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Thursday, 17 December 2020

Our final (no really, final) End of Year Roundup - Brilliant books from our 2020 Book of the Week Winners!

 

Wait a minute, wait a minute! Didn't you guys quit? Well yes we did but we had one more piece of unfinished business to attend to before we properly shut the shutters, closed the doors, locked the locks and sailed off into the sunset and waved goodbye to what was a pretty awful year for most people. 

BUT that's not to say it was a year when books took a downward turn, and though we only reviewed books up till early August, we've hauled out all our 2020 Book of the Week winners for one more airing, just to show you how many truly excellent books crossed our paths, and hopefully to give you some real last-minute book purchase ideas if you're looking for stocking stuffers or just fancied picking up some of the best of the best children's books for your collection. 

So let's turn back the clock, wheel out the time machine and travel back in time to...



January 2020

This month began with a truly stunning anthology, more or less a book-shaped love letter to children's books in the form of "The Art of Visual Storytelling" by Martin Salisbury and Morag Styles (Laurence King Publishing). Drawing together some of the best children's books since they emerged as their own genre, it's a meticulously researched and beautifully presented piece of work, with plenty of "Ooh I had that!" and "Ahhh, loved that book" moments to enjoy throughout. Martin and Morag are obviously passionate about the subject, and it shines through in this fantastic collectable book. 

For more grown up readers, I took a trip back to my own misspent youth, re-reading the gritty and awesome "Third World War Volume 1" by Pat Mills, Carlos Ezquerra, D'Israeli and Angela Kincaid (Rebellion Publishing). A graphic novel way ahead of its time, eerily echoing the state of the world we know today but 20 years before COVID and the shambolic state of democracy. Rebellion will also be bringing volume 2 of TWW together in a new collected volume very soon so watch out for that!

Some brilliant chapter books made our January roster with the fantastically funny "Pests" by Emer Stamp (Hodder), "Darkwhispers" by awesome Vashti Hardy (Scholastic) and Womens Halloween Jumpsuits Sexy Pajamas Adult Onesies Button Sex all getting a huge thumbs up. 

Here's our full January "Book of the Week Roster" - Delve into January's Blog Archives to find all those and many more: 


Children's Picturebooks - The Art of Visual Storytelling by Martin Salisbury and Morag Styles (LK Publishing)


Third World War Volume 1 by Pat Mills and Carlos Ezquerra, D'Israeli and Angela Kincaid (Rebellion)


The Moviemaking Magic of Star Wars: Ships and Battles by Landry Walker (Abrams)


A Giant Dose of Gross by Andy Seed and Claire Almon (QED)


The Cure for a Crime - A Double Detectives Medical Mystery by Roopa Farouki (OUP)


Search and Find a Number of Numbers by A.J Wood and Allan Sanders (Wide Eyed Editions)


Darkwhispers: A Brightstorm Adventure by Vashti Hardy (Scholastic)


The Art of Disney Costuming by Rebecca Cline and Jeff Kurti (Disney Editions)


Pests by Emer Stamp (Hodder Children's Books)



February 2020

Loads of amazing graphic novels caught our eye in February, with "Gorebrah: The Mightiest Chef in the Universe" by James Stayte (David Fickling Books), "Women's Liquid Wet Look Slim Leggings Sexy Holographic Stretchy and Locke and Key Volume 1 by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW Publishing) all lighting up our reading pile with comic awesomeness. 

There were stacks of awesome chapter books to delve into early on in the year too with the welcome return of Louie Stowell and Davide Ortu's awesome middle grade series delving into all things mysterious and supernatural with "The Monster in the Lake" (Nosy Crow) knocking our socks off, and the fabulous "Sticky Pines: The Bigwoof Conspiracy" by Dashe Roberts (Nosy Crow) showing that the crow had a real nose for publishing intricate and fantastic genre stories to draw kids into the darker side of kidlit, hooray!

Here's our February roundup, complete with the rest of the "Book of the Week" winners, and here's a link to the February 2020 section of the blog: 

How to Think when you Write by Robin Etherington and Lorenzo Etherington (Self Published)


Gorebrah: The Mightiest Chef in the Universe by James Stayte (DFB)


Sticky Pines: The Bigwoof Conspiracy by Dashe Roberts (Nosy Crow)


Everybody Counts: A Counting Story from 0 to 7.5 Billion by Kirstin Roskifte (Wide Eyed Editions)


Glass Town by Isabel Greenberg (Jonathan Cape PB)


Max and the Midknights by Lincoln Peirce (Macmillan Children's Books)


Felix after the Rain by Dunja Jogan, translated by Olivia Hellewell (Tiny Owl Publishing)


The Monster in the Lake by Louie Stowell and Davide Ortu (Nosy Crow)


Locke and Key Volume 1: Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW Publishing)


Cinderella (Disney Animated Classics) with foreword by Mark Henn (Studio Press / Disney)


A Cake for the Gestapo by Jacqueline King illustrated by Isla Bousfield Donohoe (Zuntold)


Gamayun Tales Volume 1 by Alexander Utkin (Flying Eye / Nobrow)


March 2020

Well what a weird month March turned out to be, with the nation going into lockdown. Despite COVID and some real strange medical stuff happening, we still managed to pour it on, reviews wise, notching up 34 articles and 10 "Book of the Week" winners were chosen from a bulging reviews sack. 

"Professor Astrocat's Deep-Sea Voyage" by Dr Dominic Walliman and Ben Newman (Flying Eye / Nobrow) was a real treat, taking the successful formula of awesome facts and brilliant visuals from deep space to the deepest darkest parts of our oceans, serving up a slice of non fiction par excellence!

Dystopia-loving kids and their willing parental accomplices were also treated to sheer excellence in the second part of Tom Huddleston's fabulous trilogy (at least it had BETTER be a trilogy, Nosy Crow take note!), the awesome "DustRoad". Gritty, cinematic and effortlessly ticking all the right dystopic boxes for us, we couldn't get enough of it and truly hope part 3 happens - and soon! We have a whole class of kids who we put onto Tom's series who will be hugely disappointed if it doesn't. Crow folk, you know what to do!

