Wednesday 2 March 2022

Winter Wrap-up

Another month has gone in a blur and the stirrings of spring are around us. As we say goodbye to winter, here are more of the books that have been keeping us entertained through the colder months. 

Frank and Bert by Chris Naylor-Ballesteros

Link to publisher

Published by: Nosy Crow, 3rd Feb 2022


The author of The Suitcase released a new picture book this month with loveable characters, an important message and a relatable game of hide-and-seek. Perfect for both children at the younger and older end of the picture book market, this endearing tale of friendship definitely warmed up our hearts this winter. 

Frank and Bert love to play hide-and-seek but Bert isn't as good at playing as he thinks he is. As Frank takes the winner's crown yet again, he makes a decision. Does winning really matter...?

With fun illustrations enhancing the story on every page, this is a book young children will want to read again and again whilst providing comedy value for any adult reader who has ever played hide-and-seek with a toddler. Bert's size may be a hindrance but, with Frank as a friend, he's got every chance of  success...and he may just have a cheeky trick up his sleeve too. 

This is a great text to use in an early year's classroom. As well as a strong PHSE theme, the additional counting element links to the maths curriculum. There's some clues to unravel and some knitting to try out. You never know, it might just win you the game...or not!

Mayor Bunny's Chocolate Town by Elys Dolan

Link to BookNookBookshop
Published by: Oxford University Press, 3rd Feb 2022

Brilliantly funny, this character-led sequel to Mr. Bunny's Chocolate Factory literally made us laugh-out-loud. With bunnies and chickens and chocolate and elections, you might be fooled into thinking that it's an Easter themed book. Fret not! Although this would make a cracking seasonal story, it's message is perfect for any time of year. 

Vote Bunny! Mr. Bunny wants to be mayor and the first item on his agenda is making a whole town out of chocolate. But rival chicken, Debbie, thinks that's a crackpot idea. Who will win the vote? And will Coop Town end up in meltdown?

This book is the perfect example of an author-illustrator who can combine text and illustrations to create something truly special. The visuals are stunning, the text is sharp and hilarious and every page is a feast for the eyes. The plot is fabulously entertaining and with so many speech bubbles, it is impossible to get bored - the reading experience is different every time!

Although little ones will love the characters and the visuals, the plot, message and length of this story might be more suited to the higher end of the picture book market. It's a great introduction to democracy and decision making, an ingenious platform for children to express their ideas and opinions and also brilliant for discussing the concept of 'playing fair'. It's a bigger treat than chocolate!

Greta and the Ghost Hunters by Sam Copeland, illustrated by Sarah Horne

Link to publisher 

Published by: Penguin, Jan 2022


With the hugely successful Charlie Changes Into A Chicken series already in the bag, followed by the fantastically funny Uma and the Answer to Almost Everything last year, this new release from Sam Copeland was one of my most highly anticipated reads for 2022. It doesn't disappoint. This laugh-out-loud novel is not only 'dead funny', it also has the tremendous heart that we've come to expect from Sam Copeland’s novels. 

When Greta is knocked down by a car and almost dies, her life changes instantaneously. Now, she can not only see ghosts, she can speak to them. But the ghosts in her house are in danger of being exorcised and if Greta can stop that from happening, will the ghosts help Greta stop her grandmother from being put in a home?

Firstly, the characters in this novel are brilliant! Greta is a strong-minded yet shaken protagonist who has a truly touching relationship with her grandmother. Grandpa Woebegone’s sarcastic tongue had me in stitches and Percy melted my heart. Then there are Greta's outrageous family and the hilarious narrator, whose gives us our daily dose of toilet humour by recounting his explosive historical antics.

As always, Sam Copeland has the incredible ability to make readers snort with laughter one minute and wipe away tears the next. Woven into the slapstick humour are the hugely important and mammoth themes of death, grief, anxiety and family. For me, the winning and most poignant line is delivered by Percy…but I won’t spoil it for you. Just take my word for it that, at the end of the novel, this crazy yet endearing household will feel like family. Coupled with the fabulous and comedic illustrations from Sarah Horne, this is a book that has earned a lasting place on my bookshelf. I laughed, I cried…and er…some characters died!

Vi Spy: Never Say Whatever Again by Maz Evans, illustrated by Jez Tuya

Published by: Chicken House, Feb 2022


On a similar comedic playing field to the novel above, the second in the series of Vi Spy, written by comedy legend, Maz Evans, was released at the beginning of February. Published by Chicken House, this is a stonker of a spy novel and a gazillion times funnier than 007!

Valentine Day has a lot on her plate! She's failing at spy school, her family is in crisis and her evil nemesis is still at large. It looks like she's going to have to enlist some help if she going to get to the bottom of who Umbra really is...but are her suspicions correct?

There's certainly nothing subtle about this novel. It's big, bold, brash and nothing short of brilliant. The fabulous characters- from the strong minded Easter Day, to the rather whiffy Siren to the new girl, Missy Fit- are spoofy and hilarious but, boy, do you want them on your side! Then there's the high-stake plot, the devastating mistakes, Vi's determination-it's a thriller from start to finish!

The humour is smash-you-over-the-head-with-a-sledgehammer type funny. There's body odour and farts, cheesy gags, snappy dialogue and a shedload of awesome satire. My favourite without a doubt was the portrayal of Missy Fit's stationery brand and Rod and his scooter is just comedy gold. Yet, as with Sam Copeland's Greta and the Ghost Hunters, Maz Evans explores complex issues with tenderness and heart: relationships, family, identity, success - all the things your average reader has to deal with, whether they are a wannabee spy or not. And yet, it's such a shame that funny books don't seem to get the recognition they deserve because this is seriously skilled writing and one of the most entertaining series I've read in a long time.  

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