Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Not So Scary Snorklum by Paul Bright and Jane Chapman (Little Tiger Press)


The Not So Scary Snorklum

Written by Paul Bright

Illustrated by Jane Chapman

Published by Little Tiger Press

We continue our Halloween spookiness with a monster, a Snorklum to be precise. But are Snorklums as scary as other monsters?

We meet the Snorklum - a sort of Alf-looky-likey who stalks the dark forest, on the hunt for animals to scoff. Starting off small with a nice furry (and very tasty) mole which he tucks into his pocket for later, the Snorklum proclaims his scariness to all and sundry. But seriously, can anyone really be scared of this hairy and hungry beast?

Paul Bright and Jane Chapman have subtly woven together a spooky monstery tale that feels like a neat modern parable about bullying. For all the Snorklum's loud roaring claims that he's scary, that he's to be feared - the animals soon realise that if they stick together, and face the Snorklum down as dawn approaches, he's not nearly as scary as he seems. In fact, he's a wee bit...meek and mild perhaps?

A deliciously furry art style, entertaining repetition and text, and some brilliant undertones of an anti-bullying message, "The Not So Scary Snorklum" is a monstrously good read!

Charlotte's best bit: Charlotte thought the Snorklum was actually wonderful and cuddly. Though not sure she'd like to test that theory out

Daddy's Favourite bit: A subtle anti-bullying message wrapped up in a story with a ton of feelgood factor at the end. Marvellous!

A spooky Halloween Re-Review of "Not Now, Bernard" by David McKee (Andersen Children's Books)


Not Now, Bernard
(Halloween Re-review!)

Written and Illustrated by
David McKee

Published by Andersen Children's Books

Way back in the days of yore, when this blog was just finding its feet in the world of children's books, we visited the library and picked up a book that would become a regular on this blog. Not only that, it's a book that I'm overjoyed to see so many other booky folk mention whenever they're put on the spot and have to come up with their "Top Ten Favourite / Most Influential Children's Books".

So as it's Halloween we thought we'd revisit David McKee's utterly brilliant, irreverent and monstrously good "Not Now, Bernard". Does it still tickle us the way it did back in 2010? Does it ever!

For Charlotte, "Not Now, Bernard" has to be treated with huge respect, and is subject to a set of 'read aloud' rules which I'm not allowed to deviate from in any way. I have to get the pace right. I have to express Bernard's effervescent and innocent naivety just right, I have to add just the right amount of parental exasperation for Bernard's mum and dad, and I absolutely have to get the monster right or I'll be in serious trouble! It's a tough gig!

"YOU'RE NOT READING IT RIGHT, DADDY!" is what I get if I dare deviate - or worse still, if I try to read it flatly as I do with some other books - just the normal "Daddy" voice and tone.

Bernard's mum. Vase (and wardrobe) malfunction!
The story of young Bernard, who tries to warn his parents that there's a monster living in the garden that wants to eat him - and what happens when the monster does just that - is an absolute classic. You can read between the lines and spot the cleverness of its message a mile off. Or you can actually take it at face value, and it STILL works beautifully. Bernard's parents ignore his pleas, and so the monster does exactly what it says it's going to - turning Bernard into a tasty snack. NOM!

Bernard's dad - In the wars as usual! Owch!
The monster then goes into the house - and finds that Bernard's parents still ignore everything he does. Even when it's really really naughty (like taking a chunk out of Bernard's dad's leg!)

If you're reading this, the chances are that I'm probably preaching to the converted, and you know and love the book as much as we do. Monster books have been staple fodder for us on the blog since we began but seldom few monstery books quite have the impact, the comedy, and the satisfying read-aloud feeling that you get when it works well and trips off the tongue.

David McKee is a huge talent, and I've loved his stories and TV adaptations since I was a kid. "Not Now, Bernard" was a joyous discovery and it's still a book we just can't get enough of. If you're looking for the perfect monster book for Halloween, this is what you should be picking up.
(Not Now, Daddy!)


Charlotte's best bit: Oddly, she now loves the bits where poor Bernard's dad ends up with horrific DIY and monster-inflicted injuries (and wears the bandages to prove it). Things like that should worry me, shouldn't they. 

Daddy's Favourite bit: Despite Charlotte's fairly rigid rules on how this book should be read, it's an utter joy to do so. The squeaky matter-of-fact voice I give Bernard, the exasperated sigh I give his mum and the slightly grumpy voice I give his dad - and the gurgling grunting monster voice that the monster gets, add to making this a book that I genuinely look forward to reading again and again and doubly so because it's one that Charlotte never turns down when I pull it out of the book stack. Wonderful stuff! If you do not already own it, get it!

Ready Steady Ghost by Elizabeth Baguley and Marion Lindsay (Oxford University Press)


Ready Steady Ghost!

Written by Elizabeth Baguley

Illustrated by Marion Lindsay

Published by Oxford University Press

It's Halloween, hooray! So we're taking a look at a few spooky books today. How about a ghostly tale from Elizabeth Baguley and Marion Lindsay? It's all about a tiny little ghost called Bertie who just wants somewhere to call home - oh, and haunt (because that's what ghosts do best, after all!)

Unfortunately Bertie's diminutive stature means that it's not easy for him to rattle around in a huge castle, or roam the nether wooing and squealing to put the shivers up the neighbourhood - when there are already far more scarier things out there like wolves and giant snakes, eek! Will tiny Bertie ever find the perfect haunt?

