Magical Kingdom of Birds: The Flamingo Party / Little Owl Rescue

Magical Kingdom of Birds: The Flamingo Party
Anne Booth, illustrated by Rosie Butcher
Oxford University Press Children’s Books

In this sixth adventure Maya, inheritor of a magical colouring book is feeling a tad jealous. Her best friend Saffron is keen to include new girl, Alicia in their plans for a carnival in the town.

To uplift her spirits she turns to her colouring book and onto its cover start appearing flamingos.: a ‘flamboyance of flamingos’ Maya thinks and very soon she finds herself drawn back to the Kingdom of Birds where a new adventure awaits the Keeper of the Book.

Once there she learns that Lord Astor is up to no good again, luring all the flamingos to his palace lake. It’s on account of their magnificent pink feathers he needs to create the splendid headdress he is planning to wear as self-appointed Carnival King.

It’s up to Maya and Astor’s niece, Willow to make the Lord Astor see the error of his ways at last .

I say last for it appears that this is the final story in this enchanting series although I won’t divulge what happens.

If you work with or know young readers who would enjoy the mix of magic and bird facts characteristic of Anne Booth’s Magical Kingdom of Birds, then I thoroughly recommend they meet problem-solving, loyal friend, bird-loving Maya.

As with the other titles this one concludes with a bird fact file and there’s a recipe for ‘Flamingo-pink cakes’. Adding to the delights as usual are Rosie Butcher’s beautiful page borders and enchanting illustrations.

Another series for a similar readership that also mixes magical happening with saving wildlife is the Little Animal Rescue series, the latest of which is:

Little Owl Rescue
Rachel Delahaye, illustrated by Jo Anne Davies
Little Tiger

Animal loving Fliss is enjoying a trip to the fairground with her longstanding friend, Gabriel, when she is suddenly launched into another rescue mission. This time it’s in Aliceville, a sweetcorn growing area of Texas.

She is led by a white owl into a woodland area that is being chopped down to grow more maize crops. The mother owl has a family of baby owlets that she gathers up and off they fly, all except one little chick that hasn’t yet got the hang of becoming airborne.

Now with dangerous creatures all around and night fast drawing in, Fliss has an important task to save the owlet she names Cookie and to do so she needs to help it learn to fly and much more besides.

Indeed the whole rescue operation turns out to be a pretty dangerous undertaking for both Fliss and the owlet. The former discovers the importance of listening and she’s not one to give up until she’s achieved what she set out to do.

With plenty of black and white illustrations by Jo Anne Davies this is an exciting addition to the series for young readers that both entertains and gently educates.

Super Happy Magic Forest and the Humongous Fungus

Super Happy Magic Forest and the Humongous Fungus
Matty Long
Oxford University Press Children’s Books

Matty Long’s Super Happy Magic Forest series has grown from picture books into a spin-off young fiction fantasy of over 180 pages.

Once again it’s a splendidly silly frolic with a host of wacky characters not least of which are Blossom the unicorn, fairy Twinkle, a gnome named Herbert, a mushroom called Trevor and Hoofies the faun who considers himself leader of this group – the five Super Happy Heroes.

As the story starts the residents of Super Happy Magic Forest are in festival mood with its residents in frolicking mode.

Suddenly into their midst crashes the Rainbow Dragon and there’s clearly something very wrong with the creature.

Before you can say ‘quest’ the Super Happy Heroes find themselves charged with finding out what has made the dragon so poorly.

They soon come face-to-face with the dastardly red-eyed and highly toxic Fungellus a gigantic evil mushroom whose spores are poisoning the forest.

Seems as though there’s a crisis to avert for it’s those very spores that are responsible for the Rainbow Dragon’s condition.

In order to revive the comatose creature and indeed save the forest from total doom the S H Heroes will need to collect the five antidote ingredients on Dr Shroomsworth’s list …

But will Trevor give in to Fungellus’s dastardly temptation or will he remain true to his fellow Heroes and thus discover a better way to boost his self-worth?

With daftness in bucketloads including priceless illustrations bursting with speech bubbles, this book is a wonderful antidote to the present corona virus induced gloom. Can anyone apart from this reviewer see any parallels between the two scenarios?

Isadora Moon Goes on Holiday / Freddie’s Amazing Bakery: The Cookie Mystery

Welcome back to two terrific characters in new stories kindly sent, super speedily by Oxford University Press:

Isadora Moon Goes on Holiday
Harriet Muncaster

Isadora Moon enters a competition and is mega excited to learn that her picture has won a prize – a family holiday abroad.

Despite their initial reservations – the sticky heat, a plane flight the suitability of the hotel and more, her parents are finally packed and ready to embrace a new adventure.

Soon after their arrival Isadora, her mum and little Honeyblossom head for the beach, but during their first dip, Mum is concerned about the amount of rubbish people have thrown into the sea.

Next morning the whole family go on a boat trip and while demonstrating her underwater swimming skills Isadora encounters Marina, a friend she’d made when on a camping holiday. Now Marina too is holidaying with her family and she tells Isadora of the large amounts of rubbish they’ve discovered underwater.

The mermaid gives Isadora a conch shell to use as a communication device and later on she receives a call from Marina begging her to help in freeing a baby turtle that’s got stuck in a tangle of rubbish beneath the ocean.

Despite her parents’ warnings not to venture out again without telling them, Isadora, wand in hand creeps out into the moonlight and is soon diving beneath the waves on a rescue mission.

Even after successfully releasing the little creature, there’s a  huge task ahead of Isadora and for that she needs to enlist the help of her parents. Will they overlook this latest bit of disobedience in a far greater cause – saving our precious planet?

