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The books in this section have been given a primary age range of 9+. At 9 most children are independently reading and fact or fiction make equally good choices as part of a growing reading repertoire. Whether it’s taking off on a high fantasy where new worlds open up endless possibilities, or giving serious consideration to important ecological issues, reading at this stage grows opinions and ideas. The books in this section are suitable for 9-10+ The books in this section might also be given a secondary age range. Some are suitable for 7+ year olds reading above their age. Where indicated, less confident 11+ readers will enjoy the stories. Non-Fiction in this section is often fascinating and educational to a wider age range.
September 2020 Book of the Month | Raw, lingering and stirringly lyrical, October, October had me hooked from opening to end. Conjured in language that crackles and smoulders like an autumn bonfire, this is a book of bones and bark, of frost and flame, captivating in the manner of Skellig or Stig of the Dump as it undulates towards a wondrous homecoming of the heart. “We live in the woods and we are wild… Just us. A pocket of people in a pocket of the world that’s small as a marble. We are tiny and we are everything and we are wild.” October has everything she wants living in the woods in the house her father built. Her mother left when October was four and she’s adamant that, “I don’t want her. She’s not wild like we are.” This year October’s euphoria at the onset of autumn is sullied when she discovers a dead owl and a motherless baby owl: “my heart won’t stop bruising my ribs.” So, she rescues the baby, names it Stig and declares it her first ever friend. Calamity strikes when the woman “who calls herself my mother” arrives as a birthday surprise - her beloved dad breaks his spine after falling from a tree and October must stay with this woman – her mother – in London while he recuperates. In the chaotic city, October is a bird with clipped wings. Torn from her wild world, she implodes, becomes a “firework of fury”, until she strikes up a bond with a boy named Yusef and discovers mudlarking, which makes her once more “a wild animal skulking and prowling for food”, “a pirate hunting for treasure.” An unforgettable story, an unforgettable heroine – it’s no exaggeration to hail this a future classic.
September 2020 Book of the Month | I challenge any reader, young or old, not to want to devour this book in one delicious sitting. Once started upon the story of Lotti and Ben, two orphans living in the aftermath of World War 1 and who could not be more different in temperament or background, it is impossible to put down. Initially and understandably wary, they gradually become each other’s best friend and staunch allies in their respective quests for family and a safe haven for an increasing number of dogs. Their odyssey takes them, in the faithful old narrowboat which has been Ben’s home, across the stormy channel to France, with a vengeful, deceitful uncle and a steadfast policeman hot on their heels. But there is nothing far fetched in their survival, they do need and even eventually welcome the support of friendly adults on both sides of the channel and they learn to work together and to counteract each other’s failings. They never lose hope in even the darkest moments and neither does the reader, despite some heart-stopping tension. These are characters who will dwell long in your memory and indeed leave you wanting to know more, including about some of the fascinating minor characters. The authentic period detail and dialogue captures the spirit of an age where children may seem, to a modern audience, to have a thrilling level of agency and independence, but only because they are largely ignored or neglected rather than protected by society. A standalone, middle grade adventure that is as well written as this, is pure gold dust with which to captivate young readers and a perfect class read. But be warned, they may not want to go home!
September 2020 Book of the Month | Cally and Jimmy are twins but more different people it would be hard to meet. Cally is generally quiet and well-behaved, while Jimmy is anything but (his ADHD doesn’t help). It’s Cally who narrates the four separate stories contained in this very enjoyable new book, and she gives us a really good idea of what it’s like to live with the most-annoying-brother-in-the-whole-wide-world, describing the many times he gets them both into trouble, but she absolutely captures the fun they have together too. There’s a starring role for their wonderful grandma, or Yiayia as they know her (Mum is Greek) and just a lovely sense of this family. Recommended reading and hopefully there’ll be more adventures to come for the twins.
September 2020 Book of the Month | This sparkling adventure melds life as a young refugee with literary lore. The warm magic of Omar’s Lilliputian sojourn will captivate young readers, while his experience as a refugee will surely inspire compassion and empathy - deeply vital for our times. Known as Tiny in his rural village, Omar’s life is overturned when war breaks out and an air strike kills his dad and many friends. When his sister goes missing, Omar and his mum move to a refugee camp. But it’s not long before Mum decides it would be safer to join a group of sea-bound refugees. They walk for a year and reach the coast, but Omar’s mum only has enough money to pay for one passage. So, armed only with the address of his Uncle Said in England, Omar boards the overcrowded boat. When it sinks, he wakes to find himself on an island populated by tiny people. The warm welcome of the Lilliputians serves as a powerful allegory. They “spoke with their hearts” and make Omar feel like he belongs as he learns their language, their history, their culture. But worried his mum might be waiting for him in England, Omar sets off again, with hope in his heart and special companions aboard his new boat. Shot-through with a powerful message about offering help and hope to those in need, this is classic Morpurgo, with wonderfully warm illustrations by Michael Foreman. Read more about Michael Morpurgo, our Guest Editor for September 2020, here.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month September 2020 | Beautifully presented, this is a fabulous anthology of poems greatly enhanced by wonderful illustrations and a sumptuous binding – including a very useful marker ribbon! Subtitled “An animal poem for every day of the year”, it includes poems which introduce a huge range of animals from around the world. Some are familiar but most are refreshingly new. Some examples I loved are: May 1st, Song about the Reindeer, Musk Oxen, Women, and Men who want to show off, an Innuit song and September 7th The Manatee by Jack Prelutsky – “I’m partial to the manatee,/ which emanates no vanity./ It swims amidst anemones/ and hasn’t any enemies.” This anthology really does include something for everyone!
