Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Hug Me by Simona Ciraolo (Flying Eye Books)

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Hug Me

Written and Illustrated by
Simona Ciraolo

Published by Flying Eye Books

As we bask in the last vestiges of sun and look forward to the onset of Autumn (my favourite season by far) it seems odd to be thinking about the hot desert, and the plants that eke out an existence there.

Simona Ciraolo's gorgeous debut for Flying Eye Books, "Hug Me" puts a spiny spiky little cactus fellow front and centre as its core character. Now, making a cactus appear cute and cuddly is no mean feat but Felipe is adorable. But why won't anyone hug him?

His family and friends are even spikier (and even bigger) than he is. There are standards to be maintained, appearances to be kept up - and it's just not the done thing for cactii to go around cuddling everyone.

Hope rises in Felipe's eyes as bold bright and brash new friend appears - But a cactus can never be friends with a balloon, so after a near miss, Felipe feels he has no choice but to head out into the big bright world to see if he can find a new family (and perhaps a big spiky cuddle or two).

Felipe leads a lonely existence at first - but eventually something happens to completely change his world...

You'll have to read the book, of course, to find out what happens to Felipe. "Hug Me" is another adorable and highly polished story to add to Flying Eye Books' utterly brilliant collection. It got us thinking that we'd really love a plushy Felipe to cuddle, or at least a chain mail suit to cuddle our favourite cactii at home just in case they need a hug or two.

Charlotte's best bit: The end-papers at the back of the book are just too cute for words! Utterly adorable!

Daddy's Favourite bit: What a lovely little book, absolutely stunning and heart-meltingly gorgeous!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Flying Eye Books
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Monday, September 29, 2014

Little Big Boubou by Beatrice Alemagna (Tate Publishing)

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Little Big Boubou

Written and Illustrated by
Beatrice Alemagna

Published by Tate Publishing

"What IS Boubou?" Charlotte asked when we first started reading through this book. We discussed at length what we thought this funny little (sorry BIG) creature was. He has a pig's nose but he's not pink. He looks a little bit like a hedgehog but has no spines. We settled on him being a little monster though he is anything but monstrous in behaviour.

Beatrice Alemagna's perfect observations of toddler behaviour form the foundations of an entertaining and easy story of a little creature growing up. We take a sneaky peek at Boubou's daily routine, what he likes to do when playing or when in school. We came to the conclusion that Boubou was a boy, because (as Charlotte wisely put it) "Boys care about being big and strong and growing up, girls don't!" (I found this infinitely amusing, do you think she's right?)

Beatrice's artwork is quite unique, with some very clever collage compositions perfectly picking up on Boubou's expressions and behaviour (and of the other peripheral characters in the story).

A bold and colourful book again underlining Tate's commitment to publishing children's books that feel fresh and original.

Charlotte's best bit: Charley's visit to the dentist. Rinse please!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Brilliant fun for tiddlers, beautifully illustrated and told

(Kindly sent to us for review by Tate Publishing)
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Cataclysmic Comic Making! We pit "Write and Draw your Own Comics" (Usborne) against "How to make Awesome Comics" (David Fickling Books)

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VS

We love comics. You probably already know this, and we love anything that can help us to make our own cool comic creations. 

With exquisite timing, two utterly brilliant and fantastic books have arrived that can turn you into a comic-creating genius. But, as Harry Hill would say - which is best? There's only one way to find out - FIGHT!!

Round 1 - BIFF!


Reading "Write and Draw your Own Comics" from the tip-top talented team of Louie Stowell, Jess Bradley, Neill Cameron (Wait a cotton-picking minute here, how busy is this guy?), Freya Harrison and Laura Howell (plus a few other mondo Usborne-y folk) we started work defining our characters. 

In the red corner, Daddy (in typical style) came up with...BOTTOM FACED FISH MAN

Bottom Faced Fish Man - Stand upwind of him, he's a bit of a whiffer

(as Charlotte decided that we were going to do an underwater mermaid-ey tale). BFFM is 127 years old, can direct wee, poo and farts as his superpowers, is susceptible to shiny loo roll and flat bubble juice (this is what Charlotte calls Lemonade) and he ultimately wants to get rid of girly mermaids, blech!

In the blue corner, Charlotte came up with...RAINBOW AND DIAMOND, MERMAID SISTERS!

Charlotte drawing Rainbow and Diamond
Rainbow and Diamond are both 13 years old and love partying at the underwater cafe. Their super-powers are special Rainbow and Diamond swords that fire - yes you've guessed it - Rainbows and Diamonds! They have no weaknesses (hey, wait a minute! How is THAT fair!) and they want bubble juice and to have a fantastic time under the sea. 

Round 2 - POW!

We swapped over to Neill Cameron's "How to Make Awesome Comics" from David Fickling Books. Neill, awesome artist and writer at The Phoenix Comic, has put together a superb book full of astonishing tips, groovy artwork and a ton of insider knowledge to make your comic creations pop, pop, POP!

We looked to Neill's book to start building our comic's title frame, and set the scene a little...

"The Lovely Mermaids vs Bottom Faced Fish Man" - The next zillion seller from ReadItDaddyMondoComics
"How to make Awesome Comics" is almost like reading an awesome comic in its own right, with the sort of artwork that makes us green with envy at Neill's skills. Real practical advice shows you how to keep things simple at first, don't overcook your characters or art so we took this advice to heart and started drawing together. 

"Wait a minute Daddy, you need to read a bit more, your character is RUBBISH!"
Panel one started to spring to life before our eyes...

Charlotte busies herself making her lovely mermaids royally rock but who's that lurking in the corner?

Round 3 - Kra-KOOOM!

Back to "Write and Draw your Own Comics" - we dipped into Louie Stowell and her comic collective's brill tome to jazz up our panels a little with some of the fantastic stickers designed to compliment your own strips. Speech bubbles, sound effects and other cool stuff are in there to get you off to a flying start (so even if you're really rubbish at drawing - like me - or great at drawing - like Charlotte - you'll have some brilliantly drawn additions to add to your own work). 

Hey, those farty stickers are very useful!
We were a bit ropey at planning out a story so kept it simple, with an all-out battle between Bottom Faced Fish Man and Rainbow / Diamond for supreme rule under the sea...

Bottom Faced Fish Man - does anyone have a breath mint?

Round 4 - Za-FOOM!

Back to "How to Make Awesome Comics" for a few lessons on polishing up your backgrounds and applying the all-important polish to the story as it emerges from our simple grid. 

