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.

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.

Rabunzel

Rabunzel
Gareth P. Jones and Loretta Schauer
Egmont

Totally crazy but enormous fun is Gareth P. Jones’s reimagining of the Grimm fairy tale Rapunzel with a rabbit, Rabunzel – she of the massively long, lop ears. The forest dwelling character gives her mother cause for concern on account of said ears, for this parent like other inhabitants of Furry Tail Hill are mighty fearful of the hungry-eyed beasties that lurk deep in the dark forest.

To keep her offspring safe, mum bun incarcerates Rabunzel in a very, very tall tree. Each morning she’d arrive at the bottom of this tree with her daily ration of carrots, lettuce and water, call out, “Rabunzel, Rabunzel, let down your ears!” and wait for the ears to unwind allowing her to ascend.

No matter how much her daughter pleads for release, mummy bunny remains resolute, ‘there you must stay’ she insists.

After months of utter boredom Rabunzel receives the surprise of her life. Who should climb up her long ears but Flash Harry the Hare.

He’d spotted the whole ear-dropping procedure, fallen head over heels in love with their owner and resolved to rescue her.
Weeee!

With her paws on the ground Rabunzel however, has her own ideas about how to proceed thereafter. You’ll be happy to learn that the whole thing ends hoppily ever after.

The text has some lovely wordplay and occasionally breaks into rhyme. It’s a read aloud romp that will be enjoyed whether or not little ones are familiar with the original story. With their zany details, and some clues concerning Rabunzel’s hidden talent, Loretta Schauer’s dramatic scenes burst with energy and humour.

Dragon Detective: That a Wrap! / Vega Jane and the Secrets of Sorcery

Dragon Detective: That’s a Wrap!
Gareth P. Jones
Little Tiger

In case you’re not familiar with the titular detective, he’s Dirk Dilly, a mountain dragon who doubles as a crime-buster, all the while endeavouring to keep the existence of dragons secret from humans – not an easy task.

This story set mainly in the USA is the 4th and final adventure in the Dragon Detective series.
Holly Bigsby, her stepmum, her dad, and Holly’s close friend Archie are unexpectedly flown out to LA in a private luxury jet at the behest of billionaire Brant Buchanan for whom Mrs Bigsby works.
Also in LA, making an autobiographical film is Petal Moses (Holly’s ex-room-mate from her boarding school days.)

On her very first day in the city, Holly meets the movie director, who while filming in the desert has captured something on camera that looks suspiciously like dragons. But before anyone has a chance to look closely at the film, it disappears. Holly is convinced it’s a case for Dirk. She rings him urging him come to LA and participate in an investigation – an investigation that involves Californian Desert Dragons. But can they solve the case and find the film before dragonkind’s reality is revealed to the world at large?

An enjoyable romp of a crime-solver, especially for those primary school readers who like fast moving stories that involve the interface of humans and dragons.

Vega Jane and the Secrets of Sorcery
David Baldacci
Macmillan Children’s Books

This was David Baldacci’s first foray into young adult fiction previously published as The Finisher, now re-edited and reissued.

It follows the quest of fourteen-year-old Vega Jane, who when the story starts works as a Finisher at Stacks, creating goods she knows she’ll never afford while living a life of hardship with her younger brother in Wormwood city. The place is surrounded by the Quag wherein lurk dangerous beasties and beyond which, it’s said, nothing exists, consequently nobody ever leaves.

Vega though is different from other Wugs; she’s curious, something that’s strongly discouraged. Then, having witnessed her mentor escaping into the unknown, she discovers a map that seems to suggest a strange world lies beyond the walls of Wormwood.

Thus begins an exciting adventure that follows Vega’s quest for freedom as she moves through time confronting not just all she’d believed was true and those intent on hiding the truth, but also, her own limitations.

Magical artefacts, mysteries, bizarre creatures, thrills aplenty, and Vega’s somewhat unusual manner of narration that blends her thoughts, Wugmort vocabulary (a translation is given at the outset) and formal speech, as well as memorable characters, are all part of Baldacci’s mix in his blend of sci-fi, myth and fantasy elements. Moreover, there’s a cliff-hanger finale that opens the way for further adventures of this strong female hero.

Pirates Ahoy!

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Are You the Pirate Captain?
Gareth P. Jones and Garry Parsons
Andersen Press
The ship’s a-ready, the deck swabbed, even the crew’s had a wash but there’s still something stopping those pirates setting sail: what ever can it be? Even the best pirate ship is no good without a pirate captain – a giant squid consumed the previous one – so, the search is well and truly on. First Mate Hugh, with his trusty telescope, is on the lookout for a worthy successor:
               A buccaneer
           Who will strike fear
         In every sailor’s heart.
Several misidentifications later – a coat-hanger for a hook,

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a brolly for a parrot …

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a shopping list for a treasure map, but surely the chap sporting pirate gear must be the one.

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Not quite but he does help the crew find a solution to their leadership dilemma and then it’s a case of brains to the fore …
    ‘He diddle-he and a hey diddle-hey,
     Weigh the anchor, we sail today!
     Hey diddle hey and a he diddle-ho,
       Hoist the flag … and off we go!’
With its jaunty rhyming telling and gigglesome visuals, this swashbuckling tale, complete with sea shanty is likely to appeal to would-be young sea dogs especially those who enjoy a book where things are not quite as they seem.

