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

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Sunday 30 December 2012

2012 - That was the year that was - Part 3 (July, August, September) ReadItDaddy takes a retrospective look back at a year in Children's Books

The summer sort of half materialised but was soon dampened down by rain, rain, and more rain. Thankfully we had more than enough books to keep us entertained. We also started taking a look at storytelling apps and the rise (and rise) of e-books, discovering Julia Dweck and Patricia Saco's sublime "Hare with the Pearl Earring" along the way. Anything that teaches children about the importance of art  gets a huge thumbs up but rarely have children's books dealt with the subject in such a fun, innovative and very beautiful way. Fantastic text and sublime illustrations make this one to look out for and it's recently been overhauled with a special edition so go and grab it now.

Our first Book of the Week in July was the utterly lovely "I Want a Dog!" by Helga Bansch. Rollo (the dog in the book) had such a lovely little face, and the message behind the book was so beautifully told that we just couldn't resist it. We've searched fruitlessly for more doggy goodness by Helga but it seems there aren't any more, which is such a shame as the book really would've been a great start to a whole series so if you happen across this blog Helga, more Rollo please!

On one of our trips to the library, we spotted a book that made us think "Oh that's a brilliant book, we'll 'ave that!" Of course, it was the utterly ace children's classic "Burglar Bill" by the legendary husband and wife team of Janet and Allan Ahlberg. You already know how much we love Allan Ahlberg's work and Burglar Bill was an instant hit, nabbing Book of the Week with ease. Altogether now, "Boglaboll!"

Timely stuff, we took a look at "The Hobbit" by J.R.R Tolkien before the movie mania gripped the nation. It's been getting some fairly poor reviews, so if you're still in two minds and have never read Tolkien's meisterwork, see what we thought of it and why it's a book that's particularly important to me. The first 'proper' book I remember reading. Wow. 

 Then something rather special hit the blog in a big way, and has since become one of the year's most demanded 'read it again, Daddy' books (as well as nabbing our 'book of the week' award for that week). The utterly charming and truly wonderful Nicola L. Robinson got in touch with us and asked if we'd like to review her book. We're still quietly gobsmacked that things like this happen, and Nicola was very interested in Charlotte's reaction to her book so we naturally said yes. Knowing that "The Monster Machine" contained monsters made it all the more tempting - long term 'Read It Daddy' followers will know how much Charlotte loves a good monster yarn. 

The book turned out to be superb. Not just because it was a great father / son tale, but because of the sheer amount of detail worked into Nicola's illustrations. She's since gone on to exhibit her works as part of an art retrospective at Somerset House. It's really not hard to see why. She also happens to be one of the very nicest people you could tweet at on Twitter so go and follow her now, you will not be disappointed. We are on the edge of our seats wondering what she's going to come up with next! Charlotte was so enamoured by the book and by Nicola that she even sent her a drawing.

As July came and went, we slid into August and Charlotte's last pre-school month wondering what the future would hold. We made the most of our days off (which we'd been taking once a week) to visit the library as often as we could, and of course the month sped by in record time. 

We grabbed an iPad early in August and soon started catching up with some really great storytelling apps and educational programs for Charlotte (poor girl, I'm sure she'd much rather play dressing up princesses but we always bought it with education in mind). 

We met The Froobles - Top That! Publishing's great range of fruit and vegetable characters. With innovative storytelling and playmaking apps, Top That's print range is well supported and we liked the fact that they produced a lot of great free content with no nags for purchases as well as a really good range of reasonably priced stuff too. 

Our first Book of the Week in August was 'Stick Man' by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. A brilliant, bittersweet little book that I actually prefer to The Gruffalo (don't tell Charlotte I said that though, eek!) I'm so disappointed that Magic Lantern Studios are making "Room on the Broom" this christmas and not this, as it's so festive and atmospheric, it would've been a far better choice. Hey ho, what do we know though. 

The lovely Viviane Schwarz nailed another Book of the Week win with "There are no cats in this book". I think if she wins another we'll have to send her some sort of an award with her name on it. She's a consistently interesting tweeter, and knows her way around a good comic (and comic-printed apron dress) so we love her to bits. 

More Preston Pig goodness arrived from Colin McNaughton in "SWALK". Preston fell in love, and mooned over a lovely little piggie he met on holiday. Just like Colin McNaughton's other Preston adventures, this was read and re-read but I'm a bit puzzled how it missed out on a book of the week (the competition must've been tough that week). 

More lovely book folk crossed our path back in August when we first started chatting to the legendary book bloke Giles Paley-Phillips on Twitter. He kindly offered to let us take a look at his book "The Fearsome Beastie" (illustrated by Gabriele Antonini) and also sent us a few other brilliant Maverick Books as well. Maverick have consistently produced some brilliant books over the last couple of years and it looks like they're warming up to do the same in 2013. Look out for a new book from Giles in the coming year, as well as some distinctly different and very engaging Maverick titles. If you don't know who Maverick Books are now, you most certainly will by the end of 2013. 

As July rolled along, we had a mighty fine blog adventure courtesy of Crockett Johnson's classic "Harold and the Purple Crayon". We'd been thinking of lots of ways to evolve the blog and make sure people knew that it wasn't all just down to me, and that Charlotte was such a massive part of what the blog was about and how the blog was shaped. Letting her star in her own photo adventure was brilliant fun and we had such a good day taking pics and drawing out Harold's fantastic purple landscapes and characters. A brilliant memory of 2012 and a very well deserved book of the week. 

Those lovely tireless and incredibly committed folk at Bookstart gave Charlotte her last preschool book bundle - and a rather snazzy book bag. We're always so happy to receive bookstart packs and always make sure we cover their work as much as we can. We made a bookstart pledge earlier in 2012 and followed up on it. If you count up the number of reviews in 2012, I think we definitely achieved our pledge goal!

Through the iPad we found a development studio that produces the sort of children's app that gets children and their parents buzzing with excitement every time they release something new. TOCA BOCA might sound like a bizarre latin american dance but they're a swedish studio who know exactly how to fine tune their games, produce intuitive controls and really pour on the production value both visually and sonically to make some of the best apps in the world. We took a look at TOCA Kitchen Monsters and Charlotte still plays this even now. We've since gone on to grab most of their apps (brilliantly they became available for 69p so I think we grabbed them all at once, too good an offer to miss!)

