Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Anything But Books - a blog tag-o-thon - Tagged by BexCapades

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In a break from our usual programming we're joining in a fantastic blog-tag-o-thon, and thank you V much to Bex over at https://bexcapadestravellingwithanxiety.wordpress.com for hitting us up.

So without further ado...bits from both of us!

Name a cartoon that you love

C: Powerpuff Girls, Ghibli movies, Adventure Time and Zootropolis (in fact just about anything Pixar-y)

Daddy: Oh gawd, this is a harder question than you'd think. I love classic Tex Avery cartoons (particularly stuff like Droopy or Screwy Squirrel) - Not very politically correct but they were so inventive and funny, and you never get bored watching them over and over again. I also love anime (Dirty Pair, Appleseed, Wings of Honneamise) and of course everything Ghibli and Pixar too.

What is your favourite song right now?
C: Either singing Despacito at the top of her voice, or Barbie Girl by Aqua. 

Daddy: Again too tough a question for me but I really love "Lights Out, Words Gone" by Bombay Bicycle Club and I'm utterly crazy about anything by Hooverphonic (particularly "Stranger")

What is something that your followers would be surprised at?
C: I am double jointed and can bend my elbows right back into weird angles. 

Daddy: I can skate like a diva, but only on inline skates. I am rubbish on quads or ice skates. I used to play Roller Hockey (again on inline skates) and that's about the best way to  learn how to be fast and manoeuvre your way out of trouble in a hurry.

What is your favourite, unnecessarily specific thing to learn about?

C: Maths. Maths is unnecessary, right? 

Daddy: I really want to learn how to crochet or make stuff out of wool / yarn, but I just can't seem to get the knack. I am thinking of turning to Needlefelting as that looks like it might be easier (it probably isn't!)

What is something unusual you know how to do?

C: Playing the piano. OK it's not that unusual but I can't think of anything else. 

Daddy: Aside from the skating, I make amazing pizza dough from scratch. I keep kidding myself that if my current job went sideways I could always set up a poncy artisanal pizza stall instead (and probably make four times as much dough..er I mean cash!) I can also speed read which comes in VERY handy when you run a book blog. 

Name something you have made in the last year

C: Christmas decorations, comics, a lot of amazing fashion designs and artsy stuff. I love making stuff. 

Daddy: Not sure if drawing counts, but I've drawn at least 2-3 pieces of art a day. It's all I'd do all day every day if I could. Oh and I made pizza dough this morning before work which is no mean feat.

What is your most recent personal project?

C: Making comics after Neill Cameron's excellent comics workshop at the Story Museum. There aren't enough girls drawing comics so my friend and I are going to do more!

Daddy: Writing children's stories, sucking at it, but basically having a word with myself to step back from it, breathe, re-assess 'the rules' and get back into it and really try and get something published.

Tell us something that you think of often

C: Cookies and cats. 

Daddy: My wife. Completely crazy about her, we've been together for 17 years and the last couple of years I think have been pretty tough but have just made me realise how bloody lucky I am that she's even interested in a spud-headed old goat like me. (Could probably list other stuff I think about often but that's not for this blog!)

Tell us something that is your favourite but make it oddly specific

C: Cats. Everything to do with cats. I would have a house full of cats but we can't have them where we live. Boo hiss!

Daddy: Passionate people. I love people who really just do not care what anyone else thinks, they know what they love and they will pursue that love regardless of the rest of the world. Passionate people who are almost tipping the point of being dangerous about their obsessions are the best to be around.

Whoah, well that was fun!

I'm tagging the following excellent folk: 

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Booky Advent Calendar Day 12: "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (60th Anniversary Edition) by Dr Seuss (HarperCollins Children's Books)

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Our Booky Advent Calendar second book for Day 12 is truly something special.

Very few books can claim to have filtered their way into popular culture to the extent of Dr Seuss' amazing "How the Grinch Stole Christmas". Even on this side of the pond, you sometimes hear people being referred to as "A Grinchy-Poo" rather than Scrooge, and it's amazing to think that this stunning book is 60 years old.

To celebrate, HarperCollins have prepared a really amazing version of the book, clad in a gorgeous foiled cover and slip case, giving the whole thing a real air of luxury.

The tale itself, of a heartless creature who truly hates Christmas - and wreaks a terrible revenge on the innocent "Who" folk one year when he's had just about enough of their festive shenanigans - actually ends up being one of Seuss' most impressive stories (and that's saying something for one of the most prolific and consistently excellent children's authors ever).

