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RIP Jessica - hopefully now that justice has been done your friends and family can start to move on and remember the good times.

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since 09/08/2005


Surprise Visitors - Heather Amery 04/08/2009

Surprise!!! You Have Company

Surprise Visitors -  Heather Amery ***Background*** Usborne Publishers are well known for their range of educational books for children and within that range, one of the popular series of books is Farmyard Tales. These books are written by Heather Amery and illustrated by Stephen Cartwright, who is sadly not with us anymore but leaves behind a large collection of books with his signature on each page of a little yellow duck to find. This set of books is especially aimed at children who are learning to read. There is a shorter and easier line of text at the top of each page, which can be mastered first, and then a more descriptive story at the bottom of each page. ***The Story*** We start off the story down on Apple Tree Farm with Mrs Boot the farmer and her two children called Poppy and Sam. Their dog Rusty is also there. "'Why are the cows so noisy?' asks Sam." They run outside to have a look and find that a hot air balloon is about to land in their field. They soon find out that they have run out of gas and they are waiting on their friend to bring some more out to them in a truck. The children are fascinated to see how the balloon works and they are offered a ride in the balloon with their mother. They are amazed to see how everything looks down below them and thoroughly enjoy the short trip. Eventually they land again and the truck comes to pick them up and take them home. The story ends with, "'Thank you very much.' They wave as the balloon takes off again. ...

I'll Show You Blue Kangaroo - Emma Chichester Clark 29/07/2009

Who Knows Best?

I'll Show You Blue Kangaroo - Emma Chichester Clark ***Background*** Emma Chichester Clark is both the author and illustrator of this lovely book about a little girl called Lily and her well-loved toy. As well as the Blue Kangaroo series, she has written many other books including the ones all about Melrose and Croc. ***The Story*** The story starts with an exasperated looking mother telling Lily to stop doing what she is doing. “Blue Kangaroo belonged to Lily. He was her very own kangaroo. Sometimes, when Lily was showing off and not doing as she was told, she would say, ‘I’ll show you, Blue Kangaroo!’ And Blue Kangaroo watched. What else could he do?” Throughout the book, Lily sees things on television or on stage that she thinks she will be able to do and although various family members tell her not to do it, she tries and then fails, causing upset wherever she goes. All through it, she implores Blue Kangaroo to watch her. Eventually Lily’s mother has had enough of her bad behaviour and sends her off to bed. Unfortunately Blue Kangaroo has been left outside clinging up in the branches of a high tree and takes a tumble to the ground. His tail is torn and he is losing stuffing but luckily Lily’s mother finds him and sews up his tail. Lily’s mother tells her that she can’t have him back until she has shown them that she can be good and that day she does everything she is told and doesn’t show off at all. The book ends with her mother asking her if she has turned over a new leaf. “‘YES!’ said Lily. ...

Where's My Teddy? - Jez Alborough 19/03/2009

Looking For A Special Friend

Where's My Teddy? - Jez Alborough As with a lot of the kids books at the moment, Ciao has got the wrong picture so I've added one in of the right book. ***Background*** Jez Alborough is a well-known name in our house because me son had read just about every Duck book in the series. His Bear books are also very popular and there are quite a few of them now too. He not only writes these wonderful rhyming books but illustrates them too. ***The Story*** We start with a little boy going into a wood. “Eddy’s off to find his teddy. Eddy’s teddy’s name is Freddy. He lost him in the wood somewhere. It’s dark and horrible in there. ‘Help!’ said Eddy. ‘I’m scared already! I want my bed! I want my teddy!’” He wanders through lots of trees until he stops in surprise, as he sees a giant teddy bear sitting in a clearing. He is confused by the growth spurt that the bear has taken and wonders how he will fit him in his bed. He then hears someone crying and soon sees a gigantic bear with a little tiny teddy coming towards him. Of course the bear realises that the giant teddy is his but Eddy is scared of the bear and then in turn sees his own teddy but scares the bear in the process. With their own bears being clutched very tightly to them, the bear and Eddy both run in different directions back home to their beds where they are able to give their teddies big cuddles. ***The Illustrations*** The pictures in this book have lots of background detailing and the trees in the wood are textured ...

