Friday, January 18, 2019

ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 18th January 2019: "Midnight at Moonstone" by Lara Flecker and Trisha Krauss (OUP / Oxford Children's Books)

Our Chapter Book of the Week won't be with you until the 4th of April (ARGH!) but trust us on this one, it'll be worth the wait...
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ReadItDaddy's YA / Adult Comic of the Week - Week Ending 18th January 2019: "On a Sunbeam" by Tillie Walden (Avery Hill)

Our YA / Comic of the Week comes with a "Parental Advisory: Strong Language / Adult Themes" sticker attached to it, but like a great many comics I've read recently, this is one I can't wait to share with C when she's older.

Once again, super-talented Tillie Walden has demonstrated why she was one of the youngest ever Eisner Award nominees, this time with a sprawling science fiction queer space epic that - for someone so young - could almost be a piece of career defining work.

"On a Sunbeam" at first feels like one of those comics you're going to need to read through a dozen or so times before you're going to understand its layers and nuances.

Yet the themes it explores are familiar, heart-wrenching, joyful, sad and relatable all at the same time, covering a lot of ground - and in a comic with 544 pages, plenty of space to go into great depth in the way the story unfolds.

This is the story of a young girl named Mia, and her chronicle begins as she embarks as a crewmember of the Spacecraft Aktis.

Tillie Walden's storytelling and artwork are just incredible

The team aboard the ship are responsible for cruising through space, repairing ancient monuments and buildings - but Mia constantly casts her mind back to a rebellious time as a pupil at a spacegoing Boarding School (honestly, who the hell WOULDN'T want to read a story about a space-going Mallory Towers!?)

"On a Sunbeam" conveys so many heartfelt moments with pure use of visual panels rather than words. Stunning. 

Mia's past and present weave together as we discover more about Mia's past, and a doomed relationship with another rebellious girl at school, as she becomes closer to her crew on the Aktis. 

Mia's story is hugely complex, with many incidents and tragedies to cope with along the way as well as lost love. Tillie has the amazing gift to ensure that each scene is so beautifully described and drawn that you'll find yourself turning blue about mid way through the book as you realise you've barely dared to breathe. 

Tillie's characters always feel relatable, believable - even in the most surreal settings. 

Originally published as a webcomic, On a Sunbeam was nominated for an Eisner Award in 2017 and won Best Webcomic with Walden winning Best Artist at the 2017 Broken Frontier Awards. Deservedly so, as this is just one of the most beautiful and heartfelt comics you'll read this decade.

Absolutely stunning in every sense of the word. If you can hunt it out, go for the glorious hardback version with full colour covers from Tillie. It's absolutely jaw-droppingly gorgeous. 

"On a Sunbeam" by Tillie Walden is out now, published by Avery Hill (very kindly supplied for review)
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ReadItDaddy's Second Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 18th January 2019: "Mole's Star" by Britta Teckentrup (Orchard Books)

Our second Picture Book of the Week is the utterly charming and delightful "Mole's Star" by Britta Teckentrup.

Gently imparting the important message about how beautiful the world is, and how sometimes we take so much for granted, it's the story of a little mole who absolutely loves his new home underground.

But every evening, Mole comes out of his burrow to watch the twinkling stars in the sky above.

He falls in love with the stars, so much so that he wishes he could keep them all to himself.  

Then one night he sees a shooting star, and suddenly his wish comes true. 

There's just one problem: now that Mole's burrow is full of beautiful, shining stars, none of the other animals can enjoy them!

Mole's wish comes true, the stars are his for the taking!

Utterly beautiful page spreads like this really make this book stand out. 
It's a warm cuddly story with a strong moral message that sometimes sharing can be better than just keeping things all to yourself, as mole discovers. 

Simple, beautiful, brilliant. Britta is such an amazing talent in kidlit and this book really should be right at the top of your book buying list for 2019. 

"Mole's Star" by Britta Teckentrup is out now, published by Orchard Books (kindly supplied for review). 
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ReadItDaddy's First Book of the Week - Week Ending 18th January 2018: "Mickey Mouse Museum: The Story of an Icon" (Studio Press)

We're very excited about all things Disney this year as we're finally taking the plunge and jetting off to fully immerse ourselves in the world of this iconic little mouse.

