Review: The Curse of the School Rabbit by Judith Kerr

Curse School Rabbit

This is the final book written and illustrated by the late, great Judith Kerr, and displays her infectious sense of humour and unique ability to capture family dynamics in an engaging story.

The tale is relayed in the voice of a young boy, Tommy, as he blames his family’s misfortunes on Snowflake, the school rabbit with a propensity for accidents of the wet and rather smelly variety. The rabbit belongs to his little sister Angie’s Year 2 teacher, Miss Bennet. Angie adores Snowflake and is delighted when her family is asked to look after the rabbit when Miss Bennet is called away to look after a sick relative. Unfortunately Snowflakes arrival coincides with a very important meeting between Tommy and Angie’s Dad, who is desperate for an acting job and a washed up but self-important former star, about a new film proposal. This project is doomed from the minute that Snowflake leaves its wet signature on the movie star’s trousers! 

More dramas follow; Tommy tries to take Snowflake for a walk on a lead with almost disastrous results, Angie gets ill, and nagging away in the background is the family’s shortage of money and the diminishing prospects of a new bike for Christmas. Will Tommy’s duties as Snowflake’s carer ever become easier, and will the family’s misfortunes be reversed? You will have to read the book to find out!

As with my favourite of her books, When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, Judith Kerr brilliantly captures the anxieties, interactions and love of a family with childlike simplicity by telling the story in a straightforward narrative through the observations of a young child. She has left us with a final story to enjoy and cherish – its length, language and content make it an ideal bedtime or whole class story, as well as one that newly confident readers can tackle alone. It is illustrated throughout with wonderfully expressive pencil drawings which perfectly complement the text, making this a book to treasure.

My thanks to Toppsta and Harper Collins Children’s Books for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


Review: #Goldilocks: A Hashtag Cautionary Tale by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross

Jeanne Willis has taken the traditional Goldilocks story and turned it into a marvellous, rhyming lesson about the trouble caused by the relentless pursuit of “likes” on social media. This large, hardback version of the book is gloriously illustrated with trademark humour, by Tony Ross.

Goldilocks starts her social media presence by posting very average “selfies”, but becomes discontent that the only likes she receives are from her mum. After a great response from her friends to a picture of her baby brother covered in jam, she begins posting increasingly embarrassing photos, until the response to these also pales with her followers.

This leads to increasingly risky behaviour, following the classic Goldilocks narrative, in an attempt to entertain her followers. Inevitably, this course of action lands our protagonist in a heap of trouble, and Goldilocks realises that her bad behaviour will always be available on the internet for all to see.

This is a perfect book for all schools to add to their armoury of internet safety resources. It is hugely enjoyable to read aloud to Early Years and Key Stage One classes, and early KS2 children will enjoy returning to the story too. In an age where even reception children are able to use mobile devices to take photos and videos, the message of this story,

“Think twice before you send!”

has to be reinforced regularly and this is a wonderfully engaging way to do so. I whole-heartedly recommend this book to all families and schools.

Review: The Book Dragon by Kell Andrews

book dragon

The town of Lesser Scrump has a rule: NO BOOKS ALLOWED!

The school teacher Mr Percival has to write on bark, slate or even in the dust, which doesn’t make reading a very pleasurable experience. When Rosehilda announces that she wants stories written on pieces of paper which are somehow joined together, she is sent home with a stern note scratched onto a leaf (this passage made me snort with laughter)! Her grandfather has to explain that the Book Dragon hoards books in a deep cave in Scrump Mountain and will come to steal books from any house which has one, returning the next night to terrorise the neighbourhood, therefore it is not safe to own a book.

However, Rosehilda is undeterred, and the full-page picture of her, tucked up in bed reading a book which she has bought from a peddler, is utterly gorgeous – conveying the sheer joy of reading for pleasure. When her book goes missing during the night brave young Rosehilda travels to the Book Dragon’s lair to investigate.

I absolutely love this story by Kell Andrews with its glorious illustrations in a subdued colour-palette of oranges, reds and yellows by Eva Chatelain. It is deeply imbued with a love of books, libraries and reading and gently presents a message of understanding another person’s (or dragon’s) viewpoint and resolving problems in a positive manner. An amazing addition to school library shelves, and a joy to read aloud to whole classes or as a bedtime story for all children of 4+.

Add it to your “read for empathy” collections!

Review: Dave Pigeon Series by Swapna Haddow

Dave Pigeon

I was fortunate to win this collection of four Dave Pigeon books in a Twitter competition run by Faber Children’s Books, they have been added to our school library and I highly recommend them to everyone, but especially Year 2 children. You are likely to snort with laughter whilst reading Swapna Haddow’s fantastically funny books and enjoying the magnificent illustrations by Sheena Dempsey!

