Thursday 31 October 2019

All schools need a well stocked and staffed library and this should be a PRIORITY in any proposed Government Literacy Strategy - no ifs, no buts - This Week's #ReadItTorial

Testing. Testing is still seen as the be all and end all of driving and determining a child's level of literacy, numeracy and skill in other academic subjects. The current Government (I use that term loosely, 'cage of gibbons' is probably more of an appropriate description but I quite like gibbons so maybe not) believes this entirely, and has spent its years in power promoting and pushing that on education professionals at all levels.

Literacy in particular has been under such close scrutiny, and it's clear that the current education strategies are failing kids left right and centre, and not producing the magical literacy engagement that folk want to see. A mass of fronted adverbials, and the almost rectal pain of trying to get kids enthusiastic about reading, books and literacy through deep analysis of the structure of our language is clearly missing the point.

I was lucky as a kid. Lucky that even though I went to three very rough schools, each had its own library (in fact the roughest of the three had a huge library, extremely well stocked, that wasn't just a place to go and find amazing books but a refuge for kids like me who really wanted to be anywhere else other than the playground at playtime). It wasn't even something that was discussed or debated back then. Nearly all schools would consider it to be one of the most important resources, and the librarian to be someone that wasn't just there to check out books, but someone who could drive that much-sought-after engagement with books (have you, honestly, ever met a librarian who just did their job for the paycheck?)

My passion for books and reading came from home and from parents / grandparents and uncles, but also from our school librarian who (with a twinkle in her eye) could almost uncannily predict which books would be a hit or a miss with me.

My daughter has attended the same school from Reception right through to seniors, again a school that (thankfully) not only has a library but recognises its importance as a resource and a hub for its pupils. Sadly libraries are often the first thing to be cut when a school needs to tighten its belt, and on Twitter the rallying cry of librarians, authors, illustrators and just about everyone involved in kidlit is loud and singular in focus - Schools need libraries, no ifs no buts.

We often hear the same thing - that prisons are required to have libraries and books yet schools aren't and I can't even get my head around why this is a thing. I understand that there are folk who share the view that the internet is all the library we need now, but the internet is an unstaffed resource full of misinformation, fake news, distractions and of course a smattering of useful knowledge that's as much fun to unpick as all the cables nestling under your telly. We need libraries - in our towns, in our schools, and we can drive amazing engagement with books through them, we can let kids build their own reading journeys without pushing tests and ridiculous deconstruction of the language on them. It can be done but the push has to come from the top.
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Super-Special Halloween Book Review - "The House of Madame M" by Clotilde Perrin, translated by Daniel Hann (Gecko Press)

You've already seen our fabulous Halloween Book Roundup, but we felt this super-spooky book deserved a review slot all of its own.

From the author of the fantastic "Inside the Monsters" comes "The House of Madame M" by Clotilde Perrin, translated by Daniel Hann.

Take a mysterious journey through the doors of a scary house, and gaze in wonder at the many spooky little secrets hidden inside.

As the story unfolds, under the mysterious gaze of an unseen hostess, your guide takes you on a tour of the house, inviting you to open up all the little nooks, crannies, 'lift the flap' bits and other hidden surprises to reveal something scary within those walls (don't worry, it's not too disturbing or frightening for little ones, in fact they'll get a huge giggle out of this book!)

It's brilliant - we've seen many attempts to devise a book filled with secret scares, but this is so beautifully designed we've fallen completely in love with it. Let's take a look at one of the multi-layered 'reveals' inside (hopefully without spoiling it too much!)

What's inside the cupboard?

Cue scary music
Er no thanks I've already eaten!
Thanks to some truly brilliant and inspired book mechanics and gorgeously dark illustrations, this one's a real win for a bit of spooky storytime fun.

Sum this book up in a sentence: Lots of tricks, lots of treats, definitely our favourite halloween picture book of the year.

"The House of Madame M" by Clotilde Perrin and Daniel Hann is out now, published by Gecko Press (kindly supplied for review). 

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Time for a colossal spooky book extravaganza. Our pick of this year's spooky titles perfect for late night scares on Halloween!

Tonight's the night for dressing up, eating way too many sweeties, and scaring the bejesus out of your friends and neighbours with a spooky costume!

But it's also a good time to dig out a brace of fantastic new scary books perfect for tonight's shenanigans, starting with a Book of the Week winner par excellence.

"The World of the Unknown: All About Ghosts" is a reprint of the 1977 classic, back in all its glory with a new foreword by spooky guy Reece Shearsmith, and an "inside the back cover" quote from this very blog.

It's a childhood fave of mine, and it's fab to see it back to scare the pee out of a whole new generation of fans. An absolute work of genius bringing this back in time for Halloween 2019!

"The World of the Unknown: All About Ghosts" is out now, published by Usborne Publishing. 

How could we possibly let halloween pass without a few vampires around the place?

