As a school librarian I have long been a fan of the books published by Barrington Stoke. For over twenty years they have produced stories that are inviting to children, written by top authors, of a length that is not too daunting and including appealing illustrations. Also, and very importantly, they are presented in a style that is dyslexia friendly using a special typeface, extra line spacing and off white paper. In addition to terrific stories that hook new readers their books are of a length that make them great quick read aloud stories for the classroom. Sometimes they link perfectly with the curriculum enabling teachers to use them to introduce a topic or to encourage further discussion around a particular subject. These two books published this month would be excellent for educating as they entertain with links to World War 1 and the Amazon rainforest. I have included links to teaching resources for each book.
Tony Bradman brings history to life in this moving and thoughtful story written to mark the centenary of the burial of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey in 1920. This would be an excellent choice to use in the classroom as part of the History curriculum.
It is the end of October 1920 and although the war is long over life has not returned to what is was before for twelve year old Daisy. Her Dad did not return home; her family had been told he was missing presumed dead in 1918. There has been no funeral, no opportunity for them to say goodbye. The family now live in a cramped flat with Daisy’s mother working long hours to support her three children. Daisy helps us much as she can by taking her younger brothers to school and looking after them until her mum gets home. Throughout this Daisy has bottled up her grief over the death of the Dad she loved very much and wishes she could have said a proper goodbye to him. At school one day she learns that an unknown soldier is to be buried at Westminster Abbey representing all those who were killed but whose bodies were never marked with a named grave. Daisy feels sure that this soldier is not unknown at all but is in fact the father she misses so much. She resolves to be there to say her final goodbye.
In telling this story through the eyes of a child experiencing the trauma of grief Tony Bradman has enabled young readers to view this historical event as a personal experience giving it a poignancy that will be understood by a 21st century readership. The family experience and the struggles to cope with their loss are important to us today as we face our own challenges but the significance of the centenary commemoration should never be forgotten. The author has carefully balanced the need to convey historical facts within the captivating story and children will learn from Daisy’s story while growing to care about her too. At under sixty pages this is a short read but an emotionally satisfying one. Tony Bradman has included a helpful historical note at the end of the book.
There is an assembly Power Point available on learning section of the Westminster Abbey website which would work in conjunction with this book. They also have a selection of images related to Remembrance Day for use in the classroom to download here The BBC Teach website has a comprehensive range of resources suitable for both Primary and Secondary schools. The British Legion has created resources everyone can access and learn about the heritage and tradition of Remembrance.
Barrington Stoke have published other books linked to World War 1 including Armistice Runner by Tom Palmer and White Feather by Catherine and David MacPhail. You may also like to try Owen and the Soldier by Lisa Thompson.
A potent mix of survival story and thrilling adventure this book is also a powerful reminder of the devastating destruction of our rainforests and the threat to our planet. I read this in one nerve wracking sitting.
Carlos’s mother works for IBAMA, Brazil’s Environmental Authority. Her role as head of a special task force protecting the Amazon from those who are illegally destroying the precious rainforest results in Carlos being left alone at home a great deal. He resents this and does not share her commitment. However when her actions upset the land grabbers they decide to get their revenge by kidnapping her son, Carlos and taking him deep into the forest. Although Carlos quickly escapes his ordeal is far from over as he is trapped by fast moving fires and the threat that his world is about to burn down around him.
This is a stunning read, full of fast paced action and nerve wracking tension. The development of Carlos as a rounded character as the story progressed was convincing and the reader is made aware of his dawning understanding. The global issue at the heart of this story is unavoidable and adds to the intensity of its powerful descriptions and the impact of the events within the plot. The author’s note at the end of the book is as powerful as the story itself. Steve Cole says that although Carlos spends much of the book running to escape he eventually realises he must fight and likewise humanity must not run away from our global crisis but face up to it and help. I am glad I read this book and I think it will have a similar impact on the young people who read or listen to it.
For children who have slightly more reading stamina looking for a longer read on this topic I would suggest My Name Is River by Emma Rea .
The Rainforest Alliance has downloadable lesson plans on different aspects of rainforest life. If after reading this book children want to know how they can help Kids Saving the Rainforest has lots of suggestions and information. Mongabay is a popular site about the rainforest. It provides information about tropical rainforests in a format suitable for children as well as rainforest materials for educators.
I should like to thank Kirstin Lamb and Barrington Stoke for providing my review copies. Both books are now available to purchase at your local bookshop or online by clicking on the titles above.