Also worthy of special note in March was the return of fantastic Shinsuke Yoshitake with "Why Do I Feel Like this?" (Thames and Hudson) once again delighting us with a clever, funny and brilliantly illustrated tale explaining why we're such emotional beings. Couldn't have come out in a better year really, could it?

Here's our March roundup - with a link to all of our published reviews in March too: 

Professor Astro Cat's Deep Sea Voyage by Dr Dominic Walliman and Ben Newman (Flying Eye / Nobrow)


Mulan (Disney Animated Classics) with foreword by Paul Briggs (Studio Press / Disney)


The House on Hoarder Hill by Mikki Lish and Kelly Ngai (Chicken House Books)


Obsessive about Octopuses by Owen Davey (Flying Eye / Nobrow)


DustRoad by Tom Huddleston (Nosy Crow)


Leog: Absolutely Everything you Need to know (DK)


Be An Artist Every Day by Susan Schwake and Charlotte Farmer (Ivy Kids)


Girl 38: Finding a Friend by Ewa Jozefkowicz (Zephyr Publishing)


Why do I feel Like This? by Shinsuke Yoshitake (Thames and Hudson)


Paolo Emperor of Rome by Mac Barnett and Claire Keane (Abrams Books for Young Readers)


April 2020

We began April by soaking up the dark delights of local author Nicki Thornton's Seth Seppi Mysteries series with the third instalment, the truly awesome "The Cut Throat Cafe" (Chicken House) hooking C and her Mum (and not letting me get a look in edgeways until they'd polished it off. Brilliant, exciting and tight writing, we can't wait to see what Nicki comes up with next. 

One of the most stunning graphic novels for children that we've ever seen came to our attention in April as well, the amazing "The Garden of Inside Outside" by Chiara Mezzalama, Regis Lejonc (Translated by Sarah Ardizzone)(Thames and Hudson) showing two sides of a story of friendship, war and human tragedy - presented in a truly jaw-dropping way. A real shoe-in for Book of the Year and well worth your attention. 

We also loved "Troofriend" by Kirsty Applebaum (Nosy Crow AGAIN, what DID they put in their coffee this year?) posing the intriguing question - "What if you could REALLY make friends, automated robotic friends at that?". Original, stunning, page-turningly brilliant stuff. 

Here's our April Round Up of Book of the Week winners, and a link to all our April reviews


The Garden of Inside Outside by Chiara Mezzalama, Regis Lejonc with translation by Sarah Ardizzone (Book Island)


How to Put an Octopus to Bed by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Viviane Schwarz (Chronicle Books)


The Cut Throat Cafe by Nicki Thornton (Chicken House Books)


Planet SOS: 22 Modern Monsters Threatening our Environment and what you can do to defeat them by Marie G. Rhode (What on Earth Publishing)


100 Children's Books that Inspire our World by Colin Salter (Pavilion Children's Books)


Troofriend by Kirsty Applebaum (Nosy Crow)


Gnome by Fred Blunt (Andersen Children's Books)


Initial D by Shuichi Shigeno (Kodansha / Comixology Originals)


Goddesses and Heroines: Women of Myth and Legend by Xanthe Gresham-Knight and Alice Pattullo (Thames and Hudson)


The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson (Andersen Children's Books)



May 2020

May started off with a - well - slightly less fragrant subject, but one that showed just how amazing 2020's non-fiction releases were, mostly driven by some innovative new indie publishers putting out truly amazing books. 

"Why Do Dogs Sniff Bottoms" by Dr Nick Crompton and Lily Snowden-Fine (Thames and Hudson) was a giggle a minute, but with serious subjects at its heart to boost kids' understanding of animals and the way they communicate. 

Yuval Zommer once again lit up our lives with his beautiful and colourful books in "The Big Book of Blooms" (Thames and Hudson) coming along at the perfect time to remind us what 'being outside' was like, and making us crave our wide open spaces and countryside walks while lockdown continued (for us at least). 

Mighty Metaphrog came up trumps once again with the delicious graphic novelisation of "Bluebeard" (Papercutz), dazzlingly retold and gorgeously illustrated, a real treat indeed and a worthy Book of the Week. We also began our countdown to the blog's final day by putting together a huge collection of articles, delving into our top 100 books and series covered in 10 years of book blogging! Phew, we were busy!

Here's the rest of May's Book of the Week winners, and a link to our May articles and reviews

The Garden by Sean Michael Wilson and Fumio Obata (Liminal 11)


Why Do Dogs Sniff Bottoms by Dr Nick Crompton and Lily Snowden-Fine (Thames and Hudson)


The Big Book of Blooms by Yuval Zommer (Thames and Hudson)


Rise of the Shadow Dragons by Liz Flanagan (DFB)


The Littlest Yak by Lu Fraser and Kate Hindley (Simon and Schuster Childrens Books)


A Girl Called Justice: The Smugglers Secret by Elly Griffiths (Quercus)


Bluebeard by Metaphrog (papercutz)


The Stone Giant by Anna Hoglund (Gecko Press)


June 2020

June continued our #Booky100keepers countdown, but we also found time to review even more gorgeous books including the stunning "Mermaid Atlas: Merfolk of the World" by Anna Claybourne and Miren Asiain Lora (Laurence King Publishing). LKP obviously had a good year, publishing tons of amazing books and producing loads of awesome puzzles, games and toys for younger readers, we were mightily impressed with their output this year. 

"Heartstoppers Volume 3" by Alice Oseman (Hachette) continued the love story of two teenage boys, rendered in Alice's pitch-perfect graphic novel style, tugging at your hearstrings and making you squeal knowing that Volume 4 is just around the corner, hooray!

Chapter book wise, we adored "Love on the Main Stage" by S.A Domingo (Hachette), hitting the exact pitch and tone that C absolutely loves to find in her chapter books now she's inching towards the early end of YA stuff. Romantic, crushy and slushy but the perfect antidote to COVID year and making us wish for long hot summer festivals. 