You never know. Sometimes, even in a huge old castle, the answer might be tucked away somewhere!

Bertie's a lovely character, and this book is a nice little bedtime read that helps children overcome and understand their fears, and shows that it doesn't matter how tiny you are, there's always a place that can become yours.

Charlotte's best bit: Bertie finally settles in the one place a tiny little ghost can feel properly at home. So sweet!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Beautifully illustrated and a tender story, spooky but sweet!

Yeti and the Bird by Nadia Shireen (Jonathan Cape PB Ltd)


Yeti and the Bird

Written and Illustrated by

Nadia Shireen

Published by Jonathan Cape

Yetis are definitely a "thing" this year. We've seen quite a few books where the Abominable Snowman turns out to be anything BUT abominable and in Nadia Shireen's new book, we may be mistaken in thinking that Yeti is a fairly grumpy and scary chap. Stalking the frozen wastes, people tend to leave him well alone. Until one day someone (quite literally) drops in on him and changes his world forever.

Bird is not scared of Yeti, in fact Bird isn't really scared of anything - and though Yeti is initially not keen on Bird's chirping and attention, the two become friends - and soon Yeti realises that he can't live without Bird.

The winter digs its icy claws in, which makes life very difficult for a tiny bird who needs to fly away to a warmer climate before it's too late. Yeti must reluctantly bid his new best friend a fond farewell. But will bird ever return?

This is a touching story of an unlikely friendship that has such a beautiful end (which, naturally, we won't spoil) that it gladdens the heart to think that even the grumpiest of the grumps would read this and feel a little tingle of hope that somewhere out there, there truly is a friend for everyone.

Charlotte's best bit: Loved the conversations between Yeti and Bird (which Charlotte and I had great fun recreating)

Daddy's Favourite bit: Another corker from the immensely talented Nadia Shireen!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Jonathan Cape PB Ltd)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

"Boo!" (a Preston Pig Story) by Colin McNaughton (HarperCollins Children's Books)


Boo!

Written and Illustrated by
Colin McNaughton

Published by HarperCollins Children's Books

We love Preston Pig, in fact Colin McNaughton's "Suddenly" is one of those books that Charlotte latches onto in the library, and always insists we bring home with us - despite us borrowing it so many times.

We hadn't seen "Boo!" before, and though the belly laughs don't come quite as thick and fast as they do in "Suddenly", we loved the classic comic-strip humour in this tale of a rather naughty Preston Pig roaming the neighbourhood, superhero mask fixed firmly to his piggy little face, ready to make mischief amongst characters we've known and loved from the other Preston Pig adventures.

Spooking his teacher, the man who works at the supermarket. Er, swiftly avoiding the wolf's house (probably just as well, considering what the wolf is up to when he passes by). Preston is out for larks and pranking - and no one can stop him.

No one, except perhaps his dad who falls foul of Preston's naughtiness and decides on a plan of action. After all, what use is a good old fashioned scary "Boo!" if you can't "Boo!" someone back!

Colin McNaughton's books are always full of exquisite details, lovely laugh-out-loud moments, and of course that porky essence of misbehaving and fun that children just cannot resist.

Charlotte's best bit: Preston plays a trick on his teacher. What a rotter!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Preston getting one up on the bully. Hooray for Preston!

ReadItDaddy has an absolute Dahl-ing day out at the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, Great Missenden, Bucks

Through these purple gates magic happens!
With Charlotte's school embarking on a "Roald Dahl Day" for their upcoming Book Week, we thought we'd better do some research - and what better place to have a whizzpoppingly great time than the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre at Great Missenden, Bucks.

We had wanted to go for ages, but were a bit concerned that Charlotte might be a bit young for it. Nevertheless we packed into the Storymobile and headed bucks-ward.

Great Missenden is one of those magical towns that seems to have stood still in time.

The wonderful "Red Pump Garage" which inspired "Danny: The Champion of the World" (note on the door says "Out of Fuel since 8 gallons cost more than £1)

It has a fantastic library (which Matilda would've loved to have visited) but we were determined to get to the museum before the dark rainclouds descended on us. We just about made it by the skin of our teeth.

Friendly staff greeted us and went through the various activities that were on during the day, and gave us a "Spooky Ghost Hunt" quiz sheet to complete as we made our way around the centre.

The first thing we saw was a very welcome sight indeed. Wouldn't you love doors like these?

Yummy! Broke my teeth on this trying to gnaw a corner off!
Charlotte also got very excited at the prospect of sitting on a croco-bench.

I think you're OK if you sit on this, unless you have feathers. 
The museum is mostly a mix of the story of Roald Dahl's fascinating life, and of course a great deal of subject matter drawn from his wonderful books for children AND grown ups. So the first gallery was full of family photos, and a bit about Roald Dahl's early life in Landaff, Wales - and at boarding school where he was a bit of a tearaway.

Some fascinating letters home to his mum gave hints and clues on where Dahl drew so many points of inspiration from for his books (particularly Miss Trunchbull in "Matilda" !)

Fancy a quick flight in a mock-up of Dahl's Hurricane?
As Dahl got older, and as war commenced, he became a pilot and served with the RAF overseas.

Charlotte was as tall as an Oompa Loompa!
Before and after the war, Dahl also worked for the Shell Oil company. There are lots of items of interest showing what a gung-ho adventurer he was as a young man.

