Friday, July 31, 2020

ReadItDaddy's Second Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 31st July 2020: "Shy Ones" by Simona Ciraolo (Flying Eye / NoBrow)

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We had to make our "Book of the Week" slot a double header for Flying Eye / NoBrow - simply because both the books we recieved for review from them recently are just SO GOOD!

This one, in particular, feels like the book we've been waiting on for the last 10 years of our book blogging career.

"Shy Ones" by Simona Ciraolo has a story theme that we've begged people to write a children's picture book about, and though we've seen one or two that don't quite nail the point we've covered so many times in our ReadItTorials - that quiet kids deserve every bit as much attention and as many chances to shine - as noisy outspoken confident kids - this is the best picture book on the subject of shyness that we've ever seen.

C is a shy kid, but just like the gorgeous little octopoid in this story, when no one's looking she shines. Throughout the book Simona captures perfectly what it has felt like for us as parents as a shy kid, knowing our daughter's true worth but seeing her come a cropper again and again in school when teachers always add the tiresome snipe at the end of each school report. "She's too quiet in class" or "She never speaks up for herself despite her work being brilliant" (teachers, if you do this, I really don't know what to say to you, it's one of the worst things you can possibly say to a shy kid, or the parents of a shy kid - particularly if you're using that as a measure of their academic worth let alone their worth as a person).

So here it is, a book that spins the beautiful tale of a shy kid who finally finds an equally shy friend, and comes out of her shell a bit. When you see that happen in the story, just like when you see it happen as a parent who is proud of their kid, it's a moment to treasure.

Thank you for this Simona, this is really something truly special.

Sum this book up in a sentence: At last, a fanfare for the quiet ones, the shy ones, and about blimmin' time they had their chance to shine too!

"Shy Ones" by Simona Ciraolo is out now, published by Flying Eye Books / NoBrow (US)

(Book kindly supplied for review)
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ReadItDaddy's First Book of the Week - Week Ending 31st July 2020: "Season of the Witch" by Matt Ralph and Nuria Tamarit (Flying Eye / NoBrow)

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Wow! I mean you had us at "Witch" but we hadn't expected the perfect halloween book to drop into our laps before August is even upon us. But let's face it, there's never a bad time of year to read a brilliantly researched and gorgeously illustrated book all about witches, is there?

"Season of the Witch: A Spellbinding History of Witches and Other Magical Folk" by Matt Ralph and Nuria Tamarit is the sort of book that grabs your attention the minute you spy the cover.

We all probably imagine witches as those green skinned pointy-hatted broomstick riding cat-befriending folk, scudding through the dead of night atop their brushy rides, ready to strike terror into the hearts of everyone. But Matt and Nuria have brought together the perfect witch's brew of historical facts and figures about witches, mages, magicians and Wiccans that will give you food for thought.

A lot of the content here made our hearts sing with joy, purely because you rarely see books that strike the perfect balance between imparting a ton of facts without diluting them for kids. In fact for most kids, this may be the first time they've ever realised that there is a real-life history to witches and magic, and it's certainly going to be the first time that a lot of kids read anything about the Witchfinder General, or the Salem trials - or for that matter how many witches and other mystical beings show up in myths and legends.

Our favourite bits were definitely learning more about magical folk in Ancient Egypt, and also the amazing Japanese legends about witches, monsters and mythical beings.

We couldn't get enough of this, and it looks like you won't have long to wait until it's released, which is fab news. As you'd expect from Flying Eye the sheer amount of effort that has gone into this book's illustrations and presentation make it more than worth the entry fee, and it's certainly one of the most unique "non fiction" titles (though are witches REALLY fictional?) we've seen this year.

Sum this book up in a sentence: An absolutely belting book filled with all manner of strange witchiness, mystical magic and tons of real-world facts and stories to bring its subject matter to life in a wholly engaging way.

"Season of the Witch" by Matt Ralph and Nuria Tamarit is out on 1st August 2020, published by Flying Eye Books / NoBrow (US)
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#Booky100Keepers Day 89: "Board Games to Create and Play" by Kevan Davis and Viviane Schwarz (Pavilion Children's Books)

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Man, we were properly obsessed with this book when it first turned up at ReaditDaddy Towers and you know what? Though our copy is pretty well mauled, we still use it today as there's no better way to pass a long boring school holiday than to delve into this exquisite book and start putting together a new game idea.

We're totally in love with board games (well, games of any description really) and Kevan and Viv have done such a great job of including absolutely everything you need to create your own awesome game ideas. All you really need to bring to the table is yourself, your besties or kids, and your imagination.

We read through the whole book before embarking on a project we'd had on the backburner for a long time - a strange board game of sheer chance where your aim is to make your way around a supermarket, snagging as many goodies as possible but avoiding the wandering grannies who inhabit the store, and will nag you to bits to go and pick their prescriptions up for them - thus robbing you of the chance of nabbing more groceries than your opponent.

We worked on several versions of the game, inspired in some part by horrible shopping trips we'd had in the past - and amazingly the game held together pretty well. So well in fact that we still dig it out from time to time to play it.

We devised several other board games and a couple of card games too. I firmly believe that there's no better bonding experience for a family than to tough it out designing a game, then of course playing each other at it.

Certainly a better way of deciding who gets to do the washing up than tossing a coin.

Original review links and articles: 

ReadItDaddy's Second Book of the Week - Week Ending 20th September 2019: "Board Games to Create and Play" by Kevan Davis and Viviane Schwarz (Pavilion Children's Books)

Building our own board game with "Board Games to Create and Play" by Kevan Davis and Viviane Schwarz (Pavilion Children's Books)


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Thursday, July 30, 2020

Parental influence - Are we 'hard wiring' our children's reading tastes from an early age? Today's #ReadItTorial

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Today's #Readitorial is more of a brain fart really. I'd been thinking a lot about an exercise I undertake from time to time, where I try desperately to 'read outside my comfort zone' - picking books that normally I wouldn't touch with a 50 ft barge pole. For one reason or another I'd picked up something cheap for my kindle on a whim, and despite finding it well written and the subject matter really engaging, I just couldn't finish it (though I'm determined that I'm going to give it another go).

Other books were distracting me. As book lovers will tell you, you'll always have half a dozen or more books vying for your attention and sometimes even stuff you've read before is preferable to something that's way outside your preferred genres or writing styles.

So it seems travelogues aren't for me. Some might enjoy the thrill of vicariously living a wonderful travelling life through someone else's eyes but like watching sport, I can't be doing with any of that 'distance enjoyment' - I'd much rather go to those countries (or in some cases play those sports) myself.

ANYWAY back on track. The #Booky100Keepers articles made me think about the conscious and unconscious influence both my wife and I might have had on our daughter throughout her reading journey. It's glaringly obvious from the articles that we've introduced her to books we loved as kids, and it's also glaringly obvious that - from book of the week choices - those books have steered C's reading tastes in certain directions.

Sometimes I worry that things might have been entirely different if we hadn't done this. To be fair, C always got to choose her own books from the library when we first started out on the blog but as the blog evolved over the last ten years, I'd slip in comic recommendations or steer C towards books that usually had fantasy or sci-fi as central themes, and she would gobble them up greedily on her reading pile whereas I'd often find that stuff authors / illustrators were writing more with her in mind were often left neglected.

