Friday, 10 July 2020

Friday Five: Broadcast Signal Intrusions

Friday Five

I love anything a bit creepy and mysterious, and anything to do with retro TV and radio. So it's a no brainer I'd be fascinated by broadcast signal intrusions. Ever since broadcast began there have been people attempting to disrupt, hijack or jam the signals. Reasons range from state censorship of foreign shortwave radio broadcasts right through to a random guy being angry about HBO's monthly subscription fees.

Sometimes signal intrusions are accidental, like the time in 2012 when a cut cable was being repaired and three minutes of a gay porno film was shown instead of Canada's CHCH-DT's morning news show. Sometimes they're all but a military operation, like the time in 2015 when TV5Monde was brought to its knees by a sustained cyber attack lasting over three hours. More typically they're the result of lone individuals or small groups of pranksters.

Here are five of my favourites...

#5. Zombie Apocalypse

On February 11th 2013 KRTV in Montana had their emergency alert system hacked during The Steve Wilkos Show to tell viewers:

'Civil authorities in your area have reported that the bodies of the dead are rising from their graves and attacking the living. Follow the messages onscreen that will be updated as information becomes available. Do not attempt to approach or apprehend these bodies as they are considered extremely dangerous.' 

The same message was later sent out over the EAS of WBUP (c. 20:30 during The Bachelor) and WNMU (c. 16:00 during Barney and Friends) in Michigan, and KENW in New Mexico. Meanwhile DJs joking about the event on rock radio station Z93 inadvertently triggered the linked emergency alert system of Wisconsin's WKBT-DT into repeating the zombie warning during their morning news broadcast.

All broadcasters in the USA have to sign up to the national emergency alert system, and the hack was enabled by stations which hadn't changed the default password on equipment they bought from Monroe Electronics - who had helpfully published the defaults in their publicly accessible online manual. News reports claimed that authorities had traced the source of the hack to outside the USA, but I failed to find any follow up on what action (if any) was taken against them. 

#4. Panorama

Not the UK current affairs programme, but the Czech Television Sunday morning tourism show. The regular schedule of pretty panoramic views of the Czech countryside was replaced on 17th June 2007 with shocking scenes appearing to show a nuclear explosion in the KrkonoŇ°e mountain range. It turned out to be a stunt by guerilla artist collective Ztohoven, but for those watching live it must have been a horrifying moment!

Six Ztohoven members ended up in court over the incident, facing prison sentences of up to three years a piece, but the charges were dismissed by a judge in March 2008.

#3. Help Us, Lord

Another intrusion from 2007, this time from Australia's Seven Network during a January 3rd airing of Canadian import 'Mayday: Head-on Collision'. The audio was suddenly replaced with a creepy loop of an American voice saying:

Jesus Christ, help us all, Lord. Fuck.

This went on for around six minutes before the proper audio signal was restored. Spokespeople for Channel 7 told newspapers that "It was a technical glitch due to an audio problem with the tape. The line actually is 'Jesus Christ one of the Navarines' and this is from the documentary [Mayday]."

As explanations go, it was more than a little lame. Especially when the audio was traced to a 2006 Channel 7 news broadcast showing footage of US supply truck driver Preston Wheeler pleading for his life while being fired on by insurgents in Iraq. Who spliced it into Mayday - and why - remains a total mystery.

Max Headroom Broadcast Signal Intrusion

#2. Max Headroom

Max Headroom was a character dreamed up to present music videos on Channel 4 back in 1985. Claimed to be a CGI creation, computer graphics of the time were nowhere near capable and Max was actually actor Matt Frewer under four hours worth of prosthetics and make-up. It didn't stop him going the 80s equivalent of viral and by 1987 he had his own US TV show in addition to being the face of New Coke. 

He was a big enough deal to spawn his own costume masks, one of which showed up in the most unexpected place - interrupting a WGN-TV sports report on November 22nd 1987. The screen went black for 15 seconds before showing someone in a Max Headroom mask stood before a rotating corrugated metal panel, accompanied by a buzzing sound. After 28 seconds WGN engineers succeeded in switching the broadcast frequency, patching viewers back into the studio where sports anchor Dan Roan told them: "Well, if you're wondering what's happened, so am I!"

