Monday, September 26, 2016

The Wonderful Adventures of Nils by Selma Lagerlöf, Kochka and Olivier Latyk (Words and Pictures)

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An exquisitely ethereal book that features some truly glorious paper-cut illustrations and panels, let's meet Nils!
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Draw Every Day, Draw Every Way by Jennifer Orkin Lewis (Abrams and Chronicle)

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Now THIS is our type of book! As budding (but strictly amateur) artists, we love joining in with the various Twitter daily and weekly art prompts such as #ShapeChallenge, #Sketch_Dailies, #3yroldscribble and many many others.

It's not always convenient to dive onto the computer to check out what's new - and sometimes it's just nicer to be able to push your abilities in a whole new direction with prompts and project that encourage you to try different techniques and art materials.

Jennifer Orkin Lewis' "Draw Every Day, Draw Every Way" sets you a huge challenge to fill your year with an artistic endeavour per day, breaking the book up into monthly sections encouraging you to explore new mediums and subjects, then drawing straight into the book itself, or stapling in your finished bits of work to build up a truly impressive art journal.

Can you draw something groovy and natural just using a black ink pen?
The book eases you into things by encouraging you to explore simple black ink on a blank page. The first section deals with natural subjects such as a field of sunflowers, a pair of dragonflies, or even a french garden as viewed from above. The way you interpret each prompt is entirely up to you.

All the colours of the rainbow later on in the book!
Later the book encourages you to use colour and ink, watercolours, gouache or acrylics - the list is seemingly endless but as we're talking about a book that's designed to keep you busy and inspired for a whole year, there's a lot to pack in.

Each section tails off with some simple self-assessment questions. Be honest, it'll really pay dividends when you look back at your artistic year
We particularly loved how the book encourages you to be self-critical. Revisit each section as the month comes to a close and say the things you enjoyed, the things you found challenging. Make some notes and then it'll be an amazing thing to refer back to in years to come.

We'd almost encourage you to buy two copies of this - and as your artistic year comes to a close, revisit all the topics in a higgledy-piggledy order to see how you've improved, what you've learned, and how amazing your artistic techniques have become.

"Draw Every Day, Draw Every Way" by Jennifer Orkin Lewis is out now, published by Abrams and Chronicle (Kindly supplied for review).
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Friday, September 23, 2016

ReadItDaddy's Third Book of the Week - Week Ending 23rd September 2016 - Pablo and his Chair by Delphine Perret (Princeton Architectural Press)

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In our ongoing quest to bring you the very best picture books, we've discovered a bit of a gem that's had us breaking our "Book of the Week" rules today...
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ReadItDaddy's Second Book of the Week - Week Ending 23rd September 2016 - "The Pressed Fairy Journal of Madeline Cottington" by Brian and Wendy Froud (Abrams Books)

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Without a doubt, Brian and Wendy Froud are two of the most accomplished fantasy artists ever. Their work has found its way into amazing movies and glorious books, and our second Book of the Week is sheer brilliance...!
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ReadItDaddy's First Book of the Week - Week Ending 23rd September 2016 - "Botanicum - Welcome to the Museum" by Professor Kathy Willis and Katie Scott (Big Picture Press)

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Our first Book of the Week this week is the third in the incredible "Welcome to the Museum" series, the stunning "Botanicum" by Professor Kathy Willis and Katie Scott...
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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Oversharing about your kids on your parent blog? Maybe it's time to stop. A ReadItTorial.

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Today's thorny topic again had multiple inspirations, beginning with a widely-circulated news story of a girl who is suing her parents for sharing embarrassing photos of her as a youngster on their Social Media feeds:

The story, stemming from Austria surprisingly - and not the U.S - is a fairly extreme case (and of course I apologise unreservedly for including the Daily Fail as a linked reference here) sparked off quite an interesting reaction on Twitter.

One Tweeter (who shall remain nameless) seemed to take umbrage with the whole idea of parent blogging rather than over-sharing on social media, stating that it was "inevitable" that at some point a disgruntled child would naturally be peed off at their parents "hawking them on a blog just to get a load of free stuff".

The reason the tweet annoyed me was that this seems to still be the perception with a few folk whose wares (be they children's clothing, toys, books, comics etc) end up in the hands of folk who want to write about them or review them in exchange for said goods. The skewed notion that we're all in it for the freebies, and we're willing to expose our children to the nasty wide world out there just to snag a few goodies really grates, and coming from the tweeter in question (who shall remain nameless but will be trodden very lightly around from now on) felt like a solid slap in the chops to an overly-sensitive chap like me.

I just didn't really know how to react to such a sweeping and damning statement in any sane rational way at the time (so of course I'm blogging about it a few days afterwards), but it seems to be part and parcel of an underlying trend of negating the worth of blogs in general.

I get that we're not proper journalists. After all, we don't work for broadsheets or red-tops or write regularly for The Huffington Post or other more trustworthy internet sources. We didn't bust our humps at college or university studying journalism (well some might, but they're in the minority surely?) So how can our opinions even matter at all?

The "Free stuff" thing is infuriating and quite frankly I'm personally pig sick of hearing it trotted out by folk who have probably never even set foot on the blog. Perhaps indeed there are bloggers out there who wouldn't bother writing their blogs at all if it wasn't for a steady trickle of complimentary goodies. Fair enough if that's your bag. Books are our bag though, and it makes no difference at all to the reviews how they're sourced - whether they're free or we pay for them, they still receive the same critical attention.

We've said time and time again that it would make no difference whatsoever to ReadItDaddy if we didn't receive the majority of the books we review directly from publishers or PRs who want us to cover their items. We would definitely still do it anyway, we'd check them out from the library or (oh my goodness) BUY them and review them. To hammer this point home a little harder, I can guarantee you that we (like the majority of book bloggers) buy an awful lot of books.

We love books, and there's no way even the most influential book blogger can get sent absolutely everything they want to read (or read with their child) gratis, for free, for nought.

As for reviewing any old crap just because we've been contacted by a gushing PR who wants a decent list of influencers to work with - we don't do that either, in fact we're probably frustratingly choosy to work with.

I do admittedly find it amusing that there are blogs out there who'll happily stick up a glowing review of some junk-filled juice box or school lunch snack because they've been sent a boxload. Again though this calls into question the whole ethical side of parent blogging and if there is a debate to be had at all, it should definitely start with the motivations for sending stuff like that out in the first place. One tweeter quite rightly pointed out that book bloggers can be systematically taken advantage of by some publishers, who know they're going to get product coverage for a relatively small fee compared to what it would cost to pay for an ad.

The original Tweeter's insinuations that parents who photograph their children and share pictures of them on their blogs "deserve all they get" (including being sued by their little darlings later on in life) makes a sweeping generalisation that parents are really that detached from protecting their kids that vapid consumerism is a far preferable alternative to protecting them from the pond scum who do fetch up online looking for ways to antagonise or abuse innocent folk. I sometimes question my own naivety in sharing my daughter's name with the folk who come here to read about books, but when I started out, the whole "Her Opinion / My Opinion" thing was (and still is) the crux of what made this blog worth the effort. There is of course the fact that I'm hugely proud of Charlotte and her love of books - and her opinions on those books too. We still couldn't keep on doing this if it wasn't for her loving being the biggest part of what drives the blog on.

Of course, over-sharing can be pretty grim and sometimes you do have to wonder what goes on in people's heads on some social media channels where they really do take their child's entire life and stick it up there for all to see. The recent lawsuit has, if nothing else, highlighted that children's future net presence can be adversely affected when that child grows up, and the ever-present power of search engines and social connectivity on the internet means that at some point or another, some twerp is going to dig up their baby photos for a giggle, or some school bully will find that old stuff and make their life a misery with it for a hoot.

I secretly always hope that one day Charlotte will look back on this blog, and it will bring back happy memories of the times we've shared together reading books, thinking about what we like and don't like about them and then writing it up - and I'm pretty sure that most other book bloggers would like to feel the same.

This continued insulting insinuation that we're all ligging sh*tbags just in it for the freebies has got to stop though, and if you're an author, illustrator or creative who feels that you're losing out on a book sale because your publisher or PR has sent us your book gratis to review, I'm really sorry you feel that way and if you don't think that what we write is any kind of compensation for the few quid (or probably pence in some cases) you'd have got otherwise, feel free to contact us and let us know and we'll cease covering your work - and politely request that PRs don't send us your books.

