Friday, April 24, 2015

ReadItDaddy's Second Book of the Week - Week Ending 24th April 2015 - "The Giant of Jum" by Elli Woollard and Benji Davies (Macmillan Children's Books)

The Giant of Jum

Written by Elli Woollard

Illustrated by Benji Davies

Published by Macmillan Children's Books

Oh my, there are just SO MANY great books around at the moment that our poor old "Book of the Week" slot is straining under the pressure. We're doubling up our Book of the Week nominees this week with a fantastic new tale from awesome poet and writer Elli Woollard, and equally awesome illustrator Benji Davies - and a tale of a huge giant with a rumbling tum.

"The Giant of Jum" is Elli and Benji's first collaboration (and hopefully not their last) for Macmillan, introducing us to The Giant of Jum - who loves nothing more than striding the landscape, scarfing down children. Baked in a pie, crumbled over cornflakes, the giant is hungry and nothing will stand in his way.

Only...well the thing is, the local children could do with a giant hand. Can he retrieve a lost ball? Rescue a naughty kitten stuck up a tree?

The Giant is only temporarily distracted, his true foe is Jack the Giant Killer who will be hunted down and mercilessly toasted and scoffed!

But is the giant really as menacing and scary as he wants to be?

Elli's rhymes are tight and perfect as you'd expect from the genius behind "Taking words for a Stroll". Benji's illustrations instantly feel fresh but classic, as we've come to expect from such a whopping giant-sized talent whose books are always amongst the most read on our shelves. It's a book that will become a sing-along-read-along favourite amongst younger readers who will love the way Elli plays with repetition and verse to relate the story beautifully, and of course older readers who will drink up the verse and the visuals both exquisitely clever and detailed.

We truly hope the press release is right, and that this is just the beginning of a fantastic working partnership for Elli and Benji, we absolutely cannot wait to see what they come up with next.

Charlotte's best bit: Finding Jack (in the most unlikely place!) and GIANT CAKE!

Daddy's Favourite bit: It reads as good as it looks, it looks as good as it reads, it's got "massive award winning best seller" stamped all over it. Perfecto!

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

ReadItDaddy's First Book of the Week - Week Ending 24th April 2015 - "Fuzz McFlops" by Eva Furnari with translation by Alison Entrekin (Pushkin Children's Books)

Fuzz McFlops

Written and Illustrated by
Eva Furnari

Published by Pushkin Children's Books

We're always on the look out for books that break the mould, do something different, dish up a tasty reading experience for your young ones that feels like nothing you've ever seen before.

"Fuzz McFlops" arrived through our door somewhat mysteriously (we've been used to seeing books accompanied by a press release but Fuzz was on its own). With a 'whoop' of delight, Charlotte adopted it as one of her bedtime reads over the next few days and I can gauge the level of success of the book by how many times she dragged me off to show me a new 'bit' she'd discovered.

We've long described a gap between picture books and early chapter readers for children, and thankfully we're beginning to see authors and illustrators playing with that format with resounding success. Eva Furnari is definitely a well established author and illustrator in her home country of Brazil, and now thanks to a timely translation by Alison Entrekin, the rest of the world is about to find out why Eva wins truckloads of awards for her wonderful books.

Back to that format. Fuzz McFlops starts out in fairly traditional style. The tale of a young (and dare we say rather dapper) rabbit who is an amazingly talented author. But poor Fuzz is shy, a shyness brought on by nasty fellow pupils at school who teased him and bullied him about his wonky ears. Aww, bless his cotton tail!

Leading a slightly reclusive life, prone to writing heart-wrenchingly sad tales Fuzz begins to receive a series of letters from an ardent fan begging him to take his rightful place in the spotlight!

Here's where the book departs from the fairly standard layouts you may expect from a picture book - or indeed a slightly wordier early chapter book, because "Fuzz McFlops" is devised and designed in such an original and fresh way, that there's so much to discover on each page. The story is both heartwarming and triumphant, but the more we read around Fuzz's return to glory, the more we fell in love with all the incidental things you discover as you read through and marvel at the gorgeous illustrations.

Pushkin Children's Books seem to have a knack for challenging our expectations of children's books and pressing our buttons in all the right ways. "Fuzz McFlops" is no exception, in fact it was all I could do to wrestle this one out of Charlotte's hands so I could read it myself (and read it I did!)

If you've got a little one at home who won't just settle for the ordinary and everyday tales they find when trying to bridge the gap between picture book and chapter book, then definitely give Fuzz a try! It'll give you a warm fuzzy glow, betcha!

Charlotte's best bit: The brilliant bit where Fuzz receives his first fan letter!

