Review: The Weasel Puffin Unicorn Baboon Pig Lobster Race

Today’s review is of The Weasel Puffin Unicorn Baboon Pig Lobster Race by James Thorp and Angus Mackinnon, to be published in September 2013. Plus, as an added bonus, you get Holly’s thoughts on nonsense poetry as a genre (I wish she’d written my MA essay!) and a new nonsense poem written by her!


Image courtesy of


What it’s about (from the publishers): The Weasel Puffin Unicorn Baboon Pig Lobster Race is a psychedelic children’s story best described as, ‘Doctor Doolittle meets Sergeant Pepper’. Beautifully illustrated, it’s zany story follows a race as feverishly competitive as any held before. All manner of dastardly plans and cheats are concocted by the beasts including custard trampolines and banana diggers (the swines!). The Unicorn alone respects the rules. Admirable, yes, but in this weasel-cheats-puffin world what chance of victory does that give him?

Holly’s review: This book is about these animals who gather to do a race. People come to watch it to see who is the fastest. This book is written in rhyme and has just been published and was sent to us by the publishers Digital Leaf to read and review, so I say a warm thank you to them for sending us this book. I like this book because it is written in rhyme and the rhyme is nonsense and I love nonsense poetry because it makes me laugh. The drawings are very interesting – I can’t explain why, they just are, and they are all drawn with the same colours – purple and pink. I think this book has to be one of my favourite picture books and I definitely recommend that you read it.

Holly on nonsense poetry: It is just great the way that nonsense is written because for some reason even though it is nonsense you can still understand it.

There are different types of nonsense. Sometimes there is playing with words or sometimes it is actual real worlds put into nonsense poetry, like this poem I like:

I went to the pictures tomorrow

I took a front seat at the back,

I fell from the pit to the gallery

And broke a front bone in my back.

A lady she gave me some chocolate,

I ate it and gave it her back.

I phoned for a taxi and walked it,

And that’s why I never came back.

Playground Rhyme, published in The Puffin Book of Nonsense Verse, ed. Quentin Blake.


Do you see what they are doing? They are doing opposites so turning the meaning of the words around.

This is a poem I wrote for a local nonsense poetry competition. It is for Alice’s Day, which you can read about here: We had to include the words Alice, Dodo and Sausage.


Alice the troll

She ate sausage rolls

And pickled kidneys of Dodo.

Her desert as we all know

Is Fried Hodo.

Alice the troll

She lives in a hole

By a river of liver.

It sparkles and glows

Deep low in the ground

With no space around, all around.

The dance and they sing

And drink liver ding ding

By the river of Liver.


Sam’s review: Holly adores nonsense poetry – always has done. The Puffin Book of Nonsense Verse she quoted from was one of the first books that she saved her money up to buy and it’s so worn (pre-loved I believe is the mot du jour) that the pages have deep crevices and creases in them from so much thumbing. I loved her summary of nonsense verse and in fact wished I had her write my last MA essay on nonsense verse – I think she would have done much better on it than I did! She picked up on a vital aspect of nonsense poetry that I don’t think I had ever really talked to her about, which was that the best nonsense does make some sort of sense. It’s never completely insane.

The Weasel Puffin Unicorn Baboon Pig Lobster Race was a delight to read. I felt that it was a kind of hybrid between Edward Lear and Spike Milligan in its plot – the ludicrous situation of the animals and the bizarre antics they get up to are great modern equivalents to these nonsense giants. The illustrations are marvelous too and really draw you into the story effortlessly. This is a book I know we will return to time and time again, and the fact that it sparked Holly to write more generally and critically about nonsense poetry with no coaxing from me (she wrote her review entirely on her own) shows what an effect this book had on her. We hope to see more of the same from the author and illustrator!

What is your favourite nonsense poem?


Please note that we were sent a copy of this book by the publishers but were under no obligation or reward to review it, and all thoughts are our own.



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