Billy's home is a little bit crazy as both his parents insist on performing lots of magic tricks. Billy has no interest in their potions made from their strange supplies until he discovers a small snail that is waiting to become an ingredient. Billy immediately rescues the snail, christens him Nigel and makes him his new pet. However, his parents think that they can conjure up a much more exciting pet but is that what Billy really wants?
Billy is a bit fed up of his parents constantly practising their magic especially when most of their spells go wrong. He is a little curious about all of their strange assortment of ingredients though:
Jellied bugs and pickled flies,
And what was this?
A little snail?
It is the snail that appeals most of all and Billy quickly befriends him, naming him Nigel. His parents don't think that Nigel, being a snail, is a suitable pet though and when Billy doesn't tire of him, as they expect, they set out to use their magic to conjure up some more exciting pets. Whales, elephants and tigers magically appear before Billy's eyes but none appeal as much as his small friend, Nigel. Not only that, all of these new animals start causing mayhem and guess who comes to the rescue? Maybe snails do make the best pets after all!
We thought this was a very enjoyable and funny book. It's bright and colourful with lots of amusing illustrations especially when all of the tricks start going wrong. We love the bemused and worried looks on Billy's parents' faces. You also need to keep a careful eye on the illustrations because sometimes Nigel is doing something that does not relate to the main storyline.
It's also a sweet tale with a strong message about the value of true friendship. My daughter particularly liked the way that Billy taught Nigel how to do things such as read, play with bricks and even ride a skateboard. She was particularly impressed that Nigel wore a helmet when doing this last activity! All of this prompted a lovely discussion about the sorts of things that she likes to do for her friends.
We also enjoyed the way that the story is written particularly as it is all in rhyming couplets:
As Billy shouted Nigel's name.
Dad's magic spells went wrong again.
Things went crazy, things went bad.
The tiger tried to eat Bill's dad.
This adds to the humour and the rhythm but is also good for helping small children develop their phonological awareness skills. Added to this there is lots of lovely description that really make the story come alive.
Overall this book is lots of fun and I'm sure that both children and their parents will enjoy sharing it. It's a great read from start to finish.
Paperback: 32 pages
Publisher: Andersen (3 Jan 2013)
This review has previously appeared under my name at www.thebookbag.co.uk