ISBN 9781444912609

I am a big fan of the amusing and quirky style of Fiona Roberton- her debut 'Wanted - the Perfect Pet' attracted a lot of appreciation and this new book is bound to increase her following. Cuckoos are often portrayed as the brutal bad guys in the bird world but this adorable little chap may change people's minds. No matter how many times he says "cuckoo" nobody can understand him. He is different from all the birds "tweeting" around him. So he sets off on a fruitless quest to try to find somebody who can understand him and even tries to learn the language of sheep at Madame Sheep's School of Excellence to no avail. Then at the end of an exhausting day, he at last hears a familiar sound, but the author still has a little surprise up her sleeve! This is a really enjoyable text to read, beautifully complimented by the attractive illustrative style but the message of the cuckoo chick who does not want to be alone and just wants to be understood also shows us the importance of accepting others, however different, and can stimulate some valuable discussion about the importance of language and communication. Picture Book / Ages 4+ / Reviewed by Joy Court, SLS Librarian

Off to Market
Elizabeth Dale

Frances Lincoln Childrens Books

ISBN 9781847803382

This picture book offers a wonderfully colourful glimpse into another culture - the book is set in an unspecified African country - and provides an energetic take on the traditional 'trip to market' story. As people and goats, vegetables and suitcases, all hussle for space on the bus going to market, it gets more and more crowded. The story is told in verse whose rhythms reflect the speed of the journey to market - quickly at first but then slower and slower as the bus makes its way up a steep hill - and then stops. At this point the bus driver realises the bus is too heavy to go any further and that someone must get off and walk to market to lighten the load, but no one volunteers. It is left to young Keb, sitting right at the back of the bus, to find a solution. There are abundant things to explore in this story, not just the gentle art of persuasion and getting people to collaborate as Keb does, but in the day to day realities of a different culture. As the story is focused on the bus, children could be encouraged to discuss the similarities and differences between what we expect to see on our buses compared to Keb's journey, and how Keb's bus journey and visit to the market reflects his very different ways of life. Format: Picture Book / Ages 4+ / Reviewed by Lynnette Voisey, EY and KS1 teacher

Off to Market
The Lemur's Tale
Ophelia Redpath

Brubaker, Ford & Friends

ISBN 9781848778672

This is a distinctive and beautifully-presented story about a lemur that finds a new home, far from its natural home in Madagascar, as well as a story about family relationships. The story is set at the turn of the 20th century. A baby lemur, caged in a ship, manages to escape and slip into a house that looks warm and inviting. There he even finds an orchid to nibble on and lots of sweet treats in the pantry. But his explorations lead to trouble for the young girl who lives in the house with her parents; she gets all the blame for the damage and the disappeared treats. Until her parents discover the little lemur tucked up asleep inside the teapot. The understated text and the warm, inviting illustrations make this a gorgeous story to read-aloud. Children will relate to the injustices faced by the girl and will enjoy knowing more than the adults in the story. They will also enjoy the lemur's last joke, on the final page. The text and images have a far-away, dreamy quality that matches the lemur's loneliness and the sense of him being a long way from home, which could lead to discussions about visiting or living in different cultures and what children might also miss if they are a long way from their country of birth. Finally, the lemur's home in Madagascar could inspire more information-gathering about Madagascar, why its natural habitat is so precious and the importance of conserving it. All in all, a lovely book to have in the classroom, and at bedtime! Picture book format / Ages 5+ / Reviewed by Lynnette Voisey

The Lemur's Tale
My Funny Family On Holiday
Chris Higgins

Hodder Children's Books

ISBN 9780340989852

This is the second story about the Butterfield family (following My Funny Family), told through the eyes of nine-year-old Mattie, who worries about everything. These stories are engaging and easily accessible, with lovely black and white illustrations and short chapter lengths, so are perfect for newly confident readers. Despite the title, the stories are not aiming for comic humour but take a more gentle approach to family life and the accompanying anxieties that families can bring. This is a large family (seven plus dog) and when they all head off on a camping holiday, you know that there are going to be problems to overcome - accidentally leaving the dog behind is the first of many. The holiday destination is Cornwall and alongside the family's everyday issues, the story explores some of the myths and legends as well as the history of Cornwall, including a mining tragedy that took place in the area the Butterfields are staying at. When Mattie befriends a hungry and lonely boy on the beach, the family mistake him for her imaginary friend and his unexplained presence brings another layer into the story. It is only when another tragedy is prevented that Mattie discovers the boy's real identity. This story would be a great starting point for discussing families and how different families can be as well as exploring children's anxieties (Mattie writes 'worry lists'). It can also help introduce children to reporting on what they did during their upcoming Easter or summer holidays. 138 pages / Ages 6+ / Reviewed by ReadingZone