"Dracula Spectacular" by Lucy Rowland and Ben Mantle features a very different vampire - one that shuns the usual black gothic-like clothing for something far more sparkly and bright, in this spooky but delicious tale of being happy in your own skin, being kind to others, and being ultra-colourful too!

It’s tough being a vampire when you’re more giggles and glitter than beastly and bitter.

But will Dracula Boy dare to follow his heart and live life in technicolour?

Full of spooks and sparkles, Dracula Spectacular is a heart-warming story about learning to be brave, kind and above all, proud to be yourself. It bounces along fabulously with rhyming text and a heartwarming core message, perfect for tinies who might not want too many scares later on.

"Dracula Spectacular" by Lucy Rowland and Ben Mantle is out now, published by Macmillan Children's Books. 

More vampish fun now, with the grandaddy of all vampires!

"Bram Stoker's Dracula" with fantastic illustrations and a graphic-novel treatment by Ben Caldwell is a superb title in the All Action Classics range.

In 1897, Bram Stoker gave the world one of literature s most compelling characters - and, since then, Dracula has thrilled and terrified generations of fans.

Now the evil Count Dracula comes alive in an electrifying graphic novel that follows the vampire from his looming and ominous castle in Transylvania to Victorian London. 

Michael Mucci translates the tale and Ben Caldwell has created action-packed images, with meticulous attention paid to the finer details in each piece of art, from facial expressions to the historical accuracy of costuming, architecture and heraldry. Young readers will be completely transfixed! 

All-Action Classics are full-colour graphic adaptations of the world's greatest and most action-filled-stories. 

These books are produced by Eisner Award-nominated artist Ben Caldwell (Action Cartooning) and adapted by an exciting new generation of writers, cartoonists and comic artists. 

"All Action Classics: Dracula" by Bram Stoker, Michael Mucci and Ben Caldwell is out now, published by Sterling Publishing. 

From Vampires to Zombies, well an entire family of horrors in the fabulous "Moldilocks and the Three Scares - A Zombie Tale" by Lynne Marie and David Rodriguez Lorenzo. 

Forget Goldilocks and the three bears, here's Moldilocks - a small zombie girl starring in a delightfully zombie-tastic new version of the popular story.

Papa Scare (a monster), Mama Scare (a mummy) and Baby Scare (a vampire) live in a haunted house where they eat finger sandwiches and alpha-bat soup. 

One night, they go out to walk their dog (a bloodhound, of course) to let their soup cool down. While they re away, in walks the zombie Moldilocks, looking for food, a chair and a bed that s just right. 

Kids will love this hauntingly funny story with its surprise ending perfect for a snuggly read tonight while bats flit around outside!

"Moldilocks and the Three Scares: A Zombie Tale" by Lynne Marie and David Rodriguez Lorenzo is out now, published by Sterling. 

More you say? More? 

There's nothing like a dark twist on a well-loved tale, and we're finally delighted to meet a Bethan Woollvin Book (having missed out on all her previous fairy tale treatments, alas). 

"Hansel and Gretel" by Bethan Woollvin is a good place to catch up though, wrought in Bethan's darkly delicious style, retelling the tale of the two lost children - but this time from the perspective of the kindly old witch who lives in the gingerbread house. 

The two lost children are found in the forest, scattering breadcrumbs to help them find their way home. But the goodly witch is worried that the crumbs will attract birds and mice to peck away at her gingerbread house. 

When the kids spot the house it's time to snack on witchy-poo's lovely domicile - and before long those two rotten kids are causing all kinds of havoc!

Wait for the twist at the end, it's absolutely perfect for halloween!

"Hansel and Gretel" by Bethan Woollvin is out now, published by Two Hoots Books. 

Finally, everyone's favourite witch is back for an all new adventure!

"Winnie and Wilbur: The Bug Safari" by Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul shrinks the awesome Winnie and her long-suffering moggy Wilbur down to ant-size!

When Winnie and Wilbur discover life in miniature, the bugs in their garden suddenly seem very big indeed. It's the start of an exciting safari. But when excitement turns to survival, mini Winnie and tiny Wilbur would rather be their rightful size again. There's one small problem: teeny Winnie can't wave her whopping wand! EEK!

Bugs, minibeasts, and creepy-crawlies are endlessly fascinating to children and they come under the spotlight in Winnie and Wilbur's latest adventure, perfect for would-be witchies and bug-hunters. 

"Winnie and Wilbur: The Bug Safari" by Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul is out now, published by OUP / Oxford Children's Books. 

Even an author normally renowned for her rather cosy little tales was no stranger to spooky stories...

"Tales of Tricks and Treats" by Enid Blyton is a fabulous anthology of 30 stories from Enid's 'dark period' - featuring brilliant bite-sized tales to send a tremor down your spine.

Shiver to the delights of The Magic Rubber, don a pair of Dame Roundy's Stockings, and dash home for a refreshing beverage from The Magic Teapot.

