Sunday, December 17, 2017

Booky Advent Calendar 2017 Day 17: "Oliver Elephant" by Lou Peacock and Helen Stephens (Nosy Crow)

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Nosy Crow are really spoiling us this year with one of the strongest publisher line-ups for Christmas books. We're getting close to the big day now, with only 7 more sleeps to go and so we're celebrating with another brilliant entry on our Booky Advent Calendar.

Meet "Oliver Elephant" by Lou Peacock and Helen Stephens, the beautiful little tale of a tiny little chap called Noah and his beloved soft cuddly toy Oliver.

Oliver plays with Noah, and the two friends have fun in a huge department store while Noah, along with Mum and baby sister go Christmas Shopping.

The two friends love playing peekaboo, hiding in a dolls house and dancing on tables (not the sort of behaviour we'd encourage little ones to try out in shops, but fine for fuzzy elephants!)

When Oliver goes missing though, things take a sad turn. Will Noah ever find his best friend in the huge store? Perhaps a touch of christmas magic is required!

This is a delightful story, beautiful to tell at bedtimes as children are hopping around with excitement and need something peaceful and calming. 

"Oliver Elephant" by Lou Peacock and Helen Stephens is out now, published by Nosy Crow (kindly supplied for review). 
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Saturday, December 16, 2017

Booky Advent Calendar 2017 Day 16: "Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam: Jingle Bells" by Tracey Corderoy and Steven Lenton (Nosy Crow)

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The fabulous bakin' boys are back, and this time they're ready for a festive adventure in the latest awesome middle grade book from Tracey Corderoy and Steven Lenton.

In "Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam: Jingle Bells" the awesome pooches are all set for a festive mystery, and must pitch in to help Santa solve a terrible crime.

Someone has stolen all the christmas presents! It might take a sensitive doggy nose or two, and perhaps even a smattering of snow for these two intrepid hounds to piece together all the clues and reveal the nefarious thief! And that's just the start of their adventures as there's also a sea monster and a rather bizarre moggy to deal with too!

Three hilarious read-aloud stories give kids a head start as they make the shift from picture books to early readers, with characters that are already familiar from their many picture book adventures.

Following on from "Spooky School" and "Up, Up and Away" this is a fab festive adventure from Tracey and Steven, who have once again absolutely nailed it with a brilliant page-turning early reader book.

"Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam: Jingle Bells" by Tracey Corderoy and Steven Lenton is out now, published by Nosy Crow (kindly supplied for review). 
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Friday, December 15, 2017

ReadItDaddy's Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 15th December 2017 - "Mega Robo Rumble (Mega Robo Bros 2)" by Neill Cameron (David Fickling Books)

Our Picture Book of the Week this week may have arrived a little late but we're so glad it's here. Let's get ready to Mega-Robo-RUMBLE!!
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ReadItDaddy's Second Book of the Week - Week Ending 15th December 2017 - "Curiosity: The Story of a Mars Rover" by Markus Motum (Walker Books)

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We're quite literally shoehorning Book of the Week winners into the blog, there are just too many fantastic books around to ignore at the moment...
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ReadItDaddy's Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 15th December 2017: "Bonkers Ballads" by Colin West (Matador Publishing)

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We really couldn't be happier to see a fantastic new collection from one of our fave children's poets, the inestimably brilliant Colin West...
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Booky Advent Calendar 2017 Day 15: "The Princess and the Christmas Rescue" by Caryl Hart and Sarah Warburton (Nosy Crow)

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It's Day 15 of our Booky Advent Calendar and you know what that means? Even more christmas book loveliness - this time with the latest in the fantastic "Princess" range by Caryl Hart and Sarah Warburton.

This time we meet a mighty girl princess with a difference in "The Princess and the Christmas Rescue.

Princess Eliza isn't your ordinary everyday princess. Though she likes dresses and shoes, she much prefers a toolbox and a stack of materials to make her own incredible inventions and creations with.

Her parents despair! Why can't Eliza be a bit more...well...princessy?

They urge her to make some new friends, but her various attempts go slightly awry (gingerbread boys are notoriously slippery little customers after all!).

