Tuesday 30 April 2013

New Doctor Dog coming from the utterly awesome Babette Cole. Doctor Dog - Health and Fitness Unleashed!

"A Dose of Doctor Dog" book cover. Never go out without your sunblock!
Babette Cole's Doctor Dog books are amongst Charlotte's all time favourite books. We've often wondered whether we'd get to find out what happened next to the Gumboyles and their very talented medical pooch.

Wonder no more because, as it said on @babettecole's twitter feed this morning:

"just finished new dummy 4 Dr Dog Health&Fitness Unleashed It is very funny meet the Gumboyles hated neighbours The Ulcers.Scumball match 2!"

Good news? Great news!!! Charlotte is probably going to explode when she finds out. But she'll still be wondering about Mrs Doctor Dog... :)

Read our slightly gushing and enthusiastic reviews for Doctor Dog (a book of the week!) and A Dose of Doctor Dog via those lovely links.
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The Hueys in "It Wasn't Me!" by Oliver Jeffers (HarperCollins Children's Books)

Oh dear. Here we go again. Remember I told you how disappointed Charlotte was with Oliver Jeffers' previous "Hueys" book "The New Jumper"? I tried, I implored, I begged and I pleaded but no amount of reading and re-reading could get her to love it.

Here we are with the second book featuring Jeffers' quietly engaging and funny characters "It Wasn't Me" and Charlotte still doesn't like them.

I also expected (and wanted) to love this book. Like its predecessor, there's the quietly subtle message underpinning the interaction between the (now multicoloured) Hueys. An argument breaks out, and there's lots of shouting and unpleasantness - but it takes an outside observer to ask the most important question, "what on earth was the disagreement about in the first place?"

...and - well that's it really. Perhaps again like before, Charlotte perhaps expected the in-depth hook of Jeffers' beautifully painted "Lost and Found" and "The Way Home". Perhaps she expected a bit of zany surreality, "Book Eating Boy" style. But she really couldn't get into The Hueys and I think though I was quite charmed by the first book, this seemed to be over and done with too quickly even to convey the message at its heart. Perhaps we're missing something - we'd really love to hear from folk who did pick up on what we missed, please do drop a comment below if so.

For us though - A third Hueys book? We'll pass thanks, alas.

Charlotte's best bit: Tiny glimmer of a smile at the different Huey neckties.

Daddy's favourite bit: I so wanted to like this, to love it even but it felt like it was too short and sweet to get its dinky little Huey teeth into us. Very great shame.

(Kindly sent to us for review by HarperCollins Children's Books)
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Come to School Too, Blue Kangaroo by Emma Chichester-Clark (HarperCollins Children's Books)

We love following the exploits of her wonderful dog Plum on The Plumdog Blog (if you haven't discovered it yet, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR!) so any new books from Emma Chichester-Clark are always cause for celebration.

We're relative newbs and green around the gills so you'll have to forgive us for never coming across the Blue Kangaroo books before. We are so happy we have now though, as they're fantastic - and in this tale "Come to School Too, Blue Kangaroo" - Kangaroo's owner Lily is off to a new school for the first time.

She decides to take Blue along with her. Blue is very excited about school and all the things there are to do, new faces to meet, and new experiences but Lily is rather worried that blue might be frightened, might get bored, might be too shy to say hello to anyone.

Soon Lily is wrapped up in the busy school day, and Blue rather thoughtfully watches from the windowsill as Lily enjoys painting, playing and (the best bit of any school day) story time.

When hometime comes, Lily is so excited about her day that the unthinkable happens. Poor Blue Kangaroo gets left at school all on his own. But not to worry, Blue is happy because now he'll get to do all the things Lily did during her fantastic school day!

We'll leave the rest for you to discover, but we're absolutely committed to checking out the rest of the Lily and Blue Kangaroo adventures. I loved the way Lily 'spoke' through Blue, expressing her own fears and anxieties about starting school but shifting them onto Blue (who, rather jauntily, wasn't worried about any of those things at all!)

We've seen many 'first day at school' books on the blog but this is by far the best of the bunch. Beautifully drawn (we expect no less from Emma, she rocks!), beautifully told - a really classy book all round. More Blue Kangaroo soon please!

Charlotte's best bit: She loved matching Blue's paintings to the children who were in Lily's class.

Daddy's favourite bit: Blue being very brave about his first day at school.

(Kindly sent to us for review by HarperCollins Children's Books)
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Monday 29 April 2013

Meggie Moon by Elizabeth Baguley and Gregoire Mabire (Little Tiger Press)

We'd heard lots of praise being heaped on this book before we finally spotted it in the library stacks, so we had to check it out.

It's very easy to see why it's such a big hit, what a lovely book! Meggie Moon tells the story of two scruffy little kickabout boys (you know the sort, they're the ones that are always out in the street kicking a ball against your wall till 10pm most summer nights!) who play every day on a local piece of wasteland. Bored and kicking their heels around amongst the trash, the boys are surprised one day when a girl comes into the yard.

Meggie Moon is her name - and though the boys take an instant dislike to her ("A Girl! UGH!") Meggie soon finds a brilliant way to win them over.

Meggie has a fantastic imagination, and knows how to turn trash piles into interesting and cool things. One day she makes a racing car, the next day she makes a fabulous pirate ship, and after that a fantastic den. Meggie is soon firm friends with the boys. But summer friendships don't always last forever and Meggie soon has to leave.

But when she does, she leaves something behind. Something the boys can remember her by and something that means they'll change too. A love of making things, and that vibrant imagination of Meggie's stays behind even though she doesn't.

It's a fantastic, celebratory story that says "Never judge a book by its cover". It's great to see a girl with glasses as the 'hero' here too. We love you, Meggie Moon!

Charlotte's Best Bit: The fabulous den the kids make.

Daddy's favourite bit: A charming story, great for early readers like Charlotte and so very nice to see a girl hero that's a fair break from the norm too.

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Illustrators! Artists! Design a logo for the FCBG Festival of Children's Literature!

