Kitsy Bitsy’s Noisy Neighbours / Blue Badger and the Big Breakfast

Kitsy Bitsy’s Noisy Neighbours
Polly Faber and Melissa Crowton
Nosy Crow

Life is peaceful in Park View Rise until that is, the sounds of diva Honky Tonk practising her scales and weight lifter Hunky Dory’s exercise regime travels downwards to awaken Tippy Toes’ baby from a much-needed nap, whose wailing upsets Smart Alec hard at work on his latest book. He then resorts to a spot of cacophonous DIY instead and so on until there’s total chaos with flying cakes and other sweet confections.

However just as a fight is breaking out, ground floor resident, Kitsy Bitsy, senses something is amiss and up the stairs she goes to act as peacemaker and guide in how to move forward after the issues her fellow residents have unwittingly caused.

The combination of Polly Faber’s roll off the tongue rhyming text and Melissa Crowton’s comical scenes of the ever increasing chaos and its solution, make this a smashing read aloud to share at home or with a class. Listeners will love the funny names of the characters and their activities, as well as exploring the wealth of detailed illustrations in this celebration of community and high-rise living. 

Blue Badger and the Big Breakfast
Huw Lewis Jones and Ben Sanders
Happy Yak

In this second story, despite a blue tinge around his rear Badger no longer feels blue; how could he when he has a delicious breakfast of blue berries to feast upon. 

His best pal Dog however is decidedly sad on account of his lost ball; but even when he discovers this, Badger continues consuming his berries. Has he though unknowingly consumed Dog’s ball too? Owl’s remark certainly makes him think it’s a possibility so Badger goes off and offers to play with Dog. Will he do anything else besides?

With a witty finale, this tale of friendship and putting right what you may however unintentionally have done wrong, will with its deadpan humour both verbal and visual, make child audiences and those who share it with them laugh. The observant among them will also long to shout out to Badger what they’ve noticed but he obviously hasn’t, so busy sating his appetite is he.

Chicken Come Home!

Chicken Come Home!
Polly Faber and Briony May Smith
Pavilion

Dolly is a free range chicken who likes to tease her owner and best friend by laying her egg somewhere different every day.

One morning she discovers a new place that seems very comfortable although rather dark and strange; but then all of a sudden she finds that her roosting spot is on the move.

However, she’s not keen to see the world from so great a height – it’s her boy she wants – so instead, she opens her wings and down she plummets, crashing through the trees and ending up in a fast flowing river – ideal for ducks but certainly not for Dolly.

Having managed to haul herself out onto dry land, she’s faced first with a snorting cow and then a noisy, dangerous road to get across.

Meanwhile on his way home from school, Dolly’s owner suddenly hears a lot of beeping as the bus he’s travelling home from school on is held up by something in the middle of the road … What could it be?

Readers share a bird’s eye view of Dolly’s unexpected journey in Briony’s superb visuals that are both wonderfully detailed and the ideal complement to Polly’s dramatic text with its ‘perfect’ ending.

Building a Home

Building a Home
Polly Faber and Klas Fahlén
Nosy Crow

Most young children are fascinated with construction – their own and that which they see on a building site, especially all the big machines, so this book will certainly appeal.

It’s superbly illustrated by Klas Fahlén with just the right amount of detail and action,

and full of interesting characters – its great to see both men and women involved throughout – as readers follow the transformation of an old, edge-of-town office block into fine new homes for lots of people.

Writer, Polly Faber talks directly to her intended young audience including occasional rhyme and alliteration in her engaging narrative. She’s also included a pictorial glossary of the people and machines involved in the building’s transformation.

A thoroughly inclusive book with enormous potential for encouraging conversation and questioning, this is one to add to nursery, KS1 and family collections; especially the latter just now when one of the few things not completely closed down is building work, at least if my locality is anything to go by.

Picking Pickle

Picking Pickle
Polly Faber and Clara Vulliamy
Pavilion Children’s Books

Here’s a story from the dream team, Faber and Vulliamy, creators of the Mango & Bambang series who now take us to a dogs’ home and, courtesy of longest term resident canine narrator, help us find just the right dog. But which one will it be? There are just so many potential companions to choose from it’s a veritable canine conundrum.

Who better though to introduce fellow residents; our narrator knows the ins and outs of them all so let’s meet some.

