Well didn’t that month go by quickly? A few more read this month than last, but that has by no means led to a lack of quality! As always, I hope you enjoy and are inspired by some of these books and do let me know, by means of comments and shares, if you found it helpful!
Book 1: The Dark Wild – Piers Torday (KidLit, Upper KS2/3)
Last month we kicked off with a book from Piers Torday’s excellent ‘Wild’ trilogy. It went well. We’re doing the same this month! The Dark Wild picks up where The Last Wild finishes, with the young Kester Jaynes seeking to save the world as he knows it! This part of the trilogy finds him exploring more of the city of his birth, encountering terrifying enemies both old and new and once again depending on his remarkable gift and eclectic friendships. As with book one, there are strong moral themes running through the book, particularly those of environmental care and personal courage in the face of adversity. Overall, the Dark Wild is another fine, rip-roaring adventure in a series which has won fans both young and…slightly less young!
Book 2: The Boy Who Sailed the Ocean in an Armchair – Lara Williamson (KidLit, Upper KS2)
I’ll start with a confession…I kind of read the title a little more literally than I should have! What I thought would be more of a fantasy adventure, which is more like my normal read, was something very different, but just as gripping. When Becket and his younger brother are whisked away from their stepmum in the middle of the night by their father, he finds himself at the centre of a mystifying conundrum. Whilst starting a new school and a new life with his not-so-domestically-gifted father, Becket sets out to solve and rectify the mystery of why his life has so drastically changed. At the same time he determines to find closure following the death of his mother by working out a way of saying goodbye. I was so impressed by the way Lara was able to tackle tough issues from a child’s perspective and am convinced that this could be a great help for any children facing issues of bereavement or family strife.
Book 3: Fortunately, the Milk – Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell (ill.) (KidLit, Lower KS2)
This book marks my first meeting with both Gaiman and Riddell and it was quite a ride! First things first, the illustrations are simply extraordinary! If you are aware of Chris Riddell’s work then you’ll be wondering how it has taken someone with a KidLit blog so long to figure that out, but better late than never! He is the perfect illustrator for this wacky little Lower Key Stage 2 book! Essentially, a dad goes out to buy some milk. He buys it and brings it home. The story he brings back with it though, and the colourful assortment of characters he claims to have met along the way, are surely too wild to be believed. Right??? From aliens to pirates to many others besides, this humorous little book is sure to capture the attention of young readers and could easily be tied to a few different areas of learning besides! I particularly love the idea of the book as a bit of an older reader’s Tiddler (Julia Donaldson) – did the story REALLY happen, or was it just the work of a father’s magical imagination? Either way I really enjoyed my foray into the world of illustrated chapter books!
– STAR READ – Book 4: The Uncommoners: The Crooked Sixpence – Jennifer Bell (KidLit, Upper KS2) – STAR READ –
Now if ‘The Boy who Sailed…’ (though brilliant!) didn’t tick the fantasy adventure box, this one certainly did! When Ivy and Seb Sparrow’s Grandmother has a fall and is taken to hospital, adventure could not be further from their minds. However, she has a mysterious past, and when the children find themselves face to face with a terrifying and magical message, and being pursued by some unconventional law enforcement officers, there is only one escape: the mysterious world of Lundinor, where everything is not as it seems! I don’t want to give anything away about the plot, but hopefully if I tell you that I’ll never look at a feather, a suitcase or a toilet brush the same way ever again, it will make you curious enough to explore Lundinor yourselves! Jennifer Bell has brilliantly woven together a believable world with bucket-loads of potential for future exploration, as demonstrated by the forthcoming second part of the series in a few weeks’ time! From history, to conventions and even down to fashion (SO many simple but hilarious World Book Day ideas!!!), Bell’s world is well-thought through and, importantly feasible. And I am a sucker for a feasible fantasy world! I have never got into Harry Potter (though I did finally read #1 last month!), but throughout the story I felt how I’m sure many Potter fans did while exploring Diagon Alley or the grounds of Hogwarts itself. This is not just a work of great imagination, though. The storyline is pacy, gripping and has moments of real danger as Ivy, yet another example of a great fantasy-fiction heroine, tries to save not only Lundinor but also her family. I was thoroughly enjoyed this first Uncommoners story and cannot wait for ‘The Smoking Hourglass’!
Book 5: And The Rest Is History – Jodi Taylor (Fiction)
Now this is a tricky one to write a review of without giving anything away about the previous seven books in the series (not to mention the ‘shorts’ which I confess I’m yet to engage with!), all of which I implore you to read! Please do see my short review of the series HERE if you’re are unsure on whether to take the plunge. But back to the matter at hand. Instalment eight of this excellent series is stunning! I have loved every book in the series but I don’t think any of them have made me quite so emotional or invested in the characters as this one. Combining the madcap with the heart-breaking, Jodi Taylor continues to break ground with a series which is at once a celebration of history, a viable sci-fi/time-travel (although we don’t call it that at St Mary’s Institute of course!) and an excellent, exciting, laugh-out-loud work of genius! I have all eight novels on kindle and there are always fantastic deals on them, so please do, even if just to sample, get that e-reader out! The hype has grown to the point that there are physical copies too for the purist so there really is no excuse. There really is only one course of action for you now. Go and read the first one. Find me on Twitter. Tell me how glad you are that you took my advice!
Book 6: The Passion of Jesus Christ – John Piper (Christian)
Presuming that many of my readers are fellow teachers, it cannot have escaped your attention that we have this month celebrated the Easter season by eating copious amounts of chocolate and having two weeks off school. If Easter meant nothing else then I would still be glad it was in the calendar! However, as I mentioned in my list of ‘things which might offend you about me’ in my very first post, I am a Christian, and the message of Easter is so much more than just a couple of weeks of rest (needed as that most certainly is!). With that in mind I read this short book to bring me back to that message. In it, Piper lists 50 reasons that the Bible tells us Jesus died at Easter, and although some of the reasons are a little stretched out (in order to get to a nice round ‘50’ rather than a far less palatable and marketable ‘39’ for example!), it is a wonderful reminder of why we still remember this most selfless and shocking act 2000 years later. If you are looking for a defence of the Christian faith, this is not the book for you. Rather this is a work intended, I think, first for the Christian who wants to re-centre him/herself in a busy and noisy world, and would be best read a chapter (two pages) or two at a time, and second for anyone looking to understand why Easter is such an important time for the Christian and for our society. For what it is and is intended to be, this is a helpful and manageable little volume.
Book 7: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore – W. E. Joyce (PicFic)
What can I possibly say about this beautiful picture book that I haven’t already said…? Probably nothing. With that in mind, please please do check out my review of the book with suggested classroom activities HERE. I am overwhelmed that my little blog has any views at all, let alone the lovely comments, but I am sad for the sake of this sublime book that it has fewer views than some of my earlier entries! There are many, many outstanding picture books that I hope to share with you, but of them all this is one of the more powerful. A celebration of literature, a joy, a delight. Read it!
I was so close to finishing Book 8 today but it will have to wait until next month! So, which is your favourite this month? Have I finally persuaded you to give The Chronicles of St Mary’s a try?? Don’t be a stranger, let me know!