Ages 9-11 [Upper Key Stage 2] 2016

23 Ways To Be An Eco Hero, Isabel Thomas

QED Publishing ISBN 9781784933418 £8.99

Here is a timely book, packed with ideas to encourage our youngsters to become more eco- aware and eco-friendly. The 23 projects are grouped into the three categories of wildlife, waste and energy reduction. Each project contains clear, illustrated instructions for making such varied items as a rubbish grabber, a shower timer and a ‘bugtropolis’ by upcycling. Adult help is required for many of the tasks and there is a disclaimer concerning the risks of using potentially dangerous equipment. That said, there is important information about the vital issues of helping to make a difference, however small, in preserving our environment and saving the planet.
Paul Jackson, Director of Education, SATIPS

100 Steps for Science: Why It Works and How It Happened, Lisa Jane Gillespie, illustrated by Yukai Du

Wide Eyed Editions  ISBN 9781847808059  £14.99

This book teaches us about science. It covers space; wheels; numbers; light; sound; particles; medicine; materials; energy and life. Gillespie demonstrates how scientific observations from ancient civilizations have helped shape our world today, and how recent discoveries have evolved. Each of the ten areas has ten breakthrough moments. We are shown how ten reinventions of the wheel, from paleolithic log rollers led to the Industrial Revolution and turbines of today. The Particles section starts with atoms and Democritus in 5th century BC Greece, and traces the journey through the Periodic Table to Ernest Rutherford and the Curies to the work of the CERN research centre and the large Hadron Collider. A great deal of information is conveyed via the clear, concise passages of text, timelines and bright cartoon illustrations. There is a detailed glossary. Occasionally the thin type is difficult to read against the darker backgrounds, but overall the book is ideal for browsing and will appeal to Upper KS2.

Brenda Marshall, SATIPS Council

Alice Jones: The Impossible Clue, Sarah Rubin

Chicken House Ltd ISBN 9781910002865 £6.99

Teaching in Wales, the magic of the new Sherlock adventure is a popular discussion point amongst older children and the staff alike. The desire is for mysteries to be solved but to be done so in a modern way. This story will go some way to quenching that thirst. I was excited to see that a female character was taking the lead role in a mystery novel where intelligence solves the problem. Too often these characters are male and this story will engage both boys and girls as a result. The plot sews together the themes of mathematics, puzzle solving science and teamwork. I really enjoyed this clever tale written in the first person. It is witty and funny and I look forward to reading more of these adventures in the future. Ideal for Year 6.
Matthew Wilson, key stage 2 teacher, St Paul’s CIW Primary, Cardiff

Banksy Art Breaks the Rules, Hettie Bingham

Wayland ISBN 9780750299763 £7.99

Banksy is a fascinating character and many children will enjoy this book. Despite the status of his work, Banksy remains an enigma and the book traces his journey from a Bristol street artist to an international celebrity. Clues about his identity are explored. The book includes information about his exhibitions and thought-provoking themes such as ‘The greatest crimes in the world are not committed by people breaking the rules but by people following the rules’. Banksy is controversial, as demonstrated by his artwork of Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, who was the son of a Syrian who emigrated to the US. Banksy was drawing attention to the benefits of migration. Banksy helped Broad Plain Boys Club which had been facing closure. Banksy painted Mobile Lovers showing a couple embracing while each of them checks their phone over each other’s shoulders. The book also includes book recommendations, websites and documentaries. Much of the presentation is in the format of graffiti art. This is a revised edition of a book first published in 2014. Highly recommended for KS2 pupils and adults.
Brenda Marshall, SATIPS Council

Boy X, Dan Smith

Chicken House Ltd ISBN 9781909489042 £6.99

This is a story billed as being from the same canon as Stormbreaker. That genre of fiction that takes children on a rollercoaster ride through action and adventure. This book certainly doesn’t disappoint. It involves a deadly virus and children discussed the impact of worldwide viruses such as the spread of Ebola. I really loved the way that the story, in its later part, was sectioned off into chunks of time reminiscent of a ‘24’ style. I found it really engaging as I wanted to know if our main character Ash was to beat the timer and rescue his mum. The end of the story is a tense climax. A really fantastic read and one that I am sure upper KS2 boys will absolutely adore!
Matthew Wilson, key stage 2 teacher, St Paul’s CIW Primary, Cardiff

