Category Archives: humorous fiction

Astonishingly Good Stories – R. A. Spratt

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Penguin Australia

August 2022

  • ISBN: 9780143779261
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $19.99
The freakishly fantastic, amazingly awesome, insanelycompletelybonkerscrazyasafox terrifically talented R. A. Spratt is one of my favouritest authors and purveyors of outrageous snortles*, and well she knows it. She has perhaps been wondering why it has taken me so long to write this review of her latest blisteringly brilliant collection but in my defence I have this to say. I read the entire book cover to cover quite swiftly after it’s arrival but since then I have had it in my ‘relief teaching’ bag whereupon it has made an appearance on several occasions to entertain, amuse and, more importantly, educate some of the finest young minds in Queensland (if not the country).

Now with a day off at my disposal, due to having no voice left with which to teach, I am trying to catch up with reviews, and really it is dead lucky I had already read this latest volume, because there is no doubt that strenuous laughing of the Spratt-induced kind would further reduce my vocal capabilities, so that it would be unlikely to recover them at all within the next week – – and really, where would that leave my adoring fans? (ok, I’m starting to sound like Nanny Piggins now – possibly overdoing the cold&flu meds).

This is a gorgeously galumptious smorgasbord which I can verify will appeal to a wide range of readers of discerning tastes (and as it happens, some who claim to be non-readers). Whether some Nanny Piggins (gosh, how I admire that porcine legend!) providing great insights into famous myths, legends and other historical tales, a mini Friday Barnes mystery or a completely bogus story about big sisters (which reeks heavily of the author’s own household), kiddos from around Year 4 will roll about on the floor with delight with the completely over-the-top antics and adventures herein. I am truly devastated that I no longer have my Year 9 terrorists -I mean, English classes – because after their unit of work on Romeo & Juliet, (their introduction to Shakespeare – now I could definitely write a book on that experience!) I would have loved to share with them the Nanny Piggins version of the Bard’s tragedy.

Honestly, you’d be mad to leave it off your orders list – so get cracking and buy it before the business manager cuts off your budget for the year! Highly recommended for all lovers of the absurd from around Year 4 upwards.

*snortle:  A hearty laugh that is punctuated by a snort on the inhale.

Pearly and Pig and the Great Hairy Beast – Sue Whiting

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Walker Books Australia

March 2022

ISBN: 9781760653590
Imprint: Walker Books Australia
Australian RRP: $15.99

This is quite simply, really good fun! For some reason, it put me very much in mind of the old Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoons (which those elderly people such as myself will recall) especially with the almost absurd characters and situations.

Pearly Woe is the epitome of anxiety-ridden child. From a long line of stealth adventurers, of The Adventurologists’ Guild, she feels she can never live up to the exploits or expectations of her parents or grandparents. Her constant worrying will certainly provide a fine opportunity to discuss mental hwell-being with children – increasing numbers of whom are becoming more and more prone to anxiety.

When her parents are kidnapped, it falls to Pearly and her trusty companion, Pig, to mount a rescue. Her ability to speak to animals is her greatest skill and Pig’s ability to literally sniff out danger, as well as truth, make them a potentially formidable pair – if only Pearly can find some self-confidence.

The nasty Emmeline Woods (every bit as despicable as Natasha Fatale ever was!) is not in pursuit of The Great Hairy Beast to film it for a documentary. She’s a big game hunter intent on the kill of the century and is completely ruthless about achieving her goal.

How on earth can one small girl and a talented pig defeat such a nemesis? Luckily, Pearly and Pig stumble across the Professor and once they do, the game plan changes, and plucky Pearly demonstrates that she is most worthy of membership of the Guild.

This really will delight your young readers from around Year 3 upwards – with its humour as well as the concepts of trust, self-belief, friendship and family.

The Boy Who Hatched Monsters- T. C. Shelley

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Bloomsbury Publishing

March 2022

ISBN9781526600790
ImprintBloomsbury Children’s Books

RRP: $14.99

This is just an absolutely marvellous conclusion to T. C. Shelley’s trilogy and Sam’s struggle for both acceptance and a real family. Readers who love such stories as How to Train Your Dragon and The House with Chicken Legs (with rather more darkness) or Neil Gaiman’s magical fantasies (but with rather more light) will love this series. Don’t let your older readers be misled by the covers – which are gorgeous in themselves but lend themself to a more primary audience – because I’ve had a lot of Year 7s and 8s reading these and just loving them. I think they will be happy/sad that Sam’s epic journey has come to a beautiful end.

