Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Wanted: Ralfy Rabbit - Book Burglar by Emily MacKenzie (Bloomsbury Publishing)

Wanted! Ralfy Rabbit - Book Burglar

Written and Illustrated by
Emily MacKenzie

Published by Bloomsbury Publishing

We couldn't resist sneaking this one in like a pair of book-reviewing burglars, ahead of this book's official release date on the 18th December. That way you'll have a chance to dash out to the shops with an elated "WHOOP!" of glee to pick up this book and enjoy it as a bit of a pre-festive treat.

And pick it up you must, because tucked within the covers of Emily MacKenzie's stunning debut for Bloomsbury is a love letter to libraries (and anyone who extols the virtues of our beloved libraries is pretty much OK with us!)

Ralfy the Rabbit isn't just your ordinary everyday bunny. While other rabbits dream of lettuces, carrots - or the really weird ones dream of celery (YUCK!) Ralfy the rabbit dreams of something else. He doesn't want to feed his tummy, just his mind - by reading awesome books every single day.

Ralfy becomes a bit of a bunny obsessive about books - and well he might. Merely reading his own books isn't enough for Ralfy, and soon he becomes a book burglar stealing into people's homes to read their well-thumbed classics. Ralfy doesn't just stop at reading them though, oh no - he takes them home with him too!

Naughty Ralfy. Though we applaud his bookish enthusiasm, his methods lead a lot to be desired - and when he steals a young boy's most treasured and favourite book about monsters and mythical beasts, a stakeout begins. The boy can't convince the police that the book-based burglar he caught a glimpse of is real, but when Ralfy takes things a step too far, it's curtains for the bunny book thief - and a day of reckoning!

What happens to Ralfy? Will he ever be able to indulge his obsession ever again or is it the clink for the cunicular miscreant? The boy takes pity on Ralfy and has the perfect solution!!

You'll discover the joys of Ralfy's discovery of how he can indulge his passion just as much as we enjoyed our very first forays into our local library. Charlotte loved this story because A) Ralfy's a bit of a little tearaway really, and children cannot help but adore naughty characters they can live vicariously through and B) Ralfy's rather fetching little T Shirt is exactly the sort of shirt Charlotte would wear. It's a gigglesome and entertaining story and Emily is definitely a lady worth watching - as her first book is beautifully written and illustrated, a complete hoot and feels like the start of something spectacular if the rest of her work is of this superbly high standard!

Charlotte's best bit: Ralfy is rather good at hiding amongst bookshelves! Can you spot him?

Daddy's Favourite bit: A mighty impressive debut from Emily, and a brilliant little character destined to make children giggle (and also destined to make them want to read more books too! No bad thing!)

(Kindly sent to us for review by Bloomsbury Publishing)

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Burglar Bill by Janet and Allan Ahlberg

Grandma Bendy by Izy Penguin

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Booky Advent Calendar Day 17: Mr Men: The Christmas Party by Roger Hargreaves (Egmont Publishing)

Mr Men: The Christmas Party

Written and Illustrated by
Roger Hargreaves

Published by Egmont Publishing

Mr Men books have been staple fodder for a couple of generations of our family. I still remember the awesome animated TV series narrated by Arthur Lowe, and back when I was at primary school the Mr Men books were extremely popular, kids would draw them on their scrap books or pencil cases and there was even a brilliant range of plush toys (my sister had a Mr Bump complete with bandages!)

Along came the Little Miss books to join the male-dominated range, and now there are even more books than ever.

For our Booky Advent Calendar we've picked out one of Egmont's new stories with a christmas twist. It's time for the grand Christmas Party and all the Little Misses and Mr Men are invited. Mr Happy will be the genial host, and he soon sends out invitations to everyone.

One person is in two minds about coming along though. Little Miss Shy. She really wants to go but doesn't know if she can sum up enough courage to go along. What if she blushes and gets embarrassed? It's quite the quandary to be in!

Luckily on the day of the party it snows really heavily. Everyone is downcast and sad because it looks like the party will have to be cancelled. All but Little Miss Shy who doesn't have to worry about going or not going any more. But Mr Christmas has a fantastic idea. He's going to borrow Santa's sled to ensure everyone gets to the party on time, and it can go ahead! CATASTROPHE (for Little Miss Shy at least!)

So does she make it to the big yuletide bash, or does her shyness stop her?

