Friday, April 17, 2015

ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week Ending 17th April 2015 - "The Hog, The Shrew and the Hullabaloo by Julia Copus and Eunyoung Seo (Faber and Faber)

The Hog, The Shrew and the Hullabaloo

Written by Julia Copus

Illustrated by Eunyoung Seo

Published by Faber and Faber

We loved "The Hog in the Fog" very much indeed - in fact if you peek inside the cover of this, the second book in the "Harry and Lil" series, you'll see a recommendation from us! Fame at last!

But you know what? We loved this second book even more - Harry the Hog and Candystripe Lil (the most adorable shrew ever!) are back for a second adventure - this time centred around a very restless night for our bristly buddy Harry.

There's a strange noise going on, and poor Harry is a tiny bit scared. Luckily his best friend Candystripe Lil sees this as a great opportunity to offer her friend some comfort, and stop by for a sleepover too. Tucked up in bed, the two can hear the gentle breeze but the night is also full of odd noises as nocturnal creatures come out to play. Who can we find snuffling around the forest at night? Who sings a gentle lullaby down by the pond as dusk falls?

There are stories that are perfectly put together for snuggledown bedtime reading and "The Hog, The Shrew and the Hullabaloo" is just such a book. Wonderful pitch-perfect rhymes and adorable detailed illustrations not only make us want to read about Harry and Lil's world, and their adventures, I think we'd quite like a holiday there too (but we'd definitely take Lil's cue and pack some earplugs!)

Charlotte's best bit: Charlotte loves the rhymes and adores picking out all the tiny little details in the illustrations (we loved Harry's Tennis-ball-topped curtain rails!)

Daddy's Favourite bit: Snuggly, cuddly, pretty much perfect!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Faber and Faber)

Like this? We think you'll love these too!

The Hog in the Fog by Julia Copus and Eunyoung Seo (Faber and Faber)

Thursday, April 16, 2015

You Can't Take an Elephant on the Bus by Patricia Cleveland Peck and David Tazzyman (Bloomsbury Publishing)

You Can't Take an Elephant on the Bus

Written by Patricia Cleveland-Peck

Illustrated by David Tazzyman

Published by Bloomsbury Publishing

Have you ever tried to sneak a zoo animal onto public transport? No, neither have we but in "You Can't Take an Elephant on the Bus" we find out that not only is it inadvisable to try and cram a pachyderm into a charabanc, it's generally not a great idea to take a Tiger onto a train (oh how we hoped the Tiger would take a chomp out of the irritating businessman on his phone, slopping his expensive coffee about all over the place).

Crazy rhymes are the order of the day from Patricia Cleveland Peck - and even crazier illustrations courtesy of David Tazzyman (who, for some reason, doesn't get a credit on the cover of the book - Tsk Tsk!!)

There is, however, one form of transport that just about any animal - elephant or whale, monkey or pig, tiger or giraffe - can enjoy but we won't spoil the big reveal!

Charlotte's best bit: The skateboarding piggie! Oink!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Fun and bouncy book more suitable for younger readers who will love its craziness!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Bloomsbury Publishing)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Beautiful Beasts by Camilla de le Bédoyère (QED Publishing)

Beautiful Beasts

Written and Illustrated by
Camilla de le Bédoyère (Author)

Published by QED Publishing

There seems to be a huge surge in the publication of fantastic non-fiction books about animals. In the last year or so we've seen some brilliant books concentrating on species we know, and even some mythical ones we don't. But how about an utterly fantastic book that traces the genesis of many of the animal species that still roam the earth today?

"Beautiful Beasts" mixes together the ancient and the modern, providing a luxurious and sumptuous fully illustrated look at how certain animal classes and 'families' evolved often from common ancestors to become the animals we're more familiar with in the here and now.

Camilla's enthusiasm shines through as we see how the first single-celled creatures evolved into more complex beasts, emerging from ancient seas to eventually stalk the land. Evolving further still as the first primitive mammals and birds emerged, and the first apes swung through the trees before standing upright and turning!

Charlotte was completely enthralled by this, and relished the challenge of pronouncing some of those weird old names for some of the ancient creatures nestling between the pages of this weighty tome.

An utterly brilliant addition to our burgeoning bestiary! "Beautiful Beasts" is out today, from QED Publishing.

