Friday, 30 January 2015

Oliver & Patch

Oliver & Patch

By Claire Freedman and Illustrated by Kate Hindley
Published by Simon & Schuster



Oliver & Patch is the second book by duo Claire Freedman and Kate Hindley (they also penned the amazing The Great Snortle Hunt together) and what a lovely, heartwarming story it is. It's about a lonely boy befriending a lost dog but knowing he must do the right thing and help find the dog’s owner and possibly lose his new friend in the process.

Meet Oliver, he has just moved to the big city and misses his life in the country, but especially misses his friends. One morning, Oliver goes out to explore and when wondering where to go next, he spots something bright red, its a dog lead and attached to the end of it is a small, soggy dog all alone. The dog’s collar tag reads Patch.  As no one seems to be looking for Patch, Oliver decides to take Patch with him. They have a fun filled day getting to know each other and for the first time since moving to the city Oliver feels happy!


However, that night, Patch gazes longingly out the window and Oliver realises somewhere out there is Patch’s real home. Oliver wakes to an excited Patch and they play lots of different games; Hide and seek, tickle tummy, bury the biscuits and curl up and cuddle (their favourite). But at bedtime Patch is sad again and Oliver knows he has to do the right thing. So the next day Oliver makes some Found Posters (with Patch's help), but secretly hopes that no one will end up seeing them. As the days pass by no one calls, leaving Oliver to believe that Patch could be his dog forever.


One morning Oliver and Patch go exploring when suddenly Patch breaks free and runs off. When Oliver catches up, he finds that Patch has found his owner, a little girl called Ruby who is very happy to see her Patch. Oliver becomes very sad, as he knows this could be the last time he sees Patch. He then has an idea and asks Ruby if her and Patch would like to visit one day. Ruby agrees but suggests doing something then and there instead. Oliver then realises he hasn’t lost a friend but has found another one!



Claire Freedman is the author of the funny Underpants series (I reviewed Monsters Love Underpants a few months back), but with Oliver & Patch, she has created a beautifully told story with an uplifting ending.  The illustrations are well suited and will keep little people amused while the story is long enough to entertain older children. Kate Hindley’s illustrations are bright, colourful with good expressive character design, well suited to the story. If you have read The Great Snortle Hunt, look out for the little references.

Children and adults alike will enjoy this lovely story and the sweet message about doing the right thing even if you know it will hurt - Oliver & Patch will definitely tug at your heartstrings. The title is aimed at ages 3+ and is available at all good bookshops and online at the Simon & Schuster store.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

This book just ate my dog!

This book just ate my dog!

By Richard Byrne
Published by Oxford University Press

Wanted! Nice reader to show this naughty book who’s boss!

This book just ate my dog! Written and illustrated by Richard Byrne is very funny and young children will love that they are needed to help save the day! The story starts with a little girl called Bella taking a stroll across the page with her dog. But a very odd thing happened, her dog disappeared! The book had eaten it! 

And when Bella’s friend Ben comes to have a look he disappears too! Even when the rescue services come to investigate, they vanish. What on earth is happening? Peril lurks within the centre of this book.

There’s only one thing to do, Bella must go and sort this out herself. So Bella walks to the centre to try and sort this mess out, but…BURP… the book eats Bella too! What a naughty book this is. But all is not lost, a note appears with instructions from Bella on how to help them. 

Readers must turn the book over and shake and SHAKE! Bella, her dog and everyone else all reappear and everything is back to normal, well almost - Phew! This picture book is fun and original with the book itself becoming the villain! I really like the simple concept and the interactive element to it which children will love. Aimed at ages 2+, this will be great for bedtime and any nursery/pre-school setting - especially with getting all the children to get involved in shaking the book.

The illustrations are simple - the background is the same on every page which allows little ones to focus clearly on Bella and others. The text is orange and bold which stands out and works well with the overall aesthetic appearance. An overall fun, witty and original read, but be warned, it might just eat you! This book just ate my dog! is out now in paperback in all good bookshops and on the Oxford University Press website.

Monday, 26 January 2015



Written by Kelly DiPucchio and Illustrated by Christian Robinson 
Published by Simon & Schuster



Leaving the winter books behind us, my latest theme is our favourite four legged friends… Dogs! Though truthfully I am more of a cat person but there’s lots of great books out at the moment and with so many I couldn’t help but do a doggy themed week. To kick things off I've got my hands on the delightful Gaston, and if you're anything like me you'll fall for it's charms instantly!


Je aime Gaston! Gaston, written by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by the talented illustrator Christian Robinson is a story with the message of belonging and family featuring Gaston, a french bulldog puppy (one of my favourites).