A couple of hours later, during a broadcast of the Dr Who episode Horror of Fang Rock, Max Headroom's creepier twin struck again. With no engineers on duty at the relevant transmitting station, this time the signal hijack lasted 90 seconds until cutting out of its own accord. Although it was now WTTW, a PBS affiliate, who fell prey to the hoaxers it was still WGN they had in the firing line. Sportscaster Chuck Swirsky was singled out in their rambling diatribe which also proclaimed the hijack to be a masterpiece for the nerds at WGN. 

Over 30 years on and their identity remains a mystery, but research into the subject suggests it was almost certainly an inside job, presumably by someone with an axe to grind against WGN-TV. The equipment needed to overpower the Sears Tower transmitter simply wouldn't have been available to an amateur, no matter how dedicated. 

Southern Television

#1. United Kingdom

My favourite broadcast intrusion is also the earliest on this list, dating back to November 26th, 1977. Andrew Gardner was reading the early evening news on ITV franchise Southern Television when the picture went wobbly. At 17:10 the audio feed was then replaced with the voice of 'Vrillon', a self-proclaimed representative of the Ashtar Galactic Command. 

Although the visuals carried on as normal, the news bulletin giving way to a Looney Tunes cartoon, but the voice of Vrillon continued to air for around six minutes. Wikipedia has a full transcript and issue #24 of Fortean Times printed a summary transcript that winter:

'This is the voice of Asteron. I am an authorised representative of the Intergalactic Mission, and I have a message for the planet Earth. We are beginning to enter the period of Aquarius and there are many corrections which have to be made by Earth people. All your weapons of evil must be destroyed. You have only a short time to learn to live together in peace. You must live in peace... or leave the galaxy.'

There are no official recordings of the event, though contemporary reports suggest there was at least one audio tape circulating in 1977. E.g. John Whitmore told Bob Holness in a December '77 interview, "I'd first like to refer to the recording itself of the complete message, one thing that struck me was that there was in fact nothing threatening whatsoever on the tape, and I was aware that most of the newspaper reports said it was threatening and frightening and so on, and so forth, and I just want to point out that that's sort-of a projection of the fears onto the material itself rather than the reality."

CITV show It's a Mystery recreated the event in 1999:

Southern was one of the few UK broadcasters vulnerable to such an intrusion, relying on a receiver at their Hannington transmitter rather than a direct landline. This meant that an intrusive signal wouldn't need to be particularly powerful to supersede that coming from the Rowridge transmitter on the Isle of Wight. Even so, in 1977 this would have taken a lot of specialist knowledge and equipment to accomplish - making it all the more remarkable that those behind the incident have never been identified.

1977, of course, was also the year of a major UFO 'flap' in the UK. I wrote a whole post on the Broad Haven Mystery a while ago, and there was a general growing interest in the subject with the imminent UK release of both Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (December '77 and March '78, respectively). Or, just maybe, Vrillon was the real deal...

This vid is posted multiple times on YouTube claiming to be original footage, though I couldn't find any confirmation:

Which one is your favourite? Let me know in the comments! :)

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Friday Five

True Crime and Creepy Occurrences

Monday, 6 July 2020

Cave Club Dolls

Cave Club Dolls

Mattel's new 10" Cave Club dolls look awesome. They have all the crazy hair fun of trolls or lines like Hairdorables, with the added draw of dinosaurs. Literally. There is a dino with heart pattern and brushable hair. It's like they've tapped right into the wants of my three year old brain!

My favourite thing about the line is the dinosaur cot mobile in the babysitting playset. Cutest. Thing. Ever.

Wave one was released in March 2020.

Mattel Cave Club Basic Dolls

Basic Dolls

★ Tella and Hunch - box front / box back.
★ Fernessa and Ptilly - box front / box back.
★ Emberly and Flaire - box front / box back.
★ Roralai and Ferrell - box front / box back.
★ Slate and Taggy - box front / box back.

Cave Club Wild About CatsCave Club BBQ


Cave Club Babysitting
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Saturday, 4 July 2020

Barbie Week

Homeschooling with Barbie

For the last month or so homeschool has been a bit of a nightmare. Marianna has learned that if she tantrums long enough and hard enough my will to complete the work sent home is inevitably eroded. Her excuses range from not liking the books they're reading, to her hand suddenly hurting far too much to write the single word answers required of her, to the theory that if only she was doing something 'fun' (as opposed to the many and varied craft projects suggested by her school teacher) then she would be getting on with her work nicely...

