Friday 31 May 2019

ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 31st May 2019: "The Dragon in the Library" by Louie Stowell (Nosy Crow)

Our Chapter Book of the Week comes from a fabulously creative author who can swap hats, creating stunning book worlds - and dishing up amazing non-fiction titles with aplomb.

But in "The Dragon in the Library" by Louie Stowell, with illustrations and cover by Davide Ortu, Louie writes a deliciously original story that dips into two things we love a great deal - mythical creatures and books.

Meet Kit. Kit is not your average library-dweller, in fact truth be told, Kit would rather be anywhere else but stuck indoors in a dusty old place full of books.

She doesn't love reading, but when two of her best friends drag her along to the library, something rather strange happens - and Kit makes a discovery that could completely change her attitude to books and the library itself.

Kit meets a dragon, and not just any old dragon but a book-loving mythical creature. But what will happen when the truth gets out, and when the entire library is put in danger of being closed for good?

We're playing a bit coy here, because this is the sort of book we don't want to ruin even the tiniest story morsel of for you. Suffice to say that in under a week's time you'll be able to pick it up and two things will happen.

1) You will fall completely in love with Kit and her scaly new friend

2) It could, just could turn your head if you're a bit of a reluctant reader too.

We loved the pace of it, we love the lusciously atmospheric descriptions that make you feel almost like sneezing as you find yourself amongst the dusty tomes of the library, but most of all we just adore the idea that writers like Louie are out there, and getting stuff like this published - chock full of originality and positivity in a world that desperately needs a good dose of both. We also love Davide's illustrations for this, which set the scenes perfectly. Fab stuff, more please!!

Sum this book up in a sentence: A brilliantly fleshed-out and realistic female central character (that we dearly hope to see popping up as a cosplay character on World Book Day), a good dose of magic, and a cause that we can all pin our banners to and bend the knee to, celebrating the importance of libraries, reading and books (and dragons of course, yes!!)

"The Dragon in the Library" by Louie Stowell and Davide Ortu is out on 6th June 2019, published by Nosy Crow (kindly supplied for review). 
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ReadItDaddy's YA / Adult Graphic Novel of the Week - Week Ending 31st May 2019: "Lone Wolf and Cub Omnibus Volume 1" by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima (Dark Horse Comics)

(This is an Adult / YA comic review due to the nature of the content within this amazing graphic novel - Not suitable for kids!)

Lately I've made it my business to read a lot more comics. Not just the new stuff, but tracking down and sourcing reasonably priced versions of stuff I really feel I ought to have read by now.

I have actually read "Lone Wolf and Cub" by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima before, but only single issues. Never the whole blisteringly brilliant 712 page long first volume so when ComiXology had these for a ludicrously low price recently, I had to hoover 'em up.

Co creator Kazuo Koike recently passed away, but without a doubt he and Goseki Kojima created one of the most amazingly cinematic comics ever. Not just drawing on filmic influences like Kurosawa, but delving deep into original Manga sources from ancient Japanese folklore, turning stories of revenge and intrigue into chaotic but amazingly solid comic strips, the like of which you'll never see again.

"Lone Wolf and Cub" have to be the ultimate dad-and-kid team. A bouncing 3 year old and a gritty kick-ass sword-for-hire Ronin with a weapon-filled baby carriage and a quite frightening array of different mastered sword and spear techniques, making him the ultimate warrior.

Each of the epic tales within the first volume of the omnibus edition really takes comic storytelling to another level, and even if you're not really a fan of samurai stuff, you can't fail to be impressed with the sheer scope of what Koike and Kojima crammed into their comic spreads.

Heroically bad parenting, but are you gonna tell him because we're certainly not!
Wrought in glorious ink work which I'd absolutely LOVE to have the skills to be able to render, each tale unfolds with the seemingly unstoppable and indescructible Lone Wolf being vastly underestimated by one foe after another, as they fall for his rather scary bad-parenting of sticking his 3 year old out as bait, to lull agressors into a false sense of security, before largely lopping their heads / legs / their horse's legs off. Oh yes, it doesn't pull any punches, and is definitely not for a younger audience!

Er, if I was you, gents, I'd pack up and go home. Stuff all that honour biznizz, just go home. 
The action scenes are brutal, visceral. but dazzling. Even in quieter moments these awesome creators manage to conjure up so much rich detail that each volume needs reading and re-reading several times.

Oh and...ahem...there's nudity at times. Worth stating that up front. Bit saucy in places but then if you have ever seen any original Japanese Manga from the 15th / 16th century, it's not exactly backwards at coming forwards either.

This is the sort of stuff that you don't need to tell people you've read, you need to get out there and source a copy and get right into it. It's damned fantastic.

"Lone Wolf and Cub Omnibus Volume 1" by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima is out now, published by Dark Horse Comics (Self purchased - not supplied for review).
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ReadItDaddy's Second Book of the Week - Week Ending 31st May 2019: "Nell and the Circus of Dreams" by Nell Gifford and Briony May Smith (OUP / Oxford Children's Books)

Sometimes it takes seeing things through the eyes of your child to really change your lifelong mind about something you've previously had no time for.

As a kid, I had two major fears. Waxworks (UGHHH!) and Clowns (EEEHHH!) and the latter led me to a real dislike of circuses.

When C was born, we ended up visiting Giffords Circus in Oxford. I was grumpy, didn't want to go but my wife bought the tickets and we all went. C was absolutely enthralled and entranced by it, a circus run by what felt like a tight knit family of performers. There was a clown, but he wasn't the usual sort of painted-faced terrifying type of clown I'd always hated (thanks Tim Rice!) He was genuinely funny, silly and crazy. It completely changed my mind, and perhaps "Nell and the Circus of Dreams" by Nell Gifford and Briony May Smith may change yours too if you've had a similar dislike of all things circus-ey

Beautiful storytelling and the most sumptuous illustrations. This is a real treat!

