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April 2021 Non-Fiction Book of the Month | Designed to support the KS2 National Curriculum, this rich resource will help young writers get to grips with grammar in clear and meaningful ways that will enhance their writing. It’s also a handy time-saver for teachers, providing as it does excellent examples that demonstrate grammar in action. The book really stands out for the author’s ability to explain tricky-to-grasp points of grammar through the lens of their purpose. Let’s take fronted adverbials as an example. After explaining what they are (words “used for beginning sentences by focussing on location, time, frequency, manner or the degree in which something is happening”), he provides a handy list of examples (nearby, here, in the woods, later, eventually, sadly, full of joy, close to tears) in the context of why they’re used: “for helping the reader visualise or sequence what is occurring.” Alongside lucid explanations of key terms, this golden grammar nugget also gleams with great tips on how to make sentences more exciting, with the “Awesome alternatives” chapter serving as a succinct thesaurus. The sections covering themes in more detail are sure to enhance students’ vocabulary on specific topics, from the seasons and school, to space and suspense, while the character chapter will be especially helpful for creative writing, with vocabulary lists for the likes of hair, skin, eyes and personal quirks. The layout is top-notch too, with key information clearly boxed, and lively illustrations peppered throughout - full marks for a concise toolkit that will boost writing skills. Kids interested in exploring their creativity through writing will find inspiration in Joanne Owen's new series, Get Creative.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month April 2021 | Packed full of illustrations, exciting experiments - and even comic strips - That's Life! encourages young scientists to start looking for the living things around them. Life is everywhere on planet Earth. Jungles, deserts, seas, plains, fields and forests - all of them teem with life but, amazingly, you can also find lots of living things hidden in your home, and even hidden inside you!
Inspiring children to protect our planet is an essential part of the fight against climate change and the neglect of our wild and special places. Antarctica is bursting with beautiful illustrations and surprising facts, with nature, history and even geo-politics wrapped up in an entertaining and logical narrative. Kids reading this book will get to learn the importance of research and science to the environment, while at the same time adding to their knowledge of whales, penguins, seals, volcanoes … and of course ice! The stories and pictures also speak to the adventurer within all of us, bringing to life an alien yet magical landscape which in the grand scheme of things has only been recently discovered. My favourite fact is that when you are at the South Pole the only way you can look is north. If only I’d thought about that that when I was seven… Antarctica is a wonderful example of how a book in the hands of a child might just change the world. ~ Greg Hackett Greg Hackett is the Founder & Director of the London Mountain Film Festival
Written by a top comic for kids and the author of The Funny Life of Pets, James Campbell’s Write Your Own Funny Stories is a stimulating how-to guide to writing your own “sizzlingly stupendous stories”. Packed with dozens of fun suggestions for generating ideas, from drawing on the Inspiration Elf, to acting out characters, this is an interactive feast of inspiration and encouragement, with guided activities and space to write alongside longer accounts of the likes of boredom (and how to banish it), the shape of stories, and the “story rainbow”, a fun, fresh way to frame the interplay between plot, characters, setting and style. The summaries of things that are funny and how to make them funnier are both (ahem) funny and useful, and Rob Jones’s illustrations bring plenty to the party too - cool, comic, and cleverly integrated with the animated text.
Following the success of her debut book How to be Extraordinary, which focused on inspiring children to be the very best that they can be, this important companion title shows the impact of people working together and what results they can thereby achieve. Once again this demonstrates that the author has a real gift for narrative nonfiction making these true stories really come to life with the selection of salient facts and lucid explanations setting the scene and explaining the issues so very clearly. The fifteen stories range from the origins of democracy in Ancient Greece and the mystery of just how the skilled workers of Ancient Egypt built The Great Pyramid to famous and not so famous campaigns for change. So alongside Greenpeace and Save the Whale we have the lesser known Tree Planters of Pipilantre and as well as the Montgomery Bus Boycott, we have the Singing Revolution in Estonia and as well as the Anti- Slavery Campaign we have the 1965 Freedom Ride campaigning for justice for indigenous people in Australia. There is also an obvious care taken to ensure the examples are as international as possible so the campaign for voting equality for women is not solely focused on the UK. The lively layout and illustrations make this an irresistible text for library browsers with appeal across many ages and the quality of the writing makes it one that would read aloud very well. Highly recommended.