British Wildlife, Matthew Morgan & Laura Knowles

QED Publishing ISBN 9781784935511 £9.99

This delightful book takes us on a visual journey through the vibrant and varied wildlife of Britain. The illustrations are beautiful and detailed, and the central text on each double-page spread describes the environment which the creatures inhabit. Some of the double page spreads pose questions, which are thought provoking. A page of answers is provided at the back. Contents include: Nibblers and Grazers; River Riders; Fabulous Flowers; Small and Furry; Creepy Crawlies, Fierce Flyers, Garden Guests, Tremendous Trees, Colourful Critters, Fins and Flippers; Seabird Squawkers; Nuts and Seeds; Night-time Neighbours; Saltwater Swimmers; Fruits and Berries; Smooth and Slithery; Freshwater Fish; Hungry Hunters; Variety of Visitors, Marvellous Mushrooms and A Helping Hand. The Creepy Crawlies are so realistic they could crawl off the page! The eyes of the fierce flyers are almost hypnotic and the Marvellous Mushrooms are bright and vibrant. A Helping Hand introduces us to some endangered species and urges us to save them. There is much to explore in this collection of British wildlife. It is highly recommended for KS2 pupils.
Brenda Marshall, SATIPS Council

The Brontës Children of the Moors, Mick Manning and Brita Granström

Franklin Watts ISBN 9781445147314 £12.99

What a wonderful introduction to the Brontës, their lives and work this book is! The premise is that the author, who in reality as an eight year old boy played a small part in a TV series of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, doses off and wakes only to meet Charlotte Brontë who then proceeds to tell him the family history. So we are treated to life in the Haworth parsonage, early schooldays, family bereavements and the extraordinarily vivid imaginary worlds created and enjoyed by Branwell, Charlotte, Emily and Anne. They all wrote poetry and the three girls were determined to become published poets, despite the prejudice of the time against women writers. By adopting the pen-names Currer, Acton and Ellis Bell, they were successful, thus paving the way for their novels to be published too. The book provides plot summaries of Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall in cleverly illustrated numbered sequences on a double page. We then read of the early demise of each family member before the book ends with some details of the 1967 BBC 2 production.

All of this is contained in the beautiful double-page spreads of watercolours of this large-format hardback, which are interspersed with sections of text in different fonts, speech bubbles and a more comic-book approach for the novel plots. There is movement, vitality, a sense of the Brontës' love for the moors and its wildlife - and each other - along with the fashions and cultural prejudices of the day on every page. This is truly a delight and would be successful for independent or paired reading in upper KS2 being both engaging and accessible.
Sue Barrett, former primary deputy head and senior lecturer in Primary Education at CCCU

Coco Chanel – Little People, Big Dreams, Isabel Sanchez Vegara, translated by Emma Martinez, illustrated by Ana Albero

Frances Lincoln ISBN 9781847807717 £9.99

There is much to be celebrated in this biography, for it shows that anyone, from whatever background, has the opportunity to live a fulfilling life; that those from an unpromising background can rise above low expectations. And not least, it shows that women are just as influential as men on the world stage. When so often we struggle to name famous women, this book, one of a small series, redresses the balance a little. And so we learn about the young Coco Chanel – real name Gabrielle, born in a charity hospital and entering a strict convent school after her mother’s death when she was 11. Here she was taught to sew, which later enabled her to work as a seamstress. But she had big dreams, resulting in making and selling hats from her own shop. This led to her redesigning the tightly-fitting, restrictive clothes women wore at that time, to allow more freedom and comfort, but with her own distinctive Chanel style, influencing women’s fashion forever. The story is told in simple language and illustrated in muted shades by mannequin-like figures. Age range 7 - 10
Pam Dowson, retired primary teacher and PGCE tutor

Crimson Poison, Susan Moore

Nosy Crow  ISBN 9780857634498  £6.99

This book is unlike many that I have read before. At first glance it appears a little confusing but stick with it as within a few pages you are hooked into a new world that will take you on unusual adventures. The story will open up the reader’s imaginations to ideas that they were not expecting. The technology that is captured and skilfully weaved into this tale really is mesmerising. A particular favourite of mine was the use of hover boards. This is a good book for those who love the video game world and are often reluctant to release their remote control for the joy of a good book. This is definitely a tale for the more confident reader because of the wonderful language that the book uses. The reader wants to get to the end of to see how it concludes. I hope that Nat and his friends come back for more!

Matthew Wilson, key stage 2 teacher, St Paul’s CIW Primary, Cardiff

Degas and the Little Dancer, written & illustrated by Laurence Anholt

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books  ISBN 9781847808141   £6.99

Laurence Anholt’s Artists series of eight celebrates famous artists through true stories about the real children who knew them.  The little dancer is Marie van Goethen who dreams of becoming the most famous ballerina in the world.  Degas visited her ballet school in Paris where he drew the ballerinas in a variety of everyday practice poses.  When her parents can no longer afford to pay lesson fees, Marie accepts Degas’ offer of money if she will pose for him.  Marie became the model for his most famous sculpture which is exhibited in the Louvre.  Illustrated in the style of Degas and featuring reproductions of the artist’s work this book and others in the series brings art to life and introduces children to the works of other artists, namely Van Gogh, Matisse, Picasso, Monet, Da Vinci, Cezanne and Chagall.

