Fairytale Frankie and the Mermaid Escapade / The Opposite

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Fairytale Frankie and the Mermaid Escapade
Greg Gormley and Steve Lenton
Orchard Books
This was eagerly seized upon by one of my readers who had enjoyed Fairytale Frankie and the Tricky Witch. This time, fairytale lover Frankie encounters a mermaid at the seaside, a mermaid who is reluctant to join her for a swim on account of the BIG sea monster. Frankie reassures her and the two frolic in the shallows until the coastguard issues a warning.

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Frankie suggests a strength in numbers approach and after encounters with a surfing prince and a beardie pirate, both of whom are fearful of said sea monster, the young girl and her fellow monster anticipators watch as the sea starts to stir …

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“I’m a little bit frightened of this story now, ” one of my listeners said and was clearly empathising with Frankie and the mermaid as everyone else takes evasive action…

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leaving Frankie endeavouring to protect her mermaid friend.
Are the two of them, not to mention those who’ve temporarily disappeared from the scene, about to become the next meal of a BIG, MASSIVE, seriously HUGE, GIGANTIC sea monster? Let’s just say that what emerges from the deep isn’t quite what they’ve all been anticipating.
With its larger than life characters superbly portrayed by Steve Lenton, excitement throughout the tale, and a fun finale, this is sure to be a crowd pleaser where young audiences are concerned.

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The Opposite
Tom MacRae and Elena Odriozola
Andersen Press
This was MacRae’s picture book debut around ten years back and if you missed it then, this paperback is definitely worth getting hold of especially if you like quirky humour and a story with a twist or two in its tail.
Our first encounter with ‘The Opposite’ is hanging upside down from Nat’s bedroom ceiling ignoring the lad’s “Get down!” instruction. A disconcerting sight if ever there was one especially as it’s clad in a kind of onesie that matches the wallpaper. “Dad! There’s an Opposite on my ceiling!” Nate cries but ‘The Opposite had already happened, and it wasn’t there any more.’
The thing reappears on the kitchen worktop during breakfast …

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sabotaging Nate’s milk pouring efforts, sending the liquid upwards to the ceiling and then down onto the tablecloth, which of course, displeases his Mum.
There’s more Opposite trouble at school where paint ends up everywhere but on Nate’s paper.

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Then it’s time for Nate to begin thinking in ‘Opposite’ ways …
Elena Odriozola’s pen and watercolour illustrations, although brighter, have a hint of Edward Gorey about them and the characters’ flatness gives them a touch of spookiness: altogether an ideal complement for MacRae’s text.
Satisfying and slightly enigmatic both.

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The Ultimate Peter Rabbit / The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots

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The Ultimate Peter Rabbit
Camilla Hallinan
DK
2016 is the year of celebrations for the 150th anniversary of Beatrix Potter’s birth. As part of these celebrations this large book, subtitled ‘A Visual Guide to the World of Peter Rabbit’ first published in 2002, is re-issued in an updated version.
The Tale of Peter Rabbit has a special place in my heart: it’s the book I learned to read with. I can still recall, after having it read aloud as a bedtime story countless times, that age five, I realized I could read it myself. The joy of matching the words in my head with those on the page is something I’ll never forget and then to go to infant school shortly after and be given Janet & John books to learn to read with, was to say the least insulting; fortunately I didn’t associate those with ‘real reading’ rather something to ‘do’ to keep my teachers happy. At home I continued with Jemima Puddleduck, The Tale of Tom Kitten, The Flopsy Bunnies and all the other wonders from the pen of Beatrix Potter.
Herein Camilla Hallinan brings us a veritable treasure trove of illustrations, original Potter sketches, memorabilia, specially commissioned photos and more.

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It’s the kind of book you start dipping into and then realize you’ve just spent ages lost in its delights. Delights including spreads on the other wonderful books that followed Peter Rabbit starting with The Tailor of Gloucester and going right through to The Tale of Little Pig Robinson finally completed in 1930.
What a fascinating mix of natural history, art and history. I love the timeline that takes us right back to 1893
when Beatrix Potter first told her Peter Rabbit story to 5 year old Noel Moore in a picture letter, right up to 2016 with commemorative coins, stamps, a musical and the publication of a rediscovered story.
All in all, a marvellous book for anyone with an interest in, or memories of, an early childhood populated by Peter Rabbit and his friends. Happy hours of nostalgic browsing guaranteed.

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The Tale of Kitty-In-Boots
Beatrix Potter and Quentin Blake
Frederick Warne
This story was rediscovered a couple of years back when Jo Hanks, a publisher at Penguin Random House Children’s, came across an out-of-print literary history about Beatrix Potter from the early 1970’s. In the book, Hanks found both a reference to a letter that Potter had sent her publisher in 1914, referring to a story about ‘a well-behaved prim black Kitty cat, who leads a double life’, and an unedited manuscript of the tale. Digging around in the V&A archive, Jo Hanks found there were in fact three manuscripts and letters showing Potter’s intentions to complete the work on the story– something that never happened until in 2015 Quentin Blake was offered (and accepted) the task of providing the illustrations for this book.
That serious black cat, Kitty …

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has an alter ego as the air-gun wielding, Norfolk jacket and boots wearing, night poacher.
While another cat impersonates her she embarks on a poaching trip that goes decidedly wrong when she comes up against none other than Mr Tod having crash-landed into one of his traps; and as a result learns an important lesson.

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Those readers familiar with Potter’s stories will delight in guest appearances from other famous characters such as Mrs Tiggy-Winkle and a buck rabbit wearing a blue coat who bears more than a passing resemblance to a certain naughty young rabbit previously spotted stealing radishes from the garden of Mr McGregor.

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Potter’s writing style in this book seems quite unlike that in her other stories and Quentin Blake’s illustrations are altogether more scribbly than the mannered ones of Potter; so this book, which is also much larger than the format of the original iconic series, has a rather different feel to it. I’m fascinated, but still making up my mind. Kitty-in-Boots won’t win the author many new fans but it will surely be of interest to her countless established ones.

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