Squishy McFluff The Invisible Cat: On With The Show! By Pip Jones and Ella Okstad

I love it when you find the perfect book just when you need it. Pip Jones and Ella Okstad’s wonderful Squishy McFluff The Invisible Cat is one of those books for me. I discovered them last year when looking for some chapter books to share with my 5 year old daughter. The first book in the series was released in 2014 and five more chapter books followed, and one picture book. Told in rhyming verse, each book is a new adventure for Ava and her invisible cat, Squishy McFluff. Ava and Squishy get in to all sorts of mischief and the stories are so perfect for sharing with young readers who are ready for a longer story or are starting to read chapter books. I’ve loved every Squishy McFluff book and there is a new book in the series which has just been released. In Squishy McFluff: On with the Show! the circus is in town and Ava and Squishy get to enjoy the show.

The weekend looks like it is going to be super boring when Ava’s Mum announces that they’ll be tidying the shed. An advertisement for a travelling circus catches Ava’s eye and she convinces her parents to go. Ava has to help her parents tidy the shed first but Ava and Squishy spend the time finding things for their circus act. When the star clown doesn’t show up though, Ava and Squishy step in to take his place. It’s not long before Ava’s invisible cat becomes not-so-invisible and steals the show.

On with the Show is another great addition to this wonderful series. Like the other books in the series this is an absolute joy to read! The rhyming text flows so nicely and just rolls off your tongue. I’ve always thought authors who can write a picture book that rhymes while also flowing nicely have quite a skill, but to be able to do this for a 72 page chapter book makes Pip Jones a true wordsmith. Ella Okstad’s illustrations adorable illustrations adorn every page and she perfectly captures this magical friendship between Ava and Squishy.

The thing that I love the most about this series is the rich language that Pip uses. The language is perfectly aimed at her audience but the text is full of fantastic words like ‘apprehensive,’ ‘clout,’ and ‘stupendous.’ It’s the language and the rhythm of the text that makes these books so much fun to read aloud.

The Squishy McFluff books are great for newly independent readers to read themselves, for an adult to read aloud to a 4-6 year old, or for a New Entrant or Year 1 or 2 teacher to share with their class. The chapters are short (and so is each book), making them ideal for sharing at bedtime or in class. They are a great addition to a primary school library as I recommend them to the Year 1 and 2 children all the time. If you have a young reader in your life get them the Squishy McFluff books from your library or bookshop now.

Visit the Squishy McFluff website for more information about the series, the author and illustrator, and to find fun activities. Check out the book trailer for Squishy McFluff: Supermarket Sweep:

Ballet Bunnies by Swapna Reddy and Binny Talib

What do you get when you combine one little beginner ballerina and bunnies in tutus? You get the most adorable chapter book series for young readers ever! Swapna Haddow (author of the Dave Pigeon series writing as Swapna Reddy) and Binny Talib have joined forces to give readers a series full of friendship, mischief and tutus.

The first three books in the series have been released together, which is fantastic as young readers can really fall in love with Millie and her bunny friends. In The New Class we meet Millie, who has dreamed of going to Miss Luisa’s School of Dance for months. On her sixth birthday her Mum surprises her with lessons and she’s so excited to go. Unfortunately things don’t start smoothly. Perfect Amber is mean to Millie and she just can’t get the moves right. When she most needs a friend she discovers the Ballet Bunnies – Dolly, Fifi, Pod and Trixie. With the help of the Ballet Bunnies and her new friend Samira, Millie starts to improve her ballet skills and have fun while doing it.

In the second book, Let’s Dance, Millie is preparing to perform for the first time in her ballet school’s gala show. While Millie is excited at first to perform, once she sees the stage she becomes very nervous and worried. Luckily Millie has her Ballet Bunnies to give her some tips and help her prepare.

In the third book, Millie’s Birthday, Millie is getting ready for her birthday. All her friends and family are going to be there but Millie gets a funny feeling in her tummy when she thinks about all those people. The bunnies decide to sneak home in Millie’s bag so that they can be there for Millie’s party. They will have a lot of fun together, but they’ll have to keep hidden from Millie’s mum and the party guests.

I love absolutely everything about The Ballet Bunnies series! From the moment young readers see these books glittering on the shelf they are going to be smitten with the Ballet Bunnies. I read all three books to my 5 year old daughter and we giggled our way through each book. As soon as she saw the books she squealed with excitement and we had to read them one after another over three nights. She couldn’t pick a favourite bunny but I love Trixie because she keeps falling asleep. We both love Millie though and we had some good discussions about what happened to her in the stories.

The covers are loaded with glitter and Binny’s illustrations make your heart melt. The bunnies are absolutely adorable (I totally wanted to cuddle them all) but they all have a different personality. There are illustrations on almost every page.

I really love that each of the stories is quite different and doesn’t feel formulaic. So often with series for younger readers the stories can feel the same in each book. In each Ballet Bunnies book Millie is dealing with different emotions, whether it is sadness and frustration about not knowing the ballet moves, nervousness and worry about performing, or feeling anxious at her party. I love the way that Swapna includes strategies to help Millie cope with her emotions. These are all situations that kids find themselves in so kids will be able to relate easily to Millie and these strategies will maybe even help them in a similar situation.

If you have a young reader in your life, especially a girl, you must get them The Ballet Bunnies series. They are perfect for newly independent readers to read themselves or to read aloud to 5-7 year olds. There are more books to come in the series next year and my daughter and I can’t wait!