Wigglesbottom Primary: Dino Chick / Wulfie: Beast in Show

Wigglesbottom Primary: Dino Chick
Pamela Butchart, illustrated by Becka Moor
Nosy Crow

This contains three more episodes in the life of Class Two R and once again they’re in high spirits. At least that’s so in the first story when they learn from Miss Riley that she’s installed an incubator within which are four chicken eggs. They’re less excited to hear that the eggs will take several days to hatch especially when later in the day it comes to their notice that one egg has mysteriously changed colour. Miss Riley sits them down and tells everyone not to touch any of the eggs. Megan decides that the purple and green egg must contain a dinosaur. What a terrifying thought. Several days later three of the eggs have hatched and three fluffy chicks are in the incubator. Suddenly egg number four starts to crack … YIKES! what will emerge?

In the second story there’s a new girl in the class. Individuals take turns to show her parts of the school, including some that are strictly out of bounds. 

It’s an unlikely way to make somebody feel welcome but who gets the biggest surprise of all?

The final tale starts with the discovery that the school library is to close due to lack of funds. Can 2R come up with a plan to save it and keep Mr Hope in his job?

Another three wonderfully silly stories for new solo readers (or to read aloud) that show how easily children’s vivid imaginations can spiral into comedic craziness, a craziness that is echoed in Becka Moor’s lively illustrations.

Wulfie: Beast in Show
Lindsay J. Sedgwick, illustrated by Josephine Wolff
Little Island Books

Libby and her beloved purple fluffy best friend, Wulfie (Wolfgang Amadeus Rachmaninoff the Third) return in a second adventure. Libby’s unpleasant stepmother announces the imminent arrival of her older sister, Aunt Ilda. A fanatical dog breeder, she’s determined to win the SNOB prize in the forthcoming dog show to be shown live on TV. Concluding that her failure to win on previous occasions is due to not having a child assistant, she wants to enlist Libby’s awful, spoilt step-brother Rex.

Libby knows she must try to ensure that with Wulfie being so dog-like in appearance, he stays out of sight during the visit. No mean task as the wulfen’s behaviour is, let’s say, somewhat unpredictable and he can sometimes change size at the most inopportune times. 

Times such as his emergence from the washing machine right in front of Aunt Ilda who immediately decides that Wulfie must be her entry in the dog show. And if taking Libby as well as Wulfie and Rex away with her is what it takes, then so be it. 

What she doesn’t know however, is that in addition to his size changing and talking, Wulfie’s sneezes freeze time.

When Libby hears the words, “Your creature belongs to me now, runt, and he is going to make me more famous than any other famous person ever in the whole world.” she knows that Wulfie desperately needs to be rescued. 

But perhaps not before he’s had the chance to make Aunt Ilda look a complete fool on television.

Another fun, action-packed drama with some rather unpleasant characters, as well as the determined, lovable Libby and her equally lovable bestie, all splendidly illustrated by Josephine Wolff.

Mickey and the Animal Spies

Mickey and the Animal Spies
Anne Miller and Becka Moor
Oxford University Press

Code enthusiast Mickey is excited to discover on her way home from school one Friday afternoon, a coded message stuck onto the bus window.

It’s not long before she finds herself as a new recruit for COBRA, a secret animal spy organisation and the only human currently among the spies.

Each of the other members has a special talent – an eclectic crew indeed; but can the combined skills of this formidable team solve the intriguing crime of the diamond thief?

Operation Shiny Stones is on. Are all members of the team absolutely trustworthy though, and if not, which are the ones that might be double-dealing? Could it be Bertie the rather nervous giraffe,

Rupert the rat leader or perhaps Clarke the haughty cat?

With codes to crack along the way, dog-napping and terrific story-intensifying illustrations by Becka Moor, Anne Miller has created an intriguing whodunit story for solo readers as well as a smashing read aloud (have the codes available for listeners to crack along the way): the plot twists and turns this way and that until the final pages.

There’s clearly more to come for COBRA has a new post to fill – Human Liaison Officer. She of the opposable thumbs and love of adventure might just fit that bill.

Bring it on …

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!

Supercats v Maximus Fang / Sam Wu is NOT Afraid of ZOMBIES

It’s great to see these two popular fiction series going from strength to strength:

Supercats v Maximus Fang
Gwyneth Rees, illustrated by Becka Moor
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

This is the second of Gwyneth Rees’ Supercats series that will delight animal lovers, especially those who enjoy tales with a bit of a zesty bite. They’ll certainly get that with Tagg, a recent recruit to a team of crime-fighting supercats. (think feline MI6). Tagg’s personal superpower is camouflage, a tremendously useful skill for any secret agent.

In this story Tagg and another member of the team, Sugarfoot have their first mission. They need to infiltrate the dastardly Killer Cats crew that includes just back in town, Gory Gus, and thwart his plans to break his partner in crime Maximus Fang out of prison.

The prison break has to be stopped but are the newbie supercats up to the task?

Assuredly they’ll need to employ both their superpowers and all their feline wits or else they’ll end being fish-sliced in the paws of the Hit Cats. Moreover, Gory’s superpower is telekinesis and Maximus’s power is weather control. ‘Think tsunamis! Think tornadoes and hurricanes!’ Hmm!

