Wednesday 31 January 2018

Imagine Children’s Festival returning for its 17th year this from the 7th to the 18th February at the South Bank Centre. Come and join in the fun!

Southbank Centre’s annual multi-arts Imagine Children’s Festival returns for its seventeenth year from 7 – 18 February 2018, with twelve days of jam-packed fun over half-term week for children and their families.

With storytelling at its heart, this year’s programme includes a specially curated Royal Festival Hall event celebrating the world’s leaders and pioneers who have changed the world, to inspire the next generation of young changemakers.

The twelve day festival includes inspiring and playful events and activities from Super Hero parties, magical immersive adventures and snail friendships to dancing scientists with flatulence. With over fifty per cent of the programme free, Imagine Children’s Festival has something for all ages, with leaders from the world of theatre, literature, music, dance and visual arts, including Caroline Bowditch, CBBC’s Ben Shires & Cerrie Burnell, Charlotte Cotterill, Radio 1’s Chris Smith & Greg James, Francesca Simon, Harry Hill, Jacqueline Wilson, James Campbell, Jess Thom, Joseph Coelho, Mitch Johnson, Patrick Monahan, Robin Stevens, Yuval Zommer and many more.

The Kids Takeover also returns for another year, giving children the chance to take the reins, managing the day-to-day of the festival, from selling programmes, checking tickets to making intercom announcements. This year the Kids Takeover will be partnering with local young carers groups, offering activities to children who look after a sick or disabled relative.

Highlights of the 2018 programme include:

Snigel and Friends, the story of an inquisitive snail and his insect friends, by award-winning performance artist and choreographer Caroline Bowditch (7 – 9 February).

CBBC presenter Ben Shires making his debut Southbank Centre residency, hosting an array of free events throughout the festival in the Royal Festival Hall’s Clore Ballroom. Events include a Super Hero Party with theatre-maker and comedian Jess Thom best known for her alter-ego Touretteshero (10 & 11 February).

Authors and illustrators Kate Pankhurst and Andrea Pippins, alongside a host of special guests, explore the world’s leaders and pioneers, in a specially curated event celebrating People Who Changed the World (13 February).

Author Jon Roberts discussing his new picture book Through the Eyes of Me, following the everyday life of a child with autism in a special autism friendly event (13 February).

An immersive adventure through a Marvellous Kingdom with musicians of the Aurora Orchestra, including dancing dewdrops, Sugar Plum Fairies and a rascally Mouse King (15 – 16 February).

Renowned comedian, author and presenter Harry Hill bringing to life his newest character Matt Millz, Britain’s youngest (and funniest) comedian, in discussion with illustrator extraordinaire Steve May, with live drawing and plenty of jokes (17 February).

Award-winning author Jacqueline Wilson discussing her much-loved characters including Hetty Feather and Tracy Beaker, as well as her latest novel Wave Me Goodbye, set at the start of World War Two (17 February).

BBC Radio 1 DJ’s and debut authors Greg James and Chris Smith presenting a superhero event based on their new book Kid Normal, action-packed with games, singing and music (18 February).

A family fun quiz extravaganza with stand-up comedian and hilarious quizmaster Patrick Monahan (18 February).

There are tons of events coinciding with Half Term for most school children so pop along to the Imagine Children's Festival Website for more information. 
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"Goodnight Mr Panda" by Steve Antony (Hodder Children's Books)

Steve Antony's well-mannered and impeccable Mr Panda is back and we DEMAND our own doughnut-covered pyjamas!
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"The Big Red Rock" by Jess Stockham (Child's Play)

Here's a fantastic and fun tale teaching children the value of working together to solve a problem. In this case a rather big red problem...
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Tuesday 30 January 2018

"The Very Long Sleep" by Polly Noakes (Child's Play)

With a corking cover that instantly makes this book feel like a classic, it's time to wake up to "The Very Long Sleep" by Polly Noakes...
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"On the Night of the Shooting Star" by Amy Hest and Jenni Desmond (Walker Books)

A fabulous story with a message that (sadly, in this day and age) may seem all too familiar to a lot of us...
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Monday 29 January 2018

"Beyond the Fence" by Maria Gulemetova (Child's Play)

Ooh now this we like! A poignant, thought provoking and ultimately joyful story with a soulful message of hope...
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"Animals with Tiny Cat" by Viviane Schwarz (Walker Books)

As well as being one of the coolest people on the planet, and one of the most interesting creatives to follow on Twitter, we think Viviane Schwarz is something of a cat-whisperer too...
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Friday 26 January 2018

