Tag Archives: humour

The Nothing to See Here Hotel by Steven Butler and Steven Lenton

There is a hotel that is hidden to the human eye that caters to the most smelly, hairy, warty clients around. Nestled amongst the waterfront hotels for humans is the number one place to stay for magical creatures, The Nothing to See Here Hotel.the-nothing-to-see-here-hotel-9781471163838_lg

Frankie Banister runs the Nothing to See Here Hotel with his parents.  This isn’t your average hotel though!  It’s a hotel for magical creatures and it’s full of all sorts of weird sights, smells and sounds.  All varieties of magical creatures come to stay here, from trolls and ogres to mermaids and werepoodles.  There is no such thing as a normal day at The Nothing to See Here Hotel but things get really crazy when a messenger arrives to announce the imminent arrival of the goblin prince, Grogbah.  He’s mean, demanding and very, VERY important.  Before the Banisters know it Grogbah is taking over the place.  Then another unexpected guest arrives to shake things up.

The Nothing to See Here Hotel is a rambunctious, rollicking read packed full of imagination and fun.  As soon as I entered The Nothing to See Here Hotel I immediately felt at home and didn’t ever want to leave.  It is fun from beginning to end and I need to read more escapades of Frankie and his family.

You can tell that Steven Butler and Steven Lenton had enormous fun writing and illustrating this story.  The characters are hilarious and they have some great lines. There is Granny Regurgita (Frankie’s great-great-great troll grandmother with the best insults), Nancy the hotel cook (who is a giant Orkney Brittle-Back spider), Gladys Potts the werepoodle and Mrs Dunch (a geriatric mermaid).  My favourite characters though are the Molar Sisters, the triplet tooth fairies.  Their names are Dentina, Gingiva and Fluora and they have the worst dental hygiene in all of the magical world (because they eat nothing but sugar cubes and their teeth are rotten).  Their magic wands come in very handy though to help the Banisters out of some sticky situations.

The Nothing to See Here Hotel is perfect for reading aloud as there are lots of great voices you could do. It would make a great read aloud for Years 3-6, especially for those teachers wanting a change from the usual Roald Dahl. There is plenty to keep all kids engaged and begging you to read the next chapter. I’m glad to see that this is the first book in this new series so there will be more books to come.

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Great Graphic Novels for Primary and Intermediate

I absolutely love graphic novels for kids!  I can’t get enough of them and neither can the kids at my school (especially the girls).  There are more and more great graphic novels being written and produced for kids and there really is something for every sort of kid.  These are a selection of recent reads that have stood out for me.  If you’re looking for some great new reads for your graphic novel collection I highly recommend these ones.

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Sparks! by Ian Boothby and Nina Matsumoto

This is a hilarious story about two cats who do good deeds dressed in a dog suit.  August is a brilliant inventor who is afraid of the outdoors and Charlie is the pilot of the suit and isn’t afraid of anything.  Together they are a sort-of robo-Lassie (along with their sentient litter-box), rescuing a baby from a well and saving people from a burning building.  In to the story comes a strange family with an evil baby whose aim is to control every animal on earth.  It’s up to Sparks to save the day and stop their dastardly plan.

I smiled the whole way through this graphic novel because the humour is spot on.  I could hand this to any kid from Year 4-Year 8 and I’m sure they would love it too.

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The Adventures of Jack Scratch: The Quest for the Hiss-paniola by Craig Phillips.

This action-packed tale of cats on the high-seas started life as a Kick-Starter campaign and I was super excited when it went ahead and I got my copy.  It’s a swash-buckling adventure full of brave, fearsome and some down-right nasty cats.  Like the Tintin graphic novels I grew up with its got plenty of action to keep kids interested and illustrations that they will pore over.  One of the things I love most about graphic novels is that they are perfect for reading again and again and this one will certainly be read to bits.  Perfect for ages 7+

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Cucumber Quest #1: The Donut Kingdom by Gigi D.G.

I can only do this book justice by using the Goodreads blurb so here it is:

What happens when an evil queen gets her hands on an ancient force of destruction?

World domination, obviously.