Midway through August, we dropped our star rating 'scores' for books. Coming from a background of writing about games, scores seemed like a natural fit for the blog in the early days, as an easy guide to a book's quality and a clear indication of what Charlotte thought of each book. It became more and more difficult to marry scores to books as we've consistently seen such high quality, it felt rude to slap a number at the end of our review that could easily be misconstrued. We dropped the rating and from time to time I still wonder if it was the right thing to do, but we definitely aim to keep the Book of the Week going into 2013, perhaps even splitting it in two so both Charlotte and I can choose our own (as Charlotte gets older, we often disagree over our favourite books - which I actually think is really great, and shows that she's not just being led by my guiding hand - she's toddling off with her own tastes, good for her!)

We took a look at Anorak Magazine in August, when the kind folk at the mag sent us a sample copy of Anorak and its little sibling Ploc. A refreshingly different alternative to those dreadful merchandise and TV-show-driven magazines that are often pushed at children in supermarkets, Anorak felt like a breath of fresh air - packed to the gills with brilliant stories, puzzles, games and activities. Anorak now have their own TV app on iOS and that's also well worth checking out if you can. 

Jon Klassen dropped a bear-shaped bomb on the blog in August with the brilliant "I Want My Hat Back". Our review seemed to neatly coincide with 'Klassen-mania' as the hype for his next book went global, but the most interesting aspect of reviewing the book was the way it raised so many questions and prompted such a heated discussion with Charlotte over the end of the book. Did the bear just do what we think he did? Klassen says "Hell yes, he most certainly did" so if you read it, always bear (hah) that in mind :)

September seemed to be upon us before we were ready. Soon the carefree summer felt like a distant memory as the whole year felt like it was hinging around Charlotte's very first day at school. It was such a massive relief when Charlotte took to school like a duck to water, and really enjoyed it - so much so that now term's coming to an end, it feels like she's been going for years! She really does love it and more importantly it's great to see what we've been doing here with the blog actually have an effect on how she gets on with her literacy at school (her report was absolutely brilliant, so well done my lovely!)

Even though school started, we still found time for books (you would not believe how busy a 4 year old's first term at school can be!). Alan Snow's brilliant "How Dinosaurs Really Work" proved endlessly entertaining and fitted neatly with some of Charlotte's first school subjects (as they started covering Dinosaurs pretty early on). A comic look at our dinosaur friends with plenty of factual information too with those excellent trademark Alan Snow cutaways providing a lot of belly laughs. 

My beautiful wife The Strolling Mum always has an eye for something special and different in the library and she spotted Ayao Imai's astonishing version of "Puss in Boots" on one of our regular library jaunts. With illustrations that practically leap off the page, Imai's retellings of classic fables and fairy tales have leaped to the top of our book wishlist and it's really not hard to see why, they're amazingly beautiful books. 

Peter Bently and Jim Field's hilarious X-Factoresque "Farmer Clegg's Big Night Out" was a book of the week in September. A sleepwalking farmer, performing animals and a nice dig at Simon Cowell made this a shoe in for our prestigious award. Again they're a pair of brilliant tweeters so watch out for them on Twitter. 

We took an early look at Jen Desmond's sublime moggy caper "Red Cat, Blue Cat" courtesy of Blue Apple Books. Jen was also the subject of our very first author / illustrator interview and the book has deservedly gone on to be nominated for a bucketload of awards. There's more feline stuff coming from Jen in 2013 so keep a look out for it, she's awesome. 

International Talk Like a Pirate Day, and lots of piratical goings on at Charlotte's school inspired us to draw up a top ten list of Pirate-themed children's books.  Pirates still seem to be amongst Charlotte's favourite characters in books and she even dressed as one for her school's Book Week. 

We rounded off August by taking a look at some of the best children's apps around at the moment - work that makes us think that 2013 is going to be an absolutely stunning year for e-book and storytelling apps. With tablet PCs at the top of a lot of children's 'want' lists this christmas, it's a format that's not going to go away in a hurry and one that we'll be delving into a lot more next year - stay with us for some big news on that front early in 2013. 

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Saturday 29 December 2012

2012 - That was the year that was - Part 2 (April, May, June) ReadItDaddy takes a retrospective look back at a year in Children's Books

By April we were wondering when the nice weather was going to start. Thankfully you don't need a baking hot day to enjoy books so we snuggled down to take a look at 16 corkingly good reads.

We re-reviewed Helen Cooper's utterly essential "The Bear Under the Stairs" - a book which has probably been one of the most demanded "read it again, Daddy" requests over the past year, and a worthy "Book of the Week" on its second outing on the blog. When we first took a look at it, I uttered some silly nanny-like concerns over its content, thinking it was probably a bit too sinister for children and definitely shouldn't be read anywhere near bedtime. Despite this, Charlotte loves it and I think it's because it really does blur the lines - is William really imagining the bear, or is he sometimes imagining it and sometimes it's real? Or is it just real and hiding out in the under-stairs cupboard.

Charlotte doesn't care - basically she keeps asking for this one for several reasons. 1) The brilliant artwork (spotting as many hidden bears as you can is almost a game in itself) 2) I think she secretly likes it being a bit scary and a bit dark and disturbing and 3) She seems to like the daft gurgling voice I give the bear when I read this. We finally got round to buying a copy from Mostly Books (and finally got recognised in there after several incognito trips!) and it still regularly finds a place in our reading roster.

Elsewhere in April we checked out "The Worst Princess" by Anna Kemp and Sara Ogilvie, one of the first books that Publishers sent us for review (we're still a little bit shellshocked that this happens, but we couldn't be more grateful, really we couldn't!) A great alternative take on the traditional "Princess" tale, The Worst Princess isn't anyone's fool. She doesn't need pretty dresses or being locked up in a tower, she wants to have fun and adventure just like any girl should. Hooray and amen to that! Charlotte loved Princess Paula to bits!

