NEW TITLES

From coding to fun with facts, this month's selection highlights great non-fiction as well as a range of contemporary and historical fiction for 7-11 year old readers.

Coder Academy: Are you ready for the challenge?
Sean McManus

Ivy Kids

ISBN 9781782405030

This is a step-by-step guide to simple coding, starting from the very basics of how coding works to increasingly complex tasks and challenges. The basics of binary and coding languages are briefly and clearly explained at the start of the book. Tasks and challenges are interesting and build skills well. Generally, each task has a planning element away from the computer before tackling the coding task, mainly using Scratch. Each task is supported by clear and colourful illustrations. Instructions are easy to follow, although accuracy in copying and typing lists of code is required. Tasks include: creating and animating a character; writing and playing a tune using Scratch 2.0; programming a robot; and designing a simple game and website. This book could be used in a number of ways. It is clearly designed for use by an individual child, but activities could be adapted by teachers to use with a class or smaller groups of children. The balance between in-class and computer activities is good. Children more experienced with computing might find these tasks lacking in challenge, meaning this book is more suitable for those less experienced or just starting out with coding. This book could also prove useful to teachers or parents without a computing background who might want to learn a bit more about coding themselves. Includes A2 poster on careers in computing and press-out robot models (card). 64 pages / Suitable for 6-9 year olds, dependent on coding experience / Reviewed by Paul Gormley, teacher.

Coder Academy: Are you ready for the challenge?
DK Children's Encyclopedia
DK

DK Children

ISBN 9780241283868

Fantastic photographs, clear diagrams and illustrations, concise facts and age appropriate accessible text all come togeather in this great Children's Encyclopedia. It covers a range of subjects including geography, nature, history, science, art to name a few and handily colour codes the pages accordingly. Whilst the weight of this book does not lend itself to whole class teaching, it is perfect to use in small groups to reinforce the features of non fiction books - contents page, index, glossary etc. The children were thrilled when they realised they could retrieve the information from the encyclopedia on a given topic and because if the layout of the page, all the children could access the information either visually from the photographs, illustrations, diagram or the different depth of text and headings. Another useful feature was the 'see also' section on each page, suggesting other listings that could be cross-referenced, allowing the reader to expand their knowledge further if desired. 304 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Laura Anscombe, teacher.

DK Children's Encyclopedia
The Storm Dog
Holly Webb

Stripes Publishing

ISBN 9781847157935

The story follows a small girl called Tilly to Wales when she goes to stay with her grandma and great-grandma. She's learning about the Second World War at school and wants some help from her grandma who was an evacuee in the war. Tilly has to get on the train all by herself for the first time but without realising, she falls asleep. When she wakes up, she discovers that she has travelled back in time and she is living amongst World War Two. In this dramatic twist, she finds herself being evacuated to Wales. Along with her two brothers, they find a farmer called Mr Edwards who offers to take them in. They soon adjust to life on the farm and Tilly makes a new friend. This is an adventure story filled with exciting twists and turns. It shows the power of a dream and the magic that can be found within stories. It has relatively large text but it is quite a long story with some slightly more complex vocabulary. There are some illustrations but not too many so I would recommend it for slightly older readers. A great read to get children thinking about how life hasn't always been this way. 186 pages / Ages 7 + / Reviewed by Lucy Newton, teacher

