We’re Going on a Pumpkin Hunt / Winnie and Wilbur Around the World

We’re Going on a Pumpkin Hunt
Goldie Hawk and Angie Rozelaar
Nosy Crow

Based on the nursery favourite ‘We’re going on a bear hunt’, I’m surprised nobody thought of a pumpkin-themed variation before. It’s definitely a goodie.

Herein we join three fearless pumpkin hunters – a little skeleton, a witch and a slightly unravelling little mummy – as they sally forth one beautiful night. Needless to say their path is obstructed by various things that they can’t go over, under or around.

First it’s watchful green-eyed moggies meow-meow(ing); then cobwebs – the sticky spiders’ variety – just right to ‘tickle-swish’ through.

Yikes! What about those ‘Flap-flap’ flapping bats – fortunately they look quite friendly, and then the trio come to a house, old, dark and spooky of course. Could a pumpkin be hidden therein?

There’s only one way to find out and that’s in …

and over those creaky-squeaky floorboards and of course, our adventurers aren’t scared, are they? …

Happy trick or treating …

At every page turn, day-glo colours leap out from Angie Rozelaar’s anything but scary spreads showing the mock-spooky sortie, and Goldie Hawk’s clever adaptation of a popular join-in narrative, this will assuredly enchant, rather than scare, young listeners and solo readers around Halloween time. (or any time come to that.)

Winnie and Wilbur Around the World
Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul
Oxford Children’s Books

Inspired by a visit to the library and animal books in particular, Winne and Wilbur embark on a world trip with the aim of visiting all the animals featured in the book they’d seen (and decided to borrow).

All it takes is a hastily packed suitcase, duly attached to the broomstick, a glance at the book and a wave of Winnie’s wand;  up and away they go to land in a tree house surrounded by giraffes – very hungry ones.

Prompted by picture two (and sans lunch) they whizz on to an oasis where dates, camels’ milk and an exceedingly hot, bumpy ride await.

A spot of kangaroo bouncing (Wilbur) comes next, followed by some panda spotting (Winnie finds the creatures dull); then a too close for comfort encounter with an enormous whale …

and a polar bear.

An elephant, an aardvark and meerkats (not cat eaters happily) rendezvous leads them on to the final page and a jungle full of monkeys. Their mischief-making might well have caused the demise of both our plucky travellers but fortunately, all ends happily. With thoughts of their favourite animal in mind, and with the book duly returned to its place in the library, its time for the intrepid adventurers to relax.

What more can the countless fans of the duo want than this high-octane world trip by their favourite witch and her trusty moggy. Probably another reading of same, followed by further adventures. Perfect for Halloween and other story times.

Winnie and Wilbur at Chinese New Year

Winnie and Wilbur at Chinese New Year
Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul
Oxford University Press

To alleviate her boredom while Wilbur naps, Winnie the witch scrolls through her mobile and discovers that Chinese New Year is coming soon. It sounds exciting and so she decides to throw a Chinese New Year party to celebrate with friends and family.

The preparations go pretty smoothly with Winnie waving her wand to create fabulous decorations and a yummy-looking feast.

Then comes a spectacular parade with dragons large and small, as well as lions including a baby one; but just as the fireworks are about to start, Winnie realises that Wilbur has vanished.

Is the party sparkle about to disappear too, or is there an explanation for the cat’s mysterious absence?

Perhaps just one more wave of that wand of Winnie’s might just rescue the situation …

Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul’s magical two W characters have been exciting children for over thirty years and their powers seem to be showing no sign of waning. Youngsters to whom I introduced Winnie and Wilbur as a young teacher now have their own children to share this whizz bang crackling,

lucky money envelope cascading story with in celebration of Chinese New Year at the weekend.

The illustrations are absolutely brimming over with detail and I love the gallery of children’s art that adorns the endpapers.

Strange Happenings with Winnie and Wilbur: The Bug Safari / Ghoulia and the Mysterious Visitor

Winnie and Wilbur: The Bug Safari
Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul
Oxford Children’s Books

As Winnie and Wilbur picnic in the garden their dropped crumbs are collected by ants.

