Friday, 30 September 2016

ReadItDaddy's Second Book of the Week - Week Ending 30th September 2016 - "How to Hide a Lion at School" by Helen Stephens (Scholastic)

Our second book of the week was one we instantly fell in love with. It immediately felt like a classic in the making, full of fun and craziness...
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ReadItDaddy's First Book of the Week - Week Ending 30th September 2016 - "The Velveteen Rabbit" by Margery Williams and Sarah Massini (Nosy Crow)

One of our favourite children's stories comes to vivid life courtesy of some utterly glorious illustrations, our first Book of the Week this week is the glorious "The Velveteen Rabbit" by Margery Williams and Sarah Massini...
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Thursday, 29 September 2016

The fine art of public appearances when you're a socially awkward 'embarrassing dad' - A ReadItDaddy Editorial

There's a few good reasons why we sadly don't go to many "book things" and I'm sure many other book bloggers will feel the same pain. A) we live a long way from London and B) they always seem to happen there and C) I work all day, and it's nigh on impossible to drop everything and go to book things for a couple of hours in any given evening.

There is also an option D. You see, being a bit shy and socially awkward, it's virtually impossible to go along to these things and look like you belong there. The prospect of meeting fantastic authors and illustrators often leads to "Embarrassing Dad" syndrome. Eeek!

My wife, an acute observer of my many, many failings (love her to bits, honestly I do!) pointed out that whenever we DO go to any book signings, author events or book festivals, I'm completely hopeless when it comes to actually interacting with folk I've been writing nice things about.

"You mumble!" she says (which is true, mumbling is my rather hopeless defence for not having anything clever to say 'off the cuff' a lot of the time. Mumbling is the introvert's "Ctrl-Z" where you can comfortably assume that if someone hasn't heard you properly, you've gotten away with saying something really cringeworthy).

"You didn't even introduce yourself properly!" she says (which again is true, I usually try to introduce myself something like "Hi there author / illustrator megastar (whom I secretly am in complete love with and make wax effigies of and hold impromptu tea parties with said wax effigies and...), I'm Phil otherwiseknownasreaditdaddyyesthatberkwhosaysdaftthingsontwitterandwritesablogwithmydaughterwhoistherealstaroftheshowanddoesallthehardwork"

(I made up the wax effigies bit, but that brings us neatly to point three...

"You come across like some sort of weird stalker sometimes!" (in that I talk to the folk, know a bit about them, and usually try to strike up a conversation based around what they do, or something they've talked about on social media, or even how lovely their shirt / blouse looks).

Charlotte, bless her, treats all this with what's fast become her trademark reaction to most things "Daddy" does. A silent sideways eyeroll more devastating than a 20 megaton nuclear blast, designed beautifully to shut me down as quickly as possible.

Those 'hallowed' few of you who've actually A) met me and B) interacted with me or managed to wring a conversation out of me know that once you get to know me, I'm really not that bad but at book events the frenetic excitement of knowing you're sharing a space with a bunch of folk who think like you do, and more often than not, absolutely adore books, comics, illustrative stuff - is too much to bear and leads to even more embarrassing dad behaviour.

Charlotte once half-mockingly pointed out that we shouldn't have to queue up at events "because we're famous, we're ReadItDaddy!" and I had to impart what I hoped would be a valuable future life lesson. Fame is a fickle beast, and the sort of 'fame' (if you can call it that, I think it's closer to infamy than fame) we enjoy from writing about books on a book blog is no golden ticket to any sort of special treatment.

We pay for and queue up at events, we buy our own tickets, we meet authors and illustrators who've met a zillion other book bloggers and journalists who are probably far less embarrassing than us (OK, me) so it's part of the job.

She didn't initially take this revelation well. I have a sneaking suspicion that as she gets older she'll understand what I was trying to say (because here we are near the end of the editorial and I've no bloody idea what the point I was trying to make was). I hope though that she has acres more self-confidence. She was already brassy enough to, completely unprompted, demand that a well-known comic-writing-and-drawing dude put her in his next story (I stood some distance away at this point looking mildly horror-struck once I realised what was going on, frozen to the spot and not quite knowing whether to let her get on with it or drag her away, embarrassedly apologising while doing so!

Thankfully he's a good egg and took it in his stride, cheers Neill!) Perhaps this is the future of ReadItDaddy, helmed by someone who can take it to the next level! Perhaps I need to be more ninja in my approach and not a shy retiring wallflower of a book blogger.

Of course, there are many folk who've made the transition from internet fame to real actual "I'm going to be on the next series of Celebrity Strictly I'm a Bake-off Big Brother Get me the HELL out of here". Young, beautiful people who can convince zillions of YouTube viewers that they know their stuff and have wisdom to impart far beyond their years. I could see Charlotte being like that one day but me, hahahahahahaha no never, not ever. Looking like a slightly disgruntled Mitchell brother with a speaking voice that sounds like I've never really got the hang of human speech patterns really doesn't lend itself well to TV, book or movie deals.

Next up: Starting a Book VLOG. Why you should never, ever, EVER do this unless you're A) ridiculously good looking and bang on trend and B) have an awesome beard.
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ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book Roundup - September 2016

We're playing catchup as the original September Chapter Book Roundup post got eaten by blogger (this is the blogger's equivalent excuse to "The Dog Ate my Homework" but nonetheless,we're determined to bring you some scorching hot chapter book action to fend off the colder Autumnal weather.

Kicking off with a book we've really been enjoying...

