Book reviews - BookLife Books

I was thrilled to see a relatively new publisher of quality non-fiction for primary age children and was delighted to see the wonderful selection of books which arrived. From the BookLife website: "With over 50 years of experience working with the education sector, we bring extensive passion and knowledge to the education sector. In the last year, we have also began publishing beautiful and super-relevant children's non-fiction.After the wonderfully positive responses to our original 40 published titles, BookLife are continuing our promise to produce the very best in kid's Non-Fiction. We are working tirelessly to produce new titles in the fields that teachers need most. If there's anything you think we should be making, please let the team know." You can see the whole fantastic range and also see the other series BookLife offer on their website There are new books all the time.

Key stage 1 (KS1)

Spring (Seasons of the Year) by Harriet Brundle

This is one of a series that introduces the seasons to young children. Each book makes good use of bold images and easy to read text which promise to engage young readers, Each one starts with a page which shows the four seasons. Children can find out about the different types of weather to expect, whilst also learning about seasonal foods and activities. The landscape format is put to good use, with full colour photos on every page, with simple sentences superimposed. Some of the pictures are captioned and additional information is given in text circles. There are also suggested activities. A very simple glossary is included. Perfectly written for young readers, this is a good introduction to a popular Reception/KS1 topic.

Summer (Seasons of the Year) by Harriet Brundle

A useful page in each of the books in the series in a calendar, showing the whole year but with the appropriate season circled so children can see where it fits in the annual cycle. The photos all feature children, so children can easily relate to what is happening and can be encouraged to discuss what they can see. Activities, such as 'draw a picture of something you enjoy doing in the summertime', help children to think about what they are reading and learning and add an element of fun.

Autumn (Seasons of the Year) by Harriet Brundle

Children's vocabulary is increased by using the glossary which explains words which are highlighted in the text - it's a useful feature. Various aspects of the changes autumn brings are discussed, including the changing colours of the leaves, fruit that is harvested and the fact the days are becoming shorter. The text is simple and a clear, child-friendly font is used. Extra information is given in coloured text circles. The books encourage children to observe the world around them - for example, looking for spiders. Throughout the books, the children in the pictures are happy and purposeful, giving the books a good positive image.

Winter (Seasons of the Year) by Harriet Brundle

An added dimension is given to the books with the introduction of a page about what happens in other parts of the world - this book features the North Pole and the South Pole. There is also a page 'Facts about winter' which shows snowflakes and tells the reader that everyone is different. Each book includes information about seasonal food, what grows outside, activities outdoors and plenty more. The colour photos are excellent and always feature children to capture the young readers' interest.

Roots (Parts of a Plant) by Gemma McMullen

Why do plants have leaves? Which part of a plant keeps it anchored into the ground? What do flowers do? Children will enjoy finding out the answers to these questions, and many more, in this informative and beautifully imagined series. This colourful series is in generously sized landscape format, which allows for excellently sized photos which give enough detail to show the subject without being overly cluttered for children. Each topic is covered in a two-page spread, with full page photos with simple text in two or three sentences on each page.

Flowers (Parts of a Plant) by Gemma McMullen

The lovely colour photos are seen to perfection in this brightly coloured book which introduces children to some of the wide range of flowering plants. Good use of labels adds to the information and helps children learn. They will learn useful facts such as the fact that broccoli is actually a flower and bees collect pollen to distribute to other plants. The language is simple and there are plenty of ways to encourage children to interact with the book such as asking them to look at the black bat flower and decide why it is called that.

Leaves (Parts of a Plant) by Gemma McMullen

The book starts by showing children pictures of many different leaves - they could be encouraged to see how many of these they can find. The book explains how leaves work and how they are used by animals and by humans. There are also some weird and wonderful leaves to amaze children! These four books taken together are perfect for introducing children to the world of plants. They will excite their interest through the excellent big colour photos and encourage children to think about the plants we see all around us. I like the fact there are questions in the books which encourage this.

Brazil (World Adventures) by Grace Jones

Travel through the countries of the world and learn about the weather, famous landmarks and their landscapes. This exciting series explores aspects of human and physical geography via engaging text and informative diagrams to support National Curriculum requirements. It's great to see a very simple series of books about different countries so the young children can learn about other places and cultures. Each book has simple text accompanied by plenty of colourful photos, many of them featuring children and their families. This book introduces Brazil, its life and customs and notable landmarks.

