Friday 9 December 2011

The Boy Who Cried Ninja

There are a ton of books for children that feature pirates. Tons more feature dinosaurs. Still more feature cute and cuddly animals but have we had many children's books that feature Ninjas? No we haven't so it's good to see Alex Latimer redressing the balance and giving the black-suited stealth experts their time in the sun (or the dark, dark shadows). 

Young Tim is a boy who spins tall stories and makes terrible excuses for his wrongdoings. But when Tim decides to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, things go from bad to worse. 

The Ninja (in the title) steals into Tim's house one day to snaffle the cake (with an expert kick and a flick, it's gone in a trice). That's just the beginning of Tim's woes, as a whole host of other characters make his life a misery. Will everything be set right in the end? You'll have to read the book to find out but it looks like Alex Latimer will be a children's author and illustrator to watch in the future, this book is absolutely fantastic. 

Charlotte's best bit - The schoolbag-eating Octopus

Daddy's favourite bit - The characters being made to rake up the leaves (and, er, smelly piles of doggy poo)

Rating - 5 out of 5 stars
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King Ocean's Flute

Every now and again we spy a book in the library that has such an eye-catching cover that it just has to be investigated further. King Ocean's Flute by Lucy Coats and Peter Malone is one such book. Peter Malone's painted illustrations throughout this story are absolutely stunning (and very tasteful, despite frequent nudity, it's worth noting!) 

King Ocean's Flute is the story of a young shepherd who decides to learn the flute after being given one as a gift by his grandfather. At first he is absolutely terrible, and can only make a wailing shriek. But as he travels, and listens to the advice of the birds and other animals, he becomes quite adept on his chosen instrument - so much so that a passing mermaid hears him and decides that he might be the very person to challenge King Ocean - the undersea king and flute maestro. 

The story borders on the surreal but it's so beautifully illustrated and so engaging that you may find it impossible to resist its charms. 

Charlotte's best bit - The puffer fish

Daddy's favourite bit - Malone's various methods of sparing the mermaids their blushes. 

Rating - 5 out of 5 stars
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Cottonwool Colin

Dynamic Duo Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross can always be relied on for a good yarn, and Cottonwool Colin's relatively simple central theme - about an over-protective mum - might ring a few bells with some of you. 

Cottonwool Colin is the smallest mouse in the mouse family. His brothers and sisters are all bigger, and his mum worries about Colin a lot. After a throwaway comment from Granny Mouse, Mother Mouse decides that the best way to protect Colin from the outside world is to wrap him up in cotton wool. 

Poor Colin struggles on with his life until a revelatory series of events show Colin, and his mum, that being wrapped up in cotton wool will only get you so far. 

It's such a simple idea but so beautifully executed by Willis and Ross. Superb reading and Ross' trademark scratchy colourful drawings really help to bring the simple tale to life. 

Charlotte's best bit - Colin being mistaken for a snowball

Daddy's favourite bit - Poor Colin being mistaken for a meringue by a hungry swan. 

Rating - 4 out of 5 stars
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Thursday 8 December 2011


A new Oliver Jeffers book? Sign us up! We love Oliver Jeffers' superb art and simple eye for a good story that's wrapped around a (usually) surreal central theme. 

A boy loses his kite in a tree one day, and rather than do what any normal person would do, the boy proceeds to find as many objects as he can to throw at the kite to dislodge it. 

If you remember the nursery rhyme "There was an old lady who swallowed a fly" you'll see what Jeffers has done here, but it's so beautifully presented, utterly ridiculous and charmingly done that you'll forgive him a bit of creative thieving. 

An excellent addition to Jeffers' near-legendary output. Simple but beautifully effective. 

Charlotte's best bit - The inquisitive whale

Daddy's favourite bit - The house across the road

Rating - 4 out of 5 stars
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The Usborne Book of Christmas Art Ideas

It might've just slipped your notice that Christmas is coming and the month of December seems to have gone into hyperdrive, swinging towards that day when all children wake up at 3am wondering if Santa has been. 

Taking a look at a few seasonal books over the last few weeks, one stuck out as a particularly valuable resource - particularly when you're trying to think of interesting Christmassy makes for your children to make then send to family and friends. 

The Usborne Book of Christmas Art Ideas by Fiona Watt is chock full of really simple but beautifully effective ideas for christmas decorations, wrapping paper, or fun festive pictures. Each idea is clearly illustrated and the list of required items can mostly be found around the house (if your house is anything like ours, and seems to be bursting at the seams with glitter glue, PVA and odd scraps of coloured paper). 

We've made quite a few items from the book already, and it's a clear winner with Charlotte. I'm quite looking forward to doing the massive Snowman montage finger painting. 

Charlotte's best bit - The crazy santas made from torn up coloured paper and newspaper

Daddy's favourite bit - The simple but effective christmas lanterns

Rating - 5 out of 5 stars, Book of the Week
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Friday 2 December 2011

All I Want For Books!

When we asked Charlotte what books she'd like for Christmas, she came up with a list of various books - some with a christmas theme, and some without. 

Here's the top ten books on Charlotte's christmas list. She probably won't get them all, but you never know what Santa might pull out of his sack. 

In no particular order: 

10) The Art of Pixar - 25 years of Animation (Chronicle Books)

A fantastic book rounding up the last 25 years of Pixar animation, and containing plenty of artwork and scripts from some of Charlotte's favourite films. Glossy and beautifully presented, this would probably be quite high up my present list too. 

9) Aliens Love Panta Claus (Simon and Schuster Children's Books)

Claire Friedman and Ben Cort's "Aliens / Underpants" series are always popular, and this is fantastic. Aliens don't steal underpants at Christmas, they give them away and enlist the help of Panta Claus to make sure everyone has a nice snug warm pair of briefs in their christmas stocking. 

