Vivian French

NSTBA READ ALOUD CATEGORY LONG LIST 2019 part 2

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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

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

LONGLIST REVIEW: The Covers of my Book are Too Far Apart! (and other grumbles)

Numerous wonderful picturebooks focus on the magical experiences related to books and reading; while these are always welcome, they can be alienating for those children who find reading difficult or simply do not enjoying it. The Covers of My Book are Too Far Apart rebalances this by tackling the reasons why children might not read head on.

With its humorous comic-style artwork as well as other comic conventions such as speech bubbles and frames, this is a highly accessible text which will be perfect for many of those who will recognise themselves within its pages.  It confronts many stereotypes about reading: that clever people only read big books for example, or that enjoying reading and being a reader are not only about chapter books, or even that reading is only about school. Wonderfully inclusive, it does not try to be didactic but rather tries to normalise the idea that there is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to being a reader.  

The Covers of My Book are Too Far Apart offers a great platform to discuss what it is to be a reader and help define reading for pleasure. Interestingly, it also gives some food for thought about the lack of diversity in most children’s publishing, which would also offer a great starting point for discussions on the importance of diverse characters, and looking at why books are both mirrors and windows for their readers. It would also be a great starting point for activities such as thinking about the book they would like to read. It could be used together with Baxter’s Book which is also on the longlist.

The Covers of My Book are Too Far Apart (And Other Grumbles) 

 by Vivian French, illustrated by Nigel Baines

Barrington Stoke (Picture Squirrels)   ISBN: 978-1781126028