Monday, September 15, 2014

A Recipe for Bedtime by Peter Bently and Sarah Massini (Hodder Children's Books)

A Recipe for Bedtime

Written by Peter Bently

Illustrated by Sarah Massini

Published by Hodder Children's Books

A charming little bedtime treat this book is! With gentle rhymes and fun illustrations, "A Recipe for Bedtime" takes us tip-toeing through the bedtime ritual of a snuggly little baby as he toddles up the wooden hill to Beddington.

The perfect recipe for a perfect bedtime involves lots of cuddles, a drop or two of milk, some tummy pie (Charlotte pointed out that Peter made a mistake saying "Raspberries" - everyone knows that blowing raspberries on your baby's tummy is universally known as "Tummy Pie" right?) and a warm snuggly blanket or two.

Reading this book just before bedtime had exactly the desired effect, in fact it worked a little too well because I struggled to stay awake for the rest of the evening myself (in a good way).

Lovely cuddly stuff!

Charlotte's best bit: "Tummy Pie" recipe!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Perfect rhymes, lovely snuggly illustrations, an instant bedtime classic!

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

Moomin and the New Friend by Tove Jansson (Picture Puffin)

Moomin and the New Friend

Written and Illustrated by
Tove Jansson

Published by Picture Puffin

Moomintroll, The Snork Maiden, Sniff, Snuffkin and Too-Tickey. When I first told Charlotte all about The Moomins she didn't quite understand why I'd get all starry eyed about these strange little hippo-like characters and their oddball friends.

Since then I've gradually introduced her to the works of Tove Jansson, and the absolutely charming and delightful stories she has created about these little folk.

Some of the later Moomin stories reprinted now by Picture Puffin are an ideal introduction to The Moomins (even the most ardent Moomin fan might readily admit that some of the stories are definitely a bit too 'out there' for six year olds but I'm hoping over time Charlotte starts to like even the really esoteric stories too and the wonderful, wonderful comic strips!)

I'm a fan and "Moomin and the New Friend" has been one of the Moomin titles that Charlotte has really enjoyed. A big format picture book, retaining all the charm and the characteristics that I love about the stories is most welcome.

Moomintroll is off on a fabulous adventure after finding a message in a bottle with Sniff. Sniff suggests building a raft to try and rescue the person who wrote the message - perhaps they'll find a new friend.

This doesn't go down at all well with The Snork Maiden who is a little jealous that Moomintroll might forget all about her. Soon with the aid of Snuffkin they're off and despite stormy seas and darkened skies, Moomintroll and Sniff find Too-Tickey all alone on the island. She's OK, doesn't really need rescuing but the storm has wrecked the raft, which leaves the three in a bit of a pickle.

Can Moomintroll, Sniff and Too-Tickey escape the island and get back to safety?

If you haven't introduced your own children to The Moomins yet, and if you remember them fondly, the stories are just as great now as they've always been. Find out what happens to Moomintroll in "Moomin and the New Friend" out now from Picture Puffin

Charlotte's best bit: She loves The Snork Maiden but thought she was a bit too jealous!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Classic stories, still utterly brilliant and such a joy to introduce them to Charlotte

(Kindly sent to us for review by Picture Puffin)

Friday, September 12, 2014

A preview of the fantastic new "Animal Rescue" book from Patrick George & the Born Free Foundation

Animal Rescue

Written and Illustrated by
Patrick George

Published by Patrick George Publishing

Though it's not released yet (the book has just gone out to print this very week) we were lucky enough to get a preview of the next title from Patrick George and it's a subject very dear to our hearts. Using that fantastic method of engagement in previous PG books (with transparent pages / overlays that children can 'flip' to completely change the story and images) in a rather genius way, "Animal Rescue" is a fun book with a very serious message.

With 50p from each purchase of the book going to the Born Free Foundation, "Animal Rescue" introduces the subject of animal welfare to children who, at a very early age, can still learn important lessons about how we can work together to conserve species, protect animals and highlight some of the issues the Born Free foundation was first set up for.

