Wednesday 31 July 2019

Meet a brilliant new mighty girl with a nose for detection in the truly brilliant "Agatha Oddly" chapter book series by Lena Jones (HarperCollins Children's Books)

 If there's one thing we both like it's a rip-roaring mystery with a mighty girl character basically sticking her nose into a curious situation, and coming up trumps.

Meet Agatha Oddlow, star of the fantastic "Agatha Oddly" stories from Lena Jones with book one ("The Secret Key") and book 2 ("Murder at the Museum") out now, and book 3 ("The Silver Serpent") coming along in September.

So who is Agatha? She's bright, inquisitive and alongside her geek chic sidekick Liam Lau, she's all set for adventures ranging from saving London (no small deal, saving an entire city) to solving the mystery of the disappearance of a famous scientist.

Together Agatha and Liam set up "The Oddlow Agency" - a detective agency with a difference.

Living with her dad at the Warden's Lodge in Hyde Park (what a cool address, I'm sure you'll agree) these London-based adventures
are absolutely perfect for kids who love middle grade / early YA stuff like "Murder Most Unladylike".

Agatha is super-stylish with her love of vintage clothes, and her inspirational heroes such as Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes mean that she never backs down from a puzzle or an enigma.

We've been reading the first two books for a few weeks now, and what instantly struck me was just how fresh these feel - considering the colossal number of kid detective stories there are out there.

There's just something about Agatha herself. Smart, stylish and extremely well read.

As the cover blips say, "No case too odd!" for Agatha and Liam

Get set for more adventure with the release of "The Silver Serpent", the highly anticipated third case
for Agatha Oddlow!

"Agatha Oddly: The Secret Key" and "Agatha Oddly: Murder at the Musem" are both out now in Paperback, with "Agatha Oddly: The Silver Serpent" set for release on 5th September 2019. 

Grab your magnifying glass, fingerprint kid and your best horn-rimmed specs! You're going to need them!

(all books kindly supplied for review).
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"Ella Upgraded" by Dan Whitehead, PR Dedelis, Abby Bulmer and Jim Campbell (ZebraComics / Gumroad Publishing)

A lot of dads from my generation had two main obsessions when they were kids. On the one hand you'd find them blinking in the twilight of an old CRT telly, stabbing buttons on a rubber-keyed ZX Spectrum in order to make an on-screen collection of pixels bend to their every whim. On the other hand you'd find them running around with a copy of their favourite comic rolled up and unceremoniously stuffed into their back pocket (how many issues of Krazy Comic did I lose this way? More than I'd care to mention).

So what happens now that us Dads have kids of our own who have picked up some of our habits? Well, in Dan Whitehead's case, writing awesome game-themed comics with mighty girls in them seems to be a good place to start.

"Ella Upgraded" by Dan Whitehead, PR Dedelis, Abby Bulmer and Jim Campbell is absolutely right up our street (drop by Dan's Kickstarter page for more details on getting in on funding Issue 2 and find out more on the Facebook Page).

We begin the tale with Ella, just an ordinary everyday girl who loves comics and games. Ella's parents were tragically killed, so her older brother looks after her. All she has to remember her dad by is his awesome collection of retro gaming stuff, including Ella's favourite GameBox, which never leaves her side.

After a horrifying accident, Ella is saved by her scientist brother. 
Her brother is a complete brainbox nerd, who works in the fields of neuroscience, particularly in areas where machine and mind meet.

Ella unfortunately ends up the victim of a horrible road accident (kids - note from your parents - never get too glued to your game screen when you're out and about, OK?) but somehow her brother manages to save her by implanting the guts of her favourite game console in her head in order to save her life.

Ella doesn't realise it at first, but the cartridge slot in the back of her head becomes an interface to bestow her with game-based superpowers! So now she's a superhero, she'll need a snappy name, right?
Yipes!! Game-super-powers GO!

In issue 1 Dan weaves a brilliant origin story drawing us into a cyber-savvy world of pixel-powered superhero-ness with Ella at its heart, our kind of gal who swiftly realises she can put her new powers to good use. There are going to be a lot of girls and boys who are going to absolutely love every single page of this, so I truly hope Dan and his awesome team are cooking up issue 2 post-haste.

Every superhero needs a nifty outfit, right?

Sum this comic up in a sentence: Pacy, frenetic and exciting writing with fantastic action-packed art from Dedelis, Bulmer and Campbell on letters, this is a truly polished and professional piece of work that definitely deserves a wider audience.

"Ella Upgraded" by Dan Whitehead, PR Dedelis, Abby Bulmer and Jim Campbell is out now, publised by Zebra Comics (kindly provided for review in digital form). 

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Tuesday 30 July 2019

"Ravi's Roar" by Tom Percival (Bloomsbury Children's Books)

Here's an interesting book that took us a while to truly 'get' - as it seems to mix a couple of messages together before it gets to the nitty gritty of what it tries to impart.

"Ravi's Roar" by Tom Percival is the story of little Ravi, a kid who is the smallest in his family.

It sucks being small, and Ravi often finds that his diminutive size means he gets overlooked for all the good stuff that his older brothers and sisters seem to enjoy.

Even simple things like playing at the playground and not quite reaching those monkey bars. Or being told you're too tiny to go on rides.

When Ravi finally snaps, something amazing happens - he turns into a TIGER! And no one's going to tell a Tiger that they can't do something.

Once Ravi calms down again though, he realises that perhaps losing your temper and having a tantrum isn't a great idea either, as no one wants to play with a tiger, they're far too angry, grumpy and fierce!

Tom does some of his best ever illustration work here, but as we said above, the pacing of the story felt a little off - like we could've done with seeing Ravi's "Tiger" behaviour dotted throughout the book, with the moral twist of no one getting on with his tigrish self perhaps shown in other situations. However, that said, it is one of the few books out there that does deal with children's anger in a stylish and effective way, so deserves kudos for that (and quite honestly, that bit with the ice creams? Yeah we'd have lost it after that too!)

Sum this book up in a sentence: Find out what happens when our tempers get the better of us, in a gorgeously illustrated story ticking diversity boxes and observing common kid behaviour in a neat moral tale.

