Ages 9-11 [Upper Key Stage 2] 2019

Reviews added August 2019

Cloud Boy by Marcia Williams Walker Books http://www.walker.co.uk/ ISBN 978 14063 8121 4  £6.99

Angie Moon and Harry Christmas were born two days apart; they are best friends and next door neighbours, so close in fact they are almost twins. Their dads build them a tree house hideaway which is just perfect for their favourite occupation, cloud spotting; Harry is a cloud collector and Angie loves drawing them. When Angie’s (Great) Grandma Gertie comes to stay, the friends discover she has an amazing story to tell of her childhood as a prisoner of war in Singapore. All goes well until Harry’s strange headaches turn out to be very serious indeed and his illness puts a strain on his family and friendship with Angie.  Grandma Gertie is a key support for Angie in her grief, understanding her anger and helping her make a special patchwork quilt for her friend, just as she had herself as a prisoner of war.

Angie’s story is told in diary form, with occasional annotations from Harry. The main narrative is interwoven with Gertie’s wartime story told through letters to her pet kitten.

Cloud Boy is a very moving story about two young people coping with enormously challenging situations. This is a first novel from an author very well known for her wonderful illustrated histories. It would be a powerful novel to read aloud in Upper KS 2 and is likely to provoke discussion about the sensitive issues it addresses and interest in the real story upon which it is based.

Sue McGonigle

The Steam Whistle Theatre Company by Vivian French Illustrated by Hannah Peck  Walker Books  ISBN: 9781406376319   £6.99

We are, “a company of inspiring thespians bringing stirring drama, heart-rending tragedy, and extraordinary excitement,” expounds Pa, as he drags his family out of London and to the unchartered lands of Victorian Northern England. The story tells of the family’s fluctuating drive for success whilst treading the boards. It also follows the lives of two other families: Arabella Poskett, a despondent, widowed heiress, who is struggling to keep the family’s ancestral home; and a mysterious baby magician and his light-fingered mother. The future of all three families collides at a small provincial town, as they scrabble together their last pennies. I really enjoyed how the author created distinct characters and kept a great pace within the story. This book could be a wonderful teaching source at KS2 for PSHE lessons on determination, resilience and how to deal with aggression. I wouldn’t recommend the book for lower than Year 4 because of the references to alcohol. There are lots of Victorian issues which could be explored: the role of women, self-sufficiency, class structure, the role of the post office and the police force, jobs such as milliners, and life in the work house.

Jamie Marshall

The House of Light by Julia Green Illustrated by Helen Crawford-White OUP ISBN 978019277156 £6.99

Bonnie and her grandfather live a somewhat bleak existence because of the wild and rugged coastline that they inhabit and the somewhat dystopian regime that they live under. There appears to have been a major ecological disaster that had affected the seas as well as the agricultural and energy capacity of the country.  Bonnie’s mother had escaped from this life many years before and her daughter has always dreamt of leaving this home and following her mother.  When a boat, together with a young boy called Ish, is washed up on the shore she sees her opportunity, but things are never quite as easy as we hope and for Bonnie, her Granda and Ish there will be many tribulations before they can escape.

This is a beautiful and lyrical story about the meaning of family and home.  As you would expect, Julia Green has created a very real and forbidding world for her heroine to inhabit.  The relationship between Bonnie and her Granda is strong and very loving; which provides a stability that Bonnie would not have had otherwise.  The character of Ish is somewhat mysterious as we do not know exactly where he has come from, however he is obviously a refugee who has had to leave his family and home behind.  This forced emigration is replicated when the three characters leave their home and go in search of Bonnie’s missing mother.  The story really emphasizes the fragility of the life that we lead and especially the ecological dangers that we are facing in the real world.  This is highly recommended for upper KS2 and beyond.

Margaret Pemberton

 

Grandma Dangerous and the Egg of Glory by Kita Mitchell   Illustrated by Nathan Reed Orchard Books Hachette Children’s Books (www.hachettechildrens.co.uk)        ISBN 9781408355503     £6.99

This is a fast-paced, energetic and funny story which hooks you from the first page. Told from the point of view of the young hero of the piece, Ollie, it is a tale which will appeal to lots of KS2 readers. Those who are fans of David Walliams’, Andy Riley or Roald Dahl will enjoy following the entertaining escapades of the unlikely team of three children and a ‘Dangerous’ Grandma as they try to outwit the villains of the piece. The inclusion of some Russian language text adds to the depth of the narration and helps the story stand out, and I enjoyed the fact that the two key characters on whose friendship the story is built are a boy and a girl – it’s great to see some common gender stereotypes confidently but subtly broken here. The greatest appeal of the book will be in its celebration of adventures and silliness – which makes this a popular choice in any school library or at home.

Laura Davies

Against All Gods by Maz Evans Illustrated by Helen Crawford-White and Aleksei Bitskof Chicken House ISBN: 9781911077008       £6.99

What an emotional rollercoaster! This is the fourth and final instalment of the “Who let the Gods out?” series by Maz Evans. Elliot’s epic journey has reached a point where he needs to make the hardest, most devastating decision anyone could bare to make: to save the world, or to save the person he loves most in the world. This would be a great PSHE discussion point about Elliot’s feelings at the time. We learn from earlier books that Elliot’s mum was also ill before she was taken to the underworld, and there is a heart wrenching discussion between Elliot and his mum about whether she actually wants to be brought back to life. Again, this opens up a much needed, but delicate, talking point about dealing with death or even the role of child carers.

