The Adventures of Team Pom: The Last Dodo / War of the Wind

The Adventures of Team Pom: The Last Dodo
Isabel Roxas
Flying Eye Books

It’s the summer break in Shadyside and Team Pom comprising Roberta, Ruby and Agnes have decided to spend it at the Natural History Museum where Ruby’s aunt Dr Octavia – a de-extinction biologist in training is currently working. There she is mighty proud to show the junior naturalist group a very precious specimen, a fossilised dodo foot. Who should be lurking in the background masquerading as cleaners though, but that ratty pair of the dastardly Steve’s minions, Mister Gilbert and Monsieur Georges. The next thing Dr Octavia et al know is that the dodo specimen has gone missing. Quickly Team Pom is on the trail but they are going to have to foil Steve’s wicked plan to turn all the humans to dodos if they’re to save the city.

If only they can find an ‘antidote’ and get the dodo-humans to consume it; otherwise it will be a case of “The dodos shall inherit the earth.”

With both inventiveness and action galore, this second off-the wall adventure, presented in Isabel Roxas’s whimsical graphic novel style, will delight those who met Team Pom in their previous adventure as well as winning them plenty of new fans.

War of the Wind
Victoria Williamson
Neem Tree Press

On a remote Scottish island lives fourteen year old Max with his parents and baby sister. As the story opens Max is struggling to come to terms with his hearing loss that happened after an accident on board his dad’s fishing boat. Up until then Max had been a popular boy – one of the crowd – but now he’s become one of the zoomers, those with additional needs whom he and his friends had previously laughed at. In addition Max feels that his parents have replaced him with perfect baby sister Sally. He doesn’t understand why his Dad can’t be bothered to communicate with him in writing and is irritated that his mum always seems too tired to sign accurately.
Max’s village is not on the internet, nor indeed is a mobile phone network available. But then, setting aside the noise pollution in exchange for the promise of wi-fi for everyone and a power source, the islanders vote to allow huge wind turbines to be installed in the bay just off the coast.

We follow Max’s developing relationships with three children who have been ‘different’ all their lives: David, uses a wheelchair, Beanie, who has Down’s Syndrome and lives with her granny, and Erin, who was born deaf; his gradual acceptance into this community being somewhat bumpy. Almost as soon as the wind farm appears it’s evident that the animals and islanders are acting oddly. In a few short weeks they become irritable, bad tempered and unpredictable. The strange behaviour spreads to the children and acts of violence threaten to tear the community apart.

On account of his hearing loss, Max, unaffected by the changes, discovers that a sinister scientist, Doctor Ashwood, and the government are using the wind turbines to test a new sound wave weapon on the island population. Using their strengths, can Max and his three new friends find a way to shut down the wind farm’s signals and halt Doctor Ashwood’s plan before the experiment has tragic consequences?

Not only is this a gripping thriller but it’s also an empathetic portrayal of children with additional needs, showing how all too often, they can be underestimated.

Snakes on the Job / Ebb and Flo and the Greedy Gulls

Snakes on the Job
Kathryn Dennis
Walker Books

The Snakes on a Train have become construction vehicle operators in charge of a variety of vehicles – bulldozers, diggers, dump trucks, loaders, cranes and more. ‘They slide into trucks and roll out slow. Hisssssssssssss goes the sound of the brakes.’

Midway through the operation, up rolls a food truck to provide lunch for the workers then it’s back to work once again.
The fruits of their labours is a wonderful surprise revealed just before the end of the story and it looks such a terrific endeavour that some friendly hamsters want to join the fun. What will the response of the snakes be? …
With that repeat sibilant sound and other wordplay, this is an enjoyable read aloud for little ones. They’ll love the bright digital art and the simple tale wherein teamwork is paramount. One to add to your nursery collection or home shelves if you have very young children,

Ebb and Flo and the Greedy Gulls
Jane Simmons
Graffeg

Jane Simmons is a brilliant illustrator and it’s really good to see Graffeg gradually bringing this series with its hugely likeable Ebb and Flo characters back into print. As always there are small disasters – in this instance Ebb gets wrongly blamed for consuming all the sandwiches during the beach picnic. Inevitably the dog is upset and goes off to sulk in her favourite place. Eventually Mum and Flo realise who the real sandwich snatchers are but by this time Ebb has drifted out to sea in the boat. Sulking certainly hasn’t paid off, but will Ebb reach the shore safely? Let’s just say, all’s well that ends well: three characters have learned a lesson but not so the marauding picnic pinchers.

The Last Monster / Dennis & Gnasher: Super Slime Spectacular

The Last Monster
Dan Walker
uclan publishing

When it comes to fighting monsters there are none better than the Light Hunters’ young Squad Juno. Lux, who is the Squad’s healer has stopped using his light-hunter powers to heal his teammates in case he accidentally hurts someone again with his strange purple light, a terrible twilight energy that comes from within.

When the team is sent on a new mission to gather information from a professor who is a former light-hunter, they are drawn into a dangerous adventure that is crucial for the fate of the entire world. If killing Monsters is the wrong approach to these creatures, it might mean that the war against them can end. However, their mission is under a terrible threat from Demios who has his own destructive ideas that are in total conflict with those of Luke and the squad. Fortunately though the Light Hunters make new allies as they strive to unearth an ancient secret that might be the key to stopping further monster attacks. So, can they succeed? And what of Luke’s power: after the journey he goes on – physical and mental -will be heal again?

It’s great to return to the Light Hunters’ world for this second adventure. Like the first, the story unfolds at a fast pace with lots of twists and turns, tension aplenty, great danger, dilemmas too; but the emphasis is on friendship, teamwork and trust.

Dennis & Gnasher: Super Slime Spectacular
I.P. Daley, Craig Graham and Mike Sterling, illustrated by Nigel Parkinson
Farshore

Little does class 3C’s teacher Miss Mistry realise just what she is about to unleash when she announces on the Thursday before the end of term that her pupils haven’t done their science module and consequently must do so on a science-related school trip the very next day,

On said outing Dennis and his partner Khadija, aka Sketch, decide to make their slime recipe one thousand times better than everybody else’s. What in the name of science experimentation could possibly go wrong?

