NEW TITLES

This month's selection of books for children aged 7-11 years includes humour, science and adventure as well as some great biographies and non-fiction to inspire children to learn more about their world.

50 Ways to Feel Happy: Fun activities and ideas to build your happiness skills
Vanessa King

QED Publishing

ISBN 9781784930851

Wellbeing is a key theme within schools, education in general and in wider society today. This lovely book is a very welcome addition to the growing area of publication focusing on wellbeing and mental health, addressing the topic in a way that is perfect for the Key Stage 2 reader. The author is one of the key players within Action for Happiness, a social media movement promoting psychological well being, resilience and a kinder society. The research-based theories and techniques underpinning the information and activities in this charming book make it an excellent and reliable addition to any primary school library or family bookcase. It is also a fantastic resource for teachers of PSHE as the activities could easily be adapted for use in the classroom. Appropriately for the target age group, this book focuses on very practical activities to proactively promote happiness. That said, it does contain helpful tips and sources of further support and advice for those who are experiencing distress. Nevertheless, on the whole the approach is light, upbeat and positive and the range of activities is very imaginative. I loved, for example, the suggestion to make and collect 'bounce-back balloons' as reminders of occasions when you have tackled a tricky situation or overcome adversity in some way. Creating a 'positivity pack' using special items such as photos, drawings, collages, video clips etc is another super suggestion. There are so many essential life skills that are drawn together in this lovely little book and I would thoroughly recommend it for primary schools and their pupils. 64 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Emily Marcuccilli, school librarian

50 Ways to Feel Happy: Fun activities and ideas to build your happiness skills
The Hidden Staircase
Holly Webb

Stripes Publishing

ISBN 9781847159151

This is the third in a series of books featuring Polly, recently moved from London because of her mother's new job at Penhallow Hall in Cornwall. Penhallow Hall is a large country house open to the public and Polly has discovered its secret. There are ghosts at Penhallow Hall; specifically, the spirits of dogs who live in the dog statues and the ghost of William who lived there as a boy. In this book, Polly starts at the local school and makes friends with Lucy, but Lucy also has a secret that she does not feel she can share with anyone. Together, Lucy and Rex resolve to help Lucy and the strange little dog spirit that lives in the nursery. Though this book could be read as a standalone (there is enough background information given to enable readers new to the series to pick up on what has happened in the previous books), it probably would work best if read as part of a series. Newly confident, independent readers will enjoy getting to know Polly and would benefit from reading about Polly's first encounters with Rex, Magnus and William. Many young readers will already have come across books by Holly Webb through the many books she has written for young children. The 180 pages of the book are divided into 8 chapters; a manageable length for the new reader which also serves to develop reading stamina. The black and white illustrations are plentiful and help to break up the text, which is clear and well-spaced. The vocabulary is straightforward, allowing the reader to become absorbed in the story. There are details in this book which may spark off wider conversations between adult and child readers. Polly's father has recently died and she hates the reaction this produces in people who hear the news and Lucy's parents are separating. We hear also of Penhallow's past as a temporary home for wartime evacuees, a topic which is very popular in Key Stage 2 classrooms. 192 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by June Hughes, school librarian.

The Hidden Staircase
St Grizzle's School for Girls, Geeks and Tag-along Zombies
Karen McCombie

