1 October 2019

storm1. The Storm by Kevin Crossley Holland illustrated by Alan Marks

Annie lives with her elderly parents in a remote cottage. She is used to being alone. Every day she walks by the lonely marsh to school. Only in winter, when the wind howls in the trees, is Annie ever afraid. Her sister Willa is pregnant and Annie is overjoyed when she comes home to have her baby. Annie tells Willa the names of local plants and Willa tells Annie about the ghost, murdered by highwaymen, who is said to haunt the old forge nearby. Then, on a terrible night, with the phone lines down, Willa goes into labor. Annie is terrified of the ghost, but knows she must brave the storm to fetch help. As she ventures into the night, a horseman swings into view. He offers to take Annie to town. Before she can protest, Annie finds herself lifted on to his saddle and off they set on an intense, dream-like journey. Only once he has deposited her safely on the doctor’s doorstep, does the horseman reveal that he is the ghost she fears.

This is a great book to get young readers hooked into reading. It would be a perfect starter to year 3. Crossley Holland weaves his magic with beautiful atmospheric wordplay whilst the illustrations completely enhance the story. I never imagined that such a short story could hold so much for the audience to experience. From fear to bravery and eventually to rescue, this book provides a story that is both heart-warming and tense.  It’s short and definitely sweet, also it is possibly the best reading scheme book ever.


2. The Iron Man by Ted Hughes (Special mention for the editions illustrated by Lara Carlin and Chris Mould)


Mankind must put a stop to the dreadful destruction caused by the Iron Man. A trap is set for him, but he cannot be kept down. Then, when a terrible monster from outer space threatens to lay waste to the planet, it is the Iron Man who finds a way to save the world.

Where had he come from? Nobody knows.’

‘How was he made? Nobody knows.’

The Iron Man was one of those stories I remember being read to me in primary school. Subtitled ‘a children’s story in five nights’ I remember desperately wanting the next chapter and hanging on the edge of my seat. It’s another of those books that I think every child should experience. I would thoroughly recommend the Laura Carlin and the Chris Mould illustrated versions as they both add a distinct feel to the story. Which you prefer is down to your personal taste. Both are stunning though.

Written for his own children this is powerful, moving and a beautifully-written fable from poet Ted Hughes. It is a true modern classic


3. Bills New Frock by Anne Fine

One morning, almost as if in a dream, Billy wakes up to find that he has turned into a girl! His mother casually dresses him in a pink dress and sends him off to school, where he realizes how differently girls are treated. A unique story that will serve as a springboard for discussions among young readers.

Bill’s New Frock is a perfect year 3 story; funny, clever and ultimately thought-provoking. It will make both you as the teacher and the children really think about how we treat each other based on gender. There will be  some very interesting discussions, you may well be surprised.



4. The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

When robot Roz opens her eyes for the first time, she discovers that she is alone on a remote, wild island. Why is she there? Where did she come from? And, most important, how will she survive in her harsh surroundings? Roz’s only hope is to learn from the island’s hostile animal inhabitants. When she tries to care for an orphaned gosling, the other animals finally decide to help, and the island starts to feel like home. Until one day, the robot’s mysterious past comes back to haunt her….

 With The Wild Robot Peter Brown presents us with: a haunting tale of figuring out the roots of your humanity, and trying to reconcile what you learn with the reality of the life you are living. It’s a story of family; of learning how to deal with loneliness; of growing together and coming apart; of the interaction between us and the natural world. It’s a story of personal sacrifice and overcoming fear of the unknown and different; of changing for both the ones you love and for yourself (and knowing when not to, knowing when you are enough). Who said children’s fiction couldn’t touch on the big issues of what it means to be human.  It will make for deep and emotional discussions and debates in your classrooms.What a corker of a book.


5. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S.Lewis

In the never-ending war between good and evil, The Chronicles of Narnia set the stage for battles of epic proportions. Some take place in vast fields, where the forces of light and darkness clash. But other battles occur within the small chambers of the heart and are equally decisive.

Journeys to the ends of the world, fantastic creatures, betrayals, heroic deeds and friendships won and lost — all come together in an unforgettable world of magic. So join the battle to end all battles.

Narnia …. a land frozen in eternal winter … a country waiting to be set free.

Four adventurers step through a wardrobe door and into the land of Narnia — a land enslaved by the power of the White Witch. But when almost all hope is lost, the return of the Great Lion, Aslan, signals a great change … and a great sacrifice.

What more really needs to be said about The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe apart from every child should have it read to them. A wonderful story of heroism, greed, jealousy, sacrifice and turkish delight. It is a true classic that has stood the test of time.


6. Matilda by Roald Dahl illustrated by Quentin Blake

Matilda is a little girl who is far too good to be true. At age five-and-a-half she’s knocking off double-digit multiplication problems and blitz-reading Dickens. Even more remarkably, her classmates love her even though she’s a super-nerd and the teacher’s pet. But everything is not perfect in Matilda’s world. For starters she has two of the most idiotic, self-centered parents who ever lived. Then there’s the large, busty nightmare of a school principal, Miss (“The”) Trunchbull, a former hammer-throwing champion who flings children at will and is approximately as sympathetic as a bulldozer. Fortunately for Matilda, she has the inner resources to deal with such annoyances: astonishing intelligence, saintly patience, and an innate predilection for revenge.

