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 Unicorns of Blossom Wood by Catherine Coe

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Best Friends & Storms and Rainbows


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.


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.

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.


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!




Rickety Rocket by Alice Hemming

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Illustrated by Emma Randall

rickety rocket done

Maverick Books Junior Fiction Range

As part of Maverick Books’ brand new Junior Fiction range, over the summer I’ll be introducing you to three titles due for release this October. This series is aimed at 6 to 9 year olds. Primary teachers, school librarians, take note: these are ideal for newly independent readers and you’ll want to consider them as you start thinking about books for next year.

Rickety Rocket

Much as picture books are wonderful and classic titles are classics for a reason, I’m always after brand new releases to recommend for Key Stage One readers, and particularly Year Two children who need a wide range of easily digestible books that introduce the concept of genre and the opportunity to explore longer texts.

I feel really strongly about how important it is to introduce new fiction for this age group, books that fill young minds with exciting and imaginative ideas and encourage reading beyond decoding.

Rickety Rocket by Alice Hemming is just the thing; it ticks all the boxes for me as either a class or individual read. Here we have a brand new title, ideal for children of 6 years plus, whether reading alone or with others.

Rickety Rocket comprises of three short stories, all about Spacey Stacey and her pals who live on Planet Five Ways- so named as it links to five other planets we can visit. I really liked the format of three stories in one as it gives children bite sized adventures and a triple feeling of accomplishment in one book.


With nicely blocked text perfect for supporting rookie readers, Rickety Rocket introduces kids to lots of exciting new words that Biff, Chip et al (other reading schemes are available) won’t have covered. For me, ‘jellicious’ is now a new favourite that I have happily added to my own vocabulary!

Prepare to meet space bunnies (cheeky little blighters), deliver jelly by jet pack and race through space in a purple rocket. If I were reading this to a class, I’d be planning all sorts of activities around it: for story number three ‘Picnic Planet’ I’d so be looking forward to reading outside whilst enjoying our own class picnic. Rickety Rocket is the sort of book however where kids will be keen to suggest their own ideas as a result of reading, so it’s a good idea to leave some breathing space if you can to allow this to happen.

Rickety Rocket: fun fiction sure to help kids blast off a lifetime of reading for pleasure


Big thanks to Maverick Books for sending me this little beauty.





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?


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.”


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.


Megalopolis and the Visitor from Outer Space by Cléa Dieudonné

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mega 1

“Megalopolis is a magnificent city. People come from far and wide to see its sights. One day, there was even a visitor from another galaxy.”

Megalopolis and the Visitor from Outer Space by Cléa Dieudonné is a very special picture book telling a vertical story. Suitable for readers ages 5+

A Tall Tale

Living in a city that feels welcoming is a wonderful thing that spells the difference between location and home.

When our hero, the little green visitor from outer space, arrives in his Jetsonesque spaceship, he is warmly welcomed by everyone he meets. There are many who wish to meet him, all throughout the city! As the story unfolds (or as we unfold the story), we follow his progress down through Megalopolis for he appears on each page. He attends a spectacular firework display in a dormant volcano, plays hide and seek in the Chinese Gardens and is introduced to the animals in the zoo. There are weddings, near death experiences and many types of brightly coloured cake.

Look Again!

The story text is rich in detail, sweet and funny and captivating. Cléa Dieudonné changes the colour of her text with each page: a neat move that links the words simply but effectively to the pictures. Oh, and the pictures! An artwork unfolds showing the whole of Megalopolis, from the skies above to the depths below and all in between. Colour and detail are the thing here. Balanced use of the full spectrum of colours means that no aspect overshadows another. Whilst searching for our intergalactic hero, we happily take in the rest of the Megalopolis.

There are many things to spot. I loved the animals, especially the dogs- including one very fine pink poodle. As in every big city though, there is evidence of crime. Kids will love finding the cheeky burglars up to no good! No building is the same and there is movement and noise everywhere. You can even see a mermaid…

I took a few photos so you could see how that works:

Gorgeous isn’t it? And honestly, so much better than this in real life where you can really appreciate all the finer detail, the feel of the book and sound of the pages unfolding.


If you’re looking for something totally different with a wide breadth of appeal, you really need to check out Megalopolis. This is a vertical story, beautifully illustrated on fantastic quality thick, resilient paper, that folds out to three metres long. It’ll need to be tough, for this is a book that will be pulled out and enjoyed time and time again. Kids will treasure it. Megalopolis is a great leveller that will be loved by both reluctant readers and established book lovers alike, simply because it’s an entertaining and accessible read.

 A vertical story of ultimate glory with something new for you each time you read it.

Notes for Teachers

Hurrah! At last a book that we can all get excited about together! That’s right, even those kids in your class that are struggling to find the right book; that one book that will make them think a little differently, stop reading being a chore and turn it into an adventure. Bold claim, but I absolutely think this book could be just the thing to create a buzz in young readers. Why? Well, read on.

The Class of 2011 and Talk for Writing

A few years ago I taught in a school that streamed by ability for Numeracy and Literacy. In taking the ‘lower’ literacy group, it was no surprise to find even by Year Five, most of them were conditioned to be down on their own abilities and sadly aware that they were labelled as the bottom half of the year in reading and writing. A lovely group of kids with loads to offer, let down by ‘rigorous’ assessment and left to feel like square pegs.

