Friday, February 21, 2020

ReadItDaddy's YA / Adult Comic of the Week - Week Ending 21st February 2020: "Locke and Key Volume 1: Welcome to Lovecraft" by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW Publishing)

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Currently enjoying a successful run in its first season on NetFlix, I've been re-reading the excellent "Locke and Key" series by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez.

It's not a new comic but the chance to hoover it up in a ComiXology Sale was welcome, as I stupidly loaned my print copy of this volume to someone at work - who promptly left, taking my precious copy with them (note to self: Never, ever EVER lend your precious graphic novels to anyone - I've lost more that way than through any other means or methods).

So with a hefty "This one's not for kids / parental warning" let's dig into this week's YA / Adult Graphic Novel of the week.

"Locke and Key: Welcome to Lovecraft" sets up the story of a family moving back to their ancestral home after a horrific incident involving the death of their father at the hands of a crazed killer. The three kids and their mum in the story reluctantly move back to Key House - a crumbling gothic mansion on the coast of New England.

Nina (the mother) was injured in the tragic incident, and feels like she owes a duty to her husband to try and keep the family together. The kids (Tyler - the eldest son, Kinsey, the middle sib and Bodie - the youngest) have a mixture of feelings and emotions about being uprooted from their previous lives, but desperately need to escape the gossiping rumour-mongers. They soon find out that even in a completely new town in the middle of nowhere, those rumours aren't left behind...

The graphic novel sets up the genius core mechanic of the storyline early on. Key House is a house of secrets, and also a house where magic exists. Mysterious keys are found, that have special abilities. One key can unlock a door and take you to anywhere else in the world you've ever visited. One door can open up your head like a can of beans, allowing you to delve into your subconscious. Yet another door allows you to become an unseen ghost, drifting around to spy on those around you. There are many, and as the series unfolds, those keys and their abilities become the focus of an ancient evil, a dark character named Dodge / Lucas, who pursues the keys relentlessly, lusting after their power.

Needless to say, when the Locke kids discover the keys, all sorts of things begin to happen. Bodie innocently makes contact with Dodge early on, and promises to return any keys that he finds to this mysterious entity living in the house's old wellhouse. This unlocks a chain of events that will once again put the family in danger from the very person who destroyed their lives previously...

The graphic novel is far more grisly, disturbing and dark than the series (obviously) and though the Netflix adaptation is extremely well done in places, it doesn't quite capture the unsettling atmosphere the comic generates - nor does it satisfyingly capture Nina's descent into self-annihilation, her grief and ragged helplessness at her predicament.

Though we're talking about volume 1 here, the series has a habit of getting you used to a particular character's flaws and strengths before flipping that character on their heads to show their darker and more mysterious side, picked out with Gabriel Rodriguez' amazing gift for character design and expression that really lends a hefty weight to the storytelling.

It's rivetting stuff. Get in on the ComiXology deal and grab these while they're cheap, but if you do go for the gorgeous print versions, never lend them to anyone!!

"Locke and Key: Welcome to Lovecraft" by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez is out now, published by IDW (self purchased, not provided for review). 
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ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 21st February 2020: "The Monster in the Lake" by Louie Stowell and Davide Ortu (Nosy Crow)

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Oh yes, we are very much "down" for this takeover of middle grade by awesome fantasy and science fiction. In fact genre stuff feels like it's finally finding a home amongst readers who are fast becoming disillusioned by reading stories about yet another posho who, along with their cute toy poodle, fancies themselves as a detective.

So thank you once again to Nosy Crow for signing up genius author Louie Stowell and teaming her with Davide Ortu for the follow-up to one of our fave middle grade romps of last year, "The Dragon in the Library".

In "The Monster in the Lake" we're once again in the delightful company of Kit - a would-be wizard who seems to have a slightly disastrous touch when it comes to performing simple magic. Spells go horribly wrong, things are never quite what they seem - and to add to Kit's life hassles there's a boomin' great big lake monster to content with this time around.

Kit, Josh, Alita and Faith (the mysterious yet magical librarian) are back for this new adventure, helping Kit to figure out what's behind several bizarre outbreaks of magic in her local snoozy town - and perhaps once again save the world in the process. But what is that strange "thing" lurking in the lake? And who exactly is behind this weird shift in the magical world?

Louie expertly delves into her deep knowledge and love of sci fi and fantasy, with a ton of nods and references in this story that just had us hooting and cheering like cheesy nerdy fanboys / girls (which, we are, of course!) Kit's the sort of character we always love to see in books anyway, but here she begins to establish herself as that rare gem - a character that kids will begin to love enough to dress as on world book day. I'm kidding, but Kit is inspirational, full of curiosity, a tinge of self doubt but a ton of ability too - and dang, we want that in our books in spades.

Congrats Louie and Davide, this is another corker!

Sum this book up in a sentence: A darkly tinged, often extremely funny but reverent homage to all things gloriously B-Movie-esque with the sort of main character we just can't get enough of, and a supporting cast that make scooby and his gang look like cardboard cutouts. Awesomeness!

"The Monster in the Lake" by Louie Stowell and Davide Ortu is out now, published by Nosy Crow (Kindly supplied for review). 
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ReadItDaddy's Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 21st February 2020: "Felix After the Rain" by Dunja Jogan, translated by Olivia Hellewell (Tiny Owl Publishing)

Our Picture Book of the Week this week is a truly special book.

Grief and depression aren't something that you see dealt with in children's books - yet there's an increasing need to do just that.

In the superb "Felix After the Rain" by Dunja Jogan, translated by Olivia Hellewell, the book begins with a young lad who carries around a huge heavy black briefcase. What's inside?

No one really knows - but Felix has carried it ever since his Grandma died. The case is heavy, and poor Felix never seems to feel happy any more.

But a chance meeting atop a hill shows Felix that sometimes it takes help from others to finally see the light. A young boy opens the case, and all the things inside - all the pent-up bad feelings and sadness - all escape.

Felix feels so much better - and begins to see the world in an entirely different way. Happiness breaks through the clouds for the first time and Felix can't wait to share his happiness with others, paying it forward.

A simple enough story, but so effectively woven with beautiful illustrations and a superb translation.

Sum this book up in a sentence: A hugely important book for kids who may be experiencing depression, sadness or grief at the loss of a loved one.