Elisabeth Jackson, former Deputy Head of Spratton Hall Pre Prep School

Discover the Ancient Egyptians, Isabel & Imogen Greenberg

Frances Lincoln ISBN 9781847808257 £8.99

This is a delightfully illustrated introduction to life in Ancient Egypt, from pharaohs to farmers, from gods to warriors. Attractively written in an engaging manner, it had my 11 year old reading it from cover to cover. The examples used are of central importance to the topic as, for example, the description of Ramesses II as the most powerful pharaoh ever. There is much that is familiar, as well as some that is new. The pull out map at the back is excellent - simple, clear and informative. Unfortunately that cannot be said of the timeline which is not to scale - how are pupils to begin to comprehend the long sweep of Egyptian history when the gap from 332BC to 30BC is bigger than the gap from 2580BC to 2055BC? The images and text are fine, but the timeline is totally misleading in suggesting the scope of the period. There is also a major error. Both on the timeline and in the text the New Kingdom is said to begin in 1150BC whereas in truth this date should be 1550BC or perhaps 1650BC depending on whether you include the Second Intermediate Period or not. Errors such as this detract from what would otherwise be a useful small, accessible reference work for Ancient Egypt. It might be nice if the text also reflected some of the controversies and debates historians have about Ancient Egypt - history is, after all, a contested subject! I hope the publishers will correct both errors.
Alf Wilkinson, The Historical Association

The First Hunter, Robert Swindells, illustrated by Si Clark

Barrington Stoke  ISBN 9781781126011  £5.99

The prolific Robert Swindells engages readers again with this gripping short tale of adventure, survival and glory. It tells the tale of Tan, a Stone Age hunter, and his tribe working together to survive in the face of deadly predators. My initial thoughts as I read were around the idea that this book resembles several of the stories I read in the rather distant past of my own childhood, yet, then, the tale twists. A woman takes a key role in the narrative, her own braveness being instrumental to the plot; a young man considered ‘the fool’ has the ground-breaking idea of a ‘toy’ which ultimately turns out to be the tribe’s saviour. While I thought the book was immensely readable in its own right, its context reveals it as a ‘dyslexia friendly’. The ‘super readable’ sticker (removable) on the back, and the clarity of the font the book is written in makes it accessible to all readers, and the artfully short chapters provide regular natural breaks in reading. Swindells has been writing children’s literature for over four decades but always understands and adapts to a contemporary young readership; long may he continue.

Laura Manison Shore, Senior Lecturer in Early Years & Primary Education, UWE, Bristol

The Great Fire of London, Emma Adams, illustrated by James Weston Lewis

Wayland Books ISBN 97780750298209 £12.99

Published to coincide with the 350th Anniversary of the Great Fire in 1666, this re-telling of the story is lavishly and strikingly illustrated. It describes London at the time, the cause of the fire, attempts to put it out and the planned rebuilding of the City afterwards. There are some short pithy primary sources, [extracts from Samuel Pepys Diary] to accompany the text, otherwise this is a straightforward narrative of events, with no room for different ideas or opinions about causes or consequences. The big, bold illustrations reinforce the text, making the book a pleasure to read.

The Great Fire of London usually appears in key stage 1 history, and often in Year Two. This would make a great text for the class teacher to read aloud to children, showing the pictures as in 'big book' style. It is just a pity there is no hint of disagreement about events because it is important that children learn from an early age that history is often disputed, depending on which evidence you choose. Nevertheless, this is a lovely book which older KS2 children will enjoy reading for themselves - informative, engaging and beautifully illustrated. Get a copy for the school library.
Alf Wilkinson, The Historical Association

Greenling, Levi Pinfold

Templar Publishing ISBN 9781783700554 £12.99

When Mr Barleycorn brings home a green baby he finds in the hedgerow, Mrs Barleycorn is at first unimpressed and ultimately angry at having such a creature brought into her home. But as fruit and vegetables take over their living space, transport and means of communication, the Barleycorns come to appreciate this unique magic. Child and adult alike will find that, like the vines and magic fruit which pervade this whimsical yet powerful story, Greenling’s ancient magic will wrap itself around them, fuelling their imagination and sense of awe at the natural world. Accompanied by Pinfold’s stunning and sometimes surreal watercolour and gouache paintings, the reader is taken far away. Here is a truly talented author and illustrator, displaying once again his award-winning abilities. This is an exceptional book which could be used across all the primary years, addressing as it does the vital question: what right, if any, have we humans to control nature?
Rachel Cordon, key stage 2 teacher

