Friday 29 August 2014

ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week Ending 29th August 2014 - "On Sudden Hill" by Linda Sarah and Benji Davies (Simon and Schuster Children's Books)

On Sudden Hill

Written by Linda Sarah

Illustrated by Benji Davies

Published by Simon and Schuster Children's Books

It was love at first sight, at first read.

Often with the "Book of the Week" books, we know they're going to slide into our hallowed and honoured slot with ease the moment we lay eyes on them. In some cases, a book that looks gorgeous and glossy can sometimes disappoint once you dive into it, but that was definitely not the case with "On Sudden Hill" by Linda Sarah and Benji Davies.

The story of two (and then eventually three) little boys who spend idyllic summers playing and using their imaginations. Birt and Etho's favourite game is to drag their huge cardboard boxes up to the top of Sudden Hill and use those boxes for all sorts of fun games. Boxes can become anything. A medieval castle, a spaceship or just a great place for two friends to hang out and chatter long into the summer evenings until the light grows dim.

Then something unexpected happens. Shu sees Birt and Etho playing and wants to join in. He's even got his own box, and at first Shu is most welcome. But Shu and Etho spend more and more time together, and poor Birt feels pushed out, isolated. Birt smashes his box to bits and starts playing on his own, or staying in and drawing and while Shu and Etho still call on their friend, Birt no longer wants to play with them.

Can Shu and Etho win Birt round?

Children's books often evoke an atmosphere that's unique, making us recall our own childhood, or even (as is the case here) our own friendships as kids and how sometimes even the most simple dynamic could change irreparably if someone new came around and two became three. This is lovingly examined with Linda Sarah's gorgeously written story that dances with whimsy and melancholy in equal measure.

For any writer to be paired with Benji Davies must feel like winning the lottery too. Benji's artwork is utterly enchanting and fits the story like the most comfortable pair of slippers. It's ironic that the book is called "On Sudden Hill" when it really reminds me of the same carefree atmosphere that a lot of Hayao Mizayaki's movies evoke.

When the questions followed, it was another unexpected bonus. Questions from Charlotte on why Birt does the things he does when a new friend joins in, and why he smashed his beloved box. Children's books that spark questions like these obviously make adults think long and hard about taking their own relationships for granted too and that's no bad thing.

A stunning book, every single bit as good as it looks.

Charlotte's best bit: Shu and Etho's amazing way of 'winning' Birt round.

Daddy's Favourite bit: Heart warming, touching, melancholy in places, deep and complex. If anyone ever asks you why you - as an adult - read children's books, slap a copy of this across their lap and make them read it. Maybe then they'll understand.

(Kindly sent to us for review by Simon and Schuster Children's Books
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Thursday 28 August 2014

Where's Spot by Eric Hill (Picture Puffin)

Where's Spot?

Written and Illustrated by
Eric Hill

Published by Picture Puffin

It would be remiss of us to host a fabulous Where's Spot competition without dipping into the original book itself. Though Charlotte's now 6, there's something about lift the flap books that she can't resist - and this is the grandaddy of them all, a book that we borrowed so many times from the library when she was just cutting her teeth (though thankfully she resisted the temptation to chew it) but now we've got our own copy we thought we'd have another look.

"Where's Spot?" Well, where is Spot? His friend Sally can't seem to find him anywhere in the house and as you flick through the book, your children get to lift different flaps and explore behind various objects to see if they can find the mischievous puppy.

Tom the crocodile is hiding under the bed. Helen the Hippo has managed to squeeze herself into the piano. As for Percy and Polly, they've found a very sneaky hiding place.

But where is spot?

We'll let you discover this timeless classic yourself to find out where Spot is hiding. It doesn't seem like a book that was first published nearly 34 years ago and that's the genius of the late Eric Hill - he had an expert illustrator's eye for providing simple but effective animal characters, weaving them into stories that cut down on the word count, used repetition cleverly, but still provided lots of excitement and stimulation for curious little minds.

Charlotte still loves this - so I cuddled up with her and let her read it to me instead of the other way around!

Don't miss out on the fantastic "Where's Spot" competition that we're helping out with this week. Check out the competition post here!

Charlotte's best bit: Helen the Hippo's hiding place is the best!

Daddy's Favourite bit: A timeless classic from a genius author illustrator who is very sadly missed.

(Kindly sent to us for review by Picture Puffin)
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Princess Mirror-Belle and the Dragon Pox by Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks (Macmillan Children's Books)

Princess Mirror-Belle and the Dragon Pox

Written by Julia Donaldson

Illustrated by Lydia Monks
Published by Macmillan Children's Books

The Princess Mirror-Belle series makes its transition from early reader to picture book with this stunning and sparkly book from the dream team of Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks.

Poor Ellen has chickenpox and really really want to scratch them. But while mum steps out of the bathroom for a moment, Ellen meets Princess Mirror-Belle who springs out of the mirror and tells Ellen that it's not chickenpox she has, it's Dragonpox! Eeks!

Princess Mirror-Belle is a bit of a know-it-all (Charlotte's description!) and knows exactly how to stop Ellen scratching her spots. A cure is required, with a nice warm bath and anything else that may be to hand! In goes the bubble bath, in goes the toothpaste and even daddy's shaving foam (I really hope Charlotte doesn't get any ideas from this!)

The Princess tells Ellen stories of the land beyond the mirror, where brave knights rescue princesses from dragons and children are allowed to make as much mess in the bathroom as they like!

But what will happen when mum comes back in? Will Ellen's excuse that Princess Mirror-belle caused all the mess hold any water with mum?

With lots of brilliant texture and glitter on each page, and a fairytale feel to the story, this is a great addition to the Princess Mirror-Belle series for younger children who want to see what all the fuss is about. They'll never look at the mirror in quite the same way again!

Charlotte's best bit: Ellen being wrapped up in loo roll. Part of the cure for Dragon Pox apparently!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Rather nice to see Julia Donaldson coming up with a non-rhyming story, and always a pleasure to see Lydia's gorgeous artwork

(Kindly sent to us for review by Macmillan Children's Books)
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We chat to the utterly awesome team behind one of the most beautiful children's books of the year - "On Sudden Hill" - Hi to Linda Sarah and Benji Davies

Since we first saw a sneaky snippet of art from "On Sudden Hill" on Twitter, we've been waiting, and waiting, and waiting for what seems like ages for this lovely book to arrive. Now it has, and it's completely knocked us for six! It's stunning, and we're very very VERY lucky to be able to chat with Linda Sarah and Benji Davies, two of our favourite book folk, to find out a little bit more about the book and what inspires them. Take it away, lovelies!

Linda Sarah

Hello Read it Daddy - thank you for having me on your blog!

