Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Happy Hooves Ta-Dah! By Anna Bogie and Rebecca Elliott (Fat Fox Books)

Happy Hooves Ta-Dah!

Written by Anna Bogie

Illustrated by Rebecca Elliott

Published by Fat Fox Books

New publishers on the block Fat Fox Books look like a publisher to keep a very close eye on. Though they're starting out small with a couple of titles releasing in September ("Happy Hooves Ta-Dah!" and "Prankenstein") they have an eye for entertaining stories and characters, and high production quality.

They've also got a keen eye for talent too, and one of our favourite author illustrators, Rebecca ("Sometimes", "Zoo Girl" and "Just Because") Elliott, has contributed illustrations to "Happy Hooves Ta-Dah!"

Along with Anna Bogie, creator of a range of animal characters who will go on to star in more stories in the Fat Fox Range, "Happy Hooves" is the first tale and it's an empowering story of friendship, believing in yourself and your abilities, and using teamwork to overcome adversity.

Donkey is a bouncy happy type, and on a bright summer's day he wants to go to the beach. Along with his friends sheep, pig, cow and foal, he can't wait to play in the sand and take a dip in the sea.

There is one slight problem though. Between the animals and the gorgeous beach is a cattle grid.

Now, to an energetic bouncy donkey a cattle grid poses no problem, but the other animals are nervous - and just can't see how they can overcome this annoying obstacle. But with the right amount of enthusiasm and encouragement from their friends, each animal takes a leap of faith - and one by one they get across - all except poor cow, who is well and truly stranded.

How will the friends help cow across the grate? We'll leave that little bit of the story for you to discover. Charlotte loved this story despite it being aimed squarely at younger readers, thanks in no small part to Anna Bogie's gift of using repetition and positive language to tell an entertaining story, with Rebecca's awesome collage illustrations to make a bold and colourful canvas to create a story on.

Charlotte has just begun to read stories like this to her new little cousin, who is only a couple of months old (It's actually quite something to see her doing this, it seems like only yesterday she was wriggling on her playmat while I read stories to her, and now she's passing that on to her little cousin in such a lovely way!) No doubt we'll be taking "Happy Hooves Ta-Da!" along with us next time we visit.

"Happy Hooves Ta-Dah!" published on Sept 1st 2014 (yesterday). You can find out more about the Fat Fox range on their website.

Charlotte's best bit: Her favourite animal was sheep, who had a really neat way of getting over that cattle grid! We approve!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Bright, colourful, full of positive messages and a superb cast of animal characters. A great start for Fat Fox!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Fat Fox Books)

The Best Kiss by Julia Jarman and Erica-Jane Waters (Hodder Children's Books)

The Best Kiss

Written by Julia Jarman

Illustrated by Erica-Jane Waters

Published by Hodder Children's Books

Ew! Is there truly anything worse when you're a little boy than being slathered and lathered in sloppy sticky yucky wet kisses from your relatives? Jack doesn't think so, he doesn't mind a pat on the back or the odd hooray but all that smooching and lip-smacking? It's not for him!

So Jack makes a new set of rules in "The Best Kiss" by Julia Jarman and Erica-Jane Waters. No more kisses, no fuzzy ones, no sticky ones, no ultra-icky ones and definitely no air-kissing from French aunties, non, non, NON!

We've seen a few books along similar lines as "The Best Kiss" but we loved Jack's sheer exasperation and the liltingly rhyming fun and puns. There is one type of kiss that Jack does like though, an ultra special one but we're not going to spoil the end for you!

Charlotte's best bit: Uncle's sticky kisses, yuck!!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Funny and well observed, poor Jack!

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

Monday, September 1, 2014

Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor by John Scieszka and Brian Biggs (Amulet Books)

Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor

Written by Jon Scieszka

Illustrated by Brian Biggs

Published by Amulet Books

Unleash your inner science geek! It's happy publication day for a new nerdy hero, big of brain and out to impress. John Scieszka's "Frank Einstein" is our kind of character, something between Dexter (from Dexter's Lab), Peabody (from Peabody and Sherman) and The Wimpy Kid.

Frank is a genius in every respect, and there's no branch of science that he can't bring his massive intellect to bear on. Frank's passion is robotics, and he has designed his own 'helpers' - two sassy robots called Klink and Klank.