"Felix Afer the Rain" by Dunja Jogan and Olivia Hellewell is out now, published by Tiny Owl Publishing (kindly supplied for review)
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Thursday, February 20, 2020

The tedious 'tecs - A Middle Grade Plague - This Week's #ReadItTorial2020

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Couldn't you just ping him on his annoying little nose? 
3 years ago we wrote a thinkpiece about emerging trends, and even back then we talked about how we were getting more than a bit tired of kid detectives.

It's now 2020, and in middle grade fiction, kid detectives are flippin' everywhere - and they're just as annoying and smug as they were back in 2017. 9 times out of ten we crack open a new parcel of middle grade books only to find that most books are based around a nosy over-privileged kid who has nothing better to do with their time than get in the way of grown-up law enforcement agencies, treading all over the evidence in crime scenes while trying to big up their own natural curiosity as some sort of detective insight.

We exaggerate of course - and as usual kid authors usually do a fantastic job of taking a well-worn trope and putting their own spin on it. We've seen kid detectives who carry out their sleuthing in hospitals their mums work at. We've seen kid detectives working their magic in creepy old hotels, and we've seen kid detectives scraping together a crime-solving gang of BFFs to bring miscreant criminals to justice in some of the great examples where the detective storyline plays out in a new and innovative way. So some detective books still make it into our "Book of the Week" slot despite us being pretty grumpy about JAKDBs in general.

But what is behind this trend? Do authors have a fondness for certain books from their own childhoods and certain detective heroes that they want to transpose into their own stories and situations?

One thing we're beginning to notice is that there's a change in the wind. My oldest and bestest genre buddy, Science Fiction, is once again becoming a rich fertile and inspirational ground for middle grade fiction authors looking to break away from "another nosy kid" books into something that - to me at least - offers a more exciting place to daydream in.

The future? Many possible futures in fact, and not all of them bright and rosy.

When I was struggling with the content of a middle grade writing course just over a year ago, I was told in no uncertain terms that science fiction / dystopia was 'a dead duck' in middle grade. No point in writing any, no one will give it a second glance.

Yet here we are in 2020 - when the idea of a dystopic setting has radically changed away from "This will never happen, but what if it did" towards "This is probably going to happen tomorrow, and here's how it'll play out".

This year, in particular, we've seen a whole brace of new science fiction / dystopia books in the middle grade market that are absolutely incredible. So much so in fact that it's becoming very difficult to pick "Chapter Book of the Week" winners each week, trying to balance out a decent set of content from the blog that doesn't go completely overboard and merely favour these books because we both like reading science fiction and dystopic stuff. No, these are great books regardless of their genre, beautifully written with breathtaking scene-setting and characters that feel relatable and believable even when you're talking about books that deal with some pretty far-out subjects, such as the colonization of other planets, or the rise and rise of AI and robotics.

To me, Science Fiction has always been about the impossible made possible, the far-off brought a bit nearer, and the terribly climactic apocalyptic made into a place where you want to spend your reading time. A neat trick if you can pull it off.

Science fiction allows you to get away with almost anything. In middle grade terms, this does not translate to being able to easily pull the wool over kids' eyes though, and your sparkly new sci fi middle grade novel will fall as flat as a well-worn-out detective novel if you treat kids like they're idiots, and don't show your working for the fantasy worlds and characters you're devising.

Now more than ever, kids are switched on to science - so in some ways you have a tougher job of writing middle grade sci fi. Your plot has to be bomb-proof. Your tech can be crazy and unimaginable but still needs to be relatable and feel like something that kids can picture in their own minds as 'working'.

But it's exciting stuff nonetheless. One thing we always try (and fail) to do when it comes to plotting book trends is to wonder what might come next, and I have a sneaky suspicion that kid detectives will still be around when we write a follow-up article to this in 3 years time (if indeed this blog still exists) but I'd love to see the rise and stellar rise of sci fi too, that's for sure.
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"Rabbit Bright" by Viola Wang (Hodder Children's Books)

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Wow, now here's a multi-coloured cure for the doldrums, but actually "Rabbit Bright" by Viola Wang gently (but very colourfully) delves into a topic that many parents will nod along to, and many kids suffer from at one point or another in their early years - that fear and uncertainty about the dark.

Rabbit feels like this but in this amazing journey across the stars, underground and under the seas, Rabbit finds many dark places that are teeming with amazing life and colour, spectacular creatures and perhaps even new friends to make.

Settling kids who are afraid of the dark (without relying on the trusty night light - we still keep ours at home for when C's little cousins come to stay) isn't always easy, but a joyful explosion of colour is just the ticket - and rabbit is such a curious and engaging character that he drives this story along until those anxieties about darkness are banished.

Let's have a look inside this vibrant book...!

"Under the sea....under the's always better...ah you know the rest!"
Also: Could Rabbit's constant pink panda companion be any more adorable? We doubt it!

"Baby you're a firework!"
Viola's illustrations are fizzingly good!

"Going underground, goin' underground..."
Sum this book up in a sentence: A super little book for titchies to help them snuggle up tight and not worry about the dark, with the most vibrant and neon-tinted illustrations you've ever seen in a children's picture book.

"Rabbit Bright" by Viola Wang is out on 5th March 2020, published by Hodder Children's Books (kindly supplied for review). 

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Wednesday, February 19, 2020

"You Can Tell a Fairy Tale: Pinocchio" by Migy Blanco (Templar Publishing)

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Now here's a neat idea that's perfect for kids who are just beginning to learn to read on their own, but still rather like having a parent or guardian kicking around to snuggle up to and share a story with.

In "You Can Tell a Fairy Tale: Pinocchio" by Migy Blanco, Migy lets kids find their own way through Carlo Collodi's classic timeless story, deciding how each scene will play out.

Those of us familiar with the story will know how things unfold, but the fun in letting kids choose what Pinocchio or Geppeto do at various story points lends this retelling a brilliant new dimension.

Migy's illustrations are also superb with plenty of character and colour, making the whole package both attractive and original with plenty of read-again appeal.

So let's take a look inside at how those story branching bits work...!

What is Geppetto building? We all know the answer but it's fun to come up with some alternatives!
Kids will absolutely love the interactivity of this, and also the feeling that they're the 'boss' and what they say goes!

Where is Pinocchio off to? There's a whole other story about what he got up to in the Black Spot Inn or at Dracula's Castle!
For older kids, there's even the notion that they could actually write their own story versions where the main plot thread forks or changes. We want to read a kids book where Pinocchio ends up at Dracula's castle! That could be awesome!