Here's our complete June roundup of Book of the Week wins, and of course a link to our June articles

Mermaid Atlas by Anna Claybourne and Miren Asiain Lora (LKP)


The Tigers in the Tower by Julia Golding (Lion Hudson)


Attack of the Stuff: The Life and Times of Bill Waddler by Jim Benton (Papercutz)


Amazing Islands by Sabrina Weiss and Kerry Hyndman (What on Earth Books)


A Climate in Chaos by Neal Layton (Wren and Rook)


Heartstoppers Volume 3 by Alice Oseman (Hachette)


Virtual Unicorn Experience by Dana Simpson (Andrews McMeel Publishing)


Generation Brave by Kate Alexander and Jade Orlando (Andrews McMeel Publishing)


Love on the Main Stage by S.A. Domingo (Hachette)


July 2020

With not long left to go on the blog, July began with the anthemic "I am Not a Label" by lovely Cerrie Burnell and Lauren Baldo (Wide Eyed Editions) bringing together the life stories of 34 disabled artists, thinkers, athletes and activists from the past and the present. An absolutely rivetting read with top notch production from those lovely Wide Eyed folk, this should definitely find its way into your book collection if you haven't already got a copy. 

Our header star, the brilliantly joy-filled "Monsieur Roscoe on Holiday" by Jim Field (Hachette) took us out for a spin with the lop-eared doggy dude as he toddled off "en vacance" to teach us a little French. This was like a breath of fresh air in picture books, with Richard Scarry-esque attention to detail thanks to Jim's brilliant illustrations, and of course plenty of awesome words and phrases in French to learn. As someone who is still wrestling with the language (so I can soak up those awesome French books and graphic novels) I can honestly say that this is a brilliant way for kids to find their way into learning another language - and though we've been out of the loop for a while we dearly hope Jim is working on more lingual adventures for Monsieur Roscoe for 2021!

One of our fave artists on Twitter also published his very first book at the tender age of 12. Alec Anderson's awesome "Lumberwoods: The (in)complete guide to fearesome critters"wowed us with all the good stuff we love to see in a book, plenty of mysterious and mythical cryptids stomping around the world ready to jump out and spook us, all rendered in Alec's awesome illustrative style with a ton of cheeky humour in there to boot. Well worth grabbing, as it's an absolute bargain!

Here's the rest of our July Book of the Week winners, and a link to July's blog articles

I Am Not a Label by Cerrie Burnell and Lauren Baldo (Wide Eyed Editions)


Lumberwoods: The (in)complete guide to fearsome critters by Alec Anderson (Self Published)


Monsieur Roscoe on Holiday by Jim Field (Hachette Children's Books)


Albert Einstein's Theory of Relativity: Words that Changed the World" by Carl Wilkinson and James Weston Lewis (LKP)


Pierre the Maze Detective: The Curious Case of the Castle in the Sky by Hiro Kamigaki and IC4 Design (LKP)


Season of the Witch by Matt Ralph and Nuria Tamarit (Flying Eye / Nobrow)


Shy Ones by Simona Ciraolo (Flying Eye / Nobrow)


August 2020

We said our tearful goodbyes back in August, retiring after 10 years of book blogging but still as mad keen and interested in the world of kidlit as we ever were. 

Sadly real-life sometimes gets in the way of things but we still found time to round off our #Booky100Keepers articles in grand style, and also to review two fabulous last "Book of the Week" winners. 

"Marvellous Magicians" by Lydia Corry (Thames and Hudson) was something new and exciting, as we'd never seen a non-fiction book all about magic and magicians before. Covering some of the truly greatest members of the magic circle from past and present, Lydia's thoroughly researched and beautifully presented book was a real spectacle!

Last but by no means least, the awesome "Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast: Short and Sweet" by Josh Funk and Brendan Kearney (Sterling) had the privilege of being the last Book of the Week winner for our ten years of book blogging, once again serving up a tummy-rumblingly entertaining slice of picture book perfection for those of us with a sweet tooth!

Here's one final link to all the articles published in August!

So there it is, a truly amazing year and we only really covered 7 months of it, so we're sure that everyone involved in kidlit pulled out all the stops this year to keep the mighty children's publishing machine moving whether working from home or safely in their socially distanced offices. 

We missed the pomp and ceremony of the book festivals and fairs, but now there's a light at the end of the tunnel, and with the prospect of returning to some semblance of normality in 2021 (hooray for vaccinations and not having a busted Gall Bladder to worry about any more) we can't wait to see what comes up in the new year. We may not be here to review it (well, you never know! Weirder things have happened) but we'll be rooting from the sidelines. 

Wishing you all a merry christmas and a truly fantastic 2021

All at Team ReadItDaddy


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Wednesday, 12 August 2020

All Good Things...

Q from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Probably had a pretty good library...
So here we are then. 12th August, ten years (and a day) since we began our book blogging journey, armed with little more than a Blogger account and an armful of picture books from our local library.

It's been an amazing journey, and one that has surprised all of us here at ReadItDaddy Towers with the places it's taken us, the wonderful people we've met through book blogging, and the truly lovely community that exists around a love of children's books. We've spent 100 days looking back at just some of the stunning books we've reviewed in our #Booky100Keepers articles,  and it's been amazing taking a look at all those books again, remembering why they caught our eye.

But all good things come to an end and today is our blog's happy birthday and death day all in one.

After a lot of soul-searching and discussion at home we've decided to retire the blog with a jaunty little wave goodbye and a shy smile, and of course a huge "THANK YOU" to everyone who has dropped by to read what we've written about books and bookish things, and an even bigger thank you to all the publishers, authors, illustrators and hard working PR folk who have helped make this blog what it is.

Ten years ago we didn't really set out to achieve anything but always thought it'd be good to do this for as long as it was fun, maybe notch up a few hits (just shy of 2 million the last time I looked, wow), perhaps find a way to turn writing about books into a regular (even paid) gig (hah, yeah right!)

Instead, chipping away at our review pile in our spare time has been hugely satisfying - but the tiny amount of spare time we devote to book blogging has slowly been eaten up by other things over the past decade. A  busy tween and an equally busy dad both struggling to fit even a part-time blog into the mix of a hectic daily life just doesn't compute sadly, and again there's no point doing a blog if you're not going to do proper justice to the books.  For a while I did consider just going on alone, but despite all the lovely things people have said on Twitter, I don't really think anyone wants to read an adult's lone opinion on children's books really, this blog was founded on being about C's opinions on books not really mine.

So what happens next?