Stripes Publishing

ISBN 9781847159076

This is the third in the series of McCombie's and Becka Moor's collaboration featuring St Grizzle's School for Girls. In the first, Dani arrived at this very strange school when her mother had to go abroad for an extended period. In the second, Dani learned some valuable lessons on teamwork and appreciating other people's talents. In the third book, Dani's old friend Arch is having problems, as is the latest new girl, Boudicca, and it is up to Dani and the other inhabitants of St Grizzle's to work out what is best for everyone. With St Grizzle's, Karen McCombie and Becka Moor have created a world full of the strangest individuals, from the most extraordinary headmistress, Lulu, to the rather unnerving triplets. All, however, are valued for who they are, with all their idiosyncrasies and the books get across the message of embracing diversity among people in a hilarious and unpreachy way. In all the books, everything seems to go so much better when everyone puts their own individual talents to one particular goal and the power of teamwork is a common thread through the series. There are many black and white illustrations scattered throughout the book and different fonts and sizes are used liberally for emphasis. Boudicca, for example, always speaks in very small sized text, which is an excellent way of getting across her quietness and reticence. Chapters are of a good length for the developing reader and the humour will appeal to many a Key Stage 2 pupil enjoying independent reading. The introduction of a second 'token' boy at the girls' school will hopefully widen the appeal of this series beyond the 'girls at boarding school' genre. 224 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by June Hughes, school librarian.

St Grizzle's School for Girls, Geeks and Tag-along Zombies
Max and the Millions
Ross Montgomery

Faber & Faber

ISBN 9780571333486

As with all good children's books these days, this isn't just a straight yarn. Max and the Millions by Ross Montgomery begins by introducing one of the unlikely heroes of the story - a school caretaker with more than just a knack for building intricate models of anything and everything. Next we meet Mr Pitt, the typically unlikeable headmaster. And then we encounter the story's other (full-size) hero: Max, who is hiding in a cupboard. Max loves making models; he's also deaf. This representation of a minority group is important in children's literature. Montgomery writes sensitively and convincingly about the trials a deaf child might face, making this an important lesson in empathy for young readers. Although this is a story about how a warring society of magically-created microscopic people are rescued by a seemingly improbable pair of pre-teen boys and a hoard of pony-obsessed five-year-old girls on a sugar-bender, it is also a story about friendship, fitting in, integrity and small things mattering. Whilst Lower Key Stage 2 children will enjoy the miniature adventures of King Luke and his trusty flea as he fights the Bin King and the Red Queen, they will also pause to think about how first impressions don't always count, how kindness and selflessness are key characteristics to develop in oneself, and how forgiveness is an essential ingredient for peace and friendship. The story's absolute highlight comes when (slight spoiler alert) the tiny Luke becomes king of the united people of The Floor (the minute kingdom the small people inhabit). The power goes to his head and, despite his friend Ivy's warnings, he forgets the golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you - with disastrous consequences. Even if no other part of the book is used as a talking point between adults and children, this part should be; it opens up a safe space in which to discuss politics and has parallels to current situations that are playing out on the world stage. The headmaster's despotic antics throughout the book also provide opportunities to discuss similar issues. This well-written book is a great choice for parents and teachers of children who have expressed interest in world affairs but who might be too young to fully understand the complexities and unpleasant details of the situations. It's also recommended for fans of stories such as Terry Pratchett's The Carpet People stories - those young but capable readers who are quite at home in stories with impossibly fantastical settings. 272 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Aidan Severs, teacher.

Max and the Millions
The Nothing to See Here Hotel
Steven Butler

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9781471163838

This book is a real deal breaker for any reluctant reader! A real laugh out loud tale of weird and wonderful ghosts, ghouls and goblins. A delightful story told by a young boy called Frankie Bannister whose parents run The Nothing to see Here Hotel. This magical hotel stands in plain sight on the Brighton seafront and is the best secret holiday destination for magical creatures in the whole of England. Coming from a family dotted with trolls, humans and harpies, Frankie is a quarterling, one thirty-sixth troll! His father is a halfling and his Mum is completely human, although many of Frankie's wider family are not so normal; mixtures of all sorts of strange magical, mythical individuals. The hotel, originally built by Frankie's great-great-great grandparents, is cloaked in magic, deterring the entrance of any non-magical person with its outwardly grubby appearance and its disgusting stink. It is a popular venue for many non-humans, so when Frankie's parents hear that they have been chosen to be visited by a real goblin VIP, they feel suitably honoured. However, the arrival of Prince Grogbah of the Dark and Dooky Deep does not quite go as expected. Prince Grogbah proves to be more than the usual 'goblin handful', His accompanying entourage are rather intimidating and as chaos ensues, Frankie and his family start to wonder exactly what they have let themselves in for. Gruesome feasts, rudeness and bad behaviour make for a rib-tickling read, although it is the arrival of Tempestra Plank and her crew of goblin pirates that finally stops Gogbah in his tracks! Naughtiness, word-play, male and female protagonists make this action packed tale an enjoyable read for young and old. A real page turner for a young reader and a certain motivational read for any reader who has not yet developed a passion for the written word. I highly recommend any parent or teacher to treat their children to a trip to The Nothing to see Here Hotel. I certainly hope to be able to revisit for subsequent adventures. 192 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Sam Phillips, teacher.

