Literature in English – an IGCSE Student Book

We love English Literature, love it, but I must confess the the idea of tackling English Literature questions is not something we look forward too. I would rather deal with Science or Maths problem than a English literature question so I was very intrigued when Collins sent us a copy of their Literature in English Student Book for IGCSE.

And I have to say my first impression on opening this book was that it was exactly what we needed. I immediately liked the way everything was broken down into small steps that build up. Honestly just working through the first chapter I was filled with a sense of – this is NOT really that challenging if we start with these small ideas and then build them up. And really at this stage that is exactly the kind of book that I need. I want something that takes a challenging topic breaks it down into smaller ideas that make sense and then build them up so you understand what is required and how to tackle a question.

Okay so what does it cover. Think of the first 2 chapters as building your skills and then the next 3 chapters are implementing those skills. Chapter 3 focuses on applying the key skills to Prose, Chapter 4 applies the key skills to Poetry and chapter 5 applies the key skills to Drama (There is also a chapter 6 which helps with anyone doing coursework – which we are not).

We are still at the early stages of using this book (building our skills) but I must admit I am really looking forward to getting to the “applying the skills” stages. I LOVE that they have broken it down into Prose, Poetry and Drama and look at each one individually. And yes I will admit I have always preffered working through Prose than Poetry and Drama but even I will admit that the chapters on Poetry and Drama just seem to take away the “scary” factor and make you think – “this it totally manageable”.

Even though we have just started with this book I already like the way it is structured and I appreciate that they have used such a wide range of texts in the activities. I also fell like they have put a lot of thought into breaking it down into small steps and then building those steps up.

There is a Teacher’s Guide that comes with this Student Book but I don’t have a copy of the Teacher’s Guide so I cannot comment on that. I have been informed that it includes some extra ideas for all the “lessons” ie the sub-sections but what those are and how useful they are I really cannot say.

Our Literature in English Student book came directly from Collins – Literature in English IGCSE, but you can also get it from Amazon here – IGCSE Literature in English and I have actually spotted it in a big Waterstones store.

Admin – As I mentioned above we were given a review copy of our book. The review that I have written and the opinions expressed are mine and mine alone. This is NOT a paid for post.

I do include Affiliate links. If you follow an affiliate link and go on to purchase that product, I will be paid a very small commission, however your cost will remain the same. I only include affiliate links for products that we use and recommend.

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All about Politics – a book review

With all the Russian history we have been looking at lately I felt like we needed to get a better understanding of the type of governments that you can have, what different political parties really stand for and which ones are considered left verse right.

I spotted this book – All about Politics and thought it looked interesting so I asked DK if we could get a review copy and they kindly agreed to send us one.

As soon as we received this book I loved it and my daughter immediately started reading it (that is always a good indication that the layout is inviting and easy to digest). I was actually impressed with how much they cover and I loved how they kept the concepts so visual – we are very much a visual family so we like pages with lots of diagrams and short, concise paragraphs.

We loved that it contained little gems like words with archy – means a style of government while words with ism mean a set of political ideas.

The book has the rainbow of political ideas beautifully set out and after reading this we are now confident with the whole left vs right, where does Fascism fit it, what is Anarchy, what are the branches of a healthy government even what are the stages of a Coup (we loved that this was included).

But I must also admit that I really liked how they included so much background (history) on politics, we found that fascinating and actually really enlightening.

This book is a real gem and one that we are finding incredibly useful. Understanding all these different political ideas and movements has helped my daughter understand the political movements involved in her Russian Revolution history. Seeing the Rainbow of political ideas and seeing how Communism and Fascism are on opposite sides was such a clear, visual representation that you immediately understand that Mussolini and Hitler were never naturally going to be true friends to Russia (yes I know it is more complicated than just that, but it helps when you understand how completely different their style of governments were). Understanding what a healthy governments should look like also helped to highlight the shortfalls on the Lenin (and later Stalin, we are still getting to him) style of governing. Really this book has helped us understand our history and gain a much deeper understanding of the political and government side of it.

My daughter and I are really enjoying this book and we both Highly Recommend it.

As I mentioned above you can get this book directly from he DK website – All about Politics or you can also get it from Amazon – DK’s All about Politics.

Admin – As I mentioned above I requested a review copy of this book. All opinions expressed are our own (the daughter and mine).

I do sometimes include Affiliate links. If you follow an affiliate link and go on to purchase that product, I will be paid a very small commission, however your cost will remain the same. I only include affiliate links for products that we use and recommend.

