Wednesday 31 May 2017

Half term fun with two awesome books to keep your little ones busy, from Orchard Books.

It's the half term, and by now most parents are probably tearing their hair out trying to think of interesting things to keep their kids occupied...
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Welcome to London by Marcos Farina (Button Books)

London, our capital city and one of the most interesting and vibrant places to visit for a spot of tourism. Let's find out more about this fascinating city in Marcos Farina's awesome "Welcome to London"...
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Can't Catch Me by Timothy Knapman and Simona Ciraolo (Walker Books)

Meet an annoyingly smug mouse, and a sly and clever cat in this race and chase with a most satisfying ending...
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Tuesday 30 May 2017

Kiki and Bobo's Sunny Day by Yasmeen Ismail (Walker Books)

Kiki and Bobo are ready for some summer fun - but Bobo doesn't quite seem as happy to go to the beach as Kiki. What's wrong with the poor little pup?
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Three new fantastic books for lovers of nature and the great outdoors. Perfect for Spring and Summer - out now from Walker Books

Without a doubt, Christmas animations based on well-loved children's books are fantastic for generating new interest in children's books - but they're also utterly brilliant for spawning fab activity books based around the original book's story too.

"We're Going on a Bear Hunt" was given the animation treatment last year and now Walker Books have produced two stunning accompaniments for fans of the original Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury story, and of course the fab little animated version too.

First there's "We're Going on a Bear Hunt: My Adventure Field Guide" which is a brilliant interactive title encouraging kids to go exploring (though hopefully not to find any bears) and spy some interesting animals and plants in their own backyard and beyond.

Young naturalists will discover a wealth of facts about plants and animals, bugs and birds, clouds, the night sky, the weather, and so much more. City and country kids alike will find much to discover, from urban streets to the remotest forest.

The book features facts galore, but also recipes, science projects, and tips for how kids can help protect the environment. Whether you're Swishy-swashing your way through the long grass, or squelch-squelching through the mud, there's something here for everyone.

"My Adventure Field Guide" is out now, published by Walker Books. 

There's also "My Explorers Journal"...

Once again this is a wonderfully interactive journal for young explorer's to record, create and experience the natural world. 

This companion title to "We're Going on a Bear Hunt: An Adventure Field Guide" is the perfect place for young nature enthusiasts to record their outdoor experiences; the animals and plants seen, weather conditions, cloud formations and much, much more. 

With abundant space to write, draw and preserve leaves and flowers, as well as simple art and nature-inspired projects to complete, this book invites readers to explore their world, be inspired by nature and create a keepsake journal of their outdoor adventures.

Perfect to take on holiday, or just use when you're out and about at the weekend, "My Explorer's Journal" is out now, published by Walker Books. 

Also for nature fans, there's "Lots" by Nicola Davies and Emily Sutton...

From the award-winning team behind Tiny: The Invisible World of Microbes comes Lots, a beautifully illustrated introduction to the concept of biodiversity for younger readers. 

There are living things everywhere: the more we look, the more we find. 

There are creatures on the tops of the tallest jungle trees, at the bottom of the coldest oceans, even under the feathers of birds and in boiling volcanic pools. 

So how many different kinds are there? One, two, three ... lots! With beautiful lyrical descriptions from Nicola and exquisite colourful illustrations by Emily, this groundbreaking book is certain to inspire and delight children, and give them tons of scope to find out more about the animals we share our planet with. 

"Lots: The Diversity of Life on Earth" by Nicola Davies and Emily Sutton is out now, published by Walker Books. 
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Monday 29 May 2017

No Nancy No by Alice Tait (Walker Books)

We're off to London with a fab lift-the-flap book and probably one of the naughtiest girls to ever feature in a children's picture book...
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The Superhero Handbook by James Doyle and Jason Ford (Laurence King Publishing)

Capes at the ready! It's time for some superhero shenanigans in this fantastic new activity book from Laurence King Publishing. Here's James Doyle and Jason Ford's "The Superhero Handbook"
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Friday 26 May 2017

ReadItDaddy's Second Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 26th May 2017 - "The Little Mermaid" by Metaphrog (Papercutz)

Once again, our Book of the Week slot sees the supremely talented creative duo Metaphrog grace us with a fantastic mesmeric reworking of a fabulous fairy tale. It's the turn of "The Little Mermaid" by Hans Christian Andersen...
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ReadItDaddy's First Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 26th May 2017 - "King of the Sky" by Nicola Davies and Laura Carlin (Oxford University Press / Oxford Children's Books)

