Winnie and Wilbur at Chinese New Year

Winnie and Wilbur at Chinese New Year
Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul
Oxford University Press

To alleviate her boredom while Wilbur naps, Winnie the witch scrolls through her mobile and discovers that Chinese New Year is coming soon. It sounds exciting and so she decides to throw a Chinese New Year party to celebrate with friends and family.

The preparations go pretty smoothly with Winnie waving her wand to create fabulous decorations and a yummy-looking feast.

Then comes a spectacular parade with dragons large and small, as well as lions including a baby one; but just as the fireworks are about to start, Winnie realises that Wilbur has vanished.

Is the party sparkle about to disappear too, or is there an explanation for the cat’s mysterious absence?

Perhaps just one more wave of that wand of Winnie’s might just rescue the situation …

Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul’s magical two W characters have been exciting children for over thirty years and their powers seem to be showing no sign of waning. Youngsters to whom I introduced Winnie and Wilbur as a young teacher now have their own children to share this whizz bang crackling,

lucky money envelope cascading story with in celebration of Chinese New Year at the weekend.

The illustrations are absolutely brimming over with detail and I love the gallery of children’s art that adorns the endpapers.

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.

Strange Happenings with Winnie and Wilbur: The Bug Safari / Ghoulia and the Mysterious Visitor

Winnie and Wilbur: The Bug Safari
Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul
Oxford Children’s Books

As Winnie and Wilbur picnic in the garden their dropped crumbs are collected by ants.

Winnie is fascinated and wants a closer look. Out comes her wand and with a wave and a shout, witch and cat are transformed into tiny, tiny beings. Wilbur is not impressed, especially when a bird lands in the grass in search of some lunch and even less so when the postman’s boots nearly squash both him and Winnie flat.

The obvious thing would be to make an enlarging spell but Winnie’s wand is stuck in a bush out of reach and anyway it’s now far too big for her to wave.

Are the two of them destined to stay forever tiny?

The countless fans of this series will be fascinated by the scaled down world in which its star characters find themselves and especially enjoy the garish-looking minibeasts that appear to dwarf Winnie and Wilbur.

Ghoulia and the Mysterious Visitor
Barbara Cantini
Amulet

If you’ve not yet encountered Ghoulia, let me introduce her: she’s a zombie girl who lives in Crumbling Manor along with Auntie Departed, Tragedy (dog) and other rather weird residents.

One rainy evening when the young zombie is feeling particularly bored, partly because her aunt has been totally absorbed with gardening and in particular tending her Chatterbox Ivy, an unexpected visitor arrives. He announces himself as Cousin Dilbert, (a cousin Ghoulia didn’t know existed) invited by her aunt to come on a visit.

But why invite such a fault-finding, demanding character? Off goes Ghoulia to find her aunt and ask the reason, but she is nowhere to be found.

Meanwhile another visitor arrives – one of Ghoulia’s friends thanking her for his invitation, also penned by her aunt.
More and more of her friends arrive, each holding similar invitations.

Things get ever more strange though and at one point the piano seems to be playing without a pianist and then Theresa (another of Ghoulia’s friends) disappears too.

After a search, the mystery is finally solved, thanks in no small part to her cousin and for once, everyone – even Dilbert – seems happy.

Out of this world zany, but just the right length for new solo readers who will especially enjoy Cantini’s detailed, mock-scary colour illustrations and the idea of a seemingly harmless plant turning carnivorous.

Winnie and Wilbur: The Monster Mystery / Princesses Save the World

Winnie and Wilbur:The Monster Mystery
Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul
Oxford Children’s Books

In the latest Winnie and Wilbur adventure we find the witch regretting not having trimmed back some of the forest of trees that now surrounds her house, and pondering upon the maker of a trail of footprints across her garden.
Wilbur is reluctant to investigate fearing it’s a monster but even so they both sally forth.
Trip hazards lead the pair to mount the broomstick but that only ends with Wilbur crash-landing upon, so he thinks, ‘a big hairy monster’. Suddenly he’s surrounded by green hairy beasties that, having removed the debris from his fur,

turn out to be friendly; not the footprint makers then, decides the moggy.

Winnie meanwhile is hunting for her cat and soon resorts to her wand with which she magics a maze-like path

that eventually leads her to the object of her search.

Time to head home but that still leaves the question of the forest surrounding their house with darkness.

Tada! Winnie has an idea: if you can’t move the forest, maybe there’s another way; and out comes her magic wand once more …
As for the foot-print maker: well, we’d better ask Wilbur.

Winnie and Wilbur’s escapades never fail to delight and so it is with this one, which has a rather greener look about it than most of Valerie and Korky’s books in this series.

