The Big, Fat, Totally Bonkers Diary of Pig

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By Emer Stamp

“Hello.

Me I is Pig. I is big and pink (sometimes a bit brown if I has been rolling in mud). My best friend Duck says I has stopped growing; that I has reached my maximum size. But I don’t think this is true. I is sure when I eats a lot I gets a bit bigger and when I don’t eat so much. I gets a little bit smaller.”

Pig is Back!

Pig is back and he’s on hilarious form in this, his fourth diary in the bestselling series by Emer Stamp. Action and adventure await young readers as Pig finds himself faced once again with those most dastardly of book villains, the Evil Chickens. Stitched up by the atrocious avians and forced to leave the farm, Pig’s life takes a Big, Fat, Totally Bonkers turn that kids will thoroughly enjoy. Old friends and new join in with the fun, farts and frolics as Pig faces danger (and chickens) in order to save the day.

A Poster from Pig’s Website!

A Book With Style

With cracking characters, surprising plot turns and fab illustrations, The Big, Fat, Totally Bonkers Diary of Pig is certainly a book with style. Open it up and you’ll see something different with each turn of the page. Fonts are easy to access and change for each character, which makes for exciting reading. Emer Stamp understands what kids want from a funny book and delivers it impeccably; every teacher looking to inspire reading for pleasure should have a set of her books in their classroom. Also, do check out Emer Stamp’s Pig website- it is ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT: there are so many great resources and things to explore. Here it is.

Children across the middle grade age range will love Pig not only for his adventures, but also for his impressive variety of farts which are described in gratifyingly specific detail. I just hope somewhere out there there’s a primary school teacher who’s prepared to take the leap and make this a class reader alongside the science topic ‘The Digestive System’. That would be just too wonderful.

GIVEAWAY!

The Big, Fat, Totally Bonkers Diary of Pig is an absolute corker of a book and you can win not just this little beauty but the whole series by following the blog tour on Twitter and retweeting my review. Good luck!

Thanks very much to Scholastic UK for sending me this copy of The Big, Fat, Totally Bonkers Diary of Pig and for asking me to be part of the blog tour.


Superbat by Matt Carr

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“Is it a BIRD?

Is it a PLANE?

Er… I think it’s a BAT in a funny little costume!”

Superbat

Pat the bat is having trouble sleeping. Bored of being a normal bat, he wants to be more like the superheroes in his comics. Pat is the kind of bat who has an idea and acts upon it. He gets things done, has a cup of tea and then he does a bit more.

The other bats question that his super powers aren’t actually all that super, being as all bats have them. Although his ears flop a little with sadness, Pat picks himself up, takes his skills and uses them for good! Check out his antics for yourself, enjoy his story and learn more about bats along the way.

A Book with Style

Hands down the most super bat I have encountered in children’s literature with the most super art work; this is a book with style. Some proper colour genius is going on here: we have teal and red and mustard and together they are magnificent. A book that provides not only excellent design but also offers new colourway combinations for the wardrobe as we sashay into spring. What could possibly be better?

Just this: the best aspect of Superbat for me is the message it sends out to young readers that we can all do extraordinary things. What seems ordinary to a bat is extraordinary to us and what we take as normal can provide us with the means to do achieve wonderful outcomes. We can all be amazing with or without the cape. Preferably with though.

We could learn a lot from Pat the Bat. We too can be heroes.

Superbat is full-on, important, technicolour joy.

 

Thanks Scholastic for sending me this lovely book!

 

 


Let’s Find Fred by Steven Lenton

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“Can anyone help me find Fred? He’s a panda and it’s past his bedtime!”

Let’s Find Fred!

Fred is a panda with big plans. Instead of going to bed, he decides he would rather have an adventure. As Stanley the zookeeper scoots through the town on Fred’s trail, we visit a range of colourful and exciting locations in search of him. And you know what, it’s surprisingly easy to lose a panda in a busy city, so keep your eyes peeled!

You will adore this brand new Scholastic picture book by Steven Lenton, from the front cover (complete with moving Fred eyes) to the very last lovely page. Let’s Find Fred is ideal for new readers as well as those who are just learning. The narrative nature of the pictures means children will be able to read most of the story without actually reading it, so it’s an excellent way of encouraging book talk.

