Kitty and the Treetop Chase

Kitty and the Treetop Chase
Paula Harrison, illustrated by Jenny Lovlie
Oxford University Press

Kitty’s parents have invited their friends the Porters to visit. With them comes their son Ozzy who is Kitty’s age. “I sure you’ll find you have a lot in common,” Kitty’s mum assures her daughter.

That night the two children have a sleepover in Kitty’s tree house and during the night a tapping at the window wakes Kitty. It’s Katsumi asking for her help on account of the frenetic canine-caused chaos at the bakery. Now, even though Kitty’s somewhat unsure about Ozzy, she must share the secret of her cat-like superpowers with him. She’s more than a little surprised when he announces that he too is a superhero; a fact confirmed by Ozzy’s owl friend Olive.

Kitty, her cat Pumpkin, Ozzy and Olive, accompanied by Katsumi, venture forth across town to The Sticky Bun Bakery to find out exactly what’s been going on.

Little by little in the course of their investigations,

Kitty and Ozzy realise that two heads are better than one and they become a proper team. It’s pretty tricky though when both young superheroes find dogs claiming to belong to the bakery.

Like the previous ones, Paula’s fourth adventure of Kitty and her feline friends is pitch purr-fect for new solo readers; and now with the friendship forged between Kitty and Ozzy, not forgetting Kitty’s cat crew and Ozzy’s owl squad, the superheroes seem set fair for further adventures as a team.

As always Jenny Lovlie’s adorable illustrations contribute to the overall magic of the book; and there’s a final Super Facts About Cats spread for readers with a particular penchant for moggies.

Bug Belly Babysitting Trouble / Kitty and the Sky Garden Adventure

Bug Belly Babysitting Trouble
Paul Morton
Five Quills

Meet Bug Belly, he of ingenious plans, a clever kit bag and super cool gadgets; sounds a together kind of frog doesn’t he. There’s a snag though: Bug Belly has an almost insatiable appetite. Not a particular problem you might be thinking but how will he deal with that as well as the task of babysitting hundreds of taddies and froglets for a whole day while their parents attend a conference?

Seemingly not very well, for before long he’s faced with rescuing his charges from a rapidly draining pond and the reason for this is known only to the care-giver and his belly (readers of course are in on the secret).

Can he come up with a super-ingenious plan – probably his most clever ever – to evade the jaws of the ferocious pike Old Snapper and Heron of the razor-sharp beak

not to mention one Sneaky Snake that might just be snooping around?

Let’s just say DUCK POO and leave you to discover its significance.

Hilarious antics, splendidly portrayed and related in Paul Morton’s spluttersome storytelling prose: URGLE-GURGLE GLUMP! Froggy fun it surely is and perfect cheering-up fodder for new solo readers. It’s a great read aloud too – you can really give it some belly.

Kitty and the Sky Garden Adventure
Paula Harrison, illustrated by Jenny Lovlie
Oxford University Press

I can almost hear the cheers from young solo readers for girl during the day, cat at night, Kitty, as she returns in a third adventure with her feline side kick Pumpkin.

As the story opens Kitty is excited to discover that the sunflower seed she planted as part of the school garden design competition is sprouting leaves and is showing it to Pumpkin when Pixie appears talking of an established garden across the city that might provide some inspiration for Kitty’s own design.Kitty cannot resist the opportunity to see this garden and quickly dons her superhero suit.

Following the scent of flowers, the three adventurers venture forth and discover a wonderful rooftop garden alive with wonderful aromas, beautiful trees and gorgeous flowers including seven huge sunflowers.

Her companions are mightily impressed by the catnip bush and it’s this that results in their presence being discovered by an irate tortoiseshell cat whose peaceful evening they have disturbed. The friends’ enthusiasm for things botanical persuades the grumpy Diggory to allow them to explore and he shows them around Mrs Lovett’s amazing creation, even inviting them to return.