Explore the world of dinosaurs with your magic three colour lens | Even the most expert, hardest to impress young palaeontologist will be awe-struck by this book, which gives the closest experience within printed pages yet to walking amongst dinosaurs. Huge double-pages take readers around the globe and back through time to when dinosaurs roamed the planet. Look at the brightly coloured pages through the special lenses provided and 3D scenes spring into life. A red lens reveals the ‘terrible lizards’ that would have lived in each location, from America’s ‘A listers’, the T Rex, Triceratops, Brachiosaurus, to lesser known but equally impressive giants such as Africa’s Massospondylus. A green lens brings the locations into focus while looking through the blue lens uncovers the plants and pre-historic animals that lived alongside the dinosaurs. Each of the Observation Decks, as the 3D pages are called, are followed by fact-filled pages of black and white diagrams and text. Innovative, engaging and information-packed, it’s an eye-opening journey of discovery.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month November 2020 | Nature is full of record-breaking adventures which are brought to life in the detailed and dramatic illustrations that fill every inch of the large scale book. Global in its reach, it is a gold mine of information as it takes readers on a world tour of astonishing achievements. There’s the fastest land animal – the cheetah from Botswana, the hottest place on Earth – Ethiopia, The Longest-erupting Volcano – Italy and many more. Across thirty gloriously bold spreads readers will discover wonderful and surprising facts about all kinds of aspects of the planet.
A Story About Sorting and Classifying | A large and colourful book which beautifully communicates fascinating information, from types of cloud formations, to varieties of apples, names of tools, and constructions of family trees. All designed and illustrated in a playful and engaging way. Part art book part encyclopaedia – a book to lose yourself in. ~ Lauren Child Find out more about Lauren Child, her books, characters and inspirations in our Guest Editor feature.
What We Know & What We Don't | If ever there was a book to inspire curiosity and the joy of learning, it is this sparkling new edition of that old stalwart, the Encyclopedia Britannica. Thoroughly updated for the 21st century and making a welcome return to print, it has been edited by Christopher Lloyd of What On Earth Wallbooks fame and his delight in discovery and knowledge infuses every one of its 400+ pages. It is divided into eight sections covering life on earth, from the formation of the universe to the development of man through to peeks into our future, and each of these sections includes hundreds of different topics, the information carefully and thoughtfully presented through clear text panels supported by colour images, photos and diagrams. All of the information comes from named experts, who are not above confessing when they’re not sure of something or acknowledging ‘known unknowns’, and in another clever touch, there are Q&A features with some of these at the end of each section, where they explain how their passion for their subjects began. The book is fabulous to look at and, whether you are dipping in to follow a particular thread or reading through it from beginning to end, it will answer thousands of questions while sparking thousands more, just as the very best sources of information always do. Highly recommended.
December 2020 YA Book of the Month | Imparting wisdom from across two decades, Philip Pullman’s Dæmon Voices shares a generous banquet of thought-provoking insights into the art of story-telling and Pullman’s personal processes and passions. As the book’s editor, Simon Mason, writes in his introduction, Pullman is “interested in, above all, human nature, how we live and love and fight and betray and console one another. How we explain ourselves to ourselves,” and this all-encompassing ethos is reflected here, with essays covering everything from the responsibilities of the storyteller, how stories work, and authors’ intentions, to William Blake, Oliver Twist, and writing fantasy realistically. The tone is lively, ablaze with clear-sighted wit, no matter how complex the subject, with many pieces having been delivered at conferences. One of my personal favourites is “Let’s Write it in Red” which begins with an anecdote about a train journey during which the author witnessed children demonstrating the “two great principles of storytelling”. The first principle is that there are rules - among them stories must begin and have unity, and storytellers mustn’t be afraid of the obvious. Stories must have a destination too, and storytellers “must design the path so that it leads to the destination most surely, and with the maximum effect.” The second principle relates to form: “if the story is a path, then to follow it you have to ignore quite ruthlessly all the things that tempt you away from it. Your business as a storyteller is with the path, not the wood.” To these, Pullman adds a third - knowledge. Storytellers should “become more interested in your subject-matter than in the way you appear to others to be dealing with it.” With each of the 32 essays embodying these astute principles, Dæmon Voices is a trove of enlightenment, and entertaining to boot. Recommended for 16+ readers.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month October 2020 | Have you ever wondered how a forest gets started? With huge trees growing up close and dense undergrowth covering the ground, their scale is so mighty that it is hard to think that they could ever have been small. Are they man made? Did an enormous giant or a massive business enterprise put them there? In a gentle and elegant story matched by simple, evocative illustrations Who Makes a Forest? helps children explore the multi-faceted ecosystem that sustains the many forests that cover so much of the earth’s surface. From the soil, made from the decay left by tiny clinging plants such as lichen and the insects that feed on them, through the first flowers that grow in that soil and the butterflies and bees and birds that feed off them to the massive trees and shrubs that we see today all stages of forest growth are covered. The book ends with 5 pages of useful facts about forests.