Charlotte spent a lot of time perfecting hairstyles but said "Why hasn't Neill's book got more girl hairstyles in it!" (Eeps!)
One thing we did realise early on is just how LONG it all takes if you're amateurs like us, and so it's a very good idea to put aside plenty of time and even if you haven't got the best bunch of art materials in the world, work as big as you can too because we were always running out of room in our tiddly panels (we were drawing in a fairly big A3 pad but you might even want to go bigger than that if you can!)

Some truly awesome drawing tips (I need them, Charlotte doesn't!)

Round 5 - The Verdict - Which book is best?

We absolutely loved the spiral-bound "lay-flat" presentation of "Write and Draw your Own Comics" (believe me, having a book that lays flat without needing to break the spine is a real boon when you're using it in the way we were). Having sets of stickers to use was fun too, and it's so full of brilliant advice (even stuffed into the margins) and great artwork and presentation, that we couldn't fault it at all. On balance, this would be the perfect book if your children are slightly younger, and haven't had a go at creating comics yet. There are so many nifty little tips and shortcuts in it that will get them off to a cracking start. 

But we absolutely loved "How to make Awesome Comics" too, because Neill's sense of humour and truly brilliant eye for detail comes across from every page. This is cool comic making, from a master of what he does. Breaking things down into chapter-like sections, and drawing on all the fabulous advice we've been loving in The Phoenix Comic's "Comic Creation" features that they run occasionally meant that we were on familiar ground. This is also a book that I keep sneaking off and reading myself, just to try and pick up some useful tips to buff up my own artistic skills (meagre as they are).

So which is better, Charlotte? Perhaps Minnie Mouse can help decide. 

Both Charlotte and I found both books too durned good to declare an outright winner, and you know what that means don't you - With Christmas coming up and comics becoming more and more high profile as a means to getting kids interested in art, creativity, writing and literacy, it's a very very good idea to buy both! In fact just do that! Do it, because you'll have a heck of a lot of fun, cackle like drains (like we did) and find the hours slide by so quickly! Can't make a higher recommendation than that!

Our heads were spinning like Bottom Faced Fish Man's trying to choose between this pair of absolute crackers!

"Write and Draw your Own Comics" by Louie Stowell et al is out on 1st October from Usborne Books. 

"How to make Awesome Comics" by Neill Cameron is out now, from David Fickling Books. 

"The Lovely Mermaids vs Bottom Faced Fish Man" is...er...currently being finished off (we did tell you it took a long time to draw comics) so we might catch up in a future article and show you what happened at the end :)

Charlotte's comic making skills are top notch! Snap her up now before Marvel or DC do!

(Huge huge HUGE thanks to Usborne Books and David Fickling Books for sending us such a brilliant and inspiring pair of awesome resources to buff up our comic-making skills with!)
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A Dog Day by Emily Rand (Tate Publishing)

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A Dog Day

Written and Illustrated by
Emily Rand

Published by Tate Publishing

Ooh I say! New books from Tate are always well received at home, but here's a doggy tale that - despite several spirited readings - I couldn't get Charlotte to love as much as I did. Perhaps it was the rather brave move to produce a book in fantastic monochrome line-work. Perhaps it was just that Charlotte was a bit too old to take the tale at face value, or too young to pick up on the clever parallels between dog and toddler behaviour. But I persevered and carried on. It's been a while since a book has divided our opinions as much as "A Dog Day" but let's dip in and find out a bit more.

"Dog Day" follows the adventures of one of my favourite breeds of dog. A wire-haired terrier, excitable and full of energy, can't wait to get his lead on and go out for a lovely stroll with his master.

But his master has other ideas. As they pass by the terrier's favourite place (the park), and then pass by the entrance too, our poor doggy hero groans inwardly as his owner heads towards the local shops.

Boring! Very very boring!

The owner can't resist nattering to everyone, leaves the poor terrier moping outside in shops where dogs aren't allowed - and then has the audacity to have a long lazy lunch within a hare's breadth of the greenery and expanse that the poor dog wants to run around on (Charlotte did actually like Emily's illustration on this spread, the poor dog looks so miserable, poor thing!)

I love mono artwork, I think it lends itself to focusing the attention on tiny details, lends a comic-strip 'flatness' to artwork and Emily's hugely detailed and fun illustrations feel fresh and original (as you'd expect from any book finding its way onto Tate's catalogue!)

So why did Charlotte find it so tough to like? I must admit I'm completely baffled as I really did think it was brill myself - and quite fun to imagine Charlotte as a toddler having the same inner voice when I used to wheel her around the supermarket in a trolley, or take her around the shops in her wrap.

"A Dog Day" by Emily Rand is out on the 2nd October 2014 from Tate Publishing.


Charlotte's best bit: The poor dog's frustration at getting SO CLOSE to the park, and yet so far while his owner scoffs lunch!

Daddy's Favourite bit: A fantastic look, a rather nicely woven tale that parallels what it must feel like for a toddler being dragged around the shops by mum or dad. I really liked this but Charlotte wasn't impressed, oh dear!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Tate Publishing)
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Friday, September 26, 2014

Prankenstein by Andy Seed (Fat Fox Books)

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Prankenstein

Written by Andy Seed

Illustrated by Richard Morgan

Published by Fat Fox Books

With a good dose of dark humour that put us in mind of David Walliams or Roald Dahl, Andy Seed's first book for Fat Fox Books, "Prankenstein" is a funny and original story that veers between a detective novel and a knockabout chaotic caper.

Soapy Thompson is an ordinary boy, but extraordinary things keep happening to him and his family. Strange things keep going wrong but after Soapy's beloved Granny ends up propelled through the roof of the house after her stairlift is tampered with, it's the last straw.

Soapy and his friends decide to set themselves up as detectives to find out just who is lurking in the shadows, causing mischief and mayhem wherever they go.

Andy Seed has struck a chord here, tapping into a genre that seems to have slipped out of favour, and is woefully under-represented in children's literature - that of the child detective. Growing up with books like the Famous Five and the Secret Seven, and moving on to more grown up fare like the works of Dashiell Hammett and the awesome Malcolm Pryce, I thought that "Prankenstein" set up an envious collection of characters and situations that should attract kids who crave something a little different (even a little more noir) than standard comedy stuff they're used to.

That said, it wasn't for Charlotte. Possibly it was too old for her, possibly it was a bit boy-centric (though Soapy's friends are a good diverse mix as are the cast of characters - and who doesn't love a good monster thrown into the mix). Charlotte passed this one up so it was up to me to take a closer look.

It's obvious that Andy's previous job seems to have stood him in good stead. As a primary school teacher he picked up on and became well-versed in observing child behaviour, tapping into what makes them tick and most importantly what makes them laugh. It shows through in Prankenstein and though younger children might find it all a bit spooky in places, it's a good all-round rollicking read setting up perfectly for more.