"Ravi's Roar" by Tom Percival is out on 8th August 2019, published by Bloomsbury Children's Books (kindly supplied for review). 
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"Iced Out" by CK Smouha and Isabella Bunnell (Cicada Books)

If you're going to write a children's picture book about friendship, or about how being different can be cool, you'd better bring your A-Game because - to be quite honest - we see so many books with those core themes that they all begin to blur into one.

Thankfully in the case of "Iced Out" by CK Smouha and Isabella Bunnell, both author and artist have indeed brought their A-Game, delivering a nifty ocean-based tale of three distinctly different animals who soon realise that despite their appearance, they all have something in common.

Wilfred is a Walrus and Neville is a Narwhal and the two pals are in Miss Blubber's class. The only problem is that they do stick out like a sore thumb as they're the only two animals who aren't seals! Eep!

When Betty Beluga joins the class, she helps Wilf and Nev to realise their own potential. She's smart, funny and great at football (bet you didn't know that Belugas are brilliant at footie!) and though she might look a bit 'odd' compared to other whales, she never lets her appearance hold her back.

So can Wilfred and Neville discover their own unique talents and finally integrate and perhaps even become popular in school?

Kids will wholly identify what it feels like to be a bit of a fish out of water, and sometimes it feels like everyone else in school has something in common - and if you don't 'fit in' it can be a tough time, but this book rather stylishly shows that sometimes it takes others to recognise the awesomeness we secretly carry around with us all the time.

Sum this book up in a sentence: A brilliantly written and gorgeously illustrated life lesson that will help kids realise that 'different can be cool'

"Iced Out" by CK Smouha and Isabella Bunnell is out now, published by Cicada Books (kindly supplied for review). 
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Monday 29 July 2019

Out today! Charm your kids away from their screens with the fantastic "The Board Game Family" by Ellie Dix (Crown House Publishing)

Do you know your Meeples from your Exploding Kittens? Chances are that you love board games as much as we do then, and we're delighted to see the release today of a superb book that will help you navigate the sometimes complicated field of modern board gaming.

"The Board Game Family - Reclaim your Children from the Screen" by Ellie Dix really is bang on message for our own renewed discovery of a love of sitting round the table with a totally immersive and thoroughly fun game.

We're not necessarily talking about those hoary old classics like "The Game of Life" or "Snakes and Ladders" but the modern stream of board gaming that is reaching new heights of popularity.

It's become something of a serious business of late, and Ellie describes both the amazing choice of games on offer, and also the huge benefits they can have in helping families break away from their social media and gadget habits, rediscovering the joys of strategically outwitting each other in awesome games.

At ReadItDaddy Towers we're completely in love with Settlers of Catan and Carcassonne, our two mainstays but there's also superb stuff like Epidemic, Ticket to Ride and of course who can resist a few quick rounds of Exploding Kittens.

(and by the way, if you're a publisher who'd like us to review games for you, we'd be all over that, just sayin')

Ellie's book is as authoritative as it is hopeful, and by following her simple and expert advice you too will discover just how much fun you can have as a family again without the need for reaching for your phones or tablets every time you want to communicate.

Sum this book up in a sentence: A brilliant authoritative deep dive into the sometimes complex but ultimately hugely rewarding world of modern boardgaming in a gorgeously presented book.

"The Board Game Family" by Ellie Dix is out today, published by Crown House Publishing (kindly supplied for review). 
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"Science you can Eat - Putting what we eat under the Microscope" by Stefan Gates (Dorling Kindersley)

Oooh, two of our favourite things combined in a brilliantly presented and seriously absorbing new book from DK? How could we resist!

Food and Science meet with a pop, and a fizz in "Science you can Eat" by Stefan Gates.

Stefan is a brilliant host in this amusing and utterly fascinating look at our food, and the way our bodies work with it, combined with a ton of awesome recipes and experiments to keep you and your little ones busy in the long summer hols.

We busied ourselves getting right down to the nitty gritty of trying out some of the experiments in this book. Spit and custard? OK We did skip that one, as it sounded a little bit too gross - but learning how our saliva works on our food to make it easier to digest was actually one of the more interesting bits of this book.

We also found out why popcorn pops, why Space Dust fizzes and explodes on our tongues, and - er - why baked beans make your trousers trumpet!

Let's have a look inside this fabulous book!

Our tongues are amazing. Not just for poking out at your teacher or politicians, they're amazingly sensitive to a whole range of flavours and tastes
Stefan's easy style of writing completely captures children's imaginations, and science experiments you can do at home with just a few simple things really make this a complete winner of a book when the kids plaintively cry "We're bored! Find us something to do!"

Yeah we always cry when we slice an onion because we think about all their little onion brothers and sisters missing them. SOB!
The real science behind some of the amazing facts in the book is introduced in a kid-friendly but not dumbed-down way, so you'll come away with a whole gamut of knowledge about food and how we process it. Did you know, for instance, that there really is iron in cornflakes? There's a great experiment in this book to prove it to you!

We all scream for ice cream!! Yum!
As you'd expect from DK, this is a beautifully presented and visually impressive book. Wear a chef's hat AND a lab coat for the proper effect while digging into a ton of amazing experiments that will wow and stun in equal measure.

Sum this book up in a sentence: The perfect book for the long summer hols, round up your pet adults and get busy with a ton of fabulous food-based experiments to tantalise your tastebuds and stimulate your brain!

"Science you can Eat" by Stefan Gates is out now, published by Dorling Kindersley (kindly supplied for review). 
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"Flock (A Tree Keeper Adventure)" by Gemma Koomen (Frances Lincoln Children's Books)

There's just something so appealing about stories that feature tiny little folk, and anyone who's loved "The Borrowers" will utterly fall in love with "Flock (A tree keeper adventure)" by Gemma Koomen.

It's a daydreamy and magical little story of the folk who look after and maintain our trees. Mostly silent and hidden, if you look carefully enough amongst the branches you might just spot them at work and at play.

The story centres around a young tree-keeper, Sylvia, who loves to let her imagination soar.

Sylvia prefers to be alone rather than play noisy games with the other Tree Keepers. 

But one day, she finds a baby bird in her favourite hiding place. 

As Sylvia and the bird become friends, can she learn that sometimes, things are better when you have someone to share them with? 

This is a stunning debut picture book from Gemma, who is destined to be a talented author-illustrator to watch out for. 

Sum this book up in a sentence: A beautifully illustrated and written story of how a friendship can develop in the most unexpected places, even if you're happy on your own. 