Charlotte's best bit: Charlotte was completely fascinated by the evolution of horses from Eohippus onwards.

Daddy's Favourite bit: A really fantastic bestiary to join the ranks of the amazing creature books that are currently storming into bookstores. Not to be missed!

(Kindly sent to us for review by QED Publishing)

Two truly beautiful books for your tinies from Wide Eyed Editions - "Colours" and "One Thousand Things"

"Colours" by Aino-Maija Mesola (Wide Eyed Editions)

By now you've probably spotted that we're falling completely in love with Wide Eyed Edition's fantastic range of gorgeous books but don't let your tiniest of tinies miss out as there's plenty in the range for them too.

Starting off with "Colours" by Aino Maija Metsola, little ones will love this large format hardback book with tons and tons of lift-the-flap fun. Learning colours and shapes, object names and having lots of fun doing it is the order of the day here as each page spread reveals more and more to explore. Even busy and curious 7 year olds can't resist diving into this book to see what's hiding inside.

One Thousand Things by Anna Kovecses (Wide Eyed Editions)

Just as stunning is "One Thousand Things" by Anna Kovecs, again from Wide Eyed Editions. Even more to explore for busy little tiddlers as they follow their first words with the help of gorgeous Little Mouse. Your furry guide through a whole world of discovery, with some truly wondrous discoveries to make along the way.

Both "Colours" and "One Thousand Things" are available right now from your fave indies and local bookshops, so if you're on the lookout for a fantastic present for book-obsessed toddlers, these are utterly perfect!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Zen and the Art of Self-Publishing Children's Stories Part 2 - "Where am I going wrong?"

Self publishing children's books. John Bull Printing Set Not Required

Regular blog followers of yore will recall that we used to spend a lot of time and effort championing the cause of Self-Published authors and illustrators. Our good old 'Indie Pen-Dance Wednesday' might've been one of the most pun-dreadful titles ever for an indie book slot but we took a look at a title a week, and published honest critiques of each book we read. We also published an article entitled "Zen and the Art of Self-Publishing Part 1" where we came up with ten top tips for would-be authors and illustrators delving into the world of self publishing.

Time has passed, life and jobs have changed, our spare time for writing the blog shrank away and we had to make a decision to cut our blog content, first paring off app reviews (which we were never very good at anyway) then self published titles. The decision to chop self-published and small indie coverage wasn't an easy one to make but for many reasons we moved towards reviewing things we genuinely wanted to read and as Charlotte got older, we could no longer review books that really weren't our cup of tea.

We still keep an eye on what's going on with self-published and small independent pressings though. Why? Because some folk really do push the boundaries of what you'd expect from self published authors and illustrators. For all the champions out there though, there are some who still don't quite understand why their books are failing to capture the intended audience. So let's have another look at some of the common problems we see with self published and small indie books now we're more prone to buying them ourselves when we spot a corker.

Here's ten more tips to help steer you straight if you're lost in the mire of putting out your first self-published work:

1) Seek criticism outside your comfort zone. Friends and family love you, and will inevitably be polite. Genuine constructive critics will give you an honest (sometimes brutal) opinion so seek them out!

Creative folk are wonderful human beings. Sometimes though, they need to really take heed of the first point we raised when we last produced a list of 10 "dos and donts" for self published children's books. Go and seek criticism out from sources that aren't close to you - trade the friends, family, siblings, children for folk who know their subject, know children's books, know how to write, know illustration inside and out, and won't shy away from telling you if your book is terrible. Yes, this is a scary prospect but is it any more scary than facing someone who's paid money for your work and isn't at all happy with their purchase, and takes to a public forum to say as much?

As an additional word to the wise on this point - please PLEASE do not pester authors and illustrators on Facebook or Twitter, asking them to help crit your work. They're busy professional people too, who really don't want to spend every waking hour on social networks fending off well-meaning, enthusiastic but ultimately overbearing would-be children's authors or illustrators who want their work given the once-over.

2) We can't stress this enough as it still seems to be one of the biggest problems with self-published children's books - If you can't draw, don't draw. If you think you can draw, don't draw. If you KNOW you can draw, go right ahead but still seek someone else's brutally honest criticism first!