September 2020 Book of the Month | Viking voyagers. Arctic adventurers. Female fossil-hunters. A professional pirate queen - this inspirational encyclopaedia is a feast of facts for inquisitive 5+ year-olds. Divided into sections covering explorers and discoverers, scientists and inventors, trailblazers and pioneers, builders, creators and thinkers, and daredevils and risk-takers, this covers all corners of the globe through history. What’s more, the appealing visuals (a mix of photos, drawings and funky graphics) draw young readers in and will surely spark plenty of off-the-page exploring. There’s excellent coverage of inspirational female and BAME trailblazers, from 16-year-old Idris Galcia Welsh who embarked on an epic round-the-world driving trip in 1922, to Emily Roebling, who completed the construction of New York’s Brooklyn Bridge in the late 1800s. Then there’s Harriet Tubman, an abolitionist and political activist who risked her life helping slaves flee their owners, and dare-devil pilot Bessie Coleman, who made history when she became the first African American – male or female – to gain a pilot’s licence in 1921. All in all, this is a great gift that will keep on giving.
September 2020 Debut of the Month | Elsetime is a wonderfully atmospheric timeslip adventure story with two great characters – three, if you count Magpie, the wise young crow who befriends the two human protagonists. Needle is a mudlark, gathering lost treasures from the river shoreline in the 1860s. Through a mysterious magic, he finds himself fifty years in the future, on the same spot and the eve of a terrible flood that he knows will cause death and destruction (as the real River Thames flood did in 1928). His new friend, talented young apprentice jeweller, Glory, is one of those whose lives is at risk. Can they save the town and their neighbours, and can Needle find a way to return home to his family? The plot swirls and sparkles and will keep readers on tenterhooks; this accomplished historical fantasy adventure is full of treasures for readers.
September 2020 Debut of the Month | Some girls like ballet; some like football; Aveline Jones likes ghosts. And anyone who enjoys a creepy, well-plotted, atmospheric ghost story will love this book. The setting is a little West Country fishing port, where Aveline is staying with her aunt while her mother is away. Hallowe’en is approaching and Aveline is unsettled by the village’s custom of leaving life-size manikins of children outside the houses – it’s seriously spooky. A visit to the local second-hand bookshop begins an adventure that will reveal the reason for the dolls, and one that sees Aveline herself caught up in an old tragedy that still haunts the villagers. It’s deliciously creepy reading, just the thing to add a frisson of fear as the nights draw out and highly recommended!
September 2020 Debut of the Month | If you like books in which ordinary children suddenly have wonderful magical adventures and, in the process, realise just how much adults don’t know, or choose to pretend isn’t real, then you will love The Silver Arrow. Eleven-year-old Kate and her younger brother Tom are gifted an adventure by their rich and totally irresponsible Uncle Herbert. It’s Kate’s mum who labels him irresponsible, Kate and Tom have never even met him until he turns up on Kate’s birthday with an amazing present – a steam locomotive. That night the children climb on board, staying on even as the train starts to move and Uncle Herbert advises them they really should think about jumping off – and there begins the best adventure you could ever hope to have, in which the train turns out to be able to communicate, the passengers are wild animals who climb on and off at the stops, except for a small band including a porcupine, black mamba, fishing cat and a white-bellied heron, who become the children’s special friends. There’s so much that Kate and Tom learn, not just about driving steam trains but about our world, its animals, and humans too. It all makes for the journey of a lifetime, and this is one train adventure-loving readers mustn’t miss. There’s an important environmental message for all youngsters reading the book too, and it’s even better for that.
Julia Golding is a gifted storyteller and her new book has everything you want in an adventure. Sahara Clive arrives in London an orphan, friendless except for the two tigers her family were escorting from India to their new home in the Tower’s famous menagerie. Her English father and Indian mother died on the journey and it is quickly assumed she would be an embarrassment to her English family. It’s the nineteenth century, Wellington is Prime Minister (and makes some cameo appearances) and Sahira is placed in an orphanage run with the casual cruelty familiar from other famous orphan stories. Sahira though is as fierce and proud as her tigers and not to be pushed around. Sustained by courage and poetry and with the help of some good people and more than a few animals, she overcomes prejudice, greed and ignorance to secure a new home. Elegantly told, this is a real box of delights, an adventure that is exciting, heartwarming, moving and inspiring. One to recommend to fans of A Little Princess or modern historical adventures by Jacqueline Wilson or Robin Stevens.
September 2020 Book of the Month | Interest Age 8+ Reading Age 8 | If you like your adventures good and creepy, you’re going to love The Invasion of the Crooked Oak. Crooked Oak is a peaceful kind of place, but it seems something is up with the town’s grown-ups – they’ve stopped eating, are avoiding the light, and generally behaving really strangely. When teenagers Pete, Krish and Nancy try to work out what’s going on, they find the trail leads to the fracking site on the town’s edge. The tension ratchets up nicely as the three realise they’ve got one chance to save their parents and themselves. The environmental theme feels very topical and author Dan Smith knows just how to keep his readers on the edge of their seats. Published by dyslexia specialists Barrington Stoke, this is accessible to readers of all abilities and completely gripping.
