The Bad Bunnies' Magic Show

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I was talking to a colleague today and was really surprised to find that she had never heard of ‘The Bad Bunnies’ Magic Show’ by the incomparable Mini Grey, prompting me to look at it for today’s review!

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The Great Hypno’s magic show might have been cancelled, but a new, exciting act has taken its place. Two naughty white rabbits- Abra and Cadabra- have kidnapped the magician and are performing his tricks with interesting results. As things get increasingly out of hand, Abra and Cadabra turn their paws to a spot of hypnotism and robbery. Fortunately, the Great Hypno escapes in time to save the day. Although blasted from the Cannon of Doom and left to clean the stage as a punishment, it seems the bunnies might not have learned their lesson after all…

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Fabulous illustrations combine with paper play to tell this wonderful story as there are flaps to lift to reveal the result of magic tricks and partial pages and shaped edges to enhance the action. Magic, mystery and mayhem abound! The bunnies hog centre stage with their antics, but there is plenty of action in the wings as the Great Hypno is assisted in his escape act.

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The simple text offers plenty of opportunity to explore and discuss word play and the book makes a great read aloud as there are many places which lend themselves to audience participation. The story is also perfect for discussing the consequences of our actions! This story is pure magic!

The Bad Bunnies’ Magic Show Mini Grey

Simon and Schuster ISBN: 978-1471157592

The Umbrella Mouse

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It’s 1944 and London is under attack. At James Smith and Sons Umbrella Shop, little Pip Hanway lives happily with her mother and father in an antique umbrella until her world is destroyed by a bomb. Orphaned, Pip decides she must find her way to the umbrella museum in Gignese, Italy where she has some family.

Befriended by Dickin, a search and rescue dog, Pip learns she must join the animals of Noah’s Ark, a secret organisation of animals working as resistance fighters, if she is to stand a chance of making it to her new home.

A very enjoyable and exciting adventure story, ‘The Umbrella Mouse’ looks at the role of resistance fighters and the constant perils they faced. The story highlights the work done by rescue dogs and carrier pigeons as well as acknowledging the impact war has on pets as well as humans. Anna Fargher cleverly uses the plight of the animals in her story to parallel those experienced by humans.

‘The Umbrella Mouse’ does not shy away from the darker consequences of resistance work, including the imprisonment and torture of those unlucky enough to be captured. The manipulation of the vulnerable- those who have lost everything and are searching for a new ‘family’ - so that they will join an organisation is also shown through the actions of certain characters. Infiltration and betrayal are also explored.

All of this makes it sound like a very dark and difficult story to read; however, this is far from being the case. Pip is an inspirational character, full of courage and the determination to follow her dreams.

‘You just need to find a little courage in your heart to begin something new’

This advice from her mother carries her through many perilous situations. At times, Pip is reckless, brave with the belief of the young that they are indestructible so that at times her actions endanger others, but her heart is true and loyal. Dickin is another fantastic character whose courage and good heart are up- lifting ad heart warming to read about. Hans might just be my favourite for reasons I can’t explain as it will spoil the book for anyone who has not read it yet.

The book is full of rich descriptions and is a compelling and powerful read. The illustrations really add to the story as we see Pip and her intrepid friends pursue their quest across France. The ending is left open for another adventure for this little mouse… and there is an umbrella museum in Gignese- who knew?!

The Umbrella Mouse Anna Fargher, illustrated by Sam Usher

Macmillan ISBN: 978- 1529003970

To be published May 2nd 2019

The Suitcase

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When a stranger arrives one day, bearing only a big suitcase, the other creatures are full of questions. Intrigued by his answers, when he falls asleep they take matters into their own hands and decide to break into his suitcase. Inside, they discover something very special and when the stranger wakes, he finds a wonderful surprise waiting for him.

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This is such a beautiful, moving story, perfect for sharing with any age group. The text is extremely simple, but the story sings loud and clear about the way in which we should treat those in need. Initially suspicious, the animals offer the stranger kindness and support. If only the world were such a place…

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The illustrations are perfect for the story. Most are set again stark white backgrounds, focusing attention firmly on the suitcase and the animals with coloured text showing who is speaking. The spread showing his little wooden cabin on the hillside is in sepia tones, echoing the photograph, allowing the reader to set it in any time or place. Although we don’t know exactly why he left his home, we know the stranger has run away, hidden and undertaken a long difficult journey and this is highlighted by the image of him swimming through a menacing, dark sea, clutching his suitcase.

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There is so much that could be done with this book in school from assemblies to class work to story time reading- it is a real must-have for school and home alike. Perfect for encouraging empathy, ‘The Suitcase’ is moving, heartwarming story, full of hope and kindness.

The Suitcase Chris Naylor-Ballesteros

Nosy Crow ISBN: 978- 1788004480

You can read our review of ‘I’m Going to Eat this Ant’ here and ‘I Love You, Stick Insect’ here.