The number one thing that lets self published children's books down is the number one thing that can make or break a children's book in any marketplace, commercial or otherwise.

The art. Starting right from the beginning, your cover is your introduction to your intended readership. If your cover sucks (and so, SO many do - in fact there are some pretty cruel blogs and tumblrs out there that take great delight in publishing the very worst Kindle book cover art) then your reader will instantly assume that the rest of your book is of similar quality! Thinking you're doing something whacky and cute because you draw your entire book in a child-art style is possibly the worst thing you can do. Kids can already draw like that, they want slick artwork "like grown-ups do" not stuff they could probably do better themselves. Sorry, but that really is worth reiterating.

Don't just stick a stock image on there either, with some hideous word-art font - and if you do resort to stock art, make sure you're using royalty free stuff not just an image you've spotted from a google image search.

Book design is also an art form in itself. If your book is badly laid out, difficult to follow, contains totally unreadable typefaces (and a mix of those liberally sprinkled throughout the text like pepper on a baloney sandwich) AND the in-book illustration sucks as badly as the cover art, people will round-file it quicker than you can say "cream cracker". Children's books adhere to some fairly strict rules when it comes to things like page layouts and page counts with good reason (google on the subject of children's book design and you'll see a huge wealth of really great websites showing you how to improve your book no end).

Some people do successfully bend those rules, or tweak them but when they break them, the results are often disastrous.

It's worth also pointing out that there are a ton of brilliant illustrators out there looking for commissions. Hire one, pay one, give them credit, and make your book shine but again, like any professional, do not badger them to work for free. They wouldn't expect you to come round to their house and fix their plumbing for free, after all!

3) Be mindful of other people's time. Time is more precious to anyone (particularly book bloggers) than a free book, even yours!

Some folk used to assume that we did nothing all day but write about children's books. Sadly, no one I know (and I know a lot of book bloggers) makes a living wage solely from reviewing children's books. Those who are parents have to juggle a hectic home life with a working life, and all the other things that happen around those too. Those of us who give up our spare time to write about books - often without payment - value time above pretty much everything else. Some folk (thankfully a minority) who approached us in the past were downright rude if we politely pointed out that we didn't review self-published or independently published books due to time constraints. Constantly trying to find polite ways to point this out was a huge deciding factor on why we dropped our coverage of self-published books. Rudeness will get you absolutely nowhere - Put it this way, if you were a chef, would you trust the opinion of someone if you had to force every morsel of food between their lips with a ham-fist before writing a dazzling critique of your restaurant?

4) If a reviewer doesn't respond the first time, what makes you think they'll respond the second, third, fourth and fifth time you ask them for a review?

Persistence is an admirable character trait in most other occupations. Sometimes though, persistence can turn very quickly into pestilence. We have a fairly clear stance on reviews that if we don't respond to you, we don't want to review your book. Other reviewers are the same - it saves having to sit there and explain why you don't want to review the book, or come up with a polite excuse why your book isn't suitable for us. In one or two cases, folk have either rudely assumed that because we've covered their previous work, we want to cover everything they do - or worse, they've actually described our taste to us as if they've magically read our minds and instantly know we're just going to ADORE their story about a cute little bunny who has lost his mummy. Pestering and nagging a book blogger or reviewer to review something takes us back to point 3 above - if you're trying to bully someone or force them into something, they're going to shut you out.

One of our pet peeves is being followed on Twitter or liked on facebook by self-published authors who we dutifully follow back, and whose opening gambit is a direct message telling us to check out their book. We've got eyes, we can see your profile, we'll see who followed us or liked us on Facebook and we'll click on your blog or website link. If we like what we see, we'll contact you to see if we can review your book (or we'll at least tweet about it or write about it off our own backs!) You're likely to be very quickly unfollowed or blocked if you push it up our noses.

5) Proofread your stuff and also tailor it for a prospective international audience if you're going for one, and don't nitpick people's reviews if they've been good enough to publish one. 

I remember when we reviewed a particular title which was atrociously written but had a really good core story, and was really well received by us despite its roughness and flaws. We published a review, and the author got in touch within minutes of the review going live to pick us up on mistyping / mis-spelling a name. My reaction was to dash out an email (which was never sent) proof-reading and picking apart every mistake they'd made in their book, pointing out all the grammatical errors, jarring rhymes and awkward use of language I found. I never sent the mail but boy oh boy, if you're going to nitpick someone's review, get your own house in order first!

