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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.

 

 

 

 

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.

The Hodgeheg by Dick King-Smith

August7

hodgeheg

Author: Dick King-Smith

Title: The Hodgeheg

Date of Publication: 1998

 

AR Level: 5.2

 

Summary of book

The story of a young hedgehog called Max who has a mission… to find a safe way to cross the road. You follow him as he goes against what his father says and you hear the tails of his family whilst he bumps into a lot of exciting people.

 

Who should read this?

Year 3 and upwards. In the story Max is a young character and it appeals to children who are in relative age to Max, telling them that they can do whatever they try to do – if they try hard enough.

 

Age and gender of central characters

Max – a male, young hedgehog.

 

What does it offer an experienced/non-experienced reader?

It offers tales of perseverance and ambition to an experienced reader; the idea that nothing is impossible. To a non-experienced reader it is a very interesting story about a hedgehog that has to go through many trials and tribulations – and it’s funny too!

 

Themes/Issues

Perseverance, ambition, family, road safety, animals.

 

What will excite a reader?

Any reader that enjoys reading about animals will be excited by this book. It is also very expressive and active. It also captures the thought of a young hedgehog, almost a young person.

 

What did I think of it?

For myself, it was not a terribly thrilling book but I appreciated the morals that lie beneath the book and reminded me that anything is possible if you try hard enough.

 

The Witch’s Children by Ursula Jones

August7

witch's children

Author: Ursula Jones (illustrated by Russel Ayto)

Title: The Witch’s Children

Date of Publication: 2001

 

AR Level: 2.5

 

Summary of book

The story tells of three children who are seen as trouble in their neighbourhood – even the squirrels and the pigeons run away from them. They attempt to help a young girl rescue her boat but in doing this they turn her into a frog and then a handsome prince. In the end the mother witch has to come and save the day.

 

Who should read this book?

KS1 (Early years, year one and year two). The book is a picture book and therefore attracts this age group. It also has simple vocabulary and is easy to understand.

 

Who are the main characters?

Three children, one male two females. All very young, probably aged between the ages of five and ten.

 

What can I learn from this book?

Being a picture book it offers a non-experienced reader the opportunity to retrieve meaning from the pictures. For a more experienced reader it offers an insight into childhood and the mischief that is connected to it.

 

Themes/Issues

Magic, childhood, mischief, helping others, stereotypes, judging people, fantasy and fairytales.

 

What will excite a reader?

The plot will excite as you are constantly wondering – how are they going to get out of this one? They seem to dig themselves holes and there’s only one way they can get out – mummy!

 

What did I think of it?

I found the book quite amusing and although very short, found myself wanting to know the conclusion.

 

You Do! by Kes Gray

August7

You do

Author: Kes Gray (Illustrated by Nick Sharratt)

Title: You Do!

Date of Publication: 2003

 

AR Level:Not yet quizzed

 

Summary of book

The story tells of the dialogue between a mother and a daughter, Daisie, the mother constantly telling the daughter off for doing things such as picking her nose, fidgeting or slurping her food. Each time Daisie is told off by her mother she responds with two words: ‘You do!’ Daisie then explains to her mother when and where she has done the crime (i.e. picked her nose) and the mother attempts to justify her actions. Along with the story the illustrations say more, showing the mother doing the things she denies.

 

Who should read it?

Key Stage 1/Lower Key Stage 2. The language of the book is simple and the pages few, so a child of an older age my find it boring or simple. It is the perfect book to be read aloud to a class.

 

Who are the main characters?

Young female, Daisie, maybe five or six and older mother probably in late twenties although I feel the age of the mother is irrelevant.

 

What can I learn from it?

It offers an experienced reader an insight into the relationship between a mother and a daughter, the almost god-like image or idea a child has of a parent. For a non-experienced reader, the illustrations play a major role in telling the story.

 

Themes/Issues

Family, mother/daughter relationship, habits, messiness, general day-to –day life and chores.

 

What will excite a reader?

Depending on the age of the reader the book will excite in different ways. For a younger reader they will find the large, colourful illustrations exciting.

 

What did I think of the book?

When I read the book it was for the purpose of child education rather than my own enjoyment, although it did take me back to a time when I was not much different to Daisie.

Gwenda and the Animals by Tessa Dahl

August7

gwenda and the animals

Author: T. Dahl

Title: Gwenda and the Animals

Date of Publication: 1989

 

AR Level: Not yet quizzed

 Summary of book

A story about a young girl, Gwenda, who goes to the zoo one day and realises that she can talk to animals. She decides to try and help the animals so she craftily stays past closing time and begins to talk to the animals. She soon finds out what is wrong with them and tells the zoo keeper, Bill. Bill changes the way that the zoo is run and the animals are much happier.

Who should read this book?

5-9year olds. The language is very simple and the theme may be slightly too unrealistic for older children who would probably want a more complex plot and resolution.

Who are the main characters?

Young female, probably about 8 or 9.

What can be learnt from this book?

It offers an interesting idea about animals, zoos and animal cruelty that would appeal to many young children.

 Themes/Issues

Animal cruelty, animals, magical powers, relationship between animals and humans, family.

What will excite a reader?

This book has enough excitement and a fluent nature of writing to excite young children. The book may appeal to those who like animals and those that have an interest in fantasy/magical powers.

What did I think of it?

I was not terribly involved in the book from my own perspective but thinking of it from a children’s point of view it illustrates some serious morals i.e. animal cruelty that are very rarely tackled in children’s books.

