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I recently bought a set of books from The Book People all illustrated by the fabulous Korky Paul who is probably best known for the Winnie the Witch books. There were some Winnie books in the collection but there were also some other new characters, one of which was the eccentric looking Professor Puffendorf!
Both my daughters really enjoyed Professor Puffendorf's Secret Potions. She is a somewhat zany scientist who works in a laboratory alongside her beloved guinea pig Chip and her lazy, grumbling assistant Enzo.
One day Professor Puffendorf has to attend a conference so she reluctantly leaves Enzo in charge and provides him with a list of jobs to do. As soon as she has gone though, Enzo puts his feet up and prepares for an easy day until he spots the Top Secret cabinet where he knows the professor keeps all her special potions. He searches until he is able to find the keys and the combinations for all the locks and padlocks and soon he is staring at an array of different potions. The first one he picks up says HAIR TODAY on the label and the instructions are 'for thick red curly hair instantly, take ten drops and count to five'. Enzo is just about to follow the instructions when, out of the corner of his eye, he spots Chip and decides to try it out on him after all - just in case! After all, he is a guinea pig! As soon as Chip has drank the potion, his hair turns red and curly! Enzo decides that he will sell the potion and become rich!
This goes on with the other potions he discovers - SWEET SONG and then finally BEST WISH. With BEST WISH, if you drink the potion your heart's fondest wish will come true! Again he tries it on the guinea pig first! Now we never actually get to hear what Chip wishes for but the next moment he is out of the cage dressed in Enzo's clothes, sweeping the floor! And guess where Enzo is? In the guinea pig cage! Well, Chip's wish obviously worked and it's too late for Enzo to do anything about it - serves him right! This is how Professor Puffendorf finds them at the end of the day and although she is cross with Enzo, she promises to get him out of the mess he is in - but not until after she and Chip have been out for dinner!
This excellent story is written by Robin Tzannes and is very appealing to young children. It is very funny and my daughters also love the fact that the bad guy gets his come uppance at the end. The language used is nicely accessible and with not too many words on any page, it should be well in the reach of young independent readers. Some of the words are big and in capitals too so it's easy to know where to add emphasis!
What makes this book really stand out though is the wonderful illustrations from Korky Paul. There is just so much detail on every single page that it's difficult to know where to start. We really love the appearance of Professor Puffendorf with her tightly frizzy sprawling black hair, glasses perched on the end of her nose and her white overall covering her bright garish clothes. She really is how I would picture a mad woman scientist! Her laboratory is truly amazing to look at and I'm sure you could read this book ten times or more and still spot something new with each reading! There are so many weird and wonderful contraptions, brightly coloured potions in glass bottles and pieces of paper recording experiments strewn everywhere. It really is an Aladdin's Cave and I often notice my younger daughter just staring at the pictures and sometimes giggling too as there is also a lot of humour in each of them.
This really is a wonderful book for young children and if they are anything like my daughters, they will want to read it time and again. I really like the collaboration between the author and illustrator and will definitely look out for more from this partnership particularly if they produce any more Professor Pufferdorf books!
Our paperback version is published by Oxford University Press and has a RRP of £5.99 but I bought it as part of a set for much less.