reviews 5 – 8 Infant/Junior continued

layout including lots of use of speech bubbles makes this a really enjoyable read for children just moving into chapter books. LT

All Aboard for the Bobo Road HHHH

Stephen Davies, ill. Christopher Corr, Andersen Press, 32pp, 978-1-7834-4339-0, £11.99 hbk

Fatima and Galo help their father Big Ali load the luggage onto his minibus at the bus station. They are off to Bobo city and are very excited, especially as they have the best seats, on the roof! The bus is busy and the journey interesting, taking them passed a lake full of hippos, waterfalls, rock formations and forests before they finally reach their destination in the city and are rewarded with a pot of their favourite food. This is a vibrant and richly coloured picturebook evoking the environment and heat of Burkina Faso and the design of African textiles. There is the opportunity for counting as Fatima and Galo

minibus; starting with two mopeds and three bicycles until the bus is staggering under the weight of nine goats and ten chickens. A beady eye will be needed to spot some of these items in the detailed illustrations and numbers are conveyed through words rather than digits. The endpapers are used brilliantly with a map of the route to Bobo, young readers will enjoy tracing the bus’s journey. SMc

The Big Book of Mr Badger HHHHH

Leigh Hobbs, Allen & Unwin, 324pp, 978-1-7433-6668-4, £8.99 pbk

What is it about badgers? They seem to attract literary talent, providing young readers with memorable characters. There is Badger in The Wind in the Willows, of course and Bill Badger of the Wandering Wind. Now we have Mr Badger, the manager of Boubles Grand Hotel. In this position he has to

situations. Some of these are presented in this collection of four stories, ranging from organising a party for the dreadful

negotiate many surprises and load luggage onto the

Sylvia Smothers-Carruthers to coping with a Difficult Duchess. Written and illustrated by Leigh Hobbs in inimitable style, this is a lively addition to the list of books that are ideal for reading aloud at bedtime while also being ideal for younger readers who are confident and need more than a reading scheme. Full of gentle humour and the sort of detail that will enchant, the stories are relayed in the voice of a true storyteller; a voice that seems to speak directly alone. This is one to recommend. FH

to you

Superbot and the Terrible Toy Destroyer


Nick Ward, David Fickling Books, 64pp, 978-1-9102-0030-8, £7.99 pbk

Superbot is a bright and colourful storybook

who are moving on from reading schemes and are nearly ready for longer

carefully combines simple, accessible language


messages about bullying and helping one another. He also employs classic comic book and superhero tropes, such as sweeping cityscapes and thought bubbles that young boys may find particularly engaging. At her secret headquarters, on top

with bright, energetic to

deliver important chapter books. Nick Ward for emergent readers gladiatorial

to Rumble with the Romans, Gary Northfield once again thrusts his cast of cartoonish critters into the arena. Julius and his pals (including a short-tempered lion and a very bossy mouse) are looking forward to a tropical holiday on their way to freedom but their hopes are dashed when they arrive in Celtic Brittania and are forced to battle giant, angry rams and bulls. The damp and drizzly weather the


tortuous training regime unbearable but all of Julius’ far-fetched escape attempts come to no avail. Hated by both their Roman leaders and the barbaric Britons, the animal heroes have to stick together if they are to survive their nightmare vacation, and it is tough to maintain morale when dinner is a soggy biscuit and the only shelter

wind is a decrepit barn. Julius and his animal friends represent oppressed


Empire. Their eagerness to fight for freedom and to stand up for the rights of homogenous peoples is an important and worthy message but is sadly hidden too often behind a battery of brash jokes. Fortunately, the jokes are well-

of a giant sky scraper, Mrs Brightspark has invented a super robot who can track trouble and help children all over the city. It’s lucky that she has because, as Mrs Brightspark admits, ‘There is naughtiness all around us.’ The naughtiest of all is Bruto the

Bad, and it falls to Superbot to stop this terrible

havoc in the local park. Not content with saving children and their toys, Superbot also confronts the source of Bruto’s naughtiness and offers him sympathy and kindness, which are even more powerful weapons than his slingshot and stun gun. Children of infant age will love the

gadgets and bright ideas that Superbot uses in his efforts to halt Bruto’s rampage and will also be gripped by some moments of genuine tension. This short picture book offers a

great deal to young children who are confident with decoding words but not yet ready to tackle the more complex narratives and mature themes that are found in chapter books. However, this represents a relatively

audience and it is likely that some of the readers it attracts may find the language rather juvenile and the story somewhat predictable. SD