There's a weird perception in kidlit that marketers, publishers and child well-being experts know exactly what a child of a particular age, gender and reading ability *should* like and be reading, which is usually in complete contrast to what a child will tell you they enjoy reading if you, y'know, actually ask them - and again this feels like an area where adults try to steer kids in specific directions to suit some bizarre narrowly defined pigeonholing system that makes absolutely no sense, either from a development or even from an economic perspective.

I believe that parents do exert the most influence on their kids development (you'd hope) with school / teachers probably coming up a very close second.

The thing that also occurs to me is that parents (well, adults) are who children's books are heavily marketed at, and that goes some way to explain the whole 'moral gatekeeper' thing that publishers love to do (which drives me absolutely crazy if I'm honest), ensuring their books are wholesome and follow themes that you'd hope would lead to kids developing a strong sense of good and evil, right and wrong and all the other stuff you'd want a child to learn in their personal development.

When I asked C about this directly, she acknowledged that now she's heading towards her teens, the biggest frustration for her is that all the publishing marketing still works on the basis of pushing books at the parents rather than at her directly. I don't quite agree with this but for her age group, the wilderness years between 8-12 I think she might actually have something, it's only when books move towards the umbrella of YA that they begin to be marketed directly at their target audience, and the biggest influencers on that market are social media platforms. Publishers know this which is why bookstagrammers / booktubers / booktiktokers are leading the charge in pumping new life into the YA market.

Back to the parental influence thing and again wisdom from C. Her point of view now is that mum and dad's tastes might not cut it any more, so when she goes into a bookshop she may still retain some vestiges of specific book tastes from us, but almost goes out of her way to 'rebel' and pick stuff that has developed from her own tastes and influences (a lot of influence creeps in from friends and social media more at 12, so again this feels like the beginnings of the whole YA influencer sphere I mentioned above).

One thing above all else though, even if you do feel like you're influencing your kid's reading taste, if you're a parent who is actively engaged in reading to your kid, encouraging them to love books, and perhaps even encouraging them to break out of their comfort zone now and again (which I wish I'd done more of, if I'm honest), then you're doing a brilliant job and it will pay dividends for your kid throughout their school and later life. Keep up the excellent work!
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#Booky100Keepers Day 88: "Mi and Museum City" by Linda Sarah (Phoenix Yard Publishing)

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Sometimes we're left feeling a little sad by some of the entries in our #Booky100Keepers list. Some titles never quite gained the traction they so richly deserved and this is definitely one such title, the utterly original, brilliant and sublime "Mi and Museum City" by Linda Sarah.

Imagine an incredible cultural city populated by dozens and dozens of different museums. That is, of course, what you'll find in Museum City where each and every citizen takes it upon themselves to set up a museum about their favourite things.

Some are fantastic collections of the weird and wonderful. Some are so dull you'd swear they'd send you to sleep the moment you walked through the doors.

While exploring Museum City, Mi - a strange creature - hears the most gorgeous haunting music and immediately investigates where it's coming from.

Then Mi makes a new friend - called Yu - and the two embark on a journey of discovery as they begin to warm to the delights of the world they live in, and of course the strange and eccentric folk they share a neighbourhood with. Their aim is to change the world one museum at a time, encouraging folk to set up less museums about boring stuff, and more celebrating the amazing beauty in our world.

We were so inspired by this and it's funny that only last week we were talking about it again - imagining what it would be like to set up our own museums (originally C wanted to set up an ice cream and loom bands museum, though I think nowadays she'd opt for an Animal Crossing / Sims museum instead - Me, yeah I'd probably still go with a boring museum about pens!)

Linda is one of those folk who you just KNOW has music in her head all the time, and a zillion and one awesomely creative ideas, the sort of person you'd just love to share a coffee with and just talk, and talk with. This book really is something special. I've no idea if it's still in print but it's well worth hunting down a copy.

Original review link: 

Mi and Museum City by Linda Sarah (Phoenix Yard Books)


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Wednesday, July 29, 2020

#Booky100Keepers Day 87: "Hurricane Lane" and "256 Postcards Ago" by Michelle Vinall (Self Published)

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We'll probably be accused of some hideous bias in including two books by Michelle Vinall in our #Booky100Keepers list - after all this extremely talented artist illustrated our current blog header for us.

But there's something about Michelle's two self-published books that still has us waiting (hopefully not in vain) for her final book in the unconnected trilogy.

We used to regularly dip in to independently published titles from time to time, way back when we had so much more time - running a successful "Indie Pen-Dance" (terrible pun) Day, and delving into the huge sprawl of self published work available on digital platforms.

Michelle's "Hurricane Lane" is such a sublime piece of work. A young girl is tasked with a piece of homework - to think about the 7 ancient wonders of the world, then describe the seven wonders of her own modern world.

No easy task, even for a kid, but she embraces this project with gusto - and embarks on a journey of discovery, and a sense of wonder at just how amazing the world we live in can be.

Michelle uses her awesome illustrative skills and storytelling props to tell the story of how you are never really alone if you have an imagination, and your world can easily be shaped by the real and the surreal.

We also really loved "256 Postcards Ago" by Michelle...

Again this story centres on the imagination of a child, emarking on an amazing quest alongside his besties - the Anubis-like Ludo, a fluffy-cloud-elephant named Ollie and a cute green bug called Digit.

Together the four friends whistle through the town exploring, and their story unfolds gently with a minimum word count - letting Michelle's excellent anime-like illustrations take over, and of course allowing your imagination to join in and make the story anything you want it to be.

Michelle has mostly turned her attention to videogame art over the last few years but we secretly hope that one day she'll pick up her pen or stylus and polish off her children's book trilogy. We'll be there to read it, no matter what!

Original review links: 

Indie Pen-Dance Wednesday. Come with us on a journey through your imagination with "256 Postcards Ago" by Michelle Vinall (Amazon Self Publishing)

Indie Pen-Dance Thursday Part 2: Hurricane Lane by Michelle Vinall (Self-Published!)

Indie Pen-Dance Wednesday - An interview with super-talented Michelle Vinall, self-published author and illustrator of "Hurricane Lane" and "256 Postcards Ago"

 Michelle Vinall's "Hurricane Lane" iPhone / iPad story app launches today!

Unveiling our awesome new Blog Header image courtesy of Michelle Vinall!
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Tuesday, July 28, 2020

#Booky100Keepers Day 86: The stunning comics and graphic novels of Metaphrog

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I still can't quite remember what originally caught my eye about the fantastic work of Metaphrog. I think it was at a point where I knew C was becoming more and more interested in comics - even at a young age she seem drawn to them, drawn to the format of strips and panels as a way of conveying a story far more effectively (for her at the time) than mere words could manage.

It started with "Louis: Red Letter Day". John and Sandra - the awesome duo known as Metaphrog - might well be more famous now for their superbly dark retellings of classic fairy tales but the Louis books were just something else.

Children are far more willing to accept and enjoy surreality as a concept, which was definitely borne out by the Louis graphic novels. The story of a benign little chap who has a fairly mundane but happy life is tinged with moments that may sail completely over children's heads, yet they're still able to decode a lot of what Louis' stories are all about.

With his tweety sidekick FC, Louis is wholly accepting of his lot - even when teased and tricked by a pair of nasty spiteful little characters - a strange boss-like chap and his suck-up minion (shiny!) who seem to devote a colossal amount of time to messing with Louis' life.

