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Summer Reads

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By Rebecca WallisAssistant Editor, Literacy Time PLUS

Whether it’s that book you’ve ‘always meant to get round to’, or the newest title by your favourite author, the long, light evenings of summer are a perfect time to spend reading. If you’re looking for some inspiration, we’ve picked our summer reading stars – two for each Literacy Time PLUS age group, and two for you. Let us know what you think of them – and let us know your star summer reads on our ‘Teacher Talk Forum’.

For Ages 5 to 7

Whizz-Bang Winnie Laura Owen, illustrated by Korky Paul (Oxford Children’s Books, 978 01927 27527)

Whizz Bang Winnie image

The ever-popular Winnie the Witch, and her black cat Wilbur, are flying from the pages of their picture books to embark on longer adventures for young readers. Each book has four complete Winnie stories with great comical illustrations, that bring Winnie to life, by the wonderful Korky Paul. In the four stories in Whizz-Bang Winnie, our heroine enters a hot-wheels race, brings stories to life for a class of children, searches for a missing Wilbur and creates a ‘chocodile’ which lays chocolate eggs. Older children will enjoy reading these independently, while younger readers may need some help.

Jamie and Angus Together Anne Fine (Walker Books, 978 14063 13321)

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These six lovely stories about Jamie and his toy Highland Bull, Angus, are written by Anne Fine, Children’s Laureate from 2001 to 2003. Perfect to help illustrate different aspects of friendship, the stories can also be used to analyse difficult feelings – from Jamie’s dismay when the boisterous Bella comes to play, to having an imaginary friend who does everything better than you. Slightly older children will appreciate the ironic humour of A Nice Long Walk in the Country (Without Any Fussing) – especially when Jamie’s Uncle Edward is shocked by the behaviour of the cows!

Complemented by Penny Dale’s black and white illustrations, the Jamie and Angus stories are perfect for reading aloud.

For Ages 7 to 9

Olaf the Viking Martin Conway (Oxford University Press, 978 01927 20870)

Olaf the Viking image

From the opening lines:

Olaf looked at the pig.

The pig looked at Olaf.

this rollicking, roistering tale of a young Viking boy and his search for his missing father is filled with humour, excitement and adventure. Against a background of Norse legends, Olaf and his magical companion Loki travel to Angle-land, home of the Angles, and Asgard, home of the gods, meeting lovelorn giants, savage squirrels, the Norse god Thor in a wedding dress and a pair of forgetful ravens along the way. A fun glossary at the back of the book gives pronunciation suggestions – and some corny puns! With battles, riddles, spells and regenerating goats, this book will particularly appeal to boys – but can also be enjoyed by bloodthirsty girls.

Custardly Wart: Pirate (Third Class) Alan MacDonald (Bloomsbury, 978 07475 94673)

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Alan MacDonald’s History of Warts series follows the antics of different members of the Wart family through the centuries as they are dogged by disaster. In Custardly Wart: Pirate (Third Class), a new teacher – resplendent in a three-cornered hat, red coat and black beard – arrives at the Dankmarsh school for orphans. Captain Cuttlefish, and his companion Mr Mate, give lessons in deck-scrubbing, sail-patching and climbing the rigging, culminating in a school trip to the sea. But soon the class find themselves kidnapped aboard The Salty Gherkin pirate ship and heading for the scary Doom Island. With Giant Vampire Bats, treasure maps and plenty of biscuits, this funny story has excitement, adventure and slapstick humour and will appeal to both boys and girls aged 7 to 9.

For Ages 9 to 11

House of Many Ways Diana Wynne Jones (HarperCollins Children’s Books, 978 00072 75663)

House of Many Ways image

Charmain Baker was looking forward to escaping from her ‘nice, respectable’ parents and looking after Great Uncle William’s house while he was ill. It would give her a chance to indulge her love of reading – and maybe she would even be able to fulfil her dream of working in the King’s library. But Great Uncle William is a wizard, and his house bends space and time, with doors leading to caves under the mountains and to the past. Her dreams of a quiet life are dashed as she finds a timid but magical stray dog, a muddled apprentice wizard and a strange clan of blue creatures who want to destroy the Hydrangeas. And that’s without the chaos caused by an evil prince, a creature that wants to lay eggs in her and the wizard Howl, his wife Sophie and their fire demon Calcifer.

This sequel to Jones’ Howl’s Moving Castle and Castle in the Air doesn’t disappoint her fans, with plenty of humour, magic and mayhem. Although the story stands alone, with Charmain a strong, likeable heroine, those who have read the previous books will love Howl’s current disguise, and Sophie’s response to it!

Hero.com – Rise of the Heroes/Villain.net – Council of Evil Andy Briggs (Oxford Children’s Books, 978 01927 55438 and 978 01927 55445)

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Choose to be a hero or a villain with this series and anti-series from Andy Briggs. In Rise of the Heroes a group of friends aquire superhero powers – including flight, strength and teleportation – from a computer during a lightning storm, and use them to fight a weather-altering, world-conquering supervillain. In Council of Evil, school bully Jake Hunter receives a mysterious email inviting him to become a powerful arch-criminal by joining a plot for world domination.

The two books stand alone, but their plots overlap, so you can be hero or villain, then switch roles when you read the other book. The titles will really appeal to today’s tech-savvy children, especially with the added bonus of a website – www.whichsideareyouon.co.uk, where you can find out if you’re a hero or a villain, create your own hero or villain, download wallpaper for your computer or a chapter of the book.

Adult

The Uncommon Reader Alan Bennett (Faber, 978 18466 81332)

The Uncommon Reader image

Led by her yapping corgis to the Westminster mobile library outside Buckingham Palace, the queen finds herself taking out a book – and getting addicted to reading.

As she becomes more engrossed in literature, her duties become less inviting (much to the annoyance of her advisers, the Prime Minister and the corgis) and she even learns to do the royal wave while reading. The Queen is portrayed as likeable and intelligent as she goes on her literary voyage of discovery, reading authors from Proust to Ian McEwan and, as she reads, the subversive nature of books makes her question the whole world order – with surprising results.

This witty short novel is an ideal holiday read – but be careful, it might lead on to your own literary voyage!

The Gap Year for Grown Ups Annie Sanders (Orion Books, 978 07528 89702)

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Music teacher Sarah Lewis wants an adventure. After twenty years of marriage to the reliable, but unspontaneous, David, the children have gone to university and she’s fed up with the same round of dinner parties, clothes-washing and ‘practical’ presents. Heading off to France alone on a ‘gap year’ seems to be the perfect solution – but is perfection all it seems?

This family story makes an ideal summer holiday read, with a well-observed recreation of family dynamics, romance, drama and personal development. The story is given from both Sarah and David’s point of view, and some of Sarah’s irritations and David’s observations will strike a chord with both male and female readers!

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