Monday 30 September 2013

The Hundred Decker Bus by Mike Smith (Pan Macmillan)

The Hundred Decker Bus

Written and Illustrated by
Mike Smith

Published by Pan Macmillan

Thanks to our good friend Catherine over at StorySnug for recommending this one. Narrowly missing out on our "Transport" theme from last week, our copy of "The Hundred Decker Bus" by Mike Smith arrived over the weekend and we've been reading through it again and again.

The story starts off as the bus driver prepares for an ordinary driving day. He drinks his cup of tea, slides on his jacket and pulls out of the bus station precisely on time. He picks up the same passengers every day, and travels the same route - but a mysterious side road catches his eye. What would be at the end of that mysterious road? Time to find out!

His (very understanding) passengers don't mind the diversion, and soon the bus is sailing through country lanes and past beautiful fields, picking up lots of new passengers on the way. When the bus stops at the sea, the journey doesn't end there. Soon the bus is on board a ferry, sailing for distant lands.

Sailors decide that a mystery journey sounds fun - but the bus is already full! What can be done? With a swift bit of expert engineering the sailors add Deck 3 to the bus - and the scene is set for more adventures, more passengers and even more decks!

We loved the way the story built up to a brilliant climax as more and more detailed little decks are added, more passengers clamber aboard for an adventure - and there's an absolutely HUGE fold-out page to be enjoyed once the bus gets to 100 decks tall.

The fun doesn't last forever. As you'd imagine, the poor bus suffers from the extra load and breaks down - but can something or someone pitch in at the last minute to help out? (We'll let you find out the answer for yourself in this fab book).

There are so many brilliant bits in the book (a bus with its own swimming pool! Wow!) and Mike's eye for detail is awesome. We enjoyed our journey aboard the 100 decker bus and so will you!

Charlotte's best bit: Going swimming in the deep end (and looking at the butterflies out of the window)

Daddy's Favourite bit: Fun, detailed and a wonderful fold-out that's taller than I am! A truly fantastic journey!
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The Solar System through Infographics by Nadia Higgins and Lisa Waananen (Lerner Publishing Group)

The Solar System Through Infographics

Written by Nadia Higgins

Illustrated by Lisa Waananen

Published by Lerner Publishing

As you've probably gathered by now if you're a regular visitor to this blog, we're massive space geeks. We do love child-friendly books that don't dumb things down too much, and dish up lots of interesting facts and figures about space.

Though it hasn't got the catchiest title in the world, "The Solar System Through Infographics" by Nadia Higgins and Lisa Waananen really does pack a plutonium-powered punch. Starting off with the big bang, you'll learn all about how planets were formed, you'll learn about some of the historical theorists that have shaped our understanding of space and you'll also be ready with answers to a zillion and one different questions your youngsters might have for you about the inky black void our little blue world floats in.

Our place in the galaxy. Makes you feel tiny doesn't it?
We're hoping that this eventually becomes a series of books, because it's fairly short and sweet - but still manages to present a metric ton of space facts in a fantastic child-friendly format (adults will learn a thing or two as well!)


Charlotte's best bit: Learning that according to some theorists, our galaxy may once have been a tiny superdense particle!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Wonderful colourful presentation that makes this book feel a bit like a printed version of "The Guide" from "The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy" - Marvellous!

Kindly sent to us by Lerner Publishing Group for review (Via Netgalley)
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#ReadItMD13 Theme Week - "Doctors and Nurses and all things medical"

"Doctor Ted" by Andrea Beaty and Pascale LeMaitre. Take two biscuits and call me in the morning!
It's "Doctors and Nurses" time as we explore all things medical for this week's #ReadItMD13 Theme Week. Children's books that can help children relax about medical matters are invaluable but we also like the ones that are a bit tongue-in-cheek, and sometimes a good dose of cheeky laughter is the best medicine.

So we'll kick off with a book that's been book of the week twice (!), and is regularly demanded whenever we spot it in the library stack...

"Doctor Ted" By Andrea Beaty and Pascal LeMaitre. Doctor in charge!
In fact we wouldn't dare NOT feature "Doctor Ted" by Andrea Beaty and Pascal LeMaitre, simply because it's been so popular with Charlotte and such a huge hit. A little bear wakes up one morning and bangs his knee. Rather than running to his mum, he decides a doctor is required - but since there aren't any around, HE will become one!

Setting up a surgery doesn't take long (though I'm not sure mum would be too happy when she sees what Doctor Ted does with her curtains) but no patients arrive. Thankfully, schools are full of germ-riddled snot-covered patients a-plenty - so it's the perfect place for a young doctor to practice his craft!

Naturally, when you're at school to learn, and your teacher and headmaster take a very dim view of medical antics, things can go sadly awry. But can Doctor Ted prove his worth and save the day after a bump and a scrape in the playground?

This is a fab book, irreverent and cheeky - which is, of course, why kids probably love it to bits!

We'll stick with the cheekier side of medicine for a book that is equally popular with Charlotte, and also has a sequel that's fab too...

"Dr. Dog" by Babette Cole. No need for laughing gas here, it's got plenty of its own!
 Babette Cole's "Dr. Dog" and "A Dose of Dr. Dog" are both fabulous and very cheeky books detailing a medical pooch's efforts to keep his family, the gross and grotesque Gumboyles, fit and healthy! It's not easy though. Young Kurt smokes far too many illicit cigarettes behind the bike sheds and has an awful cough. Baby Gumboyle does NOT wash his hands after going to the toilet, and the less said about Grandad's dietary habits, the better. Phrrt!

Poor Dr. Dog ends up so stressed out at the end of the first book that he jets off on a tropical holiday for the sequel. Unfortunately the Gumboyles invite themselves along, and it's not long before poor Dr. Dog is once again called on to join forces with Professor Dash Hund to administer some tropical medicine!

These books are so well loved that we've practically worn our copies out!