I just loved the originality of these, the bits where you nod along thinking "Yeah, life's like that kiddo" but also we were both completely drawn in by how beautiful the books are, I mean just check out these set of panels from "Louis: Night Salad" - Gorgeous, gorgeous work!


Finding a publishing home at Papercutz, Metaphrog's work has gone completely stellar with their aforementioned treatments of classic tales, always given an original and glorious makeover in the Metaphrog style.

"The Red Shoes and other Tales" is a particular favourite, demonstrating how subsequent modern takes on these stories have always watered them down a bit - something Metaphrog are keen to address, and keen to put right. Each time they tackle a tale, they restore the original darker versions of the stories - and again kids are more than capable of coping with dark stuff (this is definitely something we've learned over the course of ten years of children's book blogging).

"The Red Shoes" tells the story of a young girl, orphaned at an early age but taken in with kindness by her aunt. The young girl spies a pair of red shoes in a shop and simply must have them! But these are no ordinary shoes, they're magic and the wearer is destined to dance until they die (quite literally!)

However the story in this collection that really caught C's eye was "The Doll". Like something out of an episode of "Tales of the Unexpected" it's the story of a young boy who takes refuge in a toy museum. He swears that one of the exhibits - a doll - can read his thoughts and understand what he's saying. She becomes his only friend - school friend bully him about his obsession and things are tough at home too. Finally the boy realises there's a way he and his new friend can be together forever...

It's really spooky but brilliant, and the trio of tales is polished off by one of the most heartbreaking versions of "The Little Match Girl" you're ever likely to read, again John and Sandra sounding out the plight of those who end up living below the poverty line, subtly but effectively.

Here's a brace of links to all our reviews of their fantastic work. Wishing John and Sandra all the brightest and best, as they are so supremely talented.

Original Review Links: 

#ReadItMD13 Comics and Magazines Week - ReadItDaddy interview the mighty Metaphrog!

Booky Advent Calendar Day 17 - 17th December 2013: "Winter's Tales" by Metaphrog (Metaphrog Publishing)

ReadItDaddy's First Book of the Week - Week Ending 25th September 2015 - "Hans Christian Andersen's The Red Shoes (and other tales)" by Hans Christian Andersen and Metaphrog (Papercutz Publishing)

ReadItDaddy's Second Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 26th May 2017 - "The Little Mermaid" by Metaphrog (Papercutz)

"The Photographs" by Metaphrog. A Graphic Short (published by Metaphrog / Glasgow Life)

Louis - Red Letter Day by Metaphrog (Metaphrog Publishing)

Louis - Night Salad by Metaphrog (Metaphrog Publishing)

ReaditDaddy's Comic / Graphic Novel of the Week: Week Ending 22nd May 2020: "Bluebeard: A Feminist Fairy Tale" by Metaphrog (Papercutz)

Get ready for an utterly awesome version of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Red Shoes" from Metaphrog and Papercutz

#ReadItMD13 Theme Week - "Getting Crafty with Children's Books" - Time for a book-themed make...!
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Monday, July 27, 2020

#Booky100Keepers Day 85: The books of Alex T. Smith

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Another creative mind worthy of inclusion in our #Booky100Keepers list is none other than Mr Alex T. Smith, creator of the fantastic "Claude" series, and of course a brilliantly funny middle grade author of the superb "Mr Penguin" books.

We were lucky enough to meet Alex at a book signing and he's a truly lovely guy but his work is something else.

With the "Claude" books, these were some of the early readers that C really took to when she began her solo reading journey. Breaking up chapter-length texts with superb (and quite often saucy) illustrations, Alex drives each story along beautifully. The stories of Claude - a pooch filled with a wonderful sense of joie de vivre - and his floppy sidekick Sir Bobblysocks, are always brilliantly funny, almost like a clean version of "Carry On" movies for kids. Claude seems to always end up at the centre of a weird mystery or bizarre theft, or sometimes just a baking competition or a talent show. But with his Tardis-like beret, packed for every occasion with anything an adventuresome pup might need in an emergency, he's like a more sassy version of Paddington, seemingly always in the right place at the right time for a grand adventure.

We also really loved the Mr Penguin books. You'll believe a diminutive black and white flightless bird could become a competitor to Indiana Jones, hurling himself into dangerous situations and crazy quests - not just for fortune and glory, but to make the world a better place.

These books are again perfect for readers who feel confident enough to read on their own but still like a good dose of illustration throughout their stories.

We've covered Alex's collaborations on the blog too, with such luminaries as Caryl Hart (another hugely talented and favourite author of ours), the late Richard Adams (he of Watership Down fame), and Anne Cottringer.

He's also a superstar on Twitter (let's face it, Bake Off wouldn't be Bake Off without ATS's tweet-alongs).

He truly has the midas touch when it comes to kidlit, so check out the links below for a metric ton of reviews of Alex's work (blimey, HOW many Book of the Week wins?!)

Original Review Links: 

Booky Advent Calendar Day 4 - "Santa Claude" by Alex T. Smith (Hodder Children's Books)

ReaditDaddy's First Book of the Week - Week Ending 6th November 2015 - "Claude Doodle Book" by Alex T. Smith (Hodder Children's Books)

A Jolly Booktastic Outing to London's 'Discover Story' venue with an awesome group of bloggers to see the truly brilliant Alex T. Smith

ReadItDaddy's First Book of the Week - Week Ending 10th June 2016 - "Claude All At Sea by Alex T. Smith" (Hodder Children's Books)

Chapter Book Roundup - March 2015 with Claude, Matilda and Kittens!

Claude in the Spotlight by Alex T Smith (Hachette Children's Books)

Foxy Tales - The Cunning Plan by Caryl Hart and Alex T. Smith (Hodder Children's Books)

"Princess Primrose" by Alex T. Smith (Scholastic Children's Books)

ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book Roundup - August 2015 - "Monsters, Penguins, Bobbly Socks, Wild Woods, Dorks and Stone Circles"

ReaditDaddy's Second Book of the Week - Week Ending 11th March 2016 "Claude - Going for Gold by Alex T. Smith (Hodder Children's Books)

ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week ending 25th October 2013. "My Mum Has X Ray Vision" by Angela McAllister and Alex T. Smith (Scholastic Books)

"Claude: Anyone for Strawberries?" Based on the Claude stories by Alex T. Smith (Hodder Children's Books)

ReadItDaddy's Third Book of the Week - Week Ending 9th November 2018: "Mr Penguin and the Fortress of Secrets (Mr Penguin Book 2)" by Alex T. Smith (Hodder Children's Books)

The Adventures of Egg Box Dragon by Richard Adams and Alex T. Smith (Hodder Children's Books)

ReaditDaddy's Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 6th October 2017 - "Mr Penguin and the Lost Treasure" (Mr Penguin Book 1) by Alex T. Smith (Hodder Children's Books)

Booky Advent Calendar Book of the Week - Week Ending 21st December 2018: "How Winston Delivered Christmas: An Advent Story in Twenty-four-and-a-half Chapter" by Alex T. Smith (Macmillan Children's Books)

Foxy and Egg by Alex T. Smith (Hodder Children's Books)

Foxy Tales - The Road to Fame and Fortune by Caryl Hart and Alex T. Smith (Hodder Children's Books)

ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 29th November 2019: "Mr Penguin and the Catastrophic Cruise" by Alex T. Smith (Hodder Children's Books)

Eliot Jones, Midnight Superhero by Anne Cottringer and Alex T Smith (Scholastic Children's Books)

Bella and Monty in "A Hairy Scary Night" by Alex T. Smith (Hodder Children's Books)


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Sunday, July 26, 2020

#Booky100Keepers Day 84: The books of Helen Hancocks

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Some author-illustrators make our hearts almost sing with joy whenever they release a new book. One such gifted individual is Helen Hancocks, whose picture books are an absolute delight, striking the perfect balance between being gloriously involving and entertaining, and as clever as a Vixen who went off to Fox University and got her degree, doctorate and PhD.