The very next day sludgy slimy goop is ‘pranking’ the whole of Beanotown and in Dennis’s own words . ’at the same time it’s making endless fart noises. It’s like the Attack of the Fifty-Foot Whoopee Cushion!’ But is this all the doing of Dennis et al or could the town’s mayor Wilbur Brown have anything to do with mucous mayhem.

Delicious daftness in novel form that fans of the comic will relish as will chapter book readers who have a fondness for crazy capers.

The Feeling Good Club: Smash Your Worries, Bella / Diary of an Accidental Witch: Ghostly Getaway

These are two Little Tiger books both written in diary form: thanks to the publisher for sending them for review

The Feeling Good Club: Smash Your Worries Bella!
Kelly McKain, illustrated by Jenny Latham

This is the first of a new series, told through the journal of Bella, a Y5 pupil at Cavendish Juniors. As the book opens she’s feeling particularly down as her best friend Rohisha has just moved and to make matters worse, Bella has a Big Worry: she has to give a talk to her class in a few days. Her parents are trying their best to make her feel better but with no success: how is she going to make it through the next six weeks to the summer holidays when Rosh is coming to stay? Their Zoom calls make her feel worse still; her friend only talks about her new situation leaving Bella no opportunity to get a word in edgeways.

However, after a disastrous presentation to her class, during what’s supposed to be Feeling Good Week, Bella begins to bond with two empathetic classmates, Shazmin and Archie and little by little Bella’s confidence grows and she thinks she might even give that talk another go. Then comes a special Feeling Good session from Kris, a parent who is a mindfulness teacher. This is especially useful in helping Bella feel differently about how she reacts to situations and provides some activities to help cope with worries. After all this Bella, Archie and Shazim decide to form the Feeling Good Club.

Now things are definitely looking up but can Bella find the confidence to let Rohisha know how she feels on those Zoom calls and most important can she finally send those worries packing once and for all?

Kelly McKain’s writing shows clearly how well she understands children and their emotions; Bella’s voice is one teachers and parents will recognise, so real does she sound. Equally readers around Bella’s age will understand exactly how she feels as she faces and comes to terms with the challenges presented in this story. It’s one that celebrates everybody’s uniqueness and the power of friendship. The book ends with some mindfulness activities for children. I look forward to hearing more of Bella and her friends.

Diary of an Accidental Witch: Ghostly Getaway
Perdita & Honor Cargill, illustrated by Katie Saunders

Living in Little Spellshire with her weather scientist dad, Bea Black, through whose third diary we share her latest experiences and thoughts, is just into her second term at witch school. She’s mega-excited about the residential school trip and when it’s announced that their destination is Cadabra Castle in the middle of nowhere, Bea is a tad worried about the possibility that it might be haunted. When they arrive there’s a scramble for rooms and Bea, Amara and Winnie end up in a slightly spooky room with a ginormous four-poster bed big enough for three.

The time table they’re given looks very interesting with challenges, quizzes and picnics one of which is followed by a scavenger hunt. Can they succeed in keeping their magic a secret especially when there’s a group of ‘ordinaries’ out hiking who have a special interest in the possibility of a ruined castle. Another challenge is the team building of a shelter – who will win that?

In the final challenge Bea is paired up with Blair – somebody she doesn’t get on with at all – and that in itself is a challenge. However, Bea’s biggest challenge of all is to stop her Dad from finishing his book about Little Spellshire’s micro climate thus preventing the two of them from moving away from the area and the school she loves so much.

This is another winning witchy tale from team Cargill and Saunders. It’s fuelled by cake – a lot of it, friendship, the need for teamwork and the possibility of a ghost: will they actually discover one? You’ll need to get a copy of the book to find out.

PESTS: Battle to the End / The Ape Star

PESTS: Battle to the End
Emer Stamp
Hodder Children’s Books

It’s now the summer term for P.E.S.T.S and when Dr Krapotkin announces the sports night competition, no pupil could be more surprised than Stix when his hyper-cautious Grandma signs the chit allowing him to participate, which means going Outside into the garden. Our favourite mouse is super-excited. Their opponents are to be local arch-rivals and sister school V.E.R.M.I.N and the teams will be vying for the Mexico World Cup 86 trophy (actually an old chipped mug).

Some rigorous training takes place before the big event, the result of which doesn’t leave the PESTS bursting with the confidence Dr Krapotkin had hoped, though she still remains confident her team will win. Perhaps sone positive affirmations might help.

On competition day the PESTS head off to the venue and meet their streetwise opponents and their waspish headteacher Sir Sting-a-lot. After two events the VERMIN have zoomed into the lead and a despondent Stix briefly considers quitting but decides against it and the PESTS pull back to make it 2:2. A tie-breaker is the order of the day. Then suddenly something feels very wrong. Surely it couldn’t have anything to do with the dastardly Professor Armageddon, could it? Perhaps now it’s time for co-operation rather than competition.

With creepy cockroaches, a few smatterings of poo (of various shapes and sizes), an injured Batz, and a singing toy phone, it’s going to be a close call in more ways than one. Never mind the trophy, there’s a very big surprise for Stix when he finally reports back to Grandma.

I found myself laughing out load frequently as I read this hilarious, third PESTS romp and I’m sure the target audience of primary school age readers will do likewise. Love the mischief, love the characters – most of them – and love the droll drawings.

The Ape Star
Frida Nilsson
Gecko Press

Originating in Sweden, this is a story about love of an unconventional kind and being an outsider. It begins with a group of children, freshly washed and adorned, lining up in an orphanage in the hope that one of them will be chosen to be adopted and move to a home of their own. Who though is the visitor that arrives? It’s not a caring mother, nor a rich, charitable person; rather it’s a gorilla standing before the children and the one chosen to accompany the adopter is the narrator, nine year old Jonna who has always dreamed of being part of a loving family.

