I grew up on a diet of Enid Blyton. Oh, how I wanted to be one of the Famous Five; solving mysteries and having adventures.
The first book, Five on a Treasure Island, was published in 1942. It’s a product of a different age. Even though the oldest of the children is just 12 years old, they roam about the countryside unsupervised; they attend boarding school and have parent’s rich enough to own islands. But that doesn’t take away the fact that our heroes still outwitted criminals, solved crimes and had loads of fun.
What I didn’t know was that Enid Blyton also wrote a series of Famous Five short stories for publication in magazines. These have now been released as books in their own right by Hodder. As I’m working on a middle grade book at the moment, I got hold of a few of the books to see what they were like.
Famous Five colour Short Stories
At 80 pages long, they’re not too long for beginner readers and I was happy to find that they have lost their cutesy 1950’s image and look current and fresh for modern kids. Inside, the illustrations are full colour too, giving them an almost comic book feel.
I did worry whether the 1950’s language might jarr alongside the contemporary artwork but I think it stood up admirably.
Readers of my blog will know I’m a BIG fan of text that complements the illustrations and tried to incorporate that into my own picture book design. Jamie Littler, the artist on the Famous Five books, does this really well.
What are the books about?
Five and a Half-term Adventure
George’s dog Timmy sniffs out an adventure when he spots some suspicious-looking passengers on a train. He is very interested in one of them, but what has he spotted? Can the Famous Five solve this mystery?
Well done, Famous Five
The most famous racehorse in England is being trained in Kirren, and the Famous Five are eager to watch. But when the horse bolts the Famous Five need to think quickly to make sure he isn’t lost or injured. The whole of England is depending on them.
Good Old Timmy
After the Five see a boy being kidnapped at the beach, they set out to find him. But where have the kidnappers hidden the boy? Will Timmy lead them to the answer?
George’s Hair is Too Long
Borrowing some scissors is the beginning of an adventure for the Famous Five, as George manages to get mixed up with some burglars. Julian, Dick and Anne are too busy eating ice cream to realise that George is in trouble! Will the Famous Five manage to catch up with the burglars and save the day?
A Lazy Afternoon
It’s so terribly hot, the Famous Five are having a lazy afternoon…but the gang don’t get the peace and quiet they imagined! What are the men on the motorbikes up to? Can they be stopped?
I really liked this new series. I’m sure they’ll be a hit for children transitioning from early readers to ‘real books’ and reluctant readers will love the colourful pages. They are a great introduction to Enid Blyton’s classic series.
I’ll be giving away copies of the 5 books in my June Giveaway, just answer the easy question below.
Thanks for reading
Check out the latest book review of Things Evie Eats
It’s always exciting when you get a book review so I wanted to share the awesome review of Things Evie Eats that I received from the lovely Karen over at The Next Best Thing to Mummy.
This is a delightful book with fantastic illustrations
Especially useful to parents and carers who have a fussy eater
Reviews are like gold dust to authors. You can read the full review HERE while I do my happy dance.
Book review: Pilot Jane and the Runaway Plane
I was really happy to win a copy of Pilot Jane and the Runaway Plane recently in a giveaway on GetKidsIntoBooks. I thought it looked like a great story to share with the grandchildren. Here’s how we got on.
My grandson is into planes at the moment. His favourite toy is “Dusty Crophopper” 🙂 So he was excited to see a new book about a plane. He wasn’t bothered that the plane was pink and flowery in the slightest but I was a little surprised by it’s colour given the books clear attempt to challenge gender stereotypes.
The illustrations are bright and colourful with enough detail for us to talk about, and I loved the characterization of Pilot Jane. Grandson is also a big fan of rhyming text, so that was another point in the books favour.
The Pilot Plot
The story tells how Pilot Jane and her plane, Rose, go on lots of exciting journey’s. They earn such a great reputation that the Queen asks them to fly her to a party. Unfortunately, Rose eats ‘cake fuel’ the night before and wakes up with ‘plane flu.’ which means that Jane has to take the Queen in ‘Mighty Mitch’.
Naughty Mighty Mitch is cross that his new pilot is a girl.
Mitch groaned: “A girl pilot! Bother and drat!
I’ll bet she’s slow – or a big scardey cat!”
He starts to behave badly to scare her and to show off. (Grandson liked that he was naughty lol) But there’s a storm coming and that’s where things start to go wrong. Happily, Pilot Jane has the necessary skills to bring the situation under control and the pair ends up working together and becoming friends.
The story kept grandson’s attention the whole time. He insisted on a second and third reading straight away and asked, “Where’s the new book about the plane?” on his next visit. That makes Pilot Jane a definite hit.
Despite the message – girl’s can be pilot’s too – the last line was particularly good.
Whatever the weather, we work together,
Hurray for Girl – and Boy – Power Forever.