An example spread from the book. Flip the page and...

...moose's head is where it belongs!

(How cool is that!)

Each bold and brilliant page spread (with the acetate overlay pages) works ingeniously to highlight the difference between an animal in captivity / being mistreated, and that animal in its natural habitat or being cared for.

We previewed the book as a PDF copy on the iPad, and even there we could flip between the images to get an overall impression of how it's all going to work - so it's easy to imagine the level of engagement from children who are going to absolutely LOVE 'freeing' the animals as the book continues.

Both Charlotte and I had our own favourite spreads. Charlotte absolutely loved a spread where a puppy is seen unceremoniously dumped in a dustbin, out in the rain while a lonely little girl sits at home. Flipping the page cleverly overlays puppy on girl's shoulder for a big cuddle! Awww!

I thought the Killer Whale spread was extremely well observed and timely too.

A little bit of animation to show how the transparent overlays work in this awesome book!

The fact that the book contributes to such a worthy cause is fantastic. It's something that does stick in the mind too even if your children are fairly young, and it has struck a chord with Charlotte - who absolutely loves animals and is old enough to think about the message the book gently (but expertly) conveys without being too disturbing or jarring.

It's all so brilliantly done and we can't stop gushing about it, so can't wait for finished copies to arrive in little laps. If you've seen our previous reviews of "The Book of the Five Senses" and also "When I grow up" you'll already be hopping up and down with excitement about "Animal Rescue".

Available very soon from Patrick George Publishing. Don't miss it!

Charlotte's best bit: Caring for an abandoned puppy

Daddy's Favourite bit: A very timely spread about Killer Whale conservation. Nicely done and topical.

(Kindly sent to us to preview in PDF form by Patrick George Publishing)

ReadItDaddy's SECOND Book of the Week - Week ending 12th September 2014 - "Tin" by Chris Judge (Andersen Children's Books)


Written and Illustrated by
Chris Judge

Published by Andersen Children's Books

It's getting to be practically impossible to just have one book of the week. You've already seen our review of the third awesome "Murilla Gorilla" book but we have to squeeze one more Book of the Week in this week, making room for a rip-roaring robot tale that has tickled our circuits and thrilled our transformers this week.

Chris Judge's "Tin" is the story of a robot called, yep you've guessed it, Tin - and Tin is tasked with looking after his mischievous little sister Nickel for the day.

What could possibly go wrong? Nickel is a tiddler, a toddler, barely able to crawl so she'll never get into any trouble, surely?

"INCORRECT" (say that in your best robot voice). Poor Tin soon realises that little sisters are trouble, huge trouble (I speak from experience here, right Mel?) and soon Nickel grabs hold of a floating balloon and is whisked off into the air, with Tin (and his faithful robo-doggy Zinc) in hot pursuit.

A perfectly paced chase with all manner of excitement, hilarity and near misses begins, as poor Tin tries desperately to catch up with Nickel. Played out across a fantastic robotic backdrop as the chase heads towards Robo-City, we couldn't get enough of Chris's brilliant characters and setting for this exciting tale - and we guarantee that your little ones will love it to pieces too.

We're really, truly hoping that Chris has more in mind for his robot characters - surely Tin and Nickel could turn into a brilliant series of books, there's so much scope and potential in the characters and the settings that it left us absolutely buzzing for more. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant!

Charlotte's best bit: The Robo-Zoo and animals, she spent ages coming up with brilliant ideas for new animals and exhibits

Daddy's Favourite bit: There really aren't enough robots in children's stories, this is an absolutely sublime story full of excitement and a cracking pace, that left us wanting more at the end. Get down to your local robo-stockist and pick up a copy, BZZZT!

