Isadora Moon Goes to a Wedding

Isadora Moon Goes to a Wedding
Harriet Muncaster
Oxford University Press

Isabelle Moon the half fairy, half vampire child is mega-excited. Her Aunt Crystal is to be married and Isadora can hardly contain herself when she learns that she (along with little Honeyblossom, and cousin Mirabelle) will be bridesmaids. “A frosty and flowery wedding” so her mum tells her. Isadora’s excitement increases further when she tries on her bridesmaid’s dress. The siblings, thinks Mum, will be “the most wonderful vampire fairy bridesmaids that anyone’s ever seen.”

On the wedding morning (after a yummy pancake breakfast courtesy of Oscar) what should draw up outside the family residence but a fairy sledge – how else would they get to the winter fairy realm? And off they whizz … destination the Ice Hall.

There to greet them is mischievous cousin Mirabelle and her family.

After the marriage itself, the meal and speeches get under way and the youngsters grow increasingly bored, so Isadora’s mother suggests the cousins and Honeyblossom go off to the entrance hall and play. There Mirabelle spots the wedding cake

and that’s when the mischief starts (and the shrinking).
Now it’s down to Isadora to try and make sure that even if not everything goes exactly to plan, there’s a happy ending.

Fans (as well as those new to the smashing series) will relish this new story and love to try out some of the activities at the end of the book – a book made even more special with its silver edges and sparkly cover.

Animals with Tiny Cat / 15 things NOT to do with a Puppy

Animals with Tiny Cat
Viviane Schwarz
Walker Books

Viviane Schwarz’a Tiny Cat of There Are Cats in This Book and There Are No Cats in This Book fame is back and as always, is in a playful mood.

With the aid of a few simple props, our feline friend transforms first into a mouse, then an elephant, followed by a …

a horse, a porcupine …

a snake and a spider.

Suddenly though, the pile of discarded items takes on a life of its own …

Is there anything Tiny Cat can become that will send that fearsome beastie packing? …

Viviane Schawarz’s wonderfully playful imagination has, once again, produced a seemingly effortless performance for her moggy star.

Be ready for enthusiastic squeaking, tooting, neighing, hissing and more when you share this one.
Then, I’d suggest leaving the book in a suitable spot in your early years setting together with a few well-chosen items and see what your listeners turn themselves into.

15 things NOT to do with a Puppy
Margaret McAllister and Holly Sterling
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

This is the latest in Margaret McAllister and Holly Sterling’s instruction manual series. Herein the topic is canine care and the two toddler presenters pretty much have the whole thing worked out. Presumably they speak from experience and if you’ve recently added a puppy to your household, then this book has some sound advice.

Hang-gliding, tuba lessons (as if), and getting its paws on the remote control are definite no-nos. So too are taking the pup to some of the children’s favourite places; and gardening is completely out of the question.

Football matches and the library are also definite no-go areas and for safety’s sake keep the animal from the driving seat of the car …

and well away from the sink too. Cafes are off limits as are shopping expeditions.

On the other hand, the dos are relatively straightforward: in a nutshell, love, play, food, drink and sleep work wonders.

The main characters, both human and canine are full of youthful exuberance as are the humorous possibilities of the scenarios presented in Holly Sterling’s illustrations of same.

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Mrs Noah’s Pockets

Mrs Noah’s Pockets
Jackie Morris and James Mayhew
Otter-Barry Books

This totally fresh and original take on the Noah’s Ark story is an absolute bobby-dazzler and what an inspired author/artist pairing.
Jackie Morris’ s powerful prose is honed to perfection so that not a single word is superfluous: here’s a taste:
This rain came from a sky
dark as a bruise,
falling hard and fast,
beating the earth,
washing down tracks,
making streams of pathways
and rivers of roads.

I love that Mrs Noah is portrayed as a subversive character who, instead of snipping, threading, tacking, tucking and stitching what her husband assumes are curtains for his ark windows, is in fact fashioning herself a multi- pocketed cape within which to stash all the ‘troublesome creatures’ that Mr Noah has on his list to leave behind when they set sail on their voyage. Genuis!

James Mayhew has used a strikingly brilliant, new style for his atmospheric illustrations – a mix of collage and print-making …

The design too is superb and those vignettes are little beauties.

