The Twits – Roald Dahl — November 6, 2020

The Twits – Roald Dahl

Goodreads Synopsis – How do you outwit a Twit? Mr. and Mrs. Twit are the smelliest, ugliest people in the world. They hate everything – – except playing mean jokes on each other, catching innocent birds to put in their Bird Pies, and making their caged monkeys, the Muggle-Wumps, stand on their heads all day. But the Muggle-Wumps have had enough. They don’t just want out, they want revenge.

My Thoughts – This book has the same charm and silliness as you expect from Dahl books. However, it does show its age with some of the comments made in the book, in particular ‘a weird African language’. But as with all Dahl books, it is a timeless classic that will more than likely be read by children for many years to come.

The book has a very quick pace with short chapters, which makes reading it very quick and easy to read. This makes it suitable for younger readers who are just starting to read longer, chapter books. There are also lots of illustrations dotted throughout, making it more engaging for young readers, and also helping children make the transition from picture books to chapter books.

The lack of names (other than Mr. or Mrs.) makes it less personal and harder to connect with the characters. There also is no character development in the book, however, this makes it a simpler read for those children who require.

Overall, this is a fun, engaging and quick read for readers of all ages. It’s suitable for younger readers starting to explore chapter books.

What can you do with a line? Gülşah Yemen & Çağrı Odabaşı — October 31, 2020

What can you do with a line? Gülşah Yemen & Çağrı Odabaşı

Netgalley Description – Lines are amazing – from thick to thin (and from thicker to thinner)! Just think of what you can make with them: triangles, squares, and circles. Houses, tigers, even ice cream cones! What else can you do with a line?

My Thoughts – I love the idea of this book, showing children the power and the endless opportunities from a simple line on a piece of paper. It reminds me of other titles I have been introduced to in the past with a similar premise.

This book would be great for young readers beginning to mark make and starting the explore the power of marks and lines on paper and what they can do with a pen. It has several simple shapes and colours within the book, which would be useful to develop vocabulary for young readers and to help with the recognition of this.

The illustrations suit the book and work really well. The language used is simple and each page only has a sentence or two on each page. This book is aimed at young readers in nursery and pre-school to support creativity and basic shape and colour recognition.

Chronicles of Narnia (The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe) – C.S. Lewis — October 23, 2020

Chronicles of Narnia (The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe) – C.S. Lewis

Goodreads Synopsis – Narnia…. the land beyond the wardrobe door, a secret place frozen in eternal winter, a magical country waiting to be set free.

Lucy is the first to find the secret of the wardrobe in the professor’s mysterious old house. At first her brothers and sister don’t believe her when she tells of her visit to the land of Narnia. But soon Edmund, then Peter and Susan step through the wardrobe themselves. In Narnia they find a country buried under the evil enchantment of the White Witch. When they meet the Lion Aslan, they realize they’ve been called to a great adventure and bravely join the battle to free Narnia from the Witch’s sinister spell.

My Thoughts – I remember reading this book with my dad when I was younger. We read the whole series together. It still has the magic that it did when I first read the series, a timeless classic. I enjoyed re-reading this book, and I often struggle to re-read books as I remember the plot and the excitement and the magic is lost. This book is an easy book to read with a quick pace to hold young readers attention.

Religion is a theme that runs throughout the books. There is a regular mention of Son of Adam and Daughters of Eve, which links directly to the bible story of Adam and Eve.

You can tell which era it was written in by the content throughout. In one scene one of the male characters shows emotion by crying and one of the female characters tells him he should be ashamed of this display of emotion. This is very different from today’s society where men are encouraged to share their feelings and emotions with others.

One thing I would have liked to have read more of is character development. We can read between the lines and see that there is major character development, but I would have liked to have more focus on this as it could have been a major part of the book. However this may not have been as engaging for young readers.

The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett *spoilers* — October 2, 2020

The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett *spoilers*

Goodreads Synopsis – The plot centers round Mary Lennox, a young English girl who returns to England from India, having suffered the immense trauma by losing both her parents in a cholera epidemic. However, her memories of her parents are not pleasant, as they were a selfish, neglectful and pleasure-seeking couple. Mary is given to the care of her uncle Arhibald Craven, whom she has never met. She travels to his home, Misselthwaite Manor located in the gloomy Yorkshire, a vast change from the sunny and warm climate she was used to. When she arrives, she is a rude, stubborn and given to stormy temper tantrums. However, her nature undergoes a gradual transformation when she learns of the tragedies that have befallen her strict and disciplinarian uncle whom she earlier feared and despised. One when he’s away from home, Mary discovers a charming walled garden which is always kept locked. The mystery deepens when she hears the sounds of sobbing from somewhere within her uncle’s vast mansion. The kindly servants ignore her queries or pretend they haven’t heard, spiking Mary’s curiosity.