We are introduced to Mrs. Poodle and her new puppies - Fi-Fi, Foo-Foo, Ooh-La-La and Gaston. They were perfectly precious and grew, as puppies do, to the size of teacups except the fourth one who grew to the size of a tea pot. Mrs. Poodle made sure they were taught to be proper poodles; to sip and never slobber, to yip and never yap and to walk with grace and never race. Whatever the lesson, Gaston worked the hardest, practised the longest and smiled the biggest. 


Mrs. Poodle was very proud of her puppies and took them to the park for their very first stroll. But there was another little dog family already there, Mrs. Bulldog, and her puppies - Rocky, Ricky, Bruno and Antoinette. But as they sized each other up, the mummy dogs realised there has been a mix up. Gaston and Antoinette are with the wrong families and even they can see the mix up.



They decide to trade places, and though it looks right it doesn’t feel right for poor little Gaston and Antoinette. Antoinette doesn’t like to be proper, precious or pink and Gaston definitely doesn’t like anything brutish or brawny. And they aren’t the only ones having a hard time adjusting.


The following day each family raced back to the park and both Mrs. Bulldog and Mrs. Poodle agreed that they had made a terrible mistake! Gaston and Antoinette waste no time in swapping places and it both looked right and felt right for everyone.


I love Christian Robinson’s illustrations; his textured paint spreads are bright and colourful, and his simplistic characters, which are very cute, make this a lovely book. I like the repeated bold text for the names and sounds which is great for identifying sounds and names to older children and works well with the illustrations. The story is sweet and has a lovely message that family is about love and not appearances. 


I really like this book - I like the French theme, the adorable dogs and the sweet and moving story. I even bought this for a friend for a Christmas present who also likes French Bulldogs (hopefully it will convince her boyfriend that a French Bulldog is the perfect pet). Gaston is aimed at 4-8 years but adults will adore this just as much as any little dog lovers. Gaston is currently only available online (import from the United States) but will soon be coming to UK stores and will be a huge hit! For more information visit S&S website here.

The Book With No Pictures

The Book With No Pictures

By B.J. Novak 
Published by Puffin

When I first heard about The Book With No Pictures I thought, ‘Why hasn’t anyone done this before in a picture book format?’ And then it dawned on me, a picture book without pictures, doesn't that just make it a book? A book full of big words, big boring words made from big boring fonts? Of course this is something younger readers would potentially be put off by, and possibly their parents too. This could well be the case, but at the same time it could help a child bridge that gap from picture book to books (dare I say it?) without illustrations and make that a lot less scary for them.

And true to it's word this is a picture book without pictures. There isn't even a sniff of an illustration, a doodle or a sqiggle amongst any of the pages. There is however a lot of text, and who better to read it than a grown up! Which is the point of this unusual book, whether it's a sign of the times where young children are now using apps to help them read picture books (or just to interact with them) and parents are reading less to their children (for a number of reasons). This book enforces the rule that a grown up has to read it. And that's the genius of it. There's no narrative, it's simply to show the child that the book is in charge and must be read! And as it has full control of the helpless grown up it might as well have some fun with them too...  

The text is well designed with enphasis on different fonts, colours and styles. I couldn't stop getting a feeling of Roald Dahl throughout the book with silly humour and funny made up words that children will relish. And having a parent reading out silly words that potentially make them look silly has to be funny! (espcially when it's your mummy or daddy!).

I can't help but feel this book is a novelty picture book. I can see it becoming a classic and being added to bookshelves all over the world, but I'm not sure it's in the same league as a picture book with pictures. The magic is in the reading, and apparently it can make any reader sound funny (though a bit of added comedy performance is needed). All in all it's a brave book and one that is definitely a hit with children and adults alike. 

I'll leave you with a video to accompany the launch of The Book With No Pictures with B.J. Novak reading an extract and showing the reaction from the children by his performance. I hope all parents/grown-ups get the same response as these children were in hysterics!

The Book With No Pictures is out now and available to buy from the Puffin website here.

Sunday, 25 January 2015


Ralfy Rabbit, Book Burglar

By Emily MacKenzie 
Published by Bloomsbury

As an owner of two naughty, mischievous bunnies, I love reading any books about rabbits and this book is one is a breath of fresh air. Wanted! Ralfy Rabbit, Book Burglar is the debut book by Emily MacKenzie and as everyone knows or would imagine, rabbits like to dream about lettuce, carrots and juicy dandelions (I know mine do) but not Ralfy, all Ralfy dreams about is books! He's definitely not your normal everyday bunny.

