Thursday, July 31, 2014

Princess Evie's Ponies make the transition from children's picture book to early chapter readers with "Princess Evie Young Readers"


Princess Evie Young Readers

Written by Sarah Kilbride

Illustrated by Sophie Tilley

Published by Simon and Schuster Children's Books

Today sees the release of two initial titles in the "Princess Evie's Ponies" range, but they're not picture books this time - they're the first in a new range of "Young Readers".

As before, Charlotte's eyes lit up when these came in the post. She's previously loved the Princess Evie's Ponies range in picture book form and as her reading ability expands, it's almost perfect timing that these books have arrived for her to read before she settles down to sleep.

"Princess Evie's Ponies - The Forest Fairy Pony (Volume 1)" and "Princess Evie's Ponies - The Unicorn Riding Camp (Volume 2)" should please your pony-obsessed children. Each of the stories comes with pony facts at the back of the book, and bonus posters to collect with each volume.

In "The Forest Fairy Pony" Evie and her new pony friend Arwen (lovely name) travel through a magical glade, encountering a fairy kingdom and all new adventures.

In "Unicorn Riding Camp" Evie finds new friendship and fun and possibly her toughest challenge yet at Unicorn Riding School.

Charlotte dived straight into book one and when I asked her what she thought of them, she just ushered me away with a flap of her hand - which is high praise indeed!

"Princess Evie's Ponies - The Forest Fairy Pony" and "Princess Evie's Ponies - The Unicorn Riding Camp" are both out today, from Simon and Schuster


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

Smelly Louie by Catherine Rayner (Macmillan Children's Books)


Smelly Louie

Written and Illustrated by
Catherine Rayner

Published by Macmillan Children's Books

It's Happy Launch Day to Catherine Rayner, author and illustrator of the utterly brilliant "Abigail". Catherine stays with animals, albeit rather less exotic ones than a giraffe for her latest book - "Smelly Louie" which goes on sale today!

Smelly Louie is a stinky, whiffy, pongy scruffbag dog who we meet in the opening of this hilarious tale engaged in an activity that dogs universally hate. Louie is sitting in a sweet-smelling bath, getting clean because his owners have had enough of his odeur d'animale.

Louie, as you'd expect, isn't exactly pleased with the outcome. His uniquely doggy scent has completely disappeared to be replaced with the essence of apple blossom and cedarwood so Louie decides to embark on an adventure to get back his canine pong.

As Louie patrols his neighbourhood, lots of other animals chip in to help Louie restore the balance of nature. After all, dogs can't go around smelling sweetly!

Does Louie succeed in his mission? You'll have to read the book to find out. Catherine Rayner's fabulous characterisations, hilarious wrap-around story and utterly gorgeous illustrations guarantee that Louie will find a place in your heart - but you might want to give him a bit of a going over with a sponge first!

Charlotte's best bit: A satisfying story with a novel twist at the end to ensure that you keep following Louie's antics right till the very (pongy) end!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Beautifully crafted and hugely entertaining! We love Louie even though he doth pong!

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

The Very Best Sheepdog by Pinny Grylls and Rosie Wellesley (Pavilion Children's Books)


The Very Best Sheepdog

Written by Pinny Grylls

Illustrated by Rosie Wellesley

Published by Pavilion Children's Books

We do seem to be nestling under a deluge of lovely dog books at the moment and here's yet another dog tale for us to dive into, this time featuring a breed that Charlotte absolutely adores. A mischievous Border Collie is the superstar in "The Very Best Sheepdog" by Pinny Grylls. Pinny, an accomplished director and documentary film maker has turned her inexhaustible talent to writing children's books and in collaboration with Rosie Wellesley, has come up with a fabulous redemptive tale for children.

"The Very Best Sheepdog" starts off by making you think that Ben, the dog in question, is actually the worst sheepdog in the world. He's completely unfocused, and sheep just run away laughing whenever he tries to round them up.

Ben has one friend in the world though, a lovely little lamb, and the two form a firm friendship spending idyllic days playing "Sniff and Seek" as the lamb hides, and Ben finds her.

One day, the sheep go missing during a storm and there's only one dog who can possibly find the sheep - and the missing lamb too. The farmer decides to trust Ben and his nose to sniff out the missing flock and bring them home safely. Can Ben rise to the challenge?