Can Tagg and Sugarfoot succeed in their mission? Perhaps with the help of ‘the Weapon’ …

There’s plenty of tension, especially when having persuaded the Killer Cats to let them join their crew, Tagg and Sugarfoot discover what that entails …

Add plenty of fun to the mix, with additional lashings thanks to Becka Moor’s illustrations, and what you have is a highly satisfying moggy adventure.

Sam Wu is NOT afraid of ZOMBIES
Katie and Kevin Tsang, illustrated by Nathan Reed
Egmont

Sam Wu is still trying to prove he’s not afraid of anything in this his fifth fear conquering challenge. He’s already succeeded in becoming unafraid where ghosts, sharks, the dark and spiders are concerned – well almost!

So what about zombies? Surely such thoughts won’t send frissons of fear running through the lad will they? Err, maybe not, except … supposing his arch nemesis Ralph Zinkerman the Third, lets it be known that there are zombie werewolves living in his basement.

Is this really something Sam wants to tackle, especially when Ralph has just told tales on him in class? But, Sam has loyalties to Ralph’s sister Regina so maybe he should summon up all his courage, accept the invitation to visit the Zinkerman residence and (along with some friends) see what is going on in that basement of theirs, despite strict orders from Mr and Mrs Z that said basement with its locked door was ‘strictly off limits’.

Could this perhaps be Sam’s scariest fear-confrontation yet?

Splendidly funny through and through with a great finale, and terrific Nathan Reed illustrations scattered throughout that highlight the hilarious situations, this series just keeps on getting better.

Wigglesbottom Primary: The Classroom Cat

Wigglesbottom Primary: The Classroom Cat
Pamela Butchart, illustrated by Becka Moor
Nosy Crow

This contains three more stories set at Wigglesbottom Primary.

In the first the appearance one Monday morning in 2R’s classroom of a very large stripy cat causes their teacher Miss Riley to jump almost right out of her skin in surprise at the sight of the creature sitting on her keyboard.

But is the cat actually trying to communicate something to the children and if so what on earth does the message WURGLERSSSHHHH that emerges from the printer mean?

Then the creature starts perambulating along the bookshelves and paying particular attention to a cookbook. It isn’t long before Evie MckIntosh is telling the others that the intruder is warning them about the fish soon to be served up for school lunch and Irfan is 99% certain the message is that the fish is dangerous.

Maybe the children don’t want to consume it but what about a certain feline? And was the fish dangerous or not? You’ll need to read the end of the story and make up your own mind.

The second story centres upon the vexed question of whether or not eating a crisp that you’d dropped in a puddle could give you a serious disease – Puddle-pox – for instance, said by Y6 children to be like the plague but even worse.

Imaginary Margaret as the third story is called, is supposedly Joel Jack’s imaginary friend who accompanies the class on a school trip to the museum. He says she’s 100% real and the one responsible for crisps being scattered all over the museum floor, not to mention the loo roll that comes hurtling over the cubicle wall at Jayden King; and even worse, the handprints on the newly painted Viking boat.

Becka Moor’s engaging, wonderfully expressive illustrations are the ideal complement for Pamela Butchart’s super-silly stories that are just right for newly independent readers to giggle their way through.

The Three Ninja Pigs & Cat’s Colours

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The Three Ninja Pigs
David Bedford and Becka Moor
Simon & Schuster
Meet the Three Ninja Pigs, always twirling and crashing their way into trouble until Mrs Pig has had enough. ‘Off you go to Granny’s. AND NO MORE TROUBLE!’ she cries in exasperation

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and off trot the three through the woods to Granny’s cottage. But guess who’s got there ahead of them …

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Next stop Uncle Sam’s building yard to deliver his lunch but whom do the Ninja Pigs discover when they get there and he’s threatening total destruction.

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Less than impressed at the ensuing mess he duly dispatches the threesome to a high street destination with a plank for Cindy and the ‘AND NO MORE TROUBLE.’ instruction.
Needless to say a certain hairy character has beaten them to it once more …
but is he about to meet his cum-uppance? Certainly those Ninja Piggies have had enough of his repeated interference and are having a secret meeting …

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Totally crazy! This high energy fractured fairy tale romp has delighted all those 5s to 8s I’ve shared it with, several of whom had great fun with the numerous visual jokes in Becka Moor’s detailed scenes of mischief and mayhem.

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Cat’s Colours
Airlie Anderson
Child’s Play
Cats make me sneezy and wheezy so I am more than a little cat phobic; but the white moggie in this book quickly endeared herself to me as she wandered around, exploring her environment on a grey day. Grey the day may have been, but Cat’s decision to collect some colours – one for each new experience – soon has an uplifting effect. She pauses beneath a tree enjoying the look of the green leafy ceiling, breathes in the scent of some red roses …

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and reflects on the blue pond for instance and at each location she collects a colour. At the end of her walk she has added four more colours purple for a fluttery butterfly, orange for the light of the setting sun, black for the sparkling cosmos and finally, yellow for the moon under which she’ll stop to sleep.

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Before this though, white cat has a delightful surprise finale to share…
How often do we give young children opportunities to pause and truly ‘be in the moment’? Probably not often enough, so cat’s story can serve as a gentle reminder to adults that it (being, not doing) should be part and parcel of every day.

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