Elephant In My Kitchen!

Elephant In My Kitchen!
Smriti Halls and Ella Okstad
Egmont

‘There’s an elephant in my kitchen’ informs the child narrator of Smriti’s rhyming story but that’s not all. There’s been a veritable invasion of the house by wild animals and they’re doing such annoying things as bouncing on the bed and playing badminton;

but much worse – one has taken the liberty of having a dump when our narrator is absolutely bursting for a wee.

As for the food stores, they’re getting depleted by the second as polar bears, penguins, a wolf and a chimpanzee make short work of all the goodies they can lay their paws and beaks on; not to mention the din created when a chorus of frogs decides to strike up and one of their number flattens the boy’s favourite cuddly. Time to discover what exactly is the cause of all this mayhem and marauding.

Oh dear me! Turns out it’s the result of thoughtless and selfish behaviour on the part of we humans, doing things with no thought for the consequences of our actions upon the wildlife that shares our planet.

An urgent plan is crucial. We need to change our ways and everyone has a part to play otherwise who knows what might happen …

With lots of detail to explore and giggle over, Ella Okstad’s zany illustrations are a great complement to Smriti’s zippy cautionary tale. Humour is an important vehicle when it comes to vital messages: it certainly works here.

One Banana, Two Bananas

One Banana, Two Bananas
Adam & Charlotte Guillain and Sam Lloyd
Egmont

A yummy banana feast is in store for readers of this high octane rhyming, read aloud romp.
Without further ado let’s meet the banana crew with ‘One banana, two bananas, three bananas, four, snoozing in the garden’ (in hammocks) when their slumbers are disturbed by a ringing at the door.

There appear bananas five, six, seven and eight in party mood announcing that bedtime is postponed for a pyjama-clad shin-dig. And the eight are just in the act of inverting themselves when through the window they spy …

The llamas hailing from the Bahamas invite the fruity friends to join in their ‘llama race’. Now that’s an offer, eight PJ clad bananas just cannot resist and off they go. Oh no! They’ve been spotted by a monkey and you can guess what he has in mind as he gives chase.

Happily though something causes him to stumble-trip,

just as a couple of new bananas come speeding up – in the nick of time.

This hungry Monkey isn’t one to be deterred by a mere tumble though, certainly not when his tummy’s a-rumble.

Next thing we see is ‘Ten bananas in pyjamas’ dog-paddling – make that banana-paddling – to save their skins, pursued by the same number of pointy-toothed piranhas. Even if they manage to escape those, that Monkey is still close on their tails. But, can they manage to stay afloat long enough? That is the crucial question as we leave them bobbing up and down on the water …

Splendid silliness, both verbal (Adam & Charlotte) and visual (Sam), to tickle your taste buds and tempt you into performing this to your audience of book-hungry little ones. I wouldn’t mind betting, you’ll relish it as much as they will even if, like me, this reviewer, you don’t even like bananas.

Amelia Fang and the Naughty Caticorns

Amelia Fang and the Naughty Caticorns
Laura Ellen Anderson
Egmont

There’s a new baby on the way in Amelia’s household and inevitably her mother’s attention is focussed on that. Consequently Amelia and her best buddies Florence and Grimaldi take charge of the adorable caticorns.

It’s sure to be such wonderful fun caring for Gerrard, Butler and Mo, isn’t it? After all, Amelia’s Aunt Lavitoria has given her assurance that she’s only just collected them from the very best school, so they’re certain to be very well behaved. Moreover, experience in caticorn care will stand Amelia in good stead for being a FANGTASTIC big sister to her soon to be born sibling; and she’s eager to impress on that score.

However, looking after what prove to be three very excitable, mischievous caticorns, turns out to be rather more than Amelia has bargained for. Indeed after a mere five minutes babysitting, the little creatures have disappeared.

Having rounded them up once more, you might imagine they’d settle down, but oh dear me, no! They merely move on to chaos-creating in the kitchen.

Perhaps it’s time for Amelia to bring out some of the presents from the suitcase her aunt left for the caticorns, suggests Florence.

Or maybe not …

As with its predecessors, this story (that includes some great messages about Amelia’s potential role as responsible big sis), is wonderfully wicked fun and the illustrations are terrific.

Established fans will relish it and I’m certain any newcomers to the delights (and horrors) of the series will be hooked too.

Weird Little Robots / A Super Weird Mystery: Danger at Donut Diner

Weird Little Robots
Carolyn Crimi, illustrated by Corinna Luyken
Walker Books

Science lover, Penny Rose moves to a new neighbourhood and spends much of her time in the shed creating little robots – robots with character – using found bits and pieces. What she really wants as a newbie though, is a human friend.
When she meets bird watcher and birdhouse maker extraordinaire, Lark, who also lacks a friend, the two girls become kindred spirits.

At Lark’s suggestion they create an entire roboTown in the shed from discarded oddments and lava lamps. But their friendship is tested to its limits when Penny Rose (but not Lark) is invited to try out for the Secret Science Society. She breaks a promise made with Lark by showing some of the robots to the society members (who are popular pupils at school) in order to prove her worth. Can their friendship survive?

With its message that girls can do anything, this story of friendship, forgiveness and being true to yourself, is an absolute gem – compassionate and funny. There are sufficient twists and turns in the plot to ensure readers remain engrossed; and the language of Crimi’s telling is apposite: ‘Her cheeks burned hotter than a Bunsen burner’ for example. Both main characters are wonderfully divergent and their dialogue really reflects their personalities.

Corinna Luyken’s illustrations are great too – especially those robots.

