Wednesday 31 August 2016

Dogs in Cars by Felix Massie and Emmanuelle Walker (Flying Eye Books)

With a whoop of glee and a happy honk of its horn, "Dogs in Cars" toots into town...
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The Road Home by Katie Cotton and Sarah Jacoby (Frances Lincoln Children's Books)

Did you know that books have voices? There's obviously the 'voice' you read out loud with. There's also the voice in your head as you read through silently in awe...
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Super Happy Magic Forest: Slug of Doom by Matty Long (OUP / Oxford Children's Books)

Oh my, if ever a book was perfectly tailored for our slightly bizarre sense of humour, it's definitely this one...
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ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book Roundup - August 2016

It feels weird typing about the end of the school summer holidays. At the start it felt like they'd stretch on forever but here we are nearing our favourite season (Autumn). But belay that, let's enjoy the last of the summer sunshine and of course a stack of brilliant brilliant books!

And here's a sunny fellah to kick off our August chapter book roundup. None other than "Captain Firebeard's School for Pirates" by Chae Strathie with illustrations by Anna Chernyshova.

A dream come true for us, an actual Pirate School that teaches its swashbuckling students all the important life skills they'll need to become a booty-hunting scourge of the seven seas.

The captain teaches plank-walking, sword fighting and of course the art of constructing a treasure map in this rollicking rip-roaring adventure specially for young chapter readers. It's a riot!

"Captain Firebeard's School for Pirates" is out now from Scholastic Publishing. Yarrr!

What be next? Er, I mean "What's up next?" (Sorry, it's difficult to shake that pirate twang sometimes!)

Blog favourite Holly Webb is back with a new animal series. "Furry Friends" kicks off with "Sophie's Squeaky Surprise".

Sophie is moving to a new school in a new country and isn't sure what she'll find. Soon she makes a vivacious new friend in the shape of a tutu-wearing macaroon-scoffing Guinea Pig named Josephine who introduces Sophie to all the amazing friends and places that are in her new neighbourhood.

Perfectly pitched again for early chapter readers, Holly's new series is funny and cute, and is sure to strike a chord with animal loving kids everywhere, particularly if they've got pet guinea pigs at home.

"Sophie's Squeaky Surprise (Furry Friends Book 1)" is out now from Scholastic Publishing.

We're sticking with animals for a moment, our favourite type of animal in fact in the sequel to a book that blew our socks off earlier this year. Hooray!

"Poppy's Place - Trouble at the Cat Cafe" is the second in the "Poppy's Place" series by Katrina Charman and Lucy Truman. Isla has finally managed to talk mum into setting up a cat cafe! This means that Isla gets to keep Poppy and Roo, the two rescue cats they adopted in the first book "The Home Made Cat Cafe".

But setting up a cafe takes a lot of work, and cats aren't exactly renowned for being a lot of help when it comes to painting and decorating (and they can't even make a mean espresso, I mean what's that about!)

As the huge list of jobs-to-do gets longer and longer, can the family rally together and make Isla's dream come true?

Funny, heartwarming and one of Charlotte's favourite books of the summer. Check out our review of "The Home Made Cat Cafe" to catch up with this fantastic series!

"Trouble at the Cat Cafe" is out now from Stripes Publishing.

Where to next, guv?

Time for a fantastic adventure and the first book in a new series that's absolutely going to amaze, entertain and make you love it to little bits...

"Ned's Circus of Marvels" by Justin Fisher is the first book in the "Neds Circus of Marvels" series. Introducing our hero Ned Waddlesworth who is a boy who, on turning 13 years old, discovers that the world is a far more magical place than he ever imagined.

All the fantasy stories and tales he's read turn out to be based on fact, and soon Ned is caught up in a grand adventure alongside a robot mouse, a girl witch and a flying circus par excellence ready to save the world from a whole horde of evil monsters and miscreants.

The story barely pauses to catch its breath as we're whisked along at breakneck pace without so much as a safety net. Justin's writing is both whimsical but page-turningly exciting as the book ends on such a cliffhanger you'll be BEGGING Justin to get cracking on Book 2 (which I'm assured he is in between frantic bouts of coffee drinking and sword swallowing).

"Ned's Circus of Marvels" was released on 30th June from HarperCollins Children's Books.

Good lord. We almost need a lie down after all that excitement but there's no letup. The next book is just my cup of tea. Dark, mysterious, dystopian and completely and utterly compelling...!

Caighlan Smith's "Children of Icarus" could well be the perfect replacement for those of you suffering from Hunger Games withdrawal.

In this darkly dystopian fantasy novel for older children, Clara has grown up with only one wish in life. To enter the mysterious labyrinth and prove her worth in the most dangerous and daunting challenge possible.