The Nothing to See Here Hotel
Destination: Planet Earth
Tom Clohosy Cole

Wide Eyed Editions

ISBN 9781786030610

This book is a non-fiction book about Earth suitable for aged 7 upwards. It is also a non-fiction book masquerading as a lovely picture book and it is that feature which I think children will enjoy. The pictures are rich and involving and definitely get the 'oooh' from children. It is the sort of book that invites you to look at it due to the brightness of the pages and the detail worked into every one. Some of the pages have content featuring in many non-fiction books, like volcanoes and the water cycle. Others take a slightly different approach featuring tectonic plates or The Equator. All of the pages have child figures exploring the aspects being discussed and there are boxes of facts and information around each page. So, for example, The Poles has a box about melting ice caps and one about explorers and another about researchers taking ice samples. The text is quite complex and uses technical language but manages to make the ideas simple enough for younger children to begin to understand. On the page about the Atmosphere, for example, it explains the Greenhouse Effect, 'Like glass on a greenhouse, our ATMOSPHERE lets heat from the Sun in but stops too much escaping'. There are key words in capitals but sadly no glossary to go with them- in fact that would be my only criticism, there is no glossary, contents or index which further adds to the picture book feel, but would be useful to have. A big bonus for this book is a lovely double-sided poster at the back, one with a world map and the other side with a picture of figures standing on a sand dune - something I'd love to have adorning the walls of a classroom. The other highlight for me is the final page with its future thinking, an aspect of Geography so often missed out. Entitled Saving Planet Earth, this beautiful spread imagines a futuristic scene in which small changes like recycling have lead to bigger ones by reducing pollution. There is a list of achievable lifestyle changes, such a walking rather than driving and a green and flourishing cityscape. Many children may have watched the BBC David Attenborough series 'Blue Planet' and this book seems to follow on nicely from that. This book is a good addition to the geography canon of work for primary aged children. It is nicely presented, and each page makes you linger and read a bit more. This would make a good classroom resource and having seen there is another in the series on Space, shortlisted for the Blue Peter book award in 2017, I now want to go and see if that one is as lovely to look at and as interesting as this. 40 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Jacqueline Harris, teacher.

Destination: Planet Earth
Outdoor Maker Lab
Robert Winston

DK Children

ISBN 9780241302200

What a fabulous DIY science activity book, packed full with exciting outdoor experiments that cannot fail to inspire inquisitive young scientists. Written by Professor Robert Winston, Outdoor Maker Lab includes a good number of practical experiments that will help young children understand the world that they live in; each experiment is supported by interesting facts, diagrams and pictures to strengthen their learning. I really like the way this book is presented; each experiment has a difficulty rating (easy, medium, hard) and not only lists the necessary equipment, all of which are common household items, but also shows clear pictures of everything that is needed. The clear concise, step by step instructions are accompanied by coloured photographs and help make each experiment virtually fool-proof. These experiments will show the reader how to make a butterfly feeder and a wormery, measure air pressure, temperature and rain fall and create marbled pebbles and glittering geodes; all in the name of science. Each one of these exciting activities is also accompanied by a short explanation of the science supporting each experiment. Although Outdoor Maker Lab is meant to stimulate independent learning at home, this book would also be a bonus to any Primary classroom bookshelf. Its attractive format will no doubt appeal to most children, while the concise numbered instructions will enable even the weakest readers to work out what to do and what's happening. Finding a child's book that fits all of the criteria for a non-fiction text is quiet difficult. Often a book may have a contents page and index, but not a glossary. Some books have headings but no sub-headings and others have diagrams with labels but no captions. The Outdoor Makers Lab has all of these. So science aside, this book would make for an ideal example of a non-fiction text for use in a lower Key Stage 2 guided or whole class reading lesson. Some of the experiments from the chapters; World of Weather and Earth and Sky, could also be used to help children understand and learn about parts of the Primary Geography curriculum. This book is an absolutely fantastic way for any child, not just the budding young scientist, to find out more about the world in which they live, in an interesting and stimulating way, without the use of a computer or smartphone. 160 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Sam Phillips, teacher.

