What the Ladybird Heard on Holiday

What the Ladybird Heard on Holiday
Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks
Macmillan Children’s Books
The ladybird is holidaying in London and doing a spot of sightseeing, visiting the usual tourist destinations. One place of particular interest is the zoo which is full of noisy animals, and it’s as well the little creature isn’t giving her sense organs a holiday for there, she spies two familiar faces, those of Lanky Len and Hefty Hugh. As usual they’re up to no good: she overhears their conversation about kidnapping Monkey Joe and then using him to scale the palace wall and steal the royal crown while the Queen is fast asleep.

The other animals are informed of the dastardly plot and are fearful of the safety of their monkey friend.
Before you can say up and away, the ladybird has done just that and flown off to communicate her idea to Willow and Holly, the Queen’s two corgis.

Come nightfall, Hefty Hugh and Lanky Len put their plan into action: they release Monkey, give him a swag bag and lead him to carry out the robbery.

Little do they know though, that another plan has already been set in motion: a plan hatched between the ladybird and the two corgis; a plan involving a very large number of bones from the royal coffers …
The winning Donaldson/Monks team does it again: like its predecessors, the ladybird’s third adventure is certain to be a crowd pleaser. Donaldson’s sure-footed rhyming narrative in combination with Monks’ sparkle-spangled spreads is a recipe for success. The dastardly twosome, Len and Hugh, look about as wonderfully un-roguish as ever they could in her bold, engaging collage-style scenes.

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Poor Louie / Raymond

Poor Louie
Tony Fucile
Walker Books
Louie the Chihuahua narrator of this story leads a life of contented predictability with Mum and Dad until things start to change. Mum still meets up with friends, which was fine but now there are other small creatures at those get-togethers, meaning Louie is no longer the centre of attention.

Then Mum’s tummy gets visibly larger … and larger …

Lots of new things are delivered; but why two beds, two carriers, two sets of clothes and a double buggy. The prospect of two ‘of those creatures’ is just too much for Louie: he waits for an opportunity, grabs his belongings and attempts a runaway. It’s thwarted by a well-intentioned neighbour however and Louie feels his life is over.

You can close the book now” he tells readers.
We don’t of course, for that is not the end of the story …
Dry humour, a restricted colour palette which gives the whole thing a subtle air of retro sophistication, constantly changing and sometimes, unusual perspectives, and some laugh-out-loud spreads make the whole thing a delight from cover to cover. Fucile’s delicious comedy will appeal to dog lovers and families adjusting to a new sibling in particular; but neither of those are applicable to this reviewer who loved it nonetheless.
Here’s another tale of a canine accustomed to leading a pampered pooch life:

Raymond
Yann and Gwendal Le Bec
Walker Books
Meet Raymond, used to having his own special spot by the sofa, scratchings behind the ears in ‘just the right place’ and a surprise birthday party every year. What more could a canine want? If you’re Raymond, a considerable amount it appears and thus commences his being more like a human behaviour. Sitting at the table for meals; ‘cappuccino-and-cupcake Saturdays at the café and cinema trips’ become part and parcel of his life. but Raymond is not alone; seemingly the whole doggy world wants to act human.
Raymond’s four-footed gait becomes two and naturally the world now looks very different. Big thoughts invade his head and before you can say DOGUE, Raymond has landed himself a job as rover-ing reporter on the up-market magazine and spends all hours working to meet deadlines.

Soon though, Raymond embarks on a new role: he becomes newscaster on the TV channel, Dog News. Eventually however, an excess of pampered fame means that he’s in dire need of a break away from it all. Could it be that the canine celebrity is about to undergo a light-bulb moment …

This funny, ‘be careful what you wish for’,‘ don’t bite off more than you can chew’ tale, with its New York setting, will resonate with adults as much as children, or perhaps more. The trouble is though, it’s not necessarily all that easy to step off that workaholic, achievement treadmill, which seems always to be driving us onwards towards greater heights …
There’s plenty to make readers – be they or be they not dog lovers – smile in the comic style scenes of a life as a top dog.

