It’s MY Sausage! / The Cutest Thing Ever

It’s MY Sausage!
Alex Willmore
Maverick Publishing

One fat juicy sausage, five cats all with designs on it. The mustard coloured moggy lays claim, having so we hear ‘seen it first’ but has decided to delay gratification.

A dramatic comedy then unfolds as the others endeavour to procure the desired item by means of a rod and line, a ball of wool …

and some acrobatics.

Deceptively simple and hugely expressive illustrations of the rival felines tell much of the story along with a brief discourse provided by mustard moggy and punctuated with descriptive onomatopoeic sound effects and exclamations by the competing cats.

Who actually gets to eat the tempting morsel though? That would be telling wouldn’t it …

A hugely entertaining romp of a picture book.

The Cutest Thing Ever
Amy Ignatow and Hsinping Pan
Abrams Appleseed

A small purple bat narrator poses the question ‘Want to see the cutest thing ever?’

We turn the page to find a cuddly looking monster. Our bat friend then goes on to present an assortment of alternative possibilities adding kittens, hats and a unicorn to ride on. Not satisfied he continues with ‘A parade of koala bears’ – musical making ones, dancing bunnies, and then the whole show goes crazy with …

These astronauts eventually surround the rest of the competing crew before the bat, now appearing absolutely desperate to please, proffers one last suggestion … could that reveal the cutest ever possibility.

Little ones will certainly enjoy the finale. Silly nonsense but I imagine cries of ‘again’!

The Stolen Spear / Buttercup Sunshine and the House on Hangman’s Hill

Here are two recent additions to Maverick Publishing’s junior fiction list

The Stolen Spear
Saviour Pirotta, illustrated by Davide Ortu
Maverick Publishing

The first in a new series set in the Late Neolithic period, on an island in the Orkneys, this is exciting historical fiction for primary age readers.

The focus is on the narrator, young Wolf, and his endeavours to discover who is really responsible for the disappearance of the sacred spear that is stolen from a burial mound during the midsummer celebrations.

And after a journey that takes him far from his village and community, from one island to another, discover the thief he does with the help of his trusty dog Shadow and friends he makes along the way.

By the time he reaches home once more, not only has Wolf secured the spear, but he’s also discovered his path in life. Tough and strong he may not be, but he’s destined to become a very special person in his community,

With illustrations by Davide Ortu adding to the atmosphere, there’s trickery, plenty of thrills, friendship, hope and determination aplenty in this twisting, turning Stone-Age tale for which the author draws on real historic links and places about which he talks in a note at the end of the book.

Buttercup Sunshine and the House on Hangman’s Hill
Colin Mulhern
Maverick Publishing

Colin Mulhern tells a tale that blends together comic horror and the classic story of Frankenstein that sees the return of Buttercup Sunshine.

As the story begins there’s been a zombie invasion of Buttercup’s locality (even her gran has been zombified) and she’s on her way to inform the town’s powers that be, when she meets a postman who begs her instead to go first to Hangman’s Hill to deliver a package to a house that has suddenly appeared as if from nowhere.

What follows is a bizarre encounter with the extremely weird and seemingly totally mad scientist calling himself Dr Frankenstein and what’s more he has a monster and a storeroom full of jars containing human brains.

Buttercup is desperate to find a cure for the zombies but as she discovers, the doc. has other plans of the world destroying kind. So when he sends her to fetch one of those brains – a very particular one – from the store, she knows she has to do something or she might even find herself becoming part of his very unearthly experiment.

I’ll say no more other that the words ‘bunny rabbit’ and the hope that she succeeds.

Totally crazy but enormous fun and ‘a bit carroty’ in its final moments.

The Spacesuit

The Spacesuit
Alison Donald and Ariel Landy
Maverick Publishing

Over the last week many of us have been enthralled to watch the first moon landing in 1969 relived on our televisions screens for its 50th anniversary; but how many of us thought about what went into the designing and making of the protective spacesuits worn by the three Apollo astronauts, and in particular, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin when they walked on the moon.

These suits were the work of a team of women, led by Ellie Foraker, who were employed by the manufacturer of Playtex bras.

Even as a child, Ellie had loved designing and sewing on her machine and when an adult she got a job making garments with ILC Dover in the Plaxtex division. It was there that the quality of her work caught the attention of a company engineer. He asked Ellie if she was interested in entering a competition to design and make a prototype for a spacesuit that would be worn on the moon.

The competition was fierce with teams of engineers and military designers also participating but Ellie had a great team of hard workers determined to complete the task in time.

Their suit was to be flexible, have lots of soft, thin layers and protect the wearers from extremes of temperature.

Working all day and into the night, the women stitched and glued the layers until eventually the AL7 spacesuit was done – all 21 layers of it.

The entries were tested by the judges and finally the winner was declared. It was Ellie and her team’s AL7.

Alison Donald’s straightforward, accessible narrative focuses on Ellie Foraker’s skills and her determination to win the NASA competition, making it one of a very few moon-related books I’ve seen this past few months that has chosen to put the spotlight on women and their role in helping to send men to the moon.

