Kitty and the Twilight Trouble / Mirabelle Breaks the Rules

Oxford Children’s books do some cracking series for new solo readers: here are the latest books in two of those – thanks to OUP for sending for review: 

Kitty and the Twilight Trouble
Paula Harrison, illustrated by Jenny Lovlie

This is young Kitty’s sixth adventure and as the story opens she’s super excited at the thought of visiting the funfair with her cat crew. One of the crew, Pixie is super excited too for she has a cat new friend, Hazel. An introduction is arranged with Kitty for that night but it’s Figaro that turns up with a message from Pixie and Hazel, the latter claiming that she’s a Cat Superhero with her own special powers and important work to do.

It’s a rather dispirited Kitty who looks through her bedroom window into the velvety, moonlit sky contemplating the funfair. Suddenly into view come two cats skipping across the rooftop sporting matching scarves, and Kitty’s encounter with them leaves her feeling even less upbeat.

The following afternoon though, her parents keep their promise and take her to the funfair but once there, what should she see but Pixie and Hazel. As she watches them Kitty sees not superhero behaviour but feline foolishness and nastiness. Suddenly however, Kitty has other important things to attend to. Figaro reports that he’s seen a nest of baby birds that are in great danger. Guess who almost sabotages the entire rescue effort?

But that isn’t all, for back in bed that night Kitty receives another urgent message from Figaro. The supposed feline superheroes are stranded. Now it’s up to Kitty to use her own superpowers.

Yet another magical nocturnal story from team Paula and Jenny that will enthral young new solo readers. There are a considerable number on my radar who eagerly await each new Kitty story.

The same is true of another young character, Mirabelle who is also delightfully different and stars in …

Mirabelle Breaks the Rules
Harriet Muncaster

Mirabelle, cousin to Isadora Moon, is half witch and half fairy. and as a new term starts at Miss Spindlewick’s witch school, her parents are hoping to receive better reports than before.

Mirabelle’s best friend, Carlotta has brought her a present from her holiday abroad – a bottle of shimmery multi-coloured magic dust which Mirabelle puts into her pocket. The snag is that its label is printed in a different language.

As the first lesson gets under way, Mirabelle volunteers to collect the ingredients for a colour changing potion from the store cupboard; most of these too she puts into her pocket. The potion mixing gets under way but before long something very untoward starts happening in the cauldron the two friends are sharing. Pretty soon the entire room is in chaos. Uh-oh! trouble again for Mirabelle.

She does her upmost to stay on the right side of Miss Spindlewick right up to the last lesson of the day with happens to be some loop the loop practice in the forest. Looping the loop is one of Mirabelle’s favourite things to do and she can’t resist flying over, rather than under the trees per the rule. Could she be heading straight for another disaster …

Mirabelle is a character whose mischief is the result of her struggle with rule keeping, rather than wrong intentions. Her first person narration endears her to readers right from the start and Harriet’s portrayal of her in those purple and black illustrations ensures that she looks every bit as enchanting as she sounds.

Isadora Moon Goes to a Wedding

Isadora Moon Goes to a Wedding
Harriet Muncaster
Oxford University Press

Isabelle Moon the half fairy, half vampire child is mega-excited. Her Aunt Crystal is to be married and Isadora can hardly contain herself when she learns that she (along with little Honeyblossom, and cousin Mirabelle) will be bridesmaids. “A frosty and flowery wedding” so her mum tells her. Isadora’s excitement increases further when she tries on her bridesmaid’s dress. The siblings, thinks Mum, will be “the most wonderful vampire fairy bridesmaids that anyone’s ever seen.”

On the wedding morning (after a yummy pancake breakfast courtesy of Oscar) what should draw up outside the family residence but a fairy sledge – how else would they get to the winter fairy realm? And off they whizz … destination the Ice Hall.

There to greet them is mischievous cousin Mirabelle and her family.

After the marriage itself, the meal and speeches get under way and the youngsters grow increasingly bored, so Isadora’s mother suggests the cousins and Honeyblossom go off to the entrance hall and play. There Mirabelle spots the wedding cake

and that’s when the mischief starts (and the shrinking).
Now it’s down to Isadora to try and make sure that even if not everything goes exactly to plan, there’s a happy ending.

Fans (as well as those new to the smashing series) will relish this new story and love to try out some of the activities at the end of the book – a book made even more special with its silver edges and sparkly cover.

