January 2020 - Books of the Month

The Booksfortopics January Top Picks
 

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

The Highland Falcon Thief

M. G. Leonard, Sam Sedgman & Elisa Paganelli

A full-steam-ahead adventure that had me hooked from the get-go. The Highland Falcon Thief is a middle-grade mystery story set on a steam train. With a high spirit of adventuring and a good-and-proper mystery that unfolds with clues and red-herrings along the course, this is a brilliantly fun story that is sure to be on track to find itself set among the very best in the children’s mystery genre.

Harrison Beck (Hal) ends up aboard the last ever journey of a famous royal steam train ‘The Highland Falcon’, unwillingly accompanying his travel-writer uncle while his parents are occupied in hospital having a new baby. Hal doesn’t think much of steam trains - and he is even less impressed when he finds there are no other child passengers on board and no electricity to charge his devices. Before long, Hal finds himself caught up with entertainment of a more old-fashioned kind. A mystery begins to unravel among the passengers - with valuable items disappearing including the princess’s diamond necklace - and Hal begins to record what he notices in his sketch book. What’s more, Hal befriends a secret stowaway girl called Lenny and the pair set to work to solve the mystery before The Highland Falcon reaches the end of its last ever journey.

It’s a full-throttle mystery with likeable characters and a well-paced plot that is especially full of treasures for anyone who loves trains. I’m not particularly a locomotive lover myself but really the joy of being on board one came across with such a passion that I think I may have gained a new-found appreciation!

Reviewer: Alison Leach

Also featured on:

Questions and Answers About Plastic

Katie Daynes & Marie-Eve Tremblay

 Lift the Flap Question and Answers About Plastic is a great resource book that is modern and appealing for younger readers.

 

This hardback non-fiction with interactive flaps covers a hot topic among young people, taking a balanced approach that encourages readers to ask and answer important questions about the pros and cons of plastic use. It's a well-presented and informative book that would be perfect for a KS1 or lower KS2 class who are learning about materials or the environment. The colourful cartoon style of the book is engaging, and the chapters are all titled with question words; Who? What? Why? and finally ‘How can we make a difference?’ 

On each page, there are questions that all start with the same stem as the chapter’s title (great for modelling how to ask questions with younger children) and beneath each flap is a clear answer, which has some useful subject-specific vocabulary and a good balance between why plastic is useful and why it is harmful to the environment. 

There is, as you’d imagine, lots of the science behind the different aspects of plastic covered, as well as clear messages around recycling and reuse of plastic items, along with some history coverage and great facts to keep you interested. At the end is a whole page of ideas on how to raise awareness about pollution and there are links on the front page to age-appropriate video clips around the subject too. 

Reviewer: Claire Coates

Also featured on:

The Girl Who Stole an Elephant

Nizrana Farook

An exciting new middle-grade adventure from Nizrana Farook filled with atmosphere, suspense and adventure with elements of Robin Hood and Arabian Nights.

 

Set in the dazzling landscapes of Sri Lanka, The Girl Who Stole an Elephant is the story of a girl called Chaya and her friends Neel and Nour. Quick-fingered Chaya is a young version of Robin Hood; she steals from the rich to help the poor in her village. However, when she steals the Queen’s jewels, things begin to go horribly wrong. Not only does she put herself in grave danger, but her actions also bring harm to her best friend Neel and the people of her village.

 

Loyally, Neel takes the blame for Chaya's actions and is sentenced to death. Chaya knows that she must act quickly if she is going to save him and a gripping and adventurous escape begins. Along the way, they meet Nour, a young girl from a wealthy background who opts to join their cause.

 

Before long, everyone they know seems to have come under threat as a result of their actions. The King will stop at nothing to capture them, especially as they have stolen his prize elephant as well. Will these young protagonists be able to save the ones that they love and escape death? Or will it mean the end for all of them?

 

This is a must-read for anyone who loves adventure stories.

Reviewer: Tami Wylie

Also featured on:

Empire's End - A Roman Story

Leila Rasheed

VOICES is an exciting narrative non-fiction series that celebrates the lives of BAME protagonists during key eras of British history, for children aged 8+. The fourth book in the series, Empire's End: A Roman Story, tells the tale of a young North African girl who sets out on a danger-filled journey to Britain during Roman times. This is a gripping adventure that offers a new perspective into the myriad of Roman narratives shared in schools.

