Category Archives: Reading for Pleasure

The Amazing Edie Eckhart – Rosie Jones

The Amazing Edie Eckhart – Rosie Jones

I’m not normally one for celebrity authors. I rather like authors that got really good at being authors before having their books published rather than ones who got good at being celebrity panellist before being offered massive book deals. But Rosie Jones is different for me in two important ways. Firstly, she has a story to tell, and a good one at that. Secondly, my eldest was born with cerebral palsy, so it’s fantastic for him (and us) to see disability represented in the main character of a great book and written by an author with similar lived experiences to him.

Edie Eckhart is just about to begin secondary school when we meet her and the book charts the journey of her first term. This is also pertinent for my son, as he’s in Year 6 now, so about to reach the same life milestone himself.

At the beginning Edie has one best friend, Oscar, who she loves spending time with because they have loads in common and he really cares for and supports her in many ways. Over their first term in Year 7 they are put in different form groups and begin to make new friends and find new hobbies. At first that seems like that might be a bad thing, but all’s well in the end.

We read this as a bedtime story as a whole family, and I honestly think it’s one of the most important books we’ve ever read. Every few chapters Edie says something that really hits home or that leads to great conversations. It’s brilliant for our boy to share his experiences of growing up with a disability, with us. Also, it was lovely to hear from our youngest about what it’s like having a brother with cerebral palsy and how other people treat him (and her) because of it.

Tom aged 10 says… I’ve never read a book with a cerebral palsy affected character before and because I’m in Year 6 it’s good to hear about the transition to secondary school. I’m always being asked, ‘what happened to you? ‘what happened to your legs?’ or, ‘what’s that for?’ when people see my walker so it feels good to read about somebody else having the same problem as me. It feels good to not be the only one. In the book she says that she doesn’t see any disabled characters in her comics and that’s how I felt until I read this book.

Bella aged 8 says... I really liked Flora because she was really artsy, like me. In parts the book was funny and at parts it was sad but I liked it. I really enjoyed that Edie had cerebral palsy because not many film or book characters have disabilities. Lots of people are different and that’s one of the differences and it’s good to realise that and see it in a book. I don’t know why they don’t do that more because she was still an interesting and funny person.

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.”

My Parents Cancelled My Birthday

My Parents Cancelled My Birthday – Jo Simmons

My son and I were instantly hooked with this one because the opening chapter is: very funny; sets up an intriguing story; and leaves you really wanting to read on. It left me with the feeling that I had discovered a book I really wanted to tell people about, like the first time I read Mr Gum. I did then spend the next few days recommending the book to loads of people. I really liked the fact that it was funny and a little close to the bone (WARNING: do not read this book to a child who has recently lost a beloved pet, especially a dog).

It’s not the first Jo Simmons book we’ve read (see below for The Dodo Made Me Do It) and we’ve come back to her because I’ve really been enjoying her writing. Particularly that she doesn’t go for the lazy stereotypes that some celebrity children’s authors tend to favour. I enjoyed the relationship between the brother and sister in the book because it’s real. Yes they have their fall outs, but on the whole they really love and care for each other, like most actual siblings do.

The title is great and made me start to guess why the birthday had been cancelled. My assumptions were all wrongs and this book had many more layers to it than I had imagined. Brilliant for children aged 6-11 I would say.

Grk and the Pelotti Gang

Grk and the Pelotti Gang – Joshua Doder

First published in 2006, I have been using this book in class on and off for the last 10 years or so. It’s a great class read for lower KS2 children to go alongside a topic about Brazil or rainforests. The Grk books all take place in different countries and help readers get a good understanding of each countries geography and culture as a backdrop to exciting narrative.

In this particular Grk adventure, the small, white dog and his owner Tim find themselves in Brazil. After being kidnapped by some street children from a favela in Rio de Janeiro, they come across Brazil’s most wanted criminals – the Pelotti Gang. Together Tim, Grk and one of the boys set out to bring the Pelotti’s to justice.

