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Informative, candid and trusted, book reviews by our own book experts are unique to LoveReading4Kids. But the children of our loyal members are also prolific readers with a real passion for sharing their love of books. So, we decided to invite them to join what we are now calling the 'Children's LoveReading4Kids Reader Review Panel'. All the titles in this category have not only been selected and reviewed by our editorial experts but they have also been reviewed by our kids reader review panel, a panel of book lovers across the UK.
February 2020 Book of the Month | Charlie Tanner’s dog Jasper thinks he’s descended from Viking dogs and is determined to find out more. This sparks a series of very funny letters from Charlie to the curator at the local Viking museum, in which Charlie poses questions from Jasper. In fact, questions and answers tell us lots about Viking life and the unusual and ingenious presentation makes it all extremely readable and accessible. A great way to learn about the Vikings. Jasper has explored space for readers too, and it looks he has more adventures to come, which is good news.
February 2020 Book of the Month | Nothing is higher profile or more topical currently than concern for the planet, making this subject an excellent choice for the next topic to get the highly successful Kate Pankhurst treatment. Continuing her quest to pay tribute to the often-overlooked female pioneers in any field of human endeavour with her mission to provide accessible and engaging non- fiction, Fantastically Great Women Who Saved the Planet does all that and more. Once again, I was struck by the fascinating and diverse choices of the featured women and girls. Some are relatively well-known: such as Anita Roddick who founded the Body Shop and Jane Goodall and her pioneering research and protection work with chimpanzees. But I had never heard of Edith Farkas who discovered the ozone hole in the Antarctic or Mária Telkes and her pioneering work on solar power. Even more inspiring is the evidence that everyone, however humble, can make a difference. Such as Isatou Geesay in the Gambia and her fight against plastic pollution or the Chipko movement in India, village women literally hugging trees to prevent the deforestation of their land and the floods and landslides which would follow. Each double-page spread has accessible paragraphs of text and lively cartoon illustrations and speech bubbles to tell the story concisely and clearly. This visual style is very engaging to young readers and has great shelf appeal. A useful glossary of terms and a page of inspiring calls to action complete the book. Another triumph of information presentation. Highly recommended.
There are some excellent series for young readers at the moment: Amelia Fang, the Royal Rabbits of London, Isadora Moon, and now Mermaid School. Marnie Blue is worried about her first day at Mermaid School, for all the usual reasons: will she make friends? will the teachers be very strict? When she arrives, it seems her teachers expect her to take after her aunt Christabel, now a famous singer and DJ, who was a right terror! And for some reason, fellow first year Orla seems to have it in for Marnie too. It’s all a lot more interesting than the average primary school, and Orla’s story in particular involves Marnie in a very exciting adventure. Very nicely told, and the underwater world is enticing; young readers won’t be able to put this down.
When Melvin Pebbles moves to the town of Donut Island, he has no idea what’s in store: before he’s even unpacked his vast collection of toy bags (unopened, toys still inside to preserve the mystery), he’s been adopted into the Daily Donut Club by new friend, Rhubarb Plonsky, and by the end of the book, together with third Donut Club member Yoshi Fujikawa, will have foiled an alien invasion and bid to brainwash his new neighbours. As you’d expect from the creator of the inimitable Barry Loser series, this is a blissfully surreal mystery adventure, as weird as it is wonderful, and certain to have readers laughing out loud from beginning to end. Jim Smith’s illustrations are as playful as the plot, and make the whole package even more of a treat. Comic genius!
If you love Tom Gates, the Wimpy Kid, or Nikki Maxwell of Dork Diaries fame, then you need to get to know Max Crumbly. Like these hapless anti-heroes, Max has a habit of getting into trouble – this episode opens with Max and his crush Erin Madison trapped in a dumpster full of smelly rubbish – mainly in an effort to escape school bullies or teachers. He recounts his adventures in a breathless, as-it-happens mix of text and image, which is vivid, action-packed and guaranteed to keep the pages turning and readers laughing. It all works too because author Rachel Renée Russell understands her protagonist and her readers so well, ensuring that Max is always a credible and sympathetic character.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month February 2020 | February 2020 Book of the Month | With a new baby on the way Amelia’s mother is too busy to do much. So it is up to Amelia and her friends Florence and Grimaldy to look after the sweet little caticorns. What can be hard about taking care of the cute looking Gerrard, Butler and Mo? Amelia is keen to impress all with what a great big sister she will be but looking after the very naughty carticorns turns out to be very hard indeed!
