Friday 31 July 2015

What time is it? COMIC TIME! We take a look inside the scout-smart world of "Lumberjanes" with Issue 14

The Lumberjanes are on their way. Who can stop them? Actually, who would want to stop them, they're FAB! Let's dip into Issue 14 of this ridiculously brilliant new comic...
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Don't miss the astonishing, the amazing, the utterly brilliant Templar Publishing Summer Blog Tour next week!

Oh boy are you in for a treat next week because from August 3rd to 8th, Templar Publishing are unleashing their lovely booky folk out into the wild and ONTO OUR BLOGS!
As you can see from the blog header image, huge treats are in store so leap inside for the full rundown!
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ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week Ending 31st July 2015 - "Lovely Old Lion" by Julia Jarman and Susan Varley (Andersen Children's Books)

A touching tale about growing old, and being young, about memories and friendships. Our stunning Book of the Week this week is Lovely Old Lion...
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Thursday 30 July 2015

A stunning range of board books for baby literary geniuses. Let's take a look at the Babylit Primer series from Gibbs Smith Publishing

What a genius idea! A "Babylit" series of board books perfect for introducing your teeniest tinies to classic literature in a fun way...Let's take a look at the fantastic Gibbs Smith range...

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ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book Roundup - July 2015: "Shoes of Silk, Men of Iron, Girl Detectives and Tiny Wee Folk!"

"In Their Shoes - Fairy Tales and Folk Tales, collected and illustrated by Lucie Arnoux (Pushkin Press)

Welcome once again to another of our chapter book roundups and it's been a very busy month, with our bedside book piles teetering and tottering. We're taking a look at a diverse set of subjects this month but starting with a subject dear to many girls' hearts - lovely lovely shoes!

"In Their Shoes - Fairy Tales and Folk Tales" is a gorgeous story anthology collecting together some of the world's best loved folk and fairy tales where shoes are an important and vital part of the story. Tales such as "Puss in Boots" by Charles Perrault and "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" by The Brothers Grimm - a huge huge favourite of ours - are lovingly illustrated by Lucie Arnoux.

Beautiful black and white illustrations from Lucie Arnoux make this book a really fabulous treasure trove of stories!

A fantastic collection, released to neatly coincide with an utterly amazing exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London called (gulp) "Shoes - Pleasure and Pain" which opened on 13th June.

"In Their Shoes - Fairy Tales and Folk Tales" is available now from Pushkin Press.

Next, LO! The Iron Man Cometh....!

"The Iron Man" by Ted Hughes, illustrated by Tom Gauld (Faber and Faber)

Ted Hughes' classic "The Iron Man" was a book that utterly dazzled and electrified me as a kid, and a newly published version of the story with illustrations by Tom Gauld is a fantastic version for kids who are just beginning to cut their teeth on rich and dark stories.

The story opens with Ted Hughes' rich prose describing a fearful terrible iron giant standing on the edge of a cliff, staring out to sea. Who is he? Why is he there? What does he want - and why does he seemingly tumble to his doom so soon into the story? Obviously this isn't the end of the Iron Man as his dismembered body soon reforms itself ready to pursue a mission unknown.

The Iron Man can be polished off over a week's worth of bedtimes (which is precisely how we read it), often leaving us breathless with anticipation for the next chapter as he slowly and inexorably marches on, and his true purpose and intent is revealed. Stunning, stunning stuff.

Time for a new book range with a resourceful new girl detective. Meet...

"Lottie Lipton - The Curse of the Cairo Cat" by Dan Metcalf and Rachelle Pangarry (Bloomsbury Publishing)

Lottie Lipton is a girl after our own heart. She's a clever and smart detective and star of her own new adventure series with two books available now, and more planned for 2016.

In Lottie's first adventure "Lottie Lipton: The Curse of the Cairo Cat", 9 year old Lottie lives in a museum with her Uncle Bert. Both share a deep love of history but both also love solving puzzles and mysteries - as you will too as you dive into the story and help Lottie solve the mystery of the disappearance of The Golden Cat of Cairo - a priceless egyptian artifact.

Fans of fast paced adventure will love these books. Look out also for Lottie's other adventurous investigation, "The Secrets of the Stone" (also available now). We have a feeling this is going to turn into a series that children will love so look out for "The Scroll of Alexandria" and "The Egyptian Enchantment" coming in January 2016.

"Lottie Lipton - The Secrets of the Stone" by Dan Metcalf and Rachelle Pangarry (Bloomsbury Publishing)

Fan of The Borrowers? Looking for something uber-cool about little folk to read? Puskin Press have got you covered...

"The Secret of the Blue Glass" by Tomiko Inui (Puskin Press)

A glorious fantasy story about tiny little people living in early 20th Century Tokyo, Tomiko Inui's "The Secret of the Blue Glass" is utterly captivating stuff. Tatsuo Moriyama is a young Japanese boy entrusted with a special gift by his favourite teacher. Tatsuo is tasked with looking after two tiny little folk, Fern and Balbo, who are small enough to nestle in the palm of his hand. They use household objects from the world around them to make their clothes and furniture, and require only one thing from Tatsuo - a nightly glass of milk, served in a special blue glass goblet.

The story follows Tatsuo as he grows up, has a family of his own and the shadow of World War 2 threatens to change everything - including the lives of Fern and Balbo who now have a family of their own too. As wartime rations take devastating effect, can Tatsuo's daughter Yuri maintain her sworn duty to look after the little people and keep them safe?

With echoes of bittersweet sadness that really heavily reminded me of Studio Ghibli's "Grave of the Fireflies", and as mentioned already echoes of the superb "Borrowers" series by Mary Norton, this is truly something fresh and original from Pushkin (who seem to have a knack for bringing brilliant stories to life with their recent publications!). "The Secret of the Blue Glass" by Tomiko Inui is out now from Pushkin Press.

Tune in once again in August when we'll be bringing you more glorious chapter book goodness!

(All titles kindly supplied for review by their respective publishers. Thanks folks!)
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Wednesday 29 July 2015

Allysaurus and the First Day of School by Richard Torrey (Sterling Publishing)

It might be a little early to be thinking about your child's very first day at 'Big School' but here's another book that may help allay some of your little one's fears before the big day arrives in September. Step inside to meet Ally-Saurus...
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I Am Too Absolutely Small for School (Charlie and Lola) by Lauren Child (Orchard Books)

YESSSSS! We do love Charlie and Lola but we'll let you into a bit of a ReadItDaddy secret here. Our favourite characters BOTH feature in this story and they're NOT Charlie and Lola? Who are they? Step inside to read more...

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Tuesday 28 July 2015

Maverick re-issues a monster tale! Check out the new cover for "Tamara Small and the Monsters Ball" by Giles Paley-Phillips and Gabriele Antonini

Come and take a new look at this delightful monster tale, now reprinted by Maverick Publishing. Step out and join a ghoulish party with Tamara Small...