I adore this book because it’s action packed and it’s great to read in class or as a bedtime story because there are so many cliff-hangers that leave the children desperate to find out what happens.

Tom, age 8, says: “It’s really intriguing because you always want to know what happens next. I really like Tim because he’s really confident and brave and doesn’t let anything stop him from catching the Pelotti brothers. I’d like to read other Grk books because I think they’ll be intriguing and exciting like this book.”

Top 10 Books for Children Aged 7-11

I’ve been keeping a log of the bedtime stories that I’ve read with my children over the last few years. Some are good, some less so and some have been absolutely fantastic. This is a list of our Top 10 Books for Children Aged 7-11.

10 – Grk and the Pelotti Gang – Joshua Doder

9 – My Parents Cancelled My Birthday – Jo Simmons

8 – Scribbleboy – Philip Ridley

7 – The Night Bus Hero – Onjali Q. Rauf

6 – Wild Boy – Rob Lloyd Jones

5 – While the Storm Rages – Phil Earle

4 – When Life Gives You Mangoes – Kereen Getten

3 – The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates – Jenny Pearson

2 – Mr Gum and the Biscuit Billionaire – Andy Stanton

1 – The Land of Roar – Jenny McLachlan

Below you’ll find the reviews we wrote about the books when we read them.

10 – Grk and the Pelotti Gang – Joshua Doder

First published in 2006, I have been using this book in class on and off for the last 10 years or so. It’s a great class read for lower KS2 children to go alongside a topic about Brazil or rainforests. The Grk books all take place in different countries and help readers get a good understanding of each countries geography and culture as a backdrop to exciting narrative.

In this particular Grk adventure, the small, white dog and his owner Tim find themselves in Brazil. After being kidnapped by some street children from a favela in Rio de Janeiro, they come across Brazil’s most wanted criminals – the Pelotti Gang. Together Tim, Grk and one of the boys set out to bring the Pelotti’s to justice.

I adore this book because it’s action packed and it’s great to read in class or as a bedtime story because there are so many cliff-hangers that leave the children desperate to find out what happens.

Tom, age 8, says: “It’s really intriguing because you always want to know what happens next. I really like Tim because he’s really confident and brave and doesn’t let anything stop him from catching the Pelotti brothers. I’d like to read other Grk books because I think they’ll be intriguing and exciting like this book.”

9 – My Parents Cancelled My Birthday – Jo Simmons

My son and I were instantly hooked with this one because the opening chapter is: very funny; sets up an intriguing story; and leaves you really wanting to read on. It left me with the feeling that I had discovered a book I really wanted to tell people about, like the first time I read Mr Gum. I did then spend the next few days recommending the book to loads of people. I really liked the fact that it was funny and a little close to the bone (WARNING: do not read this book to a child who has recently lost a beloved pet, especially a dog).

It’s not the first Jo Simmons book we’ve read (see below for The Dodo Made Me Do It) and we’ve come back to her because I’ve really been enjoying her writing. Particularly that she doesn’t go for the lazy stereotypes that some celebrity children’s authors tend to favour. I enjoyed the relationship between the brother and sister in the book because it’s real. Yes they have their fall outs, but on the whole they really love and care for each other, like most actual siblings do.

The title is great and made me start to guess why the birthday had been cancelled. My assumptions were all wrongs and this book had many more layers to it than I had imagined. Brilliant for children aged 6-11 I would say.

8 – 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.”

7 – 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.”

6 – Wild Boy – Rob Lloyd Jones

This book is special. It’s one of those that I spent weeks asking friends and colleagues who are also into children’s literature whether or not they had read it.

It begins in a Victorian workhouse where we meet Wild Boy and learn about his incredibly hard life. From there he enters into world of the freakshow where he is treated horrendously. He longs to escape the freakshow and his master, but doesn’t have anywhere to go and doesn’t believe has can do anything else.

He is forced to go on the run when he accused of murder. The book p is brilliantly constructed as Wild Boy and his partner in crime detection, Clarissa, try to clear their names and uncover the truth.

