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!

 


The Bookshop Girl by Sylvia Bishop

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Illustrated by Ashley King

The Bookshop Girl, with…

…and without whippet

Property Jones

Property Jones loves books. The smell, the feel of the pages, the little differences between them. She understands almost everything about them. Everything that it, except the words. Property Jones has a secret: she can’t read.

Property has managed to keep this secret despite living in a bookshop, the one she was abandoned in at the age of five. You see, Property’s parents left her there and disappeared. She was found by Michael Jones, a logical thinker, who seeing that Property was lost promptly put her in the lost property cupboard. Hence the name.

Six years later, Property, Michael and his mum, bookshop owner Netty, live there as a family. Times are hard but a competition to own the prestigious Montgomery’s Emporium of Reading Delights might just solve all their problems. They enter and await the outcome…

(But why is such a famous and esteemed bookshop simply being given away as a prize? Surely there must be a catch?)

Join Property and the Jones as they enter the most marvellous bookshop ever invented, tangle with some very bad baddies (BOOOO!) and spend time  with a really grumpy cat.

High Adventure

This is high adventure in gorgeously imaginative settings. The narrative is lovely: the book begins and ends with a chapter communicated directly to the reader which makes it a bit different. Sylvia Bishop has great warmth in her style and I enjoyed it very much. I’m sure that children will love it too.

The Bookshop Girl is a really fun mystery. It creates amazing images in the reader’s head that will be remembered long after the last page has been turned. This is a book to be read again and again, each time enjoying favourite parts and taking something new.

The text is nicely spaced out which will help give young readers a bit of room to take the story in. It’s illustrated (as all really good books are) throughout and Ashley King has done a brilliant job visually all the characters and exciting scenes. The Bookshop Girl has it all. It’s a wonderful choice for children aged seven years plus.

 

Thank you 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.


The Unicorns of Blossom Wood by Catherine Coe

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Best Friends & Storms and Rainbows

unicorns-3-4-done

Previously in The Unicorns of Blossom Wood…

Having reviewed The first two Unicorns of Blossom Wood books last year and been delighted with the response they received from my class, I’m really pleased to see two new titles have been added to the collection. I’ve found children to adore these illustrated stories, and I’m happy to say both boys and girls and of all primary ages. I teach in Year Six and the first two books were a big success with my class- more on this later.

As with Books One and Two, Catherine Coe continues to tell the story of three cousins holidaying together. It’s rare for Cora, Lei and Isabelle to spend time as a family as they are from different parts of the world.

To recap the story so far: the adventures really start when one day the cousins find some hoof prints in a cove near their campsite. When they step into them, they are instantly transported to a magical land called Blossom Wood where they transform into unicorns.

You can read my reviews of the first two books here to find out more about these adventures.

Storms and Rainbows

In Book Three, the girls are all feeling a bit frustrated. It’s been a whole week since their last Blossom Wood visit and also Lei’s upset because unlike her cousins she doesn’t know what her unicorn magic is yet. She decides to take matters into her own hands and visit Blossom Wood alone to try to find out, but it seems her magic is even more powerful than she ever imagined…

It’s soon up to Lei and the other girls to save the Blossom Wood animals from imminent disaster!

Best Friends

All good things must come to an end and sadly it’s the last night of the holiday. Just as the girls think they may never visit Blossom Wood again, an opportunity arises and they get their final chance to return! Once there, they’re excited to find that Loulou the squirrel (fabulous name for a squirrel isn’t it?) is organising a talent show. Lei, Cora and Isabelle are the first to help her sort out everything and even plan a sleepover in the magical wood. But not all is well and the cousins discover something is making Loulou really sad. Can their unicorn magic save the day one more time?

As with the rest of the series there are always a variety of quizzes and activities at the back of the book, plus introductions to other books.

Special Powers

Best Friends and Storms & Rainbows are full of fun and adventure, magic and warmth. They bring a smile to my face, as all of the books have. I can’t begin to tell you how much of a success the series has been in my classroom. Most of the children have read them and many have had them back to re-read. I’ve had pupils spending free time reading them in preference to playing games with their friends. They’ve been inspired to draw pictures of the characters both at home and at school. This unicorn magic is clearly rubbing off!

