Llama on Holiday

Llama on Holiday
Annabelle Sami, illustrated by Allen Fatimaharan
Farshore

This is the third Llama extravaganza starring Yasmin and her toy best friend, Levi, as well as Yasmin’s human bestie, Ezra. It’s the May half-term holiday, an ideal time to have a break from Guardian Llama responsibilities especially when a week’s visit to the seaside is in the offing. The only snag is it means having to share a bedroom with cousin Omar who is let’s say, not at all their favourite person and exceedingly unwelcoming.

At breakfast on the first morning of their Whitehove stay there comes a beeping on the llama landline: it’s a message from Mama Llama regarding a new mission, the only other information being, it’s called Help Omar. Is it at all possible to get the boy to lighten up and have some fun? Team Yasmin, Levi and Ezra need to find out what is troubling Omar. A good place to start is the funfair but that proves to be a dodgem disaster.

So what about a beach party with all the activities Omar likes? That too ends in disaster in more ways that one. It now appears that what at first seemed like an easy mission might be turning into Yasmin and Levi’s toughest challenge so far, especially when the two fall out.

Could a visit to the arcade on the pier be a better bet?

Can Omar start to believe in himself and could it be that at the end of the day, being a bit weird is something to be celebrated.

I suspect a lot of primary school readers, along with this adult reviewer, will be sad that this story with its terrific black and white illustrations by Allen Fatimaharan, concludes the super series during which Yasmin has grown hugely in self-confidence, and happily as she transitions to secondary school with Ezra, she’s determined not to let go of all the fun and magic in her life.

Snowy White

Snowy White
Gareth P. Jones and Loretta Schauer
Farshore

This third twist on a classic fairy tale from the partnership of Gareth P. Jones and Loretta Schauer is set in Purry Tale Lane where, up on a roof top, is a cat kingdom ruled over by ginger tom, Kingsley.
He is the proud owner of a crystal ball, so the object says. It also responds to Kingsley’s nightly, “who’s the finest cat of all?” with an assurance, “Kingsley is the best of all, / as sure as I am a crystal ball … / And honestly, I am / a crystal ball.”

One night however, a newcomer, one Snowy White by name, zooms into town and Kingsley is horrified when he hears the Crystal Ball giving a different reply to his usual question. Needless to say he resolves to get rid of his rival, resorting to graffiti and bombardment to let her know she’s unwelcome.

As she flees, Snowy runs headlong into a litter-collecting mouse sending her rubbish bag flying. The mouse, surprised by Snowy’s offer to help pick up the contents of the sack, introduces herself as leader of the Mouse Cleaning Service. While Snowy spends the night with Penny and her crew collecting and sorting the rubbish, the cats continue with their mindless mess making.

At the end of the night, Kingsley is shocked to hear the Crystal Ball declaring Snowy White the finest once again and is more determined than ever to get rid of her. However he accidentally knocks the Crystal Ball off the wall and it splashes into a pond below.

This results in a face to face meeting of the rival cats, after which, something said by the Crystal Ball causes a big change, first in Kingsey and then in his cat pals. Said spherical object also makes a surprise revelation.

There’s a vital message, or several, in Gareth’s tale that, with its occasional breaks into rhyme, is a super read aloud. Equally super are Loretta’s dramatic, detailed illustrations that exude humour and energy at every turn of the page.

Monster Doughnuts: Cyclops on a Mission / Real Pigeons Nest Hard

Monster Doughnuts: Cyclops on a Mission
Gianna Pollero, illustrated by Sarah Horne
Piccadilly Press

The sequel to Monster Doughnuts sees crotchety cyclops, Mr Harris, back for another delectably daft mission with ten year old Grace and her family from Cake Hunters bakery.
(In case you haven’t read about fearless Grace in the first book, her special monster-destroying technique involves baking cakes with a large sprinkling of an explosive kind of baking powder.)
The 360 year old cyclops has become Grace’s partner in crime on this new assignment from the Secret Service – to rid the city of the dastardly Bottom Biter that is creating let’s say, extreme discomfort in the nether regions of anybody unfortunate enough to become its victim.

It’s possible that the one-eyed member of the team could be an asset but during training sessions all that Mr H seems interested in doing is consuming not only monsters but doughnuts from the bakery and any other delicacies he can lay his hands on too. He does however appear to have quite an aptitude for baking but then as well as gobbling up his own fairy cakes, his passion for the sweet stuff causes him to visit Monster World where a potentially useful encounter takes place and some ‘valuable evidence’ is acquired.
Time to head off to the Natural History Museum …

Then from HQ comes news of another development concerning those the BB has attacked. Catching the creature has just become even more crucial.

KS2 readers looking for something wacky, witty and wonderfully wild with lashings of laugh-out-loud moments need look no further. Once again Sarah Horne has done a smashing job illustrating the various monsters and there’s further fun provided in the monster glossary that follows Gianna Pollero’s tasty tale.

