My Pet T-Rex

My Pet T-Rex
Fabi Fantiago
Orchard Books

Nobody supposes that looking after a new pet is easy but when young Kiki becomes the owner of Petunia, it might just be that it’s an overly ambitious project, for Petunia is none other than a massive T-Rex, albeit a supposedly friendly one.

Cleanliness, comfort, feeding and of course, cleaning up after her are certainly going to keep Kiki pretty busy;

and apparently even dinosaurs need to visit the vet for their vaccinations. Now there’s a thing.

When it comes to basic training it’s important that your pet doesn’t take your instructions too literally and no matter how careful you are about the words used, there may be the occasional misunderstanding …

Exercise for so large a creature is absolutely crucial although it might be as well, should you visit the Dino Park, to steer clear of certain of the amusements on offer. Oh dear. It looks as though this pet care business is proving rather too much for a certain T-Rex owner.

However even dinosaurs have feelings and roaring at them might just make them feel unwanted, for now Petunia has disappeared, but where to? Maybe she just wants to make friends again …

Full of gigglesome moments, Fabi’s new story will be a huge hit with the countless young dinosaur enthusiasts out there; her illustrations are an absolute hoot. I often wonder on receiving a new dinosaur book whether youngsters will want yet another dino. story but I wouldn’t mind betting that the answer will be a resounding YES! when it comes to this one.

Sea Keepers: The Mermaid’s Dolphin / Museum Kittens: The Midnight Visitor

Introducing two new younger fiction series:

Sea Keepers: The Mermaid’s Dolphin
Coral Ripley
Orchard Books

Meet Emily, Grace and Layla. Emily’s parents have just bought Mermaid Café; Layla lives just up the hill and Grace’s grandfather is a fisherman. The three team up to rescue a dolphin from a fishing net and find themselves plunging into a wondrously magical adventure with Marina the mermaid princess.

The three girls are unexpectedly chosen as the new Sea Keepers – guardians of the underwater world (a role not needed for hundreds of years). But human Sea Keepers? Humans have earned themselves a bad reputation with the Mer king and queen on account of their ocean polluting, whale killing and fishing, so the three girls will really have to prove themselves worthy of such a role.

They’ll need to confront Effluvia, the evil mermaid responsible for stirring up rubbish storms; she who has set her sights on finding the magical Golden Pearls; she with the power to mesmerise others.

Stop her they must, for the future of the underwater world is at stake; they simply have to find at least one of those magic pearls. Are they up to their task?

With talking sea creatures and much more, this magical story has at its heart the serious problem of ocean pollution. It’ll certainly immerse a certain section of young independent readers, and with still two pearls unfound at the end, this is just the first adventure of the Sea Keepers.

Museum Kittens: The Midnight Visitor
Holly Webb, illustrated by Sarah Lodge
Little Tiger

This is the first of a new series by cat-loving author Holly Webb who got her inspiration from stories of real-life museum cats from the British Museum and the Hermitage in Russia.

The appearance of a small black kitten on the museum steps one night has the majority of the feline residents of the museum all in a tither. The creature introduces himself as Peter and kitten Tasha at least, is eager to hear the story of this little scrap of a thing from ’Out There’.

Tasked with showing the incomer around the museum, the three resident kittens lead Peter through the various galleries but when they hear visitors the others hide leaving the newcomer alone.

Tasha returns to find him, taking him on a rat hunt during which they hear strange sounds coming from the Dinosaur Gallery; marauding rats perhaps, or something else?

Disaster strikes as an incident results in the famous T-Rex losing a bone:

the search is on … Will it be found and will Peter ever feel as though he fits in?

Young moggy lovers especially will lap up this story. Holly Webb has created some interesting cat characters, young and not so young; and Sarah Lodge’s black and white illustrations add further atmosphere and humour to the telling.

There’s a Lion in the Library!

There’s a Lion in the Library!
Dave Skinner and Aurélie Guillerey
Orchard Books

Here’s a simply delicious reworking of The Boy Who Cried Wolf fable starring a little girl named Lucy Lupin. Lucy might appear a little sweetie but in fact she’s a holy terror whose favourite thing is to tell lies – absolute whoppers!

It all begins one Monday morning when this young miss makes the titular announcement to the librarian, claiming the creature is chomping through the history books.

An emergency is declared and the library evacuated while a search takes place.

A similar thing happens on the Tuesday when our mischief-maker informs the caretaker that the lion is devouring books in the romance section. Then come Wednesday the announcement is made to the coffee shop manager who insists all library visitors run for their lives.

For the third time the search for said creature proves fruitless.

