Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Dragon Stoorworm by Theresa Breslin and Matthew Land (Picture Kelpies)

The Dragon Stoorworm

Written by Theresa Breslin

Illustrated by Matthew Land

Published by Picture Kelpies

A stunning new range of children's books landed on our doorstep just before we disappeared on holiday for two weeks. So we spirited them away with us and have been enthralled by them.

The first one we're taking a look at is "The Dragon Stoorworm" by Theresa Breslin and Matthew Land. A traditional feel to a Scottish tale of legend and of dragons, as the colossal dragon Stoorworm threatens the entire country. His huge appetite means that he is in danger of stripping the land of its flora and fauna. Only one thing will satisfy him. In return for not trashing the place, the dragon demands a young healthy person to eat every day - starting with the King's lovely daughter, Princess Gemdelovely (heck of a name, huh!)

The king cannot sacrifice his daughter, so puts word out that if any man can stand between Stoorworm and his daughter, and free the country from the evil dragon's tyranny, he will win the king's sword, the king's throne and the hand of his lovely daughter in marriage (though quite sensibly Princess Gemdelovely isn't exactly enthralled with the idea of daddy giving away her hand on a whim!)

Knights come and go, brave souls succumb to the dragon's awesome power but one day Assipattie spies the princess through the window of the castle and so desperately wants to get to know her that he decides to help the king. Assipattie and Princess Gemdelovely have a cunning plan to get rid of Stoorworm, and bravely they set out to battle!

Will they succeed? Ahh you know us, we're not here to tell you the ending of this fantastic tale, but to let you discover this wonderful range for yourself. Picture Kelpies combine brilliant traditional tales with utterly stunning artwork (it's amazing to think that this is Matthew Land's first picture book - the man has a bright future ahead of him!)

Check out the range - we'll be following up with reviews of "The Selkie Girl" and "The Legend of Tam Linn" very soon.

Charlotte's best bit: Charley's visit to the dentist. Rinse please!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Brilliant fun for tiddlers, beautifully illustrated and told

(Kindly sent to us for review by Picture Kelpies)

Little Tiger Press's "Reading Rocks!" week continues with "Why?" by Tracey Corderoy and Tim Warnes (Little Tiger Press)


Written by Tracey Corderoy

Illustrated by Tim Warnes

Published by Little Tiger Press

Archie is back! The cute little rhino from Tracey Corderoy and Tim Warnes' fab book "NO!" is back, and he has a question.

It's the question that most parents dread, because there is often no right answer. We're currently STILL going through the "Why?" phase with Charlotte as she has a zillion and one questions about everything, and never quite hears the answer she wants or expects from long suffering mummy and daddy (even when it's the right answer!)

Archie is the same. He plagues his parents from dusk till dawn.

"Why is glue so sticky?"

"Why do things smash when I drop them on the floor?"

"Why Why WHY?????"

We love the parents' hang-dog expressions in this book and we love the way Archie's natural curiosity fizzes from every page. We have tried all sorts of methods of satisfying Charlotte's curiosity when she asks "WHY?" but perhaps this fabulous book might help a little bit (and help you too!)

Charlotte's best bit: When Archie finally runs out of steam at the end of a busy day. Aww!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Why is this book so great? WHY? WHY?

(Kindly sent to us for review by Little Tiger Press as part of their summer "Reading Rocks" campaign! Join in the fun!)

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Usborne Art Book about Colour by Rosie Dickins, Ashok Roy and Desideria Guicciardini (Usborne Books)

The Usborne Art Book about Colour

Written by Rosie Dickins & Ashok Roy

Gallery Consultant: Desideria Guicciardini

Published by Usborne Books

Usborne's peerless art series continues with a book that offers a glimpse into the history of colour as well as the history of art. Children are like hungry sponges when it comes to finding out about the past and also how things work. Something as 'basic' as colour is something that children take for granted from an early age, as soon as they start breaking out the crayons and the poster paints - but where do those wonderful colours come from - in fact where did they come from before paint arrived in handy plastic squeezy bottles?

Usborne's fabulous "The Usborne Art Book About Colour" provides answers with a series of brilliant illustrations, informative text and fascinating facts. There are pages about the history of pigments, of the various things that early artists would use to create paints, and comes bang up to date with essential pages detailing colour theory. All of course punctuated by some scintillating artwork and expertise gained from collaborating with experts at The National Gallery.