After the ‘girl bashing’ in the book I reviewed last, it was nice that the story fostered some much needed gender co-operation. In fact, I grew to like the pink plane. This was a book that showed girls can be girly, as well as strong and able.
British Books Challenge
Book review: The Mystery of the Disappearing Underpants
The Mystery of the Disappearing Underpants is a spy story with a difference.
When Harry and James form a secret agency for the summer, their first task is to investigate the disappearance of Harry’s lucky underpants and to prevent nosey neighbour, Stacey, from interfering in their business.
But when a mysterious couple move into an old house on their street, the children are intrigued. Harry and James must join forces with Stacey in order to uncover what is going on at number 35. And with Harry’s attention diverted from the hunt for his lucky underpants, will he ever be able to find them?
A perfect eye-catching genre cover. So far, so good.
The Mystery of the Disappearing Underpants: this story should be a hit with middle grade readers on its title alone.
We start off with our would-be spies investigating thefts from washing lines. The initial culprit is unexpected, but harmless, and I was concerned that the story might be a bit bland even for the intended 9-11 age group. Happily, I needn’t have worried, as events quickly escalate into something much more sinister and thrilling.
Harry, James and Stacey take turns narrating the events of their summer spy club and I liked that this gives readers an insight into the minds of three children. I loved their imagination and innocent logic as they try to solve mysteries (both real and make-believe) and I liked the way they suspected someone and then discovered they were wrong. For example, after seeing a ladies underskirt on the washing line of a man who lived by himself, they find out he does the washing for his mother. Oops!
There were a few surprises and I never saw the identity of the washing line thief coming. 🙂
Harry, James and Stacey turn out to be quite a team, but it’s not always that way. At the beginning of the book, I didn’t like the way the boys treated Stacy. There was a lot of, “I hate girls,” “We warned Stacey not to come anywhere near us or we’d show everyone in school the video that shows her playing with dolls like a little girl,” and “Let’s face it, she’s annoying anyway AND she’s a girl.”
Now, Stacey turns out to be a strong character and she does get her own back but I would have liked a little more gender co-operation from the start.
To sum up.
Nikki Young is an author, a blogger and a copywriter who hails from the South-East of England: perfect for me to link up with the British Books Challenge.
So, do Harry, James and Stacey find the lucky underpants? You’ll have to read the story to find out.
Wanna Win 5 Classic Picture Books?
During the month of May, readers of my blog will be able to Win 5 Classic Picture Books by answering one simple question below.
Titles I’m giving away include:
- The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson
- Kipper by Mick Inkpen
- Burglar Bill by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
- Guess How Much I love You by Sam McBratney
- The Scarecrow’s Wedding by Julia Donaldson
They are all firm favourites in my house and are perfect for reading with your little one.
The winner will be drawn on 1st June.
PS The more you share, the more chances of winning you’ll have. 🙂
Ever mistaken a bear for a dog?
Come on, it’s an easy mistake to make.
Silly Doggy! by Adam Stower is a very funny book that always makes my grandchildren laugh.
The story goes:
Lily, sees something in her garden.
It was big, brown and hairy. It had four legs, a tail and a big, wet nose, and Lily had ALWAYS wanted one…
Oops! My grandchildren love pointing out she’s got it wrong.
Lily does all the usual ‘doggy’ things with her new pet. She takes it for a walk, tries to teach it tricks and gives it a bath. But Lily’s parents put notices up around the neighbourhood and find the bear/dog’s owner. (Yes, really)
Lily is upset but the great twist at the end of the story is when she looks out in the garden and see’s…
Yep, she’s got it wrong again. Cue hilarious laughter from grandchildren.
I was really excited to receive an advance copy of The Big Adventures of Tiny House by Susan Schaefer Bernardo.
An old farmhouse gets recycled into something new: Tiny, a little house with a big heart and wheels. With the help of his friend Big Truck, Tiny travels thousands of miles across America. Along the way, he meets cool new friends like Shiny (an Airstream), Waverly (a houseboat) and Buster (a converted school bus). In the end, Tiny realizes that he has exactly what it takes to be a real home.
I got the grandchildren to put it through its paces.
“If you’re looking for adventure, just follow me,
to the axle-hoppin,’ wheel-stomping, Tiny House jamboree‘.
He also likes anything with wheels and he’d never seen anything resembling the quirky tiny houses. It was also good when he got to see the hammers and saws used to change the farmhouse into a house on wheels.
Tiny house goes on his adventures around America, stopping at New Orleans, Texas and the Rocky mountains. Grandson liked the maps and the place names didn’t phase him – I don’t suppose he would have known British places so they made no difference.
There was slightly too much writing to keep the attention of my two-year old grand-daughter. but she enjoyed looking at the pictures and shouted ‘Beep Beep’ every time she spotted Tiny House.
The pictures are gorgeous and there was lots of detail for us to look at and talk about.
This is an unusual and fun book which both me and my grandchildren enjoyed.
