Monday, October 20, 2014

The Boy who Lost His Bumble by Trudi Esberger (Child's Play)

The Boy Who Lost his Bumble

Written and Illustrated by
Trudi Esberger

Published by Child's Play

With the long hot summer, we often found ourselves disappearing into the wild countryside immersing ourselves in nature. Charlotte absolutely loves our trips out to BBONT or National Trust places, and you can read all about our buzzy bee adventures over at my wife's blog - Can I Walk Mummy. On one trip, we had a mission in mind and when Child's Play got in touch with us to tell us about an amazing new book called "The Boy Who Lost His Bumble" we thought we'd tie in our review with some important bee-themed posts. Check out our homage to bees when we tried to photograph them on a trip to Waddesdon Manor.

Let's get back to the book though. Not only is it a wonderful homage to arguably our most important insect species, but a celebration of the four seasons - and the bee-buzzy boy who absolutely loves his garden.

The boy recognises that bees are so important to our flowers, our fruit and veg - and their hard work pollinating all our plants means that we can live and breathe on our verdant planet. This awesome little chap loves his bees so much that he gives them all names (and draws great little pics of them so we know which is which!)

As the seasons change though, the boy notices that the bees slowly disappear. In fact one chilly autumn day they're nowhere to be seen. Is this the last we'll see of Holly, Sue and Amir? You know what we're going to say - you'll have to read this utterly fantastic story to find out :)

Charlotte loves the story very much, and also loves the fact that we get to learn a lot more about bees at the end of the book, just how important they are, and also how you can grow your own plants to attract these busy little insects to your garden too.

Charlotte's best bit: Holly and Sue are her faves, and she loves the various ways the little boy tries to woo the bees back to his garden

Daddy's Favourite bit: A superb little story, and lots of interesting facts to give children an insight into just how important our buzzy busy bee friends really are to us

(Kindly sent to us for review by Child's Play Books)

A Scarf and a Half by Amanda Brandon and Catalina Echeverri (Maverick Books)

A Scarf and a Half

Written by Amanda Brandon

Illustrated by Catalina Echeverri

Published by Maverick Books

Do you have a knitting nan or gran? Nan Webb was always the biggest knit(ter) in our family, she could hand-knit and crochet such amazing things in fact if anyone had asked her she could probably have knitted a Nuclear Submarine Cosy, she was that good!

Granny Mutton loves knitting so when Lionel Mutton (her grandson) is about to have a birthday, Granny gets busy and decides to knit young Lionel a scarf to keep his neck warm.

Granny can't reign in her enthusiasm, with needles almost on fire with the effort she knits the scarf to end all scarves - in fact it's a scarf and a half!

Lionel's birthday arrives, and he quickly rips open his present, thinking it's a new football - and is somewhat deflated when he discovers the world's longest scarf inside. It's huge, wraps around him so many times that he trips and stumbles, and falls face-flat in the mud. But can a scarf become the most awesome birthday present in the world after all, with a little imagination (and a good stretch?)

"A Scarf and a Half" is awesome, a rousing cheer for our wonderful grandparents (or for that matter dotty old aunties or mums who knit too!) and an awesome demonstration that a child's imagination through play can help any ordinary everyday object become something magical! A book and a half, this!

Charlotte's best bit: Lionel's scarf tug-o-war!

Daddy's Favourite bit: What a wonderful granny Granny Mutton is!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Maverick Books)

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Lavender Blue Dress by Aidan Moffat and Emmeline Pidgen (Cargo Publishing)

The Lavender Blue Dress

Written by Aidan Moffat

Illustrated by Emmeline Pidgen

Published by Cargo Books

Now and again we're reminded of how powerful children's books can be for imparting wise messages. In "The Lavender Blue Dress" there's a whomping great big heartfelt message in the story of Mabel, a little girl who has all the same hopes, dreams and aspirations as other little girls. Mabel, however, comes from a poor family so as other little girls at her school are dreaming of amazing gowns and outfits for the Christmas Ball, Mabel knows that her own wardrobe only contains shabby moth-eaten dresses.

The date approaches and though Mabel dreams of the perfect lavender blue dress, a blue so bright and gorgeous that it would shine out amongst the rest, she knows deep down in her heart that her family would never be able to afford a new outfit.

But her family are special and have something worth far more than money, something that might just mean that Mabel gets to go to the Christmas Ball after all...

Charlotte really loved this story, that has a little dash of Cinderella and a jot of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" threaded into its touching story. We truly loved Emmeline Pidgen's utterly perfect artwork too, which suits the story so well. There's a story CD tucked into the back of the book as well, which is delightful (though be extremely careful extracting it from its sleeve, it's well and truly stuck on and not easy to detach from the book without damaging it.

