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reviews Scaredy Squirrel at Night HHHH

Melanie Watt, Happy Cat, 32pp, 978 1 846471 10 0, £6.99 pbk

Scaredy Squirrel is back! With glow-in- the-dark teeth! And this time he is afraid to go to sleep because he may have bad dreams. He certainly has an eclectic lot of things he’s afraid of: dragons, fairies, ghosts, unicorns, vampire bats, and polka-dot monsters. In order to avoid these horrors, he decides to stay awake all night, every night, and his methods for staying awake are certainly unusual. He will count stars and play the cymbals, and then he will make scrapbooks! Sleepless nights bring their own problems, of course, and when he reads his horoscope and finds that at midnight ‘all his dreams will come true’, he must take action. Will Scaredy Squirrel put off the bad dreams? Will he ever sleep again? It is the whacky illustrations that really make this book. Mostly divided up into squares and circles, the pictures with their flat, plain, simple colours are clearly defined and very funny. Scaredy Squirrel is clever, sophisticated and highly original.


it could hardly be bettered. There are subtle references to the inter-racial nature of the class, and one child uses a walking frame. Ms Cumming is a talent to watch.


knowledge of an old Viking myth, where one of the gods loses a hand. Irpa, a young Viking girl, sets out to risk just this to help her people. Does it work? You will have to read the book to find out! Dear y’s language is pitched just right for readers to enjoy the book independently, if they are not already reading it in class.

In The Sword of the Viking King, the story of King Alfred burning the cakes is once again retold. And then we have the story of how King Alfred is able to penetrate the local Viking camp with help, eventually forging peace between the people of England and the Vikings. Deary tells these stories in such a way that children will want to read more and find out what really happened in this interesting and enjoyable way of accessing History. More, please! RL

Roodica the Rude: Who stole the river?


Margaret Ryan, ill. Sarah Horne, Catnip, 80pp, 978 1 846470 74 5, £4.99 pbk

Roodica and her family live in Roman Britain, and like many of the Ancient Britons are not enamoured of the ruling Roman population. Take for example Fatius Guttus, who has just dammed the local pond for a Roman bath house. This means that the local Britons will no longer be able to swim when they want – so Roodica swings into action along with her friends... and with a few well placed tricks, one of which involves quantities of woad, honour is for the time being restored. Any child who enjoys slapstick mixed up with adventure will enjoy this book – and for children in lower Key Stage Two, the book could be an amusing addition to learning about Roman Britain!


The Ghosts of Creakie Hall: Ace Ghosts


Karen Wallace, ill. Tony Ross, Catnip, 96pp, 978 1 846470 92 9, £4.99 pbk

Rama and Sita: Path of Flames


Sally Pomme Clayton, ill. Sophie Herxheimer, Frances Lincoln, 64pp, 978 1 84507 672 6, £14.99 hbk

The Cloud HHHHH

Hannah Cumming, Child’s Play, 32pp, 978 1 84643 343 6, £5.99 pbk

The illustrations in this picture book are superb. The story is simple – a little girl in art class is always by herself and never draws a picture. She also has a black cloud of scribbles over her head. Another child tries to make friends, but the little girl doesn’t respond. The second child comes up with the solution that they should draw a picture together, which they do, although the first little girl can draw nothing but black scribbles just like her black cloud. When the rest of the class become involved, they all draw a giant picture together, and the little girl’s black cloud finally disappears. The early pages are backed with grey, surely the colour of the little girl’s mood, and it is raining outside. By the end, the background colour has become yellow, and the sun is shining. The little chubby children are simply drawn, but there is lots of detail consisting of pencils and pens and pictures the children have painted. As a parable of the value of persistence and the need for friends,

Terry Deary’s Viking Tales:

The Hand of the Viking Warrior 978 1 4081 2239 6

The Sword of the Viking King 978 1 4081 2237 2


Terry Deary, ill. Helen Flook, A & C Black, 64pp, £4.99 each pbk

Based on historical events, Deary recounts two stories with his trademark humour and observation. Epilogues at the back of each book put the tales in context, so that the interested reader and/or teacher can check out or discover more information.

In The Hand of the Viking Warrior an initially peaceful meeting between the Vikings and Native American Indians turns sour when a bull is accidentally let loose. How the Vikings cope with this problem is helped by their

Versions of the The Ramayana are abundant and diverse, but the richness of the saga demands many retellings, and this is a particularly striking one. The story is presented in the context of a serendipitous meeting between the storyteller and the Monkey-God Hanuman, disguised as a soft-toy, in a junk-shop. ‘There can never be too many versions of this story,’ Hanuman reminds us. So the army of warriors, bears and monkeys marches south again to defeat Ravana’s demon hoards and rescue the goddess of love in her incarnation as innocent young woman, reuniting her with an angry young man-god whose jealousy then drives her into a trial by fire before a triumphant return home. The story burns with fury and pride as well as fierce love and loyalty, at its heart a deeply moving vision of the unity of earth and heaven, an alliance of gods and people, animals, plants and stones. Sally Pomme Clayton conveys this in an oral storyteller’s unpreten- tious prose, alongside Sophie Herxheimer’s fire-bright illustrations. Like their previous collections, Tales Told in Tents and Amazons!, Rama and Sita is both fascinating and inform- ative, providing the reader with the histor y of the stor y and earlier interpretations.


Aunt Gardenia has just received a letter saying that Creakie Hall will have to be sold as there is no more money. However, the two resident ghosts (Marmaduke and Miasma), not to mention their cat, have Other Ideas. Along with Aunt Gardenia’s niece Polly and nephew George, they set about helping transform Creakie Hall into a hotel with many added attractions – not all of which turn out to be as or thodox as they might be. Two rather unpleasant hotel inspectors turn up, determined to have their say. Which they do, of course, but not before what looks like an escaped convict and the ghosts have played a few more tricks on the assembled company. The hilarity of the text is matched well by Ross’s illustrations, and I look forward to future titles in the series.


Lulu and the Brontosaurus HHHHH

Judith Viorst, ill. Lane Smith, Simon & Schuster, 128pp, 978 0 85707 147 7, £6.99 pbk

Lulu is a pain. Her response to any refusal is to screech ‘until the light bulbs burst’. So when her parents steadfastly turn down her demand for a brontosaurus as a pet, she decides to find one for herself. She sets off through the forest meeting a number of animals on the way. Does she achieve her wish? As Viorst would say, ‘Read and find out’.

This is a lively story that owes a lot to traditional tales and such classics as Dahl’s Enormous Crocodile, and like them would be an ideal read-aloud. Viorst adopts a deliberate storytelling style, addressing the reader directly – both the author and her audience become part of the story. This is traditional in format; Lulu is horrible to

Books for Keeps No.187 March 2011 23

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