Friday, March 31, 2017

ReadItDaddy's Second Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 31st March 2017: "The Big Book of Beasts" by Yuval Zommer and Barbara Taylor (Thames and Hudson)

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Time for another utterly fantastic wildlife book from fab illustrator Yuval Zommer...no bugs in this one, it's "The Big Book of Beasts"...
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ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 31st March 2017 - "The Demon Headmaster: Total Control" by Gillian Cross (Oxford Children's Books)

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Oh my, he's back! The fuel for many of my childhood nightmares is back...!
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ReadItDaddy's Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 31st March 2017 - "Adelaide's Secret World" by Elise Hurst (Allen and Unwin)

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The world needs books like this. Lots and lots of books like this! Our Picture Book of the Week this week is the sublime "Adelaide's Secret World" by Elise Hurst.
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Thursday, March 30, 2017

The world needs rebel girls but it does not need misleading marketing - A ReadItTorial

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Watch this video if you will, as prep for today's ReadItTorial...


This is a promotional video for "Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls" which is an upcoming anthology of children's stories, based around some of the most inspirational and fantastic women you could ever delve into a history book and learn about.

Normally this is the sort of book I'd be cheering in the loudest voice possible for (in fact I do still want to see a copy regardless of the tone of this article).

However, I have some serious issues with the promotional video and it seems quite a few others do too (and not just males, so just stop right there if you think this is some sort of mysogynistic rant about what's essentially a brilliant feminist book idea - and furthermore, if you think that's how things go down on this blog written by a dad and his daughter, you really need to check through our post history a few thousand times - or let the door hit your ass on the way out, kthanksbye).

If you're still reading (thank you!), the issues I had with the video were that right off the bat it just did not represent our experience of 7 years and 4000 or more books read, reviewed and critiqued. Not even close. So we ran a little experiment at home, taking one of our bookshelves as a sample just like in the video - and tackling each of the video's statements in turn:

1) "Male characters feature in up to 100% of books". (FSU Study finds 100 years of gender bias in children's books). 

FSU (I'm assuming Florida State University but that could mean anything really) study actually is worth a read, clearly states that male 'central' characters did (in 2011) feature in 57% of books but nearly all books polled (with no specifics on titles, nor how these were picked) featured in up to 100% of children's books.

We have so many books at home, we just randomly picked on one of our bookcases. Our findings were that in titles published in the last 20 years pulled from our shelves, the gender bias was actually so near-parity as to be negligible, with an equal amount of male / female characters featuring in 100% of books and closer to a 72% majority for central female characters in the books on our shelves.

2) In a study of 5000 children's books, 25% had zero female characters in them (again figures culled from the same report). 

Again we drew from our own collection - out of a random selection of 200 titles culled from our children's picture book collection, only 3 had zero female characters in them (less than 6%)

(Notably, of he three that had zero female characters two were, interestingly, written and illustrated by women).

3) "Time Magazine listed the 100 best books of all time. Only 53 had females that speak". 

We always have an issue with any list (particularly those by newspapers and magazines) that list the 100 best anything of all time, but again the number here suggests that better than half had females that speak.

Once again we looked at the same stack of books from our own shelves. Only 4 featured female characters with no dialogue or 'lines' and one of the books was wordless anyway (but featured both a strong female lead and matriarch figure).

4) "Across children's media, only 19.5% of female characters hold jobs or have career aspirations vs 80.5% of male characters (jane.org occupational aspirations figures 2013)

 This was actually the toughest to distil as we found that around 30 to 40% of books we pulled from our stacks featured stories where career aspirations were not part of the narrative for either gender. Of books where jobs or services formed part of the story, again the balance was closer to parity 47% female vs 53% male - but not an exact balance if that was what was being looked for in the study.

5) "Excuse me sir, I want to go to mars, do you have a book for that?"

The video rounds off with a very empty bookshelf, and a simple question from the girl in the video. Does the world of children's publishing have space books for girls? Does the children's publishing industry have fictional storybook titles that would inspire a space-loving gal with a love of flight and science perhaps? We'd like to think so

"Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls" has raised a lot of questions - whether children's publishing is truly making progress and leading the charge when it comes to addressing gender bias in any form of media, not just children's stories.

In our few years of reviewing children's books, certainly compared to what things were like when we first started out, we've seen a massive surge in the number of books we've received for review that feature mighty girl main characters, that aren't just written to stick a girl in a normally male dominated role but are written BECAUSE that mighty girl character fits that role perfectly regardless of gender.

