Welcome!

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Welcome to New Books for the Kids. This project came out of a desire to find new and interesting books for my children to read. It can be tough to know what to give them next, especially if the read fast, or struggle to find books that interest them. This is an ever-growing project, that is starting with some recommended books from my children’s primary school teachers.

I have arranged the books under pages for the UK school years. It can be hard to slot books into the right age range, especially as reading abilities can vary so much from child to child. The ages given are not definitive. Please do look in years above and below if you can’t find a book that suits your child.

If you have any feedback or want to recommend some books please use the ‘Contact’ form.

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Featured post

Podkin One Ear by Kieran Larwood.

podkinEvery now and then a book comes along that sparkles. I love books. I love children’s stories. I’m predisposed to finding something good in them. I tend to be effusive in my praise for anything that I think will inspire a greater love of reading. This doesn’t always leave me room to really shout about books that I find really special. One such book is The Legend of Podkin One-Ear. 

So, what can I say about it? The book is a glorious meld of Watership Down and Redwall. Comparisons between the three are inevitable. Like Watership Down the animals in the book are rabbits and like Redwall the creatures are anthropomorphised (to a greater extent than Watership down.)

The novel is set in a fantasy land, where magic is present. It draws on natural druid-like folklore. It’s a world where good and evil must be kept in balance. There is a hint of a suggestion that this is a post-apocalyptic earth from which humans have long since departed.

The story opens when an old storyteller arrives at a burrow on “Bramblemas Eve.” He tells a story in exchange for hospitality. It’s The story of Podkin One-Ear and his battle against the evil Gorm. The narrative in the book is mostly that of

The narrative in the book is mostly that of Podkin, but it flits back to interludes with the storyteller; a device which Larwood employs well. It’s never annoying and gently draws tension out from the main story, so that the author can ramp it up again during the next part of the bard’s account.

At the start of the story Podkin is a lazy rabbit; a spoiled prince. But when the ironclad Gorm (who reminded me of General Woundwort from Watership Down) arrive at his burrow he, his sister and baby brother flee for their lives. Podkin is kept alive by the tenacity and gumption of his sister, Paz. After dashing for their lives they meet a curious rabbit hermit, who seems to be expecting them, and gives hints as to how they might defeat the enemy that is blighting the land.

The story is filled with scrapes and acts of heroism, deliberate and accidental. There’s great peril and ear loss. It’s a coming of age story for Podkin, who rises to the challenges set before him. Paz mostly stays in the limelight too, though she does fade a little towards the end.  This is a shame, as she pretty much keeps her brother alive up until the final battle and is deserving of more acclaim.

The druid and aging warrior characters that help Paz and Podkin, may be old tropes but they are well rendered and remain fresh for readers young and old. I loved the world-building. The infrastructure of the rabbit world is intriguing and I’d love to see more stories set in “The Five Realms”. There’s plenty of scope for more books, and more than a suggestion that Larwood intends to write more stories about Podkin, Paz and baby Pook.

This is children’s storytelling in the grand tradition. Engaging characters, exciting scrapes and a dark and powerful enemy. Finished off with a dusting of magic to bring everything together. The Legend of Podkin One Ear is a book that deserves to be read and read for years to come.

Amazon Link

Surrey Library Link 

Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of the book by the publisher to review. 

 

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

graveyardbookEverybody loves Neil Gaiman. To be honest, my early impressions weren’t that great, but since I’ve started reading his children’s books, I’ve had to revise my opinion. Fortunately, the Milk is a riotous shaggy dog tale that will entrance children and adults alike. Odd and the Frost Giants, is a fairy tale in the grand tradition, which taps into Gaiman’s trademark passion for mythology.

Gaiman draws on folk-lore for The Graveyard Bookthough its influence is perhaps less overt; at least at first.

I’ll make no bones (ahem) about this. The opening of The Graveyard Book is traumatic. It starts off with a family being murdered and only a toddler escaping. It’s not graphic, but it is scary.

