Sunday, December 9, 2018

Booky Advent Calendar Day 9: "L'il Gotham Volume 1" by Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs (DC Comics / Scholastic)

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Our Booky Advent Calendar entry for Day 9 might have the very loosest connection to Christmas (well, Turkeys and Thanksgiving) but it's still a hugely impressive piece of work and well deserving of inclusion in your christmas book shopping list.

We've loved Nguyen and Fridolfs' take on the Bat-Universe for ages, reinventing awesome DC characters for the "Fort Solitude" series - and showing that there are far better ways to wean your kids on DC's unfathomably complex comics universe without exposing them to tons of dark stuff.

Nguyen and Fridolfs have achieved something I never thought we'd be able to put our stamp of approval on. They've taken characters we know and love from the Bat-Universe here, and turned them into the most adorably playful scamps you can imagine.

The compilation here works through several holidays, including Robin's take on a Halloween parade, and what happens when The Penguin takes on a one-peng crusade to free tasty turkeys from imminent doom on the dinner table.

Just LOVE Robin's 'study' face here. That's C after her holiday homework assignments!
Purists might get a tad upset at the thought of a kiddified character assassination of their fave heroes, but we really love these - and despite the many, many other attempts there have been (and are still ongoing) to give kids a taste of DC's greatness, this is by far the best.

"L'il Gotham Volume 1" by Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs is out now, published by DC Comics / Scholastic (self purchased: Not provided for review)
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Saturday, December 8, 2018

Booky Advent Calendar Day 8: "The Way Home for Wolf" by Jim Field and Rachel Bright (Orchard Books)

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We're cheating a little bit with Day 7 on our Advent Calendar - again although this isn't a Christmas book per se, the crisp snowy landscapes and gorgeously cuddly little story of a wilful wolf called Wilf will tickle and entertain you.

"The Way Home for Wolf" by Rachel Bright and Jim Field sees the talented duo tell the tale of young Wilf the Wolf.

Wilf might look cute and adorable but he's as strong and independent as a wolf cub can be. 

He doesn't need help from his friends and family - whatever it is, he can do it ALL BY HIMSELF. 

Pretty sure we all know a toddler or two like that, right?

But when Wilf finds himself lost and alone in the snow and chill of an Arctic night, he discovers something important - sometimes we all need the help of a friend to keep us safe and show us the way in the dark. 

Wilful Wilf the Wolf. Try saying that with a mouthful of Christmas Pudding!
The story's message that now and again we all need a little help to get along in the world is deliciously delivered with Rachel's wonderful rhyming text, and Jim Field's glorious and atmospheric illustrations (possibly the cutest wolf we've ever seen in a picture book!)

What a truly beautiful book. That there Jim fellah is very talented!

Utterly brill! It'll have you wishing for snow too!

"The Way Home for Wolf" by Rachel Bright and Jim Field is out now, published by Orchard Books (kindly supplied for review)
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Thursday, December 6, 2018

On "Book of the Year" awards, comedians turned authors, and the big Twitter furore David Baddiel kicked off - A ReadItTorial.

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"Your book's rubbish!" "No, yours is!"
Well we weren't actually going to do any ReadItTorials in December - but this one was too juicy to pass up.

It all started out with a #notbitteratall Tweet, as the subjects for our ReadItTorials often do...

One of the things I've noticed about being a writer of children's books that children actually like and buy is that your books are resolutely missed out of Children's Books of The Year round-ups in newspapers #notbitter #okslightly

...and swiftly descended into another round of Kidlit's favourite game where celebrity authors are rounded up and given a swift cattle-prodding, Twitter style.

It most definitely had us musing about how those "Book of the Year" roundups are actually drawn up, how the winning books are decided - but again whether there's actually some fire to back up David's smoke. Are Celebrity Books roundly ignored in BOTY lists purely because of the growing stigma attached to them?