Real Pigeons Nest Hard
Andrew McDonald, illustrated by Ben Wood
Farshore

The city-protecting crime fighting pigeons Rock, Frillback, Grandpouter, Tumbler and Homey return in a third set of loosely linked cases.
First, Beardy Vulture persuades them to take on the search for his missing extra large nest, which he claims has been stolen by humans; it’s either that or, so they think, risk getting cursed by the bone eating bird. Disguises are definitely required for this.
Episode two sees Rock et al discovering a beastly human child but why is she roaming in the park without her humans? According to the little one she’s escaping from a horrible monster. Now all they need to do is to return Kid X to her family – almost all anyway.

Awoken by their rumbly tummies, our crime-busting birdies learn that Homey’s family is being held hostage – It’s a case of bird-knapping! Heroic as ever, the pigeons resolve to find the relations he’s not seen since he was a baby. Thus begins another rescue mission and it’s not long before they discover some of their previous adversaries.
Episode three of this fun book that’s ideal for new solo readers, ends on a cliff hanger that paves the way for book 4 so there’s more to look forward to.

Bursting with humour, and with a great cast of characters (COO-l and otherwise) brought to life in Ben Wood’s zany visuals that also up the pace, this graphic novel/ picture book hybrid is huge fun. The book concludes with some words of ecological wisdom and a couple of drawing activities.

Nursery? Not Today!

Nursery? Not Today!
Rebecca Patterson and Nikki Dyson
Farshore

Rosa starts nursery, so she tells us, on a Monday. Everything goes wonderfully well: she paints an ace picture, sings without any shouting, enjoys lunch and plays without any rough stuff.
At the end of the day, her teacher Miss Lewis deems her ‘an absolute star!” Seemingly Miss Lewis wasn’t quite as observant as she could have been.

Assuredly the newbie enjoyed the plentiful action the nursery offered and she’s even prepared to share her new song with her younger sibling on the way home.

However, come Tuesday, Ruby has other plans that keep her more than a tad busy. Daddy is not impressed, especially when the young narrator suggests sending little brother Alby in her place and even less so when she suggests if he won’t do, perhaps Bernard (the pet gerbil) might stand in.

Is there anything that might persuade Rosa to don her coat and shoes and set out? I wonder …

Well observed, Rebecca Patterson’s funny story with Nikki Dyson’s bold, splendidly expressive, illustrations will appeal both to preschoolers and adult sharers though for different reasons. Youngsters will love exploring the wealth of detail in the illustrations as well as Rosa’s antics whereas adults will particularly appreciate the child/father interactions.

A smashing story to share with those about to start nursery and those already happily settled in a preschool setting.

Dinosaurs on Kitten Island

Dinosaurs on Kitten Island
Michael Slack
Farshore

Despite there apparently being plenty to amuse them on their own island, the dinosaurs are bored with sandcastle construction, skeleton reassembling and the other possibilities at home, and so they decide to pay a visit to Kitten Island. After all those kittens look like friendly creatures so despite what the narrator says about them, the prehistoric creatures are having none of it and potential catastrophes notwithstanding, off they go.

Game 1 is Launch the Lizards (courtesy of a geyser) but was that sudden flight and soaking really what the visitors came for? Lesson learned: surely that’s enough. It doesn’t appear so and nor does the second game ‘Deflate the airship’.

However apparently undaunted, the dinos are daft enough to participate in some ‘hairball floaty’ racing. Hmm! this could be their worst experience to date … Or not?

Seemingly these three friends revel in a high level of risk taking or else they’ve left their dino-brains at home for even after another unsettling outcome they precede to game 4, Fall-o meow that begins with them plunging into a dark chasm.

However it ends with them all in Tiny Baby Kitty Playroom, which is absolutely full of even tinier kittens. Now this looks a pretty safe place where both kittens and dinosaurs can play happily together.

Um …

With its brightly hued scenes, this is huge fun and hugely silly. It’s sure to go down well with the countless young dinosaur story enthusiasts out there who will definitely relish joining the prehistoric creatures in some loud RAWR, RAW-ing at each opportunity.

Classic Inspirations: Once There Was a Bear / The Little Prince

Once There Was a Bear
Jane Riordan, illustrated by Mark Burgess
Farshore

To celebrate the 95th anniversary of A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner, having previously written two standalone Pooh books, Jane Riordan has created a prequel collection of ten stories, again in the style of Milne. It takes readers back to where it all began, when Pooh was bought in Harrods as a gift for baby Christopher Robin. Using a similar style to that of E.H. Shepard, Mark Burgess illustrates each episode with panache depicting Pooh and his friends Eeyore, Rabbit, Piglet, Kanga, Roo, Owl and Tigger.
The original Pooh books have an enduring appeal for those who met them first as children; however this one has a charm of its own with many of the adventures taking place outside of Hundred Acre Wood. I loved the museum outing wherein dinosaur skeletons with their ‘bothersome long words’ for names prove unusual ladders for a bear to climb upon.

