Sunday 31 May 2020

#Booky100Keepers Day 28: "Mrs Macready was Ever So Greedy" by Julie Fulton and Jona Jung (Maverick)

Sometimes, books ended up in our "Keepers" list not just because they're thoroughly entertaining books, but because they evoke such happy memories and with "Mrs MacReady was Ever So Greedy" - the first of the "Ever So" books by Julie Fulton and Jona Jung, this was one of the first books actually sent for review by a publisher.

We couldn't quite believe people would want to send us real actual proper books for us to write about, but it's a heck of a book, just bouncy, brilliantly rhyming and thoroughly entertaining from start to finish.

By today's standards it'd probably be seen as none too politically correct to have a story about a gluttonous woman who just won't stop eating, until she's the size of the Millennium Dome. But we always ended up sympathising with poor Mrs M, who just loved food a bit too much. Easy to see why as Jona Jung's illustrations (and the truly fab end papers) do make your tummy tumble a lot.

Mrs M starts out relatively svelte - but it won't last...
As well as the illustrations, Julie has a gift for making this book a lip-smacking story to read aloud and C demanded it again, and again and again (and yes indeed, like nearly all of our keepers, we still read it to this day for a giggle).

Those little piggies are right to look worried!
My wife often wonders why certain books haven't been donated (or thrown out) years ago but we can't bear to part with this one. Julie and Jona produced several "Ever so" titles for Maverick (most of which we reviewed and loved to bits) but this is the only survivor, just because it's brilliantly entertaining stuff. We've included links to the others though for completeness, and because Julie is so awesome!

Original Review Link: 

Mrs MacReady Was Ever So Greedy by Julie Fulton and Jona Jung (Maverick Arts Publishing)

ReadItDaddy previews "Tabitha Posy was Ever So Nosy" by Julie Fulton and Jona Jung (Maverick Books)

Miss Dorothy-Jane was Ever So Vain by Julie Fulton and Jona Jung (Maverick Publishing)

Daniel O'Dowd was Ever So Loud by Julie Fulton and Elina Ellis (Maverick Publishing)

Also brilliant from Julie / Patrick Corrigan and published by Maverick:

"Mister TV" by Julie Fulton and Patrick Corrigan (Maverick Arts Publishing)

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Saturday 30 May 2020

#Booky100Keepers Day 27: "Mr Tiger Goes Wild" and "My Teacher Is a Monster" by Peter Brown (Two Hoots)

Today's #Booky100Keepers is a bit of a rare old bird, a book that we never really see trumpeted about, yet it's utterly brilliant and one that we've read many, many times. So why don't we hear more about "Mr Tiger Goes Wild" by Peter Brown? In fact why isn't Peter Brown more widely known?

Mr Tiger has always been used to a certain level of prim and properness. He's a gentleman, and wouldn't be seen dead slobbing around the house when he can put on his most dapper suit and top hat, and take the air in a gentlemanly fashion, bidding "good day" politely to all the other animals as he passes.

But one night something happens to Mr Tiger. In fact Mr Tiger goes a little bit bonkers. Mr Tiger does indeed go wild.

Drinking tea with a little finger cocked? Lifting your hat to passers by? 
Mr Tiger becomes a tiger again!

Pip pip!
The whole sequence in this book where Mr Tiger rediscovers the joy of running around stark naked, roaring and generally behaving exactly like a tiger would, is just so joyous and brilliantly depicted.

Just look at Mr Tiger's expression in that final panel. That, right there, is sheer joy!
Of course the prim and proper folk aren't really sure they like this 'new' version of Mr Tiger at all. I mean it's just not the done thing is it, behaving like that! But this is gorgeous - and bear in mind this came along way before Zootropolis just in case you think it all sounds like it has an air of familiarity to it.

Like the rest of Peter Brown's books this one's just brilliantly done.

In fact while we're talking about our keepers list, we ought to include this one too...

"My Teacher is a Monster" is for all those kids who've ever suffered the cringe-making embarrassment of encountering their teacher outside school.

Bobby likes to think of himself as the perfect pupil. Always does his work on time, never misbehaves in class.

However his teacher, Miss Kirby, is an actual real life monster - and thinks Bobby is a bit of a workshy layabout.

As Bobby soon discovers, Miss Kirby isn't actually a monster after all, and after a chance encounter in the local park during the summer holidays, Bobby and Miss Kirby actually get on like a house on fire.

We loved the way Peter shows Miss Kirby's transformation as the book progresses, and of course Bobby's too.

Both books are absolutely brilliant, we're just sorry we've never caught up with anything else by Peter - he's got an enviable talent for storytelling and utterly perfect illustratons.

Original Review Links: 

ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week ending 16th August 2013 - "Mr Tiger Goes Wild" by Peter Brown (Macmillan Children's Books)

ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week Ending 27th June 2014 - "My Teacher Is a Monster (No I am not!)" By Peter Brown (Macmillan Children's Books)

Original Review Links:

ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week ending 16th August 2013 - "Mr Tiger Goes Wild" by Peter Brown (Macmillan Children's Books)

ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week Ending 27th June 2014 - "My Teacher Is a Monster (No I am not!)" By Peter Brown (Macmillan Children's Books)

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Friday 29 May 2020

ReaditDaddy's Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 29th May 2020: "The Stone Giant" by Anna Hoglund (Gecko Press)

This week's Picture Book of the Week is a fantastically dark little tale, not too scary for little ones but definitely one that evokes memories of classic Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson tales...