Female authors, illustrators, editorial staff, designers, marketers, PR folk - again we see an industry where it's actually quite rare to see a month where we get to review more than a handful of titles written by men or solely written for boys.

There are plenty of male illustrators and authors working in the industry but in general it's hugely female dominated and so the Rebel Girls video feels like it's suggesting that in a female-dominated industry, we're somehow still allowing there to be a clear state of play where males 'rule the roost' in children's books.

There are some things that still drive us utterly potty about children's stories and gender - and not just gender, but diversity so there's no denying that there are massive improvements to be made.

I could moan that there are still way too many children's books that show dads (for example) as being the slightly dozy / lazy / greedy / comedic prat-falling / less intelligent partner in a couple if a book features a family. Male characters are also more predominantly depicted as bullies, criminals, miscreants or pains-in-the-ass for their female siblings than female (though we do love a good cracking female villain).

It's very easy to spin something to fit a certain idea or agenda, or to promote a particular (mis)conception. The craziest thing of all is that we would have bought the HELL of this book (and we probably still will) purely because we love books that celebrate famous female figures from history, science and art or just about anything else you'd care to mention (and we've already had an utterly perfect book like this from none other than Kate Pankhurst - "Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World" - a former Book of the Week and a book we tirelessly campaign folk to buy for their kids.

We'd love to hear your opinion on the promotional video, and whether you feel that the figures reflect your experiences in children's books - and in fact we'd love to hear from people with boys who can see the flip side of the coin and really struggle to find great quality children's picture books where boys are more than just the annoying twerp next door who is always getting into trouble or scrapes.

Edit: Worth reading this article about the Rebel Girls video / book from The Guardian that does indeed suggest that the bookshelf video was 'set up' to reflect the figures as a visual demonstration - something that really should have been made clear from the outset in the video and on the website (Thanks to Catherine Friess for pointing out this link)
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Tiny Owl's fabulous diverse range expands with three new tempting treats full of wonder and dazzlement.

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Three fab titles are arriving in March, courtesy of Tiny Owl Publishing.

Tiny Owl are renowned for their brilliant and diverse children's books full of colourful illustrations and engaging stories, so let's dive into our book bag and see what March brings.

First is "The Parrot and the Merchant" based on the fables of Rumi, with fabulous reworking and illustrations from Marjan Vafaian. This fable tells the story of a merchant and her beautiful parrot.

The parrot is kept in a gilded cage and wants for nothing, and the merchant loves the parrot very much. But sometimes love means more than possession - it means also having the ability to let something go and be free.

This story unfolds beautifully as the merchant realises that the one thing that would make the parrot happier than anything else, even the richest foods and the most beautiful surroundings.

"The Parrot and the Merchant" by Marjan Vafaian is out now, published by Tiny Owl.

Next in our book bag, another brilliant fable, and another tale of a little bird...

In "A Bird Like Himself" the story begins with a lone lost egg left in the forest.

A bird hatches from the egg but there's no mum around to look after the poor little chick - so an amusing variety of 'foster parents' sit in until the bird can find his way to a loving home.

As anyone knows though, bringing up a baby bird isn't easy! Will poor little baby bird ever find a proper mum?

Beautifully illustrated and told by Anahita Teymorian, this is a snuggly classic in the making that's perfect for a bedtime story.

"A Bird Like Himself" by Anahita Teymorian is out now, published by Tiny Owl.



Last but not least, another utterly beautiful book that will draw in curious kids with a very important question or two...!

In "Alive Again" by Ahmadreza Ahmadi and Nahid Kazsmi a little boy muses on the world around him.

"When the blossom disappears, is it gone for good?"

His father teaches the boy that patience reaps its own rewards. Even when the rain stops, it will begin again - and even when the blossoms disappear, they will be back next spring.

Gentle storytelling for curious minds, with instantly appealing illustrations, "Alive Again" by Ahmadreza Ahmadi and Nahid Kazsmi is out now, published by Tiny Owl.

What a brilliant trio of books! Be sure to check out the rest of Tiny Owl's fabulous inclusive publications on their website.
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ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book Roundup - March 2017

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Good Gravy! How on earth did we get to March already? Are you girding your loins for a ton of easter eggs in the coming months? Have you eaten your own weight in pancakes? Well that just won't do - because we need to get through a TON of books starting with the sprightly knightly antics of Elys Dolan.

Or more accurately, "Knighthood for Beginniners" which is a completely bonkers look at what it takes to be a knight in shining armour. Or in this case, green scales!

