Category Archives: humour

Mango and Bambang: The Not-a-Pig

Mango and Bambang: The Not-a-Pig by Polly Faber and Clara Vulliamy is a delightful little book, filled with stories about a girl called Mango Allsorts and Bambang, an Asian tapir. Mango is a brave, clever, talented girl, but she is also lonely.  It is while she is walking through town one day that she sees a commotion and goes to the aid of Bambang.  Mango and Bambang become the best of friends and have lots of interesting adventures together. The stories are a joy to read and they’re very funny.  I love Clara Vulliamy’s illustrations, which bring Mango and Bambang to life in shades of black, white and purple.  The book is beautifully presented too, in hard-cover with gold foil and purple page edges.

These are two characters that children (especially girls) will fall in love with.  Hopefully there will be more Mango and Bambang stories to look forward to.  Grab a copy of Mango and Bambang: The Not-a-Pig and introduce your children to two new friends.

Here is a video of Polly and Clara talking about how they created Mango and Bambang:

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Pugs of the Frozen North by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre

Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre are a dream team.  They creative truly wonderful books together that grab readers’ attention. I have loved both of their previous books together, Oliver and the Seawigs and Cakes in Space. I get really excited every time I see they have a new book coming out and I can always tell by the title and the fantastic cover that it is going to be another great book.  They even have their own ‘A Reeve and McIntyre Production’ logo that Sarah has created.  Philip and Sarah’s latest collaboration is called Pugs of the Frozen North and it’s their best book yet!

The race to the top of the world! It comes around once in a lifetime – and the prize? Your heart’s desire. Shen and Sika can’t resist the chance to win, but competition is fierce. The path to victory is littered with snow trolls, sea monsters and a gang of particularly hungry yetis. But Sika and Shen have something the other contestants don’t have. Actually, they have 66 other things – PUGS, to be exact. That’s a 264-paw-powered sled. Let the race begin!

Pugs of the Frozen North is an action-packed, fun-filled spectacular of a book.  One moment you’ll be holding your breath in anticipation and the next you’ll be laughing out loud.  You meet Snow Trolls, sea monsters, hungry Yetis and all sorts of wonderful characters in Pugs of the Frozen North. I don’t think there is another author and illustrator team that are so perfectly matched as Philip and Sarah.  They come up with the ideas for their books together, then Philip writes the words and Sarah draws the pictures.  You can tell they have a lot of fun coming up with their stories as they are just brimming with imagination.

In Pugs of the Frozen North, True Winter arrives, freezing the seas and bringing adventurers from miles around to join the race to the top of the world.  Everyone wants to be the first to reach the Snowfather at the top of the world and have their wish granted.  Shen has been abandoned by his captain after their ship is frozen in the ice and he is left stranded with only sixty-six pug dogs to keep him company.  Luckily Shen finds Sika, a girl who lives in the village of Snowdovia with her mother and grandfather.  Sika really wants to enter the race to the Snowfather and thanks to Shen she now has sixty-six pug dogs to pull her sled.  Shen and Sika are racing against other more experienced adventurers, including Professor Shackleton Jones with his high-tech sled and SNOBOT companion, Helga Hammerfest and her team of polar bears, Sir Basil Sprout-Dumpling and his butler Sidebar, and the glamorous Mitzi Von Primm.  Someone is determined to take their fellow contestants out of the race and win the prize for themselves.  There are also Snow Trolls, sea monsters, hungry Yetis and fifty different kinds of snow to deal with.

The main appeal of Philip and Sarah’s books for me is that they are chock-full of Sarah’s cute and comical illustrations.  I’ve never seen a pug dog look as cute as the ones that Sarah has drawn in this book!  Sarah truly brings the characters to life, from the pompous Sir Basil Sprout-Dumpling to the cuddly-looking Yetis. The limited tone of the illustrations (green, white, black and grey) gives the illustrations an icy feel.  I also really love the cover, which I think looks incredibly appealing to kids.