Daddy's Favourite bit: This is a really original and unique children's book that makes us sit up and take notice. The world is about to find out what an amazing talented lady Eva Furnari really is!

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

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Why Marvel and DC just don't "get" kids (particularly girls) - A ReadItDaddy Editorial

DC's new initiative to bring in more revenue from 6-12 year old girl comic and superhero move fans...It's like Lego Friends for Supes. Bleurrrrrrghhh!
We love comics. You know we love comics. So by rights, we should be doubly excited by the news that DC has launched a new initiative to bring in some coin from a largely untapped market (in their opinion at least). Girls who love superheroes and supervillains, girls aged 6-12 and who already work their way through the relatively 'safe' (slim pickings) comics in the DC range.

Marvel will undoubtedly be paying attention. We were following another debate by comic superstar Faith Erin Hicks who sparked off a very interesting discussion about why Marvel and DC can't seem to quite nail producing kids comics when I spotted a link to DC's latest stuff: 

At the moment, this seems to be talking more about an animation / movie / merchandising initiative rather than comics, and the first image (which you can see above) is an initial set of characters who will launch the range, and the stories. Cute, sassy teenage versions of existing DC female superheroes. 

I'm not the market for this stuff, I know I'm not. I had to show it to my daughter to gauge her opinion though, and...hmmm, sorry DC / Warner, she's not happy and if she's not happy, I'm definitely not happy. 

"Batgirl doesn't look like that" she said. "Wonderwoman doesn't look like that" she said. Because Charlotte has been slowly introduced to kid comics from this side of the pond, the cute clean preppy-like figures above are far distant from European, Japanese and (hooray) Brit comics that don't feel the need to sugar-coat and sickly sweeten everything aimed at kids. 

Oh don't get me wrong, I'm not condoning anyone sharing grown up comics with their kids. It's your duty as a parent to ensure that your child's reading (and viewing) matter is appropriate for their age, and when you start picking through Marvel and DC's massive back catalogue, it's extremely tough to find comic arcs that don't treat women like sex objects, don't resort to mindless violence to drive a story along, and don't delve into dark stuff when they need to 're-invent' a character or story. 

Here's the thing though, touching on that point, where do DC and Marvel really think the massive revenues from superhero merchandise for kids actually come from? 

Lego products? Sure we're about to get a whole slew of Lego-based superhero stuff but most of the Lego range has absolutely nothing to do with prospective lego-based movies, it's based on movies that 6-11 year olds shouldn't even be watching (the age rating, for instance, on The Avengers movie is  12. Similarly the Iron Man movies carry a 12 rating but a quick google reveals no end of toys based on those properties for kids far, far younger than 12 - everything from underpants to lunch boxes and of course suits and fancy dress stuff so they can role play their fave supes. 

Back to the "comics for kids" thing though, patronising kids or making the assumption that girls in particular can't handle complex and involving plots or can't cope if characters aren't stylised and cartoony is the worst possible direction for comic superhero stuff to go if they want to bring in an audience from an early age (and keep that audience coming back well into adulthood too, right?).

Kids are intelligent, kids are remarkably well read (and they have the internet, whether you like them having it or not!) Kids love their movies and TV, they love their merchandise, their videogames but they can handle far more complexity than you give them credit for.

Look at the plots, characters and stories in our favourite kids comic - the mighty Phoenix, leading the charge for kids my daughter's age. Never talking down to its audience, celebrating their intelligence, their creativity and their ability to handle complexity without resorting to the sort of sugar-coated cutey-ness that seems to regularly hit our inbox (and equally, regularly hit our recycle bin). 

We will be watching the new DC stuff. We'll be watching and observing Marvel's response, and we'll also be seeing how more seasoned and knowledgeable comic fans than us react because from where we're currently sitting, this just isn't good enough. 

Wildlife Jack - I Want to Fly! by Ed Kellie (National Trust Books / Pavilion)

Wildlife Jack - I Want to Fly!

Written and Illustrated by
Ed Kellie

Published by National Trust Books / Pavilion

We've been National Trust members as a family collective for a number of years now, and we spend part of nearly every weekend at National Trust properties in and around our area (and sometimes further afield!) My wife's excellent days-out and outdoorsy blog "Can I Walk, Mummy" chronicles our adventures so when we started to spot this rather attractive book in National Trust shops on our visits, we really wanted to find out more.

We were extremely fortunate to be given the opportunity to take a look at "Wildlife Jack - I Want to Fly!" by Ed Kellie, thanks to Pavilion / NT so we'll swoop, swoosh and dive on in!

