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Find our recommendations for books to encourage reluctant readers in Key Stage 1. These chapter books are highly illustrated page-turners to help develop good reading habits for less confident or reluctant readers.
The more 'text based' books in this list have been included to be read too, or with the child.
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September 2020 Non-Fiction Book of the Month | This is a non-fiction book with a difference! Using his amazing ‘tranimalator’ machine, which, he tells us, translates animals’ sounds into words, author Andy Seed ‘interviews’ a horde or scary animals, including a tiger, a fierce honey badger and a snow leopard. He asks them some really interesting questions too and we learn all sorts of things – why humans are scared of wolves, how a massive animal like a giant anteater survives eating teeny little insects, what lionesses think of male lions (not much actually!). It’s quirky and lots of fun – some of these animal celebs have wicked senses of humour – but genuinely informative (I had no idea that jaguars eat caimans, or that giant armadillos build new dens every couple of days, or that sloths have mould growing on them!). It reminds us how many of these animals are threatened too and what we can do to help. The illustrations match the tone and it’s bright and engaging throughout. This is a book that children will be keen to share and to return to.
If you’ve ever looked at a furry ball of purry cat asleep in the sunshine and wondered what they are getting up to in their dreams, then you’ve got something in common with Philip Ardagh. In these exciting, comic and purr-fectly written little adventures, he imagines his feline star, Furry Purry Beancat exploring one of her other eight lives while asleep. In the first story, she finds herself on a pirate ship, a pirate ship’s cat. She arrives at a particularly exciting moment too as the ship is under attack from fellow pirates. With her captain locked up in his cabin, things look bleak, but Furry Purry Beancat soon discovers that the ship’s rats are a resourceful bunch and together they turn the tide in favour of their own pirate crew. It helps that one of the opposing pirates, a huge chap called Ten-Tun, falls for Beancat, but really, who wouldn’t? The little story is packed with incident and adventure as well as some gloriously comic moments thanks in the main to the young rats. It’s irresistible reading, made even more so by fabulous black and white illustrations by Rob Biddulph. All in all, this is a real treat, and it’s great to know that there will be eight more Furry Purry Beancat stories to come.
It’s headmistress Mrs Bottomley-Blunt who declares 4B to be LITERALLY the Worst Class In The World, and she may have a point. After all, there was the school trip to the zoo when Harvey Barlow smuggled a penguin back on the bus, the time they tried to tunnel to Finland, and the Show and Tell incident with Manjit’s dog, Killer… Everyone has bad luck though, and after reading this very funny book, most people will agree with Stanley Bradshaw and decide they wouldn’t have 4B any other way. Stanley’s descriptions of their antics, recounted in two separate stories, are highly entertaining: Joanna Nadin captures the chaos and excitement of primary school perfectly, and young readers will recognise the setting and the characters, not least long-suffering teacher Mr Nidgett. Short sentences, lots of pictures and clever repetition of words and phrases plus the lively action make this a perfect first chapter book. One to recommend to fans of Patricia Butchart’s Wigglesbottom Primary series ready to move onto something more challenging.
April 2020 Book of the Month | Lyla might live in a hi-tech future world in which the moon is colonised and robots a big part of daily life, but the things that really matter are the same they’ve always been: friends, family and learning how to treat them properly. It’s very exciting when Lyla is chosen to look after one of three top-of-the-range cyborg children joining her school and at first Clara 2.2 seems the perfect friend, telling Lyla just what she wants to hear. But real friends do more than pay you compliments, and Clara 2.2’s disregard for anyone other than Lyla soon leads to a fall out with Lyla’s best friend Bianca and then – much worse – puts Lyla’s little brother in danger. There’s lots of fun and humour in the story, but some real tension too and it cleverly delivers a message about what friendship really means, and the importance of kindness.
Lucky Isadora – she’s won a holiday in the sun for herself and her family in an art competition. At first everything seems perfect – a bit bright for her vampire dad but he loves the hotel spa – but a surprise meeting with her mermaid friend Marina shows Isadora what her mum suspected: the sea is full of litter. Fortunately, working as a team, fairies, mermaids and vampires can clean up the mess and persuade the humans to change their ways too. This is another lively and engaging story in this excellent series, mixing a fun adventure with an important message, deftly delivered. Half-vampire, half-fairy, Isadora is 100% brilliant especially for those growing in reading confidence.