6) Rhymes are not easy but so many people still go all-out to bludgeon a rhyming story to death

Bad rhymes really hurt a read-aloud enthusiast. I love reading well put-together rhymes that delicately trip off the tongue with cleverness and dexterity, like little sylphs. Some self-published stories written in rhyme seem to have been written but never read. This is the only reason I can think of for the awkwardness of some of these stories. Reading them is like walking barefoot across a hard wooden floor covered in Lego. It's almost a physical pain, reading something that is clunky and unwieldy. Authors who write rhyming stories well spend a great deal of time chopping, changing, adapting and perfecting their stories until they almost SING themselves off the page. If you can confidently claim that yours do - and better still if you've managed to write a rhyming story that reads like someone would speak it, then you've done a fantastic job!

7) Cliches kill a story. Originality rocks!

Remember that "Fluffy Bunny loves his Mummy" story we talked about in an earlier example? When we look for indie or self-published stories and books, we want to see the one thing that very few of them manage to capture (and the ones that do are the ones we'll actively seek out and purchase ourselves before reviewing them). Originality, a new take on a story theme, a new quirk, a new twist, a better way of doing something than anyone's ever thought of before. When it comes to writing, we're looking for something that makes us want to hug you with glee because you've come up with something so dazzlingly brilliant and original. When it comes to illustration, we want something that shows you've absolutely busted a gut to pour your heart and soul into it in a way that makes us gasp in awe. That sounds like a lot to ask for doesn't it? But some of you out there manage it, and more than once too!

Our ten biggest turn-offs in self published children's books story themes are:

1) Cute animal stories (particularly anthropomorphic character-driven ones)
2) Overly-moral tales with a life lesson in them served like having rocks thrown at your head.
3) Pirate books. Enough with the pirates already, please!
4) "I'm your friend", "I'm not your friend", "I'm your friend again" books
5) "Stupid daddy, smart mummy" books.
6) Really appallingly written sci-fi, fantasy or superhero books for kids. Someone, anyone write a really good one and you'll corner the market!
7) Over-long stories pitched at young readers. Pick the ten best bedtime books off your shelf and time yourself reading them. That's the length you're aiming for. Longer than that, and a child's attention will wander and they'll never want to read / hear that book ever again.
8) Books that feature the protracted rhyme type. Things like "Little penny was a lovely girl. Her cheeks were red, and her hair, it did curl!" (when have you EVER heard anyone speak like that? It's like being rubbed with sandpaper then doused in vinegar!)
9) Seizing on an element of pop culture to base your entire book around. Pop culture dates quicker than cottage cheese. If you want your book to be more than a momentary distraction, build it with shelf life!
10) Stories that rely too heavily on farts, poo, wee, burps, smells, grossness etc. Works OK in the scope of a good solid story but if your book's only theme is to try and gross the reader out, it might work a little TOO well and make them want to bin the thing.

8) Ask yourself a really important question. "What do commercial books have that my book doesn't?"

Often, the answer can be summed up in one single word.


The key to a good book is an equally good editor. Authors may hate the snips and tucks that take place between their word processor and the finished book sitting on a shelf, but will often readily admit that a timely edit can make a huge difference. Illustrators too may hate the constant revisions and changes, but these edits make the difference between a rough diamond and a finished polished product fit for shelves.

If the best editing job you've ever done is a quick once-over with a spell checker, you may need to spend more time tweaking and polishing. The best advice I ever heard about writing a book was to stick that rough manuscript away in a drawer or hidden elsewhere for a couple of weeks. Dig it out 2 weeks later and read it again. If you're absolutely sure that it won't suffer a few nips and tweaks after two weeks of gathering dust, then make those changes, take the plunge and revise your work. Polish takes practice, time and effort but your book will be all the better for it.