High in the mountains are the Dragon Caves, and inside the deepest, darkest dragon cave, lives the most terrible dragon. And his name is Dave.

Dave's terrible (as in rubbish) at all dragony things. So when he finds a book called Knighthood for Beginners he decides to learn how to be a knight instead.

Dave sets out on a quest with his trusty steed, Albrecht the goat (all the best horses were taken), to be brave, chivalrous, and knightly in all ways. He'll be up against Sir Gnasty, who scoffs at the idea of a very small, strangely green knight and has an absolutely massive sword.

Most definitely right up your alley if you're into all things chivalrous and dragonly, "Knighthood for Beginners" by Elys Dolan is out  on 2nd June 2017, published by Oxford Children's Books / OUP.

Phew after all that gadding about, is it time for a swift snooze? Nope, we still have more books so what's next, book-serf?

"Uncle Shawn and Bill and the almost entirely unplanned adventure" is whackiness a-go-go from the minds of A.L. Kennedy and the illustrative uber-skills of Gemma Correll (whom I have a gigantic crush on but don't tell her for goodness sake!)

It's the tale of one Badger Bill who has got himself into a slight spot of bother (understatement of the century). You see he's been kidnapped by two nasty sisters who are about to make him fight a boxing match against three even nastier dogs. What sort of monsters ARE these girls anyway, horrid wretches!

It gets worse - the four most depressed llamas in the history of llamadom need rescuing too. They are about to be turned into llama pies. Lovely hairy tasty llama pies (I mean who doesn't love those, right?)

But never fear - Uncle Shawn is here! He loves rescuing things. He has a rescuing plan, which involves dancing, and a mole, and an electric fence. What could possibly go wrong? Well, just about everything because Uncle Shawn is a bit of a dafty.

Will our haphazard gallant hero really save the day, or are the animals toast! Find out in this hilarious and brilliantly illustrated tale. 

"Uncle Shawn and Bill and the almost entirely unplanned adventure" by A.L. Kennedy and Gemma Correll is out now, published by Walker Books. 

OK no more badger baiting, what's next in our pile, pray tell?

Well this next one is sort of badger-related too, so just a quick reminder about one we've covered previously in our roundups...

"The New Adventures of Mr Toad - A Race for Toad Hall" by Tom Moorhouse and Holly Swain is a brand spanking new series of adventures starring everyone's favourite automobile-obsessed amphibian. Mr Toad, from "The Wind in the Willows". 

There's a whole new generation of characters including Teejay (which stands for Toad Junior), Mo and Ratty. While exploring the ruined grounds of Toad Hall, all three fall into a mysterious tunnel. Inside they discover something . . . or should that be someone in the ice house. 

It turns out to be Mr Toad himself and the children have found him in the nick of time. Wildwood Industrious (the shady operation run by the descendants of the Stoats and Weasels) is on the brink claiming legal ownership of Toad Hall! Can the gallant heroes stop Wildwood before it's too late? 

With outrageous antics from Mr Toad, action-packed adventure from the start, and stylish two-colour illustrations from Holly Swain that capture all the comedy, this is a truly brilliant new treatment of Kenneth Grahame's fabulous timeless characters and stories. 

"The New Adventures of Mr Toad - A Race for Toad Hall" by Tom Moorhouse and Holly Swain is out now, published by OUP / Oxford Children's Books. 

Now for something completely different...there's electricity in the air!

New from appropriately named Ali Sparkes is "Thunderstruck" which poses a very interesting question. What if your new best friend was a ghost?
 
Getting struck by lightning whilst huddling under a tree isn't exactly the way Alisha and Theo would have chosen to get out of sports day . . . 
 
Surviving the strike makes them see life differently. It also makes them notice Doug and Lizzie. Struck by lightning under that same tree on the common in 1975, the two teenagers have been hanging out there ever since. 

Doug and Lizzie are funny, clever, brave - and quite happy about making friends with a pair of ten-year-olds. OK, fair point, they are dead, and Doug's trousers are worryingly flared. But you can't have everything. 

But something sinister is going on at school - although only Theo and Alisha seem to be able to see it. What can it mean when ragged faceless entities keep staring in through the windows? Not all ghosts are friendly like Doug and Lizzie . . . but are these phantoms really the harbingers of doom for all the kids at Beechwood Junior? 

A fun and fast-paced ghostly mystery with lightning strikes, floating phantoms, and four fantastic friends just trying to get on with their everyday lives . . . or deaths . . . 

From the prize-winning author of Frozen in Time, the Shapeshifter series, this latest title from Ali has the same fantastic frisson (and some great moments of 'folk out of time' humour in there too). 