There’s incredible handsome, silky-haired, prize winning Geraldo; what about him? Or he of the voracious appetite, Harvey?
Perhaps we might prefer Dumpling, a clever pooch, chewer of news, views and crosswords at super fast speed as well as being multi-lingual.

Maybe Matilda – she of the perfect teeth – and an excellent guard dog; or super-cute Boo-Boo, bouncy as a ball.

Then again, there’s Poochy Petunia Wuffles-Winstanley, undoubtedly the poshest pet of the lot, although on occasion her manners leave something to be desired.

Oh what a dilemma, a real pickle indeed. Perhaps it’s easily sorted; I know which I’d choose. The one that bears a close resemblance to the canine, Chester, my best friend is currently caring for, the one  that I sometimes accompany on walks in Bushy Park:

I wonder; might it be our faithful narrator himself …
Full of fun and heart, Polly’s laugh-out loud text combined with Clara’s cracking, brilliantly observed, canine portraits make for a deliciously silly pooch-filled romp that ends just perfectly.
Make sure you check out the end papers, they’re a delight too.

Grab That Rabbit!

Grab That Rabbit!
Polly Faber and Briony May Smith
Pavilion

Hodge is a large white rabbit with a single black splodge. On this particular day however he isn’t his usual happy self and that’s on account of having got himself stuck in the hedge due to his over-indulgence.

No amount of wriggling has managed to release him when into the garden comes Mrs Sprat intent on pulling up some tasty carrots for her dinner.

The trouble is that on account of a certain rabbit, there’s a distinct lack of carrots.

A furious Mrs Sprat grabs hold of Hodge’s rear end, out he comes and …

Happily Hodge makes a run for it but what he doesn’t notice is the large shadowy shape above him about to swoop …
And swoop it does, seizing Hodge in its talons. Fortunately for the rabbit but not so for the predator, all those carrots have made Hodge a heavy catch, so heavy that the buzzard drops him. Plop! He lands right on Mrs Hodge’s hat. Splat!

Is he destined for her cooking pot instead of those carrots?

With her clipped narrative style Polly Faber has seemingly taken reading scheme language and turned it into a playful parody of same which, unlike the former, is involving for listeners and reads aloud really well.

Appropriately executed in predominantly earthy hues, Briony May Smith’s illustrations are superb: wonderfully dramatic and full of absorbing details that make you want to linger over every spread.

Mango & Bambang Superstar Tapir

Mango & Bambang Superstar Tapir
Polly Faber and Clara Vulliamy
Walker Books
I have to admit that I’m a great fan of the Mango & Bambang series, this being the fourth book; and they seem to go on getting better and better.
What is the snowiest meal you can think of: whatever it is I’ll bet it’s not half as delicious as that consumed by the little girl and her best friend and tapir, Bambang in the first of these four linked, although separate, stories. It happens because, Mango is trying to provide the best possible experience of snow for her pal without there actually being any likelihood of the chilly precipitation in their neck of the woods, especially as it’s summer. Instead she decides to ‘bring snow to the tapir’; and they end up breakfasting on lemon sorbet, cream soda, crushed ice topped with whipped cream plus meringue chunks and marshmallows – white ones naturally. That of course is only part of their snowy Saturday outing, which does get more than a little hairy at times …

The whole episode is sheer delight though, especially the finale that you’ll have to discover for yourself by getting your hands on a copy of this enchanting book.
In the other three stories, they spend a night at the fair and poor Bambang ends up with Bambang sustaining a rather nasty injury, inflicted by one of the duo’s arch enemies when Bambang puts his own safety second in order to protect Mango.
Being quick to recover though, its only a few days before the two are ready for their next two adventures, the final one of which sees them reunited with Bambang’s somewhat sassy, diminutive young cousin Gunter at the international premiere of his new film.

I absolutely love Bambang’s assessment of the canapés offered as ‘just normal food, made too small.
Charm simply oozes from these wonderfully uplifting, fun-filled tales; but what over-arches everything is the bond of affection between the two main protagonists, one of which has an unfailing capacity for innocent havoc wreaking.
As always, Clara’s delectable, retro-style illustrations – this time with touches of orange – add visual charm to Polly’s stories; the combination once again creating the perfect book for newly independent readers, or for sharing with those not yet ready to fly solo.
If you’ve yet to be delighted by this team, get a copy of this book right away; I suspect you’ll then want to read their previous stories too.

