Firstly, I have been blown away by some of the comments I received on my first blog post, ‘To see with other eyes’, so thank you if you have responded! Please do continue to check it out and share with anyone you think may connect with it! I only hope I haven’t peaked too soon… Anyway, on with the blog!
This will be the first of my (hopefully) monthly book review posts as part of the #52books2017 challenge! If this one isn’t great…I have 11 months to practise!
Book 1: Darkmouth – Shane Hegarty (KidLit, Upper KS2)
The first in a series, this is a book I’ve had my eye on for a while. It tells the story of Finn, the next in a long family line of ‘Legend Hunters’ (under no circumstances are you to call them ‘monsters’, they are ‘Legends’). As we learn more about Finn, and about the Legends who come through portals into the human world, we discover that the truth behind this ‘good vs evil’ struggle is more complex, and more terrifying than we first imagined! All-in-all, a good, solid introduction to a very promising fantasy/adventure series! In terms of classroom use I could easily imagine linking the text to Greek mythology with some of the ‘Legends’ being quite familiar…
Book 2: Awful Auntie – David Walliams (KidLit, Upper KS2)
The heir apparent to…what’s his name? You know the one who wrote Matilda and what-not? It’ll come to me… Anyway, Walliams continues to emulate the master in his portrayal of brave, resourceful children battling against grotesquely caricatured, nasty adults (the cheek of him!!) with this story of a vindictive, greedy aunt trying to deny Lady Stella Saxby her inheritance. With the help of an extremely unlikely ally, Lady Stella must outwit not only an evil aunt, but also her prized owl Wagner, all while piecing together her hidden, tragic family past. Hard-hitting in parts, this is another exciting and touching story by Walliams. Despite the lack of everyone’s favourite character, a hilarious afterword raises the rating! For me, it doesn’t reach the heights of his wonderful ‘Mr Stink’, but I enjoyed the read and could see the book supporting various history topics due to its historical setting.
– STAR READ – Book 3: Cogheart – Peter Bunzl (KidLit Upper KS2) – STAR READ –
This gripping adventure through an alternate Victorian Britain whose skies are populated by airships and whose land is filled with ‘mechanicals’ deserves the abundant plaudits it has received. When Lily’s father goes missing, she must dash through the country to uncover the truth with only a mechanical fox and a clockmaker’s son for help. Pursued at every stage by enemies seeking a treasure she does not know the value of, and never quite knowing whom she can trust, Lily must keep her wits about her and her friends close. You will be swept away by both the adventure and the beautiful world which Bunzl has imagined. I already know of several Year 6 classes being inspired by this story – there will be many more to come as the series progresses!
Book 4: Deep Magic, Dragons and Talking Mice: How reading C. S. Lewis can change your life – Alister McGrath (Biography/Christian)
From the author of a meticulous and wonderful biography of C. S. Lewis, this beautiful little book seeks to summarise, in an informal and conversational style, some of Lewis’ key beliefs. Ranging from the Narnia series and the power of stories, to friendship and the point of education, this is one of my favourite easy reads. Whilst at times the conversations are a little contrived, this little work neatly conveys some of the key values that C. S. Lewis had, both spiritual and professional. For any fan of ‘Jack’, and there can’t be too many bigger than me(!!!), this is a must-read. Perhaps you have read Narnia and want to get a flavour of the man? Start here, then move into McGrath’s exquisite biography.
Book 5: Time Travelling with a Hamster – Ross Welford
Let it be said that I am a huge fan of alternate history/time-travelling type books. Let it also be said that I constantly find myself having to switch off the rational part of my brain when I do so because, try as I might, I cannot make time-travel work in my head. Let it finally be said that I had to do that WAY less with this book than previous ones! 12 year-old Albert Einstein Hawking Choudary, ‘Al’ for short, is shocked to receive a birthday letter from his father – four years after his death. Revealed are directions to his time machine, with instructions to try to stop the events which led to his passing. Peppered with scientific explanations which reminded me a little of some of the monologues in ‘A Curious Incident…’, this book will stretch more able readers, but will also transport them not only into different times, but also different cultures. It is rare (perhaps I’ve just not looked carefully) to find a children’s novel based so explicitly in the North-East of England, or featuring such a mix of cultures as Geordie and Indian. This book contains several likeable characters and a satisfying ending which draws it all together nicely. A very impressive debut novel.
Book 6: A book you’ll actually read on… The New Testament – Mark Driscoll (Christian)
Part of a series of books intended to introduce people to parts of the Bible/Christian Doctrine, this short book deals with the part of the Bible dealing with Jesus’ birth, life, death, resurrection and the birth of the early church. If you have been a Christian for a few years, there will be very little that is new in this book. It lays out a defence of the textual integrity of the New Testament and provides a helpful overview of the key themes of this earth-shattering collection of books, before providing suggested resources for deeper study. Recommended for new believers or those simply seeking to understand the claims that the New Testament makes about itself.
Book 7: What Not to do if you Turn Invisible – Ross Welford (Kidlit, Upper KS2/KS3)
The final book I read this month rivalled Cogheart for my favourite read! Like ‘Time Travelling…’, this story launches the reader straight into the action. In this instance, straight into the action is a 13 year-old girl, Ethel, struggling with the pressures of fitting in at school and the terrors of acne…and she’s invisible. This lovely book combines themes of friendship, identity, family secrets, regret and even e-safety! As Ethel faces the, at times humorous, perils of invisibility, she also begins to discover more about who she really is. A touching and emotional read, ‘What not do do…’ had me gripped as all the threads began to be weaved together. A very good read which will be very relatable (despite the invisibility thing) to many readers.
Well done if you’ve made it this far! Have you read any of these books this month? Disagree with my star read? Let me know – reading is fantastic on your own but comes into its own when it is shared!