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The Story of Britain – history doesn’t have to be horrible

13 Apr

The Story of Britain by Mick Manning and Brita Granström has transformed the way we talk and learn about history in our family. Mollie is fascinated by history but is too young for the blood and guts versions that seem so prevalent at the moment. The Story of Britain is hugely accessible, full of information, and FUN. 

  

Beginning fifty thousand years ago with an explanation of how the British Isles were created and continuing chronologically through to the present day, The Story of Britain covers the key periods and historical figures that children will come across at school with tons of detail and brilliantly engaging illustrations.

We have used this book so much over the last few weeks, and it has worked – Mollie has referred back to it constantly. During a week in Wales she was fascinated to stand on the edge of a hillside and look down at the valley and see where the ice would have been. She found a piece of flint and declared it an original axe head. A piece of broken plant pot was a real Roman relic. This book has lit a fire of interest and there’s enough information here to fuel it for years to come. 

The joy of this book is its accessibility – the book has a wonderfully chatty tone and simple explanations of tricky terms or ideas. It truly is the story of Britain and it’s story-like chronological structure and language makes it hugely appealing to children, without relying on blood and guts to try and catch their interest. It makes history relevant; showing children their place in the story of Britain and making them a part of the story. The structure of the book is well thought out, allowing for reading through in bite-sized chunks or searching for a favourite topic.  We particularly love the use of speech bubbles to give real life perspectives on events, and the brilliant timeline that runs across each page. 

   

 

I cannot recommend this book enough. If you are looking for a book to inspire young minds, to kindle a passion for history and an understanding of society, or just something to pop on a shelf to help with homework, you can stop the search now. This will do the lot. Job done. 

Source- kindly sent for review by Franklin Watts/Hachette Children’s Books. 

Beautiful Birds

11 Mar

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Designed as part alphabet book and part introduction to the world’s most beautiful birds, this book is a thing of beauty. The text is pure poetry and the artwork is delicious!

My photographs can’t do Emmanuelle Walker’s illustrations justice. The vivid orange/pink colour from the cover (think bright pink highlighter pen) is included throughout, highlighting parts of each bird. And oh the exquisite lines! And the patterns! And the contrasts! And the colours!

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The birds are introduced through Jean Roussen’s rhyming text with wonderfully creative and inspiring language. Owls have ogling orbs, macaws are ‘rainbows that ruffle’ and tanagers have polychrome quills. Beautifully evocative language for children to absorb.

Stunning illustrations, tactile pages, beautiful language, unique birds and the odd amazing fact dropped in. This is a special book that will appeal to children of all ages. Even the fully grown ones!

Source – kindly sent for review by Flying Eye Books.

National Non-Fiction November – PatrickGeorge

29 Nov

PatrickGeorge publish very funky and clever non-fiction books.

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They have a wonderful way of playing with words and images that delights and enthrals children – and adults. Their books have become firm favourites at The Rainbow Libraries. The children are completely mesmerised by them.

We all know that children learn best when they play and these books beg to be played with. Bright and bold with that brilliant mix of interaction and humour, and just a touch of magic, PatrickGeorge books use transparent pages to transform images. Before their very eyes, trees transform (Colours)…

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Birds are freed (Opposites)…

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And sharks appear from nowhere (Oh No!)…

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My Big Book Of The Five Senses uses a similar magical approach but without the aid of transparent pages. The illustrations work for themselves and encourage children to think about what they see, play around with words and images and what things mean.

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It’s delicious to watch children making a bee-line for these books and interacting with them with wide-eyed exploration, poky-tongued concentration, and pointy-fingered laughter. These are books that encourage children to make things happen and to discuss what they see and learn. And that is what books, particularly non-fiction books, should be all about. Bravo, PatrickGeorge!

Source- kindly donated to The Rainbow Library by PatrickGeorge.