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Mango & Bambang Tiny Tapir Trouble / Pugly Solves a Crime

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Mango & Bambang Tiny Tapir Trouble
Polly Faber and Clara Vulliamy
Walker Books
The tiny tapir referred to in the title of this, the third delicious Mango And Bambang collaboration between Polly Faber and Clara Vulliamy doesn’t crash onto the scene until the third story and when he does, my goodness he certainly makes his presence felt.
Before that though, Bambang and Mango visit the seaside to spend a special carefree, fun-filled day together before Mango’s new school term starts. At least that’s the plan, but it turns out to be a day packed with unexpected incidents culminating in the rescue of a toddler swept out to sea and an exciting parachute flight.
In the second story Bambang is feeling off-colour, his snout is blocked and he takes to his bed. Doctor Blossom the tapir specialist is at a loss to know how to make him better …

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so it’s left to Mango, ably assisted by their pal George, to find a cure.
Even after his recovery, Bambang hasn’t regained his full bounce and so he and Mango do quiet things at home. But then a large parcel is delivered addressed to Bambang and any chance of peace and quiet immediately go out the window, for what should be inside but his small cousin Gunter – a cousin he didn’t even know existed. Small he might be, but he’s a force to be reckoned with and pretty soon, it becomes evident that two tapirs in one apartment is one too many. The trouble is Gunter has announced his intention to stay put and Mango appears to be enjoying his company rather too much. So much so that Bambang starts to think that perhaps he should be the one to go …
The final story sees Mango participating in the City Chess Tournament and one of the other competitors is the boy who’s been champ for the past three years. Seemingly though – at least to Bambang – something strange is afoot.

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By the end of the book, Bambang has come to a very important understanding about family – it’s not about who you look like or where you started; true family are those you belong with – those who make you feel most completely yourself, no matter what.
Full of warmth and humour, these stories are perfect for those readers just starting to go solo.
Another favourite character returns in a brand new adventure:

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Pugly Solves a Crime
Pamela Butchart and Gemma Correll
Nosy Crow
When Pugly learns that Big Sal the guinea pig has been ‘GUINEA PIG-NAPPED he dons his detective hat and turns PUG-DETECTIVE. But who’s responsible for this dastardly crime? Perhaps it’s Glitterball the Poodle who has come to live next door – Pugly doesn’t trust poodles. Or could it be someone else? Time to enlist the help of super smart cat, Clem. Off go the two of them in search of clues …
With plenty of wonderful illustrations from Gemma Correll …

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this crazy tale is sure to bring plenty of smiles to the faces of young readers; in fact, there’s not a spread that didn’t make me giggle to myself.

Take Off with Mango & Bambang and Claude

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Mango & Bambang: Tapir All at Sea
Polly Faber and Clara Vulliamy
Walker Books
Calamitous at cake making and disastrous at dancing – ballet and free dance certainly,

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it seems Bambang is never going to find the right hobby to occupy him while Mango concentrates on her chess moves. But who is this and what can he possibly want?

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Seemingly there’s a lack of male partners in Sênor Churro’s Flamenco class and Bambang’s stomping, thumping trotters are just the thing when it comes to that particular Spanish dance. All that in the first story but there are three more in this cracking sequel to Mango & Bambang The Not-a-Pig.
There follows a crazy tale of misadventures that include Bambang crash landing onto a romantic picnic and accidentally becoming entangled in a marriage proposal

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resulting in an accusation of causing ‘Havoc and being a Public Nuisance’ and his removal to the local dog pound. All ends magnificently though with Mango being granted this:

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and Bambang making a new friend of the canine kind.
An old enemy making a reappearance in the third tale which sees Bambang beguiled into becoming the chief exhibit in her new venture …

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with astounding consequences; and in the final adventure, as a result of his actions in the museum, Bambang is now headline news and something of a celebrity dancer of the flamenco. The trouble is he lets fame got to his head and finds himself setting sail on board a luxury liner leaving Mango and all things familiar far behind. Will they ever be reunited?

