Pacey Packer Unicorn Tracker by J.C. Phillipps

Most books and movies would have us believe that unicorns are cute and colourful but not J.C. Phillipps’ new graphic novel. Dive into Pacey Packer Unicorn Tracker and discover what unicorns are really like.

Pacey Packer is a girl with a big imagination but she could never have imagined she would find herself in Rundalyn, the secret land of the unicorns. Pacey’s little sister Mina gets sick of waiting for Pacey to play with her. When Pacey goes looking for Mina she finds her about to leap out of her window on the back of a unicorn. Pacey thinks Mina is being kidnapped and tries to grab the unicorn. Pacey, and Mina’s plushie unicorn, Slasher, fall from the sky and find themselves lost in Rundalyn. Pacey and Slasher set off to find Mina but also discover what unicorns are really like. Pacey will have to become the brave hero from her imagination in order to save her sister.

This is a super cool graphic novel for kids! It’s a story full of nasty unicorns, weird plants, magical seeds and sassy characters. J.C. Phillipps’ illustration style is unique and will certainly appeal to kids. She has used a limited colour palette, with just black, white and purple. I really like how J.C. uses different perspectives throughout the story (like Pacey being up in a tree) and the movement between panels, like the example below:

J.C. has even made chapter headings cool by incorporating them into the illustrations.

Pacey herself is a great character but my favourite is Slasher. He’s full of attitude but looks super cute. He’s a soft toy but he’s clearly not happy about it. He’s always cursing his lousy plushie grip. I’m sure most kids won’t see this but Slasher reminds me of Brian, the dog from Family Guy.

Thank goodness this is just the start of the Pacey Packer series! Kids are going to love Pacey and Slasher and, like me, will eagerly await their next adventure.

Sherlock Bones and the Sea-Creature Feature by Renée Treml

Everyone has wondered what happens in a museum at night. There have been books written and movies made about it. In Sherlock Bones and the Natural History Mystery, Renée Treml introduced us to the great detective known as Sherlock Bones. The always sharp and super-observant tawny frogmouth skeleton is back on the case again in his latest mystery, Sherlock Bones and the Sea-Creature Feature.

Sherlock Bones lives in the State Natural History Museum with his pals Grace the raccoon and Watts the stuffed parrot. When the sun goes down and the humans leave, Sherlock and his friends come alive. A new wing of the museum has just opened, with new exhibits, but Sherlock has heard of a swamp monster that is scaring the visitors and the octopus is missing. Where there is a mystery Sherlock Bones isn’t far away.

Sherlock Bones and the Sea-Creature Feature is a pun-tastic read that is both laugh-out-loud funny and chock-full of facts. Sherlock not only thinks he is an amazing detective (he’s really not), he also thinks he’s the funniest bird around (he just ends up making himself laugh). He has plenty of bad puns up his sleeve that will make readers young and old crack up. Unlike Sherlock and Grace, Watts never says anything out loud but he still communicates with Sherlock and his wings can be extended to help Sherlock fly around the museum. Sherlock and his pals are always on the lookout for clues but the reader sees things that they completely miss. Grace spends a good part of the story distracted with a Rubix cube and isn’t aware of what is going on around her.

The story is told in a graphic novel format, with black and white illustrations. Sherlock is a skeleton but Renée has given him so much personality. I think the star of the show has to be Nivlac though, as he is able to turn invisible and disguise himself. You can tell that Renée has had a lot of fun hiding Nivlac in the illustrations.

The thing I love the most about this book is the way that Renée incorporates information into the story. There are facts about the exhibits in the illustrations that help to explain what is happening in the story. The exhibit about the octopus says that octopus do not have a skeleton which means they can squeeze into tight spaces. This explains why the octopus goes missing. It’s one of those books that is really entertaining but you don’t realise you’re learning something at the same time.

I highly recommend both Sherlock Bones books, especially for kids who struggle to find something to read. They’ll be hooked straight away. They’re also great for kids who have read all of the Bad Guys books by Aaron Blabey as they’re a similar format and sense of humour.

Agent Moose by Mo O’Hara and Jess Bradley

Kids everywhere are obsessed with Dogman, so it’s always great when I come across a new series that I can recommend to Dogman fans. Agent Moose is the new series by Mo O’Hara and Jess Bradley and it has everything that kids love about Dogman – laughs galore, bold illustrations, and characters that they’ll love coming back to.

