Monday 30 January 2012

Testing out the Dynamic Views on Blogger

Hi Folks...

I'm testing out the new Dynamic Views on Blogger so bear with me. Views can  be swapped with the menu at the top of the screen. If you really prefer the old style, let me know :)

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Friday 27 January 2012

When Witch's Wands Won't Work

More spookiness, this time in the shape of a couple of witches with a slight problem, their wands no longer work. And what is a witch without magic? Well she's a slightly grumpy and warty old lady with a smelly cat - that's what.

While on holiday, Rattle, Ricket and their cat Rum suffer a luggage malfunction and end up wand-less. In this sequel to "Which Witch's Wand Works" the hapless pair try their best to conjure up their magical powers. Bernatene's tongue-twisting text might cause you to wrestle with your words a wee while, but his artwork is stunning and though the book didn't quite catch Charlotte's eye as much as other Witchy books (she still loves Winnie the Witch best, with Meg and Mog coming a close second), it's still fairly spooky stuff.

Charlotte's best bit: Rum!

Daddy's favourite bit: Rum!

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
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The Ghost Train

I completely missed out on the "Funny Bones" books as a kid but I'm reliably informed by my lovely wife CanIWalkMummy that they're children's classics.

Allan Ahlberg is pretty much a legend in children's books (both as illustrator and author) and Andre Amstutz's haphazard, chaotic but wonderfully comic illustrations are great fodder for young minds who don't mind "spooky" as long as it's not too scary.

The Ghost Train tells the story of a polite pair of skeletons (and their skeleton dog) who decide to take a trip to the Ghostly Seaside. Along the way they meet various spooky folk, enjoy the sights and sounds of the spooky seashore and generally have a high old time.

As with all the best children's books, it's not so much what goes on in the foreground that matters as what's happening around the central characters and the storyline. Amstutz delights in adding in strange little shadowy figures and spooky creatures in the background and these are always great to spot for youngsters.

There's a huge range of "Funny Bones" books available and I'm quite surprised we've never seen them before at our local library. We'll definitely be keeping our eyes peeled for more.

Charlotte's best bit: The spooky monster baby

Daddy's favourite bit: Amstutz's effective use of shadowy forms to suggest menacing figures waiting in the wings

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Thursday 26 January 2012

Biscuit Bear

Oh how we love Mini Grey's books. They're usually bordering on the surreal, they're always exquisitely illustrated and are undoubtedly amongst the books we take out of the library the most.

This is the second outing for Biscuit Bear for us, and I could've sworn I'd reviewed it before (Blogger Search Says "No"). Nevertheless the tale of a young lad, his lump of dough, and the biscuit bear he makes one day is effortlessly charming and amusing (you know, I'm sure given half the chance Charlotte would probably do terrible things to lumps of dough just like the little chap in this story - though we'd draw the line at letting her press it around the loo seat as the little boy did on one page, EEK!)

Biscuit Bear is smart and canny though and doesn't want to be alone. So he makes some new friends in the only way a biscuit bear can. By baking them!

It was a tough choice between this and "Paint the Whole World" for book of the week, this comes a really close second (though I'd love to have seen a few more pages at the end of the book when Biscuit Bear finds his calling in life) - it all seems to end a little flat. You'll see what I mean.

Still a superb book. Now where did I put my pastry cutter?

Charlotte's best bit: The naughty dog and what he does.

Daddy's favourite bit: The absolutely perfect expression of guilt on the dog's face.

Rating: 4 (and a half) out of 5 stars
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Where's Hello Kitty?

I'll admit it. I don't really understand the appeal of Hello Kitty, yet the fervour surrounding any HK merchandise is crazy. You name it, it's been "kittified" and the latest addition to the range of products is the "Where's Hello Kitty?" book.

"Where's Wally" was the original "find a skinny scarf-wearing needle in a giant haystack" book and the Hello Kitty version follows the same tried and tested formula, punctuated by 'activity pages' for giggly girls (and boys, yep boys too) who love Hello Kitty's unique fashions and friends.

The book is fairly tough going for youngsters who don't quite understand the subtle differences between the Kitty you're asked to spot, and the many many very similar looking Kitties dotted all over the searchable pages.

One for older children, or slightly mad Hello Kitty-obsessive adults perhaps.

Charlotte's best bit: The "Friends quiz" halfway through the book

Daddy's favourite bit: N/A

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
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If I Could Paint The World

Painting, a subject very dear to my heart, and something that I'm happy to say my daughter loves a lot too (though she's far far better at it than I am). Watching a child paint, and watching how they expertly take a white space and turn it into their own little world is fascinating.

