Thursday 31 May 2018

Racking sobs, sniffles and heartbreak - Why we absolutely LOVE getting in a state over Children's Books - A ReadItTorial

Illustration by Ethan Rilly
After last week's ReadItTorial went down like a lead balloon I figured it'd probably be a good idea to step into slightly lighter-hearted territory this week.

Let's talk about emotions?

No wait, don't run, we are your friends! We'd specifically like to talk about how it is that a grown man of half a century - and his daughter - can be reduced to hot messes, blubbing, sobbing and snot-covered cry-messes purely because of the words and illustrations in a children's picture book.

We'd recently read "If all the world were..." by Joseph Coelho and Allison Colpoys, and it's one of those books that makes you feel like that scene in Toy Story 2 where Jessie is plaintively singing about being dumped by the side of the road by her owner, unloved and unwanted. Or that scene at the end of Toy Story 3 that gets me EVERY SINGLE TIME where Andy is pulling his toys out for Molly and they play with them together one last time.

Oh god, even though I know what's coming it just destroys me every time.

So it was with "If all the world were" and so it has been with several other books that usually have one thing in common. They deal with a subject that you don't really expect to see much of in children's books.

Death, grief, loss, grieving, missing people you know you're never going to see again but reminding you (in that lovely way that children's books always do) that they're always with you because they exist in your memory.

Death is a tough subject to get right, to give it enough weight and importance in a story but not to scare the living bejesus out of kids. Just to stimulate enough of a thought-provoking inner dialogue that will remind them just how amazing their elders are, and not to take them for granted.

Well, that's the intention anyway - quite often it just means we sit there in a puddle of tears wondering what we can do to cheer ourselves up (the answer: reach for a book that's a complete giggle-fest from cover to cover instead). It is weird though, I think both of us actually enjoy the fact that books can affect us in that way.

Both my wife and I have entirely different triggers for what sets us off, as does C. My wife can sit there sobbing her heart out over grown up books (quite a few times I've been happily in the land of nod, only to be woken up by her crying her eyes out over some novel she's downloaded onto her kindle). Our daughter has picked up subtle nuances of what triggers her to turn into a sobbing mess from both of us - basically anything involving animals will completely destroy her, though she has a slightly greater tolerance for the death of human characters in stories. I noticed she also has a lot of her mum's toughness (some might say "hard heartedness") in that neither of them just cry on a whim over something they're not so invested in - whereas I am so much more of a big softy that quite often it'll take just one single subtle thing to push me right over the edge.

I guess the modern world favours folk who can handle their emotions more robustly, but I also think that humans are designed to be emotional creatures with great empathy for others so there's a lot to be said for bringing up your girls or boys to understand that it's OK to be emotional about stuff. It's natural, not something you need to stick a cork in.

The craft of writing something that can so keenly tap into someone's emotional states like that - well, potentially millions of different people who (if you're lucky) might encounter your stories and books. It's a fantastic writing challenge that I'd recommend to anyone who thinks they have an idea for a story bubbling under the surface. It is as tough as nails and it's on my bucket list of 'things I want to write' along with a book that makes someone cackle uncontrollably with laughter, or a book that means so much to someone that they can't possibly imagine life without it.

Writing something to tug at the heart strings is so much tougher than any other type of writing because you've first got to get the reader's investment in your characters to a point where they'll still be invested in them even when you snatch them cruelly away.

Hats off to the many, many children's authors who have achieved this throughout our blogging adventures.

Fancy a cry-fest? Here's a selection of the best tear-jerkers from our reviews:

Baby Bird by Andrew Gibbs and Zosienka (Frances Lincoln Children's Books)

ReadItDaddy's Second Book of the Week - Week Ending 29th July 2016 - "Fox and Goldfish" by Nils Pieters (Book Island)  (Oh god, this one....ARGHHH!!!!)

