Thursday, November 27, 2014

Who's that Banging on the Ceiling by Colin McNaughton (Walker Books)

Who's that Banging on the Ceiling?

Written and Illustrated by
Colin McNaughton

Published by Walker Books

Colin McNaughton's books are a real treat and we always love finding ones we haven't read before in our local library. Like this absolute corker, the tale of noisy neighbours living in a huge block of flats.

Having lived in a flat for most of my student years I can definitely identify with wondering just what on earth the upstairs and downstairs neighbours get up to during their daily grind and Colin hilariously examines the comic exploits of a diverse range of characters. Is there a herd of rhinos upstairs? A crazed ballroom dancing fanatic?

Each spread folds out as a huge landscape overview of each of the flats as we scroll through right to the very top, where the book leaves the best surprise till last (as is often the case with Colin McNaughton's books - he loves a good twist or two!)

As you'll expect, the book is funny and cheeky but the devil is in those amazing illustrative details and flourishes that Colin always squeezes in to each panel. Deliriously good stuff!

Charlotte's best bit: Kid's bath time, which sounds a LOT like something else!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Loopy, crazy, kooky but utterly and completely awesome!

King Kong by Anthony Browne, Adapted from the story by Edgar Wallace and Merian C. Cooper (Picture Corgi)

King Kong

Adapted by Anthony Browne

From the original story by Edgar Wallace and Merian C. Cooper

Published by Picture Corgi

King Kong is a character with almost limitless and timeless appear. When I was a kid, the '70s Kong movie was quite literally huge and I also remember watching the original Merian C. Cooper movie starring Fay Wray on TV.

Since then we've also had Sir Peter Jackson's treatment of the movie but who better to put together a version for children than an author-illustrator who conjures up the most amazing simian stories, Anthony Browne.

Browne's version of Kong isn't a toothless treatment for children, but a very faithful adaptation of the original story wrought in Browne's utterly divine illustrative style. Telling the story of young Anne Darrow, a would-be ingenue who falls on hard times and is rescued by a slippery movie director and producer to star in an upcoming blockbuster. Anne meets Carl Denham and is whisked off with his production company to the mysterious Skull Island, reportedly the home of a fantastical beast known only as Kong.

Kong is a gigantic gorilla, fearsome and mighty and Anne is captured and offered up as a sacrifice to the beast. Rather than wolfing her down in one gulp though, Kong rescues Anne and falls in love with her. His ultimate undoing as he tries to protect her at great expense to himself as Kong is captured and paraded as an attraction by the nefarious Denham.

You're probably familiar with the rest of the story, and what happens when Kong is let loose on New York and runs amok. With movie-like pacing and a frenetic energy showing that Browne obviously had a huge passion for the subject matter, we're treated to his rather fantastic vision of Kong and his supporting cast, gloriously rendered with Browne's trademark gift for hiding exquisite detail in each panel spread.

It's fairly wordy for a children's picture book so might suit older readers more, but we were completely enthralled and dazzled by this. I'd love to show Charlotte the original movie to see what she makes of it but I'm worried that she might end up sobbing at the end as Kong meets his terrible demise.

Charlotte's best bit: Picking out all the hidden gorillas throughout the book and discovering (with a little help) that Anne Darrow is the spitting image of Marilyn Monroe

Daddy's Favourite bit: A glorious and luxurious version of a well-loved story, showing Browne's obvious passion for the subject matter and unique gift of putting his own touches to make it fairly child-friendly. A stunning book.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Meet Skipper, Kowalski, Private and Rico, stars of the awesome "Penguins of Madagascar" official comic from Titan / Dreamworks

Debate ye not over who the real stars of the movie "Madagascar" were. We all know that the indomitable penguins stole the show!

Now stars of their own movie, today also sees the launch of a new original 4-issue comic series courtesy of Alex Matthews and Lucas Fereyra, released by Titan Comics.

Those crazy penguins are now superstars and super-spies, and the comic divides up into mini stories detailing their madcap adventures. Kid-friendly but actually quite enjoyable for big grown-up kids too, "Penguins of Madagascar" is a good fun rollicking romp, even if you've never seen the movie itself.

P-p-p-pick up a penguin today!

Yoko Tsuno Volume 7: Curious Trio by Roger Leloup (Cinebook)

Yoko Tsuno Volume 7: Curious Trio

Written and Illustrated by
Roger Leloup

Published by Cinebook

Our local library keeps us well and truly stocked up with obscure (and older) comics that we might've missed. I'd never come across Roger Leloup's "Yoko Tsuno" series, which has a distinctly 70s disco vibe crossed with Barbarella (though thankfully child-friendly) and Manga influences. No mean feat considering these comics originally came out in 1970 and have been lovingly reprinted by Cinebook for a modern audience. Belgian comic genius Roger Leloup, originally part of Studio Herge (and if you haven't heard of Herge and Tintin, where on EARTH have you been?) broke off to produce his own comic series in the early 70s and Yoko Tsuno was one of his most endearing creations. A Japanese girl genius, science whiz and kick-ass hero, Yoko Tsuno feels like an amazingly contemporary, fresh and brilliant comic creation.

Leloup's amazing draughtsmanship and tightest linework really is a treat for the eyes, and in this volume we see Yoko embarking on an intergalactic adventure along with her hotch-potch gang of miscreants, the curious trio of the volume's title. Expect a fair amount of chopsockery, 70s-style over the top spacefaring adventure and a dizzying array of science fiction influences creeping into the strip. Spanning 26 volumes, there's plenty to dig into and I believe Cinebook are planning to publish the lot! Whoah!

Charlotte loved these, though the panels are typically as busy as hell (one thing you will notice with older comics, those wonderful Belgian creatives sure knew how to pack a page with exquisite detail). It's still jaw-dropping to think that these comics are nearly as old as me but are still amazingly vibrant. Thank goodness for Cinebook and their current crop of brilliant reprints.

Charlotte's best bit: Yoko's kitschy but awesome space-fashion sense!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Leloup's artwork is astounding. What an awesome comic discovery. I really cannot get enough of Belgian comics, they're truly fantastic!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Weasels by Elys Dolan (Nosy Crow)


Written and Illustrated by
Elys Dolan

Published by Nosy Crow

Catching up with this critically well received book courtesy of our local library, we couldn't resist the combination of crazed megalomania and cute furry critters.

Elys Dolan's "Weasels" offers us an insight into what Weasels actually get up to all day. While we may imagine that they'll chase around the undergrowth eating nuts and shoots or bothering badgers and rabbits, Weasels are a little more savvy than that. In fact they have but one goal in mind from day to day. WORLD DOMINATION!

Yes it's true, and the weasels have been working hard to create the ultimate machine that will help them achieve their goal. Fuelled on frothaccinos, busy as beavers (Poo! Beavers suck!) the countdown to the big switch-on has begun.

Only, there is a problem...the machine doesn't work. They've poked it, prodded it, kicked it and even tried the old IT fallback of 'switching it off and on again' but to no avail. The machine is in an error state, and the weasels look like they'll just have to stay as cute furry critters rather than the dominant species on earth.

Perhaps though the answer to the machine's malfunction is simpler than it first appears!

This is a crazy riff on a number of excellent sources. We loved the various nods to James Bond films, including one particular Weasel baddie and his pet white mouse (a cat would probably be a bit impractical for a Weasel Blofeld).

Chaotic, fun, quite tricky to read aloud (but you always have the option to let the Nosy Crow app take up the slack and read to you!)

Charlotte's best bit: What happens when the lights go out! Eek!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Crazy and chaotic stuff, we are ready to serve our weasel lords and masters! Ny-EEK!

Spotlight on the cosmic and brilliant "Doctor Who" comics range from Titan Comics

Doctor Who Comics from Titan - Now featuring the 12th Doctor!
I find it almost impossible to believe that we haven't managed to squeeze our love for Doctor Who onto the blog in some way, shape or form. Charlotte's still a bit too young (and a bit too easily frightened) by Doctor Who's televisual adventures, so I wondered whether I'd be able to spread a bit of geek love for everyone's favourite timelord through comics.

Licensed comics used to get a bit of a raw deal. People came with the expectation that they would be A) pants and B) too kiddified. I'm happy to say that this is most definitely NOT the case with Titan's lineup and most certainly not the case with their long-running Doctor Who comics which have been steadily building up a huge following with fans of the show, now it's emerged as one of the BBC's biggest draws. 