"Rowan Oakwing" by E.J. Clarke is a new fantasy book series that fuses fairy folk and legendary adventures with locations that children will know and love. Mixing together the familiar environs of London's great parks, the adventure opens with Rowan, a young girl, who finds herself in Regents Park as dusk settles. Lost and crying, Rowan swiftly discovers that as night draws in the park is home to fairy folk who swiftly take Rowan under their wing.

When she wakes up ten centimetres tall, with tiny oak-leaf wings, Rowan's entire outlook on life changes completely.

She's about to go on an adventure in the hidden world of fairies and foxes. But Rowan's quest will be perilous, with fearsome enemies at her heels. 

If she wants to get home, she'll need to find the courage she never knew she had, and discover powers she'd never even imagined . . .

We adore books that come with a fantastic map to kick things off and Rowan Oakwing doesn't disappoint..

It's a brilliant book for mighty girls who love their fairies and fantasy stuff with a bit more bite to it. A hugely impressive start to a story that we hope ends up being a long running series. 

"Rowan Oakwing" by E.J. Clarke is out now, published by Little, Brown

More fantasy next, and a fantastic new book from a legendary writer...

Tonke Dragt is, quite rightly, something of a literary treasure. "The Letter for the King" is amongst our favourite children's chapter books and we are so delightled to read this new story. So let's dive in!

In "The Song of Seven" we meet new teacher Mr Van der Steg - who entertains his pupils with tall tales of incredible events, which he claims really happened to him - involving hungry lions and haunted castles, shipwrecks and desert islands.

One day, when he can't think of anything suitably exciting to tell them, he invents a story about a very important letter which he's expecting that evening, with news of a perilous mission. 

When evening arrives and so, to his surprise, does an enigmatic letter, Mr Van der Steg is drawn into a real-life adventure, featuring a grumpy coachman, a sinister uncle, eccentric ancestors, a hidden treasure, an ancient prophecy and Geert-Jan, a young boy who is being kept prisoner in the mysterious House of Stairs. 

Although the treasure rightfully belongs to Geert-Jan, his uncle is determined to seize it for himself. As Mr Van der Steg, with the help of his pupils, sets out to rescue the boy, he becomes more and more entangled with the strange history of the Seven Ways, the House of Stairs and the powerful Conspiracy of Seven.

Gloriously written with tons of plot twists and turns, and a barrel-load of excitement. "The Song of Seven" by Tonke Dragt is released in November, published by Pushkin Press. 

Next in our bookbag, a girl who's never far from trouble through no fault of her own...

In "Miraculous Miranda" we meet a girl with a Big Imagination, who always wins Word of the Day at school. When her sister Gemma is taken into hospital, Miranda escapes into her own fantasy land, Magnanimous.

With giraffe police, ham sandwich trees and a Crystal-Clear Glass Hospital for Getting-Better Children, Magnanimous grows and grows. 

As her sister gets worse, things Miranda writes seem to trigger small miracles she has been asking for: her gran stops smoking, horrible Darren Hoey is nice to her. What on earth is going on?

Can Miranda write a miracle for her sister? 

Full of thought-provoking and touching little moments, it's a feelgood book with a difference. 

"Miraculous Miranda" by Siobhan Parkinson is out now, published by Hodder Children's Books.

More feelgood and dreamy stuff now from Jane Elson...

Just call me Bee. Please, please call me that. If you call me Beatrix Daffodil Tulip Chrysanthemum Rose Edwards I shan't answer you. I am not being rude or unfriendly, or insolent as Mrs Dixon my teacher calls me. I just don't like my name. Well, would you?'

In "Swimming to the Moon", Bee stumbles through life in her stripy socks with her head in the clouds, doing her very best to keep out of the way of her bickering parents and avoid the bendy tap dancing freak Crystal Kelly - who makes her life a misery. But when Crystal double-dares her to volunteer for a sponsored swim in honour of her great grandmother Beatrix's memory, Bee can't back down. Even though she is terrified of water and cannot swim!

Then new boy Moon-Star gallops to Bee's rescue on his horse and takes her to meet Old Alice, who lives in a beautiful painted wagon. As Bee enters this new world, her life is changed for ever.

Finally she has an ally. Down by the promise tree the new friends make a pact - Moon Star will teach Bee to swim if Bee will teach him to read. They spit on their hands and shake on their vow and a beautiful friendship begins.

Fantastically inspirational stuff about friendships and growing up, "Swimming to the Moon" by Jane Elson is out now, published by Hodder Children's Books.

Phew, any more for any more? 

This one has really been a wow from start to finish, fantastically gripping stuff!

"Railhead" by Philip Reeve flings us into the far future when interstellar railways criss-cross the galaxy. 

The Great Network is a place of drones and androids, Hive Monks and Station Angels. The place of the thousand gates, where sentient trains criss-cross the galaxy in a heartbeat.

It is also a place of great dangers - especially for someone who rides the rails and rides his luck the way Zen Starling does. 

Once Zen was just a petty thief, stealing to support his family and living by his wits. Now everything has changed. Zen is still a thief - but it could be that the key to the whole universe rests on finding out what else he is . . .
The first book in a new sci-fi series that doesn't pull any punches, "Railhead" is the sort of book I've been crying out for for YEARS. Good proper sci-fi for kids that really impressed my socks off. Warner Bros have optioned the book for a movie treatment and we can't wait to see how that pans out. 

"Railhead" by Philip Reeve is out now, published by Oxford University Press. 

Something regal and rambunctious next. A right royal romp indeed!

