Wednesday, February 28, 2018

ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book Roundup - February 2018

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Wow, January was a busy month wasn't it? But we're not slowing down. I might have just hit the half century (yes, saying it like that makes it sound EVEN MORE SCARY THAN IT IS!) but that doesn't mean C or I will be easing off on the throttle of bringing you the most amazing book reviews every single month.

So we're kicking off with a new book that definitely caught both our eyes. "Horace and Harriet Take on the Town (Horace and Harriet Book 1)" by Clare Elsom. It's such a fresh and original idea that we really wanted to make a huge fuss about it - so we are!

Lord Commander Horatio Frederick Wallington Nincompoop Maximus Pimpleberry the Third (or Horace, for short) has been a statue on a plinth in Princes Park for hundreds of years.

But after suffering pranks, graffiti, endless mobile phone chat, and pigeon poo, Horace has had enough. 

He decides it's time to get off his pedestal. Surely he can find a better home? One suitable for such a fine commander? 

Assisted by his new friend Harriet (she's seven and a quarter years old and definitely NOT a statue) Horace tackles modern life (though he can't shake off his embarrassing hobby of invading everything) in his quest to find the perfect place to live. The trouble is, nowhere seems to be quite as good as Mayor Silverbottom's house. And Mayor Silverbottom just happens to be a descendant of Horace's arch enemy! EEKS! Will old scores be settled? 

We instantly took to this 'fish out of water' story, hilarious and charming in equal measure, and that rare example of an early chapter book that's good for 5 - 10 year olds equally. 

"Horace and Harriet Take on the Town (Horace and Harriet Book 1)" by Clare Elsom is out on 1st March 2018 (with book 2 swiftly following on its heels too!). Both published by Oxford Children's Books. 

More fantastic stuff from Oxford Children's Books now, and a new novel from a fave author whose stories are just SO dizzyingly atmospheric...

"Night Speakers" by Ali Sparkes sets out a mysteriously dark and delicious tale right from the off.

Night after night Elena, Matt, and Tima wake at exactly the same time, with no idea why.

 It's messing them up and fracturing their lives . . . until they venture out into the dark and find each other.

The sleepless trio realize their astounding power - they can speak any language; they can even communicate with animals.

But something is happening over on the industrial estate nearby, something which is emitting sounds that only they can hear, and killing any winged thing that crosses its path.

There's nobody to fight it but the brave trio for only they can possibly understand it and what it means to do.

This is powerful stuff that'll have you casting worried glances at your bedside clock every night as the numbers slowly tick over to 1:34...

"Night Speakers" by Ali Sparkes is out on 1st March 2018, published by OUP / Oxford Children's Books. 


This next book really raises and deals with a ton of issues that children, and young girls in particular, will start to encounter as they move through school and enter their teens...

"Ella on the Outside" by Cath Howe is a superbly written tale tackling those issues head on.

We meet Ella who is the new girl at her school. She doesn't know anyone and she doesn't have any friends - and of course finds it very difficult to fit in at first.

Worse still, Ella has a terrible and dark secret. Ella can't believe her luck when Lydia, the most popular girl in school, decides to be her new best friend - but what does Lydia really want? And what does it all have to do with Molly, the quiet, shy girl who won't talk to anyone?

Described as "A gripping story of lies, friendship, and blackmail" this is actually a real page-turner, which reminded me a bit of "Heathers" (that classic dark comedy from way back when) but offers up a valuable moral lesson on friends not being quite as 'friendly' as they first seem. A real riveting read.

"Ella on the Outside" by Cath Howe is out on the 3rd May 2018, published by Nosy Crow. 

Next, a rather neat dream-like tale full of suspense and tension...hold on, it's going to be a heck of a ride!

"Twister" by Juliette Forrest tells the story of a mighty girl - a girl like no other. Her father has gone missing and as she's searching for him she stumbles across a witch living in the woods.

She is given a magical necklace that holds the souls of living things and can turn the wearer into a wolf, or a rushing river, or a rainstorm.

But there's a dark foe on the hunt for this necklace, a nefarious villain who wears a coat crawling with creatures and who might have something to do with her father's sudden disappearance. Will twister master this magical artefact, rescue her father and defeat the dark forces massing against her?

