Lottie Loves Nature: Bee-ware!

Lottie Loves Nature: Bee-ware!
Jane Clarke, illustrated by James Brown
Five Quills

In this second adventure young nature enthusiast and would-be wildlife presenter Lottie Boffin is engaged in a minibeast survey for her favourite TV show when she encounters Noah Parfitt who lives next door. Noah’s dad is anything but a lover of small wriggly, squishy creatures on account of the mini golf course he’s developed in his garden. So when Lottie and Noah burst in on his recreational activity in their search for minibeasts that might need rescuing, he’s far from pleased. Even less so when he’s flapped and buzzed by a bumblebee looking for a flower, of which there’s a distinct lack in the Parfitt garden.

Then to make matters much worse, Lottie’s insect attracting activities result in bees swarming in a tree in her garden that overhangs Mr Parfitt’s and he’s so furious he calls the pest exterminator.

Lottie’s mum calls a beekeeper who arrives almost simultaneously.

Now all Lottie has to do is to persuade Mr Parfitt to send the pest exterminator away and allow the bees to be collected and moved to a safe new hive.

Interspersed with Jane Clarke’s lively, humorous story are pages about insects, especially bees, from Lottie’s nature notebook

and some things readers can do (as well as notes of Noah’s whose interest lies elsewhere and who sees things through a different lens). In addition to the main narrative, this is a great way to get readers interested in the natural world and the delights it has to offer through first hand experiences.

With equally lively, humorous illustrations by James Brown this is a smashing book to foster curiosity about wildlife and the environment, either at home or school. Like their previous Lottie story, there’s plenty of parrot poop courtesy of macaw Nacho and Lottie’s energetic dog Einstein to add to the fun.

Lottie Loves Nature: Frog Frenzy / Mermaid’s Rock: The Ice Giant

Here are two young fiction titles with ecological themes:

Lottie Loves Nature: Frog Frenzy
Jane Clarke, illustrated by James Brown
Five Quills

I’d not met nature-obsessed Lottie Boffin in the Al’s Awesome Science series but was excited to make her acquaintance now in her very own-eco adventure series for young solo readers.

In a cleverly and carefully constructed story so that youngsters learn a lot about the natural world as they read, Jane and James include a wealth of information (verbal and visual) via such scrapbook pages,

activities and experiments about such things as ants, worms, the frog life cycle and other froggy facts, hydroponics, potential pond residents and visitors, and creating a wormery.

Lottie, inspired by her favourite wildlife TV show presenter, Samira Breeze, decides to make a pond in her back garden using an old dustbin lid, in the hope that frogs will come and inhabit it and perhaps, if she writes up and sends in her nature notes to the programme, she might even win the opportunity to be a presenter on ‘Every Little Thing’.

However, new next door neighbour, Mr Parfitt with his pristine fake grass putting green is definitely not going to be enthusiastic about Lottie’s plans and he’s far from happy about her pet parrot but maybe she can enlist the help of his son Noah who aspires to become an inventor and programmer of robots. That’s when he made sure that his dad’s back garden is totally minibeast free and it will help him keep fit.

With Mr Parfitt’s ant infestation (on a special cake for a special visitor) to contend with,

not to mention a lively dog, and a plethora of parrot poop, will Lottie succeed in her environmental enterprise?

I look forward to Lottie’s Bee adventure coming early next year. So too, I’m sure will newly independent readers who meet her in this first Lottie Loves Nature book.

Mermaid’s Rock: The Ice Giant
Linda Chapman, illustrated by Mirelle Ortega
Little Tiger

There’s a decidedly chilly feel to the third Mermaid’s Rock adventure.

When Marina announces that she is to accompany her father to the Arctic so he can do his walrus research, her friend Kai is not happy. However Kai’s mum says she can stay with them so long as Marina’s father, Tarak, is agreeable. He is, and she does.

Before he leaves, Marina gives her father a bag of stones, each with an M on and he promises to keep in touch by dropping one each day through the whirlpool. In the meantime there’s the ‘most talented pet’ competition for Marina and her friends to think about.

On the sixth day of her father’s absence, when Marina goes to look for the stone, there isn’t one, nor the next day. Marina and her friends grab some necessary supplies and via the whirlpool, Operation Arctic Rescue is under way.