Whenever there is trouble in Big Forest there is only one team for the job – Anonymoose and Owlfred. With Anonymoose’s astounding skills of disguise and Owlfred’s calm attitude and patience in a crisis these two catch the criminals…eventually. Something strange is going on at South Shore. Terence Turtle, a witness in a high-profile robbery case, has disappeared and its up to Anonymoose and Owlfred to find him. Unfortunately for Anonymoose that means a run-in with his competition, Camo Chameleon. Camo has just solved his 100th case, making him the best agent at Woodland HQ. That title was supposed to be Anonymoose’s and he’s still bitter about it. Anonymoose and Owlfred are going to have to go undercover and discover what is happening to the animals of Big Forest.

Agent Moose is absolutely brilliant! Mo and Jess have created characters that kids are going to go wild for. The story is super funny and full of gags that readers of all ages will love. I’m a huge fan of Jess’ art, from reading her Squid Bits comics in The Phoenix Comic, so it’s really great to see a whole book full of her art. I love that her illustrations are so simple but all of the characters have a personality. The simple illustrations and the sparse text make this book perfect for younger readers and it’s a great introduction to graphic novels.

Anonymoose and Owlfred are complete opposites but they make the perfect team. Anonymoose is sauve and fantastic at disguise, but not very smart. Owlfred is the brains of the operation and is the one who is calm and rational. Every time Anonymoose was in disguise he made me laugh, because he is so obviously a moose dressed as a turtle or a palm tree. The other characters don’t see this though and often get startled when he talks.

This is just the first book in a series that I hope with have many more books to come. I know that kids are going to gobble this one up and be desperate for book 2 (coming in March 2021). Check out the fantastic book trailer below (this will be great to hook kids in).

Armadillo and Hare series by Jeremy Strong and Rebecca Bagley

I love it when I discover a hidden gem on my library shelves. Armadillo and Hare by Jeremy Strong had been sitting on my shelves for ages. Then the second book, Armadillo and Hare and the Very Noisy Bear, came along and it caught my attention. I took it home to read and my 5 year old daughter asked me to read it one night. We both fell in love with Armadillo and Hare and their friends from the Big Forest.

Armadillo and Hare are completely different but are the best of friends. They live in a little log cabin in Big Forest. Hare loves dancing, Armadillo loves cheese sandwiches. Hare loves playing the tuba, Armadillo loves cheese sandwiches. Hare is full of energy and loves to move, Armadillo is grumpy and prefers to keep still. They both like to laugh though and they do lots of it together. Their life is never boring. They make lots of friends and help them when they can, their house gets washed away in a flood, they hold birthday parties, have an art exhibition in their cabin, learn how to swim and just generally enjoy each other’s company.

I absolutely love Armadillo and Hare! The stories are incredibly funny, witty and filled with the most marvellous characters. Jeremy really knows his audience and tells stories that both make you laugh and appreciate the small things in life, like having breakfast in the sunshine or reading in a comfy chair. Armadillo is obsessed with cheese sandwiches and when he isn’t eating one he is dreaming of one or painting one. There are paintings of cheese sandwiches all through their house. In one story he even has a whole exhibition focusing on his paintings of cheese. Armadillo is a bit grumpy but he also has a good sense of humour. He knows that he is fat but he doesn’t see the point of exercise. Hare is quite full of energy and he is the positive one of the two friends. He loves playing the tuba and every time that he plays it things pop out of the top. It could be butterflies, puppies, glow-worms or neon signs. You never quite know what will pop out next.

It’s not just Armadillo and Hare themselves that are entertaining but the other animals that live in Big Forest. There’s Invisible Stick Insect who really wants some friends who can see her, Wombat who can do incredible tricks on her bike (but can also mend fridge lights) and Bear who is fantastic on the drums and almost a doctor. You can’t help smiling while reading these stories of Armadillo and Hare and their interactions with the other animals.

Another reason that I love this series so much is Rebecca Bagley’s delightful illustrations. Rebecca really brings out the personality of Armadillo and Hare, from Armadillo’s grumpiness to Hare’s flair and the way his ears twist together when he’s afraid. I also like the way she has drawn Bear with his sunglasses and colourful shirt.

There are several stories in each book, with each story taking about ten to fifteen minutes to read. The short length and the humour makes the stories perfect to read aloud at bedtime or to a class. I’ve also enjoyed Armadillo and Hare and the Very Noisy Bear as an audiobook from my public library. I hope Jeremy and Rebecca have some more Armadillo and Hare stories up their sleeves because I need more of these two in my life.

