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Sep 20 2018

You can't let an elephant drive a digger by Patricia Cleveland-Peck

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Ill. by David Tazzyman. Bloomsbury, 2018. ISBN 9781408879146
(Age: 4+) Recommended. Themes: STEM. Probability. Humour. Verse. A range of improbably domesticated animals are given impossible things to do, inviting every reader to simply laugh out loud at the antics shown. Each double page shows an improbable scene: a shark in the bath, a polar bear cutting hair, a seal acting as a chef, brushing your teeth with a crocodile and more, all illustrated with gusto, hinting at the possible things which may happen with the animal doing something he is simply not designed to do.
Told in four line rhyming stanzas, each page invites the reader to predict the last word of each line and many adults will find children learning the stanza detailing the animal they like best. Kids will love the looks on their faces as they try out their impossible tasks, and the corresponding looks on the children's faces as a shark appears in the bath or an octopus helps with dressing or a wolf offers to read a bedtime story. Each page bristles with laughter and kids will love looking at the detail where other things are happening: mice carrying away the mousetrap, a cat under the table eating the fish dropped by the seal or the elephant's poo dropping onto one of the workers.
Full to the brim with hilarity, children will relish this unusual tale, another from the duo who created "You can't take an elephant on a bus". David Tazzyman is new to me and I found out more about him here. Initially a commercial illustrator, he illustrated the "Mr Gum" books for Egmont in 2006 and has illustrated children's books ever since. Patricia Cleveland-Peck has written some 14 books and more information can be found here.
Fran Knight




Sep 20 2018

Oscar the hungry unicorn by Lou Carter

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Ill. by Nikki Dyson. Orchard, 2018. ISBN 9781408355756
(Age: 3+) Recommended. Themes: Unicorns. Fairy tales. Food. Home. Humour. Oscar loves to eat and despite what he eats, he is still hungry. He eats his stable, the gingerbread house, the pirate ship, the toadstools which house the fairies and the dragon's pizza. The dragon points out that the pizza is to share, but Oscar takes no notice. But at the giant's table, he finds that he is part of the food going into the giant's mouth so runs away, despairing that he will never find a home. He crosses the troll bridge eating it as he goes, and just as the trolls begin to exact their revenge, Princess Oola comes by with her boat. She scoops him up, telling how she loves unicorns and takes him to her castle, where food is never ending and Oscar finds a home. But he still looks at the moon with avaricious eyes.
This lovely story about eating reflects many fairy tales which readers will be familiar with. They will love the references to these stories, spying the illustrations to see what parts of the fairy story is mentioned. The fun illustrations suit the tone of the story well, and younger readers will love peering into each picture to see the details.
Teachers and parents will be able to use the story to talk about the place of food in our lives, and the appropriateness of some of the food available against a funny and inviting story.
Fran Knight




Sep 19 2018

Dino diggers: Dumper truck danger by Rose Impey

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Ill. by Chris Chatterton. Bloomsbury, 2018. ISBN 9781408872482
(Age: 4+) Recommended. Dinosaurs, Technology, Accidents. In Dino-Town, the Dino Diggers are all ready for action. Dressed in their hard hats and fluoro jackets, they can take on any problem which comes long, so when the town bridge collapses after a heavy rain storm, they are ready with their machines to clear the path and help rebuild the bridge.
Young readers will adore the five friends, Terri,Tyrone, Bruno, Ricky and Stacey, working out just why each has that particular name, their size and physical attributes eagerly recognised by dinosaur hunters. The problem of the bridge and the baker's van stuck beneath causes the team some headaches as Tyrone takes his digger down into the river bed to get the van out. He does this successfully but they both end up on the wrong side of the bridge. Another problem creates another solution, and all ends happily, with the dinosaurs reopening the bridge in time for traffic. The Dino Diggers have done their work.
Young readers will love looking at the array of work done by each of the trucks illustrated, recognising these implements from seeing them on their streets. The illustrations give a streamlined image of each of them allowing kids to point out the features of each. Recognisable work safety measures are included, alluding to the possible dangers of this work, and showing readers what needs to happen to keep themselves safe. In the last few pages is a cardboard cutout of Stacey's dump truck with instructions on how to put it together, continuing the fun of the book.
Fran Knight