This is definitely worth getting hold of if, like this reviewer, you’re a fan of Pooh et al.

The Little Prince
Louise Greig and Sara Massini
Farshore

Award-winning author and poet Louise Greig has adapted Antoine de Saint- Exupéry’s classic as a picture book for a younger audience than the original novella: it’s illustrated by Sara Massini who has also won many awards. The result is a thing of beauty, mysterious and poetic both verbally and visually.

I’m not sure whether the stranded pilot’s encounter with a little prince who visits neighbouring planets will appeal to children; its enigmatic nature will certainly provoke much thought and lots of questions for, as the author says, ‘What is hidden is beautiful.’ That in itself is well worth exploring.

The Twelve Green Days of Christmas

The Twelve Green Days of Christmas
Barry Timms and Siân Roberts
Farshore

The sentiments are great but I did find when reading this timely rhyming story aloud that it didn’t always quite scan; though if you sing the words using the popular seasonal tune, it works fine, beginning on the first day of Christmas with Santa coming upon ‘A star that had broken in three.’

On the next four days, as we see in Siân Roberts’ humorous, wintry illustrations, he comes upon worn-out wings (five), four party hats,/ three crushed cups, / two tattered gloves ‘ and that shattered star. What a careless lot those forest creatures are.

On the sixth day an unhappy Santa decides something has to be done. He puts up a sign urging the forest dwellers to start recycling.


Day seven brings a snowstorm which results in his sign getting blown away and Santa catching such a bad chill that he has to take to his bed, the result being the rubbish continues to spread and accumulate in piles.

Will Santa ever get his wish for a green Christmas before the big day arrives?

Happily yes, for Owl catches the flying sign, spreads the word spurring the animals to take action and on the eleventh day Santa receives something in the mail that lifts his spirits.

Next day he ventures forth and finds …

as well as five new recycling bins and lots of the animals busily restoring the broken star and putting it where it should be – right at the top of the tree. A Merry Green Christmas at last!

The Christmas Carrolls

The Christmas Carrolls
Mel Taylor-Bessent, illustrated by Selom Sunu
Farshore

Nine year old Holly, daughter of Christmas crazy parents Nick and Snow Carroll has been home schooled until a house suddenly becomes available on Sleigh Ride Avenue. Thrilled to bits her parents decide to move the family there and she is enrolled at the local primary school.

However, when Holly goes to Lockerton Primary with the Backpack of Cheer her dad’s given her and first day Christmas cards (in hot September!), for her year five classmates she realises not everyone shares her enthusiasm for spreading seasonal cheer; and, there are all those school rules and regulations to contend with too. She desperately wants a friend.


Then she hears some of the things that have been said about her: ‘from another planet’, ‘weird’, ‘eccentric’ or was it ‘electric’, ‘that I didn’t know how to dress myself’. How much worse can things get?

Seemingly Holly is on a downward spiral. However, the new unChristmassy approach she tries doesn’t feel right either: her cheerometer rating plummets to zero and she tells her parents, “Nobody wants us here … Nobody wants to celebrate Christmas all year round … And I don’t think I want to either.”

But, could her burgeoning friendship with Archer (which has also taken a turn for the worse) help her out and restore that feel good factor, and not only for herself? Perhaps – for when she learns of some children who really need help, Holly decides that nothing is impossible when it comes to spreading good cheer.

Now I’m somebody who is anything but filled with festive delight when I see the Christmas lights put up and turned on early in November, so initially I wasn’t sure about Holly and her family. However, Mel Taylor-Bessent’s debut story, for all its seasonal trappings, is about so much more that Christmas. For Holly it’s a steep learning journey and one whereon she discovers the importance of real friendship, that not everyone lives in the same way, as well as that her mum hasn’t always had it good.
What emerges loud and clear from this wonderfully warm, humorous tale is that the essentials of Christmas are hope, inclusion and community; and these should be for every day of the year rather than being restricted to just a short time. The author has created some smashing characters (illustrated by Selom Sunu) that certainly will linger in the minds of readers and listeners. This would make a terrific KS2 class read aloud.

The Night Train / The Naughtiest Unicorn in a Winter Wonderland

The Night Train
Matilda Woods and Penny Neville-Lee
Little Tiger

This is a wintry addition to the Stripes series of stories for new solo readers that have beautiful full colour illustrations at every turn of the page.

Herein readers can take up the guard’s final call and board the non-stop express train to Sleepy Town Platform ZZZ. Charles is anxious to get his special passengers in on schedule so that they don’t lose the chance to shine in their dreams.