"The Stone Giant" by Anna Hoglund is the story of a plucky little girl who lives on a castle on an island with her father.

He's a brave knight - and one day a quest comes along that means he must travel to a dark mysterious and faraway land to do battle with a terrible giant - a giant who turns people to stone.

She busies herself around the castle while her father is away, waiting patiently each day for him to return. But soon it becomes apparent that the nasty giant has claimed another victim, so the girl must go and fight the giant herself - armed only with an umbrella and a mirror, and a ton of bravery!

Those woods don't look too inviting!
Soon the girl encounters the giant and knows exactly what to do. Hiding under the umbrella, she comes up with a plan to turn the Giant's stone-turning power on the giant herself! Will the girl triumph and free her dad?

It's a dark little tale this, the sort of book that we wish the UK publishing industry wouldn't keep shying away from but are secretly thankful that publishers like Gecko are around to make sure awesome dark tales like this see the light of day. It's also a real looker, with illustrations packed with detail and a timeless charm.

Sum this book up in a sentence: A dark and delicious little tale of a plucky young girl turning the tables on a nasty giant, filled with originality and thrills.

"The Stone Giant" by Anna Hoglund is out now, published by Gecko Press (kindly supplied as a digital ARC for review). 
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#Booky100Keepers Day 26: "The Storm Whale, The Storm Whale in Winter, Grandad's Island and Grandma Bird" by Benji Davies (Simon and Schuster)

A bit of a quadruple-header for our #Booky100Keepers entry today, with four author-illustrated books from a creative who just knows exactly how to put together the perfect picture book. Though we love Benji Davies' collaborations with others, it's always in his own books that we find his most amazing work, balancing between simple heartfelt stories and truly gorgeous illustrations.

"The Storm Whale" was undoubtedly one of the books that brought Benji's talents to a wider audience. The simple story of a young lad who lives quite an exciting existence with his dad (and umpteen cats) on a remote island. Noi always waits patiently for his dad to come back from his fishing trips - but while out adventuring on the island he finds a poor stranded whale. Nought but a baby but still quite a handful for Noi to wrestle back to the bath, until the whale can be properly nursed back into the sea.

Noi does his best, and then dad comes back and realises what has happened. Time for the baby whale to be reunited with its mum!

Benji followed up with "The Storm Whale in Winter" some time afterwards, again reuniting Noi and his rescued whale pal in a high adventure actually on the sea itself this time.

In fact the Whale might be the one doing the rescuing as Noi and his father realise just how harsh winter at sea can be.

Both books are really beautifully told, but it goes without saying that Benji isn't just some one-trick pony who bashes out a series of books with minor tweaks between each. Each story has its own charm, its own pace and a thrumming heartfelt message to convey.

Noi appears once again in our keepers list in the sublime "Grandma Bird"...

 This time Noi is staying with his Grandma for the summer holidays.

She seems a bit of a stern old bird, but begins to show Noi a side to her that he hadn't known existed.

She boils seaweed to eat, and is generally quiet and believes that children should be seen and not heard - but when Noi is swept up in a dramatic and adventurous rescue, Grandma Bird and Noi bond in an amazing way.

As much a book about our relationship with other generations, as a celebration of grandparents and how amazing they are to us, this one's another little beauty.

Then there's "Grandad's Island"...

We've seen a great many books about grief, and books that aim to try and help a child understand what it's like when they lose someone they love - and what happens when they aren't there any more.

Syd's Grandad lives at the bottom of the garden in a wonderful little grandad-house. Syd can come and go any time he pleases, but one day when he goes to visit Grandad, he can't find him anywhere - until he does finally discover Grandad next to a secret door in the attic - a door that leads to a fantastic and fabulously colourful island where Grandad wants to stay. Syd can't stay with him alas, and once he returns home he really misses his grandad very much. But always has the cherished memories of how happy they were together.

It's so beautifully illustrated again, full of colour and happiness - and in fact it's that rare thing, a book about loss and grief that doesn't dwell on the darker side of how those emotions feel, concentrating instead on the joy of having happy memories of someone who is no longer with us any more.

We feel it's also worth mentioning that Benji's collaboration with Linda Sarah ("On Sudden Hill") is also in our Keepers list but wanted to highlight Benji's books themselves, he's one of those folk who pushes the envelope for kidlit every time he puts pen to paper, so we hope if you've not heard of these you'll go track 'em down, they belong in every kid's collection.

Original Reviews (as you can see, no stranger to our "Book of the Week" slot!

ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week ending 19th July 2013 - "The Storm Whale" by Benji Davies (Simon and Schuster)

ReadItDaddy's First Book of the Week - Week Ending 16th September 2016 - "The Storm Whale in Winter" by Benji Davies (Simon and Schuster Children's Books)

ReadItDaddy's Second Book of the Week - Week Ending 3rd July 2015 - "Grandad's Island" by Benji Davies (Simon and Schuster Children's Books)

ReadItDaddy's Third Book of the Week - Week Ending 19th October 2018: "Grandma Bird" by Benji Davies (Simon and Schuster Children's Books)

....and with Linda Sarah:

ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week Ending 29th August 2014 - "On Sudden Hill" by Linda Sarah and Benji Davies (Simon and Schuster Children's Books)

We chat to the utterly awesome team behind one of the most beautiful children's books of the year - "On Sudden Hill" - Hi to Linda Sarah and Benji Davies

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Thursday 28 May 2020

ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book Roundup - May 2020

Welcome, welcome to our May Chapter Book Roundup where we're once again bringing you a gorgeous selection of chapter books to keep things ticking over while you're in lockdown. The sun is shining, the birds are singing and there's no better time to tuck yourself into your favourite book nook in the garden and enjoy some sunshine and stunning kidlit.

We're kicking off with the fabulous "Roxy and Jones: The Great Fairytale Cover Up" by Angela Woolfe.

Deftly splicing together the contemporary tale of two kick-ass gals with a world where fairytales are real, and characters we know and love are woven into this fab mix of adventure and excitement bringing together the familiar and unfamiliar!

Roxy Humberdinck is half sister to Hansel and Gretel (yes, THOSE kids who are expert at defeating nasty old witches) and Jones (who is more better known by her other monicker, Cinderella). Both girls have a natural curiosity and want to find out more about their world and their weird families, and the tales told to them in childhood which are now becoming all too real.
A superb mix of classic fairy tales and brilliant bang-up-to-date mighty girl stuff which we absolutely loved!

"Roxy and Jones" by Angela Woolfe is out now, published by Walker Books. 

Sticking with Fairy Tales for a moment for a whole new version of a well loved classic, a superb gift edition of Pinocchio...

We all know the classic story but it's brought to life better than ever thanks to this glorious range from HarperCollins and Minalima Classics. 

Originally published in 1883, The Adventures of Pinocchio is one of the best known and beloved children s classics. Written by Italian political satirist Carlo Collodi, it is the story of Geppetto, a poor puppeteer who uses an enchanted piece of wood to carve a marionette boy he calls Pinocchio.

The impish Pinocchio does not want to be a puppet; he yearns to become a real boy. Soon, his curiosity, mischievousness, and naivete lead him away from his father s shop and into a series of perilous encounters with vicious puppet masters, cunning animals, and other magical characters. Along this perilous journey, the magical puppet learns how much turmoil, heart, and hard work it takes to become a real boy. With a nose that grows larger with each lie he tells, Pinocchio has become an enduring icon in children s literature, and now his story is brilliantly reimagined in this stunning gift edition.

There are tons of interactive sections in the book, even featuring the little wooden fella himself (complete with his 'fibbing' nose).

There's also a fabulous papercraft theatre to re-enact scenes from the story. We're huge fans of Pinocchio and this is easily one of the most impressive versions we've seen yet. 

"The Adventures of Pinocchio" by Carlo Collodi with fantastic illustrations from Minalima is out now, published by Harper360 / HarperDesign. 

One for animal lovers next and a real heartwarming tale, just the sort of thing we need right now. 

"Saving Winslow" by Sharon Creech introduces animal-loving Louie. 

Louie doesn't have the best of luck when it comes to nurturing small animals - not even lightning bugs, worms or goldfish. 

So when his father brings home a sickly newborn little donkey, he's determined to save him. 

Taking care of him helps Louie feel closer to brother Gus, who has just left home. Everyone worries that Winslow won't survive, especially Louie's quirky new friend, Nora. 

But as the bond with Winslow grows, surprising events prove that this fragile donkey - and Louie - are stronger than anyone could have imagined.

A superb tale about believing in yourself, and finding your inner strength with the help of your besties, "Saving Winslow" by Sharon Creech is out now, published by Guppy Books. 

More awesome storytelling reinforcing the importance of friendships and working together now, in "Hello Universe" by Erin Entrada Kelly. 

This is the tale of four interconnecting friendships between two boys and two girls, that begins as a nasty prank backfires and leaves one friend stuck at the bottom of a well with only a pet guinea pig for company. 

Poor Virgil is well and truly stuck, so it's up to his friends Valencia, Kaori and Chet to try and save him from his nasty predicament. 

The four will use their own unique skills, their strong bond and a bit of luck and bravery to see their quest through to the end. 

Deliciously realistic characterisations and loads of life-affirming lessons to learn in a story that feels instantly classic, like a modern-day "Stand By Me". 

"Hello Universe" by Erin Entrada Kelly is out now, published by HarperCollins Children's Books. 

What exactly IS the currency of cool? Steven Camden has a theory in his new book, "My Big Mouth" with illustrations from Scott Garrett.

10 year old Jay's life is turned upside down when his dad leaves. Why did he go? Where exactly has he gone? Jay needs to find answers, but he becomes embroiled in a world of his own making, as his little white fibs turn into gigantic huge whopping great big lies. 

Soon Jay's storytelling places him right at the centre of attention amongst his friends, but this newfounded spotlight may become unwanted sooner rather than later as Jay's fibs begin to unravel, and the real story of Dad's departure comes to light. 

It takes an unlikely ally to sort Jay's life out, but could he be any less grateful?

