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Book Band: Dark Blue (Ideal for ages 9+) | An inspiring fantasy story from Katya Balen, author of The Space We're In and October, October. Margot wants her parents to take her birdwatching like they promised but they're too busy and she ends up at the zoo with her auntie and her annoying cousins. There, she sees a strange bird and takes one of its beautiful silver feathers home. Little does she know, that this is the start of a magical adventure in the moonlight... This magical story features black-and-white illustrations by Pham Quang Phuc.
Book Band: Grey (Ideal for ages 8+) | An exciting detective story from Chitra Soundar, author of over 50 children's books in the UK, India and the US. Sindhu and Jeet are the best detectives in town: they solve all their cases with a dollop of observation, a dash of imagination and a whole load of legwork. And when they travel from India to England for a holiday, the detective work doesn't stop! This page-turning story is accompanied by black-and-white illustrations by Amberin Huq.
Book Band: Dark Red (Ideal for ages 10+) | An exciting contemporary mystery set in a Thai family in London, by Emma Shevah, author of Dream On, Amber. When Ping visits her Aunty Lek and her cousins Tong and Taptim it usually isn't long before they're on an adventure. Aunty Lek's precious ring is missing, and she's sure it's been stolen. Will Ping, Tong and Taptim be able to solve the case of the missing ring? This contemporary story features black-and-white illustrations by Izzy Evans.
Book Band: Dark Blue (Ideal for ages 9+) | A heart-warming adventure story by award-winning comedian, actress, broadcaster, hearing-aid wearer and author of Harriet Versus the Galaxy, Samantha Baines. Aneira is a hearing-aid wearer and she is super scared of the dark. When the moon suddenly goes out one night, Aneira is on a mission to turn it back on! With the help of her owl friend, she sets off on a journey to fix the moon and overcome her fear. This powerful story features beautiful black-and-white illustrations by Lucy Rogers.
Book Band: Dark Red (Ideal for ages 10+) | A contemporary story about life in foster care, perfect for fans of Jacqueline Wilson. Ruby Ali's eighteen-year-old sister Alisha has left the care centre where they live, and Ruby is being sent to live with a new foster family. If she can sabotage life at her new home, she'll get to go and live with her sister again, right? But mission break up doesn't go exactly according to plan... This funny, heart-warming story features black-and-white illustrations by Parwinder Singh.
Book Band: Dark Blue (Ideal for ages 9+) | What a lovely and beautifully written book. This is the story of a little boy called Hari who lives with his parents and sister on Bamba Beach in Goa. He is an intelligent boy with a big heart and a mature understanding of the world. From the first few pages the images are full and lively, and you are drawn into life in the village. There is beautiful detail in the setting. The author describes not just fish in the sea and the evening’s insects, but all their names and habits. In amongst all this description are some important topical messages. The family are poor, not just because of economy, but because the tsunami has pushed the fish further out to sea, away from Hari’s father’s reach in his small wooden boat. Only those with motorboats now have a chance of making money. The story tells of Hari’s attempts to make money for his family and in doing so creates his own tidal waves of events. Alongside his money-making schemes is the animosity between the neighbouring families, amusingly referred to as the ‘them over there’ and the ‘next doors’. Hari through his kindness and helpfulness and with his awareness of the people around him, wins over the ‘next doors’ and the outcome is the climax of the story. There are many themes running throughout this book, the misunderstanding of dyslexia, poverty and its various effects and jealousy towards those more successful than others. It is a heart-warming story, with the power of goodness and kindness winning through. The cover page by David Dean is fun and eye-catching, but the more traditional block plate illustrations at the start of each chapter are more traditional and quite beautiful. The reading zone questions and activities are thought provoking and would provide a lot to talk and write about.
Book Band: Lime (Ideal for ages 7+) | Using clever barks and actions, the two dogs are able to help their owner Constable Penrose solve a burglary, using cunning and ingenuity. The book is amusingly illustrated by Nathan Reed. The characters are all rather typecast but in an amusing way; the dim sergeant, the burglars, Bernie and Sam, and Mrs Pudding the baker. There is lots of humour throughout and a great use of alliteration and rhyme – Inspector Hector and dodging dirty dustbins, being two examples. I love how this story, even though it is written for young emerging readers, is set out in chapters. Such a plus for older readers who are struggling as it doesn’t feel as if they are reading stories beneath their understanding and chronological age. The reading zone at the end is packed with good ideas for discussion, a little quiz and ideas for creative writing. I am sure this will prove to be a popular read.