There’s Henri, about to perform in front of the Queen, Princess May on her way to meet the family of her dragon, then comes the yeti – a regular on the train – bound for the North Pole and now accompanying Lily who longs to be a great explorer.
Then one more passenger reveals itself – a huge green furry monster that hopes it has just the thing to stop its dreamer being scared any longer.

Suddenly the train comes to a halt and the driver announces that something is blocking the way. The princess leaves the train to investigate and discovers a tree has fallen across the line. But are any of the passengers willing to help her and the guard Charles to move the obstacle and allow the train to arrive on time? Perhaps if they draw on their yet to be discovered skills, together they can save the situation and enter their dreamer’s dreams.

It must be worth a try.

Despite it’s chilly setting, Matilda Woods tells a warm-hearted tale of teamwork and determination. Penny Neville-Lee’s snowy scenes capture beautifully, the sometimes tense atmosphere of the telling and her portrayal of the characters is charming – even the monster.

A smashing snuggle up in the warm book for youngsters just taking off as independent readers.

The Naughtiest Unicorn in a Winter Wonderland
Pip Bird, illustrated by David O’Connell
Farshore

Can it really be the ninth story featuring Mira and her exuberant unicorn Dave? As he tries his hoofs at some winter sports, it’s evident that the creature hasn’t lost his burping and farting habits or his tendency to gobble up ice-cream or pretty much anything edible he can get hold of.

Then comes the announcement: Unicorn School Winter Expedition. It’s to be Red Class’s very first time and in addition to the sporting activities there’s to be a special quest: The Unicorn School Art Project inspired by the Aurora Lights.

The excitement is high though there’s talk of Snow Beasts by pupils who have been on previous winter expeditions, and it’s even higher when they reach their destination. Armed with ‘snow tools’ just in case of any unwanted encounters, the pupils start to settle in and decide on their activities.

Then comes the real fun and for Mira and Dave that begins with sledging – watch out for a ginormous snow poo-ball.

Will they really meet a yeti though?

What about that art project: will everyone be having such a great time sledging that they miss those magical Aurora Lights? And could somebody discover a use for that Abominable Snow Poo? You’ll never know … unless of course you get hold of this hilarious episode in the life of Mira, Dave and their friends both old and new.

I know a fair number of young solo readers who will gobble it up – Dave fashion – all in one go, pausing to enjoy David O’Connell’s super black and white illustrations along the way.

Cindergorilla

Cindergorilla
Gareth P. Jones and Loretta Schauer
Farshore

Readers of this blog will probably know that I am a great enthusiast of fairy tale spin-offs so long as they’re done well, as is the case with Gareth P. Jones and Loretta Schauer’s follow-up to Rabunzel, another in The Fairytales for the Fearless series.

Star of the show in this story is jungle dwelling Cindergorilla. Cinder lives with her mean Aunt Linda and cousins Gertrude and Grace, who spend much of their time bossing her about.

Despite this Cinder manages to remain upbeat by turning her chores into funky dance moves: Her broom becomes an object with which to boogie, she moonwalks with her mop, twirling as she tidies and accompanying her washing up with her wiggliest waggles. Oh how she would love to go to the weekly Disco Ball, but her aunt vetoes her every chance.

Then one Saturday there’s much ado in their household as the cousins discuss their potential chances of becoming the next partner of Disco Prince Travis. Needless to say, they scoff at Cinder as they leave her alone with just a list of tasks to be done.

Enter with a RAZZA-MATANG an orangutan, her Hairy Godmother no less, who, with a deft wand flick, transforms Cinder into a sparkly disco diva, leaving her with a slightly different warning from the traditional midnight: “Be home before sunrise” she instructs.

Off goes Cinder, slightly on edge as she steps onto the dance floor but there’s no love at first sight episode when she and Travis meet. Said Disco Prince is egocentricity personified. Or should that be gorilla-ified? Impressed by her moves, he merely tells her she’s to dance with him for the rest of the ball.

Come the first rays of morning sun, Cinder remembers what she’s been told by her Hairy Godmother and tells her partner she must leave right away, his response being the self-centred, “But you haven’t seen my best move yet!”
Nonetheless Cinder makes a hasty exit leaving behind a single shoe and Travis determined to find it’s owner’s whereabouts.

Which he does – eventually, much to the surprise of Cinder’s relations. Seems that now, Travis is ready to offer a somewhat better deal. But is it one Cinder will accept?

Now that would be telling and I’ll leave it to the story creators, merely adding that like most fairytales, there is a happily ever after ending – of sorts – rendered in song.

This terrific tale of resilience and empowerment is huge fun and a smashing read aloud. I love the way Gareth’s narrative is sprinkled with alliterative phrases and breaks into rhyme from time to time. Equally good fun are Loretta’s funny, funky scenes of the action in which she portrays all the characters with real gorilla-alities.

