Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween Spotlight - Don't miss the "Night Post" by Benjamin Read and Laura Trinder - Coming soon from Improper Books!

"Night Post" by Benjamin Read and Laura Trinder (Improper Books) - Properly gorgeous!

While you're gadding around as beastly ghoulies or shambling monsters, you'd better not miss out on a Halloween treat. Wednesday 12th November sees the launch of "Night Post" by Benjamin Read and Laura Trinder, coming up from Improper Books and available through cool indie comic outlets like Gosh! (in London), Page 45 (in Nottingham) and Orbital Comics (London again!)

What's it about? It's a twilight gaze behind the scenes at "The Other Postal Service" - A service that takes place during the wee small hours, to ensure that witches, werewolves and ghosts all get their mail. 

Look at it, I mean just LOOK AT IT! It's eye-meltingly gorgeous comic fare (and those witches are GLORIOUS!)
 This is a comic suitable for all ages - and there's a twist. We see the night-time world of "Night Post" through the eyes of a central character (the night postman), and the tale is told entirely visually. No speech balloons, no dialogue, just glorious and gorgeous artwork to impart the postie's tale as he ensures the night mail is delivered on time. 

"Night Post started from my longstanding childhood belief that midnight is a special hour, and strange things can happen as it strikes,’ said Benjamin, about this amazing wordless comic ‘The story of our beleaguered Postie has offered a wonderful chance for me and Laura to explore our mutual love of the spookier side of things, whilst having a great deal of fun at the same time. Building the world of the Night Post and then watching Laura bring it to life or, in some cases, death, and layer it with the most painstaking details - watch out for the Infinitesimal Animals - has been brilliant"

"I'm a huge fan of Raymond Briggs and we wear our influences unashamedly on our sleeve with Night Post - it shows a slice-of-life of a man's day at a very special job, and is told purely by pictures. No captions, no word balloons, just intricate, detailed art. It's the kind of book I adored as a kid, and still do now, and it's been a pleasure to write."

Such exquisite detail and some brilliant nods to Ben and Laura's influences in this (that wardrobe looks familiar as do those little folk! :)

Laura adds, ‘For someone who loves fairy tales as much as I do, working on Night Post seems too good to be true. Ben has brilliantly combined favourite characters from folklore and myth with a central character of his own creation, meaning we can visit ghosts, vamps, fairies, swamp creatures, seemingly innocent old ladies and a whole host of other beasties through a new pair of eyes, more specifically, the eyes of our night postman.’

‘The real joy is working with Ben, his passion for comics informs every step of the creation process. With my main source of inspiration having always come from storybooks, I love how we've managed to combine an illustrative style reminiscent of this within a comic book format. I just hope that people will enjoy exploring the story as much as we have loved creating it.’

You know that thing you sometimes get when you see something SO GOOD that you can hardly breathe until you've shared it with EVERYONE? Yeah, that's "Night Post". 

Laura's artwork is glorious, riffing on tons of childhood influences and there's quite a few panels that made me giggle with delight (so you can only imagine what Charlotte thinks of this, she was completely and utterly entranced by "Night Post")

"Night Post" will be available from Improper Books on the 12th November 2014. Do NOT miss our full review coming up on the blog very soon!

Our Halloween Top Ten Children's Books!

We can't resist jumping on a halloween-ey bandwagon if we spot one (moving aside a few pumpkins and skeletons so we can actually fit on) so we thought we'd share our updated Halloween Top Ten Children's Picture Books.

In no particular order, let the ghoulish games begin!

1) Not Now Bernard by David McKee (Andersen Children's Books)

We've read this book again, and again, and again and we still can't get enough of it. Take one little boy named Bernard, throw in a rather preoccupied Mum and Dad, and a monster who lives in the garden and watch the story unfold with plenty of hilarious twists and turns.

As Charlotte gets older, she starts to analyse whether the monster is real or imagined, whether Bernard is actually the monster and we get into deep discussions about the whole thing. Most of all though this is still the most excellent fun to read aloud (particularly if you love doing very silly gurgly monster voices like we do!)

If you've never encountered Bernard and the Monster, Halloween is the best time to do so!

2) Cake Girl by David Lucas (Andersen Children's Books)

A witchy tale with a difference this, with the sublime and original story of a lonely witch and her confectionary creation Cake Girl. On her birthday a witch creates a marvellous cake-shaped girl but what is a girl without life? A few spells later and the witch finds Cake Girl to be a charming companion.

