Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Making a pledge is even easier, just hop on through to the Bookstart 20 Pledge Page here and fill in a few details. If you're a bit of a superstar you might even want to upload an image to share on the pledge wall.
I've seen so many people toting those rather stylish Bookstart bags around when I'm at the library or around town (ours is a bit tattered and has a huge hole in it but we still use it). Bookstart has been a fantastic bonus to Charlotte and through Bookstart she's encountered brilliant authors and equally brilliant books that she may have missed otherwise.
Please make a pledge, and please do as much as you can to ensure that the Bookstart organisation prevails. In an age when more and more libraries are being shut down or trimmed to the bare bones, the Bookstart Trust is vital.
At ReadItDaddy, as well as sharing the joy of books through this blog we try and do all we can to get people enthusiastic about introducing books and reading to their children from the earliest age possible and it will be our pleasure to ensure we share 20 books (and probably a whole lot more) with as many people as possible. If everyone does their bit Bookstart can look forward to its 30th, 40th, 50th anniversaries and beyond!
Our local garden centre might sound like an unlikely destination when you're after new children's books but they do a cracking selection of very reasonable titles there, and not just the obscure rubbishy stuff, good quality books like the Walker Books collection. So spotting these on 2 for 1, we picked up a couple of books we'd been meaning to add to Charlotte's collection for a while.
The other book we grabbed was "We're going on a Bear Hunt" and there's not really much more to write about that (in fact I'm quite surprised to see we haven't actually reviewed that yet, despite eulogising about it enough!) but it was The Runaway Dinner that caught Charlotte's eye.
Young Banjo Cannon's adventures in "The Pencil" had already delighted her and with most children's books you get those tantalising lists of other books available in the same range. We'd previously checked "The Runaway Dinner" out from the library and reviewed it but it was definitely worth taking another look at (after all, when we originally reviewed it, Charlotte was still in nappies!)
Now she's a little older, she can appreciate the crazy antics of the book, the frenetic pace which just doesn't slow down for a second, and of course all the little details and busy little characters that go into Bruce Ingman's child-like but wholly fitting illustrations.
So when Banjo's usual dinner sausage sprouts legs and runs off, it's the beginning of a chase that lasts all day. Followed by his fork, his knife, his plate, his table and his chair, Banjo joins the chase along with his family, his pets and the entire neighbourhood.
Originally we gave this a 3 out of 5 but I'm willing to bump that up to a 4 on re-review, simply because Charlotte seems to get a lot more out of the book a couple of years on and has pointed stuff out in it that even I missed.
I've got a feeling we'll have to hunt down the last of the Banjo Cannon books quite soon!
Charlotte's best bit: The unfortunate fate of the peas
Daddy's favourite bit: The sheer lunacy of it all, and Bruce Ingman's wry illustrative style
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I've been meaning to pick this up for Charlotte for ages (well, since we obsessed about the first Dr. Dog book and found out that there was a sequel). So it arrived from Amazon t'other day and I could barely get the book out of the packaging before Charlotte demanded "Read it, Daddy!"
As you've probably gleaned from this blog, we're fans of Babette Cole's rather strange (and sometimes quite rude) sense of humour. In Dr. Dog we met the unhealthy Gumboyle family and their highly trained medical pooch. In the sequel we find out what happens when the Gumboyles interrupt Doctor Dog's lovely restful holiday (needed to get over the stress of caring for the Gumboyles, walking health hazards that they are).
Of course it doesn't take too long before the family are once again getting up to mischief and putting their health at risk.
As you'd expect from a Babette Cole book, no gross stone is left unturned as we see what happens when the family get all sorts of tropical illnesses. Aided by his new friend Professor Dash Hund, Doctor Dog must once again run around like a mad thing sorting out everything from a nasty boil to chronic sunburn.
I tried (in vain) to convince Charlotte that this book wasn't anywhere near as good as the original Doctor Dog book, but she wouldn't have it. Thus, I'm afraid dear reader, that it's book of the week but I stick by my statement - it's not as good as Doctor Dog (certainly not as educational though it does contain some quite handy hints on using natural remedies to treat ailments) and there's really only one way Babette Cole can go with the series. Introduce Mrs Doctor Dog, as Charlotte's already demanding to know why there isn't one!
