Diary of an Accidental Witch: Unexpected Guests / Super Happy Magic Forest and the Distant Desert

Diary of an Accidental Witch: Unexpected Guests
Perdita & Honor Cargill, illustrated by Katie Saunders
Little Tiger

It’s always a delight to be in the company of Bea Black and the first thing she does according this latest journal (after having a scrumptious tea out with her dad) is to attend the inaugural meeting of Finkelspark Club along with fellow founding members.

The following day though, the spring term at Little Spellshire School of Extraordinary Arts begins and Bea has other things on her mind: a history project, her allocated famous witch from the past being Minerva Moon; then there’s the visit from school inspectors who will not be impressed if they catch sight of anything at all magical going on. 

In addition, Bea has accidentally taken home what appears to be an ancient diary written by Minerva Moon, from Old Bertie’s bookshop and she can’t return it as the owner, Bertie, has gone away.

The good news is that Bea and her dad are going to stay in Little Spellshire but with all those things going on, one eleven year old witch has a lot to keep her busy, not least making sure her school isn’t closed down.

The series just gets better and better: this fourth book seems to have even more zany magical mayhem, humour and surprises than ever. It’s a sparkling delight for primary readers.

Super Happy Magic Forest and the Distant Desert
Matty Long
Oxford University Press

This fourth book in the Super Happy Magic Forest chapter series starts at the Gnome Tashwhisker exhibition where Tiddlywink the pixie accidentally gets trapped inside a cursed puzzle cube. Endeavours to free him are unsuccessful, leaving Blossom feeling more than a little guilty about fiddling with the cube. The only hope of freeing Tiddlywink, so says Gnome Tashwhisker’s Desert Diaries, is for the five heroes ie Herbert, Tiddlywink, Blossom, Twinkle and Trevor, to journey all the way to the Distant Desert and there to consult the all-knowing Almighty Oracle. This they must do before the sands of time run out. 

The journey, despite its length is the easy part, for when they reach the Oracle, it’s fast asleep. A Desert Diary entry tells them this: “only adventurers who have completed the Desert Trials and thus earned three trial gems are worthy of waking the Oracle.’ 

Is that a possibility for our heroes? Perhaps with help from the genie, if they can first reunite her with her magic lamp. Then there are still those particularly prickly cacti to contend with, 

as well as a recalcitrant magic carpet. This quest is certainly going to test the heroes to their limits

Super clever, super silly and super fun: as ever the madcap frolics of Matty Long’s forest dwelling characters are a treat for primary readers, not to mention this adult reviewer.

Who Ate All The Bugs?

Who Ate All The Bugs?
Matty Long
Oxford Children’s Books

Doing something rather different, though still in his trademark zany style, Matty Long, creator of the Super Happy Magic Forest series takes a look at the food chain, courtesy of his minibeast narrator, Snail. The mollusc is on the trail of a dastardly killer and is determined to track down whoever is destroying bugs all over the place and bring them to justice. No help is forthcoming from any of her buggy companions so she just has to go it alone.

Bird is quick to proclaim his innocence

so Snail moves on, stopping off in the cabbage patch for a bit of sustenance and to question the bugs she finds there.

Eschewing Grasshopper’s advice to “let it go’ she creeps through the grass to accuse her next suspect, Snake. Wrong again! However Snail isn’t giving up that easily so she heads next to the greenhouse to confront her final suspect.

The arachnid isn’t guilty though, so should Snail finally take notice of Glow-worm’s insistence that “You can’t fight the food chain.” Time for some serious thinking on Snail’s part.

That’s not quite the end of this scientific story but is it perhaps the end of our justice-seeker? She might just have found out the hard way … Try asking a certain amphibian.

A slice of scientific learning served up in a deliciously funny manner that will surely have both children and adults chortling. Make that two slices – the final double spread provides additional buggy facts and the bug hunt activity page will likely send youngsters back to the start to track down the minibeasts in various stages of their life cycles. For this adult reviewer Who Ate All The Bugs is perhaps my favourite of Matty’s picture books so far.