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Pixelcraft Pets by Anna Bowles and Diego Vasberg (Studio Press)

A nifty crafty sticker book for pixel perfectionists? Make some stunning designs and pictures in the new "Pixelcraft" range from Studio Press. Just don't get square eyes...
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Yikes, Ticklysaurus by Pamela Butchart and Sam Lloyd (Bloomsbury Children's Books)

The enormously talented dino-team behind "Yikes, Stinkysaurus" and "Yikes, Santa Claws" are back with a rather naughty new dino creation. Are you ready to be tickled? Then step right this way...
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Monday 27 July 2015

More mapping fun and a ton of activities in "Atlas of Adventures Activity Fun Pack" coming soon from Wide Eyed Editions

Wide Eyed Editions fantastic "Atlas of Adventures" by Lucy Letherland was very well received by us on the blog, and you can read our review all about this fantastic book here...
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The Amazing Human Body Detectives by Maggie Li (Pavilion Children's Books)

Maggie Li knows a thing or two about producing scintillating designs and engaging children with awesome science subjects. Her work as Art Director at Okido Magazine contributes to one of the best children's magazines on the planet.

Maggie has come up trumps with this latest book delving into the inner workings of the most amazing instrument you'll ever own - your body and in "The Amazing Human Body Detectives: Amazing Facts, Myths and Quirks of the Human Body" (phew, bit of a mouthful that!) you get a nifty little magnifying glass included on the cover to help you take a very close look at what's going on under your skin.

Each section tackles different physiological subjects with a ton of amazing facts and figures, and brilliant illustrations and diagrams to tell you what's going on when we eat, sleep, sweat and poo!

It's a fantastic idea to provide a useful analytical tool for your young detectives to use in several of the page spreads as you take a look at the tiniest cells and microbes all doing their work to ensure that you're a happy healthy human being.

A brilliant body book, perfect for school or home!

Charlotte's best bit: Fascinating facts about our skin from goosebumps to why we sweat!

Daddy's Favourite bit: An incredibly detailed and beautifully designed book and the inclusion of a magnifying glass is an absolutely genius idea!

The Amazing Human Body Detectives

Written and Illustrated by
Maggie Li

Published by Pavilion Children's Books

Release Date: 11th June 2015

(Kindly sent to us for review by Pavilion Children's Books)
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Friday 24 July 2015

ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week Ending 24th July 2015 - "One Hundred Bones" by Yuval Zommer (Templar Publishing)

We love a highly original and adorable doggy tale, particularly when the dog is a bit of a roguish maverick. Meet "Scruff" the star of "One Hundred Bones". Scruff is a stray and although he doesn't have a collar, and his coat is a bit of a mess, Scruff's heart is in the right place and he has tons of doggy friends who think he's wonderful.

Sometimes though, poor Scruff feels a bit lonely so when other dogs are being walked in the park by their owners, Scruff wonders what it must be like to live in a house with an adoring human for company.

Scruff has a particularly keen nose - a nose for sniffing out the tastiest treats and the crunchiest bones, and it's scruff's nose that leads him to an astonishing discovery while out digging in the woods.

Dem bones dem bones dem...BIG bones!

Bones. Lots of bones. In fact way too many bones for Scruff to handle so he's going to need a ton of help from his friends!

As the dogs dig, it soon becomes apparent that these aren't just any ordinary bones, and scruff feels like he's seen something like them before - at the local Natural History Museum! So it's off on a hair-raising run to Kensington to drop in on a palaeontologist to give those bones a thorough checking over (and maybe make a brand new friend in the process too!)

What we loved about this wonderful and original story was Scruff himself. A central character who, despite his plight, is full of joie de vivre and a love of life - and his life-changing discovery sees Scruff come out on top in the end. A real underdog-makes-good story that made us feel all warm and glowy inside. Hooray for Scruff!

Charlotte's best bit: Scruff's friend, the willowy wispy Afghan Hound (we don't see NEARLY enough Afghans any more!)

Daddy's Favourite bit: We loved Scruff, he's a real champ - he might be scruffy and a stray but he's an awesome sniffer and wins the day in the end. What a lovely and original doggy tale!

One Hundred Bones

Written and Illustrated by
Yuval Zommer

Published by Templar Publishing

Release Date: 1st August 2015

(Kindly sent to us for review by Templar Publishing)

Like this? We think you'll love these too!

"The Big Blue Thing on the Hill" by Yuval Zommer (Templar Publishing)
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Thursday 23 July 2015

Captain Falsebeard in "A Very Fishy Tale" by Fred Blunt (Puffin Books)

Pirate books show no signs of disappearing from our book shelves or publisher's release schedules. Pirates are just so crazily popular so we are always on the lookout for an author or illustrator who goes the extra mile to produce pirate tales that make us giggle and hoot with laughter.

Thankfully Fred Blunt is not only an extremely talented illustrator, he's also a flippin' brilliant storyteller. Introducing us to his very first picture book, Fred Blunt has come up with a pirate captain called Captain Falsebeard, singular master of "The Pretty Polly" with a fearless crew and a ton of parrots.

He's been on a lifelong quest to find The Crossbone Treasure but he has some competition, in the form of dastardly no-gooder Admiral Swinetoes.

When Captain Falsebeard joyfully finds his long-searched-for booty, he might have trouble keeping it from his evil nemesis who comes up with a corker of a plan involving a mermaid!

Will the Captain win the day? He might need a little help from his brave crew and an awesome flying flotilla of poopy parrots too!

We love Fred's work, his illustrations grace many children's books so it's great to see him putting together his first title for Puffin with such expertise, weaving not only a highly funny and original pirate yarn but a booty-ful book too! Yo ho ho and a passel' of poo!

Charlotte's best bit: The beautiful mermaid who has a rather, er, interesting 'secret'

Daddy's Favourite bit: Tons of little details made us giggle in this. Fits the bill for the sort of pirate book we can really get behind! Fabulous stuff!

"Captain Falsebeard in: A Very Fishy Tale"

Written and Illustrated by Fred Blunt

Published by Puffin Books

Release Date: 2nd July 2015

(Kindly sent to us for review by Puffin Books)

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Wednesday 22 July 2015

Moving in, moving things around, panic ye not!

"Waitaminute, waitaminute...something's changed!"

Yep it's time for our spring clean, and with our 5th Blog Birthday coming up on the 10th of August, I thought it was time to rejig things a little bit.

First off, a nice crisp clean look so that reviews have a bit more room, content can be found more easily, and some new navigation options 'oop top' to allow you to find new and interesting content on the blog.

Most of the tried and tested things will stay the same. We'll still have a Book of the Week (or multiple ones, you know us!), we still have a reviews and submissions policy, but the structure of reviews will change a little bit and hopefully (time permitting) we'll try a few new things like a roundup of weekly releases, and what's hot in children's books for the current week (our posts will now appear as sidebar items listed by popularity each week so you'll know which reviews are getting the most interest. Flashy!)

All wrapped around a Bootstrap framework so you should get a nicer browser experience on just about any screen / layout. Hooray!

Stick with us though, we'll still be bringing you the same honest reviews and Charlotte still calls all the shots so keep in touch, stay in tune and forgive us while things shuffle around over the next week or so.

Phil & Charlotte @ ReadItDaddy
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The Whopper by Rebecca Ashdown (Templar Publishing)

There's no harm in telling the odd little fib is there? Think again, because in Rebecca Ashdown's stunning debut for Templar Publishing, one particular "Whopper" takes on a rather unexpected form.

In "The Whopper" young Percy groans inwardly as Grandma comes to stay. She's been knitting again you see, but where Percy's brother has a wonderful piece of knitwear that fits perfectly, Percy's jumper is a little on the large side (Put it this way, you could've used it in place of a tent at Glastonbury this year).

Percy comes up with a plan though - he takes his pet pooch out - wearing his new jumper - and along with his brother they have a whale of a time running around, jumping in muddy puddles, clambering through brambles and getting up to all the sorts of mischief that young boys love to get up to.

Alas, the jumper doesn't last long - and Percy rather shamefacedly ditches it in the nearest bin. But what will mum and Grandma say when Percy comes home jumper-less?

He tells a little white lie about the fate of the knitwear but before he can confess, his lie becomes a physical form - The Whopper to be precise, a rather obnoxious bright blue monster that follows Percy around (and even squeezes him out of bed at night, the rotter!)

"The Whopper" isn't much fun at all, and as Percy's little white lie carries on, The Whopper becomes bigger and bigger and bigger until it ravenously wolfs Percy down for breakfast, then threatens to eat Percy's brother!!

What on earth can Percy do to rid himself of this terrible creature? Perhaps it's time to tell....THE TRUTH!

This is a brilliantly original and entertaining story, where the monster is the sort of monster we love to see in stories. He's not cuddly, he's pretty much a revoltingly impolite monster who thinks nothing of scoffing little children (though he does so with a huge soppy whopper of a grin on his face). A very important moral lesson delivered with aplomb, we have a feeling this book is going to be a whopper itself!!

Charlotte's best bit: When the monster unceremoniously scoffs Percy. Eeeeeeek!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Tales of morality are hard to get right without them sounding preachy but Rebecca does a wonderful job in this fantastic, colourful and entertaining story!

"The Whopper"

Written and Illustrated by Rebecca Ashdown

Published by Templar Publishing

Release Date: 1st July 2015

(Kindly sent to us for review by Templar Publishing)
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Tuesday 21 July 2015

The Clockwork Dragon by Jonathan Emmett and Elys Dolan (Oxford University Press)

This is an interesting twist on the "Brave knight / fearsome dragon" story as we meet a resourceful young toymaker's assistant, Max - and his best friend Lizzie in "The Clockwork Dragon".

Max is always getting into trouble, his crazy clockwork inventions aren't well received and soon poor Max finds himself out of a job, wondering what to do next.

Max's village lives under constant threat from a huge fire breathing nasty dragon. The dragon rules the roost and in conjunction with Lizzie - the blacksmith's daughter, Max comes up with a stunning plan to rid the village of the menace once and for all. He will build a gigantic clockwork dragon!

Max's plan is dizzyingly fiendish, and with Lizzie's help they clamber into the tin belly of their clanking beast ready to face off against the real Dragon. But what's the one problem clockwork things suffer from? What happens when your marvellous invention starts to run down mid-battle!!

Can Max's ingenuity and Lizzie's mechanical expertise save the day?

This is a rollicking and thoroughly entertaining story with pint-sized heroes at its heart, taking on a big bully by using their brains. We love the inventiveness of this, coupling Jonathan's pacey and exciting story with Elys Dolan's wonderful creative illustrations.

Charlotte's best bit: Reading out the mechanical dragon's lines in a big booming voice

Daddy's Favourite bit: A fab and original story putting a brilliant brainy pair of kids front and centre in the midst of the excitement. Brilliantly entertaining!

The Clockwork Dragon

Written by Jonathan Emmett

Illustrated by Elys Dolan

Published by Oxford University Press

Release Date: 5th February 2015

(Kindly sent to us for review by Jonathan Emmett / Oxford University Press)
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Monday 20 July 2015

Fast and Furry Racers - The Silver Serpent Cup by Jonathan Emmett and Ed Eaves (Oxford University Press)

As a kid, I was quite obsessed with matchbox cars. Do you remember collecting the "Matchbox 75" range? Sometimes you'd get the most fantastic vehicles, futuristic automobiles that were built for speed - and were often sent careering down huge lengths of Hot Wheels track (when my sister and I weren't 'lightsabering' each other to death with the stuff).

I also loved the classic Hanna Barbera shows like "Catch That Pigeon" and "Whacky Races" and it's obvious that both Jonathan Emmett and Ed Eaves had a lot of love for those things too.

In "Fast and Furry Racers" (gotta love that title!), the greatest race on earth takes place in the animal kingdom as all creatures great and small line up on land, on the water (and under it) and in the air for The Silver Serpent Cup.

Road, rail, boat and plane, you name it and those audaciously clever creatures have come up with a winning (they hope) machine to make the best of their own abilities, hopefully to steam into the lead. As you'll see from the glorious end-papers in this book, Ed and Jonathan have come up with some truly incredible designs. There's a rocket powered train, a fantastic soaring eagle-shaped plane, glorious multi-driver fox-fuelled dragsters and all manner of other wonderful creations in between.

Not all animals play sportingly though, and as the vehicles jostle for position, a nefarious cheater unleashes his vehicle's secret weapons, homing missiles to take out the opposition. But in this frenetic race, the winner isn't decided until the race is run and a surprising outsider might just snatch victory from the slathering jaws of one mean crocodile!

Boys and girls will love this equally, any mini-fans of games like Mario Kart are going to be in their element in this pacey and fresh feeling race story. Brilliant illustrations and non stop action make this a race you won't want to miss!

Charlotte's best bit: Zooming around under the sea and through pirate wrecks in super-speedy submarines

Daddy's Favourite bit: Wonderful memories of Whacky Races and other fantastic childhood escapades abounded as we read this book. It's a rollicking race to glory!

Fast and Furry Racers: The Silver Serpent Cup

Written by Jonathan Emmett

Illustrated by Ed Eaves

Published by Oxford University Press

Release Date: 7th May 2015

(Kindly sent to us for review by Jonathan Emmett / OUP)
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Friday 17 July 2015

ReadItDaddy's Second Book of the Week - Week Ending 17th July 2015 - "How to Be a Dog" by Jo Williamson (Scholastic)

One of the toughest parts of reviewing children's books for this blog is choosing our Book of the Week winners every week. Sometimes we agonise for ages over several books, often (as is the case today) we just cannot divide our loyalties between two books so have more than one. The crux of this is that we're so passionate about really good children's books that we don't want you to miss, it feels like sometimes we'll just explode with the effort of getting this across in the limited space we have available.

Take "How to Be a Dog" by new author / illustrator Jo Williamson. I say "New author and illustrator" because this is Jo's first book, and it's an absolute stunner for many reasons.

Think of it as a 'how to' manual for dogs, written cheekily from the perspective of your pooch with lots of timely advice, hints and tips on how to succeed in both the doggy and human world.

Jo - I'm guessing - is very much a dog person. Jo's insights into dog behaviour in this book are so piquantly observed, so razor sharp and so hootingly funny that we both ended up laughing out loud in several places (I may have tweeted earlier in the month about a particular page that nearly EVERY WOMAN ON THE PLANET will utter an indignant 'humph' about - but made me cackle with glee, because it HAPPENS SO OFTEN! No spoilers sweeties, but you'll know the one I mean when you pick up a copy of this!)

There are so many delightful scenes in the book (dogs behaving like dogs do, sprawling all over your bed and leaving you the tiniest smidge of room on the mattress, dogs passionately pursuing food and doing fantastic impressions of "Oliver", plaintively whimpering for more food even though you just fed them ten seconds ago).

Children will love Jo's easy on the eye illustration style and her characterful writing style. We see an awful lot of books about dogs lately (hey, what on earth happened to cats? Have they fallen out of favour?) but this is just an utter joy. Jo has a bright and sparkling career ahead of her if this is an example of just how blimmin' fantastic her books are.

Charlotte's best bit: The super secret embarrasing lady / dog behaviour page we can't spoil for you (but will make you cackle or groan inwardly!)

Daddy's Favourite bit: Big dogs, little dogs, naughty dogs, well behaved dogs - all from a dog's perspective. This is a hilarious and beautifully observed slice of canine chaos. Well done Jo, we LOVE it!

How to Be a Dog

Written and Illustrated by Jo Williamson

Published by Scholastic

Release Date: 2nd July 2015

(Kindly sent to us for review by Scholastic)
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ReadItDaddy's First Book of the Week - Week Ending 17th July 2015 - "Little Kunoichi the Ninja Girl" by Sanae Ishida (Sasquatch Books)

Let us count the ways we love our first Book of the Week this week. "Little Kunoichi the Ninja Girl" by Sanae Ishida kicks off with a fabulous map of a mystical mysterious Ninja Island (YAY for ANY book that starts off with a map like that!). On this island lives a little girl, high up in a treehouse in a bamboo forest. She is no ordinary little girl. She is Little Kunoichi, the Ninja Girl.

Kunoichi doesn't go to a normal school. Kunoichi zips down a zip wire straight into Ninja School where lessons like maths and geography aren't the norm, instead Kunoichi and her pals learn the stealthy ways of the Ninja. Hurling throwing stars and whirling nunchucks, practicing their defensive karate and learning how to conceal themselves for surprise attacks.

Poor Kunoichi finds Ninja School quite tough, so she silently slips out for some extra practice (this part of the book made us hoot with laughter after a rather unfortunate incident involving Kunoichi, a mis-thrown shuriken and an angry wild boar! Oopsie!)

Kunoichi isn't the only one practicing furiously in the woods though. She spots a Chibi (cute) Samurai boy, who is also working his way through the ways of the lone warrior. But two can work so much better together than one, so Ninja meets Samurai for a show-stopping spectacular at the Annual Ninja and Samurai show!

Some words just elicit such a brilliant response from Charlotte and the word 'Ninja' is one of them. Oh she knows all about Ninjas (her schoolmates love pretending to be Ninjas at school, I'm guessing that Ninjago has a lot to do with this!) Kunoichi is an adorable character (as is the chibi samurai) and we loved the idea that children would love losing themselves in a story where they could vicariously pretend to be ninjas learning the ways of stealth, silence and surprise!

Delicious watercolour artwork from Sanae, and a lovely dose of ancient mythology woven carefully into a child-friendly story - with lots of cool explanations of the various terms and words at the back for students of the mystical Ninja arts to bone up on. Utterly brilliant!

Charlotte's best bit: Spotting Kunoichi and her Samurai pal at the Ninja Fayre

Daddy's Favourite bit: Exciting, brilliant, original and utterly wonderfully presented. Your little Ninjas and Samurais are going to go completely nuts for this book!

Little Kunoichi the Ninja Girl

Written and Illustrated by
Sanae Ishida

Published by Sasquatch Books

Release Date: 7th July 2015

(Kindly sent to us for review by Sasquatch Books)
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Thursday 16 July 2015

The Grouse and the Mouse by Emily Dodd and Kirsteen Harris-Jones (Picture Kelpies)

It's a happy highland book birthday to the latest story from the genius author of "Can't Dance Cameron". Emily Dodd is back, this time with the story of a rather boorish bird with a big booming voice, prim and proud but about ready for a classic case of come-uppance. In "The Grouse and the Mouse" Bagpipe, the grouse in question is absolutely full of himself, proudly strutting over the Scottish moors proudly displaying his fine feathers and wattle. Bagpipe is befriended by a small brown and rather timid mouse named Squeaker, and Bagpipe never tires of pointing out just how small, how dull-coloured, how...inadequate the poor wood mouse is.

But Squeaker is happy. He rather likes being brown because it helps him blend in. He doesn't mind not having a fine feathered tail, a thin bendy useful one is much better for a mouse.

Bagpipe the grouse will hear none of it though and his proud boasting leads him into trouble as he gets his big fat bottom stuck in a wire fence.

Can the mouse, the tiny little insignificant rodent, possibly help this proud bird out?

It's a lovely novel take on the classic "Lion and mouse" fable, given a fantastic dose of fine Scots air to breathe new life into it. With glorious illustrations from Kirsteen Harris-Jones, you will absolutely love reading this out loud.

"The Grouse and the Mouse" by Emily Dodd and Kirsteen Harris-Jones is out today from Picture Kelpies.

Charlotte's best bit: The big-headed grouse wriggling and struggling when stuck in the fence. HELP!!!

Daddy's Favourite bit: A delicious fable subtly given a new lease of life, absolutely fab!

The Grouse and the Mouse

Written by Emily Dodd

Illustrated by Kirsteen Harris-Jones

Published by Picture Kelpies

Release Date: 16th July 2015

(Kindly sent to us for review by Picture Kelpies)

Like this? We think you'll love these too!

"Can't Dance Cameron" by Emily Dodd and Katie Pamment (Picture Kelpies)
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Wednesday 15 July 2015

London Through Time (Cities Unfolded) by Angela McAllister and Nick Maland (Frances Lincoln Children's Books)

We love to lose ourselves in London and we truly love to lose ourselves in fantastic books that show off and celebrate our capital. This neat new format of "Cities Unfolded" books details the living history of cities around the world, starting off with our capital. Stretching back in history to the very beginnings of the settlement on the Thames, through to the mighty metropolis we know and love today, this is a fascinating pocket-sized book that you can take with you on London days out.

Each era is depicted in the fold-out format of this book with scenes, buildings, costumes and people you'd expect to find in those historical periods. A stack of facts and figures are also shoehorned in, making this an incredibly detailed snapshot of a city's history, landmarks and daily life.

Charlotte's best bit: Victorian London at the height of the Industrial Revolution!

Daddy's Favourite bit: A superb pocket format fold out book that's crammed with fascinating information.

London Through Time (Cities Unfolded)

Written by Angela McAllister

Illustrated by Nick Maland

Published by Frances Lincoln Children's Books

(Kindly sent to us for review by Frances Lincoln Children's Books)
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Tuesday 14 July 2015

Snails Legs by Damian Harvey and Korky Paul (Frances Lincoln Children's Books)

"....and they all lived happily ever after!"

Do you often wish that once, just once, a children's story would actually end with something other than a happy outcome? Step right this way for a timely reprint of a real classic - coming soon from Frances Lincoln Children's Books. Damian Harvey and Korky Paul's brilliant "Snails Legs" is a tale that, at first, seems to be a neat little riff on "The Hare and the Tortoise". Frog is the fastest creature in the forest, but as he gets older new contenders are eager to take his athletic crown. Upcoming track superstar Snail is swift and speedy, with the aid of his long muscular legs and his racing helmet, he's swiftly nipping at Frog's heels for the fastest animal trophy.

"Snails aren't fast! Snails don't have legs!" said Charlotte.

Hush my dear and wait...for this tale has an amusing twist or two that loans it a dark and slightly macabre tinge. A famous chef, the chef to the king, is on the lookout for animals with long speedy legs for a special competition. The winner will get to meet none other than the King himself!

Frog and Snail face off in a race for glory - who will win?

Just when you're settled in with the way you think the story will go, Damian twists things a little more. You see Snail might be boastful and vainglorious but he loves his friend Frog, and actually loves their competitive banter. Perhaps after all, winning isn't as important as letting an old frog have just one last moment of glory.

The race is won - and then once again Damian twists the story for the most surprising outcome. I love the fact that, though adults might see the end of the story coming a mile off, children are genuinely shocked and surprised (we won't spoil the end but it's MARVELLOUS and obviously explains why we don't see snails dashing around with their long legs on show!)

A modern fable, beautifully put together by a top story team!

Charlotte's best bit: A genuine gasp of shock at the outcome of the race and the meeting with the King.

Daddy's Favourite bit: An utterly fantastic, darkly tinged story that's full of surprises right up until the end. Brilliant storytelling, gorgeous Korky Paul art, what more could you possibly want!

Snails Legs

Written by Damian Harvey

Illustrated by Korky Paul

Published by Frances Lincoln Children's Books

(Kindly sent to us for review by Frances Lincoln Children's Books)
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Monday 13 July 2015

What a Naughty Bird by Sean Taylor and Dan Widdowson (Templar Publishing)

If there's one thing birds are REALLY good at, it's pooping on things! Anyone who has spent the weekend chiselling pigeon poo off their lovely shiny paintwork on their car will attest to this. If you've ever suspected that birds do this on purpose, waiting until you've polished your motor to a high sheen then this book may well be for you!

"What a Naughty Bird!" by Sean Taylor and Dan Widdowson features a mischievous feathered terror who is an expert at hitting the spot with a well timed well aimed plop or two. This bird isn't interested in inanimate objects that can't express their outrage, he loves pooping on other animals! He'll drop his cargo on a crocodile, take a dump on a dromedary and poop all over people!

Is that really wise? Dropping your doo-doo on a raging bull?

Little ones will, by now, be in fits of laughter as this naughty NAUGHTY bird continues his japes and antics, retiring safely to his nest high up in the treetops to have a good laugh about his daily escapades. But when the bird chooses one victim in particular, he may well have met his match!

He's just SO NAUGHTY! Scoping out targets at the water hole...

It's a giggle a minute, and even highbrow folk such as us can't resist the charms of such a naughty character who gets away with his filthy crimes (but gets his just desserts in a rather amusing way!)

Charlotte's best bit: The sheer outrage on the face of the angry bull, who ends up wearing a rather squishy new 'hat'

Daddy's Favourite bit: We can't resist a really naughty character like the doo-doo bird. He's just bad to the bone!

What a Naughty Bird!

Written by Sean Taylor

Illustrated by Dan Widdowson

Published by Templar Publishing

Release Date: 1st August 2015

(Kindly sent to us for review by Templar Publishing)

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The Little Velasquez - "Colour and Learn with... / Colour Zen" Range by Catherine De Duve (Happy Museum)

The Little Velasquez Colour and Learn

Written and Illustrated by
Catherine De Duve

Published by Happy Museum

It's a delight to see that there are fantastic ranges of books that help children develop an appreciation of art from an early age. As most artists will tell you, often drawing or painting things is a great way to learn about colour, light and shade and how to develop your own art skills - as well as falling in love with the world of art and the fascinating artists who have painted the greatest works of art on the planet.

In "The Little Velasquez", part of the Colour Zen / Colour and Learn With... range by Catherine De Duve, Children are encouraged to learn about the life and works of Velasquez through exploration of some of his most famous portraits. The book's format is almost pocket sized, making it perfect for tucking into a bag or satchel when your little ones are off to visit relatives, or off for a day out on the train when colouring and activity books are worth their weight in gold.

Catherine's fab range always includes lots of facts and figures about each painter, so children will be encouraged to learn more about Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez (phew, that's a mouthful!) and his incredible gift for realistic portraiture.

Charlotte's best bit: The "funny" portrait of Phillip IV in his armour

Daddy's Favourite bit: A detailed and interesting activity book based around one of the most incredible artists of the Spanish "Golden Age" - a great jumping off point for kids who want to learn more about art and artists through impressive colouring and activity ideas.

(Kindly sent to us for review by Happy Museum Publishing)
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Friday 10 July 2015

ReadItDaddy's 2nd Book of the Week - Week Ending 10th July 2015 - "There's a Lion in my Cornflakes" by Michelle Robinson and Jim Field (Bloomsbury Children's Books)

We are fashionably late to the party with this one, as it came out a year ago. Quite how we missed it first time round is beyond us, but now it's just come out in paperback it's time to dive into this big box of cereal-based fun.

Once again a book has recalled the days when cereal choices were made not on nutritional content, amount of sugar and salt or whether you could feel good about your 5-a-day intake when scoffing a bowlful of something that looks like it's been scraped out of the back end of your hoover bag. No, when we were kids, brekkie was chosen purely because of the free gifts or ludicrously convoluted token-collecting offers on each pack. I remember a story of two kids who genuinely saved up enough bottle tops or tokens to get their own Harrier Jump Jet (a joke offer made by one company back in the 80s who never expected that kids would have the moxy to actually save up or scrape together a million items to send off for one! WRONG!) I wondered if it was the inspiration for this tale!

The two boys in Michelle and Jim's story, two mischievous brothers, come up with a plan to buy 100 packets of cornflakes. Why? Well, because if you collect 100 tokens from the packs, you can send off for your own, your very own LION!

Despite incurring the wrath of mum and dad (and being forced to eat the spoils of their ill-fated plan) the boys post off their coupons dutifully, and wait.

And wait....

And wait...

(Again I remember the hilarious days when "Allow 28 days for delivery" was an optimistic outside bet - sending off for things nearly always involved waiting for half a year for your goodies to turn up!)

Everyone else in the neighbourhood seems to have got their lions and parade them around the park. This is one of our favourite parts of the story as you see all the kids parading around with their new pet Lions, who are up to all sorts of japes and tricks. We really loved the skateboarding lions and of course Charlotte laughed her head off at one lion cocking his leg up a tree much to the disgust and horror of his little girl owner!

The boys are still waiting when a package finally arrives. But there's no lion inside, just a rather surly grizzly bear. WHO WOULD WANT THAT? A letter of complaint is sent, but instead of a grizzly bear the cornflake company send out a crocodile (who is a notorious bathroom hog).

This is no good either, and one more frenzied phone call results in the company sending a Gorilla - that promptly trashes dad's fabulous Ford Anglia (nice one, Jim! LOVE that car and even Charlotte recognised it, possibly because it's what Ron and Harry drove in the second Harry Potter movie!)