Giffords Circus is of course one of the most famous and popular circuses still travelling the country, and in this book you'll find a beautifully woven story about a young girl called Nell whose mother becomes very ill. One day Nell finds a tiny chick scratching in the back yard and the two become firm friends. But when the chick grows up into a chicken, she disappears and Nell manages to track her down to a nearby travelling circus.

It's like nothing she's ever seen before. The people there are amazing acrobats and performers, there are beautiful horses prancing daintily around - but Nell still can't find Rosebud, her chicken friend. Until she finally enters the ring to discover who the star of the show really is.

A very talented little girl and her awesome chicken!

(If you've been to Giffords Circus, you'll smile at this bit - as there's always a star part for a talented chicken or two in the show!)

Nell is, of course, a talented storyteller who whirls up an amazingly atmospheric world around her little-girl-self's amazing experiences. But to be partnered by an incredible artist like Briony May Smith must've been a dream come true, her illustrations are just utterly glorious in every way, capturing the atmosphere, the sights and the frisson of excitement in the circus so perfectly.

This book is amazing, almost as amazing as the real-life story of Nell and Giffords Circus itself, and well worthy of a place in our book of the week slot.

Sum this book up in a sentence: A brilliant book celebrating the imagination of a little girl, a mesmerising story and of course the glorious circus, entertaining for all!

"Nell and the Circus of Dreams" by Nell Gifford and Briony May Smith (OUP / Oxford Children's Books)
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ReaditDaddy's Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 31st May 2019: "Me and Mrs Moon" by Helen Bate (Otter-Barry Books)

We both miss Nan. Nan, my grandmother, and C's great-grandmother succumbed to Dementia 3 years ago - so it's fair to say that we approach children's books that deal with this horrific illness with some trepidation.

"Me and Mrs Moon" by Helen Bate once again demonstrates just how Helen manages to take the trickiest subjects to turn into children's stories, and turns them into something both brilliantly observant and sensitively conveyed.

"Me and Mrs Moon" tells a story from the perspective of two young children who adore their elderly neighbour.

Maisie and Dylan love Mrs Moon. She picks them up from school every day and they have great fun together. 

But then things start to get strange: a coat without sleeves, old socks as Christmas decorations, a missing dog, an imaginary folk band. 

These are as real to Mrs Moon as the nose on her face, but to the children it's very confusing behaviour, and they can't understand what's happening to their friend. 

​Maisie and Dylan resolve to try and help Mrs Moon get her old self back. But where to start? How can two kids achieve the seemingly impossible?

Straight off the bat this book deserves huge praise for not trying to dress Dementia up, instead very carefully conveying both the sense of hopelessness that loved ones feel when someone they love is stricken by it, and the sense of frustration the sufferer feels as they are robbed of the methods of imparting just what is happening to them. 

Helen's "Peter in Peril" had us entirely convinced that she was a huge talent to watch, and "Me and Mrs Moon" just reinforces that belief. This is superb. 

Sum this book up in a sentence: One of the most impressive, important and sensitive children's stories about dementia that we've seen so far and one that made us both happy and sad in equal measure. 

"Me and Mrs Moon" by Helen Bate is out now, published by Otter-Barry Books (kindly supplied for review). 
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Thursday 30 May 2019

ReaditDaddy's Chapter Book Roundup - May 2019

May is here and our thoughts turn to long summery days of lounging under our favourite trees, reading a few glorious books - or perhaps lounging on the beach soaking up the rays while doing the same. So let's dig into our recently released / coming up fast pile of middle grade awesomeness.

So let's kick off with an absolutely stunning new book from a real blog fave. "The Longest Night of Charlie Noon" by
Christopher Edge once again has us wondering just how Christopher cooks up such brilliant adventures, always with a scientific eye on stuff that kids are really into and can immediately identify with.

The local kids in Charlie's town are always being told by their elders - "If you go into the woods, Old Crony will get you."

But what truly lies in the heart of the wood? Secrets? Spies? Even a monster?

Charlie, Dizzy and Johnny are determined to discover the truth, but when night falls without warning they find themselves trapped in a nightmare.

Lost in the woods, strange dangers and impossible puzzles lurk in the shadows. As time plays tricks, can Charlie solve this mystery and find a way out of the woods? But what if this night never ends...?

With a darkly tinged (and we have to say, mildly unsettling) intoxicating mix of mystery and suspense, this is every bit as clever and utterly page-turningly awesome as "The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day". Yup, it's another winner from Christopher and another huge thumbs up from us.

"The Longest Night of Charlie Noon" by Christopher Edge is out now, published by Nosy Crow.

Next, is it a Bird? Is it a Plane? No it's definitely a bird, of sorts in fact it's "Adventure Duck vs Power Pug" by Steve Cole and Aleksei Bitsckoff.

Adventure Duck is a feathered superhero but he didn't ask for greatness. Rather had greatness thrust upon him.

All he wanted was his nest on the duckpond and plenty of soggy bread to eat. But when a meteor accidentally gave him superpowers, he knew he needed to fly into battle and defeat the forces of evil.

Every superhero needs a nemesis, and Adventure Duck finds a pint-sized one in Power Pug. 

This tiny squash-faced arch-villain is plotting to take over the world with his hypnotic stare and an army of hench-animals. 

Luckily, Adventure Duck has helpers, too. There's Yoki - a mystical, moustachioed egg - and Neon Zebra, Adventure Duck's karate-kicking sidekick.

Can Adventure Duck and his friends stop Power Pug in this egg-ceptionally funny, action-packed adventure? You bet they can! A royally roister-doisterous romp, fun for younger chapter book fans with great illustrations throughout. 

"Adventure Duck vs Power Pug" by Steve Cole and Aleksei Bitskoff is out now, published by Orchard Books. 