When she is chosen, she is ready to give it her all - but so is the girl who has dog-tailed her for her entire life. Together the two must enter the deadly maze and face challenges that will push them to the very limits, both physically and mentally.

Caighlan has designed an astonishingly scary and fascinating book world in this novel. Dipping into her background studying Greek mythology, this story feels so cinematic and impactive in the images it'll draw up in your mind that you'll start casting characters in your head for the movie (which, if there's any justice, will happen one day because this book is almost screaming out to be turned into a celluloid success!)

Taut, dark, quite scary in places but always utterly addictive. "Children of Icarus" was released on 14th July 2016 from Curious Fox.

Ooh here's an interesting book that absolutely gripped Charlotte - by one of our picture book heroes no less...

Neal Layton might be more familiar to our readers for his awesome illustrations for authors such as Cressida Cowell and for his own picture book creations, but here's Neal's first young reader title on a subject that's very much buzzing with us at the moment.

If your kids have been avidly following the exploits of Tim Peake aboard the ISS (as we have!) then they're going to love "The Invincible Tony Spears", the story of a young lad who is coping with the massive change of a new school and new home. When Tony discovers a hidden red button that transforms his kitchen into a spaceship named "The Invincible", Tony achieves his dream of travelling the cosmos. Of course, 'normal life' has a habit of interfering with the best laid plans of boy space adventurers. Will Tony be able to simultaneously save the galaxy AND get ready for school sports day?

An awesome read from start to finish with tons of funny illustrations from Neal. We're hoping this is just the start of a series of adventures for Tony!

"The Invincible Tony Spears" is out now from Hodder Children's Books.

Next, something that ties neatly in another great passion of ours - videogames!

Brian Hastings is a videogames developer working for one of the most accomplished teams in the business. Insomniac Games, developer of the awesome Ratchet and Clank games have put together a new game called "Song of the Deep" (which, by the way, looks utterly STUNNING) and alongside the game is a brilliant novella digging deeper into the story of Merryn, the girl who is on a quest to find her father, lost in the murky depths of the ocean.

Merryn''s story takes her on an epic adventure facing many foes and adversities as she takes her (adorable little) minisub down into the inky blackness, marvelling at the amazing sights and fighting off many perils as she explores, unlocking clues and mysteries her father once spoke of in lullabies.

As you'd expect from Brian, the story is moving and deep and fits beautifully as a backstory to the game. Merryn is definitely the sort of character we can wholly get behind, being a tough and determined little girl who loves her dad. No wonder Charlotte ate this one up!

"Song of the Deep" is released in Hardback on 4th August with paperback to follow in November, from Sterling Publishing.

Sci-fi for kids is always of huge interest to us so here's a fantastic new novel from best-selling author Tom (Origami Yoda) Angleberger and Paul Dellinger.

"Fuzzy" is the story of a rather special robot, part of a school integration programme for newly emerging AI.

Befriended by Maxine (Max) Zealster, Fuzzy finds life in 6th Grade anything but simple. Vanguard 1 Middle School is a tough place to survive even when you're NOT a robot, so Fuzzy will need all the help he can get.

A funny and exciting story, absolutely chock full of originality and fantastic moments, "Fuzzy" is definitely a sharp and witty read.

"Fuzzy" is out now from Abrams and Chronicle Books.

My goodness, our book bag is brimming this month so if you want more you'd better stay put...

This one isn't out until next month but it's been an utterly gripping read from the first page to the last so we really wanted to squeeze it into our August roundup...

Malcolm McNeill's "The Beginning Woods" starts off with a terrifying mystery. People keep vanishing into thin air. No word of warning, no cries of despair, just piles of clothes left behind and no clues as to what's happened.

The mystery can only be solved by a child who is desperate to find out what happened to his parents. Max must dig deep into the very fibre of his being to unpick the complicated strands of these mysterious disappearances. But first he must learn to enter an entirely different realm, a mysterious place known as "The Beginning Woods" where magic and terror await.

Malcolm has created a story world that is dark, scary but utterly addictive. A fabulous novel that fuses magic and mystery leaving you almost fearful of every page turn, but WOW what a book!

"The Beginning Woods" is out on September 1st from Pushkin Press. 

We're almost at the bottom of our bag but we can't resist talking about a book series that Charlotte completely adores. Though the paperback isn't published until late October you can nip out and grab the hardback NOW...

Rachel Renee Russell's "Dork Diaries" series has been a massive, massive hit with Charlotte and the latest book in the series "Dork Diaries: Puppy Love" sees Nikki in one heck of a sticky situation this time round.

