Tag Archives: Ben Mantle

Two Wacky Tales

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Professor McQuark and the Oojamaflip
Lou Treleaven and Julia Patton
Maverick Arts Publishing
When Professor McQuark invents a wonderful new gadget, so weird and wacky is it, that she names it Oojamaflip. Then off she dashes to her workshop – aka the shed – and sets to work bringing that design in her head to finished product.

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What is the next thing to do once the Oojamflip is finished? Take it to be displayed at the Science Fair of course, and so with headlights polished, the next stop is the town hall. There is just one snag however and it concerns the relative size of the building’s doors and that of the Oojamaflip;

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so the prof. is forced to leave her machine outside.
Inside there are all manner of wacky inventions: a square balloon maker, a zip up door, an infinitely re-sizeable alien suit and a self-playing flute to name a few and they’re all vying for the judges’ attention to win that first prize. And here comes an announcement …

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Or maybe not – all the visitors are suddenly dashing outside leaving the judges startled and puzzled and there’s only one thing they can do; head outside too and discover what all the fuss is about …

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Seems they’re all pretty impressed with this extra mural exhibit but there’s one thing still puzzling them: “what does this Ooja-thing actually do?” The clue is in the title – I’ll say no more.
Great to see a female in the role of scientist cum inventor: the aptly named Professor McQuark should be an inspiration to all young inventors. Debut author Lou Treleaven’s sparky rhyming story is wackily illustrated by Julia Patton, whose scenes are full of zany details to pore over, and possibly provide some ideas to child inventors.

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Giant Jelly Jaws and the Pirates
Helen Baugh and Ben Mantle
Harper Collins Children’s Books
Unlike his fellow crew members, new cabin boy Jake is not brave or strong; indeed he has no head for heights, cries at the slightest hint of a scratch and at night, his hammock-mate is a teddy bear. It looks as though Captain Fish-Breath Fred has made an almighty mistake in engaging young Jake. But can the lad manage to prove his worth in the face of a rival pirate crew whose members are intent on getting their hands on the treasure map whereon X marks the spot. Seemingly not, for here’s a rather stinky situation where we see his fellow shipmates about to walk the plank…

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and the cabin boy himself cowering behind some kegs of pop.
Hold on me hearties! What is Jake up to now? Surely it’s no time to be guzzling pop, or is it? …

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If you want to know how this ripping rhyming yarn concludes, you’ll have to get your own copy of the riotous romp and read the rest yourself. It’s certainly true to say ship’s figurehead Giant Jelly Jaws has found his match when it comes to monstrous eruptions; and awash with detail, Ben Mantle’s riotous scenes are suitably salty and swashbuckling.

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Presents, Presents and More Presents

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The Best Christmas Present Ever!
Ben Mantle
Macmillan Children’s Books
Bear is back with another present enterprise: Christmas present creating this time, and he has to be quick because, as Squirrel informs him excitedly, “FOUR SLEEPS TILL CHRISTMAS!” But Bear has forgotten to get a present for his best pal. – some friend! He ponders, he puzzles … he knits … he sleeps. His knitting prowess leaves something to be desired though …

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With three sleeps left it’s back to the drawing board; Owl fortunately has a suggestion and soon Bear is busy again but …

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Maybe Fox can help. His suggestion, indirectly, provides Bear with inspiration and the result is terrific – or almost.

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One sleep to go Bear and that pile of ruined gifts is growing.
DING! Light-bulb moment … off goes our ursine friend again. Now I won’t be a story spoiler so let me end by saying both Bear and Squirrel are delighted with their Christmas presents: ‘the BEST Christmas presents ever.’
Great story, great illustrations and great end-papers too. But if I show you those, you’ll guess how the tale ends so, instead, get hold of a copy of this super seasonal story and share it widely or give one to a youngster who may well decide it’s exactly what the title says.

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Tickly Christmas Wibbly Pig!
Mick Inkpen
Hodder Children’s Books
Tickly Pig is the owner of some special garments – an outsized scarf, odd mittens, a babygro and matching accessories even; all these courtesy of Big Aunt Larlie. She’s sent them to him as Christmas presents for the past four years and when it’s especially cold and snowy, Wibbly is expected to sport his tickly woolly items of clothing – not the babygro of course; thankfully, he’s far outgrown that. So when Christmas is just ten days off and he’s busily helping with the putting up of decorations, and his Big Aunt Larlie has already been very busy with her knitting needles and a great many balls of wool, you can imagine how eagerly he’s anticipating this year’s gift.
On Christmas Eve when the doorbell rings and there stands his Aunt, he is slightly puzzled as to why she’s wearing HIS present – or is she?

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Bursting with warmth – despite the chilly weather – and gentle humour this is quite simply an adorable, timely re-issue.

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Amelie and Nanette: Snowflakes and Fairy Wishes
Sophie Tilley
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
This sugary sweet story wherein we share the run-up to Christmas with best friends Amelie and Nanette exudes Christmas nostalgia. The girls are bursting with excitement as they anticipate the day itself , but first is their school Christmas party to look forward to and prepare for.

