One Cool Friend is one cool book!


ONE COOL FRIEND – view on Amazon

by Toni Buzzeo; illustrated by David Small; published (2012) by Dial Books for Young Readers

ONE COOL FRIEND by very cool author Toni Buzzeo is my kind of quality book!  I came across it quite by chance while browsing on Amazon.  Well written.  Intelligent.  Simply and artfully illustrated (mostly two-tone and soft colored and somewhat reminiscent of the Eloise books), it’s a real charmer.

Who is Elliot’s cool friend?  It’s an honest to goodness penguin.

Elliot, a very dapper proper young man dressed in a dapper proper young man’s tuxedo, is always very polite. So when his father says, “Family Fun Day at the aquarium….”  Elliot very politely says, “Of course.  Thank you for inviting me.”

At the aquarium he finds a pool full of very proper penguins who, with their tidy feather tuxedos and proper postures, remind Elliot of himself.

“May I please have a penguin?” says Elliot to his dad (meaning may he have a REAL penguin).

“Sure,” says his dad, eyeing the plush penguins on sale in the giftshop.

So Elliot and Magellan the REAL penguin have a wonderful time.  They skate in Elliot’s ultra chilled air-conditioned room; they eat goldfish crackers and anchovy frozen pizza. But when Elliot puts Magellan in the tub, trouble comes along and that trouble is none other than Dad deciding to have a soak.

“I think I’ll have a bit of a soak,”  says Dad.

Worried?  Don’t be.  The surprise ending is on the reader, and a very cool ending it is.  One Cool Friend is a low key and beautifully paced book that is pure pleasure reading from beginning to end.

David Small has illustrated a great number of books, and authored a few good ones himself.  Get to know David  here.

And the very talented Toni Buzzeo here.

The Princess and the Packet of Frozen Peas

Leave a comment


by Tony Wilson; illustrated by Sue deGennaro; published (2009) Peachtree Publishers

It was the fresh, fun cover that attracted me to this one AND its cool title too!

Prince Henrik wants very much to fall in love and get married.

His brother, Prince Hans, has some very good advice to give.

“The important thing is to make sure she is a real princess,” says his brother, Prince Hans. “A real princess is very beautiful and very sensitive.”

He advises to stack twenty mattresses and twenty eiderdown quilts and put a single pea at the bottom of the mattress.  And, “If a girl complains about feeling the pea through the mattresses and eiderdown quilts, she must be a real princess.” 

After all, that’s how Hans met his wife, Princess Eva.  But Princess Eva is always frowning and being sensitive about EVERYTHING.  Her princess tennis balls are too bouncy, her new sports car isn’t the one she wanted and the palace maids are not doing their job! A princess doesn’t have to be beautiful, decides Henrik. She just has to like hockey and camping and have a nice smile.

So he hatches a plan to find the perfect UNREAL princess.  He offers each of his stay-over guests one thin camping mattress rather than twenty real ones.  Instead of eiderdown quilts he offers one old sleeping bag.  Instead of a single pea it’s a whole packet of frozen peas.  THAT’S  a test!  And not a single princess passes.

“You won’t believe this, I found PEAS in my bed.”

“I couldn’t sleep at all, I found a massive lump under the mattress.”

“What’s the deal with the PACKET TO FROZEN PEAS?”  complains another.

It is QUITE the challenge to find that UNREAL princess.  And a lovely idea for a book with a nice modern twist on the old classic – just the kind of book I wish I’d read as a little girl !

If you’d like to know what its author, Tony Wilson, has to say about THE PRINCESS AND THE FROZEN PEAS,  here it is.

Russell the Sheep (who couldn’t sleep)

Leave a comment

RUSSELL THE SHEEP – View on Amazon

by Rob Scotton;  published (2005) by Harper Collins Children’s Books

RUSSELL THE SHEEP is an adorable book about an adorable sheep named Russell.

He lives in Frogsbottom Field. It’s been a long and busy day in Frogsbottom Field. Grandma sheep’s been knitting. The cuddly flock has lazed and grazed. Everyone’s down for some restful zzzz’s …. except for Russell.

Russell cannot fall asleep.

Is it not dark enough, he wonders?  Down goes his woolly hat over his eyes, but – oooooh! –  the really dark really scares him!  Is it too hot?  Off comes his woolly sheepskin (and he’s looking SO dapper in dotted undies) but – brrrrrr! – the night is VERY drafty!

Perhaps a new place?  The trunk of a car is too cramped!  The hollow of a tree is too creepy.  The bird-covered branch is way too crowded!  What’s a sheep to do?