The Storm Dog
The Accidental Father Christmas
Tom McLaughlin

Oxford University Press

ISBN 9780192758965

Ben asks Father Christmas for the same thing every year - for his father to come home for Christmas - but every year, his wish fails to materialise. So he is starting to wonder if Father Christmas actually exists and, to find out, he decides to set a trap using 147m of string. In doing so, Ben gets far more than he bargained for when he suddenly finds himself an accidental Father Christmas, being pursued by a shadowy group of governement UFO hunters... This story would be great to share in the run-up to Christmas, not only for its humour and fast-paced adventure, but because it does have real heart and warmth. Ben is desperate to have his father home for Christmas and, while he wants to help every child in the world get their present at Christmas, he can't help wondering why his own wish never materialises. There are some lovely moments in the story - Father Christmas losing his memory and being convinced his wife is the Queen; the elves in the North Pole who seem a little on the dangerous side, even if their guns fire bits of potato; and the UFO hunters, determined that this time they will discover alien life.... The humour, action and plentiful twists and turns will keep young readers aged 7+ engrossed in this story about a boy who accidentally finds himself being Father Christmas for the night. The text is simple with a good sized font and supported with black and white illustrations. Look out for others in the series, including The Accidental Prime Minister and The Accidental Billionaire. 240 pages / Ages 7/8+ / Reviewed by Lizz Wells

The Accidental Father Christmas
Caroline B. Alliston

ISBN 9781784938482

A thoughtful, detailed and beautifully illustrated treasure trove of a book containing a wide range of progressive STEM activities for children from 5 to 85. Built It's layout, easy to follow instructions and appropriate scientific detail, lends itself to both the teacher and student who wants to discover and explore practical STEM projects. The activities included allow the user to not just build the models, but also investigate through working scientifically how changing parts might alter the way the model functions. Each activity provides links into some part of the National Curriculum in a fun and easy to follow way and it should be in every KS1 to KS3 teachers library. The Brush Monsters (p26 -31) give circuits whole new twist and Lolly Stick Bridge (p36-39) revives an old favourite with new ideas to stretch budding engineers. The inclusion of control systems, in the form of Crumble and coding challenges, gives this edition the edge over other STEM activities books. The blend of good illustrations, easy to follow instructions, good science and the use of everyday materials makes this book a real winner. As a STEM Presenter with Wonder Workshops, I've had the chance to show Build It to more than 50 Primary school teachers and some head teachers; without exception, they all wanted a copy for their classroom and personal library. This is also a perfect book for home schooling parents and grandparents who want to engage children in a plethora of fun STEM activities at home. Together they can discover new and established concepts in STEM through these engaging and fun projects. Almost all these activities can easily be done at home. If you are looking a beautifully illustrated, progressive, easy to use STEM Activities Book, look no longer. You have found it with Build It by Caroline Alliston. 120 pages / Ages 7-10 years / Reviewed by Bruce Robinson

I'm Just No Good At Rhyming: And Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups
Chris Harris

Two Hoots

ISBN 9781509881048

From cover to cover, this book is full of fun, offering a very irreverent and appealing approach to poetry! Word play and nonsense sit alongside more reflective and thoughtful poems. All are gloriously illustrated. 'My Dessert Tummy' explains perfectly why so many of us can always find room for pudding. Harris and Smith playfully argue through poems like 'I Don't Like My Illustrator' and the picture which accompanies it or 'The Nursery Rhyme - Little Boy Blue' with some words replaced by delicious Greek Food! For a teacher, this collection offers endless possibilities for engaging their children with poetry. Many of these would be wonderful for performing, their bounce and humour making them easy to learn by heart. Using many different layouts and poetic styles, this is a collection everyone will enjoy! 192 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Sue Wilsher, teacher.

I'm Just No Good At Rhyming: And Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups
A Storey Street novel: Scaredy Cat, Scaredy Cat
Phil Earle

