Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Holiday report- week 1

7 days in of nothing to do and nowhere to be and all going well so far. Here's the summary of Summery action to date.
diy escapology
preparing Issue 1 of The Nosey Crab Comic
claybombing tree
waterbombing  brother
live stunt action

Occasional moments of quiet contemplation

diabolo practice and more diabolo practice

messing about without boats, trousers optional

the hazards of messing about without boats

And books? Bill's recommendations of the week would be The Simpsons comic, The Phoenix (as ever) and 'Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief'. Eddie is all about 'The Guinness Book of Records', Doctor Who A-Z and Shirley Hughes' and Clara Vulliamy's divine new collaboration; 'Dixie O' Day'. Review of the latter will come- but first I need a bit of a sit down and a cup of tea or two...

Hope you're having fun too.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Shhh! Don't wake the Royal Baby

Yesterday morning I was woken early on the day of the full moon by thunder and torrential rain. The three weeks of glorious and settled summer stuff weather we've had was coming to its muggy, stormy end. I turned to my husband and told him in my best wise-woman-gnomic-utterance-ex-midwife voice that I expected the Royal Labour to commence any moment now. Then I turned on the radio and found myself like TOTALLY right and was insufferably smug for a little while.

I was right.

I was so totally right.

I am a baby predicting genius in fact.

(we'll ignore the fact that I said it was definitely a girl because she was so sick in the early weeks)

Now let's get out of the way the various things that need be said:



Okay. With that all in mind let's look at a book about the baby...

'Shhh! Don't Wake the Royal Baby' written by Martha Mumford and illustrated by Ada Grey is an unashamed surf on the wave of Royal Baby fever. There is no real need for this book to exist and it may offend you that it and plenty of other similar titles have been rushed out this summer. BUT-

It did make me snort out loud with laughter.

The Royal Baby just keeps crying and although various members of the Royal Household find inventive methods to soothe him other members WILL keep waking him up again. The story is bouncy and familiar enough for all to enjoy but the irreverent and playful illustrations might make even disapproving Republicans giggle.

We have the Queen parachuting in a royal onesie, Kate wearing a fascinator At All Times (as I type the news has turned to fevered speculative sightings of the Royal Hairdresser entering the Lindo wing...), Pippa in pink roller skates serving canapes and corgi chaos everywhere. I liked the golden dummy and crown shaped cot too.

I appreciate this book will not be for everyone but you know what: If you want to get a souvenir of what broadcasters seemed to be constantly referring to in breathy tones last night as, "A Moment in History" then what better than a picture book? It will give plenty more enjoyment than any of the dubious chinaware or tea towels we're about to be blinded by.

Lots of fun.

'Shhh! Don't Wake the Royal Baby' written by Martha Mumford, illustrated by Ada Grey, published by Bloomsbury, isbn 978-1-4088-4463-2

Disclosure- we received our copy by kindness of the publisher; our opinions are our own.

and just in case I wasn't clear enough-

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Eddie and Dog

We're delighted this morning to be helping celebrate Little Tiger Press' Summer releases, on their 'Reading Rocks!' Blog Tour.

Everybody loves a book which features their very own name and the Fellow Reviewers are no exception. As their names are straightforward enough to be shared by both Royalty and the Archers' troublesome Grundy brothers I'm glad to say they've always had a few titles to choose from.

'Eddie and Dog' is the first book written and illustrated by Alison Brown and it's a cracking addition to our shelf of name books. Eddie ("He's like me! But with different hair," says my Eddie with pinpoint accuracy.) lives by an airport and dreams of adventure. Loitering by the baggage carousel one day he meets fellow free spirit, Dog and the two form an immediate bond. Eddie's mother is less certain that there is room for a dog in their lives and sets about trying to find him a more suitable home. But however far she takes him, dog is determined to return to Eddie. Can Eddie and dog find a way to be together forever?

There are shades of' 'Lassie' here  (if Lassie knew how to scuba dive and was a dab hand with a pair of topiary scissors). Eddie and dog are soulmates who Must Not Be Parted. The illustrations are warm and expressive, with just the right amount of inscrutability for the slightly mysterious dog. But this is more than a story about the value of pet ownership. It provides a gentle reminder to parents that our children are individuals who will make their own independent, and sometimes not altogether convenient, choices.