It's not very often you can read about the detective antics of a flamingo, but Fabio definitely isn't any ordinary flapper! In "Fabio: The World's Greatest Detective - The Case of the Missing Hippo" you'll meet the titular feathered fellah as he takes on a new case.

Fabio lives in a small town on the banks of Lake Laloozee. He's not tall or strong, but slight and pink. And he's very, very clever.

When Fabio and his giraffe associate Gilbert (terrible at disguises) drop in to the Hotel Royale for a lemonade (pink, naturally), Fabio is persuaded to judge the hotel's talent contest. But when the most promising contestant - Julia the jazz-singing hippopotamus - goes missing, Fabio must put his thinking cap back on and solve the mystery!

It's a fast-paced and very funny book, that'll tickle the funny bones of fans of books like Alex T. Smith's Claude and Mr Penguin, and even our blog-fave Murilla Gorilla. 

"Fabio, the world's greatest flamingo detective - the case of the missing hippo" by Laura James and Emily Fox is out now, published by Bloomsbury Children's Books. 

Next up, another fabulous entry in the superb "Questioneers" series, as Andrea Beaty and David Roberts take their brilliant and inspirational kid characters into the realms of chapter books from their successful run in picture book form. 

"Ada Twist and the Perilous Pantaloons" once again reintroduces the adorable Ada, a little girl who is never scared to ask questions - and uses her science skills to solve intriguing mysteries. 

This time Ada is off to help out her class pal Rosie Revere (star of her own Questioneers books, of course!) Rosie's Uncle Ned gets a little carried away wearing his famous helium pantaloons, it’s up to Ada and friends to chase him down.

As Uncle Ned floats farther and farther away, Ada starts asking lots of questions: How high can a balloon float? Is it possible for Uncle Ned to float into outer space? And what’s the best plan for getting him down?

In this new chapter-book adventure, Ada must rely on her curious mind, her brave spirit, and her best pals Rosie Revere and  even ace architect pal Iggy Peck to solve a mystery in her own backyard.

Utterly and completely brilliant for kids moving on from picture books and taking their first steps in chapter fiction, bringing along a whole smorgasbord of those awesome characters too, "Ada Twist and the Perilous Pantaloons" by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts is out now, published by Amulet Books. 

Say what you like about celebrity authors, some really know exactly what they're doing when it comes to writing brilliant and hilarious middle grade fiction. 

"Hamish and the Monster Patrol" by Danny Wallace and Jamie Littler just proves how funny a guy Danny is. Once again we're back with Hamish and his pals to solve a bizarre (and very funny) mystery with a bit of a spooky dark and supernatural vibe. 

Things are afoot in Starkley... again! Out in the ocean something's on the move ... something BIG ... something that might change everything!

While most of Starkley's inhabitants have fled or gone into lockdown, Hamish and his pals in the PDF are coming up with a plan, because if they don't save the world then who will?!

But this time they’re not alone. Luckily, the top-secret Monster Patrol is on hand to help … even if that ‘help’ is in the form of a strange new kid, a bizarre-looking fish monster and a bonkers old lady…

As ever, Danny pours on the laughs aided by Jamie Littler's fantastic illustrations and characterful covers. 

"Hamish and the Monster Patrol" by Danny Wallace and Jamie Littler is out now, published by Simon and Schuster. 

Next, the return of a much-loved book hero in another cracking case. "Action Stan" by Elaine Wickson and Chris Judge follows up from "Planet Stan" with another brilliant and bloomin' hilarious mish mash of crazy capers, infographics and bonkers doodles.

This time, Stanley and his little brother Fred are off to an outdoor adventure camp to learn all about life in the wild. On paper, it sounds like it'll be an exciting adventure but Stan has a problem - he's not so fussed about surviving the wild, but surviving his little brother - and some of the annoying kids from school - is an entirely different matter. 

Stan's teacher Mr Fisher is also determined to ruin the fun so Stan begins to chart his annoyance - quite literally - with Elaine and Chris's awesomely bonkers tables, infographics and graphs. 

This is just as fresh and fab as the last book, once again establishing Stan as a hugely popular and important middle grade character for kids who love obsessing over the finer details of books. 

"Action Stan" by Elaine Wickson and Chris Judge is out now, published by OUP / Oxford Children's Books. 

Next up, the awesome science gang are back for another adventure in "Al's Awesome Science: Busy Bodies" by Jane Clarke and James Brown.

Al and the gang are investigating the most amazing instrument you use on a daily basis - your body! Al wants to know what effect time travel will have on his physiology, kicking off an investigation for the gang into what really makes them (and us) tick.

Trouble is it's hard to experiment without any mess, especially when your neighbour's cat Precious is in the same house with Al's naughty dog Einstein. Chaos does indeed ensue but in the midst of all the craziness, kids will learn tons more about digestion, nutrition, balance and even how space travel affects astronauts bodies in some weird and wonderful ways (baby soft feet anyone?)

This is a superb series for science-hungry kids, deftly combining brilliant fictional stories with fun to learn science facts. Absolutely awesome!

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

That wraps it for May. Tune in next month for a colossal June edition of our Chapter book roundup, and keep an eye on sheer brilliance in our regular Friday "Chapter Book of the Week" noms too! Stay booky!

(All books kindly supplied for review)
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"I Have an Idea" by Herve Tullet (Chronicle Kids)

Herve Tullet is, without a doubt, one of the most creative and artistic author-illustrators working in children's literature.

What I like best about Herve is the fact that he seems to instinctively know how to tap into that creative part of a child's brain where they become absolute experts at filling in the gaps our adult brains sometimes develop - a gap where a simple idea can become something entirely different.

In "I Have an Idea", Herve explores and expands on this - in something akin to a piece of concrete poetry, a book that's filled with very simple illustrations - but text designed to prod and poke those creative bits of our brain back into life. Not just for illustration or dreaming up new stories, but for all aspects of our lives where we need a little imagination, a spark of inspiration, or just a good solid nudge in the right direction sometimes.

