Some Recent Young Fiction

Sophie’s Further Adventures
Dick King-Smith, illustrated by Hannah Shaw
Walker Books

This is a new edition containing three books in one, so it’s a bumper bundle of stories about the adorable, animal-mad little Sophie. I remember children in my early days of teaching avidly lapping up the stories when she first appeared on the scene back as an uncompromising four-year old who discovered a snail that led to her passion for all things animal.

In these three adventures she visits the farm, learns to ride, and pays a visit to great Aunt Al in the Scottish Highlands.

I asked the opinion of precocious reader, 6 year old Emmanuelle, who quickly became absorbed in the book. She commented that she particularly loved reading about Sophie riding Bumblebee the pony and later drew a picture of her doing so. She also said it made her want to try horse riding herself.

Seemingly the determined Sophie, still has the capacity to delight especially with Hannah Shaw’s illustrations that give the stories a fresh, present day feel.

Here Comes Lolo
Hooray for Lolo

Niki Daly
Otter-Barry Books

These books are part of a mini series for new solo readers starring young Lolo, a sparky young character who lives with her Mama and Gogo (gran) in South Africa.

Both titles have four stories each being just the right length to consume in a single sitting.

In the first book Lolo wins a longed-for gold star for reading, loses it, then gives it away; acquires a much-wanted, rather large hat; finds a lost engagement ring in the street;

and reports a lost dog and in so-doing assists in the arrest of a thief.

Along the way, helped by Niki’s delightful line drawings, we discover much about Lolo’s family life, her school life, her friendships and interests.

In Hooray for Lolo, the friendship with best pal Lulu is threatened when Lolo thinks she hasn’t been invited to her birthday party; she becomes a member of the library and chooses her first picture book which subsequently goes missing; wakes up one day with tummy ache and ends up having an operation, and finally, discovers that baby-sitting Bongi is exhausting work.

Sparkly stories all, with lots of gentle humour that will win Lolo lots of friends among young readers who are sure to enjoy making the acquaintance of this enormously engaging girl.

Princess of Pets: The Lost Puppy
Paula Harrison, illustrated by Olivia Chin Mueller
Nosy Crow

When Princess Bea discovers a puppy in the fountain of the palace grounds, she knows that she’ll have to find it somewhere else to live for it’s against her father’s rules to have pets in their home. But with frantic preparations for the evening’s banquet under way, not to mention the deportment lessons she’s supposed to be having, keeping a lively puppy hidden at Ruby Palace in the meantime is a huge challenge.

Then there’s the matter of the threat to the café belonging to her best friend Keira’s parents, that, so she discovers over dinner, her father’s guests, are planning to demolish to make way for the mansion they intend to build. Bea is determined to thwart that plan.

Can she achieve both goals? Possibly, with her kind heart and strong resolve, together with help from her best pal and perhaps some special spring rolls from the café.

Fans of the Princess series will likely devour this addition to the series at a single sitting.

Bear on a Bike

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Bear on a Bike
Hannah Shaw
Alison Green Books
Meet Bear, an immediately engaging character who has made a scrummy-looking cake for his pal Mouse. But, on arrival at Mouse’s house, he discovers that said friend has already departed, zooming off on his trusty motor scooter. Thus ensues an amazing chase with Bear in hot pursuit having quickly abandoned his bike, bagging rides on all manner of vehicles: a lorry, a bus, a trolley,

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a skateboard, a train,

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a canoe, a crane even. This one deposits our ursine hero onto a steamboat and he then moves to a campervan, a tuk-tuk, (love it!)

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a stately sedan, skis, a biplane, and finally, a parachute that drops him unceremoniously into the welcoming arms – almost – of …

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And you might guess where the meeting takes place.
This one is fab. Totally brilliant. Especially the fact that all the while during the chase, Bear has Mouse in his sights and oh, so nearly within his grasp.
And, even better, it has all the vital elements for beginning readers and some: a hugely enjoyable story, great characters, text perfectly matched to hugely humorous, story-telling pictures (these are visually cumulative in places and every one is a potential starting point for children’s own flights of fancy,) rhyme and rhythm, speech bubbles, signs – great to see a bookshop among them and more…
With its circular structure what more can any one ask?
I have been thinking for some while about re-doing elements of Learning to Read with Picture Books (that I penned as a fledgling teacher) as a weblog. This will be among my very first recommendations thereon.

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Unlikely Criminals

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The World-Famous Cheese Shop Break-In
Sean Taylor and Hannah Shaw
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Situated between the Greengrocer’s and an underwear boutique is The Cheese Shop.

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This entirely bonkers story featuring Daddypops, a paternal rat is narrated by one of his offspring and relates how this father-figure involves his family of mischievous rodent children in a plot to break into the Cheese Shop and steal its tasty wares. Several failed attempts later, there is a complete change of plan: tunneling is the order of the day but this too proves rather more challenging than anticipated …

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Worse is to come though – when the ratty robbers finally resurface, they discover that they’ve actually burrowed into the shop next door: the Fancy Pants Boutique.

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And then, it’s a case of ‘If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.’ Daddypops becomes the proud vendor of stylish underwear for his fellow rodents…
The sight of those rats with their carrier bags of new undergarments is a real giggle maker,

 

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as are many of the other tasty visual tidbits proffered by Hannah Shaw.
Only Sean Taylor would think of calling a young rat robber Shanice; that’s just one of his crazy verbal details and, as Daddypops’ daughter rightly says “What a cheesy ending.” Tee hee! Delicious endpapers too.

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Molly Maybe’s Monsters: The Dappity-Doofer
Kristina Stephenson
Simon & Schuster
Meet Molly Maybe and her dog, Waggy Burns residents of a sleepy little place called Smallsbury. We first encounter them as they peer out at their neighbour Mr Bottomly who seems to have discovered something unexpected while digging a pond in his garden.

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Thus begins a strange adventure for Molly and Waggy courtesy of their amazing contraption called The Mundervator. This secret contraption conveys them from their treehouse, deep down beneath Smallsbury to the magical monster world of Undermunder where they see this …

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Off they head (guided by Waggy’s Walkie-Talkie collar) to the town square where there are monsters in abundance awaiting the appearance of their leader the Monster Meister. This creature informs the crowd of the loss of The Mydol Idol from its plinth. Shock horror! Banishment of the thief will result unless the precious mascot is back in its place on the stroke of midnight. But which of the throng is responsible?

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It looks like it’s down to Molly and Waggy to solve the mystery of the missing statue and the holes in Mr Bottomly’s lawn …
With its pair of adventure seekers, a whole host of mock-scary monsters inhabiting a subterranean world, and a magical machine to connect one to the other, I suspect Kristina Stephenson has concocted a recipe for another successful series.

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