Tuesday, December 31, 2013

ReadItMummiesandDaddies2013 - Our Weekly Theme Campaign. Was it a success?

A great year for books, without a doubt (once again thanks to Jonathan Emmett for designing our Campaign Logo)
2013 was a heck of a good year for children's books, and without a doubt a brilliant year for us here at ReadItDaddy for many reasons.

Our campaign to encourage mums and dads to read to their children more, was something that lots of wonderful people got involved with, supported and got behind. In our various theme weeks we always got some brilliant feedback, and of course best of all some brilliant suggestions for books we might have missed in each category. 

It was hard though at times, and you can probably see that if you skip through the blog and look at weeks where we managed one post on the subject, and then time and real life got in the way. The best thing about doing a book blog part time is also the worst thing. You're not doing it as a full-time concern, therefore you never have time to become disillusioned, jaded or fed up with reading and reviewing children's books. 

But you don't do it full time, and that means that squeezing in blog posts, book coverage - even networking with other wonderful book blogging folk, authors, illustrators and publishers, is something that we really didn't have nearly enough time to do in 2013 (note to self, it's something for tomorrow's new year's resolutions). 

On the wonderful occasions where we did get the chance to meet fab booky folk, we had a lot of fun. We did our first 'read out loud' session at Mostly Books (and that's definitely something that we can't wait to do again in 2014) and we met the wonderful folk behind CApptivated Kids, Playing By the Book, The Little Wooden Horse and Taking Words for a Stroll (otherwise known as Helen, Zoe, Polly and Ellie!) who are brilliant and wonderful and we hope to meet many more of you lovely blogging types in the new year too. 

So was our campaign a success? I'd like to think we made a bit of fuss and noise about the subject, and perhaps through the blog and through surreptitiously sidling up to folk in our local library and suggesting books they might like to read, or seeing people in bookshops and showing them brilliant books we've loved and they might love to, we might've just scratched the surface. 

Next year, the blog will change a bit. Charlotte will be more the focus of the blog and we're cooking up all sorts of new ways to make the voice you hear in the blog more hers than mine (though dad might still chip in from time to time, of course). We'll be cutting out app coverage entirely, and concentrating more on the books we love, and though there may be fewer reviews we're hoping that they're going to be longer - and perhaps more worthy of the subject we're covering. 

We'll still have all the fun stuff, we'll still be supporting indies, and we'll still probably choose a book of the week each week (though it's getting more and more difficult to choose just one, they're just too durned good!)

We'd like to thank everyone who sent us lovely things to review, and we look forward to catching up with you all in the new year. We might have to scale back what we do a little bit but we'll always be looking for ways to promote child literacy, get kids interested in stories and of course keep adults reading to their kids too!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

ReadItDaddy's Booky Advent Calendar - Christmas Eve - 24th December 2013: "Star Paws Christmas" by Macmillans Children's Books


Booky Advent Calendar Christmas Eve
Star Paws Christmas

Written by Macmillan Children's Books


It's Christmas Eve! I hope you're going to be all tucked up in bed nice and early tonight.

Our last Advent Calendar Entry (boo!) and there's always time for some sticker fun. The "Star Paws" sticker books are brilliant fun, mixing fun and cute photos of animals with a ton (literally a TON) of stickers to stick all over them, bedecking them with boughs of holly and all sorts of other Christmas paraphernalia.

We always giggle at the silly names the authors come up with for the animals in these books, and the crazy combinations you can make as you work your way through the book. Like all good sticker books, it's the blissful silence that accompanies these that makes them truly special.

And with that, we're done. We're taking a brief bloggy-break before we come back with a BANG in the new year, shaking things up a bit with a few new ideas to keep you coming back for more.

We'll have lots of reviews in the new year, and as it's the centenary of the start of World War 1, don't miss out on a ton of features on the best children's books commemorating this.

Charlotte's best bit: Stickers! LOTS and lots of stickers!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Such funny names for the animals in this! Julius Cheeser anyone?

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

Monday, December 23, 2013

ReadItDaddy's Booky Advent Calendar Day 23 - 23rd December 2013: "Baby's First Christmas" by Fisher Price (HarperCollins Children's Books)


Booky Advent Calendar Day 23
Baby's First Christmas

Written by Fisher Price

Published by HarperCollins Children's Books
We're almost there. It's Christmas Eve-eve! 2 sleeps to go!

We still have a soft spot for this book, even though Charlotte out-grew it a few years ago. Baby's First Christmas was a book we picked up around Charlotte's first Christmas, and it's such a joyful and fab little board book that we wanted to make sure it got featured in our Advent Calendar round-up this year.

A very cute and engaging little fellow celebrates his first christmas with his puppy friend, in a series of photo illustrations where children can learn all about colours for the first time.

It's also great for early readers who can pick up and read through the book with ease.

What really makes it though is the baby's extremely cute expressions as Christmas Day approaches, and all the presents are stacked under the tree. Perfect for your really teeny tinies.

Charlotte's best bit: Baby helping decorate the tree

Daddy's Favourite bit: Our copy is an heirloom now, as it has some of Charlotte's first teethmarks in it! Thank heavens for board books as sturdy as this

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Booky Advent Calendar Day 22 - 22nd December 2013: "Angel's Great Escape" (iPad Interactive Story) by And So We Begin


Booky Advent Calendar Day 22
Angel's Great Escape

Written by Kirstie Rowson


Published by And So We Begin

Who is that rather beautiful angel? Well she's the shining star of a wonderful app that we enjoyed immensely last year, and is still available on the app store.

"Angel's Great Escape" is a fantastic story narrated by none other than Alan Titchmarsh who loans his dulcet tones to a fine christmas story.

Please also stop by and visit the And So We Begin website for more news.

Here's a video of the app in action.  How brilliant does this look? THIS brilliant!!!

Angel's Great Escape (on iTunes)
(On Google Play)
Visit the And So We Begin Website

Charlotte's best bit: Lots of shiny sparkly goodies to prod and play with in the story pages

Daddy's Favourite bit: Definitely one of the best Christmas story apps.

(Very kindly sent to us by And So We Begin)

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Booky Advent Calendar Day 21 - 21st December 2013: "Aliens Love Panta Claus by Claire Freedman and Ben Cort" (Simon and Schuster Children's Books)


Booky Advent Calendar Day 21
Aliens Love Panta Claus

Written by Claire Freedman
Illustrated by Ben Cort

Published by Simon and Schuster
Children's Books

Those pant-loving aliens are back, and we can't get enough of their crazy adventures. Claire Freedman and Ben Cort have put out quite a few Aliens Love Underpants books now, spanning all sorts of subjects so it's only right and proper that there's a cool christmassy version in there somewhere.

Santa has a dilemma. Everything is going wrong this year, and with the clock counting down to Christmas Eve, it looks like Santa's sled is staying put and poor little children the world over may have to do without christmas presents at all this year.

Thank goodness then for those pant loving aliens, who love Santa just as much as everyone else does. With the aid of their spaceship (and of course lots of pants) they steam in to save the day, helping Santa (and his holly-berry undercrackers) get busy spreading wonderful christmas cheer.

Funny, cheesy, pant-tastic!


Charlotte's best bit: Lots of cool little cameos from other Pants books!

Daddy's Favourite bit: The perfect antidote to receiving yet another comedy pair of Simpsons boxer shorts as a present this year

(Very kindly sent to us by Simon and Schuster Children's Books)

Friday, December 20, 2013

Charlie Cook's Favourite Book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler (Macmillan Children's Books)


Charlie Cook's Favourite Book

Written by Julia Donaldson

Illustrated by Axel Scheffler

Published by Macmillan Children's Books

We've made a point of trying to read as many of Julia Donaldson's books as possible, particularly when she teams up with Axel Scheffler for an entertaining story romp. With the usual pitch perfect rhyming, here JD celebrates stories as several crash together in a rather novel way. The story begins with one Charlie Cook reading his favourite book, and as he reads all about pirates, the pirate captain is reading all about goldilocks...who has fallen asleep reading a book all about a brave knight...who in turn reads a book about an awesome frog...and so on, and so on.

