Children's Books

With so many new books published each year it is often difficult for teachers, parents and children to keep up to date with what's new and interesting. I can recommend the following as making suitable additions to any library or classroom. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. Mary

New and Recommended Books Archive

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Key Stage 1 - Years 1 and 2

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Extra Yarn

Mac Barnett illustrated by Jon Klassen (Walker £6.99)

When Annabelle finds some coloured wool she knits herself a cosy jumper. There is plenty of wool left so she knits one for her dog and so on until her friends, teachers, even houses and trees have something warm and colourful to wear. Soon she has transformed her run down village into a place of vitality and hope. An evil archduke first tries to buy the box of yarn and then steals it but he cannot make the magic work.

This modern fairytale shows us how Annabelle's hard work has made the world a better place to live in. It can be used as a good starting point for discussion with older children. Look out for Jon Klassen's illustrations - he shows the importance of the yarn by making it colourful against a bleak black and white background.

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How to Lose a Lemur

Written and illustrated by Frann Preston–Gannon (Pavilion £5.99)

Once a lemur likes you, there is not much that can be done about it. A young boy tries to lose a lemur by hiding up a tree, climbing mountains and riding in an air balloon. When he is lost and wants to find the way he realises how important his lemur friends are. This delightful story emphasises the importance of friendship and loyalty.

Frann Preston-Gannon's bold art work takes us on a journey through different terrains. It is ideal to share with a class or a group.

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The Very Noisy House

Julie Rhodes illustrated by Korky Paul (Frances Lincoln £6.99)

At the bottom of the house an old lady bangs her walking stick as she crosses the room. On the floor above the dog wakes up and he wakes the cat, the baby and the birds in the attic, creating a cacophony of noise.

The rhyming text is ideal for sharing and there are plenty of opportunities for children to join in with these everyday sounds. Korky Paul's illustrations are full of energy and fun ensuring that this will be a popular addition to the library.

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The Day the Crayons Quit

Drew Daywalt illustrated by Oliver Jeffers (HarperCollins £6.99)

When Duncan opens his box of crayons he is surprised to find a number of letters. They have been written by his crayons and they all have complaints. Red feels overworked, pink underused, orange and yellow are arguing about the colour of the sun and so on. After reading the letters Duncan has a brilliant idea to make his crayons happy and he colours an amazing picture.

This is ideal for sharing in the classroom and perfect for introducing work on colour. Picture books containing letters are always a useful resource. Oliver Jeffers makes his illustrations full of detail and the imagery matches the story perfectly.

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Too Noisy

Malachy Doyle illustrated by Ed Vere (Walker £6.99)

The Bungle family are noisy and boisterous and when Sam wants some peace and quiet he heads off alone. As he walks into the woods he becomes cold and scared and longs for his family. This is an entertaining and slightly fearful story full of striking language and wordplay. Ed Vere’s bold illustrations use a rich colour palette that reflects the sound of words used. This is an ideal story to read aloud in the classroom and for stimulating discussion on learning to love our family.

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Spaghetti with the Yeti

Adam and Charlotte Guillain illustrated by Lee Wildish (Egmont £6.99)

George is a brave young man who wants to prove that yetis do exist. He sets off with a map, a woolly hat and a tin of spaghetti. On his way up the steep mountain path he meets Netty, Betty and Hetty and eventually the Yeti. This is a humorous story told in rhyming couplets with the bright illustrations reflecting the humour. Clever use of colour and pattern create monsters full of character. Sure to become a classroom favourite.

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Dixie O’Day: In the Fast Lane

Shirley Hughes illustrated by Clara Vulliamy (Bodley Head £5.99)

When car mad Dixie and his friend Percy hear about a road race from Didsworth to Dodsworth they decide to take part. Their selfish neighbour Lou Ella is also in the starting line up in her posh pink car. Dixie and Percy have several mishaps on their journey and Lou Ella has problems of her own. This book is ideal for newly confident readers and is written in seven short chapters. The bold illustrations are packed with comic detail and the black, white and red colours used have a retro feel. Children will love the extras including an interview with Dixie, a detailed map of the race and games and a quiz. This is a story full of excitement and danger written by Shirley Hughes and illustrated by her daughter Clara – what a fabulous team and there are more Dixie O’Day adventures to follow.

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The Paper Dolls

Julia Donaldson illustrated by Rebecca Cobb (MacMillan £6.99)

When a little girl makes a chain of paper dolls she plays with them in a world of her own. They are chased by a dinosaur, a tiger and a fierce crocodile. As they escape they sing a refrain, which has been written in rhyme. They are destroyed by a pair of scissors but the paper dolls remain in the girl’s memory and in time she makes paper dolls with her own daughter. This shows Julia Donaldson in a reflective mood and she handles loss in a sensitive and uplifting way.

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Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam

Tracey Corderoy illustrated by Steven Lenton (Nosy Crow £6.99)

Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam are robber dogs who can only catch a spider in their swag bag. They plan the perfect crime and want to burgle their neighbours so they bake some wonderful cakes and doughnuts for a tea party. While their neighbours are busy eating they creep out but they are caught in the act. They apologise, turn over a new leaf and embark on a new career running a café. This story is full of fun and is told in a well-paced rhyme. It reads aloud well and teaches that honesty is the best policy.

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Here Come the Creatures

Wes Magee illustrated by Lorna Scobie (Frances Lincoln £6.99)

This is a lovely book to introduce poetry to young children. Many of the poems are set in familiar settings and there is plenty of humour that children will relate to. I particularly enjoyed the Christmas poems, Santa’s Sleigh and Questions on Christmas Eve. Other festivals are celebrated as well, including Eid, Diwali and Father’s Day. Suitable for the classroom and home, many children will be able to read these poems independently.

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Croc and Bird

Written and illustrated by Alexis Deacon (Red Fox £6.99)

When two eggs hatch a croc and a bird think they are brothers. They teach each other how to catch food and they practice flying as well as dancing. When they meet their own kind they separate but soon realise they are happier together. This wonderful picture book uses simple text and detailed illustrations to convey the message that friends who are different can be happy together. This is an important book that should be made accessible and shared with children of all ages.

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Hooray For Bread

Allan Ahlberg and illustrated by Bruce Ingman (Walker £6.99)

This is the day in the life of a loaf of bread, told in rhyming couplets from the baker's oven to the last crumb. The baker eats the first slice and the second is toasted and given to his wife to enjoy her breakfast in bed. There are sandwiches, crusts for the ducks as well as more to eat at lunchtime and tea. There is a rousing chorus of 'Hooray for Bread' which children can join in with. Ahlberg is on top form. The simple illustrations are full of warmth and fun and they show the great sense of family in the story. This book is ideal for any topic on food and healthy eating.

