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Hardcover: 109 pages
Publisher: Pedigree Books Ltd
Stories by Ian Robinson.
Illustrations by John Harrold.
Story Colouring by Gina Hart.
Copyright Express Newspapers 2003 - annual number 68.
===The Book in Detail===
The book contains six stories:
* Rupert and the Water Bottle - 20 pages.
* Rupert and the Ringer - 17 pages.
* Rupert and the Late Start - 18 pages.
* Rupert and the Lost Shell - 13 pages.
* Rupert and the Blue Vase - 15 pages.
* Rupert and the White Path - 13 pages.
The book also has:-
Rupert's Fun Pages which include:
* Page of crossword
* Page of colouring
* Page of Spot the Difference
* Which Story page
* Page of answers.
£7.50 at full price. Currently can be picked up second hand on Amazon for £1.35.
===The Annual Itself===
This annual had a very colourful cover which was a lovely image of Rupert with a good brown face. He is holding a hand bell which features in one of the stories and is surrounded by his friends and Umps. the picture's image is, as usual, one that extends from the front to the back cover and on the reverse is his friend Bill Badger with more of the Nutwood characters as well as an owl in a tree and Raggety - a funny little character from the book who is made of twigs and roots.
This is annual number 68 which was printed in 2003 but which they actually call the 2004 annual.
Inside the annual the front and back 'endpapers' are always a two page design. This time they feature the Wise Old Goat - he is pointing at something in the sky - but if you do not look very closely you will not see that it is white clouds in the shape of horses - there are also some Imps in the trees.
The contents page has a place to write your name and there is also a 'price triangle corner' - people like the name space to be empty and the price triangle to still be in place if they are collecting the books.
Rupert stories come in three levels - the pictures enable you to follow the story with a very young child, the rhyming couplets tell a bit more of the story, or you can read the full text in paragraphs at the bottom of the page. Each page mostly has four colour pictures. The illustrations are bright and colourful.
===Rupert and the Water Bottle===
Rupert and his friend Bill Badger go exploring - they find a hollow tree and fall into a secret hideout. They find a bottle of liquid that keeps pouring and never empties. Once out of the tree they are scared by a wild deer and Bill drops the bottle. Then a farmer finds a flood - but when Rupert tries to find the hollow tree again - he cannot.
There has been no rain so everyone is surprised at the floods which soon engulf the whole village. The next morning Rupert awakes to even higher floods. Bill arrives in a dingy and they go to see the Wise Old Goat.
It turns out that the Wise Old Goats ancestors had left the bottle for emergencies as it was harmless when stoppered. They use radar to find the bottle and retrieve it in a net. A spell brings a tornado which sucks up all the water and returns it to the bottle. The Old Goat then puts the bottle safely in a cupboard.
===Rupert and the Ringer===
Rupert visits his friend Sailor Sam but finds that his bell by the door ha been stolen - as has the school bell. Even Farmer Brown's sheep have lost their bells.
Rupert finds a boy under a tree with all the bells. The boy states that he is a composer and is father is the Town Crier from nearby Nutchester. Rupert and his friend Gregory take the bus to Nutchester as they are having a bell ringing competition. The boy's new composition 'Nutwood Chimes' wins the prize of a set of new bells. Back home Rupert and Gregory secretly return all the bells to their rightful owners.
===Rupert and the Late Start===
Rupert's father is concerned that his Spring bulbs are not growing. Rupert and his friend Ottaline visit the Imps of Spring. They have a door in an old tree which the pair cannot find. They both sit on a large stone which suddenly flips over and they find themselves in the underground home of the Imps - who are all still asleep. Their clock has stopped - it is still pointing towards 'Winter'. The clock had been deliberately jammed by Raggety - the naughty wood troll who is the enemy of the Imps. Once awoken they all then go up above ground with a special potion which will start Spring. This takes too long to do by hand so they get it sprinkled from a plane into the clouds so that it rains down. Ragggety is also covered in the liquid and comes out in flowers but the Imps put a 'retard' spray on him to get rid of them.
===Rupert and the Lost Shell===
Rupert is on holiday by the sea at Rocky Bay. He goes out in a glass bottomed boat and sees a Merboy. He finds that King Neptune had lost a golden shell covered with jewels. Rupert looks for it and finds it moving under the sea - inside is a hermit crab. Rupert and Algy go to see King Neptune and with the shell returned the crab stays in Neptune's court.
===Rupert and the Blue Vase===
This is all about recycling. A bottleman is in the village offering 1p for every old bottle and 2p for every blue bottle as they are rarer. Mrs Bear has a blue Venice vase that was a wedding present, but the handles have broken. The bottleman asks Rupert to visit the glassworks and they travel there on an old horse and cart. There Rupert helps one of the collectors sort his bottles as all the colours are mixed up. Rupert's mother's vase is then melted down and and some more blue bottle glass is added. It is then blown again and with handles is now as good as new.
===Rupert and the White Path===
It is freezing cold but no snow in Nutwood. The chums are playing football outside when Algy, Rupert's pal, emerges with some snow - but from where? There is a pathway of deep snow across the common. Bill and Rupert follow the path to the Professor's yellow snow-making machine. The next morning there is a heavy fall of snow and Rupert and Constable Growler go to check on the old people in the village as everything has ground to a halt. They get lists from the old people of what supplies they need, and afterwards the Professor uses the snow mobile to suck up the snow from the roads - but still leaves a little for the pals to play in.
===Rupert's Fun Pages===
There are the usual sort of memory puzzles, a large crossword with over 100 clues all relating to Rupert, colouring page and the fun 'Spot the Difference'. No origami this time.
===What I Thought===
This book has a strong, colourful and shiny cover. The image of Rupert and his friends is well executed and has a certain depth to it.
The annual has six stories which is good value.
The 'Fun Pages' are all grouped together this time and are only four pages - so while the crossword is good and large with 103 clues which are mostly relating to the stories in the annual it does seem slightly less that in some other years - when you have had Magic Painting, Origami or recipes as well.
The stories are all colourful and well illustrated. In one Nutwood village gets flooded (very topical these days!). In another story Rupert goes underground into the Imp's kingdom - always very cute and imaginative. This time in two of the stories the Professor uses a very similar sort of machine - in one it is called a 'Cloud Hopper' - a bright yellow basic open topped aeroplane and in the other it is a Snow Mobile - slightly different but in the same colours - red and yellow.
The only seasonal story is Rupert and the White Path, which features snow - but is not exactly Christmassy. It is a shame not to have one Christmas story as these books are mostly purchased as Christmas gifts. One of the colouring pictures is Rupert and a Christmas tree though.
The Spot the Difference puzzle has always been a favourite in our house but I am not really sure whether this picture puzzle has not been used before - it looks very familiar to me.
The story about Rupert and the Sea Shell has pictures of Rupert in a sort of red knitted all in one swimsuit and with bare feet - which are human looking. Apparently on the internet there was talk that Rupert's feet were never shown - but here they are on page 71!
The story Rupert and the Blue Vase is the first one I have come across where recycling is referred to in such a central way to a story. A very good way to introduce it to children - and how quaint for Rupert to be riding in an old horse and cart.
===Its Good Points===
* 6 stories
* Colourful nicely drawn cover
* Good selection of puzzles with a very large crossword..
* No Origami or recipe
* Only 4 pages of puzzles
* No Christassy story
* Not sure if the Spot the Difference has not been in a Rupert book before.
5 stars. Despite the few negative points I would still give it five stars.
===Would I Recommend?===
This is a fan club for Rupert which has regular newsletters and articles on Rupert. Their website is at - http://www.ee.ed.ac.uk/~afm/followers/