This, I think, is destined to become a classic: it deserves a place on every family bookshelf and would make a great addition to any primary classroom collection.

Play

Play
Jez Alborough
Walker Books
The adorable Bobo is back and he’s in defiant mood. Mummy chimp declares it’s bedtime and the little chimp is far from ready to settle down for the night. The sun’s still bright, his friends are still up and ready to play; and play is exactly what Bobo wants to do.

Being Bobo he does …

Until Mummy discovers what he’s up to, and back into bed goes Bobo. Not for long however: there’s plenty of go in the young chimp yet and Turtle is on hand for some watery fun. But as the sun sinks over the hill, Turtle decides it’s time to sleep, which leaves Bobo alone and facing …

He does what most infants would in that situation: hollers ‘Mummy’ for all he’s worth.
Fortunately another of his pals is still around and willing to deliver the little chimp safely home to an extremely anxious parent. There’s no argument about ‘bed time’ now. In fact it’s Bobo himself who says the words and in no time at all they’re both snuggled up for the night.
Next morning at sunrise, who should be ready and waiting for another day’s fun and games but all his jungle pals..
Following on from Hug, Tall and Yes, Jez Alborough has created a celebration of play and friendship. Once again, with very few words, he fashions a wonderful drama that will not only be a winner with existing Bobo fans, but will gain him a host of new would-be playmates.
Brilliant for developing visual literacy, encouraging talk, and perfect for beginning readers; but most important, it’s enormous fun.

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All Aboard the London Bus / No, Nancy, No!

All Aboard the London Bus
Patricia Toht and Sam Usher
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
It’s hard to resist the opening invitation of this book:
Come! / Board the double-decker bus / and see the London sights with us. / Any time, hop off. /Explore! / Then climb back on and ride some more.’ With its welcome aboard greeting in five languages, we’re off and heading for Buckingham Palace to see the Changing of the Guard.
From there, it’s on to Westminster Abbey with its amazing ceilings and tombstones and statues galore.

Big Ben is the next stop and then comes the London Eye so beautifully described as ‘A bracelet that hangs off the Arm of the Thames, / its pods filled with people, all dangle like gems.’ Then after pausing to look at the river itself snaking through a host of landmarks, the family heads for Trafalgar Square. Here readers are offered a busy ‘Seek and Find’ spread while they too pause for breath,

before heading via Speaker’s Corner down onto the tube and thence to Piccadilly Circus where they emerge into a sudden downpour. Seemingly there’s only one thing to do: stop for tea and a browse in a famous toyshop for a while.
The British Museum, Tate Modern and the Globe are some of the other destinations once family members have dried off; and no London visit would be complete without seeing Tower Bridge and the Tower itself so that is their final stop. Phew! It’s certainly been an exhausting day especially for the little ones. The adults are very brave to undertake such a huge itinerary in a single outing and still leave the bus with smiles on their faces.
Essentially a sequence of poems in celebration of London: you can either take the whole tour in one sitting or, take things more slowly just dipping into or revisiting favourite landmarks. No matter which way, Sam Usher’s gently humorous illustrations, whether the focus be a famous London site or its visitors,

are sheer delight.
It’s clear from this celebratory book that London means a lot to both author and artist.

No, Nancy, No!
Alice Tait
Walker Books
Join Nancy and best friend Roger for an exciting, action-packed visit to London. First stop is Buckingham Palace where Nancy is hoping for a glimpse of the Queen. Her dog however has his eyes on two children, one of whom drops a teddybear. Rather than remain at the palace, Nancy and Roger set off hot on the trail of the bear’s owners. A bus ride takes them to St Paul’s Cathedral

and thereafter various other famous London landmarks. Every time it seems they’re about to catch the teddy losers, Nancy’s proclivity for mischief diverts her attention.
Will they ever catch up with the children they’re chasing; and will Nancy ever get to see the Queen?
There are flaps on every detailed spread helping to move the action forwards as well as a surprise Nelson’s Column pop-up; and guess who cannot resist climbing right up to the top. Fun, fast and with its repeat “No, Nancy, No!” from Roger, fun to share, especially before a visit to London.

