4-7 books, 7-11 books, Brilliant Books, Young Adult books

WEEKLY ‘WHAT’S ON THE SHELF?’: THE STORY OF LIFE EVOLUTION Illustrated by Katie Scott and Written by Fiona Munro and Ruth Symons

‘Welcome to The Story of Life….’


This quite possibly has to be one of the most beautiful books on our  book shelf. Part of the ‘Welcome to the Museum’ series by Big Pictures Press. Big Picture Press books describe themselves as ‘objects to be pored over and then returned to, again and again…created and made for the incurably curious’. My daughter is certainly one of those people! Full of questions about life on Earth and with an already encyclopedic knowledge of animals and creatures, she asked Father Christmas for this book and he delivered!

‘The Story of Life Evolution is a non-fiction book which tells the story of life. Spanning algae to Archaeopteryx, the first mammals to the first men. We have both enjoyed sharing the book together, reading it chronologically, sharing known facts and discovering new ones. The book itself reminded us both of a wall panel at The Eden Project which we were lucky enough to have visited last summer. This told us the story of evolution from the very beginning of time, not just from ‘The Dinosaurs’ which can be a common misconception of children of all ages. Dinosaur fans however, will not be disppointed as they take their place in the book in vivid detail. The Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods are all represented plus a double page spread on the terrifying Tyrannosaurus Rex!

I love that the book is presented as being ‘Curated by Katie Scott’ (the illustrator), and the first chapter is entitled ‘Entrance’, giving the reader the feel of entering a real life museum. Each ‘life phase’ then becomes a new ‘gallery’, an inventive and inspired theme which draws the reader further into the ‘museum’.

The illustrations by the amazingly talented Katie Scott are simply stunning, full of minute detail to be studied time and time again and give a real feel of museum artefacts waiting to be explored. Each page of illustrations also comes with a simple key, a great opportunity for children to read and explore different text types.

This truely is a book for ALL ages. My two year old son enjoys the illustrations of the plants, butterflies and dinosaurs as much as my eldest. The facts and descriptions are complex enough for adults yet also understandable for youngsters. New observations can be made with return readings, this certainly is a book for life!


4-7 books, 7-11 books, Brilliant Books


‘What silently waits in the shadows at night? What’s under your bed, keeping just out of sight?…What makes all the creaks, cracks and clangs in your house?…’


So, it turns out that Tom Fletcher is not just a pretty face! This book is genius! I have to be honest, I bought this book not long after starting this blog, after being swayed by all the hype around its release. But we were not disappointed. I was a bit dubious that this might be a bit too ‘old’ and subsequently too scary for my six year old but I thought we’d give it a go and perhaps miss out the scary parts if need be – but why would you want to?!! It has just the right balance of scariness and humour and oh my goodness does Tom Fletcher have writing for children down to a ‘T’! ‘T’ for Terrific!

Children’s fiction is crying out for strong female heroines and in this story, the second of Tom Fletcher’s solo novels, we are presented with Lucy Dungston. She awakes one morning to discover that not only are her parents missing but ALL the grown-ups in the town where she lives. While the rest of the children in Whiffington relish in their independence and get up to all the things you would expect children to get up to if their parents vanish, Lucy along with a couple of unlikely sidekicks try to find out what is going on. Enter – ‘The Creakers’, four mysterious creatures who are discovered creeping around the bedroom. What follows is every child’s nightmare as the ‘things’ that lurk under the bed become a reality.

Tom Fletcher creates a magical ‘underground’ world in which these creatures thrive. When the two worlds collide, all sorts of calamity and horrors present themselves. There are hugely scary moments, laugh out loud funny bits and perfectly poignant parts. Tom Fletcher’s voice is prominent throughout and we loved the play on words and helpful warnings from the author when things might start to get a little creepy!

The book also has a strong (but no so much that it’s in your face) environmental message about rubbish, litter and what we do with it. This is presented very cleverly and prompts thinking in both adults and children alike.

