Friday 30 June 2017

ReaditDaddy's Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 30th June 2017 - "The World's Worst Children 2" by David Walliams and Tony Ross (HarperCollins Children's Books)

Wow! Our first David Walliams review, which seems absolutely incredible considering how many books this talented fella has now written...and it nails Chapter Book of the Week for this week...
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ReadItDaddy's Picture Book(s) of the Week - Week Ending 30th June 2017 - "Very Little Sleeping Beauty" and "Very Little Rapunzel" by Teresa Heapy and Sue Heap (Red Fox Picture Books)

Our Book(s) of the week this week see the welcome return of Heapy and Heap to the "Book of the Week" slot with another two awesome "Very Little" stories!
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Thursday 29 June 2017

The world needs to make way for new characters and stories, not keep trying to reinvent the wheel - A ReadItTorial

Marvel's Thor - Now female in the comics - Outsold her male counterpart tenfold.  Comics, they are a-changing (for the better!)
Nostalgia is a powerful thing. It's like that comfortable pair of slippers that are literally falling apart at the seams, but are just too nice and snuggly to throw away. Nostalgia wraps us up in a comfort blanket of reminding us who and where we were when certain events unfolded, or certain TV shows aired, certain movies were going great guns in the cinema, or certain comics thrilled us with amazing and original stories.

Hollywood treats nostalgia like a blood bank. At the expense of original stories and movie-making, Hollywood has been tapping into its past glories to try and float new multi-billion-dollar movie franchises for a new audience, most of the time instantly alienating folk who should really be along for the nostalgia trip.

I recently read a very thought-provoking article that made some truly fantastic points about how women in science (and science fiction) are powerful role models to young girls who have scientific aspirations, who could truly be the next Elon Musk or Bill Gates, or anyone they want to be.

It got me thinking about writing an editorial about how movies, comics, books and TV also need to stop treating female characters like second-class citizens, and how there's still this weird ingrained notion in a few male (and sadly, some female) minds that this is a perfectly acceptable situation.

One of the article's key sections touched on why now, more than ever, we need a female Doctor Who. "12" is about to step down, and there seems no better time to prove that the doc can indeed be male or female, any gender or race, as this is now part of the show's 'bible'.

It got me thinking how much I'd root like mad for someone like Sue Perkins, Tamsin Grieg, Joanna Lumley or even Michelle Gomez to take on that most iconic role (The Michelle Gomez thing. At time of writing I have this crazy crackerjack theory that Doctor Who might regenerate as Missy but I guess we'll have to wait and see on Saturday!)

It also got me thinking about the whole 'gender swap' thing in general, and a concern I have about merely lifting and shifting a character from male to female.

The problem I have with the idea of gender swapping well established characters in comics and science fiction is complicated, and might sound like a rather sexist knee-jerk reaction to seeing a change made purely to prove that a female character would work as well as, if not better than, a male counterpart. It's really not that, it's more that I feel cheated if we're starved of new story ideas by merely retreading old ones with new shiny ideas that are just a quick fix.

On many occasions I've had quite animated discussions with Charlotte about the idea that we now have fantastic characters in comics that could easily emulate Wonder Woman's movie and comic success, and in some cases we've had those characters for years.

Gender swapping is of course in full swing in the comics industry - and that's before you even start talking about female characters rocking the comic world in their own right.

We have a female Thor now, whose comics have outsold her male counterpart ten to one. A girl has taken over Iron Man's mantle in the comics, again reinventing Tony Stark's ego-driven technological genius as a slightly dorky but extremely driven and clever young woman. We also have Spider-Gwen, arguably one of the most tightly written and gorgeously created comics of the last decade, and She-Hulk has been around for a long time - coming along way ahead of her time and basically making the big green bloke look like a bit of a whiny wussbag.

In the movies we have a female team of Ghostbusters who kicked their own brand of ass in a movie that actually surprised the heck out of me by not being a total suck-fest (Again, more because I don't like Paul Feig's stuff - nothing to do with an all-female cast though Holtzmann stole the show, just sayin').

But for both Charlotte and I, the characters that have always interested us the most are the ones that established a strong and viable female core character right from the very start - in some cases when comics, movies and TV were in their very infancy.

I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that a female Doctor Who would work. It would cause a gigantic uproar too, and - similar to what happened when the Star Wars series suddenly started to focus more on strong female leads with Episode 7 and Rogue One - we'd lose a load of buttheaded morons who'd instantly boycott or swear off the show (Boo bloody hoo. Good riddance I'd say).

But I'd want to at least see that it was being done for the right reasons. Not as a measure of 'girls are as good as, if not better than boys', but definitely to establish a strong and inspirational character that would again lend weight to the argument that science fiction and stories can continue to push not just boundaries of science and technology, but for storytelling too.

Back to the point though, again it still feels like for each and every instance where a gender-swap is proposed, we're missing the opportunity to tap into the vast sea of science fiction and fantasy works by women featuring strong female characters. Recasting Doctor Who as female still feels a bit like camping on an already well-established mythos, when there are so many potentially awesome stories and books out there that would work as TV or movies in their own right.

Something like "Station Eleven" by Emily St John Mandel, a superbly written post-apocalyptic novel that you could easily visualise as a series.

Or "Boneshaker" by Cherie Priest, again a truly awesome slice of dark and gritty steampunk that would be awesome as a movie.