Heading out into the forest despite her parents' warnings, she finds a dear little cottage full of elves. These elves aren't just ordinary elves though, and they are fantastically busy making lists and wrapping presents for their unseen master.

But who is this mysterious figure? He's suffering from the flu so Eliza decides it's up to her to help these poor flustered elves to bring Christmas to all. So good are her efforts that Saint Nick finally arrives to whisk Eliza away on a fantastic Christmas Eve journey, and perhaps even deliver a special present to Eliza herself.

This is utterly magical christmas bookage in every way, from two of the most talented folk in kidlit.

"The Princess and the Christmas Rescue" by Caryl Hart and Sarah Warburton is out now, published by Nosy Crow (kindly supplied for review). 
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Thursday, December 14, 2017

I get knocked down, should I get up again? A ReadItTorial

"Come on, ReadItDaddy, let's hear your pitch!!!"
Another sneaky ReadItTorial just before we have a bit of a break (and it'll be just a 'bit' - C'mon, even hard working book bloggers need SOME time off!)

This Christmas Holiday it's going to be make or break time for my writing once and for all. Lately I've been wondering whether the whole 'getting something published' thing is ever going to happen. Time and time again I see lovely folk getting publishing deals, folk working through their SCBWI memberships and actually seeing their subscription fees proving to be worth their weight, but with any open submission calls, my wave of enthusiastic emails with manuscripts and the (sadly) eventual 'Sorry dude, you just don't got it!' emails, I'm rapidly losing heart.

That's really not a dig at anyone who has recently been signed, trust me on that. I love seeing other people get deals. No, really I do - because I'm the sort of person who knows that those people have something to contribute, will undoubtedly have that initial level of enthusiasm and gusto that the industry needs so much, and that those who have plugged away for years with their own work are more than ready for the resultant harder work to come.

But watching from the sidelines when someone gets a deal, gets ushered into that hallowed clique of 'published children's author' and suddenly transforms into something of a divine being, respected by other authors, educators, agents, illustrators, librarians and of course their intended reader audience (yep, basically all the people that matter when it comes to publishing children's books) it's hard not to feel a pang of jealousy. We're only human, after all.

As I've said in previous ReadItTorials on the subject, I don't have material reasons to want to get published - I mean what on earth would be the point in chucking away a fairly respectable career in IT to earn less than £10K per annum (which is, reportedly, what most authors struggle to make per year). No, my reasons are varied and complex, but have a lot to do with something I'll come to by the end of this post.

I've read and digested so many 'helpful' nuggets of advice on how to get published, how to win agents over, how to get to the top of the slush pile when publishers have open submissions - to the point where I'm beginning to wonder what exactly it is that folk are looking for any more? It feels like the creative explosive and yes, the chaotic elements that go towards making a children's book that truly stands out are being lost completely in a slightly comfy fuzz of 'sameyness'.

That's the bit I get really grumpy about. When I see yet another bloody dreadful 'cookie cutter' book getting published with a huge PR buzz, I shake my head and wonder how that came to happen.

I won't mention specific titles but looking ahead to our schedule for early 2018 I'm once again wondering whether half the problem I've got is that I just cannot stick to the rules of writing effectively for children - I want to write and get something published that isn't just another fluffy bunny story about having a friend, losing a friend, getting that friend back, and realising that friendship is EVERYTHINGGG.

Moral tales, more than anything else, are really beginning to stick in my craw a bit, like every story absolutely has to have some sort of lorded 'example' to live up to (note that I'm talking predominantly about picture books here, there seems to be a little less of a rule book when it comes to middle grade but again there are way too many MG books that rely on shallow laughs and extremely samey characters, I like to call this "The Walliams Effect" though that's not a dig at his work, more a dig at the many, many other books that try to follow his example to the letter).

I'm very realistic about harming my own chances of being published by not attracting an agent, and again the odds seem stacked against me there too.

I know that nearly-50-year-old baldy blokes really aren't as 'marketable' when it comes to being children's author material (sorry fellas, but we really do look horrible on most pressers don't we!)

I also know that working full time for a living leaves absolutely no time to engage with what you'd need to do in order to be your own PR when your book finally gets a green light. Nor do I have the luxury of time to sit there tweaking manuscripts, soaking up the really useful advice and feedback I've had from a select few folk who do 'get' the rules and requirements for kids books. So is there any point in carrying on trying?

