Spy Toys by Mark Powers, illus. Tim Weeson. Pub. Bim UK imprint Allen&Unwin, 2017
I am very impressed with this new series that is designed for reluctant readers both boys and girls of primary/intermediate age.
In a phrase it is like the cartoon network without the cartoons. Bizarre, witty with a tight and sharp dialogue exchange between the highly imaginative characters.
The plot and characters revolve around rejected and defective high tech toys from the Snaztacular Ultrafun toy factory. Dan is a cuddly bear who is so strong he can crush a tractor with his cuddles, Arabella, a rag doll with an attitude to burn and sympathy for no-one and Flax a highly aggressive rabbit with a down beat wit.
The toys are all discarded because they are defective but escape into the World and are captured then hired by Auntie Roz from the Department of Secret Affairs to bodyguard the Prime Ministers son from Rusty Flumptrunk a very bad half Elephant half human nasty.
Brilliant stuff with Tim Weeson’s animation filling in the gaps.
I was spellbound and read the short book in one sitting with a smile all over my face. It is great.The first chapter about Dan is called If Hugs Could kill and it sets the tone of the book immediately. Big font makes reading easy.
If you want your reluctant readers particularly boys to read, these are a great start.
Bruno by Catharina Valckx illus. Nicolas Hubesch. Pub. Gecko Press, 2017.
This brilliant piece of work is subtitled Some of the more interesting days in my life so far and that is exactly what it is. For Bruno every day above ground is a good day and if it is not, then there is always another day.
Six days in Bruno’s life with his friends Ringo the old pony, Gloria the dairy owner, Bup the fish, Georgette the turtledove, Gerard the wolf and my favourite, Tweety the canary. There are other characters and they are all superbly developed with their own mannerisms and language.
The six days are not all good but they are very interesting. Included are a peculiar day, a day when the power went off and an almost perfect day. These days spent by Bruno with his blue cloth cap and his friends are all connected. They will make you laugh and recognise human foibles.
The illustrations show a French urban setting in which the detail is absorbing and has a strong sense of accuracy. The characters are brilliantly drawn but my favourite is the elegant giraffe in white skirt and top, with sunglasses and a bag over her shoulder at the escalator.
If you get bored with this book you have no soul.
A book for everybody but the writing is for primary and intermediate students. The cover makes you want to pick it up. This is a beauty.
Frankie Potts & the Postcard Puzzle by Juliet Jacka, illus. by Phoebe Morris. Pub. Penguin, imprint Puffin, 2017.
Part three in this mystery and detective series for 7-10 year olds. Frankie Potts has red hair, a super dog called Sparkplug and a very good friend called Mac. They love mysteries and with a family like Frankie has there is always a mystery.
The family has hidden secrets and when Frankie finds a postcard sent to her mother saying “dearest Tania I do think we should give it another try, don’t you? Gideon xxx” Frankie’s methodical brain goes into over drive.
Frankie and her friends take a bus to Giggleswick to search for Gideon and what they find is going to unleash a hoard of family secrets.
All is revealed at a family dinner with the Marvellous Mildred, Frankie’s grandma and an array of animals including a parrot called Firefly who says “Potamus-otamus-hippo-whatamus”
There are other mysteries too. Great reading for newly confident readers.
Frankie Potts & The Wicked Wolves by Juliet Jacka, illus. by Phoebe Morris, Pub. Penguin, imprint Puffin, 2017.
This is part 4 and since the above part Frankie has found her long lost grandad, Sparkplug’s girlfriend has had 7 puppies, The Marvellous Mildrid has entered a competition with her dogs and Frankie’s mother is expecting twins.
Frankie doesn’t want the puppies to be sold so she sabotages her mum’s attempts at selling them. Then a group called The Wicked Wolves let people know that they are coming to get them.
Who are the Wicked Wolves? Is Frankie’s arch enemy Ralph Peter- McGee behind it all and will the puppies go to good homes?
There is much to ponder in this part which as always is superbly illustrated by Phoebe Morris. Her pen and ink drawings of all the characters and the animals enhance the stories.