We've reviewed quite a few of David's books in our Chapter Book roundups. None have ever really made our "Book of the Week" slot and none have troubled our Chapter Book of the Year slot either (mostly because we haven't actually been boxing out our Chapter Book coverage for that long). Yet C has enjoyed them, and I've particularly enjoyed the family-focused observation David makes in his stories.

The thing is, my initial interpretation of the tweet was that it sounded like the peacock-like ramblings of someone who's rather more concerned about book sales and the kudos (and increase in book sales) that winning a coveted newspaper-style Book of the Year award would bring.

David was rounded on by many authors in the business who took the tweet that way, but also launched into missives about celebrity books in general - not just laying into the quality of the writing (or ghost writing!) in most cases, but also stating that being an award-winning comedy writer does not automatically give you some divine privilege to become a well respected children's author.

Yet, hah, as we write this, a great many comedians and comedy writers are writing children's picture book or middle grade fiction. Why that specific age group? Are there comedians who can cut it writing for YA? Have any tried to pen graphic novels? Odd that it's a very specifically focused age group, innit?

Female comedians seem to do well writing for any age group. In fact female celebrities in general tend to publish to the adult market more than kids. Again that's quite an interesting nugget of fact that has absolutely nothing to do with the real focus of this blog post.

Most comedy writers want to make you laugh, whatever your age. They want that divine moment where their viewer or reader can wholly identify with, and find the humour in the situation or thing that the comedian is describing.

And like anyone who has a career, comedians want to be good enough at what they do to continue doing it. I would assume that most of them apply this same effort to their children's literature so again you're back to imagining that what Dave was actually having a dig at wasn't kidlit, but the newspaper awards. Either that or he has a gigantic massive ego that he feels isn't being fed well enough, recognition wise.

On the subject of comedy Daves, during the whole Twitterthon another nugget of info emerged that was quite spectacularly breathtakingly ill informed if true. This time, allegedly from David Walliams, the celebrity author most authors (and probably celebrity authors) love to hate / envy / allege is ghostwritten (delete as appropriate).

This one was from Blue Peter Award-winning author Gareth P. Jones (who also blogged about Baddiel's tweet).

Everyone feels hard done by, even the celebs. The other day someone in the know told me that Walliams doesn't feel like his publisher does much in the way of marketing for his books.

Just let that one sink in for a moment. Yes, the same David Walliams whose gigantic Point of Sale displays appear like a blight across the frontages and shelf spaces of just about every book shop you can think of, who has appeared no less than seventy billion times on just about every TV and Radio show talking about his book, and whose promo copies were sent out to grateful bloggers right across the land...oh no, wait, that last bit was a complete fabrication, I do apologise. We never get DW's books to review, I mean why bother getting lowly bloggers to promote them when they'll sell in their millions anyway eh? #NotBitter #onlyslightly

In a roundabout way I'm getting to the point, albeit very slowly. Anyone who has even the most peripheral involvement with the children's publishing industry and the many artists, authors, designers, writers, ghost-writers, translators, PRs, publishers, tea persons etc cannot fail to notice that there's something that most book folk have in common.

They're lovely, they're hugely supportive of each other, hell they have the utmost respect for their own authors and illustrators as well as other publishers' authors and illustrators too. In fact, the authors and illustrators themselves largely seem to respect each other and each other's craft.

Cast your eyes over Twitter whenever big awards like the Carnegies or the Kate Greenaway awards, the Blue Peter awards, the Costa awards etc etc are announced and the first thing you'll notice isn't a load of authors moaning that they didn't make the list, it's a load of folk congratulating those that have.

It starts even before publication for most folk too. Those of us still putting out manuscript after manuscript don't fire off angry tweets if one of our crit group, or writing compadres gets a book deal. We're there too, celebrating their successes, retweeting and writing about their launches, reviewing or covering their books and perhaps hoping one day we'll see something of our own in print, let alone winning any awards, annual or otherwise. Publication isn't some deity-granted right, nor is winning an award (we could get really into the grist of why we barely raise an eyelid when it comes to most annual book awards, particularly newspaper-backed ones, but that's a blog for another day).