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

ReadItDaddy's FIRST Book of the Week - Week Ending 12th September 2014 - "Murilla Gorilla and the Hammock Problem" by Jennifer Lloyd and Jacqui Lee (Simply Read Books)

Murilla Gorilla and the Hammock Problem

Written by Jennifer Lloyd

Illustrated by Jacqui Lee

Published by Simply Read Books

Oops, we're just inundated with so many brilliant brilliant books this week that we're going to have to double up our Book of the Week nominations. First though, sliding into our Book of the Week (or should that be "Ook of the Week!") slot with ease, it's the triple for Jennifer Lloyd and Jacqui Lee's utterly sublime simian detective supreme, Murilla Gorilla.

Murilla is the number one detective on the savannah, even if it does take a little while for her to get out of bed in the morning, get organised and get on the case. We've loved her haphazard cases in "Murilla Gorilla Jungle Detective" and "Murilla Gorilla and the Lost Parasol" and we wondered if it would be possible to do a third book that was as funny as the others.

We needn't have worried. Jennifer Lloyd and Jacqui Lee's cool creation still makes us snort with laughter as this time she looks into the case of the holey hammock. Looks into, through and under as poor Okapi discovers that someone has damaged his stock.

Despite a rumbling tummy, Murilla uses all her detective skills to solve the mystery.

Some might argue that these books are pretty formulaic and a bit samey, but they always manage to provide giggles and amusement as Murilla's rather outlandish detective style always seems to bear fruit (perhaps more by accident than design) and her disguises are always a complete hoot too.

"Murilla Gorilla and the Missing Mop" is up next in 2015. We're wondering if Murilla will be stopping by our "Book of the Week" slot again soon, or whether Murilla might be too busy either solving cases, scoffing banana muffins or (more likely) snoozing under a tree.

Charlotte's best bit: Murilla's completely bonkers Fish disguise. Crazy!

Daddy's Favourite bit: I cannot get enough of the Murilla books, purely because they're so much fun to read aloud and 'act out'. Superb!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Simply Read Books)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Hello School by Angie Rozelaar (Campbell Books)

Hello School!

Written and Illustrated by
Angie Rozelaar

Published by Campbell Books

Though we primarily focus on brilliant children's picture books for ages 5-9, we love looking at all sorts of books - even board books!

Charlotte was actually very excited about "Hello School" when she realised that it was a book that was bright, colourful but most importantly had 'bits to play with'.

Angie Rozelaar's "Hello" range covers all sorts of subjects like Christmas and Holidays but this is timed perfectly for re-release to tie in with children's first days at school - or in fact as a great little nursery book so that toddlers can find out what they'll be letting themselves in for!

School is fun, and in Angie's book we find out just how much fun you can have in class. Drawing, painting, making things, learning about other countries and sitting down for a well earned lunch in the cafeteria.

The book is nicely sized and sturdy, and the interactive elements are huge fun (even for six year old Charlotte who sat for ages making all sorts of scoffing and slurping noises while playing with the school lunchtime spread in the book).

"Hello School" is out now from Campbell Books.

Charlotte's best bit: She loved playing School Lunches with the kids sitting down to scoff sandwiches, spaghetti and slurp juice.

Daddy's Favourite bit: A really nicely designed and high quality addition to Angie's brilliant "Hello" board book series.

(Kindly sent to us for review by Campbell Books)

Can't Dance Cameron by Emily Dodd and Katie Pamment (Floris Books / Picture Kelpies)

Can't Dance Cameron

Written by Emily Dodd

Illustrated by Katie Pamment

Published by Floris Books / Picture Kelpies

Never call him a grouse! Charlotte mistook him for a pigeon. But he's one of my favourite birds, he's Cameron - the Scottish Capercaillie and as awesome as he is, there's just one problem. Cameron can't dance!

He's tried so many times to emulate the fine popping and bopping of his eminent grandfather, but try as he might, Cameron just ends up getting his feet in a twist and falling flat on his face.

