Tag Archives: Fables

The Great Fairy Tale Disaster by David Conway & Melanie Williamson

The Great Fairy Tale Disaster: David Conway & Melanie Williamson (Hodder Children's Books, 2012)

The Great Fairy Tale Disaster: David Conway & Melanie Williamson
(Hodder Children’s Books, 2012)

It’s paperback publication day for this book today! The Big Bad Wolf is getting old, he’s got no huff and puff and is fed up of falling into hot water.

“What I need,” the wolf thought to himself, “is a nice relaxing fairy tale for a change.” So he scampered off into the pages of The Fairy Tale Book to find one.

Every tale has its own disadvantages (dresses! giants! bears!) and eventually all the tales roll together making a complete mess. A brilliant mess of fairy tales. I love ‘twists’ on traditional fairy tales and they are so much more meaningful now my girls are older and experienced in the traditional fairy tale. When they were babies, I think I exposed them (certainly MG) the wrong way round by reading more untraditional tales than traditional. Ooops. Now we can all enjoy them more, traditional and non 🙂

Sharing a book

One of the many things I love about this book, is that it is ‘gender neutral’ so can be enjoyed by boys and girls. Not something that has ever influenced my book buying (other than avoiding pink to start with – not now, and that’s a post in itself, but I recommend reading this post on gendered packaging from Nosy Crow) but something I am more and more aware of as my children grow.

Great fun, recommended by all the Chaos family, and we’ll be looking out for David & Melanie’s earlier The Great Nursery Rhyme Disaster too.

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of The Great Fairy Tale Disaster by Hachette Children’s Books for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

The Totally Terrifying Three by Hiawyn Oram & David Melling

The Totally Terrifying Three: Hiawyn Oram & David Melling (Hodder Children's Books, 2011)

The Totally Terrifying Three: Hiawyn Oram & David Melling
(Hodder Children’s Books, 2011)

It’s paperback publication day on Thursday (1st November), but I’m amazed we haven’t reviewed this book yet as we’ve had it since hardback publication a year ago. You can often find books before the official publication date and as it’s slightly Halloween-y, here’s the review to perhaps send you to your nearest bookshop searching for a copy…

Once there was a Dragon who was convinced he was TOTALLY TERRIFYING. One look at himself in the mirror and he nearly jumped out of his skin.

If you’re a regular reader you may be shocked to know that I am a huge David Melling fan… Yeah, okay, it’s somewhat obvious (Hugless Douglas Week for example…) This book is full of my favourite things David draws: Dragons! Witches! Trees! Everything! 😉

The Totally Terrifying Three: Hiawyn Oram & David Melling (Hodder Children's Books, 2011)

I could easily take the double spread above and frame it, it’s so wonderful. That is, if I could get past the sacrilege of destroying a book… It also neatly summarises everything in the story: the dragon, the witch, the giant, the toddler, and of course long-suffering Wiggles the dog.

The story follows a Dragon, who thinks he is too terrifying, so he leaves his neighbours and finds… A Witch, who thinks she is too terrifying (but neither the Dragon or Witch are terrified), so they leave together and find… A Giant, who thinks he is too terrifying (but none of the three are terrified), so they leave together and find… A Toddler, who also isn’t terrified… Which leads to some rethinking of their totally terrifying status, and a new three set out to scare… “absolutely NOBODY!”

It wasn't long before they came upon a Wich scaring herself silly in her magic mirror.

MG particularly loves humour in words like “scar[ing] the pants off people” and the fact that all the characters are basically just very silly and not at all scary. DG likes the brave toddler (and all the scary looking bits!) I love the details, as ever: look at what the dog and cat are doing in each picture; the trees (they need their own book); two bats near the witch’s hat at all times; the giant’s car and what happens when he stands up…

Hiyawyn Oram and David Melling are both deservedly acclaimed and this collaboration is a fine example of both their work. Other Halloween-suitable books by the totally terrific two (although not as collaborations) that we’ve already reviewed: The Ghost Library & Rumblewick and the Dinner Dragons.

Friday Pick{ture Book}: The Spider and the Fly

The Spider and the Fly: Mary Howittz and Tony DiTerlizzi (Simon and Schuster, 2002)

The Spider and the Fly: Mary Howittz and Tony DiTerlizzi
(Simon and Schuster, 2002)

It has taken me a ridiculously long time to buy this book, I have coveted it for about 5 years but I wasn’t sure MG would like it so I put off buying it and every time I saw it I put off buying it… Then there was a repeat of Bookaboo on that the children happened to watch featuring this book and not only did I fall even more in love with it, but they liked it too. Oh, how I wish I’d got it five years ago!

“Will you walk into my parlour?” said the Spider to the Fly

This book is sublime. The poem dates from 1829 and although the language is dated it is still completely accessible and wonderful to read aloud. I can even manage voices with this one (I’m rubbish at voices…) The poem is freely available, but this book improves on the classic with wonderfully gothic creepy imagery.