But Cake Girl wants more out of life. After all, why should the witch have all the magical fun! So when the witch bestows her magic powers on Cake Girl, what will happen next?

This is a simple but extremely charming story and it's as delicious to read as it is to flick through and gaze in wonder at the gorgeous illustrations. As sweet as a nut!

3) Mog in the Dark by Judith Kerr (HarperCollins Children's Books)

This is one CRAZY book. You may be familiar with lovely Judith Kerr's most brilliant feline creation Mog, but what happens when this lovely old lady lets the veil slip a little - and shows us a slightly surreal and dark insight into cat nightmares in "Mog in the Dark".

It's almost as if Judith Kerr woke up one morning and said "Oh bother to drawing all that cute stuff, I'm going to let rip!" - and let rip she does in such deliciously dark style that we cannot resist this book!

Imagine The Island of Doctor Moreau crossed with a serious acid trip and you're probably on the way to describing this particularly dark and gorgeous episode in Mog's adventurous life. We LOVE it!

4) Harry and the Monster by Sue Mongredien and Nick East (Little Tiger Press)

We do love a good monster tale, oh yes we do! "Harry and the Monster" by Sue Mongredien and Nick East dips into the recurring nightmare of a young boy who nightly falls asleep and dreams of a huge nasty dribbling snarling monster! EEK!

This isn't a cuddly monster. This isn't a nice monster, he's an absolute rotter but don't lose heart just yet, there's a nicely delivered twist at the end that flips things entirely around! Find out what happens to Harry in the end, in this particularly brilliant monster tale!

Special mention to Nick East's artwork which is utterly glorious in this!

5) Monster Day at Work by Sarah Dyer (Frances Lincoln Children's Books)

A rather marvellous monster book from Sarah Dyer and though it's not particularly spooky or scary, it does show that monsters have a life outside running around scaring the bejesus out of people. Find out what happens during the average day at work for an office-bound monster!

We particularly loved the monster lunch!

6) Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse by Chris Riddell (Macmillan Children's Books)

This is a darkly delicious gothic tale that's kid-friendly but features more than its fair share of ghostly goings on. The most adorable ghost of all though is the Ghost Mouse of the title, a glorious little fellow named Ishmael who meets young Ada Goth and embarks on their first adventure together.

This is so brilliant, illustrated throughout in Chris's brilliant penmanship with an utterly wonderful little mini-adventure for Ishmael tucked into the back cover.

No better way to introduce your little ones to all things gothic! LOVE!!

7) Spooky Spooky House by Andrew Weale and Lee Wildish (Picture Corgi)

A lift-the-flap delight that's bound to send a shiver down your spine. "Spooky Spooky House" by Andrew Weale and Lee Wildish teases you at every page turn with calamitous and spooky goings on in a rattleshack old house.

Dare you discover the demonic delights within? It's an awesome book, like a literary ramble around a haunted house with a ton of brilliant little touches tucked away between its covers.

Definitely suitable for younger readers who will love the flaps and will love the final (not really) terrifying reveal at the end of the book!

8) The Dark by Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen (Orchard Books)

This book completely blew our tiny little minds when it first arrived, clad in a very dark black box, nestling in dark paper. It's since become a real favourite at bedtimes despite its rather dark content. It's the story of Laszlo, a little boy who lives in a huge (and sometimes very dark) house. Laszlo isn't really sure he likes the dark as it nestles in the basement or behind the shower curtain in his house. One night, Laszlo's night light goes off - and suddenly the dark creeps into Laszlo's room! EEEEEEK!

Read on though, it's such a fantastic tale with a brilliant pay-off, from two utterly talented chaps!

9) Lockwood and Co - The Screaming Staircase / The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud (Doubleday Children's Books)

An absolute belter of a pair of tales from Jonathan Stroud, introducing us to an alternate reality where ghosts are a lot more dangerous than the whispy ghosties we're used to.

This is fantastic storytelling, harking back to a time when children's ghost stories didn't wrap the reader up in cotton wool and were properly spooky and scary. We meet Lockwood, Lucy and George - a team of mini-ghostbusters who become one of London's most respected team of spectre-smashers!

Suitable for older readers (and mums and dads who love a cracking good ghost yarn!)

10) No Such Thing by Ella Bailey (Flying Eye Books)

An absolutely glorious book that's perhaps more hilarious than spooky but it's such a lot of fun to flick through and read the tale of young Ella.