Well you're in good hands, you know you are. When we started out, book blogging was a thing - sure it was - but there weren't that many 'dad' book bloggers out there as there are now, and the quality of blog content has skyrocketed way past the point of folk just tapping out "We really like this book, it's great" on a loop.

Book folk really are amazing and they are extremely passionate about the things they write about and the way they share the books that are rocking their world with you. Here's some of the blogs you should be reading if you aren't already...

Take "Father Reading Every Day" for example. We love this Dad and Son reading duo, setting out much like we did all those years ago, but really putting a huge amount of time and effort into their blog and the way they talk up their favourite books. Can you think of a more amazing way to chronicle your child's reading journey? Watching them grow up, their book tastes change, and having so much fun? Am in total admiration of this blog, it's just fantastic and reminds me of the way we set out on our own book blogging journey 10 years ago.

Then there's Lily and the Fae - Fairly new to book blogging but producing one of the loveliest parenting / book blogs out there. No wonder they're winning awards! Again a brilliant place for book news but also just a really fantastically and passionately written blog by someone who loves books.

Book Lover Jo is another fabulous booky person who I've been lucky enough to meet a few times and I'm in awe of her energy, her knowledge and her ability not only to produce the most amazing reviews and articles, but also to find time to develop her own writing and stories herself. Quite simply an amazing lady!

BooksNest by Beth is another beautiful blog filled with amazing content for YA fans. Beth covers some of the trickiest issues facing tweens and teens and talks up books on those subjects too. A fine example of the way a book blog should be written to engage with a core audience who are wired into all different types of social media and content, but written with a whomping great bit dose of soul too.

ChildTastic Books is another beltingly good read, not just because of their amazing book reviews but the other articles they write about, making tons of interesting posts that will give kids (and their parents) the perfect jumping in point for more research on a wealth of different subjects. Again so brilliantly written.

Jake over at https://tygertale.com has the sort of blog I personally envy a great deal. One where posts may be few and far between, but are written with such a clarity of vision and such a deep understanding of the importance - and the splendour - of children's books that we're always in awe of what he writes. If we were going to carry on blogging at all, we'd definitely be taking a leaf from Jake's book.

And a blog friend who we've followed and who has been there as long as we have, the awesome Catherine over at StorySnug who still writes one of the best blogs out there.

There are so many more we could list - so many! As we said, you are truly spoilt for choice now.

We've also noticed the marked rise in attention that kidlit is getting in the entertainment and media sector of the press - at flipping last. It feels like there's still a long way to go, the coverage of children's books is still a way off where we'd like to see it, and I know that a lot of authors, illustrators and publishers would like to see 'mainstream' pay as much attention to children's books as it does to adult books, but you're spoilt for choice for where you get your book news from. It feels like children's books (particularly non-fiction books which were in a bit of a wasteland when we first started out) are being taken more seriously by everyone, and that can only be a good thing. Still progress to be made though. Will that ever change?

Twitter is a good place to find awesome book folk to connect with too, and once you start to look around at the different approaches people take with their love of books, you'll find so much awesome coverage out there - and lots of inspiration if you too are beginning your own book blogging / book loving journey with your kids. We'll still be on there of course - and you know we'll still like and retweet cool book stuff and talk about any books that we get sent (assuming we don't get dropped by all the PRs and publishers overnight! Even if we do, we'll still be talking about stuff we purchase ourselves). A lifelong love of books of all shapes and sizes doesn't disappear overnight, even if a book blog does so do keep following us on Twitter (@readitdaddy) because we will still be talking about books and book-related stuff there.

After ten years there are so many people we'd like to thank - So many hard working PRs who slog their guts out for their publishers, agents, authors and illustrators, booksellers and other book bloggers promoting fantastic books and bringing them to our attention every single day. You know who you are and you are without doubt the unsung heroes of the industry and deserve our most heartfelt thanks. The creatives, the all important engine under the hood of the children's publishing industry. Not just the authors and illustrrators but book designers and content creators, editors, translators and proofreaders who can take a few rough sketches or plots and encourage the most beautiful work out of the authors and illustrators they work with.

We'd also like to thank all the authors and illustrators who've engaged with us over the years, the wonderful ones we've met too who have been so kind to us, and inspired my daughter to love books even more, and in particular those who've taken the time to write us an email telling us how much they like what we've written about their books.

Thanks to my ever-patient wife, whose idea this was really, who supported the blog in her own quiet measured way, doing a wonderful job of instilling a love of reading in our daughter (and ensuring that she read a hugely varied collection of different genres and subjects, not just the stuff "daddy" likes).

And a huge thanks to my daughter C, whose opinions fuelled this blog, inspired me to write it and whose love of reading kept us going for ten years and will keep us reading forevermore.

We're leaving the blog in place. It would be crazy to delete it, instantly and swiftly removing ten years of work - and we're also still going to be kicking around on Twitter as we said,  though perhaps not as frequently as before. But one day, you never know, you might get another notification email in your inbox as we can't resist the lure of covering a new book - or a tweet about beautiful books we've been sent or have bought.

For now the daily coverage will cease and we'll miss being in the loop, even in the small way we've been involved in kidlit. But as the strapline to this article says, all good things must come to an end.

With all our very best and thank you so much for reading us, befriending us, and treating us so well over the years.

Ali, Phil & C @ ReadItDaddy, signing off...

Blog Facts and stats

Blog lifespan - Ten years (12th August 2010 to 12th August 2020)

Number of articles: ~ 5000+ (as new ones are still being added at the time of writing)

Amount of time spent reviewing: 1666.66 hours (roughly - averaging out 20 mins of writing per review)

Number of unique hits on the blog: 1.928,101

Number of (legitimate non-spammy) comments: 850

Number of blog followers: 58

Number of Twitter followers: 9224

Most popular article / review: The Man with the Violin by Katy Stinson and Dusan Petricic (Annick Press) (1860 unique hits)

Most popular region for blog readers: US (1), Alaska (2), UK (3), Russia (4)


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Tuesday, 11 August 2020

#Booky100Keepers Day 100: All the wonderful art books

Looking through our bookshelves, it's clear that one type of book is almost in danger of completely taking over. They're usually thick weighty hardback tomes, filled to the brim with delights a-plenty, they're books that are read and re-read again and again, and they are books that are definitely keepers - in fact some of them predate our blog by a considerable number of years.