And for goodness sake WHY have we still not seen any of Malorie Blackman's work given the big or small screen treatment?

Comics wise I'd truly love to see Motor Crush become a movie sensation (and it so easily could, it's so cinematic and pacy), Snot Girl would be a classic cult flick in the making and I'm pleased to see that at last we're going to get a Hilda animated series (though the early look at this was a bit jarring, the characters weren't quite there).

My main point is that there are so many great female fantasy and science fiction authors out there, why are they not getting picked up for movies and TV?

Gender-swapping male characters also seems to nudge uncomfortably against the argument that we are pushing towards a genderless society - or at least a society where gender is no longer seen as a war, a battle, a conflict, two sides endlessly butting heads trying to prove a point that seems woefully old fashioned and prehistoric now, that "One is better than the other because bullshit".

How are we supposed to encourage kids that gender doesn't matter, does not define you, if we spend endless hours on the internet arguing that "making character A female would make a huge, huge difference to women and girls", are we not just switching the argument from one side to the other rather than negating it entirely?

It's tough to not give in to the allure of reinventing characters as female though, particularly when the results are usually stunning, and you can see the different and original possibilities that this would open up in storytelling (and yes, it's certainly a far easier idea to visualise than doing the flip in the other direction - I still can't imagine the new Splash movie - featuring a Male "Madison" as being anything other than a complete disaster).

Last point - let's assume that the next incarnation of the Doctor is female, but is still written largely by an all-male writing team, in a show overseen by a male showrunner (though thankfully with a good few female episode directors and writers doing the show justice, like Rachel Talalay who has constantly surprised me with her Doctor Who work, considering how disastrous I thought the Tank Girl movie was).

Wouldn't it be neat if those roles were swapped too?

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"Buddha: An Enlightened Life" by Keiron Moore and Rajesh Nagulakonda (Campfire)

Well, there's no doubt about it, this is certainly an entirely original title but thoroughly absorbing and enlightening indeed...!
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ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book Roundup - June 2017

Hello friends, and welcome to another fabulous chapter book round up. It's June, and as I type this the rain is beating itself into a mist on the road outside. Yet we still have a smidgeon of hope that we might see some sunshine soon.

With that in mind, let's dip into our first book of this month's roundup. "Coyote Summer" by Mimi Thebo is a gloriously atmospheric story of a young girl, a wild animal and the sandy plains and mountains of Kansas.

Jules has done something terrible (though obviously we're not going to tell you exactly what - that's for you to discover!)

Originally harking from London, she's ripped out of her comfort zone and sent to live in disgrace with her Aunt and Uncle in Kansas.

Alone, a stranger in a strange land, Jules digs her heels in and begins the tough process of clawing her way back to some sense of normalcy, always with a level of paranoia that folks somehow know her past. It takes a wild Coyote, her love of ballet and a tough but fair regime on her aunt and uncle's farm to show Jules what she's really made of.

Stunningly hauntingly written, full of glorious imagery, Mimi's writing is electrifyingly good.

"Coyote Summer" by Mimi Thebo is out now, published by OUP / Oxford Children's Books. 

Next we have a book that couldn't be further away from Coyote Summer in tone and story if it tried. "Defender of the Realm: Dark Age" is a glorious fantasy follow-up to the original "Defender of the Realm" book, once again from Mark Huckerby and Nick Ostler.

A new monarch is being crowned, but just as the coronation is about to wind down, a huge battle erupts across the kingdom. 

A nation cowers in fear and rumours of The Black Dragon's return are rife. 

Young Alfie Hayley is thrust headlong into the conflict along with the Yeoman Warders, ancient defenders of the kingdom - who soon uncover a sinister plot hatched by none other than Professor Lock. 

 For the epic battle that's brewing, Alfie will need to enlist help from abroad, as well as from a mysterious new friend who seems to be more like a guardian angel than an ally. 

With tons of fantastic world-building, solid characters and a real swashbuckling energy erupting from every page, this is certainly a hugely original fantasy series in the making. 

"Defender of the Realm: Dark Age" by Mark Huckerby and Nick Ostler is out now, published by Scholastic. 

Next up, one of our favourite questions forms the basis for a new and exciting adventure series that you won't get to see until September, but we couldn't wait to tell you about NOW!

"The World of Supersaurs: Raptors of Paradise" might be one of the cheesiest book titles you've ever heard, but Jay Jay Burridge's fantastic new series - with uber-cool illustrations and augmented reality tie-ins to create a book world that will make your eyes pop out. 

We love that question though - "What if Dinosaurs had never died out?" and any stories that bring humans and dinosaurs into close proximity is always a win for us. 

"Raptors of Paradise" opens the series with Bea Kingsley, who lives in a world where humans live side by side with supersaurs, sometimes in peace but often in conflict. 

Bea is the daughter of explorer parents who went missing when she was just a baby. So when her grandmother suddenly takes her on a trip to the remote Indonesian islands of Aru, Bea starts asking some big questions. 

But the more questions Bea asks, the more trouble she and her grandmother find themselves in. Was the journey to the islands a big mistake?

If you've ever loved stuff like "Pirates of Pangaea" or indeed are old-school enough to remember "Flesh" (both awesome comic strips) and you're ready for a middle grade adventure series with teeth, this should be your first stop come the Autumn!

"The World of Supersaurs: Raptors of Paradise" by Jay Jay Burridge will be out on 21st September 2017, published by Superaurs / Zaffre / Bonnier. 

We couldn't resist sneaking another 'early' one in. This isn't out till 3rd August but I'm pretty sure a lot of you will have it on your preorder lists already.

"Simply the Quest" is the second book in Maz Evans' fantastic "Who Let the Gods Out" series.

Poor Elliot Hooper - thrown into the thick of a global conflict in Book 1 really isn't having a lot of luck. 

His troubles are far from over: his mum's health worsens, he's struggling at school, and a bunch of anarchic Greek immortals have moved into his home 

Worst of all, one of the immortals is the vain self-obsessed teen goddess Virgo, who's in trouble with the Zodiac. 

Death-daemon Thanatos and his scary mum are at also still at large. Wouldn't it just be easier to curl up under the duvet and never come out? 

As even more immortal allies and enemies emerge, Virgo and Elliot must learn how to be heroes. 

"Who Let the Gods Out" has easily been one of our favourite books of the year and it sounds like the sequel is going to be every bit as good. 

"Simply the Quest" by Maz Evans is out on 3rd August 2017, published by Chicken House Books. 

Next up in our heaving teetering tottering middle grade chapter book pile of greatness...

"The Crystal Run" by Sheila O'Flanagan is set in a dystopian world full of suspense and danger.

Kaia Kukura has been awarded the great honour of protecting her country, and is determined to bring wealth and glory to her family. She must travel through enemy territory to replace the precious Kerala crystals that power Carcassia's protective shield. But no Runner is permitted to return after their mission.

When Kaia hasfulfilled her Runner's oath, she knows her life must end.

But sometimes it takes an outsider, someone from a different world, to question the truth.

Fourteen-year-old Joe can barely outrun the school bullies who torment him daily. Cornered yet again, he tries to escape - and finds himself falling through a portal into another world.

There, he meets fierce and strong Kaia. Together they discover that not everyone in Carcassia can be trusted - and that there are terrible lies at the heart of Kaia's beloved home.

Can their combined strength and skill help Kaia save her country and herself? And will Joe ever find a way back to his own world?

It's gripping stuff in the style of Phillip Pullman, Philip Reeve and the fantastic Maze Runner series. This is book one in an eventual series so keep a sharp eye out for Sheila's next title as she's definitely a talent to watch.

"The Crystal Run (Book 1)" by Sheila O'Flanagan is out now, published by Hodder Children's Books. 

Next up, a more lighthearted read for kids who are just beginning to read chapter book titles on their own...

Horrid Henry, star of his own chapter book series and even a telly star is making his first chaotic steps into early reader titles with Francesca Simon and Tony Ross cooking up "Horrid Henry's Swimming Lesson".

As you'd expect from the mischievous mister, Henry is up to all sorts of japes at the local swimming pool with Soggy Sid.

Armbands at the ready, it's a fun story that covers the "Red Band" for children who are ready to start reading all about Henry's adventures all on their own.

Once they're comfortable with books like this, they can make the leap to Henry's big and proper books. A fun way to start kids out on a reading journey with characters they may already know and love.

"Horrid Henry's Swimming Lesson" by Francesca Simon and Tony Ross is out now, published by Orion Children's Books. 

More early reading fun now, based on the hugely popular My Little Pony characters...

"Lyra and the Secret Agent Ponies" by G.M. Berrow is perfectly pitched for younger readers.

Inspired by the MLP TV series, the books are taking over Equestria as we meet Lyra - who thinks she knows everything about her best friend Bon Bon.

But when a mysterious pony named Agent Furlong pays Bon Bon a visit, Lyra discovers that her best friend is actually a secret agent pony!

When Lyra finds out Bon Bon needs help, there's only one thing she can do - join her friend and go undercover, together! Can the secret agent ponies protect Equestria?

This magical My Little Pony adventure comes with bonus coloured activity pages, packed with puzzles, games and more fun!

Look out for more books in the series coming soon!

"Lyra and the Secret Agent Ponies" by G.M. Berrow is out now, published by Orchard Books. 

Phew, book bag oh book bag, what's next in our stack?

Adam Blade's hugely successful "Beast Quest" series branches out into a perfect story arc for fantasy and adventure lovers. 

Battle awesome beasts and fight evil with Tom and Elenna in the bestselling adventure series for boys and girls aged 7 and up!

In the frozen waters of Drakonia lurks Korvax the Sea Dragon.

Tom and Elenna have to face this fearsome Beast if they are to prevent the Evil Wizard Jezrin from reaching the Well of Power...and becoming utterly unstoppable!

There are FOUR thrilling adventures to collect in this new series - don't miss out! 

Quarg the Stone Dragon; Korvax the Sea Dragon; Vetrix the Poison Dragon and Strytor the Skeleton Dragon

Definitely something for everyone. The "Beast Quest" series by Adam Blade is available now, published by Orchard Books. 

Another franchise that shows absolutely no signs of slowing down, featuring in a hugely successful TV series and soon to be a brand new feature film from explosions-meister Michael Bay, here's "The Battle for Optimus Prime" - the latest chapter title in the Transformers Book Range from Orchard Books. 