When Camilla, a young North African girl, travels with her mother and father from Leptis Magna to Rome in 207 AD, she believes that she is going to the centre of the world. But just a few months later, the little family is dispatched to the very edge of it: Britannica. Tragedy strikes and, left alone with the Empress while her father travels north, Camilla has to navigate the tricky world of secrets and danger in this cold place that she must now call home.

This is a fantastic book for immersing the children in knowledge of life in Roman times. From small details - such as the type of wood the furniture was made from - to gender expectations and a discussion of Roman politics.  The narrative develops a picture of the Roman world that was full of many different cultures, religions and ethnicities.

If I were teaching a KS2 topic on the Romans, I would be using this book as my class reader.

Reviewer: Lisa Davies

Also featured on:

Orion Lost

Alastair Chisholm

Beth is twelve. She and her family, along with lots of other families, are on their way to colonise a new planet in outer space. It is twenty-six light-years away and travelling at normal speed would take them almost 300,000 years to get there - which is why they ‘jump’ through folds in space. During jumps, everyone on board is put into a special sleep, during which the ship copies their memories and replaces them when they wake because the act of jumping wipes everything.

 

One day, however, something goes wrong and Beth is woken to be told by the ship’s onboard computer that she’s now Captain. All the adults are alive, but can’t be woken. Her second-in-command is a boy she hates. The rest of their new ‘crew’ is made up of two more girls and another boy. The ship has been damaged and needs repairs, but without any trained crew they need to make their way to safety (which is seven light-years away). In their race to safety they come across Videshi (alien life forms) and Scrapers (space pirates) and come to realise that they can trust no-one . . . not even themselves.

 

Orion Lost is a fast-paced thriller set in deep space. I love thrillers and this was unputdownable. It has beautiful descriptions of the vastness and loneliness of space and the feeling of insignificance against an infinite universe. I also loved the fact that, although the children are heroic in many ways, they also make mistakes, and covering up those mistakes nearly ends up costing them very dear. A very realistic look at the way children interact and work together.

 

Reviewer: Caroline Waldron

Also featured on:

