Macmillan Children's


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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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


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This year, we have decided to do a collective review post for each long list. As there are twelve long listed books in each category, apart from Picture Book where there are twenty, each category review will be in two parts! So this weekend, Poetry! And in no particular order…


The Big Beyond: The Story of Space Travel by James Carter, illustrated by Aaron Cushley

Caterpillar Books ISBN: 978-1848577978

Although very topical at the moment, space travel is something which constantly fascinates children and this picture book poem takes the reader on a rapid journey through space exploration from people’s early star gazing to current space exploration. Told in rhyming couplets, the poem touches on the names of stars, the use of telescopes and early flight before focusing on space travel. Carter ends the poem with posing a question about future astronauts- ‘could it be you?’- opening the possibility to the reader whoever they might be. Another poem- an acrostic- is included at the end about rockets.

With excellent illustrations which add additional information, this is a poem which could be used across the primary school. There are many places in the book which could be used as a starting point for further exploration and research. Children could create their own couplets or acrostics for any element of their investigations which appeal to them, making their own book about ‘the big beyond’. The poem is rich in ‘space related’ language and children could research these and create a glossary of terms to accompany the book. However, the poem’s biggest strength is in the opportunity it offers as a performance piece.


Poems to Live Your Life By chosen and illustrated by Chris Riddell

Macmillan ISBN: 978-1509814374

This collection from Chris Riddell caused much debate and deliberation amongst the group. It contains poems from writers old and new on a whole range of subjects and is illustrated throughout. There are poems here which you would hope would be well known by teachers as well as less familiar works, some of which teachers might chose to use in primary settings, some not. The collection offers a wonderful starting point for dipping into and reading a poem at story time- or anytime- for pleasure, to enjoy the wonder that words can bring and the sheer joy of sharing their beauty. There are many that could be used as the basis for work in class. In addition to the perhaps obvious choices for this like ‘The Lady of Shalott’, ‘The Road not Taken’ and ‘Cargoes’, there are joys like Rachel Rooney’s ‘The Language of Cat’ or A. F. Harrold’s moving ‘I Miss You’. which matched to the right class could produce amazing results. Joyous!

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I Am a Jigsaw: Puzzling Poems to Baffle Your Brain by Roger Stevens,

illustrated by Spike Gerrell

Bloomsbury ISBN: 978-1472958198

A poetry book of two parts, ‘I Am a Jigsaw’ contains both a wonderful collection of ‘riddles in rhyme’ and advice on how to write puzzle poems. A wealth of different types of poems from a range of poets is included, many of which would be great fun to explore in class. ‘Find Me’ by Liz Brownlee, for example, is a great example of a traditional puzzle poem where the reader has to identify the letters needed to solve the puzzle. This would be an excellent model to use to inspire children to create their own examples. Catherine Benson’s ‘The Seashore’ leads the reader through a series of puzzles, each describing an element of the seaside- seaweed, a crab, a starfish… an excellent example of using descriptive language and choosing words carefully, this could produce some fabulous work in class, either as group or individual efforts. There are many examples to choose from in this invaluable selection!

The book has the additional benefit of part two which offers advice on how to write puzzle poems, acknowledging that for some this form sits ‘on the edge of what is and isn’t poetry’. This guidance is perfect for teacher, parent or child- anyone interested in having a go at penning a puzzle poem!

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Perfectly Peculiar Pets by Elli Woollard, illustrated by Anja Boretzki

Bloomsbury ISBN: 978-1472958464

This is a fun, light-hearted alphabet of poems celebrating a collection of unexpected pets. From the aardvark bought in Amarillo to the mighty fine zebra, there is a marvellous menagerie of creatures in this book. The poems offer plenty of wordplay and poetic devices to enjoy, discuss and imitate. Many of these poems lend themselves brilliantly to performing as a class or individually. They have a tongue-twisery feel to them which children truly enjoy; ‘S for slugs’ or ‘M for Millipede’ are great examples of this! Being an unusual collection of creatures allows children to find out about some lesser known animals like the quokka or the toucan, the yak or the kookaburra. They could create their own poems about creatures they consider to be ‘perfectly peculiar pets’- what about the pink lesser fairy armadillo or the numbat?