The toddler escapes to a graveyard, one where ghosts roam. The ghosts, wanting to protect the innocent boy take him under their protection and the nameless child becomes Nobody Owens.

The story that follows is a somewhat rambling affair, that deals with Nobody and his rather unusual upbringing. It is, in essence, a supernatural coming of age story, though in Gaiman’s hands it’s a whole lot more than that. The writing in this book is spot on. Anybody looking to show their child use of metaphor or word-choice would struggle to do better than starting here. It’s a joy to read.

The host of ghosts that inhabit the graveyard are given life well beyond their spectral forms, and the blend of fable and folk-lore into the story is masterful. Despite its meandering nature, the book is arrow-true towards the showdown between Nobody and his mysterious killer. The final chapters are tense and exciting, and, notably, not as unsettling as the beginning.

I was blown away by the quality of this book. After its sinister start, the book is a masterclass in children’s fiction. Gaiman is a writer with a huge following, and reading The Graveyard Book it’s easy to see why.

Amazon Link

Surrey Library Link

The Person Controller by David Baddiel

personcontrollerDavid Walliams books are hugely popular with children at the moment. The Dahlesque escapades fly off the shelves like the books in that scene in Matilda. A much funnier comedian, and to my mind, writer, is David Baddiel.

His The Person Controller is a pitch-perfect escapade aimed to hardwire into the enjoyment circuits of children aged 7-12. It’s fun, it’s sassy, it has peril and there is, of course, a central message (be yourself). It does all this whilst tapping into a child’s love of the video game.

Nerdy twins Fred and Ellie, love computer games. They’re happy but aware that they’re a little different to everybody else. When their overweight dad sits on Ellie’s beloved X-Box controller (in a hilarious and ewww-making scene) she needs to find herself a new one. For Ellie, the loss of her controller is a huge deal. When she and Fred are attacked by the school bullies, things seem to be at rock bottom, with little prospect for escape. But, after a bizarre online interaction, a new controller appears.

Curiosity peaked, Ellie and Fred set about trying to work out how to use this mysterious gift to make their lives brighter. At first appears to be entirely useless. Until Ellie realises that with it, she can control Fred like he’s a video game avatar.  The device (literary and literal) allows Baddiel to tap into all the popular computer game franchises for his inspiration. Mario? Check!, FIFA? Check!, Minecraft? Check!. The story is great fun. There are repeat run-ins with the bullies and the realisation that life isn’t always about obtaining the perfect score.

Baddiel pitches the humour just right for his audience, and there are some good running jokes for perceptive readers or parents who are reading the book aloud, and the book is great fun to read aloud.

There are a few things to be aware of though. It’s not at all overt, but the book has an atheist leaning. This didn’t particularly bother me, but if you are bringing up your children to believe in a god, then you may face a couple of awkward questions. I reiterate it’s not overt and possibly your children won’t notice. I mention it only because often religion doesn’t come up in children’s books. Belief or non-belief is simply not mentioned. Here the twins and their parents are non-believers.

The central premise of the story revolves around an online interaction with a stranger. Now, there is nothing sinister in the book and Baddiel does mention the dangers of being online, but nevertheless, the children do get a really cool artefact from somebody they don’t know, whilst surfing the internet. It’s something to be aware of, I think.

Finally, Fred and Ellie’s parents are perhaps a little too useless. I guess it’s Baddiel’s way of getting rid of the parents so that interesting stuff can happen. At least, I suppose he didn’t kill them! My kids just thought they were funny, and probably didn’t even notice that they are somewhat overblown caricatures.

Despite those couple of reservations, The Person Controller is a really fun book, with lots of cliffhangers to keep children reading.

Amazon Link

Surrey Library Link

Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World by Kate Pankhurst

fantasticallygreatwomenFollowing on from my review of Good Night Stories for Girls is this rather wonderful picture book about great women who changed to world.

Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World is an engaging picture book for older children. There is quite a bit of text in it, so it wouldn’t necessarily make for a great bedtime story for preschool aged children. That said, the pictures are captivating and there is plenty to discuss and interest younger children too.

I guess the book is aimed at girls, but there is nothing “girly” about the book at all. It’s simply a fun look at thirteen women who had an impact on history. Each woman is given a double page spread, both filled with pictures and text.

The women included are. Jane Austen, Gertrude Ederle, Frida Kahlo, Coco Chanel, Mary Anning, Marie Curie, Mary Seacole, Amelia Earhart, Agent Fifi, Sacagawea, Emmeline Pankhurst, Rosa Parks and Anne Frank. All remarkable and worthy of a place in the book.

I love this paragraph at the start of the book.

“The Women in this book didn’t start out to be throught of as ‘great’. They achieved extraordinary things simply by following their hearts, talents and freams. They didn’t listen when people said they couldn’t do something. They dared to be different. And some of them couldn’t resist a crazy adventure or three.” 

So, as well as being informative, the book is inspirational too. There is a final double page called the “Gallery of Greatness” that expounds what you need to do in order to make your mark. An inspiration for all of us, young or old, male or female.

The book is a great way to introduce children to many important moments in history. World War II and the Holocaust, The Civil Rights movement, and the history of dinosaurs to name but three. It really is a brilliant introduction to history and its fantastically great women.

Amazon Link

Surrey Library Link

 

The Huntress: Sea by Sarah Driver

huntresseaSarah Driver’s The Huntress: Sea is a classic coming of age fantasy. It features a gutsy heroine called ‘Mouse,’ who is a flawed but admirable and appealing central character. Aged barely 13, she’s a strong young woman, trying to understand the world she finds herself in.

The Huntress is a sailing ship in a magical land, filled with mythical and terrifying beasts. Mouse is the granddaughter of a Sea Captain, and one day, it has been foretold, she will be captain of The Huntress too.

As the novel opens, this seems like an impossibility. Mouse’s mother is dead, her father missing, and her brother blind and sickly. Her grandmother, to all intents and purposes a witch, holds the ship together by force of will alone. The arrival of a taciturn ex-member of the crew, and a terrible storm throws Mouse’s world into turmoil. Her world tipped overboard, Mouse sets off down a trail laid for her by her absent father.

Such is the quality of the tale, it put me in mind of Philip Pullman’s His Dark MaterialsThere is a blend of myth and magic versus technology. Mouse’s small but tough demeanor reminded me of Lyra, as does Mouse’s special ability of being able to talk to animals. There are differences. Mouse’s world is filled with superstition and faith. She is fighting against a man who believes in the power of gunpowder and advancement. He would see Mouse’s world swept away.

Subtitled “Sea,” this is the first book in The Huntress trilogy. The titles of the next books, Sky and Land, hint at their nature, as does the ending of this first volume.

The first two-thirds of Sea are good children’s fiction, but the final third elevates it towards greatness. The blend of quest, magic, and the novel’s dark setting are mesmerizing. Driver’s world building is rich and enchanting, and she weaves a classic adventure tale into it. A classic tale with a well-wrought heroine. I can’t wait to see where the next volume takes us.

Amazon Link

 

Atchoo! How We Catch a Cold

atchoo1This book in the Kidwow Illuminating Insights series is fun, informative and visually appealing. With bold bright cartoon-style illustrations it outlines the way in which viruses are caught and transferred. It also explains the symptoms and why they aren’t so easy to get rid of.

It takes a simplified look at the components of blood, particularly white blood cells. There’s a fun quiz where readers are invited to guess ancient remedies – snail syrup anyone?  The pages are fun – some of them have look-through panels, that you can hold up to the light to reveal hidden information.

Atchoo! stresses the importance of not being scared of germs, but also the necessity of good hygiene. The back of the book has a page of information about how to best employ the book and things to talk about after reading.

