Tag Archives: greed

Please Mr Magic Fish!

Please Mr Magic Fish!
Jessica Souhami
Otter-Barry Books

Jessica Souhami has taken the traditional story of the fisherman and his increasingly greedy wife and turned it into something even more magical, tossing in some silver sparkles along the way.

Here the fisherman goes by the name of Jack, and his insulting, constantly complaining wife is Liz.

Their wish to the magic fish Jack catches and agrees to release,

for a ‘small dry cottage, a blue teapot and some bread and cheese in the larder’, once granted, soon won’t do

and escalates first to a large sunny house, then after another week, to a palace full of luxurious items fit for a lord and lady.

Now that obliging fish grants all these wishes without receiving a single word of thanks from the acquisitive couple until finally he’s had enough, so when they return for yet another, instead of making them King and Queen of the land he gives Jack and Liz the biggest surprise of all.

I wonder if they were ever satisfied … Did they learn from the error of their ways? What do you think?

The direct manner of telling as befits the tale works so well as a read aloud and those stylish collage illustrations for which Souhami is renowned are just SO superbly expressive.

If looks could kill, those the fish bestows upon the greedy couple would knock them stone dead in an instant.

Bee Boy: Attack of the Zombees

Bee Boy: Attack of the Zombees
Tony De Saulles
Oxford University Press

We’ve heard about the parasite infected ‘Zombie’ bees in the USA and now here they are in this, new Bee Boy book.

For those who have yet to meet Melvin Medley, he lives with his mum and keeps a hive of bees on the roof of his tower block. His secret power is that he can, when his beloved bees need him, become a bee himself.

This is his second story and at the start he walks to school with best pal Priti to discover at the gates a boy dressed in a hoodie with golden cuffs, golden trainers and boy band styled hair stepping from a Rolls Royce. It’s newcomer to St John’s Primary, Berty Crump, nephew of millionaire business tycoon Sir Crispin Crump. And, Melvin is charged with looking after him on his first day.

Eager to do anything for his favourite teacher, Melvin introduces himself to Berty who immediately announces that he hates bees. “Gross” he calls them. Things are not looking good.

Then when a peculiar sickness bug that turns people yellow suddenly hits the school, starting with his arch-enemy Norman Crudwell and Berty, both of whom have honey sponge at lunch time, Melvin knows he has to start investigating.

His first question is to Daisy who gave Melvin his bees. She talks of bees getting sick on account of feeding on plants treated with noxious chemicals, suggesting sick bees might make sick honey.

Further questions crop up when Mel and his own bees discover a factory on the edge of the woods, a field full of gigantic flowers, drones spraying nasty chemicals, metal-suited beekeepers and oh, my goodness, Zombees!

Could all this have anything to do with that dastardly-looking uncle of Berty’s?

Passionate bee advocate, Tony De Saulles has penned another funny, exciting, pacy story, with a vitally important conservation message. Liberally scattered throughout are his comical cartoon style illustrations.

Need more summer holiday recommendations for your children? Try Toppsta’s Summer Reading Guide

Oh me, oh my, a Pie!

Oh me, oh my, a Pie!
Jan Fearnley
Nosy Crow

Grandma bear – a nice old soul – has just baked a pie, a rather yummy-looking one at that.

She leaves it to cool and in a trice, a greedy fox has leapt in the window, seized the object and is making off to his lair for a feast. Fox however, forgets to look where he’s going and whoops! he takes a tumble, the pie flies out of his grasp and lands beside a hungry mouse.

Oh me, oh my,” says Mouse, intent on getting that yummy pie into his tummy as soon as possible and off he goes down the street professing same.

Who should be watching though but a greedy cat and you can guess what happens next.

Cat is the owner of the pie for barely a moment when  a nasty looking canine snatches it

and sets off homewards, only to lose it seconds later to Little Owl flying overhead.

The pie is big – too big for a small owl to manage to get back to her nest: down, down it falls, landing, perhaps you can guess where?

Right back at Grandma’s, just in time for tea, rapidly followed by a host of hungry animals all with their thoughts on the same thing.

