Claude: Anyone for Strawberries? / Claude:Ever-So-Summery Sticker Book

Claude: Anyone for Strawberries?
Alex T.Smith
Hodder Children’s Books

This is another is the delectably funny Claude stories spawned by the Claude TV Show and it’s perfect summer reading.

It’s a Tuesday in Pawhaven, but one that starts badly for our friends Claude and Sir Bobblysock who have been eagerly anticipating “Strawberries-for-Breakfast day”.

Off they dash to Denzel’s fruit-and-veg van, but disaster! When they arrive Denzel informs them that on account to the Pawhaven Tennis Championships, all the strawberries are already sold.

The friends head to the park, and as they arrive a tennis ball hurtles out of the sky directly towards Sir Bobblysock.

In a flash Claude leaps skyward, catching the ball in his beret, mightily impressing his pal.

Meanwhile the semi-final has ground to a halt. Movie star, Errol Heart-Throb, is refusing to continue without his lucky ball.
Needless to say he’s thrilled to have it handed back by Claude. Before you can say “strawberries’ Claude has landed himself a job as official match ball boy.

You can guess where Sir B. heads off to, hardly able to contain his excitement at the prospect. However, once again his anticipated strawberry feast is thwarted.

In the meantime, Errol has been declared the winner of the semi-final but it appears that vanity will stop the now ruffled-looking victor from playing in the final.

Claude is to take his place and is more than willing when he learns what the prize is …

There’s a slight snag though – the other finalist is Kimberley and she has a somewhat over-sized racket.

It’s a tense match, but who will be the winner? I wonder …

As with all the Claude stories, this is a smasher.

Game, set and match to Alex T.Smith and the TV series for another winning episode served up with bowls full of summery deliciousness. Hard luck if you happen like this reviewer, to be allergic to those small fruity berries Claude and Sir Bobblysock love so much. In which case, just get the book and pass on the strawberries.

If that’s not enough for your young Claude enthusiasts then also based on the Sixteen South TV show is:

Claude: Ever-So-Summery Sticker Book
Hodder Children’s Books

Set on Pawhaven beach it’s full of seasonal silliness, Claude and Sir Bobblysock style.
There are lots of activities to test your little ones’ visual skills, pages to adorn with sandcastles (and some of the 250 stickers that make up the centre pages); a maze to navigate; a picnic to share with the two favourite characters and more.

Claude: All About Kevin

Claude: All About Keith
Alex T. Smith
Hodder Children’s Books

One fine day Claude and Sir Bobblysock are perambulating in the warm sun, Claude taking the opportunity to practise his hooter playing, when they come upon a very distressed baby duck.

Benny Begonia, stops by. He suggests the creature has lost its mummy and offers to go and search for her. That’s how Claude and Sir B find themselves doing a spot of duckling sitting.

In order to pacify the little animal Claude suggests a visit to Mr Lovelybuns’ café.

Things are going swimmingly until Claude gets a tad over enthusiastic about his sandwich and SPLAT!

Keith is less than happy about his new pickle-spattered plumage and makes it known in no uncertain terms.

Off they go to the library and soon Keith is happily listening to Miss Hush’s story about an angry dragon. Until that is the librarian asks Claude to give a dragon impression.

You can imagine Keith’s reaction to the almighty roar.

Off they go again – to give Keith an opportunity to do what ducklings like to do. Thanks to Denzel the duckling appears to enjoy his swim but then Claude decides to join him in the water and … Here we go again.

Back comes Benny but without Keith’s mummy. “I should have just stuck with playing my hooter,” says Claude giving it a tiny toot.

Lo and behold that does the trick and before you can say ‘duck’ Keith is not the only one doing some enthusiastic moves to Claude’s tooting.

Back they all go to Pawhaven park: job done surely? Errr, maybe that’s not quite the end of the story. But we all love a happy ending and rest assured there is one though you’ll need to get hold of a copy of the book and discover how things are resolved – if indeed they are.

Alex’s Claude and Sir Bobblysock are totally irresistible and, based on the Disney Junior TV show, this latest adventure is as wittily ridiculous as ever.

Mr Penguin and the Lost Treasure

Mr Penguin and the Lost Treasure
Alex T. Smith
Hodder Children’s Books

The creator of the wonderful Claude books does it again with this the first of another adventure series. It stars Mr Penguin of Cityville (think Indiana Jones crossed with Sherlock Holmes or even Wallace and Gromit) who has just set himself up as a professional adventurer. He has all the gear: a dashing hat, large magnifying glass, a somewhat battered satchel and a smart-looking office complete with revolving chair. Like others of his ilk, he also has a sidekick, Colin the kung-fu-kicking spider.

Mr P. sits in his office, with a decidedly reduced bank balance and a distinct lack of clients, despairing that he’ll ever be asked to solve a mystery.

