Sneak peek inside the new ‘Monster Max’ book

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’ll know I enjoy Robin Bennett’s books. I’ve previously reviewed The Hairy Hand (which I described as ‘when The Twits meet Rincewind’) and done an interview with him, so to mix it up, this time I’m pleased to be kicking off the book tour with an extract from his latest book, Monster Max and the Marmalade Ghost.

Monster Max and the marmalade ghost book cover

First, let’s set the scene …

Monster Max and his (joint) best friend Peregrine have been finding it hard ‘To Protect and do Good Stuff’ lately – not much seems to be going on in their quiet suburb. However, this doesn’t last long: strange and actually quite horrible things have been going on in the Old Folks Day Centre. In the toilets, to be precise. Max, Peregrine and Max’s cat (and joint best friend), Frankenstein, go and investigate. Is Max about to bite off more than he can chew?

It seems to have all the ingredients for a comedy. Let me know what you think.


They made their way the next morning to the day centre. Max had persuaded Frankenstein to come, too.

‘Retired people like cats,’ he explained, ‘probably even you.’

As they walked through the double doors, they were met by Reg and a horrible gurgling, belching, farty noise.

‘That’s not me,’ said Reg cheerfully, ‘we’ve been having some problems with the plumbing this morning. Mrs Dempsey dropped her false teeth down the toilet when she sneezed and since then the whole system seems to have a mind of its own!’

Max and Peregrine exchanged a look. They’d been right – there was probably loads of stuff they could do to help around here.

‘Ooh, what a beautiful-looking cat!’ exclaimed Reg, looking down. 

(Yes, thought Max, Reg really does need better glasses). 

Reg tickled Frankenstein behind the ear and he started to purr like an old chainsaw (the cat, not Reg). 

‘The residents would love to meet him,’ said Reg.


Max and Peregrine are volunteering at an old people’s home, when strange things start to happen: one resident is walking on the ceiling; one is riding their wheelchair through walls; and Reggie says his marmalade is haunted (although no one listens). Can Max and his friends work out what’s happening to protect his family and the local community? Things aren’t looking good – the Marmalade Ghost is turning into a gloopy Godzilla, Max falls out with his (joint) best friend, and then, just when it can’t get any worse, someone kidnaps Max’s cat, Frankenstein… will they meet a sticky end? 

Time to ‘Protect and Do Good Stuff!’

Author Bio

Robin Bennett author photo

When Robin grew up he thought he wanted to be a cavalry officer until everyone else realised that putting him in charge of a tank was a very bad idea. He then became an assistant gravedigger in London. After that he had a career frantically starting business- es (everything from dog-sitting to cigars, tuition to translation)… until finally settling down to write improbable stories to keep his children from killing each other on long car journeys. 

I like to move it move it

OK, now you’ve got that tune stuck in your head all day! But I can’t look at this book cover without starting to sing.

The fact that it’s written by professional movement coach and award-winning author Darryl Edwards of the excellent TED Talk “Why working out isn’t working out” is very obvious. His childhood reminds me of my own – outdoors until called in for dinner, and more likely to fall out of a tree than bed. So I knew I was going to love My first animal moves. And I do. I really do.

One of the online gym classes I did during lockdown (with Sarah Liebelt, not Joe Wicks) started every session with bear crawls. By the way – do you remember when WHSmith confused me and Joe Wicks and the tweet went viral with lots of people admiring my beard 🤣! If you missed it, here goes …

Anyway, back to the book, I can see an author visit using this book being fantastic, energetic, fun. After all, as he demonstrates in the talk, exercise should be fun. Focus less on working out, and more on playing out.


If that sounds good, you could win a signed copy of the book and a fitness cards deck by entering here. (UK only)


Nathan loves to play, but he loves his video games more. Can a trip to Animal Moves land convince him there’s more fun outdoors? 

Best-selling author and speaker Darryl Edwards has created this fun adventure inspired by his passion for encouraging kids to move in an ever-increasing sedentary environment.


Discover the joys of animal moves with your little cubs in this first book of movement. Join Nathan and his cute, but sometimes lazy, dog as they crawl, jump and balance their way through the animal kingdom re-enacting moves designed to emphasise fun. It’s all in this exercise for kids book that focuses on family fun boredom busters.


✓ Do you want to make physical activity for kids fun?

 Are you looking for ways to help your children develop strength, coordination and balance?

✓ Do your children love learning about animals?

 Are you worried about too much TV and screen time? 

✓ Do you want to teach young children about the importance of physical activity?

✓ Would you like easy and fun fitness games to include in your day?

My First Animal Moves is your answer. Play along together, keeping everyone healthier and happier, promoting physical, mental and emotional well-being. You’ll all release more mood-enhancing hormones as a result, which help you feel good every day.

My First Animal Moves distils the ideas in his bestselling Animal Moves book and Animal Moves Fitness Decks into a colourful picture book for children.

A Children’s Book to Encourage Kids and Their Guardians to Move More, Sit Less and Decrease Screen Time.