Jack loves visiting his Grandpa and Grandpa, a bit of an adventurer himself, loves to show Jack his magic journal that's full of all the amazing adventures he's had. When Jack reads the journal with his grandpa, Jack is almost transported to the amazing places Grandpa mentions - and also gets to see all the incredible wildlife along the way.

This time Jack and Grandpa are learning all about the amazing bird life that can be found throughout the UK. From pigeons on your own doorstep if you live in the big city, to the geese and gulls, finches and robins that dwell in our greener landscapes.

Jack realises that above anything else, he wants to take to the skies with his new bird friends so with the help of a pair of wings, Jack attempts to soar!

He's going to need more help though, those tiny little wings of his won't get him anywhere!

As the story unfolds, the book gently introduces fascinating facts about our most beloved (and some of our most rare) bird species, giving children a fantastic insight into our rural and city bird life, and sharing with them a love of nature that will hopefully encourage them to get out into the countryside when they can like we do (or seek out green spaces in the city, even!)

A brilliant and colourful book based on the hit Wildlife Jack TV show currently airing on Disney Kids. We can't wait to see where Wildlife Jack's inquisitive nature takes him next!

Charlotte's best bit: Loving some of the facts and figures, like swifts being able to sleep while flying and ducks being able to sleep while afloat!

Daddy's Favourite bit: A fabulous mix of story and non fiction destined to draw young readers into a whole world of nature discovery. Huge thumbs up from us!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Pavilion Publishing)

Where will I go? (When I grow Up) by Richard Sinclair and Jon Lycett-Smith (Digital Leaf)

Where will I go? (When I grow up)

Written by Richard Sinclair

Illustrated by Jon Lycett-Smith

Published by Digital Leaf

A pocket-sized story book that sends us soaring on a voyage of imagination and discovery? How could we possibly resist. Arriving on our doorstep accompanied by an adorable collection of postcards with globetrotting themes comes a new book from Digital Leaf.

Author Richard Sinclair and Illustrator Jon Lycett-Smith have teamed up for this excellent story that will guide your children on a whistle-stop round-the-world tour as a boy and his dad visit their local museum, and take off on a flight of fancy dreaming about all the different countries they could visit together.

Some of the world's most exciting destinations are explored, starting right on our own home doorstep with a gorgeous glance at London and all the sights, stepping over the pond to the USA, South America, Australia, China and beyond.

Charlotte is always interested in any new books that arrive with geographical leanings, and this is an absolutely brilliant introduction to the world around us - and the stunning destinations we hope she'll one day visit when she grows up (or tagging along with us!)

Loud shouty voiceover fans are in for a particular treat with "Where will I go?" - A special set of audio resources accompanies the book, read by none other than the legendary King of the Hawkmen himself, Brian Blessed! Just be sure to keep the volume turned down a little in case you damage your little one's hearing!

Children are instantly drawn to books that can send them on a journey of imagination and discovery, and this is a particularly brilliant colourful and immersive example.

Charlotte's best bit: Charlotte now wants to visit Japan. Endless sushi!!

Daddy's Favourite bit: A gorgeous little globetrotting title from Digital Leaf.

(Kindly sent to us for review by Digital Leaf)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

When Dad Showed Me the Universe by Ulf Stark and Eva Eriksson (Gecko Press)

When Dad Showed me the Universe

Written by Ulf Stark

Illustrated by Eva Eriksson

Published by Gecko Press

We are always stargazing. We're lucky enough that on a cold dark night when the sky is clear, we can see quite a lot of the stars without too much light pollution (amazing considering we live in a busy town centre). Recently on holiday up in the Peak District we could really soak up the stratosphere as we lay in our hot tub (oooh, get us!) and sat silently picking out the constellations in our 'different' patch of sky.

And so, to this wonderful book celebrating stargazers everywhere. "When Dad Showed me the Universe" is a voyage of discovery for a boy who embarks on an evening adventure with his dentist dad.

Dad stops off for some supplies (he's a dentist so no sweeties, just a pack of chewing gum!) and the two of them head out into the best place to view the stars - the middle of nowhere!

Dad explains all about the amazing starscape laid out before them, and all the constellations - some of which may have already disappeared, but still visible to us because their light takes so long to reach us.

The story is wonderfully told and illustrated. Poor dad though, I definitely identify with his final annoyance in the story (this also seems to happen to us on far too regular a basis so we definitely sympathise!)

Charlotte's best bit: Poor dad needing to scrub his boots clean at the end of their eventful trip. We know that feeling all too well, sadly.