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Fly Chick Fly

Jeanne Willis and illustrated by Tony Ross (Andersen Press £5.99)

When three owl chicks are born two soon learn to fly and find their own homes but the last chick will not leave the nest. She is timid and nervous and lists reasons why she cannot fly. After a great deal of persuasion she finally leaves the nest and the reader is delighted when she flies away. This  lovely story about overcoming fear contains repeated phrases in the text that will appeal to children who are listening to the story and will also support early reading. The texture of the drawings create a dramatic atmosphere and complement the imagery in the story and include references to passing seasons and different trees.

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Just Ducks

Nicola Davies illustrated by Salvatore Rubbino (Walker £5.99)

We follow the day in the life of a little girl whose house is near the river. She talks us through her day and describes what the ducks are doing. The text is in two font sizes, a larger one to tell the story and more facts are added in a smaller size. The narrative non-fiction style of this story will engage children and it is ideal to read aloud with plenty of quacks to join in with. The stunning illustrations use a palette of browns. There is a useful index at the back of the book and more information on ducks.

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My Animal Friends

Dick King-Smith and illustrated by Anita Jeram (Walker £4.99)

This wonderful collection of 30 short stories from the late Dick King-Smith has been reissued. They  start with young Dick riding on an elephant at the zoo, going on to describe the many pets he owned, animals he farmed and even experiences from the war, all of which follow through his life story. The writing shows his true affection for animals and Anita Jeram's illustrations complement his writing perfectly. This is ideal to read aloud and newly independent readers will enjoy the stories. This is a great collection for the classroom and ideal for a bedtime story.

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Oh Dear Geoffrey

Gemma O'Neill (Templar £6.99)

When Geoffrey the giraffe tries to make friends with some meerkats he discovers that being tall and gangly makes him clumsy and he annoys many animals. He learns that it's easy to make friends when he is being himself and he can show his friends something they've never noticed before, the stars. In this well written and beautifully illustrated book we see a lovely mixture of textures and prints and snippets of pattern weave amongst the colour giving a lovely fresh style. This is an outstanding debut and would be ideal for story time.

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The Journey Home

Frann Preston-Gannon (Pavilion £5.99)

Polar Bear sets off in search of a new home because the ice is melting. On his journey he picks up a panda, an orang-utang and an elephant and they sail to an island which is a place of safety. This serious book has an important message of conservation and is an ideal resource to stimulate discussion. The dramatic illustrations make clever use of simple shapes which create a bleak industrial landscape. Frann Preston-Gannon is the first British winner of the Sendak Fellowship and the late Maurice Sendak helped with the production of her first book. The Journey Home can be used throughout KS1 and KS2 and is essential for every school library.

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Homer the Library Cat

Reeve Lindbergh illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf (Walker £6.99)

Homer loves to stay at home enjoying the peace and quiet. One day he hears a sudden crash and jumps out of the window. He walks around the town looking for a quiet spot but finds the neighbourhood a very noisy place indeed. When he wanders in through some open doors he find his quiet lady and soon he becomes the library cat. The fun, colourful drawings are full of detail and they portray the playful nature of Homer. The rhyming text and cheerful storyline make this ideal to read aloud.

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My Friend Nigel

Jo Hodgkinson (Andersen Press £5.99)

Billy has unusual parents who perform magic tricks that usually go wrong. They use many strange ingredients and when Billy finds a tiny snail he rescues him and calls him Nigel. Billy and Nigel become great friends and share lots of activities together. Billy's parents think that he should have a more exciting pet and they conjure up a whale, a tiger and an elephant with terrible consequences. The book ends with Mum and Dad as reformed characters, Nigel a hero and Billy happy to see his friend. The story is told in rhyming couplets and with energetic illustrations and plenty of visual jokes this is a lively and entertaining read. New in paperback.

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The Princess and the Peas

Caryl Hart and illustrated by Sarah Warburton (Nosy Crow £6.99)

Lily-Rose May will do anything to avoid eating peas although her father tempts her by making delicious recipes such as pea smoothies and cupcakes. When she falls ill the doctor diagnoses a severe case of princess-itus. Lily is sent away to live in the Royal Palace with the King and Queen but she soon discovers that life as a princess is not much fun. The story is told in rhyme with references to the original fairy tale and the detailed illustrations are quirky and amusing.

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The Great Fairy Tale Disaster

David Conway illustrated by Melanie Williams (Hodder £5.99)

The Big Bad Wolf has run out of puff to blow down the Three Little Pigs' house and he is fed up with landing in the pot of hot water. He decides to look for a quiet story in the Fairy Tale Book. When a nervous Cinderella lets him take her place the fairy godmother waves her magic wand and he is soon wearing glass slippers and a dress. He climbs Jack's beanstalk next and discovers that he is afraid of giants. The wolf continues to barge into different tales causing chaos. Children will enjoy revisiting classic tales and spotting their favourite characters. The vibrant, energetic illustrations bring out the humour and pace of the story. Perfect to read aloud.

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How to Hide a Lion

Helen Stephens (Alison Green £6.99)

When lion goes to town to buy a hat people are terrified. When he is run out of town, Iris finds him hiding in her playhouse. He becomes Iris' pet but he always has to be hidden from her parents. When her mother eventually finds him he runs away and finds a place to hide in the town square. Lion soon redeems himself by catching some robbers who are escaping with the mayor's candlesticks. Immediately he becomes a hero and is presented with a hat! This is a lovely picture book that is full of warmth and humour. The illustrations have a traditional feel and complement the story perfectly. It is ideal to read aloud and is sure to become a great favourite.

 

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Mammoth Pie

Jeanne Willis (Andersen Press £5.99)

Og the very thin caveman needs to eat some meat so he decides to catch a mammoth and make a tasty pie. He asks his friends to help him by providing a spear or a trap and in return they will have a piece of the mammoth pie. When Og and his friends set out to catch the mammoth they find that he has a plan of his own and manages to turn the tables on the cavemen. The book is written in verse with plenty of rhyming phrases and repetition to help early readers. The lively and brilliantly coloured illustrations tell the story and the mammoth can be found on every spread watching the cavemen and knowing exactly what they are up to.

 

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Wanted: The Perfect Pet

Fiona Roberton (Hodder £5.99)

A boy called Henry wants a dog more than anything else in the world. He has twenty seven frogs already but thinks they are boring. He puts a Wanted Ad in the local paper for a dog as he thinks this would be the perfect pet. Duck is very lonely and when he sees Henry's advert he decides to dress up as a dog and sets off on a long journey to meet him. When Henry realises that he does not have a dog he is disappointed for a moment but when he lists all the clever things that duck can do he knows that he has found the perfect pet. The story is cleverly written in three chapters, helping children to meet the characters individually before they meet in the final chapter. The illustrations appear very simple but they are full of humour and help to describe a serious message about friendship.

