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Literacy Time PLUS Book Reviews - July/August 2009

The Mummy Snatcher of Memphis

Natasha Narayan
Quercus, hb £9.99, 978 18472 46004

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Reviewed by Ruby Daniels, age 9.

The Mummy Snatcher of Memphis is an interesting, mysterious book, with many recognisable qualities. I enjoyed it very much

Kit Salter is a feisty young girl, with some very loyal, trustworthy friends. But with the dreaded Velvet Mob, plus the irritating Miss Minchin, life can be tough.

When Kit’s governess, Miss Minchin, has a ‘dizzy spell’ Kit’s life turns out to be a completely different scenario!

Can she persuade Aunt Hilda not to arrest Mr Chaplon, avoid being painfully murdered by Velvet Nell and Bender Barney, find Ahmed’s scarab, and save the life of her friend Rachel before it’s all too late?

Kit and her friends experience many rough, heart-thumping, brain absorbing moments, and have shown me what life could be like.

Congratulations, Natasha Narayan (author), you have created one of the most amazing books that I have ever read, and I look forward to reading the next Kit Salter book, The Maharajah’s Monkey in 2010.

I give this book so many stars, that I would use up too much paper. Well done, an excellent book!!!!!!


Moon: Apollo 11 and Beyond…The ultimate guide to our nearest neighbour

Stewart Ross
OUP, hb £14.99, 9780199116911

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Reviewed by Jack Yeomans, age 11.

Read our author profile of Stewart Ross here.

If you read this book you will probably never need another astronomy book about the Moon again! It’s great for information. It has 128 pages, with a different subject on every spread and lots of Did you know? facts presented in different shaped boxes. I liked the fact that it had lots of big pictures, too.

But be warned: some of the information might not appeal to younger readers because there’s a couple of articles which might be upsetting. In the section on Spacemen, for example, there’s a piece about Laika, the hunting dog who went up in Sputnik II. It says, “Official statements said she died peacefully after circling the Earth. Actually, terrified and overheated, she had perished shortly after take-off.”

Also the myths and legends section might not appeal to some children because it’s long and to be honest a bit boring compared to the other parts! But on the whole this is a very good book because it is packed full with facts – and they are not all things that you already know.

For your chance to win one of four copies of Moon visit the Literacy Time PLUS Giveaways section.


Countdown to Creative Writing – Step by step approach to writing techniques for 7 – 12 years

Steve Bowkett
David Fulton, pb £23.99, 978 04154 68558

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Reviewed by Liz Banyard and Rachael Carr, Wilmcote CofE Primary School, Warwickshire.

Countdown to Creative Writing aims to provide the support needed in helping children to improve their creative writing and is part of a series of books covering writing in a range of areas.

It aims to be flexible, enabling teachers to use it in different ways: there are ‘self-study components’ so pupils can make their own progress through the materials, ‘stand alone modules’ used with the guidance of the teacher, or teachers could dip into the resources for individual lessons. Extra materials are also available online.

The modules include things like ‘Good Working Habits’, ‘The Structure of a Story’ and ‘Genre’. Each starts with a teacher’s section, including some sound advice and tips, followed by a pupil section. Although aimed at Key Stage 2, some of the activities are a little wordy, and therefore uninspiring, for the age group. Many of the activities are also quite similar in format.

However, once familiar with the book, KS2 teachers could adapt and use the activities as the basis for creative writing lessons.


Mirrorstorm

Mike Wilks Egmont, pb £6.99, 978 14052 37468

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In this, the second adventure in the Mirrorscape trilogy, friends Mel, Ludo and Wren again enter the Mirrorscape – the world of paintings, where fantastical inventions and fearsome creatures come to life through the artist’s brush. The three friends meet a host of new characters along the way, including invisible thief, Pilfer; Goldie, owner of a Merry-go-anywhere; and Cloud World Ambassador, Cassetti, whose dandyish shirts conceal a useful chest – of drawers!

This clever sequel retains the fast-paced adventure and thrilling suspense evident in the original Mirrorscape title, but Wilks’ wry humour is more evident, particularly in the first section of the book. The characters have grown – both literally and in confidence and knowledge, and the relationship between them is more developed as they draw upon each others’ strengths to protect their world from demon-filled storms. Although the story stands alone, I would suggest that children read Mirrorscape first – as well as being a cracking read, it sets this story into context and explains the relationship between hero Mel and his enemy, Groot.

Recommended for Year 6 and above, these thrilling fantasy novels will draw children into a fantastic world of colour and imagination.

For your chance to win one of five copies of Mirrorstorm, and its re-issued prequel, Mirrorscape, visit the Literacy Time PLUS website Giveaways section.


