Tag Archives: David Melling

#BookADayUK The One I Always Give As A Gift

I usually give books as gifts. After all, what could be more fun than whiling away a rainy afternoon in my favourite indie, perusing the shelves and reading lots of blurbs? But I don’t always give the same book, because I like the fun of choosing something each time.

However, for every one of Danger Girl’s birthday, I’ve got the latest picture book in a particular series, and will continue to do so until the series finishes, whenever that may be. The first book came out just before she was one, and the fifth came out just before she was five, and we are very lucky that every single one has been signed and dedicated especially.

I may have devoted a lot of the blog to this particular bear (and given him as presents to lots of other children too) but he is very cute…

Hugless Douglas at the Chaos Household

Happy Birthday, Hugless Douglas: David Melling (Hodder Children's Books, 2014)Happy Birthday, Hugless Douglas: David Melling (Hodder Children’s Books, 2014)

This is the fifth book in the series of full length Hugless Douglas stories, and it’s a joy. It’s a very special day for Douglas, as he blows up balloons and waits for his friends. But his excitement is short-lived when his little twin cousins arrive and exuberantly take over the party. It looks like Douglas is going to have the worst birthday ever, but his friends pull together and soon all is happiness again.

I adore the cheeky twin cousins, Felix and Mash, even if they start off by ruining Douglas’ fun. They’re too cute not to like. As with all David Melling’s books, this one is packed with tiny details to look out for and features all the characters from earlier books. With new characters and old favourites appearing in every book, Hugless Douglas is a series that never fails to delight toddlers and up.

Squeak! I have just noticed the baby Douglas picture on the wall in the second spread of the book – too cute! As I’ve said, the details just keep adding to this book on every read. Hugless Douglas is a bear who will always keep a place in our hearts, and it’s been joyous watching my children grow up with him.

For Hugless Douglas fans old and new, there are also two activity and sticker books that are not to be missed (I had to buy more than one copy so that I can keep the stickers!)

Disclosure: We Love You Hugless Douglas, Hugless Douglas Finds A Hug, and My First Hugless Douglas Activity Book were received for review from Hachette Children’s Books. 

World Book Day 2014 £1 Picture Books

World Book Day 2014 Picture Books

It’s (UK) World Book Day on Thursday, and as always there are a wonderful selection of £1 books available. You can see the full range on the World Book Day website.

I love the concept of £1 books. We generally use the £1 vouchers that Mighty Girl and Danger Girl get from school against other books, and buy a selection of the £1 range too. The very first WBD £1 book I ever bought was a Garth Nix, Creature in the Case, which was before I’d even heard of World Book Day (or had children…) The first one I waited for was Neil Gaiman’s Odd and the Frost Giants (MG was a year old, DG didn’t exist…)

All that is entirely irrelevant, but is slight background as to how I skipped (not literally) into my local indie bookshop (Mostly Books) on Friday to grab this year’s picture book selection.

Hello, Hugless Douglas is a half-pint-sized morsel of Douglas’ world packed with favourite characters from the books (rabbit, the sheep, the funny bunnies – they’ll be staring in their own board books later in the year) following Douglas through his day from waking up to going to bed. Small it may be, lacking in detail it is not. Full of Mr Melling’s wit and humour, and with a couple of new hugs in the included ‘hug gallery’ at the back, this is an essential purchase for all toddlers, pre-schoolers (and mums, dads…) Grab a handful and stash them everywhere: perfect amusement for mornings, lunchtimes, bus journeys, waiting rooms, and snuggling up for bedtimes full of hugs.

Emily Gravett’s Little Book Day Parade is an interactive mini-book encouraging children to grab some colouring in materials and help create the dressing up costumes for a variety of familiar Emily Gravett characters. The pictures are too lovely to draw over, so it’s a good thing these are only £1 and I you can buy some more… Great for filling in moments of boredom – just add crayons, pencils, pens…

Both books would also be excellent party bag fillers – a Hugless Douglas party or a Dressing-Up party, which would you prefer?

Please support your local independent bookseller on World Book Day this year, and don’t forget they take on the full cost of the WBD vouchers so buy as many books as you can afford. There are now less than 1000 independent bookshops left in the UK, it would be a tragedy if we lost any more.