Brilliantly observed and cleverly written with a fantastic sense of humour, Steven Camden is definitely one to watch. Look out Jeff Kinney and David Walliams, he's coming for your crown!

"My Big Mouth" by Steven Camden and Scott Garrett is out now, published by Macmillan Children's Books. 

Normally we're used to reading stories about sibling rivalry but in the fabulous "The Key To Finding Jack" by Ewa Jozefkowicz, Flick actually loves her older brother loads - and loves solving puzzles with him.

But Jack is ready for his gap year, travelling to deepest darkest Peru in search of fortune and glory, and Flick doesn't want him to go. 

Soon Flick's worries are justified as tragedy strikes, and Jack disappears when an earthquake strikes the region where he was last seen. The whole family are at the end of their tethers, Flick more than anything else, and this plucky twelve year old decides to try and solve the mystery of her brother's disappearance, and the meaning of the strange key and gold chain, and mysterious note that she finds in Jack's room.

A brilliant adventure woven with Inca gold and deep steamy jungles, instantly feeling fresh and original for kids who love their stories with a bit more excitement. 

"The Key to Finding Jack" by Ewa Jozefkowicz is out on 4th June 2020, published by Zephyr Books. 

Next up, a new book from an author who specialises in introducing a bit of mechanised chaos into middle grade, and you know how we feel about that!

We're crazy about "Audrey Orr and the Robot Rage" by Jenny Moore, following on from her equally awesome "Agent Starling: Operation Baked Beans" which came out last year.

This time, young lass Audrey is devastated when her parents win a cruise to Norway. Audrey has to stay in school while her parents indulge themselves with a luxury holiday. How fair is that?

Audrey's forced to stay at home with her Grandad who soon ends up involving Audrey in a strange mystery that may require a modicum of brainpower, and some robotic help so Audrey can be in two places at once.

Audrey creates an awesome robotic twin, but will she be able to stop her new best metallic buddy from going on the rampage? You know how twitchy robots can be!

Stunning stuff again from Jenny!

"Audrey Orr and the Robot Rage" by Jenny Moore is out now, published by Maverick. 

One last book this month, and it's the return of a rather hapless but brilliantly funny wizard in "Fred: Wizard in Trouble" - Book 2 in the Fred series from Simon Philip with fantastic artwork by blog fave Sheena Dempsey.

Fred may look ordinary, but sometimes people who look ordinary turn out to be not very ordinary at all. You see Fred is a wizard, or rather he's training to be one - but the big problem is that Fred is absolutely TERRIBLE at Magic. Oh dear!

Now he's training with the amazing Merlin, hoping to transform from the worst wizard around to a magical marvel - but the pressure is on as Merlin expects the very best from his pupils. 

But when an ancient magical book is stolen and Merlin goes missing, Fred discovers that sometimes magic isn't the answer and that he has other talents that can help him solve the mystery that's got everyone else stumped!

Brilliant fun, entertaining and with plenty of giggles and mishaps, it's an excellent second book in the series so don't forget to check out "Wizard in Training" as well!

"Fred: Wizard in Trouble" by Simon Philip and Sheena Dempsey is out now, published by Simon and Schuster

(all books kindly supplied for review). 
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#Booky100Keepers Day 25: "I Really Want to Eat a Child" by Sylvianne Donnio and Dorothee De Monfreid (Hodder Children's Books)

Oddly it looks like this book has been renamed to be slightly more polite. What a shame! Anyway, when we first bought / reviewed this book it was called "I Really Want to Eat a Child" and was one of the reasons we fell hook line and sinker in love with all things kidlit and comic-shaped from across the English Channel.

The French have the sort of children's book industry that we can only look on with enviable eyes. They see children's books as an art form in their own right, not bound by the usual formulaic rules and regs that we over here in the UK have to put up with.

Two of French kidlit's finest talents - Sylviane Donnio and Dorothee De Monfried collaborated on this brilliant book about a baby crocodile called Achilles who is getting a bit fed up with his parents' usual dishings up at the dinner table.

Achilles wants something more substantial to sink his tiny little teeth into. In fact Achilles, adorable as he is, wants to eat a child.

Despite Mum and Dad's gentle cajoling, Achilles goes on a self-inflicted hunger strike until he sees his opportunity to fulfil his hungry ambition. But the best laid plans of mice, men and tiny little crocodiles can often be thwarted by the smart little brains of children - and that's exactly what happens in this story.

It's the perfect example of an irreverent subject slowly building up to a surprise conclusion, and we\re a little bit sad the book got renamed. Why do folk do this? Who on earth could be offended by little Achilles?!

Original Review Link: 

ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week, week ending Friday 15th February 2013 - "I Really Want To Eat A Child" by Sylviane Donnio and Dorothee De Monfried (Hodder Children's Books)
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"Don't go....stay" - This Week's #ReadItTorial

Saaaaaam! Don't Go....! Stay!
We're officially on the slowly meandering path to eventual wind down here at ReadItDaddy Towers, but weird things keep happening to draw us back into the idea of "staying on" in some form or other after August 12th. I can almost hear the collective groans from our readers "Look, stay, or go, DO SOMETHING BUT DO IT BECAUSE YOU WANT TO!" but this week in particular, we've...