You'll have to read this awesome little christmas story to find out. The Little Miss / Mr Men books are still as great as they ever were, and this story in particular struck a chord with Charlotte - who is quite shy herself. Maybe if you can gather enough courage to do the things that scare you, you'll end up having the most brilliant time ever! What a great message, not just for christmas but for any time of the year!

Charlotte's best bit: Mr Silly's amazing crazy band and their weird instruments!

Daddy's Favourite bit: A great little message and it's so good to see that the Little Miss / Mr Men books are still as fantastic as ever they were!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Egmont Publishing)

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Booky Advent Calendar Day 16: "The Polar Express" by Chris Van Allsburg (Andersen Children's Books)

The Polar Express

Written and Illustrated by
Chris Van Allsburg

Published by Andersen Children's Books

Chris Van Allsburg's books always have a wonderful touch of the magical and surreal about them and never more so than in this utterly perfect christmas tale. Forget what you know about the CGI movie based on this (though, actually we really love the movie too!) - dip into the book which is one of the most atmospheric and perfectly paced christmas stories ever written for children.

We always make a habit of digging this out in the run-up to Christmas. It's the tale of a young boy who boards a magical train that shudders to a halt outside his door one Christmas Eve. The train guard loudly announces that the train is destined for the North Pole, and the passengers will meet Santa! What child could possibly resist!?

Amazing refreshments are served (just reading Van Allsburg's descriptions of the hot chocolate in this book make your mouth water!) and the train gallops through the landscape before arriving at all points north.

The young boy is miraculously chosen by Santa to receive the first christmas gift and he chooses something fairly humble, a bell from Santa's sleigh. But on the way back home the boy realises that he put the bell in his nightgown pocket - and that pocket has a hole in it!

The bell is lost, and the boy is downcast. But with the magic and spirit of christmas, will the boy's christmas wish come true after all?

We've read this so many times - which is why you'll always see a tiny bell somewhere on our christmas tree. We shake the bell to see if everyone can hear it (if you read this story you'll understand why).

An utterly perfect christmas tale. If you only know the movie, or have never seen either, then you definitely need this book on your christmas list!

Charlotte's best bit: As the boy grows older he can still hear the bell, even though his parents (and eventually his sister) can't

Daddy's Favourite bit: Utterly and completely magical. We love Van Allsburg's books but this is our absolute favourite.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Marceline and the Scream Queens - Adventure Time Mini Series by Meredith Gran (Titan Books)

Marceline and the Scream Queens - An Adventure Time Mini Series

Written and Illustrated by
Meredith Gran and others

Published by Titan Books

Adventure Time is one of our favourite cartoon distractions, the perfect mix of kid-friendly giggles and adult-friendly jokes that sail way way over your youngling's head.

We've watched the first volume of Finn and Jake's adventures on DVD (Poor show that these aren't more readily available in the UK!) and when we spotted that Titan Comics had produced a set of miniseries comic novels to accompany the show, we grabbed a couple.

Marceline is without doubt one of Charlotte's favourite characters. She's a crazy vampire girl who we're never really sure is a goodie or a baddie, but she carves out her own inimitable style in the Adventure Time universe (we love the fact that she mercilessly teases Finn and Jake at every opportunity!)

This collected miniseries tells the story of Marceline and her band, The Scream Queens, who are suffering from an identity crisis, creative differences, all the usual things that a band go through. It needs a level head to take up management of the band and put them back on track. Who better than Princess Bubblegum!

The graphic novel is divided up into a set of stories with Meredith Gran collaborating with the cream of comic talent working in the industry at the moment. The likes of Faith Erin Hicks, Ming Doyle, John Allison and Lucy Knisley all contribute as the tale unfolds of Marceline's cool and rocking back story.

It sets the bar fairly high for the rest of the Adventure Time comic series (which we'll be diving into at some point). It's also quite awesome to see one of our favourite characters in the series take centre stage pushing Finn and Jake to the background for a while (something we think Marceline would DEFINITELY approve of!)

Charlotte's best bit: She loves the story where Marceline's self doubt causes her to mutate into a big horrible scary monster. EEP!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Marceline's our fave character, and who doesn't love that guitar!

Booky Advent Calendar Day 15 - "Christmas Crafts - Festive Things to Make and Do" by Danielle Lowy (QED Publishing)

Christmas Crafts - Festive Things to Make and Do

Compiled by
Danielle Lowy

Published by QED Publishing

There may be a mere 10 SLEEPS TILL CHRISTMAS (eek!) but that still gives you plenty of time to indulge in a little christmas craftwork. "Christmas Crafts - Festive Things to Make and Do" by Danielle Lowy is a whopping great big tome absolutely packed with stunning ideas to help you produce some really fantastic christmas decorations, gift ideas and wonderful yuletide goodies.

