Thursday 31 August 2017

A love of French and Belgian Children's Books and a question - Are we done with 'dark and wordy' books? A ReadItTorial

I really wish I could brush up on my French skills. I did pretty badly in school, retaining just enough knowledge to get me into hot water with any native French-speaker but if there's one real reason I wish I'd learned more French, it's to be able to fully enjoy French children's books.

At the moment I've been reading a translated version of "Le Petit Loup Rouge" (The Little Red Wolf) by Amelie Flechais, which is easily one of the most stunning children's books I've seen this year. Obviously we've only just seen it in the UK (actually the US, as I'm pretty sure it hasn't officially been released in the UK yet - publishers, get on that pronto!) but the French have had the book for a while (since 2014 in fact).

Sadly, this is the case for an awful lot of French books, once again driving my desire to learn more of the language. Of course it might not seem important for picture book fans to be able to thoroughly read and translate what is largely an illustrated children's book, but it does make a world of difference in understanding the subtleties of the language, and what's often lost in even the best translations to English.

We've read through a few French-only books before, most notably "La Visite De Petite Mort" by Kitty Crowther. Some of Kitty's astonishingly brilliant books have been translated, but so far not this one - which is a crying shame.

You see over the channel in France and Belgium, children's authors and illustrators are still gloriously in love with the darkly tinged children's stories that we seem to have lost all taste for (at least editorial taste, I'm pretty sure there's still a huge consumer demand for darker children's stories that aren't all fluffy bunny wunnies or cute kitties).

Taking "Le Petit Loup Rouge" as a fine example of a darker children's book that draws on the original Little Red Riding Hood fairytale, this is not only a stunning book to look at, it's a version of the story that pours on a dark and almost funereal atmosphere.

The main protagonist, the most adorable red-hooded wolf you'll ever meet in a book, doesn't always have a smooth ride as the story unfolds. He is tricked, he becomes victim to a rather horrid (though seemingly adorable) little girl, and he cries bucketloads when it seems all is lost.

As much as we celebrate books that deal with children's emotional states, we don't see books that tap into their fears, anxieties and concerns in a constructive way.

Perhaps there's a misapprehension that darker children's stories are too disturbing for our cotton-wrapped delicate little wallflowers who are never told 'no' and aren't frequently confronted with situations that put them outside their comfort zone.

We've championed darker books on the blog before, always careful to draw a line between what's comfortably acceptable when it comes to darker children's stories, and what's clearly beyond their age group.

It feels almost like literature is the one area where parents are overtly protective of what their children consume. Parents seem happy to let their kids loose on age inappropriate movies or videogames and yet won't let them read books that they feel are 'too old' for them. I wonder why this is? Again, with the caveat of stating categorically that it's pretty flipping obvious when something's going to be disturbing or too much for your child, but it does feel like there's an odd imbalance here.

The last point of this week's editorial clangs on about that sorest of sore subjects for me, that bloody formulaic word count / spread count / "All Picture Books Have To Be This Way Or GTFO" thing. Again, it's probably sour grapes to keep harping on about this point, but in several recent examples of digging into French picture books and comics, it seems our lovely Gallic cousins across the channel don't share the same inhibitions when it comes to wordier and longer children's books that push beyond that 32 page / 12 spread / 500 word limit.

Again, referring back to "Le Petit Loup Rouge", this isn't a book that's over and done with in such a neat little timeline. It's a book that ditches the laconic and abrupt storytelling tropes we're seeing more and more of in UK and US publishing, taking its time to deliver a wholly satisfying reading experience that perhaps does need to be chipped away at over the course of several bedtimes, but feels all the more immersive, satisfying and enjoyable for it. It almost feels like there's more consideration for the creative process, and less for 'let's make it fit, let's make it tidy, let's make it economically viable'.

J'adore French books at the moment (again, pardon my terrible, terrible language skills) and I'm beginning to think that the more books we introduce to UK / US readers from right across the world, translated or otherwise, the better off and better read we'll all be.
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ReaditDaddy's Middle Grade / YA / Adult Comics Roundup - August 2017

Welcome, welcome to an all new idea we've been working on for the blog. Now we're ready to embrace the digital age, we've been wading through the utterly amazing comic world with an aim of bringing you the very best children's and young adult comics and graphic novels (with a few grown up ones thrown in for good measure) in a regular monthly roundup.

There are so many comics to cover, so we're going to take the approach of rounding them up like we do with our Chapter Book Roundups, but obviously reviewing some of the more spectacular comics in boxed-out reviews too. Each month we'll take a look at a mixture of kid friendly and not-so-kid-friendly material.

