Odd Job Frog by Colleen and Zed Jacey

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“‘I’m bored,’ said frog. ‘Bored, bored, BORED.’

‘Well you’d better get used to it,’ his friend, Mouse, replied lazily. ‘Nothing exciting is going to happen in the middle of this field.’

‘You’re right!’ Frog jumped up. ‘But the city is full of exciting things. I’ll go there.'”

Odd Job Frog

As amphibians go, Odd Job Frog is a bit of a dynamo! When life gets a tad boring in the countryside, does he languish on his lily pad? No he does not! He hops off to London in search of excitement. Unfortunately, all the marvellous things he wants to do cost money so he has to try to get a job. But what sort of work is most suited to a go-getting frog? It’ll need to be something pretty special…

Make a Leap!

Odd Job Frog is a really entertaining and original picture book that shows we’re all wonderful in our own way. As well as being a lovely story told alongside beautifully painted illustrations, Odd Job Frog promotes creative thinking and self-confidence. Teachers in Key Stage One and those running nurture groups will find this to be a valuable addition to their resources. I love that Odd Job Frog has the potential to really get children thinking about themselves and how they too are extraordinary.

As another famous frog once said, ” Life’s like a movie, write your own ending”. We can’t promote diversity enough and when it comes as fabulously presented as this, what’s not to like!

 

Thanks to the author for sending me this lovely book.

 

 


The Big, Fat, Totally Bonkers Diary of Pig

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By Emer Stamp

“Hello.

Me I is Pig. I is big and pink (sometimes a bit brown if I has been rolling in mud). My best friend Duck says I has stopped growing; that I has reached my maximum size. But I don’t think this is true. I is sure when I eats a lot I gets a bit bigger and when I don’t eat so much. I gets a little bit smaller.”

Pig is Back!

Pig is back and he’s on hilarious form in this, his fourth diary in the bestselling series by Emer Stamp. Action and adventure await young readers as Pig finds himself faced once again with those most dastardly of book villains, the Evil Chickens. Stitched up by the atrocious avians and forced to leave the farm, Pig’s life takes a Big, Fat, Totally Bonkers turn that kids will thoroughly enjoy. Old friends and new join in with the fun, farts and frolics as Pig faces danger (and chickens) in order to save the day.

A Poster from Pig’s Website!

A Book With Style

With cracking characters, surprising plot turns and fab illustrations, The Big, Fat, Totally Bonkers Diary of Pig is certainly a book with style. Open it up and you’ll see something different with each turn of the page. Fonts are easy to access and change for each character, which makes for exciting reading. Emer Stamp understands what kids want from a funny book and delivers it impeccably; every teacher looking to inspire reading for pleasure should have a set of her books in their classroom. Also, do check out Emer Stamp’s Pig website- it is ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT: there are so many great resources and things to explore. Here it is.

Children across the middle grade age range will love Pig not only for his adventures, but also for his impressive variety of farts which are described in gratifyingly specific detail. I just hope somewhere out there there’s a primary school teacher who’s prepared to take the leap and make this a class reader alongside the science topic ‘The Digestive System’. That would be just too wonderful.

GIVEAWAY!

The Big, Fat, Totally Bonkers Diary of Pig is an absolute corker of a book and you can win not just this little beauty but the whole series by following the blog tour on Twitter and retweeting my review. Good luck!

Thanks very much to Scholastic UK for sending me this copy of The Big, Fat, Totally Bonkers Diary of Pig and for asking me to be part of the blog tour.


Uncle Shawn and Bill and…

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…the Almost Entirely Unplanned Adventure

By A.L. Kennedy

Illustrated by Gemma Correll

An excellent book, but apparently not enjoyed by whippets.

“Badger Bill was having a very bad evening, maybe the worst of his life. He was stuck inside a bag. “

“Meanwhile, on the dark side of an incredibly rainy hill, four llamas were trying to find shelter.”

“”Meanwhile, an extremely tall and quite thin person called Uncle Shawn was sitting near the river. His lanky arms were folded round his gangly, big legs at around about the height of his bony, big knees, which were tucked up under his chin. He was wearing no socks because he had given his last pair to a young squirrel who wanted to play at camping and use it as a sleeping bag.”

Uncle Shawn and Bill (and Some Llamas)

Uncle Shawn and Bill and the Almost Entirely Unplanned Adventure is the first book in a brand new series from Walker Books sure to go down a storm with humour loving readers aged seven years plus. The first three chapters (or sections) each introduce a character or group of characters, as shown in the quotes above, and the story takes us on their adventures which are linked by the magnificent and heroic (and ever so slightly dishevelled) Uncle Shawn.

