Stocking stuffers to suit all tastes

21st December 2007 at 00:00
Harry Potter might have dominated review headlines this year, but there is life for books away from hats and broomsticks. Sarah Fletcher reveals readers' favourites.

Get George Bush a copy

One of the best reads, and it would also be an ideal teaching tool for anyone studying the Second World War or the Holocaust, has to be The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne.

It is a good read, very moving, suitable for adults and pupils aged 10 or over. I would also like to see the politicians read it, especially George Bush and leaders in the Middle East, as it could be just as relevant to society today.

Marc Hydleman is a supply teacher with Northumberland County Council

Emotional and gut wrenching

My favourite read would have to be The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. It is beautifully written and presents an astonishing storyline that is emotional and gut-wrenching, but makes you laugh out loud at times.

As a probationer English teacher I have used this book not only when talking about narrative stance for creative writing (the book is narrated by "Death" - capturing the imaginations of the pupils in class) but for my higher class when talking about the Holocaust - how simple language can evoke a thousand pictures - perfect for coinciding with work on Shooting Stars by Carol Ann Duffy. I can recommend this book as a must read for everyone.

Alice Kirk teaches at Gryffe High School, Houston, Scotland

Debate, thought and laughter

My favourite has to be The Little Book of Thunks by Ian Gilbert. It has generated so much debate, thought and laughter in class that it has repaid its cost over and again.

I have used the questions straight from the book and then had the pupils take the subject wherever they wanted. I thought I would die when Year 8 was discussing "Are you man-made or natural?" and seeing them desperately trying not to say the word "sex".

The decision hinged in the end on whether the question referred to the constituents or the process. The answer to both was "Yes".

One question; two answers; 20 minutes and 30 brains working.

Alan Watkins-Groves teaches at The City of Lincoln Community College, Lincoln

The star on my bookshelf

The Full English by Julie Blake is an A-Z compendium of ideas for activities for key stages 3 to 5. It's clear and accessible and not at all patronising, which some books of this ilk can be.

It is user-friendly and each idea is explained clearly and there are suggestions for other ways in which it could be adapted in the classroom. It's so good that I bought one for everyone in my department.

Alison Smith is head of English at Millom School, Cumbria Without a doubt, The Full English by Julie Blake has been the star on my bookshelf this year. It is fun and heaven knows we need a bit of fun in our teaching.

It is easy to read and easy to dip in and out of. It has clear headings, logical steps and a range of applications making choosing creative ways to deliver the next lesson a relaxing, rather than a stressful, experience.

The presentation is humorous and there is chatty commentary and witty drawings.

Best of all - and this is a rare treat - it puts me in touch with the teacher I want to be. When I browse, I buzz with ideas, I feel enthusiastic again and I'm energised. Nothing beats that.

Edna Hobbs teaches at Lytchett Minster School, Dorset

A great eye opener

Guerra by Jason Webster is a concise, sympathetic and clear analysis and history of the Spanish Civil War, interspersed with the author's own experiences of modern day Spain. It is accessible, well written and a great eye-opener to anyone who wants to understand Spain.

As a Spanish A-level teacher, it is one for my pupils, but it's going to be in lots of people's stockings this Christmas.

Barbara Harper teaches at Prince Henry's Grammar School Specialist Language College, Leeds

Chuckling and chortling a-plenty

My best read of the last year has been Bill Bryson's childhood autobiography The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid. It describes the true nature of a child, without any apology for childish cruelty or inappropriateness.

I rarely laugh out loud at books, but this one had me chuckling and chortling a-plenty

Catherine Eveleigh teaches at Westergate Community School, Westergate, Chichester, West Sussex.

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