Now, being as we were told at the outset, ‘a nice old grandma’, she invites them in to sample her pie, but only on one condition. They have to share.

I wonder if they can …

With a rhyming text that’s a treat to read aloud – especially with that oft repeated ‘oh me, oh my!’ refrain to join in with – and delectable illustrations full of wonderful details to linger over, Jan Fearnley has cooked up a delicious tale that’s destined to become a story time favourite.

The Very Hungry Hedgehog

The Very Hungry Hedgehog
Rosie Wellesley
Pavilion Children’s Books

Isaac the hedgehog returns in a third story – a springtime adventure this time.

The spiky little creature is summarily awoken from his long winter sleep by Starling, but the greedy bird then refuses to share her breakfast worm. “Bad hair day for hedgehog!” laughs the bird before flying off leaving Isaac’s feelings somewhat dampened. Fine friend she is, he thinks to himself but a very hungry Isaac decides to search for his own food. Unknowingly he has a follower as he encounters other non-sharers – first it’s gluttonous Toad – a real tease of a creature.

Next comes a heron that snatches a fat, juicy slug right out of Isaac’s paws and flies off with it

leaving an even hungrier Isaac rueing the day he left that cosy winter bed of his, until he catches sight of some real signs that Spring has arrived, signalling to him a wealth of food for all to share.

He very nearly doesn’t get his share though for, were it not for his quick thinking and his prickles, Isaac himself would have become the next snack for the fox that’s been trailing him all the while.

Even after a very near miss, the kindly little animal is willing to adopt a benevolent attitude about the abundance of food that’s all around for all the creatures to share.

Enchantingly told and vividly portrayed, Rosie Wellesley’s latest story offers young listeners a gentle sharing message and some wonderful scenes of animals in the natural world.

Here are Nina and her parents sharing the story, mum reading the main text and dad supplying the voices

 

The Carnivorous Crocodile

The Carnivorous Crocodile
Jonnie Wild and Brita Granström
Otter-Barry Books

What would you do if you were a thirsty creature desperate for a cooling drink from the waterhole, but the animals warned you of a carnivorous crocodile lurking within and claiming ownership of its waters? Probably you’d stay safely on the bank, but that is not what the five flamingos do.
We’re not frightened of a silly old croc,” is their response on hearing about the likelihood of being crunched by said croc. as they sally forth into the water.

As expected the resident crocodile happens along, jaws agaping and threatening, “I’m a carnivorous crocodile who crunches creatures like you. And this is MY waterhole.
Did those flamingos flinch or show any other signs of fear? Oh no; instead they responded thus: “We are flamingos. WE are pink and beautiful. And WE are NOT FOR EATING! If you eat us, you will have horrible hiccups!
This possibility does not appeal to the crocodile and off it swims.

Heartened by this display of bravado, and encouragement to “Be brave”, three giraffes gingerly enter the water. Before you can say ‘snap’ who should be there repeating his threat but that crocodile, only to be greeted by the same “We are flamingos …” mantra and amazingly off swims the jaw snapper.
Next comes a family of monkeys and off we go again.

This time though the crocodile is a tad suspicious but he swims off nonetheless.

Two eager elephants march confidently forwards and they too claim to be flamingos – pink and beautiful.
The crocodile may not fall for this subterfuge again but he’s certainly in for a surprise, for elephants have other, shall we say, more weighty characteristics …

This learning to share story certainly appeals to children’s (and adults’) sense of the ridiculous; and readers aloud will relish the opportunity to ham it up – certainly this reviewer did. Debut author Jonnie Wild, is passionate about environmental issues and is donating his royalties to charities supporting African wildlife conservation.

Brita Granström’s scenes of the various animals shape-shifting attempting to emulate the flamingo pose and take on the flamingo characteristics are highly inventive and delightfully droll; even the elephants make a brave attempt.

A highly successful collaboration and a great book to share; don’t forget to check out the information on some of the animals and conservation on the final page.