So excited is Pixie that she cannot keep the news of the wondrous place to herself and next evening they return to find the place overrun with cats behaving in a thoroughly undesirable fashion.
Before long, Kitty and her pals have a huge task on their hands – to repair the damage the unruly frolickers have done before sunrise.

Can they rise to the challenge when they have a whole gang of recalcitrant cats to deal with, Kitty’s going to need all her powers of persuasion to get that gang on side to help.

I love the way Paula Harrison almost unobtrusively weaves nature’s wonders into this urban adventure; there are subtle lessons for young readers about re-using and recycling planted in her tale too. From its gorgeous cover by illustrator Jenny Lovlie, this is a delight through and through. The illustrations within are fab too, especially those of the garden.

Seasonal Junior Fiction

The Naughtiest Unicorn at Christmas
Pip Bird, illustrated by David O’Connell
Egmont

It’s time to don those festive jumpers and get ready to join Mira and her friends along with their UBFFs (unicorn best friends forever) in the week before Christmas.

Mira hopes that she and her unicorn Dave will be given the lead roles in the school play The Legend of the Snow Unicorn.

In the meantime here’s a question asked by her friend Darcy: “What goes RAINBOW thump, RAINBOW thump, RAINBOW thump, RAINBOW thump?

It’s Dave rolling down a snowy hill entangled in the long rainbow scarf, teacher Miss Glitterhorn was endeavouring to wrap around him. And following this spectacle said unicorn merely snorts and produces an enormous frozen poo. Not a very promising start when the auditions for that all important play are to be held imminently.

Inevitably things get increasingly chaotic when Dave is involved and yes the play does eventually take place, but as to who are the star performers – the best way to find out about the drama that’s performed is to get your hands on a copy of this fourth episode of high jinks Mira and Dave style.

As usual David O’Connell livens things up even more with his smashing black and white illustrations.

Princess of Pets: The Snowy Reindeer
Paula Harrison, illustrated by Olivia Chin Mueller
Nosy Crow

In her latest adventure Princess Bea is excited to be staying with her Great Aunt Sylvia but she really wishes that her snowy castle had some animals she might make friends with.
Then when out playing in the snow she discovers a little lost reindeer, despite her aunt’s residence being a humans only place, Bea knows she simply has to get the creature safely inside the castle.

Having done so though her challenges have only just begun, for party preparations are underway and she needs something to keep her new friend in, not to mention food. Then cousin Annie discovers Marshmallow, as the reindeer is now called, but Bea is determined to keep his presence a secret from the grown-ups – no easy task as the animal has a mischievous streak and a voracious appetite. When rule-abiding big sister Natasha too learns of the visitor things get even more tricky.

Can Bea ever manage to reunite Marshmallow with his family?

I know a good many fans of the series who will be lapping up this wintry episode in the life of animal helper extraordinaire, aka Princess Beatrice. Olivia Chin Mueller’s numerous illustrations add to the enjoyment of young solo readers.

Amelia Fang and the Lost Yeti Treasures
Laura Ellen Anderson
Egmont

Amelia and her best friends are spending a couple of days at the chilly Yeti Mountain Pits where Florence’s Grand-Yeti Clemence is celebrating her 350th birthday. Florence is a terrific character and it’s good to see more of her in this story. As for Amelia though, she badly wants to attend two parties over the weekend and tries her best to find an opportunity to break the news to her that she can only spend one night at Clemence’s birthday bash.

With the party in full swing precious things start disappearing

and then, even worse, the pits themselves and thus the homes of the yetis start to collapse. Before long comes a declaration from the Unicorn Detectives: Yeti Mountain Pits are not safe and need to be evacuated.

With a mystery to solve, Amelia and her friends need to move fast but very carefully or risk being trapped forever underground.

Fast paced this story surely is, and cleverly woven into the zany plot is a key message about friendship: ‘Make new friends but keep the old’ as the song goes. This is something that Florence’s Grand-Yeti Clemence and Amelia have a heart-to-heart about during the party and is later discussed by Florence and Amelia.