As a lowly art student, I was told by my course tutor that I had the worst grasp of colour theory of any of her students (to be fair to her, she was not wrong, I am completely hopeless!) After an hour or two with this book, and with Charlotte propped on my knee reading alongside, we both felt like we'd learned an awful lot and had fun doing so. That's a perfect summary of how Usborne books can make art fun and engaging, and books like this truly are inspiring the next generation of little artists to look deeper into the fascinating world of art.

Charlotte's best bit: Slightly over-obsessed with the fact that some pigments were derived from dung!

Daddy's Favourite bit: A fantastic book imparting valuable knowledge about colour theory, art history and the history of pigments with superb presentation and fascinating facts. Brilliant!

Joining in with Little Tiger Press's fabulous "Reading Rocks" summer campaign, we grill Sue Mongredien and Nick East about "Harry and the Monster"

We're joined for another themed post for Little Tiger Press's fantastic "Reading Rocks" campaign. All summer long, Little Tiger will be encouraging little readers to have a great time reading for pleasure over the summer. And what better way to kick off a summer of stories than with the utterly fabulous "Harry and the Monster" by Sue Mongredien and Nick East. 

Pop by and read our review but we've also been lucky enough to put some tricky questions to Sue and Nick, so without further ado let's get things under way!

1) Hi Nick and Sue, thanks for stopping by ReadItDaddy - Tell =us a little bit about yourselves!
SM: Hello, thanks for having us! I’m Sue, and I wrote the words of the story. I live in beautiful Bath with my husband and our three children, and spend a lot of time staring out the window – I mean, thinking up ideas for new stories.

NE: I'm Nick and come from the land of flat caps, whippets and Yorkshire pud and I also live in a beautiful city called York. I draw and colour-in and have a weird collection of Pink Lady apple stickers on the side of my desk (well where else do you put them when your apple's finished).

2) We really love "Harry and the Monster". We particularly liked the balance and the core theme of the story (the idea that even monsters can be scared of something!) and the fantastic illustrations. What inspired you both when putting the book together?

SM: The story came from my son, Tom, having bad dreams when he was much younger. Nobody was getting much sleep! In the end, I suggested trying to turn a bad dream into a funny dream and a little story lightbulb lit up in my head…

NE: On my first read of Harry and the Monster I scribbled and doodled all over my printout of Sue's text - which is always a good sign for me. Some stories just trigger instant visuals, they begin like a wobbly mirage in the head and solidify as pencil goes on paper, it's always my favourite part of the process.

3) We consistently find 'dark' children's books end up as our "Book of the Week" winners, why do you think children are drawn to books that dally with darker subject matter?

SM: I think for the same reason that as adults, we find ourselves drawn in by darker films or books too – it’s the delicious lure of feeling a bit scared and shivery! For children, having a story read to you by a parent or grandparent or older sibling is such a safe and lovely thing to do, it creates a secure environment in which to discuss any fears raised in a darker story. It definitely makes a happy ending more satisfying too.

NE: Yes I agree Sue, we all adore to be scared a little bit. As a small boy I remember being terrified by those wonderful monsters in Maurice Sendak's 'Where the Wild Things Are' but as the story progresses they become a bit foolish and dependant on Max, making them all seem a bit silly. Until Max leaves the island and the wild things cry 'Oh please don't go - we'll eat you up - we love you so!' I found this quite shocking at the time but actually really loved it!

4) With that in mind, did anyone ever raise concerns over the monster in the book? He does seem a bit of a rotter at first!

SM: The idea was always for him to SEEM scary and awful but for there to be a hidden depth to him. Plus Nick has drawn him with such comedy, I can’t help feeling he’s rather loveable underneath all that roaring and bellowing.

NE: That was exactly the idea Sue - I wanted him to be all bark and no bite. He had to have all the usual things scary monsters have but to instantly look a bit daft and vulnerable at the same time. Lets face it a purple monster with a pot belly, fluffy tail, blunt claws and pink underpants on his head, can never really be that threatening.

5) Art and story work together so well in "Harry and the Monster" - How easy was it to collaborate on the book and bounce ideas off each other?

