The Greatest Inventor by Ben Brooks

Ben Brooks, the author of Stories for Boys Who Dare to Be Different, proved that he was an author to watch last year when he released his debut children’s fiction title, The Impossible Boy. I loved the idea of an invented classmate becoming real and the sinister secret organisation that came to try and restore order. It was just the right mixture of whimsical and darkness, with a good dash of humour. Ben Brooks is back again with his latest book, The Greatest Inventor. In this story, Ben transports us to a land that is caught in the grip of a mysterious organisation and whose people become addicted to new technologies.

This is a story within a story. The prologue introduces us to the author, who is having trouble finding his next story. While walking in the snow he stumbles on a cottage and is greeted by the young boy who lives there. The boy offers to tell him and story, and so the main story begins. The boy tells the story of Victor, a boy who lives on a farm with his parents and his pet giant tortoise, Saint Oswold, in the village of Rainwater. One day, an inventor trundles in to Rainwater, offering the people his marvelous inventions. The people of Rainwater refuse to buy his inventions and the inventor puts a curse on them, poisoning their drinking water. Everyone but Victor and Saint Oswold are doubled over, with horrible pain, so Victor knows that it is up to him to follow the inventor and demand that he cures them. The further that Victor gets from Rainwater the more villages he passes through. Each of the villages has a different purpose – hunting, mining and inventing. Each of these villages is affected by one of the inventions that the inventor has sold them. One village can do nothing but stare at themselves in their Mirrors of Emit Tsol, another one spends all their time inside, looking after their own tiny model farm. Victor meets other children along the way who are also unaffected by the inventions like him. They all band together to try and find the inventor and make him put things right. The more children that Victor meets the more he learns of the organisation known as the collectors. Each village is deep in debt to the collectors, who give them the things that they need to live, in return for the things that their village gathers (rubies from the miners, skins and meat from the hunters). It is not long before Victor and his friends find themselves in the middle of the army of the collectors and the army of the inventor. Can they save themselves and their villages?

The Greatest Inventor is a fable about technology, wrapped up in a story that is brimming with imagination. Ben touches on the addictive nature of technology and the way that it can take over our lives. The adults in the villages become completely useless and forget about everything else that they should be doing. The children can see the effect that the inventions are having on them, so they are the ones who try to save their families. The story-within-a-story format completely hooked me in and Ben’s storytelling made the world around me disappear. I really liked how Ben gave you little pieces of the whole picture as you go on the journey with Victor, until you finally figure everything out. I have to admit to not fully realising the significance of the three different inventions until right near the end, but when it clicked I could see the parallels between our world and the world of the story. I also loved how the ‘Greatest Inventor’ of the title kept changing. Just when you think the title belongs to one particular person you’re proven wrong.

The characters are all interesting and complex, and many of them are different from what they first appear. Each of the children are quite different and bring their own skills and knowledge to the group. Most of them have not left their villages before, but are determined to find the inventor and free their families from the grip of the collectors. I loved the character of the inventor as he is quite eccentric, but he’s also not who he first appears to be. I loved that he just took over an abandoned castle and put in his golden bathroom, with its golden bathtub and toilet.

Not only is it a great story but it also has a fantastic cover. The golden bathroom of the inventor bursts off the cover, making it a book that is hard to miss on the shelf. Victor and his friends are all there on the cover, along with the inventor in his bath-cap. George Ermos has brought Ben’s characters to life and his illustrations show us some of the funniest parts of the story. I’m a huge fan of his illustrations and I would have liked to see more of them in the book.

I can’t recommend The Greatest Inventor and The Impossible Boy highly enough. They are especially great for those readers who like an adventure story that’s a little bit different. I think they would be a great next-step for those kids who have enjoyed David Walliams, Roald Dahl, or David Baddiel but want something with a bit more bite. They would both be great for read alouds or novel sets for Years 5-8.

The Beast and the Bethany by Jack Meggitt-Phillips

‘Ebenezer Tweezer was a terrible man with a wonderful life’

From this first line Jack Meggitt-Phillips had me hook, line and sinker. I knew straight away that I was going to love this book! I was pretty convinced I would love it just from the amazing cover. Those sharp, dripping teeth and the surly looking girl on the cover really draw you in and make you curious about what the book is about. This is one of my top middle grade books of 2020.