Calling all illustrators!
On Saturday November 9th 2013 the Federation of Children’s Book Groups will be holding a one day Festival of Children’s Literature at the Birmingham Conservatoire. Confirmed authors and illustrators include Michael Morpurgo, Emma Chichester Clark, James Mayhew and Clara Vulliamy.But we need YOUR help! We need a logo for the festival!
Illustrators, established or aspiring, are invited to submit a logo by May 17th and the winning design will be used for all advertising for the festival, not only online, but in print.
The winner will be interviewed here on the FCBG blog and in the FCBG newsletter, with a opportunity to showcase a selection of their illustration portfolio. The FCBG blog and newsletter are widely read by those based in the UK with links to the children’s book industry; the newsletter alone goes to more than 1000 people. The online and print interviews will offer an amazing opportunity for the winning illustrator to raise his/her profile within the (UK’s) children’s book world.
The Nitty Gritty
The logo should capture the excitement of books and the joy of stories, and appeal to all ages. The aim of the Federation, and this festival in particular, is to bring children and books together for enjoyment and fun, whilst celebrating 45 years of the Federation.
The logo will need to work well both on screen and in print (on A5 flyers, in addition to text about the festival). The logo should be submitted by email to web@fcbg.org.uk by 6pm Friday May 17, as either a TIFF or JPEG, at 300dpi. It should be no larger than 100mm x 100mm. It must include some colour, but it is up to you whether it is full colour (4 colour) or uses a limited palette.
The final design of the adverts for the festival will include full details about the festival, including details of speakers, venue, sponsors and ticket details, but these are not to be included in your logo design.
Any individual aged 16 years or over may submit up to three entries to the competition.
The winning logo will be chosen by the FCBG Executive and their decision (which includes the possibility of no winner being chosen) will be final.
The winner will be notified by email by May 20th. Shortlisted entries will be shown on the FCBG blog in early June.
The interview with the winning illustrator will take place via email at the end of May, and will appear online and in the newsletter in June /July.
Copyright for each submission will remain with the submitting illustrator but the Federation of Children’s Book Groups will be able to use the winning logo for all publicity surrounding the Festival of Children’s Literature.
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#ReadItMD13 - "Brilliant Bookshops" week - Celebrate your local independent booksellers!

Hedgehog Books, Penrith - An aladdin's cave of booky goodness!
For this week's #ReadItMD13 theme week we thought we'd take a look at beautiful bookshops! There are many reasons why we champion them in a climate where quite often they're overlooked and struggling to stay afloat (amongst others, they pay their taxes!) . Why are they worth shouting from the rooftops about when they're not always the cheapest option?

It's not just about the price of books, it's about the customer service you'll often find in your local independent bookseller. A chance to meet knowledgeable staff who love books as much as you do and quite often (if you're a regular) get to know what you like and what to recommend to you. Local indies always have something going on with various author events and book celebrations throughout the year, a great chance to meet other bookfolk! Above all though there's that unmatched feeling when you walk into a book store of not knowing what to look at first and that's the buzz that means we can barely pass one by.

Recommendations-wise, we've tipped our hat at the top of this article to Hedgehog Bookshop in Penrith. Not exactly our local but they have a mail order service and go above and beyond to source books that aren't always easy to come by. Looking at the photos of the store, we'd definitely be popping in if we're ever in the vicinity.

More local to us, we've championed our fantastic local indies quite often.

Mostly Books - No longer "Black Books" it's all decked out in lovely green paint now

Mostly Books (in Stert St, Abingdon, Oxon) is another place that wows the minute you step inside the door. I'm often shuffled through the adult book section at the front of the store to the cosy nook out back where all the children's books are lined up along the walls. Often there are colouring sheets and activities tucked away out there too. For a small store, it's surprisingly well stocked and Mark Thornton (the shop owner) runs an entertaining blog and twitter feed to keep us local yokels informed. Like most local independent bookshops, Mostly Books often stocks fantastic local books about Abingdon and its rich and varied history. Definitely worth popping in, not just for the brilliant children's book selection but for all manner of books of local interest.

The Abingdon Bookstore
We're also lucky enough to have The Abingdon Bookstore nestling amongst the chain stores in our local precinct. Again it's a fairly small store but has a great selection of children's books - and always has some great 'seasonal' window displays.

We'd love to see photos or links to your local indies. Drop a comment at the bottom of this article and join us celebrating why indies are so vital to keeping us all stocked up with lovely lovely books!

Further reading and more links!

The Letterbox Library - Our fave booksellers of brilliant diverse and inclusive books

Barefoot Books - Vibrant books, and a brilliant store in Summertown, Oxford

City Books in Hove - Brighton and Hove's liveliest and largest indie bookshop

The Golden Treasury - London's largest independent bookshop

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Friday 26 April 2013

Big Top Benn by David McKee (Tate Publishing Ltd)

After our circus-themed book of the week, let's stay with circuses for the moment with a look at Big Top Benn.

David McKee's timeless bowler-hatted hero has been around for well over 40 years now - and this book was first published when Mr Benn was the preferred teatime viewing for me, as I wolfed down marmite sandwiches and drank nesquick as a kid.

Introducing Charlotte to 'old telly' is always quite amusing. Some she's entranced by, some she doesn't quite get but in the case of Mr Benn here's a character that felt familiar to her, mainly because we've loved so many of David McKee's other books anyway - so she knew the art style, and knew the sort of antics Mr Benn would get up to even before I showed her clips from the show on YouTube.

In this tale, Mr Benn wakes up on a noisy summer's morning wondering where the little costume shop on the corner of Festive Road will take him. He feels light hearted and wants something fun but still full of adventure.

The fez-wearing shop owner (who made Fezzes cool way before the 11th Doctor did!) shows Mr Benn a costume that's too big, with huge floppy shoes and a rather battered hat. It's only when the shop owner hands over a bright red nose that Mr Benn understands. Today's adventure will let him be a clown in a circus, hooray!

Setting off in a rather strange car waiting just the other side of the dressing room door, Mr Benn soon finds the other members of the circus running into all sorts of difficulties before they reach the next town. With the aid of a friend from a previous adventure, the rather scary looking Smasher, Mr Benn soon gets the circus on its way again - but can he do a brilliant turn as a clown for the final show?

