Marv and the Mega Robot / Marv and the Dino Attack

Marv and the Mega Robot
Marv and the Dino Attack

Alex Falase-Koya, illustrated by Paula Bowles
Oxford Children’s Books

This is a new series of early chapter books that star a new superhero protagonist, Marv along with his excitable sidekick, robot Pixel. One of the author’s aims in writing the series was so that children would have black superheroes in their stories, something he didn’t find when he was growing up.

Essentially Marvin is a normal boy who likes to spend his time with his empathetic Grandpa, reading comics and doing science experiments with best friend, Joe. Life is fairly normal until one day, Grandpa sends Marvin up to the attic where, stowed away in a dusty old suitcase, he finds a superhero outfit, which when he tries it on, shrinks to fit him perfectly. He soon discovers that Grandpa too was a superhero and that the suit is powered by two things: kindness and imagination; now it’s up to Marvin to take on that mantle.

In the first story supervillain Mastermind, plus her evil giant robot appear at the school science fair, it’s up to Marvin to assume his Marv role and try to save the day.

Aided and abetted by Pixel, of course the time has come for Marvin to meet his destiny.

In the second book Marvin and his friends are super excited: their class is on a school trip to The Natural History Museum. Marvin and Joe are thrilled to get right up close to their favourite dinosaur skeletons when suddenly the ground begins to shake and skeletons start to move. It’s supervillain Rex intent on causing complete dino-chaos. Marv knows he must employ those newly found superhero skills to save his classmates (and everyone else) from violent velociraptors, trampling T-Rexs and the other rampaging dino-skeletons.
Will it be another case of ‘superhero mission accomplished’ for Marv – hopefully so long as he can assume that super-suit in time.

Fizzing with excitement, and with themes of kindness, friendship, creativity, courage and resilience these two snappily-written tales are a super-duper start to Alex Falase-Koya’s action-packed series. Paula Bowles’ two-colour illustrations are terrific fun and help ramp that action right up.

Rabbit’s Pancake Picnic / Little Owl’s New Friend

Rabbit’s Pancake Picnic
Tegen Evans and Paula Bowles
Nosy Crow

Rabbit is a determined, independent character and insists she’s going to make pancakes for her picnic all by herself. That’s the plan but then she discovers her recipe book is missing from the basket she’s packed. Botheration! She’ll have to wing it she decides as she starts adding ingredients to her mixing bowl.

In go first, strawberries (10) then syrup (9 spoonsful), followed in decreasing numbers by apples , lemons, bananas, cheese chunks, tomatoes, blobs of cream, spoonsful of sugar and finally a single pinch of salt. All the while she firmly resists her friends’s suggestions, but the end result is a ghastly-looking mess. Poor Rabbit; she dashes off to the woods to hide herself away.

But then along comes Bear and he has something that might just save the day …

A sweet, but unlike Rabbit’s mixture – far from sickly tale of teamwork, listening to the advice of one’s friends and the delights of working together. There’s so much for young listeners to enjoy including the adorable characters, the repeat refrains to join in with, the counting opportunities and then there’s the bonus of Rabbit’s Perfect Pancake recipe at the end. MMM!

Little Owl’s New Friend
Debi Gliori and Alison Brown
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

In this new Little Owl story, the chief protagonist is far from happy when his mum interrupts his play with his toy hedgehog, Hedge, announcing that “Small Squirrel has come to play.” A flat refusal comes from Little Owl: no way is a new friend joining in their Hungry Lion game.

Now Mum needs to use some clever tactics,. Can cinnamon buns (now I’d certainly weaken at the mention of those), change her offspring’s mind?

Small Squirrel seems to like them. If not perhaps a bear hunt, picnic-marauding Snaffleworms, or even a ‘Hush-Hush’ might save the day?

There’s SO much to talk about here. Both author Debi and illustrator Alison beautifully capture the feelings of youngsters who are apprehensive about making new friends. Young children will delight in Mummy Owl’s clever ploys while also empathising with both Little Owl and Small Squirrel.
Add to early years collections and home bookshelves if you have little humans of the preschool kind.

Wanda’s Words Got Stuck

Wanda’s Words Got Stuck
Lucy Rowland and Paula Bowles
Nosy Crow

Written by speech and language therapist Lucy Rowland, this is an enchanting story of little witch Wanda who, determined as she might be, just can’t get her words out.

