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The People Awards -Lilly Murray (Due to be published 7.8.18)

people awardsThis is a really interesting look at an incredibly wide range of historical figures from wide variety of backgrounds.

This would be an excellent starting point to looking at all kinds of historical topics or as a way of inspiring children by taking a look at some unusual choices of people they could aspire to be like themselves.

The list of people detailed here really is huge and ranges from the more obvious figures such as Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln and Isaac Newton to people I had never even heard of myself such as Wangari Maathai, Valentina Tereshkova and Ana Nzinga (a 16th century warrior queen from Angola – how awesome is it to be able to share a figure like that with young readers?)

There is no doubting that some of the figures here can be used to inspire children in their own school learning.

Want to inspire young writers? Have a look at J K Rowling and Hans Christien Anderson, or something a little different like Gabriel Garcia Marquez or even a writer who was closer to their own age and an important historical diarist in Anne Frank.

Got some budding young artists or possible future architects? How about introducing them to Leonardo Da Vinci, Erno Rubik, Antoni Gaudi or Pablo Picasso?

Or, if you’re wanting to help inspire young scientific thinkers then besides those already mentioned, there’s Tim Berners-Lee, Louis Pasteur and Alfred Nobel or female greats from the scientific sphere such as Marie Curie, Valentina Tereshkova and Katherine Johnson (great for helping show girls that science isn’t a subject for boys!).

Young musicians could be inspired by the likes of Beethoven, Mozart, David Bowie while for athletes there’s Rudolf Nereyev, Pele and Muhammed Ali.

Then there’s people who have had an enormous impact on world history such as Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Eva Peron, Jan Amos Komensky, Joan of Arc, Cleopatra, Rosa Parks, Sejong The Great Confucius or even a modern day global figure such as Malala Yousafzai.

And finally, most interestingly for me, there were a remaining list of figures covered who, to my shame, I was either not aware of or had forgotten entirely but who were worthy of mention and could just well be the figures set to inspire the young minds introduced to them through this book. In the interest of fairness to them, and honesty in showing up my own ignorance, the list of people in this book I did not recognise follows thus…
Trischa Zorn, Hanae Mori, Roald Amundsen, Vincent Lingiari, Mary Anning, Sappho, Frida Kahlo, Olaudah Equiano, Antonio Rodrigues, Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Simon Bolivar, Maria Montessori and Tegla Loroupe.

Never before has a book for children made me feel so ignorant to world history as this!

I would definitely recommend this as a must have book for school or classroom libraries – It’s just so full of great starting points that it’s hard not to love it.

People Awards

If You Give the Puffin a Muffin – Timothy Young (Due to be published 28.9.18)

PuffinMuffinWhat an odd and surprising little children’s book this is.

On the surface this is not the usual classroom friendly book with a moral or an underlying lesson. We have a main character with a bit of an edge and a narrative that breaks the fourth wall by including the author as he is writing the book. Which is all a little odd. However, this isn’t a complete exception in children’s picture books as titles like ‘The Day the Crayons Quit’ subvert the usual norm of a lovable lead character and the regular form of story writing as well.

I think the lesson children can take from this book is to just love reading. This is a book made to be read for fun and one which lends itself to further reading too. The Puffin finds a box of magic crayons and uses them to create a door to another world as is seen in ‘Journey’ by Aaron Becker (a beautifully illustrated book I would urge you to check out!), and his use of living crayons naturally allows fora link to be drawn to books by Drew Daywalt. For any grown up s reading this book with children there is also the fact that the puffin is sat reading ‘So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish’ by Douglas Adams, a nice subtle bit of humour to add to a book which is already funny for children.

As far as the text is concerned, the story arc is very unusual but could be used as a writing prompt to celebrate creativity and possibly to encourage children to write themselves into their own story. There is also some rhyme throughout which can be a handy tool for teaching. It isn’t the greatest or most powerful children’s story you’ll ever read, but it’s fun, and sometimes that’s all a book needs to be.

Overall, I liked this book mainly for the fact that it is just a fun read for children that is perfect for helping to encourage further reading. That can only be a good thing.

The Lost Race Car/The Missing Bouncy Ball (Fox and Goat Mysteries) – Misti Kenison (Due to be Published 28.9.18)

I feel like I need to review both of these books together as they are so similar. That isn’t a criticism as it means that they do feel like the beginnings of a nice little series for little ones. These are certainly pitched at a very young audience as a nice way to introduce reading as early as possible.

The text throughout is pitched in a way that means the adult reading is forced to ask a lot of questions to engage the child they are reading with. As a teacher it feels like a lot of the questions are the sort we might ask anyway to ensure engagement of the child but these books might be useful for new parents to give their children a good start with reading.

What I like about both the titles here is that they manage to tell a little story while staying focused on vocabulary that would be useful for children to have before starting school. There is a lot of language of comparison, colours, shapes and sizes which is all very helpful for children to have firmly in place before they start formal education.

The only real criticism I have of these titles, and this is a very personal thing, is that I really struggled to look past these being a bit like ‘South Park’ in illustration style. Detective Goat looks he could be a South Park character and it makes the experience a little odd. This wouldn’t put me off using these to read with pre-school age children, if anything it would just make me want to giggle a little, but it’s just a little odd note.