From the start, we'll make it absolutely clear whether the comics are kid-friendly or strictly for YA / Grown Ups in each roundup and review, so without further ado, let's get going!

First up is the divine "Cici's Journal: The Adventures of a Writer in Training" by Joris Chamblain and Aurelie Neyret. This one is fantastic for kids and middle graders, particularly those who love fabulous artwork and interesting stories to pique their curiosity.

We join in the adventures of curious Cici as she spends her time people-watching in her local neighbourhood, chronicled in a fantastic scrapbooking style, beautifully written with huge appeal to middle graders

Stunning artwork from Aurelie Neyret (who, by rights, deserves to win a truckload of comic awards in the coming year) really helps to bring the story to life.

As Cici's investigations broaden, she begins to home in on one particular character - an old man - who mysteriously disappears into the forest every Sunday armed with tins of paint. He always come back from the forest looking sad. What is he up to? Cici is determined to find out!

A fabulous and atmospheric adventure, "Cici's Journal" by Joris Chamblain and Aurelie Neyret will be released on 7th November 2017, published by First Second. 

Next up, the current fantastic run of "The Vision" penned by Tom King with Gabriel Hernandez Walta and Jordie Bellaire is (thankfully) being collected together in a superb "Director's Cut" edition. This one is probably most suited to the older end of middle grade and into YA.

Breaking out one of the most interesting comic characters to come from Marvel's extended comics and movie universe into such a fantastic series has proved wildly successful, with Tom's "Vision" comic being bandied around for a ton of awards.

Collecting together the current run where The Vision, the all powerful superhero, begins to crave a normal 'human' life, we follow this amazing character as he travels back to the place of his birth - Ultron's Lab.

Creating a family for himself, The Vision soon discovers that his ultimate quest - some would say obsession - to become merely a man, is the toughest challenge of all for a superhero. A destiny sought that will bring him into conflict with some of the most powerful superheroes in the Universe.

It's been a stunning, stunning comic, easily one of the best things to come from Marvel this century.

Catch up with the entire story arc in "The Vision: The Director's Cut" when it's released in January 2018, published by Marvel Comics. 

I've become hoplessly addicted to Gumballs. No, don't worry, it doesn't mean I'm going to end up a giant flabby mess...

(Well no flabbier than usual anyway). "Gumballs" (with three issues currently available) is a fantastic YA / Adult comic anthology collection of stories from Erin Nations.

Like a lot of the most fascinating comics around at the moment, Erin is obsessed with the human condition - and an avid people watcher, contributing to his awesome wry humorous view of a world populated by geeks, freaks and chics.

Told from the perspective of a young trans author-illustrator, Erin's brilliant observational comedy nudges us in the ribs over the course of several story threads.

Life growing up as a triplet, or dealing with difficult (or just plain weird) customers in a grocery store - plus some of the funniest faux personal ads you'll ever see are all part and parcel of Erin's fantastic collection.

Really hoping these are eventually gathered together in one massive volume, but for you ComixOlogy / Kindle folk, they're up for grabs in issues 1-3 with more to follow.

"Gumballs" by Erin Nations is published by Top Shelf Comics and the first three issues are available now. 

Next it's "Butter and Blood" by Steven Weissman, best described as a YA / Grown Up collection of the most bizarre and surreal mini comic strips you'll find this side of Pittsburgh.

Find out what would happen if Guns and Roses ran a diner (would YOU want to eat soup cooked by Slash, particularly with his reluctance to wear a hair net?) or marvel at animal antics set to make your insides squirm and your stomach churn.

Weissman's acute observational comedy laced with bonkers pop culture references, crazy characters and quite a fair bit of spicy language won't be for everyone's taste (again this is another one of those "don't let the kids near it" titles, but hah, who said comics were for kids anyway, right?)

Entertaining, strange and kinda cool, catch "Butter and Blood" by Steven Weissman, out now from Retrofit Comics. 

Diving deeper into our comic bag now, something that the kids can actually enjoy, but again perfect for middle graders and YA too.

"Elf Cat in Love" by James Kochalka is a cute, quirky and whimsical little tale of a magical elf cat and his floating tennis ball familiar.

She's a sassy little madam for a tennis ball, but Elf Cat is lonely, and on the hunt for his perfect lifelong love interest.

This gentle strip unfolds over a series of encounters with the strange denizens of Elf Cat's fantasy world, but as danger approaches, Elf Cat might finally learn that sometimes the very thing you've looked hardest for has been right under your cat-like nose the whole time.

Charlotte actually ate this one up, and I'd always wondered how simplistic and largely monochrome comic strips would go over with her - as kids these days are so spoilt with richly coloured fabulously overworked comics. This keeps things purposely simple and delivers a rather poignant and touching message within its story. Rather appealing indeed.

