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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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Timmy Failure: Sanitized for Your Protection

Timmy Failure is my son’s favourite book character. He’s not a kid that loves books but Timmy Failure has really grabbed him and we always read a new Timmy Failure book together.  Timmy is one of those characters who is so clueless that it’s funny.  He likes to think he is incredibly smart and the world’s greatest detective, but he is far from it.  It is Timmy’s ridiculous antics that appeals to my son and keeps him wanting to read the next book to see what he gets up to next.  Timmy’s latest ‘volume of Greatness,’ Timmy Failure: Sanitized for Your Protection has just been released and it’s everything that we’ve come to expect from this hapless detective.

Shenanigans abound as Timmy Failure finds himself on a road trip with none other than notorious criminal Molly Moskins. Travelling halfway across the country to help your mother’s boyfriend settle into his new job would be inconvenient for any detective, let alone the founder, president and CEO of Total Failure Inc, the world’s greatest detective agency. Timmy has a case to solve, and nothing can stand in his way. If he is to arrest Corrina Corrina and solve the YIP YAP case, Timmy, his sidekick polar bear Total, and Molly Moskins must go on the run!

Timmy Failure: Sanitized for Your Protection takes readers on a shenanigan-filled road-trip with Timmy and Stephan’s cast of wacky characters.  If things weren’t crazy enough with Timmy trying to solve a case by himself, in this book he is joined by the rather loopy Molly Moskins.  If you’ve read any of the other Timmy Failure books you’ll know all about Molly Moskins (AKA Tangerine Girl) and the HUGE crush she has on Timmy.  Timmy’s mum is now best friends with Molly’s mum, Esther, and the two families are going on holiday together.  Before they do though, they have to survive the cross-country trip to help Doorman Dave (Timmy’s mum’s boyfriend) move house.  Timmy has to put up with this huge inconvenience while trying to solve the YIP YAP case, one of his toughest cases so far.  Of course, Timmy is a hopeless detective whose cases are easily solved, but try telling him that.

We love seeing the same characters popping up again and again in the series and it’s great that Molly Moskins has more of a starring role in this story.  She’s willing to do pretty much anything that Timmy asks (which often gets her in trouble) but we also find out how clever Molly is.  Stephan introduces us to more wacky characters in this book too, including Molly’s weird baby brother Snot, map-loving Mr Moskins, and Killer Katy Kumquat (cleaner and superhero).

I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I have the others in the series but there is still plenty to love about it.  Stephan’s comic illustrations are one of the main reasons I keep coming back to this series and they certainly add extra humour to the story.  The series is perfect for fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Tom Gates and you don’t have to read them in order so you can start with whichever book in the series you like.

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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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Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made by Stephan Pastis

Meet Timmy Failure.  He’s the founder, president, and CEO of the detective agency he had named after himself: Total Failure Inc., ‘the best detective agency in town, probably the state. Perhaps the nation.’ His business partner (and idiot best friend) is a 1500 pound polar bear, named Total, who is often not very helpful, and gets paid in chicken nuggets. There is no case too big or two small for Total Failure Inc., whether it’s solving the mystery of the missing Halloween candy or discovering who stole his mother’s Segway.  Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made is the first book in the hilarious new series by Stephan Pastis.

Take eleven-year-old Timmy Failure – the clueless, comically self-confident CEO of the best detective agency in town, perhaps even the nation. Add his impressively lazy business partner, a very large polar bear named Total. Throw in the Failuremobile – Timmy s mom s Segway – and what you have is Total Failure, Inc., a global enterprise destined to make Timmy so rich his mother won t have to stress out about the bills anymore. Of course, Timmy’s plan does not include the four-foot-tall female whose name shall not be uttered. And it doesn t include Rollo Tookus, who is so obsessed with getting into “Stanfurd” that he can t carry out a no-brain spy mission.

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made is the funniest book for kids that I’ve read in a long time.  The text by itself is funny, but add in Stephan’s cartoons and you get a book that has you laughing out loud.  The funniest parts of the book are when Timmy is explaining something and then he draws a picture to show you what happened.  There is a part when Timmy visits Molly Moskins’ house and he meets Molly’s cat, Senor Burrito, that made me laugh so hard (you’ll have to read the book to find out why).  Stephan’s illustrations of Total made me laugh every time too, because you wondered what he was going to get up to next or what Timmy would make him do. Reading this book is like watching a comedian with the best comedic timing.  It’s the combination of the text and the cartoons that will appeal to children, especially fans of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books.  I think Timmy Failure would even be great for those younger children (7-9 year olds) who might not be quite ready for Wimpy Kid yet.