The Gumboyles gatecrash the wedding? You just know it'd make a good read!
Charlotte's best bit: The fact that Aloe Vera was used as one of the cures (she ate some once, didn't like it though!)
Daddy's favourite bit: The fact that Grandad managed not to blow anything up with his volcanic bottom this time.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars, book of the week.
Friday, April 20, 2012
For a while now, here at ReadItDaddy we've received a steady stream of iPhone (and android) apps for review that are targeted at children. The 'tough sell' to a child, even one as young as 4, is that anything that's designed to keep their attention for longer than 5 seconds has got to A) be worth the exorbitant price and B) will have to undoubtedly compete with that ever-present threat to a child's spare time, Angry Birds.
I'll be honest, my daughter's seen Angry Birds and has twiddled away with it but I never really liked the way games affect her, and the way she can become quickly absorbed by them. As an offset I'm quite happy for her to look at apps, games and puzzles that are designed to be informative and perhaps even educational instead.
What a mixed bunch they are though, and in an era where people 'grumble' about paying more than 69p for a game for their iPhone, paying nearly £3 for something that's going to be a fleeting fad, often designed by publishers who are at the top of their game when it comes to producing children's fiction and non-fiction books, you have to wonder why such rampant profiteering seems to go largely unnoticed (and unaddressed).
So what's going on? Let's take a recent case in point, the Topsy and Tim Start School app for the iPhone, from Penguin Books. For £2.99, the app is described as "An interactive story packed with 6 games" ('Packed' is obviously a more generous use of the word 'packed' than we're used to I guess).
The top review on the app store for Topsy and Tim Start School says it all really, far from helping allay a child's worries and anxieties about starting school, the shallow games and thinly dressed content seems designed to maximise profit for very little effort or outlay.
A brief look at Penguin Books' other apps show that they do offer some free applications for childrens, but some (like Moshi Monsters) contain substantial in-app purchase options, a thorny subject that even Apple are currently being taken to task for due to cases where kids have run rampant with their parent's phone and chalked up huge bills in games like Farmville.
To be fair to most major publishers, it's not just something that's common to children's apps. Promotional apps for products as diverse as beer and lingerie are often charged-for apps that are appallingly put together that offer little or no extra information or functionality than the company's own websites (most of which aren't smart phone friendly by the way but I digress).
There are companies out there though who know exactly how to make engaging, challenging and imaginative content for a whole new generation of devices that are all too tempting for children to kidnap and play on.
"Got Cow" is an excellent little game (yep I know, zero educational content but still wonderfully kid-friendly) from David Miller / Lifeboat Studios, as covered on BoingBoing's brilliant podcast series "Apps for Kids" Brightly coloured aliens are stealing our cows and it's up to your child to take a rocket-powered spaceship and win our cows back. It sounds daft, bonkers and of little worth to a child's development but it's so beautifully put together that it's a great example of precisely the sort of interactive experience children should be getting, not just another 'drag the pieces and drop' puzzle, or pairs-matching game. Also worth noting that it's 69p (which is just a tad more than I got as pocket money per week when I was a kid and that was a very long time ago!)
Slightly more educational (and still a heck of a lot of fun) is 'Simple Physics', again 69p on the app store for both iPhone and iPad but chock full of realistic demonstrations of construction puzzles and physics-based challenges for slightly older children.
So there are great games and apps out there for kids, it just seems a pity that the ones that get the most press, and the ones that are voraciously promoted by PR companies, are often the real dross of the bunch. So an open plea to app developers. Don't treat kids like second (or third) class citizens when it comes to your apps, they really won't stand for it (and nor will the folk who pay for them, us!)
Goodness me, what a rude little fellow. In Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross' book, a young rhino is the rudest animal on the savannah. Right from the day he's born, he's absolutely disgustingly rude to everyone he meets. He's rude to his mummy as he pops out, he's rude to the doctor. He's even rude to his dear old grandparents who come to coo over the cradle.
As he grows up, the Really Rude Rhino continues to be rude to absolutely everyone. Until...