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That Bear Can’t Babysit / Brobot Bedtime

That Bear Can’t Babysit
Ruth Quayle and Alison Friend
Nosy Crow
Little did Mr and Mrs Burrow know when they had to resort to hiring Bear as babysitter for their night out, leaving their seven bunny offspring in his charge while they went off to a party, what those young rabbits or indeed Bear, might get up to.
The junior Burrows certainly seem to have Bear wrapped around their little paws from the start – or some of them do at least. They choose inappropriate reading material; cause chaos, and worse when it comes to supper;

create mayhem with the hosepipe and then embark on a moonlit adventure with Bear at the helm.

Finally our ursine child-minder seems to have the upper paw, all the more so when out comes the perfect bedtime storybook.

Which is just as well because before you can say ‘goodnight little bunnies’ back come Mr and Mrs B to find a scene of serenity and shut-eye; accompanied by some rather surprising words from their babysitter. Shame that counting isn’t one of his better skills.
Author, Ruth Quayle’s debut picture book is a charmer through and through. It’s full of lively, tongue-in-cheek dialogue, scattered throughout with join-in-able repeat phrases, not the least of which is the title of this book, and there’s a lovely final twist in its tail.
Alison Friend’s scenes fizzle with fun. Her portrayal of frolicsome mischief, furry friend style, is full of amusing detail and her characters are adorably impish.

Brobot Bedtime
Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen and Scott Campbell
Abrams
The only words of this pre bedtime story are speech bubbles – one colour per character – and encased within outlines that approximately correspond with different shapes of the speakers’ heads. The dialogue, which is liberally sprinkled with wordplay, opens with the mother robot sending her three offspring to bed. A seemingly straightforward “time to enter sleep mode” instruction however, is anything but that. Beep can’t possibly sleep; he has “the flick-ups” and needs help. His brothers Crash and Buzz offer assistance in the form of a “nice cup of oil”,

to no avail. Then Buzz leaps into action with a spot of diverting impersonation …

And so it goes on with all manner of supposedly helpful shenanigans until, with Beep on the point of insomniac self-destruction, mum robot calls out, expressing extreme displeasure demanding to know “Why are there still gears turning up there?” and threatening “a hard reboot”.
A plan is hatched but will those little bots ever settle down and drop off to sleep? Well, um yes – and no!
The crazy, occasionally slightly confusing, visuals of the romp, in tandem with those colour-coded speech bubbles, offer a wonderful opportunity for readers aloud (and young listeners), to engage in robot-speak. A word of warning though: if you share this as a bedtime book, it might well lead to rather too much child-robot talk and as a result, insufficient infant wind-down.

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Fairytale Frankie and the Mermaid Escapade / The Opposite

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Fairytale Frankie and the Mermaid Escapade
Greg Gormley and Steve Lenton
Orchard Books
This was eagerly seized upon by one of my readers who had enjoyed Fairytale Frankie and the Tricky Witch. This time, fairytale lover Frankie encounters a mermaid at the seaside, a mermaid who is reluctant to join her for a swim on account of the BIG sea monster. Frankie reassures her and the two frolic in the shallows until the coastguard issues a warning.

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Frankie suggests a strength in numbers approach and after encounters with a surfing prince and a beardie pirate, both of whom are fearful of said sea monster, the young girl and her fellow monster anticipators watch as the sea starts to stir …

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“I’m a little bit frightened of this story now, ” one of my listeners said and was clearly empathising with Frankie and the mermaid as everyone else takes evasive action…

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leaving Frankie endeavouring to protect her mermaid friend.
Are the two of them, not to mention those who’ve temporarily disappeared from the scene, about to become the next meal of a BIG, MASSIVE, seriously HUGE, GIGANTIC sea monster? Let’s just say that what emerges from the deep isn’t quite what they’ve all been anticipating.
With its larger than life characters superbly portrayed by Steve Lenton, excitement throughout the tale, and a fun finale, this is sure to be a crowd pleaser where young audiences are concerned.

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The Opposite
Tom MacRae and Elena Odriozola
Andersen Press
This was MacRae’s picture book debut around ten years back and if you missed it then, this paperback is definitely worth getting hold of especially if you like quirky humour and a story with a twist or two in its tail.
Our first encounter with ‘The Opposite’ is hanging upside down from Nat’s bedroom ceiling ignoring the lad’s “Get down!” instruction. A disconcerting sight if ever there was one especially as it’s clad in a kind of onesie that matches the wallpaper. “Dad! There’s an Opposite on my ceiling!” Nate cries but ‘The Opposite had already happened, and it wasn’t there any more.’
The thing reappears on the kitchen worktop during breakfast …

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sabotaging Nate’s milk pouring efforts, sending the liquid upwards to the ceiling and then down onto the tablecloth, which of course, displeases his Mum.
There’s more Opposite trouble at school where paint ends up everywhere but on Nate’s paper.