I work mostly in bustly places like cafes, often listening to Very Loud (and very bad taste) music. This is where most stories and illustrations happen (fuelled often by fat slices of cake that sometimes magically appear - and huge amounts of strong, foamy coffee decorated with love hearts/hedgehogs/birds by the awesome R. :-) And I love The British Museum to glide around in, filling sketchbooks with drawings and ideas.

This is a photo of where I work a lot

Linda busying herself in her studio

And this illustrated biography tells a few more details (like how writing in the bath produces completely different types of stories/poems than those written 'on dry land')

This is a picture of Bifi, the Picture Book Fairy, who is very wise and has a good grasp of grammar and often also, luckily, hangs out in cafes where I work

Bifi the Picture Book Fairy. An awesome inspiration indeed!

This is where I would like to work

Wow! Just wow!

This is the chair I often sit in to write stories (I'm not sure why there's a cat in it - I've never seen him before)
Bifi the Picture Book Fairy (We absolutely love love LOVE Linda's book "Mi and Museum City" by the way!)

Thank you! (and thank you too Linda!)

Benji Davies

I work at home - that is in my studio, the ‘spare’ room of the house that my wife and I bought in Walthamstow last year.

Benji Davies' studio. Uber-cool!

It’s an upside down house, with the living room, kitchen and dining area on the top floor, more like an apartment. The floor below that is the bedroom and the studio, and my wife’s studio(she is a fashion designer) is on the ground floor.

My studio is full of books. Some are my own work that have been sent to me from publishers. They are happily stacked and distributed at will to family and friends. Except the many foreign editions which in almost 20 languages are more of a struggle to relocate. They still haven’t got shelves - I’ve been too busy to do anything about it since we moved in.

I’m lucky to have space for two desks. I work on the computer or on the drawing table where I have a lightbox for working up roughs and for doing messier stuff with real pens and paint.

I also use sketchbooks, but they’re for when I’m not in the studio. I take them out and about, or when I want to do a bit of drawing in front of the TV or sitting at the kitchen table. I like to keep my workspace flexible I think it sometimes helps to change your environment, give you a different perspective for what you’re working on.

I’m a big fan of making a cup of tea and looking out the window when I’m stuck on something. We have a nice big sliding door and balcony which is great for cloud watching.

Heck of a view, now we know where Benji gets his awesome cloudscapes from

Huge thanks to both Linda and Benji (and the awesome Jade at Simon and Schuster) for inviting us on the blog tour for this really gorgeous book. We'll be reviewing it in full very VERY soon!)

"On Sudden Hill" is released 28th August 2014. Today in fact! Go grab it right now! Also check out the rest of the lovely bloggers below who have joined us on the tour. Awesome folk one and all!

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Wednesday 27 August 2014

The Singing Mermaid (Special Edition with Mermaid Toy) by Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks (Macmillan Children's Books)

The Singing Mermaid

Written by Julia Donaldson
Illustrated by Lydia Monks

Published by Macmillan Children's Books

"The Singing Mermaid" is a book Charlotte has loved for a long time, as our Dentist rather thoughtfully has a copy in their waiting room. Every time we go for a brush up and check up, Charlotte makes straight for the book and we read it together (if there's one really genius idea, it's having great children's books in a dentist to calm them down before they go in!)

The story is a delightfully original twist on mermaid tales. The singing mermaid loves to sing to all the sea creatures and seagulls at Silversands Bay but when a ruthless unscrupulous circus owner tempts her away with promises of gold and soft feather beds to sleep on, the mermaid bids goodbye to Silversands and runs off (sorry, should say "is carried off!") to join the circus.

Life at the circus isn't too bad at first but Sam Sly, the circus owner, doesn't deliver on his promises - and soon the poor mermaid finds herself missing her friends and the golden beach.

Thankfully a Seagull hears her singing one evening, and decides to hatch an escape plan. Can the mermaid possibly get away with nothing but a swishy silvery tale to make good her escape with?

This special edition of "The Singing Mermaid" comes with a gorgeously made Singing Mermaid doll for your little ones to cuddle (and cuddle she did, Charlotte has taken her little Singing Mermaid everywhere with her since it arrived). The book is a pint-sized version of the story which is perfect for tucking into a bag.

Julia Donaldson's writing is as tight and expert as ever, and Lydia Monks' illustrations are colourful and enchanting.

It's a little early to start planning christmas presents perhaps, but this would make a brilliant one!

Charlotte's best bit: Having her very own singing mermaid to cuddle (of course) and the mermaid's spectacular escape from the circus

Daddy's Favourite bit: A wonderful and original mermaid story pitch-perfect to read aloud, with gorgeous art. Love the mini version, perfect for tucking into a child's bag for days out or stays at Grandma and Grandad's house

(Kindly sent to us for review by Macmillan Children's Books)
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We chat to Rob Biddulph ahead of his fantastic new children's picture book "Blown Away"

Who works in a studio like this? 
We are lucky enough to have Rob Biddulph dropping by the blog today to let us in on some of his creative secrets ahead of the publication of his new children's picture book "Blown Away". Rob kindly submitted himself to the ReadItDaddy spotlight, so here goes!

ReadItDaddy: Hi Rob, thanks for stopping by ReadItDaddy for a chat. Tell us a little bit about yourself!

Hi guys. Well, I am also a daddy. I have three daughters called Ella, Kitty and Poppy. My wife's name is Ally and we all live London. I'm the only boy in the house (even our big fat cat, Catface, is a girl) so I'm properly outnumbered!

Jobwise, I am the art director of the Observer Magazine. It's a really good gig. I get to work with very nice, very clever people and I also get to design a very nice magazine for my favourite newspaper. Lucky, huh? What's even luckier is the fact that I also write and draw stories for kids that, and I still can't quite believe this, HarperCollins are going to publish! My first book is out this week and is called Blown Away. I think you might have read it already. What did you think?

ReadItDaddy: We were blown away by blown away (you probably get that a lot!) What was the inspiration for the story?

Well, for those that don't know, it's a story about a penguin (called Penguin Blue) who takes his brand new kite out for a fly on a windy day. Unfortunately, it's so breezy that both him and the kite get carried off by the wind. Despite his friends' best attempts to help him they are all blown away across the sea. We follow their adventures as they try to figure out a way to get back home. Funnily enough, the story was originally about two children who were blown away with their kite. It went like this:

A windy day. A brand new kite. On Hilltop Way a maiden flight.

A sudden squall. A gusty blow. We're in it's thrall. Away we go!