Great Gifts for Nought to Five Year Olds

Puppet Books

Hugless Douglas Finds a Hug: David Melling (Hodder Children's Books, 2013)Puppet Books are great to engage older babies and toddlers, and because the puppet is attached to the book, you don’t have to worry about losing it either. Our favourite new puppet book is the adorable Hugless Douglas Needs A Hug, full of lovely illustrations and with the cutest Douglas puppet. The puppet is made for grown ups to operate, and for little hands to stroke and cuddle. We love Hugless Douglas here, and this book has been a huge hit.

Child's Play Puppet Books

For little ones who want to operate their own puppets, Child’s Play have a huge range of puppet activity books. Older babies and young toddlers will be able to stick their whole hands in to move the bunny in Bib on, Bunny and the monkey in Monkey and Me, plus the familiar settings will appeal. As always with Child’s Play, the children depicted are from various cultures and look fairly androgynous meaning that every child will be able to find a picture they can relate to in one of the books in the series. Older toddlers and pre-schoolers can improve their motor skills and learn as they play in titles like What’s The Time, Mr Wolf? Grown ups can operate the puppets with fingers (if they’re ever allowed to!) and the three titles that we tested got a huge thumbs up from the four and six year olds, so they have great longevity in use too.

Anything by Jo Lodge

Books by Jo Lodge from Hodder Children's Books and Nosy Crow

We first discovered Jo Lodge several years ago via Mr Croc. The few Mr Croc books we had were literally loved to death over a couple of years and after much fixing and re-fixing eventually went for recycling. This year we discovered Little Roar and Icky Sticky Monster too. Jo Lodge engineers her own books, and they are bright, colourful, attractive to small children and great fun. Little Roar is suitable from the youngest age, with chunky tabs to pull and turn. We used to have a fantastic Mr Croc board book suitable for the youngest hands too, Up and Down, but it appears to be out of print. I’m sure similar are still available. The Mr Croc pop-up and tab books are very innovative. Ours may have broken, but that was from a lot of use and not because of quality. The last page of the books is usually Mr Croc popping up to get you, which my two found utterly hilarious (and still do!) Icky Sticky Monster is more suitable for pre-schoolers and is the first from Nosy Crow, with two more coming out next summer. Hachette publish Mr Croc and Little Roar, plus a new series of crinkly cloth books for the smallest hands. I am not kidding when I say anything by Jo lodge is the perfect gift for babies, toddlers, pre-schoolers and up…

Explore and Play

Child's Play Little Explorers and Little Drivers

The Little Explorer and Little Driver ranges from Child’s Play are excellent for imaginative play on the go, with a small character attached by ribbon that you can put in and out of pockets on each page, to pretend to control different vehicles. The character card is shaped and double sided so the child can choose boy or girl characters. These are not only wonderful fun, but great for motor skills development too. There are also dress up books in the same theme. With chunky card pages, and see through pockets, these are great quality and durable books for lots of fun play.

A board book that’s also a mask? What a wonderful idea! The Look At Me range are a series of books you can hold over your face to pretend to be a robot, or a monster; an alien or a clown. Due to the shape, a child or a grown up can play pretend. Great fun.

Pull, Twist, Poke, and Push

Child's Play Books

Books with flaps to lift and tabs to pull are always good fun with small children, but some are quite complex for little hands. Peekaboo Little Roar has tabs suitable for very small hands, and there are a range of Tiny Tabs books from Nosy Crow that are also good for babies. For older toddlers, Ian Whybrow and Axel Sheffler’s The Tickle Book (Macmillan) is full of tabs to pull and things to move, and Nick Sharratt’s Octopus Socktopus (Scholastic) is another enormous hit here. For preschoolers, Child’s Play’s Ten in the Bed not only teaches counting backwards from ten, but you get to turn a wheel to get a child to fall out of bed each time (and the children represent a variety of cultures, making this perfect for any child)

I couldn’t do a list of the best touchy-feely-pully-pushy-twisty-movey-interactive-novelty books for younger children without mentioning Child’s Play’s books with holes series. There Was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly was published forty years ago, and it’s one of the first board books I bought for Mighty-Girl when she was born. But there’s not only the Old Lady. We also have Old Macdonald, and I find it so clever how the holes, pictures and text are positioned. The children, of course, just think it’s lots of fun. Books with Holes come in all sorts of formats from small board books to gigantic books for sharing.