Outdoor Maker Lab
The Colours of History: How Colours Shaped the World
Clive Gifford

QED Publishing

ISBN 9781784939670

A stunning exploration of colour, its development and its importance in history. Twenty-four colours have been divided into shades and these sections are explored across a number of beautifully-illustrated and eye-catching pages. The history and connotations associated with the shades are explained at the opening to each section and each colour has a double-page spread with a depiction of the colour and various fascinating facts related to it. Puce, for example, was popularised by the doomed Marie-Antoinette and a favourite of the French Court; orange was originally known as yellow-red and was eventually adopted by the Dutch royal family; and the popular but often deadly (due to its arsenic content) Scheele's green slowly poisoned those that came into contact with it. The illustrations by Marc-Etienne Peintre provide a lovely, interpretative foil for the text and a there is a neat introduction to the world of colour at the start of the book. I think children will love these bright, engaging pictures and will find the bite-sized and clearly laid-out text easy to manage. This is a thoroughly enjoyable and educational read and I would love a follow-up book with further colours and fascinating facts. A lovely addition to any library. 64 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Clare Wilkins, school librarian.

The Colours of History: How Colours Shaped the World
The Stig Plays a Dangerous Game: A Top Gear book
Jon Claydon

Piccadilly Press

ISBN 9781848126459

Sam Wheeler is the new boy in town, but it's a strange town. Everyone is engrossed with a new video game. A student at the local school has disappeared. Everyone seems busy trying to please the billionaire who recently moved in the the mansion on the hill. And of course there have been sightings of a mysterious figure wearing white racing overalls. Together with his friends, Minnie Cooper and Ford Harrison, Sam sets out to save the town once and for all. When this book arrived through the letterbox last week, I was intrigued. It is, if you hadn't twigged, a Top Gear spin-off. The cover and concept scream that this is a book aimed at reluctant boy readers. I must admit, I was a little skeptical as to whether I would enjoy this book. However, I was pleasantly surprised. This is a Ronseal book - it does exactly what it says on the tin. It is a fast-paced adventure full of cars. The action rattles along at a rate of knots with twists and turns at every corner. The characters, while not the most well-rounded, certainly gel together to create a typical cast - the hero, the trusty sidekicks, the bully, the teacher who strikes fear into the children's hearts. It does everything right without being ground-breaking. Now, the thing that stood out for me is the humorous side of the book. Jon Claydon and Tim Lawler play around with words in many ways. There's the unsubtle swapping of letters (bunny fone instead of funny bone) to a more subtle play on everyday phrases. There is one glorious section which plays on Ford Harrison's name which ends up namechecking just about every car Ford have ever made. This was just one occasions which had me smirking to myself on the train. There is definitely a market for this book. It is a book which is accessible, but also has a story which will keep readers hooked. Like I said, this book surprised me and will be one which I will recommend to children. At sight of the book, I had a queue of boys in my class wanting to borrow it. Whatever you think of spin offs, this has got to be a good thing. 288 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Matt Davies, teacher.

