Wigglesbottom Primary: Break Time Bunnies / Lottie Luna and the Bloom Garden

Wigglesbottom Primary: Break Time Bunnies
Becka Moor and Pamela Butchart
Nosy Crow

It’s always a delight to read of the exploits of Class 2R in their school where pretty much anything can happen.

Here we have three new fun, beautifully observed episodes wherein the children allow their imaginations to take flight. In the first story it’s a case of bunnies running riot in the playground: could they be ATTACK BUNNIES and why are they there?

The second tale, has class teacher Miss Riley announcing the imminent arrival of a ‘special guest’. Is the man who sits at the back of the class a TV talent spotter or has he another purpose for watching the goings on of teacher and pupils?

In story number three the children all sign up for violin lessons but their music teacher, Miss Stein looks really spooky. Could she perhaps be a witch – a bewitching witch?

It’s so easy to get sucked into 2B’s zany premises in these enormously enjoyable stories and the final revelations are always delicious.

As ever Pamela Buchart has done a brilliant job illustrating these small sparkling stories. She catches the zaniness of Becka’s tellings SO well making every page turn not only a verbal but a visual treat.

Bring on the next one.

Lottie Luna and the Bloom Garden
Vivian French, illustrated by Nathan Reed
Harper Collins Children’s Books

Meet Lottie Luna, star of a super new series by Vivian French.
Lottie is a werewolf, but a very special one with extra powers on account of her being born during a full lunar eclipse. Hence she’s super speedy, super strong, has x-ray vision and has super hearing. Oh yes and she’s also a princess on account of her father inheriting a kingdom.

This however means that she’s had to move home to the crumbling Dracon Castle and consequently has to start at a new school mid year. Like many youngsters, Lottie is nervous about this and certainly doesn’t want it known at Shadow Academy that she’s special even if that means not revealing her real self.

Lottie’s class teacher announces a pupil project – to create a design to transform the wasteland behind the school into a beautiful garden and the winning design will be used for the purpose.

Before long Lottie finds she has two friends, and decides that the head of her new school is amazing – a kindred spirit too; perhaps things won’t be so bad after all.

As for the garden design, Lottie is the winner but once the garden creation begins,

more challenges arise – there’s a Bloom Garden saboteur at work.

Now Lottie must do all she can to save the enterprise from road developers; but can she do it? Perhaps it’s time to draw on those superpowers of hers …

Friendship, determination, being true to yourself, courage, resilience and forgiveness are at the heart of this smashing story Vivian has woven.

Nathan Reed has done a terrific job with his black and white illustrations; they’re offbeat and splendidly playful.

More please!

Bug Belly Babysitting Trouble / Kitty and the Sky Garden Adventure

Bug Belly Babysitting Trouble
Paul Morton
Five Quills

Meet Bug Belly, he of ingenious plans, a clever kit bag and super cool gadgets; sounds a together kind of frog doesn’t he. There’s a snag though: Bug Belly has an almost insatiable appetite. Not a particular problem you might be thinking but how will he deal with that as well as the task of babysitting hundreds of taddies and froglets for a whole day while their parents attend a conference?

Seemingly not very well, for before long he’s faced with rescuing his charges from a rapidly draining pond and the reason for this is known only to the care-giver and his belly (readers of course are in on the secret).

Can he come up with a super-ingenious plan – probably his most clever ever – to evade the jaws of the ferocious pike Old Snapper and Heron of the razor-sharp beak

not to mention one Sneaky Snake that might just be snooping around?

Let’s just say DUCK POO and leave you to discover its significance.

Hilarious antics, splendidly portrayed and related in Paul Morton’s spluttersome storytelling prose: URGLE-GURGLE GLUMP! Froggy fun it surely is and perfect cheering-up fodder for new solo readers. It’s a great read aloud too – you can really give it some belly.

Kitty and the Sky Garden Adventure
Paula Harrison, illustrated by Jenny Lovlie
Oxford University Press

I can almost hear the cheers from young solo readers for girl during the day, cat at night, Kitty, as she returns in a third adventure with her feline side kick Pumpkin.

