Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Singing Mermaid (Special Edition with Mermaid Toy) by Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks (Macmillan Children's Books)

The Singing Mermaid

Written by Julia Donaldson
Illustrated by Lydia Monks

Published by Macmillan Children's Books

"The Singing Mermaid" is a book Charlotte has loved for a long time, as our Dentist rather thoughtfully has a copy in their waiting room. Every time we go for a brush up and check up, Charlotte makes straight for the book and we read it together (if there's one really genius idea, it's having great children's books in a dentist to calm them down before they go in!)

The story is a delightfully original twist on mermaid tales. The singing mermaid loves to sing to all the sea creatures and seagulls at Silversands Bay but when a ruthless unscrupulous circus owner tempts her away with promises of gold and soft feather beds to sleep on, the mermaid bids goodbye to Silversands and runs off (sorry, should say "is carried off!") to join the circus.

Life at the circus isn't too bad at first but Sam Sly, the circus owner, doesn't deliver on his promises - and soon the poor mermaid finds herself missing her friends and the golden beach.

Thankfully a Seagull hears her singing one evening, and decides to hatch an escape plan. Can the mermaid possibly get away with nothing but a swishy silvery tale to make good her escape with?

This special edition of "The Singing Mermaid" comes with a gorgeously made Singing Mermaid doll for your little ones to cuddle (and cuddle she did, Charlotte has taken her little Singing Mermaid everywhere with her since it arrived). The book is a pint-sized version of the story which is perfect for tucking into a bag.

Julia Donaldson's writing is as tight and expert as ever, and Lydia Monks' illustrations are colourful and enchanting.

It's a little early to start planning christmas presents perhaps, but this would make a brilliant one!

Charlotte's best bit: Having her very own singing mermaid to cuddle (of course) and the mermaid's spectacular escape from the circus

Daddy's Favourite bit: A wonderful and original mermaid story pitch-perfect to read aloud, with gorgeous art. Love the mini version, perfect for tucking into a child's bag for days out or stays at Grandma and Grandad's house

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

We chat to Rob Biddulph ahead of his fantastic new children's picture book "Blown Away"

Who works in a studio like this? 
We are lucky enough to have Rob Biddulph dropping by the blog today to let us in on some of his creative secrets ahead of the publication of his new children's picture book "Blown Away". Rob kindly submitted himself to the ReadItDaddy spotlight, so here goes!

ReadItDaddy: Hi Rob, thanks for stopping by ReadItDaddy for a chat. Tell us a little bit about yourself!

Hi guys. Well, I am also a daddy. I have three daughters called Ella, Kitty and Poppy. My wife's name is Ally and we all live London. I'm the only boy in the house (even our big fat cat, Catface, is a girl) so I'm properly outnumbered!

Jobwise, I am the art director of the Observer Magazine. It's a really good gig. I get to work with very nice, very clever people and I also get to design a very nice magazine for my favourite newspaper. Lucky, huh? What's even luckier is the fact that I also write and draw stories for kids that, and I still can't quite believe this, HarperCollins are going to publish! My first book is out this week and is called Blown Away. I think you might have read it already. What did you think?

ReadItDaddy: We were blown away by blown away (you probably get that a lot!) What was the inspiration for the story?

Well, for those that don't know, it's a story about a penguin (called Penguin Blue) who takes his brand new kite out for a fly on a windy day. Unfortunately, it's so breezy that both him and the kite get carried off by the wind. Despite his friends' best attempts to help him they are all blown away across the sea. We follow their adventures as they try to figure out a way to get back home. Funnily enough, the story was originally about two children who were blown away with their kite. It went like this:

A windy day. A brand new kite. On Hilltop Way a maiden flight.

A sudden squall. A gusty blow. We're in it's thrall. Away we go!