ReadItDaddy's Second Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 26th January 2018 - "The Chinese Emperor's New Clothes" by Ying Chang Compestine and David Roberts (Abrams)

Our second Picture Book of the Week this week just couldn't be ignored - a fantastic folk tale based around the very beginnings of the amazing "Silk Road" from China to the rest of the world...
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ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 26th January 2018 - "The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters: The Uncanny Express" by Kara LaReau and Jen Hill (Amulet)

Our Chapter Book of the Week this week is the sizzlingly brilliant follow-up to one of our favourite middle grade books of last year. Back with the Bland Sisters!
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ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week Ending 26th January 2018 - "I'm Afraid Your Teddy Is In Trouble Today" by Jancee Dunn and Scott Nash (Walker Books)

Our Book of the Week this week has such a fantastic core story idea that we're once again amazed that no one thought of this before...
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Thursday 25 January 2018

Resetting the story factory defaults - How children's books need to ditch the cliches and spice up character diversity for more than just race and gender - a ReadItTorial

Defaults. What are defaults? This week's ReadItTorial started to take shape after watching a Twitter discussion thread between authors around the defaults in children's books.

An article on "Why there are no female monsters" penned on The Guardian website offered up evidence of a massive imbalance between male and female lead characters in children's books (you can read the article here).

This argument feels familiar - in fact it reminds me of the exercise we conducted for an article a couple of years ago when "Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls" used a piece of extremely clever, if a little misleading marketing to champion a book about important female historical figures).

We're not here to rake over those coals again, but we are here to talk about defaults and how insidious - and to be honest how insufferably BORING they are in children's books. This whole thing goes way beyond just gender issues, so once again although it's impossible not to see that huge gender bias in children's books it's also impossible not to see other annoying defaults being used again and again.

Sometimes these are visual defaults. Who owns and runs the flower shop? A female character is drawn almost automatically. Who drives the delivery van or delivers the post? Often male ("Look, the author said "postman" so I drew a man!"). Who is teaching at the nursery? A female character.

 In some instances it begins to feel like we've progressed no further than the heady days of Richard Scarry books where you'd inevitably see Mrs Rabbit at home with the kids while Farmer Rabbit was the corncob-smoking fellah out in the fields all day driving the tractor (talking about the originals here, not the hastily rejigged versions that came back into print a few years ago).

Why do these defaults still exist when children can easily see that they're not reflective of their everyday world any more.

Playing an exercise with your child, ask them the following questions about would-be children's book characters.

1) If a story contained someone being silly, would they more likely be a daddy or a mummy?

2) If someone was going out to work and someone was staying at home, which would be a man and which a lady?

3) If a children's story contained a character who was a bully, would the bully more likely be a girl than a boy?

4) Likewise, if a story contained a character who was an evil genius intent on conquering the world, male or female?

It gets even weirder when you start to dip into the animal kingdom. Animal books are usually where tinies start their reading journeys, and yet we still find the same tired old defaults coming up again and again - pretty much dooming little ones to see (and worse, adopt) those defaults as normal very very early on. Bunnies are never anything but cute, busy or wolf-fodder. Wolves - nearly always male, always up to no good, like the bullies they're just an easy lazy 'bad guy' to adopt (See also: Foxes).

Similarly, crocodiles. I think I can remember one book (see below) where a crocodile was female, kindly, mildly subversive but interesting for all those elements that broke away from the usual hungry nasty crocodile who just wants to eat everyone.

"Aunt Amelia" by awesome and wonderful Rebecca Cobb. See what happens when you ditch the defaults? Amazingness ensues!

Defaults are everywhere and it begins to feel like they are there because children's books have begun to settle into an all-too-comfortable (read: lazy) set of standards that it's very easy to adopt, but very difficult to 'sell' alternatives to.

The discussion on Twitter raised some amazing points (which really made me feel proud as a follower and fan of these people's work - for example, the fantastic scenario discussed about stuff like same-sex marriage just being 'there' in kid's books rather than being some sort of flagpole to nail an issue to).

So who is insisting on and perpetuating these defaults? Sadly, the answer to that particular spaghettified debate lies at home. Parents are the biggest influencers on their kids, and sadly there are parents out there who still seem to be cut from some itchy uncomfortable late 20th Century cloth where those hideously tired old defaults are THEIR 'norm', therefore they will be their children's 'norm' too. I have heard and seen evidence of parents banning their children from reading certain books where (picking an example out of the air) transgender issues are raised and discussed, or indeed are the main point of the story. I've also heard evidence of parents leaving snotty reviews on books like "The Boy in the Dress", making them sound like they've slipped through some time-tunnel from Victorian times into a modern world they can no longer control or shape in their own image, so they'll fight that particular fight through their kids.