Here's Charlotte seeing what she'd look like as one of "The Twits". 
The layout of the museum is brilliant, there really is a huge amount to look at in each of the areas. Though we were predominantly there for all the children's story stuff, we really found the displays based around Dahl's family life really fascinating (reminds me - I really need to re-read "Boy" at some point!)

Willy Wonka's fabulous jacket and cane from "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" (with ghostly chum!)
The second gallery had more of a story focus, and also an awesome mock-up of Dahl's infamous "Writing shed" which looked very comfortable (perhaps this is the reason I don't get much writing done at home, I need a shed!!)

The great man's chair (with snooker-table-baize lap board). Fabulous stories came from such humble surroundings!
I loved that he had a touch for the macabre. One of his hip joints sat proudly on the table along with other trinkets like a ball of silver paper tightly packed together, made of all the silver wrappers from chocolate he consumed when working for Shell, and a model Hurricane from WW II.

Charlotte's "Story Ideas" book. Think this one's about a princess who is also a monster, and only likes eating jelly!
Young children are very well catered for - they are given fascinating things to do, including working on their own story ideas as they walk around the galleries - or even whispering to the Minpins with some of the interactive displays.

Our favourite area was right at the end of the museum complex, a vast interactive area full of amazing activities and wonderful items to gaze at. We got stuck into making our own stop-motion movie like "Fantastic Mr Fox".

I say, be a dear and fetch me a whole roast chicken. I'm feeling a little peckish. 
Models from the movie adaptation were on display (and they're SO cute!) Wonder if anyone noticed that Mr Fox's chair looks eerily similar to Dahl's favourite writing chair?

Space-going Grandpa Joe, Charlie and Willy Wonka - oh and astronaut-y Oompa Loompas!
All too soon it was time to leave this magical and wonderful place - but not before visiting Cafe Twit where a certain delicacy was very much in demand...particularly by my lovely other half and my chocolate-loving little girl...

Bogtrotter's Cake from Cafe Twit. Too yummy!
There's also a very well stocked shop full of Dahl goodies, brilliant children's books (spotted the latest Rebecca Patterson "Bella" book there and I STILL didn't buy it, DOH!).

ReadItDaddy and Charlotte getting creative in George's Marvellous Making Room!
An utterly fantastic and magical day out, and we've vowed to return next time they're doing some storytelling or activity events. Well worth visiting!

Time to make a stop-motion movie, Charlotte style!

The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre Website

Cafe Twit's amazing and scrum-diddly-umptious menu!



Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Fortunately Unfortunately by Michael Foreman (Andersen Children's Books)


Fortunately, Unfortunately

Written and Illustrated by
Michael Foreman

Published by Andersen Children's Books

Fortunately, we love books like this, where the flow of the story changes from one page to the next - and a young monkey's fate is decided on the flip of a coin. Unfortunately we don't see nearly enough of them, but it's such a great format, it might inspire other authors and illustrators to try it out. Fortunately young Milo, the hero of this tale is a level-headed chap, so when he's asked to return his Grandma's umbrella to her, it's the start of an eventful journey.

Unfortunately not always an easy one. Milo has to be quick witted and clever in order to succeed. Pirates, little aliens, great big aliens and even dinosaurs get in his way.

Fortunately Milo realises just how useful an umbrella can be in the face of danger (or a good soaking!). Unfortunately an umbrella can only stand up to so much punishment before it ends up in a dreadful state!

Fortunately, Milo's Grandma ends up with something far better than an umbrella at the end of the story. Unfortunately we're not going to tell you what that is, you'll have to read the book for yourself!

Fortunately, Michael Foreman's book is brilliant, Milo and his Grandma are awesome characters, and be honest, who couldn't love a book where giant bullying gas-filled aliens get their comeuppance at the end of a pointy umbrella!

Unfortunately we've run out of space for this review. Fortunately, we're happy to tell you our favourite bits!

Charlotte's best bit: The cute and friendly mini aliens who abduct Milo in their spaceship.

Daddy's Favourite bit: This format is not unfamiliar, but it's wonderfully used to brilliant effect in this story!

Inspector Croc Investigates by Sam Lloyd (Orchard Books)


Inspector Croc Investigates

Written and Illustrated by
Sam Lloyd

Published by Orchard Books

Sam Lloyd's "Whoops-a-daisy World" books are all new to us, but we can never resist a twisty turny detective mystery, so with "Inspector Croc Investigates" we get to meet some of the folk who live in this colourful land - including a rather superb croc copper.

Inspector Croc is tenacious, and the story starts with him sitting at his desk one morning at "Catch-Em-Crooks" Police Station. The emergency line starts ringing, and it's time for Inspector Croc to spring into action.

Something's definitely going on in this usually peaceful town. A tin of pink paint is knocked over, making a huge mess. A bike ends up embedded in freshly laid cement. A farmer's field is all but wrecked, and all clues seem to indicate that the felon is someone living in the town! But who?

Children will love solving the mystery as you read the story, building up the clues until the answer is revealed (which we won't spoil for you). Keen sharp eyes need to be on top form because the mystery and the clues start even before you think they do - which is a great excuse to dive back through the book for a second reading as soon as you've finished.