Our First Picture Book of the Week this week asks "What must it be like for a child to find themselves uprooted, moved to a new country, where everything seems unfamiliar and quite often unfriendly?"
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ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 26th May 2017 - "Paddington's Finest Hour" by Michael Bond, R.W. Alley and Peggy Fortnum (HarperCollins Children's Books)

Our Chapter Book of the Week just goes to show that it's never too late to write a fantastic children's book even way into your 90s, here's "Paddington's Finest Hour" by Michael Bond, R.W. Alley and Peggy Fortnum.
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Thursday 25 May 2017

Impossible to express - How does a parent sit a child down and explain terrorism - A ReadItTorial

James O'Brien, LBC Presenter after the Manchester bombing on Monday night

When we woke up after a fairly fitful night's sleep on Tuesday morning this week, it was again to the most horrific news. A terrorist attack at a music event in Manchester left 22 dead with the majority of that number children who'd attended the concert.

I was left numb by the news, but like most parents who probably woke up to the same thing, felt like the only thing to do at home was carry on with the preparations for an ordinary school day.

We had to mute the radio (we usually listen to Radio 2 every morning as we get ready for work and school) and of course any change in behaviour is always picked up on by Charlotte who started asking questions. What had happened, who was involved? Why would anyone do something so horrible?

How do you even begin to try and explain what would drive someone to do that to other human beings in the name of anything, any cause, religious or otherwise?

We had a lot of reasons to try and mute as much of the news as we ourselves are going to a concert in a couple of weeks time. Normally I'd be on edge anyway (I hate huge crowds) but when I saw James O'Brien's statement broadcast on LBC on that morning, his words summed up exactly how I'd be feeling watching my daughter going to her first ever gig - an occasion that should be one of those milestone moments in their young lives. Like James I can't begin to imagine what it must be like when the evening flips on its head and becomes a milestone for the most horrific reasons.

Newsround (that pinnacle of informative youth news broadcasting) put out an extremely informative and perfectly pitched piece of video that was designed specifically for parents who wanted some way of showing their children what had happened, without the hate-filled fearmongering and horrific image sharing that polluted just about every other news outlet.

I think the other thing I saw being shared the most on the day was a quote from (of all people) Fred Rogers, that pinnacle of US clean-cut awesomeness whose mother once said this about harrowing news...

“Always look for the helpers,” she’d tell me. “There’s always someone who is trying to help.” I did, and I came to see that the world is full of doctors and nurses, police and firemen, volunteers, neighbors and friends who are ready to jump in to help when things go wrong.

Those 'helpers' were everywhere after this event. Taxi drivers who turned off the meters to ferry people away from danger. Hotels that took people in. A homeless guy who was in the thick of things helping victims and nursing one woman as she lay dying. Normal everyday people doing everything they could to make sure people were safe, were looked after. For all the acts of hatred in the world there are many many more of kindness and hope, and that's really what I'll be telling Charlotte every time something like this happens.

There is good in the world, and there are good people, and those are the people you should believe in and have faith in. Don't pay any attention to the hatemongers who crawled out from under their rocks and were duly given public forums to peddle their worthless messages, pay attention to the good people who meekly stood by and soberly did their best to help out.
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Poor Louie by Tony Fucile (Walker Books)

Poor, poor Louie. The cute little dog has gathered up all his things and is leaving home - but why? Find out inside...
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Six Blind Mice and an Elephant by Jude Daly (Otter-Barry Books)

Here's a lovely new treatment of a traditional Indian folk tale, retold beautifully by Jude Daly...
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ReaditDaddy's Chapter Book Roundup - May 2017

Wow, it's been a busy month on the chapter book front and we're playing catchup with a brace of titles designed to tempt and tantalise. We're kicking off with a book that really deserves even more trumpeting about, and one that's been virtually glued to Charlotte's hands since I picked it up for her.

"Who Let the Gods Out" by Maz Evans is the story of young Elliot. Elliot's mum is too ill to work, and their home is under threat But one day a shooting star crashes to earth and changes Elliot's life forever.

The star is Virgo - a young Zodiac goddess on a mission. Befriending Elliot, the pair unwittingly release the fiendish Thanatos, a wicked death daemon imprisoned beneath Stonehenge.

There's no way Virgo and Elliot can defeat this all-powerful demonic deity on their own, they must turn to the old Olympian gods for help. The only problem is that after centuries of cushy retirement on earth,  Zeus and his crew might not be up to the task of saving the world!

It's a riotous, fun and original book that dips into Greek myth and legend in a fantastic contemporary way, with truckloads of character appeal leaving us wanting a sequel as soon as possible (c'mon Maz!)

