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Best Books This Month – November 2022

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November 2022 - 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 2022.

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Emma Carroll
Chapter book

Emma Carroll never fails to disappoint. The Tale of Truthwater Lake is a gripping and fast paced adventure story, set in part, in the future and in part in the past.

The story revolves around Polly and her brother, Joel who are growing up in 2032 when climate change is causing a prolonged summer heatwave, with daily government warnings sent to warn people to stay indoors. The children live with their parents in a small flat in Brighton and are sent away to their aunt’s house in the country for a few weeks in the summer holiday – although not before Polly has to be rescued by her brother from a late night swim resulting in some online bullying.

Their aunt, Jessie lives by a reservoir but in the drought, it has shrunk to reveal the village, Syndercombe that was flooded in the 1950’s to enable the flooded valley to become a reservoir. What ensues is a story of time travel, with Polly being transported back in time (through the magic of 2 AM swims and an old door handle) to the weeks before the flooding of the village. Polly inhabits the life of Nellie, a young orphan with great ambition. Nellie, is a fabulous swimmer and dreams of swimming the English Channel, but her chance is taken away by a young boy called Nate, who is the son of the man brought in to organise the evacuation and flooding of the village.

There are so many twists and turns of this adventure, with friendship, bullying, the climate, old age and even parenting, making it a story to read rather than describe! Emma Carroll paints a real and vivid picture of each character and scene and evokes empathy, excitement and suspense in every chapter.

The story reaches an exciting climax when Nellie does in fact swim the Channel and is a real page turner in the build-up, swim and aftermath of her achievement. Emma Carroll is a master of happy endings – tying up loose ends, resolving all of the problems raised in the story and by bringing together estranged characters. This is a great book for an upper KS2 primary classroom.

Ben Lerwill
 & Daniel Long

‘How to Survive Anywhere’ is a fantastic non-fiction book that takes the reader on a journey to the most extreme places in the world, and even into space!

The extreme places referenced in the text are some of the most well-known in the world including, the African Savannah, The Antarctic and the Amazon Rainforest. The book not only offers new and interesting facts about each place but also a deeper understanding of what it would truly take to survive in each. Each location has 4-6 pages   dedicated to it and follows a similar layout pattern.

The illustrations by Daniel Long are engaging and help to bring the words to life. I really liked the use of warning symbols to bring the reader’s attention to important ‘things to remember’. The references to animals found, as well as some true stories of survival, are bound to be reading highlights.

This text offers lots of opportunities for cross curricular teaching: it could be used to further develop geographical understanding, be used to develop debate and drama skills in English or used in a PSHE lesson when focussing on  looking after our world, ourselves and each other.

This book is an enjoyable read that is guaranteed to encourage the next generation of world explorers!

Reviewer: Hayley Warner

Imogen Foxell
 & Anna Cunha

What first strikes you about this picture book are the beautiful and unusual illustrations – simple shapes and evocative colours that move from browns to greens, always muted and rich. They conjure a bare and barren landscape that is slowly transformed into a vibrant and plentiful rainforest.

The story is told in the first person and so as readers, we never know the name of the little girl in the story, suggesting it could be any one of us. The powerful beginning tells us that “they said I couldn’t change the world” and this hopeful story says to both the girl in the story and to the reader that maybe you might. The little girl explains that in the place she was born there is now just desert, where once there were rivers and trees. One day she finds a seed and plants the seed in the dried up river bed. Despite the protestations of those around her telling her that the seed will never grow, she continues to protect and nurture the seed until it grows into an amazing fruit tree – and so producing more seeds that can be planted.

There is a powerful picture in the story that shows the roots of the trees reaching far below the little village, deep into the old river bed. It seems to suggest the power of the natural world, its depths and wonder. The deep roots then enabled water to be transported to the trees leaves, producing steam and then clouds and so rain, once again filling the river. As the child grows up, she shows that we can never be complacent, as one of the trees is blown down in a storm. Another young child produces a seed and so continues the cycle of care for the forest so that the forest in turn, might care for those that live there.

The illustrator dedicates the book to her great grandmother, one of the indigenous people of Brazil and the story is clearly a plea for us all to think about our treatment of the planet and not to give up when the scale of the environmental challenge facing us seems so huge.

Catherine Johnson
 & Katie Hickey
Chapter bookDyslexia-friendly

Olaudah Equiano was cruelly snatched from his home in Essaka, Africa, aged only 11, in 1756. Initially taken with his older sister, Ifeoma, they soon became separated. Olaudah never heard from her again. From there he was taken to England, first enduring a long voyage where he was treated horribly, along with the other slaves. He was sold several times before being taken to America to be a house slave. The master was cruel and the slaves were too scared to even speak to each other. Next he was bought by an English naval officer and taken to sea. Here he finally made friends and began to learn to read and write, as well as experiencing many adventures and great peril.

Olaudah’s story does not end there. He is bought and sold a couple more times before he is taken to the West Indies. Here he sees a chance of freedom. It turns out he has a flair for business and becomes his master’s trusted slave. Working hard, he finally earns enough money to buy his freedom and returns to England as a free man. Here he wrote a book about his experiences and worked hard in the campaign against slavery.

This is an incredible true story, vividly brought to life by Catherine Johnson. It would be a brilliant addition to any UKS2 or KS3 classroom, especially if studying slavery. A difficult subject matter sensitively brought to life for children.

Natasha Hastings
 & Alex T. Smith
Chapter book

Thomasina’s family own a sweet shop and she longs to take over the business one day. However, since the death of her twin brother, Thomasina’s dad barely talks to her and her mum has taken to her bed with grief and no longer speaks to anyone. Thomasina helps to make sweets to sell in the shop and is in charge of running the household.

One winter, the River Thames freezes over solid enough for people to walk on. A number of local businesses decide to set up stalls on the Thames, including Thomasina’s dad. She helps him to make extra sweets and to sell them on the Thames and it becomes known as ‘The Frost Fair’. She also meets Anne, who works in a local apothecary. Thomasina hasn’t really had a proper friend since her brother Arthur died, so she enjoys her newfound friendship with Anne.

One night, Thomasina has a strange dream about a conjurer named Inigo who promises that he can conjure her brother back from the dead in exchange for the temporary loss of her memories of him. She must visit ‘The Other Frost Fair’ with Inigo, where she encounters frost folk, frost beasts and the creepy Father Winter.

A brilliant creepy tale involving magic, but also rooted in a family dealing with grief, The Miraculous Sweetmakers is an atmospheric read. Particularly appropriate to read on a cold winter’s night, children looking for something atmospheric and intriguing will enjoy this book. I enjoyed the relationships between the characters and the twists and turns the story took – I was never quite sure what was going to happen next!

Reviewer: Kristen Hopwood

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