"Oh no, no," said the little Fly...

There is so much to love about this book: the art itself is beautiful, this book deserves to be on any and every bookshelf. The ‘subtle web’ which grows on each text-only page until it is complete by the end of the book; the text-only pages being reminiscent of silent film title cards; the timing of the page turns in the poem increasing the tension; the etherial ghost bugs observing the proceedings; the locations; everything in black and white…

The Spider turned him round about...

My terrible photography does no justice to the images, but even decent photography would barely cut it. This is a book to be savoured, to snuggle up and shiver with, to soak in each little detail and to be read again, and again, and again. DG requests I read this roughly twice a day since we got it; the sinister spider and the unhappy ending fill her with glee (she’s my daughter!) MG enjoys it too but DG is my book girl at the moment, MG prefers media so will watch the Bookaboo version instead:


If you don’t already have this book, treat your family for Halloween (and the rest of the year too…) A fantastic cautionary tale in it’s perfect form. Worth every penny and more.

Grab the badge code and see the rules here, and enter your link below:

Fiction Fridays #25: Ella

Ella: Alex T. Smith (2012)

Once upon a time there was a ladybird called Ella.

Read more about Fiction Fridays here.
Like to take part? Read the rules and guidelines and get the badge here.

Extra Info:
This is a lovely re-telling of Cinderella with incredibly cute bugs! Cinderella is a ladybird, her step-sisters are wasps and the prince (in this case, Pierre the artist) is a spider. This is a gorgeous book with a sparkly cover and a pallette of mainly  reds, pinks and purples. MG loves fairy tales and I get to read this to her over and over again to drool over the art.

Ella is not a straight re-telling of Cinderella, it is its own story with elements of the fairy tale. Pierre the artist is looking for his muse; there isn’t a ‘fairy godmother’ or magical pumpkins, but a very good friend who secretly helps (get the children to look for her hiding throughout the story); and there’s no royal family in sight. It does have probably the most famous element: Ella leaves to get home before her step-sisters and drops her glasses as she rushes away!

The artwork is luscious, I wanted to take pictures of almost all the pages to put in this review. But I have chosen just this one: Ella and Pierre’s first meeting with Paris subtly in the background.

This is probably a book more for girls. And lovers of buttons: look how the antennae have buttons on them 🙂

Fiction Fridays #24: Mixed Up Fairy Tales

Mixed Up Fairy Tales: Hilary Robinson & Nick Sharratt (????)

Little Red Riding Hood had a mum who was a washerwoman and fell asleep in Baby Bear’s bed after eating a troll.

Read more about Fiction Fridays here.
Like to take part? Read the rules and guidelines and get the badge here.

Extra Info:
MG got this from one of her friends for her fifth birthday this year, funnily enough only a week after I’d read this review from Polly at The Little Wooden Horse and mentally added it to my “books to look for” list.

No extra review from me because I recommend reading The Little Wooden Horse. The book has been a huge hit here, hilariously funny. The kids love it too 😆

Fiction Fridays #22: The Tale of Jack Frost

The Tale of Jack Frost: David Melling (2003)

There was once a group of trees who were fed up of living in a deep, dark and crowded valley. So they decided to move to the brow of a nearby hill.

Read more about Fiction Fridays here.
Like to take part? Read the rules and guidelines and get the badge here.

Extra Info:
At Christmas 2009 (and probably since, but we recorded it then), the animated version of The Tale of Jack Frost (originally made 2004) was shown on television. MG was nearly three at the time and loved it so we watched it again, and again, and again…

I dutifully went to my local independent bookstore and asked if they could get a signed copy of the book for MG’s birthday (because they’re good like that) but the book was out of print! And wouldn’t be republished until the end of the year! Did I mention how fantastic my local independent bookstore and David Melling are? The shop asked, and got, one of his own copies of the book signed for MG in time for her February birthday. She even got a fantastic goblin sketch in the book just for her.

I had a problem with reading this book originally because I’d seen the animated version (several times) before reading so had that ingrained into my brain which meant the book didn’t seem ‘right’ at first (I know, terrible!) I still can’t read it without hearing Hugh Laurrie in my head…

Fortunately no such problem existed with MG (or DG, but she was only 9 months old when we bought it so didn’t really take much notice of the TV version) who took to the book instantly. Especially with the dedication. It is still one of her ‘special’ books and she takes very good care of it.

There are some great videos at davidmelling.co.uk, including the creation of this book and the Bing-Bong Bandylegs. Well worth watching for a behind the scenes look at the creation of a picture book and to see the amount of work that went into the pictures. There are lots of large paintings that have gone into this book, and the detail is wonderful.

