Thursday 31 May 2012

What's the time, Grandma Wolf? by Ken Brown (Andersen Press)

Mashing together classic stories can go one of two ways. You can end up with something that's alright, but doesn't quite match up to the original stories it derives from, or you can end up with something like Ken Brown's "What's the time, Grandma Wolf?" which feels fresh, funny and original despite borrowing from classic fairy tales and nursery rhymes.

A gaggle of cheeky noisy animals take turns to 'tease' Grandma Wolf as she wakes up in the morning and prepares for her day. Again, like "CREAK! Said the Bed" this book builds slowly but surely towards a satisfying conclusion - but ah! Right at the last minute it snatches the picnic blanket out from under you and you end up with a tale that is delightful and and amusing in equal measure.

I also loved Ken Brown's illustrations. Anyone who collected the Ladybird Books containing classic fairy tales like Red Riding Hood or Rumplestilskin as a kid will instantly bond with Ken's beautiful painted panels.

And so, despite a lot of fuss and argument, this is our book of the week.

Charlotte's best bit: Grandma Wolf cleaning her (very big) teeth. Like a good wolf should!

Daddy's favourite bit: The double switch end. How I loved that!

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars, Book of the Week
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CREAK! Said the Bed by Phyllis Root and Regan Dunnick (Walker Books)

I'm sure this is an all-too familiar occurrence in most households with young children. It's saturday morning, you've got nothing to get up early for - but bang on the nail of 6 am (or probably earlier), your beloved offspring decide that it's time to get up, wake up, jump up, jump about and be as active as possible when all you want to do is curl up into a foetal ball and go back to sleep.

Worse still, those instances where it's the middle of the night, you're horribly overdrawn at the sleep bank and your children have had a collective nightmare about clowns with sewing needles for fingers, and all need to snuggle up in your bed.

"CREAK! Said the Bed" is a fun little book with a simple storyline and that slow-build up to a cataclysmic finish that just works beautifully in certain children's books. You can see the inevitable conclusion coming a mile away, but it's the journey there that's funny and something most of us beleaguered parents can readily identify with.

Regan Dunnick's simple coloured line drawings are humorous and charming. A great little find.

Charlotte's best bit: The ever-growing crack in the bed

Daddy's favourite bit: Being able to so readily identify with a book that it's like holding up a mirror to our life!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Tuesday 29 May 2012

10 of the best books for summer reading

The sun is out, the sky is blue, there's no air, and your neighbours are happily filling your house with the stink of their barbecue so what better time is there to escape somewhere quiet and countrified to read your child a fantastic summery book! Slap on the sun cream, throw together a picnic, take something nice and cool to sip at while reading one of the following:

1) Harry by the Sea by Margaret Bloy Graham and Gene Zion

Harry, the mischievous black and white scamp, decamps with his family to the seaside but can't find a jot of shade. So what does he do? What any good dog would do, take a dip in the sea!

I've lost count of the amount of times we've read this book and enjoyed it. I remember the Harry books from when I was a wee whippersnapper in shorts, long before the days of Factor 50 sunscreen and sensible sun hats, and the seaside setting and hilarious story makes this a real summer treat. It's such a shame that Red Fox never got to reprint the rest of the Harry books (you can get this, No Roses for Harry, Harry the Dirty Dog and Harry and the Lady Next Door but there were so many more!) as they're absolute classics.

2) Knick Knack Paddywhack by Paul O. Zelinsky

Paul O. Zelinsky's paper-craft pop up books are absolutely amazing. Beautifully engineered and extremely difficult to keep in good condition (our copy of this is extremely dog-eared but it's still a wonderful treat to go through it). It has a summery vibe and re-tells the classic nursery rhyme with intricate detail and humour. Bright colours and absolute genius paper mechanics really make this book (literally) stand out. Read it, play with it, enjoy the actions and counting, it really is a beautifully constructed book and if you're lucky enough to spot a copy, grab it as it's becoming extremely rare now.

3) The Queen's Knickers by Nicholas Allan

A slightly irreverent but nonetheless humour-packed look in the Queen's bottom drawer. The Queen's Knickers has been re-released and given a new cover to coincide with this weekend's Jubilee celebrations. Even if you're a curmudgeonly anti-royal lapsed punk, you'll still get a kick out of reading this to your children. Who knew that the Queen has an extra-special pair of inflatable knickers for taking on foreign holidays!

4) Chicky Chicky Chook Chook by Cathy MacLennan

Sunny sunny warm shine indeed! A lovely summery sing-along rhyming book which goes perfectly with our changeable weather. One minute we're grumbling about the excessive rain, the next minute we're grumpy because of the excessive heat. It's impossible to stay grumpy and grumbly while reading this busy little book, and children of all ages will love the cute and colourful animals and birds in this one. The board book edition has a lovely fuzzy feel to it in places, perfect for children who love tactile books.

