Thursday, October 2, 2014

Tooth Fairy's Christmas by Peter Bently and Garry Parsons (Hodder Children's Books)


Tooth Fairy's Christmas

Written by Peter Bently

Illustrated by Garry Parsons

Published by Hodder Children's Books

Are you starting to get that warm cuddly feeling about Christmas yet? No? Well OK it is only October 2nd I'll grant you but today there's an extra special yuletide feeling on the blog as another Christmas cracker pops through our letterbox early, to be added to the roster of awesome Christmas books to add to your shopping list.

"Tooth Fairy's Christmas" by Peter (I'm nearly as busy as Santa this year!) Bently and Garry (No pooping dinosaurs inside - guaranteed!) Parsons have come up with a belter of a story featuring not one but TWO busy mythical folk.

You see Santa isn't the only one who has to work through the holiday, the poor Tooth Fairy does too, but while on her way to retrieve Tim Tucker's first lost tooth, The Tooth Fairy gets blown off course into a huge snowdrift. Thankfully Santa spots the poor waif in the snow, and offers to help get her back on course. Santa could also do with a helping hand so together Fairy and Father Christmas soon make short work of the evening's rounds, with more than a little bit of magic thrown in.

Stories like this are so warm and snuggly that you can almost picture the first flakes of snow falling on Christmas Eve, taste that first sip of mulled wine, and imagine turning the living room into a paper mountain opening all your presents on the big day. Charlotte is currently campaigning for The Tooth Fairy to become a regular fixture at Christmas because she thinks she does all the hard work anyway!

Charlotte's best bit: Santa and Fairy ALMOST getting caught! Eeks!

Daddy's Favourite bit: A lovely festive story as warm and snuggly as a reindeer onesie! Love it!

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

Happy Birthday Hugless Douglas by David Melling (Hodder Children's Books)


Happy Birthday Hugless Douglas

Written and Illustrated by
David Melling

Published by Hodder Children's Books

It's happy birthday and happy publication day to one of the most enduring and loveable children's book characters of recent years. Hugless Douglas books are always well received by Charlotte, and now by her tiny baby cousin too. Izzy always gets wildly excited whenever a Hugless Douglas book is read to her by Charlotte so she's bound to fall in love with this one.

Yet Hugless Douglas himself takes a bit of an unwilling back seat in this tale. Surely on his birthday Hugless Douglas should be the centre of attention, but his two boisterous and energetic cousins seem innocently unaware that they're ruining his birthday! They are causing mayhem, opening his presents, and generally being rather annoying. Poor Hugless!

Though they do come in handy along with Douglas' friends when the poor bear falls off his new pogo stick and hurts himself. Everyone pitches in with the new doctor's set to bandage Hugless Douglas's hurt leg. Could the worst birthday ever turn into the best birthday? Best to read to the end of the book to find out, little ones!

Charlotte and I both love this series for lots of different reasons. I absolutely love David Melling's artwork, the devil truly is in the details and his characters are always brilliantly expressive and fun. Charlotte loves Hugless Douglas because in each story he really does seem to learn something new though often in the most unexpected ways.

With the book series currently bubbling under a million sales worldwide, this latest story is sure to push sales over the million and beyond.

Charlotte's best bit: As always, Charlotte loves Douglas but always loves the sheep's antics more (just where IS that sheep heading with that balloon?)

Daddy's Favourite bit: A hoot, a hug and a perfectly observed story (didn't we always have birthday parties where someone else tried to open our presents or blow out our candles?) Another awesome Hugless Douglas book!

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

Welsh Government funds initiative to boost child literacy levels




Funded by the Welsh Government and developed by the Welsh Books Council, a new publishing scheme to improve literacy standards in children and young people in Wales has been initiated as part of the Welsh Government’s ongoing drive to raise literacy levels.

Two independent publishers, Atebol and Firefly Press, are adding their influence to the ongoing debate about diversity in children’s books with new books which are set in Wales and which celebrate the achievements of Welsh people and Welsh culture. The books aim to inspire and excite young readers aged between 7 and 11 and to encourage them to read for pleasure. With the focus on Welsh people, culture and settings it is hoped that these books will be especially appealing to children who live in or have connections to Wales as well as being enjoyed more widely by children across the UK.

