Midnight Magic: Mirror Mischief / Skeleton Keys: The Wild Imaginings of Stanley Strange

These two books both from Little Tiger imprint Stripes Publishing are ideal for reading in these dark evenings – thanks to the publishers for sending them for review

Midnight Magic: Mirror Mischief
Michelle Harrison and Elissa Elwick

The second rhyming story starring Trixie and Midnight, her black moggy born at the stroke of midnight with a nose for trouble, along with Trixie’s Dad and her Nan. Once again the lovable kitten brings a sparkle of mischievous magical mayhem to a tale that is pitch perfect for youngsters at that stage between picture books and assured independent reading.

It all begins with a tampering with time by the moggy to allow more minutes together before Trixie has to leave for school. Time during which both Trixie and Midnight look in the mirror with surprising results that start a concatenation of chaos all through the house, as left to her own devices, Midnight unleashes double the trouble when a breakage occurs.

Is there any chance that Nan, just off to her yoga class – so she thinks – can step in and curtail the pandemonium,

perhaps even putting paid to that reflection’s rioting and placing it back where it ought to be?
Sparkling with excitement and humour, made even more so by Elissa Elwick’s wonderfully expressive illustrations of the drama, this tale is irresistible.

Skeleton Keys: The Wild Imaginings of Stanley Strange
Guy Bass, illustrated by Pete Williamson

The spooky narrator Skeleton Keys – he of the door-opening ‘fantabulant fingers’ is ready to regale readers with the fifth of his darkly comic ‘tall-but-true’ tales. This one features young unimaginary Lucky and when we first encounter him, he’s decidedly chilly and wandering alone on a hillside looking for his friend Stanley who has unaccountably disappeared. So desperate is Lucky that he’s even resorting to asking sheep if they’ve seen his pal, the actual human that imagined him.

Soon though, Skeleton Keys and his partner in problem-solving, Daisy discover Lucky and they’re determined to reunite the small creature with his human imaginer. The hunt is on but where can the vanished Stanley be?

Lucky mentions The Door to Nowhere as a place Stanley wanted too see and that sparks something in the mind of Skeleton Keys. Their search takes them first to said door and thence into the Kingdom – a hidden world for unimaginaries, the first rule of the place being ‘no human allowed’. So what in Kingdom’s name is Stanley doing thinking of entering. And what about Daisy? Nevertheless, SK is determined and in they go.

It’s a totally weird place full of unimaginaries brought there by SK himself – ‘a haven he calls it, ‘ a sort of retirement home for unimaginary friends.’ They scour the streets encountering trolls and other weird things before visiting Lady Byrd, in the hope she can help. Hmm. Maybe but maybe not.

The next encounter is with a dreadful dinosaur but once that’s been ‘disappeared’ there are robots on the rampage. YIKES! When is this all going to end – hopefully before the whole place becomes nothing but heaps of rubble. Surely we must all be dreaming – or maybe just somebody is …

Brilliantly imagined by author and illustrator, this is perfect reading for the longer evenings that are now upon us; yes it’s bursting with wild happenings but at the heart of the tale lies friendship, and finding your place.

Midnight Magic / Cally & Jimmy Twins in Trouble

Midnight Magic
Michelle Harrison, illustrated by Elissa Elwick
Stripes Publishing, Little Tiger

This is the first of a new rhyming series by author of the A Pinch of Magic books, Michelle Harrison; it’s superbly illustrated by Elissa Elwick and it’s absolutely perfect for young solo readers or for reading aloud.

It all begins when with tummy swollen and heavy, ‘One frosty evening, / A tabby cat prowled / Through white winter fields / While a bitter wind howled.’

Said tabby cat makes her way into a barn and there, watched by the animal residents, produces three kittens that she duly and aptly names Snowdrop, Foxy and Midnight. The third one, born at midnight is different – both mischievous and magical. And this magic seems to be doubling each day and potentially troublesome. Indeed, she soon starts calling herself a ‘cat-astrophe’ and before long forges a friendship with the broom from the barn, naming the thing `Twiggy’.

The two travel together and they’re spotted by a girl named Trixie as she plays in her village.

Trixie takes the kitten home where she’s eventually welcomed whereas the broom is treated less favourably. But with her mischievous nature, will the rest of Trixie’s family allow Midnight to stay?

Trixie is certainly happy with her new friend but it’s not long before sparks start to fly. And then Nan makes a discovery about that broom she’d unceremoniously tossed into the cupboard.

W-hay – it’s up and away …

A magical tale, this surely is; it reads aloud like a dream and is perfect for sharing or independent reading. especially around Halloween time.

Cally & Jimmy Twins in Trouble
Zoe Antoniades, illustrated by Katie Kear
Andersen Press

Meet twins Cally and Jimmy: twins they might be, but you’d be hard pushed to find two more different people. Cally – short for Calista meaning ‘most beautiful’ – the quiet one, is our narrator and is well behaved, most of the time. Jimmy in contrast (his real name is Dimitri on account of having a Greek mother) is far from quiet and his behaviour, not helped by ADHD, leaves a fair bit to be desired. In class, he has a special table right beside the teacher’s desk and far away from his sister’s ‘top table’.

In four short stories we get a pretty clear picture of what it’s like to live with the most-annoying-brother-in-the-whole-wide-world. His actions frequently land them both in trouble, though there are plenty of fun times too. And even after getting into trouble together they often end up laughing together afterwards.

Like the time when they made brownies using dad’s ‘fool-proof recipe’ only they added some rather interesting extra ingredients to the mixture. Not sure I’d want to sample those.

Then there’s the time they contribute to a class assembly, the practising of which doesn’t quite go smoothly.

The final episode sees the celebration of the twins achieving double digits and celebrating it in style.

Other colourful characters include Yiayia (grandma)

and lunchtime supervisor, Mrs Gutteridge.