Wednesday 30 April 2014

Lil' Merl and the Dastardly Dragon by Liam Barrett (Flying Eye Books)

Lil' Merl and the Dastardly Dragon

Written and Illustrated by
Liam Barrett

Published by Flying Eye Books

Purely on the strength of the amount of time Charlotte has spent with this book this week, "Lil' Merl and the Dastardly Dragon" is an absolute bloomin' marvel. Over the course of a weekend away (travelling to visit Charlotte's new baby cousin, all of a week old, bless her) we needed a book that would keep Charlotte busy and engaged for those times when we were kicking our heels in a hotel, or when "Grown Ups" were waffling on about baby things.

Liam Barrett's fantastic activity book was perfect. But first, let's introduce Lil' Merl. He's a wizard who learns of a dastardly dragon, fiery of breath and destructive, who has razed a local castle.

Merl decides that the only thing to do is to take on the dragon, summoning all his magic powers and enlisting the help of his elf friends.

Through a series of kid-friendly puzzles, colouring, dot to dot and activities, you can help Merl on his quest - meeting nefarious goblins and creatures along the way before confronting the dragon himself.

I'm sure other book bloggers go through a similar quandary to us - but when you've got a book that is as gorgeous as this, it takes a real strength of will to let your little ones go to town on it with their pencils and crayons. Liam's illustrations are stylish, colourful and fun, and the puzzles are gauged at exactly the right age for Charlotte (6 and up) so parents won't need to intervene too much.

As with all Flying Eye's books, it's beautifully designed and presented - and the core theme of dragons, wizards and magic has a fairly wide appeal. We did wonder where the girls were though (Well there was a witch, I guess).

Note that the lack of girls does NOT detract from the book in any way, Charlotte loved the characters regardless of Merl being a little boy rather than a girl, just thought I'd better point that out!

Charlotte's best bit: Picking the hardest challenge in the book - a really cool code breaking section where you have to decipher a letter in code, and then work out the combination of the lock on a cage. Tough but she nailed it!

Daddy's Favourite bit: This book has absolutely captured Charlotte's attention and imagination. It takes a bit of moxy to let your child draw in (deface) such a lovely book, and the price might feel a bit steep to some folk - but it's worth it for the days of activity and engagement that it gives.

(Kindly sent to us for review by Flying Eye Books)
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Indie Pen-Dance Wednesday - "Stunt Crow" by David Freedman and Mike Kelly (Amazon Self Published)

Stunt Crow

Written by David Freedman

Illustrated by Mike Kelly

Published by Amazon Self Publishing Platform

This week's Indie-Pen Dance Wednesday book is such a lyrical delight to read aloud that we're getting quite carried away with how beautifully it reads.

"Stunt Crow" is the story of - yep you've guessed it - a crow, but if you've ever seen a bird more aerobatic than Stunt Crow in a children's book, we'd sure like to hear about it.

David Freedman's book, delightfully and beautifully illustrated by Mike Kelly, regales us with the tale of one plucky bird who is the master of the skies, with a cheeky sense of fun and the ability to soar and whirl like a dervish.

Not many birds are crazy enough to take on a fox! Swoop!

No one is safe from Stunt Crow's aerial attacks, certainly not poor Fox who is divebombed. But when a new antagonist shows up, even Stunt Crow might have to watch out - Eagles are not to be trifled with.

Beautiful prose that whirls and wheels just like Stunt Crow himself, and a story that layers excitement and tension right up to a brilliant finale and a showdown with Eagle, Stunt Crow really is a superbly satisfying book. Children have a huge capacity for appreciating stories that are not stilted and stuttered, but flow like this and Stunt Crow truly is a rare treat that Charlotte really enjoyed. She also enjoyed the rather fabulous Origami crow that came with the book too!

You can obtain David's book from the Stunt Crow website via this link

How lovely is this origami crow, sent by the author!

Charlotte's best bit: Stunt Crow divebombing Fox and making her run for cover!

Daddy's Favourite bit: I loved that opening line, five crows coughed from the branches of a tree by the wind.

(Kindly sent to us for review by David Freedman)
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Tuesday 29 April 2014

Jack and the Dreamsack by Laurence Anholt and Ross Collins (Bloomsbury Publishing)

Jack and the Dreamsack

Written by Laurence Anholt

Illustrated by Ross Collins

Published by Bloomsbury Publishing

Do you dream in colour? Dreamscapes and the realm of the mind are a fascinating subject for a children's book, because you can weave a story world that's limited only by your imagination. Laurence Anholt lets his imagination fly in this story of Jack, who is determined to stay awake all night to capture all the best bits of dreams, and bring them back to the real world.

As the world enjoys its restful slumber, Jack steals into the dreamworld armed with the Dreamsack, which he will use to claim his treasure. What will he find as he explores?

Wholly original, with subtle flavours and reminders of "Alice in Wonderland" and some absolutely fantastic and imaginative artwork by Ross Collins, this is a story that gave us a nice little jog because it wasn't quite what we were expecting. We rather love some of the inventive characters Jack encounters as he works his way right to the very heart of his dreamscape where something magical and glowing exists.

Enter Jack's dreams, you may be surprised at what you'll find!

Charlotte's best bit: The ultimate treasure nestled in the very heart of Jack's dreams. Can it be brought back to the real world?

Daddy's Favourite bit: That rare thing, a children's book that feels original and inspirational, and a perfect combination of story and illustration. Dreamy indeed!
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Monday 28 April 2014

Foxly's Feast by Owen Davey (Templar Publishing)

Foxly's Feast

Written and Illustrated by
Owen Davey

Published by Templar Publishing

We're big fans of wordless picture books. Even now, as Charlotte's reading skills mean that she often literally reads ANYTHING she can get her hands on, wordless books provide a challenge and allow for a unique style of narration that children are absolutely brilliant at.

In "Foxly's Feast" by the immensely talented Owen Davey, we meet a rather lean and hungry fox (has anyone ever seen a big fat fox in a story? Nooo!) who has big plans for dinner. Right from page one, Owen Davey builds up a wave of delicious anticipation as at first Charlotte describes Foxly as "a baddie" - well, after all he is roaming the neighbourhood kidnapping all the animals he can lay his paws on, and stuffing them unceremoniously into a huge bag.

Foxly isn't quite the villain he's painted though (and whoah, on the subject of that painting, you really truly have to love Owen's gorgeous reduced palettes and expert linework in this, as in all his other books too). As the story unfolds, Foxly's dialogue (largely consisting of pictoral 'speech bubbles') became quite hilarious as Charlotte broke out his inner monologue and described Foxly's frenzied quest in her own inimitable way.

We will leave the big surprise twist up to you to discover. Wordless picture books are something that all parents should try with their children, as the results are often spectacularly funny as they describe what's happening. They're also something that all authors and artists should have a crack at. If you can build tension and excitement without using words, you really are a talent to be reckoned with.