Art process books, such as the gorgeous "The Art of Zootopia" pictured to the left (or "Zootropolis" if you're over here in the UK) are always pretty expensive, but utterly luxurious - like trading up your Arctic Roll for a sumptuous tub of Italian Gelato.

As a pair of doodlers, both C and I love these books, just to gain a tiny insight into what it's like developing an idea from a few rough sketches, into a finished and highly polished rendering which may (or may not) one day make it onto the silver screen.

I am particularly obsessed with the later run of "The Art of Star Wars" books. Quite often, even if the movie is a bit poo (we shall not speak of "The Rise of Skywalker"), the art books are well worth the entry fee. With these you get a whole gamut of artistic inspiration, from the backgrounds and planetary landscapes, to the amazing spacecraft, robots and other machines, through to the characters, their costumes and the weird and quirky creatures designed for these movies.

Costume is a big thing for C, and she's particularly obsessed with designing her own stuff - so any luxurious art book that shows off fashion designs from movies is an instant draw.

We've bought the majority of these ourselves (review copies of huge expensive art books are usually few and far between) but now and again we've been sent some brilliant ones.

"The Art of Hotel Transylvania 2" was a review copy, filled to the brim with gorgeous character art depicting our favourite thing - monsters - and showing once again just how talented these concept artists are, often hitting the exact look and feel of a character fairly early on.

Through all these books we've learned about some of the best artists in the biz, and though our own meagre skills will never match up to these amazing folk, we always love to see those processes all the same and how polished those final images become after months (if not years) of painstaking work.

Illustrators and artists are often given the thin end of the wedge in children's publishing so it's always great to see them gaining proper recognition and a showcase of their work in these books.

Original review links. 

ReaditDaddy's Book of the Week - Week Ending 15th January 2016 - "The Art of Star Wars - The Force Awakens" by Phil Szostak, with foreword by Rick Carter (Abrams)

ReadItDaddy's First Book of the Week - Week Ending 6th July 2018: "The Art of Star Wars: The Last Jedi" by Phil Szostak and Rian Johnson (Lucasfilm / Abrams)

ReadItDaddy's First Book of the Week - Week Ending 20th July 2018: "The Art of Solo: A Star Wars Story" by Phil Szostak. Foreword by James Clyne and Neil Lamont (Abrams Books)

ReadItDaddy's First Book of the Week - Week Ending 16th October 2015 - "The Art of Hotel Transylvania 2" by Brett Rector (Titan Books)

ReaditDaddy's First Book of the Week - Week Ending 3rd October 2014 - "Sketches from a Nameless Land" - The Art of 'The Arrival' by Shaun Tan (Hodder Children's Books)

ReadItDaddy's Second Book of the Week - Week Ending 30th October 2015 - "The Art of Wreck-It Ralph" by Jennifer Lee and Maggie Malone (Chronicle)

Disney's "The Art of Inside Out" (Chronicle Books)

ReadItDaddy's Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 21st June 2019: "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse - The Art of the Movie" by Ramin Zahed and various artists (Titan)

JONATHAN Y Bohemian FLAIR Boho Vintage Medallion Area Rug 4' x 6

Disney's "The Art of Zootropolis" by Jessica Julius, Byron Howards, Rich Moore and various artists (Chronicle Books)

ReadItDaddy's Second Book of the Week - Week Ending 22nd July 2016 - "The Art of Loish - A Look Behind the Scenes" by Lois Van Baarle (3DTotal Publishing)

"Rise Up - The Art of Protest" by Joanne Rippon, Foreword by Chris Riddell (Palazzo Editions)

ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week Ending 31st January 2020: "The Art of Disney Costuming" by Rebecca Cline and Jeff Kurti (Disney Editions)

ReaditDaddy's Book of the Week - Week ending 5th September 2014 - "The Art of Frozen" by Charles Solomon / Various artists (Chronicle Books)

ReadItDaddy's First Book of the Week - Week Ending 26th October 2018: "The Art and Making of The Greatest Showman" by Signe Bergstrom (Blink Publishing)

Sketch! By France Belleville Van Stone (Watson Guptil)


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Monday, 10 August 2020

Out Today - "100 Things to do in a Forest" by Jennifer Davis and Eleanor Taylor (Laurence King Publishing)

As we enter the final week of our blog, we wanted to review the heck out of a book that offers a quirky, sometimes rather eccentric view of something that we - in lockdown over the last few months - have been dying to do for ages. Thankfully as the lockdown rules are eased, and the hordes of ruinous barbarians who have dumped litter all over our green spaces have instead retreated to the shops and pubs that have reopened instead, we can finally return to a few of our favourite woodland haunts.

"100 things to do in a forest" by Jennifer Davis, with beautiful illustrations from Eleanor Taylor dances between the sort of outdoorsy book we've seen quite a few times before, but also comes up with some rather quirky and - as we said - slightly eccentric things to try the next time you find yourself winding your way through the trees of your favourite green space.

Some of the book's ideas are obviously aimed at children and of course we're all over those, but there are others that feel aimed at adults / parents too, so it's good to not be left out for once!

Things you can eat while out for a walk. Ever tried Hawthorn berries and leaves?
Both my wife and I have always encouraged our daughter to enjoy being out in the countryside as much as possible, and we're very lucky where we are that we have wild spaces almost on our doorstep. Jennifer's humorous but knowledgable text takes you through some simple ideas at first, but then really brings on the controversy in a couple of cases, for example highlighting that as much as we've always been taught to tread lightly through the countryside and not pick wild flowers or break branches off trees, nature can take it - and it's quite an outspoken view but we can almost see what she's getting at here, that we're in danger of teaching our kids to treat green spaces almost like shrines rather than really getting involved with enjoying them to the max (that's not to say you should encourage your little darlings to run rampant through your local forest glade, trashing the place of course!)

The other slightly controversial section in the book is the one about knives. Sometimes when we go out, we take one with us for whittling or forest crafting but always with that strange sense of guilt that carrying a knife around brings. "TISH AND POPPYCOCK" says Jennifer (not literally, but in attitude), there's nothing wrong with taking a carbon-steel bladed knife with you when you go out for a forest bathe, don't be such a wuss! Local authorities may of course see it slightly differently, as they would about lighting fires in forest spaces too (so always check with local bylaws and certainly make sure you check and gain permission from landowners before you go setting up the perfect campfire).

