Alma Books


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Part two of our wonderful Quality Fiction long list. Books to make you go ‘ooooh’.

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Clara’s lives in a crumbling old house with her cold uncle whose rules dictate every aspect of her life. When he abandons her, she is determined to enjoy her freedom. Then Peter turns up with his cat, Stockwell, and together it seems as if they will manage quite nicely. But the house is for sale and it seems as if Uncle has been lying about everything.

Set in the 70s, with no technology to interfere with the plot, ‘The Secret Starling’ is full of charm whilst offering a romping adventure. It offers something completely different with plenty to recommend it as a class text. Beautifully written, the story is compelling and full of intrigue and there are many points which lend themselves to writing opportunities in a variety of genres and for a range of purposes. The rich language makes the text perfect for discussing and enjoying, with wonderful descriptions and well formed characters. Wonderful stuff!

The Secret Starling- Judith Eagle, illustrated by Kim Geyer

Faber and Faber ISBN: 978-0571346301


This beautiful book is a treasure trove of stories from around the world and through the ages about the stars in the sky above us. Familiar tales sit alongside less well known stories, each linked to a different constellations. Some stories could be used as part of work in a particular area of the curriculum- Greece, Egypt or science work on the earth and space.

These fascinating myths are brilliantly retold by a master story teller. The lyrical language is perfect for encouraging oral re-tellings, developing vocabulary before children develop their own versions of these stories or creating their own. The illustrations are stunning, richly coloured and beautiful. The whole book is a joy!

Star Stories- Anita Ganeri, illustrated by Andy Wilx

Templar ISBN: 978-1787410305


Twelve-year-old Eliza and her sister, Avery, have lived their whole lives in a small fishing village on the coast of Louisiana, surrounded by nature. However, the sea levels are rising and the home they love is at risk. Determined to save it, the sisters search the swamps for the legendary loup-garou, in the hope that its discovery will force the government to protect the land. With a tropical storm looming, more than their home might be at risk...

A gripping adventure, ‘Swimming Against the Storm’ offers a clear message about protecting the environment which will resonate with children. Offering great potential for a wide range of writing opportunities, the setting is beautifully described, using a rich vocabulary. The unusual setting of the Louisiana swamps lends itself to discovering a contrasting location and the message about individuals fighting for what they believe in and taking action to cause change is a powerful one.

Swimming Against the Storm - Jess Butterworth, illustrated by Rob Biddulph

Orion Children’s ISBN: 978-1510105485


Jack lives with his aunt who struggles with some of his behaviour. Finally at the end of her tether, she sends him off with his Uncle Edmund on an expedition to India, searching for botanical specimens. Once off on their adventure, they are faced with setbacks and danger and it soon becomes obvious that there is a traitor in their camp who is sabotaging supplies and alienating local people. Will they succeed in locating the hidden valley and the rare blue rhododendron?

This is a pacey, exciting story perfect for using with KS2 children, offering plenty to discuss. Although it could be used as a focus text in its own right, it could also form part of work linked to classification or adaptation in science. It would also work very well with work on explorers. The story also lends itself to discussions about some of the moral issues connected with exploration and ‘discovery’. Fabulous writing combined with clever plotting makes this a fabulous read!

Jack Fortune and the Search for the Hidden Valley- Sue Purkiss

Alma Books ISBN: 978-1846884283

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Living with her grandparents at Pages and Co, their bookshop, Tilly is an ardent book lover. With few friends, she takes comfort from escaping into fictional worlds and she is looking forward to the long summer holidays where she can lose herself in books each day. But when she starts seeing characters from her favourite books in real life, Tilly realises that she can wander into stories. However, there are dangers and Tilly and her new friend, Oskar, have to face challenges if they are to solve a mystery from Tilly’s past.

A magical book full of surprises, ‘Tilly and the Bookwanderers’ is a delightful story. Its links with other stories, the joy of ‘book wandering’ and the possibilities it holds make this an excellent choice as a key text. The quality of the writing and the use of vocabulary offer a wonderful example of story building. Plenty of writing, art and drama could come from using this text and the story is both engaging and satisfying. A gem of a book!

Pages and Co: Tilly and the Book Wanderers- Anna James, illustrated by Paola Escobar

Harper Collins ISBN: 978-0008229863

You can read another review here.


The empty chair at the back of the class is filled one day by Ahmet, a refugee from Syria. A group of children in his new class seek to make him feel welcome and become his friends. As they learn his story and try to help him, they make the world sit up and take notice.

This is a powerful, moving story, perfect for using in upper KS2. It brings attention to the plight of refugees, particularly children straight into the classroom in an immediately accessible way. A perfect quality text for using with a class, the book lends itself to plenty of writing opportunities, developing empathy through discussion and taking action and challenging prejudice. A stunning piece of writing!

The Boy at the Back of the Class Onjali Q Rauf, illustrated by Pippa Curnick

Orion Children’s ISBN: 978-1510105010

You can read another review here.