Ages 9 - 11 [Upper Key Stage 2] Archive

The Library of Doom Series:
The Book That Dripped Blood,
both by Michael Dahl, illustrated by Bradford Kendall

Raintree ISBN 9781406225068/9781406212822

These novels, written by Michael Dahl, are set in the Library of Doom: the world’s largest collection of deadly and dangerous books where only the Librarian can prevent these books from falling into the hands of those who would use them for evil. It’s an exciting premise, they have great titles and covers, and a genuine frisson of fear and suspense runs through each story. The individual words are short and easy to read; they are set clearly on the page with plenty of space between sentences and different artistic fonts are cleverly used to emphasise strong words. There are illustrations on every page and the dark, sepia design theme reflects the tension created by the narrative.

Inkfoot lives inside a book but escapes and terrorises people and animals in the local area. The Librarian has to catch it and return it to its rightful home. In The Book That Dripped Blood a furry book is biting people with its sharp teeth so that the Collector, can get stronger. Once again the Librarian saves the day.
Online review 2009

The Boy, The Bear, The Baron, The Bard, Gregory Rogers

Allen & Unwin ISBN 9781741145359 £6.99

This delightful picture book by Gregory Rogers tells the story of a young boy who finds himself in an abandoned theatre near the River Thames. When the clock strikes four, he is magically transported back in time to Elizabethan London and onto the stage, much to the annoyance of the bard standing watching in the wings. A frantic chase across the city follows, involving an angry Shakespeare, a captive bear, an imprisoned baron awaiting the chopping block, and even Queen Elizabeth herself makes a cameo appearance! There no words in the book, but the illustrations tell the story expertly, with lots of humour and surprising twists with each turn of the page. I was impressed with how quickly I emphasised with the boy, and the final scene with the bear prompted a lump in my throat!

The book would be more suitable for older children in KS2 who can appreciate the humour and also deal with the slightly gruesome images of London Bridge, although they may need some help with identifying the principle characters. As there are no words the book may be useful for using with struggling readers, sharing the story and exploring language when discussing the illustrations. The historical detail included would ensure that the book could be used for exploring many aspects of Elizabethan life, and the modern day images that start and finish the story are useful for comparing how London has changed over time. It would also provide a good starting point for exploring Shakespeare, enabling the children to put the plays into historical context and finding out if he really was such an incredible grump!
Dominic Davies, English Manager, Regent’s Park Community School, Birmingham.
Online review 2008

Cezanne and the Apple Boy, Laurence Anholt

Frances Lincoln    ISBN 9781845079109    £12.99

This charming book tells how the boy Paul Cezanne receives a letter from his father, also called Paul, inviting him to spend a summer on a painting expredition in the mountains of Provence. Paul discovers his father is a remot, gruff artist who paints the natural world with a passion few can understand. Through the eyes of his son, we are given an insight into Cezanne and see he is warm-hearted but sometimes aloof (he does not like to be touched). One day they meet Vollard, a dealer who sells Cezanne's work in Paris. Cezanne becomes a rich man, but remains frugal and reclusive. Ten years on, Paul's son has become his agent.

The book provides an excellent introduction to Cezanne's work with reproductions of his famous paintings. There are plenty of discussion opportunities, such as genius being misunderstood; an artist's journey; 'Sometimes life is hard, but follow your path and at last you reach the top'; and the father-son relationship encapsulated in Anholt's dedication 'For my father with tears and my sons with kisses.' This is a sensitive, thought-provoking non-fiction book that resonates with the reader.

Brenda Marshall, English 4-11 Number 38, Spring 2010

The Comic Strip History of Space, Sally Kindberg and Tracey Turner

Bloomsbury    ISBN 9780747594321    £6,99

This is a deceptively clever book. Sally Kindberg's comic strip form makes the content accessible and fun. In just 83 pages we are introduced to the origins of the universe; ancient civilsations' ideas about astronomy; famous astronomers; 20th century explorations and discoveries; and the book ends with speculation on infinity and beyond. It is an excellent introduction to the history of space as it is very entertaining with plenty of jokes, but it also teaches a lot. I recommend it highly to anyone at Key Stage 2 and, at £6.99 for a hardback book, it is superb value.

