Kevin and the Biscuit Bandit

Kevin’s back!

I was a Kevin fan from the moment I read his first adventure (you can read my reviews of books one and two here and here) and his newest adventure is every bit as entertaining as its predecessors!

Kevin and the Biscuit Bandit by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre, published by Oxford University Press

If you’ve not read the previous books in this series, do. But this can be read as a standalone (or out if order if you’re really that much of a rebel). There’s a great introduction to Kevin (a roly-poly, biscuit-loving flying pony who lives on Max’s roof) at the start and then we’re straight into the action.

And, with police chases, brilliant disguises, cunning plans, an out of control biscuit machine and some very, VERY naughty Sea Monkeys, the action doesn’t let up!

There’s a biscuit thief terrorising Bumbleford…and Kevin is suspect number one (number one of one that is!) So Max and Daisy set out to clear his name by finding out who’s really behind the biscuit burgling.

As with the previous books, this is a huge slab of fast-paced, feel-good, family fun.

There’s a laugh a minute and something for everyone from the celebrity chef pushing Sprout Squashy pseudo-biscuits to a fart-powered panto pony to parental texting to horse prison to the classic poo on the head which, let’s face it, kids will LOVE.

I was absolutely DELIGHTED to see Beyonce and Neville (Ellie Fidgett’s guinea pigs) get not just a cameo but a starring role as they embark on their own daring sunflower seed heist too.

I can’t recommend this series highly enough to young readers. It’s so much fun; with pacy plots, great characters and loads of ‘sound effects’ it’s perfect to read aloud and the dynamic illustrations are packed with wit and humour too.

Best enjoyed with biscuits (of course!)

Picklewitch and Jack and the Sea Wizard’s Secret

I was lucky enough to request and receive a copy of this from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. All views and opinions are my own.

Picklewitch and Jack and the Sea Wizard’s Secret by Claire Barker, illustrated by Teemu Juhani, published by Faber Children’s

So, I have been getting a lot of bookpost recently. Mostly that I’ve ordered and paid for, some that I’d requested or been offered to review. But last week a mysterious book-shaped parcel arrived and I had no idea what it could be.

People – it was THE NEW PICKLEWITCH AND JACK! It was so unexpected and such a lovely surprise!

And most importantly, it more than lived up to expectations! I loved both of the first Picklewitch and Jack books (you can read my reviews of them here and here) so I had high hopes and this was every bit as warm, funny and fantastic as the first two.

If you’ve yet to meet Picklewitch then firstly, you’ve been missing out, and secondly, go back and start at book one. This would read fine as a standalone but you’d only want to read the rest immediately and you’ll get so much more from it if you see Picklewitch and Jack’s friendship develop from the beginning.

But if you’ve set your sights on starting midway through the series, maverick that you are – Jack is a quiet, clever, rule-following, fossil-collecting boy. His best friend is Picklewitch who is, to put it simply, an absolute force of nature (both literally and metaphorically).

And here, they’re off to the seaside. Well, Jack is. Picklewitch is not so sure (read: she is stubbornly certain she’s not going and sulkily demanding Jack doesn’t go either) until she hears there’ll be I Screams, then her bag is packed (by the birds. At her say so. And with Jack’s lunch sneaked in of course.)

There’s a school trip to meet a famous fossil hunter and hunt for fossils – Jack’s dream! But Picklewitch isn’t sold (read: can’t think of anything more boring than fudgenutting fizzles) and is much more interested in befriending (read: getting cake from) the Sea Wizard she spies on the beach.

But what has Scowling Margaret got hidden in her cave? And what is our famous fossil hunter really searching for?

This is another brilliant adventure from this perfectly paired and utterly lovable duo.

It’s full of holiday excitement – fossil hunting by the sea, splashing in rock pools in a rather…retro…bathing costume (I loved this!), sneaking out at midnight, messages in bottles and undersea caves; and there’s a great twist in the trip revealing both a perfectly painted baddie and a…well I can’t spoil that!

But it’s the characters that really make these books and they are in top form here.

Jack and Picklewitch both play off each other and balance each other brilliantly, and its lovely to see their friendship so strong now.

Of course, Picklewitch is the star, larger than life, and bursting from the page in Teemu Juhani’s exuberant illustrations. She fizzes with energy and unbridled mischief, and Claire Barker’s utterly joyous, totally bonkers, cleverly creative use of language is, as ever, perfect for her.