Historium, Richard Wilkinson and Jo Nelson

Big Picture Press ISBN 9781783701889 £20

What a great concept - 130 artefacts from a wide variety of civilisations. Each artefact is stunningly drawn in great detail, and explained in context in the accompanying text. Arranging the content by continent makes finding what you are looking for incredibly easy, although some civilisations, like Ancient Sumer, are hidden within Ancient China. Others, like Ancient Greece, have a section all to themselves.

Having said that, I am at a bit of a loss to see how useful this book is in terms of the History National Curriculum. Some Ancient Civilisations are covered in quite some detail, whilst others have just one or two pertinent artefacts. It seems to me there just aren't enough artefacts from one individual civilisation to help classroom teachers explore Benin, for example, or even the Maya in enough detail to know what to teach. It is a superbly-produced work of reference, excellent at exploring artefacts and helping pupils learn to ask the right questions about an artefact. It allows comparison of what was happening in Asia, for example, with what was happening in Africa, but even this is inhibited by a sometimes less than consistent approach to chronology within each section. Some of the language is difficult - too complex for children, even bright ones in Years 5 and 6, so presumably teachers would need to simplify the text if they wanted to use it with their pupils. As I have already said it is a beautifully and thoughtfully produced book The illustrations are a joy to use. It might be useful as a reference book in the school library, but so much of the content is outside the scope of the History National Curriculum that it is hard, in my opinion, to justify the cost.
Alf Wilkinson, The Historical Association

The History Detective Investigates London, Claudia Martin

Wayland Books ISBN 9780750297691 £12.99

This latest addition to the 'History Detective' series focuses on the history of London. The book covers important events or periods in the story of London, from its foundation by the Romans right up to the present day. Each spread contains text, images, extracts from a relevant primary source, as well as suggestions for further study via relevant websites. The book concludes with ideas on how to research and present a project based on the text. This book might make a useful starting point for a local history study, [a compulsory part of both KS2 and KS3 history curriculum,] of London either exploring one of the topics in more detail or the history of London itself. An interesting choice of topics ranging from Edward the Confessor via Dick Whittington to the migrants arriving on the Empire Windrush in 1948 gives lots of scope. Rather text heavy, this is probably most appropriate for Upper Key Stage 2 or Lower Key Stage 3, or perhaps as a teacher reference book to provide stimulation and a starting point for developing a scheme of work on the city of London through the ages.
Alf Wilkinson, The Historical Association

Inspiring Artists – Vincent Van Gogh, Ruth Thomson

Franklin Watts ISBN 9781445145556 £12.99

One of a series of six, this heavily and colourfully illustrated book provides a full and informative picture of Van Gogh the man and his works, both famous and less well-known. We learn of some of his artistic influences with comparative illustrations to show how he based some of his paintings on those of others, particularly in his early career. We see how Van Gogh chose to portray the life he saw around him, particularly that of the peasants in the countryside. As a young preacher he spent time among the poor of the countryside and some of his work reflects this with great honesty. The influence he had on later artists is also included, as is an explanation of how his brother Theo’s widow was instrumental in promoting his work after his early tragic death. This is a nicely produced book, with more than the usual basic information about the artist. There is a useful glossary and a page of further background information on four of Van Gogh’s most well-known works. Other artists covered in the series are Da Vinci, Cezanne, Breughel the elder, Goya and Monet. The set would be a useful addition to a school library. Age range 9 – 12.
Pam Dowson, retired primary teacher and PGCE tutor

The Last Immortal, Alex Marlowe

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers ISBN 978-0349131801 £6.99

The cover of this book really hooked me for a start but, of course, one must never judge a book by its cover. This was a complex tale that made an adult reader like me think hard. It is certainly a book that would be read by Year 6. I felt it was a cross between historical tales as well as mysteries with a splash of Twilight about it. The story balances the old Victorian London with its Victorian supernatural crime busting team with modern London. The flick between the two is often seamless and engaging. The book is fast paced and really is hard to put down. The world is in the hands of an intriguing set of superhuman heroes. The main character is Luke Frankenstein and the link to horror and fiction is clear from this point onwards. This book is definitely part of the Young Adult fiction range but is something that I think the more able readers of Upper Primary school would enjoy.
Matthew Wilson, key stage 2 teacher, St Paul’s CIW Primary, Cardiff

