A new collaborative work

I have always said that the proudest event of my career was chairing the Carnegie/Kate Greenaway 2013-10-31-13-46-51judging panel.  In 2010 we chose Neil Gaiman as the winner of the Carnegie for his book “The Graveyard Book”; the illustrator being Chris Riddell.  Since then this duo have collaborated on several other works including  “Fortunately the Milk”, a new edition of “Coraline” and “The Sleeper and the Spindle”, which has also been shortlisted for the Carnegie and was the winner of the Kate Greenaway medal for 2016.

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Bloomsbury, 9781408870600

Last week I was lucky enough to attend an evening listening to Chris Riddell, at Bloomsbury Books.  He was discussing his collaboration with Neil Gaiman and specifically about their new offering “Odd and the Frost Giants”.  Chris was in discussion with Rebecca McNally, the publishing director at Bloomsbury and gave us a wonderful insight into how the creative relationship has developed over the years.  Originally Chris was asked to illustrate  “The Graveyard Book” for the English edition as the American version had been illustrated by David McKean and it was so successful that they have worked on a wide range of titles since then.

The new book is a stunning piece of art and a wonderful story based on the Norse myths.  Visually this is a book to treasure with a cut-out front cover and a positive wealth of stunning line drawings.  The underlying themes of the book seem to be about overcoming great adversity and about valuing the beauty that surrounds us.2016-09-11-11-50-59 2016-09-11-11-51-10

Chris Riddell also spoke about the role of librarians, both in libraries and in school libraries and how important they were in promoting books to children and teachers.  This message was very well received by the audience, most of whom were librarians from public and school venues.

2016-09-04-11-51-35 2016-09-04-11-52-02It was a great evening with an opportunity to hear our current Children’s Laureate speak and also to catch up with friends and colleagues.

Summer Sunshine reads

Well, we are now over half way through the summer break and it is about this time that I start thinking about what to read next.  If you are anything like me then you will already have got through the pile of books that you had kept for the holidays.  So here are some suggestions that you might have missed, or which are just being published.  They are wide ranging in their subject matter and a few are ones that I might have missed if I had not been asked to review them, but all of them turned out to be very pleasant surprises.

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HarperCollins, 9780008124526

“Ned’s Circus of Marvels” by Justin Fisher.  This book has had a very high profile over the last few months and is a great adventure with an ‘ordinary’ hero, an amazing and magical circus and demons who live on the other side of the’veil’.  Definitely a series that I will follow with interest.

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Firefly Press, 978-1910080382

“Alien Rain” by Ruth Morgan was a lovely surprise. In essence it is a science fiction story but with Earth being the planet being excavated years after it had fallen to a mysterious invader and the explorers are settlers from the planet Mars and they are excavating the city after which their home settlement is named- Cardiff! . The descriptions of the city and in particular the Museum of Wales really adds to your appreciation of a very good story.When Bree was chosen to be part of the team of explorers it was a complete surprise, as she is not one of the top students in her class, so why was she chosen?  The answer brings a fitting climax to the story.  I will definitely be looking out for this author in the future and have high hopes for more from Firefly Press (who are based in Wales).

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Chicken House, 978-1910655153

“The Apprentice Witch” by James Nicol is a truly super read.  The heroine Arianwyn fails her witch’s assessment and gets sent off to a small remote village as an apprentice.  Then strange things start happening and Arianwyn has to pull out all the magic that she can find.  This is a lovely story about being different and being able to succeed despite this.

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Andersen Press, 9781783444014

“Racing Manhattan” by Terence Blacker (NG)  is the first of two titles set in the world of horse racing.  Whilst I have read “horse” stories as a child I have not read those set in this particular world.  The book is aimed at teens and deals with difficult issues but in a very sympathetic way.  I really cared what happened to the heroine Jay as well as to the real star, Manhattan.

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Puffin, 9780141362908

“The Racehorse who wouldn’t gallop” by Claire Balding and with illustrations by Tony Ross is another story set in the world of horse racing but aimed at a slightly younger audience.  The author is a well known commentator and ex- amateur jockey and has already written several books for adults.  The knowledge that she brings to the book is very evident and she is also a good writer, so that we are totally engrossed in the story of the ten-year old heroine Charlie Bass and her lovable if rather eccentric family.

“A Whisper of Horses” by Zillah Bethell (Piccadilly Press, 978-1848125346) (NG)  is the last of my books to feature horses, although in this case it is the heroine, Serendipity who is trying to find the last surviving horses in Britain.  the plot is set in a post-disaster country where the population in London is divided into the workers and the ruling classes.  There is a barrier around the city, following the lines of the M25 and no one is allowed out.  However Serendipity is determined and manages to escape; with the help of her ‘storyteller’ employer and a young smuggler called Tab.  It really is a magical story about chasing your dream and making the world change for the better.