"Thunderstruck" by Ali Sparkes is out now, published by OUP / Oxford Children's Books. 

Uh oh, Gravity goes "Urrrrrrrrrrp!" in our next book...


Danny Wallace is back with another fantastic adventure for Hamish in "Hamish and the Gravityburp" with fab art and cover by Jamie Littler.

Don't sit too comfortably, because this book could signal THE END OF THE UNIVERSE AS WE KNOW IT!

When Hamish arrives home to find his mum and his brother lying flat on their backs ON THE CEILING, he knows there’s something seriously wrong (again) in the town of Starkley. What is the strange burping noise he keeps hearing? Why are weird seeds suddenly falling from the sky? And should he be worried about the odd woman with a cone around her neck? (Naw, what's so weird about any of that? It's all in a day's work for Hamish!)

All Hamish and his gang the PDF can be sure of is that an adventure is coming. And that means two things:

1) You have to be prepared
2) You have to prepare a sandwich

This is the sort of book that gave Charlotte a serious case of the giggles (when she should have actually been getting some much needed sleep we could STILL hear her chortling away). Pretty high endorsement from a fussy madam. Though we still have never to this day worked out why Danny Wallace gave us all such icy stares across the floor of a crowded Wagamamas once (it's true, he DID!)

"Hamish and the Gravityburp" by Danny Wallace and Jamie Littler is out now, published by Simon and Schuster Children's Books.

Next, a book series based around one of our complete obsessions...

Lego of course, and in conjunction with Scholastic there are stacks of brilliant new Lego adventures coming out in book form, covering most of the current ranges.

New out are the "Knights Academy" books, based on the Nexo Knights toy range. Max Brallier's "The Forbidden Power" tells the story of Fletcher Bowman. He's an orphan from the countryside who's just arrived at the prestigious Knights Academy, where he doesn't know anyone or anything about being a knight.

Lucky for Fletcher he quickly makes one friend - the excitable Izzy Richmond. But when Fletcher and Izzy venture off-campus, they awaken a long-sleeping threat to Knighton that threatens to destroy the kingdom.

They'll have to work together to defeat the threat -and avoid their principal's wrath- in the start of an action-packed, epic middle grade series that will delight both seasoned fans and readers new to the world of Lego Nexo Knights.

"Knights Academy: The Forbidden Power" by Max Brallier is out now, published by Scholastic.

Next up, two of our absolute book HEROES are back with a new adventure for their fabulous mighty girl creation...

Cerrie Burnell and Laura Ellen Anderson are back for a third adventure, in "Harper and the Night Forest".

It's the most wonderful and imaginative tale but this time with a slightly darker tone. Harper and her friends get to visit the City of Singing Clocks right by the mysterious Night Forest. 

It is rumoured that a magical Ice Raven whose song can melt hardened hearts lives amongst the ebony trees. 

With the children's help The Wild Conductor plans to capture the mythical bird and create the greatest orchestra ever known. 

But Harper soon needs to decide who actually needs their help the most - Will the Wild Conductor ever win his place back in the fantastical musical circus?

We love the breathlessly mesmerising atmosphere of the Harper books, dazzlingly imaginative and beautifully written by Cerrie and full of wondrous illustrations by uber-talented Laura. Don't miss out on your third slice of amazing adventures, courtesy of Harper!

"Harper and the Night Forest" by Cerrie Burnell and Laura Ellen Anderson is out now, published by Scholastic. 

Do you like big books (and you cannot lie?) - Well then you're going to love this stunner!

"Goodly and Grave in a Bad Case of Kidnap" by Justine Windsor (with illustrations and cover by Becka Moor) is a big weighty mystery that's so twisty and turny, you could probably use it as a corkscrew (though we'd rather you read it instead).

Meet Lucy Goodly, newly appointed as the new boot girl at Grave Hall, working for the cold, aloof Lord Grave. He's a curmudgeonly old stinker but always has an eye for a mystery. 

Lucy swiftly settles into her new home but soon notices strange things are afoot.  The staff are very weird and secretive, and there's definitely something fishy going on - and it's not just Mrs Crawley’s experimental anchovy omelettes. There are moving statues, magical books and Lord Grave has a deep dark secret that pique's Lucy's curiosity until she's determined to find out what he's hiding. 

Meanwhile, all over the country, children are vanishing. Could the mystery of the missing children be linked to the strange goings-on? at Grave Hall? Lucy is on the case!