The fantastic Babette Cole made her second appearance with Doctor Dog and quite rightly won "Book of the Week" again with "A Dose of Doctor Dog" - We hear from the good lady herself that more Doctor Dog is being planned. Will we get to meet Mrs Doctor Dog after all? Best wait and see what happens in 2013 I guess!

We also took a look at Bruce Ingham and Allan Ahlberg's brilliant "The Runaway Dinner". Fast paced and fantastic, another classic that keeps being demanded in our reading schedule and one I'm always happy to dive into. Such a brilliant book.

We couldn't possibly follow up such a remarkable line up in May could we? Well we did try! First out of the traps in May was "We're going on a Bear Hunt" by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury. I couldn't quite believe we hadn't reviewed it before - as it's a book that's been read to Charlotte ever since we was a tiny baby. It's a book that ratchets up the tension as the happy carefree family wade through snow, mud and rivers to get to a deep dark cave. I'm sure you know the rest but it's very easy to see why we had to bestow a book of the week award on this one.

May the 4th was with us but we didn't do anything Star Warsy, instead we re-reviewed Doctor Ted, a book that is brilliantly written, superbly illustrated and is full of the sort of cheeky irreverent stuff that children just can't get enough of. Again it's probably one of the most demanded books on our reading roster and Charlotte absolutely cannot get enough of it. We keep meaning to pick up the rest of the 'Ted' books by Andrea Beatty and Pascale Lemaitre, better stick them on the list for 2013 methinks as Doctor Ted is brilliant, brilliant, brilliant!

Eerie spooky coincidence in May. We pulled Maurice Sendak's meisterwork "Where the Wild Things Are" out of the library stacks in the same week Maurice died. It was a book I'd been meaning to show Charlotte for a while so it was a bit strange (and quite a bit sad) to think we'd never see another Sendak book. Hunt out "Bears" as well if you're looking to catch up with the great man's work.

Late to the party, we finally caught up with local boy David Melling's brilliant bear in "Hugless Douglas" which got 4 out of 5 stars back when we rated books (which on reflection was a bit of a daft idea, how can you possibly give a score to children's books really?) We're slowly hunting down the rest of Melling's books, we absolutely love his inky illustrations.

Another book of the week in May was Frieda Wishinsky and Neal Layton's utterly brilliant "Jennifer Jones Won't Leave Me Alone" and this is also a book that is constantly in demand whenever it's spotted in the library stacks (we really ought to get our own copy). Along with Cressida Cowell's superb 'Emily Brown' books, Neal's work has become a firm favourite and he's also a jolly nice bloke on Twitter too.

More brilliance in May with "When Martha's Away" (hey, that almost rhymes!) from Bruce Ingman, telling the story of the secret lives of cats. What do they do when you close the front door and head off to school / work? Rather more than you can possibly imagine. A brilliant brilliant book, not just for cat lovers.

Our last book of the week in may was "What's the Time, Grandma Wolf?" by Ken Brown. One of those delicious and cheeky reworkings of a classic fairy tale that has lots of unexpected twists and turns, and a fantastic ending. Want to know how it ends? You'd better go and track down a copy yourself.

Our thoughts turned to summer and flaming June. It wasn't actually too bad, but the rain made sure we had plenty of time for book reviews and despite having a brilliant week off at Disneyland Paris, we still managed to squeeze in 14 great little books.

First up in June was the rather disappointing "Socks" by Elizabeth Lindsay and Nick Sharratt. We'd loved Pants and More Pants, Socks felt like a book too far, felt forced and unfunny with some pretty appalling rhymes. It's not often we gave a book a 1 out of 5 star rating but this was one of the instances where a book got a pretty hefty thumbs down from Charlotte. She's harsh but fair. We did like the sock submarine but it just couldn't live up to its predecessors, or indeed Nick Sharratt's other brilliant books. Oh dear!

We took a look at scary French children's books and this was the first time we encountered "La Visite De Petit Mort" by Kitty Crowther. A book we've since managed to get a copy of, and have found isn't actually that scary. It's really rather cute. Check out the article though, they really do things differently across the channel and vive la difference at that!

Fresh from our trip to Disneyland Paris we picked up a couple of the brilliant Walter Foster "Learn to Draw" books to see if we could learn how to draw Disney Princesses. I still can't get Rapunzel's awesome hair flick right! Great books though and a great and very memorable holiday.

Our final book of the week for June was Peter Bently and Simon Rickerty's agile little monster "The Yoga Ogre". Brilliant knockabout fun and a book we're glad to see mentioned in people's "Best Children's Books of the Year" lists. Hooray!

Tune in again tomorrow for more of our yearly roundup as we edge nearer to starting school and take a look at July, August and September.

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Friday 28 December 2012

2012 - That was the year that was - Part 1 (January, February, March) ReadItDaddy takes a retrospective look back at a year in Children's Books

Way back in January 2012 we decided to ramp things up a notch here at ReadItDaddy and start covering more books. This is always an ambitious thing to try and do, particularly during a year which has seen our blissful days off with Charlotte replaced by her first few months at school. Taking a look back over the year, we've reviewed a heck of a lot of children's books - some new, some old, some paper, some electronic but most of all we've enjoyed more interaction with lovely book folks (authors, illustrations, publishers and PRs) than ever before so here's hoping that continues well into 2013.

Kicking off back in January with our review of "Wanted - The Perfect Pet by Fiona Roberton", we thoroughly enjoyed the tale of a lonely duck and an equally lonely boy finding each other and learning a lot about themselves in the process. We stayed doggy with "Robot Dog" by Mark Oliver, beautifully illustrated and wonderfully clanky.

Our first book of the week in 2012 was the sublime "Banana Skin Chaos" by Lili L'Aronge. A super-detailed book where a massive accident happens in achingly slow motion, all set off by a carelessly discarded banana skin. Eeep!

Squeezing in another fantastic Book of the Week before January ended, we took a look at the utterly divine "If I Could Paint the World" by Sarah Massini. Beautifully illustrated, a gorgeous story and one of the many books in 2012 that made our jaws drop.

Moving onto February and a month of birthdays. We loved Jonny Duddle's brilliant artwork and salty sea tales in "The Pirate Cruncher" - Now the rest of the world has discovered what a supreme talent Mr Duddle is, we very much look forward to his "The King of Space" in 2013. It's going to be brilliant, trust us!