The seven kingdoms of Dreamside need a legendary hero. Instead, they’ll have to settle for Cucumber, a nerdy magician who just wants to go to school. As destiny would have it, he and his way more heroic sister, Almond, must now seek the Dream Sword, the only weapon powerful enough to defeat Queen Cordelia’s Nightmare Knight.

Can these bunny siblings really save the world in its darkest hour?

Sure, why not?

This is the first book in a new series (that started out as a web comic).  It’s another hilarious story with fantastic characters.  The BLT Trio had me laughing out loud and I hope to see more of them as the series progresses.  The world that the story takes place in reminded me of Adventure Time so any kids who love that will love Cucumber Quest. The kids that I’ve passed this on to have loved it just as much as I did and we all can’t wait for #2 to be available in NZ.  Perfect for ages 10+.

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Anne of Green Gables: a graphic novel, adapted by Mariah Marsden and Brenna Thummler

This is a wonderful new graphic novel adaptation by Mariah Marsden and Brenna Thummler.  It perfectly captures the essence of the story and will hopefully open up the story to a new generation of readers.

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The Witch Boy by Molly Ostertag

The Witch Boy is about 13-year-old Aster who is expected to grow up to be a shapeshifter when he really wants to become a witch.  In his family all the females are witches while all the males are shapeshifters, but Aster has always found witchcraft more exciting.  When some of the males start disappearing and an evil force threatens his family Aster knows that he can help – as a witch.  With the help of his non-magical new friend Charlie, he sets out to help his family using his witchcraft skills.

It is a fantastic story about being different and being who you want to be.  This is another graphic novel that the girls at my school have been gobbling up.  Molly’s illustration style is quite similar to Raina Telgemeier which lots of the kids love.

23594349Clem Hetherington and the Ironwood Race by Jen Breach & Douglas Holgate

A dangerous rally race + archaeology = a whole lot of fun!

Clementine Hetherington and her robot brother, Digory, have run away from the orphanage they’ve been living in since their parents died. Clem and Dig want to follow in their famous archaeologist mother’s footsteps, but no one will take them seriously. Their chance arrives when a man from their past saves Digory’s life, and to repay the debt they enter a multiday rally race… to recover stolen artifacts! Clem and Dig hope to win so they can give them to a museum, but their opponents want to sell them on the black market. The Ironwood Race has no rules, and Clem and Dig might be in over their heads!

This is an ingenious mash-up that I couldn’t get enough of.  Before I knew it I had finished the book and I’m dying for more!  This story is sure to keep even the biggest non-reader engaged.  Those kids who love action-packed movies with great baddies and lots of explosions will love this book too.

 

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Mind-Swapping Madness by Tom E. Moffatt

New Zealand’s answer to Paul Jennings is here! Tom E. Moffatt’s collection of wacky short stories will have kids in hysterics.

If you’ve ever thought you might like to swap minds with someone these stories will make you think again. Tom shows us how funny, scary, crazy and totally embarrassing it would be to swap minds with a toad, an evil auntie, a flea, your baby sister and more.

In Mind-Swatting George switches minds with a fly after his brother seats him with an electric fly swat, Ari learns you should never kiss a toad in Croak, and a synchronised sneeze causes Emily to end up in nappies in Bless You.

These stories are perfect for reading aloud, especially to ages 10 and up. I can just imagine a whole class cracking up as the teacher reads it aloud. My favourite story is Soul Beneficiary, where Robert inherits more than he bargained for. It is clever and twisty with a hint of spookiness.

If you enjoyed Tom’s first book, Barking Mad, you need to read Mind-Swapping Madness.

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Do Not Open This Book by Andy Lee

I love interactive picture books that beg readers to be part of the story.  They make you feel like the story couldn’t work without you.  Do Not Open This Book written by Andy Lee (one half of Australian comedy duo Hamish and Andy) and illustrated by Heath McKenzie is a brilliant new example of this type of picture book and it’s guaranteed to make kids laugh-out-loud.