Despite the gravity of Elliot’s dilemma, there are lots of humorous anecdotes in the form of the Greek Gods, the Zodiac Council and other mythical creatures. There are quite a lot of characters to keep up with, but they are well identified through their speech and actions. KS2 pupils could use this as an example of how to write characterisation and how a character’s speech could change a reader’s perspective of them.

Jamie Marshall

 

Peril en Pointe Swan House Ballet School Mystery by Helen Lipscombe  Chicken House ISBN: 9781910655795    £6.99

Milly is a young ballerina who is desperate to dance as well as her mum, but she makes mistakes in an important performance. Her mum disappears. Six months later, Milly is surprised to receive an invitation to join Swan House School of Ballet. Once she is there, she discovers it is actually a ballet school for spies. Milly’s challenge is develop her detective skills, to keep out of danger and solve the mystery of her mother’s disappearance. The plot is gripping, and the characters are well-drawn. This is a funny fast-paced spy story set in the world of ballet. Highly recommended for age 9+  children who enjoy boarding school stories, adventure and detection. I look forward to future good reads in this series.

Brenda Marshall

 

Moonstruck! Poems about our Moon Edited by Roger Stevens. Illustrated by Ed Boxall Otter-Barry  ISBN: 9781910959657. £6.99

What a memorable way to mark the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing by putting together such an enjoyable anthology of moon themed poems. Writers include Valerie Bloom, Brian Moses, James Carter, Tony Mitton and Roger Stevens (many are National Poetry Day Ambassadors), but also Shelley, Bronte, Longfellow and even more surprisingly, two very talented children. These poems demonstrate the lure, the fascination, the romance and magic the moon holds for us. Some are reflective, others are informative, descriptive or even comical, but none talks down to its young reader or panders to the penchant for cheap rhymes so often written for children. This language is to challenge, to try on the tongue and savour and just enjoy - along with Boxall’s wonderful lino-cuts, sketches and silhouettes. Put a copy in every primary classroom.It has so much potential.

Sue Barrett

We’re All Equal by Georgia Amson-Bradshaw  Illustrated by David Broadbent Franklin Watts ISBN 9781445163628 £12.99

This title is part of the I’m a Global Citizen series published by Franklin Watts. It begins by defining equality, looks at equality around the world and also considers gender, race, ethnicity and ability inequality.  There is also a double-page spread devoted to male / female stereotypes

In addition to the factual text there are a number of activities, challenges and ideas for action to really encourage young people to engage in the issues being discussed.  There is a glossary, a short bibliography, some website links and an index.  Unfortunately the second YouTube video was unavailable when I attempted to watch it.

It could be argued that the book stereotypes the children of low-paid / better-paid people in The Game of Inequality. However, it shows how even if born in the same country, people do not have equal chances. In the hands of a skilled teacher there would be many discussion points here.

This would be a very useful addition to any school library or classroom, from KS2 upwards.

Heather Bignold

 

The Truth about Martians by Melissa Savage Chicken House (www.chickenhousebooks.com) ISBN 9781911490821   £6.99

It is New Mexico in 1947 and rumours abound that a UFO has crash landed in the vicinity. Despite assurances from the military that there is nothing to see, Milo, Dibs and their friends can’t resist investigating for themselves. Milo is spurred on further by hearing a voice apparently calling for help. The friends are amazed when they find not only a space ship but also a young female ‘Moontian’ from Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons.  Will they be able to keep her hidden, help rescue her sick brother who has been captured and return them both safely to their mother ship?

Based partially on accounts of suspected UFO landings, this is an exciting multi-layered adventure story which would provide plenty to enjoy and think about as a class read aloud for upper KS2. The reader gets to know the two main characters really well; Milo is emerging from deep grief at the recent loss of his brother and Dibs is coping with physical abuse and neglect from his depressed and alcoholic father. Despite these traumas there is tremendous warmth and humour in the story, for example Moon Shine the alien’s first word is ‘Kapow!’ learnt from Milo’s collection of Superhero comics. A gripping read.

Sue McGonigle

 

The Story of Flight by Jacob Whitfield Illustrated by Us Now Wren and Rook ISBN 9781526360229  £12.99

A large, stunningly beautiful book about flight that both informs and inspires. The story begins with myths and legends and moves on through ballooning, airships and the invention of the aeroplane, The First and Second World Wars, to autopilots and drones. Each phase is given a double page spread where text and illustration are perfectly matched and well balanced. I particularly liked the stunning picture of Icarus and the dramatic portrayal of The First World War. There are also fascinating sections such as the need for speed, global air travel, cabin crew, a bag’s journey behind the scenes, and keeping safe in the sky. There is an intriguing spread on the anatomy of an aircraft which shows the basic layout has not changed in nearly a century. The author goes on to consider building an aeroplane, and planes that go straight up. The book also examines the role of aircraft other than for transporting people and cargo, and looks to the future and aircraft’s environmental impact. Perfect for KS2.