Winnie is fascinated and wants a closer look. Out comes her wand and with a wave and a shout, witch and cat are transformed into tiny, tiny beings. Wilbur is not impressed, especially when a bird lands in the grass in search of some lunch and even less so when the postman’s boots nearly squash both him and Winnie flat.

The obvious thing would be to make an enlarging spell but Winnie’s wand is stuck in a bush out of reach and anyway it’s now far too big for her to wave.

Are the two of them destined to stay forever tiny?

The countless fans of this series will be fascinated by the scaled down world in which its star characters find themselves and especially enjoy the garish-looking minibeasts that appear to dwarf Winnie and Wilbur.

Ghoulia and the Mysterious Visitor
Barbara Cantini
Amulet

If you’ve not yet encountered Ghoulia, let me introduce her: she’s a zombie girl who lives in Crumbling Manor along with Auntie Departed, Tragedy (dog) and other rather weird residents.

One rainy evening when the young zombie is feeling particularly bored, partly because her aunt has been totally absorbed with gardening and in particular tending her Chatterbox Ivy, an unexpected visitor arrives. He announces himself as Cousin Dilbert, (a cousin Ghoulia didn’t know existed) invited by her aunt to come on a visit.

But why invite such a fault-finding, demanding character? Off goes Ghoulia to find her aunt and ask the reason, but she is nowhere to be found.

Meanwhile another visitor arrives – one of Ghoulia’s friends thanking her for his invitation, also penned by her aunt.
More and more of her friends arrive, each holding similar invitations.

Things get ever more strange though and at one point the piano seems to be playing without a pianist and then Theresa (another of Ghoulia’s friends) disappears too.

After a search, the mystery is finally solved, thanks in no small part to her cousin and for once, everyone – even Dilbert – seems happy.

Out of this world zany, but just the right length for new solo readers who will especially enjoy Cantini’s detailed, mock-scary colour illustrations and the idea of a seemingly harmless plant turning carnivorous.

Winnie and Wilbur: The Monster Mystery / Princesses Save the World

Winnie and Wilbur:The Monster Mystery
Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul
Oxford Children’s Books

In the latest Winnie and Wilbur adventure we find the witch regretting not having trimmed back some of the forest of trees that now surrounds her house, and pondering upon the maker of a trail of footprints across her garden.
Wilbur is reluctant to investigate fearing it’s a monster but even so they both sally forth.
Trip hazards lead the pair to mount the broomstick but that only ends with Wilbur crash-landing upon, so he thinks, ‘a big hairy monster’. Suddenly he’s surrounded by green hairy beasties that, having removed the debris from his fur,

turn out to be friendly; not the footprint makers then, decides the moggy.

Winnie meanwhile is hunting for her cat and soon resorts to her wand with which she magics a maze-like path

that eventually leads her to the object of her search.

Time to head home but that still leaves the question of the forest surrounding their house with darkness.

Tada! Winnie has an idea: if you can’t move the forest, maybe there’s another way; and out comes her magic wand once more …
As for the foot-print maker: well, we’d better ask Wilbur.

Winnie and Wilbur’s escapades never fail to delight and so it is with this one, which has a rather greener look about it than most of Valerie and Korky’s books in this series.

Princesses Save the World
Savannah Guthrie, Allison Oppenheim and Eva Byrne
Abrams

The pants-wearing princesses have a mission. When Princess Penelope Pineapple learns that Princess Sabrina Strawberry is in trouble on account of a lack of bees she knows she must help. The crops have failed and so there’ll be no fruit at all.

Fortunately however, Penny has plenty of bees that she cares for and so summoning her princess pals she promises to return.

The task in hand is one requiring co-operative teamwork and a conference is called and it seems that others too have had a bad fruit yield.

They gather supplies, construct new hives to house Penelope’s bees and then all that’s needed is the little insects themselves.

To get them buzzing into the hives the princesses create a deliciously aromatic scent that soon gets them swarming.

