There’s an Alien In Your Book

There’s an Alien in Your Book
Tom Fletcher and Greg Abbott
Puffin Books

Just out in paperback is the latest in the series wherein different characters invade a book and the book itself becomes part and parcel of the story-telling device.

The Fletcher/Abbott team were on to a good thing when they created that monster a couple of years back. Now in the fourth interactive extravaganza it’s the turn of a little alien and it arrives on account of its spaceship crash-landing on the first page in a cloud of smoke.

With the spacecraft appearing to be broken beyond repair, it’s up to us (adult and child together) to try and get the little creature back home where he belongs – but how?

Certainly not by pulling a scary face – that only serves to make him sob and need some TLC. Instead we can jiggle and wriggle the book in various directions

and if that isn’t successful, maybe try imagining various earth animals so our visitor knows he doesn’t belong.

Or is there perhaps an alternative solution altogether?

With bright, zany illustrations from Gregg Abbott, its themes of difference, acceptance and friendship,

this fun book is a great share with an important message that is never too early for little ones to begin to think about.

Where Happiness Lives / One Day So Many Ways

Where Happiness Lives
Barry Timms and Greg Abbott
Little Tiger

What is your idea of a perfect house; perhaps it’s similar to one of the three we visit courtesy of their mouse owners each of which thinks they have the perfect home, to begin with that is.

First off we visit Grey Mouse’s residence: it’s just the right size for him and his family and it’s built in the shade of a wonderful oak tree. In short, it’s just perfect.


But then out walking one day, he comes upon an impressive-looking residence with a balcony belonging to White Mouse. What more could any mouse want, thinks Grey Mouse. But he’s soon to find out, for his new acquaintance too has his sights set on a bigger, better residence.

Together the two set off to climb the mountain whereon this amazing place is to be found. Herein lives Brown Mouse who is quick to invite her visitors in for a guided tour of her luxurious home.

A surprise is in store though, for Brown Mouse has a telescope and what she shows her visitors through its lens causes them to stop and rethink the whole notion of home and contentment.

Greg Abbott’s mice are truly enchanting and there’s a plethora of cutaways and flaps to explore and delight little ones in the splendid illustrations that accompany Barry Timms’ engaging, gentle rhyming narrative.

One Day So Many Ways
Laura Hall and Loris Lora
Lincoln Children’s Books

None of us adults spends their day in exactly the same way and so it is with children and the latter is the focus of Laura Hall and Loris Lora’s splendidly diverse close up on the lives of some 40 children from different parts of the world over 24 hours. Readers will be able to compare and contrast as they follow the youngsters as they wake up in their various homes, have breakfast and go to school.

We watch them as they learn, play, get together with friends, enjoy quiet times;

eat lunch, engage in sports, participate in creative activities and more.

After school there’s the inevitable homework for many; but there’s also time to spend with the family; time to read, to sleep and to dream.

Every spread in this lightning world tour focuses on a different aspect of the day with bright engaging artwork and brief descriptions. It’s a great book for opening up discussion among primary children and enormous fun to pore over particularly with another person.
Good to have on a family bookshelf or in your classroom library; either way it’s engaging and delivered with style.

Halloween Briefing: Monsters Galore and a Witch or two

There’s a Monster in Your Book
Tom Fletcher and Greg Abbott
Puffin Books
Here we have one of those interactive picture books that are in vogue at the moment and it comes from the co-writer of The Dinosaur That Pooped series.
The book is invaded by a rather cute-looking little monster that seems intent on wrecking the whole thing. ‘Let’s try to get him out,’ suggests the narrator which is clearly a good idea.
Readers are then asked to shake, tickle, blow, tilt left, then right, wiggle and spin the book, turning the page after each instruction. All the while the monster lurches this way and that around a plain background looking far from delighted at the treatment being meted out to him.
None of this succeeds in dislodging the creature but he’s definitely feeling dizzy so loud noises come next; then even louder ones.

This works but ‘Now he’s in your room!’ That’s even worse than being contained within the pages, at least from the reader’s viewpoint, so now the idea is to gently coax him back into the book. There he can stay while receiving some tender head stroking and a soft ‘goodnight’ until he falls fast asleep. Ahh!
With Greg Abbott’s cute, rather than scary monster, this is a fun book to share with pre-schoolers particularly just before their own shut-eye time; all that shaking and shouting will likely tire them out making them feel just like this.


Ten Creepy Monsters
Carey F. Armstrong-Ellis
Abrams Books for Young Readers
Here’s a gigglesome twist on the nursery countdown featuring a mummy, a witch, a ghost, a werewolf, a vampire and others who, having gathered ‘neath a gnarled pine’ begin to disappear until only one remains. But what sort of creepy monster is that? Be prepared for a surprise.
Trick or treaters, if mock scary ghastly ghouls are your Halloween thing then look no further than this gently humorous, little paperback offering.

Scary Hairy Party!
Claire Freedman and Sue Hendra
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Monster’s having a party; it’s at 3 o’clock and all her friends are invited. Fortunately they’ve just got time to nip into Raymond’s salon for a hairdo first.
Seemingly Raymond’s not on top form however, as one after another receives a style disaster.

What on earth is Monster going to say when she sets eyes on her pals with their new make-overs?
Light-hearted rhyming fun illustrated with crazy, brighter than bright scenes of barnet mayhem: just right for those youngsters who like their Halloween stories to be on the silly, rather than the spooky side.