Victoria Stitch Bad and Glittering

Victoria Stitch Bad and Glittering
Harriet Muncaster
Oxford University Press

As the story starts, living alone in a small tree trunk, twin fairy-like beings ‘wisklings’, Celestine and Victoria should be princesses.

But the single royal diamond from which they were born is impure so their birthright is denied them.

The mild Celestine is accepting, but with her frenzied energy, Victoria Stitch as she likes to be called, is obsessed with becoming the next queen and very angry about the decision Lord Astrophel has made.

Between the twins there exists a fondness, but it’s maintained by a fragile thread that’s all too easily snapped. ”She took all the kindness and I got all the rage,” is how Victoria Stitch puts it.

Then Victoria encounters secret-loving Ursuline who needs a friend and offers to help in her unthwartable mission to become queen after Cassiopeia.

But will this new alliance prove to be a force for good or not? And what will happen after the twin’s graduation …

Any reader who fell for Isadora Moon and is ready for something a bit longer and rather darker, will surely love Harriet’s new gothic fantasy. The illustrations are simply divine especially as Victoria Stitch with her funky, pointy toed, heeled boots is a fashionista who loves to strut her stuff in melodramatic wiskling style as befits the superbly woven, absorbing narrative.

To enter Wiskling Wood is utter enchantment every step of the way; it’s hard to leave for whatever reason …

Mirabelle Gets up to Mischief / Leo’s Map of Monsters: The Armoured Goretusk

Young solo readers will be excited to discover the first titles in two new series from Oxford University Press

Mirabelle Gets up to Mischief
Harriet Muncaster

Meet Isadora Moon’s older cousin, the half fairy, half witch and absolutely adorable, Mirabelle Starspell.

It’s the day of the Midsummer Dance, highlight of the fairy year, and Mirabelle is under strict instructions from her (fairy) dad to keep her witch side firmly under control: potions, pointy hats and cauldrons must remain at home.

As she gets ready for the event, Mirabelle comes upon a couple of necklaces from each of which dangles a tiny potion bottle. No harm in putting something special in them and tucking them out of sight under her dress surely? After all, she’s not intending to use them.

But when Mirabelle meets up with Isadora the temptation to sneak off and experiment with the contents of those bottles proves irresistible for big cousin M.

Thank goodness for Seraphina Starspell – Mirabelle’s mum – who comes to her aid to prevent the entire evening being wrecked; and It’s a very penitent young Mirabelle who eventually comes down to earth right in front of her Dad.

Luckily for her, he understands the importance of his daughter being herself and comes up with the perfect way for Mirabelle to become a responsible speller.

New solo readers, especially the rule-benders among them, will love Mirabelle and her exploits, as well as the fact that she acts as narrator of her own magic doings illustrated in those uber-cool, purple and black illustrations of Harriet’s.

More mischievous magic will certainly be the order of the day.

Leo’s Map of Monsters: The Armoured Goretusk
Kris Humphrey, illustrated by Pete Williamson

It’s Leo Wilder’s ninth birthday and he’s been eagerly anticipating the letter telling him of his assignment. What he receives is an envelope marked TOP SECRET followed shortly after by a knock at the door.

It’s none other than Gilda the village chief who announces to Leo’s mother that she needs to ‘borrow’ her son.

Ordering him to remain silent, Gilda leads the boy out of the village and into the forest to a cabin. There he meets the village Guardian Henrik who tells him of the dangerous monsters lurking outside the village walls. Telling Leo that he too has Guardian work to do, Gilda leaves them together.

Henrik shows the boy the Map of Monsters with its different colour lights for the habitats of various kinds of monster. He also shows him the wound on his own leg made by an Armoured Goretusk and tells Leo that it’s not only the villagers but the monsters that it’s their job to keep safe.

There’s a secret at stake and it’s down, to Leo, armed with a pouch of stones and a slingshot, to turn the angry monster around in its tracks.

Can he succeed in his task? Perhaps, with some unexpected help …

And what will he decide about his future?

In addition to being gripped by Kris Humphrey’s story young solo readers will love the monstrous ‘zoological’ and ‘geological’ information at the back of the book, and be excited to learn this is just the first of Leo’s adventures.

Pete Williamson’s illustrations add further tension and sinister shivers to the telling.

