From geography to ecology and making your very own recipes from the fruits of the earth . I hope that there is something here for everyone to enjoy.  Some of our selection are practical, others interesting - fascinating even.  Hopefully all will teach the reader something they didn't already know!

Marco Polo: Geographer of Distant Lands

Author: Clint Twist

Illustrator: The Templar Company

Publisher: Templar Publishing

ISBN: 9781848772793

Reviewer: Gwen Grant


The front page of Marco Polo informs that the illustrations in this book have been undertaken by The Templar Company, publishers, they say, of rare and unusual books and, as this is a rare and unusual book, I quite believe them. William Morris once said, ‘Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.’  We can relax, then, for Marco Polo fulfils both these admonitions.


Marco’s journeys make fascinating reading, starting in 1270, ending 25 years later in 1295, taking in such fabulous people and places as Kublai Khan, Pope Gregory X, Baghdad, the Gobi Desert and its sandy ghosts, Prester John, (a myth, apparently,) Cathay, Tibet, the Indian Ocean and much, much more. The whole book is enriched with inserts and maps, letters, an example of a page of illuminated manuscript, a snippet of Coleridge’s poem, ‘In Xanadu did Kublai Khan A stately pleasure-dome decree,’ a copy of Marco Polo’s Will, and many other treasures, to be taken out and read, turned over and touched, or simply admired.


Did you know the precious jewel, Lapis Lazuli, could only be found in Afghanistan, or that when it was reduced to powder it produced such a rich and expensive colour, it was only used for painting the Virgin Mary’s robes?   I didn’t, but this book is full of such small, important details that add greatly to our knowledge of Marco Polo’s world.


East as Alexander the Great, but beyond that lay an unknown world, ‘everything east of Jerusalem shrouded in myth and ignorance,’ and as we travel with him, a sense of excitement makes us eager to read on and on, over deserts and mountains, seas and jungles

until once again we are back in Venice.


An inspiring book, revealing an enchanting and dangerous world.

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Grow Your Own Monsters

Author: Nicola Davies and Simon Hickmott

Illustrations: Scoular Anderson

Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

ISBN: 9781845078331

Reviewer: Gwen Grant


If you thought the Venus Fly Trap was the last word in scariness in the world of strange plants, once you’ve read Grow Your Own Monsters and learnt about the Voodoo Lily, believe me, the Venus Fly Trap will never seem quite as scary again.   And what about the Squirting Cucumber?  Hmmm?   Yes, there really is a Squirting Cucumber that actually squirts its seeds through the air at 60 mph!


Grow your own walking stick?  How about planting the walking stick cabbage?


Children will crow with delight at this book and you can tell it’s going to set them on the right gardening path because what does it say right at the beginning?  Only this.  PLANTS WANT TO GROW!  They do.   So forget the ones that have withered and died because even on the first fascinated reading, children will want to rush out, buy seeds, corms and plants and grow these monsters for themselves. 


Best of all, it isn’t difficult, either.  Old tights, sheets of tinfoil, cardboard boxes, cartons and polythene are the order of the day.  Watering can?   Certainly.   Simply take a plastic bottle, punch a few holes in the lid and Voila!   There you have it.   A brilliant watering can.

The instructions are so clear and kindly, it’s as if these gardeners are taking the reader by the hand, gently leading them to the final glory of their very own monster plant.  If the plant fails to grow?  No worries.  They simply encourage the young gardener to start all over again.


The illustrations are clear and often very funny with photographs adding to the richness of an already rich subject.  A useful list of where to buy what is needed is at the back, together with a glossary that gives the meaning of each gardening term used. 


One for us all, I think.


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Wild Alphabet

Publisher: Kingfisher

ISBN: 9780753430316

Reviewer: Ruth Doyle Walter


Fabulous is the word to describe this wonderful combination of paper technology and imagination! This journey through the alphabet introduces the reader to a host of wild animals, featuring interesting but not always obvious creatures, including the Narwhal, Quetzal and Utahraptor.


Everything about the design of this book is interesting and imaginative, from the jumping, rolling interactive-style text, to the amazing pop-out letters, complete with moving animal illustrations. The descriptive words are styled to reflect their meaning, with `biggest’ typed large and `climbing’ moving up and over the following word. Children will find this amusing as well as helpful in terms of learning new vocabulary. The text also conveys useful and interesting information about each of the featured animals


The pop-out letters are sure to delight a young audience. An Antelope emerges from the middle of the letter `A’; Bison barges his way through the letter `B’; Chinchilla scurries around the `C’, while Dolphin dives through the `D.’ A personal favourite was the darkly mysterious Jaguar, emerging from behind the `J.’