Ebenezer Tweezer is 511 years old but he doesn’t look a day over 20. His youthful good looks come courtesy of the beast that he keeps in the attic of his fifteen-storey home. As long as he feeds this grotesque beast he will continue to get a special formula that keeps him from ageing. Ebenezer feeds the beast all manner of things and the beast vomits out items in return. Birds and even Ebenezer’s favourite cat have been devoured by the beast. So when the beast requests to eat a child Ebenezer must find one for it. Ebenezer decides that the beast needs to eat a horrible child, one that really deserves to be eaten. Along comes Bethany. However Bethany is not quite what he expected, and soon Ebenezer starts to have second thoughts. The beast demands to be fed and he wants to eat Bethany, whether she likes it or not.

The Beast and the Bethany is a deliciously dark tale that made me chuckle with glee. It is a story that is a bucketload of fun but also has a whole lot of heart. I loved the gory details but I also loved seeing how Ebenezer and Bethany’s relationship developed throughout the story. I found myself smiling every time I read more and I couldn’t wait to get back to it. Everything about the story is brilliant, from the storytelling and dialogue to the characters.

I love both Bethany and Ebenezer. Bethany has a surly, confronting exterior but she’s an orphan who’s had a pretty rubbish life. She treats others as the world has treated her. Ebenezer has led a long, privileged life, with all of the money and things he could want, but he’s also trapped serving a horrible beast. Bethany is the horrible child that Ebenezer needs to keep the beast satisfied and Ebenezer is a way out of the orphanage for Bethany (but she’s still not happy about it). This is certainly not rich-man-adopts-adorable-orphan like Annie, but their relationship is kind of cute. The beast himself is quite entertaining and some of its lines made me laugh, especially when its describing the type of child it wants to eat.

Isabelle Follath’s illustrations are the perfect match for Jack’s story. She perfectly captures Ebenezer and Bethany’s personalities and the tone of the story. I love the way that she has captured Ebenezer ageing throughout the story. The cover, designed by Matt Jones, is my favourite cover of 2020. I love the way that the beast’s teeth shine, as well as the globs of drool that drip out of its mouth. You can tell from looking at Bethany on the front cover that she is not just going to sit back and get eaten.

The Beast and the Bethany would be an amazing read aloud for Years 5-8 and a great class set for the same level. I would love to have the chance to read it aloud as the language is so rich and the characters have such clear voices in my head. It would be a fantastic audiobook. I was very excited to see that there is a sequel coming next year and I can’t wait to read it.

Dragon Mountain by Katie and Kevin Tsang

Dragons are so hot right now. Tui T. Sutherland’s Wings of Fire series is one of the most popular series in my school library and they get spread by word of mouth. Dragons are fascinating so it’s no wonder that authors write stories about them and kids want to read stories about them. One of the things that I love about dragon stories is the weaving of the mythology with fiction. Katie and Kevin Tsang do this so well in their new book, Dragon Mountain. They take the mythology of dragons and weave it in to a fresh story that is exciting and magical.

Billy Chan isn’t excited about going to summer camp in the mountains of China. He’s been given the chance to attend Camp Dragon to help improve his Mandarin and learn more about his Chinese heritage but he’d rather be back in California enjoying the waves. At Camp Dragon he meets Dylan, Charlotte, and Ling-Fei. They’re four very different kids who will become part of something bigger than any of them could have imagined. On a camp activity they discover an entrance in to the imposing mountain that stands over the camp. It’s in the mountain that they discover that dragons aren’t just mythical creatures. They are real and they need Billy and his new friends to help save both the human and dragon world. The kids agree to help the dragons and become bonded with them. They must travel to the dragon world and stop the Dragon of Death from being freed and bringing destruction to the world.

Dragon Mountain is an action-packed adventure, filled with magic, superpowers and dragons. It’s a fantastical start to a series that had me hooked and needing to know what would happen next. It ends on a real cliff-hanger that made me so thankful that we only have to wait until March next year for the next instalment. Like the bond between the kids and their dragons you feel connected to the characters and are right there beside them.

The cover (illustrated by Petur Antonsson and design by Tom Sanderson) is an absolute stunner! It screams ‘PICK ME UP!’ I love the contrasting colours of the dragons against the orangey-red background. I also love that it shows how different each of the four dragons are. I keep switching between which one I would like to be bonded with but I think it would be Buttons.