Destined to become a story-time favourite for sure.

Daisy’s Dragons / Green

Daisy’s Dragons
Frances Stickley and Annabel Tempest
Studio Press

Here’s a picture book that encompasses dealing with your feelings, owning a pet (or several) and even perhaps coping with pandemic reds, greens and silvers, and sometimes blues, pinks, and purples too. These colours refer to the pet dragons that young Daisy has and only she knows they’re there, each playing its own particular role. That is until one day when everything goes haywire on a visit to the ice-cream shop

and the result is that three of Daisy’s dragon friends go missing, and Daisy herself gives vent to her own emotions as she becomes scared, angry and sad, sending the others away.

In an attempt to bring back the absent Happy dragon feelings, the little girl plays with her toys and as she does so she realises that it’s actually very important to have the entire range of emotions: “None of you are bad,” she says, confirming what an apologetic Sad has already articulated with “But all of us are part of you … and none of us are bad.”

Told in Frances Stickley’s rhyming narrative and with Annabel Tempest’s splendidly portrayed dragons, this is an engaging story that opens up opportunities to talk about the all important topic of emotions with young children. I suspect that by the time the story’s told, both adult sharers and young listeners will have developed a fondness for all six special dragons.

Green
Louise Greig and Hannah Peck
Farshore

There’s always a slight quirkiness to Louise Greig’s books that I love, and so it is with this one.
Ed becomes downhearted when he’s no longer the owner of the best sled of the slopes. Back to his shed he goes to build an outstanding one, spending many a wintry day and night to that end. Despite knowing that he’s missing out on lots of fun he just can’t bring himself to go out and join his friends who are eager to see him.

Unbeknown to the boy, during the time he’s been working away, the days have been growing longer and warmer, and when he finally emerges he fails to hear the song of the blackbird and see the blue flowers peeping through. Then unexpectedly after a shower, everything turns green, speckled with white daisies. Now what will he do with a sled, even if it is THE best?

Suddenly he hears his name being called: it’s his friends saying how much they’ve missed him. Now at last Ed feels the sun’s warmth and he’s filled with joy but feels somewhat foolish as he explains what he’s been doing. Soon he realises that he’s missed so much: the companionship and exhilaration he now experiences are the things that really matter; they’re way more important than having something biggest and best.

Told in Louise Greig’s poetic text with Hannah Peck’s scenes that perfectly capture the feelings of the characters and their movement, this is a thought-provoking story about emotions, showing how envy negates the pleasures of the here and now.

Rainbow Grey

Rainbow Grey
Laura Ellen Anderson
Farshore

Having hugely enjoyed Laura’s Amelia Fang series I couldn’t wait to get hold of her new story. and it certainly lived up to my expectations.

It’s set in the brilliantly imagined magical sky world of Weatherlands in the city of Celestia and features ten-year old Ray Grey. who lives with her family – mum Cloudia, Dad Haze and cloud-cat, Nim.

All the other Weatherlings have at their fingertips, amazing magical weather power – be it sun ( I love the glowing sunflower in the sky image giving light to Earth), 

snow or rain, cloud or wind; not so Ray who like her mother, has no weather magic of any kind, though she longs for such magic to appear suddenly one morning so she’s more like her friends Droplet Dewbells and Snowden Everfreeze.

Rumour has it though that until they were all wiped out by the worst tornado in history, there were also Weatherlings who had Rainbow magic, – although most people don’t believe this . 

When Ray attends her first festival for the Eclipse with her friends, it’s the start of an unlikely adventure triggered by a tatty old book. Adventure is something else Ray longs for, wanting to be like her hero, the famous, beautiful Earth Explorer La Blaze Delight whom she meets at the festival.

Young Ray is one determined character and so is prepared to be a rule breaker (hurrah!) leaving Celestia without a grown-up and setting off for earth on a ‘daring quest’ in search of treasures.

It’s a trip that changes her life: a transformation takes place making her not Ray Grey but Rainbow Grey. Now all that’s left to do is to gain control of her powers and save the earth from a mysterious, powerful destructive enemy. 

Can she succeed? Perhaps, with the help of her best pals (and Nim) – surely that isn’t asking too much …

Laura’s storytelling weaves a spell around you from the outset; it’s totally gripping throughout with tension building as the end draws nigh, full of splendid humorous detail (the pigeon named Coo La La, for example) with sprinklings of silliness such as that highly explosive farting cloud cat, and the eat them quick before they erupt, rumblebuns.

This book has all you can ask for and more: teamwork, friendship, an environmental message, being something of an outsider, there’s even a mention of reading problems ( Ray talks of letters being jumbled on the page and later, reading from coloured paper is mentioned). Magicalicious – bring on the next adventure please!

