Mrs T's English Blog

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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.


I, Coriander by Sally Gardner


I coriander

Author: Sally Gardner

Title: I, Coriander

Date of Publication:  2005

Mrs Tunnicliffe has this book in her personal library.


AR Level: 5.5


Summary of book

The book tells the story of a young girl named Coriander who is living with her mum and dad in London during the 17th century at the time of the beheading of Charles I and Oliver Cromwell. Coriander’s mother is from a world other than our own. Coriander is pulled into the alternative world, after her mother’s death and after her father remarries.


Who should read this?

Upper key stage two/key stage three (Year 5 upwards). The book is quite lengthy and has some harrowing ideas within it. The reader, to gain the maximum from this book, must have an understanding of the history behind the book (if this is not so then it would be useful to read the ‘some historical background’ section towards the rear of the text).


Age and gender of central characters

Coriander – young adolescent female


What can be learnt from this book?

For the inexperienced reader the book offers a charming tale about a child and her family and her adventures between two worlds. For the more experienced reader the book offers an insight into the lives of those living at the time of Oliver Cromwell and the restoration of the monarchy. It shows what was happening to individual lives, businesses and livelihoods at this time in history.



Family, friendship, fairytales, violence, bereavement, fantasy, politics, motherhood, love/relationships, destiny.


What will excite a reader?

The author writes in a mysterious way where you share the same confusion as Coriander. It is written in the first person, mostly through Coriander but once through Hester, her step-sister.


How were you involved in the book?

I enjoyed the book but found it a little too far-fetched at times. I especially enjoyed gaining an insight into the lives of those that lived in London at this time; it caused me to look at the whole period in history more closely and I now regard it as a much more influential period in British history.


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.

King of Shadows by Susan Cooper



Author:  Susan Cooper

Title: King of Shadows

Date of Publication: 1999

Mrs Tunnicliffe has this book in her personal library.


AR Level: 6.2


Summary of book

The book tells the story of a young actor, Nathan Field, who travels to London to perform in the newly reconstructed Globe Theatre. There he trades places with a plague ridden Nathaniel Field from the year 1599 and plays Puck, in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream alongside Shakespeare himself.


Who should read it?

Key stage two – key stage four. This book has many different layers; it is a delightful story about time travel and a boy but can also be used as a commentary on 16th century England and to be read alongside Shakespeare.


Who are the main characters?

Nat – Male young adolescent.


What can be learnt from it?

For in the inexperienced reader this book is a heartfelt story about a young boy who has lost his parents and is struggling to find a place in the world. For the more experienced reader the book can be read alongside the works of Shakespeare, particularly, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest. It offers a child friendly view into 16th century England and into the man William Shakespeare, not only as a playwright but as a person.



Bereavement, literature, friendship, performance, acting, history, loyalty, relationships, family, illness, death, travel.


What will excite a reader?

Even though this book is clearly a work of fiction one cannot help but be pulled into the world of Shakespeare. The reader is able to smell what he smells and gain a sense of Tudor society.


What did I think of it?

I thoroughly enjoyed the book, reading it in just a couple of days. It really did give me an insight into Shakespeare’s society and made me realise that the work of Shakespeare was primarily intended to be performed, not studied! It has also increased my interest in the Globe theatre and I was astounded by the historical accuracy in the book.


With teaching in mind, I researched the book and I found very easily that it is historically correct which adds to the usefulness of the text. It is an excellent commentary on the play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and even if the reader has not read the play, this book will give them a basic understanding of its plot.




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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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