Catching up with the comics, we've been looking at the current Doctor's run (Peter Capaldi is kicking up a storm with his own take on The Doctor - and though I think the scripts consistently let him down, he's a flipping awesome doc IMHO). The comics are put together by some of the leading luminaries on the international comics scene with the likes of Robbie Morrison (an ex-2000AD alumni amongst other comics) and Dave Taylor contributing to the new adventures. Gritty new adventures await the 12th Doctor, it's fantastic to see the writing actually exceeding the quality of the show's storylines (proof positive that the next season really needs to buck its ideas up a bit). 

The great thing about the comics is that there's something for everyone so even if you haven't quite fallen in love with Capaldi's rendition of The Doctor, dive back in and take a look at Titan's awesome 10th and 11th Doctor series too...

Matt Smith's 11th Doctor. One tough act to follow!
All-new adventures carry on for previous doctors in the comics universe, new stories with stunning artwork await!

For the full Titan Doctor Who range, take a look at the following link where you can find out how to subscribe, or even get sorted with a ComiXology digital copy of your fave Doc Who stuff : 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Bashful Bob and Doleful Dorinda by Margaret Atwood and Dusan Petricic (Bloomsbury Children's Books)

Bashful Bob and Doleful Dorinda

Written by Margaret Atwood
Illustrated by Dusan Petricic

Published by Bloomsbury Children's Books

We're in love with alliteration today with a review of Bashful Bob and Doleful Dorinda. Margaret Atwood, well known to grown ups for her utterly mind-bendingly brilliant novels has turned in a rather fun and fantastic read-aloud story that preys on our perspicacity, purloining our palpable predilection for perfect prose.

Meet Bob - a strange bubble-headed boy who, rejected by his mum, disappears to be raised by dogs. Of course this means that Bob actually seems to think he's a dog at times, growling and barking and hiding in bushes.

We also meet Doleful Dorinda, a denizen of dreary dread disposed to being dismal. When the two meet they find a common bond, and despite their obvious character quirks, they team up to save the day when a Buffalo breaks its bounds and goes crazy in a botanical garden!

Children are infinitely impressed by the cleverness of language when used to entertain, to tickle the toes and the tonsils particularly when read aloud. Sometimes the alliteration can make the book heavy going but there's always an amusing twist to get you back on track. Dusan Petricic's artwork is fab too, reminding me of classic 70s kid lit where the whole world seemed to be in love with ink and wash (just like I still am!)

Charlotte's best bit: Bob's boundless barking!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Dorinda's doleful dingbattery!

Dog on Stilts by James Thorp and Angus Mackinnon (Digital Leaf)

Dog on Stilts

Written by James Thorp

Illustrated by Angus Mackinnon

Published by Digital Leaf

The strange and whacky surreality of The Weasel Puffin Unicorn Baboon Pig Lobster Race tickled our fancy a while ago, and now James and Angus - crazy psychedelic geniuses behind that book - are back with something new.

Everyone wants to be special, and even more so in the dog world. Dogs are amazingly diverse. Some are tall, some are short, some are fabulously glamorous and some are downright slobbery. But medium dog is...well medium, nothing special, a little hairy but definitely not outstanding in any field.

Medium Dog isn't happy with this situation. Not at all, and while his friends look on, Medium Dog hatches a plan. Disappearing into his shed he bangs and clatters and saws and chisels and makes the biggest pair of stilts you've ever seen.

Medium Dog is no longer Medium Dog. Medium dog is now...DOG ON STILTS!

Marching through the land, Medium Dog feels special for the first time in his life. His mischievous sense of humour comes to the fore as he strides around playing tricks on folk but sometimes there's a distinct disadvantage to having your head in the clouds. How do you nibble a bony biscuit from your dish? How can you play with your friends?

What happens to Dog on Stilts in the end is both comical and surreal, but this is another cracker from James and Angus who seem to have a gift for weaving together awesome stories with completely hatstand visuals to produce wholly original children's books.

Charlotte's best bit: Dog spots the juiciest apple on the tree but it's just out of reach. What happens next?

Daddy's Favourite bit: Superbly original and completely surreal, a great little doggy tale of an ordinary everyday dog trying to be special but realising he was special all along. Lovely!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Digital Leaf)

Friday, November 21, 2014

I Am An Artist! By Marta Altes (Macmillan Children's Books)

I am an Artist!

