Category Archives: Book review

Book review – World-wide Waste

TitleWorld Wide Waste: It’s Not a Load of Rubbish 

Written by: Caren Trafford

Illustrated by: David Wilsher and Jessica Laurentia

Published by: Etram Publishing

World-wide Waste

Caren Trafford, expertly uses narrative non-fiction to examine the enormous waste issues around the world and urges everyone – children, parents, teachers and politicians – to take pro-active measures to help clean up our environment. This book is full of fascinating facts and witty wisdom to make conservation fun. It is written as an interview with Dumpi, a paper bag rapper (wrapper) who wants to be the most recycled bag on the planet, and his friends. They have uncovered the way to stop world-wide waste and create an eco-friendly 21st century.

Full of bright imaginative illustrations that bring the quirky characters alive, World-wide Waste: It’s Not a Load of Rubbish, focuses on issues, such as the acceleration of pollution and climate change. These have to be one of the greatest challenges of our time and the gang are wasting no time, in bringing you the biggest scoop of the century: cover ups, bad smells, danger, destruction and the quest to save our world.

This book highlights this important environmental message in a fun and motivating way. It would make the ideal gift for any child interested in the environment and would be an excellent resource in the classroom to support topics on green issues, recycling and conservation. It could also be used for triggering discussion and encouraging empathy.

Book Review – Two brothers and a Chocolate Factory

Title: Two brothers and a Chocolate Factory

Written by: Juliet Clare Bell

Illustrated by: Jess Mikhail

Published by: Bournville Village Trust

Two brothers and a Chocoalte Factory

Two brothers and a Chocolate Factory: The Remarkable story of Richard and George Cadbury is a beautifully written narrative non-fiction interlaced with quotes. It explains how the brothers Richard and George Cadbury endeavoured to make their father’s chocolate factory a success. They dreamed of making the world a better place to live and work despite all odds, sceptics and circumstance.

It would appeal to children who are fascinated by social history and also to those that just love chocolate and want to find out more how Cadbury became one of the biggest producers of chocolate in the UK.

Jess Mikhail’s use of colour to contrast the good times and the bad times in the illustrations compliments the text perfectly and adds depth. The detail given to the clothing, hairstyles and homes during Victorian times helps to bring the book alive.

This inspiring picture book would be a great addition to schools and libraries not only in Birmingham where it is set, but all over the world as it recalls how people can achieve anything if they put their mind to it. The theme of following your dreams echoes from every page.

Book Review – The Story of the Olympics

Title: The Story of the Olympics

Written and Illustrated by:  Richard Brassey

Published by: Orion Books

The Story of the Olympics

This book is written in graphic novel style and is part of Richard Brassey’s The Story of… series, which includes such titles as: The Story of England, The Story of Scotland, The Story of London, The Story of World War One and The Story of the World Cup.

The Story of the Olympics is certainly a new slant on an old subject. It is full of the most amazing, obscure facts. Things I most certainly never knew before and never even thought to ask. Some of these facts would make great starting points for a wide range of speaking and listening activities in the classroom or even in a discussion with your child, especially the information he gives about how politics have interfered with the games.

The book compares the ancient and modern Olympics in an exciting and informative way – a favourite with teachers who are covering the Olympics as part of their topic on Ancient Greece. The bright and adventurous pictures capture the imagination and keep you turning the pages to discover the fascinating snippets of information about each of the Olympic Games and the winners, throughout history from 1908 and goes as far as the 2016 games held in Rio de Janeiro. The information is conveyed in a chatty, humorous way which will keep the attention of even the most reluctant reader.

I particularly like the way it starts with the Olympic truce and the Olympic ideal, two things which are often neglected in other books about the Olympics. This is certainly a book to keep your eye on if teaching about the Olympics or the Greeks or even World War Two, especially with Tokyo 2020 looming next year.

Book Review – Frankie Foster Pick ‘n’ Mix

Title: Frankie Foster Pick ‘n’ Mix

Written by:  Jean Ure

Published by: Harper Collins

All Frankie Foster wants to do is help people. She wear a tee-shirt that says Here to Help. She loves fixing people’s problems. But, her help is not always welcome as more often than not, she leaves disaster in her wake. Eventually though, Frankie does always fix things.

Pick ‘n’ Mix is the second book in the series about accident-prone Frankie Foster. Mum has agreed to let her friend’s daughter, Emilia, stay for a while so her friend can get a little respite. But, this means Frankie has to move out of her tiny attic bedroom and share her sister’s bedroom with Emilia, to her sister’s disgust. Frankie finds she has taken on more than she has bargained with Emilia, whose behaviour leaves a lot to be desired, creating some dramatic and very funny twists in the story.