Yipes! What did Pinocchio find? And how would the story have played out differently?
This is a great idea that Migy has brilliantly done before in a similar "Red Riding Hood" themed book, and it's such a great idea to come up with a fresh and enjoyable way to read and be thrilled by classic fairy tales.

Sum this book in a sentence: Put kids in the driving seat of how a story unfolds, with brilliant alternative ideas and superb illustrations in a truly fab version of Pinocchio!

"You Can Tell A Fairy Tale: Pinocchio" by Migy Blanco is out now, published by Templar Publishing (kindly supplied for review). 
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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

"Viking Voyagers" by Jack Tite (Big Picture Press)

There are so many ways to draw children's natural curiosity about times past and we've seen some stunning non-fiction titles over the last ten years of book blogging.

History texts have veered away from dishing up facts in a cold, almost academic manner into something far more rich, colourful and diverse and that's a fantastic way to describe "Viking Voyagers" by Jack Tite.

You'll already have a mental image in your head of what a Viking looks like. Red haired, horned helmet, swinging an axe, looting a few chapels and setting sail in fearsome longboats. But Jack digs far deeper into their history, their culture and the amazing achievements and discoveries they made, as well as their pioneering spirit reaching out across the globe to conquer new territories.

Vikings were incredibly artistic and creative, and the rich heritage of their art and designs is also described in the book with fantastic facts and brilliant illustrations.

A Viking Longboat. A fearsome sight but a truly brilliant nautical design
Every aspect of Viking life is examined in great detail, in a book that like all the best kid non-fic stuff works just as well in school / class or at home, perfect as the basis for classroom projects.

Amazingly detailed spreads like this really bring the subject to life
Sum this book up in a sentence: A fantastically detailed and gorgeously illustrated book chock full of information about the Vikings and dispelling many of the myths built up around their amazing culture.

"Viking Voyagers" by Jack Tite is out now, published by Big Picture Press (kindly supplied for review)
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Monday, February 17, 2020

"Everybody Has a Body" by Jon Burgerman (OUP / Oxford Children's Books)

Another cracking slice of awesome colourful fun and hilarity from a truly original creative.

Jon Burgerman's fantastic books are brilliant for busy little ones, and "Everybody Has a Body" is no exception.

Everyone really does have a body - and your body is the most amazing instrument you'll ever own. So let Jon take you on a fun journey celebrating all the things that make us unique, in a brilliant and diverse bounce-along story.

Concentrating on Jon's characterful visuals, the story is intentionally kept minimalistic in order to show kids that no matter what they look like, or no matter what their bodies are like, they're all awesome!

One additional note. This book is also available in Welsh, which is pretty cool too!!

Sum this book up a sentence: Another superb book from a creator who manages to inject such a huge amount of energy into his books, making them instantly appealing to little ones.

"Everybody Has a Body" by Jon Burgerman is out now, published by OUP / Oxford Children's Books (kindly supplied for review). 
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Friday, February 14, 2020

ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 14th February 2020: "Max and the Midknights" by Lincoln Peirce (Macmillan Children's Books)

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We've long been interested in fab books that successfully bridge the gap between picture books and lengthier chapter-based stories, and our Chapter Book of the Week this week is a cracking example of something that could almost end up being a genre all of its own.

"Max and the Midknights" by Lincoln Peirce is almost like a mini graphic novel spliced with an early middle grade reader, but essentially the sort of romping adventure that's perfect for newly confident solo readers who want to move on from illustration-heavy / text light picture books.

This is the opposite, but features glorious monochrome illustrations woven into every page, like some of the middle grade awesomeness we've seen in books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Dog Man (ironic then that the two cover quotes are from the authors of those books!)

So what on earth is it all about? A grand quest of course, undertaken by diminutive Max - who wants to become a knight more than anything else in the world.

But he's a tiddly little chap, and the adventure he's about to embark on might be too much for this little fellah - who soon realises he might need a friend or two along on a quest to defeat an evil king - King Gastley in fact.

The brave adventurers set off to free Max's awesome uncle Budrick, forming themselves into "The MidKnights", ready to rescue uncle, and restore Byjovia to its former glory, while putting King Gastley firmly in his place.

As you can see, the way the book is laid out is almost like a set of interlocking comic strips, instantly digestible by kids who are daunted by huge walls of text in their books - but with a ton of style and humour about them that makes them stand out. What a great idea!

Sum this book up in a sentence: A truly awesome romp for a new Knight-in-training and his gang of brave pals, tricked out in a format that makes it immediately accessible to a wide range of reading abilities.

"Max and the MidKnights" by Lincoln Peirce is out now, published by Macmillan Children's Books (kindly supplied for review).
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ReadItDaddy's Comic / Graphic Novel of the Week - Week Ending 14th February 2020: "Glass Town" by Isabel Greenberg (Jonathan Cape PB)

Wow, what a treat for Bronte-sauruses such as us - a graphic novel that doesn't just dish up the usual stale old biography of the Brontes, but delves into their storytelling psyche in a completely unique way.

"Glass Town" by Isabel Greenberg digs into the backstory of Charlotte, Emily, Branwell and Anne. Living in a tumbledown house in the middle of a remote moor had an early effect on the adventuresome imaginations of the four children. Though their life was tinged with early tragedy and the loss of two siblings, the four developed a deep bond through their love of storytelling.

In particular their dreamed-up world where the four would often cook up narratives, plots and characters that would undoubtedly influence their later lives and in particular Charlotte and Emily's writing careers.

Isabel perfectly captures the often stark bleakness of their young lives, and how that completely contrasted with Glass Town and the world they wrote about, drew and mapped out as the four would play together.

But she goes a step further - this is Isabel Greenberg we're talking about after all, and soon the characters of Glass Town begin to seep into the real world lives of the four as the characters beg to tell their own stories.

As you'll discover once you dip in, the four (often contrasting) personalities of the Brontes fed directly into the evolution of their imaginary world, and the friendships and conflicts of the imaginary folk they populated it with.

Sum this book up in a sentence: Sumptuous, darkly delicious and gothic, and at times quite uplifting and heartwarming, this is an absolute must for every Bronte fan who's ever wondered "What if Glass Town was ever developed into a story in its own right?"

"Glass Town" by Isabel Greenberg is out now, published by Jonathan Cape PB (kindly supplied for review). 
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ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week Ending 14th February 2020: "Everybody Counts: A Counting Story from 0 to 7.5 Billion" by Kristin Roskifte (Wide Eyed Editions)

"Oh no, not a counting book!" exclaimed Little Miss. "I'm not reading that!"