Idle Days – Thomas Desaulniers-Brousseau (Due to be published 14.8.18)

Idle DaysI love the cover art for this book. It sets up for a dark graphic novel perfectly. It is also interesting to have a world war piece set in Canada rather than the more common European settings.

Unfortunately, that is about all that I liked about this book. The art work throughout feels lazy and muddies the clarity of the narrative to a point where it becomes difficult to maintain interest. A lot of the story is told through pictures alone, in some graphic novels this can be really powerful, but when the artwork isn’t clear enough to carry a story, it just becomes a jumpy mess. What actual dialogue there is in this book is often unrealistic and frequently slows the pace of the story to a complete halt.
In case anyone doubts the slow pace of story telling here, there are whole pages like this…CaptureAnd that isn’t even an unusual extract. In some places four or five pages can go by in that same manner.

Overall,this feels slow, dull and never lives up to the heights set by the cover art. A real shame.

Rusty the Squeaky Robot – Neil Clark

RustyThis is a fun, quick read which is brightly coloured and lovingly illustrated.

The depth to be found in this book is in its celebration of what makes us all unique. Rusty doesn’t like the way he sounds but he comes to realise how great the little things that make us all different can be. This is an obvious and nice teaching point. I’d recommend using this book with children in KS1 or early years. I can already think of a few children I have taught in the past who would have loved reading about a robot in space if nothing else!

A real bonus here is the use of geometric shapes in the illustrations. This book could lend itself to crossing over into the teaching of shape in mathematics lessons as well. This use adds to he usefulness of the book and the style suits the characters perfectly.

A solid book for ages 4-7.

Georgia O’Keeffe (Little People, Big Dreams) – María Isabel Sánchez Vegara (Due to be published 7.6.18)

Georgia O'Keeffe.jpgI have said in previous reviews that I am a fan of this little series of books and not only is this book no exception to that, but I think it might be the best of the series.

This is an excellent introduction to another potentially inspirational female historical figure. The images in this book are perfect in their colouring and style, especially the use of black and white for the city to contrast the colours of nature.

This book could serve a range of purposes working as; an introduction to this particular artist, an addition to nature topics, working on topics relating to colour mixing in art, or looking closer at the things around us. There is an element of biology which can be covered through introducing the idea that we can miss the smaller things like cell structure by only looking at the big picture. I like the amount that can be covered from this one book and can see a range of topics leaping from the page immediately. Add to this that it is only one of a whole series of books like it and you get an idea as to why this is such a great little range.

Harriet Tubman (Little People, Big Dreams) – María Isabel Sánchez Vegara (Due to be published 5.6.18)

Harriet TubmanI love both the premise and the delivery of this series of books. The whole series of ‘Little People, Big Dreams’ books should be a staple of all primary/elementary schools. This is a really accessible introduction to historical figures.

Each book seems to be a good length and an excellent introduction to important figures from history pitched perfectly for young readers. There’s just enough information here to peak a young readers interest without overwhelming them. These books would serve as an excellent introductory piece for a topic or as a good framework for children to write their own non-fiction texts.

As for this specific book, I found it a decent introduction to Harriet Tubman and would use this if I wanted to introduce this subject area in class. I don’t think this is the standout title in the series but it adds some depth and ensures the inclusion of an area which is rarely looked at in UK schools.

Audrey the Amazing Inventor – Rachel Valentine (Due to be published 21.6.18)

Taken purely on face value this is a nice little story about a young child who wants to be an inventor.Audrey.png The illustrations are all nice enough but the narrative and pictures aren’t really enough to make this stand out on their own.

The reason I would recommend this book over many others however is that it serves an important role in promoting a lot of great values children can learn from at an early age.

In the first instance, this book features a girl (Audrey) aspiring to be an inventor and as such immediately stands out as a way to help normalise a view of gender equality is STEM areas of study. Secondly, when Audrey encounters difficulties, she never stops trying. So straight away we have a book focusing on perseverance and breaking down gender barriers.  Add to this the fact that Audrey appears to come from a single parent family and that she delivers the kind of humour that would appeal to children aged 4-7 years old and what we have here is a perfect little picture  book for an early years or KS1 classroom.

Astromouse – Steve Smallman (Due to be published 21.6.18)

AstromouseI chose to read this book purely on the basis that the cover image is exactly the sort of book I would have chosen way back when I was in the target age bracket for this book. It reminded me (as do many of the book’s illustrations) of the sort of films I loved as a kid like Fieval Goes West, Basil the Great Mouse Detective and The Rescuers. I think the early 1990’s childhood version of myself would have been happy with this book choice. It’s a nice little story with some adventure and exploration. Exactly what I would have wanted from a book.

Nowadays, as a teacher approaching this book, my main preoccupations are how it could be used with a class or a group of children. I am happy then to be able to say that this book would definitely be of use in class.

There’s a range of topics this book could help with from design and technology (design your own spaceship?) to science and maths (space, transport and there’s even a lovely image relating to reflection – brings to mind the fable of a greedy dog and a bone seeing its own reflection actually).

So, this book would ordinarily get 4 stars for being useful, interesting and a definite must have for KS1 classrooms. However, it sneaks in a bonus star for its final page. It ends with ideas for comprehension questions, ideas for inspiring writing and even a plan for an art lesson follow up. That’s a feature always appreciated in books for educators!

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