This unique story takes a different stance to many popular titles in this arena, with a fun activity that encourages children’s active play while aiming to get families moving and reading together. It takes the humour and colour in kids’ yoga books such as Breathe Like a Bear by Kira WilleyYoga Bug by Sarah Jane Hinder, and You Are a Lion by Taeeun Yoo to a whole new energy level with active play for the entire family.

Get My First Animal Moves to help your family thrive through movement today.

About the author

Darryl Edwards is a Movement Coach, author of the best-selling books “Animal Moves” and “My First Animal Moves”, and a thought leader in the area of creativity and innovation in fitness and health. 

Darryl developed the Primal Play Method™ to inspire others to make physical activity fun while getting healthier and more robust in the process. 

More double trouble!

I promised two reviews from the same publisher. So after The Boy Who Breathed Underwater last week, as we head for festive season, here is the second.

First of all, I have to note that 10% of profits from this book are donated to Hospital Radio Plymouth. Love this! In fact the story was first read by Sue Crowhurst on the radio, and I’m sure the young listeners enjoyed it. I hope it will feature in this years festive line up too.

The next thing to note is the unusual font. It’s all in a very heavy sans serif in bold. My first reaction was it’s a bit “shouty” (like writing an email ALL IN CAPS but there is no explanation so I’m hoping it’s a dyslexia friendly font (would love that confirmed if anyone knows).

My favourite character was Broderick the bookworm (of course). And the idea of trying to trick the king with green and red snow made me giggle and opens the door for plenty of silly conversations. Thankfully there was no mention of yellow snow – eeeewwww – that could have created some interesting discussions! Actually I think there’s a missed opportunity to play with the white Christmas/ green Christmas here and add an eco layer to the plot.

Each page has crisp and cheerful illustrations by Michael S Kane. Annoyingly, again the publisher hasn’t provided any details on the illustrator, but at least he’s credited on the cover (it’s a pet hate of mine when the illustrator/ narrator are not credited).


When lying in his bed, a boy is visited by a genie. He is given a week to try out different superhero powers. What adventures will King Mark is a higgledy-piggledy king and he gets into a pickle every day. “Do something, Bert!” he shouts, and Wizard Bert, and his sidekick, Broderick the bookworm, always save the day. When snow fell on Windy Hill Castle, everyone was delighted – except for King Mark! King Mark didn’t like snow and he started to sulk. Will Bert and Broderick save the day again? Will King Mark walk into trouble? Do the children of Windy Hill Village have the answer…?

About the author

Jocelyn’s writing career began when she was asked to write a story for a preschool magazine. That story was the first of many. Jocelyn became the writer/editor of several preschool magazines and continued in that role for 15 years. Writing one new story every month, plus rhymes and activities was a tough gig, but very exhilarating.

Time is the big difference between writing for a magazine and writing a book.  You see your work on the supermarket shelves within a few weeks of completion. A book takes longer – a lot longer. Jocelyn has to be patient now – not something she’s good at.

Before becoming a writer, Jocelyn work in higher education as International Students Officer. It was a rewarding and interesting job even though she was on call 24/7.

Jocelyn also trained as a counsellor and volunteered at drop-in centers. She never knew who would arrive for counselling and had to be prepared for anything. This work gave her insight into some of the darker corners of life.

Motor sport was one of Jocelyn’s early loves, she had spine tingling thrill of taking part in a 24-hour national rally as navigator – those were the days when rallies were held on public roads! Jocelyn work as an au pair in Paris in her teens. Having visited the city on a school trip, she fell in love with it, and always wanted to return.

Why our children should listen to audiobooks

I love audiobooks. I listen every day whilst dog walking or cooking. And I firmly believe that listening is “reading” and will argue this on Clubhouse until I’m blue in the face (not that anyone can see on Clubhouse). When I do school visits, I talk a lot about the author creating “mind movies”, and I would include audiobooks in this discussion.

So you may know I’m lucky enough to have the utterly amazing Chris Devon narrate my Relic Hunters series (and he’s being very patient whilst I struggle with plot holes in book 3). Anyway, for a different perspective, I recently met the talented and super lovely Charlotte Chiew (scroll down for some very funny shots of here at work) at a networking event and invited her to share some thoughts on the benefits of audiobooks for children so over to her ….

The muscles you(r children) work listening to audiobooks

I’ll admit – I only really started listening to audiobooks after I began narrating them. 

Of course, like many a good parent, I’d bought (and listened together with) my kids those read-along books with CDs that ring a little lovely chime every time the narrator had come to the end of the page and it was time to turn the page. My boys loved them. I think they felt pretty good about themselves, pretending they were able to read before they actually could decipher the words themselves. 

Then, as they got older and silently devour all sorts of books by themselves, they also started on audiobooks. I honestly can’t remember how or when, but they were the pioneer audiobook listeners in my household. I remember the first times I found the house silent, the child(ren) immobilized, headphones on, eyes glazed. And I thought, who cast this spell and how?

Obviously, I wanted this magical super power too.  