Tom Palmer’s riveting After the War was sparked by the true story of Jewish Polish, Czech and German children who were sent to safety in the Lake District after surviving the horrors of Nazism. Addressing big questions - how does hope, humanity and friendship survive unimaginable horrors? How do we begin again? – in a highly-readable style (as is typical of Palmer and publisher Barrington Stoke), this is a thought-provoking, edifying read. Trevor Avery of the Lake District Holocaust Project sets the context in the book’s foreword: “A group of young people arrived in the Lake District in the summer of 1945 and stayed for a few months, the last of them leaving in early 1946. Although they only spent a short time in the area, it was a profoundly important experience for them, and they made a big impression on those who met them at the time.” A sense of this being a “profoundly important experience” is clear from the outset, as revealed when young Yossi first glimpses England, his imagined paradise: “This was the place where they had been told they would be safe. A place where there would be no German soldiers and no concentration camps.” But despite the peace, despite “the lush green hills under a bright blue sky” and the “huge clusters of trees, swallows flitting above them”, Yossi feels unsettled. The brick buildings remind him of concentration camps, and he’s haunted by terrible memories, disturbed by nightmares, and longs for news from his family - will his father ever be found and come for him? Details of everyday life are strikingly evoked, and springboard deeper insights into the children’s experiences – a bike ride reminds Yossi of when he had to surrender his bike to the Nazis, immediately after he and his dad witnessed a horrific attack. An opportunity to attend a Rosh Hashanah celebration triggers his recollection of the terrifying time the SS destroyed his synagogue. A storm over Lake Windermere reminds him of bomb explosions. This device works perfectly, and Yossi’s enduring trauma is palpable. Then, at his lowest, a memory of his father’s words pulls him from the depths of despair: “if we let ourselves go, the Germans will think that they were right: that we are not human.” An exceptional telling of exceptional true events.
An Encyclopedia of Mythical Beasts and Their Magical Tales | From the West African fable of Anansi the Spider, to Michabo, the magical hare who rebuilt the world and Tanuki, the sweet but troublesome racoon-dog of Japanese folklore, Mythopedia is an encyclopedia of mythical creatures that covers legends, tales and myths from around the world.
Opening the pages of this eerie anthology is akin to creeping through creaky doors to explore a haunted house. To wander corridors and halls, rooms and chambers that have been darkly decorated by a host of hallowed writers. Here readers will encounter the skulking terrors of Joseph Delaney’s timeless, gripping The Castle Ghosts. The clever, contemporary creepiness of Robin Jarvis’s The Beach Hut. Then there’s Philip Reeves’s long-lingering, translucently lyrical The Ghost Wood. There are eleven tales in all, each written by a truly top-class writer, among them Matt Haig, Derek Landy, Susan Cooper, Mal Peet, and Jamila Gavin. Some tingle with menace. Others are outright scary. Some are modern, others infused with the terrors of traditional Gothic tales. And all of them are exquisitely executed. Perfect for reading aloud as the nights draw in, the stories here also make excellent introductions to a fine set of writers.
Two phenomenally talented people are united in this book, and it is hard to know which of them – poet A.F. Harrold or illustrator Mini Grey – had the most fun creating it. Either way, the end product is glorious, an entirely essential collection of poems offering unforgettable advice on an extraordinary range of subjects. Scanning through the index will give you an idea of the topics covered, and how: the entry for banana, for example, reads how to identify a … while that for pencil case is why you shouldn’t muddle one up with a lunchbox … There are three entries for tiger, referring you to very useful poems, including the one that explains just how many tigers it takes to spoil a picnic. Harrold is a master of the absurd, taking ideas or phrases and turning them quite round about and Mini Grey illustrates his poems with an equal delight in the possibilities he conjures up. Most of the poems are wonderfully comic, but there’s space for quiet, thoughtful verse too. It’s a book to fire the imagination and to make you see things in a whole new way, like a poet in fact.
After stories set in jungles and on the Russian steppes, Katherine Rundell has chosen the streets of Prohibition New York for her latest, but it’s just as full of the sense of peril and freedom from rules that characterises her earlier books, with central character Vita facing possibly the greatest danger yet. Newly arrived from England, Vita is determined to win back her family home, the fabulous Hudson Castle, acquired from her grandfather in a distinctly shady way by mob boss Victor Sorrotore. This will involve breaking and entering – and legend has it the castle is impregnable – and safe cracking, but Vita is fortunate enough to have as associates an extremely talented pickpocket and two fearless young circus performers. Rundell revels in setting her characters these kind of challenges and also in exploring the kind of physical and mental daring required to undertake them. She likes to equip her protagonists with right and with love too, the latter proves a formidable weapon for Vita. Beautifully written and full of scenes that both thrill and enchant, The Good Thieves is Rundell at her classy best. Readers who are captivated by Katherine Rundell’s wild children will also enjoy Stop the Train or The Middle of Nowhere by Geraldine McCaughrean, or books by classic children’s writers such as Joan Aiken and Eva Ibbotson.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month September 2020 | Emotionally rich and full of the kind of questions that need discussing and answering, Britta Teckentrup’s beautiful picture book explores the complicated relationships and emotions that are commonplace for every child in any school. The soft focus illustrations capture the different moods of the characters perfectly and are well- supported by brief stories which provide some background which, in turn, throws up a raft of questions: Why are some children bullied? Why does no one stand up for them? How can it be right that a teacher can put a student off a subject by being mean to them? How can you help someone who is lonely? Why do some children exert power over others? Children will enjoy this on their own but it will work best as a spur for important conversations.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month September 2020 | When Abi’s newly forged family moves to an eccentric new home which is totally covered in ivy, strange things begin to happen to her and to her step-brothers Louis and Max. With their parents either away or too busy to notice, Abi finds herself falling into the books she is reading – she can feel the damp of the sea and taste the salt on her fingers - while Louie tempts an unusual and dangerous animal companion into his bedroom from the ivy. Can Abi and Max help Louie get rid of his dangerous new friend and will things get back to normal when their parents come home? Hilary McKay’s storytelling is vivid; she makes magic seem real while also showing why believing in it is so important.