Having pretty much snorted with laughter throughout my own reading, I’m really keen to spread the love with Uncle Shawn and Bill and the Almost Entirely Unplanned Adventure. It’s a pure pleasure: thoroughly heart-warming with a fun and exciting plot and everything a class reader should be. It conveys the joy of a really great story. Kids will care about the characters and want to know what happens next and adults will enjoy A.L. Kennedy’s rather nifty turns of phrase.  Gemma Correll’s illustrations are blooming brilliant and perfectly suited to the story. I could have photographed so many for this review, but in the end I chose this beauty:

Grinning Cheesily

Other illustrations you can look forward to include depictions of the differences between good and bad adventures, a mean looking man in a rubber suit carrying a bucket of hot porridge with bananas and raspberries, and also a friend with soup. As I say, blooming brilliant.

I’m delighted that Uncle Shawn and Bill is part of a new series as I can’t wait to see what they get up to next. A book that’s sure to stick a big, cheesy grin on everyone’s face!

 


Piranhas Don’t Eat Bananas by Aaron Blabey

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Piranhas, Bananas and Whippet

“Hey there guys. Would you like a banana?

What’s wrong with you Brian? You’re a piranha.”

Piranhas Don’t Eat Bananas

Aaron Blabey’s The Bad Guys was one of my favourite children’s books last year because every kid I lent it to ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT. At the upper end of Key Stage Two, finding a book that your whole class want to take home and read doesn’t happen every day, so understandably I’m a big fan of Aaron Blabey’s work. Piranhas Don’t Eat Bananas has a similar feel and will go down really well with younger children because like The Bad Guys, it does funny very well indeed.

Bananas Are Not the Only Fruit

Yes, Brian the piranha likes bananas, but they’re not the only fruit recommended here. Brian knows that in order to get the other piranhas to eat something other than meat, he’s going to have to offer a few tasty alternatives. But much as he tries to tempt with bananas, plums, apples, melons, all that good stuff, what they really would prefer to be eating is….bums. There’s a strong bum theme going on here and that’s got to be a good thing.

Look- he has eyebrows!

Told in rhyming couplets, it’s a shining example of why kids love Aaron Blabey’s books: it’s not too wordy but still tells a fabulously funny story. Also, as you can see, the accompanying illustrations are fantastic. Backgrounds are left white so those piranhas really are the stars of the show, eyeballing the reader rather menacingly and looking like they’re about to swim off the page towards you.

Piranhas, Bums and Belly Laughs

Piranhas Don’t Eat Bananas is a top choice and a guaranteed kid pleaser. Best bought alongside The Bad Guys as the piranha theme continues. A wonderful book for younger children (and adults) who like a good giggle!

 

Thanks to Scholastic for sending me this copy.


Me and Mister P

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Written by Maria Farrer and Illustrated by Daniel Rieley

“The bear stood like a statue. Inside Arthur’s very still body, his heart was thumping and inside his very still head his mind was racing. He thought it best to seem friendly so he nodded and smiled at the polar bear. The bear nodded at Arthur and bared its long, sharp teeth.”

Mister P

Arthur cannot see past his brother Liam. Whether he’s blocking Arthur’s view of the football on the television by sitting far too close to the screen or embarrassing him in front of his friends, Liam seems to be blocking Arthur from enjoying a normal life. Liam’s challenging behaviour is becoming too much for his brother to deal with and he decides he’s had enough. He leaves the house. On the doorstep as he goes to leave, is a polar bear. This is Mister P and he’s come to stay.

There’s a fine tradition of marvellous bears in children’s literature and Mister P is a more than welcome addition. He is gorgeous and funny and you will love him. A giant white bear, a little on the quiet side, very skilled at blinking and dancing, with an alarmingly toothy grin. No one knows why he’s come to stay or how long he’s planning to stay for, but Arthur wholeheartedly takes on care of him.

The Good Stuff…

In turn, Mister P helps Arthur to understand that although life may not always be fair, it’s not always unfair either. Arthur begins to notice more of the good stuff whilst it’s happening and finds out what really matters to him. As well as entertaining us with lots of fun, there are also the most wonderfully touching moments in Me and Mister P.

And Chocolate Ice Cream Too.

This would be a lovely class reader for any Junior classroom. I’d be equally happy to share it in Year Six as I would in Year Three; a good book is a good book after all and this is a story that provides real depth of content and thought-provoking discussion points. Autism is never directly mentioned in Me and Mister P, but it’s fair to presume that Liam is autistic from his behaviour patterns. I like that he isn’t labelled in the book and I think you’ll enjoy how he changes throughout the story.