They soon discover that the ice has begun melting uncustomarily early, spelling danger. Can they find Tarak and get him to safety before it’s too late?

Newly independent readers, especially fans of the series will likely devour this story in a single sitting, enjoying Mirelle Ortega’s black and grey illustrations along the way, and afterwards can learn something about one of the important ecological issues our planet is facing.

Bug Belly Babysitting Trouble / Kitty and the Sky Garden Adventure

Bug Belly Babysitting Trouble
Paul Morton
Five Quills

Meet Bug Belly, he of ingenious plans, a clever kit bag and super cool gadgets; sounds a together kind of frog doesn’t he. There’s a snag though: Bug Belly has an almost insatiable appetite. Not a particular problem you might be thinking but how will he deal with that as well as the task of babysitting hundreds of taddies and froglets for a whole day while their parents attend a conference?

Seemingly not very well, for before long he’s faced with rescuing his charges from a rapidly draining pond and the reason for this is known only to the care-giver and his belly (readers of course are in on the secret).

Can he come up with a super-ingenious plan – probably his most clever ever – to evade the jaws of the ferocious pike Old Snapper and Heron of the razor-sharp beak

not to mention one Sneaky Snake that might just be snooping around?

Let’s just say DUCK POO and leave you to discover its significance.

Hilarious antics, splendidly portrayed and related in Paul Morton’s spluttersome storytelling prose: URGLE-GURGLE GLUMP! Froggy fun it surely is and perfect cheering-up fodder for new solo readers. It’s a great read aloud too – you can really give it some belly.

Kitty and the Sky Garden Adventure
Paula Harrison, illustrated by Jenny Lovlie
Oxford University Press

I can almost hear the cheers from young solo readers for girl during the day, cat at night, Kitty, as she returns in a third adventure with her feline side kick Pumpkin.

As the story opens Kitty is excited to discover that the sunflower seed she planted as part of the school garden design competition is sprouting leaves and is showing it to Pumpkin when Pixie appears talking of an established garden across the city that might provide some inspiration for Kitty’s own design.Kitty cannot resist the opportunity to see this garden and quickly dons her superhero suit.

Following the scent of flowers, the three adventurers venture forth and discover a wonderful rooftop garden alive with wonderful aromas, beautiful trees and gorgeous flowers including seven huge sunflowers.

Her companions are mightily impressed by the catnip bush and it’s this that results in their presence being discovered by an irate tortoiseshell cat whose peaceful evening they have disturbed. The friends’ enthusiasm for things botanical persuades the grumpy Diggory to allow them to explore and he shows them around Mrs Lovett’s amazing creation, even inviting them to return.

So excited is Pixie that she cannot keep the news of the wondrous place to herself and next evening they return to find the place overrun with cats behaving in a thoroughly undesirable fashion.
Before long, Kitty and her pals have a huge task on their hands – to repair the damage the unruly frolickers have done before sunrise.

Can they rise to the challenge when they have a whole gang of recalcitrant cats to deal with, Kitty’s going to need all her powers of persuasion to get that gang on side to help.

I love the way Paula Harrison almost unobtrusively weaves nature’s wonders into this urban adventure; there are subtle lessons for young readers about re-using and recycling planted in her tale too. From its gorgeous cover by illustrator Jenny Lovlie, this is a delight through and through. The illustrations within are fab too, especially those of the garden.

The Tickle Test / Sky Private Eye and the Case of the Runaway Biscuit

The Tickle Test
Kathryn White and Adrian Reynolds
Andersen Press
Tickling has been the topic of picture books on previous occasions but there’s never been one wherein a tiny mouse is being tested for a job in the ‘Tickle Squad’. The little animal is charged with test tickling all kinds of creatures, great and small, while established members of the squad look on and comment on each and every ticklish encounter.

Did I say ‘creatures great and small?’ Maybe I should add here that each one is a pretty formidable proposition be it the jiggling, wriggling bear; the stinky gorilla, the parping pachyderm,

or even the sniggering snake.
I’d rather he than me when it comes to tackling the jaggy-toothed croc. and I’d beat a hasty retreat when it comes to the final challenge – that’s if you aren’t partial to a spot of tickling particularly from an enthusiastic mouse anyhow.
Kathryn White’s rhyming narrative in combination with Adrian Reynolds’ rib-tickling visuals make for a fun read aloud. Love the endpapers too!