A World of Houses and Habitats | Learn how humans have built dwellings to suit all kinds of habitats. Adapting themselves to all kinds of landscapes and climates, over the centuries humans have used their architectural ingeniousness to build amazing dwellings: find them here, from houses on stilts and igloos to tree houses and skyscrapers. Fully illustrated with clear, engaging artwork and intelligent, simple and original text presented in a clean, appealing design.
September 2020 Book of the Month | Less than one year ago, until November 2019 in fact, SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus hadn’t infected a single person and was completely unknown to nearly all of us. Now it has changed our whole world, yet most of us still have only a hazy idea of what viruses are, which is where this brilliant little book comes in. The Virus tells you everything there is to know about viruses including of course COVID-19. It explains what viruses are, what they look like and do, why they are so successful at making us ill, what we can do to combat them, and why some of them actually help us. If this sounds a bit technical or heavy going, think again: it’s fascinating stuff and presented in a way that makes it really easy to read and understand. The story of coronavirus as told here is an adventure, full of heroes and villains, facts and figures that will stop you in your tracks, and some good jokes too. I can’t think of a more interesting or relevant book for our times – everyone needs to read this! If you're interested in science you can find many similar titles in our Best Non-Fiction collection.
In this anthropomorphic coming-of age tale, Alicía must battle against convention to fulfill her dream of running with the bulls in Pamplona. This book has some brilliant themes in it that I think young readers will enjoy. I thought that Toro was well-written and I liked the diverse cast of characters. The plotline where a character must defy tradition in order to achieve their dreams is engaging and inspirational for young readers and I liked that this message is also teamed up with a strong, Spanish, female lead. Alicía isn’t the only character that has unconventional aspirations, and I think that Toro is a good book for all children as it spreads the message of following your ambition, trailblazing if necessary, while also promoting diversity and individuality within the cast of characters. This book is also a great way for young readers to learn more about Spanish culture, particularly the running of the bulls in San Fermin. This book reminded me a little bit of The Story of Ferdinand, as there is a common message of defying expectations and appearances. This is an entertaining book to share with young readers with an inspirational message of equality and female empowerment at its heart.
Funny, action-packed and full of great characters, I can recommend Serena Patel’s new story to anyone – indeed, everyone – who’s at primary school. They’ll giggle with recognition at the setting and be thoroughly caught up in the story. In this new adventure, the second in a series, our hero Anisha is set to show off her volcano project at the science fair and has high hopes of winning the prize and a trip to the national space centre. But disaster strikes when her volcano erupts prematurely and floods the school. Anisha is disqualified and begins to suspect sabotage. With the help of her best friend Milo and his pet rat, she sets out to find the culprit. Anisha’s family are as much a part of the story as her schoolmates and readers will put down the book feeling they have increased their circle of friends considerably. Illustrations throughout by Emma McCann add to the overall liveliness of the telling. Great stuff! This is one to recommend to fans of Konnie Huq’s Cookie books which also feature a direct talking, lively, science-obsessed central character and are just as much fun to read. Some of our Kids Reader Review Panel were lucky enough to review the first in the series, Anisha, Accidental Detective - read their reviews here!
Leonard looks like a cat, sounds like a cat and – in lots of ways – behaves like a cat. But Leonard is an alien, an alien who has arrived in the wrong body for a trip to Earth – he was meant to be a Yellowstone Park ranger - and needs to get home. Fortunately, he’s adopted by just about the only human on our planet who can save him. Olive is a young girl, also far from home and lonely. The two form a special friendship and, with the help of two amiable if eccentric grown-ups, embark on an amazing journey of adventure and discovery. Leonard might not get to tick off all the human activities on his to do list – one of which is the ‘preparation and consumption of a cheese sandwich’ – but he and Olive learn the most important things there are to being human, to being alive. It’s a story filled with wonder, but truths too, is often funny, sometimes tense, always enjoyable and has important things to say about home and where we can find it. Readers who love Leonard – and lots will – should also read Frank Cottrell-Boyce’s alien adventure Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth.
Deep within the mountain, a great creature stirred in its sleep. Its eyes rolled back in its head, and its wings jerked wide open... When 12-year-old Billy Chan finds out his parents are sending him to a summer camp in middle-of-nowhere China he doesn't know what to expect. There he meets fellow campers Dylan, Charlotte and Ling-Fei and together they stumble upon an age-old secret: four powerful warrior dragons, hidden deep within the mountain behind the camp. They have been trapped since an epic battle with the Dragon of Death and need the children's help to set them free before terrible evil is unleashed on the earth. Billy and his friends must set off on a dangerous adventure that will take them to the heart of the Dragon Realm. But can they save the dragon and human worlds from destruction? DRAGON MOUNTAIN is the first book in the DRAGON REALM series by Katie and Kevin Tsang, co-authors of SAM WU IS NOT AFRAID.