So, in the interests of maintaining some semblance of sanity, I asked her to come up with fun topics she would want to focus on. The net result is lots of dolls, fairies, and princesses. But. I can totally work with that! Here is what we've been up to this week:


Introducing Barbie and Friends

 - Put together the Barbie jigsaw printable.
 - Cut and stick Barbie characters (printable A and B) to A3 sheet.
 - Discuss who's who and what they are to Barbie.
 - Stick relationship labels to sheet.
 - Break.
 - Read Barbie Ladybird book.
 - Fill out the About Me printable for Barbie.
 - Lunch.
 - Watch Wisconsin for Kids video on YouTube.
 - Complete Wisconsin worksheet.
 - Watch California for Kids video on YouTube.
 - Complete California worksheet

It was off to a bit of a rocky start but things improved in the afternoon. I left Anthony to read the book to M while I took what felt like half our house to the charity depot. By the end of the day I could actually point out an American state on the map and Marianna was a new devotee of Kelly/Shelly.


Barbie Through History

 - Try to put the Barbies and Kens in correct historical order. (Printable A and B)
 - Barbie was introduced in 1959. Watch original advert.
 - What was life like in the 1950s? Watch Keeping Clean and Neat (1956).
 - Break.
 - Watch old Barbie commercials.
 - What was life like in the 1960s and 1970s? Talk about things we know, eg. Mary, Mungo and Midge.
 - Watch Welcome to the 60s from Hairspray.
 - Use YouTube tutorials to learn how to Twist. 
 - Lunch.
 - Barbie and the Rockers. Discuss the differences between the 1980s and 1959.
 - What would we find different between today and the 1980s?
 - Complete Long Creations Covid-19 Time Capsule worksheets.


Barbie Careers

 - Think of ten jobs and write a list. Find out if Barbie has done them.
 - What job would you like to do? You Can Be Anything worksheet.
 - What new job do you think Barbie should do? Design a doll, outfit and accessories.
 - Write a letter to Mattel with the suggestion.
 - Lunch.
 - Bake cupcakes like Chef Barbie.
 - Make pizzas like Pizza Chef Barbie.
 - Complete McDonalds' Barbie Ballerina worksheet.


Barbie Fashion Design

 - Play Barbie dress up game on tablet. 
 - Colour in paper clothes according to Welsh language instructions.
 - Hang paper clothes on washing line according to Welsh language instructions.
 - Break.
 - Watch Barbie Fashion Secrets on YouTube.
 - Use printable body form to design an outfit for Barbie with craft materials.
 - Lunch.
 - Try sewing with styrofoam plates. (As seen on Make It, Love It.)
 - Sew a Barbie dress.

I was in virtual meetings on MS Teams for most of the day so we only did the paper clothes and the plate sewing. Marianna was really impressed with herself for sewing for the very first time.


Barbie Party!

 - Watch Barbie's Birthday Party on YouTube.
 - Make a checklist of things we need to do to host a party.
 - Write out party invites.
 - Organise food and entertainment.
 - Make a birthday card for Barbie.
 - Break.
 - Make decorations.
 - Decorate party room.
 - Lunch.
 - Make party snacks.
 - Paint nails, plus hair and make-up.
 - Dress.
 - Present Barbie project certificate.

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Friday, 3 July 2020

Friday Five: Soda

Friday Five

Juice, pop, fizzy drink - whatever floats your boat! I've always called it pop, with all brown coloured stuff being generically labelled 'coke' and clear stuff 'lemonade'. Of course, my dad employed the inevitable dad humour to give us water every time we asked for pop as kids.

Apparently it was 'council pop'. Very Scarfolk!

These days I don't drink pop that often, but sometimes nothing quenches your thirst quite like it.

#5. Lemonade 

No preference on brand, to be honest, so long as it makes no claims to contain real lemon.

#4. Cola

Anthony is addicted to Coca Cola, there is no other word for it. I quite enjoy an ice cold glass now and then, but that's as far as it goes for me. (Unless it's masking a generous helping of whiskey or malibu. I can always make an exception...)

#3. Orange

Who loves orange soda? I have to admit to preferring Fanta over own brand though.