It takes a rather knowledgeable and wise squirrel called Hazel to restore Cameron's belief in himself. If he helps her find her missing nut, she'll teach him how to dance. It sounds like an awesome plan!

Emily Dodd and Katie Pamment give a goodly dose of scottish flair to a fabulous book about self-belief, friendship and awesome dancing. The Picture Kelpies range is perfect for little ones who want stories that feel fresh, original and fun and "Can't Dance Cameron" ticks all of those boxes.

We like to think of Hazel imparting her words of wisdom like a female more-squirrelly Morgan Freeman :)

Just in case you need a little introduction to why I think this is the most awesome bird in the world, check out the Capercaillie in action (and DO NOT watch this clip without audio, just listen to the fantastic noises they make!)

Charlotte's best bit: Cameron's expert pine-cone kicking skills when faced with a wild scottish cat

Daddy's Favourite bit: A superb fresh-feeling tale with my favourite bird, what could possibly be better! Marvellous work Emily and Katie!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Floris Books)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Danny by Gwendal Le Bec and Yann Le Bec (Flying Eye Books)


Written by Gwendal Le Bec

Illustrated by Yann Le Bec

Published by Flying Eye Books

Trust Flying Eye Books to come up trumps with a hugely funny and original story about a Hippo with braces! No not the twangy sort that your schoolfriends would always ping if you were daft enough to wear them, but the sort that make your teeth lovely and straight.

Danny is a Hippo, and though he's convinced he's pretty normal, he has a nagging feeling that something's wrong. His friends the snakes think he speaks a little funny and Danny's a bit puzzled. It takes a 'friendly' crocodile to point out that Danny has a lisp, and a quick visit to the Dentist could sort out all his problems. Danny needs a brace!

Danny takes the perilous journey to the big city, and haplessly wanders around asking every passer by if they're a dentist - until one kindly points him in the right direction.

Danny barges in without an appointment, but luckily he's seen fairly quickly, and is soon lying in the dentist's chair for a check up.

The dentist agrees that fitting Danny with a brace to correct the HUGE gap between his teeth would definitely help, so with an industrial-sized brace and lot of fine dental work, Danny is soon resplendent in his new dental headgear!

Heading back to the savannah, Danny is admired far and wide for his flashy brace, and other animals rather fancy the idea of getting one themselves - Including Crocodile!

We love this story because it has not one but two twists. We'll leave it to you to discover just what happens when Crocodile takes the same journey as Danny to the big city, to visit the dentist himself - and we'll also let you discover just what happens with Danny's brace - something that will make you giggle a bit.

Reading this one aloud gave me acres of mileage in doing a lot of silly voices, including one particular one that made Charlotte giggle with glee. Try explaining to a six year old what a lisp is in a lispy voice!

Another brilliant book from Flying Eye!

Charlotte's best bit: Crocodile's new vocation will make you laugh as much as it made Charlotte giggle

Daddy's Favourite bit: Funny, original and brilliantly told. Love it! Danny is our dental champion!

(Kindly sent to us by Flying Eye Books)

Happy Launch Day! A spotlight on Storytime Magazine - a new stories and activities magazine with no ads or plastic toys!

Issue 1 of "Storytime Magazine" with the Hare and the Tortoise gearing up for a race!

We've been extremely lucky enough to take a look at the very first issue of a new magazine for children that follows the (thankfully) growing trend of ditching horribly intrusive advertising, awful TV tie-ins and rubbishy plastic gimmicks in favour of brilliant and engaging content.

Storytime Magazine is the new kid on the block, with the first issue now available. We love stories and so we couldn't wait to dive into the initial selection, chosen from a variety of traditional tales, myths and legends and well-loved classics.

The magazine is a bold and colourful design, with large format pages perfect for curling up with on your lap. Because the stories are fairly short, it's a great magazine to read over the course of a few bedtimes.