It really is a twister this, with a dazzlingly original plot, a ton of amazing atmosphere and a real roller-coaster quest laced through this un-putdownable book. A fabulous debut for Juliette.

"Twister" by Juliette Forrest is out now, published by Scholastic. 

Next up, another corker of a mystery that's bound to set all the hairs on the back of your neck on end...

Book 3 of "The League of Unexceptional Children: The Kids Who Knew Too Little" by Gitty Daneshvari follows on from "Get Smartish" with a zippy and cleverly written continuation of this awesome series.

Shelley and Jonathan are members of the League of Unexceptional Children - the world's least impressive spy network.

Jonathan's parents have been arrested by the CIA, and the dangerous mission to liberate them is definitely beyond his and Shelley's utterly average skill set.

Can they accidentally save the day one last time?

This final book beautifully rounds off Gitty Daneshvari's hapless spy series. Even though each adventure works as a standalone it's well worth tracking down the rest of the series (you KNOW you want to!)

"The League of Unexceptional Children: The Kids Who Knew Too Little" by Gitty Daneshvari is out now, published by L & B Kids. 

Next we're looking ahead to May, and an awesome new middle grade book from Sally Christie...

"Spirit" is chock full of atmospheric and awesome storytelling from the word go. 

We meet new kid Matt who is quiet and shy. 

The total opposite in fact to Jazzy who is outspoken, popular, confident. 

How did these two ever get to be friends? In the village of Burnham Stone everything is possible but most things certainly aren't normal.

Matt believes he has seen something extraordinary up in Burnham Wood. And Jazzy is the only one who believes him. 

With the help of Matt's little dog and Jazzy's little sister, the two make surprising discoveries - and unleash such a powerful force that nothing can ever be the same again. 

A wonderful story about friends, growing up, and the very real magic in the world around us. We loved this one for all the feel of those classic Famous Five adventures, fused with ghostly goings on and spookiness in a remote village community. 

Awesome stuff from Sally. "Spirit" by Sally Christie" is out on 3rd May 2018, published by David Fickling Books. 

Next, a palaeontologist's dream in a fantastic and exciting book revolving around a truly landmark dig. 

Kenneth Oppel's "Every Hidden Thing" is a rip-roaring dinosaur adventure with a difference. 

Somewhere in the Badlands, embedded deep in rock and sand, lies the skeleton of a massive dinosaur, larger than anything the world has ever seen.

To seventeen-year-old Samuel Bolt - just kicked out of school - it's the "Rex", the king dinosaur that could put him and his archaeologist father in the history books, if they can just dig it out. 

But Samuel and his father aren't the only ones after the Rex. 

For Rachel Cartland this find could be her ticket to a different life, one where she can explore her loves of science and adventure. 

But if she can't prove herself to her father on this expedition, the only adventures she'll have to look forward to are marriage or spinsterhood. 

As their paths cross and the rivalry between their fathers becomes more intense, Samuel and Rachel are pushed closer together. And with both after the same prize, their budding romance seems destined to fail. 

But as danger looms on the other side of the hills, Samuel and Rachel are forced to make a decision. Can they find the skeleton-and with it a new life together-or will the rivalry tear them apart?

This is a crackingly original story idea digging back into history in a fabulous way. Utterly brilliant stuff. 

"Every Hidden Thing" by Kenneth Oppel is out now, published by David Fickling Books. 

Next, it's time for a compilation gathering some of the most supreme writing talent on the planet for a very special book...

"Make More Noise" is an incredible collection of brand new short stories from ten of the UK's very best storytellers, celebrating inspirational girls and women. 

The book is being published to commemorate the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage in the UK. 

£1 from the sale of every book will be donated to Camfed, an international charity which tackles poverty and inequality by supporting women's education in the developing world. 

Featuring short stories by Kiran Millwood Hargrave, author of the Waterstones Children's Book Prize-wining The Girl of Ink and Stars, M.G. Leonard, author of Beetle Boy, Patrice Lawrence, author of the Waterstones Children's Book Prize-winning Orangeboy, Katherine Woodfine, author of The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow, Sally Nicholls, author of Things a Bright Girl Can Do, Emma Carroll, author of Letters from the Lighthouse, and more, this is sure to wow your socks off and it's in a fantastic cause too. 