She is one of the funniest, liveliest, most lovable, well-drawn characters I know and I love her. Everyone should be just a bit more Picklewitch (even if just through taking up her favourite exclamations of excitement, declarations of disapproval and irritated insults – “WOT a fudgenut. WOT a fopdoodle. WOT a frazzler.”)

But here there’s also the excellent Scowling Margaret. Brilliantly depicted by both Claire and Teemu (ahem, and Picklewitch – “A proper old mugswoggler and hobbledehoy she is.”) she’s everything a Sea Wizard should be and the scene in her cave after Picklewitch has invited herself for tea cake is genius in its silences, small talk and solid slabs of cake.

I love this illustration – it’s just so full of character and has such a story all on its own.

If you couldn’t tell already I thought this addition to one of my favourite series was the absolute kipper’s knickers. Engaging, energetic and laugh out loud funny – everyone needs Picklewitch and Jack in their lives.

Max and the Midknights

I thought I’d ease my way bavk in with a cheat of a review courtesy of our nephew, Seb…

I was sent a copy of this from the publishers.

Max and the Midknights by Lincoln Pierce

I’m swamped at the moment, but when this arrived I knew just the person to help me review it!

Although it’s aimed at a slightly younger age-bracket, I knew my nephew had devoured the Wimpy Kid books and is a big fan of humour in his reading so I was sure it being a bit on the younger side wouldn’t stop him enjoying it.

Set in the middle ages, Max dreams of becoming a Knight, rather than following in the tradition of becoming a bard. But there’s no chance. That is, until Uncle Budrick is kidnapped by King Gastley. Max sets out to rescue him and save the day, helped by the ‘Midknights’.

Packed with laughs, and with a balance of cartoon style illustration and text, this is a brilliant book to ‘Bridge that gap between early chapter books and longer ones or as a’ next read’ for Dogman fans looking for a bit more text.

Here’s Seb’s review, courtesy of his mum:

“To set the scene, my 10 year old son is a big Walliams, Baddiel and Tom Fletcher fan (sorry), but he also enjoys getting stuck into a Lisa Thompson, Ross Welford and Louis Sachar book (not sorry!) – so it’s fair to say his reading tastes vary!

Initially, he enjoyed the look of this book, more illustrations and cartoony than he is used too but this did not put him off.

Reportedly a slow start, this soon picked up and he found the book to be an enjoyable read.

He enjoyed the action scenes, and the developing friendships between the main characters. The middle of the book brings an unexpected twist – I won’t spoil it for you.

The humour reminded him of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series – he should know, he’s read the lot! – and he thought it was an easy, enjoyable read which he finished in a few (late) nights.

I would be happy if he continued to read this type of book if he alternated it with a more challenging read.

All in all a solid 8 out of 10 and ‘if he writes another book, can I read it?’ The answer to any reading question is always a yes!!”

So, we think this is a very funny book with a brilliant twist perfect for its intended age group and that’s still enjoyable for older readers after some light relief, or those who are only just finding their reading feet (lacking confidence, interest or stamina perhaps).

More from Seb soon!

A younger chapter book double

I was lucky enough to request and receive copies of these from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. All views and opinions are my own.

It’s a double bill of books for slightly younger readers today – the first perfect for those just edging towards MG but not quite there yet, and the second an illustrated chapter book for those just starting to read more at length but still wanting pictures with their prose! Both would also make excellent read aloud choices to share.

Dragon Detective: Catnapped by Gareth P. Jones, cover and chapter art by Scott Brown

My friend Michelle is a big Gareth P Jones fan, her boys have loved/still love his books and she has been championing him for years. So, I was very pleased to be offered the chance to try his newest/oldest offering (this is an edited, re-jacketed, generally refreshed re-publication of the book).

This is a classic down-on-his-luck, heavy drinking (in this case neat orange squash), works-alone detective story, but with a twist, namely that our Detective, Dirk Dolly, is a dragon.

It transpires that dragons are mostly in hiding in their natural habitats – sea, mountain, underground etc – and urban dragons, like Dilly are rare, so he needs to be doubly careful to go unnoticed.

Luckily for him, his landlady, the brilliantly named Mrs Klingerfilm, is almost blind as a bat. Unluckily for him, his most recent client is rather keen to help and soon finds out his secret!

Partnered (begrudgingly) with smart keen bean and loner, Holly, and on the case (begrudgingly) searching for her missing cat, the plot soon thickens…

With dodgy dragons, a great double-act of bad-guy henchmen, an enormous and mysterious creature in a lake, a detective detecting our detective, and crates full of stolen cats, this case turns out to be much more complicated, dangerous and intriguing than you’d think a missing cat could be!