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Do Not Open This Book begins with a strange little blue creature who is surprised that you’ve opened the book, especially since there was a warning on the front cover.  He asks the reader not to turn the page, but this is exactly what you want to do.  As the book goes on, he becomes more and more desperate, begging, pleading, threatening and sulking, before he finally reveals that if the reader reaches the final page, something terrible will happen.

I absolutely love Do Not Open This Book!  It is one of those books that is incredibly fun to read aloud and it never gets old or boring, no matter how many times you read it.  I’ve read this book aloud many, many times to the kids at my school, from new entrants through to the Year 6 kids, and they all love it.  I have kids queuing up to take this book home and I’m sure they would all be quite happy if I read it to them every time they came to the library.  Even though I love reading it to kids it’s even better when I hear some of the senior kids reading it aloud to each other.

The best thing about Do Not Open This Book is the perfect combination of the text and illustrations.  The story would be funny without illustrations but Heath McKenzie’s illustrations just add so much more humour to the story.  Heath’s character (which looks like a blue egg with long arms and legs) has a very expressive face.  The look of horror on the character’s face when  you do turn the page (even though he told you not to) or his face going purple because he is so exasperated that you keep turning the page just makes kids crack up laughing.  I have to stop myself from cracking up too every time I read it.

Do Not Open This Book is going to get read to death in my library and it is a must-have for your school or home.  You will be begging your kids to let you read this book to them.

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AniMalcolm by David Baddiel

Imagine that you are a kid that can’t stand animals of any kind.  You hate the smell of them, the way they eat their food, the way they look at you with their beady eyes and the sound that they make.  Your family love each and every type of animal though and you’re forced to live side-by-side with them.  Your worst nightmare would be to actually be an animal.  Now, imagine that you woke up one morning, not in your own bed, but in a mud puddle as a pig, or very low to the ground as a tortoise.  You would want to try anything you could to become human again.  This is exactly the situation that Malcolm finds himself in in David Baddiel’s laugh-out-loud new book, AniMalcolm.

y648Malcolm doesn’t like animals. Which is a problem because his family love them. Their house is full of pets. What the house is NOT full of is stuff Malcolm likes. Such as the laptop he wanted for his birthday.The only bright spot on the horizon is the Year Six school trip, which Malcolm never thought his parents would pay for. And yet there he is, on the bus, heading to… oh no. A farm. Over the next days, Malcolm changes. He learns a lot about animals. More, in many ways, than he would like. He learns what it’s really like to be an animal. A whole series of animals, in fact…It does make him think differently. And speak differently. And eat differently. And, um, smell differently. But will he end up the same as before? Because sometimes the hardest thing to become is… yourself.

AniMalcolm is a hilarious story about a boy who doesn’t like animals finding himself in a very strange situation.  He gets turned into an assortment of different animals and gets a completely different perspective of them.  Whether you love animals or hate them, this is a story for you.

The thing I love the most about AniMalcolm is the range of characters.  Each of the animals that Malcolm meets has a distinct personality.  There are the two tortoises, Benny and Bjornita who are always complaining about how fast everyone moves, three sheep who repeat each other called Dolly 1, Dolly 2 and Dolly 3, Ludwig the pig who can speak most of the ‘malanguages (animal languages) and Chinny the Argentinian Chinchilla.  The conversations between some of these characters made me crack up.

The wonderful Jim Field has illustrated this book, as well as David’s previous books.  Jim’s style of illustration perfectly suits David’s books.  He really brings David’s characters alive.  I especially love how he has made each of the animals that Malcolm turns into look like Malcolm’s human self.

AniMalcolm is perfect for any kid who loves funny stories, especially fans of David Walliams.  If you haven’t read any of David Baddiel’s books grab AniMalcolm and you’ll be hooked on his books.

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Marge in Charge by Isla Fisher

Everyone loves a good story about a cool babysitter or nanny, like Mary Poppins, Nanny McPhee or Nanny Piggins.  Now there is a new character to add to that list, the larger-than-life Marge.  Jake and Jemima’s life becomes incredibly exciting when Marge arrives.