As the story opens Kitty is excited to discover that the sunflower seed she planted as part of the school garden design competition is sprouting leaves and is showing it to Pumpkin when Pixie appears talking of an established garden across the city that might provide some inspiration for Kitty’s own design.Kitty cannot resist the opportunity to see this garden and quickly dons her superhero suit.

Following the scent of flowers, the three adventurers venture forth and discover a wonderful rooftop garden alive with wonderful aromas, beautiful trees and gorgeous flowers including seven huge sunflowers.

Her companions are mightily impressed by the catnip bush and it’s this that results in their presence being discovered by an irate tortoiseshell cat whose peaceful evening they have disturbed. The friends’ enthusiasm for things botanical persuades the grumpy Diggory to allow them to explore and he shows them around Mrs Lovett’s amazing creation, even inviting them to return.

So excited is Pixie that she cannot keep the news of the wondrous place to herself and next evening they return to find the place overrun with cats behaving in a thoroughly undesirable fashion.
Before long, Kitty and her pals have a huge task on their hands – to repair the damage the unruly frolickers have done before sunrise.

Can they rise to the challenge when they have a whole gang of recalcitrant cats to deal with, Kitty’s going to need all her powers of persuasion to get that gang on side to help.

I love the way Paula Harrison almost unobtrusively weaves nature’s wonders into this urban adventure; there are subtle lessons for young readers about re-using and recycling planted in her tale too. From its gorgeous cover by illustrator Jenny Lovlie, this is a delight through and through. The illustrations within are fab too, especially those of the garden.

Willow Wildthing and the Swamp Monster

Willow Wildthing and the Swamp Monster
Gill Lewis, illustrated by Rebecca Bayley
Oxford University Press

This story introduces a super new character, Willow Wildthing in the first of a series to be.

Willow has just moved into a new home in a different town; everything feels strange, alien even. Left to her own devices, she decides to go exploring with just her dog Sniff for company. No sooner have they sallied forth than something startles Sniff and he vanishes.

Giving chase, Willow comes upon four grubby-looking children calling themselves the Wild Things who have seized Sniff saying they need him for a mission.

When Willow stands her ground the Wild Things (Fox, Raven, Mouse, Hare) agree (mostly) to let her accompany them.
But is she brave enough to enter the Wilderness? It’s a kind of wood but not just any wood, a secret place where anything can happen, a place wherein a wild monster dwells.

It means crossing some very murky water and going barefoot. Oh yes, it’s also a place where magic seeps into you regardless of whether or not you want it to; and you can only enter through the Holloway.

It’s said that a witch lives in the Wilderness too, though Mouse insists she’s the writer who came to talk at school; witch or writer, or both? The woman tells them in answer to Fox’s ’what do you do?’ – ‘I suppose you could say I conjure openings into other worlds.’

Eventually Willow decides that accompany them she must, Sniff’s help is needed in locating and rescuing another member of their group – Bear; but his is not the only rescue they undertake. They locate the source of the howling Willow heard on her first night in the new house.

All ends satisfactorily with Willow being accepted as a member of the Wild Things and there’s the promise of another mystery waiting to be solved.
And as for magic, let’s say yes to that, the best magic of all being, friendship.

Gill Lewis lyrical manner of telling this tale immediately engages the reader holding your interest throughout with its mixing of the enchantment of the natural world and that conjured up by the imagination. Rebecca Bagley’s two-colour illustrations are a delight too. The book is one likely to engender in children the urge to be curious, thirsty for adventure and resilient, as well as open-hearted and kind.

Hattie

Hattie
Frida Nilsson, illustrated by Stina Wirsén
Gecko Press

Six year old Hattie is shall we say, something of a mischief. She lives in a small country town in Sweden with her hard working parents and there’s little to keep her amused so she’s been eagerly anticipating starting school. That, she thinks, will surely bring plenty of adventures, and so it does.