After a bizarre accident in his lab (the garage) Klink and Klank achieve artificial intelligence, and take on their own personas.

Frank's quest to design the perfect power sources and systems for his mechanical buddies leads him to the ultimate project - the design and build of a dark energy drive, providing tons of energy for his creations. But avaricious eyes are on him! Mean-spirited ne'er do-well T Edison steals Klink and Klank, and it's up to Frank and his friends to mount a rescue mission. Can the world's most intelligent boy genius and his pals succeed?

Charlotte and I lapped this book up. Mixing perfect comic timing and rib-tickling text with a goodly dose of fun illustrations to punctuate the story, it's a perfect book for kids like Charlotte who love fun stories, love a bit of (not dumbed down) science, and a good old fashioned good vs evil tale.

We really cannot wait to see more from Frank (and Klink and Klank!) One of the most entertaining kid's early chapter books we've read through in a long time.

Charlotte's best bit: Bamboozling me with lots of science questions about bits in the book she didn't understand (of course Daddy knows how an Antimatter motor works, daddy knows EVERYTHING!)

Daddy's Favourite bit: Fast-paced, frenetic, chaotic but above all tons and tons of fun, this is one of the best geek-books we've read in a long time. Hooray for John, Brian and Frank!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Abrams / Chronicle / Amulet)

Iron Sky - Dread Eagle by Alex Woolf (Scribo Publishing)

Iron Sky - Dread Eagle

Written by Alex Woolf

Illustrations by Matthew Laznicka (cover) and Mark Bergin (Foldouts)
Published by Scribo Publishing

Happy publication day to a superb steampunk thriller, "Iron Sky: Dread Eagle" by Alex Woolf.

It's 1845 and in an alternate reality, coal and steam power rule the land and skies. Vast clanking machinery has evolved beyond static engines to powerful and mobile weapons of war. As Britain engages with France in bloody conflict, a deadly new shield technology could signal defeat for Britain's forces, and ultimate victory for the aged but all-conquering Emperor Napoleon.

Alex Woolf sets out his bookworld with rich texture and tapestry, immersing the reader in a parallel universe that is as intoxicating as the choking coal-fumes issuing from every page.

The terrifying Dread Eagle (Illustration by Mark Bergin)
Our wonderful hero, 18 year old Arabella West is an Aviatrix with the Sky Sisters, Britain's elite force of fighter pilots. Arabella is drawn into a secret mission to investigate sightings of a giant steam-powered craft, both terrifying in appearance and devastating in action. Known only as "The Dread Eagle" it can tear sky platforms and planes out of the sky...

I was hooked from page 1. From page 10 onwards I began to get slightly obsessed with Alex Woolf's steam powered world and Arabella. At times feeling like a classic steampunk bodice-busting tale of derring-do, mixed royally with a good dose of sinister underplotting this is the sort of story that begs, nay PLEADS to become a series as the alt-britannia is so expertly given flesh and steel under Alex's direction.

Arabella's awesome plane, and Miles, her faithful robotic sideckick (Illustration by Mark Bergin)

The added bonus fold-out illustrations and machine blueprints to help you visualise the story brilliantly from the text makes this a novel that'd be a really fantastic starting point for your own little steampunks as they start to explore one of the standout genres in literature today. Though Charlotte's a little young to dive into Iron Sky, I started to tell her about Arabella and her brilliant robotic sidekick Miles, and imagined her one day tucking herself away with this and being instantly hooked too.

Tirailleur Class Airship. Another awesome terror of the skies!

Fantastically accomplished, lapped up with great gusto! Do not miss this book!

Check out the fabulous book trailer for Iron Sky: Dread Eagle below:

Daddy's Favourite bit: I like a novel that sets out to build an intoxicating world from the first turn of the page to the last, Alex's descriptions and pacey dialogue will draw you in and you'll want to spend a lot more time wrapped up in this brilliant book. Pop on your topper, do up your bustle, fire up your boiler and get cracking with Iron Sky: Dread Eagle, you won't be sorry!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Scribo / Salariya)

Where is Rusty? by Sieb Posthuma (Gecko Press)

Where is Rusty?