The Pomegranate Witch
Denise Doyen and Eliza Wheeler
Chronicle Books
A deft rhyming text, imbued with spookiness and replete with rich language, tells a tale of how five children desperate for a pomegranate from the witch’s tree, and armed with all manner of unlikely implements, do battle with its owner to get their hands on a tasty treat from its branches. A veritable Pomegranate War is waged …

until finally, one of children succeeds in bagging the object of their desires and they each have a share of the spoils.
The following day, Halloween, a Kindly Lady (the witch’s sister) appears to offer cider and a celebratory surprise fruit to all the town’s children: ‘And not one child wondered who was who, or which was which. / The shy old Kindly Lady or the Pomegranate Witch.’
Surely they couldn’t be one and the same – or could they?
Not for the very youngest listeners but a fun read aloud for KS1 audiences. As your listeners savour Denise Doyen’s story, make sure you allow plenty of time to enjoy Eiiza Wheeler’s delightfully quirky ink and watercolour illustrations.

For older solo readers:

Witch Snitch
Sibéal Pounder, illustrated by Laura Ellen Andersen
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
The (Witch Wars) Sinkville witches are preparing for Witchoween and it’s the first Tiga will experience. This is especially exciting as Peggy has asked her and Fran to make a documentary about the town’s most famous witches. With Fluffanora acting as fashion adviser, what more could she ask?
This book with its numerous activities, facts and character information as part and parcel of the narrative, is sure to make you giggle. So too will Laura Ellen Andersen’s line drawings.

Everybody’s Welcome

Everybody’s Welcome
Patricia Hegarty and Greg Abbott
Caterpillar Books
In our increasingly troubled times, picture books such as this, with its strong inclusivity message, are more important than ever.
It came about as the result of a strong desire on the part of Tom Truong of Caterpillar Books in reaction to the shattering news that the UK had voted to leave the EU, to produce a book for parents like himself to share with young children that embodied ‘ideals of refuge, inclusivity and friendship’.
Currently living in Stroud, a town that since the Syrian crisis, has adopted the catchphrase ‘Everyone welcome in Stroud’ I felt immediately drawn to this poignant, political tale of empathy, acceptance and collaboration.
We start the story with mouse standing in a forest clearing, dreaming of building ‘a great big happy house’.

It’s not long before mouse is joined by a frog who has lost his pond and has nowhere to go. Together they start constructing and before long are joined by some runaway rabbits fleeing from an eagle; they are only too willing to help with the project. Next to come is a misunderstood brown bear; he has much to offer the enterprise and is welcomed with open arms.

Building continues apace with more and more animals coming to join in and a spirit of co-operation rules throughout.
What this allegorical rhyming story shows so clearly is that despite superficial differences, we all have much to offer one another. With open arms, open minds and open hearts we can embrace our fellow humans in a spirit of co-operation and unity.

Greg Abbott’s animal illustrations, with his use of cut down pages, really do bring out both the woefulness of the displaced animals, and the spirit of collaborative bonhomie as each one is welcomed, accepted and a new open community is formed.

A thoughtful Emmanuelle whose final comment on Everybody’s Welcome was  “We all need to be kind.”

I’ve signed the charter  

Naughty Naughty Monster


Naughty Naughty Monster
Kaye Umansky and Greg Abbott
Templar Publishing
This is utterly delicious: from the moment I set eyes on that monster grinning at me from the book’s cover I was ensnared. The thing is though, he’s – as we’re told from the outset – a monster of the naughty naughty kind. Forget kind – he’s the one and only Naughty Naughty Monster and he has the woodland creatures shivering and shaking in their holes when he’s peckish and on the rampage. Not so one particular Fairy however –


looks pretty sweet I agree, but not when she’s riled and she is – on account of the NNM. “I am sending you straight back home again./ Be off! Back to your cave!/ And don’t you dare come out/ Until you’ve learned how to behave.” she tells him. This instruction, the NNM ignores completely and continues rampaging, through the farmyard causing terror therein until the Fairy arrives on the scene. She calms the frenzied animals but not the NNM who ignores her “… back into your cave until you learn to be polite” order and proceeds down the street, alarming , nay terrorising, the children with his dustbin kicking and acting tough.


And that’s when the ‘goody-goody’ Fairy finally goes crazy. She sends him into his cave and blocks the entrance (and of course, the monster’s exit) with ‘a great big, heavy stone’ leaving him to stew  and ponder on his wicked ways, for try as he might, no matter how hard he shoves and thumps, the NNM cannot shift the stone, not one little bit. Is that a tiny tear I spy being shed by the creature here …


Days pass, a lot of thinking gets done and finally the Monster sees the error of his ways, grabs pen and paper and writes …


A helpful bird delivers the letter, the Fairy – now happy – reads it, considers, has doubts but decides one more chance is the order of the day. The NNM is released from his solitary confinement and … ‘The Naughty Naughty Monster went rampaging through the wood … ‘


Surely after all that, the Fairy wasn’t wrong in letting him out, was she?
Kaye Umansky’s rhyming text simply rocks: it’s perfectly paced, marvellously mischievous and reads aloud like a dream. In combination with newcomer Greg Abbott’s superb scenes of mischief, mayhem and a winsome monster, the result is pure picture book pleasure.

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