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Meet Marge, the mischievous babysitter with rainbow hair who loves to make a mess and bend the rules . . . At dinnertime Chef Marge cooks up chocolate soup, and at school Marge the Muscian conducts a chaotic concert in the playground!

Jake and Jemima have brilliant fun with their new babysitter, but will they manage to tick off all the jobs on Mummy’s list?

Marge in Charge is a hilarious, entertaining collection of stories about the magic that Marge brings to Jake and Jemima’s life. Isla Fisher’s stories about Marge will have children laughing out loud and wishing they had a babysitter who was this much fun.

Jemima and Jake don’t think that Marge is going to be any fun, especially when she turns up at their house looking like a strict old lady.  They have no idea of the adventures that await them.  Marge has so many stories to share and you’re never quite sure which are real and which ones she’s made up. Marge brings out the fun in any situation and makes everything better, from birthday parties to school.  It’s not only Jemima and Jake that fall in love with Marge, all the other kids at school want her as their babysitter too.  There are three stories in this first collection and I certainly hope there will be more stories to look forward to.

Marge in Charge is a perfect read-aloud to share with a class or snuggled up with your kids.  Kids aged 6-10 especially will love Marge and her crazy antics.  The book is illustrated throughout by Eglantine Ceulemans delightful illustrations.  She makes Marge’s larger than life character jump off the page.

Check out this video of Isla Fisher introducing the series:

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Interview with Alan Brough

Alan Brough high-res 3 credit James PenlidisAlan Brough is the author of the crazy, laugh-out-loud new book, Charlie and the War Against the Grannies.  Alan is a Kiwi who now lives in Australia and he has worked as an actor, director, musician and a dancer before he became a writer.  Charlie and the War Against the Grannies is his first book for children and I certainly hope he writes many more.

I had a few questions I wanted to ask Alan and he has very kindly answered them for me.  Read on to find out about weird granny behaviour, the things you need to have in a war against grannies and how Alan came to write his crazy story.

  • What inspired you to write Charlie and the War Against the Grannies?

One morning I was watched a middle-aged man in a beaten up old car deliver my newspaper and I wondered whether kids did paper round anymore. That afternoon I saw a granny delivering pizza menus and, for some reason, I came up with the idea that a boy tries to get a paper round but can’t because all the deliveries in his neighbourhood are controlled by an evil cabal of violent grannies.

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  • What is your strangest grannie experience?

My grandmother had a glass eye. The idea of it completely freaked me out. One morning at the breakfast table she took her glass eye out and rolled it across the table to me to try and make me feel more comfortable about it. It didn’t work.

  • Did you have a paper round when you were a kid?

No. I couldn’t cope with the early mornings.

  • What are the 3 most important things you need to fight a war against grannies?

Shortbread laced with tranquillisers, a hairnet full of false teeth and questionable morals.

  • Charlie and Hils have an awesome secret code called Flush Latin for communicating secretly from a toilet when they get in trouble. Did you have your own secret code when you were a kid? 

Hell yeah. I still love codes. I used to make up all sorts of secret codes. I loved writing invisible messages in lemon juice, I had secret drop-offs for swapping secret information with other agents and I was never without my ‘KnowHow Book of Spycraft.’

  • You’ve been an actor and a director as well as an author. How different is comedy on the page than comedy on the screen?

I suppose the essential difference is that comedy on the screen can be done purely with images. You can tell a whole joke without words. Whereas comedy on the page – for me at least – is all about words. Their order, the way they sound and even the way they look.

  • Charlie is hilarious and I’m sure it is going to have kids rolling around on the floor in fits of laughter. Who are your comedy idols when it comes to writing?

Thank you. I’m really pleased and proud that you think Charlie is hilarious. As far as comedy writing idols go I love Douglas Adams, Dorothy Parker, Evelyn Waugh, Charles Dickens, Franz Kafka (he’s really funny), Kyril Bonfiglioli, Nancy Mitford and Ronald Hugh Morrieson (born and bred in my hometown of Hawera.)