Happily he gets a call from a frantic-sounding Boudicca Boones, owner of the Museum of Extraordinary Objects. She wants to hire him to find some lost treasure buried long ago by a relative.

An adventure at last; but can this oddly matched pair manage to follow a map and solve clues let alone locate the whereabouts of that missing treasure?

Their search, which ends up involving more than just Mr P. and Colin, sends them down into the depths to a subterranean jungle under the museum itself.

What a cracking, fast moving adventure it turns out to be with a host of cliff-hangers,

surprises and delicious characters, not to mention brushes with the criminal fraternity, the odd alligator and more, that will keep readers on the edge of their seats as well as chortling at the wonderful dialogue.

As one would expect of Alex Smith, the entire tale is imbued with the absurd, both verbal and visual; and be sure not to miss those press excerpts before and after the beginning and end of the book.

Readers will be thrilled to learn, as I was, that this is the first of a new wacky adventure series. Bring on the next one …

The Adventures of Egg Box Dragon

The Adventures of Egg Box Dragon
Richard Adams and Alex T. Smith
Hodder Children’s Books

Here’s the result of an inspired bit of decision making from someone at Hodder: the teaming of Richard Adams (now no longer with us) and wonderful illustrator of the Claude series, Alex T.Smith. It’s the first and only picture book from Watership Down author and the last ever book Adams wrote.

Like a good many other children, Emma loved to make things out of egg boxes, not the awful plastic things but the pukka cardboard ones. One day she fashions a fantastic dragon from those egg boxes with the addition of bits of card, scraps cut from bin liners, wire, shiny bike reflectors and paint.

This amazing construction is hugely admired when Emma brings it home and one person not usually given to speaking out declares the “critter’s got magic.”

Doing as she’s bid, Emma puts the dragon to sleep under the moon and waits.
Sure enough the old man is right, the dragon comes to life and yes, he’s a fiery thing but this mischievous beastie has an amazing talent: he’s able to locate the whereabouts of almost anything that’s been lost – Dad’s specs for instance and the neighbour’s tortoise.

Pretty soon the whole neighbourhood has heard of this extraordinary gift and the TV news gets hold of the story.

Then comes a surprise call:

her majesty enlists his help and the Egg Box Dragon finds himself going to the palace to assist her in finding a missing diamond from her crown.

A thoroughly enjoyable tale, full of splendid characters in its own right, but with amazing artistry from Alex that’s simply brimming over with wonderfully imagined details, the whole thing moves to a whole new level of deliciousness.

Sproutzilla vs.Christmas / Santa Claude

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Sproutzilla vs. Christmas
Tom Jamieson and Mike Byrne
Macmillan Children’s Books
Young Jack’s abhorrence of Brussels sprouts is about to result in the ruination of Christmas and not just for the lad himself when his parents come back from a shopping expedition with the most enormous one of the green veggies he’s ever set eyes on. He’s called Sproutzilla and he’s the meanest, greenest Christmas ruining vegetable ever. What’s more, he (and his army of Sproutlings) have their sights set on Santa; and Sproutzilla is exceedingly hungry.

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Seemingly, if the mums and dads, the angry dinner ladies and the furious chefs can’t save Christmas, there’s only one person who can and there’s only one way he can do it. Jack will have to EAT SPROUTS!

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This is a totally ridiculous story over which you cannot help but have a good giggle, as will young children, especially at the final PAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRP-powered delivery, not to mention the tasty final twist.
Sprout lover or not, I suspect you’ll never look at your Christmas veggies in quite the same way again.
More bonkers fun in:

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Santa Claude

Alex T.Smith
Hodder Children’s Books
It’s Christmas Eve night and Mr and Mrs Shinyshoes have left Claude and best pal Sir Bobblysock alone in the house while they go out partying. A super-excited Claude has tucked himself up in bed and is just settling down to read his new Cops and Robbers book when he hears a loud THUD! followed by what sound like a series of heavy footsteps. Convinced whoever has whooshed down the chimney is a burglar, and already anticipating catching same red-handed, off he goes armed with his handcuffs to apprehend the intruder.
Having secured the ‘burglar’ to the arm of a chair in the pitch-dark living room, Claude switches on the light to find himself face to face with none other than Santa. Easy enough to release the handcuffs you might think but oh dear me, no! The key is nowhere to be found.
With Santa out of action there’s only one thing to be done; Claude and Sir Bobblysock will have to make the rest of the deliveries instead. But can they – even with Claude decked out in Santa’s seasonal costume –

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make it round all those hundreds of homes, delivering an absolutely enormous sack of presents and be safely back by midnight when the Shinyshoes return?
Needless to say, things won’t be plain sailing no matter what: let the festivities begin …
With Claude and Sir Bobblysock you’re guaranteed a whole load of gigglesome delight and this fast-paced festive romp is no different. It’s perfect to tuck into a Christmas stocking, or for an excited youngster to hide away with for a pre-Christmas chortle.