While I won’t be sharing the secrets of how I spin a spellbinding tale, I will share 2 interesting facts about audiobooks that may shed some light on how and why some audiobook narrators have listeners eating out of their hands.

1. Our brain works as hard whether we’re reading a story ourselves or listening intently to someone telling it to us.

From an evolutionary point of view, reading came after storytelling and listening, and so it uses processes in the brain that were already there from learning by listening. If you think about reading as the process of decoding the written letters, then it means that if you’ve learnt to read, the decoding is pretty much automatic which means it no longer requires much effort. The effort then, is in what you do with the information you get from the decoding (reading) or the listening (storytelling). 

(There’s been lots of scientific research on this topic, but here is where I gleamed my understanding of memory & learning

2. Listening to audiobooks is more engaging than watching films – even if you don’t realise it!

A study from UCL found that listening to audiobooks creates a more intense psychological and emotional reaction that watching television or film. A quick google search will bring up all the statistics and research data if that’s your cup of tea. But think about it – the results aren’t that surprising. When listening to an audiobook, you have to work your imagination so much more than when watching a film. (Remember how the latest release of that book you loved was never as satisfying as when you read it?) In addition to your imagination working hard, often times, you experience an intimate storytelling with audiobooks. A beautiful voice in your ears (thank you Noise-cancelling-headphones), drawing you into the world of the story. The narrator heightens the experience for the listener and has the ability to make an audiobook unforgettable.

The imobilised, glazed-eyed state I find my kids in when they listen to audiobooks must just be their imagination hard at work. With some help from an expert narrator…

3. Insider tips

If you’re new to audiobooks and I’ve tempted you to try, here are some options and tips for looking for great narrators:

  1. Most audiobook online retail platforms will let you trial a subscription for a month. Try Kobo, and Audible – you get free book/s during your trial, which you get to keep even if you cancel your subscription. Afterwhich you’ll get credits which usually equates to 1 book every month. With a Kobo subscription, you’ll also get books on promotional prices in addition to your 1 “free” book a month. And if you accumulate more credits that you can use them, Kobo lets you”pause” your subscription if you don’t want to cancel but just haven’t finished using those credits.
  2. Check if you local library has a partnership with Libby App (by Overdrive). We are members of Lewisham Library (London) and have enjoyed many audiobooks for free on our library cards.
  3. You can get free audiobooks from Librivox, Googleplay Audiobooks, and even Apple iTunes. 
  4. Before you buy/rent/download-a-free audiobook, always check out the retail sample. That’s the equivalent of a traditional book’s “blurb”. Most audiobook producers will choose a section that will let you have a good idea of how the narrator tells the story. However, some retailers will cut their own retail sample and sometimes, that means you just hear the copyrights and opening credits…
  5. Look out for the Earphones award for the audiobook, or the Golden Voice award for the Narrator. These are awards given by AudioFile Magazine, for truly exceptional titles that excel in narrative voice and style, characterizations, suitability to audio, and enhancement of the text.

About Charlotte Chiew

Charlotte Chiew is an audiobook narrator-producer, voiceover artist, and actor. She specializes in narrating content for young audiences and has performed for children and young audiences all over the world in theatres, community halls, festivals, shopping malls, bookshops, and on recorded medium. Charlotte is currently narrating and producing the Paramedic Chris Series– a children’s book series about the Ambulance service – by Tim Parsons.

Find out more about Charlotte’s work on

Listen to Charlotte spin a yarn on the Tauk Kids’ Youtube Channel

Double trouble!

I’ve got two reviews from the same publisher – one today and one next week.

How could I pass by the opportunity to review a book by another REES? So, just incase you were wondering, Izzy Rees is no relation. I’ve never even met her. So this is just a coincidence. From the title, The Boy Who Breathed Underwater, I expected an underwater adventure. The book is actually a classic version of the ever popular “which super power would you choose?” debate.

Like most publishers and editors, I can be a bit wary of rhymes. Setting aside the limitations they place on foreign translations, they are very hard to get right without resorting to the occasional clunky grammar. These rhymes, however, just trip off the tongue. Such fun to read-aloud.

But all of a sudden,

he let out a sneeze …

He lost all control and

fell hard on his knees.

Each scenario is totally made by the fabulous illustrations by Sarah-Leigh Wills. Annoyingly, the publisher hasn’t provided any details on the illustrator, but at least she’s credited on the cover (it’s a pet hate of mine when the illustrator/ narrator are not credited).


When lying in his bed, a boy is visited by a genie. He is given a week to try out different superhero powers. What adventures will he have, and which power will he choose to keep?

About the author

Izzy Rees was born in West London, but has spent the last thirty years living in Derby. Ten years ago, when her three girls were young, she began work on a series of rhyming picture books, created in snatched moments, and initially written on small scraps of paper or whatever was available. She always intended to revisit them, and Covid and lockdown presented the opportunity; unable to continue her work as a neurophysiotherapist, working with vulnerable patients, she decided it was now or never! She has written six books so far in the ‘The Boy Who’ series, The Boy Who Breathed Underwater being the first one. The others will be published in the near future.