This is a new series by husband and wife team and their compatibility obviously pays off in the writing. Never a dull moment, and packed full of laughs, this is an endearing look at different cultures, friendships, and how to be brave. There are particular stellar characters, including a grandmother and a little sister, who delightfully is not stereotypically annoying, but actually a great help to Sam.
A great introduction to chapter books. You can buy it here. The Great Telephone Mix-Up by Sally Nicholls, illustrated by Sheena Dempsey An absolutely charming tale about the importance of community, helping your neighbours and reaping the surprising benefits.
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When the phone wires in a sleepy little village get mixed up, the neighbours start to discover things about each other as they receive the wrong phone calls, and then have to pass on the messages. It turns out that meeting each other face to face not only brings new friendships, but brings awareness of who in the town is struggling, needs help or may need to find love. Nicholls carefully gets over the problem of mobile phones by explaining there is no signal in the town a message not entirely lost on rural communities , and so everyone relies on their home phone.
The story is simple, the text well-spaced, and illustrations by Sheena Dempsey positively charming.
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A lovely addition to the Little Gems selection. Noah decides that if everyone in the world were like him, then that would solve the problem- after all the majority rules, right? It starts, as all school problems do, in the school canteen when Noah is served meat pie instead of spaghetti with tomato sauce.
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When Noah wakes the next morning and goes to school, he finds himself already sitting in his seat — there are two of him. And each day the number of Noahs double until finally they get what they want. They also share the same opinions like a modern day echo chamber. This is a brilliant examination of how to get along with others, as well as a great representation of coping in school when a child is having to manage a mental health issue such as OCD, which dictates that routine is of paramount importance to the day. A fun, and also highly accessible read. Tyler is too smart for school and has been homeschooled for much of her life.
But when she and her Dad move to Happyville, he enrols her in the local school. Tyler is enthralled when she discovers that one of them has developed an algorithm to decipher which candy bar is best, with the results laid out on a spreadsheet. When the popular kids are struck with an affliction — their right arms elongate to enable them to take better selfies — the three new friends have to use their brains to rid the town of this vain disorder.
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There is much slapstick and silly humour but also a biting satirical look at the way our society ranks people and behaves. Fabulously funny in many ways and incredibly readable. For slightly older readers than the other books on this blog. Self-illustrated too.
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Magical Kingdom of Birds: The Sleepy Hummingbirds by Anne Booth, illustrated by Rosie Butcher A gentler start to a series in this book about magical escapism — something we all might need from the world of selfie-sticks and cool school heroes. When Maya colours in the pages of her colouring book, she is whisked into a magical kingdom filled with the most enchanting colourful birds and their small fairy friends. But, as with all idylls, trouble is brewing, and the evil Lord Astor has a plan to capture the tiniest, most vulnerable residents and put them into cages.
Maya has the privilege and great responsibility of being Keeper of the Book, and she must protect the kingdom and its birds at all costs. An early introduction to the beauty of the natural world, with each book in the series showcasing a different species, this is a wonderful start to early reading. The pages are exquisitely illustrated in black and white by Rosie Butcher, the text in many cases framed by a leafy border, encapsulating the words and the story in this natural landscape.
A quick mention to three other series. Unicorn Academy by Julie Sykes, illustrated by Lucy Truman has hitchhiked perfectly onto the current zeitgeist for all things unicorn. With its sparkly covers and more grown-up illustrations, these reminded me of my adoration and loyalty to all things My Little Pony when I was a child. The Unicorn Academy adventures are school stories in which the girls each have their own unicorn, and each book introduces themes such as friendship, loyalty, and independence.
The first in the series, Sophia and the Rainbow , introduces ten-year-old Sophia who finds out that each unicorn has its own special powers. The stories are simple, chapters short, but the series has the magical potential to turn reading into a habit. Cute illustrations adorn the front and continue inside, with big eyes as a feature.