Dragon Mountain would be a great read aloud for Year 5/6 because it will keep everyone engaged and begging their teacher to keep reading. I know that this is going to be such a great series and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

Chickensaurus by James Foley

I know when I read a new S.Tinker Inc. book that something is going to go horribly wrong with one of Sally Tinker’s inventions. In James Foley’s latest book, Chickensaurus, though it is not Sally’s (or even Joe’s) fault. In this adventure you’ll meet dinosaurs unlike any you’ve seen before.

Sally, Charli and Joe get invited to Maelstrom Manor, the home of Sally’s arch-enemy, Dexter Maelstrom. Dexter has invited them to a demonstration of his new invention. He has invented a De-Evolving Ray that can zap any living thing and it will morph into one of its primitive ancestors. To prove to his visitors that it works he transforms a chick into a little dinosaur. Dexter then introduces them to his collection of chickensaurs, who are kept under control using special collars. Something causes the chickensaurs to attack and Sally, Charli and Joe must run for their lives. As if things weren’t already bad enough, Charli and Joe get dino-napped, leaving Sally with no choice but to team up with her nemesis and rescue her brother and her friend. Their rescue mission reveals the shocking truth about Dexter’s experiments.

Chickensaurus is an egg-citing adventure, filled with prehistoric poultry and funny situations that will crack you up. The different chickensaurs are hilarious! There’s a Trifeathertops, an Eggosaurus, a Chickensaurus Rex and a Pteroducktyl (they were out of chickens that day). It’s pretty funny seeing someone else’s invention going badly wrong and Sally needing to save the day.

Like the other books in the series it’s James’s illustrations that make me laugh the most. Joe has some great bits that made me laugh, like when he just wanders in to the room wearing a tiny suit of armour and clapping his hands. You see him clanking into the picture with everyone looking awkward or exasperated. I also love the look of joy on Joe’s face towards the end when he’s riding on the Chickensaurus.

Grab a copy of Chickensaurus from your bawk-shop or library now and check out the other wonderful S.Tinker Inc. books. The black and white graphic novel format makes them perfect for fans of The Bad Guys, Super Sidekicks and Sherlock Bones.

The InvestiGators series by John Patrick Green

A question that I get almost every day in my school library is ‘Are there any Dog Man books here?’ 95% of the time the answer to that question is no because they’re always on loan. When I get this question I like to have another book or two up my sleeve to recommend and my go-to books now are the InvestiGators series by John Patrick Green. They’re the same format, about the same length, with appealing illustrations and laughs galore.

The InvestiGators are Mango and Brash, two wise-cracking alligators who work for S.U.I.T. (Special Undercover Investigation Teams). Armed with their V.E.S.T. (Very Important Spy Technology) they fight crime and protect their city from evil-doers. In their first case together they must solve the case of the missing chef, Mustachio, and find out who caused the explosion at the Science Factory. In their second mission, Take the Plunge, Mango and Brash stop a rocket from causing destruction but unwittingly transmit a code that will create havoc all over town. Mango and Brash get sent into the sewers, undercover, to retrieve another S.U.I.T. agent and capture Crackerdile. When things don’t go to plan though, Mango and Brash are relieved of their duty and replaced by the B Team. They must prove that the A team is the best and solve the case of the Robot Genie before it’s too late.

This series is absolutely hilarious and I can’t get enough of Mango and Brash! With their bright illustrations, action-packed story, silly antics and laughs galore these books are perfect for young readers, but also equally entertaining for older kids and adults. The story is bursting with puns that had me laughing out loud and there are some jokes just for the adults (like the reference to the Aisle of Dr Morrow in Take the Plunge).

Kids will love the characters, especially Mango and Brash, and will be desperate to get their hands on their next adventure. As well as Mango and Brash there are other characters who keep popping up in each book, like their nemesis (and former S.U.I.T. agent) Crackerdile. My favourite character though is Doctor Copter. Dr. Jake Hardbones, a mild-mannered brain surgeon, was bitten by a rabid helicopter and now, whenever he sees something newsworthy he transforms into the Action News Now helicopter in the sky. It cracks me up every time I see him!

There’s a fun cameo in Take the Plunge too. If you’ve read John Patrick Green’s Kitten Construction Company (brilliant series!) you’ll spot Marmalade and her crew in the illustrations.

InvestiGators and InvestiGators: Take the Plunge are must-haves for all primary and intermediate school libraries. They are perfect for fans of Dog Man and Bad Guys or kids who just want a really funny book. Book 3 is out early in 2021 and I can’t wait to see what Mango and Brash get up to next.

