Friday, 28 November 2014

Review: Help your Child Love Reading; a Parent’s Guide by Alison David





At Space on the Bookshelf we believe that; all children love reading and that some children just haven’t found the right books yet. We endeavour to aid children, parents, carers and education professionals to find the right book for each child, with our reviews and articles. In short we at Space on the Bookshelf love reading and we try to share and promote that love of books. With this in mind, and knowing that each child is different, and that every home is unique, and that finding that breakthrough book and devolving a love of reading can be challenging, today we are reviewing a book which has been especially written to address these problems.


Alison David is a Consumer Research expert for Egmont UK, whose job involves talking to parents and children to find out what helps and hinders reading. Alison has used her wealth of knowledge and expertise to write ‘Help your Child Love Reading; a Parent’s Guide.’



The book spans the expanse of childhood from infancy to the teenage years, and tackles in an empathetic and non-judgemental manor the impact that modern life has on the development of children’s reading.

Within the book Alison highlights the reasons why fostering a love of reading is a more difficult a task for this generation of children than it way for us adults, and all previous generations. She also explains with the help of literacy experts and child development professionals the physical and emotional stages of children’s development and how they affect how children learn to read. These explanations are both reassuring and scary and once you’ve read them they all seem glaringly obvious, but ultimately they can help you empathize with your child and therefore make you less stressed about your child’s reading habits (whether it be them learning to read, becoming independent readers or continuing to read for pleasure in the teenage years) and help empower you to evolve a ‘reading home’ and promote reading for your family.

'...enjoy discovering new things together. There are so many books out there and they can be found in so many different places: libraries, charity shops, bookshops, on-line, in catalogues, at car boot sales, local ans school fetes.'

The book is full of interesting facts and concentrates on the trends of modern life for example: busyness and electronic devises, giving hints and pointers to assist your child and develop a continued love of reading. The book is in section, each section dedicated to a different stage of children’s development; pre-school, starting school, choosing to read (8-11 years), staying connected (12-16 years). Each section has pointers to help overcome the issues specific to the child’s age that hinder their reading development.

Many of these hints are simple fixes that no matter how simple in concept take creativity to implement; like creating time to read with your child, making books and stories magical, and encouraging your child to find books for themselves and allowing them NOT to finish if they don’t enjoy them. 

'When Louis began to read chapter books...an early favourite was Secret Agent Jack Stalwart: the Search for the Sunken Treasure:Australia' by Elizabeth Singer Hunt. This had some line drawings in it but they were few and far between. I rememberer he asked me if he could colour them in  - 'adding detail'... Anything you can do to ease the transition from picture books to chapter books is worthwhile - even if it means doing something generally frowned upon' 


This book isn’t just for families that have children who don’t embrace reading with enthusiasm and love, but can help established reading families too. I confess that when I started reading this book that I didn’t think it would help my family, as we read a lot! We have seven bulging bookcases, my ten year old daughter reads a novel and a half a week plus, picture books, graphic novels, and magazines and my eight year old son reads substantially more. However I did find that this book further assisted our family in our reading health, as it made me realise we had inadvertently fallen into bad reading habits.



Our main problem is time. My husband works long hours and often seven days a week, I work from home running a business on top of writing and doing everything thing else I need to do to keep the family running. The children’s lives are becoming more complex with increasing homework, clubs and responsibilities. All this resulted in losing the ritual of reading together and losing the time where we shared stories. As a result reading had become shoe horned into tight time slots and therefore the experience was more fraught and less enjoyable. ‘Help you child love reading’ help me diagnose the issue and other symptoms: for example we always fail when trying to read together as we start with something our lives can sustain, like reading a chapter book at bedtime, we ALWAYS lose our place or the book entirely. This realisation meant we could fix the problem, now we read short stories or poetry before bed, which can be easily finished in one sitting. This means we don’t get disheartened and stop, and has had a positive impact on the family as a whole. 

' ...grab half an hour and a cup of coffee and sit down with your child for some family reading time, each of you reading your own choice, side by side.'

Help your child love reading is much more than a parents guide. I strongly believe that every parent, grandparent, carer, childcare professional and education professional would find this book helpful, as in addition to being a great tool kit to help reading , many of its suggestions would help promote a happy home and can be utilised in many different positive ways and is not indeed exclusive to reading.

I would recommend this book to any family who hare struggling to foster a reading home, and to families of established bookworms alike.




For more hints and advice on promoting a reading family, visit Mostly Book's web-site to see how to start a Family Reading Group, Press Here.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Winner Announcement - Young People's Book Prize

The winner of the Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize has been announced. It’s Eye Benders: the Science of Seeing and Believing, published by Ivy Books. Congratulations to its writer, Clive Gifford, with consultant Anil Seth.