Terrific fun and thought-provoking too: Amelia enthusiasts will relish this mix of warmth and ‘yuck’ provoking disgustingness. No matter if readers haven’t read the previous books in the series, they can still enjoy this one, but better still start from the beginning and work through all the adventures giggling at all Laura’s wonderful illustrations along the way.

Kitty and the Moonlight Rescue & Kitty and the Tiger Treasure

Kitty and the Moonlight Rescue
Kitty and the Tiger Treasure

Paula Harrison, illustrated by Jenny Lovlie
Oxford University Press

These are the first two of a proposed new six book series starring Kitty, a young superhero in training. Kitty’s mum is gifted with cat-like superpowers and Kitty longs to be just like her; the trouble is she’s frightened of the dark.

Her opportunity to try out her own powers comes sooner than Kitty anticipated in Kitty and the Moonlight Rescue.
One night when she’s wearing her superhero outfit there comes a scratching at her bedroom window. It’s Figaro the cat requesting her mother’s help and because of her attire, he’s convinced Kitty too is a superhero.

When there’s an emergency what can she do but remember her mother’s words “Don’t let fear hold you back. You’re braver than you think,” and follow him across the rooftops to the clock tower from where very strange sounds are coming.

An exciting moonlit rescue ensues and Kitty ends up with a brand new tiny feline friend and family member.

In the second story, Kitty is eagerly anticipating tomorrow’s trip to the museum to view the priceless Golden Tiger Statue reputed to have the power to grant wishes, but cats are not allowed and Pumpkin is keen to go see it too. There’s only one thing to do, thinks Kitty as she and the kitten snuggle up together at bedtime and so begins their second moonlit adventure.

Off into town they go but before you can say ‘precious’ Kitty finds herself accused of being a criminal. So when she sees through the museum window a canine thief at work, paws on the Golden Tiger, it’s down to her and her feline friends to give chase, find the culprit, rescue the treasure and return it to the museum before its absence is discovered.

No easy task. Kitty can use her super powers that are growing stronger day by day but it seems the spaniel isn’t working alone. Can she find out who else is involved and put things right before midnight strikes?

These absorbing stories with their young female protagonist plus  several feline characters, and a wealth of smashing illustrations,  are just right for new solo readers. My tester read each book in a single sitting …

and was inspired to ponder on the possibility of having her own super power –

“My superpower would be that if people are fighting or at war I could make them become friends’.       Emmanuelle age 6

Some Recent Young Fiction

Sophie’s Further Adventures
Dick King-Smith, illustrated by Hannah Shaw
Walker Books

This is a new edition containing three books in one, so it’s a bumper bundle of stories about the adorable, animal-mad little Sophie. I remember children in my early days of teaching avidly lapping up the stories when she first appeared on the scene back as an uncompromising four-year old who discovered a snail that led to her passion for all things animal.

In these three adventures she visits the farm, learns to ride, and pays a visit to great Aunt Al in the Scottish Highlands.

I asked the opinion of precocious reader, 6 year old Emmanuelle, who quickly became absorbed in the book. She commented that she particularly loved reading about Sophie riding Bumblebee the pony and later drew a picture of her doing so. She also said it made her want to try horse riding herself.

Seemingly the determined Sophie, still has the capacity to delight especially with Hannah Shaw’s illustrations that give the stories a fresh, present day feel.

Here Comes Lolo
Hooray for Lolo

Niki Daly
Otter-Barry Books

These books are part of a mini series for new solo readers starring young Lolo, a sparky young character who lives with her Mama and Gogo (gran) in South Africa.

Both titles have four stories each being just the right length to consume in a single sitting.

In the first book Lolo wins a longed-for gold star for reading, loses it, then gives it away; acquires a much-wanted, rather large hat; finds a lost engagement ring in the street;

and reports a lost dog and in so-doing assists in the arrest of a thief.

