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!

 


Mr Mustachio

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By Yasmin Finch & Abigail Tompkins

mr-mustachio

” As Mr Mustachio marches down the street, his extra long, super-duper, curly-wurly moustache flies wildly in the wind, and he smiles with pride.”

Enamoured

Mr Mustachio is a funny and original picture book that the whole family will love.

Mr Mustachio has excellent taste. Who doesn’t love a man in a full length camel coat and a Cuban heel? His moustache is also quite the thing: very long and curly and something he is quite rightly proud of. As you can tell, I’m quite enamoured by him.

When the story begins, all is going well for our fuzzy friend. It’s a lovely day and he’s off for a picnic at the local park. Then disastrously, a freak roundabout accident spells the end for Mr Mustachio’s beloved soup strainer as it becomes irreparably tangled…

Tangled

Many kind souls try to help him untangle his whiskers, but without success. We have one super strong girl, two clever boys and ten tall teachers amongst the volunteers. (I love the detail in the illustration of the teachers who all wear lanyards, quite rightly.) The moustache, tragically, must be removed.

Although his moustache is a thing of the past, Mr Mustachio will not be beaten.

An alternative for his nose neighbour must be found and Mr Mustachio has lots of wonderful and hilarious ideas that are revealed in the story. What would you go for?

Inspired!

This book is a total hoot and kids are of course going to love it. Adults and children reading together will not only enjoy the story but will also have fun imagining who else might have come to help Mr Mustachio and what other crazy alternatives they can think of for his missing moustache.

I’m sure teachers will be excited by the possibilities presented here for creating imaginative ways to encourage writing for pleasure, as well as the reading for pleasure that this story will inspire.

Again, like The Libearian which I recently reviewed, this is an excellent book  for adults to have a dialogue with children about, whilst enjoying a wonderful story – how great is that?

As Mr Mustachio would say, fantabulous!

 

Thanks to Maverick for sending me this cracking book!


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.

 

 


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.

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!

 

 

 


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.

 


Pugs of the Frozen North: Yip Yip, Hooray!

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Pugs of the Frozen North by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre

 

pugs

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

Pugs

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.