Brenda Marshall, English 4-11 Number 39, Summer 2010

Flash Flood, Andy Croft

Barrington Stoke    ISBN 9781842996072    £5.99

Cliff Edge, Jane A.C. West

Barrington Stoke    ISBN 9781842996102    £5.99

Both of these books from the Solo range (for 10-14 year olds with a reading age of 6.5) are terrific reads. Just the cover of Cliff Edge is exciting. Danny and Cristo are free climbers who scale mountains unaided and abseil down. They decide to tackle El Cap - 1,000 metres of steep cliff face - aiming to beat the record of 2 hours and 45 minutes. All goes well until Cristo poses for a photo and misses his footing, leaving Danny to make the most dangerous climb of his life. The story is a real adrenaline rush. Flash Flood starts as a normal camping trip but the river bursts its banks and Jaz and Toni do not realise just how fast the water level is rising. They are trapped in an old house and are in danger as the water is half way up the stairs and it's still rising. Eventually they escape and even rescue others.

Both books are gripping adventures and pitch the language level just right for their target audience and there are clear illustrations on every page. The plots are exciting with plenty of cliffhangers. They are highly recommended.

Brenda Marshall, English 4-11 Number 37, Autumn 2009

Flashback Series, Stewart Ross

Athens is Saved ISBN 9780237531522

Beware the King ISBN 9780237531515

Dear Mum, I Miss You ISBN 9780237531492

Down With the Romans ISBN 9780237531508

Please Help, Miss Nightingale! ISBN 9780237535049

What If the Bomb Goes Off? ISBN 9780237535032

Evans Brothers    £4.99 each

Formerly published as part of the 13 book series Coming Alive, these books really do bring history to life. Each book contains a history fact file which presents the evidence and key events on which the book is based. With sections entitled 'How do we know?' and 'What happened next?' each story is contextualised within its historical period. A time line is also provided, together with a glossary of key words used in the text.

The style of writing is very approachable and would be appropriate for most Key Stage 2 readers. The wealth of historical detail woven into the fabric of the narrative makes these books particularly suitable for use in cross-curricular or themed teaching. We used What If the Bomb Goes Off? as a Guided Reading text - the historical content fulfils A7 (relating texts to their social, cultural and historical traditions), whilst each book is short enough for the whole text to be read comfortably over several weeks. We also found that the historical detail made these books a rich resource for developing inference and deduction skills. This series would make a valuable addition to any classroom, both as a resource for historical research and as an exciting set of stories to capture the imagination of young readers.

Online review 2009

Give Me Shelter, edited by Tony Bradman

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books    ISBN 9781847800022   £6.99
This book has been reviewed by a pupil and a teacher.

Give Me Shelter is an emotional book made up of six short stories about children seeking asylum.  These stories give you a real feel for what life is like for some kids.  The tales are written in different ways: some as the character; some as a diary and some as though you are watching them.  The interesting titles include Little Fish, Beans for Tea and Baa and the Angels.  I really enjoyed the stories and although they are partly fiction they helped me to appreciate and be grateful for what my life is like.  I would recommend the book for children aged 11 to 16.

Megan Ireland, age eleven

Give me Shelter would be a great resource for PSHE, citizenship and global links.  It will provide children with real insight into the lot of many children growing up in worn torn, chaotic areas of the world.  Although not accessible to many readers in KS2, as a teaching text it could be used to explore many deep issues such as persecution, building a new life in a strange country, racism and basic human rights.

 As a school with links with a school in Ethiopia the short story Give me Shelter was very powerful when we shared with our pupils the experiences of young boy soldiers, kidnapped and forced to fight.  Many fled to Sudan for asylum.  A true insight into real life for many children.

