Tag Archives: Books

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.

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.

Dragon Stories

Every year we take World Book Day and turn it in to book fortnight. It’s usually a two week long, whole-school event that aims to encourage reading a variety of different books. This year two dragon eggs have been found at our school and it’s given us a chance to look at stories featuring dragons. It turns out there are an awful lot of them. This is kind of the point. Loads of different types of books that can be enjoyed from EYFS to year 6, which is great for making comparisons and writing for a range of purposes.

Over the different classes, teachers used a range of dragon books to inspire, compare, contrast and enjoy, but we also read a different dragon book in a special assembly at the end of each day. This was an opportunity to enjoy some stories, but also lead to discussion around the evidence that dragon in the featured story may be the dragon that laid two eggs at our school.

Twitter was very helpful when it came to recommending dragon books and I made a list of all the suggestions.

A link to a massive collect of children’s books featuring dragons.

Another fun thing we did was make use of X-ray goggles to make a fake news page about the dragon egg finding.

Then we found some massive footprints…

Next a few bits of dragon poo turned up which contained chicken bones to prove our dragon was a carnivore.

Finally, the dragon came back to collect its eggs and we were fortunate enough to get some footage of the moment it arrived…

Bedtime Stories

The joy of books

One of the best things about being a parent (and teacher for that matter) is sharing books with children. My children and I particularly enjoy bedtime stories where we have uninterupted time together exploring fantasy lands with fantasitical characters. I’ve written before about reading recommendations for short stories at bedtime, with suggests from a great range of teachers and parents.

The purpose of this blog is for me to have a place to share some of the longer, chapter books we’ve been reading at bedtimes, and add to it over time.

July 2019 – The Paninis of Pompeii by Andy Stanton

This is the first in a new series of books by Andy Stanton who is the author of the Mr Gum books. There is a lot more to it than the Mr Gum books and it’s more of a collection of short stories set in a ancient Pompeii. It would kind of work if you’re looking at the Ancient Roman Empire in class, but you’d have to get the children to work out which bits were historically accurate and which bits were artistic license and pure comedy value.

Like Stanton’s previous work, this book is chocked full of very silly humour (the main character is literally a fart merchant) and some fantastically named excentiric characters including Barkus Wooferinicum the family dog and a personal favourite Atrium Jamiroquai Tannicus. We look forward to the next installment in the Paninis series.

June 2019 – The Story of Matthew Buzzington by Andy Stanton

This story is great if you want to address bullying issues in class. Matthew Buzzington and his little sister move to the Big City and start at a new school. Starting at a new school can be tough at the best of times, but when you think you can turn into a fly and tell people that on a few occassions it doesn’t help you make friends. The trouble is that he fails to turn into a fly so is widley mocked. However, one thing leads to another and Matthew goes on quite the journey with the bully and his little sister.

While there are certainly funny parts to the book, it’s a departure from the usual silliness of Stanton’s books. Very much worth a read though and unlike most of his other work, this book has an important message too.

May 2019 – The Monkey Pirates by Mark Skelton

If you like Mr Gum books then the humour in this one will be right up your street. Emily Jane, the main protagonist, is a girl who goes on a time travelling adventure with a bunch of monkey pirates in a wardrobe. She’s on a round-about mission to find her long-lost Uncle Bartholomew. She may well under up finding him. But she’s not really sure. My son and I both thoroughly recommend this book because it made us chuckle on many occassions.

Previous reads…

Over the years we’ve read a lot of books. Many of the picture books are listed here. We’ve read a few of David Walliams books, a few Daisy and the trouble with… by Kes Grey books and most of the Roald Dahl books.