Let's have a look at one of the best 'Body' books we've seen in our travels through the bookblogosphere...

Usborne's "Look Inside Your Body" by Louie Stowell and Katie Leake. Brilliant lift-the-flap factual biological fun! 
Usborne's "Look Inside Your Body" by Louie Stowell and Katie Leake is a fantastic fact-filled voyage through your body, from your brain to your biceps, from your eyes to your toes with an absolute ton of flaps to open and discover. Clearly and concisely written but with plenty of fun illustrations and diagrams, it's a book that shows Usborne are still leading the way when it comes to producing brilliant informative books for curious kids.

Last but not least, here's a book that bounces from A to Z through medical matters...

"ABC Doctor - Staying Healthy from A to Z" by Harriet Ziefert and Liz Murphy. Fab-u-Lous!
"ABC Doctor - Staying Healthy from A to Z" by Harriet Ziefert and Liz Murphy mixes great painted panels with lots of facts for children on what they might expect to find during a visit to hospital or the doctor. Though it can be a bit "americanised" in places, it's a brilliant and colourful book that also has an accompanying book "ABC Dentist - Healthy Teeth from A to Z" by Harriet and Liz that is equally fun and fact-filled.

There are so many children's books dealing with medical matters to choose from. Some fun, some factual - but one thing we would like to see more of are children's books where the ladies take centre stage. Do you know of any? If so, please drop a comment in the box below or tweet us @ReadItDaddy!
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My Daddy's Going Away by Lieutenant Colonel Christopher MacGregor and Emma Yarlett (Doubleday Children's Books)

My Daddy's Going Away

Written by Christopher MacGregor

Illustrated by Emma Yarlett

Published by Doubleday Children's Books

Originally published a few years ago, and republished on the 26th September - but now with fabulous new artwork by Emma Yarlett, Lieutenant Colonel Christopher MacGregor's fantastic book "My Daddy's Going Away" is a very special book indeed.

Christopher developed the book to help children cope with the long-term absence of their mums and dads who are in the armed forces, and proceeds from the book contribute to Combat Stress charities.

It tells the story of Daddy rocketing off to distant shores - the twist here is that the family are wonderful bluey-green aliens (with fabulous long blue tails), the allusion is representative of what it must feel like for kids when their parents do the same in the line of duty.

Our child narrators here see their daddy off in grand style, before reminiscing about all the fun things that they do (including, hooray, daddy reading books to them at bedtime).

With an introduction from HRH The Prince of Wales, it's a book that feels like it's been written from the heart by someone who has gone through the situation themselves, and expertly imparts to others what it feels like for both the children and the parents when they're separated in this way.

We've been fans of Emma Yarlett's artwork ever since she exploded onto the children's book scene with her fabulous "Sidney, Stella and the Moon" gaining her a well-deserved book of the week. Here, she packs every page spread with exquisite detail and her tweaking of the original characters from Christopher's book are wonderful and spacey.

We're pleased to hear that more will be arriving soon, as the talented duo will be working on "My Mummy's Going Away" - So look out for it in the not too distant future.

Charlotte's best bit: All the little things that the kids help daddy pack for his trip away

Daddy's Favourite bit: Touching, heart-felt and beautiful book supporting a worthy cause, and with a message for all of us - that separation from your children for ANY reason is hard on both parties equally.

(Kindly sent to us for review by Doubleday Children's Books)
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Friday 27 September 2013

The Perfect Match by Wayne Anderson (iPad Version Tested - E-Book Format published by Inky Sprat)

The Perfect Match (E-Book Version)

Written and Illustrated by
Wayne Anderson

Published by Inky Sprat

Wow, this is definitely something distinctly different and unique. Inky Sprat are firm favourites with us for their brilliant treatments of print books. Here though they've picked a book that I thought would be nigh-on impossible to adapt to the e-book format without some serious planning and manipulation.

For a bit of background, Wayne Anderson's original book had a fairly unique format - spiral bound with pages that flip and combine, so that the illustrations could be transformed into 8000 combinations - representing the guests at a fabulous wedding for a witch and a magician.

Here's a photo of the original book...

"The Perfect Match" by Wayne Anderson. Beautiful, puzzling, enigmatic

Inky Sprat have harnessed the power of your iPad to represent this idea of flipping pages and combining characters' clothing, faces, bodies, hats and the surrounding scenery - the ultimate aim is to find the Magician and the Witch, who form the shape of a heart once you track down the clues within the text to what they're wearing and how they look.

So rather than a standard E-Book it's more like a puzzle game. You can read all about the guests in handy little sliding snippets on one page, and then do your best to build up the different pictures of guests on another - or do what we did and just go crazy making fabulous combinations and fitting bits together.

It's probably something that I'd gauge as being more suitable for older children, because at times Charlotte struggled with the format a bit (I'm not sure what could be done to keep the original spirit of the book intact but perhaps make the navigation and sliding a bit more intuitive to use - counter-directional arrows that point one way when you're sliding the panels another way really did confuse both of us!)

It is a thing of beauty to behold though, largely due to Wayne's imaginative and unique illustrative style and the fabulous characters he creates (definitely worth dropping by his website and taking a look at his gallery of work).

"The Perfect Match" by Wayne Anderson and Inky Sprat is available on iTunes, priced at £2.99

Charlotte's best bit: Making lots of silly combinations of characters.

Daddy's Favourite bit: Slick presentation but with some tweaks needed here and there to the UI, fabulous artwork and characters though.

(Kindly sent to us for review by Manus at Inky Sprat)
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Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse by Chris Riddell (Macmillan Children's Books)

Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse

Written and Illustrated by
Chris Riddell

Published by Macmillan Children's Books

Sometimes, finding out about a new book can trigger emotions that are a bit like catching an attractive stranger's eye on the tube one morning, or receiving an anonymous note in your pigeonhole one valentine's day that simply reads "You're the one".

