‘Tis the season to be…reading!

It’s that time of year again that we begin to share season’s greetings and wish one another a wonderful Winter time, fabulous festivities and, blast it all, a very merry Christmas! My class of nine year-olds (and, while we’re being honest, their teacher!) have been learning all about our Christmas traditions this week. Whether you are an ‘it’s not Christmas until December’ kinda guy or, like me, prefer your Christmas celebrations to begin in October (I use the quote ‘I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year’ to defend it!), there are some things which just scream ‘Christmas’! Films, music, dodgy knitwear and shamelessly trashy TV spring instantly to mind, but preparing for the Christmas season got me to thinking about some of my favourite Christmas/Wintry books of all time. So, grab a hot chocolate, dust off that elf hat/reindeer antlers/santa suit/musical tie/whatever else your school/employer/family forced you wear to the Christmas Fayre (/work do/party!) and prepare to analyse that most teacher-y of things: a list!


 

Image result for a boy called christmas

The Novels:

A Boy Called Christmas (and ‘The Girl Who Saved Christmas’ and ‘Father Christmas and Me’!) – Matt Haig and Chris Mould (ill.)

They say you should always leave your reader wanting more, that one should leave something back to make sure every reader reaches the very last word. Well I don’t know who ‘they’ are, nor what their credentials are, so I’m going to kick off with what I think, in my minimal experience, could be the most significant Christmas KidLit of its generation!

I absolutely devoured this magical trilogy about the origins of Father Christmas. The first, and in my opinion the best of a very good bunch, ‘A Boy Called Christmas’, introduces us to Nikolas, a Finnish boy who to the untrained eye is destitute. He does, however overflow with something money cannot buy: hope. When his father travels north to a mythical land leaving him behind with a villainous relative, Nikolas must be braver and more hopeful than he ever thought possible as he encounters frightening baddies, some very suspicious elves (elfs?) and more than a little Christmas spirit.

Matt Haig has created a world which is at once magical and, though it may seem odd to say so, rather quite plausible! Combining festive merriment, humour and whimsy with a powerful moral and emotional hook throughout, this really is the quintessential Christmas story. If you are to read just one new Christmas book in the next two weeks, you could do far worse than to follow Nikolas’ adventure.

 

The Christmasaurus – Tom Fletcher and Shane Devries (ill.)

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#52Books2017 August

Ah, Summer. Hibernation period for teachers’ alarm clocks up and down the country. Hours of reading opportunities stretching before us with nothing stopping us from finally reaching the bottom of that to-read pile… Yeah I read very little this month… Four fab titles to peruse though, with a distinctly historical feel!


Book 1: The Wolf Wilder – Katherine Rundell (KidLit, UKS2/3)

There are hidden gems of books that you spot in bookshops and charity shops and take a chance on. And then there are books which have received so many positive reviews from so many people that you feel almost embarrassed to admit you’ve only just read it… this is the latter!

Set one hundred years ago, on the eve of the Russian Revolution, the narrative centres on ‘a dark and stormy girl’, Feodora. Her life, sheltered in many respects, is spent with her mother in the woods teaching wolves, who have been cast out by the Russian aristocracy, how to be wild wolves again. When her noble endeavours attract the wrong sort of attention from a nasty military man, she must discover whether she can be as wild and courageous as the wolves she has looked after, especially as her journey becomes intertwined with that of others in revolutionary Russia.

Smartly subverting the traditional relationship between a heroine and a wolf, ably assisted by the beautiful cover art and the in-text illustrations of Gelrev Ongbico, Wolf Wilder has been described as a modern fairy-tale. Feo is a relatable heroine whose interactions with the real world are often humorous as she struggles with the rigours of leadership, and conjures up that same courage as ‘The Hunger Games’’ Katniss Everdeen when faced with a similar predicament. Indeed, the novel really grows as Feo moves out of her comfort zone and into the wider world. The historian in me loves the potential that children might want to find out more about the period as a result of reading historical novels, and ‘The Wolf Wilder’, with its dramatic and atmospheric story-telling, falls right into that category.