Brenda Marshall

 

The Midnight Hour by Benjamin Read  Illustrated by Laura Trinder     Chicken House ISBN 9781911490906     £6.99

Emily’s fairly normal life in London suddenly takes on an unexpected and scary change when she discovers that her parents are not quite what she thought.  They are part of an alternative London, a London frozen in time at midnight and peopled by a never-ending cast of monsters.  First her mum, then her dad, go missing and Emily finds herself transported to the world of these Night Folk in her attempt to find them.  Here she meets the living dead, a marauding shape-changing bear, a vampire, and a myriad of creatures that defy interpretation, most of them up to no good.  But Emily is more than up to her situation, being as feisty as it gets, with a no-no nonsense 21st century attitude, tinged with a liberal dose of humour.

We follow Emily’s adventures until she succeeds in her quest and normality - of a sort- is restored.  But probably temporarily as an endnote leaves us anticipating the promised sequels as this is the first of the now standard trilogy.

A fast moving, page turning story, this is an exciting but sometimes challenging read.

Pam Dowson

The Great Animal Escapade by Jane Kerr  Illustrated by Alexis Snell Chicken House (www.chickenhousebooks.com)    ISBN 9781911490340  £6.99

This is the second novel by the critically acclaimed author of ‘The Elephant Thief’. It is set in the same world as the first book, but you don’t need to have read the earlier book to enjoy this novel in its own right. This is a brilliantly original story with some strong themes of prejudice, identity and belonging. I loved it from the outset, with its authentic feel and important but timely themes. Set shortly after the Victorian era, it might be an interesting novel to read while studying this topic in class. We follow the story of Danny as he cares for the animals in Belle Vue zoo alongside training the famous elephant, Maharajah. When animals start escaping, he is the first to be accused as those around him point to his former life on the streets and his pickpocket past. It would be a fantastic basis for a class debate or mock trial to highlight how our preconceptions can influence our judgements. For fans of mystery and adventure, this is another classic in the making. Age range KS2.

Laura Davies

 

The Dog who Saved the World by Ross Welford HarperCollins Children’s Books www.harpercollins.co.uk ISBN 978 00 0 8256975  £6.99

This is a story about how the world nearly ends when threatened by a deadly virus; Canine Born Ebola or CBE, and how an eleven year old girl Georgie, her friend Ramzy and her dog Mr Mash eventually save the day. The method is difficult and daring involving travelling into the future by which time a vaccine has been invented and finding a way of transporting it back to the past.  Travelling into the future is not normally easy but Georgie has extraordinary friends to help, in particular a brilliant and highly eccentric inventor Dr Pretorius who has taken creating virtual reality environments to a whole new level.

A complex, exciting and intriguing story from the author of the highly popular Time Travelling with a Hamster. It is told with humour and sensitivity particularly when exploring the evolving relationship between Georgie and her step mother to be, Jessica. There are scary bits too, watch out for the some dangerous giant size lobsters! This book could make a great read aloud in an upper KS2 class and might provoke discussion about a range of subjects addressed in the story including virtual reality, time travel, dog ownership, family relationships and the impact of serious epidemics.

Sue McGonigle

 

The Demon Headmaster Mortal Danger by Gillian Cross OUP ISBN 9780192766069 £6.99

I have always enjoyed The Demon Headmaster stories and this latest addition does not disappoint. Lizzie and Ethan’s school has a new head teacher. Ms Mountain is excellent, and wants children to follow their passions and enjoy learning. She holds an exciting Arts Explosion event, and there is a competition to win an adventure holiday on an uninhabited island. Danger lurks and the children have to be alert to outwit their opponents. This is a well written, fast paced story with a growing sense of tension. Themes include deception, ulterior motives, thinking outside the box, fake news and the power of the internet. Highly recommended as an exciting and thought provoking book for KS2 children.

Brenda Marshall

 

The Cosmic Atlas of Alfie Fleet by Martin Howard Illustrated by Chris Mould Oxford University Press  ISBN 9780192767509  £6.99

For readers who enjoy fast-moving, off-the-wall adventures well laced with the quirkiest of humour, this book will be a sure fire winner.  Think of a cross between the Hitch-hiker’s Guide and Mr. Gum and you have a pretty good idea of the book’s approach and style.  Characters such as Professor Bowell-Mouvemont, an alien girl called Derek, a questing knight named Sir Brenda and a so-called god called Skingrath; locations such as the planet Brains-in-Jars, Outlandish and the Dead Crow inn give an intimation of the imagination of the author.

The eponymous Archie, in need of money for a birthday present for his impoverished mum, is employed by the Professor to travel via a stone circle portal in the basement of his house in an attempt to find money to stop the destruction of his home and the Unusual Cartography Club of which he is the sole survivor. They encounter the weirdest of creatures and have a long list of unusual and terrifying encounters before emerging triumphant.

The book is great fun and I suspect a follow-up will be on its way, taking its lead from the Cosmic Atlas that Archie updates on his travels.

