Friday, August 27, 2010

The Three Billy Goats Gruff Lift the Flap Book

The Three Billy Goats Gruff Lift the Flap Fairy Tale

Adapted from the original tale by Stephen Tucker

Illustrated by Nick Sharratt

Published by Macmillan Children's Books

Modernising a classic fairy tale for a young (and fidgety) audience, Stephen Tucker and Nick Sharratt have come up with a winning formula of bold illustrations connected to a bouncy rhyming version of the classic fairy tale. 

You may think you know the tale inside out but are you prepared to meet the hungriest troll in the world? Cooking up plenty of recipe ideas for his favourite food, Goat, the nasty Troll is easily the star of the book. Great pictures and lots of interesting flaps to lift and discover for enquiring toddlers. 

Charlotte's best bit: The Troll's house under the bridge

Daddy's favourite bit: Goat Burgers (which actually made me feel quite hungry)

Rating: 3 out of 5

Tip Tip Dig Dig

Tip Tip Dig Dig

Written and Illustrated by Emma Garcia

Published by Boxer Books

I've previously featured Toot Toot Beep Beep by Emma Garcia on this blog but we actually got Tip Tip Dig Dig first as part of a free book pack from our Health Visitor checkup. 

 Like Toot Toot Beep Beep, Tip Tip Dig Dig features a variety of vehicles going about their daily business. In Garcia's trademark "torn up bits of paper" art style, each page shows a scene of a piece of machinery getting down to the tricky business of creating something out of a pile of rubbish. From diggers to tippers through rollers and bulldozers and beyond, if your toddler's a fan of anything like Bob the Builder, or just loves a great book full of engaging pictures, then this is worth picking up. 

Charlotte's best bit: For some reason, the "crocodile" on the first page (that's actually a tree stump!)

Daddy's Favourite Bit: The sad teddy turning into a happy teddy at the end of the book. 

Rating: 4 out of 5 

Children's Classics - Cliche or quintessential?

When you do a quick poll amongst parents of their favourite children's books, the same names often come up again and again. By now books like Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury's timeless "We're Going on a Bear Hunt" have probably sold a ridiculous amount of copies and have become classics - but are they good books? Does "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" deserve the plaudits and credit it gets? How about "Each Peach Pear Plum"? 

There's no easy answer, but the three books mentioned are absolutely superb and are definitely three favourites amongst Charlotte's ever-growing book collection. Talking to parents though, what comes across more than anything (and it's something I'm guilty of too) is that a lot of people like their toddlers and children to read the stuff they found entertaining as a kid, and there's no greater pleasure than finding out that even books that are visibly "of the age" they were written and illustrated in, are still enjoyed by toddlers who no longer express surprise when a toy sings at them or plays a tune. 

What are the classics of tomorrow? What books will you pass on to your kids? Write and let me know in the comments box below.


More Pants

More Pants

Written by Giles Andreae

Illustrated by Nick Sharrat

Published by Picture Corgi

After learning the original Pants off by heart from rather too many readings, I thought I'd get Charlotte the sequel. More Pants features another bouncy pants-related rhyme with plenty of big and colourful illustrations and characters courtesy of Nick Sharrat. Though the original is still the best, More Pants is great fun and there are plenty of subversive giggles to be had as you find out exactly what spaghetti pants would look like, or what undergarments you should wear when dancing with the queen (Answer: Expensive ones). 

Charlotte's best bit: "Have you done a farty-pants? No not me!"

Daddy's favourite bit: "Black belt in Karate Pants"

Rating: 3 out of 5

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Harry the Dirty Dog

Harry the Dirty Dog

Written by Gene Zion

Illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham

Published by Red Fox Children's Books

Harry's back, and this time he's dirty. The funniest dog in children's books is back with another adventure, this time with a helpful message about what happens if you're a grubby little urchin. Harry changes from a white dog with black spots to a black dog with white spots through some tactical bath avoidance. Naturally Harry doesn't realise the consequences of  being a soap-dodging dog until it's too late. 

As ever, Zion and Bloy Graham have come up with a winning book based on Harry's antics, that's as timeless as any of the more well-known children's classics. It's a pity that other books in the series (including one I remember from childhood, Harry and the Lady Next Door) are so hard to get hold of as I'd thoroughly recommend getting the entire set. 

