Year: 2022

Fabulous Festive Reads and The Winter Reading Challenge

The Christmas holidays are almost upon us, and the Winter Reading Challenge is now running until 20th February next year. Taking part is easy, children simply need to read three or more books. These can be any books of their choice, and there are lots of titles to choose from at your local library to get started. Every time they finish a book, they add it to their Challenge website profile and leave a short book review. Reaching their online reading goal will unlock a limited-edition virtual badge and a special Winter Mini Challenge certificate to print off and keep!
Each time a book is added to the child’s online profile, they will earn a fun digital reward! There will be a whole host of other fun activities, book recommendations, and games from the best children’s authors and illustrators featured on the website. For parents, there is a Home Zone and Library Zone on the reading challenge website with more information on reading, the Challenges and the website.
You can get started with some fabulously fun, festive reads…

Kid Christmas of the Claus Brothers Toy Shop by David Litchfield is a true festive treat centred on kindnessgenerosity and looking after each other and tells the tale of little Nicky Claus, who wanted to make every child happy, if only just for one day.

Nicky Claus works with his three uncles in the Claus Brothers Toy Emporium. Uncle Hanz makes the toys, Uncle Louis checks them and Uncle Levi adds the… what’s the scientific term for it? Ah, yes. The magic! For each toy made at the Emporium has a special sparkle that means it will find the child it is perfect for. 

One day, Nicky notices a young girl with her face pressed up to the glass. When she disappears, he follows her and finds her living on the streets with lots of other children, none of whom can afford a toy. Nicky vows that for one night only, every child will have the toy of their dreams and – with the help of his uncles and some flying reindeer – the legend of Father Christmas is born.

Tenderly told and lovingly illustrated, The Woodcutter And The Snow Prince by Ian Eagleton, illustrated by Davide Ortu is a stunning story that shimmers with Christmas magic. Love and loneliness lie at the heart of this retelling of two stories, skilfully woven together into a story all of their own.

Every Christmas Eve, a lonely woodcutter named Kai carves statues for anyone who might pass by. But one magical night his loneliness is soothed by a visit from the snow prince. Feared by many, Kai sees hope in the prince’s eyes, but as the prince freezes once more, imprisoned in his ice-palace, can Kai break the curse?

Christmas just wouldn’t be Chirstmas without an Alex T. Smith book in my stocking. The Grumpus hits all the right festive notes in this stunningly illustrated story featuring a very grumpy character indeed. Inspired by The Krampus and with a hint of The Grinch, The Grumpus is a heartwarming story that celebrates the true meaning of Christmas, accompanied by irresistible colour artwork to make it the perfect story for all the family to enjoy together.

Do you know about The Grumpus? And his Dastardly, Dreadful Christmas Plan? And about the Awful Thing that happened at the North Pole on Christmas Eve? Perhaps I should tell you about it . . .

The Christmas Carrolls: The Christmas Competition by Mel Taylor-Bessent is just as much fun as our first visit to this Christmas-crazy family – and this time, they have an ice-skating baby penguin!

There’s a new family in town determined to steal the Carrolls’ tinselly crown. Can Holly and her family win the Christmas Chronicle’s competition for the Most Festive Family? Or will they discover that there is more to life than perfect Christmas decorations, a personal toboggan run, and more pressies than you can shake a candy cane at?

Operation Nativity by Jenny Pearson is at laugh-out-loud race to fix a feuding family’s festivities, and Christmas for everyone! Hope, heart and humour are combined with hilarious antics to create a story worthy of the screen.

When Oscar and Molly rush outside to investigate a crash in the night, they’re not expecting to find a dazed Angel Gabriel wandering around their grandparents’ back garden. And they’re certainly not expecting to find themselves in a race to save Christmas.

But if they don’t track down a missing shepherd, wise man, donkey and the actual Mary and Joseph, who’ve all crash-landed in Chipping Bottom, not only will Christmas cease to exist, but they will too. Operation Nativity is on.

Wishing you all a peaceful Christmas holiday filled with lots of happy reading!

Dol-y-Moch – Day 2

What a fantastic day! The children made some wonderful memories today. They walked up to and spent time in an old Welsh slate mine.

A few more favourites from 2022

This week, I’ve chosen four more of my favourite books published this year.

Too Many Pigs And One Big Bad Wolf by Davide Cali and Marianna Balducci is a brilliantly funny, imaginative retelling of this well known tale.

Once upon a time, there were three little pigs. Then the wolf ate them. THE END.

