Tuesday 30 August 2011

Day of the Diesels (Blu Ray / DVD)

ReadItDaddy temporarily switches over to WatchItWithDaddy for a moment or two. Thanks to the good folks at HiT Entertainment, we've been given a preview copy of Thomas the Tank Engine's latest movie - Day of the Diesels - to review. 

Charlotte has been a fan of Thomas the Tank Engine for quite a while, mostly because she's inherited a lot of her uncle's "Railway Series" books and has seen a few episodes of the HiT Entertainment "Thomas and Friends" series airing on Channel 5's "Milkshake" segment. 

Those who remember the cute Thomas stop-motion stuff from the 1980s may already know that Thomas and the Island of Sodor are all now rendered in CGI. What's important though is that this hasn't changed a thing - the little engine and the rest of the characters are as great as ever they were. 

"Day of the Diesels" introduces us to some new characters that viewers of the TV show won't have seen before. There's Belle, a fantastic engine who can fight fires along with her friend Flynn, a rail-going fire engine as happy on the road as he is on the tracks. 

Then there are the diesels. They're dirty, they're rude and if truth be told, they're more than a little bit devious.

Without spoiling the movie too much, Day of the Diesels is more about Percy the little engine than it is about his best friend Thomas. In fact Thomas plays second fiddle to most of the characters in this movie but there's a good reason, as the movie weaves quite a purposeful tale of friendship, misunderstanding and what can happen if you fall in with a bad crowd. 

Diesel 10 - the silver-tongued (and slightly sinister) main miscreant in "Day of the Diesels" takes Percy under his wing. But is his friendship genuine, or does Diesel 10 have a rather sinister ulterior motive...?

Any engine with a gigantic claw on its roof can't be trustworthy, surely?

The film runs for just over an hour and despite a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, managed to keep Charlotte rivetted to the spot. She found some of the diesels a little bit scary (as I said, the main 'baddie' having a huge snapping claw on his roof was a bit scarier than the average TV episode) but thoroughly enjoyed the movie and wanted it straight back on again for a second viewing as soon as the end credits rolled. 

The bonuses on the Blu Ray (and DVD versions) were excellent too. Simple animated sequences to show exactly how Steamies and Diesels both work. There are also "guess the character" games, and two of the very catchy songs from the movie are also available with full sing-along lyrics. 

The movie will be released on DVD and Blu Ray on September 26th, 2011 - Here's an Amazon link. 

Thomas & Friends - Day of the Diesels [DVD] [2011]

Charlotte's best bit - Belle the brave fire-fighting engine

Daddy's favourite bit - The Diesels going absolutely loopy at the Steamworks

Rating - 4 out of 5 stars

(This item was sent to us for review)

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Tuesday 23 August 2011


Now this book is an oddity. Charlotte usually heartily approves of just about anything that the sublime team of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler turn out. But this book? Barely registered on the Charlotte Richter Scale - so what's wrong with it? 

Zog is a young dragon, enrolled in Dragon School and learning about all the things that dragons need to know to set them up in life. Breathing fire instead of snow, flying loop the loops and kidnapping princesses from castles. 

Zog's a bit of a clumsy chap, but with the aid (and extensive medical knowledge) of a young girl, he soars to the top of the class and comes out with top honours. 

I've tried to put my finger on why this doesn't float Charlotte's boat (or mine, for that matter). Perhaps it's a little bit too much like other Donaldson / Scheffler books. Perhaps the rhyming text isn't quite as tight or as memorable as in books like The Gruffalo or even Tiddler. But this book swiftly sank straight to the bottom of our library haul this week which seems a shame because it looked like it could be extremely entertaining. 

Charlotte's best bit: Dragons breathing snow instead of fire

Daddy's favourite bit: The knight at the end. Tell me he doesn't have ulterior motives for shacking up with the medic princess!

Rating: A rather shocking and unexpected 2 out of 5
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Friday 19 August 2011

Can you see Sassoon?

If your children are a bit too young for the "Where's Wally?" books, then "Can you see Sassoon?" might make a nice little substitute. Sassoon is a slinky, sneaky snake who likes to hide in pictures. In each panel he's sneakily tucked away amongst ordinary everyday objects, and your toddlers will enjoy trying to find his stripy body and peeping eyes each time. 

Some great ideas in this book, though sometimes it's a bit teasingly unfair. Nevertheless, once your children learn where Sassoon is in each page, they'll enjoy it all the more. 

Charlotte's best bit: Sassoon holding up a balloon

Daddy's favourite bit: Sneakily wrapped around a present

Rating: 2 out of 5

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Kimberley's Scary Day

Wolves are often cast as the 'bad guys' in children's stories, but foxes aren't far off the mark either. Sneaky, charming (in their own way) and often with a rumbling tummy, Kimberley's Scary Day shows what happens when a trusting (and rather silly) Guinea Pig named Kimberley falls for the charms and wiles of a fox in disguise. 