Strange things keep happening in her house, and she can't believe that there's a supernatural explanation for these goings-on. But can you spot the naughty little ghosties tucked away in each page spread?

A brilliantly satisfying halloween-flavoured book that's destined to become a firm favourite with your little banshees and ghouls!

Join Nicola L. Robinson on the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators' exploration of all things monstery!

"The Three Billy Goats Gruff" © Nicola L. Robinson (used with permission)
Happy Halloween!

There are monstrous goings-on over at the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators blog "Words and Pictures". Long-time fave of ours, the very talented Nicola L. Robinson has come up with a guest post for the blog that is a fabulous exploration of "The Anatomy of a Monster", inviting us all to unleash our imagination and come up with our own monster creations during Halloween.

Check out the blog post via the link, and also stop by Nicola's awesome website too!

Also, in case you missed it, have a look at Nicola's fantastic book "The Monster Machine" in our review.

ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week Ending 31st October 2014 - "Bears Don't Read" by Emma Chichester-Clark (HarperCollins Children's Books)

Bears Don't Read

Written and Illustrated by
Emma Chichester-Clark

Published by HarperCollins Children's Books

I know you'll probably accuse us of playing favourites on the blog from time to time. Certain authors and illustrators hit our Book of the Week slot with consummate ease and Emma Chichester-Clark recently found her way into our hearts with her awesome "Plumdog" book.

We're currently marvelling at her latest children's book which is just so good that once again it's deserving of our Book of the Week accolade. In "Bears Don't Read" we meet a rather large but thankfully quite placid grizzly bear named George who isn't really satisfied with his life. "Is this all there is?" he muses as he stares out across the wonderful scenery of the valley where he lives, watching his brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews all seemingly happy with their grizzly bear lives.

Everything changes when the bear finds a book that someone has lost in the forest. A book, showing the most wonderful things - and suddenly the bear realises that there is indeed more to life, and more books out there. From that moment on, George is determined to track down the owner of the book and see if they will teach him to read too. His family think he's crazy and sadly wave George off as he embarks on the long long journey into town to find people, and hopefully a willing teacher.

The next scene, once George hits town, is Charlotte's favourite spread in the whole book. You can imagine the scene as a giant grizzly pops up. Poor George doesn't know why everyone's running (including a couple of very familiar looking dogs that made Charlotte quite literally clap with glee!) - but he manages to ask a passer by where his book might've come from. The school, of course the school! The school is attended by a little girl, Clementine. Could she hold the key to fulfilling George's dearest wish, to learn to read himself?

I'm trying not to gush about the rest of the book, there are scenes in this that are so expertly handled by Emma - for instance when George is confronted by a rather menacing set of riot police, the scene is actually quite scary for little ones. Thankfully there are no guns, no violence - and in reality the rather loud and pompous police chief might not be such a bad egg after all.

OK no more spoilers. This book celebrates the sheer joy of reading, the possibilities it opens up - and one bear's ultimate wish to join those of us who know the greatest pleasure of wrapping ourselves up in fantastic books - books such as this in fact - and losing ourselves in their brilliant worlds.

Charlotte's best bit: That fabulous scene where George hits town. Look very closely to see a few rather special canine guest stars!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Love the twist, the brilliant brilliant twist - and George is just such a wonderful creation. If your children already love Blue Kangaroo they are going to REALLY love this. Utterly and completely sublime, and we cannot wait for you to read it!

(Kindly sent to us by HarperCollins Children's Books)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Further Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat (Book and CD Edition) by Julia Donaldson and Charlotte Voake (Bloomsbury Publishing)

The Further Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat

Written by Julia Donaldson

Illustrated by Charlotte Voake

Published by Bloomsbury Publishing

Standing on the shoulders of literary giants is no easy task. Julia Donaldson is well established in her own right as a fantastic children's author with a wonderful gift for spinning the most amazing storyworlds from her rhymes. So it comes as no surprise that she's a huge fan of Edward Lear and his awesome mix of nonsense poetry and amazing characters.

We've recently reviewed "The Owl and the Pussycat" with a foreword by Julia, and illustrated by the hugely talented Charlotte Voake, and it was so good to be able to familiarise Charlotte with the original poem, so brilliantly reprinted by Bloomsbury.