When a maximum-security prison ship crashes on earth, Cyberton's most-wanted criminals escape.

Now all that stands between Earth and the deadly Decepticons is a crack team of Autobot heroes - the Robots in Disguise!

Optimus Prime has always been Bumblebee's mentor. But recently the two autobots can't seem to agree. 

Little do they know they're being tested by Liege Maximo - and he'll stop at nothing until Optimus and Bumblebee destroy each other! 

Will this be the end of the autobots? Somehow we think they might just bounce back from this but this is a hugely gripping and exciting action packed adventure for girls and boys aged 6 plus. 

"The Battle for Optimus Prime" is out now, published by Orchard Books. 

There's a mystery to solve next...this one had us when they described it as being like "Agatha Christie for kids"...

Sally Gardner and David Roberts have cooked up a detective romp with a twist or two in its tail in "The Flying Carpet Thief" - book one in the "Fairy Detective Agency" series. 

This one is brimming with mystery and magic - from a legend in children's literature - Million-copy-selling author, Sally Gardner.

The detectives at Wings and Co are in a bit of bother.

There is a lost leprechaun on the loose and carpets are flying all over the village of Podgy Bottom, as if by magic. 

Oh, and worst of all, Fidget the cat has vanished on VERY URGENT business. 

It looks like a tricky case for our fairy detectives . . .will they rise to the challenge or be squished underfoot. 

It's a delightful whimsical tale with tons of fun and energy. 

"The Flying Carpet Thief" by Sally Gardner and David Roberts is out now, published by Orion Children's Books. 

More you say? Oh go on then, as it's you asking...

Those Secret Princesses are back, and this time with two adventures in one!

"Royal Holiday" by Rosie Banks is an awesome summer special bumper edition to keep your little ones occupied on holidays in the sun.

When trainee Secret Princesses, Charlotte and Mia, are invited to go on holiday with the Secret Princesses they're very excited about staying at Wishing Star Palace!

But first they must grant the wish of a brother and sister who are worried they'll have a horrible holiday. 

Can Charlotte and Mia give them a fantastic summer adventure, or will nasty Princess Poison ruin their trip?

Join Charlotte and Mia in this brilliant adventure full of princess sparkle and summer holiday excitement!

Needless to say, this one went down VERY well with our own Princess Charlotte who loved a story about her favourite Secret Princesses character. 

"Secret Princesses - Royal Holiday" by Rosie Banks is out now, published by Orchard Books. 

Last one in our book bag, and something else that Charlotte utterly adores. Stories about kittens (but this one has a rather neat twist!)

"Magic Animal Friends - Anna Fluffyfoot Goes for Gold" is the latest in the hugely popular Magic Animal Friends series, from the author of Rainbow Magic, Daisy Meadows.

In the magical land of Friendship Forest, the animals are getting ready for a sports day! 

But wicked Grizelda wants to spoil everyone's fun. 

Can best friends Lily and Jess help super-cute kitten Anna Fluffyfoot stop the witch's horrible plans, before the special day is ruined?

With three stories in one, this book should keep your little ones occupied long into the warm summer evenings. 

"Magic Animal Friends - Anna Fluffyfoot Goes for Gold" by Daisy Meadows is out now, published by Orchard Books. 

Squeezing in one more, this time a space-going hero that we have loved right from the very start of this blog...!

Simon Bartram's fantastic "Bob" books in picture book form were some of our early favourites. Simon also went on to produce a whole series of fab little paperback adventures for more advanced readers, swapping out the fabulous colour illustrations for equally fabulous black and white art to accompany 5 stories - wrapped up into one delicious volume as "Bob: Lunar Adventures"

Spaceman Bob embarks on new space adventures with a disappearing moon, a movie career, clone chaos, a right royal disaster and some heartless robots in this anthology.

Charlotte has always loved the running gag that Bob lives in firm denial of the existence of aliens (despite actually owning an alien dog, and coming into close contact with aliens pretty much every single time he dons a spacesuit).

I always hoped that more people would discover the Bob books as they're absolutely fantastic. Now you've got no excuse with this latest collection celebrating 15 years of awesome Bobness!

"Bob" Lunar Adventures by Simon Bartram is out now, published by Templar.

More treats in about a follow-up to the sublime "The Bubble Boy?"

Stewart Foster's "All the Things that Could Go Wrong" is another fantastically written and poignant look at childhood and all the complexities that being a kid hold.

Dan is angry. Nothing has been the same since his big brother left, and he’s taking it out on the nearest and weakest target: Alex.

Alex is struggling. His severe OCD makes it hard for him to leave the house, especially when Dan and his gang are waiting for him at school . . .

Then the boys’ mums arrange for them to meet up and finish building the raft that Dan started with his brother. 

Two enemies stuck together for the whole of the school holidays – what could possibly go wrong? Do you need a list?

There are so many moments in this that will have you nodding along in agreement with what it feels like when you're put in a situation that you can't escape from, with seemingly no hope of resolution. Yet there's still hope too, and once again Stewart knows how to put you through just about all the emotions in the space of a few chapters. 

Utterly delicious stuff. "All the Things that Could Go Wrong" by Stewart Foster is out today, published by Simon and Schuster Children's Books. 

One more, before we wrap it for June...