Book Band: Grey (Ideal for ages 8+) | This is a modern twist on a lesser-known Irish folktale. A story of realised dreams and the perseverance of one little Shepherd boy. It tells the story of Setanta who wants to be a Red Branch Knight. The young warriors are great hurlers and Setanta knows his skills are every bit as good as theirs. The early chapters are set in the home with Setanta’s parents, where his dreams are not recognised. His mother thinks they are too poor and lowly for their son to be recognised by the King and his Knights, and when Setanta wants to travel with his father to the town of Emain Macha, to try his luck with the trainee warriors, his father produces a plethora of reasons why not. (A lot like many parents faced with a pleading child.) However, he not only wins over his father, but also the King who witnesses his skills and finally the warriors, who after much bullying and rejection of an interloper to their group, recognise both his ability but also his bravery. Throughout the book there is a feeling of hope of success, but there are also some exciting twists and encounters. This is an exciting adventure story, but also a story with some important themes and areas for discussion: Setanta’s pride and belief in himself, bullying and its consequences, and the bravery and determination, in one so young.
Book Band: Dark Red (Ideal for ages 10+) | Having read The Tempest as a pupil and taught it to KS2 pupils, I wish we had had this as an introduction. It is beautifully retold, with just the right amount of traditional language to make the young reader feel they are truly tackling Shakespeare. From the very beginning, the writing is atmospheric and descriptive. Ariel immediately gets the reader drawn in, filling them in on the plot so far and making them part of the evolving story. The characters are richly described, and the complex plots carefully explained. There are so many elements to this story, the love story between Miranda and Ferdinand and the murderous plots of their parents. It is also a story of revenge, trickery, and magic. By including the reader in the story, by such questions as ‘do you know what is? Do you remember, and have you ever wondered’ the writer manages to pull the reader in as a conspirator. This is cleverly and successfully done. Ariel’s mischievous character makes the story fun and lively. The tricks played on Trinculo and Stephano and the way the invisibility cloak is used are all themes that appeal to children. Despite it being a fun and exciting piece of writing the author also manages to write about the feelings of the characters in addition to writing so descriptively. There is so much to discuss and to develop into further reading and writing tasks. There is a lot more here than just a good story.
Book Band: Brown- (Ideal for ages 7+) | This is a lovely retelling of a famous myth. It tells the story of Icarus and his father who are prisoners on the island of Crete. Although it is set in Ancient Greece, the relationship and obvious love of the father and son shine through in quite a modern way. Both characters have their frustrations over their plight, yet they are both sensitive to the feelings of the other. It is a good adventure story where the two characters deal with setbacks in their quest for freedom – their attempts at boat building and their construction of the birds’ wings. Unlike many books for young children there is a sad ending which somehow makes it more poignant. There are lots of things to discuss in this book with some useful questions in the ‘quiz time’ at the back. I think the book would also benefit from a simple map to show where Crete is and also a guide to how to pronounce the characters names. Daedalus and Pasiphae are challenging for the adult too! A super book and a great introduction into Greek Mythology
Pink level 1 | Two stories in one. The first about a little boy called Sam who loses increasingly valuable things into a pit, from a tin to his father and the second story about a disastrous attempt by a father to make popcorn for his son Tim. I loved the fact that both stories had a surprising ending. A lot of stories for young children have happy predictable endings, but here in the first story, the problem isn’t resolved, and in the second, there is a very amusing twist. I think this makes the stories more engaging and offers more to chat about. Both stories are very simply written with a clear font and perfectly phonetic language making the stories achievable for the emerging reader. I like the fact that although the text is simple, the illustrations are detailed enough to provoke discussion, particularly with the use of speech bubbles. There is a helpful list of hints in the front with guidance on vocabulary and phonemes. A lot of thought and planning has clearly gone into these stories, and I am sure they will make a valuable addition to the early years bookshelf.
Book Band White - Ideal for ages 6+ | A fun and lively story about a little girl called Fizzy and her desire to join in the fun next door rather than go to bed as her mother wishes. This theme would certainly appeal to young children, all of whom I am sure have been in the same position. …but I’m not tired… this is a sentence we have all uttered. What makes this story convincing is Fizzy’s rational for why she should go to the party and her persuasive nature. Children will enjoy how she manages to win her mother round to her way of thinking! The pages are packed with busy and colourful illustrations, creating lots of visuals for discussion. The story is divided into chapters and the writing is clear and imaginatively written with lots of description and creative vocabulary.