We love a victorian mystery or two and this is a brilliant book that will keep you guessing right up until the very last page. "Goodly and Grave in a Bad Case of Kidnap" by Justine Windsor and Becka Moor is out now, published by HarperCollins Children's Books. 

We're going even further back in history for our next book...

"Mark of the Cyclops - An Ancient Greek Mystery" by Saviour Pirotta and Freya Hartas delves into a case of injustice, and an uncanny talent for detection as we join young Nico on the hunt for the real culprit guilty of breaking a valuable wedding vase. Nico's new friend Thrax has a strange knack of figuring things out.  

Thrax's special skills might just come in useful as the mystery deepens. Can the boys prove that slave girl Gaia is innocent, and discover what the sinister mark of the cyclops really means?

Join Nico and Thrax for a mysterious adventure set in ancient Greece that really had us gripped with some fantastic use of factual settings mixed in with the fictional tale. 

This is new in Bloomsbury's education range, and we're hoping to see even more books along similar lines as "Mark of the Cyclops" is utterly involving and immersive. 

"Mark of the Cyclops" by Saviour Pirotta and Freya Hartas is out now, published by Bloomsbury Educational Books. 

A fantastic book series continues with the second "Beetle" title from M.G Leonard...

"Beetle Queen" is the followup to the smasheroo "Beetle Boy" and M.G Leonard is on cracking form.

Cruel beetle fashionista, Lucretia Cutter (who is like a cross between Cruella DeVille and either Aunt Sponge or Aunt Spiker), is at large with her yellow ladybird spies. 

Darkus, Virginia and Bertolt are once again on the trail of the despicable queen, discovering her latest nefarious plan and are hot on the trail of her misdeeds.

But the three friends are in trouble. BIG trouble. Darkus' dad has forbidden them to get involved - and Lucretia's disgusting crooks, Humphrey and Pickering, are out of prison and ready to leap to their boss's aid. 

There is one good piece of news. Novak, Lucretia's daughter - who also just happens to be a Hollywood actress, might be able to help Darkus, Virginia and Bertolt but never underestimate the evil Lucretia's nastiness. 

Hugely original and imaginative, "Beetle Queen" is destined to be a huge smash like "Beetle Boy". If you're into quirky mysteries and really utterly nasty baddies, this is going to win you over!

"Beetle Queen" by M.G Leonard is out on 6th April 2017, published by Chicken House Books so you've not got long to wait!

Let's squeeze one more in - a fabulous friend of the blog has a new set of mighty girl books ready for your delectation if you fancy something sparkly and magical.

Paula Harrison's new "Tiara Friends" series features a pair of almost identical girls - with completely different lives. Millie and Jess might look like twins but Millie is a princess, and Jess works 'downstairs' as a chambermaid.

Because they look so alike, they often swap dresses - and then the real fun begins.

But when a crown goes missing, can Millie and Jess solve the mystery before the ne-er do well gets away with the goodies?

It's a great new series from Paula, Author of the fabulous "Rescue Princess" books.

Two books are initially being released on 6th April 2017 so look out for "The Case of the Stolen Crown" and also "The Secret of the Silk Dress" (shown below) as both arrive on the same day.

They're great books, full of interesting twists and turns, and where there's a mystery to be solved you can bet Millie and Jess won't be far behind.

Paula Harrison's writing really draws you into the worlds of her characters, so girls in particular are sure to love a story where the girls get to solve the mysteries.

Don't miss out on this new series next month!

That's about all we've got time for in this month's roundup. Stay tuned in April when we'll be diving into the post bag once more, bringing you the best and brightest from our chapter book pile!
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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Two more fantastic little animal-based books from Lorenzo Clerici and Silvia Borando (Minibombo / Walker)

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Try as we might, we never seem to settle the argument over which species is more superior. Dogs? Are you a dog lover? Or do you prefer cats?
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Moments in History that Changed the World by Clare Hibbert (British Library / Revolutions)

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The British Library's fantastic new children's range - Revolutions - is a fact-packed bumper book full of the sort of things we love to read about the most.
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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

We're All Wonders by R.J Palacio (Picture Puffin)

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August Pullman, hero of R.J. Palacio's fabulous "Wonder" is back, this time with a message for younger kids...
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Two new corkers for wee ones from Maverick Publishing. Meet a family of giants, and a rather polite Gnu!

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Time for more picture book perfection from Maverick Publishing, who have a couple of new tempting treats for you this month.

First up is our old Twitter mate Karl Newson with a new story that delightfully dances with a few well known (and not so well known) characters, including a family of giants.