Above the trees, above the town, we ride the breeze, we don't look down…"

etc etc

I changed it when a couple of publishers said that they really liked a penguin sketch in my portfolio and suggested that I write a story about them. It suddenly hit me that penguins are one of the few types of bird that can't fly, so it would be really fun to get them airborne. It all seemed to fit together really beautifully so I very quickly adapted my original story to be about Blue and the gang. It seemed to work really well.
Fantastic character and scenery items from Rob's sketchbook. 

ReadItDaddy: Your artwork is fantastic! Having a sneaky look at the gallery on your website, we definitely see a good dose of 70s coolness there (Love that Raleigh Chopper! That’s the same colour as the one I had as a kid!) Tell us a little bit about your favourite techniques / processes for drawing / painting

Ha! I like that Chopper too. I didn't have one but Andrew Porter in my road did and I was very jealous of it!

My drawings all start out as pencil sketches in my sketchbook. Sometimes I'll add a bit of water colour too. It takes quite a bit of sketching to perfect a character, and it's not until I can draw them in any position and from any angle that I'm ready to get them onto the computer. To do that, I scan them in and redraw them using a very clever program which simulates paint digitally. It's amazing. You can mix and blend colour just like real paint - except without the mess! I use a digital paintbrush on a Wacom pad. I could go into more detail but it's so geeky that you might fall asleep reading it (Believe me, I wouldn't! - ReadItDaddy)

Rob's workspace and a sneaky peek at some of his work

ReadItDaddy: Your stories are instantly appealing to kids (and adults who read to them). What’s the one good piece of advice you’d give a budding writer who wants to write for children?

It sounds obvious, but try and write in the same voice that you would use if you were talking to a child. Generally, in life, I find that children like to be treated by adults as equals. They don't like being talked down to. After all, they're not stupid, they're just younger than you.

Also, it's very important that you like reading what you've written too. So write stuff that makes you smile. Always a good start.

Questions from Charlotte

 Charlotte: Penguins are cool. Are they your favourite animal?

Hi Charlotte. I do love penguins, yes. They were always my favourite animals at the zoo. I think it's probably because they make me laugh so much. I love that they're pretty clumsy on land but amazing in the water.

Meerkats are pretty ace too. Always on the lookout for danger, climbing on top of each other to get a better view...

I also like dolphins and tigers.

And bears.

Storyboarding "Blown Away" 

 Charlotte: What was your favourite book when you were a kid?”

I absolutely LOVED anything by Richard Scarry. I particularly remember reading Storybook Dictionary and What Do People Do All Day? again and again, hunting for Bugdozer on every page. Dingo Dog was my favourite character. I also loved Dogger by Shirley Hughes, The Tiger Who Came To Tea by Judith Kerr and, of course, Roger Hargreaves' Mr Men books. We have all of these on our bookshelf at home plus about a ton more - I can't stop buying them for my daughters!

- Huge thanks to Rob for such a brilliant and informative post, and thanks for showing us a bit of your work - and where you work!

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Tuesday 26 August 2014

Where's Spot? Join Puffin Books (and us) for an exciting adventure with Eric Hill's timeless puppy stories

Time for an adventure! Tweet where you think spot is using #WheresSpot on Twitter to join the competition!
Puffin Books are inviting you and your youngsters to join in a search! Spot the Puppy can be found in various locations throughout this week and later on in September too, and it's up to you to see if you can find out where! When you do,  Tweet his location  @puffinbooks using the hashtag #WheresSpot with the answer to WIN! using the postcard clues provided by bloggers and posters.

Here's our postcard image!

More details on the competition can be found at: 

Here's a photo of the goodies you can win! 

Some of the brilliant prizes on offer! Join in the fun with "Where's Spot!"

Join in the search for spot and celebrate Eric Hill's timeless puppy character! Don't forget - #WheresSpot :)

Oops! Quick edit to this - Check out Bookbabblers next week (week beginning 1st September) for the second part of the "Where's Spot" competition and blog tour!

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You are (not) Small by Anna Kang and Chris Weyant (Hodder Children's Books)

You are (not) small

Written by Anna Kang

Illustrated by Chris Weyant

Published by Hodder Children's Books

Size matters and yet it does not. Small is one person's big. Big is one person's small, and Anna Kang's brilliant children's book looks at both sides of the size war. A tiny bear squares up to a big one. "You are small!" says big bear. "You are big" says little bear, and thus begins a story exploring all shapes and sizes with humour and hilarity.

Anna Kang might be described as small in her adopted homeland. Petite in stature, she obviously knows what it's like to be hobbit-esque (believe me, this is something I know only too well myself, being a fairly short five-six or thereabouts). She weaves her experiences into a superb tale.

Anna's partner Chris Weyant provides bold and colourful illustrations to compliment the rib-tickling tale that will become a snuggle-down read-aloud classic with your littlest ones (or even your 6 year olds, who will love helping out and reading along). I read all the big bear's lines and Charlotte read all the small bear's lines in this as we read it together, making it even more fun.

Does size really matter? Only when it comes to chocolate sundaes, we reckon.

Charlotte's best bit: There's such a brilliant pay-off at the end of the book which we won't spoil but it gave us both a snorting giggling moment. Love it!

Daddy's Favourite bit: A joyful celebration of all shapes and sizes (and heights!)

(Kindly sent to us for review by Hodder Children's Books)
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Monday 25 August 2014

Monty's Magnificent Mane by Gemma O'Neill (Templar Publishing)

Monty's Magnificent Mane

Written and Illustrated by
Gemma O'Neill

Published by Templar Publishing Ltd

We first encountered Gemma's stunning visual style through her art and illustrative methods detailed in Dr Karenanne Knight's "The Picture Book Maker". We somehow missed out on her previous children's book "Oh Dear, Geoffrey" but it was great to finally catch up with her work in this stunning book for Templar.

"Monty's Magnificent Mane" truly is magnificent. Monty, a rather proud and handsome lion, is the king of the jungle and king of the coiffed. His tresses are his treasure, his pompadour is his pride and joy, and Monty never gets tired of brushing, washing and combing his lovely locks.

Monty's friends get a little fed up with his hair obsession but when a new voice compliments Monty on his stunning locks and looks, he can't help but turn his head to show off his barnet to his new-found friend. Danger lurks though, getting too close to a watering hole isn't a good idea - even for a lion, particularly when crocodiles skulk therein.

After a near miss, costing Monty part of his lovely hairstyle, danger is still at hand. Will Monty be a brave beast or a cowardly lion when the nasty croc threatens his meerkat pals?

We were drawn in by Gemma's truly wonderful art (Charlotte loved the fact that Gemma's mixed media and collage work contained tiny little bits of maps and textures, woven into Monty's glorious mane). We loved this tale of Monty's bravery and friendship too. Most of all though we loved Monty and his mane, magnificent in every way (even when he loses half of it part-way through the story!)

