Friday, November 16, 2018

ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 16th November 2018: "Dork Diaries: Birthday Drama" by Rachel Renee Russell (Simon and Schuster Children's Books)

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Nothing short of sheer unadulterated MANIA greeted this week's Chapter Book of the Week on its arrival through our letterbox...
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ReadItDaddy's Second Book of the Week - Week Ending 16th November 2018: "Speed Birds" by Alan Snow (OUP / Oxford Children's Books)

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Our second book of the week is something really special, from a master of explaining how things work...
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ReadItDaddy's First Book of the Week - Week Ending 16th November 2018: "Cicada" by Shaun Tan (Hodder Children's Books)

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Our first book of the week this week is a heart-wrenching, painfully well observed title that really defies the whole 'children's book' label...
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Thursday, November 15, 2018

Comics and Graphic Novels ARE "PROPER" READING! A hill I'm prepared to die on - This Week's ReadItTorial

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The legendary Stan Lee who died earlier this week. Love 'im or hate 'im, he was an incredible creative force who helped shape comics as we know them today. 
Once again I feel the need to revisit a topic we've covered extensively in previous ReadItTorials, and it's a subject that still seems to be quite the thorny issue with educators and literacy snobs.

Are comics "proper" reading?

I think we're probably fortunate enough that comics and graphic novels are (thankfully) embraced at C's school as a viable method of not only getting kids into reading, but keeping them there as they grow older.

Half the trouble with that (hated) label of "proper" reading seems to stem from the fact that very few folk who consider comics to be just a meaningless bit of froth when it comes to the meat and bones of reading actually haven't bothered to update their knowledge of what's going on in modern comics, and has been going on for quite a number of years.

This week saw the loss of Stan Lee, writer and co-creator of so many of the superhero characters that have become more than just comic characters, but a huge part of mainstream culture - to the point where just about every kid (and quite a lot of adults) will have either watched a Marvel movie, read a Marvel comic, or soaked up a Marvel Netflix series in its entirety, instantly able to recognise the "biggies" like Spider-Man, The Hulk or Captain America.

Wow, how many of these characters can you name?

Stan's loss wasn't without controversy and a lot of comic purists still have never forgiven the old fellah for not quite giving credit where credit was due, in equal measure to Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko - huge luminaries in the foundation of Marvel Comics back in 1961 (though Marvel had technically existed under different names since the late 1930s).

The reason for my rather roundabout route to proving my point - that comics are "proper" reading - is that Marvel's comics were often (unjustly) criticised for being a bit morally heavy handed. It felt as if each character and set of stories always had a lesson to impart, a strong moral compass to go alongside the rather binary notions of right and wrong that were front and present in the early strips.

It seems rather quaint that modern children's books have often adopted a rather saccharine approach to the same mechanism that comics have (arguably) evolved way past - no longer offering just a simple 'do this, and everything will be OK' approach, but offering stories that tackle real-world issues or offer more subtle nuances of a reflection of today's society and our world view.

Modern comic characters aren't just the shiny-suited superheroes we've been used to. Comics now deeply examine their psychological characteristics, not just dwelling on their powers or abilities.

Comics are diverse and it even feels like they've turned a corner with regard to crushing gender stereotypes and inclusivity that we're really only just beginning to see in picture books and early reader / middle grade chapter books.

Even "kid" comics have turned a corner. I know we keep banging on about The Phoenix comic, but weekly it consistently proves that comics can truly feature something for everyone, from science fiction and fantasy, scatological humour and even a good dose of history, all delivered by creators who believe in and are truly passionate about what they're doing.

Comics are capable of wringing us out emotionally - and some of the stories that have stuck with me from childhood are stories I read in the late 70s and 80s in Brit comics like 2000AD or later Judge Dredd: The Megazine, or perhaps in Crisis, Deadline or countless other influential comics of the 90s and early noughties.