Sam Lloyd's easy style, which we loved in Mr Pusskins, lends itself well to building up the story and the fun as the answer is slowly revealed. Charlotte loved tracing the various tracks made by the perpetrator - and we'll definitely be looking out for the other books in the "Whoops-a-daisy-World" series (Doctor Miaow's Big Emergency and Chief Rhino to the Rescue).

Animal-based books are tricky to get right. Sometimes they can be a bit too cute and cuddly, sometimes they just feel like they've all come from the same mould. "Inspector Croc" feels fresh, fun, original and brilliant. We love it!

Charlotte's best bit: Solving the clues (she actually guessed who the miscreant would be before I did!)

Daddy's Favourite bit: So much detail in the artwork, lovely little funny things to spot and a grand mystery that is fun to solve. Oh and watch out for the very end of the book too, Inspector Croc will have a busy day again!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Pinocchio by Michael Morpurgo and Emma Chichester-Clarke (HarperCollins Children's Books)


Pinocchio

Written by Michael Morpurgo

Illustrated by Emma Chichester-Clarke

Published by HarperCollins Children's Books

It seems like ages ago that Charlotte started Year 1 and gained access to the school library for the very first time. The first book she picked, from the shelves of books she had to choose from was Pinocchio - albeit the Disney treatment (I wrote a blog post about it, it was a very touching moment).

So when Michael Morpurgo and Emma Chichester-Clarke turned their hand to an adaptation of the classic by Carlo Collodi, I was intrigued. I love Michael Morpurgo's fantastic "War Horse" and have previously only seen one or two of his children's books (We have a copy of "It's a Dog's Life" at home that gets read very often!) so this would be an interesting book to delve into.

Emma's artwork brings Pinocchio to life (well, that's not strictly a spoiler is it?) Crammed with detail, deft characterisations and fabulous thrills, Pinocchio doesn't feel hewn from wood, it feels living and vivid - and this version is something to be treasured. Charlotte wanted to know why Pinocchio was so naughty all the time, why did he do those things and how did he end up being in so many scrapes and near-misses?

As she gets older, I can imagine her digging this out again to read on her own - to discover in it the story of a couple who make a puppet, that magically comes to life, that eventually has to learn the ways of the world (sometimes the hard way) and eventually gets his wish to be a real boy. It's a magical tale with the most moreish readability (a perfect book to spread over a series of bedtimes for maximum enjoyment and effect).

I loved the cheeky Michael and Emma cameo btw, and any book that features a certain plummy black dog who we just cannot get enough of, is a huge hit.


Charlotte's best bit: Though they're essentially the epitome of nastiness, Charlotte loved the blind cat and the fox!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Some rather lovely cameos in this, and an utterly wonderful version of a well-loved classic.

(Kindly sent to us for review by HarperCollins Children's Books)

#ReadItMD13 Theme Week - "This Is Halloween - Which Witch is top of the class?"

No witchy round-up could possibly be complete without Winnie!

It's Halloween, and before your little monsters and minxes descend on the neighbourhood in search of sweet treats, we are paying homage to a favourite halloween character who weaves a magic spell throughout many children's picture books. Be they scary, sweet or a little bit gross, ladies and gentlemen it's the Witching Hour!

We'll kick off with our favourite. Winnie the Witch books by Valerie Thomas and the uber-talented Korky Paul have always been in our library stack, we voraciously consumed them all when this blog first started up - though we've got lots of catching up to do now that there are new titles we've missed, and chapter readers which also look fab. 

We have reviewed: 



Winnie in Winter (our favourite!)





So you could say we're definitely in love with Winnie!

But wait a second, how dare this young upstart take the throne. How about a witch I loved when I was a wee whippersnapper...!

Meg and Mog by Helen Nicoll and Jan Pienkowski. Zany. Hilarious. Genius!
The "Meg and Mog" books were staple fodder for me, our school library had nearly all of the titles that were available in the early 70s - and a few more were added later on. 

The story of a witch, her cat, and their owl friend - and a supporting cast of completely crazy characters ranging from other witches, to mummies, to aliens and monsters, they're eyecatching books and brilliant for a whole range of ages. 

We have been a bit busy with Meg and Mog books on the blog, having reviewed:







It's extremely sad that Helen Nicoll is no longer with us. Meg and Mog stories should definitely be passed down to future generations, they're so good. 

More witches, well we have plenty more to share around. How about: 






The Witch of the East by Mark Boyde and Scott Macgregor




The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

We've missed out a lot, so it's over to you - who is your favourite witchy character in children's books? Leave a comment below, we always love your suggestions!





#ReadItMD13 Theme Week - "This Is Halloween, Everybody SCREAM!"

"Darkness Slipped In" by Ella Burfoot. Spooky, Dark, Delicious!

Welcome Ghouls and Boys to our #ReadItMD13 Theme Week celebrating all things spooky, scary and dark. It's Halloween on Thursday - and as you answer the door 20 times in one night to lots of little spooky chiddlers demanding "Trick or Treat", there's a ton of brilliant booky goodness to delve into as you tuck your little monsters tightly beneath the bedcovers once the excitement dies down. 

We're starting off with a book that we were in two minds about at first. "Darkness Slipped In" by Ella Burfoot is truly a book that will divide opinion, and definitely not a book to read at bedtime if your little ones haven't progressed past needing a night light. A young girl is scared of the dark, and with good reason because at first "Darkness" is a mischievous and playful scamp, who you're never really sure you can trust or turn your back on. But soon the girl confronts her fears, after all "Darkness" is pretty harmless really. 