Princesses Save the World
Savannah Guthrie, Allison Oppenheim and Eva Byrne
Abrams

The pants-wearing princesses have a mission. When Princess Penelope Pineapple learns that Princess Sabrina Strawberry is in trouble on account of a lack of bees she knows she must help. The crops have failed and so there’ll be no fruit at all.

Fortunately however, Penny has plenty of bees that she cares for and so summoning her princess pals she promises to return.

The task in hand is one requiring co-operative teamwork and a conference is called and it seems that others too have had a bad fruit yield.

They gather supplies, construct new hives to house Penelope’s bees and then all that’s needed is the little insects themselves.

To get them buzzing into the hives the princesses create a deliciously aromatic scent that soon gets them swarming.

Thereafter it’s action stations and off they go back to Strawberry Shores where the bees are released and …

As the author reminds her readers on the final page, Sabrina Strawberry’s bee crisis is now one that due in large part to harmful pesticide use and environmental changes, has become all too common and honeybee numbers are on the decline. If Savannah and Allison’s story inspires young readers (who will doubtless delight in the jazzy outfits Eva Byrne has dressed the princesses in) to get involved in the cause of these crucial little creatures, then in addition to providing an enjoyable tale its creators will have done their bit to raise awareness of the bee crisis.

The Misadventures of Winnie and Wilbur / Get Me Out of Witch School!

The Misadventures of Winnie and Wilbur
Laura Owen and Korky Paul
Oxford University Press

It’s good to have the ever-popular picture book duo, Winnie the Witch and her cat Wilbur, in another chapter book format edition.
This one has eight short stories, each one profusely illustrated by Korky Paul in his distinctive zany style.

In the first, Winnie gets her knickers in a bit of a twist when her new enterprise isn’t quite the resounding success she’d hoped, but then Winnie doesn’t exactly employ the kind of sales talk that will have her new products whizzing off the shelves.

No matter: the ingenious uses she finds for her unwanted wares are bound to give readers a good giggle.

The second story has Winnie cooking up a feast for her interfering sister Wilma. It’s not the special fresh batburgers she originally planned – she hasn’t the heart to serve up relations of her ’diddly bat’ friend – but, thanks to some timely assistance from Wilbur, Wilma leaves after supper thoroughly satisfied with her meal.
That should suffice to give you a flavour of the hilarious escapades within; the others being concerned with bothersome bubbles, a whopping great whale and other fishy findings, a car boot sale with a difference,

some high drama in a big top, extraordinary doings at a soccer game involving the odd bit of knicker elastic zapping and finally, a spot of excavating.
Sheer hilarity from beginning to end, and perfect read alone fare as well as a hoot to read aloud.

More witchy shenanigans in:

Get Me Out of Witch School!
Em Lynas, illustrated by Jamie Littler
Nosy Crow

In the second book of Daisy Wart’s adventures at Toadspit Towers, Witch School of Conformity and Strickness, the reluctant young witch is now known as Twinkle Toadspit.
She’s yet to gain full control of her witchy powers and still holds ambitions to be an actress. But when she determines to rescue a ‘cute, cuddly kitten’ Twinkle inadvertently sets off a chain of chaotic happenings.
It’s down to Twinkle and her pals to save Toadspit Towers. Can they do so, and in time for the would-be star of stage to tour her “Bottom”?

Bursting with wonderful characters, this is total spellbinding fun to keep readers in suspense throughout. Equally it makes a thoroughly enjoyable read aloud for those not quite ready to fly solo. However it’s read, Jamie Littler’s illustrations add to the enjoyment.

A Snoring Giant, A Favourite Witch & Knights Galore

The Giant Who Snored
Mike Nicholson and Amy Lewis
Little Door Books
In the hills close by a town lives a gentle giant. He’s a great favourite of the townsfolk especially the children who look forward to his daily visit and the fun it offers …

Everything is tickety boo until the day the giant, suddenly overcome by tiredness, falls asleep during his visit. The loud snores he emits rock the whole town causing absolute chaos on land and sea and driving the residents absolutely crazy.
The hullabaloo must be stopped, announces the mayor offering a reward to anyone who can wake the slumberer. However, despite the best efforts of the blacksmith, the tailor and the chemist, the giant remains sound asleep. Is there anybody who can rouse the snorer? And if so, how?
Here’s a clue as to the who …

As for the how, suffice it to say, it’s pretty disgusting and likely to cause young listeners to emit delighted ‘eeuugh!’s in response; and everything ends satisfactorily for all concerned.
Apart from the very occasional slight creak, Mike Nicholson’s rhyming text slips nicely off the tongue -read it through to get the phrasing right before sharing it though. In combination with Amy Lewis’ digital scenes of the stentorian snores of the giant and their effects, you have the makings of a lively, enjoyable story time session.