So in a slightly disjointed turn of events, this book came out first but we're reviewing it second (now that a special edition with storytelling CD - read by Julia herself - comes with the book) and it's a sequel to the original poem? With us so far? Nope I'm completely lost too.

"The Further Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat" reintroduces us to Owl, Pussycat and a cast of characters popping in for cameos from Edward Lear's other amazing nonsense poems (which we've recently been enjoying through Lear's brilliant poetry collections).

The story concerns the theft of the Pussycat's wedding ring, which was carefully tied around her tail - but stolen by a naughty crow. The Owl and the Pussycat once more set off - this time in a beautiful green balloon - to track down the wedding ring, on a high adventures across land and sea - to the Chankly Bore and beyond!

The new treatment works wonderfully in all but a few places, where the repetition taken from lines in the original poem doesn't quite 'fit' for us, and seems to jar a bit when reading aloud.

It is inventive stuff though as you'd expect from Julia, and Charlotte's illustrations are wondrous. It's also rather nice to be able to sit back and let Julia read the story to us in her wonderful rumbling tones full of excitement and passion for the poem and her own treatment of it.

Charlotte's best bit: The wonderful tea party to round off the tale

Daddy's Favourite bit: The dong with the luminous nose!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Bloomsbury Publishing)

Enjoy some Shaun the Sheep colouring sheets to celebrate Aardman's new Shaun movie

Shaun the Sheep stars in a new movie from the awesome Aardman Animations
If your little ones are getting fidgety and running out of things to do, why not download and print a couple of awesome Shaun the Sheep colouring sheets to celebrate the release of "Shaun the Sheep: Christmas Bleatings" on Monday 3rd November.

Here are some links to the sheets...

Colouring Sheet 1

Colouring Sheet 2

Stop by the Shaun the Sheep website for more details on the movie!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Children's Activity Atlas - An Interactive and Fun Way To Explore Your World by Jenny Slater and Katherine Wiehle (QED Publishing)

Children's Activity Atlas

Written by Jenny Slater

Illustrated by Katherine Wiehle

Published by QED Publishing

Here's a great demonstration of how a children's non-fiction book can compete with the world of apps on an equal footing, providing a fantastic and fun reference tome that is interactive and positively encourages your little ones to explore and let their imaginations fly.

In "Children's Activity Atlas - An Interactive and Fun Way to Explore Your World" we take a trip around the globe with a truly gorgeous book packed with activities and facts. Children get their own passport in the pack, as well as over 250 stickers to use throughout the book. We've seen very similar books from Usborne and from Barefoot, and this is equally as good.

As children start to learn a little more in geography lessons at school, this book dishes up tons of interesting things to see, fascinating facts about each country, and helps children really dig into the subject in great detail.

We've mentioned before how blissful it can be when your child tucks themselves away with a book like this for hours on end, and you'll certainly enjoy hours of fun if your little one lets you join in too :)

Charlotte's best bit: Having her own passport to mark off her journeys around the booky world!

Daddy's Favourite bit: A really fantastic learning resource but more importantly a hugely fun book to help explore our planet

(Kindly sent to us for review by QED Publishing)

Alfie in the Garden by Debi Gliori (Bloomsbury Publishing)

Alfie in the Garden

Written and Illustrated by
Debi Gliori

Published by Bloomsbury Publishing

I must admit, I am allergic to gardening. I have the kiss of death for plants, and the only time I've ever managed to make a success of anything in our tiny patch is growing herbs - which I rather like because at least I can eat them afterwards.

Charlotte loves gardening, for all the same reasons as the pint-sized green-fingered hero of Debi Gliori's latest story "Alfie in the Garden" does. It's the chance to enter another world, a leafy lush world filled with plants, insects, animals - and of course wonderful squishy mud.

Alfie lets his imagination fly as he imagines his garden as a lush tropical jungle, or an unsurpassable mire.

Debi's lilting storytelling and utterly delectable illustrations make for a cosy little read that is perfect for snuggle times!

Charlotte's best bit: Mama Bun, the perfect hugger!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Loving the way the story unfolds along with Alfie's imagination. Such a great little cuddly read!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Bloomsbury Publishing)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Stuff and Nonsense! How to get your little bookworms loving poetry and verse - A ReadItDaddy Editorial

The late great Spike Milligan - a new literary hero for Charlotte

Children can't resist cleverness. Whether it's the subtle twist in a children's story, or the devil in the detail in a piece of illustration, kids can't help but admire folk who write and draw children's books. 