It's a crying shame. Authors and Illustrators can change things, and the more those defaults are crushed under a stylishly tailored Chelsea boot or two, the better.
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"Under the Love Umbrella" by Davina Francesca Bell and Allison Colpoys (Scribe)

Here's a gorgeous, colourful and hug-friendly book to kick off the new year with. A marvellous worldwide celebration of friendship and love.
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ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book Roundup - January 2018

Our very first Chapter Book Roundup of 2018 and we're back with a superb selection of new and upcoming books to tempt you in with.

Starting off with a young lady who is busily creating some of the most astonishing and amazing book worlds to play in.

Abi Elphinstone's "Skysong" is actually released today (hooray!) and if you love books filled with magic, mystery and suspense then this is really going to be your cup of Darjeeling.

In the snowy kingdom of Erkenwald, whales glide between icebergs, wolves hunt on the tundra and polar bears roam the glaciers. But the people of this land aren’t so easy to find. Because Erkenwald is ruled by the cruel Ice Queen and the tribes must stay hidden; if they are caught in the open they risk capture and imprisonment by the evil sorceress.

The story begins with Eska, a girl who breaks free from a cursed music box, and Flint, a boy whose inventions could change the fate of Erkenwald forever

Eska and Flint are fated to embark on a perilous quest, as they journey to the Never Cliffs and beyond in search of an ancient, almost forgotten, song with the power to free the kingdom from the Ice Queen's terrible rule.

Abi's beautiful and imaginative prose takes you on a fantastic roller-coaster ride between moments of glorious descriptive worlds, and sheer page-turning suspense. 

"Skysong" by Abi Elphinstone is out today, published by Simon and Schuster Children's Books. 

Next up, a hugely fun series that mixes Shakespeare and Star Wars with much hilarity...

"William Shakespeare's The Force Doth Awaken (Star Wars Part the Seventh) is Ian Doescher's latest brilliant mashup, tackling the events of the seventh Star Wars movie.

As the noble Resistance clashes with the vile First Order, Rey, Finn, Poe Dameron, Kylo Ren, and BB-8 are pulled into a galaxy-wide drama in iambic pentameter. 

Star Wars fans and Shakespeare enthusiasts alike will enjoy the authentic meter, the reimagined movie scenes and dialog, woodcut-style illustrations, and beautifully tucked-in references to have fans of the movie series giggling with glee. 

Chewbacca speaks (We always wondered what he'd be like delivering the infamous "Now" speech!) 

Supreme Leader Snoke gives a soliloquy! 

And the romance of Han Solo and Leia Organa takes a tragic turn that Shakespeare would most definitely approve of. 

Fun, funny, and true to the spirit of Lucas films. The story may take place in a galaxy far, far away, but you ll be convinced it was written by the Bard.

"Star Wars: The Force Doth Awaken" by Ian Doescher is out now, published by Quirk Books. 

Next, we have another delicious slice of detective work from one Howard Wallace P.I

"Shadow of a Pug" by Casey Lyall once again immerses the reader in a fantastic mystery, but could this be Howard's toughest case yet? 

It's been a few months since school detectives Howard and his erstwhile partner Ivy Mason had a really juicy case.

So when Marvin hires them to prove his nephew didn't pug-nap the school mascot, Spartacus, they're fired up... until they find out Marvin's nephew is none other than snack-stealing, bike-mocking bully Carl Dean! Calamities! Their sworn enemy, but even so, it's a case that needs to be solved. 

Howard and Ivy will have to suck up their prejudices and play nice with Carl, they'll have to dodge a scrappy reporter who may or may not be working against them and come face-to-face with Howard's REAL worst enemy, Miles Fletcher. 

Howard's still getting used to having a friend; can he deal with all these complications and still be there for Ivy when her life is turned upside down?

This is pacey stuff, and though we've seen so many 'kid detective' novels, this really has just the right tone and atmosphere to appeal to would-be gumshoes everywhere. 

"Howard Wallace P.I: Shadow of a Pug" by Casey Lyall is out now, published by Sterling. 

A most awesome rodent now, as we catch up with a book series for younger readers that's really cheesy, but in a good way!

"Geronimo Stilton: Fangs and Feasts in Transratania" is a spooky outing for our fromage-loving hero as he decides to catch up with his long lost cousin Trap. 

After a mysterious phone call, Geronimo sets off for Ratoff in spooky Transratania.

The garlic-fuelled town holds many mysteries, not least the residents of Ratoff Castle - who are the subject of many local myths and legends. 