Now she has to go with this huge creature and goodness knows what might happen, for her adopter lives in a junkyard; but the papers are duly signed and so Jonna has no choice but to climb into the old Volvo with the gorilla whose head is like an overgrown pear.

At the gorilla’s residence Jonna is given a hammock to sleep in and Gorilla sits in her battered armchair reading Dickens. Seemingly the two have more in common than you might imagine; a bond forms between them. Just when the two are getting along just fine a man from the council turns up threatening to send Jonna back to the orphanage.

There’s near heart-break and a surprising discovery but can the combination of Jonna’s courage, perseverance and empathy combined with Gorilla’s compassion, and teamwork prevail over prejudice, greed and dishonesty? Long live books and the power of love.

Supermouse and the Volcano of Doom / Ebb and Flo and the Baby Seal

Supermouse and the Volcano of Doom
M.N. Tahl and Mark Chambers
Little Tiger

In case you didn’t make the acquaintance of Supermouse in his previous adventure, Peter Parmesan is no ordinary mouse. When disaster strikes, Peter morphs into Supermouse ready to save the day.
Now along with the regular news of crooks creating chaos comes news of the imminent eruption of Mount Fondue, way too big a task for our hero to handle entirely alone. So, he decides to hold auditions for ‘The League of Remarkable Rodents’ but none of the many that show up for the audition are sufficiently remarkable. Supermouse must face the volcano of doom alone.

As he starts to investigate this hot, hot mountain, there’s a sudden SPLAT that sends our hero skywards. However, refusing to be overcome he fights with all his might to fend off the fiery onslaught until disaster strikes in the form of hot molten cheese.

Is there anyone that could help rescue Supermouse and in so doing save the city? You never know: assistance sometimes comes from an unlikely source.

With its plethora of flaps to explore, speech bubbles, peep-through pages aplenty, wealth of wordplay and rodents of several kinds, this madcap superhero romp will go down well with young would-be superhero humans. They’ll absolutely relish Mark Chambers’ zany action-packed illustrations, that’s for sure.

Ebb and Flo and the Baby Seal
Jane Simmons
Graffeg

As Ebb sits listening to the pitter patter of the rain she hears a ‘Wah! Wah!’ coming from the direction of the beach. Off she dashes and there she discovers a baby seal – a playmate at last.After a day romping on the beach and in the waves, a hungry Ebb decides to head home; the little seal tries to follow. Ebb realises that it needs help, seeks the assistance of Mum and Flo

and eventually together they find a way to reunite the baby with its mother.

Jane Simmons’ misty watercolour illustrations evoke the seaside setting beautifully in this third reissue in a wonderful series that, with themes of kindness and teamwork, is as relevant now as twenty years back when the book was originally published.

Olive Jones and the Memory Thief

Olive Jones and the Memory Thief
Kate Gilby-Smith
Orion

Nobody could have been more surprised than twelve year old Olive Jones to discover on the day of her grandmother’s funeral, that she has inherited something from the old lady whom she hardly knew, despite living opposite her. Olive is convinced that with her keen interest in world events, her secretive fitness fanatic, Grandma Sylvie, has been hiding something from her family. ‘What you see is what you get’ her mother tells the girl, adding that such notions are a result of her daughter’s overactive imagination.

Then Olive learns that she has inherited her grandmother’s memories stored on a new technological device called a Memoriser. Imagine this though: having received the device and complied with the instructions on how to use it – lie down somewhere comfortable, place it on your head, close your eyes and clear your mind – before she knows it, the Memoriser stops and she realises that it’s been stolen. Surreal or what!

Now a mystery has opened up and who is there to solve it but Olive and her younger brother Frankie. Frankie is a chess champion, super smart and very trusting, in contrast to day-dreamer, quick to react Olive, who frequently finds herself in trouble. However it’s these complementary differences that are to prove very useful as they set about solving the case of Operation Shadow. The legendary Sylvie Jones has left the children four dossiers of potential moles within the British Intelligence Service and they have to complete her life’s work and clear her name.

Full of surprises, in the manner of a spy movie this page-turner unfolds at a terrific pace right from the start: we follow Olive and Frankie as they try to work our who can be trusted, get involved in chases and unearth secrets aplenty; and in so doing find out about the incredible life their grandmother led. Then comes the final surprise twist that brings them full circle. I suspect that like me, many readers will be unable to put this down until they’ve read the very last page.

Turbo Bunnies

Turbo Bunnies
Matty Long
Oxford Children’s Books

Another dose of super fun from Matty Long this time courtesy of drivers Bunny and Bonnie, Rory and Enzo (mechanics) and Camille (kart designer) aka whizz kart racers Team Turbo. Team Turbo ace the races but then after an interview rivalry sets in between Bunny and Bonnie, with both wanting to be best racer.

Things soon spiral out of control with both bunnies attempting to sabotage the other’s chances resulting in the quitting of the rest of their team.

Come the next race the bunnies have to go it alone and that entails fixing their own karts first with the result that they wake up late and the race is already under way when they arrive. Nonetheless, off they speed but will it be a

case of individuality reigns or teamwork …

Will those two bunnies ever see the error of their ways and get back on track working as a twosome? What do you think? …

Full on drama this story assuredly is; with its message about the importance of team work it will appeal especially to young listeners with a taste for speed, thrills and spills: Matty Long’s illustrations certainly take us right up close to the action in this book.

There Is No Big Bad Wolf in this Story

There Is No Big Bad Wolf in this Story
Lou Carter and Deborah Allwright
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Hot footing it on the heels of Lou and Deborah’s There Is No Dragon in This Story comes another take on classic fairytales, this time with Wolf as star of the show.

