Beaver Towers by Nigel Hinton

The Beaver Towers series was a favourite of both mine and my brother’s when we were children and I was excited to be able to share it with Henry.

When we were at Primary School (in the late 1980’s!), Nigel Hinton visited and our original 3 books (first two my brothers, third mine) were all signed by him and the first one was the one I shared with Henry.

The first story in the series – Beaver Towers introduces us to the main characters. Philip is a human boy who gets magicked away to an island by his kite. On the island he finds himself being considered ‘The Saver’ by a group of talking animals. Most of the animals on the island have been captured by the witch Oyin and her evil creatures – the Growlers. The few that remain include an elderly Beaver called Mr Edgar, his Grandson, Baby B and Mrs Badger who looks after them.

The animals have only a few days before Oyin returns to the island and claims it to be her own, destroying all the animals. Mr Edgar uses magic to send for a ‘Saver’ but Philip was not really what they had in mind.

The story follows the adventures of Philip, Mr Edgar and Baby B as they try to defeat Oyin and the Growlers.

I thoroughly enjoyed sharing this book with Henry – he said his favourite character is Baby B as he is so funny and he is right, there were lots of chuckles at his exploits through the book. Henry said the best part was when the animals were rescued and when Baby B made up stories about the rescue. He really liked that Baby B muddled up his words too!

The chapters are varying lengths so we didn’t always read the same amount each night. I was a little concerned Henry might be bothered by some of the scarier bits with Oyin at bedtime but they didn’t seem to bother him at all. If a child is sensitive, it might be worth reading the book beforehand to make sure they wouldn’t be scared.

It is a great book and we have already started reading the second in the series – The Witches Revenge.

There are 4 books in total, the final one written much more recently so I haven’t read it myself yet – I will look forward to sharing it with Henry soon!

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Freya the Friday Fairy by Daisy Meadows, illustrated by Georgie Ripper

The Rainbow Magic stories by Daisy Meadows are extremely popular with young girls in particular and there are now many different ‘sub series’ focusing on a range of fairies. 

This particular book that we read with Pippa was a chapter book but she has also read some of the beginning and early readers to herself. 

Freya the Friday Fairy is part of the ‘Fun Day Fairies’ sub series – 7 books focusing on each of the days of the week’s Fairy. 

It is a story about 2 girls – Rachel and Kirsty who have a special secret – they are friends with the fairies and are helping them find the Fun Day Flags which the fairies use to recharge their magic. 

They have to outwit Jack Frost and his goblins who are after the flags too. The story follows their adventures as they try to retrieve Freya the Friday fairy’s flag. 

The chapters are around 20 pages long with line drawn illustrations on most pages, so we usually read a chapter per night. 

It is a fairly simple story so easy for Pippa to follow with good vs bad and the added attraction of fairies. 

The girls are easy for Pippa to relate to and she liked the Magic, she enjoyed the baddies and liked the idea of Jack Frost being in charge of them! 

Overall, it was an easy enjoyable read, perfect for fairy loving children and I’m certain Pippa will be looking out for more of the Rainbow Magic fairies! 

Charlie and The Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake

Henry chose this book from the school library and it’s taken us a few weeks to get through it! 

Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator is the sequel to the ever popular Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the story picks up right where the first book ends. Charlie has just been given the chocolate factory and he and his family are with Mr Wonka in the Great Glass Elevator. 

Events then develop as the Great Glass Elevator takes them off on adventures firstly into space to battle the alien Vermicious Knids then back to the factory to explore more of Mr Wonka’s amazing concoctions. 

The chapters vary in length but are quite long so we usually only read one each bedtime which is why it took a couple of weeks to finish! 

As with most Roald Dahl books there are fab illustrations by Quentin Blake throughout which help break up some of the longer passages of text. 

Henry is a big of fan of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and often listens to it on audio CD so the characters are familiar to him. I asked him what he thought of the Great Glass Elevator and he said that he liked the Vermicious Knid that had a bumped bottom and that the best bit was when they came back down to the chocolate factory. 

Henry enjoyed the story but said he still prefers Charlie and the Chocolate Factory though! 

He also said he didn’t like Grandma Georgina because she wasn’t very nice to Mr Wonka who is his favourite character! 

Although Henry listened well and understood the main parts of the story, some of the word play, jokes and events were a little beyond his comprehension. It will be a good book for him to revisit himself in a few years. 

When reading, I realised that I had not read it before and I enjoyed reading more about the characters from Charlie and the chocolate factory. 

Overall, a great bedtime read but probably better suited for 7+ year olds who will appreciate more of the jokes and word play. 

The Indoor Pirates/The Indoor Pirates on Treasure Island by Jeremy Strong, Illustrated by Nick Sharratt

This is the first book I am reviewing that I didn’t actually read myself. Instead, husband Tim read it with Henry at bedtimes. I asked them both to describe the book and give me their views which follow shortly.

Jeremy Strong has written many books for children which are often very funny. I have previously shared some of his very early chapter books with Henry (review to follow soon!) but this was the first of his slightly longer chapter books. The copy we borrowed from the library contained both the original ‘Indoor Pirates’ story as well as ‘The Indoor Pirates on Treasure Island’.

It is a chapter books with chapters that are fine to read one each bedtime. On lots of the pages are brilliantly comical illustrations by Nick Sharratt.