Though obviously most celebrities are busy folk who are spinning a number of plates in the air, many appear on Twitter on a daily basis, yet barely seem to engage with other kidlit folk.

So I guess at some point David Baddiel might want to take a look at, perhaps even engage with the children's publishing industry as a whole rather than moaning that his particular glory barge doesn't quite carry enough privilege because of his celebrity status.

Good books are good books, and even though we've enjoyed his work (and a great many kids and adults have too), I can think of a billion and one other books that would be (and in fact have quite rightly been named as) Book of the Year material.

It's pretty much as simple as that.

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Booky Advent Calendar Day 6: "How To Ride a Polar Bear" by Caryl Hart and Ed Eaves (Simon and Schuster Children's Books)

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Our Booky Advent Calendar Day 6 entry isn't really that festive or Christmassy, but we couldn't resist including a new Albie adventure in our yuletide roundup (and isn't snow a bit more festive than the drizzle we're likely to get around the 25th?)

Here's "How to Ride a Polar Bear" by Caryl Hart and Ed Eaves.

When Albie and his mum go to the museum, Albie has no idea what is in store for him. He know that museums are fusty and dusty and full of smelly things, but what he doesn't expect are igloos, wolves and a real life polar bear!

It's time for another imaginative journey for Albie as he coasts across the snow with new friends in tow.

Join Albie on a brand new adventure in this brilliant book by the bestselling author and illustrator pairing Caryl Hart and Ed Eaves!

Going to the museum has never been so much fun!

"How To Ride a Polar Bear" by Caryl Hart and Ed Eaves is out now, published by Simon and Schuster Children's Books (kindly supplied for review). 
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Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Booky Advent Calendar Day 5: "Jingle Spells" by James Brown (Simon and Schuster Children's Books)

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Here's an awesome Booky Advent Calendar book that comfortably covers two holidays, as it'd also be great for Halloween as well as Christmas.

"Jingle Spells" by James Brown is the fab little story of Trixie the Witch.

Trixie’s friends think she’s batty as a vampire, so she needs Santa’s help to spread the Christmas joy.

But when she visits Lapland HQ, Santa is nowhere to be seen, the elves’ shelves are empty and ALL WITCHES are on the Naughty List!

Luckily, Trixie knows a spell or two that just might save Christmas for everyone.

Join Trixie, Rudy the cat, LOTS of elves and witches . . . and even Santa himself in this beautifully illustrated picture book by James Brown.

Are you counting down the days yet? We most certainly are!
Trixie is such an adorable character, and we love all the cool little details in James' illustrations.

Gotta love a Halloween-Christmas Mash-up!
"Jingle Spells" by James Brown is out now, published by Simon and Schuster Children's Books (kindly supplied for review). 
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Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Booky Advent Calendar Day 4: "A Christmas Story" by Brian Wildsmith (OUP / Oxford Children's Books)

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Booky Advent Calendar Day 4 is the second entry on our list from Brian Wildsmith, and another brilliant cloth-bound foil embossed title reissued from OUP.

Brian's version of the classic nativity story is given a new lease of life in this special gift edition.

Once, a long time ago, in a town called Nazareth, a little donkey was born. 

As the wonderful events of the Nativity unfold, Brian Wildsmith tells of the journey of a little girl and a donkey to Bethlehem. 

It is their perspective on the Christmas story that gives the book such an intimate, innocent and child-centred appeal.

This classic story from one of the most internationally acclaimed picture-book writers and artists has deservedly become an enduring favourite with children at Christmas time. With the new cover it's a brilliant gift to tuck under the tree as an extra present. 

"A Christmas Story" by Brian Wildsmith is out now, published by OUP / Oxford Children's Books (kindly supplied for review). 
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Monday, December 3, 2018

Booky Advent Calendar Day 3: "Snowglobe" by Amy Wilson (Macmillan Children's Books)

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Day 3 of our Booky Advent Calendar, and although this isn't strictly a festive book, the setting and themes make it perfect for snuggling up with at this time of year.

