Hector and the Big Bad Knight
Alex T. Smith
Scholastic Children’s Books pbk
It’s a case of little versus large in this wacky tale of derring-do and dastardly deeds in the peaceful, bunting-festooned haven of Spottybottom village. Peaceful that is, until Hector’s Granny’s magic wand is stolen by none other than the Big Bad Knight. (BBK hereafter) “You’ll never catch me,” laughs the boastful Knight as he gallops away on his trusty steed. Hector has a plan however, and is determined to prove him wrong, much to the amusement of the villagers. ”You?” they giggled, “But you’re tiny and small! And your spindly arms have NO muscles at all!”
Having packed a hanky full of useful things (crisps, scissors and an umbrella) Hector, with friend Norman set out on their rescue attempt.
Into the deep, dark forest they go whereupon, with a twirl of Granny’s wand, the BBK causes an enormous and very tall tangle of thorny weeds to spring up.
Time for Hector to put plan A into action: SNIP! SNIP! SNIP! Think again BBK.
So over the dingy moat he goes and with a twirl of Granny’s wand, the drawbridge is no more. Time for plan B Hector: boating across umbrella style.
Up the castle tower flees the BBK – the terribly tall one hotly pursued by Hector and trusty hen, Norman. More boasting and wand waving from the BBK and his horse becomes a hungry dragon, but it’s not Hector that he has his eyes on – oh no! The BBK would make a much more satisfying meal. Quick Hector: plan C – the crisps but first, a quick grab of Granny’s wand.
Then comes a triumphant return for Hector and Norman and a less triumphant one for the BBK. But what to do with the latter, Granny wonders. Luckily Hector has yet another plan – one of the malodorous variety and thoroughly deserved by the roguish thief.
Alex K Smith’s madcap medieval tale of magic, mayhem and more makes for a marvellous storytime read. His madcap (and occasionally menacing) illustrations, be they large or small, garishly coloured or silhouette, are magnificently mirth-making manifestations of the ridiculous.
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The Deep Dark Wood
Algy Craig Hall and Ali Pye
What is that little girl thinking about going alone into the dangerous, deep, dark wood wherein all manner of nasties lurk? She certainly doesn’t know the identity of the friendly tagger-on she acquires on her way; she’s off to visit her best friend’s house for tea, she casually informs him. But then, neither does her large black companion know the identity of said best friend. On they go together, deeper into the deep dark wood till there’s a YIKES! from the little girl. She might be frightened but her companion is unperturbed. His bristling and grizzling quickly have that witch running scared. He dispenses with the smelly old troll in similar fashion with some added claws and gnaws.
On go the sweet little girl and her “very brave” companion … The hungry giant is disposed of howlingly and growlingly and then they are at the friend’s house. Big bad wolf, mouth a-watering, cannot wait to meet her but is puzzled by her place of residence.
Time for the friend to show herself …
Guess who’s running scared now.
With twists and turns aplenty, plus a wonderfully satisfying finale, this hilarious reworking of the old favourite is guaranteed to keep listeners on the edge of their bottoms even though they know what the large black hairy animal accompanying the little girl really wants.
It’s a real joy to read aloud and Ali Pye’s illustrations are just brilliant, adding even more to the already sublime mock scariness of the story.Don’t miss this one.
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The Princess and the Presents
Caryl Hart and Sarah Warburton
With her head of wild auburn curls and fiery temper, pampered princess Ruby puts me in mind of a modern day Violet Elizabeth Bott.
As her birthday draws near, the princess’s demands are issued loud and clear and if they are not fulfilled, she’ll ‘ “scream and scream and SCREAM!” ‘
When the presents crammed within, cause the catastrophic collapse of the castle with her most precious possession (so she thinks) crushed inside, Princess Ruby comes to her senses. All is not lost however, for what do the hard-working fire fighters discover in the rubble after hours of digging? the object of their search, safe and sound.
Then selfishness set aside, the princess and her pater set to work to reconstruct, first a birthday and then, a new residence – just for two.
Pink? Yes. Princessy? Assuredly, but this feisty miss does finally see the error of her ways and does indeed abandon her perfect pinkishness – almost!
An up-to-date cautionary tale with a powerful punch and peachy ending.
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Jack and the Jelly Bean Stalk
Rachael Mortimer and Liz Pichon
Hodder Children’s Books
This is the third twisted traditional tale from Mortimer and Pichon and another winning, albeit slightly silly, one it is too. (I have to admit to a particular penchant for such stories though).
Jack’s mum sends him off to sell their beloved cow Daisy, which he duly does – for twenty gold coins no less. Unfortunately however, Jack cannot resist the lure of the sweetshop he passes on his way home.
There he parts with his precious coins for an enormous bag of jelly beans with every flavor imaginable and some unimaginable ones too. Needless to say, Jack’s mum is livid, hurls his spoils outside and despatches him to bed. During the night Jack is awoken by a gloriously mouthwatering smell and discovers in his garden in the moonlight, a gigantic jelly bean stalk. Oh joy!
Off up the beanstalk he goes forthwith, coming upon a golden gate at the top. In he goes tentatively, only to be apprehended by sobbing goose with a tale of woe.
Soon both Jack and goose are fearing for their lives, as the ground shakes and they hear
I smell a juicy boy!
Goose is good but boy’s so tasty,
Served with chips and wrapped
The quick-thinking Jack makes a deal with the giant and is soon hard at work frantically picking jelly beans. The hastily harvested jelly bean feast meets with the giant’s approval but the hungry goose cannot resist partaking of said feast – oh no! All is not lost however; the beanstalk cannot support the jellybean stuffed giant’s weight.
CRASH! Farewell giant, hello goose and a never ending supply of jelly beans; watch out for those smelly old socks tasting ones though.
Ridiculously funny, with its slightly tongue in cheek telling and bright, appropriately garishly coloured, pictures that are perfectly in keeping with the tenor of the tale and the nature of the beanstalk’s origins. Many of the illustrations are chock full of witty, laugh-making details both visual and verbal.
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