Pam Dowson

 

 

The Bigfoot Files by Lindsay Eagar  Walker Press ISBN 9781406385434   £6.99

Miranda is a 12 year old girl who is an A grade student. Her mother, Kat, is obsessed with Bigfoot and shoots off on spur of the moment expeditions to find him, taking her daughter with her. This means Miranda misses school, ruining her perfect school record which she needs if she is to go to a leadership conference in Washington DC. Miranda loses her friend. She finds her irresponsible mother an embarrassment and is so stressed that she pulls out strands of her own hair. After finding a stack of unpaid bills and a threat of eviction. Miranda decides to go on one last trip to show her mother that Bigfoot isn’t real, and that she should leave the fantasy behind and get a proper job. The trip does not go according to plan. There is excitement, danger and introspection as Miranda and her mother face up to a range of encounters, some of which blur the distinction between reality and magic. The book is well written and we are given a superb recreation of the emotions and internal struggles of a 12 year old girl who tries to be the adult to her own mother. Age range 11+

Brenda Marshall

The Big Countdown: The Universe in Numbers. Paul Rockett Franklin Watts.  ISBN 9781445158211   £12.99

This book explores the world and the universe by looking at numbers and, at a time when numeracy is an important part of all subjects taught in schools, is a good addition to the classroom and school libraries. The book looks at popular topics such as rainforests, outer space, the animal kingdom and much more to show the universe and our world in numbers. This exciting book will, not only help environmental and geography studies, but will assist numeracy work for KS2 pupils. I would even suggest that some Year 7 and 8 pupils would also enjoy this as a good reference book.

Buried in this book are numbers which will surprise and engage all pupils. It is an education in itself giving a new perspective on the world we inhabit. This book offers children believable and remarkable numbers which can be described, explored, analysed and discussed. It is an interesting reference book and an intriguing addition to both schools and homes.

Paul Baker

Powerful Forces Extreme Science series by Rob Colson and Jon Richards  Wayland   ISBN 9781526307293   £12.99

An attractive, interesting book that introduces the topic of forces. Extreme examples are investigated. We learn about what forces are, gravitational force, how things move quickly, and how they stop. Thrust and speed records are considered, along with friction, streamlining, pressure, magnetic attraction, balance, machines, and engines. The text is easy to read and accessible and is interspersed with simple graphic pictures in bright colours. Pages are well laid out in this high quality production. There is a clear contents page, an extensive index and a 2 page glossary. The book will appeal to visual learners and reluctant readers aged 9 – 11. It is ideal for a class and school library.

Brenda Marshall

The Genius of the Anglo-Saxons – clever ideas and inventions from past civilisations by Izzi Howell; Franklin Watts ISBN 9781445161174     £12.99

This is the latest book in a series that covers all the options in the History KS2 Curriculum. And it does exactly what it says on the tin!

The book is a clear, simple [but not simplistic] introduction to the Anglo-Saxons in England, from the time the Romans left until the arrival of the Normans in 1066. Topics are laid out logically and the language is mostly very appropriate for KS 2 pupils to read for themselves. Page layout is attractive, and the illustrations – both colour photographs and line drawings – form an integral part of the text. Especially interesting points are highlighted in boxes on the page. There is enough detail included in the text to get a clear understanding of what made the Anglo-Saxons tick, and to suggest areas for further exploration.

This book would make an excellent addition to the school library or an Anglo-Saxon topic box; and is an ideal starting point for research into Anglo-Saxon life.

Alf Wilkinson

The Fire Maker by Guy Jones Illustrated by Helen Crawford White Chicken House ISBN 9781911490678     £6.99

This story centres on the main character, Alex, who escapes from his tortured life by entering the world of magic, only to find out that it’s actually real! The pace is frantic, as Alex is chased through his home town by his former best friend! Luckily, this terrible event forces him into meeting Mr Olmos and the ifrit. Alex is then intent on discovering more about these creatures, whilst trying to win a magic competition and improving his relationship with his dad and his best friend. This book is a wonderful teaching source for years 4-6. It could be used for PSHE lessons concentrating on: friendship, anxiety, dealing with pressure and coping with parents who have separated. There are some great magicians from the past referenced, such as those from the Victorian period. Looking at theatre design and magician stage acts would be interesting. Alex’s mum is a painter– this could lead to a session on trying to recreate her paintings. The ifrit’s habitat could be discussed. You could look at where the ifrit might come from and this would link into discussing genies in other stories, such as the one from 1001 Arabian Nights.

Jamie Marshall

Insects, Bugs and other Invertebrates Prehistoric Life series by Clare Hibbert and Rudolf Farkas  Watts   ISBN 9781445159140    £12.99

A fascinating introduction to insects, bugs and other invertebrates that lived on earth hundreds of millions of years ago. This book is easy to navigate. Blocks of text that are well laid out and clear, detailed illustrations. Language is simple but the information is not dumbed down. The fact file for each invertebrate includes a useful pronunciation guide. The book covers a wide range of examples from the Anomalocaris with powerful eyes, and the Jaekelopterus with serrated, pincer-like claws to Arthropleura with 40 pairs of legs to the Mesolimulus that had six pairs of legs sticking out of its head. I particularly like the colour-coded timeline that shows when key species appeared, as well as the date of extinction for some of them. There is an extensive glossary, and books, websites and a list of places to visit to inspire further research. Highly recommended for KS2.

