Santa Jaws – Mark Sperring

Illustrations – Sophie Corrigan

“Merry Fishmas!”

Shelly the shark has something special planned this Christmas. She makes a sign for her front door welcoming everyone to Santa’s Grotto. The only problem is that none of the other fish trust her, so they quickly make themselves scarce. Fair enough, too. I’m pretty sure I’d be questioning Jaws’ motives before willingly stepping foot inside their home.

The exception is one inquisitive squid named Sid. Maybe Sid doesn’t know who lives behind this driftwood door or maybe they’re just so excited about meeting Santa Claus… Soon Sid finds himself face to face with Santa Jaws, not Santa Claus.

This book is so cute! The rhymes flow well and the repetition isn’t overused. The highlight of this book for me, though, were Sophie Corrigan’s illustrations. They use bright colours, the fish are all quite expressive and there are plenty of details to enjoy.

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I particularly loved the coral Christmas trees with shell decorations, the snowman made of sand, the angler fish finding love beneath the mistletoe and the stingray wearing a Santa hat.

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I hereby decree that stingrays must wear Santa hats at all times from this day forth, so we may never forget how adorable they make them look.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Today’s my LUCKY, LUCKY day.

Golly, whizz and gee!

For GUESS WHO’s meeting Santa Claus …

Yes, me! Yes, me! YES, ME!

Ho-ho-ho! It’s Christmas Eve and Sid the squid is SUPER-excited. He’s going to meet Santa Claus AT LAST!

But as he enters the dark underwater grotto, all is not as it seems …

Will there be a happy ending? Let’s hope so. It IS Christmas, after all!

Princess Swashbuckle – Hollie Hughes

Illustrations – Deborah Allwright

Princess Swashbuckle’s parents are trying to find her a prince but she’s not interested. She longs to be a froggy pirate queen so she packs her belongings and boards the Stinky Fish and declares herself their new Captain.

She’s “on a mission to find NICE things to do” and under her leadership that’s exactly what they do. They help animals of the sea and land, have adventures and plenty of fun, and naturally everyone lives happily ever after.

The rhymes are lovely and flow well and the message is stellar! Princess Swashbuckle’s parents don’t understand her dreams initially, wanting her to follow tradition. However they eventually realise that she doesn’t need a prince after all and embrace her choices, allowing her the freedom to be the kind pirate queen she was destined to be.

Deborah Allwright’s illustrations are so much fun. They’re colourful and expressive, and I loved that Princess Swashbuckle’s head is shaped like a heart. There’s so many details to enjoy, particularly in the pages featuring a variety of animals.

I absolutely adore this book and need to find a kid to read it to – stat! This is the perfect book to encourage kids to follow their heart, especially if their dreams aren’t what society expects of them.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Tired of the same old princess-meets-her-prince stories? Bored of princesses in frilly pink dresses? Fed up with princes getting all the action? Yes? So is Princess Swashbuckle. She’s Swashbuckle by name, swashbuckling by nature and she’s about to show the world what a great pirate captain she can be. Charmingly breaking the mould, Princess Swashbuckle is a rollicking tale of adventure and finding your own happy.

Valensteins – Ethan Long

So, I decided to read a love story to coincide with the royal wedding and naturally chose a picture book. The Fright Club members are all practising their scares, from the ghost’s Boo! to the butterfly’s Blah!, but Fran K. Stein is doing something weird with pink paper, scissors and glue.

Several of the Club members try to guess what Fran is making (the ghost’s paper butt guess is the best one) before Bunny explains what Fran is really up to. It turns out that it’s Valentine’s Day and Fran has made a pink paper heart, which leads Sandy the witch to wonder the scariest thing of all…

“Do you think Fran … gulp … is in LOVE?”

Bunny then tells the bewildered Fright Club members what love is, terrifying them more and more with each new piece of information. Fran is reminded what love really is when his Valentine appears. Aww! 💕

The illustrations in this book are adorable! With muted colours and expressive characters I loved every picture. My favourites are those that show the horror of the Fright Club members when Bunny is explaining what love is.

This culminates in a two page illustration with the characters’ “EEEEWWW!” expressions. Sandy the witch looks decidedly nauseous and may vomit at any moment. The ghost has its eyes screwed up tightly and its tongue has escaped its mouth, looking to be mid “Blech!” The spider’s eyes are goggled. Vladimir, the werewolf, mummy and butterfly also have priceless expressions.

I’ve read this book three times over the last couple of weeks and I love it each time. In fact, if any of you are desperately searching for a Valentine’s Day present for me 😜 I’d love my own copy of this book. I definitely have to read Ethan Long’s other books, especially this book’s companion, Fright Club.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Something strange is in the air on this dark, cold night.

The members of Fright Club are always ready to scare, but tonight Fran K. Stein has something else on his mind. He’s busy making something, and the other monsters want to know what it is.

Could it be a mask with fangs? A big pink nose? Or maybe a paper butt? No … it’s a Valentine!

That means one thing … EEEEK!! Is Fran in love? What could be scarier than falling in love?!?