Santa Montefiore and Simon Sebag Montefiore's sublime "The Royal Rabbits of London" with illustrations by Kate Hindley is just the sort of book we could see Prince George tucking into once he starts to cut his teeth on chapter books.

Meet Shylo, always described as the runt of the litter, the weakest and quietest of all of his family. His siblings spend their days making fun of him for not being like the rest of them. But when Shylo stumbles across a band of ratzis and overhears their evil plan to take a photo of the Queen in her nightie, it's up to this unlikely hero to travel to London and inform the Royal Rabbits of London about the diabolical plot! 

The Royal Rabbits of London have a proud history of protecting the royal family and now the secret society need to leap into action to stop the ratzis... But can a rabbit as feeble and shy as Shylo convince them that Queen is in danger?

A pacy plot, brilliant illustrations and a cast of engaging characters instantly make this feel like a classic. 

"The Royal Rabbits of London" by Santa Montefiore and Simon Sebag Montefiore, illustrated by Kate Hindley, is out on October 6th, published by Simon and Schuster Children's Books.
Tune in next month for more chapter book brilliance and halloween antics as October draws to a close! See you then!
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Wednesday, 28 September 2016

A very Happy book birthday and 30th Anniversary to Old Bear. Let's take a look at "Happy Birthday Old Bear" by Jane Hissey (Scribblers)

Can you believe that the Old Bear stories are 30 years old! We've been in love with the series since Charlotte was a tiny baby and I'm tickled pink that she still loves Old Bear and his friends as much now as she did when she was more interested in gumming books to death rather than reading them.

Jane Hissey's "Old Bear" celebrates in style with a fabulous new 30th Anniversary celebratory story. In fitting style, "Happy Birthday Old Bear" is a whole new adventure for Bear and his friends, including a new toy - a happy and adorable elephant named Elsie (Great name!)

Elsie wants to get something really special for Old Bear's birthday and comes up with the idea of designing and painting a fantastic umbrella to keep Old Bear dry when he's playing in the garden.

Elsie comes up trumps but when a huge gust of wind blows, it takes Elsie and the new umbrella away! Yikes!

It's up to the gallant gang of toys to mount a daring rescue attempt! Will Old Bear and Elsie make the birthday party and dig into that gorgeous birthday cake (and when we say gorgeous we really do mean gorgeous. Jane draws cakes that look good enough to pick off the page and scoff with a cup of earl grey! Perfect!!)

We've had the pleasure of seeing Jane's creations come to life many times as Charlotte has grown up, and each story is full of excitement and wonder that completely draws us in. Jane's trademark super-detailed pencil illustrations are sublime, and her stories are gentle and nostalgic, yet absolutely perfect for little ones who love their toys and perhaps have a favourite cuddly toy of their own.

She effortlessly breathes life into a book universe that, quite rightly, has been loved and revered by so many over the past 30 years so we tip our hats to Jane and of course to Old Bear and hope that there are many, many more stories to come.

Charlotte's favourite "Old Bear" Story: Ruby and the Naughty Cats, a story that STILL gets read regularly (we just can't get enough of those naughty, naughty kitties!)

Daddy's favourite "Old Bear" Story: "Jolly Snow" which is about as perfect a wintry story as it's possible to get. Absolutely adorable!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Scribblers / Jane Hissey)

"Happy Birthday Old Bear"

Written and Illustrated by Jane Hissey

Published by Scribblers

Publication date: 28th September 2016
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Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Three new picture book corkers coming from Bloomsbury in October

The 6th of October is definitely a red letter day for fabulous children's picture books. Bloomsbury Publishing have three new arrivals popping up on that day so come along and say hello!

Tom (Herman's Letter) Percival once again delivers a deliciously brilliant picture book future classic in "By the Light of the Moon" - a gentle story that will help any child dealing with the upheaval and uproar of a house move.

Little Ivan finds his new house strange and can't sleep. His old house was warm, familiar and friendly and this new place definitely is not!

Poor Ivan lies awake and then sees a shimmering light come down from the sky. 

The light turns into a creature called a Moji, and it takes him on a fabulous night-time adventure, up high into space, bounding through starlit forests and down deep into the oceans. 

Ivan has never had so much fun! And the magical Moji shows him that soon the new house will feel like home. 

Brilliant and magical, and chock full of atmosphere, "By the Light of the Moon" by Tom Percival is released on 6th October, Published by Bloomsbury. 

Hugely talented Debi Gliori also has two new titles coming on the 6th...

"Little Owl's Egg" with illustrations by Alison Brown is a heartwarming tale of what it's like when you're expecting a new brother or sister, and you've been used to having all your parents' attention. 

Little Owl isn't at all pleased to hear that there's a baby owl in the egg Mummy has laid. So Mummy pretends it might be a baby penguin ... or crocodile ... or even an elephant! 

In the fun of imagining different kinds of siblings, Little Owl realises that a baby owl might just be the best thing of all, and starts to become more and more excited about the imminent arrival after all. 

Debi's books always impart soothing messages for children coping with different situations, and so many children will love the theme of this. 

"Little Owl's Egg" by Debi Gliori and Alison Brown arrives freshly hatched on 6th October, published by Bloomsbury. 

Last but by no means least, another fab book from Debi...

"Goodnight World" is a beautiful rhyming bedtime book that's guaranteed to settle even the most busy little bees. 

Goodnight ice and goodnight snow,
Goodnight lights above, aglow.

Join in reading aloud the list of important things to say goodnight to - ships, animals, plants, toys and, of course, the sun - in this gorgeous lyrical book. 

