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Best Books This Month – November 2021

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Best Books in November 2021

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 2021.

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Ross Montgomery
Chapter book

Yanni is a reluctant big brother; he has a baby sister and ever since her arrival, his world has been turned upside down. As an only child, he had shared a cosy flat with his parents and as the only grandchild, his grandparents had worshipped him. When Ari arrived, the family needed more space and so moved to the rural village of Fallow Hall and Yanni would attend the ominously named Riddleton School.

Two days into his new life, and struggling to find a babysitter, Yanni’s parents invite Amy over. Between them they have to look after Ari while Yanni’s parents enjoy a rare night out. It is All Hallow’s Eve (Halloween) and when a stranger appears in the house, events take an unexpectedly dark turn. Some simple house renovations have reopened a door into the World of the Fae, and Lorde Renwin is intent on stealing Ari.

What follows is a race-against-time quest to get Ari back before midnight, when the door back to normality will close again. But will the reluctant adventurers have time to locate the toadstone, navigate the goblin maze, collect a vial of elixir from the ruined abbey and find the magic crown from an ancient king? The only possible way they can complete their quest is by working together, using the few resources they have and a big helping of initiative.

Through his beautiful writing, Montgomery has created a fantasy world that would rival Oz, Wonderland or Narnia. The unusual characters are honest and, at times, very funny. The undercurrent of love conquering evil is prevalent throughout, which gives it the feel of 21st Century fairy-tale, although this book is not for the faint-hearted! This story will chill you to the bone, and you won’t be able to put it down. It truly is a page-turner.

Reviewer: Emma Hughes

David Olusoga & Jake Alexander
 & Melleny Taylor

This new illustrated children’s edition of David Olusoga’s account of Black British history is an essential book for schools – not only as an accessible and informative non-fiction read for KS2, but also as a book that I would thoroughly recommend for improving primary teachers’ own historical subject knowledge and especially those with input into their school’s curriculum design. As expressed perfectly by Lavinya Stennett (CEO of the Black Curriculum) in the Afterword, ‘This book is a testimony to the rich experiences of Black people of Britain in different periods of our history, and a reminder of the dearth of Black history in our curriculums.’

In the book, Olusoga explains the overlooked history of Black people in Britain from Roman times to the present day. Readers may be surprised to imagine the multiculturally diverse make-up of Roman Britain – and indeed to question why sources of history in primary schools may paint a historically misrepresentative picture of Roman society. Equally interesting is the development of notions of race throughout the periods of history, as the book walks chronologically through key eras. Did you know that it was only during the time of James I that the term ‘white’ was used as a description of racial identity, or that long after the abolition of slavery, the Victorians were propagating their own racist theories to justify profiting from slave-powered commerce?

The new illustrated version adds an impressive visual element with full-colour illustrations, maps, portrait galleries, timelines, and photographs. This edition makes the history behind the book accessible to a younger audience still and makes for a highly recommendable and informative non-fiction read.

Mel Taylor-Bessent
 & Selom Sunu
Chapter book

Mel Taylor-Bessent offers her own masterclass in writing for children in the form of her debut chapter book, The Christmas Carrolls. Sprinkled with seasonal goodwill and a good dose of ho-ho-ho, this is a perfectly heart-warming and humorous read for the festive season.

Holly Carroll and her family are crazy about Christmas, but with a little help from a special new friend, Holly discovers that the festive season is not always as cheer-filled for everyone as she once thought. When the world begins to lose its sparkle, Holly finds a way to channel her inner Christmas spirit to embrace her community and make a real difference to those in need.

We thoroughly enjoyed this feel-good read with its loveable cast of characters, festive puns aplenty and themes of kindness, inclusion and sparing a thought for others in the community.

Britta Teckentrup

The end page of this book has a quote from Anni Lanz – a human rights activist who has a focus on refugee policy. It says “Use your anger to transform the world around you” and this is the positive message of a book that focuses on anger, rage and fury – an emotion felt by us all and an emotion felt particularly keenly by children and young people with deeply held views on the issues of the day. That is why this is such a useful and meaningful book for the four year old and the young adult alike.

When I See Red is a stunningly illustrated book that tells the ‘story’ of anger. Anger in this book is seen like a storm: we see how the storm gathers and blinds, as well as how the storm heralds ‘the change’ that anger can inspire. Britta’s choice of words to describe the storm compliment the illustrations – stunning print designs – which show the main, unnamed character’s journey through her rage and ‘the storm’. The all-encompassing feeling of anger is fabulously described through poetic language and illustration. Every few pages there is a double page spread of illustration which seems to mirror the way anger can take over our whole being. Despite this, what is so refreshing is this picture book puts the angry young girl in charge of her fury – clearly in control, knowing what she is doing, knowing what and whom she is calling on to demonstrate her rage. The suppression felt before the anger is allowed to spill out is made evident as well as the positive nature of the outpouring.

I think it may be easy to cast this book as a KS1 or early years text and yet it is a really powerful tool for discussion with older pupils too about the need for anger as a means to instigate change. Anger is seen not only as a storm but also embraced as a journey that takes the girl to a stronger, braver and more powerful place. As the storm of anger clears, what is left is a new confidence and a new journey, a new way forward. This is a stunning book with huge opportunities for discussion and reflection.

Helenka Stachera
Chapter book

The Ice Whisperers is set in beautiful, mysterious, icy Siberia. When Bela’s mother dies, she is summoned to deepest Siberia to stay with an uncle she’s never met. Exploring his strange scientific workshop, she uncovers a secret she was never meant to find – a doorway that opens to an icy land, frozen in time and full of legends come to life. But this frozen land is in danger, and it’s up to Bela to find a way to save it. To succeed, she must join forces with the impossible: a long-lost sister she never knew she had, born 40,000 years before . .

The book is perfect for children who love fantasy novels; Ren-ya’s land is filled with ancient creatures and references to myths from long ago. The theme of friendship and the intense bond that sisters have draws comparisons with Frozen too.

This would be a fantastic novel to share with a lower key stage two class and would fit perfectly with topics that deal with frozen landscapes as well as prehistory. There are themes of ecology to draw upon and it would be a great novel to use in order to commence a geographical study of this landscape that contrasts so starkly with our own.

Reviewer: Claire Coates

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