Catch Me If I Fall by Barry Jonsberg

I love being surprised by a book. The blurb hints at what the story is about but it’s actually surprisingly different. Barry Jonsberg’s latest book, Catch Me If I Fall is one of these books. What at first seems like just a story about twins and an event that changes their relationship is actually much more complex.

Ashleigh and Aiden are identical twins who have always been there for each other. Aiden is protective of his sister and always looking out for her. They live a privileged life in a huge house in Sydney and attend a prestigious school. They are some of the lucky ones, with plenty of money to keep them fed, comfortable and safe. Australia has been ravaged by storms and rapidly rising seas, a result of catastrophic climate change. The majority of the population has been left homeless and clinging on to survival, while the wealthy live in mansions or compounds, protected by security services. When Ashleigh gets in to trouble while kayaking on a school camp Aiden comes to her rescue but suffers head injuries in the process. After the accident Ashleigh notices changes in Aiden. He starts acting and speaking differently, which worries Ashleigh. Little does Ashleigh know that these changes will lead to a shocking discovery that will turn her world upside down.

I was completely gripped by Catch Me If I Fall. It starts off as one kind of story and morphs into something completely different. There’s a lot packed into the story, from family dynamics to white privilege, climate change to ethics. It’s certainly not your average story about twins. Sure, there are family issues and the story does focus on Ashleigh and Aiden’s relationship, but the story is set against a background of climate change. Barry Jonsberg’s vision of a near-future Australia ravaged by climate change feels scarily possible. It’s certainly not far fetched to imagine the constant storms and rising sea levels that have caused the wide-spread destruction in the story.

My thoughts about the twist turned out to be correct but this didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the story. This just added another layer to the story and made me desperate to know how it would end. Wow, it’s really hard to explain what I like about this story without giving out spoilers!

Ashleigh certainly has a lot to deal with in the story. By the end, her idyllic life has been altered forever. Her family will never be the same and neither will she. She has lived most of her life sheltered from the reality of the world, and the truth of how most people live is shocking to her. I was quite tense following Ashleigh throughout the story and I found myself losing track of time as I had to keep reading to know how it would end. Barry certainly didn’t disappoint.

Catch Me If I Fall would make an amazing read aloud for Years 7-9 or as a novel set for this age group. The story is really engaging and lots of interesting discussion could be had about the issues involved. This book reminded me of how much I loved Barry Jonsberg’s earlier books and I now want to read all of his latest books.

The Pōrangi Boy by Shilo Kino

Kids need books that are both mirrors and windows. They need to be able to read books that mirror their own life and experiences but also books that give them a view in to someone else’s life, someone different from them. It is so great to see more stories being published from the perspective of Māori kids, giving Māori kids the chance to see themselves in a story and for Pākēha kids to read a story from a Māori perspective. Shilo Kino’s new book, The Pōrangi Boy, tells the story of Niko, a Māori boy trying to prove he’s not pōrangi by carrying on the legacy of his Koro and standing up for what he believes in.

Like his Koro, many in his small town think Niko is pōrangi (crazy). Tū, Kaore and Hone call him pōrangi boy and bully him relentlessly. Niko loves his Koro and he seems to be the only one who doesn’t think his Koro is pōrangi. Niko’s Koro teaches him how to wield a taiaha to defend rather than attack, and he teaches him about Taukere, the taniwha that protects their town. There are plans for a new prison to be built in Pohe Bay and while many in the town are against the idea it is only Niko’s Koro who is prepared to do what he can to stop it happening. The prison would be built over sacred land, destroying Taukere’s home. When Koro dies the family gathers for the tangi and when Koro’s will is read out many of the family are unhappy. Niko decides that he must carry on his Koro’s legacy and fight for what he believes is right.

The Pōrangi Boy is an incredible story that I devoured in one sitting! The story reminded me of Taika Waititi’s best films (Boy and Hunt for the Wilderpeople) because Shilo gives you a snapshot of life in Aotearoa, with the gritty reality but also some humour and great characters that you route for. From the first lines Niko’s voice is so clear and you get so completely caught up in his life that you have to keep reading until the end. As a Pākēha I found Niko’s story eye-opening and confronting at times, from Niko’s home life to the horrible bullying that he’s subjected to. The racism that Niko and his Koro experience is pretty shocking too. Niko’s teacher, Mrs Wobberly, is blatantly racist, calling the kids she teaches Mowrees and calling Niko the Mowree Shakespeare. Nico and Koro experience racism when they go to buy Niko a bike and the shop owner calls Niko a ‘dirty little Mowree.’