Then a new and very shy little witch Flo joins her class at school. Wanda notices and empathetically and wordlessly makes her feel welcome using alternative means of communication.

Before long the two become inseparable and the following day teacher Miss Cobweb announces a Magic Contest. The friends spend all their time after school trying out spells but still for Wanda, words won’t come.

Come Friday evening, it’s contest time: Flo’s full of excitement; Wanda’s full of fear. The spelling gets under way but quickly spirals out of control putting Flo in great danger.

Can Wanda finally summon up her courage and some magic words to save her best pal?

As a primary/ early years teacher I have over the years, worked with a great many children who for one reason or another struggle with their words. It’s terrific to have a story such as Lucy’s, wonderfully illustrated by Paula Bowles, that provides an opportunity to see things through Wanda’s lenses. Not only is it helpful to fellow strugglers, but equally their classmates and friends will likely become more aware and empathetic towards others like Wanda, who even on the final page, knows that words aren’t always the best way to express how you feel about someone especially your bestie.

In her captivating, warm illustrations. Paula captures Wanda’s feelings – her anxiety is palpable, as is her fondness for Flo.

A perfect foundation stage story time book that speaks for itself.

Superkitty Versus Mousezilla

Superkitty Versus Mousezilla
Hannah Whitty and Paula Bowles
Simon & Schuster Children’s Books

Superkitty is back in a new adventure – hurrah! In case you’ve not met this particular superhero before, she heads up a team of assorted animals collectively called the Sensational Superheroes.

Now Kitty (our narrator) has called the crew together in the office to give them the day off to join in the Big City’s Picnic Party. Of course, they can’t go without stocking up on some goodies. Their first stop is Mr Fudge’s sweet shop. Horror of horrors! All the sweets have disappeared; similarly all the bottles in Mr Fizz’s pop shop have been drained

and the bakery has mere crumbs to offer. The owner Mrs Appleton says she has it on the mayor’s authority that mice are responsible.

Superkitty has her doubts; however her team is quickly on the case searching the city starting at the cheese shop.

Suddenly a booming sound fills the air and shortly after, the investigators come upon a massive Mousezilla clutching something or someone.

It looks as though Kitty may have been right in not jumping to conclusions.

Hannah’s Kitty is indeed a wise and determined character; this humorous tale warns against not accepting things at face value – the notion of fake news raises its head too. Add to the mix Paula’s terrific, detailed illustrations that little ones will adore and some, especially the particularly playful scene in the cheese shop, will give adult sharers a good giggle too.

All though will enjoy pondering upon the possibilities that arise with the new additions to Superkitty’s team; she’ll most certainly have her paws full.


Hannah Whitty and Paula Bowles
Simon & Schuster

There’s a new superhero on the block – or rather as Hannah Whitty’s story opens – a would-be one. It’s the fluffy feline narrator of the story and she works at the Sensational Superhero Agency located in Big City.

Her chief role however seems to be office stooge in contrast to Cheetah, Wildebeest, Lion, Elephant, Rhino and Bear. These guys get all the crook-chasing, crime-busting fun while kitty is left behind to answer the phones.

So, when a call comes in from Dr Fossil reporting the theft of a precious bone from her most recent dinosaur discovery, kitty is determined to get in on the act of the most ‘dastardly and diabolical crime EVER’. Grabbing the appropriate gear. She quits the office and despite being told to return to her post by the six scoundrel catchers, she manages to join the action and tails the Sensational Superheroes through the streets as one by one,

they stop off to attend to their own personal whims and fancies.

Eventually the crew reach Sky Tower where it’s kitty’s turn to shine. Scaling up the side of the building she finds herself face to face with the dastardly dog burglar, Nefarious Norman and we all know what dogs love best …

Can Kitty summon up sufficient bravado, face off the thief and save the bone from the stinky breathed canine or is she destined to become a dog’s breakfast instead?

Let’s leave her there and merely add that there’s one mightily happy feline and an enormously satisfied agency customer at the conclusion to this rip-roaring saga. Never let it be said that it’s always the guys who wear the pants (and capes and masks) hereafter.

Fast-moving, funny and illustrated with aplomb by Paula Bowles, this will hold the attention of young listeners throughout; and if my experience is anything to go by, action replays will be the order of the day.

Sammy Claws The Christmas Cat / Santa’s High-Tech Christmas / Christmas Gremlins / A Very Corgi Christmas

Sammy Claws The Christmas Cat
Lucy Rowland and Paula Bowles
Nosy Crow

Such is his fondness for taking a snooze that Santa’s fluffy feline Sammy will drop off pretty much anywhere and dream of accompanying his owner on the Christmas Eve delivery run.