"Goodnight World" by Debi Gliori is published on 6th October by Bloomsbury. 
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Deborah Patterson is back with two more utterly brilliant and inspirational writing books - "My Book of Stories: Write your Own Myths / Fairy Tales" (British Library Publishing)

I don't mind telling you - I need all the help I can get when it comes to inspiration for stories. We've previously loved Deborah Patterson's awesome inspirational books to help budding writers get their Shakespeare on, and write thrilling adventure stories.

Now Deborah is back with two more stunning books, this time delving into the rich history of myths and legends from many cultures across the globe and also a brilliant book examining some of the most well-loved fairy tales and how those stories work so well, and become so timeless.

British Library Publishing have filled the book with tons and tons of incredible images drawn from their own archives to help compliment Deborah's excellent observations and writing prompts. Tons of classic etchings, paintings and drawings by celebrated artists also serve as a brilliant inspiration for coming up with your own story ideas.

In "Write your own Myths", Deborah draws some amazing parallels between traditional story tropes and stories that have been handed down through generation after generation, until they become so widely recognised that virtually everyone recognises the plots, characters and settings. Egyptian, Norse, Persian, Celtic, Japanese - you name it and you'll find a myth or legend that may feel instantly recognisable to you, thanks largely to the fact that modern storytellers dip into those myths and legends for everything from children's stories to superhero movies.

In "Write your own Fairy Tales" once again Deborah spreads her net far and wide, catching the very best traditional fairy stories from Europe, the Middle East and further afield.

Well-loved tales are included that again are instantly recognisable thanks to modern treatments in children's books and movies. Hansel and Gretel, Baba Yaga, Little Red Riding Hood and many others are used to build up inspiring exercises and activities to help budding writers get off to a flying start in producing their own amazing stories.

"My Book of Stories: Write your own Myths" and "My Book of Stories: Write your own Fairy Tales" are both out today, 29th September 2016 - written by Deborah Patterson and published by British Library Publishing. Pick one up and be truly inspired!
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Monday, 26 September 2016

The Wonderful Adventures of Nils by Selma Lagerlöf, Kochka and Olivier Latyk (Words and Pictures)

An exquisitely ethereal book that features some truly glorious paper-cut illustrations and panels, let's meet Nils!
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Draw Every Day, Draw Every Way by Jennifer Orkin Lewis (Abrams and Chronicle)

Now THIS is our type of book! As budding (but strictly amateur) artists, we love joining in with the various Twitter daily and weekly art prompts such as #ShapeChallenge, #Sketch_Dailies, #3yroldscribble and many many others.

It's not always convenient to dive onto the computer to check out what's new - and sometimes it's just nicer to be able to push your abilities in a whole new direction with prompts and project that encourage you to try different techniques and art materials.

Jennifer Orkin Lewis' "Draw Every Day, Draw Every Way" sets you a huge challenge to fill your year with an artistic endeavour per day, breaking the book up into monthly sections encouraging you to explore new mediums and subjects, then drawing straight into the book itself, or stapling in your finished bits of work to build up a truly impressive art journal.

Can you draw something groovy and natural just using a black ink pen?
The book eases you into things by encouraging you to explore simple black ink on a blank page. The first section deals with natural subjects such as a field of sunflowers, a pair of dragonflies, or even a french garden as viewed from above. The way you interpret each prompt is entirely up to you.

All the colours of the rainbow later on in the book!
Later the book encourages you to use colour and ink, watercolours, gouache or acrylics - the list is seemingly endless but as we're talking about a book that's designed to keep you busy and inspired for a whole year, there's a lot to pack in.

Each section tails off with some simple self-assessment questions. Be honest, it'll really pay dividends when you look back at your artistic year
We particularly loved how the book encourages you to be self-critical. Revisit each section as the month comes to a close and say the things you enjoyed, the things you found challenging. Make some notes and then it'll be an amazing thing to refer back to in years to come.

We'd almost encourage you to buy two copies of this - and as your artistic year comes to a close, revisit all the topics in a higgledy-piggledy order to see how you've improved, what you've learned, and how amazing your artistic techniques have become.

"Draw Every Day, Draw Every Way" by Jennifer Orkin Lewis is out now, published by Abrams and Chronicle (Kindly supplied for review).
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Friday, 23 September 2016

ReadItDaddy's Third Book of the Week - Week Ending 23rd September 2016 - Pablo and his Chair by Delphine Perret (Princeton Architectural Press)

In our ongoing quest to bring you the very best picture books, we've discovered a bit of a gem that's had us breaking our "Book of the Week" rules today...
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ReadItDaddy's Second Book of the Week - Week Ending 23rd September 2016 - "The Pressed Fairy Journal of Madeline Cottington" by Brian and Wendy Froud (Abrams Books)

Without a doubt, Brian and Wendy Froud are two of the most accomplished fantasy artists ever. Their work has found its way into amazing movies and glorious books, and our second Book of the Week is sheer brilliance...!
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ReadItDaddy's First Book of the Week - Week Ending 23rd September 2016 - "Botanicum - Welcome to the Museum" by Professor Kathy Willis and Katie Scott (Big Picture Press)

Our first Book of the Week this week is the third in the incredible "Welcome to the Museum" series, the stunning "Botanicum" by Professor Kathy Willis and Katie Scott...
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Thursday, 22 September 2016

Oversharing about your kids on your parent blog? Maybe it's time to stop. A ReadItTorial.