"The Mickey Mouse Museum: The Story of an Icon" is a timely book to drop through our letterbox.

After celebrating his 90th birthday last year, Mickey still looks as spritely as ever - and in this fascinating slice of Disney history there's a brilliant look at Walt Disney, his most famous creation, and all the other characters that gave Disney its first cartoon successes back in the earliest days of the studio.

Featuring original sketches, cartoon cels and some awesome discussions about the evolution of everyone's favourite cartoon mouse, it's a huge book full to the brim with information for Disney-Philes everywhere.

Dip inside and check out some of the amazing spreads, and you'll see why we got so excited about this keepsake collector's edition from Studio Press. It really does look fantastic.

Some fascinating insights into how Mickey Mouse became one of the most instantly recognisable characters on the planet
Disney's earliest efforts to bring feature-length cartoons to the screen weren't without their own ups and downs, and the historical and anecdotal accounts of how the studio first found its feet are as fascinating as learning more about Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, Pluto and all the other characters who appeared in the early 'shorts'.

As much as we love Mickey, we also love Minnie Mouse to bits too!
It's absolutely gorgeous this book, a great mix of timelines, info and awesome stills and sketches. What more could Disney fans wish for?

"Mickey Mouse Museum: The Story of an Icon" is available now, published by Studio Press (kindly supplied for review). 
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Thursday, January 17, 2019

Are books about the paranormal too 'twee' for today's kids? This Week's #ReadItTorial

It's definitely something that's common to a lot of miscreants my age, that we grew up in the 1970s and 80s on a diet of books that - as kids - we probably shouldn't have been anywhere near.

There was a lot of talk on Twitter about the return of Usborne's truly brilliant (and quite traumatic) "The World of the Unknown" range, including the pinnacle of scariness, the "Ghosts" edition.

Thanks to Usborne's fantastic writing teams, and a ton of quite harrowing photos and illustrations, these books are etched in the memories of an entire generation. I remember getting copies of these through (of all things) our School Book Club, sneaking them home and then actually being too petrified to read them at bedtime, waiting until the daylight hours and bright sunshine to dip into them

So hearing that Anna Howorth over at Usborne is considering petitioning to bring them back into print is just the best news ever. My childhood copies have long been lost, and they're actually fairly sought after online so other than stumbling across them in secondhand book stores or at boot sales, I didn't think we'd ever see their ilk again.

It is a bit of a 'lost' genre for today's kids, the only recent example I can recall of a book dealing with mysteries and the paranormal is B Small's truly excellent "Real Life Mysteries" which did a fantastic job of updating the whole mysteries / phenomenon book for a whole new generation (and won a Blue Peter Award for it to boot!)

I started to think back to my two "Bad Influence" uncles who weaned me onto books about UFOs, mysteries and paranormal goings on when I was a nipper. They were the ones who used to buy truckloads of books by Erich Von Daniken, John A Keel and Arthur C Clarke and many other luminaries who used to publish paperback and pocket edition books full of weird happenings across the globe.

TV used to have lots of different shows also focusing on weird phenomenon too.

Anyone remember Leonard Nimoy hosting the "In Search Of..." series?

Oh and of course, speaking of traumatic childhoods, there was always this show - the theme tune alone used to scare the living daylights out of me even before ol' Arthur cropped up to do his short pieces to camera ahead of the show's theme for that week...

I still have this book and I still can't believe how scary the show was as a kid
Then there was this. A real game-changer, a whopping great big paperback edition of this was my go-to for weirdness as a kid...

"The World Atlas of Mysteries" by Francis Hitching. Featuring THAT picture of someone's burned up ankle in a spontaneous human combustion case. ARGHH you know the one I mean. 
My uncles also collected "The Unexplained" which was a weekly magazine all about this stuff, and later on I inherited another bizarre but completely enthralling book about weird creatures from them too:

The cause of so many nightmares. Totally engrossing!
This was my introduction to "The West Virginia Mothman" - a strange winged beastie which inhabited a huge region around the Blue Ridge Mountains back in the 1960s and scared the plops out of local residents, with many eyewitness reports collected by Keel himself as he visited the area.