Right on the very first day she makes a new friend, Linda who despite initial appearances is full of fun. She makes other friends too and manages to get herself into all kinds of trouble, sometimes solo, at other times along with her bestie, each escapade being related in a chapter. Every one however, results in new learning on Hattie’s part.

There’s the incident when on the eve of the school photographs, she gets her haircut

and ends up with a style that’s way too tufty, but guess who looks the most funky when the photo comes out.

Not everything goes wrong though: Hattie turns seven, becomes besotted with a hermit crab which results in Dad having to do some quick thinking; she gets her very first swimming badge – eventually – after some warty trouble;

and before you can possibly say, ‘where’s all that time gone,’ a whole school year has passed and it’s the summer holiday.

Youngsters around Hattie’s age will surely love reading about, or hearing of, her escapades; this is a girl with a thirst for fun, a total charmer who just doesn’t stop and think about the consequences of her actions before plunging straight in. She does though pause for thought, reflect and take on board the lessons learned.

The occasional line drawings by Stina Wirsén are a sheer delight too.

Meet Pippi Longstocking / Pippi Longstocking and the Snirkle Hunt

Meet Pippi Longstocking
Pippi Longstocking and the Snirkle Hunt
Astrid Lindgren, illustrated by Ingrid Vang Nyman
Oxford University Press

2020 sees the 75th anniversary of the publication of the first Pippi Longstocking book and as part of the celebrations OUP is releasing six new early reader, illustrated editions with Ingrid Vang Nymans’s illustrations rendered in two colours in each book, using adaptations of the original text by Astrid Lindgren.
The first two are Meet Pippi Longstocking, which introduces youngsters to the inimitable Pippi and her world and that in which Pippi invents the wonderful-sounding word “snirkle’ the meaning of which she tells her friends Tommy and Annika, she has no idea except that it’s not dustbin lid. Thus we have the second title, Pippi Longstocking and the Snirkle Hunt.

Clearly Pippi needs to discover what this brand new word of hers means and that’s exactly what, after a few moments of contemplation she sets out to do.

It proves not to be the sound made when you trample in mud making it come up between your toes: that she decides is SHBLURP and heads off, gold coin in hand, riding her horse Mr Nillson, to the shops with her friends, to see if it’s something that can be bought.
Several unsuccessful shop visits later,

she heads to the doctor’s but that yields nothing helpful.

Nor does the intrusion she makes upon two ladies sitting chatting over a cuppa up in a flat.

Will the determined young miss ever solve her snirkle conundrum? Perhaps it’s closer to home than she thinks …

For the adult me, nine year old Pippi, with her mismatched stockings, carroty-coloured hair and freckles, has lost none of the allure she had in my childhood – an unstoppable self-belief, determination, resilience and kindness and lots of terrific adventures.

I can’t wait to introduce her, through these smashing little books to a new generation of young readers.  Long live Pippi!

Isadora Moon Goes on Holiday / Freddie’s Amazing Bakery: The Cookie Mystery

Welcome back to two terrific characters in new stories kindly sent, super speedily by Oxford University Press:

Isadora Moon Goes on Holiday
Harriet Muncaster

Isadora Moon enters a competition and is mega excited to learn that her picture has won a prize – a family holiday abroad.

Despite their initial reservations – the sticky heat, a plane flight the suitability of the hotel and more, her parents are finally packed and ready to embrace a new adventure.

Soon after their arrival Isadora, her mum and little Honeyblossom head for the beach, but during their first dip, Mum is concerned about the amount of rubbish people have thrown into the sea.

Next morning the whole family go on a boat trip and while demonstrating her underwater swimming skills Isadora encounters Marina, a friend she’d made when on a camping holiday. Now Marina too is holidaying with her family and she tells Isadora of the large amounts of rubbish they’ve discovered underwater.

The mermaid gives Isadora a conch shell to use as a communication device and later on she receives a call from Marina begging her to help in freeing a baby turtle that’s got stuck in a tangle of rubbish beneath the ocean.

Despite her parents’ warnings not to venture out again without telling them, Isadora, wand in hand creeps out into the moonlight and is soon diving beneath the waves on a rescue mission.