Isadora Moon Goes on Holiday / Freddie’s Amazing Bakery: The Cookie Mystery

Welcome back to two terrific characters in new stories kindly sent, super speedily by Oxford University Press:

Isadora Moon Goes on Holiday
Harriet Muncaster

Isadora Moon enters a competition and is mega excited to learn that her picture has won a prize – a family holiday abroad.

Despite their initial reservations – the sticky heat, a plane flight the suitability of the hotel and more, her parents are finally packed and ready to embrace a new adventure.

Soon after their arrival Isadora, her mum and little Honeyblossom head for the beach, but during their first dip, Mum is concerned about the amount of rubbish people have thrown into the sea.

Next morning the whole family go on a boat trip and while demonstrating her underwater swimming skills Isadora encounters Marina, a friend she’d made when on a camping holiday. Now Marina too is holidaying with her family and she tells Isadora of the large amounts of rubbish they’ve discovered underwater.

The mermaid gives Isadora a conch shell to use as a communication device and later on she receives a call from Marina begging her to help in freeing a baby turtle that’s got stuck in a tangle of rubbish beneath the ocean.

Despite her parents’ warnings not to venture out again without telling them, Isadora, wand in hand creeps out into the moonlight and is soon diving beneath the waves on a rescue mission.

Even after successfully releasing the little creature, there’s a  huge task ahead of Isadora and for that she needs to enlist the help of her parents. Will they overlook this latest bit of disobedience in a far greater cause – saving our precious planet?

Telling and illustrating it with her usual sparkly magic and pizzazz Harriet Muncaster weaves into this latest story, important environmental messages about the horrors that we thoughtless humans cause the natural world.

Fans of the fangtastic fairy-vampire books will enthusiastically lap up this one, and will very likely espouse the cause of saving our planet too.

Freddie’s Amazing Bakery: The Cookie Mystery
Harriet Whitehorn, illustrated by Alex G. Griffiths

We’re back in Belville town where kind-hearted Freddie Bonbon has his bakery.

As the story opens it’s a lovely spring morning and Freddie is just about to leave on his delivery round leaving the bakery in the capable hands of Amira, his best friend and manager who is putting up a sign advertising for another baker. He’s heading for Van de Lune’s Hotel with a special delivery.

At the same time, the unscrupulous owner of Macaroon’s Patisserie, Bernard, is thinking super-bad thoughts about Freddie, intending to sample one of the  yummy confections he’s just stolen from Freddie and work out what it is therein that so delights everyone.

The following morning Freddie learns that Cookie, the superstar cat staying at Van de Lune’s has disappeared, presumed kidnapped. Can he, with the skills of his small dog, Flapjack succeed in solving the case of the vanishing feline?

The recipe of Harriet Whitehorn’s fun story with its highly satisfying ending, generous sprinkling of Alex’s superbly characterful black and white illustrations, posters, signs, and appropriate capitalisation of the text, plus a culinary glossary and instructions for baking delicious cookies, this is another yummy treat for junior fans of The Great British Bake Off.

Freddie is destined to win even more young book enthusiasts with this, his second mystery.

Seasonal Stories for Young Solo Readers

Isadora Moon Makes Winter Magic
Harriet Muncaster
Oxford University Press

In case you missed the hardback publication of this wintry wonder last year then grab it now; it’s perfect seasonal reading for new solo readers.
Full of sparkly magic and fab. pink and black illustrations of the half fairy, half vampire star of the show, her friends and family members, this is first chapter book bliss for a certain section of the population.

Isadora feels more than a tad disappointed not to have been invited to her friend Oliver’s ice-skating birthday party, something her parents notice once she’s back home.

To cheer her up Mum suggests inviting her snow fairy, Aunt Crystal, over instead. Isadora has terrific fun with Pink Rabbit playing in the snow and ice her aunt makes ; even more so when the adults go indoors and the snow boy she’s built and Pink Rabbit’s snow bunny come magically to life.

But as her mum tells her, “Magic can’t always last forever … even magic snow melts eventually.” Can the Snow Fairy Queen who lives in the Land of Ice and Snow help? It’s certainly worth finding out …

A charmer best enjoyed along with a cup of hot chocolate after which there are all the festive activities at the back to try.