The most interesting children’s books (I think) are the ones that can be accessed equally on different levels and the most interesting polar bears are the ones who like eating chocolate ice cream. Luckily, Me and Mister P provides both of these key features. Beautifully illustrated, beautifully written.

Me and Mister P: what a heart warming read for this cold January day.

 

 

Big thanks to Oxford University Press for sending me this lovely book.


Finding Black Beauty by Lou Kuenzler

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black-beauty-done

“Ignorance is as harmful as cruelty, despite whatever intentions the person has.”

Finding Black Beauty

Finding Black Beauty by Lou Kuenzler is a sensitive and moving retelling of Anna Sewell’s Victorian novel Black Beauty. Suitable for readers aged ten years plus, this is a wonderful take on a classic family favourite.

Josie

Some of you may remember Joe from the original story: an inexperienced but well-meaning stable lad who bonds with Black Beauty. This time Joe is our central character and by changing the perspective of the story, Lou Kuenzler opens up a whole new spectrum of meaning for readers. Joe, we learn, is inexperienced for good reason: he is actually a young girl called Josie disguised out of necessity in order to escape a miserable future.

Having lost her father in a hunting accident, Josie’s world is turned upside down by terrible and sudden grief. As her mother left years ago preferring city life, Josie is effectively an orphan. Then when vile cousin Eustace inherits her home, everything she has ever known is removed piece by piece, the last straw being her beloved pony Merrylegs.

Driven by her love of horses, Josie decides to take charge of her destiny. By cutting off her hair and borrowing suitable clothes, she begins to carry out a plan. She stows away in the cart taking Merrylegs to his new home, hoping to find work there as a stable boy. Here she first meets Beauty and a bond is formed. Josie’s love for the horse reimagines Sewell’s emotional roller coaster through new eyes. The results are humbling. This is such a beautiful book. I was totally captivated by it and I think barely breathed for the last hundred pages. Did I cry? Of course I did! Prepare for this; you will need tissues.

Already a Classic

Impeccably researched and written as a perfect complement to the original, it’s as if Kuenzler has walked amongst the original players. She draws astute parallels between Beauty and Josie that bring them closer together. Both have lost close family in hunting accidents early in life and both were separated from their mothers before they should’ve been, although for different reasons. There’s no doubt they belong together, but will that be possible?

In the original text, Anna Sewell told the story from Beauty’s perspective: an emotive and effective way to tell a beautiful story with priority given in telling to animal welfare. In Finding Black Beauty none of this power is lost, rather it’s given extra strength by the parallels it draws in how Josie’s destiny too is shaped by those around her. To fully appreciate the dual perspective and how both books compliment each other, I’d highly recommend that this is read alongside the original. Scholastic are currently offering the original free when buying this sequel here.

Finding Black Beauty: already a classic in my eyes.

Thanks so much to Scholastic for sending me this book and giving me the opportunity to be part of this book tour.

 


The New Libearian

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By Alison Donald & Alex Willmore

libearian-done

“A hush fell over the library.

Storytime was about to begin.”

The New Libearian by Alison Donald and Alex Willmore is a gorgeous picture book, suitable for children of three years plus (and adults of any age).

As The New Libearian begins, the hush that falls over the library is a wonderful one. It’s brought about by children in anticipation of the story they are waiting for, rather than by the stereotyped librarian of the past with their finger to their lips. Waiting on squishy bean-bags for their story time, the children fidget impatiently. Mrs Merryweather the librarian is late and they are worried that something isn’t right. Led by the intrepid Dee, they decide to go in search of her.

The children’s (and the reader’s) journey through the library is a thrilling one. We follow the bookshelves through galaxies, into oceans and along runways. Alien creatures peep over the stacks and huge creaking galleons set sail along the aisles. Beanstalks burst through the floor and slippery Octopus tentacles curl into Kids’ Corner. Throughout The New Libearian, books spring into life, their contents spilling off the shelves and onto the carpets.

This is a wonderful and obviously true observation of libraries that the author and illustrator have got spot on. We adults know that books, both fiction and non-fiction, will take us into new and exciting worlds. Here it’s lovely to see that truth presented to children, and in such magical terms.

And then there’s the bear. He shrugs, he nods, he chews the books. He stands slightly pigeon-toed and is entirely adorable. Every story should have one. He also gives adults reading The New Libearian out loud the chance to roar and growl very loudly, which is always a pleasure!