9) E-Books must follow all the above rules and more

There's a (quite sadly mistaken) belief that producing an E-Book is a route to being able to slam together a slap-dash effort with a "That'll do" attitude. Wrong. Very very wrong. E-Books and apps are probably an even tougher market to crack successfully than traditional printed work. For starters, your audience's expectations are higher. E-Books or story apps that suffer from all the problems listed above will never withstand competition from slick commercial-quality fare available for the same price or less. E-books or story apps that don't make the best use of the platform they're designed for will often be overlooked in favour of apps that embrace design, ease of use and slick production. Slap-dash or shoddy work in the e-book arena screams "I just dashed this out to make money as quickly as possible" so put in the effort if you're brave enough to embrace the challenge of producing a tablet or kindle-friendly tale.

10) Look in the mirror, hold your work up in front of you and ask your mirror self the most important question of all...(and be honest with your answer!)

"Why are you doing this?" That's the most important question of all. What is your motive for throwing yourself head-first into producing stories for children? "To make a fortune?" - Forget it, seldom few children's authors make huge amounts of money from producing children's books - even those who hit the best sellers list and I doubt any of them would honestly answer that they went into writing or drawing children's books to make a mint from it.

"Fame?" Ugh, no one likes a vainglorious person - doubly so in children's books. If you've gone into this purely to raise your own profile and agenda, folk will see through that very quickly. We've never actually genuinely heard of anyone who isn't already famous trying to write children's books purely for the attached peripheral hero worship they may accrue as a result of writing for kids (worth making that point to some of the celebrities who think writing for children is a great way to bump their other career up a notch or two).

"Because I love telling stories" - OK we're getting nearer to an acceptable answer, but think about it. Do you really love telling stories? Are you the sort of person whose head buzzes and fizzes with story ideas every waking moment? If so, then you'll have a zillion and one brilliant and original ideas to commit to paper, right?

"Because I wrote stories for my own children / grandchildren / nieces / nephews / siblings - who love them - so other kids will as well, purely by the law of averages." - That's a pretty big assumption to make and if you work purely on that theory, you may find it takes a long time to find kids whose taste is absolutely in parallel with your own children's tastes.

"Because I've seen what commercial authors do, and I think I can do better than that!" - Owch. Again we're back to a previous point. If you truly believe that, then your work should be absolutely knock-out right?

(By the way, there's no right and wrong answer to this question but we'd certainly give more due to someone who did it for the love of it and that shone through in their work).

So...owch, there it is - another ten things to consider if you're taking the plunge with writing, illustrating and publishing a book purely off your own back. Some of these points may sound harsh, some of them might even sound nitpicky, but these are ten more things that can make or break a self-published book in the eyes of the folk who matter. Not the critics, not the people who may review or write about your book on a blog such as ours, but the folk who are out there browsing the web, or listening to word of mouth recommendations about things their child could read or have read to them next. As with our other list we cannot stress this enough, if you think you have taken all the above points (and the previous ten we raised) into consideration and can honestly, sincerely, hand on heart say that you have ticked those boxes, maybe one day we'll catch up with your book sometime and check it out for ourselves (and pay for it at that!)

Celebrate Holly Webb's 30th "Animal Stories" book for Stripes / Little Tiger with 30 days of Holly!

Come and celebrate Holly Webb's 30th awesome animal book with us!

We're still not quite sure how we managed it but we've crammed in a mammoth animal book reading session over the last month or so. What better reason to pledge to read at least 30 animal stories (other than absolutely loving animal books) than to celebrate the 30th title released in Holly Webb's brilliant "Animal Stories" for Stripes / Little Tiger.

"The Secret Kitten" by Holly Webb.
Could we really read 30 animal or animal-related books? Tough challenge? Naw, not tough at all for us - so over the past month or so, here's our list of titles which we've read (and in most cases reviewed) to help celebrate Holly's momentous achievement! In no particular order:

