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Best Books This Month – January 2022

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Best Books This Month - January 2022

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 January 2022.

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Sabine Adeyinka
Chapter book

Jummy at the River School is an immersive introduction to life at boarding school in 1990s Nigeria. Many of the themes of friendship and bravery and justice are universal, but the vividly described River School setting, and Jummy’s own unique voice, make the story sing.

Jumoke has always dreamed of being accepted to Nigeria’s best girls boarding school, and the reality is everything she hoped for. The grounds are beautiful, her dorm mates take her under their wing, and before long she is caught up in a whirlwind of midnight feasts, picnics, school songs and working hard to win the house prize. Everything seems perfect, the only fly in the ointment stuck-up Bolaji who thinks she is better than everyone else. However, it is not long before Jummy finds that, to her surprise, her best friend from back home, Caro, is also at the River School. Jummy’s initial elation turns to confusion when she realises that Caro; brave, funny, clever Caro; is there as a maid to the matron, to work not learn. Jummy decides that everyone deserves the opportunities she has, and with the help of her new friends, resolves that there must be a way to help Caro join them at school….

Suitable across the KS2 age range, Jummy at the River School is very accessibly written, with short chapters averaging 8 pages and large, well-spaced text that is easy on the eye. The underlying poverty and class differences affecting Jummy, Caro and Bolaji are never shied away from but also never overwhelm the joyful nature of the story and the light-footed writing that keep you wanting to turn the next page. Perfect for fans of school stories and as a class reader linked to Africa, Jummy at the River School is as juicy and sweet and captivating as Caro’s favourite agbalumo fruit.

Tim Kennington, Josy Bloggs & Liz Kay

This Book is Full of Brains is an amazing resource to understand more about our amazing brains. It is full of exercises and experiments that children can undertake to understand the brain and how it works.

The book is broken down into a set of logical chapters that cover how the brain works, different parts of the brain, how our brains compare to animal brains and about the ‘brains’ of robots and computers.

Each chapter is full of fun facts, interesting science knowledge made accessible to children and a range of illustrations to support the information being shared.

The book does not shy away from specific scientific language, including the different parts of the brain, but it explains it all in a way that children can understand. The ‘try it at home’ sections are a key feature of the book, giving practical activities for children to try to test out their brain or to apply the knowledge acquired within each chapter. There are lots of real-life examples and comparisons so that children can gain a deeper understanding of some trickier concepts.

This book is ideal for any science fan.

Reviewer: Kathryn Gilbert

Iona Rangeley & David Tazzyman
Chapter book

When Mrs Stewart invites a small penguin to visit on a spontaneous visit to London Zoo, no one could have imagined that later that day they would find him on their doorstep, rucksack on his back and an adventure about to begin…

Einstein the Penguin is the debut children’s novel for Iona Rangeley, aptly brought to life with the help of the award-winning illustrator, David Tazzyman. A lovely mix of whodunnit with a slightly preposterous story of a penguin who comes to live with our two heroes, Imogen (age 9) and Arthur (age 6), causing them to put aside their sibling squabbles and come to his rescue. Rangeley manages to pull at your heartstrings as you come to understand each of the characters’ insecurities, bringing together the fear of losing a friend with the loneliness associated with never having had one. The grown-ups are scatty at best and young readers will love it as our heroes come to put one over on them.

Lovely as a class readaloud, children will enjoy the parody of incompetent teachers/zoo-keepers/detectives/parents while also prompting several discussion points about right and wrong. This could be a fun next step for readers who have enjoyed Paddington or Erica’s Elephant.

Christina Dendy & Katie Rewse

A wonderful picturebook about the desire for control and tidiness, and the wonders that can occur when we accept a little mess and freedom into our lives.

Ana builds a beautiful garden on the edge of her town but is determined to keep the disorderly wild out, so she builds a boundary wall to separate the two. She wants her garden to be perfect, full of only the sweetest-smelling flowers, leafiest trees and tastiest fruit and vegetables. Any seeds that are not absolutely perfect get thrown away into the wild. The plants begins to wilt and both people and animals stop bothering to visit. Until eventually, Ana sees some sunlight beaming from over her wall and decides to climb and see what is on the other side. As soon as she sees the beauty and unrestrained nature of the Wild, helped along by all her imperfect seeds, she decides that maybe it is time to start removing some bricks from her wall.


James Bishop & Fay Austin
Chapter book

Mylan is from the planet Empathia, a place where everyone feels so much empathy that if one person is upset, the whole population dissolves into tears. To avoid this universal pain, the inhabitants of the planet ensure that no one is ever unhappy and Empathia has evolved into a utopian society. Upon discovering that the rest of the universe does not live in the same harmony and happiness, Mylan sets out to collect stories of the bad days of other species: aiming to cheer them up along the way. This is when he meets Chloe…

Chloe is an ordinary Earth-girl having an extraordinarily bad day. Unfortunately, when Mylan intercedes and tries to improve it by ordering her an ice cream from an intergalactic delivery company, he accidently orders the recycling of the Earth instead. Now it’s an apocalyptically bad day!

With a rapidly reducing amount of time, Mylan and Chloe set off across the galaxy to try to find technology advanced enough to stop the recycling and rescue the doomed planet from the belly of the recyclers’ ship. Things begin to look up when they meet the incredibly powerful Queen of the Universe. But, can they actually come up with a solution and make it back in time to stop the process?

This humorous and imaginative book features a host of alien characters and an action-packed plot that will keep children gripped. This laugh-out-loud space adventure will appeal to fans of Tom McLaughlin, Sam Copeland and Pamela Butchart.

Reviewer: Louise Buisson

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