Philippa Fisher and the Dream Maker’s Daughter

Liz Kessler
Orion Children’s Books, hb £9.99, 978 18425 55859

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Read our interview with Liz Kessler “here”:http://magazines.scholastic.co.uk/resources/51667.

In this, the second of the magical Philippa Fisher adventures, Philippa is reunited with her fairy godsister, Daisy and makes a new friend, Robyn.

But there are questions and secrets surrounding her new friend that will affect them all. Who is the mysterious woman that Philippa sees in her dreams? And why is Robyn’s father so sad and angry? Then when Daisy disappears, Philippa knows that she will need her new friend’s help to save her.

This modern ‘fairy tale’ from the author of the Emily Windsnap series approaches more adult themes – friendship, grief and death feature in a story that interwinds magic with reality and depicts characters that you would really want to be friends with.


Oxford Children’s Myths and Legends

Stories from ScotlandBarbara Ker Wilson (hb £6.99, 978 01927 28609)
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Stories from EnglandJames Reeves (hb £6.99, 978 01927 28593)
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Stories from IrelandIta Daly (hb £6.99, 978 01927 28616)
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Stories from WalesGwyn Jones (hb £6.99, 978 01927 28586)
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These four books retell the myths and legends of the British Isles. Drawn from the ancient tradition of storytelling, they tell of giants and heroes, kings and goddesses, mythical creatures and fairies.

Read about Ireland’s Children of Lir, turned into swans, and Scotland’s Tam Lin, saved from the Elf Queen by the love of a mortal woman, or of King Arthur and Merlin in Wales. The stories of England include such well-known tales as Tom Thumb, Dick Whittington and Jack and the Beanstalk, as well as lesser-known stories of The Two Princesses and Catskin.

The tales are perfect to read aloud, or act out and will live in the imaginations of a new generation of children – as they have with each generation for hundreds of years.

Suitable for age 9+.


Skulduggery Pleasant: The Faceless Ones

Derek Landy
Harper Collins, hb £12.99, 978 00073 02147

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The third book in the bone-breaking, belly-busting Skulduggery Pleasant adventures sees our skeletal hero and his young sidekick pitted against the Faceless Ones.

Who is killing the Transporters – and why? Dapper – if somewhat mortality-challenged – detective Skulduggery, and his less well-dressed mentee Stephanie, aka Valkyrie, want to find out. Barred from The Sanctuary after accusing Thurid Guild of being a traitor, they must find the Isthmus Anchor before the Faceless Ones do in order to save the world.

Maintaining the wise-cracking relationship between Skulduggery and Valkyrie that forms the backbone (excuse the pun) of the previous titles, this book sees the return of an original character and the introduction of new ones, including the irritating Fletcher Renn. With plenty of twists and turns, Landy’s fast-paced style carries you along from adventure to adventure – this is a very difficult book to put down.

And a shocking cliffhanger ending will leave readers clamouring for more until Book Four arrives in (allegedly) 2010.


The Truth About Parents

Brian Moses, Roger Stevens, Paul Cookson and David Harmer
Pan Macmillan, pb £5.99, 978 03304 77338

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If your class enjoyed Paul Cookson’s ‘Do as You Are Told’ poem in this issue of Literacy Time PLUS, they’ll love the comical and irreverent poems about parents in this collection, written by some of the UK’s schools’ favourite visiting poets.

Do you ever worry about what goes on inside your parents’ heads? Then these poems are for you! Find out exactly what – if anything – makes them tick.

The book is due for publication in August and we are offering the chance to win one of ten copies. Find out more in our giveaways section.

Book to Screen: Ghost Writer – from novel to film

Julia Jarman, Julie Laslett
DVD, Teacher book, Pupil Worksheets and Novel. Site licence: £69.99 + VAT

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Author Julia Jarman and film-maker Julie Laslett worked with schools to create this resource aimed at improving visual and textual literacy skills by enabling pupils to compare a novel text, film script and film. Based on Julia Jarman’s book, Ghost Writer, the project saw children transforming a chapter from the title into a screenplay, then filming it, allowing them to analyse and appreciate the author’s and film-maker’s crafts.

With lesson ideas, rather than prescriptive lesson plans, and support material which can be adapted for different purposes across a range of year groups, Book to Screen could be used for film or creative writing class projects based on a favourite titles and will definitely inspire inventive and innovative lessons. The lesson notes cover many aspects of film-making including storyboarding, choice and effects of camera shots and the use of music and sound effects, while the author’s section includes a planning grid for writing the novel and annotated text.

In addition to the film, the DVD also features a documentary of the making of the film, a film trailer and out-takes, giving pupils a snapshot of the types of process their favourite films go through before hitting the big screen.

Book to Screen is available from Dramatic Media.

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