Sticking with darkness for a moment or two...talk about a killer combination of author and artist, phew!

"The Dark" by Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen. Hi Dark, Hi!
"The Dark" by Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen is utterly, utterly fabulous. With a similar theme to "Darkness Slipped in", "The Dark" features an adorable little lad, Laszlo, who knows all about the dark. The Dark lives in the basement, but sometimes it creeps behind the shower, or in spaces throughout Laszlo's massive (and quite spooky) house. One night The Dark steals into Laszlo's room but he's brave and bold, and follows The Dark down to the cellar to find out what it wants...

When this book first arrived (resplendent in a big black box and the most fabulous shipping envelope) we instantly fell in love with the tale, it became a book of the week, and we still just can't get enough of it. If ever there was a dynamic duo in children's books we'd love to see work together again, it's Snicket and Klassen!

Time for a rumpus, methinks!

"Spookyrumpus" by Tony Mitton and Guy Parker-Rees. Why didn't the skeleton go to the ball...?
"Spookyrumpus" by Tony Mitton and Guy Parker-Rees tells us what all the ghoulies, ghosties, skeletons and monsters get up to once we're all safely tuck up in bed. A grand rumpus begins, a party to end all parties - loud enough to raise the dead, in fact! Whoooh!

...and in a similar vein, let's have a few more monsters having a high old time...

"Tamara Small and the Monsters' Ball" by Giles Paley-Phillips and Gabriele Antonini. Monstrously good!
"Tamara Small and the Monsters' Ball" hit our doormat, courtesy of the absolutely smashing Giles Paley Phillips. His second monstery book (Who could possibly forget the brilliance of "The Fearsome Beastie" which also deserves an honourable mention in anyone's Halloween list) had all the essence of spookiness about it as young Tamara is unceremoniously taken away from her warm comfortable bed by a dribbling drooling monster. No evil intent though, the monster takes her to the annual event no monster could possibly miss. The Monsters' Ball! Brilliant rhymes, inventive monsters and possibly the world's coolest cake (which we STILL haven't quite managed to emulate in our bake-offs at home yet. We'll keep trying!)

More to come from us with all things monstery, ghostly, ghoulish, scary and dark as we explore more brilliant halloween classics very soon. We're going witchy next so if you have a favourite witch-based book, drop a comment below!

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Dunderheads by Paul Fleischman and David Roberts (Walker Books)


The Dunderheads

Written by Paul Fleischman

Illustrated by David Roberts

Published by Walker Books

We like doing things in a slightly jumbled-up fashion. We previously reviews "The Dunderheads - Behind Bars" thanks to those lovely Letterbox Library folk. Now we're playing catchup as we found the original Dunderheads book nestling in the library and thought we'd free it for a couple of weeks.

As previously stated in our other review, this gang of kids are anything but dunderheads but are unfairly labelled as such by their terrifying Trunchbull-esque teacher Miss Breakbone. Part cybernetic kid-eating machine (at least we suspect as much), with a peppery dash of Cruella DeVille about her - and a rather annoying habit of confiscating children's goodies in class, and hawking them on EBay for fun and profit. What a ratbag!

One day she confiscates a china cat from Junkyard, which was intended to be a birthday present for his darling mum. That is the last straw, and Junkyard's unspoken plea for help from his friends is like a thrown-down gauntlet, a challenge to recover the confiscated moggy and make sure Miss Breakbone is served a valuable lesson or two in the process.

Calling on all the expertise of this talented bunch of kids, Einstein (the brains of the outfit) formulates a dastardly sneaky but downright genius plan to gain access to Miss Breakbones fortress-like house and rescue that poor moggy so that Junkyard can give it to his mum as intended. But there are perils a-plenty, and it will take all the tenacity and courage of Einstein, Junkyard, Spitball, Nails, Google-Eyes, Wheels, Hollywood, Clips and Spider to put the plan into action. Phew, that's quite a gang!

A terrifying baddie, a diverse and brilliant cast of kid characters, a tricky mission and David Roberts' truly amazing illustrations make this something special. We love this as much as we loved "Behind Bars" and seriously think that if any enterprising TV executives are looking for the next huge animated hit, they need look no further than this brilliant book for inspiration.


Charlotte's best bit: Google-Eyes hypnotising Miss Breakbone's maid just in time.

Daddy's Favourite bit: The rather lovely pay-off at the end, aww bless 'em!

#ReaditMD13 Theme Week - The Four Seasons - "Autumn, how we love thee!"

Fall Mixed Up by Bob Raczka and Chad Cameron. Autumnal fun!
We're rounding off a week looking at books that celebrate the four seasons of the year (even though sometimes it feels like they all roll into one, we're due snow next week, eep!) Autumn is our favourite time of the year, as the nights draw in, the temperature drops and the trees turn golden. Is there truly anything more satisfying than kicking your way through a huge drift of fallen leaves? Well we love doing that. 

So we're kicking off with "Fall Mixed Up" by Bob Raczka and Chad Cameron. As you'd expect, it's a crazy book full of brilliant rhymes, fabulous artwork and though it's a bit US-Centric, it's a huge amount of fun. 

Autumn leaves - let's stick with that theme for a moment...