Charlotte's best bit: N/A

Daddy's Favourite bit: The sort of noir-ish detective story that takes ordinary everyday kids as its main characters, instantly giving the reader a focus to identify with. Skilfully written with great illustrations courtesy of Richard Morgan, and an impressive start to Fat Fox's broadly appealing and rapidly expanding book catalogue.

(Kindly sent to us for review by Fat Fox Books)
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ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week ending 26th September 2014 - "Shooting at the Stars - The Christmas Truce of 1914" by John Hendrix (Abrams Young Readers)

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Shooting at the Stars - The Christmas Truce of 1914

Written and Illustrated by
John Hendrix

Published by Abrams Young Readers

This very special book isn't out for a few days yet (the official release date is October 1st) but we wanted to make it book of the week, so we're sneaking in a little early with our review. In this centenary year of the start of World War 1, we've seen many books both fiction and non-fiction that have given children a valuable insight into "The Great War" and the immense sacrifice generations of soldiers made in order to achieve peace.

John Hendrix's masterful story is fictional, but based on a real event. During the first year of the war, a shaky cease fire happened during the christmas period of 1914 and this story tells the tale of a soldier, Charlie, writing home to his mother about this astonishing event.

For a few short hours no bullets were fired, no shells - and British and German forces met in the middle of no mans land. Both sides achieved a temporary detente, exchanged christmas gift, even erected christmas trees above their trenches.

One quote from the book sings out and this was the quote that Charlotte seized on. "Why can't we just go home and have peace?" - in the story this line is spoken by one of the German soldiers to Charlie. Charlotte has been listening to the various news reports on the chaotic conflict in Gaza, and because of that she could draw parallels between what's happening today in our time, and what happened 100 years ago.

War is an uncomfortable subject for parents to discuss with their children, but books like this help. Books that try to demonstrate that underneath the conflict and the high ideals there are people at ground level who repeat that line like a mantra whenever fighting breaks out or some new atrocity happens in their own back yard.

A truly stunning book, thought provoking and atmospheric. John's writing and research is deep and thoughtful, heart wrenching in places as the detente dissolves and we learn that in the years to follow the shaky truce was never successfully repeated as the horrors of war eked away at both sides and their resolve.

The illustrations too are truly special (reminding me a lot of Raymond Briggs' artwork, which is definitely no bad thing). But reading Charlie's words in the story has deep impact, deep enough to make this one of the most impressive books published on the subject of WW1 in this centenary year.

Charlotte's best bit: Learning more about the conflict after we'd read the story, going through John's exhaustive glossary of terms and well researched history of the truce itself.

Daddy's Favourite bit: A truly brilliant book in every respect that will help parents and children learn more about WW1 and the amazing truce that existed for such a short amount of time, but gave early hope that humanity could put aside conflict in the name of something better.

(Kindly sent to us for review by Abrams Chronicle Publishing)
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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Kid Presidents - True Tales of Childhood from American Presidents by David Stabler (Quirk Books)

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Kid Presidents

True Tales of Childhood from American Presidents

Written by David Stabler

Published by Quirk Books

History teaches us many things, but to truly learn about history it's often more informative to hear it told by the people who make it.

American political history is fascinating to me and in "Kid Presidents" we get to find out that even the mightiest leaders of the western world were once snot-nosed joke-telling parping and pooping kids who usually got up to no good.

A stylised collection of stories told in the words of everyone from George Washington to Barack Obama, relays a sense that truly does make you believe that anyone can become president, and deep down kids are pretty much the same all over (particularly boys) despite a relatively privileged upbringing in some cases.

Quirk have a knack of nailing the presentation of their books, and here "Kid Presidents" is tricked out with awesome cartoon caricatures of the presidents themselves, to help impart their (sometimes fantastically embellished) tales. Do we really believe that George Washington was swept off his feet by a mighty dragon just after felling his father's favourite cherry tree?

It's a brilliant mix of tongue-in-cheek humour, mixed with a dose of fact but for us it was really the presentation and the humour that won us over - and it's a great little book to chip away at as you read all the anecdotes.

"Kid Presidents - True Tales of Childhood from American Presidents" by David Stabler is out now from Quirk Books.
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Happy Launch Day for "The Whispering Skull" - Lockwood and Co's latest case from Jonathan Stroud (Doubleday Children's Books)

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The Whispering Skull

(Lockwood and Co 2)

Written by Jonathan Stroud

Published by Doubleday Children's Books

With my usual terrible timing, I bemoaned the fact that there were no really brilliant ghost stories for kids any more. I remember ghost anthologies and quite terrifying ghost collections like these when I was a wee whippersnapper...(I mean just LOOK at the cover of this typical example of awesome 70s spookiness!!)

"Ghosts, Spooks and Spectres" edited by Charles Molin

About a week after I'd typed up a huge rant about a lack of truly scary ghost stories for kids, "Lockwood and Co - The Screaming Staircase" dropped through my letterbox with a loud 'thunk' and from page 1 I was completely and utterly hooked. Here was a modern wordsmith carving out a ghostly alternative reality where ghosts roamed through the land, held back by agencies such as Lockwood's. Most importantly "The Screaming Staircase" was told from the perspective of Lucy, a girl with a heightened set of psychic powers who joins Lockwood and George to take on a truly complex and terrifying case.

By the end of the book (I won't spoil it too much, because I REALLY want you to read it) I was left breathless. Jonathan Stroud had written the sort of story I absolutely ate up as a kid, and still love as an adult, weaving a supernatural tale with tension, excitement and quite a few heart-in-mouth moments.

I couldn't wait for a sequel - and since it has arrived, I've gone through twice and am about to dive in for a third time (yes, it is THAT good). "The Whispering Skull" hails the return of Lockwood, George and Lucy - once again at odds with the flashy and thoroughly unpleasant Fittes Agency who seem to stick a size 10 boot in Lockwood's business at every turn. Despite Lockwood's optimism and verve, Lockwood and Co are once again in the doldrums after a short spell of riding on the successes of their last case.

It's going to take something truly spectacular to restore the company's fortunes, but with Fittes nipping at their heels, will they be able to put to rest the troublesome spirit of a Victorian doctor and rescue a powerful artifact before nefarious forces can bring that power to bear on London? Or will the Skull in the Glass Case (seen in Lockwood 1) have more than a coincidental impact on the agency's future?

Stroud's masterful method of injecting tension and excitement into every chapter, creating a ton of atmosphere and ghostliness, really puts him right at the top of the stack of modern writers able to carve out supernatural stories in a genre that really is making a huge comeback. His characters are brilliant (in fact I often find I love sketching Lockwood, George and Lucy just for fun purely because they are such an awesome team) and it's great to find a book series that truly puts me in mind of the fantastic fantasy and horror writers I loved when I was growing up in the 70s and 80s.