"Make More Noise" is out now, published by Nosy Crow. 

Next, something of a timely revival for a classic set of stories, given a whole new lease of life thanks to one of our favourite illustrators...

"Mostly Mary" revives the first of Gwynedd Rae's corking stories, with fabulous new illustrations from Clara (Mango and Bambang) Vulliamy. 

In this first book we meet the Bear family, who, sadly, are locked up in a bear pit in Berne. 

Amazingly the family still seem to have a fairly happy life, but when young orphan Mary comes into Friska's care, no one has any idea just how energetic and naughty the newborn can be. 

Friska, anxious mother of twin bear cubs of her own, takes charge of the orphan Mary and does her best to teach her proper bear manners such as the correct way to wash your ears. 

Into their closeted world comes the Owl Man who somehow strikes up a friendship with the lonely cub and before long Mary is off discovering the world - thus her real adventures begin. 

These are wonderfully simple and yet completely compelling tales, like a bruin-y version of the "Little Tim" books with timeless adventures that today's kids will love. 

"Mostly Mary" by Gwynedd Rae and Clara Vulliamy is out now, published by Egmont. 

The late Sir Terry Pratchett might be gone, but his books will live on forever. 

"Only You Can Save Mankind" is a fantastic tale in the Johnny Maxwell stories, with the hapless hero being thrown right in at the deep end this time, in a story of intergalactic invasion. 

As the mighty alien fleet from the latest computer game thunders across the screen, Johnny prepares to blow them into the usual million pieces. 

But then they send him a message: "We surrender!"

They're not supposed to do that! They're supposed to die. And computer joysticks don't have 'Don't Fire' buttons do they?

But it's only a game, isn't it. Isn't it?

This is a rip-roaring tale that demonstrate's Pratchett's endless versatility, putting together a story that'll still resonate with your resident game-head. Utterly fantastic catching back up with this one again. 

"Only You Can Save Mankind" by Terry Pratchett is out now, published by Corgi. 

Last but by no means least, a pair of new books that will be perfect for the cute animal lover in your life...

"Muddle the Magic Puppy: The Magic Carpet" by Hayley Daze kicks off a whole new series of gorgeous little animal tales. 

Muddle the puppy is magic, but he's also a little bit naughty! 

Emerging readers will laugh along to the humorous stories featuring best friends, Ruby and Harry, and build their reading confidence at the same time. 

In "The Magic Carpet" Muddle jumps into a magical puddle and takes Ruby and Harry on an amazing adventure to Arabia! 

They need teamwork and a lot of puppy magic to help a young boy win a magic carpet race. 

Luckily, Muddle, Harry and Ruby make a great team!

These stories are absolutely perfectly pitched for kids just branching out into self-reading, with nice simple and short stories designed to entertain but also offer a collectable series to inspire them onto further reading. 

"Cuddle the Magic Kitten" is an accompanying series, also written by Hayley Daze, so even if your kids really don't like dogs they're sure to love Cuddle's adventures too. 

"Muddle the Magic Puppy" and "Cuddle the Magic Kitten" by Hayley Daze are both available now (with followup books arriving in the summer). Published by Willow Tree Books. 

And that's a wrap! We'll be back once again in March with even more awesome chapter books. See you then!
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"How To Eat Pizza" by Jon Burgerman (OUP / Oxford Children's Books)

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This could almost be the definition of C's perfect picture book, featuring that most beloved of subjects dear to her heart...
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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Professor Astro Cat's Human Body Odyssey by Dominic Walliman and Ben Newman (Flying Eye Books)

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We're taking a trip to an incredible destination with intrepid Professor Astro Cat and his crew. But this time we're not jetting off into space...more like Inner Space!
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Ten Fat Sausages by Michelle Robinson and Tor Freeman (Andersen Children's Books)

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Two of our absolute children's book HEROES have combined mighty forces for a whole new take on that classic nursery rhyme...sizzling stuff!
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Monday, February 26, 2018