Cats are a thing for us. You will probably see it as a recurring theme on the blog that we coo, and cheer every time a book comes along that features a devilishly smart feline and Helen's glorious "William" series is an absolute delight.

In "William and the Missing Masterpiece" the International Moggy of Mystery is hot on the trail of a mysterious art theft in the cool and cosmopolitan city of Paris.

It doesn't take long before William uncovers clues that lead straight to the thief. What we really loved about this book (apart from William) is Helen's gorgeous nods and references to famous works of art, all given her own unique storytelling and artistic touches to fit in with the story - and for me a great place to start off C's own interest in art and artists, showing her the real-life paintings which Helen based her own versions on.

William's second adventure "William Heads to Hollywood" is equally glorious, this time tapping into the whole Hollywood scene in such a fantastic way, and again working in dozens of fabulous characters, references and just utterly brilliantly clever stuff as William is hot on the trail of another devious miscreant, who this time has made off with all the annual awards.

Teaming up with glamour-puss Audrey Mieowski, William is quite the cat about town as he rubs shoulders with Hollywood royalty before nabbing the naughty award thief.

Helen draws on so many influences that tick all the right boxes for us, producing a book that feels like Roman Holiday - and a really fab read that's full of sunshine and colour, like most of Helen's books.

Lastly we wanted to mention another of Helen's cat books, well - cats are in it but the star is a rather strange goggle-eyed little chap...

"Penguin in Peril" is a fabulous chase-romp featuring three naughty cats who are so hungry they turn to a life of crime. Their plan: Kidnap the best fish-nabber in the business, making off with a poor Penguin from the local zoo.

Thankfully penguins are pretty slippery customers so as the cats make off with their captive, the penguin escapes - leading to a hilarious chase through the city until a helpful bird comes to the penguin's rescue, and sees those three naughty kitties tucked up safely behind bars.

Once again there are so many brill little details in this, and who could fail to love a book about cats AND penguins!

We've included review links to all the books we've featured by Helen, and look how many times she's fetched up in our Book of the Week slot..! Wow!


Original Review Links: 











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Saturday, July 25, 2020

#Booky100Keepers Day 83: The Seth Seppi Mysteries by Nicki Thornton (Chicken House Publishing)

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Though we pledged not to feature too many chapter books in our #Booky100Keepers list (otherwise we'd need to make it a #Booky1000Keepers list instead) there are just some books, and some authors, who have to feature in this list. 

One such author is Nicki Thornton, the fabulous local writer behind the superb "Seth Seppi" mysteries, comprising three truly brilliant books - "The Last Chance Hotel", "The Bad Luck Lighthouse" and "The Cut Throat Cafe". 

We've known Nicki and her husband Mark for quite some time, being rather shy and embarrased semi-regulars visiting their shop when they owned Mostly Books in Abingdon - but also being delighted to meet them again at science events and of course Nicki's book launches. 

Some people deserve every success. Some people seem born to becoming authors, and that's very much the case with Nicki who makes crafting the most intricate, mysterious and downright page-turningly addictive stories look easy (though of course we know writing is anything but). She really is one of the most lovely authors we've ever been fortunate enough to meet too, humble and kind, and just so great to talk to - as well as immensely talented of course!

One thing worth noting with these books was that each time I got pushed aside - having to patiently wait my turn to read the books because these became something of a 'thing' for C and her mum - their domain into which I should never encroach (which often meant that our reviews of these books ended up a bit more coherent and nicely written - because they came straight from the girls rather than me!) I didn't really mind the wait though, but of course had to swear the pair of them to 'no spoilers' every time. 

So what on earth are these books about? Well we've mentioned Seth Seppi - a would-be magician in training who, along with his cat Nightshade, seems to end up in the wrong place at the right time - quite often right in the midst of some truly nefarious goings-on. 

We're introduced to Seth, slogging away at his parents' hotel as a cook and bottlewasher. His family were magical - with the emphasis on the 'were' as most of them came to sticky ends. Seth's dark past, totally shrouded in mystery, becomes the foundation for each of the three stories as he spends a lot of time trying to uncover his past, while dealing with horrific murders and magical misbehaviour in the here and now. 

Nicki's gift is that she does such a beautiful juggling trick with all the characters in her story. No one is spare to the plot, every little twist and turn is there to mislead and misdirect meaning that by the time you reach the end of each novel you're absolutely gasping for more (and at the moment we're still wondering what's going to happen to Seth next. Will there be a book four? Oh we do dearly hope so. 

She does this against the sort of exquisitely created backdrops to each story - often inspired by real places Nicki has visited - the sort of places that you desperately want to see in your middle grade fiction - places of mystery and magic that are never quite what they seem. 

We alll love books that grip us the way these do, and we genuinely cannot wait to see what Nicki comes up with next. 

It's been lovely to go to the launches, not ust to see the level of local support Nicki gets but also to hear people talking excitedly about the books and the characters. If you love middle grade mysteries, you'll seldom find any finer than these, they're just so blinkin' good!

Original Review Links: 








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Friday, July 24, 2020

ReadItDaddy's Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 24th July 2020: "Pierre the Maze Detective: The Curious Case of the Castle in the Sky" by Hiro Kamigaki and IC4 Design (Laurence King Publishing)

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Time for another truly stunning book in the fabulous "Pierre the Maze Detective" series, this time with a dizzyingly imaginative new adventure set against the backdrop of dreamy Canal City (Venice in all but name) in "Pierre the Maze Detective: The Curious Case of the Castle in the Sky" by Hiro Kamigaki and IC4 Design.

Pierre is one again hot on the trail of a puzzle-solving adventure.

The waterways and streets of Canal City are brimming with people as crowds gather on the eve of the Maze Egg carnival.

But the legendary Maze Egg is gone, and Pierre and Carmen find themselves on the case.

Can you help them return the Maze Egg to its rightful home before it's too late?

Those of you who've seen these books before know what to expect - highly detailed and truly gorgeous illustrations filled with intricate mazes, visual puzzles and hidden objects to find.

The book's colossal format makes it absolutely delightful for sprawling out on the floor with as you race to complete each maze - but don't worry if you get stuck, you can always cast a sneaky glance at the answers at the back of the book (no cheating mind!!)

We've always been completely drawn to these books, they're true works of art in their own right and they offer hour after hour after hour of book-based entertainment to keep your kids well and truly hooked.

Sum this book up in a sentence: A stunning book perfect for puzzle fans, once again featuring the superb creations of Hiro and the awesome team at IC4 Design, drawing you into a fabulous mystery with Pierre and Carmen.