My Thoughts – I enjoyed reading this book, but I’m going to admit from the start that it is not one of my favourites, it was alright. I think that the first half of the book was a little slow, and I was tempted to DNF it, but I continued and enjoyed the second half of the book much more. I think the ending was very fitting and it was exactly how I expected it to end.

At the start Mary is a very unlikable character, she is very upper class and expects everything to be done for her and she is very unchildlike for her age. As the book goes on, you start to see her change and she becomes much more likable and her childlike innocence is apparent. I had similar feelings towards Colin too, I found him to be unlikable and set in his ways. He has a very negative view of the world when we first meet him and gradually you start to see how he changes as he gets to know Mary and the garden.

There are some subtle racist comments hidden throughout the book, meaning that it is likely that children won’t pick up on this consciously. It makes reference to the colour black being bad and white being good, which may reinforce some racist ideas. But there is direct references to being accepting of other cultures, which goes against the subtle racism.

It is a very timely book to read at the moment as it makes reference to an epidemic and Mary comes to England from India. Overall, it was an enjoyable book, but I won’t be rushing to re-read it again.

Mythopedia – Good Wives and Warriers — September 14, 2020

Mythopedia – Good Wives and Warriers

Synopsis – This book contains myths about mystical beasts from around the world. The book is split into different sections, with each section focusing on a different part of the world and common myths in that part of the world.

107263737_2113042712173584_7309353173983794032_n

My thoughts – I really enjoyed reading this book, I wasn’t aware of the vast range of myths from around the world that there are. It was interesting to read about myths that I had grown up with and had some knowledge of. I didn’t realise how each of the mythical beasts were created and about their lives.

I liked that each myth was short, it made it very engaging, and would be ideal for young readers or reluctant readers. The illustrations on each page were bright and colourful and will catch the attention of young readers. It will give them something to look at whilst someone is reading it to them. It will also help them to imagine where the creatures lived and how they all looked.

Some of the language used may be tricky for younger readers, but with some support and explanation this book could be adopted for most years groups in primary school.

Classroom ideas – This book would be ideal if you were looking at different myths from around the world. The short summaries of each myth would be ideal for children to use as models to write their own myths.

You could also use each myth as a text for comprehension questions and to look at a range of language and to broaden children’s vocabulary.

The Hobbit – J.R.R Tolkein — September 8, 2020

The Hobbit – J.R.R Tolkein

Goodreads Synopsis – In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

My Thoughts – I’ve known about this book for years, alongside the Lord of the Rings, but I’ve never had the opportunity or the want to pick either up. As part of my reading for my masters they suggested reading the Hobbit so I thought I would give it a try.

Not going to lie, I found the book challenging to read. Some of the chapters were too long and I lost focus whilst reading them. About half way through some chapters, I felt like I needed a break and that they went on a little too long.

I didn’t develop any empathy or connection with the characters in the book. I think that this may be because it was a male dominated book, with no female characters even mentioned in the book. However, connecting with male characters has not been an issue in previous books. I also wasn’t rooting for the characters.

I think the general idea for the book was good, the plot was solid and has potential. But personally, this book just didn’t work for me, but I know many others love this book and others by Tolkein.

The Crossover – Kwame Alexander — August 19, 2020

The Crossover – Kwame Alexander

Synopsis – Twin brothers, Josh and Jordan, are star basketball players at school. The brothers deal with growing up, both on and off the court, before the tragedy happens.

My thoughts – I wasn’t too sure about the book at first, it took a few pages to get used to it being written in verse, but when I did get into it, I really enjoyed it. The verses have a good flow to them and lend themselves to being read aloud. There is an emphasis placed on certain words with the layout of the book, an example of this is the word down is split into four lines, each letter on the line below so you are reading down. This is done throughout the book, and makes it more engaging for a reader.

