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Wonder by RJ Palacio



Author:   R.J. Palacio

Title: Wonder

Date of Publication:  January 2013


AR Level: 4.8


Summary of book

The story follows a young teenager, August, as he spends his first year at school after a number of years being home schooled. August is an ordinary boy. The only difference between him and other children in that he has a facial dis-figuration which he was born with. The book covers his first year as he builds his confidence, makes (and loses) friends and learns the ups and downs of normal school life. The book is told from August’s point of view in some chapters but it’s also told from others characters’ points of view which enriches the book.


Who should read this book?

This book is good for everyone aged 9 and up as it makes you think about who you are and how you treat other people. I think adults would like this as much as children so it’s a lovely one for parent and child to read. I think boys and girls will like it equally as much as one another.


Who are the main characters?

August, 12ish

Via, August’s sister

Jack, Summer, Julian – some of August’s classmates


What can I learn from it?

Lots! This is a book about bullying and it really helps you to ‘put yourself in someone else’s shoes’ and connect with a variety of characters. It helps you to understand people, family and friendships a little more and definitely reminded me not to judge a book my its cover!

This book also covers the issue of grief and bullying so be careful reading this if you’re sensitive to either.



Bullying, friendship, identity, school, families, self-confidence, grief, death of animals, jealousy


What will excite a reader?

The character perspective keeps on changing so you get to see situations from a variety of points of view which is really interesting. August is such a likeable character and, as a reader, you grow attached to him quite quickly. August is quite funny to so I giggled at a few of his jokes and smiled when he smiled. The chapters are nice and short too so it will keep you interested.


What did Mrs T think of it?

I loved it! It really made me think about myself and the way I thought of others. At one point in the book I was balling my eyes out (really!) as it triggered some memories in me and was so heartfelt and genuine (see spoiler below if you want to find out more). I loved the ending and was smiling for a good hour after finishing reading it! I would definitely read it to a class as I feel it is so relevant to children today and we can learn a lot from it.







***Spoiler Alert – read with caution***
In the middle of the book, August has a pet which sadly has to be put down. This is quite an emotional part of the book and, as most children have experience of losing animal friends, this may upset a few children – it certainly made me remember past friends! There is also a scene where August is ambushed for no reason by some unfamiliar children.  Although this is resolved and it all turns out all right in the end, it may be a little too distressing for younger children.

Unenchanted by Chanda Hahn



Author:   Chanda Hahn

Title: Unenchanted

Date of Publication:


AR Level: Not currently quizzed



Summary of book

The book follows a sixteen year old girl, Mina Grime who finds out that she is a descendant of the famous ‘Brothers Grimm’. The Grim Brothers collected together/ wrote many of the fairy tales we know and love (like cinderella, little red riding hood and more) and put them in one book. During the first book, Mina begins to realise that the stories may have been more real than she first thought! She has the task of trying to beat the curse that has befallen her family, protecting her friends, family and an adoring boyfriend at the same time.


Who should read this book?

I would recommend this in particular to girls (and boys) who like a good love story! Girls in years 5 and 6 will enjoy it as well as teenagers and even adults! It whisks me back to my teenage years especially when Mina falls in love, which is amazing and sad at the same time. Also, if you’re interested in fairy tales and magic this book may be for you.


Who are the main characters?

Mina – girl aged 16

Nan – girl aged 16

Brody – boy aged 16

Jared – boy aged 16


What can I learn from it?

You can learn a lot about responsibility and just being a teenager / young person. I also learnt a lot about fairy tales and the Brothers Grimm.



Friendship, relationships, magic, fairy tales, family, bereavement, love, loss and trust.


What will excite a reader?

The love interest between Mina and (???) is very exciting – you never know what is going to happen next and if it is real or not. It has quite a sad ending (I think I shed a tear) but it makes you want to read the next book straight away. It is quite dramatic too. You’re constantly guessing as to what is going on and which characters are good and which are… not so good!


What did Mrs T think of it?

