Friday, November 27, 2015

ReadItDaddy's Second Book of the Week - Week Ending 27th November 2015 - "Legendary" by Dan Green and David Lyttleton (Weldon Owen)

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The genius duo behind the awesome "Rebel Science" book are back, this time delving into myths and legends from across the globe. Here's Dan Green and David Lyttleton's "Legendary"...
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ReaditDaddy's First Book of the Week - Week Ending 27th November 2015 - "Stina" by Lani Yamamoto (V & A Publishing)

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Our First Book of the Week this week is so perfectly timed for the current weather that we want to treat it like our favourite hot water bottle and hug it close...
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Thursday, November 26, 2015

"Why do we humans feel the need to review things?" A ReadItDaddy Editorial

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Humans. Strange beasts aren't we? In our consumerist society we have so many methods of providing feedback to anything or anyone we purchase something from or have been supplied a product by.

Amazon reviews, customer surveys, even word of mouth all contribute to a mass dissection of our collective opinions on 'stuff' and of course the whole crux of writing and contributing to a children's book blog revolves around writing something that may convince or steer away others from grabbing the book, comic or product you're imparting your wisdom and experience on.

Sometimes I still feel a weird sense of guilt about trying to do so when it comes to things we've been sent 'for free' - and I still feel a bit uneasy about the whole 'parent blogger' thing of reading a piece of ringing praise for something that you know wouldn't perhaps garner such a positive response if you had to pay out your own hard earned cash for it.

It is slightly easier with books than juice drinks, admittedly. Anything that is underpinned by your own personal tastes can go either way, eliciting a positive or negative response that others may or may not agree with but it's still sometimes good to find yourself in a position where, despite a good case being made, you hugely disagree with someone over a particular book.

One recent title we reviewed really did fall into the cliched "Marmite" category. Both Charlotte and Mummy loved it. I just couldn't get on with it at all on any level and it was a great cause for debate for quite some time. I'm a complete wussbag when it comes to things like that so I always buckle under the majority vote (and with two girls at home calling the shots, it's always the best bet to tuck your chin in and go with the flow unless you really like long-drawn out arguments! I do have a stubborn streak but where Mummy and Charlotte are concerned, it often comes to naught!)

But returning to the question, why do we humans feel the need to review things? I feel like I've been doing it since time began - initially writing videogame reviews (don't bother searching for any, they're terrible!) and realising that writing about videogames really does bring out the very best and worst in people (and sometimes the worst in yourself).

Children's books are a lot easier to write about, the whole community is entirely different, nice people are everywhere and though there are arguments and counter-arguments that the children's publishing industry is female-dominated and that could well be the reason it's a much nicer place than the videogames industry, that's a debate for a separate editorial!

For us it's the chance to share something with others, to build a sort of 'You liked this? Me too!' rapport with other lovely book folk or in some cases, to get into a well-reasoned debate or discussion about why a particular title didn't hit the mark for us (or you).

It's also partly a reward for a job well done. In instances where we've written something nice about someone's book and they've responded saying they like what we wrote, the reward is double-sided and it means a heck of a lot to know that someone whose work you've evaluated has responded in kind.

We put a lot of effort into what we write, and sometimes I think that gets lost in the assumption that because we write a lot of reviews, we do so without thinking about the content. Each review, drawn from mental and scribbled notes of our shared experience during readings, often may look fairly short and concise on the blog page but will be the end result of a lot of trial and error. I came to the conclusion that anyone who manages to get their child to write reviews that are pleasurable to read and informative really has a prodigy on their hands because even now, with Charlotte old enough to pick up the keyboard and peck out reviews herself, the end results wouldn't really cut the mustard. It seems to be far more easy to distil a verbal discussion into a review than it would to watch a child put together a readable review, marrying what they're thinking to what they're typing.

(That's not to say I write pleasurable readable copy every time. You can probably tell when it's been a long day or a book has been a bit of a chore to get through!)

So in answer, we review because we love those moments when reviews receive any kind of feedback - even if it's just in passing and we also love to write about books and later hear that someone has taken our recommendation seriously, has purchased a book, and has loved it as much as we have. Yep that makes it all worthwhile really and that's why we'll carry on...
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ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book Roundup - November 2015 with loopy robots, annoying parents, astonishing animagii, superb submariners and inquisitive Alices

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Ah November, that noble month that comes in with a bang (of fireworks) and goes out with an even bigger bang as we start counting down to Christmas (like we haven't been doing that since July!). So what's in our treasure trove of chapter books this month? All manner of awesomeness, that's what.