Sam, half monster/half fairy, has not only that secret to keep but many others. For example, there’s the one about his pack – the gargoyles who protect him, and the one about his school friends, the shape shifters who can change into dogs at will. There’s also the one about the rumour that he is the new King of Ogres and that Queen Maggie, the very nasty faerie who purports to be his mother, is delighted to find out that has more powers than she had imagined. Not to mention that he’s hatched a tiny gargoyle just by sneezing – and that the Kavanagh family, with whom he is fostered, are, in fact, his real family, from whom he was stolen many years before. Sam is not one to bow down and do evil, no matter how high the stakes, so he must find a way forward to defeat Maggie and create a new world for monsterkind. With the aid of his pack and his own innate goodness and ability to express kindness to all, he is well on his way to a fitting climax to his arduous battle.

There is high drama, and much humour. There is unswerving belief in acting with integrity, and there is unshakeable loyalty. There is a wonderful lesson in diversity and accepting differences, and, above all, the importance of love, especially that for family and friends.

I have loved this series so much – and I am also happy/sad that it has come to an end but I do look forward very much to T. C. Shelley’s next foray into writing – particularly if it is for upper primary/lower secondary.

Highly recommended for your lovers of magical fantasy from around 9 years upwards.

Teaching notes from the author

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables Join Forces – Tim Harris

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Penguin Australia

  • 1 March 2022
  • ISBN: 9781761044557
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $14.99

It seems incredible – or should I say remarkable – that is already four years since I had the pleasure of sipping Himalayan tea with the delicious Mr Bambuckle – sorry, I mean, sipping delicious Himalayan tea with Mr Bambuckle! And now everyone’s favourite teacher (up there alongside me really) is back with his class of remarkable pupils, plus some new additions, and they have the most important undertaking ever when they collectively uncover Principal Sternblast’s dastardly plot.

The new children in the class have come from the recently closed Blue Valley Grammar, nearby private school, and while they are a tad reticent at first, each of the four quickly find that they are not only welcome but valued. But for how long? It appears the Blue Valley School is also under threat, not of entire closure, but a take-over by a private consortium who see an opportunity to create a new exclusive selective school to replace the defunct grammar school. And, as one would expect, Sternblast is up to his neck in the behind-the-scenes machinations with not one whit of concern for any havoc he may cause.

At first class 12B are rather nonplussed as they think that neither Mr Bambuckle nor Miss Frost are making an effort to stop this disaster. But as always, Mr B has all his ducks lined up as he makes sure that his pupils are both prepared and ready to combine their collective strengths and save their school.

As always, this is such a fun read and while there is plenty of nonsense on offer, there is also many great messages imparted to readers: recognising one’s own worth, maximising impact by collaborative action, research and planning pay off, faith and trust in one’s comrades and the joys of true friendships – no matter how different the personalities. Tim has a real knack of combining the absurd with the meaningful, and his experience as a primary teacher always shines through in his excellent caricatures of 12B’s students.

This series has been so popular in my libraries, and without doubt there will be a clamouring to be the first to borrow this when you add it to your shelves.

Highly recommended for kiddos from around Year 4 upwards.

Worst. Holiday. Ever. – Charlie Higson

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Penguin AustraliaISBN: 9780241414781

May 2021

  • ISBN: 9780241414781

Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $14.99

See, I associate Charlie Higson’s name with Young Bond, thrilling spy adventures, evil villains – you know the sort of thing so this absolutely hilarious book took me completely by surprise.

Stan is the only child of pretty ordinary parents and lives in a pretty ordinary suburban house and, in fact, lives a pretty ordinary life. He’s not what you would call an extrovert – or confident – or actually, not very interesting and certainly not brave, but he is a nice kid. So when he is invited to go with a school friend, Felix and his family on a holiday to Italy, he finds himself packed and at the airport with Felix’ uncle and aunt, whom he’s never met, going to a foreign country to stay with an entire villa full of strangers with only Felix – and a very tenuous friendship to bolster himself.

Stan’s list of things that could go wrong on the holiday is even funnier than the one his mum gives him ‘in case of emergency’ and readers will be continually amused throughout as Stan’s lists are added to – but also subtracted from – as he encounters new experiences from food to girls, from moody or just downright batty adults to haughty Italians.

While he is away Stan’s dad takes ill, which causes him great anxiety, but at the same time, as he observes the interactions of the families in the villa with acute perception, he develops a greater understanding of what he’s always taken to be his father’s dissatisfaction with his only son. As the holiday progresses and Stan’s small steps towards confidence increase, so does his insight into what family means and that sometimes, being anxious is OK and being even just a little brave can take you a long way.

