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All the books we feature as Books of the Month on LoveReading4Schools are selected because we think they deserve to stand out from the crowd. We select a few each month across the key stages.
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April 2021 Book of the Month | Multi-award-winning Brian Conaghan specialises in misfits, characters on the edge looking in, and he has a wonderful ear for authentic dialogue and for giving us male protagonists with emotional depth. He creates characters that rapidly find a place in your heart and who will make you laugh out loud and shed a few tears. This is the first time that he has written for a younger audience and does so without losing any of his trademark authenticity or sharp, wisecracking dialogue. Brian’s older teen fans will also find this an enjoyable read. Lenny blames himself and his size for everything. He believes his Mum and Dad blame him too. His beloved older brother is in a Young Offenders Institute as a result of defending Lenny against some thugs beating him up. His coping strategy is to hide and his favourite bunking off school place is a canal side bench. Tossing his IrnBru can into the canal introduces him to Bruce- another outsider- living in a cardboard home hidden away on the bank. Despite this traumatic start the pair strike up a life-changing friendship. The reader will gradually get to hear their stories as Lenny is able to talk to Bruce, unlike his parents or teachers and inveigles him into helping to avoid a school dilemma and then to accompany him on an epic journey to see his brother. But Bruce is no pushover and Lenny has to face up to some stiff challenges in return and in so doing discovers courage, resilience and talents that he would not have believed he had. We eventually learn Bruce’s heart-breaking story too, but without any saccharine ending we feel there is hope and a future for both. Warm hearted and memorable this should go to the top of your wishlist for school libraries and every child's bookshelf. Find more books with Positive Images of Disability.
April 2021 Book of the Month | Despite being set in the 1920’s in the imaginary country of Afalia, this stunning and inventive story, from twice Carnegie medal winning author McCaughrean, has powerful messages about the current state of politics, big business and environmental exploitation in our world and most loudly of all about the need for reliable and independent news sources. The story is partly revealed by facsimile newspaper cuttings and it is fascinating to see the progression from real information to manipulation of popular opinion by ruthless and deadly corrupt officials. Gloria, a naive 15-year-old maid to the Suprema, Alfalia’s ruler, is at the heart of the story. As flooding and disaster threaten to overwhelm the country, the Suprema runs away, and Gloria is inveigled by the Suprema’s husband into temporarily impersonating her. As they discover the full extent of the corruption and misinformation, they face an uphill battle to save lives and stand up for what is right. Meanwhile a second narrative follows the fate of people in the neglected North (in another real life parallel) and a dog’s epic quest to find his boy. The canine conversations are just one of the pleasures provided in this multi-layered narrative populated by such a vivid cast of characters and with so many twists and turns keeping the reader enthralled. Ultimately the novel demonstrates the resilience of man and nature and the ability of people to do the right thing given half a chance. This really is vintage McCaughrean and highly recommended. As our Guest Editor in April 2021 Geraldine McCaughrean tells us more about The Supreme Lie and her other brilliant novels.
A turtle, an armadillo and a snake – all in signature Klassen hats – ponder the best place to sit. Turtle has his favourite spot, but armadillo has a bad feeling about it… Told entirely in speech – but with colour differentiation so it is easy to see who is talking – three friends escape a deadly fate (which is never mentioned) as they chat and continue their simple lives. The humour and anticipation from the wonderful artwork is never emphasized – it is just there to make you laugh and chortle as the stories unfold. Told in a totally deadpan way this is a huge picture book (90+ pages) that will have fans from Reception classes upwards thoroughly enjoying the completely visual joke. The muted colours only enhance the simplicity, the humour and the musing on life of our three characters – a total gem that will be winning prizes everywhere!
April 2021 Book of the Month | Bravo to Jonathan Stroud! With its cast of charismatic characters and extraordinary world-building (think broken Britain with Wild West vibes), The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne is an audacious firecracker. And, in even better news for fans of funny, inventive adventure fiction, this is but the beginning of what’s set to be an extraordinary series. “Britain was a land of ruin…the country was maimed and broken - but full of strange fecundity and strength”. It’s also brimming with the likes of bears, wolves, flesh-eating spear-birds and gruesome cannibal creatures, all of which whip-smart, cuss-uttering Scarlett takes into her swaggering stride. She makes an unforgettable impression from the off: “A slight slim figure in a battered brown coat, weighed down with…all the paraphernalia of a girl who walked the Wilds.” After killing four grown men who’d tried to rob her, Scarlett struts into a bank and proceeds to hold it up (turns out she needs money to repay a debt). On fleeing the scene, Scarlett finds a crashed bus, all its passengers dead but for a lone boy hiding in the toilet. Enter Albert Browne, “awkward, skinny and wide-mouthed, like a frightened skeleton”, and seemingly a piece of powdery chalk to Scarlett’s pungent cheese. Her scathing sarcasm (and Albert’s obliviousness to it) provides many a laugh: “You just holler if I get in your way,” she seethes as he admires a seed pod while she sets about making a fire, cooking a bird and establishing a camp for them, and all while they’re being pursued. But, for all his unworldliness, Albert turns out to have hidden talents. Sensing he might be of use to her after all, Scarlett agrees to help him accomplish his own mission. Albert wants to reach the Free Isles, remnants of London that “don’t have any restrictions on who you are or what you can do. They welcome people who are...different”, unlike the dictatorial High Council of the Faith Houses, which is “desperate to keep the old ways going”, and “on the watch for any kind of deviation.” Trouble is, as their respective pursuers close in, time and space is running out for our unforgettable outlaws. What a story, what characters, and what a wait it will be until the second instalment. I defy any reader not to fall for Scarlett and Albert, and to become gasp-out-loud, laugh-out-loud invested in their quest.
April 2021 Non-Fiction Book of the Month | Designed to support the KS2 National Curriculum, this rich resource will help young writers get to grips with grammar in clear and meaningful ways that will enhance their writing. It’s also a handy time-saver for teachers, providing as it does excellent examples that demonstrate grammar in action. The book really stands out for the author’s ability to explain tricky-to-grasp points of grammar through the lens of their purpose. Let’s take fronted adverbials as an example. After explaining what they are (words “used for beginning sentences by focussing on location, time, frequency, manner or the degree in which something is happening”), he provides a handy list of examples (nearby, here, in the woods, later, eventually, sadly, full of joy, close to tears) in the context of why they’re used: “for helping the reader visualise or sequence what is occurring.” Alongside lucid explanations of key terms, this golden grammar nugget also gleams with great tips on how to make sentences more exciting, with the “Awesome alternatives” chapter serving as a succinct thesaurus. The sections covering themes in more detail are sure to enhance students’ vocabulary on specific topics, from the seasons and school, to space and suspense, while the character chapter will be especially helpful for creative writing, with vocabulary lists for the likes of hair, skin, eyes and personal quirks. The layout is top-notch too, with key information clearly boxed, and lively illustrations peppered throughout - full marks for a concise toolkit that will boost writing skills. Kids interested in exploring their creativity through writing will find inspiration in Joanne Owen's new series, Get Creative.