Brandon (huge crush) finds that the dog shelter that he volunteers at is too full to take on a new litter of adorable puppies. Nikki rather thoughtfully offers to help, but have you ever tried to hide 7 playful noisy (and at times very stinky) puppies from your dog-hating mom? Worse, what happens when you need to go to school?

Once again ace dork Nikki finds herself completely out of her dork-depth and there's still the business of the school's obsession with Mackenzie (ARRRGH) to contend with. Life as a dork is never easy! Nor is puppy love of any kind!

Fabulously funny, and a huge hit with Charlotte. Get up to speed with Nikki and all things Dork. "Dork Diaries - Puppy Love" is out now in Hardback and 28th October in Paperback, from Simon and Schuster Children's Books.

Now here's a lady who recently guested on the blog, and wrote up a heck of a storm about her childhood holiday memories....

Candy Harper is one VERY funny lady (and you can go and read her guest post for us for the "Holiday Ha Ha Ha" Blog Tour here if you don't believe us!) Her "Strawberry Sisters" series popped into our book bag this month and we've both been laughing like drains (and 'awwing' a lot) at "Especially Amelia" and "Perfectly Ella".

In "Especially Amelia", Little Lucy has a scheme to get popular, but if you want to keep all your hair, you’d better not ask what it is.

Chloe’s facing the fight of her life and this time she can’t win it with her fists.

Ella would just like everyone to stop shouting so she can do her homework.

Then there’s Amelia. The moody big sister. Except Amelia’s decided to ditch the sulks and the sarcastic remarks. But that’s not so easy when your best friend is keeping secrets, your mum won’t even let you babysit and you’re terrified to do a solo in the school concert.

Amidst all the chaos, is Amelia ready to grow up and grab the spotlight?

In "Perfectly Ella" you'll meet the Strawberry Sisters. 

Oldest sister Amelia wants to be Left Alone to have deep thoughts, so she's grown a fringe to hide under.

Second up is Chloe who's sport-crazy and in training to be a wrestling star (this week anyway). 

Littlest sister Lucy is the cute one who's training an army of earwigs.

Then there's Ella. The middle one who's still trying to work out what makes her 'perfectly Ella' and how to stand out in a house full of big personalities.

And now there's a new Strawberry Sister. Baby Kirsti who lives with Dad and his Finnish girlfriend.

Along with her sisters and one very tired Mum who's struggling to keep it all together, Ella's small home is crammed with almost-finished homework, nearly-clean jumpers and a vampire bunny called Buttercup. 

With so much going on, life can sometimes feel totally crazy but the Strawberry sisters have a secret weapon against the craziness of the world they live in. Each other!

Candy's characters are somehow simultaneously larger than life, but you'll instantly 'know' an Ella or an Amelia, a Lucy or a Chloe when you read through these and laugh (and cry) along with their stories. Beautifully well observed, sharp, funny and bittersweet, very much the stuff that Charlotte craves at the moment so a huge huge hit for us!

"Perfectly Ella" and "Especially Amelia" are out now from Simon and Schuster Children's Books. 

Cor, have we really got room for any more? We can't miss out two new series from talented author Catherine Coe...

"The Owls of Blossom Wood" introduces us to the magical woodlands that transform Katie, Eva and Alex from young girls into magical owls!

Excited at their new-found abilities, the girls (or should we say owls!) are called upon by the animals of Blossom Wood to help save the magical Moon Chestnut Tree.

You'll soon discover that this is just the start of their adventures, as you'll also be able to enjoy six books in the "Owls of Blossom Wood" series. Check them out on Catherine's awesome website...!

In fact, I don't know how she does it but Catherine has also come  up with even more adventures in Blossom Wood, this time with our most favourite mythical creatures...!

"The Unicorns of Blossom Wood" features cousins Cora, Isabelle and Lei. The daring trio discover magical hoofprints on the ground, and before long they're also whisked off to Blossom Wood - not as girls but as Unicorns! (I think Charlotte was practically beside herself with glee at the idea of magically transforming into an owl or a unicorn but given the VERY TOUGH CHOICE of choosing just one, she opted for Unicorn!)

Once again the three enjoy many adventures, and the books feature awesome games and quizzes. Absolutely perfect, in fact we just don't know how Catherine does it, she's created such a brilliant set of adventures that are exciting and magical in equal measure.

With illustrations by Andrew Farley (covers) and Rene Kurilla (inside illustrations), these books are sure to be a huge hit if Charlotte's reaction is anything to go by.

Find out more about the Blossom Wood books on the website linked above. "The Owls of Blossom Wood" books are available now, with "The Unicorns of Blossom Wood" books arriving on September 1st 2016, published by Scholastic. 