"Flock (A Tree Keeper Adventure)" by Gemma Koomen is out now, published by Frances Lincoln Childrens Books (kindly supplied for review). 
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Friday 26 July 2019

ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 26th July 2019: "The Misadventures of Max Crumbly: Masters of Mischief (Max Crumbly Book 3)" by Rachel Renee Russell (Simon and Schuster Children's Books)

Our Chapter Book of the Week elicits the sort of hugely soppy satisfied grin across C's chops, that it's impossible not to love these books.

Rachel Renee Russell, best known as the author of the superb "Dork Diaries" series (which C absolutely ADORES TO BITS!) also has a male dork hero for girls and boys, in the shape of Max Crumbly and in "The Misadventures of Max Crumbly: Masters of Mischief", Max's third outing once again sees him teaming up with best buddy Erin for more mystery solving.

That's assuming of course that Max can survive the machinations of school life, from missing homework to being locked in your own locker, left to become a skeletal dust-covered dork remnant.

At the end of "Max Crumbly: Middle School Mayhem" young Max and sidekick (wait, SIDEKICK?) Erin had just foiled the plans of three bumbling burglars.

In the depths of a smelly, dangerous Dumpster of Doom, the two pals hid from the vengeful thieves – and the police! Not your best look, being covered in trash and stinking to high heaven. 

Now they're back again, Max and Erin's misadventures at South Ridge Middle School continue, as they run the gauntlet of school bullies, nasty detention sessions and of course ridicule at the hands of the 'cool kids' - Ugh!

Rachel once again manages to capture the ups and downs of school life, friendship and being a class-A dork in a brilliant summery read. Join Max on his latest misadventure!

Sum this book up in a sentence: Detection, detention and misdirection in a crazy chaos-filled tale that will make you grin like a cheshire cat if C is anything to go by.

"The Misadventures of Max Crumbly: Masters of Mischief" by Rachel Renee Russell is out now, published by Simon and Schuster Children's Books (kindly supplied for review). 
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ReadItDaddy's Second Book of the Week - Week Ending 26th July 2019: "Powers of a Girl" by Lorraine Cink and Alice X. Zhang (Studio Press / Marvel Comics)

Marvel pretty much have "Mighty Girl" all sewn up, and if you want a truly fantastic example of how much work they've put in to providing one of the most diverse and brilliantly feminist comic universes in the world, take a look at our second book of the week this week, the stunning "Powers of a Girl: 65 Marvel Women who Changed the Universe" by Lorraine Cink and Alice X. Zhang.

For a long time, C has definitely been a "Marvel" girl and has soaked up a huge number of comics from the MCU, nearly all of them featuring truly kick-ass and brilliant female characters, all of which feature in this book.

Fabulous bios written by self-confessed Marvel fangirl Lorraine Cink, with stunning new illustrations for the book by comic artist supreme Alice X. Zhang gather together a whopping roster of female Marvel superheroes you may have heard of, and a truckload you may not have (but definitely need to find out more about, trust us on this).

C's favourite characters Spider-Gwen (Ghost Spider) and Squirrel Girl are just two of the characters detailed in here, and there are brilliant sections on superhero power couples and supermoms too!

Let's take a look at a couple of spreads:

Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers. Ace pilot, kickass fighter, not to be messed with whether you're Kree or not!
Each character bio digs into their comic and movie history, and gives you tons of juicy nuggets of information about them from their nicknames to their known aliases, supporting characters and of course their superpowers.

Thor. No, not the one with the massive beergut, the cooler one!
Girls and boys will love reading about these hugely inspirational and influential characters, and there's no better way of seeing just how amazingly diverse comics have become in the last decade or so.

Make ours Marvel, nuff said!

Sum this book up a sentence: A truly stellar line-up of incredible female comic characters from the Marvel comics and movie universes, showing just how brilliant their current roster is.

"Powers of a Girl" by Lorraine Cink and Alice X. Zhang is out now, published by Studio Press / Marvel Comics (kindly supplied for review). 
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ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week Ending 26th July 2019: "Leo Baxendale's Sweeney Toddler" by Leo Baxendale (Rebellion)

Our Book of the Week this week has been an absolute pleasure to share with my daughter, harking back to an era in comics where weekly I was faced with one of the trickest decisions a youngster could ever make.

"Which comic should I buy this week?"

Pocket money wouldn't stretch to more than one funny comic, and "The Beano" was suffering from a bit of a creative lull when I was a nipper (as was The Dandy) but subversive chaotic and extremely brilliant comics such as Whoopee and Shiver 'n' Shake were consistently coming up with brilliant ideas and characters that are still a hoot today.

Hugely talented comic-smith Leo Baxendale, the genius behind so many awesome comic characters over the years created baby-faced terror Sweeney Toddler for those comics, and the ragamuffin little miscreant went on to enjoy many crazy adventures throughout those comic runs.

Sweeney Toddler is the OG gangsta baby, and I'm sure he was the inspiration behind that brilliant ZX Spectrum game Nipper (if you've never played it, now's the time to go digging and you'll see exactly what I mean).

Since Rebellion Publishing - home of the galaxy's greatest comic 2000AD - bought up a ton of classic comic IP from Fleetway, DC Thomson et al, they've been quietly curating some of the most amazing comic collections ever - and are slowly drip-feeding those classic comic strips with brilliant releases such as this.

If you were a child of the 70s and 80s like me, and love Leo Baxendale's work (as you should) then this is an absolute go-to. But if, like me, you're a parent who wants to show your own young whippersnappers how great comics were when you were a kid, they will absolutely love these collections too. They're an absolute hoot!

Sum this book up in a sentence: A stunning collection of Sweeney Toddler strips from the heyday of two truly awesome comics, Shiver 'n' Shake and Whoopee.

"Leo Baxendale's Sweeney Toddler" by Leo Baxendale is out now, published by Rebellion (kindly supplied in digital format for review). 
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Thursday 25 July 2019

Get stuck into the fabulous "Treacle Street" series with "Prima's Missing Bunnies" and "Marcel's Parcels" by Kate Hindley (Simon and Schuster Children's Books)

We're always excited to see new work from one of our all-time favourite children's book illustrators, so we're delighted to see Kate Hindley's new range of storybooks.