SM: It is always quite nerve-racking, handing a story over and seeing how an artist brings your characters to life. But from the very first sketches I saw of Nick’s ideas for Harry and the Monster, I knew I was in safe hands. Thank you, Nick!

NE: My pleasure Sue! Unfortunately on most collaborations authors and illustrators don't meet at all - sorry to disappoint! Maybe publishers want to keep nutty arty types (like me) away from very capable and intelligent writer types (like Sue)!

6) What's the best advice you can give to an author or illustrator looking to break into children's books?

SM: Do your research. Sit and read books with a child and get a feel for what they find funny or exciting. Don’t patronise or under-estimate your reader, and don’t over-describe the action: let the pictures do the talking, too! Finally, it’s vital to read your own story aloud to see how it sounds. The acid test is when you reach the end and a child says the magic word: “Again!”

NE: Illustration involves a lot of drawing, as you might have guessed. And if you love to draw and draw and draw and draw with a bit of colouring in, then maybe it's the illustrators life for you. If I had my time again I would go to art college - there are some brilliant illustration courses in this country that will teach you everything you need to know. But other than that, always browse bookshops, keep a sketchbook, draw funny, unusual and original characters and never ever give up if it's what you really want to do!

From Charlotte:

1) Who is your favourite monster?

SM: Am I allowed to say the monster in this story? I do love him. When he’s not growling and stomping, I think he looks very huggable. Otherwise, I’d have to say Sully and Mikey from Monsters, Inc. When my children were little, we watched that film a LOT!

NE: Funny you should say that Sue. A little girl (who shall remain unnamed) said to me that she needed a cuddly toy of the monster NOW!! So he obviously has that huggable appeal. To answer your question Charlotte I would have to say Fungus the Bogeyman. I read this book hundreds of times as a child and he is definitely still my favourite monster.

2) Which is harder, drawing or writing?

SM: Oh, writing. WRITING! Definitely writing! (But I would say that, wouldn’t I? :-D )

NE: Writing is so much harder - believe me I've had a go!!

3) Will Harry and Monster ever come back in another book?

SM: Hmmm, good question. I don’t have any plans to write another Harry and the Monster book right now, but you never know. And if they do come back for another book, I think they’d be friends now, don’t you?

NE: If he does the book should definitely come with a cuddly toy!

Huge huge thanks to Nick and Sue for some brilliantly entertaining answers to our tricky questions. Do not miss the fantastic "Harry and the Monster" by Sue Mongredien and Nick East, published by Little Tiger Press. (Pink pants on head are optional)

If you'd like to have a go at putting together your own monster creations, download and print this fabulous Monster Sheet!

Kicking off "Reading Rocks!" blog tour week with Little Tiger Press. "Harry and the Monster" by Sue Mongredien and Nick East

Harry and the Monster

Written by Sue Mongredien

Illustrated by Nick East

Published by Little Tiger Press

You know how much we love monster books, right? You know how much Charlotte always looks for the darkly-tinged bedtime stories (while mummy and I try desperately to steer her away from anything that will give her nightmares)? Well how about a book that, rather cleverly, works in two ways. On the one hand it does feature one mean and nasty monster who keeps invading poor Harry's lovely dreams at night, causing Harry to wake up with a squeak...

Harry and the Monster. Someone ought to give that monster a real telling off!

On the other hand it's actually a tale that should go some way to assuring kids that dreams are harmless, and the biggest scariest monster that pops into your imagination and runs gleefully around causing havoc and chaos is actually quite scared of something too.

Like all great children's picture books, there's a twist in this tale and Sue keeps us hanging on till quite near the end when the twist is revealed. Alongside Nick's fabulous art (with lots of truly gorgeous detail and such a meany monster!) this is an immensely satisfying book that ticked our 'monster book' boxes good and proper (and don't forget to look elsewhere on the blog today as we feature a mini interview with Sue and Nick, and our all time top-ten monster book recommendations!)

The evolution of a monster! Nick East's fantastic character drawings for "The Monster"

"Harry and the Monster" is available from Little Tiger Press. Please do join in with their "Reading Rocks" Campaign for the summer and keep kids reading (and loving doing so, of course!)

Charlotte's best bit: So what is it that a monster is scared of? Charlotte LOVED the twist reveal. So awesome!