5) Pants and More Pants by Giles Andrea and Nick Sharratt

Bouncy, fun, sunny and brilliantly illustrated, the "Pants" books are legendary and quite rightly so too. This was one of the first books we bought Charlotte back when she was a tiddler. Now she's about to start school and still absolutely loves this. Some editions come with a CD which is perfect for a bit of dancing round the paddling pool to. "Have you done a farty pants? No, not me!"

6) Winnie in Winter by Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul

OK I haven't lost the plot, it does clearly say "Winnie in Winter" on this book, and this is a summer book recommendation - but you'll see why I've recommended this as a sunny summer read when you see what happens when Winnie the Witch gets fed up with the snow and the ice, waves her magic wand, says 'Abracadabra' and kick-starts summer earlier than normal. Invaded by annoying neighbours, ice cream vans and people splashing in her pond, I can wholly identify with Winnie's plight! Excellent at any time of year but perfect for days when your only respite from the heat is diving into the freezer for those rocket lollies you've got stashed away.

7) Smile! (Starring Sunny McCloud) by Leigh Hodgkinson

When the hero of your book is called Sunny McCloud, you can pretty much expect a good fit for a warm summer's day and this book delivers. Sunny McCloud is a bright happy little girl who seeks adventure and excitement amongst the ordinary everyday world. It's such an effervescent book full of energy that it's perfect for hot lazy afternoons. Let Sunny McCloud do all the rushing around while you take it easy, reading this one to your children. Perfecto!

8) Shark in the Park by Nick Sharratt

Hopefully you won't encounter any piscine terrors when you go for a dip in the pond at your local park. Nick Sharratt's "Shark (doo, doo) in the Park (doo, doo)" is a firm favourite at home (er, the Doo - doo bits? That would take a long time to explain but bear with!). Summery and fun with Sharratt's trademark artwork, what could be better? (Shark in the Dark, probably - which is also great!)

9) A Dose of Doctor Dog by Babette Cole

Babette Cole's irreverent (and sometimes quite gross) books are, of course, a massive hit with Charlotte. From the inner workings of your bowels, to the best cure for insect bites, Doctor Dog's plans for a quiet holiday relaxing in tropical climes don't quite pan out when his rotten family, The Gumboyles, gatecrash his summer retreat.

As usual, it's up to Doctor Dog to save the day, along with his new friend Professor Dash Hund.

The Doctor Dog books are brilliant, and though there's a tenuous summery link here, we won't stop recommending them because they're hilarious (and downright squishy) fun!

10) The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

We haven't reviewed this one yet but it's on the list of books to read to Charlotte when she's a bit older and progresses past the picture book stage. So why is it on the list of summer books? Surely everyone (young or old) fantasises about finding that secret quiet little nook away from the madding crowd. Somewhere to nestle into the corner of, tucked away from the noise and hubbub like the girl in this story. Let's hope the robins (which we still see pecking at our bird feeders) one day lead us to our own secret garden, that'd be smashing.

Hope you enjoyed the recommendations and if you've got any more, drop a comment below please!
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Friday 25 May 2012

Angelina at the Palace by Katharine Holabird and Helen Craig (Puffin Books)

Before Angelina Ballerina got her CGI TV makeover, she was the star of a set of whimsical ballet-based books by Katharine Holabird and Helen Craig.

The TV show drives me absolutely potty. Though Charlotte doesn't watch a lot of TV (and we watch even less), it's often on during sleepy weekend mornings on Channel 5 and Charlotte absolutely laps it up.

1) It features a ballerina

2) It's unashamedly girlish and gleeful.

These are probably contributory factors to why it drives me potty if I'm honest so it was nice to go back to the original books and see just how sweet and charming they were in comparison to the rather sterile and saccharine telly treatment.

Helen Craig's detailed anthropomorphic mice drawings are delightful, and this tale of three princesses and Angelina's visit to their palace (with Angelina being slightly awkward and on the backfoot for once) is far more entertaining than anything the show has to offer. When Angelina's beloved ballet teacher falls ill during the visit, it's up to Angelina and her plucky little cousin to rescue the day and the ballet show that the three princesses take part in.

It was really nice to see Charlotte being able to take this book on its own merits without feeling that she didn't relate to it purely because the TV treatment is so different. Such is the way of things though, and I often wonder if she'd feel the same if she saw one of my old Rupert annuals for instance, and compared that to the current show -  or one of the classic Noddy books that don't feature any of his recent CGI updated looks either (how many have there been now?)

Charlotte's best bit: The scary dragon, of course.