The Naughtiest Unicorn on Holiday / Super Cute: Fun in the Sun

These are two young fiction books both by Pip Bird, kindly sent for review by Farshore

The Naughtiest Unicorn on Holiday

The latest addition to The Naughtiest Unicorn series sees Mira and Dave off on an adventure holiday – their best ever adventure so Mira anticipates. Especially as there’s to be a secret quest to discover a special Golden Marshmallow. With sleeping bag rolled and rucksack packed with essentials (and a bit more too) she can hardly contain her excitement and Dave is going positively bananas or rather toffees. Having discussed the various poo possibilities for humans and unicorns, members of Red Class are finally ready to make that foray into the Wild Woods where they’ll be under the care , not of their teacher Miss Glitterhorn but of energetic leader, Ms Mustang, a stickler for teamwork.

Will the adventurers ever manage to put up their tents – that is the first challenge followed closely by, will Dave consume all the marshmallows stashed in the special snack box?

Then what about the raft-making activity? Readers will certainly get some laughs over this, but what of team Mira, Raheem and Jake and their unicorns?

With the first day’s adventures duly over it’s time to bed down for some shut-eye but that’s when the weird noises start up: what or who is making those, not to mention the scary shadowy shape? …

With the usual generous serving of farts of the unicorn variety, this is a thoroughly enjoyable romp for fans of Mira and Dave and I’m sure having induced lots of giggles, they’ll win a fair few new followers too.

Super Cute: Fun in the Sun

New to me is the author’s World of Cute where preparations are underway for the annual summer Friendship festival.

With Micky Pig in charge, delicious treats to share are baked in Micky’s outdoor kitchen Mudporium. The first taster will be a Special Guest. So will this be, as Cami declares, “The best Friendship ever!” ?

Not if one of the vital baking ingredients is missing … This is the first indication that a saboteur is at work; surely that couldn’t be so – could it?

I’m not sure if this series will gain as many fans as The Naughtiest Unicorn but it’s worth offering to young solo readers to taste for themselves: they’ll certainly find lots of yummy confectionery including a volcano cake that erupts strawberry jam, in this story that celebrates our differences.

1,2,3, Do the Shark / The Horse that Jumped

These are two picture books ideal for bedtime sharing kindly sent for review from Farshore

1,2,3, Do the Shark
Michelle Robinson and Rosalind Beardshaw

Get ready for a bit of funky action deep beneath the ocean where Bess’s fishy pals are somewhat disturbed by a storm. Not so Bess though; clad in her shark attire, she urges them all to join her in a bit of boogieing. “Copy me and do the shark!” she says performing the appropriate moves

until all the sea creatures are joining in with the stretching, fin waving, tail swishing and generally strutting their stuff.

That achieved, it’s time to take a dive down deeper, right to the ocean bed where something rather scary is peering out from the mouth of a cave.

Crab gives a Shark alert. Time to take evasive action suggests Bess and so they do.

But perhaps that shark isn’t as scary as they first thought? Has he another reason for watching them so closely perhaps …

With a lovely switch from imagined to real, the story has a perfect ending 1,2,3 zzzzz.
An ideal pre bedtime book for those around little Bess’s age told in Michelle’s splendidly readable rhyming text and through Rosalind’s delightful mainly subaquatic, scenes.

The Horse that Jumped
Thomas Docherty

This is a thoroughly enchanting tale of a little girl and a horse that jumps and keeps on jumping. It jumps over a flower, over a rock, over a fence, out of its field, across a steam, over a bench and through an open window right into the girl’s bedroom.

On jumps said girl and off they go right out into the world, galloping and then jumping through a series of richly illustrated scenes of mountains, sea

and skyscapes

until the girl falls fast asleep, is transported back to her own bed and thence into dreamland.

With mounting excitement, so evident in the eyes of girl and horse, as the journey moves from location to location, Thomas Docherty, tells this exhilarating story of freedom and friendship using relatively few well chosen words, leaving his gorgeous illustrations of a fabulous flight of fancy to do most of the talking. It’s impossible not to feel that joyful freeing sense of movement be you listener or reader aloud: what a splendid celebration of the power of the imagination.

The Battle for Roar / A Super Weird! Mystery: My pencil case is a time machine

Two recent fiction books from Farshore kindly sent for review

The Battle for Roar
Jenny McLachlan, illustrated by Ben Mantle

The superb Land of Roar fantasy series comes to a gripping conclusion in this utterly enchanting adventure that sees twins Rose and Arthur travelling to a group of islands far beyond everything they know: beyond The End.

There’s a storm, a shipwreck, you’ll meet fanged fairies, a possible dragon egg, there are secrets aplenty and prepare to be surprised, shocked even.

To say it’s action-packed is something of an understatement; it’s humorous in parts, pretty scary in others, a wonderful demonstration of the redemptive power of teamwork and a veritable ode to the power of the imagination.