It's a very short and sweet book, and there's a nice little cameo at the end that most children will delight at. Great artwork from Ross Collins (who knew that Guinea Pigs had iPods?) and a nice twist on a fairly familiar tale. 

Charlotte's best bit: Foxy shadow on the wall

Daddy's favourite bit: Ross Collins' description of his love of fine Guinea Pig cuisine

Rating: 3 out of 5
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Who's in the loo?

There's a stage* that most toddlers / preschoolers reach where the funniest jokes in the world revolve around pooing and weeing. If your children have arrived at this stage, then here's a book that will have them rolling around on the floor giggling like lunatics. 

"Who's in the Loo?" by Jeanne Willis and Adrian Reynolds is the tale of a couple of inquisitive children standing in a very long queue for the loo. Who is in there? And why are they taking so long? Cross your legs, wait a while and you'll find out right at the end of the book after first going through a funny rhyming story full of kid-friendly toilet gags. 

*Yes alright I'll admit it, you never really grow out of this stage. 

Charlotte's best bit: "Is it a Wombat who wanted a widdle?"

Daddy's favourite bit: The frozen penguin. Owch. 

Rating: 4 out of 5

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Thursday 18 August 2011


Back home at Maybe Towers, we've got a bit of a problem. A pig, by the name of Merlin, a happy little fellow, is in constant demand by Charlotte. The big problem is that Merlin (the Happy Pig) exists only in my imagination and Charlotte often shouts "Read Merlin!" at inopportune moments. Reading Merlin usually means making something up on the spot, usually a story about Merlin getting his pocket money, buying loads of sweets, not brushing his teeth, getting toothache and then having to visit the dentist the next day. 

So it comes as a joy to find that Colin McNaughton's "Preston Pig" books work quite nicely when I sneakily substitute the name Preston for the name Merlin. 

So in "Suddenly" we see Preston, er I mean Merlin, going through his normal day. Unbeknownst to him he's being stalked by a rather large, rather scary and rather hungry wolf. 

Preston..er Merlin is a lucky chap though and just as you think he's suddenly going to end up as a Wolf-sized entree, he manages to escape by the skin of his teeth. 

Colin McNaughton's book is excellent and I look forward to reading more in the Preston Pig series - even if it means that I'll have to do more sneaky character substitution. 

Charlotte's best bit - Preston (I mean Merlin) cuddling his mummy. 

Daddy's favourite bit - The bully getting his rather nasty comeuppance half way through the book. 

Rating: 5 out of 5 - Book of the week

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Tuesday 16 August 2011

Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs: Missing Treasure!

Produce a kid's book with pirates in it and you're on to a sure fire winner. Produce a kid's book that has pirate DINOSAURS in it and it can't fail, surely?

Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs is the sequel to the original Captain Flinn book. In it, a busy and inquisitive boy named Flinn finds a secret cupboard at the back of a museum after a raid on the collection's famed pirate horde of gold coins. 

On the way Flinn meets Grumbleguts, and leads his friends on a daring mission to recover the stolen booty, and defeat the awesome Gigantosaurus. 

It's a fizzing, busy book full of neat little panels and drawings. The story's pretty standard fare but still worth a look. After all, it's not every day you get to combine two awesome forces like dinos and pirates, is it?

Charlotte's best bit: Grumbleguts the Pirate being covered in Ketchup

Daddy's favourite bit: The superb comic-style panel cutaway of the pirate ship at the end. 

Rating: 3 out of 5
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The Perfect Prince

Life's not easy when you're a Princess. The constant pressure of your parents trying to marry you off to Princes who are too fat, too skinny, too boring or too smelly. Definitely takes the shine off an otherwise perfect life. 

Princess Isabella decides that this isn't the life for her, and in a twist on "The Princess and the Frog", strange and magical things happen when the regal lass snogs a warty pond-dweller on an afternoon walk. 

A little too close for comfort to the Disney film "The Frog Princess" in some places, The Perfect Prince nevertheless manages to be a fun read with some wonderfully quirky artwork (I'd love to know where Sue Mason and other artists source all their weird photogravure clip art from. I can never find any by googling for the stuff, durn it!)

You'll see the twist at the end coming a mile off, but don't worry, it's a croaking good read all the same. 

Charlotte's best bit: An odd toy floating in the castle moat (!)

Daddy's favourite bit: Froggy antics at the end of the book

Rating: 3 out of 5

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Tuesday 9 August 2011

Mine's bigger than yours!

