PESTS: Battle to the End / The Ape Star

PESTS: Battle to the End
Emer Stamp
Hodder Children’s Books

It’s now the summer term for P.E.S.T.S and when Dr Krapotkin announces the sports night competition, no pupil could be more surprised than Stix when his hyper-cautious Grandma signs the chit allowing him to participate, which means going Outside into the garden. Our favourite mouse is super-excited. Their opponents are to be local arch-rivals and sister school V.E.R.M.I.N and the teams will be vying for the Mexico World Cup 86 trophy (actually an old chipped mug).

Some rigorous training takes place before the big event, the result of which doesn’t leave the PESTS bursting with the confidence Dr Krapotkin had hoped, though she still remains confident her team will win. Perhaps sone positive affirmations might help.

On competition day the PESTS head off to the venue and meet their streetwise opponents and their waspish headteacher Sir Sting-a-lot. After two events the VERMIN have zoomed into the lead and a despondent Stix briefly considers quitting but decides against it and the PESTS pull back to make it 2:2. A tie-breaker is the order of the day. Then suddenly something feels very wrong. Surely it couldn’t have anything to do with the dastardly Professor Armageddon, could it? Perhaps now it’s time for co-operation rather than competition.

With creepy cockroaches, a few smatterings of poo (of various shapes and sizes), an injured Batz, and a singing toy phone, it’s going to be a close call in more ways than one. Never mind the trophy, there’s a very big surprise for Stix when he finally reports back to Grandma.

I found myself laughing out load frequently as I read this hilarious, third PESTS romp and I’m sure the target audience of primary school age readers will do likewise. Love the mischief, love the characters – most of them – and love the droll drawings.

The Ape Star
Frida Nilsson
Gecko Press

Originating in Sweden, this is a story about love of an unconventional kind and being an outsider. It begins with a group of children, freshly washed and adorned, lining up in an orphanage in the hope that one of them will be chosen to be adopted and move to a home of their own. Who though is the visitor that arrives? It’s not a caring mother, nor a rich, charitable person; rather it’s a gorilla standing before the children and the one chosen to accompany the adopter is the narrator, nine year old Jonna who has always dreamed of being part of a loving family.

Now she has to go with this huge creature and goodness knows what might happen, for her adopter lives in a junkyard; but the papers are duly signed and so Jonna has no choice but to climb into the old Volvo with the gorilla whose head is like an overgrown pear.

At the gorilla’s residence Jonna is given a hammock to sleep in and Gorilla sits in her battered armchair reading Dickens. Seemingly the two have more in common than you might imagine; a bond forms between them. Just when the two are getting along just fine a man from the council turns up threatening to send Jonna back to the orphanage.

There’s near heart-break and a surprising discovery but can the combination of Jonna’s courage, perseverance and empathy combined with Gorilla’s compassion, and teamwork prevail over prejudice, greed and dishonesty? Long live books and the power of love.

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