1) Been listed in a well respected journal amongst other awesome book-blogging royalty:

2) Seen a massive upsurge in hits on the blog - weirdly not from the UK, but we're suddenly 'big' in Alaska and North America. (Canada still hates us though, eh?)

3) Had several PR contacts from awesome publishers we admire with new review opportunities.

4) Had a stack of new books arrive after a relative drought as the lockdown kicked in.

The thing is, it's actually very difficult to just quit something that you've invested such a huge amount of time and effort in, but it's also equally difficult to carry on with something under the same conditions that made you want to quit in the first place.

It reminded me of that scene in the fantastic Terry Gilliam movie "Brazil" - the moment where Sam Lowry, the "hero" of the piece, is about to make the leap up the career ladder away from the cruddy information department he's been slaving away in. Only in his dream his boss appears as a hideous monster made of bricks, pulling him back down to earth as he tries to break away.

The Little Miss and Me have discussed what's going to happen after August and it's clear that we just can't carry on trying to cover stuff we've only got a fleeting interest in. PR folk are lovely, and it's extremely difficult to say no to folk who contact us with review opportunities of perfectly wonderful and brilliant books that we just KNOW are going to become someone's favourite. Often over the last few weeks I've elected not to reply to emails asking us to join blog tours, or to look at books we just can't find the time - nor the heart - to write about.

So what to do, what to do...

I really admire the approach a few other book bloggers (whose kids have also 'aged out') have taken, to deal with the transition. Some just carry on without their kids' input and their blogs are still as awesome as ever they were.

Some alter their blogs beyond all recognition but you can still hear their core 'voice' in there, even after substantial reinvention.

Some just quit, but still keep a beady eye on the whole business, and maybe contribute the odd think-piece here and there (and that's likely to be the 'slot' we fall into).

There's another option of course, to drop our output down to a minimum, only writing about the stuff that really catches our eye, that we genuinely love, or perhaps even carrying on with the retrospective (after all, we're only covering 100 picture books in the run up to the 12th, we could just as easily carry on writing about scintillating non-fiction, amazing comics, fantastic chapter books and everthing in between).

Little Miss is still talking about covering books herself and I can't wait to see how that goes and what she comes up with (tweenagers know their stuff, know how to make the best of social media, and also know how to convey their thoughts about the stuff they love with the language and clarity that their peers can relate to and understand).

So we're at a fork in the road. Not so much a fork as a spaghetti junction of options but still with the 12th of August looming on the horizon, and the decision not becoming any easier.
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Wednesday 27 May 2020

"The Big Book of Football" by Mundial, illustrated by Damien Weighill (Wide Eyed Editions)

"Ball Ball Ball! Footy Footy Footy! Ball Ball Ball...FOOTBALL!"

We must admit we are utterly and completely clueless when it comes to the beautiful game, not knowing our Spurs from our Arsenals, but if you're looking for a giant-sized book that is a mammoth encyclopaedia filled with all aspects of football, you really can't get any better than "The Big Book of Football" by Mundial and Damien Weighill.

This fantastically presented book is literally filled from cover to cover with a huge selection of facts and figures about football from the history of the game right through to the modern spectacle of football that is loved by zillions around the world.

Even with football bouncing off us like a fried egg on a teflon pan we can definitely appreciate a wonderfully compiled and presented book that will be a complete must for fans young and old. We can't possibly do this book justice, so let's suck a half-time orange and take a peek inside instead...!

If you want to get ahead, get a boot (or two!)
Zipped together in a really pin-sharp brilliant graphical style, there's a huge wealth of information here covering absolutely every angle.

The offside rule - befuddling non-football fans since, well, forever
Where you play is as important as how you play!
We've come to expect the highest possible standards from all Wide Eyed Editions books, and once again they've surpassed themselves with this publication.

Sum this book up in a sentence: Pack it in your kitbag (if you've got a huge kitbag, this thing is GINORMOUS) - it's going to last more than 90 minutes!

The Big Book of Football by Mundial and Damien Weighill is out now, published by Wide Eyed Editions (kindly supplied for review - SCORCHIO!)
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#Booky100Keepers Day 24: "Troll and the Oliver" by Adam Stower (Templar Publishing)

There's always something quite thrilling about getting a 'back cover quote' when you're just a small humble book blog. Our first was this fantastic book which we quite rightly made a "Book of the Week" back in the day, the utterly brilliant "Troll and the Oliver" by Adam Stower.

Troll is a hungry old monster, and he'd like nothing better than to catch Oliver - a rather smug, cheery and far too cheeky little chap who dances through Troll's locale daily while shopping for groceries.

Troll is absolutely determined to catch Oliver, but that slippery little red-haired toddler is far too smart - and too quick for old Troll, forced instead to eat a rather bland diet of twigs, pebbles and snails.

But Troll has a plan - and this is where this book ended up as a book of the week for us, lulling you into a false sense of security in knowing just how the story is going to go, right up till its "Surprise" moment.

No no, this isn't it, what, you think we'd spoil the entire book for you? NO WAY!
We got a quote on the back of the paperback edition when it was originally released and we said "As Monster Books go this is pretty much perfect, the double-pumped payoff is so utterly deliciously satisfying that for a tiny, tiny moment your little one will sit agog!"