For more innovative, interactive, and intelligent book gift ideas please see Gifts for Curious Children (non fiction) and Great Gifts for Children (age 4+)

Disclosure: Many of the books listed were supplied for review by Hachette Children’s Books and Child’s Play International. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

Beautiful Picture Books for Giving

I think any picture book from a child’s favourite theme or illustration style is a wonderful gift when it’s a hardback edition. Hardback books, especially picture books, have a special air about them. Here are a selection of recently published books that are available in hardback and are especially beautiful.

The Tale of Jack Frost: David Melling (Hodder Children's Books, Anniv. ed 2013)The Tale of Jack Frost: David Melling (Hodder Children’s Books, Anniv. ed 2013)
I hadn’t seen this anniversary edition when I first wrote this list, but now I have it’s at the top of it. The Tale of Jack Frost is a near-perfect winter story, beautifully illustrated in watercolour. It’s a fairy tale and a winter tale, full of unique magical creatures, horrible goblins, forgotten pasts and hopeful futures. I’ve written about the paperback version before, but this hardback (signed and limited to 1000 copies) takes a beautiful story and packages it perfectly. With shining snowflakes on the cover and endpapers full of sketches, the anniversary edition is also individually hand numbered and signed by the author. Search out a copy now, before they all disappear.

Abigail: Catherine Rayner (Little Tiger Press, 2013)Abigail: Catherine Rayner (Little Tiger Press, 2013)
Every Catherine Rayner picture book is a piece of beauty, and Abigail is no exception. Abigail is the newest animal character from Catherine, and she is a giraffe who loves to count. The hardback edition is a near-square with gorgeous matt covering depicting Abigail against a night sky. The story follows Abigail as she tries to count things, but they keep moving. Eventually she gets her friends together and they find something to count that doesn’t move. Stunning imagery of the African plains and its inhabitants pack the book, with a lovely gentle story suitable for all ages but especially for 3-5 year olds because of the focus on learning to count. A flip-up page adds to the interest, and ending with night-time makes this the perfect bedtime read.

Winter's Child: Angela McAliister & Grahame Baker-Smith (Templar Publishing, 2013)Winter’s Child: Angela McAllister & Grahame Baker-Smith (Templar Publishing, 2013)
This book truly is an object of beauty, and a perfect Christmas story. The story is about Tom, who loves winter and wants it to stay forever. He finds a friend in a strange pale boy and every day they play in the stunning icy landscape. But at home, Nana is getting frailer, food and fuel is running out, and Tom’s mother is worried… I cannot describe how beautifully illustrated this fable is, it is a book to be poured over and enjoyed on many levels. Suitable from 3+, it will probably most appeal to 5-8 year olds, but older children will get so much from the story too.

All Through The Night: John Ceiriog Hughes & Kate Alizadeh (Simply Read Books, 2013)All Through The Night: John Ceiriog Hughes & Kate Alizadeh (Simply Read Books, 2013)
This book has perfect Christmas stocking filler written all over it. It is a small square hardback with words of a traditional Welsh lullaby (translated into English) with beautiful pastel illustrations. The lyrics are very Christian and refer to God and Guardian Angels so will appeal more to people with Christian faith. The book is a small package of beauty, lovely for bedtime reading. It may even be a thoughtful gift for someone who is grieving, but that would be a very personal choice.

Barefoot Books - The World of Miss Clara Gift SetThe Princess and The Pea; The Twelve Dancing Princesses; and The Snow Queen: Miss Clara (Barefoot Books, 2013)
I’m cheating a little here, because I haven’t seen these books in real life yet. I have however seen the chapter book versions and know how stunning Miss Clara’s illustrations are. These three hardback editions are new to Barefoot Books this month, and are also currently available as a gift set saving 10% on individual prices. You can get a further 20% off ordering online with the code TWENTY13. All Barefoot Books are produced to a high standard, and these will be no exception. A trio of classic fairy tales with beautiful illustrations, what more could you ask from a Christmas gift?

Rules of Summer: Shaun Tan (Lothian Children's Books, 2013)Rules of Summer: Shaun Tan (Lothian Children’s Books, 2013)
I don’t ‘get’ Shaun Tan’s picture books. The art is stunningly beautiful, weird and unique, and wonderful for getting lost in. But the picture books make absolutely no sense to me at all. I read this one to my four year old and she told me I was reading it wrong, because I must have missed out some of the words! These are not books for small children. Stunningly beautiful, cinematic and wonderful, this could be read to any child, but is probably of more interest to children aged 8+. I think this is one to add to the Christmas stockings of any art students you know too. This would be perfect as a springboard for discussion about… Well, I have no idea what the book is about at all, which I think may be the point, so the discussions from this book are potentially limitless.