Daddy's favourite bit: Helen Craig's lovely drawings.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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We're Going on a Picnic by Pat Hutchins (Red Fox Picture Books)

Pat Hutchins' book "Rosie's Walk" is one of those books mentioned in hushed tones of reverence in the same breath as books like "We're going on a Bear Hunt" and "The Gruffalo". Quite rightly so too, as it's beautifully illustrated and beautifully told.

This book "We're going on a Picnic" is hewn from the same stuff. A delightful romp of a journey with a hen (which could be an updated 'Rosie'), a Duck and a Goose deciding to make the best of the beautiful weather by having a picnic. Each picks their favourite food, each loads up the picnic basket, and each takes turns to carry it.

However, things go awry when the goose, the duck and the hen can't quite decide where to settle to enjoy their feast. Which is unfortunate because that's just the sort of dithering that uninvited picnic guests like to take advantage of!

Be warned. The nature of this book demands that as soon as you've finished it, you should really begin it all over again (and rest assured, your little ones will most certainly demand that you do!)

Charlotte's best bit: The naughty mouse, squirrel and rabbit

Daddy's favourite bit: Pat Hutchin's trademark 70s-style psychedelic artwork. Love it

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Sausages! by Jessica Souhami (Frances Lincoln Children's Books)

If we were to ask Charlotte what her favourite meal was, she'd instantly reply "Sausages and Mash!" so it's probably quite fortunate that she never gets granted three wishes by grateful elves, like the couple in this retelling of the classic fables of yore.

When a man rescues an elf from a thorn, he gets the aforementioned 3 wishes and thinks that it'll be an easy route to fortune and glory. But, of course, things never go quite as planned when magic and wishes are come by so easily.

Hilarity ensues when the man feels peckish one evening...

Jessica Souhami's book may retread fairly well-trodden ground but it does so in a way that appeals to children so neatly. Without over-complex illustrations, and without being preachy, it weaves a funny and charming warning tale of learning to appreciate what you've got rather than what you wish for.

As an aside, when we'd read through the book a few times I asked Charlotte what her three wishes would be

1) A princess castle with a prince in it called Prince Philip (!)
2) A lovely rabbit
3) Hair like mummy's, or Rapunzel's.

So there you have it, Elves, if you're listening...

Charlotte's favourite bit: What happens to the sausages after the second wish. Owch!

Daddy's favourite bit: Sausages and Mash, yum!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Thursday 24 May 2012

The Rhyming Rabbit by Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks (Macmillan Children's Books)

Here's the second of the rabbity books that found their way into our library stack this week. Poor Lydia Monks must've gone slightly rabbit-crazy last year as both this book and Babbit were published in the same year.

Lydia Monks has teamed up with Julia ("Gruffalo") Donaldson many times and most of their books together are rather special.

Rhyming Rabbit is merely OK though, slightly disappointing because it's fairly difficult to like the central character (a rabbit who weaves everything he sees into a little ditty, much to the annoyance of his rabbity chums).

It takes a special kind of sheep to find wisdom and amusement in the rabbit's rhyming ways.

Donaldson brings her rhyming expertise into play in this book, and Lydia Monks' illustrations are lovely as ever but this book just didn't click at all with Charlotte, despite the lure of those lovely sparkly textured glitter pages.

Hmm, strike two for the rabbits then. Oh dear.

Charlotte's best bit: The rhyming rabbit nearly being eaten by a fox

Daddy's favourite bit: As above, sorry but I think it would've been a better book if the fox had enjoyed an early rabbit meal :)

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Note to self: Avoid rabbits in the book selection next week!
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Babbit by Lydia Monks (Egmont Books ltd)

"Silly daddy! It's Rabbit!"

"No it's Babbit, look, that's a B there!"

"No Daddy it's Rabbit! It's a rabbit!"

Or so went the conversation when we picked up the first of Lydia Monks' rabbit adventures from last year. This one she wrote and illustrated, the other one (following along shortly) was written by Julia Donaldson. But let's look at Babbit first.

Babbit is the beloved rabbit of "the small one" and the small one doesn't look after Babbit very well. So when nasty types kidnap Babbit and tie him to a tree, it's up to the small one and her big sister to save him.

Here's the thing. We love Lydia Monks. We love her illustrative style and we love her characters, but for some reason Babbit failed to grab either of us (I expected Charlotte to love it to pieces, she is mildly rabbit-obsessed after all).

Perhaps it's too personal a story or too personal a set of characters to appeal to other children (but it probably delighted the little girls it was written for / about), though I would admit to liking the 'naughty seat' method of justice and punishment meted out in the book.

Charlotte's best bit: Babbit suggesting that carrots would taste better than his ears

Daddy's favourite bit: Divine justice in the form of the naughty seats

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

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When Martha's Away by Bruce Ingman (Walker Books)

Though this is a golden oldie, it's a classic book that doesn't get nearly as much hype and love as Bruce Ingman's other titles. But this tale of the secret life of a cat and what he gets up to when his owner goes to school is hilarious and timeless in equal measure (though these days, rather than read the cat news, moggies probably go onto their own version of the internet and visit CatTube to watch pictures of cute humans doing stupid things instead).