Neither of us wanted to put this book down (and I have to admit that I sneakily read ahead more than a couple of times!). On more than one occasion, my daughter woke me up, the book clutched in her hand, begging me to read ‘just one more chapter’ before the day had started!

This is Tom Fletcher’s second solo novel, the first being ‘The Christmasaurus’ which is also pretty amazing (so amazing in fact that plans are in the pipeline to turn it into a feature length film).

Thank you Tom Fletcher for a brilliant read! We absolutely can not wait to read what you come up with next.

4-7 books, 7-11 books, Brilliant Books

WEEKLY ‘WHAT’S ON THE SHELF?’ Snowball the Baby Bigfoot by Ruth Symes Illustrated by Tina Macnaughton

Happy New Year! So…. it’s been a little while since the last post. We have had a busy but brilliant Christmas  holiday. However, I can assure you that even more reading than ever has been going on and I have lots of fantabulous books to share with you, as well as lots of other book related posts brewing in the pipeline! The first is ‘Snowball the Baby Bigfoot’ – the third book in ‘The Secret Animal Society’ by Ruth Symes.

The series so far consists of:

Cornflake the Baby Dragon

Spike the Sea Serpent

Snowball the Baby Bigfoot

The premise of the series revolves around a brother and sister who bring home one of the school’s forgotten pets to look after for the holidays…. and before they know it their lives change forever!

Without giving too much away, the third book in the series continues with their encounters with mythical creatures and fans of the original will be delighted to know that ‘Cornflake’ makes an appearance too!

There is a magical Christmas/Winter theme to this book too and it would make a great alternative to the traditional Christmas story.

We found this series in our local library and my daughter, who adores all things dragon was intrigued by the title of the first book. We were not disappointed – surely it would be any animal lovers dream to discover and raise a baby dragon?!

This is a chapter book aimed at young readers, I would suggest from Reception age up to lower KS2 and depending on reading capabilities, could be read aloud or read independently. The chapters are a ‘good’ length so don’t allow younger readers to get bored but they absolutely still create that important element of suspense to keep them wanting more.

We loved the note from the author at the start and couldn’t resist having a go at the suggested recipe – yum! A great baking experience, even for very little hands and they tasted delicious too! At my daughter’s request we even saved a cake and left it on the window sill because “Cornflake must love Cornflake cakes’. She left a note and of course he visited and left a note back!


You can find out more about Ruth Symes and her books at www.ruthsymes.com

4-7 books, 7-11 books, Brilliant Books

WEEKLY ‘WHAT’S ON THE SHELF?’ The Hodgeheg by Dick King Smith


‘The story of Max, the hedgehog who becomes a HODGEHEG and becomes a hero!’

So, this week I’ve pulled another favourite from my daughter’s shelf. I remember reading this as a child and was then re-introduced to it whilst teaching Year 2 – encouraging the sustained reading of a chapter book.

This is an endearing tale of a hedgehog called Max and his family, who dream of one day reaching their local park. However, nobody has found a safe way of crossing the very busy road. Little Max is determined to find a way! The story follows his problem-solving journey with elements of humour and tragedy along the way. The hedgehog characters are simply lovely. As always in his classic animal stories, Dick King-Smith truly brings the animal characters alive so as readers, we are clearly invested in their trials and tribulations.

This book lends itself to some great discussion points – ‘road safety’ and the protection of hedgehogs to name just a few. I also love that the book was first published in 1987 and therefore provides a little insight into ‘the past’! with references to milk floats and ‘telephone booths’. These created some very interesting discussions with my daughter!

This is a great introduction to chapter books for young children and is a great length to be read aloud without either person getting bored! My daughter was of pre-school age when we first read this together and she couldn’t wait to move onto the next chapter after each reading session. It also made her curious about other books by Dick King-Smith and as a result, we have since added other of his books to our collection. Older, more confident readers, would enjoy this for themselves and it is definitely a book for both boys and girls.

‘A charming classic from an all-time favourite author’.