This book makes the science of sight and vision incredibly accessible to children. Even reluctant readers will find it hard to resist opening up the fabulous front cover and interacting with the amazing illustrations. Massive amounts of fascinating information is covered in the writing, and presenting this as explanations of how each illusion works keeps the format really fresh and lively.

Groups of young people across the UK chose this book as the winner. Well done to them for all their hard work, and here’s hoping that the inspiration provided by the excellent short-list will lead to many of them pursing their interests in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths.

Friday, 14 November 2014

The Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize 2014


The Royal Society has an annual prize for the book that best communicates science to children or teenagers. The shortlist has now been announced, and the power to choose the winner is now in the hands of groups of young people across the UK. 

The six fantastic books on the shortlist cover a wide range of subjects, but none of them fail in presenting accurate information in entertaining and inventive new ways.

Half of the shortlist is aimed at younger children. How Animals Live by Christiane Dorion (Templar) is beautifully illustrated by Beverley Young. It explores the diversity of habitats for different animals on our planet. Lift-the-flap Questions and Answers About Your Body by Katie Daynes (Usborne) contains over sixty flaps, and question-word headings which encourage children to really think about what they are reading.
The Usborne Big Book of Stars and Planets by Emily Bone (Usborne) has fold-out pages which allows for a huge amount of lively information to be presented.

For somewhat older readers, What Makes You YOU? by Gill Arbuthnott (A&C Black) succeeds extremely well at engagingly explaining DNA. We’ve Got your Number by Mukal Patel (Kingfisher) does similarly well with introducing many different aspects of mathematics. Eye Benders: the science of seeing and believing, by Clive Gifford with Anil Seth (Ivy Books) is filled with optical illusions and fascinating explanations of how they work, which encompasses both biology and neurology.


The winner will be announced later this month and we’ll be featuring a full review of the winning title.

A BIG Space on the Bookshelf Congratulations to the winner of The Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize 2014!

We at Space on the Bookshelf LOVED all of the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize shortlisted books this year, (to be fair we loved the longlisted one too!) Reviewing the shortlist was a pleasure [press here to read our reviews], and so we can empathise with the judges that picking a winner must have been a difficult task. 

But without further a'do we would like to congratulate all of the shortlisted authors, and ultimately say a huge CONGRATULATIONS to the winner ...




...Piers Torday for The Dark Wild! 


Saturday, 8 November 2014

Star Struck by Cathy West – Challenged Reader’s – Review




To show our support for National Dyslexia Awareness week 2014, we have spent the week reviewing books written and designed especially for reluctant readers. Many of these are books which use the High-Low model: High interest age, with a lower reading age, so children who have issues reading can enjoy stories that are written for their interest age, but are accessible, as they are easier to read than other books written for the same age group.



Today we bring you a review for a series of books produced by Ransom, which use the High-Low method; the Star Struck series which are written for fourteen year old girls with a reading age of eight. The series and produced on themes that should interest teenage girls as they are all about performing arts. Each book is about a different type of performing art; ‘Star Singer’, ‘Street Theatre, ’Bollywood’ etc.

The Star Struck series written by Cathy West (who is actually two people; Anita Loughrey and Steve Rickard), are glossy and bright, and produced in a format to encourage girls to read, by splitting the book into sections, with a fact section, and a narrative based fiction section. The fact section, written by series editor Steve Rickard, is formatted with lots of bright colourful photographic images, and delivers the facts in bite-sized digestible chunks. This clever juxtaposition of imagery and facts, is inviting to challenged readers as it is not text heavy. The small nougats of facts are easier to process as they don’t need to be extracted from long passages of text.



The fiction section, which is at the back of the book, is written by Anita Loughrey, [who we are interviewing about her involvement with Star Struck; press here to read]. The story is written to reflect the subject matter of the book, and is accompanied by large full colour illustrations. The stories are written with vocabulary which is easy to read, and formatted so that the reader can read either the bulk of the text, or use the illustrations and speech bubbles within the pictures to deliver the story.



The thought and planning that have gone into the Star Struck series, really shines through, as their specially designed format is developed to make the reading experience easier and more enjoyable plus giving readers a choice of how to read the text.

When researching the series in preparation to write this post, I spoke to the Buckinghamshire Library service, to find that the Star Struck series is popular on the library bus, with many of the titles being lent to pupils at school they visit. This is testament to the quality of the design, and careful consideration of content.

The Star Struck series is a great example of the resources that are now being developed especially for challenged readers.





