Wednesday 27 February 2013

How to be a detective

Bill goes through slavish and completist phases in his trash television habits. At the moment it's all about 'Spongebob Squarepants'. A few months before that he was curiously hooked to 'Winx Club' or 'that slutty fairy show' as his parents liked to privately refer to it between themselves ('I don't know WHY I like it- I just do' says boy gazing intently at scantily dressed fairies). Sometime before that he was very into an obscure Australian show called 'Kid Detectives'. I liked this one (although I'm also quite partial to the odd Spongebob). In each 15 minute episode kids solved a series of 'real' crimes using proper basic forensic science eg. 'who broke mum's plantpot? Let's show you how to take earth samples from tyre imprints' etc: A kind of 'CSI-lite' for the under-10s.

In honour of this interest and in anticipation of my own future as Mother of Detective Superintendent I bought him 'How to be a Detective' for Christmas by Dan Waddell, illustrated by Jim Smith ('It's the same person as the 'I am not a Loser' guy Mum' 'Is it? So it is.' Good eye for illustrative style my boy). This is an irresistable lift the flap book with bells and whistles for the over-7s (there should be more grown up lift-the-flap books I reckon- we all love 'em)(I am using a lot of brackets today).

Each page is crammed with a mixture of basic forensic science, practical activities to try and the basics of deduction in a really attractive format. There's also a pull-out case to solve, a make-your-own periscope and an ink pad for fingerprinting members of your household (Note- do not give when guests in household with white sofas). Lots to enjoy.

We've now moved on to an appreciation of Simon Cheshire's 'Saxby Smart' books. Bill and I read them together and try to solve the clues to beat schoolboy detective Saxby to his conclusions. These are really enjoyable reads- three cases to each book- and so much more soothing than say, a Patricia Cornwall; not a festering corpse in sight.

I think we might form a Mother and Son agency. We're hot.

Okay some crazed photos are going to follow because my proper camera has broken.

you get the idea.

'How to be a Detective' by Dan Waddell, illustrated by Jim Smith pub. Walker books isbn 978-1-4063-3426-5
'Saxby Smart: The Fangs of the Dragon' (and other volumes) by Simon Cheshire pub. Picadilly isbn 978-1-85340-983-7

In Other News: It's Edible Book Festival time again over at Playing by the Book! We've already baked once and now we've eaten it All Up we may bake again as you're allowed two go's each; Bill has an idea...

Full details here:

To get you in the mood- here's a little teaser- a High Concept edible book. Name the title.

Sunday 17 February 2013

Lulu and the Treasure Hunt

A book review! I remember those! Ah well...apologies...I'm feeling a bit pulled in different directions at the moment and then end up doing nothing but going to the fridge to see if eating another bit of cheese will help.

So. As I have made reference to on other occasions, Master Eddie loves a lot of books but he does not love ALL books and he is often quite sniffy about NEW books. They must be sneaked under the wire when he is off guard to see if they will take or not.

But occasionally he surprises me by absolutely Hearting something on the very first exposure. 'Lulu and the Treasure Hunt!' by Emma Chichester Clark received that special Eddie accolade this week. Yesterday a wrestle with his brother went a bit wrong (much to the shame and chagrin of the brother I must note) and he ended up with a nasty graze on his chin. It took some time for this injury to be recovered from but it was 'Lulu' (possibly in combination with a few chocolate coins) that produced the first chuckle again. Eddie it seems, is extremely susceptible to the charm of a poodle in a spotty bow saying 'Ooh la la!'. And who can blame him for that?

This is the second book about Lulu from Emma Chichester Clark's Wagtail Town series. Lulu and her doggy friends go on a treasure hunt in the park but Lulu is torn between her desire to get to clues and her promise to look after smallest-dog -of-all; shih tzu Bonnie. The sad story of the guilt of responsibilities betrayed is familiar and gently handled. (It's not all sad in case you were worrying)
It's the format for the telling which is particularly satisfying for Eddie and me though. There's a really good map of the town at the beginning. There's much satisfying busy-ness to spot in the pictures and aside bubbles of text to read. There's a lot of potential for off-text discussions about favourites; a characteristic of many of our best books. "Which dog do YOU like the best Mum?"(Otto-always have a soft spot for a sausage dog) "Where would YOU like to live Mum?"(can't resist Bonnie's flat that looks like a piece of battenburg) "What colour chocolate bone would YOU choose MUM?" (yellow) We love the range of dog expressions in both eye and ear. It's all in lovely neopolitan ice-creamy happy colours too. One of those books that inspires strange urges to give it a hopeful lick in case it also tastes ice-creamy.