We start off this month by taking a look at the third book in Jon Scieszka and Brian Biggs' brilliant "Frank Einstein" series. In "The BrainTurbo" Frank and his artificially unintelligent pals Watson, Klink and Klank are on a new science quest to tap the power of the human body. Again, going directly up against arch rival T. Edison, Frank will have his work cut out as everything seems to be going haywire!

This series is an utterly brilliant mix of science fiction and science fact, peppered with Brian Biggs' fantastic diagrams and illustrations to sneak in a bit of book learning by tapping into children's imaginations. Utterly brilliant! "Frank Einstein and the BrainTurbo" is out now from Abrams Young Readers.

After all that banging and clanking, we're straight back down to earth with a subject that most children will wholly identify with (yes, even Charlotte!)

Pete Johnson's "My Parents are Driving Me Crazy" is a hilarious new book from an awesomely talented chap, with a penchant for being able to see life from a child's point of view. Riddled with delicious humour and sly pokes sideways at parents, it's utterly rib-tickling stuff as we meet Louis, long suffering star of Pete's book series (see also "How to train your parents" and "My parents are out of control" for more of Louis' adventures). This time Louis has just about had enough, and starts thinking up devious plans to thwart his parents' interfering and annoying behaviour. Send help, because we think Louis has a real job on his hands.

Fans of Tom Gates and David Walliams are going to absolutely love Pete's book series, dive on in as "My Parents are Driving Me Crazy" is out now from Award Publications.

So what can we tempt you with next? A book that's purely for older readers now, a series that's about to be turned into a zillion dollar Hollywood movie by none other than the master of darkness himself, Tim Burton. It's time to visit a very peculiar home indeed...

"Miss Peregine's Home for Peculiar Children" by Ransom Riggs instantly grabbed my attention when it was first released a few years ago by innovative publisher Quirk Books. They've gone from strength to strength, publishing some of the most darkly delicious books on the market and the "Miss Peregrine" series is now on book 3. Open up "Library of Souls" and you'll be once again drawn into a parallel world that is inescapably fused with ours, that crosses the boundaries of space and time as young Jacob Portman discovers more about the legacy left to him by his Grandfather, that of the secrets of the "Peculiar Children", kids with very special abilities that now hold the key to saving the world from dark and evil forces closing in on our heroes as they take flight.

With over 50 new "peculiar" photos (each book contains amazing and quite often disturbing altered photos of the various characters), this really isn't one for kids but teens and adults should definitely read the books way before the movie hits. Utterly entrancing stuff, pouring on the thrills and scares even more than the previous books and rounding off the series (while still leaving me wanting more!)

"Library of Souls (Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children Book 3) is out now from Quirk Books.

Have we got time for any more? You just know we have. Time for a stunning version of a classic tale of action and suspense...

"20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" by Jules Verne - with this edition stunningly illustrated by William O'Connor is a sumptuous and luxurious new hardback edition from Sterling Illustrated Classics. The story of Captain Nemo, scourge of the deep, and his quest to rid the world's oceans of "plunderers and pirates", it's astonishing to think that this book was first published in 1870, and set the tone for many science fiction and fantasy books to follow.

With over 70 truly amazing illustrations from William O'Connor, picking out Nemo's watery world in a really gorgeous steampunk style, this is probably one of the best editions of Jules Verne's incredible tale that we've ever seen.

"20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" is available now from Sterling Publishing.

One more? Still mulling over which version of a particular well-loved classic to pick up in its 150th anniversary year? There's always room for one more Alice...!

"Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass" by Lewis Carroll with classic illustrations by John Tenniel has just been reprinted in the Barnes and Noble Leatherbound Collector's Edition version (which up till now has been fetching a pretty penny second hand as it really is the definitive version IMHO).

Now you can pick up your own copy of these two stunning stories, picked out in a silver-edged hardback edition absolutely perfect for celebrating Alice's 150th year. The classic tale of that inquisitive little girl and her amazing adventures in wonderland has never looked better than in this version, complimented perfectly by Tenniel's stunning illustrations which set the bar very high for any other illustrated versions to follow. We have so many different versions of this book at home but this is by far our favourite so if you're really puzzling over which version is best for your bookshelf, puzzle no further!

"Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass" is available now from Barnes and Noble Publishing.

