Chicken House

NSTBA QUALITY FICTION CATEGORY LONG LIST 2019 part 1

Owl Logo 2019.jpg

Choosing a Quality text is a real joy- and something which needs to be done with the greatest care. Whether linking to another curriculum area- like history or science- or for an English focus, to use for guided reading or as a whole class text, it is so important to select something with lots of appeal and which lends itself to being explored as well as enjoyed. Here are our choices for this year!

DSC_0008.jpg

When his father, a fisherman, dies, Jabir is left in charge of his mother and his three sisters. When their landlord threatens to evict them, Jabir must find work so he heads for Baghdad, the most fascinating city in the world.

However, Jabir is thrown into prison for stealing food and things look desperate for him. Fortunately, Jabir’s talent for whittling toys means he is rescued by a clockmaker who needs him to carve twelve golden horsemen to decorate a water clock for Caliph Harun Al-Raschid. But someone seems determined to prevent Jabir from completing his task and he and Yasmina, daughter of the clock maker, have to seek help from his mother’s people who live in the desert. Will the clock be finished in time?

Not only is this an amazing adventure story with a pacey plot and excellent characters, but it is perfect for supporting the History curriculum at KS2-’a non-European society that provides contrasts with British history… early Islamic civilization, including a study of Baghdad c. AD 900’. The book is richly detailed and offers much information about Baghdad and life at this time as the fabric of the story, making in invaluable for those choosing to teach this period. The quality of writing, its historical setting and the compelling nature of the story make it an excellent text for using as a focus both both history and English, bringing the period alive and offering many opportunities for drama, writing in a range of genres and contexts, exploring vocabulary and offering a challenging read. It’s length also makes it a very achievable read. This is the type of book that makes me itch to start planning! Fabulous!

The Golden Horsemen of Baghdad Saviour Pirotta

Bloomsbury ISBN: 978-1472955999

IMG_7539.JPG

Living in the settlement of Kilsgard with her mother, uncle, baby brother and pet wolf, Fenrir, Alva misses her father who is away a-viking. They miss him deeply but her uncle, Magnus, like her father, encourages Alva to read the runes, be inquisitive and explore the world around her. The arrival of men from England searching for treasure disturbs the community’s peace and when one of them is kidnapped, Alva investigates with her uncle.

Perfect for using as a focus text when studying the Vikings, ‘Riddle of the Runes’ is a satisfying adventure story with plenty of mystery to solve alongside Alva as she embarks on her quest. It is full of detail about life in Viking times, customs, traditions and beliefs as well as daily life. The inclusion of runes and a glossary at the end are a great addition to the book. Full of atmospheric illustrations, the beautifully written text offers many opportunities for writing in different genres as well as plenty of chances for drama, art and craft work. Further adventures for Alva are an added bonus!

Riddle of the Runes Janina Ramirez, illustrated by David Wyatt

OUP ISBN: 978-0192766335

You can read another review of this here.

DSC_0034 (2).JPG

Sorrell Fallowfield always follows the rules until the day she finds a mysterious packet of ‘Surprising Seeds’ buried under a tree in her back garden. Her mother is often exhausted from working long, boring hours in the freezer factory -the only real employer in their town and Sorrell is desperate to win The Most Obedient Child of the School. When the school playing field- the only bit of green they have- is going to be replaced by a concrete exam hall, not everyone is happy and in spite of her desire to be a good girl, Sorrell develops an uncontrollable urge to plant the Surprising Seeds. And then flowers start to grow from the top of her head…

With its strong environmental message, this book is also full of humour and originality. It considers the importance of taking a stand for what you believe in and celebrating those who have taken action previously. It would be perfect for linking to science work on plants or about caring for the environment and lends itself to writing across the curriculum and debating important issues. It could also be the inspiration for lots of art work or perhaps developing the school’s garden or nature area- enjoying the beauty of green spaces and valuing them, their benefits to our mental well being- all so important. The book is an absolute joy to read!

Bloom Nicola Skinner, illustrated by Flavia Sorrentino

Harper Collins ISBN: 978-0008297381

IMG_7798.jpg

Shy Pet’s life revolves around her family and the lighthouse which they call home. She loves listening to the legend of the Daughters of Stone which stand on the cliff top and the mysterious Wyrm which lurks beneath the surface of the sea.

