Bookshelf Quality Fiction

The Stolen Spear

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Wolf lives with his family on Great Island. In a society where being strong and brave is valued, Wolf struggles to fit in, When a sacred spear is stolen from a burial mound, Wolf finds himself blamed for the crime and must leave his home to try and clear his name.

Set at the end of the late Neolithic period, ‘The Stolen Spear’ is full of details about the lives of the people of this time. Saviour has used the Orkney Islands and Skara Brae as the setting for the story, making this the perfect story for using to support history work on this period. As Wolf leaves his home in search of the truth, the reader is allowed to compare life in Wolf’s settlement with that on the other islands. The illustrations by Davide Ortu, spread throughout the book, add much to the story.

As well as its historical detail, the story is one of friendship and bravery, of finding your place in the world. Wolf is a very likeable character, easy to empathise with and suggested questions are included at the end of the book to encourage discussion.

A thoroughly enjoyable adventure, ‘The Stolen Spear’ is a great story which is perfect for using with work on the Stone Age.

The Stolen Spear Saviour Pirotta, illsutrated by Davide Ortu

Maverick ISBN: 978-1848864085

You can read a review of Mark of the Cyclops here and The Golden Horsemen of Baghdad here.

The Lost Fairy Tales

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I have always been drawn towards traditional tales, fairy tales, folk lore, myths, legends… There is something wonderful about these stories with the similarities and differences that come with the retelling or the country, culture or religion that they belong to and the magic and mystery they often contain. This is a stunning collection containing re-tellings of some lesser known tales. These gems defy the role conventionally allocated to girls and women as vapid, malleable creatures, often manipulated and controlled, passengers in their own story, showing instead brave, clever, funny heroines who don’t need to be rescued by anyone.

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Containing a collection of twenty stories, a story map at the beginning of the book shows the reader where in the world each tale comes from. Having set the scene with an introductory note, the tales follow. Each is beautifully presented, often on coloured pages which enhance the story, with magical illustrations. At the end of the book, in a section called ‘Beyond the Fairy Tale’, some background on each tale is given, along with some ‘thinking points’ and an index. I would have liked more detail about each tale’s origins, but that could just be me!

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Not only beautiful, but well written, this collection would make a great class read, guided reading text or a whole class focus, as it offers so many possibilities for discussion, drama, writing and developing reading skills. ‘The Lost Fairy Tales’ makes a wonderful addition to my collection!

The Lost Fairy Tales: Fearless Girls Around the World

Isabel Otter, illustrated by Ana Sender

Caterpillar Books ISBN: 978-1848578753

Anna at War

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When life in Germany become increasingly dangerous for Jews, Anna’s parents manage to get her onto one of the trains leaving for England as part of the Kindertransport. Fortunate enough to find herself welcomed by her foster family, Anna begins to build a new life for herself in Kent. However, the war is never far away and Anna finds herself caught up in a dangerous plot when she decides actions speak louder than words to show whose side she is really on.

This is just the best read! Sadly, it came too late to be put forward for this year’s awards, but it is right up there with those we have chosen for our Quality Fiction list. Helen’s writing is compelling and deeply moving as she tells Anna’s story with great skill and empathy.

The book starts with Daniel’s teacher asking his class whether they know of anyone who lived through the Second World War. As Daniels tells them his granny came over just before the war started, he suddenly realises how little he knows about her life and decides to ask her about it. The story is then told through Anna’s memories. Without saying anything, this special book reminds us all of the importance of valuing the lives and memories of other generations, encouraging children and grandchildren to ask questions about the past.

Anna’s memories start on Kristallnacht when her world is torn apart by Nazi storm troopers destroying her home and taking her father away. The closeness of her family and her parents’ desperation to save their daughter are vividly portrayed, leading to their decision to send her to England on the Kindertransport.

An amazing character, the reader begins to learn of Anna’s strength of character as she helps others, even finding herself in charge of a baby. The writing here skilfully shows Anna’s fear and anxieties, yet her curiosity as she faces the unknown. Her intelligence and resourceful nature are also clearly shown.

Anna quickly adapts to her life in England, but there are ups and downs along the way as she encounters prejudice and mis-understanding as well as great kindness. There are wonderful descriptions of life in rural England at this time as well as details about war time living. The excitement builds as the children find a wounded soldier and all her determination and resolve are once again put to the test.

Not everyone has a happy ending in this story- how could they?- but the final chapter is beautiful, satisfying and poignant. This is such a wonderful book with strong messages about being kind, offering understanding and compassion and is a must for libraries and classrooms.

A moving wartime adventure, ‘Anna at War’ is set to be a modern classic.

Anna at War Helen Peters

Nosy Crow ISBN: 978- 1788004718