Sarah Massini's book tells the story of a little girl who challenges the way we look at the world, re-imagining it in all the colours of the rainbow. What if grass were pink? What if we could have blue ketchup on our crimson fish fingers?

Expertly illustrated (yep, another writer-illustrator with such a fantastic amount of talent that I'm green with envy!) and beautifully paced, "If I Could Paint the World" fully deserves to be our book of the week.

Charlotte's best bit: Imagining what Barbie Washing Hair would look like with mint-green locks

Daddy's favourite bit: Massini's beautiful ink and colour illustrations

Rating: 5 out of 5, Book of the Week
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Goodnight, Baby Bat

Bats aren't exactly the first creatures you imagine when you think "cute and cuddly" but this snuggly bedtime story from Debi Gliori might just change your mind. Going through bedtime hell at the moment (another one of those things that seem to happen just as your child turns 4) so we identified with the simple story of a mummy bat trying to get her fidgety fusspot child to sleep.

With lift-the-flap pages and some quite spooky illustrations, Goodnight Baby Bat is one of those books that will have mummy or daddy yawning along with their children.

Lovely, quirky and original, just the way we like 'em at ReadItDaddy

Charlotte's best bit: Tucking Mr Snail up in his shell for the night

Daddy's favourite bit: Saying "Close your eyes, eyes, eyes, eyes, eyes" to Mr Spider.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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Thursday 19 January 2012

Ten books I can't wait for my daughter to read - The CanIWalkMummy Mix

As promised, I thought I'd ask my lovely wife CanIWalkMummy for a slightly more female-centric list of books she can't wait for Charlotte to read.

She came up trumps and here's her list.

1) The Famous Five (various books) by Enid Blyton

Though my memories of this book have been mercilessly altered because of the excellent Comic Strip Presents parodies, I definitely remember reading The Famous Five as a kid and wondering how that ragtag gang, Julian, Dick, Anne, George (and of course Timmy the Dog) managed to thwart so many (useless) criminal masterminds. Blyton's books might have fallen slightly out of favour (claims of political incorrectness, even veiled racism often surround any mention of her work) but she provided the model for putting children front and centre as the focal point for the stories. Fantastical situations, and lashings of ginger beer. Though they may seem a little old fashioned, they're still extremely entertaining for young readers.

2) The Railway Children by E. Nesbit

Unfairly, Edith Nesbit always seems to play second fiddle to Enid Blyton but you could probably argue that she's the better writer. Though most people will probably more readily remember the Film and TV adaptations of The Railway Children (I shall not mention the massive crush I had on Jenny Agutter as a child and for quite some time as an adult!) nor shall I make mention of the fact that I still find that scene where the daddy comes back really hard to watch on TV (I've got something in my eye, honestly) but the book is interesting and nicely paced, perfect fodder for a young enquiring mind.

What strikes me most about the book is that despite its setting, it feels like a contemporary situation described in a non-contemporary way. Children taken away from familiar surroundings, needing to cope with adverse conditions, and letting their imaginations provide the portal out of their situation into something more desirable. Heroic acts and strong characters underpin a fantastic book.

3) The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S Lewis

As per my previous list

4) The BFG by Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl books belong in anyone's top ten children's book lists. The BFG (Big Friendly Giant) is one of Dahl's best loved books and it's easy to see why. Introducing children to the giant, who in any other circumstance would be quite a scary character, but showing him as heroic, cuddly and full of knowledge to impart is a stroke of genius. With the little girl (Sophie) and the giant allegedly based on Dahl himself and his grand-daughter, the feeling that the book was written with love and with great care and attention to the relationship between the giant and the child shines through.

Along with Matilda, The Witches, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (of course!)  and a brace of other Dahl books, The BFG is deservedly a timeless classic.

5) Malory Towers by Enid Blyton

Recently updated with a bunch of new cover art, it's surprising how Malory Towers seems to feel more modern and contemporary than any of Blyton's other books. Despite the various updates to things like Noddy and The Famous Five over the years, the updated versions still seem to feel relatively old fashioned and twee. Malory Towers retains all the elements of a young girl's trials and tribulations at her new school, with subjects and situations that any young school starters will identify with (well, obviously it depends on the school they're going to, but the feelings and emotions definitely carry across even if some of the 'private school-centric' ideas don't).