The book is aimed at girls 9+ and is written in the first person. As with Jean Ure’s other novels, the characters leap off the page, making an immediate and lasting impression.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading Jacqueline Wilson’s and Anne Fine’s books.

Book review – The Words that Fly Between Us

Title: The Words that Fly Between Us

Written by: Sarah Carroll

Cover illustrated by: Thy Bui

Published by: Simon & Schuster

The Words that Fly Between Us

An excellent YA book about learning to stand up for yourself and also covers the transition from one school to another. For me it was not so much the plot of the book that resonated with me but the underlying messages hidden within the plot.

The Words that Fly Between Us is about thirteen year old Lucy Fitzsimons whose family life is not as perfect as people think. In public her dad is warm smiles and sweet words. He look like the perfect loving husband and father and as far as Lucy can remember he used to be before he became over-stressed with work, and bullied himself by the owner of the bank. But behind closed doors he becomes another person, as she vividly portrays in her drawings. He is sour and bitter and the words that come out of his mouth are vicious and suffocating. Yet the words he does not say hurt just as badly. Lucy wakes up each morning hoping her dad is in a good mood.

Her best friend Megan is also being bullied by words from Hazel, a girl she knows from orchestra. On the surface Hazel pretends to be Megan’s friend but she is always making snide comments about the way Megan looks and acts. Lucy can’t believe Megan does not notice but in the same way Lucy pretends everything is ok at home, Megan pretends everything is ok with Hazel.

The whole book is a metaphor for how words can hurt just as badly as sticks and stones. Throughout the book, Sarah Carroll, expertly describes how the words that fly from her father’s mouth stick to surfaces, hide in wallpaper and drop to the carpet like invisible stains, lingering and filling the house with sadness. But it is not only the words people say. Sarah Carroll cleverly compares this to the words people write as well because Hazel not only bullies Megan with the things she says but also with the comments she anonymously writes on Megan’s blog.

The themes of truth, friendship and not believing the things other people say, ring strong and clear on every page, even in the beliefs Lucy has about her neighbour Ms Cusack. Her dad has told her Ms Cusack is poor, crazy cat woman. Lucy starts to explore the secret lives of her neighbours, in some cases by using the attic that is connected to every house on her side of the street, and she finds out her father’s words are not always true.

Through Lucy’s desire to help people she discovers words can help people too. The words in the books Ms Cusack give her are a source of knowledge that helps her to make sense of her own world and the note a young tramp gives her in exchange for train money, that simply says ‘I hope you feel safe all day’ provides Lucy with a new perspective and understanding. In the end, both Lucy and Megan gain the courage to stand up to their bullies. Lucy also realises the truth will set her free when she reveals the shady deals her father and his associates are involved with. In the long run it helps free her dad from his bully, as well as freeing her from her dad.

An excellent book to use in the classroom as a means to discuss bullying and trolling. It is also a great book for empowering young people to stand up for themselves and to not keep bullying a secret. The Words that Fly Between Us clearly demonstrates that once the bully is exposed, action can be taken to stop them. This book really makes you think.

Book Review – Amazing Mr Zooty

Title: Amazing Mr Zooty

Written and Illustrated by: Emma Chichester Clark

Published by: Anderson Press

Amazing Mr Zooty

This is the story of a cat called Mr Zooty who likes to help people. The Amazing Mr Zooty’s motto is:

‘Get out, help out’

He searches the park to find someone who needs his help and discovers Lucy and Sam Taylor. They are down on their luck and very poor. With the aid of his little red case Mr Zooty grants them all a wish to make their dreams come true but he likes to sprinkle in a few ideas of his own.

This is a good book to read aloud to a foundation class whilst showing the pictures and asking the children what they think might happen next. Early readers could use the illustrations to tell their own versions of the story.

Book Review – The Girl with the Bird’s Nest Hair

Title: The Girl with the Bird’s Nest Hair

Written and illustrated by: Sarah Dyer

Published by: Bloomsbury

The Girl with the Bird_s Nest Hair

A little girl does not like brushing her tangled tresses, but when a varied selection of birds set up home in her hair, she knows she certainly cannot brush it and upset them. Nothing her mother says or does makes any difference, until one day when the birds become a little more than she can handle!

This is a beautifully illustrated book written in rhyming couplets. This book would be a joy to read aloud in the classroom, or could be used for guided reading, allowing time for the children to ponder over the illustrations to spot the different birds that nest in Hollie’s hair. Children will be able to easily identify with Hollie and the dilemma of having to have their hair brushed.