There are many twists and turns along the way that keep you guessing who the real killer is and what their motives might be. This is an exactly book to read with upper key stage 2 and would especially great if you have a topic of the Victorians.

Tom, age 9, says: “It’s a really interesting book because they add more clues to the mystery as they go along. It’s like puzzle pieces finally fitting together to complete the jigsaw.”

5 – While the Storm Rages – Phil Earle

While the Storm Rages came highly recommended by a number of other children’s book reviewers, so Tom and I had to give it a go.

The story begins in London just before the outbreak of World War II. Noah’s dad is heading off to fight the Nazi’s and he is left at home with his mum and dog, Winn.

The declaration of war means big changes in everyone’s lives and for Noah it means evacuation and tragically that (like all other pets in London) Winn must be put down. In fact, in one week, 750,000 pets were put down in the UK. I had no idea. This horrific insight into living in a war-torn country allows the children hearing or reading the story to really empathise with some of the heart-breaking decisions being made by people.

Noah can’t stand the idea of having his beloved dog put down, so forges a plan (or the start of one) to save Winn and a few other animals that live in his neighbourhood as well. Noah is more about acting on impulse than considering the finer details of things, so the adventure takes many twists and turns. Fortunately for him, he has Clem (his best friend) as a companion and she is the brains of the operation.

The journey they go on is a struggle from start to finish with not too many happy points along the way. The story is epic and enthralling and offers a real glimpse of what children in London would have been thinking and feeling during those uncertain times. While the Storm Rages would be a perfect class read for any KS2 class that is studying World War II and, while desperately sad in places, is a completely compelling and generally excellent book.

Tom, age 9, says: “I really like the adventure they went on and how brave they were. Noah is my favourite character because of his courage to go through everything and because of his plans and ideas. I really like that you learn things about history in the story as well, I didn’t know that all the animals got put down in the war.”

4 – When Life Gives You Mangoes – Kereen Getten

When Life Gives You Mangoes is different to our usual bedtime stories. It’s a little more serious, but certainly not boring or without humour. It’s the story of a 12-year-old girl called Clara with lives with her mum and dad in a Jamaican coastal village. Clara seems to be quite a normal 12 year old, except something happened to her last summer that she can’t remember and this story is her journey to get those memories back and understand what’s really going on.

I adored this book. The characters are all relatable and wonderfully written and developed. I don’t really want go into too much detail because there is an awesome twist that stayed with us for a good few days after reading. All I will say is, read this book.

Tom, age 8, says: “It’s really good because there are surprises along the way. I really like how Clara faces her fears and went back in the water. I liked Rudy because she was fun and positive and supported Clara. I’ve never read a book with a big twist like this and I really recommend it.”

3 – The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates – Jenny Pearson

This book has more twists and turns than a Super G event. It came highly recommended and it did not disappoint one bit. Jenny Pearson’s writing is very funny, that much is clear, but I also loved the fact that serious issues were covered in a very relatable and empathetic way. Although the main character in the book (Freddie) is dealing with loss and trying to understand it, it’s never dark or particularly sad, it’s more comically poignant.

The story centres around the journey Freddie and his two best friends make at the start of their Summer holiday. It takes them along the south coast of Wales. As they meet an interesting range of diverse Welsh characters, it gives those of use who enjoy ‘doing the voices’ while reading aloud, the perfect opportunity to experiment with a glorious range of hearty Welsh accents.

The Miraculous Journey that the boys go on is absolutely brilliant. It gets better and better with many a jaw-dropping laugh along the way. I can’t recommend this book enough and it will doubtlessly a birthday or Christmas present for years to come.

An added bonus is that the illustrator is, lockdown hero, Rob Biddulph. If you’ve not yet spent time with your children, at home or in school, following a #DrawWithRob video, then you really must.

If you and your children enjoy the books of Jo Simmons, then this one should be next on your list.

Tom, age 7, says: “I really like it because it’s really funny and you can learn facts from it as well. My favourite fact was that pigs can’t look up, so they’ve probably never seen the stars.”

2 – 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.”

1 – 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.”