Book of the Week - Rabbityness by Jo Empson (Child's Play International Ltd)

Le Visite De Petite Mort by Kitty Crowther (Lutin Poche)

Goodbye Mog

Booky Advent Calendar Day 17 - 17th December 2013: "Winter's Tales" by Metaphrog (Metaphrog Publishing)

World on a String by Larry Phifer and Danny Popovici (Storytime Works / IBPA)

ReaditDaddy's Book of the Week - Sparkle's Song by Samantha Hale and Maria Ruiz Johnson (Maverick Books)

ReadItDaddy's First Book of the Week - 5th March 2015 - "Missing Jack" by Rebecca Elliott (Lion Hudson Publishing)

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"Draw like an Artist: Pop Art" by Patricia Geis (Princeton Architectural Press)

We're always huge fans of books that introduce kids to art and artists, particularly stuff they may not have seen before...
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"Creatures of the Order" by Fay Evans and Kelsey Oseid (20 Watt Publishing)

There's always room in our book collection for a brilliantly presented Natural History book, and this certainly fits the bill perfectly...
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Wednesday 30 May 2018

"But the Bear Came Back" by Tammi Sauer and Dan Taylor (Sterling Publishing)

Here's a rather interesting book about bears, and boys who - at first - don't like bears...
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"Puddle Pug" by Kim Norman and Keika Yamaguchi (Sterling)

Is there anything quite as satisfying as sloshing about in puddles? Preferably muddy puddles? This little pug doesn't think so...
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Tuesday 29 May 2018

"A Very Late Story" by Marianna Coppo (Flying Eye Books)

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if characters in a children's book broke the 4th wall?
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"A Lady Has the Floor: Belva Lockwood Speaks out for Women's Rights" by Kate Hannigan and Alison Jay (Highlights Publishing)

In a year of celebrating inspirational women we've seen some truly stunning books highlighting the achievements of several notable figures from history...
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Monday 28 May 2018

"Prince George Goes to School" by Caryl Hart and Laura Ellen Anderson (Orchard Books)

Combine two of the finest talents in children's books and great things are bound to happen...just ask George!
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ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book Roundup - May 2018

Welcome, welcome to our summery sunshine-packed chapter book roundup for May. We're hoping to tempt you with a glorious selection of lovely books, so you can sneak out, find a shady tree and get some quiet time to get some reading done.

Let's kick off with a superbly touching middle grade tale of an ordinary girl trying to cope with extraordinary circumstances.

In "What Lexie Did" by Emma Shevah, Lexie lives in London with her colourful Greek-Cypriot family - and she's devoted to her fragile cousin of the same age, Eleni, who has a heart condition.

But after the death of their grandmother, Lexie tells a terrible, instinctive, jealous lie about an heirloom necklace, a lie that splits the family apart.

It's up to her to bring the family back together ... but after such a lie, can she find a way to tell the truth?

A strong moral message, with tons of heart-melting moments underlining the importance of family and honesty, "What Lexie Did" by Emma Sheva is out now, published by Chicken House. 

Next up is "Walls" by Emma Fischel. Time to meet an unforgettable hero with a fresh and unique voice.

Meet Ned Harrison Arkle-Smith - he's grumpy, bossy, and exasperating, but you can't help liking him (We all know people like that, don't we?)

Ned seems to have made a rather astonishing discovery. He's just discovered he can walk through walls.

Ned's world is collapsing. His parents have split up, his best friend is behaving strangely, he has an awful new neighbour, and Snapper is making his life a misery. In fact NOBODY is behaving the way Ned wants.

And then there's the wall. Right down the middle of Ivy Lodge and cutting up Ned's life. A big brick reminder of all that's going wrong in his life.

Until, that is, the night when Ned takes a chance and uses his new skill for the first time. But will it be the last?

The sort of book that has you constantly thinking "What if I could do that?" Brilliant stuff. "Walls" by Emma Fischel is out on the 1st June 2018, published by OUP / Oxford Children's Books. 

Geeks will inherit the earth, certainly if our next book is anything to go by.

Geek Tragedy" by Tom McLaughlin, one of C's favourite authors in middle grade stuff, is an absolutely belting start to a new series from this hugely talented chap.

Visit Happyville High - the perfect school, or so it seems.

But scratch beneath the surface and there's something really weird going on. 

Teachers and students are too wrapped up in their own popularity to see what's happening, but there are three outsiders who can. 

Tyler, Dylan, and Ashley are a trio of super nerds brought together by their superior intellect and general dorky behaviour. 

Their lack of cool is their superpower, making them immune to the strange effects that popularity seems to have on the school. 

So when students start experiencing strange symptoms - like growing an extra-long spaghetti arm - it's time for them to put their geek powers to the test and find the cause!

Utterly hilarious, fresh and original, C absolutely lapped this up and can't wait for more from these geeks. "Geek Tragedy" by Tom McLaughlin is out now, published by OUP / Oxford Children's Books. 

Next up is a new version of a fantastic story that serves as the perfect jumping-in point for kids who want to delve into the Discworld, Terry Pratchett's glorious creation. 

