Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Little Factory of Illustration by Flore Saint-Val (Tate Publishing)

The Little Factory of Illustration

Written and Illustrated by
Flore Saint-Val

Published by Tate Publishing

Wow, now this is a book that is practically guaranteed to help out substantially with the long, long drawn out school summer holidays. If you have a budding artist at home, a talented doodler, a maker and doer, then you're going to have a lot of fun with "The Little Factory of Illustration" by Flore Saint-Val.

Introduced by the master artiste himself, the awesome Artful Sketcher, we're taken on a whirlwind tour of The Little Factory of Illustration and the colourful characters who dwell within its walls.

Welcome to reception! It's a little bit busy!

Each page spread opens up a wealth of art prompts, activities and fun to be had as The Artful Sketcher introduces us to The Doodler, Roxy, Bob and Jojo - all lifelong artists at work at LIFIPO - here to help you get the most from your artistic imagination.

The Doodler comes up with some cracking designs for you to colour or collage

Even when your little ones have run out of crayons and are all doodled out, you can dive to the back of the book and find a handy wallet tucked into the back cover containing games and other items that can be used with the book.

The only criticism I have of this utterly fantastic book is that it's such a thing of beauty, that we didn't want to deface it. Though it positively invites you to scribble all over it (something that we "just DO not DO daddy!") we came up with lots of ingenious ways to trace and copy the pages so that we could leave the book intact. After all, no one wants to work in a messy factory do they?

Absolutely marvellous and thoroughly recommended if your little ones are kicking their heels around bored with the long hot summer - or (chance would be a fine thing) if the weather turns nasty and you need something to keep 'em busy on a rainy day.

Charlotte's best bit: Scribbling designs and patterns along with The Doodler and making a fantastic collage fashion statement

Daddy's Favourite bit: So many things to see and so much to do in this book, blissful peace and quiet while your little ones get busy with a multitude of activities and fun in this one!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Tate Publishing)

Best Friends by Mara Bergman and Nicola Slater (Hodder Children's Books)

Best Friends

Written by Mara Bergman

Illustrated by Nicola Slater

Published by Hodder Children's Books

Though we're predominantly cat people (meow!) at ReadItDaddy Towers, we cannot resist a doggy picture book and "Best Friends" by Mara Bergman and Nicola Slater is an absolute stunner.

This lovely little rhyming story tells the tale of Dexter, Daisy and Lily - three very different doggies and their very different owners. Like most dogs, Dexter Daisy and Lily are fun and mischievous and like nothing better than getting up to all sorts of shenanigans in the local park. The dogs and their young owners all meet up and soon chaos and fun ensues, and along the way the children find out that sharing and playing together is a huge amount of fun.

What caught our eye about this book, other than the utterly stunning retro-flavoured art by Nicola Slater is Mara's pitch-perfect rhyming and the glorious energy the book exudes from every page spread. From end paper to end paper, it's a charmer and if your little ones are pet obsessed, they'll love the story while you'll knowingly nod at some of the amusing antics that happen as the tale unfolds. Really love this!

Charlotte's best bit: Charlotte fell hopelessly in love with Daisy. Such a natty dresser!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Fun rhymes, utterly beautiful illustrations, a canine classic if ever I've seen one!

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

Monday, July 28, 2014

Noisy Neighbours by Ruth Green (Tate Publishing)

Noisy Neighbours

Written and Illustrated by
Ruth Green

Published by Tate Publishing

Oh boy, the fun we've had with this book - even though it does touch a bit of a raw nerve at the moment (our immediate neighbours aren't noisy but our neighbourhood is!)

Charlotte and I sat down and cuddled up with this great little book from Ruth Green. Though it's been out for a while, we're playing catch up with Tate Publishing's truly awesome children's book range so watch out for more reviews soon.

A snail is the star of this story, a rather tired little snail if truth be told - who really wants nothing more than to curl up in his shell and get some much-needed rest. But the poor snail can't find a quiet place to kip.

Chirping sparrows keep him awake (again, fully identify with you Mr Snail, we get woken up at first light by the stupid pigeons in our locale! Grrr!) buzzing bees (check, we had a bee infestation a year ago that woke us up at first light with loud droning) and even quacking ducks (OK we haven't had this yet but we live quite near a river so it's not beyond the bounds of possibility).

We love the humour in this. You see Mr Snail is a bit of a tired old grump, a bit like...well me I guess! But he does come up with a stunning idea that might finally guarantee a quiet night's sleep. Can you guess what it is? Clue: Party time!