Fantastic, funny and with Ingman's trademark child-like drawing style tapping straight into a kid's psyche, this is marvellous storytelling married to simple visuals to conjure up a day in the life of an ordinary house cat.

Charlotte's best bit: The cat's piano recital

Daddy's favourite bit: The shifty door to door salescat hawking his wares

Rating: 4 out of 5 paws
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The Naughiest Fairy's Naughty New Friend by Nick Ward (Meadowside Children's Books)

With a wave of her wand, and a few magic ingredients, the Naughtiest Fairy creates complete and utter chaos in this amusing and beautifully illustrated book by Nick Ward. Feeling a little lonely and bored, the Naughtiest Fairy has trouble making friends until she consults her magic book.

Now with a doppelganger in tow, she can get up to double the mischief and have double the fun. Until, of course, things start to go horribly horribly wrong.

Charlotte absolutely ate this book up and demanded it again as soon as we'd finished (long-suffering daddy obliged of course!)

Secretly it's probably every young child's dream to whizz up a double, but as this tale shows, the consequences can be chaotic to say the least.

Charlotte's best bit: What the naughtiest fairy does to the giant

Daddy's favourite bit: Who knew that pepper was the magic ingredient for naughtiness?

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars, book of the week
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Friday 18 May 2012

The Ballet Class by Adele Geras and Shelagh McNicholas (Orchard Press)

At home, Charlotte is amazingly heavy-footed for a 4 year old girl who weighs less than an oak leaf, but when she had a stint at ballet classes she was amazingly fleet of foot and absolutely loves anything to do with Ballet (including, obviously, wearing those pink tutus - in fact if we pick her up from preschool and she's not wearing the preschool tutu, we think there's something wrong with her) so this book was an instant hit.

It's the simple story of a little girl called Tilly who goes to ballet class every Tuesday. She practices hard for the big ballet show.

Each page sneaks in lots of illustrations that hint at how 'good toes, naughty toes' and 'pleies and Jetes' lead to fluid dance movements, but told in a real child-friendly story format. Tilly is an easy character for little girls to identify with too, so it's a great book if your youngster is slightly obsessed about ballet and dance (as Charlotte is).

Charlotte's best bit: Tilly dressing up as a cat. Miaow!

Daddy's favourite bit: Jake (the only boy in class) doing the dinosaur dance.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Thursday 17 May 2012

Ghost by Luk Depondt and Guido Van Genechten (Meadowside Children's Books)

What a relief to find that this book doesn't feature Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze and a potter's wheel. No instead it features a lovely chirpy little ghost chappy, a child's imaginings of what life would be like as a ghost. Haunting, flying, swooping, woohing a lot, and of course chasing all your friends!

A lovely little rhyming story with bold and cheerful illustrations, Ghost is suitable for such a huge range of ages, even little babies find it entertaining (note to children's illustrators, big beaming smiles = HUGE win with babies!)

Charlotte's best bit: Big cuddles from the ghostly mummy

Daddy's favourite bit: Eating luscious looking orange lollies. YUM!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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Little Bo Peep's Library Book by Cressida Cowell (Hodder Children's Books)

(Apologies for the blurred book cover pic on this, Amazon are slacking!)

It's always a bit sad when we encounter books in the library that have been mercilessly abused but it's part and parcel of the kid's book section and our local Library staff are absolutely brilliant when it comes to sorting out replacements. Cressida (How to train your Dragon, Emily Brown) Cowell's book "Little Bo Peep's Library Book" comes with its own mini set of books tucked neatly within its pages. Or at least it would if a careless borrower hadn't lost/eaten/disposed of the ones that were supposed to be in our copy.

Nevertheless, even with the mini books missing, this is a cute and funny tale of what happens when Little Bo Peep loses her sheep and seeks answers at her local library (run by the extremely knowledgable Mother Goose).

The best bit of the book is browsing the shelves in each section Bo Peep finds herself in. The titles of the books on the shelves are brilliant and funny, and the whole book is a great spin on the traditional nursery rhymes your children know and love.

It would probably be unfair to give this book a rating with some of the content missing, so we'll just comment on it and leave it at that. Suffice to say that we really want to find an intact copy now!

Charlotte's best bit: The way Bo Peep's sheep are found.

Daddy's favourite bit: A book in the cooking section of the library entitled "Cooking with Fat" by Mrs Sprat.

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Tuesday 15 May 2012

The Big Book of Magical Mix-Ups by Hilary Robinson and Nick Sharratt (Scholastic Children's Books)

We've had a few different books in this format before. Pages are divided up into strips and hilarity ensues when you mix and match different page 'strips' together to make crazy combinations. At least that's the idea behind The Big Book of Magical Mix-Ups, but Charlotte's idea is that you should NEVER, EVER, EVER mix the strips up, always making sure they are the same colour and make sense.