Sep 19 2018

Mummy Fairy and me : Fairy in waiting by Sophie Kinsella

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Penguin, 2018. ISBN 9780141377896
(Ages: 5 - 7) Recommended. Themes: Fairies. Humour. "Ella's family has a big secret - her Mummy is a fairy. She can do amazing spells with her computawand. Only, sometimes the spells go a bit wrong, and that's when Ella steps in to the rescue.
In this brand-new book of magical adventures, there are very naughty monkeys, a swimming pool filled with ice-cream, and the best birthday party ever - complete with giant cakes and fairy dust." (Publisher)
And after so much fun and adventure, will Ella get her wish and become a magical fairy, just like her Mum?
The magic and mayhem in this young chapter book make it a sweet and funny series for 5-7 year-old's. There are lots of messy adventures and parents who do silly things.
Donna Isgar




Sep 19 2018

Melowy : The ice enchantment by Danielle Star

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Ill. by Danielle Stern. Melowy series book 4. Scholastic, 2018, ISBN 9781338151800
(Age: 6-8) Themes: Unicorns, Fantasy, Friendship, Courage. In the Castle of Destiny hidden by a sea of clouds, Melowies, winged horses with gorgeous colourings, gather to be schooled in magic. Cleo, Electra, Maya, Cora and Selena wake to a beautiful morning eager to begin their classes in the Art of Powers. Cleo's destiny is unsure, she hasn't received her place in a realm yet: will she be a Winter, Spring, Day or Night? To find the nature of the young filly's power she needs to attend all the classes with her friends. This proves to be difficult for her, as she suffers sunburn in the Day Tower, tangles herself up in plants in the Spring Tower, and has candle problems in the Night Tower.
Cleo seeks advice from Theodora the friend who raised her after she was left on the castle steps as a baby. She needs encouragement to keep on with her lessons. Mysteries and problems abound, with a stolen magic book, a classmate casting a forbidden spell and problems in creating ice sculptures from the magic waterfall. Little by little, Cleo learns the power of friendship and patience.
Bright colours, pretty embellishments and beautiful creatures adorn the pages, making this junior novel sparkle. Danielle Star's magical fantasy series are just right for newly independent readers.
Rhyllis Bignell




Sep 18 2018

Ruby's worry by Tom Percival

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Bloomsbury, 2018. ISBN 9781408892152
(Age: 3+) Recommended. Themes: Anxiety. Depression. Sharing. Friendship. Ruby's life is carefree and happy, but one day a worry finds her. At first it is a very small worry and can be hidden behind her, or even ignored. But as time goes on the worry increases in size, becoming a constant shadow next to her as she goes to bed at night, eats her breakfast and catches the bus to school. She tries to work at school, but the worry sits next to her, invading her thoughts. The worry gets bigger, staring at her over the breakfast table, sitting on the swing besides her. She realises that no-one else can see her worry, until one day she sees a young boy sitting in the park. He too has a worry and this time, Ruby can see his worry. He is sad and reflects just how she feels, so she sits down next to him and they talk about their worries. As they do this their worries become smaller, and lift from their shoulders. They are aware that by sharing their worries they become smaller, and Ruby knows that although her shadow is still there, much smaller than it was, she now has the skill to keep it under control.
This story, like Mr Huff (Anna Walker, 2015) is most useful at a time where mental ill health has become a problem amongst younger children. Children will instantly recognise the background to the story, many knowing someone who suffers from anxiety, and see that having a worry is not unusual and there are steps they can take to help themselves not be overwhelmed by the feeling.
Fran Knight




Sep 18 2018

Uncle Shawn and Bill and the pajimminy-crimminy unusual adventure by A.L. Kennedy

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Ill. by Gemma Correll. Walker Books Ltd, 2018. ISBN 9781406360509
(Ages: 6-9) Recommended. Themes: Friendship. Humour. Bonkers story of friendship, llamas and total evil.
Uncle Shawn and Bill are back, and so are the llamas. In a book that could stand alone or work as a sequel, they have settled into a happy life at their llama farm in Scotland with their new llama friends. But all is not right on the horizon as someone new to their village is stirring up trouble, and encouraging anything 'unusual' to be vilified and the perpetrators locked up...
This contains great hilarious posters, comic style illustrations and informative chapter headings evoking old Victorian novels. It is a very visual story, with plenty to read around the words themselves.
The theme of celebrating difference and not being afraid of who you are, is well covered by a vast number of different habits and hobbies of the people in Pandrumdroochit. They get involved in an exciting adventure as Bill and the llamas (as well as some other friends) work together to defeat the evil threatening them all.
The story is totally bonkers, but such good fun and has a lesson of friendship at its heart.
This is a great series, with lovely short chapters, lots of action and silliness and full of things to look at.
Donna Isgar