These are superb little tales that are perfect to be read out loud by torchlight on a balmy Halloween evening.

With cover and internal art from Mark Beech, it's a fantastic booky keepsake you'll want to bring out every Halloween!

"Tales of Tricks and Treats" by Enid Blyton and Mark Beech is out now, published by Hodder Children's Books. 

More monstrous goings on in our next spooky book choice...

"Nelly the Monster Sitter: The Hott Heds and No.87 is the third book in a hilarious and horrorstruck new series from Kes Gray and Chris Jevons.

Nelly isn't scared of monsters, in fact she loves nothing better than to babysit for her monster neighbours - and this time it's the turn of The Hott Heds at Number 87.

Ever swum with a Water Greep, or played hotscotch with a Hott Hed? 

Every time Nelly rings on a new monster family's doorbell she's up for a new challenge. 

Come on her monster-sitting adventures in this laugh-out-loud funny third book in the NELLY THE MONSTER SITTER series.

"Nelly the Monster Sitter: The Hott Heds at Number 87" by Kes Gray and Chris Jevons is out now, published by Hodder Children's Books. 

More books for younger readers now, and a new book in a series we loved to bits last halloween. 

"Mrs Blackhat and the ZoomBroom" by Mick and Chloe Inkpen sees the return of our fave witch in this hilarious rhyming picture book from the creator of the bestselling Kipper series.

Mrs Blackhat has a new broom. And it's not just any broom: it's a whizzy new ZoomBroom, with buttons, bleeps and its very own app!

But what will Mrs Blackhat do when the battery runs low?

Maybe it's time for some old-fashioned magic ...

A wickedly funny Halloween tale, with a timely message about embracing technology and good old-fashioned magic.

"Mrs Blackhat and the ZoomBroom" by Chloe and Mick Inkpen is out now, published by Hodder Children's Books. 

No Supertatos next but a fabulous new character just perfect for this spooky time of year from a dynamic book-creating trio!

"Christopher Pumpkin" is the latest creation from Sue Hendra, Paul Linnet and Nick East.

Meet Christopher Pumpkin - the Halloween pumpkin who doesn't want to be scary in this hilarious new rhyming adventure.

Christopher Pumpkin is delighted to be magicked to life by a witch - until he discovers she wants him and the other pumpkins to get her creepy castle ready for the spookiest party ever! 

Chris just can't bring himself to hang cobwebs and cook curried slugs - he's much more into bunting and fairy cakes!

A delightful story about blazing your own trail, perfect for reading aloud!

"Christopher Pumpkin" by Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet, with illustrations by Nick East is out now, published by Hodder Children's Books. 

Finally a gorgeous new book for fans of the "I Love" book series. 

"I Love Halloween" by Emma Dodd and Giles Andreae is a fun-filled Halloween picture book, perfect for sharing with even the littlest monsters!

It's Halloween today. Woo-hoo! There's so much spooky stuff to do.

Join the fun making ghost cookies, preparing pumpkins, making witches hats and dressing up . . . before setting out on a trick-or-treat adventure!

Little ones will love reading the gentle rhyming story together and looking at all the bright, colourful illustrations.

It's a much-loved series given a spooky turn but without any scares or shivers, perfect for a bedtime snuggle after trick or treating!

"I Love Halloween" by Emma Dodd and Giles Andreae is out now, published by Hodder Children's Books. 

More for tiny toddlers this time, and a series that we absolutely adore - with a perfect halloweeny-type creature celebrated in time honoured fashion.

"That's Not My Bat (its ears are too hairy)" by Fiona Watt and Rachel Wells is a fabulous halloweeny-coloured tribute to our leathery-winged pals.

Bats are amazing creatures, but little ones will love the interactive and sturdy board book filled with lots of different colours, textures and a fun bouncy text to read along with.

Can you believe this book series is celebrating its 20th anniversary? Nope, neither can we, and this is definitely the perfect trick-or-treat bag filler for tiddly kiddywinks.

"That's Not My Bat" by Fiona Watt and Rachel Wells is out now, published by Usborne.

Equally adorable from Usborne is the fabulous Halloween story for Poppy and Sam.

"Poppy and Sam's Halloween Party" by Sam Taplin and Simon Taylor-Kielty sees the twins dressing up and ready for a spooky time.

Rusty the dog has gone missing

Can Poppy and Sam find him in time for their Halloween party? 

Little children will love looking through the peep holes and touching the textured pages in this charming book with bats, pumpkins, spiders and the adorable animals of Apple Tree Farm to spot on every page. 

And of course, don't forget to spot the duck on every page!

"Poppy and Sam's Halloween Party" by Sam Taplin and Simon Taylor-Kielty is out now, published by Usborne. 

One more to squeeze in (or should that be out?) before we go, a monster filled delight indeed!

"There's a Troll on my Toilet" by Catherine Jacob and Mike Byrne is a superbly funny story perfect for this time of year. 