Light a fire and make some campfire bread (but check with landowners and local bylaws first!)
There you see, we've already gone onto the backfoot of being slightly 'nannyish' about the book's content, but this is a fantastic resource if - like us - you love trekking and enjoying the amazing green spaces we have in our country, so perhaps we all need to take the safety wheels off, particularly after months in isolation, and really enjoy this book and its fabulous suggestions to the full.

Sum this book up in a sentence: 100 amazing ways to really get the most out of your favourite forestial habitats, with loads of activities and ideas for young and old.

"100 things to do in a Forest" is out today, 10th August 2020, by Jennifer Davis and Eleanor Taylor, published by Laurence King Publishing (kindly supplied for review). 
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#Booky100Keepers Day 99: The books of Julia Donaldson

One thing we've noticed in ten years of book blogging is that huge success, and becoming a best-selling author also sometimes means that a particular author will end up being placed in the dock, accused of market saturation - their success almost being used against them as a blunt instrument to point out all the things that are wrong with the children's publishing industry.

I think Julia Donaldson has had her fair share of flak over the years, placed firmly in the centre of this over-critical vortex of ill feeling from other authors who feel that her books are often used as the default in any children's book marketing push, that her books automatically leap to the top of any best sellers list whenever their released, that her books are always favoured by TV companies looking to make a few extra bucks at Christmas by releasing a timely feelgood animation of a particular story, alongside a metric ton of accompanying merchandise.

Yes, all those things are true of Julia Donaldson's books (particularly those she collaborates on with Axel Scheffler) but there's no denying that kids absolutely LOVE these books, and the sometimes hateful and cynical bile against them largely comes from adults who should bloody well know better.

We picked up a copy of "The Gruffalo" swiftly followed by "The Gruffalo's Child" and these became bedtime book regulars. Julia's rhyming is pitch perfect, her use of repetition and clever observation and description of her characters immerses a child instantly in the story, and the fact that her rhyming meter is perfect makes these really easy / pleasurable to read aloud.

Ask any kid to describe The Gruffalo and they'll instantly remember the terrible claws, the terrible teeth, the nasty great wart on the end of its nose - and of course owl ice cream, roasted fox and scrambled snake!

We liked both Gruffalo books but it was actually "Stick Man" by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler that cropped up on the blog the most, with the most positive reviews.

There's just something about it - the atmosphere generated by Julia's descriptions and Axel's illustrations, the almost crisp christmassy feel to the story, and the whopping great big euphoric feeling you get right at the end of the book when Stick Man is reunited with his Stick Lady Love and his family, overcoming seemingly insurmountable situations in order to get back home to safety.

We also particularly loved Julia's collaborations with Rebecca Cobb (who we've already mentioned in our #Booky100Keepers list, as one of our all time favourite author / illustrators). JD has also worked with some of the greatest names in kidlit illustration from Charlotte Voake to Nick Sharratt, from David Roberts to Lydia Monks.

If there's one thing I really won't miss about our peripheral involvement in children's publishing, it's that hate-filled cynicism we constantly see on social media whenever a children's author or illustrator makes a massive success of what they do. It's rubbish, quite frankly - and it feels like it's something that we do way too much in the UK. Quite rightly JD took up the mantle of Children's Laureate and spoke of the importance of children's books, and how they're largely overlooked in the media. She spent her tenure as a vociferous spokesperson for the industry and the creatives who keep it alive, and yet still gets tarred with the 'saturation' brush.

Honestly, I really do not understand people sometimes.

Regardless of popular opinion, we've kept most of our Julia Donaldson books, purely because even though C has outgrown them, they're always the books demanded by her little cousins when they come over to stay - and we still think that there's room on the broom for a switch in opinions on JD. Being successful and prolific shouldn't be something we look down on.

Original review links: 

Wake up do, Lydia Lou! By Julia Donaldson and Karen George (Macmillan Children's Books)

Charlie Cook's Favourite Book (10th Anniversary Edition) by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler (Macmillan Children's Books)

Departing Children's Laureate Julia Donaldson says "We don't take Children's Books seriously enough" - Oh but we do, we do!

"It's a Little Baby" by Julia Donaldson and Rebecca Cobb (Macmillan Children's Books)

What the Jackdaw Saw by Julia Donaldson and Nick Sharratt (With support from Life and Deaf children's charity) - Published by Macmillan Children's Books

Tales from Acorn Wood - Rabbit's Nap by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler (Macmillan Children's Books)

The Scarecrow's Wedding by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler (Alison Green Books / Scholastic)

Princess Mirror-Belle and the Dragon Pox by Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks (Macmillan Children's Books)

The Further Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat (Book and CD Edition) by Julia Donaldson and Charlotte Voake (Bloomsbury Publishing)

Joining a fantastic Blog Safari to celebrate the release of "The Ugly Five" by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler (Scholastic)

"Spinderella" by Julia Donaldson and Sebastien Braun (Egmont Publishing)

Booky Advent Calendar Day 16: "The Snail and the Whale" by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler (Macmillan Children's Books)

The Flying Bath by Julia Donaldson and David Roberts (Macmillan Children's Books)

Charlie Cook's Favourite Book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler (Macmillan Children's Books)

Celebrating another important book birthday with the 20th Anniversary Edition of "The Gruffalo" by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler (Macmillan Children's Books)

ReadItDaddy's Festive Book of the Week - Week Ending 18th December 2015 - "Stick Man" by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler (Scholastic / Alison Green)

Booky Advent Calendar Day 22 - "Stick Man" by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler (Alison Green Books)

GM 15889524 KNOB,F/SEAT ADJR

ReadItDaddy's Booky Advent Calendar Day 13 - 13th December 2013 - "Stick Man" by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler (Alison Green Books)

The Paper Dolls by Julia Donaldson and Rebecca Cobb (Macmillan Children's Books)

Kid Carpet Football Field Nylon Area Rug, 7'6" x 12', Multicolor

A Squash and a Squeeze (20th Anniversary Edition) by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler (Macmillan Children's Books)