"Elf Cat in Love" by James Kochalka is out now, published by Retrofit / Big Planet Comics. 

Let's take a look at another comic that middle graders will enjoy, particularly kids who love stuff like Gravity Falls and Adventure Time. Once again more suited to the older end of Middle Grade and into YA.

"Untitled Ape's Epic Adventure" by Steven Tillotson introduces the most unlikely pairing since Harry met the Hendersons. Untitled Ape is indeed an epic quest for a bizarre shapeless ape-beast and his Ray Winstone-esque cockney chainsmoking new best friend, a cat that basically steals every single scene he's in.

Untitled Ape is a tough hombre with a sensitive side. He has decided he needs to see his family but Cat doesn't think it's a particularly good idea. Before they can deliberate over their planned quest, a massive storm rolls in, and their epic adventure truly begins.

Without no map or much of a plan, they journey through flooded cities and stormy seas, across frozen plains and snowy mountains, and even up into the world of the clouds on their quest to find Ape's home in the jungle. Along the way they make the acquaintance of a cast of incredible characters, who both help and hinder them to equal degree.

Surreal, funny and at times full of moments of excitement that will make you gasp, "Untitled Ape's Epic Adventure" by Steven Tillotson is out now, published by Avery Hill. 

The next one definitely isn't for the once again we're slapping a YA / Grown Up only advisory on this one (don't be fooled by the cover!)

Rachael Smith's "The Rabbit" introduces siblings Eleanor and Kathy, who have run away from school and home.

Playing hooky for the day might sound like fun, but dad is constantly ringing Eleanor's phone, and the local bullies keep cropping up at the most inopportune moments.

After an unfortunate incident with a catapult and a stray shot, Kathy unwittingly injures a rabbit. Seeking to right this wrong, Kathy takes the rabbit under her protective wing and decides to call it Craig. But it soon emerges that Craig is far from the innocent fluffy doe-eyed bunny-wunny Kathy first imagines.

Both sisters are drawn into a bizarre and surreal undercurrent of sugar-fuelled underground parties, badly behaved animals and opportunistic theft as Craig exerts his horrifying influence, growing bigger and more powerful by the second. Is there anything that two brave sisters can do to defeat the emerging monster?

Thoroughly original, as dark as the blackest espresso but undercut with a strong tale of siblings banding together in a crisis situation, this is quite strong stuff but a completely riveting read. Again, fair to stress for YA and adults only.

"The Rabbit" by Rachael Smith is out now, published by Avery Hill. 

Another surreal and YA / Grown up strip from someone I hugely admire. Now and again awesome Donya Todd tweets up a storm on Twitter so let's have a look at "Buttertubs".

No, it's not the tale of a cute kick-ass girl and her equally cute kick-ass dog, it's the tale of a sassy madam and her gigantic slimy slithery dog-made-of-butter.

Though Buttertubs has all the trademark bad habits of just about every other dog on the planet, in this surreal world his heart is in the right place and really all he wants is to love and be loved.

But there's always some awkward annoying jealous anti-hero waiting in the wings to mess things up, so as Buttertubs and his 'owner' embark on an epic quest to rescue a princess, things take a turn for the greasy - and it could be the end for our dairy-based canine chum.

Donya's black and white linework is every bit as fantastic, bonkers, weird and surreal as her brilliant colour art. The comic gets a bit sweary and saucy in places but certainly nothing your average YA reader will blanche at. Once again, not for kids, but for adults / YA who love to tread on the more bizarre side of comics.

"Buttertubs" by Donya Todd is out now, published by Avery Hill.

Two brilliant graphic novels next from a relative newcomer to the comics scene, but someone who is already making huge waves in the industry with her amazing and mature storylines and observations. Again a YA / Adult advisory on these, though many parents might want to read these through and assess themselves whether they'd also be suited to the older end of middle grade.

Tillie Walden's "I Love This Part" is the story of two young girls who are the best of friends. From an early age they are inseparable, drawn together by a love of music and a love of just being in each other's space.

They watch videos, share earbuds as they play each other songs and exchange their stories. A deep and unexpected relationship begins to develop, the sort of scary almost overwhelming love that jabs at just about every emotion, sometimes all at the same time.

There are highs and lows, and as the girls take their first faltering steps towards understanding what love is, sometimes the road is rocky and sometimes you can spend as much time worrying about what everyone else will think as you do worrying about what the other person thinks. 

Hugely involving and atmospheric, "I Love This Part" is out now, published by Avery Hill. 

Sticking with Tillie's work, her debut full length graphic novel is also available from Avery Hill.