Phew, shall we call that a wrap? Look out next month for a seasonally flavoured edition of our chapter book and early readers roundup. Crack out the mulled wine and mince pies, it's Christmas soon!
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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Patch's Grand Dog Show by Sally Muir and Joanna Osborne (Pavilion Children's Books)

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Now here's a book that is wild, woolly but contains absolutely no sheep! Nope, dogs are the stars of "Patch's Grand Dog Show" by Sally Muir and Joanna Osborne...
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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Beautiful Birds Colouring Book by Emmanuelle Walker (Flying Eye Books)

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The new trend for fabulous and complex colouring books shows no signs of slowing down and here's an utter beauty...!
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Three classic fairy tales get a gorgeous retelling with fabulous illustrations, reissued by Sterling Publishing

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It's not always easy to pick the best version of a classic fairy tale from the multitude of versions available. How could we possibly recommend the best to you when we've seen so many different ones.

Well, simple answer is we can't but we can definitely shout about these versions from Sterling Publishing, reprinted for 2015.

First we'll take a look at Jack and the Beanstalk from John Cech and Robert Mackenzie.

The classic story of a young boy, Jack, who never quite gets things right. He always comes back from market with the wrong items but when he comes back with a handful of magic beans instead of money for the family's beloved cow, it's the last straw for his mum who throws the beans out of the window.

The next morning a huge beanstalk stands proudly in the garden, and against his mother's pleas, Jack climbs up to the top to investigate. What he finds aren't tasty beans for the family's evening supper but a mysterious castle inhabited by a nasty evil giant.

The giant's diminutive wife takes pity on Jack and feeds him but her hubbie comes home and throws a massive tantrum until he's absolutely satisfied that no humans are lurking around ready to steal his golden egg-laying goose, his beautiful singing harp or his infinite sack of gold.

Pretty sure you know how the story goes from there. This version comes with the most glorious illustrations to really bring the story to life.

Once again from John Cech, with illustrations this time by Fiona Sansom is the Sterling version of "Rapunzel". The tale of a young girl who is given up by her parents after a rather tricky deal with an evil witch. Their precious child is whisked off to a distant tower in the forest and brought up as Rapunzel by the witch.

Cut off from the outside world, Rapunzel's life doesn't seem too bad until she meets a handsome Prince who discovers the hidden tower. Falling in love, the two plot Rapunzel's escape but when the witch discovers the ruse, she plays a horrific trick on the Prince. Will the two ever live happy ever after?

The original story that Disney have taken and turned into a smash-hit movie (Tangled) is more enchanting in its original form. Exquisite and luxurious illustrations make this a fabulous version of the tale that may even win your weeny ones away from Disney's version.

Last but by no means least, John Cech teams up with Kirill Chelushkin for a touching and heartfelt version of "The Elves and the Shoemaker" - the classic tale of an old couple who work their fingers to the bone struggling to make ends meet in their tiny cobbler's shop. One night, exhausted, the old man lays out the materials for shoemaking the next day but when he awakes, he finds the most gorgeous pair of shoes waiting for him.

A rich merchant buys the shoes and declares they're the best pair he's ever worn. Once again the old man lays out more leather for two more pairs of shoes, and once again his mysterious nocturnal helpers willingly oblige. It's only when the man and his wife hide one night to catch their helpers in the act that it becomes apparent that two raggedy elves with deft fingers are responsible for the mysterious footwear.

Again, as with the other two books, glorious vibrant artwork makes this an absolute winner.

If we had to choose between all three books (and there are many more in Sterling's fairy tale range), I think we'd both agree that we loved "Jack and the Beanstalk" best - a great opportunity for me to put on my biggest booming giant voice!

All three books are available now from Sterling Publishing.
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Monday, November 23, 2015

Unveiling our awesome new Blog Header image courtesy of Michelle Vinall!

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Exciting stuff! We've just had a bit of a spring clean and the cherry on top of the blog-cake is this awesome new header image from Michelle Vinall.

We commissioned Michelle to come up with something that showed our love of diving into books and she came up with this astonishingly brilliant header image featuring Charlotte and I.

We're completely in love with it, and hope you will be too.

Michelle is also the author-artist behind two stunning children's books so take a mo to check out our reviews of her brilliant stories "256 Postcards Ago" and "Hurricane Lane". You can also find out more about Michelle in our interview with her, and also on her own website

 We think she's done an absolutely stunning job here. What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!
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The Menagerie: Animal Portraits to Colour by Claire Scully and Richard Merritt (LOM Art)

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Sometimes it feels like it's been raining forever. Not that we mind the rain, it gives us a good excuse to crank up the heating, grab a cup of hot chocolate and dig into an activity that's as soothing and restful as possible.
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Tell us a Story, Papa Chagall by Laurence Anholt (Anholt's Artists Range - Published by Frances Lincoln Children's Books

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We've featured a few of the fantastic books in Laurence Anholt's fab "Anholt's Artists" range but could "Tell us a Story, Papa Chagall" feature one of the most child-friendly artists ever? You betcha...!
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