Larabelle Fox is an orphan, a tosher who searches the sewers for any ‘treasure’ she can find, in the sewer system under Kings Haven. She is ranged against rival toshing gangs who want to rob her, as well as the powerful King’s Witch who wants to revive the Evernight in a bid to gain total power for herself. Unbeknownst to Lara she has found exactly what the King’s Witch and her awesomely scary djinn Shadow Jack are looking for – a box, long lost in the sewers. Can Lara discover what she can do with the box and its contents before the world succumbs to the evil of the Evernight? This is a wild magical delight of a story. The bad guys are wickedly bad and seemingly undefeatable, whilst Lara and her friend Joe Littlefoot seem small and powerless. But they have quick wits and goodness on their side, as well as the witches, though it will mainly be down to Lara that a defence is put up to the Evernight.This is the sort of book that will create a buzz of enjoyment, the fantasy world is well built, believable, cinematic and child friendly. The magic is fun, the friendship believable, the story is refreshing, and the feisty heroine is a delight to follow. I shall look forward to more books in this series.
Iris takes refuge with her grandma, Mimi, to escape the chaos at home, caused by her two-year old twin siblings and her dad’s DIY repairs. There’s a different kind of disorder in Mimi’s house which is chock full of items collected over the years, chiefly boxes of photos she’s taken and developed. Among the photographs of other people’s weddings are family portraits and its one of these that sets Iris on a hunt to unravel an old mystery, even as Mimi’s memories are fading. The story is beautifully told, as much about Iris and her search for order and happiness as it is about Mimi and her struggle with dementia. A poignant, thoughtful examination of family relationships, memory and loss, that ends on a note of hope and renewal.
Havenfall, the first installment of a new series from Everless author Sara Holland, is a heady blend of hidden worlds at war and ancient magic that sees a teenage girl compelled to summon superhuman strength. Maddie has always loved spending summers at her Uncle Marcus’s mountain-set Havenfall Inn. To outsiders, Havenfall is just another small town in the Rockies. To those in the know, it’s a hidden haven between volatile ancient worlds, “a peaceful, magical crossroads” with the Inn “the one place everyone can intermingle.” As Innkeeper, Marcus is responsible for upholding peace between these worlds. “To be Innkeeper requires courage, diplomacy, and the will to carry out the greater good”, he counsels, knowing Maddie aspires to take over from him some day. That day comes quicker than planned when the gateway to Solaria is opened, which means, “nothing at all is between us and a world full of monsters.” With Marcus rendered unconscious by a Soul-eater just ahead of a peace summit, Maddie must take his place, for “the peace of the realms depends on it going smoothly.”The book has a brooding build-up, with snaking sentences, bountiful backstory detail, and a slow-build sense of menace, mystery and romantic tension that’s shattered by screams when the Soul-eater attacks. With the realms now unhinged, Maddie has a swathe of in-your-face threats to deal with, and her epic story has much to appeal to fans of Sarah J. Maas and Leigh Bardugo.
Rabbit and Bear: Book 4 | Rabbit is worried: trees in their forest are disappearing and, worse still, the stream has moved – even unflappable Bear declares herself ‘close to being slightly worried’ at that. The cause is the arrival of Castor Canadensis, a beaver, who is delighted with engineering as a means of building ‘New, Bigger and Better things’ in the name of ‘Progress’. It suits some of the animals, but definitely not all. Fortunately, Bear finds a way to get the animals working together, so that Castor’s hard work benefits them all, himself included. As ever, there’s as much insight as humour, and it’s a superb read aloud story. Gough and Field make creating books this good look simple, because they’re both masters at what they do. Treat yourself, and buy all four books.
If you like Star Wars, you’ll love Alastair Chisholm’s space adventure. The action takes place on board the transport ship Orion as it heads out from Earth to a new colony far away. Reaching their destination requires ship and passengers making a series of Jumps through space and time, and surviving a Jump means entering a state of deep suspended animation. Emerging from one of these, Beth discovers that none of the adults can be woken, and that she is now acting captain with a ‘crew’ of fellow youngsters. There are tensions between the children, some alarming encounters with aliens and – much more terrifying – space pirates, all made worse when Beth begins to suspect that the ship itself may not have their best interests at heart. It all makes for a terrifically taut and entertaining page-turner, with twists and surprises galore. Don’t miss!