Orion Children's Books

ISBN 9781444013931

Kay and her father, Arthur, live in an ordinary house on Storey Street. Something awful (and the reader never finds out what) happened to her mother some years ago and now Arthur has dedicated his life to keeping Kay out of any sort of danger. Sometimes even Kay thinks he goes a bit far in this quest, which includes chopping the sharp corners off loaves of bread, but fear is contagious and Kay has become an anxious, timid child, nervous of everything and everybody - until she notices the strange old man in the wizard's outfit from the house down the road. Is he really a wizard and what does he mean when he says Kay is really a 'mountain lion'? This is a funny and also heart-warming story about Wilf the Wizard (or maybe the Not-Wizard) and Kay, the 'scaredy cat' of the title. Kay follows the strange old man around, becoming more and more convinced of his magical powers, only to be devastated by the truth. Soon, however, it becomes clear that Wilf needs help and Kay, from somewhere, finds the courage to help him in his hour of need, as does her overprotective father. There are wizards (possibly), bullies, dancing cats, bailiffs, illustrations and a writer who keeps popping in to his own story, much like he was telling the story face to face. Confident young readers will enjoy reading this book for themselves but it would also work well read aloud to a child or group of children, because of Phil Earle's interjections. 192 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by June Hughes, school librarian.

A Storey Street novel: Scaredy Cat, Scaredy Cat
Facts!: One for every day of the year
Tracey Turner

Bloomsbury Childrens Books

ISBN 9781408884621

Did you know that an octopus has three hearts, nine brains, and blue blood? Or that the ancient Romans used to leave out large containers in the street to collect the pee of passers-by, which they used to clean laundry and even as a mouth wash to whiten their teeth?! These are just two of the interesting cases mentioned in Facts! One for everyday of the year. As the title indicates, every date has a short factual entry sometimes relating to the actual day itself, for example 5th November is Guy Fawkes Night or 3rd March when Alexander Graham Bell was born, whilst other dates just have an interesting range of general knowledge facts across all subjects. In my year 2 class we use the book for our 'fact of the day' and then at the end of the week we see if we can remember some of the information from the last five days. The book is fun, colourful and clearly presented, making it an interesting dip in and out of book for all ... plus where else could you find out why you would never want to shake hands with a bush baby?? 96 pages / Ages 7-10 years / reviewed by Laura Anscombe, teacher.

Facts!: One for every day of the year
Animazes
Katie Haworth

Big Picture Press

ISBN 9781783708147

A beautifully produced picture book with 'treasure map' style illustrations. Young readers will be able to follow the journeys of some incredible animals as they migrate in search of food and warmer weather. Inquisitive minds will enjoy searching the pictures for detail, identifying the animals, their friends and enemies as they trace the illustrated pathways. Fascinating facts and figures will amaze the entire family and easily entertain the young reader who has yet to develop the reading stamina required by most non-fiction books. This book would be ideal for a young child looking to find out about a particular animal or find out more about these animals when they migrate. Facts are clear and concise, written at points along the 'mapped route'. From the clearly marked red flag at the start children can follow the maze illustrating the animals' journey, reading the fascinating facts along the way. Did you know that reindeer can swim? Or that the Ruby-throated hummingbird weighs around 4g? I think this book would really appeal to a child who not only loves animals but also has a fascination with number, each page includes some mind-blowing statistics. A great discussion starter for both at home and at school. Picture book / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Sam Phillips, teacher.