Then I slap myself around the face a bit. From this year's crop of children's books, the ones that have inevitably ended up as Book of the Week winners are definitely the sort of books I'd want to emulate - or to list as influences.

More often than not their core ideas are blisteringly original, they don't try to cram a life lesson down your throat. My inner voice tells me that these books were read, edited and accepted. These books were published, have been marketed, are selling and reviewing well.


Over the last weekend I'd really made up my mind to completely jack it in. Ditch the writing, continue on with the blog as long as C was interested in it, maybe scribble a few drawings here and there and blat them out on Twitter.

But completely can the writing and the ambition to be published. If the ideas I've put out there are no good, and not attracting agent or publisher attention, they're obviously just no bloody good and that's that.

There was only one thing that stopped me from dragging all of my current manuscripts into the trash and hitting 'delete' for good and that was a purely unprompted statement from C.

"Are you still writing stories, Daddy? Because I think you should."

As hatefully cheesy as it sounds (and this had nothing to do with me ranting about the subject at all at home - I never do, purely because I have no audience whatsoever for my rants along those lines at home and I'm pretty sure I don't have one here either, but if you've stuck with me so far, I LOVE YOU).

If there's ever a reason to carry on writing, to keep trying, to never give up, it's because someone who loves, respects and looks up to you wants YOU to set them the one example that cheesy children's stories or other authors can't capture the essence of. They want to see their own parents digging the hell in and refusing to lie down and take a defeat. Get up, get back up, and get the damned job done!

So I need to be a better person than the one who momentarily took over at the weekend and got completely downhearted with the whole attempt to bring my stories to others.

I need to be strong enough to take every setback, putdown, irritating niggle about the business and drag THAT into the trash bin instead. I need to keep on keeping on, because until I'm finally unable to hold a pencil, type on a keyboard, or dream and daydream stories, I should never say I'm done. Never say I'm finished.

Well, at least until next weekend.
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Booky Advent Calendar 2017 Day 14: "Morris Wants More" by Joshua Seigal and Amelie Faliere (Flying Eye Books)

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Strange bouffant hair. Sharp suit. "I want it all" attitude and prone to childish tantrums? No this isn't a biography of POTUS, it's actually a very funny christmas book for our Booky Advent Calendar Day 14.

It's the run up to Christmas and if there's one thing Morris is sure of, it's that he wants his presents this year to be even more amazing than last year's!

So on the 12 days of Christmas, Morris' long suffering parents begin to pull out all the stops, ensuring their spoilt little diddums gets exactly what he wants.

The first present is small. That simply won't do.

The next present is larger, but Morris is sure his parents could do better. MUCH better.

So the chaos builds, as his poor mum and dad try every day to impress this fussy little 'prince' (yes, that's why he has a "P" on his badge, it's got nothing to do with being the president or anything. Oh nosirree).

By the end of the book you're wishing something rather unpleasant on this fellah - and you'll get your wish (though we were both a little disheartened to see that there's an almost happy ending).

Charlotte's favourite bit: Morris almost gets his comeuppance. Almost!

Daddy's favourite bit: Joshua knows how to write a storming slow-build of a book that rapidly descends into complete chaos as Morris' demands are met. An awesome idea, and yes we loved Amelie's rather cheeky 'homage' for sure!

(Kindly supplied for review)

"Morris Wants More" by Joshua Seigal and Amelie Faliere is out now, published by Flying Eye Books. 
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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Booky Advent Calendar 2017 Day 13 - "Winter Magic" curated by Abi Elphinstone (Simon and Schuster)

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Another glorious wintry book chock full of magic adds to our festive Chapter Book celebration and a worthy entry on our Booky Advent Calendar for Day 13.

Here's "Winter Magic", another utterly amazing anthology of stories curated by Abi Elphinstone.

Abi's own story "The Snow Dragon" tails off a superb collection of stories from some of the greats in children's literature.

