The Diddle That Dummed

The Diddle That Dummed
Kes Gray and Fred Blunt
Hodder Children’s Books

Oh my goodness, this book has given me the first really big laugh I’ve had since the lockdown, It’s utterly hilarious team Kes and Fred, and appealed most strongly to my sense of humour as well as to my divergent nature.

So let’s meet the cast: first is musician Flinty Bo Diddle who at the time our story starts is busy composing a tune to play upon his fiddle. Things go swimmingly at first with twenty nine diddles doing just as they ought but there has to be one doesn’t there, for the thirtieth note decides to make itself a dum.

How dare it – and half way through the tune at that.

A furious Flinty demands that the culprit confess. It does and the music starts up again with the dumming diddle consenting to another try. You can guess what happens with regard to Flinty,

and now all the other diddles turn on the dummer; the poor thing seems rather dumfounded but suggests being put first.

Diddles duly reshuffled, off they go again – err? Oops!

Maybe being placed as the final note might do the trick but …

What about changing the tune altogether suggests the dumming diddler. Flinty agrees though clearly a change of instrument is required.

The dums go well – for a while at least then …

Now those adults who happen to be teachers might recognise the sudden urge for a loo visit that is requested by our dear dumming diddle

especially as it precipitates a chain reaction.

The ending is beyond priceless and almost made my partner fall off his stool as I read it to him over coffee.

Brilliantly bonkers and a perfect antidote to lockdown blues.

Ready Rabbit?

Ready Rabbit?
Fiona Roberton
Hodder Children’s Books

Why is Rabbit hiding away inside a big box instead of getting ready to go to the party?

Seemingly the poor little creature is anything but keen on going; in fact he’s flatly refusing.

What’s needed is some gentle mind-changing persuasion and reassurance with regard to loud noise, the possibility of strange beasties lurking, as well as that no meanies will be present.

Best to focus on the exciting things that will be part and parcel of the party; things like friends,

yummy cake, games, dancing, balloons, presents and most important Rabbit’s favourite food.

Mind changed, now little Rabbit just needs to decide on what to wear and then outfit chosen,

off he goes.
The party proves to be all his encouraging adult (off scene) promised but now it appears that there’s another guest in need of a bit of encouragement …

Beautifully observed and portrayed, Fiona’s sweet story is delightful. It should go a long way towards showing anxious little ones how their big worries can disappear if like Rabbit, they practice positive thinking.

A winner for sure in every way.

Pests

Pests
Emer Stamp
Hodder Children’s Books

Having received a proof of this hilarious story from the publishers a little while ago, I was excited to see a finished copy of the book with its ‘glow in the dark’ cover drop through my letterbox.

Star of the show, Stix is a tiny mouse that lives with his ancient Grandma behind the washing machine of Flat 3, Peewit Mansions. The ’mans’ family – Schnookums, My Love and tiny Boo-Boo also live there along with their dog Trevor, the only one that knows anything about their flat-sharing mice.

The mice have survived thus far by sticking firmly to Grandma’s strict rules – number 3 being ‘never poop in places mans will see’. Breaking this rule would result in a visit from Nuke-a-Pest.

One night into this peaceable place of co-existence comes Maximus a nasty rat with his two hangers on Plague One and Plague Two. His arrival soon results in disaster of the discovery kind, which is followed speedily by Sheila, Emergency Response Exterminator who flushes Grandma down the loo.

At least her ‘dead’ pose was a success but it leaves Stix alone, well not quite alone for back on the scene comes the previously encountered Batz, student at the Peewit Educatorium for Seriously Terrible Scoundrels (aka PESTS).

Stix joins the basement school and finds himself learning a whole new set of rules as well as competing in the Pest of the Year competition, determined to knock the dastardly Maximus off the top spot.

Step forward rule saboteur Professor Armageddon with a terrible plot of his own; but is Stix prepared to follow the directions of a cockroach and do what he knows to be wrong in order to gain extra points in a competition?

All’s well that ends well and this tale surely does. With an infusion of toilet humour, a great deal of suspense and some brilliant characterisation, this is a terrific adventure; there’s warmth and wisdom too; and the illustrations, generously scattered, are wonderful.  Giggles aplenty guaranteed throughout.

Scribble Witch: Notes in Class

Scribble Witch: Notes in Class
Inky Willis
Hodder Children’s Books

This sparky story is the first of a new series featuring Molly Mills (our narrator), her best friend Chloe, and a ‘scribbly doodly’ character named Veronica Noates aka Notes, a somewhat mischievous little paper witch.

As the story opens Molly learns that her very best friend is leaving Dungfields School. They’ve been pals since nursery and they’re now 9 years old. Consequently Molly is very upset and starts taking it out on Chloe. Into this sorry situation drops, quite literally, a piece of paper on which is drawn a smiley, friendly looking, titchy little witch.

Having liberated her from the paper with her rainbow scissors, Molly begins to get to know this rather odd character
that communicates, not by speaking (although she can) but through little notes written not only on paper, but other things such as leaves too.