A Super Weird Mystery: Danger at Donut Diner
Jim Smith
Egmont

This is the first of a new hilarious detective mystery series from the Lollies award-winning creator of the popular Barry Loser books. If you like your books SUPER WEIRD then this one is definitely for you.

Melvin has just moved from the city to Donut -a circular island with a hole in the middle – and he’s shall we say, underwhelmed.
However when he meets Rhubarb, creator of her own school newspaper and a total obsessive where mysteries are concerned, things become rather different.

To date Rhubarb hasn’t actually had anything mysterious to write about but Melvin notices that the children at school are acting very strangely indeed. This couldn’t by any chance be connected with the Donut Hole Monsters that everyone is so keen on collecting, or could it?

It’s not long before the two of them scent a mystery and are hot on its trail. The trouble is, this trail is going to plunge them slap bang into the centre of the donut hole.

If only the two can get back out safe and sound, then perhaps at last Rhubarb will have something to report on in her newspaper. That assumes that they solve the mystery before the entire population of the town is brainwashed. No easy task then …

Packed full of laugh-making moments and crazy pictures, Jim Smith has another winner here, methinks.

Narwhal’s Otter Friend

Narwhal’s Otter Friend
Ben Clanton
Egmont

This is the fourth graphic novel style Narwhal and Jelly book and it’s as brilliant as ever.

It begins with an encounter between best pals Narwhal and Jelly, and newbie Otter. Narwhal declares self-professed ocean explorer, Otty, “Otterly awesome!” Ever-sceptical Jelly on the other hand, is less enthusiastic and disinclined to believe some of his stories.

His enthusiasm wanes further when Narwhal invites Otty to accompany him on an adventure. “Really? Does this mean we’re friends?” Otty asks. “Pretty much!” comes the response.

Guess who is jealous and feels left out. So much so that he decides to seek out a new friend; not very successfully
and eventually he befriends a rock, he names Rocky.
They play ‘oodles of awesome games’ that Rocky excels in ‘Go Fish . . . Marco Polo . . . Staring Contests’ as Jelly informs Narwhal and Otter when the latter finally hunt them down.

You’ve probably surmised that it was never Narwhal and Otter’s intention to sideline Jelly and he’s over the moon – or rather, the rainbow – to be invited to join them on the ‘awesomest adventure ever’. ‘Seas the day’ guys!’

As always Ben Clanton’s illustrations are terrific – whimsical, witty, wonderfully expressive. His text has its measure of splendidly groanworthy puns and there’s the usual sprinkling of animal facts as well as another Super Waffle and Strawberry Sidekick offering, from Jelly and Rocky on this occasion.

Plunge in and relish the three tales and more in this friendship tester; it’s a laugh-out-loud winner once again.

Little Lost Fox

Little Lost Fox
Carolina Rabei
Egmont

Despite the lack of other children in the vicinity of her country home, Kate is never lonely. Her friends and playmates are her toys; there’s story-loving Miss Bunny, Mr Ted, with a penchant for picnics and her favourite Ruby the Fox.

Imagine Kate’s distress when she notices Ruby has gone missing.

She searches everywhere and then spies a trail of pawprints that she follows until she discovers a real fox cub.

Kate implores the cub to return Ruby but the little creature only howls.

The little girl understands that the cub is lonely and decides that a cuddle from a parent will make everything feel all right.

Off they go together on a find Ruby’s mummy adventure that takes them first to a hollow tree wherein they see not a fox but a squirrel mummy. By the waterside there’s a mummy water vole but no mummy fox

and on the hillside a rabbit mummy appears.

Eventually Kate discovers more pawprints of the same shape as the cub’s, leading into a wood, a wood full of strange sounds. Suddenly a pair of green eyes stare out of the bushes and the cub heads straight for …

Now the hour is getting late and with the foxes reunited, Kate must head for home. It’s a long way; how will she find her way back safely? Perhaps with a bit of assistance from her new-found friends. Friends that will keep returning to spend more time with her …

This warm story of caring, determination and friendship is a delight. Carolina Rabei’s richly hued, detailed illustrations show so well the main characters’ changing feelings as well as the beautiful rural landscape setting.

Rhinocorn Rules!

Rhinocorn Rules!
Matt Carr
Egmont

Matt Carr’s Ron is a rhinocerus after my own heart – a fun and art loving, rule subverter, full of ideas of the divergent kind.

Being grumpy, a loner and ready to charge should anything approach is not for him. Instead Ron is at heart a fun-loving, art and music enthusiast, brimming over with creativity and joy. Moreover he wants to share his joyful ideas with the other animals but none of the rule-abiding creatures is interested.

Life for Ron is pretty mundane until one sweltering afternoon at the waterhole he catches sight of his dull reflection in the water. Thinking that if only he could show himself as he really is then friendship would follow, an idea strikes him and Elmer the patchwork elephant style, Ron sets to work with his creativity …

Once he’s dried off he is transformed into a true life work of art and as you might expect, he now feels A-MA-ZING!

Time to get himself noticed and so he does: first he impresses the meerkats and before long lots of animals are eager to have fun and be friends with the transformed Ron. Happiness at last.

Happiness however is not what his fellow rhinos feel; oh dear no. Ron is a total embarrassment, so they tell him.

Fortunately though, the meerkats stand up for their new friend and point out something that hadn’t occurred to the rhinos. Realisation dawns and then there’s only one thing to do … and Ron does it in one deft move of his forelimbs.

I wonder what new rules he created in place of old ones. What three would you have chosen?

Through his droll illustrations and heartfelt words Matt has created a thoroughly inspiriting story. The message is loud and clear: be true to yourself, be proud of who you are; and if that means finding a way round, over or under the rules then so be it, and good on you.

Love the cleverly worded title and the final ‘Did you know?’ page.