The New Libearian is a proper picture book: both the story and pictures work together brilliantly and will delight young children. Alex Willmore’s illustrations are glorious. I love the slightly retro colour palette and styling of the characters, especially the magnificent Mrs Merryweather who, rest assured, is going to be fine. It reads beautifully, and in addition to this there’s a dialogue to be had here with youngsters who will want to share their opinions and read between the lines to solve the mystery.

Pictures are narrative and descriptive, so children who aren’t yet readers or have a limited knowledge of English will get plenty from it to without necessarily having a full understanding of all the words. Young readers will be keen to point out bear clues everywhere as they follow the children’s journey through the shelves. From the recipe book for honey, the sticky desk and the big bear paw prints to follow, there is plenty to talk about. But do you know what children are going to say most of all? Two things:

Can we read it again?

and

When can we go to a library?

and how can that not be a good thing?

 

Many thanks to Maverick for sending me little wonderful book.

 

 


Grandma Bendy & the Great Snake Escape by Izy Penguin

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great snake escape done

“Everyone held their breath, terrified of where the snake would land.

The snake twirled in the air and began to fall back down to the floor where… it bounced.

And bounced

and bounced

all around the room.”

Fresh and Funny

Maverick Books are launching their brand new junior fiction range for kids aged 6-9 years in October and this is my second of three posts introducing the range.

Grandma Bendy and the Great Snake Escape by Izy Penguin is fresh and funny, a proper little gem for younger readers. From the very first page I was really feeling the fun.

Children are going to love the style here: Grandma Bendy and the Great Snake Escape is incredibly varied in content and each page is trimmed with Izy Penguin’s lovely illustrations. A great choice for any children waiting to have their eyes opened to the wonder of books. I particularly liked the fabulously illustrated introduction of characters, the double page map of the town of Pumperton (the eagle-eyed amongst you will spot on the town sign that it’s twinned with Bottumburper and Le Pongue- ooh la la!) and the selection of funny headlines from the local paper.

Snake!

It’s the first day back at school in 4B and time for show and tell. Mike Grimace* the school bully has brought in a snake which has only gone and escaped! Lucy has somehow been blamed for this and the whole town of Pumperton are going crackers with the snake fears. It’s up to Lucy, her brother Max and outstanding family elder Grandma Bendy to catch the snake and sort everything out. Children will be keen to read on and find out what happens next.

Giggling Your Socks Off

Grandma Bendy and the Great Snake Escape is an ideal individual reader, but teachers- this is also the sort of book to read to your class, especially if you’re introducing fiction genres. Funny books are a great place to start, especially ones that can be completed quickly. There are plenty of opportunities to discuss where the snake could’ve gone, lots of funny and interesting characters, and a whole heap of silly stuff going on that will have kids giggling their socks off.

* There are a range of excellent names in Grandma Bendy and the Great Snake Escape. Also see shopkeeper Val Crowe and family dog Spag Bol.

 

Big thanks to Maverick Books for sending me this copy!

 

 

 


Apley Towers: The Lost Kodas by Myra King

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apley towers done

“She was about to get up and go home when she caught sight of the horses in the feeding paddock. They looked so calm, as if they didn’t have a care in the world. At that moment, Kaela was incapable of leaving. There was a small voice in the back of her head struggling to make itself heard. If she was completely still, she could hear it say: ‘Writing courses are for adults. You will look back and wish you had spent less time growing up, and more time with the horses.”

Cheered and Inspired

I’m currently one book into the Apley Towers series, with books two and three sitting next to me waiting to go. If book one, The Lost Kodas, is anything to go by, then I’m looking forward to several more hours of very happy reading. It’s a pleasure to read a book set in South Africa, because if there’s one thing that’s better than reading about horses, it would be reading about horses in beautiful and exotic surroundings.

For me, horsey books are a library essential: they appeal widely over the age range and have a sense of selflessness that only comes from putting another’s needs before your own. This series is no exception.  Apley Towers: The Lost Kodas left me feeling cheered, inspired and ready for more.

Neverland

Fourteen year old Kaela Willoughby and best friend Trixie see Apley Towers Stables as their own personal Neverland; horses are their passion and they are fully involved in the community there. They say busy people get more done and Kaela and Trixie certainly support that theory. With school work, extra curricular commitments and hours spent both teaching and helping out at the stables, the girls are fully stretched.

Choosing options at school is also causing Trixie confusion about future career choices, and Kaela’s hopes of attending a prestigious writing course are on her mind. There are aspects of self discovery along the way told from the dual perspective of both Kaela and Trixie and this works very well.