Along the way, helped by Niki’s delightful line drawings, we discover much about Lolo’s family life, her school life, her friendships and interests.

In Hooray for Lolo, the friendship with best pal Lulu is threatened when Lolo thinks she hasn’t been invited to her birthday party; she becomes a member of the library and chooses her first picture book which subsequently goes missing; wakes up one day with tummy ache and ends up having an operation, and finally, discovers that baby-sitting Bongi is exhausting work.

Sparkly stories all, with lots of gentle humour that will win Lolo lots of friends among young readers who are sure to enjoy making the acquaintance of this enormously engaging girl.

Princess of Pets: The Lost Puppy
Paula Harrison, illustrated by Olivia Chin Mueller
Nosy Crow

When Princess Bea discovers a puppy in the fountain of the palace grounds, she knows that she’ll have to find it somewhere else to live for it’s against her father’s rules to have pets in their home. But with frantic preparations for the evening’s banquet under way, not to mention the deportment lessons she’s supposed to be having, keeping a lively puppy hidden at Ruby Palace in the meantime is a huge challenge.

Then there’s the matter of the threat to the café belonging to her best friend Keira’s parents, that, so she discovers over dinner, her father’s guests, are planning to demolish to make way for the mansion they intend to build. Bea is determined to thwart that plan.

Can she achieve both goals? Possibly, with her kind heart and strong resolve, together with help from her best pal and perhaps some special spring rolls from the café.

Fans of the Princess series will likely devour this addition to the series at a single sitting.

Fabio: Mystery of the Ostrich Express / Ariana and Whisper / Princess of Pets: The Naughty Kitten

Fabio: Mystery of the Ostrich Express
Laura James, illustrated by Emily Fox
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Fabio, flamingo detective and resident of a small town on the banks of Lake Laloozee, returns to solve his second case and it involves a stolen necklace.

Fabio and his trusty associate Gilbert giraffe are about to depart on the Ostrich Express for a much-needed holiday at Coconut Palm Resort when something, or rather someone, catches Fabio’s eye.

Once on the train, a desert fox who introduces herself as Zazie – appears in the dining car sporting a fur stole and enormous ruby pendant – the legendary, -very valuable so she tells Fabio and Gilbert – Lalooze Ruby.

As the train speeds across the desert, unexpected happenings take place, the first being that Gilbert is knocked unconscious when he hits his head against the window as the train is suddenly brought to a full-stop. Leaving his friend in the care of Zazie, Fabio leaves the train and discovers a baby elephant lying beneath the stars tied to the tracks. Fabio unties him and learns that a gang of bandits – hyenas and a leopard – had tied him down.

That though is only the beginning. Soon a scream pierces the dark followed by hyena’s laugh and as Fabio climbs back aboard the train he spots a leopard silhouette and learns that the ruby has vanished from around Zazie’s neck – pulled off by a thief so she says.

Never fear, Fabio is hot on the case; he merely needs to enlist the aid of the train crew to help power his refurbished handcar,

let loose the tied-together table cloths , … cavort across a few train carriages, execute a deft flick of Gilbert’s cane and … and … that would be telling way too much of this exciting, fast-paced, perfect for just flying solo readers tale.

And with Emily Fox’s dayglo bright, pink and orange powered illustrations and occasional text backgrounds, plus Fabio-patterned chapter breaks, what more can any young reader want?

Ariana and Whisper
Julie Sykes, illustrated by Lucy Truman
Nosy Crow

Unicorn Academy is ‘where magic happens’ and now in story number 8, arachnid-fearing  Ariana is finding it hard to make friends. She does however love her special unicorn Whisper and enjoys spending time in the stables bonding with him and helping him discover his magic power.

Things improve somewhat when she starts to bond with untidy Matilda and then Ms Nettles announces that the day’s lessons are to be replaced by a field trip to the edges of the woods to find out which animals are leaving and why. An adventure is set to begin: something is very wrong in the woods and Ariana can feel it.