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With its energetic characters, sometimes snowy setting …

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and a brief interlude of sadness …

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this story radiates seasonal warmth, brims over with friendship;and with those delectable, slightly whimsical watercolour scenes, is sure to enchant.

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I’m sure many will agree with the author’s final words: ‘ … sharing Christmas with your best friend is the best present EVER!’ especially if you sit down and make those paper chains provided inside the back cover of the book together.

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The Bear Report & Land Shark

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The Bear Report
Thyra Heder
Abrams Books for Young Readers
Homework – bor-ing!
That’s certainly the feeling of most children when faced with something as seemingly dull as Sophie is in this beautiful book. Hardly surprising then that her response is thus …

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That’s it, she thinks as sits down to watch TV. But then …

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The bear – Olafur by name – invites young Sophie to visit his Arctic home. And ignoring her indifferent “Um, no thinks. I’ve seen the pictures.” response, he whisks her away to a glorious world of ice-floes, snowy landscapes inhabited by whales, seals, Arctic foxes and snow rabbits; a place where she can fish with a stick, scramble across moss-covered rocks, birdwatch lying on her back – BRRR!

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and even slide down glaciers.
Inevitably such adventures make for sleepiness so the two snuggle up for some shut-eye but then suddenly find themselves struggling through the sea as the ice-floe melts. Then it’s Sophie’s turn to take charge as she dives beneath the waves calling – summoning – and help comes in the form of a Humpback Whale …

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And as darkness begins to fall, Olafur has one last surprise for Sophie …

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who now has a whole lot more to add to her homework assignment –thanks to that mind stretching adventure.
Inspired by Thyra Heder’s own Arctic visit, this truly impressive book really does, in comparatively few well-chosen words and stunning watercolour scenes in icy blue, grey and green shades shades, paint a breathtaking world while at the same time one hopes, sparking the imagination and engendering a fascination for wild places with their amazing flora and fauna. A delight through and through.
Perhaps homework can be worthwhile after all …

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Land Shark
Beth Ferry and Ben Mantle
Chronicle Books
Shark-obsessive, Bobby is determined to get his parents to buy him a pet shark for his birthday. What is he to do then, when the big day comes and he’s given a puppy? Certainly not fall immediately in love with her no matter how charming she might appear to be. This shark lover’s not for turning …

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Maybe then, the best solution is to sit by and observe as the pup begins to leave a trail of devastation throughout the house, chewing shoes, chair legs and stuffed toys and that’s before she starts on the neighbours’ property.

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Hold it there: didn’t Bobby’s original raison d’etre for that shark demand something like this: ‘frightful, bite-ful, delightful’? Couldn’t that equally well be applied to the most recent resident in Bobby’s household? But no: ‘Shark lovers can NOT be converted to dog lovers.” Not just yet but … then comes a bite to beat all bites and guess whose gnashers are responsible?

 

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That little canine beauty has chomped her way right into Bobby’s heart. QED
This slightly off-beat story, told with wit and charm, and great fun to read aloud is perfectly complemented by Ben Mantle’s deliciously dynamic visuals. Chock full of detail and delivered with aplomb, every character is beautifully realised, best of all being Bobby with his funky fin hairstyle: and what a range of perspectives Mantle uses.
There’s a wonderful ‘tail end’ too: one that leaves audiences free to unleash their own imaginations along with Bobby, as well as perhaps signaling follow-up possibilities. This reviewer says ‘More please!’

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A Tickled Tiger, A Best Birthday Present, A Hide-and-Scare Bear

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Never Tickle a Tiger
Pamela Butchart and Marc Boutavant
Bloomsbury Children’s Books pbk
Like lots of children, Izzy finds it extremely difficult to keep still; she just cannot help shuffling, jiggling, squirming, twitching, wriggling or fiddling. It matters not where she is – home or school, at parties even, Izzy is constantly a-fidget.
When her class goes to visit the zoo, Izzy gets the fidgets as soon as they’re through the gates. Before long she’s stroked the snakes, excited the elephants, bothered the bears and much more.

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“… never tickle a tiger!” warns Miss Pottterhurst. But after lunch, Izzy, feather in hand is immediately heading for the tiger enclosure. Confronted with a large striped tail, the opportunity is just impossible to resist. Out goes that feather and …

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Raa-aa-ah! “ roars the tiger triggering a concatenation of action and reaction

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culminating in an enormous … SLPAAAASH! as hippo is cascaded into the penguins’ pool.

 

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Then it’s down to Izzy to quell the brouhaha she’s instigated. But has she been cured of her predilection for poking and prodding?
This fun-filled tale managed to keep even the Izzy’s among my audience riveted as they followed the action in Marc Boutavant’s exuberant, energetic, playful pictures, relishing each and every occurrence of ‘Izzy- itis’ as one among them commented. I suspect that hedgehog enjoyed the fun too.