In case you haven't encountered this story before we won't ruin the ending, suffice to say that the influence of this book on so many generations of stories to follow is easy to observe, so treat yourself to a truly sumptuous version to keep for your kids and grandkids, you really won't regret it!

"How the Grinch Stole Christmas" by Dr Seuss is out now, published by HarperCollins Children's Books (very kindly supplied for review).
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Booky Advent Calendar 2017 Day 12 - "Merry Christmas Hugless Douglas" by David Melling (Hodder Children's Books)

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On the 12th day of our Booky Advent Calendar, our postie gave to us...a great big bear hug of a book!

"Merry Christmas Hugless Douglas" by David Melling is a special festive story for everyone's favourite big fuzzy furry bear.

Hugless Douglas knows what Christmas is all about - snowing sheep, finding a tree, sledging and and making new friends like Rudi the Reindeer!

Oh and let's not forget a ton of christmas hugs! Douglas certainly won't be hugless this year!

This endearing series goes from success to success, and now Charlotte is old enough to tell stories to her little cousins, they always ask for these books.

Full of David's delightful storytelling and absolutely cracking illustrations, it's another festive winner!

"Merry Christmas, Hugless Douglas" by David Melling is out now, published by Hodder Children's Books (kindly supplied for review).
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Monday, December 11, 2017

Booky Advent Calendar 2017 Day 11: "Angel's Great Escape" by Kirstie Rowson and Kristyna Litten (And So We Begin)

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We're returning to a fantastic story that, way back in the archives, we first took a look at in E-Book form all the way back in 2012.

Back then, our review (and a previous Booky Advent Calendar entry for the iBook / Kindle version) spoke very highly of this charming and beautifully written story, brought to life with wonderful festive illustrations.

Secretly though, we always wanted this one to become a print book - and now it has, in fact we somehow missed out on reviewing this print book version for our last set of christmas roundup reviews - so we're happy to rectify that (thanks to Kirstie) with a closer look at the glorious print version.

'Angel's Great Escape' tells the festive tale of some unwanted christmas decorations, doomed to be thrown away by a very mean pair of humbug-scoffers (and their rather nasty little moggy!)

The decorations hatch a plan. They want to live with a loving caring family who will put them on their tree and display them proudly. It's time to escape!

As the snow crunches underfoot, Angel and her friends bravely venture out on a journey to find a new home. Unfortunately, a nasty scratchy moggy is in hot pursuit!

Christmas is saved! Thanks to the big guy in the red suit! 

Thus begins a race against time, and a wonderful christmas story with all the right ingredients to keep your little ones enthralled. Even now, as a fussy middle-grader Charlotte remembered the story from when we'd read it in electronic formats, and we snuggled down together for another enjoyable read through. 

The print version is sublime, and definitely belongs on our Advent Calendar this year. You can get the book from most retailers (and Amazon of course). 

"Angel's Great Escape" by Kirstie Rowson and Kristyna Litten is out now, published by "And So We Begin" (kindly supplied for review). 
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Sunday, December 10, 2017

Booky Advent Calendar 2017 Day 10: "The Snowbear" by Sean Taylor and Claire Alexander (Words and Pictures)

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As soon as the calendar turns over for December, we're longing for Snow (though it's not much fun to try and commute through, it is lovely to imagine that the dusty cobweb-covered old sledge in the loft might get some action this year).

Imagine being tiny again, and looking out your window at the flurries and drifts of snow, and all the endless possibilities for fun that can be had.

That's what Sean Taylor and Claire Alexander perfectly capture in our Booky Advent Calendar book for Day 10, "The Snowbear".

Snow comes in the middle of the night, and Iggy and Martina can't wait to get out in it and make a snowbear.

They then go on an exhilarating sled ride that takes them deep into the woods, but how will they get back home again? 

Beautiful snowy landscapes and the sort of story that pinches your cheeks with that frisson of winteryness. Love it!
It's going to take a touch of snowy magic for the pair to find a way back to their cosy little house. 

Oh my! A moment of danger and excitement. 
The story builds up to quite an exciting climax as Martina and Iggy end up in a dangerous situation a long way from safety, only to discover an unexpected ally in a real wow moment in the story that's sure to delight little ones. 

Such beautiful characterful artwork to underpin a story that's destined to become a christmas classic
We always wonder if we're ever going to see the next Christmassy classic in the making on the blog when the new year's crop of christmassy / snowy stories arrive. It looks like we have a winner here, this is as close to christmassy wintry perfection as you can get!