It's not just trolls you'll have to worry about, there are all manner of spooky monsters inhabiting the house. There's a strange vampire granny in the attic, a selfie-snapping Werewolf downstairs, and a Mummy creeping around smooching with Frankenstein's monster. 

From award-winning tv correspondent Catherine Jacob, and bestselling illustrator of Sproutzilla vs Christmas Mike Byrne, comes this super spooky and super fun picture book.

Go grab your witch's hat, watch out for the icky sticky green slime, and get ready for a frightfully good time.

Because this is one haunted house that you will love exploring!

"There's a Troll on my Toilet" by Catherine Jacob and Mike Byrne is out now, published by Scholastic. 

Finally a book that wants your BRAIIIIINNNNNNSSS! Your creative brains, don't worry! "The Monster Book of Zombies, Spooks and Ghouls" by Jason Ford is a truly brilliant drawing, art and activity book destined to become something we spend an awful lot of time with - as we love nothing better than drawing and doodling spooky stuff.

Jason has pulled together some of the most excellent drawing and art prompts imaginable, so get your best coloured pens, pencils and crayons - plus a dash of invisible ink and perhaps some squeezed out bat-juice (ew) for a spooky artistic and fun book that (whisper) positively encourages you to draw all over it (note to kids - don't do this with any of the other books in our roundup, OK?)

It's absolutely superb and perfect for halloween artistic endeavours for all ages.

"The Monster Book of Zombies, Spooks and Ghouls" by Jason Ford is out now, published by Laurence King Publishing. 

(all books kindly supplied for review). 
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Wednesday 30 October 2019

"Little People Big Dreams: Mary Shelley" by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara and Yelena Bryksenkova (Frances Lincoln Children's Books)

The fantastic "Little People, Big Dreams" range from Frances Lincoln Children's Books is a real blog favourite but when we heard about this particular title, we just could not wait to get our hands on it.

"Little People Big Dreams: Mary Shelley" by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara and Yelena Bryksenkova is probably our favourite of the range yet, and it's perfectly timed for arrival just as we're preparing for Halloween.

After all, what better way to indulge our darker gothic and spooky side by learning about the woman who pretty much started it all.

Mary Shelley's early life was tinged with tragedy, losing her amazing mother at 11 days old, and finding little solace in her new step-family - but eventually becoming very close to her stepsister.

Mary's imagination was incredible, and she loved to hear stories told by her father's many creative friends - including Percy Bysshe Shelley, who she later married.

But without a doubt her fame comes from her most divine creation, "Frankenstein: or the Modern Prometheus" - a book that lit a fire under me as a youngster, and a book that Mary dreamed up while on a retreat with her husband, her stepsister and their influential circle of friends.

An early life tinged with tragedy that would lead Mary to write a masterwork of horror, love, life and death
When first published, her identity as the author was hidden for many years before it was revealed. Now, rightly, she is recognised as one of the most influential and inspirational writers ever.

If it's even possible to have a historical crush on someone, I've got one for Mary Shelley. 
This book is brilliant, summarising Mary's life brilliantly, with suitably dark and gothic illustrations to underpin Mary's story, and a ton of brilliant facts about "Frankenstein" and the many iterations of the story that have appeared in books, movies and TV.

It's made me want to read the book all over again (as I have done many, many times). Truly brilliant stuff from Maria and Yelena.

Sum this book up in a sentence: A truly fabulous summary of the life of Mary Shelley, one of the most important writers ever to take up a pen and the perfect book for a bit of halloween reading!

"Little People Big Dreams: Mary Shelley" by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara and Yelena Bryksenkova is out now, published by Frances Lincoln Children's Books (kindly supplied for review). 
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"Prehistoric" by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld and Julius Csotonyi (What On Earth Books, Smithsonian)

Step back in time, way back in time to find out all about how our earth was formed - and how the most amazing lifeforms began to emerge from the slime and swamps of our primordial world.

"Prehistoric: Dinosaurs, Megaladons and other Fascinating Creatures of the Deep Past" by Kathleen Weidner Zoefeld and Julius Csotonyi stretches a curious gaze back to a time when truly mighty and magnificent creatures stalked the planet.

This is the perfect book for dinosaur lovers, stopping in frozen ice ages, lush prehistoric rainforests, and ancient oceans along the way.

Bold illustrations allow children to discover fascinating creatures, including hungry dinosaurs and enormous mammoths. 

Infographics reveal the secrets of Earth's geology and environments, linking ancient creatures and places to our own time and to some of the major issues facing societies right now, such as climate change, deforestation, and extinction events.

Sum this book up in a sentence: The perfect book for curious kids who love finding out what life was like in prehistoric times.

"Prehistoric" by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld and Julius Csotonyi is out now, published by What On Earth Books / Smithsonian (kindly supplied for review)
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ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book Roundup - October 2019

Welcome to our spooky October Chapter Book Roundup where we kick off with something entirely appropriate for the spooky goings on that'll happen over the next couple of days (No I'm not talking about Brexit, at least I hope I'm not!)