What he doesn’t imagine though when he dashes off to Santa’s workshop, is the manner in which that dream finally comes true. The somnolent cat gets parcelled up and dropped in among the other packages on the back of the sleigh and then it’s a case of “Ho! Ho! Ho! “ and off they go.

However, Sammy isn’t the only extra rider on Santa’s sleigh that night. Two wicked robbers, Mischievous May and Bad Billy are ready and waiting to seize their big chance and help themselves to some of the parcels.

Can Sammy save the day? And what is the special present Santa leaves for his pet moggy under the Christmas tree?

Festive fun aided and abetted by a snoozy feline delivered in Lucy Rowland’s bouncing rhyme with the addition of a good sprinkling of elves and excitement in Paula Bowles’ pattern-rich illustrations.

Santa’s High-Tech Christmas
Mike Dumbleton and Angela Perrini
New Frontier Publishing

Santa has eschewed the old fashioned methods when it comes to transport and keeping account of Christmas parcels; instead he uses a motorised sleigh and stores all his lists on his smart new techno-pad. But disaster strikes as he’s whizzing over the rooftops by means of his rocket-pack; Santa’s techno-device plummets to the ground and he’s faced with a blank screen.

Enter Jasmin, a techno-savvy little girl who is more that happy to give sad old Santa a helping hand by showing him how to access all the information he needs.

Not only that but she comes to his aid in another way too: after all Christmas really is all about giving.

Mike Dumbleton’s jaunty rhyming narrative is given added zaniness by Angela Perrini’s illustrations.

Christmas Gremlins
Adam & Charlotte Guillain and Chris Chatterton

Oh my goodness, those gremlins are at large again in another of the Guillains’ rhyming romps and now they’re on the rampage creating havoc in the run up to Christmas. It seems they’re determined to get in on the act no matter whether it’s decorating the tree, baking mince pies and Christmas cake (or should that be gobbling same?), wrapping up all the presents (and everything else in sight), singing – more like screeching – carols at the door or popping out of Christmas cards. But that’s only indoors. Further prankish doings are likely outside too: nothing is safe from their mischief so let’s hope they’re well out of the way before Santa arrives.

With more than 50 flaps to lift, this madness and mayhem will keep little ones entertained as they play hunt the mischief makers on every one of Chris Chatterton’s jolly spreads.

A Very Corgi Christmas
Sam Hay and Loretta Schauer
Simon & Schuster

The royal corgis are among those not feeling the Christmas spirit, far from it, all except for young Bella that is. Dazzled by the lights and excited by the hustle and bustle outside she decides to go and join in the fun. Hitching a ride in the back of a mail van, she gets out at Piccadilly Circus where everything suddenly feels overwhelming – too bright, too hectic and FAR TOO LOUD!

As luck would have it along comes London savvy pup Pip offering to show her the sights. A great time is had by both but suddenly as they approach the palace, Pip goes missing. Will Posy ever see her newfound friend again? Perhaps with the assistance of a very special royal couple …

Delivered with an abundance of Christmas spirit, Sam and Loretta’s London tale is a charmer.

I Don’t Want Curly Hair / My Tail’s Not Tired


I Don’t Want Curly Hair
Laura Ellen Anderson
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
We all have bad hair days but the small curl girl narrator of this hair-raising story really has my sympathies. While I don’t have madly curly, well nigh uncontrollable hair like hers, mine does have a wave and try as I might, I can never get it to go straight in the right places. I certainly wouldn’t however, go to the lengths she does to get it super straight and smooth.No matter what though, that deliciously red mop does as it will.


But then along comes somebody else; and things start to look altogether better: friendship and a spot of hair styling wins the day.


The rhyme moves along apace rising to a glorious pinnacle in its final stages.
All that angst and anguish is wonderfully portrayed in appropriately fiery hues and all members of the supporting cast are a delight.


My Tail’s Not Tired!
Jana Novotny Hunter and Paula Bowles
Child’s Play
Like most infants, Little Monster is reluctant to begin his bedtime routine. He’s far from tired: his knees still have plenty of bounce in them,


his bottom has lots of wiggle-jiggles left, and even after a demonstration of same, his tail is still full of swing and his back ready for more roly polys. Any excuse is worth a try; but Big Monster knows all the tricks too: she counters each lively action with a gentle sleep-inducing one of her own.