We started early on Phonics with the Oxford Learning Tree / OUP "My Phonics Kit". It's great to know that now Charlotte has started school and has started using the same resources, she had a bit of a head start before she'd even turned 4. Amazingly though, the package is so brilliantly put together than even little toddlers (as she was back then) could find lots to love about it. Naturally as the year has progressed we've dipped back into it many times since and the Biff, Chip and Kipper stories still capture Charlotte's attention and imagination.

Our first February book of the week was "Dougal's Deep Sea Diary" by Simon Bartram. This was the first book we read by Simon and we've made it our mission to hunt down as many as possible - We just can't get enough of Simon's hyper-detailed and utterly beautiful artwork as well as his entertaining characters like Dougal and of course Spaceman Bob!

Anthony Browne's slightly terrifying and unnerving "The Tunnel" was another Book of the Week back in February. For some reason, Charlotte still loves the scary books but we kept this one well away from bed-times. It's pretty disturbing but was demanded again and again, and the central theme of the story (sibling rivalry and brotherly / sisterly love) underpins the scary stuff quite beautifully.

February saw us take our first look at the books of MyLittleBigTown, an independent publisher who have produced some of the most interesting books of the year. We reviewed "Gorgeous George and the Giant Geriatric Generator" and George has of course gone onto further adventures, becoming a bit of a cult icon on Facebook as well!

Moving onto chilly March, we celebrated Winnie the Witch's 25th Birthday. We're massive fans of the Winnie the Witch books so Charlotte was overjoyed when she finally got to meet "Winnie" at her preschool fete in the summer (I think secretly she was a bit petrified of Winnie but loved Wilbur, most definitely!)

We took a break in sunny Lanzarote (and boy, did we ever need some sunshine!) and our first book of the week in March was "Beware of Boys" by Tony Blundell - the cautionary tale of what happened when a Wolf finally met his match, in the shape of a rather cheeky and resourceful young boy.

We said our final goodbyes to Mog as we finally got round to reading Judith Kerr's beautiful book dealing with loss and grief. Oddly enough, we've seen quite a lot of books dealing with what happens when we lose a loved one, a recurring theme throughout 2012.

Join us for part 2 of our yearly roundup where we take a look back at April, May and (less than flaming) June.

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Friday 21 December 2012

ReaditDaddy's Book of the Week - "No Bot - the Robot With No Bottom" by Sue Hendra (Simon and Schuster Children's Books)

As soon as we saw Sue Hendra's latest book, we knew we'd love it. Sue's books are always cute in spades, hilariously funny and have the sort of characters that stick in the mind (we've loved Normal the Snail with the Funny Shell and Keith the Cat with the Magic Hat). How many books off the top of your head can get away with being so downright cheeky yet so endearing?

"No-Bot - The Robot With No Bottom" tells us the tale of Bernard the Robot (such a great name, more children should be called Bernard!) While playing on the swings one day, Bernard realises he's left behind a rather vital part of his anatomy. His bottom!

Fruitless searching back at the playground doesn't reveal its whereabouts, and soon Bernard enlists the help of his animal friends on a great bot-bottom hunt! Has Bird used it as a nest? Has Bear used it as part of his drum kit? Has dog taken it to use as a rather novel window box?

When Bernard finally tracks down his bottom, all seems lost. Will Bernard the No-Bot win the day and get his butt back?

It goes without saying that anything vaguely relating to bottoms - specially robot ones -  is utterly and completely hilarious. This is one of those rare books that has Charlotte giggling her head off all the way through, and even more so at the very end when Bernard neatly sets things up for a sequel (pleasepleasepleasepleasePLEASE Sue, we want more Bernard!)

Fantastic, and as our last book of the week for 2012, it's a corker! Look out for it on 3rd January 2013!

Charlotte's best bit: That final frame! So brilliantly funny!

Daddy's favoutite bit: I love Sue's illustrations, and her great characters. Can't wait to see whether Bernard gets a sequel.

(Kindly supplied to us for review by Simon and Schuster Children's Books)
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Wednesday 19 December 2012

There Were Dinosaurs Everywhere by Howard Temperley and Michael Kline (KWS Publishing Ltd)

We're on the penultimate review of the year before we shut up shop for Christmas (there's one more book of the week coming on Friday and our scheduled 'Round up of 2012' articles will be dropping into place automatically on the 28th, 29th, 30th and 31st of December - watch out for those!)

But back to this fantastic dinosaur book! "There Were Dinosaurs Everywhere" is probably one of the best (and most fun) dinosaur books we've ever seen for younger children. With hilarious rhyming text accompanying great dino drawings, it's a fun look at how Dinosaurs once ruled the earth and a clever insight into all their various habits, their physical characteristics, how to pronounce all those crazy ancient Greek names (try saying Paracephalosaurus with a mouthful of mince pie!) and a hefty dose of other brilliant factual information to get your dino teeth into.

Howard Temperley, a Professor of American History at the University of East Anglia dreamt up the dinosaur tales to entertain his grandchildren. Along with Michael Kline's brilliant cartoony illustrations, those stories are now brought together in a nice big dino-sized volume.

If your child is in any way interested in prehistoric life, they'll ravenously devour this book like a pack of wild Utahraptors! Charlotte most certainly did.

Charlotte's best bit: Learning why some dinosaurs like eating stones (don't try that at home, kids!)

Daddy's favourite bit: Great rhyming text and faultless presentation make this one of the most informative (and funny) children's dinosaur books we've seen this year.

(Kindly sent to us for review by KWS Publishing)
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Tuesday 18 December 2012

The Adventurers by Rachel Elliott and Valeria Docampo (Meadowside Children's Books)

A child's imagination is a wonderful thing. Listening to Charlotte when she has a bit of 'Me time' and plays on her own is quite fantastic, now she's at the age where she doesn't need us to guide her playtimes or activities.

Rachel Elliott's story 'The Adventurers' gives us an insight into the fantastic and rich tapestry a child can weave in their imagination, and the brilliant journeys they can embark on - all from the comfort of their own room. A landscape that knows no bounds, rich in colour and hue and always full of sights to see and characters to meet.