"Goth Girl" caught my attention a while back when Chris Riddell started to tease us with a few tantalising glimpses of a mysterious female character, and some truly luxurious illustrations for the book. We now know that the character was Ada, the brilliant central character of "Goth Girl" and those illustrations would appear throughout the book, offering luscious counterpoints to the story.

Ada is the only child of Lord Goth. She's shy and retiring, and her bombastic and distant father shares a huge house with her (which, from Chris Riddell's amazing map of the story locations, looks a lot like Basildon House, a fave National Trust haunt of ours). Ada's tale is tinged with tragedy, her gorgeous acrobatic mother died in an accident and her father's grief manifests itself as extreme grumpiness. Despite his best efforts to secure a nanny for Ada, Lord Goth finds the task trickier than expected and invites two other children to stay - to keep Ada entertained and out of trouble.

Riddell's love letter to many, many brilliant books and literary characters can be found throughout "Goth Girl" - there are deft  influences from novels like "The Secret Garden" by Frances Hodgson Burnett - and a real flavour of gothic tragi-comedy.

Before long, Ada meets the mysterious Ishmael - a tiny ghost mouse who, along with her new housemates William and Emily Cabbage, uncover a nefarious plot hatched by Matravers, the gamekeeper, who wants to see Lord Goth cast out on his ear.

There's no doom and gloom here, despite the darkly gothic tones. Riddell's expertise is pulling together the absurd, the surreal and the tragic into a story (underpinned by his gorgeous artwork) that children and adults will find captivating. I joked on Twitter that I had the devil's own job prising this book out of Charlotte's hands when it arrived. I wasn't kidding. For days, though she couldn't read it herself, she'd show me bits she liked - and she made up her own little story to accompany the fabulous little wordless comic all about Ishmael that's tucked into the back cover of the book.

When I read the story to her, she wanted more - or at least to know that more books with Ada (and Ishmael of course) were planned. So come on Chris, how about it?

Beautifully presented, wonderfully illustrated and full of the sort of characters that you'd truly love to imagine once roamed the halls of our great stately homes looking slightly wan and peaky, "Goth Girl" is a must for anyone (like us) who would definitely be a Goth, if only we could grow enough thick black hair!

Charlotte's best bit: Ishmael. She fell in love with him the moment she saw the first illustration, and loved his squeaky little plaintive sighs - and of course the central part he plays in the story (which we won't ruin for you)

Daddy's Favourite bit: Always loved goth girls, and will definitely always love "Goth Girl" - It's utterly brilliant and we really truly hope this isn't the last we hear from Ada and Ishmael

(Kindly sent to us for review by Macmillan Children's Books)
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ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week ending 27th September 2013 - "Walking your Octopus" by Brian Kesinger (Baby Tattoo Books)

Walking Your Octopus
Written and Illustrated by
Brian Kesinger

Published by Baby Tattoo

You may not yet know who Victoria Prismal is, but I guarantee that you're going to love her. Some of you canny app-folk may have already spotted her in the fabulous iPad version of "Walking your Octopus" (which we raved about a little while ago) If so, you'll also know that she has a rather special pet, Otto (the octopus). Splicing together steampunkery with a goodly dose of fabulous Victorian costume, Brian Kesinger's "Walking your Octopus" was always set to wow us in book form but, phew, what a book. Set out as a super-wide sumptuously presented and etched hardback it's the sort of book that makes you want to cuddle it. We're always slightly in awe of books that look as good as this, simply because your first reaction to them is to want to wrap them back up in plastic and store them away somewhere so that they don't get grubby or damaged. Truth is though, that's not what books are for is it, so we dove straight in.

"Walking your Octopus" presents a handy reference guide for would-be Cephalopod owners. Detailing in exquisite illustrated detail how best to look after your Octopus, what they eat, how to train them and - er - how to clean up those messy ink stains when they get a little over-excited, Victoria and Otto are the most charming hosts.

We cackle with laughter as Otto sees off Victoria's would-be suitors (warning - When you see an Octopus turn red, it's NOT because it's embarrassed!) or play happily together on a swing made from one of Otto's elastic limbs.

I admitted last time we looked at this in app form that I had a huge crush on Victoria (and yes, once again we probably should point out that she has a heck of a range of quite stunning outfits, some of which are rather saucy). Otto is rather lovely too of course, and it's amazing how Kesinger bestows him with a myriad expressions as we learn a little more about him throughout the book.

"Walking your Octopus" by Brian Kesinger. Octo-lovely!

There are some great Cthulhu-esque nods here, in fact it's pretty much perfect. Entertaining and funny text accompaniment to the sort of illustrations you'd give your eye-teeth to be able to reproduce if you're in any way artistic, "Walking your Octopus" is a real keeper and one to truly treasure.

Charlotte's best bit: Otto is very handy (or should that be tentacle-ey) at bathtimes!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Just loved the bit where Otto is seeing off those rotten suitors. Squeeze 'em good, boy!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Baby Tattoo)
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Thursday 26 September 2013

#ReadItMD13 Theme Week - "Toot Toot Beep Beep Vehicles a-plenty" - Messing about in boats!

"Pirate Girl" by Cornelia Funke and Kerstin Meyer. Awesome in every way!
We're enjoying a week of exploring different ways of getting around in this week's #ReadItMD13 theme week, with vehicles a-plenty. We've driven around town and country, we've soared through the air and now it's time to mess around on boats. 

Our header image is the cover of Cornelia Funke and Kersin Meyer's wonderful "Pirate Girl" - In fact you'll probably notice that most of the books we've seen on the blog that have boats in them often also have pirates in them too! This book is brilliant, with a flame-haired and wonderful heroine at its heart (who inspired Charlotte to dress up as her during last year's school book week). She has a rather nifty little boat called Molly with fab bedsheet sails. A neat twist on the "red riding hood" story theme, but feeling wholly original and wonderful. 

