Category Archives: Fiction Fridays

Fiction Fridays #23: Welcome to Alien School

FF#23
Welcome to Alien School: Caryl Hart and Ed Eaves (2012)

“Red-Five? Red-Five? This is mission Control. Get ready for countdown.”

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This is the third book in a series about Albie, a small boy with a huge imagination. In the first book, Albie went with his mum to the supermarket where the shopping list included reptiles, parrots, monkeys, lions and a very large surprise… In the second book, Albie planted some seeds with his mum and the next day his garden is a prehistoric jungle full of dinosaurs and jelly bean trees…

In this book, Albie’s mum drops him off at the wrong school – on a different planet! Here he has to cope with strange lessons, strange new friends and even stranger food. But by the end he’s had great fun and wants to take a friend home – but they can’t because he has to go swimming. And that’s another adventure…

Welcome to Alien School has really caught MG’s imagination. She requests it regularly (I had to prise the three books from under her as she slept in order to take a picture!) and she plays pretend school with alien teachers, bossing her little sister: “Time for Alien School!”

One thing that I particularly like in this book is the maths lesson at Alien School. It’s a pet hate of mine how it’s socially acceptable to say maths is difficult, which therefore becomes self-fulfilling as kids believe it is so don’t try so find it hard etc… But Albie loves maths! Yay! He may not be able to do Alien maths, but that’s because it’s Alien!

Fiction Fridays #22: The Tale of Jack Frost

FF#22
The Tale of Jack Frost: David Melling (2003)

There was once a group of trees who were fed up of living in a deep, dark and crowded valley. So they decided to move to the brow of a nearby hill.

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At Christmas 2009 (and probably since, but we recorded it then), the animated version of The Tale of Jack Frost (originally made 2004) was shown on television. MG was nearly three at the time and loved it so we watched it again, and again, and again…

I dutifully went to my local independent bookstore and asked if they could get a signed copy of the book for MG’s birthday (because they’re good like that) but the book was out of print! And wouldn’t be republished until the end of the year! Did I mention how fantastic my local independent bookstore and David Melling are? The shop asked, and got, one of his own copies of the book signed for MG in time for her February birthday. She even got a fantastic goblin sketch in the book just for her.

I had a problem with reading this book originally because I’d seen the animated version (several times) before reading so had that ingrained into my brain which meant the book didn’t seem ‘right’ at first (I know, terrible!) I still can’t read it without hearing Hugh Laurrie in my head…

Fortunately no such problem existed with MG (or DG, but she was only 9 months old when we bought it so didn’t really take much notice of the TV version) who took to the book instantly. Especially with the dedication. It is still one of her ‘special’ books and she takes very good care of it.

There are some great videos at davidmelling.co.uk, including the creation of this book and the Bing-Bong Bandylegs. Well worth watching for a behind the scenes look at the creation of a picture book and to see the amount of work that went into the pictures. There are lots of large paintings that have gone into this book, and the detail is wonderful.

The story is about a boy called Jack who is found in the enchanted forest, and about the goblins who think he knows the forest’s secrets so try to steal the magic from him. The goblins are smelly and not particularly bright and a bit scary but they get their comeuppance and Jack… Well, you might still see some of Jack’s work at winter, protecting you from the smell of boiled cabbage.

This is a lovely original work of fantasy, with imaginative creatures who deserve more books to themselves: beezles, bing-bong bangylegs, snow-beetles, Woodwind, Waffle and Cowslip… Lovely for curling up with on cold winter evenings, but also a great read all year round.

Fiction Fridays #21: The Ravenous Beast

FF#21
The Ravenous Beast: Niamh Sharkey (2004)

“I AM THE HUNGRIEST ANIMAL OF ALL,” said the Ravenous Beast.