As we all know it's never a good idea to judge a book by its cover, and so "Everybody Counts: A Counting Story from 0 to 7.5 Billion" by Kristin Roskifte effortlessly pulled a double-bluff on us, and became our Valentines Day Book of the Week.

So why? There was something about it that caught my attention so I sneaked off and read it on my own. It begins with zero, nothing, no one, an empty scene picked out in blue line art - but as the book begins to unfold, the scenes are filled with colour - and people - and soon you're completely hooked into the multi-threaded wordless narratives of the characters that crop up throughout the book - until the very last scene (don't worry, you really won't have to count up to 7.5 billion if you don't want to!)

We sat down together and read through this - and there's a moment whenever we get together and review a book that we just know is going to be book of the week, where there's that unspoken agreement between us that this is something truly special.

It's those human stories. They're utterly addictive. As a lifelong people watcher, I was hooked more or less instantly and fully understood what Kristin was doing here. Little Miss took a little while longer to catch on but as a chip off the old block, she too couldn't resist the lure of following particular characters' threads through the book, guessing, making up stories or finding out what their ultimate goals were, what they were up to, and in some cases, their inherent naughtiness as they get up to no good (which is, of course, a massive lure to any kid who loves living vicariously through the characters in a book - which is, er, pretty much all kids right?)

So let's have a look inside...

This is how it begins. Subtly, slowly - a scene of a little boy trying to get to sleep, and then a moment of bonding.

In each page spread Kristin not only draws up a fantastic scene full of hidden details and nod-worthy points of reference, she throws in a sentence that causes your brain to do somersaults imagining what the characters might be thinking, or what they may be doing or planning.

As the book gets busier, so do the scenes - and suddenly you're presented with multiple narrative threads, and a whole brace of characters to follow, backtrack and find in other scenes, and to imagine the lives of. Again read the text, and it feeds your brain even more - sometimes with stuff that's actually quite bittersweet and heart-wrenching.

Kids are absolutely drawn to this sort of book, where they can essentially make up their own stories and narratives, and mould the book's intentions with the whims of their own imagination.

I don't think we've ever seen a counting book quite like this, and I can't understate how amazing it is. Sure it might initially sail completely over your child's head but once they get drawn in, and once they 'get' what the book is doing, they'll be utterly hooked like we were.

Sum this book up in a sentence: A truly stunning and amazing counting book like no other, dealing with a very human and multi-threaded book world that is filled with all the amazing things that make us special, secretive, joyful, conniving, sneaky, loved and 7.5 billion other characteristics in between.

"Everybody Counts" by Kristin Roskifte is out now, published by Wide Eyed Editions (kindly supplied for review). 
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Thursday, February 13, 2020

If males don't read books by, or strongly featuring females, do they build up a disregard for female opinions and worth in later life? This Week's #ReadItTorial

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Sorry about the long drawn-out title of this week's #ReadItTorial2020 but I wanted to try and capture the essence of a tweet by fantastic author Joanne Harris - the author of the divine "Chocolat", "The Gospel of Loki" and many other amazing books.

Joanne's Tweet was:
At first I understood where she was coming from with this and it's something I've read other authors saying before. It is very true and very fair to say that boys in general do disregard books either about girls, or featuring girls in the main roles, or as the primary character, whereas girls are more magnanimous and don't mind books where lead characters are male, female or nonbinary.

But does that automatically lead to the sort of sexist behavour we would all like to see stamped out for good? Where women are treated as second class citizens, abused or attacked, shouted down and generally given short shrift in many aspects of their lives?

Given that in this day and age books are such a small influence on our youth (I would say that books are probably right down there in 5th or 6th place trailing far behind the internet, peers, family influences, visual media and ads) would it be easy to tackle this thorny issue at the root?

Kids are tricky little blighters when it comes to any form of pattern analysis and a broad brush tweet like Joanna's makes assumptions that books somehow insidiously cause sexist behaviour - when in fact it's far more likely to be as a result of the way children are brought up, and what they take away from their key influencers as they grow up and begin to take more than just a bit part in the world around them.

I grew up reading anything and everything I could get my hands on (quite literally - if stuck at a relative's house I'd just trawl through their bookcases until I found something to read, whether it was copies of Woman's World magazine, old Readers Digest mags, encyclopaedias, cowboy novels - you name it, I'd read it if I didn't have an armful of books of my own with me)

I also grew up in households that quite often lacked 'strong' male authority figures, and these were the key influences on my current belief that men and women are equal, and that strong female figures and characters in fiction and non fiction deserve as much respect as anyone else.

I'd also consume books by the bucketload thanks to a decent school and local library (things that in this day and age are underused, underfunded, or are becoming more and more rare sadly) always with a sort of blissful ignorance about what boys were actually supposed to read (remember this was the 1970s, where despite the rise of sexual equality, there were still very hard lines drawn in school, particularly in peer groups of boys - and any deviation from those lines was seen as some sort of weakness). As I grew older I realised that I much preferred the company of bookish girls than boys anyway (if you couldn't care less about sport or 'scoring' or other 'bants' then it naturally follows that you'd always want to get into a conversation with a girl than a boy - and from what my daughter reports of what things are like in her school, it doesn't sound like much has changed in the last 40 years).

I loved books back then as much as I love books now, and read Heidi cover to cover, devoured "The Giant Under the Snow" (where, despite a couple of male accomplices, the awesome Jonquil Winters and her witchy mentor Elizabeth were undoubtedly the lead - and strongest - characters in the book). Now I'm trying to pass this notion on to my daughter so that she'll have a fairly broad (some might say 'adventurous') approach to what she reads and consumes, hopefully so she'll be far more well read than I am.

In ten years of reviewing children's books, there have been so many books that I dearly wished boys would read - but could understand why those books switch even the most bookish boys off.

Conflict is often an underlying initial setup or continuing theme of any books where a female main character features, and is oppressed by, bullied by, or constantly rolls her eyes about any male characters that are woven into the story (though again in the majority of stories, this is unfortunately good observation on the part of the author - that those conflicts really do exist in the real world, and that they make an excellent plot foundation - personally I find that horribly sad).