Dance of the Dinosaurs - Colin Hawkins, Jacqui Hawkins 08/03/2009

Stomping Around In A Storm

Dance of the Dinosaurs - Colin Hawkins, Jacqui Hawkins Unfortunately Ciao has put the totally wrong picture to go with this title at the top so I have added one myself. ***Background*** Colin and Jacqui Hawkins share the responsibility or writing and illustrating this rhyming book and this is a partnership that has worked extremely well in the past with many books that will encourage young children to read. ***The Story*** The book starts with a picture of a boy and girl in their beds while a storm rages outside. “Lightning flashed on a wild, stormy night And Georgie and Dee shivered in fright. ‘Come on,’ said Cat. ‘Don’t be afraid! I’ll show you both how a storm is made.’” The children follow the cat down the stairs and outside into the woods where they see a hot air balloon. They all get in and the balloon travels to a strange land that is filled with flying lizards that the children soon recognize as being dinosaurs. The balloon lands and the cat takes the children to a place where the Dance of the Dinosaurs is taking place. It’s not long before the children are enjoying the atmosphere and are dancing along with the huge beasts. The children see that the teeth of the dinosaurs cause the flashes in the sky and the shaking rumbling noises are in fact the dinosaurs’ feet. At the end of the dance they see that the storm has stopped and the children get back in the balloon and return to their beds. The story ends with the children feeling safely tucked up in beds and… “And far, far away… …The ...

A Pipkin of Pepper - Helen Cooper 27/02/2009

Just A Pipkin

A Pipkin of Pepper - Helen Cooper ***The Background*** Helen Cooper is the author behind this wonderful book that continues the story of the characters featured in the award winning title, Pumpkin Soup. These books are magical, both for the stories and for the remarkably beautiful illustrations. ***The Story*** The story begins with a picture of a strange white cabin in the middle of a wood. Coming from the chimney is steam and smoke filled with the scent of pumpkins. "Something was bubbling in the old white cabin. What was in the cooking pot? PUMPKIN SOUP! Made by a Cat, a Squirrel and a Duck, waiting just for a pipkin of salt to make it the best you ever tasted... but..." When the page is turned we learn that there is no salt left and there is a picture of the three friends trying the soup with looks of disgust on their faces. The Cat decides that shopping is in order and the Duck wants to come to but the Squirrel and Cat are worried because Duck has a tendency to wander off and become lost. They finally agree to take Duck and tell him that if he gets lost he must stay where he is until they find him. Duck is amazed by all the sights, sounds and smells of the city and sees a store that sells pepper. He immediately thinks that this would make the pumpkin soup taste even better than before but the other two disagree and go to buy some salt leaving the daydreaming Duck behind. Duck panics and forgets to stay put and has to ask the help of a friendly Mother Hen ...

Whiff, or How the Beautiful Big Fat Smelly Baby Found a Friend - Ian Whybrow 23/02/2009

Beautifully Smelly

Whiff, or How the Beautiful Big Fat Smelly Baby Found a Friend - Ian Whybrow ***Background*** My son is a huge fan of the Harry and His Bucketful of Dinosaurs series of books but Ian Whybrow has also written many other picture books for children over the years and this one is illustrated by Russell Ayto. ***The Story*** The story starts with a picture of a baby warthog sitting on his own with a flock of flies above his head. "By a bend in the river lived a beautiful big fat smelly baby warthog. His mum and dad were very proud of him. They called him Whiff. They wanted him to make friends and be happy." The warthogs have neighbours on either side of them and across the street so it?s not really a surprise when Mrs Crocodile knocks on their door and asks if the baby warthog wants to play with her baby. The Crocodile asks if Whiff is rough and his mother replies that he is not. Soon they are playing happily together until, "But then down came some tickly quickly flies! They tickled their ears and they tickled their eyes. So the crocodile bit his teddy bears, He bashed the table and he crashed the chairs, His teeth went snap and his tail went wheee! Down fell the pictures, one-two-three!" Mrs Crocodile blames it all on Whiff and sends him away with his flies. Whiff is very upset. The next animal who comes to call is Mrs Monkey and asks Whiff round for tea. Whiff behaves beautifully until the flies arrive and the monkeys all end up making a mess with the plates and jelly. Again Whiff is sent packing and is really ...