The three library workers have a meeting to consider this mysterious visiting creature. Could it perhaps be that when it comes to sweet-looking little girls, appearances can be deceptive?

A day or two later, young Lucy Lupin returns to the library. On this particular day however, things go a little differently …

I’m a terrific enthusiast when it comes to fractured fairy tales and fables, and this one is a cracker to read aloud. Aurélie Guillerey’s illustrations have a slightly retro look reminiscent of Roger Duvoisin and her characters both human and leonine are splendid.

Oh, Christmas Tree! / The Twelve Unicorns of Christmas / Oscar the Hungry Unicorn Eats Christmas

Oh, Christmas Tree!
Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet
Macmillan Children’s Books

There’s seasonal silliness in abundance in team Sue and Paul’s rhyming tale of a Christmas tree that doesn’t want to be. Said Tree is determined not to be dressed in baubles, tinsel and other festive fripperies so it decides to take a stand; or rather it decides to do anything but. Instead it’s dashing madly away from its decorative pursuers.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not Christmas the tree hates, rather it’s the idea of being instead of doing that’s really needling its branches.

“I truly love Christmas” asserts the tree and the idea of presents is appealing and that’s what gives Belle an idea. A new outfit might just suit the occasion especially if it equips the recipient to participate in winter sports. But perhaps there’s more to Belle’s clever gift than meets the eye …

The Twelve Unicorns of Christmas
Timothy Knapman and Ada Grey
Egmont

With the seemingly never waning enthusiasm a certain section of the population has with unicorns, I have a feeling there’s an inevitability about this book.

Narrated by a character who is pretty close to those I refer to, clad in her unicorn onesie a bright eyed miss starts the countdown informing readers that on the first day of Christmas she receives, courtesy of mum and dad, along with 1 sparkling tree, ‘a real-life unicorn’.

From then on, said unicorn is included in the festive giving both as giver and receiver of surprise presents. Unsurprisingly with a high-spirited unicorn on the scene there are a few mishaps as the days go by

and the creature begins to lose some if its sparkle. Come Christmas morning though a big surprise awaits him …

With her zesty illustrations that offer plenty of things to count, Ada Grey captures the inherent humour in Timothy’s telling ensuring a giggle at every page turn of this festive romp.

Oscar the Hungry Unicorn Eats Christmas
Lou Carter and Nikki Dyson
Orchard Books

It’s Christmas Eve and as usual Oscar the Unicorn is hungry, exceedingly so. He’s already started scoffing the stockings belonging to the royals, not to mention a large part of the Christmas tree and to Santa’s horror he’s had a go at the presents too. Then shock horror Santa discovers that the magic reindeer food has disappeared

and without food the creatures won’t be able to fly, which means Santa can’t complete his delivery round. I love Nikki’s exuberant scenes of Oscar’s chaos creating frolics and especially the sight of the far from happy reindeer on the final spread.

But we know where that food has gone; so perhaps little Princess Oola’s suggestion for a substitute sleigh puller might just save the special day.

Delightfully daft but Oscar’s fans will relish it for sure.

Seasonal Stories for Young Solo Readers

Isadora Moon Makes Winter Magic
Harriet Muncaster
Oxford University Press

In case you missed the hardback publication of this wintry wonder last year then grab it now; it’s perfect seasonal reading for new solo readers.
Full of sparkly magic and fab. pink and black illustrations of the half fairy, half vampire star of the show, her friends and family members, this is first chapter book bliss for a certain section of the population.

Isadora feels more than a tad disappointed not to have been invited to her friend Oliver’s ice-skating birthday party, something her parents notice once she’s back home.

To cheer her up Mum suggests inviting her snow fairy, Aunt Crystal, over instead. Isadora has terrific fun with Pink Rabbit playing in the snow and ice her aunt makes ; even more so when the adults go indoors and the snow boy she’s built and Pink Rabbit’s snow bunny come magically to life.

But as her mum tells her, “Magic can’t always last forever … even magic snow melts eventually.” Can the Snow Fairy Queen who lives in the Land of Ice and Snow help? It’s certainly worth finding out …

A charmer best enjoyed along with a cup of hot chocolate after which there are all the festive activities at the back to try.

More seasonal magic in another chapter book:

Winnie and Wilbur: The Santa Surprise
Laura Owen and Korky Paul
Oxford University Press

Picture book favourites Winnie the Witch and her forbearing feline, like countless others are eagerly anticipating Christmas. The excitement mounts as the Advent calendar is opened each day, but it’s presents that occupy their thoughts in the main and especially presents for Santa himself. “Proper presents that are more than a drinkie and squince pie?” wonders Winnie.