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The entire Chaos household loves this book. It’s one Daddy Chaos often chooses to read to the girls (and he can do the voices, I’m rubbish at voices) and we never tire of it. The book starts with the Ravenous Beast stating that he’s so hungry that he could eat “the big yellow house on the hill” then page by page another animal joins in with what they can eat (adding an extra item each time, ending with the whale listing nine items).

One touch I like is that often on one page, something from the next page can be seen in the distance (not always the case). The left hand page has text and the animals collecting together as each one joins in, the right hand page is a full picture with the animal and what it said it could eat (with bites out of each)!

The castle in the distance is one of the items on the next page...

Finally, the Ravenous Beast has had enough of the boasting, and proves that he is definitely the hungriest of them all by eating them! It’s a fantastically unexpected ending and an absolute hoot for small children. Although now my over-sensitive five year old does ask whether he really eats them and sometimes we decide that maybe they just all ran away very fast 🙂

Fiction Fridays #20: Dirty Bertie

FF#20
Dirty Bertie: David Roberts (2002)

This is Bertie. He used to have dirty habits.

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This is such a fantastic book. It might not suit every parent’s sensibilities but I love it (I taught my girls to say ‘fart’ instead of ‘wind’, I’m not the greatest example… :lol:)

The first half of the books lists all the different ‘dirty’ habits that Bertie has – eating food off the floor, picking his nose, weeing in the flowerbeds… and the response from various members of his family: “NO BERTIE! THAT’S DIRTY, BERTIE!” which is fantastic for children to join in as you read the book again (and again and again!)

The second half of the book shows why he stopped all these habits – being sick from eating off the floor etc… except for one last habit which is even worse than first mentioned! David Robert’s pictures are fantastic, and most children will find this book hilarious. To be gender stereotyped, little boys will love Dirty Bertie, and the sequel Pooh! Is That You, Bertie? But my little girls love these books and find them funny too, so ignore my lapse into gender stereotyping there!

This book does also technically do a serious job of explaining why not to do certain things (like eat random sweets off the floor) in a very humourous manner. Highly recomended.

Fiction Fridays #19: Just Like My Mum

FF#19
Just Like My Mum: David Melling (2004)

This is my mum.

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I had another book lined up for this week but then remembered it was Mother’s Day on Sunday so thought this was a better choice this week. The first book by David Melling we ever got was “Just Like My Dad” which I bought for DH’s first Father’s Day when MG was 4 months old. We all loved it so much, DH bought me “Just Like My Mum” for Christmas that year.

It’s hard to talk about “Just Like My Mum” without mentioning “Just Like My Dad” really because they are complimentary books. In each, the little lion cub talks about how he/she (gender neutral so perfect for any child) wants to be just like his/her parents but the pictures are telling a slightly different story to the words where the poor parents are getting into all sorts of trouble on behalf of the lion cub.

This book starts “In the morning I always wake early… …just like my mum.” I’m sure every mother (and father) can relate to the irony in that, and the picture of the bleary eyed mum lion tells it perfectly. This is a lovely book to share and is suitable from very small (it comes in board book format) onward. I love it.

Fiction Fridays #18: Sir Charlie Stinky Socks and the Really Big Adventure

FF#18
Sir Charlie Stinky Socks and the Really Big Adventure: Kristina Stephenson (2007)

“Once upon a time, there was a deep, dark forest, where monstrous trees groaned, terrible beasties moaned and wiggly woos waited to tickle your toes.”

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This is a fantastic tradition-busting fairy tale with twists and turns all through the book. On page three we have: “And what was behind that little wooden door? Well, nobody knew, because nobody ever went there. THE END.”

Except THE END is crossed through, and the story continues: “At least… Not until the day when…” The book is full of lovely moments like this and the pictures and text are fully integrated telling the story with the text meandering around the pages when needed.

There are also flaps to lift, four giant ones that extend towers above the pages or give a huge panorama, I am a fan of this method of extending illustrations in picture books.

