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October 2019 Book of the Month | Here’s another inspiring, information-packed picture book in what’s becoming something of a series (see also Great Women Who Made History and Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World). It tells the stories of pioneering women who achieved amazing things, often in the face of prejudice or downright hostility from society. There are familiar names – Rosalind Franklin is included – plus lots that are lesser known, but just as fascinating: balloonist Sophie Blanchard for example, and Sarah Breedlove, beauty entrepreneur. Their stories are told through lively, engaging text and pictures, it’s a treat to read. Kate Pankhurst is something of a fantastically great woman herself, and there’s lots for all readers to marvel at and enjoy in this book.
The partnership of Mick Manning and Brita Granström has undoubtedly transformed the approach to non-fiction over the past 20 award-winning years and here they have illuminated that tricky curriculum requirement of studying Britain in the Stone Age with their trademark information picturebook style. This book actually is much more than that; it defines the start of history, which is from the point at which humans began to write and record and asks the reader to take a bold and imaginative journey through the millennia that came before. From the very formation of the Earth and Moon to the beginnings of life and the slow progression and development of our planet, through dinosaurs, extinction events and to the eventual appearance of man. The lively text does not talk down or patronise and is highly educative in the use of correct terminology for naming the epochs and creatures as they develop. The inclusive characters that accompany the reader on the journey help to ground us in the familiar and personify our curiosity. The images are striking and informative while being gently amusing. A very informative glossary and a Timeline Game to help test your understanding complete this valuable package. An exciting book which will be picked up for reading pleasure as well as being a real asset for the curriculum.
The tales collected by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm in the early 1800’s constitute the greatest amassed from oral tradition in the western world and no classroom study of traditional tales would be considered without them. Many are set in the animal kingdom, like the ones translated here by Carnegie medal winning author and poet Kevin Crossley Holland. Some like The Bremen Town Musicians are extremely well known but others are much less so. The authors reveal in the afterword that they have particularly tried to keep the flavour of the different voices telling the tales and they have succeeded brilliantly. They are short, pithy, often funny and perfect for reading aloud. The animals exhibit human traits such as arrogance, greed, cunning, and less often kindness and will provide plenty of food for thought and discussion. I was particularly taken with a tale new to me, The Fox and the Cat, where an arrogant fox boasts that he has 100 tricks. The cat modestly replies that he has but one: ‘When the hounds are after me, I can leap into a tree and save myself,’ which he then does. The fox is killed by the dogs! This beautiful hardback edition, with lively pen and ink drawings from the award-winning Susan Varley, will survive many years of classroom use.
From the heroes familiar to everyone, such as Malala Yousafzai, to the amazing activists you might not have heard of, like Baruani Ndume, the teenager who gave a voice to fellow refugee children in Tanzania, discover the incredible true stories of child activists. An inspirational and moving book from beloved author-illustrator Marcia Williams, providing the perfect introduction to an important subject and marking 30 years since the Convention on the Rights of the Child was signed by the United Nations General Assembly.
Every young person will have heard of Greta Thunberg, the schoolgirl whose strikes for the climate have developed into a world-wide movement and put young peoples’ voices at the heart of the efforts to protect our planet. This book tells Greta’s story, explaining how a wary, quiet girl from Sweden has found the courage and determination to stand up for what she knows is crucial to the future of every one of us. It’s an inspiring story, and unique to Greta, but it also demonstrates how together we can all make a difference, and work towards the future we want. In addition to Greta’s story, there’s a chapter explaining the science of global warming, notes on what we can do as individuals and suggestions for further reading. This could be the most important book your children will read all year.
Just like the award short-listed title Once Upon a Raindrop, this is a wonderful topic introduction, but this time revealing the origins and essentials of music in all its forms. A colourful visual treat from the notation themed endpapers to the irresistible, exuberant and inclusive depictions of the drumming, dance and song that have been a vital part of human life since ancient times. We journey through songs originating around the campfire and passed down through the generations, the development of instruments and musical notation right up to the genres which we enjoy today. Engaging and informative and ending with an acrostic poem, based upon the word Rhythm, of useful information about musical history, this book begs to be read aloud. The page design using bold text and red for emphasis ensures that nobody could fail to catch the beat. It is a real celebration of rhythm designed to inspire young musicians everywhere to get involved. Music has always been a part of James Carter’s school performances so he is absolutely the perfect match for this topic and this poem would be great piece to use for choral speaking performances in assemblies and the like.
This series describes itself as the ‘true life stories of the most amazing people ever!’ and already has several volumes available, including Emmeline Pankhurst and Ada Lovelace. This life story of Malala is both very instructive on the political turmoil that led to her shooting, and in portraying Malala as a very engaging, brave and dedicated young person. It is written in an easily readable text using side panels to explain situations and traditions without interrupting the flow of the biography. It also contains a timeline taking us from 1947 – Pakistan’s independence – right through to 2018. A very useful glossary explains unfamiliar words and a well detailed index all add enormously to the value of this biography. I particularly liked the explanation panel on the mechanics of writing this book (verso title page) – so that readers can know which are Malala’s actual words (in italic) and which are the authors interpretations – vital to students in this world of fake news. The line illustrations add a graphic novel feel to parts of the story – all making this a fascinating, well-written biography that will find a well-deserved place in many classrooms and libraries.
