matthew Syed, illustrated by Toby Triumph

Wren & Rook ISBN 9781526361158 £9.99

Somewhat put off by the triteness of the title, I was very pleasantly surprised by the depth and impact of this book. Ex-Olympic table-tennis player, writer and broadcaster Syed has managed to convey the simple fact that by perseverance, dedication and developing a ‘growth mindset’, all children can become good at whatever they want to excel in. That sounds ‘preachy’ - but it isn’t. By a clever mixture of autobiography, diagrams, jokes, examples of success and reference to Science and authorities such as Carol Dweck, Syed has produced something eminently readable and utterly beguiling. It is 158 pages long and yet the clever use of yellow, mixed type faces and sizes, speech bubbles and other cartoon elements all contribute to making it a page-turner and a positive reading experience. The arresting fact that when Syed was table tennis champion many of the top players in the country came from his street in Reading is testament to his theory that with opportunity (the local club), a passionate teacher and children practising together a lot can achieve astonishing results. There is something for every 10/11-year-old to be inspired by here - and their parents and teachers!
Sue Barrett, retired teacher and lecturer

Share this page: