Friday, January 20, 2017

ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 20th January 2017 - "The Bookshop Girl" by Sylvia Bishop and Ashley King (Scholastic)

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I know, I know, this one isn't actually out until March...but our Chapter Book of the Week for 20th January 2016 is "The Bookshop Girl" by Sylvia Bishop...
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ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week Ending 20th January 2017 - "The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen: Awesome Female Characters from Comic Book History" by Hope Nicholson and various comic artists (Quirk Books)

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For this week's Book of the Week we're gazing into the far-flung future (May in fact) for a divine slice of super-sisterhood for all mighty girls...
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Thursday, January 19, 2017

"Do kids lose their ability to deal with dark stuff as they get older?" - A ReadItTorial

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Apologies for skipping a week but we're back on track with our ReadItTorial slot, once again dipping into a subject that we've visited and revisited many times on the blog. 

Dark books for children. Inspired by "A Series of Unfortunate Events" (possibly one of the most successful "dark" children's book series ever) getting a new small-screen treatment as a Netflix series (it's very good by the way, go watch it!) I've definitely noticed that as Charlotte gets older, she has lost some of her love for darker stories, nasty characters and perilous settings. 

When we started this blog and she was a tiny little thing, I'd often grab some of the darker children's books from the library along with the usual happy-go-lucky haul. I think this is something that some parents are predisposed to, particularly if they like darker subjects and stories themselves and can't resist a cracking villain. Obviously everything we covered early on had to be tried and tested first before being deemed as fit for consumption by tiny eyes, but soon I realised she actually liked the odd jump-scare, and the 'baddies' were often the most interesting characters in those books. 

Take "The Bear Under the Stairs" by Helen Cooper. I know, we've mentioned this one a HECK of a lot...

On the one hand it's a book about a little boy's over-active imagination and fear of the dark cupboard under the stairs, and the bear he believes live there.

On the other hand it's a book that expertly and very visually describes exactly what it feels like to be a child, at that age where pretty much anything still feels possible and plausible, and even the most innocent old fur rug tucked under the stairs can look like something altogether more menacing.

The first time we read this book together it gave Charlotte nightmares and that was pretty much reflected in our first review.

Weirdly though, she came back to it and demanded we borrowed it from the library (we've since added it to our collection, just because it's such a fantastic book). Almost like she LIKED being scared by it but once she'd got over the initial way the book worked on her, she began to really love Bear.

Back when she was very tiny, I hadn't the foggiest idea what being a dad was all about. I fell into the same traps I'm sure many new dads (and quite a few new mums) do of not quite thinking things through before launching into them. I developed a very gruff gravelly voice for Bear even though he doesn't actually have any 'spoken' lines in the book. I'd add these little comic asides to describe his actions, fitting them alongside William's own story in the tale. Stupidly I think these probably made the whole book feel more menacing than it actually was but it's interesting to see other folk's opinions on this one, not feeling that it's a dark book at all.

But it does work on a child subconsciously, and I think that's perhaps why later on children lose the ability to pass something off as merely being in someone's imagination, and pick up more on emotions and feelings of characters who are quite obviously in distress.

Going back to "A Series of Unfortunate Events" I wondered how the TV show would deal with a moment that underlines exactly what a complete b*****d Count Olaf actually is. Early on in the book when Klaus, Sunny and Violet have dutifully cooked dinner for The Count and his awful acting troupe / band of henchmen, Klaus says something particularly smart back at Count Olaf, and receives a ringing smack around the face for doing so.

The earlier movie adaptation of the books featured the slap, the TV show didn't shy away from it either - and this is a bit that really does hit home (if you'll pardon the tasteless pun) that Count Olaf is more than a pantomime baddie who snarls at the audience, to be booed at. This is an evil character who has almost no redeeming qualities whatsoever (though the TV show is beginning to lay the groundwork for the later books where we discover that The Count has more reasons to hate the Baudelaires other than the frustration of not getting his filthy hands on their massive fortune - no more spoilers, you need to read the books as they are brilliant!)

The slap is something that would rule out me letting Charlotte watch this show, and it's something we gently skipped over in the books (I'm pretty sure many parents "abridge" books to read around bits they know are unsuitable for their younglings, right?) but it is a pivotal part of building Olaf's character up to be exactly what it is, a dark villain that should not be trusted an inch.

As I get older, and thanks to a good dose of sensibility from my wife, I find I'm getting more touchy and sensitive about darker books myself - well, for Charlotte's consumption at least. Now and again we vet chapter books that we know would probably disturb her during before-bed reading but it's so very tough to do this when you've very little indication of a book's content if it's A) brand new and B) all you've got to go on is a very short summary.