The Little Yellow Leaf by Carin Berger. Utterly sublime!
With essences of Eric Carle, and a charming and touching story, Carin Berger's "The Little Yellow Leaf" is a fabulous tale of what happens when the very last leaf on the tree hangs on for dear life. Should they succumb to the autumn breeze or stay there as long as possible? The strong messages of bravery and friendship that bubble under the surface of this story are what makes it an essential autumn read. 

It's just around the corner so let's take a look at...

"In November" by Cynthia Rylant and Jill Kastner. So beautiful!
"In November" by Cynthia Rylant and Jill Kastner is a very special book, describing how Autumn makes it feel like the world is shutting down, battening down the hatches before winter. We see the animal kingdom preparing their winter stores of food before hibernation, and of course the first fall of leaves of every colour as the ground is carpeted with browns, golds and reds. A veritable Autumn feast for the eyes. 

You'll notice we've kept well away from Halloween - there's a good reason for that (it's because the theme next week is - yep you've guessed it - Halloween) but we'll sneak at least one Halloween book in anyway...

"Fragoline and the Midnight Dream" by Clemency Pearce and Rebecca Elliot. One of our favourite spooky reads!
"Fragoline and the Midnight Dream" is a book that just gets better and better with each reading. I think I've completely lost count of how many times we've borrowed this from the library (we can never seem to get hold of our own copy!). I love it because it's such an utter pleasure to read out loud. Charlotte loves it because Fragoline is just the right side of naughty, as she gads about after darkness cheekily roaming the neighbourhood before realising that perhaps the dark and spooky night isn't the best place for a little girl to be. She's bold, she's sassy, and we love her to bits! The perfect teaser for the sort of books you can expect to see all next week as #ReadItMD13 continues. 

Hope you've enjoyed our seasonal favourites, and please, as always, if you have any of your own, do leave a comment or tweet us @readitdaddy. 


The ReadItDaddy Interview: We talk to Charlotte Cooke, fab illustrative talent behind "The Adventures of The Owl and the Pussycat"

Charlotte and Coral hard at work producing wonderful books for children!
We've had so much fun reading and re-reading Coral Rumble and Charlotte Cooke's fabulous version of "The Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat". A fantastical flight of imagination with two wonderful children sailing off to sea in a beautiful pea-green cardboard boat, it notched up our prestigious "Book of the Week" award.

We are extremely lucky to have nabbed a smidge of Charlotte Cooke's time for a mini interview, so here's Charlotte being interviewed by Charlotte (and me!)


ReadItDaddy (Daddy): Hi Charlotte, thanks for stopping by our blog. Tell us a little bit about yourself as an introduction (and a little bit about The Adventures of The Owl and the Pussycat!).


Charlotte Cooke: Hi thanks for having me! I'm Charlotte Cooke, married with 2 wonderful (but exhausting) under 3's, and live in Kent by the seaside. The Adventures.... Is a book full of imagination. Following two little children into their own imaginations, as they dress up as the owl and the pussycat, and have all sorts of fun experiences at sea (and sometimes under it!). The book is very special as Coral Rumble is actually my mum.


ReadItDaddy (Daddy): We absolutely loved "The Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat". What sort of things inspired you to come up with such brilliant illustrations for the book?

Charlotte Cooke: In this instance, I had quite a few ideas before we wrote the story out. I took these ideas to my mum (Coral Rumble) and asked her to form them into better phrases and she added more ideas of what the children could do too. So as I already had ideas of imagery in my head, it was easy to put it all down on paper. It's just a bit of fun and I wanted that to come through in each spread. Anything can happen in your imagination, there are no limits!


ReadItDaddy (Daddy): Who are your favourite artists and illustrators? We're always on the look out for more fab illustrative folk to take a peek at!

Charlotte Cooke: Obviously I have to mention Oliver Jeffers. He is ultimately my illustration hero, I think his work is beautiful and the way he uses space and type in his children's books amazes me. I'm always scared of white space but he seems to take it in his stride! I also LOVE Kate Hindley, Benji Davies (his book 'The Storm Whale' is so beautiful!), and my lovely friend Holly Surplice and her wonderful guinea pigs. Oh, and Quentin Blake. It always starts with Quentin.


ReadItDaddy (Daddy): What were your favourite stories as a child?

Charlotte Cooke: I loved books as a child. The main ones I remember are 'Bear's Adventure', where a child's bear is stolen from a beach by a naughty bird! and dropped in the sea, and various things happen to him before, eventually, he is found again. I also used to like 'Not Now Bernard' 'Angry Arthur' , and the emotive 'Gorilla' by Anthony Browne.

One of our favourite spreads from "The Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat" by Coral Rumble and Charlotte Cooke. Shark graffiti rocks!


ReadItDaddy (Charlotte): What's your favourite thing in the world to draw?

Charlotte Cooke: I really love drawing most things. I wouldn't say I have a favourite thing to draw, more that I get excited about a new spread I have to interpret, and how I might do that, and what details I could put into it to make it interesting to look at again and again.

Horses are hard to draw. We like to avoid horses. And bikes.

ReadItDaddy (Charlotte): Who is your favourite princess? (Disney or otherwise!)

Oooh, good question. I think I'd have to go with Princess Jasmine from Aladdin. She isn't a pushover, and knows her own mind, which is good. But she's still beautiful. And she has a tiger.

Huge, huge thanks to Charlotte for stopping by for a chat. "The Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat" is out now, published by Parragon Books.

