Book Review

MG Monday: The Grunts in Trouble by Philip Ardagh.

middlegrademonday

Middle Grade Mondays on Juniper’s Jungle feature books aimed at 8 – 12 year olds, or younger. This week, The Grunts in Trouble by Philip Ardagh gets the focus.

GruntsMeet Mr and Mrs Grunt. Oh, go on. They’re not that bad. No, actually, they ARE. Maybe worse, even. But Sunny, their sort-of son, is okay. They stole him from a washing line as a baby. He was hanging by his ears, which probably explains why they’re so wonky (but not why he has sticky-up hair that NEVER lies flat, even if you pour glue into it or try taping it in place). Sticky around and you’ll also meet Lord Bigg of Bigg Manor, Bigg-hater Larry Smalls, Mimi the Bigg Manor boot boy (yup, she’s a girl) and…Well, you’ll have to READ the book to find that out. But I should mention the bees. Did I warn you about the bees?!

There are a number of middle grade series that I have written on a list to try, ones that I hear about from my Beaver Scouts or from parents who have children of the appropriate age. When I do read the first book in the series sometimes it’s a case of love at first page and I find myself wondering when on earth I’m going to find the time to read all of the other books in the series. Then there are books that are an interesting enough read but I don’t feel any drive to read more – this is how I felt about The Grunts.

I can definitely see the appeal of this book to younger readers. It’s funny and engaging with larger than life characters who move from one amusing moment of trouble to the next, with each problem proving larger (and potentially funnier) than the last. I personally found that whilst the story was amusing it didn’t really make me laugh out loud, I think I had started reading expecting it to be more funny than it actually was.

This book is illustrated by Axel Scheffler who is probably most familiar for his work on The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo’s Child, written by Julia Donaldson. I reviewed one of his self-penned Pip and Posy books a little while ago, you can see that here. I really like his style and it works well in this book, seeing The Grunts and the other characters brought to life in the pages – I think I’d be hard pressed to pick a favourite character.

One thing I wasn’t quite sure about with this book was the somewhat rambling nature of the narrative. The book has a storyteller style narrator who often goes off on tangents that are only partially related to the story itself. These are sometimes quite funny and entertaining, but at times I found myself wishing that the narrator would just get on with the story. I am very sure that this aspect of the book will work very differently for different readers and that some will absolutely love it.

I’m very glad that I’ve read this, the first book to feature The Grunts, and that I’ve now met the characters. I won’t be rushing to read any more of their stories, but I’ll certainly try some of Philip Ardagh’s other series in the future.

The Grunts in Trouble is published by Nosy Crow in the UK. My copy of the book is one I purchased myself.

Book Review

PoP: Bug and Bear by Ann Bonwill & Lynn Marlow and Pip and Posy: The Scary Monster by Axel Scheffler.

PoP Tuesdays on Juniper’s Jungle bring two reviews of picture books.

Bug and Bear by Ann Bonwill & Lynn Marlow (illustrator). Oxford University Press.
BugAndBearThis is the story of Bug who wakes up happy,
Bear who wakes up grumpy,
and the day when their friendship is lost and found.

This is a really cute story about two friends who wake up with very different plans for how to spend the day. Bug is desperate to play but to his disappointment Bear is sleepy and wants to nap instead. Bear tries everything she can to get the message through to Bug that she doesn’t want to play, but instead Bug sees the potential for a game in everything that Bear does. Naturally both animals come Pthat will satisfy the reader. This book has great discussion potential, neither Bug or Bear are a particularly good friend at times.

I really liked Lynn Marlow’s art style. The illustrations use strong colours in slightly muted tones which makes for a very attractive end result. The text is arranged throughout the book in different ways that suits the art for the page really well. I was really interested by the one double page spread that required the book to be turned through 90 degrees. This is a lovely idea and with a quick practice would be easy enough if you were reading the book aloud to a group, it might be a little trickier to juggle if you were reading the book to a squirming toddler sat on your lap.

Pip and Posy: The Scary Monster by Axel Scheffler. Nosy Crow.
PipAndPosyPosy is happily baking cakes when a scary monster appears!

Poor Posy! She feels quite frightened – until she sees that it’s not a real monster after all, but Pip dressed in a costume.

A funny story for the very young, with gentle lessons about being brave and taking turns.

There is a whole set of Pip and Posy stories, this is the first one I’ve read. It’s a lovely, simple story that young children will really enjoy. It begins with Posy making a cake to alleviate the boredom brought by bad weather – I loved the way she started by washing her hands and putting on an apron! I had begun by reading the blurb so there was no monster reveal to come for me, I knew it was Pip, but I think young readers would like discovering it was him in a costume.

Axel Scheffler’s art is very recognisable and familiar, his work on hugely popular titles such as The Gruffalo has led to his art appearing on all manner of objects for sale widely in the UK. I liked getting to see some non- Gruffalo work, it’s just as enjoyable. His pictures are very vibrant, he manages to convey a lot of life and movement within them. I loved all of the little details in the pictures – I have a feeling many of them are nods to other books that Scheffler has illustrated but sadly I’m not currently familiar enough with his work to recognise them.

I’m really pleased to see that there are board book versions of the Pip and Posy stories, I think they will go down very well with friends to share with their young toddlers.

Both books featured in this post were borrowed from my local library.