Interest Age 5-8 | March 2020 Book of the Month | Clever children who use their wits to get the better of much more powerful adversaries star in this duo of stories by the one and only Michael Rosen. Masha escapes a big and thoroughly bad bear in a particularly delicious way, while little Peggy outsmarts her admittedly rather stupid king to win big. Rosen’s lively, direct style make these stories wonderfully accessible for those growing in reading confidence, and Ashley King’s full colour illustrations add to the appeal of this little gem of a book.
Joining Class 2R at Wigglesbottom Primary is always a treat, and the three adventures in this collection are typically funny, well-observed, and gorgeously illustrated. Once again, the children let their imaginations run wild, so that everyday primary school life becomes a thing of delight and wonder: could the pet rabbits in the playground be attack bunnies? Is the special visitor sitting at the back of the classroom and making Miss Riley so nervous really a TV talent scout? Could Miss Stein the music teacher be a witch? We’re happy to accept all these propositions, at least until the truth is revealed, and the stories make irresistible reading. Becka Moor’s illustrations are as bold and lively as the text, and these little stories are absolute gems.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2021 | Rabbit and Bear: Book 4 Rabbit is worried: trees in their forest are disappearing and, worse still, the stream has moved – even unflappable Bear declares herself ‘close to being slightly worried’ at that. The cause is the arrival of Castor Canadensis, a beaver, who is delighted with engineering as a means of building ‘New, Bigger and Better things’ in the name of ‘Progress’. It suits some of the animals, but definitely not all. Fortunately, Bear finds a way to get the animals working together, so that Castor’s hard work benefits them all, himself included. As ever, there’s as much insight as humour, and it’s a superb read aloud story. Gough and Field make creating books this good look simple, because they’re both masters at what they do. Treat yourself, and buy all four books.
Fabio the flamingo and Gilbert the giraffe are the animal Holmes and Watson, solving mysteries from their office on the banks of the Laloozee river. A trip in Gilbert’s new plane leads them off the beaten track to a small town where there’s something fishy going on with the water supply. Red herrings are scattered all over the place before Fabio solves the case, identifying the culprits. It all makes for fun and flamboyant reading (love Emily Fox’s illustrations and the fluorescent colour scheme). Fabio and George are a great comic double act and there’s real satisfaction to be had as they work out the crimes too.
Book Band: Gold Ideal for ages 6+ | Patricia Cleveland-Peck puts a nice spin on the Cinderella story in this tale of gardening, teamwork and enterprise. Perkin is a young gardener, undervalued and underpaid by his employer, who similarly exploits her own stepdaughter, employed as the house-keeper. The gift of 7 pumpkin seeds change the two young people’s lives, and though the bit with the prince plays pretty much as it always does, the real happy ending comes with the establishment of a pumpkin pie business. The story is bound to keep readers turning the pages, short chapters dividing it nicely into manageable chunks and the full colour illustrations will make it even more appealing and easy to read. In the Bloomsbury Young Readers series this is the perfect step-up from picture books and just right for children ready to start reading for themselves.
Book Band: Purple Ideal for ages 6+ | Saviour Pirotta mixes bored young pirates with ballerinas desperate for a change of scene in a story that fizzes with fun and adventure, and any book that introduces the words glamorous, clambered, doomed and cutlass is well worth recommending. Short but action packed, this will have all readers smiling, whether they naturally fall into the pirate or ballerina camp, and it comes to a nicely exciting climax too. In the new Bloomsbury Young Readers series this is divided into manageable chapters, with large type and attractive full colour illustrations and is carefully designed to get children reading on their own. A useful Tips for Grown Ups will be a real help to adults sharing this with youngsters while a Fun Time section at the end suggests follow up activities.
Fresh from their first round of adventures, squirrels Ben, Cassie, Alfie and Salty are back, and setting off on a new adventure: dastardly Sir Archibald Kevino Rapscallion Buck has offered a reward of cash and popcorn for life to the first team to cook popcorn on the summit of Everest – when young Alfie is kidnapped by one of the teams, our popcorn-loving heroes dash to the rescue and the Himalayas. Author Matt Dickinson knows Everest well and there’s lots of real information together with a wonderfully wacky race to the summit. New characters include Wilberforce the high-altitude mole, and yes, we even get to meet a yeti! Original and lots of fun, this will really hit the spot with readers who like their adventures fast, action-packed and full of humour.