“Girl out of Water” by Ned Luurtsema (Walker books, 978-1406366525)  deals with the world of competition swimming and a heroine who is totally sidelined when she fails to make the summer training squad with her best friends.  How she copes with this and crashes and splashes her way to success with others make up this story.  It veers from sad to hysterical in turn and makes an excellent summer read.

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Scholastic, 978-1407170589

“Robyn Silver: the Midnight Chimes” by Paula Harrison is the story of an ordinary girl, Robyn Silver, who suddenly starts seeing strange creatures that none of her siblings can.  Then when her school is re-located to a local ‘big house’ after a disaster, she discovers that she is a “Chime”; someone born at Midnight who can see creatures from a parallel world and whose role is to keep our world safe.  This is full of action, thrills and adventure but with some very human characters that you really want to succeed.

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Nosy Crow, 978-0857634863

“Rose Campion and the Stolen Secret”by Lyn Gardner is a wonderful Victorian melodrama with orphaned heroines making their way in the theatre, missing heirs and a truly villainous uncle.  This a fantastic read for those who have a love of Sherlock Holmes or the books of Robin Stevens and I am really looking forward to seeing some more stories featuring Rose and her friends.

“Stormwalker” by Mike Revell (Quercus, 978-1784290696) (NG) is yet another amazing story from the author of  “Stonebird” .  The hero Owen lives with his father and it is just over a year since his mother has died.  Owen suggests that his father re-starts writing a novel to help him get over his grief, but what happens next is totally unexpected – Owen finds himself transported into the story as one of the main characters.  Unfortunately the story is a dystopian one and Owen’s alter ego finds that he and those around him are in great danger.  So how can Owen save the characters whilst still helping his dad get better.  this really had me on the edge of my seat and longing to know the outcome.

“The girl from everywhere” by Heidi Heilig (Hot Key books, 978-1471405105)  (NG) Is a fantastic time travel fantasy where the heroine Nix travels through place and time using old maps.  She is part of the crew of an old pirate ship and her father is the captain; his mission in life is to go back and save his wife’s life.  However they can only go to a specific time once and their attempts are also hindered by the wrong maps and some true villains who want their help for ‘nefarious’ purposes.  This was a really original story and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Corgi, 978-0552572507

“The Crooked Sixpence” (The Uncommoners series) by Jennifer Bell.  I really loved this story of an alternate 2016-08-25 14.24.32London called Lundinor, that exists below our own city.  Ivy and her older brother Seb are left alone when their grandmother is admitted to hospital after a fall (both of their parents are away working) and then strange things start happening and they find themselves transported to Lundinor via a  suitcase !  All this is linked to their grandma losing her memory many years before and they face danger and excitement as they try and solve the mysteries.

“Rose in the Blitz” by Rebecca Stevens (Chicken House, 978-1910655542)   is the second in the series about Rose, the first one being “Valentine Joe” when she goes back to the first world war and meets an ancestor.  In this book the link to the past is her grandmother and we are taken back to her life during the London blitz.  It is a really emotional story and the end just about had me in tears.  This really mixes a beautiful story with the reality of life during the war  and I  know I will be recommending it to schools for their libraries.

Every time I write another post I am reminded of how wonderful the world of children’s books is at the moment.  I can only skim the surface of what is being published but I hope that you enjoy the books that I have chosen.  We are about to enter the frenetic period that leads to the big pre-Christmas launches, so there should be some fantastic titles to come; many of them from favourite authors but also some brilliant new talent.I look forward to letting you know about these little gems

 

 

NG With thanks to the publishers and Netgalley for access to the e-proofs.

“Book Island” launch

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Book Island launch

Whilst I am lucky enough to be invited to book launches on a regular basis, it is rare to receive an invite to the launch of an entire publishing enterprise.  However this was the case recently when “Book Island” books held an event to celebrate their arrival in the UK.  Not only that, they are actually based in Bristol.  The company itself is not new, it has been based in New Zealand and this year won an award at the Bologna Book Fair for the ‘Best Children’s Publisher in Oceania’.

The publisher is Greet Pauwelijn who is Belgian by birth but publishes in both English and Dutch.  She specializes in translation of picture books and and give us the opportunity to engage with different styles and attitudes to the genre.  At the moment Greet is showcasing her list and from next year hopes to publish up to eight titles in English and a further group of up to four titles in Dutch.  There has been a lot of interest from the professional press and some really good reviews and I think all of it is very well deserved.