Today's thorny topic again had multiple inspirations, beginning with a widely-circulated news story of a girl who is suing her parents for sharing embarrassing photos of her as a youngster on their Social Media feeds:

The story, stemming from Austria surprisingly - and not the U.S - is a fairly extreme case (and of course I apologise unreservedly for including the Daily Fail as a linked reference here) sparked off quite an interesting reaction on Twitter.

One Tweeter (who shall remain nameless) seemed to take umbrage with the whole idea of parent blogging rather than over-sharing on social media, stating that it was "inevitable" that at some point a disgruntled child would naturally be peed off at their parents "hawking them on a blog just to get a load of free stuff".

The reason the tweet annoyed me was that this seems to still be the perception with a few folk whose wares (be they children's clothing, toys, books, comics etc) end up in the hands of folk who want to write about them or review them in exchange for said goods. The skewed notion that we're all in it for the freebies, and we're willing to expose our children to the nasty wide world out there just to snag a few goodies really grates, and coming from the tweeter in question (who shall remain nameless but will be trodden very lightly around from now on) felt like a solid slap in the chops to an overly-sensitive chap like me.

I just didn't really know how to react to such a sweeping and damning statement in any sane rational way at the time (so of course I'm blogging about it a few days afterwards), but it seems to be part and parcel of an underlying trend of negating the worth of blogs in general.

I get that we're not proper journalists. After all, we don't work for broadsheets or red-tops or write regularly for The Huffington Post or other more trustworthy internet sources. We didn't bust our humps at college or university studying journalism (well some might, but they're in the minority surely?) So how can our opinions even matter at all?

The "Free stuff" thing is infuriating and quite frankly I'm personally pig sick of hearing it trotted out by folk who have probably never even set foot on the blog. Perhaps indeed there are bloggers out there who wouldn't bother writing their blogs at all if it wasn't for a steady trickle of complimentary goodies. Fair enough if that's your bag. Books are our bag though, and it makes no difference at all to the reviews how they're sourced - whether they're free or we pay for them, they still receive the same critical attention.

We've said time and time again that it would make no difference whatsoever to ReadItDaddy if we didn't receive the majority of the books we review directly from publishers or PRs who want us to cover their items. We would definitely still do it anyway, we'd check them out from the library or (oh my goodness) BUY them and review them. To hammer this point home a little harder, I can guarantee you that we (like the majority of book bloggers) buy an awful lot of books.

We love books, and there's no way even the most influential book blogger can get sent absolutely everything they want to read (or read with their child) gratis, for free, for nought.

As for reviewing any old crap just because we've been contacted by a gushing PR who wants a decent list of influencers to work with - we don't do that either, in fact we're probably frustratingly choosy to work with.

I do admittedly find it amusing that there are blogs out there who'll happily stick up a glowing review of some junk-filled juice box or school lunch snack because they've been sent a boxload. Again though this calls into question the whole ethical side of parent blogging and if there is a debate to be had at all, it should definitely start with the motivations for sending stuff like that out in the first place. One tweeter quite rightly pointed out that book bloggers can be systematically taken advantage of by some publishers, who know they're going to get product coverage for a relatively small fee compared to what it would cost to pay for an ad.

The original Tweeter's insinuations that parents who photograph their children and share pictures of them on their blogs "deserve all they get" (including being sued by their little darlings later on in life) makes a sweeping generalisation that parents are really that detached from protecting their kids that vapid consumerism is a far preferable alternative to protecting them from the pond scum who do fetch up online looking for ways to antagonise or abuse innocent folk. I sometimes question my own naivety in sharing my daughter's name with the folk who come here to read about books, but when I started out, the whole "Her Opinion / My Opinion" thing was (and still is) the crux of what made this blog worth the effort. There is of course the fact that I'm hugely proud of Charlotte and her love of books - and her opinions on those books too. We still couldn't keep on doing this if it wasn't for her loving being the biggest part of what drives the blog on.

Of course, over-sharing can be pretty grim and sometimes you do have to wonder what goes on in people's heads on some social media channels where they really do take their child's entire life and stick it up there for all to see. The recent lawsuit has, if nothing else, highlighted that children's future net presence can be adversely affected when that child grows up, and the ever-present power of search engines and social connectivity on the internet means that at some point or another, some twerp is going to dig up their baby photos for a giggle, or some school bully will find that old stuff and make their life a misery with it for a hoot.

I secretly always hope that one day Charlotte will look back on this blog, and it will bring back happy memories of the times we've shared together reading books, thinking about what we like and don't like about them and then writing it up - and I'm pretty sure that most other book bloggers would like to feel the same.

This continued insulting insinuation that we're all ligging sh*tbags just in it for the freebies has got to stop though, and if you're an author, illustrator or creative who feels that you're losing out on a book sale because your publisher or PR has sent us your book gratis to review, I'm really sorry you feel that way and if you don't think that what we write is any kind of compensation for the few quid (or probably pence in some cases) you'd have got otherwise, feel free to contact us and let us know and we'll cease covering your work - and politely request that PRs don't send us your books.

Writing about books takes time - and time is the most valuable commodity all parents and book bloggers have, and if a book is seen as 'overpayment' for that time then I really don't think we'll ever see eye to eye.
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Samson the Mighty Flea by Angela McAllister and Nathan Reed (Andersen Children's Books)

Roll up, roll up! Step right up ladies and gentleman for the strongest flea you'll ever see! Mighty Samson!
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The Magical World of Amy Lee by Amy Lee (Scholastic)

Before we launch into our review of this bubblegum-coloured book full of amazing activities and stories, it's time to ask yourself a serious question...

"Are you cool?"

Well are you? Now you're happy with your answer, go and find your 8 year old son / daughter and ask them.