The Stig Plays a Dangerous Game: A Top Gear book
The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day
Christopher Edge

Nosy Crow Ltd

ISBN 9781788000291

Science is 'in' at the moment. Just look at the success of Big Bang Theory or the growing demand for sci-fi media to prove that. Yet with the explosion of science in the mainstream media, there has until recently been a gap in the children's fiction market for science-based stories. Step forward Christopher Edge. In previous books, Edge has introduced young readers to quantum physics and parallel universes (The Many Worlds Of Albie Bright) and space travel (The Jamie Drake Equation). In his latest novel, Edge attempts his most daring book yet. Maisie is an academically gifted child who is already studying for a degree by the time of her tenth birthday. The book tells the story of that birthday through a dual narrative. The first presents her birthday as you would expect. The second, however, traps Maisie in an alternative reality. She wakes on her birthday to find an empty house, outside of which is a never-ending darkness. Trapped in this alternative-reality, Maisie uses her knowledge of the laws of physics to try to save herself. Being a bit of a science geek, this book was right up my street. Once again, Edge manages to seamlessly combine a strong narrative with complex science and believable characters. This creates a storyline which will hook and intrigue many a reader. Similarly, as with Edge's other work, there is a strong feeling of family creating an emotional attachment between characters and reader. Inevitably, this will end up pulling on the reader's heartstrings, especially as the two narratives unravel. There is no doubt in my mind that this is a book that will appeal to a whole spectrum of audiences. Children will devour it, teachers should use it to inspire young scientists, and I'm about to re-read it! 176 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Matt Davies, teacher.

The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day
The Children of Castle Rock
Natasha Farrant

Faber & Faber

ISBN 9780571323562

The Children of Castle Rock is a daring new adventure story in the tradition of all good boarding school novels. Lovers of Harry Potter, Malory Towers and The Worst Witch will immediately find something in this new story to identify with. The boarding school setting allows for the all-important parentlessness that so often sets up the protagonists of children's books to have rip-roaring escapades that their parents would never allow. Farrant brings Famous Five-style adventure right up to date with mobile phones and various other trappings of modern life. Except in her latest book it is some mysterious communication from Alice's largely-absent dad that prompts her and her friends to abscond from school to embark on a crazy adventure across remote areas of Scotland. The fact that the Stormy Loch's behaviour management ethos doesn't follow the normal strictness found in other fictional schools makes matters worse - or better - depending on which way you look at it. The main theme of this book really is children's relationships with adults: Alice's mum has died, her dad is pretty useless, and she's actually closest to her Auntie, the aptly named Patience. Fergus's parents have split up and are not amicable and Jesse lives in the shadow of his older brothers and is desperate initially to win his parents' favour with his violin playing. The teachers at the school are a rag tag bunch headed up by the Major who is quirky, to say the least - a rather progressive ex-army man who challenges all stereotypes of head teachers in children's fiction. The book crescendos with some unexpected outcomes where children's relationships to adults are concerned - I won't spoil it, but this isn't your typical children's book ending. The book has a very strong narrator presence making it unlike any other children's book I've read. Farrant often hints at things are to come, referencing future parts of the story that are relevant to events that are happening at the point of narration. The narration is where the playfulness of this story comes leaving the characters largely to get on with the serious business of embarking on their quest to subvert the orienteering challenge in order to transport a secret package to a rendezvous with Barney, Alice's shady father. Along the way the children experience the joys of wild swimming, fishing and camping, torrential rain and storms, breaking and entering, food poisoning and being chased by proper baddies, not to mention the highs and lows of pre-teen friendship The book is aimed fairly and squarely at children of a similar age to the children in the book - upper key stage two and lower key stage three children will love this story. There are some starred out expletives which give it a little edge, and leave little to the imagination - something to consider when using the book in school or recommending it to children. With a diverse set of characters, themes that are relevant to the lives of many children and a main character who loves writing, there is also definite scope for this being used in the classroom as a stimulus for discussion. A recommended read. 320 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Aidan Severs, teacher.