We'll be keeping an eye out for more from Gemma. She's hugely talented (probably no surprise then that she's found a home at Templar, who seem to be utterly expert at spotting talented author-illustrators and snapping them up!)

Charlotte's best bit: The intricate details in Monty's mane, and his bravery when helping his friends.

Daddy's Favourite bit: Stunning artwork, a really brilliant and positive message in the story, such a corkingly good read!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Templar Publishing / Gemma O'Neill)
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Friday 22 August 2014

ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week Ending 22nd August 2014 - "The Colour Thief" by Gabriel Alborozo (Bloomsbury Publishing)

The Colour Thief

Written and Illustrated by
Gabriel Alborozo

Published by Bloomsbury Publishing

Moving from political cartoonist to children's book author is no mean feat but Gabriel Alborozo has managed it with aplomb. You'll probably recall how we raved about Alborozo's superb "The Acrobat". Switching publishers to Bloomsbury, Alborozo has come up with a fabulous tale about colour - or rather, at the beginning of the story, a lack of it. A little alien lives on a grey world full of grey folk. The buildings are grey, the grass is grey, the trees and animals are all a zillion shades of grey. There's no colour to be found anywhere but one day the alien spies a greeny-blue planet through his space telescope and decides to investigate.

The alien lands on earth, and marvels to the wondrous colours that can be found everywhere. With a sneaky sideways glance, the alien comes up with a plan - Drain all the colours from everything and take them back home to his own planet.

The alien sets about his dastardly deed, sucking the green from the grass and trees, the yellow from flowers and even the colour from a little child's balloon before whizzing off in his flying saucer back home.

But he casts a look back at what he's done. Turned the earth into the same cold barren grey landscape of his own planet. Surely there must be a way to undo his dreadful deed and put things back to normal?

We won't reveal how the story plays out but this is that rare thing, a truly original children's book that warms the cockles of your heart as well as telling a moral tale.

Alborozo's talent both with writing and illustration really sings out from ever colourful (and not so colourful) page. This book has been demanded again and again by Charlotte and if there's a better recommendation than that, I've yet to see it.

Charlotte's best bit: The alien's "Sneaky I've got a plan" face and she was also rather sweet on the little boy in the book and very sad about what happened to his balloon!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Like Alborozo's other children's books, a truly stunning and original book with a sweet and sublime message at its heart. Truly lovely!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Bloomsbury Publishing)
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Thursday 21 August 2014

Skullabones Island - Pirate Post / How to Be a Skullabones Pirate (Ladybird Books)

Skullabones Island - Pirate Post / How to Be a Skullabones Pirate

Published by Ladybird Books

Ladybird's brilliant "Skullabones Island" range of books is expanding and we've been taking a look at a couple of books from the range of piratical activity books, story books and early learning ideas from the Skullabones range.

Kids (both boys and girls) love pirate books and they'll love the light-hearted adventures of the Skullabones Pirates. Led by Captain Cutlass, the crew get up to all sorts of mischief in their search for treasure.

"Pirate Post" is a story book with a twist. Within the pages are envelopes tucked away in the story text, so curious kids can dig out the letters and pictures and find additional clues and story elements within. We absolutely loved the fact that some of the letters are tucked away in a "message in a bottle". Charlotte took great care with the book but it's worth noting that a bit of parental intervention will often be required if you want to keep the book in good condition (sometimes the letters are a bit difficult to tuck back into their containers). Loved this book though, such a great idea!

In "How to Be a Skullabones Pirate" you'll find a ton of stickers, puzzles and activities to keep your little ones busy for hours. Test your pirate mettle in a number of ways, while enjoying the crazy antics of the skullabones crew!

We never get tired of pirate books, and the range from Ladybird is fantastic fun!

Charlotte's best bit: Finding the messages tucked away in a bottle in "Skullabones Island - Pirate Post" and loving hours of sticker fun with "How to be a Skullabones Pirate"

Daddy's Favourite bit: Bold colourful books, brilliant characters and the "Pirate Post" idea is a work of genius! Love it!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Ladybird Books)
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Wednesday 20 August 2014

The Wonderful World of Oliver Jeffers comes to Discover Story this autumn

Discover Children’s Story Centre in east London is launching an exciting new interactive exhibition, ‘Once There Was…The Wonderful World of Oliver Jeffers.’ Discover’s upcoming exhibition explores the beautiful and best-loved work of Oliver Jeffers. Children and families will be able to walk into immersive environments inspired by How to Catch a Star, Up and Down, Lost and Found and The Way Back Home.

The exhibition coincides with the 10th anniversary of the publication of How to Catch a Star, and will feature live storytelling of the ‘Boy’ books and an opportunity to explore a series of spaces that will set children’s imaginations on fire including ‘the Boy’s’ bedroom complete with penguins, aliens, a Lost and Found office, a full-sized rowing boat, a beach, a pier, a garden and a rocket.

Discover’s Joint Chief Executive, Sally Goldsworthy said, ‘This is a unique representation of Oliver’s work where children will be able to physically explore some of their favourite scenes of the superb ‘Boy’ books. Oliver’s books are inspiring, moving and heartening and brilliantly capture the themes of loneliness and friendship in their pages. Discover has recreated his wide open landscapes and made the themes leap from the page.’

Award winning author and illustrator Oliver Jeffers said ‘Discover is an organisation that truly appreciates the picture book artist and is faithful to their vision. I am delighted to celebrate the 10th anniversary of How to Catch a Star with my first fully immersive installation based on the four ‘Boy’ books. I am looking forward to watching families enjoy the experience.’

Discover’s new interactive exhibition for families, "Once There Was..." opens on Saturday 27 September launching the centre’s autumn programme full of inspiration from Oliver Jeffers’ books and drawings.

Discover Children’s Story Centre’s exhibitions have been nominated for the 2012 European Museum Academy International Children’s Museum Award. Once There Was...follows hot on the heels of their blockbuster exhibitions Secret Agents, Journey to Space and sold out collaboration with Punchdrunk Enrichment, The House Where Winter Lives.

Check out the event "Once There Was..." at Discover,  open to the public Saturday 27 September 2014
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Angela Nicely - Superstar! by Alan Macdonald and David Roberts (Stripes Publishing)

Angela Nicely - Superstar!

Written by Alan Macdonald

Illustrated by David Roberts

Published by Stripes Publishing

The third brilliant "Angela Nicely" book - "Angela Nicely, Supertar!" was very well received at home. Charlotte's turning into a mini version of me, juggling several chapter books at once - but we really liked "Superstar!" as it gives us not one, not two but three Angela Nicely tales to read. Angela Nicely, for those who haven't 'met' her yet, is a little girl who at first appearances might look like butter wouldn't melt in her mouth but is actually a bit of a minx. She's not content to brush her hair, or play with girly dolls - though she is partial to a stunning dress, to be fair. Angela lives life to the full and in these three stories, she often ends up accidentally causing mischief and mayhem!