The book helpfully comes with a brace of templates tucked away at the back to get you off to a flying start as you find out how to make all sorts of amazing christmassy things. Perfect for the christmas holidays when kids are hopping from foot to foot with excitement before the big day.

Charlotte's best bit: Cutting, sticking, glueing and generally getting covered in acres of glitter making awesome decorations for the christmas tree

Daddy's Favourite bit: A fun and inventive set of awesome christmas "makes" with fantastically clear instructions and a good dose of originality. Perfecto!

(Kindly sent to us for review by QED)

Friday, December 12, 2014

Booky Advent Calendar Day 12 - "Amelie and Nanette - Snow Flakes and Fairy Wishes" by Sophie Tilley (Bloomsbury Publishing)

Amelie and Nanette - Snow Flakes and Fairy Wishes

Written and Illustrated by
Sophie Tilley

Published by Bloomsbury Publishing

This is a christmas cracker that almost seems to spontaneously play "The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies" as you open the cover. "Amelie and Nanette - Snow Flakes and Fairy Wishes" is the latest book in Sophie Tilley's Amelie and Nanette series.

The girls are planning the perfect christmas, but poor Nanette comes down with a bad case of the sniffles just as plans are made for a really special christmas day.

Thankfully Amelie rallies friends around, and together they do their utmost to make Nanette's christmas dreams and wishes come true.

Charlotte loved this vision of christmas, perfect in its depiction of all the things that little girls would love to happen around the festive period and I'm sure your little girl(s) will absolutely love it too!

Charlotte's best bit: Pilou the Dog joins in to help Nanette's christmas go with a bang (and a bark or two!)

Daddy's Favourite bit: Your little girls (and boys) will adore this gleefully christmassy story.

(Kindly sent to us for review by Bloomsbury Publishing)

ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week Ending 12th December 2014 - "Animalium - Welcome to the Museum" by Jenny Broom and Katie Scott (Big Picture Press)

Animalium - Welcome to the Museum

Written by Jenny Broom

Illustrated by Katie Scott

Published by Big Picture Press

Welcome to natural history in all it's glory! When we first heard about Animalium, and saw those initial few illustrations our curiosity was piqued. It sounded exactly like the sort of book we'd be able to lose ourselves for hours in, just like we love losing ourselves in our local NH museums (we're very fortunate enough to have one of the best Natural History museums outside London in our locale, the awesome University Museum here in Oxford and we'll quite happily disappear into that wonderful place to check out all the astonishing creatures therein).

Jenny Broom and Katie Scott are our curators for a fantastic journey through the animal kingdom. They wanted to recapture the magic of museums in book form, and they've done so with aplomb. Here in "Animalium" you'll find collected together animal species both familiar and unfamiliar, in their associated classifications with historical information about how species are named, and showing the particular traits of each species too.

The book is HUGE, hardback and luxuriously presented - feeling like a weighty Victorian tome on genus and species - and the illustrations feel like they hark back to that era where each animal drawing was meticulously worked on and rendered in beautiful detail.

The text respects children's thirst for knowledge. There's no dumbing down here, but at the same time the book doesn't feel cold and scientific. It's extremely inviting and absorbing, and you can't help but be drawn in (I will freely admit to tucking myself up with this book when Charlotte is fast asleep, it's truly dazzling for a really broad range of ages).

Charlotte's reaction to the book was similar, and she loves picking through the myriad facts and figures about the animals, but above all it's the sort of book that demands to be sprawled out on the floor with, thoroughly explored from cover to cover - better still if done so as a shared experience.

It's been fantastic to see this book taking pride of place in stores too, in both the standard edition and the gorgeous deluxe version that looks like its own museum cabinet.

Thoroughly recommended, it's a real 'wow' book this, and if you want an absolutely beautiful book to give to your children this christmas, it's utterly perfect!

Charlotte's best bit: A fascination with all things squid and frog-like (particularly the cute Tomato Frog - well Charlotte thought it was cute anyway!)

Daddy's Favourite bit: Glorious, luxurious, utterly essential book that will absorb and involve you and your children for hours

(Kindly sent to us for review by Big Picture Press)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Big Reveal! Here's the awesome poster for International Book Giving Day 2015 (#giveabook) from the hugely talented Chris Haughton!