Above the trees, above the town, we ride the breeze, we don't look down…"

etc etc

I changed it when a couple of publishers said that they really liked a penguin sketch in my portfolio and suggested that I write a story about them. It suddenly hit me that penguins are one of the few types of bird that can't fly, so it would be really fun to get them airborne. It all seemed to fit together really beautifully so I very quickly adapted my original story to be about Blue and the gang. It seemed to work really well.
Fantastic character and scenery items from Rob's sketchbook. 

ReadItDaddy: Your artwork is fantastic! Having a sneaky look at the gallery on your website, we definitely see a good dose of 70s coolness there (Love that Raleigh Chopper! That’s the same colour as the one I had as a kid!) Tell us a little bit about your favourite techniques / processes for drawing / painting

Ha! I like that Chopper too. I didn't have one but Andrew Porter in my road did and I was very jealous of it!

My drawings all start out as pencil sketches in my sketchbook. Sometimes I'll add a bit of water colour too. It takes quite a bit of sketching to perfect a character, and it's not until I can draw them in any position and from any angle that I'm ready to get them onto the computer. To do that, I scan them in and redraw them using a very clever program which simulates paint digitally. It's amazing. You can mix and blend colour just like real paint - except without the mess! I use a digital paintbrush on a Wacom pad. I could go into more detail but it's so geeky that you might fall asleep reading it (Believe me, I wouldn't! - ReadItDaddy)

Rob's workspace and a sneaky peek at some of his work

ReadItDaddy: Your stories are instantly appealing to kids (and adults who read to them). What’s the one good piece of advice you’d give a budding writer who wants to write for children?

It sounds obvious, but try and write in the same voice that you would use if you were talking to a child. Generally, in life, I find that children like to be treated by adults as equals. They don't like being talked down to. After all, they're not stupid, they're just younger than you.

Also, it's very important that you like reading what you've written too. So write stuff that makes you smile. Always a good start.

Questions from Charlotte

 Charlotte: Penguins are cool. Are they your favourite animal?

Hi Charlotte. I do love penguins, yes. They were always my favourite animals at the zoo. I think it's probably because they make me laugh so much. I love that they're pretty clumsy on land but amazing in the water.

Meerkats are pretty ace too. Always on the lookout for danger, climbing on top of each other to get a better view...

I also like dolphins and tigers.

And bears.

Storyboarding "Blown Away" 

 Charlotte: What was your favourite book when you were a kid?”

I absolutely LOVED anything by Richard Scarry. I particularly remember reading Storybook Dictionary and What Do People Do All Day? again and again, hunting for Bugdozer on every page. Dingo Dog was my favourite character. I also loved Dogger by Shirley Hughes, The Tiger Who Came To Tea by Judith Kerr and, of course, Roger Hargreaves' Mr Men books. We have all of these on our bookshelf at home plus about a ton more - I can't stop buying them for my daughters!

- Huge thanks to Rob for such a brilliant and informative post, and thanks for showing us a bit of your work - and where you work!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Where's Spot? Join Puffin Books (and us) for an exciting adventure with Eric Hill's timeless puppy stories

Time for an adventure! Tweet where you think spot is using #WheresSpot on Twitter to join the competition!
Puffin Books are inviting you and your youngsters to join in a search! Spot the Puppy can be found in various locations throughout this week and later on in September too, and it's up to you to see if you can find out where! When you do,  Tweet his location  @puffinbooks using the hashtag #WheresSpot with the answer to WIN! using the postcard clues provided by bloggers and posters.

Here's our postcard image!

More details on the competition can be found at: 

Here's a photo of the goodies you can win! 

Some of the brilliant prizes on offer! Join in the fun with "Where's Spot!"

Join in the search for spot and celebrate Eric Hill's timeless puppy character! Don't forget - #WheresSpot :)

Oops! Quick edit to this - Check out Bookbabblers next week (week beginning 1st September) for the second part of the "Where's Spot" competition and blog tour!