Whistler’s Panda

Children will have fun spotting Fred on his adventures, including at:

  • The beautiful brightly coloured market- look out for a fine array of dogs.
  • The park. Shh, don’t wake up the old feller asleep on the deckchair…
  • The rather marvellous pand-a-maze with pandas a go-go!

And my Let’s Find Fred favourite, the art gallery with cleverly ‘pandafied’ works of art. Watch out for The Panda with the Pearl Earring and Whistler’s Panda. In fact, you’ll find nice little cultural references throughout the book as you read.

Well Worth Tracking Down

The story itself is wonderfully creative with text interspersed amongst the illustrations. It’s a book that children can be interactive with and because of the huge amount of detail included, they will find new aspects to Let’s Find Fred with every open.

For a really fun and supportive read that children will rediscover again and again, Let’s Find Fred is well worth tracking down!

 

Thank you to Scholastic for sending me this lovely book and inviting me to be art of the blog tour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Princess Primrose by Alex T Smith

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“‘Something must be done about Primrose,’ sighed the Queen one day. ‘She simply can’t carry on like this. She is a princess after all and she must learn to behave like one.'”

Fellow ex-Bablake alum and kids’ lit genius Alex T Smith has cheered up my day no end. The reason: a new edition of picture book Princess Primrose for 2017. Hurrah from me on behalf of all young readers everywhere!

Princess Primrose

Poor Princess Primrose finds life in the royal household rather boring. That’s no surprise: she’s always being told how a princess should behave and funnily enough its always the opposite of how she is behaving…

Being a princess means

  • No climbing trees
  • No dressing up as a monkey
  • No digging up muddy vegetables

amongst other things.

I can sense your outrage. It’s not right is it?

The adults of the royal household and young Princess Primrose reach a sort of impasse. This is a shame as I can see from their marvellous pink castle that they weren’t always strangers to fun.

There’s only one thing for it: HRH Grandmamma is called. She’s one heck of a woman, with the wisdom of her years and an understanding of the important things in life. You will love her. If you are a grandparent, I strongly suggest immediately gifting this book to the little tearaways in your life; you are well represented here.

The illustrations sing from the page and will bring a big smile to your face. On first glance, it’s the colour and the changing composition that draws the readers’ attention, but it’s the detail within that makes Princess Primrose all the more special. Each member of the cast of characters has their own perceivable personality. I particularly like the butler who has a striped tail coat and a withering look.

A fantastic book that’s full of fun, life and occasional interesting background topiary. More than brilliant.

 

Thank you to Scholastic for sending me this edition.

 

 

 

 


The Unicorns of Blossom Wood by Catherine Coe

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Best Friends & Storms and Rainbows

unicorns-3-4-done

Previously in The Unicorns of Blossom Wood…

Having reviewed The first two Unicorns of Blossom Wood books last year and been delighted with the response they received from my class, I’m really pleased to see two new titles have been added to the collection. I’ve found children to adore these illustrated stories, and I’m happy to say both boys and girls and of all primary ages. I teach in Year Six and the first two books were a big success with my class- more on this later.

As with Books One and Two, Catherine Coe continues to tell the story of three cousins holidaying together. It’s rare for Cora, Lei and Isabelle to spend time as a family as they are from different parts of the world.

To recap the story so far: the adventures really start when one day the cousins find some hoof prints in a cove near their campsite. When they step into them, they are instantly transported to a magical land called Blossom Wood where they transform into unicorns.

You can read my reviews of the first two books here to find out more about these adventures.

Storms and Rainbows

In Book Three, the girls are all feeling a bit frustrated. It’s been a whole week since their last Blossom Wood visit and also Lei’s upset because unlike her cousins she doesn’t know what her unicorn magic is yet. She decides to take matters into her own hands and visit Blossom Wood alone to try to find out, but it seems her magic is even more powerful than she ever imagined…

It’s soon up to Lei and the other girls to save the Blossom Wood animals from imminent disaster!