This book is fascinating and so stylishly put together that it will appeal to a wide audience of children, as well as their adult companions.

Highly recommended.


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I See the Moon

Author: Jacqueline Mitton

Illustrator: Erika Pal

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

ISBN: 9781845076337

Reviewer: Francesca Del Mese


I See the Moon is based on a brilliant but simple premise: to teach children scientific facts about the moon by using illustrations and stories about various animal characters. Author Jacqueline Mitton holds a doctorate in astrophysics from the University of Cambridge and has had more than 20 books published, so it’s not really a surprise that this is her creation. A twelve double-paged picture book, it is strikingly presented with a beautiful cover illustration by Erika Pal.


The story definitely has a hard-edged scientific feel to it because it strays from the usual bed-time fairytale image of the moon (‘the face of the Man in the Moon is only a pattern of blotches’), but the animal characters keep a sense of magic and wonder woven into the narrative. The only criticisms of the text might be that on the first page there is a rhyming stanza, and this gives the reader an expectation that they are starting to read a ‘Gruffalo’-esque type book. However, from the second page onwards, the narrative doesn’t rhyme, which is a little confusing as it can make the reader feel a level of uncertainty about the prose. Also, there doesn’t seem to be any linkage between the animals, and it would perhaps flow better to have a more clearly set out reason as to why we are jumping to different countries and different animals. One way to resolve this could be the story going up (or down) in the food chain, or spelling out that the moon is important to different animals for different reasons.


Despite this however, the text and illustrations marry up beautifully with some lovely lyrical descriptions: ‘[The moon] is low in the sky and its glistening horns point upwards. Tiger sees its reflection in the lake and slips quietly into the water.’


By way of a sort of epilogue, there is a more in-depth scientific explanation of the moon and its phases at the end of the main narrative, which is really where the book comes into its own. This may be a little too complex for the readers that the earlier text is aimed at, but I was still left wishing that I had been given a book like this when I was a child. A little pricey at £11.99 (hardback) I See the Moon nonetheless should be noted for its evocative illustrations, and the text deserves to be regarded as a well respected learning tool for younger readers.


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Really, Really Big Questions : Space and Time


Author: Mark Brake

Publisher: Kingfisher

ISBN: 9780753430194

Reviewer: Yvonne Coppard


If you can get over the blocked background colours, which sometimes make the print harder to see (especially on the purple, dark blue and black pages) and the frequent changes of colour and print size that, you will be rewarded by a very entertaining read that explores exactly what it says on the cover, a cover which appears to have been deliberately distressed so that it will look as though it has come out of an old chest in a damp attic, (will this narrow its potential as a gift purchase?) or make it appealing?


Once inside Mark Brake invites the reader on a fascinating journey through the big scientific questions: When did the universe start?; Is space smelly?; What Is light? and many more, and he won’t launch into the impenetrable explanations beloved of scientists that leave you wishing you had never asked.


The bold, bright illustrations have a retro feel – and to be honest, so do some of the jokey asides in the text, at least for the jaded adult reader.  There is, at times, an uneasy relationship between the need to inform and the need to entertain. But the final flourish (five tips on how to think like a boffin) should be at the heart of most of the subjects on the curriculum, encapsulating as they do the key skills for the development of an analytical and logical approach to the world.


Overall, this bright and breezy book is one of the most direct, accessible introductions to the intricacies of the cosmos for children (and for adults who were away from school that day).


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Rattle & Rap

Author: Susan Steggall

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

ISBN: 9781847801272

Reviewer: Kim Fazackerly-Sale

Age suitability 18 months - 5 years


Rattle and Rap follows a family on their train journey to the sea. It cleverly uses rhythmical text to portray the sounds and rhythms of the train as it passes over bridges, through the countryside, through towns and tunnels and many more.


The book is beautifully illustrated with simple pictures that are brightly coloured and are packed with detail.


Young children will love looking for things on each page as the book progresses.


