Friday 29 March 2019

ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 29th March 2019: "Boot" by Shane Hegarty and Ben Mantle (Hodder Children's Books)

We love books that sneak up and take us by surprise, and that was very much the case with this week's Chapter Book of the Week, the absolutely fantastic "Boot: Small Robot, Big Adventure" by Shane Hegarty and Ben Mantle.

Accessing a really early review copy (the book itself isn't actually out until 16th May) we wanted to adjust your heads-up display to make sure this one was on your inventory list.

"Boot" the titular robot in question is small, tiny and cute - and definitely a robot.

Boot's life begins when he wakes up at a scrapyard. He assumes that "Boot" is his name as that's the first word he sees.

Boot's memory is vague and glitchy, but he has clear recall of his owner, Beth. With a robotic concept of ownership, perhaps even love, Boot struggles to cross boundaries of feelings and emotions that robots really aren't supposed to have.

Boot decides to set out into the wider world to try and track Beth down. Aided and assisted by two other street-survivor robots, Noke and Red, Boot sets out on his quest - a tiny little robot in a sprawling metropolis. Boot will have to dig deep into his feelings, memories and his abilities just to survive.

Without a doubt, this is one of the freshest middle grade novels we've read in a long time. I handed it to C who practically devoured it in one day, and begged me to do the same. I expected the tale of a cute Wall-E style Robot but what I didn't expect was a middle grade story with a whomping great big robotic heart, and characters that genuinely made you empathic and sympathetic, despite their synthetic appearance.

Sum this book up in a sentence: Absolutely blisteringly original sci fi stuff for middle-graders with a robotic hero with a huge beating heart.

"Boot" by Shane Hegarty and Ben Mantle is out on 16th May 2019, published by Hodder Children's Books (kindly supplied for review). 
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ReadItDaddy's Second Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 29th March 2019: "The Lion Kids Bible Comic" by Jesus Barony, Bambos Georgiou, Michailo Kazybrid and Ed Chatelier (Lion Hudson)

Our second Book of the Week this week is a bit of an unusual one for us...

We're not the world's most religious folk, it's fair to say, but there was something rather intriguing about "The Lion Kids Bible Comic" by Jesus Barony, Bambos Georgiou, Michailo Kazybrid and Ed Chatelier.

Lion Hudson are renowned for their spiritual books, but what we weren't expecting was to see a rather hilarous and sometimes irreverent look at the classic bible tales from a crop of amazing comic creators who've collectively worked on Shaun the Sheep comic, and various titles for Titan, Marvel and other britcomic giants.

So instead of Dennis the Menace, Desperate Dan and Roger the Dodger prepare to meet some bible-themed alternatives.

Jacob the Dodger, Josh the Bosh, Desperate Sam and Daniel Dare name but a few of the characters who'll crop up in this comic collection, alongside Adam and Eve (and a rather pernickety snake).

It's all tongue-in-cheek stuff, feeling a lot like "Horrible Histories meets the New Testament" - and y'know what? It actually works brilliantly at that.

Even if you're not religious, this is fun as a purely historical piece of work (or for that matter, heh, even as a piece of hilarious fiction). Cool comic stuff from an incredibly talented bunch of creatives, we heartily approve.

Sum this book up in a sentence: Bin your preconceptions about boring Bible texts, this is a hoot-a-minute comic take on bible stories from a collective of cool comic creators, definitely not to be missed!

"The Lion Kids Bible Comic" by Jesus Barony, Bambos Georgiou, Michailo Kazybrid and Ed Chatelier is out now, published by Lion Hudson (kindly supplied for review). 
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ReadItDaddy's Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 29th March 2019: "Julian is a Mermaid" by Jessica Love (Walker Books)

This week's Picture Book of the Week is one we unfortunately missed out on first time around, but it's been utterly fabulous catching up with this awesome little story.

"Julian is a Mermaid" by Jessica Love has quite rightly been winning awards and getting glowing reviews left right and centre. It's just been longlisted for the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal 2019 and anyone who's anyone in publishing or kidlit knows that this is fantastic news. Well done Jessica!

So what's it all about? Well, it's the heartwarming story of Julian, a little boy who wants more than anything to be a fabulous, glamorous beautiful mermaid - and it has captured the hearts and imaginations of everyone who has read it.

Quite simply, it's the sort of book that perfectly nails the notion that kids should be allowed to grow, evolve, progress and shape their own paths in life from an early age, without the boundaries and barriers of adult opinion, bias or prejudice.

Julian spies some beautiful 'mermaids' at his local swimming baths while going for a swim with his lovely Nana.

Julian lets his imagination soar, an undersea adventure as a fabulous mermaid
From there, his imagination soars, and Julian is absolutely determined to achieve his goal - to become the most beautiful mermaid. A boy? Becoming a mermaid? What on earth will his Nana say?

When Julian gets home he begins to put his plan into action, and though he pinches quite a few of Nana's cherished bits and bobs to achieve his aim, Nana does not lose her temper, go crazy at him, but comes up with a plan to let Julian's fabulous idea come to full fruition.

There are so many things to love about this book. Julian, as a character, is utterly brilliant - determined, gutsy, perhaps a little shy but feeling wholly realistic and well thought out.

Nana is the star for us, reminding me very much of my late Nan, a woman who was incredibly wise and balanced, and - like Julian's Nana - would have taken such things in her stride, accepting and encouraging rather than scolding or punishing.

Jessica's art is beautiful, the minimal word count lets the visuals take over and tell the story in an incredibly effective visual way. So again, it's really not hard to see why this is an absolute winner from start to finish.

Sum this book up in a sentence: A fabulous book celebrating a child's vivid imagination, encouraging and nurturing their ideals and believing that they can truly achieve anything and be anything they want to be, regardless of gender.

"Julian is a Mermaid" by Jessica Love is out now, published by Walker Books (kindly supplied for review). 

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Thursday 28 March 2019

Stories....Science Fiction Stories. Does Science Fiction have to be all doom and gloom? - A ReadItTorial from 20 minutes into the future

I was lucky enough to attend a recent round-table chat between four science fiction authors. The actual subject for the evening was meant to be based around the 50th Anniversary of the Moon Landings - but that wasn't quite how the evening panned out.

On the discussion panel, Gareth Powell, Ben Jeapes, Simon Morden and Justina Robinson - award winning authors all, sat down to chat about space travel and science fiction. 