The King of Space; Jonny Duddle (Templar Books, 2013)The King of Space: Jonny Duddle (Templar Publishing, 2013)
The paperback version is already out but the hardback is still available. You can read my full thoughts on this book here. This will appeal to all space-loving children (so most of them) of any age, but under threes probably won’t appreciate it as much. It’s also perfect for all sci-fi geek parents too. I’m usually a fan of traditional artists, as I find a lot of digital art too ‘shiny’ (for want of a better word!) but in all three of his books Jonny Duddle has packed the pages with grime and details. I’ve read them so many times and still have the odd “oh!” moment when I notice yet-another connection between the stories in the background…

The Tiger Who Came To Tea: Judith Kerr (HarperCollins Children's Books, Gift ed. 2013) The Tiger Who Came To Tea: Judith Kerr (HarperCollins Children’s Books, Gift ed. 2013)
This story probably needs no introduction. The fun, and surreal, tale of a Tiger who visits Sophie and her mummy to eat everything in their house has been well-loved since it was first published in 1968. To celebrate Judith Kerr’s 90th birthday this year, a beautiful gift edition hardback complete with slipcase has been released. This gift edition deserves its place on every child (and children’s book lover’s) bookshelves, and makes a perfect gift.

The Girl With A Brave Heart, A Tale From Tehran: Rita Jahanforuz & Vali Mintzi (Barefoot Books, 2013)The Girl With A Brave Heart: Rita Jahanforua & Vali Mintzi (Barefoot Books, 2013)
A traditional tale from Tehran which starts in a Cinderalla-like way; Shiraz’s mother dies young and her father remarries but after he too dies, her life changes from one of happiness to drudgery as the step-mother and step-sister make her their maid. Unlike Cinderella, no prince is required for a happy ending. Because of Shiraz’s kind heart, and the good that she does, it appears that she receives the gift of beauty. In reality it is Shiraz’s own personality shining through. Beautifully illustrated, this is a very positive and non-stereotyped story; the perfect antidote to Disney princesses. Available to buy from Barefoot Books.

amelienanetteSparkly Shoes and Picnic Parties (Amelie and Nanette): Sophie Tilley (Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2013)
In a complete contrast to the non-stereotyped Girl With A Brave Heart, Amelie and Nanette are the epitome of girlyness, and you can read my thoughts on this book here. This is such a beautiful hardback that it deserves a place in this list, as it will make a lovely present. The theme of summer picnics will be a great pick-me-up on a cold, dull winter’s day and the beautiful illustrations should put a smile on even the grumpiest face. Suitable for reading to any age, this will be enjoyed most by 3-8 year olds.

Barbapapa and Barbapapa's Voyage: Annette Tison & Talus Taylor (Orchard Books, new ed. 2013)Barbapapa and Barbapapa’s Voyage: Annette Tison & Talus Taylor (Orchard Books, new ed. 2013)
The Barbapapa books were originally published in the 1970’s although I have no memory of them from my childhood so it’s with new and adult eyes that I was introduced to Barbapapa, a pink blob-creature who was found in a garden (in Barbapapa), and his family (in Barbapapa’s Voyage). The stories are a little strange and surreal, but full of adventure and concepts that small children will be familiar with. These books will either be a classic for parents who read them as children to share, or just fun new additions. They are very lovely, and the hardback editions are beautifully produced. Suitable for any age, but especially 3-5 year olds.

I hope that has given you some ideas of a tiny fraction of the beautiful books currently released in the UK that would make wonderful gifts. I will be writing more gift list ideas over the next two weeks.

Disclosure: All books (except Barefoot Books) received from their respective publishers for review. Barefoot Books links are affiliate links. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

Just Like My Dad App News plus Book Giveaway

For those new to the blog, you may not know that I we are huge fans of David Melling in the Chaos household. This addiction goes back six years, when I purchased a copy of Just Like My Dad from one of our local bookshops for Mr Chaos’ first Father’s Day when MG was only a few months old.

