Spy Dad by Jukka Laajarinne and Timo Mänttäri


There is plenty to enjoy in Spy Dad, with its stylish retro illustration, intelligent humour & story with an important message. 
In the story Olivia has had enough of her parents being constantly busy. Her dads job as a spy means long hours so when he decides to quit to spend more time with her it isnt long before Olivia realises that they need something that makes them both happy. 
Like all exciting action movies the first double page has our hero in peril tied to a chair with a ticking bomb, he frees himself with seconds to spare and gets away hanging off a helicopter. Usually at this point the camera pans away as we breathe a sigh of relief that the hero escaped but this time we get to see him take a call from his daughter who is keen for an answer to the important question of getting a pet.

I really enjoyed the humour of the juxtaposition of the mundane with the exciting spy life. It also provided a remarkable backdrop to the theme of the story, a common worry for some families about spending enough quality time together.

This was a story I could very much relate to, while my occupation has more to do with spreadsheets & less to do with death defying adventures, as a family we do strive for a better work life balance in order to that we could all be happy.

A beautifully designed & smart picture book highlighting some of the tricky decisions adults face.

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy

The Murderer’s Ape by Jakob Wegelius

A review by my 9yr old


“This is a really good murder mystery book with lots of unexpected twists like a dead man who’s not dead and a murderer who’s not a murderer. I was really intrigued by the book cover which completely hooked me in. Once I started reading I couldn’t put the book down.

While reading this story I felt sorry for the main character Sally Jones because often she has no one to trust but herself. I think this fabulous books needed a fabulous protagonist and it certainly delivers with Sally Jones. Sally Jones is an ape who understands humans. She is really clever especially at chess, good at fixing things and always considerate. She is however also very lonely but determined to save her best friend.

I found the story to be like a maze with lots of twists & dead ends, for example when Sally discovers that Alphonse might be alive but when they reach the house he is no longer there and could possibly have died from malaria. All these twists make it an exciting read as everything you know is constantly turned upside down leaving you wanting to keep on reading and to unlock the whole mystery of the book.

This is an epic story as it covers two years of Sally’s thrilling life and while the size of the book might be intimidating it is really worth it. Throughout the book there are very intricate and detailed pictures which give a break from the exciting text.

I would recommend this book to anybody who likes suspense, mystery and adventure.”

Halloween Reads

We have been reading some spooky fun stories this half term, all ready for halloween.


The Invincibles: The Beast of Bramble Woods by Caryl Hart & Sarah Warburton is a perfect early reader book with delightful illustrations and a story with just the right mix of excitement & peril. 

The 3rd book in the series with Nell & Freddie up to their usual high jinks. Using the ingenious Pester Power they gatecrash Nells big brothers camp out. When its time for them to go to bed they decide to play a few tricks but are they safe out in the dark with the beast?


Amelia Fang & the Barbaric Ball by Laura Ellen Anderson is a sweet little adventure. We had chuckles a plenty with the fun word play, gruesomeness  and cast of kooky characters. Working on rescuing her pet pumpkin, Squashy, from the spoilt prince Amelia & her friends encounter a number of surprises & revelations. The book perfectly sets up the next adventure  ‘Amelia Fang & the Unicorn Lords’ which we are now ‘dying’ to read.


This companion novel to the Witch Wars series by Sibéal Pounder & Laura Ellen Anderson is full of facts about the characters and tips & activities to setting up your own magical party against the backdrop of Fran making a documentary about Sinkville’s most famous witches.


Lumberjanes: Unicorn Power by Mariko Tamaki was a more fantastical then spooky read as we follow a group of five friends on an adventure like no other, based on the Lumberjane comics. The five girls tackle a mysterious mountain which tests their friendship when they find themselves stranded in the clouds with some quirky cloud folk. With plenty of good cheer & teamwork the girls soon devise a new plan to try and make it back to camp. Another fun adventure story with a diverse set of characters. 

Picturebook goodness

Here are some lovely picturebooks we borrowed from the library this month.

In Hibernation Hotel (by John Kelly & Laura Brenlla) bear decides to check himself into a hotel for some proper sleep away from his friends. It is described as “A hilarious book about getting what you want then discovering what you need” and we found plenty to chuckle at.


In Pink Lion (by Jane Porter) we meet Arnold, a lion raised by flamingoes. This is a sweet story about discovering who you are as Arnold finds his inside lion when dealing with an unwelcome visitor. The illustrations are striking with thier simple lines & a limited pallete. 


Another story about discovering yourself & having the courage to ‘dance to your own tune’ is Perfectly Norman (by Tom Percival). When Norman grows a pair of wings he starts to worry about what his parents might think so decides to hide them under a coat. He soon realises that hiding his wings wasnt making anyone happy. This is an uplifting read & makes such great use of colour, with the monochrome spreads aside from Norman’s yellow coat when he’s hiding his wings to the glorious technicolour when he is finally happy. 


Also its not often we come across a page of charaters where the kids can see people resembling thier own family. 

Funny Chapter Books

We have been enjoying a trio of fabulous books from the publisher, Nosy Crow.
First up is the second book in a series published by Nosy Crow in partnership with the National Trust, The Secret Diary of Jane Pinny, Victorian Housemaid (and accidental Detective) by Philip Ardagh & Jamie Littler.