Frustrated and annoyed, the boys enlist some help from dad and soon they're off to the company to complain in person. Will they come home proud owners of a lion after all?

This story is a hoot from start to finish. It's almost like a delicately constructed farce that touches on the optimistic views of children who think owning a particular pet will always be idyllic, and it's also a fantastic dig at our consumerist society and the way certain companies (who shall remain nameless) play fast and loose when it comes to not quite delivering on their product promises.

Ultimately though, we think Michelle and Jim are a heck of a team. Michelle's comic props are laced with cheekiness and hilarity and at times absolute chaos (we love a good dose of chaos in children's books). Jim's art is perfect and I lost count of the amount of times his details and touches made us giggle like idiots (that pastiche of a certain well loved children's book right towards the end of the story did not go unnoticed Jim. Fan-flipping-tastic!)

We're very pleased we caught up with "There's a Lion in my Cornflakes" - it's a riotously funny and brilliant book!

Charlotte's best bit: So many bits made her genuinely laugh out loud but she loved the scene in the park as the kids are all showing off their lions

Daddy's Favourite bit: Cheeky humour, tight writing, gloriously funny illustrations and a story that is as satisfying as a huge bowl of cornflakes splashed with ice cold milk. Wonderfully hilarious stuff!

There's a Lion in my Cornflakes

Written by Michelle Robinson

Illustrated by Jim Field

Published by Bloomsbury Children's Books

Release Date: 5th May 2015 (Paperback)

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

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ReadItDaddy's 1st Book of the Week - Week Ending 10th July 2015 - "William Heads to Hollywood" by Helen Hancocks (Templar Publishing)

William heads to Hollywood

Written and Illustrated by
Helen Hancocks

Published by Templar Publishing

A rather happy little girl once posed in the garden, dressed as Audrey Mieowski from this fabulous book...

Charlotte leaped on "William Heads to Hollywood" by Helen Hancocks, the sequel to another book of the week fave of ours from one of our favourite author-illustrators. Helen Hancocks' "William and the Missing Masterpiece" was a delicious cheese-fest mystery of a story introducing us to William, debonair stylish international moggy of mystery.

William's career as a cat detective is in a bit of a slump. Cases are too easy and in "The Case of the Missing Hat", William actually finds the missing headgear atop the daft man's head!

"Silly man" said Charlotte. 

But soon a tricky case lands in William's lap and he jets off to Hollywood to meet the divine Miss Audrey Mieowski, stunning starlet and renowned film star. Mere days before the world's most glittering film award ceremony, a dozen Golden Cuckoo awards have gone missing.

Audrey and William are soon hot on the case, with only a hair pin and a few feathers to go on they're soon on a madcap chase through the studios and boulevards in glittering Hollywood, stopping for a quick snack and a visit to the fair as the tension heats up. It's almost the night of the awards ceremony, can William and Audrey track down the missing Golden Cuckoos before it's too late?

In Helen's stories, we adore the attention to detail and this brings us back to her books again and again as there's always something new to spot. William and Audrey make such a fantastic team, and we loved spotting our favourite penguin from "Penguin in Peril" cropping up for a few sneaky cameos (and as I said on Twitter, the "Furlini" gag made me want to hug the book with glee! Love it!)

"William Heads to Hollywood" is yet another triumphant masterpiece from Helen, and as ever we're waiting with baited breath to see what young white-socked William gets up to next. Adore, adore, adore this book!

Charlotte's best bit: She loved helping William to spot the missing Golden Cuckoos, and also loved the fab cameos in the story from Helen's other books (Penguins, YAY!)

Daddy's Favourite bit: that "Furlini" ref just slayed me. What a fantastic story, William is such a DUDE!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Templar Publishing)

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"William and the Missing Masterpiece" by Helen Hancocks (Templar Publishing)

"Penguin in Peril" by Helen Hancocks (Templar Publishing)
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"If I Built a House" by Chris Van Dusen (Chronicle)

If I Built a House

Written and Illustrated by
Chris Van Dusen

Published by Chronicle Books

Back in 2013, we were tipped off by the wonderful Damyanti Patel about a book that would be 'our cup of tea'. Damy is absolutely right of course, we really loved "If I built a Car", making it a Book of the Week.

Chris Van Dusen is an illustrative genius, his work is wonderful and imaginative and we described his book worlds as being "the sort of worlds you wish you could crawl into".

For a long time I've had my eye on various places for a cheap copy of the follow-up "If I Built a House" - and finally we managed to snag a copy. We already knew what to expect as we fell completely in love with Chris's retro-futuristic style and his inventive child hero Jack. Jack's imagination repurposed Dad's reliable old station wagon into the world's most amazing car in "If I Built a Car". This time he's got his eyes firmly fixed on the family abode.

In "If I Built a House" Jack's "House of the Future" design is the most incredible place to live. Page after page we found ourselves oohing and ahhing at Jack's household improvements, and joined in with Jack's mum and dog, staring in wonderment at such fabulous ideas.

A ballpit in the living room, with trampolines set into the floor so you can bounce across the room and dive straight in? Yes, we would definitely want that.

The kitchen improves on Jack's ideas for a snack bar in Dad's car. In Jack's modern domestic dreamscape, the kitchen prepares the most mouthwatering food (and if there's one thing Chris Van Dusen should be credited on, it's his ability to draw and paint grub that makes us almost drown in our own drool! YUM!!!!) The kitchen also does all the washing up and putting away too, definitely something else we'd add to the list if we somehow won the lottery!

It doesn't stop there though. Jack's art room is ace - a huge wall-sized roll of paper, good for 1,000,000 drawings, hangs from the side with all the copics, pens, pencils and colours you could possibly want.

Our two favourite rooms were definitely Jack's bedroom high up in the clouds, perfect for star spotting and complete with a long spiral slide right down to the ground. "Can we have this, please Daddy? PLEASE!" pleaded Charlotte (though I have often jokingly said that we could do the "Ghostbusters" thing of having a fireman's pole from the top of our three storey house down to the bottom purely because running downstairs in your undercrackers to answer the door to the postie on a saturday morning is often quite difficult!)

Back to Jack's house and the racetrack room was our next port of call. A fabulous racetrack, just like the Hot Wheels track my sister and I used to lightsaber each other practically to death with as kids. How awesome would it be to have an indoor kart track, and invite all your friends round for races!

The book is stunning - but Charlotte picked up on something that had irritated her about the first book, and came up a few times in this book too. Chris over-uses the line "Now that's something new!" and it does jar a bit, though not enough to stop this being a fantastic and imaginative book of the week that renders a child's wonderful imagination in such a peerless and glorious way.

If...just if...we ever make a ton of cash, I'm going to buy a modest stretch of land, hire a team of architects and builders par excellence and build that house!!

Charlotte's best bit: It was a tough choice between the fantastic slide down from Jack's bedroom, or the fabulous racetrack room!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Glorious retro designs and art, though some repetition was a bit jarring (even so it's still a fabulous rhyming book full of wonder and imagination!)