Awesome stuff, I think we've magiced our book bag from full to empty. Tune in when we dive back into the book pile in September for another awesome book roundup!
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Tuesday 30 August 2016

The Wolf who Cried Boy by James O'Neill and Russell Ayto (Picture Corgi)

Taking a widely recognised tale and flipping it on its head is always a fab idea when it comes to children's stories...
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The Foolish King: A Secret History of Chess by Mark Price and Martin Brown (David Fickling Books)

Ah chess! If ever there was a game that takes a few hours to learn but can become a lifetime obsession, it's chess.
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Snail Mail by Sharon King-Chai (Hodder Children's Books)

Here's a great idea to get your little ones enthused about the art of letter writing. Dig into the postbag with "Snail Mail" by Sharon King-Chai...
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Monday 29 August 2016

Atlas of Animal Adventures by Rachel Williams, Emily Hawkins and Lucy Letherland (Wide Eyed Editions)

You don't need us to remind you that soon you'll be heading back to school, or indeed heading off to "big school" for the first time...
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The Star Tree by Catherine Hyde (Frances Lincoln Children's Books)

True picture book magic happens when a book can take you places in your imagination and in your mind that don't exist, but are utterly compelling. So it is with "The Star Tree" by Catherine Hyde, recently published by Frances Lincoln Children's Books.

As a child I was always drawn to books that created a world that I wanted to exist in, and it was nearly always a fantasy world, drawn from the imagination of the author or the artist and described in such a way that my childhood imagination took over the controls, and fully formed that world in my own head, often animated and often recalling sounds and other sensual cues to drag me right in.

"The Star Tree" achieves this beautifully. The story of Miranda who wakes one midsummer's eve at midnight, and is taken on a magical journey with a mysterious white owl, a tiny red hare, a brave white bear and a mysterious stag to The Star Tree.

Here, Miranda carefully plucks a single star from the tree as a keepsake, safely returning home again on the back of a fluffy white goose.

Reading this as a bedtime story seems to lend it even more atmosphere as Charlotte comfortably cuddled on my lap (thankfully she still fits in my lap for bedtime stories so I'm making the most of it) listened to the tale unfold and marvelled at the glorious dreamy illustrations that Catherine has worked into the story.

Would that I had the sort of lilting comforting soft voice that a book like this demands (I'd love to hear someone with a soft lilting Irish or Welsh accent reading this aloud).

Charlotte's best bit: She loves the tiny timid red hare and adored the dreamy swirly illustrations in this one.

Daddy's favourite bit: What a beautiful book. Perfect for bedtime dreamscapes and night time journeys around the capacious realm of your imagination.

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

"The Star Tree"

Written by Catherine Hyde

Published by Frances Lincoln Children's Books

Publication Date: 4th August 2016
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Friday 26 August 2016

ReadItDaddy's Second Book of the Week - Week Ending 26th August 2016 - "Home Lab: Exciting Experiments for Budding Scientists" by Robert Winston (Dorling Kindersley Publishing)

Our Second Book of the Week speaks to our inner science geeks. We really do love a grand experiment or two!
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ReadItDaddy's First Book of the Week - Week Ending 26th August 2016 - "The Dragon's Hoard - Stories from the Viking Sagas" by Lari Don and Cate James (Frances Lincoln Children's Books)

Our first Book of the Week this week collects together a stunning set of imaginative stories that are scintillating, exciting and hugely original...
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Thursday 25 August 2016

Turning ideas into stories is harder than you think - A ReadItTorial

Once again we're returning to the subject of stories after a few wibbles in recent ReadItTorials (still love that name!)

I've started to write once again, and as before my inspiration is Charlotte - who is becoming a mini version of her mum when it comes to critique.

Most of my story ideas are met with a mixture of a raised eyebrow or sometimes an even more withering criticism.

"That's rubbish, Daddy!" sayeth the expert and she should really know by now what constitutes a 'good' story as opposed to a rubbish old cliche-riddled pile of paper poop.

On those rare occasions when an idea is met with a pleasant wry little smile from Mum or Charlotte, I know that I am really on to something. Brutal honesty from your family is, really, what you've got to aim for when you're putting something together - whether it's a new piece of art or a new story.

The hard part for me is forming those ideas, those idle work-time daydreams, those plots into something that holds together, that at times comfortably ticks off all the 'rules' of writing children's stories and getting them to fit into the desired picture book format. I'm a writing machine. I can happily blast out blog posts, write technical documentation for work, write and write until my arm falls off but it's definitely tough trying to mould something into a story idea from vague notions, characters or a theme.

