Wigglesbottom Primary: Break Time Bunnies / Lottie Luna and the Bloom Garden

Wigglesbottom Primary: Break Time Bunnies
Becka Moor and Pamela Butchart
Nosy Crow

It’s always a delight to read of the exploits of Class 2R in their school where pretty much anything can happen.

Here we have three new fun, beautifully observed episodes wherein the children allow their imaginations to take flight. In the first story it’s a case of bunnies running riot in the playground: could they be ATTACK BUNNIES and why are they there?

The second tale, has class teacher Miss Riley announcing the imminent arrival of a ‘special guest’. Is the man who sits at the back of the class a TV talent spotter or has he another purpose for watching the goings on of teacher and pupils?

In story number three the children all sign up for violin lessons but their music teacher, Miss Stein looks really spooky. Could she perhaps be a witch – a bewitching witch?

It’s so easy to get sucked into 2B’s zany premises in these enormously enjoyable stories and the final revelations are always delicious.

As ever Pamela Buchart has done a brilliant job illustrating these small sparkling stories. She catches the zaniness of Becka’s tellings SO well making every page turn not only a verbal but a visual treat.

Bring on the next one.

Lottie Luna and the Bloom Garden
Vivian French, illustrated by Nathan Reed
Harper Collins Children’s Books

Meet Lottie Luna, star of a super new series by Vivian French.
Lottie is a werewolf, but a very special one with extra powers on account of her being born during a full lunar eclipse. Hence she’s super speedy, super strong, has x-ray vision and has super hearing. Oh yes and she’s also a princess on account of her father inheriting a kingdom.

This however means that she’s had to move home to the crumbling Dracon Castle and consequently has to start at a new school mid year. Like many youngsters, Lottie is nervous about this and certainly doesn’t want it known at Shadow Academy that she’s special even if that means not revealing her real self.

Lottie’s class teacher announces a pupil project – to create a design to transform the wasteland behind the school into a beautiful garden and the winning design will be used for the purpose.

Before long Lottie finds she has two friends, and decides that the head of her new school is amazing – a kindred spirit too; perhaps things won’t be so bad after all.

As for the garden design, Lottie is the winner but once the garden creation begins,

more challenges arise – there’s a Bloom Garden saboteur at work.

Now Lottie must do all she can to save the enterprise from road developers; but can she do it? Perhaps it’s time to draw on those superpowers of hers …

Friendship, determination, being true to yourself, courage, resilience and forgiveness are at the heart of this smashing story Vivian has woven.

Nathan Reed has done a terrific job with his black and white illustrations; they’re offbeat and splendidly playful.

More please!

Mr Brown’s Bad Day / Bunnies on the Bus

Mr Brown’s Bad Day
Lou Peacock and Alison Friend
Nosy Crow

Mr Brown is a Very Important Businessman with a Very  Important Briefcase that he takes to his Very Important Office where he spends his time signing Very Important Letters and attending Very Important Meetings.

Every lunchtime clutching his Very Important Briefcase he leaves his office to eat his lunch in the park.

One Tuesday however, a baby elephant snatches the briefcase while Mr B is busy thinking important thoughts.

There follows a frantic chase on foot and by tricycle as said briefcase is passed relay style onto the back of an ice-cream trolley and then in the possession of a group of children, onto the fairground’s big wheel, and the bus back through the town to school.

Mr Brown finally catches up with it when the bus stops to disgorge the passengers.

Eventually with darkness falling it’s a very weary tiger that heads home clutching his briefcase. Once there he checks to make sure the contents are safe before heading up to bed for a well-earned rest and some more ‘Very Important Business’ …

But what was inside that briefcase? Now that would be telling and I’m no story spoiler.

Great fun with a wonderful final surprise revelation. Alison Friend’s illustrations are a treat too with plenty of detail and action to engage your little ones as they listen to Lou Peacock’s tongue-in-cheek tale.