"The Snowbear" by Sean Taylor and Claire Alexander is out now, published by Words and Pictures (kindly supplied for review). 
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Saturday, December 9, 2017

Booky Advent Calendar 2017 Day 9: "Polly and Puffin: The Happy Christmas (Polly and The Puffin Book 4)" by Jenny Colgan and Thomas Docherty (Little, Brown)

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Jenny Colgan's endearing series continues with a special festive edition of her much loved "Polly and the Puffin" books, with fab illustrations from Thomas Docherty...
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Friday, December 8, 2017

ReadItDaddy's Second Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 8th December 2017 - "Pancakes! An Interactive Recipe Book (Cook in a Book) by Lotta Nieminen (Phaidon)

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What better way to round off a book lover's meal than with a stack of booky pancakes? Our second Book of the Week this week is the fabulous "Pancakes! An Interactive Recipe Book" by Lotta Nieminen...
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ReadItDaddy's Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 8th December 2017 - "Asterix and the Chariot Race" by Jean-Yves Ferri and Didier Conrad (Orion Children's Books)

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Our Picture Book of the Week this week once again takes up the reins with one of our favourite comic characters of all time. The mighty Asterix (and Obelix of course!)
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Booky Advent Calendar 2017 Day 8 - "Lucy's Magical Surprise" by Anne Booth and Sophy Williams (OUP / Oxford Children's Books)

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We've really been enjoying watching the rise and rise of one of the loveliest folk on Twitter, as her writing career kicks up a notch with a gorgeous selection of tales for younger children.
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Thursday, December 7, 2017

Drowning in Q4 releases - Perhaps it's time to reassess the release schedules? A ReadItTorial

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No kid, don't open the window...no don't AAARGH!
This week's Readitorial will be our last of the year as we have a bit of a dust and tidy, ahead of the annual "Booky Advent Calendar" and our huge blog blowout of a post with the winners of our Book of the Year and Publisher / Imprint of the Year announcements around the 27th December once the dust has settled.

We're musing over release schedules this week, and this is one of the areas where videogames and books seem to cross over.

When I used to write about games (that is, when I was still passionate enough about them to bore on and on and on at length) I always bemoaned the fact that as soon as the calendar flicked over to September, the games industry seemed to go into overdrive, pouring out game after game until my wallet lay in tatters trying to keep up with the annual slew of Q4 (fourth quarter of the year) releases.

Exactly the same thing seems to happen in books. There's a smattering of titles that are appropriately set for release to 'welcome' kids back to school in September, but from them on it's a full on assault as each and every week that passes, tons and tons of new books all fight for the same release days.

There is an oddity too. Release days always seem to be set for a Thursday and I've often wondered whether this is some traditional method of racking up a ton of sales before the next monday's sales charts - or indeed the weekend newspaper sales charts hit the stands.

Obviously we're not working in publishing so have no insider knowledge on this mysterious phenomenon (but I bet one of you lovely folk out there would spill the beans for us?) As the calendar flicks over into October (which for us this year has seen an avalanche of releases) and November (when the Christmas books hit our doormat as regularly as snowflakes in a blizzard, excuse all the festive analogies) we begin to struggle with the review schedule, cramming multiple reviews in each day to keep up with the numbers.

Because...well, because we bloody love it of course - but it does mean that we really struggle to choose our Book of the Week winners, purely because so many amazing books are fighting for those honoured slots that some will inevitably miss out.

It's even trickier when we start to put together our Book of the Year winners, again because books that are released early on in Q1 (the first quarter of the year) become a dim and distant memory for us both and though we always have a bit of a run through all the book of the week winners to refresh our memories, it often feels like the quality just gets better for books as the year progresses, almost as if the industry is saving its very best to tempt your Christmas money out of your wallet.

"Cluster release days" are very tough though, as are the timings of reviews. We have heard from a few folk who are sad that big budget releases get tons of press and attention, while their own books don't even get sent out to reviewers. Obviously we're sad about this for lots of reasons but mostly because fantastic creative folk deserve all the trumpeting around their 'book birthdays' and sometimes it can feel like we're playing a bit of a hollow tune on a sad little flute if we cover something late, either through crazy schedules or because the book has arrived with us too late to review before its release. That raises another question: Are folk interested in reading reviews long after a book has been released? I mean we're always interested in recommendations from other folk, even if (sometimes) that book is out of print or hard to get hold of - we will still try and track down a copy, but does that hold out for books that have slid from "This week's most wanted" to "Likely to be found in your local garden centre for a couple of quid?

Thought provoking stuff I hope. Celebrate a golden age of children's books because now, more than ever in the entire history of this blog, there really are so many amazing and glorious kids books out there - get out and read them!

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