Mort the Meek and the Monstrous Quest / Mike Falls Up

These are two new fiction titles from the Little Tiger Stripes imprint – thanks to the publishers for sending them for review

Mort the Meek and the Monstrous Quest
Rachel Delahaye, illustrated by George Ermos

According to the introduction to this second adventure of Mort, I am mad, for it warns readers not to proceed to the first chapter if they suffer from seasickness, which I most definitely do. Nonetheless having enjoyed Mort the Meek and the Ravens’ Revenge, I was prepared to swallow some anti-nausea tablets and board ship along with the founder of Brutalia’s pacifist society and vegetarian protagonist, as eager as he, to leave the ghastly shores of Brutalia with its gruesome Queen. In fact it’s partly on account of said Queen that Mort sets sail on the Salty Sea for she has issued a challenge that would give him the opportunity to search, not for the treasure she desires, but for his missing father and sibling twins Gosh and Gee.

However, find an amazing treasure – the three tentacled Belgo – is just what Mort and his tough companion Punky, daughter of a rock crusher, do.

That happens only half way through this story though, by which time Mort has more or less convinced himself that said Belgo has consumed his missing family members, What of his pacifism now? Will it lose out to his anger?

The fact that Rachel Delahaye is a wonderfully humorous wordsmith is part of what makes this dark tale a smashing read; she’s replaced those chapter opening ravens with masters of misinterpretation, Bruce and Larry, a pair of lobsters. There’s danger aplenty too, but the story isn’t without hope: after all where there’s pacifism there’s always hope, all of which George Ermos brings out in his plentiful black and white illustrations.

For slightly younger readers is:

Mike Falls Up
Candy Gourlay, illustrated by Carles Ballesteros

This addition to the Stripes series of full colour fiction for newly independent readers begins in the Chocolate Hills, in the Philippines. It’s a very hot day, too hot really to do anything much and Mike’s mama has sent him and his dog Bowow out for some fresh air while she prepares dinner. They’re sitting on a hill when a sudden earthquake occurs, the ground splits open and Bowow leaps into the hole.

Soon after an anonymous note blows up on which is written BIRTHDAY. COME NOW. JUST FALL UP.
The boy has no idea who sent it, nor how to fall up but he does know that he has to find Bowow, so into the darkness he plunges. The next thing he knows Mike is roused by a dog with an unfamiliar face and a voice shouting, “Foofoo! Is he awake?”

What follows results in an altogether different kind of birthday party but it isn’t for the little girl Kaneisha in whose London room he finds himself. Nor does it take place in a setting either child recognises; suffice it to say that their host is exceedingly happy to see the unexpected guests, a fun time ensues and friendships are forged.

The author has certainly left gaps for readers to fill in this strange story that Carles Ballesteros has made even stranger with his almost surreal, computer game style illustrations.

Interestingly, this is the first in the series to be published as a paperback original, which I think, the target audience might prefer.



Museum Kittens: The Sleepover Mystery / Mort the Meek and the Ravens’ Revenge

These are 2 new fiction titles from the Stripes Publishing imprint: thanks to Little Tiger for sending them for review

Museum Kittens: The Sleepover Mystery
Holly Webb, illustrated by Sarah Lodge

The Museum Kittens, Peter, Tasha, Bianca and Boris are proud of their new guarding duties though they’re finding it pretty tiring work. Tired as they might be, they’re all eagerly anticipating the museum’s latest enterprise to bring in extra visitors. A group of sixty children are to visit and stay overnight in the Dinosaur Gallery. Bianca above all the others is mega excited, so much so that she does something which causes a furore in the Costume Gallery and then, following a spat with the other kittens, wants to spend all her time with the children, even keeping them company during the night – the time when the nasty rats are on the prowl. It’s during the night that her siblings realise that Bianca is missing.

The search is on. Come morning they still haven’t found her:

surely she can’t have been intending to run away and got on the coach with the children …

There’s plenty of furry fun, frolics and frights as those who are familiar with the series will know. However, Holly’s latest book is an enjoyable read even if this is your first encounter with these lovable felines; and there are plenty of Sarah Lodge’s black and white illustrations to break up the text for less confident readers.

Mort the Meek and the Ravens’ Revenge
Rachel Delahaye, illustrated by George Ermos

The only Rachel Delahaye stories I’d read before this were her Little Animal Rescue series so this came as something of a surprise. It couldn’t be more different.
For starters it’s set in the kingdom of Brutalia – an island community – where violence is the way of life. Ravens circle overhead, dreaming of eating eyeballs or brains. With its motto LIVE OR DIE, this certainly isn’t a place to book your next summer holiday.

Its chief protagonist is young Mort the Meek who inherits the role of Royal executioner when his uncle dies. Mort is the kingdom’s only pacifist so imagine his horror when he learns that his first victim is to be his good friend Weed.

Nobody has ever dared to stand up to the heinous queen of this realm and survived. Could Mort possibly do so and perhaps even find a way to save his friend’s life?

It all sounds pretty horrifying but Rachel Delahaye’s narrative is often very funny and the tale is full of unexpected twists and turns, so if you can cope with the violent punishment regime (I share Mort’s pacifist principles) you will laugh a fair bit, especially at the ravens. that open each chapter. And, the ending is hugely satisfying …

George Ermos has done a terrific job with the illustrations that are littered with small humorous details.

Little Fox / Little Polar Bear Rescue

Little Fox
Edward Van De Vendel and Marije Tolman
Levine Querido

The story begins with a visual sequence of five stunning double spreads showing Little Fox is playing on the dunes among the water birds and animals when he spies two butterflies – purple ones.

The text now begins, telling how he cannot resist chasing after them. His focus, solely on the airborne creatures, causes the fox to plunge over a hilly edge and fall heavily onto the ground. There he lies still, seemingly unconscious.

Then in a dream, his whole life hitherto passes before him as he recalls his earliest time with his mother;

slightly later, playing with his siblings; his adventures in the wider world; his encounters with humans in particular a child; his father warning him of over curiosity, ”Too nosy is dead nosy”, which on one occasion almost turns out to be true.

Suddenly the entire narration turns full circle as the child who came to his rescue previously comes upon Little Fox again. This small human picks the creature up and carries it in carefully, followed by a procession of other animals,

safely back to his fox family, where aroused by the familiar smell, Little Fox opens his eyes once more.

Superb illustrations by Marije Tolman (notes at the end explain how they were created) combined with Van De Vendel’s text (translated from its original Dutch by David Colmer) unfolding stream-of-consciousness style for the most part, make a touching triumph readers will want to return to over and over.

Little Polar Bear Rescue
Rachel Delahaye, illustrated by Jo Anne Davies
Little Tiger

This is the most recent in the author’s deservedly popular Little Animal Rescue series.

One minute young Fliss is playing hide and seek in the forest with her Forest Club group and the next seemingly, she’s in remotest Canada in a polar bear look out.

Outside, surveying her surroundings, she looks through her binoculars and spots a little cub that appears to have been separated from its mother and left behind. She names it Nanuk after the lookout.

By following a trail of footprints and using all her skills and knowledge, can she reunite the mischievous little creature with its mother?

There are encounters with caribou, a fox, a pack of wolves, some Arctic hares, walruses and a far from friendly polar bear family but will Nanuk’s elusive mother be found in time?

Problem-solving is key in this enchanting story for animal-loving new solo readers especially. Jo Anne Davies’ line drawings heighten the enjoyment of the drama.

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.