Can You Whistle, Johanna? ‘A profound and moving meditation on the things that remain constant and permanent throughout our lives.’ An astounding story.
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Children’s and YA book reviews
Below are our latest reviews of recent children’s and young adult fiction and non-fiction releases. Many thanks to the book publishers for sending review copies.
Lori and Max and the Book Thieves is subtly and fluently revealed, in a world which is recognisable and entirely believable. The carefully-woven interplay of narrative, response and stagecraft, had me on the verge of tears and almost gasping with admiration.
A Case of Grave Danger. A gripping first person mystery with a strong female protagonist and high quality writing. Violet Veil is a character with the potential for many more adventures in this world and the next.
Happy Healthy Minds is an engrossing and affecting read for children aged 10-16 and a must-have resource for home educators and KS2 and KS3 teachers of PSHE. Highly recommended.
The School Reading List compiles this list of recommended books monthly. This book of the month list highlights new releases and editions of fiction and non-fiction books suitable for children and young adults aged 5-16.
In Adventure in Athens, everyday sights, sounds and smells, the casual brutality, the strange conventions and the convincing sense that people in history always regard themselves as advanced, are all skilfully presented and interwoven with a gripping suspense story.
Robin Hood – Piracy, Paintballs and Zebras. Robert Muchamore is a master at keeping the action moving at a breakneck pace and describes incidents that will resonate with 10-13 year-olds.
The Extraordinary Elements is perfect for children who like to accumulate a lot of facts and information. Written in a catchy and accessible style, the nature of each element is explained concisely and clearly to appeal to children and encourage them to find out more.
Hello, Universe has pace, energy and interest on every page. The characters are accurately drawn and capture all the hope, creativity and dread which are usually in store every day when you’re eleven.
Daydreams and Jellybeans is a fun and imaginative collection of thirty-five poems that are ideal to read aloud to children aged seven to eleven and useful for teachers in KS2 to help develop performance poetry and model writing ideas.
This is another exciting time-travel outing for Nadia, Jess, Tomma and Ash, this time finding themselves in their school back in the winter of 1947 and saving Nadia’s grandfather from an uncertain fate. A pacy and gripping story.
The Awesome Power of Sleep is full of fascinating facts, hugely enjoyable to read and the science is presented in an entertaining way. A great resource for teenagers, secondary PSHE teachers and parents overseeing KS3, KS4 and KS5 home learning.
Metropolis – a visually compelling picture book that transports the reader to 32 exciting and diverse cities around the world. Let your child build a bucket list of dream destinations to visit during their lifetime!
101 Awesome Women Who Transformed Science. Reading this book has altered my angle of vision. If it had been available to me when I was twelve it would have transformed it entirely.
Darwin’s Dragons is a marvellous tale that plunges the reader into Charles Darwin’s HMS Beagle voyage and adds a young boy’s wonder, imagination and bravery into the historical mix. This is a fantasy firmly grounded in historical fact and geographical realism.
The true hero is the tiger, the huge mysterious presence in the story and the mainspring of its action. The author treats it with reverence and describes it in impressively stately language:
The Princess and the Pea – with colourful and intriguing illustrations and push, slide and turn mechanisms which reveal new characters, this charming book can be read again and again without exhausting its possibilities.
Taylor Before and After explores the turmoil experienced by teens in a way that will captivate not just YA readers, but their teachers, parents, and younger siblings. It’s perfect to read in one sitting during the summer holiday and ideal for book club discussion when schools return.
The Marvellous Land of Snergs – This is a delightful fantasy, interwoven with values of courage, loyalty and the strength and love of true friendships. Highly recommended for children in years 3-6 who want to become lost in an imaginative and transformative fairy tale.
‘A Trip to the Future’ will challenge pupils to think, imagine, be creative, and look for solutions – all of which can be expressed in creative writing, oracy – in the form of debates or short films for home-learning, and deeper philosophical argument in persuasive writing.
Shark Super Powers is ideal for reluctant readers and cross-curricular teaching. It’s well-suited to literacy lessons and topic work in years 3&4, home-learning projects, and as a fun-packed reference text for KS2 libraries.
Another Twist in the Tale – here is a superbly constructed story which moves along at a cracking pace. Characters from the original interact with the vivid, glowing beings from Catherine Bruton’s imagination.
The World’s Most Magnificent Machines is ideal for KS2 aged children and with accessible, well-written, and interesting content. Each machine is presented as a short and detailed story – perfect for capturing the imagination of a reluctant reader.
On the Move Poems about Migration – the soil here is rich with stories, suggestions, half-remembered distant relatives and half-understood absences. Dig deep enough and we find the horror.
Our job, as parents or teachers, is to help children build a solid foundation of confidence and empathy with others. The Little Big Feelings series reminds us, and assures them, that the future does indeed depend on how seriously we take our responsibilities with regard to this awesome task.
Absolutely Everything is an ambitious concept and a stunningly realised achievement. This book is highly recommended for children aged 10-13 in years 6, 7 and 8 classrooms, and school libraries in Key Stages 2 and 3.