Interestingly enough, the chat touched on a fairly wide range of subjects, from the rise and rise of capitalism-driven space programmes, to Space Porn, building Cathedrals as a model for generation-spanning space exploration, and of course a sprinkling about the main topic for the evening and the muted response from all on the possibilities of humans ever returning to the moon. 

For me, as a lifelong science fiction fan, the evening was interesting for many reasons (probably not as interesting for C or her mum, who came along with me). 

I found it fascinating that most of the authors had a fairly dour view of our chances of ever reaching a futuristic utopia as imagined by the likes of Gene Rodenberry, where space exploration and pioneering science came after the world had a few near misses with wiping itself out, and eventually came to the conclusion that money was the root of all evil, dispensing with it entirely so that "Star Fleet" could be born. 

I stuck my hand in the air a couple of times to try and trigger a discussion about the "Star Trek" vision and how that's radically changed too, in line with the world's headlong sprint into ecological annihilation. I still think Gene Roddenberry had something in his partial view of a slightly skewed world where capitalism was destroyed in favour of a fair distribution of wealth (and welfare I guess) but I don't think anyone would ever predict or be able to understand how we could arrive at that destination, and whether it would truly mean we could put our brainpower, creativity and resources towards scientific endeavours to enable us to exist as a species for a little longer. 

Simon raised some horribly accurate points about some of the bigger players currently massaging their egos in space. The likes of Musk and Bezos, all smiling and benevolent saviours of the US Space Programme endeavouring to ensure that the next spacecraft to leave the atmosphere once again flies the stars and stripes (and a few banner ads for various private companies) rather than the hammer and sickle, or perhaps the chinese / Israeli / Indian flag. Justina and Simon also mooted the possibilities of space being seen as our next place to scavenge as much mineral (and other) wealth as possible. Again some fantastic and valid points made about the 'big baddies' in some of our best-loved science fiction novels and films always being these faceless corporations who exploit space for material gain back on Earth (Weyland-Yutani, Tyrell Corporation, I'm a-lookin' at you!)

When it was the turn of the audience to participate (and again I'm a bit sad that the audience-driven part of the talk was so brief) there were obviously some very well informed folk sitting among us, who talked about how science and scientific discovery, curiosity and wonder should really be the drivers for our reach for the stars rather than how much moolah can be made. 

I liked Gareth Powell's slightly bonkers (but probably horribly accurate) observation that porn drives most technological advances in polite society, propping up literature, cinema, television and eventually space exploration as many feverish folk anticipate spinning around the earth in orbit aboard floating space brothels (something that both Arthur C. Clarke and Robert A. Heinlein wrote about decades ago, just for ref). 

I wondered though - what happened to our taste in science fiction and fantasy? I laughed when on a recent writing course someone told me that 'dystopia doesn't sell' when I look around at the current science fiction market and see it absolutely flooded with doom-laden stuff that speaks of a dark future that we're rapidly moving towards, rather than science being the saviour of planet earth as we realise our folly just in the nick of time. 

Perhaps that's it. People no longer want the wool pulling over their eyes. Perhaps they just want to read about and accept one form of truth that feels more realistic than a future where we all have robot servants, flying cars and can eat a comfortable 1500 calorie meal in pill form. 

Perhaps now, we're just too damned in love with the Blade Runner vision of 2019. One where the ruined planet is left crumbling, and we're urged to move out to the offworld colonies, breathing expensive air, living in domes on a dustbowl of a planet. 

The stuff about Mars was good to hear too. It's not going to be impossible to undertake a suicide mission to the red planet for sure, but it's definitely not going to be a suitable second home by any stretch of the imagination. 

Damned good stuff though, thoroughly enjoyed it. Oh, and if you do have any recommendations for recently published utopia-driven sci fi, I'd love to hear about them. I'm getting a bit fed up with all the doomsaying, just sayin'

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ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book Roundup - March 2019

How in the name of pooty-poot-poots is it March already? More accurately the end of March! We're here with another scintillating Chapter Book Roundup with lots of treats in store that are already on bookshelves, or just about to spring on you unawares!

Starting with a fantastic fun middle grade romp full of magic and mischief. "Fred the Wizard in Training: Wizard vs Lizard" by Simon Philip and Sheena Dempsey introduces a young wizard who might not have spent his formative years crammed into a cupboard under the stairs, but has now enrolled in a very special school for magic folk.

Fred may look ordinary, but sometimes people who look ordinary turn out to be not very ordinary at all ... because it just so happens that Fred is a Wizard!

Sounds pretty great, right? Except that Fred is absolutely, completely, mind-boggingly TERRIBLE at magic. At school, he’s stuck in a class of wizards half his age, feeling like a twit among tots. At home, he’s endlessly teased by his siblings and always a disappointment to his parents. All Fred wants is to become a better wizard....

So when he hears about a competition to meet Merlin (yes, THAT Merlin!) Fred knows it's his one chance to prove to his family that he's not the worst wizard in town.

The catch? To win the competition he has to capture the tail of a terrifying, fire-breathing lizard! EEK!

Pacey writing with brilliant characters, a more light-hearted and whimsical book than anything in the Harry Potter series, for kids who are looking for a great entry-level magical fantasy series to collect and read. 

"Fred the Wizard in Training: Wizard vs Lizard" by Simon Philip and Sheena Dempsey is out now, published by Simon and Schuster Children's Books. 

A real "Wow!" book next from hugely talented Darren Simpson, and very much a book that spoke to us both in different ways. For me, divine reminiscences of reading "Stig of the Dump" as a kid - and for C, a really original book that feels so different and fresh to other middle grade fare. 

"Scavengers" is the tale of young Landfill. Yes, that's really his name. Poor Landfill has grown up in and around a vast dump where everyone discards their useless things. Only to Landfill, and his guardian Babagoo, there's always a use - even for rubbish. 

Babagoo has always looked after Landfill on one condition - follow his simple set of rules. 

Never go looking Outside. Never rise above the wall. But despite the dangers, Landfill longs to see Outside, and the lure is just too tempting to ignore for a restless young kid who longs to find out more about his world. 

It just draws you right in, until you're completely hooked and immersed. Written largely with a language all of its own that really helps it to stand out (think "Mold and the Poison Plot" for ref) this is the first middle grade book we've read from Usborne and now we know what we've been missing, we'd better start catching up with the rest of their fantastic fiction range as this really is something rather special. 