Not long after, Whisper discovers his special power: perhaps with its help, together with the courage of Ariana, her unicorn and the other students, the mystery of what has been happening with the animals can be solved.

Fans of the sparkling series will lap this up with its short, bite-size chapters and Lucy Truman’s enchanting black and white drawings.

Princess of Pets: The Naughty Kitten
Paula Harrison, illustrated by Olivia Chin Mueller
Nosy Crow

Princess Bea is an animal lover but her father King George tells her time and again that Ruby Palace is ‘no place for a pet’. However, the nine-year-old princess isn’t one to be deterred by royal rules when it comes to taking care of animals needing help.

While she’s at the kite festival with her teacher Mr Wells, Bea climbs up a tree to free her kite and there comes upon a ginger kitten; and of course, she just has to rescue it.

Determined to keep it safe until they can find its owner she manages to sneak it in to the palace but discovers that Tiger as she calls it, is rather excitable. Moreover when her father discovers the creature, he’s far from pleased and gives Bea just 24 hours to get rid of it.

At night the kitten decides to go exploring and Bea needs to summon up all her courage to hunt around the palace in the pitch dark, especially when she hears a noise that doesn’t sound like Tiger …

Young animal lovers just flying solo as readers will enjoy this addition to the series illustrated by Olivia Chin Mueller.

The Rescue Princesses: The Amber Necklace / Arlo, Miss Pythia and the Forbidden Box

The Rescue Princesses: The Amber Necklace
Paula Harrison
Nosy Crow

In the 15th and final adventure in the series, it’s up to Zina and her friends to save the tamarind trees of their rainforest home. These trees are the only ones that provide year round food for the lemurs but they’re scheduled to be cut down to make way for the carnival that has been re-routed on account of the usual road being flooded.

Princess Zina is horrified at the prospect; but the princesses must use their intelligence, co-operative skills, kindness and courage to protect the animals and their precious tamarinds.

With their camouflage ninja gear and Zina’s special amber necklace, said by her grandma to hold the heart of the forest it might just be possible to persuade Ando and his workmates to find another path. If not, could the amber jewel works it magic? …

Another exciting tale with short chapters, plenty of line drawings and an exciting and intriguing plot to keep readers turning the pages, this is ideal for new solo readers.

For readers who like longer stories there are two new fiction titles from Maverick Publishing coming soon: one is

Arlo, Miss Pythia and the Forbidden Box
Alice Hemming, illustrated by Mike Garton
Maverick Publishing

4X have become 5P and they’re back with another highly unusual teacher, not from the stone age this time but nevertheless there’s something not quite normal about Miss Pythia.
For a start, she always seems to know exactly what is about to happen; she has a weird-looking symbol tattooed on the back of her neck; she never seems to change her clothes, and there’s that box she keeps on her desk. Mmmm! And could it be sheer co-incidence that she shares her name with a priestess of the Ancient Greek world?

When I taught nursery children we often did an activity called, ‘What’s in the box?’ Singing a little ditty based on those words served to arouse the children’s interest and enthusiasm before the lid was lifted and we investigated its contents. And that is just what Miss Arlo does when she instructs her class that opening the particular box she has in her safe-keeping, is strictly forbidden.

But then 5P are selected to participate in A Play a Day, electing to perform a version of Pandora’s Box and Arlo is chosen to act as director. Can his classmates resist the temptation to open Miss Pythia’s actual box as they rehearse?

What Arlo doesn’t immediately spot as he gets engrossed in his directing role is that the replica box made for the drama has been switched.

Then with the play in full swing a terrible realisation comes upon him …

Another winner from Alice Hemming; it’s full of suspense, gently humorous and splendidly complemented by Mike Garton’s lively, expressive drawings, which provide additional details and humour.

Now set fair to become a super series, this story is great for solo reading as well as highly appropriate as a class read aloud especially if the Ancient Greeks are on the agenda.