February - Books of the Month

The Booksfortopics February 2018 Top Picks

We've picked our top five new children's books this month.


Pádraig Kenny

This imaginative debut novel is set in a world in which children are either ‘propers’ – that is, real children – or robotic ‘mechanicals’ and it follows the story of a boy called Christopher who assists the curious mechanical engineer Mr Absalom. When an unfortunate accident occurs under Mr Absalom’s care, Christopher is forced to embark upon an adventure that will lead him to discover his true identity, with the help of a group of trustworthy friends both mechanical and proper. The plot is full of twists and turns and we love how the unusual fantasy world that  Pádraig Kenny has created is realised in an exceptional way that is at once convincing and beguiling. The story raises some really thought-provoking questions about artificial intelligence and its ethics, although the very relatable themes of humanity and belonging lie at the heart of it. We can’t recommend this enjoyable and interesting story highly enough for upper KS2.

Find out more about this text on our Reading for Pleasure Blog

Make More Noise!

Various Authors

'Make More Noise!' is a book created to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first women in the UK gaining the right to vote. The book contains a collection of short stories written by well-known female authors, including Emma Carroll, M.G. Leonard and Kiran Millwood Hargrave, among other celebrated writers. The stories each feature the strong voice of a female character, some fictitious and others based on real people.

What is remarkable is not just the strength of the female voices singing out from each story, but the way in which the voices of the collection come together to create a chorus of girls, from across time and space, singing beautifully in a bid to ‘make more noise’ and celebrate the equality that the #VotesForWomen campaign represents. This is suitable for boys and girls in upper KS2 and a worthy addition to every school library.

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Sam Wu is NOT Afraid of Ghosts

Katie & Kevin Tsang with Nathan Reed

This is the first in a planned series of Sam Wu stories and after reading it we are really looking forward to the next! Following an embarrassing incident at school, Sam Wu has been given the nickname ‘Scaredy-Cat Sam’ and needs to come up with a way to prove that he is just as brave as his intergalactic hero, Spaceman Jack. Along the way Sam manages to wake up covered in pickle juice, gain a deadly snake for his pet and become a ‘certified’ ghost hunter with a little help from his two best friends, his sister Lucy and Lucy’s ninja cat, Butterbutt. We enjoyed plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and harmless humour that is enhanced by the engaging design of the pages, making this book well suited to younger readers who are getting used to enjoying early chapter books.
We also really like the convincing child voice of Sam, who walks the reader through his thought process as he navigates school bullies, family dynamics and learning to appreciate his Chinese heritage even in the moments when it makes him feel at odds with his friends. This is perfectly pitched to be a big hit with readers in lower KS2. 

Find out more about this text on our Reading for Pleasure Blog


Matt Carr

As fans of Matt Carr’s earlier book Superbat, we were really looking forward to reading his latest picture book Spyder and it certainly did not disappoint! Created in Carr’s signature comic-book style with a palette of bold primary colours, this entertaining story follows Spyder, a secret agent arachnid whose codename is 008. Spyder is sent on a highly important mission to save one boy’s birthday cake from the destructive intentions of an uninvited Bluebottle. The story is full of puns but the humour is perfectly pitched to keep it sleek instead of becoming cheesy. It was unexpected – in a wonderful way - to see that the secret agent spider was female and we really enjoyed looking at the extra details, such as the various images on the screen of her spy gadget and the spider webpage at the end of the book. This is a delightful and engaging picture book that is likely to be a real winner with KS1 pupils.

Also featured on: Minibeasts Topic

Find out more about this text on our Reading for Pleasure Blog

Young, Gifted and Black

Jamia Wilson & Andrea Pippins

This is an eye-catching anthology that celebrates the inspirational achievements of fifty-two trailblazing black women and men, including artists, sports legends, scientists and activists among many others. In the introduction, the author notes that “all children deserve to see themselves represented positively in stories. That’s why we’re highlighting the talent and contributions of black changemakers from around the world—for readers of all backgrounds to discover.” Each page contains a short biography of an influential figure, perfectly accessible in language and length to suit primary-aged children. The text on each page is set against a brightly-coloured background containing a dynamic portrait of the featured individual, accentuated by colours and patterns - such as crowns and stars - that add to the celebratory feel of the book. Many of the biographies mention, without being militant, ways in which each figure overcame prejudice and followed their dreams. This important text would make a superb addition to primary school libraries and is suitable for use across both Key Stages.

Find out more about this text on our Reading for Pleasure Blog

Also features on: Books for promoting cultural diversity

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