"Tim in Danger" by Edward Ardizzone. Life aboard ship can sometimes be tough!
 We recently took a look at "Tim in Danger" by Edward Ardizzone - one of a series of reprints of the "Tim, Charlotte and Ginger" adventure books by a seriously talented author-illustrator. We learn that life aboard ship isn't all it's cracked up to be and can be very hard work - and fog is definitely not welcome! (As I type this, it's definitely not sailing weather, I can barely see across the park if I look out of the window!)

The Pirates Next Door by Jonny Duddle. Perfect pirate neighbours!
We wouldn't dare write a feature about boats, ships or pirates without mentioning one of our all-time favourite picture books, "The Pirates Next Door" by Jonny Duddle. A well-deserved book of the week, it tells the tale of a young girl who lives a fairly boring life in Ennui-on-Sea. Until, that is, the Jolley Rogers turn up in a huge pirate ship and move into the vacant house next door. It probably is a bit of a cheat to feature this in a boat-based round up but it has a wonderful amphibian car on the cover, and of course a wonderful pirate ship filled with one of the craziest pirate families you could ever hope to meet. Endlessly re-read by us, wonderfully entertaining - and if you get the version with the story CD you get to hear Jonny reading you the story! 

(Look out also for Jonny's "The Pirate Cruncher" which is also brilliant, and also has a rather fetching pirate ship in it - at least until it meets a rather sticky end).

"The Snorgh and the Sailor" by Will Buckingham and Thomas Docherty. Adventure on the high seas and beyond!

No pirates in our next book but plenty of nautical excitement to be had in "The Snorgh and the Sailor" by Will Buckingham and Thomas Docherty. The Snorgh is a grumpy and lonely little creature who leads a fairly solitary life, enjoying samphire soup and keeping himself to himself. That is, until, a sailor invites himself in and stays the night - detailing all the adventures he's been on in his life. Once you hear about adventure, you feel like having one yourself - so the Snorgh gives chase in his leaky bath tub to catch up with the sailor and finish the story!

If you love messing about in boat-based books, do drop us a comment and let us know your favourites!
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Can You Dance to the Boogaloo? By Alice V Lickens (Pavilion Children's Books)

Can You Dance to the Boogaloo?

Written and Illustrated by
Alice V. Lickens

Published by Pavilion Children's Books

Hooray hooray, it's out today! Funky frenzied animal dancing in the brightest colours of the rainbow. Alice V. Licken's energetic bum-bouncing book "Can You Dance to the Boogaloo" is an instant read-out-loud sing-a-long classic.

Animals have the greatest sense of rhythm and if you go down to the jungle today you'll spot them all strutting their funky stuff, dancing the boogaloo.

As Charlotte gets older, she loves reading out sections of the books we read together, and she loved this because she found lots of new words to exercise her reading skills with - and lots of fun and nonsense sound effects to truly test her skills on too (children's authors - don't shy away from made up words or crazy combinations in your children's books, when children are first learning to read, those words really help to break the repetitive 'phonics' cycle wonderfully!)

With music and dance, fabulous colourful animal artwork and brilliant expressive words to read aloud, everyone's going to want to dance the boogaloo!

Charlotte's best bit: Making all the brilliant animal instrument noises (Sousaphone is our favourite!)

Daddy's Favourite bit: Fizzing with energy for youngsters, brilliant to read for older children like Charlotte. An attractive and fun book that's guaranteed to make you want to dance around your living room (like you need any excuse!)

(Kindly sent to us for review by Pavilion Children's Books)
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The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl (Puffin Books)

The Magic Finger

Written by Roald Dahl

Illustrated by Quentin Blake

Published by Puffin Books

We've been continuing our journey through early chapter books, digging out a few of my old favourites along the way. You may have recently seen our review of "George's Marvellous Medicine" by Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake. We thought we'd tackle the equally brilliant "The Magic Finger" next before moving onto others.

For a fairly short and sweet book, "The Magic Finger" packs a wallop. Detailing the story of a young girl who has an extraordinary secret power, it does what Roald Dahl books do so brilliantly, creates situations and characters that children secretly would love to be able to recreate themselves.

"Girl" (for that is how she's referred to in the book) can concentrate really hard and "put the magic finger" on anyone who upsets her. A nasty teacher (a recurring theme in Dahl's books - and you'll know why if you've read Dahl's "Boy"), a set of rotten neighbours who like to hunt animals with their impressive collection of guns - Basically anyone who crosses "Girl" is in for a very nasty time indeed.

After an incident in class, Girl puts the magic finger on her teacher who grows into a massive and rather whiskery cat. Girl also puts the magic finger on Mr and Mrs Gregg and their sons Philip and William, after they slaughter deer and ducks while hunting for their supper. The effect on the Greggs is spellbinding and astounding, they swap places with the ducks they've been blazing away at - and realise the error of their ways.

Dahl has a way with presenting moral tales that don't wag a finger (magic or otherwise), don't preach, and tales that speak to children in a language that feels like their own. Sometimes very dark, quite often incredibly subversive but always with purpose and meaning. His characters here have impact, and the narrative is often delivered through their eyes as events unfold.

I remember when I first read this book, spending weeks wondering what it would be like to have that sort of power - to be able to right wrongs, become a finger-wielding superhero!

Charlotte liked the fact that the ducks get their revenge, but are actually quite forgiving (more than I would be if my entire family was blasted to bits by some thoughtless hunters). I love the subtle undertones of guilt that "Girl" feels when she wields her power, but always with a sense of right and wrong firmly underpinning her actions (I also love the fact that she mixes up her numbers at the start of the book - you'll see what I mean).

Quentin Blake's scratchy but well-suited illustrations are fab, and though this is one of the shorter Dahl books, it's brilliant for early readers who don't want to have to wade through a book that's going to take ages to deliver its payload.