That book is enjoyed as much now as it was then. Well, technically it’s enjoyed much more as there’s only so much a four-month old gets out a book, and we’ve double the children now! But I’m sure you understood what I meant before I decided to add needless clarification…

Just Like My Dad app screen

Today, 13th June 2013, Just Like My Dad is being released as an app. Perfect for Father’s Day sharing, it includes burp and fart sounds. What more does any self-respecting 2-8 year old want than burp and fart sounds? Apparently this also applies to most dads too, but I try to avoid gender stereotyping…

I don’t have anything to run apps on, so normally leave app reviews to the wonderful CApptivated Kids. But the fact that the app includes David Melling illustrations and is based on Just Like My Dad would make it worth the £1.99 price tag in my opinion!

Just Like My Dad app screen

The Just Like My Dad app is released in iOS and Android versions, and is available from the iTunes AppStore and Google Play in the UK, Europe, Australia and North America. I’ll add links as soon as I get them.

I normally ignore press releases in my reviews, but as this isn’t a review here’s some facts from the press release:

  • Narrated by a child actor to appeal to children using the app
  • ‘Read to me’, ‘Read by myself’ and ‘Record myself’ options
  • Available in all options, each screen has automated and touch-activated animation
  • Available in all options, each screen includes touch-activated sound effects, including farting skunks and burping dad and son lion
  • Children get to torment ‘dad’ by ripping plasters off the dad lion
  • ‘Record myself’ option allows a child and father to have fun recording the story together

Sounds like fun. I think my two would particularly like the ripping plasters off dad lion part! Amazingly I haven’t actually reviewed Just Like My Dad yet, but for an idea of the style I have written about Just Like My Mum.

Just Like My Dad app screen

To celebrate the release, Hachette have offered me five sets of the Just Like My Dad board book plus toy lion to giveaway. If the lion is anything like the mini Hugless Douglas from his book/toy set then it is cuter than cute (and small enough to smuggle into schoolbags for a bit of comfort away from home…) I wish I could enter my own competitions!

Just Like My Dad Book and Toy Box Set

To be in with a chance of winning one of these book/toy sets, please enter via the Rafflecopter widget below. The prizes will be sent direct from the publisher. Obviously they won’t arrive in time for Father’s Day, but this is a book to be enjoyed any day of the year. The deadline is midnight on Tuesday 18th June. Open to UK addresses only. Winners must reply with addresses within 5 days of drawing, or another winner will be drawn. Five prizes on offer.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

National Hug Day with Hugless Douglas

Hugless Douglas in London looking for hugs

Monday 21st January is the most depressing day of the year, according to some made-up calculations. It’s also National Hug Day, which seems like a much better idea. In honour of this, a giant Hugless Douglas will be out and about in London all day. He’ll need all that fur with snow predicted. Brrrrr!

David and Douglas’ London Schedule:
8.30am Hugless Douglas at Watermark bookshop, Kings Cross Station.
10.00am Hugless Douglas at Buckingham Palace.
11.00am David Melling and Hugless Douglas at Waterstones Piccadilly signing books and giving hugs.
2.00pm David Melling and Hugless Douglas at Netley Primary School giving 117 free books to the children!
4.00pm David Melling and Hugless Douglas at Watermark books, Kings Cross Station signing books and giving hugs.

If you’re out in London and take a photo of your hug with Hugless Douglas, tweet it to @hodderchildrens and you could win a Hugless Douglas plush and signed book.

Signed books and slippers

If you’re not in London, how about a set of signed books and fluffy Hugless Douglas slippers? This wonderful prize comes courtesy of Hachette Children’s Books and I wish I could enter because they look so lush! Fortunately there’s a second chance to win with Book Sniffer too.

For one entry into the draw, let me know about your favourite kind of hug. For a second entry, do some social media sharing or tell a friend about National Hug Day and Hugless Douglas. Winner chosen via the Rafflecoptor widget below so make sure your entry counts! The competition closes at 12am 22nd January.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Look at those slippers, aren’t they gorgeous?

If you’re on Twitter, follow @davidmelling1 and @hodderchildrens because they’re awesome, and for notification of other competitions throughout the week.

We Love You Hugless Douglas by David Melling

We Love You, Hugless Douglas: David Melling (Hodder Children's Books, 2013)

We Love You, Hugless Douglas: David Melling
(Hodder Children’s Books, 2013)

There’s a commonly held belief that for Star Trek films (the ones with the original cast at least), the even numbered in the series are superior to the odd. I mention this because I’ve found the opposite with the Hugless Douglas books… Hugless Douglas and Hugless Douglas and the Big Sleep are examples of the best in picture books; Don’t Worry, Hugless Douglas and We Love You, Hugless Douglas are merely very good!