Altogether an absolutely perfect ending to a brilliant trilogy. I gobbled it up in a single sitting, along with a few marshmallows (not magical ones) and a mug of hot chocolate.

A Super Weird! Mystery: My pencil case is a time machine
Jim Smith

Having coped with the Danger at Donut Diner and the Attack of the Haunted Lunch Box, Yoshi and his friends Melvin Pebble and Rhubarb Plonsky have another mystery to solve. If he can manage to tear himself away from his phone that is, for like most youngsters, Yoshi has of late, let his phone take up much of his time, particularly uploading his videos onto Donut Tube.

Enter Yoshi’s dad bringing a shoebox containing the ‘smelly eraser collection’ from his own childhood (we’ve all had them) and thus begin some seriously surreal happenings necessitating some serious sleuthing from the three young detectives.

But that’s getting a bit ahead of things so let’s go back to where the three are in HQ aka Brenda the Hut and Yoshi finds an ordinary non-smelly eraser on one of the shelves therein, names it Brenda too and adds it to other smelly erasers now in his pencil case. Then at Rhubarb’s behest he pulls out a dinosaur-shaped one for her to sniff. Uh-oh! Time slip alert!

Seems the pals have just whiffed themselves back to the age of the dinosaurs and that T-Rex doesn’t look too friendly.

All is not lost though for they’ve still got the rest of the smelly erasers. Perhaps one of those can get them back to their own time but then what? …

Well that would be telling, and I’ll leave Jim Smith’s young narrator to do that in his own inimitable way and merely say that what follows is seriously silly and huge fun especially with daft cartoon style drawings adorning every spread adding to the overall wackiness.

The World Awaits

The World Awaits
Tomos Roberts and Nomoco
Farshore

I received my review copy of this book on what is supposed to be ‘freedom day’ here in England at least. Assuredly this follow-up to The Great Realisation, is a book of our time. Herein poet Tomos Roberts offers a welcome rallying call to action to readers young and not so young asking us to embrace the challenges we still face and to do whatever we can individually and collectively to face the future with positivity and hope.

We see, and hear the voice of an adult rousing a child from slumbers and going on to try and persuade that reluctant young friend to accept the enormous potential within,

to do good spending time doing the things that make life better for others and ultimately perhaps, oneself. It might be planting a tree, calling grandparents for a chat, helping a creature in distress or smiling at a stranger – acts such as these will prevent apathy and negativity taking hold – something that’s all to easy to do, especially if one listens to the news every day or reads a daily paper.

This book with Nomoco’s gentle watercolour illustrations will surely resonate with us all: seize the day: help the world get better step by step, action by action …


                                       

The Wind in the Willows

The Wind in the Willows
Kenneth Grahame adapted by Timothy Knapman with original E.H. Shepard illustrations
Farshore

To celebrate the 80th anniversary of Kenneth Grahame’s classic, this is a picture book adaptation of the original story by Timothy Knapman with E.H.Shepard’s iconic illustrations.

All too often adaptations of children’s classics are at worst a huge disappointment and at best underwhelming; one certainly wouldn’t dream of reading them aloud to young children.

Does it read aloud well is key and in this instance the answer is a resounding yes. Herein, there’s a certain musicality to Timothy’s narrative (‘And there was the river itself, chasing and chuckling along, like a magical sparkling animal.’): it retains the essence of the original while also using 21st century phraseology such as ‘Then when their tummies started to rumble, they tied up at a perfect picnic spot.’ And, Mole to the intruder stoats and weasels in Toad Hall, ‘ “What a mess you’ve made! You don’t get to leave until you’ve tidied this whole place up.” ‘

Although we don’t have all the episodes from the original book, what’s included is a coherent story with plenty of Toad’s shenanigans …

that can be shared and enjoyed in a single session, or two if preferred.

Splash

Splash
Claire Cashmore and Sharon Davey
Farshore

Written by awesome Paralympic gold medallist Claire Cashmore, this, her debut book is a celebration of overcoming your fears and following your dream. The story is based on Claire’s own experience of having a can do attitude with almost everything, although being scared of the water keeps her out of the swimming pool.

That changes however one very hot day when the young girl Claire aka Bear decides to try just dipping a toe into the water. Then, because it feels so inviting those frissons of fear dissipate until … SPLASH! She’s loving how she feels and her siblings are almost as thrilled as Bear is.

Now in the water Bear is literally in her element and she has a new dream. It’s going to take a lot of hard work and determination but she never gives up and finally after her mammoth efforts Bear is ready to enter her very first swimming race …

As she ploughs through the water, Bear isn’t the only one wondering, Will today be the day? And …

Then up on the podium with her first ever gold medal around her neck, Claire dreams of the next time … and the next and … safe in the knowledge that ‘whatever she can’t do today … she knows she will conquer tomorrow!’
And what an inspiration is young Bear to us all. She had the courage to step right out of her comfort zone and then to prove to herself and everybody else that by holding fast to her dreams, being differently abled is just a part of who she is and that is INCREDIBLE.