"Who Let the Gods Out" by Maz Evans is out now, published by Chicken House Books. 

Next, the return of a series that I've been completely consumed by and have only just got round to catching up on.

Jonathan Stroud's super-fantastic supernatural thriller "Lockwood and Co" is now up to book four, but I started off my reading month catching up with Book 3 - "The Hollow Boy".

Lockwood & Co. might be the smallest (some might say most shambollic) Psychic Detection Agency in London. But its three agents - Lockwood, Lucy and George - are exceptional talents who know how to get results.

When an outbreak of ghostly phenomena grows to terrifying levels in Chelsea, Scotland Yard is left baffled.

Even more baffling is that Lockwood & Co appear to have been excluded from the huge team of Agents investigating the Chelsea Outbreak. 

Surely this is the perfect chance for them to show once and for all that they're actually the best in town? Well, that's if they can put aside their personal differences for long enough to march into action with their rapiers, salt and iron. 

It's another cracking book in the series that harks back to the sort of awesome ghostly stuff I read as a kid (you remember those brilliant ghost story anthologies by the likes of Methuen etc that always had terrifying covers!). 

I also caught up with book four...

"The Creeping Shadow" picks up directly after the cataclysmic events in "The Hollow Boy. Lockwood and Co is no longer the team it once was. Ace supernatural investigator Lucy has left  to make her own mark on the ghostly world as a freelance operative. She is hiring herself out to other agencies – agencies that might value her ever-improving skills.

But now Lockwood needs her help. But first he might have to swallow his pride.

Penelope Fittes, leader of the well-renowned Fittes Agency wants Lockwood & Co. – and only them – to locate and remove the ‘Source’ for the legendary Brixton Cannibal.

It’s a tough assignment. Made worse by the tensions between Lucy and the other agents – even the skull is treating her like a jilted lover!

What will it take to reunite the team? Black marketeers, an informant ghost, a Spirit Cape that transports the wearer, and mysteries involving their closest rivals may just do the trick.

But not all is at it seems. And it’s not long before a shocking revelation rocks Lockwood & Co. to its very core . . .

As you'd expect, this book closes leaving you absolutely ravenous for more. It's fair to say that there are few supernatural / ghostly series around at the moment for middle grade / YA audiences that are as accomplished, polished and downright scary as this. If you've yet to catch the wave of Lockwood-mania, it's time to climb on board this ghost train!

"The Hollow Boy" and "The Creeping Shadow" (books 3 and 4 in the Lockwood and Co series) are out now, published by Corgi Children's Books - and don't miss Books 1 and 2 ("The Screaming Staircase" and "The Whispering Skull") and definitely do NOT miss the final chapter, "The Empty Grave" which will be coming up in September. 

Phew! After all those scares, a change of pace I think!

Bloomsbury's excellent middle grade education series continues with another fantastic book from Tony Bradman.

"Revolt Against the Romains" takes us back in history to the time of the all-conquering Roman Army, as it spread across the globe.

Told from the perspective of a young soldier in the Roman Army, poised on the brink of the invasion of Britannia, it's a fictional take on one character's experiences as the army prepares for war.

The Britons are war-painted savages in the Roman Army's eyes. Marcus, the soldier in question, is drawn directly into the conflict between both sides as he meets a warrior chief while on the way to meet his father.

The meeting does not end in death, but changes Marcus' point of view forever.

We love this series, and we particularly love the idea of plucking points in history and weaving them into scintillating and exciting stories. It's a fantastic range that's going to be a huge hit with fans of folk like Caroline Lawrence, or who are studying Roman Britain at school.

"Revolt Against the Romans" by Tony Bradman is out now, published by Bloomsbury Education. 

Next up - time for a quick visit to the big apple along with a mythical chum...

"Unicorn in New York: Louie Makes a Splash" by Rachel Hamilton and Oscar Armellen is the fourth in Rachel's fantastic series, mixing up real-world locations and photos with a hugely entertaining story.

Louie is a Unicorn with big ambitions who has come to the city that never sleeps in search of stardom.

Fetching up at the New York School for the Performing Arts, Louie intends to make his debut in fine style. But when Miranda the Mermaid takes the starring role in a new production, will Louie end up on the sidelines, or can Louie remind Miranda what friends are for and that sometimes you need a little help from them along the way too!

Tons of fun and we really liked the idea of showing off a bit of the real city, "Louie Makes a Splash" is out now, published by OUP / Oxford Children's Books. 

Phew, I think we've definitely got time for a few more. What's next in our grab bag?