Julius Zebra: Bundle with the Britons


Gary Northfield, Walker Books, 268pp, 978-1-4063-5493-5, £9.99 hbk

Julius Zebra is the people’s champion – Rome’s favourite gladiator – and, in this illustrated comedy for children, he is eager to win freedom for himself and his animal friends. Unfortunately, Emperor Hadrian has other ideas. The subject of Roman history is one

that many children find fascinating, particularly the colosseum and its

limited toy destroyer from wreaking

delivered and are most visible in imaginative, and

bubbles. The combination of daft animals and revolting facts


history is an excellent source of comedy and Northfield is clearly well- researched in both fields. For example, Centurions keep themselves warm in the freezing North of Brittania using stinging nettles and animal skins and the animal gladiators enjoy painting themselves with foul-smelling woad. Though there are many moments hilarity and a great amount of historical


disgusting Horrible

Julius Zebra’s narrative is somewhat unfulfilling as a whole and reads rather

scenes. The next instalment will be welcomed by existing fans but may require a different formula if it is to attract a wider audience. SD

The Jasmine Sneeze HHHH

Nadine Kaadan, Lantana, 28pp, 978 0 9932253 8 3, £6.99 pbk

Haroun is content with his life in the city of Damascus. He only has one problem, he cannot stand the smell of jasmine, and there is a great deal of the stuff in Damascus. People love it. Haroun hatches a plan to mask the scent with some of his own favourite smelly things. Little does he realise how dismayed and distracted everyone will be by this, they even forget to give him his favourite treats. Even worse, he appears to have angered the jasmine spirit who seeks revenge by casting a spell on him so that jasmine starts growing out of his nose and he can’t stop sneezing. Things are going from bad to worse for Haroun, eventually he realises living with jasmine in the city is the better option. The Jasmine

enjoyable story told with humour and Sneeze is an like a sketch show of silly Histories fans will enjoy, facts that

accompanying speech from

cartoon line drawings throughout slaves the Roman that from thunderous rain and were gladiators’ already bouts. In this sequel

a touch of magic. A richly illustrated picturebook which evokes a sense of the sights, smells and culture of this ancient Syrian city providing, in the current context, a valuable alternative perspective. SMc

Where’s the starfish? HHHHH

Barroux, Egmont, 32pp, 978-1-4052-8008-2, £10.99 hbk

A gigantic whale fills the first double page spread

picturebook, turn the page to find a busy ocean scene with a myriad of colourful sea creatures happily living together. Turn again and Where’s Wally? style

invited to spot the starfish, jellyfish and clownfish in the under the ocean pictures. However, gradually changes become apparent in the undersea environment as rubbish begins to fill the ocean bed. Soon there is less space for the fish who begin to disappear until only the starfish, clownfish and jellyfish plus a very large and angry whale are visible. What can be done? Why, shove the rubbish back on land of course! This is exactly what the whale starts to do, enabling the ocean to become a thriving community of fish once more rather than a large rubbish bin. Following the

Where’s the Elephant? with its message about

its effect on animal life, Barroux has used the same device to offer a powerful pictorial message about the importance of safeguarding our oceans and not allowing them to become depositories of our rubbish. A footnote from the author illustrator explains his motivation. SMc

The Wolf and the Shadow Monster 978-1-7858-3018-1

The Wolf’s Colourful Clothes 978-1-7858-3020-4

The Grand Wolf 978-1-7858-3019-8


Avril McDonald illus Tatiana Minina Crown House publications, 32pp, £9.99 each pbk.

Each of these

sympathetic context for children to talk about their feelings and fears. In The Wolf and the Shadow Monster young Wolfgang was excited about having his friends for a sleepover. Everything was very jolly with lively games and dancing but then it was time to turn out the lights and the other animals started to mock Wolfgang when his fear of the dark is revealed. He learns to confront his fear and to stand up to the teasing. Wolf’s Colourful Clothes is also on the theme of coping with the insensitivity of others. Wolfgang is upset when others laugh at the colourful winter coat he is so proud of. Wise Spider points out that sometimes people are unkind because they don’t know ‘what it’s like to feel sad’. It is a touching moment when Wolfgang sees that his friends have all donned colourful coats to support him giving him the courage to stand up to his tormentors . Perhaps it is particularly difficult

to help young children cope with the loss of someone dear to them. This circumstance is met

full on in The Books for Keeps No.218 May 2016 25 stories creates a

great success of deforestation and

young readers of this wordless are

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