Brenda Marshall

Planet Fashion by Natasha Slee Illustrated by Cynthia Kittler Wide Eyed Editions ISBN 9781786031945  £14.99

A stylish, captivating book that explores the history of fashion over the last hundred years. We travel the world with our journey guides, a boy and a girl, and visit places such as Hollywood, Paris, Harlem, Canada, the French Riviera, London, Mexico, China and India. The glorious illustrations demand close observation, and fact boxes feature When, Where, Key Designers, Silhouette, Hemline and Sleeves. The font used gives the impression of a fashion designer’s sketchbook. I found the cultural influences especially interesting such as the cycling bloomers for women, the development of rayon, Coco Chanel’s functional and elegant working woman’s wardrobe, Egyptomania in the 1920’s, the influence of Jackie Kennedy, and the sheepskin Afghan coats of the hippies. At the back of the book, there are timelines showing historical events, silhouettes, and the development of shoes, hats and bags. The Can You Find? pages encourage the reader to revisit the earlier scenes. A fabulous celebration of fashion for KS2 children. It is ideal for school libraries and would make a superb gift.

Brenda Marshall

 

Pog  by Pádraig Kenny Chicken House books ISBN 9781911490395 £6.99

Penny, her brother David and their dad, move into a new house in the middle of a forest; their mother’s childhood home. Mum is apparently en route. Later we find out that mum has died in a road accident and when she does arrive it will be in an urn.

Pog Lumpkin, a small furry creature living in the loft watches as they unpack. He feels their incredible sadness, empathising as he also is sad, missing his Grandfa who had taught him everything. Pog has been tasked with protecting the boundary between worlds and by the same token protecting the family from dark forces trying to infiltrate the house and feed on their sadness.

A strong sense of menace runs through the story and there are some scenes of pure horror after Pog’s protective powers diminish and evil creatures penetrate the barrier and swarm into the children’s home.

The main characters are very appealing and the issue of grief and how different individuals cope with it is dealt with highly sensitively. There is a sense of hope at the end of the story with the idea the dead stay with you and so does their love ‘them that’s dead is never gone’.

This is a moving and dramatic fantasy story which may be a great read for children in upper KS2 and, if read aloud to a class, might provide a context to explore bereavement.

Sue McGonigle

Against All Gods by Maz Evans Illustrated by Helen Crawford-White and Aleksei Bitskoff    Chicken House ISBN: 9781911077008  £6.99

What an emotional rollercoaster! This is the fourth and final instalment of the “Who let the Gods out?” series by Maz Evans. Elliot’s epic journey has reached a point where he needs to make the hardest, most devastating decision anyone could bare to make: to save the world, or to save the person he loves most in the world. This would be a great PSHE discussion point about Elliot’s feelings at the time. We learn from earlier books that Elliot’s mum was also ill before she was taken to the underworld, and there is a heart wrenching discussion between Elliot and his mum about whether she actually wants to be brought back to life. Again, this opens up a much needed, but delicate, talking point about dealing with death or even the role of child carers.

Despite the gravity of Elliot’s dilemma, there are lots of humorous anecdotes in the form of the Greek Gods, the Zodiac Council and other mythical creatures. There are quite a lot of characters to keep up with, but they are well identified through their speech and actions. KS2 pupils could use this as an example of how to write characterisation and how a character’s speech could change a reader’s perspective of them.

Jamie Marshall

A Girl Called Justice by Elly Griffiths Quercus ISBN: 978178650782 £6.99

Justice Jones has sleuthing written into her DNA.  Her mother is the author of the Leslie Light crime novels and her father is a QC specialising in murder cases.  After the death of her mother, Justice is packed off rather swiftly to boarding school, where even before she arrives at the gates, the taxi driver has set her on the trail of a murderer by mentioning that his brother, the local undertaker, had been there the previous week to collect a body. There is also the mystery of how Justice’s father knows Miss de Vere, the headmistress, to resolve.  The book is set in the 1930s and references a range of other novels, possibly unintentionally, from the four turrets of the building reminiscent of Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers series, to Harry Potterish creeping around in the dark at boarding school, which will delight many readers.  I won’t reveal whodunnit, but safe to say that Justice does eventually work it out.  A book that will generate a good deal of speculative talk if it is used as a class reader, and is highly likely to be enjoyed if read privately.  Well worth adding to the KS2 class library.  It is to be hoped that this is not Elly Griffiths’ only venture into writing for children.

Liz Broad

Dinosaurs Time Trails series by Liz Gogerly and Rob Hunt Illustrated by Øivind Hovland Watts   ISBN 9781445158556    £12.99

Some children are fascinated by dinosaurs and this book does not disappoint. We are taken on a chronological journey that starts over 200 million years ago, and ends in the mass extinction event in the Cretaceous period when three quarters of all life on the planet was destroyed. At the start of the book there is a clear timeline and contents page. Each double page spread is bright and colourful. Pictures and text are well balanced. We are introduced to a range of dinosaurs including the Huayangosaurus, the Brachiosaurus, the Spinosaurus and the Pinacosaurus. The book ends with consideration of the timeline under our feet, a detailed Palaeontology Timeline, a comprehensive glossary, an index and suggestions for further research. Ideal for KS2 dinosaur enthusiasts, it would make a welcome addition to a library or an excellent present.

