Tag Archives: greed

The Squirrels Who Squabbled

The Squirrels Who Squabbled
Rachel Bright and Jim Field
Orchard Books

From the duo who gave us The Lion Inside and The Koala Who Could comes another winning story, this time featuring two greedy squirrels one of which has done the unthinkable –failed to collect food for his store – and consequently, with winter fast approaching, his cupboard is completely empty: that’s Spontaneous Cyril who lives his life firmly in the here and now.

Squirrel number two is ‘Plan-Ahead Bruce’. He’s a wily one and has already amassed a huge stockpile of goodies.
By the time Cyril realises his partying habits have put him in a bit of a plight, all that appears to be left is a single pine-cone. This potentially fruitful object might just save him from starvation but he’s not the only one with his eye on the main chance. Bruce too has set his sights on one final addition to his stash.

With this potential treat delicately lodged in the twist of a branch and two would-be gatherers scurrying madly up the tree trunk, things are not set to go well and before you can say ‘slow down’ the cone is dislodged from its niche in the spruce and has gone tumbling down the hill with the two adversaries in hot pursuit through the forest.

What follows is an out and out scrimmage between Cyril and Bruce over a single treasure, that must surely end badly, as the object of their desires cascades into the water and well, I won’t say where it ends up for fear of being a story-spoiler.

This is truly a cracking book, delivered through Rachel’s perfectly paced rhyming narrative that like the cone, bounces over the pages with increasing speed, accompanied by Jim Field’s deliciously detailed illustrations executed in a softly glowing autumnal palette, and absolutely wonderful characters – not only the main ones but the bit part players too.
A truly delicious read aloud no matter what the time of year, especially with its themes of the importance of friendship and the folly of petty fights.

Snowboy and the Last Tree Standing

Snowboy and the Last Tree Standing
Hiawyn Oram and Birgitta Sif
Walker Books

Snowboy likes to spend his time playing imaginative games with his animal companions. Greenbackboy is riddled with greed. He persuades Snowboy to join him in a ‘better game’ he calls KA-CHING. The game entails cutting down all the forest trees in return for KA-CHING, which seemingly, can be used to get anything they want. With one tree left standing however, the enormity of what they’ve done strikes Snowboy and with the aid of his Cloak of Many Uses, he manages to hide the last tree.
Not satisfied with his ill-gotten gains, Greenbackboy drags his reluctant fellow player off to the oceans, their next target for exploitation.
With all the fish netted Snowboy again has second thoughts and manages to release two of their catch overboard, unnoticed by his companion.

But strongboxes filled with KA-CHING and mountains of tinned fish give no protection from the ravages of a storm that brews up, sweeping the tinned fish into the empty ocean to go to waste.
Snowboy has had enough.

Leaving Greenbackboy with his treasure, he, his Ice Troupers and Polar Bear King trek back across the wasted land, finally reaching that last tree.
Could it just be that with tender loving care, the tree can become their saviour?

Hiawyn Oram’s unusual story has a powerful ecological message: a fable about greed and exploitation of natural resources, it’s a timely reminder of what is happening to our planet.
Birgitta Sif’s beautiful illustrations have a muted luminescence and bring a touch of quirkiness to what is essentially a dark tale.

Mine! / Thousand Star Hotel

Mine!
Jeff Mack
Chronicle Books
It’s amazing how by using the same word 27 times, Mack can concoct a hilarious tale on ownership with a terrific final twist to boot.
Two mice in turn stake a claim for a substantial-looking rock and then a battle of brain and brawn involving a chunk of cheese, a gift-wrapped parcel,

a pile of rocks and a couple of vehicles ensues over which of them it belongs to. Seemingly this isn’t a conflict easily settled: things escalate …

until with both mice on the point of self-combustion the rock makes a startling revelation and the pals realise what a massive mistake they’ve made.
Wrapped up in this hilarious encounter are important messages about acquisitiveness and possibilities of sharing. Seemingly though as the story concludes, these lessons are yet to be learned by the protagonists herein.
Mack uses lettering the colour of which matches that of the mouse making the utterance to help orchestrate his parable and in addition to being a perfect book for beginner readers (preferably after a demonstration) this is a gift for anyone wanting to demonstrate how to tell a story to a group: inflection and intonation rule!