The fabulously named "Treacle Street" series is absolutely perfect for little ones who love stories that pique their curiosity, and in these gorgeous board-bound lift-the-flap tales, there's plenty of excitement and adventure, and the opportunity to see what's tucked in and hidden within those pages.

"Prima's Missing Bunnies" sees some truly mischievous little scamps hiding throughout the story. Are they in the wardrobe? Perhaps they're inside the piano! Can you help Prima find those little tikes? We bet you can!

There's also the brilliantly titled "Marcel's Parcels" with the postie elephant beginning his very busy round for all the animals who live in Treacle Street.

We know you won't be able to resist seeing who all the parcels are for - and perhaps taking a peek inside at what they're getting through the post (after all, opening parcels is the BEST THING EVER, right?)

This is such a great pair of little books for busy littlies who love discovering hidden details and playing with their books as well as reading them.

"Treacle Street: Prima's Missing Bunnies" and "Marcel's Parcels" by Kate Hindley are both out today, published by Simon and Schuster Children's Books (kindly supplied for review). 
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ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book Roundup - July 2019

It's time for our Chapter Book Roundup for July. Where on earth has this year gone?! One thing's for sure, it's been a stonkingly good year for middle grade and YA fiction and let's kick off with another belter that deserves a huge amount of recognition, if not a truckload of awards.

"Jemima Small Versus the Universe" by Tamsin Winter is a gloriously observed and positive book about being plus size.

Jemima Small is funny and smart. She knows a lot of things. Like the fact that she's made of 206 bones, over 600 muscles and trillions of cells.

What she doesn't know is how that can be true and yet she can still sometimes feel like nothing. 

Or how being made to join the school's "special" healthy lifestyle group - aka Fat Club - could feel any less special. 

But Jemima also knows that the biggest stars in the universe are the brightest. And maybe it's her time to shine. 

Tamsin has captured so many elements of what it feels like when the world assaults you with 'fake' visions of what it means to be perfect, and what it also means when you're perfectly happy with yourself and your own body and image, but others feel it's their duty to steer you onto their own path of what their ideal is. Absolutely loved this, Jemima is a fantastic character and you will fall in love with her just like we did. 

"Jemima Small Versus the Universe" by Tamsin Winter is out now, published by Usborne

Oh lordy, when you see Andy Stanton's name on a book, you can pretty much guess that at least one of the following are going to be in there somewhere. Farts, Poos, Wees or Smells. 

How about a combination of all of the above, along with a dose of humorous history in his latest book "The Paninis of Pompeii", with illustrations from Sholto Walker. 

Welcome to the last days of Pompeii as you've NEVER imagined them before! Join fart-trader Caecilius, his wife, Vesuvius, and their ten-year-old son, Filius, in a bizarre world of accidental gladiators, pizza-emitting volcanoes and the legendary Ma-wol-n-f.

You'll meet the household servant, Slavius; thrill at the misadventures of Barkus Wooferinicum and generally have an uproariously hilarious time of it all.

Full of ludicrous characters, surreal escapades and outrageous word play – if you thought Mr Gum was weird, then get a load of the Ancient Pompeiians!

Absolutely guaranteed to elicit hoots of laughter from every 7-11 year old. "The Paninis of Pompeii" by Andy Stanton and Sholto Walker is out now, published by Egmont. 

What's it like to leave everything you know behind, to embark on a whole new life that's massively different and full of wonder - and challenges anew? In "The Collective" by Lindsey Whitlock, meet Elwyn, who feels like he's wasting his life in the rural idylls of Badfish Creek. 

Elwyn longs for change so when his uncle offers him the chance to leave his rural roots behind, he jumps at the opportunity, eager to move to Liberty to gain an education and become part of a flourishing world embracing a new industrial age. 

Finally, life seems to be opening up to him.
But it is not long before he understands that all that glitters is not gold: there are things going on in Liberty that Elwyn cannot ignore. Things that profoundly threaten the world he has rejected and things that he has to fight against.

The Collective is a richly realised debut novel about tradition, change, the meaning of home and the struggle to be true to yourself. Another intelligent and thought-provoking winner from a publisher who excels at producing brilliant books, "The Collective" by Lindsey Whitlock is out now, published by Pushkin Children's Books. 

It feels like an entire generation (or multiple generations) of kids have fallen under a collective spell, and absolutely adore everything and anything to do with Unicorns. C is one such kid, so the new "Unicorn Magic" books by Daisy Meadows, author of the Rainbow Magic series, are absolutely bang on with their timing - with several books arriving throughout the rest of the year. 

We dug into "Unicorn Magic: Shimmerbreeze and the Sky Spell" by Daisy Meadows and C was drawn headlong into a secret world full of magic, unicorns and friendship! 

In the faraway land, Aisha and Emily are learning all about unicorn magic. 

But when the evil unicorn Selena steals Shimmerbreeze the Sky Unicorn's special locket, the beautiful air of the kingdom is polluted! 

Can the girls help Shimmerbreeze find the locket and save the skies?

With plenty of fun and sparkle, and a subtly woven in eco-message as well, this is a winner for girls and boys from 7-10 years old. 

"Unicorn Magic: Shimmerbreeze and the Sky Spell" by Daisy Meadows is out now, published by Orchard Books. 

Time for a waggy, shaggy tale, a Dog's tail of course...!

The shaggy coated star of "I, Cosmo" by Carlie Sorosiak is a doggy character you'll instantly fall in love with.

Cosmo's life is in turmoil though. His family is falling apart. And it's up to Cosmo to keep them together. 

He knows exactly what to do. There's only one problem. Cosmo is a Golden Retriever. 

But like most good boy dogs, he's not going to let a little matter like being a dog stand in his way. 

Can Cosmo achieve his aim and reunite his family, bringing back a bit of love into a household filled with turmoil and strife? And perhaps snaffle a few rashers of bacon into the bargain?

Beautifully written and hilariously well observed with plenty of dogginess that anyone who's ever owned a pooch will readily identify with. 

"I, Cosmo" by Carlie Sorosiak is out on 1st August 2019, published by Nosy Crow

There's just something about using a lighthouse as a setting that instantly grabs our interest. So it was with "The House of Light" by Julia Green. 

Bonnie is scavenging on a beach when she finds a battered old row boat. And under the boat, a bare-footed boy-cold, hungry, and in need of help.
The authorities have already been troubling Bonnie and Granda for breaking rules, but how can she leave this boy when he has no-one? 