With C, comics have the power to instantly draw her in and keep her totally absorbed in a story - sometimes something that doesn't instantly happen in picture or chapter books, where you'll lose a reader's interest if you get bogged down in the first chapter or few pages.

For four decades comics have been changing, evolving, reinventing themselves - so how is it that this has somehow been completely missed by an awful lot of literacy experts and educators?

Part of the problem seems to be that snickering elbow-nudge from most of the media whenever comics are discussed. "They're for nerds, people into (chortle) cosplay or weird art, and who are incapable of processing 'real' literature (whatever the hell that is)".

(Quite amusing considering that most of the coolest people I've ever known in my 5 decades on this planet have been comic lovers).

It's always there for us too, in that faint eye-roll from folk whenever they ask for a book recommendation and you happen to shoot back a comic or graphic novel recommendation at them. It's always there when you start to talk about comic culture, and the person you're talking to instantly glazes over, picturing in their mind the traditional view of a comic nerd, the unloved basement-dwelling person of questionable personal hygiene who prefers their reading material to come with pictures attached.

We'll keep talking about and championing comics on the blog. Not just because my daughter now reads a LOT of comics and graphic novels and really loves them (as you've probably guessed by our Book of the Week slots, where we've actually ended up having to have a "comic of the week" category just to give other books a look-in), but because it feels like the comics industry needs all the help it can get - however humble. So hopefully you'll take a look through our reviews and now and again spot the sort of comics we really love cropping up in the pages of this blog.

R.I.P Stan the Man. Nuff Said indeed!
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"The Tall Man and the Small Mouse" by Mara Bergman and Birgitta Sif (Walker Books)

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The tale of an unlikely friendship, and a technical challenge that will need more brains than brawn...
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"How to be a Supercow" by Deborah Fajerman (Barrons Publishing)

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Here's a book that lots of kids - and an awful lot of parents will instantly click it time for bed yet?
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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

"The Elephant that Ate the Night" by Bing Bai and Yuanyuan Shen (Everything With Words Publishing)

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Time for a dazzlingly original picture book story from two immensely talented folk...
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"Atlas of Adventures: Wonders of the World" by Ben Handicott and Lucy Letherland (Wide Eyed Editions)

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A fantastic new book in an amazing series that never fails to impress. Welcome to the Atlas of Adventures!
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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

"All Aboard the Voyage of Discovery" by Emily Hawkins, Tom Adams and Tom Clohosy Cole (Wide Eyed Editions)

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Now this is something really special! Care to step back in time to solve a mystery?
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"Famous Family Trees" by Kari Hauge and Vivien Mildenberger (Lincoln Children's Books)

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Here's a unique approach to learning a little bit more about famous historical figures. It's all about family...
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Monday, November 12, 2018

"Adventures in Space" by Simon Tyler (Pavilion Children's Books)

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Time for another journey into the stratosphere and beyond, as we take a look at another fabulous title for budding astronauts...
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Celebrating National Non-Fiction November with two utterly brilliant little titles from 360 Degrees Publishing

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It seems incredible to think that just a few short years ago, it looked like children's Non-Fiction was suffering from...for want of a better way of phrasing it...a serious lack of inspiration. There were a lot of books, but most seemed to be a bit too 'schooly' for us. Most followed a fairly formulaic approach, dishing up dry facts with uninspiring illustrations.

All that changed - in fact around 2015 according to our blog history, we celebrated a really amazing year of astonishingly fantastic non-fiction titles and it feels like it's just got better and better every year since.

Innovative publishers, like 360 Degrees Publishing (a new imprint of Little Tiger Press) now understand that non-fiction titles aren't purely for 'school work' or reference, they're actually huge fun to read - particularly for readers who don't always get on with stories and fantasy.

So we're taking a look at two of their titles, to celebrate National Non-Fiction November.

First is "Foods of the World" by Libby Walden and Jocelyn Kao. We instantly loved the 'small format' of these books, and the approachability. Aimed at younger readers, "Foods of the World" couples simple but informative text with gorgeous illustrations almost good enough to eat.