(takes child to one side, explains chaos theory and the notion of untidyness)

Ahem, that done, this book wasn't quite as big a hit as I'd hoped, though the core idea is excellent. Take a family member (ie Daddy), add a behavioural trait (boring), add a magic spell and an ingredient and end up with Daddy transformed into...a slippery frog or a chocolate fairy.

In theory it should've made Charlotte snort milk out of her nose at every page turn. In practice she's too neat and organised for such antics. Shame, I thought it was a great idea!

Charlotte's best bit: "Nosey Grandma!"

Daddy's favourite bit: "Mummy the Chocolate Fairy"

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
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Welcome to West Wallaby Street (Aardman / Simon and Schuster Children's Books)

As long-time devotees of Aardman Animations, and of course Wallace and Gromit, this was an interesting find in the local library. It's a fairly rare book now (take your chances on ebay or Amazon resellers if you want a copy) but it's an essential purchase for anyone completely in love with the world of Wallace and Gromit, and the insanity that prevails around 62 West Wallaby Street.

Rather than just lift images straight from the animated shorts and films, the creators of the book (merely listed as 'Aardman') have produced a set of warm, cuddly and thoroughly detailed illustrated panels for each page.

It's like a miniature history of the Wallace and Gromit 'films' in that everything you've seen before makes an appearance in the book at some point, even some of the more recent (actually now nearly ten years old) shorts made for Cracking Contraptions.

It's extremely difficult to read this out to your youngsters without wanting to slip into Peter Sallis' squeaky Yorkshire accent, but it's a lovely book and if you ever spot it in a secondhand book store or at a car boot sale, grab it with both hands.

Charlotte's best bit: The robot that says "knickers"

Daddy's favourite bit: The running joke with the cheese-stealing mice

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Monday 14 May 2012

Jennifer Jones won't leave me alone by Frieda Wishinsky and Neal Layton (Doubleday Children's Books)

Oh my aching memory. I know we've had this book before from the library and I was SURE we'd reviewed it but nope, somehow this absolutely fantastic (and quite hilarious) little tale managed to get through the "ReadItDaddy" weekly reading pile without being covered.

So we're not only going to rectify that, we're going to give it 'Book of the Week' because it's quickly become the most requested book from the stack of 10 we snagged from the library on our last visit.

A poor hapless (and nameless) little chap sits next to Jennifer Jones in class at school, and she just...won't...leave...him...alone. It's a funny and cute story about that phase most boys go through where they think girls are a bit of a pest, and all that 'kissy huggy' stuff is a right royal pain in the posterior. Secretly though, shortly after it's also when boys discover their fledgeling egos buried under their brash unwashed exteriors, and of course you can probably guess how the book goes (but as ever, here at ReadItDaddy we're only going to give you the slightest flavour of what to expect!)

Frieda Wishinsky's rhyming couplets are hilarious, and Neal Layton's crazed child-like scribblings really grow on you and are absolutely fitting for this book (if you've ever seen any of Cressida Cowell's Emily Brown books, you'll already know his work and probably already love it).

Thoroughly recommended but your boys might think it's a bit too gushy and girly (until the end of the book at least!) Needless to say, my daughter loves it to bits.

Charlotte's best bit: Imagining that Jennifer Jones is her and that the boy is "Prince Jacob" from Preschool.

Daddy's favourite bit: Layton's crazy mix of child-like drawings laid over photo and picture montages, and the way he draws bears!

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars, book of the week
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Friday 11 May 2012

Hugless Douglas by David Melling (Hodder Children's Books)

I'm not really sure how David Melling's books have managed to pass us by for so long. He's a bit of a Twitter star at the moment and seeing his tweeted drawings made me want to search out this book in particular. Hugless Douglas is the tale of a slightly dozy but extremely loveable bear who goes off in search of a hug one morning. Can he hug an owl? Can he hug a rock? A tree? Some sheep?

Unfulfilled, poor Douglas searches in vain for the perfect hug. But we all know where the best hugs come from, don't we?

Melling is that rare example of a children's writer who nails both the illustrations and the story perfectly (in fact I'm ridiculously envious of his drawing style, such simple little lines that convey such a huge range of expressions and emotions).

So glad we finally found Douglas!

Charlotte's best bit: Douglas with a sheep stuck to his bottom!

Daddy's favourite bit: Now that's a neat place to keep your breakfast cutlery!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Pig in Love by Vivian French and Tim Archbold (Evans Brothers ltd)

Here's a quirky and charming little book that's the perfect length for those bedtimes where your little one is practically asleep in your arms (or those bedtimes after preschool when they're so tired they're hyper and driving you up the wall and back again!)