I’ve been so chuffed with how much the children have loved the books and in particular two girls who were previously thought of as reluctant readers. The Unicorns of Blossom Wood helped them to discover the kind of books they enjoy; before they read them they were very unsure and struggled to settle with a text at all. Today I worked with those girls and was pleased to see that they were both reading stories of a similar genre and very happily involved in them. I know they’ll be delighted when I take these two new titles in tomorrow.

The Unicorns of Blossom Wood magically turn children into readers- now that’s what I call a special power!

 

Thanks to Scholastic for sending me these copies.

 


The Great Chocoplot by Chris Callaghan

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Extra credit goes to those who can see the whippet's nose in this picture. Chocolate & dogs shouldn't really mix...

Extra credit goes to those who can see the whippet’s nose in this picture. Well spotted!

” ‘In six days there will be no more chocolate in the world…ever!’

That’s what it said on The Seven Show.

Jelly had nearly reached the next level of Zombie Puppy Dash, but hearing this made her plunge the pink puppy into a huge tank of zombie dog food.”

The Great Chocoplot

The Great Chocoplot by Chris Callaghan is a real winner for children seven years plus who like their stories on the lively side.

Both truly funny and imaginatively written, it’s going to tick the boxes for so many readers out there, and maybe even create a few new ones. This is another example of the kind of cracking (sorry) books coming from Chicken House at the minute and if you haven’t already, you should check out their range. Immediately. Well, in a minute.

Chocopocalypse!

After the announcement on The Seven Show that the chocopocalypse is quickly approaching, Jelly (yes I know, it is an awesome name isn’t it?) and her Gran put their heads together to try and get to the bottom of it. Obviously, plot-wise, there aren’t many things as potentially devastating as no more chocolate ever, but with Gran and Jelly on our side we unravel a wonderful mystery of global impact played out with local heart.

We take Jelly to our hearts straight away. On the surface she’s a regular girl from an ordinary family living in a normal town just like yours, but we all know really that there’s no such thing as ‘average’ or ‘ordinary’ and everyone is unique and special. Jelly is sparky, clever and a joy to read about.

Shout Out to all the Grandparents

A big shout out has to go to Gran: a caravan-dwelling, headphone-wearing, scientific icon for our times in my opinion, and Jelly loves her. I also loved Grandad, who we don’t meet as he is no longer with us, but who is described in such a beautiful way. I like this. It’s a little detail that will mean a lot to a lot of children.

Kids who’ve previously enjoyed the stories of Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Roald Dahl and David Walliams are going to click with The Great Chocoplot straight away; others will be drawn in by Sandra Navarro’s fabulous cover and will stay for the ride. A true Books-a-Go-Go book of glory and a feast of fun for young ‘uns everywhere!

 


Letter to Pluto by Lou Treleaven

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pluto done

Letter to Pluto by Lou Treleaven is part of the Maverick Books Junior Fiction range and my final review for you of a lovely collection coming out this Autumn. All three books are ideal for six to nine year olds who are beginning to explore fiction texts.

Half the battle with young readers is convincing them to keep reading, to place a trust in an author who makes them want to read on. Letter to Pluto will, I think, do just that.

Letter to Pluto

When Jon’s teacher Mrs Hall introduces a penpal project at school, he is none too impressed. The situation is only worsened when he discovers he is writing to a girl! However this isn’t a problem for long, as Jon gets to know more about penpal Straxi and her home planet Pluto. He begins to enjoy the project, finding it more exciting than he ever imagined.

Presented as a series of letters between Jon and Straxi, Letter to Pluto is a lively and engaging futuristic adventure. Lou Treleaven’s excellent illustrations are happily dotted around most pages which just goes to prove that, as we know, all the best letters include drawings.

Cheesy Grin

Letter to Pluto is one of those books that just says fun to you as soon as you open it. It certainly put a big, cheesy smile on my face. It’s varied in content and introduces to children an abundance of ways to read and write: as well as the lovely letters we have menus, cookbooks, nature notes for Pluto’s native bird the Blue-Headed Skwitch (a bird well worth seeing if you’re ever in the area), newspaper clips, envelopes, and much more besides. Could this possibly be the solution for kids who think reading is boring?