January 2020 Debut of the Month | There’s love, friendship and challenging prejudice aplenty in this debut novel by a LGBTQ+ parenting expert. Introverted Izzy has just started Year 8 and is wildly excited when her favourite teacher announces auditions for a Christmas production of Guys and Dolls. Though shy, she’s come to love acting because on stage she “could be whoever I wanted.” And Izzy’s not the only member of her family who wants - and needs - to be who they really are, as she discovers when her dad tells the family he’s transgender and is about to begin transitioning. Though he gently explains, “It’s nothing to be ashamed of, it’s nothing dirty, I’m not ill”, Izzy’s older sister reacts angrily, her little brother accepts it in the same way he understands Spider Man and Peter Parker’s different identities, while Izzy feels quiet worry about how their lives will change. The family’s journey is honestly and sensitively portrayed as they endure hurtful prejudice alongside many heart-melting moments, such as the gorgeous scene in which the three siblings think-up their new name for Dad. This is at once an important support tool for children in similar situations, and a barrier-breaking, empathy-inducing story for all.
As cat-owners everywhere know, all cats are equipped with super-powers and Gwynneth Rees’s series stars a band of feline heroes who use their powers to fight villains (a kind of moggie MI6). In this episode, new recruits Tagg and Sugarfoot have to infiltrate the infamous Hit Cats to stop a prison break. Can they do it, and could they really end up fish-sliced if they get caught? Rees keeps things fun, but suitably tense too and it’s another satisfying adventure in a very enjoyable series. Illustrations by Becka Moor add to the fun. If you like the Super Cats series, look out for Dermot O’Leary’s Toto the Ninja Cat books too.
January 2020 Book of the Month | This is the fourth and indeed final book in Peter Bunzl’s hugely enjoyable Cogheart adventure series. Lily, the girl with the clockwork heart, and her friends Robert and Malkin the ‘mechanimal’ fox, are off to New York with her father to meet up with Robert’s mother and sister. The adventures start the minute they step off their ocean liner (the series is set in a steampunky late 19th century) and involve kidnap, stolen jewels and a heartbroken boy willing to do anything to put his family back together. There are wonderful scenes of adventure with escapades taking place on trains, hotel balconies and most thrillingly in an underwater diving vessel. Non-stop as the action is, there’s always time for Lily to realise what really matters and that love and friendship keep the world’s heart ticking. An excellent series and while each book stands alone, I’d recommend treating young readers to the set.
This is a sensitive, often funny and thoroughly engaging story of teenagers coming to terms with who they are. It’s easy to think in these liberal times that anything goes, but teens will be quick to point out that growing up is as difficult as it’s ever been. It’s particularly hard for David, one of the two central characters in this assured debut. David has known since the age of eight that he wants to be a girl. Teased as a freak at school, he feels he can’t even tell his family. New boy Leo seems to have problems too and when the two become friends they discover they have more in common than they ever thought. This ultra-readable, highly entertaining story could also provide readers with some much needed reassurance that normal is as normal does.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month November 2019 | Full of Meg Rosoff’s delightful wit and evident affection for dogs, the is a great return for McTavish the big-hearted rescue dog who is already well-known for the good care he takes of all those around him. This time it is Betty who needs help. When Pa Peachey gets a new job the whole family is upheaved. Everyone is excited about it except for Betty. Not only has she got to move house but she also to say goodbye to her old friends and go to a new school. Betty does not want to be the new girl: she is terrified. Luckily, McTavish thinks of the best possible way to turn her arrival at a new school into a triumph rather than a catastrophe.
November 2019 Book of the Month | Not since The Snowman have readers been taken on such a magical, snowy journey of love and adventure. Phoebe lives in a gloomy orphanage run by the cruel Griselda Bone. The two clash frequently, and often over Phoebe’s creative response to her school work: Griselda does not approve of words like ‘whispery’ and ‘flumping’. Locked up in the snow overnight, Phoebe and her little dog Herb are surprised by a huge and magical snow dragon, who takes them on an extraordinary ride through the skies. Filled with snowflakes, starlight and revelling in the power of the imagination this is a gorgeous story for Christmas nights and Fiona Woodcock’s illustrations are very special indeed.
