Andersen Press

Monsters

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Mary Shelley was born on this day in 1797 so it seems the perfect day to look at this book: Monsters by Sharon Dogar. It is a powerful retelling of the complex life of this remarkable woman and her relationship with the poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Mary’s story is as compelling and heart-breaking as that of the monster she created in her novel, ‘Frankenstein’. Her all encompassing passion for Shelley and the courage she showed in defying the social conventions of the day are vividly portrayed. The reader is amazed by her maturity, the courage of her convictions and filled with compassion as she is brutally rejected by her father- although he continues to expect Shelley’s support. There is certainly more than one ‘monster’ in this book.

Each character is carefully developed, allowing to reader to empathise- or not- as the drama unfolds. Mary is painfully aware of how her actions affect others whereas Shelley is largely focused on his own needs and ideals. Mary’s step-sister, Claire, is determined to follow the ideals she believes in, yet ultimately pays a high price for being a woman who does not conform. In her notes at the end, Sharon Dogar quotes Claire’s own words, claiming Shelley and Byron were ‘monsters of lying, meanness, cruelty and treachery…’ leading to the title of the book.

Absolutely compelling. ‘Monsters’ is a real masterpiece.

Monsters Sharon Dogar

Andersen Press ISBN: 978-1783448029

NSTBA PICTURE BOOK CATEGORY LONG LIST part 1

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Picture books- such a wonderful thing! We love them and use them across the curriculum in lots of ways, including just being enjoyed! Perfect for all ages, there really is a picture book for all occasions. Their length makes them very achievable, but there is often great depth and plenty to think about within those pages- not to mention the beautiful illustrations that make them so special. So here is this year’s long list- 20 fabulous books across four posts!

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Beautiful in both sentiment and illustration, ‘Wisp’ is a powerful story for sharing with everyone. It is a story of hope in the bleakest of situations. As the wisp seeks out each person, it fills them with memories of their time before the camp, offering them hope. The book lends itself perfectly to discussion, but could also be used for drama work and to inspire poetry and other types of writing. The illustrations are simply stunning. Perfect for using in many ways, this is a must have for all schools, libraries and homes.

Wisp: A Story of Hope Zana Fraillon, illustrated by Grahame Baker- Smith

Hachette ISBN: 978- 1408350119

You can read another review of this here.

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When a competition is announced to find who is the most beautiful of all, the animals are thrown into a state of worry and self doubt. Each (except fly) is unhappy with their appearance and tries to change themselves for the jungle jamboree. The weather, however, is not on their side and it is left to the little fly to shed some light on the matter so that they realise they are beautiful just as they are. It’s a lovely message and firefly’s kindness is also celebrated. The illustrations are wonderful- vibrant colours leap off the page and dark and light have been cleverly used. Simply joyful!

Jungle Jamboree Jo Empson

Penguin ISBN: 978-0141356891

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The perfect text for starting discussions about internet safety, ‘#Goldilocks’ tackles this subject with great humour, but does not shy away from making the point about the need to act wisely when posting pictures on the internet. Cleverly using the original tale as a framework, Goldilocks’ desire to be ‘liked’ online leads her to behave in more and more outrageous ways which will have children laughing, but will also make them think. Tony Ross’s wonderful illustrations are full of life and humour. An excellent book!

#Goldilocks Jeanne Willis, illustrated by Tony Ross

Andersen Press ISBN: 978-1783447176

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This is a wonderful re-telling of the traditional tale, versions of which can be found in many cultures. As well as encouraging drama and puppet work, this would be a wonderful place to start in developing oral re-tellings as well as encouraging written versions. There is much to discuss and the characters are perfect for developing through role play and other activities. It would be fascinating to compare different versions of the story from around the world and to look at other tales about the pitfalls of greed! The illustrations are lively and colourful, making the book very attractive. As a great fan of traditional tales, I think this is a must have!

Please Mr Magic Fish Jessica Souhami

Otter-Barry ISBN: 978-1910959183

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Who doesn’t love Elmer? This colourful, cheeky character has been a part of many childhoods and is often used in school. This new story reminds us all of the need to pause, notice things and take in the beauty of the world around us. As Elmer goes on his walk, he notices many things, but when he tries to interest the other animals, they are far too busy to stop and pay attention. It is only when he meets Wilbur that he finds someone else prepared to wait and watch, to listen and notice. Plenty to think about and plenty to discuss, this is also the perfect book for inspiring Elmer walks and encouraging us all to be a little bit ‘more Elmer’.

Elmer's Walk David McKee

Andersen ISBN: 978-1783446049

NSTBA MOVING ON CATEGORY LONG LIST 2019 part 1

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Our Moving On Category looks for stunning books for children in Y6/7 who are ready for a more challenging read, but who are not yet ready for older teen or YA reads. Here are the first six we have chosen this year…

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Living in Kairos City, Shifa and her brother, Themba survive in a devastated world. ‘Freedom Fields’ is in charge of feeding everyone- as long as you opt into the system. The bees have all gone and children are sent to farms where they have to act as pollinators. Although together, Themba and Shifa are dismayed by the cruelty and intolerance of the farm regime and Shifa knows they need to escape.