Ralfy loves books, making constant lists about books, his favourite books, books he wants to read, what he thinks others should read and rates them all with a score of carrots (what else?). Ralfy loves getting lost in stories, exploring new worlds and even the smell of books. Doesn’t everyone?! But then Ralfy starts creeping into people’s bedrooms and reading their books, and this soon leads to Ralfy stealing them and becoming a BOOK THIEF!

Ralfy then finds Arthur’s bookshelf and starts taking his books, but when he steals Arthur’s The Biggest Book of Monsters Ever, Arthur notices his favourite book has disappeared. Who would do such a thing? Unluckily for Ralfy that his left behind half eaten carrots and soggy lettuce leaves give him away. Arthur makes a plan to try and catch the book thief and late that night, he hears a rustle, grabs his torch and spots Ralfy but Ralfy is too quick and escapes. Arthur tells everyone but no one believes him, especially a rabbit stealing books. He even calls the police station to report the incident but the police man laughs at him.

However, that night Ralfy the Book Burglar burrows into the wrong house, it turns out to be the policeman’s house and is caught red handed. Arthur is called into the police station to identify him. Ralfy is very sorry and is ordered to return all of the stolen books. Arthur feels sorry for Ralfy and shows him where he can find lots of books to read and borrow.. the Library!

This is an adorable story for any little book lover and encourages a love for libraries - Emily MacKenzie is a huge advocate of libraries and with the recent cuts, this is a great way to remind children and adults about the joy of books.

With the use of Ink, watercolour and pencil, the illustrations are fun and sweet. The bunnies are adorable and adults will enjoy the rabbit related book titles in Ralfy’s book lists. A lovely bedtime story or perfect for celebrating National Libraries Day (commencing Saturday 7th February), children will love this naughty bunny (and all bunny lovers).

I don’t think this is the last we’ve heard of Ralfy Rabbit, look out for more from Ralfy in 2016. You can buy Wanted! Rally Rabbit, Book Burglar from the Bloomsbury shop here.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

The Really Abominable Snowman

The Really Abominable Snowman

By Valentina Mendicino
Published by Walker



The Really Abominable Snowman, by Valentina Mendicino, is the last book in my winter theme reviews and what a lovely one to end on! And it couldn’t be more perfectly timed as where I live is actually expecting snow tonight! Yippee! 


Who would ever think you could feel sorry for an abominable snowman? But in The Really Abominable Snowman, this yeti is lonely and very misunderstood and you can't but not help feeling sad for him. His name is Milo and he lives in a deep, dark cave high in the Himalayas. It's been said that he eats children, is huge and terrifying, hideous and smells like old cheese…


...But Milo isn’t any of these things, he likes to make cupcakes, do craft time and is also very neat! But none of this matters, as everyone still sees him as the terrifying abominable snowman which of course  makes Milo very sad. All he wants is a friend to share his cupcakes with that he lovingly bakes. Milo decides its time for a makeover, he tries posh, punk and even French as new looks, but he’s not happy with any of them. He then wants to try social networks as he had heard they were great ways of making new friends. Milo tries to send a “tweet” but doesn't use the conventional way of a computer and is confused when him shouting 'Tweet' through a megaphone doesn't get any results.


When all looks lost, Milo comes across a notice in the Himalayan Times for The Society of Misunderstood Creatures - a meet up for all kinds of creatures who aren't quite what people say they are. Milo decides to pop along to see if there's a chance of meeting some new friends. The meet up is buzzing with dragons, fleas, robots, octopuses and even Dracula! They're all chatting and having a good time but when Milo arrives, even these creatures misunderstand him and run away! Will Milo ever find a friend?


It turns out that not everyone has run off, there's one creature left who happens to be an abominable snowman just like Milo, and her name is Sophie. Although she's not quite the same size...


There are lovely touches in this book that make it a gem. You'll find surprise fold out pages to show the huge size of Milo’s new friend, there’s also lots of visual jokes hinting at popular culture within the brightly coloured illustrations. Watch out for the poster in Milo's cave, the 'Keep Calm and Eat Cupcakes' poster made me chuckle. You'll spot birds using phones to go on twitter when Milo thinks he has to say the word tweet. I also loved the fact that Milo thinks that Facebook is reading a book to find friends instead of going online. Little children may not get all the jokes but it will definitely amuse the adults reading it.



I love the end message that Milo knew that there would be always someone who loves you, no matter what you are. A positive message to children who will definitely love the happy ending for the misunderstood and lonely Milo!


Children will adore this lovable abominable snowman, who's not very scary at all. An overall funny and lovely book! The Really Abominable Snowman is available now in all good bookshops and direct from Walker.