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August 2019 - Books of the Month

The Booksfortopics August Top Picks

We've picked five of our favourite new children's books this month.

Cookie and the Most Annoying Boy in the World

Konnie Huq

Cookie and the Most Annoying Boy in the World is the beginning of a highly marketable new series from former Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq. With a light-hearted storyline, an authentically childish narrative voice and doodle-style line drawings and charts, the book will hold an instant appeal to fans of ‘Diary of Wimpy Kid’. The science-loving main character will also likely appeal to those looking for stories representing girls interested in STEM subjects.

Cookie is a 9-year old girl who invites the reader to access her innermost thoughts in a recount of a typical few months of her life in a London Bangladeshi family. During this time, Cookie details the quotidian ups and downs of her life as she navigates friendships, school, science competitions and the overwhelming urge to continue asking her parents for a pet.

The plot sees various strands of Cookie’s life tie up as she competes for a place on her favourite TV quiz show Brainbusters, continues her search for the perfect pet, works single-handedly on a science project to make a solar system out of fruit and learns to tolerate her new annoying classmate Jake. Overshadowing everything is her concern about what will happen when her best friend Keziah moves away to Solihull.

Cookie’s stream-of-consciousness narrative is as raw as any nine-year-old’s unfiltered thoughts might be and the humour at times tips into the anarchic, respecting the reader’s intelligence to not have to categorise any of the characters as wholly good or bad. I enjoyed the insights into the inherited attitudes and lifestyle of Cookie’s Bangladeshi family, without this ever being forced or over-stated for the sake of inclusivity. There is enough interest in the set-up to make it easy to imagine the natural flow of subsequent books to expect in the series. With plenty to laugh about, the easy, relatable humour combined with integrated line-doodles makes this a likely book to draw in reluctant readers.

Relatable and humorous, this is an easy-to-read story that is likely to be passed around from pupil to pupil in KS2 classrooms.

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Old Man of the Sea

Stella Elia & Weberson Santiago

Lantana Publishing brings us a stunning picture book offering from the Brazilian duo Stella Elia and Weberson Santiago.

A tender storytelling moment unfolds between a grandson and his grandpa, who says that ‘every line on my skin tells the story of my life.’ Grandpa’s seafaring tales speak of amazing voyages around the globe, joyfully traversing different continents and collecting new stories as he goes. The stories, the seas and the characters encountered along the way sit somewhere between the boundary of real and magical and it never really matters to the reader either way - because stories are stories and the joy here is in the retelling.

Not in the business of colonising, Grandpa’s love of each place he visits is poured out in his lyrical ode to each continent. The only treasures he collects on his travels are the stories with which he fills his luggage as he packs up and moves on from each place. The artwork is wonderful - capturing the spirit of the adventures and the wide-eyed wonder of the young boy as he sits and listens to Grandpa.

This is a truly lovely picture book that enchants as much as it entertains - an ode to adventures real and imaginary and a gentle plea to encourage loved ones to bring to the surface life stories that long to be retold.

Nellie Choc-Ice and the Plastic Island

Jeremy Strong & Jamie Smith

There is something about Jeremy Strong books that give them a particular appeal, being both entertaining and slightly wacky. This book is in that same mould,  yet it cleverly deals with a very topical issue in terms of plastic pollution.

Nellie Choc-Ice is a well-travelled penguin, who also happens to be slightly accident-prone. While attempting to get home via a series of mishaps, she comes across an island that blocks her path. The island is entirely made of plastic rubbish in the ocean. The story makes it clear that the plastic is putting wildlife in danger and that it must be cleared up. Like all good stories, the solution is simple- if only real life could make it happen so easily.

Nellie is an endearing and entertaining character and the illustrations should get a special mention here. They capture the essence of the story brilliantly and bring the whole book to life. The cover alone makes you want to pick it up and see what it is all about. 

Nellie Choc-Ice and the Plastic Island is one of a series of Nellie Choc-Ice books but can be read on its own, as it contains a brief catch-up of the previous stories. This series is part of  Barrington Stoke's set of Little Gems books specifically for young readers starting out reading independently. This format is super-readable and child-friendly, being both small in size but very inviting and looking like a ‘proper chapter book’! My six-year-old instantly wanted to read this book and as the target age range it worked perfectly; not taking too long to plough through, but instead giving the text in manageable bites. Barrington Stoke is well known for their accessible books and this is certainly no exception.

Reviewed by:  Jacqueline Harris, Literacy Consultant

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So You Think You’ve Got it Bad? A Kid's Life in Ancient Rome

Chae Strathie & Marisa Morea

Published in collaboration with The British Museum, this children's information book offers a humorous and informative introduction to daily life in Ancient Rome and has a high appeal to readers in KS2.

Through words and pictures, the book compares modern-day life for children to different aspects of daily life for the Ancient Romans, including clothes and hairstyles, education, family life, pets, food and hobbies. The book sets itself apart from the myriad of other non-fiction texts about the Romans as each topic is viewed through the eyes of a child. Did you know, for example, that emperor Elagabalus was a cheeky prankster who was known to feed his dinner guests food made of wax? If you think that your school has too many rules, wait until you read about the vow that new students at gladiator school had to make. And the next time you begin to think that your bedroom is too small, spare a thought for Roman slaves, who often had to sleep in the doorway to their master's bedroom. 

This is the third in the 'So You Think You've Got it Bad' series, with the other titles focusing on Ancient Egypt (available here) and Ancient Greece (available here). This is the kind of non-fiction series that makes the information visual, presenting facts through speech bubbles, diagrams and bright cartoon-style illustrations as well as accessible chunks of text.

This is the kind of book that helps young readers to move beyond hard facts and begin to reflect on what life might have felt like for those living in ancient times. 

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Me and Mister P: Maya's Storm

Maria Farrer & Daniel Rieley

Maya's Storm is the latest instalment of the 'Mister P' series of insightful stories about a polar bear who unexpectedly visits different families facing a range of different real-life situations, from living with physical disabilities to being young carers. Each brilliantly entertaining story works as a standalone and is well pitched for readers in lower KS2 or as a read-aloud to be shared together.

This story features Maya, who once lived in another country but now lives with her new family in a coastal village in England. She lives with Mum, Dad and an older brother and sister. Granny Anne lives in a cottage not far away and helps Maya to create a memory box when she was feeling sad about losing her family. She says that as you get older your memories sometimes disappear so it is important to keep them somewhere safe. Maya thinks Granny Anne is joking, but her Mum and Dad are worried about her as she keeps forgetting things.

One evening, Maya sees something strange out of her bedroom window in the sea. After following some clues, they find a polar bear whose luggage tag tells them that his name is Mister P. Now Maya and Granny Anne must work together to keep Mister P a secret from Mum and Dad, whilst still having many adventures along the way!


Although we are never told exactly what happened to Maya’s family, the book subtly alludes to the fact that she is a refugee and has lost her family. After just the first two pages, children may have many questions about Maya’s past: What happened to her family? Why did Maya have to leave her family? Will she see her family again? The story also sensitively deals with a family member having dementia. The more time that Maya spends with Granny Anne, the more she realises that Granny Anne does seem to be forgetting things. Will she tell Mum and Dad about Mister P and get Granny Anne the help she needs?


Charming illustrations coupled with the short chapters make Me and Mister P: Maya’s Storm accessible and appealing to independent readers experiencing their first chapter books.

Reviewed by:  Kirsten Hopwood, Year 3 Teacher

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