The trouble is, despite her best intentions, Notes causes Molly even more problems, and she’s already got herself very much in her teacher, Mr Stilton’s bad books.

Is there any way that Molly, with the help of Notes, might manage to convince her best pal to stay at Dungfields rather than move to Lady Juniper’s School; or if not can Notes make sure that the two girls can be in close touch whenever they want?

With its wealth of quirky illustrations (including pencil toppers) and written communications (readers will quickly get used to Notes’ idiosyncratic writing style), this book is terrific fun as well as being bang-on with the feelings relating to losing a best friend ever from class.

Rabbit Bright

Rabbit Bright
Viola Wang
Hodder Children’s Books

You might want to have your sunglasses ready when you read Rabbit Bright with its dazzling day-glow colour palette.

Rabbit Bright has finally summoned up the courage to turn off his night light. But thinking about so doing, sets the little fellow wondering, “ … where does the light go when it’s dark?”

Instead of sleeping, it’s helmet on, panda clinging on behind and off he goes on his bicycle out into the blue-black night with this thought in mind: “If there’s dark, there must be light.”
And light there surely is; for first he sees a sky lit up by fireworks.

Then, having left his cycle, he boards an underground train with its glowing headlamps.

In the forest too he encounters light, in the form of bright-eyed nocturnal creatures.

Boarding a boat, he paddles off to a cave where the darkness is punctuated by the flashes of fireflies.

His journey of discovery continues in a sub-oceanic craft and our little explorer is almost dazzled by the sea creatures shining as they swim.

Having next, climbed a hill for a spot of star-gazing, Rabbit and panda float off into space.

Then mysteriously, that bicycle reappears, for the two to set off homewards where a cosy bed awaits. Sweet dreams Rabbit Bright; sweet dreams little panda.

If you have, or know a little one who has anxieties about the dark, then this is the perfect book to share with them. Not only is it an exciting story, beautifully and arrestingly illustrated, it should help to assuage those fearful feelings about turning off the light and being alone in the darkness.

Pug Hug

Pug Hug
Zehra Hicks
Hodder Children’s Books

We first see Pug standing at the window looking out as his young owner departs for school.

Seemingly the dog is desperate for a hug. The trouble is no matter which animal he approaches, not a single one wants to hug.

Cat doesn’t like hugs, Hamster is too difficult to catch, Rabbit is busy chomping,

hugging a goldfish doesn’t really work. Maybe a parrot will oblige; but no, all he receives to his request is amusement at his efforts to please.

Lots of the potential huggers are fast asleep and it appears as though our hug seeker is about to give up in despair. But then he gets an offer, he definitely CAN refuse – and fast …

Will Pug ever have that elusive huggy moment he so much desires, and if so from what source?

Zahra’s smudgy, superbly expressive illustrations showing in particular, Pug’s entreaties, are enough to make any human – even those like this reviewer who isn’t a dog fan – feel like embracing him as he keeps on getting rebuffed.

The text takes the form of Pug’s requests and the responses from the animals along with a sequence of encouraging suggestions and comments from an external narrator.

The result is picture book harmony of words and pictures creating a story that is both funny and satisfying.

Scruffle-Nut / Hugless Douglas Plays Hide-and-Seek

Here are two very different stories with a theme of friendship:

Scruffle-Nut
Corinne Fenton and Owen Swan
New Frontier Publishing

‘As winter leaves tumble and twirl / a wisp of memory / wraps itself about me / and whispers me back / to long ago … ‘

So begins a gentle tale told by Olivia whose childhood memories we share in this sensitively told, equally sensitively illustrated story with its soft-spoken bullying theme.

As a young child her Nanny Clementine would take her to the park and there one day she sees a shy stumpy-tailed little squirrel that is chased away by the squirrels with large bushy tails.

It’s the beginning of a friendship that develops between child and squirrel – a squirrel that is, like the girl, a little different from others.

Time passes, the days turn colder until the snow falls and visits to the park come to a halt and Olivia is left wondering whether Scruffle-Nut, as she calls her friend, will be able to ward off attacks from the Bully-Bunch, the name she gives to the bushy-tail squirrels.

Although she never sees her squirrel friend again, he stays in her heart along with the lesson she learned from him so long ago.

Hugless Douglas Plays Hide-and-Seek
David Melling
Hodder Children’s Books

Playing hide-and-seek with his woolly friends is somewhat problematic for Douglas; he’s always the one to be found first.

But when Little Sheep invites him to team up and become a seeker, he certainly proves his worth; in fact he’s a little too good.

The game continues apace until there’s only Flossie left to find and then in his enthusiasm Douglas picks up the only possible hiding place remaining, in its entirety, which has the desired result. They locate Flossie but then find that Little Sheep is missing.

Can they discover where their friend is before it’s dark?

Another eventful episode from the adorable Douglas to please his fans and more than likely win him a whole lot more.