Told with plenty of humour, and a touch of fantasy, this is a great addition to the younger chapter book offering, especially as the detective/crime/mystery genre in children’s fiction remains strong.

Skeleton Keys: The Unimaginary Friend by Guy Bass, illustrated by Pete Williamson

I received a copy of this aaaaages ago but it got a bit lost in the pile (sorry!), so when Mary mentioned she was hoping to listen to it after hearing the author read a little from it and thinking it was brilliant, and with book 2,The Haunting of Luna Moon due out in March, I decided to read it via audiobook!

It’s narrated by Guy Bass himself and honestly it’s just a joy to listen to – what a performance! Full of energy, feeling and drama it sweeps you up into the action and the voices really make the characters complete!

And if, like me, you’re an enthusiastic read-aloud-er who’s a bit rubbish at voices, I can highly recommend listening to the audiobook of this with young readers instead (even if you’re a dab hand at voices, this really is one kids will love to listen to with all the sound effects etc!)

That being said, you’ll also want a physical copy as the illustrations really bring it to life! Managing to be all at once dark, funny, and full of detail, they have a touch of Tim Burton but with plenty of warmth and character. The whole book is beautifully designed and laid out – with some dark pages, some lighter, borders and decorations, text which grows and moves in emphasis – utterly appealing!

The story itself is both imaginative and a champion of imagination in itself. Ben doesn’t have many (any) friends, that is except for his best (imaginary) friend, The Gorblimey. When no one shows up to Ben’s party and his dad tells him he’s too old for imaginary friends, Ben manages to imagine The Gorblimey Unimaginary and he comes to life – as warm, friendly and caring as he is in Ben’s mind.

Close on his heels is the slick and suave Skeleton Keys (who also narrates our tale) determined to capture The Gorblimey and send him to Oblivion, as Keys is convinced he’s up to no good and preparing to unleash chaos.

But is The Gorblimey the only Unimaginary around?

This is such a fun read for younger readers – packed with humour, action, wordplay (those names!) and mayhem… and of course a skeleton, a monster abd a pirate not to mention a naughty little girl with a backwards head! An imaginative and dark delight that’s full of giggles too.

Paddington’s Post

I was lucky enough to request and receive a copy of this from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. All views and opinions are my own.

Paddington’s Post based on the stories by Michael Bond, illustrated by R. W. Alley

This is a lovely new addition to the Paddington range of books.

With post to take out and read throughout, it follows in the footsteps of the classic ‘Jolly Postman’ format, which seems to have become quite popular recently (not that I’m complaining in the slightest – Emma Yarlett’s Dragon Post and Beast Feast books are stunning new examples of this style and The Crayons’ Christmas/Meerkat Christmas are really warm, fun gift books too).

This is a lovely way to get to know Paddington through the post he sends and receives. It tells the story of his arrival in the UK from Darkest Peru and introduces us to his ‘adoptive’ family and friends here, as well as some of his most well-known and best loved traits and habits.

There’s plenty of scope too for ‘taking the book further’ and using it as a stimulus for activities such as map making, cake baking, or letter writing (of course!)

With elements of the original Paddington stories and bright, characterful illustrations from RW.Alley that manage to both capture the history and tradition of Paddington and still feel fresh and modern too, this book would make a lovely gift for new fans as well as bring a perfect addition to the bookshelves of lifelong Paddington lovers!

Winnie and Wilbur: The Santa Surprise

I was lucky enough to request and receive a copy of this from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. All views and opinions are my own.

So this review might just win the prize for tardiness! We were sent the hardback version of this last Christmas. Life with a small baby took over and I promised myself I’d get a review up this Christmas instead. The paperback came out, I found my copy. And life once more took over. I have no excuse – when I did finally read this I did so in less than a half hour break. So, very late (but in plenty of time for next Christmas!) here’s my review…

Winnie and Wilbur: The Santa Surprise by Laura Owen and Korky Paul

I am a big fan of the original Winnie the Witch picture books, by Valerie Thomas, but I’d never read one of the illustrated early chapter books, featuring the same characters but written by Laura Owen, until now.

I think it helps that Korky Paul has illustrated both the picture books and early chapters, both in terms of familiarity and continuity and also just because his vibrant illustrations are so well-suited to this madcap pair!

Winnie has lost none of her slightly dishevelled look and chaotic ways. She means well but her good ideas somehow cause all kinds of trouble, and poor Wilbur is still there patiently helping her through it!

