Books to Entertain, Distract, Inform and Delight

Well, I don’t think that was the summer holiday that any of us were expecting. I hope that whatever your break looked like, you found a way to rest and recharge for the new school year. Fortunately, there are always books; books to entertain, distract, inform and delight both us and our students!

This month I’m looking at some fantastic visual texts for younger students, with two wonderful picture books and a brilliant look at the history of our planet.

Kevin Henkes is the master of simple stories told with intelligence and humour, and A House is no different. This beautiful book explores the concept of a house, and how it changes through time, and because of the people who live in it. Using a simple design – both children and adults will instantly recognise what the building is, thus there is no need for a title on the cover – muted colours, and questions, Henke engages the reader in what it is that makes a house. Things change further when people and pets arrive, and the house becomes a home. A lovely book that makes for an engaging read aloud, as well as offering much for children to explore on their own. Classroom activities are available.

Pets bring many of us a lot of joy, but did you know that dogs have secret lives? Did you know that when we leave them at home they raid our closets and put on disguises?! This is the hilarious premise behind Dogs in Disguise from Peter Bentley and John Bond. Bentley’s rhyming couplets are accompanied by Bond’s vivid, colourful illustrations to fantastic effect. Children will adore finding out dogs learn at young age how to dress up, walk on two legs and generally fool humans with their cunning disguises (except for poor Barney who makes the mistake of dressing up as a tree and forgetting to tell the other dogs!). Another excellent book to read aloud and have your classroom or library in stitches.

From the Big Bang through to the emergence of humans, Fold-Out Timeline of Planet Earth is an intriguing look at how the earth as we know it came to be. On one side of this sturdy fold-out are the key events of the 13.8 billion years it has taken for the earth to end up where it is today. On the other is a more detailed look at how life came to be; from exploding stars to the formation of the atmosphere, through to the emergence of single-celled life forms and ultimately to humans, the complex circumstances that enabled us to live on earth are portrayed. This is a superb resource, and will particularly appeal to students who learn well with visual texts.

Book of the Month – The Ashes of London

I don’t know about you, but I continue to find it difficult to concentrate on new books. However, I have found that if I stick to genres and styles I enjoy, I can sneak something new in amongst my comfort re-reads! I am not going to go over my enduring love of crime fiction, but one thing I don’t think I’ve mentioned is my (almost) equal fondness for historical fiction. With these factors in mind, I could not go past The Ashes of London.

Set in London, 1666, the books opens as the Great Fire consumes the city. In the aftermath, a man is found murdered in the ruins of St Paul’s Cathedral. James Marwood, the son of a man considered a traitor since the King’s restoration to the throne, holds a precarious position on the fringes of the government, and is tasked with finding the killer.

Cat Lovett is also the child of a traitor; her father is a fugitive after being condemned to death for committing regicide. She lives with her uncle and faces a future as the wife of a man more interested in her considerable dowry than her deepest desires. One night her world comes crashing down, and she must run for her life.

James and Cat’s lives cross, and eventually each becomes aware of the other. Are they friends or foes? Will they be a hinderance or some help to each other? Can they both come out of this alive? Lots of fun and a great way to escape for an afternoon or two.

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