A vital addition to your collection if you love living on the spooky side of life.

"Lockwood and Co - The Whispering Skull" by Jonathan Stroud - Out Today from Doubleday Children's Books.

(Kindly sent to us for review by Doubleday Children's Books)
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The Winter Wolf by Holly Webb (Stripes / Little Tiger)

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The Winter Wolf

Written by Holly Webb

Illustrated by Artful Dodgers

Published by Stripes / Little Tiger

We've become huge fans of Holly Webb's gorgeous seasonal books, released in good time for stuffing into christmas stockings and coming with all the chilly but welcome atmosphere of a crisp snowy day.

"The Winter Wolf" is the latest book from Holly to get you in the mood for the first flurries of snow and we've been reading it for the last few days, dipping into Holly's newly created bookworld.

It tells the story of a young girl who is a little bit shy and sometimes a bit of an outsider. Uprooted from her comfy home to a dusty old house for family christmas, Amelia discovers an ancient journal kept by a boy who once stayed there.

Weaving an air of mystery and talking of times past when the boy raised a wolf from a cub, Amelia finds herself drawn into the journal's heady world of winter and wonder.

Holly has a real knack for creating brilliant girl characters that little girls (like Charlotte) instantly identify with and love to read about. Within the space of a few paragraphs, Holly draws you in until you find yourself four chapters later wondering if you're ever going to be able to put the book down!

Fans of "The Reindeer Girl" will love this new wolfish adventure, it's another christmassy classic set to melt your heart.

Charlotte's best bit: Amelia's first meeting with the big scary (but rather sweet) family dog.

Daddy's Favourite bit: Full of atmospherer, christmassyness and making us yearn for the first snows, Holly has once again woven a convincing and well-researched bookworld that will completely draw you in.

(Kindly sent to us for review by Stripes / Little Tiger Press)
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Dragon Jelly by Claire Freedman and Sue Hendra (Bloomsbury Publishing)

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Dragon Jelly

Written by Claire Freedman

Illustrated by Sue Hendra

Published by Bloomsbury Publishing

Growing up with gross books like "Fungus the Bogeyman" and "Revolting Rhymes", this is a book that absolutely sang out to me in my own language. Charlotte also has a rather worrying tendency to find grim grossness hilariously funny so when "Dragon Jelly" came along, and we started to read about the perfect monster birthday party, we were in fits of laughter.

Claire Freedman and Sue Hendra are back with this brilliant rib-tickler, but it might be worth steering clear of anything to eat a couple of hours either side of a good read.

Monster Max is having a birthday party and has invited all his fiendish friends. As with any children's birthday party, the emphasis is on fun but most importantly food - and Max's mum has cooked up a superb stomach-churning feast of monster favourites!

Eyeball cakes, termite tarts, earwig rolls, you name it and max's mum has wheeled it out for the party. But there is a piece de resistance, a finale to top all other tempting treats - DRAGON JELLY!

Super-gross visuals from Sue couple perfectly with Claire's wonderful rhymes for a tasty treat of a book that will have your tiddlers sniggering and snorting!

Pass the grasshopper and goosberry tartlets would you?

Charlotte's best monster party food creation: Rotten eggs on a cheesecake made of shaving foam!

Daddy's favourite monster party food: Octopus ink and Lark beak risotto!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Bloomsbury Publishing)
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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

My Madagascar by J Brierley and C Dolan (Austin and Macauley Publishing)

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My Madagascar

Written by J Brierley

Photos and Illustrations by C Dolan
Published by Austin and Macauley Publishing

As Charlotte begins geography lessons at school, her fabulous curiosity and thirst for knowledge extends towards learning about our world and different cultures, and what children in other countries get up to in their daily lives.

In "My Madagascar" we join the effervescent and energetic Balbini to learn all about her country, Madagascar - a large island off the coast of Africa, with its own unique animal species and hugely diverse climate and terrain.

Balbini takes us on a whistle-stop tour of her beautiful country and introduces us to the sights, sounds, food and customs there.

Lush tropical rainforests and sumptuous sandy beaches made us truly want to dive onto a plane and visit this awesome place. Balbini's enthusiasm comes across in the book's informative and descriptive text, exquisitely detailed and attractively presented with fantastic colour photos and illustrations throughout.

A fantastic way to show children that Madagascar isn't just an animated movie, it's a truly beautiful and astonishing place too!

Join Balbini and find out more about this fascinating country

Charlotte's best bit: Learning all about lovely Madagascar food and yummy vanilla, which grows on the island

Daddy's Favourite bit: A superbly presented book, really made us want to visit!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Austin and Macauley Publishing)
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Cinderella's (Not So) Ugly Sisters: The TRUE Fairy Tale by Gillian Shields and Berengere Delaporte

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Cinderella's (Not So) Ugly Sisters: The TRUE Fairy Tale

Written by Gillian Shields
Illustrated by Berengere Delaporte

Published by Macmillan Children's Books

Some children's stories are recycled so many times that they begin to fray around the edges. There are so many different versions of "Cinderella" to choose from, so it takes something truly special with a real 'twist' to it to catch our attention.

Thankfully "Cinderella's (Not So) Ugly Sisters: The True Fairy Tale" by Gillian Shields and Berengere Delaporte not only twists the story a little, it flips it right on its head in such a deliciously neat way that it made both of us sit up and pay attention. Charlotte wanted to review this one herself so here's some of the things she said about it as we read through and talked through this awesome book:

(So what did you think about the book?)

"I like it because the ugly sisters aren't ugly, they're kind and their mum is nice not evil."

(I asked "What do you think of Cinderella?")

"Cinderella is mean and unkind to the sisters, and her fairy godmother is a baddie!"

(Asking what she thought when Ella's father ran off with 'ugly sisters' mum's money!)

"Horrid man but that is why Cinderella is mean!"

(So did you like the ending?)

"I would love the sisters to be MY sister!"

That's more or less a flavour of how things went and we've tried not to spoil too many of the twists here, essentially though you will very quickly find out that Cinderella and her vainglorious father are the REAL culprits in the classic tale, and the poor Ugly Sisters (and their mother) are pretty hard done by.

Brought to life by Gillian Shields' brilliant comic timing and fabulously funny writing, with Berengere Delaporte's perfect illustrations, this is a stunning book if (like us) you feel that some favourite children's stories are all mined out. Here's proof positive that with a neat little nip, a tuck and a twist, they can come bouncing back to life as fresh and as funny as ever!