At the back of the book is a treasure trove of tips for writing poems of your own, explaining ideas clearly. Illustrated throughout, this is a very enjoyable, varied collection of poems.

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Spaced Out chosen by Brian Moses and James Carter

Bloomsbury ISBN: 978-1472961150

Perfect for using to support the Y5 science programme of study, ‘Earth and Space’, this collection of space poems is arranged into six sections, each with a different focus. The first section, entitled ‘Looking Up’ is about the joy of looking at the night sky and the wonders it holds. ‘Don’t Just Google the Night Sky’ by Joan McLellan and ‘Tonight’ by David Harmer would make fantastic starting points for discussions and exploration of the night sky. The other sections are about the moon and the sun, the planets, black holes and other dark matters, alien life and space and space travel. You learn so much with so little effort!

Each section has a wealth of poems to choose from including haiku, shape poems, acrostics, riddles, kennings and free verse. There are thought-provoking poems, like ‘Space Dog’ by Brian Moses alongside light-hearted ones. There are poems about scientists, stars, astronauts, legends, planets- the collection really is a treasure trove of space themed verse from a wide range of poets.


Poetry for A Change A National Poetry Day Anthology

Otter-Barry Books ISBN: 978-1910959503

This is a wonderful collection of poems created especially for National Poetry Day in which poets have not only contributed a poem of their own on the theme of ‘Change’, but have also chosen a personal favourite. This is a wonderful model for creating a class anthology with children- and teachers- both writing their own and reflecting on the work of others.

It is a fascinating collection with each poet adding a comment with their contribution. Brian Moses, for example, writes about his childhood often being a source of inspiration for his poems- the one included here about the open fire in his home. Matt Goodfellow’s poem, Chameleon Kids’ would be an excellent one to explore with a class, perhaps as part of PSHE work. Cheryl Moskowitz’s own poem and the one she chose (Envy by Mary Lamb) challenge the reader to think about their true value. There are so many wonderful examples to look at in this anthology!

The Umbrella Mouse


It’s 1944 and London is under attack. At James Smith and Sons Umbrella Shop, little Pip Hanway lives happily with her mother and father in an antique umbrella until her world is destroyed by a bomb. Orphaned, Pip decides she must find her way to the umbrella museum in Gignese, Italy where she has some family.

Befriended by Dickin, a search and rescue dog, Pip learns she must join the animals of Noah’s Ark, a secret organisation of animals working as resistance fighters, if she is to stand a chance of making it to her new home.

A very enjoyable and exciting adventure story, ‘The Umbrella Mouse’ looks at the role of resistance fighters and the constant perils they faced. The story highlights the work done by rescue dogs and carrier pigeons as well as acknowledging the impact war has on pets as well as humans. Anna Fargher cleverly uses the plight of the animals in her story to parallel those experienced by humans.

‘The Umbrella Mouse’ does not shy away from the darker consequences of resistance work, including the imprisonment and torture of those unlucky enough to be captured. The manipulation of the vulnerable- those who have lost everything and are searching for a new ‘family’ - so that they will join an organisation is also shown through the actions of certain characters. Infiltration and betrayal are also explored.

All of this makes it sound like a very dark and difficult story to read; however, this is far from being the case. Pip is an inspirational character, full of courage and the determination to follow her dreams.

‘You just need to find a little courage in your heart to begin something new’

This advice from her mother carries her through many perilous situations. At times, Pip is reckless, brave with the belief of the young that they are indestructible so that at times her actions endanger others, but her heart is true and loyal. Dickin is another fantastic character whose courage and good heart are up- lifting ad heart warming to read about. Hans might just be my favourite for reasons I can’t explain as it will spoil the book for anyone who has not read it yet.

The book is full of rich descriptions and is a compelling and powerful read. The illustrations really add to the story as we see Pip and her intrepid friends pursue their quest across France. The ending is left open for another adventure for this little mouse… and there is an umbrella museum in Gignese- who knew?!

The Umbrella Mouse Anna Fargher, illustrated by Sam Usher

Macmillan ISBN: 978- 1529003970

To be published May 2nd 2019