Annette Cupit, English 4-11 Number 41, Spring 2011

Raintree Graphic Novels:

 ISBN 978140623485/9781406214161/9781406214284/9781406224931 all £7.99

These graphic novels from Raintree would be a useful addition to any school or classroom library. They are attractively produced, with full-colour, high-quality illustrations. The hardback versions are durable and feel good to handle. Each book comes with a handy glossary and some discussion pointers for follow up work. The thing I like best is that, unusually for a graphic novel using speech-bubble format, the text is written in lower case ? so much easier for younger learners. These books are suitable for age 8 upwards.

Black Beauty, Retold by L L Owens, illustrated by Jennifer Tanner
This title is my favourite. It offers a reliable first person narrative balanced with dialogue in speech bubbles. The illustrations are attractive and appropriate to the setting.

The Wizard of Oz, retold by Martin Powell, illustrated by Jeorge Break
The overtly Manga-type illustrations may well put off some teachers, but the children will enjoy this version of the popular story. The darker colours used give an appropriate sense of threat.

Jason and The Golden Fleece, retold by Nel Yomtov, illustrated by Gerado Sandoval
This is a retelling of the Jason story where, naturally, the Greek names are likely to be tricky for weak readers. However, there is a useful phonetic pronunciation guide at the back.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, retold by M C Hall, illustrated by Daniel Strickland
This offers only a brief skim through a few of the main episodes of the story, but has an appropriate balance of narrative and dialogue. The illustrations give a good sense of period and place.
Online review 2009

A Play for Christmas, Alison Chapman

Arts on the Move 9781906153410  £10.00

If you are looking for a 21st century approach to the traditional Nativity story for your Christmas production, The Xmas Factor could fit the bill.  As the title suggests, a well-known TV talent programme provides the format for this up-to-date and humorous slant on the well-known tale.  Amongst the 16 speaking roles the usual characters are joined by a supercilious programme Host and four hopeful contestants vying for the job of the brightest star in the sky, each with their own heart-rending story designed to get the judges’ votes.
Second of the 12 scenes takes us to the Inn where a customer announces an unexpected birth in the stable to a surprised Innkeeper, who is concerned with Health and Safety issues in these unusual circumstances. Meanwhile, back at the Xmas Factor auditions Little Star, a latecomer, turns up but is persuaded by the other Stars that with no ‘USP’ he/she isn’t special enough for the job.
The scene with the Shepherds and Angels is recognisable, but the humorous touch in the dialogue gives us an alternative view of events on the hillside above Bethlehem.  The conversation between Little Star and a party-going Rooster is less than conventional but leaves us sure that Little Star will win through.  The three Wise Men have different characters to those we are familiar with, and here lies the key to the potential success of this production.  All the characters are well defined through their dialogue and it will be vital to have a sufficient number of confident older pupils to carry off the characterisations.  A good memory and a sense of timing will also be necessary! The play has great audience appeal and if well cast would be an enjoyable focus for Christmas celebrations – but do be sure to give yourself plenty of rehearsal time.
Suggestions for costumes, props, music and follow-up activities are provided.

Pam Dowson, Online review

Wanted: Janosik, Andrew Matthews   

Barrington Stoke    ISBN 9781842996126    £5.99

The Great Green Monster, Maggie Pearson

Barrington Stoke    ISBN 9781842996362    £5.99

Wanted is a Robin Hood-type story set in Poland. After the murder of his parents by the mean, greedy Duke Edmund, Janosik harbours a deep hatred of soldiers. He takes revenge by robbing the rich to give to the poor. His fame spreads and wanted posters about him are circulated. He is chased to a cave where three maidens give him magic gifts. Eventually he forms a gang and in a thrilling climax the Duke and his soldiers are overthrown.

The opening of The Great Green Monster is especially effective. A mysterious monster has 'slithered between rocks' into a 'lush, green valley' in Africa. Chickens, goats and other creatures disappear until only one brave boy is left in the village - and he decides to kill the beast! Then he faces a new, terrifying battle - with Death.

Both of these books are strong additions to the Barrington Stoke Reloaded series - fiction for 10-14 year olds with a reading age of 8.

Brenda Marshall, English 4-11 Number 37, Autumn 2009


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