 

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Pirates and Dragons/ Ug and the Dinosaurs

Alfie Small (David Fickling £4.99)

Two stories from the Adventure Journal of Alfie Small have been published which are ideal for newly confident readers and would also suit older reluctant readers. 'Pirates and Dragons' is full of excitement and danger and tells the story of how Alfie defeats the dreaded pirate Bonedust and is back in time for tea. In his next adventure 'Ug and the Dinosaurs' Alfie packs his explorer rucksack, leaves Mum a note and has another terrific adventure ending in a dramatic rescue from ogres by a friendly pterodactyl. Once again Alfie is home for tea. The books are written in short chapters with lists, labels and plenty of colour illustrations. They are ideal for the library and boys will love them.

 

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The Very Helpful Hedgehog

Rosie Wellesley (Pavilion £5.99)

Isaac is a hedgehog who enjoys being alone. When an apple falls from a tree it sticks to his back and when donkey eats the apple, Isaac realises the benefits of having a friend. Donkey gives a wonderful description of the joys of eating different varieties of apple. I love the warm and inviting colours showing the beauty of autumn and the way in which the illustrations meander round the page following the story. The clear pictures and print support reading aloud and make it suitable for R and Year 1

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Harry and the Jaggedy Daggers

Jan Fearnley (Egmont £6.99)

Harry the harbour mouse is always busy in Bottlenose Bay. When his boat is smashed to pieces on the rocks known as jaggedy daggers he is devastated. An old china teacup is washed up on the shore and Harry is able to sail in it to help Samina Songbird rescue her eggs. Harry immediately becomes a hero. The illustrations are full of small, hidden details and together with the use of vivid colours create a story full of movement and excitement. Perfect to read aloud and could also be used to help older children with their story writing.

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Whiffy Wilson the Wolf Who Wouldn't Wash

Caryl Hart illustrated by Leonie Lord (Orchard £5.99)

Whiffy Wilson is a dirty wolf with rude personal habits. His friend Dotty cleans him up and champions messy outdoor play. The rhyming text scans well and is fun to listen to. The illustrations complement the text perfectly with colours going from dark browns and greys to much brighter colours as Whiffy becomes cleaner. New in paperback and sure to become a classroom favourite.

 

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Frog and Toad are Friends

Arnold Lobel (Harper Collins £6.99)

 

Customers often ask for Frog and Toad stories so I'm glad they've been brought back into print in the 'Essential Picture Book Classic' range in a larger format. Five short stories are included which are ideal for the developing reader. Frog and Toad are great friends and in their adventures they tackle small tasks such as getting out of bed, going for a swim and waiting for a letter to arrive . Lobel shows how warm, amusing, stories can be told perfectly with a limited vocabulary. Every school should have a copy of this classic.

 

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Burping Bertha

Michael Rosen (Andersen £4.99)

Bertha has an amazing talent as she is an exceptional burper. She defeats school bullies, sorts out an unpleasant teacher and becomes very famous because of her burp. This well known story has been reissued with an updated cover and it seems as funny as ever. Perfect to read aloud and plenty to amuse the adult reader too.

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Stunt Bunny Medal Mayhem

Tamsyn Murray (Simon and Schuster £4.99)

Harriet Houdini (Stunt Bunny) is very excited when she hears that the Animalympics are coming to London and she can't wait to start training. She must be careful because her old enemy The Great Maldini does not want her to win. This chapter book, the fourth in a series, is an exciting read with plenty of humour and would be suitable for a confident reader or to read aloud.

 

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Grandpa's Garden

Stella Fry (Barefoot Books £5.99)

This beautifully told story follows Billy from early spring to late summer as he helps Grandpa look after his vegetable garden. The poetic language describes spring daylight as 'sharp like lemon juice' and the colourful illustrations show a detailed plan of the garden. There are plenty of tips for budding gardeners and this would be an ideal resource to start a topic on growing or to inspire the school gardening club.

 

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Who am I?

Gervase Phinn (Andersen Press £5.99)

When a little creature hatches out of an egg he asks 'Who am I?' Wandering through the jungle he meets lots of animals but none like himself. There is an exciting climax and of course our little animal who is in fact a chameleon, is rescued just in time by his mother. This engaging story is perfect to read aloud and some of the text is enlarged to encourage expressive reading. The illustrations of jungle animals are large enough to share with a class and make an ideal focus for discussion.

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Scruffy Bear and the Six White Mice

Chris Wormell (Red Fox £5.99)

A clever bear tries to protect six very scared mice from some hungry animals in the dark forest. There's an owl, a fox and a slithery snake and bear manages to keep the mice safe in several ingenious ways. Exquisite illustrations and simple text make this book ideal to read aloud. The author manages to create tension in the story and bring it to a satisfying conclusion.

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A Place to Call Home

Alexis Deacon & Viviane Schwarz (illus) (Walker £5.99)

Seven hamster brothers outgrow their hole and have to search for somewhere else to live. As they enter the real world they have no idea what they are encountering and their adventure begins. They cross an ocean, a desert and eventually reach the top of the world and all the time the reader is aware that they are exploring a junkyard. Children will enjoy the humour and there is a subtle message in the story about the importance of family and home. The adventure is brought to life by the illustrator's innovative art work

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Big Red Balloon

Anne Fine (Egmont Blue Bananas £4.99)

To celebrate her school's 100th anniversary Pip's class are releasing big red helium balloons. People who find them are asked to contact the school. When Pip's is picked up at Buckingham Palace she is invited to have to have tea with the queen. With colourful illustrations and short chapters this is perfect for newly confident readers. A great addition to any library the references to the queen are ideal for the Royal Jubilee later this year.

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Animals in School

Julia Donaldson (Egmont £5.99)

Two Julia Donaldson titles 'The Quick Brown Fox Cub' and 'The Wrong Kind of Bark' have been published together under the title 'Animals in School' (Red Bananas bind-up). Two animal stories 'Follow the Swallow' and 'Spinderella' have been published together as 'Swallows and Spiders'(Blue Bananas bind-up). These stories are manageable for newly confident readers and are good value for the school library at £5.99 each.