Charlotte's best bit: I loved her funny wobbly-wibbly Foxly voice as she 'read' the book.

Daddy's Favourite bit: Foxly is brilliant, and Owen's artwork is stunning here. What an excellent book!
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Friday 25 April 2014

Celebrate 100 years of "Tarzan" with a fantastic range of books and merchandise to compliment the fabulous new "Tarzan" movie

Get your best jungle hollers prepared - Tarzan is returning!
In the centenary year of Edgar Rice Burrough's enduring "Tarzan" stories, a new movie will once again revive the Lord of the Jungle for a whole new audience. "Tarzan" arrives in cinemas on May 2nd and you can join in with the fun with us.

Check out Andy Briggs' new Tarzan books at his Website.

We've got some great activity sheets for you to download and print - Click the links below, crack out your best colouring pencils and colour Tarzan in!

Tarzan Activity Sheet 1 (PDF Download)

Tarzan Activity Sheet 2 (PDF Download)

Tarzan Activity Sheet 3 (PDF Download)

As you can see from the photo above, there will be lots of gorgeous merchandise to accompany the movie too. Watch out soon for competitions and opportunities to win these fabulous items.

Colour Tarzan in with our fab activity sheet downloads!

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ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week Ending 25th April 2014 - "Grandma's Gloves" by Cecil Castellucci and Julia Denos (Walker Books)

Grandma's Gloves

Written by Cecil Castellucci

Illustrated by Julia Denos

Published by Walker Books

I really wish we had the opportunity to review Walker Books more often (hint hint massive hint!). I'd never heard of "Grandma's Gloves" before, but like quite a few of our library picks, we were both completely entranced by the cover of this one and grabbed it straight away.

I didn't preview the book before taking it home but had an inkling that it would be a book rightly celebrating fantastic grandmas.

There is a lot more to it than that though, in fact I half wish I had previewed it because it had such a powerful effect on Charlotte - even more so when she next saw her own Grandma.

The little girl in the story narrates the book, and introduces us to Grandma, who is always pottering around in the garden with a huge pair of flowery gloves on, who always knows the right thing to say, and who dishes up the most scrumptious fare. The little girl loves her very much, so part way through the book when Grandma is taken ill, is not herself and eventually dies, it's like a thumping great big whump in the heart.

The book thoughtfully and sensitively deals with the loss of a loved one through gentle text and the most sublime illustrations, delicate and beautiful. The impact of Grandma's loss is felt by both the girl and her mother, and as friends and family gather to remember Grandma, each has their own particular special memory or reminiscence of a truly wonderful lady.

Children think about mortality (their own, and those they love and cherish) more than we give them credit for and in some ways parents (particularly softies like me) try to protect them from grief and loss as much as possible for as long as possible. Books like this help hugely, and particularly help us to impart to our children the importance of enjoying our elders, celebrating them whenever we can and ensuring that we never forget them when they pass.

What a truly wonderful book to find amongst the library stacks.

Charlotte's best bit: A book that made her think about her own grandparents, and love and cherish them even more than she already does.

Daddy's Favourite bit: Thoughtful and sensitive handling of an uber-tough subject. Absolutely in love with Julia's illustrations in this, they're just so fantastic.
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Thursday 24 April 2014

You Wouldn't Want to be a Roman Gladiator by John Malam, David Salariya and David Antram (Salariya / Franklin Watts)

You Wouldn't Want to Be a Roman Gladiator

Written by John Malam and David Salariya
Illustrated by David Antram

Published by Salariya / Franklin Watts

History buffs rejoice! We're taking another look at the excellent "You Wouldn't Want to Be" series, this time delving back into Ancient Roman history for a closer look at Gladiators.

No, not the lycra-clad pommel-wielding TV stars, but the burly men and women who provided entertainment for the Empire, risking life and limb in the arena.

The book is humorously illustrated throughout, in a similar vein to the ever-popular "Horrible Histories" range but I actually prefer Salariya's approach, which retains the humour (and some of the gross bits) but doesn't try to be too clever for its own good, sticking to a formula of mixing fascinating facts with brilliant double-page illustrative spreads to really engage kids and put them right at the heart of the action.

We learn how Gladiators were mostly captured slaves (or in some cases, criminals) who were trained under harsh regimes, with a pretty terrible diet (Porridge with ash for pudding anyone?)

We also learn a rather fascinating fact I hadn't actually seen reproduced anywhere else. There were female gladiators, a prospect that filled Charlotte with glee at the thought of donning a helmet and brandishing a trident in mortal combat. Perhaps that'll be something for the next school history day.

If you're unfamiliar with the Salariya history range, check out our previous article neatly rounding up a few more of these fascinating titles.

Charlotte's best bit: The thought of being the world's first 6 year old female gladiator! (Someone hide the saucepans in case she pinches one for use as a helmet!)

Daddy's Favourite bit: A fascinating glimpse of roman life, literally at the sharp end of providing entertainment for the roman masses!
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Wednesday 23 April 2014

Early Reader Roundup - Check out a trio of treats from OUP and Little, Brown

Charlie Merrick's Misfits by Dave Cousins (Oxford University Press)

Now Charlotte's making the transition from picture books to "big and propah" readers, we've truly got the pick of some absolute smashers at the moment. They might take us a while to chip away at, but our reading pile is increasing. So here's a quick look at a tasty trio to tempt you with. 

First, for the footie mad girl or boy in the family, check out Charlie Merrick's Misfits, written and illustrated by Dave Cousins. The Misfits are a multi-race multi-sex group of footie-mad kids, and stars of an adventure story with a kick. Meet Nathan, Sam, Oscar, Charlie, Miko, Jas, Donut, Gerbil, Mole and Jack ready to do battle in Fouls, Friends and Football. 

The book is brilliantly designed, a cornucopia of kickabout chaos - Charlotte dug in and started hooting with laughter after about a page or two - Obviously a good sign. I really liked the fact that the illustrations and comic layouts (and brilliant "top trumps" style insets) broke up the walls of text nicely, perfect for kids like Charlotte who are making the giant leap from more pictorial content. 

Catch up with Charlie Merrick's Misfits on 1st May 2014 from Oxford University Press - and more books are planned throughout 2015. Cool!

Next, here's something completely different...!

Ever After High - The Unfairest of them All by Shannon Hale (Little, Brown)
Delving deep into fairy story mythos and finding out just what happened to all those well loved story characters when they grew up, got married and had kids of their own. "Ever After High" is the hugely popular story series from Shannon Hale, and we catch up with Book 2 and Apple White (Snow White's daughter) and Raven Queen (The Evil Queen's offspring) who pick up pretty much where their parents left off! 

Ever After High is slowly building up a cult following, and it's a brilliant transition series for your princess-mad girls (and boys of course!) who want to discover a whole new story universe for themselves. 

"The Unfairest of them All" is out on 8th May 2014. Catch up with the series now!

Last but by no means least, let's armageddon-it!