"Search and Find: The Jungle Book" by Rudyard Kipling and Federica Frenna (Studio Press)

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Ooh now this is utterly WONDERFUL! A new "Search and Find" book revolving around one of our favourite children's books of all time...
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Friday, February 23, 2018

ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 23rd February 2018 - "The Nothing To See Here Hotel" by Steven Butler and Steven Lenton (Simon and Schuster Children's Books)

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There are just SO MANY great books around at the moment. So we couldn't resist cramming in one more "Book of the Week" winner this week for a chapter book par excellence...
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ReadItDaddy's Second Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 23rd February 2018 - "The Night Box" by Louise Greig and Ashling Lindsay (Egmont)

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Sometimes a picture book text just flows over you, like the gentle lapping of a stream's cool currents or the whisper of a summer breeze. So it is with our second picture book of the week this week, "The Night Box" by Louise Greig and Ashling Lindsay.
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ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week Ending 23rd February 2018 - "Frankfurt" by Mia Cassany and Mikel Casal (Tate Publishing)

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It definitely seems to be a fantastic year for dog books, as our first Picture Book of the Week for this week definitely demonstrates...
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ReadItDaddy's Comic of the Week - Week Ending 23rd February 2018 - "Monkey Nuts (Volume 1 and 2)" by Robin and Lorenzo Etherington (Hulu Self Publishing Platform)

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Our Comic(s) of the Week this week hail back to a (sadly departed) attempt to stick a ton of dynamite up the butt of the british children's comic industry...
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Thursday, February 22, 2018

Playing the numbers game with books - It's not how many, nor how frequent, it's all about how much enjoyment you get from reading - A ReadItTorial

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One of the things that's always worried me about being a book blogger, and having a book-blogging daughter is that sometimes the sheer number of books we read can lead to an interesting (but slightly worrying) pattern developing.

This week's ReadItTorial post was partially inspired by a Twitter conversation around what constitutes "A Matilda* level of book numbers read". There seems to be a belief that the more books a child packs in during a given year, the more successful they will be in other aspects of their life (particularly academic).

It's fair to say that a child who genuinely loves reading will definitely reap their own rewards at school. We quite often have some rather nice compliments paid to us about C's reading ability (and one of the positives from the Twitter conversation was hearing the same from other booky parents), and her sheer voraciousness for books.

We politely (and yes, sometimes rather smugly) smile, grateful that when our daughter is stuck for something to do, she'll reach for a book rather than an iPad, games controller or something else screen-based. We actually get a lot of negative comments about the amount (or lack) of screen time C gets. Usually at weekends when there's some dead time C will either catch up with comics, catch up with reading or opt to play a game on the iPad or games consoles but very rarely so, and she knows where the boundaries are and not to push against them (don't we sound like the most horrible hateful strict parents!)

Honestly though, normally the default is reading or books.

I get a slight tingle in the hairs on the back of my neck when I see folk professing that their child has read a 'phenomenal number of books'.

I keep a spreadsheet of the books we read and review through the blog, and most years the blog has been in existence I can honestly say that we have read AT LEAST 500 as the lower end of the scale, but sometimes on a good year we've cleared over a thousand. For want of a frame of reference, in 2017 we read, reviewed and wrote up over 700 books and that's just the stuff documented as part of our normal blogging schedule, that doesn't reflect older stuff we've re-read or stuff we've read but not reviewed.

The only reason we count at all is from a necessity to have some semblance of organisation around the blog. The spreadsheet I keep is a convenient way to keep track of what we've been sent, stuff we've reviewed (splitting picture book and chapter book sections so we can track each individually) or any blog tours etc that we're taking part in. Nothing more, and certainly not some "My child is better than yowrse" yardstick.

The point I'm getting to glacially slowly is that competing over 'numbers read' seems like a really odd thing to do, and fails to take into account that the types of reader vary greatly in children and adults.

For example, all three of us (my wife, C and me) all read at different speeds. I'm a dyed-in-the-wool speed reader (having previously learned speed-reading techniques to blast through huge thick technical manuals for Microsoft exams). Unable to switch this off, but able to blast through a decent sized paperback in a few nights or less. Always with a need to re-read books later on if they've piqued my interest enough and I feel I need a second or third pass.

