Tuesday, March 20, 2018

"A Big Garden" by Gilles Clement and Vincent Grave (Prestel Publishing)

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This certainly is a big book (so we made our header image nice and big to match). "A Big Garden" by Gilles Clement and Vincent Grave is perfect for this time of year, as spring starts to shyly emerge from winter's shadow, and all our gardens come to life.

This beautifully prosaic look at the life of a garden - and the gardener who tends it is underpinned by the most stunningly detailed illustrations as we closely take a look at the seasons, and the months that herald their arrival.

Part fact, part fantasy but so dizzyingly beautiful that you'll get completely lost in these amazing pages, each illustration full of quirky and whimsical moments that mean just one read through will never be enough. We spent hours with this one, laughing together at all the tiny little scenes as they unfolded (and of course marvelling at some truly corking end-papers too).

A very special book this, quite unlike anything we've seen before.

"A Big Garden" by Gilles Clement and Vincent Grave is out now, published by Prestel Publishing (kindly supplied for review). 
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Origami Heart by Binny (Hodder Children's Books)

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It's not a huge secret that we both love Origami. Any excuse to immerse ourselves in a bit of clever paper engineering and we're there...
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Powering up with four recent comic acquisitions featuring thoroughly mighty women.

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Comics have changed for the better, and it's about bloomin' time. Despite the continued issues we have with fragmentation of story arcs and the general confused mess that sometimes confronts you when you show interest in a particular series, it's sometimes worth doing a bit of digging and picking up a few titles regardless.

We've been huge fans of "The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl" for a long time on the blog, finally hoovering up the missing volumes and 'catching up' with this fantastic series.

Doreen Green AKA Squirrel Girl just happens to be a super-powered college student who can talk to squirrels, can pretty much duff up anyone else in the Marvel Universe - but quite often finds her foes throw in a curve ball to keep her on her tippy-toes (sorry, terrible pun there) with each and every collected issue.

Recently we've seen her taking a holiday with her room-mate to stay in a remote cabin in Canada ("NO WI FI? NO INTERNET? HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO TAUNT TONY STARK OVER TWITTER?") only to find the cabin sits on top of a bizarre colony of mini criminals who can break apart and reform into bigger / smaller versions of themselves at will. As they begin to slowly take over the world, it's up to Squirrel Girl, Nancy, Squirrel Girl's mum and...er...Ant Man to stop this nefarious menace.

Tons of action, loads of silly humour but a superb mighty girl feel, this series just gets better and better (as do Squirrel Girl's tweets about hanging around with superheroes / villains).

"The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Like I'm the only Squirrel in the World" (Volume 5) by Ryan North and Erica Henderson is out now, published by Marvel Comics. 

Shifting gears slightly, we also took a look at "Gwenpool" by Christopher Hastings, Gurihiru, Danilo Beyruth and Tamra Bonvillain...

If you can imagine a universe where Deadpool is somehow gene-spliced with a candy-coloured version of Gwen Stacy from Spiderman, and given the same devil-may-care uber-violent but fun-loving personality of Mr Pool, that's where you'll find yourself with this quirky but fabulous comic.

Gwenpool is finding life in an alternate universe a bit tricky to say the least (have you ever tried to get a bank account when, according to every computer on the planet, you didn't exist before 2 months ago?)

Of course, this hampers this "Ms Merc with a Mouth" in her attempts to work her way into the criminal organisation of one of Marvel's nastiest supervillains, the big-headed bad-attitude dude Modok.

Weirdly, Gwenpool somehow manages to take out Modok's chief hitman, putting herself up for the job as his replacement. There is a snag though, Gwenpool doesn't actually have any discernible superpowers aside from an affinity with things that explode.

What's a girl to do?

This is a superb series, and we dipped into it only meaning to grab the one collected issue - but now want to read the rest. If you like the smart (and quite violent) side of Deadpool but want to do without all the ickiness, this could be the series for you.

"Gwenpool" by Christopher Hastings, Gurihiru, Danilo Beyruth and Tamra Bonvillain is out now, published by Marvel Comics. 

Moving on to a series that could've been MADE for us. A super-smart girl who loves science, but just happens to be the daughter of one of Marvel's biggest (smallest) heroes? What's not to like?

"The Unstoppable Wasp" by Jeremy Whitley and Elsa Charretier opens with the daughter of Hank Pym, Nadia, emigrating to the US. After years of growing up in the "Red Room" (the assassin academy regular Marvel fans will remember as also spawning Black Widow) Nadia is ready to embrace western culture, but also to set up a Science Academy for other superpowered girls like herself - girls who can bend science to their will in order to fight crime and injustice.

The first volume collects together issues 1-6 and sees Nadia on a recruitment drive that doesn't quite always go to plan.

We really loved this one, not least of all because of Nadia's effervescent enthusiasm for just about EVERYTHING, with some rather cool interactions early on with Ms Marvel (setting things up nicely for a complete EXPLOSION of all things Ms Marvel later on this year, watch the skies) and Moon Girl (the smartest pre-teen on the planet who also happens to be friendly with a colossal bloodthirsty dinosaur from beyond time).

It's whip-smart storytelling with glorious art, and another series we're in it for the long haul with.

"The Unstoppable Wasp" by Jeremy Whitley and Elsa Charretier is out now, published by Marvel Comics. 