1) "The Special Guest" by Steve Smallman (QED Publishing)
2) "The Perfect Job for an Elephant" by Jodie Parachini and Caroline Pedler (QED Publishing)
3) "Jules and Nina Dine Out" by Anita Pouroulis and Agata Krawczyk (Digital Leaf)
4) "Cheep Cheep Pop Up Fun" (Little Tiger Press)
5) "Lily and Bear" by Lisa Stubbs (Boxer Books)
6) "Rabbits Don't Lay Eggs" by Paula Metcalf and Cally Johnson-Isaacs (Macmillan Children's Books)
7) "Catkin the Fairy Kitten" by Clare Bevan and Cally Johnson-Isaacs (Macmillan Children's Books)
8) "Chicken Mission - The Curse of Fogsham Farm" by Jennifer Gray and Hannah George (Faber and Faber)
9) "Hungry Roscoe" by David Plant (Flying Eye Books)
10) "Harry and Lil, The Hog, The Shrew and the Hullaballoo" by Julia Copus and Eunyoung Seo (Faber and Faber)
11) "Mister Mistofelees the Conjuring Cat" by T.S. Eliot and Arthur Robins (Faber and Faber)
12) "Tim and Towser" by Edward Ardizzone (Frances Lincoln Children's Books)
13) "You Can't Take an Elephant on the Bus" by Patricia Cleveland-Peck and David Tazzyman (Bloomsbury Publishing)
14) "Squishy McFluff Meets Mad Nana Dot" by Pip Jones and Ella Okstad (Faber and Faber)
15) "Beautiful Beasts" by Camilla De Le Bedoiyere (QED Publishing)
16) "Ice in the Jungle" by Ariane Hofmann-Maniyar (Child's Play)
17) "The Secret Kitten" by Holly Webb (Stripes)
18) "Fuzz McFlops" by Eva Funari (Pushkin Children's Books)
19) "I Need a Wee!" by Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet (Simon and Schuster)
20) "Felicity Fly Meets the Dragon Fruit and Friends" by Christina Gabbitas and Ric Lumb (Poems and Pictures)
21) "Missing Jack" by Rebecca Elliott (Lion Publishing)
22) "Deadly Creatures" (Usborne Publishing)
23) "Those Pesky Rabbits" by Clara Flood (Templar Publishing)
24) "The Great Cheese Robbery" by Tim Warnes (Little Tiger Press)
25) "The Dog Detectives in an American Adventure" by Zoa and Monika Suska (Maverick Publishing)
26) "Never Tickle a Tiger" by Pamela Butchart and Marc Boutavant (Bloomsbury Publishing)
27) "The Hide and Scare Bear" by Ivan Bates (Templar Publishing)
28) "Lemur Dreamer" by Courtney Dicmas (Templar Publishing)
29) "Tales from Acorn Wood - Rabbit's Nap" by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler (Macmillan Children's Books)
30) "Don't Chew on the Royal Slipper" by Kate Leake (Alison Green Books)

PHEW! That's quite some reading list, and I am sure there were more - but when you read 3 or 4 (or sometimes more) books a day, it's very easy to lose count.

Lucy the Poorly Puppy - Another huge favourite of Charlotte and her classmates at school. 

Holly Webb's 30th Animal title "The Secret Kitten" is out now from Stripes / Little Tiger and you can find out more about Holly's "Animal Stories" range on the Little Tiger website.

Squishy McFluff Meets Mad Nana Dot by Pip Jones and Ella Okstad (Faber and Faber)

Squishy McFluff Meets Mad Nana Dot

Written by Pip Jones

Illustrated by Ella Okstad

Published by Faber and Faber

The invisible cat is back and this time he's naughtier than ever! "Squishy McFluff Meets Mad Nana Dot" is the third adventure for Squishy and his extremely mischievous owner Ava. Regular 'Squish' fans will know that Squishy is Ava's invisible (imaginary) friend, and often encourages Ava to do the naughtiest things.

Ava's long suffering mum has a rather large tummy and am imminent new arrival means that Mum and Dad must dash off to hospital, packing Ava and Squishy off to stay with Mad Nana Dot. A lovely short-sighted but well meaning old lady, Dot thinks nothing of playing house host to Ava and her moggy though without her glasses she's never quite sure whether she can see Squishy or not.

Ava and Squishy don't take long before they're up to their usual tricks (as if filling the shed up with water wasn't naughty enough). A trip to the hairdresser's for Nana spells disaster and there's also a narrow squeak at the fishmongers too!

We laughed rather guiltily all the way through this - if you're the sort of parent who gets rather sniffy about books that highlight, nay almost encourage terrible behaviour in your younglings then look away, this will turn your hair white not green!

(Kids love it though, anything that allows them to live vicariously through a mischievous character usually ticks all their boxes!)

Charlotte's best bit: Almost from start to finish, Ava and Squishy's naughty tricks had her snorting with laughter (though I'm rather glad Charlotte is nothing like Ava at home!)

