Marshmallow Pie the Cat Superstar by Clara Vulliamy

Move over Grumpy Cat and Pusheen, there’s a new cat set for stardom – Marshmallow Marmaduke Vanilla-Bean Sugar-Pie Fluffington-Fitz-Noodle (or Marshmallow Pie for short). He’s the star of Clara Vulliamy’s wonderful new series, a series so adorable you’ll want to pick it up and cuddle it.

Marshmallow Pie is one spoiled cat (just look at his name). After spending his early years in a huge house in the country he now lives in an apartment in the city with Amelia Lime and her dad. He spends his days sitting in the sunshine on the balcony and tormenting Buster, the dog who lives in the flat below. When Amelia brings home a leaflet about an acting opportunity for Pie, his training and preparation begins. Amelia wants to get Pie fit so they have a special training regime that he is so not interested in. The day of the audition arrives and Pie is unfazed by the competition until Buster arrives and chaos ensues. All hope of fame looks lost unless Pie can get a second chance.

I love absolutely everything about this series, from the gorgeous design and covers, to the spot-on voice and personality of Marshmallow Pie, and the joyful illustrations. The first two books in the series, The Cat Superstar and The Cat Superstar on TV, have been released at the same time, which is fantastic because readers don’t have to wait for book 2. I read the first book aloud to my 5 year old daughter and we loved it so much that we read the second book the next night. The stories are narrated by Pie, whose voice is exactly how you think a snooty, spoiled, slightly vain cat would sound. The first couple of sentences set the story up perfectly and lets you know who you’re dealing with:

‘Oh, hello. Yes, you can come in, but you can’t sit down because there’s only room for me on this sofa.’

Pie may act nonchalant but don’t let that fool you because he can be quite sweet too.

Marshmallow Pie’s stunning good looks and star quality shine through in Clara’s illustrations. She shows us his cute side, his tricky side and his I’m-not-impressed side. I especially love the illustrations of Pie ‘working out’ and his large secret stash behind the sofa. I also really like the maps that Clara has drawn at the front of the books, showing Pie’s flat and the TV studio.

Credit needs to be given to the team at HarperCollins for the thought that has gone in to the design of this series. They are incredibly attractive books with huge appeal to kids. I need to buy my own copies, not only to read them again, but also just to have them on my bookshelf side by side.

Get this series for the young reader in your life. They are the perfect books for independent readers but I highly recommend them as a read aloud. They are the sort of books that adults will love as much as kids.

Sparks! Double Dog Dare by Ian Boothby and Nina Matsumoto

Sparks! by Ian Boothby and Nina Matsumoto is one of the funniest graphic novels for kids. I recommend it to kids in my library all the time. When I saw that there was a sequel coming I was super excited and I’ve been counting down the days. When I opened a book delivery for my school library the other day it was on the top and I did a little squee of excitement. Double Dog Dare is everything I hoped it would be – silly, funny and action-packed.

Charlie and August are two cats keeping their city safe, dressed in the mechanical superhero dog suit known as Sparks. When there is a family trapped in a burning building, a twister heading for a bus full of children or a pizza truck that’s crashed into the ocean, Sparks is there to save the day. But when a second, evil Sparks shows up and starts causing trouble everyone blames the real Sparks. Who is this fake Sparks and what do they want? It’s up to Charlie and August to uncover the truth and prove that Sparks is a good boy.

Double Dog Dare is another hilarious, explosive adventure with Charlie and August. While we don’t have the alien baby overlord in this story there is a lot of action, with explosions, fire and fights. August’s inventions always make me laugh and I especially love the way he uses the most advanced laser beam in the world. Charlie loses his confidence when a new cat moves in across the road. This cat is polydactyl (meaning it has extra digits on its paws) and Charlie thinks that August wants to replace him. After all, a cat with thumbs could do some pretty awesome things in the Sparks suit. Charlie’s insecurity leads to us getting a flashback to his life before he met August.

The story and the illustrations feel bigger and bolder than the first book. I really love the action of Nina’s illustrations that flows really nicely from panel to panel. I want to give a special mention to David Dedrick, the colourist of this book. The colours are sharp and really make the illustrations jump off the page. There is a lot of action in the story and David’s colours make the action pop.

I highly recommend both Sparks books and they have the kid tick of approval too (the first book is hardly ever on the shelf in my library). I hope there will be more Spark books to look forward to.

Bad Cat by Nicola O’Byrne

Bad Cat is the most hilarious picture book of 2020! This book is an absolute winner for kids and adults alike. The cover made me crack up and I could not stop laughing the whole way through. My daughter was rolling around on the bed laughing her head off too. We then read it 3 more times. This is one of those picture books that any age can appreciate. I know that preschoolers will love it but I also know that the Year 8 kids at school will love it too. I’d love to read it in a whole school assembly but I don’t think they would hear me through the laughter.

Fluffykins is a bad cat. A REALLY bad cat! He may look cute and use his cuteness to make you forgive him, but then he’s back to his old tricks. Oh, what a lovely vase of flowers! No…now it’s smashed on the floor. That nice jumper you’ve been knitting is now just a bunch of wool on the floor with Fluffykins in the middle. The reader becomes the owner of Fluffykins and tries to get him to change his ways.

I have loved all of Nicola O’Byrne’s picture books but this one is her best yet. In Bad Cat she uses sparse text and hilarious illustrations to entertain readers. Nicola gives Fluffykins so much personality in her illustrations. Most of the time he is cranky and mean but Nicola also shows us his cute, fluffy side too. I can’t even choose a favourite illustrations because they’re all so fantastic!

You need to buy or borrow Bad Cat. I guarantee you won’t regret it. It will be a picture book that you will glad to read again and again.