I initially thought the idea was quite a good one, flowing stories into one another in this way - but it didn't really strike as much of a chord with Charlotte as I expected it to.

Perhaps in some ways it's a little bit too clever for its own good and children prefer something that doesn't dance around several different themes before looping back on itself at the end.

Still thought it was quite entertaining to read nonetheless, thanks in no small part to Julia's ability to wring a rhyme out of the trickiest situations with consummate ease.

Charlotte's best bit: Is that a Gruffalo picture on Charlie's wall?

Daddy's Favourite bit: Immense fun to read aloud, as are all JD's books!

Meet the Parents by Peter Bently and Sara Ogilvie (Simon and Schuster Children's Books)


Meet the Parents

Written by Peter Bently

Illustrated by Sara Ogilvie

Published by Simon and Schuster Children's Books

It's a well known fact that parents are amazingly adaptive, creative, clever and sometimes quite lovely (we are, aren't we?) But it's not often that children see all those qualities every day so it's fantastic to see Peter Bently teaming up with one of our absolute FAVOURITE children's book artists, Sara Ogilvie (one half of the talented pair responsible for one of our all-time favourite books, "The Worst Princess" along with Anna Kemp), for this corker of a book.

In "Meet the Parents", you'll get to read about and see all the things a parent is capable of. Quite talented and multitasking comes naturally. We're also brilliant at perfecting those looks of sheer exasperation as our little ones manage to do something new that completely befuddles us (and if there's one thing Sara is absolutely fantastic at, it's capturing those expressions - both on parent and child - perfectly in her work!)

There's a rather neat little panel in this where a dad is reading a book while simultaneously trying to prop up a rather saggy den. Er, that'd be me then!

This book is the perfect antidote to all those slightly schmaltzy and loved-up "I Wuv You Mummy and Daddy" books you might get given on Mothers Day or Fathers day, this book REALLY tells it how it actually is - and it's nigh on perfect!

Charlotte's best bit: Of course, the bit she found the most entertaining was the panel where Mum is getting squirted with a hose and dad is on the wrong end of a ketchup squirt!

Daddy's Favourite bit: TICKLING!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Simon and Schuster Children's Books)

ReadItDaddy's Top 50 Children's Books of the Year 2013

Once again it's been an absolutely stunningly good year for children's books and every week we've struggled with the dilemma of which to choose as our "Book of the Week".

Our Top 50 Children's Books of the Year aren't necessarily books that have been released in 2013, but are the books that we just couldn't put down, that were demanded again and again, and quite rightly ended each week in the supreme top slot of Book of the Week. We'll still be carrying on this tradition in 2014 when the blog has a bit of a reboot, but here's our fabulous fifty, listed by month and linking through to the original reviews.

Phew, it's a huge list! On with the show!

January

Beauty and the Beast by Ursula Jones and Sarah Gibb (Orchard Books)

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg (Andersen Children's Books)

Our Big Blue Sofa by Tim Hopgood (Macmillan Children's Books)

The Princess and the Peas by Caryl Hart and Sarah Warburton (Nosy Crow)

February

Eric by Shaun Tan (Templar Books)

Monkey Nut by Simon Rickerty (Simon and Schuster)

The Rescue Princesses - The Secret Promise by Paula Harrison (Nosy Crow)

I Really Want to Eat a Child by Sylviane Donnio and Dorothee De Monfried (Hodder)

The King of Space by Jonny Duddle (Templar Books)

March

Ding Dong Gorilla by Michelle Robinson and Leonie Lord (Orchard Books)

The Dark by Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen (Orchard Books)

La Sirenita by Oriol Izquerdo and Max (Chronicle Books)

The Cloud by Hannah Cumming (Child's Play)

Sidney, Stella and the Moon by Emma Yarlett (Templar Books)

Red Butterfly by Deborah Noyes and Sophie Blackall (Candlewick Press)

April 

Zephyr Takes Flight by Steve Light (Candlewick Press)

Cozy Classics by Jack and Holman Wang (Simply Read Books)

Bubble and Squeak by James Mayhew and Clara Vulliamy (Orchard Books)

May

Gum Girl Volume 1 by Andi Watson (Walker Books)

Hildafolk by Luke Pearson (Flying Eye Books)

Monsters and Legends by Davide Call and Gabriella Giandelli (Flying Eye Books)

If I Built a Car by Chris Van Dusen (Penguin USA)

Zed the Zebra (64 Zoo Lane) by An Vombraut (Hodder Children's Books)

Hilda and the Midnight Giant by Luke Pearson (Flying Eye Books)

June

Father and Daughter Tales by Josephine Evetts-Secker and Helen Cann (Barefoot Books)

Splash! Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke and Lauren Tobia (Walker Books)

Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Seuss (HarperCollins Children's Books)

Wild by Emily Hughes (Flying Eye Books)

July

Mixed Up Nursery Rhymes by Hilary Robinson and Liz Pichon (Hodder Children's Books)

The Storm Whale by Benji Davies (Simon and Schuster)

Laika the Astronaut by Owen Davey (Templar Publishing)

Little Red Riding Hood by Alison Jay and Katie Cotton (Templar Publishing)

Help a Hamster by Hilary Robinson and Mandy Stanley (Copper Tree Books)

August

Mr Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown (Macmillan Children's Books)

I Hate Picture Books by Timothy Young (Schiffer Publishing Ltd)

Hey Presto by Nadia Shireen (Jonathan Cape PB Ltd)

September 

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew DeWalt and Oliver Jeffers (HarperCollins Children's Books)

Dixie O'Day in the Fast Lane by Shirley Hughes and Clara Vulliamy (Bodley Head)

The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr (HarperCollins Children's Books)

Beware of Girls by Tony Blundell (Picture Puffin)

Walking your Octopus by Brian Kesinger (Baby Tattoo)

October 

The Opposite by Tom Macrae and Elena Odriozola (Andersen Children's Books)

Professor Astro Cat's Frontiers of Space by Dr Dominic Walliman and Ben Newman (Flying Eye Books)

The Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat by Coral Rumble and Charlotte Cooke (Parragon Books)

My Mum Has X-Ray Vision by Angela McAllister and Alex T. Smith (Scholastic Books)

November

Sir Mouse to the Rescue by Dirk Nielandt and Marjolein Pottie (Book Island)

Hilda and the Bird Parade by Luke Pearson (Flying Eye Books)

Isabel's Noisy Tummy by David McKee (Andersen Children's Books)

The Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan (Hodder Children's Books)

Have You Seen Who's Moved In Next Door to Us by Colin McNaughton (Walker Books)

December

Murilla Gorilla and the Lost Parasol by Jennifer Lloyd and Jacqui Lee (Simply Read Books)

The Midnight Library by Kazuno Kohara (Macmillan Children's Books)

Aunt Amelia by Rebecca Cobb ()

ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week Ending 20th December 2013 - "Aunt Amelia" by Rebecca Cobb (Macmillan Children's Books)



Aunt Amelia

Written and Illustrated by
Rebecca Cobb

Published by Macmillan Children's Books

Our final book of the week this year (as we're taking a bit of a blog break over the festive season!) and you can accuse us of favouritism towards Rebecca Cobb if you like, but she's just SO GOOD!

"Aunt Amelia" is instantly eye-catching because of Rebecca's lovely child-friendly artwork, and also because it features a female crocodile character who doesn't want to eat young children all up! Quite the opposite in fact. Aunt Amelia (through some strange family dysfunction) gets to look after two children while mummy and daddy are away.