Thereafter it’s action stations and off they go back to Strawberry Shores where the bees are released and …

As the author reminds her readers on the final page, Sabrina Strawberry’s bee crisis is now one that due in large part to harmful pesticide use and environmental changes, has become all too common and honeybee numbers are on the decline. If Savannah and Allison’s story inspires young readers (who will doubtless delight in the jazzy outfits Eva Byrne has dressed the princesses in) to get involved in the cause of these crucial little creatures, then in addition to providing an enjoyable tale its creators will have done their bit to raise awareness of the bee crisis.

A Snoring Giant, A Favourite Witch & Knights Galore

The Giant Who Snored
Mike Nicholson and Amy Lewis
Little Door Books
In the hills close by a town lives a gentle giant. He’s a great favourite of the townsfolk especially the children who look forward to his daily visit and the fun it offers …

Everything is tickety boo until the day the giant, suddenly overcome by tiredness, falls asleep during his visit. The loud snores he emits rock the whole town causing absolute chaos on land and sea and driving the residents absolutely crazy.
The hullabaloo must be stopped, announces the mayor offering a reward to anyone who can wake the slumberer. However, despite the best efforts of the blacksmith, the tailor and the chemist, the giant remains sound asleep. Is there anybody who can rouse the snorer? And if so, how?
Here’s a clue as to the who …

As for the how, suffice it to say, it’s pretty disgusting and likely to cause young listeners to emit delighted ‘eeuugh!’s in response; and everything ends satisfactorily for all concerned.
Apart from the very occasional slight creak, Mike Nicholson’s rhyming text slips nicely off the tongue -read it through to get the phrasing right before sharing it though. In combination with Amy Lewis’ digital scenes of the stentorian snores of the giant and their effects, you have the makings of a lively, enjoyable story time session.

Winnie and Wilbur The Naughty Knight
Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul
Oxford University Press
In their latest magical escapade Winnie transports Wilbur and herself back in time into a medieval castle where, for a change, her faithful moggie takes the starring role in the grand tournament, with Winnie as a lady-in-waiting.
Can the gallant knight, Sir Wilbur outshoot the famous Sir Roderick in the archery contest? And what happens when the two come face to face in the jousting?

Let’s just say that Winnie has her magic wand neatly stowed away about her person and thanks to a few deft flourishes of her arm, Sir Wilbur cuts Sir Roderick down to size in spectacular fashion, just in time to attend the magnificent banquet in the Great Hall. No need for magic there surely? …
Even after 30 years, Winnie and Wilbur’s magical charm never seems to wear off and it’s especially good to see Wilbur as the star of the show; love those split page layouts especially.
This one brims over with zany humour and is full of potential for primary classroom themes.

Sir Charlie Stinky Socks: The Dinosaur’s Return
Kristina Stephenson
Egmont
Sir Charlie Stinky Socks is back to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his first adventure in what I think is story number nine.
When Charlie’s pet cat Envelope unknowingly hatches a dinosaur’s egg, the young knight together with his faithful friends, set out on a quest to return the ‘little something’ to Thunder Mountain.
A quest that sees them sucked into a swirling watery tunnel, diving into the vent of a volcano and more, before landing up on an island and in so doing, precipitating a dinosaur stampede.

All ends happily however with grateful dinosaurs and a spectacular display of fireworks.
Fast moving, fun, full of action and with dino.-sized flaps to explore, Sir Charlie and friends continue to delight.

Superhero Hotel / Winnie and Wilbur Up, Up and Away

Superhero Hotel
Abie Longstaff and Migy Blanco
Scholastic
Have you heard about the exclusive, top-secret hotel atop a hill that’s the number one destination for any superhero in need of a spot of rest and relaxation?
It’s ably managed by young Joe Malone who knows exactly what each of his special guests most needs to restore them to peak form, which is just as well for he suddenly gets an influx of superheroes.
First comes Captain Power in need of a strength recharge. He’s followed by Gadget Girl, Ice Woman (with a sore thumb), The Flame, whose boots need attention, and last of all, Mr Invisible who slips in unnoticed, except by Joe.
Being superheroes though, it’s not long before they’re back to their former energetic selves and raring to go.
Joe meanwhile decides to do some gardening but the by now, bored superheroes cannot resist joining him and are soon at work making their own improvements to the garden.
Before you can say ‘be careful’ Captain Power has tripped over Mr Invisible,

accidentally precipitating a catastrophic chain of events.
Can the combined skills of the superheroes save Superhero Hotel from disaster?