6) The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

As my wife points out, it's sometimes hard to remember if you have strong memories of childhood books, or the films that were spawned by them. One such book is The Secret Garden. I definitely haven't read it but I'm familiar with the story of a young girl who finds a wilderness growing behind a secret ivy-covered door in the sprawling grounds of her uncle's estate. Like many successful children's books where the protagonist is taken away from all they know and love and placed in unfamiliar surroundings, part of the Secret Garden's appeal is the character taking something and making it their own, bringing back a little something to their lives that was previously missing.

If the movies or TV adaptations are anything to go by, it's an enchanting book with great characterisation. I'm now sorely tempted to read this just so I can give a better and more balanced opinion of it.

7) Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Despite the 'Disney Effect' of the book being robbed of its identity (and quite a lot of its dark surrealism, even despite a movie adaptation by the master of dark surreality, Tim Burton), Alice in Wonderland and Through The Looking-Glass are astonishing works that arguably became the template for so many other children's books and authors to follow. Lewis Carroll perfected the art of underpinning the ordinary everyday familiar world with nonsensical characters and situations that feel dream-like and bizarre, but tap into a child's imagination in a way that ensures the book will be well loved and well remembered. So many adults have pored over and analysed the book's content, either looking for something slightly sinister to say about Carroll's obsession with Alice Liddell, and the various caricatures of Dodgson's (Carroll's) influences and familiars. At its heart it's pure fantasy and nonsense (underpinned, if you get the best version, by John Tenniel's absolutely sublime ink drawings of the characters - that thankfully haven't been eroded at all by Disney's attempts to standardise them).

8) The Diary of Anne Frank (Abridged Children's Version) by Anne Frank

A compelling, often hopeful and at times disturbing look into the psyche of a young girl in war torn Europe, The Diary of Anne Frank is probably one of the most familiar and most often read descriptions of how children cope with war. Hiding out in the back-rooms of a printer's shop, the Frank Family and other refugees eke out an existence against the backdrop of Nazi occupation and persecution.

There are so many myths and stories surrounding the book, Anne herself, and her father Otto Frank (who was accused of producing the book himself at one point) but it remains an incredibly strong work with a powerful message. As with some of the books I mentioned in my top ten list, books on the subject of war and children's experiences of war make for compelling reading and are still (quite rightly) staple fodder in schools. It's important to tell these stories and keep them alive, and no book does a better job than this

9) Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

My memories of this are really only of the 70s TV series but my wife has read the book (or had it read to her) and regards it as a classic. The near-legendary character of Beauty, a horse that becomes the centre of a series of adventures throughout the book, aided and abetted by a young girl.

There are several versions of the book, and the one shown is a heavily abridged "children's" version (a children's version of a book that was originally written for children - heavily sanitised and removing all elements of suspense and danger) so be careful which one you go for. Hunt out Sewell's original if your children aren't sensitive types upset by fires or danger.

10) The Secret Seven by Enid Blyton

Though one could technically argue that Enid Blyton was being a bit cheeky here, reusing the idea of The Famous Five and just adding a couple of extra kids to the mix, The Secret Seven books follow the tried and trusted formula of putting children front and centre in a series of heroic tales plays things safe. They seem to have had something of a comeback lately (probably because they've often been 'contemporised' to provide more modern-audience-friendly fare.

There are quite a few books in the series and if children like serial books with the same characters running through them, they'll probably lap these up.

And that's the list. Quite a few good choices there and my wife also mentioned Roald Dahl's 'Boy' book, as fascinating a tale about his young life as any of his fictional works provide. She probably won't want me to mention The Little House on the Prarie by Laura Ingalls Wilder but it'd probably be in there somewhere too.

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Tuesday 17 January 2012

Ten children's books I can't wait to introduce my daughter to..

When I was a wee whippersnapper, I remember our school having a "Book Newsletter" type thing that allowed parents to buy (cheaply) a different book every month for their child. The scheme is probably still going on (and the Bookstart scheme is fantastic) but I remember it for a lot of reasons, mostly because it was how I was introduced to some of the best books of my childhood.

I also had an extremely good primary school Teacher (Miss Cox) and of course my mum to thank for turning me into a bookworm. Something I'm trying to pass on to my daughter (and it seems to be working!)

Now she's getting to the stage beyond the simple picture book, I'm starting to think of the books I loved as a child - some of which are now (quite rightly) modern classics in their own right, some were even classics when I was young. So here's a list of the ten books I can't wait to read to Charlotte (or better still, can't wait till she can read them herself).