Of course, it goes without saying that they also develop huge respect for folk who can twist, turn and manipulate the English language to make them giggle and chortle, particularly in rhyme. 

During our latest library visit, Charlotte was really worked up about locating a book she'd spotted at school. "It's called 'The Works' Daddy" she exclaimed insistently, like I'd instantly have an encyclopaedic knowledge of all books called "The Works". 

Her second clue was more helpful though. "It's the book with the Ning Nang Nong in it!"

My poor addled brain could remember the Ning Nang Nong poem but I'd temporarily mixed up my nonsense poets and mistakenly thought it might be an Edward Lear poem (thank goodness mum was there to help us find a big fat Lear anthology, which we eventually borrowed even though it wasn't really what we were looking for!)

Charlotte digs into a fantastic Edward Lear anthology before breakfast!

I had Spike Milligan nagging at the back of my brain and of course most folk will know that Mr Milligan the Milligoon himself had penned "Ning Nang Nong" and other hilarious rib-tickling poems for children. Alas we came home empty handed but did at least find said poem on the internet later on.

Nonsense poetry is truly a fine art and though Charlotte turned her nose up at "Twas Brillig and the Slythy Toves", we enjoyed digging through the poetry books at home to find the finest works of such literary poetry luminaries as Milligan, Lear, Lewis Carroll and our fave Twitter superstar chum Colin West (do drop by his website, it's absolutely chock full of gloriously funny poetry). 

As soon as children discover that they can come up with their own rhymes, they take to poetry like ducks to water. Even the most hardened book-dodging adults if pressed will be able to name (or even recite off by heart) a favourite rhyme, which shows how fantastic poetry is for engaging readers at an early age and keep them reading well into adulthood. 

Lear's amazingly inventive bird illustrations. Gorgeous!

It's not too difficult to nurture a love of poems and rhymes, after all, there's a huge number of children's picture books that resort to rhyme to carry a story, so the chances are you're already halfway there! 

So what else can you do? How about some of the following...

  • Limericks (though keep 'em clean, obviously!) - Edward Lear discovered the joys of limericks and came up with some corkers during his literary career. 

  • Word Clouds - Get a piece of paper and draw a huge cloud on it. Get children to shout out words that rhyme so you can write them down, or if they can write themselves encourage them to get their coloured pencils out and write their own suggestions!
  • Rhyming Names - This one is slightly tricky, get children to draw pictures of their friends with their names alongside, and then draw a rhyming object to go with the name (Jane - Plane, John - Scone) - A great variation on this is to come up with names for animals (Debra the Zebra, Jake the Snake)

For more ideas, here's a collection of links to poems and resources we've enjoyed on the blog previously. Dig in, there's truly something for everyone!

I Wish I'd Been Born a Unicorn by Rachel Lyon and Andrea Ringli (Maverick Books)

I Wish I'd Been Born a Unicorn

Written by Rachel Lyon

Illustrated by Andrea Ringli

Published by Maverick Books

Rachel Lyon's second book for Maverick (the first being the rather excellent "The Cautionary Tale of the Childe of Hale") takes an entirely different tack and deals with a rather tricky problem.

Ponginess. Well it's not an easy subject to broach with someone is it, if they're a bit whiffy.

In "I Wish I'd Been Born a Unicorn" a horse has more than a slight odour problem. In fact he downright pongs to high heaven but is happy with life, rolling in mud and gadding about with scarcely a thought of baths or showers. It does get a bit lonely when you're a bit smelly though, and the poor horse truly believes that life might've been completely different if only they'd been born a unicorn.

Unicorns are popular, unicorns are well loved, everyone wants to prance and play with unicorns?

Seeing the poor horse's dour mood, his friends decide to help. Armed with the means and the method to make a radical change, overnight they transform the whiffy pony into something quite magical.

The whiffy steed becomes amazingly popular, but with dark clouds looming on the horizon and rain threatening to undo his disguise, will life as a unicorn be a fleeting thing?

We loved this, it's such an original idea and beautifully flows as we read aloud together. Teaching valuable lessons that someone's inner worth isn't dictated by personal appearance (or ponginess), it's a great little story!

Charlotte's best bit: The magical reveal as pongy tatty horse is transformed into shimmering white unicorn (with a little help from his friends)

Daddy's Favourite bit: Superbly written and illustrated, wonderfully original and entertaining!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Maverick Books)