Bonnie does her best to keep the boy hidden from the border guards, but as their suspicions grow, she wonders if it's time to escape the life she's always known. 

Under cover of darkness they set sail to the 'house of light' in search of a new beginning, and a sense of hope.

Atmospheric, life-affirming with a brilliantly woven in message of acceptance and kindness, "The House of Light" by Julia Green is out now, published by OUP / Oxford Children's Books. 

A fabulous and fun new series next. "Warrior Monkeys and the Volcano Adventure" is the first in a new book series from M.C Stevens and Steve Brown. 

Something weird is happening on the island of Senshi. The Warrior Monkeys are worried that a dangerous enemy has come back to seek revenge.

Suki and Bekko are brave enough to find out why wild dogs are on the prowl, why Mount Niru is rumbling and stinky, and who has brainwashed an army of meerkats. 

Suki and Bekko are training to be Warrior Monkeys. They're a brave and resourceful duo and, with the help of their armoured bear, Kuma, are ready to face any of the harsh challenges and evil plots that threaten the safety of their island home. 

Using all the skills they learn in the training hall, Suki and Bekko show the kind of determination, focus, bravery, and spirit that has put them on the path to become true Warrior Monkeys!

"Warrior Monkeys and the Volcano Adventure" by M.C Stevens and Steve Brown is out now, published by OUP / Oxford Children's Books. 

Anne Booth's brilliant bird-based series is back with a fabulous new book that once again introduces a new bird species through an entertaining and scintillating story for younger readers 

"The Magical Kingdom of Birds: The Silent Songbirds" by Anne Booth and Rosie Butcher once again begins with Maya exploring her amazing colouring book "The Magical Kingdom of Birds".

Using the book she's transported to a beautiful realm filled with magnificent birds and their fairy friends. 

In a spectacular tropical glade, Maya can't believe her ears: she's attending a songbird concert in the Magical Kingdom of Birds! But all is not as it seems - Lord Astor is stealing the birds' beautiful voices to keep for himself!

Will Maya and her friends be able to return the music to the kingdom? 

This series is perfect for kids who are just starting out with chapter books, illustrated throughout by Rosie Butcher, with fabulous positive themes and a grand adventure, plus a chance to learn something new about fascinating real-world bird species with some interesting information on the featured species at the back of the book. 

"Magical Kingdom of Birds: The Silent Songbirds" by Anne Booth and Rosie Butcher is out now, published by OUP / Oxford Children's Books. 

A superb science fiction dystopian adventure is up next in the fantastic "Earth Swarm" by Tim Hall, part of the Hal Strider adventure series.

London is being held under siege by huge numbers of terrifying drones, controlled by a nefarious artificial intelligence. 

Scientist John Strider helped create the machines, but has disappeared leaving his teenage son Hal to try and piece together his father's final moments before his disappearance. Along with his sister Jess, both of them hotshot drone pilots, they must try and track down their missing father and prove his innocence once and for all.
But can they defeat the machines? They're going to need help!

This is a blisteringly paced novel that will appeal to fans of stories like the Alex Rider adventures, with a ton of brilliant science and a truly mesmeric storyline that barely stops to take a breath. Hugely enjoyable. 

"Earth Swarm" by Tim Hall is out now, published by David Fickling Books. 

Time for a change in a vastly popular series that just gets better and better!

"Beast Quest: New Blood" by Adam Blade introduces three new heroes with the power to tame mystical beasts. 

Amy, Charlie and Sam - three children from our world - are about to discover the powerful legacy that binds them together. 

They are descendants of the Guardians of Avantia, an elite group of heroes trained by Tom - the star of the previous Beast Quest series.

Now the time has come for a new generation to unlock the power of the Beasts and fulfil their destiny.

Nearly a hundred years ago, the Guardians escaped from the evil wizard Malvel and sought refuge in our world, along with their hoard of magical Beast eggs. Living among non-magical humankind, the Guardians adapted to Earth society. But they knew that one day their descendants would unlock their connection with the Beasts ... and have to face Malvel once more.

For Amy, Charlie and Sam, that time has come.

Join a new generation of heroes as they discover their destiny, and experience the awesome power of Beast Quest as never before in this fast paced, gripping and exciting adventure with book 2 scheduled to arrive very soon so keep an eye out for it!

"Beast Quest New Blood" by Adam Blade is out now, published by Orchard. 

Last but not least, something for budding K-Poppers with the latest in the "Rainbow Magic" series. 

Join Rachel and Kirsty as they meet their first-ever boy fairy in "Jae the Boy Band Fairy" by Daisy Meadows and Georgie Ripper.

Kirsty and Rachel are so excited to be going to see their favourite boy band in concert!

But when Jack Frost steals Jae the Boy Band Fairy's magical microphone, everyone gets stage fright and forgets their moves.

Can Kirsty, Rachel and Jae help the show go off without a hitch?

Another great addition to the Rainbow Magic series, perfect for kids who love their music and performing arts.

"Rainbow Magic: Jae the Boy Band Fairy" by Daisy Meadows and Georgie Ripper is out now, published by Orchard.


For those of you familiar with the awesome "The House with a Clock in its walls" movie, be prepared for more mystery, magic and things that go bump in the night with the fabulous book series from John Bellairs and Brad Strickland with awesome illustrations from Nathan Collins for both covers and internals.

"The Vengeance of the Witch Finder" and following closely on its heels "The Ghost in the Mirror" are the perfect summer reads for those of us who like the chilling sensation that we're being watched, or that someone's just walked over our graves.
We catch up with Lewis and his Uncle Jonathan who have travelled to England to visit family at Barnavelt Manor, much to Lewis's delight - he hasn't visited family outside of America before!

Lewis becomes friends with the housekeeper's son, Bertie, and as the two boys explore the manor's garden maze, Lewis accidentally unleashes demonic forces that summon the ghost of an evil wizard adamant on destroying his entire family (you know how it is, you're visiting a foreign country, you unwittingly unleash a wizard that could destroy the world, standard summer holiday stuff, right?)

Can Lewis fight the maniacal wizard, or will all the Barnavelts perish?