Before you can say, ‘Christmas stocking’ the two W’s are on the case. Perhaps the staff and pupils at the local primary school could help with suggestions for a perfect Santa pressie.

Then it’s off to the North Pole – brrrrrrr! Make sure you wear your fur-lined undies Winnie. But will they arrive in time to deliver his Santa-ness the gift of a lifetime and still reach home to celebrate the big day with all their friends?

Zany madness that’s full of the joys of the festive season.

The Pug who wanted to be a Reindeer
Bella Swift, illustrated by Nina Jones
Orchard Books

It’s December and a year since Peggy the pug found her forever home with the Jackson family. Now though the prospect of Christmas isn’t making Chloe feel at all cheerful and the rest of the family seem to be down in the dumps too.

When even the school Christmas fair fails to cheer Chloe up, Peggy resolves to become a reindeer. That way she could use some reindeer magic to make the person she loves most in the world feel happy again. It’s not quite as simple as she anticipates though – there’s the question of antlers for a start.

In the end Peggy decides she needs a new plan, one that involves going to the North Pole and enlisting the help of Santa himself. With less than a week to go before he leaves for his Christmas Eve delivery round there’s no time to lose.

Can Peggy possibly fix things so that not just Chloe but the entire Jackson family find their festive spirit in time for the big day?

Another warm and snuggly Peggy the Pug story about thinking of others at Christmas time.

A Christmas Carol / A Cat’s Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol
retold by Tony Mitton, illustrated by Mike Redman
Orchard Books

In faultless rhyme, poet and author Tony Mitton tells the story – albeit a somewhat shortened one – of the Charles Dickens Christmas classic that begins on Christmas Eve with the miserly Scrooge responding to his clerk Bob Cratchit’s Merry Christmas wishes thus “Christmas? Humbug … A feast for foolish men.”

Then back in his room, come the ghosts – first that of Marley and later in turn, those of the Ghost of Christmas Past,

the Ghost of Christmas Present and the Ghost of Christmas Future, each one eerily portrayed in Mike Redman’s atmospheric filmic spreads.

As you’ll know, the vision of Bob’s invalid son looking so frail and ill, and that of all the working poor toiling to earn but a pittance, result in a change of heart in old Scrooge who instead of Scrooge the Miser is transformed into ‘Scrooge, the Man / who keeps as kind a Christmas / as any person can.’

This book offers a highly accessible introduction to the famous seasonal classic for children.

A Cat’s Christmas Carol
Sam Hay & Helen Shoesmith
Simon & Schuster

It’s Christmas Eve and closing time in the large department store. The shoppers have gone and the staff are on their way out bidding each other a “Merry Christmas”.

That leaves just Clawdia the security guard’s cat and a trio of mice that have come in out of the cold. Clawdia attempts to apprehend them but they lead her on a merry chase all round the store, stopping from time to time to point out things that make her ponder on the past, present and future,

and begin to question her “Christmas is for sillybillies” attitude.

But then she receives an unexpectedly kind invitation from the tiny rodents she’s been chasing. That’s not quite the end of the kindness though: there’s an even bigger surprise in store and it’s one that results in a wonderful family Christmas Day for the moggy, the mice and the warm-hearted, welcoming humans with whom she gets into proper festive mood.

Helen Shoesmith’s hilarious scenes of the chase around the store

and the superbly expressed feelings of both animal and human characters bring out the warmth and humour of Say Hay’s story: just right for spreading some seasonal cheer at home or in the classroom.

Dinosaurs vs Humans

Dinosaurs vs Humans
Matt Robertson
Orchard Books

Can dinosaurs and humans co-exist harmoniously? Seemingly not: the humans do things that annoy the dinos. and the dinosaurs tease the humans.

One day though, one little human, Pearl by name and one little dinosaur, Dexter, both decide to take a walk and they bump into one another – literally! Surprisingly they get on well and before long have become besties – ‘a Human-Dino team’ no less. Needless to say this incurs the wrath of their respective tribes.

Time to seek a new place to enjoy themselves they decide and off they go.

Suddenly though disaster strikes and the friends find themselves in great danger.

Their cries for help are heard by both tribes and each rushes to the rescue but neither the humans nor the dinosaurs can reach sufficiently far down to where Pearl and Dexter are trapped.
Is it perhaps time to set aside the antagonism towards one another and join forces?

Told in rhyme, this unlikely adventure with themes of friendship, community spirit, and respecting and celebrating differences, offers plenty to ponder upon and discuss with young listeners, some of whom will doubtless enjoy pointing out the impossibility of the two sets of characters ever meeting. Matt Robertson’s delightfully daft scenes of dinosaurs and early humans certainly provide lots to explore and giggle over.