Brenda Marshall

Swallow’s Dance by Wendy Orr  Allen & Unwin  ISBN 9781911631200    £7.99

This is a coming of age story. Leira is from a privileged background, the priest-class, and is on the brink of becoming a woman when her world is turned upside down. An earthquake and volcanic eruptions destroy her home, her life, her island. Her mother is seriously injured in the eruption. Leira, along with the old nanny, must look after her mother and escape the destruction. They flee with hardly any of their possessions to make a new life.

Based on the true-life destruction of Thera, [we know this as Santorini, near Crete in the Mediterranean], around 1625BC, the story follows Leira’s attempts to survive in a strange new world. She must find enough food and shelter to keep the three of them alive. She must work for a living, even though she has been trained to be a priest.

The book explores life in the Cretan Bronze Age, and how individuals and societies cope with disaster and the aftermath. Leira has to find new skills and determination to survive. This is a riveting story well told, but may be for KS 3 rather than KS 2.

Alf Wilkinson

 

Supersize Cross Sections Inside Engines by Pascale Hedelin Illustrated by Lou Rihn  Wide Eyed £14.99

A stunning book that takes us inside 15 supersize vehicles. We are shown how they were constructed and are given an insight into what life was like on these vehicles. A wide range of cross sections is included - an 18th century adventure gallery captained by William Kidd; the Orient Express; RMS Titanic; the LZ 129 Hindenburg Zeppelin; a M4A4 Sherman Tank; the Saturn V Rocket launcher, RV Calypso; the International Space Station; a fishing trawler; a nuclear powered attack submarine; a fire engine; a house boat; Airbus A380, a circus convoy and a tunnel boring machine. The book is large format allowing the cutaway diagrams to reveal details of inner workings, and concise captions provide additional information. Did you know that guests on the Hindenburg communicated with one another by post, or that the lighting in a nuclear submarine is yellow during the day and dim red at night to help the crew keep the same rhythm?   There is a clear, comprehensive glossary at the back of the book. An Informative, awe inspiring book perfectly pitched for KS2.

Brenda Marshall

 

Fast Forward The World’s Most Famous Race Tracks and Race Cars  by Adam Skinner Illustrated by James Gilleard Wide Eyed ISBN 9781786036292 £20

This book takes us to 13 countries across the world visiting iconic racing venues. We learn about the tracks, classic cars, the drivers and key moments in motor racing. I also enjoyed learning about the people who build, develop and maintain the cars, and the designers and architects who create the tracks.  The book’s large format does justice to the power and awe-inspiring qualities of the cars. Atmospheric illustrations introduce each track. Plenty of information is provided in a way that is easily accessible. The presentation is excellent with statistics, diagrams, pictures and captions as well as blocks of text with key words in bold type. At the end of the book there is a clear glossary and index. My only disappointment is that I could find no reference to Niki Lauda. Highly recommended for KS2 children.

Brenda Marshall

 

Famous Family Trees – explore 25 family trees from history by Kazi Hauge Illustrated by Vivien Mildenberger Lincoln Children’s Books ISBN: 9 781786 032973 £12.99

What a clever idea – take 25 famous people and draw their family tree. Each one is accompanied by a page highlighting the achievements of that individual. The illustrations and use of colour bring the pages to life but, unfortunately, for me, it doesn’t really work.

There is an interesting combination of familiar – Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare,  Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela – and unfamiliar – Desiree Clary, Ada Lovelace, Maria Tallchief – people; of people from all ages and continents; and all walks of life. So as a library reference book this could be a useful, although difficult, book to use.

Despite the large format, many of the family trees are so complicated that it is difficult to follow. And, if I’m honest, in many cases knowing their family tree, whilst in itself interesting, doesn’t really help us to understand what made these people tick and why they are significant. The language too is often difficult for KS2 pupils. This book, despite the ‘folksy’ illustrations, is more likely to appeal to adults than children.

Alf Wilkinson

 

ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING! a History of Earth, Dinosaurs, Rulers, Robots and Other Things Too Numerous to Mention by Christopher Lloyd Illustrated by Andy Forshaw What on Earth Books  ISBN: 9781999802820 £16.99

A fabulous book that tells the history of the world and shows how it connects together .The content includes the beginning of the universe, dinosaurs, the start of civilisation, classical empires, the Americas, inventions, medieval misery, globalization, revolutions, wars,  – and "to be continued". There are photographs, illustrations, timelines and plenty of information that will intrigue, delight and amaze children. Christopher Lloyd says in his introduction that the book is "a gateway to all the knowledge in the world. For every question it answers, it sparks more questions, which I hope will lead you into a lifelong love of questioning and finding answers". I found it addictive, and recommend it to everyone aged 9+ as an exceptional, accessible reference book.