To that end, the book's lovely slip cover has a cut out and dress Mabel - But we couldn't bring ourselves to chop a book sleeve apart like that, it's just not the ReadItDaddy way :)

Curl up with this gorgeous slightly christmassy classic, it's absolutely bound to melt your heart.

Charlotte's best bit: Mabel's big reveal! Such a lovely moment in the story

Daddy's Favourite bit: A touching and heartfelt message in a gloriously presented book, utterly superb!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Cargo Publishing)

ReadItDaddy's Second Book of the Week - Week Ending 17th October 2014 - "The Wonder" by Faye Hansom (Templar Publishing)

The Wonder

Written and Illustrated by
Faye Hansom

Published by Templar Publishing

We couldn't resist squeezing in just one more book of the week this week, purely because to both of us this book sang out with such a glorious colourful voice, and a core idea that struck a chord with both Charlotte and I in different ways.

To me, the daydreaming boy in this story is me as a child. I would spend hour after hour daydreaming, doodling, drawing and sketching (and in fact that's something that hasn't changed a bit in adulthood either, I'm pleased to say!)

To Charlotte, the boy's daydreams are a cornucopia of colour and imagination, the scenes he dreams up (including the utterly gorgeous 'star creation' scene that's lovingly tucked underneath the slip cover of the book itself) are dazzling and gorgeous to behold.

In the story, the boy's daydreaming isn't always looked on favourably, until a certain lesson at school allows the boy to open up his imagination and let it fly.

There are so many moments in this that made us want to hug the book with glee when the boy is concocting the most amazing creations in his head, and the final scene in the book is just exquisite. Do not miss "The Wonder" - it truly is one!

Charlotte's best bit: That amazing star factory. Who knew that stars were created with such loving care!

Daddy's Favourite bit: A glorious book with a message that sang out loudly to us in dulcet tones that daydreaming is fine, don't ever stop doing it!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Templar Publishing)

ReadItDaddy's First Book of the Week - Week Ending 17th October 2014 - "The Usborne Official Detective Handbook" by Various Authors, illustrated by Colin King (Usborne Books)

The Usborne Official Detective Handbook

Written by various authors

Illustrated by Colin King

Published by Usborne Books

Usborne's "Spy Handbook" was essential reading when I was a wee whippersnapper dreaming of being James Bond. We recently re-read the updated and reprinted version, and it's still an absolute classic, full of awesome detail and packed with facts.

"The Usborne Official Detective Handbook" sets out its stall in a similar way to the Spy Handbook, in a handy pocket-sized format so that amateur detectives can flick through it while out on important cases.

It's a little-known fact that Charlotte quite fancies herself as a detective, and loves children's detective stories like The Famous Five and Hermelin - The Detective Mouse. The genre is seeing something of a resurgence so having a more fact-based handbook like this is a real boon.

Each section encourages would-be gumshoes to delve into the sometimes dark and often quite seedy world of detecting. Honing your observation skills, and encouraging kids to scope out a scene and pick points of interest, it's really smartly produced and illustrated (we expect nothing less from Usborne).

It's also one of those books that has Charlotte running up to me every five minutes to point out something new and cool.

Utterly essential stuff for your own little sleuths!

Charlotte's best bit: Reading body language and how nefarious types will change their hair or beards to disguise their appearance

Daddy's Favourite bit: I really really wish I'd had this as well as the spy book as a kid. Utterly fantastic stuff from Usborne!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Usborne Books)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Apes a Go-Go by Roman Milisic and A. Richard Allen (HarperCollins Children's Books)

Apes a Go-Go

Written by Roman Milisic

Illustrated by A. Richard Allen

Published by HarperCollins Children's Books

This is ape-shaped hilarity in book form and we LOVE it! "Apes a Go-Go" by Roman Milisic and A. Richard Allen is one of those delightful children's books that has a fairly simple story idea absolutely beautifully (and hilariously) executed, with the perfect balance between broad age appeal and superbly catchy repetition.

Being in charge of the perfect place to live isn't easy, and when a fussy mayor notices just one thing out of place - a flower stem that's a little too long - it's just not good enough. The annual "Tidiest Town" awards are coming up and the mayor wants everything to be just right.

With a rousing cry of "Cuppa Cocoa! Apes a go-go!" it's time to call in the apes! Crazy apes, messy apes, apes who mean well but just can't seem to help turning a drama into an absolute crisis as they garden, flood, smash and crumble their way through the town leaving complete and utter chaos in their wake.

