The Fabulous Friend Machine by Nick Bland

Popcorn was, quite simply, the friendliest chicken at FIDDLESTICKS FARM.

She insisted on saying hello to every animal every morning.

Popcorn was, quite simply, the friendliest chicken at FIDDLESTICKS FARM.

She insisted on saying hello to every animal every morning.

Popcorn was friendly and entertained all the farmyard animals, brightening their days with story. Life in the farmyard was richer for her sunny nature and helpfulness. But then she discovers a strange object in the corner of the barn: the Fabulous Friend Machine. Gradually all of Popcorn’s time and energy is sucked into communing with the friends she has found inside the object. She has so many friends that she hardly notices that the friends around her are missing her. Illustrations use a limited but rich palette of reds greens and blacks.

The Fabulous Friend Machine’ is a cautionary tale about the dangers of contemporary communication channels. Virtual ‘friends’ may not always be who they seem. Real friends are sidelined by the Fabulous Friend Machine until it seems that disaster must ensue. Recommended for early primary readers and teachers/family wanting to open conversations about cyber-safety with young users of technology.

The Fabulous Friend Machine, Nick Bland Scholastic 2016 ISBN: 9781760277659

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

The Very Noisy Bear, by Nick Bland

The Very Noisy BearIn the Jingle Jangle Jungle,
there was music in the air…
And it landed in the ears
of a very sleepy Bear.

When Bear is woken by his friends playing music, they suggest he joins in. But when he tries to play the drums, he bashes too hard and knocks them over, when he tries to play the guitar, his claws get tangled in the strings, and when he tries the trumpet, he makes a loud screech that scares the monkeys. Luckily his friends are persistent -and when he’s offered the microphone, Bear soon has everybody dancing when he roars in perfect harmony.

The Very Noisy Bear has all the fun of its predecssors, including The Very Cranky Bear, with humorous rhyming text, gorgeous animal-filled illustrations (rendered in acryclic paint), and a gentle, humorous story.

Lot sto like!

The Very Noisy Bear, by Nick Bland
Scholastic Press, 2015
ISBN 9781743627853

Available from good bookstores and online.

The Very Hungry Bear, by Nick Bland

Bear was in a GRUMPY mood,
he hadn’t eaten any food,
and he couldn’t catch a single fish to cook.

The Very Hungry Bear

First he was cranky, then he was itchy, now Bear is back and he’s Very Hungry. He’s been fishing all day without catching anything. When he does eventually catch something it isn’t one fish – but a polar bear with a whole armful of them. Polar Bear says he will gladly give Bear all of the fish if Bear will help him find somewhere to stay. Bear is happy to do this, and takes his new friend home to his cave. But the cave is too warm, and Bear is soon busy seeking out possible homes for his new friends. It takes a while, but eventually they find a place that is just right. Everybody is happy – but Bear –  ho has given his fish to prospective housemates for the white bear – is still hungry.

The Very Hungry Bear is a new installment in the series which began with The Very Cranky Bear and, like its predecessors is both heartwarming and funny. Bear  – and his friends, including the Polar Bear, are larger than life, with lovable and expressive features. The rhyming text flows well and the story has humorous twists which will delight young readers.

Very cute.

The Very Hungry Bear, by Nick Bland
Scholastic, 2012
ISBN

Available from good bookstores or online.

The Aunties Three, by Nick Bland

Don’t fart or burp or sniffle or sneeze.
Remember your ‘thank you’ and practise your ‘please’.
Speak when you’re spoken to, never before,
take a deep breath and open the door…
IF YOU DARE!

The Aunties Three are on their way to visit, but their exacting standards make it pretty hard to prepare for their visit. When they do come calling, things go wrong, and one by one the three aunties leave in disgust. Luckily, after they’ve gone, Aunty Four comes, ready for fun and comfort.

The Aunties Three is a fun rhyming romp full of the kind of silliness that youngsters love – rhyme that scans well, quirky characters and illustrative details which they’ll love to discover and explore. Nick Bland is a master of the picture book form and this new offering will not disappoint.

Aunties Three

The Aunties Three, by Nick Bland
Scholastic, 2011
ISBN 9781741697919

This book can be purchased in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

The Runaway Hug, by Nick Bland & Freya Blackwood

‘Mummy,’ said Lucy, ‘can I have a hug before I go to bed? I promise I’ll give it back.’

When Lucy’s mum gives her her last hug, Lucy sets out to share it with everyone in the family. Daddy give sit back, a little bit stronger. The twins vie it back, a little reluctantly, but twice as big as before. Baby Lily gives it back all peanut buttery. But when Lucy hugs the family dog, Annie, Annie runs away without returning the hug. Lucy is devastated. How will she tell Mum that she lost the last hug? Luckily, though, Annie is not a bad dog – just energetic, and eventually she finds Lucy and gives her a slobbery hug, just in time for bedtime.

The Runaway Hug is a gorgeous picture book from two of Australia’s finest picture book creators, Nick Bland and Freya Blackwood. Bland’s story is strong, yet gentle and is well complemented by Blackwood’s watercolour and pencil illustrations. The family and their home are a lovely mix of whimsy and the kind of chaos that comes with big, loving families.

The Runaway Hug is a warm tale of love and laughter.