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Dolci absorbed in the piratical doings

Pirates in Pyjamas
Caroline Crowe and Tom Knight
Little Tiger Press
There seems to be a plethora of pirate picture books at present and now here’s first time author Caroline Crowe answering the question ‘Do pirates wear pyjamas when it’s time to say goodnight?/ Do they have a skull and crossbones, are they stripy, black and white? that two small children are pondering.
The answer is seemingly, where pirates and pyjamas are concerned, pretty much anything goes

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as we see when we join Captain Grotbeard and his crew aboard the Leaky Parrot as they perform their ablutions, then step into their night attire. Before retiring for the night however there’ll probably be the obligatory pyjama party, not to mention the odd spot of pillow fighting.
All this action calls for a nightcap though …

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And finally, it’s time to bed down for some shut-eye wherever you are.

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Tom Knight illustrates the nocturnal frolics illuminating the rhyming text with verve and humour, adding chucklesome details here and there.

Finally, a reissue of a classic piratical tale from over fifty years ago is:

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Captain Pugwash
John Ryan
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
This is the very first of what became a popular series of picture books featuring Pugwash the pirate captain, his arch enemy Cut-throat Jake and Tom, the cabin boy: the latter being the only person able to do the important jobs aboard The Black Pig – sailing the ship, working the compass and making tea.
In this adventure we discover what happens when Pugwash attempts to seize the treasure stashed aboard the ship belonging to Cut-throat Jake and is taken prisoner and made to walk the plank by Jake and his crew.
As becomes the norm in subsequent stories, it’s really down to trusty young Tom to save the day and the Captain. …

 

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Great stuff.

Use your local bookshop    localbookshops_NameImage-2

Two Parties, Two Birthdays

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The Dinosaurs are Having a Party!
Gareth P. Jones and Garry Parsons
Andersen Press
It’s party time at the dinosaurs’ residence and someone has a special guest invitation.

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On his arrival our young narrator finds the party in full swing with games galore and a scrumptious spread on the table. Outside is a barbeque, but where is the meat?

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And the large bouncy castle is lots of fun – at least till stegosaurus comes along.
Oh, who is taking SO long in the loo?

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O-OH! Time to grab a party bag and leave the fun behind it seems …

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But the host doesn’t want to lose sight of that special fea.. – oops I mean guest, just yet; indeed he’s hot on the (w)heels of that escapee vehicle most of the way … home. Phew! Lucky escape. Just what is in your party bag then, little boy?
A madcap rhyming story where young audiences will delight in spotting the visual warning signs from the time the narrator leaves home until his hasty departure from the party. They will also relish the twist – or rather snap – at the end of the tale.

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There’s more partying in:

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We’re Going to a Party!
Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross
Andersen Press pbk
We’re going to a party,
disguised in fancy dress.
But which of us is What or Who?
It’s up to you to guess!

Each of the animals has donned a disguise and asks readers to decide who is really the banana, pirate, princess, tiger
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and so on. Who is that in a ‘rubbish’ monster costume they wonder. Somebody none to happy about to give them a surprise …
Rhyming fun, flaps, a pop-out finale and delicious Ross illustrations: what’s not to like?

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I Feel Five!
Bethanie Deeney Murguia
Walker Books
How does it feel to be five?’ or six or whatever is a question often asked of children. It always seems a bit daft to me – why would anyone suddenly feel different overnight just because of a birthday. This is certainly something young Fritz ponders as he wakes up on his fifth birthday leaping joyfully out of bed

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and rushing to the mirror only to be confronted by a reflection that looks exactly like the day before’s; and he still can’t tie the laces on his new shoes. Maybe school will help him to feel five he decides. But, when his teacher asks him that inevitable question and his friends sing his birthday song, Fritz still feels just the same.
It’s a rather disillusioned Fritz –still unable to whistle, snap his fingers or do the monkey bars two at a time and still needing just one hand to count his years – who suddenly hears a voice as he sits sadly under an apple tree on his way home from school.

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The voice belongs to a little girl and she’s asking him if he can reach the apples.
One flying leap later… two rosy apples, two bite into same and could it just be one very slight wiggle from one of Fritz’s teeth; now there’s a feeling that is just a little different.

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And, he has made a new friend; things are definitely looking up.
Full of charm and gentle humour, this is a good story to have to hand in an infant classroom when children turn four, five or six.
Soft watercolours portray so clearly the ups and down of Fritz’s birthday; I love his light-surrounded leap out of bed and the contrasting, all pervading grey gloom as he sits under that apple tree, oh and those two pairs of shoe-clad feet on opposite sides of a spread –

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so beautifully expressive.

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The Dinosaur That Pooped the Past!
Tom Flethcher & Dougie Poynter illustrated by Garry Parsons
Red Fox pbk
The pooping dinosaur is back once again. Danny’s Gran is celebrating her one thousand and eighth birthday and she’s served up masses of disgusting green, wind-creating stuff. Guess who gobbles Dan’s share before Gran notices so that the pair can go out and play. Once outside they head for a creaky old swing, one that turns out to be super powered. Dizzily they loop back through time

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before finally crash landing in the Jurassic era. There they meet a trio of baby dinos, Dino Dudes A, B and C. who like nothing better than clambering on top of each other. As Danny’s dinosaur sits back to watch their games, he feels a rumble in his tum, a rumble that makes the ground crumble , a crumble that signifies VOLCANO SEASON! No time to lose; the swing must be repaired; but that alone is not strong enough to carry extra passengers out of danger. There is only one thing to do …

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Three cheers for the power of broccoli and another three for the trio of new dino pals. They all arrive just in time a hefty chunk of Gran’s broccoli birthday cake.

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Scatological, or rather poopological, humour courtesy of that huge-bellied dinosaur delivered in rip-roaring rhyme and suitably exuberant illustrations; just the thing to send young children into fits of giggles, not to mention many of the adults who share it with them.

Find and buy from your local bookshop:

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