The seventeenth laugh-out-loud, fully illustrated Tom Gates adventure! Tom's doing everything possible to stay out of trouble but somehow he's got THREE sad faces :( :( :( on the school achievement chart! And getting another sad face means Mr Fullerman won't let him go on the SCHOOL TRIP! Moany Marcus Meldrew is making things worse and now Tom's annoyed his grumpy sister Delia. Can his best friend Derek help? Will Rooster the dog stop eating his homework? ABOUT THE SERIES: Written in diary form Full of Tom's doodles and pictures & his amazing sense of humour The Brilliant World of Tom Gates, was the winner of the Roald Dahl Funny Prize! Perfect gifts for boys & girls who love to laugh themselves silly
The next great Dog Man adventure from the worldwide bestselling author and artist Dav Pilkey. You'll howl with laughter! The Supa Buddies bamboozled the baddies, but all's not right in the world. Dog Man has a new problem to pound, and he's going to need his entire pack to help him. Will he go barking up the wrong tree? Dav Pilkey's wildly popular Dog Man series appeals to readers of all ages and explores universally positive themes, including: empathy kindness persistence and the importance of doing good.
This is a reinvention of the most radiant, vital kind; an inspirational re-working of The Twelve Dancing Princesses to devour over and over, and to share aloud. Following the death of his wife, Queen Laurelia, King Alberto “became the sort of person who ate a whole cake without offering anyone else a slice, and who punished his girls for things that weren’t their fault at all.” While Queen Laurelia had “been the one watching them, nurturing their imaginations, their educations”, the King takes away his daughters’ freedoms in the name of keeping them safe. The palace is transformed into a tomb, and “only melancholy was allowed to illuminate the girls’ days”. But brave, clever Frida stands up to her father. “This isn’t fair, and you know it,” she protests. “You cannot tell us how to grieve”. And then, with the grace and strength of a lioness and the potency of her imagination, Frida leads her sisters in a fight to re-find life. The writing pirouettes with the lithe power of a devoted dancer, with Angela Barrett’s elegant illustrations in perfect accord. What a sumptuous, stirring celebration of sisterhood this is. For more books with a feminist feel check out Work it Girl - Inspiring and Informative Books on Feminism.
How to Earn It, Save It, Spend It, Grow It, Give It | Given that we are looking down the barrel of the worst recession since records began, this book could not be more topical, or of more interest to young people and will no doubt teach adults, like me, a thing or two (about Bitcoin for example!). The author tells us she loves to take big ideas and make them accessible and she has fulfilled that ambition with flying colours and created a book that should be in every school as an invaluable tool for teaching financial literacy. There have been many books which have covered the history and origins of money, but nothing which has dealt so clearly with the ‘why it matters’ and encouraged us to think about needs versus wants, the concept of value and, even more importantly, why it matters how you use your money and how you can use it to do good. When you have successfully grown your money it also explains why you should give some of it away. Brilliantly illustrated and designed with ‘in a nutshell’ sections and quizzes, real life stories and a lively, witty and accessible style that explains, but never patronises and uses examples that make sense in a children’s world. So, for example, when you understand the ‘superhero sweetie’ of compound interest, you will never make the common error of picking a ‘1 million today’ prize instead of ‘1p which doubles every day’ (making 5.3 million in just 30 days) Perfectly pitched yet sophisticated and challenging enough to intrigue teens as well as tweens, this is a superb information text that I cannot recommend highly enough.
The Periodic Table Personified | Colin Stuart is a renowned astronomy speaker, a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and a well-regarded writer across a wide variety of media, hence this book comes with an impeccable pedigree. The delight of it is that it has taken a rather solemn and serious subject and – by presenting all the information in infographics – created a bright, very informative introduction to the periodic table! Each element in the Periodic table has a whole page devoted to the information about it – which includes a delightful host of weird and wonderful characters playing the elements! Each element is presented as a figure (host) with symbols showing its state at room temperature i.e. solid, liquid or gas, then where on earth it can be found. There are symbols for whether it is harmful to humans or not and any special use it is put to. A picture of the electron shell formation is included, its atomic mass and also the elements’ rankings i.e. its density, melting point and boiling point. This plus the date of discovery, and a short paragraph on typical usage of the element make this a valuable and informative look at the Periodic table. I feel sure the interesting approach and the fun illustrations will help some young chemists find a way into the topic perhaps earlier than usual. It will also have real benefit in aiding those of us who may otherwise struggle with Chemistry – me included!
September 2020 Book of the Month | Opening with a heartfelt “Dear sister” address that invites aspiring witches to step into its beautifully-designed pages, this compendium dispels many myths about spell-makers as its modern-day witch authors seek to “retell and reclaim our identity”. One such myth is the distinction between “white” and “black” magic – the authors note that “magic is magic and the only difference lies within our intentions and how we choose to use it.” But what is magic? They point out links between nature and magic, and share information about ancient priestesses and oracles who read signs in nature and understood the power of plants and the planets. Moving through history, readers will discover that distrust of magic emerged in the Middle Ages, which led to the persecution of female practitioners of magic and the murderous witch-hunts of the 15th-17th centuries. After learning about the positive revival of witches in the twentieth-century (such as ecology-oriented Wiccans, and feminist activist witches), the book explores witches in popular culture, magical symbols, and concludes with practical guidance on herb magic, stone magic, crystal magic and making your own talisman. This is a perfect primer for girls interested in magic and witches, and gorgeously-presented too, with a gold-foiled cover, red ribbons and evocative illustrations on every page.