Bunnies on the Bus
Philip Ardagh and Ben Mantle
Walker Books

TOOT! TOOT HONK! HONK! Madness and mayhem abound as the bunnies take to the bus one summer’s day in Sunny Town, so the rest of us drivers and pedestrians had better steer well clear as the bunny driver has clearly gone rogue, careering past the bus stops narrowly avoiding the other animals going about their daily business.

The bunnies meanwhile are having a ball aboard FLUFF 1, cavorting down the aisle; there’s even one up on the roof.
Where is this vehicle bound for you may well be wondering as it suddenly leaves the road completely.

No matter, for at the next stop, those bunny passengers instantly set their sights on another mode of transport as they make their exit and err … where one journey ends another begins so to speak …

Anarchic fun for your bouncy little ones created by the terrific Ardagh/ Mantle team whose combination of energetic rhyme (Philip) and cracking illustrations jam-packed with gigglesome details (Ben) is perfect cheering up material.

Board Books and a Squidgy One

Baby’s Very First Faces
illustrated by Jo Lodge
Campbell Books

With its mirror, crinkly pages and high contrast images and patterns, this hand-washable book is just the thing to share with a new baby. It features in turn a daddy, a mummy, and a baby. In case you are reluctant to take it out of your home, there is a Velcro strap that can be attached to a buggy while you’re out and about.

Where’s Baby Chick?
Ingela P Arrhenius
Nosy Crow

Spring’s well and truly in the air: the ideal time to introduce toddlers to some new life with this latest hide-and-seek book. Tucked away behind the felt flaps on the brightly coloured, patterned spreads are Baby Bunny, Baby Lamb, Baby Kitten and Baby Chick. The final spread contains a mirror and asks ‘And where are you?’
Simple interactive delight to share with your little one.

Bake a Rainbow Cake!
Amirah Kassem
Abrams Appleseed
A veritable explosion of colour is the outcome of artistic baker Amirah Kassem’s board book extravaganza.

She gives the essential step-by-step two word instructions at the top of each page, beneath which is a jazzy illustration with either a tab to pull, a wheel to turn or a flap to lift as you ‘Pour it!/ Mix it!/ Colour it! / Bake it!’ and so on until, once the frosting has been applied, it’s time to lavish on the sprinkles and wish. Then turn the page to the final …

Short and VERY sweet! Irresistibly so in fact. Mmm! Yum, yum. Yummy! Second helpings please, will come the cry from the little ones you share this tasty board book with.

Old Macdonald’s Things That Go
Jane Clarke and Migy Blanco
Nosy Crow

There’s a whole lot more sounds than moos and baas down on Old MacDonald’s farm: the farmer has a passion for noisy vehicles, by all accounts.
His car vrooms; his tractor chugga-chugga chugs; the combine goes rattle-swish everywhere. He even has a bus that beep-beeps its way around full of jolly animals.

Seemingly he has extensive farmland for there’s a swoosh-swooshing motor boat and it appears he’s fortunate in having a fire truck on hand to deal with accidents of the incendiary kind, ‘nee-nawing’ into action when things get a bit over-heated.

But there’s even more; I’ll let you work out what choo-choos across the fields and what zoom-zoom’s into the air.

Each of Migy Blanco’s jolly digital spreads shows the farmer and his animals joyfully dashing around in one or more of the vehicles, before the two penultimate tongue-twisting spreads, before the 50’s-looking vehicles whizz towards the finish line. If you can actually slow down though, there’s plenty to pore over in every scene.

Jane Clarke’s rowdy spin off from the classic nursery song will surely have little ones giggling as well as singing along. One wonders what else Old Macdonald might have down on that farm of his; or maybe he could take a holiday and experience all manner of seaside sounds.

The Pirates are Coming!

The Pirates are Coming!
John Condon and Matt Hunt
Nosy Crow

Can there be room on the shelf for yet more pirate books? It’s pretty likely as children seem to have a penchant for things piratical; and John Condon and Matt Hunt’s salty offering will definitely be a crowd pleaser.