Complementing the girls are a wide cast of credible characters, most notably Phoenix, a friend via social media who lives in Canada and adds an extra dimension to the story. It feels like life, but better, as there are horses to enjoy along the way.

Love and Optimism

As is often the case in horsey fiction, the story culminates with a competition. What I love about Apley Towers: The Lost Kodas is that it’s not Kaela or Trixie that are participating, but the younger girls they’ve been coaching. This I adore. It speaks volumes about the kind of writer Myra King is and I adored this big-hearted and altruistic approach. That’s what makes the series for me; it has a sense of love and optimism.

I’d like to leave you to discover more for yourself, as I’m conscious that in regards to Kaela and Trixie’s development, you will much prefer taking it at the author’s pace. I’m looking forward to finding out more about them in books two and three (Made Powerful and Siren’s Song) as well as getting to know the horses better too.

Apley Towers: The Lost Kodas is a refreshing take on one of my favourite genres and a firm recommendation for pony mad kids.

 

Big thanks to Sweet Cherry Publishing for sending me this lovely series.


Spangles McNasty & the Fish of Gold by Steve Webb

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Illustrated by Chris Mould

spangles done

” Spangles McNasty was nasty to everyone and everything, everywhere, all of the time.

He had a heart as cold as a box of fish fingers in a supermarket freezer, a brain brimming with badness and a head bristling with baldness.

There was only one thing Spangles liked more than being nasty, and that was collecting spangly things: shiny, sparkly, glittery, spangly things.

Of course, when he said collecting, he meant ‘taking without asking or paying’, or as everyone else calls it, stealing.”

Seaside Silliness

It’s the first day of summer, so let’s take a little holiday away from all the blooming rain. Spangles McNasty and the Fish of Gold, suitable for children aged 7 years plus, is just the thing to transport you there, with its 270 pages of seaside silliness. Loaded to the gills (sorry) with Chris Mould’s terrific comic illustrations and packed full of irresistibly silly characters, Spangles McNasty and the Fish of Gold is a welcome new addition to the world of funny books.

Spangles himself is both wonderfully naughty and a bit, shall we say, daft. We  learn that he is labouring under the misapprehension that goldfish grow to the size of whales and are made of solid gold. Seeing this as an excellent opportunity to get rich quick, Spangles is plotting to steal all the goldfish he can get his thieving hands on with the help of accomplice Sausage-face Pete.

This inevitably brings them both to the local funfair, where the ancient and pink haired Wendy McKenzie has been offering goldfish as prizes for pretty much ever. One thing’s for sure though: young Freddie Taylor’s not going to be letting them get away with stealing from Wendy. He’s visiting the fair solely (sorry again) to win a goldfish as his mum’s told him that proving he can care for a fish is the only thing standing between him and getting a pet dog. When all the fish go missing, Freddie’s determined to get to the bottom of it.

Will Spangles and Sausage-face Pete be satisfied though with ‘collecting’ Wendy’s goldfish or will they find even bigger fish to fry?

Milligan

Spangles McNasty and the Fish of Gold is one of those wonderful books that only kids and true fans of Spike Milligan will get fully. Children and enlightened adults alike can look forward to reading such corkers as

  • “Camper vans are, of course, little completely mobile homes (like tortoises, but faster and with more seat belts).”
  • “Fog is a curious business. Some people say it’s thick clouds that don’t know where the sky is. Other people say it’s just clouds that are scared of heights.”
  • “‘Are you the ghost of the apple pie?’ she asked. ‘No, Marjory, it’s me, Mayor Jackson.”

Hooked

Plus, it’s worth its weight in gold (sorry again) for the good work it’ll do in bringing reading joy to gazillions of new converts. Reluctant and not so confident readers are going to love it because it’s been made nice and easy to read, with bite sized chunks of text interspersed with illustrations. You can also enjoy reading it without needing to understand every single word because funny books break down these boundaries. Basically, there’s plenty here to entertain everyone, regardless of ability.

I’d recommend it to any Year Three teacher looking to engage new independent readers, but equally I’d also happily plant it in the hands of a bright Year Five boy and be confident that he’ll not only enjoy it but will be passing it on to his friends too.

Spangles McNasty and the Fish of Gold is a total crowd pleaser and therefore needs to be available in schools and libraries everywhere right now. I’m hooked*.

spangles inside

Big thanks to Andersen Press for sending me this glorious copy.

*Sorry again. I do realise these fish puns are wearing a bit fin. I’ll stop now, but if you think of any more, do let minnow.