Winnie and Wilbur The Naughty Knight
Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul
Oxford University Press
In their latest magical escapade Winnie transports Wilbur and herself back in time into a medieval castle where, for a change, her faithful moggie takes the starring role in the grand tournament, with Winnie as a lady-in-waiting.
Can the gallant knight, Sir Wilbur outshoot the famous Sir Roderick in the archery contest? And what happens when the two come face to face in the jousting?

Let’s just say that Winnie has her magic wand neatly stowed away about her person and thanks to a few deft flourishes of her arm, Sir Wilbur cuts Sir Roderick down to size in spectacular fashion, just in time to attend the magnificent banquet in the Great Hall. No need for magic there surely? …
Even after 30 years, Winnie and Wilbur’s magical charm never seems to wear off and it’s especially good to see Wilbur as the star of the show; love those split page layouts especially.
This one brims over with zany humour and is full of potential for primary classroom themes.

Sir Charlie Stinky Socks: The Dinosaur’s Return
Kristina Stephenson
Egmont
Sir Charlie Stinky Socks is back to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his first adventure in what I think is story number nine.
When Charlie’s pet cat Envelope unknowingly hatches a dinosaur’s egg, the young knight together with his faithful friends, set out on a quest to return the ‘little something’ to Thunder Mountain.
A quest that sees them sucked into a swirling watery tunnel, diving into the vent of a volcano and more, before landing up on an island and in so doing, precipitating a dinosaur stampede.

All ends happily however with grateful dinosaurs and a spectacular display of fireworks.
Fast moving, fun, full of action and with dino.-sized flaps to explore, Sir Charlie and friends continue to delight.

Superhero Hotel / Winnie and Wilbur Up, Up and Away

Superhero Hotel
Abie Longstaff and Migy Blanco
Scholastic
Have you heard about the exclusive, top-secret hotel atop a hill that’s the number one destination for any superhero in need of a spot of rest and relaxation?
It’s ably managed by young Joe Malone who knows exactly what each of his special guests most needs to restore them to peak form, which is just as well for he suddenly gets an influx of superheroes.
First comes Captain Power in need of a strength recharge. He’s followed by Gadget Girl, Ice Woman (with a sore thumb), The Flame, whose boots need attention, and last of all, Mr Invisible who slips in unnoticed, except by Joe.
Being superheroes though, it’s not long before they’re back to their former energetic selves and raring to go.
Joe meanwhile decides to do some gardening but the by now, bored superheroes cannot resist joining him and are soon at work making their own improvements to the garden.
Before you can say ‘be careful’ Captain Power has tripped over Mr Invisible,

accidentally precipitating a catastrophic chain of events.
Can the combined skills of the superheroes save Superhero Hotel from disaster?

Abie Longstaff’s fast moving tale with its crazy happenings, teamwork and a wealth of superheroes with their unique and diverse attributes provides Migy Blanco plenty of scope to employ his illustrative imagination; his arresting style will certainly engage young would-be superheroes.

Winnie and Wilbur Up, Up and Away
Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul
Oxford University Press
This bumper edition containing three stories, all featuring flying machines, is a great way to catch up if, like me you’ve missed some of the individual Winnie and Wilbur picture books.
In the first, Winnie and Wilbur: The Broomstick Ride, Winnie tries various other forms of locomotion after a series of accidents while cruising on her broomstick, only to discover that the solution to preventing further mishaps (especially to Wilbur who seemed to come off worst in all the aeronautical disasters), lies not in alternative forms of transport,

but in something altogether different; something that will improve Winnie’s eyesight.
A flying carpet is the subject in the second story wherein we find Winnie, conscientious witch that she is, busy writing thank-you letters for her birthday presents. There’s one letter left to do and it’s proving especially tricky as her much wanted gift of a flying carpet had turned out to be an absolute disaster.
Can she find a way to use the thing so that she has something positive to say about it? Let’s just say it’s surprising how many alternative uses a single item can be put to …
The final tale sees Winnie off to stock up on her favourite vegetables at the farmers’ market, especially her very favourite – pumpkins. These weekly trips leave much to be desired though and so Winnie decides to grow her own at home instead –

with Wilbur’s help of course; and the odd touch of magic to speed up the process.
And speed it up is exactly what her wand waving does, so much so that very soon her whole house is surrounded by a veritable veggie jungle full of enormous, produce including enough pumpkins – Winnie’s favourite – sufficient to feed not only herself and Wilbur but the whole neighbourhood . What though should she do with a gigantic pumpkin shell? Think propellers; think a highly convenient means of travelling to market …
As with all Winnie books, the stories are terrific fun, but it’s their combination with Korky Paul’s hilarious, highly detailed illustrations that make this series such perennial favourites. (You might even find the odd character from another of his books has dropped in.)

I’ve signed the charter