"The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents" by Terry Pratchett, with new artwork from blog fave Laura Ellen Andersen is a glorious twist on "The Pied Piper" with a unique protagonist. 

Maurice - a streetwise tomcat - leads a band of educated ratty friends (and a stupid kid) on a nice little earner.

Piper plus rats equals lots and lots of money.

Until they run across someone playing a different tune.

Now Maurice and his rats must learn a new concept as Evil comes to Ank-Morpork. 

A truly beautiful new edition this, and Laura's art is as fantastic as ever. 

Catch "The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents" by Terry Pratchett and Laura Ellen Andersen, published by Corgi Children's Books. 

Next, a comic favourite makes the leap to chapter books, causing utter chaos at the same time. It's time for "Dennis and the Chamber of Mischief", a Dennis the Menace and Gnasher adventure by Nigel Auchterlounie. 

For the first time in Dennis's life Beanotown has become boring.

All Dennis's pranks are backfiring and he seems to have lost his awesomeness. 

Even his faithful hound, Gnasher, seems fed up with him these days. If only there was some way to bring the fun back to Beanotown.

When Dennis hears about the legendary Golden Pea-shooter of Everlasting Fun, it sounds like the only thing that can solve his problems and return his hometown to its former glory. 

With the help of his cousin, Minnie the Minx, and Gnasher of course, Dennis must go on a quest, discovering the mysterious Chamber of Mischief in his bid to find the Golden Pea-shooter; but a series of tricky challenges (and Dennis's nemesis, Walter) stand in his way.

Dennis's latest and, quite possibly, greatest adventure is filled with epic fun, from ghostly Vikings and skateboarding Grandmas to an enormous Gnashersaurus-Rex and a series of interactive puzzles for YOU, the reader, to complete. Can YOU help Dennis solve the fiendish mystery and save Beanotown from eternal boringness?

"Dennis and the Chamber of Mischief" by Nigel Auchterlounie is out now, published by Studio Press. 

Now for a touching and life-affirming tale of growing up. "Spirit" by Sally Christie introduces two very different characters who find common ground, and perhaps rediscover something amazing in the process. 

Matt is new, quiet and shy. Some might even say boring. 

Jazzy is outspoken, popular, confident. 

They'd never normally be friends, but things in the village of Burnham Stone aren't normal. One day Matt sees something extraordinary up in Burnham Wood and struggles to get anyone to listen.

Jazzy, oddly,  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, "Spirit" by Sally Christie is out now, published by David Fickling Books. 

Something truly stunning next, and you're going to have to wait all the way till September for this amazing story - but it will be well worth the wait, trust us. 

"The Restless Girls" by Jessie Burton, with illustrations by Angela Barrett is a fantastic feminist reinterpretation of one of our favourite fairy tales, "The Twelve Dancing Princesses". 

For her twelve daughters, Queen Laurelia's death in a motor car accident is a disaster beyond losing a mother. 

Their father, King Alberto, cannot bear the idea of the princesses ever being in danger and decides his daughters must be kept safe at all costs. 

Those costs include their lessons, their possessions and, most importantly, their freedom. 

But the eldest, Princess Frida, will not bend to his will without a fight and she still has one possession her father can't take: the power of her imagination. 

And so, with little but wits and ingenuity to rely on, Frida and her sisters begin their fight to be allowed to live life the way they choose. 

Full of glorious jaw-dropping moments of inspiration with a strong powerful core message of hope and fighting for what you believe in, "The Restless Girls" by Jessie Burton and Angela Barrett will be released on 27th September 2018, published by Bloomsbury Children's Books. 

Time for the fourth book in Isla Fisher's brilliantly hilarious "Marge" series. This time Marge is in charge and dragging poor hapless Jakey and Jemima off on another adventure in "Marge and the Secret Tunnel.


Life with Marge is NEVER boring! She has rainbow hair, goes skiing in the middle of summer and is the best babysitter anyone could wish for.

And maybe - just maybe - Marge can help Jemima and Jakey work out who (or what) is at the end of the secret tunnel. Careful not to dig too far though, you may end up in Isla's home country of Australia if you're not careful. 

It's whacky stuff from a talented actress-author, with fab illustrations from Eglantine Ceulemans. 

"Marge and the Secret Tunnel" is out now, published by Piccadilly Press.

Next, a timely set of reprints just in time for World Cup Mania this coming summer. 