In The Santa Surprise, she is horrified when she realises that while Santa is busy giving out presents to everyone, no one has got anything for him. So, she and Wilbur decide to rectify it.

They consult their friends on what to get, resulting in Winnie attempting both knitting and baking (with mixed results!) and a whole host of school children offering up some very imaginative ideas.

This would be a great talking point/Christmas lesson springboard with children thinking of, designing and possibly making the gifts they’d buy Santa too!

Presents made, bought, sourced and magicked, and with giant rescued polar bear in tow, they are ready to set off on Wilbur’s home made sleigh with his new tablet acting as sat nav.

I really liked the way technology was portrayed with real balance in this story too. Like it or not, it’s a big part of a lot of children’s lives and will be on a lot of Christmas lists.

This deals cleverly with that by having Wilbur get one, which Winnie is at first sceptical of. We do see its failings and times when it’s real people/hands on activities etc that are needed, but we’re also shown its uses and positives and Winnie comes round.

Of course, things don’t quite go to plan! They soon realise they’re at the wrong pole and Christmas is getting ever closer! The elves scarves are given to penguins, the giant socks are used as sleeping bags and the gingerbread house collapses…

Eventually they arrive at Santa’s House…just as he’s left to deliver everyone’s presents! With nothing left to give him anyway and no way to get home, Winnie and Wilbur come up with a plan that results in a happy ending all round.

This is an energetic, feel-good caper with two thoroughly lovable main characters, zingy illustrations and a festive journey with lots of fun along the way. Glorious.

The House Without Windows

I bought this, I have to admit knowing precisely zero about it other than it had a pretty cover (and also was on our Book of the Year shortlist at work do I thought I should read it!)…

The House Without Windows by Barbara Newhall Follett, illustrated by Jackie Morris

The backstory to this is that it was written by Barbara Newhall Follett when she was 9, but subsequently lost so she then spent several years re-writing it until this version was published in 1927 when she was 12.

Eepersip has run away, initially unintentionally as she heads out to spend a day outdoors then likes it so much she stays. We follow her through meadow, seaside and mountain (with a brief detour home to steal her sister, albeit temporarily).

It’s a funny little thing this one.

A lot of it reads like a child’s story (which is unsurprising since it is one) as well as having a gentle, slightly old-fashioned style.

There’s a great deal of ‘then this, then this, then this’ as if events are being popped down as they occur with little regard for the practicalities, likelihood or plausibility. This isn’t a bad thing as such, just a noticeable one.

For example, the great lengths Eepersip’s parents go to to find and capture her (for starters swapping houses with some people they barely know and enlisting the help of some vague acquaintances with a tent or others with a kitten they recognise then coming up with one harebrained plan after another) only to take a break and leave her to it when winter comes with the idea of trying again when the weather improves.

Meanwhile, Eepersip is making friends with deer and chipmunks, butterflies and a kidnapped kitten and generally having a lovely time dancing, singing and playing in nature. Foraging and fashioning herself dresses from seaweed or ferns and going barefoot, despite the initial discomfort, she’s truly become a child of nature.

And this book is truly that too. Its childish voice when it comes to events is gone when it shows us the wonders of the wild world all around. Then it becomes vivid, assured and completely and utterly in tune with nature.

In a way, I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise that the two styles seem so at home together, as children and nature so often are. Indeed, Eepersip’s absolute awe and joy at being free outdoors capture this beautifully.

Flora and fauna abound – names, details and descriptions meet feelings, movement and imagery. Fact meets fiction seamlessly and the power and constancy of nature are clear.

The contrasts we come across between meadow and beach and mountain, as well as the seasons that change around us are equally stunning – each uniquely wondrous and difficult in its own way, each bringing its own delights, dangers and rewards.

The addition here of Jackie Morris’ illustrations only adds to this. Her own love of nature is no secret and, as with Newhall Follett’s words, this spills over and shines through in her illustrations – in their power and freedom and detail and delicacy and knowledge.

As a story, its hard to know what I make of this. Although I have to say I thought the ending was excellent. I spent a good deal of time pondering how she would bring it to any kind of (satisfactory) conclusion, but she managed it brilliantly.

I do think this would be a good pick for those just starting on longer books (either to read to, with or alone), especially those with a love of animals, outdoors and nature. Its straightforward (if slightly odd) tale with its lack of twists, moments of gentle humour and animals who befriend this little girl are sure to be popular.

But more than that, this is a must-read for nature lovers of any age just for the richness and realness of the animals, habitats, weather and wild it showcases. A love letter to nature of ever there was one, and a reminder of the joy, positivity and reviving qualities getting outside can bring, especially for children but even for non-outdoorsy types like me!