The children aren't at all keen at first, but soon realise that the huge list of rules and regulations that mummy and daddy leave behind for "auntie" are there to be slightly bent (if not broken to pieces, in fact!)

Each and every illustrated spread comes with one of the rules - but shows Aunt Amelia and the children having fun doing exactly the opposite. Parents might issue a 'tut' of disapproval but we loved the fact that Aunt Amelia is a kindly old soul, and most importantly (for any aunts and uncles watching), pitches in and plays with the children on their level. They get messy, they get dirty (we loved the bit with the mud fight, YES!!) and they eat lots of things that aren't necessarily good for you (Charlotte pointed out that the kids did at least eat some pizza amongst all the sweet treats they devour). They stay up late and have one or two stories before bedtime (one or two dozen, we heartily approve) so when mum and dad come back, the children have had the best time ever and can't wait till Aunt Amelia comes to look after them again.

This is such a brilliant book, full of fun and colour - and Aunt Amelia is such a brilliant character (who reminds us of Charlotte's grandparents!)

We always look forward to what Rebecca will turn her hand to next, and this is brilliantly illustrated and written. A fitting book of the week to end our fabulous 2013 with!

Charlotte's best bit: "The Children can have one ice cream each" - Better make it a big one then!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Fabulous Aunt Amelia, we really would love to see another story with her, she's fab! Can she look after us next?

Booky Advent Calendar Day 20 - 20th December 2013: "Fuzzy Christmas" by Kate Thomson and Barry Green (Top That! Publishing)


Booky Advent Calendar Day 20
Fuzzy Christmas

Written by Kate Thomson
Illustrated by Barry Green

Published by Top That! Publishing

We quite like children's books that double up as fun toys, and as huge fans of Fuzzy Felt we loved this christmassy version from Top That Publishing. "Fuzzy Christmas" lets you build up lots of playful and interesting christmas scenes with some pre-cut felt shapes and fuzzy backgrounds to place them on.

Lovely easy to handle shapes are perfect for little fingers as children build up scenes of christmas and the nativity. Naturally there are always plenty of presents to be had, and Santa pops in for an appearance too.

A great little book to pick up as a stocking filler. Have a fuzzy christmas y'all!

Charlotte's best bit: Lots of creative fun to be had making up different scenes

Daddy's favourite bit: A fantastic fun book, we always love fuzzy felt stuff.

(Kindly sent to us for review by Top That! Publishing)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Maisy, Charley and the Wobbly Tooth by Lucy Cousins (Walker Books)


Maisy, Charley and the Wobbly Tooth

Written and Illustrated by

Lucy Cousins

Published by Walker Books

We have lots of love and respect for Lucy Cousins. Her "Maisy" books are just utterly perfect for toddlers and tiddlers, and of course with recent 'tooth' happenings at home, Charlotte couldn't resist grabbing this book on loan from the library.

Maisy's best friend Charley the Crocodile has a wobbly tooth. Like most kids (who think wobbly teeth are the BEST THING EVER!) Maisy is fascinated, and Charley is soon whisked off to the dentist for a quick visit.

This is a fun way of introducing children to the importance of keeping a clean set of gnashers, cutting down on sugary treats and of course regularly visiting the dentist even when you're tiny. Lucy Cousins' beautiful and colourful illustrations are always brilliant and Maisy is quite rightly a megastar for the under 5s. Even Charlotte loved this and though she would probably love another wobbly tooth, I hope it doesn't come out while I'm the only one at home with her, like the last one did! Ew!

Charlotte's best bit: Charley's visit to the dentist. Rinse please!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Brilliant fun for tiddlers, beautifully illustrated and told

Indie Pen-Dance Wednesday on a Thursday! "Stumble, Trip, Fall" by Robert Scully (Psst! Books)


Stumble Trip Fall

Written and Illustrated by
Robert Scully

Published by Psst! Books

Bears make brilliant characters in books, and just when we think we can't bear (ha ha) any more bear-based stories, a new one comes along and wins us over.

Though we're a little late with our Indie Pen-Dance day post (we wanted to make sure we read it and gave it a thorough going over but it arrived a little late to slide into our Wednesday review schedule) we still wanted to shout about this book, because it's seriously good knockabout fun.

Bear stumbles, trips and falls - but instead of bursting into tears (as you or I would do) he tries to remember what his mum told him. He can remember the beginning of the line which goes something like "If you ever stumble, trip, fall..." and can remember part of the last line which goes "You will know you are home when you land..." but can't recall the rest, no matter how hard he tries.

Not a nice thing to trip over, a whoah!


Falling over an owch, tumbling on an arrgh, Bear clumsily makes his way home, meeting lots of other animal folk on the way who offer good advice.

With each trip, he remembers a little more of his mother's wisdom - but will Bear ever find his way home?

Poor mole. He hadn't even set an extra place for dinner!


With fantastic artwork that doesn't over-egg each scene (quite reminiscent of Jon Klassen's lovely work), and an entertaining story that slowly builds to the climax at the end of the book, this is a fabulous story that works on many levels, for both younger and older children. It's also a great book to get children joining in with as you read aloud, and they will enjoy piecing together Mama Bear's wisdom as Bear remembers a little bit more with each accident.

Absolutely brilliant!

You can find Stumble Trip Fall on Amazon...

http://www.amazon.com/Stumble-Trip-Fall-Robert-Scully/dp/0988858916/ref=sr_1

Or on Robert's Facebook page
https://www.facebook.com/StumbleTripFall

Or Robert's Twitter Page
https://twitter.com/RobertScully

Or Robert's Pinterest Page
http://www.pinterest.com/robertscully/stumble-trip-fall/

And finally on Robert's Website
http://www.robertscully.com/

About Robert Scully: 

Robert Scully is a professional artist who lives to create.
When he is not at his job as a SVP Design Director for a
design firm, you will find him working, creating, and
exploring the creative universe through his children’s books.

He works in close collaboration with his wife, Anne Scully.
They live and create in New York with their two young children.


Charlotte's best bit: Poor Mole ends up with a bear-sized 'guest' crashing through his kitchen roof. Owch!

Daddy's Favourite bit: I loved this clumsy bear who just wanted to get home (loved the bits where he's stumbling on an oops, or tripping over an aargh!). 

(Kindly sent to us for review by Robert Scully)

ReadItDaddy's Booky Advent Calendar Day 19 - 19th December 2013: "Roley Moley's Christmas" by E.J. Gill (J & J Gill Publishing)


Booky Advent Calendar Day 19
Roley Moley's Christmas

Written and Illustrated by
E.J. Gill

Published by J & J Gill Publishing

Christmas is coming, and by now you're probably smugly sitting atop a huge pile of things ready to wrap having completed your christmas shopping early. What's that? You are nowhere near finished? And you're still searching for a few stocking fillers for your little ones?

How about a festive book that warms the cockles and features an enduring and rather cute little mole? Roley Moley to be precise, the hero of E.J. Gill's beautifully created series of children's books. When poor Roley is dug up with a christmas tree one festive evening, he ends up transported into the home of a family who are just putting the finishing touches to their yuletide celebration. For Roley Moley this is a whole new world as he discovers the sights, the sounds, the smells - and most importantly the taste of christmas quite literally from the inside out!

Moley's not always popular though, and there are lots of scrapes and near-misses before Roley can truly enjoy the spirit of christmas. Thankfully he's a mole with a very special skill. They don't call him Roley Moley for nothing!

E.J. Gill's perfect combination of an entertaining 'fish out of water' story and of course a hefty dose of christmas atmosphere make this book a lovely addition to any youngster's library. Perfect for this time of year, and Charlotte absolutely loved Roley Moley (I think she'd quite like to prod his big round christmas pud-filled tummy! Not sure how Roley Moley would feel about that!)

