Laugh Your Head Off Again

I’m in the supermarket trying to remember what groceries mum wanted me to pick up, but I can’t think. I can’t breathe. I can’t do anything. i’m busting. And I don’t mean busting. I mean BUSTING!

Andy Griffiths’ hilarious tale of mishap after mishap when a boy finds himself busting for the toilet in the middle of a shopping trip is just one of nine stories by some of Australia’s best – and funniest – authors of young people in this hard cover bind-up for children.

Laugh Your Head off Again features nine humorous stories from authors including Griffiths, Sally Rippin, Morris Gleitzman and Frances Watts, in situations including a corn chip that looks like Justin Beiber, a seagull determined to steal the perfect footy pie, and a school camp on a llama farm. Each story is short enough to be enjoyed in a single sitting and is embellished with illustrations by Andrea Innoent.

Lots of fun for primary aged readers.

Laugh Your Head off Again
Pan Macmillan, 2016
ISBN 9781743549872

The Secret of the Swords, and The Poison Plot, by Frances Watts ill Gregory Rogers

Meet Thomasina, kitchen hand who would really rather be a knight-in-training.


Tommy ignored the voice calling her. ‘Go, Sir Benedict!’ she whispered.

Tommy knew it would be Mrs Moon, the cook, angry because she wasn’t standing at the long table peeling mountains of potatoes with the other kitchen girls. Instead, Tommy was standing at the kitchen doorway, watching the knights practising in the great courtyard.

The Secret of the Swords introduces Thomasina, or Tommy, who would much rather be in the courtyard learning to be a knight. But it seems her destiny is to be at the mercy of the cook, Mrs Moon, endlessly peeling potatoes and other horrible kitchen jobs. But a chance encounter with an uppity boy leads to a new job. She is now Flamant’s Keeper of the Blades. It may not be knight-training, but at least she’s working with swords. And these are very special swords.

There’s to be a banquet at Flamant in instalment two of ‘Sword Girl’: The Poison Plot. Tommy is loving her new job learning the history of the swords in her care and getting to know her way around the castle and the village. When she overhears a plot to poison Sir Walter, she has to act. She has to think quickly, or the consequences will be awful. Luckily she’s as sharp as the swords she looks after, although the solution is somewhat unexpected.

‘Sword Girl’ is a new series from Frances Watt, featuring Tommy and set in medieval times. Black and white illustrations throughout the text take the reader into the past and into the castle. Tommy makes friends with many of the castle inhabitants, but a few enemies too. Enough that she can’t completely relax into her new job. Luck may have landed her in a much better job than her old kitchen one, but quick thinking is going to keep her there. And she’s a resourceful character in a tough but magical world. There’s plenty of humour here as well as page-turning stories. Recommended for middle-primary readers.

The Secret of the Swords (Sword Girl)

The Secret of the Swords (Sword Girl), Frances Watts ill Gregory Rogers Allen & Unwin 2012 ISBN: 9781742377285

The Poison Plot (Sword Girl)

The Poison Plot, Frances Watts ill Gregory Rogers Allen & Unwin 2012 ISBN: 9781742377926

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

Captain Crabclaw's Crew, by Frances Watts and David Legge Reviewed by Sally Murphy

‘Shivering shellfish,’ Captain Crablcalw said proudly, as he admired his brand-new pirate ship, the Speedy Squid.
‘Now all I need is a crew and I can sail the seven seas in search of some treasure to fill these empty chests.’

Captain Crabclaw can’t wait to set sail in his new ship, but when he advertises for a fearsome crew, he gets a crew that might be fearsome, but is also unusual, as first a duck, then an elephant, giraffe, cow and chicken, all come looking for work. When they set off on their adventure, they are laughed at – ‘that’s not a crew – that’s a zoo!’. Captain Crabclaw is upset, but his crew come up with a great idea – the first ever pirate zoo. When every visitor pays a gold coin, the Captain is convinced.