More seasonal magic in another chapter book:

Winnie and Wilbur: The Santa Surprise
Laura Owen and Korky Paul
Oxford University Press

Picture book favourites Winnie the Witch and her forbearing feline, like countless others are eagerly anticipating Christmas. The excitement mounts as the Advent calendar is opened each day, but it’s presents that occupy their thoughts in the main and especially presents for Santa himself. “Proper presents that are more than a drinkie and squince pie?” wonders Winnie.

Before you can say, ‘Christmas stocking’ the two W’s are on the case. Perhaps the staff and pupils at the local primary school could help with suggestions for a perfect Santa pressie.

Then it’s off to the North Pole – brrrrrrr! Make sure you wear your fur-lined undies Winnie. But will they arrive in time to deliver his Santa-ness the gift of a lifetime and still reach home to celebrate the big day with all their friends?

Zany madness that’s full of the joys of the festive season.

The Pug who wanted to be a Reindeer
Bella Swift, illustrated by Nina Jones
Orchard Books

It’s December and a year since Peggy the pug found her forever home with the Jackson family. Now though the prospect of Christmas isn’t making Chloe feel at all cheerful and the rest of the family seem to be down in the dumps too.

When even the school Christmas fair fails to cheer Chloe up, Peggy resolves to become a reindeer. That way she could use some reindeer magic to make the person she loves most in the world feel happy again. It’s not quite as simple as she anticipates though – there’s the question of antlers for a start.

In the end Peggy decides she needs a new plan, one that involves going to the North Pole and enlisting the help of Santa himself. With less than a week to go before he leaves for his Christmas Eve delivery round there’s no time to lose.

Can Peggy possibly fix things so that not just Chloe but the entire Jackson family find their festive spirit in time for the big day?

Another warm and snuggly Peggy the Pug story about thinking of others at Christmas time.

Scoop McLaren Detective Editor / Isadora Moon Puts on a Show

Scoop McLaren Detective Editor
Helen Castles
New Frontier Publishing

This is the first of a proposed series featuring thirteen year old Scoop McLaren, editor of Click, an online newspaper. She resides in Higgedy Harbour a place where quite suddenly strange things start happening. Alarming for sure, but even more so is the fact that a brand new rival newspaper, The Dark Times, is reporting these events at exactly one minute past midnight every night.

Could its editor Sonny Fink be connected with all the disasters – the plague of frogs, the torrential rain that hits the town causing a flood, buildings being burned down, to mention just a few?
Scoop, along with her friend Evie, is determined to get to the bottom of things and restore peace and harmony to their hometown; the mayor seems totally disinterested and so it’s down to the two girls.

But just who is this mysterious and unscrupulous Sonny Fink character and is anyone else in town to be trusted to help them discover his identity?

Mixing straightforward narrative, news articles and text messages, this is an amusing, pacey tale that will definitely keep readers guessing as the plot twists and turns its way to the final exposé.

Isadora Moon Puts on a Show
Harriet Muncaster
Oxford University Press

In case you’ve yet to meet young Isadora Moon let me just say that her dad is a vampire and her mum a fairy. That makes Isadora unique – a vampire-fairy no less.

This story starts with the family getting excited about the annual vampire ball, even Isadora who is now old enough to attend. This year it’s going to be super special as it’s being held on the night of a blood moon and all the vampire children are to take part in a talent show. Isadora decides to do some ballet dancing and she has just two weeks to perfect her routine. “It’s going to be an amazing show!’ she tells Pink Rabbit as they snuggle up under the duvet that night.

But then she has a crisis of confidence, changes her mind about dancing and decides to go along with Dad’s tonsorial suggestion. Or does she?

When they get dressed for the ball, Isadora chooses to wear her tutu under her vampire cape. On arrival though she decides to pull out altogether: not going on stage at all. But then she sees a sad-looking little vampire girl who appears a bit different from the others and she in turn notices Isadora’s tutu.

The two begin to talk and Araminta, as the girl is called, reveals something about herself that makes them bond immediately.

An hour later the show is about to begin so Isadora goes to sit with the rest of her family. Will she stay there or could something amazing happen after all …

Let’s just say there’s a glittering surprise in store especially for mum who has told the organisers to delete her daughter’s name from the list of contestants.

As delightful as the black, white and pink illustrations, is the story’s denouement in the latest episode in the life of this zippy character. Her fans will love it! Sparkle with an injection of zesty pizzazz.