It tells of young Tom who daily climbs the hill overlooking the sea in the hope of spying a pirate ship; and one day he does – so he thinks.

He rings a bell and all the villagers dash for cover; turns out though, that it’s a case of misidentification. Tom’s dad reminds him pirates have ‘BIG’ ships. Undaunted, Tom continues his daily watch but again and again he gets it wrong, needlessly sending the villagers into hiding.

Unsurprisingly they begin to get blasé and so the next time Tom yells “PIRATES” as he rushes down the hill,

not a single person hides – until that is, they hear the tell-tale “squawk!’ of a parrot.

Here, the tale takes a twist and the finale is a wonderful surprise. I certainly don’t want to be a story spoiler so I’ll leave the villagers in hiding and the pirates sailing silently into the harbour, gangplank at the ready …

John Condon’s story is full of drama, and superbly paced, with plenty of laughs along the way: further laughs will be induced thanks to Matt Hunt’s splendid illustrations. On every spread there’s something giggle worthy – rather, make that several things.

If you enjoy putting on a performance with your story sharing, you’ll absolutely relish reading this one with a group of youngsters and they’ll love it too.

Magnificent Mabel and the Rabbit Riot

Magnificent Mabel and the Rabbit Riot
Ruth Quayle, illustrated by Julia Christians
Nosy Crow

Mabel Chase is a spirited girl. She sees how things ought to be and knows what she wants – kind of. It’s pets that she wants in the first story finding it totally unfair that her parents deny her one. Even more unfair is that Mabel’s big sister is given a pet rabbit, Henry for her birthday and she doesn’t appear very interested in the creature; after just one morning she leaves him behind while she gallivants off to spend her birthday money. Of course, Mabel cannot resist stepping into the caring breech

and pretty soon the place is in chaos. Not only that but she decides to clean out the hutch; this involves using a green fluffy duster that doubles up rather well as a broomstick – uh oh!

The strange thing is Mabel comes out of the whole episode squeaky clean and being showered with praise.

Oh, and she seems to have replaced her penchant for rabbits with a different kind of animal …

There’s another crisis situation in the second story – it happens when Mabel discovers she has suddenly developed a wobbly tooth and she’s anything but keen on the tooth fairy. Time to put her ‘spare time’ dental skills into practice. Despite her best efforts the tooth does eventually fall out and then she has to work out how to deal with that tooth fairy. I’ll leave her pondering the dilemma and merely add that it’s not the only one Mabel faces in this episode.

The third story has Mabel complaining about the unfairness of life AGAIN. Now it’s on account of not having a sprinkler in the garden. However Elsa Kavinsky does have one so perhaps it’s time to work on cultivating their friendship.

Maybe then she’ll let Mabel have a play in hers … This episode has “Pixie Play Date’ in its title but if you want to know how pixies come in you’ll need your own copy of Magnificent Mabel and the Rabbit Riot.

I’d most definitely recommend getting a copy if you have a newly independent reader in your class or family; it would make a super fun book to share too. I love the way it’s presented from Mabel’s viewpoint; she’s a totally endearing narrator and SO good at keeping calm when faced with emergencies. I love too Julia Christians’ plentiful illustrations; she’s captured Mabel’s character splendidly, and those of her family and friends.

This is a series that could run and run.

Little Bird Lands

Little Bird Lands
Karen McCombie
Nosy Crow

‘Fifteen years ago, my mother looked down upon me – cradled and broken in her arms – and made a wish. She wished that I might live, since it seemed likely that I would not.’ So begins Karen McCombie’s sequel to the superbly written Little Bird Flies. (If you’ve not read it you might want to start there.)