Pugs of the Frozen North is one of my favourite books of the year.  This wonderful book has all the elements that I love in a story and I can’t recommend it highly enough.  Curl up with Pugs of the Frozen North and you’ll be sure to fall in love with Philip Reeve and Sarah McInytre’s books.

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The Shark-Headed Bear-Thing by Barry Hutchison

I’ve been a huge fan of Barry Hutchison for ages.  He is one of those incredibly talented authors who can write for all ages and in a range of different genres.  His Invisible Fiends series is one of my favourite series and is delightfully creepy.  I was sucked in to the series with Mr Mumbles and eagerly awaited the next books in the series.  Barry’s next few books, The 13th Horseman and The Book of Doom were hilariously funny books for older readers and I loved these just as much.  Earlier this year Barry released the first book in his brilliant new series for younger readers all about Benjamin Blank, The Shark-Headed Bear-Thing.

In an alternate 15th century, where dragons roam, sailing ships transform into submarines, and blacksmiths build steampunk robots, ten-year-old orphan Benjamin Blank battles monsters, rescues maidens and discovers fantastic new lands, but never quite manages to get his homework handed in on time. Each adventure sees Ben and his friends, Paradise Little and Wesley Chant, face a new monstrous menace.

The Shark-Headed Bear-Thing is a hilarious, rollicking adventure that will have you laughing out loud as you follow Ben and his friends on their quest.  Ben desperately wants to be a hero and when a girl called Paradise turns up in his village looking for a warrior, Ben sees his chance.  A monster is terrorising Paradise’s village and she needs a warrior to save them and vanquish the monster.  Ben hasn’t had much practice but he’s the only warrior around that can help.  Armed with a magic gauntlet, Ben sets off with Paradise to save her village from the Shark-Headed Bear-Thing.

The thing I love the most about Barry’s books is the dialogue.  The conversations and interactions between his characters always makes me laugh and I certainly laughed my way through The Shark-Headed Bear-Thing.  This is a perfect book to read aloud as it really keeps kids’ attention.  There is one particular part of the book, involving a troll and his game of ‘Burp-or-Death’ that I love reading out to kids.  I can hardly get through this part with out cracking up laughing and kids absolutely love it, especially boys.  If you’re looking for the perfect read aloud for ages 8 and up you really can’t go past The Shark-Headed Bear-Thing.  I guarantee it will be a winner!

I love Chris Mould’s illustrations and they perfectly match Barry’s story!  They are quirky and add an extra layer of humour to the story.  I especially love Chris’ cover illustration, with the Shark-Headed Bear-Thing creeping up on Ben, and his illustrations of my favourite troll in his y-front undies.

There are more books coming in the series, including The Swivel-Eyed Ogre-Thing (which has just been released) and The Moon-Faced Ghoul-Thing (coming in October).  I can’t wait to read more adventures of Benjamin Blank and see how he defeats new monsters.  Grab a copy of The Shark-Headed Bear-Thing from your library or bookshop now.

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Yo-ho-ho! Here come the Steampunk Pirates!

Avast me hearties! Are you a land lubber lookin’ for a book chock full of adventure on the seven seas, robot pirates, laughs aplenty, and gold?  Well the Adventures of the Steampunk Pirates is the series for you. Hop on board The Leaky Battery and set sail with this rag-tag crew.

Wanted: Dead or Alive! (Or smashed into little bits and delivered in boxes.) Causing chaos wherever they sail, the robotic Steampunk Pirates are roaming the high seas, hunting for gold!

But the evil Iron Duke has other ideas…He’s determined to capture the pirates in return for a handsome reward from the King. Can these mechanical marauders stay one wave ahead of their enemy?