Charlotte's best bit: The happy / sad / happy ending!

Daddy's Favourite bit: One of the best things we find in writing about children's books is that there are always superb surprises and books that will take your breath away just when you start to feel a little tired and jaded of very similar stories appearing again and again. As it goes, this is a brilliant reinvention of the Cinderella tale by two extremely talented folk! Do not miss it!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Macmillan Children's Books)
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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A ReadItDaddy Early Readers / Chapter Book Round-up for September 2014

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Frankie's Magic Football - Frankie Saves Christmas (Frank Lampard / Mick Jackson / L & B Kids)

As more and more early readers and chapter books become a staple on ReadItDaddy we thought it would be a great idea to do a monthly roundup of some of the titles that have hit our doormat. 

For your football-mad kids, "Frankie's Magic Football - Frankie Saves Christmas" by Frank Lampard (with illustrations by Mick Jackson) continues the engaging series of books with a footy and festive theme. Frankie's toughest draw yet pits Frankie and his friends against a rotten reindeer, a mischievous elf and a truly abominable snowman. It'll take more than a set of snowballs to defeat that little lot!

"Frankie's Magic Football - Frankie Saves Christmas" is released by L & B Kids on 2nd October 2014. 

"The Rescue Princesses - The Ice Diamond" by Paula Harrison (Nosy Crow)


Charlotte has been absolutely crazy about "The Rescue Princesses" series by Paula Harrison since mummy used to read them to her. Now Charlotte's old enough to tuck herself away with the books, and she has been voraciously consuming them at an alarming rate of knots ever since (thank goodness there are 12 books to choose from in the series. 

The two currently on Charlotte's reading pile are "The Ice Diamond" and "The Rainbow Opal" and though Charlotte's reading them in a fairly jumbled up order, she's absolutely loving this adventurous and magical series. The books are out now and Paula is hard at work on a new top-secret project for announcement in 2015 so keep an eye out for that!

Find out more about Paula and the Rescue Princesses on The Nosy Crow website.

A Treasury of Animal Stories by Holly Webb (Stripes Publishing)
Another extremely busy and prolific lady has a huge number of books arriving this autumn and winter. As well as "A Treasury of Animal Stories" (which collects together Holly's well-loved animal tales into one bumper volume) Holly has a new wintry book "The Winter Wolf" and a touching and heartwarming new tale about coping with loss and grief, with illustrations by Catherine Rayner - "A Tiger Tale". All three are available now so check out Holly's work, we just do not know how she manages to write so many brilliant stories, there truly is something for everyone.

Lockwood and Co - The Whispering Skull (Lockwood and Co 2) by Jonathan Stroud (Doubleday Children's Books)


Last but not least, a book that I had to kidnap all to myself. Jonathan Stroud is back with a fantastic followup to "The Screaming Staircase". "Lockwood and Co - The Whispering Skull" once again plunges us deep into the darkness of an alt-London, in the company of Lockwood, Lucy and George for more spooky goings on. I'd long been clamouring for the return of the classic ghost story when the first Lockwood book arrived with a clatter of chains and an expert swish of a rapier. "The Whispering Skull" does not disappoint, it's spooky and scary stuff but wrought with Jonathan Stroud's expert eye for detail and absolutely top notch characterisations. I couldn't put it down, seriously!

"Lockwood and Co - The Whispering Skull" arrived on September 25th from Doubleday Children's Books so go grab your copy now!

That's about it for our chapter book roundup for this month. We'll be making this a semi-regular thing so if chapter books and early readers are your thing, we'll be covering more and more on the blog very soon. 
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Polly Parrot Picks a Pirate by Peter Bently and Penny Dann (Macmillan Children's Books)

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Polly Parrot Picks a Pirate

Written by Peter Bently

Illustrated by Penny Dann

Published by Macmillan Children's Books


We've seen many a pirate yarn on this 'ere blog but how about a nautical tale from the parrot's perspective? Polly (to be precise) who is getting a little bit fed up of staying around the same old island, in the same old tree, with the same old annoying monkeys to put up with. Surely there's more to the world than this?

Polly hits on the idea of adopting a pirate "pet" so that she can swan off on a ship, sail the seven seas, eat a cracker or two and find lots and lots of treasure!

It's not as easy as she thinks though, you see Polly's pirate pick is a poorly bunch at best. Most are fairly gross, some are just plain clumsy, others spend too much time looking in the mirror to even contemplate looking for treasure so what on earth is Polly to do?

She spots a calamitous sea battle going on between two of the most fearsome pirates. Redbeard and Pegleg Pete are going at it hammer and tongs, each trying to prove who is the best pirate on the briny deep. Polly thinks that the best idea will be to let the two duke it out, and then 'adopt' the winner! Hooray!

Polly gets more than she bargained for though. One of these pirates is not like the others...!

A fantastic twist to an entertaining romp of a tale, that proves that you really can never have too many pirate stories for children. You will have to read the book yourself to find out what happens to Polly - but it will definitely provide plenty of giggles and riotous uproar along the way. Brilliant stuff from Peter and Penny!

Charlotte's best bit: The twist at the end had her giggling but we won't spoil it for you! Eek!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Pacey piratical puns, parrot paraphernalia and pristine piccies! Perfecto!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Macmillan Children's Books)
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Monday, September 22, 2014

Sticker Dressing - King Arthur by Struan Reid and Diego Diaz (Usborne Books)

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Sticker Dressing King Arthur

Written by Struan Reid

Illustrated by Diego Diaz

Published by Usborne Books

The rich seam of tales surrounding the legend of King Arthur were always something I'd intended to introduce Charlotte to at some point. I thought that she'd be completely entranced by the stories of the Knights of the Round Table but the books I've got at home (Mallory's "Le Morte D'Arthur etc") are all a bit grown up. However, there are children's books out there that serve as a gentle introduction - including this latest addition to the fantastic Usborne "Sticker Dressing" range.

"Sticker Dressing King Arthur" shows some of the most famous scenes from the Chronicles of King Arthur, from the young boy pulling the sword out of the stone setting his destiny to be king of England - to later life and the formation of the Knights of the Round Table.

Each scene comes with an associated sticker sheet, so little ones can have fun sticking on clothes and accessories to the characters while reading and learning a little bit more about the legends. Naturally Charlotte was instantly drawn to the story of Arthur retrieving Excalibur from The Lady of the Lake (particularly when she found out that her uncle lives not far from Dozemary Pool, apparently the site of this particular legendary scene so I guess we'll be visiting there soon!)

The Sticker Dressing range aren't just about 'dollies' - this is a great book to serve as an introduction to Arthurian legend and we'll be looking at more Arthur stuff very soon on the blog. Stay tuned!

