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Best Books This Month – May 2019

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May 2019 - 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 May 2019…

Vashti Hardy
Chapter book

Fans of Brightstorm will be delighted to see a new middle-grade offering from Vashti Hardy. I just loved being immersed in the world of Wildspark, with imaginary worlds that are as inventive as they are thrilling.

Prue Haywood is an inventive and curious girl who lives on a remote farm. Her aptitude for engineering gains her entry into the exciting world of Medlock and its secretive guild of inventors – but only because she poses as her brother, who really passed away not too long before. I loved following Prue’s journey on the Gigantrak train into the great metal city of Medlock and I read on with wide eyes, as Prue – a farm girl – acclimatises to the bright amber lights and towering structures of the city and the advanced systems and technologies waiting for her at the guild. With the brightest minds developing ways of placing human spirits into animal-like machines, the work of the guild is completely alluring for budding young inventors like Prue.

Prue is driven by a desire to bring her brother to life again, but it’s her warm nature, natural creativity and loyalty to friends and family that really help her the most as she navigates the complex issues of using technology responsibly. The narrative provides plenty to think about; many of the issues raised will resonate with readers growing up in the current generation that’s used to the pace of technologies advancing faster than the Gigantrak itself. I’m sure the book will raise fascinating discussions in many classrooms. Ambitious in length and vocabulary, this is a suitable choice of book for upper KS2 and lower KS3.

Celine Potard & Sophie Ledesma
Picturebook

This book is for anyone who would love learning about monsters from around the world.

From monsters in the woods and hiding in caves to those high in the sky and outer space, this book has a place for all sorts of monstrous creatures from myths and legends. There is also a section that details monsters from modern movies and books. Throughout the pages lurk a whole host of weird and wonderful monsters to meet whose origins span centuries of storytelling, from Voldemort and Gollum to Medusa and the Minotaur.

This is a fun read set out in short bursts that are perfect for young children. The most amazing part of this book is that it comes with its own monster-detecting lens, because the monsters on the pages are in fact hidden and you will need to find them using the 3d anaglyph (groovy red and blue 3d glasses). The book ends with a monster workshop inviting you to trace, draw and take inspiration in order to create your own.

An informative and interactive book with an original twist, this is perfect for young readers with keen eyes and big imaginations.

Reviewed by: Leanne Woolcock, Year 6 Teacher and English Coordinator

Patrice Lawrence
Chapter book

Part of the ‘Voices’ series, which celebrates the experiences of BAME figures in British history, Diver’s Daughter gives a unique perspective into life in Tudor times. Eve and her mother start the story in South London. Eve’s mother was stolen from Mozambique as a child and the story offers insight into the lives of black families in England during this time. Patrice Lawrence paints a vivid picture of life within the cramped and dirty London streets, which transports the reader into Tudor times. The action moves from London to the South Coast and brings in the story of the sinking of the Mary Rose, as well as the fascinating lives of the divers who went to search for its treasures​.​

Lorraine Greogry
Chapter book

A wild, romping adventure with nods to Frankenstein, The Maker of Monsters is a joyfully imaginative children’s story with very human themes of friendship and acceptance at its heart.

Young Brat lives as a servant in Lord Macawber’s castle. Having been on the castle’s remote island ever since he was washed ashore as an orphaned baby, Brat is quite used to his master’s strange experiments. Without human friends around, Brat’s only company is Lord Macawber’s army of ‘creations’; stitched-together creatures brought to life through the act of necromancy. Most of the monsters are terrifyingly dangerous and locked in cages on the various floors of the castle, but Brat forms loyal friendships with a couple of the more placid mini monsters.

When Lord Macawber brings to life his most fearsome monster ever and intends to send his army on a vengeful attack of a nearby city, it falls to Brat to find a way to warn and save the inhabitants. What follows is a fast-paced adventure as Brat races against the clock (and against a whole heap of other obstacles, including prejudice, imprisonment and a city that creates outcasts at every opportunity) to stop the monsters wreaking havoc.

I enjoyed the mix of magic and mayhem, the harmless humour and the breadth of imagination poured into the characters and setting. But the real heart of the story is Brat’s own journey to face the metaphorical monsters within himself. Never having been met with true acceptance or kindness before, Brat’s story demonstrates the transformative power of positive human connection for both individuals and wider society.

A fun, gothic adventure filled with thrills and imagination, The Maker of Monsters will surely be a winner for readers in Years 3-6.

Yuval Zommer
Non-fiction

The Big Book of Birds is a delight for readers young and old. This visually appealing information book showcases the splendour of all sorts of birds, from flamingoes and kingfishers to red-crowned cranes and hoopoes.

Part of a series that also includes The Big Book of Bugs and The Big Book of the Blue, this is the kind of book that is magnetic in drawing in readers in a primary classroom. Yuval Zommer’s winning formula combines vibrant and quirky illustrations with short bursts of accessible text, united in a large-sized compendium that is perfect to gather round and pore over.

Each double-page spread dives into a different avian-themed question, such as ‘Why can’t some birds fly?’, ‘Is a bald eagle really bald?’ and ‘Why does a bird have a beak instead of lips?’. There is never too much text on each page, but what you find is accessible chunks of information interspersed into each illustrated scene. There are interactive aspects too, with extra elements to spot throughout the book. The illustrations are filled with visual delights for young eyes, with text and images working together to build an understanding of the amazing diversity of the bird family tree as well as well-explained insights into their fascinating behaviours and habitats.

A winner of a book to treasure and share, this is highly recommended for readers across the whole primary school.

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