Following on from Jo Franklin's hilarious "Help, I'm an Alien" is "Help I'm a Genius" - once again with illustrations by Aaron Blecha.

Daniel Kendal is back - along with his friends Gordon the Geek and Freddo. 

This time Dan finds himself nominated as the school representative for a rather serious inter-schools quiz. There's one slight problem with this - Dan has absolutely no confidence in his ability to remember a single fact! EEKS! Time for Dan to embark on a crazy mission to increase his brain capacity and cram his tiny little mollusc-sized brain full of knowledge - after all, quizzes are serious business. 

Madcap hilarity, brilliant characters and tons of giggles, "Help, I'm a Genius" by Jo Franklin and Aaron Blecha is out now, published by Troika Books. 

Phew! That's about all we have time for in June. Tune in again in July and we'll see what other awesome chapter book lovelies we can cook up!

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Wednesday 28 June 2017

Twinkle Makes a Wish by Katherine Holabird and Sarah Warburton (Hodder Children's Books)

Possibly one of the sparkliest books we've reviewed this year, it's the return of Twinkle the Fairy in "Twinkle Makes a Wish" by Katherine Holabird and Sarah Warburton...
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Class One Farmyard Fun by Julia Jarman and Lynne Chapman (Orchard Books)

All the sights, sounds of the Farmyard are here in the latest "Class" book from Julia Jarman and Lynne Chapman...
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Tuesday 27 June 2017

Two fantastic tales get a timely paperback reprint from David Roberts and Lynn Roberts-Maloney. "Little Red" and "Sleeping Beauty: A Mid Century Fairy Tale" (Pavilion Children's Books)

Wow, we had to dig back into the archives to find our original review of "Little Red" by David Roberts and Lynn Roberts-Maloney. But here it is.

As always it's interesting to revisit books we reviewed when Charlotte was very little to see how much 'grown up' Charlotte likes them now.

David Roberts' "Fantastic Fairy Tales" are wonderful treatments that don't just take a traditional story and polish it up a bit, David tends to pay great attention to a particular era's fashions, fitments and architecture in order to make these stories truly pop.

There's usually a twist or two as well, and in the case of Little Red, Red is a boy.

He lives with his parents who own a rather lovely cafe, and are famous for their food and their tingly ginger beer.

When Red pays his weekly visit to his Grandmother's house to take her some provisions, he's warned to keep an eye out for the nefarious wolf that dwells in the forest.

The wolf, however, is extremely cunning - and seizing the opportunity for a double-whammy Red / Grandma snack, the wolf poses as Red by stealing his coat, in order to worm his way into Grandma's house.

You can probably guess the rest. Though no wolves were harmed in the making of this book - though there are plenty of loud ginger-beer-induced belches.

Lynn's stylish retelling is coupled perfectly with David's uber-detailed illustrations (again Charlotte just couldn't get enough of the warped trees with their dark screaming faces, and the knots in the woodwork in Grandma's house with the same little faces on them). Taking its cues from 18th century fashion and surroundings it's a gorgeous book with a dark edge to it (darker than the seam of Grandma's dress in fact!)

"Little Red: A Favourite Tale with a Twist" is out now, published by Pavilion.

Sticking with David and Lynn's brilliant fairy tale reworkings, we also took another look at "Sleeping Beauty: A Mid Century Fairy Tale"...

This time the action veers between the 1950s and glorious future-retro cues, right into the far flung future as a little girl is born, and an evil witch swears her revenge for not being invited to the Christening.

The girl's godmothers swear to protect Annabel as the witch's curse (in the form of a finger-prick from a gorgeous old Dansette Record Player - the sort of thing hipsters today would give their right kidney for) takes hold and she sleeps for a thousand years. In the far-flung future another little girl, Zoe, reads the legend of Sleeping Beauty and feels that there's a grain or two of truth to it.

She sets out to rescue Annabel - but will she be too late?

Again, a gorgeously reworked version of a well-loved classic and again David's artwork is as good as it gets. You can find our original review of "Sleeping Beauty" here (unsurprisingly it was a Book of the Week!)

"Sleeping Beauty: A Mid Century Fairy Tale" is out now, published by Pavilion. 
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Never Take a Bear to School by Mark Sperring and Britta Teckentrup (Orchard Books)

It's quite a way off but come September lots of little ones will be going up to "Big School" for the first time...
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I Love My Birthday by Giles Andreae and Emma Dodd (Hodder Children's Books)

Do you love birthdays? Do you love books? Then you're going to love this awesome board book version of Giles Andreae and Emma Dodd's "I Love My Birthday"...
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Monday 26 June 2017

Ophelia Pang's Interactive Art Book (Batsford Publishing)

If there's one thing we love more than anything else, it's the excuse to dig into a new and inspirational art book...!
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What Does Baby Want? By Tupera Tupera (Phaidon)

Here's an utterly fantastic little board  book with an innovative 'round' design that plopped into our review pile, making us both giggle and 'awww' at the same time.
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Sunday 25 June 2017

Read With Pride! Celebrate a month of Pride and LGBTQ+ publishing with Scholastic's fantastic books. Let's meet George, Lucy and Noah!

We don't often drag ourselves out of bed for 9.30 on a Sunday morning but when you're asked very nicely by the lovely Olivia at Scholastic to take part in Scholastic's celebration of Pride and LGBTQ+ Publishing, how can you possibly resist!

