April - Books of the Month


The Booksfortopics April 2018 Top Picks

Five of my favourite new children's books this month.

The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day

Christopher Edge

This is a story like nothing I’ve ever read before, but I loved it from start to finish. If somebody had pitched to me a children’s book covering topics of entropy, relativity, black holes, the Möbius loop, Escher's art and virtual worlds in gaming, I may have laughed at the idea. Unless of course the book's author is Christopher Edge, who true to form has managed to accomplish it triumphantly as part of a wonderfully absorbing and emotional narrative that is as fantastically exciting as it is accessible.

The story’s main character, Maisie, is a 10-year old girl who is academically gifted and is studying for a degree in physics. When she wakes up on the day of her 10th birthday, Maisie is excitedly hoping to receive the components to build her own nuclear reactor as her birthday present, but what happens next is not at all what she expects. Nobody else seems to be at home and when Maisie opens the front door to find out where her family has gone, nothing at all exists out there except a terrifying, unfathomable blackness. 

Finding herself trapped in an ever-shifting reality, Maisie has to rely on her understanding of the laws of the universe to comprehend what is happening and figure out a way to reach out to her family. As the plot unfolds, details about Maisie’s past are cleverly interweaved into an apparent alternative universe, as each layer of the mystery is unwrapped.

Christopher Edge's storytelling is exceptional and the climax of the book is a brilliantly thrilling twist, making this one of the most gripping stories I have read for a long time and l highly recommend this short and thought-provoking read for upper KS2 and beyond.


Read the full review of The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day on our Reading For Pleasure Blog.


The Rhythm of the Rain

Grahame Baker-Smith

This is a beautiful picture book that explores the remarkable journey of the water cycle, with a gentle narrative that evokes awe at the sheer beauty and scale of nature’s systems. Each double spread features expansive illustrations highlighting water at different stages of its natural cycle and the living things of different types that interact and depend upon it. Sometimes the water is portrayed as sparkling and calm, other times it is dark and mysterious and other times still it is powerful and unyielding.

I am a huge fan of children's books that stimulate reflection and discussion about the majesty of the natural world. This story starts and ends with a young boy called Isaac, who is playing near a stream, and most children will easily relate to this kind of fun with water, even if it is the joy of simply splashing in a paddling pool or bath tub. But the story very quickly pans out to show what a tiny part Isaac plays in the global adventure undertaken by the raindrops collected in his jar. Despite the boy’s best efforts and even his use of a sailing boat, he simply cannot accompany the water any further beyond the river once it reaches the vast ocean and continues its epic journey.

As readers, however, we can indeed be taken along on the journey, and the book clearly demonstrates our privilege to be part of it by offering many marvels along the way. I love the page, for example, that takes Isaac’s water droplets into the depths of the ocean alongside a school of fish heading straight towards the open mouth of an enormous great whale. On the next double-page spread the view pans out again as the whale (now not looking quite so huge compared to the vista of sea and sky) blows the water out in a fountain spray that shoots up towards impressive icebergs and a majestic starry sky. A few pages later the same water finds its way to quenching thirsty African villagers and then flows into a river where elephants and zebra also celebrate its life-giving properties: “Where it goes," we are told, "the earth turns green." This book would make a lovely stimulus for learning about the water cycle but also make for a wonderful storytime to feed curious minds.


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The Buried Crown

Ally Sherrick

The Buried Crown is the newest story from Ally Sherrick, author of Black Powder. Ally is a master of bringing historical fiction to a contemporary audience, concocting an exciting mix of real historical events and characters with utterly convincing fictional elements. The Buried Crown is a hugely exciting adventure set in World War II and one that I will be highly recommending to Upper KS2 classrooms.

The story centres on George Penny, a young Londoner who has been evacuated to the countryside. In his new village, George befriends a German Jewish girl called Kitty, who has been moved to the relative safety of her grandfather’s English home under the Kindertransport programme. Kitty’s grandfather is an archaeologist and from him George comes to learn about a mysterious Anglo-Saxon crown that has been unearthed at a nearby burial site. Before long George finds himself involved in an exhilarating plot to save the treasured Anglo-Saxon crown from falling into the hands of Nazi invaders.

The story is also especially relevant this year with the RAF centenary celebrations taking place, as well as the 80th anniversary of the Kindertransport initiative and a special celebration at Sutton Hoo of women like Edith Pretty, who triggered the archaeological dig during which the incredible Anglo-Saxon discovery was unearthed. In addition to its good curriculum links, I would also recommend it simply as a stonkingly good adventure story full of excitement, magic and danger that makes for a wonderful choice for reading for pleasure.


Read the full review of The Buried Crown on our Reading For Pleasure Blog.


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Nimesh the Adventurer

Ranjit Singh & Mehrdokht Amini

Nimesh the Adventurer is a captivating new picture book about a small boy with a big imagination. As Nimesh walks home from school through a London suburb, he passes by ordinary places like a bakery, a park and rows of houses and shops. But Nimesh’s wonderful imagination takes him on a fanciful adventure where each place he passes becomes excitingly reimagined into pirate ships, ancient caves or exotic gardens, and the journey suddenly becomes populated by dragons, royal princesses and Indian Maharajas.

The illustrations are wonderful and engaging, using a vibrant collage style to capture a layering of the real and imaginative experiences. Each double page spread is filled with patterns and colours that portray London streets but also sing of Nimesh’s own Asian heritage. What is really clever – and will more than likely have readers flicking back and forth to look at previous pages or demand a second and third reading for the fun of spotting it – is that there are small details on each page of Nimesh’s journey home that become the spark for his next imaginative escapade, from skiwear to birthday cakes to handicraft shops.

I really enjoyed this delightful story, which celebrates the important role that imagination and storytelling play for children as they process the world around them and I highly recommend it for EYFS and KS1 to pore over again and again.


Read the full review of Nimesh the Adventurer on our Reading For Pleasure Blog.

Just Jack

Kate Scott

Just Jack is a modern and entertaining story about losing the courage to be yourself and then finding it again. I really enjoyed the relatable characters, the relevant themes and the way in which the voice of Jack narrating the story is really authentic. The result is that the reader is carried along on an empathetic journey with Jack, rooting for him every step of the way.

Since Jack’s dad moved out, Jack and his mum have moved house lots of times. This means that Jack has had to start at new schools lots of times too. In fact, Jack is becoming so used to starting afresh that he has become an expert at blending into new groups, even when it means pretending to be someone he is not. The problem when Jack tries this strategy at his newest school is that Jack knows really he is not just like the others and his survival strategy begins to fall apart when he meets another boy called Tyler. Tyler is clever, inventive and unique and is completely unafraid of staying true to himself. As Jack begins hanging around more and more with Tyler, Jack starts to realise that instead of pretending to be just like everybody else, it is time to enjoy being just Jack.

Just Jack is a highly enjoyable read that I found hard to put down due to its convincing child voice, relatable characters and relevant themes.


Read the full review of Just Jack on our Reading For Pleasure Blog.

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