We have some Star Struck books to give away! Just tweet #StarStruck to @BookshelfSpace or e-mail us spaceonthebookshelf@yahoo.com with Star Struck in the subject bar.

Good Luck!





Star Struck - Challenged Readers Review - Author Interview with Anita Loughrey


Continuing on our  reluctant reader  Star Struck feature (to read the review press here)we have a lovely interview with the author of the fiction stories within the books, Anita Loughrey.

Anita writes teacher resources, fiction and non-fiction for children of all ages. She also has a column in the national writing magazine Writers’ Forum about authors and their research.


What was your favourite children’s book as a child?

One of my favourite book as a child was The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis. That is why my recent trip to the Oxford Story Museum was like a childhood dream come true. They have a wardrobe and you walk through the fur coats into Narnia. Magic!

What is your favourite children’s book as an adult?

One of my favourite books for children as an adult is Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights. When I grew up, I want to write just like him.

What do you think makes children’s books so inspirational?

I think it is the characters in children’s books that make them so inspirational.


How did you get the opportunity to write for the Star Struck series?

Steve contacted me through Facebook and asked if I was interested in doing the project. I thought it sounded exciting so said ok.

I first met Steve Rickard the editor and co-author of the Starstruck series at a Educational Writers’ Group event at the Society of Authors. He was talking about Ransom Publishing and the sorts of books they published. Afterwards, we chatted and exchanged business cards. I served on the Educational Writers’ Group committee for four years and believe that events such as these provide valuable networking opportunities.

Are there any challenges / rewards when writing a book for challenged readers?

When writing a book aimed at fourteen year old with a reading age of seven, you must try and tell the story as succinctly as you possible can. You don’t want to use long descriptions and ambiguous words. I tried to include some dialogue on each page and gave myself a word limit for each page too. On top of this you have to remember that we were aiming the books at a female, teenage market so the stories had to be interesting and relevant to teenage girls. I tried to make all twelve of the books funny and where possible include a little twist at the end.

Jenny Ertle, Steve’s wife and partner at Ransom Publishing, came up with the subject for each of the books. There are some great titles but some of them were a challenge as I did not know anything about Modern Dance, or Street Style for example. But I did a bit of research on the Internet and managed to come up with some ideas for stories. I think the hardest one to write out of both of the Starstruck series was the one on Musical Theatre. I love Musical Theatre and have been to see lots of shows so each time I wrote something it just felt wrong. The story I ended up with was based on a real conversation with my then teenage daughter and it still makes me laugh when I read it.


What is it like being half of Cathy West?

It is fun. I have enjoyed working for Steve Rickard and Jenny Ertle from Ransom Publishing. I think it helps we have a similar sense of humour.



We have some Star Struck books to give away! Just tweet #StarStruck to @BookshelfSpace or e-mail us spaceonthebookshelf@yahoo.com with Star Struck in the subject bar.


Good Luck!

Friday, 7 November 2014

The Fish in the Bathtub by Eoin Colfer - Barrington Stoke Review



In support of National Dyslexia Awareness week, here is another review of one of out favourite Barrington Stoke Titles of the year. Apologies in advance, as it is a Christmas story, (but is November so it is only a tad early!)

Barrington Stoke are fanatically good at working with bestselling authors, the author of The Fish in the Bathtub is no exception as it is the wonderfully talented (can you tell I’m a fan?) Mr ‘Artemis Fowl,’ Eoin Colfer .



The Fish in the Bathtub, is a heart-warming festive yarn which tells the story of eight year old Lucja who is preparing to celebrate Christmas with her Mum and Grandpa, in their humble flat in Warsaw.

The story is crafted to show cultural differences between the Christmas experiences of children who live in different parts of the world. It is the story of Christmas in a communist state, where freedom of choice is restricted and even what you can for your festive dinner is dictated. When Lucja’s Grandpa decides he wants to eat carp for his Christmas Eve meal in a personal stance of defiance, he sources the fish from the black market.

The surprise comes when the carp is delivered in a bucket and still very much alive. The carp quickly becomes a resident in the bathtub in the days before Christmas and the lonely Lucja becomes attached to it as she befriends the fish. As Christmas approached Lucja’s bond with Mister Carp grows and her confidence and happiness blooms. With Grandpa so determined to make a stand, will his love for his granddaughter soften him enough to spare the fish’s life, and stop him from inadvertently imitating the acts of the compressors that he despises so much?



Colfer has told a gentle and compelling tale, which tackles complex issues, yet manages to present them in a way that is obtainable to the young audience. The fish in the Bathtub, is a lovely story with serious themes and positive messages about love and family, getting to the heart of the Christmas spirit. This in combination with the charming illustrations by Peter Baily is a real festive treat.