The rot sets in right from picture books for younger readers. Male characters are often set up as the pratfalling idiot in a story where parents feature. We've seen gluttonous dads who quite often need a mum to come along and show them how to do even the simplest parenting tasks. We've seen absentee dads more than absentee mums - even in some of our very favourite picture books. We've blogged at length about the 'dumb dad / missing dad' tropes in picture books and it seems that this also quite often continues well into middle grade books, where dads are undoubtedly (and perhaps more accurately) the parental figure who displays clear signs of immaturity, boorish behaviour, or will just muck about or behave like an idiot either through an assumption that they're less intelligent than their female counterparts, or follow a well-worn character cliche.

This is beginning to sound like a horrible "not all men" type of argument and believe me that's really not my intention at all. My point is that I want boys to enjoy character driven fiction without having any need to even consider that the main charactrer is either male or female, and that what they're going to read will be some diatribe against either sex.

Instead it should be the story itself, the theme, the setting, the moral (if there is one) and the twisting plot intricacies, the delicious descriptions and the writing that cuts through any gender gap.

For example consider that the truly amazing "Lockwood and Co" series by Jonathan Stroud is beautifully balanced, and not only female-narrative-led, but contains male and female characters that appeal to both sexes, treat each other (mostly) as equals in the course of each tale, and are hugely appealing to girl and boy readers. I'd probably mention the Harry Potter books too, though I'm still not convinced that JK treats the female characters in her books very well (apart from Hermoine, who still somehow manages to be written as the class know-it-all, the swot, the annoying whiny one, or the sensible one in a semi-detrimental way for all the moments when it's clear her character is the brains of the outfit - and some might argue the 'main' character in the books (because lord knows, Harry is pretty fecking useless most of the time, let's face it, and Ron is a very short step away from being a complete a-hole most of the time - sorry, my opinion, feel free to shout me down about it!)

So do we want to carry on with conflict in stories if we are ever to cut through toxic male (and to a lesser extent female) behaviour out there in the real world, if the opening chapters of most books do their level best to underline that conflict and make it one of the foundations of the plot?

What message does that convey and leave a reader with other than it's the norm, and really is that the root cause of the way boys treat girls and vice versa?

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Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Two for Me, One For You by Jorg Muhle (Gecko Press)

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This one's a bit of an early reveal, as its not actually out until April - but we do love a superb and original picture book, particularly one that elicits such cackles and belly laughs as this.

"Two for Me, One for You" by Jorg Muhle is the sort of picture book perfection that starts with a very simple premise. Bear, while out walking, discovers some lovely mushrooms and brings them home to her best pal Weasel so they can enjoy a slap-up fungi feast.

But when it comes to sharing, Bear isn't too bright - but begins to justify why she should have the lion's (sorry, bears!) share of the goodies.

While Bear and Weasel argue, there's a neat twist that effectively sews up their argument for them - but you know us, we're not into spoilers, so we won't ruin that delicious moment for you.

As ever, this is the sort of brilliance that Gecko Press are thankfully so great at bringing to our shores, a book that has a simple - yet universal message that kids will (sometimes rather guiltily) identify with - particularly if you've ever put one kid in charge of the jellybean jar, telling them to 'share fairly'

Sum this book up in a sentence: A deliciously observed slice of comic genius from Jorg Muhle on the subject of sharing, friendships and a tiny bit of social justice mixed in for good measure in a fab little picture book.

"Two for Me, One for You" by Jorg Muhle is out on April 1st 2020, published by Gecko Press (kindly supplied for review). 
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Tuesday, February 11, 2020

"The Bird Within Me" by Sara Lundberg (Book Island)

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This is a book that spoke to me - probably a tad more than it spoke to my daughter as she's grown up in a household where artistic endeavours are positively encouraged.

But in "The Bird Within Me" by Sara Lundberg, we find out what it must have been like for Berta Hansson - a swedish artist growing up - with her mother slowly dying and only a paternal figure, a farmer who did not understand her longing and yearning to express herself through beauty and art.

Berta longed to break away from the farm, and sought the bravery and inspiration to live her own truth, follow her own path and push back against her father's wishes to follow his farming life.

The main reason this spoke so strongly to me was for a similar reason, growing up with little or no encouragement to be a daydreamer, an imagineer, someone whose mind is too busy to undertake fairly menial and unimaginative pursuits so there's a bittersweet feeling of admiration tempered with a tiny touch of jealousy for Berta and the way her story ends (which I'm obviously not going to spoil, but she's well worth looking up - her work is incredible!)

Sum this book up in a sentence: A superbly inspirational book for anyone who feels like they have to justify having an active and expressive imagination that doesn't 'fit' with their world.

"The Bird Within Me" by Sara Lundberg is out now, published by Book Island (kindly supplied for review)

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Monday, February 10, 2020

"Wild Wolf" by Fiona French (Otter-Barry Books)

A scintillating and atmospheric tale from an amazing author and illustrator, drawing together influences and sources from the amazing verbal tradition of First Nation folk tales.

"Wild Wolf" by Fiona French may well have a distant-past setting, but the strong female characters and their situations will feel utterly relevant to girls and women today.

When Bravest Warrior is refused as a suitor by beautiful Proud Girl his heart turns to anger.

In revenge he makes Ice Man, who leads Proud Girl into great danger.

But Wild Wolf, guardian spirit, is watching.

Can he rescue Proud Girl and could pride and anger turn to forgiveness and love?

Sum this book up in a sentence: Fiona's deft storytelling and amazing artwork bring this tale to life for a modern audience, showing that self-belief, bravery and cunning can defeat even the mightiest foe.

"Wild Wolf" by Fiona French is out now, published by Otter-Barry Books (kindly supplied for review)
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Friday, February 7, 2020

ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 7th February 2020: "Sticky Pines: The BigWoof Conspiracy" by Dashe Roberts (Nosy Crow)

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Sometimes a new book hits our review pile from a talented debut author, and you imagine what it must have been like to be the commissioning editor seeing that book in its raw form for the first time, and feeling that same frisson of excitement that you, the reader, now feel.

So it was with our Chapter Book of the Week this week, the utterly brilliant "The BigWoof Conspiracy" by Dashe Roberts, (hopefully) book 1 in an exciting new series that delves into the paranormal, setting out an enticing storyworld that just ticks all the right boxes for us.

We're huge fans of cult TV, strange phenomenon, mysterious creatures and conspiracy theories so you can imagine how fabulous this book was for us.

The story begins in a distinctly weird place, the town of Sticky Pines which is probably twinned with Eerie, Indiana - or any number of fictional towns where weird goings on are the norm.