This enchanting reinvention of a Natural History of Fairies written by botanist Professor Elsie Arbour in the 1920s glows with timeless charm and the magic of nature. What’s more, author Emily Hawkins’s message about protecting fairies’ natural habitats has important real-world resonance, such as this: “human actions are putting fairies’ habitats at risk. When forests and woodland are cut down to make space for farmland…then fairies’ homes are destroyed.” Fairy enthusiasts will delight in the detail of the softly-radiant illustrations that present fairy anatomy and life cycles in the manner of natural history books, replete with labels and descriptions. Throughout, the book is suffused with a thrilling feeling that fairies might be found - if you know what you’re looking for, and where to look. The section on language and secret scripts will undoubtedly inspire young readers to write their own fairy codes, while coverage of a huge range of habitats - from meadows, gardens and woodlands, to mountains, marine environments and jungles - gives a satisfying global feel. Alongside providing fairy-lovers with much fodder for exploration, this coverage of habitats, and information on the likes of leaves, plants and animals, might also spark a wider love of nature. Sumptuously presented, with a silk bookmark, and gold edging and cover foil supplementing Jessica Roux’s illustrations, this book’s style is every bit as charming as its content, which makes it a gift to treasure.
September 2020 Non-Fiction Book of the Month | This is a non-fiction book with a difference! Using his amazing ‘tranimalator’ machine, which, he tells us, translates animals’ sounds into words, author Andy Seed ‘interviews’ a horde or scary animals, including a tiger, a fierce honey badger and a snow leopard. He asks them some really interesting questions too and we learn all sorts of things – why humans are scared of wolves, how a massive animal like a giant anteater survives eating teeny little insects, what lionesses think of male lions (not much actually!). It’s quirky and lots of fun – some of these animal celebs have wicked senses of humour – but genuinely informative (I had no idea that jaguars eat caimans, or that giant armadillos build new dens every couple of days, or that sloths have mould growing on them!). It reminds us how many of these animals are threatened too and what we can do to help. The illustrations match the tone and it’s bright and engaging throughout. This is a book that children will be keen to share and to return to.
Over 90 non-fiction activities for children | Having reviewed and enjoyed Creative Writing Skills last year, I was excited at the thought of another book by Lexi Rees. Wicked Writing Skills, as with its predecessor, is a book packed with original ideas for busy teachers. It is clear and concise, and it is easy to dip in and out of the extremely creative chapters. As an English teacher, I am a firm believer in mixed ability classes and lessons that can be differentiated happily and successfully. This book achieves this so well as the ideas are varied, clearly laid out and interesting, with enough stimulus to appeal to the reluctant, and enough thought provoking phrases to appeal to the most eloquent and able. The layout is fun and eye-catching, with helpful hints from the author, dotted throughout. The author’s obvious enjoyment in writing this book, certainly shines through. I like the variety of ideas, from debates and newspaper articles, to instruction and diary writing. It is a book packed with ideas and inspiration. This is a super resource for the classroom or as a 'home school' resource. The diversity of the material allows you to dip in and out throughout the term, using the pages as and when appropriate. I also found that as many of the themes were quite broad, they can easily be adapted to link in with an ongoing theme in the classroom. The layout of the pages makes it quick and easy to photocopy and a great addition to the Creative Writing shelf.
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