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Upper Key Stage 2

Jummy At The River School by Sabine Adeyinka

Jumoke Afolabi - known as Jummy - has dreamt of passing her exams and earning a place at The River School, a boarding school for girls in her country of Nigeria. Well, of course, she succeeds and, packs her bags to go. She is sad to leave behind her best friend, Caro, who is unable to go to secondary school as she has to work to earn money for her family. When Jummy arrives at The River School, it is everything she hopes it would be: new friends, sharing a room, midnght feasts, sporting competitions...but then events take a turn. Caro arrives at the school - but not as a pupil. She is there to work - and work hard. Can Jummy help her friend and give her the chance to have an education just like her?

 

This is a heart-warming story of friendship and standing up for what you believe is right and fair. If you enjoy boarding school stories, such as Malory Towers or St Clare's, this book is definitely worth a read.

 

Holes by Louis Sachar

The Yelnats family believe they are under a curse because of Stanley’s no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather. Wrongfully accused of stealing trainers, Stanley Yelnats is sent to Camp Green Lake to pay for his crimes by digging a lot of holes. Each one 5-foot-wide and 5-foot-deep. However, there is no lake at Camp Green Lake and it certainly isn’t a boy scout camp. Follow Stanley as he meets the other children at the camp (including Zigzag, X-ray, Squid, Armpit and Zero) and they find themselves in some sticky situations. The Warden will not let them stop until she has found what she is looking for in the dried-up lake. Why are the children digging so many holes?

 

The flashback style of the book adds to the mystery by providing little snippets of information at a time. Some of the characters in the flashback hold some very inappropriate views about race. Read, as these are challenged for the greater good. The book includes a lot of humour, which makes it easy to read and follow. How many onions could you eat in one sitting?

 

A Series of Unfortunate Events – The Bad Beginning (Book 1 of 13) by Lemony Snicket

As the title describes, this series follows the many unfortunate events of the three Baudelaire children – Violet, Klaus and Sunny. The Bad Beginnin is the first book of thirteen, recording the eventful lives of the young Baudelaires and the many challenges, mysteries and puzzles they must solve to find out more about the strange disappearance of their doting parents. Once told about their parents’ supposed death, they move in with a distant relative, who has some strange habits and is rather odious by nature. They suspect some foul play and begin to attempt to change their fortune by using Violet’s intellectual inventions, Klaus’ extensive knowledge from reading and Sunny’s four little, yet sharp, teeth to plot against their enemies. Later in the series, they find strange clues that seem to be planted by their parents themselves. What will become of the Baudelaire children as their lives unravel book by book?

 

The author – Lemony Snicket – has an eccentric writing style and uses a wide variety of vocabulary words and sentence structures. His books are great to read if you like a reading challenge!

 

Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz

This is the first book in the Alex Rider series. Alex’s life is turned upside-down after the death of his adoptive uncle, who has been like a father to him. He is suddenly thrown into a world of spies, mysteries, secret identities and adventure. Alex is recruited my MI6 to investigate a man, Herod Sayle, who has created a computer called Stormbreaker. Sayle wants to give a computer to every secondary school in the country but is this act of generosity everything it seems?

 

This is a fast-moving book. Something exciting happens in every chapter and, as the reader, you really root for Alex and want him to succeed in the environment in which he has reluctantly found himself. The book is very much in the James Bond genre, so if you like mystery and adventure, then this book is for you.

 

Unexpected Twist: An Oliver Twisted Tale by Michael Rosen

Now this is a really good idea: you read two stories at once! Shona has just moved to a new school. She is an unhappy girl who finds it hard to make friends. Her dad has had his benefits stopped so they’ve had to move into a one-bedroomed flat. She doesn’t have anything fashionable or new. But at the heart of her sadness is that fact that her mother died and she thinks that it is her fault. When she joins her new class, they are studying Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. Each chapter of Shona’s story is followed by a chapter of Oliver’s story and there are remarkable comparisons that can be drawn. Shona is then offered a free phone by a boy she meets in detention. She can’t believe her luck! A free phone! But, Shona begins to learn the hard way that nothing in life comes without a price…

 

This is a very good book. Shona is a character that you can really get behind and want to help when she starts making all the wrong choices. It also helps us to appreciate that we shouldn’t judge people on what we see from the outside. We don’t really get to know the other characters so much, but Shona and her situation holds the interest. It’s a really good way of introducing yourself to a classic of English literature, too. Oliver Twist is a wonderful story in its own right and this book will give you an insight into the world of Charles Dickens. Enjoy!