Find out about different foods around the world, from the familiar English roast dinner and American burgers, to some truly wonderful (and some very odd) alternatives. Ever fancied trying a 100 Year Old Egg? It's a Chinese delicacy but you might not want to pack them in your lunch for school!

There are some lovely little insights into world culture revolving around food and its importance and significance around celebrations and international holidays, religious and traditional festivals that revolve around tasty treats.

The illustrations are colourful and despite their aimed-at market, these are still as engaging for a 10 year old as they would be for a 5 year old.

"Foods of the World" by Libby Walden and Jocelyn Kao is out now, published by 360 Degrees Publishing. 

Also from 360 Degrees Publishing, there's "Festivals and Celebrations" by Sandra Lawrence and Jane Newland.

This touches on some of the subjects covered by "Foods of the World" as we take another global tour of the many ways people around the world celebrate, come together and enjoy family time while exchanging gifts and enjoying some wonderful food.

Again, the book takes the approach of mixing the familiar and the unfamiliar - showing for instance how different countries celebrate Easter and Christmas, but also have their own colourful festivals and celebrations that are equally vibrant and amazing.

As with "Foods of the World", "Festivals and Celebrations" contains brilliant and descriptive text with gorgeous illustrations to immerse kids in the subject matter. Again the small format is pretty cool too (though we love a huge big non-fiction title to sprawl out on the floor with, these are dinky and bag-sized so perfect for shuttling between school and home).

"Festivals and Celebrations" by Sandra Lawrence and Jane Newland is out now, published by 360 Degrees Publishing.

(Both titles kindly supplied for review as part of National Non Fiction November).

So we have another innovative and vibrant new contender developing brilliant non-fiction titles, we look forward to seeing what 360 Degrees come up with next.

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Friday, November 9, 2018

ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 9th November 2018: "Fantastic People Who Dared to Fail" by Luke Reynolds (Simon and Schuster Children's Books)

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Our Chapter Book of the Week this week was very nearly completely overlooked by us but we do have a good reason for that...
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ReadItDaddy's Third Book of the Week - Week Ending 9th November 2018: "Mr Penguin and the Fortress of Secrets (Mr Penguin Book 2)" by Alex T. Smith (Hodder Children's Books)

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Our third Book of the Week ushers in the welcome return of a diminutive character full of bravery and pluckiness...
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ReadItDaddy's Second Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 9th November 2018: "The Dam" by David Almond and Levi Pinfold (Walker Studios)

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Our second Picture Book of the Week this week combines two truly mighty talents in children's picture books...
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ReadItDaddy's First Book of the Week - Week Ending 9th November 2018: "The Antlered Ship" by Dashka Slater, and Eric & Terry Fan (Lincoln Children's Books)

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Our First Book of the Week takes to the oceans for a truly epic adventure on board a ship. But you won't have seen a crew like this one before...
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Thursday, November 8, 2018

How can a champion for gender equality in kidlit 'bend to the rules' to write for children? A ReadItTorial

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We're just over the half way mark of the "Writing for Children" course I've been attending over the last few weeks, and the last couple of weeks have been about writing for specific genders. 

This is something I feel very strongly about (so strongly, in fact, that I may have embarrassed myself horribly in the "Writing for Girls" session when I had a very long and extended rant about the marketed cynicism surrounding the book "Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls" and a particular YouTube video that still infuriates me to this very day (there's a blog post about it here, if you want to know why I found it particularly annoying, even as a champion of feminism and removing gender skew from kid lit).

Our tutor, Nicky is an extremely talented writer and teacher, and took great pains in both lessons to point out that - whether we like it or not, and regardless of our own beliefs and strong views on the subject - there is still a strong, visible and in some cases actively promoted divide between stories for girls and stories for boys.

It's particularly prevalent in middle grade children's writing (though, arguably still evident in preschool, picture book and later in YA kidlit too) and I am still annoyed about it, and still want to know why.