Maybe it's the way they sleep during the day, maybe it's the blood-red drink they have with every meal, but there's something not quite right about them for sure, and Geronimo Stilton is determined to find out just what that something is!

Who are these mice? And will Geronimo manage to survive the night without waking up with a very sore neck? 

This is brilliant fun, reminiscent of classic children's novel "The Rats of Nimh" but with enough class and character of its own to mark it as something rather special. 

"Geronimo Stilton: Fangs and Feasts in Transratania" by Geronimo Stilton, Matt Wolf and Emiliano Campedelli is out now, published by Sweet Cherry Publishing. 

More of Tony Bradman's fascinating history series next, time to visit our Norse forefathers...

In "Attack of the Vikings" it's a quest for fortune and glory for Finn, a would-be viking warrior. Finn wants to seek adventure and excitement in far-off lands, not become chieftan of a farming village like his father.

But then, when his father has been summoned away to another island, Finn is left in charge, and danger strikes.

With the village under siege and only Finn and his friends to protect it, can he save the day and learn what it really means to have the blood of a Viking?

Fast-paced with a close eye on detail and historical accuracy, which have always been the hallmarks of Tony's novels, this is a really riveting and riotous read full of superbly uplifting and heroic moments of ace storytelling.

"Attack of the Vikings" by Tony Bradman is out now, published by Featherstone. 

Sticking with historical adventures for a moment, and another book hero of ours.

Saviour Pirotta's awesome Ancient Greek mystery series continues on from "Attack of the Cyclops" with an all new adventure, with illustrations by Freya Hartas.

In "Secret of the Oracle" you'll find a fabulously immersive mix of Sherlock Holmes and ancient Greece.

This exciting adventure will have readers gripped from start to finish as we catch up with Scribe Nico and his friend Thrax, back for another adventure that will truly test their mettle.

Their master has brought them to Delphi, to seek guidance from the great oracle. But between the majestic hills of the sacred city, a sinister plot has been formed, and a farmer's daughter has gone missing.

Can Nico and Thrax solve the clues, save the girl and learn the secret of the oracle? This dramatic and mysterious tale is packed with wonderful characters and insight into the daily life of the ancient Greeks, a required topic in the KS2 History curriculum.

Perfect for fans of the Roman Mysteries, or anyone interested in ancient Greece.

"Secret of the Oracle" by Saviour Pirotta is out now, published by Featherstone. 

Moving, ahem, swiftly on from highbrow history to something bubbling below the waistline now (phrrrt), it's a superb new comedy from ace author Jo Nesbo.

"Doctor Proctor's Fart Powder: The Great Gold Robbery" is perfect for those of us who love a good old fashioned rumbling belly laugh or two.

When a Russian billionaire robs the Norwegian Gold Reserve and melts the last remaining gold bar into the Premier Soccer League trophy, it's up to Doctor Proctor, Nilly and Lisa to get the trophy and save Norway.

But with a failed break-in attempt into the billionaire's subterranean gold-melting lab and the Norwegian Gold Reserve Inspection only three days away, the only way to retrieve the trophy is to win it back. 

Hoping to prevent national panic and uproar, Nilly and Lisa join the Rotten Ham soccer team and use the Fartonaut Powder, along with a handful of Doctor Proctor's other wacky inventions, to try and lead the hopeless underdog team to victory before time runs out.

It's a giggle a minute, utterly chaotic and fantastically funny, a superb story from one of the funniest writers on the planet. 

"Doctor Proctor's Fart Powder: The Great Gold Robbery" by Jo Nesbo is out now, published by Simon and Schuster Children's Books. 

Book 2 in the fantastic "Night Zoo Keeper" series now, Joshua Davidson's second book "The Giraffes of Whispering Wood" catches up with young Will - who steps through a mysterious portal at the zoo and is transported into the World of the Night Zoo, thrust into an incredible adventure. 

Bestowed with a Zookeeper's uniform and a magical teleporting torch, he's tasked with protecting the Zoo's inhabitants from the evil Lord of Nulth, and his army of robotic spiders, the Voids. 

In this, the first of many adventures, Will is introduced to the Zoo's friendlier creatures - the glowing Night Butterflies, Bumbling Bees, and he even makes friends with a spying giraffe called Sam. 

But Will faces his first real test when the Voids attack, does he really have what it takes to be the Night Zookeeper and save his new friends? 

From the creators of, a website that makes learning fun, inspires creativity, and engages children with a magical story, this is a stunning book series for lower middle grade readers with a really fantastic feel to them. Superb cover illustrations by Buzz Burman really give the series an attractive look too. 