Daddy's Favourite bit: A touching story with an all-too-rare book dad that isn't just there for comedy value - which makes a very nice change in a children's book, I must say!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Gecko Press)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Come to Discover for a brilliant Bear Hunt spectacular from October 2015

Image Credit (C) Helen Oxenbury

Michael Rosen’s Bear Hunt, Chocolate Cake and Bad Things at Discover

Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury's classic children's book "We're going on a Bear Hunt" is coming to our favourite book and story venue, Discover Story from the 16th October 2015 to Spring 2016

Discover Children’s Story Centre in Stratford, East London is launching an exciting new interactive family exhibition, ‘Michael Rosen’s Bear Hunt, Chocolate Cake and Bad Things.’ Discover’s exhibition will explore the fantastic stories and poems of former Children’s Laureate and bestselling writer Michael Rosen. Children and families can walk into immersive environments inspired by We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, Chocolate Cake, The Book of Bad Things and Uncle Gobb and the Dread Shed.

Children can step inside a huge chocolate cake (YESSSSSS!!! We are SO there!), discover a secret larder, swishy swashy their way through a Bear Hunt and explore Bad Things in the Dread Shed. The exhibition will feature hidden rooms where clues can be found that reveal the inspiration behind Michael’s writing including his Grandparent’ sitting room and his classroom. Younger children will be able to participate in a Bear Hunt trail whilst older children can go on a fun fact finding mission and create poems of their own to takeaway.

Discover’s Joint Chief Executive, Sally Goldsworthy said, ‘We are very excited to announce this latest exhibition made in collaboration with Michael Rosen. Michael has so much energy and passion for education, creativity and writing that he is incredibly inspiring to work with.’

Award winning author Michael Rosen said ‘This exhibition is one of the most exciting things to have happened in my writing career. I am someone who has found a way of writing that is often about digging up stuff to do with my past and here is Discover making that into a giant room that families and schools will be able to explore. Just as exciting for me, as someone who works with children and students at Goldsmiths, University of London, is the idea that this exhibition will act as a springboard for children, teachers and parents to talk together about things that they remember or think up, and this, I hope, will turn into writing and performing new poems and stories. I am so looking forward to it.’

Discover’s new interactive exhibition for families Michael Rosen’s Bear Hunt, Chocolate Cake and Bad Things opens on 16th October 2015 and will launch the centre’s autumn programme full of inspiration from Michael Rosen’s stories and poems.

Discover Children’s Story Centre’s exhibitions have been nominated for the 2012 European Museum Academy International Children’s Museum Award. Michael Rosen’s Bear Hunt, Chocolate Cake and Bad Things follows hot on the heels of blockbuster exhibitions Once There Was...The Wonderful World of Oliver Jeffers, Secret Agents, Journey to Space and sold out collaboration with Punchdrunk Enrichment, The House Where Winter Lives.

Michael Rosen’s Bear Hunt, Chocolate Cake and Bad Things has been created, produced and designed by Discover Children’s Story Centre and will be touring the country from summer 2016. Mark October in your diary, it's going to be a smasher!

50 things you should know about the First World War by Jim Eldridge (QED Publishing)

50 Things you should know about the First World War

Written and Illustrated by
Jim Eldridge

Published by QED Publishing

We're catching up with an amazing book about the First World War, first published in 2014 - the centenary year of the conflict - and packed to the gills with facts and figures, historical and statistical snippets and an in-depth look at the people, the technology, and the appalling cost of the war to generations of soldiers and their families.

You'll find out what triggered the conflict through political discussion of the state of the world at the time by examining a "Who's Who" on both Axis and Allied sides. Detailed descriptions of the conditions troops faced really underline what a terrible atrocity the war was, and how the human toll affected generations to come.

This has been an astonishing book to delve into - perfect at the moment as Charlotte's school still factors both World War 1 and 2 in their history lessons. The wealth of information packed between the covers of this authoritative guide make it one of the best books covering the First World War that we've seen to date.

Charlotte's best bit: A fascinating fact-filled non fiction book that highlights the horrors of the First World War

Daddy's Favourite bit: Seriously in-depth, brilliantly compiled - a must for any children currently studying or learning about the First World War at school

(Kindly sent to us for review by QED Publishing)

Monday, April 20, 2015

100 Great Children's Picture Books by Martin Salisbury (Laurence King Publishing)

100 Great Children's Picture Books
Written by Martin Salisbury

Illustrated by Various

Published by Laurence King Publishing

This is a truly fascinating picture book resource that perhaps should've been called "100 Great Children's Picture Books you have never seen before, but will be absolutely blown away by!" Picture book expert Martin Salisbury has compiled a mouthwatering treasure trove of children's books stretching right back to the very beginning of the illustrated picture book format for children, and showing that all the ideas, art styles and amazing writing we know in children's picture books today has roots that go back as far as the late 19th century.