Key Stage 2 - Years 3 and 4

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Choosing Crumble

Michael Rosen illustrated by Tony Ross (Andersen Press £4.99)

When Terri-Lee goes to the pet shop with her mother to choose a dog the tables are turned and she is interviewed by Crumble. Will she take him for walks, dance with him, tickle him, give him homemade food? This is a funny and thoughtful book about dogs and their owners. The illustrations from Tony Ross add humour to every page. The story reads aloud well and will be chosen by newly independent readers.

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A Pig Called Heather

Harry Oulton (Piccadilly £5.99)

The wonderful pig Heather lives on a farm in Scotland. She enjoys eating, especially apples and her best friend is Isla who is the farmer's daughter. When a thunderstorm destroys the farm Isla's father is forced to sell up and move to London. Heather and Isla are devastated. Heather is determined to find Isla and she sets off on the most amazing adventure.

A Pig Called Heather will be a popular addition to the school library and it is ideal to read aloud. It is suitable for competent young reader.

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Oliver and the Seawigs

Philip Reeve illustrated by Sarah McIntyre (Oxford University Press £6.99)

Our hero is ten year old Oliver Crisp who, after travelling the world with his explorer parents, is looking forward to settling down in the seaside town of St Porrocks. His parents soon go missing exploring a nearby island and Oliver is determined to find them so he sets off in a dinghy. The story is full of fun with a cast of crazy characters such as a grumpy albatross, a short-sighted mermaid and sarcastic seaweed. The evil Stacey de Lacey is our villain and with his private army of sea monkeys tries to thwart Oliver. If you are looking for a quirky adventure with plenty of humour this is the book for you. The language used is perfect to read aloud and Sarah McIntyre’s drawings capture the humour and imagination perfectly.

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Black Dog

Written and illustrated by Levi Pinfold (Templar £6.99)

When a monstrous black dog appears outside the Hope family home, members of the family see it, draw the curtains and hide. The dog grows bigger and bigger. Only Small, the youngest Hope child has the courage to face Black Dog. She runs through the forest and Black Dog chases her becoming smaller and smaller until it is normal size. This is a wonderful story of fear and courage and shows us that confronting fear is often the best way to proceed. Black Dog is an excellent starting point for a discussion on fear and being brave and can be used in assembly. Spen time studying Levi Penfold's wonderful illustrations for which he won this years Kate Greenway medal.

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Maisie Hitchins: The Case of the Vanishing Emerald

Holly Webb illustrated by Marion Lindsay (Little Tiger Press £4.99)

Maisie lives with her grandmother and helps her to run a boarding house in Victorian London. She is kept busy with chores but dreams of being a great detective. A star of the theatre, Sarah Massey is distressed when her precious emerald necklace is stolen. Maisie is chosen to help her find it and her investigation takes us into the world of Victorian theatre. This is an exciting mystery and Maisie is curious and brave. We are given an insight into Victorian life and we meet some interesting people who live in the boarding house.

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Wendy Quill is a Crocodile’s Bottom

Wendy Meddour illustrated by her daughter Mina May aged 11 (Oxford University Press £5.99)

There are three short stories in this book which give a strong sense of friends and family and they are all extremely funny. Our heroine, Wendy Quill, is desperate to be noticed, instead of becoming the star of the school Christmas play which is Peter Pan, she is cast as the crocodile’s bottom. These stories are really laugh out loud and will appeal to girls and boys so it is such a pity that the cover is pink. Her daughters illustrations are humorous and imaginative.

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Poems to Perform

Chosen by Julia Donaldson (MacMillan £6.99)

Julia Donaldson has chosen a wonderful collection of poems, which are ideal to perform at home, in the classroom or assembly. As Children’s Laureate she wanted to help teachers encourage performance, as she believes it leads to a greater self-confidence. There are traditional and modern poems in this collection and the themes covered include animals, nature, school and football. This is a useful book to keep in school and it also makes a lovely gift.

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Aunt Severe and the Toy Thieves

Nick Garlick and illustrated by Nick Maland (Andersen Press £4.99)

When Daniel visits his Great Aunt Emily he finds her sad and severe again. Her fiancé the Colonel has vanished and he wonders why there are animals living in her house. Daniel sets out to solve the mystery with the help of the animals and he is determined to find out if the toy thieves are responsible. Soon Daniel and his companions are in hot pursuit of the toy thieves. There are plenty of unusual, amusing characters in this novel and the storyline is imaginative and funny.

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Fizzlebert Stump and the Bearded Boy

A.F Harrold (Bloomsbury £5.99)

This is the second story about Fizz and his life in the circus. A new family joins them, Lady Barboozul, father Gildas and son Wystan and they all have beards. When things start to go wrong at the circus with the lion losing his false teeth and the clowns misplacing their red noses, Fizz is determined to solve the mystery. The story is very funny and the narration has a witty, conversational tone. A. F. Harrold is a performance poet living in Reading and you can contact him for events via his website www.afharroldkids.co.uk.

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Little Gems

Barrington Stoke (Little Gems £5.99)

Little Gems is a new series from Barrington Stoke that helps to support newly independent readers. A high quality cream paper is used and a special font has been chosen to make the books easy to read.  They are a good size to handle and the paragraphs are well spaced. The books are written by well known authors and they are accessible for those with dyslexia.

Mary's Hair
Eoin Colfer (Little Gems £5.99)

Mary hates her coarse, thick hair so she gives it a trim. She loves her new look but her Mammy is not so pleased and forbids her cutting her hair again. Unfortunately she doesn't mention dye and soon Mary gets the hairdressing bug again. A funny story with lively pictures that will help build confidence.

Go! Go! Chichico!
Geraldine McCaughrean (Little Gems £5.99)

Chichico wants to be a famous footballer and he is thrilled when he is given a trial with Santos Brazil. There is one big problem, he doesn't own a pair of football boots and trouble starts when his friend Davi tries to help him.

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A Hen in the Wardrobe

Wendy Meddour (Frances Lincoln £5.99)

Mum is away studying Domes of the East for her architects course and when Dad is found sleepwalking looking for a hen in the wardrobe and chasing frogs in the pantry it's obvious something is wrong. Ramzi is worried and realises that Dad is homesick so the family decide to take him back to visit the Berber village where he was brought up. This warm and funny story allows us to look at life as a Muslim in England as well as the way of life in an Algerian village. Ramzi has written a useful What Things Mean section at the back of the book that will explain Arabic words and phrases. This book will interest children who are curious about other cultures and it is ideal to read aloud to a class.

