Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Billy's Bucket by Kes Gray

Here is another small gem that might have slipped your notice when it was published in 2003. Billy’s Bucket by Kes Gray hits all the right buttons with me. Billy is a boy with a marvelous imagination and a boy with terrific determination.

He does not want a conventional Birthday present given by his conventional parents. He wish is far more simple. Billy wants a bucket! Mum and Dad try to persuade Billy to consider other gifts but Billy simply won’t be swayed.

Finally Mum and Dad give in and take Billy to a store with the fabulous name of
Buckets are us! 
Billy needs to look at all those rows and rows of buckets in order to find that one special bucket he knows is there.

And what a bucket it is. When Billy gets the bucket home he fills it with water and then the magic begins. Rock pools, fish, coral, sharks, clown fish, a stingray and much more can be seen inside this marvelous bucket. Of course Mum and Dad don’t bother to look and so miss all this magic.

The best twist though comes at the end, when despite Billy’s stern warning, Dad uses the bucket to wash his car. Spoiler alert -  “It took Billy’s Mum and Dad six hours, three fire engines, four cranes and a shoe horn to get the whale back into the bucket and they never borrowed Billy’s bucket again.”

This is a book you can easily revisit again and again. It will be a hit with young readers and with Mum and Dad too! Check out other books by Kes Gray such as Eat your peas and You do. They are great fun.

Here is a set of teachers notes. Zoe at Playing by the Book loves Billy's Bucket too. Here is a splendid video of the whole book.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Toothpaste and The Astonishing Madame Majolica

Here is another small book that most people probably missed when it was published over 10 years ago. It is called The Astonishing Madame Majolica by Erylis Hunter. In just 64 pages this book has all the right ingredients for young readers – humour, magic, toothpaste, a touch of fantasy and a cliff-hanger about half way through.

Our hero sees an eccentric lady at the local shopping centre with a sign that says ‘Let Madame Majolica Astonish you’. This magical lady explains she has some special toothpaste that you only need to apply once each year. In exchange for 20 cents and a fudge recipe Toby takes home the little tube, he tries it out and then he screams!

Madame Majolica has a magical bag. She places the recipe inside and just a few moments later pulls out a dish of freshly baked fudge. It is delicious!
The theme of lost teeth is always popular with Years 1-3 and I love to read books like The Tooth Ball by Philippa Pearce, Oliver Sundew Tooth fairy by Sam McBratney and by Robert Munch Andrew's loose tooth.

On the topic of toothpaste books like The Chocolate Touch by Patrick Skene Catling and the sequel Chocolate Touch II along with The toothpaste Genie by Sandy Frances Duncan are worth searching for in your library. Finally there is one of the best short stories of all time Paul Jennings One Shot toothpaste which I first read in a little Puffinalia magazine in 1985.

In writing this blog I now discover the author of The Astonishing Madame Majolica is from New Zealand.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Pencil of Doom by Andy Griffiths

I will admit I am not a huge fan of Andy Griffiths – why would I be – I am completely the wrong demographic. I am not a boy in Year 4 or Year 5 but I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed reading one of his newest books – Pencil of Doom.

What a great book to read if you feel like real laugh. The plot has just the right number of twists and turns for a story that could be so predictable.

The pencil of this book is totally evil. The idea is similar to the genii from the bottle who gives wishes but always gets those wishes wrong. When the children draw their wishes using this pencil they really need to take care. How these wishes are ‘interpreted’ by the pencil of doom is guaranteed to be a shock, dangerous and often a disaster.

One memorable scene is in the school library towards the end of the story. Our 5 intrepid heroes enter the library stealthily. Clive, their enemy, has the pencil and he has produced a cartoon that fills all the friends with dread. Frame one is a happy picnic scene set under a snow capped mountain, frame two the cap of the mountain breaks off, frame three all the friends are buried under the snow, and the final frame is five tombstones in a ring on the snow.

The cartoon comes true but since we are in the library it is the bookshelves, not snow that falls on the gang. Mr Shush, the librarian, must set the children free but first “I have to do it systematically. In alphabetical order. This is a library, you know, not a garage sale. It will take me a few seconds ... minutes ... hours …days … weeks … months … years.” See Chapters 58-63 for more details.

I love the name Mr Shush and of course the other characters have great names too – the teacher Mr Brainfright, Mrs Rainbow the art teacher, Mr Grunt the sports teacher and my personal favourite Mrs Bandaid the school nurse.

You will laugh out loud when you read this book so if you need a good laugh try Pencil of Doom! This is the second book in the Schooling Around series which began with Treasure Fever.