It's Pride Festival time so between the 24th June and 9th July, lots of wonderful folk will be taking part in celebrations across the country.

We're doing our small part by taking a look at three books published by Scholastic that really show off LGBTQ+ writing at its very best.

We start with "George" by Alex Gino, and this was one Charlotte could review herself - promptly diving in at the merest mention of one of her other favourite books, "Charlotte's Web".

George - the central character in this story - is a girl, but people keep thinking she's a boy.

George has her heart set on the role of Charlotte (the spider, not the uber-book-reviewer!) in the school's play, but no one seems to understand why - and her teachers are completely shutting her down before she even gets a chance to try out for the part. Because "She is a BOY!" in their eyes.

Thankfully George has a plan. With a little help from her best friend Kelly, they hatch a brilliant idea that may just win George the part, but more importantly will help everyone know and understand who George really is after all.

This is a beautifully written tale that's bang on for Charlotte's age group, the age where most parents know that questions will undoubtedly arise about gender issues, and that whole impossible to define essence of what kids perceive as 'normal' vs the reality of the rich and wonderful world we live in.

Alex Gino has penned a glorious story that touches on their own experiences, and provides real, believable characters that can go a long way to answering some of the questions children Charlotte's age will have, but above all else it's an utterly riveting read that will have you rooting for George right from page one.

"George" by Alex Gino is out now, published by Scholastic. 

The next two books are more suitable for a YA audience (but I really can't wait for Charlotte to read both of these when she's a bit older).

Starting off with Lucy Sutcliffe's awesome "Girl Hearts Girl"...

Lucy writes about her own experiences of a long distance relationship born over the internet.

YouTube Sensation Lucy has written an inspiring, uplifting and sympathetic story about sexuality and self-acceptance.

Her debut memoir is a personal and moving coming out story.

In 2010, at seventeen, Lucy Sutcliffe began an online friendship with Kaelyn, a young veterinary student from Michigan. Within months, they began a long distance relationship, finally meeting in the summer of 2011.

Lucy's video montage of their first week spent together in Saint Kitts, which she posted to the couple's YouTube channel, was the first in a series of films documenting their long-distance relationship.

Funny, tender and candid, the films attracted them a vast online following.

Now, for the first time, Lucy's writing about the incredible personal journey she's been on; from never quite wanting the fairy-tale of Prince Charming to realising she was gay at the age of 14, through three years of self-denial to finally coming out to friends and family, to meeting her American girlfriend Kaelyn.

Be warned, this book can really put your emotions through the wringer at times, but it's written entirely from the heart and will undoubtedly find a whole new appreciative audience in book form, just as it did on YouTube through Lucy's Vlogs.

"Girl Hearts Girl" by Lucy Sutcliffe is out now, published by Scholastic. 

Last but not least, a book I couldn't wait to read - purely based on the buzz it was getting on Twitter. Happy to say that as usual, my Twitter chums were not wrong...!

"Noah Can't Even" by Simon James Green is tea-snortingly funny, moving, heart-wrenching and gloriously written.

Imagine being in the shoes of poor Noah Grimes.

His father disappeared years ago, his mother's Beyonce tribute act is an unacceptable embarrassment, and his beloved gran is no longer herself. 

He only has one friend, Harry, and school is... Well, it's pure hell. 

 Why can't Noah be 'normal', like everyone else at school? 

Maybe if he struck up a romantic relationship with someone - maybe Sophie, who is perfect and lovely - he'd be seen in a different light? 

Just as Noah thinks he's got a plan, Harry kisses him at a party - throwing everything into chaos. So begins a journey of self discovery, acceptance, love and - yes - a huge bucketful of madly awkward and sometimes quite hilarious situational comedy that so many teens will be able to identify with and bond with. 

Simon's voice is funny, sensitive and this is one heck of an impressive debut from a writer who cut his teeth on gritty stuff like Hollyoaks. He'd also like to point out that at no point was his own mother ever involved in any sort of Beyonce tribute act, just in case you were wondering. 

"Noah Can't Even" by Simon James Green is out now, published by Scholastic. 

Books with pride! Hope you've enjoyed our little selection here. You can find tons and tons more awesome books on Scholastic's website:

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Friday 23 June 2017

Thursday 22 June 2017

Dadding like a duck. Calm above the surface, paddling like heck below - a ReadItTorial

Sometimes it seems so easy, this 'dadding' lark. You spend all week working at 'the boring day job' with a few snatched moments of being able to relax in the evenings.

Both of us came to the conclusion that our evening routine is always under pressure. Depending on who is picking Charlotte up from school, you know you've got a few short hours to squeeze in homework, bath, teatime, books and bed - and in the summer that routine gets squeezed even further (as all parents will tell you, it's virtually impossible to get your kids to go to bed when it's still blazingly sunny outside and they can hear other kids out there playing).

After a visit from our Canadian cousin, we heard how they as a family still manage to sit down in the evenings and perhaps play board and card games, have a chat about their day etc and I realised that most weekday nights our routine goes something like this

1) One or the other of us will have got home first other than on days when grandparents have kindly stepped in for school pickup.

2) One or the other of us will have wrestled Charlotte into the shower, coaxed her through her homework and given a vague thought on what to have for dinner.