The poor mayor is at his wits end as calamity after calamity soon reduce the near-perfect town into a demolition area. The competition looks all but lost, but is there one last ape who can possibly make everything better? A special type of ape who knows their way around a kitchen?

With the repeated line of "Cuppa Cocoa! Apes a go-go" youngers readers are going to absolutely LOVE shouting this at every opportunity. The apes are fantastic characters, like a cross between King Kong and the Grape Ape and the poor exasperated mayor is hilarious as he becomes more and more stressed, to the point of nearly spontaneously combusting, the poor chap!

We had an absolute HOOT with this book, it's guaranteed to tickle your funny bones!

Charlotte's best bit: The chaos-causing ape who thinks it's a great plan to drain a flood by smashing holes in everything. Oops!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Hilariously funny, brilliantly told and illustrated, we've gone completely ape over this!

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

Yuck said the Yak by Alex English and Emma Levey (Maverick Books)

Yuck said the Yak

Written by Alex English

Illustrated by Emma Levey

Published by Maverick Books

Sharing a house with not one but TWO fussy eaters can challenge anyone's culinary skills. I seem to constantly fight a running battle with Charlotte and her mum to put some jazz and sparkle into our home cooking, but nine times out of ten I find they'd both live on pizza and pasta all day every day if I let them (very frustrating when I can whip up a mean pilaf, or put together gorgeous salads full of colour and flavour).

Young Alfie encounters a similar problem when a big hairy Yak comes to stay at his house. Yak is starving, and so Alfie goes to work in the kitchen cooking up tempting treats to feed to his new friend.

But Yak says "YUCK!" He says "YUCK!" to dinner, he even says "YUCK!" to ice cream and jelly (something that made Charlotte literally gasp in shock, surely EVERYONE loves ice cream and jelly?)

Yak has something else in mind what would YOU feed to a hungry Yak (and more to the point, would you eat it yourself?)

An awesome and fun tale, and we particularly loved the texture of Emma Levey's illustrations (you can almost stroke the Yak's gorgeously thick and luxurious fur as Emma's thick oil paints lend the picture spreads an added dimension).

If you've got fussy eaters at home, you'll definitely identify with this!

Charlotte's best bit: Yak wouldn't even eat chocolate cake, tshhh!

Daddy's Favourite bit: A fun read, very entertaining if you too have to put up with dietary demands from fusspots!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Maverick Books)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Captain Coconut and the Case of the Missing Banana by Anushka Ravishankhar and Priya Sundram (Tara Books)

Captain Coconut and the Case of the Missing Banana

Written by Anushka Ravishankhar

Illustrated by Priya Sundram

Published by Tara Books

As you've probably worked out by now, we're huge fans of detective stories on the blog. If there's a mystery to solve, we're there! We love originality too and when "Captain Coconut and the Case of the Missing Banana" popped into our inbox, we couldn't resist its charms.

Tara Books have a distinct knack for producing the most beautiful and original books, so we knew that this was going to be a treat. Imagine a hectic and energetic mix of a truly original protagonist suffused with Bollywood musical numbers (yes, exactly!) and you have "Captain Coconut and the Case of the Missing Banana".

There's a number mystery to solve here, with the aid of the rather eccentric (and paisley-nosed) Captain Coconut - ace detective. His keen elephant-like brain works logically through any problem, so when the captain receives a mysterious teary phone call, he's soon on the case.

Speeding off to the scene on his moped (once he's started it, of course) the captain soon meets Mrs Y, the mysterious phone caller. She informs Captain Coconut that some of the bananas she had purchased the day before have gone missing!

With his keenly observant eyes, and use of unflappable logic, Captain Coconut is drawn deeper into the mystery - after a song of course (and you can BET we had fun singing Captain Coconut's various sing-a-long interludes! What a genius idea to include these in the book!)

Will the Captain solve the missing 'nana mystery? We won't spoil the end for you but you are in for a heck of a treat with this book, it's utterly hilarious and brilliant!

Charlotte's best bit: Captain Coconut's rather dashing song "He's a Rock!"

Daddy's Favourite bit: It's funny, it's quirky, it's wholly original - you'll never have read a detective story as brilliant as this! Hooray for Captain Coconut!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Tara Books)

Maddy Kettle Book 1: The Adventure of the Thimblewitch by Eric Orchard (Top Shelf Books)

Maddy Kettle Book 1: The Adventure of the Thimblewitch

Written and Illustrated by
Eric Orchard

Published by Top Shelf Books

Here at ReadItDaddy we firmly believe that comics are a vital and important part of a child's literacy journey. Mumblings and whisperings in the industry agree, and many folk feel that we're on the brink of a true "Golden Age" of children's comics that shrug off pratfall funnies, simplistic storylines or licensed tie-ins in favour of far more engaging and original plots and characters.