Thousand Star Hotel
The Okee Dokee Brothers and Brandon Reese
Sterling Children’s Books
The award winning musical duo give a new slant to the Fisherman and His Wife folktale using two riverside dwellers, Mr and Mrs Muskrat. Their life is simple: their dwelling a far from perfect cabin; their diet largely fish in one form or another. One day while out in their boat, Mr Muskrat feels an enormous pull on his line and after a considerable amount of STRUGGLIN’, TUGGLIN’, YANKIN’, and CRANKIN’, they successfully haul out a massive golden catfish. This is no ordinary fish: it’s a magical wish-giving one, and offers the couple a wish in exchange for its life.
Therein lies the rub: Mrs Muskrat is all for simple creature comforts – a hammer and nails to fix the roof, a new soup kettle, or perhaps, a cosy warm quilt. Mr Muskrat in contrast sets his sights rather higher; he wants a life of luxury.

And, he certainly expresses himself in no uncertain terms, getting a whole double spread to call each of his wishes to a halt midstream …

In fact all the dialogue and the rest of the telling is wonderful; and the final fun twist offers an important message. Brandon Reese’s exuberant illustrations of the characters in their wild woods setting have a cinematic quality.
Starlit filled dreams are assured if you share this one at bedtime. There’s a delightful CD with an audio telling and eleven funky songs tucked inside the front cover too.

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Monkey’s Sandwich

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Monkey’s Sandwich
Michelle Robinson and Emily Fox
Harper Collins Children’s Books
What is your favourite kind of sandwich? I think mine would have to be roast vegetables and hummus, or maybe goat’s cheese and tomato; it all depends in part on how I’m feeling. I certainly wouldn’t relish the crisps, Nutella, bhuja and banana variety one of my teenage friends loves to make for breakfast when home on holiday from her boarding school. Nor would I bother with butter, which is the first thing Monkey helps himself to when he visits still-sleeping Yak’s abode in search of something to fill his rumbling tum very early one morning before the shops are open.
Almost inevitably though, he deems plain old bread and butter boring so off he goes again, helping himself this time to a wedge of slumbering Mouse’s cheese – he does have the courtesy to leave him a “Thank You” note though.

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Monkey cannot quite stop himself from adding cucumber, custard and a whole lot of other tasty items to his stack

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Jellybeans, chocolate spread and mustard from Flamingo …

until his sandwich is positively towering but even then he just doesn’t seem satisfied. Who actually eats this monstrous repast though? That is the all-important question …

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Michelle Robinson and Emily Fox have assuredly concocted an offering to be relished with their toothsome tale of monkey’s mischievous marauding. Michelle’s text is a treat to get your tongue around and Emily’s comical scenes of the cheeky creature helping himself to all those tidbits are to be sure, saporous.
I suspect, like me, you’ll have your audience calling for second and third helpings after a sharing of this one.

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My Bunny’s Chocolate Factory

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Mr Bunny’s Chocolate Factory
Elys Dolan
Oxford University Press
Elys Dolan follows her wonderful Doughnut of Doom with another confection-related picture book.
Imagine being force fed chocolate; that’s the fate of the chickens that work in Mr Bunny’s chocolate-egg making factory pressing the chocolate into bars, eating the chocolate bars, squeezing out chocolate eggs, wrapping and packing same. Mr Bunny has his own special secret recipe and to ensure perfection he also employs a quality control unicorn named Edgar.
Like many successful entrepreneurs Mr B. is greedy …

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hence the force-feeding, to ‘crank up egg production to the max’ – no breaks, cancelled holidays even, the latter as a result of a plethora of bad eggs being discovered by Edgar.