"Night Zoo Keeper: The Giraffes of Whispering Wood" by Joshua Davidson is out now, published by OUP / Oxford Children's Books. 

We've got quite a few books to get through for our brand spanking new year so let's look ahead to March and the arrival of S.E Durrant's next awesome story, with cover art by Rob Biddulph...

"Running on Empty" introduces AJ - a fairly ordinary kid who loves his Grandfather very much.

Grandad has always been the one to keep his unusual family together, so when he dies things start to unravel at the edges.

AJ is worried about his parents but they don't really seem to notice. In order to deal with his grief and to keep his anxiety at bay, AJ does what he and his grandfather did best: running.

Round and round the Olympic Park, aiming for the nationals, running to escape, AJ only seems to be heading ever closer to disaster.

It's a hugely uplifting story full of hope and a strong character piece for AJ who must overcome the odds to succeed and follow his true passion in life.

Thoroughly thought-provoking, particularly for kids who love their sports and activities and perhaps find that sometimes real life has a habit of interrupting their flow.

"Running on Empty" by S.E Durrant with cover by Rob Biddulph is out on March 1st, published by Nosy Crow. 

More from Nosy Crow now, and the hotly anticipated new book from a master of middle grade...

Christopher Edge's "The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day" (with cover illustration by Matt Saunders) starts off by asking a curious question. How do you know you really exist?

It's Maisie's birthday and she can't wait to open her presents. She's hoping for the things she needs to build her own nuclear reactor (as most kids do, right?)

But she wakes to an empty house and outside the front door is nothing but a terrifying, all-consuming blackness. Trapped in an ever-shifting reality, Maisie knows that she will have to use the laws of the universe and the love of her family to survive.

And even that might not be enough...

This is truly a mind-bending mystery for anyone who's ever asked questions.

From the author of The Many Worlds of Albie Bright and The Jamie Drake Equation, "The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day" by Christopher Edge is sure to be a massive sensation and build on Christopher's fantastic reputation for engaging and intelligent story telling for kids C's age.

"The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day" by Christopher Edge and Matt Saunders is out now, published by Nosy Crow. 

Only recently we were bemoaning the serious lack of pony-based stories, and so we're delighted to discover the "A Pony called Secret" series from Olivia Tuffin and Nosy Crow.

In "A Pony Called Secret: A New Beginning" we once again catch up with pony-loving Alice.

She absolutely adores Secret, her spirited young pony, but she's worried she'll never be able to ride him!

Training Secret is proving harder than Alice thought possible, but then she meets free-spirited Finn.

He is a fearless rider, and has an amazing way with horses. But Finn is quite moody, and Alice doesn't know if they can ever be friends...

Can Alice create the perfect partnership with Secret? Or does she need Finn's help?

One thing's for certain - there's a long way to go before Alice's showjumping dreams can become a reality!

A perfect pony story from the author of the much-loved The Palomino Pony series, "A Pony Called Secret: A New Beginning" is out now, published by Nosy Crow.

Switching from ponies to something entirely less palatable now, but a cracking story kicking off what we hope is going to be a hugely successful series.

Kim Harrington's "App of the Living Dead (Gamer Squad)" stories build on kids' love of technology, oh and squishy horror characters with an appetite for brains.

Bex, Charlie and their friends have already saved their town from monsters and aliens - and they've learned their lesson about apps from Veratrum Games Corp (who make even the most evil gadget corporation on the planet look like cute puppies in comparison). 

So when the company releases their newest title, a zombie game, the friends band together and refuse to play, even though it looks like the coolest game ever and everyone in town is completely hooked on it. 

Then, when a flu works its way through school, turning students and teachers into walkers of the undead, Bex, Charlie and a few others are immune because they were the only ones who didn't play the game. 

But now they have to learn it fast to save their friends and neighbours - and stop Veratrum from unleashing more of their deadly games!

This is fast paced and action packed stuff that'll delight gamers and app fans alike. 

"Gamer Squad: App of the Living Dead" by Kim Harrington is out now, published by Chronicle Books. 

Next, we're fashionably late to the party for this one, but better late than never. We've finally figured out just why everyone's in love with Tom Gates...!

Liz Pichon's awesome "Tom Gates Epic Adventure (kind of)" is the latest fantastic instalment of the hugely successful and well received series.

Once again, "Tom Gates" establishes Liz as a total MEGASTAR of an author. 

Told in 'Tom's' trademark style with a ton of squiggly drawings illustrating throughout, we'll find out what it's like to have two sets of grandparents at last, and how cool it is when you're suddenly the unwitting centre of attention.

C is now completely hooked, so I think we'll be hunting out the rest of these.