Captain Crabclaw’s Crew is a bright picture book with a whimsical story line and gorgeous digital art, sure to appeal to youngsters, and to adult readers.

From the pairing of author Frances Watts and illustrator David Legge, who also worked together on Kisses for Daddy and Parsley Rabbit’s Book About Books, this third collaboration is delightful.

Captain Crabclaw's Crew

Captain Crabclaw’s Crew, by Frances Watts and David Legge
ABC Books, 2009

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

The Middle Sheep, by Frances Watts

‘I don’t care who started it, or whose fault it is,’ Valiant Vera said, holding up a hand as Ernie and Maud began to talk at once. ‘Until you two can work together, I don’t want to see either of you here. Now, go home and don’t come back until this problem is sorted out!’
Ernie quaked inside. Not come back to the Superheros Society? Being a superhero was the most important thing in the world to him!

Extraordinary Ernie loves being a superhero, and has even got used to having a sidekick who is a sheep. But now, only months into his training, he has struck a problem. Maud, his sidekick, has become moody and grumpy, and obsessed with her problems as the middle sheep in her family. It seems to Ernie that she doesn’t have time to be his sidekick any more. Now Valiant Vera says that if the pair can’t sort out their problems, then they’ll be kicked out of the Superheroes Society.

The Middle Sheep is the humorous sequel to Extraordinary Ernie & Marvellous Maud and just as much fun as the first offering. The humour of having a sheep for a sidekick, and the cast of characters, along with the appeal of having a fairly normal boy becoming a superhero, is sure to tickle the funny bones of junior primary aged readers. The small format size and the short length add to the appeal.

Lots of fun.

The Middle Sheep

The Middle Sheep, by France Watts, ill by Judy Watson
ABC books, 2008

This book can be purchased online at Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Extraordinary Ernie & Marvellous Maud, by Frances Watts

Ernie Eggers was late for school. And it was all the fault of The Daring Dynamo. Ernie was a big fan of The Daring Dynamo, who was everything a superhero should be – and everything that Ernie wasn’t. The Dynamo was daring, obviously. And dashing. He was brave and strong. He never tripped over his own feet. He was never tongue-tied. His ears didn’t stick out. And, Ernie guessed, The Daring Dynamo was probably punctual.

Ernie’s favourite television program was about a superhero, but he never dreamed he’d have a chance to become one himself. So when the local branch of the Superheroes Society advertises a competition with a prize of a side-kick, Ernie decides this could be his big chance. His interview at (Baxter Branch) Superheroes Headquarters doesn’t go well, but in the absence of other entrants, Ernie wins the prize – a superhero sidekick call Maud. Maud is a sheep. Ernie is underwhelmed, but Maud soon convinces Ernie that there’s more to her than a woolly coat and four legs.

Extraordinary Ernie & Marvellous Maud is the first in a new series from ABC Books. So there’s some scene setting to do and some introductions to make. Ernie is transformed from an ordinary, average-scholar, often-late, non-sporty boy into Extraordinary Ernie, who with the help of the unlikely Maud is learning what it takes to be a superhero. The remaining members of the local branch of the Superheroes Society seem to have lost their oomph. There are hints that Ernie and Maud may just shake them out of the rut they seem to be in. Ernie is an appealing character and Maud an engaging sidekick. Both have strengths and weaknesses which seem to bring out the best in each other. There is clear indication here too of the value of believing in yourself. Extraordinary Ernie & Marvellous Maud is also very funny, full of absurdity and nonsense. Judy Watson’s illustrations appear in most openings, breaking up the text for younger readers. There is plenty to entertain proficient readers. Highly recommended for early middle-primary readers and beyond.

Extraordinary Ernie and Marvellous Maud (Ernie and Maud)

Extraordinary Ernie and Marvellous Maud, by Frances Watts ill Judy Watson
ABC Books
ISBN: 9780733321924

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.