"Am I cool?"

If the answer is no, then you're very unlikely to be able to answer another question:

"Do you know who Amy Lee is?"

She's the YouTube sensation behind one of the biggest gaming stream channels for mighty girl gamers. Amy's particular obsession is also one of ours. We love all things MineCraft and Amy has created her own astonishing and cute world - known as The Land of Love, sharing her videos and creations with kids the world over.

Topping out at ridiculous numbers of views per day, her broadcasts are legendary and now Amy has put her name to an awesome new book, encouraging kids to step away from the screen for a moment to learn a little more about Amy and her amazing world - and her equally amazing friends.

You can catch a little of what Amy is about below:

("Animal Hospital" is probably one of Charlotte's favourite clips of Amy's amazing land of love. )

Amy's new book is her first foray into print. It's like an action-packed annual full of brilliant ideas to try in your own Minecraft creations but of course the real focus is on activities, puzzles and doodle exercises to stimulate your old grey matter and bring you round to Amy's way of thinking! Hugely positive, dosed to the gills with cute, find out more in "The Magical World of Amy Lee" out now from Scholastic.
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Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Two stunning new titles for young poetry fans, from indie publishers The Emma Press

We don't often see very many poetry anthologies for children so it's always a huge treat when we get one, and it's a particularly brilliant collection of eclectic and imaginative works.

We've been lucky enough to find two new titles from The Emma Press, a small-scale independent publisher raising the standard for awesome poems for children and these two collections really show off some truly talented folk and their work.

In "Moon Juice" there's a selection of poems from local poet Kate Wakeling, with illustrations throughout by Elina Braslina.

"Moon Juice" collects together poems with a diverse range of spacey subjects, such as a would-be brave warrior called Skig (who is actually more of a worrier), and a gadabout comet with a skittish tail and tale.

Kate thoughtfully addresses childhood issues around peer pressure, worry and anxiety, and fitting in with others in such a beautiful and lyrical way. Poems achieve the balance of being beautifully written and also short enough to hold youngsters' attention but long enough to impart their important and thought-provoking messages.

"Moon Juice" is out now, published by The Emma Press and you can read a little more about it on the Emma Press website here. 

Sticking with a spacey subject, there's also a far-out stratospheric collection of amazing poems by a collective of talented writers.

"Watcher of the Skies" gathers together poems about space and aliens. Edited by Rachel Piercey and Emma Wright, with poems by talented folk like Sohini Basak, Richard O'Brien, Julie Douglas and Sarah Doyle (amongst many, many others), "Watcher of the Skies" is again an amazingly eclectic collection of poems and rhymes, with something for just about everyone!

Are there dogs in space? How big is the Universe exactly? What do you do if you suspect your friend (or your grandad) is actually an alien? You'll find the answers in this amazing anthology!

"Watcher of the Skies" is released on 29th September 2016, published by The Emma Press with more details on the website here. 

Both books look truly brilliant and we really enjoyed "Moon Juice", a really fantastic collection to prompt some in-depth discussions about what it feels like when you're a kid with a huge imagination.

("Moon Juice" kindly supplied for review by The Emma Press).
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Meg in the Jungle by David Walser and Jan Pienkowski (Picture Puffin)

When the late great Helen Nicoll passed away, I remember feeling genuine sadness at the loss of such a huge talent - and an author who in no small part introduced me to a great love of reading very early on.
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The Tale of Kitty in Boots by Beatrix Potter and Quentin Blake (Frederick Warne Publishing)

Slipping in silently on silken paws, here's a lost story from one of the world's best-loved authors...
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Tuesday, 20 September 2016

The Incomplete Book of Dragons makes its paperback debut!

Scaly ones, furry ones, even little tiny ones. Cressida Cowell's "How to Train your Dragon" series has gone on to become a gigantic success, both in book form and on the silver screen. It's also a brilliant TV series too!

The fantastic "The Incomplete Book of Dragons" has only been available in a hardback format up to now. We're delighted to tell you that you can also now dash out and pick up the paperback version, as it's out right now, right at this moment!

Over 4 million copies of Cressida's books have been sold in the UK alone, and the book series and movies have also notched up a huge success internationally.

Find out all about Hiccup Horrendous Haddock and his observations of the many, many dragon species inside this utterly fascinating book!

You can read more about Cressida's fantastic series in our original feature.

"The Incomplete Book of Dragons" by Cressida Cowell is out now from Hodder Children's Books. 
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Motor Miles by John Burningham (Jonathan Cape PB)

Would you let a cheeky dog drive your car? Meet "Motor Miles" - a very special and talented pooch with his paw to the pedal of his very own car!
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Gruffalo Crumble and Other Recipes, based on "The Gruffalo" stories by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler (Macmillan Children's Books)

Oh now THIS is a genius idea, in fact we're surprised no one had thought of doing this AEONS ago!
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Monday, 19 September 2016

McDonalds extends its "Happy Reader" book activities with the awesome "Wimpy Kid" series by Jeff Kinney

McDonalds has extended its Happy Meal "Happy Reader" programme with a new selection of awesome mini books for lovers of Wimpy Kids everywhere (the irony of "Wimpy Kid" and McDonalds isn't lost on this 70s child btw! If you've ever eaten a bender in a bun you'll know what I mean).

The mini books are given away with happy meals in the run up to Christmas, and there are also activity sheets to download here for budding puzzlers and colourers to exercise their pencils and pens on.

The books are great quality little mini-reads, perfect for tucking into your school bag for a bit of surreptitious wimping-out during breaktime. Charlotte has been checking them out and they've got the official thumbs up from her, so what are you waiting for?