Gruffalo Crumble and Other Recipes, based on "The Gruffalo" stories by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler (Macmillan Children's Books)

Stick Man by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler (Alison Green Books)

The Highway Rat

beats Solo 3 Wireless On-Ear Headphones - Gloss Black (Renewed)

The Gruffalo

The Rhyming Rabbit by Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks (Macmillan Children's Books)

Julia Donaldson is the new Children's Laureate

Room on the Broom

Zog

The Gruffalo's Child

"Flights of Fancy: Stories, pictures and inspiration from ten Children's Laureates" by various authors / illustrators (Walker Books)

The Princess and the Wizard


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Sunday, 9 August 2020

#Booky100Keepers Day 98: "We're going on a Bear Hunt" by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury (Walker Books)

As our #Booky100Keepers list nearly draws to a close, I had to cast eyes back over the entire list to make sure I hadn't already featured this one. Any children's book list of recommendations will have certain books that folk will firmly get behind, and "We're going on a Bear Hunt" by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury seems to have escaped the usual "We love it / we hate it now / we love it again / no we definitely hate it now and it's not cool any more" thing that book folk go through from time to time with beloved children's titles.

But let's face it, this book bounces along, it has an entertaining story, it has an imaginative twist or two in it, and it's just so filled with alliterative read-aloud fun that it's nigh-on impossible to resist.

We bought this way back in 2012 when C was still knee high to a grasshopper and it swiftly ended up being a bedtime favourite. Back then we probably used to read at least 3-4 picture books a night to her, and this was always somewhere in the mix.

A family jaunt out into the great outdoors is filled with swishy grass to wrestle your way through, squishy mud to wade through, trip-tastic forests to navigate and then at the end, a cave...but what's inside? Or more likely who...

Michael Rosen is usually quite quick to point out that this isn't his work entirely, and the rhyme existed long before the book did. He's also very quick to point out that a large part of the success of this book is down to Helen Oxenbury's utterly perfect illustrations, filled with energy and youthful vibrance and it's these that are always the biggest draw for me, marvelling at how her sparse lines and glorious watercolours depict a living breathing landscape for her awesome family of characters to inhabit.

This was one of the books that we used to read whenever we did read-aloud events (sadly that never turned into a regular gig, which is a shame as they were always so much fun to do but lacking any silly props or daft hats I guess no one wanted to book a baldy 50-something to read aloud to their kids). What always struck me is that kids who had never heard of the book before (and yes, there were a surprising number) always got quite scared at the bit at the end. The book goes silent, wordless as the chase between the bear and the family kicks off - with the bear chasing them right to the front door of their house. I found that quite interesting, that the dark twist elicited that response, but the 'damping down' at the end as the lonely bear trudged back off to his cave always brought those kids around and turned the bear from a menacing foe into something of a sympathetic character really.

Like / hate it (and I'll be brutally honest here, the animated TV version was pretty terrible and left us utterly cold due to the liberties it took with the original story) it is without doubt one of those revered and hallowed books that you really ought to have on your kids' bookshelves. A real classic.

Original review links and articles: 

Come to Discover for a brilliant Bear Hunt spectacular from October 2015

Don't miss out on the biggest "Bear Hunt" reading in history!

Three new fantastic books for lovers of nature and the great outdoors. Perfect for Spring and Summer - out now from Walker Books

ReadItDaddy Reads aloud - Mostly Books and Usborne's 40th Anniversary, the perfect time for storytelling fun!

We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury (Walker Books)


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Saturday, 8 August 2020

#Booky100Keepers Day 97: "The Rescue Princesses" and the other fantastic books by Paula Harrison (Nosy Crow)

I think it's fair to say that this fantastic joy-filled book series, showcasing kindness and a love of animals, was the first series C became a superfan of.

Prolific and hugely talented author Paula Harrison wrote the fantastic "Rescue Princesses", with a fab collection of positive stories with mighty girls at their heart, each with their own special abilities and affinity for particular animals.

We were lucky enough to meet Paula fairly early on in our blogging career and she's just wonderful to talk to, and fully engaged with C - probably made her a bit star-struck if we're honest. C collected the entire Rescue Princesses series and devoured each one (though as we mention in our reviews - linked below - quite often the arrival of a new book would mean that C would re-read the entire series over and over before polishing off the new title - that made scheduling the reviews a little tricky!)

Paula has since written so many excellent middle grade series, and her books are perfect for emergent readers who are taking those first steps into the world of chapter books. The cream on top of the cake for C was getting a book dedication from Paula for her awesome "Secret Rescuers" series, something that we hugely appreciated and are still completely thrilled about even today.

Of course, time moves on - and the reading tastes of a cynical tweenager often change. But wait...what's sitting on C's bedside reading pile at this very moment in time, completely coincidentally?


(alongside equally awesome and prolific Holly Webb's "Maisie Hitchins" series).

So there you go, sometimes kids really do take to a book series to the point where they become their go-to when they want something familiar, comforting and pleasurable to read. We can't thank Paula enough for producing such brilliantly inspirational stories to instil a love of reading in C.

Original review links: 

#ReadItMD13 Theme Week - "The Importance of Early Readers - bridging the gap between picture books and chapter books"

A fantastic Robyn Silver themed guest post from lovely Paula Harrison, author of this awesome new Middle Grade series.

ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 12th October 2018: "The Rescue Princesses: The Star Bracelet" by Paula Harrison and Sharon Tancredi / Artful Doodlers (Nosy Crow)

Booky Advent Calendar Day 15: "The Snowy Reindeer (Princess of Pets Series)" by Paula Harrison (Nosy Crow)

A huge, huge thank you to awesome Paula Harrison for Charlotte's first ever book dedication!

ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 7th July 2017 - "Robyn Silver Book 2: The Darkest Dream" by Paula Harrison (Scholastic)

Charlotte and Mummy's Book of the Week Part 2 - Week ending 8th Feb 2013 - The Rescue Princesses: The Secret Promise by Paula Harrison (Nosy Crow Books)




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Friday, 7 August 2020

ReadItDaddy's Second Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 7th August 2020: "Marvellous Magicians" by Lydia Corry (Thames and Hudson)

Magic! As a kid I was obsessed with magic, always asking for magic sets and always closely scrutinising magic shows that would appear on TV (why oh why have these died out? It's such a huge shame).