You'll have to read the book to find out. McKee's trademark colours and brilliant characters are all in the book, and there's some great black-and-white linework too. I still think Mr Benn is one of those children's characters that has appeal right down the generations. A great book and a brilliant trip down memory lane.

Charlotte's best bit: The wonderful trapeze artists, so delicate and lithe

Daddy's favourite bit: The Shopkeeper's brilliant turn as a magician. Pif, Paf, Pouf!

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ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week, Week Ending 26th April 2013 - "Bubble and Squeak" by James Mayhew and Clara Vulliamy (Orchard Books)

Roll up, roll up! Enjoy the thrills and spills of the circus in this utterly fantastic book from James Mayhew and Clara Vulliamy. Plop on your top hat, shrug on your red coat and tails and shout from the very top of the Big Top itself - "Bubble and Squeak" are here!

Bubble is an extremely talented (and Charlotte says "Very beautiful!") Elephant who is the star of the show at the circus. People (and even bunnies!) travel from far and wide to see Bubble perform her star-studded circus extravaganza and feats of derring do as she dances and balances with great expertise for the delectation of the ladies and gentlemen present.

Away from the spotlight though, Bubble finds life a little on the lonely side. Though the circus is amazing and life is hectic, all alone in her trailer Bubble longs for a very special friend.

The lure of the circus is all too much for the other star of this book, a young mouse who loves watching Bubble's fantastic balancing act. Stealing into the big top, Squeak loves the sights and the sounds of the circus and Bubble in particular. But is the circus really any place for a mouse? The ringmaster, the clowns and the other circus performers don't think so and always chase Squeak away.

Sometimes though, great acts of heroism come from the most unexpected quarters so when a calamitous  turn of events threatens to pulverise the "Pyramid of Peril" - Bubble's signature act, there's only one person (or rather mouse) who can save the day.

As we've mentioned before this week on the blog, we see a lot of stories that deal with friendship but rarely are they as stylish, as exciting and as touching as "Bubble and Squeak". Clara Vulliamy's art instantly makes any book feel like it's destined to become a well-loved classic and James Mayhew has a knack for keeping children firmly on the edge of their seats. Charlotte reminded me that the book made her think of Disney's "Dumbo" when there's the exciting sequence with the clowns and the burning building, in which Dumbo first reveals his rather special talent.

We liked this better though, and there's absolutely no doubt in our mind that it's a thoroughly well deserved book of the week. We've read it again and again, and rather hope that Bubble and Squeak are ripe and ready for an encore very very soon indeed.

Charlotte's best bit: She got so excited about spotting certain bunnies in the audience of this that she hopped up and down on the spot (rather like an over-excited bunny!) Nice work!

Daddy's favourite bit: Superbly paced, lots of touching moments and utterly delectable artwork. A book it's nigh on impossible not to love!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Orchard Books)

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Thursday 25 April 2013

Pigs Might Fly (The Further Adventures of the Three Little Pigs) by Jonathan Emmett and Steve Cox (Puffin Books)

We all know the classic tale of The Three Little Pigs but what exactly did those little fellows get up to once they'd vanquished the big bad wolf?

In Jonathan Emmett and Steve Cox's excellent little book we find out what happens when the pigs enter the great 'Pie in the Sky Air Race' while waiting in the wings, a revenge-obsessed wolf wants to pay those little piggies back once and for all.

Still nursing a rather burnt bum, the wolf hatches a nefarious plan or two to scupper each little pig's efforts to build and fly a prize-winning plane.

The pigs aren't the brightest spanners in the toolbox (bar one, who is obviously a civil and mechanical engineering genius!). So one pig builds his plane out of straw, one builds his out of sticks and the smart one builds his out of bri...er I mean metal.

Come the day of the race, the pigs line up with the wolf who wheels out a rather sleek and dangerous-looking Saab Viggen-alike. They take off, with the roars of the crowds echoing in their ears but wolfie's nefarious plans mean the steel plane has no fuel, the straw plane is destroyed when wolfie flies through it, and the stick plane barely chugs into the sky before it too is ruined.

Can the three little pigs bounce back and win the day? Or will the wolf claim the prize and snaffle the pigs as dessert?

This book is brilliantly paced, full of excitement and a fitting way to revisit well loved characters with a couple of new wrinkles thrown into the mix. We loved the planes (we'd just been watching Porco Rosso when we grabbed this from the library so Charlotte's going through a bit of a 'plane obsessive' phase!) and we almost felt sorry for the wolf at times, I mean who wants to spend the rest of their days rubbing oinkment on a charred bottom?

Charlotte's best bit: Wolf flying through one piggy's plane at Mach 3. Ker-BOOM!

Daddy's favourite bit: What "The Barrel" does on the smart piggy's plane. No spoilers!

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Into the Forest by Anthony Browne (Walker Books)

Not everyone likes it when Anthony Browne's books stray away from the cuddly and colourful "Willy"  and "Gorilla" style books into darker territory. One of the most disturbing children's books in Browne's back catalogue, "The Tunnel" is echoed here in "Into the Forest" as once again Browne lets his surreal art style and darkly tinged imagination run riot with classic fairy tale characters.

With familiar tones, a young boy decides to visit his grandmother, armed with some treats for her. He is warned by his mother to go the long way to Grandma's house, and to stay away from the forest path - even though it's a short cut.

Like most boys, the hero of this story doesn't listen to his mum's sound advice and soon discovers that there's more than one dark presence lurking between the trees.

Browne's visual style means that you could spend all day with the book just marvelling at the hidden details and the 'things' that you can pick out amongst the gnarled tree trunks and dark knolls he's so expert at depicting. There is a moral lesson to the tale, which borrows heavily from all manner of Hans Christian Andersen stories and other classic sources.

We loved this book, but kept it well away from bed-times!

Charlotte's best bit: Her sharp little eyes were able to pick out far more details in the forest than I could spot. Absolutely loved finding all the hidden objects and characters.