The problem is that he’s running late and feeling mightily stressed about it as he rushes through the forest to Grandma’s house to get there before Little Red Riding Hood. En route Wolf manages to upset the The Little Pigs making them ‘seriously grumpy’ but what with Grandma’s grumbles too, the poor creature decides enough is definitely enough. No more being taken for granted and definitely no more huffing and puffing from our vulpine friend.

Instead the other characters will have to go it alone but this Big Bad Wolfing is way harder than it looks. A realisation dawns and then along comes a winged fire-breather: maybe he could save the stories? Errrm … No1

So, can Little Red Riding Hood et al twist Wolf’s front paw and persuade him to help after all?

Young listeners and adult sharers will delight in this book. With hilariously conveyed messages about the importance of team work and not taking others for granted, it’s a tongue-in-cheek, hugely engaging tale that features their favourite characters like they’ve never before seen them. I really love the variety of page layouts Deborah uses: they hot up the story brilliantly.

Investigators Take the Plunge

Investigators Take the Plunge
John Patrick Green
Macmillan Children’s Books

Top agents and crime busting alligator duo Mango and Brash have a new mission involving a rocket containing stolen code that can turn any machine into a combitron (a device able to stick any two things together). They are able to stop the rocket from causing total destruction in the city; but by inadvertently pressing the wrong button, they transmit the code and it falls into the wrong hands – those of a robot. YIKES! – a robot they most definitely have to track down.

There’s another problem though: also hunting for this bot is their arch enemy Crackerdile, ex SUIT agent and presently in a fragile, easily dissolvable state. This creature intends using the combitron to merge himself with something that would make him a while lot stronger and thus better placed to get revenge on the Investigators.

Then another wrong move while down in the sewers results in a flooded city and demotion for Mango and Brash who are replaced by the B-team (badgers).

Meanwhile some weird combinations have occurred:, a scientist now has banana hands and a plumber and an anaconda have combined. However, the A-team aren’t ready to give up that easily. Who will crack this increasingly crazy case: Team A or Team B or might a spot of collaboration work? …

Delivered in zany, graphic novel style, this is assuredly another fast moving instalment of mayhem and madness that’s brimming over with ridiculous names, puns and other rib-tickling wordplay. Moreover, it ends with an indication of more to come and that’s sure to be welcomed by fans.

Super Happy Magic Forest and the Portals of Panic

Super Happy Magic Forest and the Portals of Panic
Matty Long
Oxford University Press

I know a large number of young readers who are eager to get their teeth into this, the second of Matty Long’s fiction series featuring those five brave forest warriors including unicorn Blossom and red and white mushroom, Trevor.

Suddenly into that normally Super Happy place of picnics and frolicking there appears a puzzling porthole that threatens the peace of the forest dwellers’ existence. Even more troubling, a small and voraciously hungry monster has flown from the cavity and seemingly desires to gobble up everything that crosses its path including Gnomedalf’s breakfast waffles (not that they actually did cross it).

Off go the five heroes (beast in tow) to Wizard City in search of wise wizard Barnabus five-hats to seek his assistance. En route, the monster – now named Chompy – has the audacity to take a nibble at Trevor leaving him just a tad light-headed.

En route too, comes a surprising revelation from Gnomedalf concerning the cause of his own reluctance to proceed with the quest.

There’s another sign of weird things being afoot, in the form of bow and arrow wielding elves who just might turn them into stone,

the Wood Elf Queen and her moose Strawberry. And that’s where I’ll leave the merry adventurers

and say no more other than that the plot takes many wacky twists and turns including more portals, one leading to a spell in prison for some of our heroic bunch, a bake-off episode, and all ends happily – eventually!

Fans will surely devour this in a single sitting, relishing the wealth of wizardry, waffles, and Matty Long’s totally bonkers humour – visual and verbal – throughout. Bring on the next adventure.

The Inkberg Enigma

The Inkberg Enigma
Jonathan King
Gecko Press

Meet Miro and Zia, residents of the small fishing town, Aurora, nestled in the shadow of a mysterious castle.

Miro is an avid reader; school acquaintance Zia takes her camera everywhere. A chance encounter between the two characters sets them off on an adventure with Miro reluctant at first to get involved.

Zia’s response to Miro’s comments about Jules Verne and the term adventure, ‘What do you think this is? This is an adventure. This is how you have adventures. You find cool things and you do them … You don’t just READ books about them!’ still don’t persuade him yet somehow Miro finds himself sucked into attempting to unravel a mystery that involves historic corruption, some extremely shady characters currently running the town, not least the somewhat sinister mayor, and some decidedly weird sea creatures.

Something very odd is going on but what?

Driven by a powerful narrative, exciting, humorous and scary in parts, this plot twisting page-turner is skilfully delivered in graphic novel style by Jonathan King who has a background in filmmaking; indeed it would make a smashing film.

What’s not to love, especially since, for one of the characters, books play a vital role in the story. KS2 readers and beyond, especially those with a preference for visual story-telling will simply gobble it up.

Molly and the Whale

Molly and the Whale
Malachy Doyle and Andrew Whitson
Graffeg

Following a stormy night, Molly and Dylan go down to the seashore in search of interesting items that might have been washed up. What they find however is not what they’d been anticipating.

“Daddy! Daddy! … There’s an enormous whale on the beach!” comes Molly’s cry.

Loading up the barrow with buckets and spades, the father and children head for the beach again where it’s now low tide.

There, with the help of their friends, Molly and Dylan keep the whale’s skin cool and her dad digs a trench around the huge creature.

Then they wait the long wait for the tide to come in, which they hope, will be sufficiently high to enable the whale to free itself and swim away. Molly sings to the massive creature in an effort to calm her own nerves although her heartfelt song cannot cool the increasingly unhappy whale.

Disappointment comes when the high tide proves insufficiently deep to enable the creature to swim off.

Molly is distraught: her father sends her home promising to wait on the beach for the full moon tide. Perhaps that will be higher … and happily, so it proves.

This is the second story to feature island-dwelling Molly, her family and friends. I quickly found myself drawn to the young girl, her empathy with the whale and her determination to save it.