It gets weirder once you start scraping away the 'traditions' in publishing, and even if you have a fairly open mind to the way book marketing works, it's still easy to become entirely disillusioned with   children's publishing allowing skewed gender marketing to continue pretty much unchecked.

Some authors purposely and expressly write for specific genders. I'm intrigued by the fact that at middle grade, there seems to be a majority of male writers writing humour - and a majority of female writers writing books that have strong girl appeal.

During the class we were given exercises in writing for both genders, something I struggled with as I have a daughter who will quite happily read stuff that very few boys would touch with a 20ft barge pole... well as stuff that boys will happily plough their way through: 

Nicola again rightly pointed out that children's publishing is a business, and the points raised in class are points that you are pretty much stuck with observing and pandering to if you have any intention of being published. My first assignment piece (writing for girls) was a funny story that pulled in elements of stuff by Jasper Fforde and other authors who love playing with book genres, twisting characters in and out of story worlds even if they don't belong there. It wasn't a particularly girly piece, and I must admit that I cheated a bit in class when reading it aloud to give it more dramatic impact than it deserved, resorting to reading it just as I'd read stuff to my daughter (silly cockney voices and all).

It was, in no way shape or form, a story purely for girls. In fact it would be turned down by an agent - not because it was a piss-poor piece of writing (which it pretty much was) but because it did not tick any of those boxes expected from gender specific books.

For the second assignment (a story for boys) I would probably argue that I stuck to the rules pretty much to the letter, coming up with a science fiction story that was full of tech, pretty flat and in most cases utterly cliched character (sorry lads), about an intergalactic war and kids being at the forefront of that war due to their dexterity and ability to play videogames.

It's probably one of the worst pieces of trash I've ever written (and I say that as someone who is naturally self-critical and self-deprecating about every aspect of my creativity) and yet, sure enough, measured against the criteria provided in class, it absolutely ticked each and every one of the boxes presented as measured methods of writing successfully for boys.

I read both pieces to my daughter, who dutifully made some polite noises about them but understood which was which - despite us bringing her up with an eye for not only reading well within her own comfort zones, but sometimes breaking out into things she wouldn't normally want to read.

The more I write, and the more I pick at the scab of 'gender standards' not just at middle grade but in all books, the more I dislike what I see and the more it goes against all the things I want to champion as a writer or an artist. Sadly it feels that whatever efforts I take at this pre-published stage, I could end up completely buggered by a careless piece of marketing, or a cover design that just doesn't suit the audience the book is aimed at (if indeed I did wind my neck in and write specifically for either gender, something I just can't imagine doing).

I would love to live in a world where girls could feel confident in going to a bookstore and seeing kidlit at their reading level that doesn't resort to nasty dirty little gender-defining marketing tricks in order to pitch stories at them but as I've said many times on the blog over the last few years in these readitorials, just when you think progress is being made you start to fully dig into the mire of gender imbalance in kid lit and realise we're a very very long way away from true progress being made. Rules, it seems, are only made to be broken if you are a 'name' and publishers know your stuff will be money in the bank.

That makes me very sad indeed.
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"We Build Our Homes" by Laura Knowles and Chris Madden (Words and Pictures)

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Wow! Words and Pictures are really spoiling us this Autumn with some really amazing Natural History titles...
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Wednesday, November 7, 2018

"When the whales Walked" by Dougal Dixon and Hannah Bailey (Words and Pictures)

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Here's a truly splendid non-fiction title that demonstrates how various animals evolved from their ancient counterparts...
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Tuesday, November 6, 2018

A stunning range of new middle grade educational and fiction titles from Julia Golding (Lion Hudson Publishing)

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We do love a good mystery, but we also love a good history mystery! We've been taking a look at a brilliant selection of titles from Lion Hudson, starting with the fabulous "The Curious Crime" by Julia Golding (with brilliant cover and internal art from Laura Tolton).

