Baby’s First Train Robbery

Baby’s First Train Robbery
Jim Whalley and Stephen Collins
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

It seems there’s no stopping Baby Frank who’s back for a third, let’s say reckless escapade.

With the family home now a zoo, life is pretty exhausting for Frank and his parents, so much so that Mum and Dad decide a holiday away is needed. Frank is less than enthusiastic to leave the zoo in Grandma’s care:; can she cope with tiger-sitting for instance? Nevertheless off they drive to the seaside, parents and infant.

Once on the beach with Mum busy building sandcastles and Dad snoozing in the sun, Frank makes a break for it having first left them a note. At the station stands a train and the babe is soon aboard, all alone. Nothing happens so Frank decides to investigate by crawling into the driver’s cab but he accidentally bumps his bum against a lever setting the train in motion.

Back on the beach meanwhile his parents make a discovery but by then there’s nothing they can do to halt the train as it puffs merrily along towards a very steep drop. Due to his lack of stature, there’s nothing Frank can do either; but what about Grandma?

Back at the zoo, she’s having a terrific time until she she turns on the TV, hears the news and sees where Frank and the train are heading …

Will young Frank ever see his precious animals again?

Told through Jim Whalley’s faultless rhyming text and Stephen Collins’ retro style illustrations that fuel the wonderful daftness of the story, this is once again a hilarious read aloud from team Whalley and Collins.

The Dinosaur Awards

The Dinosaur Awards
Barbara Taylor, illustrated by Stephen Collins
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Here’s a novel way of presenting dinosaurs to youngsters, not that a good many of them wouldn’t devour almost any dino. related book they can get their hands on, such is the seemingly never ending enthusiasm for these prehistoric creatures.

This one uses a combination of quirky, almost cartoonish digitally created illustrations and a wealth of intriguing facts about lots of different dino. species, some well known, others less so. I met a few for the first time herein, one being Majungasaurus that receives the ‘Cunning Cannibal Award and lived on Madagascar during the Cretaceous Period between 84 and 71 million years ago – assuredly a VERY scary predator.

Almost all the winners, be they famous or lesser known, are allocated three or four paragraphs, a captioned framed portrait of the award receiver along with its trophy or medal and one or more larger illustrations. There’s also a databank with name pronunciation and meaning, where it came from, diet, and size, plus in some instances a short humorous cartoon strip, in others some additional trivia.

So, if you’ve ever wondered what might make Ouranosaurus so special, not only did it have a ‘Super Sail’ along its back and tail, but also a duck-like beak and two bony bumps in front of its eyes.

Whereas Troodon’s claim to fame was its enormous eyes (about 5cm across), so it received the “What Big Eyes You Have’ award.

There’s even a ‘King of Rock ’N’ Roll medal and that goes to Cryolophosaurus (aka Elvisaurus’ on account of its funky head crest thought to resemble that 1950s quiff of the rock legend).

With plenty here to amuse and inform, this works either as a dip in and out book, or a longish read straight through, in which case you’ll encounter around fifty incredible prehistoric creatures from our planet’s past – worthy winners all.

Baby’s First Jailbreak

Baby’s First Jailbreak
Jim Whalley and Stephen Collins
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

The Bank Heist baby Frank is back for another rollicking rhyming adventure, but he’s not the only baby that features in this follow up story. There’s also baby Bruce – more of him shortly.

In case you don’t already know, baby Frank has turned his home into a zoo so that his debts can be paid off for the bank raid he was involved in. This zoo was doing very well for itself but gradually the crowds have dropped off until one morning nobody at all was waiting to pay to enter Frank’s Zoo.

While out for a walk with his parents they come upon the reason for this loss of custom: baby Bruce, of rich parentage,

has opened a zoo too (on his parents private polo pitch) and is now coining it in by showing tutu clad tigers, dancing chimps, bicycling elephants, not to mention penguins wandering around giving out free ice creams. Hmmm! And to make matters worse, the place is festooned with flags bearing Bruce’s face.
Pretty soon, Frank’s Mum has seen enough and Dad is ready to give up in the face of unbeatable competition.

That evening however, Frank is visited by an escaped penguin who tells of the terrible treatment he and his fellow animals at Bruce’s establishment receive, and begs his help.

Needless to say, Frank is on the case immediately, planning a ‘daring prison break’ and by 2am he, together with a few animal friends, head to Bruce’s zoo.

Scaling the high wall isn’t too much of a challenge and neither is picking the lock on the door of the penguin enclosure.
Before long not only the penguins but also the tortoises, hyena and every other creature from the zoo has been liberated and is on the way to the safety of Frank’s home.

The infant zoo-breaker will have a bit of explaining to do next morning when his parents confront the lad about the sudden increase in animal numbers residing with them but before he can do so, there’s a knock at the door.

Baby Bruce and his mother have come calling and are making accusations.

Now what? Can Frank and the animals convince the visitors that they belong right where they are?

The answer is both yes and no, though what happens finally, you’ll have to discover by getting your flippers, trunks or other appropriate appendages on a copy of this corker of a read aloud. That way you can also relish Stephen Collins’ superbly droll illustrations each of which is packed with wonderful chuckleworthy details.

Baby’s First Bank Heist

Baby’s First Bank Heist
Jim Whalley and Stephen Collins
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Utterly crazy, but equally hilarious, is this tale of an errant infant with an overwhelming desire for a pet.

Let me introduce baby Frank, ardent animal lover who decides to take the law into his own tiny hands in order to procure the necessary wherewithal to make his dream come true.

The trouble is, this tiny lad isn’t content with just one animal and before long the whole house resembles a menagerie;

but still he wants more and there’s cash aplenty to fund his passion so there’s nothing to stop him. Until, one afternoon, Mum makes a discovery …

Eventually Frank’s deceitful doings are uncovered and it’s time to make amends. Without any of his loot left what can they do to raise the money to repay the bank? And, what can they do with all the animals?

There’s only one way to put everything right. I won’t say what ensues but merely add that it entails Frank spending some time behind bars.

Tongue-in-cheek text from debut author, Jim Whalley coupled with Stephen Collins’s retro-style illustrations make for a corker of a book.

Pet-related preposterousness to make both children and adults splutter with glee; I’m sure this will quickly establish itself as a story time favourite.