Ten Delicious Teachers

Ten Delicious Teachers
Ross Montgomery and Sarah Warburton
Walker Books

In all my time as a teacher I’ve heard teachers called many thing but never ‘delicious’. Get hold of this yummy counting down rhyme though and you’ll immediately see the reason for the adjective.

Many youngsters have recently bid farewell to their teachers but here you’ll not see a single child for as the book begins what we have is those ten teachers, tired and weary coming out en masse only to discover that they’ve missed the last bus home: no cars parked in a car park- what a ‘green’ lot they are.

Maybe though, I should use green in another way, for following Mr Smith’s suggestion to take the shortcut, they head off into the Dark Forest wherein lurks a hungry horde of hirsute beasties of all shapes, sizes and hues, ready and waiting for that next tidbit.

One by one, the easily distracted teachers are gulped down by the waiting monsters

until just one, Miss Hunter the nursery teacher remains.

Then comes a brilliant twist to Ross’s jaunty rhyming tale: who will have the last laugh though? Surely that will be the youngsters who savour this number narrative so dramatically illustrated by Sarah Warburton whose mock-scary monsters are hilarious. I love all her witty details too.

The Midnight Guardians

The Midnight Guardians
Ross Montgomery
Walker Books

I was totally gripped by this wintry tale set in WW2 right from the opening pages. Twelve-year-old Col who has recently lost his father, has been evacuated to his Aunt Claire’s. He feels totally alone, for his older sister has remained in blitz-ravaged London where she faces constant danger while helping with the war effort.

Col starts hearing voices calling to him – the same voices he heard as a younger child. They’re the voices of his imaginary (so he supposes) childhood friends – the Midnight Guardians. Step up gallant knight, King of the Rogues (small and fearless), Pendlebury, a tiger brave and noble, able to change size at will and, Mr Noakes, a gentle, scruffy old badger with a nose for finding food, who sports a waistcoat.

These three have come to help him in his quest to save his sister and telling him that he’s in mortal danger as darkness, in the form of The Midwinter King, is determined to take over the land. Thus begins a race to bomb-blitzed London, accompanied by Kindertransport refugee Ruth, a brave, strong-willed girl with her own reasons for going to the capital.

So, it’s a double battle: Col and his entourage on the side of The Green Man – against time and the forces of dark. Ross Montgomery has created a terrific cast of characters that, in addition to those already mentioned, includes bogeys, fairies and Gog and Magog(s) all of whom Col encounters in this compelling tale of hope and enchantment in a world where myth and legend, history and hardships are interwoven.

Ultimately, it’s a perfectly paced tale of strong friendship, courage and trust: hope and love versus hatred and fear.

The Building Boy / Here Comes Mr Postman

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The Building Boy
Ross Montgomery and David Lichfield
Faber Children’s Books
This is a powerfully moving story at the heart of which lies the relationship between a boy and his Grandma who had once been an award-winning architect. Before bedtime in the house they shared, the two would snuggle together and Grandma would show her grandson photographs of buildings she’d designed.

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That was all in the past but now, she had plans for a wonderful new house she’d build with his help – a home the two would share.
Grandma, all the while is growing ever more frail and one day when he returns home, the boy finds she has died. The lad is overcome with grief.
Such is his love for his gran however, the boy is driven to carry on building. He works on a huge robotic-looking structure somewhat akin to The Iron Woman,

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a seeming reincarnation of his Gran; and she has plans … plans for an amazing journey the two will undertake together …

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Where that journey ultimately leads is to a deeply affecting finale – a place wherein the spirit of his beloved Grandma will forever reside …

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David Lichfield, who demonstrated his artistic brilliance in The Bear and the Piano imbues this enigmatic tale of love, loss and finding your calling with a sense of awe and wonder. His use of dark and light transports readers to that dreamlike place where anything is possible and the unbelievable becomes believable …

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What an inspired partnering of author/artist this was and the result is a book that will linger long in the mind.

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Here Comes the Postman
Marianne Dubuc
Book Island
It’s Monday morning and with cart loaded, Mr Postmouse sets off on his rounds. We join him as he delivers letters and parcels to all manner of unlikely animal recipients. The story itself is a straightforward description of the various stopping places but the illustrations are absolutely crammed with quirky details as we look into each home visited. It’s no easy round for Mr P has to scale heights …

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and dive deep …

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to complete his round and every stop provides readers an opportunity to peep inside the huge variety of residences and see for instance Dad Rabbit busy preparing a meal, a Crocodile languishing in the bath and another enjoying a book (and a nibble),and some bats – errr – dangling.
After all the hard work, there’s one package left in Mr Postmouse’s cart and it’s a very special delivery he has to make – to his small son, Pipsqueak whose birthday it is.
This is definitely a book to share and to pore over: I can see a fair bit of time being spent over each and every location Mr P delivers to. Terrific fun.

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