I’m sure young listeners will be too as they hear Malachy’s tale and see Andrew Whitson’s quirky, richly coloured, patterned illustrations of teamwork set against beautiful sea and landscapes .

The Moosic Makers / The Pirate Who Lost His Name

The Moosic Makers
Heather Pindar and Barbara Bakos
Maverick Publishing

Farmer Joni loves the ‘MOO-grass’ music her cows Celery and Nutmeg create, although the other animals are less enthusiastic wanting instead mandolins and singing lessons.

But when a wild storm rips the roof from Joni’s barn all the animals are ready to pitch in and raise money for a new one.
While the cows busk, Billy and Esme hold the hat. They’ve only managed to get three coins when a snappy dresser calling himself Georgie Smarm rocks up offering to make them rich and famous so long as they take up DisCOW instead of their MOO-grass music.

Leave it all to us, the cows tell Esme and Billy as they send them back to the farm and embark on their new career.

DisCOW music as delivered by Nutmeg and Celery is a huge success and they play to packed houses.

What of that fortune they’ve been promised? It seems Smarm is nothing but an exploiter who has no intention of handing over the money they’ve earned.

After almost thirty performances the two conclude it’s time to go  home and they return without a single coin.

Undaunted and determined to raise the money for the new roof, the cows decide to do it their way and so, with the help of Billy and Esme, a brand new kind of music festival is announced.

Will the animals raise sufficient funds for the much-needed repair to that barn? What do you think?

Full of MOO-puns and craziness, Heather and Barbara’s teamwork has created a satisfying tale of determination and cooperation that will be a hit with young listeners.

The Pirate Who Lost His Name
Lou Treleaven and Genie Espinosa
Maverick Publishing

Lou Treleaven and Genie Espinosa’s take on the seemingly ever-popular pirate tale features a very forgetful piratical character.

So bad is his memory that, despite having all the other necessary pirate requirements, he’s forgotten his own name.

His pirate pals all have suitable names but the nameless pirate is too embarrassed to ask them for help so instead he sets out on a quest to find his name. The journey takes him to several possible memory-jogging locations but neither the Captain Dreamboat’s residence, nor Captain Anorak’s Collector’s Cave can help; not even Pirate Lop-It-Off’s barber shop yields what he needs.

Our nameless pirate despairs. Then his parrot lets him know he’s hungry so they stop and buy some seed at Pirate Duff’s on the way home.

There the name forgetter learns that on his previous visit, he’d left behind his pirate membership card; I wonder what he might find written thereon?

That isn’t quite the end of Lou’s rollicking tale but let’s not spoil the surprise throwaway finale, which will likely make young listeners squawk with delight. They’ll also delight in Genie Espinosa’s zany, larger than life characters executed with a super-bright colour palette.

Rosie Revere and the Raucous Riveters

Rosie Revere and the Raucous Riveters
Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts
Amulet Books

This is the first of a new chapter book series from the Beaty/Roberts partnership that gave us engineer Rosie Revere, scientist Ada Twist and Iggy Peck, architect.

Now these three have become a team calling themselves The Questioneers and they have plenty of calls on their time and brains. That’s thanks to Rose’s much-loved Aunt Rose and her spirited friends, the Raucous Riveters who built B-29 aeroplanes during World War 2. These women are unstoppable but one of their number, June, has broken both her wrists in a motor scooter accident. Unless somebody – ie Rosie – can find a way to help her, she won’t be able to participate in the forthcoming art competition.

Into action leaps our young engineer aided and abetted by Ada and Iggy, using all kinds of paraphernalia, and after a few false starts, the Paintapalooza is finally ready – just in time for the Art-a-Go-Go.

This affectionate, lively tale is full of things to make newly independent readers smile – not least being the raucous bunch of indomitable Riveters, as well as important lessons about the role of the imagination in problem solving and the importance of resilience in learning.

Clever design gives the book a STEAM feel and Roberts’ zany illustrations are terrific fun.

Speed Birds

Speed Birds
Alan Snow
Oxford University Press

Rather than being awed by his mother’s talk of potentially deadly falcons, a crow chick is entranced when he sees the speed at which a falcon zooms through the air.

Come autumn, the little crows learn that it’s time for them to fend for themselves in the big, wide world. Excited and with his mother’s words “… if you stay curious, use your mind, and believe in yourself, there is no limit to what you can achieve” the little bird sets off one morning with the other young crows.
Convinced that there are wonders to be discovered, the little crow urges the others onwards till eventually they stop to spend the night in a lone tree.

It’s here next morning that one little crow makes a most thrilling discovery that is to change his life and that of his fellow crows.

Below the tree is a junkyard full of abandoned vehicles and car parts as well as a shed full of tools, more car parts, trophies and most important, plans and a notebook containing drawings, diagrams and lists.

So begins the project to become the fastest bird in the world.

This is a book that makes nonsense of the notion some primary teachers adhere to that once children achieve reading fluency, they should no longer read picture books. Alan Snow’s illustrations are truly awesome – a combination of fine art and technical drawing with clearly annotated detailed inventories of the car’s and engine’s components and how  the internal combustion engine works as well as the formula for calculating the speed and more.

Mechanically minded adults, as well as older primary children and above, will be enthralled by both the story and the intricate technical details of the art. I wonder if Lewis Hamilton would go even faster with a feather festooned Mercedes?

Big Digger Little Digger

Big Digger Little Digger
Timothy Knapman and Daron Parton
Walker Books

Little Digger is the hardest working machine on the building site.
One day he has a mammoth task: an especially big hole needs digging: is Little Digger up to it? He’ll definitely do his upmost, he thinks.

Suddenly along comes a new machine on the block: “Big Digger dig down DEEP,” he says roaring into action. Little Digger is out of a job but he still wants to find something useful to do.
Off he goes around the site, but he can’t dump, mix cement or move heavy things: seemingly he’s only good for getting in the way. Down in the dumps is how he feels.