There is always the tried and true like counting things.  Counting his own four feet and the six hundred million billion and ten stars in the sky and each and every snoozing sheep in the field!  Ah…

“Still awake,” he sighs.

Goodness, is there anything left to count?  There is.  Something very important that Russell forgot. The whole book will make you chuckle (the illustrations alone make it worth the while) and you will at last…see Russell …..yawn…….get his share of ……zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz….

Good night, Russ. You’ll be waking up to five bright and twinkly stars from me, your new best fan forever…..

Where did Rob Scotton get the idea for Russell the Sheep?  He tells the story behind the story of his very first winning character creation… right here :  The beginning – according to Rob!

HippoSpotamus is fun, fun, fun!


HIPPOSPOTAMUS – View on Amazon

by Jeanne Willis; illustrated by Tony Ross; published (2012) by Andersen Press.

A rhyming book and a whole lotta silly fun!  Hippopotamus has a spotamus on her bottomus. but whatever could  it be?

“It’s measels,” says the Weasel. “You sat in a breezle and caught a diseasel. 

“It’s Hippopox!” says the Fox. But Beaver says it’s Jungle Fever, Lion says it’s Hippolumps, Shrew believes it’s Potomumps and if Rhino says it’s Hippoflu, really, no one has a clue. Oh, dear, what will spotty hippo do?

She’ll scrub her skin with icky soot, from “..noseymus to footimus, but the spotamus stayed put.”

She’ll get a shot from Croc the Doc but despite the “perfect shotamus”  – rot! the shot’s for naught!

“It’s a blister,”  says her sister.

For goodness’ sake, “You clottamus!”  says the acerbated Snake.  “Cut out chippochoccomus, eat lettuce for a week.”  Still  “… the spot on Hippo’s bottomus stuck firmly to her cheek.” 

Will the spotty on her botty ever, ever leave?  The ending may delight you, and then again may not (’cause it’s a yecchy fulsome finish to that stubborn sticky spot!)

HOWEVER, it’s a lively book and it’s hilarious and good enough to forgive the ending.  On a scale of 0 to the full 5-ottomus,  I give it the maximottamus.  (Plus, Ross’ illustrations are the perfect complimottamus.)

Other books by Ross and Willis: 

The positively depressing and absolutely adorable  Misery Moo.

This book’s a hoot: Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs

Leave a comment


by Mo Willems; published (2012) by Balzer + Bray (Harper Collins)

I don’t  usually see the point in retelling old favourites, but in this case, what a treat! GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE DINOSAURS is chock-full of tongue-in-cheek humour.

We follow little Goldie, a poorly supervised little girl, traipsing along through the woods where Papa Dinosaur, Mama Dinosaur, and some other Dinosaur who happened to be visiting from Norway  are  NOT waiting for some tasty morsel of a kid to come by.  Bouncing happily with her golden locks, Goldie’s a dead ringer for – and this is my only complaint – Trixie from Knuffle Bunny. (Have you noticed how illustrators often draw the same faced characters?).  Anyway..

…Goldilocks never listened to warnings about the dangers of barging into strange, enormous houses. So as soon as Goldilocks came across a strange enormous house, she barged right in.

Mo’s great with facial expressions. And body language. We see a scoffing Goldilocks dipping into big bowls of chocolate pudding, and it is an absolute hoot. True to the original tale, she sees the three enormous chairs and the three enormous beds and…

Goldilocks took a minute to stop and think, which was longer than she was used to stopping and thinking. 

“Hey…” she told herself.  “This isn’t some bear’s house. This is some DINOSAUR’S house!”

Say what you like about Goldilocks, but she was no fool.

Well Goldie, you’d better hightail it, because …

Just then a loud plane flew by, which sounded pretty much like a trio of Dinosaurs yelling “NOW!” or “CHARGE!” or the Norwegian expression for “CHEWY-BONBON-TIME!”

Yuck!  Nobody likes to think of Goldie as a chewy bonbon!  Fortunately, there is a moral to the story.  Two morals, in fact.  Two morals crazy Willems style.  You’ll have to read the book to find out what those two crazy morals are and what happens to pudding-stuffed Goldie. But here’s a list of the funny tidbits you’ll find in Mo’s illustrations:

– In the woods, an arrow pointing Goldilocks to the house :  .2 miles to a trap very nice house.

– In the bedroom, a basketball poster :  Go Asteroids.  Feel the BOOM!

– An oversized doormat saying:  WIPE YOUR TALONS.

And the best, a dinosaur poster in the hallway, saying:  We Are Natural Gas.

Care to browse the book?  Head on over to HarperCollins.