"Scavengers" by Darren Simpson is out now, published by Usborne Children's Books. 

A real treat now, and one that proves that middle grade dystopia A) is definitely a thing and B) is still one of the best genres ever! So here's "The Dog Runner" from Bren McDibble, author of "How to Bee".

The book opens with a world in crisis, as a virulent red fungus destroys huge swathes of the world's most valuable food crops. Ella and her brother Emery are stuck in a city that is slowly starving to death, and must escape upcountry to find their mother.

With scant supplies, totally alone, they turn to their dogs to help them navigate a stark dead landscape to be safely reuinted with their family.

I haven't read a book this good in ages, exactly the genre I always favoured as a kid - and here brought bang up to date with a story that feels like it could happen in just a few short years time, perfectly depicting a world that has suffered so much abuse at the hands of humankind, that finally our fragile ecosystem buckles and folds. With two utterly awesome kids as central characters, and of course their devoted wheeled sled-pulling dogs, this is utterly unputdownable stuff that will hook you in and keep you utterly wrapped in a thrilling story right till the very last word. 

"The Dog Runner" by Bren McDibble is out now, published by Old Barn Books. 

Next up, the complexity of human relationships is explored in the detailed letters inside "To Night Owl, from Dogfish" by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer. 

Avery (Night Owl) is bookish, intense, likes to plan ahead, and is afraid of many things.

Bett (Dogfish) is fearless, outgoing, and lives in the moment. What they have in common is that they are both twelve years old, and their dads are dating each other.

Bett and Avery are sent, against their will, to the same camp for the summer vacation. Their dads hope that they will find common ground and become friends – and possibly, one day, even sisters.

Against all odds, the girls soon can’t imagine a life without each other. But when the worst happens, and their dads break up, Avery and Bett must figure out a way to get them to fall in love again. Is keeping a family together as easy as they think it is?

From two extraordinary authors comes this moving, exuberant, laugh-out-loud novel about friendship and family, told entirely in emails and letters. It's such a fantastic format with a strong core idea set out in a really novel and exciting way. 

"To Night Owl From Dogfish" by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer is out now, published by Egmont. 

Vlad is back! It's time for book four of the fantastic "Vlad The World's Worst Vampire" series from Anna Wilson and Kathryn Durst. 

Vlad is overjoyed, as he finally has his Bat Licence!

The only problem -  his mother now wants him to have super-strength and Vlad had better buckle down to some serious working out, or it’s off to the Black Tower with him! 

If only he could show her how funny he is in the school play with Minxie. 

But he has to keep his human friends a secret from his parents, and being a vampire secret from the humans. Could life get more complicated? Probably not!

Then, when he suddenly turns into a bat at school, all his secrets are revealed...

Ticklishly funny stuff for kids who love a little dark humour in their funny books. "Vlad the World's Worst Vampire: Spooktacular Surprise" by Anna Wilson and Kathryn Durst is out now, published by Stripes Publishing. 

Who could possibly resist the lure of a book with a cover this cute? "Little Lion Rescue" by Rachel Delahaye is next, the story of animal-loving Fliss and her love of all the creatures that roam the earth.  

Join her on her adventures to save wild animals in danger.

What starts out as a school trip to the zoo for Fliss and her classmates ends up being the adventure of a lifetime when Fliss is magically whisked away to the Serengeti! 

There she finds a little lost lion cub, separated from its family, and Fliss is determined to reunite them. 

But with only a bottle of water, half a sandwich and her instinct to guide her across the plains, is she ready to face the wilds of untamed Africa?

Fabulous stuff for entry-level middle grade readers who love animal tales. 

"Little Lion Rescue" by Rachel Delahaye is out now, published by Stripes Publishing, 

Ireland has long been an incredible source for some truly amazing and talented writers, so let's look at a fantastic new book that's set in the Emerald Isles...

"Ronan Boyle and the Bridge of Riddles" by Thomas Lennon, with fantastic illustrations from John Hendrix is absolutely fab, and just our sort of book.

The titular fourteen-year-old hero is the youngest and lowliest recruit to the Secret Garda, an Irish police force that handles the misdeeds of numerous magical creatures. 

Ronan’s parents are in jail, but Ronan is convinced that they were framed by the wee people, a mischievous and mysterious lot indeed!

So, despite his small size, poor eyesight (and can we just shout HOORAY for having a main character with glasses in a book that ISN'T Harry Potter? YESSSS!) and social awkwardness, he’s determined to learn all he can in the Garda in order to prove his parents’ innocence. 

To show he’s got what it takes, he’ll have to confront a fiery leprechaun, a sinister harpy, and a whole world of monsters hidden in plain sight next to real-life Ireland. Fast paced, action packed, and completely hilarious, this is the start to an exciting new middle-grade series by actor and writer Thomas Lennon. Chock full of exquisitely crafted characters and a brilliant dose of mythical nonsense and humour, this is top drawer stuff from Thomas and John. 

"Ronan Boyle and the Bridge of Riddles" by Thomas Lennon and John Hendrix is out now, published by Amulet Books. 

Exciting stuff next, I'm pretty sure every kid remembers the first time they stayed at a relative or friend's house, and Isadora Moon is no exception. 

"Isadora Moon Has a Sleepover" is the latest, greatest book in Harriet Muncaster's utterly sublime series featuring half fairy, half vampire Isadora who is snuggling down to sleep at her friend Zoe's house.

She's so excited - she hasn't been to a sleepover before! There will be midnight feasts, and staying up all night, it's going to be so much fun! And while she's there, Isadora and Zoe are going to work on their cake for a baking competition at school. But will they be able to resist adding a sprinkling of magic to their creation. . . ? 

This is just such a brilliant feelgood early middle grade series perfect for kids who are moving on from picture books but still want gorgeous illustrations and characters that are full of joie de vivre in their books. SO GOOD this!

"Isadora Moon Has a Sleepover" by Harriet Muncaster is out now, published by OUP / Oxford Children's Books. 

Fans of Roald Dahl won't be disappointed with a new compilation of some of his most outstanding contributions to the English language next, in "Roald Dahl's Rotsome and Repulsant Words" - a fanastic new fun dictionary of fantabulous made-up words and crazy phrases from some of Roald's most memorable characters. 

Learn to insult your nasty maggoty little pupils like the Mighty Trunchbull from "Matilda". 

Learn how to be a nasty old crone like George's Grandma Georgina from "George's Marvellous Medicine". 