By this time Big Digger has dug himself into the deepest hole anyone had ever seen.

There’s a snag though, it’s so deep he’s now stuck inside.

Little Digger hears his cry for help. Now it’s down to him to try and rescue the huge machine.
He certainly won’t be able to manage the job single-handed; but perhaps with teamwork the exceedingly heavy Big Digger can be extricated.

Destined, I suspect, to become a huge hit with construction vehicle-loving children, this tale has echoes of Watty Piper’s 1930’s The Little Engine That Could.

With themes of optimism, determination, teamwork and friendship, refrains (printed in bold) to join in with and just the right amount to tension in the telling, Timothy Knapman’s story makes a splendid read aloud.

Listeners will love Daron Parton’s construction vehicles particularly Little Digger and Big Digger as they trundle their way around the building site setting. Make sure your audience sees the end papers too.

Share with a nursery group, then leave the book, along with small world play construction vehicles on a play mat or rug and observe what happens.

The Little Green Hen

The Little Green Hen
Alison Murray
Orchard Books

Alison Murray has reworked the original Little Red Hen traditional story giving it an environmental slant. Herein her main character resides in the hollow trunk of a large apple tree growing atop a hill.

The Little Green Hen cares for the tree and sows the apple seeds to grow more trees. Before long an orchard has sprung up and she’s in need of some assistant cultivators.
Who would like to help me tend the apple trees?” she asks. Peacock is too busy preening himself but Dog offers his help as assistant pruner.

Requests for assistance with bug control and seed sowing are turned down by Fox and Cat respectively but she finds willing helpers in Sparrow and Squirrel. Throughout the year the new friends tend the orchard and all are rewarded by its bounties.

As autumn turns to winter, down comes the rain, day after day, week after week.

The industrious friends are safe, warm and dry in the old apple tree but Peacock and Fox are flooded out of their homes and seek refuge on Cat’s log.

Fortunately for the trio, The Little Green Hen is big-hearted enough to offer them a place of safety and together they wait for the flood waters to recede.

When the sun finally reappears, it’s time to clean up.

How will the Little Green Hen’s call for help in cleaning up the mess be received by her guests?

Fortunately for all the animals and of course, the orchard, the word is now teamwork.

Thanks to this and the thirsty roots of the new young trees, a new orchard grows up providing food and shelter for all to share.

Alison Murray’s crisp, clean-cut illustrations have a pleasing freshness and the body language and facial expressions of her characters capture their changing feelings eloquently.

Great for individual or story time sharing.

How To Fly Like An Elephant

How To Fly Like An Elephant
Kyoko Nemoto
Puffin/VA

What a preposterous idea – flying like an elephant! Everyone knows that elephants are way too heavy for flying and furthermore they lack the vital appendages for so doing. End of story!
Not quite. Certainly not for the elephants featured in Kyoto Nemoto’s new book. This trio – a big one and two smaller ones – are playful pachyderms, inclined to imaginative ideas; ideas that admittedly require considerable thought and a plan but never say never.

All that’s required are some ‘useful things’ – a propeller for example – and when the elephants can’t locate one, then readers can step in and help by opening the doors of the attic cupboard.

I didn’t know that elephants are skilled tool users but seemingly it’s so and they’re also excellent at working as a team.

Of course, as we’re constantly reminded, ‘elephants can’t fly’.
As I said, they are determined animals and willing to make enormous physical efforts to get themselves airborne even if they subsequently need a bit of human help to reshape the wings of their craft. (We literally have to fold over the corners of the page to make their machine aerodynamic.)

Even that though isn’t quite enough for the perfect plane so it’s back to the drawing board and some work on modifications such as larger wheels and seats.

Will that hard-working threesome ever get themselves well and truly to the point of proving that ‘Elephants CAN fly!’
What do you think? After all they’re not ones to give up easily;

they are great at team work, have the vital playful, determined attributes, are super thinkers and planners so …

With its themes of creativity, teamwork and determination, this is an absolute cracker of a book to inspire young listeners (and adults). From the start we’re willing those elephants to succeed and reader involvement is guaranteed throughout, fuelled by the flaps and folding, as well as Kyoko Nemoto’s enchanting illustrations of the elephants at work and play. These she creates first by making sketches in pencil to which ink-rollered texture is added, and then these are digitally worked.

An exciting debut picture book from one who, like her characters clearly has creativity and persistence aplenty.

That Fruit Is Mine!

That Fruit Is Mine!
Anuska Allepuz
Walker Books

Deep in the jungle live five elephants, fruit lovers all, but content to stick to their own favourites until one day they come upon a new tree, a very tall one bearing the ‘MOST delicious-looking exotic fruit’ they’d ever set eyes on.

Inevitably each one wants that tasty-looking object for him or herself.
MINE!” calls Elephant One, huffing and puffing till her lungs were fit to burst.
Elephant Two launches herself at the tree but fails to dislodge the object of her desire.

The other three elephants are equally unsuccessful despite ingenious attempts, and all the while unbeknown to the pachyderms, but spotted by readers, a group of five tiny mice working together reach and seize the yellow fruit

and carry it away triumphantly. “OURS!

Their teamwork lesson so adeptly demonstrated, is then put into action by the elephants and a combination of their original individual ideas bears fruit of a truly yummy kind.

Even yummier is the tale’s final twist.

Anuska Allepuz’s debut as author is a delectable offering, with its wry humour, theme of the fruitfulness of cooperation and sharing and alliterative phrases to relish. The use of different typefaces for elephants and mice works in harmony with the splendidly expressive, comical illustrations.

Great fun for sharing with one child or many.

Car, Car, Truck, Jeep and Old MacDonald Had a Boat

Car, Car, Truck, Jeep
Katrina Charman and Nick Sharratt
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Now here’s a cool idea: new author Katrina Charman has based her upbeat rhyming romp on the rhythm of ‘Baa baa black sheep’, and I’m guessing the playful notion of the strategically placed black sheep passenger on one of the trucks was Nick’s.