Kenan and Kel and Orange Soda

#2. Bubblegum

Nothing says adulthood like drinking a bottle of blue coloured sugar water and not having to beg anyone for the privilege. Seriously though, bubblegum pop is such a nostalgia trip. And is awesome as part of an ice cream float.

#1. Vimto

The best pop, the best lollipops, and the best squash. All hail Vimto, huh? :)


What is your favourite pop? Let me know in the comments! :)

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Friday Five

Thursday, 2 July 2020

Happiness is a Gift Review and Giveaway

Happiness is a Gift personalised hammer

It's Anthony's birthday this month so it was great timing for us to be asked to review an item from Happiness is a Gift! I love personalised gifts of all shapes and sizes because that little message, in the words of Marie Kondo, can help transform even the most mundane of everyday objects into something which brings you joy. 

Happiness is a Gift has a great range of options with everything from personalised chocolate at £5.99, to an on-trend personalised lantern at £16.99, to a gorgeous rose gold wristwatch for £65. The website is easy to navigate too, with the ability to search by gift type, occasion, and recipient.

Even so, it took Marianna and I a while to pick out the right present for Anthony. Cufflinks, wallets, and a personalised chef's hat were all considered and, ultimately, discarded. Then we came across the perfect opportunity to mesh the practical with the novelty: a personalised hammer.

Happiness is a Gift Hammer
Marianna rocking her lockdown fringe...

Because a couple of years ago Anthony made it into family folklore when, unable to find a hammer in the house, he decided to attempt DIY with a meat mallet. The results were... well, everything you would expect. It's the kind of occasion that deserves to be commemorated as often as possible.

Decision made, we asked for the hammer to be personalised with the message 'Daddy, love Marianna x'. Delivery was super quick with the hammer carefully packaged to ensure no bumps or bangs, and now Anthony need never again resort to kitchenware. It also meant we could play on the German phrase 'Du bist der Hammer!' which translates to 'You are the best!' :)

Du bist der Hammer!

Check out Happiness is a Gift to find your perfect present. And if you fancy getting any item you like up up to a value of £25, fill out the Gleam widget below for your chance to win. (UK entries only, no cash alternative available. Ends 03/08/20.)

Happiness is a Gift Giveaway

*We were sent the hammer to review, but all thoughts and opinions are our own!*

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Monday, 29 June 2020

Team Gem Dolls

Team Gem Dolls by Moose Toys

This line from Moose Toys is based on an intriguing idea - make your gymnast doll perform tricks with the help of a special magnetic ring. Unfortunately the execution, reading the reviews for them, can be difficult for kids to master and without a strong brand presence behind them the impetus to stick with it seems to be lacking. 

The dolls were originally released in August 2019.

Team Gem Dolls

★ Ruby - box front / contents / back.
★ Jade - box front / contents / back.
★ Saffie - box front / contents / back.
★ Amy - box front / contents / back.

Team Gem Balance Beam and Amber

★ Gemazing Gymanasium and Luna - box front / doll / back.

Team Gem Gemazing Gymnasium 

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Sunday, 28 June 2020

This Week: 28/06/2020

Don't merely exist - I urge you to live.

Another week that was, eh? We had the first virtual full council on Tuesday so I went up to the civic centre to chair from there as my internet connection has not been great at home. The thought of 50+ people all on this call waiting on me as I dealt with IT issue #2763 was seriously stressing me out! Luckily it all went fine and we provisionally scheduled another for July, depending on what decisions are taken between now and then.

I popped into school on Friday to sign the health and safety risk assessment for reopening. I feel reassured that schools are doing everything they can to prevent transmission, but I still think Welsh Govt are being foolhardy in going for such a wide return. My first choice would have been an expansion of the keyworker childcare hubs. Anyway, I'm not sending Marianna in - not so much because I fear it will be unsafe, but because the disruption to her routine / upset of having to social distance from her friends, etc, for three days of contact time just isn't worth it. 

On politics way above my level -

Starmer showed decisive leadership over RBL this week, but I can't say I'm 100% convinced by the argument it was for anti-semitism or that he will maintain such high standards for the front bench. The sacking, let's face it, was more for RBL not backing down when he wanted her to - and you've gotta wonder whether he will be as swift when somebody he doesn't want rid of next does something they should know better than. :/ Re. the actual content of that article: there have been legit concerns about police forces around the world buying in training from Israeli counter-terrorism units for years, but that's become conflated with racist police violence in the wake of George Floyd's killing, when it should be about symbiotic relationships between police and military, along with intensive surveillance and profiling.