Daddy's Favourite bit: We do love a good monster yarn and we particularly do love a meany monster (as long as they see the error of their ways!). A corking good read!

(Kindly sent to us for review as part of the awesome "Reading Rocks!" summer campaign by Little Tiger Press)

Friday, July 18, 2014

Normal service is resumed...!

Ooh hello!

Yes you've probably noticed we've been away for a couple of weeks - in an internet blackspot or two - but we're back with a bulging review stack waiting to be tackled.

Hope you enjoyed our queued-up posts while we were away. We missed you all!

Looking forward to lots of booky fun now the summer holidays proper are upon us.

Great to have you back

Phil & Charlotte (and mummy of course!) @ ReadItDaddy

Friday, July 11, 2014

ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week Ending 11th July 2014 - "The Complete Rainbow Orchid (The Adventures of Julius Chancer)" by Garen Ewing (Egmont Books)

The Complete Rainbow Orchid (The Adventures of Julius Chancer)

Written and Illustrated by
Garen Ewing

Published by Egmont Books

So many people have described the revival of kid's comics as a new golden era, with huge buzz and interest greeting any new release. With comics like The Phoenix leading the charge, folk are slowly discovering something we've known for a heck of a long time - Comics really are a great way to engage kids in reading and drawing, and better than that, they can teach kids a thing or two along the way as well.

Garen Ewing's sublime "Rainbow Orchid" series is something we've (ahem) been meaning to get around to reading for a very long time but when we spotted a copy in our library, we just couldn't resist it. Charlotte is becoming a huge Tintin fan, drawn to stories of derring-do in the style of the saturday morning matinee flicks so it was pretty obvious that she'd want to investigate Rainbow Orchid too.

Intrepid archaeological assistant Julius Chancer is drawn into a globe-spanning adventure - the search for the mythical Rainbow Orchid, and a dastardly plot full of twists and turns. Set in our favourite era for stories (the 1920s) Garen's exhaustive research (lovingly detailed at the back of the book, a section that had me scurrying off with this mighty tome to read up on his methods) shines through in a thrilling adventure tale that will appeal to both girls and boys. Julius Chancer is an everyman hero. He's no lantern-jawed goon but uses his brain to outwit his foes, and his historical knowledge to uncover secrets and clues to the Orchid's whereabouts. Unfortunately Julius and his friends aren't the only ones seeking the sacred flower. Nefarious baddies are also on the trail, led by the foul Urkaz Grope (what a great name!) The race is on for fortune and glory.

Reading up on the publishing history of this story is almost as interesting as reading the story itself. Garen originally published the set of stories on his website, and then later self-published (if ever there was an example to set for reviewers NOT to overlook self-published stuff, this is it!) before being picked up by Egmont.

It's easy to draw comparisons between The Rainbow Orchid and Tintin but I actually (dare I say it) prefer Julius Chancer's adventures (Charlotte won't forgive me for saying that! She still loves Tintin best, but really enjoyed this).

Thrilling, exciting, chock full of delicious detail, edge-of-your-seat moments and as a bonus, lots of things to go off and investigate where the story touches on the real world, this is one of the books I'll shove up people's noses when they tell me comics are "bad for kids".

Charlotte's best bit: Fab and exciting, and plenty of awesome female characters for her to identify with as well as a no-nonsense hero that uses his brains rather than his fists.

Daddy's Favourite bit: A shining example of a brilliant story that you can comfortably recommend to parents looking to introduce their kids to comics. Cannot recommend this highly enough.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Dragon Loves Penguin by Debi Gliori (Bloomsbury Publishing)

Dragon Loves Penguin

Written and Illustrated by
Debi Gliori

Published by Bloomsbury Publishing

Sometimes you can really get lost in a story that taps deep into your imagination and sense of wonder and conveys such a heartwarming tale that you could almost burst into tears as you reach the last page.

Debi Gliori is a master storyteller. She has a knack for producing the most immersive and involving stories. "Dragon Loves Penguin" is the touching tale of a little penguin called Bib who curls up on his mummy's knee one night to hear a bedtime story. Bib's favourite story is about the dragons and so Bib's mum settles down, snuggles tight and tells of the days when dragons freely roamed the earth. Slowly driven out of their homes, the dragons make their way to the realm of the penguins and hunker down atop a fiery snow-covered volcano for warmth.