Pig is in love with Piggie, his beautiful neighbour. Despite plenty of wooing, and oohing and ahhing, Piggie won't marry pig because her father has forbidden her to marry "Until pigs can fly" so our heroic pig tries to take to the air.

Does he succeed or fail? Does he win the fair trotter of the piggie maiden?

Of course, you'll have to read the book to find out. Vivian French's rhyming couplets are simple yet perfect, and I swear I had to check the credits of this book about a million times thinking that Tim Archbold is channelling Quentin Blake to the point where I'd SWEAR this book contained Quentin Blake's artwork if I didn't know better.

Regardless, it's a lovely little book. Uncomplicated but wonderfully told and superbly effective.

Charlotte's best bit: The Aliens!

Daddy's favourite bit: I can well imagine telling Charlotte one day that I'll let her get married "And pigs might fly" :)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Thursday 10 May 2012

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (Harper and Row)

It's an eerie coincidence that this very week saw the death of Maurice Sendak, the same time as we'd pulled this book out of the library stacks to review. Sendak's death has prompted many many journalists, writers and illustrators to express an outpouring of love for Sendak and sadness at his loss.

Of course, adding our voice to the millions who love this book is like singing into a hurricane but nevertheless we're going to do it anyway. Like many of the books here on ReadItDaddy, this is a book I loved as a child, had bought for me as a child, subsequently lost (or loaned) and rediscovered once I had children of my own. Charlotte's interpretation of the book made it feel refreshing and new again, and her appreciation of the small pauses and text-free illustrations in between Sendak's sparse dialogue were marvellous and did not go unnoticed.

So this story of wayward child Max becoming the king of the wild things is well known. Movies have miserably failed to do the book justice, an operatic treatment was surreal to say the least but the book itself is undoubtedly a classic.

And yet, with the eyes and life experience of an adult, revisiting Where the Wild Things Are, it's surprising that it's not pilloried for showing naughty children as heroic and rewarded for their errant behaviour. Pilloried, that is, by the sort of parents who demand certain books are withdrawn from their local libraries lest they offend their tender little offspring.

For me, and thankfully for Charlotte, "Where the Wild Things Are" is the book equivalent of a raucous trumpet solo right in the middle of a piece of classical music. A thumb print on a white painted wall in an art gallery, or a pool of tomato ketchup pooling underneath a child's seat at dinner. Naughty, uproarious and thoroughly way, way ahead of its time. A lot like Sendak himself then.

RIP Maurice. I won't finish this review with the trite cliched quote from your book that countless others have used (about the supper still being hot) but I'll tug my collar in deep respect of someone whose work will stand the test of time.

Charlotte's best bit - The uproarious jungle dance of Max and the Beasts

Daddy's favourite bit - Crosshatching to die for

Rating - 4.5 out of 5 stars.
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Tuesday 8 May 2012

Dogs Don't Do Ballet by Anna Kemp and Sara Ogilvie (Simon and Schuster Children's Books)

I'm a cat person. My lovely wife is a cat person but Charlotte? Ahhh I think if it came down to a straight choice between dogs and cats she'd choose dogs. Why? Well secretly because Dogs can do ballet while cats would probably turn their nose up at a tutu.

In Anna Kemp and Sara Ogilvie's excellent (and quite touching) book, a little dog who does not chase cars (or postmen), does not lick or scratch inappropriate places but dreams of the Royal Ballet is the undisputed star of a rather sweet little story of saving the day, canine style.

We've previously covered Kemp and Ogilvie's excellent "The Worst Princess" and "Dogs Don't Do Ballet" is another hit with us, so much so that it's this week's book of the week.

Despite a naysayer dad, and lots of rather sniffy Ballet Class types, the little dog sashays with the best of them. What happens when the dog makes a debut on stage?

Find out in the book!

Charlotte's best bit: The dog's lovely tutu.

Daddy's favourite bit: The various lengths the little doggy goes to in order to avoid detection during Ballet Classes.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars, Book of the Week
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Pumpkin Moon by Tim Preston and Simon Bartram (Templar Publishing)

An odd book this, and it's one of those rare cases where I wish I could split the scores for illustration and text into two categories.

Simon Bartram's illustrations are utterly sublime. We've previously reviewed 'Dougal's Deep Sea Diary' here at ReadItDaddy and enthused about it, quite rightly. This though? Hmm it's a book that was later tied in to a made-for-tv Halloween special, and I get the distinct impression that Tim Preston's lazy text makes up for the fact that the TV thing had little or no dialogue.

It's best to just marvel at Bartram's detailed paintings on each page, make up your own story to go with it, and ditch the rubbish story that was haphazardly strapped around this.

Alright, for the record this is the one and only time we'll do this but separate scores time.