We'll have to get the first book now; which I can tell will be just as popular; having both 'Ooh la la's!' AND  a lot of cake in it.

'Lulu and the Treasure Hunt!' by Emma Chichester Clark, pub. Harper Collins isbn 978-0-00-742517-4

disclosure: We received our copy by kindness of the publisher. Our opinions are our own.

Fans of Emma Chichester Clark or of dogs or of blogs but especially of all three should be aware of the massive treat that is Plumdog Blog. I am very much hoping that this will become the next 'Secret Diary of an Edwardian Lady' craze and that one day I will be able to buy  not only a Plum Dog desk diary but a duvet cover and co-ordinating waste paper basket...Come ON publishers!

Sunday 3 February 2013

Upcoming Bookish Diary Dates

My days are as crammed with booky doings as the Fellow Reviewers' shelves are with the real things at the moment. The boys' school is launching their annual month-long Readathon next week which I have been helping co-ordinate. I'm proud to say we've rebranded it the Read-a-FUN! this year (do'ya see what we did there? do'ya?) to put the focus squarely on reading for enjoyment and to try and let the non-swots have a look in. Previous years have seen Super Swots dominate the prize gathering with lists of books read including 'Origin of the Species' and 'Mill on the Floss' (Yes. it IS a Primary School. yes they are all under 12).
To entice the ones picking their noses at the back, who know they cannot compete with such precocious tastes we're mixing it up a little this year. I've put in a new requirement to earn extra points by choosing at least one book preferred by/marketed at the opposite gender and also to read from as many different genres as possible including graphic novels.
We've got some extra competitions going including a 'Write a Totally Gripping first line' one, a 'Design a Brilliant Book Cover' one and an 'Extreme Reading Location Challenge'; where they have to photograph themselves reading in exciting places.

I'm looking forward to sorting through lots of photos of boys reading Jacqueline Wilson and girls reading Captain Underpants whilst hanging from monkey bars or sitting in trees. From overheard conversations there may be quite a few 'in the toilet' photos being planned too...ho ho.

I anticipate the graphic novel requirement is going to throw a lot of people and going to mean a lot of 'Tintin' and 'Asterix' (not that there's anything wrong with those) and not a lot else. I'm therefore going to try and put together a list of Primary-age-suitable graphic novel suggestions and get some to display in school. I put a request out on Twitter and got some great ideas. I'll stick the list up here when I've finished it too.

So next week it's our launch and tomorrow I will be busy sticking a 450 circle Bookworm up around the school. Every pupil, teacher and member of support staff has been given a coloured circle and asked to write their best book suggestion on it and then they're being combined into a wiggly Mega-beast. I'm really looking forward to seeing what they've all chosen and what are the number one most popular books in the school. I'm not really looking forward to the blu tac thumb I'll get.

I will also be busy (studies fingernails in casual fashion in preparation for name dropping) hangin' with our wonderful launch guests; Mackenzie Crook, Tony Gallagher; the editor of the Daily Telegraph AND the amazing illustrator Jane Ray! This is the jammiest jam of living in the particular creative-person-packed corner of London that we do.        

Our Read-a-fun ends on World Book Day, March 7th which is quite my most favourite school day when everyone comes dressed as their best book character.

But before then- do you remember International Book Giving Day from last year?  This much more inspiring way to enjoy February 14th than the yawn; usual romance, is back again this year and bigger than ever. You are encouraged to join in by passing on books whether new, used or borrowed to any children of your acquaintance or to any place where children have to hang around getting bored. It's such a great and simple idea and so worthwhile- do join in if you can.       

And if you live anywhere in the London area and will be around for half term The Imagine Festival is on at the Southbank for the whole week which has so many literary treat goodies to choose from it's quite dizzy-making. Book things! Quick!!