Friday, October 24, 2014

ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week Ending 24th October 2014 - "The Colour Thief - A Family's Story of Depression" by Andrew Fusek-Peters and Polly Peters, illustrated by Karin Littlewood (Wayland Publishing)


The Colour Thief - A Family's Story of Depression

Written by Andrew Fusek-Peters and Polly Peters
Illustrated by Karin Littlewood

Published by Wayland Publishing

Not to be confused with Gabriel Alborozo's awesome book, "The Colour Thief - A Family's Story of Depression" deals with one of the hardest subjects to broach for younger readers. It's also a very tough book to review without sounding slightly ham-fisted about the subject, but we will try our best.

Andrew Fusek-Peters and Penny Peters have written the story of a young boy who sees his father's behaviour and whole outlook on life radically change as he begins to suffer from depression.

The story, along with accompanying illustrations from Karin Littlewood, caringly and touchingly describes how the dad changes, subtly at first but more pronounced as depression takes hold - and reinforces the point that the boy may feel that he's somehow to blame (but obviously isn't).

Powerful allusions are made, comparing depression to feeling like being trapped in a block of ice, with life on pause though obviously life goes on.

The book's illustrations change in tone from colourful and happy, to dark and cloudy. Showing that help can be sought and that it takes a long time sometimes for that help to become effective, it answers many of the questions children might have but perhaps can't seek from their family members directly involved.

We've only seen one other book on the blog that touches on this most sensitive subject (Shaun Tan's "The Red Tree" also makes reference to depression in many ways), but "The Colour Thief" more directly maps to real-life situations that children can perhaps more readily and clearly identify with.

A hugely important book, expertly developed and written and something that would be a huge huge help for children struggling to understand the symptoms and the changes that depression can cause.

Charlotte's best bit: The slow transformation for the dad as he gets the help he needs, and slowly but surely heads on the road to recovery

Daddy's Favourite bit: An expert and sensitive treatment of a hugely difficult subject to put across in understandable terms for children, but a book that will be a real help to children in families where a member suffers from depression. Important, and deserving of a gigantic amount of recognition.

(Kindly sent to us for review by Hachette / Wayland Publishing)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

"Why we can't help pigeonholing books" - A ReadItDaddy Editorial

I doubt even pigeons really like living in tiny little compartmentalised holes...
It's never really 'sat' well with me that so many things are neatly categorised, compartmentalised - or for want of a better word pigeonholed. In the world of books, this sort of thing is widespread and though there's a fair justification for ensuring that age inappropriate stuff doesn't get into children's hands, there's one aspect of this that impacts this humble book blog more than any other.

"Why don't you show age ratings against your book reviews?"

It's a fair question, and it was something that was initially planned when we kicked this whole thing off in 2010 when Charlotte was 2. Back then, we read and enjoyed a whole range of children's picture books from the extremely simple but effective board and baby books, right through to books that Charlotte still enjoys regularly today. 

Age ratings on books fall into a few categories. They can be applied by the publisher, or the marketing team, even by bigger and better book reviewing folk than ourselves or perhaps by various awards agencies, book trusts and collectives. 

Books don't have the same system as movies or games (understandably) and as children get older, you can understand that some folk might want tighter controls over the sort of books children are exposed to (for instance, would you feel comfortable about your 12 year old reading certain YA novels that are more adult in scope and nature?)

I remember reading James Herbert books as a wayward 12 year old simply because no one told me I couldn't (and of course reading "The Rats" as an impressionable pre-teen was a bit of an eye-opener to say the least). That's not to say that I would approve of a ratings system that slapped a big fat "15" on the cover (or back cover) of your favourite reading material. 

So I guess the question to raise is "should we age-rate books or issue our own guidance ratings?" - We could but then are we authoritative enough to do so? After all, Charlotte's own reading tastes swing wildly from lift the flap and board books (if they're entertaining enough for her) right through to things that she would probably be ideally reading in a year or two's time (not YA of course but she's itching to get cracking on the Harry Potter books and I'm not sure I could comfortably let her loose on the later ones).  If we did so we'd have to attach all sorts of caveats to our recommendations so would there really be any point?

It's a topic ripe for debate - and if you do have any views, I would dearly welcome a comment or two below. 