Best Friends

All good things must come to an end and sadly it’s the last night of the holiday. Just as the girls think they may never visit Blossom Wood again, an opportunity arises and they get their final chance to return! Once there, they’re excited to find that Loulou the squirrel (fabulous name for a squirrel isn’t it?) is organising a talent show. Lei, Cora and Isabelle are the first to help her sort out everything and even plan a sleepover in the magical wood. But not all is well and the cousins discover something is making Loulou really sad. Can their unicorn magic save the day one more time?

As with the rest of the series there are always a variety of quizzes and activities at the back of the book, plus introductions to other books.

Special Powers

Best Friends and Storms & Rainbows are full of fun and adventure, magic and warmth. They bring a smile to my face, as all of the books have. I can’t begin to tell you how much of a success the series has been in my classroom. Most of the children have read them and many have had them back to re-read. I’ve had pupils spending free time reading them in preference to playing games with their friends. They’ve been inspired to draw pictures of the characters both at home and at school. This unicorn magic is clearly rubbing off!

I’ve been so chuffed with how much the children have loved the books and in particular two girls who were previously thought of as reluctant readers. The Unicorns of Blossom Wood helped them to discover the kind of books they enjoy; before they read them they were very unsure and struggled to settle with a text at all. Today I worked with those girls and was pleased to see that they were both reading stories of a similar genre and very happily involved in them. I know they’ll be delighted when I take these two new titles in tomorrow.

The Unicorns of Blossom Wood magically turn children into readers- now that’s what I call a special power!

 

Thanks to Scholastic for sending me these copies.

 


Dear Dinosaur by Chae Strathie & Nicola O’Byrne

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dear-dinosaur-done

Dear Dinosaur

Dear Dinosaur, written by Chae Strathie and illustrated by Nicola O’Byrne, is an adorable new picture book for 2017 from Scholastic.

When Max visits a big museum a long way from home, he is really taken by the dinosaurs- especially the Tyrannosaurus Rex. He has so many question but the museum’s about to shut so Dinosaur Dora who works there suggests he writes to the T.Rex instead. So begins a sweet and funny story, full of fun facts and accompanied with attached real letters, cards and postcards for children to open along the way! It’s a beautiful book with artwork and story complimenting each other really well. Dear Dinosaur is a genuine all round crowd pleaser, therefore I’d strongly recommend it as a shared text in schools for younger children as well as a great addition to your child’s home library.

What’s Not to Like?

The interactive element of opening the various attachments is a brilliant way of engaging young children in books: it’s varied, it’s lots of fun and exactly the sort of introduction to the world of reading you’d want for the kids in your life. For extra classroom value, follow this link to a very useful teaching resource. Scholastic Story Stars have created pages and pages of brilliant resources to go with the book. I’m a teacher and know how much this will be appreciated by colleagues everywhere. A fab new book with classroom ready activities spanning the whole curriculum- what’s not to like?

Fiercely Fantastic

Why do I like it so much? When I was very young, my favourite picture books were just like Dear Dinosaur: full of surprising extra details that made me happy and want to re-read them again and again. When you’re a child, books like this feel like they were written especially for you. It was lovely to have this feeling again and I really didn’t want the story to end.

Dear Dinosaur is a fantastic introduction to the joy of reading for kids and a big dollop of gorgeousness for the adults that share it. Bound to be a roaring success!


The Unicorns of Blossom Wood by Catherine Coe

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unicorns blossom

The Unicorns of Blossom Wood are here to add a little sparkle to children’s bookshelves this autumn. Catherine Coe has added three new titles to her Blossom Wood series, including Festival Time and Believe in Magic. These books follow the scenario of  The Owls of Blossom Wood where the children are transformed into owls, but this time we’re galloping rather than flying!

With a whole lot of imagination packed in to less than 100 pages, children will be transfixed by the adventures of cousins Cora, Isabelle and Lei. The girls are brought together for a camping holiday in England and upon exploring the area they find an entrance to a magical world where they become unicorns and many wonderful things happen.

All three girls come from different backgrounds and the author quickly establishes individual personalities for them. As they explore Blossom Wood, they find are they all different there too and have their own magical gifts. Essentially for young imagineers, both books begin based in reality and with peers. This allows plenty of scope for children to kick off their own unicorn adventures together, wherever they are.