Lupo and the Lost Pirate of Kensington Palace (The Adventures of a Royal Dog), Aby King, illustrated by Sam Usher

Hodder Children’s Publishing  ISBN 9781444921571 £6.99

This book is a clever twist on a royal tale, taking the view of the resident palace dog Lupo who belongs to the young Prince George. This brave and friendly dog is determined to help keep his beloved home and family safe from the misfortunes brought upon them by mysterious occupants and dastardly animals. Readers are guided along a story of missing dogs, baffling mazes and lost treasure and are invited to the underground world of the ‘City of Creatures’. There is much to entertain and intrigue children here. With a host of creative characters such as the Egyptian cat Ebony and Herbert the mousey Head of MI5, the story keeps up a quick pace of adventure with twists and turns at every corner. Quite a complex interweaving of characters and events, it’s a perfect introduction to more challenging stories. However, the familiarity of the animal characters, the illustrations and language make the book accessible to a broad range of readers. With much of the story linking to Sir Francis Drake, there is also ample opportunity to invite a curious reader to the real historical adventures referenced within. This could therefore be used as a great stimulus for a history lesson looking at the Elizabethan Era and the Tudors.

Laura Davies, Project Development Coordinator for Fair Foundations, Chwarae Teg

Mabel Jones and the Forbidden City, Will Mabbitt, illustrated by Ross Collins

Puffin ISBN 9780141355320 £6.99

This is the second instalment in the Mabel Jones series of adventures. Having read the first in this series I was expecting a great mastery of language to engage and surprise as the book continued. This book certainly did this and more. I love the way that Will Mabbitt plays with words and phrases to entertain the reader. From start to finish this books offers emerging independent readers with a world of language play that they will are unlikely to have been confronted with before. Some lovely illustrations guide the reader through the story. Mabel’s sister is stolen by mysterious vines that come out of her wardrobe and the book is the story of how she navigates her way through various locations and times to get her sister back. The book is from a series that started out with a title of ‘unlikely adventures’. No one can be surprised by the unusual plot lines. Year 6 children will love the twists and turns in the story and will come to love the character of Mabel.
Matthew Wilson, key stage 2 teacher, St Paul’s CIW Primary, Cardiff

Malkin Moonlight,  Emma Cox

Bloomsbury Children’s Books  ISBN 9781408870846  £6.99

This is a simply beautiful tale of hope, courage and success of those who may not have had an easy start in life. As teachers we spend a lot of time encouraging our learners to be the best that they can be, irrespective of their background or previous experiences. The main character of this heart warming tale, Malkin, is a young cat who was put into a river to be drowned. But, blessed by the moon, this cat turns out to be a real star. The story centres round the conflict between other cats and Malkin. Through a message of peace and fairness he has to try and bring calm to the group. The core message of tolerance means that the story is particularly useful in the classroom. Animal lovers will adore the characters that we meet and there are twists and turns that will have all readers hooked. A story that is sure to become a classic.

Matthew Wilson, key stage 2 teacher, St Paul’s CIW Primary, Cardiff

The Mermaid’s Sister, Holly Webb

Orchard Books ISBN 9781408327647 £6.99

The second in a series of 4 books based in Venice and aimed at KS2 and early KS3, The Mermaid’s Sister continues the adventures of a magical royal dynasty as they face threats from a neighbouring city. Lady Mia is cousin to Olivia, the duchess of Venice; a ruler loved by her subjects for her command of magic and for saving the city from the flood. The story follows Lady Mia as she struggles to forgive her cousin for banishing her own mother and brother from the city, and this is what makes the book particularly unique. The turbulent emotional battles that these young girls face in a war of love, magic and treacheries will, I am sure, hold many parallels with the feelings and struggles that all young children face as they move from childhood to young adulthood. Webb has a beautifully lyrical style of writing, and manages deftly to reflect a historical period that would be traditionally difficult for a young audience to access. The notion that Venice lives on a bed of water that once upon a time was home to mythical water creatures vital to its survival is an enticing one, and I’m sure will be appealing to a range of ages. It is a great book to encourage more able readers who might be moving on to more challenging material. It would also be a lovely book to read aloud in class as the themes and moral battles faced within the story would make great starting points for a range of philosophical or circle time discussions – particularly as an introduction to politics and the idea that those with power might not always feel that they have free will. A great, fun read!
Laura Davies, Project Development Coordinator for Fair Foundations, Chwarae Teg

Mother Teresa: her life and work, Paul Harrison

Wayland ISBN 9780750295956 £12.99

Her small frame instantly recognisable, Mother Teresa became one of the most famous and influential spiritual leaders of the twentieth century, though such fame was of constant concern to her. Born to an Albanian family in modern day Macedonia, the young Gonxha, as she was named, soon felt drawn to the missionary work described by the Jesuit priests in charge of her parish. Despite her family's concerns, she determined to leave behind her relatively comfortable life in order join an order of nuns and their work in India. She soon found herself in Kolkata, teaching in two schools, but it was the extreme poverty and need she witnessed outside the walls which instigated a second calling.