Long Gone Don Book 1 by Lorenzo and Robin Etherington (David Fickling Books)


The Phoenix Presents - Long Gone Don Volume 1

Written and Illustrated by
Lorenzo and Robin Etherington

Published by David Fickling Books

Imagine waking up after a traumatic incident to find that the world you once knew had disappeared, and worse still, your hair had turned completely white. To add insult to injury you also find that your surroundings are less than hospitable, and you are - in fact - constantly referred to as "Old deady-chops over there".

Welcome to the world of Long Gone Don, one of the coolest comic strips in the fabulous Phoenix Comic, wrought by the expert hands of The Etherington Brothers (Lorenzo and Robin).

Don Skelton finds himself in exactly this predicament at the very start of the tale, collected together here as part of The Phoenix Presents series - something that has allowed us to catch up with all the bits we've missed from the weekly strips in the comic itself (hooray!)

Somehow we'd managed to miss the very start of Don's adventures, so here we find him as a true fish out of water, wandering the dark and gloomy confines of "BroilerDoom" - a place that's as warm and welcoming as a wet weekend in the local sewage works.

Thankfully help is at hand, A sassy hispanic crow called Castanet helps guide (if guide is quite the right world) Don through the underworld, teaming up with a motley collection of miscreants that make the Guardians of the Galaxy look like a local sewing circle.

It's brilliantly told, gorgeously illustrated stuff and we've been hooked on this book since it fluttered through our letterbox.

"Long Gone Don Volume 1" by Lorenzo and Robin Etherington, is out now from David Fickling Books. Don't be late for your own death!

Charlotte's best bit: Gorgeous art and a completely crazy collection of characters, and something of a huge crush on Don himself

Daddy's Favourite bit: Utterly in love with this strip, packed to the gills with hilarious comic asides and gorgeous details in the art. More soon please!

(Kindly sent to us for review by David Fickling Books and those wonderful Phoenix folk!)

A spookily brilliant half term planned at Oxford's Story Museum.

The awesome Malorie Blackman as the Wicked Witch of the West. Just one of the highlights of the 26 Characters Exhibition!

Lots of brilliant events are planned during school half term to celebrate Halloween and all things spooky at The Story Museum, Oxford's fantastic booky venue. Check out the press release below for all the details:

Horrible Half Term: Saturday 25 October – Sunday 2 November

Halloween comes at the end of the October Half Term, so The Story Museum has a truly horrible holiday planned!

The Museum’s popular 26 Characters exhibition continues, featuring a galaxy of Britain’s well-loved authors transformed into their favourite childhood fictional characters, captured by celebrity portrait photographer Cambridge Jones. Each portrait is hung in an interactive themed space: walk through the wardrobe and into Narnia, explore the deck of a pirate ship, and peep into the Borrowers’ living room to explore the characters’ worlds, and hear extracts from their stories read by Olivia Colman and Christopher Eccleston.

There are treats in store for comics fans: Sarah McIntyre and David O’Connell will run a family workshop, Jampire Jamboree, and David will lead a Cartoon Workshop for young artists (Tuesday 28 October). Phoenix comic artist (creator of Corpse Talk, the show that brings the dead famous to life) Adam Murphy is in town on Friday 31 October for two sessions: Adam Murphy Masterclass (11.00) and Halloween Corpse Talk (14.00).

Things get spooky on Thursday 30 October, when Dave Shelton (author of A Boy, A Bear and a Boat and the curiously creepy Thirteen Chairs) will be teaching young writers how to handle horror (Spooky Stories Workshop, 14.00), and then telling Ghost Stories at 18.00. Dress up and learn the Monster Mash and Thriller dance moves at our disco for the undead, Zombie Zumba (12.30 & 15.00).

For a touch of magic, try the Quidditch Demonstration at 15.00 on Thursday 30 October – learn the rule of the wizarding sport (from the Harry Potter books) and have a go yourself. Science Oxford will be bringing their magic show with a twist, Magic and Science, on Wednesday 29 October for two performances at 11.30 and 14.00.

Dive head-first into Oxford’s myths and legends with the Wonder Walks: playful family story tours of the historic city.

Free event Reading Allowed! continues, with The Wizard of Oz read aloud by visiting guests every Sunday.

Tickets for all events can be booked through Tickets Oxford: www.ticketsoxford.com, or 01865 305305.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

We take a sneaky preview peek at an awesome new Comic and comic workshop project coming from the fabulous Art Heroes!

Art Heroes - Comic heroes ready to rock your world!