The Leaky Battery Sets Sail is the brilliant first book in Gareth P. Jones’ swashbuckling new series, Adventures of the Steampunk Pirates.  The Steampunk Pirates are a crew of robots who were once servants. They decided they didn’t want to be bossed around so acquired a ship and set out to find adventure.  Their crew is made up of their hot-headed leader Captain Clockheart, First Mate Mainspring (who gets dangerous when he gets overwound), Quartermaster Lexi (the brains of the crew who is fitted with an information file), Mr Gadge (so named because of all the gadgets he can attach to himself) and twelve other robotic low-lifes.

Their first adventure sees the Steampunk Pirates on the hunt for all the loot they can find.  They’ve discovered that life at sea isn’t so great when you’re made of metal because it rusts in the salty sea air.  They hear of an alchemist who can turn metal in to gold and Captain Clockheart believes this is the answer to their problems.  Along the way they meet the Iron Duke and other nasty humans who try to foil their plans.

Adventures of the Steampunk Pirates is perfect for readers aged 7+ who love adventure and love to laugh. They’re quick, fun reads with quirky illustrations that will appeal to young readers.  I look forward to seeing what happens in the next adventures of the Steampunk Pirates in Attack of the Giant Sea Spiders.  I highly recommend this series and you should definitely search out Gareth’s other books, including the Ninja Meerkats series, The Thornthwaite Inheritance, and one of my favourite books Constable and Toop.

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The Deadly Seven by Garth Jennings

What would life be like if you were followed around by seven noisy, smelly, rude monsters? And not just any monsters, but seven monsters who represent the seven deadly sins.  Garth Jennings shows us just how weird, silly and embarrassing it would be in his book The Deadly 7.

The Deadly 7When eleven year-old Nelson’s beloved big sister goes missing on a school trip, he is devastated – he’s not that good at making friends and his sister is the only person he can talk to. In the dark catacombs of St Paul’s cathedral Nelson stumbles across a strange and ancient machine, designed to extract the seven deadly sins and Nelson accidentally extracts seven deadly monsters from his own little soul. Nelson and the Deadly 7 set out on a quest across the globe to find and rescue his big sister and on the way they have an adventure beyond Nelson’s wildest dreams, and he learns that good friends come in all shapes and sizes.

The Deadly Seven is a funny adventure story, with a bunch of funny monsters that you’ll love.  The action is fast-paced and makes you want to keep reading.  The first chapter totally grabbed me as it’s really mysterious and features a rather odd character who we see more of throughout the book.  The Deadly 7 are made up of Stan (the angry one), Nosh (the hungry one), Crush (the cuddly one), Hoot (the vain one), Miser (the greedy one), Puff (the lazy one), and Spike (the jealous one).  No one can see them but Nelson so that makes for some very funny situations (at airport security and inside a plane just to name a couple).  The scene in the airport was my favourite part and I always read it to school groups as it has them laughing out loud.  My favourite of the monsters was Nosh as he’s always hungry and it’s amazing what he can fit in his mouth.

It’s perfect for fans of Frank Cottrell Boyce and Cressida Cowell and any readers that a dash of humour and adventure in their books.

Recommended for 9+

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How to draw Timmy Failure with Stephan Pastis

Stephan Pastis’ Timmy Failure series is one of my absolute favourites!  I’ve read them to my sons and they love them and they’re always a hit when I booktalk them.  The books are hilarious, from the clueless Timmy and his weird and wonderful friends, to the fantastic illustrations that add so much humour.  You can read my review of Mistakes Were Made and  Now Look What You’ve Done, here on my blog.

Check out these cool videos of Stephan Pastis showing us how to draw Timmy Failure and some of the other characters from the series:

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Timmy Failure: Now Look What You’ve Done by Stephan Pastis

Clueless detective Timmy Failure is back on the case in his latest book, Now Look What You’ve Done.

He doesn t like to pull rank. To reveal that he s this guy: Timmy Failure, founder, president, and CEO of the greatest detective agency in town, perhaps the nation. But he is. And he s about to crack the biggest case of his generation: a school competition to find a stolen globe. It s his ticket to bringing home a $500 prize, which is guaranteed to set him up for life. But someone is clearly trying to game the system. Hoodwink. Con. Defraud. So it s up to Timmy Failure, with the dubious help of Total, his lazy polar-bear partner, and his unlikely new ally, eccentric Great Aunt Colander, to find a way to avenge these shenanigans. Defeat this injustice. If he can only get his entry form in on time.