Don’t Worry, Hugless Douglas was shortlisted for the Red House Children’s Book Awards 2012 and all four are excellent books in a series that I not only recommend wholeheartedly but also dedicated a blog week and a Pinterest board to so I am perhaps a teeny bit over critical…

In this tale, Douglas bumps into Flossie the sheep who has lost her best friend. Together, Flossie and Douglas set off to look for Little Sheep. For reasons not quite explained, Flossie is stuck (literally) to Douglas. This is reminiscent of the sheep sticking to Douglas’ back in The Big Sleep and where Douglas finds Flossie stuck in the tree. We even get a Thank-You Hug 🙂

Cow from Don’t Worry makes a return, with her best friend and new characters in the form of (unnamed and unmentioned, perhaps they are in book 5?) hedgehogs. Rabbit returns with a troop of bouncing bunnies (maybe one of them is the original rabbit from Hugless Douglas that, being male, hasn’t been seen since?)

Flossie and Little Sheep are reunited after a rummage through a leafy bush filled with bric-a-brac and just one sheep this time, but Douglas starts to feel sad because he doesn’t have a friend like all the other characters they’d met. Fortunately wise old owl doesn’t call Douglas a twit this time, but instead shows Douglas how loved he really is.

As usual, the illustrations are pieces of perfection with many details to look out for. For any child with the series of books, there are so many parts that refer to other books throughout the series that each book is a joy to re-read over and over. Highlights for us were the adorable hedgehogs and crazy bouncing bunnies, but my personal favourite illustration is the double spread where Douglas sits alone and melancholy because of the emotion that seeps through.

The final double spread is full of “I [heart] something” images and are MG & DG’s favourite part. We choose our favourites from the selection, on the last reading MG chose “I [heart] my mum” and DG chose “I [heart] my dad” 🙂

We Love You, Hugless Douglas is published on 3rd January 2013 in the UK and is well worth getting for the illustrations alone.

Image (c) David Melling


Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of We Love You, Hugless Douglas by Hachette Childrens Books for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

Advent Books, part five

The Tale of Jack Frost: David Melling (Hodder, 2003)The Tale of Jack Frost: David Melling (Hodder, 2003)
This is an absolutely perfect Christmas book, as well as being an almost perfect book. Annoyingly, it is currently out of print. Even more annoyingly, meany old grown ups are trying to sell copies of it for £40 and up online (see here) We were lucky enough to get a copy almost three years ago, and I reviewed it here. I am frustrated on behalf of children who are missing out on this lovely book, and it is a pity that the publisher didn’t manage to get it reprinted in time for Christmas. If you find a copy in an independent bookstore, do snap it up, it is a beautiful book that MG and DG love to hear again and again (and then watch the animated version too!)

The Lighthouse Keeper's Christmas: Ronda & David Armitage (Scholastic Children's Books, 2002)The Lighthouse Keeper’s Christmas: Ronda & David Armitage (Scholastic Children’s Books, 2002)

Another one I ordered via school and has only just arrived so we haven’t had a chance to read it enough times to review yet!



The Nightmare Before Christmas: Tim Burton (Hyperion Children's Books, 1993)The Nightmare Before Christmas: Tim Burton (Hyperion Children’s Books, 1993)
The Nightmare Before Christmas is probably my all-time favourite film that I can watch over and over again. This is a lot to do with the genius of Henry Selick who is an amazing director, coupled with the imagination of Tim Burton (who sadly ‘jumped the shark’ many years ago in my opinion!) This book is pure Tim Burton in the good days however and a joyous rhyming romp! It’s not the film (there’s no Oogie Boogie or Sally for a start) but it’s the same rough plot. There are a couple of rhymes that don’t gel (maybe it’s not having an American accent but I can’t get “good job” and “macabre” to rhyme) but the luscious art and the plot more than make up for this. A gorgeous book, and well worth it just for the “A Visit From Saint Nick” parody (“… The children, all nestled so snug in their beds, would have nightmares of monsters and skeleton heads…”) This is my book, of course, bought long before I had children, but my children are my children so they love it too! Bear in mind one of DG’s favourite books is The Spider and The Fly!