Lucy Sladan is completely obsessed with UFOs and weird creatures and spends her time poring over dusty old tomes of abduction accounts, and weird old books about bizarre phenomenon (sounds a LOT like me aged 10 and also a lot like C who is really into all this stuff too).

In the midst of a thunderstorm and on the trail of a spate of strange disappearances in her home town of Sticky Pines, Lucy encounters a huge hairy creature stalking through the woods.

Terrified, she later also meets a new ally - Milo Fisher, also obsessed with all things paranormal but the holder of a deep dark secret - perhaps Milo knows more about the disappearances - and the creature - than he's letting on.

As the mystery begins to unfold, you can absolutely tell Dashe had a ball writing this, dipping into all the tropes and stories that offer the rich fertile ground on which this book is built. It's filled with action, suspense and a few moments where you pause for breath - only to realise you've been holding your breath for the last five minutes and are beginning to turn blue!

It's glorious, utterly glorious and comes with our highest recommendation. Just stop what you're doing, whether you're hunting sasquatches or trying to take photos of ghosts, and get down to your local bookshop for a copy of this. It's just so darned good!

Sum this book up in a sentence: The X-Files meets Eerie Indiana Meets John A.Keel in the body of a mighty young girl who delves into the deeply mysterious occurences in her very odd home town, making this a middle grade series destined for greatness!

"The BigWoof Conspiracy" by Dashe Roberts is out now, published by Nosy Crow (kindly supplied for review). 

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ReadItDaddy's Comic / Graphic Novel of the Week - Week Ending 7th February 2020: "Gorebrah: The Mightiest Chef in the Universe" by James Stayte (David Fickling Books)

Once again it looks like those fantastic "The Phoenix Presents" roll-up compilations from the glorious comic are going to dominate our "Comic / Graphic Novel of the Week" slot in 2020.

It's the turn of the mightiest chef in the universe this week as James Stayte's utterly fantastic creation Gorebrah smashes through our kitchen wall, rustles through our ingredients cupboard and cooks up a hilarious rib-tickling soup├žon of scintillating sizzling comic strip action.

"Gorebrah: The Mightiest Chef in the Universe" lightly pan-fries the initial run of strips from The Phoenix Comic, deftly served up with additional content for would-be trainee Barbarian chefs in a cookbook sublime though we think it's worth pointing out that eating Zombie Lasagne might have adverse side effects and a sudden craving for brains.

James' strips are always blimmin' funny, brilliantly drawn and he has a knack for working in hilarious references that grown ups might titter at, while they sail right over their kids' heads (a certain rootytooty saxophone scene still sticks in the mind as one of the funniest refs I think I've ever seen and couldn't resist calling James out about on Twitter).

It's also one of C's favourite strips in the comic, but sadly doesn't seem to have inspired her to help me out with cooking the dinner on a busy evening!

So here it is then, another fabulous gateway into the world of The Phoenix Comic if you've yet to discover the awesomeness yourself, and a truly fantastic wrap-up of Gorebrah's mightiest early moments. Also a good excuse to dive into the weeklies as well at the moment as Gorebrah's back in those too!

Sum this book up in a sentence: Like a manic cross between Conan and Gordon Ramsay (but thankfully with a lot less swearing and nastiness), Gorebrah reigns supreme and this collection is absolutely brilliant and hilarious.

"Gorebrah! The Mightiest Chef in the Universe" by James Stayte is out now, published by David Fickling Books (kindly supplied for review). 
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ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week Ending 7th February 2020: "How to Think When you Write" by Robin Etherington and Lorenzo Etherington (Kickstarter / Self Published)

We've been huge fans of The Etherington Brothers since first discovering their work in the fabulous Phoenix Comic - and so far Lorenzo has put together some truly stunning tutorial collections under the "How to Think when you Draw" umbrella.

But this time it's the turn of his brilliantly funny brother Robin - the 'writing' half of the team - to pour his wisdom into a fantastic tome that will give writers a huge shot in the arm in terms of skills, and a huge boost to their confidence as they start to write up some of the exercises contained in this book.

As the boys have been running their own tutorials free over at for some time now, it's great to see Robin's writing tutorials finally getting a solid roundup like this, in a gorgeously presented hardcover edition which recently launched successfully on Kickstarter.

We've been hoovering these books up whenever they're released (always worth following the guys over on twitter @theetheringtonbrothers to see what they're cooking up next!)

I'm interested in both sides of the coin, both illustration and writing - but writing is where I struggle the most, and for would-be authors it's sometimes quite daunting considering all the variables and structural elements of a piece of writing, even if you've got past the real first hurdle - getting some subject inspiration.

Robin helpfully delves into the intricaties of character and plot, but builds on these with fantastic weapons to add to your arsenal such as working in back stories, figuring out sensible naming conventions for your characters (or non-sensible ones that will still work beautifully).

At each point there are exercises to try yourself - and so far I've been working through this book with a journal, noting down and attempting each exercise in turn, and seeing a light at the end of the tunnel with my own writing efforts.

What I like best about Robin's approach is that it's less preachy, less draconian about writing 'conventions' and in most cases though Robin pays due homage to 'the roolz' he does dispense with them when they're a bit too limiting, and shows you how to do the same - and get away with it!

My favourite exercises - the ones I found the most helpful - were the character-based ones, where you'll learn how to really get under your character's skin and work out what makes them tick - and how to avoid those pitfalls like making your characters too much like you (or not enough if you're self-referencing) and how to avoid getting sued by including folk in your stories that might not want to be in there!

It's brilliant this, like a reference bible for writers at any level, regardless of the genre or subject you want to write about. Having direct access to the contents of Robin's creative brain in this way can only be a good thing (particularly if you've ever seen any of the workshops or shows he and his brother produce - they're gold dust, just like this book!)

Sum this book up in a sentence: A stupendous book filled with amazing insights, tips and tricks to give your writing a real shot in the arm, or to get you started on the right foot when it comes to dreaming up stories, characters and plots.

"How to Think When You Write" by Robin Etherington is out now, self published (self purchased - not provided for review)
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Thursday, February 6, 2020

Why shouldn't creatives celebrate their own success? This week's #ReadItTorial2020

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Noseying into yet another Twitter conversation as the inspiration for this week's ReadItTorial, I read an exchange between two noted comic creatives who were musing on the concept of celebrating their own successes, and how caustic the reaction can be when you do so on social media.