If you’re looking for a book full of ‘greatness,’ ‘shenanigans,’ quirky characters and antics that will make you laugh out loud, then Now Look What You’ve Done is the book for you.  Timmy’s latest shenanigans have everything I loved about the first book, but even sillier.  There’s more Molly Moskins, more Total (Timmy’s 1500 pound polar bear partner), more Corrina Corrina (aka The Wedgie or The Weevil Bun), but there are also hilarious new characters, like Timmy’s Great-Aunt Colander (inventor of the Boom-Boom Shoe Wheel).  Stephan’s cartoons are hilarious and add extra humour to the text.  I love the way that they capture Timmy’s somewhat strange outlook on the world.

The thing I love the most about the Timmy Failure books is the language that Timmy uses.  He sounds like a hard-boiled detective, even when he’s talking to his mum.  Kids who read these books will certainly increase their vocabulary.

Timmy Failure: Now Look What You’ve Done is perfect for fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Big Nate.  It has been kid-tested and passed with flying colours.  I read both of the Timmy Failure books to my 10 year old boys and they absolutely love them.  I often hear them quoting things from the books.

Grab a copy from your library or bookshop now.

 

 

 

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Timmy Failure: Now Look What You’ve Done book trailer

He doesn’t like to pull rank. To reveal that he’s this guy: Timmy Failure, founder, president and CEO of the greatest detective agency in town, probably the country, perhaps the world.

But he is. And he’s about to crack the biggest case of his generation: a school competition to find a stolen globe. And win the $500 prize, which will set him up for life. But someone is clearly trying to cheat. Bamboozle. Hoodwink. Con. Defraud. So it’s up to Timmy Failure, with the dubious help of Total, his lazy polar bear partner, and his unlikely new ally, eccentric Great Aunt Colander, to find a way to avenge these shenanigans. Defeat this injustice. And obliterate Timmy’s arch-nemesis, the WEDGIE, aka the Worldwide Enemy of Da Goodness In Everything.

If he can only get his entry form in on time.

The second book in the hilarious Timmy Failure series by Stephan Pastis, Now Look What You’ve Done, is out now from Walker Books.  Look out next week for your chance to win 1 of 5 copies, thanks to Walker Books Australia.

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Guest Post: Justin Brown on Shot, Boom, Score!

Justin Brown is a New Zealand author whose first children’s book, Shot, Boom, Score! has just been published by Allen and Unwin.  Shot, Boom, Score! is a hilarious story about a boy who is promised a Gamebox V3 by his dad if he scores 20 wickets in cricket and 10 tries in rugby, but is foiled at every turn by the class bully.  Justin has written a guest post for My Best Friends Are Books about writing and how Shot, Boom, Score! came to be.

‘If you dedicate your next book to me I’ll give you $1.20.’

This opportunity, offered to me by a boy named Kit at a school talk in Nelson, sums up why I write for kids. They have no fear and no filters. Their heads aren’t clogged with mortgages, work woes or what to cook for dinner. Okay, so they’re not allowed ice cream for dinner, or to stay up past ‘X-Factor,’ but nothing tops climbing trees, licking the bowl or having a fist fight with your best mate.

For the past ten years I’d focused on writing non-fiction travel (‘UK on a G-String,’ ‘Bowling Through India’) as well as humour (‘Kiwi Speak,’ ‘Rugby Speak’). In truth, I wanted to write middle-grade fiction, like my hero Roald Dahl. But first I had to meet someone who knew what they were doing. That someone was Joy Cowley, who I accosted one day at the Story Lines festival in Auckland. A few days later – when she’d read my stories – she agreed to be my ‘Yoda.’ We worked together on many titles for McGraw Hill and Clean Slate Press. She is a very generous and smart lady.