Helena Pielichaty's awesome "Girls F.C" series has had a dust and polish with all new book covers from Eglantine Ceulemans. 

Check out the four books in the series including "Do Goalkeepers Wear Tiaras" in a set of books focussing on girl's love of footie, where 'playing like a girl' is definitely NOT an insult. 

“My name is Megan Fawcett and this is the story of how I set up the best football team in the world.

Get ready for kick-off!” 

Nine-year-old Megan Fawcett loves football and is desperate to be on her school team. She tries everything to get the coach to notice her (even wearing a tiara!), but nothing seems to do the trick. Then Megan has her big brainwave: she could start her own team. 

An all-girls team! Now she just needs a pitch, a coach – oh, and ten other players… This is the first in a series of fun, topical early readers; join the Girls FC as they take the world by storm and look out for the other books including "Can Ponies Take Penalties?", "Are Brothers Really Foul?" and "Is an own goal really bad?"

"Do Goalkeepers Wear Tiaras" by Helena Pielichaty and Eglantine Ceulemans is out now, published by Walker Books. 

The next book is sizzlingly brilliant, spooky and utterly gripping - and we don't use those words lightly, you'll definitely not want to miss "The Ghosts and Jamal" by Bridget Blankley.

A rich narrative touching on religion, terrorism and Nigeria’s internal conflicts, follows the story of a young orphan who is negotiating an unforgiving society. 

Waking up in the aftermath of a terrorist attack, 13-year-old Jamal tries to piece together what has happened whilst simultaneously trying to evade capture by the attackers. 

It soon becomes clear that he has been living in a separate outhouse from his family on account of the “bad spirits” or rather his epilepsy that plagues him.

As he wanders around his family’s compound, he comes across red canisters leaking yellow gas, which he works out were the weapon that killed his family. 

With his family dead, he begins to search for his grandfather who he hardly knows - but when his grandfather turns him away Jamal has no choice but to keep on walking, putting as much distance between himself and trouble as he can. On the way he meets prejudice, exploitation and friendship, before finally discovering that it is people, not ghosts, that have killed his family, and they have plans to keep on killing.

Powerful, emotional and important, "The Ghosts and Jamal" by Bridget Blankley is out now, published by HopeRoad Publishing. 

Something slightly more lighthearted, but still with a hugely important message at its heart, here's "Double Felix" by Sally Harris, with awesome illustrations by Maria Serrano. 

Felix is in trouble at school again. He's so full of energy he skips every second step when he takes the stairs, taps door handles twice and positions objects in pairs. Odd behaviour? Or does Felix have a secret that few would understand...

Felix is on the verge of being expelled from school because the principal has had enough of trying to run the school around his very specific rules. 

Then Charlie Pye arrives and turns Felix's world upside down. 

She has grown up with very few rules. She eats cereal for lunch, calls a boat home, and has a very loose interpretation of school uniform. 

The question is, can Felix ever learn to be wrong when he is so obsessed with being right?

A fun and rather beautiful core message conveyed with humour and understanding, "Double Felix" by Sally Harris and Maria Serrano is out now, published by Brown Dog Books. 

Super-cool presenting dude and all-round awesome guy Ade Adepitan

is up next with his debut book for middle grade readers.

"Ade's Amazing Ade-Ventures: Battle of the Cyborg Cat" introduces young Ade.

He is the new kid on Parsons Road. He knows he should make an effort and make some friends but it's not easy when you look different to everyone else.

It's only when Ade sees off some bullies that Dexter, Brian and Shed realize who Ade really is: their new friend, part cyborg, part footballing genius and all hero.

In a truly fantastic and inspirational superhero adventure for younger middle-graders, Ade creates a new kind of hero that kids of all ages and abilities can look up to.

"Ade's Amazing Ade-Ventures - Battle of the Cyborg Cat" by Ade Adepitan with awesome cover and internal illustrations from David M Buisan is out now, published by Studio Press. 

From one awesome book to another, and the next in the fantastic "Al's Awesome Science" series.

We make a big splash with "Splash Down" by Jane Clarke and James Brown.

Al's experiments usually have the most unexpected and messy consequences. 

Al is experimenting to find out what kind of covering his time machine will need to survive its SPLASH DOWN! back to Earth. 

Water experiments have a habit of making things very wet and messy. Can they finish their experiments before mum finds out?

A fantastic story series with a stack of cool experiments and ideas for kids to try out themselves, as Al's storyworld has a great basis in science subjects. 