 

Book 2: Jairus’ Girl – L. R. Hay (KidLit, KS2)

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#52Books2017 July Pt. 2

I hope you enjoyed part one of July’s 52books review! I’ve included a couple of wildcards alongside the usual KidLit reviews. I feel it’s important to invest in every area of our lives when reading, so if they’re not your bag then just move on! Some of my favourite reads so far came up this month – as usual I would love to hear your views!


– Star Read – Book 7: The Nowhere Emporium – Ross Mackenzie (KidLit, UKS2) – Star Read –

This is a book I’d had my eye on for quite a few weeks, and it has catapulted up towards the top of my ‘Books of the Year’ list (which up until now didn’t exist, but will make up a blog post at the end of the year!). Daniel, a young Scottish lad with a less-than-comfortable upbringing, finds himself in a strange new shop which has seemingly appeared from nowhere. He soon discovers that the shop, and its patron Mr Silver, are far more mysterious than he realised, and he is soon swept up in a story of magic, wonder and the power of imagination. As Daniel learns more about his strange destiny, the reader is introduced to an engrossing history of shop which costs its customers more than they could have imagined…

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Review: Traction Man is Here

‘All in a day’s work, young spoons…’

 

Synopsis/Review:

Traction Man is here! And in case you hadn’t worked it out, that is a very good thing! Every good action story needs a hero, and Mini Grey has created a hero for our time with her strong, brave and oh-so-fashion-conscious action figure (who bears absolutely no resemblance to a real-life action figure…none at all!). Traction Man travels from room to room, discovering and resolving all manner of disasters whilst defeating domestic super-villains including, but not limited to, a poisonous dishcloth and some evil pillows. With an outfit for every occasion, both suitable and stylish, our hero faces his greatest challenge yet when presented with a very…thoughtful gift on Christmas Day. Will our very own man for all seasons be able to save the day even if he doesn’t quite look the part?

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#52Books2017 July Pt. 1

After a woeful June mostly spent finishing my PGCE (hurrah!), I am happy to report a much more successful reading month in July! With August looking slightly bleak again following a frantic start to the holidays, July will be brought to you in two parts (ooooooh!) with some marvellous reads to recommend!


 

Book 1: The Huntress: Sea – Sarah Driver (KidLit, UKS2)

In the mould of Abi Elphinstone’s ‘Dreamsnatcher’ trilogy comes ‘The Huntress: Sea’, the first in a trilogy of books centring on a feisty girl’s quest to save the ones she loves and fulfil her destiny. Mouse spends her life sailing on The Huntress, a ship captained by her Grandmother, caring for her gifted younger brother following their mother’s death some time before. Determined to prove herself as a future captain of the ship, Mouse is not averse to taking risks, often infuriating those in control! When she receives devastating family news, coinciding with some major changes to the crew she knows and loves, she must take the biggest risk of all. Supported by an unlikely ally and using her unusual, mystical abilities to communicate with the world around her, Mouse begins a quest which will continue in the subsequent two volumes of the story.

As I mentioned above, it is difficult not to draw comparisons between The Huntress and Elphinstone’s Dreamsnatcher. Both feature a strong female lead with a great calling on their life. This book is perfect for those who loved the character of Moll, and those who like their adventures with a touch of magic! Add to that its strong moral themes which become clearer as the book goes on, and this is a solid start to an extremely promising trilogy for older Primary-aged pupils.

 

Book 2: The Island at the End of Everything – Kiran Millwood-Hargrave (KidLit, UKS2-3)

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Guest Review: The Bear Who Stared

The first (of many, I hope) guest posts on Mr B Reads! The hugely talented and very beautiful (it’s cool, she’s my fiancee so I can say that!) @BoxerInABox has shared her thoughts on the excellent picture book ‘The Bear Who Stared’!


‘There once was a bear who liked to stare… and stare… and stare.’

