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Wonder by RJ Palacio

October14

wonder

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.

 

Themes/Issues

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

September29

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.

 

Themes/Issues

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

September15

Unenchanted

Author:   Chanda Hahn

Title: Unenchanted

Date of Publication:

 

AR Level: Not currently quizzed

THIS BOOK WAS FREE ON THE KINDLE STORE! BARGAIN!!

 

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.

 

Themes/Issues

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.

 

Timesnatch by Robert Swindells

August23

I have been trying to find books about history and fell upon this one as it involves time travel. I was expecting much, but I was pleasantly surprised. It was easy to read and quite fast paced with believable characters. Not quite a recommended read (I only reserve the BEST books for that) but definitely worth a go if you have nothing else to read. It could be read easily to a class too and wouldn’t take too long: I think it would take about a half term to read to a class.

timesnatch

 

Author:   Robert Swindells

Title: Timesnatch

Date of Publication:  Originally published in 1995 but loads of editions since then

 

AR Level: 4.3

 

Summary of book

This book is based in the present day and is about the Rye family of three: mother and two children. The mum, Harper Rye, is a scientist and has invented a time machine. She wants the time machine to be used to resurrect extinct species but the world has other plans for her time machine! The books tells the story of the Rye family as they try to keep the invention a secret and how they deal with it when the word finally gets out.

Who should read this book?

This is definitely a book for key stage 2 (years 3-6) although some more able readers in year six may not feel sufficiently challenged. The two main characters, Fraser and Kizzy, are also this age so they would be easy to relate to. It involved issues that are relevant to this age group: bullying, school, secrets, friendships and the strangeness of the world around them.

Who are the main characters?

Fraser: a boy between the age of 10-13

Kizzy: Fraser’s younger sister around the age of 6-8

Harper: Fraser and Kizzy’s mum

What can I learn from it?

You can learn a lot about extinct animals and science. As the story doesn’t actually take you in to the past, you won’t learn about past worlds but it would start an interesting scientific discussion about extinction and science. It also teaches about honesty, trust, friendship and the dangers of the media and fame.

Themes/Issues

Extinction, science, family, friendship, trust, school, bullying and the media.

What will excite a reader?

You get the sense that the time machine (called Rye’s apparatus) will be discovered but you don’t know when or how so you’re constantly guessing. As a reader, I felt like I really got to know Fraser and really liked him as a character.

What did Mrs T think of it?

It was good for the reasons above but it wasn’t one that I couldn’t put down. I would happily read it to children though, especially if they were learning about biology and animal extinction.

 

 

 

 

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

August10

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.

Themes/Issues

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

August7

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.

 Themes/Issues

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!

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

August7

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.

 

Themes/Issues

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.

Red Sky in the Morning by Elizabeth Laird

August7

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.

 

Themes/Issues

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.

I, Coriander by Sally Gardner

August7

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.

 

Themes/Issues

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

August7

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.

 

Themes/Issues

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.

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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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