Written and Illustrated by
Sieb Posthuma

Published by Gecko Press

We're rather loving all the doggy books we've been sent to review over the last few months, and out very soon from Gecko Press is another wagging tale. Sieb Posthuma's "Where's Rusty?" might give away the core theme behind the story with its title - Rusty is a slightly mischievous scamp of a Dalmatian who goes to the local department store with his mummy and siblings. Rusty is an impetuous scamp and can't sit still for more than a moment. Completely distracted by the dazzling displays in the story, Rusty soon goes missing - and causes frantic searches as his mum and the store staff look for him.

Meanwhile Rusty realises he's on his own and becomes scared as the dog catchers close in, threatening to put any wayward animals in the pound. Eek! Rusty must rely on his wits, cunning and his ability to play hide and seek with the best of them to outwit those dog catchers and get back to mum and family safely.

Sieb's book is exciting and thrilling, and we loved the retro-style artwork that appears throughout. There's nothing worse than being lost in a store (speaking from experience, even losing sight of Charlotte for a few moments on holiday recently gave me the chills!) and this book is a rollercoaster adventure as we track Rusty's quest to return safely to mum. Awesome stuff from Gecko.

Charlotte's best bit: Rusty making his way, mission impossible style, through the vents of the store to evade capture

Daddy's Favourite bit: Thrilling and exciting stuff for younger readers and a very nicely presented and accomplished book.

(Kindly sent to us for review by Gecko Press)

Friday, August 29, 2014

ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week Ending 29th August 2014 - "On Sudden Hill" by Linda Sarah and Benji Davies (Simon and Schuster Children's Books)

On Sudden Hill

Written by Linda Sarah

Illustrated by Benji Davies

Published by Simon and Schuster Children's Books

It was love at first sight, at first read.

Often with the "Book of the Week" books, we know they're going to slide into our hallowed and honoured slot with ease the moment we lay eyes on them. In some cases, a book that looks gorgeous and glossy can sometimes disappoint once you dive into it, but that was definitely not the case with "On Sudden Hill" by Linda Sarah and Benji Davies.

The story of two (and then eventually three) little boys who spend idyllic summers playing and using their imaginations. Birt and Etho's favourite game is to drag their huge cardboard boxes up to the top of Sudden Hill and use those boxes for all sorts of fun games. Boxes can become anything. A medieval castle, a spaceship or just a great place for two friends to hang out and chatter long into the summer evenings until the light grows dim.

Then something unexpected happens. Shu sees Birt and Etho playing and wants to join in. He's even got his own box, and at first Shu is most welcome. But Shu and Etho spend more and more time together, and poor Birt feels pushed out, isolated. Birt smashes his box to bits and starts playing on his own, or staying in and drawing and while Shu and Etho still call on their friend, Birt no longer wants to play with them.

Can Shu and Etho win Birt round?

Children's books often evoke an atmosphere that's unique, making us recall our own childhood, or even (as is the case here) our own friendships as kids and how sometimes even the most simple dynamic could change irreparably if someone new came around and two became three. This is lovingly examined with Linda Sarah's gorgeously written story that dances with whimsy and melancholy in equal measure.

For any writer to be paired with Benji Davies must feel like winning the lottery too. Benji's artwork is utterly enchanting and fits the story like the most comfortable pair of slippers. It's ironic that the book is called "On Sudden Hill" when it really reminds me of the same carefree atmosphere that a lot of Hayao Mizayaki's movies evoke.

When the questions followed, it was another unexpected bonus. Questions from Charlotte on why Birt does the things he does when a new friend joins in, and why he smashed his beloved box. Children's books that spark questions like these obviously make adults think long and hard about taking their own relationships for granted too and that's no bad thing.

A stunning book, every single bit as good as it looks.

Charlotte's best bit: Shu and Etho's amazing way of 'winning' Birt round.

Daddy's Favourite bit: Heart warming, touching, melancholy in places, deep and complex. If anyone ever asks you why you - as an adult - read children's books, slap a copy of this across their lap and make them read it. Maybe then they'll understand.

(Kindly sent to us for review by Simon and Schuster Children's Books

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Where's Spot by Eric Hill (Picture Puffin)

Where's Spot?