Within ten years she had begun her own religious order: the Missionaries of Charity. Guided by the principles of love, dignity and humility, Mother Teresa and her growing band of nuns were committed to providing the poorest of the poor and outcasts such as lepers with dignity and care in a safe and loving environment. Success bred success and with the Pope's sanction, the order became international with new houses in several countries. Never happy in the public eye, Mother Teresa tolerated her growing fame and the need to travel with her message if it would raise funds for her cause. Thus Paul Harrison relates the facts of this extraordinary woman's life and achievements including her path towards sainthood. Each double page spread with its photographs and sub-titled straightforward text deals with different aspects of her life. Additional fact boxes and a glossary help to clarify terms and ideas. This is an excellent biography and should be in every school library.
Sue Barrett, former primary deputy head and senior lecturer in Primary Education at CCCU

My Gym Teacher Is An Alien Overlord, David Solomons, illustrated by Laura Ellen Anderson

Nosy Crow Ltd  ISBN 9780857637338  £6.99

This is the second book in the series after the much acclaimed first novel, My Brother is a Superhero. In this story Luke has a feeling that his PE teacher is an alien and he is convinced that he wants to destroy the earth. Through a typical relationship with his brother and the changing circumstances for his family the tale is the unravelling of his ideas. Luke wants to save the world but he has to find someone with the tools to help him. The story has a world of laughs within it and sometimes the jokes that are told are not just for the children which makes this an ideal book to send home with the children to read with adults or to share as a class reader. A funny and clever story with a witty ending to match.

Matthew Wilson, key stage 2 teacher, St Paul’s CIW Primary, Cardiff

Rose Campion and the Stolen Secret, Lyn Gardner

Nosy Crow  ISBN: 9780857634863  £6.99

The story is a murder mystery that is set in Victorian music halls. The main character, Rose, has a young Miss Marple quality that endears her to the reader. This is a story for the more mature reader. Indeed although it is billed as junior fiction it is one that adults would enjoy! For me the story brilliantly captured the harsh reality of the London streets and the hard life that it could afford those who found themselves at their heart. It is truly one of my favourite books and one that I will be reading again and again!

Matthew Wilson, key stage 2 teacher, St Paul’s CIW Primary, Cardiff

Rugby Flyer: Haunting history, thrilling tries (Rugby Spirit), Gerard Siggins

The O’Brien Press ISBN 9781847178190 £6.99

When I was sent a copy of this book I was over the moon. Having followed the adventures of Eoin since the start I have been eagerly anticipating the next instalment. I am an avid rugby fan, coach and official and no story could be more suited to me! I was not disappointed. Eoin is getting older and is at a summer rugby camp. He is fighting for a place in a squad that will travel to London. The story is centred on ghostly goings on, making it irresistible to boys. I really love the character of Eoin who manages to show that in sport one has to be a good character as well as a good player. He demonstrates the need for a positive attitude. I know I loved this book. I hope for more and am sure that my rugby club mates will love reading this book. I doubt it will be on my shelf for long! Ideal for Year 6.
Matthew Wilson, key stage 2 teacher, St Paul’s CIW Primary, Cardiff

The Snow Globe by Jean Ure, illustrated by Charlie Alder

Barrington Stoke  ISBN 9781781125946  £5.99

This is a lovely book for emerging readers. This particular publisher’s books are ‘tested for children and young people, for children and young people’, and I think this is evident in the way that the story unfolds and the vocabulary used. There are illustrations for each chapter, helping to bring the story to life, and the text is well spaced and a slightly larger font size than more challenging reads. This makes it a great book to develop the confidence of children as they explore chapter books and move on to more independent reading. The story is also one that will be familiar to many children, as it follows Abi and her struggles as she settles into a new school after moving home for the first time. Even though this might not be something every reader has gone through, the emotions that she feels as she tries to make new friends and meet new people are ones that all children will recognise. This would be a good book to share as part of an extended circle time, particularly at the beginning of a school year, as it looks at themes of bullying and friendship which are prevalent throughout. The author has been described as providing books which are ‘funny, funky, feisty and fantastic reads’ and with this particular tale it is easy to see why!