Disaster Diaries - Aliens by R. McGeddon and Jamie Littler (Little, Brown)
Disaster Diaries - Aliens by R. McGeddon (interesting name!) with illustrations from Jamie Littler is a rollicking supernatural adventure. We've seen the crazy crew of Sam, Arty and Emmie survive a zombie holocaust but what happens when visitors from another planet decide to invade? 

This insanely funny series will appeal to children who love books like "Gangster Granny" and "Diary of a Wimpy Kid". Join the gang as they defend their sleepy little town (and its slightly dozy grown-ups) from insane nefarious alien dudes from a planet beyond Uranus!

"Disaster Diaries - Aliens!" by R.McGeddon and Jamie Littler is out from Little, Brown on 8th May 2014. 

We'll be doing a few more 'big book' roundups soon, so watch out for them! Happy reading, dudes and duderinos. 

(Books kindly sent to us by Little Brown and Oxford University Press)
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The Usborne Introduction to Modern Art by Rosie Dickins (Usborne Books)

The Usborne Introduction to Modern Art

Written by Rosie Dickins

Published by Usborne Books

Phew! After Usborne's brilliant "My First Sticker Art Gallery" I wasn't sure how they'd produce a child-friendly guide to modern art. With roots in controversy, and the aim of provoking a reaction, "Modern" art is usually something to tiptoe around.

Usborne's "Introduction to Modern Art" once again proves that they know their onions, and know how to make a book engaging and interesting, while at the same time cramming as much detail, information and substance as possible between the covers.

Through various "grown up" books I've shown Charlotte works by some of my favourite modern artists (Liechtenstein, Magritte, Dali, Ernst) but here you've got a masterful collection of works that stretch right back to the very beginning of the era now defined as falling under the umbrella "modern art" term.

In more detail, artists, their work and the movements that influenced them are explored and discussed. Though I'd readily admit the book is probably for an age range slightly above 6, Charlotte still wanted to read and learn about the stories behind great works of art, why artists produced them, the history of what was going on at the time (particularly poignant in passages of the book that discuss art produced during times of conflict).

Exquisitely detailed and illustrated, this is a fantastic book that really fascinates Charlotte, and one I keep sneaking off with to brush up on a bit of art history and to try and get a little inspiration for my own scribblings. A really brilliant introduction to modern art, an often unapproachable and difficult subject but deftly and expertly dissected here in this wonderful book.

Charlotte's best bit: The surrealists, such as Dali and Magritte

Daddy's Favourite bit: Love the pop art, particularly Liechtenstein and Warhol

(Kindly sent to us for review by Usborne Books)
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Tuesday 22 April 2014

My Very First Sticker Art Gallery by Sam Lake and Carles Ballesteros (Usborne Books)

My Very First Sticker Art Gallery

Written by Sam Lake

Illustrated by Carles Ballesteros

Published by Usborne Books

As a bit of an artsy fartsy type (if you'll pardon the expression) I'm always looking for ways to introduce Charlotte to the fabulous works of art, and fabulous artists dotted throughout history. Ancient to modern, all styles and mediums. Unfortunately these days our gallery visits tend to be along the lines of "How fast can Charlotte whizz through each of the displays before hitting the shop or the cafe?"

Ho hum - At least we try. Though there are better ways to engage children with art, no better way than giving them something fun and interesting to do while learning about the world's greatest masterpieces.

Here's Usborne's fantastic "My Very First Sticker Art Gallery", a nice thick and beautifully produced sticker book crammed with over 260 stickers. Children can explore everything from Picasso to Hepworth, from Seurat to Salvador Dali - and find out a little bit more about the styles and movements that shaped art and influenced artists throughout the ages.

One of the most satisfying aspects of the book - and this isn't something we find with a lot of sticker books - is that once all that frenetic sticker-ing is over with, you're left with a dazzling colourful art reference that can be dipped back into again and again (it's come in very useful over the last week or so, as we've been exploring art both ancient and modern during our week off in various forms - not least of all with last week's fabulous Book of the Week, William and the Missing Masterpiece).

Usborne reign supreme when it comes to producing books on weighty grown-up subjects that are made interesting and engaging for children, without any dumbing down or needless babying. A fabulous activity book that might just encourage your little one to pick up their brushes and have a go themselves, or at least slow down a little bit next time you find yourself in a gallery or a museum!

Charlotte's best bit: The Upside Down Fruit Face (Arcimboldo's Fruit Bowl!)

Daddy's Favourite bit: So many gorgeous works of art to share with Charlotte, a really fascinating and interesting book

(Kindly sent to us for review by Usborne Books)
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Monday 21 April 2014

The Tip Tap Dancing Cat by Joanna Boyle (Pavilion Children's Books)

The Tip Tap Dancing Cat

Written and Illustrated by
Joanna Boyle

Published by Pavilion Children's Books

If ever there was a book that would instantly prove a hit with Charlotte, it's any book that combines "Strictly Come Dancing" style moves, with the world's slinkiest cat. Joanna Boyle's "fahhhh-bulous darling" book (endorsed by none other than Strictly's Mr Nasty Craig Revel Horwood and choreographer extraordinaire Arlene Phillips) is a bouncing, fleet-footed celebration of dancing (and cats, yay!)

Oscar is the main character, who is an ordinary everyday house cat. But as soon as his owners depart for work, Oscar leads a double life. Oscar is a dance superstar!

Name any dance style and Oscar can perform it with ease. Teaming up with a cute kitty-cat of a partner, Oscar cuts a deft wave through his neighbourhood and is often the star of the show.

Cuban, Salsa, Foxtrot, two-step, Oscar can do the lot but there's one type of dance Oscar cannot resist, above all others. Can you guess what it is?

It's quite something to see a six year old completely absorbed in a book, but it's quite something else to see her up and dancing around the room STILL clutching the book as she tries to replicate Oscar's moves, beautifully rendered and so full of vibrancy and movement - showing Joanna Boyle's innate sense of being able to capture the world's most fabulous dances on the static page.

Forget any official glitter-encrusted "Strictly" tie-ins, this truly trounces the lot!

I asked Charlotte for her official score and she held up a resounding "10!"

Charlotte's best bit: Oscar's energetic Jive

Daddy's Favourite bit: Brilliant fun for tiddlers, beautifully illustrated and told

(Kindly sent to us for review by Pavilion Children's Books)
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Friday 18 April 2014

ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week Ending 18th April 2014 - "William and the Missing Masterpiece" by Helen Hancocks (Templar Publishing)

William and the Missing Masterpiece

Written and Illustrated by
Helen Hancocks

Published by Templar Publishing

It's a hard life sometimes, being an international cat of mystery. One plans a holiday but before one can even pack a pair of kipper slippers, one's special services are required.

Helen Hancocks has an uber-sharp wit, a fabulous eye for a canny pun or two and in this cheese-fest of a story, William - the aforementioned detective cat - is called upon by Monsieur Gruyere to solve the most dastardly crime of the century, the theft of the Mona Cheesa.