The brave, determined Bridie aka Little Bird, and her father and brother Lachlan have now been in the US for two years and are in a snowy copper mining settlement in Michigan. Here they face plenty of challenges: a fever lays Bridie low but happily there’s a woman doctor temporarily lodging with them at Hawk’s Point; the mine in which Lachlan has found work is said to have a Chippewa curse on it, and a ghost of a Chippewa maiden supposedly haunts the entire town.

When Dr Spicer suggests to Bridie that she gets involved in the setting up of a school for the local children and the newcomers, the girl’s initial reluctance at the idea of teaching quickly gives way to excitement and resolve.

The issues of taking land from the Native American peoples, of reservations and of the incomers’ selfishness rear their ugly heads. So too does that of who has the right to the education the doctor and Bridie are offering; as well as the question of whether or not ‘servant’ Easter – as she’s deemed by ‘cocky’ boy, Charlie – and Bridie can become true friends.

Then comes a disaster at the mine causing terrible injuries to many of the workers. Is this remote place ever to feel like home? Especially when Bridie discovers the secret that Easter has been keeping about her mistress for many months …

Later, when she finally understands what Lachlan has been trying to tell her about this ‘mistress’ and comes face to face with her, she realises that the young woman has the knowledge and the power to ruin her life and those of her father and brother all over again …

Totally engrossing throughout: McCombie’s carefully researched, compelling story chronicling Bridie’s experiences as an immigrant, is superbly woven and ultimately uplifting; all its characters really come to life; and there’s SO much to think about.

If you’re searching for a book to offer a confident upper KS2 reader, or want something of a historical nature to share with a class, this is a smasher.

The Monster in the Lake / Unicorn Academy: Isla and Buttercup

Here are the latest stories in two magical series from Nosy Crow

The Monster in the Lake
Louie Stowell, illustrated by Davide Ortu
Nosy Crow

We’re back in the magical world Louie Stowell took us to in Dragon in the Library with youngest magician in the world, Kit Spencer. Beneath that library in Book Wood, she’s having ‘spelling’problems. She hasn’t been distracted, her pronunciation was spot on as were her hand gestures; so why, oh why, are her spells going haywire?
Then Kit and her pals learn two things: one: they can understand what the animals they encounter in the park are saying and two: Dogon the delightful dragon dog is poorly, very poorly.

Definitely time for a spot of investigation …

Almost before you can say ‘weird’ the friends find themselves face to face with a strange creature calling itself Lizzie and saying it’s a Lesser Nessie from Scotland.

After a conversation with Lizzie, the friends return to the library and before long they’re embarking on a double rescue undertaking in Scotland, via one the library’s portal books.

Once there they discover a mobile library and its librarian Duncan. Then follows a terrific adventure full of mermaids, ancient curses and much more. It’s dangerous, nail-bitingly tense and absolutely perfectly paced.

Once again Louie Stowell’s telling with its mix of magic, friendship and bookish references works a treat, and with Davide Ortu’s stylish illustrations, the result is another spellbinding foray into the world of Kit, Faith, Josh and Alita.

An absolutely brilliant, unmissable story for primary readers: and what a superb final observation by Faith, “Whatever else changes, whatever threats we face … We will always have books.”

For slightly younger readers:

Unicorn Academy: Isla and Buttercup
Julie Sykes, illustrated by Lucy Truman
Nosy Crow

Can it really be the 12th visit to the magical Unicorn Academy? I know one girl, now seven, who has lapped up all the stories so far and has been eagerly awaiting this new one. I’m sure she will devour it in a single sitting.

The term is drawing to a close and Isla is eager to graduate along with all the other girls. When her unicorn Buttercup discovers that his magical power is ‘finding magic’ Isla hopes that he’s capable of using this special power to find the evil Ms Willow who has disappeared.

Does 2nd year student Valentina know anything about her whereabouts – she’s certainly acting strangely. Why is she receiving so many letters, and who is sending them?

Once again, teamwork is key in this adventure: Will the girls find the missing teacher; will Isla finally believe in herself and will everyone receive their graduation scroll at the end of term?