I liked that Cyber Spooks has been developed with the aim of teaching young readers about cyber security and being safe online through an engaging illustrated story. On the day Carlo joins his Dad, Recon, at work a serious cyber attack on a bank means the whole Cyber Spooks team will have to come together to find the culprits and stop the criminals from stealing millions of pounds. As the plot unfolds, technical IT terms are introduced and explained to the reader, with extra emphasis on teaching the audience warning signs to look out for and tips for using the internet on a range of devices safely (gaming consoles being included in the narrative was a nice touch). Perhaps because I’m not the intended audience, I did notice a couple of discrepancies with the narrative. On page 7, The attack on Neptune bank is coming from “many countries” however by page 12, not only does the conclusion seem to be jumped to that the culprit is Chinese, it’s then quickly followed by a connection to the Chinese government (bear in mind that on page 26, Recon is still looking for the source of the attack). All this appears to happen without an explanation or evidence and so I can only surmise that the author has based it on the disputes like the ones covered in the news at the moment. I think that an opportunity has been missed to explain VPNs or IP addresses to find the source of the hack and the location of the culprit’s computer, and it seems to be missed in favour of a slightly obvious and quick plot reveal. Following this, and again without any explanation as to why the Cyber Spooks team feel the culprit is connected to the Chinese Embassy (page 20), Kali hacks her way into a government database to get the information she needs. I personally found this at odds with the Cyber Spooks' 'good guy, stay safe and legal' message. I’m not sure whether a younger reader would notice these issues and the overall narrative is interesting and fast paced, but there’s potentially space for improvement. I think the illustrations throughout are brilliant, I liked the style and the extra humour hidden within them. It was also great to see female characters such as Kali and Naiomi take the lead at times while imparting cyber safety knowledge. I think that Cyber Spooks this is a useful book for sharing an important message about staying safe online. I think there’s some slight improvements that could be made to the plot but on the whole this is a book I would allow my nephews to read.
Ice Cooper and the Depton Shadelings is a charming story that mixes family and mystery with fantasy and the topical subject of fracking. I think that this book would be enjoyed by readers aged 9-13, it’s fast paced and includes elements of mystery and fantasy that is engaging to the reader while also exploring the topical subject of fracking. Ice is an intuitive and endearing character (with an amazing name) that has to deal with the worries of moving to a new town and a new school, concerns about her parents and their work as well as the curious creatures that have appeared in her dreams all her life and now seem to be appearing more and more in her waking world. Ice, her brother and her friends handle all of the issues they face (excluding the dinner tray incident) with a degree of maturity and understanding that I enjoyed. I liked the tension and the mystery that builds throughout the book and I was intrigued to see how each nuance was going to be resolved. I like how things were concluded (no spoilers here) and I think that there may even be more to come from Ice Cooper. I think that this is a great fast paced read for any confident reader that likes fantasy and mystery all still firmly rooted in a world we are familiar with.
The Keeper of the Stones is an absorbing tale of time travel. Beautifully illustrated in black and white, the opening page sets the scene and poses questions even before the story begins. There’s mystery as we follow Lizzie and Daniel on their adventure back in time to the Bronze Age. Not only is this book packed full of intrigue as Lizzie works to save her brother, it also quietly educates on archaeology and history. I think children aged 9-12 will enjoy this book, especially if they love animals as the animal characters in the book play an important role, and Lizzie’s knowledge from helping out on her family farm is vital for those in peril. I used to read the Sheltie books at that age and reading this felt similar in some places. I also quite liked that the sister is the one to save the day, holding her own as she helps the other characters and saves her brother. I think that The Keeper of Stones is very well-written and I was able to sit back and enjoy the story without feeling the need to make notes. There’s strong description, good characterisation and humour to alleviate the tension throughout this adventure story. There’s lots packed into just under 200 pages and I’m sure there’s more of Lizzie’s story to come, I wonder where she’ll end up next?
A moving historical story inspired by the Foundling Museum, written by acclaimed children's author Michael Morpurgo and illustrated by Michael Foreman. From award-winning master storyteller Michael Morpurgo, author of the acclaimed War Horse, comes a moving historical story inspired by the Foundling Museum.
Highly Commended for the Klaus Flugge Prize 2020 | Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Sabina Radeva combines her two passions and talents, as a molecular biologist and illustrator, to produce this infectiously engaging and accessible adaptation of Charles Darwin’s famous work for a younger audience. It is a stylishly and highly informative account, that skilfully combines a re-telling with Darwin’s own words. The Klaus Flugge judge Mini Grey said: “It’s a work of ingenious inspiration that is able to take a complicated idea and make it visually simple, and that’s what On the Origin of Species does. Elegant illustrations help us venture deeper into the concepts and work on many levels: for example, showing the evolution of the eye, and convergent evolution. This beautifully produced book celebrates nature and the voice of Darwin.”
My Dad, the Earth Warrior uses a fantastical story in order to explore, introduce and examine a range of topics including global warming and the effects of climate change. This chapter book is lighthearted and entertaining while also delivering an important message about the impact our actions are having on the Earth. A bump to the head leads Hero’s Dad to believe he is an Earth Warrior, with the sole mission of protecting Mother Earth. With advice from the doctors to wait the episode out; Hero, his grandma and his friends are thrust into the spotlight and head to head with a ruthless energy tycoon. The illustrations on the front cover remind me of Quentin Blake or Tony Ross in style. There are smaller images at the start of each chapter and lots of different fonts used to bring the story to life and add an extra level of interest for younger readers. The book covers a range of events, such as heatwaves, flash flooding, fracking, and protests in a way that informs while also encouraging the reader to ask questions. For example, I liked the additional detail of the heatwave being named Bertha, which echoed the naming of storms. This then sparked my curiosity and imagination as to why we name storms, and if we would reach a point in time where other weather patterns become so severe they would require naming in the same way. Terra Firma and Grandma are both quirky, eccentric characters, with Dad Eddie’s alter ego playing off a Tarzan stereotype of appearance (although in Union Jack flip flops). With equally eccentric supporting characters such as Mr Bugwell, readers will easily engage and differentiate between the characters. I also liked the inclusion of facts and resources at the back to help readers understand more about the topics covered in the book. I think that this is a lighthearted book with an important message for readers.