One thing I loved about this book was the weird and wacky cast of characters.  First of all you’ve got Timmy, who is the one who is supposed to be looking for clues, but he’s completely clueless himself.  Readers will pick up the clues and solve the mystery way almost straight away, whereas Timmy has a completely different theory and tries to nab someone else for the crime.  He speaks like a detective and is always trying to convince his mother that his detective agency needs to upgrade their offices or get an administrative assistant to handle the paperwork.  Jimmy’s best friend, Total, doesn’t talk (because he’s a polar bear), but he provides some of the funniest moments of the story through his antics.  Molly Moskins is the weird girl that has a crush on Timmy who has mismatched pupils and a tendancy to use words that do not exist (like ‘wondermarvelously splendiferous’).  Then there is the ‘Evil One,’ Timmy’s nemesis and fellow detective, Corrina Corrina.

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made is only the first book in Stephan Pastis’ new series and I hope there will be many more to come.  I guarantee that your children will laugh out loud at least once while reading this book (I certainly did and got some weird looks for doing so).  I recommend it for anyone 7+ who likes a good laugh and quirky characters.

5 out of 5 stars

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Constable & Toop by Gareth P. Jones

If you’re a regular reader of my blog you’ll know that I love creepy stories of all kinds.  Ghosts, werewolves, zombies, vampires, and other creatures that live in the dark are often featured in the books I love.  I’ve been reading many of the first titles from Hot Key Books (a brilliant new publisher based in the UK) and when I read about Constable & Toop by Gareth P. Jones I had to get my hands on it.  A ghost story set in Victorian London, featuring a boy who could communicate with ghosts, sounded absolutely fantastic!  Constable & Toop was even better than it sounded.

Sam Toop lives in a funeral parlour, blessed (or cursed) with an unusual gift. While his father buries the dead, Sam is haunted by their constant demands for attention. Trouble is afoot on the ‘other side’ – there is a horrible disease that is mysteriously imprisoning ghosts into empty houses in the world of the living. And Sam is caught in the middle – will he be able to bring himself to help?

Constable & Toop is a creepy, gruesome story, with plenty of mystery, and a good dose of wit and humour.  Gareth can have you cringing one moment and laughing the next, which is why I liked the book so much.  He has given us a glimpse inside the ghost world and it’s not what you would expect.  It’s the ghost world and the witty banter between his characters that provide the comic relief of the story.  There is also plenty of throat slitting and stabbing for those who like their ghost stories gruesome.  The story is set in Victorian London and from the first page you are immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of the period.

There are several different threads of the story, following different characters, which Gareth weaves together perfectly.  Gareth shows us the lives of the living and the dead, and the ‘Talkers’ allow them to communicate with each other.  Characters whose lives seem quite separate from each other in the beginning become increasingly intertwined as the story progresses.

The thing I liked the most about Constable and Toop was the way that Gareth portrayed the ghost world.  It’s very bureaucratic, with each ghost having a role, like Enforcer or Prowler, and there are lots of rules and regulations that ghosts must follow.  If they don’t do as they are told they’re labelled Rogues and are hunted down.  There is an incredible amount of paperwork that needs to be filled out to do anything, and you must have a license in order to be a Poltergeist.  In order to go to the physical world and find out what your unfinished business is (so that you can step through the Unseen Door and cross over) you have to apply for a research license.  Lapsewood is my favourite character because he’s a very likeable guy, who just wants to get away from all the paperwork and get some adventure out in the real world (while impressing the girl of his dreams).  He has some of the best lines and has some incredibly strange conversations with his superiors, who can never seem to get his name right.

If you want a ghost story with a difference grab a copy of Constable and Toop by Gareth P. Jones.  I would recommend it for fans of Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant series, Joseph Delaney’s Spook’s Apprentice series, or Barry Hutchison’s Invisible Fiends series.

5 out of 5 stars

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