In this clever counting book, the big bad wolf doesn’t want to tell a long story. He wants to get to the eating part. But the narrator has other ideas. From a pig soccer team to a pig for every letter of the alphabet to 101 pigs in an animated movie, the stories get more and more fantastical… but they’re always too short and they ALL end the same way. Using an abacus as the basis for her illustrations, Marianna creates beguiling little pigs and a menacing but slightly bored wolf that perfectly complement the inventive story by Davide Cali. Come for the counting, stay for the storytelling. This book has it all.

I love a twisted fairytale, and Endlessly Ever After by Laurel Snyder and Dan Santat provides more twists than most. It is a visually stunning choose your own adventure picture book to enjoy over and over again to make endless different stories featuring fairytale favourites Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel, Gretel, Snow White and many more…

Grab your basket and your coat. Put on some walking shoes. Turn the page and begin: Which story will you choose? Award-winning creators Laurel Snyder and Dan Santat transform a crowd of classic tales into an ever-changing, fascinating, laugh-out-loud, choose-your-path picture book, in which you may find a sleeping maiden, waste away in a sticky licorice cage, discover the gold at the end of a wild goose chase, or maybe (just maybe) save yourself and the day!

For an uplifting, joyous read Seed by Caryl Lewis is packed with heart, hope, & following your dreams in the most fantastical way. You’ll be rooting for Marty, Grandad & Gracie, chuckling along & heading straight out to the potting shed to grow some dreams of your own.

Marty doesn’t have much. Unlike his mum, who has billions of things: newspapers, holey shoes, rusty lawnmowers, broken picture frames – she keeps EVERYTHING! It’s hard to leave the house. Marty does his best to look after her and wonders if anything will ever change.

But on Marty’s birthday, Grandad, with a glint in his eye, gifts Marty a very special seed. Grandad hasn’t been this excited since he invented the bum scratcher 2000 or thought he’d brewed wonder fuel from rhubarb leaves! The seed grows bigger and bigger, and launches Grandad, Marty and his best friend Gracie on an impossible, wondrous plan fuelled by love, hopes and dreams.

Like A Charm by Elle McNicoll is a stunning magical fantasy from one of my favourite authors set in the beautiful city of Edinburgh. Mystery and magic are combined with a main character whose heart is as big as the threat to the human race.  And with the sequel, Like A Curse coming in February, it’s the perfect time to dive into this series.

Edinburgh is a city filled with magical creatures. No one can see them… except Ramya Knox.

As she is pulled into her family’s world of secrets and spells, Ramya sets out to discover the truth about the Hidden Folk with only three words of warning from her grandfather: Beware the Sirens.

Plunged into an adventure that will change everything, Ramya is about to learn that there is more to her powers than she ever imagined.

Happy reading!


A few favourites from 2022

There have been so many amazing books published this year that I haven’t been able to share because they didn’t fit with any of the weekly themes, so I’m taking the chance to share a few of them over the next two weeks as the year comes to a close.

First up, Gotcha! by Clotilde Perrin is an exquisite fairy tale lift-the-flaps hide-and-seek book from the international bestselling author of Inside the Villains.

“Quick, hide!” Chased by monsters – a hairball, a stinkwart and a creeper – each hairier and stinkier than the one before, a child needs to find shelter in three famous fairytale houses. The Three Little Pigs’ brick home, Sleeping Beauty’s palace and Hansel and Gretel’s gingerbread mansion. Lift the flaps big and small to discover curious places for the child’s best chance to hide. Knock on the door of the Little Pigs’ bathroom, open up Hansel and Gretel’s oven (if you dare!) or see who’s already inside Sleeping Beauty’s stopped clock. The hero of our story has read their story books and knows how to vanquish villains, causing the monsters to flee. This intricately produced large fold-out book is like no other: a celebration of fairy tales and child empowerment that’s full of humor and detail on every page. Over 40 interactive elements to mesmerize children and adults alike.

The Boy Who Grew A Tree by Polly Ho-Yen, illustrated by Sojung Kim-McCarthy is a charming story filled with black and white illustrations, perfect for younger readers looking to move on to chapter books.

Nature-loving Timi is unsettled by the arrival of a new sibling and turns to tending a tree growing in his local library. But there is something magical about the tree and it is growing FAST… and the library is going to close. Can Timi save the library and his tree, and maybe bring his community closer together along the way?

Highly imaginative yet easily relatable, children will be able to empathise with Timi, while immersing themselves in the magic that love, care and friendship can create.

Witty, warm, and wonderful, Wished by Lissa Evans is a true celebration of imagination, friendship and making the most of every moment while you can. I genuinely couldn’t love it more, and was left with a life-affirming, warm, snuggly feeling that comes from having enjoyed a fabulous adventure with friends.