8) The Illustrated Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Pop Up Book (Puffin Books)

Roald Dahl's timeless classic, in conjunction with Quentin Blake's fabulous scratchy drawings bring Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to life in a whole new way. A gorgeous and luxurious hard backed pop-up book that the whole family can enjoy. Forget the movies, this is the definitive way to enjoy the sweetest, tastiest, yumscrumptious children's book ever written

7) Barefoot Books World Atlas (Barefoot Books)

A beautifully illustrated educational atlas presented in the trademark Barefoot Books way, with so much to look at and absorb it deserves to become a definitive children's resource. Nick Crane and David Dean have gone to town producing something that has fold-out maps, tons of information on each continent and country, and plenty of activity ideas to fire up your child's imagination. Absolutely perfect. 

6) Goodbye Mog (HarperCollins Children's Books)

Given the choice between the various Mog books Charlotte doesn't already own, she chose Goodbye Mog. An odd choice, a book beautifully written and illustrated by Judith Kerr that deals with one of the most difficult subjects a parent has to tackle, the death of a loved one. As with all Kerr's books, it's timeless and wonderful and deserves to be read again and again. 

5) Richard Scarry's Best Christmas Ever (Sterling Books)

Richard Scarry's fantastic anthropomorphised animals have set the standard for donkeys years for cute cuddly animals doing the things we humans love to do - including celebrating Christmas! Enjoyed for generations, Richard Scarry's Best Christmas Book Ever is back in print, and the colourful panels and illustrations are full to the brim with detail. Absolutely every childhood memory you have of a perfect christmas is jam-packed into this book. A must-buy

4) Tangled - Storybook and CD (Parragon Publishing)

Disney's latest animated feature, and newest addition to their Princesses, is a massive hit with Charlotte and there are a ton of books based on Rapunzel available this christmas (as well as dolls, hairbrushes, Barbies and a whole lot more. We chose the Tangled CD and Story Book as it follows the movie more closely than some of the other available books. Illustrations and panels from the movie compliment a simplified abridged version of the Rapunzel story. Movie sound effects and music are used to good effect on the accompanying CD too. 

3) Usborne Illustrated Fairy Tales (Usborne Children's Books)

Probably one of the best anthology collections of classic children's fairy tales. This big thick luxurious hardbacked volume is one that children can come back to again and again at any time of the year, not just Christmas. Though Disney might lay claim to a lot of the characters and stories you'll find in this book, these are the original tales and are beautifully illustrated without a lot of that Disney cuteness tacked in. 

2) The Strictly Annual 2012 (BBC Books)

Oh dear, how did this get in here! Two things rule the roost at home at the moment - Strictly and Take That (I blame CanIWalkMummy entirely!). Saturday and sunday evening are entirely consumed by Strictly fever (Charlotte wants Jason to win, but I think CanIWalkMummy is voting for Harry). The Official Strictly Come Dancing 2012 annual is a glossy, glitzy catch-up with the stars and professionals from the 2011 series. If you just cannot get enough Strictly, keep dancing down to the shops to pick up a copy of this

1) A Dose of Dr Dog (Red Fox Picture Books)

Without a doubt, one of the biggest "hits" of the year with Charlotte was Babette Cole's Dr Dog. Here's a little more Dr Dog as our favourite medical canine looks into all sorts of cures and potions to test out on the hapless Gumboyle family. Dr Dog was so popular I think it has spent more time at home than in the library this year, so this quite rightly goes straight to the top of Charlotte's "wanted" list. 

Time to dig out the moth eaten wallet and see how many of these we can grab. Of course, if any publishers are reading - with promotional copies just sitting there gathering dust.... :)

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from ReadItDaddy, Charlotte and CanIWalkMummy
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Thursday 1 December 2011

We Honestly Can Look After Your Dog

I have this little girl, Charlotte. She's small and very funny - and seems to be slightly obsessed with Charlie and Lola. In "We honestly can look after your dog" Lola takes centre stage as usual, and aided and abetted by her best friend Lotta, offers to help look after Sizzles. 

Those of you who've seen the TV programme will probably know that Sizzles is the cute and rather clever (and extremely hungry) sausage dog belonging to Marv, Charlie's best friend. While Charlie and Marv have a game of football, Lotta and Lola look after Sizzles (poor Sizzles ends up with a rather fetching bow on his head, and hair slides attached to his ears, owch!)

Needless to say, Lola can't quite look after Sizzles as well as she expected and when not one but TWO sizzles end up vying for her attention, things get out of hand. 

Any of you with children who constantly clamour for pets might easily identify with the message in this book. With Lauren Child's superb art work and montages, it's a winner for fans of the show. 

Charlotte's best bit - Sizzles' expression after being "made over" by Lotta and Lola

Daddy's favourite bit - Sizzles one and Sizzles two reacting differently to the "Sit" command. 

Rating - 4 out of 5 stars
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Captain Gamma - Mission to Mars

Coming across like a slightly more bullish and mean version of Buzz Lightyear, Captain Gamma is the first human to set foot on mars. Claiming it for earth, Captain Gamma doesn't realise that he might not be alone up there. 

An amusing little tale that makes you wonder how we'd react to meeting an alien species for the first time. Captain Gamma's bullish and rather greedy ways are soon put in check when he meets his match in a pint-sized blue alien who doesn't take too kindly to being captured for display in an earth zoo. 

Charlotte had previously seen this book at her preschool and jumped at the chance to grab it from the library and it is an excellent book for kids obsessed with all things spacey. 

Charlotte's best bit - The alien's blue bottom sticking out from behind a rock while playing hide and seek

Daddy's favourite bit - Captain Gamma's comeuppance for his greedy and avaricious ways

Rating - 4 out of 5 (shooting) stars

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