Don't get too wet though!

"Al's Awesome Science: Splash Down" by Jane Clarke and James Brown is out now, published by Five Quills. 

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Friday 25 May 2018

ReadItDaddy's Second Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 25th May 2018: "Winnie and Wilbur: Seaside Adventures" by Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul (OUP / Oxford Children's Books)

It's a sheer delight to see the winsome witch and her long-suffering moggy sidekick back for a three-in-one book full of sand, sea and summer fun.
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ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 25th May 2018: "Gangster School" by Kate Wiseman (Zuntold Publishing) @ZunTold

Kids are always drawn to stories that appeal to their natural subversive natures, and our Chapter Book of the Week beautifully taps right into that, big time...!
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ReadItDaddy's First Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 25th May 2018: "The Night Knights" by Gideon Sterer and Cory Godbey (Abrams Books for Young Readers)

Our first Picture Book of the Week is such a stunningly executed idea, perfect for kids who still have a little bit of anxiety about going to bed in the dark...
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Thursday 24 May 2018

Are children's books becoming more 'elitist / classist' as publishing becomes increasingly dominated by the "Middle Class"? - A ReadItTorial

Where are all the books by the fellah on the right?
Diversity in children's books - we hear that phrase being thrown around a lot lately don't we (and it's about bloomin' time too) but what of social diversity?

As a long-standing member of 'the group the guy on the right belongs to' in the header pic (yes, working class, folks!) I've tried to cover the 'class' issue on the blog many times, with varying degrees of success. Recently the debate has flared up again on Twitter with many folk echoing something we've been banging on about for years.

The truth is, and there's really no getting away from it, Children's Publishing really does 'belong' to the fellah in the dreadful tweed suit above rather than our mac-wearing flat-capped friend.

Though the above sketch first aired in the 1960s, and though we did think that things were getting better when we initially made a fuss about this a year ago, there's still a lot of work to be done in ensuring that working class authors and artists can become part of a hugely successful creative industry and get an equal chance as Mr Bowler Hat and Mr Trilby above.

We also need to keep ensuring that kids from working class backgrounds continue to see themselves in children's books, see their parents too - and see situations and surroundings that more accurately reflect their day-to-day lives.

An article recently published in the Guardian lays things out with some pretty horrific stats, with less than 10% of published authors hailing from 'working class' backgrounds, 41% from professional middle-class backgrounds.

The key concern is that the industry wants to be seen to be making huge strides in increasing diversity in children's publishing, but seemingly wants to brush this particular issue under the carpet. There are times when, as an observer from outside the industry looking in, that you'd firmly believe the industry likes things this way and doesn't really want to do anything to accelerate change.

It undoubtedly is an industry that is incredibly tough on working authors who put in 37 hours a week doing their 'day job' while chipping away at their own manuscripts in their spare time, often lacking the resources or backing of an industry that seems to be fuelled by something akin to the 'old boy network' in politics.

It really is about who you know and who you network with, not necessarily about what you know, nor your ability to spin a fantastic story or two.

There's another wrinkle to the whole 'class war in publishing' issue as well.

There are so many agencies and organisations, mentoring programmes and professional services that exist to try and give would-be authors a leg up in the industry - and often again the subscription fees or charges from these organisations are far beyond the means of folk who are already struggling to make ends meet in light of the ridiculous levels of poverty we're experiencing at the moment.

So immediately they are also cut off from the opportunities offered through those channels, left with little choice but to try and crack the industry by 'cold-calling' agents or (hah) trying their luck through the meagre open submissions offerings from publishers. Even recent startup publishers that claim to be reinventing the industry and making huge strides in diversification don't seem to be doing anything that comes even close to tackling this thorny issue.

There are two views here then. There's a view that the current state of affairs is fine, and that the successful children's publishing industry can roll on as it has been for decades.

So what if you're poor and can't afford to join a creative industry?

Tough luck, work harder, work your way out of poverty and debt and THEN you can join the club and serve up those comfortable slices of middle-class middle-grade nonsense that kids just love to read.

(What a horrible thought).

There is, of course, the alternative view that increasingly a lot of normal everyday kids no longer find they're represented enough in children's books - a lack of representation that has nothing to do with colour, creed, sexual orientation or religious belief - and at the core of this is a huge lack working class folk telling stories that draw from their own experiences, rather than a mere secondhand (and often over-idyllic) view of what living hand to mouth is actually like.