One dragon isn't like the others, and when she discovers a lost egg, she vows to take care of it. Soon the egg hatches but it's not a dragon that emerges, it's a penguin - but the dragon loves it like it was her own.

The other dragons scoff and sneer but they stay together and the dragon is very protective of her offspring, despite how different she is and how she can't do all the things that the other dragon children do.

One day there is a huge rumble from the earth and the volcano erupts. Penguin spots the danger and urges the other dragons to fly before it's too late but poor penguin is left behind! Will no one save her from fiery doom?

We'll have to stop there in case we spoil too much of this wonderful tale. It's exciting, nail biting stuff and you owe it to yourself to discover the rest of the tale under your own steam.

Debi Gliori makes it look easy, to marry together the most wonderful stories with gorgeous artwork. We were already sold by the dragon on the cover long before we even read the story, but the content more than lives up to the wrapper in this case so wrap your peepers around this gorgeous children's book.

Charlotte's best bit: Little Penguin is SO CUTE! And what a genius idea to feature a story with penguins AND dragons

Daddy's Favourite bit: Superlative storytelling from Debi. Don't miss!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Bloomsbury Publishing)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Cherry Thief by Renata Galindo (Child's Play)

The Cherry Thief

Written and Illustrated by
Renata Galindo

Published by Child's Play

Oh c'est si bon! Chef Armand, renowned p√Ętissier is the star of this fabulous story by Renata Galindo that will have your tummy rumbling by the end of the book. Chef whips up the most delicious cakes and pastries in his bakery, and his signature is to decorate absolutely EVERYTHING with beautiful red cherries.

Soon though, Chef Armand notices that customers are complaining. Their cakes are cherry-less and the chef is mystified. What on earth is going on? Is there a cherry thief at work?

There's only one thing for it, and Chef Armand embarks on a stakeout - to see if he can catch the thief (cherry) red handed. Soon enough the pesky varmint is revealed and Chef Armand tries everything to catch the critter before it escapes with its cherry booty!

Renata Galindo's story zips along at a cracking pace and is such a thing of beauty, each page spread seems designed to make you want two things - 1) Lots of lovely cakes (well that's pretty much the norm for us at ReadItDaddy Towers) and 2) lovely ripe juicy red cherries!

There is a nice message in the book though, and you'll find it out when Chef Armand discovers quite by accident, partially thanks to the fruit-stealing hedgehog (well we think it's a hedgehog anyway!) that sometimes it's better to share.

Child's Play books are always exceptionally high quality and this is definitely no exception, it's a joy and younger children will absolutely love counting all those cherries!

Charlotte's best bit: The Cherry Thief's rather innovative way of stashing so many cherries! Neat idea!
Charlotte's favourite cherry cake: A cherry bakewell

Daddy's Favourite bit: A superb story with a rather lovely message tucked into its pastry folds. Perfect with a cherry on top!
Daddy's Favourite cherry cake: A big swirly cherry danish pastry covered in icing and juicy sultanas. YUM!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Child's Play Publishing)

The Mermaid of Zennor by Charles Causley and Michael Foreman (Orchard Books)

The Mermaid of Zennor

Written by Charles Causley

Illustrated by Michael Foreman

Published by Orchard Books

We couldn't resist this book. As soon as we saw the cover I knew it'd be coming home with us. We both love mermaids so a story that taps into traditional Cornish tales about "Merrymaids" was too good to miss.

"The Mermaid of Zennor" tells us the story of a young boy and his best friend. They always attend church every sunday, but a mysterious woman who sits at the back of the church catches their eye, and changes their lives forever.

Steeped in local history, both Charles and Michael have produced a tale that feels instantly like something that has been passed down from generation to generation as the older boy runs off to sea with his newly found love - but the two boys paths cross again later on in life.

We're trying not to give away too much because you really should discover the story for yourself. Suffice to say that if we're ever anywhere near Zennor, we'll be dropping into the little church mentioned in the book to see if there really is a chair with a "Merrymaid" carved on it tucked away at the back.

Charlotte's best bit: The lovely Merrymaid babies, all 7 of them!

Daddy's Favourite bit: A charming and instantly accessible story that feels traditional and ancient, but is still a gorgeous story to tell out loud to your little merrymaids and merrymen!