I was lucky enough to get copies of some of her books  and thought that I would share them with you all.

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Book Island, 978994109873

“The Lion and the Bird”  by Marianne Dubuc is a totally enchanting story of two very unlikely friends.  The story itself is one that has been used before, namely a young bird being left behind when the others all begin the long migration in autumn but this interpretation is one of the most sympathetic and moving that I have read.  There are very few words but they are superbly placed to create the necessary impact.  The illustrations themselves are truly magical and the illustrator is not afraid to use the white page in order to create the right atmosphere.  A really amazing book.

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Book Island, 978099412801

“Here comes Mr Postmouse” by Marianne Dubuc is yet another book by this author and stylistically it is very different. In this story we follow the postmouse as he delivers parcels to a large range of animals.  It is very much a case of following the trail, but the illustrations are full of tiny details that we keep discovering and i think children will keep finding new wonders as they re-read the story.  I am looking forward to reading this with my grandson.

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Book Island, 9780994128218

“Fox and Goldfish” by Nils Pieters  is a sombre and yet very lovely story of two friends, one of whom is coming to the end of his life.  When Fox realizes that his friend is coming to the end, he embarks on the trip of a lifetime with Goldfish and they enjoy life and companionship for the final time.  The author has filled the book with bright colour (with some dark pages) and with a tremendous  exuberance for life.  This would be an exceptional read to help young children cope with bereavement.

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Book Island, 9780994109859

“The Umbrella” by Ingrid and Dieter Schubert. In this book the authors have produced a wonderfully visual story with no words.  The pictures are full of action and movement and they blow us along as we follow the adventures of the little dog hero as he clings on to a bright red umbrella.  The story takes us around the world, narrowly escaping disaster on several occasions, until finally we are all brought safely home again.  The expressions found on the dog’s face are a joy to behold.

Good luck to Greet and Book Island and I hope that the United Kingdom does indeed prove to be their own ‘book island’.

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Spring has sprung

One of the joys of spring is finding out what tempting examples of picture books are heading our way.  this year has been no exception and there are loads of fantastic picture books for all ages.  These are just a few of the ones that have taken my eye in the last few months and I hope to be able to bring another selection to you in the near future.

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Andersen Press, 9781783442027

“Lucinda Belinda Melinda McCool” by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross is very much a cautionary tale in the style of Hilaire Belloc or Stanley Holloway’s ‘Albert and the Lion’ and from one of my favourite writing and illustration teams.  Lucinda Belinda is a truly irritating character, who sees it as her duty to beautify those around her and to comment on what people look like.  However when she meets a monster she discovers someone who will not be changed and she learns a very hard lesson.  This is not a story for really young readers, but KS2 will love it.

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Walker, 9781406362473

“Albert’s Tree” by Jenni Desmond is a gentle and humorous story of a bear and his adventures after he wakes from his long winter’s sleep.  It is also about not being scared of the unknown and making friends when you can.  It is beautifully illustrated and a great read for the early years.

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Otter-Barry, 9781910959473

“The Seal Children” by Jackie Morris.  this is a truly beautiful piece of art, something that you always find with Jackie Morris’s books.  It is a story about a small fishing village in Wales and about a Selkie (seal woman) who marries a local fisherman.  There is a melody to the words that link it to the movement of the waves on the shore and you have a real sense of the environment and the characters.

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Andersen Press, 9781783443840

“The adventures of Beekle, the Unimaginary Friend” by  Dan Santat is a magical tale of an imaginary friend called Beekle who goes on an adventure to try and find his one true friend.  The illustrations are beautifully drawn and keep you really engaged with the story.  this is all about friendship and the importance that it has in our lives.

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Frances Lincoln, 9781847807601

“The world famous Cheese Shop break-in” by Sean Taylor and Hannah Shaw.  This is the second book that I have seen recently that featured lots and lots of cheese.  On this occasion the rats are trying to break in to a cheese shop but find that there are lots of problems getting in their way.  The twist at the end will have everyone smiling.

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Otter-Barry, 9781910959527

“I will not wear Pink” by Joyce and Polly Dunbar  is an extravaganza of thoughts about the colour pink, but given that the main characters are pigs it is also about being happy with the skin you are in. The language and illustrations are exuberant and full of rhyme.   This is one of the first titles from the new Otter-Barry imprint and with Janetta Otter-Barry in the driving seat we are in for some wonderful titles.   Really great for story times I am sure.

 

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Andersen Press, 9781783443383

“Life is Magic” by Meg McLaren is a truly wonderful story of a magician, his assistant Houdini and the rest of the group (all of whom are rabbits).  When disaster happens and Monsieur Lapin (the magician) is turned into a rabbit it is up to Houdini (also a rabbit) to save the day. You really need to suspend you disbelief with this book but the illustrations and story are fantastic and will really appeal to young children.