Fantastic stuff and we'll definitely be hunting down the rest of Roley Moley's books!

Charlotte's best bit: Roley Moley getting a rather fat tummy from ending up in "The Giant Christmas Pud Molehill"

Daddy's favourite bit: Entertainingly written, with great illustrations and quite a bit of tension and excitement too. Moletastic!

(Kindly sent to us for review by E.J. Gill in Paperback version. A kindle version of the book is available via this link: Roley Moley's Christmas)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Ending the year as we began by looking at phonics...

To an average child, it can often feel like this in your head when you are learning to read
Back in January phonics were a hot topic for us, as Charlotte began to experience the sharp end of early years introduction to phonics and decoding.

At times, it felt like we couldn't dare broach the subject of reading books supplied by school for fear of turning Charlotte off reading books for pleasure altogether. We wrote several times about the 'unnatural' process of decoding and breaking down words, about the way we felt phonics didn't aid a child's recognition of key words, and undecodable 'difficult' words would always be a spoke in the wheel of any programme designed to introduce reading in a bizarre formulaic fashion.

As the year draws to a close I'm compelled to write about phonics again. Only a few short months ago when the sun was shining we described how difficult it was to maintain momentum over the long summer holiday, and that Charlotte's reading fell behind despite our best efforts to mix school books and books read for pleasure together with no distance between the two.

What's happened since then has transformed my thinking on the subject of phonics, and it perhaps offers hope to others who are in similar situations where they feel that literary luminaries such as Michael Rosen and others are right, and that phonics are not the right way to get children reading early.

I agree in part. It is not the right way if it's the only method you use. No programme designed to teach children to read from an early age can ever be as successful as parents engaging with their children and shoring up the 'learning' stuff with the 'fun' stuff (or ensuring that the learning stuff is made fun!)

It's absolutely vital to stress that we soldiered on with our approach of ensuring we read books for pleasure to Charlotte, that she saw us reading for pleasure (and of course being enthusiastic about books and stories), that we mixed in the supposedly 'subversive' stuff like comics, and that we devoted enough time to backing up the stilted phonics and school learning with fun stuff that she could later use in class, stuff that purely came from us.

In just a few short months since she started year 1 in September, her confidence has grown. Stage 6 books are - to put it bluntly - not challenging at all to her, and she breezes through them. My initial doubts about the decoding method, which caused Charlotte to individually spell out words every time she read, have disappeared now her rate of recognition / repetition has gained momentum, and she reads quite naturally.

Some words still catch her out but with a little help here and there, she usually only falls down on those words once or twice before she stores them up and will recognise and read them correctly next time.

Best of all, something that was fairly rare before - Charlotte disappearing off and reading books on her own, and not just the usual phonics or clear print books - but anything she can lay her hands on, in all manner of flowery and complex typefaces and layouts as you'd expect from children's books - are now devoured with gusto and enthusiasm.

The cherry on the cake - and if by now I'm beginning to sound a bit smug, I do apologise but there's a fine line between proud and smug - is that she is constructing and writing her own stories. The foundation of learning built on by a child letting their imagination loose on a page, beginning those first faltering steps towards building their OWN worlds, inhabited by their OWN characters, that's something that schools and the government are sadly missing out on and I guess that is the real crux of what annoys authors (and illustrators) who put so much effort into producing truly wonderful books, if we are treating reading purely as a measure of academic ability, rather than something to build little independent imaginative thinkers with, then I'd have to agree that I'd gladly cast phonics and other unnatural learning methods into the deepest darkest pit. Without creative kids emerging from schools with heads full of wonderful ideas, the world's going to be a horrible, ugly and sterile place to live in.


Killer Gorilla by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross (Andersen Children's Books)


Killer Gorilla

Written by Jeanne Willis

Illustrated by Tony Ross

Published by Andersen Press

Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross truly are a stellar pairing. Pretty much everything they've ever done in children's books has been utterly and completely devoured by Charlotte in the most favourable terms. I rather liked the lightning-bolted look on her face when she spied "Killer Gorilla" nestling amongst the children's books in our local library.

"We have to have that!" she said in the sort of voice that made me realise we'd be reading this again and again over the space of the next few days. And read it we have.

When a mother mouse loses her tiny little baby mouse, she is distraught - but when a gigantic nasty killer gorilla chases her all around the world, she's beside herself with woe. No matter where she goes, the Gorilla seems to track her down, running after her with a look of sheer malice on his face.

She begins to suspect that her baby's fate is a grisly one, but must run for her life lest she end up a bite-sized gorilla snack.

Only, there is of course a delicious twist in this tale - which we won't ruin for you.

With a terrifying cover, and the most exciting and pacey story, this is definitely a killer book!

Charlotte's best bit: The gorilla, cornering poor mummy mouse near the end of the book ready to....oh, we can't look!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Expertly written, beautifully illustrated, and a top notch exciting and hair-raising chase! Wonderful!

Booky Advent Calendar Day 18 - 18th December 2013: "Father Christmas (40th Anniversary Edition)" by Raymond (Bloomin') Briggs (Puffin Books)


Booky Advent Calendar Day 18
Father Christmas (40th Anniversary Edition)

Written and Illustrated by
Raymond Briggs

Published by Puffin Books

Good bloomin' lord! Can you believe that "Father Christmas" is 40 years old? There must have been something rather special pumped into the water supply in 1973 as so many brilliant and timeless children's books were first published that year ("The Tiger Who Came To Tea" also celebrated its 40th Anniversary this year, woohoo!)

From Raymond Briggs, the genius behind "The Snowman" - something that you can't quite imagine not being on telly over Christmas, comes this tale of a thoroughly bloomin' grumpy Santa and his preparations for his busiest day of the year.

The book doesn't use a lot of text or dialogue, but it's a brilliantly funny book nonetheless. Briggs has a gift for stunning comic timing, and "Father Christmas" has so many giggle-out-loud moments that we've always loved reading it at this time of the year, imagining the real St Nick struggling with his expanding waistline, his ever-increasingly large sack of presents, and of course his restless and fidgety reindeer.

The poor old fellah needs a holiday. Say, there's a good idea for a book...oh.


Charlotte's best bit: Why oh why, of all the great scenes in this, does she always think the bit where Santa is sitting on the loo is the best bit?

Daddy's Favourite bit: Santa's near miss with a jumbo jet. Bloomin' planes!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam by Tracey Corderoy and Steven Lenton (Nosy Crow)


Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam

Written by Tracey Corderoy

Illustrated by Steven Lenton

Published by Nosy Crow

We're always late to the Nosy Crow party but we get there in the end. I remember reading lots of positive stuff about Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam when it came out earlier in the year, and with the wholehearted recommendation of our lovely local indie bookseller Mostly Books we thought we'd better track it down.

Fortunately our local library had a copy, and we've been chortling at Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam's antics since we borrowed the book. Sam and Shifty are probably the world's worst robber dogs. They set out at the dead of night, swag bags at the ready, masks on muzzles, to rob the neighbourhood.

They usually come home empty handed though, as they're so inept. But the thieving twosome come up with the perfect plan to indulge in a little moonlit stealing closer to home. Inviting the neighbours round for a slap up tea, Sam and Shifty will slip out unannounced, rob their neighbours and then return to the party as if nothing has happened.

Of course, to throw a party you need lots of tempting and enticing fare to feed your guests with. The doggy duo cook up a storm, baking like animals possessed until they have a stack of delicious comestibles to ply their guests with.

At first the party goes with a swing, but when one guest overhears Sam and Shifty discussing their naughty deeds, the plot is undone. What can become of two robber dogs who are brilliant at baking but bumble at burglary?