Keep Reading!

As a teacher, it brings to mind LOADS of children I’ve taught over the years who would love it, of differing ages and abilities, but all in need of a book like this. Lou Treleaven’s Jon is really genuinely funny and children will like and relate to him. Some of his comments had me laughing out loud, as they will for kids too.

The great thing about Letter to Pluto is that it will work hard throughout the primary age range. There’s nothing to stop children in Years Five and Six enjoying this story too.

We need more books like Letter to Pluto that not only encourage children to read in the first place, but also light the spark that makes them want to read more. Priceless.

 

Big thanks to Maverick for sending me this lovely book.


Perijee & Me by Ross Montgomery

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Whippets Love Perijee

Whippets Love Perijee

” The best moment with Perijee happened when we were lying out in the cove. There weren’t any clouds that night, not one. If you opened your eyes wide enough you could see all the stars together, looking down on us like a city in the sky. It was just me and Perijee and the waves coming in and nothing else for miles and miles. The sky had never looked so big to me before.

I tried to find one of the stars that Dad told me about, so I could show it to Perijee. He was still about my size then. This was before he tried to take over the world etc.”

Caitlin

Perijee & Me by Ross Montgomery is a charming story with hidden depths. Children of seven years plus in need of something refreshingly different are going to love it.

Try as she might, Caitlin isn’t having much luck making friends. Living with mum and dad on an otherwise uninhabited island makes friends hard to come by. Caitlin is in a situation where the summer holidays are looming and her best option for company is Frank. Frank’s beard, long hair and lack of shoes might make him the last word in hipsterdom in some places, but on Middle Island he’s just a fairly ineffectual 40 something local fisherman who ferries Caitlin to school each day in his boat. Frank though, like us, recognises how lonely poor Caitlin is.

Perijee

Then one day, following an enormous storm, Caitlin finds a white and oddly marked prawn washed up on the beach. Much to her surprise, he is warm and living and she gets right on with looking after him. As she tend to him, he grows and changes shape to mimic those around him, with just the strange symbols on his skin remaining the same.

As Caitlin feeds and cares for the creature, he inevitably takes on aspects of her appearance: her human shape and features, her wellies and her bobble hat. She names him Perijee and he becomes like a little brother to her, albeit one who’s growing at an alarming rate.

Their relationship between them is just lovely: heart-melting and gentle, and maybe all the more so because we know that sooner or later Perijee’s size will become a problem.

A Treasure

Perijee & Me is a beautiful story of friendship, acceptance and how the perception of others can affect us. Read simply for the adventures of Perijee and Caitlin and the brilliant touches humour throughout, or delve to a deeper, more metaphorical level if you like. Both are great. For this reason, it reminded me of Maurice Sendak’s ground-breaking and much-loved Where the Wild Things Are, being similarly compelling in feel and value. This feels like an exciting voice and a brand new treasure for children’s literature. Check it out now because this isn’t the last you’ll hear about Perijee & Me.


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.

 

 

 


The Bad Guys by Aaron Blabey

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bad guys done

” Good deeds.

Whether you like it or not.”

We Can be Heroes

The Bad Guys by Aaron Blabey, suitable for children of seven years plus, is just the thing to get your reluctant readers reading. Cool, cheeky and packed full of funny, the antics of Misters Wolf, Shark, Piranha and Snake will particularly appeal to kids who need a bit of help in finding reading fun.

Everyone knows you don’t mess with these animals; they’re the bad guys, more likely to gobble you up than lend a helping hand… until now. With Mr Wolf’s encouragement, they set about to change their reputations, to be heroes doing good deeds with hilarious results. Prepare yourselves for fast cars, fart jokes and Mr Shark dressed in a frock as the bad guys learn how to be good.

Shelf Awareness

There’s plenty going on here to keep even the most easily distracted reader entertained: varied written content combined with big, bold illustrations give a comic book feel, and a variety of size and style in fonts keeps things fresh. Then there’s the four main characters who will have even the grumpiest grown up chuckling (especially Mr Piranha, who I loved).