Filled with artistic splodges that could indeed become elements of inspiration for kids to expand upon, the book is a lot of fun to read aloud - particularly if you have one of those soothing voices that's like taking a sip of a divine warm cup of hot chocolate (unfortunately mine's akin to taking a sip of a cup of coffee from a vending machine, ne'er mind though eh!)

So get Joanna Lumley round, and get her to read a few excerpts from this...

Curiosity is where it all begins, with stimulation for the senses
It works as a playful mindfulness text too.

When inspiration hits, it truly is a wonderful thing
We're both wondering how many kids will actually 'get' what this book is trying to impart. I must admit that both of us took a couple of reads through to really relax into what "I Have an Idea" is trying to achieve as it's pretty chaotic, sometimes even pretty random too...

This is the page that stuck with both of us the most. I absolutely adore the idea that every idea needs a touch of madness about it. So true!
So there you have it, another brilliantly visual exploration of what makes us tick from Herve.

Sum this book up in a sentence: A visual exploratory journey, inviting the reader to take a journey of self discovery inside their own imagination with inspiring quotes and zippy-zappy scribbly visuals to prod your creativity into life.

"I Have an Idea" by Herve Tullet is out now, published by Chronicle Kids (kindly supplied for review). 
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Wednesday 29 May 2019

"Sophie Johnson: Detective Genius" by Morag Hood and Ella Okstad (Simon and Schuster Children's Books)

Fresh from learning all there is to know about Unicorns, it's time for a new adventure for a curious little girl who has acres of confidence and self-belief

"Sophie Johnson: Detective Genius" by Morag Hood and Ella Okstad picks up Sophie reassuring us that criminals don't stand a chance when she's around.

There's only one girl who can unpick the threads of any complicated mystery. But Sophie might not be quite the great detective she's cracked up to me - and anyone (as old as me) that remembers "Hong Kong Phooey" might recognise the setup here, when Bella the dog actually turns out to be a zillion times better at solving and preventing crime than her "Boss".

While Sophie is focused on the case of the missing lion's tale, she misses a far more nefarious crime taking place at the hands of three inept burglars. Thankfully Bella, the "Good dog" is on the scene to avert a near disaster.

C actually didn't get on with this book at all, but I thought it was quite a neat little switch-around of characters - and certainly great for kids who might know a Sophie-like character themselves.

Sum this book up in a sentence: A great little detective romp from a dynamic and creative kidlit duo.

"Sophie Johnson: Detective Genius" by Morag Hood and Ella Okstad is out now, published by Simon and Schuster Children's Books (kindly supplied for review). 
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"Princess Ninjas" by Dave Franchini and Eduardo Garcia (Zenescope / Silver Dragon Publishing)

We're definitely on board for a fantastic graphic novel wrapping together 3 stories of 3 amazing and mighty princesses who just happen to be ninjas.

Wait, what?

"Princess Ninjas" by Dave Franchini and Eduardo Garcia is the perfect antidote for kids who are completely over that whole "Disney Princess" phase, and now want their heroines to be a bit more kick-ass and adventuresome.

Meet Bridget, Megan and Elyce and their brave sidekick Turtle Bear - the only folk to turn to when their kingdom comes under attack from a nefarious enemy, the Shadow Wizard Bogymn.

As knights cower, and the king goes into panic mode, the Princess Ninjas swing into action!

Right from the cover, you know you're in for a real treat thanks to a plot that embraces more than just some chopsocky ninja skills, but delves into what it means to be a friend, and to put others above your own self and needs. 

Dave's tight plotting cracks along at a blistering pace, and although we'd say this is suitable for a middle grade audience, it has a wider age appeal than that too - fused with a mix of shadowy and dark mystery underpinning the action. 

Eduardo's artwork is also brilliant, and if you're a fan of stuff like She-Ra or comics like Marvel Rising etc, you're in for a huge treat. Let's take a look inside at a couple of spreads...

C immediately took to this, mostly because despite the fantasy setting, this is a comic written in the sort of language she instantly identifies with, with the three Ninja Princesses having quite the line in contemporary girl chat (and of course embracing all the stuff girls C's age identify with, like annoying dads! Owch!)

Zenescope's new kid imprint Silver Dragon has made an impressive start right out of the gate. Once again we're thoroughly impressed that kids comics just seem to be getting better and better, and here's the perfect title showing how the balance in readerships for comics is changing, with a brilliant Ninja-powered adventure good for both girls and boys. 

Awesome! We can't wait for more from Silver Dragon. 

"Princess Ninjas" by Dave Franchini and Eduardo Garcia is out on 6th June 2019, published by Zenescope / Silver Dragon Publishing (kindly supplied in digital format for review). 
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Tuesday 28 May 2019

"I Don't Want to be Small" by Laura Ellen Anderson (Bloomsbury Children's Books)

Coming from a family where nearly everyone else is lanky and over 6ft tall, it hasn't always been easy being Hobbit-esque in stature.

Blog favourite superstar Laura Ellen Anderson is back with another brilliant picture book, this time tackling the subject of being pocket-sized in "I Don't Want to be Small"

The central character is a little boy who is fed up with being really little. 

He wants to be as tall as his friends and his big brother. 

But when he loses his teddy bear up a tree, not even his new tall friend can get it back for him. 

Maybe with a little bit of help they can reach the bear together.. 

As you'd expect, Laura's illustrations are just gorgeous, with loads of humorous little touches in a delectable tale of developing a liking for not being a giant lumbering stringbean after all. 

Sum this book up in a sentence: A brilliant ode to those of us who may be diminutive in stature, but have a mighty amount of ability and talent (just like Laura herself, in fact!)

