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July 2019 - Books of the Month

The Booksfortopics July Top Picks

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

The Last Spell Breather

Julie Pike

A unique take on the magical world, The Last Spell Breather is an intriguing adventure that will appeal to many readers. Rayne finds herself in a predicament; she adores her mother and desperately wants to please her but finds it difficult to live up to her mother’s expectations to become a Spell Breather. Like any other young girl, she longs to be with her friends, not stuck inside as her mother’s struggling apprentice. Rayne soon finds that her clumsy ways put the people of her village, and her friends, in grave danger and she is forced to embark on a dangerous journey to attempt to rescue them.

I really enjoyed reading this book and can see that it would easily appeal to many children. With pupils often citing ‘Harry Potter’ as one of their favourite series, this is a great book to continue their love of magic. The main character, Rayne, is endearing and will resonate with lots of people as the reader gets a real insight into her insecurities and can go on her journey with her. Readers will see her flourish and root for her through her journey as she steps into her own. Many of our children have their own insecurities or lack self-confidence and will easily to relate with the character.   

This is definitely one to add to your to-be-read pile and a great choice for KS2 classrooms or school libraries.

Reviewed by: Christine Ivory, Y6 Teacher

Eagle Warror

Gill Lewis

Eagle Warrior is the new book from the acclaimed author Gill Lewis, produced in Barrington Stoke's 'super-readable' format with tinted paper and dyslexia-friendly font. 


The story is set in the Scottish Highlands and centres around a farming family in their croft. The main character is a strong-willed and independent little girl called Bobbie, who loves the outdoor life on her family farm. She loves looking out for the golden eagle that lives in the wild nearby. The golden eagle is protected by law, but is being threatened by the family's neighbour (the Duke) who uses his land to raise grouse for shooting and whose Gamekeeper monitors the land.


Bobbie has her Granny, who has lived her whole life on the farm and knows everything about the wildlife and area, but can they keep the golden eagle safe? Bobbie’s character goes through many changes as the plot develops. Will the arrival of Uncle Fraser (Granny’s awkward and educated brother) from Edinburgh, help them or hinder them?


A lovely touch at the end of the story is when Bobbie asks, ‘What kind of world would we have if we lost all the wild?’ A great thought-provoking question for readers to ask themselves and could easily be used to form important discussions in the classroom and at home.


An amazing story using the wilderness of Scotland with its wildlife and nature to allow readers to think about conflict, conservation, persecution and family bonds.

Reviewed by: Kirsty Anderton, KS2 Teacher/English Leader

Anna at War

Helen Peters

This moving novel begins with Anna the grandmother explaining how she was sent away by her parents, following the events during the night of the ninth of November 1938 in Germany on Kristallnacht.


Knowing that, as a Jew, she would no longer be safe, young Anna manages to get a space on the Kindertransport, bringing children like Anna to the relative safety of Britain. Following an arduous journey, Anna is taken in by a family in Kent, who live and work on a country estate. Despite her fears for her parents, Anna settles in, working hard at school and making friends, even though there is some hostility and suspicion from a few of the village children.


During 1940, when the threat of invasion pervades the country, Anna and her foster siblings Molly and Frank find themselves drawn into a dangerous web of deceit and betrayal. This is Anna’s opportunity to prove whose side she is really on…


Told in the first person, Anna’s story has an immediacy that grips the reader, drawing them in as she adapts to her new life. There is poignancy as well as excitement, through short chapters that keep up the momentum of the adventure as well as exploring Anna’s feelings.


Inviting comparison with the late Judith Kerr’s When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, this book also serves to highlight the plight of refugees today. The experiences of children fleeing war torn states are not so different from those who left Germany and other countries on the Kinderstransport, finding themselves relying on the kindness of strangers. I

highly recommended this book.

Reviewed by: Jayne Gould, librarian.

Where Once We Stood

Christopher Riley & Martin Impey

Where Once We Stood is a stunning book - large, weighty and dense with information, vocabulary, ideas and meaning. Capturing first-hand accounts from the 12 people who have stood on the moon, in their own words, each chapter covers a particular Apollo mission and begins with dates, crew logs and maps to set the scene.

The stories themselves are heart-stopping. From Neil Armstrong’s era-defining first step into the moon’s pristine dust, to Gene Cernan’s final step and wish that “we leave as we came…with peace and hope for all Mankind”, we experience in real time the anticipation, the elation and the fear of exploring the Moon’s awesome other-worldly environment.

The language throughout is a glorious blend of the poetic and the scientific, the prosaic and the profound. The illustrations by Martin Impey are breath-taking and alone make the book worth purchasing. Where Once We Stood rewards detailed and repeated study and would be an excellent key text around which to build a Space Scheme of Work for Year 5/6.

Reviewed by: Carol Carter, Librarian

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Sneaky Beak

Tracey Corderoy & Tony Neal

A super-fun and cheerful picture book with a gentle message about the emptiness of materialism, Sneaky Beak is a great choice for storytime in EYFS and KS1.

Anyone who has ever been swayed by an advert for a new gadget or service upgrade will easily relate to Bear and Hamster as they learn the hard way that some things in life are great the way they are. Once perfectly content, the duo of animal friends are suddenly given cause to question whether they are missing out on something better when they encounter a smooth-talking avian called Sneaky Beak who has impressive salesmanship and a state-of-the-art catalogue of the latest gadgets. Is your bath bubbly enough?, he causes Bear to wonder.  Is your bed bouncy enough, your cereal crunchy enough and are you sure you can ever be satisfied without succumbing to the wonders of a rocket trip to the moon?

Young readers will likely already be aware of the 'upgrade now' culture and will quickly tap into the story's clear message about finding contentment in what they already have. Tony Neal’s bright and eye-catching illustrations (we especially enjoyed the close-up of the animals' facial expressions) are a perfect match for the tongue-in-cheek, lilting story that uses gentle humour and fun characters to offer - in an unfailingly cheerful way - a cautionary tale for the modern generation.

Reviewed by: Alison (Founder of BooksForTopics) & Florence (aged 6) after attending the Little Tiger Picture Book Showcase.

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