Charlotte's best bit: Duck dinner time!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Magical and meaningful, with plenty of brilliant moments where you'd really love - or loathe - a power like Girl's

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Wednesday 25 September 2013

#ReadItMD13 Theme Week - "Toot Toot Beep Beep Vehicles-A-Plenty" continues with a review of Richard Scarry's "Biggest Word Book Ever" (HarperCollins Children's Books)

Biggest Word Book Ever!

Written and Illustrated by
Richard Scarry

Published by HarperCollins Children's Books

We may look like we're slightly biased towards Mr Scarry this week. Quite rightly so, because if one children's book writer / illustrator absolutely NAILED the glorious creative and imaginative vehicles we all use to get around, it was Richard Scarry. You name it, he probably turned it into a wheeled winged or seafaring vessel of some sort.

Now, this book is big. REALLY big. It survived a good whumping from the lazy courier (who lobbed it over our fence rather than leaving it somewhere safe when it was delivered), and I don't think anyone's got a book case that can hold this sucker. We certainly don't but we're considering leaving it in the garden and renting it out as a second domicile.

Of course the great thing about a book this big is that you really can do other things with it other than read it...!

You could camp in it...(if you're small!)
Or perhaps use it as a screen to change into your superhero costume behind!
Or soar like a hang glider?
As we've mentioned, it is filled to the brim with brilliant modes of transport. All our favourites crop up in this book, from huge diggers and earth movers, to ferries and aircraft carriers, through to the tiniest little dinky pencil and crayon cars driven by awesome little mice (LOVE those!)

It's a big 'first words' book for babies, who can actually crawl across its surface finding all their favourite little details (it's a big board book so it wipes clean - just in case you were worried about any accidents!)

All your favourite busy town characters crop up within its mighty pages. Huckle the Cat is here, as is Lowly (the worm who graces the cover), and so many other folk going about their daily business as children read and learn different words.

It's a brave, bold and overwhelming book format but it's magical (just seeing Charlotte's face when she unwrapped it was hilarious!)

We're huge Richard Scarry fans, particularly when his books are blown up to mammoth proportions. Fab! Just hope it doesn't give your postie a hernia when he delivers it!

Charlotte's best bit: The sheer size of this book, it's overwhelming but so brilliant and full of wonderful Scarry stuff!

Daddy's Favourite bit: I've always loved Richard Scarry's books, and his crazy vehicles, but this takes things to a whole new level. How on EARTH are we going to store this thing?

(Kindly sent to us for review by HarperCollins Children's Books)
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Pongo by Jesse Hodgson (Flying Eye Books)


Written and Illustrated by
Jesse Hodgson

Published by Flying Eye Books

Please don't accuse us of favouritism or anything, and please don't berate us for gushing reviews of Flying Eye's range of books. We wouldn't gush about them so much if they weren't utterly and completely beautiful and wonderful.

Take Jesse Hodgson's deliriously delicious "Pongo". Ask yourself a couple of important questions here.

1) Why aren't there more books with Orang-utans in them?
2) How do you feel about big orange bottoms?

Pongo lives in the deepest darkest recesses of the rainforest (that opening page spread, oh man, just LOOK at Pongo's expression and you'l swear he's blinking and winking at you). Every day is dark and dismal (and very wet, Charlotte loved Pongo's "Totoro Umbrella" - you'll see what she means). Pongo longs to feel the rays of the bright orange sun on his bright orange back, and so sets out on a journey to discover that big bright glowing orb for himself.

Along the way Pongo mistakes several other things for the sun. Including...

Oooh! Cheeky! More moon than sun, that!

...a rather cheeky monkey behind.

Pongo wonders if he'll ever find the sun, and whether he'll ever be anything but lonely. But when Papaya says hello, everything changes for Pongo in more ways than one.

This book positively glows with originality and beauty. Pongo is a fantastic character, and the book is a wonderful way to introduce your children to what they'll be missing if the current generation continues to trash our rainforests and eat into the wonderful habitats for the amazing animals who dwell in it at the rate they currently are.

We used the book as the inspiration to dive through our collection of atlases, encyclopaedias and natural history books to see the REAL "Pongo" and his friends, and to watch some clips of Orang-utans.

The story has such a beautiful end (which we won't spoil for you - and no, I'm not talking about that Baboon bum!) that you'll want to skip straight back to the start and begin again as soon as you've finished. As we said at the top of the review, Flying Eye are consistently putting out some of the most amazing and glorious books, and this is no exception. Charlotte's best bit: Naturally, the bit with the bum - and tracing the line of bees with her finger, pointing the way to the sun Daddy's Favourite bit: Beautiful illustrations, beautiful text, utterly brilliant book. Don't hang around like a lazy gibbon, go get it! (Kindly sent to us for review by Flying Eye Books)
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Tuesday 24 September 2013

Get your paws on some brilliant and crazy cute sticker books with Macmillan's new "Star Paws" range

"Star Paws"
Shopping / Christmas / Knights / Amazing Jobs

Published by Macmillan Books

They're crazy, they're cute, they absorb youngsters for hour after hour - what's not to love about the "Star Paws" sticker book range from Macmillan Books? We've previously taken a look at "Superheroes" and "Party Time" books in the range on our blog, now the range has been extended with four new books for your little ones.

  • Star Paws "Shopping"
  • Star Paws "Christmas"
  • Star Paws "Knights"
  • Star Paws "Amazing Jobs"

As before, they're rib-ticklingly funny books (we always have a good giggle at the character names and some of the page 'category' names too - though we're not too sure about the shopping book's "Does my bum look big in this?" page! Eeks!)

The sticker books are excellent quality and very reasonably priced, perfect for little animal lovers who are bound to find a dozen or so favourite characters in every single title in the range. It goes without saying that as soon as Charlotte sees bunnies or guinea pigs, she lets out a huge loud satisfied "awwww!"