Brenda Marshall

Dictionary of Dinosaurs Edited by Dr Matthew G. Baron Illustrated by Dieter Braun. Wide Eyed ISBN 9781786033284     £14.99

This comprehensive illustrated dictionary is published in partnership with the Natural History Museum, London. Many children are fascinated by dinosaurs, and this beautiful book contains information about every dinosaur that has ever been discovered. The introduction explains when dinosaurs lived, what killed off the dinosaurs, how we know about dinosaurs and how fossils form. Next is a clear timeline, and an explanation of some of the dinosaur groups used by scientists. The text provides key information that has been verified by a dinosaur expert and is up-to-date. Each dinosaur has a picture, the Latin name and how to pronounce it, and the meaning of the name. There is a description of the dinosaur together with the length, its diet, when it lived and where it was found. Scale is indicated where the dinosaur silhouette is shown next to a human silhouette that represents 6 foot. The illustrations are an important part of the book’s appeal as they are the at-a-glance introduction to each dinosaur .This is a treasure trove of information and the go-to reference book for any child interested in dinosaurs. Age range KS2

Brenda Marshall

 

How To Think Like An Absolute Genius by Philippe Brasseur. Quarto publishing (www.QuartoKnows.com) ISBN 9780711239845     £10.99

There are plenty of “How To..” manuals, but this one, for UKS2, is a real gem. As it makes clear on the page which contrasts a traditional school with one for geniuses, this is about curiosity, imagination and determination. Brasseur looks at 27 different geniuses as diverse as Da Vinci, Dali, Freud and Disney and examines a key feature of their approach: seeing things differently, turning things on their heads or trusting their subconscious. On each differently designed double page spread linked with a named genius are cartoons, diagrams, photographs, things for the reader to try out as well as information and the names of others who acted in the same way. It is riveting!

Dare I say in a ‘one size fits all’ education system, this is the encouragement to young readers to think differently and creatively, to find solutions to problems and to visualise their theories. Here are some of the world’s greatest scientists, artists, musicians, activists and writers - thankfully many unsung women too - for whom traditional approaches were not enough. A look at one a day in Y5/6 classrooms might just inspire a new genius. Buy your copy!

Susan Barrett

 

Roman Britain and Londinium by Ben Hubbard. Franklin Watts ISBN 9781445157306 £12.99

The “time travel” format in this series is an exciting one for youngsters, and gets to the heart of why we develop an interest in the past: how were people different or the same as us in the all that time ago? The trip to Londinium is nicely set out here and the idea of being a tourist in the ancient town is again interest grabbing. I really like the approachable presentation and cartoon style of drawing, and each tableau as it unfolds on turning the page can be explored visually for the activities of various characters before going more in-depth with the text. The text conveys a lot of information, again in an approachable and amusing style, and the balance between image and information is good. There is some attempt here to distinguish between the relatively few actual “Romans” in Roman Britain and the rest of the population, but it seems unfortunate that people and things are still often referred to under the blanket term “Roman”. The term ‘Romano-British’ often seems to be eschewed as overcomplicated in public and educational outputs. My hope is that one day we can solve this didactic problem, even for the youngest scholars, as the real interest in Britannia, and the subject of most study of it over the last 30 years, is that the province was a very particular version of Romanitas, perhaps more Gallo-Roman in many respects than “Roman” per se.

Jake Weekes

On Planet Earth by Paul Mason Illustrated by Mark Ruffle. Wayland ISBN 9781526305763    £12.99

This is an addition to 'The Cause, Effect and Chaos' series of books which explore the relationships between things, actions and reactions, what can go wrong and the chaos that might occur. This book for KS2 pupils allows them to learn about the Planet Earth through double page spreads on topics as. A Formation of the Planet, Plate Tectonics, Causes and Effects of Disasters such as Flooding, Avalanches and Hurricanes. It also includes pages on Aquifers and Wild Fires. The final two page spreads look at Erosion and Climate Change.

This book gives a clear and concise background of information and will allow KS2 pupils to improve their geographical knowledge of the relationship and processes on Planet Earth. It would be a good addition to a KS2 classroom and is good value for £12.99. This resource can help pupils develop a deeper understanding of the planet they live on and consider problems that they may meet during their life time. It also provides them with a good grounding for future geography studies in KS3 and may well encourage them to undertake further research.

Paul Baker

The Restless Girls by Jessie Burton  Illustrated by Angela Barrett. Bloomsbury www.bloomsbury.com ISBN 9781526603043      £14.99

This book was a delight from start to finish. Jessie Burton’s feminist re-presentation of the classic fairy tale, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, was, Burton claims, a joy to write and I wholeheartedly respond that it was, too, a joy to read.

Burton writes beautifully, and with carefully chosen language she brings each of the feisty princesses alive; a botanist; an artist; a ‘vet’; an astronomer… the list goes on, reinforcing along the way that there really is a different way for a girl than marrying the fairy tale prince. The princesses, led by awesome oldest sister, Frida, each employ their imagination to cope with life locked up in a room without windows following the fatal car crash of their mother, Queen Laurelia.  In true ‘fairy tale’ tradition, the imprisoned princesses find a hidden door behind a life-sized portrait of their mother, (in full motoring gear), and, behind the door, a magical kingdom laced with challenges and delights awaits. I was truly enthralled as I read but am not about to deliver spoilers here!
The book is further enhanced by Angela Barrett’s intricate and sensitive illustrations that help the text to form images in the mind rather than overpowering the words on the page.  The Restless Girls is released for publication at the end of September; I recommend that you order your copy now.