Sep 17 2018

Princess Swashbuckle by Hollie Hughes

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Ill. by Deborah Allwright. Bloomsbury, 2018. ISBN 9781408862803
(Age: 4+) Recommended. Themes: Princesses, Stereotypes, Adventure, Frogs, Family, Verse, Humour. All Princess Swashbuckle wants to do is be a pirate queen, to sail away on a pirate ship and be the ruler of the waves. But her parents want her to marry a frog and settle down. How can she marry Hubert who lives in a bog or Gerald who lives beneath a log? She packs her bag and steals away one night, boarding the Stinky Fish. Finding its crew is upset at seeing their captain swim for shore, she is the perfect replacement.
Together the princess and the crew have incredible adventures, sailing the seven seas, meeting a range of other people, helping out where they can. They teach a mouse to be brave, and show a snake how to make a cake, but once all their adventures are done, Princess Swashbuckle feels a little out of sorts. She writes to her parents and receives a reply which apologises for their insistence that she marry, and invite her back to Frogland. Without hesitation she makes her way back home, allowing her parents to retire while she takes over ruling the kingdom, albeit with a pirate flavour.
This charming story full of whimsy and humour, will appeal to younger readers, lapping up the allusions to fairy stories with a reversal of the usual roles, and parallels to frogs which they will perfectly understand.
The detailed illustrations attract the eyes drawing them into perusing the things in the background, referencing things that pirates do and adventures associated with this group of people. Readers will thrill at the kingdom's seawall, shaped like a dragon's body, or the watchful eye of the ship, or the pirate's flag. All good fun.
Fran Knight




Sep 17 2018

Norman the Knight gets a fright! by Mark Sperring

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Ill. by Ed Eaves. Bloomsbury, 2108. ISBN 9781408873991
(Age: 4+) Recommended. Themes: Knights, Dragons, Employment. When the four children and their cat apply for the job of helping Norman the Brave, a knight of renown, they are surprised at what he expects them to do. Their work involves darning his large pile of socks, ironing his pants, cleaning his armour and scrubbing him in the bath after fetching loads of hot water. They must then squeeze him into his armour, and use a hoist to lift him into his horse's saddle, after first catching the unresponsive animal. They are all ready to go to the Royal Parade, Norman looking very brave and shiny after all the efforts of his knaves, our four friends by contrast looking shabby and weary. At the parade the knights are set upon by a group of brigands and bandits, while trying to deal with a fire breathing dragon. Norman and the other knights cower in the background while the four knaves take charge, putting out the dragon's fire and seeing off the brigands and thieves.
Norman then puts his knaves further off side by bragging about his exploits at saving the day whereas the knaves know what really happened, making the readers laugh at the knight's duplicity. The work might not be the job for our four friends, and at the end of the story, another workplace seems to be before them, making sure the readers will want to see the next book when the four try out working with a magician.
Told in rhyming pairs of lines, readers will love predicting the rhyming word as each line is read, and be intrigued with some of the new words offered: knave, brigand, bandit, which they may not have come across before. There are hilarious illustrations with lots of detail to look at, funny faces and situations to laugh at, as well as a lesson to be discussed about humility, and information included giving readers an insight into the lives of knights and knaves during Medieval times.
Fran Knight




Sep 17 2018

The afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand

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Harper Collins Publishers, 2017. ISBN 9781460754283
(Ages: 12+) Highly recommended. A heart-warming and emotional tale of the importance of generosity, family, love and compassion. When Holly Chase is visited on Christmas Eve by three spirits warning her of the imminent consequences of her selfish actions, she elects to ignore their advice, doing nothing to mend her ways. Six days later, she dies. Awakening in an office, Holly learns that she will be working for a top-secret company called 'Project Scrooge' to help other 'Scrooges' like her change their behaviour before it's too late. She is appointed to the position of the Ghost of Christmas Past and accepts this as her fate; forced to redeem herself through encouraging others to do what she could not - change for the better. Five years after her death, however, she is faced with a Scrooge that she feels a connection to: Ethan Winters III, a seventeen-year-old who is similarly spoilt, materialistic and grieving the loss of a parent. For the first time since her death, Holly finds that she has something to be hopeful for.
Through her authentic and genuine characters, beautiful writing style and valuable moral, New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Hand provides a sweet, unforgettable and thought-provoking novel that will touch the heart of its reader, and fill them with hope, happiness and gratitude. A book that is impossible to put down, and even harder to stop thinking about, "The Afterlife of Holly Chase" is not a novel to miss and is a wonderful read all year round.
Daniella Chiarolli (university student)