Charlotte's Best Bit: Harry's various scrubbing brush hiding places. 

Daddy's Favourite Bit: Harry's expression when he knows he's got away without a bath. 

Rating: 5 out of 5

The Little Mole who knew it was none of his business

The Story of the Little Mole who knew it was None Of His Business

Written by Werner Holzwarth
Illustrated by Wolf Erlbruch

Published by Chrysalis Children's Books

Oh dear. Poo. It was never going to go down well with Mrs Peej but for a toddler there are few things in life more amusing than poo. People pooing but in particular animals pooing so it's good (bad?) that this book is chock-full of just about every type of animal poo you can think of. It's a tightly woven tale of revenge in the face of adversity. Our little mole hero strives to find out just who did a rather nasty curly one on his head, with hilarious consequences. 

Not exactly one for the weak stomached though and certainly not one for prissy parents. 

Charlotte's best bit: Horse poo. 

Daddy's favourite bit: The sweet revenge exacted by the mole on the wrongdoer. 

Rating: 3 out of 5

Monday, August 23, 2010

Random thought: Why are books based on kid's TV shows so awful?

Despite our best efforts to be the best parents we can possibly be, my wife and I invariably find that there are moments (usually when we're on our own with Charlotte) that we need to plonk her down in front of the TV - usually to cook or get on with some vital piece of housework. Naturally doing so means that she picks up favourite TV programmes along the way. Two recent favourites (Chuggington and Zingzillas) are being merchandised to pieces with various toys, DVD packs and more relevant to this blog, accompanying books. 

I spotted a couple of Chuggington books while out shopping and thought I'd have a flick through. By accident or possibly by design (after all, you don't want kids reading a book about your show when they can be watching it, or buying the expensive DVD box sets) the books are invariably awful. Poorly written, often drably illustrated with photos grabbed straight from the show. Put together hastily in order to cash in as quickly as possible. 

I'm sure this wasn't always the way. I remember the annuals when I was a kid, and even though some of the old Fleetway annuals were terrible, they could keep me occupied for hours on Christmas day (you only ever seemed to get given them at Christmas, after all). Most recent TV-based books seem to be flimsy and throwaway. Though if you know of any exceptions I'd be interested to hear your thoughts (after all that's what the comments bit on this blog is for). 

The only possible exceptions are the In The Night Garden books. These do use stories and illustrations from the show and are instantly familiar because of it - but mostly they're well put together, interesting and engaging. 

Baby's First Christmas

Baby's First Christmas (learning about colours)

Published by: Fisher Price / HarperCollins Children's Books

It's a little bit of an oddity this one. One of Charlotte's all time favourite bedtime reads, whether it's the season to be jolly or not. Baby's First Christmas tells a neat little photo-story of Baby and Puppy's preparations for that most special day of the year. Primarily designed to teach your baby simple colours, it's still a hit with Charlotte even though technically she's pretty much out-grown it. I think the appeal stems from the various expressions on baby's face throughout the book. Nice and rugged as board books should be. 

Charlotte's best bit: Baby sitting in his/her cot with her hands over his/her ears. 

Daddy's Favourite bit: Those Christmas cookies. They look good enough to eat. 

Rating: 4 out of 5

Rosie's Walk

Rosie's Walk

Written and Illustrated by Pat Hutchins

Published by Red Fox Children's Books

This hen is definitely no dumb cluck. A great little book, again one I remember from my dim and distant childhood (check out the funky and typically 70s artwork by Hutchins here). Rosie is a hen who sets off on her daily stroll, pursued by a hungry fox. Naturally the story doesn't quite turn out how you'd expect, but your toddler will love trying to guess what happens between frames. 

Simple, but hugely effective and fun. 

Charlotte's best bit: "Fox going swimming!"

Daddy's favourite bit: Definitely the 70s artwork throughout. 

Rating: 4 out of 5

Elmer and the Hippos

Elmer and the Hippos

Written and Illustrated by David McKee

Amazon Link: £3.97

Published by Red Fox Children's Books

David McKee's genius creations are loved by kids of all ages. I grew up with Mr Ben and King Rollo, my daughter absolutely adores Elmer and the patchwork elephant's adventures with a group of homeless hippos is an excellent read. Teaching valuable lessons about sharing and working together (something Charlotte is still working on!), it's a great addition to the gigantic Elmer library.