As you'd expect from such a talented team, this book is hugely atmospheric. At times the artwork feels quite dark and foreboding - the farmer is a dark, almost sinister figure as Ben is admonished for his initial mischievousness - but is called to the fore to save the day.

Children will be hopelessly hooked in by the story and the fantastic illustrations and will be on the edge of their seats to find out what happens in the end (we won't spoil it for you, naturally!)

A hugely impressive debut for Pinny, and another immersive and brilliantly illustrated work from Rosie. Highly recommended.

Charlotte's best bit: Charlotte loves the way that the lamb and Ben become friends, and their friendship can save the day.

Daddy's Favourite bit: Atmospheric, involving and at times quite dark but a really beautifully written and illustrated tale.

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

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Little Puppy Lost by Holly Webb and Rebecca Harry (Little Tiger Press)


Little Puppy Lost

Written by Holly Webb

Illustrated by Rebecca Harry

Published by Little Tiger Press

Holly Webb is definitely one of our favourite authors and it's brilliant to see her making her picture book debut so that younger readers can experience her fantastic stories. We're completely head over heels in love with her "Maisie Hitchins" books at the moment (Charlotte tucks herself into bed and reads four pages of the latest Maisie adventures before settling down to sleep). But let's meet "Little Puppy Lost".

Evie has a new little puppy called Harry, who is adorable and mischievous - and taking his first few steps out into the wide world. While playing with Evie at a local park, poor little Harry ends up getting lost - and soon finds that the world is a huge place full of adventure and danger.

Poor Evie can't find him anywhere, so reluctantly heads for home - leaving Harry to fend for himself and somehow find his way back to his distraught owner. Can a very special feline friend help reunite Harry with Evie?

Needless to say, Charlotte loved Harry as she's got an extremely soft spot for cute puppies and kitties. Though the story is aimed at slightly younger readers than Charlotte, Holly's knack of injecting stories with excitement and tension, even in picture book form, really comes to the fore. Aided by fantastic fluffy and colourful illustrations from Rebecca Harry, this is sure to be a book that your little ones will demand again and again. A great picture book debut and we can't wait to see what Holly comes up with next, she must be one of the busiest and most prolific children's writers around!

Charlotte's best bit: A showdown with a rather nasty moggy shows just how brave Harry can be!

Daddy's Favourite bit: An awesome picture book debut from an author who has delighted and thrilled us with her early readers and chapter books already. Brilliant illustrations from Rebecca Harry too. Sure to be a huge hit with your little ones!

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

Artcards - Fashion by Hennie Haworth (Big Picture Press)


Artcards - Fashion

Written and Illustrated by
Hennie Haworth

Published by Big Picture Press

Big Picture Press have built up a hugely impressive library of titles in a relatively short space of time. We were privileged enough to take a look at the Big Picture Press range just before many of the books launched, to huge critical acclaim.

Back then we took a look at a mock-up of Hennie Haworth's first title for BPP, "Accessorize" - a hugely impressive book absolutely crammed to the gills with fabulous illustrations, stickers and ideas for crafting and designs.

Hennie is back with another more focused fashion-based title. "Artcards - Fashion" is again a hugely impressive book full of stickers, art cards, design sheets, templates and a metric ton of ideas for your fashion-obsessed tiddlers (in fact it's a really good title for a huge range of ages - even the very young can find lots to enjoy here!)

There are over 600 stickers which can be used in the book or on separate cards, or even your own designs. Hennie's illustrative touch and eye for design comes to the fore, and it's been a very inspirational book for Charlotte - who loves to create her own designs both on paper and mixing / matching outfits at home.

"Artcards - Fashion" is released in August, from Big Picture Press

Charlotte's best bit: So many things to do, stickers to use and ideas to play around with that she barely knew what to tackle first. This is a weighty tome that will keep your budding fashionistas busy for ages! Perfect for the long summer hols!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Like all Big Picture Press releases, this book positively exudes quality from every page. A brilliant way to get your youngsters designing their own cool outfits and fashion wows.

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

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Little Factory of Illustration by Flore Saint-Val (Tate Publishing)


The Little Factory of Illustration

Written and Illustrated by
Flore Saint-Val

Published by Tate Publishing

Wow, now this is a book that is practically guaranteed to help out substantially with the long, long drawn out school summer holidays. If you have a budding artist at home, a talented doodler, a maker and doer, then you're going to have a lot of fun with "The Little Factory of Illustration" by Flore Saint-Val.