Perfect for middle graders who love zaniness, acute observations about how daft adults can actually be (most of the time in fact), and of course a nerd hero that could even out-wimp Wimpy Kid.

"Tom Gates Epic Adventure (kind of)" by Liz Pichon is out now, published by Scholastic. 

From one totally epic adventure to another, a true pole-spanning quest that's full of breathtaking excitement and action.

"Brightstorm" by Vashti Hardy tells the story of twins Arthur and Maudie, who receive word in Lontown that their famous explorer father has died in a failed attempt to reach South Polaris.

Not only that, but he has been accused of trying to steal fuel from his competitors before he died!

The twins don't believe the news, and they answer an ad to help crew a new exploration attempt in the hope of learning the truth and salvaging their family's reputation.

As the winged ship Aurora sets sail, the twins must keep their wits about them and prove themselves worthy of the rest of the crew.

But will Arthur and Maudie find the answers they seek? Will they even survive their hazardous journey on a quest to uncover the truth about their late father?

There's no doubt about it, this is going to be one of those books that literally rips the breath from your lungs.

Vashti's writing is taut, exciting and hugely visual as you soon find yourself enveloped in an amazing bookworld.

"Brightstorm" by Vashti Hardy is out on 1st March 2018, published by Scholastic.

Last but by no means least, don't be fooled by his twitchy nose, his little white puff of a tail and his cute whiskers....

"Wed Wabbit" by Lissa Evans reveals the dark side of a seemingly harmless cuddly toy. We meet Fidge who finds life upturned at the tender age of nearly eleven. 

Hurled into a strange world, Fidge has three companions: two are unbelievably weird and the third is Fidge's truly awful cousin Graham. 

Fidge will have to solve a series of nearly impossible clues, deal with a cruel dictator and three thousand Wimbley Woos (yes, you read that sentence correctly). 

And the whole situation - the whole, entire thing - is apparently Fidge's fault. 

Wed Wabbit is an adventure story about friendship, danger and the terror of never being able to get back home again. And it's funny. It's seriously funny. Despite all the warnings, you'll really never regret taking this particular bunny home. 

"Wed Wabbit" by Lissa Evans is out now, published by David Fickling Books. 

More mystery next, in a deliciously dark tale of detective deviousness!

"Rose Raventhorpe Investigates" by Janine Beacham is the stunning third book in a fantastic series that laces dark detective mystery around a fabulous alt-reality world set in and around York (or rather Yorke as it's known in these stories).

This time the city is under siege from a terrifying supernatural hound known only as the Barghest. There's been a murder, and once again Rose, Orpheus and the secret society of Butlers must dig into a foul twisted plot that is darkly enticing and hugely dangerous. Could this be Rose's final case?

We love the book world here, the pure delight of wrapping a story around yourself like a blanket and being thoroughly gripped and engrossed by a story series that's gone from strength to strength. If you're a fan of stuff like "Murder Most Unladylike" you're going to love this series to bits too.

"Rose Raventhorpe Investigates - Hounds and Hauntings (book 3)" is out now, published by L & B Kids.

Next up, more amazing and original books from Chicken House...

First is "Tin" by Padraig Kenny, with a fantastic cover from Katie Hickey.

Telling the tale of Christopher - Christopher is 'Proper': a real boy with a real soul, orphaned in a fire. 

He works for an engineer, a maker of the eccentric, loyal and totally individual mechanicals who are Christopher's best friends. 

Christopher's whole world changes forever after a devastating accident. What follows is a remarkable adventure, as Christopher discovers who he really is, and what it means to be human.

It's a hugely entertaining and gloriously original story with a real heart as Christopher's epic journey begins. Cannot wait for more from Padraig.

"Tin" by Padraig Kenny (with cover art by Katie Hickey) is out on 1st February 2018, published by Chicken House Books. 

Sticking with Chicken House for a moment, there's also this scintillating thriller just right for the cold weather...

"Below Zero" by Dan Smith introduces Zak, a youngster who is used to the cold...

But when Zak's plane crash-lands on Outpost Zero, a small Antarctic research base in one of the most isolated places on Earth, he discovers a cold, dark nightmare.

His survival instincts will be tested to the maximum as Zak discovers the power's out and the people who normally live on the base have disappeared. 

Worse, as Zak searches for answers, bizarre visions suggest a link to something else - deep beneath the ice - which only he can understand. 

It's a taut wintry thriller, perfect for readers who love a bit of adventure tinged with darkness and chilling tension. 

"Below Zero" by Dan Smith is out now, published by Chicken House Books. 

More amazing detective work next, this time from a housemaid most extraordinaire!

