Monday, 31 December 2012

2012 - That was the year that was - Part 4 (October, November, December) ReadItDaddy takes a retrospective look back at a year in Children's Books

As ReaditDaddy weathered the rain and storms of October, we said a sad goodbye to Helen Nicoll, one half of the extremely talented team behind the Meg and Mog books. I loved these when I was a kid, and these were some of the earliest books we checked out from the library for Charlotte when she was really tiny.

Helen and her illustrator cohort Jan Pienkowski gave the world great characters, fantastic (and varied) books that have been loved by generations of children. Even now we find them very hard to resist when we spot them in the library and I'm pretty sure they'll be around when this blog turns into "ReadIt, Grandaddy!" R.I.P Helen.

We touched base with the lovely folk at Springboard Stories, a book and learning resources site and magazine that comes accompanied with a brilliant story book with each issue. The springboard crew can be relied upon for very interesting child learning and book related articles, and they seem to have a knack for snaring brilliant writing and illustrative talent to back up their books and magazine - so we're always keeping a close eye on their twitter feed too (@springboardstories).

Our first book of the week showed the shape of things to come as the first Christmas book dropped through the letterbox, courtesy of the kind folk at Top That! Publishing. "When I dream of Christmas" by Oakley Graham and Patricia Yuste has gone on to become a free download e-book so if you haven't picked it up yet, go grab the kindle version - it's a christmas cracker!

More books through the letterbox, this time courtesy of MyLittleBigTown, a consistently brilliant publisher who have come up with some of the year's funniest (and grossest!) books. "Gorgeous George and the Zig Zag Zit Faced Zombies" gave George, Grandad Jock and Allison a second outing, this time combatting nasty snotty zombies invading the school. Eeek! They don't want brains, they want your bogies! More great stuff from Stuart Reid and Calvin Innes.

MyLittleBigTown also ended up as the recipient of a book of the week award for the rather innovative and original "Anisha's Adventures in Bangladesh" by Moinul Islam and Calvin Innes. A fantastic way of sharing other countries and cultures with children, we loved it and it is still a regular on our bedtime reading list.

Over on the app side of things, we were delighted to be given the opportunity to look at Made in Me's "Me Books" app. Giving children control over their favourite books, allowing them to record dialogue and passages of the book themselves using innovative 'hot spots' on the story illustrations sounded brilliant, and in practice it worked beautifully too. Me Books have gone on to win plenty of awards for their work. Deservedly so!

Lion Hudson have become one of our favourite publishers over the past year, and they kindly sent us copies of Rebecca Elliot's wonderful books to review. "Just Because" deservedly won Book of the Week and had a very personal meaning to me, and certainly struck a chord with Charlotte too. It's been brilliant to see it mentioned in lots of people's "Book of the Year" roundups, and we had some brilliant feedback on our review of it. It's very special so if you haven't met Clemmie and Toby yet, you really ought to.

As October came to a close, Ross Collins came up with a horror double feature as part of our Halloween celebrations. First with "The Elephantom" and then with "Dear Vampa" - Ross even popped by to say Hi on the blog, which was utterly brilliant! What a talented and lovely chap he is!

November was a heck of a month. I still do not know how we managed to squeeze in 69 articles in November given how tight our lives are on time, but burning the midnight oil and dealing with a big beautiful mountain of books really made us very happy and very proud of all the lovely folk we spoke to and emailed.

We followed up our review of "Just Because" by Rebecca Elliott with more brilliant stuff with Clemmie and Toby in "Sometimes". Again an achingly beautiful book that also helped us get to know more book folk like Lion Hudson, who are interested in inclusive and thought provoking books.

We got to know Child's Play, a publisher who have consistently produced some of the most important children's picture books of the year. Along with Beth Cox (an ex Child's Play employee and an expert on diversity and inclusivity in children's books), Child's play have introduced us to so many stunning books and kindly sent us a huge box full of brilliant stuff to review (which took us quite some time to work through, but oh boy was it ever worth it!)

Two books from Child's Play, "Rabbityness" and "The Flower" meant we had to double up on Book of the Week as both Charlotte and I struggled to choose between them. They are both so brilliant and well deserving of a place on any child's reading list. We've sneaked a peek at some of the things coming up from Child's Play in 2013. They really are going to knock our socks off again next year, without a doubt.

Charlotte enjoyed Book Week at her school in November, choosing to dress as "Nugget" from Jonny Duddle's brilliant "The Pirates Next Door" (which was a Book of the Week). It was quite something seeing the reaction of her teachers and her classmates. Most of the girls turned up as princesses, it was great to see Charlotte choose something quite different (and could be a key reason why all the boys in her class think she's really cool!)

November crept out quietly with our wish list of books to stuff into our christmas stocking. We're backing the internet campaign to make sure a child gets 'a book in every stocking' - a campaign started off by Sarah Poynton, so please make sure you take a look at her blog and see some of the brilliant book recommendations made there (as well as ours, of course!)

The air of December turned chilly, and we had a light dusting of snow. As the month began, Charlotte began her preparations for the school nativity play (which was brilliant!) and naturally publishers, authors and illustrators gave us lots of christmassy festive cheer and brilliant snowy books. Philip Bell from Beachy Books got in touch and sent us a copy of his awesome "Jack and Boo's Snowy Day". Beautiful flowing prose and photographic illustrations from Eleanor Bell make the Beachy Books stand out. We were very happy to be given the opportunity to review one as we've been admiring them for ages.

