Let’s Find Fred: A Guest Post from Steven Lenton

Was it the roving eyes on the cover (they actually move!)? The use of the word In-Fred-ible? Or simply the cuteness of his face? I can’t be sure, but I fell in love with Fred the panda instantaneously. It was love at first read.

Let’s Find Fred is the latest offering from author/illustrator Steven Lenton, illustrator of Shifty McGifty by Tracey Corderoy, various Frank Cottrell-Boyce books, and Princess Daisy and the Nincompoop Knights.

Each night Stanley the zoo keeper tucks up his animals in their beds, but by the time he reaches Fred to read him his bedtime story, Fred has escaped – on an adventure filled with dreams of candyfloss, balloons and parties. As any parent of more than one child will know, this is a common occurrence – the little rascals often escape from their beds in search of night-time adventures.

What follows is a panda chase through the town. This is where the book turns magical, for each spread is set in a different vicinity of the town, and unfortunately for Stanley, there are panda images everywhere, or things that look suspiciously like Fred, but aren’t – from black and white dogs in a limousine, to black and white footballs in the newspaper.

But most cleverly, as Steven highlights below – are the numerous adult cultural references, more often than not with a little bit of Panda involved. I’ve had the book for weeks, and still not exhausted examining each spread. It’s the kind of book you read to your child at bedtime, but then whisk out of the room so that you can peruse it yourself later, but also so that they don’t grab a torch and read it after lights out, having their own little panda-themed night-time adventure. And without further panda-monium, here is Steven to tell you about how much fun he had writing/drawing the book:

My picture books have become known for their extra details and layers of additional humour. I think it’s important that both children and the parents who read books at bedtime have fun doing so. For example in the Shifty McGifty series there is a spider on every double spread of the picture books and twenty spiders to find in each of the fiction titles. In Princess Daisy and the Dragon and the Nincompoop Knights there is a mischievous little snail to spot and in Let’s Find Fred there’s a little white butterfly…

To date, Let’s Find Fred is certainly my busiest book!  There is a fun narrative that follows the exhausting chase of Stanley and Fred, but the most fun is the re-readability, and oodles of extra characters and little relationships to spot in all the larger ‘zoomed out’ spreads.

Because there are so many characters in the book I thought it would be great fun to base some of the characters on real people, and a few characters mums and dads might know too – extra talking points for family discussion if you like!

One of the first characters I added was Kylie – there was always going to be a carousel in the funfair spread and it instantly reminded me of the hilariously juddery Carousel in the ‘Got To Be Certain’ video – watch it on YouTube with a cuppa, it’s really (quite) funny.

Other familiar faces to find include;

  • Four Beatles (not beetles!)
  • Numerous famous paintings in the art gallery spread – The Panda with the Pearl Earring and Whistler’s Panda to name but two…
  • Truly Scrumptious from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (the inspiration behind my twitter name @2dscrumptious!)
  • The Panda of the Opera
  • Fred Astaire
  • A grandma reading Fifty Sheds in Grey
  • And Panda Travolta

And so many more.

I was at a wedding recently and I took along a copy of Fred for the children there – the first read through went well, but then what followed was LITERALLY HOURS of Fred-based finding!  We turned the book into a game of ‘Can you find the…’ and it entertained not only the children, but also the adults, who we encouraged to look for the tiniest of details.  My tip is to start by finding Fred, then the white butterfly, and then start finding one-off things in the book such as the veeeeeeeeeery long sausage dog (somewhere in the gallery).

I really hope that everyone gains as much enjoyment from Fred, as I and the Scholastic team had when making it!


With huge thanks to Steven for sending across his thoughts. You can buy Let’s Find Fred here. Please do, you’ll love the text as much as I do “He’s a panda and it’s past his bedtime!”, and you can tell me where the white butterfly is hiding…

That’s Not For Children!!!

