Monday 29 February 2016

The Lion Inside by Rachel Bright and Jim Field (Orchard Books)

We've had a few books recently tackling the subject of being small but brave - and it's a subject that really can stand up to being told and retold in a variety of different ways...
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Skunk on a String by Thao Lam (Owl Kids Books)

What do you get if you cross a skunk with a balloon? No it's not some left-over Christmas Cracker joke but a new and rather gorgeous wordless book from Thao Lam. "Skunk on a String"...
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Friday 26 February 2016

Happy 39th Birthday 2000AD!

I remember it so clearly. I had just turned 9 the day before, and took my birthday money round to the nearby newsagents to grab some sweets and perhaps a comic.

Back then I used to read stuff like Krazy Comic or Whizzer and Chips but I remember the cover of the very first 2000AD catching my eye. Dan Dare? A free frisbee? Oh that's got to be worth 8p surely.

By that time I was a complete sci fi nerd. Star Wars had yet to explode and turn Sci Fi into something mainstream, yet here was a comic that presented stories that felt entirely different to me. Gritty, dark futures super-beings and time travel - even the return of a well-loved comic book hero from the 50s. I paid my 8p and took it home.

I was hooked from that issue onwards. Of course Issue 2 was the clincher for me, and the one that introduced me to a comic character that would ensure I stayed well and truly hooked on 2000AD well into adulthood. Judge Dredd exploded into issue 2 and that was where my pocket money went every week without fail.

2000AD celebrates its 39th birthday today, and I still have that very first issue - and the space spinner - which I'm completely amazed by when you consider what those early comics were made of (very poor quality paper - not the sort of thing you'd expect a 9 year old to be able to keep in fairly good condition for so long!)

It's about the only thing I have from that era of my childhood. Somehow it almost became a revered object, that comic - and when I flick through it again now (very very carefully) I can instantly recall what it felt like to read it for the very first time.

We moved to Oxford late in '77, I remember Jubilee year and the summer parties, starting at a new school that year too - and yet my clearest memories were the comic's first year and the stories that just got better and better.

Now, of course, 2000AD is still alive and kicking and still managing to be one of the best comics in the universe. Charlotte is still a way off being able to read it - though technically if she starts when I did, she's only got a year to wait!
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ReadItDaddy's Second Book of the Week - Week Ending 26th February 2016 - "Little Home Bird" by Jo Empson (Child's Play)

Our second Book of the Week this week is so chock full of atmosphere and wonder that we couldn't resist its charms. The stunning "Little Home Bird" by Jo Empson
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ReadItDaddy's First Book(s) of the Week - Week Ending 26th February 2016 - "Bod and Breakfast" and "Bod and the Cake" by Michael and Joanne Cole (Egmont Publishing)

True story about the hero of today's pair of stunning "Book of the Week" entries - we share the same barber!
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Thursday 25 February 2016

ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book Roundup - Our birthday month of February! Celebrate with some truly awesome new books...!

Hallooo and welcome to our birthday month. Yep both our birthdays fall in February so it's a great excuse to grab an absolute SHEDLOAD of new chapter books and give them the once over. This month we've got loads to get through and it's all fast-paced action from cover to cover so let's get busy!

First up is an energetic and fantastic romp from Phil ("Demolition Dad") Earle with illustrations by Sara (The Worst Princess) Ogilvie.

"Superhero Street" introduces Mouse, a rather diminutive - some might even say slightly wimpy superhero who lives in Storey Street.

Mouse finds it rather difficult to stand out from the crowd, what with 5 brothers and sisters at home. Fame beckons after Mouse and his mum (a lollipop lady and force to be reckoned with) foil a bank robbery, giving Mouse a great idea. Gather together the Z-List, an elite group of extremely keen amateur supes - and set out to put the world to rights.

Phil's humour is milk-snortingly brilliant, and Sara's fab illustrations help to lend the whole book a fizzing energetic pace that doesn't let up from start to finish. If you've got superhero kids waiting in the wings at home (or for that matter supervillain kids!) this is sure to prove an essential read! It went down a storm with Charlotte (who couldn't put it down at bedtime!) so it definitely comes well recommended!

"Superhero Street" is released on 25th February 2016, published by Orion Books.

Next, comedian and presenter Danny Wallace is busily establishing himself as a hilarious children's author with his new book series...

"Hamish and the Worldstoppers" was the brilliant children's chapter book debut for Danny. What would you do if you woke up one morning to find that the entire world had stopped. I mean REALLY stopped. People frozen in place, planes frozen in mid air. Not exactly a run of the mill day for young Hamish Ellerby, who soon finds he's not alone in wondering just what the heck is going on.

Joining his friends, Hamish discovers that the nefarious deed has been undertaken by the mysterious Worldstoppers and their horrid allies, the Terribles. If there's one thing they hate more than people it's tiny child-sized people (well, children!) which is truly terrible news for Hamish and friends. Will they ever be able to set the world to rights?

Snortingly hilarious and thoroughly gripping, "Hamish and the World Stoppers" (with illustrations by Jamie Littler) is available now from Simon and Schuster.

Here's a wee trailer to give you a heads up on the world of Hamish...! (Skip past the boring ad!)

And if you can't get enough Hamish...

Just released (11th Feb) is the stunning follow-up to "Worldstoppers". "Hamish and the Neverpeople" introduces a whole new menace that threatens the good people of this fair planet.

Huge clanking monsters are roaming the streets, controlled by a shadowy figure lurking in a newly constructed tower of doom.