Then one day I had the idea for ‘Shot, Boom, Score!’. It came while on the sideline at my daughters’ soccer match. Like many Kiwi kids, sport played a major role in my childhood. As did rewards for doing well. Many a parent has bribed their kids with a ‘pie for a try’ or ‘movie tickets for a wicket.’ With Toby in ‘Shot, Boom, Score!’ I wanted to take this theme to a new level. Here is a boy who struggles with school, but excels at sport. When his father sets him the GameBox V3 Challenge Toby thinks he’s hit the jackpot. Sadly, he hasn’t accounted for class bully Malcolm McGarvy – who does his best to ruin the party.

Kids can be ruthless critics. If something stinks they’ll let you know. So it was with a certain amount of relief when my nine-year-old daughter Sophie (who was having ‘Shot, Boom, Score!’ read to her class) came home and said, ‘Dad, even the bullies love this story – and they never share their feelings!’ Here’s hoping many other kids enjoy the book.

PS. I did end up dedicating a novel to Kit, but as of yet haven’t seen any money.

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The Trouble with Mummies by F.R. Hitchcock

Hot Key Books are a UK based publisher who publish ‘stand out, quality fiction’ for 9-19 year olds.  Every time I go and check out their website to see what they’ve got coming up I add most of their books to my TBR pile.  They have introduced me to some wonderful new authors and some really original stories, including the marvelous Fleur Hitchcock.  Last year I loved her debut book, Shrunk, so when I heard she had a new book coming out I had to grab it.   The Trouble with Mummies is her latest book and it’s sure to have kids roaring with laughter.

Sam comes home one day to find his family turning strange – his mum is redecorating using hieroglyphics and his dad is building a pyramid in the back garden. He hopes it’s just a weird new fashion… but then the strangeness starts to spread. With the help of his friends Ursula, Henry and Lucy the Goat, Sam must save his town from rampaging Roman rugby players, hairdressers turned cavewomen, and a teacher who used to be a ‘basket of kittens’ but now wants to sacrifice the Year Ones to the Aztec sun god. As history invades Sam’s world, will he be able to keep the Greeks away from the Egyptians and discover the cause of the Mummy madness?

The Trouble with Mummies is a crazy adventure, where history comes alive and the kids have to solve the mystery before it’s too late.  When Sam’s parents start acting weirdly he gets the feeling something strange is going on.  Then his teacher dresses up in a wetsuit covered in feathers, and his PE teacher lines his class up in ranks and throws a javelin at them, so Sam knows that things aren’t right.  The people in his town get weirder and weirder and it’s up to Sam and his friends to figure out what is causing them to act so strangely.  Is it something they ate or drunk or have they all just lost their minds?

Fleur brings her love of history into the story with the different ancient peoples.  Sam’s parents become Egyptians, painting the house with hieroglyphics and building a pyramid, Miss Primrose becomes an Aztec and plans to sacrifice Sam’s friend Henry, and Ursula’s parents become Trojans.  It’s the perfect book for those kids who are really interested in history and ancient civilizations in particular.  If you know a Horrible Histories fan, you need to get them this book.  If your kids don’t already love history, then this book might just get them hooked.  You’ll certainly never look at your museum the same way again!

The thing I love the most about Fleur’s books is that they are unique stories full of imagination that are aimed at younger readers.  Forget Zac Power and Beast Quest, get your boys reading Shrunk and The Trouble with Mummies and they’ll be hooked on books.  Both of Fleur’s books also make great read alouds and they’re bound to have both you and your children laughing out loud.

What better way to hook readers in than show them the Hot Key Books ‘What’s in it?’ book key – Cavemen, Pyramids, Romans and Beards.  Who wouldn’t want to read a book with all that in it?

Check out this video of Fleur Hitchcock reading the first chapter of The Trouble with Mummies:

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