Written and Illustrated by
Marta Altes

Published by Macmillan Children's Books

We love Marta Altes' books (check out our review of her wonderful doggy tale "No!" for instance!). They're funny, uproariously well observed but most of all they're usually quite messy.

"I am an Artist!" might be the sort of book that will have parents throwing up their hands in horror, after all you really don't want your little darlings emulating the genius would-be artist in this book. You see, the young lad just can't help being creative and sees inspiration everywhere. He can't contain his creativity, so it (quite literally) spills out, mostly all over the family home.

His long-suffering mum doesn't quite share his enthusiasm for art (though, as pointed out in the book, she's rather artistic herself!) but the young boy's passion for painting is too explosive to contain.

All through the book, Charlotte giggled and snorted as the boy daubed on the walls, painted over beloved family portraits, even dabbed a cool Salvador Dali moustache on himself.

As we said, we'll be keeping a close eye on the crayons and paints at home, lest they end up all over our pristine walls!

Awesome book, awesome fun!

Charlotte's best bit: The boy's poor cat, who always manages the perfect 'hang-dog' expression in each page spread.

Daddy's Favourite bit: Wonderfully funny, messy, creative and brilliant - Just how we love our art and our artists!

ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week Ending 21st November 2014 - "Homer Henry Hudson's Curio Museum" by Zack Rock (The Creative Company)

Homer Henry Hudson's Curio Museum

Written and Illustrated by
Zack Rock

Published by The Creative Company

I got home, it was late and dark outside but as soon as I opened the front door I was almost knocked flat by Charlotte, clutching this book.

"Book of the week!" she proclaimed so a little later after dinner, we snuggled up before bedtime and lost ourselves in the world of one Homer Henry Hudson.

Homer, a rheumy-eyed British Bulldog is the enchanting central character of this extremely special book. It's astonishing to think that this is Zack's first children's book (and please, PLEASE don't let it be his last) but from the outset we were completely knocked out by his illustrations in this fabulous story.

We will gush on a bit so bear with us. The illustrations aren't the only thing that won us over. Zack wears his story telling heart on his sleeve as Homer Henry Hudson shows us around his amazing collection. Every object holds a story, and soon we learn that Homer Henry Hudson might look like he's past his best, but what an astonishing past he has.

HHH meticulously describes each object in his collection and delights in the way visitors marvel at the various things in his museum. Reading each tale, our hero begins to sound like an astonishing dog. Part Indiana Jones, with a whiff of Doctor Who about him (we loved his Tom Baker scarf and Fedora) HHH ventured to every corner of the world, rescued princesses and dug deep into the earth to unlock its secrets.

Zack's influences are varied and delightful, and thrummed a deep chord of recognition with me especially. In one part of the museum I loved the fact that there's a superb homage to Rene Magritte. In another scene (blink and you'll miss it) an image that took me right back to my childhood and a book I haven't read in years, Kit Williams' sublime "Masquerade" (wouldn't it be just too fantastic to imagine Homer Henry Hudson doggedly deciphering the clues of that magnificent book and making off with the golden hare!)

Of course it's easy to leap straight to the conclusion that the rich and stunning visuals in this book wowed us, dazzled us and contributed to our decision to give this our highest accolade but Zack's descriptive prose as I adopted a gruff bulldog-like voice to read Homer Henry Hudson's narrative just flows off the page like honey on biscuits. Dang it, it really is as great as it sounds, we promise you.

Lose yourself in a long luxurious read of this, and then go back in again for another, and another, and another look to spot all the glorious references and author's nudges to his influences (oh man, that Sushi museum scene just completely blew me away as soon as I recognised who the other patrons were - see if you recognise them!)

I said we wouldn't gush on too much about it but wow, just wow! You see Charlotte was right to be excited - it's a book of the week without a doubt.

Discover more about Zack's brilliant book over at his fascinating blog.

Charlotte's best bit: She loved Henry's cracked old building (and the story behind how it came to be where it was) but most of all she utterly and completely loved spotting things she recognised and also rather liked Homer Henry Hudson's diving suit

Daddy's Favourite bit: What a glorious book! You could spend a year finding tiny little details in this that'll make you smile and say "Wow, I remember that!" but you'll truly love the way this reads, and Homer Henry Hudson's gentle self-deprecating modesty at how he acquired his truly amazing collection! We absolutely cannot wait for Zack's next book. He's up there with the greats!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Zack Rock / The Creative Company)