Bad Nana: That’s Snow Business

I was lucky enough to request and receive a copy of this from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. All views and opinions are my own.

Bad Nana: That’s Snow Business by Sophy Henn

When the first Bad Nana book (Older not Wiser) came out it immediately piqued my interest. With a naughty Nana whose heart is in the right place, an incredibly likeable narrator whose voice was funny and believable, and eye-popping pink, white and black illustrations throughout alongside funky use of font style and size – I was totally sold.

So I was very excited to see Bad Nana back for a winter adventure, and even more excited to see that my copy had been signed!!

There’s a Winter Wonderland Variety Show and everyone is very excited to try out for it. Adults will likely find the descriptions of the ventriloquist, recorder and Disney dance moves acts just as funny (if not more so) as young readers and the book captures perfectly the feel of such a show – the nerves, the excitement, the competition that shouldn’t exist but definitely does, the ‘am-dram’ organisation and of course the “stage with swishy red curtains, which we are NEVER allowed on normally because the grown ups think we are all idiots and woukd immediately fall off.”

Bad Nana starts off helping Jeanie and her friends (and her younger brother Jack, against her wishes!) to rehearse and prepare – after all, one of her many past jobs was in showbiz! – but soon becomes swept away with the” razzle dazzle” and, along with old friend from the stage, Bobby Truelove (what a name!) she’s soon got her sights set on Winter Wonderland stardom and will stop at nothing to get there!

Bad Nana is such a brilliant character, as is our narrator, 7 3/4 year old Jeanie. It’s lovely to see Jeanie realising how alike she is to Bad Nana – don’t be fooled by her mischievous ways, she’s got a heart of gold has our BN! – and plenty to chuckle at along the way.

With enough of the familiar and funny to engage young readers, there’s also a dollop of warmth and a message of understanding that gives the book depth without it becoming didactic or sweet. This is a brilliant instalment to a brilliant series. Bad Nana is THE (snow) business!

Tuesday Trio – Early Chapter Books

I requested and received copies of these free from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. All views and opinions are my own.

A trio of treats for younger readers – reviewing some of the early chapter books I’ve read recently.

Kitty and the Moonlight Rescue by Paula Harrison, illustrated by Jenny Løvlie

Paula Harrison is already a firm favourite with young, early chapter book readers and this first venture into the highly illustrated versions is likely to be just as popular as her Secret Rescuers and Rescue Princess series are.

This new series retains the animal theme, this time with cats. Kitty is a young superhero, following in her mum’s footsteps, with cat-like super powers – agility, speed, night vision.

In her first adventure, we see Kitty discover her super powers, meet her feline friends and overcome her fears to save the day.

With simply written text and lots of gorgeous high contrast, orange, black and white illustrations this will be an appealing book for those just starting to build their confidence with more independent reading.

Between a group of cats with very different personalities, family life and superhero escapades there’s a good mix of interests covered which will appeal to this age group – familiar enough to feel safe but exciting enough to add a bit of adventure.

Purr-fect (see what I did there?!) for fans of Isadora Moon, I can see this series really taking off.

Kevin’s Great Escape by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre

I was a huge fan of the first Kevin book so I was super excited to receive a copy of book two, which I loved just as much!

Here we rejoin biscuit-loving roly-poly-flying-pony Kevin, best friend Max and his sister Daisy as Daisy’s favourite pop star Misty Twiglet (what a name!) moves into the area with her manager on the lookout for exotic pets for her mansion’s garden.

Of course, a flying pony would make an excellent addition to the collection but all is not as it seems and Kevin soon finds himself kidnapped!

There’s plenty of humour, as you’d expect, and a host of well-executed and exaggerated characters that stop just short of becoming caricatures – from cruel and cold-hearted music mogul Baz to hired heavyweight Lumphammer, to Misty Twiglet herself, the pop sensation (who “dresses like a posh cobweb” – I love this!) to goth teen superfan Daisy! Not to mention all the other creatures imprisoned alongside Kevin…

…and BEYONCE AND NEVILLE ARE BACK and playing their daring parts in Kevin’s rescue!

This is loads of fun, with fun poked at the characters lovingly, and relationships between Max and Kevin, as well as between Max and Daisy, drawn with warmth.

There’s a great balance found between the hectic, hare-brained hustle and bustle of adventure and the feel good family factor.

Just as good as book one, this is another brilliantly daft, fast-paced adventure that’s guaranteed to have you giggling.