Introduced by the master artiste himself, the awesome Artful Sketcher, we're taken on a whirlwind tour of The Little Factory of Illustration and the colourful characters who dwell within its walls.

Welcome to reception! It's a little bit busy!

Each page spread opens up a wealth of art prompts, activities and fun to be had as The Artful Sketcher introduces us to The Doodler, Roxy, Bob and Jojo - all lifelong artists at work at LIFIPO - here to help you get the most from your artistic imagination.

The Doodler comes up with some cracking designs for you to colour or collage

Even when your little ones have run out of crayons and are all doodled out, you can dive to the back of the book and find a handy wallet tucked into the back cover containing games and other items that can be used with the book.

The only criticism I have of this utterly fantastic book is that it's such a thing of beauty, that we didn't want to deface it. Though it positively invites you to scribble all over it (something that we "just DO not DO daddy!") we came up with lots of ingenious ways to trace and copy the pages so that we could leave the book intact. After all, no one wants to work in a messy factory do they?

Absolutely marvellous and thoroughly recommended if your little ones are kicking their heels around bored with the long hot summer - or (chance would be a fine thing) if the weather turns nasty and you need something to keep 'em busy on a rainy day.


Charlotte's best bit: Scribbling designs and patterns along with The Doodler and making a fantastic collage fashion statement

Daddy's Favourite bit: So many things to see and so much to do in this book, blissful peace and quiet while your little ones get busy with a multitude of activities and fun in this one!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Tate Publishing)

Best Friends by Mara Bergman and Nicola Slater (Hodder Children's Books)


Best Friends

Written by Mara Bergman

Illustrated by Nicola Slater

Published by Hodder Children's Books

Though we're predominantly cat people (meow!) at ReadItDaddy Towers, we cannot resist a doggy picture book and "Best Friends" by Mara Bergman and Nicola Slater is an absolute stunner.

This lovely little rhyming story tells the tale of Dexter, Daisy and Lily - three very different doggies and their very different owners. Like most dogs, Dexter Daisy and Lily are fun and mischievous and like nothing better than getting up to all sorts of shenanigans in the local park. The dogs and their young owners all meet up and soon chaos and fun ensues, and along the way the children find out that sharing and playing together is a huge amount of fun.

What caught our eye about this book, other than the utterly stunning retro-flavoured art by Nicola Slater is Mara's pitch-perfect rhyming and the glorious energy the book exudes from every page spread. From end paper to end paper, it's a charmer and if your little ones are pet obsessed, they'll love the story while you'll knowingly nod at some of the amusing antics that happen as the tale unfolds. Really love this!

Charlotte's best bit: Charlotte fell hopelessly in love with Daisy. Such a natty dresser!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Fun rhymes, utterly beautiful illustrations, a canine classic if ever I've seen one!

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

Monday, July 28, 2014

Noisy Neighbours by Ruth Green (Tate Publishing)


Noisy Neighbours

Written and Illustrated by
Ruth Green

Published by Tate Publishing

Oh boy, the fun we've had with this book - even though it does touch a bit of a raw nerve at the moment (our immediate neighbours aren't noisy but our neighbourhood is!)

Charlotte and I sat down and cuddled up with this great little book from Ruth Green. Though it's been out for a while, we're playing catch up with Tate Publishing's truly awesome children's book range so watch out for more reviews soon.

A snail is the star of this story, a rather tired little snail if truth be told - who really wants nothing more than to curl up in his shell and get some much-needed rest. But the poor snail can't find a quiet place to kip.

Chirping sparrows keep him awake (again, fully identify with you Mr Snail, we get woken up at first light by the stupid pigeons in our locale! Grrr!) buzzing bees (check, we had a bee infestation a year ago that woke us up at first light with loud droning) and even quacking ducks (OK we haven't had this yet but we live quite near a river so it's not beyond the bounds of possibility).

We love the humour in this. You see Mr Snail is a bit of a tired old grump, a bit like...well me I guess! But he does come up with a stunning idea that might finally guarantee a quiet night's sleep. Can you guess what it is? Clue: Party time!