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Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth by Frank Cottrell Boyce

Frank Cottrell Boyce is one of my favourite authors.  I fell in love with his writing when I first read his debut novel, Millions.  Every new book of his promises a fresh, entertaining and exciting story that I know I will love.  Frank’s previous book The Astounding Broccoli Boy is one of my favourites of his. Frank’s new book, Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth, is an out-of-this-world read that I absolutely loved.

Sputnik-s Guide to Life on EarthWhen his grandfather becomes ill Prez goes to stay with a foster family. The Blythes are a big, warm, rambunctious family who live on a small farm and sometimes foster children. Although he seems cheerful and helpful, Prez never says a word. Then one day Prez answers the door to someone claiming to be his relative. This small, loud stranger carries a backpack, walks with a swagger and goes by the name of Sputnik. Sputnik bursts into their lives and sets out to help Prez and try to save Earth.

Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth is a funny, feel-good story that will make you wish you had a Sputnik of your very own.  Sputnik’s unique point of view will make you look at the world around you in a new way and get you thinking about the things that aliens might find fascinating about Earth.  Frank Cottrell Boyce will make you think but also make you laugh out loud while reading this book.

Sputnik bursts into Prez’s life right when he needs a friend, even one who is going to cause a whole heap of trouble.  While everyone else sees Sputnik as a dog Prez sees him as a wee fellow about the same age and height as him, dressed in a ‘slightly-too-big jumper, kilt, leather helmet like the ones pilots wear in war movies, with massive goggles.’ As Prez doesn’t talk he communicates telepathically with Sputnik, therefore no one sees Prez talking to a dog.  Sputnik tells Prez that he is the point of his mission and that they have to find 10 things that are amazing about Earth.  Earth, says Sputnik, is due for shrinking, and that they need to find 10 things that would make Earth worth saving.  Prez and Sputnik set out to find these 10 things and write Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth. Along the way Prez finds his place in the world and finds his way into our hearts.

Sputnik gets Prez into some hilarious situations in the story.  Sputnik is always trying to fix things and make them better, from a toy lightsaber and a remote control to a chairlift and a mobility scooter.  I loved Sputnik’s new and improved versions and they will have kids laughing out loud.  I especially loved the lightsaber incident.

Not only is Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth a fantastic story, it is also the perfect book to put into the hands of kids whose grandparents have dementia.  Frank Cottrell Boyce perfectly captures the heartbreak of a kid whose grandparent is getting more and more forgetful.  Prez does all he can to help his grandad remember things and tries to break him out of ‘prison.’

Grab a copy of Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth and discover the marvels of Earth with your new best friend, Sputnik.

 

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The Turners by Mick Elliott

Sometimes you pick up a book and you just know that kids are going to love it.  It could be the cover that jumps out at you or the blurb that hooks you in and makes you want to read the book.  Mick Elliott’s new book, The Turners, has huge kid-appeal, from the awesome cover featuring a shape-shifting kid to the promise of killer pigs and snake-men on the cover.

the-turnersLeo Lennox has an epic problem: it’s his thirteenth birthday and he has just grown a tail.

You’d think that growing a tail in the middle of the school library would be the worst thing that could happen to you, but Leo is about to discover that things can always get worse – and a whole lot weirder. Now, as he discovers an unthinkable family secret, Leo must team up with his infuriating older sister to escape snake-skinned henchmen, ancient shape-shifters and a whispering villain determined to feed him to a pack of genetically engineered killer pigs – all while trying to control his new shape-shifting powers.

The Turners is a crazy, hilarious thrill-ride packed with shapeshifters, weird genetic experiments and family secrets.  Mick Elliott drops you straight into the action with the strange, embarassing situation that Leo finds himself in.  The story gallops and leaps along, with never a dull moment, as you join Leo and Abbie on their search for answers.

There is something in The Turners to appeal to anyone.  There is the mystery of Turners with their genetic anomoly that allows them to turn into different animals, (from rodents and birds to mammals and reptiles), the adventure that Leo and Abbie find themselves on in their search for answers, some delightfully sinister villains, and genetically engineered pigs and hamsters.  The Turners is also perfect for those kids who love a funny story.  There are some hilarious moments in the story, especially when it comes to turning in to different animals.  My favourite part is when Leo interupts his sister Abbie when she is trying to show him how an expert Turns.  It ends in Leo being sprayed with sloth urine (I know kids will love this part).