Daddy's favourite bit: Browne is a master of storytelling whether he's dealing with light airy subjects, funny characters - or like here with sinister and foreboding tales that warn of danger and darkness. Utterly compelling.
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Ballet Kitty - Ballet Class by Bernette Forde and Sam Williams (Boxer Books)

Time to go en pointe with Ballet Kitty as she joins her best friends Princess Pussycat and Ginger Tom for their very first ballet class.

Kitty and Princess deck themselves out in their best ballet outfits, but poor Ginger Tom doesn't have anything special to wear. He comes along in his PE Kit and big clumpy trainers!

For ballet-obsessed kids (like Charlotte) this is a great little story and a neat addition to the "Ballet Kitty" range of books that have become quite popular as a slightly less saccharine alternative to Angelina Ballerina.

The best bit about the book is that there's a boy in Ballet Class and Ginger Tom is as full of enthusiasm and energy, and wants to dance his heart out just like the girls do! Hooray!

Though Kitty and Princess don't really like Tom's approach, and his tendency to jazz up his moves with street-dance stuff, soon they realise that he is enjoying himself and he's as happy as - well a cat in a ballet class can be! That enthusiasm and energy rubs off and all three can't wait till their next class.

A great little story, fantastic illustrations and perfect for girls (or boys) who know their pas de deuxs from their Demi Detournees

Charlotte's best bit: Princess Pussycat (she is me!) and Ballet Kitty's lovely ballet outfits

Daddy's favourite bit: Great to see boys included in a ballet story. Nice one Bernette and Sam!

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Wednesday 24 April 2013

Welly Walks by Hannah Ensor (Stickman Communications / Whizz Kidz)

The lovely Hannah Ensor got in touch with ReadItDaddy to tell us all about her fantastic children's books and has very kindly sent us one to take a look at.

"Welly Walks" is the simple but celebratory story of two young children who enjoy a day out, having fun splashing around in puddles and playing with water. We love a good welly walk ourselves, but Hannah's book aims to show that you can have fun whether you're in wellies or on wheels.

Hannah lives with HMS/EDS (being far too bendy and falling apart) and POTS (tap-dancing heart and appearing drunk without alcohol) and, as her fantastic website 'Stickman Communications' says, having a great set of wheels to get around on definitely helps!

She's a talented story teller, and Charlotte loved her stick-figure drawings, which are bold and colourful and help to relay the message that 'different' does not mean an end to enjoying life, nor is it a barrier to joining in, being included in the fun and getting soaking wet when there are watery hi-jinks to be had. 

We're hoping to hear more from Hannah about her fantastic books on the blog when we feature Diversity and Inclusivity in an upcoming #readitmd13 theme week. For now though, we are actually looking forward to the next rainstorm and our next welly walk. 

Charlotte's best bit: Wheelspinning water in a wheelchair while mum isn't looking. 

Daddy's favourite bit: Full of energy and eye-catching scenes, this is utterly fantastic and engaging stuff!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Hannah Ensor)
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Spotlight on Caroline Lawrence's "The Roman Mysteries" with "The Sewer Demon" by Caroline Lawrence and Helen Forte (Orion Children's Books)

Charlotte loves history! At risk of sounding like one of those horribly pushy parents who will try and convince you that their tiny toddler is well versed in the machinations of ancient Mesopotamia, or is fully knowledgeable about Ancient Greece, Charlotte really does love history. So when the lovely Caroline Lawrence offered us the chance to combine this love of history with a goodly dose of Roman life, wrapped up in an exciting (and quite scary) story, how could we possibly resist?

"The Sewer Demon" is one of many books in Caroline's utterly fantastic "Roman Mysteries" books. In this particular story we meet Threptus, a young boy who ekes out a living on the streets of Rome, begging and performing odd jobs while constantly living on his wits.

Avoiding bullies, and becoming embroiled in a rather intriguing mystery, Threptus is an instantly engaging character that, despite the time and setting of the novel, children will really bond with and perhaps even identify with.

Threptus is drawn into solving the rather spooky case of a rich woman's house, haunted by a nefarious midnight visitor. Locals all speak of a demon but is there more to the mystery than meets the eye, and can Threptus' keen mind and quick wits see through to what's really going on?

Though technically these books are probably a little 'old' for Charlotte, reading them to her in bite-sized chunks was brilliant. With a heady mix of fact and fiction, we get to know a lot more about Ancient Rome and the day-to-day life of an empire that once spanned the globe.

The great thing about the Roman Mysteries books is that we can dive out to any of the history books and encyclopaedias we keep at home and find the real-life counterparts of what Caroline so expertly describes in her stories. Once again, this mixing of stories with fact makes the books absolutely perfect for school but for us, utterly addictive for home too.

It's not hard to see why the "Roman Mysteries" series is so popular. Popular enough, in fact, to have spawned a CBBC TV Series which we hadn't even picked up on but really must sit down and watch more of. Here's a clip.

There's also an accompanying site for Caroline's brilliant books and characters.


For now, we'll be diving back in to Threptus' world very soon indeed. Fortes Fortuna Iuvat!

Charlotte's best bit: Some rather lovely descriptions of Roman food (Honey cakes make MY stomach rumble too!) and some great scary bits! Romans were a very superstitious lot :)

Daddy's favourite bit: Beautifully descriptive language and some brilliant hooks in "The Sewer Demon" to serve as a lure to investigate the scintillating subject of Ancient Rome further. Fab-u-LOUS!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Caroline Lawrence / Orion Children's Books)
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Tuesday 23 April 2013

Celebrate World Book Night with a trio of top notch Top That! Publishing goodies for your Tablet

It's World Book Night and to celebrate, our fabulous friends over at Top That! Publishing have released a trio of fabulous apps for your iPad from the 23rd to the 24th April. The details are below:

The Jumblies app – Download for FREE

Full of fantastical nonsense, interactive prompts, and unique illustrations by Sam McPhillips, this humorous interactive animated storybook app is perfect for children to interact with the Jumblies on their ocean adventure! Written by inimitable British author, Edward Lear, you can touch, tap and drag many of the characters and items throughout the story, bringing them to life! The app also allows for you to read along by yourself or have the story read to you with touch activated text! (RRP usually £1.49) 