You quickly become attached to the characters within the book and empathise with their situation. It feels very real and is easy to relate to the events throughout the book. The use of slang makes it feel more personal and realistic and helps you to build a connection with the character.

Even though there’s no description within the book, it is easy to imagine what is happening and where they are from the language used and prior knowledge.

Classroom ideas – It would be good to explore the point of view of other key characters within the book. The book is told by Josh and only really considers his feelings. Exploring the thoughts and feelings of other characters would enable the pupils to develop their understanding of the plot and the motives of the characters.

The author uses key poetry techniques throughout the book which would lend itself to lots of discussions about the different techniques and what impact it has on the story and how it is read.

*Spoilers*

It would be important to discuss the death of their dad with the class, to ensure they all were ok. It can be a hard ending to read and for some children may not be an appropriate book to share with them, depending on their needs. This would need to be addressed sensitively and with caution to cause as little upset as possible, whilst getting important messages across to the class.

Bad Girls – Jacqueline Wilson, Nick Sharratt — August 18, 2020

Bad Girls – Jacqueline Wilson, Nick Sharratt

Mandy is delighted when Tanya picks her as a new friend, after being bulled at school for as long as she can remember. Mandy’s mum isn’t impressed, she thinks that Tanya is a ‘bad girl’. Mandy loves spending time with her new friend and doesn’t think Tanya is a bad influence, but is she right?

I really enjoyed reading this, I’ve loved Jacqueline Wilson books since I was a child and reading it brought back many memories of reading her books. Wilson has a way of connecting with her young readers and getting into their emotions and feelings easily. Her writing has a child-like element/style to it that works perfectly for her audience and the type of books she writes.

The book covers some quite challenging topics, such as bullying, the care system and suicide. I would highly advise reading this book yourself before you share it with children and knowing the child well as some may struggle with some of the issues in the book. This will also make Mandy and Tanya relatable characters for many children, as they may have faced similar issues to the characters. It is so important that children are represented in books and see themselves.

The book was easy to read with fairly simple vocabulary used making it accessible for all readers. The plot was also easy to follow, it was quite simple and linear and didn’t jump all over the place so it was easy to follow along, which will help younger readers to engage and follow the story and understand what is happening.

*SMALL SPOILERS*

I had one issue with the book and this was the stereotype that children in care are ‘naughty’ and commit crimes. I think it paints children in care in a negative light and can be very far from the truth in some cases. If this is some children’s only encounter with children within the care system, it may influence them to develop negative stereotypes of this group and lead to issues down the line.

Children of Green Knowe – Lucy Boston — August 13, 2020

Children of Green Knowe – Lucy Boston

A haunted manor in the English countryside, home to great-grandmother Oldknow, holds many secrets. Tolly’s visit to Green Knowe is filled with adventure and mystery and stories from great-grandmother Oldknow.

I really enjoyed this book at first, I was hooked from the moment I started reading. I wanted to know more, to find out more stories and discover more about Green Knowe.

About half way through the book, I started to fall out of love with it. I found that the plot wasn’t really progressing and I didn’t feel like there was much character development either. By the end I was ready for it to end and wasn’t left wanting more or with any questions as I would with most books.

I think had there of been more of a plot and character development, this could have been a really engaging book loved by many. However, younger readers may enjoy this book, as it is simple and short and may be a good introduction to shorter novels (and classics) as it it just over 100 pages.

Clever Polly and the Stupid Wolf – Catherine Storr — August 11, 2020

Clever Polly and the Stupid Wolf – Catherine Storr

When Polly answered the door to a wolf who wanted to eat her up, she decided that she wasn’t frightened, and she would out-wit the stupid wolf.

I liked the premise of this book, typically the wolf is seen as someone to be scared of and this book makes the wolf less intimidating for young readers. Polly was a likeable character and throughout you are rooting for her to out-wit the wolf.

It was nice to read a book where a young girl was capable of outwitting a wolf and being brave enough to stand up for herself. I think readers will take away the idea that you are capable and able to stand up for yourself regardless of gender stereotypes.

I liked that each chapter was linked to a well-known fairy tale, such as the three little pigs, making the plot easy to follow and will support children’s prediction skills. It also meant that the book felt familiar, making it a fun and easy read.

I read the book after finding out that the author wrote it to help her daughter overcome her phobia. This book was entertaining and would be a good book to read aloud, but it wasn’t a particularly memorable read for me.