The But 'n' Ben, Arbroath, Scotland 21/08/2008

No Buts It's Got To Be The But 'n' Ben

The But 'n' Ben, Arbroath, Scotland ***Background*** The first time I visited this small restaurant was on a very cold and windy lunchtime, just before Christmas, around 17 years ago. The office where I worked decided to have their festive lunch there and it was so good that it wasn't long before I was booking a table there one evening. Since then my visits have been kept to mainly special occasions and I was delighted the other week to hear that hubby was taking me there for a birthday treat. ***Location*** Auchmithie is a small fishing village just north of Arbroath on the East Coast of Scotland. It's not the easiest to find but the best way from Arbroath is to head out towards Montrose on the A92. On the outskirts of Arbroath you turn right at the Meadowbank Inn and then follow the road to the end where you make a left along tiny country roads. Keep going until you see a sign for Auchmithie leading you down towards the sea and you'll find this small restaurant easily. Parking is available on the street and by way of a small public car park just round the back of the restaurant. In summer you can have a gentle stroll down to the sea but it winter it can be pretty wild so dress accordingly if you want to round off your meal with a blast of sea air. ***The Restaurant*** Any fans of The Broons from the Sunday Post will know that the family often spend holidays at their But 'n' Ben, which is a little cottage in the country. This restaurant is well named because on first glance this looks like ...

Playskool Mr Potato Head Taters Of The Lost Ark 21/07/2008

My Hubby's Spuds Are Musical When Played With

Playskool Mr Potato Head Taters Of The Lost Ark ***Background*** I guess this review was inevitable for me really given my past history with the Star Wars spuds and the Spiderman one. Unlike those previous characters though, I have to admit to being a bit of an Indiana Jones fan and can't wait to finally find the time to see the new movie, despite the mixed reviews. This version of the heroic adventurer is titled, Taters of the Lost Ark, and obviously features from the first film. It's a wee bit different from the others in the series because the play on words goes to the film rather than the character but to be honest with an item like this, the fun is more in the playing so it doesn't really matter that much. Mr Potato Head has been on the go for many years and I remember having him and his missus when I was just a little 'un. I would sit for hours apparently, putting different eyes on them and changing their hair constantly. I can't say that I have vivid memories but I do remember them. Of course he got a new lease of life when he featured in Toy Story and the Picasso comment always makes me laugh. ***The Age Limit*** Like the other toys in this series the age guide says for ages 2 and upwards and like the other reviews of these toys, I would re-iterate that this is far too young for this type of toy. There are many attachments and a lot of 2 and even 3 year olds might be tempted to put one of the many attachments in their mouths and could perhaps choke, so this is something that should be ...

Hairy Maclary's Showbusiness - Lynley Dodd 18/07/2008

Best In Show

Hairy Maclary's Showbusiness - Lynley Dodd ***Background*** Lynley Dodd keeps children happy with her series of books about the scruffy mutt that is Hairy Maclary. Her clever rhymes and funny illustrations mean that she is a very popular choice with children and adults alike. ***The Story*** The story starts with a picture of a town hall where a cat show is taking place. "In Riverside Hall on Cabbage Tree Row, the Cat Club were having their Annual Show. There were fat cats and thin cats, tabbies and greys, kick-up-a-din cats with boisterous ways." Outside Hairy Maclary is tied up but wants to see inside and does just that as he escapes from the tree he is tied to. Inside he gets all the cats worked up and various people try to catch him as he hides and jumps around. Along the way he manages to get everything tangled up until eventually Miss Plum catches him and the action moves to the row of prize-winners where we see prizes for the biggest family, worst temper, snootiest and longest whiskers. The story ends as we look along the line. "and WHO won the prize for the SCRUFFIEST CAT? Hairy Maclary From Donaldson's Dairy." ***The Illustrations*** As with all the books in the series, the format is kept simple with a picture on one half of the double pages and the story written on the other. The illustrations are very detailed as well as being bright and colourful, with lots going on in the backgrounds. This is great for keeping children occupied as you read the story. The text ...

