August 2020 - Books of the Month
More new releases for August
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If you are already a Tom Palmer fan, you will know to expect from After the War - a touching, concisely told yet never dumbed-down, story of childhood during wartime. If you are new to his books, then prepare to be astounded. Tom Palmer has a rare talent for making the truth of the past accessible to children without watering down the horrific facts or emotional impact, a skill already demonstrated in his previous books, Armistice Runner, D-Day Dog and Over the Line, but in its best evidence yet here. After the War opens with a foreword explaining the factual basis to this story of the ‘Windermere boys’, 300 refugee children who were temporarily relocated to Cumbria at the end of WWII after being rescued from concentration camps. This is hugely helpful in settling the reader into what to expect of the story ahead and flagging up the timely theme of treatment of refugees. The story begins in the summer of 1945, as a plane descends into the Yorkshire hills, carrying Jewish child survivors of the Holocaust. Yossi, 15, is traumatized, anxious, untrusting, always alert to danger. Through flashbacks, we gradually learn Yossi’s story, from the day war suddenly arrived in his sleepy Polish village in the form of a German bomber, through being interned in a Jewish ghetto and being forced to work in a clothing factory to his eventual destination, the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Theresienstadt. Balancing between the flashbacks to the horrors of the past and the hope of the future is the present, where the boys gradually settle into Yorkshire life, a place where they learn food is not scarce, uniformed men can have kind eyes, and boys can ride bicycles again. With Tom’s trademark very short and super-readable chapters, the direct text lets the story shine through straight and true, without ever being overly simplistic in either intent or vocabulary. After the War would make a fantastic class reader for Year 5/6, although I doubt any teacher could make it through without a wobble in their voice at least once a chapter. I spent the majority of the book with a lump in my throat, either at the things that children had been through or at the small touches of kindness shown to them by the local community, which gradually help them to open up to the world again. The WWII genre is a crowded market, but After the War elbows its way to the front as a stunning reflection on the impact of war, perfectly pitched for a UKS2 audience. Buy Online Arlo the Lion Who Couldn't Sleep Catherine Rayner Many of us can relate to the frustration of a sleepness night - especially after this past week of too hot, too stormy or too rainy bedtimes! Arlo the lion is no exception; he is struggling to sleep and feeling helpless at being all out of ideas for what to try next. Arlo meets Owl, who offers a different perspective. He learns that Owl can sleep through the day - even through the sights and sounds of all the other animals being awake. Fortunately for Arlo, Owl has some sleep-inducing tricks of her own that might just help Arlo too. Owl teaches Arlo a bedtime song, which focuses on thoughts of happy places, a relaxation of the body, a slowing down of breathing patterns and meditation about sinking into the soft ground. The song works a treat, but in his excitement over his new found success, Arlo accidentally wakes other animals up! Happily though, they can use the song too to settle back to sleep. Parents may like to encourage small children to give Owl's song a try - or at least one or two elements of the toolbox of strategies it incorporates. The story meets young listeners in the frustrating experience of sleeplessness and moves them gently onwards by empowering little ones with mindfulness techniques tools to try for themselves. This is a beautifully illustrated tale with a soft, dusk-like palette that blends Arlo's gentle yellows and browns into the tranquil landscapes of wide, evening skies - almost as if the pictures themselves are willing Arlo to let go and settle into sleep. In fact, the whole story, with it's gentle pacing and dreamy repetition, is a perfectly pitched winding-down story for busy children at bedtime. Buy Online Cities of the world Becky Davies & Josie Portillo Becky Davies and Josie Portillo have produced a vibrant and engaging picture book guide to some of the world's most famous capital cities. The layered pages have paper cutouts that follow the various skylines of the famous cities so, for example, you can see London's Shard poking up in the background of Tokyo, waiting to be visited by the reader place by place. The illustrations are bold and busy, with lots to see and learn - reflecting the hustle and bustle of each capital city and the way it is brought to life by colourful people enjoying tourism or daily life there. The top of every page offers information including the population, climate, national tree or animal and the flag of the relevant country. There is also a short overview, before the rest of the information is fitted into fact boxes that are scattered across the page. The information is a suitable mix of interesting facts about the human and physical features and also about the people who live there and their lifestyle habits. There are twelve cities covered in total and six of them are European. This book would be a fantastic starting point for further research on a specific city or for comparing various cities. At the back, there is a world map with many other famous capitals marked. A lovely information book for would-be travellers and budding city explorers, particularly those in the 4-7 age bracket. Just make sure that eager young readers look after the layered, peep-through pages! Buy Online The Siege of Caerlaverock Barbara Henderson In a draughty castle in Scotland in the year 1300 , a young laundress called Ada creeps into the tower to clandestinely deliver bread to the captured English noble Colban Graham. Unfortunately, Ada thinks she’s been spotted helping the prisoner by cruel Castle Commander, Brian de Berclay, and he will want her head to roll. Soon, however, this becomes subsumed into a larger problem – Scotland is at war with England, Lord Maxwell is away with most of the fighting men, Caerlaverock is the first castle over the border and King Edward is on his way to lay siege with an army of 3,000… At only 159 pages, and mainly set over the course of one day, this is a story that zips along like one of the arrows fired over the castle ramparts. Written in the first-person, we see from the inside how Ada copes as she tries to balance the many competing demands on her time and thoughts – can she help the prisoner, keep her new friend Page Godfrey safe, find out what de Berclay is up to and finish all her chores, all while an army storms the castle walls? With all that plot going on, it is a wonder that Barbara Henderson finds space to bring the harshness of the Middle Ages so vividly to life, with all the damp and cold and stink that entails, as well as several well-realised characters – I particularly enjoyed Brian de Berclay’s sneering Sheriff of Nottingham vibe. Fans of historical adventure fiction will love this book. There is much to learn about the time period (aided by the comprehensive glossary and timeline provided at the end) but the learning is done lightly, wrapped up in a page-turning mixture of action, intrigue, betrayal and friendship. An excellent introduction breathing life to a period many children may know little about. Buy Online Belonging Street Mandy Coe f you are looking for an anthology of uplifting, thought provoking poetry that has a real impact in the Key Stage 2 classroom, then ‘Belonging Street’ is the perfect collection for you. The life affirming ‘You are Here,’ on the first page is a wonderful introduction and sets the positive and optimistic tone for the poems to come with the final line; ‘You are Here! You are Here!’ The book is jam packed with original verse; all of them perfectly written for reading aloud - well suited for both pure enjoyment and also as a base for children’s own poetry within their English lesson. Each poem explores different aspects of a child’s life; from rainy days in ‘Puddle Ocean’ to wandering around a house at night in ‘Tiptoe’. ‘Helping Hands’ touches on the complexity and diversity within each and every family; it really is beautiful to read and savour, while ‘Save You’ would be a really powerful poem to use as part of topic work around conservation. There's a tone of warmth and wonder in the collection's everyday observations that encourages the reader to find so many things to enjoy in the mundane moments that they share with those around them. Themes of inclusion, positivity and seeing the world through the eyes of others weave through the collection as well as a sense of humour and playfulness that sees puzzles and riddles mixed in with the poems. Belonging Street would be a great investment for every Key Stage Two classroom reading area.