Will Little Monster ever run out of steam; and who is going to be the first to succumb to complete exhaustion?
Billed as a bedtime story, I suggest NOT reading it at bedtime, or at least, not until your own little monster is well and truly under the duvet, otherwise you could be in for a dose of action-packed delaying tactics – bouncing, dancing, acrobatics, roly-polying, roaring, jumping and jet plane-like zooming before that shut-eye stage finally sets in, just like the little charmer in this amusing, time-for-bed tale.
Perhaps it would be better to share it during the day when there’s plenty of time for being energetic, and, if you’re sharing it with an early years group, then it’s a splendid opportunity for some very active participation. Just ask the children to ‘SHOW ME!


Toys Lost, Toys Found


Gracie was intrigued by the way the mammoth came unravelled but retained his perfect shape.

Little Lou and the Woolly Mammoth
Paula Bowles
Bloomsbury Children’s Books pbk
What is that bright wriggly thing protruding from among the muddle of toys wonders bored, lonely Little Lou. Being of an inquisitive nature she decides to tug at it. The thread wriggles away; Little Lou follows until she finds herself in the middle of a massive, tangly mess.


Lou tugs and feels a shake and a shudder. From the tangle emerges a huge woolly mammoth right before her eyes. Little Lou runs away, zigzagging here and there, hotly pursued by the massive mammoth


but then … OOPS his tail is caught up with a castle and that begins his undoing – literally. A shadow of his former self, the cuddlesome creature pitter- patters, turns and dashes off in alarm, this time with Little Lou in pursuit, both zigzagging to the point of exhaustion. Time for an elephantine embrace, Little Lou – a new friendship begins thereafter.


Paula Bowles’ soft colours, set against cream background pages serve this gentle tale of looking beyond the perceived information beautifully. The mixed media illustrations, with their gently humorous details have great child appeal; that mammoth is truly irresistible. A thoroughly engaging story, playful language, lovable bit-part characters and a variety of print sizes complete the package.
Buy from Amazon


Rebecca Patterson
Jonathan Cape pbk
The adorable-looking yellow bear narrator is not, he tells us, a new bear; he’s been around for ages and ages. Born in a northern factory, given as a birthday present, unloved and mistreated; indeed, bundled into a bag crammed with shoes and socks and sent to a charity shop. That becomes his home for long years, lonely and waiting for a new home.


Then one day in comes a little girl with her mum and joy of joys, she buys that bear for just 50p. Off they go home, the bear with a new name, Buttercup. However, Buttercup discovers he’s bear number seven in his new home. Moreover, all the ursine residents have special jobs to do; each and every day they are hard at work. There’s Tufts, he’s the lift operator, Mr Brownbear who has to dress like a baby and have a daily buggy ride, Betty and Doffy don earrings and dance, Frank does stunts and Babyblue assists the little girl with bike riding and they all participate in daily beauty shows.


Buttercup begins to worry about his role but then comes the realization that his fellow bears are all exhausted by their toil and fall fast asleep thereafter. Not so Buttercup; that’s when he comes into his own as story listener, comforter after scary dreams, sick attendant


and story teller to the day bears, for what is Buttercup? Nightbear, of course!
Tinged with humour, this is a gorgeous tale of ursine love with endearing characters both teddy and human. Rebecca Patterson infuses every single spread with tenderness. Add to this, her choice of colour palette and attention to detail: the sum total is irresistible.
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Salina Yoon
Bloomsbury Children’s Books pbk
Bear finds a lost toy bunny under a tree one day and despite loving it immediately, resolves to find its owner. He makes a huge stack of posters and off he goes to post them on each and every tree.


In addition he and bunny consult the ‘lost’ notices and search everywhere to no avail. Poor bunny and poor bunny’s family thinks the empathetic Bear as he goes to bed.
Next day the two have great fun together

but all good things must come to an end … or so it seems.


Well, yes and no, for special toys are meant to be passed on to special others.
There is so much sensitivity in this perfectly constructed story; that young bear shows such inter- and intra- personal intelligence in his behaviour. This is beautifully conveyed through the author’s spare, undidactic prose and brightly coloured pictures. The latter, to which Salina Yoon has added some soft texturing, also speak volumes about the emotions of the characters.
A total delight; perfectly pitched and a book that offers so much to think about and discuss with young listeners.
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