Hamish and the other members of the PDF have no choice but to once again band together to save the world's fourth most boring town (Starkley) and the rest of the planet (if they really must!)

Danny Wallace's brilliant comic creations are back in the hotly anticipated new book, once again with awesome illustrations from Jamie Littler.

You can pick up "Hamish and the Neverpeople" from all good bookstores and it's out RIGHT NOW published by Simon and Schuster.

Phew! Reviewing books is surprisingly exhausting. We could do with a lovely city break in a gorgeous hotel. How about it Mr Badger?

Leigh Hobbs' awesomely funny character Mr Badger is the star of his own series of books, as he takes care of The Boubles Grand Hotel. There's never a dull moment, so it's a good job Mr Badger loves his job.

In "The Big Book of Mr Badger" you get not one but FOUR Mr Badger stories collected together in a nice big satisfyingly thick paperback. "Mr Badger and the Big Surprise", "Mr Badger and the Magic Mirror", "Mr Badger and the Difficult Duchess" and "Mr Badger and the Missing Ape" (our fave!) are tucked between the covers so you can read them one at a time, or just splurge out on the whole collection in one delicious booky gulp! YUM!

Leigh's brilliant creation is perfect for fans of hilarious stories, it seems Mr Badger is never far away from chaos!

"The Big Book of Mr Badger" is available now from Allen and Unwin Publishing.

One final book for this month's roundup and though it's not out until April it'll give you plenty of time to go and find a box of tissues, you're going to need them...

Amber Lee Dodd's incredibly moving and involving "We Are Giants" is the story of Sydney and her awesome mum. Sydney's mum Amy may only be 124cm tall (the perfect height, in Sydney's opinion) but she's a complete superhero. Sydney's dad died when she was very young but Mum has coped admirably, despite her diminutive size.

When Mum, Sydney and her big sister Jade are forced to move home, a whole new school means difficult times ahead as both Sydney and Jade cope with new friends, new enemies and the tricky business of growing up.

This book will have you well and truly hooked from the opening chapter and if you're anything like as big a softy as me, you will be sobbing into your hankie for most of it. It's a truly wonderful and touching book that doesn't shy away from some important and sensitive issues. We loved it to bits! "We Are Giants" is released in early April from Quercus Books.

Alas, that's all we've got time for in our February roundup. Now we're covering more full reviews of chapter books you'll see a few less in the roundups but a few more in big and proper reviews. Tune in next month to see what else fetches up on our shores as we once again dig deep into all things chaptery and booky for March.
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7 more tips to help you become an awesome book blogger - a ReadItDaddy Editorial

This week's editorial has been inspired by awesome Zoe over at Playing By The Book - a book blog that sets the bar higher than high for the rest of us lowly blogger folk to follow.

Zoe has put together an awesome list of tips on how to become a successful book blogger for Quarto Kids, so stop by that post and have a read...!

Cheekily I thought I'd follow up Zoe's post with a few musings and observations of my own. We've been doing this for 6 years so perhaps some of our collected wisdom might help you get a great start in book blogging too.

1) Libraries are awesome - use them! 

The number one tip I'd give anyone thinking about starting a book blog of any kind, whether for kids, adults, MG or YA, is to get your butt down to your local library and make use of their generous loans. Most libraries will let you borrow ARMFULS of childrens books at a time. This is how we started, and we still dip into our local library from time to time to seek out books that are out of print, books that fall outside our catchment zone from generous publishers sending us awesome stuff to review, and of course there's no better place to hunt down brilliant non fiction than a library, is there?

2) Get the kids involved otherwise what's the point?

Book bloggers are fantastic folk who give up their own spare time to discuss books, in some cases rate them, and in the majority of cases give some useful feedback straight from the mouths of the ones who really matter when it comes to children's books - their kids! The last one is vitally important really, because there's no better feedback for an author or illustrator than hearing direct from their target audience that a book is ace (or poo).

Children give great and quite often brutally honest opinions and you know if you get a firm thumbs up from them, you are definitely on the right track. It doesn't take much effort to make some mental notes when you're reading books to them, with them or getting some feedback from them on what they're reading independently - use that in your posts and they'll rock!

3) Be aware of what you are, and don't let it go to your head. 

Congratulations! You are now a bona fide book blogger. You are one of several million individuals on the planet who use their spare time to write about books, but always be aware of what you are. Rocking up to a book launch or festival, swanning in with your entourage and expecting everyone to instantly know you and know of your blog is (from an outsider's viewpoint) quite amusing to watch. By all means if you have the chance to introduce yourself to an author or illustrator, do so with a bit of humility and if possible let them lead the conversation a bit. If they haven't heard of your blog or haven't seen your 5 star review of their latest work, don't be offended because the chances are that seldom few authors will ever see what you write. Likewise, don't make a pest of yourself on social media - it's a very quick way to getting blocked by that person if you think tweeting every single review directly at them is going to win them over.

4) See other book bloggers as friends as colleagues, not as "The Competition"

Everyone - and I do mean everyone - has a different approach to book blogging. Some people have tons of time to devote to beautifully crafted and lengthy missives with full illustrations and photographs of the books they cover. Some (like us) keep things punchy and direct (mostly because this isn't anywhere near a 'day job' and never will be!)

Ultimately though there's room for everyone and all the myriad different approaches they take. Visiting other people's blogs, making comments, joining in with blogging communities and networking with other book bloggers is actually a huge part of the 'reward' and you will meet some truly wonderful folk through book blogging. So never try to see it as a race to see who can get content out first, who can nab an author exclusive or who can attain the most books without their house bursting apart. You'll definitely earn a lot more respect from your readers and fellow bloggers.