Learn how to talk about the most scrumdiddlyumptious confectionery creations of one Willy Wonka from "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" or snozz it up with ol' big lugs himself, the mighty BFG!

This is a fab book for Dahl nuts, the perfect give for easter if you don't want to give kids rotsome choccy eggs!

"Roald Dahl's Rotsome and Repulstant Words" by Roald Dahl, with illustrations from Quentin Blake is out now, published by OUP. 

A real treat next, and we can hardly believe we're up to Book 3 of "The Nothing to See Here Hotel" by Steven Butler and Steven Lenton. 

The two Stevens have been hard at work on "Sea-ing is Believing" as we take a trip under the sea, not to visit Ariel the Mermaid but once again to have a whole barrel load of fun with Frankie Banister and his family. 

The folks are preparing to celebrate Grandad Abraham’s 175th birthday – an occasion that’s going to be even more HONKHUMPTIOUS now that Abe’s ghost has showed up! 

When the unexpected spook reveals a secret UNDERWATER wing of the hotel that’s been hidden away for years, the Banister’s decide there’s only one thing for it … a whopping welcome home bash in the spectacular BRINY BALLROOM.

But memories aren’t the only things waiting at the bottom of the ocean. Secrets and sea monsters are lurking in the shadows, and there's definitely something fishy going on with Grandpa Abe's ghost who is not all he seems after all. 

Chuckles, giggles, memorable characters and a whole truckload of undersea capers in this brilliant third book. 

"The Nothing to See Here Hotel: Seaing is Believing" by Steven Butler and Steven Lenton is out now, published by Simon and Schuster. 

Exciting stuff from diverse publishers Cassava Republic next and the utterly mesmerising "The Hidden Star" by K Sello Duiker. 

Nolitye lives in a shack with her mother Thembi in Phola, a dusty township on the edge of Johannesburg.

She is good at maths and likes collecting stones, which she places in a bucket under her bed. 

She also has an amazing and exciting superpower. Nolitye can communicate with dogs and along with her two close friends, Bheki, who is overweight, and the bespectacled Four Eyes, they join forces to resist the bullying from Rotten Nellie and her gang of Spoilers.

One day, Nolitye finds a special stone that has the power to make people feel happy and laugh. Her mission from now on is to gather together the other pieces of the stone and reunite them, to stop darkness from taking control of her world.

Thrumming with originality and amazing characters, this is an absolutely superb middle grade adventure. 

"The Hidden Star" by K Sello Duiker is out now, published by Cassava Republic. 

Room for a couple of extra corkers? Of course, and here's the unmissable "The Great Animal Escapade" by Jane Kerr, author of the equally fabulous "The Elephant Thief". 

In Jane's latest adventure, we meet young Danny who works at Belle Vue Zoo, where - alongside training the famous elephant Maharajah - he helps out with the day-to-day tasks of caring for the animals. 

Danny really loves his animal charges, but when animals start escaping, Danny is the prime suspect: after all, he was a former street urchin and pickpocket and it seems most folk feel that he's still untrustworthy and shifty. 

Things get even more complicated when a man turns up claiming to be his father and the plot really begins to thicken. 

Can Danny untangle the mystery of the animal escapade - and find out where he really belongs - in order to clear his name?

As you'd expect from Jane this is absolutely beautifully written, with a cast of believable characters and yet a thoroughly magical and atmospheric feel to this sublime story. We love it to bits!

"The Great Animal Escapade" by Jane Kerr is out now, published by Chicken House. 

Time for something distinctly different with "She Wolf" by Dan Smith. 

Whisking us back in history to Northumbria, 866 AD. A young girl is washed ashore on a frozen English beach.

Ylva is a Viking and as tough and determined as they come. Stranded in a strange land, Ylva hears about the murder of her mother at the hands of a mysterious nefarious man with three fingers.
As Ylva begins to discover the wildlife of this new home, and her thirst for revenge against her mother's murderer grows stronger, Ylva must dig deep inside herself to find the strength and determination she will need - but is revenge always the right course to take? 

This is thrilling stuff, so visual and so beautifully realised by Dan - and a period of history that we would dearly love to see more of in middle grade books, beautifully fleshed out and described in this amazing tale. 

"She Wolf" by Dan Smith is out now, published by Chicken House. 

Last but by no means least we're catching up with a truly fabulous book released back in January.

"Lightning Chase me Home" is the latest stunning book from Amber Lee Dodd and it's an absolute atmospheric BELTER of a book.

Amelia Hester McLeod is named after two of her mum's favourite explorers. Two amazing, fearless, awesome women: Amelia Earhart and Lady Hester Stanhope. 

But Amelia herself doesn't always feel very brave or very bright. She lives on a windblown island in a creaky old house right beneath the North Star (sounds utterly idyllic to us, to be honest!) 

Her dad is sad and silent since her mum left them, and her absent-minded grandpa suddenly seems convinced something strange is about to happen to her. 

When Amelia makes a birthday wish to be reunited with her missing mum, a wild magic is stirred from the sea with amazing and unexpected consequences for everyone in Amelia's family, but for Amelia herself it's life changing stuff. 

A thrill a minute from the moment you crack open the cover, do not miss this one!!

"Lightning Chase me Home" by Amber Lee Dodd is out now, published by Scholastic. 

As you can probably tell, March has been a bit of a crazy month for new releases but let's keep going with another absolute treat from a scintillating author.

"The Boy Who Flew" by Fleur Hitchcock shows Fleur effortlessly switching gears to write up a storm in a book vastly different from her intensely dark contemporary-set mysteries.

Not to say that this one isn't tinged with shadowy dark delights too, in the tale of young Athan Wilde.

Athan always dreams of flight but when his friend, Mr Chen, is murdered, Athan must rescue the flying machine they were building together and stop it falling into the wrong hands.

Evil forces want the machine for their own nefarious ends, but Athan's devotion to his cause might cost him his family's safety, as those he loves are threatened and put in danger.

Will Athan make the right choice?

Set against a deliciously steampunky smog-filled backdrop that just creeps off the page into your subconscious, this is page-turning stuff at at blistering pace that builds a superb world for its amazing characters to exist in.

Sublime and inventive, "The Boy who Flew" by Fleur Hitchcock is out now, published by Nosy Crow.

Those fabulous baking boys are back, with three new adventures that are truly out of this world.

"Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam: The Aliens are Coming" by Tracey Corderoy and Steven Lenton once again takes us on a whirlwind adventure with those awesome poochy bakers turned dogged detectives.

It's the glorious summer and things are definitely hotting up for Shifty and Sam.

Someone is cheating in the sandcastle competition. Outrageous!

There's also something distinctly fishy about the new Cafe in their home town! But the icing on the cake comes from a totally unexpected alien invasion. It's going to take more than a cool head and a couple of iced buns to crack these three cases.

Dig in to more slapstick and funny sunshiney fun with this belter of a book.

"Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam: The Aliens are Coming" by Tracey Corderoy and Steven Lenton is out now, published by Nosy Crow. 

It's always delightful to see C's reaction to a new book in a well-loved range arriving, and once again she was overjoyed with this next book.

Paula Harrison's brilliant "The Rescue Princesses: The Amber Necklace" is the latest in this amazing range of stories, each as exciting and diverse as the last.

With the series' focus on highlighting the plight of sensitive habitats and endangered species, this story sees Rescue Princess Zina fighting to preserve and protect her country's amazing rainforests, and colonies of loveable lemurs. 

Can she and her awesome princess friends work together to save the lovely animals and their precious trees?

A brilliant eco-story with gorgeous illustrations, the fabulous "The Rescue Princesses: The Amber Necklace" by Paula Harrison is out now, published by Nosy Crow. 

Last but by no means least, a real rib-tickler of a story next. Do you believe in Goblins?

"Gribblebob's Book of Unpleasant Goblins" by David Ashby asks this very important question as the tranquil charms of Uppington Down are torn apart one day by a rather strange and unexpected visitor. 

Anna and Nils meet the alarmingly rude Robert Gribble on their way home from school. 

Before long, their lives take a bizarre turn: they join forces with this goblin in disguise and his nearly not-there dog Dimple in a desperate battle to stop Mara, the queen of nightmares, opening a hidden book of power and spilling terror across the world.

Gribblebob's Book of Unpleasant Goblins is a laugh-out-loud adventure that reminds us that with friends, family and belief you can stand up to the scariest of enemies. 

...And if you have a ginger biscuit and an invisible dog, that will most definitely help (we couldn't agree more!)

"Gribblebob's Book of Unpleasant Goblins" by David Ashby is out now, published by Pushkin Press. 

(All books kindly supplied for review)
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"Amazing Expeditions: Journeys that Changed the World" by Anita Ganeri and Michael Mullan (Ivy Kids)

Imagine being one of the lucky folk throughout history that can genuinely claim to be the 'first person' to see the summit of a particular mountain, or perhaps even another planet entirely.

In "Amazing Expeditions: Journeys that Changed the World" by Anita Ganeri and Michael Mullan, you'll meet some of the most amazing people who have made it their life's work to explore, map out and pioneer uncharted territories.

Sometimes their achievements have paved the way to establish trade routes, perhaps open the way for others to follow. Sometimes their efforts have been in the name of science, and sometimes it's been purely 'because it's there' and the personal fulfilment that comes from doing something that you know no one else has.

This book details some of the expeditions and achievements alongside the amazing folk who pushed themselves to the limit in order to achieve their goals - a hugely positive message for kids to aspire to.

Anita's thoroughly researched text is complimented by fabulous illustrations to bring these stories to life from Michael Mullan. Every child who encounters this book will come away with a sense of awe from reading about adventurers throughout history who have expanded our view and understanding of our world and beyond.

Sum this book up in a sentence: An absolute treat of a book summarising some of the most amazing expeditions and journeys undertaken by humans throughout history, not to be missed!

"Amazing Expeditions: Journeys that changed the world" by Anita Ganeri and Michael Mullan is out now, published by Ivy Kids (kindly supplied for review). 

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Wednesday 27 March 2019

"Wilderness: Jungle, Rain Forest, Tundra, Taiga, Savanna, and Desert" by Mia Cassany and Marcos Navarro (Prestel Publishing)

Here's a truly stunning book that takes us across the globe to a huge variety of different environments and ecosystems, where many plants and animals thrive despite often harsh conditions.

"Wilderness: Jungle, Rainforest, Tundra, Taiga, Savanna and Desert" by Mia Cassany and Marcos Navarro is a perfect title for young naturalists who love to find out more about our amazing planet.

When you take a look inside the book, you'll instantly be wowed by the stunning illustrations and simple descriptive text that gives valuable insights into each habitat, and the amazing things that live there.

Children may know some of the animals inside this book but will also learn about some quirky new ones too.

This captivating book brings the natural world into sharp focus. Beautifully colored and intricately detailed illustrations depict places as exotic and wide-ranging as Senegal's Niokolo-Koba National Park, Russia's Sikhote-Alin mountain range, the Sinharaja Forest Reserve in Sri Lanka, Daintree National Park in Australia, the Mexican desert, and China's bamboo forests. 

The animals that live in these remote places, cleverly hidden in the trees, plants, and flowers, create a marvelous challenge for young readers to find and identify. 

Each spread contains more than twenty different species including birds, snakes, frogs, iguanas, leopards, tigers, gorillas, pandas, and wolves. 

The back of the book is filled with additional information about the animals and their habitats. Young readers will find much to discover, explore, and learn in this absorbing celebration of our planet and the amazing creatures we share it with.

Sum this book up in a sentence: A phenomenally vibrant book detailing some of the amazing habitats where natural life thrives across the globe, specially designed to really hook in young readers as they learn amazing facts and information about some of the most endangered species in our world. 

"Wilderness" by Mia Cassany and Marcos Navarro is out now, published by Prestel (kindly supplied for review). 
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Tuesday 26 March 2019

"My Town's (Extra) Ordinary People" by Mikel Casal (Prestel Publishing)

Do you ever indulge in the ancient and secret pastime of people watching?

All around you, everyday (extra)ordinary folk are going about their daily business and it's often interesting to watch them as they tootle along through life.

In the brilliant "My Town's (Extra) ordinary people" by Mikel Casal,  we meet young Nico who lives in a small coastal town, a place like any other, with ordinary neighbors and friends.

But are they really ordinary?

As Nico meanders through his town he introduces readers to his friends.

There's Josean, who works on the docks and who could be an Olympic rower.

Peru recites all different kinds of poetry to his son.

Nico's best friend, Telmo, is a skateboarder with a wild imagination.