I loved Valeria Docampo's illustrations, absolutely perfect depictions of the little girl's toys who join her on her adventures, and such a sweet final image of what happens when the little girl drifts gently off to sleep, having worn her batteries out!

A beautiful and charming book, don't miss it!

Charlotte's best bit: The scary Yeti! Eeek!

Daddy's favourite bit: Love that sleepy little girl at the end.
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The Dragon Who Couldn't Do Dragony Things by Anni Axworthy (Zero to Ten Publishing)

We're no strangers to Anni Axworthy's cute little dragon fellow, having read this and 'Little Dragon and the Haunted House' in completely the wrong order. So here's the very first time we meet the dragon who - well as the title says - can't quite do dragony things.

Fire breathing? Nope - not even with the aid of very hot spicy food. Flying? Hmmm those tiny wings aren't quite up to the task.

But a certain little boy loves the dragon despite his shortcomings, for what he is - a rather cute brilliant little friend.

A touching tale with a lovely little message, there are apparently a few more books in Anni's 'Dragon' series so we ought to try and winkle them all out, they're very nice indeed.

Charlotte's best bit: The dragon's golden tears, aww (which mummy looks after and sticks in the bank!)

Daddy's favourite bit: I love dragons, particularly cute ones that cry real gold!

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The YoYome Christmas Box from

A few days ago we took a look at, a company that sells funky little stationery packs, activity sheets, invitations and a whole host of other neat things for little ones (and slightly bigger ones) to enjoy over the festive season. YoYome very kindly sent us one of their Christmas Boxes to review and when their beautifully wrapped parcel turned up this morning (I wish everyone wrapped their parcels like that, so wonderfully presented!), Charlotte couldn't wait to see what was inside.

You can find more details on the Christmas Box on the Yoyome website but the pack contains:

  • A film camera (with flash) for all those yuletide memories (which is great for printing out those christmas photos for sticking in a child's scrapbook or memory book)
  • A 'snap me' Photo Sheet - for all those festive things to take snaps of (what an ace idea!)
  • 12 colourful crayons
  • A Christmas Origami pack with lots of funky little Xmas designs and makes. 
  • A Christmas Word Search
  • A Christmas Doodle Pad
  • A Colour-Me Christmas Card to send to a very special person

Charlotte was rather excited by the prospect of having her own camera to capture christmas with, but also made a bee-line for the crayons and doodle pads (she's completely obsessed with drawing and scribbling at the moment, so more doodling paper is always very welcome).

You can check out YoYome's other great little christmas products including:

Thank You letters and envelopes (very important to thank all those lovely people who gave presents to Santa to give to you!)

Giant (and mini) Christmas Doodle Packs (including party packs)

Exclusive YoYome Gift Tags

Don't forget, YoYome also do a great range of other items including wedding invitations, reward charts, posters, personalised items, baby products and much much more. Best of all, their site also has lots of brilliant little 'make' ideas (including what to do with those empty cardboard boxes that kids always seem to prefer to their real 'expensive' presents! Awesome!)

YoYoMe are accepting Christmas orders up till the 20th December, so if you're looking for that last minute present to keep your little ones occupied over the yuletide season, or you're looking for other great little activity ideas or stationery items, drop by their website and get in quick!

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Monday 17 December 2012

What's life like on Planet Rom? Let's go and take a peek!

Eye-popping, startling and so very very different. That's pretty much what we thought of Amber Vittoria's new children's book "Welcome To Planet Rom" which Amber emailed us about earlier in the week.

Amber, a graphic artist with a mind-blowing website and portfolio, has come up with something so unique we figured it really needed shouting about so here's a couple of preview images from the book:

Welcome to Planet Rom - Cover

A happy smiley Rom, check out those teeth!
A celebratory exploration of imagination, colour and magic, we think you'll agree that it's certainly pretty unique. 
Welcome to Planet Rom can be purchased from Amazon and other reputable booksellers. 

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Mr Hookumbacker and the Yella Yella Yum Tree available for free download

Neat tongue-twisting tale Mr Hookumbacker and the Yella Yella Yum Tree is a self-published E-Book from Richard Silverton. With a fantasy twist in the tale, and engaging characters, the book can now be obtained via Richard's blog for Mr Hookumbacker. 

You can also obtain the book via Smashwords using the coupon code MY72F for 100% Discount.

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The Phlunk by Lou Rhodes and Tori Elliott (Strata Books)

When 'The Phlunk' dropped through our letterbox, courtesy of the lovely Tori Elliott and Strata Books, we were a bit befuddled. Here - on the surface at least - is a book that's a real tough win for an adult, but seems to have that certain something that appeals to a child.

I'll be brutally honest here, I couldn't get on with The Phlunk's text flow and the bizarre half Ay-Ay, half moggy creature was a bit...disturbing.

BUT we spent a weekend reading and re-reading The Phlunk and I did a bit of research into Lou Rhodes. I knew I'd heard the name before somewhere, it didn't occur to me that Lou Rhodes was part of trip-hop collective Lamb.

So I dug out my favourite Lamb track ('Angelica') and played this softly in the background while we re-read 'The Phlunk' - And what do you know? It works beautifully. Normally I'd rather chop my own ears off than distract a child from a book with music tinkling away in the background but in this instance it works so very well. Who'd have Phlunk it!

'The Phlunk' is the story of an intergalactic creature, strangely feline (and like I said earlier, with a touch of the 'Ay-Ay' about it too!) who comes from a bizarre spoon-shaped planet.

Hovering in space, with its vast ears The Phlunk can hear everyone talking on earth. People's hopes and fears, a young child's murmurings in the depths of dreams, daddy getting annoyed because he can't put those flippin' socks on your feet. The Phlunk hears all, and because it hears all, you need never feel alone.

The artwork is almost like Australian tribal art, a mix of painterly and collage stuff and the lyrical text tracks across the page like a slithering snake. This book probably breaks just about every rule in children's picture books but are there really any? I often wonder whether rules exist purely to be broken anyway.

If you're a spotify-er, give this book a go with Lamb's 'Angelica' as a background accompaniment, and see if it wins you over too!