The cover and design for The Turners is brilliant too.  The bright orange and green makes the book jump off the shelf and the cover illustration makes you want to find out what the story is about.  The title also has a very cool lizard scale effect as well.

The Turners is the first part of a trilogy by Mick Elliott and I can’t wait to see what happens next.  It’s perfect for ages 9+ and would make a great read aloud for Years 5-8.

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Death or Ice Cream by Gareth P. Jones

I love finding authors who write a wide range of stories.  They don’t just write the same kinds of stories for the same age group, but really branch out and write all sorts of stuff.  Gareth P. Jones is one of those authors.  I first discovered Gareth when I picked up his first book, Constable and Toop.  I loved this book so much that I just wanted to read everything that he had written.  He stories can be hilariously funny, spooky and spine-tingling, or eerie and mysterious, and can feature ghosts, dinosaurs, and pirate robots.  In Gareth’s latest book, Death or Ice Cream? he takes us to the town of Larkin Mills and introduces us to the weird and wonderful characters that call this place home.

DeathLarkin Mills: The Birthplace of Death! Larkin Mills is no ordinary town. It’s a place of contradictions and enigma, of secrets and mysteries. A place with an exquisite ice cream parlour, and an awful lot of death. An extraordinary mystery in Larkin Mills is beginning to take shape. First we meet the apparently healthy Albert Dance, although he’s always been called a sickly child, and he’s been booked into Larkin Mills’ Hospital for Specially Ill Children. Then there’s his neighbour Ivor, who observes strange goings-on, and begins his own investigations into why his uncle disappeared all those years ago. Next we meet Young Olive, who is given a battered accordion by her father, and unwittingly strikes a dreadful deal with an instrument repair man. Make sure you keep an eye on Mr Morricone, the town ice-cream seller, who has queues snaking around the block for his legendary ice cream flavours Summer Fruits Suicide and The Christmas Massacre. And Mr Milkwell, the undertaker, who has some very dodgy secrets locked up in his hearse. Because if you can piece together what all these strange folks have to do with one another …well, you’ll have begun to unlock the dark secrets that keep the little world of Larkin Mills spinning.

Death or Ice Cream? is dark, devilish and fun and I loved every minute of it!  The book is a series of interconnected spine-tingling stories, with a large helping of black humour, that draws you into the strange town of Larkin Mills.  Gareth made me laugh out loud, shiver and cringe.

I love the way that each of the stories interconnect and interact with each other.  There are characters (Mr Morricone) and objects (a vial of purple liquid) that pop up in a few of the stories and you wonder about the significance of these.  A story that you have just read could relate to the story that you read next, and I often thought it was quite clever how they related to each other.  Each of the stories is a piece of the jigsaw that you add to with each new story, and by the end of the book we know all about Larkin Mills and its secrets.

There are so many characters to love in Death or Ice Cream?  We get brief glimpses of characters, only to realise that they are much more important than you thought, and they turn up in another story.  In the first story there is a man going door-t0-door selling anecdotes.  You don’t learn much about him but you just know that he will turn up later.  Like the town itself, many of the characters appear to be hiding something.  Why, for example, is Mr Morricone’s Ice Cream Parlour so popular?  Why does his ice cream have such wicked sounding names, like Mowed Down Madness or Trigger Finger of Fudge?  Then there is the undertaker, Mr Milkwell, who runs a hotel/funeral home where the guests are both living and dead.

The TV shows that Gareth has added into the book gave me a good chuckle too. My favourite is called Flog It Or Burn It, where competitors are trying to sell their family heirlooms against the clock.  The person with the most unsold items has their burnt in front of a live studio audience.  It sounds much more exciting than Antiques Roadshow or Cash in the Attic.  One of the characters loves watching competitive basket weaving, which I’m sure would be thrilling.

Pick up a copy of the devilishly funny Death or Ice Cream? now and discover what’s going on in Larkin Mills.  This is one town you don’t ever want to visit!

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