"The End of Summer" is a sometimes surreal and dark fantasy, drawing together Tillie's trademarks of amazing characters, sumptuous architecture and intricately woven mystery. 

The story takes place in a secluded castle, as the first frosts of a predicted three year long winter start to bite. 

A young boy called Lars is battling a debilitating illness, and as he becomes more immobile he becomes ever more listless and bored. 

The family come up with a solution to offer both mobility and companionship, in the form of a giant cat named Nemo. As Lars' story unfolds, so do the stories of the family around him as we learn the tragic tale of Lars twin sister Maja, and the crumbling relationship between their parents. 

With echoes of Francis Hodgson Burnett and Evelyn Waugh tinging this story of seclusion and the complexity of human relationships, Tillie established herself as a talent to watch closely (astonishing to think she's barely into her twenties and already producing amazing work like this. Just wow). 

"The End of Summer" by Tillie Walden is out now, published by Avery Hill. 

Last but not least, another YA / Mature comic again exploring complex relationships and parent / child issues around a divorce. 

"Libby's Dad" by Eleanor Davis opens with a summertime pool party. Libby's parents have broken up, and Libby's dad has moved into the most incredible house - with a stunning pool.

Libby decides to invite all her friends over for a sleepover, and as the teen girls begin to gossip and fool around, a vicious rumour about Libby's dad comes up in conversation. 

Did her dad really threaten her mum with a gun? 

The girls begin to panic when one of them spills nail polish all over the carpet. What will Libby's murderous dad do when he finds out? 

A short and simple story with glorious artwork and a ton of melancholy moments as the core story is sifted from the nonsense conversation of the teen girls involved. "Libby's Dad" by Eleanor Davis is out now, published by Retrofit / Big Planet Comics. 

That's about it for our first Comics Roundup but keep an eye on the blog as we'll be popping in proper reviews and roundups each month. Hope you've enjoyed this first roundup and if you have any feedback, drop a comment below (or if you've read any of these and want to share your enthusiasm, that's also good!)

See you in September!

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ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book Roundup - August 2017

We're off to a flying start with our August Chapter Book Roundup. It's going to be a bumper one so strap in and enjoy the ride!

First we're taking a look at a fantastic series from the author of BeastQuest.

Adam Blade's new "Team Hero" series is now building steadily, with a hectic and fast paced mix of monsters and sci-fi in these hugely exciting books.

Welcome to Hero Academy! It's time to join Jack and your other new classmates at this secret school, where the lessons are more exciting than just boring old Maths and PE.

When a portal from the evil underground realm of Noxx is discovered beneath the school, Team Hero needs your powers. The next invasion is upon us! It's time to act!

There are FOUR thrilling adventures to collect in this series - don't miss out! Battle for the Shadow Sword; Attack of the Bat Army; Reptile Reawakened; and The Skeleton Warrior.

Following hot on the heels of BeastQuest and SeaQuest, this is another brilliant collectible series that's perfect for fans of high adventure. 

"Team Hero", the new series by Adam Blade is out now, published by Orchard Books. 

Next, a brilliant follow-up to a hugely original young detective series that thrilled us earlier in the year...

"Rose Raventhorpe Investigates: Rubies and Runaways" is the fab second book from Janine Beacham's awesome girl detective series. Following on from "Black Cats and Butlers" we return to Yorke again with Rose, to dig into another fantastic adventure. 

As winter approaches, Rose Raventhorpe and her butler Heddsworth are stuck with Rose's unpleasant cousin Herbert, and his equally horrible butler, Bixby. 

When an orphan boy named Orpheus interrupts the Cathedral's Mistletoe Service, saying that his sister has been kidnapped, Rose vows to help.

Solving the mystery will be a lot better than accompanying ghastly Herbert! But the investigation is more complicated than Rose has anticipated and will lead her and her butler friends through fancy tea-rooms, horrible factories, secret underground passages and more...

Fireplace pokers are much more dangerous than you might imagine!

A cracking read, perfect for kids who love a deliciously twisty mystery or two. 

"Rose Raventhorpe Investigates: Rubies and Runaways" by Janine Beacham is out now, published by Little, Brown. 

Here be dragons next, as we catch up with a fabulous new middle grade series from awesome Cornelia Funke...

"Dragon Rider" is the story of a young dragon making his first faltering flights out into the wide world.

Firedrake, the brave young dragon in question, embarks on a magical journey to find the legendary place where silver dragons can live in peace for ever.

Along the way, he discovers extraordinary new friends and a courage he never knew he had.

But the greatest enemy of all is never far behind - a heartless monster intent on destroying the last dragons on earth ...