In "Fum" by Karl Newson and Lucy Fleming, the family have lost the tiniest member of the family. Little Fum really is thumb-sized, and so the family take a trip through storyland to try and find him, asking various well known characters (including Goldilocks and Little Red Riding Hood) if they've seen the pint-sized fellah anywhere.

It's a lyrical rhyming adventure that's sure to be a read-aloud favourite.

"Fum" by Karl Newson and Lucy Fleming is out now, published by Maverick Publishing. 

Then there's that Gnu!

In "How do you do, Mr Gnu" by Billy Coughlan and Maddie Frost, Mr Gnu has been invited for tea by none other than the Queen herself.

Slipping out of his zoo enclosure, Gnu causes a fuss as he takes a wild journey to the palace, picking up some etiquette and politeness tips as he goes.

But the last person he sees might just see poor Mr Gnu pick up a rather nasty habit instead. Will he make a good impression on Her Maj?

This is a rib-tickling and entertainingly original story - again fab to read aloud with some brill illustrations (and many giggles as we watch the hapless police trying to convince Mr Gnu to get back to his zoo!)

Brilliant stuff!

"How do you Do, Mr Gnu?" by Billy Coughlan and Maddie Frost is out now, published by Maverick Publishing.

(Both books kindly supplied for review)
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Monday, March 27, 2017

Penguin (10th Anniversary Edition) by Polly Dunbar (Walker Books)

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Good lord, is it really 10 years since Penguin first bounced into our lives?
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Labyrinth by Theo Guignard (Wide Eyed Editions)

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Here's a twisty-turny book full of the most devious puzzles. Enter the Labyrinth!
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Friday, March 24, 2017

ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 24th March 2017 - "The Seriously Extraordinary Diary of Pig" by Emer Stamp (Scholastic Children's Books)

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Oooh! If there's one thing that gets our trotters in a twist, it's the prospect of re-reading fabulous books we've already loved in hardback in their new paperback clothes.
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ReaditDaddy's Second Book of the Week - Week Ending 24th March 2017 - "The Street Beneath My Feet" by Charlotte Guillain and Yuval Zommer (Words and Pictures)

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Our second Book of the Week poses a rather fascinating question to curious little kids - Do you know what's going on right beneath your feet right now?
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ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week Ending 24th March 2017 - "Mummy Laid an Egg" by Babette Cole (Red Fox Picture Books)

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The late, great Babette Cole was definitely a force to be reckoned with in children's literature. A fabulous character, often outspoken and very much a huge influence on other authors and illustrators, her books are beloved by millions.
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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Surprise Surprise by Niki Daly (Otter Barry Books)

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What a sweet little book, with a twirly twist in the tale. Here's "Surprise Surprise" by Niki Daly...
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Cover Me, I'm going in! Why is it so hard to give book cover artists credit? A ReadItTorial

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Cover Artist Francis Tipton Hunter (Saturday Evening Post)
I know it's not a new thing, but lately it's been a particular bugbear of mine. Now we've started covering chapter books in greater detail, we're often hugely frustrated to see that the Author gets a deserving credit on the book (spine and cover, and internal plates) but quite often we have to hunt to find out who the cover artist was.

Championing Sarah McIntyre's brilliant "Pictures Mean Business" campaign (which you can read more about over on her blog), it feels like something we have to chirp up about on a regular basis, because there's still a long way to go and a lot of work to do.

Recently we've noticed that some publishers have definitely got the message. Oxford Children's Books now handily note who their cover artists are in press releases. If you're a book blogger who is quite often pushed for time, and covering a lot of books - having vital information like that in a handy-to-refer-to press release is a godsend, saving vital time scrabbling around for the information or fruitlessly googling / looking at publisher websites to try and find the answer (quite often if you're looking at an early draft of the book, the full credits aren't always included in the inside pages anywhere).

So what's the deal here? Why is this even a thing?

We'd hazard a guess that it's a mix of things. Publishers not wishing to detract from the author's hard work, perhaps even the assumption that once an artist is paid up for their cover work the deal is done. But as many artists will know, their cover art is a vital prod in the right direction for those folk who (like us) still browse bookshops in search of something new and cool to read.

There's no getting around the fact that cover impact is a huge part of a 'browsing' book buying decision and though there's a fair amount of snobbery about this particular method of making a book buying decision, it's absolutely the way a lot of kids will discover books (and particular authors) for the first time.

