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Word Pool Gems

Sounds of the Wild: Night-Time                                  
Sounds of the Wild: Jungle
by Maurice Pledger
Each of these stunning book has five dramatic pop-up spreads showing a wildlife scene and, as you open the page, you get an accompanying soundtrack full of birdsong, growls, and other relevant sounds. As the titles suggest, Night-time looks at creatures of the night in different parts of the world, whereas Jungle looks at life in a variety of forest and jungle environments. There's a small amount of text with each pop-up spread, but the real information is on the intervening pages where a numbered key for each pop-up helps you identify the different creatures and learn more about them.    
     The quality of the sound, the artwork and the paper engineering are all exceptional. These books capture the attention of everyone we show them too, from babies to adults, and definitely deserve to be picked out as Word Pool Gems
Buy Night-Time from Amazon
Buy Jungle from Amazon

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey
by Susan Wojciechowski, illustrated by P.J.Lynch
(Walker Books)
Jonathan Toomey, the woodcarver, seldom smiles and never laughs because he has never recovered from the death of his wife and baby son. Then the widow McDowell and her son Thomas ask him to carve them a wooden nativity site to replace one they have lost. As he works, their gentle friendship gradually thaws his frozen heart until the task of carving Mary with her baby forces him to finally face his grief. A beautifully written story with wonderful use of language that subtly reveals the changes in Jonathan and weaves in the love story without actually mentioning it. The text is much longer than most picture books so is suitable for older children and well worth reading with KS2 classes.
Ages 5-9+
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Jim's Lion
by Russell Hoban and Ian Andrews
When Jim needs an operation to save his life, he is frightened he might never wake up from the anaesthetic. But Bami, an African nurse, helps him find his seeker - a lion that will go with him into his dreams to make sure he comes back. Armed with his special don't-run stone and belief in his seeker, he goes bravely into surgery and the story then cuts to Christmas to show the operation was a success. A gentle, thoughtful book which deals sensitively with a difficult subject without lapsing into sentimentality. Both my son and I wish we'd had this book when he needed major surgery. Hopefully it will find a place in many children's wards who might like to keep a box of don't-run stones handy.
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Comparing Giraffes and Polar Bears
by Bobbie Neate
(Neate Publishing)
Each double page spread in this book has a left hand page about polar bears and a right hand one containing the equivalent information on giraffes. It's up to the reader to do the actual comparison by, for instance, spotting that both animals have seven vertebrae in their necks or that polar bears are carnivores while giraffes are herbivores. The information is clear and easy to read but sufficiently interesting that even an adult is likely to learn something new. (I know I did.) It's also carefully written to make the book as useful as possible in teaching literacy and science with good teaching ideas included on page flaps in the teacher and parent edition. This technique makes the ideas readily accessible but also successfully separates them from the main text so this edition can also be used by a child. The glossary is excellent with clear definitions which don't involve other difficult words.
An excellent book ideal for the classroom or home.
Ages 7-11 and older children with special needs.
Buy edition with flaps from Amazon   
Buy edition without flaps from Amazon

A Street through Time
Illustrated by Steve Noon, written by Dr Anne Millard
(Dorling Kindersley)
Subtitled 'a 12000 year journey along the same street', each of the 14 double-page spreads in this book shows the same street at a different period of history from prehistoric times to the present day.  Each picture is  packed full of fascinating detail with the fronts of the houses cut away to show the activity inside. The small amount of text gives background information for the period and challenges the reader to find particular people and events in the picture. But that challenge is hardly necessary - the pictures are so interesting that you are drawn into them and the more you look, the more  you see. There are squabbling children, family crises and delightful touches of humour - all of which combine to make these people from the past come alive in a way rarely achieved in a more orthodox history book. This is a wonderful book for all ages  and a great source of ideas for creative writing. 
Ages 6 to 100
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Tom Thumb's Musical Maths
by Helen McGregor     
(A&C Black)
The songs and chants in this book provide a wonderful way to encourage children both mathematically and musically. They fit well into odd moments in the day as well as into structured numeracy sessions and are all set to well known tunes so you don't need to be a musician to use them. The range of maths skills covered is ideal for use with Key Stage 1 and there are ideas for extending the maths and for further music work. Our reviewer loved this and so did her class of mixed Year 1 and Reception children.
KS1 A must for early years teachers  (with thanks to Jan)
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The Usborne Illustrated Thesaurus      
This is without doubt the best children's thesaurus I have seen. It's also better than some adult ones - so much so that I constantly use it myself. The large pages are attractively laid out and the illustrations break up the text to make it look less daunting. For each meaning of a word, there is a sentence showing it in use followed by a list of alternative words and, where appropriate, some with the opposite meaning. But the best feature of the book is the way some words are picked out for special attention. These are carefully chosen to reflect children's interests and common problems with vocabulary and each one has an extensive list of alternative or related words in a box separated from the main text. For instance, there are 100 alternatives for the dreaded word nice and the list for space includes what you might see there, what you might do and what aliens might be like. An excellent book for the whole family which is packed with ideas to improve creative writing.
Ages 10 to adult 
Click for Sample page (~30 seconds at 28.8bps modem)
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