Charlotte's best bit: Elmer and Wilbur slowly changing colour as they get to work shifting rocks.

Daddy's favourite bit: Cousin' Wilbur's resemblance to an F1 chequered flag.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Knick Knack Paddywhack

Knick Knack Paddywhack

Written and illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky

Published by Puffin Books

It's a shame this book is relatively hard to get hold of now. A couple of years of frequent (and rather over-enthusiastic) use by Charlotte has pretty much killed our copy but if you spot this languishing in a bargain book bin (like Charlotte's grandad Dodo did) then grab it - it's absolutely fantastic. 

Not just another pop-up book but a book absolutely alive with brilliant paper mechanics, each page covering a different number of the infamous "Knick Knack Paddywhack" rhyme. Each of the "old men" in the rhyme have their own bizarre and surreal way of conveying their numbers, and there's a distinctly doggy theme running through the whole book too. Zelinsky's illustrations are great but the paper mechanics (done by someone not even credited on the cover, boo hiss!) are utterly ingenious. As I mentioned though, be warned if your toddlers are a little over-exuberant pulling the tabs and operating the page controls as they do wear out fairly quickly. 

Zelinsky has also done a similar book, "The Wheels on the bus" but it's even rarer than this one so keep a keen eye out for both.  

Charlotte's Best Bit: The very last page in the book. No spoilers!

Daddy's favourite bit: The skating admiral. 

Rating: 5 out of 5

Zzzzz - The Book of Sleep

Zzzzz A Book of Sleep

Written and Illustrated by Il Sung Na

Published by Meadowside Children's Books

Picked up on a whim in a cheap book clearance sale at (of all places) our local garden centre, Il Sung Na's "Book of sleep" ended up being Charlotte's favourite "second" book for every bed time for the better part of a year. Can't think of a better recommendation than that really! It caught my eye because of the artwork and the sublime mix of gorgeous watercolours and inks compliment a lovely ethereal story of an Owl's nocturnal exploration of the animal kingdom. With Charlotte having something of an owl obsession anyway, it's a winner and stupidly cheap for the board book at Amazon. 

Charlotte's best bit: Spotting the tiny little owl hidden in several pages.

Daddy's favourite bit: The staring contest between the owl and a fish.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Friday, August 20, 2010

Mister Seahorse

Mister Seahorse

Written and Illustrated by Eric Carle

Published by Puffin Books

Eric Carle. Already a legend because of "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" which no toddler book collection should be without. But his other stuff is extremely good too, and Mister Seahorse has more than a few tricks up its sleeve to keep toddlers entertained. Galloping around under the sea, Mister Seahorse encounters various sea life on his travels. The neat "hook" for this book are several transparent pages that "hide" fish, ready for your toddler to reveal with a turn of a page. You really can't go wrong with Eric Carle / Bill Martin Jr but definitely give Mister Seahorse a read as it seems to be something of an overlooked Carle classic.

Charlotte's Best Bit: Mr Tilapia.

Daddy's Favourite Bit: "I do love you but it's time for you to be on your own now!"

Rating: 4 out of 5

How to catch a star

How to Catch a Star

Written and Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

Published by HarperCollins Children's Books

A truly beautiful book this. Oliver Jeffers' atmospheric and fantastic illustrations compliment the story of a young lad's quest to catch a star of his very own to cuddle and keep. Like other Jeffers books, the text is fairly simple but effective but the illustrations make it worthy of a place in anyone's toddler library. A feelgood book with a beautiful ending. 

Charlotte's best bit: The ignorant seagull. 

Daddy's favourite bit: The boy's spaceship, even though it has no petrol. 

Rating: 5 out of 5

Aliens love underpants

Aliens Love Underpants

Written by Claire Freedman

Illustrated by Ben Cort

Published by Simon and Schuster Childrens Books

Seriously, we do not have a pants obsession at Maybe Towers, honestly - but this superb rhyming story about what happens to your underpants when they're hung on the line is fun, colourful and hilarious. Aliens come in all shapes and sizes - as do underpants - so this will have your toddlers giggling along with the crazy subversive antics of a bunch of pant-obsessed extra-terrestrials. 

Charlotte's best bit: The baby alien who gets left behind. 

Daddy's favourite bit: Unflattering descriptions of mummy's massive spotty bloomers. 