Visit Charlotte's illustration blog at: http://www.charlottecookeillustration.com

(Psst! Don't miss Charlotte's fabulous artwork in the utterly entertaining "The Talkative Tortoise" by Andrew Fusek-Peters, published by Child's Play)

ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week ending 25th October 2013. "My Mum Has X Ray Vision" by Angela McAllister and Alex T. Smith (Scholastic Books)



My Mum Has X-Ray Vision

Written by Angela McAllister

Illustrated by Alex T. Smith

Published by Scholastic

In our valiant quest to track down as many books about super-heroes as possible, we've discovered a little gem nestling amongst the library stacks. The talented twosome of Angela McAllister and Alex T. Smith have created a book that wonders..."What if someone in your family, nay what if your MUM was a secret superhero?"

When a young boy, Milo, suspects his mum has X-Ray vision, he sets out to prove it. Somehow, mum always seems to know when he's up to no good. Using too much bubble bath, bouncing on the bed, even sneaking the kitchen pots and pans out into the garden for a bit of messy play. Mum seems to just KNOW!

She seems to be able to see through walls and ceilings, but Milo's best friend isn't so sure - So Milo hatches a plan to prove her super-hero status once and for all.

The delicious twist comes mid-way through the book - Mum is actually a real-life superhero and while Milo struggles to get her to reveal her super-powers, she's actually out there saving the world, righting wrongs and saving a lovely old lady from a nasty fall! She really is super!

Tight, pacey writing from Angela - coupled with Alex's adorable illustrations (he certainly knows how to draw delectable super-mums as well as rather cute multi-talented Tardis-beret-wearing dogs!) made this a must-read for us, and was in demand again and again.

We all know mums are superheroes, here's a book that shows just how fabulous and super they really are!

Charlotte's best bit: Just like her mummy, this mummy doesn't miss a trick!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Huge superhero crush on mum when she's "in costume" - She's a fox!!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

That Is Not a Good Idea by Mo Willems (Walker Books)


That Is Not a Good Idea

Written and Illustrated by
Mo Willems

Published by Walker Books

We're used to Mo Willems' knockabout humour with his beloved "Pigeon" series of books, but here things take a decidedly darker turn - with a delicious twist in the tale of "That is Not a Good Idea".

The book, laid out in a faux silent movie style, details the story of a wily fox as he meets a young and slightly dizzy looking chicken while out for a walk in the market one day.

Using all his wicked charms and evil eyebrow-hypnosis, the fox convinces the innocent hen to accompany him for a walk. Chicks warn that "that is NOT a good idea" but the hen doesn't listen! That's where the twist comes in, as you'll find out at the end of the book. We'll say no more.

Loved the narrative in this. Kids love repetition in stories to reinforce a point, particularly when the pay off is so satisfying and unexpected. It's really NOT a good idea to miss this book!


Charlotte's best bit: A lovely happy supper at the end (with a twist!)

Daddy's Favourite bit: Fiendish, dark and mischievous. Just the way we like our Mo Willems books!

Scribbles and Ink: The Contest by Ethan Long (Blue Apple Books)


Scribbles and Ink: The Contest

Written and Illustrated by
Ethan Long

Published by Blue Apple Books

Scribbles and Ink are best friends, but it wasn't always that way. A scribble-loving sketching cat and a paint-loving artist mouse, the two haven't always seen eye to eye - as you'll see from our previous Scribbles and Ink review...!

Thankfully all that is behind them now - or is it - when a drawing / painting competition is announced, to draw or paint the best dinosaur in the world, the doodling duo set to work creating their best efforts.

As we know, dinosaurs are pretty tricky to draw. Scribbles has a go and comes up with something that looks a bit like a plucked chicken. Ink has a go and draws a perfectly oval egg! What on earth can the pair do to improve their chances of winning the grand prize in the competition, a day out at Mudsville getting covered in oozy sticky mud!

That's just the start of their troubles though - because Scribbles and Ink's artwork has a habit of coming to life! Eeek!

This fun knockabout tale had plenty of 'snort out loud' moments for Charlotte, and this dynamic duo are a great inspiration when cracking out the pencils and pens for a spot of drawing. Can you draw a fantastic dinosaur? We'd love to see your efforts!

Charlotte's best bit: "My Boo Boo Baby!" made her laugh out loud!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Fun format (mini chapters), great characters and some lovely laughable rivalry (felt a bit like being back at art college watching Scribbles and Ink politely snip at each other!)

(Kindly sent to us for review by Mat at PGUK / Blue Apple Books

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

#ReadItMD13 Theme Week - "The Four Seasons - Spring into Summer!"

"The Easter Chick" by Geraldine Echner and Alexandra Junge. Not your average chick lit!
We're continuing our look at the four seasons for our #ReadItMD13 theme week - this time examining books about spring and summer. It's extremely difficult to find books that specifically mention spring, but there's a whole wealth of goodies celebrating Easter time.

"The Easter Chick" by Geraldine Echner and Alexandra Junge is a great little story with fabulous illustrations, and a rather neat plot twist that gathers pace as the story unfolds. While most easter books seem to feature fluffy bunnies, chicks or chocolate, this tale of a mother hen laying an egg with something QUITE unexpected inside, is a laugh out loud classic. 

Usborne truly have Easter sewn up, from brilliant craft and sticker books...

The Easter Story by Usborne
...to the story of easter - here in a sticker book that helps children build the bible story with brilliant layouts and artwork. 