I've never really been a fan of rules, or sticking to a rigid formula so the idea of doing so by necessity is something I still struggle with. Sure enough though, if you pick out a handful of picture books and go through them, you will undoubtedly see how more talented folk stick to those rules fairly closely, and still come up with amazing ideas.

It seems to be a subtle combination of:

1) Know those rules inside and out and work with them, not against them. There are some great guidelines here, courtesy of ace author Tara Lazar:

2) Think about how your story will read - both in your head and aloud. It's important to consider the former because eventually children will read your book themselves, perhaps as they take their first faltering steps into 'proper' reading. Always consider the child but then also consider the latter point - how does your book read aloud? Does it flow or does it cause the reader to trip over their own tongue?

3) Never sit down to write the 'final' thing. Always flesh out your story ideas, create 'thumbnails' of the story as a series of very simple pages (you don't have to be a great artist to do this but it may help win over a potential publisher or agent if you have made an attempt to do some of the trickier aspects of fitting a format yourself).

4) Sign up some harsh critics (like I have). Really harsh I mean, the sort of folk who are going to give you the straight scoop. If you do get the opportunity, try your story out on children that aren't yours (I don't mean approaching strange kids in the street but if you work in a school or host a kid's party for your child's school friends, or have cousins around to stay, there are some golden opportunities there to road-test your stories on kids who won't bat an eyelid in telling you whether they suck or not).

5) Edit, edit and edit again. Put your piece away for a month, come back to it and read it again. Does it still read OK? If not, choose what to keep and what to enhance but most importantly what to cut and what to lose.

With all this, the part I find hardest is definitely 3. Piecing together a vague idea into a story that has a start, a middle, perhaps a bit of mild peril and then an end is VERY hard indeed. Sometimes you can get drawn into feeling a need to impart a message or a piece of wisdom that a potential reader may find useful. Moral tales are very common in children's stories but they can read dry, and kids can read between the lines pretty swiftly so again as Tara states, always be mindful of your ideal audience target age of between 2-6 years old.

So it's back to the blank notebook for me. Four ideas keep buzzing around at the back of my head like angry wasps so perhaps with a bit of luck, concentration, a lack of distractions and the wind in the right direction I might actually get these durned things down on paper SOME day!

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Odd Dog Out by Rob Biddulph (HarperCollins Children's Books)

A glorious book about being an individual, but being happy being you - here's Rob Biddulph's awesome "Odd Dog Out"...
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Two Can by Smriti Prasadam-Halls and Ben Javens (Frances Lincoln Children's Books)

One is fun, two is better! A great little tale of co-operation, friendship and joining in. Two Can!
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Wednesday 24 August 2016

This Book Thinks you're a Scientist (Thames and Hudson)

If there's one thing we REALLY love, it's a book that brings out our inner Magnus Pyke (younger readers are now frantically googling that name and are probably cackling with glee at the YouTube videos of our fave nutty professor in full swing).

"This Book Thinks you're a Scientist" has been compiled in conjunction with The Science Museum, drawing on some of the brilliant exhibits and experiments in their innovative exhibitions.

Any science book worth its salt can carry across its themes and messages by encouraging you not to just read about cool science, but do some very cool science experiments yourself!

That's why this book encourages you to imagine, experiment and create with a ton of really fantastic ideas and ways to use the book to do some practical demonstrations of the theories shared in this fascinating tome.

Experiments involving ice cream and chocolate? WHERE DO I SIGN?
Most of the experiments can be done with simple household supplies (but don't be afraid to raid the recycle bin for a few extra bits - with parental permission of course!)

We're almost reaching our tipping point with this experiment!
Awesome science, awesome presentation and illustrations and tons to do. Yep, that's just how we like our science books...!

Why do I keep humming Pink Floyd tunes whenever I see this page?
"This Book Thinks you're a Scientist" is out now from Thames and Hudson. 

Charlotte's favourite bit: Making awesome paper aeroplanes that soar and stunt

Daddy's favourite bit: Exploring colour theory and coming up with daft names for paint shades.

(Kindly sent for review by Thames and Hudson)

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D is for Duck by David Melling (Hodder Children's Books)

Time for some alphabet fun with one of the most talented storytellers in the business...
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Tuesday 23 August 2016

"Feelings" by Libby Walden and Richard Jones (Caterpillar Books)

Tackling the tricky subject of childhood emotions, this beautiful peep-through book is a bit of a winner...
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Your Baby's First Word Will Be Dada by Jimmy Fallon and Miguel Ordonez (Hodder Children's Books)

This book really got me thinking. What were Charlotte's first words? I'm pretty sure they weren't "Dada"...
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Monday 22 August 2016

Maverick makes its mark with three brilliant new picture books to round off your summer

Maverick are showing no signs of slowing down as the summer sunshine continues, and thoughts start to turn to the dreaded (or for parents, the blessed relief of the) return to school.