5) Take time off

We're our own worst enemies when it comes to this one but now and again you do need to step back and just enjoy books for the sake of enjoying them. There's nothing worse than sitting there in a panic about a review schedule and a whole stack of unread and unreviewed books. Take time to enjoy what you and your children read and for goodness sake, don't start getting stressed about the things you haven't done - be proud of what you have done instead!

6) Don't be afraid to reinvent your blog in tune with the way your children's reading tastes change as they grow up

Some bloggers have a distinctive blogging 'voice' which fits with the type of books they review but there's definitely nothing wrong with changing that voice from time to time. It's always a good idea to give your blog a spring clean, to freshen things up and (if possible) to hire an awesome illustrator to come up with new headers and logos to really spruce things up. Likewise it's always a good idea to accurately reflect your own children's reading tastes and how they change - particularly if you want to ensure your blog is shouting from the rooftops in their voices rather than yours.

7) Last but by no means least - Love what you do and if you don't, stop doing it!

Seems like the most no-brainer advice in the world but if your children no longer want to contribute to your blog, and you find it all a bit of a drag, stop doing it. There's nothing worse than reading a blog that smacks of someone merely copying and pasting press releases into a post, lazily slapping an image on it and calling it a day. People will visit a book blog for advice, for your opinion and sometimes (and again this is something lost on a lot of bloggers) to ultimately be entertained by what you write. Use your mouthpiece effectively but if you find the whole thing a chore, that'll show up in your writing and switch people off.

There you go - 7 more nuggets of useful info if you're considering starting up your book blog. We'd love to hear from anyone just starting out so do drop us a comment if you can!

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MULP: Sceptre of the Sun Volume 1 and 2 by Matt Gibbs and Sara Dunkerton (Improper Books)

A riotous and action packed anthropomorphic mouse adventure amongst the pyramics? Time for MULP by Matt Gibbs and Sara Dunkerton...
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Wednesday 24 February 2016

Chicken Nugget by Michelle Robinson and Tom McLaughlin (Picture Puffin)

It's not easy being a tiny little chick, as Nugget (the adorable hero of today's story) finds out. How can a tiny fluffball possibly be brave?

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Catch up with two more cracking adventures with fabulous girl detective Lottie Lipton! Excitement, adventure and puzzling in two new awesome books!

We're completely hooked on Lottie Lipton's adventures in the awesome series of mystery chapter books written and illustrated by Dan Metcalf. Previously we've read and enjoyed Lottie's first two outings - "Secrets of the Stone" and "The Curse of the Cairo Cat". Lottie's next two adventures are now available, so get your magnifying glass and hieroglyphics-decoding notebook and be prepared for excitement, adventure, puzzling and suspense. We love these books because they're completely absorbing and atmospheric, and Charlotte loves them because we often call her Lottie - and she'd definitely love to imagine herself as a puzzle solving girl detective herself!

In "The Egyptian Enchantment" Lottie and her slightly dotty but hugely knowledgable Uncle Bert are once again taking a look at some intriguing new exhibits at The British Museum.

Lottie inadvertently causes complete chaos when she reads a mysterious spell out loud, and brings to life a whole gang of Egyptian Shabtis - throwing the museum into complete disarray.

What is a Shabti, I hear you ask...

Egyptian Shabtis. Tiny little ornamental figures often buried alongside mummies
They're tiny little figurines and they love nothing better than causing trouble. Lottie, her Uncle and Reg the Caretaker must track those mysterious and mischievous little figures down before the whole museum is completely destroyed!

"The Egyptian Enchantment" is available now.

The fourth title in Lottie's adventure series is "The Scroll of Alexandria" which may just prove to be Lottie's trickiest case yet!

This time, the British Museum's precious ancient book collection is under threat as the unscrupulous head Curator of the Museum, Sir Trevelyan Taylor, wants to sell off these precious assets to the highest bidder.

The Scroll of Alexandria is vital - as it describes just why those books must stay exactly where they are. Is Sir Trevelyan quite what he seems, and what will happen if those books fall into the wrong hands and are removed from the museum forever!

Egyptian scrolls were often filled with beautiful and detailed illustrations as well as Hieroglyphics

It's up to Lottie to track down the scroll and save the day!

"The Scroll of Alexandria" is available now. Both books are published by A & C Black Childrens and Educational Books.

(Kindly sent to us for review by A & C Black)

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Tuesday 23 February 2016

The Perfect Tree by Chloe Bonfield (Running Press Kids)

A beautifully written folk tale with awesome illustrations and a good solid stoat-oak-hearted message to convey? Perfect indeed!
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"...and then" by Gabriel Alborozo (Child's Play)

It's not easy being an older sibling. I should know, having both a younger sister (4 years younger) and a younger brother (10 years younger) who both exhibited some distinctly squid-like behaviour during their formative years...

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Monday 22 February 2016

Cat's Colours by Airlie Anderson (Child's Play)

Sometimes the simplest ideas can be turned into the most charming and wonderful children's books...
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ReadItDaddy's YA Review Roundup - "Porcelain - A Gothic Fairy Tale" by Benjamin Read and Chris Wildgoose (Improper Books)

We're taking a dip into YA waters with a couple of fantastic graphic novels from Improper Books.

Just in case you've no idea who Improper Books are, they're the publishers of some of the most original and stunning comics, graphic novels and children's books on the planet. We've previously reviewed the awesome "Night Post" by Benjamin Read and Laura Trinder, and this talented collective have been busily working away on new titles to dazzle your socks off.