Emmanuelle engrossed in the antics of the animals

The Last Chip

The Last Chip
Duncan Beedie
Templar Publishing

In the light of the recent controversy over rough sleepers in a certain royal wedding town and my concern and distress at the increased number of rough sleepers I observed in Bristol the other day, Duncan Beedie’s latest picture book particularly resonated with me. Actually, the book is set in Bristol and it’s subtitled ‘The Story of a Very Hungry Pigeon’.

Percy is the pigeon’s name and his life on the streets is a tough one. Percy’s patch is the railway station and it’s here that the hungry creature heads at the start of each day in the hope of picking up a few tidbits dropped by commuters.
On one particular morning though, a gang of voracious pigeons has beaten Percy to it. He’s shoved out of the way and ends up with not so much as a single crumb.

With a rumbling tummy, Percy decides to try his luck at the park and off he flies …

only to discover that he’s no match for the greedy ducks that consume everything that’s tossed their way. They certainly have no intention of sharing, so Percy heads to the seaside.
Here too though, he’s insulted and also physically abused by a resident avian, one giant seagull.

In despair, a very weak Percy heads back from whence he came; but dizziness overtakes him and he crash lands onto the city pavement amidst the melee of homeward bound commuters. Dazed and hungry, suddenly, he hears a voice offering him something very special: “Would you like my last chip?

There’s one spot on a street in Bristol that is a whole lot less tough on that particular night.

From his debut, The Bear Who Stared, Duncan Beedie has gone from strength to strength and it’s great to know that 10% of UK profits from sales of this new book will go to The Trussell Trust, which runs some 425 food banks across the UK.
Beadie’s message is a powerful one but he delivers it with a gentle humour and without a hint of preachiness. From his cover illustration, my heart went out to Percy; and the greedy birds, be they pigeons, ducks or that giant seagull, are deliciously nasty characters.
A thought-provoking story that deserves to be shared and discussed widely.

Lionel and the Lion’s Share

Lionel and the Lion’s Share
Lou Peacock and Lisa Sheenan
Nosy Crow

Lionel is a lion with sharing a problem – a big one; in fact he does NOT like to share at all. More than that, he’ll go out of his way to prevent one of the other animals from having something they really want.

On Monday he’s in the music shop choosing himself an instrument and is certainly spoilt for choice. Elsa elephant is also shopping there and has set her heart on the shiny tambourine when who should snatch it from her grasp to add to the drum and tuba he’s already clutching but greedy Lionel.

A similar thing happens on Tuesday in the hat shop. Lionel needs but a single hat but has already purchased ten when he notices Benji eyeing up the banana titfa. No prizes for guessing who grabs that one for himself too …

And so it goes on: Wednesday sees him disappointing Rosie rabbit and on Thursday at Chloe’s party …

he scoffs the entire cake., again claiming it only right he gets’ “the lion’s share.” Cries of ‘I wish you would share’ are now replaced with a chorus of “we wish you would share.
This time however, with Chloe in tears, the other animals have had enough of Lionel’s greed and tell him what they think of him in no uncertain terms.

It’s a furious lion that stomps off home but by the time he reaches there, he has come to a very important realisation: it’s time to make amends …
Can Lionel save the day after all?

With opportunities for joining in with the “That’s not fair, Lionel” protestation of the other animals and his “But I’m a lion … and I get the lion’s share” responses, this is a great book to share and discuss with young children.
Lisa Sheenan’s scenes of greed and disappointment capture the animals’ feelings beautifully and each spread offers plenty to interest and explore.

Ellena enjoying the story.

Blue Monster Wants It All!

Blue Monster Wants It All!
Jeanne Willis and Jenni Desmond
Little Tiger Press

We live in a throwaway, consumer society where the desire for the new, and the notion that the next thing is always better, tend to prevail.
Jeanne Willis and Jenni Desmond have created a timely and eloquent picture book fable that demonstrates the folly of this thinking.
Meet Blue Monster, thoroughly indulged by his parents the never satisfied creature discards them and his new sibling, and takes off with all his money to begin life anew. However although he’s left behind his old life, he’s taken his acquisitive habits with him.

But new hats, cars, luxury palaces, an aeroplane, and a tropical island with amazing animals no less, fail to satisfy.

