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 gettingĀ  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!)

Pants!

When we were looking at which picture books we wanted out on the table in work this month, this one jumped out. “Pants!” the 4-year-old inner me cheered. Of course, we had no way of knowing at this point if it would actually be any good, but the illustrations looked promising (how can anyone resist a book featuring a raccoon dressed as a superhero and a penguin with pants on his head?!) So between the pictures and the pants we decided to give it a go…and I was delighted when it came in!

We Wear Pants (Paperback)

Pandas wearing PANTS? Surely not!
And what about wombats wearing wellies, sloths in socks or even…giraffes wearing scarves?Find all your favourite animals in this hilarious book about getting dressed.What will YOU wear today?

On each double page spread we see a variety of animals donning various items of clothing: pants, wellies, hats, glasses, pyjamas, coats… with a cheeky monkey to find on each page proudly declaring that whatever everyone else is wearing “I’m not!” as he’s one step ahead each time. Until, as we reach the final page, everyone is dressed (even Monkey!) in an assortment of outfits.

On the surface a book about getting dressed, this will have much wider appeal than the very youngest who might be reading it with that aim. Bursting with life and bright and busy illustrations, there is so much to spot on each page: “Look at the bee in his frilly knickers!” I exclaimed….”He’s got banana shoes!”… and so on. If I get this excited about it, little ones will love it.

There’s also questions and captions in the form of speech bubbles from the animals giving prompts for specific things to find: “Count the rubber ducks”…”Who has odd shoes?”…”Who has the same scarf as me?” which would be easy to use a springboard for other observational/matching/sorting type questions, as well as for plenty of discussion about likes/dislikes.

Perfect for fans of Pippa Goodheart and Nick Sharratt’s ‘You Choose’ range (You Choose, You Choose in Space and upcoming You Choose Your Dreams), this is one to return to time and again (no doubt finding something new each time!), this is a colourful, funny and interactive book.

Other favourite pants-themed picture books:

Brilliantly silly, rhyming books featuring all sorts of pants! Check out the youtube video here too!

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The hilarious ‘Aliens Love Underpants’ series from Claire Freedman and Ben Cort.

Don't Put Your Pants on Your Head, Fred! (Paperback)

Some more rather chaotic attempts to get dressed in this hugely funny, rhyming book.

Any other pants-themed gems I’ve missed?!