Who are the mysterious "Art Heroes"? They're a British publisher and comics workshop facilitation team who passionately beaver away producing brilliant comics and mould-breaking stories and heroes that you're seriously going to go nuts over.

The awesome team got in touch to let us know that today, 22nd October, is the launch day for "Endangered & More Strange Stories", a full colour, all-ages comics anthology. 

Written by Daniel Clifford, illustrated by Lee Robinson with colour assists from Shaun Balbirnie and edited by Mark E. Johnson, "Endangered & More Strange Stories" features a time travelling vet, an outlaw cowboy and a group of Newcastle kids who ought to know better than to tangle with monsters...

"Birds of Pray" - They're not angry, they're holy!

“We've tried to represent the young readers we meet through our workshops by having a diverse range of stories and characters,” said Daniel. “This comic features stories with a wider appeal than superheroes - time travel, animals, a western and a scary story - and the characters are diverse to represent the young people we meet. There are thousands of young people looking for stories that represent people like them - that's our aim with Endangered & More Strange Stories.”

Art Heroes don't just produce awesome comics - Endangered & More Strange Stories also includes material culled from Art Heroes workshops designed to encourage kids to pick up a pen or pencil. As we've often found in chats with comics-ey folk we get to talk to through the blog, there's no better way to engage kids with creativity and storytelling than letting them loose creating their own comics, and that's something Art Heroes are extremely passionate about. 

"Outlaw" - The Weird Weird Weird Weird West!

“Endangered is the accumulation of years of hard work, late nights scribbling away and always thriving to be a better artist,” Lee commented. “I can say that it's the first time where I've felt I haven't left anything behind, and I'm immensely proud to put it in people's hands. Putting it together has been a great experience, and I truly hope that this is reflected with the pages.”

Endangered & More Strange Stories is Lee and Daniel's third major collaboration. The team have had their work published by the acclaimed British kids' anthology The Phoenix Comic and have just released a collected edition of their coming-of-age superhero comic, Halcyon & Tenderfoot.

Offering 36 full-colour pages for just £3.50, Endangered & More Strange Stories is available now from ArtHeroes.co.uk and will be on sale in select retailers soon. Art Heroes is also holding a special launch event for the comic at Newcastle City Library on Saturday October 25th. 

Lee and Daniel will be on-hand to hold a free kids' workshop on time travel and scary comics as well as sign and sketch in copies of the anthology. 

Art Heroes will also be appearing at the following events, where attendees will be able to get a signed copy of the comic at a discounted rate:

"Endangered and More Strange Stories" from the awesome Art Heroes Collective. Get your copy for a mere £3.50 in earth money. BARG-AIN!
Art Heroes will be holding upcoming events in the following venues: 

Sunday 26th October: Seven Stories, 11am - 1pm and 2pm - 4pm

Monday 10th November: Northern Children's Book Festival event

Sat 15th and Sun 16th November: Thought Bubble Comics Festival

Friday 21st November: Northern Children's Book Festival event

We'll be taking a closer look at "Endangered and Other Strange Stories" with a preview very very soon, and if we can nab a bit of the team's valuable time we'll be interviewing them about their influences and other cool comics-ey style stuff. 

No Such Thing by Ella Bailey (Flying Eye Books)


No Such Thing

Written and Illustrated by
Ella Bailey

Published by Flying Eye Books

Halloween is coming, and all the ghoulies and ghosties are at their most mischievous. But little girls aren't fooled by such things. "There's No Such Thing!" proclaims the petite heroine of this story.

All the same, strange things keep happening around the house. Socks disappear (yes!), headphones get tangled, things fall off shelves. Could there be a supernatural explanation after all?

"No such thing!" says the girl.

As ever, Flying Eye books have put together something magical - and just a little spooky too. Ella Bailey's bold artwork and wonderful insights into the inner workings of a child's mind blend together perfectly for a hoot of a story. Children will absolutely love spotting those naughty ghosts in each page spread (some are so sneakily hidden that it's very satisfying when you finally spot a ghostly foot or a pair of tiny ghostly eyes peeping out from behind cover).

Perfectly timed for a bit of trick or treating!

