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!)

Peapod’s Picks: The Pigeon

Peapod’s Picks is a weekly round up of some of the books that Peapod* has read (often, but not always, for his bedtime stories) each week plus a review of at least one of them.

*His social media alter ego, not his real name!

This week, we’re looking at ‘the pigeon books’ by Mo Willems.

Some of you will probably be familiar with this one – it’s a classic and popular in schools too (especially when looking at persuasion with older classes – imagine that, a picture book being read to older children ­čśĆ)

For those of you who don’t know it, it begins with a bus driver addressing the reader:

Then, along comes the pigeon, and he is desperate to drive the bus!

Using every persuasive phrase and technique known to toddlers man, he cajoles, pleads, tantrums and bargains. He begs, sulks, sneaks and bribes. And as its all addressed to you, the reader, kids can have great fun being the ones to say “No!”!

Peapod’s not quite at that stage yet, but he loves listening to us read this one. Luckily, it’s as much fun to read as it is to listen to (it’d be a great one for older children to try out changing their tone, expression, pitch etc while reading too) and it’s only quite short, so bears repeated reads well!

He even rooted past the toys in the basket to get to the book at the back and bring it out to read!

That’s my boy!

When I went off work on mat leave, my amazing colleagues (who know me and my love of this book so well – special tip of the hat to Michelle and Brian) got me this pigeon as part of my pressie. It actually shouts “Let me drive the bus!”

He let him drive the bus!!

Anyway, we recently found out there were others in the series (and I call myself a kids bookseller! For shame!) We’ve had The Pigeon Needs a Bath for ages but only just found out about/ got hold of the others.

They all follow a similar pattern – the pigeon either wants or doesn’t want something and employs his best persuasive techniques to get his way.

Hot dog and cookie move away from the mould without entirely breaking it, offering insight into Pigeon’s thoughts on sharing and fairness as well as introducing us to Duckling, who is a great character and a perfect counter to Pigeon.

The Duckling Gets a Cookie?! is hilarious. It’s a perfect picture of injustice as seen through the eyes of a tiddly one, and the twist at the end is brilliant.

Peapod’s Dad likes The Pigeon Needs a Bath and if you’ve ever needed to bath a reluctant child, you’ll likely appreciate it too. Likewise, any of you who’ve ever been around a small child at bedtime can’t fail to smile as familiar argument after charming phrase is played out in Don’t Let The Pigeon Stay Up Late.

We love these books. They are SO funny and have such a fantastic understanding of children at their heart! (I recently learned that Mo Willems worked on Sesame Street and it suddenly all made sense).

If you haven’t read these yet, start with Bus – you won’t regret it!

We saw this sign randomly hanging in a pub a couple of years ago. It still both baffles and amuses me!

Mini Monday: 7/1/19

Kicking off 2019 with three snowy books (maybe it will bring the actual snow!)*

*The last of these reviews is a tweaked and slightly expanded version of one from WWW Wednesday last week – you can always skip it if you saw it first time round!

First up…

There’s a Yeti in the Playground by Pamela Butchart

Illustrated by Thomas Flintham

It’s snowing and Izzy and friends are hoping they’ll all be sent home early. But then they hear weird noises in the playground, and find a big footprint in the snow… And that’s when they know! There’s a YETI in the playground and it’s HUNGRY!

The young readers in work LOVE these books and it’s easy to see why with plots, plans and action aplenty – not to mention huge dollops of humour that adults will love too.

As a former infant teacher, so much of this made me properly laugh out loud – both supremely silly and totally believable at the same time! Anyone who’s ever been in a school will find plenty of familiar faces, recognisable rules and everyday events here, but bigger, bolder and funnier!

Snow, survival skills and being stuck in school – not to mention a seriously stinky scent! This is observational humour at its best – larger than life and laugh out loud!

Thanks to Nosy Crow for my copy.

The Missing Barbegazi by H. S. Norup

Cover design by Anna Morrison

Tessa knows that the Barbegazi exist because her beloved grandfather told her about them. So she sets out to prove to her family and friends that her grandfather wasn’t just a confused old man. But Tessa realises that uncovering the truth carries great responsibilities.

This was set on the ski slopes of Austria and is a great example of an author really knowing and loving their setting. It’s clearly well-loved territory, fondly described with little touches of the familiar that help to paint the picture for those of us who have never touched a ski!

Likewise, I enjoyed the fact that it was written from both Tessa and Gawion’s perspectives and the addition of the pages from the guide to Alpine elves was a really interesting and unusual way to add background information and detail.

With themes of friendship, loss and trust as well as protecting the environment and knowing when to keep a secret, this is a story of unlikely allegiances, cunning plots to foil the bad guy, wintry landscapes and daring late night escapades this is a great adventure, perfect for fans of Lauren St John’s Kat Wolfe Investigates or Jess Butterworth’s When The Mountains Roared.

Thanks to Pushkin for my copy.

Snowglobe by Amy Wilson

Cover illustration by Rachel Vale

Clementine discovers a mysterious house full of snowglobes, each containing a trapped magician. One of these is Dylan, a boy who teases her in the real world but who is now desperate for her help.

So Clem embarks on a mission to release Dylan and the other magicians, unknowingly unleashing a struggle for power that will put not only her family, but the future of magic itself in danger.

I finished reading this on Christmas Day. I think this is the first Christmas Day I’ve managed to read since I was little! It was lovely (even if I did have to read stood up!) and the magical feel of this book was perfectly suited to it!