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Little Manfred

Michael Morpurgo illustrated by Michael Foreman (HarperCollins £5.99)

The story is set in 1966 and when Alex and her little brother Charlie walk on the beach they meet two old men. They take them back to the farm where they live and hear the story of how they became friends despite fighting on opposite sides during the war. They find out why their mother loves the wooden toy Little Manfred that was made for her by a German prisoner who worked on the farm after the war. The story describes some of the distressing events that occurred during WW2 but Morpurgo handles them in a sensitive, dignified way. This is an ideal book if you want to find out how the war affected ordinary people and it also describes the thrill of England winning the World Cup. Michael Foreman's beautiful watercolour illustrations makes the book accessible to a wide age range.

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SHORT Christmas Stories

Maggie Pearson (Oxford £5.99)

This is the latest in the popular SHORT series and it features over forty stories about Christmas, none of them more than two pages long. The anthology includes ghost stories, Christmas legends and traditions and folk tales. My favourites are the true stories that include Christmas 1914 when a truce was called during WW1 and English and German soldiers played football together and Christmas 1683 when the River Thames froze and was used for seasonal festivities. This is an invaluable collection for school and would make an excellent resource for Advent stories. It is also a great stocking filler.

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Operation Bunny

Sally Gardner illustrated by David Roberts (Orion £5.99)

Our heroine Emily Vole was abandoned at birth and found at Stansted Airport in a hat box. She is adopted by the wealthy Dashwood family and after they have triplets of their own she is treated as a servant. When a neighbour Mrs String dies she leaves Emily an old shop, a small bunch of keys and a cat called Fidget. Emily embarks on a huge adventure as she brings the old Fairy Detective Agency back to life. This is a very modern fairy story which is full of humour with the black and white drawings emphasising its dark side. Operation Bunny is pacey and exciting and both boys and girls will enjoy it. Ideal to read aloud.

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The Haunting of Charity Delafield

written and illustrated by Ian Beck (Random House £5.99)

Charity Delafield is a lonely child who is brought up in a Victorian mansion knowing nothing of the outside world. She is confined to her home by her father and she has the company of some friendly servants and a cat called Mr Tomkins. One day she is told by her father that she will be sent away to school because of her 'condition'. This encourages Charity to start an exciting quest to find out about her mother whom she believed had died when she was born and she is helped by Silas a chimney sweep. This story is full of mystery and magic and the brilliant illustrations help to set the scene. It is an ideal winter read and after the tension of the story comes a welcome happy ending.

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I Don't Believe It, Archie

Andrew Noriss (David Fickling £5.99)

Archie seems to be an ordinary boy except that odd things happen to him every day. When going to post a letter he saves his friend Cyd from a piano rolling down the hill. Another day he becomes stuck to the handle of the library door. Archie cannot complete one simple errand for his mother who becomes increasingly frustrated and each chapter finishes with the exasperated cry 'I don't believe it, Archie!' The book is both very funny and well written with the action taking place over a week with there being a chapter for each day of the week. Many of the adult characters appear in the last chapter and this gives the book a satisfying conclusion. It is suitable for newly confident readers and is ideal to read aloud. The delightful illustrations will encourage reluctant readers. New in paperback with the follow up, Archie's Unbelievably Freaky Week out in hardback at £10.99.

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Wolfie

Emma Barnes (Strident £6.99)

 

When Uncle Joe has a special present for Lucie, he gives her a dog. Lucie realises that it's a wolf but her busy parents pay no attention to her words. She calls him Wolfie and soon Lucie realises that he can speak. He becomes Lucie's best friend. Wolfie is intelligent and brave and he helps protect her from the bully who lives next door. When people realise that Wolfie might be a wolf he is in great danger and Lucy is determined to save him. This thoughtful book will appeal to both boys and girls and although not issue led throws up discussion points such as bullying and the plight of endangered animals. The story is exciting, at times funny and full of appealing characters. The print is clear and the black and white illustrations stunning.

 

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The Grunts in Trouble

Phillip Ardagh (Axel Scheffler £5.99)

Mr and Mrs Grunt are a grotesque husband and wife who indulge in lots of revolting habits. Their 'son' called Sunny was stolen from a washing line when he was hung out by his ears. The family travel around in their donkey drawn home made caravan with their cat Ginger Biscuit. They have many unlikely adventures and meet many strange characters. There is plenty of word play in the story and lots of silliness. The illustrations by Axel Scheffler are full of humour and fun and they give the book character. It is the first in a series of four books and I am sure that children will love it. An ideal read for fans of Roald Dahl's The Twits.

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The Dragonsitter

Josh Lacey illustrated by Garry Parsons (Andersen Press £4.99)

 

When Uncle Moreton goes away for a week his pet dragon is left with Eddie. Soon Eddie's house is in a state of chaos with an empty fridge, burnt curtains and Mum at the end of her tether. Eddie's emails to his uncle become increasingly desperate as his home and family fall apart. Eventually he learns that a bar of chocolate is the answer to his huge problem. The book is written entirely in a series of emails which work perfectly with the illustrations adding to the fun. A hilarious story which will fly off any school library shelf. Also suitable for older reluctant readers.

 

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Shrinking Violet

Lou Kuenzler (Scholastic £5.99)

Ten year old Violet has been waiting to ride on Plunger, a scary roller coaster ride. At last she is tall enough and she goes with her family for a day out at the fun fair. When she is about to climb on board she starts to shrink and ends up the size of a fish finger. Her day is ruined but being small can be useful and Violet is the only one who can help Granny when she is accused of being a thief.

Violet is a feisty heroine and she has some scary adventures fighting to stay alive when she is tiny. This story is well paced, full of excitement and action and would be ideal to read aloud.

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Fizzlebert Stump the Boy Who Ran Away from the Circus (and joined the library)

A F Harrold (Bloomsbury £5.99)

 

Fizzlebert Stump, known as Fizz, lives in a travelling circus but surprisingly he becomes bored with his surroundings as there are no children for him to play with. His best friend is a sea lion. Fizz decides to join the library and this is where his adventures begin. He is kidnapped by a pair of pensioners and fears he will never see the circus again. The author often speaks directly to the reader and the introduction to each chapter gives fascinating snippets of what is to come. An appealing story full of quirky humour. AF Harrold is a performance poet living in Reading and you can contact him for events via his website www.afharrold.com.

 

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Under a Silver Moon

Anne Fine (Walker £4.99)

The story is set in a hot country far away.  Haroun, son of the Sultan plays happily with Akil, son of the gardener. When Haroun is taken away to learn how to behave like a prince, he is waited on and does nothing for himself.  He grows very fat and doctors can't cure him.  When a  hooded stranger tells him to dig in the garden to find a magic key, he finds health and happiness but never finds the magic key.  The story is written in simple language and with short chapters that make it ideal to read aloud.

