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 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.


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!


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.