Laura Davies, Project Development Coordinator for Fair Foundations, Chwarae Teg

Spymaster 2: Traitor's Game, Jan Burchett and Sara Vogler

Orion Children's Books ISBN 9781444010701 £6.99

This is another terrific story in the 'Spymaster' series - this time the action takes place in the court of Henry VIII whilst staying at Greenwich Palace. Set in 1532, when tensions with Spain are rising, the action centres around finding out who is leaking information to the Spanish King around the time of Henry's divorce from Katharine of Aragon. Will this lead to war? Jack Briars the young scribe, and Cat Thimblebee, a seamstress, working secretly for Thomas Cromwell, Henry's chief minister and spymaster, are all that stands between war and peace. Can they save Henry from the traitor? Of course they can, and a rip-roaring tale it is too, keeping you guessing, and reading, right up to the end. You won't learn much accurate history about Tudor times, other than that King Henry had a fearful temper, but you will enjoy a great read and, as ever, it all turns out right in the end. Great for UKS2 good readers.
Alf Wilkinson, The Historical Association

Survivors of the Holocaust, Zane Whittingham and Ryan Jones

Franklin Watts ISBN 9781445150444 £12.99

What a really good idea - the stories of six survivors of the Holocaust told largely in their own words. It makes a moving testament to one of the most evil events of the Twentieth Century. The simple statement of such troubling times brings home the enormity of the event. Each of the six survivors brings a different aspect to the events of the Holocaust, helping to build up the 'bigger picture' of the times. The stories of Heinz, for example, who escaped Germany only to be interned in Britain, or Martin, who managed to get from Poland to England only to experience the Coventry Blitz, both bring a human perspective to the story.

Yet I was left feeling vaguely disappointed by the whole. The comic-book style illustrations seem to me to detract from the power of the story. Your attention is grabbed by the strong images, rather than what the six individuals have to say. At times the language is too complex for upper Key Stage 2, yet at other times the simplification of events reduces understanding of the grossness of the Holocaust. And the timeline isn't a timeline, just a list of dates and events. The causes and events of the Holocaust are extremely complex and complicated - sometimes simplifying them doesn't do the topic justice. Shame really, because the six stories together are a very moving testament to people and survival under extreme conditions.
Alf Wilkinson, The Historical Association

Sweet Pizza, G.R. Gemin

Nosy Crow Ltd  ISBN 9780857636300  £6.99

I must admit that I am a little biased here. First, I am Welsh. Second, I studied for a Welsh history degree that featured on the topic of this tale. The early part of the 1900s was a time of great exciting in Wales and the opening up of Italian style cafés around the valleys meant the Italian culture became a fundamental part of Welsh culture. Now, years later, the cafés are changing and that is the essence of this warming tale. Joe has a plan to turn his family’s café into a modern wonder and bring the Italian culture to the high street. For me the story is a must for any child who lives in south Wales. It is relevant and intriguing showing children how more than one culture enhances our diversity and enriches our communities. It is a tale that can be shared with children across the primary phases. I, for one, will read this for the rest of my teaching career. One of the best books I have ever had the pleasure to read!

Matthew Wilson, key stage 2 teacher, St Paul’s CIW Primary, Cardiff

There May be a Castle, Piers Torday

Quercus Children’s Books  ISBN 9781848668621 £12.99

I picked up this book with considerable anticipation both on merit of the author and the fact that it is a Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize winner. Yet I found it very difficult to access with my children’s fiction ‘hat’ on and constantly felt, as I read, that I was missing something. Granted, it is an enormous feat of the imagination in its exploration of a surreal world where it appears that toys come to life and battles must be won, and I appreciate how this is dealing with the ultimate outcome presented in the book, that of the death of a child. Yet, I felt that at times that the prose was rather pondering and not guaranteed to hold the attention of some of the children teachers most want to access fiction – particularly children who have had to deal with bereavement in their own lives. There were certainly some high points: I loved the reference to ‘You mean if it feels real then it is real’ for example, but gems like this were ultimately too few to keep me engaged. I feel a little guilty for not loving this evidently quality book by a hugely esteemed author but I’m sure I cannot be the only one.