I find it quite difficult at times to find humorous novels that will be enjoyed by lower secondary as much as primary children but I think this one might just fit the bill. I’m certainly going to give it a red-hot go with some of my Year 7s – especially some of the more reluctant readers.

Highly recommended for kiddos from around 10 years upwards – especially those who like a good laugh-out-loud read.

Funny Kid Belly Flop: Funny Kid #8- Matt Stanton

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Harper Collins Australia

September 2020

  • ISBN: 9780733340604
  • ISBN 10: 0733340601
  • Imprint: ABC Books – AU
  • List Price: 14.99 AUD

Ok so it took a while to get to this one but I laughed my way through it today while waiting patiently at my doctor. Pretty sure that others in the waiting room were slightly bemused by my stifled giggles.

The Kid had her swimming carnival at the new school yesterday and enjoyed it very much, not so much for the swimming, of which she did only a little, but the socialising. Clearly something she inherited from both her mum and myself!

Max doesn’t want to swim, he doesn’t want to get wet in fact and he will go to extraordinary lengths (just not in the pool) to get out of the swimming carnival altogether. So a cunning plan is conceived. Max will scupper the carnival so the event can’t go ahead. As one might imagine this can only end badly. With the help of his friends the attempts to sabotage the whole soggy mess are both hilarious and spectacularly unsuccessful. To make matters worse, Max’ nemesis, Abby, wants the carnival replaced with the Maths Olympiad competition and does her very best to undermine his efforts (not that they need much help in that respect).

There are guffaws aplenty as twins Pip and Tyrone decide to reverse their usual good twin/bad twin personas, faithful sidekick Hugo has a mysterious rash and, horror of horrors, their teacher Miss Sweet has a boyfriend and it’s super muscled up swim coach Chaz, of the dazzling smile. It all ends up as the usual Max mayhem and your kiddos will eat it up.

Highly recommended for readers from around 8 years upwards.

Total Quack Up- Edited by Sally Rippin and Adrian Beck. Illustrated by James Foley

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9780143794905

Penguin Random House

9780143794905

October 15, 2018

Puffin

RRP $14.99

 

Here’s another super choice for the kid who loves humour – and again, very timely with Christmas rushing in upon us.

 

The cream of our Australian children’s writers have contributed a wealth of funny stories: Deborah Abela, Tristan Bancks, Adrian Beck, Jacqueline Harvey, Paul Jennings, Alex Miles, Oliver Phommavanh, Sally Rippin, R.A. Spratt and Matt Stanton are all crowd pleasers at any time.

 

Oliver P’s poem about writing a poem, Rhyme Time!, made me laugh aloud – definitely going to use that the next time I do a library unit that features poetry to ward off the inevitable groans. Jacqueline Harvey’s Pet Sit Pandemonium: Operation Snowball is also a cracker – the image of Puss with poor Pavarotti clamped in his jaws balefully glaring had me falling about. And of course, Nanny Piggins is a guaranteed chortle-inducer and Pigerella, R. A. Spratt’s contribution, is no exception.

 

From football loving pigs to a principal with a rat phobia, from vegetarian bikini-wearing hippos to a crazed vacuum cleaner, this compilation will have something for every reader.

The book also includes the first publication of the winning entry in the Kids’ WB competition by Ella Wallace.

 

Royalties from the sales of this book go directly to Dymock’s Children’s Charities with all the authors as well as James Foley, illustrator, thrilled to be part of the project donating their talents and work.

 

So buying this book will not only give the kids you love some pleasure but also help to provide some for children in less fortunate circumstances.

 

Highly recommended for kids who love to laugh, from around eight years upwards.

 

Princess Cora and the Crocodile – Laura Amy Schlitz & Brian Floca

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cora

ISBN: 9780763648220
Imprint: Candlewick
Distributor: Walker Australia-HEDS

April 1, 2017

Australian RRP: $19.99
New Zealand RRP: $22.99

Newbery medallist Laura Amy Schlitz and Caldecott Medalist Brian Floca have teamed up to produce this absolutely delightful easy chapter book about a sweet little princess and a rather roguish crocodile.

Most little girls would love to be a princess but they would surely change their mind if they had to be Princess Cora. Her mother and father have very definite views on how their only child should be raised to take up her position. Her father says Princesses must be strong so Cora must skip rope for hours. Her mother says Princesses must be knowledgeable so poor Cora has to stew over the most boring books ever every afternoon. And her Nanny says Princesses must be clean so three baths a day it is for Cora. The poor thing has no time to play or do anything that is remotely fun. (Sounds like so many children who are so booked up with activities, they have no time to just be kids!)