"Pierre the Maze Detective: The Curious Case of the Castle in the Sky" by Hiro Kamigaki and IC4 Design is out on 24th August 2020, published by Laurence King Publishing (kindly supplied for review). 

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#Booky100Keepers Day 82: "Lumberjanes" by Shannon Watters, Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis and Brooke Allen (Boom! Comics)

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I like clever stuff that comes along just at the right time to tap into C's interests. Just as she was beginning to embrace the world of Rainbows, Brownies and Guides I spotted the cover of "Lumberjanes Volume 1: Beware the Kitten Holy" and knew it would be a big hit with her. 

Thankfully in this case my intuition paid off and here you have a collection of truly epic graphic novels (and not-so-epic-but-still-pretty-good-middle-grade-books) featuring 5 gals away for  a fun packed summer at Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's Camp for Hardcore Lady Types. 

Riffing heavily on the sort of stuff C gets up to when she disappears off to summer camps with the guides, this comic series fuses brilliant fantasy with belly laughs and a whole host of good vibes, largely thanks to the diversity of its characters and a rather gorgeous burgeoning sis-mance between two of the characters. 

Meet Ripley, who is tiny, usually scruffy and sticky, but loves all animals and has some surprisingly mean skills when it comes to crafting. April, who is super-strong but looks like the girl next door, Mal and Molly, the star-crossed lovers who are loyal, brave and above all kind, and Jo whose two dads have set her up with a whole bunch of interests in science and level-headedness to temper her own curiosity and wisdom. 

The girls do all the cool stuff Girl Guides do - competing for badges, indulging in outdoor pursuits - but there's something distinctly weird about the camp - and the fact that every now and again weird mythical creatures show up, and there's definitely a bit of a secret history going on between the camp leaders and ex-leaders who show up in the stories from time to time.

I think the closest think I can equate it to is like a mix between Mallory Towers and Gravity Falls but without the school bits. It manages to entertain and stimulate a wide range of age groups (C started reading these when she was about 7 but they're good right up to YA and beyond). 

Brilliant artwork, fantastic realistic-feeling characters each with their own flaws and strengths, and of course a lot of bizarre stuff kicking off. Yeah, that's exactly how we like our comics!

Review Links: 






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Thursday, July 23, 2020

Thank goodness for the NHS and thank goodness for books like this - Today's #ReadItTorial

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Today's #ReaditTorial goes off on a tangent a bit so apologies in advance if you don't make it all the way through to the end. I've been reading "Dear NHS: 100 Stories to say Thank You" by Adam Kay and it's the sort of book that (obviously) makes you incredibly thankful for this amazing service, but also makes you angry that there are folk out there (mostly those plenty rich enough to afford oodles of private healthcare for their overfed gigantic ego-driven hides) who want to put it in the bin.

Reading through the stories from well known and not-so-well-known celebrities, authors, presenters and poets who have contributed to the 100 stories here reminded me of my own recent reasons to be extremely thankful for the NHS.

In fact Jaqueline Wilson's story in this book felt closest to my own experiences. For the first 52 years of my life I've had minor brushes with being in hospital myself, a couple of childhood things, a rather fetching scar on my chin from trying to balance on a football at school after watching "Gerry Cottle's Circus" - that sort of thing. Most of the time I had reason to go into hospital was to visit family or friends who were in there. The NHS saved my little brother from kidney failure and I remember the selfish feeling of hating hospitals and never wanting to visit them, but wanting to go in there to see him, spoil him rotten and make sure he was OK (which he was). The same went for my mum when she had a hysterectomy, and of course I went in to watch my daughter being born (again a story in the book struck a chord - Charlie Brooker, you're not the only one who took a terrible, terrible bad quality photo of your newborn but it's still the best photo you've ever taken and your most treasured).

My wife has had epilepsy since she was a teen, and I've been in with her several times - for scans and tests, and for a week's worth of monitoring. Like everyone else, taking all this stuff for granted, that it will just happen, it's just there, it's just provided. Grateful but strangely detached from it all.

They say that it takes something actually happening to you to really give you some perspective. We've seen this with the COVID-19 stuff, those self-obsessed individuals blithely refusing to wear masks, fetching up at the beach for a day of peeing everyone off with their disposable barbecues and poo-filled burger containers, claiming that the whole thing is some government hoax and that it's not nearly as serious as everyone makes out, full of ridiculous bravado until a friend or relative or close family member ends up with the Coronavirus and ends up gravely ill (or worse).

A month and a half ago I got up for work as normal. I'd recently been diagnosed with gallstones and had had one or two painful nights where those sharp little buggers had decided to have a disco in my guts. After a morning of work I was in the middle of making lunch when I suddenly felt pain like I'd never experienced before. Pain swiftly followed by vomiting and a feeling that any minute I was going to hit the floor hard.

I started howling - and I do mean howling, that's how bad the pain was. My poor wife and daughter were in the house and my wife phoned 999. Within minutes an ambulance arrived and two paramedics were there - two complete heroes who I never got the chance to properly thank. They took me to hospital, dosing me up with much needed pain relief, soothing talk, and all the things you need when all you can think about is how you feel like you've swallowed a tiger and it's trying to escape through your stomach wall.

I spent a week and a half in hospital being scanned, tested and tended to (Emilia Clarke's "Fish in white sauce" anecdote from the book made me smile, it was about the only meal I had the entire time - for the rest of the time I was on a drip only allowed to occasionally sip black tea). I had one of the most painful procedures possible for someone who is already in pain (an endoscopic scan which took 2 hours and left me feeling like I'd been mugged), and since then I've been back to hospital several times for followups. Acute gall bladder disease / pancreatitis was the diagnosis and it scared the living piss out of me. I dropped two stone (when I came out of hospital I couldn't even recognise my own reflection in the mirror nor the shape of my body, which began as a bloated sort of pear shape but rapidly shrank down until I looked like Jack Skellington on a slimfast diet).

All the care I received, all the things that you think are insignificant while you're lying in a hospital bed, all the staff that it takes to maintain a ward under normal circumstances, and all the staff it now takes to deal with the same ward under the current COVID-19 crisis, all of that stuff is what's at stake from a government that plays the sly fox card of pretending to care about the NHS, throwing token amounts of money at it, but always with an eye on how they could dismantle the whole thing and leave those on limited means literally dying because they can't afford private health insurance or coverage.

We clapped, we support them, but somehow it still feels like the NHS is living on borrowed time, but we will all fight - we (me, my family, everyone I know) and those who contributed to this wonderful book and the many millions and millions in the country who have stories to tell like mine.
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Out Today: "Wild" by Sam Usher (Templar Publishing)

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Sam Usher's gentle storytelling makes his books a complete draw, but what we love about the books written as a series about a young boy and his grandad is the beautiful cross-generational relationship depicted so wonderfully in his book series.

"Wild" is the second in Sam's new quartet of books about the world around us - featuring Grandad and Boy (who previously explored the seasons together in Sam's awesome books paying homage to spring, summer, autumn and winter).

This time Grandad and Boy look after a cat for a friend. 

Boy does lots of reading up about what cats like, but the cat is having none of it (cats being the naturally cantankerous and uncooperative creatures that they are!)

