Hannah Peck

Somebody Swallowed Stanley

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Although he finds himself floating in the ocean, Stanley is no ordinary jelly fish. As he travels through the water, Stanley meets many marine animals who mistake him for a tasty treat only to find that he is not. Fortunately, most of the creatures are able to spit him out again; however, one isn’t so lucky- until a young boy comes to the rescue!

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The perfect story for encouraging children to think about the impact our plastic waste has on the environment, ‘Somebody Swallowed Stanley’ could be used with children of any age. Told in rhyme, the story follows Stanley as he is mistaken for a jellyfish and allows discussions about the dangers of digesting plastic. Each creature is identified through a series of clues, engaging younger children with guessing what it might be. As each creature tries to eat him, the language of the text has been carefully chosen to emphasise the impact Stanley has on each one, giving a very clear message, but the book offers a happy ending for all the creatures - and for Stanley too as he is recycled into a kite!

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This is such a current topic in schools that the story is sure to encourage action and make everyone think about what happens to our plastic once we can no longer see it. The illustrations are wonderful with a deep indigo background in many spreads making Stanley and the wonderful marine life stand out, emphasising the beauty of the ocean. Stanley himself is full of personality; he is not portrayed as evil, but as being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

A very engaging story with an important environmental message, ‘Somebody Swallowed Stanley’ is perfect for starting discussions and raising awareness amongst our children.

Somebody Swallowed Stanley Sarah Roberts, illustrated by Hannah Peck

Scholastic ISBN: 978-1407195100

The Steam Whistle Theatre Company

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The Pringles- a Victorian theatre family- have fallen on hard times and decide the only way forward is to venture North in search of pastures new. So, the newly named Steam Whistle Theatre Company ( minus Ma and the littlest ones) board a train for the first time and head for Uncaster. However, they find they are not the only entertainers in town. Baby Bubbles - child magician and escapologist- is also performing. Could this scupper their triumphant come-back?

Recently widowed Mrs Poskett, owner of Uncaster Hall, finds herself with the bailiffs at the door and deserted by all except Edie, a young workhouse girl, who suggests she takes in lodgers. Luckily for all concerned, the Pringles take the rooms, but if the odious Olio Sleevery has his way, no one will be staying at Uncaster Hall for long.

A Dickensian delight for upper KS2 readers, ‘The Steam Whistle Theatre Company’ is a wonderful read. Full of heart and humour, the story is bursting with brilliant characters worthy of the great man (Dickens!) himself. Mr Pringle and his troupe are reminiscent of Mr Vincent Crummles; the fabulously named Olio Sleevery is a villain worthy of Uriah Heep or Daniel Quilp and Edie Boiler a heroine to claim even the hardest of hearts!

But, having captured that essence, this is an original and engaging story which romps along at a wonderful pace. Hard work, determination and loyalty win through in the end, showing friendship can be found in the darkest times and the spoilt, precocious and greedy get their comeuppance.

This would make a joyful read aloud for anyone with a penchant for ‘doing the voices’ and a class who enjoy a rattling good read. Bravo (or brava!), Ms French!

The Steam Whistle Theatre Company Vivian French

Walker Books ISBN: 978-1406376319

The Peculiar Peggs of Riddling Woods

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Poppy has gone to stay with Grandma who lives in the sleepy town of Suds. Whilst there, she has to follow Grandma’s rules: keep the sugar locked away; do your washing during the day and make sure it’s brought in before six o’clock- even if it’s still wet; close the window at night, lock it and draw the curtains and NEVER dust the window sills. Not the rules you might expect, but then Suds is not as it appears. There are stories about children who have vanished- the colour draining slowly from them before they disappear completely. And then there’s the mysterious silk-bound book Poppy found on the train…

Poppy is certain that there is something peculiar going on in Suds and with her new friend, Erasmus, starts investigating its secrets. Curious characters and strange events lead them to the dark, sinister Riddling Woods, but will Poppy be brave enough to solve the mystery?

Full of wit and wisdom, ‘The Peculiar Peggs of Riddling Woods’ is a quirky original read which is deliciously dark in places. The many twists to the plot are cleverly woven together, making it thoroughly enjoyable.

Poppy and Erasmus are wonderful characters - both outsiders and both coping with difficulties in their lives. Poppy’s mother died in a crash and her father is often away; Erasmus’s mother is a drinker, often embarrassing and neglecting him. Each has an inner strength and copes, yet each is vulnerable. Gran is an amazing character- sweet- eating seamstress who can make anything.

The world of folklore and legends, the sinister nature of the Peggs and the hard fought battle of good versus evil make this book a refreshing alternative to many available at the moment. Peppered with quirky illustrations, it offers plenty of pacy action, mystery and adventure.

The Peculiar Peggs of Riddling Woods Samuel J Halpin, illustrated by Hannah Peck

Usborne ISBN: 978-1474945660