Beware though of finger-fidgets on behalf of your listeners as they try hard to resist testing their own tickling skill on those around them during the story.

Sky Private Eye and the Case of the Runaway Biscuit
Jane Clarke and Loretta Schauer
Five Quills
Sky Private Eye has another case to solve when she answers the call of the Little Old Man who reports anxiously, “Our Gingerbread Boy is missing!” Before you can say ‘biscuit’, Sky and her trusty companion, Snuffle are off on the scooter to the source of the call. There they learn that gingerbread lover, Foxy Loxy is in the vicinity and are given permission to search the Boy’s bedroom. It’s there Snuffle discovers a crucial clue concerning new running shoes, which Sky immediately links to the forthcoming Fairytale Olympics.
The race is on: can they track down Gingerbread Boy before Foxy Loxy gets to him?

Furthermore will the sudden shower of rain reduce the runner in training to a soggy heap?
The recipe is akin to the previous case: cupcake baking, a deft move on Sky’s part …

and a thoroughly satisfying finale. Whether or not you met Sky in Sky Private Eye and the Case of the Missing Grandma, then do so now. The chief ingredients: Jane Clarke’s toothsome telling and Loretta Schauer’s appetising artwork, wield their magic again.

I’ve signed the charter  

Sky Private Eye and the Case of the Missing Grandma / The Fairytale Hairdresser and Aladdin

Sky Private Eye and the Case of the Missing Grandma
Jane Clarke and Loretta Schauer
Five Quills
There’s a new independent publisher – Five Quills – on the block, with a new series introducing Sky, a young detective and resident of Fairytale Town. She has a cupcake making business that doubles up as a detective agency and a canine assistant called Snuffle.
In this tale we meet her as she’s busy with an order for her ‘Just-in-case Cupcakes’ when she receives an emergency call from Little Red Riding Hood reporting the absence of her gran. Before you can say cupcakes are us, Sky has gathered her necessary accoutrements, and is off on her scooter, on a rescue- grandma mission.
Aided and abetted by her Map Nav, she quickly locates Granny’s house and is greeted by a fraught-looking Red Riding Hood. Once inside though, it quickly becomes apparent that far from becoming the Big Bad Wolf’s breakfast, Granny has decided to take a vacation. Seemingly though, once the two set off in pursuit, it appears that she might have been followed: that’s certainly what the evidence attached to a bush suggests.
Lo and behold, when they arrive at Fairytale beach whom should they spy through Sky’s trioculars but …

And it looks as though that lupine character might have designs on Granny after all. Time to don some disguises, Sky decides. Can she get them all out of a very sticky situation with a spot of ‘Carrycake Kit, Bake it Better!’; not to mention a few deft moves with a wooden spoon …

and the odd Just-in-Time Cupcake?
The tale’s telling is terrific fun and with illustrations by rising star, Loretta Schauer, that are full of hilarious details, this series looks set to be a winner. There’s even a cupcake recipe at the back of the book.

The Fairytale Hairdresser and Aladdin
Abie Longstaff and Lauren Beard
Picture Corgi
When Kittie Lacey closes her shop and heads off for a vacation courtesy of Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Tours,

she’s hoping for a bit of rest and relaxation but almost immediately on arrival, she realises that is not to be.
First, she has to help Aladdin, with a very low budget, find a very special present for Princess Jamelia. The following day however, Aladdin is nowhere to be found. A search takes Kittie out into the desert where she discovers he’s been duped by the wicked Ibeneeza and is trapped underground. Worse still, the plan is to force Jamelia into marrying the trickster. It’s up to Kittie and Aladdin – once she’s rescued him – to use their wits and all their resources to put a stop to the evil intentions of Ibneeza. Can they do it? Perhaps with the help of the dusty old lamp that Aladdin has discovered in the cave where he was imprisoned.

Kittie is a determined character and likely to have one or two ideas up her sleeve – or in her bag …
Kittie Lacey has a band of enthusiastic young followers already; I’m sure this latest adventure will win her more, as well as delighting her established readership.

I’ve signed the charter