NNFN – Mad About Mega Beasts

27 Nov

The line between fiction and non-fiction is thin and often blurry. Many non-fiction books use a narrative or other elements of fiction writing to get their information across. Mad About Mega Beasts by Giles ‘Giraffes Can’t Dance’ Andreae and David Wojtowycz uses verse to create a kind of non linear narrative.

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Children will meet mega beasts such as the giant manta ray, the wooly mammoth and the Siberian tiger. Tucked between an introductory verse and a rhyming conclusion, each double page spread introduces a new mega beast with a bold and bright illustration and a funny verse. Each verse includes some high level information about the mega beasts in a brilliantly child friendly way.

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There’s also a mini beast or two to spot on every page.

A smidge larger than A4, this is a big, bold and beautiful book for children. Full of colour and fun and completely free of any gender stereotyping. Just look at the colours used in the manta ray picture! Delicious!

A lovely way of introducing very young children to finding-out books, Mad About Mega Beasts is the newest in a fantastic series. And my new favourite!

Source: kindly sent for review by the publisher, Orchard books.

National Non Fiction November – Usborne spotlight

5 Nov

Usborne, Usborne… How I do love you!
Usborne publish awesome non fiction. Finding out books, activity books, spotter’s guides, they do the lot…and they do them well! Their design is always spot on and they are immensely interactive, entertaining and kid friendly. Best of all, Usborne are very good at keeping their finding out books clear of gender stereotyping. Their books about animal facts don’t go all pink and sparkly when it’s about kittens or black and shouty when it’s about sharks. These books are for all children. And they are a million times better for it. Bravo, Usborne!

Here’s a round up of some of our favourite Usborne finding out books:

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For little fingers, the Peep Inside series illustrated by Simona Dimitri is stunning. Peep Inside the Zoo and Peep Inside Animal Homes are full of loads of fun flaps to lift and facts to find out. You can read my review of them here.

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Usborne’s Lift the Flap series is a real winner with loads of information and big flaps for children to lift and engage with. This series really makes the most of the format, using the flaps to show children information in an interactive way. This is something I think Usborne really excel at. The books in this range are large – picture book sized, perfect for pre-school children and above. Our favourite is the shark book with it’s strange and menacing goblin shark. *shudder*

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I really love these books! The Usborne Beginners series is a beautiful fit for newly independent readers or children who are just getting the hang of it. These A5 sized books are packed with fascinating facts and the short snappy sentences support independent fact-finding missions – perfect for those early homework projects. There are more than 60 titles in this series, so certainly something for everyone. Each book has a contents, index, and glossary page to help children learn how finding out books work, and a link to websites to explore the topic further. A great mix of photographs and illustrations and a new sub-topic on each double page spread make these books brilliant for reading from cover to cover as well as dipping in and out of. They are wonderful! You can snap up a starter set of 20 books here.

20141105-140048-50448441.jpgFor slightly older children, or children who crave more information, The Usborne Little Encyclopedia of Animals is a beauty of a book with a huge amount of information and loads of links for curious minds to follow to find out more. This is definitely a step up in content but without losing any of the Usborne joy.

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The See Inside range is a stonkingly good series of books covering a wealth of topics. They are a4 sized hardbacks crammed full with information and diagrams and hundreds of flaps to lift to see what’s going on inside. The level of information in these books suits inquisitive minds, and they can get quite technical, but there’s so much to look at that they work across a broad age range. See Inside Your Body was Mollie’s favourite book in the world when she was 3 and she still loves to look through it now nearly 3 years on. They really do grow with children – a sure sign of a quality, well-designed series!

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And last, but certainly not least, are these two gems. The Usborne First Illustrated Maths Dictionary and it’s Science counterpart. These are every parent/carer’s best friend! No more tricky homework explanations- these books are easy to use and have fantastic illustrated examples throughout. The science dictionary explains terms and gives ideas for experiments and projects and the maths dictionary uses plain everyday language to explain and illustrate maths concepts to children (and the grown ups scratching their heads next to them). Brilliant!