I loved it. This was recommended to me by one of the LSAs I used to work with (Mrs Edmonds) and she definitely made a good recommendation! I read the whole book in about three days and started the next one straight away. I liked Jared’s character the most – I’m still not sure what I think of him and I’ve almost finished book two. Let me know what you think of Jared if you read this.


A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray


A great and terrible beauty

Author: Libba Bray

Title: A Great and Terrible Beauty

Date of Publication:  2009

 AR Level: 5.1

 Summary of book

The book is based mainly in Victorian England and follows the story of Gemma, a girl who moves to London from India following a tragic turn of events. She begins to attend a boarding school which also acts as a finishing school for girls. The narrative tells of her struggle to be accepted within the social hierarchy of the school and her struggle to understand herself as she develops mysterious abilities.

This is due to be released as a movie in 2015 so definitely one to watch.

Who should read this book?

This book is best suited to key three and upwards although some year 5/6 could read it with adult supervision and opportunities to discuss the content. There are a few paragraphs which are a little inappropriate for this age range (contact me if you would like more information) but this could be easily omitted without ‘losing the plot’.

Who are the main characters?

Gemma Doyle, a teenager (approximately 16-18yrs old) living in Victorian England

Three other teenage girls: Anne, Felicity and Pippa all 16-18yrs old

What can I learn from it?

This book is set towards the beginning of Victoria’s reign in a finishing school for girls so it offers an insight in to the role of women in Victorian society. Bullying also appears in this book which would also prompt some interesting social and moral discussions.


Victorian society, school, magic, parallel worlds, bullying, friendships, fantasy, murder

What will excite a reader?

The reader is on a journey with Gemma to try and fathom what is going on and who the mysterious characters Mary and Sarah are. There is quite a large twist at the end of the book which I wasn’t expecting too! There is also one character in the book that I was suspicious of and, after the close of the book, she is still as mysterious as ever!

What did Mrs T think of it?

This will definitely make it in to my ‘recommended reads’ category. It took a while to get in to and I read the first few chapters over a few weeks and the last 75% of the book in a few days! Once the magic and mystery entered the book, I was hooked. I feel I have learnt a lot about Victorian women and the society in which they lived by reading this book.


Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo


private peaceful

Author: Michael Morpurgo

Title: Private Peaceful

Date of Publication: 2003


AR Level: 5.2

 Summary of book

The book tells the story of two brothers, Tommo and Charlie Peaceful throughout their lives from when Tommo first goes to school to when they go to serve in the First World War. It has some very descriptive insights into the First World War.

Who should read this book?

Year 5 (10yrs) and upwards. I feel that some of the images conveyed in the book may be too intense for younger children. This book would go perfectly alongside war poetry or other things to do with war.

Who are the main characters?

Tommo, male aged approx 11 to 18 throughout the book.

Charlie: male aged approx 14 to 21 throughout the book.

Molly: female aged approx 13 to 20 throughout the book.

What can we learn from the book?

For the inexperienced reader this is a highly emotional tale about the lives of two brothers from their life at home to their life at war. To the experienced reader this book offers a political look at executions in the First World War and thoughts upon it as a whole. It also offers insights into life and death.


War, family, love, male/female relationships, politics, execution, adolescence, loyalty, betrayal, life and death.

What will excite a reader?

At the beginning of every chapter there is an insight from the end of the book that the reader is interested to uncover. The book is also very descriptive, looking inside the mind of Tommo and seeing all of his dreams and his fears.

What did I think of it?

With this book I was not able to class this just as a book – this was real life. This could have been someone’s story under a century ago. There are many texts that I have read in this genre but this is a highly personal one and incredibly emotional – I cried!

Not the End of the World by Geraldine McCaughrean


not the end of the world

Author: Geraldine McCaughrean

Title: Not the end of the world

Date of Publication:  2004


AR Level: 5.3


Summary of book

The book re-tells the biblical story of Noah’s Ark from primarily the point of view of Timna, the youngest daughter of Noah. It tells the story in a very realistic way. McCaughrean also gives names to the wives of the three sons and produces the character of Timna who may or may not have existed.