With a ton of photographs of Martin's enviable collection, you'll find many many works that will provide inspiration and insight to anyone who's interested in children's books, whether you write them or write about them, illustrate for them or are a parent who has a few loft treasures tucked away in the attic that you really ought to bring out and dust down.

"The Slant Book" by Peter Newell - A really simple but hugely effective idea with glorious illustrations
Spanning the globe and examining some of the most influential children's books of the last hundred or so years, there are surprises in store. You'll see just how artists and authors made use of the limited resources available and limited colour palettes to produce simple but hugely effective and entertaining children's stories.

Lucy Brown and Mr Grimes by Edward Ardizzone - Utterly fantastic!
Some well known artists and authors, as well as some you've never heard of before, are featured in this exhaustive tome thoroughly researched and beautifully presented. We were completely wowed by some of the booky discoveries we made while leafing through this big thick and satisfying collection including works by Edward Ardizzone that we'd never heard of before (he's a bit of a 'thing' for us at the moment, thanks to recent reprints of his fantastic "Little Tim" books, one of which is featured in this collection). 

What struck me was how ideas you'd imagine were fairly new and modern were actually nothing of the sort. Ingenious tricks like using cutouts in pages, or 'lift the flap' books have actually been around for a very long time, pioneered back when limited print runs of books came nowhere near approaching the sort of numbers modern publishing deals with. 

"Say with Me" - A completely entrancing and beautiful book from Poland. 
This is a luxurious book to get lost in for hours and as mentioned before, it's hugely inspirational particularly if (like me) you love a good scribble and want some new ideas or new directions to go in with your art. 

A truly magical collection. 

"100 Great Children's Picture Books" by Martin Salisbury is out today from Laurence King Publishing, RRP £24.95.

Charlotte's best bit: Too many favourites to choose from amongst these gorgeous books but she really loved the look of the original Moomins Cut Out Books and a Babar story she hadn't previously heard of

Daddy's Favourite bit: Loved the simplicity behind the "Slant Book" - Such a great idea! All in all, a glorious and inspirational collection of children's books, most of which we'd never heard of but really want to find out more about. Brilliant!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Laurence King Publishing)

3D Bubble Writer - a Crazy Craft Book by Linda Scott (Laurence King Publishing)

3D Bubble Writer - A Crazy Craft Book

Written and Illustrated by
Linda Scott

Published by Laurence King Publishing

This fantastic and inspirational craft book arrived just in the nick of time to stop us from going completely insane with boredom over the long (3 week long!) Easter Holidays. Charlotte loves doodling and scribbling, so what better way to get some inspiration for new craft projects than from a book absolutely packed to the gills with brilliant ideas.

"3D Bubble Writer" by Linda Scott gets children thinking about a subject particularly close to my nerdy typography-obsessed heart. I love fonts, I love lettering and it seems to be a bit of a lost art for folk to dabble in drawing up their own letter forms.

Linda's book breaks us in gently by showing us a few simple but hugely effective ideas to jazz up our own efforts, starting with the titular 3D Bubble Writing - but not stopping there, oh no! There are fantastic resources and exercises covering all sorts of magical 'makes' from your own pop-up cards and messages, to more intricate papercut designs from original sources of inspiration spanning the globe. Mexican bunting? You know we're going to love a bit of that!

Patchwork Lettering? Cool idea!

The great thing about this book (apart from the fact that it's inspired Charlotte to such an extent that she's just about covered all of her school work books in whizzy and sophisticated new nameplates and lettering - Ulp!) is that each of the exercises and projects appeal to a hugely wide range of age groups. Tinies can get stuck in making their own lettering mobiles while older kids can tuck into the more sophisticated makes on show here. With an adult to help where tricky cutting out is required, you'll soon be producing fantastic crafty creations with Linda's expert guidance.

Make your own fantastic paper-chain alphabet!

The book contains glorious and colourful press-out card 'makes' as well as showing you how to draw your own designs (you can even draw on the book, if you're the sort of person who doesn't run screaming into the trees at the very suggestion of defacing books!! Eeeks!)

What a fab book to dip into again and again, particularly on those long wet April Showers-ey days at home.

"3D Bubble Writer - A Crazy Craft Book" by Linda Scott is available from Laurence King Publishing today!

Charlotte's best bit: Experimenting with shadows, shading and pop-up shapes for her lettering creations! Fancy!

Daddy's Favourite bit: A huge thick jam-packed book spilling over with fabulous and inspirational artsy ideas! We utterly love it!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Laurence King Publishing)