She really wishes she had a little dog. At least that would be company and good fun.

So Cora writes a letter to her godmother – and as all good fairy godmothers would there is a swift response. But Cora’s desired pet is not a dog – it’s a crocodile!

You can well imagine the resulting chaos when the crocodile, determined to help Cora, sets about ‘fixing’ things for her.

Like all good fairy tales, this has a happy and humorous ending for all.  This is simply great fun throughout with terrific illustrations and beautiful presentation.

Highly recommended for readers from about 6 to 9, I foresee this will be a big hit in our library next term.

Crazy Characters & Daft Deeds

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I’ve chosen to review these two books on the same post as to me they are similar in many ways all of which will appeal to their audience.  Both Colin Thompson and A.F. Harrold have a singular and individualised way of providing satirical humour for a pint-sized readership. They also both employ that  every engaging device of the author speaking directly to the reader when necessary.

Fizzlebert Stump and The Great Supermarket Showdown

fizz

Published: 01-09-2016

ISBN: 9781408869451

Imprint: Bloomsbury Childrens Series: Fizzlebert Stump

RRP: $12.99

I’ve not seen the previous titles in this series but any book called Fizzlebert Stump: The Boy Who Ran Away from the Circus (and Joined the Library) has got my vote already and ensures I will catch up with the earlier books.

Fizz lives in a circus – in fact, he was born and raised under the Big Top. His entire life and livelihood is suddenly turned upside down when the Ringmaster sells the circus without any warning. It is all most strange. The Ringmaster assures his folk that not much will change but change it does. Those without an ironclad contract drift away to find other employment including the animals, while those basically indentured to the circus remain – and find themselves little more than navvies in a tawdry supermarket managed by a very unpleasant owner.  When a book starts at Chapter 4 you know you are in for a completely unusual read and this is the case.

Fizz is the definite hero here as he digs deeper (especially at his library!) to find out why the Ringmaster just upped and sold the circus. He runs into old friends (from previous books) and triumphantly they resolve the whole debacle.

It is fun, it is wacky and will definitely be a hit with young readers who have a yen for humour.

Watch This Space 2: In the Pink

inthepink

Random House

ISBN 9781742756189

August 29, 2016

Random House Australia Children’s

RRP $15.99

Previous readers of this blog will know of my attachment to Colin Thompson’s work.  I have been patiently waiting for the second instalment in the newest series which will no doubt prove every bit as popular as the well-worn Floods titles on my library shelves.

The Contrast family, sent into space by entrepreneur Radius Limpfast, in the most exciting reality TV show yet are bored out of their brains after a mere week in space. When they realise that they are trapped for five years things look grim but fortunately (?) their genius robot rRego knows what is needed. He hacks into the spaceship and re-directs the family to what they think will be Earth – except it’s not.

Weirdly the family ends up on a very Earth-like planet – well except for that thing about the planet seems to have turned pink and has a couple of extra moons – and a strange human-disguised lizard population.

As usual Colin’s play on words, and digs at popular culture are prevalent and highly amusing.

Your Floods devotees are very quickly going to take up this newest series and I predict you will need multiple copies to keep up with demand.

A Hungry Lion or a Dwindling Assortment of Animals – Lucy Ruth Cummins

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Simon & Schuster

  • Atheneum Books for Young Readers |
  • 40 pages |
  • ISBN 9781471147074
  • May 2016

 

There once was a hungry lion, a penguin (Well he was just here…), a little calico kitten (I could have sworn I just saw him…), a brown mouse (Now wait a second…), a bunny with floppy ears and a bunny with un-floppy ears (Okay this is just getting ridiculous), a frog, a bat, a pig, a slightly bigger pig, a wooly sheep, a koala, a hen, and also a turtle. Hey! What’s going on here…

It appears that a group of animal friends are getting together to play – but as each page is turned and more and more of the smaller animals disappear, one wonders what might be happening to them. Just how hungry is that lion?

But never fear, they are all sneaking off to prepare a surprise party for their favourite hungry lion – but oops! This party doesn’t just start with a surprise! Who else could be hungry?

The illustrations are gorgeous and the text full of wit with some great opportunities for predictions.

A hugely funny but somewhat dark debut picture book which will have young readers intrigued with some trepidation but lots of giggles.

 

Highly recommended for young readers from around 3 years and up.