Saturday, December 29, 2012

2012 - That was the year that was - Part 2 (April, May, June) ReadItDaddy takes a retrospective look back at a year in Children's Books


By April we were wondering when the nice weather was going to start. Thankfully you don't need a baking hot day to enjoy books so we snuggled down to take a look at 16 corkingly good reads.

We re-reviewed Helen Cooper's utterly essential "The Bear Under the Stairs" - a book which has probably been one of the most demanded "read it again, Daddy" requests over the past year, and a worthy "Book of the Week" on its second outing on the blog. When we first took a look at it, I uttered some silly nanny-like concerns over its content, thinking it was probably a bit too sinister for children and definitely shouldn't be read anywhere near bedtime. Despite this, Charlotte loves it and I think it's because it really does blur the lines - is William really imagining the bear, or is he sometimes imagining it and sometimes it's real? Or is it just real and hiding out in the under-stairs cupboard.

Charlotte doesn't care - basically she keeps asking for this one for several reasons. 1) The brilliant artwork (spotting as many hidden bears as you can is almost a game in itself) 2) I think she secretly likes it being a bit scary and a bit dark and disturbing and 3) She seems to like the daft gurgling voice I give the bear when I read this. We finally got round to buying a copy from Mostly Books (and finally got recognised in there after several incognito trips!) and it still regularly finds a place in our reading roster.

Elsewhere in April we checked out "The Worst Princess" by Anna Kemp and Sara Ogilvie, one of the first books that Publishers sent us for review (we're still a little bit shellshocked that this happens, but we couldn't be more grateful, really we couldn't!) A great alternative take on the traditional "Princess" tale, The Worst Princess isn't anyone's fool. She doesn't need pretty dresses or being locked up in a tower, she wants to have fun and adventure just like any girl should. Hooray and amen to that! Charlotte loved Princess Paula to bits!

The fantastic Babette Cole made her second appearance with Doctor Dog and quite rightly won "Book of the Week" again with "A Dose of Doctor Dog" - We hear from the good lady herself that more Doctor Dog is being planned. Will we get to meet Mrs Doctor Dog after all? Best wait and see what happens in 2013 I guess!

We also took a look at Bruce Ingham and Allan Ahlberg's brilliant "The Runaway Dinner". Fast paced and fantastic, another classic that keeps being demanded in our reading schedule and one I'm always happy to dive into. Such a brilliant book.

We couldn't possibly follow up such a remarkable line up in May could we? Well we did try! First out of the traps in May was "We're going on a Bear Hunt" by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury. I couldn't quite believe we hadn't reviewed it before - as it's a book that's been read to Charlotte ever since we was a tiny baby. It's a book that ratchets up the tension as the happy carefree family wade through snow, mud and rivers to get to a deep dark cave. I'm sure you know the rest but it's very easy to see why we had to bestow a book of the week award on this one.

May the 4th was with us but we didn't do anything Star Warsy, instead we re-reviewed Doctor Ted, a book that is brilliantly written, superbly illustrated and is full of the sort of cheeky irreverent stuff that children just can't get enough of. Again it's probably one of the most demanded books on our reading roster and Charlotte absolutely cannot get enough of it. We keep meaning to pick up the rest of the 'Ted' books by Andrea Beatty and Pascale Lemaitre, better stick them on the list for 2013 methinks as Doctor Ted is brilliant, brilliant, brilliant!

Eerie spooky coincidence in May. We pulled Maurice Sendak's meisterwork "Where the Wild Things Are" out of the library stacks in the same week Maurice died. It was a book I'd been meaning to show Charlotte for a while so it was a bit strange (and quite a bit sad) to think we'd never see another Sendak book. Hunt out "Bears" as well if you're looking to catch up with the great man's work.

Late to the party, we finally caught up with local boy David Melling's brilliant bear in "Hugless Douglas" which got 4 out of 5 stars back when we rated books (which on reflection was a bit of a daft idea, how can you possibly give a score to children's books really?) We're slowly hunting down the rest of Melling's books, we absolutely love his inky illustrations.

Another book of the week in May was Frieda Wishinsky and Neal Layton's utterly brilliant "Jennifer Jones Won't Leave Me Alone" and this is also a book that is constantly in demand whenever it's spotted in the library stacks (we really ought to get our own copy). Along with Cressida Cowell's superb 'Emily Brown' books, Neal's work has become a firm favourite and he's also a jolly nice bloke on Twitter too.

More brilliance in May with "When Martha's Away" (hey, that almost rhymes!) from Bruce Ingman, telling the story of the secret lives of cats. What do they do when you close the front door and head off to school / work? Rather more than you can possibly imagine. A brilliant brilliant book, not just for cat lovers.

Our last book of the week in may was "What's the Time, Grandma Wolf?" by Ken Brown. One of those delicious and cheeky reworkings of a classic fairy tale that has lots of unexpected twists and turns, and a fantastic ending. Want to know how it ends? You'd better go and track down a copy yourself.

Our thoughts turned to summer and flaming June. It wasn't actually too bad, but the rain made sure we had plenty of time for book reviews and despite having a brilliant week off at Disneyland Paris, we still managed to squeeze in 14 great little books.

First up in June was the rather disappointing "Socks" by Elizabeth Lindsay and Nick Sharratt. We'd loved Pants and More Pants, Socks felt like a book too far, felt forced and unfunny with some pretty appalling rhymes. It's not often we gave a book a 1 out of 5 star rating but this was one of the instances where a book got a pretty hefty thumbs down from Charlotte. She's harsh but fair. We did like the sock submarine but it just couldn't live up to its predecessors, or indeed Nick Sharratt's other brilliant books. Oh dear!

We took a look at scary French children's books and this was the first time we encountered "La Visite De Petit Mort" by Kitty Crowther. A book we've since managed to get a copy of, and have found isn't actually that scary. It's really rather cute. Check out the article though, they really do things differently across the channel and vive la difference at that!

Fresh from our trip to Disneyland Paris we picked up a couple of the brilliant Walter Foster "Learn to Draw" books to see if we could learn how to draw Disney Princesses. I still can't get Rapunzel's awesome hair flick right! Great books though and a great and very memorable holiday.

Our final book of the week for June was Peter Bently and Simon Rickerty's agile little monster "The Yoga Ogre". Brilliant knockabout fun and a book we're glad to see mentioned in people's "Best Children's Books of the Year" lists. Hooray!

Tune in again tomorrow for more of our yearly roundup as we edge nearer to starting school and take a look at July, August and September.


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