Billy and the Dragon

Billy and the Dragon
Nadia Shireen
Jonathan Cape

One of my favourite picture book characters from last year, Billy, and her sidekick Fatcat, return for another action-packed adventure.

It all begins with the two setting out to a fancy dress party, Fatcat rather more reluctantly, but fuelled by the promise of cake.

On arrival Billy greets their friends while Fatcat heads straight for the food. He doesn’t quite make it though for he’s seized by enormous claws and whisked skywards.

After a quick rummage around in her hair Billy produces a telescope that she uses to locate Fatcat’s whereabouts

and operation ‘save Fatcat’ commences.

Billy, the mice, the little bunny rabbits, Fox and Hedgehog (less enthusiastically) head for the Deep Dark Forest. How on earth (or sky) is Billy going to get herself up the massive tree wherein Fatcat has been plonked?

Happily Hedgehog has come with some of the party stuff. But a fiery roar from the fearsome dragon kidnapper puts paid to her first attempt and then the catnapper takes to the air again, coming to land in an even more terrifying spot.

So terrifying in fact that only Billy continues on the perilous journey during which she comes upon and ‘rescues’ a scaly little creature that she takes along with her.

This might just be the wisest move she’s made, for eventually this is the sight that meets her eyes …

Once again, Nadia’s perfectly paced story is a winner; it’s full of moments to savour and the drama is brought out so brilliantly in her smashing scenes of the chief protagonist and her supporting animal cast. (Watch out for the worm.)

Bring on the next one.

Billy and the Beast

Billy and the Beast
Nadia Shireen
Jonathan Cape

Billy is a girl with an amazing head of hair – she sometimes uses it for secreting useful items, items such as doughnuts for the occasions, pretty frequent by all accounts, when her sidekick, Fatcat, gets an attack of the tummy rumbles.

This is what happens near the start of this yummy story while the pair stroll through the forest together greeting various woodland creatures – Hedgehog, Fox, a trio of mice and ‘three adorable little bunny rabbits’.

However on their return journey, as they notice a distinct lack of their forest dwelling pals they’re suddenly plunged into darkness.

That darkness being the inside of a sack clutched by something introducing itself, having released his two captives, as a “TERRIBLE BEAST

In response to Billy’s inquiry concerning their capture, said beast informs her that he’s on the lookout for unusual ingredients for his terrible soup. Seemingly he’s already found quite a few on his list.

Quick thinking combined with a few deft digs among her curls serves to bring about the substitution of some of the listed ingredients and, despite a sudden attack of terrible tummy rumbles on the part of the beast that serves to further his determination,

the consequent release of Billy’s woodland pals.

However, hunger-induced anger notwithstanding, the Beast is determined to secure the most important ingredient of all for his concoction.

Can the sassy young miss save the day one more time? Or, will it be a satisfying ending for the Beast.

I will reveal that its certainly a case of ‘yum yum!’ but to find out whose hunger is sated, you’ll have to bag a copy of this delicious offering from your local bookshop.

Absolutely brilliant for reading aloud to large groups of listeners who will relish not only the story but joining in with noisy rumbles, hellos and more. If my experience is anything to go by, this book is sure to be a much requested story time offering. Both words and illustrations are absolute delight: whoever would have thought a mass of curls could be such a boon.

The Cow Who Fell to Earth

The Cow Who Fell to Earth
Nadia Shireen
Jonathan Cape
If you happen to be a sheep, you might want to watch out for stars and other falling objects.
It’s night; sheep huddle together beneath the stars when suddenly a mysterious body plummets earthwards, landing with a resounding BOOM!
What the sheep are confronted with is something altogether unexpected: a jetpack and a small cow. It’s communication skills are apparently restricted to a single utterance: “WOOO” is the response the sheep receive to their ministrations and their questions about its name and place of origin. Indeed that’s the manner in which the cow transmits its entire story …

a story none of the sheep understands. Nevertheless they decide to call their visitor Dave.
Dave is faced with a communication problem: surely someone must be able to understand her: Bertha the cow perhaps? But no. The other animals are equally mystified.
Poor Dave is distraught; how on earth is she to get back from whence she came?

Could it be that the chickens are going to save the day? And if so, how?

All IS finally revealed in this splendidly silly book but you’ll need to get yourself a copy to discover how the bonkers finale unfolds.
Nadia Shireen’s beautifully bulky beasts are a hoot; and to share this crazy tale is to invite a whole lot of noisy participation of the “wooo” kind.
It was extremely difficult prising my copy back from one three year old I shared it with, who declared, ‘I really, really LOVE that book’ and I had to promise that like Dave, it would be returned to her at a later date.