Watch out for the second 'Phlunk' book in September 2013 - "The Phlunk's Worldwide Symphony"

Charlotte's best bit: The Phlunk's home planet with the spoons sticking out of it! This led her to wonder if other planets have vast pieces of cutlery sticking out of them (so we dug out our encyclopaedia for a quick look at other planets in the solar system, good lead-in activity that!)

Daddy's favourite bit: Trippy and a neat message at the end, but do yourself a favour and listen to some really good spacey music while reading this, it works beautifully!

(Kindly supplied to us for review by Strata Books)

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Jack's Mega Machines - The Dinosaur Digger by Alison Ritchie and Mike Byrne (Simon and Schuster Children's Books)

When ace mechanic Jack gets something to repair in his magic workshop, great adventures happen! We've already thrilled to the intergalactic thrills and spills of a superb race in "Jack's Mega Machines - The Rocket Racing Car" (which nabbed a well deserved Book of the Week award) so what's next for Jack and his faithful doggy sidekick? A trip back through time to the land of the DINOSAURS!

Jack has a digger in for repair, but this is no ordinary digger - and as he takes it through the doors of his magical workshop for a test drive, soon it's transformed into the Dinosaur Digger! A huge wheeled behemoth fit to take on just about any terrain, and armed with a handy scoop should Jack feel the need to dig a ditch or two while he's there.

Spotting a mini dinosaur stampede, Jack wonders why the baby dinosaurs are taking to their heels until he spots a terrifying T Rex, intent on bagging itself some tasty dino snacks for dinner.

Jack races to the rescue, but will the Dinosaur Digger be a match for the king of the dinosaurs himself?

Just like "The Rocket Racing Car" this is a fast paced story packed with thrills and spills, and once again you get a fantastic fold-out card model of The Dinosaur Digger to play with while you read (and once again we had the devil's own job extracting the model from the book - that sticky stuff just did not want to give way and again we lost a smidge of the model's external 'paintwork' prying it out of the book, gah!)

Fantastic colourful illustrations by Mike Byrne keep things nicely energetic. Though it's mainly pitched at boys, Charlotte absolutely loved this just like she loved "The Rocket Racing Car" and demanded it again once we'd finished reading it (so how about swapping one of those boys on the back cover for a girl next time?)

Charlotte's best bit: The cute baby dinosaurs - How could the nasty T Rex consider eating them?

Daddy's favourite bit: A great little model - the more of these I see, the more they remind me of mini kid-friendly Carmageddon models! Brilliant stuff!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Simon and Schuster Children's Books) 
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Friday 14 December 2012

The Grump by Sarah Garson (Andersen Children's Books)

Just who is 'The Grump'? Who is this slothful messy character who leaves a trail of destruction in their wake, consumes anything palatable from the fridge, messes up the bathroom and snores loudly under the duvet while everyone else in the house is up and around?

I'm sure most of you can probably guess the end of the story, but for those who can't, this is a great page-turner that leads us to the final confrontation with the terrible Grump - revealing its identity and causing certain members of the family to say "OI! That's a bit unfair, I'm not the only grumpy one around here y'know!"

Sarah Garson's book is great as it ratchets up the tension and leads the reader on a merry trail of devastation around a normal household. Great illustrations too, very 'Going on a Bear Hunt' but more 'Going on a Grump Hunt' instead.

Charlotte's best bit: Who cleared all the goodies out of the fridge?

Daddy's favourite bit: This book is SO unfair :)

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Spookyrumpus by Tony Mitton and Guy Parker-Rees (Orchard Books)

C's appetite for spooky stories is insatiable and once again I'm being constantly badgered to come up with spookier and spookier stories of our made-up character "Merlin the Happy Pig".

Thankfully I can temper trying to work out how to make stories spooky but not scary with great books like Spookyrumpus, by Tony Mitton and Guy Parker-Rees.

As the clock strikes 12, all the monsters, ghoulies, ghosties, trolls, witches and scary folk gather together for a right rotten rumpus! Singing, dancing, clattering their bones, mixing spells and playing spooky hide and seek. It's quite a sight to behold.

Like "Tamara Small and the Monsters Ball", Spookyrumpus lets us take a look at what monsters get up to when they're not wandering around graveyards moaning or clanking their chains.

Great rhyming text, and a super fast pace (which is great if you want to read something quick - but not too scary - before bedtime), Spookyrumpus is a monster treat!

All this talk of monsters has made us crave pickled onion monster munch! Nom!

Charlotte's best bit: The cackling witches, eeek!

Daddy's favourite bit: Ghoulies and ghosties, who ya gonna call?
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ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Frank N Stan by M.P. Robertson (Francis Lincoln Children's Books)

For someone brought up loving gothic horror novels, and the classic MGM monster movies, I've always had a soft spot for the story of Frankenstein. Mary Shelley's peerless novel is riffed on so beautifully here in a children's picture book with a difference.

Young Frank Shelley (love it!) is an only child, and often gets lonely. Despite begging his mum and dad for a baby sib to play with (and probably boss around, it's an older sibling's prerogative, right?) they merely answer "one day, perhaps".

Frank can't wait though, so he sits down at his drawing board to design the ultimate big brother, Stan.

Scrounging bits from a scrapyard, butchering household appliances, and creating the perfect power source, young Frank soon creates a behemoth of a brother - a robotic masterpiece who will play with him, talk to him, and clankily cuddle him.

Stan is gigantic - and we loved M.P. Robertson's brilliant steampunky scrap-metal robot design.

For a while things are brilliant but then something happens that changes both Frank and Stan's lives forever.

We're going to be dreadfully mean, of course, and not tell you what happens - because we really want you to read this utterly brilliant book. There are so many juicy little references to Frankenstein, and even to Ted Hughes' superb "The Iron Man" in here. You'll be bowled over by the artwork for sure, but you'll also love the rather touching tale of family and brotherly love.

Kids will love the inventiveness of Frank. What a cool kid!