"I Don't Want to be Small" by Laura Ellen Anderson is out now, published by Bloomsbury Children's Books (kindly supplied for review). 
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Monday 27 May 2019

"Leyla" by Galia Bernstein (Abrams Books for Young Readers)

When you're a kid, sometimes you get really fed up with your family - and perhaps just want some time alone.

There's such a neat little message in "Leyla" by Galia Bernstein - a message that is delivered alongside some of the most gorgeous simian artwork I think we've ever seen in a children's picture book.

Leyla is the youngest in her Baboon family troop and she's so fed up with her big, loud and noisy family. They're always making a noise, always snuggling or grooming each other, and never give her time to think.

So one day Leyla decides to run away, as far away from her family as possible.

And as she runs, she takes a moment to rest in the middle of a desert where she finds a single tiny Lizard sunning itself on a rock.

At first she's a bit frightened of this skittish new individual, but soon a firm friendship develops as Leyla finally find the one thing she wanted all along - just a nice quiet space to sit and do absolutely nothing! Because, as we all know, sometimes just lounging around doing nothing is the perfect antidote to a noisy busy world.

Yikes! Yep, skittish lizards can be a bit alarming when you first see them!
Just so much loveliness in this, from the subtle and reduced word count still managing to convey the story so effectively...

Imagine waking up amongst this lot every day! the truly stunning illustrations, which are just GORGEOUS!

Sum this book up in a sentence: A gorgeous book extolling the virtues of having a bit of quiet time alone from time to time when life gets too busy and hectic, and your family do your head in!

"Leyla" by Galia Bernstein is out now, published by Abrams Books for Young Readers (kindly supplied for review). 
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Friday 24 May 2019

ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 24th May 2019: "The Naughtiest Unicorn" by Pip Bird and David O'Connell (Egmont)

Our Chapter Book of the Week this week tapped right into C's two areas of interest. Unicorns and sweeties!

Meet possibly the naughtiest mythical creature you'll ever go to school with in "The Naughtiest Unicorn" by Pip Bird and David O'Connell.

Mira has just started Unicorn School and she just can't WAIT for her first day. Her big sister already goes to the same school and won't shut up about how fantastic it is. 

But when Mira arrives, all the Unicorns have left - except one. Dave, and Dave is trouble with a capital 'T'. 

For starters Dave is terribly grumpy and not at all sparkly or shiny. 

Dave isn't interested in galloping along rainbows and covering the land in magic. Dave is concerned only with one thing - his next snack or meal!

Mira tries her best to win this grumpy Unicorn round, but it's going to take something special to get Dave to forget about his tummy for five minutes. Time for an epic quest!!

Pip and David have come up with a superb chapter book full of stories that Unicorn fans are going to absolutely love, and Dave (the Unicorn, not the illustrator) is just such a hilarious character, so different to the usual sparkly Unicorns that most folk my age probably run screaming away from. 

Look our for more in the "Naughtiest Unicorn" series soon from Pip and David. 

Sum this book up in a sentence: A determined little girl, a hilariously grumpy Unicorn, and a brilliant story destined to tickle the fancy of anyone who loves their mythical creatures a little bit different from the norm. 

"The Naughtiest Unicorn" by Pip Bird and David O'Connell is out now, published by Egmont UK (kindly supplied for review). 
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ReadItDaddy's Second Book of the Week - Week Ending 24th May 2019: "Hedy Lamarr's Double Life - People Who Shaped Our World" by Laurie Wallmark and Katy Wu (Sterling Children's Books)

Our Second Book of the Week is a timely and very welcome picture book taking a look at the life of a stunning inventor who just happened to be a hollywood actress on the side.

Well, if you look at the life of Hedy Lamarr in that way, then "Hedy Lamarr's Double Life - Hollywood Legend and Brilliant Inventor"by Laurie Wallmark and Katy Wu makes a lot of sense.

From an early age Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler (Hedy's real name) was an inquisitive and well-read child, who would accompany her father on visits to local museums and galleries in their home town in Austria.

Hedy also loved the movies, falling in love with the silent movies and early 'talkies', becoming a talented mimic for lines and voices she'd hear in those amazing films.

But her inquisitive mind stayed with her even as her early acting career took off in Hollywood, and her name changed. After a tough day's shoot on a movie set she'd return to her room, repurposed as a workshop and drafting studio, and work on many, many inventions.

A hugely underrated contributor to something we all now take for granted. Without Hedy Lamarr's genius, our wireless communications for mobile devices would be extremely insecure

Hedy dreamed up all sorts of clever gadgets from an extendable tissue box with a concertina pocket for used tissues (ew!) to a revolutionary set of traffic lights that would pre-warn drivers when a signal was about to change.

But it was during the war years that Hedy Lamarr began to draft her idea for something that could prevent the jamming of wireless torpedo signals for the US Navy that she came up with the core theory for 'frequency hopping' - a method of ensuring that wireless signals could neither be jammed nor intercepted, thus preventing interference from enemies deploying jamming technology to divert torpedoes at sea.

The basic concepts in her frequency hopping idea are still used today to ensure that wireless and bluetooth signals are kept secure, employing a similar encoding method in modern wireless-dependent devices.

Throughout her life, Hedy fought against the preconception that a pretty hollywood actress was just that - but behind her stunning beauty was a fantastic analytical brain that was constantly busy with new ideas and concepts.

It's taken decades for her ground-breaking theories to be recognised for what they actually are - a vital part of what we take for granted in our modern wireless-connected world. It's actually being recognised even where I work, where we've named meeting rooms after Hedy Lamarr, thanks to her contributions to mobile computing.

This is a thoroughly fascinating and beautifully produced picture book filled with tons of inspirational quotes from Hedy herself, perfect for boys and girls who love inventing things and love asking (and answering) questions.

Sum this book up in a sentence: A brilliant biography of one of the world's most underrated and underestimated scientific geniuses, but also one of hollywood's greatest actors.