I really enjoyed the characters of Ganymede, Io and Clem especially and the way strong emotions are portrayed and played out through the magic of the book worked really well.

But what I really loved were the magical elements of the book and the world building – so imaginative and exciting.

I thoroughly enjoyed it and I’m still marvelling at the Snowglobes and the setting – at the worlds within a world within a world. The whole concept was such a unique idea and brilliantly described – so tangible and memorable. It made me want to go in and explore!

Thanks to Macmillan for my copy.

Have you read any of these – what did you think?

What are your favourite wintry or snowy books?

Picklewitch and Jack

As part of my quest to read more younger chapter books as well as ‘MG’, I requested a copy of this from Faber (who very kindly obliged – thank you!) and it’s safe to say I’m thrilled I did as it’s become one of my favourite books of the year.

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Picklewitch lives in a tree at the bottom of the garden. She has a nose for naughtiness, a mind for mischief and a weakness for cake. And unluckily for brainbox and all-round-goody-two-shoes Jack (who’s just moved in) she’s about to choose him as her new best friend… Jack is in for a whole lot of trouble!

I can’t tell you how much I love this book. Rather than reminding me of any specific book from when I was little, it brought back the feeling I got from reading the very best of them. The ones I loved. That indescribable buzz of a book that just seems to have got everything spot on.

The language for a start. Not too simple or patronising, nor over the top, it’s just right for younger readers The descriptions are wonderfully atmospheric and lively, conjuring up thunderstorms and wild gardens, trying to sleep in a spooky old house and, of course, delicious cakes. The way in which the blossoming friendship between Jack and Picklewitch is described – its complications, and Jack’s frustration and confusion in particular are depicted brilliantly.

The pace is perfectly matched to Picklewitch’s particular brand of chaos – the rollercoaster-like build and scream of it each time Jack moves from feeling relieved to realising something’s not quite right to…uh-oh! And all the while, cleverly dropping in the growing realisation that Picklewitch might be trouble with a capital T but she’s also desperate to be a friend with a capital F.

Which brings us to the characters. It would be easy to dislike a character like Jack – always well behaved, incredibly clever and something of a perfectionist – he has the potential to be boring at best and irritating at worst. Luckily, he’s neither, and his uncertainty about the not-so-black-and-white world of friendship and his earnest efforts to address it are very endearing too.

And then, of course, there’s Picklewitch. Even her name is fantastic – just say it and try not to smile. A tornado of trouble with an enormous heart, an insatiable appetite for cake and confidence enough for two, she is simply wonderful. Everyone should have a Picklewitch in their life.

The glossary of Picklewitch words, as well as her jokes and spells added in at the end of the story was joyous too!

And if all that wasn’t enough on its own, Teemu Juhani’s busy, fun and full illustrations capture the essence of Picklewitch and the feel of the story splendidly.

There will never be a shortage of witch books, especially for this age group, but this truly stands out from the crowd – a madcap tale of friendship and fun – it really is the kipper’s knickers!

Oi Cat!

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Well, what can I say about this book that hasn’t already been said? This series is an absolute treasure trove of fun and, like so many little ones I meet in work, I can’t get enough of it! While this is technically a review of Oi Cat (thank you Hachette for my review copy), it will inevitably be a review of the series as a whole!

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‘Oi Cat’ follows hotly on the heels of ‘Oi Frog’ and ‘Oi Dog!’. For anyone unfamiliar with this series (I’m trying not to judge, but where have you been?! Get them all. Immediately!) a brief recap of the story so far…

In ‘Oi Frog’ we meet a discontented Frog, fed up of having to sit on a log, and a bossy cat who explains to him he has to because, after all “frogs sit on logs”, and then goes on to recount all the other rhyming places animals must sit (gophers on sofas and puffins on muffins being two of my favourites!). That is, until Frog makes the mistake of asking where dogs sit…

Cue ‘Oi Dog’ which picks up where ‘Oi Frog’ left off, namely with one very squashed and disgruntled frog who has had enough and is changing the rules! This time, it’s Frog’s turn to decide where everyone should sit, with leopards on shepherds and elephants on smelly pants being this book’s highlights for me, although I could have probably picked all of them (I didn’t think it possible but Oi Dog somehow managed to raise the rhyming bar a notch or two!) Cats, Frog decides must sit on gnats!

Which leads us nicely to ‘Oi Cat’, in which Cat is getting┬á very itchy bottom from being made to sit on gnats. This will of course go down an absolute storm with young readers – who doesn’t love some bottom jokes?! Even just reading the word bottom out loud is hilarious (you know you’re smiling…). And so the search begins to find Cat a more comfortable seat, bringing with it all the usual rhyming fun and games.

A rollicking riot of rhyming fun, this is a sharp and witty series that’s perfect for reading aloud (and adding your own rhymes to!), with fantastically well-defined characters and hilarious twists at the end of each book. Jim Field’s bright, bold and expressive illustrations complement the text perfectly and might be some of my favourite picture books illustrations around – I can’t imagine one without the other.

An absolute must have for any picture book collection.

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There’s also the brilliant Oi Goat, which was a special World Book Day book this year – we read it at storytime and it went down a treat! Check out our goats…!

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And I am beside myself with excitement waiting for….

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I flipping love platypuses!

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(this guy’s already featured in one blog post, but any excuse for some platy-action!)