Charlotte's best bit: Arthur and The Lady of the Lake and The battle with The Green Knight

Daddy's Favourite bit: Gorgeously presented and a fab intro to the rich tapestry of legend surrounding King Arthur

(Kindly sent to us for review by Usborne Books)
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A ReadItDaddy Guest Post from Holly Webb, author of "A Tiger Tale" (Scholastic)

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"A Tiger Tale" by Holly Webb (illustrated by Catherine Rayner) - Out now from Scholastic Children's Books
We're handing over the blog today to an author we've admired (and read an awful lot of books by!) Holly is one of the most prolific children's authors and her latest book "A Tiger Tale" deals expertly and in child-friendly terms with the tricky subjects of grief and loss.

Over to you Holly!

I’m not surprised that you wanted to know why I chose to write A Tiger Tale! I’ve tried to describe to a couple of people recently, and it does sound very sad. 

I didn’t set out to write a sad book at all. I’d noticed over the last few years of picking up my children from school, how many of their school friends were being looked after by their grandparents, as their parents were working. Both my own sets of grandparents lived a long way away, so we didn’t see them very frequently. My own children’s grandparents are the same, although they visit often. So this very close grandparent and child relationship was intriguing – a whole different family dynamic. I’d been thinking about that for a while, and then it struck me that a grandparent who was so close, and so much part of a child’s life, would be a terrible loss.

I wanted to write about the importance of a toy, too. I had (still have) a toy polar bear that I was given aged about four. I traumatically lost my first polar bear, and my poor parents had to find a replacement identical one…I imagined a whole life history for that original bear (I used to get really worried when I saw bears on the front of dustbin lorries, thinking that might have happened to Polar One.) 

We invest so much love in special toys. Secret lives, languages, friendships (and rivalries) with other toys… It didn’t seem a huge leap for a grieving, exhausted child to think that a toy could become real. 

One of my favourite books was The Velveteen Rabbit, where the boy’s much loved rabbit has to be taken away as he’s infected with scarlet fever, but he’s turned into a real rabbit instead. Real (with a definite capital letter) is only for the most loved toys. 

The two themes came together, but I wasn’t quite sure how the story would end until a reader sent me a photo of her beautiful tabby cat. He was huge, with a tigery ruff around his neck…

I loved writing this book, but it was very emotional (I’ve been accused of making several editors at Scholastic cry…). I’m a bit worried it might be sad for readers too, but I’m hoping that it will inspire the sort of conversations I always seem to have with my children (particularly my eight-year-old twins, at the moment) on the way to school. This is such a hard subject to talk about – and to experience, obviously. I wanted to explore it, and give children a way in to thinking about something so very difficult.

Holly Webb (Photo credit © Nigel Bird)


"A Tiger Tale", with illustrations by Catherine Rayner, is out now from Scholastic Children's Books.
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Ruby and the Naughty Cats by Jane Hissey (Salariya Publishing)

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Ruby and the Naughty Cats

Written and Illustrated by
Jane Hissey

Published by Salariya Publishing

Jane Hissey's books are just the ticket as the weather begins to turn sharp, and cuddling up in the warm is the order of the day. We absolutely love her 'toy' stories, and this is a brilliant book destined to become an instant classic.

In fact, Charlotte has declared this her favourite "Old Bear" book yet (though bear isn't the central character here). It could have a lot to do with the fact that it's all about Ruby Mouse (Charlotte's favourite character in these stories) and some of the naughtiest kitties you'll ever meet.

Ruby and her friends want to play and have fun, but the five naughty cats have other ideas. Whereas Ruby, Blue and Blanket are good at playing nicely, the three cats are full of energy and enthusiasm - a little too much enthusiasm - and can't quite behave themselves.

My nan had a phrase for the sort of chaos these kitties create, bless her. She always used to look in at my room when visiting, solemnly declaring that it looked like "The Wreck of the Hesperus" (I never did discover what ship the Hesperus was, and why it wrecked so spectacularly) - but back on track, those kitties are messy, noisy and have no idea how to play nicely at all!

Ruby and the others soon get fed up with the kitties, and decide to hide out in Ruby's dollhouse for a little peace and quiet, but the cats have other ideas and paint the outside! Naughty moggies!

Can Ruby and her friends find a way to tame those wild cats?

We could spend all day staring at Jane's gorgeous illustrations (I love how Charlotte described them as "looking just like real toys!" then discovering the photo of Jane cuddling them tucked inside the book covers). Everyone will also develop a certain fondness for at least one of the kitties. I loved the mischievous ginger moggy while Charlotte favoured the rather sweet looking (but is actually anything but) kitten in a lovely dress.

A great little story, Jane is a supreme talent indeed.

Charlotte's best bit: The final spread of the book is SO CUTE! She loved it.

Daddy's Favourite bit: Jaunty writing, peerless illustrations and a thoroughly entertaining little tale, huge love for this and you'll love it too if you love Old Bear and his friends.

(Kindly sent to us for review by Salariya Publishing)
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Friday, September 19, 2014

ReadItDaddy's SECOND Book of the Week - Week Ending 19th September 2014 - "A Year of Stories and Things to Do" by Shirley Hughes (Bodley Head)

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A Year of Stories and Things to Do

Written and Illustrated by
Shirley Hughes

Published by Bodley Head

This fabulous book took me right back to my childhood. You see, "Christmas Books" when I was a wee whippersnapper usually meant things like the excellent "Fleetway Annuals" or books that you knew you'd be tucked away with for most of Christmas Day, through Boxing Day and probably beyond.

Imagine then a book that promises a whole YEAR of stories and things to do. Impossible without it weighing enough to give poor Santa a hernia! But somehow Shirley (make her a DAME already! She deserves it!) Hughes has come up with precisely this. A big satisfying and weighty tome that contains a veritable treasure trove of gorgeous things, like opening your presents on Christmas Day 365 days of the year.

Without exaggeration or flattery, there are very few authors / illustrators who could accomplish such a feat and as soon as we dipped into this book, and found stories like the sublime "Ella's Big Chance" (a book we've raved about previously on the blog!) and adorable poems to keep your little ones enthralled.

If that wasn't enough, Shirley's come up with a year's worth of utterly brilliant activities to try out with your little ones. Watch out for a follow-up piece from us very soon where we try out some of Shirley's amazing ideas ourselves (and probably get covered in glue and glitter in the process!) and if you do pick up the book yourself and make some of the things inside, we'd LOVE to see your pics as would Red Fox!

All in all this is the sort of gorgeous book we'd love to unwrap on christmas day, or for that matter at any time of the year. Wonderful!