This is such a fun and pacey book. Slippery Sam and Shifty McGifty aren't bad eggs after all, though I really would love to pinch Sam's doughnut recipe. Mine never turn out as nice as Mary Berry's.

Charlotte's best bit: The amazing spread that the duo cook up. Wow!

Daddy's Favourite bit: A brilliant little story with fab art, high quality Crowage!

Booky Advent Calendar Day 17 - 17th December 2013: "Winter's Tales" by Metaphrog (Metaphrog Publishing)


Booky Advent Calendar Day 17
Winter's Tales

Written and Illustrated by
Metaphrog

Published by Metaphrog

One of our happiest 'discoveries' of the year has been the utterly sublime work of Metaphrog. Sandra Marrs and John Chalmers are the genius team behind the fabulous award-winning Louis graphic novels, which we have enjoyed immensely - and also brilliant graphic shorts like "The Photographs" which cover difficult subjects in a thought-provoking and extremely touching way.

With "Winter's Tales", a duo of short stories available only during December for the ridiculously reasonable price of £3.50, two hefty issues are addressed in a way that Metaphrog absolutely specialises in.

In "The Glass Case" the subject is domestic violence, and we meet a young boy who (along with his mother) is horribly mistreated at home by a violent father. On a school trip to a local museum, the boy encounters a strange doll which stares out at him from a glass case. The boy is entranced by the doll, and despite being ridiculed by his class mates, he returns to the museum after one particularly harrowing instance of violence at home to gaze on the doll again.

Amazingly, she comes to life - and soon the pair become friends. Sneaking up to the roof of the museum, the boy wishes that they could stay there forever.

We'll leave you to discover what happens next in the story but even as I'm typing, the thought of it actually brings a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye.

In the second story, Metaphrog revisits a classic Hans Christian Andersen tale, beautifully rendered as a comic strip, "The Little Match Girl" is a tragic tale that is still relevant today, as levels of poverty (particularly at Christmas) are once again hitting the headlines. The Match Girl sells matches on the street in the freezing cold but after a particularly bad day, the girl has no choice but to hide in an alleyway rather than risk going home empty handed. She is freezing to death, and in her desperation, despite knowing the consequences of using up precious matches rather than selling them, she strikes one.

A magical scene of a warming stove unfolds on the wall of the alleyway, and she can almost feel the delicious heat of it, but as soon as the match burns out the scene disappears.

She strikes another and a delicious feast appears - but once again all too quickly the scene fades as the match burns out...

Even if you've read and enjoyed the original story, here under Metaphrog's expert creative hands the tale is given new relevance and acts as a stark reminder to those of us who will be tucked up in the warmth with plenty to eat, and lots of christmas cheer, that there are those on the streets who won't share the same good fortune.

Please do take a look at this work. Though you may feel it's probably inappropriate to feature this in a christmas children's book roundup, it has been a genuine pleasure to read this with Charlotte and highlight to her the importance of not taking anything for granted, particularly at christmas as the cold weather sets in.

Stunning thought-provoking stuff.

Stop by Metaphrog's website for more on this and their other fabulous work.


Charlotte's best bit: The doll in "The Glass Case" coming to life!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Have tissues handy, this work is amazing but it will make you cry, I guarantee it.

(Very kindly sent to us by John and Sandra at Metaphrog)

Monday, December 16, 2013

What Does the Fox Say? By Ylvis and Svein Nyhus (Simon and Schuster Children's Books)


What does the Fox Say?

Written by Ylvis

Illustrated by Svein Nyhus

Published by Simon and Schuster Children's Books

I think we must live in an anti-meme bubble, because somehow "YouTube Internet Smash Sensation What Does The Fox Say?" completely passed us by. So we actually knew about the book before we knew about THAT TUNE and THAT VIDEO.

I wanted to be all grumpy and cynical about this, but dutifully I read the book and did a sort of "GUH?" thing, then watched the video and did another.

But Charlotte? Well Charlotte thought it was the best thing since sliced bread and I guess that's the whole point in licensing a book from a strange song / video by the Swedish equivalent of Ant and Dec. Ylvis are talk-show entertainment types, and their song has gone viral in ways that only things like this can. Up and down the land, people probably have that "RING-DING-DING-DING" bit as their ringtone, guffawing loudly as they play it on buses much to the 'amusement' of the other passengers. More people probably play the video to their little ones on iPads while the little mite is sitting in his/her high chair.

But is that such a bad thing? Anything that makes people (especially Charlotte) happy has got to be a good thing right? Durn tootin'!

The book is...slightly weird. The artwork is surreal and dream-like, and of course the story basically comprises the song lyrics written down - yes, even the "HAT-E-HAT-E-HATHATHAT-E" bits, making it completely unreadable as a bedtime story, but mildly entertaining trying to read it pitch-perfectly.

Worst of all, once you've heard the song and seen the video, it will etch itself onto your inner earworm like a cattle-brand. At risk of upsetting our readers, here it is, because we shouldn't really suffer alone should we!

As I said at the top of the review, we missed all the fuss first time round but if you truly believe Ylvis are the next Sy, and that books borne of internet memes are worthy of attention, this could be the first of many. Me? I'm so out of touch I'm still waiting for the LOLCATS chronicles. Don't pay any attention to my grumpiness about it, your kids will absolutely love this to pieces, and if they don't, show them the video and I guarantee you that they'll be wandering round the house singing the chorus forever more. Charlotte's best bit: She's been walking around the house singing and shouting bits. (We are thinking of ingenious ways to fire the book into the sun!) Daddy's Favourite bit: To paraphrase tonto jitterman, this is the literary equivalent of a joss stick. It stinks, and then it's mercifully over. (Kindly sent to us for review by Simon and Schuster Children's Books)

Booky Advent Calendar Day 16 - 16th December 2013: "How Santa Really Works" by Alan Snow (Simon and Schuster Children's Books)


Booky Advent Calendar Day 16
How Santa Really Works
Written and Illustrated by
Alan Snow

Published by Simon and Schuster

With a name like Alan Snow, you'd expect the genius behind the "How (something) Really Works" books to come up with a festive corker of a subject. "How Santa Really Works" builds on the series with an entertaining look at everyone's favourite red-coated white-bearded dude.

What does Santa do for the other 364 days of the year when he's not jetting around the globe on his sleigh? How exactly DOES he sort out all those christmas letters and lists? How does Santa determine who has been naughty and who has been nice?

All these questions and more are answered in this fabulous christmassy book - and the pop-up edition is even better, with 3D foldout scenes depicting Santa's workshops, mail room and other fun things.

Brilliant stuff - we're actually waiting for Alan Snow's "How Book Reviewers Really Work" because we still don't have a clue!


Charlotte's best bit: All those letters to Santa. Eek!

Daddy's Favourite bit: The inner workings of Rudolf!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Booky Advent Calendar Day 15 - 15th December 2013 - "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe" by C.S. Lewis (HarperCollins Children's Books)


Booky Advent Calendar Day 15
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
Written by C.S Lewis
Illustrated by Pauline Baynes

Published by HarperCollins

I think this book reminds me of Christmas for two reasons. One: I remember first reading it during some of the worst snows of the 70s, when I was a thin-trousered little waif at Bounds Green Junior School. It was so cold during the winter that we were actually allowed to spend lunchtime playtime in the library - an unheard of privilege, and for me a genuine pleasure.

Two: It is, of course, shot through with christmas atmosphere from start to finish. The tale of the Pevensey Children, sent to the countryside during WWII to stay at a rambling old house kept by an eccentric old professor. It's a harsh place at first, a dragon-like housekeeper keeps the children in line but during a game of hide and seek, Lucy Pevensey discovers a huge wardrobe - and darting inside, finds a hidden world beyond the fur coats hanging there.