3) One or the other of us will then try and think of something else to do that hopefully avoids the dreaded modern babysitter of our age (screen time) or one or the other of us staring listlessly at our phones to see what's going on in our social media feeds, email or whatever else (my wife argues this point but she will spend more time in the evenings doing this than I do - possibly because she has more friends :)

We tried to shake things up a bit, determined to have some proper family time that didn't involve us all in different rooms doing our own thing. Sitting down to a game of Carcassonne that descended into racking sobs from Charlotte who was just too tired to cope with the game not going her way.

Parenting is weird. Many will tell you that it's a breeze when - like Dad Duck up there - they may appear serene on the surface but are paddling like crazy under the surface just to keep going.

There has been a huge shift in the way parents divvy up their responsibilities now, and though it's nowhere near a perfect balance things are definitely better than they have ever been, with more dads not just actively taking part in the fun stuff - but realising they've got a responsibility to pitch in (without being asked) and help with all the mundane boring daily stuff too.

Don't be one of those dads who expects a spontaneous round of applause every time you pick up a piece of paper off the floor, or change a nappy. Be one of those dads who does that sort of stuff unprompted - even when you think you've had a bad day.

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Snuggle time for little ones with two awesome titles from Mick Inkpen and Hodder Children's Books

Mick Inkpen is a very busy bee indeed! His fantastic Kipper and Wibbly Pig books were some of Charlotte's favourites back in her toddler years...
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Once Upon a Jungle by Laura Knowles and James Boast (Words and Pictures)

Who knows what lurks in the deep dark jungle? This lushly illustrated book will definitely offer some clues
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Wednesday 21 June 2017

Little One by Jo Weaver (Hodder Children's Books)

Wow, this is a stunning book - it's not often you get to enjoy something tricked out in shades of grey when it comes to children's literature...
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Daisy Doodles by Michelle Robinson, Irene Dickson and Tom Weller (Oxford Children's Books / OUP)

Enter the world of a child's imagination, find a rich tapestry of storytelling, and meet one mischievous mouse...!
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Tuesday 20 June 2017

A brace of fantastic new Charlie and Lola board books from super new Children's Laureate Lauren Child and Orchard Books.

Charlie and Lola are timeless characters with endless appeal so it's great to see a fab range of board books getting a dust-down and republish, courtesy of Orchard Books...
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Two fabulous new history titles by a very talented duo, here's "The Ancient Greeks" and "The Ancient Aztecs" by Isabel and Imogen Greenberg (Frances Lincoln Children's Books)

We've really enjoyed the previous books in Frances Lincoln Publishing's awesome "Discover" series...
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Monday 19 June 2017

Dino Diggers: Digger Disaster by Rose Impey and Chris Chatterton (Bloomsbury Publishing)

We're not quite finished with diggers and dinosaurs today, here's the first in a series of new 'make and play' books from Bloomsbury, "Dino Diggers: Digger Disaster" by Rose Impey and Chris Chatterton...
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Diggersaurs by Michael Whaite (Picture Puffin)

What could possibly be better than a book that mashes together hulking great big bits of machinery with hulking great big beasties! "Diggersaurs" by Michael Whaite...
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Friday 16 June 2017

ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 16th June 2017 - "Princess Smartypants and the Fairy Geek Mothers" by Babette Cole (Hodder Children's Books)

Our Chapter Book of the Week makes us both happy and sad at the same time. "Princess Smartypants and the Fairy Geek Mothers" by Babette Cole...
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ReadItDaddy's First Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 16th June 2017 - "How to be a Scientist" by Steve Mould (Dorling Kindersley)

This week's first Book of the Week makes science fun, and engages children in a whole stack of groovy experiments using ordinary household objects. Steve Mould's awesome "How to Be a Scientist"...
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Thursday 15 June 2017

Why do we always assume children's picture books need an ultra-low word count? A ReadItTorial

Again, this one was inspired by an awesome Twitterer and author. Polly Faber, author of the fantastic Mango and Bambang children's books (along with Clara Vulliamy providing glorious illustrations) obviously has the magic touch when it comes to convincing publishers that "Word counts ain't all that".

The Mango and Bambang books fall into a category that's now becoming comfortably established as a unique crossover point both for children who are solo reading and want something meatier than picture book texts, and adults who don't mind chipping away at a collection of longer stories over the course of a few bedtimes (or - like us - devouring longer illustration-heavy children's books with large word counts in one delicious gulp!)

Polly was tweeting about one book in particular, the utterly sublime "The Man Whose Mother was a Pirate" by Margaret Mahy and Margaret Chamberlain.

A children's picture book from that golden era where, as well as glorious illustrations, you'd get gorgeous flowing passages of lushly descriptive text like this:

(apologies for the cropping there, the internet is rubbish for trying to grab images from inside books)
As a struggling author trying to keep in mind one of the golden rules of picture book writing - that no book shall exceed 1000 words, or in some cases even 600 ON PAIN OF DEATH I wonder when the global shift in opinion happened - and when we suddenly assumed that children were incapable of focusing their attention on longer books with more words.

Thinking back through the years of writing this blog, it reminded me that one of our personal blog faves had established this fantastic format many, many years ago.

Margaret Bloy Graham and Gene Zion's superb "Harry" series once branched out into the kind of 'stepping stone' picture-to-chapter book range we're thinking about.