But stop a moment, sit down, curl up and enjoy a good book or three. Maverick have got you covered with three new fantastic picture book titles for tiddlers who love engaging and original stories.

First, well how could we NOT love any book that champions books themselves, and libraries. Oh and bears. In "The New LiBEARian" by Alison Donald and Alex Willmore meet a huge cuddly bear who just LOVES to read.

Miss Merriweather, the usual Librarian has gone missing but when the children turn up for storytime a rather hairy and fuzzy stand-in is ready to read a book or two. This LiBEARian might be a bit scary at first, but his love of books is infectious and soon all the children rather love their new replacement book fanatic.

An awesome and fun book with a touch of magic to it, "The New LiBEARian" by Alison Donald and Alex Willmore is out now from Maverick. 

More fun now, this time of the face-fuzz variety in "Mr Mustachio", a new story from Yasmin Finch and Abigail Tompkins.

Mr Mustachio is the proud owner of the world's most talented moustache. It twists and twirls like a huge extendable pair of extra arms and Mr M couldn't be more pleased with his fantastic top-lip soup-strainer.

But when Mr M is invited to a picnic, disaster strikes. The one problem with a huge long gangly moustache is you never quite know when it's going to get you into a terrible tangle!

Full of hilarious scenes and with gorgeous illustrations, Mr Mustachio is a brilliant romp!

"Mr Mustachio" by Yasmin Finch and Abigail Tompkins is out now from Maverick. 

And one more, this time a perfect story book to usher in the colder weather...

In "The Snowflake Mistake" by Lou Treleaven and Maddie Frost (appropriate name there, Maddie!) meet a young girl who absolutely loves the chilly weather.

Princess Ellie is left in charge of the magical snow machine when the Snow Queen takes a well earned break.

The Snow Queen's amazing snow machine churns out identical snowflakes and scatters them around the world, but Ellie has other ideas. Her snowflakes might not be uniform and identical but they're beautiful, delicate and all distinctly unique.

It's a lovely wintry rhyming tale with the most adorable illustrations full of character and snowy wonder. "The Snowflake Mistake" by Lou Treleaven and Maddie Frost will be released in September 2016 so watch out for it.

For more awesome titles from Maverick, go and check out their website for some sneaky peeks!
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Frida Kahlo and the Bravest Girl in the World by Laurence Anholt (Frances Lincoln Children's Books)

This one was snapped up and read from cover to cover the moment it arrived.

I've long been a fan of Frida Kahlo's work and I'm also a huge fan of Laurence Anholt's fantastic "Anholt's Artists" range, where Laurence introduces the most famous artists and their stunning works of art to children in a hugely engaging way.

In "Frida Kahlo and the Bravest Girl in the World" we meet a little girl called Mariana who is visiting Frida to get her portrait painted.

The little girl is a bit shy and not quite sure what to expect. Frida is, after all, a fairly eccentric character. She has a pet monkey, she keeps a skeleton in her room and her works of art are stunning, sometimes macabre but hugely celebrated.

Mariana settles down to listen to a story, the story of Frida's life and as the book unfolds we too get to learn about this amazing artist and her extremely tough life, and the accident that almost killed her. Amazingly she recovered and is now recognised all over the globe, her works ensuring that her memory and legacy live forever.

It's fascinating stuff, and once again I firmly tip my hat to Laurence for producing such a brilliant tale, woven around Frida's life.

Charlotte's best bit: Learning all about Frida's early life and art, and her encouraging family (particularly dad!)

Daddy's favourite bit: One of my favourite artists, stunningly brought to life for children in this fabulous book.

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

"Frida Kahlo and the Bravest Girl in the World"

Written and Illustrated by Laurence Anholt

Published by Frances Lincoln Children's Books

Publication Date: 1st September 2016
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Friday 19 August 2016

ReadItDaddy's Second Book of the Week - Week Ending 19th August 2016 - "The Deluxe Collection - Volumes 1 and 2" by Lorenzo Etherington (Lulu Self Publishing)

Not one, but two utterly stunning and MASSIVE art collections nail our second Book of the Week slot. We're Lorenzo crazy, baby!
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ReadItDaddy's First Book of the Week - Week Ending 19th August 2016 - "I Can Make My Own Accessories" by Georgia Vaux and Louise Scott-Smith (Thames and Hudson)

A brilliant make-and-create book that's absolutely perfect for the summer holidays. Our first Book of the Week this week is "I Can Make My Own Accessories" by Georgia Vaux and Louise Scott-Smith
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Thursday 18 August 2016

Why is being a massive cynic about everything "on trend?" - A ReadItTorial

Once upon a time when I spent (read: wasted) a lot of my time and money on videogames, I used to love putting cursor to screen and writing about them.