The story is about a boy called Jack who is found in the enchanted forest, and about the goblins who think he knows the forest’s secrets so try to steal the magic from him. The goblins are smelly and not particularly bright and a bit scary but they get their comeuppance and Jack… Well, you might still see some of Jack’s work at winter, protecting you from the smell of boiled cabbage.

This is a lovely original work of fantasy, with imaginative creatures who deserve more books to themselves: beezles, bing-bong bangylegs, snow-beetles, Woodwind, Waffle and Cowslip… Lovely for curling up with on cold winter evenings, but also a great read all year round.

Fiction Fridays #18: Sir Charlie Stinky Socks and the Really Big Adventure

Sir Charlie Stinky Socks and the Really Big Adventure: Kristina Stephenson (2007)

“Once upon a time, there was a deep, dark forest, where monstrous trees groaned, terrible beasties moaned and wiggly woos waited to tickle your toes.”

Read more about Fiction Fridays here.
Like to take part? Read the rules and guidelines and get the badge here.

Extra Info:
This is a fantastic tradition-busting fairy tale with twists and turns all through the book. On page three we have: “And what was behind that little wooden door? Well, nobody knew, because nobody ever went there. THE END.”

Except THE END is crossed through, and the story continues: “At least… Not until the day when…” The book is full of lovely moments like this and the pictures and text are fully integrated telling the story with the text meandering around the pages when needed.

There are also flaps to lift, four giant ones that extend towers above the pages or give a huge panorama, I am a fan of this method of extending illustrations in picture books.

My favourite part of the book (although there are so many wonderful parts to choose from) is a double page spread that is mostly filled with text made of different font styles, weights and sizes. This is the completely hilarious denouement to the entire adventure and I would hate to ruin it for anyone who hasn’t read this book.

Sir Charlie Stinky Socks is a definite favourite in this household, and thoroughly recommended.

“And everyone cheered hooray, hooray, hooray, because that’s what people do at the end of a really big adventure.”

Fiction Fridays #10: The Tough Princess

The Tough Princess: Martin Waddell & Patrick Benson (1986)

Once upon a time there lived a King and a Queen who weren’t very good at it.

Read more about Fiction Fridays here.
Like to take part? Read the rules and guidelines and get the badge here.

Extra Info:
I found this book in a charity shop and fell in love with it instantly after a quick flick through. It’s an alternate fairytale by the team who created Owl Babies. Princess Rosamund is not what her parents expected. She’s a girl for a start. She also absolutely refuses to follow fairytale conventions, have a spell cast on her and be rescued by a prince. Off she goes to slay dragons and rescue princes, but none of them are good enough until… Well, you’ll just have to read the book!

I’m quite happy to read this to my two young daughters, but some people might prefer to leave it for older primary aged children – there is a lot of biffing and bashing, but sensible children (and most of them are) will understand this is a story. I think it’s fantastic, and is just the kind of fairytale I want my girls to have: “I’m not going to marry a ninny!” says Rosamund. Good for her.

I also have an extra soft spot for this book because Destructo-Girl’s real name is Rosamund, and it’s always nice to read a book with your name in it – although apparently not at two and a half: “Not Rosamund!” 😆

Good Knight, Sleep Tight by David Melling

[Written: January 2010]

“Good Knight, Sleep Tight” is the second of (so far) three picture books set in the same fantasy world starring a loyal knight, his faithful horse, the royal family and “bears with long claws […], swooping owls […] and […] hungry wolves with dribbly mouths.” So far, so standard. But it’s David Melling’s art and sense of humour that make these books so wonderful.

In “Good Knight, Sleep Tight”, the prince from “The Kiss That Missed” has acquired a baby sister (“He couldn’t see what all the fuss was about.”) The knight is sent on a quest to fill the royal pillow with “something soft and fluffy” for the princess, encountering bears, wolves and owls on the way. Keep an eye on his shield for the lion – who goes green as they climb up the tree, or gets knocked into the side as they leave so quickly there isn’t “even enough time to finish the senten”… The text bounces round the pages with the action, winding round sequences of pictures and changing in size through the story. The pictures are utterly gorgeous and filled with little details that you pick up more of from each reading. They’re also a lovely snapshot of aspects of real family life, and it’s nice to have a king and queen who act like normal parents do.

I expect that the age range is aimed at 3-6 year olds. I say it’s enjoyable from birth to adulthood – I’ve been reading it to my eldest daughter (now nearly three) since before she was a year old and to my youngest daughter (7 months) since birth. The almost-three year old chooses all three books on a regular basis and we sit down to read them – “Oh, no, what’s happening!” she cries, in between quoting the next lines. All three books are huge fun for me to read to my daughters and I’m still seeing new things in the pictures, and love the humour. I enjoy all three, it was difficult choosing my favourite to write a review.

I can thoroughly recommend reading anything written by David Melling, and this fantasy trilogy is a very good place to start with young children – who understand that stories should start “Once upon a something…” and end happily after something a little bit scary in the middle.