Eva plays a mean jazz guitar and gives lessons so she can pay her rent and go to school.

There's Keiko, a potter; Dave, who is really tall; Sara, who owns a bookstore; Claud, a waiter whose real passion is astronomy.

Each of these people, twenty-one in all, is depicted in charming, colorful drawings that celebrate quirkiness and individuality. This book encourages young readers to get to know the people around them and discover how everyone is different in their own wonderful way.

With colourful spreads and interesting people-focused stories, this is a brilliant way for kids to learn about diversity and the simple act of you doing you, being your most bright, amazing and best.

Sum this book up in a sentence: A really interesting and immersive book about people and all their nuances, differences and amazing (extra) ordinary skills.

"My Town's (Extra) Ordinary People" by Mikel Casal is out now, published by Prestel (kindly supplied for review). 
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Monday 25 March 2019

"What's Next?" by Timothy Knapman and Jane McGuiness (Walker Books)

Here's a rather lovely bedtime story that sees the world through the eyes of a youngster who finds absolutely everything dazzling and amazing.

"What's Next?" by Timothy Knapman and Jane McGuinness is rather lovely, choosing a baby badger as its central character. A little fellah who loves to see what's going to crop up next in his amazing nocturnal world.

Curious Baby Badger loves exploring but wants to know what the world is like outside his cosy set. 

So, one night,  daddy badger takes him on a moonlit adventure through the still, black-and-white forest up above their underground home. 

That's the trigger to set Baby Badger's imagination soaring ever higher. What's daytime like? he wonders. What's next?

This is a lovely father-son adventure, out in plenty of time for consideration for a sneaky Father's Day present (Sunday 16th June is a long way away but a bit of forward planning never did anyone any harm!)

Sum this book up in a sentence: A wonderful night-time adventure with a little fellah seeing his world anew, and a dad guiding him through his adventures safely. 

"What's Next?" by Timothy Knapman and Jane McGuinness is out now, published by Walker Books (kindly supplied for review).
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"The Story of People" by Catherine Barr, Steve Williams and Amy Husband (Frances Lincoln Children's Books)

Imagine having a time machine that would let you travel through the breadth of human history, to chart our amazing progress as a species.

That's the idea inside "The Story of People: A First Book about Humankind" by Catherine Barr, Steve Williams and Amy Husband.

Designed as a brilliant entry-level book for inquisitive kids, "The Story Of People" helps kids answer some of the most poignant questions surrounding humanity.

When did the first humans live?

How did humans spread all over the world?

How has science and technology changed the way we live?

And what will happen to humans in the future?

The team behind The Story of Space and The Story of Life present a first book about the human world for very young children, looking at how humans evolved and the history of humanity up to the present day.

Would it have been cool to be a caveman?
With fabulous characterful illustrations to accompany the text, kids will be instantly drawn into the story of humans and how they evolved.

Science!! Imagine being at the forefront of amazing scientific discoveries!
There are so many excellent spreads in this book that help bring the subject to life perfectly.

Sum this book up in a sentence: A fantastic journey through history to chart the amazing achievements humans are capable of, with a nice open question at the end to what our future may hold.

"The Story of People" by Catherine Barr, Steve Williams and Amy Husband is out now, published by Frances Lincoln Children's Books (kindly supplied for review).
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Friday 22 March 2019

ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 22nd March 2019: "Christmas Dinner of Souls" by Ross Montgomery (Faber and Faber)

For this week's Chapter Book of the Week, I thought I'd let Charlotte type up her thoughts, as she's been thoroughly absorbed in this one since picking it up during Ross's recent visit to her school for World Book Day.

So without further ado, here's Charlotte's thoughts on the sublime "Christmas Dinner of Souls" by Ross Montgomery (with cover art by David Litchfield).

This book is about a boy called Lewis. 

Lewis is told by his headmaster to come back to his college at Midnight on Christmas day. 

As soon as the weird guests start turning up he knows that he is in for a looooong night. 

It is a spine-chilling story full of characters telling their own spooky stories. 

There is only one way to describe it: This book is a horror story full of horror stories!

I think it is the perfect book to read if you want to get into horror stories but don’t know where to start. 

The Christmas dinner of souls is a really interesting read because it takes lots of unexpected twists and turns.

Many thanks to Ross for coming into my school! His workshop was fabulous. After the workshop all of the kids in my class wanted to write scary stories. 

Thanks again and a well done for inspiring me and my friends!

This book should definitely be book of the week because it is so unique and overall one of my favourite reads.

Sum this book up in a sentence: A Horror story full of horror stories!

"Christmas Dinner of Souls" by Ross Montgomery with cover art by David Litchfield is out now, published by Faber and Faber (self purchased - not supplied for review). 
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ReadItDaddy's Graphic Novel of the Week - Week Ending 22nd March 2019: "Fran of the Floods" by Alan Davidson and Phil Gascoine (Rebellion Publishing)

Back in the dark dystopic 1970s when everything seemed to be a sort of horrid dirty beige colour, I was very much a kid who would scrape together every spare penny dug out from the back of the sofa, or pool my pocket money with other kids to buy comics.

Comics were a much-needed conduit for escapism, serving up stories that would probably make people's hair curl, to an age group who nowadays are probably more used to reading comfy little stories about middle grade kids who become detectives than dark, gritty dystopia.

I never read Jinty comic - as a boy, if you were caught even giving comics like Jinty or Misty the side-eye you'd probably end up being given a chinese burn, the bumps or an atomic wedgie by your classmates. Weirdly though I always knew that I was missing out on something, and after reading "Fran of the Floods" I'm downright convinced that Rebellion have made a very clever move picking up the rights to a metric ton of IPC and other publisher's IP to republish in gloriously luxurious graphic novel formats.

"Fran of the Floods" by legendary comic creators Alan Davidson and Phil Gascoine is a prime example of a strip I'd never heard of, but knew my daughter would instinctively love. I can't quite explain why she's drawn to the darker stuff but I think secretly all kids love stories that depict the downfall of society and civilisation, and cataclysmic global events.

Yep, here's a story that first aired in 1973 and yet feels like it was written last week, the core subjects of global warming, climate change and unstoppable flooding really are horribly relevant now. We're living the reality of a story that was fantasy nearly 50 years ago, and it feels like the world hasn't learned a durned thing really.

Fran is a young girl who lives with her family, listening with growing anxiety and alarm to the news stories as the sea levels begin to rise, eventually swamping towns and cities on the coast before creeping further inland and covering the entire south.

