January 2019 Books of the Month

January 2019 - Books of the Month

The Booksfortopics January Top Picks

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

The Dog Who Saved the World

Ross Welford

Fans of Ross Welford’s previous children’s books have no doubt come to expect from his stories a good dose of time travel, technology-gone-wrong or an otherwise thrilling sci-fi twist, and his new book The Dog Who Saved the World follows suit perfectly.


Georgie Santos loves dogs more than anything in the world. When Dad’s new girlfriend Jessica moves in, Georgie’s beloved dog Mr Mash is forced to move out because of Jessica’s pet allergies. Unimpressed, Georgie volunteers to help out at the dog shelter where Mr Mash is rehoused, but is soon no longer allowed to see him after a deadly and highly contagious disease threatens the life of every dog in the country and to her horror, Mr Mash himself becomes sick.


The only thing distracting Georgie from the pain of not being able to see Mr Mash is her new friendship with Dr Pretorius, an eccentric old scientist who is developing a curious virtual reality project inside a domed room. As time goes on and the deadly disease becomes even more serious, Georgie begins to wonder whether Dr Pretorius might hold the key to changing the future and, together with her beloved Mr Mash, embarks on a hair-raising adventure to save the world.


The Dog Who Saved The World is an intelligent and absorbing story that raises thought-provoking questions about responsible use of new or under-tested technologies. A highly-recommended story for readers who love to expect the unexpected.


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A Year of Nature Poems

Joseph Coelho & Kelly Louise Judd

This beautiful poetry anthology that includes a new nature poem for every month of the year is perfectly pitched for young readers to explore the power of nature through Coelho's highly accessible verses.

The collection of 12 poems contains a mix of types of poetry, each one exploring the poet's own experiences and interactions with a different aspect of nature associated with its linked month.  February's poem, for example, explores the simple joys of spotting frogspawn in a pond tempered with concerns about their decline ("We
'd watch the full stop grow/on an unwritten sentence,/ would our hopes hop?"). March's list poem celebrates the diversity of daffodil types while August's poem explores the memorable experiences of scrumping for fruit with friends. December's poem, meanwhile, reflects on the way in which unique snowflakes come together to form an all-consuming blanket of snow.



The book is structured into monthly sections and the poems accompanied by beautiful illustrations that celebrate the beauty of the natural world and changing seasons.

The poems are beautifully illustrated by Kelly Louise Judd, with colours and patterns drawn out to reflect each poem's seasonal imagery. For teachers, finding a place for this book on your desk will provide a quick and easy way of inspiring pupils with a taste of poetry each month as well as an opportunity to grapple with the rich vocabulary and layers of meaning packed into each poem. I would recommend the collection across the whole primary age range.


Look out for a Review Panel review of this book coming soon on the Reading for Pleasure blog.

The Peculiar Peggs of Riddling Woods

Samuel J Halpin

I always love a story with a twisted fairy tale element and Samuel J Halpin’s The Peculiar Peggs of Riddling Woods, with its intricately imaged magical realism, is 100% my kind of book. Atmospheric and wholly imaginative, Halpin’s superb storytelling had me charmed from start to finish.

When Poppy visits her grandmother in the town of Suds, she quickly realises that something peculiar is going on - from stories of disappearing children, to old wives’ tales about never dusting the window sills, to the dark and spooky Riddling Woods on the edge of the town.

Together with her new friend Erasmus, Poppy sets about to get to the heart to the town’s secrets. Along the way, the pair (whose friendship is charming and brings a real warmth to the story) have to navigate gritty real-life issues such as Grandmother's poor health, Poppy’s own grief at the death of her mother and an unpleasant experience of school bullying. On top of everything else, Poppy can't seem to shake from her mind the old local legends about the witch-like Peculiar Peggs that reside in an old mill near the town, preying on unsuspecting children.

Brilliantly told, this is an enjoyable story with the perfect balance of darkness and light to make it thrilling without being too scary for children in KS2. In a setting where nothing is at it seems, readers will relish the intrigue and find themselves deeply immersed in this world of dark magic and mystery.

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Pop-Up Moon

Anne Jankeliowitch,Olivier Charbonnel & Annabelle Buxton

Here at Booksfortopics HQ there were "oohs" and "aahs" aplenty as we pored over this delightful pop-up information book. Packed with impressive pop-ups constructed from intricate paper-engineering, this is a book that brings to life the topic of the solar system and makes it appear to jump off the page.


Through the small chunks of text, well-placed captions, stunning illustrations by Annabelle Buxton and delightful pop-ups by paper engineer Olivier Charbonnel, this book explains how the moon is formed and what the different phases are. Other topics include eclipses, tides, gravity and the moon's mysterious effects on creatures on Earth. Our favourite page of all covers the first moon landing, including a brilliant pop-up television that makes you feel like you are watching through a real screen. 


Impressive and delightful but also informative, this is the kind of non-fiction book that adults and children alike will savour and enjoy. It would make a very popular addition to KS2 classroom libraries or to book collections for the Earth & Space topic.

Our Castle By the Sea

Lucy Strange

Set in 1939 at the outbreak of World War II, the story follows 12-year-old Pet (short for Petra Zimmerman Smith - a name that feels like it’s too big to fit into). Pet lives in a lighthouse on the south coast of England and grew up hearing stories of ancient sea monsters, legends of ’Daughters of Stone’ and whisperings of secret tunnels.


Now, as the war breaks out, childhood stories give way to terrifying real life battles as German war machines lurk in the skies above and the sea below. 


As the war progresses, everyone is affected in different ways and Pet’s old lifestyle seems to slip away as she becomes caught up in a family mystery. In the background to it all though, Pet has never forgotten the ancient legends about the Daughters of Stone and feels certain that she is somehow a part of the ancient story.

Bringing together an evocative wartime setting, relatable themes and a sprinkling of ancient legend, this is a riveting read that I’m certain will delight teachers and children alike in KS2 classrooms.


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