Freaks on the Loose by Leigh Hobbs

Miss Corker was a brand-new teacher and she was about to meet 4F, her brand-new class.
The headmaster introduced the children one by one.

Freaks on the Loose’ is two books in one, combining ‘4F for Freaks’ and ‘Freaks Ahoy’. In the first instalment, 4F have seen off another teacher and they see no reason that Miss Corker won’t soon follow. They have a reputation for awfulness and it’s well earned. Miss Corker consults The Teacher’s Handbook and makes it to the end of the first day. Just. Next day, though, there’s another new teacher, Miss Schnorkel. And Miss Schnorkel appears to have the measure of this legendary class. In the second story, Miss Schnorkel takes the class on an excursion aboard a boat. They visit a ship of retired teachers and of course mayhem ensues. Text is minimal and most of each page is filled with black and white images of the dreadful students and their appalling behaviour.

It’s difficult to decide whether this is a warning to aspiring teachers, or a manual for students. Either way, it’s full of giggles and guffaws as teacher and students get to know one another. Leigh Hobb’s iconic illustrations and monstrous characters are perfectly pitched at newly independent readers. Recommended for teachers and students alike.

Freaks on the Loose, Leigh Hobbs, Allen&Unwin 2018 ISBN: 9781780294311

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

Mr Chicken Goes to Paris, by Leigh Hobbs

On the way to the Arc de Triomphe, he politely asked someone to take his photo.
‘Of course, monsieur,’ came the reply.
‘Merci, madame,’ said Mr Chicken.

Mr Chicken loves to travel and he has never visited France, so when his French friend Yvette invites him, he hops on the next plane. In Paris there is so much to see. He practises his French phrases as he visits the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower and more. And, when things don’t go exactly to plan, his friend Yvette is there to help.

Since its first release in 2009, Mr Chicken Goes to paris has been loved by all ages. Mr Chicken is an oversized, startling looking chicken, but his zest for life and quest for discovery make him loveable. The fact that he seems unaware that he is different – and is, in fact, often more interesting to those around him and the landmarks he is visiting – will delight young readers and be the cause of much discussion.

The latest release of includes a copy of the book and a plush Mr Chicken.

Mr Chicken Goes to paris, by Leigh Hobbs
Allen & Unwin, 2016
ISBN 9781760293024

Horrible Harriet's Inheritance, by Leigh Hobbs

Dear Readers.
You are the lucky ones, and don’t forget it. For you are about to learn all about me (well, a lot – not everything, because some things must stay secret). Don’t expect rubbish like beauty tips or manners advice (yuk!) in this book, because I’m not interested in that stuff, and I’m the boss of what’s between the covers.

No one who has ever met Horrible Harriet can forget her – and here she is again in another unforgettable adventure. This time Harriet tells her story from her own perspective, complete with drawings and poems and more. In her room perched in a tower above her school, Harriet writes poetry and prepares meals for the teachers she keeps locked in the basement. She has no inkling of what is to come – the postman brings her a letter, informing her that she may be the long lost heir to a royal throne. She just needs to fill in the gaps on her family tree to stake her claim.

Horrible Harreit’s mind is filled with visions of palaces and coaches and, as she explores her history, she unearths some very surprising relatives. But if she claims her throne she may have to leave the school.

Horrible Harriet’s Inheritance is a hilarious offering for children which will make older readers giggle, too. Filled with the quirkiness that readers have come to expect from creator Leigh Hobbs, including comical line drawings on every page.

In Horrible Harriet’s own words: ‘This Book is Brilliant!’

Horrible Harriet's Inheritance

Horrible Harriet’s Inheritance, by Leigh Hobbs
Allen & Unwin, 2012
ISBN 9781741149852

This book is available in good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Mr Badger and the Difficult Duchess, by Leigh Hobbs

Mr Badger had excellent manners plus a great deal of patience. But you probably knew that already.
This is why he didn’t just manage special events at the Boubles Grand Hotel (pronounced Boublay). Mr Badger was also the Manager of Special Guests – and sometimes very special guests.
Special guests weren’t treated all that differently to anyone else. It was just that film stars and princesses, kings queens and famous orchestra conductors often caused a fuss because people wanted to stare at them and point.