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Andersen Press, 9781783443390

“All aboard for the Bobo Road” by Stephen Davies and Christopher Corr.  this is a truly exuberant story of life in West Africa.  It is full of colour and movement as well as being a window into the life that people are leading.   The journey itself is set in Burkino Faso and you could use the book to introduce children to work about this part of Africa. On top of all this the book is also a counting story as we see the luggage added and then removed from the bus as it travels along.

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Andersen Press, 9781783443635

“Where my feet go” by Birgitta Sif is a look at a day in the life of a small creature, but seen from the perspective of where his feet take him.  It is a gentle and joyful story that is great for reading to the youngest children.

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Little Tiger Press, 9781848690394

“The first Slodge”by Jeanne Willis and Jenni Desmond takes us back to the beginning of the world and how we all had to learn together and understand that the world is for caring and sharing.  This is a very simple story with a very profound message.  A really great read.

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Bloomsbury, 9781408854976

“The Cloudspotter” by Tom McLaughlin is the story of Franklin, a young lonely boy with a love of cloudspotting.  then a scruffy dog starts following him around and even wants to join in with Franklin’s adventures.  The charming ending when the two characters realise the importance of the friendship they have begun to share will appeal to everyone.

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Little Tiger Press, 9781848691933

“Nibbles, the book  Monster” by Emma Yarlett.  When Nibbles the book monster escapes from his cage he creates havoc everywhere. He keeps eating into other books like Goldilocks and Little red Riding Hood and proceeds to change the stories.  The physical book is wonderful with flaps, cut-outs and books within books.  A fantastic read for children and adults alike.

Happy reading to everyone!

 

 

 

 

Building Bridges: Forging Connections and Growing Readers.

This was the Federation of Children’s Book groups Conference which was held over the first weekend in April. It was a very appropriate title not only because the conference was held in Telford, but also because it was about ways that we can connect with young readers and help them develop as reading enthusiasts.

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Exhibition heaven

I finally managed to arrive at the campus (part of the University of Wolverhampton) in time to get to my room and then hit the launch of the publishers’ exhibition at 5.00 pm on the Friday.  As always this is somewhat the height of any conference for me.  It was great to meet up with so many friends and to get a look at some fantastic new titles that are coming in the next few months, but of course this was only the first of many visits over the weekend.

Dinner was then followed by a talk by Katherine Rundell and she had us all mesmerized by her speech, but it was the last section that had many of us near to tears as she paid tribute to her sister and remembered  what it had been like to lose her.  I think we were all honoured that she was able to share her thoughts with us.  The evening finished on a much cheerier note as we took part in the Andersen Press Quiz- and Yaay!!  we eventually won after a tie breaker set of questions.  So thank you to my co-quizzers Zoe Toft, Amy McKay, Tricia Adams and Jo Humphreys-Davis.

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Curtis Jobling and Phil Earle

Saturday started early with the first session being at 9.00 am, thankfully it was a double act with the amazing Phil Earle and Curtis Jobling being chaired by Zoe Toft.  Both of the authors gave us a taste of what they do with groups of children and the room was soon filled with lots of laughter.  At coffee break I was able to start catching up with people and it was great to see Andrew Beasley, the author of the “Ben Kingdom” series, who lives in the south west.

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Harriet and Sara with Julia Bell

The rest of the morning was spent listening to three sessions with some new authors, Sara Bernard and Harriet Reuter Hapgood,  speaking about their teen books, Andy Griffiths talking about his hilarious tree-storey series and Horatio Clare and Mike Revell speaking about their new offerings.  Thankfully we then had a very good buffet lunch,  which was a much higher standard than you often get at conferences.

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Shane Hegarty

The afternoon continued the theme of excellence.  There were three seminars running in parallel, so you had to chose to hear either Joseph Coelho, Pamela Butchart or Shane Hegarty.  Having had the pleasure of meeting Shane last year I decided that it was time I listened to him speak in public and I am happy to say that he more than lived up to expectations.  He spoke about how he came to write children’ s books and his childhood in rural Ireland as well as talking about his amazing series ‘Darkmouth‘, the third part of which is just being published.  The series really is a great read.

Ali Sparkes

Ali Sparkes

We were then treated to the delightful and very talented Ali Sparkes, who had us in stitches with some of the cat images that she had found on the web.  If you ever have the opportunity to have her into your school or library then grab it with both hands as she is such a brilliant speaker.  the day was rounded off by cocktails from Walker Books, although Jill Murphy was ill and unable to attend the celebration for 30 years of “Five Minutes Peace”.  We then had Jenny Downham as the guest speaker at dinner.