Abie Longstaff’s fast moving tale with its crazy happenings, teamwork and a wealth of superheroes with their unique and diverse attributes provides Migy Blanco plenty of scope to employ his illustrative imagination; his arresting style will certainly engage young would-be superheroes.

Winnie and Wilbur Up, Up and Away
Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul
Oxford University Press
This bumper edition containing three stories, all featuring flying machines, is a great way to catch up if, like me you’ve missed some of the individual Winnie and Wilbur picture books.
In the first, Winnie and Wilbur: The Broomstick Ride, Winnie tries various other forms of locomotion after a series of accidents while cruising on her broomstick, only to discover that the solution to preventing further mishaps (especially to Wilbur who seemed to come off worst in all the aeronautical disasters), lies not in alternative forms of transport,

but in something altogether different; something that will improve Winnie’s eyesight.
A flying carpet is the subject in the second story wherein we find Winnie, conscientious witch that she is, busy writing thank-you letters for her birthday presents. There’s one letter left to do and it’s proving especially tricky as her much wanted gift of a flying carpet had turned out to be an absolute disaster.
Can she find a way to use the thing so that she has something positive to say about it? Let’s just say it’s surprising how many alternative uses a single item can be put to …
The final tale sees Winnie off to stock up on her favourite vegetables at the farmers’ market, especially her very favourite – pumpkins. These weekly trips leave much to be desired though and so Winnie decides to grow her own at home instead –

with Wilbur’s help of course; and the odd touch of magic to speed up the process.
And speed it up is exactly what her wand waving does, so much so that very soon her whole house is surrounded by a veritable veggie jungle full of enormous, produce including enough pumpkins – Winnie’s favourite – sufficient to feed not only herself and Wilbur but the whole neighbourhood . What though should she do with a gigantic pumpkin shell? Think propellers; think a highly convenient means of travelling to market …
As with all Winnie books, the stories are terrific fun, but it’s their combination with Korky Paul’s hilarious, highly detailed illustrations that make this series such perennial favourites. (You might even find the odd character from another of his books has dropped in.)

I’ve signed the charter  

Museums and Machines

A Funny Thing Happened at the Museum
Davide Cali and Benjamin Chaud
Chronicle Books
The terrific twosome of The Truth About My Unbelievable Summer and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School fame have combined forces in another zany Henry adventure; and as always he is accompanied by his dachshund pal. This time the protagonist is put on the spot by a question about the class trip to a museum. The lad seems to have been rather tardy in his arrival at said museum and consequently undertaken his own explorations therein. Whether he, or the exhibits were more entertained, one can only imagine. He supposedly got up to all manner of unlikely activities: balloon sculpting for the Neanderthals,

and there was certainly plenty to feast his eyes on. A T.Rex for instance, sculptures, a great whale and a woolly mammoth, lots of paintings –

some abstract art requiring the odd finishing touch here and there, and the museum’s storage facilities needing a bit of reorganisation.
See how many art references you can spot …that dachshund portrait does appear to bear more than a passing resemblance to the famous Mona Lisa. And yes, Henry does eventually catch up with the rest of his class, albeit by some rather risky means.
Pretty off-the-wall stuff; but those who have enjoyed the previous flights of fancy delivered by Cali and Chaud will certainly find plenty to amuse herein.