Parenthood can be gruelling. There’s the mundaneness of feeding, clothing, getting your children to sleep, re-reading the same book over and over! So, sometimes you need a laugh. If you’ve read Where the Wild Things Are or Goodnight Moon time and time again, sung ‘hey diddle diddle’ a thousand times, or just thrown away a good meal one time too many – these spoof children’s books are for you. (Warning: this blog contains profanities)

wild mums

Where the Wild Mums Are by Katie Blackburn and Sholto Walker
Publishing 19 February 2015, and a sweet homage to Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, the Wild Mums are a riotous bunch. Mimicking Sendak’s original, even from the palm tree allusion in the endpapers, Walker and Blackburn have done a terrific job. Whereas Max in Where the Wild Things Are makes mischief, the mum in Where the Wild Mums Are goes on strike. She looks worn out, and after being insulted, stomps upstairs to have a bath in much the same way as Max is sent to bed. As the forest grows in Max’s room at night, so during Mum’s luxurious bubble bath, the walls melt away and she’s transported to where the Wild Mums are. Much as the wild things go crazy, so do the mums, and there’s a wonderful freedom and mania in the illustrations of the mums’ dancing. The best moment in the book though is when reality dawns:
“For the Queen of the Wild Mums suddenly felt a little bit tired and emotional and wished she were with those she loved more than anything in the world.”
It’s a wonderful parody of:
“And Max the king of all wild things was lonely and wanted to be where someone loved him best of all.”
but also works on its own as the call of a mother’s conscience. Of course on her return home there isn’t supper waiting, but a cup of tea! What could be more perfect than that? Not only will you be giving yourself a good laugh, but 10p from every book will be donated to the charity Women and Children First. See www.womenandchildrenfirst.org.uk

goodnight ipad

Goodnight ipad by Ann Droyd
In a similar parody to the Wild Mums, this takes on Goodnight Moon and updates it hilariously for the 21st century. Goodnight Moon is mainly about the atmosphere created in the room by all the different old-fashioned childhood memorabilia from bears and chairs to mittens and kittens, the little house and the little mouse, and of course the moon outside, as gradually everything is wished goodnight and the light fades in the room. Goodnight ipad does the same thing – except the objects are up-to-date, loud and brash:
“There were three little Nooks
With ten thousand books
And a huge LCD
With Bose 5.1
Six remotes, and 3-D”
The lady in the room who is trying to persuade the children to sleep has to wrestle the ipad out of the child’s hands, and throws all the gadgets out the window in an attempt to have peace:
“Goodnight remotes
And Netflix streams
Androids, apps,
And glowing screens”
The horror on the faces of the rabbit-like creatures as their gadgets are discarded is fabulous, as are the small details in the illustrations such as the extension plug leads. Great fun for anyone who knows the original and wants some respite from the modern world.

You have to eat

You have to F***** Eat by Adam Masbach, illustrated by Owen Brozman
The author of Go the F*** to Sleep has done it again, but this time with the most frustrating of topics – getting your child to eat. If you’re really fed up with meal time in your house and need a good scream and cursing session, then this is the book for you. Adam Masbach compares the human child before him who won’t eat – even his favourite foods – to animals who will eat anything that’s put in front of them:
“The bunnies are munching on carrots,
The lambs nibble grasses and bleat
I know you’re too hungry to reason with but
You have to fucking eat.”
The juxtaposition of the cute animals and the grumpy child is a great leaping off point, but my favourite page is the one with the lunchbox returned home full:
“How was school, hon? Whoa, your lunch box is full.
How are you not passed out in the street?
How is it you’re smart? How the hell are you growing
When you basically don’t fucking eat?”
The author also deals with taking children to restaurants, parents eating leftovers, and the need for alcohol at the end of the day. The last page is priceless – any parent struggling with the basics of child rearing would agree.

this little piggy went to prada

This Little Piggy Went to Prada: Nursery Rhymes for the Blahnik Brigade by Amy Allen, illustrated by Eun-Kyung Kang
Lastly, this hilarious collection is a must-have for any ‘yummy mummy’. It contains 21 revamped designer name nursery rhymes, contained within a beautiful pink and velvety cover. It’ll cheer up any new mum into designer clothes:
“Hey diddle diddle,
The skirt fits my middle
Mummy is over the moon
Georgio laughed,
“To see her size halved…
She’ll be back in Armani soon!””
I wish I could quote them all, but I need to leave the surprise for you. It even has the original rhymes in the back for those who don’t know them or need reminding (new to parenthood maybe). Another blessing is that 10 per cent of the profit goes to the charity Save the Children.


Where the Wild Mums Are was kindly sent to me for review by Faber & Faber Publishing