Charlotte's best bit: Falling in love all over again with the brilliant "Ella's Big Chance"

Daddy's Favourite bit: A fantastic book that is an absolutely perfect idea for a christmas stocking stuffer, bound to keep your little ones busy way beyond boxing day. Fa-bu-LOUS!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Bodley Head Publishing)
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ReadItDaddy's FIRST Book of the Week - Week Ending 19th September 2014 - "Blown Away" by Rob Biddulph (HarperCollins Children's Books)

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Blown Away

Written and Illustrated by
Rob Biddulph

Published by HarperCollins Children's Books

Oh boy, it's doubling up time again. The first of our Book of the Week nominees for this week has been a riot, and we do love a cheeky penguin / monkey combo!

Sometimes the simplest ideas for a story can evolve, blossom and bloom into books that are absolutely brilliant. It takes a touch of magic though, that almost indefinable 'something' to turn a great idea into a truly awesome one. Such is "Blown Away" by Rob Biddulph.

Including penguins in a book is a great start. Penguins rock. Penguins seemingly have infinite capacity for comic capers and in this story Penguin plus kite equals hilarity. Like a crazy reverse-version of "The Enormous Turnip" Penguin Blue and his three pals are soon dragged off their feet by Penguin Blue's new kite. Other animals spy their plight and try to join in to stop the three hapless normally flightless birds taking off into the skies.

Polar bear, though plump and weighty, isn't up to the job. Nor is Seal or Narwhal. What happens when the friends are whisked off to sunnier climes on the powerful breeze? More to the point, how on earth will they ever get back to the icier climes when they unexpectedly land on a jungle island?

We read this, then re-read it, and again...and again and again until we'd soaked up every single gorgeous and glorious morsel of it, every tiny little detailed tweak of our funny bones that this book so expertly delivers. Rob obviously knows how to write stories to keep his three little girls endlessly amused, and it's great that it also works on my little girl (and me) too!

Fantastic work Rob, cannot wait for more!

Charlotte's best bit: Charlotte became quite obsessed by Monkey and his backstory. Though he doesn't technically appear till half way through the book, he was undoubtedly the star in her eyes (she loves his 'teeth chattering' bit when he gets stranded in the cold after stowing away!)

Daddy's Favourite bit: A simple story, turned into something quite beautifully detailed and hilariously funny. He probably gets this a lot but yep Rob, we were blown away by how great this book is!

(Kindly sent to us for review by HarperCollins Children's Books)
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Thursday, September 18, 2014

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

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Squishy McFluff - Supermarket Sweep

Written by Pip Jones

Illustrated by Ella Okstad

Published by Faber and Faber

Kids are naturally drawn to characters in books who - to put no finer point on it - get away with being very VERY naughty indeed! Vicariously, kids love 'living' a character that can do as they please, particularly when they take a child in the story along for the ride.

We've seen this as one of the key factors that pirate books are so successful. Pirates run around all day nabbing treasure, drinking (non alcoholic) vegetable drinks and generally getting up to no good.

We have been delighted by the exploits of Squishy McFluff and his 'innocent' owner Ava. Whenever Squishy is around, chaos ensues and Ava haplessly stands by as events unfold. Of course, parents knowingly nod and wink at these brilliant stories, identifying the very factor that Pip and Ella have observed so well.

But the factor is the root of the first question Charlotte asked about Squishy McFluff. "Is he real, daddy?" - and there you have to pause as a dutiful parent, wink, and say "What do you think?"

"Squishy McFluff - Supermarket Sweep" is the second outing for the daring and mischievous invisible cat (do check out our review of "Squishy McFluff The Invisible Cat" from earlier in the year). Ava and Squishy are having fun in the garden until Mum drops a bombshell. It's time to visit the supermarket, AGHHHH!

Now, at this point in the story we smiled a little as we know only too well what a supermarket trip means with Charlotte in tow. When we could pop her into a trolley it wasn't so bad, but now she insists on steering the trolley (into everything and anyone who gets in the way) and that's even before we start hunting for things to feed her with!

Pip and Ella have perfectly reproduced shopping hell. Ava thinks she's managed to wriggle out of the trip by feigning a mystery illness for Squishy, but Mum seizes on this opportunity to ask Ava to leave Squishy tucked up at home, hopefully heading off any potential supermarket shenanigans before Squishy and Ava have a chance to hatch any plans.

Loading Ava into the car, Mum doesn't realise that Squishy the Invisible and not-really-ill-at-all cat has sneaked in too, and it doesn't take long for Ava and Squishy to render the car immobile by flicking all the switches and pressing all the buttons.

A few (seething) hours later, poor mum manages to get the plans back on track and off to the supermarket they go. Surely Ava and Squishy will have worn themselves out a little. Perhaps not, as true chaos unfolds amongst the stacked tins and vegetable racks as Ava and Squishy have their very own ideas about what should go in the trolley. Out with the health foods, in with the ring donuts, lollipops and sherbet dippers! YAY!

We'll leave the story there, because you're going to love the rest and we don't want to spoil it for you. We think Ava's exasperated mum deserves a medal (or at least the phone number of an invisible cat neutering service!) and though we normally love cats very much, we're definitely not sure we'd ever give Squishy house room. There's huge potential for more books in this fabulous series (hint hint Pip and Ella) and Charlotte absolutely could not get enough of Squishy and Ava's misbehaviours (hey that almost rhymes, whoah!)

As rip-snortingly brilliant as the first book and we truly can't wait for more! Lovely work Pip and Ella!

Charlotte's best bit: She loves Squishy, which is worrying because I'm really not sure we could find house room for such a naughty invisible pet!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Chock full of subversive snort-inducing behaviour from Squishy and Ava, with so many things that'll make parents wryly nod in agreement (and probably grin a lot too!) We love Squishy, come back soon!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Faber and Faber)
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Clarice Bean, that's me! by Lauren Child (Orchard Books)

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Clarice Bean, that's me!

Written and Illustrated by
Lauren Child

Published by Orchard Books

It seems amazing to think that this wonderful book is celebrating its 15th birthday. We'd actually like to imagine what Clarice Bean would be like at 15. Would she be like her older sister, always painting her toenails or looking at posters of boys - or like her older brother Kurt, a bit of a grump with a slight whiff of socks accompanying her wherever she went? We suspect the former!

Charlotte grew up loving Charlie and Lola (and I think Soren Lorenson is a stroke of genius and by far my fave Lauren Child creation other than Batcat) but let's talk about Miss Bean and her crazy chaotic life.

Clarice's family is huge. There's Mum, Dad, older brother and sister (as we mentioned), grandad, the family moggy and oh we'd better not miss out Minal Cricket though he's possibly the most annoying little brother on the planet (nothing a plate of spaghetti hoops on the head won't sort out though!)