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Archie Hero in Training

Sam Hay (Macmillan £6.99)

An outstanding book that makes the reader aware of the crucial role that guide dogs play in helping their owners live a fuller and more independent life.  This informative read  includes ten true stories in which we learn how guide dogs and puppies are trained for their special role.  Notes at the back of the book give a brief history of guide dogs and describe how they are named. There are even some dog jokes.

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Agatha Parrot and the Mushroom Boy

Kjartan Poskitt (Egmont £5.99)

A funny story narrated by Agatha Parrot who is watching the final of her favourite TV programme 'Sing, Wiggle and Shine' when her brother takes the remote control and switches it to another channel to watch football. Agatha has a bright, witty voice and the illustrations by David Tazzyman complement the text perfectly.

 

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Muncle Trogg and the Flying Donkey

Janet Foxley (Chicken House £5.99)

Muncle Trogg the undersized giant has returned and he is very worried. The Smallings (humans) have left and the bigger giants are busy celebrating not realising that Mount Grumble is about to erupt. Luckily his human friend Emily stays behind and helps Muncle Trogg hatch a plot and soon the giants are listening to the wonderful Flying Donkey. Children will love the humour and the illustrations add to the delight with smudged pages and annotated sketches.

Janet Foxley won The Times 2010 Children's Fiction Competition with her first novel Muncle Trogg.

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A Boy and a Bear in a Boat

Dave Shelton (David Fickling Books £5.99)

A boy and a bear go to sea with a suitcase, a comic book and a ukulele. This will be a short trip but not everthing goes to plan as they have to encounter stormy seas, a sea monster and the remains of a sandwich. Dave Shelton has given us a lovely package of a gentle, amusing story with a range of gorgeous illustrations. Everyone will want to pick the book up as the cover is an intriguing combination of old map and tea stain. Outstanding!

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The Queen's Maid

June Crebbin (Walker £3.99)

Lady Jane is a lively Elizabethan heroine who is chosen to serve at the court of Queen Elizbeth 1. In this story Lady Jane meets Shakespeare, helps Francis Drake and saves the Queen's life. A story per chapter makes this a good choice for newly confident readers and will help build reading stamina.

Key Stage 2 - Years 5 and 6

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Roof Toppers

Katherine Rundell (Faber £6.99)

Sophie is found after a shipwreck floating in a cello case. She is taken care of by an eccentric scholar Charles Maxim. She has an unconventional upbringing until the National Childcare Agency threaten to put her in an orphanage. Sophie and Charles run away to Paris where Sophie believes she will find her long lost mother. She teams up with Matteo who lives on the rooftops of Paris and they form an exciting partnership. They break into buildings to find the truth about Sophie's mother and they have to find her before they are caught.

This beautifully written and original adventure tells of a girl who never gives up hope.

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Stay Where You Are and Then Leave

John Boyne (Doubleday £7.99)

Alfie Summerfield's father joins the army to fight in the first world war. Although only 9 years old Alfie sees himself as the man of the house and his mother is working as a nurse. He starts to bunk off school and shine shoes at Kings Cross Station to earn some desperately needed money. When working at the station he manages to see his father's name on a sheaf of papers belonging to a military doctor. Alfie realises his father is in hospital nearby where soldiers are being treated for a terrible condition. He is determined to rescue his father and bring him home.

Stay Where You Are and Then Leave is an engaging and thoughtful story about a difficult subject. The sense of time and place is amazing and we are introduced to memorable characters which help us understand the reality and hardship caused by this war.

 

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The River Singers

Tom Moorhouse illustrated by Simon Mendez (Oxford University Press £6.99)

When we meet the engaging family of water voles: Sylvan, Aven, Fern and Orris, their mother is warning them of the danger and strength of the river. Soon she is taken in the night and Sylvan realises he must lead his siblings away and search for a new home. Their stretch of the river is being stalked by a deadly mink. The animals meet danger on the riverbank but also kindness from the friendly rat Fodur. The story of the water voles perilous journey is exciting and gripping but also sad. The author Tom Moorhouse is an ecologist and water vole expert and this is his first novel. The black and white illustrations by Simon Mendez give a wonderful visual description of the riverbank and the animals that inhabit them.

The River Singers is sure to become a classic so read it to your class now. Not to be missed!

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Liar and Spy

Rebecca Stead (Anderson Press £6.99)

Life is tough for Georges an eleven year old living in Brooklyn. He’s having problems with some boys at school, his father has lost his job and he has to leave his beautiful family home and move into an apartment. It is here that Georges meets Safer a self appointed spy. Georges is recruited as his assistant and they start to investigate the mysterious Mr X who lives on the floor above. At first the game seems fun but soon Georges starts to question how far he should be involved.

This is a poignant, witty story filled with quirky characters and incident. Suitable for thoughtful readers of 10+.

 

 

 

 

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Sylvie and Star

Julia Green (Oxford University Press £5.99)

Sylvie would love to own a puppy and she lives for the school holidays when she can visit her grandparents in Italy. They run a farm and have a beautiful dog Bella. Sylvie is excited when she learns that Bella is expecting a puppy and, when born, she names him Star because of the mark on his forehead. Star has a problem and as he grows becomes difficult to handle. This is a well written story that will appeal to all children especially those who love animals.

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The Great Ice-Cream Heist

Elen Caldecott (Bloomsbury £5.99)

Since her mum died Eva’s dad has become over protective. He doesn’t want her to mix with the McIntyre family who have moved in next door. They are noisy and live chaotic lives. Eva gets to know Jamie and when he is accused of vandalising the park she is sure that he is innocent and she sets about proving it. The story reaches an exciting climax with a ‘borrowed’ ice-cream van. Eva and Jamie are two interesting characters from very different backgrounds and they have a great adventure showing that ordinary children can do amazing things.

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Magic Ink

Steve Cole illustrated by Jim Field (Simon and Schuster £6.99)

Stewart Penders loves comics and his late grandfather was a comic book artist. When he moves into his grandfather’s house a mysterious pig in a top hat appears. When Stew uses the magic ink his drawings come to life and soon Stew and Posho pig are drawn into an adventure. They have to be brave and courageous in order to rescue the wizard Merlin from imprisonment. Full of pictures and jokes as well as a wonderful adventure, this is a great read.  Magic Ink will appeal to children looking for a slightly more challenging read than The Wimpy Kid.

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Young Knights of the Round Table

Julia Golding (OUP £6.99)

Rick, Roxy and Santiago were stolen by faerie thieves when they were babies and brought up by the Fey to be trained as warriors.  Avalon is being attacked by an unknown enemy and Ricky and friends travel through time to the human world to find out if the Round Table is being reformed. They have great trouble fitting in as ordinary teenagers and they start to wonder if they have been lied to by the Fey. The story is partly set in Oxford and Julia Golding brings the story to an exciting climax in the city. This is a challenging read that will delight fans of Merlin and Arthur and his Knights. Children who enjoy high action fantasy will love this modern twist on the Arthurian legend. Not to be missed.