Written and Illustrated by
Eric Hill

Published by Picture Puffin

It would be remiss of us to host a fabulous Where's Spot competition without dipping into the original book itself. Though Charlotte's now 6, there's something about lift the flap books that she can't resist - and this is the grandaddy of them all, a book that we borrowed so many times from the library when she was just cutting her teeth (though thankfully she resisted the temptation to chew it) but now we've got our own copy we thought we'd have another look.

"Where's Spot?" Well, where is Spot? His friend Sally can't seem to find him anywhere in the house and as you flick through the book, your children get to lift different flaps and explore behind various objects to see if they can find the mischievous puppy.

Tom the crocodile is hiding under the bed. Helen the Hippo has managed to squeeze herself into the piano. As for Percy and Polly, they've found a very sneaky hiding place.

But where is spot?

We'll let you discover this timeless classic yourself to find out where Spot is hiding. It doesn't seem like a book that was first published nearly 34 years ago and that's the genius of the late Eric Hill - he had an expert illustrator's eye for providing simple but effective animal characters, weaving them into stories that cut down on the word count, used repetition cleverly, but still provided lots of excitement and stimulation for curious little minds.

Charlotte still loves this - so I cuddled up with her and let her read it to me instead of the other way around!

Don't miss out on the fantastic "Where's Spot" competition that we're helping out with this week. Check out the competition post here!

Charlotte's best bit: Helen the Hippo's hiding place is the best!

Daddy's Favourite bit: A timeless classic from a genius author illustrator who is very sadly missed.

(Kindly sent to us for review by Picture Puffin)

Princess Mirror-Belle and the Dragon Pox by Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks (Macmillan Children's Books)

Princess Mirror-Belle and the Dragon Pox

Written by Julia Donaldson

Illustrated by Lydia Monks
Published by Macmillan Children's Books

The Princess Mirror-Belle series makes its transition from early reader to picture book with this stunning and sparkly book from the dream team of Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks.

Poor Ellen has chickenpox and really really want to scratch them. But while mum steps out of the bathroom for a moment, Ellen meets Princess Mirror-Belle who springs out of the mirror and tells Ellen that it's not chickenpox she has, it's Dragonpox! Eeks!

Princess Mirror-Belle is a bit of a know-it-all (Charlotte's description!) and knows exactly how to stop Ellen scratching her spots. A cure is required, with a nice warm bath and anything else that may be to hand! In goes the bubble bath, in goes the toothpaste and even daddy's shaving foam (I really hope Charlotte doesn't get any ideas from this!)

The Princess tells Ellen stories of the land beyond the mirror, where brave knights rescue princesses from dragons and children are allowed to make as much mess in the bathroom as they like!

But what will happen when mum comes back in? Will Ellen's excuse that Princess Mirror-belle caused all the mess hold any water with mum?

With lots of brilliant texture and glitter on each page, and a fairytale feel to the story, this is a great addition to the Princess Mirror-Belle series for younger children who want to see what all the fuss is about. They'll never look at the mirror in quite the same way again!

Charlotte's best bit: Ellen being wrapped up in loo roll. Part of the cure for Dragon Pox apparently!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Rather nice to see Julia Donaldson coming up with a non-rhyming story, and always a pleasure to see Lydia's gorgeous artwork

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

We chat to the utterly awesome team behind one of the most beautiful children's books of the year - "On Sudden Hill" - Hi to Linda Sarah and Benji Davies

Since we first saw a sneaky snippet of art from "On Sudden Hill" on Twitter, we've been waiting, and waiting, and waiting for what seems like ages for this lovely book to arrive. Now it has, and it's completely knocked us for six! It's stunning, and we're very very VERY lucky to be able to chat with Linda Sarah and Benji Davies, two of our favourite book folk, to find out a little bit more about the book and what inspires them. Take it away, lovelies!

Linda Sarah

Hello Read it Daddy - thank you for having me on your blog!

I work mostly in bustly places like cafes, often listening to Very Loud (and very bad taste) music. This is where most stories and illustrations happen (fuelled often by fat slices of cake that sometimes magically appear - and huge amounts of strong, foamy coffee decorated with love hearts/hedgehogs/birds by the awesome R. :-) And I love The British Museum to glide around in, filling sketchbooks with drawings and ideas.