My wife polishes off a fair-sized paperback in a week or just over. She can blast through most stuff fairly quickly, and has more staying power when it comes to books (I'll basically ditch a book if it starts to bore the pants off me, but she usually stays with them through hell and high water).

C can blat through middle grade chapter books in a single night or a couple of nights (which is very handy for the reviews), squeezing in other reading at breakfast, sometimes after school (homework permitting), mostly at weekends and always after we've read to her at night.

Some children will read slowly, savouring every single morsel on the page, almost to the point of wearing the print off. Some will (like C) read books incredibly quickly, or juggle several at a time (this is another nasty habit C has picked up from me but it's not exactly difficult to see why).

Then of course there's the other factor in the numbers game. If you proudly claim your child can get through more than 300 J.K Rowling / Deathly Hallows-sized books a year, that's definitely something of an achievement (and makes me wonder what the heck they do with the couple of hours they have spare every day, I'm assuming food is ingested, personal cleanliness is taken care of, perhaps they even go to school?)

But in all honesty, the end line for this ReadItTorial is that clamouring about numbers read, in the words of the great Shania Twain "Don't impress me much" - Now if you have genuine tales of your child intricately dissecting a book, its world, its characters and being able to passionately talk about that book in glorious detail, that's likely to impress both of us far more.

(* - Matilda the Roald Dahl book, of course!)
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Do Not Open This Book by Andy Lee and Heath Mckenzie (Studio Press)

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We beg you, we implore you...PLEASE DO NOT CLICK ON THIS REVIEW...!
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I Say Ooh You Say Aah by John Kane (Templar Publishing)

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Frustrated that there has never been a follow up to the awesome "The Book With No Pictures" by B.J. Novak? Step right this way...
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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Dog in Boots by Paula Metcalf (OUP / Oxford Children's Books)

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Canine fans are going to fall instantly in love with this happy-go-lucky poochy pal...
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Lola Dutch is a Little Bit Much by Kenneth and Sarah Jane Wright (Bloomsbury Publishing)

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Now here's a book we can REALLY relate to, after all nothing worth doing is worth doing by halves is it?
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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Lionel and the Lion's Share by Lou Peacock and Lisa Sheehan (Nosy Crow)

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Here's a tasty treat of a book that's all about sharing and friendships that'll entertain tinies with a cool cast of animal characters...
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Eric Makes a Splash by Emily Mackenzie (Bloomsbury Publishing)

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Books that deal with children's anxiety issues in a thoughtful and sensitive way are so valuable as part of a child's early years...
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Monday, February 19, 2018

15 things NOT to do with a Puppy by Margaret McAllister and Holly Sterling (Frances Lincoln Children's Books)

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We love these rib-tickling "How To" guides from Margaret and Holly. Here's a handy guide for little ones welcoming a new pet into the house for the first time...
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"Swapsies" by Fiona Roberton (Hodder Children's Books)

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Everyone has a favourite toy, but what happens when your friend has a cool toy they want to swap  with you for your favourite thing?
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Friday, February 16, 2018

ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 16th February 2018 - "King Coo" by Adam Stower (David Fickling Books)

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Adam Stower is really no stranger to our Book of the Week slot...having staked his claim here with his fantastic picture books on a regular basis...
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ReadItDaddy's Second Book of the Week - Week Ending 16th February 2018 - "Young Gifted and Black" by Jamia Wilson and Andrea Pippins (Wide Eyed Editions)

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This one has been on our "Watch" list ever since we found out about it...and we're delighted to make this a Book of the Week for so many reasons...
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ReadItDaddy's Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 16th February 2018 - "Tiny Little Rocket" by David Fickling and Richard Collingridge (David Fickling Books)

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There are so many artists and authors we always keep a very sharp eye on at all times when it comes to upcoming new releases...
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Thursday, February 15, 2018

A fabulous guest post from Juliette Forrest, author of new gripping Middle Grade novel "Twister" out now from Scholastic Publishing

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We're delighted to have a guest post from Juliette Forrest, talking about five inspirational things that help her dream up the fantastic characters and worlds in her fabulous stories.