Is curiosity a crime? 

Young Ree discovers the unfairness of being a girl in a male-dominated scientific world, where alternative ideas are swiftly squashed (sounds awfully familiar doesn't it, unfortunately). 

Enter a fantasy island where Phil (heartily approve of the name!) the dodo and other unusual wild animals roam corridors, great halls and an underground network of passages of a magnificent museum and science academy. 

Ree is completely enchanted by the place, but is prevented from following her creative passion as a stonemason. 

Confined to cleaning the vast halls as a maid, Ree is drawn into a murder mystery teaming up with Henri, a scholar determined to unravel the mystery. Perhaps Ree will finally find her calling, and clear their names for good. 

 This is a fabulous historical adventure with a completely enchanting setting, and a strong female lead character that is instantly appealing. 

"The Curious Crime" by Julia Golding is out now, published by Lion Hudson. 

We've also been taking a look at Lion Hudson's fantastic history and science books for younger emergent readers who still love brilliant illustrations in their chapter books. 

"Cave Discovery by Julia Golding, Andrew Briggs, Roger Wagner and Brett Hudson is a superb mix of fact and fiction as two engaging characters, Harriet and Milton. 

Harriet is Charles Darwin's pet tortoise, and Milton is Schrodinger's indecisive pet cat. Together the two embark on a time-travelling quest through history, starting with this first adventure way way back in the mists of time. 

Harriet and Milton look at the ancient cave paintings that have been found throughout the world. Did our ancestors know that they were pioneering artists? 

Did their work mean anything to them? Were they the first comic artists, drawing up scenes of their own daily lives? 

The Curious Science Quest series is designed for kids who love to ask questions and find answers in the most unexpected places. 

Harriet and Milton continue their time-hopping quest in "Greek Adventure". 

Moving forward in history to the time of Ancient Greece, and a time of many great scientific discoveries, as greek philosophers and scientists began to learn more about our world, and chronicle their findings. 

From Mesopotamian stargazers to deep thinkers, cast a vote in "Greece's Got Scientific talent" or perhaps meet mathematical genius Pythagorus!

There's a lot of fantastic stuff woven into the story about how civilisations such as the Ancient Greece began to study the night skies, learning more about our solar system and beyond. 

Another brilliant title that kids will love, again illustrated throughout by Brett Hudson. 

Finally there's also a brilliant chance to learn more about a true Renaissance man!

"Rocky Road to Galileo", again by Julia Golding, Andrew Briggs and Roger Wagner - with more fab illustrations from Brett Hudson introduces Harriet and Milton to a dazzling scientific personality who broadened our understanding of the heavens, and our place in the solar system - quite controversially so at the time. 

Harriet, Darwin's pet tortoise, and Milton, Schroedinger's indecisive cat, continue their time-travelling quest. 

On this adventure they investigate our place in the universe, travelling from the Islamic Golden Age to the Renaissance and meeting Galileo along the way! 

The Curious Science Quest looks at the evidence behind the BIG questions scientists have asked throughout history. But does science explain everything, or can faith help us find the answers? Join this fun, fact-filled time quest, and remember to bring some snacks!

Find out more about Lion Hudson's brilliant and innovative range of fiction and non-fiction titles over at their website:

(Many thanks to Lion Hudson for supplying these fantastic titles for review).

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"The Casebooks of Sherlock Holmes: The Cherry in the Cake and Other Mysteries" by Sally Morgan (Studio Press)

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There's a mystery to solve, and it's time for you to take on the persona of the World's Greatest Detective!
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Monday, November 5, 2018

"Rosie Revere and the Raucous Riveters" by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts (Amulet Books)

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This fab book ushers in a new chapter for an awesome set of picture book characters, now strutting their stuff in early chapter readers instead...
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"Maps of the United Kingdom" by Rachel Dixon and Livi Gosling (Wide Eyed Editions)

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We absolutely adore books about maps. But these days it takes a little bit more to really impress us...
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Friday, November 2, 2018

ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 2nd November 2018: "The Legend of Sally Jones" by Jakob Wegelius (Pushkin Press)

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Our Chapter Book of the Week this week ushers in the welcome return of a character who truly rocked our world when she first appeared last year...
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ReadItDaddy's Third Book of the Week - Week Ending 2nd November 2018: "Captain Rosalie" by Timothee De Fombelle, Isabelle Arsenault and Sam Gordon (Walker Books)

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Oh my, I don't think either of us were quite ready for this book...a beautifully presented tale that will rip your heart in two.
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ReadItDaddy's Second Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 2nd November 2018: "Cookies: An Interactive Recipe Book (Cook in a Book Series)" by Lotta Nieminen (Phaidon)

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Hooray! Hooray! Every day is a cookie day! Our second Picture Book of the Week means it's time to get baking!
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ReadItDaddy's First Book of the Week - Week ending 2nd November 2018: "Dragon Post" by Emma Yarlett (Walker Books)

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It's the welcome return of Emma Yarlett to our "Book of the Week" slot, with another glorious book full of brill little details...
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Thursday, November 1, 2018

Screen time. How on earth can you strike a balance for screen-addicted kids? A ReadItTorial

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Once again we turn to a familiar subject for this week's ReadItTorial, a subject that crops up again and again. This week the subject of screen time came up again in an article referenced by The Telegraph:…

For a number of years now, studies have begun to suggest that there's a direct correlation between the amount of time kids spend staring at screens (in any form, whether excessive TV watching, phone use, tablet use or videogames) and their ability to develop and sustain a continued focus on a non-screen task (particularly non-screen-based reading of books, for example).

After a recent suggestion from a family member that my wife and I are probably too strict on C when it comes to screen time, we wondered just how widespread and accepted the use of screen time as a 'treat' or as a method of allowing kids to wind down at the end of a hectic homework schedule actually is.

C does not have her own phone (though she's probably one of the few kids in her class that doesn't have one), she does not have access to a tablet but is allowed to watch TV if there's time, and also allowed to play videogames (again if there's time, and she's really stuck for something to do - which she rarely is).

For us, homework is actually more of an issue than screentime - and despite the school's guidelines that children should spend no more than 45 minutes on their homework each evening, 45 minutes is nowhere near enough time when - for example - the homework involves any sort of creative process, or perhaps a lot of research / bookwork / internet research in order to complete the task.

The allure of screentime is undeniable though, and we know full well that if we allowed C more of it, it would definitely start to eat into the time she spends reading for pleasure, or playing (remember when kids used to do that? Seems like a couple of generations ago, right?) As an only child she demands and gets more of our time than perhaps kids with siblings do (particularly siblings nearer their age or that share interests).

The question is, how do you strike a balance? What's actually fair? A recent Time Magazine article seemed to suggest that kids below the age of 12 should be limited to around an hour a day of screen time, incorporating most of the forms of screen time we described above. To C, an hour a day would seem almost luxuriously indulgent - so are we being too strict?

Many parents are concerned about the effect curtailing their kids' screen time has on them. They might throw a tantrum. They may become angry - sometimes even violent or abusive. Quite often we've read about cases where kids have reacted in this way when parents have taken steps to abruptly cut down on the amount of screen time or kids' access to the internet / videogames - sometimes going as far as seeking external help from organisations or individuals who set themselves up almost like drying-out clinics. Screen / videogame addiction is now officially recognised by the The World Health Organization which now includes "gaming disorder" within the 11th revision of its International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (as of June 2018).

As we struggle to find easy ways to achieve a balance in a busy school week (though, thankfully, we've never had a problem convincing C about reading for pleasure, thankfully that has come from always being read to, reading herself, and having a ready supply of books either through the libraries or through the blog) there are at least plenty of ways to ensure that once we have to cross the rickety bridge of letting her loose on the internet, we can set some measures in place to try and offset unreasonable amounts of time spent instagramming, snapchatting or whatever else kids get into as soon as their hit their teens.