Then one day, I went on a Pie Corbett course which showed me how to help them by working a bit differently. By using Talk for Writing, we learnt stories together and used ALOT of flip chart paper to break down those stories into simple pictures, codes and symbols. For an ex-art teacher like me, it made utter sense. The children came up with actions to go with the symbols and we acted it out and of course they loved it. Plus, for maybe the first time ever, they knew a story inside out.

They were equipped to start planning the next stage of their writing on their own. Out came the rolls of lining paper. They mapped our group work onto it, working in pairs along corridors to construct stories that were many metres long. They changed aspects, made them individual. In short, they owned it. It wasn’t unlike Megalopolis in structure, and it lit up their eyes to work this way. They loved to read it back, walking along their stories as they did so, jumping over it, kneeling next to it but most of all, treasuring it and keeping it safe from nearby careless feet!

For three weeks they worked more or less independently in the name of fiction. I can’t tell you how much they enjoyed it and when they wrote up their stories as more traditional ‘books’ with covers and a blurb at the back, their writing had improved beyond belief. Really, all this good stuff was there in them in the first place, they just needed the time to engage and to look at things in a new way to find out what they were capable of. Best use of half a term’s Literacy lessons ever. Do try it if you can.

The Power of Books

Megalopolis reminded me of that class. They would’ve absolutely loved it. We would’ve left our places, spread it out across tables through the centre of the room and read it together, walking along it, spotting things, taking notes and talking about it. I know they would have seen there were more stories to tell amongst the other characters in the book. They would have run with that, created new tales.

They would’ve said to me “Next time we do Talk for Writing, can we make a book that looks like that?” I could really get kids writing with a starting point like this, let alone reading! The reading part would be easy! Coloured fonts? Stories three metres long? Integrating art and writing? Yes please! Now that would be something worth showing off to mums and dads at parents evening. Rather more exciting than thrice collected evidence of adjectival phrases and far, far more likely to encourage reading and (dare I say) writing for pleasure.

I truly think Megalopolis could add value to learning across the primary age range. From creating happy readers in key stage one, to using it the heart of the curriculum higher up. Teachers are amazing at making links that matter and Megalopolis is full of possibilities. For example, the parallels here between the alien being welcomed into a new world and our oldest pupils thinking about new beginnings at secondary school is just one aspect. There are many more to explore. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to use a picture book to kick off your topic work in Year Six? Why not do it? It would certainly give the kids and the adults something to think about.

(Megalopolis and the Visitor from Outer Space was kindly sent to me by Thames and Hudson)







Pugs of the Frozen North: Yip Yip, Hooray!

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Pugs of the Frozen North by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre



“Two hundred and sixty-four tiny paws pattered on the ice, sixty-six little voices howled ‘AROOO!’ and the sled set off…”


Pugs of the Frozen North is a fantastically funny, beautifully illustrated and sadly fictional book for anyone aged seven plus. Written and illustrated by the hugely talented team of Sarah McIntyre and Philip Reeve, it’s a book that presents you with the image of a sixty-six strong sled dog team of pugs (something I’m struggling to get over the magnificence of) and wraps it in a bonkers adventure, a race to the top of the world and the chance to win your heart’s desire at the end of it.

Naturally, the pugs (and of course Shen and Sita who are in charge of them) aren’t the only ones competing to meet the Snowfather at the top of the world and claim the prize. And as this event can only take place during a rare True Winter, competition is fierce. We soon meet the other racers: also taking part are scientist Professor Shakleton Jones and his robot companion Snowbot; bearded lady Helga Hammerfest and her two friendly polar bears, and also Mitzi Von Primm and her huskies which much to their shame have been poodle-clipped and dyed pink. Also racing is Sir Basil Sprout-Dumpling, all round bad egg and stop-at-nothing-cheat. Watch out for him: he really is a frightful rascal and not to be trusted.

Did I Mention There Are Pugs?

Prepare to adventure across the frozen north with Shen, Sita and the pugs as they strive to reach the Snowfather first and have Sita’s wish granted to return her grandfather (a previous racer who met the Snowfather in his youth) to good health. Look out for crazy creatures and fifty different types of magical snow, including echosnow, slumbersnow that snores and farts, and also snowtrolls: a carnivorous snow, prone to heckling:

pugs inner

Snow Trolls at Work

Celebrating Art (And Pugs)

It’s a weird thing that most books for adults usually deny their readers the joyousness of illustrations. This is something I will never understand. Luckily, we have the children’s book community to save us from this ultimate dullness of a world without art. Pugs of the Frozen North is a true celebration of drawing, bringing us more fabulous illustrations than you could shake a snowy stick at, and that makes me very happy indeed.

Why read Pugs of the Frozen North? For goodness sakes, why not! Sixty-six pugs pulling a sled people… you don’t get this sort of opportunity in literature every day! Not to mention that this is a truly lovely story, with many thoughtful and inspiring snippets, such as this one that I particularly liked:

“All things die in the end, but not stories. Stories go on and on, and new ones are always being born.”

And on that reassuring thought, I definitely rate this as….

A book of true glory. I love it.