"Hedy Lamarr's Double Life" by Laurie Wallmark and Katy Wu is out now, published by Sterling Kids (kindly supplied for review). 
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ReadItDaddy's Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 24th May 2019: "The Suitcase" by Chris Naylor-Ballesteros (Nosy Crow)

Our Picture Book of the Week this week could be seen as an 'easy' choice to heap praise upon.

After all, the core subject matter of "The Suitcase" by Chris Naylor Ballesteros has been covered in many, many other children's picture books for a wide range of ages.

But there's a lot to be said for introducing the concept of kindness in early years, particularly towards folk who fetch up on our shores from other countries to make a new home here either by their own choice or through horrific situations in their countries of origin.

The reason we're heaping praise on "The Suitcase" isn't just from some hive-mind book-blogging 'need' to praise each and every issues book.

No, it's the sheer genius with which this is executed.

The book starts out with a weary stranger, dragging the titular suitcase along behind them. They're the new animal in town, and the animals the poor creature first meets are instantly suspicious and wary of the stranger.

"So what's in the case?" they ask. The weary creature just wants to rest, but begins to spin a tale of what he's carrying. A teacup, a table, a chair, a comfy little cabin in which to house all those objects.

Exhausted, the poor animal finally collapses into a fitful sleep - at which point the book does something pretty surprising. It draws a huge fat line under some pretty despicable behaviour as the three animals who witnessed the stranger's arrival, and didn't believe a word of the stranger's story of what was in the case actually break the case open to find out what's really inside for themselves.

This was the moment in the story where both C and I looked at each other. "That's AWFUL!" she wailed. "Why would they do such a thing?"

As the stranger sleeps, it takes mere moments before the animals realise just how crappy their behaviour is - but what to do? The case is broken, the china cup that was inside is chipped and broken - and the photograph of the table, chair, cup and comfy cabin that the stranger was actually carrying becomes the source of an idea - a way the three animals can make up for their horrid act.

This is all conveyed mostly conversationally, paring down the word count to ensure the message can be digested by as wide an audience as possible. I would bet that many folk would come away from this book with various different levels of interpretation of the core powerful message of being kind, and treating strangers a little better - but wow, this is so subtly and cleverly done.

A very deserving book of the week.

Sum this book up in a sentence: Multi-layered storytelling conveyed in simple conversational text, with beautiful but simple illustrations to convey a message of kindness and treating strangers a little better than we currently do.

"The Suitcase" by Chris Naylor-Ballesteros is out now, published by Nosy Crow (kindly supplied for review). 
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Thursday 23 May 2019

Very sad news indeed. Judith Kerr, author of "The Tiger who Came to Tea" and the fabulous "Mog" books has died at the age of 95.

Immensely sad news on the blog today. Judith Kerr, author of "The Tiger Who Came to Tea" and the fantastic "Mog" books has passed away at the grand old age of 95.

We wanted to pay tribute to Judith, one of those amazing, energetic and creative people who you just thought would live forever.

In fact she will, through the amazing legacy of her books and her work.

I remember reading her books as a child, and I also remember these were some of the first books we read and reviewed on the blog, as we began to read through Judith's amazing stories through our local library, and eventually through our own copies of her books.

Though "The Tiger Who Came to Tea" will undoubtedly be what she's best recognised for, it was her awesome feline creation Mog that first caught our attention. We're a cat-loving family, and couldn't resist her brilliantly observed stories of Mog, the boiled-egg eating burglar-foiling cat.

Many authors and illustrators will undoubtedly cite Judith as a huge influence on their own work as she effortlessly and expertly excelled in both storytelling and illustration in her books. Both C and I read all the Mog books, and later the Katinka stories always enjoying the sheer depth of character and the gentle but always interesting nature of her stories.

"Mog and the V.E.T" was probably C's overall favourite, a hilarious (and utterly relatable for any pet owner) tale of Mog getting a thorn stuck in her paw and needing a visit to the vet. Judith's sense of humour comes to the fore in this story, and her illustrations perfectly depict the absolute chaos that can ensue when your cat just doesn't want anything to do with the "Vee Ee Tee". I remember reading this every night for about 6 months, and even now whenever we say the word "Vet" we always spell it out phonetically just like in the story. People often talk about "Funny" children's books, and quite often in our experience those books really just aren't funny on any level. Yet Judith always made 'funny' look so effortless, her human and non-human characters had such a range of expressions that perfectly underpinned the bits in the story you were meant to laugh at, and quite a few you weren't (I will never, ever forget how pant-wettingly funny C found the Vet's weird trippy dream in the aforementioned book - at an age when she probably wouldn't have had a clue what JK was really talking about).

We will miss Judith very much, a huge influential part of C's early reading journey, and an author whose books we would still treat ourselves to as C got older.

Rest in peace Judith and thank you for all the amazing stories.
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Musings on book blogging and how things change and evolve as time passes - a ReadItTorial

OK, this isn't really a post about starting your own book blog - but more a guide to what happens if you're 'in it for the long haul' and want to carry on writing a children's book blog as your children progress through their own various stages of reading and book interest.

In some ways I think I'm quite envious of book bloggers out there who have kids younger than the age of 10, particularly those who have very young kids who are just beginning their reading journies. For them there's the opportunity to discover a book world anew - and to find books of their own that perhaps one day may rank alongside the all-hallowed 'classics' that you may hear other booky folk banging on about constantly (is there anyone left on the planet who hasn't read "The Tiger Who Came to Tea" or "The Very Hungry Caterpillar"?)

We've been doing this for nearly 10 years, and I think the key thing that book blogging has taught me (yes, even an old dog can learn new tricks) is that very few bloggers will ever transition to writing about books professionally. For some, it's because they have a zillion and one other things that may take up their time - as well as a boring day job that pays the bills perhaps.