So let's start with "The Ghouls of Howlfair" by Nick Tomlinson.

Molly Thompson has lots of questions.

Questions like, is her Aunt Carol an undead fiend who drinks the blood of the living? (Possibly!)

Is she secretly lurking in the attic? (Most definitely!)

And is Molly's friend Lowry a descendant of a long line of Kroglin werewolves? (The hair might be a bit of a giveaway).

Molly loves history and diligently does her research into these strange goings on, suspecting that the creepy legends about her tourist town of Howlfair are starting to come true. 

But when her mother bans her from doing any further research, bookworm Molly and her friends - scatty Lowry and guardian-cat Gabriel - become covert monster-hunters to keep Howlfair safe. It seems that someone is secretly trying to summon Howlfair's mythical monsters, and with the election of a new town mayor looming, everything – and everyone – is becoming increasingly suspicious. 

With a dose of chills, thrills and scares alongside a mighty middle grade heroine par excellence, this is perfect for a Halloween read. 

"The Ghouls of Howlfair" by Nick Tomlinson is out now, published by Walker Books. 

Next up, more mighty girl action - or should I say mighty girls, as we meet 8 unique princesses for the rebel girl generation. 

"Eight Princesses and a Magic Mirror" by Natasha Farrant and Lydia Corry is a superb collection of stories featuring brave, curious and mighty girls who each have their own stories to tell. 

'Mirror, mirror on the wall... what makes a princess excellent?' An enchantress flings her magic mirror into our universe. 

Reflected in it are princesses who refuse to be pretty, polite or obedient. Through the centuries and around the world these girls are fierce, brave, and determined to do the rescuing themselves. 

The desert princess protects her people from the king with the black and gold banner. The forest princess takes a crocodile for a pet. An island princess explores the high seas. A mountain princess puts kindness above being royal. And in a tower-block in a city, Princess saves her community garden from the hands of urban developers.

These are brilliant modern stories that also feel traditional and beautifully crafted. Definitely one for girls and boys who love reading about strong and determined female characters (well, that's all of us then, right?)

"Eight Princesses and a Magic Mirror" by Natasha Farrant and Lydia Corry is out now, published by Zephyr. 

Next, a series that we've been raving about - both in its original Graphic Novel form and now in this superb series of chapter books teasing out the story of those amazing mighty girls staying at Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's Camp for Hardcore Lady Types.

"Lumberjanes: Ghost Cabin" by Mariko Tamaki and Brooklyn Allen takes Ripley, Jo, April, Molly and Mal on more crazy and spooky adventures with a supernatural twist. 

This time the girls realise there seems to be a mysterious extra cabin in camp. No ordinary cabin this - it's entirely populated by ghosts? But what do the supernatural fiends want? Certainly not just a couple of smores or a weiner on a stick. 

This is book four (sob, the last in the series) so hoover up the rest as well as this one, you're in for a solid treat!

"Lumberjanes: Ghost Cabin" by Mariko Tamaki and Brooklyn Allen is out now, published by Amulet Books. 

Now something rather special, a book that kicks off a whole new series for an author who has stamped his mark on a genre that we didn't know existed (but have just invented) Superspy Fairytale Magic Fiction!

It's the return to the world of Artemis Fowl, but this time introducing "The Fowl Twins" by Eoin Colfer. 

Myles and Beckett Fowl are twins but the two boys are wildly different.

Beckett is blonde, messy and sulks whenever he has to wear clothes. 

Myles is impeccably neat, has an IQ of 170, and 3D prints a fresh suit every day – just like his older brother, Artemis Fowl.

A week after their eleventh birthday the twins are left in the care of house security system, NANNI, for a single night. In that time, they befriend a troll on the run from a nefarious nobleman and an interrogating nun both of whom need the magical creature for their own gain . . .

Prepare for an epic adventure in which The Fowl Twins and their new troll friend escape, get shot at, kidnapped, buried, arrested, threatened, killed (temporarily) . . . and discover that the strongest bond in the world is not the one forged by covalent electrons in adjacent atoms, but the one that exists between a pair of twins.

Superbly written, full of all the glorious neat and original touches of the original Artemis Fowl books but now with two crazy protagonists to keep track of, this is sure to be a huge huge success and was a completely immersive and awesome read for both of us. 

"The Fowl Twins" by Eoin Colfer is out on 5th November (remember, remember), published by HarperCollins Children's Books

We're huge cat fans on the blog so we were delighted to finally catch up with this next book series.

"Toto the Ninja Cat and the Superstar Catastrophe" by Dermot O'Leary and Nick East is the celebrity's children's book series, written with a deft touch and definite insider knowledge of all things catty (as Dermot has two himself!)

After months of keeping London safe from notorious animal bad guys, Toto the Ninja Cat is going on a well-earned holiday to the world's most famous music festival - Catstonbury!