...and it's true too! Go read and find out!

Adam followed up with this one...

Reuniting Troll and Oliver in "Grumbug!" and introducing Oliver's equally slippery little sister who decides to go off on an adventure of her own - a dangerous quest to track down the fearsome Grumbug, a monster feared even by monsters themselves.

I think really this was just an excuse for Adam to draw lots of cake. The story is fun and we rather loved the idea of having a sassy little sis on board, but the last few pages will just make your stomach growl even louder than Troll's!

Brilliant books, once again establishing what a keen eye Templar have for enticing some of the best author illustrators in the business to produce such lovely books for them.

Original review links: 

Troll and the Oliver by Adam Stower (Templar Publishing)

Our first "Back of the Book" quote and it's a doozy...

ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week Ending 5th June 2015 - "Grumbug" by Adam Stower (Templar Publishing)
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Tuesday 26 May 2020

"The Blue Giant" by Katie Cottle (Pavilion Children's Books)

A fabulous, beautiful book about our amazing oceans, Katie Cottle's "The Blue Giant" is out today, from Pavilion Children's Books.

Saving our planet, and the plastic in our oceans is of course a hugely important topic that children are focused on at the moment, and this book brings a gentle story of Coral and her mum who are enjoying a lovely day at the beach, when an urgent plea for help comes - directly from the ocean itself!

It's a giant. A blue giant. It is made of water, fish, and sea plants and has a stirring plea to help clean up the ocean.

Coral and her mom agree to help, donning their scuba-diving outfits and setting off to sea. But they can't do it alone...can they?

This stunning follow-up to Katie Cottle's debut picture book The Green Giant is another entertaining and beautiful eco-tale from the 2017 winner of the Batsford Prize.

It introduces children to the issues of pollution, waste management, and the oceans, with suggestions of lifestyle changes to help clean up our seas.

Sum this book up in a sentence: A gorgeously illustrated book for mini eco warriors, urging us to take better care of our oceans. 

"The Blue Giant" by Katie Cottle will be released in August 2020, published by Pavilion Children's Books (kindly supplied for review). 

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#Booky100Keepers Day 23: "The Clarice Bean Books" by Lauren Child (Orchard Books)

Though C was obsessed with Charlie and Lola (the TV show rather than the books, strangely) she really, REALLY loves Lauren Child's other genius creation far more.

"Clarice Bean, That's Me" by Lauren is that perfect example of a book that was pretty far ahead of its time, and one that I believe Lauren herself had the devil's own job to get published. Which is strange because it does a lot of the things we still see rattling through kidlit today.

It ticks all the diversity boxes you can think of, the series of books tackle all sorts of relevant topics but more importantly for us, it shows what a 'normal' family life is like - a family life that we not only see almost as a reflection of our own (minus about half a dozen kids!) but feels like it has come from Lauren's own observations of her childhood, her relatives and friends.

So Clarice Bean herself narrates each book, introducing us to her family. Her Mum and Dad are just like anyone's mum and dad (though I would rather like the idea of sitting in a plush corner office listening to Frank Sinatra records while eating Tutti Frutti Ice Cream and telling Miss Eglantine to "Hold my calls!"). Her brother, like all little brothers, borders on being an annoying brat most of the time but Clarice knows exactly how to deal with him.

Her older brother Kurt is going through that desperate time as a teenager when all you want to do is lie in your darkened stinky room listening to droning music, claiming that the world is rubbish. Her older sister has a whole 'boy thing' going on, so best avoided entirely! Even Grandad lives at home, as dotty as a hankerchief but lovable all the same.

Clarice doesn't embark on some grand adventure, she just takes us through her day - yet this book is one that we've returned to again, and again, and again purely due to the way Lauren packs so much story in around the actual story text. her illustrations are unique, brilliant, charming and lovely - and they suit the almost semi-diary approach here wonderfully too.

Little brothers. Universally annoying, right?
In "My Uncle is a Hunkle" Clarice's Uncle Ted comes to stay, to look after the kids while Dad is on a business trip and Mum is away looking after her other brother, a New York Cop who slipped on a rogue donut.

The only problem is that Uncle Ted - despite being a "Hunkle" is actually terrible at parenting, so it doesn't take long before things go horribly wrong.

Once again Clarice narrates the tale of lost school pets and the fire brigade turning up, with absolutely brilliant details worked into the story to make you giggle and smile.

We always think of the movie "Uncle Buck" when we read this one, though Lauren's story pulls off the same neat trick of giving us a slice of childhood life that doesn't need to be fantastical to be charming and interesting.

Normal family life, just perfecto!
Lastly, in "What Planet are You From, Clarice Bean?" Lauren practically invented the 'eco message' book a good decade before we were almost drowned in them (last year).

Clarice Bean is set a class assignment with the annoying "Shouting Boy" next door, but her older brother Kurt takes more direct action to save the neighbourhood trees from being chopped down.

Clarice realises that we need to protect our planet and all living things, and the book manages to convey a superb eco message without ramming it down your throat with a wag of a finger.