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Busy Boats

Author: Susan Steggall

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

ISBN: 9781847800749

Reviewer: Kim Fazackerly-Sale


Age suitability 18 months - 4 years


Busy boats, tells the story of a busy harbour and the goings on that take place throughout the day. It starts with the fishermen going out to sea and finishes with them coming home for tea. In between we learn about all the other types of boats that come and go.


The text uses rhyme and rhythm to create a sense of atmosphere and the wonderful colourful illustrations are bright and bold.

Young children will love looking through the details to discover a host of surprises.


Perfect for sharing.


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Eddies Toolbox & How to Make & Mend Things

Author: Sarah Garland

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

ISBN: 9781847800534

Reviewer: Kim Fazackerly-Sale

Appropriate age 2-7 years


Eddie is really excited when a removal van pulls up at the house next door; they are going to have new neighbours! He is disappointed, however when he discovers that there is a child the same age as his sister but no child his age.


Tom (the new neighbour), soon needs some help making things, hanging shelves and mending things around the house and asks Eddie to help him. Eddie learns how to make things and use all the tools necessary for each job. He has made a new friend too and loves the new challenges that are presented to him.


A lovely neighbourly story that with huge appeal to those who love to be involved!


Bright, fun illustrations.

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101 Things to Do to Become a Superhero

Author: Helen Szirtes

Publisher: Bloomsbury

ISBN: 9781408802571

Reviewer: Louise Ellis-Barrett


If you have ever wondered what it takes to become a superhero then look no further than this handy pocket sized little book packed full of checklists and suggestions as well as questionnaires and tough challenges.

This little book thinks of everything the superhero will need to do, say and be.  It kept my young reader fascinated for hours and really tests the imagination - how will it be possible to acheive all this?

Not only that but it also helps you to choose a sidekick to help you on your mission to dominate the world ... or should that be to save the world!?
A wonderful little book that is certian to find its way into many a chirstmas stocking and then a trouser or coat pocket for quick reference in an emergency or superheor game!

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Robert Crowther's Amazing Pop-Up Big Machines

Author: Robert Crowther

Publisher: Walker Books

ISBN: 9781406321852

Reviewer: Louise Ellis-Barrett


Amazing pop-up machines does waht is says ont he coer - it amazes and it is full of some wonderful machines.


Children who love 3D and animated stories of any kind will fall in love with this book, particularly if they are boys - for cho could fail to love a machine that literally unfolds from the page?


Packed full of exciting things to look at as well as interesting text this is a wonderful book from a master of paper engineering and I am even more excited because he is coming to spend a day in my school in January so I will report on that and perhaps even post some pictures of the pop-ups that we manage to make.


In the meantime I will leave you all to enjoy the wonders of this book!



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The Good Green Lunchbox

Author: Jocelyn Miller

Publisher: Lion

ISBN: 9780745961828

Reviewer: Louise Ellis-Barrett


Lunchboxes, as we all know, have become a source of much controversy - what is the correct food to fill them with has become a hot topic of conversation as well as many a TV programme.
This handy book, perfect for popping on the kitchen bookshelf, will provide wonderful sources of information, not only for what to put in the lunchbox but also for how to make it yourself and what better way to get children eating the food than if they have had the chance to make it for themselves?
This food is healthy but it is not too healthy.  A beanburger still looks like a burger and the pizza pod may be a wonderfully packed sandwich but it is called a pizza... crisps, popcorn and even lemonade feature too.
All in all I think that the Good Green Lunchbox will become a regular part of life for anyone with a little time and imagination or a copy of this great book - I know I will be trying a few of the recipes out myself!



A Little Book of Alliterations

Author: Felix Arthur
Illustrator: Jenny Capon
Publisher: Inside Pocket Publishing
ISBN : 9780956231550
Reviewer: Louise Ellis-Barrett
Alliterations are a wonderful aspect of language and words, playing with words in a way that will inevitably make one smile they are also a challenge to create in a meaningful way!
Felix Arthur has obviously been thinking long and hard about his alliterations and has been able to create one for every letter of the alphabet;
"Quentin queried Queen Carla's quivering queue"
"Xeno expertly examined Xenon's xylophone"
are proof that it can be done.
With an alliteration and accompanying picture on each double page this charming pocked sized book wold make a wonderful gift for any word addict.  It is also great for children of all ages - a quick read that plays with language in the most charming way and included the most delightful illustrations.

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