"Porcelain - A Gothic Fairy Tale" is the first of Improper Books' YA titles I've taken a look at, and I had to let Charlotte sit this one out as it's really not suitable for children. However, if you've got a surly teen sitting at home who rather likes graphic novels, they're in for a bit of a treat.

"Porcelain" book 1 introduces Child, a scruffy street urchin who hangs around with a collective of miscreants under the control of a bit of an artful dodger wannabe.

"Child" is sent over the wall of a mysterious old house to see if she can nab anything valuable. Tales tell that folk who trespass in the garden are never seen again, and Child soon discovers why...

Just before she's dismembered by two mysterious beasts, a man appears and chastises her for trespassing in his garden. Using her street-smarts and charm, Child manages to convince the kindly old man that she's lost and hungry, and before long begins a strange friendship as "Child" and "Uncle" bond over their shared loneliness.

The kindly old man isn't a wizard, as first suspected, but an expert alchemist, able to bring porcelain forms to life through dark magic.

Child is like the daughter he and his late wife never had, and soon Uncle begins to share his secrets and creations with Child, even instructing her on the art of animating these porcelain automata herself - with one house rule laid down at the outset. Child is forbidden to enter one locked room in the house.

Secrets never stay secret for very long, and curious children can't keep a promise. Child soon discovers Uncle's powers are only part of what makes the mysterious china models move...

This first book in an eventual 5-book series (I've also read Book 2 - Bone China - which I'll be bringing to you as another YA review very soon) was gripping from start to finish. Essences of Phillip Pullman's "Dark Materials" and a goodly dose of Dickensian quirkiness mask an obsidian black heart, and a darkly delicious tale of two distinctly different characters somehow drawn together by their own personal curiosities and fallibilities. Child with her quest to be someone better, someone whose voice can be heard and recognised, and Uncle with his thirst for necromantic knowledge and a deep-seated need to replace his long lost loved ones with companions that will last forever.

As I mentioned, "Porcelain" isn't suitable for children but it's hugely intelligently written, with the sort of setting I just find it impossible to resist with its mixture of storytelling magic and steampunk overtones lifting it to lofty heights.

Brilliant writing as ever from Benjamin Read, with truly stunning art from Chris Wildgoose, we told you a while back that Improper Books were a publisher to keep a very beady eye on and we weren't wrong...!

"Porcelain: A Gothic fairy Tale" is available now from Improper Books (in printed and digital formats)

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Friday 19 February 2016

ReadItDaddy's Second Book of the Week - Week Ending 19th February 2016 - "Mr Horton's Violin" by Wenhua Wang, Amann Wang and Yu Yan Chen (Balestier Press)

This may well be a first - our Second Book of the Week shares author, artist, translator and publisher with our first - they were both way too good for us to pick just one...
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ReadItDaddy's First Book of the Week - Week Ending 19th February 2016 - "The Chief Cellist" by Wenhua Wang, Amann Wang and Yu Yan Chen (Balestier Press)

Balestier Press have impressed the socks off us with their initial releases, taking the very best books from Taiwan and bringing them to a western audience. Our first Book of the Week this week is the stunning "The Chief Cellist"
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Thursday 18 February 2016

Age ratings, space and the humble potato - A frustrating week! (A ReadItDaddy Editorial)

This week's editorial has been inspired by a few things and dips back into a subject that STILL bakes the hell out of my spuds every time it crops up.

Age ratings for books.

Yes, I know, by now you're probably inwardly groaning and expecting some long drawn out rant about compartmentalisation and pigeonholing but stay put, there is a point to this ramble and it might even help other parents make the right decisions about what they let their kids read.

The first thing that inspired this post was seeing a girl probably about 3-4 years older than Charlotte reading Andy Weir's excellent book "The Martian". Obviously with the movie just hitting DVD / Blu Ray, it may have been that this girl had seen the movie and wanted to fill in the gaps by reading the book. The movie carries a 12 rating, probably quite rightly so because of some distinctly icky bits early on when Mark Watney is coping with a particularly nasty injury - and later in the movie when Mark uses some pretty colourful language (mostly edited but best to err on the side of caution).

It got me thinking. My girl loves space, she loves reading about and seeing anything to do with Space and NASA and she's also beginning to develop a real love of science fiction. In some ways, "The Martian" would be as utterly enthralling and absorbing to her as it is to me - and yet I couldn't let her near it at the moment purely because the novel also features the colourful language and some pretty gnarly descriptions of Watney's day to day life.

Most of all there's the concept that - unless you're a big poophead of a spoiler and give away the ending to your child - they won't know Watney's fate (and let's face it, even if you DO know what happens in the end, you're going to want to experience the highs and lows of this fantastic story yourself). Dealing with death is still seen as something we should shield children from as much as possible, probably quite rightly so but it would have made one hell of a talking point in this particular case.

So there it will sit on the shelf (in both book and movie form) until she's 'old enough' - whenever that is.

The second part of what inspired this blog post was something I should probably get a bit of a rap across the knuckles for and again goes into 'age rating' territory. Remember Gilbert Sheldon's most awesome moggy creation "Fat Freddy's Cat"? Stupidly I have a copy of the anthology collection kicking around at home. To all intents and purposes it looks like a nice colourful comic collection, and alas Madame C got hold of it and read right through. The bit that my wife took objection to was actually a strip about Freddy taking the cat to a 'therapist' who had decided that the best way to cure the cat's behavioural difficulties would be a good solid jolt of electricity!