Sep 14 2018

The Funny Life of Pets by James Campbell

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Bloomsbury, 2018. ISBN 9781408889947
(Age: 8+) Recommended. A dog's nose is more than 1 000 times more sensitive than our nose. That's why if you do a bottom burp in a dog's face it will go cross-eyed and fall over. Imagine a sausage dog's dilemma when it's eating sausages - the resemblance of this tasty snack to their Granny is uncanny! Uncover top tips for feeding goldfish and avoiding a mini tsunami in your house causing dinosaurs to evolve from your carpets! Discover some of the rarest dog breeds in the world, like the Jack Russell Sprout . . . but remember, they're not just for Christmas.
This is truly one of the funniest books I have ever read. Campbell have very cleverly mixed fact with fiction and will be a real hit with the young readers (8 and up) - especially the advice that is given to convince parents to allow them to get just the pet they want. It has a mix of quirky illustrations, sign posts indicating what directions you can choose and text. It is a little like a choose your own adventure book, whereby you can choose what you want to do. It is not a book that has to be read from cover to cover. I sneakily gave it to one of my Year 6 reluctant readers and he could not put it down - he was very keen to borrow it. I can also see myself using it to fill in the odd five minutes - picking it up and reading a couple of pages. A very lighthearted book that is a must have.
Kathryn Schumacher




Sep 13 2018

Crossing Ebenezer Creek by Tanya Bolden

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Bloomsbury, 2018. ISBN 9781681196992
(Age: 13+) Recommended. In the latter months of 1864, during the U.S. Civil War, General Sherman of the Union led a huge army through Georgia, freeing slaves, plundering goods and destroying property of the vanquished. Many ex-slaves chose to accompany the advancing army on the march. Many would have seen the Northern soldiers as saviours, some depended upon their rations and some undoubtedly wanted to participate in and witness the defeat of the Confederate South.
The Union army was glad to have the labour from thousands of willing workers for transporting equipment, foraging food and building pontoon bridges to replace those destroyed by the retreating Confederates. Accompanying the principally male ex-slaves engaged in military support were the women, children and elderly from their families or dependants from their previous life of servitude.
This story centres upon Mariah, a young woman whose main focus after being freed is the protection of her intellectually disabled young brother by establishing a home on one acre of land, upon which she can grow food. From her recollections, the reader comes to appreciate some of the abject misery and brutal cruelty endured by slaves in the American South. It is difficult to imagine conditions in an era when those who considered themselves part of civilised society might sell children away from traumatised mothers, would inflict barbaric, degrading punishments for the slightest of perceived misdeeds and could ultimately end a slave's life.
Liberated from tyranny, these ex-slaves rejoiced in freedom but faced the fact that they were ill prepared for life ahead, having no land or property and usually no education. When Mariah meets Caleb (a skilled black man working for the Union Army) she recognises his kind, gentle and decent nature and a romance develops which would have been realistic under the circumstances.
The climax of this story involves an historically accurate event which should be shamefully acknowledged and remembered, yet appears to have been buried and forgotten in the mists of time.
Young readers may be confused by the opening sequences of this story, especially if they have no knowledge of slavery in the American South. It may be difficult for those unfamiliar with plantation life and conditions to understand the various characters who are introduced in the early passages, yet if they persist, they will be better for learning about this profoundly important chapter of history.
Recommended for readers 13 years+
Rob Welsh




Sep 13 2018

Bonkers about beetles by Owen Davey

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Flying Eye Books, 2018. ISBN 9781911171485
(Ages: 6-adult) Highly recommended. Themes: Beetles. Non-fiction. What a wonderful encyclopaedic book about beetles, I read it from cover to cover, loving every piece of information given, observing the pictures with glee, scanning the layout and clear design features with admiration.
After a contents page, each double page fastens on one topic, well illustrated with clearly defined drawings, using colours that reflect the places the beetles dwell. Each page is covered with highly arresting information, distinctive and finely detailed illustrations which will enrapture the readers.
The first two double pages inform the reader about the basics of being a beetle: what they are and where they live. Readers will find that there are over 400,000 different beetles species, and that they can be terrestrial or aquatic, and herbivore, omnivore, predator or decomposer. While over the page is a magnificent drawing of a beetle with body parts numbered so that the reader can easily see what part is what, and read how each part is useful to a beetle. From there each double page concentrates on one aspect of the beetle: wings, food, disguise, defence, and camouflage while other pages concentrate on one beetle, like the ladybird and the horned dung beetle.
The last two double spreads show the beetles in mythology and conservation being made on the beetles' behalf. It will surprise readers to find out that although there are over 400,000 species of beetle, some are under threat, and Davey explains just what these beetles do and how we can help in their conservation.
All in all a sparkling look at beetles, and a book I will go back to, as will many readers who love gathering bits of information or who are potty about beetles, or just love the design of the book. Flying Eye Books has published three other books by Owen Davey that use the same entertaining style of both information and presentation: Mad about monkeys, Smart about sharks and Crazy about cats. All four of these books will gather a wide excited audience from primary people.
Fran Knight




