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Home > Books of the Month – 2021 > Best Books This Month – May 2021

Best Books This Month – May 2021

Best Books This Month - May 2021

The BooksForTopics Top Picks for May 2021

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

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Priscilla Mante
Chapter book

Jaz Santos vs the World is the first in a new series about a girl who gathers an unlikely group of friends together to make their own girls’ football team. This is an inclusive and empowering tale with a real-life feel that will appeal to fans of Cath Howe and Jacqueline Wilson.

Circumstances in Jaz’s life are starting to feel out of control. She has been in trouble at school, kicked out of dance club and is dealing with the growing cracks in her parents’ relationship, culminating in a house fire and her mum eventually moving out. There’s more on her mind too – Jaz loves football and often plays with the boys at lunchtimes, but is excluded from the school team because girls are not allowed to play.

When Jaz finds a leaflet advertising a girls’ football tournament, she seizes the opportunity to take back some control. Thinking carefully about how to sell the idea to her classmates, Jaz pours heart and soul into rallying a team of girls to prepare for the tournament. From fundraising to training, Jaz leaves no stone unturned – with her passionate hopes of proving that girls can be taken seriously in football matched only by her desire to get mum back. Deep down, Jaz wonders whether winning the tournament might magically solve all of the other problems in her life too, but some wise words along the way help Jaz to understand that life’s circumstances do not have to define her, and her own personal successes and failures don’t have to be tied up with the things in life that are simply beyond her control.

With girls’ football growing more popular than ever, this is an empowering book with a dynamic and entertaining main character who shows what can happen when somebody leads the way in a new sporting initiative. The discrimination against Jaz as a girl wanting to be taken seriously in football feels frustrating and unfair, but Jaz is passionate and triumphant to show what can be achieved with a little determination. Some of the other girls have no interest in the sport before Jaz recruits them to the team, but the story shows how beneficial the opportunity to join in is for them in different ways. The author Priscilla Mante says of the book, “Girls’ football and women’s football don’t get the attention they should do and it was really important for me, through Jaz, to challenge the status quo.”

This timely and heart-warming story about teamwork, self-belief and following your passions in the face of life’s ups and downs is likely to score big with readers aged 8-11.

Kate Hale
 & Andy Smith

A fun non-fiction book with a difference.

Choose your own path through this hilarious world of 400 facts, all of which are verified by Encyclopaedia Britannica. Every fact in the book is connected to the next in an ingenious trail of information – making it a kind of ‘choose your own adventure’ of the fact world.

From the attention-grabbing orange cover to the final record-breaking endings, this book is a winner. It has an index, it has sources, it has picture credits, it has information about the author, illustrator and designer, and it has a content page. But more, much more than these useful additions, it has facts, 400+ of them, presented so that readers can choose their own way through the book on the basis of what intrigues them most…

Loads of fun!

Louie Stowell & George Ermos
Chapter book

Myra and Rohan are life-long friends through a shared experience at birth. Every year they share a birthday party. Every year Myra causes havoc at that party. Last year, for example, she broke the magician’s hand and superglued Rohan’s cousin’s hair. This year she sets the shed alight. But while everyone is distracted, Rohan’s little sister Shilpa is kidnapped by the Fairy Queen and taken to Otherland – a world where nothing is quite as it seems.

With the help of another fairy, Myra and Rohan follow Shilpa to Otherland and accept a challenge from the Fairy Queen. If they can win three challenges in a deadly game set by the Fairy Queen, then Shilpa can return with them to their world. If they lose, all three of them stay in Otherland forever.

Louie Stowell’s newest story is a fabulous journey through the world of fairies, gods and vampires. The interaction between Rohan and Myra is hilarious and the characters visibly change throughout the story – both of them realising things about themselves and each other along the way. The challenges that the characters face and twists in the story keep the reader entertained all the way through. Each piece of action is superbly described and the tale was so fast-paced that I was desperate to read what happened next. For a teacher teaching story writing this is brilliant. The dialogue is superb, the pace fast and the descriptions wonderful.

Otherland is a fantastic escapist story, encompassing action, mischievous characters who are not quite what or who you think and an adventure that sees the children learn important things about themselves and each other. Just remember – in Otherland nothing is quite as it seems!

Tom Palmer
Chapter bookDyslexia-friendly

This well-researched and highly readable historical fiction book takes its title from the name of the medal that honours the Arctic Convoys during World War II and in recognition of the particularly harsh conditions they endured.  It was the winner of the BooksForTopics Book of the Year Award for Best Curriculum Support.

Tom Palmer has taken facts gathered from the Imperial War Museum, among other sources, to compose a gripping fictional story about three teenage Royal Navy recruits from Plymouth: Frank, Stephen and Joseph. Their resilience, fortitude and courage shine as brightly as the Arctic (North) Star against the surrounding darkness. Their very survival, both physical and mental, is threatened by constant attacks from German U-boats, submarines, planes and, most terrifying of all, the German battleship known as the Scharnhorst – not to mention freezing conditions, fierce storms, shattered dreams and rocky relationships. How will they pull through? Indeed, will they?

The life-and-death struggle is played out until the very last page, but it was no game for those who lived the adventure back in the 1940s – that much is clear. It is also very clear how much the author respects those who served and how determined he is to portray accurately their service to the nation. He has done so with huge success.

This book, with its concluding Author’s Note together with the accompanying online teaching notes available from Tom Palmer’s website, provides an exciting and informative classroom resource for the teaching of WWII as a curriculum topic, besides being a book many children will choose for the sheer enjoyment of reading. A thoroughly recommended read, just like Tom Palmer’s other well-researched and highly readable novels.

Laura Ellen Anderson
Chapter book

Rainbow Grey is a funny, smart and creative tale, sprinkled with weather-related characters and places. The characters are not human, but still remain highly relatable; the main characters had friendship issues to deal with, like any children their age, and it’s important for children to be able to recognise things that they might be going through in their own lives in a book. Likewise, the nod to dyslexia when Ray describes letters as being jumbled on the page and later on, when reading from coloured paper was referred to, would resonate with a lot of children…

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Reviewers: Alison Leach, Jane Rew, David McBride, Kristen Hopwood

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