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Prue Goodwin and S F Said

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S F Said and Jane Ray

Sunday is often a bit of an anti-climax at some conferences, but that was not the case with this one.  We started off with Daniel Hahn(translator extraordinaire), Jane Ray and S F said in conversation with Prue Goodwin.  This was a remarkably easy going session with all the speakers sharing the subjects and the comments, so there was a real sense of enjoyment for those of us listening.

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Piers Torday

The next event showed Daniel Hahn with one of the other hats that he wears, that of interviewer and he was in discussion with John Boyne who spoke about his new book ” The Boy at the Top of the Mountain” as well as “The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas”.  After coffee and cakes we then had a talk by Piers Torday about his books “The Last Wild” trilogy which takes place in a world where all animals are supposedly killed by a deadly virus.  The final event was a little bit different in that it was given by Anna Conomos who has just won the Jean Russell Storyteller award for 2016.  Not only did Anna enthrall us with her storytelling but she also spoke about the place of story in our history and how it can help people with other parts of their lives.  This was yet another speaker that you know will be great in schools, so I hope we hear a lot more of her in the future.

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John Boyne and Daniel Hahn

I think we all owe a really big thanks to the organizers of this conference which was truly excellent.  The site was more than acceptable, although last year I would have struggled to move between the buildings because of the flights of steps.  However the rooms were fine, the food was good and the company was really lovely.  The publishers were, as always, so friendly and helpful and there were loads of new titles to keep an eye open for.  I am already looking forward to next year.

Welcome to 2016

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Chicken House, 9781910002704

M G Leonard is causing quite a stir with her first book “Beetle Boy” and the attention is very well deserved.  this is the story of Darkus, who has been living with his uncle since his father disappeared. He discovers mysterious goings on next door, including the presence of thousands of exotic beetles.  There are villains and heroes, some of them very unlikely but it really is a cracking story and is set to be a real favourite.  I am lucky enough to be taking her to a couple of schools towards the end of March, so photos will follow hopefully

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Katharine Woodfine

The case of the Jewelled Moth” by Katherine Woodfine is the second in her series featuring the young staff of “Sinclair’s” store in Oxford Street.  This time they are caught up with debutantes and members of London’s China Town as they fight against the villainous character called “The Baron” and try to recover a brooch containing a sacred jewel from China.  As before, there is a real sense of time and place about the book and the characters are growing stronger as the series progresses.  Now I just have to wait for another year until the third title comes out. (NG)

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OUP, 978-0192739384

Nancy Parker’s Diary of Detection” by Julia Lee is a wonderful look at life in the 1930s, but from the perspective of a young girl called Nancy in her first job as a housemaid, but dreaming of becoming a great detective.  Once again we have a nod towards themes from Poirot novels, but this is more rooted in the reality of life for many working class people of the day.  Nancy has lots of dreams but discovers that she will need to work hard to overcome the barriers that she faces.  I am looking forward to reading more about this strong charactered young lady.

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Chicken House, 978-1910002513

“The Great Chocoplot” by Chris Callaghan (illustrated by Lalalimola) is enough to give palpitations to all chocolate loving people.  What would you do if it looked like the world is about to run out of chocolate and Cacao beans were no longer available?  There is a dastardly villain and a heroine called Jelly (Jennifer) who has to undertake a lot of investigations in order to save the world and chocolate.  This is a adventurous and funny story, best read with a chocolate treat at the ready.

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OUP, 9780192743558

“Electrigirl” by Jo Cotterill (Illustrated by Cathy Brett) is an original and exciting story.  It is partially a novel, but interspersed with sections of graphic comic, beautifully illustrated by Cathy Brett.  Holly was just an ordinary girl until the day she was hit by lightening and suddenly found herself with superpowers, with the ability to use the electricity in her body to perform amazing feats.  However there is an evil professor who wants to transfer all of that power to herself, meaning that Holly has a fight on her hands, not only to save herself but also to save the world.  A new super heroine is born.

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Walker books, 978-1406358964

“The Dark Days Club” by Alison Goodman is a new historical novel for teens, but with a large slice of the Gothic and a lot of vampires and other worldly creatures who ‘feed’ on the human world.  Lady Helen discovers that she is part of the small select band of people who are fighting to preserve civilization and she has to decide whether to follow her destiny, or to live a normal society life.  This is a really great story for those who in a previous generation would have been reading Georgette Heyer and who do read Jane Austen.  There is a mix of romance, excitement, and a story-line that keeps you hooked.  The historical background feels real and accurate and I look forward to reading the next set of adventures featuring this character.