Dubbed the "I Can Read" range, "Harry and the Lady Next Door" was first published in 1960 and shared the same identical wordier but still illustration-heavy format.

An excerpt from "Harry and the Lady Next Door". Innovative and engaging formats definitely aren't new!
As well as the higher word count, these books were also divided up into "Chapters" - again to get children used to the eventual format they'd find in what I guess we'd call 'middle grade' chapter books nowadays.

Looking back through the blog, I realised we'd actually never reviewed this one - possibly because I read it to Charlotte when she was officially 'too young' for it. But I do clearly remember her never complaining about the higher word count (quite the opposite - it's a huge treat to be read something that's longer, as it puts off bedtime for a bit longer and she would also get more time with us when we read it - Double win!)

So is the word count cull a recent thing? Is it being driven by a purely economical desire by publishers to ensure that books don't cost a fortune to print? Is it being driven by an assumption that a child's attention span is shorter nowadays in an era where fidget spinners come in and out of fashion quicker than you can say "What on earth does this thing actually do?"

In our experience, both my wife and I have found that a mix of book lengths for our own collection at home is vital. Shorter books for bedtimes when madam has stayed up far too late but still likes a book read to her to settle her and allow her to snuggle down to a good night's sleep. Longer books for times when we've got more bedtime prep time to spare and can luxuriate in something that's almost a mini chapter book. In fact we do also read chapter books over the space of a few bedtimes as well, everything goes into the mix and we're still hanging on in there as long as possible, reading to Charlotte every night and hoping that the day when she turns round and asks us not to is a long long way off.

Polly and Clara's middle grade / chapter book-ish format may not be new then, but it is so needed and we've extolled the virtues of this format (and indeed book size) before.

It would be great to see a return to somewhat wordier large format picture books and I believe the only agents for change here are - well, literary agents, commissioning editors and publishers taking that risk - and not just for well-established authors either.

Of course it might sound purely like I'm pushing my own agenda here. Yes, it would also be wonderful to once, just once, not get a rejection purely based on the length of some of my stories and manuscripts (because I really can't get most of my stories much lower than 1000 words in most cases, no matter how hard I try - and I feel that a lot of the shorter stories over-rely on the mythical invisible illustrations and illustrator's talent to convey what I'm trying to get across).

Do you agree? Pop a comment below, open comments are enabled on the blog now so it's easier than ever.
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Two books featuring in the Scholastic Laugh out Loud Awards are under the microscope! Check out "Future Ratboy and the Invasion of the Nom Noms" and "My Gym Teacher is an Alien Overlord"

The Scholastic Laugh Out Loud book awards are EXACTLY the sort of awards we can firmly get behind.

We love a good laugh, and we've been checking out two books - one in the 6-8 yrs shortlist category, and one in the 9-13 yrs shorlist category.

First up, we're dipping into Jim ("Barry Loser") Smith's intergalactic space epic and meeting possibly the world's most unlikely science fiction hero.

It's "Future Ratboy" the pointy-nosed hapless hero who, zapped by a bolt of lightning, was thrown millions of years into the future and turned into a half boy, half rat, half TV!

(Yes we know, you can't have three halves - well, you can if you're dealing with funny books!)

With new superkeel powers and a real life sidekick in Not Bird, Future Ratboy was born. He's defeated gruesome robot grannies, but what can he do against the evil Nom Noms? Something tells us that he's going to need more than a greasy cheesleburger to win this one!

In this new adventure, can Future Ratboy and Not Bird save Shnozville from the bitey little insects that are turning everyone into zombies? Will they defeat the evil Mr X? And how will they ever find their way home?

From Charlotte: "This is actually better than Barry loser - It's funny and completely silly but I couldn't stop reading it!"

High praise indeed. "Future Ratboy and the Invasion of the Nom Noms" by Jim Smith is published by Jelly Pie and is out now. 

Nominated for a Laugh out Loud award in the 6-8 yrs category so if you want to vote for it, vote NOW at the Scholastic Lollies Web Site.

We also dipped into the 9-13 years category, and read "My Gym Teacher is an Alien Overlord" by David Solomons and Laura Ellen Anderson...

This time we're talking about kids with superpowers in the stunning follow up to "My Brother is a Superhero". 

Both Zack and Lara have superpowers. Luke, however, only has new school shoes and a burning sense of resentment. 

He KNOWS that aliens disguised as gym teachers are about to attack Earth but will anyone listen? 

No, of course they won't - when have grown ups ever paid any attention to kids!

So one dodgy pact with a self-styled supervillain later, and Luke is ready to save the world. He just needs to find his trainers. 

Hilarious, fast paced and confirming what we all pretty much knew anyway - that gym teachers are evil despotic alien beings bent on world destruction, Charlotte had this to say about "My Gym Teacher is an Alien Overlord": 

"I loved this, even though I haven't read the first book you can jump straight in and find out what's going on straight away. I liked Lara because she has the coolest powers. PS My gym teacher is lovely (just in case she's reading this!) and I don't think she's an alien at all!"

"My Gym Teacher is an Alien Overlord" by David Solomons and lovely Laura Ellen Anderson is out now, published by Nosy Crow. 

It's nominated in the 9-13 Lollies category so if you want to vote for it, vote NOW at the Scholastic Lollies Web Site.

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