Large typography and short chapters make comprehension easy. Lastly, for more advanced readers, the publisher Simon and Schuster have republished The Spiderwick Chronicles by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black in beautifully illustrated hardback editions. This gothic fantasy series is a great choice for fluent readers who want to expand their literary landscape — with a richly imagined world of dark fairies. The Grace children move into the Spiderwick Estate and through secret passageways and hidden doors, they discover that they are not alone in the new house.
First published in , with a movie, the series is well-worth revisiting for a new young audience. In a world of current political turmoil, it can be helpful to look to historical fiction for guidance. Next year, attention focusses fully on this again, as Vote aims to bring attention to the th anniversaries in The Representation of the People Act allowing some women to vote for the first time and the Parliament Qualification of Women Act in allowing women to stand for election to the Commons as well as many other anniversaries.
Things a Bright Girl Can Do by Sally Nicholls One of my favourite authors for middle grade, Nicholls tells a wonderful yarn no matter her subject matter, and here she steps completely into YA territory. This accomplished novel follows three girls, Evelyn, May and Nell, through their fight for the vote at the beginning of the First World War. Each girl is from a different social strata of society, Evelyn is expected to marry rather than be educated, and Nell is a working class girl just trying to get by , and each has different aims and ambitions, as well as winningly flawed yet determined personas.
Nicholls tackles social history with aplomb, as well as LGBT issues and the tangled emotions of suffragette women as their cause became swept up in the war breaking out across Europe. The research shines through, but never overpowers the book, and it is the girls who in the end dominate and succeed — through hardship and tears. Characters to remember, prose to devour. Buy your copy here. The story strikes a lovely balance between school days tussles with friends and enemies, conservative teachers and disapproving adults , with the political cause dominating the landscape.
Mollie and her friend take to the suffragette cause in a gentle way; attempting to attend meetings; their most daring venture being the chalking of pavements with notices. It feels real, and practical, and suited well to the age of the protagonist.
This novel is set in Dublin rather than England, and also intersperses the politics of suffrage with issues of Irish Home Rule, illustrated by speeches of the time. Clever, engaging and endearing. You can purchase it here. This one is no different. It highlights her leadership skills, the adversity she faced as a single mother after the death of her husband, and her commitment to her family as well as to the cause.
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Her life is distilled into a simple, harmless yet powerful biography. With retro colouring, and great attention to detail, the illustrations make the storytelling. Although suffrage in this country does get a good deal of attention, there are some startling facts and figures from other countries that are worth knowing, and this book aims to highlight them.
In fact, the story starts in New Zealand, with Kate Sheppard, who cycled her way around the streets in Christchurch in Maori women and female settlers in New Zealand became the first women in the world to win the right to vote in a national election in Fascinatingly illustrated too, in that the illustrations dominate each page with their bold colours, striking strength and symbolism, and each suits its country well, there is little text for the size of the book — just enough to convey the pertinent points and get the reader thinking.
The book ends in with Saudi Arabia, but also draws some conclusions. The author points out that women have a long way to go in other areas of equality, such as pay, education, and opportunities, and asks the reader to think about the global patterns in which suffrage was granted — often at times of war, revolution, or changes in identity.
This is a powerful-looking book for a powerful subject, and well-deserving of a place in every library. You can pre-order your copy here. Featuring women from across the centuries and around the world who have had a remarkable influence, including suffragette Anna Elizabeth Dickinson, Hatshepsut, Florence Nightingale, Anna Pavlova, The Bronte Sisters, Indira Ghandhi and many more. Each person is described in a few pages, highlighting what they have done, but also why they matter.
The text style is chatty and informative, but also quite dense — there are very few illustrations here. Perhaps a book to dip into, rather like short stories. I wanted to showcase a few books that are intended for these children who demonstrate reluctance or difficulty with reading. These books are all short in pages, but their content is so stunning that they deserve to be read by the most fluent and able readers too — some of the most pleasurable recent reads of mine have been from this little flock of gems written by a cohort of amazing authors. The last of a trilogy, following Brock and Pike , although each could be read as a standalone , I think this last is my favourite.
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