Bear in mind that the strips are A) designed to be fantastical, hilarious and B) they're very much from an era when political correctness was a hitherto unknown phenomenon. I (quite rightly) got verbally chastised when Charlotte gleefully relayed this funny story to her mum and so another book gets put well and truly out of reach until...well she's old enough.

By no means is this a justification but it set me thinking back to being 8 years old and trying to remember the sort of things I'd read by then. I was an avid consumer of the newspaper - and if there's one thing that plays on the mind more than anything else, it's the harrowing and horrible stuff happening in the real actual world, sometimes right on your doorstep.

I also used to sneak a lot of books out of my relatives' bookcases. By 8 I'd read books by Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov but I'd also read books by James Herbert, Clive Barker and Stephen King. I also used to soak up any reading material about the paranormal or about mysterious phenomenon such as UFOs, Bigfoot, ghosts etc (in fact on the latter subject, the old Lion Methuen ghost collections were terrifying and actually designed for kids back in the 70s. I couldn't get enough of them!)

With my responsible parent head on, I'd hate for Charlotte to read or see anything age inappropriate. Sometimes it's extremely difficult to make that judgement call and it's definitely not a call to make on the basis of my own childhood (or anyone else's for that matter). My wife errs on the side of caution, with an almost 'Victorian' approach to what's acceptable so she quite rightly takes a very firm line on what Charlotte is exposed to (Not sure why "Mamma Mia" is largely ignored though - a happy singalong movie about mystery fatherhood with some fairly racy content in places, well racy by 8 year old standards anyway).

Back on point, age ratings still feel like something that you as a parent should individually assess and evaluate (and that puts a lot of faith and trust in your judgement - no small thing) so whenever the subject comes up it still jars that the insinuation is being made that you need a rubber stamped age rating on your reading or viewing material because without it, you could bring the author, the illustrator, the movie makers or the publisher to court and sue their rotten butts off (is that really the only reason we ever see a whiff of this stuff in the first place?)

Alright, we're almost there - I did warn you this might go on a bit. Here's another tangent to veer off on. What the heck is wrong with 8 year olds? No no, I don't mean the kids themselves, why are 8 year olds largely ignored as a whole age group when you look at the way children's books are broken up into age categories. You have birth to 3, 3 to 5, 5 to 7, 9-12 and from there onto YA.

See the gap? Where do 8 year olds fit in? Too old for picture books, seen as too young for middle grade? I see this time and again in book listings and publisher catalogues and it baffles the heck out of me.

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Hey Duggee - Cheer Up Pup! (Ladybird Books)

A new Ladybird range based on the hit "Hey Duggee" TV show has been launched, and we've been taking a look at "Cheer up, Pup!"

Duggee's tiny wee nephew Duggly has come for a visit. Duggly is a typical toddler, a bundle of raw energy who doesn't quite understand how to fit in with the Squirrel Club.

Duggly is very cute and funny but he doesn't always know how to enjoy quiet moments, he's not very careful when he plays with other people's toys, and he makes the most incredible smells. EESH! Can Duggee's friends help Duggly fit in and have fun, perhaps even earning themselves their Puppy Badges in the process?

Bold, colourful and full of the sort of humour and hilarity that tiny toddlers will love. Check out the rest of the Hey Duggee range on the Ladybird Website.

Charlotte's favourite bit: Time for a nappy change Duggly. Peeee-ewwww!

Daddy's favourite bit: Funny and full of bright colourful characters and bold illustrations. It's a cracking little book for tiddlers, check out Duggly's full range of stories to compliment the TV show.

(Kindly sent to us for review by Ladybird Books)

"Hey Duggee - Cheer Up Pup!"

Published by Ladybird Books

Publication Date: 4th February 2016
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Wednesday 17 February 2016

Chinese New Year celebrations continue with two utterly fabulous new dual-language books - "The Story of the New Year Beast" and "Naughty Monkey" from Snowflake Books

It's the Year of the Monkey and as Chinese New Year continues, we've been looking at two brilliant books from a publisher new to us.

Snowflake Books are Oxfordshire-based and publish some truly stunning dual language books. We have been enjoying "Naughty Monkey" by Xue Lin and Zhan Zhi Qui, which tells the traditional tale of the King of the Monkeys. This mischievous giant monkey hears tales of a race involving all the animals of the ancient world. The Chinese New Years will be named for each of the animals with the first year honour going to the winner of the race.

Monkey puts aside his tricks and mischief to go all-out to win the race, but when he loses, Monkey becomes angry and causes even more chaos and devastation than before!

Will Monkey ever learn from his mistakes when he's captured and chained to the bottom of the river?

"Naughty Monkey" feels instantly fresh and original to folk who may not have been lucky enough to have encountered the original traditional Chinese stories, and it's absolutely fantastic to see the range in dual-language so children can begin to learn the shapes and pronunciation of key words in the tale.

There's also a bonus that this lavish hardback book comes with an accompanying CD so children can enjoy an entertaining retelling of the tale as well.

There's more Chinese New Year storytelling in the next book we're taking a look at. Written again by Xue Lin but this time illustrated by Jin Jie Ye, "The Story of The New Year Beast" tells the tale of a huge and angry monster that descends from the mountains every new year to devour the entire village's supplies.

The villagers have had enough - and with the aid of a mysterious old man they formulate a plan to repel the beast and thus we learn why firecrackers are set off every Chinese New Year - to ward off evil spirits and ring in the new year in style!

Once again the story comes accompanied with a story CD and dual language text in both English and Mandarin to help children learn key phrases and words.

Luscious and colourful artwork (as with "Naughty Monkey") means that even the youngest readers will love these fantastic books.