Mog's Bad Thing - Judith Kerr 17/06/2008

Hiding Away In Shame

Mog's Bad Thing - Judith Kerr ***Background*** Judith Kerr hasn't always had an easy life. In fact when she was only nine years of age she had to flee Berlin with her family from the Nazis. Her personal experiences are obviously why some of her more serious works are on the happenings of that time in history and she is well known for her book entitled, When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. As well as those more serious books, she is also the author of the popular Mog the cat books and a popular one in our house called The Tiger Who Came To Tea. ***The Story*** "One day Mog was coming home to her garden. She had been on a mouse hunt all night and she was very tired. Mog thought, 'I need a big sleep.'" Before she goes off to have her nap she checks that the garden is how she left it and then goes into the house where the family are sitting discussing a cat show that is going to be taking place the next day in their garden. When Mog goes out again for the night she discovers that the garden has changed and all that is left is a huge tent that scares Mog. This is unfortunate because Mog needed to use her special place in the garden that is her lavatory and instead she comes back into the house and does her business on her master's chair before hiding. The next morning Mr Thomas is very angry and she hides at the top of the house feeling sad and lonely, while everyone gets ready for the cat show. The family then notice that Mog is missing and go off to search for her but to no avail. Just as ...

Roaring Rockets - Tony Mitton 04/06/2008

Fly Me To The Moon

Roaring Rockets - Tony Mitton ***Background*** Tony Mitton is best known to me for being the author of the fantastic, Spookyrumpus, but this book is part of a series about Amazing Machines and there are quite a few others in it to choose from. Ant Parker illustrates the series. ***The Story*** "Wow! Rockets have power. They rise and roar. This rocket's waiting, ready to soar. Rockets carry astronauts with cool, white suits, oxygen helmets and gravity boots." We then see a rabbit, a mouse and an owl go into the rocket and we see a countdown before they blast off into space. We learn about the fuel tanks and how they drop off and find out about gravity and how you float about in space if you aren't strapped in. The friends soon find themselves near the moon and launch the lunar lander before they take a walk on the moon. When the mission is over we see the explorers going back in the rocket for the long ride home. "Rockets re-enter in a fiery flash to land at sea with a sizzling splas! The helicopter carries the brave crew away. Let's give them a cheer. Hip, hip, hooray." Although that's where the story ends, there is a small section at the back about Rocket Bits and various things that we have seen in the story are explained in more detail, such as the oxygen helmet and the command module. ***The Illustrations*** The pictures in this book are very bright and exciting to look at. There are lots of descriptive sounds throughout and the words are written in big letters ...

The Grumpalump - Sarah Hayes 30/05/2008

What Is A Grumpalump?

The Grumpalump - Sarah Hayes ***Background*** My son has been getting a weekend 'project' home every Friday from school and this was the first book that features in this special package. More about that later though, as this book is written by Sarah Hayes who is also responsible for creating the This Is The Bear series. Barbara Firth takes care of the illustrations in this book. ***The Story*** The book starts with a bear and a lump. "The bear stared at the grumpalump. The lump grumped." As you go through the book, more animals appear and each one does an action that rhymes with their name. The cat sat and the dove shoved but all the lump does is grump. Eventually a gnu appears and blew at the grumpalump. The lump gets bigger and bigger until we see that there is a lot more to it that just a big lump. The story ends as we find out what the grumpalump actually is. "The gnu drew breath and clambered in. The grumpalump began to grin. 'I'm off on a trip in my hot airship,' said the gnu, and flew. Absolutely true." ***The Illustrations*** The pictures in this book are quite simply drawn and the colours are set off against a mainly white background, where the lettering is big and black. The pictures are quite amusing throughout although it is the text that really makes this book a bit special. ***My Thoughts*** I'm a great fan of books that have a rhyming element to them, as I feel that they have great learning potential. Young children can often memorise the ...