"Snowglobe" by Amy Wilson introduces daydreamer Clementine who discovers a mysterious house standing in the middle of town that was never there before

Clementine is pulled towards the house by the powerful sense of a mother she never knew.

The place is full of snowglobes, swirling with stars and snow and each containing a trapped magician, watched over by Gan, the bitter keeper of the house.

One of these is Dylan, a boy who teases her in the real world but who is now desperate for her help.

So Clem ventures into the snowglobes, rescuing Dylan and discovering her own powerful connection to the magic of these thousand worlds.

Vowing to release the magicians from the control of their enchantments, Clem unknowingly unleashes a struggle for power that will not only put her family, but the future of magic itself in danger.

A stunning fantasy novel full of magic and wintry atmosphere, it's a brilliant read.

"Snowglobe" by Amy Wilson is out now, published by Macmillan Children's Books (kindly supplied for review). 
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Sunday, December 2, 2018

Booky Advent Calendar Day 2: "The Night I Met Father Christmas" by Ben Miller and Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini (Simon and Schuster Children's Books)

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We're not just covering picture books in our #BookyAdventCalendar this year. Oh no, this year we're pleased to open up the field to cover festive chapter books.

Comedians seem to be natural shoe-ins for producing hilarious and entertaining middle grade fiction (and that's not said as any kind of insult, writing for middle grade is as TOUGH as heck).

So a new contender has arrived. One Ben Miller, yes he of Armstrong and Miller fame.

Turning his comedy props to a new festive chapter book, gorgeously illustrated by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini, here's "The Night I met Father Christmas".

Jackson has always wanted to meet Father Christmas. He knows all about the reindeer, he knows about the elves and the secret North Pole workshop, he knows about the magic that allows Father Christmas to deliver presents around the world in just one night, but there's one thing he doesn't know

How did Father Christmas become Father Christmas?

One Christmas Eve, Jackson’s wish comes true and not only does he get to meet Father Christmas but he also hears his incredible story. 

So begins an enchanting fairy-tale journey into the world of Torvil – a mean-spirited and miserly elf who, on one magical night, discovers the true meaning of Christmas. 

This might not have been the story Jackson was expecting but, as Father Christmas tells him, no good story ever is...

It's a wonderfully heartwarming story that will remind everyone of the true spirit of Christmas and prove once and for all that Father Christmas really does exist! (S'yeah, like there was ever any doubt!)

"The Night I met Father Christmas" by Ben Miller and Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini is out now, published by Simon and Schuster Children's Books (kindly supplied for review). 
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Saturday, December 1, 2018

ReadItDaddy's Booky Advent Calendar Day 1: "The Twelve Days of Christmas" by Brian Wildsmith (OUP / Oxford Children's Books)

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Oh yes indeed, it's that time of the year again, a couple of dozen sleeps until Christmas - and once again we're wheeling out an awesome selection of christmassy titles for our December review schedule. Some brand new and never seen before, some well loved classics that have always been in our reading pile around this most wonderful time of the year.

Bring on...


And bring on the book behind Door Number 1 as we take a look at a gorgeous cloth-bound new edition reprint of Brian Wildsmith's timeless version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" - out now from OUP / Oxford Children's Books.

The perfect gift for every day of Christmas, Brian takes us on an enchanting journey through The Twelve Days of Christmas (a rhyme that we somehow still manage to get wrong, so it's rather handy to have a gorgeous book to refer to so we can sing it right at last!) 

This illustrated version of the Christmas classic almost feels like it's ready-wrapped and ready to put under the tree, clad in the most gorgeous cloth and foil cover, absolutely as festive as heck!

"The Twelve Days of Christmas" by Brian Wildsmith is out now, published by OUP / Oxford Children's Books (kindly supplied for review). 
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