Sharon Davey’s illustrations beautifully capture Bear’s emotional journey as, supported by her siblings, she moves from fearful to fearless.

The Lion on the Bus / All Aboard the Words Train & All Aboard the Sounds Train

The Lion on the Bus
Gareth P. Jones and Jeff Harter
Farshore

This is a really rumbustious version of the children’s nursery favourite The Wheels on the Bus. It starts with the usual verse but already there’s an anticipation of what’s to come in Jeff Harter’s opening illustration as a maned passenger carrying a bag crosses to get on board the vehicle heading for the park.

Almost instantly the driver is looking alarmed at the RAR-RAR-RAR!” that issues forth and the baby on the bus certainly isn’t happy …

On gets a panther at the next stop, a panther that insists on prowling, ‘PROWL–PROWL-PROWL, …’

By the time a SNAP-SNAP-SNAP-ing crocodile and a trio of H-O-W-O-O-O-O-L-ing wolves have also boarded and are adding to the din, the driver decides he’s had enough and makes a hasty exit,

leaving the passengers – humans (screaming) and animals (jaws gaping wide) to face each other out.

And that’s where we’ll leave them at the ready, perhaps to exit,

with readers and listeners eagerly anticipating a rousing finale …

Assuredly, with Jeff Harter’s hilarious illustrations, Gareth’s is a version to add to early years collections; it’s one that would be enormous fun to act out in a foundation stage setting.

All Aboard the Words Train
All Aboard the Sounds Train

illustrated by Sean Sims
Oxford Children’s Books

No ticket necessary to climb aboard the latest excursions into Oxford Children’s fun World of Learning.
Whichever train you decide to board, you’re sure to enjoy the ride and the destination.

With six lively children plus playful dog, the Words Train is heading for the seaside. Once there, appropriately hatted and sun creamed, the gang will start exploring. First behind rocks and in the cave, after which they’ll pause for play and ice-creams, followed by a swim in the chilly water, a spot of sailing on the sea, a dive under the water, perhaps even visiting a wrecked pirate ship. All this and more before night falls and it’s time to go home.

While most spreads focus on nouns, the focus of others is either verbs or adjectives: Sean Sims’ vibrant illustrations provide just the right amount of details in each one.

The Sounds Train journeys through the seasons and concentrates on environmental sounds be they created by animals, the elements, the children or the occasional machine.

Great for introducing or reinforcing sound/symbol associations.

Llama on a Mission / Waiting for Murder

Llama on a Mission
Annabelle Sami, illustrated by Allen Fatimaharan
Farshore

This is the second story featuring ten-year old Yasmin and her magical toy llama guardian Levi, and it’s every bit as daftly funny as the first.

Having found her voice with Levi’s help and a new friend, Ezra, she’s ready for year 6.

With her sights set on joining the art club, Yasmin is more than a tad perturbed when her teacher Miss Zainab informs her that she’s been selected to join the science team The Funsen Burners and participate in an inter-school competition. Just when what she really wants is to spend time getting Levi restored to his normal toy state. That, and get on with the new comic, LOUDMOUTH, she’s trying to create for another competition.

The very last thing she wants is for Levi to be sent all the way back to Peru but the way he starts behaving while engaged on his mission under the watchful eye of Mama Llama could result in just that. Then what? Yasmin just can’t let it happen. With Ezra’s assistance, perhaps there’s something that can be done; meanwhile she needs to learn the difference between talking and communicating.

Is it a case of mission accomplished? The only way too find out is to get hold of a copy of this tale of high drama and a whole lot of trouble. Allen Fatimaharan has done a terrific job with the illustrations, adding to the fun of the book.

For older readers is:

Waiting for Murder
Fleur Hitchcock
Nosy Crow

Daniel and his archaeologist mum are spending the summer in the country and a sweltering one it is. While his mum is engaged on her dig, (searching for the grave of Edith the Fair, King Harold’s wife) Dan too is observing and he also makes a discovery – a car with what looks like a body in the reservoir.

Next morning however, the body is no longer there, but Dan notices new scratches on the car. Seemingly, something strange is going on, something that needs investigating. Moreover somebody in the village is absolutely determined to stop Dan and his new friend, Florence from discovering the truth.

The climax of this terrific story more or less coincides with the weather finally breaking and pretty soon torrents of muddy water threaten to sweep everyone and everything away.

With an abundance of thrills and some surprises, this is a totally gripping, nail-biting, page-turner with a surprise finale. Crime drama for youngsters doesn’t come much better than this.