This highly illustrated story is brimming with facts, laughs, drama, intrigue & a pigeon who writes. The story is generously peppered with historical nuggets, interesting & short enough not to distract you too much from the exciting story. I really liked the way it gently introduces some history alongside painting a vivid picture of life in a grand house. I have no doubt that on our next visit to a NT stately home property we shall be thinking about Jane & life as a housemaid.


A book we just couldnt put down was Spectre Collector, To Ghoul for School by Barry Hutchinson. In this story a schoolboy calked Denzel finds himself mixed up with Spectre Collectors, a secret ghost-battling organisation. He finds himself suddenly losing any sense of normality & being left completely unprepared to deal with the supernatural. Luckily he discovers some friends to help him save the day

While reading I was reminded of great blockbuster movies such as Men in Black & Ghostbusters owing to its fast pace, great sense of humour & explosive action.


The last book is You Cant Make Ne go to Witch School by Em Lynas which follows the story of Daisy Wart. Daisy finds herself at Witch school but feels it’s a big mistake as she should really be at drama school. Her attempts to escape the school lead to adventures, new discoveries & more importantly new friends. 

Daisy is the star of this show & it was great to have such a sparky characterful protagonist bringing this story to life. 

Al’s Awesome Science: Egg-speriments by Jane Clark and James Brown


Al’s Awesome Science is not only a fun introduction to conducting science experiments but a sweet story too. Its easy to get carried along with the enthusiasm of Al & his sister Lottie as they work towards testing whether an egg is the most suitable shape for a time machine.

Throughout the story Al writes up his experiments noting down what the used, what they did, the results & most importantly his observations. There are also some handy tips if tempted to try these out at home.


After reading this book I did have a few worries about what mess I might find in the garden as daughter took it on herself to experiment. I soon realised however that if the book encouraged curiosity, independence, a desire to question and to test out theories, a few broken eggs would be totally worth it.  

Thanks to the publisher, Five Quills,  for the review copy.

Donut of Doom by Elys Dolan

We have been lucky enough to discover lots of funny books this summer including this absolute wonder, The Donut of Doom by Elys Dolan. Thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy.


We have all enjoyed this book & my 6 yr old has a few things she wanted to share about the book;

“The Donut of Doom is an inspiring & funny book. It has different foods & the heroine is Nancy McNutty who is a peanut butter sandwich working as a reporter. When I read it aloud I like to giver her an American accent.

The book is about Nancy McNutty saving everyone from the evil “Donut of Doom”. The donut was an experiment going wrong at Lemon Labs by Professor Nutcase who combined “batter icing & a whole load of sprinkles” & made a giant food eating donut. The police, firemen & the army all tried to defeat the donut but it was Nancy who saved the day.

I liked all the food puns, like a mugger who is mug or the biscuit police who say they will take the donut ‘into custardy’ they made me laugh & they were fun to spot. As well as the main story about the Donut there are also other things the different food are chatting about like the lemon looking for Gary. 

I would recommend this book to people who like eating food & who like puns.”


Daughter also tried to creat her own foodie characters in the style of book.

 

Fun Library Haul

Here are some recent books we’ve had trouble letting go & returning to the library because they are just so much fun;

King Coo by Adam Stower, 
a highly illustrated short chapter book featuring my new favourite zany bearded heroine, King Coo. With fabulous illustrations this exciting romp was a joy to read & favourite for the whole household.


Inspector Flytrap by Tom Angleberger & Cece Bell
had us in stitches with the premise alone. A detective Venus Flytrap scooting around town on a skateboard, pushed by a goat, solving silly crimes! With ingenious illustrations these comic capers were a hit & we cant wait to read more.

The Curious case of the Missing Mammoth by Ellie Hattie & Karl James Mountford.

In this tale we are chasing a baby mammoth around a museum where the exhibits all come to life. There are numerous flaps on each spread full of fascinating facts. The are also jokes aplenty with beautiful detailed illustrations to pour over & luxuriate in. Its a fun informative book & so much less tiring then taking the kids round an actual museum.


The Legend of Rock, paper scissors by Drew Daywalt & Adam Rex is brimming with gags & hilarious fighting talk. An origin story for Rock, Paper & Scissors we get to delight in the absurd pairings they encounter before they finally discover each other & the legendary game is born.

Colouring Book of Cards and Envelopes by Rachel Cloyne

We were lucky enough to get out our colouring pens & pencils again to try out these exquisite new colouring books of cards & envelopes by Rachel Cloyne from Nosy Crow.


These two books feature illustrations inspired by patterns & objects found in the British Museum. One is themed around flowers & patterns and the other around animals & birds.

The intricate patterns are perfectly suited for either big swatches of colour for those who like to fill the page quickly or for more detailed colouring for those who like to fill each individual line area. In my experience the children start slowly & delicately but have a tendency to rush near the end.


We have enjoyed looking at the objects at the back of the book & making plans to track them down at the British Museum next time we visit. 


With school nearly over & a number of thank you cards for the children to write to their hardworking patient teachers these book have arrived at the perfect moment!


Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.