Angela wants to enter a talent contest using her amazing new-found powers of hypnotism. She also wants to enjoy the great outdoors on a nature ramble that goes disastrously wrong. Finally Angela is determined to show the boys how to play football properly in these three awesome adventures.

She's such a great character for girls, her natural curiosity and energy fizz away. Hugely entertaining, so much so that Charlotte's going in for a second read-through!

Charlotte's best bit: Angela's fabulous winning goal! Right in the back of the net!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Rib-tickling and entertaining, Charlotte absolutely loved this and the other Angela Nicely books. Move over Dirty Bertie, the girls are taking over!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Stripes Publishing / Little Tiger Press
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Tuesday 19 August 2014

Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus (An Origami Yoda Adventure) by Tom Angleberger (Amulet Books)

Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus (An Origami Yoda Adventure)

Written and Illustrated by
Tom Angleberger

Published by Amulet Books

The Origami Yoda Chronicles seem to have slipped silently by most folk on this side of the pond, but the New York Times Best-Selling series draws to a close with "Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus", Tom Angleberger's latest geek-tastic Star-Warsy mash up.

For those new to the series, the stories revolve around a crew of cooky stooky kids at McQuarrie High School (yes, the books are absolutely laden with Star Wars references - partly why Daddy had to kidnap this book and sneak off to read it, as Charlotte's still not sold on the whole Star Wars idea yet).

Tommy and his friends have successfully rescued their field trip to Washington D.C but that's just the start of a new adventure, which takes a downward turn as Principal Rabbinski declares the trip an "Origami Free Zone" - Disaster! How will the kids cope?

Tom's six-volume (plus accompanying peripheral books) series reaches a satisfying conclusion that doesn't just nod its head knowingly to geek culture, but tenderly examines the huge changes that kids experience as they move through school, develop friendships and relationships and start to find their first faltering steps in the big wide world.

Reaching the end is just a very good excuse to dive all the way back to book one (The Strange Case of Origami Yoda) and read this hugely satisfying series all over again.

(Kindly sent to us for review by Amulet Books)
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The Something by Rebecca Cobb (Macmillan Children's Books)

The Something

Written and Illustrated by
Rebecca Cobb

Published by Macmillan Children's Books

We really are having a fantastic book week this week with some of our favourite authors and illustrators contributing to our vast wobbling book stack that's demanding to be read.

We clear the decks for certain folk though, and when a new Rebecca Cobb book arrived, we gave it a proper "ReadItDaddy" whoop and a welcome. We absolutely love her books to pieces.

"The Something" demonstrates something that Rebecca Cobb fans will already know and love her for - Rebecca can effortlessly tap into the sense of a child's imagination, producing books that make their visual and literal senses soar.

In "The Something" a little boy loses his bright red shiny ball down a mysterious hole in the garden. It's too dark to see what's down there, and even his doggy pal can't sniff out what lurks inside.

The boy starts to imagine who (or what) might dwell in this cosy little nook. Could his ball be responsible for mayhem, smashing through breakfast in a mouse's underground house? Could foxes have captured the ball, sweeping it off as their latest plaything? Or could there be something more substantial lurking under there - a troll perhaps, or even a dragon?

We love the way Rebecca's art instantly wins children over, speaking on their level, in their own visual language while we read the story aloud and let their own imaginations fill in the rest.

Rebecca really can't do any wrong by us, and judging by the plaudits heaped on her by some of the biggest names in the book business, we think a lot of other folk find her books absolutely essential too!

Charlotte's best bit: A fantastic cameo appearance by Aunt Amelia (look very carefully for it!) and lots of brilliant touches including a truly satisfying end.

Daddy's Favourite bit: I shouldn't really laugh but the "mouse house" spread was just so gigglesome. Poor mice! What a superb book!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Macmillan Children's Books)

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Okido Magazine now coming to WH Smith stores across the nation! Celebrate a fantastic kids mag that bucks the plastic tat trend!

No silly rubbish plastic 'gifts' just brilliant and fun content for inquisitive kids. That's OKIDO by us!

We've previously extolled the virtues of Okido Magazine on this very blog and it's great to hear that this brilliant magazine is now being distributed in WH Smith stores, bringing this gorgeous publication to a wider audience. 

Okido, the arts and science magazine for kids taps into their inquisitiveness and curiosity with bright colourful illustrations, utterly fabulous articles and NO ADS. The founders of Okido, Dr Sophie Dauvios and Rachel Ortas firmly believe that rich content and a serious eye for design can win kids away from the shallow and poorly devised TV Tie-In mags and plastic gift-laden rubbish that swamp newsagent and supermarket magazine shelves. 

Kids have a million questions about a huge range of subjects and Okido mixes things up to brilliant effect, with a goodly dose of stories, articles and illustrations that will answer some but spur a zillion more, encouraging kids to begin their own journeys of discovery. 

Okido Magazine is a bi-monthly publication, currently retailing for £4.00 per issue or £24 for an annual subscription. 

Drop by the Okido Website to find out more about this fantastic magazine!

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Monday 18 August 2014

Goodnight Darth Vader by Jeffrey Brown (Chronicle Books)

Goodnight Darth Vader

Written and Illustrated by
Jeffrey Brown

Published by Chronicle Books

Jeffrey Brown's whimsical take on the Star Wars Universe is absolutely perfectly parent-and-kid friendly and I first encountered his series of homages to Star Wars with the "Darth Vader and Son" postcard book my wife thoughtfully bought me for my last birthday.

Jeffrey is a confirmed Star Wars geek and a dad, and it's not hard to see how he's married the two together to produce a successful series of books that are charming and cute and a great way to introduce your kids to Star Wars, if they're not already running around the garden making "P-tew P-tew" or "Whooaaaaaagh!" noises while pretending to be Luke, Leia or Darth.

As Darth settles his jedi-some twins down for the evening, he tells a story of all the characters right across the empire and beyond, settling down for the night. Jar Jar Binks clumsily falls over his own pyjamas. Queen Amidala collapses in a heap of her own amazing garments, before getting some Zs. Even General Grievous takes out his contact lenses, brushes his teeth, washes his face and gets dressed for bed - all at the same time (you can do this when you've got four arms, you see!)

Jeffrey's rhymes might trip over themselves a little but they're fun and cute, and we loved his pencilled drawings of all the character we've come to know and love from the movies (both classic and new) and even some from the spin-off Jedi Academy and Rebels series too.