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Finally the chickens revolt. They down tools: a strike is declared.

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Can Mr Bunny and Edgar run the factory by themselves? What has happened to missing worker, Debbie? And, can change happen, or will the boss remain a ‘bad egg’ evermore?
Elys Dolan has, yet again, created a picture book full of comic scenarios that are absolutely brimming over with rib-tickling detail. There is just SO much to giggle over and explore on every spread, not least the wonderful speech bubbles emanating from her superb cast of characters.
All in all, a stonkingly good picture book upon which to feast your eyes and ears.

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The Greedy Goat

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The Greedy Goat
Petr Horáček
Walker Books
What a tremendous treat of an extended joke of a book this is. I thought at first that the particular Goat in question must have an extraordinarily strong constitution as she gobbles up dog’s food for her breakfast, washed down with slurps of the cat’s milk; this is followed by a veritable 3-course lunch: pig’s potato peelings for starters, the farmer’s wife’s plant as entrée and his daughter’s shoe for dessert. And her supper – can you believe it- is this …

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It should come as no surprise then that after a whole day’s experimental gormandising our heroine starts to feel its effects.

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Moreover, the farmer’s family too have noticed the absence of their things and the guzzler seems to have absented herself too. Come Sunday, she looks thus:

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It takes a whole week for our experimental eater to get back to her usual self: but that still leaves one small girl in need of new footwear and the farmer short of his boxers. They never do turn up – well maybe they do but let’s not go there! And the goat? Is she now a reformed vegetarian, never to stray from her herbivorous diet again? Umm … who wants to ruin your dessert? The proof of the pudding is in the reading …
Petr Horáček has served up a truly flavoursome cautionary tale with spicy ingredients: a piquant main player, supported by a copacetic cast and – as ever – delectable mixed media illustrations that will be relished by children (who may well try their hand at some of his techniques) and the adults who serve up this treat to them.

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Imelda & the Goblin King

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Imelda & the Goblin King
Briony May Smith
Flying Eye Books
Imelda lives next to a wood, but this wood is a magical one populated by fairy folk and their fairy queen. It’s a place of peace and harmony and Imelda loves to spend her days frolicking with, and learning from, the fairy folk.

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Then one day into this life of tranquility bursts a foul-tempered Goblin King and his green goblin horde. His manners are appalling, despite the fairy queen’s best efforts …

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and he has the effrontery, after gobbling up the whole solstice feast, to seize his host and imprison her in a cage.
The other fairies call upon Imelda’s help and together they cook up a clever plan that offers the greedy goblin king one final chance …

 

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The happily ever after finale isn’t quite the one you might expect, or perhaps it is, given that pretty much everything about this cracking book is delightfully idiosyncratic, not least the manner in which the anti-hero becomes the agent of his own downfall,

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an outcome which had my young audiences cheering in appreciation.
What a dazzling cast of characters: Imelda, the heroine, is an unflappable young miss, the epitome of all that’s good but still not afraid to turn her hand to a spot of subtle trickery to further a worthy cause; the Fairy Queen with her rosy cheeks and flowing golden hair certainly isn’t always as soft and sweet as she looks …

 

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and as for that Goblin King, he’s a pretty terrifying-looking bullying beast unlikely to worm his way into anyone’s affections.
And every single fairy has its own distinctive appearance – there’s even a blue one that looks like a mini Martian and the goblins, they pretty much resemble their king though they look a lot less threatening at least some of the time. Add to all those, a scattering of dragonflies, butterflies, birds, and other creatures and you have a veritable visual fest.
With a compelling narrative that doesn’t pander to whimsy and has just a tiny frisson of fear, this enchanting book is like nothing else I’ve encountered in the fairy tale genre of late.
Cracking stuff.

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