Star Paws "Amazing Jobs"

Star Paws "Christmas"

Star Paws "Knights"

Star Paws "Shopping"

One of the things we particularly liked about the range is - bar a few 'specialised' stickers, it really doesn't matter where children stick each sticker on each page, so they can go completely crazy with their creativity. Page titles and sticker sheets are clearly labelled, so there's the bonus of allowing early readers to figure out what goes where themselves. A sticker book that needs minimum parental supervision? Definitely a win!

You can obtain the Star Paws range from all good indie booksellers, or directly from the Pan Macmillan UK website. 

Charlotte's best bit: Percil the very cute little guy in 'Shopping' and all the cute outfits in the "Amazing Jobs" book

Daddy's Favourite bit: No fuss stickers, no over-complicated shapes, well cut sheets, and minimum of parental supervision required - followed by hour after hour of involvement and engagement while kids sticker themselves into a frenzy. Perfect!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Pan Macmillan)
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Ever After High - The Storybook of Legends by Shannon Hale (Little, Brown)

Ever After High

The Storybook of Legends

Written by Shannon Hale

Published by Little, Brown

Imagine a high school populated by the offspring of well loved fairy tales. That's Ever After High - the subject of a planned series of books, merchandise and movies.
We've been fortunate enough to get an early look at "Ever After High - The Storybook of Legends" by Shannon Hale, New York Times best selling author and award-winning creator of "Princess Academy".

"Ever After High" introduces us to characters like Apple White, who is the daughter of a certain fair maiden with skin as pure as snow. There's also Raven, daughter of the wicked queen who really should be following in mum's evil footsteps but so doesn't want to be evil. Woven around the tale of the Storybook of Legends, the entire fabric of their universe hinges on everyone signing the book - and ensuring a happy ever after for all concerned. But what if one character chooses not to sign?

Though Charlotte is familiar with the morass of fairy tales (both traditional and "Disney-fied" versions) and the characters, she enjoyed the sections we read together (and swiftly adopted Apple White as her favourite character - no real surprise as Snow White is still her favourite princess after all). It's probably a book that's more suited to older children, and it's a huge hefty tome so if you're a parent wanting to read this to your children chapter by chapter, be prepared!

It's quite tricky to find the right balance of injecting a dose of originality into well-loved (and well-trodden) fairy tales but the world created here in "Ever After High" offers a tantalising and tempting glimpse into a rich new fairy tale universe that should delight and enthrall.

Here's a clip of "Ever After High" to whet your appetite for the book!

(Book kindly sent to us for review by Little, Brown)

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#ReadItMD13 Theme Week - "Toot Toot Beep Beep vehicles a plenty" - Let's take to the air!

"Zephyr Takes Flight" by Steve Light. The sort of female flying hero we utterly adore!
Today we're taking flight, up to the highest height as we continue with our #ReadItMD13 theme week. We're taking a look at vehicles, whether they roll on land, fly through the air or skim through the sea (or under it!)

It's all about the planes today though, and we'll start off by looking at a former book of the week...

"Zephyr Takes Flight" by Steve Light. Pioneering piloting!
In "Zephyr Takes Flight" A young girl called Zephyr loves aeroplanes more than anything else in the world. When she's not collecting books and posters about them, she's making aeroplane models. One day she discovers a hidden room in her house filled to the brim with aeroplane plans and huge full scale planes to fly, and takes off on a flight of fancy to a far off land. Here, pigs fly - all except one poor little mite who hasn't earned his wings yet. Can Zephyr help?

It's a wonderful book, full of brilliant positive messages, fabulous planes of course, and one of the most engaging and charming female characters to grace a children's book in a long time. Perfect for your mini Amy Johnsons!

We're ramping up the pace for our next flight book - and we're not leaving the piggies behind just yet either...

"Pigs Might Fly" by Jonathan Emmett and Steve Cox. Supersonic!
Imagine an alternate universe where the three little pigs didn't mess around with building houses, but decided to take to the skies for an air race supreme. Of course, you can't have a three little pigs tale without a hungry wolf so mix all those ingredients together, fire up your jet engines and take a look at "Pigs Might Fly" by Jonathan Emmett and Steve Cox. It's a high octane thrilling book as we see each pig building their aircraft then attempting to outwit that gnarly wolf in his fighter jet at the end. We absolutely loved this book!

Once again we can't have any vehicle round-ups without consulting "The master" so...

"A Day At The Airport" by Richard Scarry. Busy busy Bratwursts!
Richard Scarry's "A Day at the Airport" has consistently been one of Charlotte's favourite books and it's one of the first Richard Scarry books I bought her rather than passing them down to her. Here we meet old friends Huckle, Sally and Lowly as they enjoy a fun-packed day with Rudolf Von Flugel, air ace and owner of the coolest zeppelin on the planet - the infamous "Bratwurst Balloon" - He's even got an aeroplane car that seems to spend its entire time driving backwards, how cool is that? 

Like all Scarry books, it's chock full of detail and we love the running threads through the story (watch out for the piggy chasing his hat throughout the entire thing, wonderful!) 

A fantastic book if your little ones get excited about airports (sad that they'll grow out of that when they get to our age, eh?)

So that's it for our roundup in the skies - do you have any more aeroplane-based recommendations? If so, drop a comment in the box below or tweet at us @readitdaddy, we'd love to add them to our list!
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Monday 23 September 2013

The Ghost Library by David Melling (Hachette - Re-issue with 'glow in the dark' cover)

The Ghost Library

Written and Illustrated by
David Melling

Published by Hachette

A book that celebrates a love of stories, and libraries - and mixes it with supernatural spooky goings on? What's not to love?

David Melling's "The Ghost Library" tells the story of a little girl, Bo, and her love of books. One evening as she's snuggling down with her favourite story about a witch with really stinky feet, there's a cold wind, a howling noise, and before she knows what's happening, Bo is whisked off to...THE GHOST LIBRARY!