I suspect that all these books fed into my love of science fiction and fantasy too, and of course ghost stories and I wonder if there would be a market for books like this these days.

I guess in today's internet generation of kids, it might just be that today's bookworms aren't really interested in mild scares from real-world mysteries which have probably long been debunked but weirdly I still find myself drawn to the "Mysterious Universe" website to check on the daily goings-on in the worlds of mysterious phenomenon and the paranormal.

Who doesn't love a good ghost story after all?

Really hope Usborne do bring these back and if they don't I might just bloomin' well write my own mysterious phenomenon book and start pitching it instead!
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"Animal Worlds of Wonder" by Anita Ganeri and Maddy Vian (20 Watt Publishing)

Time for another globe-trotting book that finds out all about the animals that live on our planet, and their various habitats right across the globe...
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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

"A is for Activist" by Innosanto Nagara (Seven Stories Press)

This is certainly an ABC book like no other. Ready to teach your little ones how to stand up for their rights and the rights of others?

In "A is for Activist" your little ones can learn a new way of doing so along with learning their alphabet.

Each page spread uses rhyming text to put across an important point about activism, equality, politics and protest in a way that is intriguing and invites children to be curious and find out more.

It's never too early to get kids thinking about how their world is changing, and also how they can change their world in peaceful and thought-provoking ways. So let's take a look inside at some of the gorgeous spreads from Innosanto...

I and J! We say YAY!
The art style is edgy, thoroughly modern and really eye-catching, really helping to put across each point as it's made.

Hoist up a banner, create a co-op! Help each other out (and don't forget to spot the cats!)
As parents look to their children to help take up their causes, this is a fabulous introductory book to start that process rolling in a really cool way.

X and Y. Malcolm and You!
A truly stunning and interesting book this, that deserves to win a ton of awards and become a classroom staple for early years without a doubt.

"A is for Activist" by Innosanto Nagara is out now, published by Seven Stories Press (kindly supplied for review). 
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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Start your year in a contemplative, restful and creative way with a fabulous selection of "Mini Meditations" books from Liminal 11 Publishing

Some of our favourite creative folk are behind two brilliant and inspirational little books from innovative publishers Liminal 11.

Well known for their mindful and soothingly relaxing titles, Liminal 11's new "Mini Meditations" series is a real treat for the eyes and the mind.

Starting with "Mini Meditations on Joy" from comic superstars Adam and Lisa Murphy, this diminutive but packed little pocket-sized book is full of wisdom and inspirational quotes from historical and contemporary figures ranging from The Dalai Lama to Maya Angelou.

Fans of Adam and Lisa's "Corpse Talk" will instantly love the art style and illustrations that accompany each quote. We giggled a bit at the forewords from Adam and Lisa (where Adam comes across as slightly curmudgeonly and even a bit grumpy, whereas Lisa is absolutely effervescent and enthusiastic!)

"Mini Meditations on Joy" by Adam and Lisa Murphy is out now, published by Liminal 11. 

There's also the truly brilliant "Mini Meditations on Creativity" from supernova-bright comic star Tillie Walden.

Completely in love with her graphic novel work, I was delighted to find her utterly mesmerising artwork accompanying this set of thoughtful quotes about creativity, again from some of the most famous (and not so famous) creative souls in history and popular culture.

Tillie's drawings fit each inspirational quote absolutely perfectly, and these two books are absolutely fantastic if you want a quick booky gift to give to your favourite person for practically any occasion.

"Mini Meditations on Creativity" by Tillie Walden is out now, published by Liminal 11. 

(Both titles kindly supplied for review).
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Monday, January 14, 2019

"Mission Defrostable (Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast Book 3)" by Josh Funk and Brendan Kearney (Sterling Publishing)

Our tummies are rumbling in anticipation of another grand food-based adventure with Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast.

In "Mission Defrostable" by Josh Funk and Brendan Kearney, the dynamic comestible duo are back for an adventure that will give you the chills.

Something is wrong, very wrong in the fridge.