Without further ado, over to Juliette!



Some people listen to music when they are writing. Not me. I need to surround myself with pictures. I turned my kitchen wall into a mood board when I was working on Twister and this was one of the photos I pinned up. I snapped it not far from my parent’s house. I found the tree quite spooky, which was perfect for one of my characters in the story. It is a sweet chestnut and I have grown quite attached to it now.



This was given to me by an old colleague of mine. We got our very first job together in advertising – she was a copywriter and I was an art director. That was many years ago when an all-female creative team was unusual in the industry. My friend knows I have a busy mind, so having this close by when I am writing reminds me to concentrate on the task at hand.


When I am stuck, or need to figure something out plot-wise, I take the dog for a walk. I always find time away from the laptop works wonders. I love being outdoors and will often weave what I see in the park into the story. I am so deep in thought, my friends have to flap their hands in front of my face before I notice them. I am quite sure they think I am a sandwich short of a picnic.


The chair is a symbol of sitting and watching people. Place me in an airport, train station, library or park bench and I am in seventh heaven. Sometimes, in the theatre, I will be looking at the audience instead of the actors. People are a never-ending source of great inspiration and writing material for me.




Meet my dad. As you can tell from this ancient photo, having a sense of humour was a must in our household. I am forever thankful for the stories he used to read out at bedtime. No Roald Dhal or Enid Blyton for me. I was held spellbound by authors and poets such as Laurie Lee, Dylan Thomas and Norman MacCaig.


Twister by Juliette Forrest is available now , published by Scholastic Children's Books. 
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Let's put a stop on World Book Day becoming World "Make a Quick Buck" Day - A ReadItTorial

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Oh dear. Pre-made costumes for a 'click and buy' generation. Convenient  or cash-in?
World Book Day is almost upon us - and once again on the 1st of March, book-loving kids all over the country (except, weirdly, those at C's school) will dress up as their favourite literary characters.

Or at least that's what's supposed to happen. You see World Book Day seems to have become yet another source of stress and annoyance for many parents, and just as many kids too.

Every year it feels like the pressure is on to come up with a costume that isn't just some shop-bought piece of tat (like the header image above, a merciless cash-in branded with the WBD ident and logo. I wonder how much Dave's topslice of the revenue from these is?)

Most of the stress at home comes from the element of competition schools introduce with World Book Day - and that bizarre 'middle-class-parent' struggle to come to school in a costume that looks like you've roped in a Hollywood Wardrobe Designer to design and build an eerily accurate rendition of a character cossie from a book.

Though C's school doesn't actually celebrate or support the day itself (and it seems a lot of schools do their own thing at other times of the year - just like C's school) there are still the inevitable times when we're called on to design a costume, make the durned thing (with my wife normally doing the bulk of the hard work - I just contribute the 'fancy bits' sometimes, as I can't sew to save my life) and then send C to school in something that most teachers and kids will scratch their heads at, and ask "Who are you meant to be?"

Quite often it's made worse by our school's bizarre choice of 'themes' for their own book week. Normally they seem to default to stuff like "Dress as someone from a Roald Dahl book" (easy enough, 'Girl from "The Magic Finger" it is then!) or someone from Alice in Wonderland...but...well...

You see, we're subversives - and as such we always look for the 'non mainstream' approach when it comes to Book Day / week costumes.

To date, C has gone to school dressed as the girl from "Pirate Girl" by Cornelia Funke. She's gone as Laura Ingalls Wilder from the "Little House on the Prairie" novels. She went as a huge and rather complex flower design meant to be one of the living flowers from Alice in Wonderland (because virtually ALL the other girls in her class just stuck a blue dress and Alice band on and went as Alice herself instead). All our costumes have been home made, probably taken longer than we'd liked but it felt more like we were entering into the spirit of world book day - to celebrate the joy of reading and have a bit of fun making a costume that didn't suck.

Anyway, back to that header image and the thought that World Book Day has become yet another celebratory day hijacked by mass consumerism.