Monsieur Gruyere is at his wits end, but William jets to Paris to get right on the case. It's not long before he realises that National Cheese Week, a mysterious stranger and an art contest are all somehow tied in with the theft.

We've had quite an arty week, soaking up Helen's fabulous reworkings of famous paintings in this book (The wonderful Book Sniffer let us in on a secret - lift up the flyleaf cover of the book for a surprise!) It was actually great fun diving onto the Internet to show Charlotte the real paintings that Helen based some of her mogtastic versions on (particularly loved the cat version of Edvard Munch's "The Scream" and a rather nifty homage to fromage in her version of "Dejeuner Sur L'Herbe")

Back to the case and William decides on a stake out, with an eye on the art contest, surely the dastardly thief is sure to show his or her colours. Will William solve the crime and be back home in time for a brie baguette?

Everything about this book tickles our fancy, from the brilliantly funny story to the cheesy works of art. Charlotte also loved the various cameos by a certain black-and-white flippered chap (You know who we mean!) and I had a ball spotting the myriad art references Helen has worked into the story (see how many you can spot!)

Utterly, completely brilliant, and actually a really nice jumping off point if your child is interested in art, enjoys the story and wants to discover more. By the way, we think the real William is as dapper as his book counterpart - and we hope Book William is ripe for more cheesy adventures in the not too distant future.

Charlotte's best bit: Spotting all the different cameos by a very well loved character from Helen's other book (no spoilers!)
Fave cheese: Big fat Mozzarella!

Daddy's Favourite bit: So many giggles and guffaws, and absolutely loved all the classic art reworked in Helen's own style. Dare I say "Brie-lliant!"
Fave Cheese: Shropshire Blue on a nice crusty sourdough roll

(Kindly sent to us for review by Templar Publishing)
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Thursday 17 April 2014

Bing and Nero by I.L. Williams and Inci Alper (Northern Phoenix Books)

Bing and Nero

Written by I.L. Williams

Illustrated by Inci Alper

Published by Northern Phoenix Books

Charlotte loves Robots. Charlotte has the sort of love for Robots that gladdens this geek-dad's heart and though I'll readily acknowledge that I probably have a lot to do with this robotic obsession, it's quite cool to have a 6 year old daughter who can instantly recognise R2D2, C3PO and even Bender from Futurama.

So we're always on the hunt for books about robots, and here's one that cropped up and instantly caught our eye. "Bing and Nero" is the heartwarming story of a boy called Bing who longs for a special friend. He has a cat, but cats are hardly the best playmates around when you're bored. Bing would like a dog, or maybe even to just have a friend over from time to time - but Bing doesn't make friends easily.

He has a fantastic idea though. Looking around his room, Bing comes up with a plan. He WILL make a friend - literally!

And thus Nero is "born", expertly constructed from scavenged materials, Bing soon creates a very special friend indeed - a huge robot called Nero.

Dogs are cool but imagine all the things that a robot can do. Can dogs make popcorn in their tummies? Naw of course they can't! Can dogs jet through the landscape on a pair of rocket powered legs? No way! Bing absolutely loves his new found friend.

There's lots more to explore, and a ton of robotic fun to be had if you stop by and check out the further adventures of a boy and his awesome robot!

Also don't miss the rather cool book trailer below!

Charlotte's best bit: Popcorn time! Now that's a cool super-power to have!

Daddy's Favourite bit: A fab story, with bold colourful illustrations and a nice read for children just starting out reading on their own.

(Kindly sent for review by I.L. Williams)
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Charlie Dog by Sue Pavey and Eleni Demetriou (Red Heart Books)

Charlie Dog

Written by Sue Pavey

Illustrated by Eleni Demetriou

Published by Red Heart Books

We're squeezing in a review of a rather groovy book for younger children. Author Sue Pavey has come up trumps with this charming tale of a cheeky Westie called Charlie Dog.

Designed for children just learning to read, with easy flowing rhymes and big bold illustrations by Eleni Demetriou, Charlie Dog is sure to find his way into your hearts. But what does a Westie get up to in an ordinary average day? As you read the tale you'll find out that Charlie (like most dogs) loves playing, loves eating but best of all loves turning that lovely white coat a darker shade with the aid of some cooling soothing mud!

You can check out Sue's brilliant story, and her other books on the Red Heart Books website, and pick up a copy of Charlie Dog.

Charlotte's best bit: Charlie Dog doing what dogs do best - getting very muddy indeed

Daddy's Favourite bit: Fab, cute and cuddly, that's Charlie Dog

(Kindly sent to us for review in digital form by Sue Pavey / Red Heart Books)
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Tuesday 15 April 2014

Mr Miniscule and the Whale by Julian Tuwim and Bohdan Butenko (Book Island)

Mr Miniscule and the Whale

Written by Julian Tuwim
Illustrated by Bohdan Butenko

Published by Book Island

Legendary Polish poet and children's author Julian Tuwim wasn't a name I was familiar with until Book Island's reprint of one of his best-loved children's poems hit my doormat. Julian Tuwim was predominantly known for sharp and humorous satirical poetry, but he was also a very well loved children's author who had a knack for tapping kids on the funny bone.

Winner of the Golden Laurel of the Polish Academy of Literature, Tuwim's "Mr Miniscule and the Whale" has now been translated and reprinted with fantastic illustrations by Bohdan Butenko.

Mr Miniscule by name, Mr Miniscule by nature - but our hero's aspirations are gigantic. Mr Miniscule has done many things in his life, but above all else, he wants to see a whale. Face to face, nose to nose, Mr Miniscule sets out in a tiny walnut boat, packed to the gills with all his explorer trappings.

The sea is wide and deep, and it's not long before the tiny Mr Miniscule realises the scale of his expedition. Will he ever achieve his ambition?

Fetching up on a mysterious (blue) island, Mr Miniscule gets more than he bargained for!

Tuwim's verse (even translated) flows and is fun and witty. Butenko's detailed linework is fabulous, effective. This is a real treat of a book from a publisher who is fast gaining a reputation for publishing and re-introducing the most fabulous stories.

Charlotte's best bit: Mr Miniscule's fabulous explorer equipment. Everything except the kitchen sink is packed into his gorgeous little boat

Daddy's Favourite bit: A really fabulous story, wonderfully reproduced, making me want to go off and discover more of Tuwim's work. Another winner from Book Island!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Book Island)
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Monday 14 April 2014

The Spy Book by Laura Buller, Joe Fullman, Ben Gilliland and Jim Pipe (Dorling Kindersley)

The Spy Book

Written and Illustrated by
Laura Buller, Joe Fullman et al

Published by Dorling Kindersley
Charlotte is drawn to any books about spying. This is a slightly worrying thing for a 6 year old to be obsessive about, but as a kid who grew up with those cool little spy kits (with a REAL camera, plastic binoculars and probably a gun that fired dangerous little plastic pellets at unwitting relatives) I can understand the lure.