And then it runs off into the wild, leading Grandad and Boy into a wild jungle fantasy adventure of their own.

Imaginative, brilliant storytelling from a superb talent. 

"Wild" by Sam Usher is out today, published by Templar Publishing (kindly supplied for review). 
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#Booky100Keepers Day 81: "Winnie the Witch" by Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul (OUP / Oxford Children's Books)

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Moving from one excellent witchy series to another in our #Booky100Keepers list, the "Winnie the Witch" books by Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul were early favourites of C - and that rare thing, a series of books that she discovered herself without any prodding or cajoling from me.

Back when our blog first began, I started trying to keep a list of the books we regularly borrowed from our local library, mainly to try and avoid C picking the same books every week. I was lucky enough to be working flexibly at the time, getting every wednesday off. So wednesday became library day and that's how this whole thing started out.

Trying to discourage a 2 year old from picking the same books isn't as easy as it sounds, and in fact these were nearly always in our pile, and thankfully by the time we started blogging there were plenty of excellent Winnie the Witch books to choose from.

The huge appeal of these books for C were largely down to Korky Paul's scritchy scratchy illustrations, and this set out a pattern we'd see again and again in the books that we ended up loving (and keeping). There's so much detail in there, everything from little jokes and nods at popular culture, to cameos from Korky's other books, even to cameos for Valerie and Korky themselves.

Of course no book is just about the illustrations. Valerie's stories were always funny and she never ceased to amaze us with how many different ways she could cook up to get Winnie and Wilbur into trouble (and thankfully out again).

As much as kids love to read about themselves in children's books, they also absolutely LOVE to read about adults stuffing up - and Winnie isn't some masterful mistress of magic, in fact most of the time her spells go awry, her house is a mess, and poor Wilbur is usually on the receiving end of misplaced spells or other chaos in each story.

One of C's early favourites was "Winnie in Winter" - a tale that sees Winnie tinkering with the seasons themselves as she and Wilbur get fed up with the constant cold and snow.

But when she tinkers with bringing summer early to her garden, the poor creatures who live there don't know whether to hibernate or stay up, and soon everyone wants a piece of the sunny action - and Winnie's garden ends up looking like every green space does at the moment as we watch hordes of crazy people ignoring the COVID-19 lockdown and social distancing stuff.

Winnie has no choice but to restore the balance of nature, bringing the wintry weather back again. At one point we were borrowing this book every week for about a year, that's how popular it was.

It's testament to how popular these books are that our second most accessed review on the blog was an article about Winnie's 25th birthday with over 1800 unique hits (not too shabby for a book blog done in our spare time).

C once met Korky and was delighted when she mentioned her blog and he knew exactly who we were. I think it went to her head a bit as she would constantly talk about how 'famous' we were. Ah if only that were true!

I've included a few other Korky Paul reviews (he really has worked with some of the best writers in the business) as well as the Winnie books, as they're all well and truly brilliant and worthy of your attention.

Original review links

ReadItDaddy's Second Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 25th May 2018: "Winnie and Wilbur: Seaside Adventures" by Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul (OUP / Oxford Children's Books)

Snails Legs by Damian Harvey and Korky Paul (Frances Lincoln Children's Books)

The Rascally Cake by Jeanne Willis and Korky Paul (Picture Puffin)

ReadItDaddy's First Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 29th September 2017 - "Winnie and Wilbur: The Naughty Knight" by Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul (Oxford Children's Books)

ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week Ending 23rd May 2014 - "Sir Scallywag and the Deadly Dragon Poo" by Giles Andreae and Korky Paul (Picture Puffin)

Winnie's Midnight Dragon

Booky Advent Calendar Day 10: "Winnie and Wilbur: The Santa Surprise" by Laura Owen and Korky Paul (OUP / Oxford Children's Books)

A Rocketful of Space Poems by John Foster and Korky Paul (Otter-Barry Books / Frances Lincoln Children's Books)

The Very Noisy House by Julie Rhodes and Korky Paul (Frances Lincoln Children's Books)

It's Friday the 13th! What better day to celebrate Winnie the Witch's Birthday!

The Duck with No Luck

Sanji and the Baker

The Dog who could Dig

Professor Puffendorf's Secret Potions

A Cat Called Scratch

Winnie At the Seaside

Winnie Flies Again

Winnie in Winter

Happy 25th Birthday, Winnie the Witch!

Happy Birthday Winnie!

Winnie's Flying Carpet




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Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Four gorgeous new books to brighten up your summer from Walker Books

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The summer holidays are here, as is the sunshine, and you can almost hear the exasperated exclamations of parents across the land as their kids grump around the house, listlessly scrolling on their tablets or mobiles. But hark, there is hope - and there's no better time to drag 'em outside, find a nice sunshiney nook to curl up in and enjoy a truly glorious set of books from Walker UK.

Starting with "Too Small Tola" by Atinuke and Onyinye Iwu, this is a trilogy of treats, three stories featuring the effervescent little Nigerian girl and her family.

Tola might be small but she's a mighty girl after our own hearts, loving life in Lagos alongside her brother Dapo, sister Moji and Grandmummy (the real boss of the household).

Tola's adventures span the three stories, whether it's visiting the vibrant market with her Grandmummy, or saving a local tailor when his goods aren't delivered. This determined little girl is always ready to pitch in and help, and these stories are filled with atmosphere and enjoyment for emergent readers just beginning to stretch their reading legs with longer books, still filled with plenty of gorgeous illustrations.

"Too Small Tola" by Atinuke and Onyinye Iwu is out now, published by Walker Books. 

Nest up is the glorious "Anna Hibiscus" again by Atinuke with illustrations this time from super-talented Lauren Tobia.

It's another slice of African life with awesome Anna, who never turns down the chance to have an adventure or two. This edition features four stories featuring this fearless mighty girl, enjoying a day at the beach with her family and her cousins, or partying with her aunties in her home town.

Anna has a secret wish though. She would love more than anything else to see something you don't often see in Africa. Glorious crisp snow! Will she ever get her wish?

Again this title is perfect, taking content from the hugely successful picture books featuring Anna Hibiscus, and wrapping them in a pocket sized edition that's just perfect for tucking in your bag and taking to the beach with you.

Illustrated throughout by Lauren, this is a fab compilation of Anna's best stories.

"Anna Hibiscus" by Atinuke and Lauren Tobia is out now, published by Walker Books. 

Younger readers can also join in the fun with a glorious pair of large format picture books.


"Catch that Chicken" by Atinuke and Angela Brooksbank is a fab little story featuring Lami, a little girl who absolutely loves all her feathery friends, and is the very best in her village at rounding up and catching the chickens when they escape from their pens.

Poor Lami has an accident one day and really hurts her ankle, making her chicken-catching duties very hard and very painful.

But Lami is smart and clever, and begins to think about other ways she can be the best at what she does.

Watch out chickens, you can't keep a mighty girl down!


We really loved the illustrations in this one, I mean just look inside at this page spread and how gorgeously detailed and atmospheric it is. It's almost like being there!



"Catch that Chicken" by Atinuke and Angela Brooksbank is out now, published by Walker Books.

One last book, and this one's probably our favourite, a superb slice of non fiction describing the sights, the sounds and what life is like in "Africa Amazing Africa by Atinuke and Mouni Feddag.

