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Best Books This Month – March 2018

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March - Books of the Month

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 March 2018.

Mini Grey

A twist on the traditional Little Red Riding Hood story with a clear message about environmental sustainability. When Little Red is invited in for tea at the Last Wolf’s house, which also happens to be the home of the Last Lynx and the Last Bear, she soon comes to empathise with her new friends as she learns how the destruction of their natural habitat is the cause of the endangering of a number of wonderful forest species. After she is chaperoned home, Little Red sets about to make a plan to help restore some of the damage and learns how to plant new trees to repopulate the forest for the future. Humorously detailed illustrations, timely themes and a link to traditional tales make this a great book for the whole school to get their teeth into.

Roman Belyaev

This is a superb non-fiction text that incorporates history, geography and STEM by exploring the topic of lighthouses through a series of interesting questions. The text has both simplicity and depth which means that you could use it across the whole primary age range and I can imagine it pairing really well with related popular children’s fiction, such as Ronda and David Armitage’s ‘The Lighthouse Keeper’ books in KS1 or Emma Carroll’s ‘Letters from the Lighthouse’ in KS2. It is also a great example of a non-fiction text that could be read for pleasure over and over just because it is fascinating in itself.

Each double-page spread addresses a different question about lighthouses, such as ‘What Is it Like on the Top Deck?’, ‘How Does the Light Shine So Far?’ and ‘What Happens When It’s Foggy?’ and the text is cleverly structured so that each question builds on knowledge from the previous pages.

Accompanying the text are striking illustrations in primary-coloured tones, designed to emphasise the yellow light across the blue of the water and the reds of the lighthouse structures. The diagrams show a range of lighthouse types from all different angles and tend to highlight the way in which lighthouses are carefully constructed and engineered according to their geography and purpose. This is a text that covers the topic in such a way that every page is interesting and appealing and at no point through the book does the topic lose appeal. On the final pages, the reader is challenged to walk through the steps of designing their own lighthouse. A highly recommended addition to your primary library.

James Nicol
Chapter book

Following on from the much-loved ‘The Apprentice Witch’, James Nicol returns with the second story in the series. The magical world of ‘A Witch Alone’ is an immersive one that balances all different kinds of magic, from the dark and dangerous kind lurking in the woods to the warm and wonderful kind where compassion resides and a tea and cake can solve everything.

The story sees the return of Arianwyn, a newly-qualified witch who needs to find courage and self-belief as she seeks to work her magic to help those around her. Somewhat thrown in at the deep-end, Arianwyn returns to the town of Lull as the resident witch and is immediately kept busy by the demands of the townspeople, whether it’s removing bogglins from farmers’ fields or dealing with infestations of tamble-rats and nesting snotlings. However, there are much bigger fish to fry, as the High Elder has set Arianwyn a secret magical mission that will require courage, perseverance and skill. And alongside it all there’s the small matter of Arianwyn’s old rival Gimma making an appearance and acting very strangely indeed.

James Nicol’s style of storytelling is cosy and compelling. There is always enough danger and mystery to give the magical world depth and drive the plot, but never so much that it becomes threatening to the young reader. I recommend ‘A Witch Alone’ to readers across Key Stage 2 who will enjoy magical worlds that mix with the very human themes of courage, friendship and self-belief.

Sophy Henn

This is a truly charming picture book with an empowering message about the power of self-belief, perfect for EYFS and KS1. At the beginning of the story, George the rabbit sits on a tree stump watching his woodland friends busy doing all sorts of clever and fun activities like painting, roller-skating, knitting and dancing. Believing that he can’t do anything like that, George leaves himself with no option but to sit and watch. That is, until a wise old bear observes George’s no-can-do attitude and decides to help him to cultivate some important self-belief.

This is an endearing picture book that encourages young readers to have the confidence to try new things using the ‘magic’ of a positive attitude from within themselves.

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