She warms up with some practical jokes aimed at her hapless parents, but the true test comes when she rallies in defense of her teacher, the sweet Miss Honey, against the diabolical Trunchbull. There is never any doubt that Matilda will carry the day. Even so, this wonderful story is far from predictable. Roald Dahl, while keeping the plot moving imaginatively, also has an unerring ear for emotional truth. The reader cares about Matilda because in addition to all her other gifts, she has real feelings.

In my opinion this is Roald Dahl’s best book. In the figure of Matilda we have the perfect heroine; smart, funny and wonderfully caring. Surrounded by a cast of wonderful characters the story positively zips along. An utterly joyous read.  It’s a story where knowledge is king and reading is the route to that knowledge. Hey teachers what more of a message could you want?


7. Pugs of the Frozen North by Philip Reeve illustrated by Sarah MacIntyre

The Race to the Top of the World! It comes around once in a lifetime, and the prize? Your heart’s desire. Shen and Sika can’t resist the chance to win, but competition is fierce. The path to victory is littered with snow trolls, sea monsters, and a gang of particularly hungry yetis. But Shen and Sika have something the other contestants don’t have. Actually, they have 66 other things; pugs to be exact. That’s a 264 paw-powered sled. Let the race begin!

Reeves and McIntyre are a perfect partnership, all their books are an absolute delight and would be perfect for Year 3. I think Pugs is my absolute favourite of theirs. It is delightfully silly, but carries a wonderful message about friendship and family. It is rip-roaring ride not to be missed.


8. Varjak Paw by S.F.Said illustrated by Dave McKean

Mesopotamian Blue cat, Varjak Paw, has never been Outside before; he and his family have always lived in the isolated house at the top of the hill. But Varjak is forced out into the city when the sinister Gentleman and his two menacing cats take over his home. With help from his mystical ancestor, Jalal, Varjak manages to overcome challenges such as self-survival and a threat from the gangland cats, and he ultimately discovers the terrifying secrets behind the Vanishings. But can he save his own family from their fate?

With wonderful integrated illustrations from acclaimed comic book artist Dave McKean, this book will appeal to all ages.

Probably one for the end of year 3 or even for year 4. This is a fantastic quest tale where our hero Varjak Paw ( This is the only bit I didn’t like as it was a name play on a Breakfast at Tiffiny’s character) learns to overcome his pampered existence and rescue his family.  The book is fantasically written and McKean’s illustrations add real character and verve. Actually when you boil it down it’s Kung-fu and cats, what is not to love?


9. Knights and Bikes by Gabrielle Kent illustrated by Rex Crowle

Welcome to the sleepy island of Penfurzy, where nothing exciting ever really happens. OR DOES IT? Adventure awaits Demelza and her new best friend in the whole world, Nessa, as they explore the island and uncover the mysteries of the Penfurzy Knights. With a honking pet goose sidekick, quirky islanders and a legendary treasure to find, it’s up to Nessa and Demelza to ride their bikes, solve the puzzles before them, and face down danger with frisbees, water-balloons, feathers …. and a toilet plunger. THEIR FRIENDSHIP WILL WARM YOUR HEART. THEIR BRAVERY WILL MAKE THEM LEGENDS.

Knights and Bikes is just a perfect Year 3 book. Two great rebellious characters (three if you count Captain Honkers the goose). It’s a brilliant quest story about friendship and trust, absolutely chockful of magic and mayhem. It’s a wild 80’s inspired ride that will delight aduls of a certain age as much as the children


also recommended Rebel Bicycle Club by Gabrielle Kent illustrated by Rex Crowle

This a brilliant sequel and is equally worthy of a read. It doubles the fun and the mayhem.

Welcome back to the sleepy island of Penfurzy! Adventure awaits Demelza and her best friend in the whole world, Nessa, when an unexpected guest arrives at their door. The stakes have never been higher when the duo must solve a new mystery to save their friend, fending off bullies, ghosts and more!


10. Mr Gum by Andy Stanton illustrated by David Tazzyman

The beginning of a weird, wacky, one in a million series about the plight of the truly nasty Mr Gum and a crazy cast of characters—a cross between Roald Dahl and Monty Python

Mr Gum is a truly nasty old man. He’s a complete horror who hates children, animals, fun, and corn on the cob. This book’s all about him. And an angry fairy who lives in his bathtub. And Jake the dog, and a little girl named Polly, and an evil, stinky butcher all covered in guts. And there are heroes and sweets and adventures and everything.

This book is on the list for a very personal reason, this is the book that made my son a reader. It is completely and utterly absurd, the playful use of language is perfect for year 3 children and it is an absolute read aloud riot. If it’s too silly for you I get that but for me it completely hits the right spot. Reading aloud will encourage some of those reluctant readers to pick up a book and get lost in the madness. Surely that’s what we’re all after in the end.


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