I’ve signed the charter  

The Bumblebear

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The Bumblebear
Nadia Shireen
Jonathan Cape
The pupils at Bee School have more than a little surprise when a newcomer arrives on the scene. It’s none other than Norman, a honey-loving creature with a plan to satisfy his constant desire for the sticky stuff …

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Norman loves his lessons but there’s one particular bee, Amelia, who has her suspicions about him right from the start. After a bit of investigation, it looks like she’s on to him …

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but the other bees are unconvinced.
Determined to prove her point and unmask Norman once and for all, Amelia sets a trap, one that Norman finds irresistible and pretty soon he’s well and truly rumbled …

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Poor Norman is immediately expelled from Bee School, which rapidly becomes a much quieter, less fun place for the other pupils.
Come night-time, another animal arrives on the scene, one that terrifies the bees and sends them tumbling and bumbling out of the hive in a panic. This creature is not to be moved though, no matter how hard the bees try …

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but then, out of the forest comes a huge buzzing creature …
Guess who is a hero now?
Nadia Shireen has created some wonderful characters and now she’s added the adorable Bumblebear to their number. (the real bees are pretty darn cute too). With plenty of suspense and expressions such as “What the jiggins?” this yummily funny story is great to read aloud and has been very well received by all I’ve shared it with.

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Bother with Babes

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Wild Child
Steven Salerno
Abrams Children’s Books
Time was the biggest and strongest ruled the jungle; but that was before the arrival of a new creature: a small soft-skinned one with just two teeth. It terrorized the other animals: it was …

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Time to “tame that wild thing”, decide the other animals, sick and tired of all the grabbing, pinching, pooping, pulling, kicking, biting, hitting and howling.
Various taming strategies ensue: Giraffe feeds it leaves, Elephant sprays it with water,

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Vulture perches it upon a tall tree, Anteater feeds it bugs, Hippo rolls it in the mud and Lion roars at it, all of which only serve to fuel its fury.

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Gorilla however, tries an altogether different tack. – a much gentler one and after some sweet banana and a clean up, followed by a cuddle, the holy terror is a wild child no longer, it’s a mild child, well temporarily.

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After which it’s a case of ‘let the wild rumpus’ commence … At least the animals are smiling now.

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Dramatic, action packed cartoon style jungly scenes combined with punchy prose make for a storytime treat with plenty of potential for wild joining in – vocal and physical.
Fun, fast, forceful and furious.

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The Baby That Roared
Simon Puttock and Nadia Shireen
Nosy Crow
Mr and Mrs Deer are desperate for a baby and when they discover one on their doorstep: it seems their dream has at last come true.

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However, the infant starts to cry, or rather ROAR and no matter what they offer, it won’t stop. Time to call in the reserves suggests Mrs Deer. First to come is Uncle Duncan. His warm milk suggestion doesn’t produce the desired outcome but Uncle Duncan is nowhere to be seen. And, there’s a decided aroma around the place.
Auntie Agnes is next with advice: a nappy change is her suggestion and off go the Deers to collect nappies, towels and ointment. They’re soon back, but where is Auntie Agnes?
The roaring continues so Doctor Fox is consulted. His arrival is swift but his action ineffectual: Still the baby roars but as for the doc, he’s nowhere to be seen.
Thank goodness then for Granny Bear who decides a burping will do the trick.

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She applies several hearty pats and then …

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And out come the missing helpers (along with a whole lot of gunk!).

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Granny bear of course can see what delighted readers will have known from the outset: “That’s not a dear little baby!” … “That is a LITTLE MONSTER!” she cries. And off it dashes. Time to get a pet …
Nadia Shireen’s wickedly subversive humour (first evident in Good Little Wolf) is perfect for Simon Puttock’s tongue-in-cheek, fractured fairytale (a re-issue). I love the way all we see of the consumed characters are the odd accessories – a hat, a scarf, a stethoscope.
The repeat phrases: “ “A baby?” said (character’s name) “A dear little baby? I shall come at once!”; and ‘… when Mr and Mrs Deer came back – how very peculiar! — had disappeared, and the baby was still roaring!’ are used to great effect and listeners soon take great delight in joining in with them
Enormously engaging and imminently re-readable.

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