This children's encyclopedia of discovery will inspire little learners to wonder about the world around them. Our world is an amazing place. It's full of rivers, mountains, forests, and too many other amazing places to count - but that's not all. There's also families, friends, animals, music, technology, language, games, and all other things that make life wonderful.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month August 2019 | Interest Age 5-8 | Pirates ahoy! This is a lively, swashbuckling story with great characters and a pacey story – all vibrantly illustrated in an attractive and easy-to-read, small size book. Barbarous Bertha is a fearsome pirate as well as the guardian of a wide stretch of emerald green sea and the Purple Shell Islands which are home to both people and special animals and birds. It is no surprise therefore that her daughter Molly Rogers is never going to stand for anyone who threatens to invade the islands or destroy their inhabitants. When reports come of Captain Firebird doing damage to Monkey Skull Island, Molly Rogers enlists all of her best animal and bird friends – including Kracken the octopus – to chase down Captain Firebird and to make sure he never does anything so dastardly again.
You'll never guess what, my person-pal... I'M GOING TO HOLLYWOOD! And, what's even better? All my best mutt-mates are coming with me! But my dreams of being talent-spotted while walking down streets paved with sausage meat don't quite come true... And when the vacation takes a VERY unexpected turn, I'll need to find a way to escape a LIVING NIGHTMARE and get us all home!
An enchanting four-book series featuring the adventures of Anna and her array of animal friends The temperature is rising, which can only mean one thing: it's summer! Bookings are up at Hotel Flamingo and the hotel is getting busy. Anna is excited to receive word from King Penguin royalty asking to holiday in their Royal Suite. But there's a lot to get done, and it's not easy to manage the needs of the penguins when there's a heatwave on and a huge ice shortage. Help! Can Anna get Hotel Flamingo back to its usual shining self and have happy guests all round?
They may be a family of hyenas, but if we were all like the Bolds the world would be a much better place. In case you don’t know, the Bolds live disguised as humans in Teddington. Their two children attend the local primary, and both parents work: Mr Bold writes cracker jokes, Mrs Bold designs extravagant hats. In this story, Mr Bold’s mother arrives from Africa for a visit, and struggles rather with her son’s new lifestyle choice. It looks like the family will be exposed, but the story takes a different turn, and once again the Bolds come to the aid of someone who needs their help. The story is deliciously bonkers, the illustrations just as witty and full of quirky detail, and the Bolds’ live-and-let-live philosophy is a breath of fresh air in our quarrelsome times. If you want everyone to go to sleep smiling and happy, make this your bedtime reading.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month March 2018 | Interest Age 5-8 | | We Are Not Frogs is a joyful exploration of frog, toad and human nature! Toads are not at all like frogs. The frogs have set up a long-jump competition which the toads go along with, even though they know the frogs will win – anything for a quiet life. The game is interrupted by the arrival first of a dog, then a couple of children, who have a lot to learn about toads. Readers will stay one jump ahead of the protagonists throughout, and it’s a fun and very satisfying story. Sam Usher’s lively illustrations reveal just as much about the characters – amphibian and human – as the text, and feature a counting game too.
Interest Age 5-8 | When Norman the Norman from Normandy’s dad, Great Big Norman, is killed in a fight (with ten Bretons from Brittany), Norman swears to visit every one of this dad’s three graves (long story) to pay his respects. He sets off with this dad’s HUGE sword on his not-very-wild boar Truffle and, without meaning to, indeed often without even noticing, avenges his father’s death. If that sounds quite bloodthirsty, it sort of is, but more than that, in the hands of this gifted comedy partnership, it’s just very, very funny. Part of Barrington Stoke’s excellent Little Gems series, this packs more laughs and entertainment into its short extent than books three times the length. High quality cream paper and a special easy to read font ensure a smooth read for all.
One of our Books of the Year 2015 | Cartoon-like illustrations fill this book which is packed with information about all things to do with space from machinery to suits to simple explanations of physics. Tricia Adams This book, with a Foreword by Tim Peake who in December 2015 became the first British astronaut to go to the International Space station, should go to the top of any must-have list for young children interested in space travel. It’s packed with fascinating information on everything from what to study to help you become an astronaut, to the special training astronauts undergo, rocket science and how shuttles get into space, and what it’s like to live on the International Space Station. Of course it explains how astronauts go to the loo, but the sections on what happens to human stomachs in space is just as icky and interesting! The information is very well presented, and despite the conversational tone there’s no talking down. After all, the children reading this book could become fully fledged astronauts in the 2030s. Inspiring stuff!