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Best Books This Month – March 2020

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March 2020 - 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 2020.

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Jennifer Killick
Chapter book

The ultimate story about Y6 residential!

Who is the mysterious bloodstained man who stops their coach? Why is no one around when Lance and the rest of Year Six arrive at the brand new Crater Lake activity centre? But this is just the beginning of the school trip from hell; a fight for survival that sees five pupils band together to save their classmates from an alien fate far worse than death. But whatever happens, they must Never. Ever. Fall asleep!

Dr Dominic Walliman
 & Ben Newman

We are huge fans of this series at BooksForTopics HQ. Take a dive through the different layers of the ocean to the deepest trenches below with our favourite feline scientist, Professer Astro Cat. Each double-page spread offers a highly visual array of facts themed around a different stage of the sea voyage. Starting with fun on the seashore (did you know that most of the white sand in Hawaii is actually parrotfish poop?), we then join Professor Astro Cat as he boards a sea vessel and takes a crash course in navigation and ocean weather. The animals don their diving gear and explore the kelp forests and continental shelf of the shallow zone (find out how the torpedo ray can kill small fish with a 200-volt electric shock) before progressing deeper to discover a host of creatures including sharks and cephalopods. Going deeper still, Professor Astro Cat explores how the bigger and smaller creatures are connected via the food web before heading into the very darkest zones and deepest trenches (where you’ll find out how zombie worms got their name). Every page is highly visual down to the tiniest detail and the selected information is at once interesting and informative, allowing readers to delight in their newfound knowledge and quickly feel like an expert. The book is well suited to children in terms of reading level, design style and interest range.

Judith Eagle
 & Kim Geyer
Chapter book

With The Pear Affair comes a detective story set in the sixties, complete with a search for a missing person, hidden tunnels, and a plot to ruin lives for the gain of a few.

The gripping pace of this story makes this a hard story to put down and the many threads and questions form a very satisfying ending that the reader is not expecting. All of this is set against the beautiful backdrop of Paris, complete with its beautiful hotels, shops and landmarks, its smells and colours, and its exciting hidden depths. A very satisfying read.


Isabel Otter
 & Clara Anganuzzi

Inspired by her Grandpa’s tales of global exploration, a little girl chooses to pen a love letter to the Earth, gently exploring both the diverse beauty and the fragility of our planet.

As Tessa walks with her Grandpa, she listens to his tales of adventures from his days as an explorer. As Grandpa describes different places he has visited, he paints in Tessa’s mind vivid images of the Earth’s diverse natural wonders. Inspired by what she has heard, Tessa decides to write a letter to the planet, letting her imagination flow as she dreams of global explorations of her own. Through Tessa’s imaginative lines, coupled with Clara Anganuzzi’s gently flowing illustrations, the book addresses the aspects of nature that capture a child’s heart and imagination: Tessa imagines sliding down desert dunes, floating in lagoons, gliding like a turtle, flitting with butterflies, sliding and soaring with birds. Tessa wants to revel in the Earth’s natural beauty – to play gleefully in it, to partake, to sense it, to fully experience it, but not for a second spoil it. At the end of her letter, Tessa’s mind falls to thoughts of the Earth’s need for love, care and healing from the damage caused by humans.

Finishing her letter with ‘Love from Tessa’, she holds Grandpa’s hand and together they wander along the beach and discuss what might cause more people to be better at treasuring the Earth instead of harming it. The pair agree that sharing a message of the planet’s wondrous beauty might be the best way to help people to realise how special the Earth is and to begin to take more care of it.

This is a beautifully illustrated picture book that is perfectly gentle and encouraging in its message of appreciation and environmental care. There’s nothing to scare young children here – instead, it simply moves readers towards reflecting on the diversity of the planet’s natural wonders, as the additional facts and tips at the end of the book gently move readers onto positive and achievable steps to help to care for the planet.

Inky Willis
Chapter book

A joyfully fun concoction of doodles, notes passed in class and a sprinkling of magic, Scribble Witch is an imaginative new illustrated series by author-illustrator Inky Willis.

Nine-year-old Molly Mills is perfectly happy at school, despite having to put up with spelling tests set by grumpy Mr Stilton and the occasional leaky yoghurt at lunch time. But when the Worst Wednesday Ever strikes and Molly’s best friend Chloe announces that she is going to move to a new school, Molly accidentally lands herself in trouble with the teacher and things no longer seem so cheerful. That’s when Notes appears – a secret paper witch-doodle that magically springs to life. Notes is a bundle of fun who lives inside Molly’s pen pot. She travels around by flying on a pencil as a broomstick and communicates with Molly via doodles and scrap-paper notes (although to understand what she means you’ll have to decipher her quirky syntax, which reminded me a little of a scribbled-down version of how Roald Dahl’s BFG speaks). Notes is exactly what Molly needs to brighten up her day, but Molly hasn’t quite counted on the size of the chaos that one tiny witch can conjure!

This is a really promising series that made me smile a lot and it will strike a chord with fans of Liz Pichon and Konnie Huq. The stories are pitched for readers aged 7-9 but I think it will happily sweep along a lot of older readers too, especially reluctant readers in Upper KS2 or those who are drawn to a more informal style and a higher ratio of visual elements. The fact that the author has many years of experience working in a classroom shows through the authenticity of the main character’s easy stream-of-consciousness, which muses humorously on the everyday ups-and-downs of primary school life.

Scribble Witch is fun, original and quirky and I enjoyed its vibrant design and harmless hilarity, which is bound to be a winning combination for KS2.

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