The Children of Castle Rock
The Eye of the North
Sinead O'Hart

Stripes Publishing

ISBN 9781847159410

What an adventure! This book centres around Emmeline, whose parents mysteriously vanish. Before long, she is on a ship to France where she encounters her side-kick-to-be, Thing. Everything takes a turn for the worse when Emmeline is kidnapped and taken to the North. From here on in, we have scientists, secret societies, myths . . . the list goes on. Firstly, let me talk about the characters. Anyone who has read some of my previous reviews will know that I love a good character. There has to be something about them to grab my attention, then they have to develop as the story progresses. I can safely say that both Emmaline and Thing did this in abundance. Emmaline is a true heroine. She's bold, brash and not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. As for thing, he certainly is a unique character. I was intrigued by him throughout and was glad as we saw more of his perspective as the novel progressed. From very early on, there is an air of mystery. As a reader, there was just enough to hook me without giving too much away. It wasn't until quite late on that everything became clear, despite all my guessing and second-guessing. It's one of those books where there are twists and turns around every corner. Once one pitfall has been overcome, there is no let up. For some, this book will be a demanding read. There is a lot going on and it is quite long for a middle-grade read. This makes it a perfect step before moving onto Phillip Pullman's Northern Lights trilogy or as a class read for a Year 6 class. 384 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Matt Davies, teacher.

The Eye of the North
Young Gifted and Black: Meet 52 Black Heroes from Past and Present
Jamia Wilson

Wide Eyed Editions

ISBN 9781786030887

Jamia Wilson's anthology of black heroes is a lovely celebration of inspirational figures both past and present. Covering a wide spectrum of gifts, talents and trailblazing feats, the book is brought to stunning life by Andrea Pippins' beautiful and distinctive illustrations. Noted historical figures such as Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King are featured alongside music stars and sporting heroes. This is a beautifully-packaged, very accessible read and should serve as inspiration for a generation of young readers. 64 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Clare Wilkins, school librarian.

Young Gifted and Black: Meet 52 Black Heroes from Past and Present
Make More Noise!: New stories in honour of the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage
Emma Carroll

Nosy Crow Ltd

ISBN 9781788002394

This collection of short stories in honour of the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage is named after an Emmeline Pankhurst speech which started 'You have to make more noise than anyone else'. It includes stories from Sally Nichols, M.G Leonard, Patrice Lawrence, Karen Millwood-Hargrave, Katherine Woodfine, Jeanne Wills, Ella Risbridger, Emma Carroll, Ally Kennen and Catherine Johnson. My favourite was The Bug Hunters, in which Sofia has just started a new school where her short pixie hair cut and love of bugs gets her bullied at first, but during show and tell Sofia is able to explain to her classmates how interesting her hobby can be. Not all of the stories focus on women's suffrage and not all are based on true events, but a nice collection nonetheless and worth adding to your library collections. Good tie in with International Women's Day. 279 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Jennifer Prestwood, school librarian.

Make More Noise!: New stories in honour of the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage
HerStory: 50 Women and Girls Who Shook the World
Katherine Halligan

Nosy Crow Ltd

ISBN 9781788001380

50 short biographies of influential women including doctors, scientists, writers, designers, activists and monarchs. Each woman has a double page spread detailing how they have changed the world we live in today. Beautifully illustrated pages, lovely clear text and interesting photos makes this a book-lover's dream. Split into five categories, Believe and Lead, Imagine and Create, Help and Heal, Think and Solve and Hope and Overcome. I especially liked the portrait gallery at the end, which serves as a timeline of when these great women lived. It really is one I have loved reading and have picked up several times since. Anna Pavlova is my favourite page by far. It has formed part of a International Women's Day display in our library and the display to celebrate 100 years since women got the vote. The girls have loved it too. Highly recommended. 112 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Jennifer Prestwood, school librarian.

HerStory: 50 Women and Girls Who Shook the World