Jasper and Scruff by Nicola Colton

Jasper is cultured, well read and fed, and enjoys the finer things in life, which is why he’s hoping to be invited to join illustrious and exclusive members club The Sophisticats by impressing them at dinner. After all, it’s important to have the right friends too.

Everything is ready for a perfect evening, until Scruff makes an appearance while Jasper’s out shopping for supplies.

In a take on the classic theme, Scruff is everythibg Jasper’s not – a dig fir a start, and a hairy, slobbery, all-over-the-place mess of one at that. He’s also enthusiastic, friendly and persistent.

He takes a shine to Jasper and despite Jasper’s best efforts to dissuade him (cue funny games of fetch and hide and seek) turns up at Jasper’s just in time to cause chaos at the Sophisticats dinner party.

At first Jasper panics, but as his guests become increasingly rude, he starts to realise just what makes a good friend and who the right friend for him might be.

It’s a sweet message that’s balanced by mishaps and mess making for a fun and lively text and even livelier illustrations that will both engage and encourage newly independent readers.

This first book sets the scene brilliantly for countless adventures from this unlikely and very funny duo, and I look forward to seeing what madcap mishaps they get involved in next!

Picklewitch and Jack and the Cuckoo Cousin

I received a free copy of this from the publishers in exchange for honest reviews. Opinions and views are all my own.

Picklewitch and Jack and the Cuckoo Cousin by Claire Barker and Teemu Juhani

I reviewed the first Picklewitch and Jack book last year and I LOVED it, so when I was offered a copy of the new book to review I leapt at the chance.

I wasn’t disappointed. This more than lives up to the expectations built by book one!

Much of what I wrote about the first book stands true about this one as well.

The language and writing style are as vibrant, pacy and original as ever and remain perfectly pitched – accessible but in no way dumbed down.

“As secret as a nut in its shell.”

And there are some wonderful invented words and phrases adding spark and humour – think Roald Dahl’s BFG and you’re on the right lines for Picklewitch’s vernacular.

“I can’t be dealing with mooncalves and frazzlers.”

Picklewitch

The illustrations are stylish and expressive, with the characters’ very different personalities shining through and Picklewitch’s love of the wild and nature made visual.

There is again a glossary of Picklewitch’s words, a selection of spells and recipes, nature guides a la Picklewitch at the end of the story and they’re an absolute delight – I grinned and grinned reading them!

The characters remain true to themselves – Picklewitch is still a cake-loving, slightly bonkers, brimming with confidence, rule-breaking/making, tree-dwelling witch and Jack is still a school-loving, rule-following, bit-of-a-worrier Boxie who lives in the house attached to Picklewitch’s garden.

But they’re given chance to grow and develop in this episode as well, which – especially in Jack’s case – is lovely to see. Yes, he’s still a worrier but he’s taking more chances, starting to make friends, enjoying life more… Picklewitch, whilst being a terribly bad influence, has of course been a fantastically good one!

And for her part, she shows in this book just how smart and loyal this apparent kidder really is, whilst – of course – retaining her pride, her irrefutable manner, her incredible knack for absolutely always being right and of course her enormous sense of fun.

Picklewitch and Jack’s friendship is put to the test in this book, when Picklewitch receives a letter

“Do witches get letters?” asked Jack, squinting into the sun.

“All the time,” she said.

“Have you ever had one before?”

“No.”

from a mysterious, and hitherto unknown, cousin saying he’s coming to stay.

Jack is naturally anxious – what if Picklewitch has so much fun with her cousin she forgets about being friends with him? But when Archie Cuckoo arrives, Jack thinks he’s perfect – well behaved, interested in learning, smart (he even has a briefcase) – and they end up getting on splendidly.

But is Archie Cuckoo too good to be true? (Spoiler alert – Yes. Yes he is.)

He is in fact a brilliant baddie. I love how we see him charming/magicking his way into Jack’s life and the repercussions of this for Jack and Picklewitch.

There’s a serious story of friendship, loyalty and trust which underpins the humour, magic and dancing ants.

I think that’s what I love so much about these books – they zip and ping with energy, spells, flying feathers and creepy crawlies, and you will giggle from start to finish (I chortled my way happily through my lunch hour) but there’s also a huge amount of warmth, understanding and gentle reassurance for some tricky situations in there.

This second book in the Picklewitch and Jack series is just as full of heart as the first and has confirmed their place as firm favourites of mine. I can’t wait for the next one (roll on Autumn 2020!!)