Toppsta - Childrens Books – Reviews

Book Lover Jo

2 children aged 12 & 9.
Joined May 2015

Favourite book EVER is Northern Lights
  1. #80 of 3073 reviewers for 9 year olds
  2. #302 of 5155 reviewers for 4 year olds
  3. #269 of 3952 reviewers for 5 year olds
  4. #145 of 3943 reviewers for 6 year olds
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Year R/1, 2 books
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Caroline Clary
Caroline Clary 21 reviews
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Wrote a Review 19th September '18

Book pages The Boy At the Back of the Class
The Boy At the Back of the Class
I read it (an adult)
Sometimes a book strikes a chord in your heart and leaves a lasting impression on your thoughts, its a rare thing but Onjali’s beautiful debut, ‘The Boy at the Back of the Class’ has done just that. There used to be an empty chair at the back of the class but one day it’s filled by a new boy called Ahmet who seems very strange. He doesn’t want to talk to the rest of the children, he spends his breaks in seclusion with the adults and he seems lost and all alone. But they soon discover that Ahmet isn’t strange, he’s a refugee who has fled to London from a terrible war where bullies have dropped bombs on his friends and families. The more they discover about Ahmet the more they want to help him and together they come up with a grand plan to beat all other plans to try and restore happiness in Ahmet’s life.
For me the thing that stands out most about this book is that it is told purely through the eyes of young children, it brings a simpler perspective to the complexities of the Refugee crisis. If people are in trouble we hold open our hands and hearts and welcome them to our country, we do whatever we can to stop them hurting. They hold none of the prejudices of grown ups and don’t see the supposed barriers that stand in the way of us helping those in need. Interestingly the narrator is anonymous we don’t know their name and gender while we find out all about Ahmet’s life throughout the story. I thought this provided a thoughtful contrast to the images that we are bombarded with by the media of refugees trying to escape from war and persecution. We’re never told their names, they’re just a mass of people not individuals. It took an incredibly heart-breaking image of a young boy Alan Kurdi washed up on beach to make people realise that refugees are individuals who are innocent and terrified and will go to extreme lengths to escape their plight.
Unlike many stories featuring refugees I felt that this story was definitely suitable for younger readers from 8 years old. Although it contains some devastating revelations they are presented in such a way that younger children can understand and process this information. Pippa captures these terrible experiences thoughtfully and sensitively, clearly showing these through Ahmet’s eyes. The narrator is grieving after the death of their father, they know what it is to feel incredible pain and loss and they recognise something in Ahmet which makes them want to be friends. There are so many poignant moments in this story that really resonated with me, my favourite is when despite having very little money of their own the narrator sets out with his Mum on an adventure to find an exotic fruit to remind Ahmet of his own. Cleverly it has a parallel thread running through where the school bully is making Ahmet a target because he is different, this illustrates to children that war on so many levels is a battle between the powerful and the weak.  Friendship, loyalty and empathy are at the heart of this story and I defy you to read it without weeping. Thought-provoking and powerful this has to be one of my stand out reads of the year, I can’t recommend it enough.

Wrote a Review 15th September '18

Book pages I Am the Seed That Grew the Tree - A Nature Poem for Every Day of the Year: National Trust
I Am the Seed That Grew the Tree - A Nature Poem for Every Day of the Year: National Trust
I read it (an adult)
Nosy Crow Books have put their heart and soul into creating an extraordinary collection of nature poems for every day of the year, carefully selected by Fiona Waters and stunningly illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon. The lavish production of this collection makes this book totally irresistible and extremely covetable. Each of the spreads are sumptuously illustrated with the most lavish, rich images from nature reflecting perfectly the changes of the seasons and the beauty and majesty of nature. Whilst all of the poems that have been chosen seamlessly fit into the days,  capturing all the different elements and aspects that we see evolving. There is a really interesting eclectic mix of poems from traditional favourites like Walter De La Mare, Emily Bronte and Christina Rossetti to newer discoveries Carol Ann Duffy and Benjamin Zephaniah. It’s a perfect book for dipping in and out of to just savour the joy of the poems, or if you’re looking for inspiration to spark creativity for art or writing. I can’t think of anything more delightful than to share this book with children at home or school and appreciate the glory of the animals, plants, trees, weather and seasons that are such an intrinsic part of our lives.

Won a Giveaway 11th September '18

Entered a Giveaway 11th August '18

Book pages Placeholder Book
Head Kid
For Ages
8, 9, 10, 11 & 12
No. of Copies
End Date
11th Sep '18
Open to residents of Republic of Ireland & United Kingdom

Wrote a Review 9th September '18

Book pages The Boy Who Lived with Dragons
The Boy Who Lived with Dragons
I read it (an adult)
I was totally enchanted by Andy Shepherd’s debut, ‘The Boy Who Grew Dragons,’ illustrated by Sara Ogilvie, so was delighted that the next book in the series, ‘The Boy Who Lived With Dragons,’ has arrived hot on its heels. When Tomas finds a mysterious tree at the bottom of his grandpa’s garden with strange fruit nestled between orange and red fiery tendrils little does he know that a dragon is hiding inside just waiting to hatch. Hilarity and chaos ensue as Tomas tries to keep his new pet a secret but when his friends discover exactly what he’s been up to they want a slice of the excitement. But the reality of actually living with dragons is about to get less magical and a bit more complicated. There are some strange things occurring which Tomas and his friends are determined to get to the bottom of! Extraordinary sized fruit, unexplained shed explosions and a very smug looking and distracted local bully Liam. Nobody could possibly have predicted the trouble that Tomas’s discovery of the dragon fruit tree is about to cause.
Andy has created an equally charming and heart-warming sequel filled with humour and mayhem. We see Tomas torn between wanting to keep his dragon a secret and letting down his grandfather as he weaves a web of lies to protect Flicker. It’s a real testament to the relationship he has with his grandfather that he faces this internal struggle at having to tell lie after lie, it really doesn’t sit comfortably. I love the relationship between Tomas, his friends and their dragons each with their own distinct personalities and interesting challenges. They are completely disillusioned that they have everything under control but in reality that’s so far removed from the truth.
Sara Ogilvie’s sublime illustrations bring this story to life capturing perfectly the carnage and excitement Tomas and his friends experience as their dragons are released into the wild. They sprinkle a layer of wonder and humour over the story making this a truly joyful read. With slightly more peril than its predecessor, life is definitely a little bit more dangerous and a lot more thrilling for Tomas, but this elation is short lived and inevitably becomes tinged with sadness. Bubbling with  hilarity, magic and mayhem you can’t help but be charmed by this delightful story.