These two parts are released on February 1st 2017 and reviews of parts 1&2 are also on this blog.
They really are great reading for young readers and are a must for primary school libraries.
AniMalcolm by David Baddiel. Pub HarperCollins, 2016.
This quirky novel about identity for primary and intermediate students is absurdly clever. It combines the poo bum weez humour of writers like Paul Jennings and Andy Griffith but adds a satirical dimension that will make older readers smile too.
Malcolm lives in a home loaded with animals but he cares nothing for them and doesn’t know why. Everybody else in his family loves animals why not him? Was it the fact that the chimpanzees threw poo over him when he visited the zoo, or something else?
Malcolm goes to visit Orwell Farm with his class and encounters a goat with big eyes named K-Pax. He stares into the eyes of the guru like goat, falls asleep and when he wakes he is a turtle lying on his back. Horrors.
In turn he changes into a cat, then a sheep and other animals before becoming a pigeon. He learns that every time he goes to sleep he wakes up as the last animal he saw.
How will he become a human again.? What will he learn about being an animal? Read it and find out.
Simple to read, clever illustrations and lots of laughs.
The Sam & Lucy Fables by Alan Bagnall Illus. Sarah Wilkins. Pub. Makaro Press, 2016.
There is a whimsical nature about this booklet of quirky stories with a message for juniors and primary school students, and with high appeal for older readers. I defy you to read this collection without a smile on your face.
Lucy and Sam are pigs who tell stories and help people out. There are 14 stories of 2-3 pages long cleverly and perceptively illustrated by Sarah Wilkins. We learn how whales got to the sea, how bus drivers learn not to stop because it was a bus stop, how fish learned to read (in schools of course) and how not to despair because your computer has crashed.
Sometimes the simplest stories are the best even when they are quirky and as Gavin Bishop commented “charming”.
Snails, Spells & Snazzlepops by Robyn Cooper. Pub. Makaro Press, 2016.
A first novel for primary and intermediate children told with much enthusiasm and gusto.
It combines the silliness that Paul Jennings and Andy Griffiths brought to junior fiction and combines it with some fantasy and real life issues like adjusting to your mothers boyfriend and bullying.
Ten year old charlie wants to be rich and decides becoming a famous chef is the way to go. He inveigles his mate Matt and his sister Millie to assist him in capturing, preparing and cooking snails for his mother and her teacher boyfriend Mr Swinkburn Doug. Never got used to that name.
In the process of finding a recipe for snails online Charlie finds a site Sails, Spells and Snazzlepops. He sees spells to make you shorter and taller and a cure for bullying amongst others. Will this help to cure the bully Ivan?
None of this will make Charlie rich but perhaps the Snazzlepop section will change his luck.Read it and find out.
Easy to read with short chapters and plenty to keep the reader in the book.
Johnny Danger Bk 3. Spyborg by Peter Millett. Pub. Puffin Books, 2016.
Yes book three is out at last and it is full of the same intelligent silliness that made the other two books so popular. Perennial villain Dr Disastrous is joined by new villain Yuri Boom-Boom-ovic who has invented a cyborg that can be replicated to look and act like anybody.
The two villains retreat to Happy World island formerly known as Ikki Ikki Bunga, Dr Disastrous’s hideaway, and plot to get Johnny Danger and conquer the World at the same time. Mwahahaha.
Not only that Johnny Dangers older brother Evil Ian has gone to the darkside and Penelope Pounds and Johnny’s father are acting very strangely, could they be one of Boo Boom’s new cyborgs or Yuri-nators as he calls them?
Read this action packed spoof on James Bond and have fun. Lots of action and toilet humour, there is even a lego car. Adults will love it too as Peter Millett spoofs film classics Dirty Harry, the Terminator and others.
The best compliment I can give this novel is to tell you I read it in one sitting. It made me smile on a miserable day. It will do that to you too.
For middle school and older students who have furtive imaginations. All the Johnny Danger books are at this link