If you think the Walliams costumes were bad, here's H & M's attempt to provide ready made costumes...

Crikey, talk about a lazy pass...
Obviously we do not have any problem at all with the prospect of comic characters being legit WBD characters / costumes but the above just shows what a rubbish and lazy pass big companies are capable of when they're trying to tap into the passion and imagination that *should* surround this day.

It does at least give most parents a ready made and 'easy' alternative (honestly though, can you really be as cheeky as to dress your girls up in Disney Princess costumes because "Snow White was a book once, right?").

Still our question remains though - what do you think World Book Day is about? What should it be about? Why does it often feel like books, a celebration of creativity and the essence of why we encourage our kids to read for pleasure is completely and utterly lost somehow? Admittedly this may be our own experience and ours alone. We look on in envy every WBD at some of the things that happen in other people's schools and wonder why not ours. But I'm sure we can't be the only ones thoroughly jaded with the whole thing? For book bloggers that feels a bit...strange really. We should be looking forward to it every year, not dreading it.

Sometimes it feels like WBD is now destined to become as tacky and over-commercialised as Halloween - a day that (I swear to god) would not have become the sh*t-show it has over here if it wasn't for the movie "E.T The Extra Terrestrial"?

We do at least get some cracking mini book editions going out on WBD which definitely make the day worthwhile from a reader perspective. But this biz about the costumes really can take the shine off things big time.

Let's hope this year's is a huge success but let's see less of the profiteering, more of the celebration of reading and fantastic kids books this year, eh?
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Hattie Peck by Emma Levey (Willow Tree Books)

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"Hattie Peck" is a heart-warming picture book about triumph in the face of adversity.

Little Hattie Peck loved eggs! 

Big ones, small ones, speckled ones. 

But all she really wanted more than anything else was an egg of her own. 

One day Hattie left her cosy coop on an adventure to find all the abandoned eggs of the world. 

And find them she did! But what will happen when they hatch?

Hattie is such a busy, energetic character that kids are sure to fall in love with her and this delightful little story.

There's a really lovely 'adoption' sub-plot to this story that we think made this title stand out from the crowd too. 

"Hattie Peck" by Emma Levey is out now, published by Willow Tree Books (kindly supplied for review). 
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Give your child's vocabulary a gigantic fun-sized boost with the innovative Mrs Wordsmith learning programme

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We're always interested in reading and reviewing new books, but we're also always hugely interested in any new schemes or programmes designed to help children boost their lingual and learning skills, particularly when those things can be a colossal amount of fun.

The Mrs Wordsmith subscription-based programme is one of the most attractive distance learning packages for kids that we've seen. Not just attractive but expertly devised by a knowledgable and academic-minded team who each bring their own unique skillsets into the programme in various ways.

The core aim of the programme is to vastly improve your child's vocabulary, offering them simple exercises and fun games to boost their word counts by 10,000 words - over the space of an innovative and beautifully designed programme learning a word or two a day.

For the purposes of our review, the Mrs Wordsmith team kindly sent out a six month "Sampler Box" and we were really excited when the kit turned up, and couldn't wait to start unboxing it...


Making learning fun! The Mrs Wordsmith pack contains tons of awesome materials to get you started. 

The whole programme is gloriously illustrated by Hollywood artist Craig Kellman (who produced stunning concept art for movies like Madagascar and Hotel Transylvania, and whose work we'd previously come across and loved to bits). Presentation-wise you really can't fault these packs, crammed into a gloriously designed and brightly coloured orange box that generated tons of excitement at home and really helped to underline 'learning for fun' rather than 'oh god, not another school-type thing, I get enough homework as it is!' for C from the outset.

Impeccable Design - Oh hey, there's another word pair!
The way the programme works is by careful choice of 10,000 words that your child should know before they slide into their teenage years. It's always difficult to pin an age group on anything as children's own learning journeys and abilities are so hugely varied (I worried that this kit might be a bit 'young' for C) but I'd probably say this is going to be great for ages 5 well into early teens.