Who should read this book?

Key stage three (year seven and upwards). Although this is an age old story normally aimed at very young children, the book tells the story so realistically that it may scare young children. The book talks about Noah and his family smacking people off the hull of the ship when the rain started to fall and talks of animal slaughter and sacrifice. Some of these ideas would be far too brutal for young children.


Who are the main characters?

Timna, young adolescent female.

Japeth, 12 year old male.

Zillah, 14 year old female.

Kittim, young adolescent male.

Noah, Shem and Ham, adult males.

Ama, Bashemath and Sarai, adult females.


What can we learn from the book?

For the inexperienced reader this book offers a dramatic reconstruction of the time on Noah’s Ark. For the experienced reader it questions the right of God and the intentions of Noah and his sons. It questions the will of God and illustrates the absolute trust that his followers place upon him. It also demonstrates God’s supposed power and fury which is sparsely illustrated in modern literature.



Religion, death, family, friendship, marriage, history, loyalty, faith, animals, Armageddon.


What will excite a reader?

The book is incredibly dramatic and brings an age old story to life. It is told from a young girl who seems to think with a modern mind, just like ours and portrays a world but does not judge it. The way you interpret the ideas in the book is individual to each reader – whether you interpret their reliance on faith as madness or exemplary is up to the individual reader, McCaughrean makes no attempts to tell you what to think.


What did I think of it?

I have been used to the story of Noah’s Ark usually accompanied with the children’s song but this book takes all of the idealism out of it. It took me to what was an incredibly brutal time and the almost end of human civilisation as we know it. I loved to be able to make up my own mind on the text that was presented to me and liked the fact that my opinions changed multiple times in the book.

Red Sky in the Morning by Elizabeth Laird


red sky in the morning

Author: Elizabeth Laird

Title: Red Sky in the Morning

Date of Publication: 1989


AR Level: 5.3


Summary of book

The book tells the story of a young girl called Anna whose mother has a new baby. The new baby boy, Ben, is severely disabled. The story tells of how Anna comes to terms with her brother’s disability and how she deals with the world around her.


Who should read this book?

Year 5 and upwards. Anna goes from the age of 9 to the age of approximately 13 within the book, so this age group will be able to relate to her. The complex issues are dealt with sensitively so can be used for this age group.


Who are the main characters?

Anna: young adolescent female


What can I learn from this book?

Through the first person narrative it is very easy to understand for a non-experienced reader. For a more experienced reader the book comments on society’s attitudes towards disability.



Adolescence, family, friendship, male/female relationships, mental handicap, prejudice, school/education, life and death, grief.


What will excite a reader?

The first person narrative is very descriptive and one can really relate to Anna and feel what she is feeling. This book does deal with death and grief so read with caution.


What did I think of it?

I found the book a help personally when concerned with grief. I found that I can relate to Anna and the feelings she had when the events occurred. I could also think back to when I was Anna’s age and see myself as maybe other characters in the book which has affected my views.

Warehouse by Keith Gray



Author: Keith Gray

Title: Warehouse

Date of Publication: 2002


AR Level: 4.7


Summary of book

The warehouse is a safe haven for young homeless people. The book is told from three perspectives: Robbie, Amy and Lem. The book tells of the trials people have to face on the streets and the situations they find themselves in.


Who should read this book?

This book is most definitely not for younger readers. I would recommend it for Key Stage 3 or Key Stage 4. There are brutal images and many sexual references within the book.


Who are the main characters?

Robbie: teenage male

Amy: teenage male

Canner: teenage male

Lem: twenty-something male


What can I learn from the book?

It offers a look into an ‘invisible sub-culture’ and has a great sense of realism, making the reader divulge into this underground world.



Homelessness, friendship, family, sex, violence, stealing, money, drug abuse, alcohol, city life.


What will excite a reader?

The book grabs you in such a way that you immerse yourself within the book. The book offers three different perspectives and every reader should be able to relate to at least one of them.


