Bookshelf Quality Fiction

Anna at War

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When life in Germany become increasingly dangerous for Jews, Anna’s parents manage to get her onto one of the trains leaving for England as part of the Kindertransport. Fortunate enough to find herself welcomed by her foster family, Anna begins to build a new life for herself in Kent. However, the war is never far away and Anna finds herself caught up in a dangerous plot when she decides actions speak louder than words to show whose side she is really on.

This is just the best read! Sadly, it came too late to be put forward for this year’s awards, but it is right up there with those we have chosen for our Quality Fiction list. Helen’s writing is compelling and deeply moving as she tells Anna’s story with great skill and empathy.

The book starts with Daniel’s teacher asking his class whether they know of anyone who lived through the Second World War. As Daniels tells them his granny came over just before the war started, he suddenly realises how little he knows about her life and decides to ask her about it. The story is then told through Anna’s memories. Without saying anything, this special book reminds us all of the importance of valuing the lives and memories of other generations, encouraging children and grandchildren to ask questions about the past.

Anna’s memories start on Kristallnacht when her world is torn apart by Nazi storm troopers destroying her home and taking her father away. The closeness of her family and her parents’ desperation to save their daughter are vividly portrayed, leading to their decision to send her to England on the Kindertransport.

An amazing character, the reader begins to learn of Anna’s strength of character as she helps others, even finding herself in charge of a baby. The writing here skilfully shows Anna’s fear and anxieties, yet her curiosity as she faces the unknown. Her intelligence and resourceful nature are also clearly shown.

Anna quickly adapts to her life in England, but there are ups and downs along the way as she encounters prejudice and mis-understanding as well as great kindness. There are wonderful descriptions of life in rural England at this time as well as details about war time living. The excitement builds as the children find a wounded soldier and all her determination and resolve are once again put to the test.

Not everyone has a happy ending in this story- how could they?- but the final chapter is beautiful, satisfying and poignant. This is such a wonderful book with strong messages about being kind, offering understanding and compassion and is a must for libraries and classrooms.

A moving wartime adventure, ‘Anna at War’ is set to be a modern classic.

Anna at War Helen Peters

Nosy Crow ISBN: 978- 1788004718

Hummingbird

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Beautifully balancing fact and fiction, ‘Hummingbird’ focuses on the ruby-throated hummingbird. The story starts with a grandmother and her granddaughter waiting in their garden for the ‘Tz-unun’ or ‘zun-zun’ (the name for hummingbirds in several Central and South American countries) to arrive and feed. Like the little girl, Granny says they will soon be flying north. The reader then follows these incredible little birds on their migration until they arrive in New York where the little girl finds part of their egg shell. She then completes the cycle by sending this to her grandmother with a cutting from the newspaper about hummingbirds nesting in Central Park for the first time.

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Produced in association with the RSPB, the story is supplemented with factual notes about various aspects of the ruby-throated hummingbird’s life. An index is included to enable readers to locate this information with ease and a bibliography of further reading is also suggested. Additional notes about these incredible creatures at the beginning and end of the book offer information about how scientists study them. It is truly fascinating!

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The story also reminds us all of the importance of nature as the beauty of these birds captures the attention and interest of many on their journey, spreading the joy of nature as they go. A student forgets his work for a moment as he shares the beauty of the hummingbird with his mother; a family forget the normal distractions of daily life as they share the joy of hummingbirds visiting their homemade feeder. The story offers a sense of love - of human to human as well as for nature.

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Jane Ray’s illustrations are as beautiful as ever. Rich colours and delicate detail bring each scene to life, celebrating the beauty of these birds and the world we live in. She also captures those human relationships- the grandmother and her granddaughter nestled together, the sisters enjoying a special memory, an elderly man and his younger companion sharing a walk in the park with a dog- each of these relationships speaks volumes through her beautiful paintings.

A stunning book about these fascinating birds, ‘Hummingbird’ is a treasure of a book which has great potential for using in school as well as being enjoyed by those wanting to discover more. Just beautiful.

Hummingbird Nicola Davies, illustrated by Jane Ray

Walker Books ISBN: 978-1406379273

The Whisper

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Whenever I am struggling with things, I turn to my books. Just being amongst them is something I find very soothing- the feel of the paper and that wonderful ‘book’ smell as well as the sight of their beauty. This weekend, I spent a lot of time looking through shelves, rediscovering treasures and this was one I found. ‘The Whisper’, written and illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski, is such a lovely book which is perfect for using with a class.

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When her teacher lends her a special book, the little girl cannot wait to get home and start reading it. On the way, however, the words fall out of the story and she is faced with a book full only of pictures. A small whisper on the wind tells her to imagine the stories which the pictures tell- and she does, creating the first few lines to accompany each picture. She returns the book, full of the stories she has to share…

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A joyous celebration of the power of imagination, of sharing stories and of the wonder of each individual bringing something of themself to everything they read, ‘The Whisper’ lends itself beautifully to creating stories and inspiring illustration. Each spread is full of amazing details to explore and wonder about.

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From references to Aesop’s fable, ‘The Fox and the Grapes’, a quote from Longfellow at the beginning to the stunning illustrations, this book is so inspirational that we have gathered our thoughts and have created planning ideas for this book which will soon be available on the Members’ Section of our website. A book list of books about books and stories will also be available very soon.

‘An ode to the imagination’, The Whisper is full of possibilities and wonder.

The Whisper written and illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt ISBN: 978-0544416864