Sep 13 2018

Angry Cookie by Maria Karipidou

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Walker Books, 2018. ISBN 9781406383089
(Age: 4+) Recommended. Themes: Anger. Friendship. Confronted by an angry Cookie from the start, the reader will be in no doubt about the theme of this book. We are told in no uncertain terms, not to open the book, not to turn the page, and not to try to do anything about his anger. With that, Cookie escapes up the stairs to his bedroom. But then he peeps around the door, apologetically, a little chagrinned about his outburst. Over the next few pages we find out why Cookie is angry. His best friend, the cactus, plays his recorder badly, a pigeon tries to snack on him, he has had a bad hair cut, his toothpaste runs out and he must use his parent's toothpaste which is not to his liking, in fact, his whole day goes awry. But he peeps again at the audience and realising that we are all still there listening to him, deduces that things can't be that bad. He is surprised that the reader keeps coming back despite his bad temper and anger, and concludes that the reader is there because he is a friend and that's what friends do. Young readers will readily empathise with Cookie, recognising the bad events that can happen to them all.
The humour behind the illustrations will have broad appeal to the reader, the simple Cookie expressing his emotions with small changes in the mouth, eyebrows, and eyes. I loved looking at the pictures first to see just how Cookie is going to react on each page before reading the story. Young readers will enjoy Cookie's exploration of what makes him angry, and like him, realise that a friend can make all the difference to how you feel. This is a perfect conduit to class discussions about feelings, anger and friendship.
Fran Knight




Sep 13 2018

Melowy: The night of courage by Danielle Star

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Scholastic, 2018. ISBN 9781338151787
(Age 7+) Recommended. The night of courage is book 3 in the Melowy series and will be enjoyed by any pony lover aged 5+. In this book, readers meet the Melowies, magical ponies who are at school together. They come from a variety of Melowy worlds and display skills and powers accordingly. The Melowies have been challenged to spend a night in the woods. Their teacher expresses the need to learn to not fear making mistakes as the fear stops you from trying something new. The trip starts well despite another Melowy being added to the group of friends, a Melowy who isn't normally nice to the group of friends. The girls build a successful shelter together but in the search for something to eat, Elektra goes missing. Will they find Elektra? Will Eris ruin the chances of the friends being reunited?
The night of courage is a simple narrative built around the themes of friendship and not being afraid. The storyline moves quickly and it is easy to read and understand. It is a short novel, making it ideal for younger readers moving into being independent readers. It would also make a great read for before bed whether independently or being read by an adult. Sections of the story could be linked to the Child protection and Health curriculums when discussing teamwork, problem solving and friendship.
The night of courage is a fun read and is recommended for independent readers aged 7+.
Kylie Kempster




Sep 11 2018

The survival game by Nicky Singer

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Hodder Children's Books, 2018, ISBN 9781444944525
(Ages: 12+) Mhairi is a child displaced and desperate to return home. The world is changing around her and she is caught in an exodus as the people of Africa flee north, praying for a chance at survival now Global Warming is taking its toll.
Parentless, traumatised, and alone, Mhairi knows that if she can just make it back to Scotland, to the Isle of Arran where she was born, everything will all be okay again. But the walk from Sudan is long and treacherous and she isn't sure that she will ever be free from the memories which haunt her. Regardless, Mhairi is determined to survive, even if that means abandoning a mute boy who tries to join her. But he's more persistent than she expects, and they soon become friends. Travelling alone had its benefits, particularly when it came to crossing borders but it's clear to Mhairi that the boy has no papers. He's an illegal. But he's just a boy. A mixture of compassion and guilt drives Mhairi to adopt the boy as her brother, causing even more problems than before. Will Mhairi's determination get them home? And will they be safe there when they arrive?
Singer provides a dystopian (and quite realistic) take on increasing global temperatures and explores the options humans might have in order to maintain their current lifestyles. Preservation and survival butt heads in this novel, yet it also weaves a tale of compassion and determination.
Kayla Gaskell




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