But a villain has a dastardly plan to hypnotise the crowd when a world-famous band is on stage, turning them into evil minions. How can Toto possibly prevent the catastrophe when everyone thinks the band is the cat's pyjamas?

It will take all Toto's ninja skills - and some help from a friendly otter - to save the day. 

Fast paced, action packed and with plenty of moggy giggles along the way, it's rather good indeed!

"Toto the Ninja Cat and the Superstar Catastrophe" by Dermot O'Leary and Nick East is out now, published by Hodder Children's Books.

Time to step back to the swinging sixties with a new mystery book from the awesome author of "The Secret of the Night Train".

"Trouble in New York" by Sylvia Bishop is a fab adventure for three awesome kids.

Meet Jamie Creeden who has always wanted to be a reporter. Jamie jumps at the chance when he is offered a tour of the famous New Yorker newspaper.

But a chance phone call draws him into a strange mystery surrounding the disappearance of a famous actress. 

Soon Jamie, along with his new friends Ellie and Rose, must navigate a tense world of infamous villains, double crosses and carefully planted clues - a world in which he can trust absolutely no one. 

He still longs to be on the front page - but at what cost?

With quite an unusual setting for a middle grade book, but brilliantly tight writing, this is fabulous stuff. 

"Trouble in New York" by Sylvia Bishop is out now, published by Scholastic Children's Books. 

We love books that help children bridge the gap between large sized picture books with minimal text, to something more text heavy but retaining lots of brilliant colourful illustrations. 

In Little Tiger's new range of storybooks you'll find exactly that, and here's "Speedy Monkey" by picture book superstars Jeanne Willis and Chantelle & Burgen Thorne. 

Deep in the rainforest all is peaceful and calm. That is until Speedy Monkey comes along to make some noise! 

Speedy can't keep still – all day long he whoops and swoops, prances and dances.

The other animals are tired of Speedy's crazy capers and long for some peace and quiet. Then danger strikes and the animals have to act fast. 

But where is Speedy when they need him?

An energetic story about being yourself, perfect for kids who are gaining in confidence with their solo reading. 

"Speedy Monkey" by Jeanne Willis and Chantelle and Burgen Thorne is out now, published by Stripes / Little Tiger Press. 

Also from the same range is the fabulous "A Sea of Stories" by Sylvia Bishop and Paddy Donnelly. 

Whenever Roo visits Grandpa, she loves exploring the seaside cove near his cottage. 

But on her latest stay, Grandpa explains that he can’t go down there any more – the path is too steep and overgrown for him to manage. Poor Grandpa!

Instead Grandpa tells Roo the stories behind the many objects that fill his house. 

All of Grandpa’s stories feature the cove and Roo realizes that now, even though they’re so close to the sea, Grandpa is cut off from it. 

Is there anything she can do to bring Grandpa to the place he loves the most?

An inspiring tale about the importance of sharing stories. "A Sea of Stories" by Sylvia Bishop and Paddy Donnelly is out now, published by Stripes / Little Tiger Press. 

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Tuesday 29 October 2019

"Who am I?" by Tim Flach (Abrams Young Readers)

This book is brilliantly cheeky, with a whole brilliant series of 'peep through' pages that work so cleverly for tinies who love animals.

Yet the core theme underlying Tim Flach's excellent "Who am I?" is a serious one indeed.

Each of the animals featured in this gloriously photographed book are endangered, their habitats being encroached on by humans, or destroyed for resources.

Find inside a giant panda munching on bamboo.

Or perhaps a yellow-eyed tree frog hiding in a tropical forest!

 Who Am I? uses clever riddles and stunning images by esteemed photographer Tim Flach (taken from his Abrams adult book Endangered) to introduce ten vital species-at-risk to readers. 

With its engaging and timely message, this beautifully crafted picture book is perfect for the youngest animal enthusiasts.

Sum this book up in a sentence: A stunningly presented book with a serious message for little ones about how many of these animals are hanging on the brink of extinction, mostly at our hands. 

"Who am I?" by Tim Flach is out now, published by Abrams Young Readers. 
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"The Wind in the Willows" by Kenneth Grahame and Grahame Baker-Smith (Templar Classics)

Here's a book we've seen many, many different versions of during our (nearly) ten years of blogging about books, and one that many illustrators have put their own particular style to, drawing up the well-known and well-loved scenes from Kenneth Grahame's timeless children's classic.

This time, one of our favourite children's illustrators, Grahame Baker-Smith brings his deft touch to "The Wind in the Willows", complimenting a largely unabridged version of the original classic story with the most stunning images, making this already atmospheric story even more inviting and daydreamy.

The classic tale of Mr Toad, Ratty, Mole, Badger and the rest of the riverside animals - swapping between scenes of tranquil idyll while boating and picnicing on the river, through to Mr Toad's rather unfortunate incidents with motor vehicles, his dramatic escape from prison, and the fight to take back Toad Hall from a bunch of ferrety ne'er do wells may be very well known, but there's always something new to discover, something charming and brilliant - even though we still consider this book to be quite a tough read for a modern audience.