As you'd expect from Tate Publishing, Ruth Green's fabulous little book is a treat for the eyes - and it's rib-ticklingly funny. We always love books that are huge amounts of fun to 'act out' and read aloud, and that's certainly the case with Noisy Neighbours. Charlotte loved it to bits, though I found it a little bit too close to reality at times :)

By the way, if you're a story app fan, do not miss the app version of "Noisy Neighbours" - It's utterly fantastic! Take a look at:


iTunes link: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/noisy-neighbours/id888706932?mt=8

Charlotte's best bit: The snail's brilliant plan to finally get a good long peaceful snooze. Genius!

Daddy's Favourite bit: A fantastic and original book full of fun and humour - and awesome fun to read aloud!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Tate Publishing)

The National Literacy Trust's Wicked Young Writers Award - 100 entries shortlisted for the 2014 pool of entries

WICKEDthe global musical phenomenon that tells the incredible untold story of the Witches of Oz, is proud to announce that 100 entries, selected from more than 5,200 submissions, have been shortlisted for the 2014 Wicked Young Writers’ Award.

The Award was established in 2010 as a way of linking the themes and messages of the long-running musical with a competition to inspire self-expression and creativity through the writing of young people aged between 5-25 years old. 

This year’s entries saw young people exploring themes and concerns such as ageing, enduring love and loss, global warming, bullying, self-harm, and the effects of war. 

Michael Morpurgo said of this year’s Award: “All these talented young writers have allowed their imagination to live and breathe. They haven’t been afraid to tell their stories and speak their poems down and to express themselves with originality and flair. I have loved reading their writing and hope that you will as well.”

Wicked’s Executive Producer, Michael McCabe said: “As a show, Wicked strives to draw upon the thrill of live performance to inspire discussion around its story and themes.  It hugely rewarding to see so many young people across the country engage with these values through the Wicked Young Writers’ Award.”

In the younger categories, the entries were funny, scary and surprisingly complex: an alien helps a lonely little girl with cerebral palsy make new friends; a bully is given a dose of his own medicine; a happy, greedy Venus flytrap devours the world; and a surprisingly funny and mature poem about Albert Einstein.

Older categories’ entries, peopled with characters ranging from soldiers suffering with PTS to unwed teenage mothers, used sophisticated imagery and language to explore alienation, death, self-harm and struggling to conform without losing one’s identity.

The eldest 18-25 year old category was surprisingly mature, unselfconscious and insightful, providing a first look at the emerging voices of a new generation: moving, dark and sometimes playful themes comprised of repressed sexuality, love, murder and dementia. This is writing directly from the heart, trying to make sense of a complicated world.

The overall winners will be announced on Thursday 7 August at a special event at London’s Apollo Victoria Theatre, home of the award-winning musical.  The Award is championed by Patron Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall, and spearheaded by Chair Judge and bestselling author, Michael Morpurgo, who was joined in the shortlisting process by Michael McCabe, UK Executive Producer of WickedDean Atta, acclaimed poet and playwright and Henry Smith, founder and director of Lend Me Your Literacy.

Discover more at www.WickedYoungWriters.com

Mine! By Jerome Keane and Susana De Dios (Orchard Books)


Written by Jerome Keane

Illustrated by Susana De Dios

Published by Orchard Books

With a cover that leaps out at you in bold colourful style, and a great little core message about sharing and friendship tucked away inside here's a rather attractive little book from Jerome Keane and Susana De Dios.

"Mine!" introduces Horse and Fox, who are bored one day and in dire need of something to do. Bored bored bored! When something unexpectedly drops out of the sky near them, it's only a matter of time before both Horse and Fox want to play with the mysterious thing that has appeared.

Each hopes the other hasn't noticed, but of course they have - and thus begins an animated discussion about who the object belongs to.

"It's mine!" says Horse.
"No, it's mine!" says Fox.

They argue and bicker, but can Horse and Fox learn to...share?

This will have an air of familiarity to it for any parent who is struggling to teach their little ones the value of sharing and playing together (lord knows we struggled with this one but it was very encouraging to see that we weren't the only parents at Charlotte's nursery who had problems getting their kids to share!) An amusing little tale with a superb twist and payoff at the end, guaranteed to slot nicely in before bedtime. Lovely!

Charlotte's best bit: Laughing out loud when she saw how Horse and Fox's problem was rather neatly solved!

Daddy's Favourite bit: A moral tale with amusing consequences, very nicely written and illustrated.

(Kindly sent to us for review by Orchard Books)

Friday, July 25, 2014

Maps Activity Book by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski (Big Picture Press)

Maps Activity Book

Written by Aleksandra Mizielinska

Illustrated by Daniel Mizielinski

Published by Big Picture Press

When we were lucky enough to see some previews of Big Picture Press's initial run of titles, we knew "Maps" was going to become a modern classic. Mizielinska and Mizielinski, already legendary in other territories, exploded onto the children's book scene in the UK thanks to Big Picture Press picking up several of their titles for publishing. Though we never got to see a finished copy of Maps (just a preview, awww) we've been spending a lot of time over the last couple of weeks with the Maps Activity Book.