We both had a soft spot for particular scenes. Charlotte loved the idea of snuggling up in a lovely wookie-bundle in the trees on Kashykk while I rather liked the homage to "Nighthawks" by Edward Hopper as Dexter tucks away his galactic greasy spoon cafe for the night.

An awesome little pocket-sized book. Night night Darth Vader, sleep tight, don't let the Sarlaac bite!

Charlotte's best bit: Baby Wookies and Ewoks are SO CUTE!

Daddy's Favourite bit: No better way to send your little geeklets off to sleep than with a star-warsy snooze aid! A bedtime reading of this should see them well on their way to dreamland.

(Kindly sent to us for review by Chronicle Books)
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The Memory of an Elephant by Sophie Strady and Jean-Francois Martin (Chronicle Children's Books)

The Memory of an Elephant

Written by Sophie Strady

Illustrated by Jean Francois Martin

Published by Chronicle Books

Wow! What a fantastic treat this book is. Translated from the original French, and now available in many other languages (including English and Welsh!) is "The Memory of an Elephant" by Sophie Strady and Jean-Francois Martin.

Taking us through a day in the life of Marcel, a hip and cool elephant with a ton of charm, it's more than just a children's story - it's an exquisitely detailed homage to modern (and not so modern) life.

Marcel's hip and cool wardrobe. Love the tattoo too!

As Marcel's story unfolds, we learn that he's compiling an encyclopaedia - and with his capacious memory, Marcel trawls his immediate surroundings for material for his book.

What we loved most about this book was the attention to detail both in story and in the glorious illustrations. The story positively invites comment and curiosity from your little ones, who will love Marcel instantly - but also love the things he loves too. All aspects of culture and civilisation are examined in brilliant break-out spreads that tell us all about the history and evolution of some of the objects we might find dotted around our own houses.

My favourite illustrative spread in the book. I want all of these!
So it's a fab and original story, coupled with awesome historical and cultural references in an elephant-sized hardback that your children are absolutely going to love coming back to again and again. Hooray for Marcel!

Charlotte's best bit: Her favourite bit was Marcel's wardrobe (and wondering why an elephant would want a feather boa!) Also finding out what Elephants are really scared of (it's not mice!)

Daddy's Favourite bit: A glorious book full of brilliant little details and cooler than cool cultural and historical references. This is utterly fantastic!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Chronicle Books)
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Friday 15 August 2014

ReaditDaddy's Book of the Week - Week Ending 15th August 2014 - "Digby Dog Delivers" by Tor Freeman (Macmillan Children's Books)

Digby Dog Delivers

Written and Illustrated by
Tor Freeman

Published by Macmillan Children's Books

The mighty, the magnificent, the masterful Tor Freeman is back, this time with a superb book that's part hidden object challenge, part story but all brilliant! Time to meet the latest busy little animal creation from one of our favourite author illustrators.

Digby Dog is the busiest dog in town. No parcel too big, no letter too small as Digby dashes around ensuring the post is on time. Charlotte wriggled with delight reading this as we both tracked down those tricky customers and the other hidden objects Digby needs to find in each scene.

(Charlotte was also convinced she saw The Toucan Brothers - from Tor's utterly brilliant book of the same name - tucked away in a scene in this tale!)

Some books are quite overwhelming in the amount of detail they pack in. In "Digby Delivers", each scene is so packed with tiny little moments of brilliance, in-jokes and entertaining mini-scenes that play out in the background or as part of the main story itself. In places the book reminds me of the genius of Richard Scarry, at other times it feels a little like "Where's Wally" but Tor takes the core theme of finding things to help Digby to another level entirely, this book really is THAT good!

Digby rounds off his busy day by delivering a very special parcel to his daughter. Can you guess what it is?

An utter delight and a truly brilliant book of the week.

Charlotte's best bit: She loved the "Kew Gardens" scene and the crazy scientists too. So many brilliant little things to see in both these scenes.

Daddy's Favourite bit: So many things to love (I loved the poster homage to Rosie the Riveter). Tor Freeman taps into the hidden object formula, bringing along all her brilliant storytelling and illustration skills to create something truly spectacular and special here, do not miss Digby, he really does deliver in this tale!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Macmillan Children's Books)
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Thursday 14 August 2014

Zombies Sticker Book by Kirsteen Robson and Seb Burnett (Usborne Books)

Zombies Sticker Book

Written by Kirsteen Robson

Illustrated by Seb Burnett

Published by Usborne Books

Usborne sticker books are a bit of a saviour, truth be told. Name a subject and you'll find an Usborne sticker book based on it. On rainy days they're great for soaking up a few hours of immersive fun. On sunny days they're great for a bit of subversive stickering while lolling in the garden. They're also completely invaluable as the long school summer holidays draw to a close with idle days to fill before Charlotte has to break out the exercise books and get back down to serious brainwork...

BRAINNNSSSS! Did someone mention brains? Zombies are the subject of the "Zombie Sticker Book" by Kirsteen Robson and Seth Burnett. With over 600 icky sticky stickers, your minis will find lots of harmless horrific fun to be had making up all sorts of scenes involving the undead.

(It's not quite as gross as it sounds, trust us!)

Even after Charlotte worked her way through the book there were plenty of stickers left over for her to stick in her scrapbooks, or for me to kidnap and stick on my laptop case.

Awesome fun! What do we want? BRAINNNNNSSSS! When do we want it? BRAINNNNNNSSSSS!

Charlotte's best bit: Gruesome, gory, funny and absorbing sticker fun!
Daddy's Favourite bit: BRAINNNNNSSSSS!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Usborne Publishing)
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Sam's Super Stinky Socks by Paul Bright and Ed Eaves (Simon and Schuster Children's Books)

Sam's Super Stinky Socks

Written by Paul Bright

Illustrated by Ed Eaves

Published by Simon and Schuster Children's Books

When you're about to embark on a perilous journey around the world and you're only six, it's vitally important to remember a few key things. One - You absolutely cannot outrun a Cheetah. Two - Snakes are hopeless if you sneeze at them and Three - Crocodiles are easily defeated by chewy gooey pie.

Sam, the titular hero of "Sam's Super Stinky Socks" (which is out today, by the way) is given lots of sage advice by dad before he goes off globetrotting, but like most 6 year olds (including our own) he completely ignores Dad's words in his excitement to go exploring. Worst of all, Sam forgets the most important advice imparted - Wash your socks every night, or you're going to end up attracting the most pesky critter in the jungle.

We're going to tease you a bit here. We're not going to tell you what could possibly be more scary than a cheetah, a snake and a croc - but Sam's socks are rotten and stinky so it's not long before the pint-sized hero finds himself in a huge amount of trouble.