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Harry by the sea

Harry by the Sea

Written by Gene Zion

Illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham

Amazon Link: £3.98

Published by Red Fox Picture Books

I offer no apologies for featuring / reviewing ANOTHER Harry book. Charlotte is absolutely in love with this mischievous little black spotted dog so we managed to grab another Harry book from the library. This time round, Harry goes to the seaside with his family and ends up being mistaken for a sea monster. 

Margaret Bloy Graham's cool 60s kitsch artwork is as fantastic as ever, and though the books can be a bit formulaic there's always plenty going on in each page and frame and Harry is the coolest dog in kid's books, bar none. 

Charlotte's best bit: Harry getting covered in seaweed and crawling out of the sea like a monster. 

Daddy's favourite bit: Harry trying to find a spot of shade by following a fat lady along the beach. 

Rating: 5 out of 5

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Meg on the Moon

Meg on the Moon

Written by Helen Nicoll

Illustrated by Jan Pienkowski

Amazon Link: £3.51

Another classic book from my childhood (yes they had books back then that weren't printed on papyrus) and no toddler book blog would be complete without at least one Meg and Mog book. There are a heck of a lot of books in the range but this is definitely one of the better ones. Meg conjures up a spaceship to take Mog on a birthday jaunt to the moon. Short and sweet but I can't for the life of me shake the thought that Meg looks exactly like Ruth Goodman from Victorian Farm / Pharmacy. 

Charlotte's best bit: Leapfrog with the astronauts. 

Daddy's favourite bit: The space food. 

Rating: 4 out of 5

The Queen's Knickers

The Queen's Knickers

Written and illustrated by Nicholas Allan

Amazon Link: £1.50

Ever wondered what secrets lie in a monarch's smalls drawer? Now you can find out with this tongue in cheek irreverent look at royalty's undergarments. The Queen's Knickers is cheeky and cheerful with plenty of amusing illustrations showing a day in the life of her majesty as she goes about her daily knicker-related business. Even though my toddler doesn't really understand who the queen is or what she does, she found this amusing and fun. 

Charlotte's best bit: The queen's funeral pants. 

Daddy's favourite bit: The washroom at Buckingham Palace. 

Rating: 4 out of 5


Written by Giles Andreae
Illustrated by Nick Sharrat

Amazon Link: £3.99

Probably one of the most popular books in Charlotte's library, Pants has been read so many times I can pretty much recite it off by heart. Two versions of the book are available (with and without an accompanying CD with versions of the story "sung" by Lenny Henry) and there's a sequel but the original Pants is excellent. 

The rhymes are bouncy and fun and of course there's something slightly naughty about a book full of pants so kids instantly seem to like it. Nick Sharrat's illustrations can be found in dozens of excellent books but the drawings in this and the animal characters appearing throughout the book are brilliant and every child will find a favourite. 

Charlotte's best bit: Identifying all the pants at the end of the book

Daddy's best bit: "Fairy Pants, Hairy Pants, Run away from Scary Pants!"

Rating: 5 out of 5

I don't want to go to hospital!

I Don't want to go to hospital

Written and Illustrated by Tony Ross

Amazon Link: £4.20

Now a popular Channel 5 children's TV programme, the Little Princess books by Tony Ross show an irreverent view of life as a toddling member of royalty. In "I don't want to go to hospital", the little princess learns that hospitals aren't really that bad at all. Great illustrations and a fairly neat little story, it should score a hit with children and grown-ups who've only ever seen the TV show. 

Charlotte's best bit: The princess hiding in the attic to escape the hospital visit.

Daddy's favourite bit: The sneaky cat's favourite hiding place for eating rubbish filched from the royal bins.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Monday, August 16, 2010

Two Can Toucan

Two Can Toucan

Written and Illustrated by David McKee

Amazon Link: £4.07

To a whole generation of Dads (and mums) David McKee is already a hero because of the superb Mr Benn TV series and books. He's also the chap behind the multicoloured patchwork elephant Elmer, another particular favourite of Charlotte's. Here though, he tells the story of a bird who strives to show that he's more than just a rather plain and boring black bird. 

McKee's gift of producing superb facial expressions for his characters (human or otherwise) never gets old or tired and this book may tread the well worn path of "ugly duckling to swan" but does it in an entirely contemporary and amusing way. 