 

The Time of Green Magic by Hilary McKay

(available on Borrow Box)

Abi lives with her dad and grandma. Max and Louis live with their mum. When their parents get married, life changes for them all in ways they could never imagine. Having to leave Max and Louis' small flat, the blended family finds a strange house covered in ivy that is more than big enough for all of them. Struggling to deal with their new lives together, Abi disappears into reading, Max behaves like an awkward teenager and Louis, too young to really understand, demands attention from everyone. Then bizarre things begin to happen... Abi finds herself magically drawn into the books she devours, Max develops a crush on their artistic French babysitter and Louis befriends a curious cat like creature that just keeps growing and growing! Their parents are too busy to notice the changes in their children's lives; will Abi, Max and Louis be able to save themselves and each other from the magic that has absorbed them?

 

This is a really interesting book. It starts off with people trying to deal with modern life - the demands of being in a new family, school, work, technology. However, once the family move into the strange house, full of dark and mysterious corners, it turns into a book full of magic and secrets. Through the three children, the reader is sure to find a character that they identify with. The story is full of twists, turn and surprises that keep you guessing right until the end. I was on the edge of my seat quite a few times! I would recommend this to anyone that enjoys mysteries, magic and adventures.

 

When We Were Warriors by Emma Carroll

This is a three-stories-in-one-book set during the Second World War. Whilst they are all separate stories, they are connected by one character: Eddie Johnson, an American GI. The first story is called ‘The Night Visitors’ and centres upon a boy called Stan and his sisters. After their house is destroyed by a bomb, they are evacuated to Frost Hollow Hall, an enormous country estate. While unearthing a family secret they also find themselves in terrible danger. In the next story ‘Olive’s Army’, Olive’s sister, Suki, is getting married to Ephraim Pengilly. However, events take a puzzling turn when a body is washed up onto the beach and in the pockets of the dead man are papers that suggest he’s a German named… Ephraim Pengilly! So why does he have the same name as Suki’s fiancée? Is Suki’s fiancée who he says he is? Olive tries to solve the mystery and fight off an invasion! ‘Operation Greyhound’ is the final story and this tells us about Velvet. She is an animal-lover and when the new air raid warden decides that animals are no longer allowed in the air raid shelter, she sets out to try and ensure the safety of the local pets when the German planes arrive on a bombing mission.

 

These are good stories that hold your interest – my personal favourite was Olive’s Army. I would perhaps like to have seen fewer characters: sometimes, characters are introduced but we don’t really find out that much about them. A lot happens in each story and just when you think there can’t be any more twists…there’s another one. The fact that Eddie appears in all three stories gives the book a sense of continuity and all three stories are brought together at the end. Although these are children’s stories, some of the themes such as spies, the threat of invasion, death and separation from parents sometimes makes the plot rather dark. However, the determination of the characters and the presence of several dogs keeps it light-hearted. 

 

Scarlet and Ivy – The Lost Twin by Sophie Cleverly

Ivy Grey lives with her eccentric aunt. The weight of her twin sister’s recent death lies heavily upon her shoulders. Ivy doesn’t know how her twin, Scarlet, died. She knows that it was at her boarding school, Rookwood, but she doesn’t know any details. Scarlet had passed an exam to gain a place at Rookwood but Ivy hadn’t scored highly enough so the twins had been separated. Then, one morning, out of the blue, Ivy is offered a place at Rookwood – the place of her sister. It’s all rather sudden but Ivy is bundled off to school where she meets the terrifying Miss Fox, the lady in charge of the school. Things then start to take a sinister turn. Ivy is told that she doesn’t merely have her sister’s place…she must be her sister and not tell anyone her real identity. Ivy is shaken by this but, as the plot develops, she sees that all is not as it should be at Rookwood. Hope is provided by Scarlet. She was suspicious of incidents at the school before her death and has left Ivy a series of clues in her diary which Ivy must solve if she is to unravel the mystery of Rookwood…

 

This is a genuine page-turner of a book. It starts off like many other boarding school style books but once Ivy arrives at Rookwood, the pace really picks up. As Ivy takes up the search for clues, there are some real surprises and the other characters are not as they seem. This means that the story will hold your interest from beginning to end. There is a great twist towards the end that you will not see coming! It’s not an easy read so you’ll have to stick with it, but it’s worth the effort. If you enjoy this one, there are others in the series.