It basically boils down to a huge chunk of society being considered too poor to join the industry, regardless of how creative they are, how original their stories are, and how relevant they would be to other readers and their intended audience not being worth marketing to because they don't buy enough books.

Sure enough, hugely successful writers who realistically could quit tomorrow and never have to work another day in their lives often write comfortable (and quite often sickeningly twee) books about poverty, hardship and people that, socially, they're extremely far removed from which for some may feel like it's just adding insult to injury.

When I was growing up in the 1970s, it felt far more common to see working class writers naturally writing working class stories (quite often dystopian fantasy novels that imagined a future where the class divide was even more pronounced than it is now).

Take John Christopher's landmark novel "The Guardians" (a novel that I continue to be completely amazed hasn't been snapped up for a better movie / TV treatment).

There's no better description of an imagined future society where class divisions are so clearly described and what happens if you try to 'hop the fence' (literally, in the case of Rob Randall, the novel's main protagonist).

The novel is chilling for many reasons (not least of all the way that Christopher almost prophetically  describes what happened to libraries in his imagined future society where those crammed into sprawling cities, and the landed gentry in the shires are continually at odds while dark forces on both sides are actively engaged in secretive plans to maintain the status quo).

Samuel Youd (Christopher's real name) grew up in modest surroundings and only managed to become a professional writer thanks to a scholarship. His keen observational eye for describing various levels of society so chillingly and accurately could only have come from the experience of growing up in pre-WWII Lancashire and experiencing those hardships himself, tempered with later success in life when his writing career took off.

It sometimes feels like you just don't see writing like that, or writers who have come up through any kind of a system that makes sense. In some ways it's almost completely random happenstance that'll see you getting any kind of a publishing deal regardless of class but certainly if you are financially comfortably well off, you will stand a far better chance than anyone working a 37 hour (or longer) week and earning just enough to scrape by on.

Even if you do crack the industry, you'll never be in it for financial reward( sorry folks, you have as much chance of selling the sort of numbers that'll set you up for life financially as you'd have of winning the lottery).

Again in an industry that sees massive growth in sales year on year in the children's publishing sector, right across all genres and formats, you'd expect some of that good fortune to leak its way down to the creative folk driving that industry wouldn't you? But that's a debate for another day.

So what would change things for the better at the grass roots of actually getting (or should that be 'allowing') more socially diverse talent into the industry, perhaps giving the whole thing a much needed shot in the arm when it comes to originality and energy?

What could possibly be an effective enough change in the industry that would ensure that those without the financial means to set themselves up in a professional writing career were perhaps given their chance to do so?

Do publishers, agents and mentorship organisations need to do more for lower income folk? Do they need to better publicise any programmes that can offer support (financially or otherwise)?

Absolutely they do

...and though I do sometimes maintain a belief /  fear that the industry is secretly rather happy with things as they are, there are people out there who would dearly like to see change and I'm most definitely one of them.

I'm quite sure if you scratch the surface on Twitter (and follow Lorraine (@authorontheedge) Gregory's excellent debate on this issue that's currently bubbling along nicely) you might meet others who feel the same way too, regardless of class.

Now..about that 'fair pay' debate...

Footnote and useful links:

The Writers and Artists Yearbook and sites like can be an invaluable resource for low income authors and artists who are outside the industry looking in, and want just SOME IDEA of how to get started. Have a look, there's some great stuff on there about low income support, competition links etc. (thanks to Jodie Hodges - a literary agent - for the heads up on that one).

Chris Naylor helpfully provided a link to the Writers and Artists Yearbook, and said that it did actually help him get an agent and get published. If you've got £18 to spare, it might be worth a try:…

A great thread from Nikesh Shulka with some useful Twitter contacts and resources to help authors get a leg up:…

Some useful links from Lou Treleaven on publishers / agents who allow open submissions:…

Sarah MacIntyre (who is like a one-woman superhero force for good in the industry) has a great FAQ page full of useful tips on getting started in Children's Publishing:

Great stuff from @bearsGetCrafty with a link to the SCWBI pages that have tons of great info:

And from Emma Perry and a few others, a link to the SCWBI facebook page for those of you who use Facebook. Free to join and often has a LOT of useful links and info from other members:

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"Brain Lab for Kids" by Eric Chudler Ph.D(Quarry Books)

What an amazing thing the brain is. We still don't fully understand the intricacies of how it works, but it truly is what makes us who we are...
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"Starry Skies" by Samantha Chagollan and Nila Aye (Walter Foster Jr Publishing)

