September 2020 - Books of the Month
More new releases for September
Click each book cover to view on Amazon.
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The BooksForTopics September Top Picks We've picked five of our favourite new children's books this month. Zombierella Joseph Coelho & Freya Hartas We love a fairy tale with a twist and so eagerly welcomed the arrival of this new illustrated middle-grade series from Joseph Coelho and Freya Hartas, with this first instalment placing a deviously dark twist on the Cinderella story. In this version, Cinderella (so called because she wears a locket containing her deceased mother's ashes), lives with a 'fake' family made up of an evil step-mother and three beautiful and fake sisters. After losing both parents and her beloved horse Lumpkin, Cinderella feels very much alone in the world. The town receives a visit from a royal prince with unusually gothic tastes, who brings with him three days of parties and the promise of betrothal to a potential suitor from the town. When Cinderella suffers a slip on the stairs, life as she knows it comes to an end and she returns in a haze of gory glory as Zombierella before proceeding to win the prince's heart for herself. Coelho's treatment of the story is as delightfully amusing as it is deliciously dark. After years of Disneyfication and a 'softening up' of this well-known tale for a generation who often find their stories served up with a little more happily-ever-after and a little less goriness, this version takes a direct step in the colder and creepier direction that you might expect from Roald Dahl's fairy tales or the original Grimm stories. There's plenty to shock - from the cold and detached reporting of Cinderella's sudden death to the spooky insertion of pulled-out brains, loosened guts and severed limbs into a star-crossed rags-to-riches love story. There's an enjoyable streak of dark humour and plenty of wit in both the author's free verse and Freya Hartas' stylishly expressive black and white illustrations. The story is framed by the voice of a librarian (fans of Coelho might expect nothing less) and leaves with the promise of more from the 'Fairy Tales Gone Bad' series - which I'm really looking forward to seeing unfold. Buy Online The Key to Finding Jack Ewa Jozefkowicz & Katy Riddell Flick adores her older brother Jack. She loves his sense of fun, his passion for puzzles and riddles and the feeling that she gets from the special sibling bond they share. There’s been an empty space in Flick’s heart ever since Jack headed off to Peru on a gap year trip, but at least Flick knows that Jack is immersed in exciting adventures. When the shock news arrives of an earthquake in Peru, nobody is able to contact Jack and Flick’s world falls apart. Through a blur of panic and confusion, Flick pieces together fragments of a puzzle to try to find Jack - centred around a special key that Jack left behind with the initials S.F. written on it. As the family anxiously waits for news of Jack, Flick sets the wheels in motion for her own investigation, desperately trying to track down the mysterious S.F.. Along the way, she discovers a host of other friends and family members who are meaningful in Jack’s world, each with their own tale to tell of how kind and special her brother is to them. True to style, Ewa Jozefkowicz weaves a multi-layered narrative of self discovery that explores the riches of family bonds and the value of listening to the stories of other people. There’s a mystery to solve, a story-within-a-story and plenty of intrigue, and I particularly enjoyed how beautifully the sibling relationship was portrayed. This is a heartwarming third novel from Ewa Jozefkowicz that will resonate with middle-grade readers who enjoy delving into stories with a real-life feel or are looking for a bit of a mystery to get stuck into. Buy Online Space Maps Lara Albanese & Tommaso Vidus Rosin Space Maps is a super-sized visual treat. It will appeal to those already interested in the topic of space and will also attract KS2 readers new to the subject. The reader is invited to take a space tour in the company of a diverse crew of space guides. Each double-page spread focusses upon a different aspect and information is given in speedy, bite-sized fact boxes, making this an ideal book for dipping into. It is deeply informative and to the point, using technical language without any dumbing down - however, its short bursts of facts are not too specialised to be overwhelming for young readers. Topics covered include what humans can see in the night sky, where and how we fit in the wider universe, what other planets are like, how telescopes give us a deeper view and where the sky studied from. There is a good balance of scientific facts and interesting nuggets from history, astronomy and folk lore. The legends behind the science add charm and warmth. Large and detailed illustrations guide the reader through their space journey, with each new page devoted to a thoroughly detailed labelled map or diagram. For those readers, like myself, who usually struggle to visualise the images behind the arrangements of the constellations, this book certainly helps; I was able to ‘see’ Orion in the real night sky having studied the beautiful constellation map. The depth of information goes well beyond the likely pre-knowledge and of most child and adult readers (for example the different types of sky -Greek, Chinese, African and Equatorial - seem complex to a non-specialist), but this is where the ability to dip in and out of Space Maps is an asset that enables readers to opt for familiar or unfamiliar learning territory as they please. An extravagantly large and vibrant compendium for budding astronomers and knowledge-hungry scientists in upper KS2, this impressive non=fiction book takes young readers to infinity and beyond as they marvel at the vastness of the universe. Buy Online A Super Sticky Mistake Alison Donald & Rea Zhai A Super Sticky Mistake is a picture book that brilliantly retells the story of Harry Coover and how he accidentally invented super glue. Harry was a scientist who worked in the USA during World War Two. He was tasked with developing a plastic that needed to be strong, solid and transparent. His team created a new substance that did not meet the brief; instead creating a super sticky substance called ‘Cyanoacrylate’. Rather than giving up, Harry continued to work on his scientific research and returned to try his new sticky compound when he needed a new material that would be strong enough to stick aircraft windshields. The material was found to be particularly strong and useful in so many ways; from mending broken bones to repairing spacecraft. At the age of 92, Harry was presented with the National Medal of Technology and Innovation for his work; one of the highest scientific accolades in the field. The story is a brilliant way to introduce themes of perseverance, determination and creativity. The book is full of humour and the illustrations show some of the frustrations of the rest of his team set alongside Harry’s optimism; which could lead to some fantastic discussions with children about attitude and mindset. This is a wonderful story to read in Key Stage One and Lower Key Stage Two, or as a text to read with the whole school in assembly. Buy Online The Monsters of Rookhaven Pádraig Kenny & Edward Bettison Mirabelle is part of ‘the family’ living in the House of Rookhaven - but they are no ordinary family. Led by Uncle Enoch, the members of the family are not what they first appear: Mirabelle doesn’t age; Odd can come and go through portals as he pleases; Dotty and Daisy are twins who can walk through walls. The house is separated from the outside world by the Glamour and only Dr. Ellenby and Mr Fletcher (humans from the local village) can pass through by using a special key. That is, until siblings Jem and Tom accidentally find their way through a hole in the Glamour. Mirabelle finds them among some bone-eating plants and takes them up to the house, much to the resistance of the rest of the family. However, Tom is very ill, and the family have no choice but to let him recover at the house. The hole in the Glamour has also let through something much more threatening to the family than humans... I found this to be an incredibly compelling read. The writing is wonderfully descriptive, and the illustrations perfectly capture the creepiness of the story. The characters are complex, and I loved that there were always new things to discover about them as the story progressed. The Monsters of Rookhaven shows that people are not necessarily what they first appear to be, and that people’s actions often have good intentions behind them, even if the outcome is not what they had hoped. It's a gripping story that explores the theme of difference and evokes empathy through the eyes of a delightfully imaginative cast of characters. With magic, monsters, friendship and hope, this is a wonderful middle-grade read and one I will certainly be recommending to my Year 6 class. Most definitely one of the best books I have read this year.