When It Snows: Richard Collingridge (David Ficking Books, 2012)When It Snows: Richard Collingridge (David Ficking Books, 2012)
This is a beautiful, beautiful book. With an ending which will leave book-lovers everywhere signing with delight. It is so luscious that I’ve added it as an actual Christmas present instead of an advent book so I don’t have my copy to hand! But that gives me the perfect opportunity to share the review written by one of my favourite fellow book bloggers: Read It, Daddy! If you love children’s books and aren’t already following his blog and twitter, I really urge you to do so. I aspire to produce so many outstanding reviews every week!

Ella Bella Ballerina and The Nutcracker: James Mayhew (Orchard, 2012)Ella Bella Ballerina and The Nutcracker: James Mayhew (Orchard, 2012)
DG is going through a Ballet phase. MG did at about the same age. It’s all about dressing up in ballet clothes, pretend dancing (it’s amazing how much they pick up even with not going to a single class ever!) and reading books with ballerinas in. So this book is a HUGE hit. Not to mention that “Ella Bella” are very almost MG’s names as she is Eleanor Isabelle for long 🙂 She likes Ella as a nickname now, but when we tried it as a baby she insisted on being Eleanor so she’s always been that. I often call her El’s Bells which she dislikes intensely! As I mentioned in my Katie and the Starry Night review, James Mayhew is a genius and this is another wonderful introduction to… book. Playing by the Book, another of my favourite book blogs, has such a gorgeous nutcracker feast in her write-up that I can’t resist sending you there to read more! I’ve just found out that there’s another Ella Bella review today, and her review is beautiful so please do look. Library Mice is the cause of much of my book spending with her wonderful reviews of the most beautiful books.

The Totally Terrifying Three by Hiawyn Oram & David Melling

The Totally Terrifying Three: Hiawyn Oram & David Melling (Hodder Children's Books, 2011)

The Totally Terrifying Three: Hiawyn Oram & David Melling
(Hodder Children’s Books, 2011)

It’s paperback publication day on Thursday (1st November), but I’m amazed we haven’t reviewed this book yet as we’ve had it since hardback publication a year ago. You can often find books before the official publication date and as it’s slightly Halloween-y, here’s the review to perhaps send you to your nearest bookshop searching for a copy…

Once there was a Dragon who was convinced he was TOTALLY TERRIFYING. One look at himself in the mirror and he nearly jumped out of his skin.

If you’re a regular reader you may be shocked to know that I am a huge David Melling fan… Yeah, okay, it’s somewhat obvious (Hugless Douglas Week for example…) This book is full of my favourite things David draws: Dragons! Witches! Trees! Everything! 😉

The Totally Terrifying Three: Hiawyn Oram & David Melling (Hodder Children's Books, 2011)

I could easily take the double spread above and frame it, it’s so wonderful. That is, if I could get past the sacrilege of destroying a book… It also neatly summarises everything in the story: the dragon, the witch, the giant, the toddler, and of course long-suffering Wiggles the dog.

The story follows a Dragon, who thinks he is too terrifying, so he leaves his neighbours and finds… A Witch, who thinks she is too terrifying (but neither the Dragon or Witch are terrified), so they leave together and find… A Giant, who thinks he is too terrifying (but none of the three are terrified), so they leave together and find… A Toddler, who also isn’t terrified… Which leads to some rethinking of their totally terrifying status, and a new three set out to scare… “absolutely NOBODY!”

It wasn't long before they came upon a Wich scaring herself silly in her magic mirror.

MG particularly loves humour in words like “scar[ing] the pants off people” and the fact that all the characters are basically just very silly and not at all scary. DG likes the brave toddler (and all the scary looking bits!) I love the details, as ever: look at what the dog and cat are doing in each picture; the trees (they need their own book); two bats near the witch’s hat at all times; the giant’s car and what happens when he stands up…

Hiyawyn Oram and David Melling are both deservedly acclaimed and this collaboration is a fine example of both their work. Other Halloween-suitable books by the totally terrific two (although not as collaborations) that we’ve already reviewed: The Ghost Library & Rumblewick and the Dinner Dragons.

Hugless Douglas Week: Six Questions with David Melling

For the final day of Hugless Douglas Week, David Melling kindly volunteered to be the first interviewee in an ocassional series where I ask Who? What? Why? Where? When? How? to authors and illustrators of children’s books.