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I won’t be a story spoiler but suffice it to say, Bambang’s new doggy friend Rocket reappears and Bambang is no mean swimmer.
If you know any youngsters just taking off as confident solo readers, then this is the book: funny – indeed wonderfully eccentric with a superb narrative full of delicious dialogue – ‘Mango stopped long enough to say, “He has the beautiful feet of a tapir, NOT a mammoth, and they’re not stampeding. It’s your silly dance that’s all wrong!”, then she ran after Bambang.’; a perfect balance between text and pictures with Clara’s distinctive retro style illustrations bringing delight at every turn of the page. She’s brilliant at capturing ‘the moment’ and every single picture, large or small, oozes charm and vitality.

Another corker of a book for that taking off stage is

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Claude Going for Gold
Alex T.Smith
Hodder Children’s Books
Our beret-wearing pooch is back for yet another adventure along with best friend Sir Bobbysock of course. On this particular day Claude has woken up full of joie de vivre and having created havoc with the breakfast cereal, heads off with his pal to the great outdoors. Before long though they conclude that there’s a decided lack of adventure around; then all of a sudden Claude trips over his own shoelaces and cascades into a marching band that is accompanying these characters

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on their way to participate in the STONKING BIG SPORTS DAY at the local stadium. Finally, something to get excited about and all the more so when Claude himself is given a pair of sports knickers …

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and invited to participate. His shot put skills however leave more than a little to be desired, his sprinting ends in disaster, he misses the swimming competition altogether and his efforts at gymnastics are catastrophic. But then the trophy is seized by a pair of dastardly crooks and there’s only one person – or rather animal – that can possibly save the day …

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Glorious!

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Purple Passions

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Dixie O’Day and the Haunted House
Shirley Hughes & Clara Vulliamy
The Bodley Head
I missed this as a Hallowe’en read due to re-organisation at RH but no matter, it’s an all year round read anyway. Here in the fourth Dixie and Percy adventure, the pals plan a camping trip, “somewhere where there are no other people and we can be alone with nature!” Dixie suggests and despite slight reservations from Percy off they set, with nosy neighbor Lou Ella’s warnings of rain being forecast on the radio ringing in their ears.
They end up in a decidedly dark, scary seeming place having missed this …

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before pitching the tent. (I have to say their efforts at same remind me all too much of my own teenage attempts at same at a location I remember not, but somewhere near Bath.)

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But the watchful cows know better – much better.

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Indeed, after a series of mishaps, or rather disasters – gales, torrents and empty petrol tanks – the friends end up seeking refuge herein …

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All manner of spine-tingling horrors manifest themselves in the darkness; the sights and sounds are pretty alarming but needless to say and Shirley does ‘thoughts of that old dark house and the terrors of the night seemed to fade rapidly.’ as Dixie and Percy head home already planning for a barbecue the following weekend.
Shirley is on top form with her humour herein: those bovine characters Mabel and Margery are a hoot as they pass judgement (and more) on Dixie and Percy’s camp site; and as ever Clara’s two-tone illustrations are wonderful, every single one of them.

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As usual in the series, the book ends not with the story’s conclusion but with maps, a meet the creators chat, some fun activites and a first chaper taster of the next Dixie story Dixie O’Day On His Bike! Like a good many newly independent readers I know, I just can’t wait.
And I’m ashamed to say I’ve only just discovered the delights of the first of another series in the making wherein Clara ‘s wonderful illustrations are an integral part. Again it’s a perfect taking off book:

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Mango & Bambang The Not-a-Pig
Polly Faber and Clara Vulliamy
Walker Books
Bambang is an Asian tapir (from the jungles of Malaysia) befriended by Mango Allsorts when he is lost and frightened in the big city where she lives. Young Mango is certainly a very busy young miss with her karate, pancake making, chess and attempts at clarinet playing.
The first story tells of the meeting of the two with that wonderful traffic-stopping announcement of Mango’s.

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The second sees the friends visiting the swimming pool (Bambang doesn’t quite fit into the bath

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and he misses his muddy jungly pool) and Bambang discovering the delights of toffees.
The third tells how the tapir becomes a connoisseur of hats – yes hats! –

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and an encounter with the dreadful Dr Cynthia Prickle-Posset, newly returned from an overseas visit and none too pleased to discover a tapir disturbing her peace.
In the final episode, Bambang and Mango join forces to create some highly unusual music.

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Everything about this book is enchanting: the characters – meet the whole cast:

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the sweetly funny stories they inhabit, the delicious purple-tinged illustrations, the inviting striped cover, the purple edged pages – hmm, joy.

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