For kids aged six years plus who enjoy playing make-believe, these books are great value for money. Each contains an illustrated story (around 80 pages) plus a range of extra activities such as quizzes, maps, games and fact files, making it a really fun and accessible choice for newer readers.

The variety of activities in the books also brings opportunities here for children to read socially. They can easily share the fun with friends or siblings. This is always a special thing, as reading is so often seen as an activity that must always be solitary and silent, which not all children are naturally comfortable with. The Unicorns of Blossom Wood give their young readers a choice of how to read and I love that.

The Unicorns of Blossom Wood are an enchanting series to inspire young readers.

 

Big thanks to Scholastic for sending me these lovely books.

 


The Bad Guys by Aaron Blabey

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bad guys done

” Good deeds.

Whether you like it or not.”

We Can be Heroes

The Bad Guys by Aaron Blabey, suitable for children of seven years plus, is just the thing to get your reluctant readers reading. Cool, cheeky and packed full of funny, the antics of Misters Wolf, Shark, Piranha and Snake will particularly appeal to kids who need a bit of help in finding reading fun.

Everyone knows you don’t mess with these animals; they’re the bad guys, more likely to gobble you up than lend a helping hand… until now. With Mr Wolf’s encouragement, they set about to change their reputations, to be heroes doing good deeds with hilarious results. Prepare yourselves for fast cars, fart jokes and Mr Shark dressed in a frock as the bad guys learn how to be good.

Shelf Awareness

There’s plenty going on here to keep even the most easily distracted reader entertained: varied written content combined with big, bold illustrations give a comic book feel, and a variety of size and style in fonts keeps things fresh. Then there’s the four main characters who will have even the grumpiest grown up chuckling (especially Mr Piranha, who I loved).

The Bad Guys would be a fabulous addition to any classroom or children’s library. It’s a book that’ll work hard for its shelf space, although I suspect it won’t stay on the shelf for long. With more episodes to follow, it’s likely this series will become a favourite with both the kids they’re aimed at and the adults who are keen to promote reading for pleasure. This makes it pretty heroic, in my opinion.

Kick-Starting Reading for Pleasure

Kids are great and in my experience they will try an awful lot of books before they give up on being readers. We have a long window of opportunity in primary school in which to provide books that will children will enjoy and once they find them, they even help us out by sharing them with their friends. All that the school needs to do is give its pupils the right books and the time to allow this process to happen.

From my point of view, it’s important to understand that unlocking the reader within doesn’t mean that every child should become voracious bookworms, but rather that they are armed with the knowledge of genre preference and feel confident in choosing books for themselves. These kids might not read constantly, but they will see reading as a something enjoyable they could choose to do, and honestly, we need books like The Bad Guys to kick-start this process and spread the joy.

 

Big thanks to Scholastic for sending me this copy of The Bad Guys by Aaron Blabey.


Reading for Pleasure: 11 Point Plan to Get Kids Reading!

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My 11 Point Plan To Get Kids Reading for Pleasure Has Landed…

Reading for pleasure is everything. Let’s spread the word and share the joy!

1. Remove Boundaries

First stop, talk to the kids- what kind of reading do they enjoy? Find out, listen, use or adapt this questionnaire from the National Literacy Trust and give it to your class. What does it tell you? Every class is different of course. Encourage all kinds of reading- comics, instruction manuals, whatever floats your boat. Keep a suggestions box in plain site so the children can recommend new book purchases; even better, take the children to the book shop to choose their new school books. Don’t make reading for pleasure a chore. Instead, observe the wisdom of Daniel Pennac, who wrote The Rights of The Reader and follow the instructions of his brilliant poster, illustrated by Quentin Blake. Quite the simplest and most effective explanation of creating happy readers that I’ve seen. Here’s a little version:

daniel pennac

2. Adults Get Reading

Get some reading for pleasure recommendations. There are plenty on my site, and I’d also recommend the excellent www.lovereading4kids.co.uk. Invest in the right class readers for your current cohort. Make it your business to read like billy-o. Teachers and parents need to read for pleasure too and children’s books are a source of constant delight for everyone. Find out what books parents liked when they were at school and use the information to create a lovely big display. Offer parents a space in school to develop their own book group. Provide a good example.

