Aubrey and the Terrible Ladybirds

Aubrey and the Terrible Ladybirds

Horatio Clare / Illustrated by Jane Matthews

Firefly Press

I love sharing books with Noah. We read together at bedtime, snuggled on beanbags in his bedroom. Last year, we read Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot, Horatio Clare’s first foray into children’s stories; a deeply affecting and skillfully crafted novel with touches of fantasy and lots of heart. It instantly became a favourite book for both of us and we have been anticipating the arrival of these ladybirds for a while, and there was absolutely no way I was going to let him read it without me.

Aubrey can talk to animals, but that’s a moot point. At the start of his Easter holidays, he is shrunken to the size of a ten pence coin and is visited by a spider asking him to save the world. You see, a family of ladybirds has arrived from overseas – they are not like the domestic ladybirds and are not welcomed. What starts as a small argument between ladybirds (“They’re not from round here. They’re big and weird. Go back to where you came from!”) develops into an extremely unattractive fracas involving all the animals of Rushing Wood.

There are big themes at work here, with issues of tolerance and respect at the core. I can’t help but revel in the irony that Clare uses animals to teach lessons about humanity. Aubrey discovers that insects on the continent are being poisoned by farming methods, which in turn affects the food chain – “If you don’t help us the insects will vanish. The plants won’t grow and the animals won’t eat. And humans are animals too.” This is termed ‘The Great Hunger’ and is the reason the spider asks Aubrey to save the world.

You may be thinking that this all sounds very hardgoing, but Clare handles it all with a lightness of touch and great humour: From hapless spy Mr Ferraby the neighbour who reports back to his incredulous wife, to the inspired footnotes dotted throughout the book which support our understanding but also take the reader down surreal cul-de-sac*. The plethora of insects, birds and mammals who make up the cast of this novel are also great fun with their stereotype personas.

There is brilliant storytelling too – from the heart-stopping descriptions of Aubrey clinging to the back of Hirundo the swallow as he tries to outsmart the high speed aerial manoeuvres (and talons) of a Hobby, to the impassioned speech of French human child Pascale.

Aubrey and the Terrible Ladybirds is a fantastic book. Nine year old Noah “absolutely loved it” because it was full of awesome adventure and has slotted it next to Terrible Yoot in his Top Ten books. Undoubtedly, The Ladybirds will have a wider appeal than Yoot, bringing it to the attention of a bigger audience. That audience will understand that Aubrey and the Terrible Ladybirds is a book about the universal truths of love, compassion and kindness – to each other, to the environment and to the animals.

Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot can be purchased from your local independent bookshop, or online.

We are grateful to Firefly Press who provided a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

FOOTNOTE

*This is the correct plural of cul-de-sac, coming from the French, literally meaning “bottom of the bag”. Some dictionaries allow cul-de-sacs but this is madness. In this case, it is used metaphorically to express an action that is an impasse**.

**Impasse describes a situation in which progress is impossible.

Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth

 

Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth

Frank Cottrell Boyce / Illustrated by Steven Lenton

MacMillan Children’s Books

Reviewed by Noah Worm (Aged 9)

Sputnik is an alien visible as a dog to everyone except Prez; to Prez he is a boy exploring the universe. Here – Steven Lenton shows it much better than I can explain it…

Frank Cottrell Boyce has produced another great page-turner with this book – ideal for Year 4 and up (but Year 3 will love the funny bits). The really funny bits come mostly when people treat Sputnik like a dog, and he replies with sarcasm or disbelief, but they just hear barking. Sputnik’s mission is to make a list of 10 things that make the Earth special.

A bigger story than Sputnik’s search for ten things, is Prez’s search for his Grandad. There are sad parts to the book when Prez discovers his Grandad but we realise that Grandad doesn’t recognise or know who Prez is.

This is an hilarious, often touching novel, full of the greatest storytelling.

Daddy Worm says: I was in bits! Frank Cottrell uses this comic caper to touch on some “grown-up” ideas. I thought it was brilliant and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Noah’s Top Ten

So here are Noah’s favourite reads. He’s ordered them from top to bottom in the picture, and we’ll take them in reverse order. He’s given a one-word review of each book.

10. Cogheart, Peter Bunzl – Exciting

9. Swallows and Amazons, Arthur Ransome – Gripping

8. A Boy Called Christmas, Matt Haig – Emotional

7. Jinks O’Hare Funfair Repair, Reeves & McIntyre – Magical

6. The Imaginary, A.F. Harrold – Imaginative

5.  Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot, Horatio Clare – Innovative

4. Fizzlebert Stump and the Bearded Boy, A.F. Harrold – Hilarious

3. Radio Boy, Christian O’Connell – Heroic

2. The Bus Stop at the End of the World, Dan Anthony – Mythical

1. Wolf Wilder, Katherine Rundell – Adventurous

 

Some observations: A.F. Harrold makes 2 appearances; there’s no room for Harry Potter (11), Tom Gates (12) or Wimpy Kid (erm, probably 20); two of the authors are Welsh; Swallows and Amazons is clearly the oldest book on the list (1930), swiftly followed by Fizzlebert Stump (2013!); the remaining books have been published since 2014 with numbers 2 and 3 being published this year.

Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot

Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot

Horatio Clare

Firefly Press

Reviewed by Noah Worm (aged 9)

This is a really adventurous, different kind of book, unlike any other I’ve read; full of amazing ideas and great drawings that keep you wanting to turn the page. The book is about Aubrey, a “rambunctious child”, an adventurer and determined discoverer with a very free upbringing. The Terrible Yoot is the phrase used to describe depression, which is being suffered by Jim (Aubrey’s dad). He becomes sad, pale, confused and rather lost – “Sometimes he seemed so wispy he might have been made of mist.”

If I make it sound like a miserable book, it’s not! It is a funny and hopeful book about the love between a father and son. It’s also full of talking animals (it’s anthropomorphic!) who guide Aubrey to help him help himself and his dad.

This is Horatio Clare’s first children’s book and I enjoyed it a lot – full of magic and wonder. It has jumped into my top 5 books ever! I would highly recommend it for 9-13 year olds. His next book is out soon and is called Aubrey and the Terrible Spiders. I can’t wait to read it!

 

Daddy Worm says: Very enjoyable with some remarkably adept descriptions. I was initially concerned about how the big D would be portrayed and how Noah would respond – no need; Horatio Clare writes openly and honestly, which is exactly what you want. There is plenty of humour in the book (what with the talking animals and the neighbour who spies on Aubrey’s actions) and plenty of fantasy too (what with the talking animals…) and yet it is a very grounded and relatable story. I loved sharing it with Noah. Highly recommended.