Murray and Bun by Adam Stower

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Murray and Bun by Adam Stower

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A very lively series opener, as a cat forced to live with both a magic companion and magic catflap stumbles into the world of Vikings and how they want him to rescue their kin from trolls. Little trolling will be done in this book's regard, mind, for it's great daft fun.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 192 Date: February 2024
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9780008561246

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Murray is supposed to be a humble, tidy and friendly cat, one who is able to sleep and eat and eat and sleep and, well, whatever takes his fancy next of the two. But he's a bad magician's cat, so his favourite bun has been turned into a hyperactive sticky rabbit called Bun, and the catflap they both use can chuck them out, not into the regular back garden, but into a world of frightening adventure and whiffs. This time round it drops them into a Viking land, where a troll hunter is expected – well, one much bigger than Murray was, to be honest, but he's turned up and he'll have to do…

This is more than suitably quirky and wacky, and in all the best ways, as opposed to the grating kind of daffiness that is just there to annoy people. Here whole double-page spreads have little change from the last and the one before, as a way of showing the tumbleweed passing of time before a certain penny drops; yet the story has to be done with such pace it daren't feature the Viking voyage Murray and Bun have to face – instead we're just told the longship involved was so very long in fact that all they had to do was walk the length of it and that was it – voyage over.

I'm at a touch of a disadvantage in not waiting to review this before the second one – a lot of this is purely for world-building purposes, and I don't know if such building materials will be dropped for future books and therefore the adventures will be longer. Certainly the initial chunk looks like a precis chapter, to be reused again and again, but this doesn't feel too brief and too busy with establishing things – the story is still prominent. And to continue with the looks, the artwork is fine, and the text is really pared back to just a few lines per spread, meaning this rattles by, in witty and engaging ways. (It is so visual the promise of an audiobook version is the most errantly bonkers thing here.)

Adults buying this for the target under-nines will have to explain how every time Bun says his one word of dialogue – Bun! – Murray knows precisely what the rabbit meant. But illogicality, daftness and carrots from unlikely body orifices are all included here, and in a very suitably joyous fashion. I'd count this as a prelude to the likes of Mr Gum – for those who found his books just a little too thick to hold this is an ideal stopgap.

It's easily four stars, and probably deserves the higher rating I'm giving it, in exchange for my thanks to the publishers for my early copy. The first sequel is pencilled in for August 2024.

The creator has got his hands in the fame pie with David Walliams books since the days of Piggy Handsome: Guinea Pig Destined for Stardom! by Pip Jones and Adam Stower, one of his earlier design works.

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