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Then it’s time for Nate to begin thinking in ‘Opposite’ ways …
Elena Odriozola’s pen and watercolour illustrations, although brighter, have a hint of Edward Gorey about them and the characters’ flatness gives them a touch of spookiness: altogether an ideal complement for MacRae’s text.
Satisfying and slightly enigmatic both.

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Nixie Splashy Summer Swim

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Nixie Splashy Summer Swim
Cas Lester illustrated by Ali Pye
Oxford University Press
Already famous for her ability to manipulate the truth is Nixie the mischievous fairy who is, once again, up to all kinds of frolics – by the pond mostly herein; and when a story begins ‘BOING! BOUNCE! SPLAT! “Bumblebees’ bottoms! I can’t do it!” (bottom-sits on the cobweb trampoline) newly independent readers will surely be unable to resist. With an ‘accidental watering of the too-good-to-be- true, Adorabella (and it’s VERY cold water) as she lies peacefully reading; a float that (with just a small flick of Nixie’s wonky wand) turns into a real frog and hops away;

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and a burst lilo – the snazzy new one belonging to the Fairy Godmother who is supposed to be having a relaxing day off, it seems the day is set fair for fiascos. Of course, they are only some of the things that Nixie gets up to. There’s also this …

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plus a spot of fin building – that’s for Willow who’s more than a little scared of the water; and of course, there’s the inevitable water bomb battle. And to round off the day, courtesy of the long-suffering Fairy Godmother, there are fab. ice-creams, not all of which are quite as delicious as anticipated …
There is however an ‘Ice cream sundae generator’ after the story so readers can discover which of the fairies shares their taste in the confection.
What are as delicious as anticipated however, are those wonderful Ali Pye illustrations liberally sprinkled throughout this sparkling book. The Lester/Pye combination works that special brand of magic once more. Don’t miss this one if you’re a ‘just flying solo’ reader or know one.

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Bear Washing and Bed Bouncing

DSCN7467Do Not Wash This Bear
Sam Hay and Nick East
Egmont Publishing
The particular Dad in this story – so the child narrator tells us – is a disaster area when it comes to doing the washing; titchy T-shirts, pink vests and disappearing socks being examples of the consequences. So, there is a kind of inevitability of mishap when he decides his son’s somewhat stinky ted is in need of a wash. “DO NOT WASH THIS BEAR’ states the label but Dad pays no heed and soon …

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What happens when the cycle finishes and Bear emerges is NOT good. Seemingly the creature has undergone something of a personality change. First there’s this:

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raspberry blowing Bear

And before long there are bubbles all over the bathroom and the bedroom’s full of snow.
Then, when Dad coming upstairs meets Bear bounding down, this is the result …

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Back comes Mum and, having stated the obvious, hangs the errant Bear on the line, which does the trick where mischief making is concerned.
Bear may be back to normal (albeit much cleaner), but …

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The crazy capers herein are sure to be appreciated by the young but equally this one will make the many adults who have had washing disasters, smile too. Nick East’s spirited illustrations capture the shenanigans beautifully and his characters – Bear and human – are charmers.

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There’s a Bison Bouncing on the Bed!
Paul Bright and Chris Chatterton
Little Tiger Press
There’s a big brown bison bouncing on the bed and its great fun, so much so that Aardvark, Chipmunk and Beetle join him. OOPS! All that bumping and thumping …

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will surely lead to one thing – and it does…

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Recriminations follow but oh my goodness! Seems there was someone else in that bed all along – that, or it’s moving on it’s own. Out comes Grizzly Bear and he certainly hasn’t got a smile on his face as he orders immediate repairs.

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But repairs are not the only things about which he issues instructions: there’s something else he wants the bouncers to do – once they’ve fixed the bed of course …
The combination of jaunty rhyming text and giggle-inducing scenes are certain to delight young bed bouncers especially (and that’s pretty much all young children.) My listeners were quick to join in with the rhyme and demanded an immediate re-read. Adult readers aloud – perhaps bedtime isn’t the best time to share this very lively story.

