Tag Archives: Brilliant Books

With You Every Step – Rob Burrows and Kevin Sinfield

The friendship shared by, former Rugby League players, Rob and Kevin is the inspiration and heart of this book. Their story of overcoming adversity with love and support is inspirational.

With You Every Step isn’t a novel, but rather a collection of phrases, thoughts and words of wisdom about friendship that are perfect to share with children. It’s a lovely book to return to at anytime but particularly when discussing what healthy and positive relationships can look like.

The messages within the book are brilliantly depicted by a collection of some of the finest illustrators working today. Rib Biddulph, Reggie Brown, David Litchfield, Gill Smith and Sam Usher all have worked featured.

Discover more brilliant books for Key Stage 2 children here…

Mr Gum and the Power Crystals – Andy Stanton

I think this could be my favourite Mr Gum book. There are some wonderfully silly and funny moments and it features Old Granny who has a sneaky fondness for sherry, teaches everyone about the old ways and gives this particular reader a chance to show off a wonderful impression of an octogenarian from the West Country.

After finding the Power Crystals, Polly discovers that they have magical powers and want to cause harm to her beloved Lamonic Bibber. She is desperate to not them fall into the hands of Mr Gum and Billy William, but she is powerless to stop the inevitable. As ever though, her band of friends come together to save the day in this dramatic, heart-warming and very funny story.

Bella, age 8, says: “I liked it because it’s really funny, especially when all the chapters are the same from 3-11. I liked that joke.

My favourite characters are: Barcelona Jim because all he says is HEE-HAW and I like the donkey-ness of him; Friday because he used his teeth to pull on the rope and Mrs Lovely said, ‘good boy’ and fed sugar lumps into his mouth; and Polly is great because she’s the main character. She finds the stones and goes on a wild adventure with them. I like the accent that my dad does for her and I like that she always tries to do the right thing even when she could do bad stuff.”

Tom, age 8, says: “It’s really funny. My favourite bit is when Old Granny tells Polly about what Mr Gum is going to do so that Polly can try and stop them. My favourite character is Polly because she is so brave when she faces up against Mr Gum, Billy William and Nicolas De Twinklecakes. I was a bit worried when it sounded like Lamonic Bibber was going to burn and burn, but it was ok in the end.”

Mr Gum and the Power Crystals also has the funniest collection of chapters in any series of books. See Chapters 3-11.

Discover more brilliant books for Key Stage 2 children here…

Discover more brilliant books by Andy Stanton here…

The Final Year – Matt Goodfellow

This book is a must read for all year 6 teachers and children. It’s a very modern classic and, after teacher/education social media went crazy for it in the autumn of 2023, we had to get a copy.

The Final Year is all about the final year of primary school and touches on all of the big events that 10/11 year olds go through. The residential, SATs, transition day, the leavers assembly and much more besides. These are all covered from Nate’s perspective and written as short poems.

Nate has a fairly challenging life and experiences some pretty tough events through the year, but with the help of his friends, family and excellent teacher (Mr Joshua) he gets through it all, learning and growing along the way.

This book has been pretty well hyped but, it turns out, with good reasons. We both really enjoyed it and related to much of what Nate was experiencing (broadly speaking). It’s well worth reading with your Year 6 classes and it’s handily pretty quick as well. Perfect.

Tom aged 10 says… I like that it’s all about the final year of primary school and the transition in to secondary school because that’s what I’m going through right now. It’s written like a diary entry with poems and I’ve never read a book like it before. The main character, Nate, is the eldest of three, and loads of really hard events happen to him, like when Dylan, his youngest brother, has a heart problem and goes unconscious for a while. Also, at the start of the year, he loses his best friend PS to Turner, the class bully, which is really quite difficult for Nate to swallow. Overall I’ve really enjoyed the book, so much so that I’ve given a copy to my teacher and he’s going to read it with the class.

Discover more brilliant books for Key Stage 2 children here…

The Invention of Hugo Cabret – Brian Selznick

The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a novel come picture book come graphic novel come historical fiction. It’s inspired by the films of early French cinema pioneer, Georges Méliès, and he (and some real aspects of his life story) features in the book.