Winnie and Wilbur Gadgets Galore
Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul
Oxford University Press
This bumper book of three, re-named, previously published titles featuring the much-loved duo, Winnie and Wilbur in Space, Winnie’s New Computer and Winnie and the Big Bad Robot will surely appeal to those of a mechanical bent.
The first sees the pair hurtling skywards in a rocket and discovering the ‘Purrfect” picnic spot, then having their picnic invaded by a horde of hungry space rabbits. The odd swish of her magic wand produces the ideal fare for the bouncing bunnies; but the voracious consumption of their favourite metallic meal leads to the visitors being without any means of getting back home. Can Winnie’s wand save the day once again?
You’d think after all that excitement in previous adventures involving machines, now renamed for this compilation, Winnie would have learned to stay clear; but her first foray, that involving a misunderstanding on Wilbur’s part, the scanning of her spell books into her computer and a mal-functioning mouse – Wilbur’s doing; and the second, an extremely unfortunate experience with the robot constructed by Winnie in her weekly creativity class at the local library, didn’t deter her at all. Hence her ‘big adventure’ in space.
The magic still holds good, no matter how the stories are packaged.

I’ve signed the charter 

Festive Fun and Frolics

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Nuddy Ned’s Christmas
Kes Gray and Garry Parsons
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Nuddy Ned likes nothing better than to dash around in the altogether and yes, he’s super excited it being Christmas Eve; but dashing outside into the snowy evening chill is nothing short of crackers. There’s no stopping the little fellow though; he’s on a mission to meet Santa and he’s perfectly prepared to charge down the street and around the town completely starkers, parents in hot pursuit, in order to do so. Only some strategically placed flaps and other judiciously positioned items including a bird, a glove …

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and a bauble preserve his modesty.
Does this madcap streak finally get Ned what he wants – that Santa encounter, you’ll probably be wondering. Yes he does and Santa’s none too impressed at Ned’s lack of clothing but in the end it seems like a question of beat’em or join’em: what will Santa do? That would be telling wouldn’t it!
Kes Gray’s cracking rhyming text combined with equally giggle-inducing illustrations from Garry Parsons makes for some delightfully silly festive fun.

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The Queen’s Present
Steve Antony
Hodder Children’s Books
Imagine being able to call on Father Christmas himself for a spot of last minute emergency present buying, but that is exactly what the Queen does in her desire to find the perfect gift for her great grandchildren. Down he comes and off they go on a whistle stop flight with a whole host of hangers-on in the form of Santa’s little helpers who have much work to do in the way of festooning the various landmarks – the Eiffel Tower, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Great Pyramids of Egypt, the Great Wall of China, Himeji Castle, Sydney Opera House …

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and the Statue of Liberty over which they fly before finally landing in the North Pole. Even there though, Her Majesty is unable to find the perfect present. With Christmas Day almost upon them, there seems to be only one thing to do …

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This whole crazy romp is executed using an appropriately seasonal colour palette. It’s not my favourite Steve Antony but it’s full of things to make you smile; and those elves really do earn their keep as well as having a terrific time adorning all those iconic landmarks.

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Winnie and Wilbur Meet Santa
Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul
Oxford University Press
The excitement is palpable in Winnie and Wilbur’s house as they bake, write cards and festoon the place with decorations. Then it’s time for writing those all important letters to Santa …

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Christmas Eve comes at last and just as the pair drop off to sleep, they hear a cry for help: something has gone drastically wrong with Santa’s chimney descent. It’s fortunate that Winnie just happens to have her wand right there on the bedside table and with a quick wave and a magical utterance, she soon has their visitor back on his feet and they’re off on an amazing adventure.

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Full of seasonal magic and excitement, this is sure to delight, especially that final pop-out surprise …

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For the very youngest:

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We Wish You a Merry Christmas
illustrated by Yu-hsuan Huang
Nosy Crow
This song on which this chunky board book is based is probably one of the most frequently sung in primary schools and nurseries in the run up to Christmas.
Here we join a host of warmly clad, cute animal friends celebrating the seasonal joys together as they sleigh, skate, ski and deliver presents before gathering together in a warm cosy room to share some gifts.

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In addition to the moving parts, you can further add to toddlers’ enjoyment by scanning the QR code inside the front cover and getting an audio version to sing along with.