Henry’s comments:

‘They are called the Indoor Pirates because they live indoors because they don’t like water. They think that no one else thinks they are pirates even though they all know really! They get up to all sorts of adventures but are not very clever pirates so not everything works.’

He described the characters as follows:

‘Captain Blackpatch has patches on his arm; Bald Ben doesn’t have any hair; the twins, Polly and Molly always argue; Lumpy Lawson does all the cooking because he is better than the other pirates.’

I asked both Henry and Daddy who their favourite characters were and they said:

Henry: The twins because they are happy at the end of the story.

Daddy: Captain Blackpatch because he always gets cross with the twins when they are arguing (he said it sounds familiar!!)

Whenever Tim and Henry were reading these books, there was always lots of belly laughs coming from Henry’s room, he really seemed to love all the mischief the pirates got up to. Tim said he really enjoyed sharing them with Henry too.

So based on Tim and Henry’s opinions, I would say these books are definitely a great bedtime reading choice and we will be looking for more of Jeremy Strong’s books.

Astrosaurs Academy series by Steve Cole 

It’s been a busy week but Henry and I have this week finished another of the ‘Astrosaurs Academy’ books by Steve Cole. 

 This series of books follows the adventures of young dinosaur Teggs Stegosaur and his friends as they train to be Astrosaurs at the Astrosaurs Academy. Exactly as it sounds, an Astrosaur is an astronaut dinosaur who protects the rest of the dinosaur world! Teggs and his friends have to outwit T-Rexs and other meat eaters, uncover saboteurs and protect their planet from all manner of other mayhem. 

They are chapter books but still with some illustrations on each page. The chapters vary in length according to the book so we read different amounts at each bedtime. 

The most recent book in the series that we read was called ‘Volcano Invaders’ and in this story Teggs and his gang had to defeat a very different enemy whilst trying to avoid being swallowed up by an erupting volcano! This book had some longer chapters, and most end up on mini cliffhanger moments which makes it easy to build up suspense and excitement for the next bedtime reading. 

The dinosaurs have lots of gadgets and Henry really liked how the volcano ended up being more than it seemed.  He said he likes Commander Gruff because he helps rescue the Astrosaurs but his favourite characters are the Daring Dinos (Teggs and his 2 closest friends) because they have the special motto: ‘Do we dare? (Put hands together) WE DARE!’ He really likes joining in with this every time it occurs in the books! 

Henry loves dinosaurs and is also interested in things to do with space so these books are perfect for him for bedtime stories. They are a lot of fun and easy to read and I have to admit to really enjoying them too! 

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl 

This is one of Roald Dahl’s books that I don’t really remember reading as a child so looked forward to sharing it at bedtime with Henry. 

He can be quite sensitive sometimes and often picks up on emotions in books, however I wasn’t prepared for him to be quite so upset after the first chapters and wondered whether this was the right book for him. When I asked him what was wrong, he simply said “James has no one to play with and that’s sad”. 

He cheered up a few chapters later and said he liked that Aunt Spiker and Aunt Sponge were squashed because they were mean! 

The chapters vary a lot in length so it was often hard to say how much we read at each bedtime. Henry likes all of Quentin Blakes illustrations and we often talked about each of the pictures. 

Henry said his favourite character was all the animals and James – he couldn’t choose. He also said he liked the happy ending and was especially pleased James now has friends. 

As an adult I found this book to be one of the strangest of Roald Dahl’s with some odd events and characters such as the Cloud Men. Henry however soaked it all in and seemed to really enjoy all the whimsical bits so overall a winning bedtime story! 

A familiar favourite – Roald Dahl so far…

Last summer Pippa and Henry took part in the library Summer Reading Challenge for the first time. They were not reading themselves yet but we read to them and they happily told library staff and volunteers about the stories we had shared. The theme last year was Roald Dahl to celebrate his centenary year. Pippa and Henry were thrilled each visit to collect another picture card showing a different Roald Dahl character. 

This inevitably lead to questions about who each of them were and what the stories were about. When in the library one day, Henry picked up a copy of ‘The Magic Finger’ and our first Roald Dahl book was chosen! 

The Magic Finger only took us a few nights to read and Roald Dahl had spun his spell on Henry who straight away wanted to read another. A quick search on the bookshelves at home uncovered a copy of George’s Marvellous Medicine – one both my husband and I loved as children. 

George’s Marvellous Medicine was great fun to read with Henry, he enjoyed all the different ingredients George finds and the reactions Grandma and the animals have to each version. 

Over the following months Henry continued to choose other Roald Dahl books, borrowing from both the town and school library as well as putting his World Book Day token toward purchasing ‘The Giraffe, the Pelly and Me’. 

He also received audio CD versions of some of the books for Christmas and re-listens during the day to ones we have previously read. 

So far our Roald Dahl bedtime books have been: The Magic Finger, George’s Marvellous Medicine, The Enormous Crocodile, The BFG, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Esio Trot and The Giraffe, the Pelly and Me. 

Henry loved all of the books and his favourite often changes, although Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the BFG seem to get mentioned often. 

When I asked Henry he said he likes Mr Wonka and loves the bit in the BFG when they meet the Queen and the BFG whizzpops! 

The language in all the stories is great fun, especially the BFG. All the content has been appropriate for Henry and he is starting to appreciate lots of the funny parts. 

Our current Roald Dahl bedtime read is James and the Giant Peach and we only have a few chapters to go…