Folk such as  Michelle Magorian, Geraldine McCaughrean, Jamila Gavin, Berlie Doherty, Katherine Woodfine, Piers Torday, Lauren St John, Amy Alward, Michelle Harrison and Emma Carroll contribute a wondrous mix of stories, with dragons and elves, mountains and magic and of course a wonderful dusting of festive snow.

It's the sort of book that's perfect for curling up with, armed with a huge mug of cocoa (with marshmallows of course, as Charlotte quite rightly just added!)

"Winter Magic" by Abi Elphinstone, Michelle Magorian, Geraldine McCaughrean, Jamila Gavin, Berlie Doherty, Katherine Woodfine, Piers Torday, Lauren St John, Amy Alward, Michelle Harrison and Emma Carroll is out now, published by Simon and Schuster (kindly supplied for review). 
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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Anything But Books - a blog tag-o-thon - Tagged by BexCapades

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In a break from our usual programming we're joining in a fantastic blog-tag-o-thon, and thank you V much to Bex over at for hitting us up.

So without further ado...bits from both of us!

Name a cartoon that you love

C: Powerpuff Girls, Ghibli movies, Adventure Time and Zootropolis (in fact just about anything Pixar-y)

Daddy: Oh gawd, this is a harder question than you'd think. I love classic Tex Avery cartoons (particularly stuff like Droopy or Screwy Squirrel) - Not very politically correct but they were so inventive and funny, and you never get bored watching them over and over again. I also love anime (Dirty Pair, Appleseed, Wings of Honneamise) and of course everything Ghibli and Pixar too.

What is your favourite song right now?
C: Either singing Despacito at the top of her voice, or Barbie Girl by Aqua. 

Daddy: Again too tough a question for me but I really love "Lights Out, Words Gone" by Bombay Bicycle Club and I'm utterly crazy about anything by Hooverphonic (particularly "Stranger")

What is something that your followers would be surprised at?
C: I am double jointed and can bend my elbows right back into weird angles. 

Daddy: I can skate like a diva, but only on inline skates. I am rubbish on quads or ice skates. I used to play Roller Hockey (again on inline skates) and that's about the best way to  learn how to be fast and manoeuvre your way out of trouble in a hurry.

What is your favourite, unnecessarily specific thing to learn about?

C: Maths. Maths is unnecessary, right? 

Daddy: I really want to learn how to crochet or make stuff out of wool / yarn, but I just can't seem to get the knack. I am thinking of turning to Needlefelting as that looks like it might be easier (it probably isn't!)

What is something unusual you know how to do?

C: Playing the piano. OK it's not that unusual but I can't think of anything else. 

Daddy: Aside from the skating, I make amazing pizza dough from scratch. I keep kidding myself that if my current job went sideways I could always set up a poncy artisanal pizza stall instead (and probably make four times as much I mean cash!) I can also speed read which comes in VERY handy when you run a book blog. 

Name something you have made in the last year

C: Christmas decorations, comics, a lot of amazing fashion designs and artsy stuff. I love making stuff. 

Daddy: Not sure if drawing counts, but I've drawn at least 2-3 pieces of art a day. It's all I'd do all day every day if I could. Oh and I made pizza dough this morning before work which is no mean feat.

What is your most recent personal project?

C: Making comics after Neill Cameron's excellent comics workshop at the Story Museum. There aren't enough girls drawing comics so my friend and I are going to do more!

Daddy: Writing children's stories, sucking at it, but basically having a word with myself to step back from it, breathe, re-assess 'the rules' and get back into it and really try and get something published.

Tell us something that you think of often

C: Cookies and cats. 

Daddy: My wife. Completely crazy about her, we've been together for 17 years and the last couple of years I think have been pretty tough but have just made me realise how bloody lucky I am that she's even interested in a spud-headed old goat like me. (Could probably list other stuff I think about often but that's not for this blog!)

Tell us something that is your favourite but make it oddly specific

C: Cats. Everything to do with cats. I would have a house full of cats but we can't have them where we live. Boo hiss!

Daddy: Passionate people. I love people who really just do not care what anyone else thinks, they know what they love and they will pursue that love regardless of the rest of the world. Passionate people who are almost tipping the point of being dangerous about their obsessions are the best to be around.

Whoah, well that was fun!

I'm tagging the following excellent folk: 

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