You are (not) Small by Anna Kang and Chris Weyant (Hodder Children's Books)

You are (not) small

Written by Anna Kang

Illustrated by Chris Weyant

Published by Hodder Children's Books

Size matters and yet it does not. Small is one person's big. Big is one person's small, and Anna Kang's brilliant children's book looks at both sides of the size war. A tiny bear squares up to a big one. "You are small!" says big bear. "You are big" says little bear, and thus begins a story exploring all shapes and sizes with humour and hilarity.

Anna Kang might be described as small in her adopted homeland. Petite in stature, she obviously knows what it's like to be hobbit-esque (believe me, this is something I know only too well myself, being a fairly short five-six or thereabouts). She weaves her experiences into a superb tale.

Anna's partner Chris Weyant provides bold and colourful illustrations to compliment the rib-tickling tale that will become a snuggle-down read-aloud classic with your littlest ones (or even your 6 year olds, who will love helping out and reading along). I read all the big bear's lines and Charlotte read all the small bear's lines in this as we read it together, making it even more fun.

Does size really matter? Only when it comes to chocolate sundaes, we reckon.

Charlotte's best bit: There's such a brilliant pay-off at the end of the book which we won't spoil but it gave us both a snorting giggling moment. Love it!

Daddy's Favourite bit: A joyful celebration of all shapes and sizes (and heights!)

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

Monday, August 25, 2014

Monty's Magnificent Mane by Gemma O'Neill (Templar Publishing)

Monty's Magnificent Mane

Written and Illustrated by
Gemma O'Neill

Published by Templar Publishing Ltd

We first encountered Gemma's stunning visual style through her art and illustrative methods detailed in Dr Karenanne Knight's "The Picture Book Maker". We somehow missed out on her previous children's book "Oh Dear, Geoffrey" but it was great to finally catch up with her work in this stunning book for Templar.

"Monty's Magnificent Mane" truly is magnificent. Monty, a rather proud and handsome lion, is the king of the jungle and king of the coiffed. His tresses are his treasure, his pompadour is his pride and joy, and Monty never gets tired of brushing, washing and combing his lovely locks.

Monty's friends get a little fed up with his hair obsession but when a new voice compliments Monty on his stunning locks and looks, he can't help but turn his head to show off his barnet to his new-found friend. Danger lurks though, getting too close to a watering hole isn't a good idea - even for a lion, particularly when crocodiles skulk therein.

After a near miss, costing Monty part of his lovely hairstyle, danger is still at hand. Will Monty be a brave beast or a cowardly lion when the nasty croc threatens his meerkat pals?

We were drawn in by Gemma's truly wonderful art (Charlotte loved the fact that Gemma's mixed media and collage work contained tiny little bits of maps and textures, woven into Monty's glorious mane). We loved this tale of Monty's bravery and friendship too. Most of all though we loved Monty and his mane, magnificent in every way (even when he loses half of it part-way through the story!)

We'll be keeping an eye out for more from Gemma. She's hugely talented (probably no surprise then that she's found a home at Templar, who seem to be utterly expert at spotting talented author-illustrators and snapping them up!)

Charlotte's best bit: The intricate details in Monty's mane, and his bravery when helping his friends.

Daddy's Favourite bit: Stunning artwork, a really brilliant and positive message in the story, such a corkingly good read!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Templar Publishing / Gemma O'Neill)

Friday, August 22, 2014

ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week Ending 22nd August 2014 - "The Colour Thief" by Gabriel Alborozo (Bloomsbury Publishing)

The Colour Thief

Written and Illustrated by
Gabriel Alborozo

Published by Bloomsbury Publishing

Moving from political cartoonist to children's book author is no mean feat but Gabriel Alborozo has managed it with aplomb. You'll probably recall how we raved about Alborozo's superb "The Acrobat". Switching publishers to Bloomsbury, Alborozo has come up with a fabulous tale about colour - or rather, at the beginning of the story, a lack of it. A little alien lives on a grey world full of grey folk. The buildings are grey, the grass is grey, the trees and animals are all a zillion shades of grey. There's no colour to be found anywhere but one day the alien spies a greeny-blue planet through his space telescope and decides to investigate.