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Maths Skills for GCSE Science Book

My daughter has never been a fan of the Maths questions in Science. She actually understands the Science that she is doing (she is doing Physics and Biology) and is quite good at answering questions when they do not involve Maths. So I knew we had to start buildilg her confidence when it comes to questions that involve Maths. And really it is just confidence building, it is a case of seeing that you need to apply some Maths, not getting worried about it and then going about the Maths in a logical step by step manner.

When I was recently looking on the Oxford Univeristy Press site for some extra secondary resources I happened to stumble upon a new set of books the Maths Skills for Science range. Naturally I was immediately interested (sounded a bit too good to be true as I knew we had to work on this), so I looked further and spotted this one – Maths Skills for GCSE Science. The book stated that it is suitable for ALL exam boards, it mentioned it included worked examples (something that I find vitally important when it comes to Maths) and I quickly double checked and spotted that you could download all the answers for FREE (the answers are here). On first look it was ticking the right boxes so I asked if we could get a review copy and we were kindly given this copy.

Maths Skills for GCSE Science published by Oxford University Press
Maths Skills for GCSE Book plus the answers printed out from the website

This is NOT a science student book so don’t expect lots of pictures explaining science concepts, this is a Maths book which focuses on Maths that we use in Science. It is set out over double pages. Each double page covers a Maths concept (or mini-concept). It starts with an explanation (these are well-worded), then there are worked examples, followed by the all important practice questions and finally on some of the pages you also get stretch yourself questions.

I liked that it is set out over a double page. It is not dragged out. It is concise – “here is what you need to know and here are some examples”. Granted some people may think they need extra practice questions but it your kids are doing Science at this level I am sure you will have Science resources for your exam board which will already include practice questions using these Maths skills.

The way I see us using this is this book will slot it into our Science. What do I mean by that? As we read up about a concept in our Science book we may realise there is Maths involved and that we need to revise that Maths, so we would then go and find the relevant page in our Maths Skills book. We would then read the explanation and work through the questions. Once we had completed the double page in the Maths Skills book we would then go back to our Science book and go through the practice questions that they have. By doing it this way I don’t see us needing extra questions, because the extra questions would be in our Science books.

Okay so the other important question is what Maths is actually covered in this book?

So that looks like it covers everything that we need.

We have only just received this book but I am already thankful that I found it. I like the explanations and I know it is going to be a really useful book to have while we study our Physics and Biology.

For those interested in this book you can buy it directly from Amazon – OUP Maths Skills for GCSE Science

and as I mentioned above you can also get it direct from the OUP website – Maths Skills Books

Admin – As I mentioned above I requested a review copy and I was kindly given one. All opinions expressed about the book are my own and are not affected by the fact that we were given a copy of this book. We were not paid for this post, this is a book that I believe will be useful.

I do include Affiliate links. If you follow an affiliate link and go on to purchase that product, I will be paid a very small commission, however your cost will remain the same. I only include affiliate links for products that we use and recommend.

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Ghost Boys, a sad but encouraging story about racism

When I was recently sent a copy of Ghost Boys for a review I did not know what to expect. But before I could even start reading it my eleven-year old son spotted it, started reading it and then quickly finished it within three days (yes, he likes sitting on a gym ball when he reads).

When I asked him about the book he said it was sad and it made him question the whole judicial system in America (that immediately prompted me to ask him more questions). We ended up having a long family discussion (the entire family joined in) about a number of issues like – why would you shoot someone in the back? Surely if someone is running away from you, they are not threatening you? Why did the judge rule in the cops favour even when they saw the video? Why did the Cop say things like, he was the size of an adult and it was dark when that was not true?

It was quite a conversation and it prompted me to read the book for myself.

I was really impressed with the entire story. Everything about this book just impressed me.

I liked the way the author jumped between the main character being alive and dead as a way of explaining what happened – it was an interesting writing technique and it worked really well. I enjoyed the story line of Jerome being bullied, finding a friend, being happy, if only for a very short time before he was killed and how it came full circle back to his friend and the bullies now protecting Jerome’s little sister (love how that sweet moment showed bullies can change).

I also appreciated the way the author showed you both sides of the story. The story is narrated by Jerome (the kids who is shot) but he is able to communicate with the cops daughter and through that relationship you also get to witness how the killing is slowly destroying the cops family. It was interesting seeing how Sarah (the cops daughter) goes from blindly believing her dad, to questioning him to realizing that her dad was at fault. And I thought the way the author wrapped it up with Sarah creating a website about the black kids who had been killed, asking her dad to help her with the website and him actually agreeing was a brilliant conclusion. It was a positive way of wrapping it up, giving the kids who read this story hope and saying people can change and people who have made mistakes can try and do good in the future. I really do think that while it is important to write these stories it is also important to give the kids reading them Hope, and not to leave them with utter despair and I feel like the author achieves this balance beautifully. She does not shy away from the reality and the issues but she gives the kids something to latch onto so they know everything can improve.