Of course, 'dark books' are the darlings of the press who love to point out that as children become ever-more desensitised to horrible people and horrific events, authors and illustrators of dark stuff have to up their game until they're treading firmly on the toes of subjects and characters that would make many adults wince. Are we rapidly approaching a point where dark books are a quaint thing of the past because kids have seen it all before by the time they reach the tender age of taking their own first faltering reading steps on their own?
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Two fantastic new titles in the "Little People, Big Dreams" range featuring Agatha Christie and Marie Curie (Frances Lincoln Children's Books)

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We're delighted to see a further two new titles added to the fantastic and inspirational "Little people, Big Dreams" series from Frances Lincoln Children's Books and author Isabel Sanchez Vegara.

First, we meet one of the world's most famous mystery writers, a lady whose books have sold by the squillion and have inspired many movies and TV adaptations as well as many writers to take up their pen for the first time.

"Little People, Big Dreams: Agatha Christie" (with illustrations by Elisa Munso and translation by Emma Martinez) chronicles the early life of young Agatha, an inquisitive child with a nose for a mystery.

A self-taught reader who started voraciously consuming books at the age of 5, she was destined to always find a love of literature.

After serving as a nurse during the war, Agatha returned to civilian life and began to write her first novels, dreaming up amazing characters such as Hercules Poirot and Miss Marple.

Gloriously illustrated throughout, the book features more of Agatha's amazing life story at the back of the book for further reading, and lots of great recommendations of other places to find out about this lady's amazing life.

"Little People, Big Dreams" is released on 2nd March 2017, published by Frances Lincoln Children's Books.

Also out on the 2nd March is "Little People, Big Dreams: Marie Curie"

Once again written by Isabel Sanchez Vegara, this time illustrated by Frau Isa with translation by Raquel Pitt, we meet one of the most fascinating and accomplished women scientists of the last 200 years. Marie Curie, a hugely important pioneer in the world of medicine, chemistry and physics.

Mme Curie won several Nobel Prizes for her discovery of Radium and Polonium, and their use in the fight against cancer.

Along with her husband Pierre, Marie Curie's thirst for knowledge and amazing discoveries have ensured that many, many lives have been saved through her pioneering techniques, offering a hugely inspirational figure for young scientists to look up to and learn from.

As with the Agatha Christie title, there are even more facts about Marie Curie's amazing life tucked into the back of the book. One of history's greatest scientists without a doubt.

"Little People Big Dreams: Marie Curie" is also released on 2nd March 2017, published by Frances Lincoln Children's Books". 


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There's Broccoli in my Ice Cream by Emily Mackenzie (Bloomsbury Publishing)

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Here's a picture book that may just help with your finicky fussy little eaters from the author-illustrator of "Wanted: Ralfy Rabbit"...Ready to eat your greens?
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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Horrible Histories Gruesome Guides - Oxford by Terry Deary and Martin Brown (Scholastic)

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Charlotte was absolutely delighted to find that she'd won a book in a colouring competition organised by Oxford Heritage at a recent kid's history event...
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Horrible Bear by Ame Dyckman and Zachariah Ohora (Andersen Children's Books)

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Uh-oh! Someone's having a bad day, a day that starts with a kite...and a bear!
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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Two new paperbacks to warm your winter cockles - "Lucy Ladybird" and "Lionheart"

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It's cold, wet and rainy but look forward to the sunnier weather with two bright and dazzling new titles releasing as paperbacks this winter.

First out of the gate is a reprint of Sharon King-Chai's gorgeously colourful "Lucy Ladybird", published by Templar Publishing. 

Lucy is a carefree and happy little insect, but when she loses her spots, it's time for an epic quest through the seasons meeting lots of friendly folk on her travels who all contribute colourful spots of their own for Lucy's collection.

She does look different to other ladybirds, but different is cool - and soon all the other ladybirds want their own fantastic colourful spots too!

A lovely little read, absolutely perfect for younger children and packed with amazing colour and design.

"Lucy Ladybird" is re-released now, with this latest edition published on 12th January by Templar (and kindly sent for review). 

You can find our original review here. 

There's also a timely reprinting of an amazing and dazzling book, this time it's "Lionheart" by Richard Collingridge, published by David Fickling Books...

The story starts with a little boy named Richard who is playing in his room, cuddling his favourite cuddly Lion toy. But something is there and Richard is scared, so he runs ...through streets, fields, forests, over hills and into a magical jungle.

Is there really anything there? And is he brave enough to face his fears? Can be become a true Lionheart?

Find out in this exciting and uplifting adventure that will make you want to ROAR out loud along with the story.

This one was a well deserved "Book of the Week" back in 2016 and it's now released in paperback with an utterly fantastic new cover.

One for animal fans, "Lionheart" by Richard Collingridge is out in paperback on 2nd February 2017, published by David Fickling Books (and kindly sent for review).

You can find our original review here. 

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Amy Lee and the Darkness Hex by Amy Lee (Scholastic Children's Books)

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Amy Lee - Global YouTube Gaming Superstar, Minecraft nut and all round sweetheart has already hit the bookshelves with her first title...
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Monday, January 16, 2017

"Infographics: Technology" by Simon Rogers and Studio Muti (Big Picture Press)

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A glorious exploration of science and technology delivered in a thoroughly cool way...
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