Change of Heart - Jodi Picoult 27/05/2008

Could You Accept A Murderer's Heart?

Change of Heart - Jodi Picoult ***Background*** For most book readers, Jodi Picoult needs no introduction. Her name was made very familiar to me after hearing wonderful things on Richard and Judy where her book, My Sister's Keeper, was flung into the limelight. Since then I have read the majority of her books and when I was in America last year I went out of my way to visit a bookstore so I could get my hands on some of her earlier novels that aren't published in the UK as yet. This one though is her latest over here and as soon as I heard about it I went online to reserve a copy from the library. It didn't take me long to read it and to be honest I was desperate to write a review on the issues that brought left me torn between sympathy and hatred for the main character. ***The Story*** Let me start this by asking you a couple of questions. What would you do if the man, who had been sentenced to death for killing your child and spouse, turned round and offered his heart to your remaining sick child who is desperate for a heart transplant? Would you be grateful to have the chance to save your child or would you despise the man so much that the thought of having his heart inside your child is too much to bear? These are the questions that one of the main characters in this book has to answer and it's not an easy decision to make. On top of that, the death penalty is supposed to be by lethal injection, which would render the heart useless so a battle is put in place to have this ...

Cuddly Dudley - Jez Alborough 23/05/2008

Leave Me Alone!!!

Cuddly Dudley - Jez Alborough ***Background*** Jez Alborough not only writes this wonderful story but illustrates it too and has done so with a wide variety of books including his wonderful rhyming series about Duck and his lovable series about Bear. ***The Story*** This story starts with a penguin called Dudley who loves to play by himself. The problem is that he has lots of brothers and sisters who love to cuddle him and he rarely gets a chance to be alone. "'Go away,' Dudley would say. 'Leave me alone.' 'We can't," came the reply. 'You're just too cuddly, Dudley.' 'I'm fed up with all your huddling and waddling and cuddling,' said Dudley one day. 'I'm going to find a place where I can play all on my own.' And off he went." So Dudley walks for many miles until he finds a little house that seemed to be empty. Dudley thinks this is just perfect and soon makes himself at home enjoying the peace and quiet, until a knock at the door disturbs him. It turns out to be a couple of his sisters who have followed his footprints to find him but he sends them on their way and shuts the door. He is soon enjoying a bath but there is another knock and all his brothers and sisters are there. He sends them all away and all is quiet again until another knock makes him go to the door. This time it is a great big man who immediately thinks Dudley is cute enough to cuddle. He runs out of the house and tries to get back home but finds himself a little bit lost. He climbs the hill to see better and ...

Bush TS281 19/05/2008

These Fillings Are Great To Have

Bush TS281 ***Background*** I have a confession to make - I love toasties. Whether it's a simple ham and cheese or a slightly more unusual version like banana, I'm addicted at lunchtime. I find that they are a lot more filling than just standard toast and because the filling heats up too, it tastes like you are having a proper cooked lunch. Our last toastie machine had been around in the house for years and had been constantly used but it was looking a bit battered and with us getting lots of new items for wedding presents last year we decided to upgrade. This coincided with my daughter going off to university and she had already mentioned taking the old one with her. There aren't really a great many options out there these days for toastie machines so choice was a little bit limited but we were looking for something that would cook two sandwiches at the same time and also something that would blend in with our black/chrome accessories. ***The Machine*** The external area of this machine is mainly black with a silver panel on top along with a red and a green light. When it is switched on at the mains the red light comes on until it is heated up, at which time it goes over to the green light. This signals the time to put your buttered bread and fillings in before closing the lid and waiting between 5 and 10 minutes for it to cook it. The lid clips underneath to hold everything in place and there is a central section that diagonally 'cuts' your two slices of bread in ...
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