"Nancy Parker's Chilling Conclusions" by Julia Lee is the third and final book in the Nancy Parker series, wrapping up Julia's fabulous housemaid detective stories (something we're just a tad sad about, as they have been truly stunning books). 

Nancy has a new job as a ladies' maid, and is accompanying her new employer on a visit to the grand and mysterious Midwinter Manor. 

The house is full of guests, and with each one eccentric and intriguing in their own way, it's set to be an interesting few days. 

But things turn from interesting to downright deadly when Nancy discovers a dead body in the library. Can Nancy unravel the twisted plot at the heart of this most fiendishly difficult case? 

A funny and energetic middle-grade mystery, narrated part in the third person and part through Nancy's illustrated journal. Perfect for fans of "Murder Most Unladylike", "Nancy Parker's Chilling Conclusions" by Julia Lee is out now, published by OUP / Oxford Children's Books. 

Just time for one more before we wrap things up for our January roundup...

Tom Clempson's fantastic "How To Avoid Certain Death" is a truly original romp, balancing giggles and jump-scares in equal measure! 

Charlie and Sarah are BORED. Bored bored bored bored bored! 

They live in the middle of nowhere with their dull grandparents who refuse to let them do anything exciting. 

But one day, adventure comes knocking when their grandparents are captured by the most terrifying pirate of all time - Vladimir Death Pirate, the most evil buccaneer ever to sail the seven seas. 

Charlie and Sarah launch an immediate rescue mission, setting sail to find their grandparents... in a bathtub of all things. It's not going to be an easy quest but then it'd make for a very short book if it was. This is utterly perfect for fans of MY BROTHER IS A SUPERHERO, a quirky, hilariously funny adventure full of warring pirates, terrifying zombie bunnies and a magical wish-granting island.

"How To Avoid Certain Death" by Tom Clempson is out now, published by Scholastic. 

And that's it for our first Chapter Book Roundup of 2018. Tune in soon for even more amazing chapter book goodness, and of course our regular "Chapter Book of the Week" winners announced every Friday. Keeeeeep reading!

(All chapter books kindly supplied for review). 

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Rainforest by Julia Groves (Child's Play)

One of the most important habitats for a huge diverse range of species, the Rainforest is definitely something that children will love learning about from a really early age.
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Wednesday 24 January 2018

My Colourful Chameleon by Leonie Roberts and Mike Byrne (QED)

Mischief, multicoloured mischief is the order of the day in this most unusual tale of a girl and her fabulously weird pet...
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Two fantastic new Non-Fiction titles from Walker Studios. Celebrating amazing birds and fantastic cities.

Two new fantastic Non-Fiction titles have caught our eye this week, coming from fairly newly established Non Fic imprint Walker Studios.
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Tuesday 23 January 2018

"Snowboy and the Last Tree Standing" by Hiawyn Oram and Birgitta Sif (Walker Books)

What must the younger generation think of the state of the world, when adults seem to make such horrible decisions about its future?
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The Weaver by Qian Shi (Andersen Children's Books)

Sometimes we need simple well constructed children's books just to remind us that they are the perfect conduit for awesome life messages...
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Monday 22 January 2018

A triple-whammy of amazing titles coming from Lantana in 2018, celebrating original and diverse stories.

Once again we're thrilled to see what Lantana Publishing have in store for us in the coming year.

We've been in awe of three new titles coming up in March, April and May (and believe me, they'll soon whizz around so you won't really have that long to wait.

First up is "Kaya's Heart Song" by Diwa Tharan Sanders and Nerina Canzi.

This delightful and gentle story offers up a sublime slice of mindfulness, particularly needed by children who increasingly have so much to deal with in their young lives.

Kaya is looking for her heart song - the song that happy hearts sing. 

Her search takes her on a journey deep into the jungle where a broken down carousel waits for a very special song to make it turn again.

Gorgeous, gorgeous artwork and a thought provoking story. "Kaya's Heart Song"
Grounded in the principles of mindfulness and with a helpful information section at the back of the book to further our understanding of what mindfulness means, this joyful story set in the vibrant jungles of Malaysia will truly make your heart sing. It really is utterly mesmerisingly beautiful. 

"Kaya's Heart Song" by Diwa Tharan Sanders and Nerina Canzi is out on the 8th March 2018, published by Lantana Publishing. 

Next, coming in April 2018 is "Nimesh the Adventurer" by Ranjit Singh and Mehrdokht Amini. 

This time we're exploring the boundless imaginations of children, in particular young Nimesh who turns every single humdrum everyday event into a fine adventure, thanks to his amazing powers of creativity. 