When we're about to go on holiday, we are always on the hunt for a good selection of books that Charlotte can busy herself with for hours - for those times when the rain's hammering down and we're stuck in our cottage, or just for moments when daddy's cooking or mummy's packing things for a day out.

The Maps Activity Book is utterly brilliant for this, and also keeps children ticking over nicely while on the long school vacation away from all that brain-boxing and learning. Most of all, it's an immense amount of fun, created in the trademark style of Mizielinska and Mizielinski and literally fizzing with detail and engagement on so many levels.

Inside the Maps Activity Book you'll find the perfect companion to the original Maps book, with a ton of superb puzzles, brilliant illustrations and plenty for kids to draw, write, make and do. Pages can be torn out or kept in the book (tearing pages out of such an attractive book seems tantamount to treason, let alone letting kids scribble in it but that really is what it's made for :)

Like the original, this is truly stunning stuff as we've come to expect from Mizielinska and Mizielinski and of course from Big Picture Press. Fabulous!

Charlotte's best bit: Drawing a detailed Amazon scene full of plants and animals with all her best colouring pencils

Daddy's Favourite bit: Brilliantly compiled and illustrated, offering hour after hour of engagement, activity and challenge in a nice format size for packing into your Trunki for going away. Another belter from BPP!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Big Picture Press)

Everyone's gone to the Loom! 3 current and upcoming kid's books for you obsessive Loomineers!

Loom Band It by Kat Roberts and Tessa Sillars-Powell (Apple Press)
If you'd told me a couple of months ago that I'd be eschewing the usual evening's entertainment to slavishly sit, almost exploding with concentration and frustration, twiddling tiny rubber bands around pegs or a couple of forks, I'd have called you a complete lunatic (or should that be Loom-Atic? Oh yes the puns will keep coming, never fear!)

The world seems to have gone Loom Band crazy, and it's almost impossible to escape hearing about the latest trend for kids to create amazing bracelets, charms and figures from tiny little coloured elastic bands. 

Though most folk turn to YouTube for some brilliant tutorials (we can heartily recommend searching for Loom Love and Olgacrafts - two of the best Loomers around) we wondered whether there were any books on the subject. 

Obviously it's not the sort of thing that lends itself well to a book (can you imagine how long some of the tutorials would be?) We find the diagrams that come with packets of loom bands a bit like reading double dutch and they're quite frustrating for kids - so we looked for 3 of the best. 

First up - from our header image is "Loom Band-it" by Kat Roberts and Tessa Sillars-Powell. This looks like it should offer an excellent starting point for kids who are just beginning to make their own loom creations. 60 projects ranging from bracelets to charms and rings should definitely get you up and running. 

Loom Magic! Creatures by Becky Thomas and Monica Sweeney (Simon and Schuster Children's Books)
Next is something that should tickle your fancy if you prefer making charms and figures, creatures and cute little things. "Loom Magic! Creatures" by Becky Thomas and Monica Sweeney (Simon and Schuster) has 25 loom projects that break away from boring bracelets and let you exercise your creative talents making all sorts of wonderful creatures. Rather like the look of this one as we've just started making things like this ourselves (and can heartily recommend any tutorials you find that use two forks - no I'm not kidding - rather than the sometimes quite expensive looms or peg boards). 

Rev-o-LOOM-tion - A modern kids guide to rocking rubber bands by Liz Hum (Triumph Books)
Finally something a bit more rad and fashion conscious. "Rev-o-LOOM-tion - a modern kids guide to rocking rubber bands" by Liz Hum is more for wearable loom creations. It's been getting some impressive customer reviews on Amazon so it could be the ticket if your kids prefer stuff they can wear rather than charms or figures. 

We're waiting to see what other publishers do to climb on board the rubber-band-wagon - Hopefully these are just a few of the books that'll be hitting shelves over the summer and through towards christmas when loom stuff will be high on a lot of children's christmas pressie lists. 

ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week Ending 25th July 2014 - "Mr Tweed's Good Deeds" by Jim Stoten (Flying Eye Books)

Mr Tweed's Good Deeds

Written and Illustrated by
Jim Stoten

Published by Flying Eye Books

Once again, Flying Eye Books hit our "Book of the Week" slot with an utterly charming and peerless book that combines a whimsical story, cool counting and hidden object fun.

Jim Stoten's "Mr Tweed's Good Deeds" is fantastic, and instantly caught Charlotte's eye because of its colourful and detailed artwork and caught my eye because it reminded me heavily of the sort of books I utterly loved as a kid. Whether intentional or not, Jim Stoten's artwork feels wonderfully trippy and retro and it's not difficult to see why this ended up on Flying Eye's bookshelf, it really does 'belong'.