Firedrake's story picks up again in "Dragon Rider: The Griffin's Feather" - the delicious sequel to Dragon Rider.

The last winged horses are on the brink of extinction. Three foals lie curled in their eggs in a sanctuary for threatened creatures, where a young dragon rider lives with his silver dragon. The foals are ill, and the pair volunteer to seek the only cure: a Griffin's feather. But Griffins, with the heads of eagles and the bodies of lions, are a dragon's fiercest enemy, and live far across the world in the sweltering jungle. 

Once again a dangerous and exciting adventure begins. 

Cornelia has brought her considerable storytelling talent across from picture books to middle grade novels with a glorious and empowering pair of books weaving mythology and ancient magic together in a hugely satisfying story arc. Fans of "How to Train your Dragon" are sure to love this new dragon-based series, full of tension, adventure and excitement. 

"Dragon Rider" and "Dragon Rider: The Griffins Feather" by Cornelia Funke are both out now, published by Chicken House Books. 

A book full of mystery and intrigue next, prepare to meet Jones...

In "The Boy With One Name" by J.R. Wallis, meet Twelve-year-old Jones. Jones is an orphan, training as an apprentice hunter alongside his mentor, Maitland, tackling ogres, trolls and all manner of creatures that live in the Badlands – a hidden part of our own world, and which most people think exist only in fairytales and nightmares. But all Jones secretly wants to be is an ordinary boy and to leave the magical world forever.

When an ogre hunt goes wrong and Maitland is killed, Jones finally has a chance to find out where he came from. 

But the truth he uncovers isn’t what he’s expecting and it seems that if Jones is going to make his dream come true he’ll have to defeat a creature not even Maitland had dared take on and he won’t be able to do it alone…

He’s going to need help from Ruby, the first girl he’s ever met. She’s outspoken, fearless and determined to prove she’s as good as any boy, and unlike Jones, being ordinary is the last thing on her mind. Ruby’s desperate to find her place in the world and thinks the Badlands could be it. So, working together isn’t going to be straightforward. In fact, it could be downright dangerous.

But who said getting what you want is supposed to easy, even if it is just wanting to be ordinary?

A fantasy story full of originality and the most delicious worldbuilding, "The Boy With One Name" by J.R. Wallis is out now, published by Simon and Schuster Children's Books. 

Changing gears now for slightly snotty-flavoured fun for younger chapter book readers. 

"The Goozillas: Trapped in the Bog of Beasts" joins a new book series from Dexter Green with illustrations by Jake Dash. 

One day Max is playing on his tablet when all of a sudden ATISCHOO! Max sneezes his way into his favourite game, World of Slime. There he meets a gooey crew of characters called the GOOZILLAS. This gang of slime-balls needs Max's help. Their world is being invaded by a sweet and fluffy group of adorable pets called the Sicklies - YUCK! But these cute critters aren't as sweet as they seem, and won't be easily defeated.

Max and the Goozillas quest to banish the Sicklies from the World of Slime begins on a spooky dungeon level, filled with Goo Wolves, Barf Bats, and the icky sticky BOG OF BEASTS! Exciting adventures illustrated throughout in full colour, perfect for young readers.

The book series, written by Barry Hutchison (under his Dexter Green pseudonym) is hugely collectable and fun. "The Goozillas: Trapped in the Bog of Beasts" by Dexter Green and Jake Dash is out now, published by OUP / Oxford Children's Books. 

Madcap and crazy, that's how we love our books so we definitely couldn't get enough of this next one...

"They Didn't Teach This In Worm School" by Simone Lia is a buddy comedy with a difference. A bird, and a worm, possibly the unlikliest of partners team up for a story that will have readers wriggling and giggling in the same breath. 

Marcus is one half of the partnership, a wriggly worm. He likes the colour brown. He likes mud (because it's brown). And he likes digging holes in the mud-brown earth. Strangely, he likes beat boxing, too. 

But when Marcus meets Laurence (a scruffy, fat bird who looks a lot like a chicken ...and thinks he's a flamingo!), he comes face to face with his worst fear. Will he get eaten for breakfast? 

It is a Very Bad Situation. Marcus has two choices: Survive, Or get slurped up like a piece of spaghetti. Mustering all his worm instincts, he finds himself striking up a conversation. It's amazing how a simple "Good morning!" can end up saving your life...

So begins a tale of high adventure, wily tricks and unlikely friendship. Surreal, fun and engaging, kids who love a good belly laugh will definitely love this. 

"They Didn't Teach This In Worm School" by Simone Lia is out now, published by Walker Books. 

Phew, how are we doing? Can we squeeze a few more reviews in? Of course we can, so who's next?

Uh oh, a thoroughly rotten egg is next. It's Captain Firebeard! SQUEAL!