Most videogame consoles have pretty sophisticated parental controls that allow you to set up a timetable for screen time (The Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PS4 all have similar methods of allowing parents to create usage profiles to nip excessive screentime in the bud - google and you'll find a whole plethora of info on how to set this up easily)

All internet service providers allow similar controls on broadband routers - which can be set up per-device, ensuring that again the internet is only available to those devices at certain times. Once kids are old enough, it's up to parents to discuss and sensibly set these parameters.

Finally, when it comes to online purchases and other videogame-related behaviour, again most consoles will allow parental confirmation of purchases made under a child's profile, with the parent having the final say on whether the purchase is made or not.

So there are plenty of non-draconian things we can all do to help achieve the right balance.

There's always the 'lead by example' model too, and I must once again admit that this is an area where we could buck our ideas up as parents. All too often we find ourselves listlessly scrolling through our social media feeds when we could be doing other things. I myself usually end up in front of a screen once C has gone to bed but we always try to ensure that we balance those week night / school night patterns of behaviour with just getting the heck out of the house at weekends or during holidays / annual leave. I think we'd go completely screwy if we didn't.

Studies should incorporate and take into account that all children are different, however, and the current 'one size fits all' behavioural modelling and recommendations won't always fit one kid as well as they'll fit the next and that goes double for encouraging kids to become lifelong leisure-readers. As much as we constantly see calls for schools to do more to encourage reading for pleasure, the real beginning of that must absolutely start with us parents ourselves.
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Two more brilliant releases from Brian Clegg and Ammonite Press detail the lives of two truly great minds, Albert Einstein and Nikolai Tesla

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We've really enjoyed the "Biographic" series, which give a fantastic graphically impressive overview of the lives of famous and infamous people who have left their mark on the world. 

"Einstein" is the first of the titles we're looking at today, presenting an entirely new way of looking at the life of this amazing scientist and mathematician. 

Many people know that Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955) was a brilliant theoretical physicist, the winner of the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics and creator of the theory of relativity that revolutionised modern science. 

What, perhaps, they don t know is that he did not learn to speak until he was 4 years old; that was asked to become the President of Israel in 1952, but refused; that he was under surveillance by the FBI for 22 years; and that after urging the development of the atomic bomb he later became a proponent of nuclear disarmament. 

Biographic: Einstein presents an instant impression of his life, work and fame, with an array of irresistible facts and figures converted into infographics to reveal the scientist behind the science.

"Biographic Einstein" by Brian Clegg is out now, published by Ammonite Press. 

"Biographic: Tesla" takes the same approach, with a fantastic look at one of our all-time favourite scientist-inventors. 

Many people know that Nikola Tesla (1856 1943) was an engineer and inventor, instrumental in developing the alternating-current (AC) electrical system and wireless radio communications we still use today. 

What, perhaps, they don t know is that he was born during a lightning storm; that when he first arrived in the USA he owned 4 cents, his own poems, and a design for a flying machine; that he spoke 8 languages; that he held 300 patents for his inventions; and that he claimed to have invented a death ray that could destroy 10,000 planes at a distance of 250 miles. 

"Biographic: Tesla" presents an electrifying exploration of his life, work and fame, with an array of irresistible facts and figures converted into infographics to reveal the scientist behind the science.

Truly brilliant stuff. 

"Biographic Tesla" by Brian Clegg is out now, published by Ammonite Press (both titles kindly supplied for review). 
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"How to think like an Absolute Genius" by Philippe Brasseur (QED Publishing)

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Wow, it has been quite the year for books that are filled with astonishing and inspirational figures - both from history and contemporary times...
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"Perfectly Peculiar Plants" by Chris Thorogood and Catell Ronca (Words and Pictures)

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With a dazzling and colourful cover to match the amazing plant species within, here's an original and fascinating non-fiction title from Words and Pictures...
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