Animazes
Rising Stars: New Young Voices in Poetry
Various

Otter-Barry Books Ltd

ISBN 9781910959374

Produced in conjunction with SLAMbassadors and Pop-Up, the impressive Otter-Barry publishing company is showcasing young 'rising stars'; in its latest volume of poetry. With stars in the ascendency, it seemed fitting that I turned firstly to Ruth Awolola's 'A Love Letter to the Stars' (p.17). This is a simple and lyrical poem with sweet undertones of its predecessor 'Twinkle, twinkle, little star': Dreams and wishes and hope and light, / Placed perfectly in the sky. / I'll never understand the power of the night, / How it fills me with love or why? Later in the volume, Abigail Cook's affectionate poem 'Brother' (p.47) also offers a powerful star-studded image: One night / we lay on the driveway / and counted every star / in the sky / plucked them and placed them in our pockets / there to light the way for the darkness ahead'... Victoria Adukwei Bulley's clever 'How to Build a Kitchen' (p.34) conjures up a poem that the reader can hear, see and smell using a sprightly question and answer structure: Toast jumping? / a flight into space / and butter melting? / the tide going low /... A simile of chilli falling like red hot rain is accompanied by Riya Chowdhury's illustration of an umbrella being pelted with chillis: simple yet effective! In the current climate of religious discord, Jay Hulme's 'Reflect it back' (p.66) strikes an inclusive and contemplative note. Underlined by Joe Manners' silhouettes of different religious buildings, each verse takes an identical structure with just the building changing: 'temples', 'churches','mosque' and 'synagogues'. The verses then continue thus: Temples welcome you in, / Absorb your silence, / And reflect it back. / The final verse repeats the structure but with 'life' as the heralding word. This is a poem for our times and sorely needed. Children will be drawn to the unusual juxtapositions in Amina Jama's 'City' (p.74). Elanor Chuah's comic-style illustrations do justice to a camel handing me change / as a cashier in Sainsbury's and the synchronised swimmers in / a flooded bathroom. / As well as the freshness of new voices, what characterises all these poets' work is the skill with which they work with complex ideas using apparently simple devices and forms. Listen out for them all in the future! 96 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Alison Kelly, education consultant

Rising Stars: New Young Voices in Poetry
Jack Fortune: And the Search for the Hidden Valley
Sue Purkiss

Alma Books Ltd

ISBN 9781846884283

Jack Fortune is an orphan being brought up with his aunt in eighteenth century England. He is such a trouble to her he gets sent to live with his Uncle. Uncle Edmund does not really want him either, as he is about to embark on an expedition to the Himalayas to find rare plants. So, Jack goes with him to India and then on to the Himalayas. On a terrific adventure Jack meets Maharajas, princes, and villains, as well as seeing places one can only imagine take your breath away. My ten-year-old son took this book to read before I had the chance and his verdict was, 'absolutely brilliant'! I have to say I completely agree with him. This was so exciting and unusual in its theme that I was completely hooked from the first few pages. The combination of historical travel and adventure is so fascinating that as soon as I'd finished, I wanted to read more. (I hope Sue Purkiss is writing more!) It is also so exciting that the story cracks along at a pace that leaves you slightly breathless. Sue Purkiss writes in a very visual way, I could see the scenery and imagine the scenes playing out like a film in front of me. This seems like the ideal book for a reluctant reader; not because the text is simple or over easy, but because it is so exciting - this is going on my list of books for boys - though I can imagine girls will enjoy it just as much. Covering History, Geography, Botany and Art, this story lends itself well to using in class. I have already started thinking of ideas of how to use it with children as well as how much fun it would be to read aloud to a class. 224 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Jacqueline Harris, education consultant

Jack Fortune: And the Search for the Hidden Valley
Skeleton Tree
Kim Ventrella

Macmillan Children's Books

ISBN 9781509828678

When a book with the word 'skeleton' in the title is published close to Halloween, if you're anything like me, you're more than likely to write it off as some Goosebumps-style horror story for children. But Kim Ventrella's Skeleton Tree is not that kind of book. In fact, it is so not that kind of book that it really caught me off guard. 'A beautiful, bittersweet tale of family, love and loss' it says on the back. And the blurb isn't lying. Stanley's dad has left, his sister is seriously ill, his mother is struggling with medical bills (it is set in the US, so no NHS) and, at a guess, mental health issues (although this is not explicit) and his best friend has OCD (not a main factor as it is in Stewart Foster's All The Things That Could Go Wrong and Lisa Thompson's The Goldfish Boy. And then a skeleton grows out of the ground in Stanley's garden and comes to life. The skeleton, to an adult reader, is a metaphor for death, but Ventrella cleverly explores the very real experience of how mixed emotions come into play during the loss of a loved one. The skeleton is funny (there are laugh-out-loud moments) and he brings some light relief to what is otherwise a very sad story. Because this book deals so explicitly with death I would recommend that adults read it first and then make a decision about whether or not it is suitable for their child, or for a child in their class. The book may help some children to explore the emotions felt during a bereavement, for others it may not reflect their experience and might be unhelpful. Many books about death which are aimed at children attempt to provide some sort of explanation as to what happens to someone when they die - this book doesn't really do that, and is better for it. Beliefs differ widely on this matter so is best left to parents to explain. Skeleton Tree is a clever and emotionally-charged children's novel which will be enjoyed by children and adults alike although I acknowledge that it may not be for everyone. It blurs the boundaries between what is real and what is a coping mechanism in a convincing way - the reader only has to suspend disbelief on a couple of matters, and for children that comes naturally. Not many books make me feel as emotional as this one - based on that alone I'd say this book deserves to be on a good number of home, library and classroom bookshelves! 288 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Aidan Severs, teacher.