What did I think about it?

I related especially to the character of Amy, probably because she was female and came from a similar background that I now live in. I also liked that the three perspectives were interwoven and allowed you to form a complete picture of the various happenings and situations.

Hitler’s Daughter by Jackie French


Hitler's daughter

Author: Jackie French

Title: Hitler’s Daughter

Date of Publication: 1999


AR Level: 4.3


Summary of book

The book is about three children Anna, little Tracy and Mark who get on the school bus at the same bus stop. The story tells of one of the stories that Anna tells at this bus stop of Hitler’s Daughter in WWII. The story appears to be fiction but as the story progresses and concludes we learn that Anna may indeed be Hitler’s great-grandchild.


Who should read this?

Upper Key Stage 2 (Year 5 and 6 upwards). The vocabulary is fairly simple but some of the scenes and ideas within the story may be too shocking for younger children.


Who are the main characters?

Three main characters: little Tracey, female probably about 9 or 10, Anna, also a female probably about 13-14 and Mark a male of the about the same age, 13-14


What can be learnt from this book?

An insight into WWII that is not presented in text books, along with a view from the German perspective that is not given to us within mainstream education.



War, poverty, family, loyalty, friendship, storytelling, history, religion, prejudice.


What will excite a reader?

The constant change in narrative voice, sometimes one forgets that it there is a story inside a story and this is very exciting. It also has an interesting story base and makes you question whether such people existed.


What did I think of it?

It took me about a day to read as it is very addictive. The description is excellent, helping the reader to imagine the images described no matter how horrific they might be.

Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman


noughts and crosses

Author: Malorie Blackman

Title: Noughts and Crosses

Date of Publication: 2001

Place of Publication: London

Publisher: Doubleday


Summary of book

The story is set in an alternative reality where crosses rule and noughts are suppressed. The narrative is based around the lives of two young people, Persephone (Stephy), a cross and Callum, a nought. The two have to fight to remain friends in their society and the story tells of their challenges and relationship.


Who would like it?

Upper KS3/KS4. The book is quite lengthy but some of the topics covered e.g. sex may not be suitable for children of a younger age. The book can also be seen as quite disturbing in parts.


Who are the main characters?

Stephy, female, ranges her age throughout the book, starting at 14 and growing to when she is 18. Callum, male, is two years older and so his age ranges from 16 to 20.


What can I learn from this book?

The book turns issues of our world, such as racism, upside down. It is also an incredibly descriptive book and is a great one to find enthusiasm about reading as a whole. Read with caution though, this book is quite upsetting and distressing in places.



Discrimination, racism, respect, equality, friendship, family, love, loyalty, death, life, acceptance, failure, bullying, violence and trust.


What will excite a reader?

The book takes the reader’s pre-conceived ideas, whether conscious or subconscious and makes he/she question them. The book is very active. With the story being told from both the points of view Stephy and Callum, you see an insight into a side of society you may not have experienced.


What did I think of it?

This is probably one of the best books I have ever read. With its 446 (large) pages I read it in under a week, a book to get lost in. Blackman provides a world that one can relate to and almost exist in. The ending of the book is one that was not expected and it showed much more than it was telling in the text. It made me as a reader realise things that I was unaware of about myself and one of the only books I have read so far that has and I think will change me in my life and my view upon it.

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Me with Coffee

About Me

 I am Mrs Tunnicliffe and I am a teacher at Riders Junior School. I trained to be a teacher for four years at the University of Brighton and  have been teaching at Riders since September 2007. During the six years I have been at Riders, I have taught in year 3, year 5 and year 6 so I’ve been teaching/training to teach for 10 years now!

I work across Riders Infant and Junior School as an English leader (among other things). This means that I work hard to improve the reading, writing, speaking and listening of children at Riders Infant and Junior School. I work with the children, teachers and support staff in both schools to make sure that children are getting better at English every day.

Feel free to leave a comment or ask a question and I will be more than happy to help!

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