After Hugo loses his father to a fire, he goes to live with his uncle at a train station, where his job is to keep all of the clocks at the station running to the correct time. The uncle goes missing and Hugo keeps the clocks running on his own by sneaking around the station, evading the attention of the station master so he doesn’t become homeless. The novel is the story of how Hugo restores an old machine that his father had previously worked on and discovers the secrets that it holds.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a beautifully illustrated book with the hundred of pictures helping to tell the story. It’s a really intriguing mystery with loads of twists and turns along the way and we really enjoyed making predictions about what was going to happen.

I’m not entirely sure if the invention the title refers to is the mechanical device that he salvages and mends, the magician he becomes or simply Hugo himself. I guess it could be all of them.

Tom aged 10 says… I really liked this book. I enjoyed the adventure side of it and the mystery of what was going to happen and everything that Hugo had to go through. I also liked that it was recounting things that happened in real life. My favourite part was when it all cam together and the automaton drew the picture and signed the name. My favourite character has to be Hugo because he’s a good engineer and he’s clever in what he decides to do.

THE WEE FREE MEN – A Tiffany Aching Novel

The Wee Free Men – Terry Pratchett

Tiffany lives on a farm with her family, makes cheese and when she grows up she wants to be a witch, a proper one, with a pointy hat.

Her journey to witch-hood really begins in earnest when her younger brother is taken by an evil queen into a world of nightmares. Tiffany, along with an unruly group of fairies, goes on a mission to save him and she learns a great deal along the way.

Tiffany Aching is the brave and intelligent lead in this book, but the real stars, for me, where the fairies, or pictsies, or Nac Mac Feegle, or Wee Free Men. They are brilliant and hilarious. They have three things they excel at: fighting, stealing and drinking. They give the reader the perfect opportunity to show-off their full range of Scottish accents. The book is packed with stereotypes about Scots which I may have found a little offensive if I was Scottish or sensitive, but I’m not, so it was funny.

Tiffany is an excellent role model for all readers, but especially young girls. She literally see the world differently from others and is able to use her gifts and intellect to overcome sound pretty major challenges.

An honourable mention for another excellent character is the Toad. When we discovered his backstory late on in the book, it really tickled me.

Throughout her quest to save her brother, Tiffany goes in and out of dreams belonging to herself and other people, because of that, I did get a little lost at points in the middle, but it all makes sense in the end.

Overall, we enjoyed the book and had many laughs along the way.

Tom aged 10 says… My favourite characters are the Wee Free Men because they are funny and very Scottish. My favourite part of the story is when we meet the Toad and Miss Tick gives Tiffany the lesson. This is mostly because I like the Toad and he turns out to be a very clever lawyer.

Bella aged 8 says...My favourite character is Tiffany because she is rave and noble. I really liked the parts of of the story with the Wee Free Men when they are shouting, ‘Waily, waily’, and ‘Crivens!’ They are really funny and I get to practice my Scottish accent. Tiffany’s brother is quite funny, too.

Nevermoor

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow – Jessica Townsend

Morrigan Crow has a pretty wretched life. She is considered to be one of the cursed children because she was born on Eventide and as a result is blamed for every piece of misfortune that befalls the people in her town and, worse still, she is doomed to die on her eleventh birthday.

She is saved from this fate at the last minute by a mysterious, flamboyant gentleman called Jupiter North. North takes Crow to Nevermoor where he looks after her in his hotel and invites her to join the powerful Wundrous Society. All she has to do is pass four impossible trials, one of which involves a talent – only she doesn’t know what the talent is, or seem to have it.

We both adored this book. Although Morrigan Crow comes from a privileged background, she is very much the underdog throughout and overcomes many an adversity in her quest to join the Society. Who doesn’t love an underdog story? I also enjoyed the way Jessica Townsend slowly reveals clues and adds twists and turns along the way before setting up the sequel perfectly at the end.

Tom, age 10, says: “The chase trial was brilliant because it was really hectic and exciting. If I did it I’d probably like to ride Fenestra the Magnificat as well, it was a really good choice.

“My favourite characters are the 3 main character: Morrigan, Jupiter and Hawthorne. Hawthorne and Jupiter are quite funny. I liked the bit during the show trial when Hawthorne asked Morrigan if she can fart with her armpit.”