...of course you'll have to read the book to find out what happens to the naughty little fellow. Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross once again seemingly turn everything they touch to gold in a fairly simple tale told expertly, and if it has the effect of drumming some manners into your little ones (or at least stops them exposing their bottoms to all and sundry) then all the better.
Charlotte's best bit: The Really Rude Baby
Daddy's favourite bit: Making the really rude rhino noises every time he's rude to someone.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
When a young girl sails off to visit her grandmother in her sturdy little pirate boat, she has no idea of the adventures in store for her. Kidnapped by the meanest, scurviest bunch of pirates to sail the seven seas, led by the nefarious Captain Firebeard, poor Molly must fend for herself.
But she's a resourceful girl, and as she slips messages into empty rum bottles and drops them over the side of the pirate's ship, she hatches a plan of rescue and retaliation.
Cornelia Funke and Kerstin Meyer have spun together the perfect tale of a brave young pirate girl and her triumphant revenge on a rather nasty bunch of piratical coves. If your children are anything like my daughter, they'll have a fascination with the slightly naughty antics of pirates, and of course the genius of putting children central to the roles normally inhabited by adults is that kids immediately identify with Molly and absolutely love what happens as the book draws to a close. As ever, no spoilers, and though it's a theme we've seen a lot before, it's still great to see Funke and Meyer's treatment of it.
Charlotte's best bit: The end of the book and what happens to Captain Firebeard and his nasty crew. Also, as ever, she couldn't stop saying "Molly is me! Molly is me!"
Daddy's favourite bit: Simple ink illustrations beautifully coloured to bring the book to vibrant life.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Thursday, April 19, 2012
By now, you'll probably already know that we love Babette Cole. Her books are deliciously rude, hilariously funny and quite often the exact opposite sort of book you'd want your little darlings to be interested in.
The thing is, whether you like it or not as a parent, kids find poo, wee, bottoms and farting extremely funny even at a tender age, and it's virtually impossible to wrap them up in cotton wool and keep them away from such things.
So why not just embrace it, have a good laugh about it and read a book like "Animals Scare me Stiff" which, compared to Cole's other books, is relatively low on rudeness but still manages to make youngsters giggle.
I'd love to meet her. I bet she's a hoot.
Anyway in this story, a young nervous lad is followed home by a group of animals. Why? No one knows but as the young lad finds out, animals can be scary and there's really only one way to deal with them when they are. You'll have to read the book to find out the secret, of course!
Charlotte's best bit: The end of the book, which I shall not spoil but is rather rude.
Daddy's favourite bit: Babette Cole is a great artist but, y'know what? That bull. That's an anatomically correct step too far I think!
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
"The Paper Aeroplane has Juxtaposed itself with the Electronic Wasp!" which as you all know is daddy blogger speak for "It's time to review another book". This time Kes Gray and Nick Sharratt's excellent 'Daisy' series of books has ended up in our stack from the Library, obtained on one of the wettest days of the year so far (here's an open question to our readers, how do YOU keep your bookstart bag from turning your library books into a sodden mess between the Library and home?)
Daisy does not want to be a girl any more, she wants to be a super spy. Armed with a hastily felt-tipped moustache, a large pair of dark glasses and a whole new spy language to ensure utmost secrecy, Daisy is foiled in her plans by ordinary everyday folk who just cannot understand "006 and a Bit"
Luckily another secret agent comes to the rescue from an unexpected source.
Nick Sharratt is one of those illustrators who instantly makes any book worth taking a look at, and in conjunction with Kes Gray's sense of humour, expertly tapping into the psyche of a little 6 (and a bit) year old girl, this is a great introduction to the Daisy series.
Just remember folks, my hovercraft has no eels (which as we all know is daddy blogger speak for 4 out of 5 stars)
Charlotte's best bit: The Spy Disguise (unfortunately someone had stolen ours from the library book but it didn't take too long to quickly make another one!)
Daddy's favourite bit: Double Oh 21 and a bit. Actually laughed out loud at that bit.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
I'll be honest here. When I was a kid, I would've loved an auntie like Babette Cole. Someone who can draw really gross pictures and tell really gross stories but in a wholly fascinating way, imparting knowledge in a way that ensures it sticks firmly in your head.