We love space, and we really love stargazing, whether it's through our telescope or with the naked eye...
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Wednesday 23 May 2018

Brick Building 101 by Courtney Sanchez (Walter Foster Jr)

Fancy yourself as a master builder? Interested in STEAM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths?) LOVE Lego? Then step right this way...
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Two stunning new titles full of inspirational people in a brilliant new range from Wide Eyed Editions. "Fantastic Footballers" and "People of Peace"

The World Cup hype machine is in full swing, and as a nation of footie fans gear themselves up for the most incredible tournament on earth, the publishing world is gearing up too...
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Tuesday 22 May 2018

Bob's Blue Period by Marion Deuchars (Laurence King Publishing)

"Mood" books are very much a thing at the moment, as children are increasingly aware of (and often concerned about) emotional states from a very early age...
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"Selfie Sebastian" by Sarah Glenn Marsh and Florence Weiser (Sterling)

I was intrigued to see how this one would be received by C, who really doesn't like the idea of selfies at all...
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Monday 21 May 2018

Tom Fletcher teams up with WH Smith for the fantastic return of their Book Club. Red specs at the ready!

Once again, ace wordsmith, pop fellah and dad Tom Fletcher has teamed up with WH Smith for another bumper selection of superb middle grade book recommendations, including some of our faves of the last few months.

Here's a sneaky look at the ten titles - which you can order from the WH Smith book club site separately or as a delicious bumper book bundle that will keep someone like C busy for...ooh a good couple of weeks at least.

Blog favourites such as "Dave Pigeon" by Swapna Haddow and Sheena Dempsey make the list, as well as the utterly brilliant "The Nothing to See Here Hotel" from Steven Butler and Steven Lenton - a former Chapter Book of the Week on ReadItDaddy no less!

Tom's got some competition! 

There's also "Iguana Boy Saves the World with a Triple Cheese Pizza" by James Bishop and Rikin Parekh (yep, another Chapter Book of the Week winner - that there Mr Fletcher obviously has VERY good taste indeed!) and "Zach King: My Magical Life" by none other than Zach King himself.

We'll be delving into the rest of the books and catching up with reviews of the titles we haven't seen before. In the meantime pop along to the WH Smith Book Tom Fletcher Book Club site for more info.
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Pluto is Peeved by Jaqueline Jules and Dave Roman (Seagrass Press)

Nothing to do with cartoon dogs, this one - but how would you feel if you found yourself suddenly downgraded in the intergalactic importance stakes...?
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Plantopedia: Welcome to the Greatest Show on Earth by Adrienne Barman (Wide Eyed Editions)

We do love superb quality non-fiction titles, and we're pleased to see an accompaniment to Wide Eyed's fabulous "Creaturepedia"...
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Friday 18 May 2018

ReadItDaddy's Second Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 18th May 2018 - "How The Borks Became" by Jonathan Emmett and Elys Dolan (Otter-Barry Books)

Oooh now this is definitely something fresh, exciting and original. A book about evolution for tinies? Picture Book of the Week fare for sure...!
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ReadItDaddy's First Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 18th May 2018 - "Little Mole's a Whirlwind" by Anna Llenas (Templar Publishing) @templarbooks

Our first Picture Book of the Week perfectly addresses something that we scarcely see dealt with so well in children's books...
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Thursday 17 May 2018

Three temptingly tasty treats for tiddlers who love their books from Phaidon Publishing.

We've got three tempting treats for tiny tiddlers on the blog today, courtesy of Phaidon who kindly sent three awesome little books to us for review.

The first is "Rhyme Flies" by Antonia Pesenti, a fun book that allows little ones to play around with language and come up with some cracking rhymes all of their own.

This deceptively simple idea for a book offers up one surprising rhyme per spread revealed behind a dramatic gatefold flap. 

Little readers will delight in wagering guesses – rhyming, of course – before casting their eyes on the satisfying visual conclusion of the riddle. 

The list is subtly arched as a chronological day, from fresh orange GOOSE in the morning to TWEET dreams at night. Anything is possible in this beautifully packaged book of toddler comedy, which builds pre-literacy, vocabulary, and auditory skills, and encourages natural extensions outside of the book.

"Rhyme Flies" by Antonia Pesenti is out now, published by Phaidon. 

Next up is "Circle Rolls" by Barbara Kanninen and Serge Bloch. 

Again, here's loads of fun for tinies as they learn shapes and colours, and follow a simple story of how shapes interact with their environment. 