Skeleton Tree
Eloise Undercover
Sarah Baker

Catnip Publishing Ltd

ISBN 9781910611135

This wonderful adventure story is set in Nazi-occupied France during the Second World War and it tells the tale of young Eloise, whose father and best friend have disappeared. Eloise's world is becoming unrecognisable, with troops patrolling the streets of her small town, curfews in place, townsfolk disappearing and terrible rumours circulating about their fate. With some people collaborating with the occupying forces and a courageous few working secretly for the Resistance, Eloise is unsure whom to trust, yet she is determined to find her missing father and her friend before it is too late. I was utterly gripped by this story to the very last page. The pace of the plot kept me on the edge of my seat, desperate to find out whether Eloise would be successful in her mission. The first-person narrative is skilfully woven to draw in the reader and I loved the central character of Eloise whose bravery, tenacity and resilience shine through. We get to experience danger alongside her and I am sure not the only reader to have found myself holding my breath at some points! Far from being a straightforward adventure, this book has much to tell us about what it must have been like to live in Occupied France. Fear, suspicion, loss and hunger were a daily reality for people and this story shines a light onto an important and dark part of European history, in a way that is appropriate for a Middle Grade audience. It is also a period that holds enduring fascination for many young readers and I for one will be delighted to recommend this book to those readers who regularly return to the library requesting 'another book about the war, please'. I feel sure that they will devour this very special tale, just as I did. 347pp / Recommended age: 9+ / Reviewed by Emily Marcuccilli, school librarian

Eloise Undercover
Illumanatomy: See inside the human body with your magic viewing lens
Carnovsky

Wide Eyed Editions

ISBN 9781786030504

Illumanatomy is a unique non-fiction title that takes you inside the human body. Using the included 'magic viewing lens' images go from brightly coloured abstract pictures to detailed anatomical sketches of different parts of the body. The magic lens lives in a little sleeve on the inside front cover of the book and is like a bookmark with three coloured windows. Looking through each window reveals a different element: red reveals images of the skeleton, green shows images of the muscles and blue reveals the organs. The book is divided into sections focusing on a different area of the body, and each section has three parts: Part Of The Body (an overview); X-Ray Room (a close up view of the skeleton, muscles and organs); the Anatomy Room (black and white anatomical sketches with more detailed information). The book is stunning to look at and fun to explore. I did, however, have two issues with it. First, if the magic lens is lost or damaged, two thirds of the book becomes unusable (except as abstract art). If I were to stock this title in my school library, I would keep it behind my desk and sign it out on request for use in the library only. The second issue is also to do with the magic lens - specifically the blue window. It is dark. Very dark. It is almost impossible to make out anything through the blue lens unless you're standing right next to a very bright light. Even then, I got a bit of a headache from squinting to make out the detail. It improved slightly when used with a torch, but it was a bit awkward trying to balance the book on my lap with the magic lens in one hand and a torch in the other. Despite the issues, it is a spectacular, eye catching book and will be sure to grab the attention of students. It would be a great book to use with a biology class studying anatomy for a fun, novel and engaging way to look at the human body. 64 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Daniel Katz, school librarian.

Illumanatomy: See inside the human body with your magic viewing lens