Will Gunnar wreak his vengeance on Skuli; head of the wolf me? You will have to read the book to find out but it is well worth it.
At 206 pages long the book is relatively short, a great length for a class read in years 5 or 6 and beyond. It could be accessed by children in Y4 but teachers should use caution due to some of the content. A number of characters lose their heads (literally.)
This story would be a great accompaniment to a Vikings history unit, allowing teachers to explore both the brutality of Viking life and elements of Norse Mythology.
I prefer this text to 'How to Train Your Dragon' as a more realistic portrayal of Viking culture.
Find out more about Tony Bradman and his school visits on his website here
Other Historical Texts by Tony Bradman
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More books with a Viking theme
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It is true that I have neglected Non-fiction books on this blog so far. However, I will blame my 7-year-old son, Noah - he keeps stealing them. I have had to get this one from by his bed in order to review it.
The Wonder Garden is a beautifully illustrated book which allows its readers to 'wander through five habitats to discover eighty amazing animals.'
The language used in the text is challenging also using the latin names of the animals alongside the common. The author describes the creatures vividly, using poetic language amongst the technical. (See extract below)
Other beautifully illustrated non-fiction texts with an animal theme.
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Please leave further suggestions in the comments section below.
The Land of Neverbelieve by Norman Messenger is a natural world non-fiction book with a difference - It is all made up!
Grandad's Secret Giant by David Litchfield - author of 'The Bear and The Piano' is a wonderful picture book about acceptance that can be enjoyed by children of all ages.
This is the main theme of the story. Prejudice against things that we are afraid of and the acceptance of such things. In the story, we see how Billy reacts when he first sees the giant and how his Grandad's words makes him react differently to the other people in the town.
Click the image below to buy a copy of this book.
Other stories about 'fear' and/or 'acceptance.' Click the book cover for details.
The story is told through the eyes of Anne Marie Johansen, a friend of Ellen Rosen. Both girls are 10 years old and living through the occupation at first unaware of the dangers that they are potentially in. They have heard rumours of Jewish families being located and Anne-Marie discovers that the shops in the neighbourhood that are owned by Jews are suddenly being closed down.
With the help of the ‘Danish Resistance’ Jews are crossing the sea from Denmark to the relative safety of ‘neutral’ Sweden.
Will the Rosens make it? Will the Johansens and their friends get caught aiding them?
Young readers will get caught up in the secrecy and suspense of these actions but are somewhat protected from the implications of capture. In that sense, they are very much like the three girls in the story.
If you are looking for a text to use in class which tells of the events in occupied Europe but without exposing the children to some of the more graphic retellings in novels such as ‘Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ and the wonderful books by Morris Gleitzman.
If children enjoy ‘Number the Stars’ they may also enjoy ‘The Silver Sword’ by Ian Serralier and ‘Hitler’s Canary’ by Sandi Toksvig.
Visit The War and Peace shed for short films about conflict - click here
Erin Pike lives by the sea and she longed to go out to sea on her mum's fishing boat. Unfortunately, even though Erin tries to stowaway on the boat she never gets chance to go out onto the ocean. She is not allowed. The sea is too dangerous. There are legends and tales told in the fishing village about 'The Black Rock.' The Black Rock appears from nowhere and destroys boats; their crew are never seen again!
One day Erin sneaks onto her mums boat and sails out to sea. She comes face to face with The Black Rock and ends up finding out the real secret. Erin lives to tell the tale even if the grown ups of the town do not want to believe all that she tells.
This modern folk tale tells us a story of people and their relationship with things that they do not understand. It reminds me a little of the story of 'The Iron Man' by Ted Hughes and has themes that echo in this book for older children: 'The Island' by Armin Greder
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A wonderful book to share on World Book Day or at anytime to illustrate the magic of books and the places reading can take you.
Other books by Oliver Jeffers
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Tan tells us of his inspiration and the methods he used to create the images that we see in the finished book.
"Each night before the boy went to to bed, he would light the fire. He would squeeze beside Grandma on her favourite chair. The house would be quiet, except for the turning of a page and the ticking of a clock."
'The Building Boy' by Ross Montgomery is a truly heartwarming story about a young boy and his grandma who had been a famous architect. The boy and his grandma spend each night looking at photographs of her achievements and together they plan to build a marvellous house on a hill where they can live together.
The stunning illustrations by David Litchfield compliment the story beautifully.
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Further books on the theme of death and bereavement
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Holocaust Memorial Day takes place on 27 January each year. It’s a time for everyone to pause to remember the millions of people who have been murdered or whose lives have been changed beyond recognition during the Holocaust, Nazi Persecution and in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. On HMD we can honour the survivors of these regimes and challenge ourselves to use the lessons of their experience to inform our lives today. 27 January marks the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp.
We have collated some books that may help teachers share these poignant stories with their class.
The Harmonica by Tony Johnston - Illustrated by Ron Mazellan
The story is Henry's. Henry was a jew living in Poland during WWII. When the Nazi's invade the family finds itself split - Henry in one concentration camp and his parents in another.
Henry though has his prized possession with him, a harmonica which his father taught him to play. He plays this in the darkness, he 'played it to keep from losing hope.'
Henry plays Schubert as his heart is breaking, by some 'terrible miracle' he is heard playing by the camp commandment who each night after making him play tosses him some meagre food. This makes Henry feel guilty, guilty that he is playing beautiful music for such a monster but also because he is 'getting bread while others starved to death.' He feels sick to his stomach with guilt until one night the other prisoners thank him for bringing the beauty of the music into their sad existence.
Alternative Children's books with similar themes
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Benno and the Night of Broken Glass by Meg Wiviott.
Young Person's Novels
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This is not an exhaustive list. Please add your own recommendations in the comments below.
After building up a small library of books we thought the time had come to share them!