Anything new from Elys Dolan is always met with huge excitement, so we really couldn't be happier to see "Knighthood for Beginners", a brilliantly funny new chapter book from such a huge talent in children's publishing.

Meet Dave, possibly the world's most terrible dragon. Not "Terrible" in the sense of striking fear into the hearts of every noble knight, just really absolutely rubbish at all things dragoney (is that a word? It is now!)

Dave gives up on the whole Dragon idea and finds a book on becoming a Knight instead. This seems a much easier prospect, until Sir Gnasty shows up and tries to put the kybosh on Dave's dreams of chivalry and bravery.

Can Dave be a better Knight than a dragon? And will he have what it takes to teach Sir Gnasty a valuable lesson in underestimating short green scaly knights-in-training?

A riotous romp from Elys, brilliantly paced and pitched for kids just making the break from picture books into proper chapter stuff - packed with tons of entertaining illustrations too. 

"Knighthood for Beginners" by Elys Dolan is out now, published by OUP / Oxford Children's Books. 

Cor, this next book takes me back! I remember when Charlotte was completely obsessed with a certain witch and her fab moggy...

"Winnie and Wilbur: Disgusting Dinners and Other Stories" is a fantastic new three-in-one chapter book from Laura Wood with brilliant illustrations as ever by Korky Paul. 

We loved the Winnie the Witch picture books back in the very early days of this blog (and they're still brilliant now, track them down!) but this is the first time we've had the chance to catch up with Winnie's middle grade age adventures. 

In "Disgusting Dinners" you can treat yourself to a bumper helping of three brilliant Winnie the Witch stories, once again aided by her faithful moggy and friend Wilbur the Cat. 

What's Winnie up to this time? Amongst other things she decides to pitch in at a local school serving up dinner. Can Winnie's concoctions possibly be any worse than Turkey Drummers? I doubt it, but there's also a fancy dress fun run and some serious road safety for Winnie to contend with too. With tons of fun, magic and brilliant characters, the Winnie and Wilbur books are once again perfect for kids taking their first solo reading steps with chapter book titles. 

"Winnie and Wilbur: Disgusting Dinners and Other Stories" is out now, published by OUP / Oxford Children's Books. 

Tons more fun from a comedian now really making inroads into children's publishing, this next book is awesome in every sense of the word!

"Animalcolm" by David Baddiel introduces us to a boy who absolutely HATES animals. 

Malcolm's family absolutely love them though. Their house is full of pets - and animals take priority over stuff that really matters, like the new Laptop Malcolm had his heart set on for his birthday.

The only bright spot on the horizon is the Year Six school trip, which Malcolm never thought his parents would pay for. When he finds out that the trip is to a farm, Malcolm once again feels like the world's unluckiest boy.

Over the next days however, Malcolm changes. He learns a lot about animals. More, in many ways, than he would like. He learns what it’s really like to be an animal. A whole series of animals, in fact…

It does make him think differently. And speak differently. And eat differently. And, um, smell differently. But will he end up the same as before? Will Malcolm learn to love animals if he becomes more than one?

With tons of fantastic illustrations by uber-talented Jim Field (including the glorious eye-catching cover), "AniMalcolm" by David Baddiel is out now, published by HarperCollins Children's Books.

Phew, room for a couple more? How about something based on an awesome mighty girls cartoon series? Oh you bet we're up for that...

"The Powerpuff Girls: Brain Freeze" is the first in a series of books from Orchard Publishing based on the hit Cartoon Network animated series.
Meet Blossom, Buttercup and Bubbles and see what happens when they find out that the Towsnville Ice Cream Parlour is holding a contest to create a new flavour. They're determined to enter, but they each have very different ideas about what the flavour should be. 

Blossom wants a classic vanilla with rainbow sprinkles, Bubbles wants triple-fudge-extra-chocolate-oozy-caramel-delight and Buttercup wants ... pizza flavour (yep, she sounds exactly like Charlotte! Pretty sure she'd go for Pizza and Ice Cream at the same time!)

As the girls use their superpowers to deliver their ice cream around Townsville, things get a little messy. Meanwhile Mojo Jojo has got a dastardly plan to bring a hoarde of monsters on a day trip to Townsville - to destoy the Powerpuff Girls once and for all! Mwa ha ha!

This is book one in an eventual series, perfect for fans of the awesome show. 

"The Powerpuff Girls: Brain Freeze" is out now, published by Orchard Publishing. 

Last but not least, the latest in a growing series of brill books for girls...