Charlotte's best bit: Frank and Stan's brilliant rocket kart

Daddy's favourite bit: M.P. Robertson has expertly borrowed from the Frankenstein legend and produced a clanking, piston-powered, steampunky classic. If you love Frankenstein or Robots, you really need this book on your shelf.
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Thursday 13 December 2012

The Hueys in "The New Jumper" by Oliver Jeffers (HarperCollins Children's Books)

Oh dear. Oh dearie dear. When we finally spotted "The Hueys in the New Jumper" at our local library, we got quite excited. The chance to dip into a new Oliver Jeffers book, something really unique looking and different - and something with a great message that 'different is good' behind it? Surely a shoe in for book of the week, but a rather stern-faced Charlotte said "No Daddy, that is NOT book of the week" and alas, something I thought would be a massive hit has sort of blown up in my face.

"The Hueys in The New Jumper" (or Sweater depending on which side of the Atlantic you live on, apparently) went down like a lead balloon and I'm a bit puzzled why.

It's certainly not because the adorable little Hueys aren't great little characters (great enough to warrant a sequel, "It Wasn't Me" coming up in 2013). It wasn't because the story wasn't funny and engaging. Perhaps it was merely that we always have such high expectations for Oliver Jeffers' stuff that, in this case, different isn't great and different is too different for Charlotte.

In the story, The Hueys live in comfortable ignorance of difference. They all look the same, think the same things, eat the same food, do the same things day in day out. But when one Huey knits himself a bright orange jumper, he instantly stands out from the crowd.

Some Hueys can't abide change (they must work in Universities!) and are repelled by the huey in his bright orange jumper. But others start thinking how cool it looks, and soon want to dress like that themselves.

Of course, what happens next is that more and more hueys take up the knitting needles and knit themselves identical sweaters, and soon - sadly - once again every one is the same.

Or are they? The twist at the end is brilliant.

I'm going to plug away with this one and Charlotte - she has been spoilt by Oliver Jeffers' utterly brilliant books like "Stuck", "The Way Back Home" and "the Incredible Book Eating Boy" so perhaps I'll win her round to the Huey way of thinking. Different is good, different should be celebrated and even when a different looking Oliver Jeffers book turns up, it can be a very very good thing.

Charlotte's best bit: She did at least like the 'Baby Huey' and the twist at the end. Which I won't spoil but made for some very cute end papers.

Daddy's favourite bit: The thing I admire most about Jeffers' books is the quiet message that underpins the story, it's not shouted or clamoured about, it's subtle and it's there and it's usually a message worth hearing. Vive la difference!
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Spotlight on YoYome - a fantastic range of children's activity products and other goodies

My lovely other half The Strolling Mum alerted me to a rather cool little company who produce an innovative and colourful range of children's activity products. YoYo me caught our eye thanks to their learning and activity sheets / doodle pads but a quick dip into their fantastic website shows that there's a lot more to YoYo me.

Aimee and Lou (Louise) were once two little girls very much like Charlotte, who loved to draw and create things, loved getting crafty and loved great TV like Rolf Harris' Cartoon Club (YAY!) and Tony Hart's brilliant children's programmes (how could we not love them to bits, just for this alone!)

Passing on a desire to doodle to their children and other children too is the ethos of YoYo Me and it shows - they have a brilliant range of products to really spur a child's imagination.

Though there are gender-specific products here, normal gender roles are nicely mixed (something we'd really like to see more of) so it's worth checking out their 'personalised' section to find products that are specifically suited to your own children.

Take a look at the website, and get in touch with Aimee and Lou for any enquiries via the site's contacts page.

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Alphasaurs and other Prehistoric Types by Sharon Werner and Sarah Nelson Forss (Blue Apple Books)

Charlotte LOVES a good dinosaur book, and this is a very good dinosaur book but with a twist. It's also a very good alphabet learning book where each gigantic and ferocious dinosaur is beautifully illustrated using the letter it begins with, concrete poetry style.

Packed to the gills with facts and figures about dinosaurs, it's also a very good reference book for children who are just beginning to learn about our prehistoric chums and all the different species discovered in fossil records (though if you believe the press at the moment, books like this need rewriting on a daily basis as we slowly discover that quite a few Victorian palaeontologists were completely bonkers and prone to making things up rather than basing their research on fact - yikes!)

Nevertheless dinosaurs are an intriguing subject, and this book is a unique and novel way of bringing together superb graphic design and early learning in one brilliant package.

Just in case anyone's tuning in from big toy manufacturers. Girls like dinosaurs too, so please stop targetting your dino-based toy ranges at boys exclusively. Thanks.

Charlotte's best bit: She still thinks that the Pterosaurs (the flying dinosaurs) are the very best. Lots in here to love.

Daddy's favourite bit: The Allosaurus and his A-teeth! Ace!

(Kindly supplied to us for review by Mat Archer / Blue Apple Books)
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The Princess and the Peas and Carrots by Harriet Ziefert and Travis Foster (Blue Apple Books)

Sharing a house with a Princess isn't easy. We know this only too well at ReadItDaddy Towers as our own little Princess, Charlotte (she tells us quite forcefully she's a princess but we haven't tried the 'pea' test yet).

Princess Rosebud (or Rosebud as she's known most of the time) likes things 'just so'. Her cuddly toys are exquisitely arranged on her freshly made bed, she likes to draw and paint (but makes sure all her pens and pencils are properly lined up first) and she's good at practically everything she turns her hand to.

But like our own little Princess, sometimes it only takes the slightest thing to cause a giant royal meltdown.

When dinner does not go according to plan one evening, Princess Rosebud explodes quite spectacularly. But learning the story of the Princess and the Pea, Rosebud realises that the uncomfortable lump in her mattress means something after all!

This book is beautifully presented, with a huge sprawling fold-out story segueing nicely with the main plot. Harriet Ziefert's observations on child behaviour are spot on and Travis Foster's humorous cartoon drawings are brilliant.

If you've got one or more little princesses at home, you'll love this book to bits (as will they).

Charlotte's best bit: Princess Rosebud's great collection of toy animals and dolls

Daddy's favourite bit: Brilliantly observed and the foldouts are fantastic too!

(Kindly sent to us by Mat Archer / Blue Apple Books)
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Wednesday 12 December 2012

Homer the Library Cat by Reeve Lindbergh and Anne Wilsdorf (Walker Books)

Libraries rock! Cats rock! Put them together and you've got a lovely snuggly little tale of a cat who loves peace and quiet. He lives with a very quiet lady, in a very quiet house, in a very quiet part of town.