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The Best Birthday Present Ever
Ben Mantle
Macmillan Children’s Books
Squirrel’s determination to give his best friend Bear, the very best birthday gift results in a great deal of thought on his part. That Squirrel is something of a creative thinker comes through loud and clear when we see what he finally decides upon. Satisfied with his choice of gift, Squirrel wraps it carefully disguising it well and soon it’s party day – Big Bear’s Birthday Bonanza no less.
When it comes to present-opening time –after the dancing, games and cake eating – it’s clear that Bear has some pretty impressive gifts

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and finally it comes to Squirrel’s offering. By this time, Squirrel is starting to feel just a little nervous and initially Bear himself appears nonplussed when he unwraps his package.

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It’s in response to the comments of some of the other animals however, that Bear then demonstrates that he, like his best friend, Squirrel, is indeed a creative thinker. And the following week, he goes on to demonstrate just how, until their very favourite stick game (poking things) results in –

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Squirrel rues the passing of said stick but Bear quickly realizes that two sticks can be better than one.

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Can you read it again,” was the instant response after I shared this one with some 4s to 6s. What further accolade could an author want? Before doing so however, we spent a considerable time relishing the delicious details in Ben Mantle’s amusing illustrations.

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The party scene is a visual treat in more than one sense.

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The Hide-and-Scare Bear
Ivan Bates
Brubaker, Ford & Friends (Templar Publishing) pbk
The large ursine character in this rhyming story is badly behaved and rude: worst of all though is his frequent playing of his “Hide and Scare” game. This involves hiding behind a tree and then leaping out and roaring at unsuspecting passers by.

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Eventually the woodland animals decide something must be done and call for a brave volunteer to stand up to Bear. Rabbit steps forward offering to help, not with anger however, but with kindness.
So, as the next ‘ROAR!’ sends the other creatures scattering, Rabbit stands firm to face the bear and waits patiently for her opportunity to deliver her lesson in kindness. Then it’s Bear’s turn to provide some hugs and soon it’s not only Rabbit on the receiving end of those Big Bear squeezes.

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The text lollops along rhythmically making it a pleasure to read aloud and the woodland watercolour illustrations are delightfully expressive.
Here’s the response of one of my five year old listeners …

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Reindeer Romps with Ruby, Rudey and St. Nick.

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The Naughtiest Reindeer
Nicki Greenberg
Allen & Unwin
Disaster has struck at the North Pole:
Rudolf the reindeer was lying in bed with a runny red nose and an ache in his head.
‘I’m sorry,’ he groaned. ‘I just can’t pull a sled. You’ll have to ask my sister Ruby instead.’
The only trouble is Ruby is anything but a popular choice with the other reindeers: “Not Ruby! Please!” is the unanimous verdict. But like it or not, high-spirited Ruby is what they get.

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Things go pretty well to start with but then boredom kicks in and Ruby starts getting ideas: ideas that result in mayhem at house after house and a very stressed Santa, so stressed in fact that on his return, he discovers he’s missed out one of the house.. Time for Mrs Claus to spring into action, but where is Ruby?

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Oh no! She too has been forgotten. When she finally gets to the house rectify Santa’s error, it seems that Santa had paid them a visit after all.
This hilarious rhyming tale has the rhythm of the Clement Clark Moore classic Twas The Night Before Christmas and veritably gallops along. It’s great fun to read aloud, superb entertainment for young audiences who relish Ruby’s tripping, tangling antics, particularly her drinking from the toilet at 26A and with a surprisingly satisfying ending I can see this becoming one of those favourites that’s brought out every Christmas at home or school. The magic starts right on the front cover with that sparkly, tactile tree and I just love those off beat ‘corky’ reindeer characters Nicki Greenberg has created.
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If you want an illustrated version of the classic poem try:

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The Night Before Christmas
Clement Clark Moore and Richard Johnson
Picture Corgi pbk
Richard Johnson’s illustrations are a-glow with festive magic. His interior scenes give a feeling of seasonal warmth that sharply contrasts with the beautiful snowy landscapes of St Nicholas’ journey and I particularly like the beribboned borders that frame some of the verses.
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Rudey’s Windy Christmas
Helen Baugh and Ben Mantle
Harper Collins Children’s Books pbk.
Most humans know the consequences of over indulging in Brussels sprouts: not so Mrs Claus. Santa?

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One can’t be sure; but definitely not his reindeer and in particular Rudey who sets off on the Christmas rounds with a tummy full of the little green objects. Guess who fed him those. The result? Suffice it so say, the air is polluted with Rudey’s windy emanations much to the amusement of the other reindeer. Indeed they laugh so much at the plethora of toots that they quite run out of steam. The sleigh comes to a halt in the USA. And there’s only one way to get it air bound again –

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over to Rudey and his turbo-charged rear.
Delivered via a jaunty rhyming text and comical illustrations. Those reindeer certainly have a twinkle in their eyes and on their return to the North Pole, they are greeted by Santa’s elves who have something to say about the quality of the air there too. Mufflers please…
I imagine giggles galore hereafter.
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