The Britannica All New Children’s Encyclopedia is a stunning achievement. The blend of high-quality imagery with thought-provoking chunks of history, science, and culture will challenge and inspire young readers.
Blue Sandford’s startling book shows us a different way. In Challenge Everything, she not only spells out how all this has happened but also provides the would-be activist with practical advice on how to engage the media and make the biggest impact.
The Boy Who Dreamed of Dragons – the latest in the series of dragon books by Andy Shepherd – is a real winner. A believable story, set in a familiar and homely world where young readers will feel assured.
Earth Shattering Events is concise with clear explanations. It’s a solid reference book, ideal for home learning, extended projects, and independent study. We’d also recommend it for school and classroom libraries in primary schools.
It’s not easy being a child – even the happiest and most secure people have had to cope with days, weeks and months of uncertainty, unease and confusion. C K Smouha has produced two challenging and entertaining books for youngsters who may be facing these things.
I Ate Sunshine For Breakfast is perfect for children aged 9-14 interested in ecology, green issues and DIY style activities and experiments. The wealth of detail and glorious illustrations make this book ideal for home learning outside or inside.
The bold, direct drawings, the jokes and observations (all dogs look like their owners, and vice versa) promise a nourishing and hilarious twenty minutes shared with your four-year-old.
Each month, the School Reading List compiles a list of recommended books and on this page, we feature an archive of recommendations for picture books, fiction, and nonfiction from previous years.
I enjoyed this book tremendously. There is adventure, action and tension on every page. The outcome of their quest is supremely satisfying, reflecting both the sadness of a world shattered by tragedy and the firm hope for a better future.
Build a Castle has great potential as a classroom resource in KS1, KS2, and KS3. With imagination and lateral thinking, this kit can be used to help form ideas for stories, build description and in KS3 there’s a great opportunity to link the graphic art and pop art style to medieval realms units in history.
There is plenty of ‘nourishment’ here to satisfy a Year 7 group: action, mystery, humour, everyday detail and even a hint of romance. Two chapters provide more than enough to chew over in a half-hour lesson.
The phrase ‘a rollicking good yarn’ appears to have dropped out of fashion in recent years, but if any book warrants its re-introduction, it’s this one. The Pear Affair is an ideal class reader for years 5&6 in KS2.
The Big Green Activity book is bursting with ideas. It’s an ideal resource for wet playtimes, or extension classwork or homework; and it offers teachers ideas for short, fun informal AFL style tests on green and eco-related cross-curricular topics. It’s perfect for classrooms and school libraries.
Traces of Wallace Stevens, T S Eliot, Ted Hughes and William Blake in this fresh, clear, startling & spot-on new poetry collection by Karmelo C. Iribarren. Ideal for independent readers in KS2.
The Missing is an accessible, engaging and poignant account that will appeal to children aged 9-12. It provides an invaluable human link to events that must never be forgotten. It’s a book about the Holocaust, it’s a book about the present and it’s a warning for all our futures.
This middle-grade novel is an interesting entwinement of realism and fantasy with a pacey mystery plot and a quest to find the truth – a story which will appeal to children who are just starting to consider and question their position in the world.
Classroom activities and maths topics in KS2 will benefit from this eye-catching children’s non-fiction book. Sven Völker’s clever presentation and sharp graphics will pose questions for enquiring minds to solve and consider in greater depth.
Think Harry Potter meets Artemis Fowl meets Indiana Jones with thrills and spills told at a spin-dryer top speed with more fizz than an energy drink. This Gangster School story is a middle-grade roller coaster, rammed with jokes, razor-sharp language, unusual observations and … killer sheep.
A cleverly presented and engaging personal tour of the solar system, Dr Maggie’s Grand Tour runs Saturn-sized rings around other children’s space books. As well as a history of space and current scientific knowledge, this book is always trying to make children think and look to the future.
Emily Windsnap and the Pirate Prince is ideal for children in years 5&6 who like to rip through book after book of adventure based thrills and spills. The unique combination of fantasy-tinged seafaring thrills combined with contemporary characters will appeal to a wide demographic of children.
Brilliant Brainz is a vibrant and interesting magazine for children aged 7-11, and one which is ideal for classroom and school libraries. With a wide variety of topics each month, including art, philosophy, music, food, science, sport and tech – there’s something to grab every primary aged child.
When It Rains is perfect for reading aloud and in small groups with EYFS and KS1 children and great for discussing different points of view and ways of looking at problems in circle time.
The Girl Who Learned All the Languages of the World is highly recommended for children aged 8-11 who are interested in languages and discovering new words. It would be a great left-field choice for a class reader or book club text and is well-suited for reading aloud.
This startling debut novel is bound to appeal to older teen readers who want something slightly different to read in one or two sittings. It would be perfect for Year 9, 10 and 11 book groups and reluctant readers in KS4 who want a book with bite.
This fun new anthology of poems about the kings and queens of Britain & Ireland is an ideal class reader for Year 5 & 6 history topics or creative writing.
Set in Budapest in 1944, this graphic novel follows the life of Peter, a child, who goes into hiding with his family when the Nazis occupy Hungary during the second world war.
The Dark Wild by Piers Torday