1) The Giant Under the Snow - John Gordon

One of the spookiest, most atmospheric and most influential books I have ever read. I spent a good 25 years or more hunting for a copy of this and was lucky enough to find one (with this original cover, and its nightmare-inducing illustration) at a car boot sale. I was almost in tears as I handed over a quid (the price was 25p but I was so grateful I just forked over a quid) and took it home.

It's the story of a young girl, Jonquil Winters, and her two friends who embark on a journey of mystery surrounding the return of The Giant - a long-buried figure of malice who once again stalks the earth through dark magic, ready to rise again and enslave humanity. It reads very well, and it's chock full of descriptive characters including Jonquil herself. It struck such a chord with me as a child that I could readily draw the leathery skeleton characters and the giant himself from memory. It's scary and a bit spooky so it will probably be quite a few years before I'll be allowed to let Charlotte anywhere near it but if you're ever lucky enough to grab a copy, do so, it's astonishingly good

2) Stig of the Dump - Clive King

The original - with its superb illustrations by Edward Ardizzone, is a standout children's classic. The notion of finding a lost caveman scraping out a living in a dirty smelly old dump, making his home from the rubbish he finds there, is quite enchanting. Like most tales of anachronistic characters fetching up in the wrong time, Stig of the Dump spends a lot of time building up a sense of wonder around familiar things. I can still remember thinking how cool it was to have a house with an old car door as its front door, or bottles stacked up as a window.

Before the urban sprawl took over, there were a lot of places where, as a child, you could go and explore (probably places that would turn a modern parent's hair white overnight) and live out the fantasy that you might find a remnant of the stone age scrabbling around in the discarded rubbish.

Awesome and imaginative.

3) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 

Bit of a cheat this one as Charlotte has already had quite a bit of this book read to her, but I look forward to one day doing it proper justice (and hopefully getting Charlotte over her fear of Violet Beauregarde changing into a giant blueberry girl). The movies (both old and new) have sullied the book a bit (oddly enough I liked the new movie at first but it really can't hold a candle up to the original book in any shape or form - something you could say about most of Tim Burton's movies).

Above all, the powerful imagination of a child can produce far better (mental) images of Willy Wonka's fantastic concoctions, and a far better impression of how horrid some of the children who accompany Charlie on a tour of Wonka's factory really are and how delicious their comeuppances are when they finally happen.

A timeless classic, like most of Dahl's books

4) The Owl Service by Alan Garner

Another spooky book this, and another book chock full of atmosphere. Alan Garner's "The Owl Service" was passed around at school (the school's library copies never seemed to be "in" whenever I wanted to borrow them) - but we were lucky enough to study the book during English lessons and I was hopelessly hooked from the word go. Telling the story of three teenagers coming to terms with family upheaval, and encountering an all-too-real welsh legend that threatens to sweep them up in its grasp, it's a multi-layered and quite complex book (even for an adult) that really strikes a chord with anyone who grew up in a single-parent family.

As others have said elsewhere, it could well put you off family holidays in Wales forever. Spooky, imaginative, descriptive and absolutely essential reading for young teens.

5) The Machine Gunners by Robert Westall

Another book that was studied at school, The Machine Gunners tells the story of a young lad coping with the Blitz in World War 2. Fascinated by the ever-encroaching war, a downed German plane provides an opportunity for the boy's imagination to let fly.

It's been a very long time since I read the book but I remember the way Robert Westall builds up the levels of tension throughout, until the quite shocking and wholly unexpected end.

There's no easy way to help children understand the importance of the sacrifices their grandparents and great grandparents (and great great grandparents) made for their country in wars, but Westall's book offers both an insight into these, and also an insight into how easily influenced a child's mind can be.

Dark and disturbing at times, sometimes tragic but with a strong clear message, it's timeless stuff.

6) The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier and Jane Serraillier

 Another book touching on the impact of war, this time with a driven message of hope threaded throughout an expertly written story of children fending for themselves in war-torn Poland, embarking on an epic journey to be reuinted with their parents. The symbolic 'Silver Sword' of the title is their almost mythical belief that something other-worldly can protect them on their hazardous quest.

Never holding back harrowing descriptions of the impact of war, The Silver Sword is probably one of the best books written for children about the impact of WWII on Europe - but more than that, it contains some of the strongest messages of self worth and self belief a child can read.