Silent Owl app – Download for FREE

New and emerging readers will love this enchanting interactive animated storybook app with unique illustrations by Sam McPhillips and rhythmic text by Clemency Pearce. You can touch, tap and drag many of the characters and items throughout the story for a full interactive experience! Read along yourself or have the story read to you. (RRP usually £1.49)


The Froobles app – FREE plus discounted in-app purchases for £0.69

Join everyone’s favourite little fruit and vegetable characters learning BIG lessons about growing up in this positive attitude app for pre-schoolers! Packed with interactive features, animated stories, celebrity narration and a whole host of fun characters, The Froobles app is an essential download for your child's digital library. Read along with the animated stories and eBooks or sit back and enjoy great celebrity narration by Johnny Vaughan, Denise Van Outen, Edith Bowman and Reggie Yates. The Froobles Little Jack Potato app is FREE to download, with Chloe Carrot, Orlando Orange and Tessa Tomato in-app purchases DISCOUNTED to £0.69 (usually £1.99)


Daniel Graham, Editorial Director said ‘We’re really proud to support World Book Night. From avid to reluctant readers, it offers everyone the chance to pick up a book or app for free. Our fun and interactive apps hopefully appeal to everyone and World Book Night offers everyone the chance to enjoy them’.

About Top That! Publishing:

Top That! Publishing plc is an award-winning, independent publishing company located beside the river Deben in Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK. Founded in 1999, this innovative company has published over 3000 titles in the UK and around the world. Top That! books cater for pre-school children to adults and are designed to promote child development, enrich relationships and foster creativity and imagination. www.topthatpublishing.com
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I Love My Daddy by Giles Andreae and Emma Dodd (Orchard Books)

It's still a little early for Father's Day yet (in the UK it's on Sunday June 16th Folks, but various territories have it on different days). Nevertheless, it's never too early to celebrate dads (and mums) so here's a charming little book from two giants in children's picture books.

Giles (Pants) Andreae and Emma (Cinderelephant) Dodd are an awesome match, and this book celebrates all the things that are great about dads, and being a dad.

Shoulder carries, water fights, lulling you to sleep with a story (sounds familiar!) or perhaps tuning up the air guitar for a rock-out marathon on a sunday afternoon when mum's out of the house, it's brilliant being a dad and just so mums don't feel completely left out, there's an accompanying "I Love My Mummy" book by this immensely talented duo too!

Brilliant for younger children, but also very much appreciated by Charlotte (and her daddy of course!)

Charlotte's best bit: Daddy's terrible singing and air guitar playing (very much like ReadItDaddy's!)

Daddy's favourite bit: Nice to see 'being silly' being celebrated. This happens a lot at home!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Orchard Books)
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Dinosaur Farm by Frann Preston Gannon (Pavilion Children's Books)

You would not BELIEVE how much there is to do on Dinosaur Farm. In Fran Preston Gannon's rather nifty little book we get to share the day with Farmer Jack on his Dinosaur Farm, and learn about all the things that need to be done to help grow and nurture happy healthy dinosaurs.

Farmer Jack is a rather jolly soul (so beautifully painted and his expressions are fantastic) who sets about his duties with a smile on his face and an ever-present stalk of straw hanging from his bottom lip.

So what's first? Sorting out the Pterodactyl eggs? Mucking out the Brontosauruses? (ew, that's a big job, quite literally!)

Poor Farmer Jack is frazzled by the end of the day, but in this humorous tale we often find out that someone else's life might look a lot of fun, but is probably a heck of a lot of work!

Frann Preston Gannon's gentle storytelling style, interesting plots and fantastic artwork set this book a cut above the usual dino-based fare. It's very easy to see why Frann won a Sendak Fellowship and got to study with the great Maurice Sendak himself.

A fantastic book. If you share your home with a dino-obsessed youngster (like I do) then this is going to be an instant win!

Charlotte's best bit: Awww the triceratops are so cute (Her words not mine!)

Daddy's favourite bit: Such utterly fantastic illustration work and a superbly presented book. An absolute MUST for kids who love their dinos!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Pavilion Books)
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Jack's Amazing Shadow by Tom Percival (Pavilion Children's Books)

Lately on the blog we've noticed we're seeing a heck of a lot of 'friend' books. Books that deal with friendship and what happens when friends fall out, but realise they can't really do without each other. Off the top of my head I can think of at least five, so any new ones have got to work hard to catch our attention and spur our imagination.

Which is exactly what Tom Percival's "Jack's Amazing Shadow" does. Jack, a fairly ordinary young boy (with a KILLER haircut, we have to say!) plays all day with his rather mischievous shadow. Wherever Jack goes, his shadow goes. If Jack jumps, his shadow does, and if Jack cheekily sticks out his tongue, his shadow does too.

The only problem is that Jack's shadow is very very naughty indeed! Preferring mischief over good behaviour, Jack finally gets a little bit fed up of his shadow's antics and tries his very best to run away. But (as the old saying goes) you can't run away from your shadow and it takes some stern words from Jack to finally get his shadow to stop bugging him and stop causing trouble.

Of course, life without a shadow can get very lonely indeed so it's not very long before Jack realises the error of his ways. What can he possibly do to lure his shadow back?

The answer, of course, nestles within the pages of this rather stylish book. Fast-paced, nicely illustrated and adding a few twists and quirks to a story that is becoming more and more popular, Jack's Amazing Shadow is indeed amazing. If your child is at the stage where they're making friendships / breaking friendships almost on a daily basis, they'll enjoy the life lesson in this, and perhaps they might even learn how to make some really cool shadows of their own along the way, thanks to the book's rather handy hints!

Charlotte's best bit: Learning how to make shadow animals!

Daddy's favourite bit: The friendship formula is very well worn, it's nice to see an interesting quirky take on it. Nice one Tom!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Pavilion Books)
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Monday 22 April 2013

#HappyBirthdayBertie - Bertie's Top Ten Trumps!

We wanted to do something creative to celebrate Dirty Bertie's 10th birthday (or should that be "Bert-day"). In honour of the latest Dirty Bertie picture book "Pooh, is that you Bertie?" by David Roberts, we've compiled a list of "Bertie's Top 10 Trumps" - or ways to effectively focus your flatulence.