Daddy's Favourite bit: Please please PLEASE don't try the hair chemical mixing thing at home!!! Not even if your invisible cat tells you it's OK!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Faber and Faber)

Like this? We think you'll love these too!

Squishy McFluff the Invisible Cat by Pip Jones and Ella Okstad (Faber and Faber)

Squishy McFluff in Supermarket Sweep by Pip Jones and Ella Okstad (Faber and Faber)

Monday, April 13, 2015

Tell me A Picture - Adventures in Looking at Art by Quentin Blake (Frances Lincoln Children's Books)

Tell Me a Picture - Adventures in Looking at Art

Compiled by and with illustrations by Quentin Blake
Illustrated by various artists

Published by Frances Lincoln Children's Books

Pictures and paintings can tell a story without a dot of text or an explanatory paragraph. We know this from our visits to one of our favourite local destinations - the astonishing Ashmolean Museum, which we're lucky enough to have easy access to. Wandering through the amazing gallery in the museum, we often play the same game that the children in Quentin Blake's "Tell me a Picture - Adventures in Looking at Art" do.

Quentin Blake oversaw an exhibition at the National Gallery while serving as the first children's laureate back in 2001. The exhibition gathered together classic and contemporary art from artists and children's book illustrators with the intention of sparking conversation and encouraging exploration of art in a way that really appeals to us. Though Charlotte's more of a science geek, sharing a house with me means that she's been slowly introduced to art most of her young life and hopefully my rather ham-fisted attempts to get her interested in art might rub off on her later on (She's already far better at drawing and painting than I am, not constrained by the daft self-imposed rules some adults cling on to when they start putting pencil to paper).

Quentin's characters explore the gallery of work from wonderful artists like Gaudi, Emma Chichester-Clark and John Burmingham, passing comment on each work in ways that will spark your own children's interest and curiosity.

It's a fantastic idea to revisit Quentin's original project and put it together in a glorious hardback book. If you (like us) love all things arty, and love encouraging your children to follow the same path then this is definitely not to be missed.

Charlotte's best bit: Fascinating X-Ray work on a painting to reveal a hidden painting underneath

Daddy's Favourite bit: A truly awesome collection of art from some of our favourite artists, wrapped up in a book that just begs to be explored

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

Friday, April 10, 2015

Hugely egg-citing news as Pat Hutchins legendary book "Rosie's Walk" gets a chick-tastic sequel coming on May 7th from Hachette!

Rosie's Walk by Pat Hutchins. Sheer picture book perfection!

We're very excited about this book, can you tell?

"Rosie's Walk" is an utterly fantastic and legendary children's book by one of the most amazingly talented children's authors in the world, Pat Hutchins. Pat's tale of an unassuming hen out for a brisk constitutional is a masterpiece of storytelling as we see a wily fox succumb to cruel karma in various comedic ways as he tries to pounce on the hen as she passes by. I fell in love with this book as a tiny wee whippersnapper and couldn't wait to share it with Charlotte when we found a copy nestling between the stacks in our local library. Know what? It's still as fantastic today as it was all those years ago (and you've gotta love that groovy 70s artwork, maaaan!)

News that a sequel was coming had us checking and double-checking our peepers. A sequel? From Pat herself? Are you KIDDING?

No we're not, and in fact here is the awesome cover of "Where oh where is Rosie's Chick"...

Where oh Where is Rosie's Chick by Pat Hutchins.

Hachette have very kindly sent us a brilliant interview with Pat herself, including some insights into her fab art technique revisited here for the new book.

On the original inspiration: ‘I lived in New York for two years with my husband, Laurence. I couldn’t work whilst I was out there because I was a “secondary alien” according to the US government. This was actually great because it gave me the time to concentrate on my illustration. I wanted to write a book about animal noises, which I took in to see a publisher, who pointed out that the most interesting character was the fox who said nothing. I went home and thought about that and from there sprung Rosie’s Walk – the name Rosie is a friend’s pet hen when I was young. I envisioned the book as a sort of silent, funny, film, one where the audience or readers are in on a secret that Rosie doesn’t know – a ‘he’s behind you!’ idea. It’s special not only because it was my first book, but because I had my first son on the same week that the book was published!’