7) The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien

Does this book fall in and out of favour every few years or so? Or is there a perception that Tolkien's works are slowly being eroded by other fantasy novels, more modern fare that suits the contemporary palate better? I'll argue that The Hobbit - the perfect introduction to Tolkien's (sometimes unapproachable) works - is a book that paints vivid pictures of the world of Middle Earth far more effectively than the most expertly produced CGI, more effectively even than Tolkien's own scribbly ink illustrations. I was first introduced to this book when I was 5 - which might seem a little early (and might make me sound a little precocious) but thanks to my teacher at the time (Miss Cox, take a bow) and the project she wove around this book, I've loved it ever since and it made me want to read The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion just to dip back into Tolkien's imaginative worlds.

With all the interest surrounding Peter Jackson's new movie, The Hobbit will undoubtedly find a whole new audience. I'd urge anyone who hasn't read it to get in there before the movie is released though (even though it's looking quite spectacular).

8) The Chronicles of Narnia - The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. 

It would be unfair to include J.R.R. Tolkien's works in this list without also including his fellow Inkling's works. C.S. Lewis' Narnia Chronicles, in particular The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe have been analysed, picked over and compared to everything from religious chronicles, allegories of the second world war and even linked to the signs of the zodiac. But from a child's perspective, C.S. Lewis did exactly what any successful children's author does to ensure success - put the children firmly at the centre of the book as the heroes, and made every child believe that these ordinary everyday children were almost superhuman in their ability to become more than just kids.

In essence, a tale of good versus evil. When you scratch the surface there are so many stories and sub-stories woven together that even the slightly old fashioned notions and scenarios in the book still hold up as entertaining and involving. Again a book that has been slightly eroded by the movie treatments but they're extremely well done, so serve as a jumping off point for when children are ready to tackle the quite lengthy and sometimes slowly paced / slightly repetitive books.

9) The Guardians by John Christopher

It's tough to choose just one book by John Christopher that you'd put on a child's reading list. One of the most underrated science fiction authors of the last century, Christopher is probably more widely recognised for "The Tripods" than his other works but oh my, The Guardians is an absolutely incredible book.

In a futuristic dystopian society, a boy becomes an orphan overnight. Driven by memories of his mother, and her tales of the mythical "Shire" (the countryside), the urban boy ends up at a terrifying boarding school. Ill treated and bullied, the boy decides to escape to the Shire.

As his situation becomes more desperate, he ends up under the protective wing of a youngster from the shire who vows to try and pass him off as shire-born.

With more twists and turns than a twisty turny thing, The Guardians constantly changes the reader's perception of what is normal, and what is comfortable. Underpinning the whole story is the terrifying notion that everything the young boy understands about his world is wrong, and that dark forces are the guiding hand behind both the shire and the urban sprawl he is familiar with.

Rivetting stuff. Quite dark, and probably not quite what people would expect from a children's book but again Christopher places a seemingly normal young boy at the centre of a set of circumstances that will push him to his limits.

10) Chocky by John Wyndham

When I was a kid, children's television dramas were absolutely incredible. With tiny budgets, very little in the way of special effects (certainly no CGI!) but dedicated production crews producing astonishing work, they are often still very well remembered. One such series was Chocky (and its successor, Chocky's Children). Adapted from the books by John Wyndham, Chocky was around long before E.T and certainly did not try to draw a sugary sweet portrait of a young boy's encounter with an alien life form. Wyndham weaves a tight and often quite disturbing tale of the questing mind of an alien trying to reach out and understand humanity through the mind of a young boy. For many, the clear messages in the book of how our own perceptions of 'different' and 'alien' are drawn up from an early age are often challenged in Wyndham's taut tale.

With the list, where possible, I've tried to avoid spoiling the plots and content too much. I've read, re-read and loved each of these books and there are probably dozens and dozens more I could easily add to the list (and probably will). I can imagine a time when Charlotte grows out of Disney Princesses, gets bored with Charlie and Lola, and passes up Peppa Pig in favour of at least one or two of these (I hope!).

At some point though I'll definitely have to sit my lovely wife down and get her to produce a ( perhaps more girl-centric) list, most definitely!

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Thursday 12 January 2012

Banana Skin Chaos!

Were you ever told not to drop banana skins on the pavement as a kid? Did you often secretly wonder what would happen if you did turn into a banana litterbug? Well this could be the book that proves your parents right. There's a very good reason you should never drop a banana skin, as the young miscreant at the centre of this story finds out. 