Innovative children's app developers DuckDuckMoose dropped us an email and we happily covered their ranges of utterly fantastic apps and worksheets. We've been happy to see children's apps really coming on and heading in fantastic directions in 2012 and we cannot wait to see what developers do in 2013. With many of you cuddling iPads and tablets you've received for Christmas, you're very well prepared for a year when apps may finally come of age and be properly recognised as a very valuable way to reach children and educate, delight and involve them in fantastic stories and content.

Once again we made sure we trumpeted the campaign to stuff a book in every stocking and we hope the campaign snowballs and continues on until Christmas 2013 when we'll definitely be doing it all over again.

Maverick Books popped us a copy of the brilliant "Sparkle's Song" by Samantha Hale and Maria Ruiz Johnson. As we've previously said on the blog, Maverick have come out of nowhere to establish themselves as a brilliant independent publisher in 2011 / 2012 and we've taken a sneaky look at some of their upcoming 2013 releases (like "Tabitha Posey was Ever So Nosy" by Julie Fulton and Jona Jung, and the utterly beautiful "The Cautionary Tale of the Childe of Hale" by Rachel Lyon and Vanina Starkoff) so we know they're going to go from strength to strength next year. Chief Maverick Giles Paley-Phillips is probably one of the nicest people you could tweet to on Twitter so be sure to give him a follow.

Phew, we're almost there. As Christmas loomed on the horizon, publishers showed no signs of sipping mulled wine, munching mince pies and slowing down. Book news and fantastic 2013 previews came thick and fast all month, and we were delighted to take an early look at "No Bot - The Robot with No Bottom" by Sue Hendra, courtesy of Simon and Schuster Children's Books (which is due out on January 3rd).

As we draw our rather long (but hopefully very interesting) series of posts about 2012 to a close, we really hope our readers and our wonderful contacts in publishing, PR, writing and illustration (and our brilliant brilliant fellow book bloggers, educational advisers, teachers, librarians, tweetfolk and parents) stay with us through to 2013 and continue to wow and inspire us as they have all year.

Special thanks from Charlotte and Phil

A very huge thank you to the publishers, PRs, authors, illustrators and app developers who have been kind enough to supply items for review this year. A huge tip of the hat, pat on the back and raised glass to:

Random House Children's Books
Usborne Children's Books
Maverick Publishing
Child's Play International Publishing
Top That! Publishing
Lion Hudson Publishing
Little Tiger Press
Blue Apple Books
Quirk Books
Made in Me
Strata Books
Templar Publishing
MyLittleBigTown Publishing
Bloomsbury Publishing
Francis Lincoln Children's Books
David Fickling Books
Simon and Schuster Children's Books
J & J Gill Publishing
Beachy Books
Springboard Stories
Abingdon Library
Mostly Books
Letterbox Library
Maggie & Rose
The Phoenix Comic Collective
Nosy Crow
Anorak Magazine
Meadowside Children's Books
Oxfordshire Library Services

...and just a very small selection of the superb individuals who have inspired us to keep on doing what we're doing (brilliant Twitter chums too!)

Beth Cox
Marie ChildLedChaos
Ellie elephantthai
Helen Dineen
Giles Paley-Phillips
Philip Bell
Peter Abbey
Alex daddacool
Anne Booth
Shoo Rayner
Louise Yates
Jane Hissey
Julia Dweck
Matthew Cordell
Sarah Cowan
Guy Parker-Rees
Richard Collingridge
Sam Pope
Paul Harrison-Davies
Jez Alborough
Colin West
An Vrombaut
Adam and Charlotte Guillain
Jamie Smart
E.J. Gill
Jemma Parsons
Jess Smart Smiley
Paula Hubbard
Jo Empson
William Bee
C.J Harper
Mr Ripley
Rebecca Elliott
Debi Gliori
Andrew Weale
Jen Outlaw
Louie Stowell
Tracey Kewley
Jane Considine
Elaine Aldred
Ben Towle
Harriet Venn
Levi Pinfold
Sally Poyton
Jim Field
Tape Face
Toca Boca
Back Streeter (The Abingdon Blogger)
Ian Whybrow
Emma Reynolds
Mike Byrne
Leeza Hernandez
Hannah Cumming
Luke Pearson
Garen Ewing
Jenni Desmond
Julie Fulton
Izzy Penguin
Paula Harrison
Ame Dyckman
Go Comics
Charlotte Cooke
Juliet Brough
David Melling
Sam Usher
Zoe Waring
Neal Layton
Mark Thornton
Chris Haughton
Four Little Testers
Zoe Toft
Loll Kirby
Peter Bently
Mark Chambers
Nadia Shireen
Lauren Bennett
Marta Altes
The Booksniffer
Laura Clempson
Ministry of Stories
Emma Dodd
Gary Northfield
Clara Vulliamy
Louise Chadwick
Babette Cole
Mo Willems
Viviane Schwarz
Melanie McGilloway
Michelle Robinson
Valerie O'Riordan
Lydia Monks
Neill Cameron
Sarah McIntyre
Cressida Cowell
Eric Carle
Barefoot Books
Colin West

....and so many many more!

Without a doubt though this blog wouldn't be here if it wasn't for my wonderful wife @thestrollingmum and of course The Boss - Charlotte - who both inspire, enchant and enrich my very existence on a daily basis. Love the pair of you to bits!

Happy new year and here's to a prosperous 2013!

Phil & Charlotte @ ReadItDaddy