Charlotte's best bit: Charlotte felt sorry for the poor cat, who was blamed for knocking things over when it was really those naughty poltergeists!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Flowing rhymes, great 'spot the ghosties' fun and our first Halloween story of 2014 - C'est awesome!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Flying Eye Books)

Sloth Slept On by Frann Preston-Gannon (Pavilion Books)


Sloth Slept On

Written and Illustrated by
Frann Preston-Gannon

Published by Pavilion Books

Sleepy snoozy sloths. It's amazing how an animal that can spend up to 20 hours a day snoozing can be such an appealing character for a book. We already know Frann Preston-Gannon has a gift for writing awesome dinosaur stories (we've loved her Dinosaur Farm books) and we also loved the racey chase around the world in "How to Lose a Lemur" - But can Frann make a simple sloth loveable too?

The answer is (of course) yes and Sloth is discovered by a group of kids hanging from their tree fast asleep one day. The children have never seen a sloth before so try to figure out what he is, where he comes from and what he might like to eat.

The tiniest tot finds a picture of the sloth in a book, and soon learns all about him - while her older siblings are still trying to work out if it's a space creature or perhaps something from the briny deep.

Eventually tiny tot is listened to, and they hatch a plan to help poor Sloth get back to where he belongs.

There is a twist, we won't try to spoil it too much for you but it's tons of fun and you'll get to learn lots of fascinating facts about our sleepy friends in the process. In Frann's brilliant storytelling and illustrative style we fell completely in love with Sloth and giggled like goons as he delivers his killer line right at the end of the book. As an aside it's quite some trick to give a sloth its own character (after all, they do spend an awful lot of time snoozing) but Frann pulls it off with aplomb (we just love his expression when he does finally wake up!)

Utterly awesome stuff!

Charlotte's best bit: We don't want to spoil the end but that last double page spread is an absolute cracker!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Not difficult to see why Frann garnered a Sendak fellowship, she absolutely ROCKS!

(Kindly sent to us by Pavilion Books)

Avoid Working in a Victorian Mill by John Malam and David Antram (Salariya / Book House)


Avoid Working in a Victorian Mill (Danger Zone Series)

Written by John Malam
Illustrated by David Antram

Published by Salariya / Book House

Salariya / Book House's fantastic Non Fiction range for kids is a huge hit with us at ReadItDaddy, covering a broad range of historical subjects and periods. Charlotte finds herself drawn to the many books in the range that deal with Victorian life and on a recent museum visit, picked this one out of a book stack to buy with her own money (it's testament to how good a book series is when kids will gladly spend their hard earned pocket money on a particular range!)

In "Avoid Working in a Victorian Mill" kids are in the firing line once again, as we find out how young children were often pressed into service at their local textile factories and mills. Children as young as Charlotte would be given dangerous and hazardous tasks, expected to learn their trade quickly, and often be paid a pittance in return. Dangers such as horrible lung diseases brought on by breathing cloth fibres, or losing fingers to whirling twirling machinery were just some of the nasties to avoid.

Children's history books have been given a vital shot in the arm in recent years by things like "Horrible Histories" but this range stands out on its own merits, purely because it serves up such a great range of subjects and fascinating facts presented in detailed layouts throughout the whole book. If you have children who think history is a complete bore, turn them onto this series - they might just change their minds - and they'll certainly be glad they don't live in Victorian times.

Charlotte's best bit: Having to "Kiss" the shuttle to pull the thread through the eyelet before weaving

Daddy's Favourite bit: An utterly brilliant and engaging range, definitely worth looking into if your own children seem reluctant to engage with non-fiction stuff or history books

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

ReaditDaddy "Book of the Week" choices feature heavily in the CILIP Kate Greenaway Nominations for 2015

"The Queen's Hat" by Steve Antony (Hodder) - Well deserved Kate Greenaway Nominee and former Book of the Week!

We've just been cooing over the latest list for the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal Nominations for 2015 and it's an utterly glorious list of children's books, showing just how brilliant a year it's been for amazing stories, gorgeous illustrations and wholly original ideas. 

A whopping 16 of the picture book nominees have graced our "Book of the Week" slot over the last year or so, so let's take a closer look at the nominees that also won big on our humble little book blog. 

In no particular order (with links through to our reviews): Kate Greenaway Nominees

















I'm sure you'll agree that there are some stunners there, and quite a lot of the other nominees that didn't quite make Book of the Week were also praised very highly in our reviews. 

To see the full list, check out the link here. 

ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book Roundup - October 2014

Welcome to another edition of our occasional roundup of Early Reader and Chapter Books. We've got some corkers lined up for you so without further ado, let's dive in with some of Charlotte's favourite current reads.