Here are 10 foods that are guaranteed to have you flumping and trumping long, loud and proud!

1) Baked Beans. 

They're tasty on toast but watch out for the after effects. Tangy tomato sauce can't mask the apocalyptic trumping that these beauties induce. Variously described as 'skinheads on a raft' by children of a certain generation, they're guaranteed to ensure a good trouser rumble.

Pong Rating - 3 out of 5
Deathly Decibels - 4 out of 5
Bertie Bot-Score - 4 out of 5

2) Haggis.

It'll put the wind up your kilt, Haggis may sound like it has a pretty yucky set of ingredients but it tastes fantastic (particularly with ketchup or with lollies found on the floor as a side dish).
The vegetarian version (yes, there is one!) is even more lethal due to the presence of lentils. More on those later!

Pong Rating - 5 out of 5
Deathly Decibels - 2 out of 5
Bertie Bot-Score - 2 out of 5

3) Jerusalem Artichokes. 

These should appeal to any budding Dirty Bertie wannabes, as they look like they've just been dug out of the garden. In fact, they have - they're a root vegetable with a super-secret superpower - the ability to blow a hole in your underpants. They don't really taste of much (they're a bit like a mashed turnip), and you probably won't feel the effects for a wee while but once these babies get to work, you'll need to open all the windows and plug your ears. They're titanic trumpers!

Pong Rating - 4 out of 5
Deathly Decibels - 4 out of 5
Bertie Bot-Score - 4 out of 5

4) Meringues.

Sweet and tempting but don't be fooled by these airy little desserts, they pack a pumping-trumping punch! The presence of whipped egg whites, a lot of air and the temptation to eat more than one does mean they're deceptively inoffensive to look at but will deliver a death blow to your nostrils. Pe-eewww sir!

Pong Rating - 5 out of 5
Deathly Decibels - 3 out of 5
Bertie Bot-Score - 4 out of 5

5) Spicy Beanburgers

When is a burger not a burger? When it's beany! Sneak in some fibre into your child's diet with something that looks like junk food but is utterly (and quite disgustingly) healthy. But be ready with a peg on your nose, spicy beanburgers produce clouds of green and offensive gas that you'll find very difficult to blame on the cat (Because no cat alive would touch one of these with a barge pole)

Pong Rating - 5 out of 5
Deathly Decibels - 2 out of 5
Bertie Bot-Score - 3 out of 5

6) Jacket Potatoes

Fine on their own, lovely with butter but don't be fooled by this relatively healthy and easily prepared teatime treat, trumps-a-plenty will ensue as the evening progresses after a hearty meal of these.

Fillings can also add to the ferocity of the flumps. Try Bertie's own recommendation of combining Tuna, Jelly Beans and Cheese and Onion Crisps lightly crumbled on top for added effect.

Pong Rating - 4 out of 5
Deathly Decibels - 3 out of 5
Bertie Bot-Score - 4 out of 5 (but only with the aforementioned toppings - or perhaps marmalade!)

7) Dog Biscuits

These should only be consumed when Mum and Dad aren't looking. Full of goodness, full of fibre, full of marrowbone jelly to ensure your hair is glossy and well kept.

The green ones taste like green opal fruits. True fact!

Pong Rating - 2 out of 5
Deathly Decibels - 2 out of 5
Bertie Bot-Score - 4 out of 5

8) Grandma's Sherry Trifle

Another slightly naughty one depending on how naughty Grandma is with the sherry, but more than one bowlful of this potent dessert is definitely not recommended!

Flumps ensue due to the high sponge content and whipped topping (which may or may not be cream). Definitely do not attempt to ride your tricycle after eating this either.

Pong Rating - 2 out of 5
Deathly Decibels - 3 out of 5
Bertie Bot-Score - 2 out of 5

9) Prunes

Not sure these should be included on the list because if Bertie is anything like any child ever born, they would never consider these to be a foodstuff. An interesting thing to fire from a catapult perhaps, or something to sneak into your sister's bed to make her think she's been visited by a gigantic pooping rabbit, but definitely not food.

Pong Rating - 2 out of 5
Deathly Decibels - 2 out of 5
Bertie Bot-Score - 0 out of 5, I'm not eating those!

10) Dandelion and Burdock

Last but by no means least, something to wash all that flatulent flumpy fare down with sir? But of course! And what better drink than Dandelion and Burdock which has the added bonus of working at both ends. Colossal burps followed by tweet-like trumps from this dark, delicious and gassy drink. Cheers!

Pong Rating - 3 out of 5
Deathly Decibels - 10 out of 5 (because both ends go at once!)
Bertie Bot-Score - 4 out of 5


We at ReadItDaddy take no responsibility for the after effects produced by these foods. We recommend trying them in a well-ventilated room, possibly with pegs (for the nose) to hand, and definitely not to be tried 5 minutes before Daddy's boss is due to arrive to talk about a new contract. 

Happy Trumping!

"Pooh, is that You Bertie?" by David Roberts is available from Little Tiger Press

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#happybirthdaydirtybertie "Dirty Bertie Early Readers" by Alan Macdonald and David Roberts (Little Tiger Press)

It's "Happy Birthday Dirty Bertie" day on ReadItDaddy today, and along with the children's picture books there's a range of early chapter readers featuring the boy with a billion dirty habits, Dirty Bertie himself.

The range now comprises 100 books covering a wide range of stomach-churning topics such as "Pants", "Bogeys", "Loo!", "Fleas!", "Germs!" and a whole host of other subjects dear to our favourite little flatulent fellah's heart.

We dipped into a few titles that Little Tiger Press were kind enough to send through for review - and though they're pitched at children slightly older than Charlotte (let's face it, grim and gross subjects NEVER get old for kids!) they're brilliantly written by the talented fella behind CITV's "Horrid Henry" series, Alan Macdonald.

With original illustrations peppered throughout the books by Dirty Bertie's creator, David Roberts, there's a whole host of giggles and guffaws to be had. The range is very reasonably priced so it won't wear too much of a hole in your pocket either!

