reviews 5 – 8 Infant/Junior continued

How to Train the Perfect Parents


Rebecca Ashdown, Templar, 36pp. 978 1 78370 833 8, £6.99 hbk

In this absolute hoot of a picture book, we meet Mimi Lee, who is convinced that she has the failsafe three-step plan to make her parents do anything she wants them to. They just have to be trained. Her utmost desire in life is to have a puppy, and she goes about training her parents that this is a necessity by step 1 – Communicating. This entails constantly walking past the pet shop and shouting ‘puppy’, refusing any clothes except those with pictures of dogs on them, and practicing facial expressions in the mirror that show her likes and dislikes. Step 2 is Trust. This means showing how responsible you are by

making the parents breakfast in bed and leaving chaos in the process. Well-trained parents will ‘ignore any accidents’! Routine is the third step, and this is provided by wanting to read a book about dogs time after time after time… until the parents are heartily sick of it. Then there is the ‘big push’ when Mimi can talk of nothing but puppies and finally gets her wish. She is ecstatic, of course, but then the real truth hits. Puppies are NOT easy to train, and her three- step plan does no good at all. She is soon realising that she needs help – help provided by her loving but often bemused parents. The illustrations are wonderful.

Full of humour and

fun, they pop and sparkle with lots of detail. Children and parents both will love them and enjoy the story together – hopefully not quite so many times as in step 3! ES

The Great Big Book of Friends HHHH

Mary Hoffman, ill. Ros Asquith, Frances Lincoln, 40pp, 978 1 78603 054 2, £12.99 hbk

Another great book in the series by these two authors! Friendship has its joys and also its sorrows, and all of the possibilities are covered in this jolly production. There are different kinds of friends – best friends, group friends,

family friends, pet

friends, friends with lots in common, and those with whom we seemingly have nothing in common.Friends fall out, sometimes sometimes for

permanently only a short

and time.

Perhaps a friend can be far away, someone you write to but whom you haven’t met. Sometimes friends have to leave our lives if they move away or go to a different school, but some friends will remain friends for life. Things can be friends too – stuffed toys, or a book – and pets can be

8 – 10 Junior/Middle Kat Wolfe Investigates HHHH

Lauren St John, illus Beidi Guo, Macmillan Children’s Books, 352pp, 9781509871223, £6.99pbk

Kat is excited when her mother finds a new job as the vet in a country practice. She loves animals herself and hopes that their new life will bring her the opportunities that city life lacks. Her hopes are not dashed; not only are there animals ranging from Tiny, the almost-wild cat to a very talkative cockatoo and a difficult horse but she makes a friend as well. But it is not all idyllic. There is a mystery to solve and Kat needs all her wits to help her escape real danger.

is an attractive, neatly presented protagonist with whom many young readers will identify. With her friend Harper and the support of the local policeman, Sergeant Singh, she is able to outwit a potential act of terrorism. The plot moves briskly, neat coincidences allow events to flow satisfactorily. Young readers will quickly find themselves drawn into the story facing danger with Kat and Harper or galloping across the night landscape to fetch help, arriving at the satisfactory conclusion – and looking forward to the next adventure. FH

The Secret of the Night Train HHHH

Sylvia Bishop, illus Marco Guadalupi, Scholastic, 9781407184401, 304pp, £6.99pbk

Non- stop action, nasty villains,

helpful ( if not always effective) adults and animals ensure that this is a lively adventure story and one to satisfy Lauren St John’s many fans while

attracting new readers. Kat

Max is on her way to stay with her great-aunt Elodie in Istanbul; a great – aunt she has never met but whom her mother describes as “a very difficult woman”. Of course Max cannot travel by herself – enter Sister Marguerite, a very unusual sort of nun. This is the start of a very unusual adventure in which Max (with Sister Marguerite) must pit their wits against a master- thief as they travel from Paris to Istanbul via Munich, Budapest and Bucharest. But which of the other travellers on the train could it be? Sylvie Bishop is fast making her name as a creator of lively, quirky adventures and The Secret of the Night Train will only help to confirm this. Setting her story on a train that will travel across a number of countries allows her to people it with a varied and even exotic cast; there is more than a little nod to the grande dame of the detective story, Agatha Christie but appropriately fashioned in the Blyton mould. There are mistaken

identities, suspicious characters, a stolen diamond, even an unpleasant old lady (surely a villain?). The plot twists and turns pleasurably


together by the determination of Max and the jeopardy is neatly balanced by a strong vein of humour. The prose is rich, deliciously readable and

is delightfully enhanced by

Marco Guadalupi’s illustrations which capture the flavour of the narrative to perfection. FH

The Chocolate Factory Ghost HHHH

David O’Connell illus Claire Powell, Bloomsbury, 0028pp, 978-1408887066, £5.99 pbk

Lucky underpants, magical creatures, bucket-loads of fudge – just some of the tempting treats on offer in The Chocolate Factory Ghost, book one in a very promising new series by David O’Connell. It opens in great style, with young Archie McBudge learning to

his astonishment the McBudge that Great-

Uncle Archibald has left him as sole proprietor to his famous fudge factory and


Company. Before you can say ‘always read the small print’, Archie and his mum are settled into their new home Honeystone Hall, Archie has a new dog, and new friends Fliss and Billy too to fill him on local mythology and legends, something that will prove very useful. Because all is not well at the fudge factory, and if Archie can’t discover

his uncle’s

are out to frustrate him as well. With hints of J K Rowling as well as Roald Dahl this is a thoroughly satisfying and entertaining story, a delicious mix of adventure, comedy and magic. The story unfolds at pace and Claire Powell’s illustrations contribute their own helping of mystery and humour. Delicious! MMa

Happyville High: Geek Tragedy HHHH

Tom McLaughlin, Oxford Children’s Books, 978-0-1927-6690- 8-32, 240pp, £6.99pbk

If nerds ruled the world, we might all be in a happier place … that’s at least sort of the message of Tom McLaughlin’s typically funny, light- touch satirical new adventure series. Tyler, the narrator, is smart – too smart

for school in fact and she’s

been taught at home by her dad since kindergarten. Now though he’s decided it’s time she had a normal life, and the two move to Happyville, statistically the happiest place ever. He can write his book, she can go to the local school and, for the first time ever, make friends. Maybe

there’s something secret fudge

ingredient before stock runs out, its future is very precarious indeed. Uncle Archibald has left six clues for Archie to solve, but his revolting relatives the Puddingham-Pyes are determined he won’t get a chance to work the puzzle out, while a succession of the local malevolent


inherently wrong with any place that happy, certainly Happyville High – motto ‘The more popular you are, the happier you become!’ – seems a trifle odd. Fortunately Tyler does make friends when she stumbles on the school’s nerds Ashley and Dylan hiding in a darkened library.


three become unlikely super-heroes when the community is struck by a strange affliction that causes one arm to elongate to extraordinary length. It turns

out creatures this bizarre

problem is the side-effect of constant selfie-taking and the girls tackle it by triple-handedly turning selfies into

Books for Keeps No.230 May 2018 25

special friends indeed. Some people don’t need friends, and that is okay too. The humour in the book is all in the comic-style pictures by a master cartoonist and in the layout of the pages.

round the edges. For instance, on the double

Every page has decorations spread about making

friends, we have speech bubbles with ideas about how to start a friendship: What’s your name? Do you like dogs? How do you do that? The decorations can be words or picture, but they are always highly effective, and the detail is marvellous. The resident cat is a super addition too! This is a book for everyone, and it will prove a useful tool for group discussion at school and for reading at home. ES

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32