My favourite part of the book (although there are so many wonderful parts to choose from) is a double page spread that is mostly filled with text made of different font styles, weights and sizes. This is the completely hilarious denouement to the entire adventure and I would hate to ruin it for anyone who hasn’t read this book.

Sir Charlie Stinky Socks is a definite favourite in this household, and thoroughly recommended.

“And everyone cheered hooray, hooray, hooray, because that’s what people do at the end of a really big adventure.”

Fiction Fridays #17: Uncle Alonzo’s Beard

FF#17
Uncle Alonzo’s Beard: Emma King-Farlow & Anna Laura Cantone (2006)

My Uncle Alonzo, who’s really quite weird, often found people asleep in his beard…

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My girls are very lucky with their books, this is another one that they have signed to them! One day I’ll count up the signed books and probably be very surprised by how many we have…

Uncle Alonzo is told in rhyme and therefore fun and bouncy to read to children. It tells the story of Alonzo who cannot cut his extremely long beard because so many tiny people had set up home in it. But one day, there’s a fire, and things have to change… Happily Alonzo finds out that his friends like him for who he is not just for the home his beard offered them.

The pictures are lovely and perfectly suit the oddness of Alonzo, along with text that changes size and rarely sits straight on the page. This is a very funny book that should cause lots of giggles.

Fiction Fridays #16: Winnie the Witch

FF#16
Winnie the Witch: Valerie Thomas & Korky Paul (1987)

Winnie the Witch lived in a black house in the forest.

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I think this is a near perfect book. I love all the Winnie the Witch stories but this is the start and a brilliant start it is. The book begins with the description of the black house, which is black on the outside and black on the inside and continues to poor Wilbur the black cat being unable to nap anywhere without being trodden on, or sat on…

Winnie’s solution is to change Wilbur to a green cat so she can see him inside but this has its problems too… I think the story gives a Montessori message – you can’t just change a child (or cat) to suit the environment you have set up for adults (or witches) but you can change the environment to help the child and adult (or cat and witch!)

Apologies for the picture grabbed from the internet but the book is in the girls bedroom, they’ve only just gone to sleep and I’m three days late with this anyhow (the publication date is a backdate – shhh, don’t tell anyone…)

Fiction Fridays #15: Ernest

FF#15
Ernest: Catherine Rayner (2009)

Ernest is a RATHER LARGE moose.

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I adore Catherine Rayner‘s art. We were first introduced to Catherine Rayner via Augustus and his Smile that came in a BookStart pack. On the bookshelves we have Ernest, Augustus, Harris and Iris & Isaac and I thought it was more than about time I put one in a Fiction Fridays post.

Ernest is a rather large moose who tries very hard to squash and squeeze himself into his book but it looks like he won’t fit, until his little friend has a brilliant idea. A lovely book which I take to mean that you don’t have to try to fit somewhere that doesn’t suit you but to find where you fit in for just being yourself.

Fiction Fridays #14: There Are Cats in This Book

FF#14
There Are Cats in This Book: Viviane Schwarz (2008)

The cats aren’t on this page.

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I’ve been trying to think of how to review this book but I really think that you just have to get a copy. Seriously, every home should have this on their bookshelves. It’s such fun. I was hooked by the first page: “The cats aren’t on this page.” And the second page made me giggle even more…

It’s a book written such that it talks to the reader (or to the person being read to): “Hello. Who are you? Are you nice? You look nice.” The cats talk you through the book, getting excited at what they spy on the pages ahead.

But what’s so utterly fantastic about this book is that the pages are different shapes and sizes – you can see the next page from a cut off corner, there are cat-shaped pages, a ball of wool mini page so it looks like one cat has thrown the ball, and more and more…

“Turn the page! What are you waiting for?!” says AndrĂ©. “Buy or borrow this book! What are you waiting for?!” say I!

To see how fantastic this book is, you can find a video of Viviane Schwarz reading There Are Cats in This Book on her website. She is also supporting International Book Giving Day; you can download exclusively designed bookplates here.