Writing about books takes time - and time is the most valuable commodity all parents and book bloggers have, and if a book is seen as 'overpayment' for that time then I really don't think we'll ever see eye to eye.
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Samson the Mighty Flea by Angela McAllister and Nathan Reed (Andersen Children's Books)

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Roll up, roll up! Step right up ladies and gentleman for the strongest flea you'll ever see! Mighty Samson!
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The Magical World of Amy Lee by Amy Lee (Scholastic)

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Before we launch into our review of this bubblegum-coloured book full of amazing activities and stories, it's time to ask yourself a serious question...

"Are you cool?"

Well are you? Now you're happy with your answer, go and find your 8 year old son / daughter and ask them.

"Am I cool?"

If the answer is no, then you're very unlikely to be able to answer another question:

"Do you know who Amy Lee is?"

She's the YouTube sensation behind one of the biggest gaming stream channels for mighty girl gamers. Amy's particular obsession is also one of ours. We love all things MineCraft and Amy has created her own astonishing and cute world - known as The Land of Love, sharing her videos and creations with kids the world over.

Topping out at ridiculous numbers of views per day, her broadcasts are legendary and now Amy has put her name to an awesome new book, encouraging kids to step away from the screen for a moment to learn a little more about Amy and her amazing world - and her equally amazing friends.

You can catch a little of what Amy is about below:

("Animal Hospital" is probably one of Charlotte's favourite clips of Amy's amazing land of love. )

Amy's new book is her first foray into print. It's like an action-packed annual full of brilliant ideas to try in your own Minecraft creations but of course the real focus is on activities, puzzles and doodle exercises to stimulate your old grey matter and bring you round to Amy's way of thinking! Hugely positive, dosed to the gills with cute, find out more in "The Magical World of Amy Lee" out now from Scholastic.
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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Two stunning new titles for young poetry fans, from indie publishers The Emma Press

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We don't often see very many poetry anthologies for children so it's always a huge treat when we get one, and it's a particularly brilliant collection of eclectic and imaginative works.

We've been lucky enough to find two new titles from The Emma Press, a small-scale independent publisher raising the standard for awesome poems for children and these two collections really show off some truly talented folk and their work.

In "Moon Juice" there's a selection of poems from local poet Kate Wakeling, with illustrations throughout by Elina Braslina.

"Moon Juice" collects together poems with a diverse range of spacey subjects, such as a would-be brave warrior called Skig (who is actually more of a worrier), and a gadabout comet with a skittish tail and tale.

Kate thoughtfully addresses childhood issues around peer pressure, worry and anxiety, and fitting in with others in such a beautiful and lyrical way. Poems achieve the balance of being beautifully written and also short enough to hold youngsters' attention but long enough to impart their important and thought-provoking messages.

"Moon Juice" is out now, published by The Emma Press and you can read a little more about it on the Emma Press website here. 

Sticking with a spacey subject, there's also a far-out stratospheric collection of amazing poems by a collective of talented writers.

"Watcher of the Skies" gathers together poems about space and aliens. Edited by Rachel Piercey and Emma Wright, with poems by talented folk like Sohini Basak, Richard O'Brien, Julie Douglas and Sarah Doyle (amongst many, many others), "Watcher of the Skies" is again an amazingly eclectic collection of poems and rhymes, with something for just about everyone!

Are there dogs in space? How big is the Universe exactly? What do you do if you suspect your friend (or your grandad) is actually an alien? You'll find the answers in this amazing anthology!

"Watcher of the Skies" is released on 29th September 2016, published by The Emma Press with more details on the website here. 

Both books look truly brilliant and we really enjoyed "Moon Juice", a really fantastic collection to prompt some in-depth discussions about what it feels like when you're a kid with a huge imagination.

("Moon Juice" kindly supplied for review by The Emma Press).
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Meg in the Jungle by David Walser and Jan Pienkowski (Picture Puffin)

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When the late great Helen Nicoll passed away, I remember feeling genuine sadness at the loss of such a huge talent - and an author who in no small part introduced me to a great love of reading very early on.
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