A recommendation from our Guest Editor, September 2020, Michael Morpurgo, MBE | A extraordinary story, exquisitely written, with unforgettable passages of dialogue and description, that confronts the dilemma of our relationship with farm animals. Witty, and in places, desperately sad this is a book where animals talk yet remain who they are, themselves. A book to make you cry. - Michael Morpurgo Magical, this timeless farmyard story tells of the power of friendship. When the runty little piglet is saved from an early death, he grows into a fine and handsome pig. And the farmer wants to kill him. Can Charlotte, the spider who has grown to love him, save his life?
A recommendation from our Guest Editor, Michael Morpurgo MBE | A book for children from 8 to 80. It’s the tale of one man’s dedication to planting trees and how it has a profound effect on a region of South-east France. I love the humanity of this story and how one man’s efforts can change the future for so many. It’s a real message of hope. - Michael Morpurgo
A recommendation from our Guest Editor, September 2020, Michael Morpurgo, MBE | This is a much-loved favourite classic. Here are the thoughts of three favourite authors: Michael Morpurgo, September 2020, Guest Editor : 'A terrifically exciting tale of a dead man’s map, mutinous pirates, skulduggery and buried treasure that will be thoroughly enjoyed by a child if read aloud to them from the age of 5 upwards. It’s such a gripping adventure that children are sure to pick it up again to read alone when they’re a little older. It’s the story of Jim Hawkins who discovers a map in an old sea chest but little does he know of the danger and excitement which lie ahead when sets sail for Treasure Island in search of treasure. 'This was the first proper book I read for myself. Jim Hawkins was the first character in a book I identified with totally. I was Jim Hawkins. I lived Treasure Island as I read it. And I loved it. Still do. I wish I'd written it.' Tim Bowler, February 2011 Guest Editor: "All right, another sea story, but it's one of the best ever. I first read it at the age of ten and I've read it countless times since. It's a book I would love to have written myself. It's got everything – pirates, treasure, a sea voyage, a desert island, danger, treachery, courage, comradeship, humour, and a cast that includes some of the most memorable characters in fiction: Jim Hawkins, Squire Trelawney, Ben Gunn and Long John Silver. Every time I read this novel, it gets better. There are very few books you can say that about." March 2010 Guest Editor Michael Foreman's special memories of this book: "One of our teachers, Oscar Outlaw, realised that most of the class had no books at home. He started bringing in his own books and reading to us on Friday afternoons if it was too wet for games. First he read The Wind in the Willows. And then, Treasure Island. What a treat! We looked forward to rain." Treasure Island in a nutshell: Black spot moment. Sea dog dies. Jim finds map. Ship sets sail. Pirates on board. Island is found. Madman in cave. Two rival camps. Battle for map. Dig up chest. Treasure is gone. Gunn has gold. Head back home. Silver runs off.Jim writes book. Just click here to view our range of Children’s Classics.
A recommendation from our Guest Editor, September 2020, Michael Morpurgo, MBE | A life-enhancing book and even more amazing because this is the late author's own story, telling of her and her family's flight from Nazi Germany from their home and everything they knew to become refugees, first in Switzerland and then in Paris. - Michael Morpurgo This unforgettable story of a Jewish family fleeing Germany before the Second World War, is now available in a special hardback edition to celebrate the 90th birthday of its author Judith Kerr, with a reproduction of the original illustrated cover.
The hilarious first children's book from the UK's bestselling non-fiction author. Do you ever think about your body and how it all works? Like really properly think about it? The human body is extraordinary and fascinating and, well . . . pretty weird. Yours is weird, mine is weird, your maths teacher's is even weirder. This book is going to tell you what's actually going on in there, and answer the really important questions, like: Are bogeys safe to eat? Look, if your nose is going to all that effort of creating a snack, the least we can do is check out its nutritional value. (Yes, they're safe. Chew away!) And . . . How much of your life will you spend on the toilet? About a year - so bring a good book. (I recommend this one.) So sit back, relax, put on some rubber gloves, and let a doctor take you on a poo (and puke) filled tour of your insides. Welcome to Kay's Anatomy*. *a fancy word for your body. See, you're learning already.
This new episode in The Unmapped Chronicles series plunges readers head-first into heart-stopping adventure deep in a rain forest closely modelled on the Amazon, but thrillingly, magically different. Twins Fox and Fibber Petty-Squabble (fabulous names are one of the hallmarks of Elphinstone’s writing) find themselves in Jungledrop, one of the Unmapped Kingdoms, and in a vital race against time with the thoroughly villainous harpy Morg; for the first time in their eleven years, the two siblings will have to work together if they’re going to secure the future of two worlds. This is a hugely satisfying fantasy adventure filled with everything that makes the hearts of young readers sing. Readers who enjoy Jungledrop should look out for Jessica Townsend’s Nevermoor series or Dominique Valente’s sparkling Starfell books.