Book 1: Dave Pigeon

The first book in the Dave Pigeon series introduces anyone who can understand Pigeonese to the eponymous avian hero and his sidekick and “trusty typer-upper”, Skipper. When we first meet this scavenging duo they are looking for food and chance upon a lovely “Human Lady” who shares the contents of her picnic basket with them. Unfortunately for Dave, the picnic basket is concealing Mean Cat alongside the tasty treats, who attacks Dave, breaks his wing and removes a considerable number of feathers!

The Human Lady takes a napkin-wrapped Dave back to her house to treat his injured wing and makes Dave and Skipper comfortable in her garden shed, where they will be safe from Mean Cat. As Dave begins to recover he uses all of his brain-power to plot revenge on Mean Cat, and when Skipper is not busy typing up their adventures he is generally pushed into carrying out Dave’s crazy plans to eject Mean Cat from the house.

This book is an utter joy to read. I love the device of Skipper typing the adventure on the old typewriter in the garden shed and the way that his voice captures the absurdly deluded over-confidence of the strutting Dave Pigeon. This pair are a wonderful comedic duo who will have children and adults in stitches as they read about their exploits. Illustrated throughout by Sheena Dempsey, this story is an absolute must for primary school libraries where it will provide huge reading pleasure for anyone aged 6+.


Book 2: Dave Pigeon (Nuggets!)

The second outing for Dave and Skipper, the pigeon pals begins with the Human Lady taking a holiday with Mean Cat, which is bad news for the birds as they will no longer have delicious food served on a regular basis. Dave is not prepared to go back to a life of getting by on scraps, and forces Skipper to join him in searching for a new human with whom they can live. Unfortunately he falls for the tricksy breadcrumb trail of Reginald Grimster and, despite Skipper’s warnings, enters the patio doors of doom! Will smart Skipper be able to rescue his greedy friend Dave, and are there really Pigeon spies? Read this madcap adventure, and enjoy the superb illustrations by Sheena Dempsey, to find out what could possibly drive a man to inventing a fiendish machine which spells bad news for the Pigeon population!

  1. Dave Pigeon(Racer!)

During a visit to Pawsville Vets, where Dave is fitted with a pigeontastic prosthetic wing, the Pigeon pals meet a group of new friends led by Jet the three-legged dog. They include an iguana who has injured her eye climbing into a television, a rabbit with memory issues after running into a speeding cricket ball and a hamster who has survived three toilet flushings!

These unfortunate animals are taunted by retired pirate parrot Opprobrious Vastanavius who challenges Dave Pigeon to a race. Despite the fact that Dave has never before raced, he takes up the challenge and another madcap adventure begins. Prepare to be entertained and amazed as Dave is trained for the big race by a legend of the racing-pigeon world!

Book 4: Dave Pigeon (Royal Coo!)

In their quest to eat the tastiest snacks available, Dave and Skipper take a trip to the Human Palace the day after a grand party, to feast on the leftovers. In true Dave Pigeon style they travel by tube because Dave’s prosthetic wing is still not ready to fly!

When they arrive, Dave comes “beak to beak” with his Pigeon doppelgänger who happens to be Prince Raju, the royal Pigeon. Immediately Dave is arrested by the Head of Security for “stealing the Royal Pigeon’s face!! After clearing up that little misunderstanding, Dave comes up with one of his clever plans, which will be familiar to anyone who has read “The Prince and The Pauper”. Another pigeontastically hilarious outing for Dave and Skipper.

Review: Around the World in 80 Ways, illustrated by Katy Halford

80 ways

This gorgeous, illustrated, hardback, non-fiction book lives up to its title and presents eighty different forms of transport in the most appealing fashion.

Each double-page is fully illustrated with a sumptuous background picture and anything from one to five forms of transport, all beautifully drawn in a simple but detailed fashion. The pictures are arranged thematically, for example bicycle, motorbike, tandem and unicycle are together one one page. Accompanying each picture is a paragraph of informative text of the usual high quality that you would expect from a DK book. The colourful drawings are hugely appealing for any age from Reception class upwards; I could spend hours looking at the details. My personal favourite is the hot air balloon page which explains how they work, what the Montgolfier brothers put in their balloon’s basket and what sort of journeys can be accomplished by this form of transport. The artwork is so enticing that I could almost be persuaded to take a balloon trip! This book will give you an explanation of every form of travel, from camel caravans to spacecraft!

The text is probably not accessible for most KS1 readers, I think that younger children would most enjoy sharing this book with an adult. However, Katy Halford’s illustrations are of such high quality that KS2 readers will enjoy this book, additionally I can imagine that it will be beneficial for many EAL pupils who are improving the depth of their English vocabulary.

Overall, a first class, highly informative book which I recommend for any home or school library.

Thank you to and DK Books for sending me this brilliant book to review; this review has previously been posted on