Claude All At Sea

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Claude All at Sea
Alex T.Smith
Hodder Children’s Books
What joy! A Claude picture book and it’s a corker of a one too, methinks. If you don’t know Claude, these are the essentials: he’s a small plump pooch who sports, in normal circumstances (if there are such with Claude), a red beret and jumper and lives with his owners, Mr and Mrs Shinyshoes and his best pal, Sir Bobbysock. He and Claude have an adventure every day, once Mr and Mrs S. have departed for work, that is.
On this particular day Claude has got himself into a right painty mess and is in dire need of a bath; so having stashed his painting gear and grabbed his bath toys, off he goes up to the bathroom to turn on the taps ready to perform his ablutions. Or rather, that’s the plan. What actually happens is something altogether else. Before anybody can say ‘You both forgot about the water’ here’s the result …

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which, they quickly discover is ‘very wet and stonking good fun!’
Hang on; what are all those signs that have caught the eye of Sir Bobbysock about?

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The pair quickly discover when they find themselves in a very dark, damp place; and they’re not alone down there. Three people, not to mention a steam-boat, desperately require some Claude style assistance; and helping is one of Claude’s favourite things to do.

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Out comes his trusty red beret into which he just happened to have stashed all manner of potentially useful stuff …

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However, nothing quite works and just when it seems they might be stuck, in Sir B’s words ‘for ever!’ he’s smitten with an attack of hiccups and THIS gives Claude a brilliant idea; one involving a paintbrush and a spot of tickling.
Is this idea sufficiently brilliant to effect a successful rescue though? Well that would be telling and story spoiling now wouldn’t it …
Let’s just say that one of the other objects in Claude’s beret eventually makes a certain large, voracious guzzler a very happy creature.
Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant fun; every spread brims over with visual and verbal delights. If you enjoy quirky; don’t miss this one … Actually, just don’t miss it.

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Take Off with Mango & Bambang and Claude

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Mango & Bambang: Tapir All at Sea
Polly Faber and Clara Vulliamy
Walker Books
Calamitous at cake making and disastrous at dancing – ballet and free dance certainly,

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it seems Bambang is never going to find the right hobby to occupy him while Mango concentrates on her chess moves. But who is this and what can he possibly want?

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Seemingly there’s a lack of male partners in Sênor Churro’s Flamenco class and Bambang’s stomping, thumping trotters are just the thing when it comes to that particular Spanish dance. All that in the first story but there are three more in this cracking sequel to Mango & Bambang The Not-a-Pig.
There follows a crazy tale of misadventures that include Bambang crash landing onto a romantic picnic and accidentally becoming entangled in a marriage proposal

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resulting in an accusation of causing ‘Havoc and being a Public Nuisance’ and his removal to the local dog pound. All ends magnificently though with Mango being granted this:

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and Bambang making a new friend of the canine kind.
An old enemy making a reappearance in the third tale which sees Bambang beguiled into becoming the chief exhibit in her new venture …

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with astounding consequences; and in the final adventure, as a result of his actions in the museum, Bambang is now headline news and something of a celebrity dancer of the flamenco. The trouble is he lets fame got to his head and finds himself setting sail on board a luxury liner leaving Mango and all things familiar far behind. Will they ever be reunited?

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I won’t be a story spoiler but suffice it to say, Bambang’s new doggy friend Rocket reappears and Bambang is no mean swimmer.
If you know any youngsters just taking off as confident solo readers, then this is the book: funny – indeed wonderfully eccentric with a superb narrative full of delicious dialogue – ‘Mango stopped long enough to say, “He has the beautiful feet of a tapir, NOT a mammoth, and they’re not stampeding. It’s your silly dance that’s all wrong!”, then she ran after Bambang.’; a perfect balance between text and pictures with Clara’s distinctive retro style illustrations bringing delight at every turn of the page. She’s brilliant at capturing ‘the moment’ and every single picture, large or small, oozes charm and vitality.

Another corker of a book for that taking off stage is

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Claude Going for Gold
Alex T.Smith
Hodder Children’s Books
Our beret-wearing pooch is back for yet another adventure along with best friend Sir Bobbysock of course. On this particular day Claude has woken up full of joie de vivre and having created havoc with the breakfast cereal, heads off with his pal to the great outdoors. Before long though they conclude that there’s a decided lack of adventure around; then all of a sudden Claude trips over his own shoelaces and cascades into a marching band that is accompanying these characters

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on their way to participate in the STONKING BIG SPORTS DAY at the local stadium. Finally, something to get excited about and all the more so when Claude himself is given a pair of sports knickers …

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and invited to participate. His shot put skills however leave more than a little to be desired, his sprinting ends in disaster, he misses the swimming competition altogether and his efforts at gymnastics are catastrophic. But then the trophy is seized by a pair of dastardly crooks and there’s only one person – or rather animal – that can possibly save the day …

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Glorious!

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