This is a photo of where I work a lot

Linda busying herself in her studio

And this illustrated biography tells a few more details (like how writing in the bath produces completely different types of stories/poems than those written 'on dry land')


This is a picture of Bifi, the Picture Book Fairy, who is very wise and has a good grasp of grammar and often also, luckily, hangs out in cafes where I work

Bifi the Picture Book Fairy. An awesome inspiration indeed!

This is where I would like to work

Wow! Just wow!

This is the chair I often sit in to write stories (I'm not sure why there's a cat in it - I've never seen him before)
Bifi the Picture Book Fairy (We absolutely love love LOVE Linda's book "Mi and Museum City" by the way!)

Thank you! (and thank you too Linda!)

Benji Davies

I work at home - that is in my studio, the ‘spare’ room of the house that my wife and I bought in Walthamstow last year.

Benji Davies' studio. Uber-cool!

It’s an upside down house, with the living room, kitchen and dining area on the top floor, more like an apartment. The floor below that is the bedroom and the studio, and my wife’s studio(she is a fashion designer) is on the ground floor.

My studio is full of books. Some are my own work that have been sent to me from publishers. They are happily stacked and distributed at will to family and friends. Except the many foreign editions which in almost 20 languages are more of a struggle to relocate. They still haven’t got shelves - I’ve been too busy to do anything about it since we moved in.

I’m lucky to have space for two desks. I work on the computer or on the drawing table where I have a lightbox for working up roughs and for doing messier stuff with real pens and paint.

I also use sketchbooks, but they’re for when I’m not in the studio. I take them out and about, or when I want to do a bit of drawing in front of the TV or sitting at the kitchen table. I like to keep my workspace flexible I think it sometimes helps to change your environment, give you a different perspective for what you’re working on.

I’m a big fan of making a cup of tea and looking out the window when I’m stuck on something. We have a nice big sliding door and balcony which is great for cloud watching.

Heck of a view, now we know where Benji gets his awesome cloudscapes from

Huge thanks to both Linda and Benji (and the awesome Jade at Simon and Schuster) for inviting us on the blog tour for this really gorgeous book. We'll be reviewing it in full very VERY soon!)

"On Sudden Hill" is released 28th August 2014. Today in fact! Go grab it right now! Also check out the rest of the lovely bloggers below who have joined us on the tour. Awesome folk one and all!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Singing Mermaid (Special Edition with Mermaid Toy) by Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks (Macmillan Children's Books)

The Singing Mermaid

Written by Julia Donaldson
Illustrated by Lydia Monks

Published by Macmillan Children's Books

"The Singing Mermaid" is a book Charlotte has loved for a long time, as our Dentist rather thoughtfully has a copy in their waiting room. Every time we go for a brush up and check up, Charlotte makes straight for the book and we read it together (if there's one really genius idea, it's having great children's books in a dentist to calm them down before they go in!)

The story is a delightfully original twist on mermaid tales. The singing mermaid loves to sing to all the sea creatures and seagulls at Silversands Bay but when a ruthless unscrupulous circus owner tempts her away with promises of gold and soft feather beds to sleep on, the mermaid bids goodbye to Silversands and runs off (sorry, should say "is carried off!") to join the circus.

Life at the circus isn't too bad at first but Sam Sly, the circus owner, doesn't deliver on his promises - and soon the poor mermaid finds herself missing her friends and the golden beach.

Thankfully a Seagull hears her singing one evening, and decides to hatch an escape plan. Can the mermaid possibly get away with nothing but a swishy silvery tale to make good her escape with?

This special edition of "The Singing Mermaid" comes with a gorgeously made Singing Mermaid doll for your little ones to cuddle (and cuddle she did, Charlotte has taken her little Singing Mermaid everywhere with her since it arrived). The book is a pint-sized version of the story which is perfect for tucking into a bag.

Julia Donaldson's writing is as tight and expert as ever, and Lydia Monks' illustrations are colourful and enchanting.

It's a little early to start planning christmas presents perhaps, but this would make a brilliant one!

Charlotte's best bit: Having her very own singing mermaid to cuddle (of course) and the mermaid's spectacular escape from the circus

Daddy's Favourite bit: A wonderful and original mermaid story pitch-perfect to read aloud, with gorgeous art. Love the mini version, perfect for tucking into a child's bag for days out or stays at Grandma and Grandad's house

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