Bravo, Usborne! And hurrah for fantastic finding out books!

Source – all books from the rhino reading rooms.

National Non Fiction November

5 Nov

Welcome to National Non Fiction November!

Non fiction often gets lost and overlooked in the vast world of children’s books. A crying shame because kids love it! Children are sponges. They suck up information and relish the feeling of finding out a new cool fact. Many children prefer non-fiction to fiction. And yet non fiction is so left behind that even its name reinforces its place as other. Non fiction. This stuff is not fiction. It is other, something else, something less.

Wrong!

The label non fiction is often used to lump together everything that doesn’t fit under the fiction banner. Fact books, activity books, spotting books, abc and counting books… Everything that isn’t fiction. And yet non fiction books often cross over into the fiction domain. They can have strong narratives, characters, a story ark. And often the illustration and design are off the scale. So why are they so overlooked? It’s a messy business of labels and hierarchy. But these brilliant books are fighting back. Authors, illustrators and publishers are producing fantastic books that show off and celebrate the breadth and wonder that is the non fiction market. And this November, the Federation of Children’s Bookgroups are launching the very first National Non Fiction November, celebrating adventures in the real world.

For me, non fiction means ‘finding out books’. That is what we call them in our house, in an attempt to give them a name that means something to Mollie and describes the books for what they are. Finding out books – Brilliant books that help you find out about the world around you.
Hold the line please caller, because I’m going to shine a light on some of our favourites.

Line Up, Please!

23 Oct

I love a picture book that beautifully and seamlessly brings together different genres. Line Up, Please! by Tomoko Ohmura (Gecko Press) is part counting book, part finding out book and part humourous story. It even includes a catchy game for families to play together. And all with fantastic design and illustration and a lovely surprise ending.

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Gecko Press specialises in publishing English versions of curiously good books from around the world by well-established authors and illustrators. Their books have already been successful in their own countries so you know you are in safe hands. This is certainly true of Line Up, Please!

The story, and the line, begins on the title page where the reader is encouraged to join in and see what everyone is waiting for. A frog is joining the line with the reader, labelled number 50. Turn the page and the fun begins with a line of animals gradually increasing in size and counting down in number, all labelled with their animal name and number. They are all chatting away and building anticipation. What is at the end of the line? As with any queue, the waiting causes problems and the animals start bickering and squashing up – with very good reason!

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The line counts down from 50 and finally the reason for the queue is revealed in a glorious gatefold spread that will delight children – it made me beam!

50 different animals to count and identify, lots to look at and learn and a ton of wit and smiles. This book will appeal to children young and old. The word game in the middle will catch the imagination of older children and is still keeping us entertained on car journeys weeks later.
This book is a real gem! Get your copy here.

Source – kindly sent for review by Gecko Press.

Sloth Slept On by Frann Preston-Gannon

20 Oct

A group of children find a sloth snoring away in their garden. Not knowing what it is, they pile it into their wagon and set off to find out. Two of the children use their imagination to play out where the sloth could have appeared from, while the smallest looks to books to find out what the creature is and where it belongs. Once they have identified the sloth they need to send it home…

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This is a beautiful book that celebrates things close to my heart – children’s imaginations, the power of books, and the natural joy of animals.

Frann Preston-Gannon’s textured illustrations are just delicious. I love the sloth’s smiling sleepy face, the cracked paintwork for the trees and fences, and there’s something very loveable about these faces with their upturned noses and their squishy cheeks.

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She’s done a fantastic job of capturing childhood curiosity and adventure, and really celebrating their imagination and play. The hints hidden throughout the book suggesting where the sloth has come from, and the double page spread of sloth facts give the book an extra level of interaction. And the ending…the ending is delicious!

Sloth Sleeps On is also beautifully inclusive and gives more than a nod to equality. The children are wearing non-gender-stereotyped clothing and their imaginative play isn’t gendered. They ask Dad what he thinks but he is too busy cleaning. The other adult pictured is hidden behind a newspaper and is gender-neutral.