So let’s get going on our journey through this vehicular extravaganza, but first we need to make sure that those fuel tanks are full …

Now let the journey begin and see how many different things with wheels, not to mention rotors and sails, we can spy on our travels through the pages.
All that honking, beeping, zooming, chugga chugga choo-ing, flicka flacking, rumbling and scraping, vrooming, screeching and more is pretty tiring, especially when it’s kept up throughout the whole day.
So, come nightfall it’s more than time to head home for some shut-eye …

A terrific, rhythmic read aloud that’s packed full of wonderful sounds to let rip with, in combination with Nick Sharratt’s characteristic cartoon bright illustrations, (love that bus ad.)  this is surely any pre-schooler’s idea of picture book wonderland.

Old MacDonald Had a Boat
Steve Goetz and Eda Kaban
Chronicle Books

First we met the MacDonalds and all their animals with their truck and now they’re back in a new story, truck and all. As the story starts the truck has just drawn up near the barn and it’s pulling an old boat.
Then it’s time for Old Macdonald to set to work. Out come his tools. First it’s a buzz saw with a ‘BUZZ BUZZ here and a BUZZ BUZZ there.’
That’s followed by some hammering

though perhaps the pigs have a better aim that the farmer himself when they BANG BANG in those nails.

Gradually things take shape, then out come the blowtorches, the sanders and finally the paint rollers.

As evening falls their craft is launched and it’s time for a spot of water ski-ing.

Once you’ve had a couple of sing-alongs of Goetz’s text with the book, you’ll likely want to go back and take time over Eda Kaban’s expansive, brightly coloured spreads; of the farmyard crew enjoying themselves together and working together as a team. They’re full of detail and humorous touches.

My Worst Book Ever!

My Worst Book Ever!
Allan Ahlberg and Bruce Ingman
Thames & Hudson

Whatever would make a reviewer want to open a book with the title of this one and start reading? Two other words on the cover, Ahlberg and Ingman: their collaborative efforts are always a huge treat even when there’s a squashed fly on the page before the narrative proper even begins.

Essentially this is a look at the whole publishing process from the germ of an idea in the author’s mind – that’s Allan of course – all the way through to finished book: a comparatively straightforward operation surely?

It all begins well in Allan’s writing shed at the bottom of his garden. The author has the essential brain fuelling mug of coffee, a pencil and pad, and his ‘Crocodile Snap’ story, just waiting to be written and off he goes.

Then real life intervenes. First it’s the small drama of the cat: this though is but a minor distraction.
Next comes a family seaside holiday (completely forgotten by the author), which interrupts the schedule for a whole week; but there’s that good old shed ready and waiting on his return.

However, it seems as though there have been some hungry visitors during Allan’s absence. (Now I can verify that this is perfectly possible – the same fate met my courier note taped to the front door and I caught the pesky molluscs in action having a nibble.)

Fortunately, this setback doesn’t appear to interfere with the author’s narrative flow and, displacement activities notwithstanding, by the end of the day the story is finished. ‘The End’: time for a celebratory hunk of cake.

The end for the writing maybe, but it’s only the beginning for stage two: enter illustrator Bruce. The guy appears to be pretty taken with the story, claims crocodiles are his favourite protagonists and …

So why is it that a couple of days later, that croc. has been kicked right out of the water so to speak and there’s another creature hogging the show?

Nevertheless, the changes are only temporary and a few days later the co-creators visit the publisher’s office where the editor throws in her own ideas or rather tries to, as does the designer,

and the agreed version of the book then goes off to the printer. End of story …

Not quite, but if you want to find out what comes off the press and is duly delivered to the bookshops, then you’ll have to get your own copy of the book: after all we don’t want yet another story spoiler …

Another winning collaboration between Ahlberg and Ingman no matter what we’re led to believe herein.

Utterly hilarious from cover to cover, this catastrophic account will have you chortling at every turn of the page. It’s a longish read and one you might not choose to share with a group of budding authors just before a story writing session, although; on second thoughts, mistakes are a vital part of the learning process.

How Monty Found His Magic / Starring Carmen!

How Monty Found His Magic
Lerryn Korda
Walker Books

Meet the Magnificent Trio: Monty, his dog named Zephyr and his rabbit named Snuffles. They have ambitions to show their magic in front of a real audience and with Mr Twinkle’s Twinkling Talent Show coming up they’ve a chance to realise their dream.

First though, Monty must overcome his fear of public performance.
The day of the talent show dawns and Monty has a bad attack of butterflies in his tummy. His pals reassure him, “ … we’ll be fine … we’ll be together.
But will Monty be able to remember their words when they’re under the spotlight up on that stage in front of all those people.

This is a tale of finding your inner courage and working together as a team that will resonate with those children in particular who find doing anything in public a trial. Equally it demonstrates that behind every public performance lies a great deal of a gentle kind of magic that comes when friends support each other just because …
With its vibrant scenes of friendship and prestidigitation this should be a winner with young audiences.

Another performance tale is:

Starring Carmen!
Anika Denise and Lorena Alvarez Gómez
Abrams Books for Young Readers

Carmen is a drama queen of the first order: she acts, sings, dances and even makes costumes.
Her little brother, Eduardo is desperate for a part in her shows, so she gives him a silent role in her latest extravaganza.

Then when her parents ask for an intermission, the showgirl stages an enormous sulk. What good is a stage show when the audience are merely toys?
There’s one member of the family though who never seems to tire of performances and it turns out, he has much to offer when it comes to high drama too.

With its sprinkling of Spanish dialogue – I like the way the Spanish phrases are naturally dropped into the narrative – and brighter than bright illustrations, this story will appeal most to those who enjoy being in the limelight – one way or another.