Charlotte's best bit: The witches! Real proper witches with green skin and warty noses.

Daddy's favourite bit: Wait a minute, is that a sneaky cameo from the BFG?

Rating: Illustrations - 4 out of 5 stars. Text - 0 out of 5 stars.

Editor's Note - July 2013. Tim recently got in touch via the blog and email to address this review and we're very happy to publish his comment on our "Pumpkin Moon" review...

"Tim is a little sad that he is only credited with having written poor text to accompany the artwork – as he came up with the entire idea for the book in the first place. Once an artist was chosen, Tim provided a lot of detailed notes for each illustration, to assist the artist (who did a great job). As regards Pumpkin Moon, he agrees that the artwork is the thing – the story works best without text. (Tim has no knowledge of the TV thing, which came later.) Actually, Tim says his text was altered by the publisher, without his knowledge; he agrees that the final text is not brilliant – but says the book is still good, thanks to the lovely artwork".

Thank you for your feedback Tim, and thanks for getting in touch to put things straight. 
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UUGGHH! by Claudia Boldt (Child's Play International)

I can't remember who sung that really cheesy song "Everything is beautiful in it's own way" but that's the message behind Claudia Boldt's "Uugghh!" (That's two u's, two g's and two h's if you're using Amazon's search, which completely ignores this book for some reason, gah!)

A poor slug dreamed that it would grow into a beautiful butterfly or at the very least a shiny-shelled snail, but the reality of life as a slug is that...well, people just don't like you really. They'll try and pour salt on you or cover you in beer in the mistaken belief that you'll stop eating their prized Sweet Peas. The slug in the story finds an unlikely ally in the shape of a Spider. Similarly much maligned and misunderstood, Spider helps Slug understand the true nature of beauty - that it comes from within.

At least one other member of the animal kingdom thinks Slug is beautiful. And tasty! Find out who in the book.

Claudia Boldt's text is a bit clunky and clumsy in places, but the illustrations - done in a weird 50s ad style of flat colour and bold linework - really makes this book unique and worth checking out.

Charlotte's best bit - Slug imagining himself/herself as a beautiful butterfly

Daddy's favourite bit - Nasty children reading "50 ways to kill a slug" (which is an actual book btw, and comes up in an Amazon search way before you'll ever find this book!)

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Friday 4 May 2012

Doctor Ted by Andrea Beaty and Pascal Lemaitre (Simon and Schuster Children's Books)

So the conversation went something like this...

"Charlotte, what's your book of the we..."

"Doctor Ted! Doctor Ted! DOCTOR TED!"

"But we've already reviewed Doctor Ted last year, and it got Book of the Week then honey, can you choose another boo.."


So here we are, re-reviewing Doctor Ted and re-awarding it the "Book of the Week" award. One of the 'dangers' of getting the same books out of the library again and again is that things like this will happen, disrupting ReadItDaddy's carefully conceived play to review as many different books as possible without repeats (surely you get enough of those on TV as it is without getting them on the internet too :)

Alas, there's no getting round it. What Charlotte says goes on this blog and she absolutely, undoubtedly, irrefutably loves this book. Why? Because Doctor Ted is such an engaging little chap though really he's more than a bit naughty. Stealing curtains to make bandages, telling his mum she has measles (they're freckles!) and of course there's that incident with his head teacher half way through the book that always makes Charlotte cackle with mischievous laughter whenever she sees it.

The book is an absolute delight and it's good to know that there are two further adventures of Doctor Ted out there (I could only find the very expensive hardback ones or the Kindle versions, bah!). Firefighter Ted and Artist Ted. We look forward to reading them both!

Thoroughly recommended (rather loudly and vociferously by Charlotte I might add) and (sigh) yes, an absolutely fitting Book of the Week.

Charlotte's best bit: As mentioned above. Headteacher Bigham gets his comeuppance but kids, really really REALLY do not try that at school!

Daddy's favourite bit: I love Doctor Ted's wry unflappable nature. Basically he is like every single Doctor you'll ever meet, only in miniature form!

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars, Book of the Week (twice!)
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You Can Do It, Sam! by Amy Hest and Anita Jeram (Walker Books)

Sam the Bear (who looks a little bit like the Walker Books bear) is the star of a series of gentle bedtime books that are snuggly warm and cosy and the perfect antidote on a cold rainy night. In this tale Sam accompanies his mother on a bake run. They carefully make cakes to share around their neighbourhood and Sam must pluck up all his courage to run to each doorstep by himself with his precious cargo.

It's a simple story, beautifully told and equally beautifully illustrated with lovely painterly illustrations. Children easily identify with characters like Sam and it's no wonder that the book series has been such a success.

We've previously read "Don't you feel well, Sam?" which is also worth checking out.