First up, the return of an old favourite!

Bob and Barry's Lunar Adventures - Curse of the Werefleas by Simon Bartram (Templar Publishing)
Bob - the infamous Man in the moon, and his (not an alien, honestly) dog Barry are back in another cracking chapter version of the brilliant "Bob" books. This time, Bob isn't quite feeling himself. He has an odd craving for meat, a rather problematic issue with wind (and we're not talking about the sort that you can fly kites in - although you could try!), and unsightly hair sprouting all over his face and head (not to mention fangs). What could possibly be the cause of Bob's radical change? Could it have something to do with certain tiny microscopic visitors Barry has brought home to stay?

It's another fantastic addition to Simon's chapter book range, with some awesome black and white illustrations depicting Bob's terrible plight (but we've a feeling he's going to be back, don't you worry!)

So what's next in our book bag?

Middle School - Save Rafe by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts (Arrow Publishing)
For all those of you who are absolutely nutty about "The Wimpy Kid" here's another hero cut from the same slightly shaky cloth. In "Middle School - Save Rafe!" our titular hero is back, facing being kept back a year at school if he can't fave up to a rather unusual challenge. Can Rafe survive the rugged outdoors and complete an outward bound course? Hilarious rib-ticklingly funny situations abound with ace illustrations from Chris Tebbetts. Give this a shot if you're all wimped out!

Now a quartet of amazing autumn books from one of our favourite new publishers...

Arthur and Me by Sarah Todd Taylor and Peter Stevenson (Dragonfly Press)
We've been enjoying the Firefly and Dragonfly range of books from the awesome new Welsh publishers, who are fully supporting the Welsh Government's new junior literacy initiatives. We've been taking a look at the autumn roundup and there's truly something for everyone.

First up, we've really been into exploring Arthurian Legend lately - so this book arrived with perfect timing. Imagine (if you can) what would happen if an ordinary everyday schoolboy managed to resurrect the legendary king and warrior - and found that Arthur, King of the Britons, wasn't quite as legendary as expected.

Tomos tries his best to educate the ancient briton in modern ways, but with a school bully to face up to, and Arthur falling foul of sneering teachers and mocking knights, it's a fantastic time-travelling fish-out-of-water adventure for younger readers (and we LOVE it!)

Mr Mahli's Shed (and a Ghost named Dylan) by Laura Sheldon and Huw Aaron (Dragonfly Press)
Magic, mystery and a spot of shed-sitting are on the menu for our next book from the Dragonfly autumn lineup. Young Tomos and Alys offer to look after Mr Mahli's garden and don't realise that his shed holds spooky secrets that soon embroil them in a decidedly odd adventure. It's full of humour and more than a few unexpected twists. Come on down to the shed, it's storytime!

More? You want more? Oh you lot, we can never say no to you...!

Dottie Blanket and the Hilltop by Wendy Meddour and Mina May (Dragonfly Press)
Meet Dottie Blanket, a girl who has a magical opportunity to make one wish. When life takes a slightly worrying turn after Mr Blanket (her Dad) loses his job, Dottie closes her eyes and makes a wish. "I wish I lived on a bright green hilltop" she says, and before she can blink twice, Dottie is whisked away - and finds herself exactly where she wished to be!

It's a slightly surreal and decidedly odd little book this, but hilariously funny and we particularly loved Mina May's illustrations. She's only 13 and obviously has a bright illustrative career ahead of her, as her drawings are AWESOME!

Oh go on then, one more before bedtime...

Pete and the Five a Side Vampires by Malachy Doyle and Hannah Doyle (Dragonfly Press)
With perfect timing just in time for Halloween, here's a spooky story of a young boy named Pete - and his brilliant companion Blob (who just happens to be a Basset Hound). While out walking one evening, Pete and Blob spy strange goings-on in their local park. Strange flapping creatures emerge from the darkness, hell-bent on sucking his blood!

That's the least of Pete's troubles as there are more spooky creatures lurking. Werewolves, Hell Hounds and Bwcas (I had to do a quick google to find out what a Bwca is - and I wish I hadn't!) How on earth can Pete defeat such evil foes? Or are they just out for a night of partying at the local fancy dress evening?

For more fun from Firefly / Dragonfly, visit their website at http://www.fireflypress.co.uk/dragonfly

Hope you've enjoyed our Chapter Book roundup for October. Join us again next month when we take a look at another brilliant selection!