I’ve signed the charter  

Beep, Beep, Maisy / Flora and the Ostrich / BuildaBlock

Beep, Beep, Maisy
Lucy Cousins
Walker Books
With petrol tank duly filled, Maisy sets off through the countryside and it seems all her pals are out and about too.
Dotty drives her tractor, Peacock pedals his bike, Ostrich is in charge of a train …

Eddie has taken to air in his helicopter, Tallulah has received a fire-engine call out and Cyril is driving a bus.
There’s one more vehicle none of them will be pleased to see though, and that’s the one digging up the road. Uh-oh! I hope they’ll let that fire engine through.
A large sized board book with Maisy and friends, lots of vehicles and associated sounds to join in with, and over 50 flaps to explore: that surely adds up to toddler delight.

Flora and the Ostrich
Molly Idle
Chronicle Books
Flora is back to perform with yet another bird and enchant us with her dancing once again. This time however it’s a dance of contrasts: Flora holds a yellow sunshade – her prop throughout the performance, – so, for example, her front is revealed while the ostrich shows its back.
The pair’s dance of opposites continues as they present hello/goodbye, hide/seek, under/over, give/take,

stop/go, near/far, sad/happy, apart and …

What a beautifully playful way to demonstrate some basic concepts and a great starting point for an early years movement session on the same theme, with children working in pairs in Flora/ostrich fashion.
A lovely addition to Molly Idle’s Flora board book sequence.

BuildaBlock
Christopher Franceschelli and Peskimo
Abrams Appleseed
Twenty four construction vehicles, are sandwiched between the sturdy covers of the latest ‘Block’ board book,
A team of building workers – it’s good to see both males and females – talk us through the whole process from demolition of the old …

right through to the almost finished redevelopment. We see every truck as it plays its vital part be that clearing, levelling, excavating, shifting loads, tunnelling, road making, bridge building, lifting loads skywards, pile driving, cutting trenches. There’s even a sky crane involved.

A straightforward sentence describes each part of the operation and the visuals, with fold-outs and die-cut pages, fill in the details of what I envisage becoming, like others in the series, a firm favourite with mechanically-minded pre-schoolers. Another winner for the Franceschelli/Peskimo team.

Poppy and the Blooms

Poppy and the Blooms
Fiona Woodcock
Simon & Schuster

Meet Poppy, Dandy, Bluebell and Buttercup the four enchanting, skateboarding characters that star in Fiona Woodcock’s captivating new picture book. They roam free spreading joy and sunshine wherever they go. Now who wouldn’t welcome a visit from the Blooms?
One day, at Poppy’s behest they zoom off to the city where they discover that its one remaining park is to be closed.
Immediately galvanised into action to save the park off they go, dashing hither and thither, up and down at a frantic pace, leaving trails of colour behind them.

After a somewhat perilous journey they finally sight the park but it’s far below them.
Then it’s a case of grab any opportunity to reach where you need to be.
Down they sail ready to run with abandon, scattering colour and spreading their own special brand of sunshine.

By the time they return home, that sparky quartet has left behind them a park, nay an entire city, absolutely bursting with bright new, happiness-bringing blooms. An absolute transformation.

What a gloriously uplifting finale!
And there’s a gentle reminder from the book’s creator how ‘even something very small, can make a BIG difference.’
Blooming wonderful!

I’ve signed the charter  

My Bunny’s Chocolate Factory

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Mr Bunny’s Chocolate Factory
Elys Dolan
Oxford University Press
Elys Dolan follows her wonderful Doughnut of Doom with another confection-related picture book.
Imagine being force fed chocolate; that’s the fate of the chickens that work in Mr Bunny’s chocolate-egg making factory pressing the chocolate into bars, eating the chocolate bars, squeezing out chocolate eggs, wrapping and packing same. Mr Bunny has his own special secret recipe and to ensure perfection he also employs a quality control unicorn named Edgar.
Like many successful entrepreneurs Mr B. is greedy …

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hence the force-feeding, to ‘crank up egg production to the max’ – no breaks, cancelled holidays even, the latter as a result of a plethora of bad eggs being discovered by Edgar.

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Finally the chickens revolt. They down tools: a strike is declared.

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Can Mr Bunny and Edgar run the factory by themselves? What has happened to missing worker, Debbie? And, can change happen, or will the boss remain a ‘bad egg’ evermore?
Elys Dolan has, yet again, created a picture book full of comic scenarios that are absolutely brimming over with rib-tickling detail. There is just SO much to giggle over and explore on every spread, not least the wonderful speech bubbles emanating from her superb cast of characters.
All in all, a stonkingly good picture book upon which to feast your eyes and ears.

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As Nice As Pie

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Dolci and Ellena relishing the story …

As Nice as Pie
Gary Sheppard and Tim Budgen
Maverick Arts Publishing
When Mavis Manewaring decides to share her freshly baked loaf with a bird one day, little does she expect that within a week she’ll be catering for twenty, all enthusiastically stuffing themselves with her delicious pasties and pastries …

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A couple of weeks later, her hungry throng has reached hundreds: birds of all shapes and sizes– great greedy gannets, a plump parakeet, chubby-cheeked crows, potbellied pigeons and the like have heard the news of the tasty fare Mavis has been dishing up to the avian throng. What’s more it’s not merely bread, but biscuits, buns and bacon baps she’s feeding  her winged visitors. Mavis’s shopping bill must have gone through the roof and now it seems she’s no time for anything else but satisfying the ever-increasing throng.

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Enough is enough decides the long-suffering cook and having baked a giant flan case, she issues an ultimatum to the hungry hoards: either join her in a co-operative venture or become the filling for that “Birdie Surprise” flan.

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For her guests, blind-folded at her request and already knee-deep in gravy, it’s a no brainer and before long there’s a new co-operative enterprise operating in the village …
Rhyming stories seem to be all the rage at the moment but unless they’re well written, the rhyme works against them. This one of Gary Sheppard’s, with its sprinklings of alliteration and jaunty rhythm works a treat. Add to that Tim Budgen’s chirpy, chucklesome illustrations and the outcome is an altogether tasty read aloud. And then there are those counting opportunities and potential for discussions on teamwork and sharing.

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