For a while Fran's life carries on as normal, and she's obsessed with all the same thing most kids are today (obviously minus the tablets, mobile phones and social media, naturally!)

Her parents and her school do their best to 'normalise' life in the midst of the chaos that breaks out around the country, until the flooding, food shortages, power outages and general breakdown of law and order come knocking at their door.

Folks who are canny enough to be reading "No Country" in the weekly Phoenix Comic might recognise the sort of tale this is, wrought in its original monochrome but highly detailed artwork, with new colour covers courtesy of Rebellion.

Fran's story is harrowing at times, hopeful at others - above all it's the sort of comic collection that fulfils two vital roles - preserving a fantastic story for a whole new generation of kids who might favour darker stuff like us, but also offering a timely and rather bittersweet message that even as far back as the early 70s there were folk out there who knew the horrible damage we were doing to the planet, and were trying to make sure kids were as well informed about it back then as they are now.

C wouldn't put this down until she'd read the whole thing, completely hooked in and immersed in a fantastic harrowing tale of an ordinary young girl demonstrating amazing bravery in the face of a horrific man-made ecological disaster.

Mind-blowingly brilliant!

Sum this graphic novel up in a sentence: Blisteringly timely, brilliantly written and illustrated, the sort of 'girl' comic I wish I'd been brave enough to read as a wee lad but am very pleased to catch up with and share with my daughter (and would heartily recommend sharing it with your daughters - AND sons too!)

"Fran of the Floods" by Alan Davidson and Phil Gascoine is out now, published by Rebellion (kindly supplied for review as a digital ARC). 
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ReadItDaddy's Second Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 22nd March 2019: "In the Swamp by the Light of the Moon" by Frann Preston-Gannon (Templar Publising)

Our Second Picture Book of the Week this week covers subject matter that we've discussed in great detail on this blog, and once put out a cry for more books about on Twitter.

So perhaps Frann Preston-Gannon heard our plaintive (but quiet) cry, and perhaps it might have had a smidge of impact on the utterly delightful "In the Swamp by the Light of the Moon".

Probably not though, because Frann is that rare thing, a picture book genius who consistently produces glowing, vibrant and absolutely essential books that are completely wonderful in every way.

We were initially a bit 'down' about this one, but it's one of those books that feels familiar, yet surprises you with hidden depths once you begin to peel back the layers of the story to find the message at its heart. We read it quite a few times and definitely think there's a need in the children's book market for books that celebrate introverts and show them in a more positive light.

"In the Swamp by the Light of the Moon" centres around a tiny frog who lives in a swamp. The frog loves nothing better than singing in the light of the moon - but each time Frog begins his song, he feels there's something essential missing.

One by one, friends join in with his song and guitar playing - but there's still something not quite right. In the end, it takes the quietest but sweetest voice to complete Frog's song, and make it a tour de force, and utterly beautiful.

Look at this book for a moment, take a moment to savour Frann's beautiful cover art, and rest assured that the rest of the book is equally beautiful as we're introduced to a cast of characters that all have their parts to play - but none more important than the humble and tiny firefly, who may not be as loud, brash and bombastic as others, but is still worth hearing and listening to.

That's such a great lesson for kids to read and hear, that you don't have to be outspoken or a showy extrovert in order to be of importance to the world. Hear hear!

Sum this book up in a sentence: The kind of story we've been clamouring for more of, a story that celebrates those individuals who have a clear but quiet voice and deserve as much attention as the loud showy ones.

"In the swamp by the light of the moon" by Frann Preston Gannon is out now, published by Templar (kindly supplied for review). 
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ReadItDaddy's Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 22nd March 2019: "The Green Giant" by Katie Cottle (Pavilion Children's Books)

At the start of the year we wrote a post hoping that in 2019 we'd see a sharp increase in children's stories that dealt with environmental issues. We've seen plenty about the oceans, and the need to stem the use of single-use plastics but we've been hoping to see books that tackle things with a little more of a wider scope.

"The Green Giant" by Katie Cottle is absolutely perfect, combining all the elements that we'd normally love to bits in a standard 'story' picture book, but subtly weaving in a distinct moral message about how we take our world for granted, how we do the most terrible things to it, and what the impact of continuing to behave like that will ultimately lead to.

Will we have a world fit to leave to our children?

The Green Giant here isn't some sweetcorn-shilling lantern-jawed chap. He's discovered in a mysterious rusting old greenhouse at a young girl's grandad's house. 

Bea, and her dog, Iris, are staying with her grandad in the country and Bea quickly become bored when Grandad is always busy. 

Sometimes doing nothing can be so boooooooring!

Soon though Iris's adventures lead her to the greenhouse and she meets the giant for the first time. Bea is scared, but the giant reassures her and explains that he has escaped from the grey city. 

Yeah I'd be scared, well a little...
Bea and the giant become friends, but can they do anything to make the grey city, and the world, a greener place? 

So much for the city...the green giant is country-bound

We love the Giant's suggested solution of becoming guerilla seed bombers, planting beautiful plants and wild flowers in any scrap of dirt we can find in the city we live in (which is actually something we've done before, it's very simple to gather up wild poppy seeds in the summer, let them dry over winter, then make them into muddy seed bombs to plant the next spring). 

Sum this book up in a sentence: A glorious story, a beautifully written and illustrated eco-message, and a fantastic idea to give kids inspiration to make their own green spaces and make our world a better place. 

"The Green Giant" by Katie Cottle is out now, published by Pavilion Children's Books (kindly supplied for review). 
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Thursday 21 March 2019

An interesting musing for this week's "ReadItTorial" - Traditional art vs Digital Art in Children's Books - Does it make a difference?

One unexpected Twitter reaction to last week's ReadItTorial (on the subject of "Nothing is Original Under the Sun" or "How do some books even get published?") was a tweet from a couple of our favourite creative folk. 

Griselda Heppel's "Ante's Inferno" is the sort of darkly delicious fantasy I'd have eaten my own arm off for the chance to read as a kid. 

James Mayhew's fantastic "Katie" books are absolutely amazing, and he covers a huge range of other cultural subjects in other stories for children. 

James and Griselda had both been reading some of the tweets around last week's article, and came back with a rather unexpected pair of replies:

I wasn't quite expecting this but examining these tweets, there's a very valid point being made here about the quality of artwork in children's books (I was actually pointing out that for some publishers, author-illustrated books comfortably kill two birds with one stone so might 'get a pass' and get published where some straight-texts without illustrations might not).

