What we’re reading: Spaghetti Hunters and Brenda is a Sheep by Morag Hood

Have you heard the one about the teapot dwelling duck who can’t find his spaghetti? It’s a quackers story involving a tiny horse.

The duo set out to catch the elusive pasta, armed with a fishing rod and peanut butter, but instead trap some rope, wool, snakes and an earwig. If only they had a recipe book to help them prepare their favourite Italian dish…

If you are familiar with the books of Morag Hood, then the surreal wit of her latest story will not be a surprise to you. The Scottish author-illustrator has a knack for creating off-the-wall tales that tickle the funny bones of children, accompanied by brightly coloured and distinctive artwork which is sophisticatedly simple.

She’s got a penchant for birds too, having previously starred penguins (When Grandad was a Penguin, obvs), puffins (The Steves) and a blue bird (Aalfred AND Aalbert) in her award-winning stories.

What I especially love about her books is how they use humour to engage kids and tackle important topics, like childhood rivalries, gay relationships and managing emotions.

And in Spaghetti Hunters, woven into the wackiness, is a timely message about finding out where your food really comes from and the value of learning to cook. Plus who can resist a duck and a tiny horse in gumshoe hats?

The book has just come out in hardback while her 2019 hit Brenda is a Sheep (which uses the colours of the Irish flag to glorious effect) is now available in paperback.

This modern twist on the fable of a wolf in sheep’s clothing is, I suppose, about the hunt for dinner too, although is deliciously deadpan where Spaghetti Hunters is out-and-out silly.

In Morag’s take, we have a hungry wolf in a natty orange jumper trying to blend in with a flock of supposedly stupid sheep so she can win their trust and serve them up with a large dollop of her special mint sauce.

They should be like lambs to the slaughter, quite literally. But it turns out that the sheep hero-worship the sharp-toothed addition to their woolly gang, so much so that they shave their fleeces to knit fashionable Brenda-style sweaters and prepare her a special feast of grass-based dishes that even a vegan would struggle to swallow.

The visual humour of this story is particularly enjoyable, from Brenda’s expression as she gags on grass to her attempts to ‘play games’ using a bow and arrow.

I especially like the wit of the fatal flaw in her plan too. After waiting for the sheep to go to sleep, she greedily begins to count them up… and can’t fight the urge to nod off herself. Didn’t her mother tell her what would happen if she counted sheep?

Let’s face it, we could all do with a good laugh right now. If you want to send your child to sleep with a smile on their face, hunt out a Morag Hood book for bedtime.

Spaghetti Hunters by Morag Hood is out now. £11.99 (hardback), Two Hoots. Buy from Amazon
Brenda is a Sheep by Morag Hood. £6.99 (paperback), Two Hoots. Buy from Amazon

Reviews of other funny books you might enjoy…
The Incredible Book-Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers
Cake by Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet
The Queen’s Hat by Steve Antony

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