The rest, as they say, is book history. The most popular of the Chronicles of Narnia, regarded by many as C.S. Lewis' meisterwork, and a book that has been scrutinised and allegorised by academics for generations.

Right at the heart of it all, the good vs evil story is full of excitement and adventure - and of course C.S. Lewis was a man ahead of his time, learning a trick that so many other popular children's authors also learned fairly early on. Put ordinary children at the heart of the story, make them the heroes, and you'll never want for an appreciative audience.

I swear this book also contributes to christmas sales of turkish delight and hot chocolate too. No bad thing, in our opinion.


Charlotte's best bit: When Aslan comes back to life to defeat the white witch. YAY!

Daddy's Favourite bit: My mum living a stone's throw away from the real inspiration for Narnia (and being able to visit it)

Saturday, December 14, 2013

ReaditDaddy's Booky Advent Calendar Day 14 - 14th December 2013 - "The Unpleasant Tale of the Man-Eating Christmas Pudding" by Leyland Perree and Stuart McGhee (Ghostly Publishing)


Booky Advent Calendar Day 14
The Unpleasant Tale of the Man-Eating Christmas Pudding
Written by Leyland Perree
Illustrated by Stuart McGhee

Published by Ghostly Publishing

My Welsh Grandma made a mean christmas pud. Every year she'd begin it around...january 1st, and she'd spend an entire day mixing, mashing, coaxing, splashing and topping off an evil mixture with more cooking sherry than is humanly allowable. Then the mixture was allowed to steep (and some might even say 'fester') until it was ready to be steamed in a gigantic white muslin, in the same pot Grandad used to steam his army socks (for rambling in), until it was ready to serve on Christmas Day.

Perhaps puddings like this were the inspiration for Leyland Perree and Stuart McGhee's latest hilarious book "The Unpleasant Tale of the Man-Eating Christmas Pudding" because surely no pudding born into the world in such a way could ever be anything but evil. It could certainly knock you on your back with one spoonful.

The man eating christmas pud is a thoroughly caddish curranty criminal, stopping at nothing to ruin christmas for the poor family who end up playing hapless hosts to it. But as scary and mean as a man eating christmas pud can be, can it possibly stand up to Mr Claus himself?

We loved this, the twist in the middle and then a suitably satisfying end as Mr Christmas Pud meets Mr Saint Nick and...well we won't spoil it for you, you'll have to read the book and find out what happens. Just watch out you don't break your teeth on the sixpence in the middle!

Nab your copy of "The Unpleasant Tale of the Man-Eating Christmas Pud" from Ghostly Publishing.


Charlotte's best bit: Is a man-eating christmas pudding any match for a man in a red coat and a white beard?

Daddy's Favourite bit: Love the sheer mayhem in this at the start! ROARRRR!

(Kindly sent to us for review in digital form by Leyland Perree)

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Three Horrid Pigs and the Big Friendly Wolf by Liz Pichon (Little Tiger Press)


The Three Horrid Pigs and the Big Friendly Wolf

Written and Illustrated by
Liz Pichon

Published by Little Tiger Press

We love a good mixed-up fairy tale and though we've loaned this from the library before, we never managed to review it. Time to correct that as Liz Pichon's "The Three Horrid Pigs and the Big Friendly Wolf" is riotously funny and excellent fun to read aloud.

A mummy pig gets fed up with her three troublesome piggies, and kicks them out into the harsh cruel world to fend for themselves. As they're fairly nasty little blighters, they don't actually mind this - but need somewhere new to stay.

One pig decides to build an appallingly unsafe looking house from straw that he's stolen from the cow's feeding trough. A friendly handyman wolf happens to pass by and offers his help, but bad piggy number one tells him (rather impolitely) to get lost!

Similar situations happen when the other bad piggies try to build a house of sticks, and one piggy is too lazy to even bother building anything - so barges into the chicken house and takes over.

Enough is enough, the wolf - kindly as he is - draws the line at his chicken friends being ousted, so invites them to stay with him in his lovely brick house instead.

Piggies being piggies don't put up with uncomfortable conditions for long, so when the brothers spy Wolfie and his chicken pals having a lovely time, they formulate a plan to sneak down the chimney and take over the wolf's house...

We'll leave you to discover the hilarious conclusion. This book is brilliantly funny and entertaining, and neatly flips the Three Little Pigs story on its head (it's actually quite nice to have a good wolf in a story for a change rather than a slathering evil one!)

An awesome book! Don't miss it!

Charlotte's best bit: Those naughty piggies have the most disgusting manners, ew!

Daddy's Favourite bit: There's such a neat turn of events about ¾ of the way through the book when you think Wolfie has truly had enough and might've snapped but..ahhh you must read it and find out the rest!

ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week Ending 13th December 2013. "The Midnight Library" by Kazuno Kohara (Macmillan Children's Books)



The Midnight Library

Written and Illustrated by
Kazuno Kohara

Published by Macmillan Children's Books

As a child, I always secretly wished I could get locked in a library or a museum overnight. For some reason it didn't scare me, the thought of being all alone in a place that some might find creepy. A library would probably be nicer than a museum though, and so when we spotted The Midnight Library at our local library, it brought that childhood memory screaming back to the front of my mind.

What would it be like if libraries opened overnight? What better place can you think of to visit when you're wracked with insomnia (as I often am) and you've read everything in the house?

The little girl that runs the Midnight Library in Kazuno Kohara's gorgeously attractive and entertaining book runs a tight ship. With three cute owl helpers to make sure everyone behaves, the library is wildly popular. Even a gang of raucous squirrels (who come in with their musical instruments and shockingly start practicing while everyone's trying to read) can't disrupt things too much.

Anyone familiar with Kohara's visual style will find loads to love about this book, and a library for animals that opens only at night is a brilliant subject for a children's book. We have read this quite a few times and there's always a new little detail to spot in the pages.

Most of all, we love it because it celebrates libraries and books - and without them, where would we be? Probably reviewing rancid juice boxes or some other annoyance instead!


Charlotte's best bit: A poor little critter who gets so emotionally wrapped up in their book that they burst into tears! It happens darling, it happens.

Daddy's Favourite bit: Snappy-sharp, beautiful and fun to read - and I just love Kohara's visual style. Brilliant!

ReadItDaddy's Booky Advent Calendar Day 13 - 13th December 2013 - "Stick Man" by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler (Alison Green Books)


Booky Advent Calendar Day 13
Stick Man
Written by Julia Donaldson
Illustrated by Axel Scheffler

Published by Alison Green Books

Every year we wait to see what the BBC are going to do for their big animated festive adventure. We've seen the Gruffalo, the Gruffalo's Child and Room on the Broom but WHY OH WHY NOT STICK MAN?

We love Stick Man far more than we love either Gruffalo books, and it's so steeped with festive atmospherics that it doesn't seem to make much sense that it always gets overlooked (perhaps the toy market is the reason - a plush 'stick man' probably isn't as cuddly as a metric ton of Gruffalo toys, and how on earth would you fit your sandwich box inside a stick man rucksack or trunki?)

Stick Man is the tale of a man - who is a stick, and one day the poor wooden fellow is wrenched from the life he knows - ending up being used for a multitude of different things.

A dog quite fancies playing fetch with him. A boy builds him into a snowman - and that's not the least of poor Stick Man's woes. With each and every embarrasing stick-y situation, the poor fellah is taken further and further away from his stick-thin wife and his twiggy children. At christmas too. It's enough to make you cry.

Thankfully, even though the snow lays deep and crisp and even, Stick Man will not be defeated. Summoning all his sticky strength and courage, he begins the long journey home but will he make it in time for Christmas?

Julia Donaldson's pitch perfect rhymes, and Axel Scheffler's fabulous artwork have never been better in our opinion. BBC, do yourselves a favour and stick Stick Man on the box next year, g'wan!