And in "The Ghost in the Mirror" Mrs Zimmermann is at a loss - she still hasn't regained her powers from her last encounter with dark magic and Uncle Jonathan and Lewis have left for the summer to travel around Europe, leaving her and Rose Rita bored and lonely at home.

That is until Mrs Zimmermann keeps on seeing visions and shadows of her old magic teacher, Granny Wetherbee, who is trying to contact her from beyond the grave. But just what is going on? And can Granny perhaps hold the key to Mrs Z's problematic lack of magical ability?

These are brilliant, funny and darkly delicious. Catch up with the awesome series with "The Vengeance of the Witch Finder" out now in Paperback, and "The Ghost in the Mirror" coming up in August.

AND we're done! A short and sweet one this month. August is mammoth though so do check out our August roundup towards the end of next month and in the meantime, enjoy a fab summer of reading!

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"Baby's First Jailbreak" by Jim Whalley and Stephen Collins (Bloomsbury Children's Books)

That miscreant tot Frank is back for a new and exciting adventure, following on from "Baby's First Bank Heist"

In "Baby's first Jailbreak" Frank's zoo is suffering from a drop in visitor numbers. Who can be responsible?

Frank soon realises he has a competitor. Baby Bruce! He's a greedy little scamp who's hungry for fame and wants to see Baby Frank's zoo go out of business.

But Frank soon stumbles across a secret. All the animals in Baby Bruce's zoo are unhappy and miserable - so it's time for a grand jailbreak, a baby jailbreak to be precise!

Will Frank prevail?

This is another fizzingly original and brilliant caper from Jim and Stephen, filled with tons of hilarious little details and in-jokes, once again proving that you can't put Baby (Frank) in the corner!

Sum this book up in a sentence: A brilliant baby-animal-filled escape romp that's brilliantly original and superbly entertaining.

"Baby's First Jailbreak" by Jim Whalley and Stephen Collins is out now, published by Bloomsbury Children's Books (kindly supplied for review). 
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Wednesday 24 July 2019

"Alice In Wonderland - A Puzzle Adventure" by Aleksandra Artymowska (Big Picture Press)

You'll see an AWFUL lot of "Alice in Wonderland" books around at the moment, new anthologies of stories based on Lewis Carrol's amazing books, and of course tons and tons of spin-offs and abridged versions.

But how about a huge, brilliantly detailed and luxurious book full of amazing visual puzzles, ranging from amazingly complex mazes, to 'spot the difference' spreads, and tons of hidden objects to spot.

in "Alice in Wonderland - A Puzzle Adventure" by Aleksandra Artymowska you'll find Alice's story laid out as a series of brain-bending puzzle challenges for you to wrap your grey matter around.

There are tons and tons of pages in this, covering the entirety of the story - and all of our favourite bits from Alice falling down the endless hole to enter Wonderland, to a certain queen with a penchant for red roses (even if they're painted white ones!)

More tea, anyone?
All your favourite characters appear, from Alice herself to the Mad Hatter and Mad March Hare.

Can you spot the cheshire cat? Look for his grin!
It's an impressive book, perfect for sprawling out on the floor with.

Sum this book up in a sentence: A devilishly challenging set of themed puzzles based on the stories of Lewis Carroll, and utterly chock full of detail.

"Alice in Wonderland - A Puzzle Adventure" by Aleksandra Artymowska is out now, published by Big Picture Press (kindly supplied for review). 
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"Ancient Egypt Adventure Activity Book" by Jen Alliston (Button Books)

As the summer holidays creep ever closer (or, for some of you lucky folk, are already here) the inevitable sound of wailing may commence at home.


So it's probably a good job that books like "Ancient Egypt Adventure Activity Book" by Jen Alliston exist. Filled to the brim with amazing puzzles, games, activities and superb Egyptian-themed makes, it's perfect for your mini historians.

Sneaking in loads of interesting facts and information about the ancient Egyptians and their amazing civilisation, Jen makes learning fun with loads of brilliantly designed activities to keep young minds buzzing with curiosity and excitement.

There are also over 100 stickers to use in several brilliant themed scenes, again helping kids build up a picture of the amazing history of Egypt.

Not just for mummies, it's good for daddies too!

Sum this book up in a sentence: Perfect summer holiday fare for kids who love their history wrapped in bandages and a wee bit sandy!

"Ancient Egypt Adventure Activity Book" by Jen Alliston is out now, published by Button Books (kindly supplied for review). 
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Tuesday 23 July 2019

Up for a summer reading challenge? Join the #ToppstaKidsBingo Summer book celebration and win yourself some Smiggle goodies too!

Hot enough for ya? Well, the gorgeous sunny weather (hopefully) means lots of opportunities to get out into the fresh air, find a cosy nook and read our TBR pile!

Of course kids needn't miss out, as our fab friends Toppsta are once again running a fantastic summer reading challenge - this time with Summer Reading Bingo!

You can download a printable PDF version of the chart from the link below:

Toppsta is the UK’s leading children’s book review community with over 45,000 reviews. This 12-page pack is free to download and is the perfect resource for keeping primary school children entertained throughout the summer holidays, encouraging them to engage with new and much-loved reads through play.

All they'll need to do is download and print the Toppsta Summer Reading Bingo pack, find the Bingo Card page and complete the mission of reading six books from the different categories (a picture book, a funny book, an illustrated book, a book about adventure or magic, a non-fiction/reference book and a gripping story). 

There are also some other fun things to tick off too like reading a book in the dark with a torch or reading outside in a den. 

Plus, there's the chance to win a £50 Smiggle voucher if you complete the challenge! 

Get reading, and have a fantastic summer of booky fun!

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"The Dinosaur Who Lost her Voice" by Julie Ballard and Francesca Gambatesa (Egmont)

Nary a roar to be heard, nor a sweet musical note!

In "The Dinosaur Who Lost Her Voice" by Julie Ballard and Francesca Gambatesa, you'll meet huge hulking great big spotty dinosaur Milly Jo.

Milly Jo has a beautiful singing voice, but when a storm rages and brings down a tree, it falls on top of Milly (owch) and despite her escaping injury, she can no longer sing! 

Can Milly Jo find a new way to shine with the help of her friends?

This is an engaging story about believing in yourself, adapting to change, and maybe calling on your besties to help you be your very best. 

Bright colourful illustrations and a bouncy story mark this one out as something rather fab. 