Sparky Spellers: the Littlest Witch and Winnie

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Dragon v Dinosaur
Helen Baugh and Deborah Allwright
Jonathan Cape
Twin tempers get more than a little frayed when competition rivalry sets in between the littlest witch and the littlest wizard both of whom are determined to win the prize for best fancy dress costume at the party. Wands are brandished, spells are cast back and forth until things start to get out of hand as it’s a case of dinosaur versus dragon in a face off.

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Thank goodness then that before any real damage can be done, the witch’s ITCH makes its presence felt, the spells are broken but so are the wands.
Without their magic, can the twins find something else to wear to the party by three o’clock?

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The combination of sparky rhyming text and action-packed, zizzy scenes make for another winner for that little Itchy Witch and her creators.

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Winnie’s Haunted House
Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul
Oxford University Press
When is a ghost not a ghost? When it’s a bee that’s being chased around the house by a cat named Wilbur one sunny afternoon.

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But that’s not what Winnie the Witch thinks in this latest action-packed escapade. Rudely awakened from her postprandial nap, she’s convinced her house is haunted and thinks a spell will put things right. The trouble is she’s misplaced her specs and so her choice of spell isn’t quite what she’d thought.

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The result sends her into a spin or two before, thanks to a passing owl, she discovers the whereabouts of her glasses

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and is able to read the actual words in her book and perform a reversal of the haunted house spell. Then all that’s needed is another wave of her wand to clear up the havoc and Winnie can have the remainder of her by now, well-earned sleep.
Another crazy Thomas/Paul romp for Winnie fans to laugh at; they’ll delight in being in the know as to the location of Winnie’s ‘lost’ specs as she trips, tumbles and fumbles her way around.

Use your local bookshop     localbookshops_NameImage-2

Spellbinders

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The Witch with an Itch
Helen Baugh and Deborah Allwright
Jonathan Cape pbk
When the little witch passes her final exams she cannot wait to start working her magic outside school. Her first subject is a frog – he’s destined to become a hat but, at the crucial moment, an itch comes upon our young heroine causing her wand to wobble and point instead at a flower – whoopsie! The frog’s still there but …

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A similar thing happens with the spider; this time it’s a toadstool not the arachnid that becomes a broom.
Another failed attempt follows and then a thoroughly frustrated little witch loses her cool completely hurling her wand to the ground in disgust.

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Suddenly beside her she notices a little girl with one hat, one pot, one broom plus the frog, spider and newt. And, she knows what’s been causing that aggravating itch; moreover, she knows how to get rid of that trying allergy once and for all.
Suitably spirited, wonderfully expressive illustrations and a lively, rhyming text that gives adult readers aloud the opportunity to let rip are the main ingredients of this diverting tale by a debut author.
Buy from Amazon

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Winnie’s Big Bad Robot
Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul
Oxford University Press
Winnie’s decision to wave her wand and turn her junk robot into a real one is far from clever, all the more so when the big bad creature makes a grab for her wand and starts wielding it. Before long, not only has her house has become robotic but Winnie the Witch has become Winnie the Robot.

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Now it’s left to faithful Wilbur to retrieve the wand and restore things to their natural order once more. But can he do it?
Another crazy caper illustrated in Korky Paul’s witty, exuberant style. Those robotic rabbits, ducks and frogs are superb but all the spreads are crammed with
delicious details.
Buy from Amazon

Especially for those who like to add their own creative touches of magic to a story is:

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Spells and Surprises Activity Storybook
Marnie Edwards and Leigh Hodgkinson
Nosy Crow pbk
Best friends Princess Sapphire and Emerald the Witch become pupils at St Aubergine’s School just in time for the annual Hallowe’en festivities. First though there are all manner of lessons to be learned, not to mention costumes to be made and strange noises to be investigated. So it’s just as well that the pupils are ready to help each other out. Toasted marshmallows all round, I say.
There’s lots of fun to be had herein – glue, sequins and glitter at the ready: there are opportunities for adding to every one of the forty or so double spreads.
This one is definitely more likely to appeal to girls, probably from around five but perhaps younger depending on the individual. And don’t forget those witchy hats; time to head over to Mixtopia for some magical happenings.
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