(Which isn't to say there aren't things we can learn from YAMAM. Just look at this seriously thorough coronavirus response.)

It does bother me that people keep saying Maxine Peake just plucked Israel, of all countries, from nowhere to bring up in the discussion. A few paragraphs previously she had been telling the interviewer that, were it not for coronavirus, she would still have been in Palestine 'liaising with young activists'... The Justice for Eyad al-Hallaq demos were like, what, three weeks ago? A long time in politics, so we're told, but not exactly beyond living memory!

Meanwhile BoJo has been equally decisive in remaining as stubbornly incompetent as ever. Tim Tam biscuits and 'show some guts' at seaside towns are just two of the new lows from recent days. It's just incredible that in raw numbers we have the third worst covid death rate in the world. By population size we should be #21. By population density #49. I suppose it's just like the Brexiteers promised us. 

The UK can be a world leader in something.


Deal of the Week -

Get 15% off your first order at Biscuiteers with referral link -

On the blog this week I reviewed So Slime DIY's new Tie & Dye Slime Washing Machine, along with Mini Mart reviews of Abels 3D Models and Little Shop In Lee on Etsy. For Friday Five I wrote about five members of the Barbie family who simply upped and disappeared one day.

I'm also running a giveaway for a full set of the awesome Dougie's Diary books.

Song of the Week -

Summertime Blues - The Beach Boys

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This Week - Weekly Overviews

Friday, 26 June 2020

Friday Five: Barbie Family

Friday Five

Five members of Barbie's family we no longer talk about...

#5. Jazzie

Jazzie, introduced in 1988, was Barbie's cousin. When she wasn't hanging out with the big B at the Big B, Jazzie and her friends (Chelsie and Stacie, no relation, and boyfriend Dude) spent their days committing some of the most atrociously eye searing crimes against fashion. Until they disappeared off the face of the earth in 1992 that is. Unlike previous modern cousin of choice, Francie Fairchild, Jazzie has yet to be resurrected for a repro though she has managed to live on in my 1/6 scale doll house at least, rebodied on one of Mattel's Creatable World dolls.

Barbie Jazzie

#4. Tutti

Barbie's nightmare fodder of a little sister, Tutti, was introduced in 1965. By 1971 she had disappeared from the US market, though lingered on in parts of Europe until 1980.

Barbie Tutti

#3. Krissy

Baby 'Krissy' Kristine was introduced in 1998. By 2001 she was gone, never to be spoken of again. I don't wanna cast doubt on Skipper's babysitting skills but...

Barbie Krissy

#2. Todd

Todd has the dubious distinction of having been killed off discontinued not once but twice. First introduced in 1965 as twin brother to Tutti, Todd returned in 1991 as part of Midge's wedding party. He was soon upgraded to Stacie's twin brother and, for a time, life was good. Football play dates, birthday parties at McDonalds, that kind of thing. Then he fell out of favour and was quietly done away with - returning for one last swan song to play Michael Banks in a Mary Poppins themed release in 2007.

Barbie Todd

#1. Kelly / Shelly

Toddler Kelly (Shelly for the European market) joined the Barbie line in 1995. For the next fifteen years she was kind of ubiquitous, her diminutive size making her - and her seemingly never ending array of identical looking friends - cheap to produce. But even the mightiest can fall. In 2010 she was pulled from shelves and replaced with Chelsea.

Nobody is safe.

Barbie Kelly / Shelly

Which one do you miss most? Let me know in the comments! :)

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Friday Five

Thursday, 25 June 2020

Mini Mart: Little Shop In Lee

Miniature Books and Comics from LittleShopinLee on Etsy

Supplier: Little Shop In Lee
Website: Etsy Store

1/6 scale books and comics, plus full scale stickers, badges and art. I bought a cute set of two vintage style fairy tale books for £4, and three Life is Strange comics for £3.50. The latter are especially nicely done and came with a bonus temporary tattoo as a little freebie. :)

I took a couple of quick pics with my Creatable World #GGG55 doll to show the scale.