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"If I Built a Car" by Chris Van Dusen (Chronicle Books)
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Thursday 9 July 2015

More! By Tracey Corderoy and Tim Warnes (Little Tiger Press)


Written by Tracey Corderoy

Illustrated by Tim Warnes

Published by Little Tiger Press

Archie the adorable toddling Rhino is back in the latest story from totally awesome team Tracey Corderoy and Tim Warnes. In "More!", Archie's new favourite word, we find the little fella enjoying life to the max. More books at bedtime (we can't disagree with that one) more ice-cream stacked onto his cone (again, can't fault him on that either) but when Archie is invited to a Fancy Dress party, perhaps his grand design for a costume might be his undoing! Have you ever seen a toddler trying to run around in a full-scale spaceship costume?

Tracey and Tim have come up with an excellent book series with Archie (and his long suffering parents). It's brilliant to see how this story pans out, we won't spoil things too much for you but we're on the edge of our seats waiting to see what Archie gets up to next.

Charlotte's best bit: A frog dressed as a purple crayon (we think his name might be Harold!), and a very familiar looking crocodile in disguise at the Fancy Dress party

Daddy's Favourite bit: More wordy fun with Tracey and Tim's rambunctious rhino toddler! Archie is awesome!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Little Tiger Press)

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"No!" by Tracey Corderoy and Tim Warnes (Little Tiger Press)
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Wednesday 8 July 2015

No More Cuddles by Jane Chapman (Little Tiger Press)

No More Cuddles!

Written and Illustrated by
Jane Chapman

Published by Little Tiger Press

Who doesn't love cuddles? Well, actually Barry the Monster is getting a little tired of them (Barry is officially THE best name for a monster ever). Every time Barry steps out into the forest, his lovely cuddle-obsessed furry little friends all leap on Barry's soft luxurious fur for snuggles and warmth.

In "No More Cuddles" by Jane Chapman, we see Barry's various attempts to subvert his cute friends. A new cuddle-meister is needed. Porcupine's a bit spiky, skunk is a bit smelly - but Bear might well fit the bill as he has lovely soft velvety fur.

But still the animals flock to Barry, until he loses his balance and topples over into the stinkiest swamp along with all his little pals.

Who would want to cuddle a slime covered monster? Find out in Jane's fabulous cuddly snugglesome story with hoots of laughter guaranteed from your tiniest ones.

Charlotte's best bit: Cooing at being literally smothered in bunnies. This, to Charlotte, would be sheer bliss!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Funny and cute, Barry is a monster with a big heart!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Little Tiger Press)
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Tuesday 7 July 2015

Mr Men in London by Roger Hargreaves and Adam Hargreaves (Egmont)

Mr Men in London

Mr Men created by Roger Hargreaves
Written and Illustrated by Adam Hargreaves

Published by Egmont Publishing UK

I grew up with the Mr Men Books, and later I couldn't wait to introduce the Mr Men and Little Miss books to Charlotte. We've collected quite a few now, and it's always cause for great excitement when a new one arrives.

Particularly this latest adventure for the Mr Men and Little Miss crew. They're on a day trip to London with Mr Busy, and are taking in the sights of our glorious capital (which is also one of our favourite real-life destinations too!)

Mr Bump ends up coming a cropper in the fountains at Trafalgar Square. Mr Uppity insists on not using public transport, opting for a chauffeur driven limousine around the capital instead. As for Little Miss Splendid, will she still feel like the queen of bling when faced with the real queen's crown jewels? And what happens when Mr Tickle is let loose on a bus?

It's a fabulous travelogue and story for little ones covering some of our favourite bits of London in crazy chaotic Mr Men fashion. Roger Hargreaves' legacy of fun characters continues with his son Adam now writing and illustrating the books, and bringing them bang up to date with fabulous stories like these.

Charlotte's best bit: Mr Tickle livening up a boring bus journey!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Poor Mr Bump falling headfirst into the fountains at Trafalgar Square

(Kindly sent to us for review by Egmont Publishing UK)
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Poo in the Zoo by Steve Smallman and Ada Grey (Little Tiger Press)

Poo in the Zoo

Written by Steve Smallman

Illustrated by Ada Grey

Published by Little Tiger Press

Weirdly, we received this book for review the very DAY after we'd been to a local zoo, and mused about just what happens to all that dung. We spotted a poor zoo worker shovelling heaps of antelope plops, and imagined that - though the stuff was stinky - it would be brilliant for the plants.

So in "Poo in the Zoo" we meet a happy little chap whose job it is to clean up after all the animals. Big jobs, small jobs, stinky jobs and slimy jobs, the poor little fellah is quick with his spade but sometimes shovelling shmelly shtuff is a seemingly endless and thankless task.

After a rather mischievous iguana escapes, poo takes on a whole new dimension as the iguana ruthlessly breaks into the canteen and eats his fill, before polishing off his robust lunch with a few fireflies for good measure. The resultant poo, rendered in all its glowing glory by Ada Grey's rather expert way of painting plops, is quite spectacular and something to behold.

The glowing poo is put on display, and is shortly procured by an avid collector of all things scatological, taking pride of place in his collection. With the moolah, the little zookeeper can afford a robot to do all his shovelling for him (we think this book needs a sequel where there's a robot rebellion against being made to do our dirty work!! Get on it, Steve and Ada!)

It's a book that's almost guaranteed to put a huge grin on your little ones' faces and if you can keep a straight face while reading Steve's awesome plop-based rhymes, we'll gladly raise our hats to you!

Charlotte's best bit: A jar of Bluebottle poo (in the rather awesome poo-based end-papers!)

Daddy's Favourite bit: It's pongy, ploppy, slimy and sloppy but we love it all the same! A poo-tastic peer into the behind the scenes cleanup at the zoo!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Little Tiger Press)
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Monday 6 July 2015

The Cloudspotter by Tom McLaughlin (Bloomsbury Publishing)

The Cloudspotter

Written and Illustrated by
Tom McLaughlin

Published by Bloomsbury Publishing

It's the perfect weather for cloudspotting and we love this as a weekend activity. Lying in the grass, gazing up at the sky - either spotting shapes or trying to pull clouds apart with awesome MIND POWER!

Franklin is "The Cloudspotter" in Tom McLaughlin's new picture book, a solitary fellow with a singular obsession. In the clouds he can lose himself as he spots trains dashing by, complete with carriages, planes swooshing across the sky or tall ships with billowing chimney stacks.

One day, however, a lonely dog decides that she'd rather like to join Franklin in his cumulonimbus collecting. This breaks Franklin's concentration though, and he's so used to being alone that having a big soppy friendly dog around really isn't going to work out. He comes up with a plan to rid himself of the pesky pooch (who we adored from the moment we saw her and actually began to think Franklin was a bit of a rotter, sending her off into the great unknown in a hot air balloon!)

Will Franklin realise though that sometimes, to be a successful cloudspotter, you need someone else to pass on your observations to? After all, what's the point in gazing out of the window and spying a cloud that's exactly the same shape as a submarine if there's no one else around to see it?

A lovely touching little tale that made us want to snuggle among the clouds ourselves (and no doubt we will be out there again this weekend, watching all the clouds drift by - we always love the dragon shaped ones best!)

Charlotte's best bit: She fell completely in love with the nameless dog who tries to befriend Franklin (and spots lovely bone-shaped clouds, nom nom!)

