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Best Books This Month – November 2019

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November 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 November 2019…

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Katharine Orton
Chapter book

‘Sometimes it takes a little courage to discover magic.’

Lina, a brave and quick-witted eleven-year-old, has lived all her life in a brutal Russian prison camp, hidden away in the perilous, frozen wilderness. She becomes part of a daring escape plot and, along with her best friend, Bogdan, attempts to journey to freedom. However, this is not just a tale of survival against the elements – there have always been rumours of magic, shadow-wolves and evil lurking in the woodlands – but Lina begins a journey of self-discovery and finds she has abilities she never knew about. Lina’s story is also one about personal growth and her character reminded me of Lyra in Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. Other characters’ stories slowly interconnect and are well fleshed out and developed.

I enjoyed this quick-moving story immensely. Lina is instantly likable and easy to empathise with. The initial setting of a Russian labour camp is a unique element which hooked me in further. The magical elements of the story are slowly introduced as the narrative progresses – characters scoff at magic to begin with but all (including some of Lina’s bulking, ruthless fellow escapees) are instantly terrified when they first encounter supernatural elements.

Katharine Orton’s writing is clear and captivating. Nevertell is a magical, snowy adventure, best appreciated snuggled-up on the sofa on a wet and windy afternoon.

Avalon Nuovo
 & David Doran

This stylish non-fiction book about the orchestra hits all the right notes to inspire and inform children in primary schools.

The compendium of all things musical includes sections on individual instruments of the orchestra, a diversity of notable composers and famous pieces of music and finally a section about musicology including modern music and music technology. The tone of the text conveys clear passion for the subject matter and the author is quick to point out how music is all around us in both nature and culture. David Doran’s stylish artwork makes you almost want to reach in and try out the instruments for yourself and despite our recommendation, we take no responsibility for children pestering parents to organise clarinet or double bass lessons after being exposed to this book (perhaps the cover should come with a warning!).

Through text, illustrations and diagrams, the book contains scores of information about different aspects of music and is a real must-have to support your music curriculum in school as well as to offer as an enjoyable non-fiction read for pleasure.

Andrea Beaty
 & David Roberts

A new rhyming picture book from the popular Questioneers series (popular for Rosie Revere, Engineer & Iggy Peck, Architect). Sofia Valdez is a Mexican-American girl who campaigns for improvements in her local area, showing the difference that individual voices can make when they engage and get involved with their communities.

Aurélie Chien Chow Chine

Often young children find it difficult to put big emotions into words and even more difficult to know what to do to help themselves. Little Unicorn is Angry is part of a new series that explores emotional literacy through the character of a unicorn with a mane that changes colour with his different feelings. The illustrated stories are appealing, colourful and well-pitched for children in early years classrooms.

Little Unicorn loves playing with his toys but sometimes things make him bubble up with anger, like when it is time to stop playing and get in (or out of) the bath or when Daddy refuses to carry him all the way to school and expects him to walk. Little Unicorn feels like a big, black stormcloud has landed inside him. In response, Little Unicorn learns to try a calming breathing exercise and encourages young readers to join in too.

My own young children found Little Unicorn very easy to identify with (the bathtime scene is all too familiar) and loved listening to his stories. The calming breathing exercises are a great tool to learn but even more powerful is the way different emotions are named and defined using a combination of story context, different colours and weather clouds.

This is a promising new series and an excellent tool for developing emotional literacy. Also currently available in the series is Little Unicorn is Sad.

Zoë Tucker
 & Zoe Persico

Greta and the Giants is a new picture book containing a fictionalised forest story inspired by Greta Thunberg, the Nobel Prize nominee who has stirred people to action worldwide through the youth climate movement. The book itself is printed on 100% recycled paper and with every purchase a donation is made to GreenpeaceUK.

Greta is a young girl who lives in the forest. The forest is beautiful but is threatened by a group of giants, who chop down trees to make big houses and have extended their busy city until there is nearly no forest left. Greta realises that the forest may soon disappear but the unthinking giants are too busy to listen. When some of the forest animals approach Greta to ask for help in saving their home, she has an idea to make herself small. As a single voice, the lumbering giants will never take notice, but once other people and animals notice her peaceful protest and decide to join too, soon the giants begin to see their actions in a new light.

The vibrantly illustrated story allegorises the spirit of Greta’s real campaigns while putting it into words and pictures that are accessible to even the youngest of children. There is an additional section at the back of the book with information about the real Greta and some positive actions that everybody could take to make a difference to the environment.

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