We know circle rolls but what does Rectangle do? Square? Diamond? Triangle?

When Circle rolls into one of Triangle's points and pops, chaos momentarily ensues until Octagon's "Stop!" brings everyone to their senses. 

An effortlessly rhyming text introduces us to a collection of shapes and subtly weaves their physical characteristics into traits that both lead to and solve a would-be catastrophe. 

Master illustrator Serge Bloch's shapes are accompanied by a chorus of miniature people who play along, creating the perfect complement to Barbara Kanninen's economy of words. 

All colours and shapes, all sizes and guises!
It's awesome fun for littlies!

"Circle Rolls" by Barbara Kanninen and Serge Bloch is out now, published by Phaidon. 

Next it's time for some maritime fun in "Boats are Busy" by Sara Gillingham. 

Take to the water in a selection of adorable little craft. 

From sailboats to ferry boats, tankers to clippers, young readers will learn to identify and define a range of floating craft. 

Each of 15 boats and ships are presented by name, illustration, and simple description, written as engaging, read-aloud text. 

n addition, each is adorned with a different nautical flag whose message is decoded as secondary text for the extra curious. 

Printed in four stunning Pantone colors, this refreshingly stylish and informative introduction to boats will pop off the shelf in the "things that go" section!

"Boats are Busy" by Sara Gillingham is out on 25th May 2018, published by Phaidon. 

(All books kindly supplied for review). 
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"The Little Pioneer" by Adam Hancher (Frances Lincoln Children's Books)

This is something really special, a children's picture book about the toughest challenges faced by folk aiming to settle the land along the Oregon Trail...
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Wednesday 16 May 2018

Olobob Top: Let's visit the Olobobs by Leigh Hodgkinson and Steve Smith (Bloomsbury Publishing)

A colourful new Cbeebies show and now a fantastic range of books for teeny tinies, let's meet the Olobobs!
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"Knock Knock Pirate" by Caryl Hart and Nick East (Hodder Children's Books)

I think finally (hooray! Thank goodness!) there's been a distinct slowdown in the number of pirate books winging their way to us...
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Tuesday 15 May 2018

"Where's Home Daddy Bear?" by Nicola O'Byrne (Walker Books)

As someone who has moved house more times than I'd care to remember, I really appreciated the sentiment in "Where's Home Daddy Bear" by Nicola O'Byrne.

On face value, we initially thought this was going to be another one of those terribly saccharine-sweet books that conveys a message we've heard a zillion times before.

But of course, as a dad-and-daughter reviewing duo we couldn't resist the lure of this being a tale that would speak to us. And it did, in rather unexpected ways.

"Where's Home Daddy Bear?" focuses on little Evie, a bear who is about to move house for the first time. Daddy Bear packs up the truck with all their belongings, and they bid a fond farewell to their old house.

Thus begins a road trip where all Evie's feelings of uncertainty, a tiny fear of the unknown but the reassurances from Dad all fuse together as they begin their epic journey to the new home.

Evie has a million and one questions, and Daddy Bear patiently answers them all. Nicola's observation here is absolutely perfect (though of course she's drawing from experience, having moved around to different countries a lot herself - something I can definitely identify with).

Moving is hugely stressful for adults, but it's also the same for kids who may have to cope with new surroundings, a new school, making new friends - but above all it's the feeling of being uprooted from all you know as familiar that Nicola perfectly captures here.

Like most Dads, Daddy Bear is absolutely hopeless at reading maps and navigation!
The illustrations are warm, almost melancholy but with huge appeal for younger readers (in fact, as we said at the top of the review, they have a style that immediately put us off a bit as we tend to shy away from the cuddlesome cutesy stuff - but don't be fooled, they work perfectly once you get into the story itself and marvel at all the glorious little perfect details Nicola works into the story).

Happiness is curling up to sleep on a big fat daddy tummy, even if you're worried about moving house
As the story draws to a close it saves one last 'wham' for you. I won't spoil it but pay close attention at the end of the book - and be prepared for questions!!!

Utterly delightful stuff.

C's best bit: That last melancholy reveal, opening up a whole story prompt all of its own.

Daddy's favourite bit: Definitely ranks right up there with the best dad and daughter books, so how could we resist its charms. Don't be fooled by the cute art and cover, there's far more to it than that.

"Where's Home Daddy Bear?" by Nicola O'Byrne is out now, published by Walker Books (kindly supplied for review). 
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