Ed and his sister Roo are faced with the most boring half-term holiday in history: five days spent in the company of their elderly neighbour, Miss Filey, and her ancient, smelly cat. But when they find a box of birthday candles in a cupboard in Miss Filey’s house, their world is changed completely. Because these are no ordinary candles and every single one of them comes with a wish. There’s only one problem: some of those wishes actually belong to someone else…

First impressions, and how wrong they can be, are explored deftly within the story. I loved seeing their relationship with Miss Filey develop, and their opinion of who she is as a person change from first impressions of a strange old lady down the road to someone to enjoy adventures with.

It is not often that we see adults learning big life lessons from children, but Lissa does it brilliantly, and I am sure any reader will be assured that life is for living if only we are brave enough to make that leap, summed up beautifully towards the end of the story: “Because next month, or next year, everything could change, and all the things you thought were average and ordinary and forever might suddenly be difficult, and all the things you thought were difficult might suddenly be impossible…”

Tyger by S.F. Said, illustrated by Dave McKean is a breathtaking adventure that enthralls and entrances the reader whilst asking questions of us at the same time.

Adam has found something incredible in a rubbish dump in London. A mysterious, mythical, magical animal. A TYGER. And the tyger is in danger. Adam and his friend Zadie are determined to help, but it isn’t just the tyger’s life at stake. Their whole world is on the verge of destruction. Can they learn to use their powers before it’s too late?

Taking some of the very worst of our history and combining it into a disturbing dystopian world, this is a story that speaks to the soul, with illustrations that are as important to the storytelling as the words. It’s our world as it could have been had the Empire and the Industrial Revolution continued unchecked – the slavery of foreigners, the dismissal of the poor, and unadulterated greed for power and riches from those in a position to take advantage of their world. I loved the glimpse of our modern reality with the red and white lights speeding by!

This is the book we need in order to show children that dreams of a better future have happened and need to keep happening for everyone to be free from hate purely because of the way they look or what they believe.






National Non-Fiction November: STEM

It’s our final week celebrating fascinating non-fiction books, and this week I have chosen books that explore each of the STEM topics: science, technology, engineering and maths.

Science is such a broad term and covers a huge range of different fields. Scientist Academy by Steve Martin shows children the essential skills required to start their own scientific journey with this fun and engaging title.

Packed full of great illustrations, fun facts, and absorbing activities, this book guides young readers through different strands of science: Laboratory, Investigative, Space, Earth, and Life. Practical projects, each carefully designed to introduce skills of the sort required by real-life scientists, help kids pick up the basics in a fun, hands-on way. Create a pendulum, investigate a crime scene, uncover some fossils, and study the solar system. The sky’s the limit!

Technology around phones has changed beyond recognition in my lifetime, and the thought of being able to use one to help build a new app is boggling! Become An APP Inventor by Karen Lang and Selim Tezel is perfect for budding coders.

Design, build and share your own apps with the official guide from MIT App Inventor. Follow simple step-by-step instructions for six different projects using MIT’s free App Inventor website, and you can make a maze game, a translation game and even a personalized chat app! Use what you’ve learned to come up with your own ideas, then download your new apps to a phone or table, and share them with friends!

Along the way, you’ll hear stories of young app inventors from all over the world, who are using MIT App Inventor to create amazing apps that solve real-life problems. Learn, invent and change the world!

Engineering has seen massive changes in the way we design, build and operate a whole host of buildings and machines. We can’t fail to notice how HS2 is changing our local area as the UK’s fastest rail network is built.  Locomotion by Alastair Steele and Ryo Takemasa is a stunningly illustrated tribute to all things train,  celebrating the ingenuity and usability of trains past, present and future.

From early steam engines through to the modern high-speed trains of today, Locomotion is a spectacular look at the history of trains throughout the world, and the wonder and escapism they evoke. Packed full of iconic trains including the famous Flying Scotsman and the grand Orient Express as well as encompassing scenic journeys like the majestic Trans-Siberian railwayLocomotion makes a stunning gift or reference book for train lovers of all ages. Beautiful artwork by the award-winning artist Ryo Takemasa, makes this book one that can be enjoyed over and over again.

And finally, Maths is a staple of everyday life as We Use Maths by Kim Hankinson and Jenny Jacoby shows us.

Reveal the hidden maths all around us! People use maths every single day in their jobs, sometimes without realising! From a football coach studying the stats to a chef making sure everyone’s food is ready at the same time, the jobs and occupations at the heart of this super-creative non-fiction read will inspire all children to seek out the everyday maths in the world around us.

Happy reading!

Spanish Culture

Today, Year 3/4 enjoyed a talk from a Warwick University language student, who has recently been on a year abroad. The children learned a little more about what life is like in Spain, including food, music, geography and culture.