I've played videogames since the dawn of time (alright, since Pong and all those crazy home 'sports games' that you used to plug into the black and white telly and blip-bloop your way through mindlessly) and every year I swear I'm going to pack it all in. I don't keep up with them as much as I used to but now and again I can't help dipping back in.

Despite my best efforts, I've also failed to put Charlotte off videogames. We're extremely strict (perhaps a bit too strict) about screen time but now and again, in fleeting moments, we'll sit down together and check out something new.

Finding kid-friendly games for modern consoles isn't that easy. Most are insultingly basic while others seem to rely heavily on cartoon violence or are branded heavily towards whatever 'flavour of the month movie or tv show' is hitting the back of the net. So it's always refreshing when something comes along that engages and stimulates in the same way a good book does.

Current flavour of the month is "No Man's Sky" which some have dubbed as "An action-exploration simulator". The game has certainly polarised opinion, though now it's out there and being played, most people seem to be really positive about it - which is good. But then there's the usual flurry of annoying coverage that seems to want nothing more than to put you off playing this game.

In all the years since I gave up regularly writing about games, one thing has remained pretty consistent (and it's not really something that's limited to games either, spreading to movies and books and just about anything else net-based journalists regularly cover). Everyone loves a good moan and it really does grate on my nerves as much now, as it did when I was far more into videogames and could stomach the negativity that seemed to haunt each and every release.

There's still this seemingly 'trendy' air of huge cynicism before we (the general public) get our hands on a new game, movie or book. Early released copies naturally find their way out to bigger websites or news outlets way ahead of release (well, in some cases anyway) so a privileged few get to enjoy these items in exchange for an early opinion. It feels like lately, that opinion is nearly always hugely negative and nitpicky, or misses the entire point of being into videogames in the first place. To enjoy yourself playing.

In the case of "No Man's Sky" - the game picture above and one I've had my eye on ever since an image from the game graced the box of my Playstation 4, the tiny team responsible for this amazing looking space exploration game (Hello Games) have had to weather a lot of adverse comments and negative opinions. "It's going to be a huge bomb" says one site. "It's not what I wanted, what I expected" said another, and with the team going back and reworking the game and producing a huge day one patch for it that practically reinvents the whole thing (a gigantic effort for such a tiny team), you'll hope those news outlets will be quick to follow up with a review or an opinion on the 'final' product, right?

(only, most won't bother)

Most news articles seem to obsess over two aspects of the game that don't interest me in the slightest. On the one hand you've got people claiming that the game's 'multiplayer' is deeply flawed. People can't meet up, and shoot each other. Even two people who somehow managed to end up on the same planet early on in the game's release couldn't meet up and have a pow-wow. To be honest, that's the sort of news that gladdens my heart because this is the sort of game where I'd like the opportunity to explore on my own, name new things, and find my own path without the pressure of having someone else flash their butt in your face shouting "FIRST!" at every opportunity. So the game's netcode might not be all that, but hooray! For once I'm not complaining.

Secondly there's the endlessly tedious willy-measuring (if you'll pardon my patois) that we have to endure every single time a new game is released on consoles and PC. PC owners aren't happy unless the game is blasting their eyeballs out of their sockets, running at stupidly high resolutions and framerates on a home gaming rig that cost more than my car. "It's crap, it underperforms, it's a broken mess" is probably what you'll read since the game was available for PC download. And of course all that and the usual multiplayer mumblings. It reminds me why I no longer bother with PC gaming, the whole thing went beyond actually enjoying games and turned into an endless braggardly arms race years ago and it hasn't changed one iota.

More bad news for the game is the current backlash about features that were alluded to prior to release that didn't make it into the final product. While the majority of folk are quite happily doing what we're doing, exploring and enjoying themselves, it seems there's a hard core of 'propah' gamers who want to try and rally support for some sort of lawsuit over the features they (and I quote NeoGaf here so expect the usual internet stupidity) "have a right to see in the game".

Sorry? You have a right to what exactly? You either buy the game or you don't. Why does a development team suddenly owe you something purely because you think that a comment in an interview is some sort of binding contract between you and the developer?

I think I know why I gave up trying to reason with folk like this or offer critique on games. Videogames do seem to bring out the worst in certain folk.