India (World Adventures) by Grace Jones

This book covers Where is India?; Weather and Landscape; Clothing; Religion: Food; At School; At Home; Families: Sport - the same format is followed throughout the series. This helps young children to learn to use the books, as they become familiar with the format and learn where to go for information. I am just a little disappointed that the indexes are not up to the same high standard as the rest of the books. The glossary is useful - words are featured in bold and then explained in the glossary; this helps children to use the correct vocabulary and extends learning.

England (World Adventures) by Grace Jones

Children can compare their own lives in the UK with the lives of others around the world, as this book follows the same format as those for other countries. The book starts off with a map of the United Kingdom and photos of each of the capital cities. There is then a map of Europe to put the UK into context, plus the flags of the UK. The book then has the same page headings as the rest of the series, with simple text on each page of two or three sentences in clear font. About three quarters of each page is taken up with excellent colour photos showing the country, its landscapes, people and customs. Fun facts conclude the book.

India (World Adventures) by Grace Jones

The colourful covers of this series feature an eye-catching picture of a child with a background representation of the country's flag. The books are hardback, making them ideal for school and library use. The text is easy to read with plenty of facts presented at the right level for Reception/KS1 children. The series is a good way to introduce children to different cultures and countries.

Touching (My Senses) by Grace Jones

Discover how our five senses work and help us to understand the world around us with the My Senses series. With repetitive and easy to read text and simple diagrams, this series is an ideal introduction for younger readers. It's a good series for children who are learning to read and who enjoy non-fiction. Each page has a large full colour photograph, often featuring children. There are one or two sentences on each page and there are also some labels on the photos.

Hearing (My Senses) by Grace Jones

Each book has the same introduction about the senses. Then the books introduce the individual sense and use a range of excellent photos to explain further. This book discusses some of the many sounds we commonly hear. Each book has a glossary explaining words shown in bold in the text and an index helping children to find their way around the book. Seeing (My Senses) discusses topics including Light and Dark, Seeing Colour, At the Seaside and Super Senses. Topics covered in Tasting (My Senses) include Tasting, Sweet and Sour and Bitter and Salty; each book has pages on Staying Safe and Super Senses. The final book in this excellent series is Smelling (My Senses); together, they are perfect to introduce the senses to Reception and Year 1 children, and ensure they will cover the curriculum.

Life Cycle of a Frog (Life Cycles) by Grace Jones

The Life Cycles series helps children learn about the amazing life cycles of the animals, plants and insects that live in our world. With easy to read text and informative diagrams, this series is a perfect introduction for young readers. Life cycles are popular science curriculum topics for KS1, so this series will be ideal for classroom use. Each book has an introductory page on 'What is a life cycle' which shows the human life cycle. In this book, we follow the life cycle of the frog from the laying of the eggs to the change into a mature frog. There are then some interesting (and surprising) facts about frogs.

Life Cycle of a Butterfly (Life Cycles) by Grace Jones

The contents page helps children find their way around the book - page titles include what is a butterfly/; changing caterpillars and world record breakers. The book is copiously illustrated with excellent colour photos which really show children every stage of the lifecycle. There are also some well labelled pictures - these will be good for children to copy into their own books. The explanatory text is simple, just a couple of sentences on each page, so ideal for new readers to tackle on their own.

Life Cycle of a Sunflower (Life Cycles) by Grace Jones

Children will learn all about the life cycle of a sunflower - it's a great plant to choose because children will often grow sunflowers at school or at home, so they can use the book to follow the progress of their very own sunflowers. Each topic has a two page spread, and there are plenty of pictures to expain the text; the pictures of the seed germinating are especially good. text in circles adds additional information. Children will enjoy the pages on world record breakers with their amazing facts. Each book in the series concludes with an illustrated life cycle and a suggested activity - in this book, it's grow your own sunflower. The glossary explains highlighted words and there's a useful index which will help children learn the use of this essential reference/research tool.

Vegetables (Healthy Eating) by Gemma McMullen

The Healthy Eating series explores each of the main food groups in a fun and informative way. Young readers will learn where food comes from and which foods are best for their bodies. It's a really good series as it is so important for children to know about the origins of the food we eat and how to make sensible choices in their own eating - this cannot start too young so this simple and informative series is brilliant. Vegetables teaches them about where vegetables come from, how they grow and why they are healthy. Really good colour photos show lots of different vegetables, and there are plenty of interesting facts to capture children's interest.

