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Best Books This Month – July 2018

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Best Books This Month - July 2018

It’s easy to feel lost in the flood of so many new children’s books available. Each month, we pick five of our recently published favourites.

Check out our Review Panel’s top picks for you to read in July 2018…

Tania Unsworth
Chapter book

Stella Martin can remember how happy everything seemed at home before her mother died but now she feels increasingly alone and isolated. When a new girl called Cam arrives, Stella is happy to enjoy a blossoming friendship.

Stella is pleased to have a friend to confide in as there is a lot on her mind, especially when she begins to suspect a highly unusual secret about her mother. Why is there such a strange family relationship with water? Are Grandma’s odd comments about mermaids just part of her dementia or is there more to them? What does the picture of a mermaid drawn by her mother mean and why had it been hidden away? Stella decides it is time to investigate her suspicions and she sets off on a mission to uncover the truth.

What follows is a thoroughly gripping adventure with dark twists and turns, fascinating characters and just the right amount of suspense to keep readers’ eyes glued to the pages until a resolution has been reached (I read this in one sitting). The difficult themes of bereavement, dementia and abusive relationships are handled with due sensitivity and there is nothing too frightening in this unusual story, with plenty to feel optimistic about at the end.

With a highly original concept, mesmerising storytelling and a beautifully portrayed exploration of character identity and relationships, I highly recommend this for Years 5-6.

Sandra Dieckmann
He came over the pastures like a mean thunderstorm… fast as lightening was the dirty dog. All of the animals of the valley lived in peace and harmony until the big greedy dog appeared. He was so greedy that he gobbled up everything he could see! Happily for our animal friends, there was plenty of room for them all to live and play in the dog’s big bad belly. Perhaps it’s not so great to be the biggest and baddest animal in the valley after all…
Gill Lewis
Chapter book

This is a thought-provoking novel that explores the connection between children and the natural world, published in Barrington Stoke’s ‘super-readable’ and dyslexia-friendly style. The book is short and unintimidating and taps into important issues that interest and concern young readers, making it a suitable choice for children in the 7-9 age bracket and also for older, less confident readers.

Izzy and her friend Asha live in London and feel like there is no space to play. Looking for a new space to roam freely, the friends stumble across a derelict gasworks building and soon discover that among the rubble there is a growing miscellany of wildlife already finding shelter there, including a wolf. Unsure whether to approach the wolf, the children can see that the creature is suffering an injury and is in desperate need of help. The children need to tap into their connection with the wild as they attempt to save the wolf and speak up for creating a new nature reserve in the city.

The bond between children and nature is strikingly portrayed in the story and there is an encouragement too for young people to make heard their unique perspective when it comes to ‘rewilding’. Gill Lewis has created an important and moving story about how essential it is to retain dedicated outdoor spaces for people and wildlife to roam freely within the context of busy urban landscapes, because there is a little bit of wild inside us all that otherwise risks being lost in the crowdedness of modern life.

Nicola Davies
 & Emily Sutton

Poetry meets science and art in this beautiful picture book anthology of sea-themed poems. Each double page spread explores a different aspect of the sea, from pebbles and sandcastles to whales and puffins to lighthouses and sailors. Each new aspect is drawn out in beautifully poetic language that makes the reader reflect with awe at the natural and man-made wonders of the sea, the pleasure it provides and the unanswered questions it holds.

Laurel Remington
Chapter book

The Polka Dot Shop was for me a very enjoyable read, exploring themes of friendship, family, mental health and valuing entrepreneurialism among young people.

13-year-old Andy is the only pupil in her school who is not keen on the new no-uniform policy. While her classmates talk endlessly about fashion and look forward to weekend shopping sprees, Andy has to wear pre-loved clothes that come from her mum’s run-down vintage boutique.

One day, Andy finds a bag of high-quality designer clothes at the back of the shop and suddenly she spots an appealing outfit and begins to see a renewed potential in the pre-used fashion business. But in order for her plans to come to fruition, Andy will need a little help from her friends, a dose of business acumen and huge amounts of determination to find a way to transform the boutique and keep everyone happy along the way. Andy and her mum also need to find a way to bridge their growing divide by beginning to see things from each other’s perspectives, which is not an easy journey for either of them.

I really enjoyed the way that young entrepreneurialism was presented so positively in this story. There is a lot of warmth in Laurel Remington’s writing and the characters are hugely relatable with realistic relationships portrayed, plus a hint of budding romance. This book is suitable for upper KS2+.

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