Paul Bright's blissful rhymes and Ed Eaves' fabulous colourful illustrations are awesome and wonderful, and the story feels fresh and entertaining. Charlotte, being a little girl who would quite like to emulate Sam herself (I don't think she'd get very far tugging a Trunkie full of loom band gear around the jungle though) actually fell hopelessly in love with the "aww cute" main antagonist in this story. We'll bug you no more, and let you read this hilarious book yourselves!

Charlotte's best bit: Falling in love with the "baddie" - Shocking! Oh and she spotted a rather neat little cameo from Albie (He of "Plunge into the Pirate Pool fame", hooray!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Perfect rhyming, brilliant art, a delicious pay-off at the end and a fantastic entertaining tale. What more could you possibly want!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Simon and Schuster Children's Books)
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Wednesday 13 August 2014

Specs for Rex by Yasmeen Ismail (Bloomsbury Publishing)

Specs for Rex

Written and Illustrated by
Yasmeen Ismail

Published by Bloomsbury Publishing

Happy Publication Day today for a book that has been a real hit with us here at ReadItDaddy Towers. With the aim of offering assurance and fun for children who may be getting their own first set of glasses, "Specs for Rex" introduces us to a little lion who really, truly hates his new specs. They're huge, they have bright red frames and Rex immediately feels a bit self-conscious and shy while wearing them. Not the done thing for a lion really, even a tiddly one.

Rex heads off to Nursery and makes every attempt to hide his newly attained glasses. Combing his mane down over his eyes seems like a good idea - until Rex starts tripping over things. Hiding them doesn't work either as someone always brings them back. Can Rex's friends and his nursery teacher help Rex accept his specs?

Yasmeen Ismail's fun book is beautifully written and illustrated and a real feel-good read. Lovely!

Charlotte's best bit: Rex trying really hard to hide his specs under his colossal mane!

Daddy's Favourite bit: A very nicely written way of helping children overcome their own shyness and self consciousness, specs or no specs. Really nice work Yasmeen!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Bloomsbury Publishing)
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Ninja Red Riding Hood by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Dan Santat (Penguin US)

Ninja Red Riding Hood

Written by Corey Rosen Schwartz

Illustrated by Dan Santat

Published by Penguin US

You've previously seen our review of Corey's fabulous "Three Ninja Pigs" so now it's time to dip back into fairy tales and folklore with a martial arts twist with Corey's other kick-butt book, "Ninja Red Riding Hood".

Forget what you know about other adaptations of Red Riding Hood, Corey's doesn't let up from the moment you turn the first page. As with "pigs", Corey gives her story a chopsocky twist by introducing The Wolf, a master of martial arts and discipline who hones his craft at every opportunity. But Grand Master Wolf is hungry, and there's only one way he's going to fill his tum...

And so the training begins...
Wolf hits on a plan to ambush Ninja Red Riding Hood and pit his new found skills against this "weak little girl". Unbeknownst to Master Wolf, Ninja Red Riding Hood is not to be trifled with!

Suspicious looking granny!

Wolf steals into Granny's house and with a few deft moves, soon takes her place. Will Red see through his terrible disguise in time?

You know the rest of the story but you really do need to read this book to see Corey's take on it. As before, though the book is based on martial arts and combat, it's sensitively handled so there's no gross uber-violence or nasty bits, just a rollicking and entertaining twist on a well loved tale - once again peppered with Dan Santat's fabulous art (and Corey's perfect rhymes of course!)

"Ninja Red Riding Hood" is available through Penguin US, and is shortly to appear on UK bookshelves when it's reprinted in Hardback editions very soon! Look out for it, and watch out for long-eared long-toothed martial-artist grannies in the meantime too!

We love this photo of a young "Ninja Red" fan showing off his moves!

Charlotte's best bit: The ultimate showdown between "Granny" and Red!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Sublime action-packed storytelling at its best!

(Kindly sent to us in PDF Format by Corey)
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Tuesday 12 August 2014

The Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Dan Santat (Penguin (US) Putnam (UK))

The Three Ninja Pigs

Written by Corey Rosen Schwartz

Illustrated by Dan Santat

Published by Penguin Books

It's no mean feat to take a well-loved children's story and put your own spin on it, particularly if it's a story that's been the inspiration for so many other children's books. We were contacted by ace stateside writer Corey Schwartz who thought we'd love her brilliant books. She wasn't wrong, and so we're taking a look at a couple of her books - first up, "The Three Ninja Pigs".

Three little piggies have had just about enough of that mean rotten old wolf, who is a big bully and a bit of a martial arts expert. So the piggies decide to take action! They'll train to become "The Three Ninja Piggies" and will teach that wolf a lesson or two!

The first piggy decides to become an Aikido master. At first he learns lots of new tricks and defence moves, but lacks the discipline demanded by this tricky martial art, and skips classes (Bad move, piggy!)

The second piggy wants to learn the ways of the Jujitsu master. Again though this little piggy takes things seriously, he doesn't see things through and also drops out part-way through his training.

Uh oh, trouble for Pig one and Pig two?

The third little piggy, our favourite, is disciplined and thorough, and she chooses Karate as her preferred martial art to study. She takes her training very seriously, and follows it through to the end.

You can imagine what happens next when the mean old wolf comes around. He makes short work of piggy 1 and 2 but their sister is an entirely different prospect. She teaches the bully a lesson in more ways than one, relying on brains as well as fighting prowess to see that wolf off!

We loved the action in this story, from start to finish it's nail biting and tense as the story gears up for a good old fashioned showdown. Feeling more like a kid's action comic than a traditional picture book lends "The Three Ninja Pigs" even more merit, and ensuring that there's no direct violence in the story or in the art means that it's safe for a good range of ages too (after all, anyone who studies any discipline in martial arts will tell you that it's not all about the biff, sock, pow but is more about a state of mind, a lifestyle choice and knowing that the best offence is often a good defence).

Great stuff, we look forward to reviewing "Little Ninja Riding Hood" which we'll be taking a closer look at very soon!

Corey and a couple of her awesome fans

Charlotte's best bit: A brilliant kick-butt female hero, a great respin on a much loved children's story

Daddy's Favourite bit: Great rhyming story, awesome art, a thoroughly entertaining piggy tale!

(Kindly supplied in PDF format by Corey Schwartz)
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Monday 11 August 2014

Mi and Museum City by Linda Sarah (Phoenix Yard Books)

Mi and Museum City

Written and Illustrated by
Linda Sarah

Published by Phoenix Yard Books

Recently we've been lucky enough to catch up with a gorgeous new range of books from Phoenix Yard. Starting off with "Mi and Museum City" by Linda Sarah, a book that positively invites curiosity and comment with every flick of the page.