There is much speculation about the taniwha of the story, Taukere. The reason that Niko’s Koro is against the prison is because he has met Taukere and knows that he protects the town. Niko isn’t so certain that Taukere exists but when he and his cousin Moki end up in the river they encounter something with red eyes that saves them from drowning.

This is a story about community and relationships. Niko’s mother has a drug addiction, so she is often passed out on the sofa, and Niko’s dad isn’t around, so Niko often has to fend for himself. He has a good relationship with his aunties, who look after him, and his Koro. I really loved Niko and Koro’s relationship as they both took care of each other. Niko sometimes doesn’t understand what his Koro is telling him but he always makes him his cup of tea just how he likes it. They may both be called pōrangi but they make it clear that they’re anything but. Niko’s community is divided about having the prison in their town but the wider community come together to support the protest, including family that Niko never knew he had.

Language is such an important part of this story, from the te reo Māori that is woven in to the story to the way that the characters talk. Most of the characters are Māori so te reo Māori is spoken throughout the story, and this was an aspect of the story that I really loved. Some words and their meanings were unfamiliar to me at the start of the story but the more they were used the more familiar they became. The character’s voices sound authentic, with slang like hungus (hungry) and angus (angry) being part of the conversation. There are also some swear words used in a couple of instances but these fit with the situation (although don’t make the story ideal as a read aloud).

The Pōrangi Boy is one of the best Aotearoa children’s books of the year. This should absolutely be on the shortlist for the 2021 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it win. Niko is 12 in the story but I think it is probably more suited to young adults (or mature Year 7/8 readers). I can’t recommend The Pōrangi Boy highly enough.

Pages and Co.: Tilly and the Map of Stories by Anna James

Anna James’ Pages and Co. series is one of my all-time favourite series. It’s a series all about the magic of books, stories and reading and Anna just perfectly captures the feeling of being a book-lover and a reader. Being able to wander within books is something that all readers have wanted to do and Anna makes it sound so magical. I eagerly await each new book in the Pages and Co. series and I’ve been desperate to bookwander into the third book. Tilly and the Map of Stories has just been released and it is bursting with all of the things I love about the series – book character cameos, cosy bookshops, libraries, secret societies and bookwandering.

As Tilly and the Map of Stories opens the sinister Underwoods are still in charge of the British Underlibrary. Tilly and her best friend Oscar have gathered clues which they believe can help them find the legendary Archivists, who they think will be able to save bookwandering. Tilly and Oscar travel to America where they hope to find some answers at the Library of Congress. Their search will lead them further inside the world of story than they have ever been before, and they will meet some of the most famous writers of all time. However, the Underwoods are hatching plans that are more sinister than just binding the Source Editions, and it is up to Tilly and her friends and family to try and halt their plans.

Tilly and the Map of Stories absolutely enchanted me and I wanted to stay inside the story long after I reached the endpapers. Like Tilly you find yourself disappearing into the book and find yourself on adventure with friends old and new. Reading the story feels as if you are bookwandering, experiencing the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the story. I loved being back with Tilly and Oskar, who felt like my best friends after just the first book. Anna James has a brilliant imagination, which conjures up all sorts of bookish delights for the reader. She takes us inside the places that booklovers dream of, from a bookshop inside an old theatre to the Library of Congress. I love the way that Anna describes the marvellous things that book magic and story magic can do.

I absolutely love the train in the story, called the Sesquipedalian (or Quip for short). I can’t really say how it fits into the story (as it may be a bit of a spoiler) but it is a wonderful train that has an important role to play. At one part in the story the characters are all having a meal in the dining car of the Quip and each of the meals are straight out of stories. You can have a picnic with all the trimmings from a Famous Five book or some Turkish delight from The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, among other delicious treats. I would love to go to a restaurant or a cafe that served book-themed food!

Like each of the previous books in the series, Tilly and the Map of Stories is a gorgeously designed hardback book. They are books that feel really nice to hold, smell amazing and look just as good with their dust-jacket off as they do with it on.

This book feels like Tilly’s story has come to a conclusion but I really hope this isn’t the last that we see of her and Oskar. I have enjoyed every minute of these Pages and Co. books and I hope to lose myself in another adventure with Tilly soon.