For Aiden, Chloe, Ava and Josh, holidays at their grandparents' cottage mean wild beaches, no curfew, Bella the dog, and most of all - adventure! The lead actress in Frost Castle's winter play is sure she's cursed! A break-in, a car accident, and now her precious locket is missing. But the cousins suspect a ruthless thief. With a blizzard raging outside and a legendary ghost in the castle corridors, unmasking this villain will take all their bravery and skill... Fleur Hitchcock is famous for her excellent thrillers for beginners . This action-packed series takes 7+ readers on fantastic, realistic adventures. Cover illustration by Tom Clohosy Cole. Don't miss the other Clifftoppers adventures! The Arrowhead Moor AdventureThe Thorn Island AdventureThe Fire Bay Adventure Look out for Fleur Hitchcock's stories for older readers: Dear ScarlettSaving SophiaMurder In MidwinterMurder At TwilightThe Boy Who Flew
Beautifully reproduced with a handsome Edward Ardizzone cover and a neat little book mark, this is a welcome reissue of the true source of the first Nanny McPhee film. Mr and Mrs Brown have a handful of unruly children – we’re talking old fashioned naughtiness here – whose pranks and scrapes lead to an endless succession of staff resignations until the redoubtable Nurse Matilda appears on the scene. Formidably ugly, she is also gifted with children helped now and then by a touch of magic. Driven by good humour and rarely preachy, Nurse Matilda nonetheless extols the value of adult control over children – at least some of the time.
October 2020 Debut of the Month | Imogen’s life at home is not all perfect so it’s no surprise that she follows the strange silver moth that arrives from nowhere – even when it leads her through a door in a tree! And there’s no stopping her little sister Marie from following…Like any magic opening, the door leads the two girls into an extraordinary world where almost anything can – and will – happen! As in the best traditions of children’s stories, Imogen and Marie meet a wealth of larger-than-life characters including a spoiled prince and a dancing bear as they journey through a richly-imagined world of possibilities. Chris Riddell’s illustrations bring the magic to life perfectly.
Love Yourself and Grow Up Fearless | It is worrying to think that most girls feel dissatisfied with their bodies, and that this can lead to serious problems including depression and eating disorders. Can some of those body image worries be eased? Body image expert and psychology professor Dr Charlotte Markey helps girls aged 9-15 to understand, accept, and appreciate their bodies. She provides all the facts on puberty, mental health, self-care, why diets are bad news, dealing with social media, and everything in-between. Girls will find answers to questions they always wanted to ask, the truth behind many body image myths, and real-life stories from girls who share their own experiences. Through this easy-to-read and beautifully illustrated guide, Dr Markey teaches girls how to nurture both mental and physical heath to improve their own body image, shows the positive impact they can have on others, and enables them to go out into the world feeling fearless!
Highly Commended in the Branford Boase Award 2020 | Ten-year-old Frank loves code and numbers; they’re a way to make sense of the world, as well as providing secret languages to share with his friends and his mum. Frank’s five-year-old brother Max is autistic and for him the world is often a scary place, when anything unexpected, too loud or too bright can cause him to have a meltdown. The story is narrated by Frank and every reader will understand his frustration at the unfairness of life. We know that he loves Max, but we know too how hard Max makes life for all the family. Frank is then faced with something even more terrible when tragedy strikes. With the help of those around him we watch Frank find a way to make sense of what has happened and the bravery to cope with the different world. Katya Balen has worked with neuro-divergent children and there’s a powerful sense of truth and understanding in her beautifully told story. If they like Wonder by R. J. Palacio they'll love The Space We're In.
Magical Poems Chosen by Paul Cookson | Loads of fun, this is a light-hearted and crackling collection of poems which touches on magic of all kinds. Mostly newly written, but interspersed with well-known verses from Shakespeare, Lewis Carroll and Tennyson, the poems are bursting with energy and humour which makes them fun to read and also an easy introduction to writing verse to anyone who wants to give it a try. Dragons, wizards, wands and how to look after them, unicorns and enchantments. All this and more come alive in this anthology.
Where do pebbles come from? How were they made? This book tells the story of a pebble, from its origins in a fiery volcano 480 million years ago to a busy, modern landscape. Readers follow the processes of rock formation and erosion that create new pebbles all over the world.
August 2020 Book of the Month | Interest Age 8+ Reading Age 8 | Laura Dockrill packs a really big story into this compact little book and though she tackles some big issues too, she keeps them specific to her set of characters, so that even quite young readers will understand. Sequin’s mum is a dressmaker, sewing gowns and fabulous outfits for the stars. She never takes any credit though, preferring to stay in the background and in fact, she’s literally hiding herself away in the family’s flat at the top of a tower block. When Sequin does a school presentation about her mum, no-one believes her. It makes Sequin angry with her mum, but then a terrible danger threatens them and they both have to face their real fears. It’s a story that readers will absolutely love, with a twist that they’ll want to return to again and again. Particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers aged 8+
From the creator of I Swapped My Brother On The Internet comes this fizzily energetic feast of fun that sees aspiring inventor Keith get more than he bargained for after entering a Junior Mega Brain Quiz and winding up competing against his genius sister. Keith is one of life’s dreamers, and something of an underdog readers will really root for. He has his sights set on going to an Inventors’ Fair in Paris, but his mum and dad just don’t have the cash. Never one to let a problem stand in his way, Keith observes how his super-smart sister Minerva (appropriately named after the Roman goddess of wisdom) has won money for some of her many achievements. And so, while “there was no Roman god Keith”, our ever-hopeful hero hits on the idea of inventing a machine to steal Min’s brain so he can win a Junior Mega Brain Quiz and use the prize money to pay for Paris. From attempting to drink coffee while wearing a child-genius outfit (black leggings, black polo neck and giant sunglasses), to becoming an instant TV hit with a hashtag and band of devoted followers, Keith’s story is a hilarious, heart-warming delight from start to finish, and a great read for readers who loved David Solomons’s My Brother is a Superhero series.