Download some awesome "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" activity sheets too!

More details about the books and the Happy Readers programme can be found over at the McDonalds Website.

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Alfie and his Very Best Friend by Shirley Hughes (Bodley Head)

Just look at those two cheeky chaps on the cover of this wonderful book. How can you possibly resist diving in for a look?
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A colouring book roundup - Break out your best pencils and felt tips, it's colouring time!

The joy of sprawling out full-length on a floor littered with colouring pencils and pens, and indulging in the age-old exercise of 'staying within the lines' is still as absorbing as ever it was.

We've been checking out some brilliant colouring books recently, and we're kicking off with our favourite.

The late Terry Pratchett's seemingly limitless imagination gave birth to the awesome Discworld, and a host of unforgettable characters that populate his brilliantly funny stories.

Long-time collaborator and illustrator Paul Kidby, who came up with the amazing covers and illustrations for Pratchett's books, has long been recognised as the authority on how Pratchett's characters should look.

Paul has come up trumps with a new colouring book, published by Gollancz, that collects together some of his best works of art - turning them into crisp and clear line art so that you can add your own dashes of colour.

DEATH in all his glory! 
Name a favourite character and you'll definitely find them in the colouring book, from our fave DEATH to Vimes, Granny Weatherwax, Rincewind, The Librarian and The Luggage. Paul's artwork is fabulous and crisp and you'll end up spending hours colouring each fantastically detailed scene.

There are also lots of colour plates at the back of the book of Paul's amazing artwork to give you some pointers and get you off to a flying start.

"The Discworld Colouring Book" by Paul Kidby is out now, published by Gollancz.

A shift in gears for the next two colouring books - this time from amazing artist Tomoko Toshiro...

First, the "Fairy Tales Colouring Book" collects together some of the most well-loved and best-known fairy tales of all time, with Tomoko's own interpretations of brilliant stories such as Little Red Riding Hood, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, Hansel and Gretel and many many others.

Each colouring spread is exquisitely detailed so you'd better sharpen your pencils to the max to fill in all the tiny little colouring areas within.

Illustrations are crisp and clear, and you'll easily find your favourite story nestled somewhere in here (we spent a very long time colouring in the gorgeous 'confectionery cottage' from Hansel and Gretel - who can resist something so appealing to a pair of sweet-tooths like us!)

Also from Tomoko is the fantastic "Princesses  and Fairies Colouring Book"...

Once again the book is filled to the brim with amazingly detailed scenes to colour, this time with a distinctly regal feel.

If your children are into amazing costumes and pretty accessories then this is very much the colouring book for them. Tomoko's designs are stunning.

The "Fairy Tales Colouring Book" and "Princesses and Fairies Colouring Book" are published by Pavilion Children's Books

Last but by no means least, an absolutely sumptuous and luxuriously bound book to turn into your very own private bestiary...

"The Book of Beasts: Colour and Discover" by Angela Rizza and Jonny Marks is an incredible collection of mythical animals drawn from Aboriginal, African, Mesoamerican, Greek, Roman, Indian, Norse, Chinese, Celtic and Japanese folk tales. Gorgeously presented in a fully-foiled gold and blue cover, it almost looks too good to deface with your own colours but that's what it's for - so brush up your skills to the max with this fabulous book.

Each collection of mythical animals is followed by a description of the beast and its origins. If you've ever wanted to know more about Unicorns, Krakens, Cockatrices, Gryphons or Dragons then you're going to absolutely love this book. What an utterly brilliant idea!

"The Book of Beasts: Colour & Discover" is out now from Buster Books.

(All books kindly supplied for review)
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Friday, 16 September 2016

ReadItDaddy's Second Book of the Week - Week Ending 16th September 2016 - "The Raven - Pop Up Edition" by Edgar Allan Poe, David Pelham and Christopher Wormell (Abrams Young Readers)

Our Second Book of the Week this week is dark, gothic and utterly brilliant. Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" rises from the grave...!
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ReadItDaddy's First Book of the Week - Week Ending 16th September 2016 - "The Storm Whale in Winter" by Benji Davies (Simon and Schuster Children's Books)

I truly don't know how he does it...! Benji Davies once again reigns supreme in our first Book of the Week slot this week with the fabulous sequel to "The Storm Whale"...
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Thursday, 15 September 2016

Where are the Wombles when you need them? A ReadItTorial

We've just come back from a mini break away in the glorious rolling plains of Surrey and this week's editorial is inspired by something that brought out the grumpy old moaner in me.

It also had me remembering what it was like growing up in London, quite often surrounded by litter which - at the time - was taken largely for granted.

Back when I was a snot-nosed marmite-scoffing schoolkid, you were really spoilt for choice when it came to children's books about litter, rubbish and recycling - and it was often a subject tackled on TV too. In fact most folk of my generation will remember the awesome creations from Elizabeth Beresford - the timeless Wombles of Wimbledon Common...

Both in book and TV form, The Wombles were a huge hit in the late 60s and 1970s, with an eco-message of litter-picking and recycling that was way ahead of its time. Elizabeth Beresford wrote the stories for her daughter and came up with the idea after a Boxing Day stroll on "Wombledon Common (her daughter's mispronunciation of 'Wimbledon' gave birth to a literary classic).

Later adapted for TV by the BBC, The Wombles inspired a generation of children to pick up rubbish, make cool things out of discarded home packaging, and recycle waste way before anyone had a green bin parked outside their house.