Everything is encrusted with ice, and even Sir French Toast's moustache has ice crystals in it, let alone Lady Pancake's hair.

It's time to embark on a mission to find out what's gone wrong, and why their world is slowly being wrapped in a blanket of ice.

Enlisting the help of an unlikely ally, and with the aid of the shady (literally, she wears shades!) Agent Asparagus, it's a mystery ready to unwrap for our heroes.

Brrr! It's cold in the fridge! Colder than usual! 
The story unfolds in fun to read rhyming text from Josh, with Brendan's tummy-rumblingly great illustrations of a vast food-populated world nestling in your icebox.

Who is this mysterious character? No it's not Britney Spears, but Agent Asparagus!
When the two finally track down their ultimate foe, there's a huge twist in the tale - which we won't ruin for you of course.

C really loved me reading this book aloud to her, mostly because it's a beautifully flowing rhyming story that has plenty of chuckles and surprises along the way.


"Mission Defrostable (Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast Book 3)" by Josh Funk and Brendan Kearney is out now, published by Sterling (kindly supplied for review). 
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Friday, January 11, 2019

ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 11th January 2019: "The Silent Guides / My Hidden Chimp" by Prof Steve Peters (Lagom Publishing)

This week's pair of thought-provoking books take a step away from the usual 'mindfulness' model of books we've seen quite a lot on the blog recently, instead providing an utterly compelling and fascinating deep dive into why we are the way we are.

"The Silent Guides" and its companion book for younger readers "My Hidden Chimp" by Professor Steve Peters are mind-mapping manuals for folk who, like us, are completely fascinated by human (and for that matter simian) behaviour.

Neuroscience is, of course, a subject very close to home for us - and we're particularly interested not only in how the brain works, but what can define someone's character based on their daily actions or behaviour.

The main reason neuroscience is particularly fascinating to us is because of my wife's epilepsy. Helping us to understand how the brain functions at its most basic level, but also at some of its more complex behavioural and higher functional levels really does help us to also understand what epilepsy is, and how it's like a broadcast storm across the brain that can lead to the seizures and lapses my wife suffers from.

In "The Silent Guides" Steve explores some neuroscience and psychological aspects of the developing mind, unconscious thinking, behaviours, habit formation and related topics in an easy to understand way. The book offers practical ideas and thoughts for the reader to reflect on using 10 helpful habits as examples. Mostly though the theory is that our "inner chimp" isn't something that we can control, but we can choose to be dominated by it, or perhaps make friends with it so that it can be useful to us. 

"My Hidden Chimp" which is the companion book, does a similar thing for children, listing ten helpful habits that kids can adopt in order to understand why they sometimes feel happy, sometimes sad, sometimes angry, excited or fearful. As my daughter described her inner chimp (which she named Abigail), we completed most of the exercises designed to heighten awareness of when "Abigail" was doing the talking, and perhaps when C could wrestle back a bit of that control and that voice back for herself. It was a hugely addictive exercise, and one we've thought about so many times since working through the books.

If you, like us, have a child with anxiety or perhaps a child that is prone to outbursts of frustration or anger, this book deftly explains where the roots of those behavioural traits lie, and the answers will actually surprise you as much as they did us. It's not purely passed on to our kids through our genes, but there may be many underlying causes - and this book offers ways to tackle those behaviours head on.

It was great to hear Prof Steve on Radio 2 just before Christmas on the Chris Evans Show, stating quite clearly that he's reluctant to be in the spotlight because of his books, but they're compelling and make so much sense that we'd love to see him do a tour off the back of these. 

You'll be utterly gripped by both of these, and it's also worth letting your kids loose on "The Silent Guides" if they're up to it and fancy seeing the other side of the coin, and perhaps seeing how adults feel and what they sometimes have to deal with. 

Absolutely fascinating stuff.

Sum these books up in a sentence: Give yourself a brain boost with a whole way of thinking about your behaviour, your self confidence, emotions and mental well being with some truly thought provoking ways of upping your mental game. 

"The Silent Guides" and the accompanying "My Hidden Chimp" by Professor Steve Peters are both out now, published by Lagom Publishing (kindly supplied for review). 
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