The "Rainbow Magic" series from Daisy Meadows shows no signs of slowing down and the latest title in the series from Orchard Books is "Tiana the Toy Fairy"

Tied in with the "Toys and Me" YouTube sensation, join Kirsty and Rachel for another adventure with Tiana the Toy Fairy!

When Jack Frost steals Tiana's magical candy key, the magical Land of Sweets is under threat.

Can the three friends get it back before Fairyland turns sour?

These are great little books for emerging solo readers, fun and varied in content and theme. You can find out more about the whole Rainbow Magic series on the Hachette / Orchard Books Website.

"Tiana the Toy Fairy: The Land of Sweets" by Daisy Meadows is out now, published by Orchard.

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Wednesday 24 May 2017

Children's Discovery Atlas by Anita Ganeri and Sara Lynn Cramb (QED Publishing)

There are so many fantastic books that encourage kids to 'travel the world' within the confines of their pages, discovering tons of amazing facts about our wonderful planet...
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The Big Bad Mood by Tom Jamieson and Olga Demidova (Bloomsbury Children's Books)

You know what it's like some mornings when you wake up and feel like nothing's going to plan...
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Create your Own Fantastic Quest by Andrew and Chris Judge (Scholastic)

Those of you with a slightly nervous disposition when it comes to maiming books may want to look away now...
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Tuesday 23 May 2017

Raymond by Yann and Gwendal Le Bec (Walker Books)

Meet Raymond, the fabulous superstar dog who is guaranteed to win you over the minute you flip open the covers of this brilliant book...
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"The Art of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" by Lucasfilm Ltd / Josh Kushins and Various Artists (Abrams)

Once again it's time for one of those glorious "Art of" books. This time it's "The Art of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" curated by Josh Kushins...
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Monday 22 May 2017

My Book of Birds: A beautifully illustrated compendium of birds by Geraldo Valerio (Rook and Wren)

Sometimes we muse on the fact that we can subtly mention a certain type of book isn't hitting our review pile, and then like buses, three will come along at once...
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Learn letters and numbers in a fun and original way with Nosy Crow and the British Museum

Even though madame is far too old and sophisticated for board books, we love to see really attractive early years books regardless.

Particularly when they're as amazing as these new titles from Nosy Crow, covering numbers, letters and colours.

In association with The British Museum, Nosy Crow have come up the fantastic idea of delving into the collection's amazing pile of artifacts to bring eye-catching objects into play, so that children can learn their numbers and letters in a fun and engaging way.

"123" and "ABC" are the two titles we took a look at (with a further board book covering colours in a similar way). The books are, as you'd expect from Nosy Crow, of the highest quality and it's a particularly brilliant stroke of genius to use museum objects in this way.

Of course, one of the best things about this book (if you live near enough) is that you can then visit the musem and find the real objects for yourself.

Even if you can't get to London, each book comes with an additional QR code which you can scan with your phone or your tablet to learn even more about the artifacts used in the book.

Again, that's a fantastic way of using the books as a jumping off point for more exciting learning opportunities.

Both books are out now, available from Nosy Crow. Check out their website for more titles.
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Friday 19 May 2017

ReadItDaddy's Second Book of the Week - Week Ending 19th May 2017 - "A Song for Will And The Lost Gardeners of Heligan" by Hilary Robinson and Martin Impey (Strauss House Productions)

Our Second Picture Book of the Week once again draws on the fascinating and tragic history surrounding the First World War from two talented folk who excel at producing the most heart-wrenching and brilliant books. "A Song for Will and the Lost Gardeners of Heligan" by Hilary Robinson and Martin Impey...
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ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 19th May 2017 - "The Big Fat Totally Bonkers Diary of Pig" by Emer Stamp (Scholastic)

Hooray! Hooray! It's book four in a series we have loved from the very start, our Chapter Book of the Week this week is the awesome "The Big Fat Totally Bonkers Diary of Pig" by Emer Stamp.
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ReaditDaddy's Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 19th May 2017 - "Sky Private Eye and the Case of the Missing Grandma" by Jane Clarke and Loretta Schauer (Five Quills)

This week's Picture Book of the Week takes a well known fairytale and adds some delicious sprinkles, frosting and a buttery biscuit base! "Sky Private Eye and the Case of the Missing Grandma" by Jane Clarke and Loretta Schauer.
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Thursday 18 May 2017

Tween magazines with mighty girl appeal - a veritable minefield of ARRRGH! A ReadItTorial

Straight off the bat I have to say I am completely A) out of my depth and B) completely out of my comfort zone with this week's ReaditTorial.

It stemmed from a conversation about the state of children's magazines, more specifically the "Tween" market really.