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I’m happy to see some diversity in the illustrations too- how refreshing to see children of colour in the book. These purposefully ambiguous characters leave it open to the reader, allowing them to find themselves in the book. This could be a family with two dads. It could be a foster family or family with adopted children. It could be a lot of different things because Frann Preston-Gannon has thought about diversity and thought about how children see themselves and their families in their books. Hurrah for her!

Source- kindly sent for review by the publisher, Pavilion Children’s Books.

I want to see myself in my books – eczema/allergies/skin conditions

19 Sep

A dear friend asked me if I knew of any books that would help her 2 year old son understand his eczema and allergies, something to show him that he is not alone or ‘different’. He has severe allergies and as a family they are still learning what his triggers are and how best to deal with it all. It would really help him and his siblings if they could see him represented in books and understand that other children have the same problems.

So with a little help from my friends I pulled together this collection of beauties:

Hop a Little, Jump a Little by Child’s Play Books, illustrated by Annie Kubler.

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I love this for its casual inclusion. It isn’t ‘about’ allergies or eczema, or children that are ‘different’. It is about very young children being children. But the pictures have such diversity and allow children to see themselves in their books. Children with allergies/skin conditions/birthmarks will recognise themselves in the picture above. The illustration shows bandages peeping out beneath clothing and red patches on skin, but it’s subtle. It allows children to recognise themselves in the illustration but it’s not what that child *is*. Brilliant!

Recycling! by Child’s Play, illustrated by Jess Stockham is part of the Helping Hands series.

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A brilliant series of inclusive books that blur the line between fiction and non fiction, the Helping Hands books use conversational text to explore tasks that children can help adults with as a natural extension of pretend play. They work beautifully as jumping boards for discussion and play and are perfectly pitched for inquisitive young children.

Recycling! shows twins helping with lots of different recycling tasks. The illustrations of the children are wonderfully gender neutral, allowing children to place themselves in the story. For my friend’s son there is an illustration of a child with eczema or a birthmark.

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Doctor is another Child’s Play book illustrated by Jess Stockham. This one is from the First Time series of books which, like the Helping Hands series, uses conversational text to explore experiences children will come across for the first time. In Doctor there is a double page spread showing a child with eczema.

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Casual inclusion is so important for children – that moment of recognition when they see themselves in their book and feel that sense of inclusion and of being valued. But books that are more overt and ‘about’ an issue can be helpful too, and are often sought after by adults trying to help a child’s understanding of an issue they are dealing with.

Emmy’s Eczema by Jack Hughes (Hachette) aims to fill this gap.

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Emmy has eczema, which makes her skin really itchy. She knows she shouldn’t scratch, but sometimes she just can’t help it. One day, she scratches so much she makes her skin really sore. Can her friends help her?

I think this book will help my friend’s son feel less alone and will also help his older sister. The dinosaurs have to work together to support Emmy and remind her not to scratch. They journey together to help her find the flowers to make a cream that relieves the itching. The sense of teamwork and support in this story is one that I’m sure will resonate with my friend and her family. I can imagine them all cuddling up to read it together and discussing how it relates to their own lives.

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For older children, The Peanut-Free Cafe by Gloria Koster and Maryann Cocca-Leffler is a fantastic book that celebrates difference and shows children adapting their daily routines to support a new classmate with a peanut allergy.

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Simon loves peanut butter. But Grant, the new kid at school, is allergic to it – he can’t even sit near anyone eating it. Grant sits all by himself at lunchtime until Simon comes up with a great idea: turn part of the cafeteria into “The Peanut-Free Cafe” and make it a fun place! Soon the other kids are leaving their peanut-butter sandwiches at home so they can eat in the cafe with Grant. But it’s not so easy for Simon. Can he give up his very favourite food?