 

Image result for the bear who stared

Synopsis/Review:

We all have that one friend who approaches social situations slightly… differently to other people (if you don’t know which friend it is, it may be you…). We’re all different after all! In ‘The Bear Who Stared’, a solitary, cave-dwelling bear sets out on a journey to find some new friends. Sadly for him, his friend-making strategy, that of staring incessantly, is not well-received by any of the animals he meets. However, a chance encounter leads to a change of perspective and tactics. Will our lonely, yet loveable, hero be able to overcome his difficulties and make the lasting friendships he so craves?

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#52books2017 Mid-Year Review!

Seeing as how I spent the majority of last month rocking backwards and forwards wondering how on earth I was going to finish my PGCE, I’m not going to do a monthly review for June. If I did, it would simply be a solitary book review… I’m definitely going to get a review of it in, but I think I’ll just tag it onto the beginning of July’s review instead if that suits my esteemed readership!

So, I’ve just told you that I’m not writing a review post, and yet you are reading my words on the screen before you… What is the meaning of this? Ladies and Gentle-readers, welcome to my Mr B Reads Mid-Year Review!!!


The stats

Books read: 32

Picture books (read and reviewed HERE): 5

KidLit novels: 21

Fiction: 2

History: 1

Christian: 2

Other non-fiction: 2

 

The awards

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#52books2017 May

“It’s finally here!”, I hear you all cry! Yes, after some crazy PGCE times I have finally managed to get this review out! Hope you enjoy!


Book 1: Out of the Silent Planet – C. S. Lewis (Fiction)

Well it’s been a good long while since I’ve read any Lewis so here we go!

More famous for his children’s fantasy novels (which happen to be my absolute all-time faves…) and his works of Christian apologetics (which have to rank a fairly close second…), C. S. Lewis also gained plaudits for this H. G. Wells-inspired Sci-fi trilogy which I have finally got around to starting reading. On an innocuous cross-country hiking trip, Dr Ransom finds himself caught up in a far greater trip – to another planet. After the horrible men who coerce him to travel with them, he can only imagine what the terrifying life-forms may be like on the planet they eventually reach. Using his skills as a Professor of Linguistics, Ransom attempts to survive, then thrive, in this brand new world of myth and mystery. I always strive to be fair and honest when reviewing books. With that in mind, this book will not be for everyone. It is certainly not the book I would recommend to a first-time reader of Lewis. The narrative may be a little wordy for some tastes, as you might expect for someone of Lewis’ high academic standing! HOWEVER, it is a novel full of wonders. I had to constantly remind myself that it was written not only before satellites and the space race, but before the second world war. Whilst the myth of travelling to a planet via conventional means and finding life has now been dispelled, Out of the Silent Planet is in many ways actually fairly plausible for the era in which it was written! Whilst it does not contain the overt allusions to Christianity that his later Narnia books do, it would not be a Lewis work if there was no kind of moralistic undertone, or indeed references to his other great love: mythology. Indeed, in amongst the world-creation he is now renowned for, Lewis has here spun a tantalising tale which draws together a theme of realism that humans are not as virtuous as we may like to present, tinged with the hope that hope is not yet lost. An excellent book for the Lewis fan, but do start with Narnia if you’re meeting him for the first time!

 

Book 2: Oliver and the Seawigs – Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre (KidLit, Lower KS2)

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#52Books2017 April

 

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)

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Review: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore

‘Morris Lessmore loved words. Loved stories. Loved books. But every story has its upsets…’

 

 

 

 

 

Synopsis/Review:

Mr Morris Lessmore loves words. He loves stories. He loves books. He writes each day in his own book, pouring out his joys and sorrows, wishes and dreams, hopes and frustrations. But one day, quite unexpectedly and quite literally, Morris’ life gets flipped upside down and his world changes from colour to grey, order to disorder, security to uncertainty. As he begins his new sad journey, he discovers first one book and then many more. Thus begins a new life among lived amongst a plethora of pages, where he learns each day the wonder of the word and the beauty of the book.

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