Even the sunshine itself cannot bring him happiness.
It’s not until he finds himself surrounded by darkness that somehow, in his abject misery, Blue Monster finally realises what he needs for true contentment and well-being. But is it too late?

Jenni Desmond adeptly portrays the monster and his constantly changing moods and emotions – his tantrums, his decadence, his dissatisfaction and his supreme sadness, all of which are part and parcel of Jeanne Willis’ thought-provoking text.
Although we know that the creature has brought in all on himself, you cannot help but be moved by the sight of him in his desolation.
What is most important to you, the latest smartphone or tablet, a brand new car or the love of your family and friends?
Perhaps it takes a powerful picture book such as this, which has as much to say to adults as to children, to make us all stop and think?

The Squirrels Who Squabbled

The Squirrels Who Squabbled
Rachel Bright and Jim Field
Orchard Books

From the duo who gave us The Lion Inside and The Koala Who Could comes another winning story, this time featuring two greedy squirrels one of which has done the unthinkable –failed to collect food for his store – and consequently, with winter fast approaching, his cupboard is completely empty: that’s Spontaneous Cyril who lives his life firmly in the here and now.

Squirrel number two is ‘Plan-Ahead Bruce’. He’s a wily one and has already amassed a huge stockpile of goodies.
By the time Cyril realises his partying habits have put him in a bit of a plight, all that appears to be left is a single pine-cone. This potentially fruitful object might just save him from starvation but he’s not the only one with his eye on the main chance. Bruce too has set his sights on one final addition to his stash.

With this potential treat delicately lodged in the twist of a branch and two would-be gatherers scurrying madly up the tree trunk, things are not set to go well and before you can say ‘slow down’ the cone is dislodged from its niche in the spruce and has gone tumbling down the hill with the two adversaries in hot pursuit through the forest.

What follows is an out and out scrimmage between Cyril and Bruce over a single treasure, that must surely end badly, as the object of their desires cascades into the water and well, I won’t say where it ends up for fear of being a story-spoiler.

This is truly a cracking book, delivered through Rachel’s perfectly paced rhyming narrative that like the cone, bounces over the pages with increasing speed, accompanied by Jim Field’s deliciously detailed illustrations executed in a softly glowing autumnal palette, and absolutely wonderful characters – not only the main ones but the bit part players too.
A truly delicious read aloud no matter what the time of year, especially with its themes of the importance of friendship and the folly of petty fights.

Snowboy and the Last Tree Standing

Snowboy and the Last Tree Standing
Hiawyn Oram and Birgitta Sif
Walker Books

Snowboy likes to spend his time playing imaginative games with his animal companions. Greenbackboy is riddled with greed. He persuades Snowboy to join him in a ‘better game’ he calls KA-CHING. The game entails cutting down all the forest trees in return for KA-CHING, which seemingly, can be used to get anything they want. With one tree left standing however, the enormity of what they’ve done strikes Snowboy and with the aid of his Cloak of Many Uses, he manages to hide the last tree.
Not satisfied with his ill-gotten gains, Greenbackboy drags his reluctant fellow player off to the oceans, their next target for exploitation.
With all the fish netted Snowboy again has second thoughts and manages to release two of their catch overboard, unnoticed by his companion.

But strongboxes filled with KA-CHING and mountains of tinned fish give no protection from the ravages of a storm that brews up, sweeping the tinned fish into the empty ocean to go to waste.
Snowboy has had enough.

Leaving Greenbackboy with his treasure, he, his Ice Troupers and Polar Bear King trek back across the wasted land, finally reaching that last tree.
Could it just be that with tender loving care, the tree can become their saviour?

Hiawyn Oram’s unusual story has a powerful ecological message: a fable about greed and exploitation of natural resources, it’s a timely reminder of what is happening to our planet.
Birgitta Sif’s beautiful illustrations have a muted luminescence and bring a touch of quirkiness to what is essentially a dark tale.