This Is Not My Hat


THIS IS NOT MY HAT – View on Amazon

by Jon Klassen; published (2012) by Candlewick Press

Hats off to Jon Klassen, I think he pulled off a great book. Because it’s not your usual kind of children’s story and the illustrations beautifully complement the action.

We follow little fish swimming his way into hiding after quite shamelessly stealing a hat belonging to a really BIG fish.  The build-up of the most amusing visual and textual tension is perfect and NOT easy to do.  Where is little fish going after stealing the hat?

I am going where the plants grow big and tall and close together.  It is very hard to see in there.  Nobody will ever find me.  There is someone who saw me already.” (A crab.)  But he said he wouldn’t tell anyone which way I went.” (The snitch!)  “So I am not worried about that.”  (Right!)

In the meantime, big fish has opened an eye.  He rolls it upward.  Uh-oh.  He seems to know exactly where to go and the dense tangle of plants is no obstacle.

Nobody will ever find me,” says little fish.


What happens to little fish is left to the reader’s imagination and I like that.  The darkness of this watery world adds to the suspense of this very appealing book.  I truly loved it.

Have a look at the trailer,  here.

Six Crows

Leave a comment

SIX CROWS – View on Amazon

a fable by Leo Lionni; published (1988) by Scholastic Inc.

I got this book for 50 cents at a book sale at our public library. I’d never heard of Leo Lionni – (yes, I am blushing red as a beet as I write this – seems he is rather well known) But what attracted me to the book was curiosity about its uber-simplistic illustrations; it has a sort of homemade feel. It turns out Leo Lionni (1910-1999) had 42 books to his credit, won awards and was compared to the brilliant Eric Carle. Though I’m not so keen on his illustrations for SIX CROWS, I’ve done my research and the body of his scrumptious work is very Eric Carle-ish indeed.

SIX CROWS is a cute little story about sharing and collaboration.  Set in a peaceful valley where a farmer cultivates a field of wheat….

….life would have been good and happy were it not for six noisy crows who nested in a nearby tree. Just when the wheat was about to ripen, the crows descended upon the field and pecked away at the tender grains.

Naturally, the farmer builds a scarecrow.  Naturally the crows are frightened away, but they retaliate, building an even fiercer bark-n-leaves-bird-kite to banish the farmer.  An outright war erupts, each party now looking to one-up the other, building bigger scarecrows and bigger ‘scare-farmers’.  It is tit for tat with no end in sight, but an owl ….

…. had been watching the goings on….”I don’t know who is sillier, the farmer or the crows,” she thought.

What with the silliness, the neglected wheat begins to wilt and the owl decides to arbitrate.  “Go talk things over.  Words can do magic,” she says. They agree and they compromise for the sake of the prized wheat and the magic truly does happen …

… there stood the giant scarecrow…..  The nasty grin had turned into a happy smile.

A very simple story with a very big message.

If I’ve piqued your curiosity about Leo Lionni, why not have a look at these….?

Random House Kids (for cute videos)


For a preview of the book, of course, there is always the good old Amazon ‘look inside’ feature.

The Mellops Go Diving For Treasure

Leave a comment


by Tomi Ungerer; published (2011) by Phaidon Press

More of  the Mellops, my favourite pig family!  And this time they are diving for treasure!

In an old trunk in his attic Mr. Mellops finds a fortuitous note penned  by his ancestor, le Capitaine Gédéon Simon Mellops, and it tells of a raging battle and a sunken shipload of gold.

“My goodness!  I wonder whether that treasure is still there?” exclaims Mr. Mellops.

He and his darling piglets Felix, Isidor, Casimir and Ferdinand set out to sea.  They have gold on their mind (plus diving equipment and a rented steamer).  Alas, there is  a dangerous octopus living in the sunken ship.  Thank goodness, he is not fond of music and a lovely merpig comes along to lead him away and charm him to sleep.

Alas, they are low on oxygen and a storm above the waters has sunk their boat.  Fortunately Mr. Mellops finds a makeshift solution and off they go with the makeshift solution AND the coveted chest of treasures.  Alas! There is nothing in it but a map and a compass!  What a break!  On the map is a place marked by a cross and they find their trove!

Oh, dear, they are stranded on an island with nothing to buy!  Thank goodness for that ship on the horizon!

How sad!  After taxes and paying for the storm-sunken steamer, there is nothing left to speak of.  Oh, well, there is always Mrs. Mellops’ ever-delicious cream cake!