Ariel Landy’s digitally worked illustrations too capture the resolve of Ellie and her team throughout the task, showing the tension when things get tough as well as the times when the mood was upbeat.

Along with the facts included in the story itself, the inside covers have short snippets of space travel information and there’s a glossary and a space time line extending from1957 and the launch of the 1st Russian satellite, through to the 1969 moon walk.

All in all an inspiring picture book for young readers. I received my copy after returning from a few days away so was unable to beat the 20th July commemoration but nonetheless this is well worth seeking out whatever the date.

The Moosic Makers / The Pirate Who Lost His Name

The Moosic Makers
Heather Pindar and Barbara Bakos
Maverick Publishing

Farmer Joni loves the ‘MOO-grass’ music her cows Celery and Nutmeg create, although the other animals are less enthusiastic wanting instead mandolins and singing lessons.

But when a wild storm rips the roof from Joni’s barn all the animals are ready to pitch in and raise money for a new one.
While the cows busk, Billy and Esme hold the hat. They’ve only managed to get three coins when a snappy dresser calling himself Georgie Smarm rocks up offering to make them rich and famous so long as they take up DisCOW instead of their MOO-grass music.

Leave it all to us, the cows tell Esme and Billy as they send them back to the farm and embark on their new career.

DisCOW music as delivered by Nutmeg and Celery is a huge success and they play to packed houses.

What of that fortune they’ve been promised? It seems Smarm is nothing but an exploiter who has no intention of handing over the money they’ve earned.

After almost thirty performances the two conclude it’s time to go  home and they return without a single coin.

Undaunted and determined to raise the money for the new roof, the cows decide to do it their way and so, with the help of Billy and Esme, a brand new kind of music festival is announced.

Will the animals raise sufficient funds for the much-needed repair to that barn? What do you think?

Full of MOO-puns and craziness, Heather and Barbara’s teamwork has created a satisfying tale of determination and cooperation that will be a hit with young listeners.

The Pirate Who Lost His Name
Lou Treleaven and Genie Espinosa
Maverick Publishing

Lou Treleaven and Genie Espinosa’s take on the seemingly ever-popular pirate tale features a very forgetful piratical character.

So bad is his memory that, despite having all the other necessary pirate requirements, he’s forgotten his own name.

His pirate pals all have suitable names but the nameless pirate is too embarrassed to ask them for help so instead he sets out on a quest to find his name. The journey takes him to several possible memory-jogging locations but neither the Captain Dreamboat’s residence, nor Captain Anorak’s Collector’s Cave can help; not even Pirate Lop-It-Off’s barber shop yields what he needs.

Our nameless pirate despairs. Then his parrot lets him know he’s hungry so they stop and buy some seed at Pirate Duff’s on the way home.

There the name forgetter learns that on his previous visit, he’d left behind his pirate membership card; I wonder what he might find written thereon?

That isn’t quite the end of Lou’s rollicking tale but let’s not spoil the surprise throwaway finale, which will likely make young listeners squawk with delight. They’ll also delight in Genie Espinosa’s zany, larger than life characters executed with a super-bright colour palette.

I, Pod / Don’t Eat Pete!

I, Pod
Rebecca Lisle and Richard Watson
Maverick Publishing

Little stone age boy, Pod returns for another adventure and it’s certainly action-packed despite beginning when little Nim’s mum assigns him the role of babysitter.

Determined to get the infant to say his name, Pod repeats it over and over but the baby comes up with plenty of close alternatives until when she says “Poo!” Pod decides it’s time to do something else.

With Little Mammoth’s help, he constructs a swing, sits Nim on and starts pushing – rather too enthusiastically …

… sending the babe right into the river.

Fortunately for both of them the river is fast moving and little Nim, a quick thinker for she saves herself with one deft move after another as a green snapper, a sabre-toothed tiger

and a huge eagle attempt to make her their next meal.

She’s not safe yet though for her craft is heading towards the waterfall. Happily Little Mammoth is also close by and his accidental action saves the day.

Pod is able to scoop up Nim forthwith and none the worse for her adventure, albeit rather wet.

Can Pod talk himself out of this one when they return home to find Nim’s mum already waiting for them?

Pod fans will thoroughly enjoy his latest, fun-filled book and he’ll likely the win a lot more enthusiasts thanks to Rebecca and Richard’s latest verbal and visual accounts of his exploits.

It’s not baby-sitting but puppy-sitting that provides the action in:

Don’t Eat Pete!
Sue Walker and Carlo Beranek
Maverick Publishing

It’s Moll’s Uncle Boll who is given the task of minding puppy Pete when she goes off to work having first ensured there’s plenty to eat and said quite forcefully, “DON’T EAT PETE!’ As if … comes the assurance.

But then Uncle Boll starts to consider the cute little furry bundle and the more he interacts with Pete, the more tempted he feels.

He diverts himself with biscuits followed by a tasty bacon snack but still, despite the reminder notice

and scoffing the entire meal, the greedy troll is still salivating.

Poor Pete in the meantime is becoming increasingly hungry and he eagerly anticipates what Moll will bring home to satisfy his now enormous appetite.