More than just an atlas, this is a country-by-country tour of all the amazing places, people and culture that you'll find in the African continent.

From the busy cities to the desert plains, from the coastal towns and villages right into the heart of the savannah, this is a truly amazing guide that will make you want to visit this amazing place.

With 55 countries covered in the book, you'll find a rich and diverse set of contentfor younger readers, dividing Africa up into five sections: South, East, West, Central and North, each with its own introduction.

This is followed by a page per country, containing a delightful mix of friendly, informative text and colourful illustrations. With just a a couple of facts per page, the book is perfectly geared toward seven year old readers, and imagined as a diving-off point: to inspire children to find out more about each and every country, and perhaps make Afrida the subject of classroom projects and topics of discussion.

It's a real treat and the large format with gorgeous colour illustrations makes it a real winner, and so eyecatching that you can't possibly pass it by.

"Africa Amazing Africa Country by Country" by Atinuke and Mouni Feddag is out now, published by Walker Books.

(All books kindly supplied for review).


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#Booky100Keepers Day 80: The Meg and Mog Books by Helen Nicoll, David Walser and Jan Pienkowski (Picture Puffin)

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The "Meg and Mog" books were another example of me remembering books I'd loved as a child, and surreptitiously introducing them into C's reading pile as soon as I possibly could.

The first "Meg and Mog" is an absolute timeless classic, now 48 years old which means it came out when I was four. That sounds about right as that would probably have been around the time I was being bought books like this from my junior school's brilliant "Puffin Book Readers" newsletter - Does anyone else remember those in school?

It's a really simple stripped down tale of a witch and her scritchy-scratchy (but scene stealing) cat, getting on their glad-rags and heading out to the annual Halloween Party with the rest of the witches. Mog is the best kind of witch. Slightly madcap and haphazard, her spells sometimes work but sometimes misfire, but in the end she manages to win the day (in fact watch out for a VERY SIMILAR witch coming up in our keepers list soon).

The beauty of the Meg and Mog books is that Helen and Jan worked so brilliantly together as a creative team - the perfect fusion of a simple low word count story with simple but hugely effective (and still widely admired) artwork. In fact these books were way, way ahead of their time.

Helen and Jan collaborated on many Meg and Mog books covering a huge selection of different themes, but never preachy moralistic tales, always stories that were just plain good fun.

Sadly Helen passed away in 2012 - but the books continued, with Jan Pienkowski working with David Walser on all new Meg and Mog tales

"Meg and the Romans" showed that the stories could still work, even when spun around into something altogether more educational.

It's quite daunting to step into the shoes of another creative, but David managed to capture the tone of the original stories, adding additional dimensions to the characters of Meg, Mog and Owl - but thankfully not detracting anything from the entertainment value of these books.

Jan's artwork still worked beautifully, slightly more complicated and 'busy' than the older books but still absolutely bang on point, ensuring that early readers could completely engage with each story and find all sorts of fun elements to help the stories bounce along.

They're still great books, even now, particularly for kids who love a bit of spookiness in their books.

Original Review Links

Mog in the Fog

Meg in the Jungle by David Walser and Jan Pienkowski (Picture Puffin)

Meg goes to Bed

Our Spooky Halloween Book Blowout with witches, ghosts, and things that go "BOOK" in the night!

Helen Nicoll R.I.P

Meg, Mog and Og

Meg's Car

Meg on the Moon


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Tuesday, July 21, 2020

#Booky100Keepers Day 79: The Books of Judith Kerr

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Judith Kerr was a remarkable woman and it'd be impossible to feature any kind of children's book roundup without featuring her brilliant books. Working right up until her death a couple of years ago, Judith's books have always been favourites - and yet we didn't start out with the book you'd expect, though there is a tiger in this one.

"Mog and the V.E.T" is probably one of Judith's funniest books. The Mog series is always excellent but this particular  book absolutely nailed what cat ownership is about, and reminded me of what it was like growing up amongst cat lovers. There was always at least one moggy around.

This time Mog has hurt her paw, and whether she likes it or not, the family decide it's time to go to the (Whisper it) Vee Ee Tee.

The two things Judith always does well in the Mog books - observing and describing cat behaviour perfectly, but also somehow mastering the trick of placing you - the reader - right inside Mog's mind, as if you can read her innermost thoughts - is why this book is so good. The family know there'll be trouble when they haul out Mog's travelling basket. Mog definitely knows there'll be trouble and resists with all her might, but eventually she's on the way to the vets in the car (which she also doesn't like).

Once there the full realisation of where she is hits her, and needless to say there is absolute chaos as Mog won't take a visit to the vets lying down. Her hurt paw is fixed, but there's a clamorous chaotic scene as Mog breaks loose and leads all the other animals in the vets on a merry chase.

The other bit we really like though is the voyage to trip-out city that the vet goes on that night as he has the most terrible dream about animals. We often wondered whether a well-meaning editor might have tried to trim that scene but it's a brilliant (if slightly loopy) addition to the story and I could imagine a steadfast Kerr standing in front of her editor saying "Either that scene stays, or I go!" and winning the day. Utterly brilliant, and definitely one of the best Mog stories (they're all pretty good though!)

Of course we have to talk about "The Tiger Who Came to Tea", probably the book that most people immediately think of when they think of Judith Kerr. We came to this one relatively late as it was always one of the most popular books in our local library, so when we did finally get our hands on a rather straggly copy we knew we'd end up buying our own (and we did).

A young girl opens the door one day to find a rather large but quite benign tiger standing there. The tiger invites himself in, and proceeds to act like the world's worst house guest. He eats his way through the cupboards, drinks all of daddy's beer (WHAT?! Can you imagine THAT passing muster in a modern children's book?) and (yes, the bit most people remember this book for) also drinks all the water in the tap (imagine if the book's editor had got their way on THAT one and had cut it out, as they'd suggested. Again very glad JK stuck to her guns and insisted it was left in).

The little girl thinks she's found a friend, but as soon as the tiger is satisfied, he ups and leaves - But what will Daddy say when he gets home and the house is completely stripped of consumables?

We've seen so many well-meaning teardowns and analyses of this book, everything from it being an allegory for Kerr's own experience of being displaced from her native country by the Nazi regime, to a well meaning but not very well thought out piece claiming this is one of the earliest feminist novels, showing the tiger supressing the book's lone female (I'd almost buy into this theory if it wasn't for Kerr being asked about the meaning of the book in an interview, and rather twinklingly replying "It's about a tiger who comes to tea").

Kerr's later work continued to impress, though we had some fairly tart things to say about "The Great Granny Gang", possibly the only Kerr book that didn't end up being a keeper (and probably one of the reasons we never got sent any more to review from HarperCollins!) The review is included below amongst all the others just so you can see why we didn't take to it though.

That said, Kerr continued to be an energetic champion for children's literacy, appearing at many book events - and her wisdom and brilliant storytelling and illustrative skills were matchless, and it was a very sad day when she passed on.

