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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.

The Wolves in the Walls


Wolves in the walls

Author:   Neil Gaiman

Title: The Wolves in the Walls

Date of Publication:  2007


AR Level: 3.9


Summary of book

The story is about a girl called Lucy who lives with her brother, mother and father. She hears some strange noises coming from the walls of her old house and thinks that it is wolves. The story tells what happens when the wolves DO come out of the walls!
This book is a picture book with some amazing, thought provoking illustrations. It is a little scary though and may scare very young children.


Who should read this book?

Most people will like this book. It is really fun to read aloud (I read it to year five) and they really enjoyed it. However, I think very young children may find it a little too scary. Some of the illustrations are a little worrying at times – although all turns out ok in the end.


Who are the main characters?

Lucy, her brother, her mother and her father.


What can I learn from it?

You can learn a lot about illustrations from this book. Also, the text is written a bit like a calligram – the font of the text matches the meaning of the word. It’s set out a bit like a graphic novel so is very interesting to look at. It uses a LOT of onomatopoeia so if you’re learning about onomatopoeia in school, this is a great one to read! Also, it is an interesting play on ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’ so it could be linked to that.



Ownership, family, truth, lies, courage, animals, scary stories


What will excite a reader?

The illustrations are amazing! The author is excellent at building up tension and he chooses just the right words to explain the sounds that the creatures are using. It also has quite an interesting twist at the end!


What did Mrs T think of it?

I loved it! I read it to 5P and they all enjoyed it too. Some of 5P even asked to miss their fife lesson as they wanted to hear what happened in the book! It took about 25 minutes to read and we were all interested all the way through. I can’t wait to read it to another class!

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.


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.

The lion, the witch and the wardrobe by C.S Lewis


the lion witch wardrobe

Author:  C.S. Lewis

Title: The Chronicles of Narnia – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Date of Publication: 1980


AR Level: 5.7


Summary of book

The book tells the story of four siblings Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy and their ventures in the world of Narnia, which they reach through a wardrobe in a professor’s old house. The children, along with many other creatures including a strong and brave lion Aslan, fight to defeat the wicked white witch.


Who should read this book?

Key Stage two children (year 3 to year 6). The book is clearly aimed at younger children as some of the more gruesome images are omitted from the book, with Lewis himself describing that the children’s parents would not allow them to read it had he included further images. The morals and ease of storytelling is exemplary for this age of children.


Age and gender of central characters

(In descending age order) Peter (male), Susan (female), Edmund (male) and Lucy (female). Actual ages are not specified.


What can I learn from this book?

For the inexperienced reader the book offers a wonderful tale about four young children within a fantasy land, battling for goodness. For the more experienced reader it is a story of bravery and treachery and an illustration as to the origins of Christianity.



Family, friendship, loyalty, treachery, good vs. evil, bravery, war, Christianity, fantasy, animals, death/morality.


What will excite a reader?

The narration is in such a personal style and it is clear that the narrator himself relates to the characters so it is almost impossible for the reader to not also. The book is such a classic that few would approach the book with little understanding of it and the reading of it exemplifies why it is so memorable.


What did I think of it?

I wanted to read the book before watching the screenplay of it as I enjoy reading my own interpretation and then watching someone else’s. I had read the Chronicles of Narnia as a child and watched the series and it took me back to my childhood. I also noticed many things that I hadn’t as a child and increased my opinion that it is one of the best children’s books of all time.

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.




Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer


artemis fowl

Author:  Eoin Colfer

Title: Artemis Fowl

Date of Publication:  2002

Mrs Tunnicliffe has this book in her personal library.


AR Level: 5.0


Summary of book

The book, first of the series, tells the story of a young mastermind, Artemis Fowl and his bodyguard, Butler. Artemis attempts to hack into the fairy world by retrieving their book and spends the narrative trying to get some fairy gold. Artemis must face the LEPrecon squad and the story tells of the struggles from each side.


Who would like it?

Upper Key Stage 2/Key Stage 3  – particularly male.

This is book is one of the few that I have read that would appeal directly to key stage 2/3 males as Artemis is this age. It also possesses a lot of scientific and technical vocabulary which a lot of boys would enjoy.


Who are the main characters?

Artemis, 11 year old male

Butler, 30+ year old male

Juliet, 16 year old female

Captain Holly Short, female fairy

Commander Julius Root, male fairy

Foaly, male centaur


What can you learn from it?

For the non-experienced reader the book offers a door into a magical world that is just beyond our own. The book, for the experienced reader, offers tales of intelligence, perseverance and humanity.



Magic, colleagues, loyalty, crime, war, betrayal, science/technology, family


What will excite a reader?

The world created geographically extends our world, telling of a world of pixies and fairies living below ground. With all the many descriptions of the science and technology, one becomes totally drawn into the world because the world, at some points, seems to be plausible!


What did I think of it?

I thoroughly enjoyed the book. I found myself drawn into the world and relating to a fairy! It was easy to understand the fictional world. The book is very male orientated with its characters, with many male readers associating themselves with Artemis but the reader is also offered a strong female character in the form of Captain Holly Short.






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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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