David Melling drawingDavid Melling – author and illustrator of children’s books.

My influences, and there are way too many to list here, include the usual suspects: Ronald Searle, Ralph Steadman, Quentin Blake, Maurice Sendak. I won’t keep listing names but I will say particular influences that still inspire me are Asterix and Obelix, Tom and Jerry, Laurel and Hardy…I could go on but think I’ll stop there. Oh, and my kids of course!

SketchingThe book I’d love to write and illustrate is a collection of silly Fairy Tales. I’ve lost track of the number of times a project like this has been close to becoming reality but something always seems to get in the way. But it’s still on my ‘to-do’ list. Perhaps one day.

At the moment I about to start work on the 5th Hugless Douglas book! It hasn’t got a title yet but it’s his birthday. Today, 1st October, is literally Day 1 on this title so I haven’t got much more to say right now. First things first – this Q&A!

My favourite ice cream is vanilla. I know, wild eh?

Sketchbook PagesI’ve always loved reading and drawing and studied art and photography at college. Then, from around the age of 21, for about ten years of concentrated effort and various jobs, I finally realised that what I was really looking for was to illustrate stories! The writing came later but it completed the journey. I’m very fortunate to be able to make up stories and draw pictures all day. Very fortunate!

I create for children simply because most stories that require illustrations are for children. Also, my sense if humour hasn’t really grown up (thank goodness).

Why do children ask so many questions? I guess because they are curious about the world they find themselves in! I remember that phase with my children. That particular phase when everything you say is met by that question ‘Why.” I hope my books, the stories and pictures, fuel that interest. After all, it’s a funny old world, it takes some time getting used to all its little foibles. All children are doing is trying to make sense of it. Then again, aren’t we all!

Presently living in Abingdon, Oxfordshire but grew up in London.

Favourite place to be is either at home with the family or at my studio. I’m afraid I’m irritatingly content!

Illustration from Brilliant the DinosaurThe first published book I illustrated was called Brilliant The Dinosaur by Richard Stilgoe in 1993. Some of you older readers might remember he used to be on TV. He wore quirky knitted jumpers while playing the piano on the news programme Nationwide in the 1970-80’s. Sadly, we never met!

The first book I wrote and illustrated was the picture book The Kiss That Missed in 2002. It’s celebrating 10 years this year!

My favourite period in history? Hmm, I’m not sure I have a favourite but I do like Medieval times…it appeals to my gothic side.

When does the post arrive? Ha! An excellent question! Don’t get me started…

Print from The Kiss That Missed, can be ordered from http://davidmelling.co.uk/shop.htmlI started creating books soon after spending about 4 years working in a series of London based animation studios. It was way back in the 1980’s and I just loved the way the drawings helped to tell the story, not always with words – Tom and Jerry is a supreme example. It taught me that pictures are just as important as the words to carry a story, sometimes more so. By the time I decided to leave the studios I had bug and knew that story telling with pictures was exactly what I wanted to do.

A picture book can take anything from 3 to 6 months for me. If I break that down it’ll look something like this:
Sketchbook ideas (including written notes), on a particular subject: 2-3 weeks.
Storyboard and first written draft – 2 – 3 weeks.
Pencil roughs on cartridge paper – 4 weeks.
Trace and ink onto watercolour paper – 2 weeks
Painting final artwork – 6 – 8 weeks.

Obviously, this will vary depending on the type of book and whether I come to the drawing board with a vague idea or a very particular idea. It’s not an exact science. You’ll notice that I write and draw and the same time when getting the ideas. For me both disciplines feed off watch other. I know that some author illustrators write first then illustrate. I couldn’t do that. But, of course, everyone is different. It’s whatever works for you!

How long is a piece of string? Well, that’s an easy one; That long.


All images © David Melling, used with permission.
The sample Who? What? Why? Where? When? How? questions can be downloaded here.

Thank-you for sticking with me throughout Hugless Douglas Week. Don’t forget there’s still time to enter the giveaway: deadline extended to Tuesday 9th October. Extra goodies added, and books will be signed (there will some delay in posting while we work out logistics!)

I’d like to offer huge thank-you hugs to Hachette Children’s Books for sending extra prizes and the activity book download to support this week; Helen from CApptivated Kids for the guest post; and most of all to Douglas’ Dad, David Melling, without whom none of this would have been possible.