Though remade in 1997, and with various plans for a revival, the core message of stories like The Wombles imparted the importance of having a bit of respect for your environment - not just where you live but anywhere you visit too.

The photo at the start of this article was taken at a Devon beauty spot, blighted by a huge pile of rubbish. I saw similar piles dumped in various locations around Surrey (most notably a gigantic pile of discarded food and drink rubbish and wrappers at local dog-walker's favoured destination Bourne Wood). Despite a lot of signs urging people to take their waste home there were also way too many discarded baggies of dog poo, decoratively hung from trees. A "Dirty Protest" from dog owners who just don't want to clean up after their pooches and are bloody-mindedly making sure everyone knows it, in the most disgusting way possible.

Like our previous ReadItTorials about slipping standards in manners, clearing up litter and rubbish - or just not having the mindset to dump your discarded waste on the ground in the first place - seems to be something from a bygone era. "Someone will clear it up" is the knee-jerk answer if you are brave enough (or suicidal enough) to take on someone you see dumping their trash. But quite often with local services stretched to capacity, that rubbish can hang around a long time.

Maybe there's a need for children's books to once again lead the charge, build into our kids a sense that rubbish should be binned. Keep Britain Tidy was once something you saw postered on every street, at every beauty spot, but no longer it seems - and if ever there was a need to revisit this topic, it's most certainly now.
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Sir Dancealot by Timothy Knapman and Keith Robinson (Bloomsbury Publishing)

With exquisite timing, here's a new book that will definitely compliment your upcoming obsession with all things "Strictly"...Meet Sir Dancealot!
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Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Plenty of Love to go round by Emma Chichester-Clark (Jonathan Cape PB)

The eternal and ever-present popularity contest between dogs and cats is always rich subject matter when it comes to children's books...
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Ten Little Monsters by Mike Brownlow and Simon Rickerty (Orchard Books)

Oh, the fun Mike and Simon must have designing these books. We've seen ten pirates suffer a grisly fate, ten princesses prim and proper and now it's the turn of "Ten Little Monsters"
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Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Happy Roald Dahl Day! What does Dahl mean to a pair of book bloggers?

Roald Dahl means many things to many people, but for us he's still the children's writer whose books we genuinely return to again and again.

For me, growing up in the 1970s meant that most of Dahl's most popular books were already published and ready for a bookworm to consume at leisure. Our favourite Roald Dahl titles both stem from the 1980s though, where Dahl's powerful and sharp observant wit and peerless characterisations led to some truly scrumdiddlyumptious books that have gone on to become well-loved classics.

Pretty much everyone will knee-jerk mention "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" as their favourite Dahl title and that (and its sequel, The Great Glass Elevator) were the two Dahl books I read first as a child. It's almost impossible to read passages of the first book without salivating like a rabid dog, particularly if (like me) you lived in an era when the sweet shop was still somewhere magical, filled with chemically-laden (and by now, probably banned or virtually unrecognisable) favourites to tickle a sweet tooth into an early grave in the dentist's 'rotten tooth' jar.

Reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to Charlotte when she was younger, I remember being slightly shocked as an adult at how 'cruel' Wonka seems to be, he genuinely has an air of merciless abandon about him as he ruthlessly dispatches the rotten kids, leaving (of course) Charlie as the only good egg in the bunch.

I also remember the crushing disappointment at the "weird" sequel which I again read to Charlotte fairly soon after. "The Great Glass Elevator" remains (imho) one of Dahl's weakest books, almost written as a needless afterthought. It interestingly never seems to crop up in anyone's Dahl top ten.

Charlotte obviously went on to develop her own reading tastes, and without a doubt her favourite Dahl book is "Matilda", the story of a little girl with exceptional powers, but above all a deep love of books (just like Charlotte herself). Children need to see themselves in books, but with a twist. They really love to see themselves as they'd imagine they'd love to be. So even though Matilda's life is far from perfect, she's got her telekinetic powers to fall back on. An ordinary everyday little girl with an exceptional brain and the power to move objects with her mind? What kid wouldn't love that!

But of course, above all it's again Dahl's characters that make this such a winner. Matilda herself, perfectly portrayed. The divine Miss Honey, the sort of teacher-and-surrogate-parent any kid would love to have. Then there's The Trunchbull. Miss Trunchbull, easily one of the most villainous and terrifying baddies ever to grace the pages of a children's story. Though Charlotte obviously identifies with and loves the movie version of Matilda, she equally loves the book version - both as captivating as each other to her.

My favourite Dahl book again didn't come along until the 80s but it was actually far from my favourite Dahl book until a certain few episodes of Jackanory, and a (sadly late) comedian's spirited reading of this uber-subversive story of a young boy exacting a pretty nasty revenge on his nagging and nasty Grandma to really win me over.

Rik Mayall's "all or bust" reading of "George's Marvellous Medicine" is legendary (and if you haven't seen it, and have any interest in reading aloud to kids, that's pretty much how you do it!)

I like GMM mostly because it's basically a "List" book where Dahl mines his own imagination for an ever-increasing array of ridiculous things to add to the concoction - before revealing the effect on Grandma, and George Kranky's pet chickens. It's probably the only book that comes with a "Don't try this at home" from Dahl himself. He's fine with you using your magic finger on people to turn them into birds (love that book also) or letting nasty spoilt children take a swim in a chocolate river or get turned into blueberries, but please treat your elderly relatives with a little more respect.

We've read most of Dahl's books and there are still more to read. "Matilda" and "George's Marvellous Medicine" are definitely our favourites and I'd love to see you comment on your own faves below.
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