 

What Not To Do If You Turn Invisible by Ross Welford

The story starts with a problem: Ethel is invisible. She then gives us the backstory to explain the weeks leading up to this moment. Ethel lives with her grandmother, who she refers to as ‘Gram’, as her mother died when she was very young. Now twelve years old, Ethel has become the target of cruel comments at school because she has a lot of spots on her face. She has tried all sorts of soaps, creams, medical advice and garlic and honey to get rid of them, but they just won’t go. She has resorted to trying alternative methods, including Dr Chang His Skin So Clear and obtaining a sunbed that she lies on in the hope that the UV tubes will help to clear the spots. After one Sunday morning on the sunbed, Ethel finishes her session only to discover that she is invisible. She asks for help from Gram who doesn’t take her seriously. Eventually, the only person she can find to help her is Elliot Boyd, a boy in her class who has an obsession with lighthouses and who everyone says smells funny. Will she ever become visible? Could being invisible prove useful? What else will she discover about herself along the way?

 

This is an easy book to read. The chapters are short and the contemporary, first-person style means that Ethel tells the story to the reader. This hooks you in and helps you to understand how she is feeling. There are humorous parts and parts tinged with sadness. At 400 pages it is a little overlong, but it remains entertaining, nonetheless, and the final part of the story is rather moving. Why not give it a try?

 

The Best Medicine by Christine Hamill

Philip Wright is 12 years old and loves the comedian Harry Hill.  He’s in love (unrequited) with a ‘goddess’ named Lucy, has a Spanish best friend called Ang and a problem with the school bully – The Yeti. Philip wants to be an entertainer like his hero and tries out material old and new on his long suffering mum.  His happy-go-lucky life is disrupted when his mum discovers she has breast cancer. Bad enough that she’s seriously ill – but could she not have developed a less embarrassing kind of cancer – toe cancer, maybe or ear cancer?  Philip’s attempts to cope with the confusing and bewildering situation are both funny and touching.  Throughout the book Philip writes letters to Harry Hill asking for advice on matters of love and life but receives no response. 

 

I didn’t like this book to begin with as it seemed very derivative of Adrian Mole (ask your parents) but I’m so glad I persevered. The story is loosely based on the author’s own experiences of breast cancer and its treatment. It has to be said, it is a very funny book. I felt a lump in my throat and a tear in my glass eye on several occasions too. I’m not going to spoil the ending, other than say that this book lives up to its title and proves that laughter really is ‘the best medicine.’

 

A.N.T.I.D.O.T.E. by Malorie Blackman

A.N.T.I.D.O.T.E. are a group who campaign against animal testing. They are investigating a chemicals company whom they believe are testing in secret on rare, exotic animals. Elliot is a boy who finds his mum a bit boring and she tells him he’s ‘cute’ which he hates! However, she has got a really impressive computer which he uses to play games on. Elliot’s world is suddenly turned upside-down when his mum is caught on CCTV breaking into the chemical factory as part of A.N.T.I.D.O.T.E.’s campaign. She then goes on the run, stating she is innocent, and he is left to try to clear her name. Can he do it? Is all as it seems?

 

I picked up this book after a member of Year 6 wrote about how Malorie Blackman inspires her. It’s been many years since I’ve read one of Blackman’s books and I’d forgotten just how good she is. The chapters are short and something happens in each one that alters the course of the plot. There are a few surprises and the fact that Elliot is often in real danger makes it an exciting read. You will have to bear in mind that the book is over 10 years old so the references (or lack of) to technology may seem unusual at times: Elliot does not have a mobile phone at his fingertips to automatically find the answers! This is a very entertaining book and I highly recommend it.

