Category Archives: humorous fiction

Friday Barnes 11: Last Chance – R. A. Spratt

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Penguin Australia

  • Published: 31 January 2023
  • ISBN: 9780143779247
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $16.99

Oh Friday, you just get betterer and betterer! Readers will remember my anecdote of the dismay felt by my coterie of Friday fans, when the ‘last’ in the (original) series was announced, and was confirmed by my (then) recent conversation with Rachel over afternoon tea. Subsequently – and by then in a different school library – the kiddos went wild when they found out Friday’s adventures were off and running again. I now have some readers in university who still hang out for the latest update on Friday, her friends, her mishaps and successes – and of course, her love life!

Friday, Melly and Ian, along with Uncle Bernie and a few assorted newcomers to the quirky cast of characters, are once again embroiled in an art crime. As special consultants to Interpol, the teens are undercover as art students, as they try to establish the veracity of a supposedly genuine letter which reveals the famous Mona Lisa hanging in the Louvre, is a highly successful fake – and has been displayed as the real thing for a hundred years. This is a cold case with a difference it seems – or is it?

The trio’s investigations not only have Spratt’s hallmark idiosyncratic humour stamped all over them but raise current topics such as digital theft and art ‘terrorism’. It’s another action-packed instalment from our favourite teen detective, with the added bonus of the slowly evolving romance between Friday and Ian to bring smiles to readers’ dials.

Releasing with perfect timing to kick off a new school year, you would be wise to get this one on your shelves ASAP because those Friday Fans will be clamouring for it. Highly recommended for your readers from mid-primary upwards. I know I can’t wait to see what happens next!! (and seriously, this has, at least, Netflix series written all over – does it not??)

The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents[ film tie-in edition] – Terry Pratchett

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Penguin Australia

November 2022

ISBN: 9780552578929

Imprint: Corgi Childrens

RRP: $16.99

Twenty years ago the late, great Sir Terry Pratchett won the Carnegie Medal for his 28th book in the Discworld series, the first written for children, so it is utterly fitting that finally this extraordinary, absurd fantasy should be brought to life – and brought to a new generation of readers in a filmed version.

Just in case anyone is unfamiliar with either Sir Terry’s work, Discworld or Maurice ….

…allow me to give you a little insight. This is a book that has everything I most prize in my reading: ridiculous humour and sparkling wit, twisted fairy-tales, quirky characters, talking animals, rats even more intelligent than their usual intellect and a happy ending. Maurice is a wily shyster of a cat, who is cannily manipulating a band of rats and a gormless youth to fleece villagers of ‘rat plagues’. Both cat and rats have intelligence out-ranking that of humans, can speak and even read and write (a little) following their consumption of mysterious magic rubbish from the university of wizardry. Just as they reach a more or less mutual decision to end their rather unscruplous con-game, they come upon a town in which a far nastier deception involving the manipulation of rats and the greed of individuals is taking place. Needless to say, after nail-biting adventures and narrow escapes, the unlikely comrades do indeed, rout the real ‘rats’ from the town and earn their place in its society in a wholly unprecedented rat-human symbiotic partnership.

It had been a long time since I had read it and I fell in love with it all over again. With the newly minted animated film due for release before Xmas, this is going to make a perfect stocking stuffer for youngsters from around 8 years upwards and definitely one to have on your shelves when school starts back in 2023.

Given my love of this series, Sir Terry Pratchett (whom we lost the day after my Jen. I used his quote at her farewell) and rats (I do miss my own ratty girls) this gets my highest recommendation. Hopefully it will spark a passion for Pratchett, that is shared by readers all over the world, in your kiddos.

BOHEMIAN RAT-SODY

Is this the rat life? Is this rat fantasy?

Bought from a feeder bin, escaped from reality

Open your eyes, look up to this guy and see

I’m just a poor floof, I need no sympathy

Because I’m squeezy tum, tiny toes, little ears, little nose

Anywhere the cheerios doesn’t really matter to me, to me

Mama, just bought a rat

Went to buy the cat a bed

To a snake, he would be fed

Mama, life has just begun

Cuz now I’ve gone and saved a floof today

Mama, ooh, didn’t mean to make you cry

If I’m not back again this time tomorrow

Call the vet, call the vet,

For I’ll be there with the ratters

Too late, what have I done?

To the pet store one last time, got 10 more and they’re all mine

Goodbye, everybody, I’ve got to go

Gotta leave you all behind and face the floof

Mama, ooh, I don’t want them to die

I sometimes wish they’d never been born at all

I see a little silhouetto of a rat

Boople snoot,

Boople snoot,

Will you watch his boggle eyes go

Chocolate chips and icing,

Very much enticing, Meep!

Can I free-roam? (Can I free-roam?)

Can I free-roam? (Can I free-roam?)

Can I free-roam, let me go, oh mumma no-oh-oh-oh!