3. Flaunt It

Look to the reading for pleasure Experts. Go to your local library book shop and see how they present and display their books. How are they promoting them to create sales? What makes you want to borrow or buy? Look out for prominent displays, short punchy recommendations and think about how this could work in your school. Reading spaces matter. Does your book corner look exciting, welcoming and well-cared for? Does it have to be constrained to just a corner? Display all sorts of books: shiny new fiction ones, picture books, ones bursting with facts and figures, giant old mysterious books that look like they’ve been plucked from the Hogwarts restricted section. Books are beautiful for many reasons, so keep your eyes open for inspiration everywhere.

4. Tell Stories

Read to your class every day and complete at least one book a term. Run story telling clubs at lunchtime or after school. Tell parents about www.readaloud.org, a non-profit organisation that is ‘working to make reading aloud for fifteen minutes every day  a new standard in childcare’. Here’s their poster:

read aloud

Share stories with your colleagues. Make time in staff meetings to regularly share reading for pleasure gems: books, book news, sites of interest, events, competitions and soon you’ll have a whole school bank of knowledge to feed into your classrooms.

5. Make it Competitive

How many insects did James join in the giant peach? What district did Rue come from?  What gives Mr Strong his strength? Everyone loves a quiz. Get some teams together, including teachers and parents and have some fun. And make sure there are amazing bookish prizes too, of course- as well as chocolate. Remember, there must always be chocolate.

6. Promote Poetry

Entertaining, thought-provoking and creative, you should be making poetry a part of every day. Poetry is awesome. Every child can find pleasure in finishing a poem. Michael Rosen is the ultimate poet of glory. I won’t even consider visiting a school without taking my memory stick loaded with Rosen performing his poems. Pure joy. He is the absolute expert here. I recommend you check out his video tips on creating a poetry friendly classroom.

7. Inspire

Choice and motivation. Take care to recommend the right books to read for pleasure, especially for children who have just come off a prescriptive reading scheme, or those who don’t know which books to choose. Create a classroom reading box with a variety of easily accessible books that you have already read as a supportive way to encourage confidence when choosing a book. Make sure every child has a reading buddy in another year and ensure they spend time with them weekly. Cool your boots and  give children time to choose books. Tell your class about Faith, whose mum tweets  her reading habits as @272Book Faith. Faith reads a book a day and has more than 2500 twitter followers. Something of an inspiration, she donated all her finished books to her old primary school when she left too.

8. Bring Me the Funny!

Last week Scholastic revealed their new book award: The Lollies, or The Laugh Out Loud Awards to celebrate the best in funny books for children. Clever move. Funny books are unbelievably powerful: they blow a giant raspberry at the misconception that reading is silent and serious, and aim a well-placed kick up the backside of boring comprehension activities. Check out my list of funny books, or pop into your local bookshop and go for the one with the silliest cover.

9. Celebrate & Saturate

Make the most of book fairs and go to town on book weeks. Really go to town! Get authors and illustrators in, create your own sculpture trail based on favourite books, adapt a book into a film or a drama and invite people to watch, do something with your local library, ask the kids what they want to do! Celebrate reading success and books with parents- make it a part of every week. Saturate your curriculum. Source relevant books, not just for your english lessons but also for science, art, PE, everything. Get them up in the classroom, show them off, change them often. Invest in guided reading. Reading needs to be more than a bolt on, you get out what you put in. One after-school book club is nice, but for the best results you need to create a culture of reading throughout the school.

10. Be Generous

Allow the children to take the books home. All the books. If you haven’t got a library or a librarian, create your own lending system or make a note of loans but the key is to make it easy for the kids to borrow the books. What’s the worst that could happen? The books aren’t returned, right? Look at it this way: if the kids are stealing the books, you must be doing something right.

11. Keep Up To Date!

There has never been a more exciting time to read children’s books! The quality and quantity of amazing authors releasing new material is out of this world. http://booksforkeeps.co.uk/ have been independently writing about children’s books since 1980 and you should add them to your favourites. Also, twitter is a brilliant place to get the latest news and connect with authors. Plus, I’m spending as much time as possible doing this for you, so keep checking out www.booksagogo.co.uk too!