Mr Badger never knows quite what his day might bring. When you are Manager of Special Events, AND of Special Guests, it could be anything. So when the Duchess de la Dodo arrives unexpectedly, demanding the Royal Suite, he deals with it with his trademark patience and goodwill. But it seems nothing is quite enough for the Duchess. Meanwhile tonight is the Annual Dinner for the Philatelic Society, and there’s the Grand Ballroom to be preparing. You know, chandeliers to be polished, parquetry to be buffed, place names to be placed and shy philatelists to be put at their ease. Of course there is drama unforeseen…

Leigh Hobbs both writes and illustrates and here his trademark quirky characters are combined with deadpan humour. The action is set in an old-style London hotel, where the guests are treated like royalty, no matter their eccentric or demanding behaviour. The reader will cheer for Mr Badger and boo the baddies in these almost-vaudeville tales. And it’s lovely to then see the unflappable Mr Badger at home with his own family doing normal things and entertaining his wife with the antics at Boubles Grand Hotel. There are illustrations on each page, breaking up the text and enriching the narrative. Ideal for newly independent readers, reluctant readers and fans of Leigh Hobbs’ stories.

Mr Badger and the Difficult Duchess

Mr Badger and the Difficult Duchess, Leigh Hobbs
Allen&Unwin 2011
ISBN: 9781742374192

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book is available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond.

Mr Badger and the Magic Mirror, by Leigh Hobbs

Whenever Mr Badger came home tired after a hard day’s work at the Boubles Grand Hotel, Mrs Badger understood why – for every day brought with it new adventures. Mrs Badger looked forward to hearing all about them at dinnertime.
No matter how exhausted Mr Badger might be, he always made sure he read a bedtime story to his darling daughter Berenice, and baby Badger, too.

Mr Badger’s work day started as it usually did. He breakfasted with his family then set off for Boubles Grand Hotel, wondering what the day would bring. For it always brought surprises, but none that were beyond Mr Badger’s capacity to handle. Today was particularly surprising. Sir Cecil, owner of the hotel, has organised for a mirror from his private quarters to be installed at the top of the stairs. Mr Badger goes to check that everything is fine and discovers the mirror is like no mirror he’s ever seen. It’s magic! He also discovers just why Sir Cecil treasures the mirror. Meanwhile, Lady Celia has arrived at the hotel for morning tea with granddaughter Sylvia. Sylvia also notices the mirror, while Lady Celia is far more interested to discover whether the Australians have eaten all the scones.

This is a delightful series for newly independent readers, and will also be enjoyed by younger readers. The stories are as much about what ISN’T said as about what is. Mr Badger is the epitome of patience and forbearance, when there is much to tax him. In this installment, the reader discovers an escape free from the challenges of demanding owners and their even more demanding granddaughter. There is no attempt to address challenging behaviours. It is enough to present those behaviours and to let the reader decide which characters deserve their support. The humour is wry and the illustrations droll. Recommended for newly independent readers and fans of Old Tom, Mr Chicken and his friends.

Mr Badger and the Forgotten Room

Mr Badger and the Forgotten Room, Leigh Hobbs
Allen&Unwin 2011
ISBN: 9781742374208

Available from good bookstores, or online from Fishpond.

Mr Badger and the Big Surprise, by Leigh Hobbs

Mr Badger lives in Mayfair. However if you ever find yourself in this part of central London, I wouldn’t bother searching for Mr Badger’s house. People have walked past it every day for years without ever noticing it.

