Bookshelf Read Aloud

Milton the Mighty

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Branded a deadly killer by the media, tiny false widow Milton decides to clear his name. Working with his arachnid friends, Audrey and Ralph, he must make contact with his house human, Zoe, and convince her that he is harmless. But with her father terrified of spiders and Felicity, the owner of BUGKILL, having moved into their street, can this tiny troupe achieve the impossible?

Milton is possibly the loveliest spider in fiction since Charlotte appeared on her web! A wonderful tale of friendship and of what can be achieved by teamwork and perseverance, ‘Milton the Mighty’ also presents a compelling case for respecting spiders and trying to understand rather than fear them. Perhaps #NotScaredOfSpiders should become a real campaign!

Full of humour, the book really tackles the issue of ‘fake news’ and challenges the reader to dig deeper, find out more and use some common sense before believing everything they read. Individuals taking action and standing up for what they believe in, even in the face of ridicule is such a powerful message, beautifully embodied in Milton who has to overcome his self-doubt and feelings of insignificance to achieve his goal.

Just as humans judge spiders, spiders themselves seem to judge one another and it is Ralph who realises that not all garden spiders want something as One Short (who wishes she was called Petal) becomes a valuable ally - and friend, showing the importance of not being prejudiced against others, but getting to know them.

‘Milton the Mighty’ would make a great read aloud, offering plenty to discuss and consider along the way. Hopefully, this ‘teeniest superhero’ will have more adventures very soon!

Milton the Mighty Emma Read, illustrated by Alex G Griffiths

Chicken House ISBN: 978-1911490814


The Steam Whistle Theatre Company

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The Pringles- a Victorian theatre family- have fallen on hard times and decide the only way forward is to venture North in search of pastures new. So, the newly named Steam Whistle Theatre Company ( minus Ma and the littlest ones) board a train for the first time and head for Uncaster. However, they find they are not the only entertainers in town. Baby Bubbles - child magician and escapologist- is also performing. Could this scupper their triumphant come-back?

Recently widowed Mrs Poskett, owner of Uncaster Hall, finds herself with the bailiffs at the door and deserted by all except Edie, a young workhouse girl, who suggests she takes in lodgers. Luckily for all concerned, the Pringles take the rooms, but if the odious Olio Sleevery has his way, no one will be staying at Uncaster Hall for long.

A Dickensian delight for upper KS2 readers, ‘The Steam Whistle Theatre Company’ is a wonderful read. Full of heart and humour, the story is bursting with brilliant characters worthy of the great man (Dickens!) himself. Mr Pringle and his troupe are reminiscent of Mr Vincent Crummles; the fabulously named Olio Sleevery is a villain worthy of Uriah Heep or Daniel Quilp and Edie Boiler a heroine to claim even the hardest of hearts!

But, having captured that essence, this is an original and engaging story which romps along at a wonderful pace. Hard work, determination and loyalty win through in the end, showing friendship can be found in the darkest times and the spoilt, precocious and greedy get their comeuppance.

This would make a joyful read aloud for anyone with a penchant for ‘doing the voices’ and a class who enjoy a rattling good read. Bravo (or brava!), Ms French!

The Steam Whistle Theatre Company Vivian French

Walker Books ISBN: 978-1406376319

Bad Nana All the Fun of the Fair

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Jeannie (aged 7 3/4) is off to the town fair day with her very annoying little brother, Jack, and her friends. As Mum and Dad are busy helping, they’ve asked Bad Nana to look after them. Although she’s not really bad, Bad Nana can be quite naughty- and lots of fun- so everyone’s happy with this arrangement. But when the fair day seems to be turning into the unfair day, she becomes seriously pipped and that can only mean one thing…TROUBLE!

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Bad Nana is back- and I, for one, am delighted! Jeannie’s narrative is chatty, humorous and light-hearted, making the book an easy, fun read. Children will empathise with Jeannie’s occasional lack of confidence, delighting in Bad Nana’s support at these times. Nana’s capacious handbag always seems to contain something to help the situation, whether a lemon sherbet or something leading to a more mischievous outcome!

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Bad Nana is a complete joy and is it lovely to see a book which celebrates a grandmother/ granddaughter relationship in such a positive, original manner. Although Jeannie has three grandmothers (more than most, but not as many as Clare Coleman from school who has five), Bad Nana lives the closest to them and is the one Jeannie and her brother spend the most time with. From Liberace, her pink cat, to her gaggle of friends, Bad Nana is fun to be with and when she uses her big eyes and wobbly old-lady smile, she gets away with everything! She is my role model for when I get older!

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A riot of florescent colours, ‘All the Fun of the Fair’ is full of Sophy’s wonderful illustrations which capture the fun of the story. Different fonts are used to emphasise particular words and phrases, adding to chatty feel of the text. Perfect for newly confident readers, those sharing a giggle over a good book or someone looking for a bit of fun (or all three), ‘All the Fun of the Fair’ has much to offer.

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A celebration of Nanas, friendship, fun and the importance of being fair, ‘Bad Nana All the Fun of the Fair’ is every bit as enjoyable as ‘Older, Not Wiser’ and I can’t wait to see what Bad Nana gets up to next!

Bad Nana: All the Fun of the Fair Sophy Henn

Harper Collins ISBN: 978-0008268091

You can read our review of ‘Bad Nana: Older, Not Wiser’ here.