The need for children’s books to represent a wide range of cultures, ethnicities and backgrounds so that children can feel that books apply to them and in turn to help them enjoy reading and learn key literacy skills, is part of an ongoing debate, with vocal defenders amongst leading children’s authors including the current Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman and the US campaign We need diverse books.

In 2012 the school inspection body Estyn reported that up to 40% of children entering secondary school in Wales were falling behind in reading standards and in recent years, the Welsh Government has made significant progress in developing a comprehensive and coherent strategy on this agenda, with key developments such as the introduction of the National Literacy Programme, National Literacy Framework, and annual National Reading Tests.

It is in this spirit that this new publishing programme has been initiated, to represent and include children living in Wales and from Welsh backgrounds and to reflect life in contemporary Wales.

The Welsh Government’s Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Ken Skates said:

“Access to books with which children can identify and which fire their imagination, is vitally important for engaging young people in reading and raising literacy levels which is one of our key education priorities. I am therefore delighted to be funding this series of books with a strong Welsh focus which will hopefully show that books are sources of interest and pleasure, as well as information.”

Author Malachy Doyle, who has written one of the Firefly Press books said;

“The children of Wales need books they'll actually want to read. Funny books, exciting books, books about children like them, living in the sorts of places they live. The Dragonfly series is perfect for this - they're fun and they're moreish, and children will love them.”

The five fiction titles in the Dragonfly series, published by Firefly are each set in a different Welsh town or village, and are written and illustrated by leading figures from the children’s book world including Shoo Rayner, Wendy Meddour and Malachy Doyle. Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Ken Skates, will attend a launch for the series at Llandaff City Primary School in Cardiff on October 16.

The books in the non-fiction series Sparks, published by Atebol, focus on the achievements of well-known Welsh people such as Paralympian Josie Pearson and adventurer Maria Leijerstam (the first person in the world to cycle to the South Pole). The non-fiction books are supported by free online supportive material from here.

Both sets of books are available from leading booksellers across the UK, the publishers’ websites - 

fireflypress.co.uk


(also amazon.co.uk) & from the Welsh Books Council’s retail site at gwales.com and are available in print and as ebooks.

About the books:
The Sparks series, priced at £4.99 are;

Amazing Adventurers

Sport Stars

Exciting Entertainers

Sweet Success

Heroes & Helpers


The Dragonfly books, priced at £4.99, are:

Steve’s Dreams: Steve and the Sabretooth Tiger by Dan Anthony, illustrated by Huw Aaron, set in Newport

Dragon Gold by Shoo Rayner, set in Snowdonia

Pete and the Five-A-Side Vampires by Malachy Doyle, illustrated by Hannah Doyle, set in Llanidloes

Dottie Blanket and the Hilltop by Wendy Meddour, illustrated by Mina May, set in rural mid-Wales

Arthur and Me by Sarah Todd Taylor illustrated by Peter Stevenson, set in Caerleon and Harlech

Atebol press - is a leading and innovative educational publisher which specialises in the preparation and production of learning and teaching materials for the home, schools and colleges. Atebol originate and publish educational materials including apps and interactive whiteboard materials for the Foundation Stage, Early Years, Primary Education, Secondary Education and Further Education. www.atebol.co.uk

Firefly is a small independent publisher based in Cardiff and Aberystwyth, launched in June 2013. Firefly publishes quality fiction titles in print and ebooks for five to nineteen year olds. Firefly aims to publish books by great authors and illustrators wherever they are from. www.fireflypress.co.uk

Woozy the Wizard - A Spell to Get Well by Elli Woollard and Al Murphy (Faber and Faber)


Woozy the Wizard - A Spell to Get Well

Written by Elli Woollard

Illustrated by Al Murphy

Published by Faber and Faber

Hooray and hooroosh! It's happy launch time for a book that is written in wonderful rhyme.
We love Elli Woollard, she is so poetic! She makes our faux verse look rather pathetic!
She's here with a new story, magically told. Which tells tale of a wizard all creaky and old.
His name? Why it's Woozy, and with his pet pig, he can conjure a spell with a dance and a jig.
He lives in a village called Snottington Sneeze. Which may give a clue to his latest new wheeze.
The people are ill, they complain and they wail. "Call for Woozy the Wizard, make us well without fail!"
But poor Woozy's wand droops, and his pig is no help, as the villagers sneeze, grumble, snortle and yelp.
Woozy calls on his other friends, borrows some spells. But there's still no success, just some sulphuric smells.
With red spots on their bots, and snot-runners green the people are desperate, whiny and mean.
But through patience with patients, and warm woolly socks...Woozy somehow makes good, makes the news, Woozy ROCKS!