But it's an odd sort of library. There are no books, in fact the ghosts who run it only temporarily borrow children's books to stock their shelves - and as Bo demonstrates, children are very good at hanging onto their books!

The three ghosts responsible are hugely apologetic, but make the best of the rare occasion of having visitors to ask Bo to tell them a story. Soon they realise that perhaps the best way to fill the library would be with stories of their own, and all the ghosts rally round to fill those shelves.

We loved the fact that at times, the story dips out into wordless 'comic strip' spreads that allow Charlotte to tell the stories in her own words. The power of wordless books is definitely undeniable and sometimes it's hilarious to hear what children say when they're presented with a series of images, and start to put their own story to them.

Melling's trademark inventiveness with characters and situations shines through. We loved the fact that the ghosts sometimes appear to be 'stuck' in the scenery, half poking out of walls and protruding through the empty library shelves. The real star though is Bo, a book-loving little girl not a million miles away from my own little bookworm. Lovely!

Charlotte's best bit: Narrating the story of the witch with really stinky feet in her own words.

Daddy's Favourite bit: Great characters, and how could we possibly NOT love a book that champions stories and libraries - however ghostly!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Hachette)
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#ReadItMD13 Theme Week - "Toot Toot, Beep Beep, Vehicles-a-plenty!" - Books about things that zoom, fly and scoosh!

Maybe we wouldn't mind the morning commute if it was this colourful!
This week for our continuing quest to encourage you lovely folk to read to your children more - otherwise known as #ReadItMD13 (ReadItMummiesAndDaddies2013) - we're on wheels, on wings and on the water. 

We love cars and trucks and things that go though, so we're going to kick off our vehicular week with lots and lots of lovely wheels.

"Toot Toot Beep Beep" by Emma Garcia. Wonderful wheels!
"Toot Toot Beep Beep" by Emma Garcia is a short but very sweet little book that shows off lots of different vehicles, and is illustrated in Emma's fabulous child-friendly 'cut out and paint' style (which makes it an utterly fabulous book to inspire you to make your own vehicles in a similar way!) All the cars and vans in a busy town all hit the road in style, and spend all day driving around. But what happens to cars at night?

It goes without saying that Charlotte loves the big pink stretch limo in this book, and I love the groovy green VW camper van (or possibly the red jeep). Fabulous characterful cars and vans, with a great bouncy story more suited to younger readers (but still excellent fun for five year olds too!)

Emma's other books are great, we also have...

"Tip Tip, Dig Dig" by Emma Garcia. Let's build a park!
"Tip Tip Dig Dig" which is brilliant for girls and boys who love their busy vehicles when they're shifting earth, rolling roads or tipping up. 

"Cars Galore" by Peter Stein and Bob Staake. Bliss!
"Cars Galore" by Peter Stein and Bob Staake is most definitely our type of book. There are so many brilliant and crazy vehicles in this book with a fantastic rhyming story to accompany the inventive and zany designs Bob comes up with here. Crazy crocs driving pink limos, school buses packed with smiling kids, even a spooky funeral director's car, there's a ton to love about this book and it's chock full of lovely little details. 

"Cars and Trucks and Things that Go" by Richard Scarry. Croc cars!
The man who pretty much wrote the perfect whacky vehicles book is Richard Scarry. I mean who else could put corn-cob cars into his work, or cars shaped like pickles and crocodiles?

"Cars and Trucks and Things that Go" by Richard Scarry sets the bar ludicrously high for others to follow. The many animal characters all have their favourite methods of transport, and the book is fizzing with busy action and detail throughout. Again, if you had vehicles like these on the roads, surely it would make driving so much more pleasurable?

We'll end our mini roundabout roundup with a recent but utterly fabulous book...

"Dixie O'Day in the Fast Lane" by Shirley Hughes and Clara Vulliamy. Automotive perfection!
"Dixie O'Day in the Fast Lane" was quite rightly book of the week recently, and it's not surprising! It's automotive perfection. Dixie and Percy zoom around in a fabulous Ford Zephyr, and though their car isn't the most reliable around, it's perfect for picnics and even the odd spot of racing. 

Dixie's neigbour, the rather caddish Lou Ella, always has the swishest car and the fanciest frocks - and is determined to stop at nothing when a local race event is announced. The format of this book, the exquisite storytelling and of course the brilliant and wonderful vehicles drawn so masterfully by Clara really make this a treat. 

We'd love to hear your recommendations - so please do pop a comment in the box below, and tell us which four (or more) wheeled favourites grace your bookshelves!
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George's Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl (Puffin Books)

George's Marvellous Medicine

Written by Roald Dahl

Illustrated by Quentin Blake

Published by Puffin Books

When is the right time to start your child on chapter books or early more-heavily-text-based books? Simple answer is that there is no right answer to this, but we've been delving into chapter readers for Charlotte for some time (my wife loves reading Paula Harrison's "Rescue Princess" books to Charlotte, chipping away at them a bit at a time as we share bedtime reading duties).

We have read and re-read several Roald Dahl books but "George's Marvellous Medicine" seems to be a firm favourite with Charlotte. A lot of that probably has a bit to do with the two main characters.

George is a fairly ordinary everyday boy, but with a rather horrid old grandmother. She's not cuddly, she's not kind (not at all like Charlotte's Grandma, Nanny or Grand-Mo!) and to be honest her chin is a little bit too whiskery and her teeth a little bit too brown for George to want to get too close anyway.

She treats George horribly as soon as his parents step out for the day, so George decides that enough is enough.

Something. Must. Be. Done!

Now, children and adults will of course pay heed to the very first words in the book which tell you NOT to try what George tries at home. No way, not under any circumstances. George, you see, decides to whip up a batch of medicine for Grandma to replace the foul stuff she drinks every day (which does her no good at all, certainly doesn't make her any less unpleasant!)