Like a disaster movie in slow motion, all the tiny little events in "Banana Skin Chaos" unfold slowly but satisfyingly as we see a young boy drop a banana skin, and watch what happens while his bigger (and wiser) sister gently tells him off. 

Cars crash, people get covered in paints, pigs get loose, Nuns take fright and clamber up lamposts. Part of the immense satisfaction of Lilli L'Arronge's disaster tale is spotting all the tiny little moments of chaos that build into a gigantic crescendo. 

There's a ton for youngsters to do (other than read the book or laugh at the pictures) and lots of interactions for children and their parents driven off the story's relatively simple premise. For that, it rightly deserves the first Book of the Week award for 2012. Sublime stuff. 

Charlotte's best bit: The nun being scared by a pig, and the snake eating a pig

Daddy's favourite bit: Superman flying in to the rescue. 

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars, Book of the Week

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Mr Bloom is Back!

If you've got toddlers (or tiddlers) it probably can't have failed to catch your attention that Mr Bloom's Nursery is back with a new series on CBeebies. Though this is primarily a children's book blog we're also interested in other forms of communication, and Mr Bloom is one of those rare children's programmes that is broadcast (seemingly) without the agenda of being attached to toy licensing, or with any major message hammered home (other than it's cool to grow things, and it's OK to get dirty while doing it!)

The formula of the show hasn't changed much (and why should it, why try and do what the idiotic production company behind Waybuloo did, and break a formula that works by trying to be clever with it). Ben Faulks (Mr Bloom) is still as energetic and enthusiastic as ever (and it was good to see him get a slice of the limelight with CBeebies' Christmas Panto - Strictly Cinderella). 

Let's hope the series continues to get recommissioned, it's a massive hit with us and judging by the sheer amount of children's birthday cards that fetch up featuring Mr Bloom during the CBeebies Birthday slots, he's massively popular with everyone else too. 

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Robot Dog

Robots are cool, dogs are - well OK I'm a cat person but dogs CAN be quite cool. So putting the two together in a book is a stroke of genius. Mark Oliver's tale tells the story of a robot pup who ends up on the scrap heap. It's not the end of the world though, as he soon makes friends with the other rejects from the robot factory.

But what any dog, Robot or otherwise, wants more than anything else is an owner. Human owners like shiny, perfect robot dogs, not rusty dogs with wonky ears. So will the little dog ever see his dream come true?

Mark Oliver's book has beautiful retro-styled visuals that are absolutely perfect, harking back to those cool  1950s robot designs you'll have seen before.

The story is also nicely written with a great ending to warm the cockles of your (robot) heart.

Charlotte's best bit: The little robot dog's friends

Daddy's favourite bit: The superb styling of the robots in the story. 50s junkbots win!

Rating: 4 out of 5
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Wanted: The Perfect Pet

For our first review of this year (Sorry we're late, work piles up after the festive season n'all that) we're kicking off with another Fiona (after our last review being a book by a Fiona, why not continue with a different Fiona for this one :)

Fiona Roberton's book "Wanted: The Perfect Pet" neatly addresses one of those rites of passage all children go through - when they finally decide what animal would suit them best as their first pet.

The boy in this story has his heart set on a dog. They're loyal, intelligent, cute and can learn fantastic tricks.

High on a windy hill elsewhere though, a lonely duck hatches a plan to convince the boy that dogs aren't all that, and that a duck is actually far better. Even if it means disguising himself as a dog to prove it...

It's a cute, effortlessly charming book with a novel approach to storytelling (a lot of children's authors seem to be adopting the style of dropping in things like newspaper ads, or factual analysis of animals - it's good for enquiring minds and children who say "why" a lot, so it gets my thumbs up).

Charlotte's best bit: The duck saying "woof" and tracing the duck's long journey to the boy

Daddy's favourite bit: The boy's list of duck benefits

Rating: 4 out of 5
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Tuesday 3 January 2012

Happy New Year - What's coming in 2012?

Hello all! We're back after the Christmas break and soon it'll be time to delve into the book bag to see what's new.

Plenty of books dropped down the chimney courtesy of Santa Claus so we'll be covering those in due course (thanks to my sister for buying Charlotte some absolute belters including one from our pre-christmas wish list).

Hopefully you'll stick with ReadItDaddy in the new year and forgive us our lapses from time to time, things are getting very busy :)

Thanks to all our followers and visitors who graced us with their presence in 2011. Look forward to seeing you all again this year.

ReadItDaddy and Charlotte
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