You can find out more about both "Naughty Monkey" and "The Story of the New Year Beast" on the Snowflake Books website. Both are out now in Hardback.

Charlotte's favourite bit: When the giant monkey rises from the deep after being released by a fisherman.

Daddy's favourite bit: Both books are superb quality, beautifully presented written and illustrated and it's such a fantastic idea to give children interesting and fresh stories to help them learn some core language skills.

(Kindly sent to us for review by Snowflake Books)

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Violet and the Pearl of the Orient by Harriet Whitehorn and Becka Moor (Simon and Schuster Children's Books)

We don't mind doing things in entirely the wrong order, so here we are delving into Book one of the awesome "Violet" series with "Violet and the Pearl of the Orient" by Harriet Whitehorn and Becka Moor.

Violet Remy-Robinson and her cat Pudding (short for Sticky Toffee Pudding) live in a rather lovely house overlooking a shared space where all the children love to play (and, ahem, a certain madam likes to get into trouble climbing trees she shouldn't be climbing).

The community is joined by new neighbours, a haughty pair of duplicitous (hehe) ne-er do wells and their daughter whose nose-in-the-air attitude masks a rather more sinister agenda.

Violet's beloved neighbour, a faded Hollywood starlet with the racy name of Dee Dee Derota often entertains Violet with tea and cakes, and the most wonderful stories of her acting life. But Dee Dee's prized heirloom has been stolen - the fabulous (and ridiculously valuable) Pearl of the Orient.

Can Violet (with a little help from her best friend Rose) piece together the clues and catch the criminals?

We've been thoroughly impressed with this series, featuring a smart girl detective and a whole plethora of fascinating characters. Charlotte loves the idea that a girl not much older than her could actually be a super-sleuth and solve crimes with just her brain and not a smidge of a super-power in sight.

We also both loved the way the story barely catches breath with fast-paced action, page-turning cliffhangers and moments of delicious suspense and of course some fabulous inline illustrations from one of our tweet-faves Becka Moor, who just completely nails the characterisations of everyone involved (and their favourite foods - which of course say a lot about a person, don'tcha know!)

We'll be catching up with Violet's brand new adventure - "Violet and the Smugglers" very very soon indeed. We really can't wait!

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Tuesday 16 February 2016

3,2,1...Draw! Reimagine your world with 50 drawing activities By Serge Bloch (Wide Eyed Editions)

If someone said "What items would you take to a desert island" we'd probably have to include pencils and paper in our survival kit...
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Monday 15 February 2016

We Just Had a Baby by Stephen Krensky and Amelie Graux (Capstone / Curious Fox Books)

Sibling love or fierce rivalry? A hilarious look at what happens when a new sprog joins the family in "We Just Had a Baby!"
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Friday 12 February 2016

ReaditDaddy's Book(s) of the Week - Week Ending 12th February 2016 - "Little People, Big Dreams: Coco Chanel / Frida Kahlo" by Isabel Sanchez Vegara, Ana Albero and Gee Fan Eng (Frances Lincoln Children's Books)

Our two book of the week winners this week come from the same range and the same author, with two talented illustrators bringing you a fabulous life story of two amazing women...
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Thursday 11 February 2016

Two cool new titles jump onto shelves from Hodder Children's Books this Spring for tiny animal lovers everywhere...

Hodder Children's Books are releasing some really gorgeous books early in 2016 and we've been lucky enough to take a look at two contrasting little corkers, ahead of the spring release schedules.

First up, emerging with a roar, a meow and a big ducky quack is "Quick Quack Quentin" arriving on February 11th, by the dream team of Kes Gray and Jim Field.

Quentin is a duck with a problem. He's lost his "A" - which doesn't sound too serious to you and I, but leaves Quentin only able to utter a sad forlorn "Quck"

Quentin soon meets other animals, who realise how lost they'd be without their vowels too...!

It's only a tiny little letter but it is so important!
It's a fun animal-filled romp through the English language as Quentin's quest emerges in the pages of this hugely funny and original book. Look out for "Quick Quack Quentin" by Kes Gray and Jim Field,  it's on shelves today!

You'll have to wait until March 1st for the next book - but it will be worth the wait...

"Little One" is the touching and beautifully inspirational story of a mother bear and her cub, as this gentle lullaby of a story takes us through the seasons, seen through the eye of these two lovely bears.

Jo's gentle storytelling through amazing illustrations makes this a hugely immersive and engaging little story for your busy tinies as they wind down at the end of the day and are tucked up warm like little bear cubs in bed.

"Little One" explores the relationship between mother and child, and is obviously a shoe-in for a brilliant booky gift ahead of Mother's Day.

Look out for "Little One" by Jo Weaver on March 1st 2016. Both books are published in Hardback by Hodder Children's Books.
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"You've got the perfect face for radio" and why nerdy book blogging dads probably shouldn't do TV - A ReadItDaddy Editorial

Don't get me wrong! It was nice to be asked!

A weird thing happened this week when a lovely PR person wanted to get in touch by phone to arrange an appearance on BBC's "The One Show".

Let that sentence trickle down into your visual imagination for a second if you will...

A portly potato-headed mumbling scruffbag of a dad sitting on a very uncomfortable-looking sofa with Matt Baker and er...wotsherface on live TV in front of, oh, dozens of viewers.

I've known sheer terror. I've been in a car crash and experienced what it's like to be trapped in a glorified tin box rolling along an ice-covered road, tumbling over and over like a demented arctic roll before landing - completely wrecked - on its wheels (I only remember one thing about the aftermath of the crash. Quietly turning off the ignition and stepping out of the wreck, somehow miraculously escaping with a scratch on one ear and a bitten tongue).