For others it's because to take on the task as a paying gig might actually rob them of the sheer enjoyment of reading for pleasure. Speaking from the experience of once taking something I enjoyed doing as a hobby and turning it into a profession (web coding), I fell completely and irrevocably out of love with that thing when I had to devote every single working hour to it (though it would be hard to imagine ever getting to the point where writing about books, reading books or enthusing about books with like-minded folk would ever get tiresome, even if it was a day job).

For C, our book blogging joint effort has changed to a point where we're reaching a fork in the road that I would imagine many other book bloggers will eventually have to stop and take stock. One of our fave book bloggers has reached that fork in the road with her daughter, and though I'd imagine Mum might still carry on writing about books, her daughter is now also taking her own first steps into writing about them completely independently of Mum.

C and I used to joke about what the blog would be called if we did the same. "Read it, C" would be the obvious choice - or something entirely new. Perhaps it wouldn't even be a blog at all, as most tweens and teens are less interested in writing long boring reams of text about a particular book or book-related subject, but would be all over taking a pretty stylised photo of that book's cover, perhaps with some flowers next to it - or more likely an 'intelligent' looking selfie of them holding up the book in a predetermined bookish pose for their Instagram feed.

Blogging is evolving, and the perception of bloggers is changing a little too - perhaps too little, too late as more and more publishers understand the worth of word of mouth, the worth of real human opinions vs a couple of incoherent lines and a 5 star review on Amazon and how a nicely written blog or article can help push sales along in a none too insignificant way.

"Influencing" is a weird thing though and one I don't feel I'm entirely happy with. We both love the thought that books we've recommended to people are bought and enjoyed by others, who wouldn't love that - but when it changes into something else, ie you pushing something that your heart really isn't in but doing so because you feel you owe some kind of a debt to the publisher / author / illustrator really doesn't feel like it has any worth at all, and you would hope that most people would see through a blog post or article like that pretty much instantly. Yet I wonder if that does happen? (at this point I should categorically state that we've never been paid for any articles here with anything other than a free copy of a book, perhaps the odd tote bag or sweet treat but not cash money).

Monetising your blog might be easier than ever before but again it always felt like a step too far. Shoving a ton of banner ads and clickables onto the blog just to make a few coins feels a bit of a weird side-step away from the purpose of the blog - to share new books with people, and hope that they love them as much as we do (I'm repeating myself here but sincerely, aside from the awesomeness of being sent things to review, the real purpose of this blog is, and always was to talk about brilliant books).

I wonder how other long-term book bloggers are faring. I know quite a few who started around the same time we did who have kids around the same age (or older) than C who have already chosen one path or the other when they got to the fork in the road - as ever, hit me up on twitter @readitdaddy to share your experiences as I'd love to know what happened with you too.
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"I Really Want to Win" by Simon Philip and Lucia Gaggiotti (Templar Publishing)

From the super-creative super-fab team that brought you the hilarious "I Really Want the Cake" is another busy little adventure for their awesome little mighty girl character.

In "I Really Want to Win" the school sports day is coming up and the little girl is doing everything she can to mentally and physically prepare herself to win every event.

Of course, even if you're a superhero mighty girl character, winning isn't as easy as it looks - and when another little girl seems to march off with all the honours, it's almost impossible to be sporting about it - or is it?

Perhaps there's a friend to be made - and is winning at sport as important as all that when you're a master baker who can bake the most amazing cakes?

There are so many neat little touches in this book just like there were in its predecessor with loads of brilliantly busy illustrations (including some truly awesome superhero cameos if you look very closely!) and a story that so many girls and boys will readily identify with (we know only too well what it's like when C is faced with the prospect of her own school sports day and how much effort she puts in, despite her PE teachers always playing favourites with certain other kids!)

Heading for fortune and glory on the sports field? Bah, who needs it when you've got cake!


Sum this book up in a sentence: A brilliant book with a neat moral message about trying your hardest, and perhaps focusing on what makes you special rather than trying to be an expert in everything all at once.

"I Really Want to Win" by Simon Philip and Lucia Gaggiotti is out now, published by Templar Books (kindly supplied for review). 
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Wednesday 22 May 2019

"A Book About Whales" by Andrea Antinori (Abrams Books for Young Readers)

I do love a book like this, that purposely sets out to provide sheer enjoyment and engagement of a subject in a rather quirky and playful way.

"A Book About Whales" by Andrea Antinori kicks things off with a deliciously simple title that tells you exactly what you'll find inside.

With the most amazing and stylish monochrome illustrations, Andrea uses fab pictures and simple descriptions to give kids their first insights into this fascinating species.

Are they fish? No, Whales are warm-blooded mammals - and some of the most gentle giants you may ever encounter (obviously, Killer Whales are a bit of an exception to that!)

Inside the book we take a journey from the very beginning of a Whale's life, on to where they can be found, what they eat (answer: a lot!) and what their social habits are.

Let's take a look at a couple of page spreads from this utterly fascinating book:

Definitely not fish but they certainly like eating them!
How big are they? Pretty huge! Even the smallest Whale species are way bigger than us!
Whales love socialising but some species still love a bit of 'alone' time too
Though this book is described as a fantastic 'first natural history book' for youngsters, it's stylish and detailed enough to provide interest to a wide range of age groups and we just cant get enough of Andrea's beautiful illustrations throughout, really making this title stand out amongst a whole sea of similar children's books.

Sum this book up in a sentence: You'll have a whale of a time learning about one of the most fascinating animal species on the planet in this utterly stylish and brilliant book!

"A Book About Whales" by Andrea Antinori is out now, published by Abrams Young Readers (kindly supplied for review)
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"When Sue Found Sue: Sue Hendrickson Discovers Her T.Rex" by Toni Buzzeo and Diana Sudyka (Abrams Young Readers)

Some folk have a burning desire within them that's almost impossible to supress. For Sue Hendrickson, that desire was to find things - and in "When Sue found Sue" by Toni Buzzeo and Diana Sudyka, Diana makes one of the most important palaeontological discoveries of the past two centuries.