Hotel Flamingo: Fabulous Feast by Alex Milway

Anna and the team at Hotel Flamingo are back again in the latest book in the series, Fabulous Feast. This is one of my favourite series for younger readers so I always love returning to Hotel Flamingo. If you haven’t discovered this series yet here’s the gist of the series. A human girl, Anna, inherits the run-down Hotel Flamingo, and with a lot of hard work from her and her animal team, they turn it into one of the best hotels on Animal Boulevard.

In Fabulous Feast, Anna is trying to encourage more guests to come and stay at Hotel Flamingo after a long, quiet winter. Anna comes up with the idea of having a cooking contest at the hotel to find the best chef on Animal Boulevard. Anna and her team go out in search of chefs to enter the contest. Three chefs enter – Peston Crumbletart from The Fat Cat Restaurant, Toot-Toot from the Glitz Hotel and Le Pig from Hotel Flamingo. The competition is fierce but only one chef can come out on top.

Fabulous Feast is full of everything I love about the series – the chaos of a hotel, wonderful characters and animals of all sorts. As well as the busyness of preparing for the contest, Anna and her team have to deal with a crashed carrier pigeon, a couple of highland cows with a love of gourmet grass, and a coconut octopus with an urgent need for super-salty water.

Anna has a brilliant team who help the hotel to run smoothly. Lemmy the lemur manages the front desk, Stella the giraffe does the repairs and building work, T. Bear is the doorman, and Le Pig is the chef. They all go above and beyond the call of duty for the job they love and Anna can always rely on them.

One of my favourite aspects of the series is the way that Alex introduces readers to different types of animals and includes their unique characteristics. Anna and her team go out of their way to make sure the animals have what they need to make their stay comfortable. If otters come to stay the pool is specially prepared for them. If penguins come to stay ice is specially brought in. In this story the coconut octopus needs very briny water and Lemmy hunts down all the salt he can to add to the bath.

Book your stay at the 5-star Hotel Flamingo now.

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.

S. Tinker Inc. series by James Foley

James Foley’s S. Tinker Inc. graphic novels are some of the funniest books I’ve read. I read and reviewed the first book in the series, Brobot, here on the blog when it was released in 2016 and it’s been really popular in my library. I’ve missed the last couple of books in the series but I wanted to read them before the 4th book, Chickensaurus, is released in September. I can’t believe I waited so long to read them because I’ve spent the last couple of nights laughing out loud at the misadventures of Sally, Charli, and Joe.

Sally Tinker – the world’s foremost inventor under the age of twelve – invents all sorts of devices. In Brobot, Sally creates a robot brother to take the place of her annoying, stinky baby brother, Joe.

In Dungzilla, Sally creates a Resizenator that could solve many of the world’s problems. However, a test run of the device ends in a dung beetle being embiggenated and terrorising her town with a giant dung ball. They’re going to need a giant solution to a giant problem.

Gastronauts sees Sally taking her Resizenator technology to the next level. She has created a smartCHIP that she plans to shrink and then drink so she will become the ‘smartest human who’s ever lived.’ Unfortunately, her annoying brother Joe drinks it first. Sally must shrink herself, Charli and a submarine and travel into Joe’s body to stop the smartCHIP attaching itself to Joe’s most powerful organ. If they don’t make it, the consequences could be disastrous!

These books are absolutely hilarious! James has great comedic timing and a lot of the funniest moments in the stories come from the visual gags. It’s often the characters’ facial expressions that make me laugh. Sally is always so proud of her inventions and so optimistic but you always know that something is going to go wrong. I love the way that Sally talks to the reader but none of the other characters know it’s happening (Charli keeps asking who Sally is talking to).

Joe is the funniest character in the series, even though he says nothing. Often he is just doing something in the background or wandering past with a toxic cloud coming from his nappy. In Gastronauts, Joe’s stink becomes multiplied and these scenes had me cackling with laughter. Sometimes fart jokes can get a bit over-the-top in kids books but James does it well. My other favourite character in the series is Sally’s Nan. She seems to just take everything in her stride and isn’t surprised when Sally’s inventions malfunction and she needs her help.

One of my favourite scenes from Gastronauts.