We read through the magazine several times but kept coming back to "Perseus and the Gorgon" which digs into the rich tapestry of Greek myths and legends to tell a tale of a brave warrior, a nefarious king and the infamous Medusa, whose gaze can turn a person to stone!

An example spread showing the gorgeous quality of the artwork and the exciting stories in store!

As you can see from the example spread above, the illustrations are utterly gorgeous and the text is perfectly balanced between entertaining enough for you to read to your little ones yourself, and easy enough for them to have a go at reading the stories themselves as their reading confidence grows.

As well as stories, the magazine plans to have activities and games (in fact you can play a Hare and Tortoise board game in this very issue! Just find a dice and some counters and you're away!)

It's an extremely high quality magazine for a modest price, perfect for discovering new stories, or rediscovering ones that you may already know but want a slightly less "Disneyfied" version of. The passionate team of three (yes, THREE!) behind the magazine so obviously love what they do, and because they love stories as much as your children do, they pass on their energy and enthusiasm perfectly here.

Produced and designed in conjunction with educational experts to ensure that the magazine is suitable for a range of ages and abilities, it's an absolutely blisteringly good start for a publication we'll be keeping a very close eye on in future issues.

Absolutely love this treatment of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland!

Storytime Magazine is available for the extremely reasonable price of £3.99 per monthly issue, with subscription details available from the Storytime Website.

(Issue 1 kindly sent to us for review by Storytime Magazine).

The New Small Person by Lauren Child (Picture Puffin)

The New Small Person

Written and Illustrated by
Lauren Child

Published by Picture Puffin

Lauren Child, the genius behind Charlie and Lola and Clarice Bean has come up with yet another brilliant children's picture book - and we have a comfortable prediction to make...

Everyone is going to fall in love with Elmore Green.

"The New Small Person" is the story of Elmore, and life is pretty sweet when you're an only child. You get a room to yourself, you have everyone's attention - and every little thing you do is seen as pretty special. Most importantly of all though, NO ONE ever messes with your jelly bean jar (or steals your favourite ones, the orange ones).

I was wondering how Charlotte would relate to this book - you see she's an only child and is likely to remain one, so when the book changes tack half way through - and Elmore is confronted by "The New Small Person" the focus shifts from Elmore to his new little brother. Little brother now gets all the attention. Worse still, little brother eventually moves into Elmore's room and plays with his things, borrows them without asking AND dips into that jelly bean jar as well.

Elmore is at a loss until one night something happens that entirely changes the way Elmore looks at "the new small person" - and changes Elmore's entire way of thinking for the better.

Lauren Child makes it look easy to produce a book that wraps the reader (and the read-to) tightly in Elmore's life. The "something" that happens part way through the book is almost an air-punching moment of brilliant bliss.

Charlotte loved this book, and we talked a lot about why she's so utterly special to us (for complicated reasons we won't go into, we always wanted more than one child but the one we have is brilliant, bright and fantastic and we're utterly overjoyed to have her in our lives). So though she's unlikely to ever have to worry about a little brother or sister re-arranging her Barbies, pulling her books out of the book case (and putting them back in the wrong place), or pinching her dressing up clothes, she loved this book to bits.

I loved this book because it heavily reminded me of the great Ezra Jack Keats, not just for the obvious reasons (the reasons that this book should and will receive a lot of praise and attention for - deservedly so!) but because of the absolutely pitch-perfect observations of childhood, the timing of each story point, and just that gorgeous essence of 'coolness' that you always found in Keats books, reproduced by Lauren here. So we'll underline that. It's a durned cool book!

Charlotte's best bit: Charlotte was quite taken by Elmore's favourite game, arranging his things in a huge line that stretched all around his bedroom right down to the front door (helped by the new small person who donated some of his things to help with the line!)

Daddy's Favourite bit: Lauren Child makes it look SO EASY to produce a book that is this cool, with a solid message at its heart and a look and feel that should ensure it becomes something of a modern classic - rightly so!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Picture Puffin)