I think nostalgia had to be the only reason my wife and I started talking about "Just 17" and "Smash Hits" magazines and the heady pre-internet days where Tweens weren't even a thing, and teenagers were either too cool to read stuff like that, or bought them just for the song lyrics, problem pages (which used to make for some quite harrowing reading) and celebrity posters (look there's nothing wrong with sticking a photo of Morten Harket on your wall, nothing at all!)

We both like the idea of Charlotte regularly reading something "offline" (and the irony of that won't be lost on you as you read on) that perhaps covers music, tv, film, news and current affairs but in a less vapid way than some of the publications we rifled through in the supermarket (I really can't stand plastic tat mags and I'm not exactly in love with anything that purports to tell you the inner secrets of celebrity Vloggers or YouTube / Twitch Streaming superstars either, sorry Zoella et al).

Obviously the fact that Charlotte loves comics means that a regular subscription to The Phoenix has already happened (and hopefully will continue to be done for some years to come - and heck, even if Charlotte goes off the idea I'll be carrying on with it anyway!) We've also really loved Okido and Anorak - both fantastic magazines that stimulate and entertain in equal measure with a great mix of stories and activities.

But the 'other stuff' seems harder. The likes of brilliant factual magazines like "Aquila" and awesome fiction stuff in "Storyteller" prove that it's possible to produce amazingly engaging mags for STEM and storytelling but what of the rest?

We've looked at "The Week Junior" as a really good attempt to fill the gap left by the BBC's "Newsround" mag but are we just hoping against hope that in this internet age, print mags aren't dying out in their droves and that there's still hope for a resurgence of interest in print that might match what's going on in children's publishing elsewhere (ie print kicking digital's ass).

"Shout" magazine was one example we looked at - obviously for girls older than Charlotte. This one seemed to be sliding down the slippery slope of promoting perfect looks, photoshopped faces and a shallow obsession with all things pink. Worse still, it seemed to make huge assumptions that all kids her age spent the majority of their time online, or watching Sky TV series we've never even heard of.

Magazines that promote the cult of 'zelebrity' (sorry, not sure if that's an actual phrase but it's one I've ended up using to try and categorise folk who have somehow become famous outside their YouTube channels) really weren't what we were looking for at all.

The pink! It burns!

At Charlotte's age we're still (hopefully) a couple of years off her discovering the 'joys' of tapping stuff into a search engine and coming up with all sorts of nuggets (or horrors) - but thankfully with two tech-savvy parents, we're already beginning to put all the parental controls and locks into place to ensure that if she ever gets loose on the laptop she's limited in what she'll have access to. So far, if she gets any time at all on computers at home it's always with one of us in the room or keeping an eye on what she's up to. She still loves playing games or checking out MyMaths but obviously this idyllic blissful ignorance of the internet won't last forever.

Back to the mags though and in the end, of the selection we bought for her, it was actually an arts and crafts mag she went for, pretty much binning the others after just a cursory flick through. Our idea of her being interested in something that featured music, movies and TV ended up being passed up in favour of something creative instead. Admittedly the magazine we chose came with a ton of freebie (and probably terrible quality) art materials, but I guess that was a better outcome than I expected.

It feels like for the time being this nostalgic idea of finding a magazine that appeals to her and isn't overtly focused around education or learning really is a pipe dream.

Ultimately the decision will be hers on whether she'll continue with the one she chose but if anyone out there has a good recommendations for girls around 9 that we haven't already mentioned, please drop a comment below!
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A Home for Gully by Jo Clegg and Lalalimola (Walker Books)

It's definitely not easy being a seagull sometimes, particularly when you choose to live in the big city...
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Wednesday 17 May 2017

The Big Bird Spot by Matt Sewell (Pavilion Children's Books)

We've often lamented the fact that birds are often left out when it comes to children's natural history titles...
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Rockabye Pirate by Timothy Knapman and Ada Grey (Bloomsbury Children's Books)

Pirates. If there's one particular bunch of characters who still seem to be top of children's reading lists, it's those salty buccaneers, sailing the seven seas and usually up to no good...
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Tuesday 16 May 2017

Travels with my Sketchbook by Michael Foreman (Templar Publishing)

Michael Foreman is something of a legend in children's book circles, but he's also a very well travelled man too...
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Monday 15 May 2017

My New Room by Lisa Stickley (Pavilion Children's Books)

Here's a great little book for any kids who are about to go through a whopping great big change in their lives..Lisa Stickley's superb "My New Room"...
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Astonishing and brilliant models to be made in "Build a T-Rex" and "Build a Butterfly" by Kiki Ljung (Natural History Museum / Frances Lincoln Children's Books)