Even after successfully releasing the little creature, there’s a  huge task ahead of Isadora and for that she needs to enlist the help of her parents. Will they overlook this latest bit of disobedience in a far greater cause – saving our precious planet?

Telling and illustrating it with her usual sparkly magic and pizzazz Harriet Muncaster weaves into this latest story, important environmental messages about the horrors that we thoughtless humans cause the natural world.

Fans of the fangtastic fairy-vampire books will enthusiastically lap up this one, and will very likely espouse the cause of saving our planet too.

Freddie’s Amazing Bakery: The Cookie Mystery
Harriet Whitehorn, illustrated by Alex G. Griffiths

We’re back in Belville town where kind-hearted Freddie Bonbon has his bakery.

As the story opens it’s a lovely spring morning and Freddie is just about to leave on his delivery round leaving the bakery in the capable hands of Amira, his best friend and manager who is putting up a sign advertising for another baker. He’s heading for Van de Lune’s Hotel with a special delivery.

At the same time, the unscrupulous owner of Macaroon’s Patisserie, Bernard, is thinking super-bad thoughts about Freddie, intending to sample one of the  yummy confections he’s just stolen from Freddie and work out what it is therein that so delights everyone.

The following morning Freddie learns that Cookie, the superstar cat staying at Van de Lune’s has disappeared, presumed kidnapped. Can he, with the skills of his small dog, Flapjack succeed in solving the case of the vanishing feline?

The recipe of Harriet Whitehorn’s fun story with its highly satisfying ending, generous sprinkling of Alex’s superbly characterful black and white illustrations, posters, signs, and appropriate capitalisation of the text, plus a culinary glossary and instructions for baking delicious cookies, this is another yummy treat for junior fans of The Great British Bake Off.

Freddie is destined to win even more young book enthusiasts with this, his second mystery.

Agents of the Wild Operation Honeyhunt

Agents of the Wild: Operation Honeyhunt
Jennifer Bell, illustrated by Alice Lickens
Walker Books

Returning home one day, 8 year old Agnes Gamble, daughter of the sadly no longer alive, renowned botanists Ranulph and Azalea, discovers a creature clad in a safari uniform awaiting her in her bedroom. He informs Agnes that he’s an elephant shrew (species Rhynchocyon petersi) , a field agent for SPEARS (the Society for the Protection of Endangered and Awesomely Rare Species). He gives her a pair of knee pads covered in a sticky green goo (slug mucus) and says she’s to accompany him on a mission. He’s even brought a replacement chimp trained to mimic her so that her Uncle Douglas won’t notice her absence.

The recruiter who’s also known as Attenborough or Attie for short, says that not only did her erstwhile parents know of SPEARS but that they too were field agents for the society. This persuades Agnes to go along with Attie who leads the girl up inside a hidden passage to where eventually they board the SPEARS dragoncopter that takes them to HQ to meet the organisation’s Commander, a turkey.

He tells Agnes that she’s been scouted and if after training, she’s deemed ready, she’ll be sent on a mission with a view to becoming a permanent agent.

Needless to say the training is pretty rigorous

but Agnes scores well and along with Attie, is assigned to Operation Honeyhunt tasked with rescuing a young bee left behind during a hive relocation to a protected sanctuary the previous week. Said bee is at even greater risk due to the fact that the dastardly Axel Jabheart has been sighted in the Atlantic Forest, the place where the bee was left.

Eventually they locate the apis in the rainforest.

He then informs the agents that he’s called Elton and that he’s choreographer in chief of the hive colony. Agnes amasses a wealth of additional information about Elton but is she up to the difficult rescue task, after which she’ll become a full SPEARS agent?

With its exciting mix of adventure and wildlife conservation, Jennifer Bell has created a terrific story for those around Agnes’ own age. Alice Lickens’ wonderfully offbeat illustrations sprinkled throughout the book, break up the text; and at the end of the story are several pages providing facts about the endangered wildlife of the Atlantic Forest in which the mission is set, as well as information on how readers can get involved.

I look forward to reading more of young Agnes and her adventures.