I've also passed on this love of magic to my daughter so imagine our delight when this book showed up for review. We absolutely had to squeeze it onto our blog in our hallowed "Book of the Week" slot, as it's something quite special and quite unique.

It's not going to give away any secrets, that really isn't something the "Magic Circle" would want, but it's a superb historical delve into the roots of modern prestidigitation and many of the illusions that have become infamous and well known, plus a lot of truly awesome modern tricks, illusions and magic that will make your eyes pop out.

Beautifully designed, curated and presented by Lydia Corry, you'll spend long hours flicking through this book as there's so much detail in here, it really is a labour of love.

So let's have a look inside...!

Richard Potter, a massively influential conjuror! Enchanted eggs!
Amazing facts and figures about some of the most influential conjurors, illusionists and magicians of the past two centuries and even further back in history too...

Your eyes can play tricks on you!
Sum this book up in a sentence: All in all this is a real treat - an absolutely brilliant book that deals with its subject matter, the amazing magicians of past and present, in glorious detail.
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Blue Winter Pool Safety Cover with Install Fitting, PP Material

Oozing with talent from every pore, and a pair of creative geniuses who do something that you seldom see in the world of children's publishing or illustration - paying their awesome success forward by helping others with an awesome creative blog and sizzling set of tutorials.

What more can you say about Robin and Lorenzo Etherington, long-time contributors to the mighty Phoenix Comic (which we've already covered in our #Booky100Keepers list), and creators of many books that are almost set up in a mini-shrine on our shelves.

Lorenzo's truly fantastic "How to Think when you Draw" and Robin's utterly brilliant "How to think when you Write" are books that we both find ourselves dragging off the shelves on a regular basis, to pore over, dip into and consume nuggets of glorious golden advice from.

We're not just addicted to their tutorial books though. I really love the back-burner-bubbling "Stranski" stuff, something that feels like a long-term obsession for the guys that hasn't quite been worked up into a finished story / graphic novel, but feels like something the world needs - a glorious fusion of film noir, adventure, gangster movie and kick-ass lion-tailed ladies ready to take on the world.

They've taxed our brains with the awesome "Von Doogan" series, they've twisted the afterworld inside out in "Long Gone Don" and have made us giggle like goons with "Monkey Nuts". They've made a success out of going down the crowdfunded / self-published route for a lot of their books (including restoring Monkey Nuts to the original large graphic novel format it so richly deserves).

We were fortunate enough to meet the guys and were delighted that they knew who we were, and actually thanked us for all our support over the years. They really are the bees knees, borne out by the fact that every single thing we've reviewed of theirs has hit the "Book of the Week" slot. Pretty nice going, guys!

Original review and article links:

ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week Ending 7th February 2020: "How to Think When you Write" by Robin Etherington and Lorenzo Etherington (Kickstarter / Self Published)

Fantastic comic creating fun with The Etherington Brothers - The Story Museum, Oxford

shoeslocker Toddler Girls Boots Winter Warm Little Kids Booties

Long Gone Don Book 1 by Lorenzo and Robin Etherington (David Fickling Books)

The Phoenix Presents "Von Doogan and the Curse of the Golden Monkey" by Lawrence (Lorenzo) Etherington (David Fickling Books)

ReadItDaddy's Second Book of the Week - Week Ending 2nd August 2019: "How to Think when you Draw Volume 2" by The Etherington Brothers (Self Published)

ReadItDaddy's Comic of the Week - Week Ending 23rd February 2018 - "Monkey Nuts (Volume 1 and 2)" by Robin and Lorenzo Etherington (Lulu Self Publishing Platform)

ReadItDaddy's Picture / Comic Book of the Week - Week Ending 6th January 2017 - "Long Gone Don Book 2" by The Etherington Brothers (David Fickling Books)

ReadItDaddy's Second Book of the Week - Week Ending 19th August 2016 - "The Deluxe Collection - Volumes 1 and 2" by Lorenzo Etherington (Lulu Self Publishing)

ReadItDaddy's Book(s) of the Week - Week Ending 24th August 2018: "How to Think when you Draw" and "Deluxe Collection Volume III" by Lorenzo Etherington (Lulu / Self Published)

Guitar Parts  2pcs 40 41in Acoustic Guitar Pickguard Left and Ri

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ReadItDaddy's First Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 7th August 2020: "Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast: Short and Sweet (Book 4)" by Josh Funk and Brendan Kearney

On the bittersweet occasion of our last Picture Books of the Week we wanted to share a book filled with giggles, with joy and of course with our favourite subject - yummy scrummy food!

"Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast: Short and Sweet" is the fourth book in the series from awesome creatives Josh Funk and Brendan Kearney, and this time the two heroes aren't quite feeling themselves.

In fact, with a bit of foodie magic Lady and Frenchy have been transformed into mere shadows of their former selves, turning back into the cutest pair of kids you've ever seen this side of the fridge door.

Professor Biscotti's nutty invention must be reversed but the two toddler treats are petrified of the now gigantic Baron Von Waffle. How on earth can Prof and Baron lure the two out of capering around and hiding, restoring them to adulthood?

Oh no, what can be done to restore our heroes to greatness?
There's a ton of brilliant and inventive stuff in this new adventure, bouncing along with Josh's trademark mighty fine rhymin' style, and Brendan's tummy-rumblingly brilliant illustrations!

Behold! The cutest pair of treats you ever did see!
This series has gone from strength to strength, and kids just can't resist any tale where they get to live a mischievous vicarious capering chase through familiar surroundings - I mean who wouldn't want to go on a grand adventure through their larder or fridge?

You have a bit of a wait on your hands for this one as it's not going to be hitting shelves until November, but we wanted to shout about Josh and Brendan's fab book before we retire so a big salute and hats off to Lady P and Sir FT!

Sum this book up in a sentence: Possibly the best adventure for Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast yer, transformed into naughty mischievous toddlers by a mad professor, leading us on an energetic bouncing rhyming caper par excellence!

"Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast: Short and Sweet" (Book 4) by Josh Funk and Brendan Kearney is out on 28th November 2020, published by Sterling (kindly sent as a digital ARC to review). 
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