Here's a brilliant pair of books that will bring out the artist in you - well, assuming you're not all fingers and thumbs like us...!
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Friday 12 May 2017

ReadItDaddy's Second Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 12th May 2017 - "Star Wars Rogue One: The Ultimate Visual Guide" compiled by Pablo Hidalgo (Dorling Kindersley)

Our second Picture Book of the Week is a luxurious and sumptuous bible filled with amazing facts and background to the hit movie "Star Wars: Rogue One" in the ultimate visual guide...
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ReadItDaddy's YA Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 12th May 2017 - "Skitter" by Ezekiel Boone (Gollancz)

This one's definitely not for kids - but if you're a young adult who doesn't mind spending the entire time reading this fantastic thrill ride itching themselves to death, then read on for our YA Chapter Book of the Week - "Skitter" by Ezekiel Boone.
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ReaditDaddy's Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 12th May 2017 - The Dressing Up Dad by Maudie Smith and Paul Howard (Oxford University Press / Oxford Children's Books)

For our first book of the week this week we feel it's vitally important for children to be able to see themselves in books, but what about dads? Does this dressy fellah feel familiar to you?
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Thursday 11 May 2017

#AmWriting - Ten things I've found invaluable since dusting down the manuscripts - A ReadItTorial

It seems a bit cheeky offering writing advice when I haven't even had anything published, but over the last month or so I've climbed back onto the writing wagon - dusting down several manuscripts I'd been working on for children's books and kicking off the whole creative process anew.

Awesome meetings with other booky folk (one in particular who shall remain nameless but knows her stuff to the extent she's almost like a children's picture book Jedi Master - You know who you are!) who are involved in publishing or who are also working on their own children's stories has been hugely inspirational, and the catalyst I needed to make me take a long hard look at some of the things I'd considered 'finished' (if any piece of creative work can truly ever be described as finished)

I've also prodded some of the things that lay unfinished, and re-assessed some of the things I'd already cheekily (but unsuccessfully) submitted to publishers and agents through open submissions.

Bringing together some of the things I have found most useful might help you too if you're starting your own writing journey in children's books. Here's ten things that really have kicked things up a notch for me.

1) Don't go it alone if you have the choice. It might go against everything you feel to start sharing your work with others before it's finished or you've got anywhere with it, even before you're really happy with it but getting useful impartial criticism from others is a huge part of why being in a writing collective or group will help you bucketloads. I'm lucky enough to be part of a small but awesome writing group that have a closed blog and facebook group - you don't even have to be in the same locale to put together a great writing group that can help you, and also let you help others through crit and comment.

2) Submit, submit, and submit again. Don't be put off by rejection and also don't instantly bin something that's been flatly rejected with no feedback. It's a massively objective business, and what doesn't work for one person might well work for someone else (and vice versa of course).

Look at your work again, tweak it perhaps, bend that sucker until it fits "The Rules" - you know the sub-1000 word / 32 page / 12 spread rules that really will gain you acceptance if you are submitting to publishers or agents who really are looking for that.

Also, if you have the chance to, build yourself some picture book grids like these (ignore the headings above each cell, apart from the obvious ones - these really are designed to help you lay out the idea 12 page spread / 32 page type of thing that picture books are built on) :

I've been using these as a method of trimming down the word count from a manuscript, and also as a method of thumbnailing stories out (you don't really need great drawing skills, just use stick figures or representative shapes around your text).

Using these is surprisingly effective for working out the 'rhythm' of a story and giving you an early idea of how the whole thing will look as an actual book.
If anyone's interested in a powerpoint version of these, give me a nudge in the comments and I'll see what I can do.

3) If you get the chance to, read your work out loud to the toughest critics in the business, yes children - your intended audience and not just your own or near-relatives.

Yes, it's all well and good to try your work out on adults but if you haven't shared your ideas with children, what on earth are you writing children's books for? Kids will be brutally honest, kids will tear your work to bits - or in rare cases they might giggle, laugh, gasp, or give you the thumbs up. If you are lucky enough to be a parent whose kids love books, all the better but it's surprising how effective reading stories aloud to non-book-loving kids can be too.

4) Despite my advice on thumbnailing and story grids, don't get too hung up on trying to visualise your work (this is a piece of advice I have to choke down as it's extremely difficult for me not to try and scribble out characters or scenes as illustrations).

Sadly, if you feel you're unwilling to make compromises should the need arise, unless you're an extremely talented commercial-quality* artist who intends to self-illustrate your children's book, your work will jointly be yours and the chosen illustrators.