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Dear Scarlett

Fleur Hitchcock (Nosy Crow £6.99)

The week after her eleventh birthday, Scarlett receives a mysterious parcel from her father, a notorious jewel thief, who died five years earlier. It contains many strange items which are clues to his life. She sets out to discover more about her father and on her journey finds out more about herself and the people around her. Scarlett is a character that children will empathise with as she is brave and principled although she doesn't always do the right thing. The story is well written, exciting and full of fun and I can recommend Fleur Hitchcock as an author to watch.

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Victory Dogs

Megan Rix (Puffin £5.99)

Bark and Howl are two puppies born on the London Underground during the Second World War. When bombing starts they are terrified but an old cat with one ear named Sheba helps keep them safe. During a bombing raid the puppies are separated and although they are frightened they lead many Londoners through the tunnels to safety and become heroes. How they survive is an exciting story and children will love it.

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The Spin

Rebecca Lisle (Hot Key £5.99)

The orphan Stormy works as a skivvy in the castle kitchen but he has a dream – to become a sky-rider. He imagines riding a spitfyre which is a fire-breathing flying horse. When Stormy is asked to work at the academy he is delighted but soon he becomes aware of dark secrets at the heart of the school at the centre of which is the mysterious thirteenth horse. We follow Stormy on his mysterious and exciting quest to save Thirteen and to prove himself as a sky-rider. This magical fantasy is beautifully written and is loosely based on Great Expectations. Stormy is a brave, hard working central character and we care about his exciting mission. The Spin is a fabulous read and will appeal to fans of Harry Potter.

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Granny Samurai, the Monkey King and I

John Chambers (Walker £5.99)

The book opens with Samuel's guardian, his Uncle Vesuvio being called away on a diplomatic mission. Samuel has to cope on his own and when he starts school he finds himself sitting next to Boris Hisscocks the school bully. The only person who can keep him safe is his neighbour Granny Samurai. This is a story of goodies in the form of Samuel and Granny Samurai versus the baddies, Boris and the terrifying Monkey King. The story is in the form of a journal written by Samuel. This makes it accessible and there are drawings on every double page spread. A pacey read, full of action and the glorious Granny Samurai always saves the day. If you enjoyed Andy Stanton's Mr. Gum you'll love the humour in this. Good to read aloud.

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Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made

Stephan Pastis (Walker £6.99)

Our eleven year old hero, Timmy Failure, founds Total Failure Inc. the best detective agency in town. His partner is a polar bear named Total (Failure) and the clueless pair have plenty of trouble solving cases. Timmy keeps a diary noting day to day happenings and anything relating to their cases. The reader will spot their mistakes and laugh aloud at the text and comical illustrations. Eventually the agency is shut down by Timmy's Mum and the partners split up with one in the zoo and the other imprisoned with homework. This is an ideal read for fans of The Wimpy Kid.

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Shrunk!

F.R. Hitchcock (Hot Key Books £5.99)

Tom is not happy when he has to move in with his grandmother who lives next to the model village in Bywater-by-Sea. His parents want to become magicians and he has no friends at school so he is feeling miserable. One night he makes a wish on a meteorite that falls on the Bywater-by-Sea model village. Tom obtains special powers with amazing results and with Jupiter in one pocket and a meteorite in the other he starts to have fun. Things become complicated when he shrinks Jacob the school bully and soon he realises that he must return Jupiter to orbit to avoid disaster for the universe. This imaginative, quirky story has wide appeal. There are laugh out loud moments and plenty of science and magic. It is good to read aloud and the short chapters will appeal to reluctant readers.

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Ghost Knight

Cornelia Funke (Orion £6.99)

Eleven year old Jon Whitcroft doesn't want to be packed off to boarding school in Salisbury and he blames his mother's boyfriend 'Beard'. He's not looking forward to the food or sharing a room but these things are the least of his worries. Jon has a terrible shock when three angry ghosts turn up outside his dormitory and he is lucky to befriend Ella who helps him sort them out. There is plenty of action in the story and the humour comes from boarding school life. Cornelia Funke writes very fluently and makes the story easy to read. It has been written for a younger age group than the Inkheart Trilogy.

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The Wolf Princess

Cathryn Constable (Chicken House £6.99)

Sophie Smith, an orphan, is taken on a school trip to Russia during the winter. After being thrown off the train in the middle of a snowstorm she is taken to The Winter Palace of Princess Anna Volkonskaya. Sophie and her friends are placed in an extraordinary world that includes wolves and magic. Written in a traditional style, The Wolf Princess is a combination of fairy tale and modern adventure and it makes a gripping and enjoyable read. Recommended for competent readers 10+.

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The Snow Merchant

Sam Gayton (Andersen Press £5.99)

 

Lottie Peppercorn runs a boarding house for two demanding old ladies and her father is often drunk. The house has been built on stilts because she has been warned never to touch the ground. Her only friend is Periwinkle the pigeon. Lottie's life changes when a bad tempered old man with an icicle beard comes to her home and he brings with him a young sailor called Noah. The old man is an alchemist who can make snow and he once knew Lottie's mother. She decides to set off with Noah as she is desperate to find her mother and unlock her family secrets. This well written fantasy conjures up a vivid landscape and entices the reader to enjoy a fast moving and magical action adventure. The imaginative illustrations show us small snippets from this fantastic world and bring the surreal theme to life. New in paperback.  

 

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Viking Boy

Tony Bradman (Walker £5.99)

 

Gunnar has a peaceful lifestyle living with his parents on their farm but his life is shattered when a raiding party known as the Wolf Men and led by a neighbour called Skuli burn his long house and kill his father. His mother is captured by the enemy and Gunnar swears an oath to rescue her and avenge his father's death. When he escapes life is hard for him and he encounters sword fights, a ride with the mythical Valkyries, time as a slave and a journey to the Land of Ice and Fire. Gunnar's life has been foretold by the Norns who weave the Web of Fate and we follow his epic journey to Valhalla to barter with the Gods to bring his father back and in so doing we see him develop from a boy to a Viking warrior. This saga is a wonderful introduction to Norse Myths and the exciting blend of adventure and fantasy will appeal to boys in particular but it is not for the faint hearted.