Mr Gum and the Biscuit Billionaire

Mr Gum and the Biscuit Billionaire – Andy Stanton

Although this is the second book in the series, this was the first Mr Gum book I ever read when I was a trainee teacher. I loved it, and have since read it to both of my children and many of the classes I have taught.

It’s the story of a very wealthy gingerbread man with some curious ideas about friendship. The evil Mr Gum and his side-kick Billy William, steal the money and try to escape to France. Fortunately, a little girl called Polly and her friend Friday are on their trail to save the day. Despite a few set backs (and a lot of laughs) along the way, all ends well.

Bella, age 5, says: “I liked that Jake showed up in the end, because Polly was missing him and she was worried. I also liked that Alan Taylor and that he got his money back and threw it in the air.”

THE LAND OF ROAR

The Land of Roar – Jenny McLachlan

We LOVED this book. It’s a magical adventure featuring dragons, a wizard, mermaids and a particularly scaring scarecrow. The journey Arthur and Rose go on is truly epic as they venture through a portal in their Grandfather’s loft into a realm created by their own imaginations.

The adventure they go on in order to save their Grandfather is incredible and full of danger and excitement. However, it is how the relationships between the characters develop that I really enjoyed. The twins at the centre of the story are growing apart at the beginning. This is often the case with siblings, as they mature at different rates and find different interests. It’s lovely to see them grow closer together as they find a new respect for each other and remember how much fun they can have when they believe.

The Land of Roar is a modern classic and I’m sure it will be made into a major feature film at some point soon. The follow up, ‘Return to Roar’, has recently been published, and it’s already in the pile of books next to my bed, waiting to be enjoyed.

Tom, age 7 says, “It was very, very dangerous at times, but I liked it lots.”

The Night Bus Hero

The Night Bus Hero – Onjali Q. Rauf

It’s rare that you don’t like the central character in a book, but in The Night Bus Hero, Hector is particularly unlikeable to the majority of the story. He’s a bully and it’s a really interesting take to tell a story through this lens. Rauf doesn’t really make us try to sympathise with his awful behaviour, but we do get to understand some of his motivations and his thinking.

This would be a fantastic book to read aloud to a class because of the two main central themes of bullying and homelessness. I can imagine it starting interesting conversations within class and certainly giving the children a better understanding of the lives of those less fortunate than themselves.

The Night Bus Hero is a modern classic that I have been thoroughly recommending to many people ever since we finished it.

Tom, age 8, says: “It’s was unusual at the start because Hector was being a bully and I didn’t like him. It’s different when you go from a bullies point of view. I enjoyed the book very because as you get further into the book Hector becomes more of a nice person. The favourite bit was when they broke in and crept through to catch the thief. My favourite character was Thomas because he was interesting and clever and has a good name.”

Scribbleboy

Scribbleboy – Philip Ridley

First published in 1997, Scribbleboy is certainly one of the older books we’ve read together. I was keen to share it with my son because I ‘ve always really enjoyed it myself, as have the children in the classes that I’ve read it with. Given that it’s now a quarter of a century old, some of the cultural references are a little dated, but that is also a great learning point for everyone. I was first introduced to Scribbleboy by Jo Payne and she has written here about why it’s such a great book.

Real life issues of divorce, disability, mental health and more are all touched upon in a way that is appropriate for KS2 children, making Scribbleboy an excellent jumping off point for meaningful conversations with children.

The story centres around a boy called Bailey who moves to a new flat with his dad and brother after his mum leaves them. Bailey is introduced to the world of Scribbleboy by Ziggy and together they develop a fan club in honour of the mysterious graffiti artist who brought colour to an otherwise dull neighbourhood.

While Bailey becomes deeply involved in the fan club, his dad and brother begin to move on with their lives. Bailey doesn’t find it easy to accept this and doesn’t approve of all the changes going on around him. He throws himself into the world of Scribbleboy as a way of forgetting what’s going on at home, but ultimately finds that the two worlds are more closely linked than he had realised.

Tom, age 9, says: “I really enjoyed Scribbleboy because it’s really interesting how they come up with the new scribble language. It’s funny how the letter S on Ziggy’s typewriter is broken, so he has to write them on himself. There are some really good twists in the story and you never know what’s going to happen or who the real Scribbleboy is. I would like to visit Tiffany the Ice Cream Doctor and Monty the Pizza Doctor to see what food they would give me.”