Post and Packing: £1.20 for two items.

Little Shop In Lee on Etsy

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Mini Mart - Reviews of Dolls and Scale Miniatures

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Mini Mart: Abels 3D Models

Abels 3d Models on Etsy

Supplier: Abels 3D Models
Website: Etsy Store

3D printed furniture and other items in a mix of scales. The 1/12 scale IKEA Trofast caught my eye and set me back £12 including postage. For best effect it really needs some hand finishing to buff out the printing lines, but the quality is great and the sizing is spot on. In the pics you can see it paired up with my Heidi Ott younger lady and a 1/12 scale standard male body from MC Toys. 

Abels 3D Models Miniature

Ultimately I sold this piece on because it wasn't a good fit for the 1970s theme in my 1/12 scale house. But I do have my eye on their 1/6 scale A4 letter trays...

Post and Packing: Most products come with free delivery within the UK.

Abels 3D Models 1/12 Scale IKEA Trofast

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Mini Mart - Reviews of Dolls and Scale Miniatures

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

Dougie's Diary Review and Giveaway

Dougie's Diary Book Review and Giveaway

Dougie's Diary - a series of books chronicling the day to day life of a super cute pre-school dinosaur - is the creation of Mandy Khaira, director of Little Me Day Nurseries. They currently have three locations in England, with the kind of central ethos that everyone should get behind:

Little Me Day Nurseries - children should be taught how not what to think

It's what I aspire to, at least, even if home schooling has been a challenge on just about every front. The email asking if I'd like to review the series arrived after a particularly trying day of tantrums, tears, and the crushing sense of inadequacy only a belligerent five year old can bestow. Going back to basics to learn about 'kindness, diversity and thankfulness' had never seemed so appealing!

When the books arrived they totally surpassed my expectations. They're bright, colourful, have the blessing of wipe clean pages, and even managed to win a sulky Marianna over. 

Dougie's Diary Books

Right now there are five books in the series:

Hello, I'm Dougie!
Daisy Comes Home
 Dougie Starts Pre-school
 We Are All Special
 Thank You Day

Each story begins in diary format with Dougie giving an introduction. The text is then presented as a mix of narrative and speech bubbles, with gorgeous full page illustrations by Salamandra and ongoing activities to engage with as you read. On each page children might need to spot a particular toy, for example, or count how many of an item they can see in the picture. There is also a letter hidden in each illustration - when collected together they spell a special word at the end of the story.

I found this really useful because, yeah, asking how many of this or what colour is that as you go along is a simple thing. But. It's something I struggle with. I notice it most when my mum (who was a nursery nurse herself once upon a time) reads with Marianna because it really highlights how, despite my best intentions, I have not been asking those questions again.

Dougie's Diary Book Review

So, unsurprisingly, I loved that each book had a page of questions and prompts at the end of the story too. It encourages children to use the collected illustrations to retell the story in their own words, and gives you guided suggestions on issues your child might want to discuss further.

The thing I have found hardest about home schooling is how little I think like a five year old. What I mean by that is that it often just does not occur to me to go back over what we're learning in the way Marianna needs. I want to make progress. Marianna wants to revisit and consolidate. The addition of these pages made me slow down and engage much more effectively.

Dougie's Diary Review

The books are aimed at 3 to 5 year olds, putting Marianna in the upper range. Marianna really enjoyed them, all the same, and to make it a little more challenging I got her to read Dougie's speech bubbles to me. Overall she did pretty well and, importantly, Dougie's speech came in short enough bursts that she didn't get too frustrated with the attempt.

The stories deal with things children face each day - anxiety at going to a new place, questions about why other people look different to them, why it's important to be kind, etc. The bread and butter of being a decent human being, basically! Marianna found the characters easy to relate to, and especially loved that Dougie had a collection of waistcoats and bow ties. (Just like Daddy.) 

Her favourite was Thank You Day because, and I quote, 'we all need to learn how to be kind'. Indeed.

For more information check out the Dougie's Diary page, complete with online editions of the books and downloadable colouring sheets. If you prefer physical books they are available on Amazon for £4.99 each. Or, you can fill out the Gleam widget below for a chance to win a full set. :)

Dougie's Diary Book Giveaway

 *We were sent these books to review, but all thoughts and opinions are our own!*

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