Charlotte's best bit: Poor Stick Man being snaffled by a mischievous dog

Daddy's Favourite bit: I love the end. It brings a tear to a stick-fellah's eye

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Monster Diaries by Luciano Sarancino and Poly Bernatene (Meadowside Children's Books)


The Monster Diaries

Written by Luciano Sarancino

Illustrated by Poly Bernatene

Published by Meadowside Children's Books

Like a gorgeously illustrated love letter to all those fabulous Universal Studios monsters I loved to bits as a kid, we have truly enjoyed "The Monster Diaries". Laid out, as you'd expect, like a series of diary entries, find out what stresses a Mummy out during the average day or how long a wolfman takes to brush their hair by the light of a silvery moon.

What does Dracula buy on visits to the supermarket?

And how on earth does Frankenstein's Monster cope with those yearly tune-up and bolt-tightening sessions?

All these questions and more are answered in "The Monster Diaries" - Just don't have nightmares!

Charlotte's best bit: Amusingly grossed out by the fact that Dracula drinks tomato juice (er, Charlotte, you do know what else vampires usually drink don't you?)

Daddy's Favourite bit: Brilliant diary entries, superbly funny and Poly Bernatene's art is always brilliant in everything he does so this is a huge winner of a book for us!

John Patrick Norman McHennessy, the boy who was always late by John Burningham (Red Fox Picture Books)


John Patrick Norman McHennessy The Boy Who Was Always Late

Written and Illustrated by
John Burningham

Published by Red Fox Picture Books

Apart from giving me a near heart-attack trying to fit the name of this book into my header template, I do love John Burningham's books. He has a way of delving into the subversive, dark and sometimes quite menacing side of children's picture books to serve up tales that are guiltily pleasurable - and for children, stories that are wicked and funny.

John Patrick Norman McHennessy set off along the road to learn...but through no fault of his own, a series of mishaps always made him late for school.

His teacher, not the lovely cuddly and wonderful kind but the kind cut from the same cloth as the teacher in Pink Floyd's "The Wall" is horrid, and does not believe any of JPNM's (what, you thought I was going to type that out every time? Wrong!) excuses for tardiness - and puts poor JP in detention, with lines to complete.

(I actually had an amusing moment where I had to explain to Charlotte what "Doing lines" was - and a harrowing moment thinking about what modern celebrities might have said in explanation instead, eek!)

There is a delicious pay off, as there always is in John Burningham's books but naturally I'm going to let you discover what it is.

This is a fantastic book to read aloud (no, you don't have to read the lines unless you REALLY want to, or unless your children demand it!) and a bit of an obscure classic we were so glad to find in our local library.

Charlotte's best bit: "That'll teach the teacher!" sayeth she at the end

Daddy's Favourite bit: A rumbunctuous read-aloud classic that we just couldn't resist.

ReadItDaddy's Booky Advent Calendar Day 12 - 12th December 2013 - "Santa's Workshop Sticker Book" by Fiona Watt and Stella Baggott (Usborne Publishing)

Booky Advent Calendar Day 12
Santa's Workshop Sticker Book
Written by Fiona Watt
Illustrated by Stella Baggott

Published by Usborne

It's usually quite noisy and hectic at Christmas, but if there's one thing that guarantees a couple of blissful hours of silence, it's an Usborne sticker book. Get your little ones settled with the "Santa's Workshop Sticker Book" and they'll be happy, busy and occupied with over 300 festive stickers to stick into various scenes.

We loved the characters in this, from cheeky little Santas to helpful elves and of course Rudolf and a host of other Christmas favourites too. Find out how Santa decides who's been naughty and nice, and looks at each and every christmas list sent by children all over the world.

Colourful, fun and utterly christmassy!


Charlotte's best bit: The busy little elves working in Santa's toy workshops and sorting offices

Daddy's Favourite bit: As with all the Usborne sticker books, it's just so great to see Charlotte busying herself and completely wrapped up in sticker fun (leaving us to make mince pies and mulled wine!)

(Originally sent to us for review by Usborne Books)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Indie Pen-Dance Wednesday. Spotlight on Inkology and Dom Conlon's fabulous stories for children including "Tiny the Giant" and "Tommy Tickletail"


Tiny the Giant / Tommy Tickletail

Written by Dom Conlon

Illustrated by Nicola Anderson / Carl Pugh
Published by Inkology

We've followed Dom Conlon's writing for quite a while - a regular on our Twitter timeline, and part of a creative collective behind brilliant apps and stories for children, Dom is putting together a superb collection of stories for children in digital formats.

Starting with "Tiny the Giant" we've taken a look at a couple of Dom's collaborations - with illustrations by Nicola Anderson (Tiny the Giant) and Carl Pugh (Tommy Tickletail), Inkology's output is definitely worth keeping a very close eye on.

"Tiny the Giant" mixes bold colourful illustrations with the story of a giant with a deep booming voice who is actually a bit tiny and reedy (but shhh, don't tell him we said that). Travelling through the land, Tiny wants to find at least SOMETHING that he's a giant in comparison to. The mountains whisper "You don't look very giant to us", as do the trees. Tiny continues his quest but will he ever feel giant in such vast surroundings?

We'll let you tiptoe through the book yourself and find out.

With "Tommy Tickletail", a cat is the star but this is not a feline to be messed with. Everyone tiptoes around the house when Tommy Tickletail is sleeping. Definitely do NOT wake Tommy, the consequences could be dire!

As we've always said when we convince folk that indies and self published books should not be overlooked, the quality of Inkology's initial offerings is superb. Dom has a gift for stories that flow and are a pleasure to read aloud, and we loved Nicola and Carl's distinctly different but brilliantly fitting illustations for both stories we looked at (Tommy Tickletail's wicked eyes! Oh my!)

Brilliant stuff. If you'd like to learn more about Inkology, pop on by their website and see their fabulous books for yourself.

http://www.inkology.co.uk/

Charlotte's best bit: Trying to measure her shadow like Tiny!

Daddy's Favourite bit: A perfect pair of brilliant stories, with lots more on the way. Inkology are worth keeping your beady eye on!

(Kindly sent to us for review in digital format by Dom @ Inkology)

ReadItDaddy's Booky Advent Calendar Day 11 - 11th December 2013 - "When it Snows" by Richard Collingridge (David Fickling Books)


Booky Advent Calendar Day 11
When It Snows
Written and Illustrated by Richard Collingridge

Published by David Fickling Books

Last Christmas, we thrilled to the delights and charms of this utterly wonderful book. This year we're happy to see it popping up in paperback form all over our favourite bookshops, with its lovely new cover.

Telling the tale of a young boy who marches across the snowiest of snowy landscapes, through the Land of the Snowmen, past frozen vehicles, to a secret place that only The Snow Queen knows, it reminds us of fabulous christmassy books like "The Polar Express".

Richard Collingridge has established himself as a major talent in children's picture books and a fantastic cover illustrator. This will undoubtedly be read again and again over the festive season, and its celebratory message of the wonder of being lost in a good book is good for any time of year!

Charlotte's best bit: Riding atop a polar bear across the snowy landscape

Daddy's Favourite bit: Seeing all the ice-bound frozen vehicles as the boy gambols past ready for adventures in the snow.

(Originally sent to us for review by David Fickling Books)

Indie Pen-Dance Wednesday - Spotlight on "I Don't Like Vegetables" by Mrs C - Having trouble getting your little ones to eat their greens? Step right this way...!


I Don't Like Vegetables

Written by Mrs C!

Illustrated by Julia Jennings

Published by Pavilion Publishing

For our Indie slot this week we're looking at some corkers, and we'll kick off with a fabulous flavoursome tome by the wonderful Mrs C. She knows only too well how devoted children can be to avoiding eating their greens, and in this tale we meet Spike - a boy who does exactly that. He'll happily scoff sausages or chomp chips but when it comes to broccoli or peas, Spike turns his nose up! EW!