It’s message is a lovely one:
He could be a home anywhere, because home wasn’t a place,
Home was a feeling, a smile on your face.
Although my grandson concluded he wouldn’t like to live in a tiny house because he’d never know where to find it. You have to laugh.
This is the third book by talented author/illustrator combo Susan Schaefer Bernardo and Courtenay Fletcher. Best friends since they met during a Mommy and Me class, their other books are Sun Kisses, Moon Hugs and The Rhino who swallowed a Storm, which was co-authored with Reading Rainbow host, LeVar Burton.
The book is due for release on April 25th but it’s available to pre-order from www.ShopOnceUponaTime.com. If you order before 31st of March, you could win a $50 gift certificate. The author is also donating a portion of sales to Makes a Village, an organization that builds tiny houses to help people facing homelessness.
A quick mish-mash of a post today.
First off, a book I won arrived today.
And there’s nothing like a new book to cheer up the day, so a big thank you to Cosmochicklitan for the giveaway.
Christmas at the Comfort Food Cafe is the second book in the series by Debbie Johnson and it looks scrumptious. But…
Reader problems No 1. Do I read it now or wait until next Christmas?
Secondly, a quick update on Pancakes! An Interactive Recipe Book by Lotta Nieminen.
You might remember I ordered this book to roadtest with the grandchildren but it hadn’t arrived when I wrote the post. Well, the 2-year old liked operating the various flaps and wheels. However, one has required sellotaping already so I am a little worried how robust it will be.
Reader problems No 2: Having to repair the book in the first day.
The 4-year old was less impressed. He told me there was ‘no story’ but he was keen to try out the instructions to make real pancakes. Check out my pancake tossing skills below. (Only one pancake landed on the side of the pan and fell to pieces. Who said I was no good at throwing and catching?)
Finally, Storm Doris hit Wales in February. I lay in bed watching the rain lash at the window, listening to the wind rattling the roof and re-arranging the garden. I love storms and although Doris missed out on the thunder and lightning, it was still a beauty, leaving the river running through the village in full flood.
Reader problems No 3: spending time clearing up after the storm when I should been reading.
I meant to post this video last week but didn’t get round to it. Must try harder.
Happy reading till next week.
Things Evie Eats book video
Remember the trouble I had making the video for Better Buckle Up? I’m happy to report the Things Evie Eats book video went far more smoothly. (Probably only a pain point 4/10)
A video is a great way to get a feel for a book before you buy from a new author and is good for entertaining your child when you’re busy.
… I still cringe when I hear my accent though lol.
Hope you and your little ones enjoy the story.
PS You can get a copy of Things Evie Eats for Kindle or in paperback … for the times when reading it yourself with snuggles are in order.
Picture books about Pancakes
Pancake Day, or Shrove Tuesday, is almost upon us. 28th February is the day people all over the UK try tossing those eggy, milky mixtures. It’s a strange ritual. My kids found it hilarious because I’m pretty hopeless at throwing and catching. And yes, some of my culinary wonders have ended up splattered on my cooker and worktops. So to get you in the mood for throwing your cooking around your kitchen, here are some picture books about pancakes.
Pancakes, Pancakes by Eric Carle
Jack wakes up and wants a pancake but his mother doesn’t have the ingredients. So starts an incredibly detailed description of Jack as he cuts the wheat and grinds it into flour (I told you this was detailed), collects eggs from the hen, milks the cow and churns some butter. He then makes jam, lights a fire and finally gets round to cooking the pancakes.
This is the same style as our favourite The Very Hungry Caterpillar but not quite as catchy. However, it is a great way to explain (in glorious technicolour) how to make a pancake. Although I’d recommend you buy the ingredients from the supermarket and use your cooker.
Mr Wolf’s Pancakes by Jan Fearnley
Another story about someone waking up wanting to eat pancakes. Unsure how to do it, an uncharacteristically pleasant Mr Wolfe asks lots of his neighbours to help him but they refuse – very rudely. Even more rudely, once Mr Wolf has made the pancakes, they come round to ask him to share them. The twist in this tale is that Mr Wolf decides to share. But is Mr Wolfe as pleasant and polite as it seems? Nope. Once they’re in his kitchen, he eats the neighbours!
This is a tale with lots of opportunity to talk about good/bad behaviour and sharing – as well as making pancakes.
Pancakes! An Interactive Recipe Book by Lotta Nieminen
This is such an unusual book you really need to watch the video to appreciate it. By a series of flaps and wheels, readers mix and cook their pancakes. I ordered a copy of this book to share with the grandchildren but it hasn’t arrived as I write this. I’ll update you all when we’ve road-tested this book.
Hey Pancakes by Tamson Weston
I’ve included this last book because I love the illustrations. They are so colourful and bright and full of movement – true homage to the humble pancake. It also has the recipe for Grandma’s Pancakes at the end for good measure.
Have a great pancake day.