Happy Birthday Bertie! Long may your nose be picked!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Little Tiger Press)
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#happybirthdaydirtybertie "Pooh, is that you Bertie?" by David Roberts (Little Tiger Press)

We're celebrating 10 years of David Roberts' stinky little lad Dirty Bertie on ReadItDaddy today. So what did Bertie get up to next after his previous dog-licking plant-watering antics?

How can we put it delicately? Trouser trumps? Bottom fluffs? Tummy squeaks?

Whatever you like to call them, trumps are trumps and in "Pooh, is that you Bertie?" we find out that little Bertie is a lad with a big wind problem.

"He lets off at the dentist
He lets off during tea
He lets off in a wendy house
With wild abandoned glee!"

As Bertie quite rightly points out, he's not the only one floating air biscuits at home. Mum covers hers with a polite cough. Dad sneaks them out when he thinks no one's listening and Gran? Gran blames the cat!!

This fart-tastic book comes complete with buttons to press at each point in the story, to treat everyone in the family to a wide selection of genuine bronx cheers (we've completely run out of trump analogies now I'm afraid!)

Funny and fwoofy, if you have a trump-obsessed little one at home they'll be in tears of laughter over this.

Charlotte's best bit: Big Sister's rather musical bottom burps

Daddy's favourite bit: Mum's polite trouser cough-cover (ahem hem!)

(Kindly sent to us for review by Little Tiger Press)
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#happybirthdaydirtybertie Dirty Bertie by David Roberts (Little Tiger Press)

We're celebrating 10 years of Dirty Bertie with lots and lots of Bertie goodness today on the blog, starting with a review of the book that started it all and introduced us to the little monster himself!

David Roberts' Bertie has a whole raft of gross habits. He loves eating sweeties he's found on the floor. He waters the flowerbeds (and by 'waters' we mean 'without the aid of a watering can'). If his pet dog licks him, he'll often lick him back. And have you seen his slug and snail collection?

Bertie soon learns that some habits lead to tummy aches, consequential acts of revenge (never EVER cross your older sister, boys!) and a furry tongue. But there's one habit Bertie just can't seem to break. Can you guess what it is?

Charlotte loved Dirty Bertie mostly because she's at the tender age where anything slightly icky or gross is immensely funny. Bertie's an enduring character, as you'll find out in the rest of today's posts as we take a look at "Poo! Is that you Bertie?" and also the range of Dirty Bertie young readers by David Roberts and Alan Macdonald.

Charlotte's best bit: Bertie turning green after eating a lolly he found on the floor. Ewww!

Daddy's favourite bit: Bertie's rather dubious choice of after dinner snack. Blooargh!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Little Tiger Press)
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#ReadItMD13 - This week's theme week, "Book TV!"

Far more desirable than a Sony Bravia 52" HD Telly surely?
For this week's theme, I must admit to having a huge gap in my knowledge so I'm hoping lots of you lovely folk will be able to help me plug the gaps. You see, on average we watch probably about 2-4 hours of TV a week at home so we don't often have time to hoover up some of the brilliant book-based programmes that children can discover new books through.

When I was a whippersnapper, two TV programmes about books used to be required viewing.

The mighty "Jackanory" is probably remembered by quite a few folk my age. Celebrities (even royalty) used to read a children's book over the space of a week, with some utterly scintillating titles and guests counting themselves amongst the Jackanory alumni. Here's a fantastic clip of a 'Young Ones'-era Rik Mayall reading Roald Dahl's "George's Marvellous Medicine" in his own inimitable style!

The other programme I loved to bits was The Book Tower. With an utterly cracking (if somewhat surreal) theme tune by Julian Lloyd Webber, and presented by the towering presence of my favourite Doctor Who of all time, Tom Baker, the Book Tower was stunning viewing even if you weren't that interested in books (luckily I most certainly was at that age!)

It probably looks a bit old and creaky now (much like me!) but it had bucketloads of atmosphere and always featured the sort of books I couldn't get enough of as a kid (by the likes of Ian Serrailler, C.S. Lewis etc).

Moving on, children today have far more choice. From an early age, kids can enjoy the CBeebies lunchtime and bedtime stories - either read by the fantastic CBeebies presenters or, like Jackanory, by willing celebrities who do a fantastic job of fleshing out some of our favourite children's books. Here's John Simm taking a break from Life on Mars to read "Winnie the Witch".

CBeebies is also home to a rather loveable storytelling Lion. I still struggle to marry up the image of Peter Serafinowicz as Bernard Butterfield in my head with the rather softly spoken Driver Dan but nevertheless, Driver Dan's Story Train has become a firm favourite with kids - leading into a story reading with a little story of its own featuring the multitude of (sometimes loopy) characters that inhabit Dan's world.

Flipping over to CITV, you've got plenty of choice too. We could not run a theme week on Book TV without mentioning the mighty Bookaboo. Fabulous, fantastic, rocking. We've run out of superlatives. Though we've only checked out a couple of episodes, and though it's often on when Charlotte is still at school we really ought to watch it more often as it's fab. Here's Mel C on Bookaboo.

(Yup still the most fanciable spice girl).

Last but by no means least we've got to mention Signed Stories, simply because they use Child's Play books - and we really love those books very much indeed. Signed Stories mixes read aloud stories with signing, and you can also download an app from iTunes too!

Check out a clip below of Natalie 'signing' Rumplestiltskin.

So there you have it, these are just a few of the book-based programmes that children can tap into on TV and hear about new books, hear new stories and get some brilliant ideas for that next visit to the bookshop or library.
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Friday 19 April 2013

The Witch's Assistant by Patrick Coombes (New Generation Publishing)

Here's a rather charming little book featuring a slightly inept (but ultimately heroic) little bat who is The Witch's Assistant.

Franklin the Bat helps out around Templeton Towers, a creaky towering building protected by a fire breathing dragon, and home to several witches - including Franklin's best friend Dot.

Dot is concocting a very important spell one day when Franklin, ever helpful but very clumsy, makes a huge mess of carrying ingredients to and fro. The other witches are not pleased at all, and poor Franklin hangs his head in shame as Dot tries to clear up the unholy mess!