It seems like a long way away to start thinking about planting out the garden in the spring but Miffy's ready...!

Miffy's Garden by Dick Bruna. A veritable classic!
"Miffy's Garden" sees everyone's favourite bunny get a patch of garden to grow things in. It seems to take forever for anything to grow, but patience is a virtue and there's nothing quite like harvesting your own veggies from your own vegetable patch, as Miffy discovers. It's amazing to think the Miffy books are over 60 years old, they're still as brilliant and timeless as ever they were. 

Stepping into summer now, our favourite summer books are easy to spot...so let's kick off with an utterly fabulous pooch...

Harry by the Sea by Gene Zion and Margaret Bloy Graham. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant!
"Harry By the Sea" was one of the first books we ever reviewed on the blog and it's still a book that we regularly read. Harry is a pooch enjoying a day out at the seaside with his family. Their tiny umbrella doesn't offer much shade so poor panting Harry has to go and find a cool spot to sleep in. The children's sandcastle is no good, and nor is using the curvaceous figure of a rather large lady. Tut tut Harry! We love the craziness of this, and Harry books are never far from our bedtime reading pile - I just wish more of the old ones were brought back into print. Come on publishers, do your thang - we really want "Harry and the Baby" back!

A girl with a name like this can't be far away from the summer sun, surely?

"Smile - Starring Sunny McCloud" by Leigh Hodgkinson. Perfect summer reading!

"Smile, starring Sunny McCloud" is like concentrated sunshine in book form as we follow a day in the life of the fabulous Sunny herself. She's fun to read about as we meet her family and friends, her fizzing whizzing energy makes this a fun-packed sun-packed read. 

From one amazing girl to another...

"Splash - Anna Hibiscus" by Atinuke and Lauren Tobia. Summer wouldn't be summer without Anna!
"Splash - Anna Hibiscus" is utterly perfect, so much so that it gained a "Book of the Week" award back when the weather was a LOT nicer! Anna is enjoying a day at the beach with her family but no one seems to want to play with her. The girls are busy talking on their mobile phones, the boys are busy playing football - and all the adults want to do is chat or laze around in the sun. What can Anna do? The sea has an idea or two!

We've got one more theme day to look forward to this week so hope you join us for Autumn really soon!

Indie Pen-Dance Wednesday - Spotlight on the awesome 'Things that Blow My Mind" range by Miranda Sofroniou


Things that Blow My Mind

Written and Illustrated by
Miranda Sofroniou

Published by Miranda Sofroniou

It's Indie-Pen-Dance Wednesday again and time to look at an utterly fascinating, artistic and fact-filled fun range of books by Miranda Sofroniou. With the heading "Things that Blow my Mind", the book range covers a diverse range of topics in a kid-friendly way, with utterly gorgeous illustrations to help children develop a deeper understanding of the world around them.

We were fortunate enough to be sent "Things that Blow my Mind - Oceans" by Miranda. Delving deep into the deep blue briny sea to examine the lifeforms that dwell within its depths, and humankind's impact on the oceans that cover 71% of the earth's surface, it certainly is a dizzying and mind-blowing set of facts for a five year old.

Miranda's art style is reminiscent of Eric Carle's wonderful books, utilising collage and mixed media to wonderful effect.

You can find the entire range of "Things that blow my mind" books on Miranda's website.

Find out how big a whale's heart is in "Things that Blow My Mind - Oceans"


Author Bio:

Miranda graduated from Camberwell College of Arts in London in July 2012 and has since been developing her "Things That Blow My Mind" book series into a range of products. Please visit Miranda's website linked above for further info on the range.

Charlotte's best bit: Working out which fish should have been caught in the net and which shouldn't!

Daddy's Favourite bit: A wonderful idea to spur children's curiosity about the world they live in, would be absolutely brilliant for use in schools too!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Miranda Sofroniou)

How the Meteorite Got to the Museum by Jessie Hartland (Blue Apple Books)


How the Meteorite Got to the Museum

Written and Illustrated by
Jessie Hartland

Published by Blue Apple Books

Books that make your child think, and ask a dozen or so questions afterwards are wonderful. Books that make both you AND your child think, and have you diving off to the Internet or to encyclopaedias for more research into their topics are truly magical. Here we find out a little bit more about Meteorites, those earth-bound chunks of space rocks so beloved of disaster movie makers.

Back in 1992 a sizeable Meteorite made a real mess of someone's car in Peekskill, NY.

Owch! This is going to be one interesting insurance claim!

The book tells the story of just how that happened - from the Meteor's movements out in space, to its eventual planetfall - becoming a meteorite, and the near miss those folk had in Peekskill before the meteorite finally ended up as a prize exhibit at The Smithsonian Institute (amongst other places). Jessie's art is child-friendly and brilliant, and it's fantastic to see such detail in the spreads as the visitor from another world tracks right across the US before reaching its final destination.

Duck!

We found the book fascinating and our research into the Peekskill impact (and others) equally enthralling. Finding out the age of the rock (around 2 billion years old) caused lots of oohs and ahhs as did the photos of the impact and the meteor itself.

A fabulous book from the "how did the" series published by Blue Apple Books.

Charlotte's best bit: Some amazing space science relayed in a brilliant and engaging way. Truly magical!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Fascinating photos at the end of the real meteorite impact! Glad I wasn't driving that car at the time!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Mat at PGUK / Blue Apple Books)