"The Sneaky Sweet Stealer" is a hilarious romp in the School for Pirates series by Chae Strathie. 

You're all signed up for Cap'n Firebeard's School for Pirates - the fiercest, baddest school on all the Seven Seas. 

Step aboard me hearties, and learn how to become a real pirate. It's a new term at Captain Firebeard's School for Pirates, and Tommy, Jo, Milton and Spencer are back on board the Rusty Barnacle for another adventure. 

But something fishy is going on. Someone is stealing sweets from Liquorice Len's tuck shop. 

When Tommy and friends find themselves in the frame, it's time to solve the swashbuckling mystery and find the culprit. 

But no one expects it to be a real-life sea monster! YIPES! Will he get away with it, or will those perishing kids see to his nefarious schemes?

A hoot a minute, tons of fun with a bunch of characters who are more accidentally than intentionally brilliant, sign up for "The Sneaky Sweet Stealer" by Chae Strathie, out now and published by Scholastic. 

Phew, all that talk of sweeties and pirates has set our stomachs churning. What's next, glamorous pint-sized assistant?

Aha! It's a fantastic series from blog fave Dan Metcalf, who already wows us with his glorious Lottie Lipton books. 

Now he's set pen to paper to write up an adventurous storm featuring a clever bunch of kids known as the "Codebusters". 

Things are not going well for Jackson 'Jax' Hibert. He wanted to fit in at his new school but now everyone knows he's a maths whizz. 

Even worse, he's been asked to join a secret (and totally uncool) group of code breakers: the Codebusters. 

Their mission is to solve mysteries and fight crime. So far, they've found a missing hamster... But now, someone has stolen the school's math prize from the trophy cabinet, and the only clue is a mysterious code. 

This looks like a case for the Codebusters! 

Funny, exciting or a little bit spooky, Black Cats are fast-paced stories with short chapters and illustrations throughout - stepping stones to reading confidence and superb for reluctant readers who want to find something cool and interesting to cut their teeth on. 

With fantastic illustrations and a cover by Gary Cherrington, watch out for "Codebusters" by Dan Metcalf, out now and published by Bloomsbury Education. 

Next, the return of a classic book hero by one of the world's most well known and best loved authors. 

Fans of Astrid Lindgren will already be familiar with her most famous creation Pippi Longstocking, but let's not forget her other fantastic middle grade character, the one and only Kalle Blomkvist. 

"Living Dangerously" is Book 2 in Kalle's adventures, and this time Kalle is one year on since solving the case of the great jewel robbery.

Once again his sleepy little town is shaken by a dreadful crime. 

Mysterious circumstances surround the discovery of a dead body, and super sleuth Kalle must use all of his cunning and detective skills to solve his first ever murder case. Eep! 

Strong stuff, but utterly mesmerising for middle grade kids who love a deep dark mystery or two. 

"Living Dangerously: A Kalle Blomkvist Mystery" by Astrid Lindgren is out now, published by OUP / Oxford Children's Books. 

Tom Moorhouse is steadily making the characters of "The Wind in the Willows" his very own, with his continued adaptations of Kenneth Grahame's fabulous riverside folk.

We're back at Toad Hall again for our next book, "The New Adventures of Mr Toad: Toad Hall in Lockdown" illustrated by Holly Swain. 

Mr Toad has the builders in, and they're busy filling Toad Hall with awesome gizmos and gadget to satisfy Toad's indulgent whims.

But there's something odd about them: why don't their bushy tails look quite right? And why are they loading Mr Toad's furniture into their van? 

Squirrel skulduggery! 

Greedy weasels! 

Mr Toad will need help from Teejay, Ratty, and Mo to have a REMOTE chance of defending his home. Can he keep his property safe, or will Toad Hall be in lockdown? 

Fabulous stuff from Tom and Holly. "The New Adventures of Mr Toad" is out now, published by OUP / Oxford Children's Books. 

Last but not least in this month's bounteous bag of books, it's the return of The Creeper Files. 

A whole new nefarious threat emerges in Hacker Murphy's "Creeper Files: Terror from the Taps".

Drip . . . Drip . . . DOOM. 

Does the water taste a bit funny to you? A creature is on the loose, a half-man-half-plant hell-bent on taking over the world and putting vegetation back in charge. 

He's in people's homes, tampering with the taps, and things are starting to get mossy. Maybe reading the Creeper Fileswill keep you safe. Maybe it'll keep you alive. Maybe - just maybe - the story that follows will help ensure you won't become a victim of the monster known only as . . . the Creeper. 