Tomorrow, we are concluding our Dyslexia Awareness Week posts with a special review and interview and GIVEAWAY. please pop back tomorrow to find out more!

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Freddy Pig by Charlie Higson and Mark Chambers plus Wolfman by Michael Rosen and Chris Mould - Barrington Stoke Reviews


Continuing our reviews of books for challenged readers to celebrate National Dyslexia Awareness week, today we are looking at two of Barrington Stoke's picture books. Barrington Stoke, who specialise in producing books for Challenged Readers, by producing easy to read and dyslexia friendly books, have this year introduced a range of picture books. The picture books can be read by children who have challenges in reading or by dyslexic adults to children.

The picture books, following in Barrington Stoke's tradition are penned by best-selling authors and illustrated by very talented illustrators. The following tow reviews are by education professional Kacy Berry, who has worked with children for the past decade.

Freddy Pig

Charlie Higson and March Chambers



Freddy And the Pig is a funny story about a boy that doesn't want to go to school so send his pig instead. At home the lazy boy gets fat and is sold to a farm whereas the pig goes on to LOVE school! This is a humorous tale, that also can be used as a 'fairytale' type warning to children as what can happen if you don't go to school.




Wolf Man
Michael Rosen and Chris Mould


Wolf Man is a VERY funny story and a great read for the classroom. Unexpected ending that children will love, and can be used for teaching lessons about never judging people by their appearance. It is accompanied by beautiful and hilarious illustrations.



Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Ninja Assassin by Chris Bradford - Barrington Stoke Review



Continuing our support of National Dyslexia Awareness Week, we bring a review of best-selling author of Young Samurai series, Chris Bradford's Ninja Assassin, which is published by Barrington Stoke.  This book is actioned packed, and beautify illustrated by comic and Manga artist Sonia Leong. 

We are very pleased to present the review by d├ębut child reviewer, 9 year old Alex, who himself is dyslexic. 


Ninja Assassin Review by Alex (age 9)

Interest Age: 8-12
Reading Age: 8



This book is outstanding! Once I had read the second chapter I couldn't put the book down until I had finished it! The story is about three ninjas who set out to plot a revenge over the death of Taka's parents. An epic adventure including Ninja and samurai.



Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Skulduggery by Tony Robinson - Barrington Stoke Review


Interest Age: 5-8
Reading Age: 6+


Skulduggery is a quirky comic adventure following a boy on his first day at a new school, “Squire Trelawneys School for Young Sea Dogs.’ The enthusiastic ‘sea-pup’ who is dressed in full pirate regalia becomes downhearted to discover that (due to the pressures of the modern education system) that the school is not what he expected, and is just like any other ordinary school.

After a running with two of the school scoundrels ‘Billy Bones’ and ‘Black Dog’, he makes friends with the charming, ‘Short John Silver’ who helps him stash away his treasure chest. Like any good pirate yarn, the treasure disappears and it turns out that John has a sliver tongue and is in fact at pirate captain. As the new sea pup, ‘Ben Gunn’ embarks on an adventure on the high seas to save the school he pounders; can he trust Short John Silver?

Sir Tony Robinson has produced a quirky humorous book for younger readers bringing in the themes and characters of, ‘Robert Louis Stevenson ‘s, Treasure Island. It is a funny age appropriate introduction to the classic for younger readers, which is enhanced by Jamie Smith’s lively illustrations.

Monday, 3 November 2014

The Night Raid by Caroline Lawrence - Barrington Stoke Review




To put our support behind Dyslexia Awareness Week which runs this week (November 3rd to November 9th 2014), during the week we will be posting review of some of our favourite Barrington Stoke releases of the year.  Some reviews will be by one of us Space on the Bookshelf blog authors, some by teaching professionals, and other like today's, are by children.


The Night Raid by Caroline Lawrence 

Interest age : Teen Reading Age: 8

Review by Lucy aged 10

‘They say when someone stabs you it doesn’t hurt. They say it feels like a fist has punched you. That you hardly notice it in the heart of the battle. They were wrong.’
When the famous city Troy came under attack, two boys, Rhy and Nisus, undertook a terrifying night journey to escape their enemies who are burning their home. So begins a fascinating journey filled with danger, suspense, and most of all excitement!

I think that this book will be enjoyed by boys and girls of all ages. It is a great book, and although it is gruesome at times it has an emotional touch which keeps it from being just a story. I also think that, The Night Raid, has a meaning; Best friends always stay together, forever.

The Night Raid, is a historical book, including all kinds of Trojan/ Roman beliefs and weapons – it will help you in History!

In conclusion, The Night Raid is one of the best books ever; pick your copy up as soon as possible!