I remember overhearing a conversation in Waterstones once, where a boy was arguing with his brother that Terry Deary not only wrote the Horrible Histories books but also did all the illustrations and covers. It was quite hard not to chirp in and point out that Martin Brown's hard work is a huge part of the success of those books, but kids are kids and who the heck would want some grumpy adult correcting you when you're trying to score points over your brother?

I had a conversation recently with an artist who provided covers for a book we recently reviewed, who was told flatly by the publisher that they wouldn't be getting any kind of a cover credit. Again this struck me as more than a bit mean - this is, after all, a hugely valuable way of an artist getting more work - if their images are used on a book cover and in promo material, and they have no claim of proof of this (as I'm guessing once art is handed over, the sole rights then belong to the publisher) then how is that even fair? (I've chosen not to reveal the artist's name or the publisher but I'm quite frankly surprised that large publishers are worse for this sort of thing than smaller indies).

One line of credit text on a book cover is surely not that much to expect? Believe me, I would find it a massive help and who knows? The next generation of artists might be even more inspired as they come up through the ranks to know that they will actually get their name on a book. Surely it makes sense?
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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The March Wind by Inez Rice and Vladimir Bobri (Bodleian Publishing)

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Another fabulous treat from Bodleian's amazing back catalogue, gorgeously republished for a whole new audience...
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The Rain Puddle by Adelaide Holl and Roger Duvoisin (Bodleian Publishing)

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We've often talked about how brilliant it is to see classic children's books being brought back to life and reprinted...
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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A great way to improve kids handwriting with the "Write on Wipe Off Cursive Writing" cards from Flash Kids (Sterling Publishing)

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Here's a neat idea from FlashKids and boy, could all of us ever use some brilliant ways of improving our handwriting!
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Charlie and Mouse by Laurel Snyder and Emily Hughes (Chronicle Children's Books)

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A gorgeous book that recalls idyllic childhood days of play, and makes us long for the onset of spring...
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Monday, March 20, 2017

Monster Baby by Sarah Dyer (Otter-Barry Books)

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A ticklish little tale about getting a new brother or sister, told from a little monster's perspective. Here's "Monster Baby" by Sarah Dyer
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Two sizzling new books work some serious magic on your eyeballs. It's time for "Pyjamarama!" (Thames and Hudson)

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Two new additions to the fabulous Pyjamarama range have arrived. Get ready to see the world through Pyjama-vision!
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Friday, March 17, 2017

ReadItDaddy's Second Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 17th March 2017 - "William Bee's Wonderful World of Trucks" by (who else!) William Bee (Pavilion Children's Books)

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Our Book of the Week slot is PACKED this week, I know! But we make no apologies for squeezing this one in...
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ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 17th March 2017 - "Dork Diaries: Skating Sensation" by Rachel Renee Russell (Simon and Schuster Children's Books)

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Our Chapter Book of the Week is from a book series that Charlotte has become a little bit obsessed with, and that's putting it mildly...
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ReadItDaddy's Book(s) of the Week - Week Ending 17th March 2017 - A Smorgasbord of LEGO BATMAN! (Scholastic)

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The Lego Batman Movie looks like it's an essential cinema date for Charlotte and Me. So we had to make a trio of fabulous Scholastic titles based on the movie our books of the week!
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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Letting 'em fly - Those days when you feel gutsy enough to put your writing out there - A ReadItTorial

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You wake up one morning and after reading yet another dozen or so books that feel like they've been stamped out by some unstoppable machine, you start to look longingly at the manuscripts you're working on.

Some days you even feel like you're brave enough to submit them to an agent, or blind-submit them to a publisher who accepts unsolicited work.

Those days are very weird. Paranoia sets in almost immediately you hit the 'send' button, having read their terms and conditions to yourself a dozen times over, feeling sure that you haven't done anything to offend the sensitive process or upset the slush pile.

Paranoia gives way to a major pang of regret pretty soon after...

"Oh damn, I should've changed that bit" or "Ack, I think I might've gone over the word limit" or even "This story really is rubbish, how on earth did I think that would ever fly?"

I'd bet that's natural even for the most well established authors and illustrators, or perhaps I'm wrong - they just blithely jet off a manuscript while humming the theme tune to the Archers, gaily skipping around the house awaiting the ping of their email and a virtually instant response.

The next stage is the waiting. Any agent or publisher worth their salt will make you wait, and wait, and wait for a response - and will also ensure there's a caveat on their submissions page somewhere that says "Don't call us, we'll call you - if we call you at all!" which means that you've really got no idea whether you've been successful or not. The only thing to do is get on with your life, or maybe start work on the next few manuscripts ready to send off somewhere else.

