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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.
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.
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.
Rob Ramsden is an exciting new arrival on the picture book scene and We Planted a Pumpkin is a really lovely book, just the thing to get young children excited about nature, eager to plant seeds and see them grow. It stars two very young gardeners and follows them through the process of planting a pumpkin seed, from watching and impatiently waiting for it to grow as the seasons change. The children bring liveliness and action to every scene, but there’s always lots going on – new shoots appearing, mini-beasts flying in and out. Though it feels beautifully simple, it’s actually chockful of information and opportunities for learning. A gorgeous book to share with the young and likely to be the start of many adventures in the garden.
Your Tour of the Universe | Armed with the maps in this large-format, attractively illustrated book, young readers can embark on a tour of our solar system, discovering a wealth of information along the way. It opens with a series of maps of the night skies, demonstrating how their appearance differs depending on where the viewer is, and at what time. It also provides an equatorial map of the sky and illustrates the way different cultures mapped what they could see, comparing the outline created by the ancient Greeks with that drawn up by those in ancient China and the San in South Africa too. Thoroughly inspired, their interest piqued, readers can then explore the Milky Way, the sun and the planets in our solar system and even go beyond that, with the help of the Hubble Space Telescope. Some of the most fascinating and beautiful pages provide close ups of the Large Magellanic Cloud and the Crab Nebula, Tommaso Vidus Rosin’s illustrations photographic in their detail but rich too with a sense of awe and wonder. It concludes with a section on humans in space, from first steps on the moon to the International Space Station. Perhaps some of the young people who will read and be inspired by this mind-expanding book will be travellers in space one day too.
Shortlisted for the Blue Peter Book Awards 2021, Best Book with Facts | This highly-illustrated reference book celebrates the incredible achievements of various ancient civilisations, exploring their lifestyles, discoveries and inventions, many of which have influenced modern-day society. A brief introduction outlines how humans evolved from apes several million years ago, and explains that homo sapiens, who originated in Africa, are the only species of human alive today. Maps on each page help children to visualise the location of the different civilisations, while a useful timeline at the end places them together in chronological order. Stylish, full-page illustrations provide a colourful and informative backdrop to the wealth of facts contained within this marvellous book.
Winner of the Blue Peter Book Awards 2021, Best Book with Facts | A Day in the Life of a Poo, a Gnu and You is packed with facts, laughs and amazing illustrations you can dive into all day long. Meet your grumpy liver that has to do practically EVERYTHING; your trusty hands that are very, well, handy; the spiky porcupines ready to charge; lonely Mars rovers abandoned on the Red Planet; raging tornadoes ready to rip through the pages of the book and bubbly volcanoes ready to blow. All entries are told in the fun, friendly and informative style of Mike Barfield, and are brought to life by the colour-explosion of Jess Bradley's awesome illustrations.
With a short, simple but often lyrical text, and through striking, beautiful illustrations, Moth tells the story of the peppered moth, and through that explains evolution and describes the changing landscapes of our world. The peppered moth provides a perfect example of natural selection: some moths are born with speckled wings, some are charcoal black. The speckled markings are most effective as camouflage when moths are resting on pale tree branches, but as the Industrial Revolution begins and trees are covered in sooty deposits from factories and chimneys, suddenly the black moths do better and their numbers rise. Then, as laws are passed to reduce pollution and the air clears, the situation is reversed again, and the number of speckled moths increases. Not only does this encapsulate natural evolution, it also reminds us of nature’s resilience and offers hope for the future. The final line encourages children to go out and observe moths for themselves, something this book will surely inspire them to do.
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.
As Tough Women’s subtitle declares, these are “stories of grit, courage and determination”. True tales from twenty-two tough women who undertake awe-inspiring adventures across the globe, from canoeing the Canadian wilderness, to hiking Pakistan, to cycling South America. Its editor is the intrepid Jenny Tough, a Canadian mountaineering expert who notes in her introduction that “the outdoor industry is actually fully of women, but when it comes to the highest level of media…the demographic dwindles to one”. Fortunately, this sexist state of affairs could be on the verge of changing - through giving voice to the “badass outdoorswomen” who here tell their extraordinary stories, this book might just change that narrow narrative and inspire new generations of female adventuresses. Each account enthrals like the best kind of travel writing. There are dazzling evocations of, for example, rugged Himalayan mountain-scapes, lush South American jungles, and howling Norwegian glacial valleys. Many of the women’s stories reveal monumental physical and emotional challenges - challenges tackled and overcome with super-human strength and resilience - and all of them underpinned by a joyously life-affirming spirit of curiosity. For more books with a strong, feminist theme, visit our Girl Power feature.