All in all, Atchoo is really great way of introducing children age 5-7 to the world of microorganisms. It’s an effective way of introducing simple biology to a young audience. I very much look to seeing what over books are available in the KidWow range.

Amazon Link

Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman

fortunatelyFortunately, the Milk is a hugely popular book in our house. It’s a work of genius. A captivating story told in simple words. Simple words, yet the narrative told is quite complex. The marriage between Gaiman’s writing and children’s laureate, Chris Riddell’s, pictures is a perfect one. Riddel’s illustrations hugely add to the cosy feel of the book.

It’s the story about a dad (who look’s suspiciously like Neil Gaiman), who has to pop out and buy a pint of milk. What follows is the story the dad tells on his return. He was rather a long time popping to the corner shop, and so is accused by his children of bumping into somebody he knew and losing track of time. The elegant shaggy dog tale that is then spun is the envy of creative dad’s everywhere.

I’d love to be able to come up with a story like this. One in which a pint of milk saves the day countless times. The book features, aliens, vegan vampires, and angry gods. There’s even lactic time travel.

The book is great for confident readers. It also makes a fabulous bedtime story that older children, who might think they’re are above that sort of thing. I think you could probably read Fortunately the Milk, to almost anybody, and they couldn’t help but be entranced. It’s a slim volume and one that can, at a push, be read in one sitting. Allow time for it, because once you’ve started you may very well not want to stop!

Gaiman is a fabulous author, but this is probably my favourite.

Do also check out awesome Riddell/Gaiman collaborations – Odd and the Frost Giants and for older children The Sleeper and the Spindle.

Amazon link.

Surrey Library link.

 

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls

“100 Tales of Extraordinary Women.”

I love this book. It looks great and it focuses on the women that history has a tendency to forget. If you are a parent of girls, you may well be fed up of leafing through male-dominated history books. In which case, this book is the perfect antidote.

To the rebel girls of the world:

Dream Bigger

Aim Higher

Fight Harder

And, when in doubt, remember

You are right 

Dedication of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls

Rebel Girls is arranged, slightly peculiarly; alphabetically by first name. Starting with Ada Lovelace, and finishing with Zaha Hadid. Each entry has a double page spread. One page of text and, the other, a quirky, stylised portrait. The quality of the drawings greatly adds to the appeal of the book.

The entries are written like fairy tales. They are a narrative the subject’s life, rather than an encyclopedic account of facts. This makes the book a great jumping off point for finding out more about the women mentioned.

Entries include women from all cultures and many different time periods, including, Catherine the Great, Coco Chanel, Malala Yousafazi, Marie Curie, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Rosa Parks, Xian Zhang and Yaa Asantewaa.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls is a great book; inspirational and informative. My only complaint is its title. My son, who at 11, really should be interested in all the fantastic women mentioned in the book, point blank refused to even look at it. “It’s for girls,” came the reply.

I understand the thinking behind the title, but it does feel like it’s guilty of the same sort of exclusion the authors are very much trying to stamp out. Perhaps a rebrand is needed. A new title, something like “Totally Awesome Women Everybody Should Read About.”

Whatever. This is a great book and deserves to be read far and wide.

Check out their website here.

To buy on Amazon, click here.

Freaks United by John Hickman

freaksunitedFreaks United is a soccer novel about the boys (and girls) apparently not cut out to make the team.

I was probably predisposed to this novel because one of the characters comes to the soccer pitch straight from a Games Workshop, but both my son and I enjoyed it from start to finish.

Freaks United is a novel both about being yourself and working together to accomplish something great. Who doesn’t like a tale of arrogant jocks losing face to a group of kids who don’t quite fit in? Better still, the novel doesn’t quite end how you expect it to. Gently humorous and written for younger readers, I recommended it for young geeks, soccer or otherwise, everywhere.

Surrey Library Link (audio book only)

 

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