Welcome to our new Fiction Discussion Group page. Here we’ll be posting recaps straight from our KS2 FDG meetings which take place once an academic term. In advance of our meetings, Teachers are given a set of KS2 fiction (and sometimes non-fiction) to read and discuss with their class. It’s a great way to discuss new and old children’s fiction and to find out whether children’s views differ from our own.
Group Meeting: 13th March 2019
This term’s meeting was kindly hosted by Hillside Avenue Primary School, which meant we got to enjoy their lovely, unique library once more, (a model of how to fit an amphitheatre inside an average sized classroom space, and still make the room light and inviting and full of books!). After a general chat about all things book-y, we discussed the term’s selection of recent paperbacks, as below:
- Riddle of the Runes by Janina Ramirez
Chosen partly because it would make a great fiction read alongside the wonderful Vikings exhibition currently showing at Norwich Castle Museum, this was enjoyed by older KS2 readers. A Year 6 boy took a while to get into it, but was then hooked. Year 3 children struggled with the vocabulary and settings unsurprisingly, but one pupil absolutely loved it.
- Super Happy Magic Forest by Matty Long
Different members of the group had different titles in this short series of picture books, vibrantly illustrated and with hilarious speech buttons and silly jokes. This means it doesn’t work as a read-aloud, but years 5 and 6 loved it and thought it very funny. Year 3 however didn’t want to engage with it, as they are at an age when to look at a picture book is seen to be ‘babyish’ and they are all wanting to read heavy tomes! Good for reluctant readers.
- Mr Penguin series by Alex T. Smith
Chosen for the younger children in KS2, as one of Smith’s copiously illustrated stories for newly independent readers, this was a hit from Page One! A year 3 class thought it hilarious. Although the plot seemed ‘barmy’ to an adult, this didn’t bother its young audience. While middle range pupils also enjoyed it, Years 5 and 6 liked the look of it initially, and it is quite ‘meaty’ looking, but then perhaps rejected it as being a bit ‘young’.
- The Boy Who Grew Dragons by Andy Shepherd
The group had this or its sequels, and it found favour with the pupils generally, with matching black and white illustrations by Sara Ogilvie. It’s a fairly short, light series about a group of school friends struggling to care for small and mischievous dragon pets. What I don’t care for is the lone bully in the stories, with the school friends ganging up against him – why is he like this, he seems a bit sad and rather two dimensional. However:
“It was a good book and it is like you are teaching children how wonderful dragons were and how you taught them. It is a good book to read.”- Martyna, age 10, Little Plumstead Primary School
- Me and My Alien Friend by Ed Boxall
This is a delightful collection of poems about all aspects of friendship, which would make a great addition to PSHE sessions. One girl kept the book on her desk and liked to read a poem every so often; poems are great for those who want something short and manageable.
- I Thought I Heard a Tree Sneeze by Brian Moses, illustrated by Ed Boxall
Illustrated by multi-skilled Ed Boxall (see above), this is a collection of some of Moses’ ‘very best’ poems, though it is not a large volume, and Moses has been a prolific poet over the years with many excellent poems to his name. This particular book didn’t light any sparks in our young readers, but staff admitted it might need more active promotion than they had given it.
- Picklewitch and Jack by Claire Barker
This is a very sweet story about a pair of very different children (well, officially one is a witch) learning to be friends. The little witch is desperate to go to school and have Jack as her friend, while prim, nerdy Jack is horrified at her wild eccentricities and the mayhem she causes at school. It’s funny and touching at the same time. Year 3 loved it and it makes a good read aloud, with each chapter ending on a cliffhanger. The language is inventive, and Picklewitch’s earthy expletives (nothing too rude!) were popular!
- Boy Underwater by Adam Baron
One of our group members was particularly enthusiastic about this poignant, richly layered story for older pupils (and grownups!), and couldn’t put it down. Even better, the pupils loved it too, and nobody saw the twist coming toward the end. Funny and heartbreaking by turns this should be a prize winner!
Norwich Group Meeting: 22nd November 2018
For our last meeting of 2018 (and the first of this new academic year), we visited Saxlingham Nethergate for our termly get together and discuss the books given to our teachers this autumn. Before we got to those, however, we had a general catch up about book awards (the Blue Peter shortlist), the appeal of eBooks vs physical copies (we unanimously agreed we preferred real life books but eReaders are great when you’re taking a trip..!) and Harriet recommended Lucy Mangan’sBookworm (a great excuse to reminisce about some childhood favourite reads!). Thoughts about what the teachers (and their pupils!) thought of the ten books they’d been sent this time…
- Child I by Steve Tasan
A book which follows a group of undocumented, unaccompanied children in a refugee camp; a very sobering read written from a child’s point of view, with a thread of acceptance running throughout. We discussed the difficulty of reading the book as an adult, i.e. knowing the reality of the situation, and how that clouded our feeling a little.
- Chicken on the Roof by Matt Goodfellow & Where Zebras Go by Sue Hardy-Dawson
Two poetry books (some schools had one, some had the other!) enjoyed by all; good, easy length, simple enough for children who liked the humor aspect- the rhymes were appealing and made the book approachable. Many of our group have children in their classes who enjoy poetry, so these lighthearted collections were ideal!
- Bee Boy: Clash of the Killer Queens by Tony De Saulles
The children who read it found it enjoyable, but many of the teachers said that the book wasn’t particularly memorable. It didn’t seem to work especially well as a read aloud, and though it looks accessible (the pictures, and its similarity to Tom Gates or Wimpy Kid), not much happens. That said, we did all agree that it does have a very pro-bees message, and many of us learnt something new about how important they are to the eco-system…!
- Just Jack by Kate Scott
Short chapters perfect for class reading, though some of the teachers said they weren’t sure whether children would enjoy it, this book was praised for how useful it would be when discussing parental separation or divorce, particularly the impact it can have on younger members of the family.
- The Wilderness War & To The Edge of the World, both by Julia Green
Two lovely titles c/o Julia Green; Wilderness War has potential to encourage children to get outside, even if our teachers did think it was a little too Enid Blyton-y. To The Edge of the World was well liked; an exciting, adventure-y tale with a narrative which follows the friendship of a boy and girl- a dynamic which was well liked!
- Pigeon Pi by Meg McLaren
A picture book which the children enjoyed, even if many of the references passed them by. Everyone agreed that the fun, mystery aspect WAS something the children picked up on, but the 1950s noir detective angle was a bit too outside their frames of reference…!
- The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson & Grandma Chickenlegs by Geraldine McCaughrean
Two variations on a traditional folk tale (Baba Yaga anyone?) which many of the children found strange and creepy. Though both versions had good illustrations, it was universally agreed that though each were an interesting introduction to the conventions of folk lore, the low-level horror both didn’t go down too well with those who read it…!