Telling this story from the point of view of a classmate makes it a book that encourages awareness and support for children with peanut (and all) allergies. It also shows Simon – a very fussy eater – being brave and trying new foods so he can join the Peanut-Free Cafe and support his new friend. A great book for friends and families of children with allergies, this is a book that will work equally well in the classroom.

Marshall Armstrong is New to Our School by David Mackintosh (HarperCollins) is another picture book that celebrates difference.

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Marshall Armstrong is new to the school. He looks different, he acts differently and he eats different food. But it doesn’t take long for Marshall to prove that you don’t have to follow the crowd to be the most popular kid in the playground. When he invites the children from his class to his house for a party, they learn that Marshall Armstrong is fun and friendly and they have a great time trying new things.

A quirky and humorous book that celebrates the differences that make us unique, Marshall Armstrong will bring a smile to anyone who feels a bit different.

Thank you to everyone who made suggestions and pointed me in the right direction. If anyone has any more recommendations, please do add them in the comments below – we’d love to hear your ideas!

UPDATE
It’s working!!!!!

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Source – all copies bought from these lovely people:
Child’s Play
Letterbox Library
Hive stores

Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor

15 Sep

I am happy to be kicking off the blog tour for a book set to inspire the scientists and engineers of the future.
Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor by Jon Scieszka and Brian Biggs is a force of nature. A whirlwind of a book that whips through story and science alike. It is a wonderful combination of fact and fiction with an engaging and adventurous storyline that carries the reader through – without realising they are learning much more than they would in science class.

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Frank Einstein loves figuring out how the world works by creating household contraptions that are part science, part imagination, and totally unusual. In Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor, after an uneventful experiment in his lab, a lightning storm and flash of electricity bring Frank’s inventions – the robots Klink and Klank – to life! Not exactly the ideal lab partners, the wisecracking Klink and the overly expressive Klank nonetheless help Frank attempt to perfect his Antimatter Motor . . . until Frank’s arch nemesis, T. Edison, steals Klink and Klank for his evil doomsday plan!

I love the way Scieszka and Biggs have included so much ‘actual real life science’ in a non-intrusive way. It is perfectly blended with energy and humour, the perfect combination for inspiring children and encouraging them to question the way things work and how they, too, can experiment with science. The illustrations and labelled diagrams, the zany adventures, the explanations of scientific terms and random science jokes at the end of the book- all add together to create a highly entertaining manual for the scientists and engineers of the future.

Frank Einstein is a book that will catch children’s attention. Frank is a character bursting with ideas and passion. He wants to ‘master all science’. He says; ‘The word comes from the Latin for knowledge. We want all science. All knowledge.’ He proceeds to excitedly pace around the room, classifying science and creating a six point plan of research that covers matter, energy, humans, life, the earth and the universe.
Now *that* is passion! That is ambition and a thirst for knowledge! Imagine what he could achieve if he had a lab team that matched his passion and knowledge….

The lab dream team
Frank Einstein – chosen for his wide-ranging scientific knowledge, his ambition and thirst for learning.
Aristotle – He was, essentially, the first scientist and, as Frank Einstein’s inspiration, deserves his place at the lab bench.
Hermione Granger – her bravery and determination, intelligence and exemplary research skills make her the perfect choice.
E. Lilian Todd – the designer of the first airplane at a time when female engineers were unheard of, Todd would give the group the level-headed focus and inspiration to succeed against the odds.
Mortimer Keene – quite a character, but one that matches Frank’s energy and ambition with an added dose of cunning and mild peril.
Rosie Revere – all good teams should be supporting the next generation. Rosie’s ambition and engineering dreams make her the perfect addition.

Who would you include in your lab dream team?!

Jon Scieszka will be in the UK on a national tour in October – with events at Bath and Cheltenham Literature Festival, plus a panel discussion with Louise Rennison and Jim Smith at Waterstones Piccadilly, an event at Seven Stories and a range of school and library events.

Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor is out now and you can buy your copy here.

You can follow the blog tour and see what Frank has inspired over at Wondrous Reads tomorrow.

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