For all of us can expect 'dogs' brought into our lives when we have children and we all must learn the art of compromise to live with unexpected visitors. The author Alison Brown was good enough to respond to my musings on this theme:

"The working title for Eddie and Dog was "The Arrival", and it could apply to many kinds of new or unexpected happenings, both pets and babies being among them!
I'm a mum of two...we don't have a dog - yet - but I think that's likely to change quite soon!

The idea for Eddie and Dog really did come to me in an airport. My family live in Northern Ireland so I pass through airports quite often. On one trip, I was watching the people in the arrivals hall, and I thought it was funny how everyone stood so silently and expectantly focused on that little hatch where the luggage comes out. I wondered what it would be like if something truly exciting appeared.

We all naturally sit somewhere on the spectrum between adventurousness and practicality. I wouldn't call myself adventurous, but I'm quite optimistic, and believe that when something unexpected happens, things usually work out in the end!"

Some of the 'dogs' in our house have been things; the 20 or so muddy sticks for instance that must litter the ground floor at all times and will always find their way home no matter how often I try to  repatriate them outside. Or those Very Important Constructions made from cereal boxes and toilet rolls and a lot of sellotape that must be preserved unchanged for eternity. But my Eddie has mainly  put me on a very similar journey to Eddie-in-the-book's mum in trying to learn to embrace those of his enthusiasms I don't altogether share.

Buses for instance. Buses in fact very specifically at the moment. Eddie has been learning every bus route in London and also has ambitions to travel on them all. Any journey with him involves a complex negotiation of exactly how many different routes we can incorporate and exactly how far out of my way I am prepared to travel with him for the sheer JOY of it. The spectrum between 'adventurousness and practicality' has never been so charged as when faced with a pair of eyes pleading with you to go on 5 different buses from Cockfosters to  Elephant and Castle.

But just like Eddie-in-the-book's mum, I find if I can take the time and make the leap of faith and compromise, there are rewards to be had. This face of rapture mainly.
'Eddie and Dog' by Alison Brown, Published by Little Tiger Press, isbn 9781848956568; perfect for lovers of adventure AND their parents who may need reminding of its delights.

Please do stop by the other blog tour participants for other great Summer picture books.

Disclosure: We received our copy of 'Eddie and Dog' by kindness of the publisher. Our words and opinions are our own.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Time for Bed, Fred!

Apologies for the long delay ("Did you miss me? Did you miss me? Did you  miss me?" *leaps up and down like an excited puppy and licks readers all over their faces*). I was finishing writing my book again before the Summer holidays begin and my every waking moment becomes Full of Boys.

Anyways. Whilst I was writing, a few kind publishers have been sending me good things to read in pieces-of-cheese-from-the-fridge breaks and it's time I caught up and shoved a select few under your noses.

For someone writing a children's book blog, I'm not sure how picture book literate I actually am. I mean I LOVE picture books and will fight with swords for their importance and relevance and all that but if I'm honest, my head is probably more in a texty/wordy sort of space. I suppose I can recognise the cleverness of a nicely put together sentence and plot in a more considered way than I can analyse exactly  what works and what doesn't about an illustration.

The husband is a cartoonist and occasionally people 'edit' his cartoons or reposition them on a page and it drives him totally INSANE. Then I drive him even more insane by looking at the two versions and saying I can't really see the difference. I'm shamefully a bit sort of 'I know what I like' about it all.

Which is all a long preamble to say I REALLY like 'Time for Bed, Fred!' by new writer/illustrator Yasmeen Ismail. Even my visually untrained eye can see that this is something rather special. A simple picture book that flows with perfectly controlled colour, movement and energy. Pretty, pretty, pretty.

Naughty dog Fred isn't ready for bed and is going to cause some chaos getting there. It's familiar stuff really but told in a light and funny way that will make toddlers giggle I'm sure. I took this book in for my Beanstalk year one kids to read and they loved it; an easy text that they could perform in a great 'teachery', exasperated, telling off  voice. Everyone loves to pretend to be an authority figure after all.

But it is the glorious energy of watercolour zinging off the page that really bring Fred to life. He gallops through the pages with wonderful  doggy expressions. You almost expect to get spattered with colour yourself when he shake his coat out. Beautifully observed.

'Time for Bed, Fred!' by Yasmeen Ismail, published by Bloomsbury, isbn 978-1-4088-3701-6

With thanks to the publishers for our copy, our opinions are unsolicited and our own.

Incidently to read reviews by someone who really can analyse how pictures make a story work, check out the always thought provoking and rigorous blog at This post is a lovely example.