Mr Badger has a grand job in a grand hotel. He is the Special Events Manager at the Boubles Grand Hotel. He, with his assistant and staff, has managed weddings, engagements and many other Occasions. But today his special event is the most special on his calendar. It’s the seventh birthday of a very fussy, very indulged little girl, Sylvia Smothers-Carruthers. Her grandparents are the owners of the hotel. They adore their granddaughter, and are apparently blind to some of her less than adorable behaviours. Mr Badger has prepared for every contingency at this most grand of parties, and is on hand to ensure a drama-free event. As if that’s possible…

Mr Badger is a master of preparedness and an island of calm. Nothing fazes him. He is ready for any emergency. But behind that demeanour is a person (okay, a badger) who feels things just like anyone else. Mr Badger and the Big Surprise is a story about behaving badly and behaving well. But behind the behaviours the thoughts are much the same. We all need to be valued. Readers will enjoy the atrocious behaviour of Sylvia. Each opening includes black and white illustrations, making this a perfect introduction for newly confident readers in transition to longer texts. Fans of Leigh Hobbs will appreciate his dry humour.

Mr Badger and the Big Surprise

Mr Badger and the Big Surprise, Leigh Hobbs
Allen & Unwin 2010
ISBN: 9781742374178

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book can be purchased in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond.

Stew a Cockatoo, by Ruthie May

This is a book for the whole family – kids and oldies alike. It’s full of old-time Aussie recipes, with a few new ones added in. Some you will have heard of, like Damper and Lamingtons – others are brand-spanking-new versions of golden oldies, like Edna Split and Roo Doo in a Patty Case. Some of the recipes have come all the way Down Under from faraway places like Italy and Mexico, but here they are given a you-beaut Aussie twist. All the recipes celebrate the grub that Aussies love to eat – from barbies with the rellies to fine dining with mates beside the pool.

When a recipe book is titled, Stew a Cockatoo there is a frisson of anxiety about the contents. And there is a recipe for Cockatoo Stew in amongst the other offerings. It may not ever become your favourite meal. But Stew a Cockatoo is more than a recipe book. It does have a list of the bits and bobs you might need in a kitchen, but there’s more. Like a late night tv advertisement that always promises more, ‘Stew a Cockatoo’ delivers Aussie-isms and an entertaining dollop of history. Some recipes, like that for damper, may see familiar, but can you guess what a ‘Redback Spider’ is and how you might make it? Each double page spread features an Australian saying, a bite of history and perhaps a definition or two, as well as a recipe or three. Leigh Hobbs’ fans will recognise his illustrations, and trademark humour. And with recipes for You-Beaut Snapper and Banana Benders, you’ll not go away hungry.

Stew a Cockatoo is both hilarious and serious, sometimes simultaneously. The recipes (mostly) can be made in any kitchen, or over any campfire. Some of the names have been changed to protect the innocent. Readers will take several journeys through Stew a Cockatoo . Firstly they’ll giggle at page titles like ‘Horse Doovers’ and ‘Whacko the Chook!’, then they’ll try to imagine the taste of recipes like ‘Roo Doo in a Patty Case’ and ‘Echidna Delight’. Finally they’ll return, again and again, to the recipes. Recipes are written in plain language, with easy to find ingredients (well…mostly). The target audience is pre-teens and it is suggested that children seek assistance and company in the kitchen. Sure to become a kid’s kitchen favourite, Stew a Cockatoo would also make a great gift for overseas visitors.

Stew a Cockatoo: My Aussie Cookbook

Stew a Cockatoo: My Aussie Cookbook, Ruthie May, ill Leigh Hobbs
Little Hare 2010
ISBN: 9781921541513

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book can be purchased from good bookstores or online from Fishpond.

Freaks Ahoy, by Leigh Hobbs

One-eyed Eileen had been kept in after school. That’s how she found out her teacher’s secret. Scary Miss Schnorkel was really wimpy Miss Corker in disguise. One-Eyed Eileen couldn’t wait to tell her gang. It wasn’t going to be a secret for long.