We've been previously wowed by Usborne's superb Knowhow book of Spying and here's Dorling Kindersley's big fat spy book, which Charlotte could not resist when she spotted it at our local library.

Packed with historical accounts of spying antics, practical demonstrations on how to set up your own 'dead drop', and even a fascinating spread on real-life historical figures that inspired the fictional spies we know and love, it really is a weighty book (with a rather eye-catching X-Ray lenticular cover that's bound to make your youngsters' eyes boggle with excitement).

Dorling Kindersley are past masters at producing big fat fascinating books like this and with brilliant illustrations and photographs throughout, this is bound to keep your spy-obsessed little ones happy for weeks. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm sure that photograph on the wall just blinked at me...

Charlotte's best bit: Codes and ciphers (which might help when the next series of Gravity Falls arrives later this year!)

Daddy's Favourite bit: A meaty tome full of spy goodness. I keep sneaking this off for a quick read as well!
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Friday 11 April 2014

ReaditDaddy's Book of the Week - Week Ending 11th April 2014 - "The Queen's Hat" by Steve Antony (Hodder Children's Books)

The Queen's Hat

Written and Illustrated by
Steve Antony

Published by Hodder Children's Books

Inspired by a news story about our beloved monarch nearly losing her hat on a blustery day at Grandson William's helicopter base in Anglesey, Steve Antony's fantastic debut for Hodder Children's Books is exactly the sort of riotous celebration of royalty - and London - that we absolutely can't resist.

From the eye-catching cover design (challenge your little one to count all those bearskins on the Queen's Royal Guards!) to the fast-paced story, we knew we were going to end up reading this book again and again. What I hadn't quite expected was that Charlotte would take this everywhere, as I mentioned to awesome Steve Antony on Twitter, "The Queen's Hat" has barely left Charlotte's side while on her easter hols (and has been dutifully shown to grandparents who also love it to bits).

The Queen is off to visit a very important person one day, and as she leaves Buckingham Palace her hat is caught by the wind, and whisked off her head.

So begins a rip-roaring chase around the capital's greatest landmarks, with The Queen (a sprightly octagenerian) dashing after her windswept headgear.

The beauty of this book is the way that it unfolds. A few guards gamely keep up with Queenie, and after a while the entire company of the Royal Guard join in, until there are hundreds of them dashing all around London to retrieve that hat.

I'm trying not to ruin too many bits for you, because the book made us smile at every single turn of the page (don't you love books that you have to twist this way and that in your lap to get the most out of? We certainly do!)

So many tiny little details are worked into Steve's illustrations (look out for the politicians sharing a cab - they look familiar!). There's a real vibrant energy at work here, and that's something that children will be able to tap directly into. Every single reading of this book has met with fizzing enthusiasm from Charlotte.

There is one scene though, and it's an absolutely brilliant spread as The Queen dashes through London Zoo, pursued by her guards, her corgi, a very tired looking butler - and an absolute TON of Zoo animals all joining in the pursuit. This scene actually held us up quite a bit in every subsequent reading and re-reading as Charlotte loved identifying all the different animals (and I couldn't help giggle about the poor corgi, clinging to a guardsman's trouser leg as he swings through the zoo). Needless to say, she sagely pointed out that the monkeys probably weren't actually helping, more hindering the chase!

I've no idea how long it must've taken Steve to draw all those guards (and if you look at them, they're all subtly different! No copy and paste jobs here) Pardon the pun but hats off to him, this is a truly wonderful, sometimes cheeky but absolutely essential children's book, a joyous thing indeed - and all that effort was worth it because it's a front runner for Charlotte's favourite book of the year so far (high praise indeed!)

"The Queens Hat" will rock your world on May 1st 2014, from Hodder Children's Books.

Charlotte's best bit: The naughty monkeys 'helping out' in the Zoo scene, which is such a fantastic illustration

Daddy's Favourite bit: We have read and re-read this so many times. Eagerly awaiting Steve's next book because if this is anything to go by, he's going to be big, big news and this book is going to win awards by the megaton!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Hodder Children's Books)
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Thursday 10 April 2014

Standing In for Lincoln Green by David Mackintosh (HarperCollins Children's Books)

Standing in for Lincoln Green

Written and Illustrated by
David Mackintosh

Published by HarperCollins Children's Books

There have been many, many children's books dealing with the sometimes thorny subject of imaginary friends. Trust David Mackintosh to come up with a wholly original approach that is a tightly knit and entertaining story, suffused with David's charming linework.

Lincoln Green is your ordinary everyday stetson-wearing kid. He's far too busy for all that tedious tidying up, horrible homework or other menial tasks. Luckily Lincoln has a secret friend who lives in his mirror, and chips in with all the things that Lincoln doesn't like doing - while Lincoln plays all day.

Trash is dutifully taken out by the mirror Lincoln. Homework dutifully finished off, and when Lincoln makes a new friend his double pitches in to play all the games that Lincoln doesn't want to.

Of course things start to go awry when the double realises what a bum deal he's getting, and rebels in spectacular fashion leaving Lincoln with egg on his face, unfinished homework and a rather teed off mum who wants to know why things haven't been done.

Can Lincoln somehow redeem the situation? We'll leave you to find out what happens in this story. If you're like us, you've lapped up David's previous books like "The Frank Show" and the sublime "Marshall Armstrong is New to our School". This tale is twice the fun!

Charlotte's best bit: Lincoln's uber-cool treehouse

Daddy's Favourite bit: A fantastic treatment of the imaginary friends storyline, impressive in every way
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Wednesday 9 April 2014

Barbapapa's Ark by Annette Tyson and Talus Taylor (Orchard Books)

Barbapapa's Ark

Written by Annette Tyson

Illustrated by Talus Taylor

Published by Orchard Books

If someone had told me a year ago that Charlotte would become a huge Barbapapa fan, I'd have probably laughed in their faces. How could a groovy 70s character have any appeal - or for that matter any relevance to the kids of today, obsessed with gadgets and TV.

The simple answer is that characters like Barbapapa, and books like "Barbapapa's Ark" are indeed very much of the time - but the issues they raise, and the core family values we admire and love when reading about Barbapapa, Barbamama and their wonderful talented children are still as big a lure as they always were.

On the 'issues' side, "Barbapapa's Ark" is a fantastic story to underline something that I remember being a huge global problem as a child and (unfortunately) is still ever-present in the modern world.

Barbapapa's lovely home is set in idyllic surroundings - but with the encroachment of cities and factories, Barbapapa's green corner of the world is threatened. The local flora and fauna succumb to pollution and fumes, and before long Barbapapa realises it's time to move on (again! Poor Barbapapa seems to lead a bit of a nomadic existence in these stories!)

Taking the animals with them, the Barba-family set up a fantastic animal refuge. But soon even this is under threat as nefarious hunters want to bag themselves an animal trophy, perhaps even the gorgeous pelt of Barbabeau!