Sum this book up in a sentence: An engaging central character, tons of dino fun and a great little moral lesson about the importance of friends. 

"The Dinosaur Who Lost her Voice" by Julie Ballard and Francesca Gambatesa is out now, published by Egmont (kindly supplied for review). 
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Monday 22 July 2019

"Beano - How to Make a Comic" by Nigel Parkinson and Emily McGorman Bruce (Studio Press)

Imagine for a tiny, tiny moment how super-powered you'd feel if you sat down with all your favourite pens and pencils and began to make your very own comic!

We love comics, and we love drawing and making our own so we were delighted to see "How to Make a Comic" from Nigel Parkinson and Emily McGorman Bruce. Not just any comic mind you, but a BEANO flavoured comic - drawing on the amazing skills and experience of two of the best artists working on the comic at the moment.

Though we always get a bit twitch about vandalising our books, this draw-in activity book has everything you need to learn how to make your own comic strips. 

There are tons of awesome sections to get you up to speed including:

- An introduction and top tips from Beano illustrators Nigel and Emily

- Step-by-step instructions on how to draw your favourite characters from Dennis and Gnasher to Minnie, Roger and JJ.

- Design your own character, based on yourself or a family member or friend.

- Insider info on how a comic-strip is put together.

- Story generators, to help you come up with thousands of storyline ideas.

- Loads of character, prop and background illustrations for you to learn how to draw.

- Space for you to design your own comic book cover and comic strips.

Draw him, ink him then colour him - The mighty Dennis the Menace

Of course you can use the exercises yourself on your own pads and paper. This awesome book really does summarise all the skills you'll need, and even talks about the various jobs in comics - from writer to illustrator, inker to colourist - and even those mighty heroes who draw the speech bubbles and add text and sound effects to strips. 

"What is a comic?" It's actually a portal to a whole other universe of COMPLETE AND UTTER AWESOMENESS, that's all!
We've seen quite a few awesome books that tell you how to write and draw your own comics, but this one is fizzing with energy, inspiration and ideas from two of the industry's top talents. 

Sum this book up in a sentence: A super-charged super-powered manual on how to create your own awesome comics in true Beano stylee!

"Beano - How to Make a Comic" by Nigel Parkinson and Emily McGorman Bruce is out now, published by Studio Press (kindly supplied for review). 
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A fab Q & A with Nicki Thornton, author of the fantastic "The Last Chance Hotel" and "The Bad Luck Lighthouse" (Chicken House Books)

Seth is back! And so is Nicki Thornton with the sequel to her superb "The Last Chance Hotel".

In "The Bad Luck Lighthouse" Seth Seppi and his moggy sidekick Nightshade are back for more mysterious antics, all tinged with a touch of dark magic.

We've been totally engrossed in this book for weeks, and it won our well-deserved "Book of the Week" accolade so do go and check out our review.

In the meantime we're also joining the blog tour for this fab book with a devilishly tricky set of questions for Nicki, which she answered with great gusto!

So without further ado, let's dig in!

Take it away Nicki!

5 Questions from Phil

Q1) Congratulations Nicki on your second book! Let's kick off by asking whether it was easier /

harder to work on "The Bad Luck Lighthouse" than "The Last Chance Hotel"?

A1) Thank you! I am delighted I have a second book. Particularly because The Last Chance Hotel was so extremely hard to write.

I thought about the idea for ages. I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted a detective plot. I knew I

needed to construct an entire magical world, and to create a large cast of characters from which you

had to guess whodunnit.

I really wanted it to have all those elements of classical detective stories that I love. To me, this means red herrings, not just clues. You have to be able to bring the reader up short, backtrack, mislead them into thinking the wrong thing...but without leaving them utterly bewildered, or guessing too easily!

The word count for the age group suddenly seemed too small to pack all this in! (I know EXACTLY what you mean! - Ed)

I got the world and the magic and the main characters long before I finally had a plot and a way into

the story. After my far-seeing publisher said they wanted to publish, it then took two years of editing.

I rewrote the entire book four times for structure to navigate where to put the clues / how to balance the backstory / have a complex plot – yet make sure it’s actually very easy to read.

So yes, by the second book, luckily I had a little more idea of how to do it!

Q2) You're so amazing at worldbuilding in your stories! Do you ever have real-life locations in

mind when you think up where you're going to set your books?

A2) Thank you again! Yes indeed. And you quite possibly know the inspiration for The Last Chance Hotel because I suspect you might have been to Wytham Woods in Oxfordshire? (We haven't but we're going to make it our business to do so!! - Ed)

A big, marvellous wood, and right in the middle is this really strange house. It looks like it belongs in the Black Forest – not in the UK at all. And it’s huge. To me it looked like a witch’s house, except blown up to vast proportions.

So, of course, you start to wonder: why would that house have been built here . . .? I never thought the Last Chance Hotel actually looked like that, but I loved the feeling of having stumbled on something extraordinary and that’s I wanted to create.

And, I stayed in a lighthouse once. That isolation and all that raw nature when a storm blew up. Of course I’d have to set a murder mystery there.
You don’t have to travel far to find the world is full of wonder if you have curiosity and imagination and that is pretty much the starting point for my stories.

Q3) I think we might have asked this one before but it's worth asking again. Were there any

customers from your time at Mostly Books who ended up in the books by hook or by crook

(you can tell us, we won't tell anyone else, honest!)

A3) Working in a shop is great for coming into contact with all sorts of people, which is gold dust when it comes to writing characters. Although there is no single person I consciously wanted to put in a book, you can’t help but soak up all the mannerisms and quirkiness out there. You can put in all the niceness you encounter, but also writing is definitely therapeutic for getting out all your crossness!

Q4) We know you're busily working away on book 3. Any sneaky exclusives we can share

about it with our readers or would Chicken House put you in the doghouse for revealing


A4) Ha ha! I was completely thrilled that Chicken House wanted to stay with Seth and his friends – the whole team there has been incredibly supportive. When I was trying to dream up how I could do a murder mystery set in a magical world, I inevitably ended up with a whole world and a huge sprawling story in my head.

One of the difficulties was knowing where to start, and I think that was one of the biggest struggles of writing The Last Chance Hotel – way too much story for one book.

Seth still has a whole lot more to learn about the magical world. He learns more about magic (while

solving a murder, of course). 