If there's one thing that makes me angrier than anything else as a parent, it's bullying. Even at preschool age, you can see the seeds of bullying growing in certain kids, who push the boundaries of what's acceptable behaviour, becoming pretty nasty little characters. 

This book deals with the issues of bullying in a rather light hearted way, but the message is the same. Bullies tend to make a lot of noise and fuss, but the end result is usually the same even though it might not seem like it at the time. 

In Jeanne Willis and Adrian Reynolds' book, little monster is continually harassed by big monster for her lollipop. Big monster chases her all around monster island until she's had enough and hides. But there's a rather nasty surprise waiting for big monster - who gets his just desserts in the end. 

Fair enough, you can't expect all bullies to meet the sticky end that big monster does in this book, but if your child is being bullied, even from an early age, do as much as you can about it and make as much fuss as you can - it just shouldn't be tolerated in any shape or form, even monster-shaped. 

Charlotte's best bit - Little Monster climbing trees to escape

Daddy's favourite bit - the pay-off at the end. 

Rating - 4 out of 5 stars
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Aaaarrggh! Spider!

After a fantastic reading on the Cbeebies Lunchtime Hour by the gangly Andy, we knew we had to seek out Lydia Monks' "Aaaarrgghh! Spider!" for ourselves.

Having previously enjoyed the very similar "Eeek! Mouse!", we enjoyed this book for the same reasons. Great fun and colourful panels mixed with a humorous story about a poor lonely spider who just wants to be a family pet. Despite trying all sorts of tricks and impressive stunts to win the family over, the poor spider seems destined to spend its days being thrown out of the house (or washed out!)

Of course, everything turns out OK in the end. A great little book and fully deserving of its book of the week status. 

Charlotte's best bit - "Look at me, watch me wash!"

Daddy's favourite bit - Look at the little girl's foot at the very end of the book. Oops!

Rating - 5 out of 5 stars

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Tuesday 2 August 2011

Professor Puffendorf's Secret Potions (revisited)

We originally reviewed "Professor Puffendorf's Secret Potions" back in October last year. Like a lot of our local library's books, Charlotte often picks the same books out of the stacks again and again, and this book is no exception. 

Since the original review, Charlotte has become less obsessed with "the doctor lady" and more obsessed with her furry sidekick Chip, a guinea pig (Charlotte loves guinea pigs more than baby rabbits now, and she also finds Chip's name quite amusing. "Is it because he eats a lot of chips?")

The story of the Professor's lazy and rather nasty assistant Enzo, his attempts to steal the Professor's magical potions, and of course the method by which Enzo gets his come-uppance is an excellent tale - competing easily with the other Korky Paul Illustrated books featuring a certain Witch called Winnie (in fact I'm still a bit sad that Winnie didn't crop up in this one, particularly as she had a couple of neat little cameos in Sanjay the Baker). 

Still, Professor Puffendorf is excellent (even though she spends the majority of the book absent) and it would be great if Tzannes / Paul could do at least one more book featuring her antics (and Chip's, of course!)

Charlotte's best bit - Counting to 5 as each potion weaves its magic on the poor hapless Chip

Daddy's favourite bit - Yeah you've guessed it, still in love with Korky Paul's scratchy art style

Rating - 4 out of 5 
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Tati's Hotel - Magic Muddle

In the second of an occasional look at kid-friendly games and apps, ReadItDaddy was fortunate enough to be sent a promo of Tati's Hotel - Magic Muddle. This kid-friendly app once again assumes that you, as a trusting parent, don't mind your youngster pawing your favourite smartphone (or iPad) to play a distracting game while mummy or daddy juggle the housework, drive the car or push the shopping trolley around. 

I'll admit that we've never heard of Tati's Hotel, a CITV show. Apparently I've heard that it's sort of like a child-friendly version of Fawlty Towers (the mind boggles!) and this app shows off some of the whacky characters from the programme. 

Essentially it's an extremely simple puzzle game that lets toddlers press away at the screen in order to rearrange a muddled up picture of a character, restoring it to normal. It's as simple as that. Tap a block or swipe it to move it around the screen, and once you've completed the picture your best times on each puzzle are recorded. 

Unlike most kid apps, this one doesn't kick you firmly in the wallet at 69p. Alas though there's so little to it, and even if your children love the show and the characters they might very swiftly get bored doing the same thing over and over again (and 'best times' are lost on most toddlers so there isn't even the competitive hook of getting a great score). 

Charlotte's best bit - Easy to control

Daddy's favourite bit - Wallet friendly, unlike a lot of kid apps

Rating: 2 out of 5

Tati's Hotel - Magic Muddle on iTunes (Universal, 69p)
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