I can’t recommend the S. Tinker Inc graphic novels highly enough. They’re the same kind of format to Aaron Blabey’s The Bad Guys and Gavin Aung Than’s Super Sidekicks so they’re a great readalike for those series. Confident readers will love them but they are great to hook those kids who ‘don’t like reading.’ They will be an invaluable addition to your graphic novel collection. Check out the book trailer for Dungzilla below to tempt your readers. I can’t wait to get my hands on the fourth book, Chickensaurus.

Monty’s Island series by Emily Rodda and Lucinda Gifford

After publishing dozens of books it is safe to say that Emily Rodda knows her audience. She has written for all ages and across different genres. Her latest series, Monty’s Island, is aimed at younger readers and it is so much fun. It will have kids wishing they lived on the island with Monty and his friends.

There are two books in the series so far with more to come. Scary Mary and the Stripe Spell introduces us to Monty and the cast of characters who live on Monty’s Island. There is Tawny the lion, Bunchy the elephant who likes magic, Sir Wise the owl, Clink the pirate parrot, Marigold the human and owner of the Island Cafe, and of course Monty. Their life on the island is peaceful. Monty’s days are filled with scavenging treasures from the beach and joining his friends at the Cafe. One day The Laughing Traveller warns Monty that the terrible pirate Scary Mary is on her way to their island. Bunchy’s magic and a mysterious magic wand combine to cause some trouble so it’s up to Monty and his friends to put things right and try and trick Scary Mary.

The second book in the series, Beady Bold and the Yum-Yams, has just been released, and it’s another brilliantly funny adventure. It’s Bring-and-Buy Day, that exciting time when Monty and his friends meet Trader Jolly to get the supplies they need. However, it’s not Jolly that arrives, but Beady Bold. Beady is tricky and sneaky and suddenly Bring-and-Buy Day is no fun anymore. Beady brings the Yum-Yams, a mysterious plant that creates havoc. Luckily Monty and his friends come up with a plan to deal with the Yum-Yams and Beady Bold.

With the Monty’s Island series Emily Rodda and Lucinda Gifford have created stories that hook readers with adventure, humour and a wonderful cast of characters. They’re stories that are perfect for newly independent readers to read themselves or to read aloud to 5-8 year olds. I’ll be recommending them as a read aloud for my Year 1-3 teachers as they’ll grab the kids straight away and have them begging for the next chapter. Kids will have favourite characters (I really love Bunchy) and will want to read more of their adventures throughout the series. The stories are illustrated inside and out by Lucinda Gifford whose illustrations are the perfect match for Emily’s stories and make the characters come to life. A lot of thought has gone in to the design of the series too, with bright, fun covers that will jump off the shelves.

The Allen and Unwin website also features some cool printable activities to tie in with the book, including some colouring sheets, and there are videos of both Emily Rodda and Lucinda Gifford reading the books.

Monty’s Island is my favourite new series for younger readers and I can’t wait for more adventures with Monty and his friends.

Peter & Ernesto: Sloths in the Night by Graham Annable

Who doesn’t like sloths? Sure, they’re slow but also adorable. I love sloths, so when I came across Graham Annable’s Peter & Ernesto a couple of years ago I knew I would love it. Peter and Ernesto are best friends but they’re completely different. Peter loves their tree and never wants to leave, but Ernesto loves the sky and wants to see more of it from every place on Earth. Since their first adventure Ernesto has been dragging Peter along wherever he goes. Sloths in the Night is their latest adventure and it’s brilliant.

Peter and Ernesto are hanging out in their tree one day with their sloth friends when one of them, Bernard, goes missing. They’ve heard that there is a dragon at the old temple by the river and think that maybe Bernard has gone to check it out. They leave the safety of their tree in search of Bernard and the dragon, meeting friends and foes along the way, and doing things they never thought they would.

This series gets better and better. It’s such a fun read that’s full of laughs. I love that Peter is coming out of his shell a bit more with each new book. Sure, he still seems a bit anxious and afraid to try new things, but there are also a couple of times in this story where he’s quite brave.

Graham’s simple but expressive illustrations and sparse text make this series perfect for younger readers. Older readers will love them too though, especially for the humour. First Second (one of my favourite graphic novel publishers) has put a lot of thought into the production of these books too. They’re hardcover, with quality paper and binding, and the endpapers are very cool.

Grab Sloths in the Night and the other Peter & Ernesto graphic novels for the young reader in your life (you just might find you enjoy them just as much as they do). They are a must-buy for school libraries.

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.