Runaway Hug

The Runaway Hug, by Nick Bland & Freya Blackwood
Scholastic, 2011
ISBN 978186504405

This book can be purchased in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

The Very Itchy Bear, by Nick Bland

This is Flea about to bite
but not because he’s impolite.
He’s biting Bear to say,
‘Hello!’,
biting high
and biting low.

Bear is sitting quietly by himself when Flea comes to visit. Unfortunately for Bear, the way Flea says hello is by biting him – here, there and everywhere. This, of course, makes Bear itchy, and soon his itching frenzy sends Bear and Flea off on an adventure out to sea. And it is there, where Bear ends up alone floating on a log whilst Flea looks set to become a seagull’s dinner, that the pair establish an unlikely friendship.

The Very Itchy Bear sees the gorgeous bear star of A Very Cranky Bear return in an equally gorgeous sequel. Whilst the bear is the same, this offering stands alone, so that familiarity with the first is not necessary.

The rhyming text is a delight to read aloud, making it lots of fun for sharing sessions, and the illustrations bring the bear to life. Flea is, for the most part, just a speck, because of his size difference, but in one illustration we see him grinning sheepishly, perched on the end of a single hair.

A wonderful offering for preschoolers.

The Very Itchy Bear

The Very Itchy Bear, by Nick Bland
Scholastic Press, 2010
ISBN 9781741696516

This book can be purchased in good bookstores or online through Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Twinkle, by Nick Bland

Penny Pasketti stared into space and pretended the stars were her friends. She imagined that every twinkle was a smile or a secret or some such wonderful thing.
Then something unusual happened.

When a star falls from the sky, Penny Pasketti is filled with thoughts of adventure – at last she has a special friend she can share her secrets with. But when it comes time for Little Star to go home, Penny has a problem. How do you make a star fall up?

Twinkle is a delightful tale of friendship and whimsy. The illustrations are superb – with light and colour set against the dark tones of night, and with Penny’s story repeated by other unnamed characters in the background of the illustrations, youngsters will love viewing this one as much as reading the text.

Sure to bring a smile – or twinkle – to the face of all who read it.

Twinkle

Twinkle, by Nick Bland
Scholastic, 2010
ISBN 9781741693539

This book can be purchased in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

The Wrong Book, by Nick Bland

What are you doing here?
You’re in the WRONG BOOK!

Nicholas Ickle has a problem. He is trying to tell a story – but his book is repeatedly crashed by characters who don’t belong. First, it’s an elephant, then two monsters, a pirate, a queen and her attendants and more. As the intruders get increasingly ridiculous, Nicholas gets increasingly frustrated – only getting the chance to tell the reader what the book is supposed to be about as a giant ‘The End’ drops from above.

This funny picture book is a wonderful read aloud offering. Not only will adults enjoy reading it, but children will quickly join in on the refrain of ‘You’re in the wrong book!’ The illustrations are large and comic, with Nicholas Ickle dressed as a ring master, in dress-ups including a coat with tails, a top hat with sticky tape visible, and shorts. The intruders range from the big, slightly puzzled looking elephant which takes up a whole page, to a pirate in a one-man boat on wheels, and a snooty looking queen.

This is the sort of book which will withstand repeated reading and is sure to become a firm favourite.

The Wrong Book

The Wrong Book, written and illustrated by Nick Bland
Scholastic, 2009

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

Donald Loves Drumming, by Nick Bland

Donald drummed all day long.
He even dreamed about drumming.
But nobody else seemed to enjoy Donald’s drumming quite as much as he did.

Donald loves drumming, but no one around him seems to enjoy the drumming as much as Donald does, so Donald decides he needs to find something new to love. His attempts are not very successful, but finally Donald hits upon an idea which gives him something new to do, and ultimately a new place to do his drumming.

From the author-illustrator of the much-acclaimed A Monster Wrote Me a Letter, Nick Bland, Donald Loves Drumming is a very cute picture book offering. With Bland’s trademark animal characters – Donald is a rhinoceros – and soft colours, as well as a simple, but feel good, story line, the book will appeal to preschoolers and to adult readers.

Lovely.

Donald Loves Drumming

Donald Loves Drumming, by Nick Bland
Scholastic Press, 2008

This book is available online at Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

The Very Cranky Bear, by Nick Bland

In the Jingle Jangle Jungle on a cold and rainy day
four little friends found a perfect place to play…
None of them had noticed that someone else was there.
Sleeping in that cave was a very cranky BEAR!

When Moose, Lion, Zebra and Sheep take refuge from the rain in a nice warm cave, they don’t expect to meet a cranky bear. Soon, they are out in the rain again, and must try to find a way to placate Bear if they are to get back inside the cave. Lion, Zebra and Moose all think Bear will be happier if he looks more like them, but Sheep, who is very plain, is not so sure. And it is Sheep who, eventually, finds a solution to Bear’s crankiness and a warm place for the four friends to shelter.

The Very Cranky Bear is a funny picture book with rhyming text and humorous illustrations. Author/illustrator Bland manages to blend dark and light so that the fearsome bear and his dark cave are lightened by both bright touches and cute facial expressions. The Bear, whilst described as cranky, manages to look, at times, just like a grumpy toddler. The rhyming text flows from page to page with a lively rhythm and plenty of clues for youngsters to guess at rhyming words.

Lots of fun, The Very Cranky Bear is a great read-aloud offering.

The Very Cranky Bear

The Very Cranky Bear, by Nick Bland
Scholastic Australia, 2008

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