The Bad Guys would be a fabulous addition to any classroom or children’s library. It’s a book that’ll work hard for its shelf space, although I suspect it won’t stay on the shelf for long. With more episodes to follow, it’s likely this series will become a favourite with both the kids they’re aimed at and the adults who are keen to promote reading for pleasure. This makes it pretty heroic, in my opinion.

Kick-Starting Reading for Pleasure

Kids are great and in my experience they will try an awful lot of books before they give up on being readers. We have a long window of opportunity in primary school in which to provide books that will children will enjoy and once they find them, they even help us out by sharing them with their friends. All that the school needs to do is give its pupils the right books and the time to allow this process to happen.

From my point of view, it’s important to understand that unlocking the reader within doesn’t mean that every child should become voracious bookworms, but rather that they are armed with the knowledge of genre preference and feel confident in choosing books for themselves. These kids might not read constantly, but they will see reading as a something enjoyable they could choose to do, and honestly, we need books like The Bad Guys to kick-start this process and spread the joy.

 

Big thanks to Scholastic for sending me this copy of The Bad Guys by Aaron Blabey.


The Accidental Prime Minister by Tom McLaughlin

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accidental pm done

“‘…instead of being sensible and making sensible decisions, politicians just sit on big sofas all day, falling asleep and occasionally yawning ‘hear, hear’. 

‘Cats should have wi-fi hubs on them! That way everyone could get a signal all the time. Bubble-gum-blowing should be an Olympic event!’ Joe paused for breath. It was as if everything that had ever popped into his head was coming out of his mouth. And he couldn’t do anything about it. But the best thing was, it felt AMAZING!”

Vote Perkins!

When Joe Perkins headed off to school just like any other day, possibly the last thing he was planning was a rant at the country’s very unpopular Prime Minister. If there was anything he would have been expecting even less than this, it would probably have been for his rant to be filmed and broadcast, go viral and result in him getting the backing of the great British public and accidentally becoming Prime Minister. But guess what? That’s exactly what happened!

Of course, there’s much more to Tom McLaughlin’s The Accidental Prime Minister than that, but what a place to start! Joe and best friend Ajay (who you WILL love) together take on the task of making the country a better place,but not everyone likes their plans… Prepare yourselves for Postman Pat pyjamas, fake dog poo and skullduggery at the highest levels. This is British politics and I’m definitely backing the little guy.

Suitable for readers aged 8 plus, The Accidental Prime Minister will have kids snorting with laughter and keen to follow Joe’s Prime Ministerial journey to the very last page. This is just the job for bringing fun to reading time, whether you plan to share with a group or read alone. Best be warned though teachers, silent reading sessions will be disrupted by guffawing outbursts if this book’s got anything to do with it, and hurrah for that! Books like The Accidental Prime Minister make children want to read, because it’s got all those ingredients that kids and enlightened adults recognise as being important to a good book:

  • Fabulous illustrations. Tom McLaughlin’s fab cartoons are a perfect accompaniment to the story and happily there are lots of them. Kids know pictures make books even better; publishers of grown up fiction, please take note and follow suit.
  • Lots of lovely big font shouting. ALWAYS A PLEASURE!
  • Funny words and sentences by the bucketful. Including the word ‘plop’.
  • Plenty of action, including loads of really great visual stuff that Tom McLaughlin has made easy for readers to picture.

Power to the People!

But my favourite thing about The Accidental Prime Minister is that it will appeal to a wide breadth of children. Although it’s common for schools to set for reading and writing according to ability, I’m happy to report that children don’t let this effect who they make friends with, thank goodness, and they will happily be able to share this book with all their friends and siblings regardless of ability. Because it’s so well written, older kids and adults will pick up on the subtler jokes and references ( the chapter titles are ace and will all mean something to grown ups of a certain age) whilst the pictures will help newly independent readers get along without too many pages of solid text to bamboozle them.

I suspect this book will go down especially well with boys, which makes it worth its weight in gold. It’s also worth mentioning that Tom McLaughlin does school sessions, that primary teachers may want to look into, especially as he talks about his experiences as a dyslexic author. I can’t think of a single school I’ve worked at where this wouldn’t be relevant to learners or help to boost children’s confidence in what they can achieve.