My Funny Family On Holiday
Even Sillier Seriously Silly Stories!
Laurence Anholt

Orchard Books

ISBN 9781408324202

Ever heard of football-mad Cinderboy who has two very ugly and ill-behaved step brothers? Or Ghostyshocks and the three Vampire Bears? What about the Fried Piper of Hamstring Town? All these characters live in Seriously Silly Storyland and their stories bring a modern twist to some traditional fairytales. Children will love recognising these contemporary versions and comparing them to the originals and they could be a good starting point for exploring the elements that make up traditional fairytales - and inspire them to 'modernise' their own favourite tales. Cinderboy, for example, the first of three stories in this collection, is Cinderella re-written with a football theme. Cinderboy loves football but he has to stand aside as his horrible stepbrothers head off to watch his favourite team, Royal Palace, play a live match - until his TV fairygodmother gets him to the match on time with the help of a remote control, and a sofa. The stories are told through short chunks of text and each spread is well illustrated with black and white drawings, making the collection of Seriously Silly Stories by Laurence Anholt and Arthur Robins a popular staple for early readers developing in confidence. 190 pages / Ages 6+ / Reviewed by ReadingZone

Even Sillier Seriously Silly Stories!

ISBN 9781407133225

Scholastic has partnered with the animal welfare charity the RSPCA to bring you this new series of books based on real life stories of animal and pet rescues - the charity receives 15p for every book sold. The stories combine looking after animals and pets with the jeopardy of a rescue mission so there are lots of elements for confident young readers to enjoy. Each book also includes an interview with a real RSPCA inspector and tips on taking care of animals. In Puppy Gets Stuck, Emily has a new puppy, Pickles, but when he gets lost they fear the worst. Pickles is eventually found stuck in an old mineshaft and the rescue mission gets underway, supported by the RSPCA and the fire brigade. Other stories published this month include Little Lost Hedgehog and Lamb All Alone. The importance of this kind of ongoing series can't be underestimated for children who have learned to read but who still need to develop stamina as readers; once they have found a book they enjoy, they are encouraged to try more in the same series. 150 pages / Ages 6+ / Reviewed by ReadingZone

The Attack of the Alien Brain
Steve Hartley

Macmillan Children's Books

ISBN 9781447220237

Oliver is surrounded by genius schoolmates and siblings who are always winning prizes and competitions while he has never won anything and thinks he has no special talent. He would much prefer to read his brilliant Agent Q comics than enter the competitive world around him. However, Oliver does have a fantastic imagination and loves telling stories - but when does a great story become a lie? Children often find it hard to distinguish between storytelling and telling fibs, and this precept is at the heart of this story about Oliver Fibbs. At first Oliver uses his imaginative talent to make his 'show and tell' episodes more interesting - describing how he did emergency brain surgery on a professor, for example - but when he decides to enter a competition to renovate the playground, his creative imagination comes to the fore. This story has definite boy appeal and it's good to see storytelling and imagination celebrated like this. The book is text-based but with comic-style illustrations and cartoon strips that 'play out' Oliver's stories, making it great for reluctant readers and those developing confidence in reading. It is also a useful text for encouraging children to explore their own storytelling skills. 180 pages / Ages 6+ / Reviewed by ReadingZone

The Attack of the Alien Brain
Violet Mackerel's Natural Habitat
Anna Branford

Walker Books Ltd

ISBN 9781406326956

Violet Mackerel is a sensitive young girl who wants to help anything smaller than her. When she spots a sparrow in a shopping centre, she finds ways she can help, but is this really where the bird belongs? How about where a ladybird lives, what do they need to survive? This is an environmental tale about natural habitats. Every creature needs something different to survive and Violet and her sister, Nicola, must find out more. Using an Encyclopedia of Natural Science, they embark on a project to study nature. Only by working together will they find all the answers. The story is accompanied by black and white pencil drawn illustrations. This would be appealing for reluctant readers or children attempting longer sentences and paragraphs. This would appeal to both boys and girls. The subject matter makes the book more suitable for children 7+. This book covers: natural habitats, insect lifecycles, teamwork, sibling relationships, death and grieving. Violetís relationship with her sister is a key theme, especially as her sister is undergoing her teenage years. Although this is part of a series, this book is a standalone. It is a similar style to Diary of a Wimpy Kid, but for a younger readership. Other beginner readers similar to this one are: Theresa Breslin's Trick or Treat and Ivan Brett's Caspar Candlewhacks. 93 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Sophie Castle, Librarian

Violet Mackerel's Natural Habitat