His little sister loves peas and beans and cabbages, but Max is adamant that he'll never eat his greens.

On a trip to Grandpa's house, Spike and his sister learn how vegetables are grown - but when Grandpa pops off for an afternoon nap, strange things begin to happen in the greenhouse. The vegetables come to life!

Will Spike ever change his mind about the goodness in greenery and the value of veg? You'll have to read the book to find out!

Again, this is the sort of book that we absolutely love - with a story that's fun and engaging for children without feeling too preachy, and some really fun alternative names for our favourite veg (Charlotte of course loved the fact that the Shallot was called Charlotte!)

Mrs C really gets into her role as a veggie ambassador!
"I Don't Like Vegetables" by Mrs C is available from Pavilion Publishing.

About Mrs C

As a mother of three sons, Mrs C knows the importance of getting children to eat a healthy and well balanced diet….. she also knows the challenges and frustrations that arise when trying.

The whole idea behind I Don’t Like Vegetables was to introduce vegetables to children, without dictating to them. She hopes the book will inspire young children everywhere to try new vegetables and grow their own.

After self-publishing and selling out of 1000 copies of the book in 2012, Mrs C has now decided to work with Pavilion Publishing to continue her crusade to bring healthy eating to young children.

When Mrs C isn’t dressed as a carrot and attending schools to read her book, she likes walking her black labrador in the forest. Mrs C lives in North Dorset with her husband and sons.

Charlotte's best bit: Charlotte the Shallot and Carrie-Carrot. Also, giggling at Max wiping his muddy hands on his sister's dress. What a meanie!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Full of fun veggie characters, a touch of magic and a groovy veg-growing grandad. Vital vitamin-packed booky goodness when your child is a devoted salad-dodger (like Charlotte is!)

(Kindly sent to us for review by Pavilion Publishing and Mrs C)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

ReadItDaddy's Booky Advent Calendar Day 10 - 10th December - "Mog's Christmas" by Judith Kerr (HarperCollins Children's Books)


Booky Advent Calendar Day 10
Mog's Christmas
Written and Illustrated by Judith Kerr

Published by HarperCollins

Judith Kerr is a national treasure, and right from when Charlotte was a tiny little mite, we loved reading her the Mog books - and of course the sublime "The Tiger Who Came to Tea" as well.

"Mog's Christmas" was a gift from her Auntie Emma one year, and it was a lovely christmassy read as we tucked her up in bed after a very busy Christmas Day. Mog the forgetful and slightly scatterbrained cat isn't really sure about Christmas. Strange people arrive to stay at the house, there's a lot of noise, a lot of strange decorations - and worst yet, a huge talking tree arrives at the house and scares Mog half to death.

Enough is enough. Mog escapes, and finds a nice warm snuggly spot on the roof of the house next to the chimney.

Mog refuses to move, even for a nice fish supper, but it's warm - and as Mog settles down for a snooze, she has the strangest dream...! Meanwhile the family are quite sad, no one really feels like celebrating Christmas when Mog can't join in!

"Mog's Christmas" reminds me of our family christmas, hectic, lots of visitors, lots of mess and fuss but we wouldn't have it any other way. A wonderful christmassy book with our favourite cat!


Charlotte's best bit: The funny old aunties and their presents!

Daddy's Favourite bit: What happens to Mog just as Christmas Dinner is getting under way. Hooray!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Old Mikamba Had a Farm by Rachel Isadora (Putnam Publishing)


Old Mikamba Had a Farm

Written and Illustrated by
Rachel Isadora

Published by Putnam Publishing

We love a neat new spin on anything traditional - particularly when it's as eye-catching as this book. "Old Mikamba Had a Farm" is a fabulous reworking of a well-loved children's nursery rhyme. What would you expect to find on a farm in Africa? No sheep, no cows but a wondrous collection of fabulous animals that Old Mikamba looks after.

Rachel Isadora's treatment of the rhyme is brilliant, and had us giggling out loud as we read it out loud together. Slightly more tongue-twisting than the original as Giraffes bleat, cheetahs growl and elephants trumpet - we had so much fun and even though (technically) you could imagine the book aimed at children younger than 5, Charlotte still had a brilliant time with this one.

Rachel's visual style fits in with the African setting perfectly. Using a combination of painted and paper-crafted art, Mikamba is picked out in glorious African tribal colours and we really loved the newsprint Elephants and Rhinos (Charlotte was trying to read the bits of newsprint, but some were in French so she rapidly came unstuck!)

A beautiful book that's huge fun to read aloud, and an excellent new way of enjoying a classic rhyme. Superb!


Charlotte's best bit: She still loves Giraffes more than any other animal. Bleat bleat!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Beautiful art, a great fun tongue-twisting read-aloud book. Brilliant!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Putnam)

ReadItDaddy's Booky Advent Calendar Day 9 - 9th December 2013 - "Christmas 50th Anniverary Edition" by Dick Bruna (Simon and Schuster Children's Books)


Booky Advent Calendar Day 9
Christmas (50th Anniversary Edition)
Written and Illustrated by Dick Bruna

Published by Simon and Schuster

We've seen so many nativity books since the merest whiff of a suggestion that the festive season is starting soon but none have managed to warm our hearts as much as this beautiful book. Dick Bruna, the genius behind Miffy, put together many children's books on diverse themes throughout his career, including this absolutely brilliant take on the traditional Nativity story.

Bruna's trademark graphic style lends itself to the christmas story really well (particularly those cute angels), and once again as we always say whenever we realise how old these books are, "Christmas" does not feel like a 50 year old book.

For the 50th Anniversary edition, picked out in a gorgeous white cover with gold inlaid scribe, it's a festive treat for the eyes.

Perfect christmas booky fare!


Charlotte's best bit: The rather cute baby jesus

Daddy's Favourite bit: Wonderful angels singing from on high in typical Bruna style

(Kindly sent to us for review by Bounce Marketing / Simon and Schuster Children's Books

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Booky Advent Calendar Day 8 - 8th December 2013 - "Merry Christmas Splat" By Rob Scotton (HarperCollins Children's Books)


Booky Advent Calendar Day 8
Merry Christmas Splat!
Written and Illustrated by Rob Scotton

Published by HarperCollins Children's Books

Our favourite brummy-accented cat(well he has a brummy accent when we read it aloud) returns for a superb Christmas story that makes me giggle (because I recognise a lot of Splat's behaviour at this time of year) and makes Charlotte chortle (because poor Splat is so anxious to please, he can't help making mistakes!)

Splat worries that he's going to end up on the naughty list one Christmas, so to over-compensate, he decides to be as helpful as possible around the house. Unfortunately, accident-prone Splat is about as helpful as a breezeblock when it comes to the washing up. He's not much good at decorating the christmas tree either, and don't even ask about clearing the path of snow.

Poor Splat. The more he tries to help, the more mess he makes so as he forlornly heads off to bed on Christmas Eve, with his rather rotten sister teasing him that he won't get a present after all (little sisters are like that, aren't they!), Splat's tail wiggles wildly with worry as usual.

A sleepless night passes, as Splat listens out in earnest to hear Santa arriving with his sleigh.

The next morning when Splat wakes up, does he find a present waiting for him after all?

You'll have to read the book to find out! This is one of our favourite "Splat" books, it's funny and charming and very well observed (has Rob Scotton got a younger sister who was a bit of a brat when she was younger, by any chance?)

A thoroughly entertaining book to pop on your christmas list!


Charlotte's best bit: Splat going "SPLAT!" when he tries to clear the path of snow.

Daddy's Favourite bit: I secretly enjoyed evil little sis. What a rotter!