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)

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)

ReadItDaddy's FIRST Book of the Week - Week Ending 19th September 2014 - "Blown Away" by Rob Biddulph (HarperCollins Children's Books)

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)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

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

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)

Clarice Bean, that's me! by Lauren Child (Orchard Books)

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)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

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

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)

Mad About Mega-Beasts by Giles Andreae and David Wojtowycz (Hodder Children's Books)

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.


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)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

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


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)

Foxy and Egg by Alex T. Smith (Hodder Children's Books)

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!"


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)

Monday, September 15, 2014

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

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)

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

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)