A powerful novel with caring for nature - and people- at its heart, ‘Where the River Runs Gold’ is a compelling story. Taught to love nature by her father, Shifa is a wonderful character, showing love and compassion which has been nurtured in her like the flowers in the secret garden. Themba is beautifully drawn; the way he sees the world, the way he responds to things around him, is sensitively portrayed and the sibling relationship is a joy.

The story shows how change can start with the individual and how important each tiny step can be. Perfect for those who love adventure and strong characters, ‘Where the River Runs Gold’ is a thought-provoking, challenging read.

Where the River Runs Gold Sita Brahmachari

Orion ISBN: 978-1510105416

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Second youngest of four children, Bridget Mackerrie has a withered arm and a deformed foot, but nothing holds her back. Desperate to leave the island, she longs to fly away- like a little bird. When the just Laird of the island dies and his successor proves to be a harsh, cruel landlord, the time for escape has come.

Perfect for those who love historical fiction, ‘Little Bird Flies’ is full of detail and atmosphere. Obviously well researched, it brings the ways of the crofters and the contrast with the landlord vividly to life, effortlessly engaging the reader with the historical events behind the story. Little Bird is bursting with character- a wonderful protagonist for a wonderful story.

A rich evocative story, ‘Little Bird Flies’ is a joy to read.

Little Bird Flies- Karen McCombie

Nosy Crow ISBN: 978-0857639103

You can read another review of this here.

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Whilst scavenging on the beach, Bonnie finds a battered boat- and a boy in need of help. Bonnie and her increasingly weak Granda are already in trouble with the authorities for flouting the rules, but the boy is in need of help. Bonnie does her best to keep him hidden from the border guards, but as the net tightens, the time has come to escape in search of a new beginning.

This is a story full of love and hope in a bleak world. Bonnie is bright and curious, desperate to solve the mystery of her mother who left when she was a baby, but whose devotion and loyalty to her Granda are heartwarming. The story is beautifully written, with vivid descriptions of the outdoors in all its natural glory. Bonnie and Granda are completely in touch with their environment, living in harmony with nature and cherishing its resources.

There is also much food for thought in this book, exploring as it does living with closed borders, being controlled by a stifling regime, denying shelter and compassion to others. The importance of freedom to thrive and the need to escape challenge the reader to consider what is really important.

The House of Light Julia Green

OUP ISBN: 978-0192771568

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Found under a newspaper on a bench at the zoo by George Arthur Lucas who picked him up, put him in a Stetson and quietly took him home, Elvis Crampton Lucas was named after the first three albums George picked out. Now twelve, Elvis is now determined to find his natural parents. So, using the language the newspaper was written in as a clue, he sets off on an incredible adventure to Norway with his dad and their friend, Lloyd to solve the mystery…

With its distinctive written style and wonderful characters, ‘The Boy Who Hit Play’ is a wonderfully pacey adventure with much to recommend it. It challenges the reader to think about what makes us who we are and the importance of unconditional love. The characters are wonderfully appealing, each changed by the experiences of their trip. This is a quirky, appealing read with a unique voice- brilliant!

The Boy Who Hit Play Chloe Daykin

Faber and Faber ISBN: 978-0571326785

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Maggie Cruise is a middler. Her brother, Jed, is an eldest - special because he is the family’s first born. Her younger brother, Trig, is the little one, everyone’s favourite. Being a middler means she is overlooked and ignored, but Maggie yearns for recognition and success. Fennis Wick, where they live, is protected from the outside world by a thick hedge. Dirty, dangerous, deceitful wanderers roam the land, threatening their lives. But when Maggie meets Una Opal, a hungry wanderer who needs her help, everything Maggie has been led to believe is turned upside down.

Maggie is a wonderful figure, loving and loyal, but flawed, making an engaging main character. Her sense of frustration and injustice at being the invisible middle one is brilliantly developed. The world she lives in has been expertly crafted and filled with believable characters. Sent to fight in the Quiet War, sacrificing their lives at home for the good of their families, Eldests may seem to have the best of everything and live a charmed life, yet Jed and Lindi, another Eldest, are well rounded characters, shown to have worries about their future as well. Trig is lovely- full of life and skilled in his own way.

Gripping from start to finish, this is a one-sitting sort of book which completely captivates you. Although there are dark moments full of menace, the story is ultimately uplifting and full of hope and love. Highly recommended, this is a fabulous read.

The Middler - Kirsty Applebaum

Nosy Crow ISBN:

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Growing up in a poor household in Lyme Regis, young Mary wants to follow in her father’s footsteps and gather fossils in spite of the dangers. After her father’s death, Mary continues her work, sure she is gong to find something unique and determined to gain the recognition she deserves for her work.

‘Lightning Mary’ tells the story of Mary Anning, the Victorian paleontologist whose discoveries were so significant. Life for Mary was far from easy- her poverty and the challenges faced by women at this time are made very clear by Anthea Simmons as Mary’s eventual success in the face of adversity is adeptly told. Her courage and tenacity as she sought her treasures, her fascination with these objects from the past and her blunt nature are all brought to life in this novel. The story is rich in history and detail and makes a compelling read- perfect for those looking for a challenge.

Lightning Mary- Anthea Simmons

Andersen Press ISBN: 978-1783448296