The programme has a set of clear simple instructions to help you get up and running. Based around a workbook and a project folder, with supplementary card games and other great little activity ideas the aim is for children to work at their own pace with a word or two a day in specially coloured and categorised word groups starting with Character words, and moving through Weather, Taste and Smell, Action, Emotion and Settings categories - all of which provide a gigantic boost to children's familiarity with words, and their ability to take those words forward and use in their own creative writing or class-based learning.

Of course, we couldn't resist this particular word and definition (with the best illustration in the box!)
We've seen many attempts to 'gamify' learning, and again the Mrs Wordsmith programme seems to achieve the perfect balance of providing involvement and immersion while still keeping things light-hearted and fun.

A crazy-cool cast of characters are here to help make learning so much fun!
The subscriptions offer both monthly or 6-month up-front payment plans (with savings if you opt to pay for the entire first 6 months of the programme in advance). You can find more about the subscription costs here: https://www.mrswordsmith.com/products/six-month-subscription

There's also a link for teachers, as this is the sort of programme that would work brilliantly as a supplementary programme for the entire class, or select children who are finding the going tough and need a bit of extra tuition. Mrs Wordsmith for the Classroom is coming soon, but teachers can sign up and get more information and a free classroom pack via this link: https://www.mrswordsmith.com/pages/teachers

We really highly recommend this visual approach to learning, particularly the 'play' aspect of having a kit and programme that the whole family can join in with (we really liked the idea of playing the card games to supplement the word sheets). I think it'll be interesting to see how the project develops, there's certainly tons of amazing content already here and I think it's going to be of particular use to C who really likes writing her own stories, but often falls back on her own 'comfort zone' words. This will definitely encourage her to think of new words and ways to flesh our her own writing, and should also give her plenty of scope to bring that in to written essays and word work at school.

Our review summary then:

Why this approach works...

The Mrs Wordsmith pack instantly draws a child in with instant 'unboxing' appeal and a really fun and strong visual approach to both packaging and content.

Words are carefully curated and chosen, sticking to 'contemporary' words that children will find useful in their development but also hugely relevant to the modern world and modern lingual expectations in and out of school. The methods for retention and pairing / linking words are really simple and yet hugely effective, meaning that parents and teachers can apply the same methods in other ways outside the programme too.

Why we liked it...

We've seen various learning programmes that either get the content right but feature really naff 'school-like' designs that instantly feel a bit charmless and sterile, or get the visual design right but dumb down the content. This is the first time we've seen a literacy self-learning programme that looks great, has fantastic content but importantly also has an achievable and non-pressured programme that can easily be completed around existing homework and leisure schedules without feeling like it's 'extra work'

Why we'd recommend it...

For the reasons above, but also for the fairly low investment cost considering what you get, and what your child will undoubtedly get out of it. It's a great parent / child co-activity that is actually a lot of fun for parents to join in with as well as for their kids. The team behind Mrs Wordsmith have obviously done their homework in knowing how to make their product appealing and attractive.

Such a fantastic idea, one we'll definitely be keeping an eye on. To find out  more, pop by the Mrs Wordsmith Website today and take a peek at this amazing programme.

https://www.mrswordsmith.com


More about the Mrs Wordsmith Team: 

Craig Kellman – Award winning art director for the programme. The artist behind a vast cast of characters including those from Dreamworks’ blockbusters Madagascar and Hotel Transylvania, as well as Sony’s Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.

Sofia Fenichell - co-founder and CEO of Mrs Wordsmith. She is a serial entrepreneur who also founded Wonder Place Ltd. Prior to Wonder PL, Sofia was an Executive Director and analyst for leading hedge funds and investment banks Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch and UBS. She has an MBA from Columbia Business School and a BA in History from Northwestern University.

Dr Lesley Sand, PhD - Curriculum Director, is a cognitive neuroscientist from the University of Maryland, with a background in Special Education and Learning Disabilities. Her primary research interests include brain mechanisms related to language and reading development.

Ian Brookes – Lexicographer, former Editor in Chief of Chambers Dictionary has contributed to the creation of over 50 dictionaries and reference books from Chambers, HarperCollins, and Oxford University Press.

Disclaimer: 6 month review kit kindly supplied by Mrs Wordsmith. No payment has been received for the review and the review opinions expressed are our own. 
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