Charlotte's best bit: Toucan falling down the stairs with three full tins of paint. 

Daddy's favourite bit: Trying to spot Mr Benn in the crowded "City Gent" scene.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Toot Toot Beep Beep

Toot Toot Beep Beep 

Written and Illustrated by Emma Garcia

Amazon Link: £4.84

Like Emma Garcia's other books, the bold collages and superbly bouncy script make Toot Toot Beep Beep a great book to read to a bouncy toddler. Each of the vehicles in the story has its own personality and children will enjoy finding a favourite amongst the collection of cars, trucks and vans. 

Charlotte's best bit: Pointing to each of the windows in each vehicle and saying which family member sits where (Charlotte always sits in the front seat!)

Daddy's favourite bit: The green camper. I've always wanted one of those!

Rating: 4 out of 5

Friday, August 13, 2010

Mr McGee and the Big Bag of Bread

 Mr McGee and the Big Bag of Bread

Written and illustrated by Pamela Allen

Amazon Link: £12.99 (import)

A cautionary (and sometimes quite gory) tale of a happy go lucky man and an eventful trip to the zoo. Mr McGee takes a big bag of bread with him to visit the animals - and pays no heed to the notice boards. What bounces this book along is the fantastic flow of the verses, and the clear and superbly illustrated panels that seem to stretch from one end of the book to the other in one continuous image.

Your child can join in with the repeated warnings of "DO NOT FEED THE ANIMALS!" 

Charlotte's best bit: The rather gory parrot incident!

Daddy's favourite bit: The rather gory parrot incident!

Rating: 5 out of 5

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Winnie's Midnight Dragon

Winnie's Midnight Dragon by Valerie Thomas.

Illustrated by Korky Paul

Amazon Link: £3.78

The Winnie Witch books have been a favourite at home for a while now, and with my daughter's seemingly unflagging mania for all things witchy, we've been steadily working through all of the Winnie Witch books we can grab from the local library.

In "Winnie's Midnight Dragon" the superb illustrations by Korky Paul actually lift a bit of a flat and featureless story quite a bit (I love how Paul's obviously a bit of an Apple / Mac fan as he always seems to be able to sneak a "Pumpkin" computer into various scenes in the books).

Poor Wilbur (Winnie's hapless cat) takes a bit of a back seat in this adventure but all the best moments in the book come at the end as the story draws to a satisfying conclusion.

Charlotte's best bit: Shouting "Abra-CADABRA" very loudly during the story text (by the way, only Winnie's allowed to say Abracadabra. When Meg (from Meg and Mog) does it, she's a pale imitation as far as Charlotte is concerned.

Daddy's favourite bit: Korky Paul's superbly scratchy ink illustrations. Any artist that in love with scratch pens definitely gets my vote.

Rating: 3 out of 5

No Roses for Harry

No Roses for Harry by Gene Zion.
Illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham.

Amazon Link: £4.05p

One of the greatest pleasures of reading to your children is when you discover that a book you loved as a kid is still in print, and still entertains as much as it did when you were young. "No Roses for Harry" was published in the 60s but the "Harry" series, featuring a mischievous dog and his exploits, are still readily available.

This book is superb and anyone who's received a dodgy hand-knitted sweater from an elderly relative for Christmas or a birthday can identify with Harry's plight. The text is entertaining and though Margaret Bloy Graham's illustrations are very much "of the era" (60s cartoon art), they're superb and there's plenty for youngsters to point out and look at.

Charlotte's best bit: The bird's nest at the end of the book.

Daddy's favourite bit: The expressions on Harry's face when he realises that yet another helpful soul has returned the sweater he's been trying to lose all over town.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Welcome to ReadItDaddy - a site for dinky readers and their parents

Hello all.

Welcome to a new blog about a daddy's adventures in the world of preschooler books. It's a jungle out there, with thousands and thousands of titles all vying for the attention of your demanding offspring. The aim of this textual adventure is to weed out the good from the bad, the wheat from the chaff and hopefully enlighten and entertain you about books we've read and enjoyed along the way.

Every couple of weeks we'll be taking a look at a selection of books, judging how well liked they are by my demanding daughter, and basically just giving you an idea of whether they're worth buying or grabbing from the Library.

With that, read on McDuff...