Mine! / Thousand Star Hotel

Mine!
Jeff Mack
Chronicle Books
It’s amazing how by using the same word 27 times, Mack can concoct a hilarious tale on ownership with a terrific final twist to boot.
Two mice in turn stake a claim for a substantial-looking rock and then a battle of brain and brawn involving a chunk of cheese, a gift-wrapped parcel,

a pile of rocks and a couple of vehicles ensues over which of them it belongs to. Seemingly this isn’t a conflict easily settled: things escalate …

until with both mice on the point of self-combustion the rock makes a startling revelation and the pals realise what a massive mistake they’ve made.
Wrapped up in this hilarious encounter are important messages about acquisitiveness and possibilities of sharing. Seemingly though as the story concludes, these lessons are yet to be learned by the protagonists herein.
Mack uses lettering the colour of which matches that of the mouse making the utterance to help orchestrate his parable and in addition to being a perfect book for beginner readers (preferably after a demonstration) this is a gift for anyone wanting to demonstrate how to tell a story to a group: inflection and intonation rule!

Thousand Star Hotel
The Okee Dokee Brothers and Brandon Reese
Sterling Children’s Books
The award winning musical duo give a new slant to the Fisherman and His Wife folktale using two riverside dwellers, Mr and Mrs Muskrat. Their life is simple: their dwelling a far from perfect cabin; their diet largely fish in one form or another. One day while out in their boat, Mr Muskrat feels an enormous pull on his line and after a considerable amount of STRUGGLIN’, TUGGLIN’, YANKIN’, and CRANKIN’, they successfully haul out a massive golden catfish. This is no ordinary fish: it’s a magical wish-giving one, and offers the couple a wish in exchange for its life.
Therein lies the rub: Mrs Muskrat is all for simple creature comforts – a hammer and nails to fix the roof, a new soup kettle, or perhaps, a cosy warm quilt. Mr Muskrat in contrast sets his sights rather higher; he wants a life of luxury.

And, he certainly expresses himself in no uncertain terms, getting a whole double spread to call each of his wishes to a halt midstream …

In fact all the dialogue and the rest of the telling is wonderful; and the final fun twist offers an important message. Brandon Reese’s exuberant illustrations of the characters in their wild woods setting have a cinematic quality.
Starlit filled dreams are assured if you share this one at bedtime. There’s a delightful CD with an audio telling and eleven funky songs tucked inside the front cover too.

I’ve signed the charter  

Monkey’s Sandwich

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Monkey’s Sandwich
Michelle Robinson and Emily Fox
Harper Collins Children’s Books
What is your favourite kind of sandwich? I think mine would have to be roast vegetables and hummus, or maybe goat’s cheese and tomato; it all depends in part on how I’m feeling. I certainly wouldn’t relish the crisps, Nutella, bhuja and banana variety one of my teenage friends loves to make for breakfast when home on holiday from her boarding school. Nor would I bother with butter, which is the first thing Monkey helps himself to when he visits still-sleeping Yak’s abode in search of something to fill his rumbling tum very early one morning before the shops are open.
Almost inevitably though, he deems plain old bread and butter boring so off he goes again, helping himself this time to a wedge of slumbering Mouse’s cheese – he does have the courtesy to leave him a “Thank You” note though.

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Monkey cannot quite stop himself from adding cucumber, custard and a whole lot of other tasty items to his stack

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Jellybeans, chocolate spread and mustard from Flamingo …

until his sandwich is positively towering but even then he just doesn’t seem satisfied. Who actually eats this monstrous repast though? That is the all-important question …

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Michelle Robinson and Emily Fox have assuredly concocted an offering to be relished with their toothsome tale of monkey’s mischievous marauding. Michelle’s text is a treat to get your tongue around and Emily’s comical scenes of the cheeky creature helping himself to all those tidbits are to be sure, saporous.
I suspect, like me, you’ll have your audience calling for second and third helpings after a sharing of this one.

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My Bunny’s Chocolate Factory

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Mr Bunny’s Chocolate Factory
Elys Dolan
Oxford University Press
Elys Dolan follows her wonderful Doughnut of Doom with another confection-related picture book.
Imagine being force fed chocolate; that’s the fate of the chickens that work in Mr Bunny’s chocolate-egg making factory pressing the chocolate into bars, eating the chocolate bars, squeezing out chocolate eggs, wrapping and packing same. Mr Bunny has his own special secret recipe and to ensure perfection he also employs a quality control unicorn named Edgar.
Like many successful entrepreneurs Mr B. is greedy …

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hence the force-feeding, to ‘crank up egg production to the max’ – no breaks, cancelled holidays even, the latter as a result of a plethora of bad eggs being discovered by Edgar.