The alien lands on earth, and marvels to the wondrous colours that can be found everywhere. With a sneaky sideways glance, the alien comes up with a plan - Drain all the colours from everything and take them back home to his own planet.

The alien sets about his dastardly deed, sucking the green from the grass and trees, the yellow from flowers and even the colour from a little child's balloon before whizzing off in his flying saucer back home.

But he casts a look back at what he's done. Turned the earth into the same cold barren grey landscape of his own planet. Surely there must be a way to undo his dreadful deed and put things back to normal?

We won't reveal how the story plays out but this is that rare thing, a truly original children's book that warms the cockles of your heart as well as telling a moral tale.

Alborozo's talent both with writing and illustration really sings out from ever colourful (and not so colourful) page. This book has been demanded again and again by Charlotte and if there's a better recommendation than that, I've yet to see it.

Charlotte's best bit: The alien's "Sneaky I've got a plan" face and she was also rather sweet on the little boy in the book and very sad about what happened to his balloon!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Like Alborozo's other children's books, a truly stunning and original book with a sweet and sublime message at its heart. Truly lovely!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Bloomsbury Publishing)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Skullabones Island - Pirate Post / How to Be a Skullabones Pirate (Ladybird Books)

Skullabones Island - Pirate Post / How to Be a Skullabones Pirate

Published by Ladybird Books

Ladybird's brilliant "Skullabones Island" range of books is expanding and we've been taking a look at a couple of books from the range of piratical activity books, story books and early learning ideas from the Skullabones range.

Kids (both boys and girls) love pirate books and they'll love the light-hearted adventures of the Skullabones Pirates. Led by Captain Cutlass, the crew get up to all sorts of mischief in their search for treasure.

"Pirate Post" is a story book with a twist. Within the pages are envelopes tucked away in the story text, so curious kids can dig out the letters and pictures and find additional clues and story elements within. We absolutely loved the fact that some of the letters are tucked away in a "message in a bottle". Charlotte took great care with the book but it's worth noting that a bit of parental intervention will often be required if you want to keep the book in good condition (sometimes the letters are a bit difficult to tuck back into their containers). Loved this book though, such a great idea!

In "How to Be a Skullabones Pirate" you'll find a ton of stickers, puzzles and activities to keep your little ones busy for hours. Test your pirate mettle in a number of ways, while enjoying the crazy antics of the skullabones crew!

We never get tired of pirate books, and the range from Ladybird is fantastic fun!

Charlotte's best bit: Finding the messages tucked away in a bottle in "Skullabones Island - Pirate Post" and loving hours of sticker fun with "How to be a Skullabones Pirate"

Daddy's Favourite bit: Bold colourful books, brilliant characters and the "Pirate Post" idea is a work of genius! Love it!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Ladybird Books)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Wonderful World of Oliver Jeffers comes to Discover Story this autumn

Discover Children’s Story Centre in east London is launching an exciting new interactive exhibition, ‘Once There Was…The Wonderful World of Oliver Jeffers.’ Discover’s upcoming exhibition explores the beautiful and best-loved work of Oliver Jeffers. Children and families will be able to walk into immersive environments inspired by How to Catch a Star, Up and Down, Lost and Found and The Way Back Home.

The exhibition coincides with the 10th anniversary of the publication of How to Catch a Star, and will feature live storytelling of the ‘Boy’ books and an opportunity to explore a series of spaces that will set children’s imaginations on fire including ‘the Boy’s’ bedroom complete with penguins, aliens, a Lost and Found office, a full-sized rowing boat, a beach, a pier, a garden and a rocket.

Discover’s Joint Chief Executive, Sally Goldsworthy said, ‘This is a unique representation of Oliver’s work where children will be able to physically explore some of their favourite scenes of the superb ‘Boy’ books. Oliver’s books are inspiring, moving and heartening and brilliantly capture the themes of loneliness and friendship in their pages. Discover has recreated his wide open landscapes and made the themes leap from the page.’