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One Hundred Sausages

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One Hundred Sausages
Yuval Zommer
Templar Publishing
As a vegetarian, sausages are NOT my thing at all, I’ll cross the road to avoid walking past a butcher’s and I’m certainly no dog lover. That said I was more than happy to see the return of Scruff, mischievous mongrel of One Hundred Bones fame. This funny story revolves around sausages, Scruff’s favourite food in the whole world and he certainly has a nose for them; sausages even fill his dreams every single night. Imagine his devastation then when he learns that his daily sausage sniff has been thwarted by a robbery.

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Even worse, the number one criminal suspect is none other than Scruff himself.
What’s to be done? Either he faces a stint behind bars or he tracks down the real culprit. Straightaway, Scruff goes off to enlist the help of his doggy pals …

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But it’s not until the s word is mentioned that the other dogs show any inclination to join the search.
Finally, the hunt is on: a sniffing party hits the city and eventually Scruff’s nostrils catch a whiff. Time to put those paws into action …

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A chase ensues and the thief is finally apprehended …

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after which it’s time to celebrate. You don’t need me to tell you what was on the menu for Scruff and his fellow pooches.
Zommer’s canines are a real laugh, not only Scruff, but Ada the Afghan, Pixie the Poodle, Percy the Pug and Sidney the Sausage Dog too, are real characters with their own idiosyncrasies. Pixie for example likes to file her nails and Percy considers himself a bit of a charmer.
Dog lovers especially will be delighted: the rest of us will have a good giggle over the crazy shenanigans shown in this daft detective tale.

Motor Miles

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Motor Miles
John Burningham
Jonathan Cape
A new Burningham book is always a cause for celebration.
Meet Miles, a rather difficult dog. He refuses to come when called, doesn’t like walks, turns his nose up at the food he’s offered and barks way too much. Despite all this he’s managed to win the hearts of his owners, Norman, and Alice Trudge who takes him for car rides, most notably up the hill to a café where he becomes a petted pooch.

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This however, becomes something of a chore for Alice Trudge. Thank goodness then for neighbour Mr Huddy, who builds Miles a car of his very own.

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Miles learns to drive – love that sequence – takes to the road and starts taking young Norman on secret excursions. Some glorious Mr Gumpylike scenes show the two enjoying seasonal jaunts through fields …

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woods and valleys,

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all of which have a positive effect on Miles, who gradually becomes a reformed character. Inevitably however, Norman outgrows the car and Miles stops driving. Perhaps Mr Huddy has another surprise up his sleeve though …
John Burningham’s down-to-earth telling leaves his masterful illustrations of Miles discovering the joys of freedom, and those lyrical landscapes, to do the talking. For me, Burningham still wields a very special magic.

How to Look After Your Human

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How To Look After Your Human
Kim Sears and Helen Hancocks
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Now I have to say at the outset that I’m no dog lover (having been attacked aged six, I think, by an Alsatian, I tend to beat a hasty retreat at the sight of any pooch); nor do I share the illustrator’s penchant for cats (they make me wheezy) and yes I did see the odd moggie lurking herein; but I felt drawn to this ‘A Dog’s Guide’ by the creatures posing on the back cover, in particular. That, and a great liking for Helen Hancocks’ previous books.
But let’s begin with the essentials: this is said to be written by ‘Maggie Mayhem’ so I can only assume that she’s a highly intelligent, literate canine. What she tells us is that she’s an eight-year old Border Terrier residing just outside London with brother Rusty, and that they own ‘two adorable humans plus an assortment of their extended family and friends.’ So, she should know; moreover so she claims ‘the terrier has a brain twice as large as a human.’ (This has not officially been verified, we’re told; so it appears, Maggie is honest to boot.)
Maggie has chosen to divide her instruction guide into eight chapters (plus the intro. that we’ve already mentioned). The first and possibly most important is How to Choose Your Human, which looks at the pros and cons of family life and living with an individual. Those unhappy with more than a little exercise should avoid certain types like these here …

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Next topic for consideration is Communication, essentially body language and verbal communication, the latter being, so we’re told, a minefield on account of the ‘thousands of different noises (words) produced and the fact that they alter ‘the order, pitch, tone and volume every time.’
Training comes next, and this doesn’t mean merely toilet training. Making as much mess as possible is advocated ‘so your human knows exactly what’s expected of them.’ from the beginning.