 

When Secrets Set Sail by Sita Brahmachari 

This story starts with Imtiaz – known as Immy – who is not looking forward to the future. As a baby, she was found in a piece of newspaper and has been in the care system ever since. She has grown close to Delyse (her social worker), but Delyse is going to return to the Caribbean, the place her parents used to live before they arrived in Britain on the Windrush. An adoption has therefore been arranged and Immy is to live with Usha and her parents. Usha is a quiet girl who is devastated at the recent loss of her beloved grandmother, Kali Ma, and is very anxious at the prospect of a new sister. Immy’s new home is very unusual. The top floor, Usha and Immy’s bedroom, is designed like a ship and even has a porthole! The bottom floor is used as a refuge, a place for people in need, but is under threat of closure unless the family can prove they own it and have the right to use it in the way they do. However, there is a problem - the documents they need are missing! At Kali Ma’s funeral service, events take an unusual turn when her spirit appears - but only to Usha. Immy then begins to see a spirit also! It seems that the two spirits, along with an old book of secrets, are trying to tell the girls about the past. Can they work together to discover the secrets of the past and save their home?

 

I really enjoyed this story. It is an historical novel (with fantasy thrown in for good measure) about a part of history you may not be familiar with. In uncovering the secrets of their home, Immy and Usha discover that it used to be a place for Ayahs - Indian nannies who travelled to Britain to care for children whose families had lived in Asia at the time of the Raj - but were not able to return to their homeland. We are also introduced to characters of Roma descent so the tale is a good introduction as to how people from other cultures came to live and settle in Britain. I recommend this story for its get-up-and-go characters and interesting historical plot.

 

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

August Pullman seems like your average 10 year old boy. He likes playing X-Box, riding his bike and eating lots and lots of ice cream, except there's something different about him. August was born with a facial disfigurement. He knows that people are always going to stare and his face, he knows there are going to be double takes in the street and he knows that people are going to want to ask questions. But the most important thing about August is he doesn't let that affect him. After all, isn't it good to be different when everybody else is the same?

 

One of the main things I loved about the book was August's attitude towards life: his ability to cope, to be genuinely happy and make a comedy out of his situation is amazing for anyone to read. August faced many mixed reactions when starting secondary school; there were lots of supportive people and an equal number of not so supportive people but he never let that stop him. Like anybody, August had good days and not so good days. I also love how the story was told from different perspectives of the different children in August's class; you could see how the other children perceived his disfigurement, and some never mentioned the issue and others have burning questions which they are not sure how to ask.

I would highly recommend this book to both children and adults. It is called Wonder because it makes you wonder – if you were him, or them how would you behave?

 

Sherlock Holmes – Baker Street Boys: The Case of the Disappearing Detective by Anthony Read

This book is what used to be called ‘a right rollicking yarn’.  It features, Wiggins, Shiner, Beaver, Sparrow, Queenie and Gertie – The Baker Street Boys of the title - although they’re not all boys - a group of street children employed by Sherlock Holmes as irregulars.  They are his eyes and ears in the murky underworld of Victorian London and are often one step ahead of the great detective.  In this story, It’s Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee and the boys are engaged to keep watch on a sinister American.   Holmes’s arch enemy, Professor Moriarty, returns with a fiendish plot to blow up the Queen at Windsor Station. The great detective goes missing and it’s up to Wiggins and the ‘boys’ to save the day. 

 

This is a fast-paced story full of typically Victorian characters. If you’ve never heard of Sherlock Holmes it won’t spoil your enjoyment of the book and it’s one of a series so there are plenty more adventures to get your teeth into. The game is afoot. Enjoy it!   

 

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter hasn’t had the happiest childhood. He was orphaned as a baby and raised by his aunt and uncle who don’t really like him. His bedroom is a cupboard under the stairs. However, Harry’s life changes forever on his eleventh birthday when he finds out that he is really a wizard. To his delight, he is sent to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to learn how to use magic. He makes friends with Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, learns how to play quidditch and gets into all sorts of mischief. There are broomsticks, spells, feasts, a baby dragon and a giant game of chess! As he becomes more integrated into the world of magic, Harry also learns that not everyone is good. When events take a dark turn, it is up to Harry and his friends to save the day. A key message of this story is how love and friendship are important and can almost provide a magic of their own. It also tells us that we all have it within us to be brave.