Starchy Foods (Healthy Eating) by Gemma McMullen

I love to see books which give children a good start in learning to use non-fiction books to do their own research. The books in this series have a clear contents page which guides them to the two page spreads on specific topics. The text is simple and matches the stated purpose of the page; the photography supports this. Fact bubbles give additional information and explain the content of pictures. Underlined words are explained in the glossary, helping children to extend their vocabulary and use appropriate language. Useful indexes help children find specific topics. This book tells children about starchy foods - grains, rice, wheat, bread, pasta and potatoes - and explains their role in our diet.

Meat and Fish (Healthy Eating) by Gemma McMullen

Children will learn about meat and meat products, fish and fish products, where meat and fish come from, and other sources of protein. The simple, clear explanations will help children make sensible choices about eating and are an excellent prompt for parents and teachers to discuss healthy eating. Food facts give interesting information. Collect all the books in the series to give KS1 children a super introduction to healthy eating. Milk and Dairy Products (Healthy Eating) shows the wonderful range of products produced from milk; it also shows that milk comes from animals other than cows and displays the variety of cheese from around the world. Children will enjoy spotting and learning about their favourite fruits in Fruit (Healthy Eating).Fats and Sugars is also available.






Springs (Young Explorers) by Sally Hewitt

This well illustrated series is ideal for lower KS2 and each title is perfectly matched to the new curriculum. Each topic has a two page spread, excellently illustrated with a range of photos - for example, there is a page in this book on bouncing toys, which explains how table football, pogo sticks and slinkies work; perfect to capture children's attention. They can put the science into practice by making a bouncy frog. There's a photo to show each toy in action. An unusual and excellent feature is the story found at the end of several of the books, which is based on the theme of the book; when reading the story in this book, children are asked to look for words about springs and elastic materials. Then they are asked to write their own story and do a drawing - in this case, showing the use of springs or elastic. There is also a quiz and a very detailed index.

Habitats (Young Explorers) by Jim Pipe

The book starts by introducing habitats and explaining their variety, from vast desert to small windowbox. It discusses living things and food chains, then goes on to explore a range of habitats including woods, meadows, rivers, seashore and towns. The story is Seaside Explorers, and it tells about children exploring with their father and learning about the creatures who call the seashore home. It would work really well used in the classroom alongside the book, and offers lots of potential for teachers.

Seasons (Young Explorers) by Janet Brown

The stunning photography really sets these books apart - and as they are produced on high quality shiny paper, they are shown at their best. The photos show varying aspects of the seasons and many feature children having fun - splashing in puddles, playing on the beach - and this will appeal to young readers. The text is fairly simple and easy to read, and a good sized clear font encourages children to read and helps develop their reading skills. Each photo is separately captioned and there are several on each page. The book largely focuses on experiences familiar to children in this country, but seasons in rainforests, at the South Pole and in deserts are included. This book concludes with Can You Find and Did You Know questions which encourage interactivity.

Sound and Hearing (Young Explorers) by Jim Pipe

Support children's learning of the science curriculum with this colourful and engaging book, which helps children learn all they need to know about the topic. They are engaged right from the first page, which asks them to 'sit and listen' and then consider which sounds and noises they like or don't like. This interactivity continues throughout the book and is an excellent way to reinforce learning, as it makes children think about sound - something we can take for granted. The excellent photos show it all in action. The story is My Noisy Family and it really highlights the sounds that are around us all day; reading it in class will be an excellent way to get children to discuss the topic. After reading the story, they are asked to listen then draw pictures of the things they hear, or draw an animal and its sounds. With all these features, lesson planning for teachers will be easy. There is no index in this book, sadly.

The Vikings (Young Explorers) by Stewart Ross

Who were the Vikings? Where did they live? Find out more about the fearless Vikings who changed the shape of Britain's historical past. The book uses a wide range of illustration types to bring these fearsome warriors to life - coloured drawings, photos of re-enactments, maps and more. They are all well explained and clearly labelled, making them a real asset for KS2 studies of the Vikings. An excellent feature of most of the books in the series is the index. Indexes are detailed and an excellent research/reference tool; a good way to teach children this essential skill. The book also includes a 'Find out more' section which encourages children to continue their learning; the unusual words will interest children.