Turbo Bunnies

Turbo Bunnies
Matty Long
Oxford Children’s Books

Another dose of super fun from Matty Long this time courtesy of drivers Bunny and Bonnie, Rory and Enzo (mechanics) and Camille (kart designer) aka whizz kart racers Team Turbo. Team Turbo ace the races but then after an interview rivalry sets in between Bunny and Bonnie, with both wanting to be best racer.

Things soon spiral out of control with both bunnies attempting to sabotage the other’s chances resulting in the quitting of the rest of their team.

Come the next race the bunnies have to go it alone and that entails fixing their own karts first with the result that they wake up late and the race is already under way when they arrive. Nonetheless, off they speed but will it be a

case of individuality reigns or teamwork …

Will those two bunnies ever see the error of their ways and get back on track working as a twosome? What do you think? …

Full on drama this story assuredly is; with its message about the importance of team work it will appeal especially to young listeners with a taste for speed, thrills and spills: Matty Long’s illustrations certainly take us right up close to the action in this book.

Super Happy Magic Forest and the Portals of Panic

Super Happy Magic Forest and the Portals of Panic
Matty Long
Oxford University Press

I know a large number of young readers who are eager to get their teeth into this, the second of Matty Long’s fiction series featuring those five brave forest warriors including unicorn Blossom and red and white mushroom, Trevor.

Suddenly into that normally Super Happy place of picnics and frolicking there appears a puzzling porthole that threatens the peace of the forest dwellers’ existence. Even more troubling, a small and voraciously hungry monster has flown from the cavity and seemingly desires to gobble up everything that crosses its path including Gnomedalf’s breakfast waffles (not that they actually did cross it).

Off go the five heroes (beast in tow) to Wizard City in search of wise wizard Barnabus five-hats to seek his assistance. En route, the monster – now named Chompy – has the audacity to take a nibble at Trevor leaving him just a tad light-headed.

En route too, comes a surprising revelation from Gnomedalf concerning the cause of his own reluctance to proceed with the quest.

There’s another sign of weird things being afoot, in the form of bow and arrow wielding elves who just might turn them into stone,

the Wood Elf Queen and her moose Strawberry. And that’s where I’ll leave the merry adventurers

and say no more other than that the plot takes many wacky twists and turns including more portals, one leading to a spell in prison for some of our heroic bunch, a bake-off episode, and all ends happily – eventually!

Fans will surely devour this in a single sitting, relishing the wealth of wizardry, waffles, and Matty Long’s totally bonkers humour – visual and verbal – throughout. Bring on the next adventure.

Super Happy Magic Forest and the Humongous Fungus

Super Happy Magic Forest and the Humongous Fungus
Matty Long
Oxford University Press Children’s Books

Matty Long’s Super Happy Magic Forest series has grown from picture books into a spin-off young fiction fantasy of over 180 pages.

Once again it’s a splendidly silly frolic with a host of wacky characters not least of which are Blossom the unicorn, fairy Twinkle, a gnome named Herbert, a mushroom called Trevor and Hoofies the faun who considers himself leader of this group – the five Super Happy Heroes.

As the story starts the residents of Super Happy Magic Forest are in festival mood with its residents in frolicking mode.

Suddenly into their midst crashes the Rainbow Dragon and there’s clearly something very wrong with the creature.

Before you can say ‘quest’ the Super Happy Heroes find themselves charged with finding out what has made the dragon so poorly.

They soon come face-to-face with the dastardly red-eyed and highly toxic Fungellus a gigantic evil mushroom whose spores are poisoning the forest.

Seems as though there’s a crisis to avert for it’s those very spores that are responsible for the Rainbow Dragon’s condition.

In order to revive the comatose creature and indeed save the forest from total doom the S H Heroes will need to collect the five antidote ingredients on Dr Shroomsworth’s list …

But will Trevor give in to Fungellus’s dastardly temptation or will he remain true to his fellow Heroes and thus discover a better way to boost his self-worth?