Scouring the house, the shed, the garage, just about everywhere he can, George is soon mixing any liquids or powders he can find in an old saucepan.

George must be careful though, because Grandma is suspicious and always pestering, so things have to be mixed just right!

We don't want to ruin the book for you - but the effects on Grandma are quite hilarious. George doesn't just stop there though, oh no! He starts seeing how his medicine will affect other things too (poor chickens!)

Part of the reason I get a bit 'grumpy' when you see other writers being hailed at "The Next Roald Dahl" is simply because there really isn't anyone who can fit into his BFG-sized shoes when it comes to writing stories that will enthral children to the point where they hang on ever word you read. There really isn't anyone who can write stories that are a joy to read aloud and perform (I had a huge amount of fun voicing "Granny" with this - a voice like a cross between a scratchy old witch and Warwick Davis for some reason!)

Dahl was one of a kind, always will be - and though there will undoubtedly be other writers (particularly David Walliams) who take their inspiration from the story master himself, they won't quite capture the delicious essence of devilry, or the empowerment Dahl bestows on his child characters (who are, let's face it, a fairly hard-done-by lot most of the time).

Charlotte's best bit: OWEEEEE!

Daddy's Favourite bit: It's almost impossible to pick a favourite 'Dahl' book but this is nigh-on perfect, and has all the brilliant trademark Dahl-isms you've come to expect from such a masterful children's storyteller.
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Friday 20 September 2013

Kisses are Yuk! By Julia Jarman (Hodder Children's Books)

Kisses are Yuk!

Written and Illustrated by
Julia Jarman

Published by Hodder Children's Books

Ugh, is there anything worse than a big sloppy slithery wet kiss from a relative or friend? I mean do these people not know that kisses are where cooties come from?

There's grandma's speciality, the lipstick-poodle-bottom. Auntie's slithery sloppy dribbly one, or Uncle's fuzzy furry scratchy one.

In "Kisses are Yuk!" by Julia Jarman, we sympathise greatly with the young boy who fends off various slippery smooches and smackers, describing each in tummy-churning detail.

There is, of course, one type of kiss that is just right, just perfect but you'll have to track down the book and read it to find out which sort is the best kiss of all!

Charlotte's best bit: Aiiieee! Granny kisses! EEK!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Hey, Auntie looks alright but ugh those slithery smooches, bleee!
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The Great Fairy Bake-Off by Tim Bugbird (Make Believe Ideas Ltd)

The Great Fairy Bake-Off

Written and illustrated by
Tim Bugbird

Published by Make Believe Ideas Ltd

Did you know it's National Cupcake Week? Are you looking for some fairy-fuelled baking inspiration after watching every single episode of "The Great British Bake-Off?"
Then step right this way for a huge bumper volume of cookery goodness, with more than a sprinkling of fairy dust. Mouthwatering treats-a-plenty are crammed into this huge pink book that may have a very cheeky title, but has some delicious recipes that are sure to be a huge hit with your sweet-toothed little (and big) ones.

Recipes are laid out clearly, and characters such as Camilla the Cupcake Fairy and Lola the Lollipop Fairy are on hand to help you get your cakes rising, with no soggy bottoms or crusty tops!


Charlotte's best bit: Fairy-inspired Jammy Dodgers. Yum!

Daddy's Favourite bit: We love a good baking session at the weekend, so there's plenty in here to keep us slaving away over a hot oven. Aww if only real fairy helpers were included!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Make Believe Ideas Ltd)
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ReaditDaddy's Book of the Week - Week ending 20th September 2013 - "Beware of Girls" by Tony Blundell (Picture Puffin)

Beware of Girls

Written and Illustrated by
Tony Blundell

Published by Picture Puffin

I love it when a book is so funny that it makes Charlotte cackle like a tiny little blonde witch. Cackle, roar with laughter, giggle, snigger and snort - and also endlessly quote the funny bits for days afterwards.

There really is no more joyous a sound in life than a child's laughter. So thank you very much Mr Tony Blundell for producing a book that made both of us laugh so loudly that Mummy wondered what on earth was the matter as we read it over the weekend!

A hungry wolf is inspired by the story of Little Red Riding Hood (we're guessing the wolf didn't read until the end of the book, otherwise he might've known what was going to happen!)

With a rumbling tummy, Wolf hops round to a little girl's house for a quick snack (the girl being the snack, of course). As we all know, little girls are smart and cunning so she comes up with a plan to make Mr Wolf work for his supper.

Through an ever-increasingly complex set of demands, poor Mr Wolf is soon run ragged trying to pretend to be the little girl's granny. Does the wolf succeed? We'll let you find that one out for yourself.

What made us laugh is the Wolf's frenetic efforts to pretend to be Grandma. Reminding us of the sheer effort that Wile E. Coyote used to exert in order to bag himself a fairly lean chunk of road-runner-steak, spending millions of dollars on Acme products when he could've probably nipped round to the local burger joint and picked himself up a square meal.

But the bits that made Charlotte really laugh out loud - and the bits that had her sneaking off to read this book to herself (which again gets a huge 'THANK YOU' from us, you genius Tony!) are the bits where Wolf completely mixes up his descriptions of what he's wearing / doing. Sticky dresses, feathery toffees, high heeled cakes. The mere mention of these phrases has Charlotte completely broken up in giggles.

I realised we have previously covered Tony Blundell's other "Beware of" book, "Beware of Boys" on the blog and that was also a book of the week! No surprise then that we loved this to bits too. It's a complete hoot!

Charlotte's best bit: Wolf mixing up descriptions of the goodies he's trying to bestow on the savvy little girl - and the girl's dog trying to warn her about the wolf.

Daddy's Favourite bit: Love the fact that Charlotte would sneak off to read this on her own, laughing the whole time. Lovely!
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