This really is a worthwhile read. A read that is going to result in your kids asking questions and wanting to discuss real issues with you and honestly those are always the reads that are the best.

I highly recommend this book. You will not be disappointed.

Okay now this book like all the Rollercoaster books comes with a free to download Resource Guide. I must confess with this book we skipped the suggested lessons and just picked out a few of the activities. The main reason for that was I was not expecting my son to tear through the book, the way he did and after having our long discussion about the book I actually felt like he had already focused on the important parts. (Just to clarify – on the OUP website if you go to the page about the book there is a button on the right hand side which says -Rollercoaster Resource Pack – click on that and you will get the free resource pack. And it is the same with all of the Rollercoaster books – just go to the page that talks about the book and you will find a link to that books resource pack)

The Resource pack that you do get is very useful and it is FREE. There is a summary of the entire book along with lesson plans, resources for each lesson and suggested answers. Really it is a very useful resource that you can choose to use. In the past we have often stuck very closely to the suggested lesson plans and we have also just dipped in and out, really for us, it depends upon the book and the way my kids respond to the story.

And the other thing that I want to mention is there are notes at the end of the book – I really liked the Afterword, Author Profile and Novel Insight pages. I thought they just added some great background and context to the author and why she wrote this story. There are also a few other pages at the back of the book which others may find helpful they are – pages on Language and Style, first person narration and adjectives (these just expand on writing choices made by the author when she wrote this book).

You can order this book directly from OUP- Ghost Boys or you can get it from Amazon – Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Admin – As I mentioned above I was sent a review copy of this book. The fact that it was a review copy does not influence how my son enjoyed reading the book or his thoughts on the book.

I do include Affiliate links. If you follow an affiliate link and go on to purchase that product, I will be paid a very small commission, however your cost will remain the same. I only include affiliate links for products that we use and recommend.

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The Hunger Games books

It feels like we have been working our way through quite a few dystopian stories lately but even after everything else that we have read I have to admit that our absolute favourite dystopian series has been the Hunger Games (I am talking books not movies). We loved the Divergent series, really loved it but the writing in the Hunger Games is just that bit more captivating. The way Suzanne Collins has crafted this entire trilogy, the way the characters develop, the manner that the events unfold and how small things that you read in the very first book come full circle in the third book, really exceptional writing.

Now I must confess I actually watched the moves first and although I enjoyed the movies I was not sure if I really wanted to do the book series with my kids, I was reluctant at first because it is essentially kids killing other kids. Then I spotted the first book at our local library, borrowed it and could not put it down. As much as I enjoyed the movies there are details that are missed in the movies but are in the books, details that just made everything seem that much more clearer and I started to really understand the characters and the dynamics and the themes.

After loving the first book I borrowed the next two and again I tore through them. So I suggested to my kids that we should read the first one as one of our family reads. They loved it and begged to read the other two books.

After we had read the books we did watch the movies, which both of my kids enjoyed, but my youngest did say that he was really glad that we read the books first. He felt that by reading the books he understood the decisions that Katniss made, why Katniss and Gale had such a deep friendship, why Haymitch is the way he is and even the final twist when the person who is suppose to be saving the country is actually not, he felt like those key elements were not truly explained in the movies.

Okay. Hunger Games concept – America does not exist but there is a Capital and 12 (used to be 13) districts that supply the Capital. The Capital is wealthy and people who live there have a life of excess, the districts are poor and life there is hard. Every year there is a game where one girl and one boy from each district is reaped and has to fight until the there is only one victor. In the first book Prim (the younger sister of Katniss) is reaped and Katniss volunteers to take her place. So the whole first book is about how Katniss and Peeta (the boy tribute from 12) fight to survive their game.

And the 2nd and 3rd book continue with Katniss as she has to fight again and again to stay alive (in another Hunger Games and in the rebellion).

One of the things that I really appreciated by this series is all three books are brilliant. Often in a series the first is exceptional and then the subsequent ones are not as good because the author end up repeating their formula and it reads like a poor copy. But in all three of these books, the relationships grow, the characters develop and the events unfold in unique ways. There is no formula that is repeated. All three books are exceptional stories which build on one another.

If you are going to read just one dystopian series then this is the one to read.

Age wise – I would definitely say for kids over 11 years and actually for a lot of kids it might be better to read this more around the age of 13/14. My son was 11 years old when we read it together but we read it together so I was explaining and talking about certain concepts, I would not have liked him to read this by himself at 11.

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