With daftness in bucketloads including priceless illustrations bursting with speech bubbles, this book is a wonderful antidote to the present corona virus induced gloom. Can anyone apart from this reviewer see any parallels between the two scenarios?

Salty Dogs

Salty Dogs
Matty Long
Oxford University

Matty Long packed plenty into his Magic Forest picture books; now he turns his creative attention to pirates and once again the result is full of fun and frenzy.
Let’s meet the Salty Dogs: there’s Captain Fifi, super strong first mate, Barker, Mylo, the crew’s official watchdog, the rather excitable Sherman; Stewart the swordsdog extraordinaire – so he claims; Pug, the questionable cook and last but not least, Horatio Pawsworth 111, head of grooming. They however are not the only crew to be sailing the high seas in search of treasure; there are also The Green Shell Gang, The Crazy Horn Crew, The Feathered Furies and The Sea Monkeys – all forces to be reckoned with.
As the Salty Dogs sail towards Crossbone Island to unearth their long-buried treasure, they manage to get the better of the first three of their enemies; but then, they find themselves facing the mighty galleon the Scoundrel and its crew the dreaded Sea Monkeys.

It seems as though those Salty Dogs are in for some BIG trouble when the Scoundrel’s captain gives the order to fire the cannons.
Then it’s a case of sink or swim – doggy paddle style – as fast as they can to claim what is rightfully theirs.

But what exactly is this treasure that both crews are ready to go head to head over?
This crazy tale is absolutely brimming over with suitably daft details, speech bubbles and piratical humour. Readers will want to linger over every spread relishing the irresistible buccaneering bounties.

I’ve signed the charter  

Magic Forest Forays

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Super Happy Magic Forest
Matty Long
Oxford University Press
Billed as Tolkien for toddlers, this epic quest assuredly has the right ingredients to engender enthusiasm for the fantasy genre in young children. So, let’s go to Super Happy Magic Forest wherein our story starts. It’s full of fun, frolics and picnics all year round; life’s pretty peachy you could say.

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But then disaster strikes the Forest: the Mystical Crystals of Life – source of all that’s joyous therein – are stolen.
It must be Goblin work announces Old Oak at an urgently called meeting of forest residents. Five brave heroes are selected to reclaim the Mystical Crystals …

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And despite their reluctance off they set on the journey of a lifetime but of course, their epic quest will not be an easy one. There are frozen tundras full of fearsome creatures to battle through, a haunted forest and dreadful dungeons to test their nerves and skills to the utmost and even then there’s no escape from enemies …

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Finally Goblin Tower is in sight but will the five locate the missing crystals within its walls? There’s plenty of unexpected confectionary items but crystals well err …
Certainly it’s a celebratory finale but is it cake or crystal induced?? Hmm …
Let’s just say, there’s a twist to this crazy magical saga of epic mischief and silliness. I’m not sure who will get more enjoyment out of this one – the ‘toddlers’ billed as its target audience or those older readers/adults who are the book’s mediators to the very young. Certainly the former will enjoy spotting items in the fantastical visuals but some of the subtle and not so subtle humour will definitely go way over the heads of most four or five year olds. But then that’s the thing about a good book – that multi-layering, which means it offers something to a wide audience.

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Ella Bella Ballerina and A Midsummer Night’s Dream
James Mayhew
Orchard Books
Young Ella Bella returns once again and on this occasion, dance teacher Madame Rosa’s magical music box is playing Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream for the ballet class to dance to.

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Inevitably, after the lesson Ella Bella cannot resist opening up the musical box lid for one last dance in her fairy costume. And thus she meets Puck who whisks her, with her floral headband, away to a fairyland forest where Oberon waits for the ‘magic flowers’ with which he hopes to cast a spell upon Queen Titania.

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James Mayhew’s elegant watercolour illustrations evoke a timeless quality to this engaging tale of magic and mischief and dance.

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