There's really nothing for it - and Barbapapa resorts to drastic measures to escape the mean inhabitants of planet earth, building a gigantic Rocket-Ark and taking all the beleaguered animals with him.

Will the people of earth realise, all too late, that the world is a better place with all the wildlife (and the Barba-family) in it?

I remember the original Barbapapa books, and as I've said in previous reviews of Orchard's timely reprints, these are fantastic stories that are still as groovy and relevant today as they were back when the world was obsessed with flares and Raleigh Choppers (OK I'm still obsessed with Raleigh Choppers now but flares I can live without).

It's so fantastic to see Charlotte's joyful whoops of delight every time she sees a new Barbapapa book arriving! We can't wait for more!

Charlotte's best bit: Barbapapa's fantastic Ark-Rocket filled with all the animals of the earth

Daddy's Favourite bit: You seriously cannot keep a great character down, and these books are fabulous even for today's busy little bees

(Kindly sent to us for review by Orchard Books)
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The Castle of Fear (Puzzle Master Series) by Patrick Burston and Alastair Graham (Walker Books)

The Castle of Fear (Puzzle Master Series)

Written by Patrick Burston

Illustrated by Alastair Graham

Published by Walker Books

I loved books as a kid, well into my teens when I'd spend an inordinate amount of time in the playground with a couple of "Choose your own adventure" books tucked into my bag.

Back before you could whip out your mobile phone or a tablet to play an immersive role playing game, these books were like a portal to a fantasy world where all the action and adventure took place largely in your imagination. Often illustrated with line art, you filled in the blanks yourself as you made your way through perilous scenarios in search of fortune and glory.

It's actually quite comforting to see Charlotte regularly picking books like "The Castle of Fear" out of the library. These large format picture books are perfect for her age group as an introduction to the more meatier text-based 'choose your own adventure' series - but the rules are basically the same. Solve puzzles, take chances and choose your path through The Castle of Fear to save a trapped prisoner, and complete your quest.

"The Castle of Fear" is just tough enough to provide a challenge, but not too difficult as to prove frustrating. As children choose their path through the game, flicking to each page number as directed, they'll find hidden object puzzles and other choices to be made.

It looks like a fantastic range which we definitely need to investigate further!

Charlotte's best bit: Finally completing the quest - I could actually hear her cheer of joy from the other end of the house!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Really glad that things like this still exist for kids who you'd think were completely wrapped up in gizmos and gadgets. Pure imagination wins out every time!
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Tuesday 8 April 2014

100 Ideas for Dads who love their kids (but find them exhausting) by Willem Van Eekelen (Featherstone / Bloomsbury)

100 Ideas for Dads Who Love Their Kids (but find them exhausting)

Written by Willem Van Eekelen
Illustrated by Sarah Ray

Published by Featherstone / Bloomsbury

I have chuckled, giggled and snorted my way through this book as I can wholly identify with Willem Van Eekelen. Willem decided to write a book about fatherhood that balances being an attentive and fun dad with activities that are mini works of genius. Some work wonderfully, some may need a little effort (and 'little effort' is what we're aiming for here).

To give you a flavour of the book, imagine a typical scene. You arrive home from work, you are (to put it bluntly) so knackered that you're struggling to keep your eyes open. Your little darlings, however, want to play, want you to draw, want you to make up some stories, want you to run around with them on your back and a zillion other things when what you really want to do is curl up on the sofa and basically die.

Willem to the rescue with games to suit a range of ages, for any setting you may find yourself in ("Hey, what's that? You're stranded in a tiny cottage in the middle of Wales in a torrential rainstorm and have bored children to entertain?") that achieve the nigh-on impossible: allow you to get some relaxation while stimulating busy little minds.

We tried a couple of the games (the "Hunt the shoe" thing didn't work out very well, because Charlotte did NOT want anything to do with my feet after a hard day at the office - understandably so) and we're definitely aiming to try some of the outdoor ones next time we go "Trusting" (Spending our weekends at National Trust places).

A nifty little pocket-sized book dosed heavily with humour, and the perfect father's day present for slacker dads :)

Charlotte's best bit: Lots of fun and inventive games to try out, both indoors and out

Daddy's Favourite bit: An awesome work of genius for 'tired' dads who don't want to be boring dads!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Willem Van Eekelen)
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Celebrities writing children's books - Wading into the fray...

Russell Brand. Soon to put his own spin on the Pied Piper of Hamelyn along with the awesome Chris Riddell

Here's a subject we've enjoyed seeing some hoo-ing and hah-ing about over the last few weeks. We didn't exactly help things with our April Fools story about Jeremy Clarkson writing a children's book (can you imagine it?) but one announcement on the same day turned out to be true. Russell Brand is the latest celebrity pitching himself into the children's book arena.

Russell Brand isn't anyone I give a tinker's fig about, but he's erudite (if you've ever seen him destroy a politician on Question Time, you'll know he's a clever stick and a half), he has personality, and he's a one-man PR machine that is - in essence - exactly the sort of person you'd imagine hitting the right note with an awful lot of parents who want to buy books for their kids.

Teaming up with Chris Riddell is a stroke of genius too. Riddell's illustrations are fantastic, and if anyone can dream up twisted alt-reality versions of the Pied Piper et al, Chris is the man for the gig.

If you're a writer and you've been teamed up with this guy, you're on a roll!
This isn't a ringing endorsement of all celebrities who take the 'easy option' of writing for kids though. Writing for children is by no means an easy option. Children are the toughest critics on the planet. They can make or break a brand (no not a Brand!) in the space of a morning's playtime discussion. Similarly, they can be astonishingly driven, inspirational and complimentary if they love what you do, and witheringly insultingly critical if they don't.

Some celebrities mistake endorsement by their own families or kids as some sort of a green light that their stories will be universally accepted by children. Also not the case. Any parent can tell you the number of times their child has nodded approval when shown something or had something read to them and then scampered off to Mummy (or daddy) later on to give the real verdict.

As my sage other half pointed out though, the focus on celebrity writers is always on the quality of the writing (which, in all but a few sacred (Walliams) cases, is normally universally panned or criticised by booky press) and not what it can actually lead to. Imagine all the kids that start off their journey reading "Frankie's Magic Football" and then seek out the far meatier and more satisfying Football Academy series by Tom Palmer. Imagine the kids who read the drecky Willoughby Sisters' glitter-infested fairy princess stuff, but then go on to read real inspirational "Worst Princess" by the fantastically talented team of Anna Kemp and Sara Ogilvie.

If celebrity writing achieves one thing of worth - engaging reluctant readers - then long may the trend continue. 
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Monday 7 April 2014

Mr White by Yiting Lee (Hogs Back Books Ltd)

Mr White

Written and Illustrated by
Yiting Lee

Published by Hogs Back Books Ltd

We're always on the look out for charming and original books during our visits to the local library. Sometimes books have a habit of ending up at the bottom of the book-cases, lost, unloved and rather forlorn looking. We spotted "Mr White" by Yiting Lee tucked in with a whole stack of paperbacks. There was something about it that made us want to investigate further, and I'm so glad we did.