We've been following Eric Orchard's work on Twitter for quite some time, and saw the first fleeting glimpses of "Maddy Kettle" as something we'd definitely love to take a closer look at. Eric rather kindly got in touch and let us take a sneaky early peek of his first Maddy Kettle adventure, published on 14th October 2014 by Top Shelf Books.

At first glimpse it looks Gaiman-esque, which definitely is no bad thing. Charlotte pointed out that she thought Maddy looked like Coraline - so was instantly interested in finding out more. Technically Charlotte is probably a bit too 'young' for Maddy Kettle but though the story can be fairly dark in places, it's not gruesome or disturbing - in fact it's completely and utterly riveting from page 1.

Maddy is a young girl who lives in a land where magic still holds court. The story throws the reader right in at the deep end, with Maddy travelling in a dusty railway wagon - and only two rats and a strange floating frog named Ralph for company.

We were drawn in by Eric's artwork, darkly mysterious and foreboding, as we found out that the two rats are actually Maddy's parents, changed into rats by the evil Thimblewitch. With the story hurling you right into the thick of the plot, you can't possibly resist reading on.

Maddy decides to set out on a perilous journey (against her parents' wishes) to find the Thimblewitch, defeat her and change her parents back into human beings. It's a huge quest to take on for a little girl, but Maddy is brave and courageous, and firmly believes that she can turn the tables on the evil old hag before the change becomes permanent, and her parents spend all their time gnawing books rather than reading them.

Just when you're comfortable with the idea that the plot will be a linear "Go there, defeat Witch, go back to normal" deal, Eric gives everything a good solid twist - and another - and another, establishing Maddy as the sort of mighty girl hero that we absolutely crave to read about in books. Joining the ranks of Hilda and Coraline, Maddy will stop at nothing to help her family because - as she points out early on in the story - no one else is going to save them, and living a life on the run is no life at all.

It's as dark and delicious as that first slug of coffee in the morning and if this is book 1, we are absolutely on the edge of our seats in anticipation of the story becoming a series.

If (like us) you believe children's comics are more than just cheap gags or lightweight stories, then this is going to fit you like a comfy pair of satin gloves.

"Maddy Kettle Book 1: The Adventure of the Thimblewitch" by Eric Orchard, out now from Top Shelf Books.

Charlotte's best bit: The witch's nefarious stitched-together guards who prove no match for mighty Maddy

Daddy's Favourite bit: Scintillating characters, brilliant art, a deeply dark and rich twisty plot (our favourite sort). Loved every minute of it and cannot wait for more Maddy!

(Kindly sent to us in PDF form for preview by Eric Orchard / Top Shelf)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Bibble and the Bubbles by Alice Hemming and Sara Sanchez (Maverick Books)

Bibble and the Bubbles

Written by Alice Hemming

Illustrated by Sara Sanchez
Published by Maverick Books

Bubble blowing is always a huge amount of fun. We blow bubbles on sunny days, watching those rainbow coloured bubbles float up into the ether. We also love blowing bubbles in the bath because they bubbles stay around a bit longer in the steam, floating on the surface of the water.

Bobby loves bubbles, but as he blows them and watches them float silently away on the wind, he doesn't realise that 667 million miles away, a tiny alien called Bibble loves Bobby's bubbles too, as they float around his home planet bouncing, floating and popping.

But one day the bubbles stop. Bibble is at a complete loss, and there's only one thing to do. Constructing a spaceship entirely from bubbles, Bibble sets off on the long treacherous 667 million mile journey to earth to find out what's happened.

This is really lovely storytelling, putting a rather neat bubbletastic twist on a tale of an unlikely friendship. Bobby and Bibble become firm friends, and it's quite sad when Bibble gets homesick and has to fly back to his home planet at the end of the tale - but leaving one last surprise behind (we'll let you discover what that is!)

Reminiscent of the heartwarming stories by Oliver Jeffers, with a really wonderful bubbly atmosphere to the story and glowingly gorgeous illustrations, this is a real treat for the eyes and a real treat for the ears when read aloud (and it's quite a tongue-twister in places too!)

Charlotte's best bit: Bibble's amazing spaceship made entirely from bubbles

Daddy's Favourite bit: A really wonderful and touching story of an unlikely friendship that bubbles along beautifully. Love it!

(Kindly sent to us by Maverick Books)