Original Review Links

Mog and Bunny and Other Stories by Judith Kerr (HarperCollins Children's Books)

The Great Granny Gang by Judith Kerr (HarperCollins Children's Books)

Mog's Bad Thing by Judith Kerr (HarperCollins Children's Books)

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

ReadItDaddy's Booky Advent Calendar Day 10 - 10th December - "Mog's Christmas" by Judith Kerr (HarperCollins Children's Books)

ReadItDaddy's First Book of the Week - Week ending 13th September 2013 - The Tiger Who Came To Tea (40th Anniversary Edition) by Judith Kerr (HarperCollins Children's Books)

Twinkles, Arthur and Puss by Judith Kerr (HarperCollins Children's Books)

Mog the Forgetful Cat

The Tiger Who Came To Tea by Judith Kerr (HarperCollins Children's Books)

Mog in the Dark

Goodbye Mog

Mog's Amazing Birthday Caper

Mog on Fox Night

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Monday, July 20, 2020

#Booky100Keepers Day 78: "La Visite De Petit Mort" by Kitty Crowther (Lutin Poche)

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Kitty Crowther is a Belgian author whose work is now finally being recognised on this side of the English Channel - but way back in 2012 I discovered one of her books completely by accident, and became completely obsessed with trying to translate it.

I'd read about "La Visite De Petite Mort" in someone else's book blog, where they'd produced an amazing article that really kicked my love of all things French and Belgian into high gear. It was the first time I'd seen Kitty's work, and also made me realise just what an amazing kidlit scene they have over there in France / Belgium, where children's books are treated like the art form they actually are, rather than frivolous means for adults to push their moral codes and constructs on a child audience.

Petite Mort is death. When he shows up, your time is at an end and it's time to accompany him on your final journey to the afterlife.

Petite Mort is also an individual who questions the way people when he shows up - after all it's not exactly a huge amount of fun when people are stricken with terror at the mere sight of your black cape and your scythe.

But one day Death turns up to one girl's house to find that she is not afraid of him, she almost welcomes him in - and before shuffling off her mortal coil she's determined to show Death just how wonderful her life has been - and how even though it's at an end there's still joy to be found.

Bear in mind this is how my terrible pigeon French and interpretation of the illustrations spins out this tale. It probably doesn't bear any resemblance to what I've described above but it's a keeper for many reasons.You'll never see anything like this fetching up in UK publishing lists. It's a dark book, it deals with a subject that seldom few creatives cope with bringing to a young audience in an effective way.
Kitty's illustrations are beautiful. Simple but beautiful, as are her characters. The whole concept of a core character questioning their reason for doing what they do is sheer genius.

But despite its rather funereal and sombre tone it is a book of joy as we described above, when Elsewise reveals why she's actually pleased to see Death, it'll break your heart in two.

This is a truly lovely book. I've often wished it would be picked up by someone like Tate Publishing  for translation (they've done such a fantastic job with so many of Kitty's other books).

As well as a link to the review of this, we've also included other Kitty Crowther books below.

Original Review Links

Le Visite De Petite Mort by Kitty Crowther (Lutin Poche)

Poka and Mia at the Bottom of the Garden by Kitty Crowther (Tate Publishing)

Poka and Mia - Wakey Wakey by Kitty Crowther (Tate Publishing)

ReaditDaddy's Book of the Week - Week Ending 16th August 2019: "The Runaways" by Ulf Stark and Kitty Crowther (Gecko Press)

A love of French and Belgian Children's Books and a question - Are we done with 'dark and wordy' books? A ReadItTorial


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Sunday, July 19, 2020

#Booky100Keepers Day 77: The books of Sophy Henn

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Some folk whose books feature on our #Booky100Keepers list are just SO RIGHT for the world of children's books, so absolutely filled to the brim with joy and energy that it rubs off on you the moment you pick up one of their titles and start flicking through.

Sophy Henn is one of the lovely folk who we've interviewed in the course of writing our blog, and her brilliant "Pom Pom" books have been cacklesome fun, I mean who could possibly resist the sour puss panda (certainly no parent who has ever been on the receiving end of a mega-strop from their own kids).

"Pom Pom Gets the Grumps" tackles the subject of feelings in a hilarious way featuring a creature you wouldn't normally associate with being a stroppy sort. But Pom Pom isn't happy, he's having one of those days - and soon his bad mood begins to rub everyone up the wrong way at nursery. So much so that no one wants to play with him any more. Poor Pom.

But perhaps joining in will make all the difference, and maybe Pom's friends might rally round to lift his mood.

What we've always loved about Sophy's books is her characters. They aren't the usual two-dimensional picture book types, they have their own moods and agendas, and quite often they behave in ways you wouldn't expect to see characters behaving in children's books.

But back to that sheer feeling of joy that her books evoke...

"Edie" is lovely, the sort of book that is like a kid-friendly version of the movie "Amelie" - where the central character has such a love of life that it's utterly and completely infectious and lifts your mood for the rest of the day after reading it.

Again here's a character you can't help but love to bits the minute you see them in the book, happy go lucky and living their best life in a tale that all parents will nod along to, and share Edie's parents mild exasperation at the energy their daughter has.

Right now the world needs books filled with positive vibes and bright summery colours, so you could do a lot worse than seeking out a copy of this, it really is utterly blimmin' marvellous.

Sophy doesn't just write picture books though - she's started out writing for middle grade and once again has introduced the sort of mischievous character that felt so much like our own dear departed Great Nan that it made us sit up and take notice.

"Bad Nana: Older Not Wiser" features the titular Nana behaving in ways that might make more prim and proper Grandmas scream. She's loud, she's colourful, she's extremely naughty but she's very much loved by her grand-daughter Jeanie.

Nana is always cooking up some crazy scheme or other, and of course loves to bring Jeanie along for the ride. Whether it's misbehaving at the supermarket, or putting stuffy types firmly in their place, Nana is the hero we all need in our lives - older, not wiser but utterly and completely awesome!

We're so pleased to have 'met' Sophy through writing this blog. She's popped by for several Q & As over the years (and we've linked to some of those below as well as linking to reviews of her awesome books.

A truly amazing creative person! We wish her huge success with everything she turns her hand to.

Original Review Links and Articles

Pom Pom Gets The Grumps by Sophy Henn (Picture Puffin)

A fabulous interview with Sophy Henn, Author and Illustrator of "Edie", a wonderful new picture book published by Picture Puffin

Pass It On by Sophy Henn (Picture Puffin)

Pom Pom the Champion by Sophy Henn (Picture Puffin)

It's Tedtime! Two new imaginative books for wee ones from awesome Sophy Henn (Bloomsbury Publishing)

Edie by Sophy Henn (Picture Puffin)

ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week ending 8th August 2014 - "Where Bear?" By Sophy Henn (Picture Puffin)

ReadItDaddy's First Book of the Week - Week Ending 25th January 2018: "Lifesize" by Sophy Henn (Red Shed / Egmont)

Time to Go with Ted by Sophy Henn (Bloomsbury Children's Books)

A very very happy book birthday to "Pom Pom is Super!" by Sophy Henn (Picture Puffin)

ReadItDaddy's Second Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 10th May 2019: "Super Duper You" by Sophy Henn (Puffin)

"Almost Anything" by Sophy Henn (Picture Puffin)

A fantastic interview with Sophy Henn, author of "Pom Pom The Champion" and "Pom Pom Gets the Grumps"

ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 1st June 2018: "Bad Nana: Older not Wiser" by Sophy Henn (HarperCollins Children's Books)

We're joined by fabulous Sophy Henn, author and illustrator of upcoming picture book smasher "Almost Anything" which is out TODAY! Hooray!




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