Laura Manison Shore

 

She Wolf by Dan Smith Chicken House ISBN 9781910655931  £6.99

Set in Northumbria in 866, Ylva, a young Viking girl is washed ashore on a frozen beach. She is a strong-willed Viking and will not cry. Ylva’s mother has died at the hands of a three-fingered man. She is set on revenge and embarks on a dangerous journey encountering a bear, wolves . A very exciting story, with plenty of tension and twists as brave Ylva learns who she can trust. There are evocative descriptions of wild Nothumbria. and its people. I also enjoyed the Viking background and the book contains a comprehensive glossary and a section of historical information. Highly recommended for confident readers at KS2.

Brenda Marshall

 

The Button War by Avi Walker Books ISBN 9781406380835; £6.99

What an interesting story, and an unusual approach to the starting months of World War One. Set in a village in Poland – which in 1914 didn’t exist as a country and was split between Russia, Germany and Austria-Hungary – the story begins with a childish challenge to collect buttons from soldiers’ uniforms. Every one of a group of friends tries to become ‘King’ of the Buttons.

When a German aeroplane drops a bomb on the village the boys live in, the war comes to their remote part of Poland.[ Never mind that aeroplanes weren’t really able to drop bombs in 1914 – they certainly did in 1915.] Life will never be the same again, as Germans fight Russians, and village loyalties are split. In the middle of this the boys play an increasingly competitive game to see who can collect the best button from a uniform. As their rivalry deepens, so the war comes ever more forcefully into the village until finally most of the boys and the village are destroyed.

A very dark, but readable, story interweaves life and war in an interesting and unusual way. For those trying to understand lessons to be learnt from the centenary of the end of World War One this book provides plenty to think about. Upper K2 readers, especially boys, will be gripped.

Alf Wilkinson

 

The Dog who Saved the World by Ross Welford HarperCollins Children’s Books www.harpercollins.co.uk ISBN 978 00 0 8256975  £6.99

This is a story about how the world nearly ends when threatened by a deadly virus; Canine Born Ebola or CBE, and how an eleven year old girl Georgie, her friend Ramzy and her dog Mr Mash eventually save the day. The method is difficult and daring involving travelling into the future by which time a vaccine has been invented and finding a way of transporting it back to the past.  Travelling into the future is not normally easy but Georgie has extraordinary friends to help, in particular a brilliant and highly eccentric inventor Dr Pretorius who has taken creating virtual reality environments to a whole new level.

A complex, exciting and intriguing story from the author of the highly popular Time Travelling with a Hamster. It is told with humour and sensitivity particularly when exploring the evolving relationship between Georgie and her step mother to be, Jessica. There are scary bits too, watch out for the some dangerous giant size lobsters! This book could make a great read aloud in an upper KS2 class and might provoke discussion about a range of subjects addressed in the story including virtual reality, time travel, dog ownership, family relationships and the impact of serious epidemics.

Sue McGonigle

 

The Good Guys by Rob Kemp Illustrated by Paul Blow Wren and Rook  ISBN 9781526361448 £12.99

A beautifully illustrated book that celebrates heroes who have changed the world with kindness.  The 50 role models are drawn from all walks of life. Some are famous such as David Attenborough, Louis Braille, Muhammad Ali, Nelson Mandela and Usain Bolt. Others are less well-known such as James Harrison who has donated samples of his rare blood for over 50 years and saved the lives of millions of babies, Richard Martin the animal rights pioneer, and Jonas Salk, who invented the polio vaccine and gave it to the world for free. Each of the role models is given a double-page spread. One side is a brightly coloured illustration, and the page of text explains why Rob Kemp thinks they are good guys. The book is accessible, positive and inspirational. It showcases the importance of kindness and is a superb read for both boys and girls in KS2, and is perfect for assemblies.

Brenda Marshall

 

The Man Who Loved Libraries: The story of Andrew Carnegie by Andrew Larsen, illustrated by Katty Maurey Pikku Publishing http://pikkupublishing.com/ 978 0 9934884 8 1            £8.99

This book tells the rags to riches story of Andrew Carnegie. He was born the son of a weaver in 19th century Scotland and emigrated to America with his family in search of a better life. With determination, hard work and a passion for learning he became successful in the railroad industry and after investing shrewdly became very rich. Appreciating the value of a private library he had access to as a young man he decided to use his wealth to build free public libraries,  eventually these were established all over the world including 600 in the UK and Ireland.

The text is clear, interesting and engaging and the simple, stylish block print illustrations are very attractive. Additional information about Carnegie’s philanthropic work is provided at the back of the book though less positive opinions of his record with workers’ rights is touched on only briefly.

This book would be a useful addition to a collection of biographies in an upper KS2 class and would be of particular interest to Scottish and American audiences. It is also a book which celebrates the value of libraries, currently under significant threat and the value of books and reading in making a real difference to an individual and their opportunities.

Sue McGonigle

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