But ah, Grahame Baker Smith's illustrations really do give this whole thing a really classic feel (cloth-bound and instantly a keepsake the minute you see it presented just like the old fashioned editions of the books I first got my grubby mitts on as a tiny tot).

Gorgeous or what?

Sum this book up in a sentence: A gorgeous gift edition of one of the most timeless and well-loved children's classics, beautifully illustrated by a master of evocative and atmospheric paintings for children's books.

"The Wind in the Willows" by Kenneth Grahame and Grahame Baker-Smith is out now, published by Templar (kindly supplied for review). 
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"Waiting for Wolf" by Sandra Dieckmann (Hodder Children's Books)

Books that sensitively deal with the subject of loss and grief are very much a source of interest for us. It's a very tough thing to get absolutely right in a children's picture book, and in "Waiting for Wolf" by Sandra Dieckmann, Sandra builds a simple story of a friendship between a fox and a wolf.

When life is good it feels like it could last forever, but Wolf is level-headed - and begins to prepare Fox for a day when he might not be around any more.

Fox doesn't understand at first, but begins to see things from a different perspective, recalling Wolf's wisdom and words of comfort, and imagining what happens to us all when we eventually pass.

Sandra's evocative artwork is surreal and glorious, drawing you into the tale and establishing a strong visual theme that helps to underpin the core message of the book so perfectly.

Ethereal, stunning, and lovely work. Let's take a look at a couple of interior pages...

When life is good, it feels like it could last forever for the two friends, Fox and Wolf
A strong friendship and wise words from Wolf
Sum this book up in a sentence: A quite beautiful and ethereal story of friendship, loss and grief and how we cope when we lose those we love.

"Waiting for Wolf" by Sandra Dieckmann is out now, published by Hodder Children's Books (kindly supplied for review). 
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Monday 28 October 2019

"A Cat Called Trim" by Corinne Fenton and Craig Smith (Allen and Unwin)

A life on the ocean wave isn't the sort of thing you'd expect a cat to enjoy, but here's a fascinating book about a very special seafaring moggy indeed!

"A Cat Called Trim" by Corinne Fenton and Craig Smith is the true story of a brave ship's cat who sailed the world with Captain Matthew Flinders, a map-maker and explorer extraordinaire!

As Flinders set sail to map out the Australian coastline for the first time, this story tells a tale from Trim's perspective about what life must have been like on a sailing ship. 

Keeping order, dealing with bullies and of course ensuring that the ship's rats didn't scoff all the supplies were just part and parcel of brave Trim's daily life, beautifully told in a story book that once again proves that kids can cope with a heavy word count if the story is brilliant and focused and filled with gorgeous illustrations. 

Sum this book up in a sentence: A superb tale that will astonish and astound in equal measure. Trim was definitely one very special puss!

"A Cat Called Trim" by Corinne Fenton and Craig Smith is out now, published by A & U (kindly supplied for review). 
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"Cats React to Science Facts" by Izzi Howell (Wayland Publishing)

Cats make everything about 5 billion percent cooler, it's a scientific fact - and it's not the only one crammed into "Cats React to Science Facts" by Izzi Howell.

Prepare yourself for a mind-bending combination of cuteness and amazing eye-boggling science crammed into this zany and attractively presented book for younger would be scientists (and of course cat fans).

Find out why you can't burp in space, or how cow farts could actually make electricity.

Find out how your ears pick up sounds and translate these into messages your brain understands.

Learn all about weird materials that exist in our world, or strange creatures that lurk in our rainforests and deserts.

Each catty fact comes with a "React-O-Meter" ranging from "WOW!" to "Mind-Blowing".

With tons of cute (and not so cute) kitties to guide you on your way, it's a science smorgasbord with a furry tail! Let's take a peek inside...

Learn all about materials with a collection of fuzzy little buddies. 
Ear Ear! How do your ears work?
Sum this book up in a sentence: A superb little science book for younger kids, but C (who adores cats in any shape or form) absolutely lapped this up like a cat laps up gold top!

"Cats React to Science Facts" by Izzi Howell is out now, published by Wayland Publishing (kindly supplied for review). 
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Friday 25 October 2019

ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 25th October 2019: "The Girl Who Speaks Bear" by Sophie Anderson and Kathrin Honesta (Usborne Children's Books)

Our Chapter Book of the Week is something very special indeed, and a book that we really took our time over, savouring every single glorious descriptive moment of it.

"The Girl who Speaks Bear" by Sophie Anderson, with cover by Kathrin Honesta, is the second book from the massively talented author of "The House With Chicken Legs" (which we sadly missed out on - but will definitely be sticking on our 'to buy' list given how amazing this book is).