 

 This first book in the series sets the scene and introduces us to the wizarding world and its various characters. So much happens in every chapter. The descriptions written by J.K. Rowling are fantastic and really help you to view the story in your mind’s eye. I cannot speak highly enough of this book. The Harry Potter series are, in my opinion, the best children’s books ever written. They can make you laugh out loud and cry your eyes out! You might have seen the films: they are great, but are nowhere near as good as the books. If you’re up for a challenge – because they are a tricky read – then give the book a go. You're in for a real treat!

 Please note: It is important to read the series in the right order.

 

The Suitcase Kid by Jacqueline Wilson

Andrea, who is known as Andy in the story, is a tall, awkward ten-year-old whose parents have recently divorced. Her dad wants Andy to live with him. Her mum wants Andy to live with her! She’s torn between the two of them and longs to return to their old life at Mulberry Cottage. She ends up living one week with mum followed by one with dad – hence the suitcase as she is constantly packing. Her mother remarries Bill (the baboon) who has three children of his own. She despises the youngest “little ratbag” Katie, a girl her own age – well, five days older. Her father remarries Carrie who has twins Zen and Crystal and is expecting dad's new baby. Andy doesn't mind Carrie and her children but she still wishes she could have her dad to herself. Andy becomes disinterested at school. Her results dip and she loses touch with her best friend, Aileen. Her only friend is her spotted Sylvanian Families rabbit, Radish. By the end of the book, via a secret garden, a mishap with Radish, running away from home and some surrogate grandparents, Andy has a new best friend and has come to terms with her new life.

 

This is a bittersweet book in Jacqueline Wilson’s familiar contemporary style.  It fairly races along and the characters are well developed.  The suitcase is a metaphor for the baggage of life and only once Andie has dealt with this can she move on. I enjoyed this book and would heartily recommend it to all.

 

Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson

When the story starts, Maia has been living in a school in London for two years since the death of her parents. One day, she receives news that a distant relative has been traced and that she is to live with them – in Brazil! Maia starts by researching the River Amazon, which she discovers is known as ‘The River Sea’ and realises that where she going is very different from what she has known. The story follows her journey to another part of the world and her feelings as she tries to settle with the Carter family. In Brazil, she meets new friends who will need her help and will lead her on new adventures.

 

This is a really interesting book as it challenges the viewpoint that family, or ‘blood’ are always the right thing for us. Maia, and the friends she meets, haven’t always had a happy time with family and we, the reader learn that it doesn’t matter whether you’re rich or poor, family can still influence our lives in many ways. It’s not the sort of exciting book where something happens in every chapter, rather it is a plot that develops over several chapters and really hooks you in.

 

A Medal for Leroy by Michael Morpurgo

Michael, known as Poodle, lives with his mum, Christine, who is enigmatically beautiful. They live in London not long after the end of the Second World War. Michael encounters casual racism on account of his dark skin and the fact that he is half-French, but he rises above it and manages to turn the tables on ‘Les Rostbifs’. Michael has never known his father and when word gets out that his dad was a war hero, shot down in his spitfire, the boy becomes a focus for pride, sympathy and even envy. Michael has two aunties - Pish and Snowdrop - who live in Folkestone with their dog, Jasper. On interminable weekly visits to the aunties for tea and rock cakes, the dog fascinates Michael, as does the photo of his father wearing his uniform kept in a silver frame. It is not until that silver frame and that photograph come into Michael’s possession that the story really sparks into life. Learning about his family changes Michael’s life completely. 

 

You have probably never heard of Walter Tull. He died in March 1918 and, like so many other soldiers killed in the First World War, his body was never recovered.  He was the first black footballer to play for Spurs and the third ever black professional footballer in the U.K. He was also, despite the racial bias of the authorities at the time, the first black combat officer in the British Army. Walter was, it seems, gallant, resourceful and cool in a crisis. He was recommended for the military cross. However, the medal was never awarded and no official record of the recommendation remains. Walter Tull is not Michael’s missing father. However, the spirit of Walter Tull, the wastefulness of war and the racism of a bygone age permeate this book. At a time when the struggle against inequality has never been more relevant, this book is a timely reminder that black lives do indeed matter.

 

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