Anyhow, as ironic as it sounds to sit here talking about journalistic cynicism being the norm on a site that reviews books, and journalistic opinion even mattering when it comes to what the public want to spend their hard earned on, it really is depressing when you see how saturated online reporting is with this whole idea of being cynical to be "on-trend".

I get that people love moaning. Boy do people ever love moaning but I've picked up No Mans Sky (and it's very nice to actually find a game that I can play alongside my daughter, taking it in turns to hand over the pad and control the game with loads of awesome non-threatening action to enjoy).

Back to beloved books from now on though and if you still wonder why we're largely positive about the books we write about here on the blog, it's mostly because someone has to shine a light of positivity onto the net and we really couldn't give two hoots if that means we're not on trend, sorry.

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Two fab new titles for little ones from hugely talented author illustrator Britta Teckentrup

Britta Teckentrup is an immensely talented lady and we've been looking at two new books from Britta that are tons of fun.

The first is "One is Not a Pair" which is new from Big Picture Press.

We take a spotting journey of discovery with Britta as each page spread hides a fiendishly difficult to spot "odd one out"

Can your keen eyes pick the one that isn't a pair amongst this fab and colourful designs?

Here are some page samples to tempt you in (if that cover hasn't already won you over. We loved it!)

Ooh! Which toadstool stands alone, and doesn't belong with another?
Superfast planes flying in the sky. Which one is on its own?
With wonderful rhyming text to accompany the illustrations, this is a really gorgeous little spotting book. Out now from Big Picture Press.

Britta also has a new title coming from Prestel Publishing, introducing a brilliant little crow character who we instantly fell in love with...

In "Oskar Loves", meet Oskar the Crow who is full of joie de vivre. He invites us to learn a little bit more about his life, telling us all about the things he loves the most.

Oskar really loves taking his cute little fluffy cloud for a walk. Oskar LOVES Cherries.

What other things does Oskar love? Let's take a look at some sample pages..

You can see why we love Oskar so much, can't you!

Mmm! Nothing better than cherry pie and custard. Good choice, Oskar!
A glorious little picture book. "Oskar Loves" is out on 5th September 2016 from Prestel Publishing.

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Wednesday 17 August 2016

A perfect picture book trio from Bloomsbury arrives for summer and autumn fun!

Bloomsbury Publishing have some picture book perfection lined up for you in August and September, with three new titles to tickle your fancy.

First, the follow up to the awesome "Beastly Pirates" in John Kelly's new book "Munch, Crunch, Pirate Lunch!"

The Beastly Pirates are the scourge of the seven seas - they keep eating all the swashbuckling buccaneers that cross their path!

Pirate leader Heartless Bart has had enough of losing his best pirates, so he comes up with a dastardly plan to rid the seas of those foul creatures once and for all.

Donning an impressive suit of armour, Bart reckons he's more than a match for sharp teeth, death squeezes and rhino charges. But has Bart forgotten that it's not just brute strength that can outwit a dimwit. Sometimes a dose of brain power works wonders too!

John Kelly's brilliant swashbuckling sequel once again dishes up a seriously tasty stew of pirate funnies and crazy animal antics. Guaranteed to have your little ones shouting "Ar HARRR!" at every turn of the page.

"Munch, Crunch, Pirate Lunch" was released on 11th August 2016.

Next, blog favourite Sam Lloyd is back with a new book, a soothing and adorable tale to help little ones with their first day at school.

Sam, creator of the awesome "Calm Down, Boris" and many many other fab books now invites you to enjoy "First Day at Bug School", an entertaining and funny new rhyming book for your tiny tiddlers.

For tiny bigs, going to "Bug School" may seem daunting at first.  But don't be nervous, as there are new friends to be made, new lessons to learn and a whole lot of fun to be had.

Sam's brilliant rhymes and fab illustrations make this a delightful romp. Guaranteed to make you smile and giggle!

"First day at Bug School" was released on 11th August 2016.

Last but not least, a picture book debut for a much-loved CBeebies character, this time exploring the fun of splishing, splashing and sploshing!

In "Watch out for Muddy Puddles" Ben (Mr Bloom) Faulks teams up with Ben ("Aliens Love Underpants") Cort for a glorious celebration of the art of splashing around in wellie boots in big dark murky puddles.

This rollicking sing-song rhyming book is brilliantly entertaining as little ones are encouraged to get on their fave pair of boots and splosh around in the great outdoors. But watch out for hidden perils. No one wants to come a cropper because of a sneaky crocodile!

It's a fab debut and we see great things ahead for Ben and Ben! A truly talented team!

"Watch out for Muddy Puddles" is released on September 8th by Bloomsbury Publishing.
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