No, no, NO NO!

I’m just a poor rat, nobody loves me,

He’s eating dinner, with his whole family,

Spare some roast beef for this baby rattie?

Easy come, easy go, will you let me go?

Groomer! No, we will not let you go

(Let him go) Groomer! We will not let you go

(Let him go) Groomer! We will not let you go

(Let me go) Will not let you go

(Let me go) Will not let you go

(Let me go) Ah, no, no, no, no, no, no, no

(Oh power groomer, power groomer) Power groomer, let me go

Beaa-eaaaar-z-Bear has Calcifer on his side you see, you see, you see

So you think you can stop me cause I’m pink eyed?

So you think you can scritch me and leave me this high?

Oh, hooman,

Can’t do this to me hooman,

Just gotta scritch me,

Just gotta scritch me right ‘round here

Floofing really matters, anyone can see

Floofing really matters,

Floofing really matters to me

Anywhere the cheerios

Rodney Forgets It – Michael Gerard Bauer

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Scholastic Australia

July 2022

ISBN : 9781761121388

RRP: $19.99

In 2018 my kiddos, in our usual countdown to Book Week reading all the short-listed PBs, voted Rodney Loses It our winner – oddly enough, the judges agreed with us (rarely happens, in my experience!).

Now Rodney is back in another hilarious but heart-warming tail – oops, I mean tale – and the small humans will love it just as fiercely as they did the first. In fact, I can prove it as I didn’t just read this to review it, I road-tested it with three different classes I took for relief days a couple of weeks ago.

Michael Gerard Bauer (interjection: gotta love an author who heads up his blog page with ‘just me rabbiting on’) as well as creating top-notch picture books featuring a remarkable rabbit has produced outstanding novels, many of them award-winners.

Now Rodney, the goofy long-eared doofus bunny, entertains children as well as providing them with valuable moral compass points. In this new episode Rodney is invited to a party which is very exciting but he knows he quite often forgets things so he devises a cunning plan to help his memory. He writes reminders on dozens of sticky notes and literally plasters the house with them.

As the countdown to the party ticks by, we see Rodney mowing his neighbour’s lawn (Mr Warren!!! hahaha!! no relation by the way), helping out in the library and the school, going about his usual helpful daily business. When the exciting day arrives, there is some slight kerfuffle as Rodney can’t remember about what it is that his sticky notes are reminding him but, thankfully, he gets there in the end. But – oh no! – he gets to the party at the Town Hall and realises he is the only guest arriving without a gift!! He must have forgotten it!

Your readers will rock with laughter as my audience did throughout Rodney’s wild antics and are very jubilant when they guess why Rodney is the only guest without a present. They all very excitedly talked over the top of each other as to their reasoning behind their prediction which was a delight for me. Their perception of kindness and helpfulness is just a joy to behold.

You won’t have much need to promote this heavily as it will definitely speak for itself, you will have plenty of kids who love the earlier book but I highly recommend it for your readers from Prep upwards.

Teaching notes here

Which Way to Anywhere – Cressida Cowell

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Hachette Australia

September 2022

ISBN 9781444969047 | RRP $22.99

Well, if there’s anything more exciting in MG fiction than a new Cressida Cowell title, it’s a new Cressida Cowell series and this one is going to skyrocket I can assure you.

K2 O’Hero (yes, he is named after the mountain) would appear, to all intents and purposes, a very ordinary little boy. He and his twin, Izzabird, are from a very extraordinary family it’s true, but that’s a deep secret which is not revealed outside said family – and especially not, to the Stepfather and the world’s most irritating stepsiblings, Theo and Mablel. But not even Izzabird knows that K2 has an incredibly rare and powerful gift. In fact, K2 doesn’t know he has this particular gift but that’s all going to change.

K2 knows he can draw amazing maps of strange, marvellous and, at times, frightening places but he has no idea that he can in fact create these maps as portals to the worlds he believes are just his own imagination.

When bizarre happenings start to accelerate around them: a weirdly creepy faux Geography teacher, a robot assassin, a very odd and seemingly magical person named Horizabel, and their mother and great- aunts (all witches) taking off into the night on a secret mission – and that’s all before baby Annipeck is abducted! – the four children must somehow work together to figure out the Alternative Atlas and conquer the obstacles they face including the vile and ravenous beast, the Abhorrorghast.

I loved this from start to finish. It has all of Cressida’s fantastic creativity: her wonderful skill with humorous secondary characters (the ones that almost steal the show) and an ability to weave a spellbinding adventure with heart-stopping moments, truly horrible villains and children who, in spite of any talents or gifts, are very normal in their ferocious loyalties, their unswerving determination, their sniping and bickering and their persistence.

Your readers from around Year 4 will adore this – particularly those who loved The Wizards of Once – and my suggestions is that you order more than one copy!

Highly recommended for boys and girls who are able readers from mid-primary upwards.

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.