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Book reviews from 4—7 years

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By Celia Powellguest editor, Year 1 teacher and literacy coordinator

Celia’s class pick their top titles from a selection of the latest releases

Norma Snows cover

Norma Snows by Paula Metcalf (Macmillan Children’s Books, ISBN 9780230015272)

‘Is there no end to the dazzling talents of Norma Snows?’ Well, apparently not! As the title suggests (although I was having a dim day and didn’t twig for a while), Norma has an ENORMOUS NOSE! The children loved the imaginative ways that Norma used her appendage – to hook over her Mum’s shoulder as a baby (leaving a grateful Mum with two hands free for tea and cake), to carry shopping, to reach the finishing line ahead of the pack, to twirl on the bars in gymnastics, as an aid to successful crawling, to add an extra dimension to piano playing… the list is endless. In one picture she is even drying underwear over it – much sniggering. The warm, colourful illustrations make this a definite feel-good book, ideal for school or as a bedtime story.

Pink! cover

Pink! by Lynne Rickards and Margaret Chamberlain (Chicken House, ISBN 9781905294732)

Patrick the penguin is having a very bad day – he is amazed to find that he has woken up pink! Patrick yells in outrage ‘But I’m a boy, and BOYS CAN’T BE PINK!’ But later, a book about flamingoes is brought to his attention and he sets off on a fabulous adventure to meet them (lots of opportunities for charting his progress on a world map – my class thought Africa might be somewhere near London…). He soon realises that he doesn’t fit in with his new pink pals and rushes back to be with his own kind, who are so impressed by his travels that they stop teasing him – at last it’s okay to be different. The Year 1 boys were absolutely horrified at the idea of being transformed into such a girly colour, which led to lots of discussion about why they felt so strongly about being judged by the colour of skin, clothes, and so on. This book provides an ideal opportunity to talk about being different with your class.

Grandpa's Inventions cover

My Grandpa’s Amazing Inventions by Richard Johnson (Templar, ISBN 9781840116533)

This was my personal favourite, mainly for the sumptuous illustrations – they glow with rich, deep colours and the fun in them springs out from every page. Grandpa is introduced as being, not only old and clever, but an inventor to boot. He receives an invitation to design something amazing for a competition, and begins an imaginative quest to think of something new and extra special. How about an AMAZING-SPEAKA-ZOO-O-PHONE gizmo that lets him talk to the animals? No, it’s been done. Maybe a FABULOUS-DEEP-SEA-TENTACLON, or a DOUBLE-DECKA-SPACE-BUS? The seabed and moon pictures encourage all sorts of discussion – lots of detail, and interesting things happening everywhere. My class especially liked the underground picture of Grandpa’s invention for spying on his neighbours’ turnips – they spotted new objects every time we read the book: an old bottle, dinosaur bones, treasure… The final invention is so exciting it… no, I’ll leave you to find that out for yourselves!

If I Were You cover

If I Were You by Richard Hamilton and Babette Cole

(Bloomsbury, ISBN 9780747552499)

I’ve always loved Babette Cole’s quirky illustrations (Princess Smartypants and The Smelly Book, to name a few), and Richard Hamilton’s rhyming text provides plenty of opportunities to predict what might be coming next. There’s also loads of useful punctuation for the children to spot – making it perfect for the grammar dance, which I use most days to help my class break text into manageable chunks (see ‘Favourite books’ on pages 24-25). In this bedtime story, poor tired Dad advises Daisy ‘If I were you, I’d snuggle down and go to sleep.’ This sets Daisy thinking – what if the roles really were reversed? Dad ends up in a lovely pink tutu, and it must be said, he has the most fabulous spindly, hairy legs I’ve ever seen. The Year 1 boys’ horrified expressions once again demonstrate their dread of looking girly – lucky it’s just a dream!

Alex & Lulu cover

Alex and Lulu – Two of a Kind by Lorena Siminovich (Templar, ISBN 9781840114393)

Despite being totally different, Alex and Lulu get on very well – most of the time – even though Alex runs about madly wanting to do everything at once and Lulu is calmer and more reflective. (More stereotypes, or am I getting paranoid now?) Caught in a rainstorm, Lulu, of course, has an umbrella; but Alex has to use a book as an impromptu shelter while he makes his way home, splashing in every puddle along the way. I really enjoyed exploring the concept of opposites with my class and they came up with a variety of ideas of their own. Finally, Lulu and Alex realise that there are lots of things that they love to do together, like ‘singing and dancing non-stop in the spotlight, reading books aloud and star gazing and getting into pillow fights!’ And it’s because they’re different that they have so much fun together.

Shopping with Dad cover

Shopping with Dad by Matt Harvey and Miriam Latimer (Barefoot Books, ISBN 9781846861710)

The children loved this sing-song account of daring Dad and his adventurous daughter, with her wonderfully wild hair and stripy tights. The pair set off to the supermarket because Mum’s at work and too busy to shop. However, Mum has given the shopping expedition a crazy twist for them – her list includes some rather unusual items, such as ‘Weatherbread, Dangerjam, Evergreen Eggs, Octopus Underpants, Spiders’ Legs…’ The little girl registers that Dad is trying to tell her that the list also includes some normal things, but reports gleefully: ‘I didn’t listen – because I was excited, because Mummy was funny and I was delighted.’ This book is such fun to read – the bright pictures show a shopping disaster unfolding at top speed, but the lovely relationship between Dad and daughter saves the day. And when Mum hears all about it, she just laughs and laughs.

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