November 2019 Debut of the Month | Mr Moose and Mr Brown first meet on an aeroplane flying from America to London. Mr Moose should be with his brother Monty, but absent-minded Monty has got on the wrong plane. Mr Brown, who is a famous fashion designer (as is the book’s author Paul Smith), offers to help his new friend find his missing brother. As they travel the world, Mr Moose helps Mr Brown with his fashion range, suggesting some very interesting garments – parkas for penguins, sneakers for cheetahs, scarves for giraffes. As they fit out an Alaskan bear for snow-shoes Mr Brown has an idea … It all ends with a happy reunion at a big catwalk (moosewalk?) show. It’s an engaging story and very strong on the fun and satisfaction that comes from designing things and from creative partnerships. Sam Usher paints some wonderful scenes, including a witty reimagining of Hopper’s Nighthawks, 1942.
This endearing character-driven treasure from the award-winning author of Dear Martin is a race-against-time romance replete with real-life hardship, class conflict and hope. Rico is a high school senior who works at Gas ‘n’ Go after class to keep her family afloat and then races home to look after her little brother so her mom can pick up extra shifts. In the intensity and exhaustion of this hamster-stuck-in-a-ball situation Rico’s lost sight of what she wants for her future, but selling a jackpot-winning lottery ticket gives her new focus: to find the little old lady she believes won the ticket. Then maybe – just maybe – she’ll be rewarded with a life-changing cut of the multi-million-dollar winnings. To this end, Rico reluctantly enlists the help of handsome, rich “Zan-the-Man”, a tech whizz who “has no idea what it’s like to constantly be on the brink of not having what you need to survive.” But, as Rico discovers, while Zan’s set to take over the throne of his family’s toilet paper empire, his dad has made sure he knows the value of money. Their opposite-side-of-the-tracks narrative plays out with heated banter and feverish frisson, with class conflict rearing its head at every turn as Rico struggles to accept Zan’s generosity just like her mom refuses to apply for government support. Quirkiness comes courtesy of interludes told from the points of views of inanimate objects - the winning ticket, a taxi, a stash of $100 dollar bills, Zan’s fancy bed sheets, a salt shaker – and the novel’s conclusion is as thrilling and life-affirming as it is unexpected. Readers will be left rooting for Rico and Zan to forge the futures they deserve.
"Ed loves reviewing the books and it definitely encourages his reading, both solo and with me (which I love)." Tracey Parker (parent)
"Daniel has seen his review on the website for The Dark – he is so excited!" Cat Bisland (parent)
Since its inception, LoveReading4Kids and its sister site LoveReading have taken a different approach to book reviews, relying uniquely on the selection and review of books by editorial experts. On LoveReading4Kids one of our expert reviewers is Julia Eccleshare (who is also the Children's Books Editor at The Guardian) and she knows what makes a good read whatever the genre and actually reads the books before telling you what she thinks - radical we know, but sometimes old-fashioned ways are the best.
In 2012 however, to complement our expert reviews we decided to invite children of LoveReading4Kids members to join the newly created Kids Reader Review Panel.
We've now attracted over 500 children aged from 4 right up to late teen and 100's of books have now been read and reviewed by them. Many of them even have their own book blogs and help us to spread the word of mouth still further on a book they've enjoyed.
Panel members reviews are loaded onto the site and complement those of our own Lovereading editorial experts. We're even now receiving feedback from visitors to LoveReading4Kids that the 'Kids Reader Review Panel' reviews are as valued as those of our own LoveReading book experts! With that in mind, we thought it would be very helpful to everyone if we created a category and put all the books that have also been reviewed by some of our Kids Reader Review Panel members, in one easy to find place.
Here are a few testimonials from parents, teachers and importantly direct from some of our 'Kids Reader Review Panel'
The whole class are desperate to get copies of your books and are disappointed if their name doesn't come out of the hat. The more books the better! I've gone from having a class of boys who won't read to a class who get upset if they don't get chosen to read. It's brilliant! Jane Edwards, Little Sutton Primary School, Ellesmere Port (Teacher)
I just wanted to say thanks for the opportunity to do this for your site. Ed loves reviewing the books and it definitely encourages his reading, both solo and with me (which I love). Tracey Parker (parent)
Daniel has seen his review on the website for The Dark – he is bringing it into school for Show and Tell on Friday – he is so excited! Cat Bisland (parent)
Just wanted to say thanks so much for uploading Cara's book review - she had the biggest smile ever when I showed it to her! It will have given her and her family a real boost. Great site too! Jill Rooney (parent)
Thanks for giving up the opportunity to review books for your website, this is proving really popular with our pupils and books are literally flying off my desk at the moment! It’s also great to see the reviews that the kids have written online Amy Bennett, Thomas Cowley School, Lincs (teacher)
The book reviewing has been a real treat for us, thank you for a wonderful experience. Tracey Upchurch (parent)