Elli's new series of rhyming stories for Faber and Faber are a delight, reminding us in turn of many brilliant children's classics like Meg and Mog and with Al Murphy's bold illustrations and Elli's pitch perfect rhyming (far better than our dreadful efforts) this is sure to tickle a few ribs.

Woozy the Wizard - A Broom to go Zoom will be arriving next March so watch out for it vrooming into a bookshop near you.

Check out Elli's brilliant poetry site "Taking Words for a Stroll" if you want to read more from this talented lady!

Charlotte's best bit: Woozy makes the news, hooray!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Phew! It's a long one this but a great little book to slot in when your own tiddlers are feeling a little under the weather and want an entertaining rhyme to cheer them up!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Faber and Faber)

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Numbers by Paul Thurlby (Hodder Children's Books)


Numbers

Written and Illustrated by
Paul Thurlby

Published by Hodder Children's Books

Though Charlotte is a little 'old' for counting and number books, we still see quite a few that we can't resist thumbing through (counting as we go). Graphic design genius Paul Thurlby is the sort of name you wouldn't normally expect to be attached to a book of this ilk, but bringing his extensive and artistic talent to bear on something that children can enjoy - and adults can admire as a piece of artwork in its own right - is very much a stroke of genius.

It's worth diving onto Paul's website to see his extensive portfolio of amazing work but let's not get distracted, back to the book in hand.

Counting up from zero, Paul produces meaningful images to provide a perfect visual prompt for numbers as children leaf through and learn. Counting up from ten to twenty, thirty and so on, it's fun to find Paul's humour and imagination injected into each image.

This is the Rolls Royce of counting books, really the only negative thing we'd have to say about it is that you might wince every time your child reaches for it, hoping that they'll take very great care of such a gorgeous and luxuriously produced book.

Charlotte's best number: Number 30 (possibly because it involves cake!)

Daddy's Favourite number: The Fab Number Four

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

Line Up Please! by Tomoko Ohmura (Gecko Press)


Line up, please!

Written and Illustrated by
Tomoko Ohmura

Published by Gecko Press

Gecko Press have a stunning range of children's books and we're always pleasantly surprised by each and every Gecko Press release they're kind enough to send us. Take "Line up, please!" by Tomoko Ohmura. We weren't quite sure what to expect when we opened the first page spread which teases the reader with several things. An animal, a bird calling for all the animals to get in line - and a number.

So at first we thought it was part counting book, part animal book. But as you're led through the ever-growing procession of animals, counting down from the tiniest frog at number 50 right up to...(whoah - no spoilers!) you'll have fun identifying each animal and helping your little ones exercise their number skills.

There is also a story though, the story plays out mostly in the speech bubbles as those fidgety queuing animals all jostle and bustle, chatter and gibber, moo and neigh and gossip.

Just as the book looks like it's drawing to a close comes the fun part. You find out what all those animals are actually lining up for, and thus begins a selection of page spreads that will make your child whoop with delight. Again we're really trying not to spoil the big reveal for you, we want you to go out and enjoy the book yourselves but it's worth all that queuing, trust us!

"Line Up Please!" is out today, October 1st, from Gecko Press. Start lining up for your copy now!

Charlotte's best bit: Giggling as one of the animals (we won't say who) gets a little nervous about the animals they're stuck between in the queue. Time for lunch?

Daddy's Favourite bit: We both loved the big reveal and the thoroughly energetic and joyful page spreads that bring the book round in a complete circle. Lovely!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Gecko Press

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Hug Me by Simona Ciraolo (Flying Eye Books)


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

Monday, September 29, 2014

Little Big Boubou by Beatrice Alemagna (Tate Publishing)


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)

Cataclysmic Comic Making! We pit "Write and Draw your Own Comics" (Usborne) against "How to make Awesome Comics" (David Fickling Books)

 
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!)

A Dog Day by Emily Rand (Tate Publishing)


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)