August - Books of the Month

The Booksfortopics August 2018 Top Picks
 

Five of our top recommended new children's books this month.

Secrets of a Sun King

Emma Carroll

Emma Carroll never disappoints and this story is, in my opinion, her best one yet. Filled with historical intrigue, intelligently drawn characters and Emma's trademark style of controlled, gripping narrative, this is a story I will be recommending far and wide.

 

The story is set in 1922 around the time that Howard Carter famously excavated Tutankhamun’s tomb. Thirteen-year-old Lilian Kaye enjoys following the newspaper reports about Carter’s progress and feels especially drawn to the story since her elderly grandfather used to be an Egyptologist. When a mystery parcel appears for her grandad, Lilian is excited and unnerved to find it has come from a famous Egyptologist who happened to be found dead the same morning.

 

The parcel generates more questions than Lilian is able to answer. Lilian is thrilled when an opportunity soon arises to join a voyage to Egypt. What follows is an exciting adventure that will take Lilian to the very heart of Howard Carter’s fascinating discoveries.

 

Woven into Lilian’s story are letters from Ancient Egyptian times, detailing the last days of the young sun king and his closest friends. 

 

Rich in historical details and moving at a pleasing pace, this is a gripping story with plenty of mystery to get stuck into. The characters are convincing, each with well-developed complexities that explain their motives and behaviours. Dynamics of race and gender are explored compassionately and this aspect of the book has the potential to lead to some promising discussions in the classroom.

 

 

This book also features on:

Knights and Bikes

Gabrielle Kent, Rex Crowle & Luke Newall

Knights and Bikes is a super-impressive adventure story from new kids on the publishing block, 'Knights Of', who are committed to diversity in children's books and to including “as many perspectives as we can squeeze into the making of each book”. This was a real feel-good story that was all at once quirky, uplifting and adventurous, with a dose of 80s nostalgia thrown in for good measure.

 

Knights and Bikes, based on a computer game of the same name, is the story of two girls who undertake an exciting adventure on the island of Penfurzy. Demelza expects nothing exciting to happen on the island, until she meets a like-minded friend called Nessa and the pair dream up an adventure together.

 

Along with a pet goose called Captain Honkers, the two friends set off on their bikes on a rip-roaring quest to find the treasure that is reportedly hidden in a mystery castle by the Penfurzy Knights.

 

The quirky story is fast-paced and filled with action and the right amount of humour. I enjoyed the warmth portrayed in the developing friendship between Nessa and Demelza. I also really liked how the pair demonstrate bravery, adventurousness and an aptitude for problem-solving as a natural part of their personalities.

 

This is a stonkingly energetic adventure story that is bags of fun and an excellent debut from a publisher that the children’s book world is watching with eager eyes.

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The Skies Above My Eyes

Charlotte Guillain & Yuval Zommer

Some books are made for sharing and 'The Skies Above My Eyes' is a wonderful example of one. The book folds out into a beautifully-illustrated 2.5m long double-sided journey up through the layers of the atmosphere, with small chunks of informative text along the way.

 

Starting on ground level with a girl standing on a busy street, readers can follow her gaze upwards to pass towering skyscrapers, various aircraft and space vehicles and finally to planets and stars. On the reverse, the girl lays on the grass at the foot of a mountain, looking up towards birds, paragliders, through weather systems, meteoroids and comets. 

 

Much like its predecessor 'The Street Beneath My Feet', this book is likely to be a huge hit in the classroom as children will love gathering around the fully folded-out pages to pore over the many details and facts hidden around the different layers of the atmosphere. The text helps to direct the reader to tiny details that they may not have already spotted in the illustrations. Reading the information from the bottom to the top on one side and then the opposite way round on the reverse feels like jumping into a spacecraft and blasting off on a trip to the ends of the solar system and then descending back to the Earth's surface.

 

Yuval Zommer’s bold and bright illustrations are hugely appealing and joyful as he masterfully captures the variation of hues and textures that make the skies above us such a visual delight. The thick paper of the book's concertina pages feels durable and ready to withstand being opened out and refolded many times.

 

This is a book that young readers will love to treasure and share and one that will hold a strong appeal across the whole primary age range. 

 

 

This book also features on:

Tomorrow

Nadine Kaadan

Tomorrow is a poignant picture book offering a window into what life might be like for children living under conditions of war, portraying the all-consuming darkness that war can bring into family life. A young boy called Yazan lives in a war-torn Syrian town. Yazan senses everything changing around him as he is no longer allowed to visit the park or to enjoy playing outside in the street.

 

Even Yazan’s parents are changing. His mother watches the news with the volume turned up and his father fearfully makes phone calls before daring to leave the house. Fear and anxiety invade the household like a dark cloud filling each room with gloom and despair.

 

Yazan is bored of being stuck inside and decides to cycle to the park by himself. Venturing outside, he sees the once lively streets are now desolate and crumbling. To Yazan’s relief, his father appears in time to take him back home and the family work together to create a new way to bring some colour and joy back to the house despite the troublesome circumstances outside.

 

Tomorrow is an important and accomplished picture book that evokes empathy and opens avenues to start discussing real experiences for other children around the world. The use of pattern and colour is wonderfully striking, with splashes of colour amid the gloom and a joyful final page that leaves the story with hints of hope.

 

This book also features on:

The Book of Boy

Catherine Gilbert Murdock

The Book of Boy is a fresh and unexpected pilgrim tale in which nothing is quite as it seems. This is the type of skilful narrative where you start reading the story feeling realms apart from its setting and finish the book feeling emotionally absorbed into its world.

 

The year is 1350 and in medieval France this is a special year of holy pilgrimage. With Europe freshly recovering from years of devastating plague and violent wars, death was everywhere and many people looked to religion or superstition to find certainty of a welcome in paradise in the next life. Pilgrimage, relics, holy places, monetary “donations” and prayers to the saints were all high up on the list of means by which people tried to guarantee a pardon for sins and entry to the spiritual afterlife.

 

In the same year, we join a young goatsherd called Boy who understands how it feels to be different from everyone else. As a hunchback, Boy is used to being bullied by children and adults in the household he serves. Boy’s world changes when a strange pilgrim called Secundus requests that Boy accompany him on a pilgrimage across Europe. Secundus is engaged in a quest to find a list of particular relics of St Peter and, believing that finding them all will save his soul, will go to any length to recover them.

 

During the quest, Boy begins to uncover secrets about himself and his own unusual body shape. Boy’s story of identity and self-acceptance is beautifully touching and unexpected. While the historical setting is interesting and fairly unusual for a children’s book, what makes this narrative so transfixing is the unravelling of Boy’s mystery origins as he undertakes his own journey of discerning who he is and who he wants to be.

 

The Book of Boy is an absorbing read with a fascinating setting and moving narrative, mixing elements of fantasy with historical fiction. With relatable themes of identity, self-acceptance and the deceptiveness of appearances. I highly recommend this to readers in KS2 who are looking for something a little bit different to read.

 

This book also features on:

 

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You can buy these books online by clicking on the links provided, or from your local book shop or library.

More new releases for August
Click each book cover to view on Amazon.
Once Upon a Wild Wood
Sherlock and the Baker Street Curse
Voyage Through Space
How to Help a Hedgehog and Protect a
Sweep
A Tangle of Magic
Flight
Wilderness Wars
Girls Can Do Anything
The World of the Whale
The Night Dragon
A Chase in Time
Caged
The Wild Robot Escapes
Peril in Paris
The Girl With the Dragon Heart
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