Award winning author and illustrator Oliver Jeffers said ‘Discover is an organisation that truly appreciates the picture book artist and is faithful to their vision. I am delighted to celebrate the 10th anniversary of How to Catch a Star with my first fully immersive installation based on the four ‘Boy’ books. I am looking forward to watching families enjoy the experience.’

Discover’s new interactive exhibition for families, "Once There Was..." opens on Saturday 27 September launching the centre’s autumn programme full of inspiration from Oliver Jeffers’ books and drawings.

Discover Children’s Story Centre’s exhibitions have been nominated for the 2012 European Museum Academy International Children’s Museum Award. Once There Was...follows hot on the heels of their blockbuster exhibitions Secret Agents, Journey to Space and sold out collaboration with Punchdrunk Enrichment, The House Where Winter Lives.

Check out the event "Once There Was..." at Discover,  open to the public Saturday 27 September 2014

Angela Nicely - Superstar! by Alan Macdonald and David Roberts (Stripes Publishing)

Angela Nicely - Superstar!

Written by Alan Macdonald

Illustrated by David Roberts

Published by Stripes Publishing

The third brilliant "Angela Nicely" book - "Angela Nicely, Supertar!" was very well received at home. Charlotte's turning into a mini version of me, juggling several chapter books at once - but we really liked "Superstar!" as it gives us not one, not two but three Angela Nicely tales to read. Angela Nicely, for those who haven't 'met' her yet, is a little girl who at first appearances might look like butter wouldn't melt in her mouth but is actually a bit of a minx. She's not content to brush her hair, or play with girly dolls - though she is partial to a stunning dress, to be fair. Angela lives life to the full and in these three stories, she often ends up accidentally causing mischief and mayhem!

Angela wants to enter a talent contest using her amazing new-found powers of hypnotism. She also wants to enjoy the great outdoors on a nature ramble that goes disastrously wrong. Finally Angela is determined to show the boys how to play football properly in these three awesome adventures.

She's such a great character for girls, her natural curiosity and energy fizz away. Hugely entertaining, so much so that Charlotte's going in for a second read-through!

Charlotte's best bit: Angela's fabulous winning goal! Right in the back of the net!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Rib-tickling and entertaining, Charlotte absolutely loved this and the other Angela Nicely books. Move over Dirty Bertie, the girls are taking over!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Stripes Publishing / Little Tiger Press

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus (An Origami Yoda Adventure) by Tom Angleberger (Amulet Books)

Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus (An Origami Yoda Adventure)

Written and Illustrated by
Tom Angleberger

Published by Amulet Books

The Origami Yoda Chronicles seem to have slipped silently by most folk on this side of the pond, but the New York Times Best-Selling series draws to a close with "Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus", Tom Angleberger's latest geek-tastic Star-Warsy mash up.

For those new to the series, the stories revolve around a crew of cooky stooky kids at McQuarrie High School (yes, the books are absolutely laden with Star Wars references - partly why Daddy had to kidnap this book and sneak off to read it, as Charlotte's still not sold on the whole Star Wars idea yet).

Tommy and his friends have successfully rescued their field trip to Washington D.C but that's just the start of a new adventure, which takes a downward turn as Principal Rabbinski declares the trip an "Origami Free Zone" - Disaster! How will the kids cope?

Tom's six-volume (plus accompanying peripheral books) series reaches a satisfying conclusion that doesn't just nod its head knowingly to geek culture, but tenderly examines the huge changes that kids experience as they move through school, develop friendships and relationships and start to find their first faltering steps in the big wide world.

Reaching the end is just a very good excuse to dive all the way back to book one (The Strange Case of Origami Yoda) and read this hugely satisfying series all over again.

(Kindly sent to us for review by Amulet Books)