The titular Mr White is a charming character, who lives in a monochrome world. One day there's an accident, and with a tiny splodge of colour, Mr White's whole outlook on life changes. Colour to dazzle, colour as a spectacle, colour to brighten up a humdrum day and turn the world from shades of grey.

Is it possible to have too much colour though? (If The Strolling Mum is reading this, she'll nod as she's happy to tell you that I should not be left in charge of what Charlotte wears during an average day - because it'll all be multi-coloured and it will probably all clash too!)

Yiting Lee's book feels a little influenced by authors and illustrators like Satoshi Kitamura. That's definitely no bad thing, believe us!

Seek out this tiny little hidden gem and add a splash of colour to your day - but not too much though, sometimes you need the calming influence of dazzling white.

Charlotte's best bit: Mr White paints everything, even himself!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Charming and wonderful, an obscure but gorgeous little book from an author-illustrator we can't wait to see more of
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Friday 4 April 2014

Michelle Vinall's "Hurricane Lane" iPhone / iPad story app launches today!

A journey through your imagination, take a trip down "Hurricane Lane"
For tech-savvy kids who love a good story, April 4th sees the launch of the app version of Michelle Vinall's "Hurricane Lane" (which we reviewed as part of our Indie Pen-Dance Wednesday coverage a week or two ago). Published by Story Panda, "Hurricane Lane" is an enhanced version of Michelle's gorgeously illustrated tale, the first in an intended trilogy of stories (which also include the wonderful "256 Postcards Ago").

You can find the app on the iTunes store here, priced at a very reasonable 69p. BARGAIN!

While you're there, you can also check out the Story Panda app, and also the E-Book version of Hurricane Lane.

Collect the set and delve into Michelle Vinall's colourful and imaginative world.

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ReaditDaddy's Book of the Week - Week Ending 4th April 2014 - "The Giraffe, The Pelly and Me" by Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake (Puffin Books)

The Giraffe, The Pelly and Me

Written by Roald Dahl

Illustrated by Quentin Blake

Published by Puffin Books

We're slowly working our way through Roald Dahl's amazing catalogue of stories, and I can't understand how we'd previously missed "The Giraffe, The Pelly and Me" as it's easily one of the best Dahl books ever.

Spinning together the themes that made Dahl such a legendary author of children's books, you'll find a boy hero - an ordinary everyday sort of boy who dreams of owning the world's greatest sweetshop. He always daydreams about a property in his neighbourhood that would be absolutely perfect for the shop, an old ramshackle place that the boy is convinced he can fix up.

He's sad when he notices that someone else has bought the property, and what's more they seem to have fitted it with the strangest door you've ever seen.

All is revealed as the boy meets a giraffe, a pelican and a monkey who own their own window-cleaning business. But how on earth can a giraffe, a pelican and a monkey clean windows? They have no bucket and no ladder so how on earth can they possibly succeed?

The boy joins them as they take on their toughest job yet, cleaning the many windows of a manky stately home. Pelican reveals his amazing slide-top beak that can hold soapy water, Giraffe has the most amazing extendable neck to reach the highest windows, and monkey can shin up that neck and buff windows to a high sheen.

But window cleaning is just one of their many talents, as the rumbunctious owner of the stately home is burgled and calls on boy, Pelly, Giraffe and Monkey to help solve the crime!

We love getting lost in Dahl's descriptions, particularly of sweets. Here he makes your mouth water with descriptions of the finest sweets in the land, that the boy dreams he'll somehow stock in his store. You'll love Quentin Blake's trademark fluid and gorgeous illustrations that feel like they move and flow on the page and there really couldn't have been a better choice to illustrate Dahl's books than Blake.

Above all though, you'll love this book just as much as Dahl's other more well-known classics. Hooray for Giraffe, Pelly, Boy and Monkey!

Charlotte's best bit: The mysterious (and intricately illustrated) method of Pelly's beak deployment - and Giraffe's lovely eyelashes

Daddy's Favourite bit: Sometimes when it's quiet I can hear the great man himself reading his fabulous words in his gentle and lilting deep voice. There'll never be anyone to eclipse Dahl's talent. A booky superstar!
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Thursday 3 April 2014

The Great Googly Moogly by Courtney Dicmas (Child's Play)

The Great Googly Moogly

Written and Illustrated by
Courtney Dicmas

Published by Child's Play

We loved Courtney Dicmas' fabulously noisy and colourful book "Harold Finds a Voice" so it's great to see what she got up to next, this time with a fishy tale to warm the cockles of your heart.

Stella is our kind of girl. Like Charlotte she's fun-loving, gutsy and determined - and what Stella wants more than anything else is to catch a fish. Not just any old fish, but the biggest fish in the ocean - The Great Googly Moogly.

This legendary fish is the stuff of a fisherman's dream. As long as a bus, as broad as a jumbo jet, The Great Googly Moogly is astounding - but can one little girl, even a little girl who was born to sail the seven seas achieve such a huge goal?

Courtney Dicmas' book is beautifully multi-layered, as the story unfolds and we learn more about Stella's determination and drive, we also learn about her heart - as big as a whale's. So when things take a rather surprising turn, and Stella finally meets The Great Googly Moogly we'll leave it to you to find out what happens.

We often read disheartening stories in the press about how few spirited female characters there are in children's books. How few role models for girls that don't rely on glamour and glitz to win the day. They are out there, believe us - we've found a lot of them and we're so happy to have found another in young Stella. We love the core message about loving animals, and respecting the planet's gorgeous and diverse wildlife, but then that's sort of what you expect from Courtney and Child's Play - they don't do wishy washy!

Charlotte's best bit: The Great Googly Moogly himself, a multi-coloured happy and huge old fish with a gigantic heart to match. Just like Stella's

Daddy's Favourite bit: An inspiring and colourful book layered beautifully, and full of inspiration for little girls and boys who love larger-than-life characters with hearts of gold.

(Kindly sent to us for review by Child's Play Publishing)
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Wednesday 2 April 2014

Baby Animals Sticker Activities by Jonathan Litton and Matthew Isherwood (Little Tiger Press)

Baby Animals Sticker Activities

Written by Jonathan Litton

Illustrated by Matthew Isherwood

Published by Little Tiger Press

For some (well, Charlotte!) the end of term is a magical time, and with three weeks of holiday ahead to look forward to, lots of time to play! For me, it's a bit of a sad time because we usually work while Charlotte spends time with grandparents or in kid's club.

When we are off though, it's awesome to dig into a sticker and activity book, get our art on and do something artsy and crafty. Little Tiger's range of "My First Sticker Book" titles is a great place to start when your little ones are just beginning to draw, or if they're older, honing their craft a little.