Babette Cole is the author / illustrator of one of ReadItDaddy's favourite books, the utterly sublime "Doctor Dog" and so when we spotted "The Sprog Owners Manual" at our local library we pretty much knew what to expect.
Treading very similar ground to Doctor Dog, the Sprog Owners Manual features lots of ghoulishly gross illustrations detailing exactly how kids work, how to...er...get one (though thankfully this bit is rather neatly glossed over to prevent too many of those awkward questions like "How did I get in mummy's tummy, Daddy?" or the equally embarrasing "How did I get OUT of Mummy's Tummy Daddy?"), and how best to look after one.
Divided neatly up between "Good Sprogs" who smell faintly of soap, are kind to animals and snack on lettuce leaves and healthy food and "Bad Sprogs" who smell extremely strongly of gone-off milk, scare the heck out of animals, and snack on burgers, worms, bogies or indeed anything that will fit in their mouths, the book's illustrations are definitely where your children are going to get the most entertainment.
Everything's in there from worm-filled tummies, anatomical drawings of poo emerging from...er...where poo emerges from, and of course a heady dose of Babette Cole's hilarious (and sometimes quite ghoulish) sense of humour.
If you took our previous recommendation on board to read Doctor Dog, you're going to love this too but be prepared to dive into your DK "How the Human Body Works" books just to make sure your own sprog doesn't get the wrong idea about what's inside their skin!
Charlotte's best bit: Constantly pointing to the good sprog and saying "That one's me!" (most of the time she's right but there's a tendency towards some of the bad sprog stuff from time to time!)
Daddy's favourite bit: Who knew that swapping sprog brains around could cause problems!
Rating - 4.5 out of 5 Stars.
I do adore my daughter. She hastily skips by most of the books in the library that deal with fluffy fairies, cute animals and adorable pink princesses and if there's a book that makes the merest mention of monsters, she'll grab it straight away.
So I warned her. "Big Scary Monster could be scary!" I said, and of course when you're four years old you always know far better than your elders and betters. So we ended up with Thomas Docherty's book in our stack this week.
And it's an adorable book. You see, Big Scary Monster is exactly that. The king of the hill, throwing his weight (and his big scary roar) around and generally scaring the bejeezus out of the animals who share his hilltop home.
Big Scary Monster, however, gets ideas above his station and decides to explore the world around him...
To say any more would potentially spoil the rest of the book, suffice to say that you may well see the end of this book coming a mile off, and even your toddler or child might also know what's going to happen. Nevertheless the journey is a fun one and Docherty's way of imbuing his characters with emotion helps to ensure that the book's message isn't list in amongst the hilarious consequences of the Monster's delusions of grandeur.
Charlotte's best bit - The monster's roar!
Daddy's favourite bit - Seeing a neat new twist on a fairly well-worn story.
Rating - 3 out of 5 stars
Monday, April 16, 2012
"...and they both lived happily ever after!" is the usual way you expect a book about a Princess and a handsome Prince to end, right? Well stand clear because Princess Sue has other ideas. She's been waiting a very long time for her Prince Charming to turn up, and she won't accept second best.
So when she's finally rescued from her solitude by a Prince, she's overjoyed. For a moment or two at least, until she realises that this particular handsome Prince is a bit of a wet end, and has very firm (and extremely outdated) ideas about how a Princess should behave. Lots of simpering. Lots of trying on dresses. Lots of wringing hands while staring out of the tower window waiting for her Prince to return home from battle.
Princess Sue definitely does not want any of that, so she hatches a plan to enlist the services of a friendly dragon to help her with her plight.
Anna Kemp and Sara Ogilvie, the team behind the superb "Dogs don't do Ballet" and "Rhinos Don't eat Pancakes" have once again come up with an original twist on well worn themes in "The Worst Princess".
Princess Sue is fantastic, a kick-ass Princess who doesn't mind getting dirty hands in the quest for fun. Ogilvie's illustrations hark back to the classic style of Oliver Postgate so they get the definite thumbs up from me. The rhyming text from Kemp is great too and helps the story to bounce along beautifully.
Let the boys idolise Mike the Knight. Princess Sue could have him for breakfast (with a little help from her fiery red friend!).
Charlotte's best bit: The lovely dresses that Sue is given by her Prince (yes, I'm afraid despite the message in this book, Charlotte is still very much a girly girl!)