When One-eyed Eileen discovers Miss Schnorkel’s secret, she is determined to unmask the teacher, and she expects the rest of 4F to help her. But then Miss Schnorkel takes the class on a field trip where they run into a boatload of teachers on long-service leave. In the chaos that follows, Miss Schnorkel knows just what to do, and 4F aren’t so sure about Eileen’s plans.

Freaks Ahoy picks up where the first book in the series, 4F for Freaks left off, both plot-wise and in terms of the level of fun. Author/illustrator Leigh Hobbs has an innate sense of what kids (and kids-at-heart) will enjoy, and renders it with an apparent simplicity which is really very complex.

The freakish pupils of 4F are bound to find a firm place in every reader’s heart.


Freaks Ahoy, by Leigh Hobbs
Allen & Unwin, 2007

4F for Freaks, by Leigh Hobbs

Miss Corker had a creeping feeling that the ‘F’ in 4F stood for…

When the brand-new teacher, Miss Corker, meets her new class, 4F, she quickly realises the children are a little different. With monikers such as Unfriendly Irwin, Feral Beryl and Terribly-tough Timmy, 4F is class of misfits with no desire to learn or to please. But perhaps the Teacher’s Handbook will help Miss Corker in her quest to get them learning.

4F for Freaks is a funny offering from Leigh Hobbs, the author/illustrator creator of Horrible Harriet and Old Tom. It is not politically correct – the word ‘freaks’ may send a shudder down some adult spines – but is really not offensive, either. Hobbs sets out to make readers laugh with the silliness of the story, and does it well. Along the way there’s a message hidden in the depths of the tale about teaching methods and about finding the good in everybody, but the message is not as important as the pure fun of the book.

4F for Freaks is suitable for ages 7-12 and with only a sentence or two per page and plenty of Hobbs’ funny cartoon-style drawings, would be suitable for reluctant readers.

4F for Freaks, by Leigh Hobbs
Allen & Unwin, 2006

Hooray for Horrible Harriet, by Leigh Hobbs

Reviewed by Magdalena Ball


Like Old Tom, television’s favourite and scruffiest cat, Horrible Harriet is one of life’s more interesting and less popular people. Hobbs excels in creating unusual characters and Harriet is no exception. She’s larger and stockier than her classmates, and tends to bully and intimidate the others. She lives in the attic of school, where she creates outrageous and unpalatable dishes. In her latest adventure, Harriet creates a new dish, Chicken Surprise, emphasis on the Surprise. Mr Chicken was invented to be Harriet’s friend, but she’s cooked up a little more than she can chew, because he’s even more horrible than Harriet. His manners are atrocious, he scares the other students and teachers, and worst of all, he keeps growing and growing. Fortunately Harriet knows just what to do, and when she takes care of Mr Chicken, she becomes the most popular girl at school, for a while at least.

Harriet isn’t your typical cute and cuddly heroine, and her desperation is actually quite sad, but for such a loud seemingly obnoxious bully, she is surprisingly endearing. Children will certainly enjoy reading about and listening to her adventures, and both parent and child will feel a surprising sense of relief as we did in the first CBC-shortlisted Horrible Harriet, when she goes back to being horrible. Hobbs’ drawings are as crazy and funny as always, and her simple facial expressions are amazingly evocative, as are those of the teachers and fellow students. I’m sure we all know someone just like Harriet. It’s also very funny indeed to have such a benign animal like the chicken (a plucked, cooked chicken no less) function as a frightening antagonist. Don’t be surprised if this book illicites a serious case of the giggles. Perhaps, like Hobbs, this book will help us to see that all children have unique characteristics and to remember not to take ourselves too seriously. Just watch out for those home-made chicken friends.

Horray for Horrible Harriet, by Leigh Hobbs Allen & Unwin, March 2005, ISBN 1741143357, HC, 32pages

This review first appeared at Preschool Entertainment. It appears here with permission.