Telling and illustrating it with her usual sparkly magic and pizzazz Harriet Muncaster weaves into this latest story, important environmental messages about the horrors that we thoughtless humans cause the natural world.

Fans of the fangtastic fairy-vampire books will enthusiastically lap up this one, and will very likely espouse the cause of saving our planet too.

Freddie’s Amazing Bakery: The Cookie Mystery
Harriet Whitehorn, illustrated by Alex G. Griffiths

We’re back in Belville town where kind-hearted Freddie Bonbon has his bakery.

As the story opens it’s a lovely spring morning and Freddie is just about to leave on his delivery round leaving the bakery in the capable hands of Amira, his best friend and manager who is putting up a sign advertising for another baker. He’s heading for Van de Lune’s Hotel with a special delivery.

At the same time, the unscrupulous owner of Macaroon’s Patisserie, Bernard, is thinking super-bad thoughts about Freddie, intending to sample one of the  yummy confections he’s just stolen from Freddie and work out what it is therein that so delights everyone.

The following morning Freddie learns that Cookie, the superstar cat staying at Van de Lune’s has disappeared, presumed kidnapped. Can he, with the skills of his small dog, Flapjack succeed in solving the case of the vanishing feline?

The recipe of Harriet Whitehorn’s fun story with its highly satisfying ending, generous sprinkling of Alex’s superbly characterful black and white illustrations, posters, signs, and appropriate capitalisation of the text, plus a culinary glossary and instructions for baking delicious cookies, this is another yummy treat for junior fans of The Great British Bake Off.

Freddie is destined to win even more young book enthusiasts with this, his second mystery.

Meet the Penguins

Meet the Penguins
Mike Brownlow
Oxford University Press Children’s Books

The penguin duo are eager to play; but their ‘Please can we play?’ overtures are turned down by in turn an elephant intent on riding his bike; a fox in a ball pool;

a paint daubing hippo; a giraffe building with blocks, a tortoise out riding, a pair of noughts and crosses players, a puzzling primate, a racing rabbit

and a cat fishing, each of which proffers so s/he thinks a pertinent reason why not – well all except the cat and she merely gives an unequivocal ‘No’.

As two despondent penguins sit pondering on their next move, they’re approached by a little bear asking if she can play.

Their loud affirmative response precipitates a truly astonishing display of balancing and juggling as the penguins open their bags and showcase their playful talents aided and abetted by their new playmate.

Pretty soon the three have an audience and guess what they want to do …

With superbly ironic rejoinders from the animals the penguins want to play with, Mike Brownlow’s narrative reminds us how easy it is to push people (or penguins) away and make them feel unwelcome whether or not it’s intentional.

Its vital message about welcoming newcomers and all they have to offer, especially those who might seem different, is timely and pertinent, and this is a great book for opening up discussion.

And of course, youngsters will be unable to stop themselves from joining in with the oft repeated ‘Please can we play’ request.

Matisse’s Magical Trail

Matisse’s Magical Trail
Tim Hopgood and Sam Boughton
Oxford University Press Children’s Books

Matisse the snail confines his creative endeavours to the night-time when there’s nobody about; but during the day the world feels scary and much of his time is given over to preventing himself from being squashed by walkers.

One night in the middle of the city Matisse discovers the ideal place for some drawing and sets to work …

Come morning one of his creations is discovered by a little boy, Leo who adds his own marks to the design on the stone and showing it to Matisse, he introduces himself. Leo’s friends are impressed and eager to learn who the artist is; Matisse though has now disappeared.

Off go the children, returning later with many more items for Matisse to work his creative magic upon, and by the next morning our artistic snail has created a trail; a trail that leads to their school wall.

When their teacher sees what the children are looking at, it sparks a wonderful idea in her. Before you can say, ‘art’ the children are hard at work transforming the wall with their own creative endeavours

and they don’t stop at just a single wall. The school becomes a truly wonderful sight attracting great attention from passers by.

That night Matisse however, realises that his work in this particular place is done; it’s time to move elsewhere; first though he has one final piece of art to create for Leo and his fellow pupils. Teachers and other adults will be able to guess what that is.

Look out for snail magic on walls wherever you go; you might not find Matisse but it’s likely you’ll discover some snail magic.

A super story, beautifully told by Tim and illustrated by an exciting newcomer to the picture book scene, Sam Boughton, this book has SO much to offer. It demonstrates to children the importance of looking carefully and noticing small things – things that can lead to big changes. It also shows the importance of creativity and self-expression and is a smashing starting point for art at home or in schools. For imaginative teachers this could prove inspirational.

Cyril the Lonely Cloud

Cyril the Lonely Cloud
Tim Hopgood
Oxford University Press

Cyril is a cloud whose main desire is to see a happy world; however all he seems to do is put the dampers on people and their fun; nobody’s ever happy to see him, a fact the knows all too well.

Cyril decides to go off and seek friendly faces but no matter where he floats be it land or sea he cannot find that which he seeks. All he does is increase in size.

At last the now huge cloud reaches a new and parched land where the cooling effect of his shadow is entirely welcomed by the residents.

Its cathartic effect on Cyril himself is one not of sadness but joy. Nonetheless his tears most definitely achieve his hearts desire – to ‘look down on the world and see a happy smile’. Not just one however, now he sees smiling faces everywhere …

Tim’s story certainly brought a happy smile to the face of this reviewer; he’s made the amorphous Cyril with his smile-inducing mission, a thoroughly endearing character that hovers over gorgeous, layered scenes of the natural world.

Youngsters will love his upbeat, optimistic nature as well as delighting in the wild animals  particularly that of the lion beaming a beatific smile.

If you are studying the weather with foundation stage children this is a must include book for your topic.