I feel we have to mention Robert Granger (AKA "Shouting Boy") as he's actually C's favourite character, and one of the best supporting characters in the book. She's sort of fallen in love with him a bit, as it's clear that he just wants to be Clarice's bestie, but Clarice is having none of it - and in this book he has his finest moment as he does a rather good job of saving the day.

All three are brilliant books and though we were sent the original for review, we couldn't resist buying the others ourselves (though we've not yet looked at the middle grade books in the same series). Oddly though we never got round to reviewing the last two until now!

Original Review Links: 

Clarice Bean, that's me! by Lauren Child (Orchard Books)

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Monday 25 May 2020

"Go Big - Survive and Thrive in Secondary School" by Matthew Burton (Hachette)

It feels like a weirdly different landscape for schools at the moment, but one thing that never goes amiss is a good dose of awesome advice from someone who knows what they're talking about.

Entering senior school can be a daunting prospect for youngsters and in "Go Big: Survive and Thrive in Secondary School" the nation's favourite head teacher Matthew Burton (star of Educating Yorkshire) is on hand to dispense teacherly wisdom in a really nicely presented and digestible form.

In fact we wish we'd had this book a few months ago when C herself began her senior school journey. Just about everything you can think of is covered here, from homework to leisure activites and clubs, from lesson planning and exams to mental health issues, bullying and even careers advice and ways to gear yourself up for what you want to eventually do when senior school comes to an end.

This book format is really great, as it feels like the sort of book that'll tuck nicely into your school bag to be referred to, maybe even scribbled on once you get to senior school yourself. Even though we're still not sure what's actually going to happen come September when kids may be heading off to Senior School for the first time, it's still worth having a look inside as this book is invaluable for those worried about the whole process.

Cutting through some of the common myths and rumours about senior school
Oh grud, exams. I mean does anyone actually like them?
I still have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. 
Sum this book up in a sentence: An awesome self-help guide for kids about to enter secondary school, written by a head teacher who really knows what he's talking about!

"Go Big" by Matthew Burton is out now, published by Hachette (kindly supplied for review).
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#Booky100Keepers Day 22: "The Princess and the Pony" and "King Baby" by Kate Beaton (Walker Books)

Who is Kate Beaton? Well she's the genius behind a series of pant-wettingly funny (and er, really only for Grown Ups!) web comics where she pokes raucous fun at everything from history to romantic literature and popular culture.

So a shoe-in for someone who could produce the most brilliant, hilarious and pant-wettingly funny children's books? You betcha!

...and so she did, with two utterly brilliant entries in our #Booky100Keepers list.

Starting with "The Princess and the Pony" - Kate's take on what it's like being a little bit small, but with mighty ambitions! The Princess in this tale isn't some prim and proper little madam who is obsessed with dresses and going to the ball with a prince. She's a mighty kick-ass little warrior Princess who is a bit fed up with getting cuddly sweaters for her birthday. What she wants more than anything else is a mighty horse to charge into battle with.

Her parents relent - only the "mighty horse" is actually a small boss-eyed pony who has a rather farty bottom!

Nevertheless the Princess gets ready for the big bash, where all the local warriors meet in a mighty arena for a good old ding-dong. Will the Princess triumph? Or will she (and her dumpy little charge) get stomped into the dirt?

We love books that are funny. Not "oh ha ha how amusing" funny but "OH MY GOD I HURT MYSELF" funny, and this is just so brilliant - particularly if you're the sort of parents (like us) who cannot stand all those gooey-eyed princess books.

Kate's next children's book was equally brilliant, this time a sharp bit of observation about what it's like to be the centre of attention.

"King Baby" was written / produced before Kate became a mum herself, but it's spot on. "King Baby" is a benevolent ruler but without a shadow of a doubt, the real "boss" in the household.

Again it's just so funny, particularly Kate's gift of illustrating the most manic facial expressions for her characters - often accompanied by brilliantly placed sound effects (usually emanating from her character's bottom areas!)

King Baby has it all - but wait, what's this? WHO IS THIS USURPER WHO WANTS KING BABY'S CROWN?

Yep you can probably guess what happens when King Baby gets a sibling!

A perfect book for kids who are expecting a new bro or sis soon, but also tons of fun for parents who will absolutely recognise their own King or Queen babies in this book.

We really hope Kate makes a triumphant return to kidlit real soon, we miss her a lot and if she does we might even come out of retirement just to review her next masterpiece!

Original Review Links: 

ReadItDaddy's First Book of the Week - Week Ending 21st August 2015 - "The Princess and the Pony" by Kate Beaton (Walker Books)

Booky Advent Calendar Book of the Week - Week Ending 16th December 2016 - "King Baby" by Kate Beaton (Walker Books)

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Sunday 24 May 2020

#Booky100Keepers Day 21: "The Talkative Tortoise" by Andew Fusek-Peters and Charlotte Cooke (Child's Play)

Sometimes, author / illustrator teams can being a well-loved traditional tale to life in such an engaging way, that it outstrips and out-performs any other version of that story.

We have seen this many times with classic fables, and it's definitely the case with this version of "The Talkative Tortoise" by Andrew Fusek-Peters and Charlotte Cooke.