Ah, the British. We are a nation that, on the one hand, are fiercely proud of our heritage (despite most of it coming from abroad), almost to a fault. We also seem to have an inbuilt pathological dislike of success, partly justified when people who regularly 'fail upwards' here seem to reap amazing rewards despite being utterly hopeless.

BUT we are also very quick to kick people when they're down, extracting some twisted sense of deep joy when someone fails so spectacularly that they make the news, or become a meme, or whatever the modern equivalent of 'ending up in the stocks pelted with rotten fruit' is.

When I see creatives talking about being shy about celebrating their successes, or perhaps even talking about some nice thing they've purchased for themselves off the back of their hard-earned endeavours in kidlit, comics or art, I can't help thinking we've all got it completely wrong here. Why do we feel the need to chastise folk who describe how a book advance has helped them realise their dream of going on a smashing holiday, doing up their crumbling house, hell - even purchasing a flashy new gadget to further their creative efforts? Yet here we are.

This topic dovetails neatly with another that I keep meaning to drag onto our ReadItTorial slot, the thorny subject of due reward when it comes to creative effort. Many times we've discussed the class divide in children's publishing, and that extends out into other forms of creative and non-creative writing. Let's face it, to make a career in writing you need to have at least another (quite often non-creative) career that pays your bills - possibly for a very long time - before you can lop that off and just concentrate your efforts on the creative stuff.

Long ago I completely gave up on taking my meagre art training forwards into anything either in furthering my education or trying to build a freelance or paid gig career from it. Not just because (truthfully) I'm not very good, but mostly because I know I can earn enough to support a family and own a house from working in the soul-crushing hate-filled abcess of a job known as "IT". In a world where you either work your bollocks off to make a living, or you're born with a silver spoon jammed firmly between the lips you never kiss with, you could probably count huge moneyspinning creative career professionals you know or converse with on the fingers and toes you possess, possibly with a few left over.

I really wish it wasn't that way. I would love to be paid to write, I really would. Writing is something I can do, at great speed, in great volume, but I've never seen anything I could move sideways into, writing wise, that could possibly compete with my current gig in terms of a solid monthly pay packet that's fairly comfortable to live on, if not excessive.

New authors must feel a little bit like this. Some are prolific and can turn out enough books to keep their heads above water, but for most, the creative process is time (and resource) consuming and can't just be churned through - and for most, if they can manage a book a year, they feel they're doing OK - and I doubt there are many emerging authors in kidlit who could earn an advance that's good enough to live on for a year when they're starting out.

Virtually every single piece of guidance I see for new and prospective authors and illustrators in kidlit start with the stark point one of "Never do it for the money, there is no money" and that remains true. Which, in a roundabout way, brings me back to my original point of thinking that we should be clapping creatives on the back when they make enough to afford something nice for themselves, not shouting them down for it.
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Out today - the stunning "Dandelion's Dream" by Yoko Tanaka (Walker Books)

Ooh now this one's definitely caught our eye, and we've been marvelling at the gorgeous atmosphere of it since it first made its way through our letterbox.

"Dandelion's Dream" by Yoko Tanaka is a wordless picture book that begins with an implied question...

"What would you do if you only had one day to live?"

Pretty huge philosophical stuff, you'll agree but Yoko has blissfully tapped into a day in the life of a dandy lion - well a Dandelion, who is determined to make the very best use of 24 hours embarking on an adventure of imagination, discovery and sheer joyfulness at the beauty of the world.

The book is amazing to look at, picked out mostly in grey hues but with gorgeous contrasting splashes of yellow and other colours to help bring the pages to life and feed them with sunshiney energy.

Dandelion's day is quite something, and the most fun with this book is hearing children interpret each page spread in their own unique way, anticipating Lion's feelings and thoughts as the story unwinds, and of course using the power of the wordless format to build their own stories within the construct of this vibrant and amazing book world.

Let the train take the strain!
There were times when this reminded us both of Chris Van Allsburg's amazing books, making great use of tone and greyscale in the illustrations that almost feel like they can leap off the page into your life.

Sum this book up in a sentence: Quite something this, one of the most original picture books we've seen in a while, and a blissful dreamscape to spend a lot longer than a single day in, as kids are absolutely bound to demand this one again and again.

"Dandelion's Dream" by Yoko Tanaka is out today, published by Walker Books (kindly supplied for review). 
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Out today - two amazing poetry books celebrating awesome creatures and brilliant mums (Otter Barry Books)

Ahead of Mother's Day on the 22nd March, how about a fantastic poetry compilation with poems by Justin Coe and Illustrations by Steve Wells.

"The Magic Of Mums" is released today by Otter-Barry books, celebrating the amazing awesomeness of mums, in a diverse collection of poems perfect for reading aloud.

Meet gentle mums, action mums, hardworking mums and just plain awesome mums in this fab collection of rhyming and non-rhyming verse.

Everyone knows that mums are special, and this brill book follows nicely on from Justin's other collection "The Dictionary of Dads" (just in case you're stuck for a father's day present for later on in the year.

"The Magic of Mums" by Justin Coe and Steve Wells is out today, published by Otter-Barry Books.

Something more whacky suit your tasts? How about "There's a Crocodile in the House" by performance poet Paul Cookson with illustrations by Liz Million.

There's a crocodile in the house! How on earth would you deal with something so dangerous yet so whacky? (We loved this bounce-along rhyme that's absolutely perfect for a bit of audience participation and reading-aloud fun).

Other strange subjects find their way into Paul's collection in a truly rib-tickling selection box filled with variety and fun.

Kids love poetry and these two books are a great addition to any home or class library.

"There's a Crocodile in the House" by Paul Cookson and Liz Million is out today, published by Otter-Barry Books (both books kindly supplied for review).
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Wednesday, February 5, 2020

"The Last Tree" by Emily Haworth-Booth (Pavilion Children's Books)

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You won't have long to wait for this one, in fact it's out tomorrow so you've got no excuse - nip down to your favourite bookstore of choice in the morning for a copy of "The Last Tree" by Emily Haworth-Booth.

We've seen a huge explosion of books on the blog that deal with the climate crisis in several amazing and fairly direct ways, but sometimes you need a bit more 'oomph' in your story to make it accessible to younger readers, but also avoid the 'oh no not again' eyeroll from older book fans.

Emily manages this with aplomb in a tale that begins with a tribe of people all looking for a place to shelter.