School is over and Nimesh is about to walk home. 

He will cross the road, pass the bakery, walk through a park and eventually find himself in his own street. 

Perfectly normal, right? Wrong! 

If you decide to join Nimesh on his walk home from school, your journey will be anything BUT normal. 

You can be whoever you want to be, if you just use a little imagination! "Nimesh the Adventurer"
There will be dragons and sharks and pirates and maybe even a princess... A fun-filled story about a little boy with a BIG imagination, Nimesh the Adventurer will surely make even the dullest journey a dazzling adventure.

This is such a fun book, again with glorious art and a really positive and vibrant buzz about it. 

"Nimesh the Adventurer" by Ranjit Singh and Mehrdokht Amini is released on 5th April 2018, published by Lantana Publishing. 

Finally a thoroughly modern fable that instantly feels like a classic...

"You're Safe with Me" by Chitro Soundor and Poonam Mistry is a glorious bedtime story from deep within the Indian jungle. 

As night-time draws in, all the baby animals in the jungle begin to settle down for a good night's sleep. 

Tonight however there's a raging storm. None of the baby animals can settle, but they know that when they snuggle up to their parents, they'll always be safe. 

Mama Elephant is on hand to provide soothing words of wisdom, and soon the storm will subside and sleep will drift along until the sun rises high once again in the morning. 

This really is a dazzling book, soothing for bedtimes but with really amazing artwork that twinkles just like the night sky. Wow. 

All the stars in the sky. Stunning artwork in "You're Safe with Me"

"You're Safe with Me" by Chitro Soundor and Poonam Mistry is out on 3rd May 2018, published by Lantana Publishing. 

(All books very kindly supplied for review). 

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"The Boy From Mars" by Simon James (Walker Books)

Simon James' books are always quirky, original but always have a heartfelt message tucked away inside...
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Friday 19 January 2018

ReadItDaddy's YA / Grown Up Comic of the Week - Week Ending 19th January 2018 - "Saga Volume 8" by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (Image Comics)

Our YA / Grown-Ups Comic of the Week kicking off 2018 is the latest in a long-running Saga. Oh god, yes the jokes do get worse from hereon in..."Saga Volume 8" by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples...
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ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 19th January 2018 - "Dave Pigeon: Racer" by Swapna Haddow and Sheena Dempsey (Faber and Faber)

Our Chapter Book of the Week sees the glorious return of our favourite feathered friend and his trusty sidekick. Swapna Haddow and Sheena Dempsey are back with "Dave Pigeon (Racer!)"

Once again it's been a sheer delight to hear C cackling like a drain every 5 seconds while reading a book.

This time, we catch up with Dave and Skipper, who are uprooted from their nice comfy abode with "The Human Lady".

Stuffed into a shoebox (not the best place to be when your best friend is a big fat pigeon with stinky feet who isn't averse to a bit of 'pigeon-spreading') Dave and Skipper are off to the Pawsville Vets for some much needed medical attention for poor Dave's broken wing. At least that's what they thought...

Instead, the two find themselves living in a pet shop instead, with some very odd characters indeed.

There's Jet the Dog - who is a bit too energetic for such a small space.

Cricket Ball Face the Hamster. You'll have to read the book to find out quite why the poor mite has such an unfortunate (yet fitting) nickname.

Worst of all is Mickey Lightning, a worthy adversary indeed - and one who Dave soon finds himself drawn into a crazy challenge with. Dave firmly believes he can somehow turn his slightly podgy over-fed body into that of a prime racing pigeon - speedy enough to take on Mickey Lightning in a race for fortune and glory (or at least a lion's share of the scoff at dinner time!)

There's one slight obstacle in the way of Dave's imagined glory though and despite a lot of help from friends old and new, Dave's situation seems hopeless. It's just not going to be easy for a rotund feathery fellah to transform into a sleek racing machine!

I think we both felt a bit guilty from christmas over-indulgence reading this one, and definitely felt distinctly Dave-like after one too many Quality Street sessions. So this is not only brilliantly timed, it's once again the perfect combination of pant-wettingly funny storytelling, hilarious and characterful artwork and a durned good read to boot! Thoroughly recommended!

"Dave Pigeon (Racer!)" by Swapna Haddow and Sheena Dempsey is out now, published by Faber and Faber (kindly supplied for review)
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ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week Ending 19th January 2018 - "Erik the Lone Wolf" by Sarah Finan (Frances Lincoln Children's Books)

There's still a chill in the air as we think about our Book of the Week winners for this week, so here's a perfect wintry tale of a wolf who wants to go it alone...
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