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Faber and Faber, 978-0571325252

“Rebel of the Sands” by Alwyn Hamilton is a fantastic new story where the Arabian Nights meets the  Wild West.  When Amani tries to escape the idea of a forced marriage, after the death of her mother, she faces dangers that she had never dreamed of.  It is a teen novel that is full of magic and mystery, where science and myths conflict and the heroine must come to terms with who she is and the legacy she has been born with.  if this is anything to go by then this will be a really cracking and original series.  (NG)

I hope these will give you a taste of the fantastic offerings that are hitting the shelves in the months up to Easter.  Needless to say I am working my way through some more really amazing titles at the moment.

As always many thanks to the publishers and to Netgalley  (NG) for being so generous with titles.

A quiet time before Christmas?

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Claire Barker

Whispers in the walls

HarperCollins, 978-0007589203

As I had been through a fairly hectic period in September and October, I thought that the lead up to Christmas would be a lot quieter; how wrong could I be.  During October and November I worked with publishers to organize school visits for two really great new authors.  In October I took the lovely Claire Barker to four schools where she enthralled the year 3 and 4 children with tales of her new book “Knitbone Pepper, ghost dog”.  Then in December I arranged for Sophie Cleverly to go into another four schools to talk about the second in her series about Scarlet and Ivy, this book is called “The Whispers in the Walls”.  This series is aimed for the 8-12 age group and is full of mystery.  The children thoroughly enjoyed both authors and I am sure that the fan base has increased considerably.

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Sharon Tregenza

Early in November I was able to attend the award ceremony for the  ‘North2015-11-07 16.30.18 Somerset Teachers Book Award’ and it was an opportunity to meet friends such as Huw Powell and Sharon Tregenza (a Facebook friend)and also meet  Sam Gayton and Tom Moorhouse, Thank you to all those involved in this award and in particular Sue Wilsher the energetic organizer.

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Sam Hepburn and Barry Cunningham

At the end of November I spent a lovely day over in Cardiff, where Chicken House publishers were holding a Little Breakfast at which we were invited to hear from five of their authors about upcoming books.  There was Sam Hepburn, Emma Shevah, Linda Davies, M G Leonard and Helen Maslin; a positive cornucopia of talent to look forward to.  It was also great to see several old friends and to catch up with what is going on.

The lead up to Christmas was announced in December by the annual Andersen Press Christmas Party.  This is an event that is not to be missed if at all possible.  There were some amazing people there, all of whom are at the top of their professions as writers and illustrators; which only goes to prove that Andersen knows how to chose which books to publish.

Shifty McGifty

Nosy Crow, 978-0857631466

My final book related event was a week before Christmas, when Tracey Corderoy and Steve Lenton were signing books at Waterstones in Weston-super-mare.  Their adventures of “Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam” are becoming very popular and are really good to read to young audiences.  this was also an opportunity for the two of them to receive the award for the ‘North Somerset Teachers Book Award’ which they won this year.

So much for  a quiet month or so to prepare for the festivities.  However I think I prefer the excitement of meeting all of these amazing people and hearing about the wonderful books that have just come out, or will be arriving in the next few months.  I really am looking forward to what the new year will bring.

Christmas Crackers

Why does a cold always strike when you least want it to?  Thankfully I seem to be getting over the worst of it, but it has meant missing a performance of “Messiah” that we had booked to attend.  We will just have to listen on CD, but it is not quite the same.’  This means that I will have to depends on my books to bring the Christmas spirit into our lives and whilst I have re-read some old favourites, I have also had the chance to read a couple of fantastic new additions.

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Canongate, 9781782117896

The first of these books is one that has taken the children’s book world by storm this year and it is “A boy called Christmas” by Matt Haig.  It is the story of a young boy’s journey to find his father and how he saves relations between elves and humans.  It is also the story of how he gradually becomes the person known as Father Christmas, aka Santa Claus.  A wonderful mix of fairy tale and fantasy that whilst showing the depths of human behaviour also shows how goodness overcomes evil and that it is possible to live happy peaceful lives.  The illustrations are by the truly original and inventive Chris Mould.  I particularly like his front covers for “The Daily Snow”, all of which had me chuckling to myself.

