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Each month our team of book lovers choose a selection of books they have loved and think deserve an extra shout out. Everyone fights to get theirs on the list. Here are this month’s faves.
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It’s Superhero Day at school and Milly is ready in her costume – she’s used all the tinfoil, a tea towel and her brother Joe’s pants and really looks the part. She knows that she doesn’t have any superpowers though, or has she? As the day goes on, we see Milly being a hero in all sorts of ways: she’s super kind for example when she helps William, super clever when she works out a way to help Archie, and a super friend when she works with Iqbal on his show and tell. Gwen Millward’s illustrations are very appealing and the story is full of incident and great fun to read. At the same time, it will give young readers real insight into what actually makes us super, and how powerful it is to help and work with our friends.
August 2020 Book of the Month | “Don’t take things for granted – challenge everything. That means challenging big business and your governments and, most of all, challenging yourself to act now and save the planet,” so writes activist author Blue Sandford, the seventeen-year-old founding member of Extinction Rebellion Youth London, in her inspiring call-to-action introduction to Challenge Everything. The only official handbook from Extinction Rebellion, this youth-driven, youth-oriented manifesto speaks loud and clear to the legions of young people who feel disenchanted with world leaders, and angry at the greed of big business dictating the downward direction of the world, all enhanced by strikingly designed slogans and illustrations. At the book’s heart is the powerful message that, “you are responsible for your own actions.” For example, “every time you take an uber, go on holiday on a plane, buy new trainers, even turn on the lights and heating, you’re contributing to climate and ecological collapse, you’re indirectly destroying rainforests and wildernesses.” This is typical of the book’s punch-packing perspective. Above all else, the author seeks to empower her readers with a change of mindset, one that challenges all aspects of the status quo, with the ultimate aim of saving the planet. Covering everything from the destructive effects of flying and the fast fashion industry, to the importance of re-wilding and reconnecting with nature, this potently persuasive manifesto also has a powerful practical emphasis, with details on the forms challenges might take, such as boycotting, non-violent direct action, campaigning and government lobbying. For more books on an eco theme try our Green Reads.
August 2020 Debut of the Month | Oooh, there’s so much for young fans of adventure stories to enjoy in Alex English’s new book! It stars eleven-year-old Echo, who has grown up in the court of the king of Lockfort. It’s a gloomy and frankly repressive place and the king is very strict with Echo, who was left at the castle gate as a baby. She’s always been told there’s nothing beyond the kingdom’s borders – literally nothing at all – but suddenly, a challenge to that drops out of the sky, and with it the chance for Echo to explore a new world of adventure and to look for her mother. The story is full of fantastic scenes and packed with wonderful characters and English has created the sort of world that envelops young readers from the very first chapter. A glorious summer read! This is one to recommend to fans of Abi Elphinstone, Vashti Hardy and Jamie Littler.
Holly Sterling creates very recognizable, diverse characters and these are the perfect backdrop for this sensitively written guide which will be helpful in both home and school contexts. The situations depicted and described are recognisable and familiar to young readers. The body language is particularly well captured on the page which describes in child friendly terms what it feels like to be shy. The situations used as examples, in Poppy’s story attending a big occasion with her parents and in Matteo’s story attending a friend’s birthday party, are instantly familiar. What is shown and described is how a child might feel at first and how that might change during the event and how they can be supported to eventually enjoy the experience and learn strategies for dealing with new situations. The Story Words page is a simple glossary of words and expressions which really develop understanding. At the end of the book a Next Steps section with suggestions for activities and discussion will be very useful and the section where each story is summarised in four steps will be invaluable for modelling writing. The first of a must have series for the early years.
Book Band: Grey Ideal for ages 8+ | Maxx the alien is sent to earth to study humans and specifically to learn about their feelings. His education comes on in leaps and bounds when he makes a human friend, Jibreel. The two have fun together, but there are real worries and sadnesses in Jibreel’s life too – he’s a refugee and is separated from his mother, and to a group of boys in his class, he’s the ‘alien’. Fortunately, Maxx is there to apply his other-worldly logic to the problem. Zanib Mian has a real gift for comedy and dialogue too and this is extremely funny, while at the same time it makes some very serious points. In the new Bloomsbury Readers series, the story is perfect for children growing reading confidence and understanding, with short chapters and frequent illustrations. A separate ‘Reading Zone’ section at the end lists discussion points and also encourages readers to think about the book’s narrative structure.
Inspired by a fantastical world imagined by the authors’ twin daughters, this educational activity book is underpinned by a belief that “children, especially girls, learn STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) skills best when these skills are approached within a storytelling context”. This brightly illustrated book certainly fulfils its aim of introducing STEM skills in an imaginative, interactive way, and its main character’s infectious enthusiasm for all things scientific will surely inspire more girls to get into STEM subjects. Lilli loves nothing more than finding things that “challenge her curious, scientific mind”. One night she transforms into her superheroine persona and embarks on a quest to help her friend fly from WooWoo Land. Young readers are invited to join Lillicorn’s quest, solving ten STEM puzzles in her vibrant world. With an appealing rhyming text, and charm tokens to collect along the way, the clear design conveniently signposts the STEM skills nurtured by each activity (including pattern recognition, abstraction, structured problem solving, sequencing, spatial perception and sorting) without detracting from the puzzle-solving or story. In some ways, the book’s structure is reminiscent of a computer game, with prompts and well-timed narrative pauses that invite readers to get stuck into the self-contained, bite-sized activities. What’s more, the tone is warmly encouraging, with the text informing readers that Lillicorn needs their help. Once the quest is complete, the solutions can be checked at www.lillicorn.com, where questers can also download a certificate and unlock additional activities.