Each of the 15 subjects selected for this collection gets a lively, well-designed, double-paged spread with bite sized and accessible chunks of information about the life and career of each extraordinary individual. These range from the familiar – David Attenborough, Michelle Obama, Nelson Mandela, Mo Farrer etc- to those that were completely new to me and, I am sure, to most young readers! These include Britain’s first female spy- Krystyna Skabarek; Aeham Ahmad, the pianist of Yarmouk and Keiko Fukuda Sensei, who became the only woman to be awarded the 10th Dan in Judo at the age of 98! The illustrations by Annabel Tempest are very effective in capturing both time and place as well as the character and emotions of the individual. Written by a graduate of the Penguin Random House WriteNow scheme, which endeavours to ensure that books and authors better reflect the society we live in, this is a rich resource for KS1 libraries and classrooms. It will support the study of lives of significant individuals in the past and show good examples of resilience and positive role models. It is a book which will be dipped into and read with pleasure but lack of contents or index means that it is less useful as a research tool. But this is an author to watch: one whose evident passion for writing information texts which are set to ignite curiosity in young readers shines through.
A timely publication with Brexit looming, this accessible and lively journey through the UK combines a geographical tour of our islands with social and historical themes such as music, transport, food, clothes, sport and how, for example, UK time has defined global time zones since the definition of the Greenwich Meridian. Written and collected by children’s book critic Imogen Russell- Williams, it is not surprising to find a spread on Bookish Britain and a field guide to magical creatures, but equally entertaining are spreads on the famous British sweet tooth and the confectionery industry or conversely on Keeping Fit and Healthy: where we learn that The Isles of Scilly are the most sporty and active place in the UK! One cannot help but wonder if a subliminal Brexit message is intended about the geographical tour beginning in Northern Ireland, but it is certainly refreshing not to have London front and centre and for all the home nation capitals to get their own double page spread and equality of coverage. The selection of facts about each place or theme is inspired, diverse and non-jingoistic; defining the British Empire, for example as ‘also responsible for the rise of slavery and the loss of resources, identity and language for other countries.’ The varied page layout is a particular strength combining colourful images and clear textboxes and labels. There is an enjoyable quiz on “How Well do you know the UK?” at the end of the book, but I really cannot understand why there is not at the very least a Contents page to guide young researchers to an area of interest. Nevertheless, this is an attractive and fascinating book which will, I guarantee, with every page turn present the reader with something they did not know or had not heard of.
This year sees the 50th anniversary of the moon landings, so interest in space exploration will be particularly high. Handsomely illustrated with Chris Nielsen’s bold retro images, and packed with information, Balloon to the Moon will answer all the questions any potential astronauts might pose. It covers the entire spectrum, from mankind’s first attempts to get off the ground via balloons in the 1700s to the space race as it developed in the 50s, 60s and 70s, with revealing descriptions of the personalities involved as well as the technology. It all makes for a fascinating story, and one that will appeal to readers of all kinds. Concluding with a page on space careers and the future of humankind’s exploration of our universe this is a book to inform and inspire.
A self-confessed ‘white socks, pocket protector, nerdy engineer’ Neil Armstrong became the most famous man on the planet when he walked on the moon in 1969. This concise but information-packed biography provides the background to his life, from his birth in Ohio in 1930 through his experiences as a pilot in the Korean war, to those era-defining small steps on the moon. It also describes in just the right detail the political and technological developments that made the Apollo 11 trip possible. The text is clear and accessible, supported by frequent illustrations, diagrams and ‘Did you know?’ information boxes and it provides both a timeline and index. This is one of a number of books in carefully-thought out new series. For further reading on this theme visit our special feature - 50th Anniversary of the Moon Landing.
‘In her thirty-three years at NASA Katherine was a pioneer who broke the barriers of race and gender, showing generations of young people that everyone can excel in math and science, and reach for the stars’. That’s President Barack Obama on Katherine Johnson, his quote one of many contemporary sources that bring her extraordinary achievements to life in this concise but information-packed biography. The book covers Johnson’s life from childhood and early signs of her fierce intelligence through to the years at NASA where her calculations helped put Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon. It’s inspiring stuff, and the book is designed to appeal to a wide readership, with frequent illustrations, diagrams and information boxes. This is one of a number of titles in a well-thought-out new series. For further reading on this theme visit our special feature - 50th Anniversary of the Moon Landing.
May 2019 Non-Fiction Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month May 2019 | Enduringly fascinating and inspiring, the story of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s ascent of Everest is always worth re-visiting. This strong narrative biography matched with atmospheric illustrations brings the two men to life from their childhoods in New Zealand and Nepal respectively to their amazing feat of climbing the world’s highest mountain. Alexandra Stewart and Joe Todd-Stanton capture something about the personalities of the two and the reasons that they felt the need to take on this great challenge. Most successfully, in words and pictures they describe the extraordinary landscape of Everest and the surrounding mountains and in particular the enormous dangers and the unique magic of mountaineering - especially when you take on the challenge of the highest mountain in the world.
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