On Rosie’s distinctive palette: ‘I used a ‘pre-separated’ art technique which starts as black and white, and then you layer over different sheets of different colours on top. That’s where Rosie’s Walk’s palette comes from – so obviously for the orange, I layered over red and yellow… When I began Where, Oh Where, is Rosie’s Chick? I was going to include some blue, but it didn’t seem right.’ On returning to Rosie 47 years after initial publication: ‘I only wanted to re-visit Rosie if the story made sense – I didn’t want to create something just for the sake of it. But Rosie having a chick makes sense, and always gives Rosie a way to have another walk without just repeating the same story.’

On the success of Rosie’s Walk: ‘I only lived in New York for two years, so it’s funny that the book is sometimes seen as an American book. I did include a woodchuck in the book for the American audience… It was a lovely surprise when the book was successful so quickly – I was thrilled with my £250 for writing the book, I didn’t expect anything else! It’s really very nice that it’s still read and enjoyed today.’

About Pat Hutchins: Pat Hutchins was born Yorkshire, the sixth of seven children. She won a scholarship to Darlington School of Art in 1958 and continued studying illustration at Leeds College of Art, graduating in 1962. She worked for advertising agency in London to 1966 when she married Laurence Hutchins and moved to New York City for two years. There she worked on writing and illustrating her first picture book, Rosie's Walk, published in 1968.

Pat Hutchins has written novels for early readers, some illustrated by husband Laurence and more than two dozen picture books. Her work is widely acclaimed; she won the Kate Greenaway Medal in 1974 for The Wind Blew.

Pat Hutchins also played the role of an artistic narrowboat owner in the classic children's television series, Rosie and Jim. She has two children and four grandson

ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week Ending 10th April 2015 - "Rosie Revere - Engineer" by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts (Chronicle Children's Books)

Rosie Revere, Engineer

Written by Andrea Beaty

Illustrated by David Roberts

Published by Chronicle Children's Books

We have heard so many great things about this book, and have seen just about every book blogger on the planet explode with sheer joy at the very mention of "Rosie Revere - Engineer" by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts, that we thought it was about bloomin' time we grabbed ourselves a copy and dived in headfirst.

We love Andrea Beaty's "Doctor Ted" for its outrageous and chaotic comedy, and we adore David Roberts' artwork from his reworked fairy tales to his awesome Dunderheads. So would we love this book as much as everyone else?

We do, you see Charlotte often visits work with mummy - and mummy works for a very busy engineering department for a huge University. Though the people mummy works with are probably more suited to Andrea and David's other divine book along similar lines, "Iggy Peck - Architect" (Which we also picked up and will be reviewing at a later date), the girls who come to study Engineering at mummy's work would absolutely love Rosie.

One of the many gorgeous spreads in "Rosie Revere - Engineer" celebrating the awesome women who took to the skies in the early pioneering days of flight.

Charlotte is fascinated by machinery and finding out how things work, and young Rosie is the same. She can turn a worthless pile of junk into a marvellous mechanical contraption. She can draw up a diagram of an astonishing invention to work around a problem. But Rosie's inventor life hasn't always been easy. After a rather cruel rebuttal at the hands of a daft old zookeeper, Rosie's confidence takes a knock but when she meets her inspirational Great Aunt Rose, has she finally found someone to encourage and understand her inventiveness?

Rosie sets out to impress her Great Aunt with a super-duper flying machine but the path to greatness doesn't always run smoothly, and even Rosie's wonderful great-auntie finds her contraptions more of a giggle than groundbreaking.

Is this the final straw to make Rosie throw in the towel?

A pile of junk is ripe for inventive minds!

You'll have to read the rest of this wonderful story to find out whether Rosie's resolve and determination win the day. This is a truly impressive and empowering book that will make your heart soar with inspiration. Andrea's rhymes might bend the rules in places but this is a rollicking read as your spirits lift and dive with each of Rosie's triumphs and setbacks.

A truly wonderful book creation, engineered to the highest quality!

Charlotte's best bit: Rosie's determined chin - not a million miles away from a certain other little girl's!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Utterly spellbinding and brilliant, the perfect book for little girls and boys who'd much rather turn a pile of lego into their next great creation than slob out in front of the TV or the tablet. Rosie ROCKS!

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Zephyr Takes Flight by Steve Light (Candlewick Press)