You will have to meet them in a middle (figuratively, you will actually be very lucky if you ever do meet the illustrator working on your book with you) a little bit, even if you feel that the visuals aren't anything like you imagined.

Trust your editor / agent / publisher and their team of illustrators and designers, because they know what works, and ultimately what will sell. Whether or not you care about selling a zillion copies, your publisher most certainly will

* - Follow commercial artists and illustrators on twitter or facebook. If your work is as good as theirs, truly, maybe you'll have a shot. Just maybe but don't kid yourself that just because you're excellent at drawing hands or spaceships that you can cut it in children's illustration. 

5) If you're having trouble with word counts, imagine trying to read your story to a tired child at bedtime. Some kids love long books, some kids actually love them because it puts off that moment when they'll be snuggled down to sleep a bit longer. But tired cranky kids want something punchy and to the point so be as brutal as you can with your word counts, you'll be very surprised how much you can cut and still retain the core essence of your story without making it sound flat and boring. In addition you really can get too 'clever' with words sometimes. You may feel that your intended audience might benefit from learning a few lengthy and descriptive (flowery) words, but sometimes these can really break a manuscript and become irritations rather than bonuses. Again, think about the intended age group you're aiming at, not just the exceptional kids who will eat up new language challenges like hungry caterpillars!

6) Likewise, don't imagine that the 32 page / 12 spread / sub-1000 word rule is there just to make life difficult. It isn't - book publishing is a commercial venture and any publisher will want to ensure that their book fits the specifics of picture book formats they work with regularly with ease, and of course they will also want to ensure that your book won't cost publishers extra to print (unless it's really, REALLY worth it).

7) Don't be put off if someone else has a very similar idea / book out. Work with that, look at theirs, and look at yours - and start to make a list of the similarities and differences. Does it need a title tweak? Is the core theme too similar? Look at ways of twisting that, adding a subtle tweak or two, make it stand out. Similarly though, don't be tempted to plagiarise or steal someone else's idea. You might think you can pass off your clever story that's basically identical to someone else's with just a few tweaks but publishers and agents aren't stupid, and the likelihood is they will spot a copy a mile off.

8) If something's clearly not working or you're really struggling with an idea, salvage what you can and bin the thing. Honestly, this is some of the best advice I've ever had with regards to art and writing. If a story's structure is like a Jenga tower and the whole thing falls apart if you try to make recommended changes, there really is no better course of action than to shelve it and move on.

I've been particularly merciless with several manuscripts that seemed like really strong ideas and were quite dear to me, but just couldn't come together as a story at all, no matter what. I've made a mental note of the themes, and kept the original pitches but binned the rest, or in one or two cases have saved them in 'the back of the drawer' for later.

9) Be inspired by trends, but for goodness sake don't just assume it'll be an easy win by jumping on bandwagons. The timescales involved in publishing really aren't in your favour anyway (my awesome Jedi master picture book contact talked about how long it takes a book to end up on shelves once a deal has been struck - clue: It's longer than you think!)

Again, think about the saturation in the children's book market when it comes to princesses, pirates, dinosaurs and astronauts - and seriously consider whether your story idea stands out from the rest and whether a commissioning editor or agent will be able to see that for themselves. Trends are fun to try and predict, and sometimes it's easy / sometimes it's not but hey, if we could all see into the future we'd all be the next J.K. Rowling right?

10) Most of all, yes above all else - keep writing. Carry a writing journal with you (I can't begin to tell you how useful this piece of advice is if you're like me and have a memory like a sieve) or a method of being able to quickly make notes because you really never know when inspiration will strike.

Talk to other writers, particularly other unpublished writers who are fantastic folk to get to know, and are struggling with all the same things you are.

Be proud that you are a creative person, creative enough to believe that you can make and tell stories.

Never, ever, ever give up on that and also never be put off by other people's seemingly 'easy' success. Trust me on this, they will have been through the exact same process you are going through without a doubt.

Bonus: Polish your pitches. Again some of the best advice I've ever been given is to work on your pitches, imagine you're writing the Amazon blurb or back-cover blurb for your book, summarising it perfectly in a few short sentences without completely giving the game away, or playing your cards too close to your chest. Treat it as a warm-up exercise for trimming word counts or use it as a technical exercise in seeing whether you can write an idea up in a way that makes it feel zingy, fresh and appealing.

Hope some of these are as useful to you as they have been to me, and the very best of luck with your writing! See you at a literary festival some day, or in our reviews pile? That would be so cool!
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