Early Reader Reviews · Picture Books · Young Middle Grade

Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown and Rob Biddulph

Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown and Rob Biddulph


Flat Stanley is back, and this time he is in picture book format.

When a pinboard falls on Stanley, it squashes him flat. Flat as a pancake. Changing shape has advantages and disadvantages. Stanley’s brother can fly him like a kite, but Stanley also gets stuck up a tree.

When the local museum reports trouble with sneak thieves, Stanley comes up with a cunning plan to help. A plan which only someone who is flat can enact.

A humorous adventure from the author of the original Flat Stanley titles. This is a very similar story to one in the original book, but the words have changed to bring it to a new audience.

img_9403Changing shape and doing things which nobody else can is a big dream at a certain age. The Flat Stanley stories play on this to great effect, but they also explore the downside of feeling different. Stanley faces physical obstacles and he is also on the receiving ends of unkind comments and thoughtless behaviour from other people. This more than anything makes him wish to be the same as everybody else.

Stanley is lucky to have a big brother, Arthur, who is always there to help him. The sibling relationship in this story is as memorable as that in the Horrid Henry series. It is difficult to imagine Stanley without Arthur.

Rob Biddulph’s illustrations have brought the stories to life. Both in the picture book and the new collection of the Flat Stanley stories, Biddulph’s work adds energy and freshness which was missing before. Given that the stories are over 50 years old, it makes sense for the illustrations to be updated for the current generation.

Seeing the same brand in different formats is an encouraging new trend in children’s fiction. There is nothing more powerful at an early age than a familiar character. Think how small children are drawn like magnets to their favourite television characters. (For me it was Postman Pat. Everyone can name theirs.) Transitioning to chapter books can feel like a big jump, but knowing the character already takes away part of the work and makes it feel more like an adventure. For a great post about picture book/early reader pairings see this post by mother of small children and blogger Lilyfae. 

A bright and beautiful new edition of an old classic which will be a hit with a new generation. 


Thanks to Egmont UK LTD for my gifted books. Opinions my own.




Early Reader Reviews

Review: Geronimo Stilton – Cat & Mouse in a Haunted House



In front of me was a huge room filled with antique furniture. Dust and cobwebs hung over the sofas like unwanted guests the morning after a party. Gigantic paintings of cats from centuries ago covered the walls. I was glad not to be living in that period! Too many cats back then.

Then I noticed a velvet wall hanging with embroidered writing. It read:

This Castle Belongs to the most honourable Duke Bigpaw Cannycat.

 (Geronimo Stilton: Cat & Mouse in a Haunted House)

bird Synopsis:

Geronimo Stilton is back for a spooktastic adventure.

 Journalist and adventurer Geronimo Stilton comes across a castle in the Dark Forest. The castle appears to be abandoned. A name plaque says it belongs to the Cannycat family, but that can’t be possible. There haven’t been cats on the island since the battle of Raterloo in 1754 … have there?

 When Geronimo Stilton encounters the ghost of Slicepaw Cannycat, he decides to investigate. With the help of his mouse family, he sets out to solve the castle’s mystery, but there are those who would rather he kept his whiskers out.birdReview:

Geronimo Stilton is something of an easy-reader empire. Originally a hit in Italy, the stories have been published in numerous countries. The beauty of this, as I discussed with my polylinguist and primary teacher friend Christina, is you could give a child stories in multiple languages. While they will find their home language easier to read, the stories are simple enough that a child could use them to look at other languages in action.

I’m  also impressed with the corresponding website. There is huge value here for reluctant readers. The website has colouring pages, computer games, puzzles and videos, meaning the reading experience can be adapted to reward the individual child.

What did I think of Cat & Mouse In A Haunted House? While I would say its value lies in being educational, it was a cute story. I liked the world – Geronimo uses words and phrases which build the image of him as a mouse. The mystery built up nicely, with twists and turns in the right place.

I was confused about whether Raterloo was supposed to be Waterloo. The name is similar, but the date is out. Other books in the series borrow events from human history, and I would rather they all corresponded, or were clearly fictional. Maybe that’s just me, but I found it a bit hazy as to whether it was supposed to promote an interest in history.

Geronimo is a friendly character. His fear at the start of the story makes him more relatable, and the fact that he overcomes it to solve the mystery means readers might root for him, and follow him to further adventures.

A cute easy-reader, which has clearly thought how to attract children and make them want to read more.


Thanks to Sweet Cherry Publishing who sent a copy in exchange for honest review.