So here we have a truly awesome gent who has studied (and produced) traditional art talking about digital illustration perhaps being a root cause of the falling standards in kidlit art.

It's fair to say that if you look at most children's picture books these days, there's a distinct swing towards digital workflow for most illustrators. Even if you're not purely working digital (and these days there's absolutely no reason why you shouldn't - I'll come back to that point), most artists will use some form of digital cleanup, retouching or perhaps even colouring to enhance or improve their traditional artwork before a publisher's design team gets near it and starts prodding and poking it into an acceptable form to be printed and reproduced.

Digital art has come on in leaps and bounds. I clearly remember being a struggling art student at BCT in Brighton, and gaining my first access to a digital art package called Painter through college. This thing ran on a PC, it came in (of all things) a paint can (I'm really not kidding!) but it was the first time I remember using something that really felt like paint. You could layer the colours on thick. The digital brushes were amazing, the package even had watercolours and brushes that smeared, blended and felt like the media they were trying to reproduce.

I fell completely in love with digital painting back then, and it took some years for hardware to start catching up with what was possible with the paint packages. The first Wacom I bought had a pressure-sensitive wireless stylus (just like they do today) and was the size of some folks' mobile phones in drawing area but DAMN, did that ever revolutionise what was possible in digital art packages. That was nearly 20 years ago by the way.

Nowadays you could comfortably spend a LOT of money pursuing the perfect digital setup. Wacom Cintiq tablets can be the size of a large PC monitor, working at impossible-to-imagine resolutions with amazing colour reproduction and depth. Packages have also evolved, ranging from the tried-and-tested Photoshop, through to Clip Studio (which can now even COLOUR your art using artifical intelligence - Say WHATTTT!?!?!?) or my own current favourite setup, the iPad, the Apple Pencil and a copy of ProCreate. With these tools, artists can create stunning works of art that may never exist anywhere outside a computer - but commercial artists are every bit as capable of making amazing illustrations for children's books using digital tools as well as traditional methods.

The point is - all those fabulous tools are absolutely worthless without a modicum of talent backing them up.

You can spend a lot of money on pursuing your dream of becoming an illustrator, or very little money at all. But if you have a really solid portfolio, and can demonstrate the ability to work to briefs, to commercial (printable) quality, and know what works and what doesn't for kidlit illustraton, you're still a zillion miles off achieving the ultimate goal of finding your work regularly in demand and published.

I don't think it's massively important to have received any formal training, but sometimes a grounding in even the most basic art techniques can help a lot (I've spent a lot of time going to life drawing classes, and just aimlessly drawing faces, studying tons of books and tutorials but still consider myself to be a fairly poor artist who really wishes he'd completed his 3 year course instead of running out of money and resorting to resuming a soulless and unsatisfying career in IT to pay the bills instead).

The issue James and Griselda were both trying to highlight maybe should be decoded in this way then...that there are certain 'trends' that are fast becoming cliches in children's books, and the publishing industry on the whole is very against taking any risky chances with a whole swathe of books from birth to maybe Year 6-7.

As I said in response on Twitter, there are certain kidlit art styles that I will cross the road to avoid. Once an artist's 'style' becomes popular, other artists will either reproduce or just blatantly copy that style for their own kidlit illustrations, and sometimes that can rob a perfectly brilliant story of its worth (kind of the flip side of last week's ReadItTorial where I said that some books look great, but have the most godawful cliched stories).

We've rarely seen children's picture books that have truly execrable artwork in them. Outside the realms of self-published books (not all self published books, I should quickly say, just the majority we've encountered), commercial art for children's books demands the highest possible standards, and new artists are emerging every single year, capable of producing work that would pass muster with even the fussiest kids (or adults for that matter).

But perhaps, returning briefly to the subject of last week's ReadItTorial post, we're seeing the industry falling back on what will reliably sell, "playing it safe" with tried and tested styles and looks - whether digital or traditional. Again stifling the possibility that someone truly ground-breaking might see their book in print. As I said last week, we're seeing the same thing happening in movies and TV with endless reboots, in videogames, so why should the same not be true in kidlit?

At ReadItDaddy though, we're always, ALWAYS looking out for "those folk" who don't play it safe.

The ones who are capable not only of cramming delicious little details into their illustrations to enhance a fantastic story, but fully understand how to work stuff in there for the adults reading to their kids, to the point where those kids dressing up as their characters on World Book Day are doing so because it's the visualisation of the story they've fallen in love with as much as the text itself.

There are so many folk we could name who do this with every single book they put their talents to (whether illustrating stories they've written, or illustrating someone else's work). God it's tempting to just reel them off by name, but you know who you are, if we're following you on Twitter and retweeting everything you show off, you'll definitely know.

Worth pondering on Griselda and James' point though. Do you think kidlit suffers at the hands of digital workflow becoming the norm? I really would be interested in seeing this one get discussed further so @ me on twitter @readitdaddy or comment below!
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Welcome back to the museum with a handy "kid friendly" edition and activity book based on the fabulous "Planetarium" by Raman Prinja and Chris Wormell (Big Picture Press)

We're back at the museum, or to be more precise, the Planetarium with two new editions of the fantastic book from Raman Prinja and Chris Wormell.

"Welcome to the Museum: Planetarium" is a completely gorgeous and immersive book that will give kids a truly stunning introduction to the wonders of outer space, and our solar system.

A planet-by-planet guide, there are tons of facts about the history of space exploration, and of course loads of amazing info about each planet. What would it be like to live on Mars? (Clue: Colder than living here!) What is Neptune primarly made of?

All these answers and more lay within this gorgeous book, now newly available as a smaller compact "kids" edition.

"Welcome to the Museum: Planetarium" by Raman Prinja and Chris Wormell is out now, published by Big Picture Press.

....and if you can't get enough of space, there's also an activity book based on this amazing title too!

The activity book is the perfect accompaniment for space-crazy kids who love testing out their knowledge, or taking part in loads of different activities and fun puzzles. Again, in a smaller format, this one's perfect for taking with you on holiday to brush up on your space knowledge and astronaut skills.

"Welcome to the Museum: Planetarium Activity Book" by Raman Prinja and Chris Wormell is also out now, published by Big Picture Press. 

(Both titles very kindly supplied for review).

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