Daddy's favourite bit: Princess Sue's choice of footwear. Converses are cool!
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars, Book of the Week
(Note: This book was sent for review by Simon and Schuster Children's Books).
Thursday, April 12, 2012
It had to happen. We found a Mog book we didn't like, but without a shadow of a doubt "Mog in the Dark" is an extremely clever book for a couple of reasons.
For starters, it uses a reduced vocabulary to tell a very imaginative story of what happens when Mog is outside falling asleep in the dark dark garden.
Secondly it focuses the story entirely on Mog with very little interaction with any other characters (any tangible ones at least), which means that young readers don't have the added distraction of jumping from one dialogue stream to another between characters.
The problem we had with the book was that Mog is a child-friendly character, but elements of the book are decidedly unfriendly. Children are afraid of the dark, and despite any book's assurance that 'everything's OK in the end, it was just a dream' those dark unknown imagined spooky things that lurk in the darkness are what children will focus on in this book. Dogs that fly, giant mice with teeth and all manner of rather nasty looking animals are in the book and in Mog's dreams so for younger readers it's probably a very thin line between what the book presents as reality and what isn't. Tough call that and it's the only time I've ever encountered anything in Judith Kerr's books that doesn't quite work as intended (for us at least).
Charlotte's best bit: Mog's flying antics
Daddy's favourite bit: Kerr's weird Dr Moreau-style animal creations
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Poor Sam has a cough (hck, hck) and in this snuggly bedtime book his mum tries to persuade him to take a big spoonful of icky cough syrup.
Quite a timely book for our pile considering the amount of sleepless nights we've had recently while Charlotte coughs away like a navvy most nights (though thankfully after discovering the single cough syrup on the market that actually seems to work, we're now sleeping a bit better thanks!)
Sam's mum patiently cuddles up with her youngster as the snow approaches. It's a feelgood book, perfect for those cold winter nights (which seem to extend well into Spring these days!)
Charlotte's best bit - Sam getting icky medicine all over himself
Daddy's favourite bit - The snowbear
Rating - 3 out of 5 stars
In the second of the Jeanne Willis / Tony Ross books to hit our stack this week, a young girl dreams of life on the prairies in "I Want to be a Cowgirl". Pinching her dad's hat, and riding her faithful steed (the scrapyard dog), the girl yee-hahs and woo-hoos her way through the 'wild wild west' of her imagination.
Again a charming book with plenty of excellent visual gags to laugh at and enjoy (I particularly liked the fact that the girl snips a nifty pair of chaps out of the fluffy living room carpet, then in another frame you see them hastily sewn back in!).
Great stuff for aspiring cowgirls everywhere.
Charlotte's best bit - The cloud shapes
Daddy's favourite bit - The girl's dad whooping and hollering at the end of the book
Rating - 4 out of 5 stars
Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross are as close as you can get to being Children's Book 'Royalty', in that seemingly everything they turn their hand to is an outstanding success, but I have to admit I'd never heard of "The Boy who Lost his Bellybutton" until it fetched up at our local library. As soon as I read out the title to Charlotte, she wanted this book in her stack and it's easy to see why. It's cheeky, it's charming and if you're an adult it's extremely difficult to read with a straight face (in fact if anyone comes into the room half way through you reading it aloud, and hasn't heard what you're referring to, they could REALLY take things the wrong way. You'll see what I mean!)
A young boy misplaces his bellybutton. It's easily done, mine's been lost for years (or as my wife would probably point out, filled with fluff for years). The boy takes to the jungle to hunt for his beloved navel, and finds it in a very strange place.
Great animal antics, and more than an element of tongue in cheek for adults to snigger at, The Boy Who Lost his Bellybutton is an excellent read and as ever, Tony Ross can do no wrong in the illustrative stakes. Thoroughly recommended.
Charlotte's best bit - The gorilla belly button
Daddy's favourite bit - trying to keep a straight face while reading out the middle few pages.
Rating - 4 out of 5 stars
Thursday, April 5, 2012
It's takeover blog time! A change from the usual books and as it's easter, here's CanIWalkMummy with a review of the EcoEgg, which we recently received for review. Over to you, The Wife!