The noise is one of the most terrifying aspects of a car crash as well as the anticipation of injury or death, and I heard that noise again as I read the short paragraph and pictured the scene if A) I was crazy enough to do this and B) more practically, if I had TIME to do this. Thankfully B meant A never really spun up its motors and so I politely declined.

The lovely PR person persisted, offering an interview on Radio Oxford to talk about books. Now, this is slightly closer to being a possibility but again potato-headed mumbling scruffbag dad (with the perfect face for radio, I think even my mum would agree) would have to somehow turn wildly enthusiastic "talking ten to the dozen" speech into something coherent that explains to the listeners just why we love books so much that we can't stop writing about them, and why reading with your children (even at Charlotte's age) is vitally important.

When writing about books, I can stop and think about the point I'm trying to make. Blogging offers a comfortable buffer between the idle thought processes of a forty-something bird brain and the imparting of experience or (meagre) knowledge about the subject at hand.

It also goes without saying that this isn't a one-man show either. Doing any sort of interview or press without Charlotte would feel a bit of a cheat, because this blog comes from her as much as it does from me. Her reaction to books, her choices for book of the week, her changing tastes and views on what we see and most importantly her view on why she loves books so much and has come to think of reading as a pleasurable pursuit rather than a chore.

I wonder if it's even at all possible to distil and summarise why reading with your children is important, without sounding like some twee smug middle-class idiot.

It seems so obvious to me, that I can't even begin to put myself in the mindset of someone who doesn't feel it's important and doesn't understand why it's important. I just can't do it.

I don't think I know anyone who could fail to grasp the link between children who are engaged in reading for pleasure from an early age, and a rapid development in their language skills, comprehension or knowledge of the world around them, not to mention having one of the coolest ways to spend a few hours that doesn't involve mindlessly grinding through some poxy free-to-play tablet game or getting your brain sucked out of your ear by some worthless slice of televisual entertainment.

How could I possibly sit in front of anyone (whether it's a TV audience, a radio audience and presenter or you standing in front of me) and put it any better than that in mumble-o-speak? I doubt I could. But heck, it was very nice to be asked.

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Violet and the Hidden Treasure (Violet Book 2) by Harriet Whitehorn and Becka Moor (Simon and Schuster Children's Books)

Fashionably late to the part, we catch up with Violet Remy-Robinson's second adventure in this intriguing search for hidden loot...
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Wednesday 10 February 2016

Sleeping Handsome and the Princess Engineer by Kay Woodward and Jo De Ruiter (Curious Fox Books)

There's a rather neat set of books being published over at Curious Fox, and it's time to catch up with one superb story turning the traditional princess and prince roles on their heads...
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Tuesday 9 February 2016

Alan's Big Scary Teeth by Jarvis (Walker Books)

Meet Alan. He's big, he's scary, he's green and he has a huge sharp-toothed grin. But Alan has a terrible, terrible secret. Dare you discover it in "Alan's Big Scary Teeth" by Jarvis...?
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Monday 8 February 2016

Bears Make the Best Reading Buddies by Carmen Oliver and Jean Claude (Capstone / Curious Fox Books)

Reading for pleasure is always FAR more fun when you've got a buddy in tow? Who makes the best reading buddy?...
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Beep Beep Beep Time for Sleep by Claire Freedman and Richard Smythe (Simon and Schuster Children's Books)

A busy and fantastic little book for your digger-obsessed boys  and girls? Let's take a look at "Beep Beep Beep, Time for Sleep" by Claire Freedman and Richard Smythe...
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Saturday 6 February 2016

Joining in an everso brilliant Blog Tour for a very special porky pal, we celebrate Emer Stamp's utterly awesome new book "The Seriously Extraordinary Diary of Pig"

We're very honoured to be joining in a fab book blog tour for Emer Stamp's wonderful creation, the happy go lucky and awesomely super "Pig"

Pig is getting a bit of an old hand (or should that be old ham? Oh you bet we're going to be wheeling out every piggy pun we can think of!) at keeping a diary of his rather amazing adventures. Who'd think that a fairly ordinary porker could lead such a frantic and adventure-filled life?

Back in the mists of time, I read "The Unbelievable Top Secret Diary of Pig" to Charlotte, and it was such a huge hit that she's read it many, many times since. In the first book, Pig falls foul of some rather horrible chickens who seem intent on ridding the farm of pig for good. If you're new to Emer's Pig stories you really should dig, the first book is pigging brilliant!

As well as nefarious and evil chickens, pig comes up with an awesome plan for a rather strange mode of transport - a tractor rocket, fuelled by the most natural (and probably the pongiest) fuel ever. We'll leave you to find out what that is (ew!!!)

In the mists of time, we seem to have lost touch with our favourite porcine but his adventures continued and Book 2, "The Super Amazing Adventures of Me, Pig" introduces a new friend for Pig to go on crazy adventures with. Kitty is a vegetarian cat, and the two become firm friends while living on Pig's new farm (with two vegetarian farmers who aren't in danger of fancying a round of bacon, very luckily for Pig!)

However, not everything on the farm is rosy. Duck warns Pig that Kitty may not be the perfect purring feline she seems, and may have her own sneaky plans in hand - for getting pig into some SERIOUS trouble!