Laura Manison Shore, Senior Lecturer in Early Years & Primary Education, UWE, Bristol

We Are Giants, Amber Lee Dodd

Quercus Children’s Books ISBN 9781784294212 £6.99

We Are Giants is a gripping story about a girl whose father has died and whose mother has dwarfism. It is equally a book about growing up, family, moving house and so many other experiences which children in upper KS2/lower KS3 will find utterly relevant. Amber Lee Dodd set out to write a book which gave an honest representation of families living with disabilities, and she has done just that. Sydney, the 9 year-old protagonist, takes the reader on the emotional rollercoaster which nearly all her peers will experience: she craves love, warmth, the comfort of her earlier childhood and an idealised past, whilst also wanting to be treated as the older child she is; she loves her family but is nonetheless frustrated by them; she rejects those who love her but learns from her mistakes. Perhaps this book’s greatest power lies in just how relatable it is: for children with little or no experience of disabilities it can be difficult to empathise with those who are disabled, or have close family with disabilities. We Are Giants gives children an opportunity to realise that these issues are not as distanced from them as they may have thought, and indeed, are only issues if society chooses to view them as such. Here is an exciting new novel by an author to watch out for.
Rachel Cordon, Key Stage 2 Teacher

What on Earth? Wind, Isabel Thomas, illustrated by Paulina Morgan

QED ISBN 9781784935535 £8.99

A fascinating non-fiction book which invites its readers to ‘explore’, ‘investigate’ and ‘create’, as they learn about different facets of the busy wind. This beautifully presented, 62- page book is simply bursting with information. Each double-page spread starts with a carefully explained introductory paragraph, followed by well-thought illustrations and interspersed with text boxes, all combining to provide the relevant details. In a personification poem the wind is introduced as being mischievous, but traditional stories and ancient myths are also used to explore historical aspects of the subject. The investigatory pages frequently involve devising something, to test just how wind works and is harnessed in everyday life. Utilising wind to create music, make a wind sock, weather vane or glider are all clearly explained and illustrated, using readily available materials. Although this book is accessible to KS2 pupils, adult support will make it a more worthwhile and enjoyable learning experience.
Jane Coverdale, school librarian at Spratton Hall Prep, Northampton

The White Fox, written & illustrated by Jackie Morris

Barrington Stoke  ISBN 9781781125229 £10.99

If, like me, you are an admirer of Jackie Morris’s beautifully evocative work, then you will not be disappointed by this latest offering.  If she is a new name for you, then just a simple online search for images of her many book-covers will surely be enough to draw you in.  Once inside, you will be happy indeed.  For Jackie Morris has the talent to combine rich, heart-warming, atmospheric illustrations with carefully crafted text that draws you in to her magical tales.  This title, published by Barrington Stoke whose books can be enjoyed by all, but they specialise in quality texts for less able readers, is a joy.  The size and shape feel good to handle; there is a ribbon page marker.  The book, with its beautiful arctic fox on the cover, has you in its grip before you even open it.  The story tells of such a fox, found on the dockyards of Seattle far from its true Arctic home, and how it becomes enmeshed with 12 year-old Sol and his father.  Sol is not a happy child and his father seems distant from him, coping with work, caring alone for his son since his wife died.  Like the fox, they belong in the far north and happily circumstances conspire to take them back where they belong.  This is a tenderly told tale, evoking spirituality, family values and a close relationship with the wild.  We quickly feel we know much of the key characters, finding it easy to empathise with them and hoping they will find their true place in the world.  There is much to talk about in this slim volume – it is a book to cherish.  Age range 8 – 12.

Pam Dowson, retired primary teacher and PGCE tutor

Wings: Flyboy (Take to the Skies), Tom Palmer, illustrated by David Shephard

Barrington Stoke ( ISBN 9781781125359 £5.99

Are you casting around for a text to inspire a reluctant reader aged 8+? Do you have few books in school where your ethnic minority pupils can see themselves reflected in the protagonists? Then this first book in a new series might be just the answer. Winningly, it uses football as the 'hook' and straight away we empathise with Jatinder, a young Sikh boy who, while away at football summer school, fails to rise to the challenge of a free kick and despises himself for his inability to take a risk. Esther and Steve, his adult hosts, are sympathetic and lend Jatinder a book on Hardit Singh Malik, the first Sikh fighter pilot. Cleverly, the author slips into ghost story mode and after a few unexplained sightings, Jatinder suddenly finds himself back in time as an adult fighter pilot in Malik's Sopwith Camel. He gets shot down, taken prisoner by the Germans and then has the opportunity to perform an act of supreme bravery and of great personal risk- the book's key theme - before returning to the present.

This addition to the Barrington Stoke stable is a welcome one. The text is very readable, utterly gripping and truly authentic sounding, because Palmer, as author in residence at the RAF museum, is meticulous in his research. This further evidence of the diversity of British troops in the war was fascinating and the notes at the end explain how he has melded true stories about an Indian, an American and a German airman from the First World War into this tale. The glossy, high quality cover includes a cut out model Sopwith camel, with the promise of further models in the two titles published later this year. Add this to your school library now.
Sue Barrett, former primary deputy head and senior lecturer in Primary Education at CCCU

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