This charming picture book chronicles the early life of Sue Hendrickson and how her interest in the natural world, and her boundless curiosity as a child enabled her to become one of the world's leading experts on dinosaurs.

In 1990, at a dig in South Dakota, Sue made her biggest discovery to date: Sue the T. rex, the largest and most complete T. rex skeleton ever unearthed. 

Named in Sue’s honor, Sue the T. rex would be placed on permanent exhibition at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. 

When Sue Found Sue inspires readers to take a closer look at the world around them and to never lose their brave, adventurous spirits. 

Fuel for the imagination - Sue's boundless curiosity began in her childhood. 
After all, it's a huge huge world and there's still plenty of things to discover so hopefully this book will inspire kids who look at the ground or perhaps the seas and wonder what's going on underneath. 

Under the sea, under the sea there's lots to see!

Sum this book up in a sentence: A brilliant chronicle of Sue's life, and a hugely inspirational book for kids who have boundless curiosity like her. 

"When Sue Found Sue" by Toni Buzzeo and Diana Sudyka is out now, published by Abrams Young Readers (kindly supplied for review). 
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Tuesday 21 May 2019

"The Phoenix of Persia" by Sally Pomme Clayton and Amin Hassanzadeh Sharif (Tiny Owl Books)

One thing we really believe on our blog is that the more children are exposed to stories that go far beyond their own comfortable cultural bubble, and the boundaries of their own country, the more they'll begin to learn and understand other countries and cultures - and perhaps find commonality in the way stories and morals are conveyed.

World stories are something we're keenly interested in, and publishers Tiny Owl have been leading the charge in bringing many amazing stories from across the globe to western eyes with their beautifully presented and brilliantly translated books.

Such as the divine "The Phoenix of Persia" adapted and translated by Sally Pomme Clayton with sumptuous illustrations from Amin Hassanzadeh Sharif.

The story opens in a bustling market in Iran, as a traditional storyteller regales her audience with the tale of Prince Zal and the Simorgh, a legendary bird steeped in mystical magic and myth. 

High up on the Mountain of Gems lives the Simorgh, a wise phoenix whose flapping wings disperse the seeds of life across the world. 

When King Sam commands that his long-awaited newborn son Zal be abandoned because of his white hair, the Simorgh adopts the baby and raises him alongside her own chicks and teaches him everything she knows. 

But when the king comes to regret his actions, Prince Zal will learn that the most important lesson of all is forgiveness.

This luxurious edition of the story has been set to music which you can download, with amazing musicians using traditional instruments to really bring Sally's narration and adaptation to life. 

An absolute must-read!

Sum this book up in a sentence: A thoroughly absorbing and truly beautiful tale brought to life with stunning presentation and a lyrical translation from Sally. 

"The Phoenix of Persia" by Sally Pomme Clayton and Amin Hassanzadeh is out now, published by Tiny Owl Publishing (very kindly supplied for review). 
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Monday 20 May 2019

"The Dictionary of Difficult Words" by Jane Solomon and Louise Lockhart (Frances Lincoln Children's Books)

Have you ever read through a dictionary for fun? No? OK it's just me that's a bit weird then - but I've always been fascinated by words and the origins of them, and love passing on that fascination to my daughter.

So "The Dictionary of Difficult Words" by Lexicographer Jane Solomon, with illustrations by Louise Lockhart is absolutely perfect.

Not only does it increase your word (and brain) power with a ton of tongue-twistingly brilliant new words, it illustrates them with whimsical and humorous drawings to accompany the language.

Prepare to amaze and bamboozle your teacher and your friends with a QI-Busting selection of amazing new words to add to your own vocabulary.

Celebrating language has never been more fun, let's take a look inside this fabulous book then...!

We are definitely Ailurophiles at ReadItDaddy Towers
Each of the terms is provided phonetically, so you can learn how to say them as well as spell them.

Not just a dictionary, but a fascinating compendium of complex words!
What an absolutely brilliant idea for a children's book!

Sum this book up in a sentence: Time to increase your word power with a brilliant reference book that's actually an enjoyable cover-to-cover read too!

"The Dictionary of Difficult Words" by Jane Solomon and Louise Lockhart is out now, published by Frances Lincoln Children's Books (kindly supplied for review). 
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Getting kids into comics? How about the utterly fabulous "Narwhal and Jelly" series from Ben Clanton (Egmont Publishing)

Comics can sometimes be a bit of a tricky thing to get right when it comes to the tiniest of teenies. Introducing your kids to comics isn't always easy, but there are some brilliant titles around for really little ones that pave the way for them to become proper comic afficionados.

We really love this series from Ben Clanton, featuring his two knockabout undersea chums, Narwhal and Jelly.

In "Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea" you'll meet Narwhal and Jelly in their "Origin story" and a brilliantly hilarious collection of comic mishaps as the two become firm friends beneath the ocean waves.

Narwhal is a bit of a bossy pants, but also a great friend, whereas Jelly is the more sensible of the two (we think!) and can often steer Narwhal on the right track. A fab introduction to the characters, and as we say, a really great intro to comics / graphic novels for the very young.

"Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea" by Ben Clanton is available now from Egmont. 

If your kids demand something a bit more super-powered, well Narwhal and Jelly have got you covered in "Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt" by Ben Clanton.

How do two pals become super heroes? Well you need a cape, perhaps a snappy slogan or two, but most of all you need super-powers, right? How on earth can two ordinary undersea denizens have those though?

You'll find the answer in another brilliant little comic short, full of japery and more than a bit of tongue-poking at other less-than-super heroes (we absolutely loved the alter-ego name Narwhal and Jelly come up with in this one!)

Brilliant characters, simple artwork but really fun stories, perfect comic capers for cool kids. Get on board!

"Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt" by Ben Clanton is also available now from Egmont. 

(both titles kindly supplied for review).
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