 

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Fantastic Mr Dahl

Michael Rosen (Puffin £6.99)

Michael Rosen is such a huge fan of Roald Dahl that he has founded the Roald Dahl Funny Prize to find the most amusing books for children published each year and so he seems to be the perfect author for this biography. The book is written in three sections: The Boy, The Man and The Writer. We learn a great deal about Roald's family and see many pictures of his childhood. When he was in boarding school he was always looking out for unusual events to write home about. We hear about his terrifying experiences as a pilot in the war as well as the insights into things that influenced him. There are plenty of photographs and drawings to encourage the reader and importantly there are questions to make the reader think. Any young fan of Roald Dahl will enjoy this book. It is perfect to read aloud and a must for the school library.

 

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Small Change for Stuart

Lissa Evans (Corgi £5.99)

 

Our hero, ten year old Stuart Horten, is short for his age. During the summer holidays his family move to Beeton and he is expecting a dreary holiday but Stuart finds a long lost letter from his great uncle and soon he is swept up in an adventure to find his great uncle's lost workshop which is full of magic and tricks. Great uncle Tony has left a number of clues and puzzles which have to be solved and with the help of April, one of the triplets who lives next door, he starts off on a great adventure. Stuart is a delightful character, interesting and clever and his father writes difficult crosswords. The story is fast paced and engaging and the author uses words and puzzles to great effect. It would be perfect to read aloud to a class. Don't miss it!

 

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Rubbish Town Hero

Nicola Davies (Corgi £5.99)

 

Chipo works on a rubbish dump for Papa Fudu and earns enough for basic food for himself and his sister Gentle. When he tries to smuggle something off the dump he is soon in danger. He takes Gentle, his friend Dede and their dog Mouse and they set of on a journey to find a safe home. Mouse has a cleft palete and finds it difficult to eat and drink. Their journey is full of drama and tension as the group meet a number of people and escape from danger. The book is fairly short and the language is always accessible but the descriptions are effective and have great impact on the reader. This would be ideal for a class reader as it raises many serious issues for discussion. It will help children understand child poverty and environmental problems. This is an uplifting story with a happy ending showing Chipo's courage and determination.

 

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The Great Escape

Megan Rix (Puffin £5.99)

Robert and Lucy Edwards are evacuated to Devon during World War 2 and have to leave their pets Buster, Tiger and Rosie behind. Their mother tries to find a good home for them. London is being bombed heavily at the time and many pets are being put down so the animals come up with their own plan for survival and they take off on an epic adventure. With plenty of authentic detail, we see the war through the eyes of these three animals. An exciting story based on true facts of the terrible plight of animals in London during the war.

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The White Dolphin

Gill Lewis (Oxford University Press £6.99)

 

Kara is lonely and unhappy at school because she is dyslexic and also has personal problems with her mother missing in mysterious circumstances and her father having problems finding work. Her escape is sailing her father's boat Moana but that will have to be sold soon. There is a new boy at school, Felix, who has celebral palsy. At first they do not get on but when they work together to save a stranded dolphin calf they become a team. They try to find out what has happened to Kara's mother and to save their beautiful reef bay from ruin by commercial dredgers. This is an exciting story that is beautifully told with a strong environmental message.

 

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One Dog and His Boy

Eva Ibbotson (Scholastic £6.99)

Hal's parents refuse to let him have a dog as it would spoil their lovely home. They discover 'Easy Pets Dog Agency' where they can hire a dog for the weekend but Hal is not satisfied with a borrowed pet. We follow his quest to rescue his beloved puppy Fleck and other dogs from the Agency and find them a happy home. A delightful story from the late Eva Ibbotson.

New in paperback

 

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Grk and the Phoney Macaroni

Joshua Doder (Andersen Press £4.99)

Grk is kidnapped from a London park and taken to Italy with Tim following in hot pursuit. There they meet the Duke of Macaroni, a nman who wants to be the next Italian prime minister but he has a terrible secret to hide. This is an action packed adventure set in Rome and it grabs the reader's attention from the first page. There is no magic to get Tim out of scrapes as it is set in the real world. This reads well as a stand alone story but the series is ideal for any school library. 

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Road to London

Barbara Mitchelhill (Andersen Press £5.99)

Thomas wants to join Shakespeare's acting troupe so he travels on foot to London. Behind the glamorous world of the theatre he finds deception and crime. A pacey, accessible story that gives a vivid and accurate picture of London at the time with plenty of gruesome detail.

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Goblins

Philip Reeve (Scholastic £6.99)

This is the first in a new fantasy series about a group of unpleasant goblins who are always squabbling, fighting and looting from their home in Clovenstone. Only clever young Scarper realises that dark magic is rising again and he becomes a very unlikely hero. This imaginary world is vividly described and you will meet magical creatures, an heroic adventurer and a middle aged princess in this very exciting story which will appeal to all fans of fantasy. From an amazing opening when Scarper is catapulted away from Clovenstone, the writing is always exciting, often funny and full of danger. Look out for the fabulous cover which will ensure that Goblins is picked from the library shelf.

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To be a Cat

Matt Haig (Bodley Head £5.99)

The hero of the story Barney Willow thinks that life is tough. He is bullied at school by Gavin Needle and the monstrous headteacher Miss Whipmire really has it in for him and worst of all his father left the family a year ago and has not been seen for a year. After a miserable birthday Barney just wants to escape and imagines life as a cat to be lazy and quiet. When he wakes up as a cat he realises just how wrong he is.

This fast paced, amusing story pulls the reader in from the first chapter describing how cats are magic. There are some vivid characters from the dreadful Miss Whipmire to Barneys lovely best friend Rizza. A story that is fun and exciting with short chapters to make it accessible.

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A Skull in Shadows Lane

Robert Swindells (Corgi Childrens £5.99)

War has just ended and in the quiet village of Coney Clay and Josh and his friends are looking for some excitement. They have heard about a deserted house in Shadows Lane and they discover Boney an escaped prisoner of war.

Although short, the story is tense and gripping throughout. It paints a realistic picture of what it was like to be a child after the war and a glossary is included to help today's reader.

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Opal Moonbaby

Maudie Smith (Orion £6.99)

Martha has given up on friends after being upset at school when her best friend turns against her. Soon she meets a strange new girl who claims to be an alien. Opal Moonbaby has been sent down from her planet on a mission to find out about earth people and to make a friend. Opal has Martha chosen as her target and she doesn't give up easily. This is a lovely story about friendship with terrific comic touches.

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Sky Hawk

Gill Lewis (OUP £5.99)

This emotional story is set in the Scottish Highlands and tells of two children Iona and Callum who discover an osprey nesting in Callum's farm. The children name the osprey Iris, after the Greek Goddess of the Wind and Sky. This is an amazing first novel and one that should be in every school library. Unmissable!

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