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Finally the chickens revolt. They down tools: a strike is declared.

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Can Mr Bunny and Edgar run the factory by themselves? What has happened to missing worker, Debbie? And, can change happen, or will the boss remain a ‘bad egg’ evermore?
Elys Dolan has, yet again, created a picture book full of comic scenarios that are absolutely brimming over with rib-tickling detail. There is just SO much to giggle over and explore on every spread, not least the wonderful speech bubbles emanating from her superb cast of characters.
All in all, a stonkingly good picture book upon which to feast your eyes and ears.

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The Greedy Goat

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The Greedy Goat
Petr Horáček
Walker Books
What a tremendous treat of an extended joke of a book this is. I thought at first that the particular Goat in question must have an extraordinarily strong constitution as she gobbles up dog’s food for her breakfast, washed down with slurps of the cat’s milk; this is followed by a veritable 3-course lunch: pig’s potato peelings for starters, the farmer’s wife’s plant as entrée and his daughter’s shoe for dessert. And her supper – can you believe it- is this …

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It should come as no surprise then that after a whole day’s experimental gormandising our heroine starts to feel its effects.

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Moreover, the farmer’s family too have noticed the absence of their things and the guzzler seems to have absented herself too. Come Sunday, she looks thus:

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It takes a whole week for our experimental eater to get back to her usual self: but that still leaves one small girl in need of new footwear and the farmer short of his boxers. They never do turn up – well maybe they do but let’s not go there! And the goat? Is she now a reformed vegetarian, never to stray from her herbivorous diet again? Umm … who wants to ruin your dessert? The proof of the pudding is in the reading …
Petr Horáček has served up a truly flavoursome cautionary tale with spicy ingredients: a piquant main player, supported by a copacetic cast and – as ever – delectable mixed media illustrations that will be relished by children (who may well try their hand at some of his techniques) and the adults who serve up this treat to them.

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Imelda & the Goblin King

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Imelda & the Goblin King
Briony May Smith
Flying Eye Books
Imelda lives next to a wood, but this wood is a magical one populated by fairy folk and their fairy queen. It’s a place of peace and harmony and Imelda loves to spend her days frolicking with, and learning from, the fairy folk.

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Then one day into this life of tranquility bursts a foul-tempered Goblin King and his green goblin horde. His manners are appalling, despite the fairy queen’s best efforts …

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and he has the effrontery, after gobbling up the whole solstice feast, to seize his host and imprison her in a cage.
The other fairies call upon Imelda’s help and together they cook up a clever plan that offers the greedy goblin king one final chance …

 

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The happily ever after finale isn’t quite the one you might expect, or perhaps it is, given that pretty much everything about this cracking book is delightfully idiosyncratic, not least the manner in which the anti-hero becomes the agent of his own downfall,

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an outcome which had my young audiences cheering in appreciation.
What a dazzling cast of characters: Imelda, the heroine, is an unflappable young miss, the epitome of all that’s good but still not afraid to turn her hand to a spot of subtle trickery to further a worthy cause; the Fairy Queen with her rosy cheeks and flowing golden hair certainly isn’t always as soft and sweet as she looks …

 

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and as for that Goblin King, he’s a pretty terrifying-looking bullying beast unlikely to worm his way into anyone’s affections.
And every single fairy has its own distinctive appearance – there’s even a blue one that looks like a mini Martian and the goblins, they pretty much resemble their king though they look a lot less threatening at least some of the time. Add to all those, a scattering of dragonflies, butterflies, birds, and other creatures and you have a veritable visual fest.
With a compelling narrative that doesn’t pander to whimsy and has just a tiny frisson of fear, this enchanting book is like nothing else I’ve encountered in the fairy tale genre of late.
Cracking stuff.

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