Fun, accessible funny fiction, ideal for readers who want action-packed excitement full of B-movie scares and tongue-in-cheek humour. "Creeper Files: Terror From the Taps" by Hacker Murphy with illustrations by Lucy Ebrie is out now, published by OUP / Oxford Children's Books. 

Definitely don't have nightmares! Enjoy a summer of fabulous reading and we'll catch up with you in September (back to school, YUCK!!!)

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Wednesday 30 August 2017

Cici's Journal: The Adventures of a Writer in Training by Joris Chamblain and Aurelie Neyret (First Second)

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but there's definitely nothing wrong with being a young and curious writer-in-training, right Cici?
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Fred by Mick and Chloe Inkpen (Hodder Children's Books)

More poochy capers from Mick and Chloe Inkpen as we read the further adventures of "Fred" !
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Tuesday 29 August 2017

Mighty Jack and the Goblin King by Ben Hatke, Alex Campbell and Hilary Sycamore (First Second)

Ben Hatke's comics are fast becoming a mainstay for kids who love amazing art, tons of originality and frenetically paced storytelling...
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Charlie the Choo Choo by Beryl Evans and Neal Dameron (Hodder Children's Books)

Well this is rather's not often we get to feature the work of Stephen King on a children's book blog...
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Monday 28 August 2017

"Something City" (YA / Adult Graphic Novel Review) by Ellice Weaver (Avery Hill Publishing)

We're excited to announce that we're ramping up our coverage of comics on the blog, starting with a fantastic YA / Adult deep delve into kooky everyday folk...
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Going to School by Rose Blake (Frances Lincoln Children's Books)

There are so many books that tackle the subject of going to "Big School" for the first time - but there's always room for more, and this is a delectable little book...
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Friday 25 August 2017

ReaditDaddy's Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 25th August 2017 - "Rail Head" by Phillip Reeve, illustrated by Ian McQue (OUP / Oxford Children's Books)

This week's Chapter Book of the Week was a recent holiday re-read - so I'm hauling it out of our Chapter Book schedules to a place it more rightly deserves to be...
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ReadItDaddy's Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 25th August 2017 - "Hic" by by Anushka Ravishankar and Christiane Pieper (Tara Books)

Our Book of the Week this week definitely covers something that's a bit of a sore subject with both of us (but in a VERY funny way)...
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Thursday 24 August 2017

Star Wars Jedi Academy: The Force Oversleeps by Jarret Krosoczka (Scholastic)

There are basically four fantasy / literary schools Charlotte would go to if she had a chance...
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They Came From Planet Zabalooloo by Sean Taylor and Kate Hindley (Walker Books)

The madcap team of Sean Taylor and Kate Hindley return with a whole new crop of weird heroes to entertain us, all the way from Zabalooloo...
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Wednesday 23 August 2017

Molly Mischief: My Perfect Pet by Adam Hargreaves (Pavilion Children's Books)

Hmm. We got in a bit of a grump about this one, as it took us ages to actually work out the unintelligible scrawl on the courier's note as to where the heck he'd deposited the book parcel (Lovely PR Folks, I cannot stress this enough, PLEASE DO NOT COURIER ITEMS TO US - OR AT LEAST IF YOU'RE GOING TO, ASK FOR AN ALTERNATE ADDRESS!)
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Nothing Rhymes with Orange by Adam Rex (Chronicle Children's Books)

How odd, we've had two books arrive on our review pile with very similar subjects so let's try biting off more than we can chew with Adam Rex's "Nothing Rhymes with Orange"...
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Tuesday 22 August 2017

Intergalactic Travel Bureau Vacation Guide to the Solar System by Olivia Koski, Jana Grcevich and Steve Thomas (Square Peg Publishing)

It's definitely been an interesting year for boundary-pushing fusions between fiction and non fiction. This particular one is very interesting indeed! Let's take a tour of the Solar System, Package Holiday stylee!
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British Museum: Around the World Colouring Book by Thomas Flintham (Nosy Crow)

Being driven scatty by your children already bored out of their wits by the long summer holidays? Wondering how to keep up the good work they've been building up at school? How about killing two birds with one stone in "Around the World: The Colouring Book" from Thomas Flintham
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Monday 21 August 2017

The Histronauts: An Egyptian / Roman Adventure by Francis Durkin and Grace Cooke (B Small Publishing)

Now and again we're lucky enough to be contacted by publishers who are just dipping their toes in the stormy waters of children's publishing, but obviously have a library of books that are just utterly stunning and original. Let's take a look at two upcoming titles from B Small Publishing...
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Karina Garcia's DIY Slime (Studio Press)

There are many, many things I don't understand about my daughter...
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Friday 18 August 2017

ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 18th August 2017 - "The Murderer's Ape" by Jakob Wegelius (Pushkin Press)

Our Chapter Book of the Week this week is a dark mystery with tons of originality, suspense and drama. Let's meet "The Murderer's Ape" by Jakob Wegelius...
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ReadItDaddy's Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 18th August 2017 - "Corpse Talk: Ground Breaking Scientists" by Adam and Lisa Murphy (David Fickling Books)

Our Picture Book of the Week is a sneaky early copy of something that once again quite literally digs into history to uncover brilliant mouldering minds in the coolest way possible...
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Thursday 17 August 2017

Whoah! What happened in July? A huge huge thank you to all you lovely clickers (A ReadItTorial)

This week's ReadItTorial is a huge and humble THANK YOU to you, our readers, for making July one of the most astonishing months in our entire blog history.

I usually don't get too hung up on our blog stats month by month but from time to time I have a quick look in the control panel to see how many unique hits we've garnered during a given month.

A couple of things surprised me...

1) July was incredible, I mean really incredible. Normally our unique hits hover around the 15-20k mark (and we do really only measure unique visitors to the blog, or at least whatever Google counts as unique clicks or sessions)

In July our hits topped out at 31,109 which is a new record for the blog for a single month's stats. WOOOH Go you!!

2) We're fast approaching ¾ of a million clicks. Again, this is something I never ever expected to happen to this blog, so again kudos to you wonderful readers for making this the most successful web thing I've ever been a part of.

Obviously these stats are pretty small potatoes when it comes to comparing against 'the big guns' out there in parenting / kidlit but it still made us feel very proud and very happy. We hope you like what we do, and will continue to come back for more.

So yep, a gigantic super-massive THANK YOU once again. You all ROCK!
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Crocodali by Lucy Volpin (Templar Publishing)

Want to help the world's most amazing crocodilian artist perfect another masterpiece? It's time to tilt, turn and shake with "Crocodali" by Lucy Volpin.
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Wednesday 16 August 2017

Fantastic comic creating fun with The Etherington Brothers - The Story Museum, Oxford

As many blog regulars will know, we're massive fans of Robin and Lorenzo Etherington. The Etherington Brothers not only create some of the most fantastic epic comics (including many you've probably read yourself like Transformers, Madagascar - you name it, they've probably worked on 'em) but tons of amazing strips for The (sadly defunct) DFC and The Phoenix.

We got to know their work through The Phoenix and we've steadily collected their own published stuff too (but have loads and loads to catch up on).

We heard they were coming to Oxford, to the fantastic Story Museum for a couple of brilliant comic workshops, letting us into some of their secrets.

Some of you will already know that Robin and Lorenzo host a brilliant interactive show, teaching us would-be comic noobs how to perfect our plots, carve out our characters and mix genres like we're putting 'em in a blender and hitting the 'frappe' button.

"The Greatest Comic Making Show on Earth" - Really can't argue with that (oops, took this pic before we were told not to take any pics!)
Robin and Lorenzo traded places on stage, with a hilarious collection of quickfire gags, improv and character acting (with both Charlotte and I giggling like nutters throughout).

Things we learned: 

- Mixing genres is hilarious fun. Ever seen a romantic comedy with a Zombie in it?

- World building is awesome. Make the world your characters live in as interesting as possible and the stories will practically build themselves.

- Props turn an ordinary everyday character into something a bit more groovy. Think of how cool Harry Potter is, but how doubly cool he is when he's carrying his wand.

- Robin is flipping hilarious, as is Lorenzo. Give those guys their own TV show and it'd be even better than Art Attack (and that's definitely not faint praise!)

We finally got to meet the guys, a real honour and could've spent all day chatting (but figured the rest of the people queueing up for autographs and fantastic drawings might've got a bit peeved!). The guys kindly signed some of our graphic novels and Lorenzo even managed to do an uber-quick sketch of Charlotte's comic crush, Von Doogan. Totally brilliant!

If you're lucky enough to get the chance to see Lorenzo and Robin in action, we'd heartily recommend you do so - in fact if you're doubly lucky and they come to your school, you're in for a heck of a fantastic comic-creatin' time.

Huge, huge thanks guys, you really made our days, so great to meet you both at last!

You can keep up with The Etherington Brothers' comic adventures over on their excellent blog, packed with tutorials, comic tips, awesome art and tons of news about Robin and Lorenzo's publications and events. Go get some!

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The Children's Garden by Carole Lexa Schaefer and Pierr Morgan (Sasquatch Books)

An amazing book about a truly amazing place, that might inspire you to have a go and get stuck in out in your own garden. Here's "The Children's Garden" by Carole Lexa Schaeffer and Pierr Morgan
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