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.