Daddy's Favourite bit: A cuddly cloud-filled story of friendship and imagination. Blissful!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Bloomsbury Publishing)
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Stig of the Dump by Clive King and Edward Ardizzone (Puffin)

Stig of the Dump

Written by Clive King

Illustrated by Edward Ardizzone

Published by Puffin Classics

One of the joys of reading with Charlotte is being able to introduce stories to her that I remember from childhood. Some of the books I managed to hold onto, some we have to hunt for in secondhand bookshops (as they're sadly out of print) and some are still as well loved now as they were back in the 70s and have stayed in print for new generations of kids to be thrilled by.

Clive King's 1963 children's novel "Stig of the Dump" is one such book, and though it's been given a multitude of new covers over the years (including editions brought out to cash in on the two TV series that have never really captured the essence of the book) it's still a stunning story, and Edward Ardizzone's scratchy often indistinct inky artwork still lends an amazing atmosphere to the tale.

"Stig of the Dump" starts out with a young boy, Barney, staying at his grandmother's house for the summer holidays along with his annoying big sister. Though Barney has been warned not to play near a chalk pit at the bottom of Grandma's garden, he's a boy - and like most boys ignores good advice in the eternal search for mischief and adventure.

Barney falls into the chalk pit after being a bit too inquisitive one day and as his world spins around him, Barney comes to and realises that he's fallen through the roof of a makeshift shelter. Worse still, a beady dark pair of eyes is watching him from the darkness.

This is how Barney meets Stig, a caveman living in the chalk pit and adapting to life amongst the thrown away rubbish of modern folk.

No explanation is ever offered in the story for how a caveman ends up in modern times. None is really needed though it's a great story for sparking delicious discussions and theories on time travel (can't really say that about many childrens books, can you?)

The story is all about Barney and Stig's friendship, and it's a classic 'fish out of water' tale as Barney slowly introduces Stig to the wonders of the modern age - and likewise, Stig introduces Barney to a simpler more earthy way of life.

The two become friends and share many adventures together, thwarting the local rowdy kids who take it on themselves to invade Stig's pit - and defeating a nasty pair of burglars who raid Barney's Grandma's house for her silverware. They even manage to corner an escaped Leopard!

I loved the effect this book had on Charlotte. The story harks back to an era when 'playing out' was the norm, and way before anyone ever thought of coining the phrase "upcycling" here's Stig making amazing inventions from the rubbish other people throw away.

Back when "Stig of the Dump" was originally written, kids might well have had TV as a distraction, but most kids would have leaped at the chance to go out and play (and probably cause mischief). For Charlotte, Barney's world sounds absolutely amazing and full of opportunities for adventure (and quite a lot of peril, we wondered how on earth he made it to the end of the story without breaking his neck!).

Perhaps because we try to spend every weekend out in the wilds, in the countryside of Oxfordshire, she recognises a bit of herself in Barney as we build shelters in the woods, or (safely) make a makeshift fire though we draw the line at chopping down trees or playing in or around dumps.

"Stig of the Dump" is timeless and brilliant and it's been a real pleasure introducing Charlotte to this simple but atmospheric story that still holds many happy memories for me, and now will hopefully hold a few for her too.

Charlotte's best bit: When Barney and Stig make a window for Stig's cave out of jam jars, a wooden box and clay and when Barney and Stig encounter a Leopard escaped from a local circus.

Daddy's Favourite bit: The closing chapter in the book is still as electrifying, brilliant and bittersweet reading it as an adult as it was when I was a child. A modern classic, deservedly revered and treasured.
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Friday 3 July 2015

ReadItDaddy's Second Book of the Week - Week Ending 3rd July 2015 - "Grandad's Island" by Benji Davies (Simon and Schuster Children's Books)

Grandad's Island

Written and Illustrated by
Benji Davies

Published by Simon and Schuster Children's Books

We just couldn't separate our two "Book of the Week" winners this week, two utterly fantastic books arriving in the same week so you've already read our review of the fantastic "Max" - now it's time to delve into the latest book from Benji Davies, illustrative and storytelling genius behind fabulous books like 'The Storm Whale' and working in conjunction with other writers to illustrate fabulous stories like "The Giant of Jum" (With Elli Woollard) and "On Sudden Hill" (with Linda Sarah).

No stranger to our book of the week slot, Benji's latest tale caused such a lot of debate and discussion at home that we are STILL talking about it weeks on from when we first laid eyes on it.

"Grandad's Island" is the fantastical tale of a young boy who regularly pops round to his Grandad's house for visits and cake. When Grandad seems to have gone missing one morning, the boy hears a shout from the attic - and finds Grandad standing in front of a mysterious metal door. The door glows faintly, and Grandad opens it gently and ushers the boy inside.

They find themselves on the deck of a ship, jutting out amongst the rooftops and soon they set sail for a spectacular tropical destination, Grandad's Island.

Such a beautiful, beautiful book, we want to live in it!

The island paradise is full of the most wonderful creatures, sights, sounds and colours and the boy and his Grandad swiftly set about building the most amazing Swiss Family Robinson-esque shelter.

It's a fine adventure but as the day draws to a close, Grandad has some sad news. He won't be coming home with the boy, he's staying on the island for good.

With a heavy heart, the boy boards the boat home (ably assisted by some of the wonderful creatures he's met). Grandad's place isn't quite the same without him, and the mysterious metal door is no longer there - but wait, what's this? A letter? Who is it from?

Charlotte set straight to work analysing this story and we discussed it at length. Was "Grandad Island" actually Heaven? Was it a fantasy, the boy's way of coping with the loss of a loved one? Would Grandad come back for visits? We were so swept away and wrapped up in this tale that it made us think again about Great Nan - our own dear Nan who died back in January and who we often talk about 'watching over us' as she always joked that she'd be reincarnated as a Robin - and we always see Robins whenever we're on a day out somewhere, as if she's still there with us.

It has been interesting seeing the book discussed on Twitter by other reviewers and booky folk too. Some have pointed out that children could just accept it as a straightforward adventure (though the lack of "Grandad" at the end of the book makes us question this - is he still on his island? Would he not come back for visits?)

Analyse it as much as you want, but everyone will come away with happy feelings and stirred-up memories from this glorious story. Benji Davies is on FIRE at the moment, with each and every book release that he's a part of we always wonder if he can possibly keep up such a high standard of fabulous storytelling and sumptuous artwork. So far he's knocking it out of the park in both respects.

If the intention was to produce an utterly gorgeous, heartwarming and touching book that would be like a soothing balm to anyone who's lost a loved one then it works beautifully that way. Like Syd in the story, we loved the idea that those who are dear to us are on their own "Island", in their own paradise and also constantly exist in our hearts and our memories.

Charlotte's best bit: A lovely cameo from The Storm Whale and his mum, watch out for it!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Sumptuously written and illustrated, Benji expertly deals with a tough subject in a thought-provoking and sensitive way, utterly wonderful. Consistently one of the brightest and most important talents working in children's literature today.

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

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"The Storm Whale" by Benji Davies.
"On Sudden Hill" by Linda Sarah and Benji Davies
"The Giant of Jum" By Elli Woollard and Benji Davies

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