Mi lives in the aforementioned city, where each and every citizen sets up their own museum. Some are fantastic collections of the bizarre and the incredible, some stretch the definition of 'museum' a little, and really need a good sorting out, often picking the dullest subjects to set up exhibitions on.

Mi is bored and lonely until one day he hears the sweetest music and the strangest sounds. Following the melody, Mi meets Yu and together they set out to change the landscape.
Less museums about boring things, more museums about the astonishing beauty in the world, or the sheer enjoyment of spending a few hours doing the things you love whether gazing up at the stars or skimming stones across a pond.

Charlotte loved going back to this book again and again, it was a delight to hear her little squeals of exclamation as she discovered another curious museum (helpfully Linda provides a pull-out A-Z guide of all the museums in the city). She made some great points about this (like the fact that the A-Z doubles up as a fantastic colouring sheet, because Museum City should also have a splash of colour as well as a dose of variety, don't you think?)

We can't wait to see more from Phoenix Yard and indeed from Linda Sarah, who looks set to nip up behind Shaun Tan, tap him on the shoulder, and while he's not looking steal al ittle of his limelight. Wonderful wonderful stuff!

If Charlotte set up her own museum it would be.... "The Museum of Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream and Loom Bands"

If Daddy set up his own museum, it would be...."The Museum of Daddy's Interesting Pens (not that interesting!)"

(Kindly sent to us for review by Phoenix Yard Books)
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We chat to Lou Kuenzler, rib-tickling author of the awesome "Princess Disgrace" and "Shrinking Violet" books

Lou Kuenzler (Photo Credit - Danny Wilder)
Today we're saying a huge ReadItDaddy "Hello" to an author who has been tickling Charlotte's funny bones over the last couple of weeks. 

Lou Kuenzler is the author of two upcoming books in Scholastic's awesome summer range. "Princess Disgrace - Second Term at Tall Towers" and "Shrinking Violet Absolutely Loves Ancient Egypt" and was kind enough to put herself under our spotlight for a chat. 

Take it away, Lou!

Hi Lou, and thanks for stopping by our blog. Tell us a little bit about yourself!

First of all, thanks so much for inviting me. I love talking about my writing - one of my favourite things about being an author is going to schools or festivals where I can chat to young readers about my books. When I am not doing that, I’m sitting at my big red desk talking aloud to myself as I write. I always talk when I’m writing. My children and my husband think it is hilarious - and I get some pretty funny looks from my dog (Willesden) and my two cats (Pingu and Chicken) - but I really find talking (and reading) aloud helps me to think. I can hear how my characters voices sound too, which is always really useful.

When I was young, I grew up on a very remote sheep farm in Devon. There weren’t many other children to play with so, whenever I was bored, I started telling myself stories (out loud, of course) and sometimes writing them down too. I am dyslexic, so it was often tricky to get the words down on paper, but I always loved the feeling of finishing a story I was really pleased with. I still get that same lovely buzz now when I finish writing one of my books.

Congratulations on your two new titles for Scholastic, Princess Grace and Shrinking Violet Loves Ancient Egypt. Can we have a quick summary of the books for our readers to bring them up to speed?

The inspiration for Princess Grace came from what I imagined it would be like if I had ever had to go to princess school. She is the clumsiest princess in the world! While all the other pupils at Tall Towers Academy are learning complicated dance steps and spinning around the ball room, poor Grace is tumbling down the stairs with her ballet shoes on the wrong feet. That is exactly what I am like! There are two Princess Grace books out now. First Term At Tall Towers sees one calamity after another as she learns to love the school. Best of all, she is given an adorable unicorn to ride. In Second Term At Tall Towers, Grace adopts a fire breathing dragon pup (never a good idea with all those yummy princesses for him to eat!)

Shrinking Violet Absolutely Loves Ancient Egypt is the latest in my series about an ordinary girl who shrinks to the size of a fish finger. It was great fun to imagine all the miniature adventures daredevil Violet would have on holiday in Egypt amongst the ancient tombs and spooky mummies. It turns out there is a chilling mystery she needs to solve and a cat she has to save ...

We love funny stories and humour for children - there’s nothing more satisfying than hearing a child giggling and snorting away while reading a book! What sort of thing influences your writing for children?

I absolutely love writing funny books. I agree, it is wonderful to see someone snorting with giggles as they bend over a book. I like the way that nobody else has any idea what they are laughing about - like it is a private joke between the reader and the characters in the story. I think that can really help to bring writing alive for children - adding plenty of giggles is something I always try to do in my own work. One of my favourite writers when I was little was Roald Dahl … and you don’t get funnier than that!

Charlotte is just beginning to stretch her reading ‘wings’ by reading books like Princess Disgrace and Shrinking Violet on her own. Do you think it’s important for parents to continue reading with children once they’ve started to become more independent?

I do think it is important to keep reading to children for as long as you possibly can. I think that special time - sharing a story - is something children miss if it is suddenly taken away (almost as if they are being punished for learning to read). Once children have discovered the joys of reading for themselves, it is great to continue sharing books that they will enjoy but that are perhaps too complicated for a new reader to tackle alone. If you are reading a slightly older story together there will always be plenty of things that come up for discussion. Reading is tiring when you first learn too and, sometimes, there is still nothing nicer that snuggling up and being read to at the end of the day.

We love picture books on the blog - any plans for stories or books for younger readers?

Yes! I just have written a funny colour-illustrated early reader called Princess Pip’s Perfect Party. It is coming out with Scholastic in October and tells the story of Princess Grace’s little sister. When Grace goes off to Tall Towers, Pip decides she ought to have some princess fun of her own. She begins to plan the perfect party but her father’s hairy warriors and his herd of smelly yaks are no help at all! When I had a sneak preview of the adorable funny illustrations for this book, I couldn’t stop grinning from ear to ear.

My first picture, Eat Your People, is also coming out soon with Orchard books - watch out for some seriously hungry monsters!

A couple of questions from Charlotte...

Who is your favourite princess? (Fictional or otherwise!)

It has to be The Princess And The Pea - especially in the wonderful Lauren Child picture book version of the story. I just love the hilarious idea of trying to catch someone out by putting a tiny vegetable under their bed. The Pea Princess doesn’t stand for any nonsense though ...

I want to be a writer when I grow up! Any good advice?

Practice! Practice! Practice! Keep a notebook so you can remember all your good ideas … Oh, and talk out loud when you’re writing, of course!

Huge thanks to Lou for saying Hi! "Princess Disgrace: Second Term at Tall Towers" and "Shrinking Violet Absolutely Loves Ancient Egypt" are out now from Scholastic Children's Books.

Stop by Lou's awesome website at

You can also follow Lou on Twitter:
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