We were all so excited at receiving our EcoEgg as we do have a sensitive skin person in our house, even Charlotte wanted to get in at putting some washing on. We did a machine detox as recommended (which we often do) whilst trying to cram all the little balls into the egg, this was easier said than done and Charlotte was tasked with finding the ones that went across the kitchen floor!
Charlotte loaded the machine with her clothes and popped the ecoegg in on top, a drop of fabric softener in the drawer (as I like the smell, and we live in a hard water area - but as the instructions say, its not needed) and off the machine went.
Well it freshened her clothes up and got rid of a few dirty marks but her really grubby socks (from taking her shoes off at pre-school) still looked grubby. The instructions say to add stain-remover if needed and I think with kids clothes this would be needed every wash, whereas with our usual washing powder its only used on the extra tough stains.
We also used the eco egg on a couple of other washes and it performed fine, it can be used up to 60c which is what I wash our sheets and towels on to kill any germs.
My only concerns are that it's a bit of a weight and could have an effect on how well your machine performs on a spin cycle or eventually impact on the life cycle of the washing machine. The ecoegg can stay in the washing machine during rinse and spin cycle and if you have the option on your machine you can do away with the rinse cycles, but I do prefer to try and take the egg out before one of the rinse cycles as with sensitive skin I think its best to have a clean rinse. Taking the egg out early is a bit of a faff though, pausing the machine at the right time and then rummaging through the soaking wet clothes to find the egg. We had read reviews of eggs coming open in the wash, but after 4 washes the egg still hasn't opened in the wash and is firmly locked (but check it before every wash).A positive I found is not having the sludge of gel washing capsules stuck to the rim of the washing machine, or dusting of powder trapped in the same place.
After all of this I think its great for those with sensitive skin, and if you are a household who mostly just wash their clothes to freshen them up than actually needing to get rid of x, y and z stains then it will work well and save lots of money (up to £216). As an amendment to the summary we should mention that the ecoegg leaves no residue at all in the machine or on clothing at all.
Lots more information on the product can be found on the Ecoegg website http://www.ecoeggonline.com
Charlotte's best bit - Putting the special wash beads in the egg itself (despite being fiddly) and being allowed to use the washing machine!
CanIWalkMummy's favourite bit - Fresh smell, less fabric softener and it would definitely save money in the long run.
ReadItDaddy's favourite bit - It really works, my love!
Rating - 3 out of 5 stars
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
We originally reviewed this book way back in the mists of time and I was unusually cruel and dismissive about it.
Now some time on, it's cropped up in our borrowing pile again and a now slightly more brave, slightly more interested Charlotte has named it as her book of the week.
It's still scary, still disturbing and still has all the elements I listed in the previous review - and yet, reading it through again and again (and again) to Charlotte, even before Bedtime, it's easy to see why she loves it so much. For starters, there's the game of finding Bear hiding on each page, even when he's not really supposed to be there.
Secondly it's probably down to me giving Bear his own voice, a slightly drunken gravelly Bear-type voice which he uses while he's skulking around the house doing all the things young William (the boy in the story) imagines he's doing. Or is he imagining it? Or is bear really there?
So it goes from a zero out of 5 to a 5 out of 5 and our book of the week. It just goes to show how quickly a child's taste can evolve, and how (secretly) kids quite like a fright now and again. Just don't go too mad!
Charlotte's best bit: Bear being pelted with rotten food, poor bear.
Daddy's favourite bit: Notice the honey jar. Full when it goes in, empty when it's found later! AHA!
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars, Book of the Week
It's a formula we've seen before here at ReadItDaddy, and in "Unfortunately" we follow the exploits of a little boy making his way through the perilous jungle. He encounters Snakes, lions, cannibals and deep dark caves before teaming up with a brave young girl who saves his skin several times.
Here's an odd thing though, the way the book ends. It's a nice bit of rule-breaking for kid's books that I (secretly) chortled about, but left Charlotte wondering what would happen next. I won't spoil it for you, you'll see what I mean - suffice to say that there will be questions! Lots of questions!
Charlotte's best bit - The book ends and...?
Daddy's favourite bit - As above, lovely bit of rule-breaking there chaps!
Rating - 3 out of 5 stars