When war starts, her life is turned upside down as the coast and the lighthouse becomes a target for air raids. The villagers become suspicious of Pet’s German born mother and neighbours they have known all their lives turn against them. Mutti is sent to an internment camp where the threat of execution for those seen to be traitors hangs over her. As her father and sister start to act suspiciously and everyone seems to be hiding secrets, Pet must draw on all her strength and resources to save her family.

Full of historical detail- much of which is not usually taught in schools, ‘Our Castle By the Sea’ is a beautifully written, compelling adventure story with a mystery to solve. Offering plenty of opportunity for discussing prejudice and intolerance as well as empathy and loyalty, the book also highlights the importance of family. Valuing traditional tales and legends also provides a rich vein to explore with a class. Although the story is set against the backdrop of WWII and is full of historical detail, it is a perfect quality text for use without being part of a history focused topic. Excellent!

Our Castle By the Sea Lucy Strange

Chicken House ISBN: 978-1911077831

You can read another review here

IMG_8517.jpg

Aya is an asylum seeker from Syria, living in Manchester with her mother and baby brother. A talented ballet dancer, she fears that has all been left behind her in the cold, unfamiliar world she has found herself in where she must care for her mother and brother. However, she is drawn to a ballet class in the community centre whilst they are waiting to see their case worker and her talent is recognised by the dance teacher. The potential to gain a ballet scholarship gives her hope for the future, but her family must fight to be allowed to stay in the country- and to try to find Aya’s father.

Beautiful, powerful writing encouraging empathy and compassion, ‘No Ballet Shoes in Syria’ would make an excellent quality text for inspiring work in class. Offering plenty of opportunities for developing writing, drama and debating skills, using a rich vocabulary and adding the colour of dance and its ability to express emotion. It is a glorious read!

No Ballet Shoes in Syria Catherine Bruton

Nosy Crow ISBN: 978-1788004503

You can read another review here

IMG_0178.JPG

The daily life of the new lighthouse keeper is explored in pictures and words in this glorious book. His solitary life changes when he is joined by his wife. Together, they save sailors from shipwreck, battle illness, have a baby and see a new light fitted to the lighthouse which means it will no longer be their home.

The author’s note at the end of the book includes additional details about a light house keeper’s job and how electric lights eventually made them redundant. The beautiful illustrations are full of charm and detail, making them the perfect starting point for writing, role play and art activities. Perfect for use with any age group, it is an exquisite book and offers a window to a life style that no longer exists. Research into the less idyllic aspects of this life style and mysteries connected with lighthouses (for example the Flannan Isles Lighthouse) could be investigated depending on the age of the children. A gorgeous book with much to recommend it!

Hello Lighthouse Sophie Blackall

Little, Brown Books ISBN: 978-0316362382

Wonderful books- each and every one- and the next six will be reviewed tomorrow!

NSTBA READ ALOUD CATEGORY LONG LIST 2019 part 2

Owl Logo 2019.jpg
DSC_4224.jpg

Coming from a magical family who can do extraordinary things, Willow Moss's talent of finding things does not seem very special. Her sisters, with their 'proper magic', take after her mother; Willow, with her long stick-straight brown hair and brown eyes, takes after her father. So whilst her mother and her sisters visit the Travelling Fortune Fair, Willow is left behind to find things for those in need of her services. However, she finds her queue of customers vanished and the most feared witch in Starfell, Moreg Vaine, in their place. Last Tuesday has gone missing and Moreg needs a 'finder' like Willow to help her. And so an unwilling Willow finds herself embarking on a quest to locate the missing day, finding friendship, adventure and a lot of self belief on the way!

This is a wonderful story in so many ways. Full of fabulous characters, the story romps along at an enchanting pace to a very satisfying conclusion. The world of Starfell is full of detail and colour. Wisperia, the largest, most magical forest, 'an unpredictable place with magic fizzing about', the Midnight Market full of 'dangerous and deadly looking goods for sale', Troll Country where few apart from trolls venture- each location is beautifully imagined and described. Great fun to read aloud, there are plenty of opportunities for leaving your audience dying to hear more! The perfect read for those who enjoy adventure with a touch a magic.

Starfell: Willow Moss and the Lost Day Dominique Valente, illustrated by Sarah Warburton

Harper Collins ISBN: 978-0008308391

You can read another review of this book here.

IMG_0030 (2).JPG

Summers staying with their grandparents mean freedom and adventure for cousins, Aiden, Chloe, Ava and Josh. However, when a day out for a picnic at a nearby stately home leads to a mystery involving a speeding sports car, several shady characters and stories of stolen diamonds, the cousins are in their element and pit their wits against all that comes their way.