The mountains are too windy, the valleys are too wet, the baking hot plains are no good either - and soon the folk find an amazing forest filled with trees.

The air is cooler there but not too cold, and those amazing leafy trees offer brilliant shelter.

That is - alas - until things start to go horribly wrong...

To greedily protect their new find, they come up with a plan to hack down all the trees, and cart them off to build a colossal wall, hopefully to avoid anyone else being able to move into their newfound home. A huge mistake, when only one tiny little withered tree is left. The last tree in fact.

But - as in the real actual here and now world - it's the kids that have the brains in this story. They realise that the answer does not lie in deforestation, the answer is to nurture that one last tree, encouraging it to grow stronger, and stronger, and stronger.

Emily has expertly conjured up a story that may seem quite simplistic at first, but does a brilliant job of holding up a mirror to our own world, where 'grown ups' seem hell bent in driving the planet towards the very brink, yet a strong steely-eyed army of youngsters are doing their level best to show us the error of our ways, and hopefully drag us back from the brink of irreparable climate change.

Sum this book up in a sentence: As we mentioned at the top of the review, this is a brilliant book to introduce kids to the concepts of ecology and saving the environment while giving older kids plenty to nod along to, and the whole package is extremely engaging, classy and dare we say even fun to read aloud?

"The Last Tree" by Emily Haworth-Booth is out tomorrow, 6th February 2020, published by Pavilion Children's Books (kindly supplied for review)

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"Poems Aloud" by Joseph Coelho and Daniel Gray-Barnett (Wide Eyed Editions)

Celebrating the cleverness of words, Joseph Coelho has an amazing gift for engaging kids' future love of language - and making them think about the possibilities of poetry that go far beyond just being performance pieces.

But in "Poems Aloud" by Joseph, with illustrations by Daniel Gray-Barnett, the amazing subjects chosen for each poem are given even more vitality and importance when you get together with a bunch of friends and take turns in reading them out loud.

There are poems that almost have you tripping over your tongue. Poems that elicit an emotional response, or make you feel joyous, sad, thoughtful or completely at peace.

So let's have a look inside at this gorgeous book!

Gorgeous verse, glorious illustrations, this is a real treasure of a book!
Kids are drawn to poetry, not just because it encourages them to be clever with their own use of words, but because it's just such a powerful way to help them visualise a theme, or let their own minds wander and their own imaginations soar.

One of the funniest poems in the book. Chill out, chilli dude!
Sum this book up in a sentence: A gorgeous poetry compendium that's bound to be a surefire hit with kids who have fallen in love with the cleverness of our language, and the impact of words to draw up a scene in their heads.

"Poems Aloud" by Joseph Coelho and Daniel Gray-Barnett is out now, published by Wide Eyed Editions (kindly supplied for review). 
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Tuesday, February 4, 2020

"This Book is Anti-Racist" by Tiffany Jewell and Aurelia Durand (White Lion Publishing)

I'm really going to struggle not to vent my spleen about the state of the world while reviewing this book but I'll start by saying how disappointed, nay how flipping ANGRY I am that we still need books like this in 2020.

In fact if anything we need them now more than ever. I grew up in the 70s and 80s where I thought we humans were making progress, beginning to do away with racism, sexism, homophobia and all the rest of society's ills - moving towards something more like a utopia where folk could live in peace and harmony with each other, and all that stuff would be consigned to the bin of history.

Sadly we do still need "This Book Is Anti-Racist" by Tiffany Jewell and Aurelia Durand - and kids are our best hope for taking on this book's fantastic 20 lesson plan, absorbing the information within and acting on it - to hopefully undo the utter mess certain grown-ups are creating in the here and now.

The book doesn't shy away from the tough questions that need to be asked at the outset. What is racism? Where does it come from? Why are people racist and what can you - as an individual or as part of a collective of like-minded kids - do about it.

Tiffany is an anti-bias anti-racist educator who brings her extensive experience and knowledge, and her absolutely brilliant gift for being able to engage with kids on their own level and in their own language to make these 20 lessons feel less like finger-wagging and more like a common sense approach that just plain works when you begin to embrace her ethos.

Punctuated by Auriela's colourful and engaging illustrations, this is more than just a handbook for becoming an anti-racist activist yourself. Children often need more information, but also something that inspires them to be brave and speak up - particularly against racist adults in their own social circles, or worse, in their own families - where racism often trickles down like rot from one generation to the next.

Powerfully written and absolutely vital in today's society where, sadly, racism comes to the fore almost on a daily basis and is largely the driving factor behind the utter mess we find our country in at the present time.

Sum this book up in a sentence: Bang up to the minute wisdom, action plans and brilliantly written in a language kids can truly engage with - it's sad we still need books like this in 2020 but we do, and this is one of the best anti-racist tomes we've seen for my daughter's age group (11 plus).

"This Book is Anti-Racist" by Tiffany Jewell and Aurelia Durand is out now, published by White Lion Publishing (kindly supplied for review). 
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Monday, February 3, 2020

"All the Dear Little Animals" by Ulf Nilsson and Eva Eriksson (Gecko Press)

Gecko Press get off to a flying start with this gorgeously presented reprint of a classic book designed to help children overcome grief, and deal with the loss of a loved one - even if that loved one is furry, scaly, fluffy or nuzzly.

"All The Dear Little Animals" by Ulf Nilsson and Eva Eriksson takes a funny non-sentimental look at death from a child's perspective.

The story begins with young Esther's observation that despite the happy world we live in, death is all around us (every adult probably knows at least one death-obsessed child who makes this rather sombre statement from time to time).

This book beautifully caters for kids who mildly obsess about death and what it means. Esther's idea is to begin a funeral business called Funerals Ltd - along with her siblings they set out to ensure that all the dear (dead) little animals in bushes and hedgerows get a proper honourable send-off.

I don't think we've ever seen anything like this - a book that deftly treads between that oh-so-serious gallows-humour that kids possess sometimes, and what it feels like when something you've loved so much is lost for good and passes over.

Yet it's beautiful - not just to look at but to read aloud, as the story gently unfolds and Esther's 'wise beyond her years' approach to death begins to make sense.

Utterly fabulous and so glad to see it coming back for a whole new generation of readers.

Sum this book up in a sentence: A funny, whimsical and often quite sombre but sweet look at death from a child's perspective in a book like no other.

"All The Dear Little Animals" by Ulf Nilsson and Eva Eriksson is out now, published by Gecko Press (kindly supplied for review). 

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