Purely by accident, the snoozy Homer finds himself propelled through the window one day into the clattering noise of the rubbish bins.

Homer can't get back into the house so he wanders the neighbourhood looking for a lovely quiet place to curl up and snooze in.

The fire station perhaps? Not a great idea.

The train yard? Oh no, far too much busy activity going on.

Homer finds himself in a beautiful building where you can hear a pin drop and realises it's a library. Better still, he finds a very special person in there - someone else who likes peace and quiet.

Such a lovely little book and one that reminds us that those tiny all too fleeting moments of peace and quiet are to be savoured and treasured - just like those hours spent book-gazing in the library!

Charlotte's best bit: Story time in Homer's library is just like story time in ours! Yay!

Daddy's favourite bit: Two of our favourite things combined, how could we not love this?

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Dina's Tea Time (storybook app) by Julia Dweck and Patricia Saco (KiteReaders)

We've previously taken a look at Julia Dweck and Patricia Saco's sublime dip into the art world with "Henny Hops into Art - The Hare with the Pearl Earring". Julia kindly offered to let us take another look at her storytelling app range with 'Dina's Tea Time', again illustrated by Patricia and again adding more to the storytelling app genre than just a story.

Charlotte loves dinosaurs so she was very excited to see a book with such cute dino characters that gave lots of factual details about dinosaurs but - and this is a rather neat twist - also offered up some utterly brilliant dino-based recipes AND also a subject quite dear to my own heart, lots of information about tea! How cool!

Dina the Dinosaur is hosting the perfect tea party, but something's not quite right. As her dinosaur friends turn up one by one, something still nags at Dina. What could be missing? It takes a certain T(ea) Rex to point out the missing ingredient vital to a dino tea party!

Once you've delved into the story, you can view facts about the dinosaurs featured in the story and also try out some brilliant recipes. Are you tempted to try Mastodon Bone Scones? Or even Pteranodon choc chip cookies? Then step into Julia's dino world and bake up a batch. It doesn't even end there as you can also see some great educational videos and we defy you to get a certain tune out of your head once you see a cute little puppet singing it.

With an entertaining teatime story of Dina and her friends you're just beginning to dip into what's on offer here, and for the price this app really does represent great value with plenty of content to keep little ones busy.

We've consistently trumpeted about how important it will become for storybook apps to go beyond just offering the same experience a book can, if they're to truly shine as a storytelling form in their own right. Dina's Tea Time shows what modern tablets are capable of in order to enhance a story, provide background information, underpin a story with great factual content and give children a reason to revisit them again and again.

One very minor point to note - sometimes the navigation for the app seemed to be a little hit and miss. Children have a fairly low tolerance for anything slightly fiddly so if buttons don't instantly work, or feature a large enough 'hit zone' they can prove a little frustrating.

What's that you say? It's four o'clock? Well as we're English, I'm sure you know exactly why we're drawing this review to a close. Everything stops for tea!

Charlotte's best bit: Without a shadow of a doubt, the puppet song (she won't stop singing it, help!)

Daddy's favourite bit: As with "Henny", a brilliant story underpinned by fascinating facts and some utterly scrummy sounding recipes and plenty of Dina extras at the end. A dino-tastic package indeed!

(Kindly supplied for review by Julia / KiteReaders)

"Dina's Tea Time" (on iTunes)

Also available on Amazon for Kindle devices
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Tuesday 11 December 2012

The Rascally Cake by Jeanne Willis and Korky Paul (Picture Puffin)

More locally generated genius, this time in the form of Korky Paul's superbly detailed illustrations. Coupled with Jeanne Willis' supreme talent for funny (and quite ghastly) rhymes, "The Rascally Cake" was a bit of a 'find' in our local library (we thought we'd seen just about everything Korky Paul had draw, we were definitely wrong!)

It's the tale of a rather foul gent called Rufus O' Parsley who has rather odd culinary tastes. If it's rancid, rotten, grim, gooey, icky, mouldy, manky, gross, squishy, slithery or downright unpalatable Rufus is in his element.

His diet gets the better of him one day when he decides to cram all the world's most disgusting ingredients into a cake. Made in a dustbin, lovingly garnished with old toenail clippings, bogeys and snot, Rufus doesn't realise that food takes on a life of its own when it gets below a point of griminess.

The cake suddenly springs to life. Worse than that, the cake has rather taken a fancy to Rufus - fancying him for tea!

It's masterfully icky stuff that's a giggle from start to finish. If you've ever wondered what happens to food when it slides oozily past its sell by date, you'll love this book.

Charlotte's best bit: The icky cake slithering under the door! Yikes!

Daddy's favourite bit: I love Korky Paul's inventiveness, and one of these days I'm going to decipher all those cyrillic phrases he keeps hiding in his work!
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The Totally Terrifying Three by Hiawyn Oram and David Melling (Hodder Children's Books)

We're fast becoming fans of local boy David Melling's work. He's an absolute gentleman on Twitter, and here working with Hiawyn Oram, he has produced some lovely mythical creatures and beautifully coloured ink drawings for "The Totally Terrifying Three".

Three mythical monsters truly believe they're the scariest thing in the land. There's a warty witch who thinks her face could launch a thousand airline sick bags, and her spells could chill you to your very bones. There's a dragon who breathes fire and roars and there's a clumsy lanky giant who rides around in a rather cute car (and a very snazzy suit!)

When the three meet a little toddler who is not in the least bit scared of them, they're forced to re-evaluate their ferocity. Are they really as scary as they think they are? Or are they actually fantastic fun to play with?

It's a fantastic journey through the eyes of a toddler, but even for older children there's a great deal to love about this book. We'll definitely be looking out for more by Hiawyn Oram, and it goes without saying we'll still continue tracking down all David Melling's books until we catch up with a certain other children's book blogger :)

Charlotte's best bit: The witch was her favourite, and she'd love to zoom around on that broom!

Daddy's favourite bit: Where does the giant get his wonderful clothes! So sharp!

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