In book 3 the action moves deeper into being among magical people. Just as Seth gets a slim chance of a proper magical apprenticeship and a more secure magical future, it is the apprentices who are coming under attack.

In editing, things change – but I’ve just had my first editorial feedback and I’m confident those elements are going to stay! (oooh awesome, you heard it here first folks! - Ed)

Q5) Do you have any would-be author tips and tricks about planning your stories that you'd

love to share?

A5) Learn to love editing!

No, seriously. The thing is to be brave, just write, and accept you are not going to get it all perfect.

Planning for me is less important than writing regularly. Write a lot. And write what’s important to you.

I think about things a lot before I start to write. But knowing what my character wants and what I want my readers to feel is more important than having the plot all sorted out.

Get words on a page. Get to the end (so important). And usually about the end of the first draft the story will reveal itself to you and you will finally know what you are writing about.

...and now 5 questions from C and her mum (who *MIGHT* eventually let me read the book once they've finished it!)

Q6) How long did it take (roughly) to write your second book?

A6) Lovely to hear you are reading it together! Sharing books is such a particularly enjoyable way of reading.

Writing is definitely a habit with me. So I would have started it probably three years ago, working on it in between two years’ of editing for The Last Chance Hotel. 

I finished a first draft of The Bad Luck Lighthouse in September 2018 and for it to have time to go into production and be printed and distributed by summer 2019, all the changes had to be done by January. So it was a slow first two years, then a real foot-to-the-floor. My editor and I did in four months what probably took eighteen for the first book.

Q7) We love the way you describe Nightshade in the book, but are you more of a cat or dog person?

A7) That is so tough, and my answer is that I like both! I have had both cats and dogs that have been important in my life, all of which have had bags of personality, which is probably why I love writing Nightshade. 

She’s got rather a high opinion of herself, but she’s also comforting.

Q8) What made you think up characters named after plants? Great idea by the way!

A8) One of the fun things about being a writer is how you use words to give subtle messages. But these are usually just fun things a writer likes to do, knowing most people won’t even spot them – so you are very clever to have picked up on this.

I have three reasons for doing this (probably sounds like a lot for what seems a really minor part of the book). But plants have such great names. And not many people know them! It is such fun to have a name like bladderwrack, when it’s a real thing and you don’t even have to make it up.

Sorcery in my books is something that has been around for a very long time and often runs in families, so giving many of them ancient, natural names is also a way of emphasising this.

And the final reason is that Seth has lived his life being very in tune with the outdoors, something that is, sadly, increasingly uncommon for children in the UK. So it was partly my way of making plants and nature important to the story.

Q9) If your books became a movie or TV show, who would you cast as Seth?

A9) Please can I have a younger Eddie Redmayne (may need a time machine) (GOOD choice! - Ed)

Q10) What were your favourite books as a child?

A10) I grew up on my mum’s old Enid Blyton books, Paddington, devoured Roald Dahl and loved The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. But I was always a curious reader and stumbled on Agatha Christie and was completely hooked, and spent pretty much the rest of my childhood working my way through Sherlock Holmes, Dorothy Sayers, Ellery Queen, etc. That, coupled with the sorts of things they made me read at school – I think I was probably at least fifteen before I realised that you could actually read a book by a person who wasn’t dead.

Thanks for coming up with all your brilliant questions. Keep reading as a family. It is fantastic!

...And thank YOU Nicki for such a brilliant set of answers to our tricky questions!

THE BAD LUCK LIGHTHOUSE – the sequel to Nicki’s bestselling debut THE LAST CHANCE HOTEL – is out now, published by Chicken House.

Connect with Nicki on Twitter: @nicki_thornton and don't forget to catch up with all the other stops on the Blog Tour below!

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"Busy Tractor" by Samantha Meredith (Campbell Books)

Tiny tiddlers love bright colourful books, but love them even more if there's plenty of interaction going on too.

"Busy Tractor" by Samantha Meredith is one of the range of awesome "Busy" books from Campbell, with lots of details to spot in each page spread, a bouncy rhyming story, and loads of page elements to push, pull and slide, bringing the book to life without the need for apps or batteries. YAY!

It's a great little range, one that had us musing over our own city-bound existence, longing for the wide-open spaces and green fields of the farm, the rumble of the tractor, and of course all amazing animals you can see on the farm too.


Sum this book up in a sentence: A busy little book for busy little tractor fans!

"Busy Tractor" by Samantha Meredith is out now, published by Campbell Books (kindly supplied for review)
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Friday 19 July 2019

ReadItDaddy's Spacetastic Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 19th July 2019: "Flying to the Moon: An Astronaut's Story" by Michael Collins (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

Our Chapter Book of the Week comes from one of the very men who was part of the monumentous Apollo 11 mission 50 years ago.

Michael Collins had a reputation for being the "Arty" astronaut (after all, he designed the mission patch for the Apollo 11 mission) and it comes across here in the fantastic revised edition of "Flying to the Moon: An Astronaut's Story".

Collins is one of my heroes. Armstrong and Aldrin might have come away from the mission as the men who walked on the moon, but Collins' role in that mission cannot be understated, and here he describes his life and the run up to his selection for the NASA Astronaut programme with humility and character. In fact his introduction in this very book might have you shedding a few tears, as he describes how he's too old to go to Mars - but dang, if it wasn't for his age he would've put himself forward, I bet.

As child-friendly biographies go, again this is a departure from the stuff we've seen recently - where well-meaning folk have given heavily abridged versions of a particular famous person's life story, almost as if kids can't deal with the complexities of reading about an adult and need that information watering down.

Here, in Collins' own words, is his story. Delivered to kids not in patronising tones, but treating them as his equal, and urging them onwards in their own efforts, perhaps even their own attempts to become astronauts or involved with the space programme themselves.

This is superb, atmospheric, and even if you think you know a ton about that amazing mission, it's absolutely brilliant to read it from one of the guys who went aboard that towering and gigantic rocket with one aim in mind, to make sure his mission colleagues made it safely there and back.

Sum this book up a sentence: A thoroughly absorbing and gripping read about one of the unsung heroes of the Apollo 11 Mission, the guy who stayed behind while Armstrong and Aldrin went to the moon - but every bit as scintillating as their own biogs.

"Flying to the Moon: An Astronauts Story" by Michael Collins is out now, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Self purchased, not supplied for review)
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