It's the story of how Tortoise became the biffed-up slow-moving creature he is today - but it wasn't always like that. Once Tortoise was a rather braggardly fellow, proud of his shiny shell with a motormouth that just wouldn't quit.

One winter, Tortoise's two best friends, in this case two extremely patient geese (their patience regularly tested by their mouthy friend) are set to migrate as the cold weather arrives.

Tortoise doesn't like the idea of being on his own, so has a massive tantrum - and in the end the geese agree to try and take tortoise with them.

They come up with a plan - if Tortoise can grip onto a stick with his mouth, they can carry him aloft - but he absolutely MUST NOT OPEN HIS MOUTH while they fly over the countryside.

Tortoise thinks this sounds like an absolute doddle. But you know Tortoise...and you can probably imagine what happens part-way through the story when Tortoise thinks the people below are laughing at him as he flies past with his winged pals.

Child's Play have been one of the publishers who have contributed so much to C's enjoyment of stories, with such a huge selection of fantastic stories from across the world, covering subjects that are quite often tricky to deal with in children's books - and you'll see them crop up several times in our retrospectives. This is a fine example of a fable done right, brought to life stunningly by Andrew and Charlotte.

Original Review Link: 

The Talkative Tortoise by Andrew Fusek Peters and Charlotte Cooke (Child's Play International Ltd)
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Saturday 23 May 2020

#Booky100Keepers Day 20: "The Dunderheads" and "The Dunderheads Behind Bars" by Paul Fleischman and David Roberts (Walker Books)

David Roberts is a name that's going to come up quite a few times in our #Booky100Keepers list - here working alongside Paul Fleischman to provide two utterly fantastic and diverse books that don't bore the absolute pants off you by making diversity some sort of horrid mechanism to drive a point across.

Here's the thing with both "The Dunderheads" and "The Dunderheads Behind Bars" though - despite the kids all having groovy and cool super-talents, they also feel like kids that any young reader might know themselves.

In the first book this crazy gang get together to defeat their horrible teacher, the intimidating Miss Breakbone (who could probably arm-wrestle The Trunchbull into submission, she's that fearsome).

Junkyard's best find ever is confiscated, so alongside his pals Wheels, Pencil, Spider, Hollywood and the rest of the gang, it's time for sweet sweet revenge.

In "The Dunderheads Behind Bars" a sneaky thief is on the loose, just as the kids are breaking up for the summer holidays - and have a shot at fame as a big hollywood blockbuster is filming in town, and they need a bunch of cute kids as extras.

Hollywood herself is absolutely delighted, as her idol, Ashley Throbb-Hart is in the movie - and she just can't wait to nab an autograph. But guess who else got a part in the movie, and guess who else puts a gigantic jail-bar sized spoke in the wheel of The Dunderheads plans for the perfect summer?

Yep, Miss Breakbone, aided by her weird lookalike police officer brother! Someone's going to be wearing a natty orange suit (poor Spider!)

Once again it's up to the kids to solve the mystery of the missing loot, and spring Spider from jail!

These books are fab - most kids love books where they can identify with the kid characters themselves, and there's really something for everyone in these, doing a brilliant job of representing diversity - and not just that, representing really interesting kids with a whole range of quirks, foibles and strange habits - and for that they really do deserve to be keepers.

Original Review Links: 

The Dunderheads by Paul Fleischman and David Roberts (Walker Books)

The Dunderheads - Behind Bars by Paul Fleischman and David Roberts (Walker Books)
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Friday 22 May 2020

#Booky100Keepers Day 19: "The Book With No Pictures" by B.J. Novak (Picture Puffin)

I love it when a #Booky100Keeper crops up that elicits such a sharp and happy memory of our book blogging journey.

This one arrived without fanfare, without prewarning (we literally saw no hype, no build up, not even a polite "Do you want to review this book?" but nevertheless "The Book With No Pictures" by B.J. Novak arrived and was instantly met with "no way, not reading it, don't like it!"

I don't know if other booky folk / book bloggers ever go through this with their young bosses. When they dig their heels in about something, it sometimes takes a lot of cajoling before they'll give something a try - but when they do they fall instantly in love with it... was the case here. Of course the main reason comedian and writer B.J. Novak's 'celebrity' book outstrips just about everything else you'll read by a sleb in kidlit is that he fully understands the audience he's writing for. He's a smart guy, and he knows kids are brilliantly smart too - so figured out a way to capitalise on the idea that a book without pictures that makes your adults look like complete nincompoops as they read it aloud to you would be a stroke of absolute genius, and wildly popular. And it is.

Let's see why shall we?

Nothing problematic so far....oh, wait a minute, what?

Oh no, this doesn't look good!

GAHHHH! So of course by the end of the book you (the adult reader) feel like you've been 'had' and your children feel like they've managed to deliciously get one over on you as you robotically follow the instructions laid out in front of you.

It makes for a superb, engaging and brilliant performance piece if you enter into the swing of things properly - and it's guaranteed to put a big old smile on your kids' face for sure. I'm slightly sad that we've never seen any follow-ups or anything else from B.J (I haven't googled to see if he ever did another). But this is a keeper and one we still wheel out if I'm getting too ahead of myself and C wants to bring me down a peg or two!

Original Review Link:

The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak (Puffin Books)
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