Mini-Beasts (Young Explorers) by Jim Pipe

Minibeasts are a popular topic in primary schools and this colourful, well illustrated book will complement teaching either at home or in school. The hardback binding of BookLife books makes them ideal for libraries, school and public. The close-up photos are a particular feature of this book and they really do show the creatures off well. The text is informative and easy to read and remember. There are also suggestions for activities to engage children and further their learning - the book suggests going on a bug hunt, then drawing or painting them. The book is packed with facts and highly informative; it also emphases the importance of caring for all creatures. The story is Bug Hunt and it also is informative; ideal to share with a class. It is followed by a quiz - a feature of most of the books in the series and one which helps children remember and revise what they have read. Another excellent book which gives good basic coverage to stimulate an interest.

Sorting Materials (Young Explorers) by Sally Hewitt

This book is another which covers a KS2 science topic at a level suited to the beginning of the key stage. All the excellent features of the series are here - eye-catching photography, simple clear facts, a good index, a story to capture the interest, activities to encourage learning and a quiz to check and reinforce knowledge.

Light and Dark (Young Explorers) by Jim Pipe

Learn how light enables us to see things, how to identify different light sources and how shadows are formed by objects - all topics covered in the science curriculum. The text is simple and straightforward and there are plenty of questions throughout to capture children's interest and to encourage them to think about what they are learning. This book does not have an index but it does have an interesting page on 'light words', with photos, which refers back to the appropriate page in the book.

Ancient Egypt (Discover Ancient Civilisations) by Anita Ganeri

Bring history to life and support KS2 history teaching with this in-depth look at one of the oldest ancient civilisations in the world. Learn about mummification, pharaohs, hieroglyphics and how the pyramids were built. The series Discover Ancient Civilizations takes a look at the great achievements of some of the world's earliest civilisations. and helps children to learn about their diverse societies and customs, how they influenced the past and the present, and how they continue to shape modern culture.

Ancient Rome (Discover Ancient Civilisations) by Anita Ganeri

Each of the books in this series starts with an introduction that shows how the subjects in the book are divided up - the sections are geography; science and maths; history; language and literature; social history; and arts, crafts and music. This will be especially useful for teachers planning cross-curricular learning. Each topic has its own symbol and throughout the book, the symbols are used to show the reader which subject is being discussed. It's a simple device but very effective for young readers. Each major topic covers a two page spread - this book includes The Early Empire; The Pax Romana; Rich and Poor; and The Legacy of Rome. The comprehensive index is useful to help children find the information they want.

The Vikings (Discover Ancient Civilisations) by Anita Ganeri

Children will learn all the facts they need for KS2 study of the Vikings in this book, perfect for classroom use. Each book in the series devotes a two page spread to each topic. Different text sizes are used so it's easy for children to read the information and it allows for differentiated reading. The books make really good use of illustrative material, which includes maps, coloured drawings, photographs and well-labelled diagrams. These make up a high proportion of each page, making them attractive and appealing to children. Much of the information is presented in coloured fact boxes, which helps to set the information apart, making the facts easy to see and read - the colours reflect the symbols given to the six topics highlighted at the start of the books. All the text is very informative and well-written for children in KS2.

Ancient Greece (Discover Ancient Civilisations) by Anita Ganeri

This colourful book will teach children about the gods and goddesses of Ancient Egypt and the great philosophers, playwrights and astronomers who have all had such an impact on the way we live today. History is put into context by the inclusion of date charts which give the key dates and include maps linking to the events. A timeline is found at the end of the book and this is detailed and comprehensive - encourage children to look at the dates discussed in the text and then to put them into context with other events by using the timeline. Alongside the timeline is a useful glossary to help children understand and use key words correctly in their own writing. Finally, there is a comprehensive index.

Aztecs and Incas (Discover Ancient Civilisations) by Chloe Sayer

The Aztecs and the Incas are two of the greatest civilisations of the Americas. Children will learn about their daily lives, how they worshipped, the battles they fought and much more. Copiously illustrated throughout, mainly with colourful drawings which show how the people lived and dressed, this book gives a good overview with plenty of information. The attractive layout encourages children to explore the book and the straightforward text is informative and easy to read, with good division of facts by the use of coloured backgrounds. This series is an excellent way to help children learn about ancient civilisations and their impact on our lives today.










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