This colourful "Baby Animals Sticker Activities" book is full of gorgeous full colour cute photos of baby animals (aww!), a metric ton of stickers (Yay!) and lots of puzzles and scribbling activities to stimulate young minds. It's a really nice quality book that should stand up to the rigours of being tucked into an overnight bag for sleepovers at Grandma and Grandad's house, or if your children aren't prone to car sickness, a bit of fun on the go (We unfortunately lost a well-loved activity book to a backseat rainbow-parking incident so we don't tend to let Charlotte use books like this in the car any more, woes!)

You can check out Little Tiger's fabulous sticker range on the Little Tiger website.

Charlotte's best bit: Learning what to feed a hungry baby goat (they eat anything you know!)

Daddy's Favourite bit: A really nice quality title from an engaging range, suitable for ages 3 and up

(Very kindly sent to us by Little Tiger Press)
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Indie Pen-Dance Wednesday - A riotous caper in "Goo and Spot in the Do Not Wiggle Riddle" by Elsa Takaoka and Catherine Toenisson (Elsa Takaoka Publishing)

Goo and Spot in the Do Not Wiggle Riddle

Written by Elsa Takaoka

Illustrated by Catherine Toenisson

Published by Elsa Takaoka Publishing

We truly have been spoilt rotten by the sheer quality of self published and independently published titles we've covered so far this year but there's always room for more, and certainly lots of room for books that are a colourful riot such as this first "Goo and Spot" adventure.

So what is The Do Not Wriggle Riddle? Elsa and Spot want to find out, but as they race through a colourful landscape, they're none the wiser. Each of their friends gives a clue, and the clue is in the question - but can such a mind-mangling riddle be solved? It's going to be fun to find out!

Elsa Takaoka writes a fast-paced (quite frenetic, in fact) chase as Goo and Spot meet up with friends to join the caper. Catherine Toenisson's inventive artwork is gorgeous, truly eyecatching and we loved all the characters this extremely talented duo have created.

This is a great inclusive book, good for boys and girls, and it's also a great moral lesson on the value of pricking up your ears and listening to everyone around you in order to satisfy your own curiosity and learn more. Just our cup of tea!

Charlotte's best bit: Finding out the answer to the riddle right at the end of the book!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Such a dazzling vibrant book that's chock full of fun that unfolds at breakneck pace. If you're in the mood for a speedy run around riddle town, this is for you!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Elsa Takaoka)
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Tuesday 1 April 2014

Jeremy Clarkson - April Fool!

Alright, it wasn't very convincing was it - but April Fool! Our top exclusive story of the day was a gag. 

But stranger things have happened, right? :)
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My Little Box of Springtime Stories (Little Tiger Press)

My Little Box of Springtime Stories

Written and Illustrated by
Various Authors and Artists

Published by Little Tiger Press

This is a splendid little idea to celebrate the clocks springing forward, the onset of spring and of course all things easter-egg shaped (and hopefully some sunny weather too!) This little box of joy is Little Tiger Press's "Little Box of Springtime Stories" (overdosing on the word 'little' in that sentence, eeks!) and it's a fabulous collection of cosy animal stories for your little ones (oops, tiddlers I mean!)

The sturdy box is perfect for transporting to sleepovers at Grandma and Grandad's house over the easter hols.

Little Tiger has drawn on a richly talented pool of artists and authors to contribute to five mini books:
  • Fred and the Little Egg
  • Babbity's Big Bad Mood 
  • Rosie's Special Surprise
  • A Duck So Small
  • Dora's Chicks
It goes without saying that Charlotte adored the stories, and can't wait to tuck into her easter eggs!

Charlotte's best bit: Dora's Chicks, so utterly cute!

Daddy's Favourite bit: A lovely little collection. Ditch the choc, go with books instead!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Little Tiger Press)
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Super Hair-O and the Barber of Doom by John Rocco (Disney Hyperion)

Super Hair-O and the Barber of Doom

Written and Illustrated by
John Rocco

Published by Disney Hyperion

With a crash, a zoom, and the odd "Spla-doosh!" a new superhero enters the children's book arena. Blessed with hirsute powers, meet Super Hair-O! This is the sort of book that has us tucking pillowcases into our neckline, running around the house mock-fighting Ninjas and bending steel girders (alright, Kitchen Roll tubes).

Meet Rocco, who has a lovely thatch from which he derives his super-powers (or so he believes!)

He ran run faster, jump longer on his BMX and perform feats of derring-do, just like the heroes in the comics he idolises. With his band of hairy friends, they're a force to be reckoned with, protecting their local neighbourhood.

But there's a villainous figure lurking in the shadows of a shop with a candy-striped pole outside. The Barber of Doom! Inevitably, Rocco must meet his fate at the hands (or rather the scissors) of this mysterious figure.

Why must he take Rocco's hair (and powers!) Whyyyyy!! Oh cruel world!

We absolutely loved this book to bits, with lots of great comic-like artwork and a fast-paced story thanks to Caldecott winner John Rocco. Charlotte kept asking why one of Rocco's friends kept saying "Dude!" all the time though (took a bit of explaining). Overall though this is a brilliant book for the superhero in your life - particularly if (like Charlotte) they don't exactly relish trips to the hairdressers!

Charlotte's best bit: The weird little "DUDE!" guy who crops up throughout the story

Daddy's Favourite bit: A brilliant homage to comics and superheroes, a book so good that it makes you want to tousle its mane and tweak its tresses. Love it!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Disney Hyperion)
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Jeremy Clarkson to write first Children's Picture Book for Caemembert Press

Jeremy Clarkson - "Why should children miss out on some good old fashioned common sense?"
Outspoken Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson is already a published author, but he's now turning his steely gaze to the world of children's picture books for a new series of titles coming soon from Caemembert Press. 

"Ranulph the Red Racing Car" is the first of an eventual series of books penned by the Top Gear star. Jeremy was approached to write children's books after publicly denouncing top sellers such as "The Gruffalo" and "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" as "Wishy washy rubbish".

Clarkson added: "It's clear to me that children's books need a dose of good old fashioned British common sense, and perhaps a dash of nitrous oxide". Speaking exclusively to "DadsDadsDads" Magazine, Clarkson hoped to finish his range of stories in time for the eventual arrival of his own grandchildren at some point in the future.

Ranulph roars through the countryside, hotly pursued by
arch-enemy Gottfried

"Ranulph the Red Racing Car" is the story of a high octane racer who roams the planet, guzzling natural resources, wheelspinning and generally expelling hot air while denying climate change. Travelling the world in a series of seemingly pointless adventures, Ranulph is the anti-hero to end all anti-heroes.

Jeremy is the latest in a long line of celebrities, such as Holly Willoughby and Frank Lampard, who are turning their attention to the world of children's literature. We'll feature a review of "Ranulph the Red Racing Car" at 1 minute past 12 today.
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