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The whole thing proceeds in similar dead pan vein through chapters on Nutrition, where the importance of keeping one eye on what you want the human to eat and the other firmly fixed on what you want them not to – what you want to eat yourself in other words. Of course polite humans operate a sharing is caring policy. This is followed by …

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Grooming & Hygiene with hair being a focus here.

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(Not sure I’d agree with the idea of imbibing liquid refreshment from the toilet bowl while supervising your human performing its ablutions, however.) But then I am writing from a human perspective here. Dress – human and canine is discussed in chapter 7 where the author confesses that sporting a designer mackintosh that matches her human is not something she approves of.
Maggie’s ten commandments account for the final chapter and the moggie portrayed here is a legitimate visitor – albeit as the subject of the 8th commandment – a general enemy warning.
Deliciously tongue in cheek – when not engaged thus …

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the ‘author’ of this book had me in fits of giggles throughout. A must for all prospective pooch human carers as well as those humans in particular who have a penchant for Border Terriers, or really any breed whatsoever. In other words, if you’re getting a dog or already have one, don’t miss this.

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Don’t Call Me Choochie Pooh!

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Don’t Call Me Choochie Pooh!
Sean Taylor and Kate Hindley
Walker Books
No self-respecting dog, even a little one, wants to be fed heart-shaped Mini Puppy treats or addressed thus, “Ickle Pickle Woof Woof”, “Incy Wincy Cupcake!” or “Choochie Pooh!”. And as for being kissed and then unceremoniously deposited in a handbag along with a packet of those Puppy Treats …

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well that just about tops the list in the embarrassment stakes for a little dog. It’s even worse when one’s owner stops in the park on the way home from the supermarket and there are other dogs dashing around doing ‘proper dog things.’

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However, things suddenly take a turn for the better when one of their number, Chief, instigates a spot of rebellion on the part of the pampered pooch; and it’s not long before he’s playing all kinds of games, the best of which appears to be this …

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All too soon though it’s time to go and what our canine narrator hears is the totally cringe inducing “Off we go OOPSIE BOOPSIE CHOOCHIE POOH!”; but home time for the other dogs is signalled by equally awful calls.

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Seems they too have to put up with similarly embarrassing owners although whether those owners feed their pooches Mini Puppy treats is something readers and listeners will have to decide for themselves.
Those I’ve shared this with delighted in Sean Taylor’s narrator and fully endorsed his sentiments over his owner’s humiliating behaviour.
Kate Hindley gives the whole canine crew real personalities in her hilarious portrayals and I love the way she shows everything from their ground-level perspective.

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Some portraits of the canine narrator

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One Hundred Bones

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One Hundred Bones
Yuval Zommer
Templar Publishing
Rascally mongrel Scruff leads an independent, free-spirited existence much to the disgust of the other inhabitants of his neighbourhood. His penchant for excavating leads to tirades of hostile comments from the human owners of the pampered pet dogs until Scruff finally decides enough’s enough and sets out in search of somewhere more welcoming. He follows his nose (a nose that is particularly expert at sniffing out juicy bones.) And on this occasion his olfactory organ picks up on that most desirable osseous scent leading him up hill and down dale to a spot from which said awesome odour emanated.
You should see those little paws go as down, down he burrows until he finds …

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Oh joy! Our canine pal is almost beside himself with pleasure at the sight of the stash.
Back he dashes to call for some assistance, only to meet with considerable resistance to his pleas until that is, he mentions the b- word. Then it’s a case of follow-my-leader and all paws on deck so to speak.
There follows a conflab as to the nature of the find until Percy the pug has a light-bulb moment after which it’s public transport all the way in a mad dash to – you’ve guessed it – South Ken.

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and in particular, the Natural History Museum and its resident palaeontologist, Professor Dinovsky.
The outcome is a win/win situation as our lovable Scruff and the prof. both come up trumps one way and another.

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What a delicious canine caper and it’s great to see Scruff emerging as top dog (and digger) in the end.
Wittily written with plenty to make adults smile as well as children. I love the dog-eyed view from which Yuval Zommer portrays the action and his characterisation is splendid. Each of those dogs – Percy the pug, Pixie the poodle, Sidney the sausage dog and Ada the Afghan has a distinctive and wholly apt personality.

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Another sure fire winner from Yuval Zommer who brought us The Big Blue Thing on the Hill.

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