Chris Haughton's brilliant official poster for International Book Giving Day. Join in on 14th February 2015!

Once again, International Book Giving Day will take place on Valentines Day, that is 14th February 2015! To get the ball rolling we can reveal the official IBGD poster, designed by the truly awesome Chris ("A Bit Lost, Hat Monkey") Haughton. Gaze on it, marvel at its splendour!

Chris Haughton has been an illustrator for over 12 years. His first children’s book, A Bit Lost, has been translated into 19 languages and has won 9 awards in 7 countries. This was followed by Oh No, George! in 2012, winner of the Junior Magazine Picturebook of the year award. His latest picture book SHH! We Have A Plan (March 2014) won the AOI award for children's books for 2014.

“I am absolutely delighted that Chris Haughton has designed this year’s poster. His unique, eye-catching style will help spread the word to encourage many more people to give books on 14th February 2015.” Emma Perry, IBGD.

You can join in and support International Book Giving Day in a variety of ways but most importantly, spread the word via blogs and twitter if you can (using the hashtag #giveabook)

Also check out the following useful links to get more directly involved: 

Website |

Twitter | @bookgivingday


Snappy Birthday by Mark Sperring and Laura Ellen Anderson (Bloomsbury Children's Books)

Snappy Birthday

Written by Mark Sperring
Illustrated by Laura Ellen Anderson

Published by Bloomsbury Children's Books

This book isn't actually out for another week (shhh! We're probably not supposed to be telling you about it) but it's so good, we wanted to make sure we got in early so that you could sneak it onto your christmas lists.

"Snappy Birthday" from Mark Sperring and Laura Ellen Anderson (the utter GENIUS behind the Phoenix Comic's Evil Emperor Penguin) starts off with a relatively serene scene of a bunch of ragtag kids who receive a mysterious birthday invite from one of their neighbours. This neighbour usually isn't a sociable type, so they're curious enough to pop along.

The neighbour isn't quite what they expected though. It's a huge, bombastic, snappy-toothed, green, scaly, monstrous crown-wearing CROCODILE! EEP!

He politely states that he absolutely can't wait to have them for tea (this is the bit where Charlotte snorted out loud and said "I bet he means actually eat them for tea!" and she's right!) There's only one thing on this crocodile's mind. Scoffing each and every one of his party guests without so much as a please or thank you!

Those kids can think quick on their feet though and so they come up with a plan, a delicious plan to head off Crocodile's appetite steering him in the right cake-shaped direction instead! HOORAY!

This is uproariously good, from the hilarious expressions on the poor children's hapless moggy's face (as it realises that the perfect party host would probably scoff moggies as a side dish) to the calamitous catastrophe of cake-gnashing that happens at the end.

Charlotte's best bit: Definitely the perfect birthday tea at the end, which is really how we ought to celebrate our birthday next year - with a huge CAKE FIGHT!

Daddy's Favourite bit: We love cake, we love crocodiles, and we love smart-as-heck kids who are great at talking themselves out of trouble. This is a hilarious treat by a dynamic duo we really hope work together again! Superb stuff, Mark and Laura!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Bloomsbury Children's Books)

Booky Advent Calendar Day 11 - "Surprise! The Book that Keeps on Giving!" by Jonathan Litton and Fhiona Galloway (Little Tiger Press)

Surprise! The Book that Keeps on Giving

Written by Jonathan Litton

Illustrated by Fhiona Galloway

Published by Little Tiger Press

A riotous game of pass the parcel with a christmassy feel and the cutest little penguin you could ever hope to meet! That's part of the surprise in store for little ones as they explore "Surprise! The Book that Keeps on Giving!" by Jonathan Litton and Fhiona Galloway. This chunky but funky board book slowly reveals the story as each of the animals hopes to win a prize, with each layer peeled off each animal comes up with their own ideas on how to use their bit of wrapping paper (which is quite a neat thing to see - any parent who has ever organised pass the parcel for their little ones usually knows that a fairly compact parcel can fill an entire living room with paper after just one round!)

We won't reveal what the final surprise is but it caused whoops of glee from us! What a great little book!

Charlotte's best bit: Some fantastic ideas on how to use your christmas wrapping! Cool!

Daddy's Favourite bit: A nicely presented little book with a fantastic surprise in store at the end! Perfect stocking filling fun!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Little Tiger Press)