But can he manage to wait until her return to fill his rumbly tum?

With debut author Sue Walker’s droll rhyming narrative and Carlo Beranek’s deliciously expressive illustrations, this is a tasty book to share with little ones either at home or in an early years setting. They’ll certainly relish the final surprise twist in the tale.

The Rescue Princesses: The Amber Necklace / Arlo, Miss Pythia and the Forbidden Box

The Rescue Princesses: The Amber Necklace
Paula Harrison
Nosy Crow

In the 15th and final adventure in the series, it’s up to Zina and her friends to save the tamarind trees of their rainforest home. These trees are the only ones that provide year round food for the lemurs but they’re scheduled to be cut down to make way for the carnival that has been re-routed on account of the usual road being flooded.

Princess Zina is horrified at the prospect; but the princesses must use their intelligence, co-operative skills, kindness and courage to protect the animals and their precious tamarinds.

With their camouflage ninja gear and Zina’s special amber necklace, said by her grandma to hold the heart of the forest it might just be possible to persuade Ando and his workmates to find another path. If not, could the amber jewel works it magic? …

Another exciting tale with short chapters, plenty of line drawings and an exciting and intriguing plot to keep readers turning the pages, this is ideal for new solo readers.

For readers who like longer stories there are two new fiction titles from Maverick Publishing coming soon: one is

Arlo, Miss Pythia and the Forbidden Box
Alice Hemming, illustrated by Mike Garton
Maverick Publishing

4X have become 5P and they’re back with another highly unusual teacher, not from the stone age this time but nevertheless there’s something not quite normal about Miss Pythia.
For a start, she always seems to know exactly what is about to happen; she has a weird-looking symbol tattooed on the back of her neck; she never seems to change her clothes, and there’s that box she keeps on her desk. Mmmm! And could it be sheer co-incidence that she shares her name with a priestess of the Ancient Greek world?

When I taught nursery children we often did an activity called, ‘What’s in the box?’ Singing a little ditty based on those words served to arouse the children’s interest and enthusiasm before the lid was lifted and we investigated its contents. And that is just what Miss Arlo does when she instructs her class that opening the particular box she has in her safe-keeping, is strictly forbidden.

But then 5P are selected to participate in A Play a Day, electing to perform a version of Pandora’s Box and Arlo is chosen to act as director. Can his classmates resist the temptation to open Miss Pythia’s actual box as they rehearse?

What Arlo doesn’t immediately spot as he gets engrossed in his directing role is that the replica box made for the drama has been switched.

Then with the play in full swing a terrible realisation comes upon him …

Another winner from Alice Hemming; it’s full of suspense, gently humorous and splendidly complemented by Mike Garton’s lively, expressive drawings, which provide additional details and humour.

Now set fair to become a super series, this story is great for solo reading as well as highly appropriate as a class read aloud especially if the Ancient Greeks are on the agenda.

Not Yet a Yeti / Froggy Day

Not Yet a Yeti
Lou Treleaven and Tony Neal
Maverick Publishing

High up in the snowy mountains live George and his family.

All George’s family are yetis: “When will I be a yeti?” the little creature asks.

Having consulted in turn, his grandfather, his dad, his big sister and his mum, George concludes that he lacks the necessary qualities for full yeti status. He has no desire to terrorise visitors to the mountain,

leave scary footprints in the snow (his feet are too small anyway), or chase ramblers like other family members.

Suddenly George knows what he wants to be …

Lo and behold as he speaks, a horn grows from his forehead, his limbs grow hooves and he acquires a swishy tail and mane.

Alarmed, Mum consults Dad and a compromise is reached: after all if his other family members continue eating hikers, the human race faces extinction.

An offbeat tale of having the courage to be yourself and acceptance that manages to include the creature that seems to be every young child’s favourite at present – the unicorn. For this reason, if nothing else, it’s likely to become a crowd pleaser. Tony Neal’s entire family of yetis are, despite their claims, thoroughly unscary and totally likeable creatures as is George himself.

Froggy Day
Heather Pindar and Barbara Bakos
Maverick Publishing

Imagine watching the weather forecast on the TV and being told “Today is going to be froggy, very froggy!” by the forecaster. That however is what happens in Heather Pindar and Barabara Bakos’ zany book.

No sooner are the words out of her mouth than chaos descends in the form of little green amphibians. They create havoc in the streets, on the bus, the supermarket is over-run with the creatures,

the building site workers are totally bemused, animals stampede and frog horns boom out warning the sailors at sea.
There isn’t a single place in town without an invasion of frogs – imagine the uproar in the classroom.

Then comes the evening weather forecast: now what might that hold in store, I wonder …

Crazy as Heather’s tale may sound, I was once in Udaipur, Rajasthan during the monsoon season and as we emerged from a café into sudden torrential rain, it did seem as though it was raining frogs: the tiny creatures (not green ones but brown) fell in thousands from the rooftops of all the buildings. Goodness knows how they got up there in the first place but the sight was truly bizarre.

Heather Pindar’s play on words is a great starting point for her gigglesome story and Barbara’s illustrations of the frogs’ frolics are a real hoot.