A Day in the Life of a Poo, a Gnu and You by Mike Barfield and Jess Bradley

A Day in the Life of a Poo, a Gnu and You is the kid’s nonfiction book that you need in your life. Not only will you laugh your socks off, you’ll learn some amazing facts while doing it! It is the funniest, most entertaining and totally unique general nonfiction books for kids around. I guarantee that this is going to be the most looked-at nonfiction book in my school library because it screams ‘PICK ME UP!’

It is bursting with short comics that give kids a glimpse in to the life of organs in your body, gross bodily functions, animals of all shapes and sizes, plants, planets, rainbows and much, much more. You’ll learn how farts form, where poo goes when you flush it away, how a sea jelly swims, what a pangolin’s scales are made out of, and how bananas grow. As well as the ‘Day in the Life of a…’ pages there are also ‘The Bigger Picture’ sections which give extra detail, and secret diary sections which show you extracts from the secret diaries of an earthworm, a red blood cell, and a lightning bolt. Each thing, whether it is a hand, a pimple or a worm has a unique personality and a different way to tell its story.

This is a book is super accessible for kids of all ages, with simple text and bright, funny illustrations that anyone. It’s a nonfiction book that parents and teachers especially will love sharing with kids. Between Mike’s text and Jess’s illustrations you will be laughing your head off. They have managed to pack a lot of information into a page or two of comic, with just enough detail to astound you. Jess’s illustrations always make me laugh and she has had plenty of different things to draw in this book. I love the expressions she gives to the characters, even each individual toe on the foot.

Some of my favourite facts from the book include:

  • a single elephant can wee up to 9 litres at a time
  • male platypuses have poisonous foot spurs
  • the amount that a sloth poos once a week is like us doing a poo the size of a small dog
  • there are blue bananas!

A Day in the Life of Poo, a Gnu and You is going to be incredibly popular with kids. The comic format means that my graphic novel fans (of which there are many at my school) will gobble this book up. I just need to buy myself a copy because the library copy will get issued and passed around all of the kids.

The Book of Not Entirely Useful Advice by A.F. Harrold and Mini Grey

I’m a huge fan of A.F. Harrold’s stories but I also enjoy his wild and wacky poems too. His latest collection of poems, The Book of Not Entirely Useful Advice, illustrated with flair by Mini Grey, is one of the coolest poetry collections ever!

The Book of Not Entirely Useful Advice is packed full of exactly that – advice of all kinds that may or may not be useful. Did you know, for example, that you should never serve soup to a cat, never put a rock in a roll, don’t put mustard on a dog, don’t kiss anything with a hiss, and don’t use an octopus for a hat? You’ll learn about the general dangers of broccoli, how to help yourself to cheer up, how to dance like a poet, and what makes a bad belt. There is advice to make you laugh, cringe, ponder, or just go ‘huh?’

I absolutely love this book! A.F. Harrold and Mini Grey have created a gorgeous book that begs you to pick it up. The title alone is intriguing and makes you wonder what advice you might find inside. When you open the covers you find a collection of silly, absurd, funny, and thoughtful poems that kids of all ages (and adults) will love. The book is split into different sections, with titles like ‘Advice mainly relating to animals, giants and the natural world,’ and ‘Advice mainly relating to school life, onions and general-knowledge-type stuff.’ The book is illustrated throughout by Mini Grey whose illustrations are bright and full of silliness. I especially love her illustration of mini-A.F. Harrold who keeps popping up in poems throughout the book.

There are so many poems that I loved in this collection. ‘Inside’ perfectly captures the feeling of being lost in a book, ‘Silences’ is about appreciating the silence around us, and ‘Say something nice’ is about taking the time to say something nice to those around us. A.F. Harrold has also created The Advice-a-Tron 216 which is designed to give you some ready-at-hand advice when someone asks you for some. There are three columns, with a beginning, a middle and an end to choose. You just have a to roll a six-sided dice three times to come up with your advice. It might be ‘Always squeeze a banana’ or ‘If lost point at a man called Greg.’ There is even a blank Advice-a-Tron 216 in the back of the book that you can photocopy and fill in with your own suggestions. This would be a really fun activity to do in class.

The Book of Not Entirely Useful Advice is a must-have addition to every school library poetry collection but would also make a wonderful gift for children of all ages. It will be a poetry book that will be enjoyed again and again.