But Franklin has a special skill, the most highly tuned hearing in Templeton Towers - so when a mysterious creak and clunk are heard one evening, he decides to investigate!

We won't tell you what happens next, but this is a brilliant story of how Franklin turns things around and becomes the hero of the day. Great illustrations in conjunction with engaging and unique characters put this book a notch above most independently published titles.

If you're after a book for younger readers with plenty of substance and great cross-gender appeal then you should definitely check out Franklin's antics!

Charlotte's best bit: Charlotte thought Dot was by far the prettiest witch she'd ever seen. Awww!

Daddy's favourite bit: A good bottom roasting, well deserved!

(Kindly sent to us for review by New Generation Publishing)
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ReadItDaddy's Book(s) of the Week - Cozy Classics (Les Miserables, Pride and Prejudice and Moby Dick) Adapted by Jack and Holman Wang (Simply Read Books)

How on earth can you possibly distil some of the world's best loved classics down to a tiny board book containing a handful of pages? HOW? It's impossible surely! Yet the Cozy Classics range has done exactly that, with plans to add more to their rather impressive line-up.

We took a look at three of the books and really could not choose between them for a 'book of the week' - and they're that good that we had to nominate all three.

In "Les Miserables", children are introduced to Victor Hugo's dark and sometimes disturbing world as we meet Jean Valjean and Cosette, learning how their paths cross and how this changes Jean Valjean's life and rather disreputable characteristics.

In "Moby Dick" a complex tale of madness and revenge is woven in an exciting and scary seafaring tale of a young sailor, an insane captain and his lust for revenge against the white whale that took his leg. Cozy Classics' version of Captain Ahab is fantastic, as is their whale (we just had to use him as our header for this piece).

Finally in Pride and Prejudice, we meet two of the Bennett sisters and the dashing (but grumpy) Mr Darcy. Heart-wrenching angst and romance play out in the backdrop of the English countryside.

Purists will scoff perhaps - pointing out that the Cozy Classics treatments of these tales won't actually help children understand the complex plots and machinations within the original novels - but in some ways that's missing the point. What these books successfully do is pique a child's curiosity when they're at Charlotte's age. In all honesty they're actually a bit young for her though it was great for her to be able to dive straight into a range of books and be able to read them all the way through on her own. You see, each page contains one word - rather cunningly picked to summarise particular scenes from the originals and it's done so effectively that you can't help but smile at the choices.

The main reason these have been demanded again, and again (and again! I'm not kidding, these have been read every day at least three times a day since we got them) is the sheer quality of production, presentation and illustration. Utterly delightful needlecraft and felt models of the characters and scenes mean that if you purely take these books as illustrated board books, they're some of the most beautiful you'll find nestling on children's book shelves. Every single character is instantly recognisable (and to Charlotte, the Bennett Sisters were utterly beautiful - particularly in the rather lovely wedding scene at the end of the version of Pride and Prejudice).

We dug out the original books and I read a couple of passages from them as Charlotte showed an interest. To her, this rather interesting 'stepping stone' between something child-friendly, and something fairly complicated and wordy, has been a journey of discovery. And that's pretty much what you'd want any book to be, even books that are as simple but so wonderfully presented as these.

There are plans for more in the series including War and Peace (!) and one I seriously can't wait for - Jane Eyre. Awesome! I'm sincerely hoping they're planning to also do Dracula and Frankenstein too!

Charlotte's best bit: The wedding scene at the end of 'Pride and Prejudice' "So beautiful!"

Daddy's favourite bit: The sinking of the Pequoud in "Moby Dick" - stunning.

(Kindly sent to us for review by Simply Read Books)
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Thursday 18 April 2013

Through the Magic Mirror by Anthony Browne (Walker Books)

Anthony Browne's love letters to all things surreal and Magritte-shaped are always well received by us. Charlotte loves them because she can spend hours picking out all the hidden details in each sumptuously illustrated spread. I love them because I studied Rene Magritte's life and works while I was an art bum at college. So "Through the Magic Mirror" was a wonderful discovery at our local library.

Toby, the young lad in the story, is bored. Bored bored bored. Even being bored is boring, so when Toby discovers a magical mirror that leads to an alternate reality, he explores this topsy turvy world and all its bizarre sights and sounds.

Zoo animals roaming the streets (with plenty of trademark Anthony Browne gorillas in evidence!), crazy weather and a hefty dose of rainbow-hued surreality await young Toby as he ventures forth.

Browne's artwork is always a treat, though sometimes we're often disappointed by his stories and that's the case here. The book feels like it needs something extra, though it was easy to identify with the core theme of what children get up to and where their imaginations take them when they're kicking their heels during those long summer holidays.

Charlotte's best bit: Ooh ooh ooh! Gorilla!

Daddy's favourite bit: I never get tired of Browne's artwork, utterly brilliant, surreal, bonkers but always so beautifully done.

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Lovabye Dragon by Barbara Joosse and Randy Cecil (Walker Books)

More dragons! We demand more dragons! Charlotte loves them and whenever we spy a dragon-based book at the library, it inevitably ends up in our pile.

This is something rather special though. Lovabye Dragon by Barbara Joosse and Randy Cecil celebrates friendship and caring as we find out all about a young girl who longs for a special friend - a dragony friend - to share her life.

She has a toy dragon, but it's just not the same!

Elsewhere, a lonely dragon lives out a fairly remote life in a cold dank cave. Surely there must be someone out there who can love a dragon, fiery breath and all?

This touching tale brings the two together for adventures and excitement. We loved Randy Cecil's artwork, quite distinctive and unusual for a children's book but absolutely steeped in atmosphere which lends the book a rather sombre feel at times.

Charlotte particularly liked the little princess in the book, clad in her beautiful Belle-type yellow dress - and the dragon is utterly awesome.

If you're looking for a touching tale of friendship, this is a brilliant book.

Charlotte's best bit: The Princess's dress (and toy dragon)

Daddy's favourite bit: Such an unusual book in tone, and a very distinctive art style. Fabulous and a break from the norm, loved it!

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