Last but not least, the return of a familiar face in a brilliant comic series that just gets better and better...

"Star Wars: Princess Leia" Mark Waid and Terry Dodson pick up right where Star Wars Episode IV left off, in fact right there in the ceremony room where Luke, Han and Chewie all get their medals for blowing up the Death Star.

But we all know that even in the extended Star Wars universe, life is never as simple as it seems and Leia is swiftly drawn into a mission that will throw her into a team-up with a shadowy rebel pilot who really doesn't seem to like royals at all.

This is a fantastic romp, almost feeling at times like those cool saturday morning serials from the dawn of cinema.

It's chock-full of the atmosphere of the first movie trilogy, yet bang up to date with its treatment of female characters who can kick ass with the best of them

"Princess Leia" by Mark Waid and Terry Dodson is out now, published by Marvel Comics. 

(All four titles self-purchased)
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Monday, March 19, 2018

Ash Dresses Her Friends by Fu Wenzheng (New Frontier Publishing)

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Here's a delightful little tale of a happy-go-lucky little bird with an exceptional talent....Meet Ash!
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Baby Bird by Andrew Gibbs and Zosienka (Frances Lincoln Children's Books)

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Oh my, this one really tugs at the heartstrings for a huge number of reasons...
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Friday, March 16, 2018

ReadItDaddy's Third Book of the Week - Week Ending 16th March 2018 - "Colorama" by Cruschiform (Prestel Publishing)

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We couldn't resist putting this in as our third Picture Book of the Week - I think it's high praise indeed that a book arrives in our reviews stack and is constantly grabbed, flicked through and referred to by C...
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ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 16th March 2018 - "The Return of the Railway Children" by Lou Kuenzler (Scholastic)

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Our Chapter Book of the Week is a gorgeous sequel to a book I must admit I haven't read in years, possibly 43 years to be precise...!
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ReadItDaddy's Second Picture Book of the Week - Week ending 16th March 2018 - "Rufus" by Simon Bartram (Templar Publishing)

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It's lovely to welcome Simon Bartram back to the Book of the Week slot with his new creation, and there's not a Bob in sight....
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ReadItDaddy's First Book of the Week - Week Ending 16th March 2018: "Anthology of Amazing Women" by Sandra Lawrence and Nathan Collins (Weldon Owen)

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In this centenary year where we mark the 100th anniversary of the end of women's suffrage, it's fantastic to see so many books arriving that mark the achievements and soak up the inspiration of amazing women from history - and indeed today!
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Thursday, March 15, 2018

Re-imagining, rebooting, retreading - Why do classic books need to be treated in this way? This week's ReadItTorial

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This week's ReadItTorial all started with an email. A promotional email announcing the exciting news that none other than Sir Michael Morpurgo was about to respin a VERY well loved classic children's picture book into a middle grade novel.

Eyebrows were raised, exclamations were uttered but we shrugged and sighed - mostly because this isn't exactly a new thing, and this year we've seen quite a few classic books either get a 100,000 mile re-tread, sequels, prequels or new books inspired by the original story or stories.

This is probably the first time we've ever seen a wordless picture book turned into a middle grade novel though, and despite the talent involved (and, seemingly, Raymond Briggs' blessing - or at least his appreciative wallet) it's led to something of a Twitterstorm.

Most people seem genuinely excited for any new offerings by Michael Morpurgo (rightly so, he's an extremely talented author whose books are enjoyed by all ages - even my mother in law who is in her 70s). Quite a few shared my view though, and it's a view partly tilted not only by the unmatchable original tale of a young boy who makes a snowman, and goes on a magical night-time adventure - but possibly by a lot of happy memories of the peerless animation that appeared on Channel 4 right at the beginning of that channel's existence.

Childhood memories of the original aside (and it is a book we've revisited and enjoyed with our daughter) both my wife and I thought the same as many other Twitterfolk, that turning a book that tells its beautifully constructed tale purely through illustration would take a heck of a miracle to work as a middle grade text.

We've got till October to find out how that'll work, but in the meantime "The Snowman" isn't the only classic being revisited this year. We've also just reviewed "Return of the Railway Children" by Lou Kuenzler, following on from the original E Nesbit book and ushering in the 50th (aaaghhh) anniversary of that sublime slice of railway-based escapism.

The new book does a pretty good job of capturing the essence of the original, but it also made me think the same as the above idea. These are essentially new books treading on the toes of the originals to cash in on nostalgia, purely aimed perhaps at adults who would buy a book they'd loved as a child for their kids, and certainly try something new that followed the same stories and characters.

Recently C has been engrossed in the Mallory Towers novels by Enid Blyton. She read through the original books voraciously, and has now moved on to Egmont's recent additions to the series, making quite a few pointed comments about the differences between the original novels and the new 'updated' ones.

Do we really need to constantly spread that rich butter of classic stories so painfully thin over new plots though? Are these books rising to the surface while truly ground-breaking new and original stories sink to the bottom? I think that's the saddest aspect of all this for me, that struggling debut authors are not going to get their chance purely because a well-established 'bankable' author wrote a treatment of someone else's original idea, and that's going to grab the marketing and editorial slice for that given release window.

We'll see come October I guess but in the meantime if you want to join in the Twitter debate, here's the original Twitter link: https://twitter.com/Readitdaddy/status/973290814658043904
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