Three pickled herrings, two happy readers, one fun book

posted in: David Roberts, Sally Gardner | 3

threepickledherringsThree Pickled Herrings by Sally Gardner, illustrated by David Roberts is the second in the Wings and Co detective series. We had so much fun with the first volume, Operation Bunny, (here’s our review) we couldn’t wait to read a new instalment.

Detective cases are apparently like buses. You can wait for ages, and then suddenly three come along at once. And so it is for The Wings and Co Fairy Detective Agency; they are thrown into a fast paced adventure when a mysterious death involving purple smoke, a streak of terrible bad luck for Mr. Rollo the tailor and very peculiar goings on as the Smith family prepare for their daughter’s wedding all appear to be bound up with each other. Golden keys, fairies from a galaxy far away from Disney, a delightful talking cat, and true but tricky friendship all play a part in this imaginative and humorous story, inventively and strikingly illustrated by David Roberts.

Wit and wordplay abound, but there’s also a thought provoking central theme: Imagine if you could wish for anything and it would come true? Could there be any downsides to such magic? In this story with echoes of the King Midas myth, and the wonderful Fish who could wish by John Bush an Korky Paul, Sally Gardner has created another lovely book for independent readers, equally good for families with several ages of children who would like to share a bedtime story. We’re already waiting for the next outing for Emily Vole, Buster and Fidget!

One of our favourite scenes in the book is when Buster eats a whole trifle, in conditions not unlike those described in Michael Rosen’s brilliant Chocolate Cake poem. None of us had ever had trifle, but I figured this was the perfect excuse for us to try some (and, to be honest, I thought I stood more chance of getting the kids to eat trifle, rather than pickled herrings!).

It turns out that trifle is a wonderful dish for kids to make themselves. The ingredients can be varied to suit (though most trifles include some sort of cake, jelly, custard, fruit and cream), and there is no strict recipe to follow.

We laid out bowls of our key ingredients and the young chefs set to!

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A dollop of this, a squish of that, oh, and a taste test or two along the way…

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Needless to say, the trifle went down VERY well with everyone! Definitely a pudding we’ll be making again.

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Whilst making trifle we listened to:

  • The Original Jelly Roll Blues by Jelly Roll Morton
  • Custard Pie Blues by Sonny Terry
  • Whipped Cream by Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass
  • Don’t Trifle On Your Sweetheart by Ernest Tubb


  • Other fun activities you could try to “play by the book” include:

  • Playing detective! There are lots of kid friendly ideas on POP, including how to collect fingerprints and how to write a secret message. I also recommend a great book I recently discovered, How To Be a Detective by Dan Waddell and Jim Smith. Check out Polly’s review!
  • Making Koi carp windsocks – but calling them pickled herring windsocks! Here’s a tutorial from Forget me Knots, and here’s another from That Artist Woman.
  • Creating your own fairy wings out of cardboard, inspired by (appropriately enough) Secret Agent Josephine.


  • What chapter book are you enjoying at the moment?

    Disclosure: I received a free review copy of Three Pickled Herrings from the publisher. I was under no obligation to write a review, nor did I receive any payment for this post.

    3 Responses

    1. Can’t wait to read this, we loved Operation Bunny!

    2. Hope you enjoy it as much as Operation Bunny, Stephanie!

    3. This series looks wonderful. We are very fond of trifle and have it for desert on Christmas day.
      Melissa @ Honey Bee Books recently posted..The 2013 Shortlist for the Eve Pownall Award for Information Books

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