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Best Books This Month – August 2019

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August 2019 - Books of the Month

The Booksfortopics Top Picks for August 2019

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

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Konnie Huq
Chapter book
Cookie’s life is basically over. Her best friend in the whole world is moving to Solihull because one of her dads has a new job there. Solihull?! Where even is that?! Cookie begs her parents for a pet to fill the void but they have given her an absolute NO. It would be way too expensive and way way too messy. But Cookie has never been a fan of the word ‘no’ so she visits the pet shop anyway and sets her heart on the sweetest cutest kitteniest kitten ever: Bluey. But then  – disaster! The most ANNOYING boy she’s ever met in her entire nine years goes into the pet shop, buys Bluey and renames her Nigel. And then he joins her year at school. And if that wasn’t bad enough, he moves in next door to her. But it’s not all bad. Cookie gets the chance to go on her favourite TV show, Brainbusters. It’s only a chance though – she’ll have to win the school science competition first. It shouldn’t be too hard – all she has to do is keep her head down, and not get too over-excited. Unfortunately, that’s not Cookie’s strong point . . .
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.

Jeremy Strong
 & Jamie Smith
Chapter book

There is something about Jeremy Strong books, they have a particular appeal, being both entertaining and slightly wacky. This book is in that same mould and in addition, the format is super child friendly, being both small in size but very inviting and looking like a ‘proper chapter book’!

Nellie Choc-Ice is a well-travelled penguin, who also happens to be slightly accident-prone and just wants to find her way home. Nellie is a very 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.

For its target age of 5-8 year-olds, it works perfectly as an early chapter book; not taking too long to plough through, but instead giving the text in manageable bites with colour illustrations and an easy-to-read font. This is part of a Barrington Stoke set of Little Gems books, designed specifically for young readers starting out reading independently.

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 and Ancient Greece. 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.

Maria Farrer & Daniel Rieley
Chapter book

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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