Mr Tweed sets out on an afternoon's stroll, and along the way he meets his many friends - each of whom has lost an object. As the story unfolds, each snippet of text sets out a counting challenge for youngsters, and then a hidden object spread (hugely detailed panels) to find something that one of Mr Tweeds' friends has lost.

We fell completely in love with this book as you can probably tell, and the beauty of it is that parents and children can interact with each other and the book on so many levels. Setting each other challenges of things to find once the main objects have been located, and of course counting along with this lyrical tale.

Sincerely hope that we see more of Mr Tweed's good deeds and of Jim Stoten's wonderful work!

Charlotte's best bit: Laughing because Daddy couldn't find the two moggies (I am so rubbish at hidden object books!)

Daddy's Favourite bit: A charming retro feel, but a book bang up to date in its appeal. Absolutely fantastic!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

"Honestly, we just really love what you do!" - A ReadItDaddy love letter to children's book and comic authors and illustrators

"Honestly we really just wanna let you know we love your work!"

It's been a while since I wrote anything editorial-ish for the blog so I thought I'd get back on the horse with a post about stalking. Er what? No actually scrub that, stalking is a little bit too strong a word - So let's call it superfandom.

We are children's book and comic superfans I guess. You know when you transit from that stage of knowing all the classic children's books that you should have on your shelves but don't want to just leave it at that, you want to know who the next generation of beloved national treasures are going to be when it comes to writing and illustrating for children.

We're very fortunate enough at ReadItDaddy to get invited to events. Events where we will meet authors and illustrators. Authors and illustrators who we've written lots and lots of nice things about.

That's OK, but naturally as a bit of a shy bloke (and Charlotte, unfortunately, has inherited my shyness to a certain extent, poor mite!) it's extremely hard not to turn into some sort of gibbering wreck at author / illustrator events. Meeting Jonny Duddle recently was awesome but I can't help thinking I scared the poor bloke half to death by being a little bit too enthusiastic about his awesome work.

Eep there I go again, slipping into superfandom. Charlotte is slightly more subtle than me but I get the feeling if she ever met Luke Pearson or Holly Webb or Shaun Tan or countless other much loved authors and illustrators in real life, she might be a little giddy too.

Really though we just love what you do, nothing more nothing less and sometimes if we get a bit scarily enthusiastic, apologies but what you do is vital, important, imaginative, artistic and we don't really know how else to tell you. We don't keep little effigies of you by our bedside, or photoshop grinning pictures of us next to your press shots, but we really do love what you do so forgive us if we seem a bit frighteningly enthusiastic at times :)

The Selkie Girl by Janis Mackay and Ruchi Mhasane (Picture Kelpies)

The Selkie Girl

Written by Janis Mackay

Illustrated by Ruchi Mhasane

Published by Picture Kelpies

Rounding off our trio of reviews looking at the fantastic Picture Kelpies range, we've been taking a look at "The Selkie Girl" by Janis Mackay and Ruchi Mhasane. Tapping into scottish legends once again, it tells the tale of a young boy called Fergus and his father who are very poor, eking out a living from the sea and shore where they live. One day Fergus finds a mysterious fur blanket tucked away amongst the rocks as he combs the beach. He takes this newfound treasure home but doesn't realise that the fur belongs to The Selkie Girl, and without it she cannot return to the sea. For the fur holds the power to change the girl into a seal, allowing her to dive and swim underwater.

Trapped on land, the girl has no choice but to find her way to Fergus' cottage to beg for the return of her fur coat. Fergus (rather meanly in our opinion) likes her company, so tells her that he will return the coat to her if she spends a week with him on land.

The two become firm friends, and Fergus enjoys having a friend around - stark contrast to his usual lonely and miserable existence. But as the two play together, the Selkie Girl misses her family and thus must return to the sea...but what of Fergus, is he destined to be forever lonely? We'll let you discover this story and find out for yourself in the book.

Janis Mackay's thoughtful and touching retelling of this classic scottish folk tale is beautifully brought to life by Ruchi Mhasane's illustrations, and the lyrical text makes this a wonderful story to read before bedtime. We have been completely and thoroughly impressed with the Picture Kelpies range, fusing fantastic traditional stories with the very highest quality artwork and presentation. Do seek them out because they really are worth a place in your collection.

Charlotte's best bit: Fergus and Selkie playing together and having lots of fun

Daddy's Favourite bit: Another brilliant addition to the Picture Kelpies range, with a fantastic traditional tale melded with gorgeous art.

(Kindly sent to us for review by Picture Kelpies)