Reminiscent of the Famous Five, ‘Clifftoppers’ is a fresh take on these classic stories with a real zest for life and sense of mischief mixed in. Complete with Bella, their dog, there is someone to appeal to everyone in this story and the pacey adventure will keep children begging for more. Full of rich language and vivid descriptions, it makes an excellent read aloud with plenty of action to keep everyone on the edge of their seats. With more stories in the series to come, this also offers other adventures for children to move on to once the class book has been shared. Brilliant!

Clifftoppers: The Arrowhead Moor Mystery Fleur Hitchcock

Nosy Crow ISBN:978-1788004695

DSC_0016 (2).JPG

Storm of Odin is the youngest hound of the Wild Hunt and longs to be chasing through the sky with the other hounds. However, he falls from the sky during his first hunt and lands near Abergavenny. Here he is found by Jessica Price, who longs for a pet. She is alarmed to find that lots of people are very interested in her new puppy and that mysterious, magical things are going on.

Mixing mythology and action with a lovable puppy, ‘Storm Hound’ is a wonderful read. Storm’s voice is a joy to read as he comes to terms with each new misunderstanding about the world he has found himself in. There is plenty of humour in the story, but Jessica is also well written, a very emotionally vulnerable child, reeling from her parent’s split and trying to come to terms with her new life. A rompingly good read!

Storm Hound Claire Fayers

Macmillan Children’s ISBN: 978-1509895045

DSC_0012 (2).JPG

In this fabulous quest, three children with magical talents come together to defeat those who threaten the cloud horses. But magic is forbidden and so brings danger to those who can use it.

Lavishly illustrated, this adventure is full of creative characters and exciting action. The story draws on myths and fairy tales, using elements that will be familiar, yet new! Moving at a pleasing pace, the story is perfect for reading aloud, whilst sharing the illustrations which have all Chris Riddell’s usual charm. Just wonderful!

The Cloud Horse Chronicles: Guardians of Magic Chris Riddell

Macmillan Children’s ISBN: 978-1447277972

IMG_9902 (2).JPG

The Pringle family have fallen on hard times and so determine to try their luck in the north- well, as far north as Uncaster. Travelling by the recently invented train- which gives them their new name- the family discover that they have no lodgings; fortunately, recently widowed Mrs Poskett , has fallen on hard times and needs to take in lodgers. However, they are not the only performers in Uncaster- Baby Bubbles, a child magician, is also performing and his mother dies not appreciate the competition.

Full of fabulous characters, this is a book which was written to be performed. Each character is bursting with personality, offering great potential for getting into role whilst reading. For those who are less confident with their acting abilities, the plot romps along at a pleasing pace with plenty to interest and amuse. The story also speaks of kindness and cooperation and having baddies who get their comeuppance is very satisfying. A fabulous read aloud!

The Steam Whistle Theatre Company Vivian French

Walker Books ISBN: 978-1406376319

You can read another review of this book here.

DSC_0014 (2).JPG

Surrounded by a thick forest, sits David and Penny’s new home – their mother’s childhood home. Along with their father, they have moved to the mysterious house following heir death of their mother. But they are not alone.

The house and the woods themselves are home to other mysterious creatures, like nothing David and Penny have ever seen before. Tiny, hairy Pog, - a magical creature who lives in the attic – is one of the First Folk and protects the boundary between worlds. As the children befriend Pog and he shares with them the secrets hidden below the house, they soon realise that creatures are slipping through from the other world… dangerous creatures… creatures that feed on pain and steal memories. It is up to Pog and the children to stop them! However, David has a secret. Lured deep into the woods, he has made a pact with another creature, a creature of darkness who insists it can bring his mother back.

Full of twists and turns, cliff hangers and wonderfully creepy creatures, this is an action-packed, spine-tingling fantasy adventure. Padraig Kenny has created a captivating magical world.full of strong characters which will have children desperate to hear more. It is also a story about grief and bravery. The children and their father have to learn to exist in a world without their mother; in places it is raw and full of feeling, but at heart, it is a story of family and friendship.

The rich vocabulary makes it a pleasure to read aloud. With its engaging characters and compelling plot, this is a story to share.

Pog Pádraig Kenny

Chicken House ISBN: 978-1911490395

Milton the Mighty

DSC_0021.JPG

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