Charlotte's best bit: Sam making the delicious cakes (and licking the spoon just like she does, often before the cakes are even in the oven!)

Daddy's favourite bit: Gentle storytelling and lovely illustrations, a real snuggly book

Rating: 3 out of 5
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Fragoline and the Midnight Dream by Clemency Pearce and Rebecca Elliott (Chicken House Books)

Chicken House Books seem to have a knack for picking up children's books that are slightly out of the ordinary. Fragoline (The name of a strawberry, to match her hair - and how exactly do you pronounce that? Fray-Go-Line is what we picked but I guess it could easily be Fraj-oh-lin-eh) isn't your ordinary everyday children's book hero, she's actually very naughty and not scared of anything. Or is she?

Tightly drawn gothic style artwork interweaves with Fragoline's story of a night of lost sleep, and a determined little girl who stalks the darkness in search of mischief and adventure.

It's novel, original and definitely a winner if your child always seems drawn to the 'witches and monsters' section in the library rather than the 'fairies and princesses' section.

Charlotte's best bit: What happens when Fragoline goes just one step too far and dances on gravestones

Daddy's favourite bit: Really great illustrations, dark but not too scary for children.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Thursday 3 May 2012

Twinkles, Arthur and Puss by Judith Kerr (HarperCollins Children's Books)

Judith Kerr knows cats. We've read and loved (most of) the Mog books and this is the first non-Mog moggy book (not counting "The Tiger Who Came to Tea") that we've seen in the library.

This simple tale of Twinkles, Arthur and Puss seems fairly straightforward at first glance but anyone who has also read the superb children's book "Six Dinner Sid" will know why Twinkles, Arthur and Puss aren't quite what they seem. As ever, no spoilers but children will love the mischief and the method in this tale.

Kerr is a national treasure, I loved her books when I was a mere whippersnapper and it's great to think that she's still scribbling away and creating books that are destined to be children's classics for some years to come. Twinkles, Arthur and Puss is no exception, a lovely book that your youngsters will really enjoy.

Charlotte's best bit: Arthur's rather posh party-girl owner.

Daddy's favourite bit: Wait a minute, did someone sneak Mog into this book?

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Tuesday 1 May 2012

We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury (Walker Books)

With Walker Books running a 'Buy one, Get One Free' promotion at the moment, we finally got round to buying "We're going on a Bear Hunt!" and rooting through the blog I couldn't actually believe that we've mentioned this book but never reviewed it.

It goes without saying that just about every parent will have read this book to their children at some point. Charlotte loved it when we first started reading it to her as the board-book version, back when she was more interested in chewing books than having them read to her but it kept her engaged even back then. Now she loves it because she can follow the story, do the actions (what actions you say? OF COURSE there are actions!) and silly sound effects before the race to the end (yes for some reason the last few pages must be read at breakneck speed until you slow down to a crawl for the last page!)

Of course, that's why this book is such a classic. Everyone interprets and tells the story in their own way, everyone gets something slightly different from it and everyone absolutely loves it with very good reason. Michael Rosen is, of course, a children's book legend. Helen Oxenbury's art style is beautifully understated yet absolutely fitting.

Many have tried (and failed miserably) to replicate the core theme and idea, but no one has ever done it better and I doubt anyone ever will.

Fabulous, book of the week without a doubt even though it's taken us nearly 4 years to review it properly!

Charlotte's best bit: The bear!

Daddy's favourite bit: How Helen Oxenbury manages to convey such a range of human emotions with just a few tiny little ink lines

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

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The Troll by Julia Donaldson and David Roberts (Macmillan Children's Books)

Whenever myself, CanIWalkMummy and Charlotte are out and about covering great countryside walks for CIWM's blog, we find it absolutely impossible to cross any sort of bridge without shouting "WHO'S THAT TRIP-TRAPPING OVER MY BRIDGE!"

So of course it's a delight to find a book that tells a story from the Troll's perspective. Troubled by pesky goats? Annoyed by tricky creatures spinning you yarns to keep you from stuffing your belly full of delicious goaty treats? No wonder Trolls are so grumpy.

The troll in Julia (The Gruffallo) Donaldson's book is a grumpy little fellow - with good reason, he lives solely on a diet of fish and every time he thinks he's in line for something better, he's foiled at every turn.

In the story his path crosses with a bunch of mean pirates who are similarly diet-challenged. They are the roughest toughest bunch of seafaring ne'er do-wells but not one of them can cook.

It's rather delicious the way the two story paths track along a parallel until near the end of the book when - well you'll see what happens if you read it - Suffice to say that though Julia Donaldson's other books seem to get more recognition, The Troll is a delight and David Roberts' quirky drawings are full of character and fun. Recommended.

Charlotte's best bit: What the Troll does with treasure.

Daddy's favourite bit: Random donkey thrown in for good measure!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars. 
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