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Supermarket Gremlins

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Supermarket Gremlins
Adam & Charlotte Guillain and Chris Chatterton
Egmont Publishing
Be warned! You are about to enter the hitherto unknown world of supermarket gremlins and a pretty wacky one it is too. Seemingly, pretty much wherever you look as you wander the aisles in search of your favourite items, you’ll find evidence of their activities – misplaced bananas for example …

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and in many instances lifting the flaps will confirm your suspicions …

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Much of what they get up to is extremely mischievous and certain to give you a good giggle; but be sure to watch out for flying muffins if you venture into the bread section and unwittingly disturb the snoozers …
And what’s that nestling among those kiwi fruits? Oh! and there’s another in the apples …

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Just make sure that when you finally reach the checkout that none of the little varmints has stowed away in your bags – something they have a habit of doing and seemingly on this particular occasion, they seem to have a rather bigger plan afoot …

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Zany rhyming fun and madcap action-packed (not to mention gremlin-packed) spreads combine to ensure that this one will eventually be read to destruction (and that’ll take some doing). And that next time you visit the supermarket you’ll be constantly on the lookout not only for bargains but dare I say it, spaghetti wrapped around your trolley wheels courtesy of those GREMLINS …

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Better Together

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Good Knight, Bad Knight
Tom Knight
Templar Publishing
Summer is over and Bad Knight is about to return to school. Up until now the young knight has hated school  but things look set to change for two reasons. Bad Knight is building a special secret weapon and, his cousin is coming to stay …

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That was the plan; but when said cousin arrives, Bad Knight is in for a surprise; his cousin is GOOD! Indeed much more than good – he’s star pupil in every respect. Disaster! Especially as bad Knight’s status as worst knight in the school is made official and the two are to meet face to face in the end-of-term jousting contest.

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You’ll only need one guess as to the winner of the match, but perhaps what appears overhead as the victor is announced will give Bad Knight another chance to prove himself …

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and put that invention of his to good use.
And perhaps, the two young knights aren’t quite so different: two heads are often better than one after all…

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A crazy tale of folly, fighting, friendship and the odd stink bomb too. Tom Knight’s debut solo picture book will surely find friends among young would-be knights and catapult creators in particular.

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Cool Cat Versus Top Dog
Mike Yamada
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Cool Cat and Top Dog are sworn enemies, which is somewhat problematic as they live under the same roof. Top of their list of reasons to fight is Pet Quest, the annual round the town race and nobody has won the trophy other than our two adversaries CC and TD with Top Dog being the cup’s current holder.

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Now the race night is upon them and both parties are determined to win, no matter what. But there’s another contestant – Buck Thumper – who has set his sights on claiming the trophy this year.

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Cool Cat has a plan up her sleeve and pretty soon Top Dog has fallen for it but he’s quick to resort to some tricky doings of his own.

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The race continues with the rivals neck and neck until eventually both parties’ vehicles are totally out of control and Buck Thumper zooms into the lead.
Can that be the end for TD and CC; or is there perhaps a chance that some clever teamwork might just save the day?
This final shot gives a hint but you’ll have to get your paws on a copy of this breakneck riot of a book to discover all that happened along the way. PHEW!

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Solomon and Mortimer

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Solomon and Mortimer
Catherine Rayner
Macmillan Children’s Books
Solomon crocodile is back and he’s as mischievous as ever, especially now he’s teamed up with pal Mortimer and the two of them are feeling bored and in need of some fun.
Tree climbing proves pretty disastrous …

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Lizard chasing upsets the lizards and as for flying – best forgotten straightaway. So on go the little crocs. still searching for that illusive fun. Then Solomon comes up with a hippo-teasing plan. But can the mischief makers carry it through or will the interfering pelicans, the nosy butterflies or the grumpy toad …

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give the game away and sabotage their seemingly perfect plot?

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Let’s just say, it’s a smashingly splashing finale and every one of the animals ends up with a huge grin …
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Spot on for early years story time sessions. Mischievous lead characters (those toothy grins are just delicious), wonderfully detailed watery scenes, a build-up of suspense as the big push opportunity draws closer and a satisfying conclusion – albeit not the intended one.
All in all, a read aloud treat that will be asked for over and over.

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