Now Pig is back! In "The Seriously Ordinary Diary of Pig", Pig, Duck, Cow and the Sheeps are far away from home but never far away from danger as they go on a rambunctious expedition. Expect mischief, mayhem, plops, squelches and complete craziness as Pig once again chronicles his adventures in a whole new diary.

I've often said that any book series that can make Charlotte genuinely cackle with glee is always going to be a huge win and Emer Stamp's fabulous characterisations are fab to read aloud (though nowadays, Charlotte is more likely to snatch the books out of my hand with a whoop of glee, and closet herself away until she's voraciously read through the lot!).

"The Top Secret Diary of Pig", "The Super Amazing Adventures of Me, Pig" and the latest fabulous book "The Seriously Extraordinary Diary of Pig" are available from Scholastic Publishing with the third book just released (4th February). Go geddem, piggy fans!
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Friday 5 February 2016

ReadItDaddy's Second Book of the Week - Week Ending 5th February 2016 - "DC Comics: Secret Hero Society - Study Halls of Justice" by Derek Fridolfs and Dustin Nguyen (Scholastic)

Our second book of the week this week could be the answer to something we've wanted for a LONG time. A fantastic way for middle-graders to get the inside track on comic heroes the rest of us love, without insulting their intelligence...

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ReadItDaddy's First Book of the Week - Week Ending 5th February 2016 - "Don't Call Me Choochie Pooh" by Sean Taylor and Kate Hindley (Walker Books)

I love any book that makes Charlotte cackle with glee, just like our first Book of the Week this week - "Don't Call Me Choochie Pooh" by Sean Taylor and Kate Hindley...
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Thursday 4 February 2016

Bye bye board books and picture books. The perils of an ever-evolving book blog (and daughter!) - A ReadItDaddy Editorial

I remember last summer at the Walker Books blogger event meeting lots of other lovely book blogging folk and, with them, pondering over a question that (sadly) will come to you all eventually if you write and blog about children's books.

Picture the scene. Your little ones aren't so little any more. Once, where their faces were all aglow at the prospect of reading through a picture book, or gnawing steadily on the corner of a well-loved board book, they're now reading on their own and they don't want any of that 'baby book' stuff.


You, of course, still love picture books and are still as enthusiastic about them as you were the first day you hit the 'submit' button on your first blog post. But without a willing partner (or partners) in crime, does your book blog lose its relevance almost overnight?

Over the course of the last year, Charlotte has changed so much - not just physically and mentally but also in her tastes in just about everything.

Long gone are the pink princessy things (hooray!), put aside for more geeky and science-ey pursuits (which actually fills me with such pride and delight that I just can't tell you how great it is not to have to wade through a sea of taffeta doll's clothes just to make my way across the living room floor).

Gone also are the majority of picture books, either stashed away to eventually pass on to Charlotte's new little cousins, or in some rare cases, kept just because I can't bear to part with them myself.

You see, as tough as it sounds, few book bloggers out there can claim to live in a mansion filled with children's books from floor to ceiling in every room that they lovingly pore over and read regularly. Physically storing books is tougher than it sounds (and anyone who's had to lug 262 books - like we recently did - to donate to a local charity can vouch for how heavy those books are and how much room they take up!)

It's an extremely fortunate position to be in (we know exactly just how lucky we are, don't you worry!), but it also leaves us with a quandary. What happens as Madame Charlotte progresses onto middle grade - and largely chapter book - material for her reading choices. Suddenly our book cases are filled with smaller books (hooray!) but this also means that the way we review books has had to change too, and for the first time since the blog started up we've turned books down because there's no way we'd be able to do them justice, alas.

Nowadays, discussions over breakfast usually revolve around a new chapter book, so in some ways it's actually become easier to review books (though Charlotte always gets to them first, and I get to follow up with a blitz through myself just to get the gist of what she's talking about).

It is a funny feeling though, to look longingly at our copies of Barbapapa or Grandad Island, or any number of other utterly essential children's books that we can't bear to part with and realise that Charlotte now wants to read stuff by middle grade mainstays like Frank Cotterell Boyce and Harriet Whitehorn (Pearl! What a genius creation!) and so many, many other middle grade and early teen superstars

The whole transitional change-thing was further highlighted when one of the lovely PRs we've been in touch with regularly gently pointed out that we might want to come off their mailing lists as they predominantly deal with picture books and baby books.

My inner voice squealed with terror. We have loved their books so much in the past, how could we bear to let them go!

I'd really love to hear from other book bloggers who are going through this themselves and see if (like me) they're clinging on to reviewing picture books. We'll keep doing it, as long as Charlotte still cracks a wry grin at a particularly brilliant and original book (which, hooray, she still does!)

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I Am Bear by Ben Bailey Smith and Sav Akyuz (Walker Books)

Oh yes indeed! We DO love a cheeky book, a book that's not afraid to be a bit of an old saucepot. So come and meet a rather different bear!
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Dylan's Amazing Dinosaurs - The Triceratops by E.T. Harper and Dan Taylor (Simon and Schuster Children's Books)

We're very glad to see that this fab little series is still knocking it out of the park with some great dino tales. Let's get reacquainted with Dylan and his amazing Dinosaurs with one of our fave Dino species...
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Wednesday 3 February 2016

Pass It On by Sophy Henn (Picture Puffin)

Blog favourite Sophy Henn is back and she's taking a wee step back from bears to discover the joys of the world around us and all the things in it, big and small. Here's "Pass It On"...
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Blue and Bertie by Kristyna Litten (Simon and Schuster Children's Books)

One of the most beautiful children's books we've seen so far this year, and a touching tale of friendship in "Blue and Bertie" by Kristyna Litten...
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