As you'd expect from Tate Publishing, Ruth Green's fabulous little book is a treat for the eyes - and it's rib-ticklingly funny. We always love books that are huge amounts of fun to 'act out' and read aloud, and that's certainly the case with Noisy Neighbours. Charlotte loved it to bits, though I found it a little bit too close to reality at times :)

By the way, if you're a story app fan, do not miss the app version of "Noisy Neighbours" - It's utterly fantastic! Take a look at:

http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/apps/noisy-neighbours

iTunes link: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/noisy-neighbours/id888706932?mt=8

Charlotte's best bit: The snail's brilliant plan to finally get a good long peaceful snooze. Genius!

Daddy's Favourite bit: A fantastic and original book full of fun and humour - and awesome fun to read aloud!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Tate Publishing)

The National Literacy Trust's Wicked Young Writers Award - 100 entries shortlisted for the 2014 pool of entries


WICKEDthe global musical phenomenon that tells the incredible untold story of the Witches of Oz, is proud to announce that 100 entries, selected from more than 5,200 submissions, have been shortlisted for the 2014 Wicked Young Writers’ Award.

The Award was established in 2010 as a way of linking the themes and messages of the long-running musical with a competition to inspire self-expression and creativity through the writing of young people aged between 5-25 years old. 

This year’s entries saw young people exploring themes and concerns such as ageing, enduring love and loss, global warming, bullying, self-harm, and the effects of war. 

Michael Morpurgo said of this year’s Award: “All these talented young writers have allowed their imagination to live and breathe. They haven’t been afraid to tell their stories and speak their poems down and to express themselves with originality and flair. I have loved reading their writing and hope that you will as well.”

Wicked’s Executive Producer, Michael McCabe said: “As a show, Wicked strives to draw upon the thrill of live performance to inspire discussion around its story and themes.  It hugely rewarding to see so many young people across the country engage with these values through the Wicked Young Writers’ Award.”

In the younger categories, the entries were funny, scary and surprisingly complex: an alien helps a lonely little girl with cerebral palsy make new friends; a bully is given a dose of his own medicine; a happy, greedy Venus flytrap devours the world; and a surprisingly funny and mature poem about Albert Einstein.

Older categories’ entries, peopled with characters ranging from soldiers suffering with PTS to unwed teenage mothers, used sophisticated imagery and language to explore alienation, death, self-harm and struggling to conform without losing one’s identity.

The eldest 18-25 year old category was surprisingly mature, unselfconscious and insightful, providing a first look at the emerging voices of a new generation: moving, dark and sometimes playful themes comprised of repressed sexuality, love, murder and dementia. This is writing directly from the heart, trying to make sense of a complicated world.

The overall winners will be announced on Thursday 7 August at a special event at London’s Apollo Victoria Theatre, home of the award-winning musical.  The Award is championed by Patron Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall, and spearheaded by Chair Judge and bestselling author, Michael Morpurgo, who was joined in the shortlisting process by Michael McCabe, UK Executive Producer of WickedDean Atta, acclaimed poet and playwright and Henry Smith, founder and director of Lend Me Your Literacy.

Discover more at www.WickedYoungWriters.com

Mine! By Jerome Keane and Susana De Dios (Orchard Books)


Mine!

Written by Jerome Keane

Illustrated by Susana De Dios

Published by Orchard Books

With a cover that leaps out at you in bold colourful style, and a great little core message about sharing and friendship tucked away inside here's a rather attractive little book from Jerome Keane and Susana De Dios.

"Mine!" introduces Horse and Fox, who are bored one day and in dire need of something to do. Bored bored bored! When something unexpectedly drops out of the sky near them, it's only a matter of time before both Horse and Fox want to play with the mysterious thing that has appeared.

Each hopes the other hasn't noticed, but of course they have - and thus begins an animated discussion about who the object belongs to.

"It's mine!" says Horse.
"No, it's mine!" says Fox.

They argue and bicker, but can Horse and Fox learn to...share?

This will have an air of familiarity to it for any parent who is struggling to teach their little ones the value of sharing and playing together (lord knows we struggled with this one but it was very encouraging to see that we weren't the only parents at Charlotte's nursery who had problems getting their kids to share!) An amusing little tale with a superb twist and payoff at the end, guaranteed to slot nicely in before bedtime. Lovely!

Charlotte's best bit: Laughing out loud when she saw how Horse and Fox's problem was rather neatly solved!

Daddy's Favourite bit: A moral tale with amusing consequences, very nicely written and illustrated.

(Kindly sent to us for review by Orchard Books)