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There’s a Lion in my Cornflakes

One of those books that immediately catches your eye, we picked this up in the library last week, attracted by the intriguing title and the bright orange colour.

A small boy warns us to ignore anything on a cereal packet that offers a free lion in exchange for 100 coupons.  He goes on to explain why, telling us the story of how he and his brother collected 100 tokens, but by the time they had eaten all the cereal, everyone else had also already applied for their free lion.  When eventually the cereal company gets round to their application there are no more lions left, so instead they send a bear.

This does not go down well with the little boy and his brother.  A bear cannot do any of the things they expected their lion to be able to help with.  So they complain to the cereal company, who apologise and instead send a crocodile.  And then a gorilla.

As you can imagine, the house gets crazier and crazier and no lion ever appears. In the end however, the two boys realise there are advantages to what they have and that just about everyone has a lion; it’s not exciting any more.

There’s a chatty, colloquial style to this book that works well given it’s set up as a recount.  Moments like “how unfair is that?!” have an authentic ring of normal speech and make it easy to read aloud effectively as well as appealing to young independent readers. I think it’s probably a little too long and the pacing feels off at times but overall the story hangs together well and there’s a comic coherence to what’s going on.  The illustrations by Jim Field are very successful, if occasionally a little too busy on some pages, but there are some great double page spreads such as the one where the park is filled with 19 lions and their owners.

The message of the book is to accept what you have, even when that’s a bear, a crocodile and a gorilla instead of the lion you wanted, but it makes the point to look at the uses and opportunities you already have in a fun and creative way.

Overall a light-hearted and entertaining book with a core of meaning.

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Cats Ahoy!

Books about cats are good.  Books about pirates are good.  A book about cats being pirates – well, where can it go wrong?

Alfonso the cat overhears some old fisherman talking about a huge haul of haddock due to pull into harbour at first light.  He dashes off to round up an unlikely crew of moggies with the promise of all the fish they can eat.

“There’s a ship standing empty,

A three masted clipper.

Meet there at midnight.

Her name is The Kipper.”

In the dead of night the cats cast off from the shore and The Kipper makes its way to the ocean.  The skipper of the trawler, Trelawney P. Craddock, is smugly sailing home with his pile of fish when, out of the mist, a horrendous howling is heard and an apparently empty ship sails out of the haze.  In a panic, the humans abandon their ship, to the delight of the piratical cats.

“In a small sheltered cove out of sight of the land

The sea-mogs scoffed haddock and danced on the sand.

As the bright rays of dawn were beginning to gleam

They sang “Yo-ho-ho and a carton of cream!” “

This excellent book by Peter Bently won the Roald Dahl Funny Prize in 2011.  It surfs along nicely in rollicking verse and with a delightfully anarchic sense of triumph when the cats get their prize.  The vocabulary is slightly more sophisticated than your average picture book (probably on a par with the longer Julia Donaldson books)  and so this should appeal to a fairly large age-range including the first couple of years of primary school.   The illustrations, by Jim Field, are lively and full of character.

What I particularly like is the fact that the story does not end with the cats purloining the fish but with their return home some weeks later, and with a clever (if probably not original) pun.

This is a great book that both adults and children will enjoy reading.