Love Tomi?  Here’s his official website:


The Dark

Leave a comment

THE DARK –  View on Amazon

by Lemony Snicket; illustrated by Jon Klassen; published (2013) by Harper Collins

My first thought on seeing the cover and the words ‘The Dark by Lemony Snicket’ was, “This is going to be another crazy, funny, Snickety kind of book.”  But wow, it wasn’t.  Nothing crazy here.  A lovely, lean, taut piece of writing.  Smart and ominous.  And so original.  Who would’ve thought to personify The Dark?  Snicket, who else!  Though the fact that he’s surprised me once again I would say is no surprise and, happily, the ending does have a snicker-worthy twist to it.

Laszlo is afraid of the dark; the dark lives in the same house as Laszlo.  You’re pulled along beautifully and the pacing is perfect. 

  Sometimes the dark hid in the closet.  Sometimes it sat behind the shower curtain. But mostly it spent its time in the basement.  All day long the dark would wait in a distant corner, far from the squeaks and rattles of the washing machine, pressed up against some old, damp boxers and a chest of drawers nobody ever opened.  At night, of course, the dark went out and spread itself against the windows and doors of Laszlo’s house.

….Laszlo thought that….maybe the dark wouldn’t come visit him in his room.  But one night – it did.

“Laszlo,” the dark said, in the dark……

…”I want to show you something,” said the dark. 

Elegant.  Creepy.  It has you wondering how Laszlo will deal with the dark, but it’s the dark who deals with Laszlo.  The dark gives the boy something useful and rather sweet to help him live with its shady, impalpable self.

    By the time Laszlo got back into bed, the dark was no longer in his room…

      …The dark kept on living with Laszlo, but it never bothered him again.

A really nice book. Can you tell I’m a Snicket fan?  If there is only one minor flaw it’s that the solution is perhaps not the best ultimate solution, but hey, I like it anyway.  Here are a couple of tempting trailers – the first posted by the Guardian and read by Neil Gaiman:  The Dark – trailer 1 and the other  The Dark – trailer 2 posted by the Huffington Post.  You’ll note Jon Klassen’s clean, straightfoward illustrations have quite the impact.

And here’s a link to the National Post:  Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen discuss The Dark.

To buy some inexpensive prints by the illustrator, click here.

Claude in the City

Leave a comment

CLAUDE IN THE CITY –  View on Amazon

by Alex T. Smith; published (2011) by Peachtree Publishers

Claude, a small plump dog who wears a red beret and a lovely red sweater, belongs to Mr. and Mrs. Shinyshoes (who are always seen from their shiny shoes up to their knees).  And when Mr. and Mrs. Shinyshoes are out, Claude is up and about and ready for another adventure.  This time, he and his unlikely sidekick Sir Bobblysock – yes, a bobbly sock! – are off to see the city.

There’s a lot to see in the city and it’s the author’s art and wacky humour that makes the book soar – though I did find it a bit longish.  I would rather see a single story plot – i.e. the museum and the capture of the nefarious sculpture-nabbing thieves.  But it goes on with a visit to the doctor and (structurally speaking) where is the link between this and the incident at the museum?  None.

Still, the charm of its characters and the cute retro feel have kept me reading.  So here are the bits I loved:

–  Without a doubt, the illustrations – fresh, and full of tongue-in-cheek humour.

–  Its silly text:

One morning, Claude put on his beret and decided to go to the City.  “I think I will go to the City,” he said.  Sir Bobblysock came too, as he didn’t have anything else planned that day. Claude ….couldn’t believe how tall the buildings were…..Sir Bobblysock was glad that he wasn’t the one who had to clean the windows.

–  How Claude never seems to need any money to buy anything:

Claude hurried inside and bought a beret in every color and every pattern.  That was an awful lot of berets.

–  Or the ridiculous, like this:

…. he took Sir Bobblysock’s temperature with a banana…..”Sir Bobblysock,” he said, “you are not very well. All that shopping and rushing around in the city has worn you out.  I think I will have to take you to the hospital!”…..Dr.  Achinbum prodded and poked Sir Bobblysock’s tummy, listened to his heart …. and took Sir Bobblysock’s temperature (this time with a thermometer, not a banana).  Claude sniffed haughtily.  He ALWAYS found bananas were much better for taking temperatures.

Of course, that bit’s from the next part of the book – Claude at the hospital being a doctor for a day and saving a woeful team of ailing acrobats.  Wouldn’t this have made a nice second book?  Novertheless, it was a fun read and I love that Mr.  and Mrs. Shinyshoes never, ever know what happens. excerpt from Claude in the City  and Alex T. Smith’s  Claude books blogspot.

There is even a Claude Facebook fan page.