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More new releases for January
Click each book cover to view on Amazon.
Sam Wu is Not afraid of Zombies
The Kid Who Came From Space
The Cure For a Crime
We Catch the Bus
The Boy Who Fooled the World
The Mask of Aribella Jacket copy-1
The Incredible Hotel
A Number of Numbers
Too Small Tola
VIking Voyagers
Respect
Tiger Heart
The Midnight Zoo
The Meltdown (Wimpy Kid)
Shadowsea
Messi
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The Booksfortopics January Top Picks We've picked five of our favourite new children's books this month. The Highland Falcon Thief M. G. Leonard, Sam Sedgman & Elisa Paganelli A full-steam-ahead adventure that had me hooked from the get-go. The Highland Falcon Thief is a middle-grade mystery story set on a steam train. With a high spirit of adventuring and a good-and-proper mystery that unfolds with clues and red-herrings along the course, this is a brilliantly fun story that is sure to be on track to find itself set among the very best in the children’s mystery genre. ​ Harrison Beck (Hal) ends up aboard the last ever journey of a famous royal steam train ‘The Highland Falcon’, unwillingly accompanying his travel-writer uncle while his parents are occupied in hospital having a new baby. Hal doesn’t think much of steam trains - and he is even less impressed when he finds there are no other child passengers on board and no electricity to charge his devices. Before long, Hal finds himself caught up with entertainment of a more old-fashioned kind. A mystery begins to unravel among the passengers - with valuable items disappearing including the princess’s diamond necklace - and Hal begins to record what he notices in his sketch book. What’s more, Hal befriends a secret stowaway girl called Lenny and the pair set to work to solve the mystery before The Highland Falcon reaches the end of its last ever journey. ​ It’s a full-throttle mystery with likeable characters and a well-paced plot that is especially full of treasures for anyone who loves trains. I’m not particularly a locomotive lover myself but really the joy of being on board one came across with such a passion that I think I may have gained a new-found appreciation! ​ Reviewer: Alison Leach ​ Also featured on: Reading for Pleasure Blog Spring 2020 Ones to Watch Top Train Books Buy Online Questions and Answers About Plastic Katie Daynes & Marie-Eve Tremblay Lift the Flap Question and Answers About Plastic is a great resource book that is modern and appealing for younger readers. This hardback non-fiction with interactive flaps covers a hot topic among young people, taking a balanced approach that encourages readers to ask and answer important questions about the pros and cons of plastic use. It's a well-presented and informative book that would be perfect for a KS1 or lower KS2 class who are learning about materials or the environment. The colourful cartoon style of the book is engaging, and the chapters are all titled with question words; Who? What? Why? and finally ‘How can we make a difference?’ ​ On each page, there are questions that all start with the same stem as the chapter’s title (great for modelling how to ask questions with younger children) and beneath each flap is a clear answer, which has some useful subject-specific vocabulary and a good balance between why plastic is useful and why it is harmful to the environment. ​ There is, as you’d imagine, lots of the science behind the different aspects of plastic covered, as well as clear messages around recycling and reuse of plastic items, along with some history coverage and great facts to keep you interested. At the end is a whole page of ideas on how to raise awareness about pollution and there are links on the front page to age-appropriate video clips around the subject too. ​ Reviewer: Claire Coates ​ ​ Also featured on: Plastic Pollution Booklist ​ ​ Buy Online The Girl Who Stole an Elephant Nizrana Farook An exciting new middle-grade adventure from Nizrana Farook filled with atmosphere, suspense and adventure with elements of Robin Hood and Arabian Nights. Set in the dazzling landscapes of Sri Lanka, The Girl Who Stole an Elephant is the story of a girl called Chaya and her friends Neel and Nour. Quick-fingered Chaya is a young version of Robin Hood; she steals from the rich to help the poor in her village. However, when she steals the Queen’s jewels, things begin to go horribly wrong. Not only does she put herself in grave danger, but her actions also bring harm to her best friend Neel and the people of her village. Loyally, Neel takes the blame for Chaya's actions and is sentenced to death. Chaya knows that she must act quickly if she is going to save him and a gripping and adventurous escape begins. Along the way, they meet Nour, a young girl from a wealthy background who opts to join their cause. Before long, everyone they know seems to have come under threat as a result of their actions. The King will stop at nothing to capture them, especially as they have stolen his prize elephant as well. Will these young protagonists be able to save the ones that they love and escape death? Or will it mean the end for all of them? This is a must-read for anyone who loves adventure stories. ​ Reviewer: Tami Wylie ​ Also featured on:​ Spring 2020 Ones to Watch Buy Online Empire's End - A Roman Story Leila Rasheed VOICES is an exciting narrative non-fiction series that celebrates the lives of BAME protagonists during key eras of British history, for children aged 8+. The fourth book in the series, Empire's End: A Roman Story, tells the tale of a young North African girl who sets out on a danger-filled journey to Britain.during Roman times. This is a gripping adventure that offers a new perspective into the myriad of Roman narratives shared in schools. ​ When Camilla, a young North African girl, travels with her mother and father from Leptis Magna to Rome in 207 AD, she believes that she is going to the centre of the world. But just a few months later, the little family is dispatched to the very edge of it: Britannica. Tragedy strikes and, left alone with the Empress while her father travels north, Camilla has to navigate the tricky world of secrets and danger in this cold place that she must now call home. ​ This is a fantastic book for immersing the children in knowledge of life in Roman times. From small details - such as the type of wood the furniture was made from - to gender expectations and a discussion of Roman politics.  The narrative develops a picture of the Roman world that was full of many different cultures, religions and ethnicities. If I were teaching a KS2 topic on the Romans, I would be using this book as my class reader. ​ Reviewer: Lisa Davies ​ Also featured on: Romans Topic Booklist ​ Buy Online Orion Lost Alastair Chisholm Beth is twelve. She and her family, along with lots of other families, are on their way to colonise a new planet in outer space. It is twenty-six light-years away and travelling at normal speed would take them almost 300,000 years to get there - which is why they ‘jump’ through folds in space. During jumps, everyone on board is put into a special sleep, during which the ship copies their memories and replaces them when they wake because the act of jumping wipes everything. One day, however, something goes wrong and Beth is woken to be told by the ship’s onboard computer that she’s now Captain. All the adults are alive, but can’t be woken. Her second-in-command is a boy she hates. The rest of their new ‘crew’ is made up of two more girls and another boy. The ship has been damaged and needs repairs, but without any trained crew they need to make their way to safety (which is seven light-years away). In their race to safety they come across Videshi (alien life forms) and Scrapers (space pirates) and come to realise that they can trust no-one . . . not even themselves. Orion Lost is a fast-paced thriller set in deep space. I love thrillers and this was unputdownable. It has beautiful descriptions of the vastness and loneliness of space and the feeling of insignificance against an infinite universe. I also loved the fact that, although the children are heroic in many ways, they also make mistakes, and covering up those mistakes nearly ends up costing them very dear. A very realistic look at the way children interact and work together. Reviewer: Caroline Waldron ​ Also featured on: Reading for Pleasure Blog

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