“Snow Sister” by Emma Carroll is a fairly short little story, aimed at the 7-9 year olds.  It is the story of Pearl and her desire to keep the memory of her dead sister Agnes by creating a ‘snow sister’ whenever it snows.   This is a Victorian tale about family and what is really important in life.  Yet again Emma Carroll has produced a story that provided deep satisfaction and a sense of the Christmas season. (NG)

“Reindeer Girl” by Holly Webb is not a direct Christmas story but it deals with the magical events that unfold during Lotta’s visit to her Sami family, especially her grandmother, in Norway.  It is a beautiful story about family and also about caring for the animals we are responsible for.  Holly Webb writes some fantastic books and this has just joined the list of those that the younger reader (7+) will love. (NG)

“The Legend of Holly Claus” by Brittney Ryan, illustrated by Laurel Long is the story of Santa Claus’ daughter and her fight to break a curse that has been placed upon her and the Never land where she and her parents live.  It is an original and very entertaining story that makes a great addition to the pantheon of Christmas stories. (NG)

I first read “Nikolai of the North” by Lucy Daniel Raby when it first came out several years ago and then read the second book in the series.  It is the story of how Nikolai became Father Christmas after defeating the evil Queen Magda, who has killed all of the elves except Nikolai himself. It is a real adventure story

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Nosy Crow, 9780857637413

“Refuge” by Anne Booth, illustrated by Sam Usher is a beautiful and simple retelling of the Christmas story and it reminds us that Jesus was a refugee and had to flee to Egypt as a baby.  It is told in short and clear sentences by the donkey who carried Mary and the baby and the final line is one we should all remember, “…and we found refuge.”

For the younger readers there are some old favourites and some humorous new friends to be made.  Firstly there is “Librarian’s Night before Christmas” by David Davis, illustrated by Jim Harris.  It is based on the original story by Clement C. Moore and tells the story of a librarian working on Christmas Eve and what happens when Santa and his Elves turn up to help.  There are some serious messages underlying the humour and it is a book that will make most librarians chuckle.

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HarperCollins, 9780008164362

Judith Kerr has caused quite a stir with her new “Mog’s Christmas Calamity” which was created as part of the Sainbury’s Christmas advert.  In this adventure our favourite cat manages to create the problem and then save the day for all concerned.  It is a lovely ‘feel good’ story and will join the original “Mog’s Christmas” in becoming a seasonal favourite.

A story that evokes the feelings of Christmas without being about the festival is “Snow” by Sam Usher.  this is the tale of a young boy and his excitement on discovering snow has fallen.  We can positively feel his anguish as he has to wait while his grandfather gets ready to take him to the park.  Eventually they gt out and join all their friends for snowball fights and sledging, so a fantastic time is had by all concerned.

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V&A Publishing, 9781851778584

My final winter choice is a short illustrated story by Lani Yamamoto and it is called “Stina”.  This is an Icelandic story about a young girl who cannot cope with the cold and gradually cuts herself off from the outside world, but even this does not make her feel warm, in fact quite the opposite.  Then one day two children take shelter from a storm and Stina wonders why they are so warm being outside, whilst she is cold in the house.  A lovely story with a strong moral running through it

(NG)  Thanks to the publishers and Netgalley for access to these titles as online proofs.

Glasgow and YLG

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A very nice room

For the first time in quite a few years YLG has returned to Scotland for its conference.  It was held in Glasgow and the venue was the rather incredible Beardmore Hotel; fantastic rooms for all of us and our own major hospital next door.  Even the bills were made out to the Scottish NHS!  There is a long and fascinating story behind all of this, but I had no worries about what to do if I was taken ill. I was only able to go to the event for the Friday and the first half of Saturday and treated myself to a plane flight from Bristol, much better than 6 hours of trains.  It was great to arrive on the Thursday evening and to meet up with lots of friends, especially Bev Humphries, and to just sit and talk about books.2015-10-23 15.42.28

As usual there was a fantastic exhibition and a big thanks goes to all the publishers who travelled to put on such a good show.  So many good friends and some lovely new friends in the making.

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Amazing Grace, 25 years old

The Friday started out with a fascinating plenary session  by Karen McCluskey, the Director of the Scottish Violence reduction Unit, which reminded all of us of the major issue that we face in areas of deprivation.  This was followed by the first of the workshop sessions.  I attended the one run by Paul Register, who founded and runs the Stan Lee Excelsior Award, which is for comics (of the American variety such as X-Men, Superman, not the Dandy and Beano).  It was a great insight into a very popular and yet poorly understood area of young people’s reading and I am sure that many more schools will want to become involved with this award.  After the coffee break and celebration for the 25th anniversary of “Amazing Grace” I attended a workshop lead by Siobhan Parkinson, a past Irish Children’s Laureate and the publisher at Little Island Books, as she spoke about translating children’s books.

The afternoon provided the publishers with a 3 minute slot to promote their future books.  Some were very slick and others more homespun, but they all whetted our appetites for some really amazing books to come.  The third workshop period of the  day was after lunch and I spent an hour learning many things about my iPad that were new to me, despite having had the machine for several years.  I really must try and use it more effectively than I have done.