 

 

 

 

The Birdman by Melvin Burgess

August7

the birdman

Author: Melvin Burgess (illustrated by Ruth Brown)

Title: The Birdman

Date of Publication: 2000

 

AR Level: Not yet quizzed 

 

Summary of book

The story tells of a young boy called Jarvis who sees a man selling birds on the street. Thinking this is cruel he buys one of the birds determined to let it go. Once he reaches his home he decides to keep the bird for just another day until he keeps it all the time. The bird then becomes sick and when Jarvis finally decides to let the bird go he finds himself as a robin and the bird takes his place as Jarvis.

 

‘Target’ Audience with one reason

Upper KS1/Lower KS2. It is a picture book which will be appealing to many children but the story is quite complex and may seem scary to younger children.

 

Age and gender of central characters

Jarvis, a young male, probably about eleven or twelve. The birdman, male, late thirties – age not particularly relevant.

 

What does it offer an experienced/non-experienced reader?

It offers a non-experienced reader the chance to view pictures rather than read. For an experienced reader it offers many morals about animal cruelty and that every action has a consequence.

 

Themes/Issues

Animal cruelty, magic, consequences, decisions, loyalty

 

What will excite a reader?

This book is strange in that it does not have a typical happy ending. The boy, at the end of the book remains a robin and the robin has taken his place as Jarvis. This is different and may excite some readers by its break from the ‘norm’.

 

How were you involved in the book?

The book is very short and therefore difficult to become involved in. I was incredibly surprised at the lack of resolution and am curious as to how children would react to this.

 

 

 

 

Skellig by David Almond

August7

 

Skellig

Author: David Almond        

Title: Skellig

Date of Publication: 1998

Place of Publication: Oxford

Publisher: Heinemann Educational Publishers

 

Summary of book

The story of a young boy Michael who when moving to a new house and everything seems to be going wrong finds a someone or something in his new garage. With the help of his new friend Mina, Michael attempts to help Skellig and in return Skellig tries to help Michael.

 

Who is it good for?

Key Stage 2. The story tells a of an adventure older children may find implausible and younger children eluding. Skellig captures fantasy and could be used in the classroom in such a way. 

 

Who are the main characters?

Adolescent, aged 13/14 male, Michael and similarly aged female, Mina.

 

What can I learn from this book?

The story tells of a typical fantasy where the reader is told that anything can happen. It also deals with illness in a very special way which could be beneficial to some readers.

 

Themes/Issues

Friendship, the supernatural, the divine, adventure, fantasy, family, change, school, morals.

 

What will excite a reader?

Any reader that likes a mystery, adventure or fantasy will enjoy this book. It really does keep a reader on their toes, making them constantly want to know who or what Skellig is and what will happen to Michael’s baby sister.

 

What did I think of it?

Myself, I was interested in the plot and wanted to know what was going to happen and who Skellig was. I must admit though that this was the only point of the book that kept me reading, other than this I didn’t find the writing terribly thrilling.

 

‘Smile!’ by Geraldine McCaughrean

July31

This is a book I first found when at university and has masses of potential in the classroom. Although I am not in class full time this year, I will still be planning with the year five teachers so we are going to use this within year five in the autumn term.

Smile

The Plot

When a plane crashes in a remote village, Flash has nothing but his Polaroid camera. He lands in a remote village where the people there have no understanding of modern technology – especially cameras. When Flash takes a picture of two young children, they believe that he has stolen their image or captured their soul. It turns out that Flash only is only able to take 10 more photos so, together with the remote community, he chooses the ten most important images to capture.

Main Characters

The main character is Flash, a man from our time and our world. He meets a number of people on his journeys and you can see his understanding developing as you read through the book. Flash also meets two young children who become his guides in the unknown world.

Who would like it?

This is a short and simply written book. The language is accessible to all and it has illustrations of the 10 photographs, among others, which children will love to look at. I think children aged from 7-10 would enjoy this book and it would stimulate some very interesting discussions about different cultures, photography and meeting new people.

Surprisingly, this is a level 5.3 on accelerated reader. I may have to re-read this now to have a look at the vocabulary used!

What can I learn from it?

We will be using this to talk about new media and digital photography. With the rise of applications such as instagram, we will be discussing what our children’s 10 photos would be and we will set about taking and editing them. In addition, you will also learn about worlds without technology and how they are different.

Warning: The ending is a little odd and may need some discussion with younger children. Contact me if you want to know more about the ending.

‘The Boy of the Painted Cave’ by Justen Denzel

July31

With the coming of the new curriculum, we found that year groups were having to study times in history that they hadn’t studied before.  I have set myself the task of finding some historical fiction that I can recommend to year groups to support their topics. Year 3 are now going to be studying the stone age so I thought I’d start there as I have yet to read a book about the Stone Age.

I came across ‘The boy in the painted cave’ on a list on goodreads so thought I’d give it a go.

Boy of the painted cave

The Plot

A young orphan boy, Tao, lives during the Stone Age in Europe. He lives with his clan but is partially disabled so his prospects are not great. He loves art and cave painting but only the ‘Chosen Ones’ are allowed to paint in the sacred caves. The book follows his journey as he works towards his dreams and makes friends along the way.

Main Characters

Tao, a young orphan boy is the main character but there are a few people (and animals) that help him along the way. Tao is a likeable character and he allows you to see what it must have been like to live in this time

Who would like it?

I think most children would like this book, especially those who like art and animals. The language isn’t too complicated and it’s quite short so this would be good for younger readers as well as older ones. There are no swear words and no real violence or gore so it’s suitable for children as young as seven, in my opinion.

It is also useful for teachers to help understand the stone age and how their societies worked and developed.

What can I learn from it?

Loads! If you’re studying the stone age, this is a good read and one that I would happily read to my class as you could look at the differences between Tao’s daily life and ours. It also explains stone age religious and spiritual beliefs. It is also a good book to read about people with disabilities and how everyone can excel at something.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B002DGKVQC/ref=rdr_kindle_ext_tmb