Children's books are tough to write - and anyone who tells you otherwise is deluding themselves. I've written many times before on how tough an audience a roomful of kids can be, even when you're reading someone else's work. Imagine doing the same with something of your own and it being the equivalent of telling a terrible joke as a stand-up comedian and meeting a wall of silence rather than gales of laughter.

Some writers (and usually the ones who really need a decent editor / critique / severe reality check) have a built-in belief that "Because book A was published, and sucks, my book should be in with a fighting chance) and again it's a very dangerous assumption to make that your work is better than anyone elses. The best you can hope for is 'different' but if you're the sort of writer who shakes a fist at the sky, shouting "Why THEM! Why THEIR BOOK! It SHOULD'VE BEEN MINE" you're entering the wrong business, muchacho.

Of course, you could opt for the self-published route. The internet is awash with stories of "Joe Bloggs who quit his job as a sewage treatment worker and now writes and self publishes his own stories for children". Digging behind the scenes of those stories, you swiftly uncover the reality of self publishing in today's world and also swiftly conclude that the only way anyone could comfortably make a living straight out of the gate as a self published author would be to live on a tin of butterbeans a day, in a small hovel made of discarded Waitrose carrier bags, by the side of the A113 Heckmondswycke to Birthen.

I have lots of reasons for wanting to be published. None of them are financial. I want the chance to tell stories to a wider audience than my appreciative daughter or her (well meaningly uber-critical) mum. I want to somehow end up in that glorious gig of going to book festivals, not as a furtive consumer but as someone standing up in front of a room full of kids and their parents, talking about that day I sent off some manuscripts and the whole thing blew up from there. Most of all though I just want to do something that feels completely unattainable, yet amazingly special if by chance you're lucky enough to ever get your name at the top of a book that will one day sit on bookshelves or in bookstores (or more likely in my case, languish in those '2 for a pound' bins at your local discount store).

Lacking a critique clique or anyone to bounce ideas off, I'm taking a risk in assuming that someone else out there might find the stories touching or amusing, or perhaps feeling that my tales have struck just the right balance between peril and redemption.

If I ever got a reply back (even a negative one) I could at least tick off a couple more tries, stick those manuscripts away in a dusty drawer and perhaps return to them in another few years time and try again. But like many things in life, if you don't at least try and keep on trying, you're never going to know for sure.


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This or That? by Brandon T. Snider (Sterling Publishing)

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Here's an interesting idea for a book that poses a series of pretty tricky questions to you. This or That? By Brandon T. Snider
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Rosie Revere's Big Project Book for Bold Engineers by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts (Abrams Children's Books)

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Time to build and invent with a seriously brilliant book character. A welcome back for Rosie Revere!
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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Jimmy Finnegan's Wild Wood Band by Tom Knight (Templar Publishing)

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Get your metal on with a fantastic story of a kid who just wanted a bit of rock-star-style excitement in his plain ordinary life...
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Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner and Christopher Silas Neal (Chronicle)

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Captivating nature and an idyllic day out for a mother and sun. There's nothing like messing about in boats!
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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Alphamals by Ruth Symons and Graham Carter (Big Picture Press)

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You're really spoilt for choice these days when it comes to fabulous alphabet books.
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The Fairytale Hairdresser and Aladdin by Abie Longstaff and Lauren Beard (Picture Corgi)

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Charlotte utterly LOVES the "Fairytale Hairdresser" range of books, and the dream team of Abie Longstaff and Lauren Beard have impressed her once again...
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Monday, March 13, 2017

The world as you've never seen it before in the fantastic "Where on Earth?" Atlas (Dorling Kindersley)

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It goes without saying that if there's one publisher you turn to if you want absolutely fact-filled brilliant non-fiction books, it's Dorling Kindersley.
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Counting with Tiny Cat by Viviane Schwarz (Walker Books)

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Making numbers and counting fun is the key to engaging young children with their first steps in maths....
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Friday, March 10, 2017

ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 10th March 2017 - "The Demon Headmaster (Book1)" by Gillian Cross

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So this is where it all began! Our Chapter Book of the Week is the fantastic "The Demon Headmaster" by Gillian Cross...
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ReadItDaddy's 2nd Book of the Week - Week Ending 10th March 2017 - "Secret Hero Society - Fort Solitude" by Derek Fridolf and Dustin Nguyen (Scholastic / DC Comics)

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Our Second Book of the Week this week is the glorious sequel to the first "Secret Hero Society" story. What happens when Bruce, Clark and Diana head for camp...?
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