Author highlights of the weekend included Sarah Crossan talking about “One”  A lovely panel session with illustrators Catherine Rayner, Emily McKenzie, Holly Sterling and Ross Colin, celebrating the launch of a new book 2015-10-23 15.42.19by Andersen Press, “The Prince and the Porker” by David Robert and based on the story “The Prince and the Pauper”  by Mark Twain.

The Saturday morning was taken up by a Graphics novel panel consisting of the stars that are Mel Gibson and Paul Register, together with Liz Payton from the Phoenix magazine, as well as a talk by the very popular Sita Brahmachari.  This was closely followed by discussions with Barbara Band about boys reading and the gender gap and then Barry Cunningham talking to some of his  Chicken House authors, Sam Hepburn and Emma Shevah.  It was a shame that I had to leave at lunchtime and I missed several sessions that I know will have been great as they involved Gill Lewis, Jenny valentine Janetta Otter-Barry and Anna McQuinn.

One of the real joys of going to any conference is the opportunity to meet and talk to like minded people.  Over the years these become friends and you are constantly reminded what a truly friendly and dedicated bunch of people are involved in children’s literature.  I really want to say thank you to all the people involved in organizing the conference, I have that t-shirt and know how much hard work they put in, even though it is so worth while. A big thank you to the publishers for the exhibition, the authors and of course THE CAKE!

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Return to Cheltenham

For the first time in about 10 years I decided to pay a visit to the “Book it” section of the Cheltenham Literature Festival.  This was mainly because I could not fit in all the authors I wanted to see at Bath (I was on duty) and also because it was announced that the amazing Jane Churchill would be stepping down from her role as children’s coordinator at the end of this year.

I decided on the second Sunday of the event because Bath was over and there were several panels of writers that I wanted to see.  Perhaps the nicest thing about the Cheltenham venue is that it is in the Town Hall and on the green, which enables little activities to be taking place outside.  There was a real buzz about the place as children enjoyed learning circus skills, face painting and various other craft subjects.  Luckily the weather was fine and there was a really wonderful atmosphere.

the day started of with a session by Gillian Cross and Sally Nicholls talking about their books  “Shadow Cat” and “An Island of their own”.  The first story is about two young people brought together by circumstances and who form a common bond as they try and save a captive Serval and the second book is about a group of three siblings who are left some jewelry by an elderly aunt, but the catch is that she has hidden it and they have to go on a search.  It was great to hear two such talented writers speaking about their plots and how they came up with their stories.

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Holly Webb and Kate Saunders

I then attended a fascinating session by Holly Webb and Kate Saunders about their respective books which carry on two very famous classic novels.  Holly has written “Return to the Secret Garden”, whilst Kate has given us “Five Children on the Western Front”.  Both books have  a wartime setting, the Western front being WWI and the Secret Garden featuring refugees in WWII.  They are definitely  worth having a read of and provide an added perspective on times gone by.  I have just started reading Holly’s book but I read Kate’s book a while ago and it is a superb read, having been nominated for several awards..

 

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Shoo Rayner

The book tent was full of authors signing books for their fans and I was lucky enough to meet up with Shoo Rayner and then saw Tracey Corduroy and Michael Morpurgo from a distance.  Shoo had been talking about his new book “Dragon White“, which follow on from the previous title “Dragon Gold” and links a modern story with the myths of Wales and Merlin.  It is a similar theme to that used by Sarah Mussi in her book “Here be Dragons”, although her work is for a teen audience.  Shoo’s dragons are great for the younger confident reader.

 

 

 

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Katherine Woodfine

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Robin Stevens

My final event was one that had sold out and several of my friends were quite envious, it felt like having a ‘Golden Ticket’.  This was with Robin Stevens and Katherine Woodfine, both of whom have written brilliant books that I have mentioned in several blogs already.  They are “First Class Murder”, the third in the Wells and Wong mystery series and “The mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow”, the first in a series.  There was great elation when they both announced that new titles will be published in February and March 2016.  From Robin we will see “Jolly Foul Play”  and from Katherine it will be  “The mystery of the Jewelled Moth“.  I can’t wait to read both of them.  There is quite an interest in mixing history and mysteries and these two writers are  excellent examples of the sub-genre.

I must admit that I came away from this day in a bit of a golden glow.  There were so many lovely friends that I had seen and had a chat to as well as listening to some fascinating authors.  Most of all these festivals remind us that there are huge numbers of enthusiastic young readers out there, we just need to make sure that they are being shown books that they will enjoy.  I definitely think that Cheltenham is back on my map, even though my heart is in Bath.