Clarice longs for a moment of peace and quiet, but is there truly only one way to achieve silent bliss? Being naughty enough to be sent to your room to "think things over" ?

We absolutely positively loved this book to bits. Also helps that I have a massive book-crush on Lauren (and probably on Clarice's mum too). A timely reprint of an utter classic. It does make you wonder what on earth publishers were thinking about turning this down so many times before Lauren hit paydirt with it.

Charlotte's best bit: She giggled like a drain at dad's description of Clarice as "Not exactly flavour of the month, young lady!"

Daddy's Favourite bit: An awesome snippet of family life from the perspective of a six year old. Thoroughly timless, hugely funny and something we'll undoubtedly read again and again!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Orchard Books)
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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Your Hand in My Hand by Mark Sperring and Britta Teckentrup (Orchard Books)

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Your Hand in My Hand

Written by Mark Sperring

Illustrated by Britta Teckentrup

Published by Orchard Books

An utterly charming and heartwarming little story this. "Your Hand in My Hand" is a gently lilting poetical story of parental love and care, exquisitely written and beautifully illustrated.

As the delightful verse unfolds around the world of a mouse and her mum, take a trip through the four seasons as seen from a mouse-eye view. Exploring and sharing, it's the sort of book that makes us feel like we're being tightly swaddled in the world's softest fleecy blanket, ready for winter - or dashing out into the first rays of sunshine as spring emerges from the snows.

Britta's artwork is truly lovely, a fitting accompaniment to such tightly and expertly written poetry. A real treat this!

Charlotte's best bit: Puddle-splashing with mouse and mum!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Such a delightful, charming and heartwarming book. Sure to be a huge favourite read for parents and grandparents to share with their little ones

(Kindly sent to us for review by Orchard Books)
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Mad About Mega-Beasts by Giles Andreae and David Wojtowycz (Hodder Children's Books)

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Mad About Mega-Beasts

Written by Giles Andreae

Illustrated by David Wojtowycz

Published by Hodder Children's Books

With a roar, a squeal, a screech and a squidge, here's an engaging new book for your little ones. "Mad about Mega-Beasts" celebrates a selection of big, mean and sometimes quite bizarre animals in a fun and engaging way. Giles Andreae's rhyming skills are put to the test, with pitch-perfect rhythm and vivid descriptions backing up this fact-based tome. Coupled with David Wojtowycz's fabulous colourful illustrations, it's a bounce-on-your-knee toddler classic!

We love books that pique a child's curiosity, and this is a sure-fire way to start them early as they learn all about giant squids, awesome tigers, slithery snakes and big hungry bears with seemingly endless appetites.

Marvellous!

Charlotte's best bit: Thankfully Giles saw fit to include Charlotte's favourite animal, the tiger! She loves them!

Daddy's Favourite bit: A great little animal book for your really little ones, full of brilliant colourful artwork, awesome rhymes and plenty of fun!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Hodder Children's Books)
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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Twinkle by Katherine Holabird and Sarah Warburton (Hodder Children's Books)

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Twinkle

Written by Katherine Holabird

Illustrated by Sarah Warburton

Published by Hodder Children's Books

By now, most of your little ones will be back at school - and some of them will be starting "Big School" for the very first time. It's a fairly stressful time for both parents and children but imagine if the school you were starting at was the Fairy School of Magic and Music, and your first lessons involved learning spells?

This is the story of Twinkle who is a fairy who is doing just that. Though Twinkle is popular and talented, she has a tough time summoning the skills and patience to learn some tricky magic in her first lesson. How can Twinkle remember such complicated spells?

Twinkle needs practice but even this goes awry as Twinkle breaks the sacred rule of not practicing magic after hours, and soon her fairy village and pods are woken by the calamitous sounds of magic going wrong. Poor Twinkle!

Is there a way that she can use her exquisite singing voice and musical skills to help her out with her magic?

This is what we refer to in ReadItDaddy terms as a "Charlotte and Mummy" book though I did bite the bullet and read it to Charlotte first. For girls who love all things pink, glittery and fairy-fantastic, the talented Katherine Holabird and Sarah Warburton have come up trumps with a whole new set of stories and engaging characters that children will love (yep even some of the boys rather like Twinkle and her misadventures!)

Charlotte's best bit: Lovely glittery covers and spreads and Charlotte absolutely loves maps in a book, so any book that starts off with awesome end-papers like this is off to a great start!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Fun and full of mischief and misadventure, Twinkle is bound to be a surefire success with your little would-be fairy folk

(Kindly sent to us for review by Hodder Children's Books)
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Foxy and Egg by Alex T. Smith (Hodder Children's Books)

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Foxy and Egg

Written and Illustrated by
Alex T. Smith

Published by Hodder Children's Books

Aha! So this is how it all began! We've been thrilling to the exploits of one Foxy Dubois, arch-sneak and vivacious plotter and we always wondered how this foxy sneak-thief ended up with such an unusual sidekick.

As fans of the "Foxy Tales" books will know, Alphonso the Alligator is Foxy's ever-hungry 'assistant' and Foxy constantly tries to think up new and devious ways to get rid of the scaly rotter.

But what's the backstory here? Alex reveals all in a timely reprint of the very first foxy tale - "Foxy and Egg".

Starting off with a lovely noir hat-tip, Foxy discovers an egg on her doorstep. Foxy likes eggs, in fact Foxy will eat just about everything chicken-based, so she invites this strange spotty egg inside for tea and an evening's soiree with nefarious plans of frying, scrambling and poaching in mind.

What a skinny little egg really needs is a good feed, a little music and a warm comfortable bed for the night. Foxy obliges, and has the most delicious eggy dreams (complete with toasty soldiers).

Meanwhile the egg grows, and grows, and grows! Perfecto!

Foxy doesn't quite realise at this point that there's not a chicken inside, but a big smelly hungry warty Alligator so hilarity ensues when eventually the egg cracks open and out pops Alphonso.

Charlotte has an opinion on the Foxy books. "Foxy isn't very nice!" she boldly claims. "I like Alphonso best!"

HERESY!!

I swear though, if Alex's next book doesn't involve some sort of humorous homage to The Great British Bake Off we'll feel royally cheated. His Twitter commentary on the programme is better than the dry wit voiceovers on "Come Dine with Me" and then some :)

Charlotte's best bit: Foxy trying to make good her escape in a rather smashing looking car!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Rib-tickling stuff from Alex, so good to see this reprinted!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Hodder Children's Books)
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Monday, September 15, 2014

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

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

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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)
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Friday, September 12, 2014

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

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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)
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