The books open with a simple prologue, described from the point of view of a young girl named Yanka. They call her Yanka the Bear because she's as strong as one, and her earliest memory is of the huge bear that nuzzled her and protected her before she was found, abandoned, in a cave as a babe in arms.

Yanka is not like the other children - she grows taller and stronger by the day, and villagers often ask for her help. But Yanka always returns home every night, safe and warm in the home she shares with her foster mother Mamochka. Theirs is a simple life but soon Yanka will learn more about herself, and her world than she could possibly ever imagine.

Sophie once again delves into traditional oral and written stories from other countries to provide something sparkling, imaginative and atmospheric that just draws you right into Yanka's tale as it begins to unfold - with so many things for girls like C to identify with and nod wrily along with.

I'd find her tucked up in bed with this book over the course of the two evenings she polished it off in, absolutely pulled into this book, and savouring every moment until the hugely satisfying end.

Definitely not to be missed!

Sum this book up in a sentence: A rich and glorious classic-feeling story of bravery and acceptance from a writer who pours their heart and soul into their books.

"The Girl Who Speaks Bear" by Sophie Anderson, with cover by Kathrin Honesta, is out now, published by Usborne Children's Books (kindly supplied for review). 

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ReadItDaddy's Third Book of the Week - Week Ending 25th october 2019: "Marvel Museum - The Story of the Comics" curated by Ned Hartley (Studio Press / Marvel)

80 (seriously!!) years ago, the entire landscape of comics changed and in our third Book of the Week this week we're celebrating the mighty Marvel universe - not the billion-dollar money machine that is the Marvel Movie Universe - but the very comics that captured my imagination as a kid, and have been inspiring comic fans for generations.

"Marvel Museum: The Story of the Comics" is a colossal book packed with amazing information about the Marvel Comics Universe - and the pivotal figures that shaped characters that have now become such a huge part of our pop culture, that even non-comics folk know who they are (yep, even my wife could probably name a handful of MCU characters purely on sight, but confesses that her deep love for Wolverine is possibly largely to do with a certain Mr Jackman owning that role).

Comics aficionado Ned Hartley has brought his immense knowledge of all things Marvel into a book filled with gorgeous colour plates of comic covers and panels, here presented in a large format book that really brings those stunning early colour comics to life in a whole new way.

Along with Stan Lee, Jack "King" Kirby, Steve Ditko and many others, Marvel became a force to be reckoned with, producing comics like nothing anyone had ever seen before, and a diverse universe of characters that truly represented something for everyone, quite often championing causes and equality in a way that is still reverberating in importance today.

I love you 3000, Iron Man!
As a pair of self-confessed Marvel geeks, C and I absolutely loved this book, filled with amazing information and anecdotal nuggets that feed into the mythos that has sprung up around the "Bullpen" (as Stan Lee's studio of talent became known), with fascinating early glimpses of characters, timelines and tons more.

Our favourite Marvel character struts his webby stuff - The Amazing Spider-Man
Luxuriously bound in hardback, with fantastic chapter and end-papers, this is a fabulous gift for any Marvel or comics fan, one that you'll keep dipping into again and again.

Sum this book up in a sentence: Absolutely essential for the Marvel fans in your life, a superbly written and beautifully presented history of the mighty Marvel comic studio that spawned a billion dollar movie industry.

"Marvel Museum: The Story of the Comics" by Ned Hartley is out now, published by Studio Press (kindly supplied for review). 
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ReadItDaddy's Second Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 25th October 2019: "Anatomicum (Welcome to the Museum Series)" by Dr Jennifer Z. Paxton and Katy Wiedemann (Big Picture Press / Wellcome Collection)

Our Second Book of the Week this week is a truly stunning delve underneath our own skins, in what has swiftly become our favourite of the fantastic "Welcome to the Museum" books.

"Anatomicum" by Dr Jennifer Z. Paxton and Katy Wiedemann peels back our outer layers for a look inside our truly amazing bodies.

From our skeletons through to our vital organs, our skin, our eyes, our teeth and our ears we are truly amazing - as are our bodies.

In this luxurious book, Jennifer has produced thoroughly intelligent and thought-provoking text to work alongside Katy's amazing anatomical illustrations, making this book feel like a classic Victorian anatomy book brought bang up to date in colour and detail.

As you've come to expect from the "Welcome to the Museum" series, you have front row seats in an exploration of our bodies, from the sublime to the grisly, the functional to the truly amazing.

Let's take a look inside at some of the gorgeous page spreads...

Why didn't the skeleton go to the dance? Because he had no body to go with!
Clearly labelled illustrations, with accompanying text that piques children's curiosity, this is a stunning piece of work indeed.

Ooch, me Alvioli!

Sum this book up a sentence: A fabulous, truly luxurious book about our bodies, inside and out, and our favourite addition to the "Welcome to the Museum" series.

"Anatomicum" by Dr Jennifer Z. Paxton and Katy Wiedemann is out now, published by Big Picture Press / Wellcome Collection (kindly supplied for review). 

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