Archive for April, 2011


If ever there was a time to write a sequel to a treasured children’s classic…it’s now. We all want familiarity, we all want fun and we all want escapism.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again is the authorised sequel to Ian Fleming’s only children’s book Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Written by acclaimed children’s author Frank Cottrell Boyce (what a fantastic choice) and illustrated by Joe Berger, the new book due to be published by Macmillan Children’s Books on November 4th 2011, follows the adventures of the Tooting family who attach a very familiar engine to their rusty, not-so-trusty old camper van.

“When the Tooting family find a vast abandoned engine and fit it to their old camper van, they have no idea of the adventure that lies ahead. The engine used to belong to an extraordinary magical flying car – and it wants to get back on the road again… fast! The Tootings can tug the steering wheel and pull the handbrake as hard as they like, but their camper van now has a mind of her own. It’s not long before they’re hurtling along on a turbocharged chase as Chitty tracks down her long-lost bodywork. But there are sinister forces at work too. When it comes to a car as special as Chitty everybody wants a piece of her… ”

I received a proof copy last week. I didn’t know it was coming so you should have seen my face when it dropped through the letter box. A book of pure fun, let me tell you. The review will be up closer to publication.

I just wanted to let everyone know that yes, the hype it worth it!

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again will be published by Macmillan Children’s Books on 4th November 2011, £12.99 HB 9780230757738

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In a children’s book, the world can be anything you want it to be.

I think that’s part of what draws me back into children’s literature time and time again; why I go straight to the kids section when I walk into a book store, and why I spend far too much of my money discovering wondrous characters and fleeting adventures.

I was chatting with Kate Wilson the other day, MD of children’s publisher Nosy Crow and she asked if my interests were with fiction  or illustrated work – the answer was clear; illustrated. I so often recall a fond memory with the visual elements of a book. Thinking back…I do it all the time.

When I rediscovered Usborne’s First Experience series ‘Going to School’, it was the iconic illustration of the two children at school enjoying a break time snack of cookies and juice in amongst their craft making which brought everything back.  And when I found Jill Murphy’s ‘Five Minutes Peace’ in the loft, it was Mrs Large enjoying a huge slice of cake which brought the initial smile to my face.

Sometimes, a story needs pictures. That little something that connects us with what we’re reading- almost anthropomorphising characters which are otherwise just written text. That’s not to say that a story can’t hold it’s own just as a text…quite the opposite. It’s that a story can be so hauntingly beautiful or meaningful or just plain crazy, that it deserves to be forever animated, to honour its talent and imagination.

As Kate Wilson said, there’s a fine line between a picture and an illustration. The drawing has to go hand in hand with story being told. There are some wonderful successes with this notion. Just look at Oliver Jeffers’ Lost and Found…is there anything more iconic than that wonderful little boy and his friend the penguin?

Or the Gruffalo, oh yes that terrible creature with terrible claws and terrible teeth in his terrible jaws (by the way, he’s not that terrible, he sits quite happily guarding my bookcase with his beady orange eyes). Julia Donaldson has said that she doesn’t really communicate with illustrator Axel Scheffler when they work together. She writes the story and hands him the script and he bring the story to life. It’s truly a wonderful thing to see books like The Gruffalo become so iconic that when children come into the store and see the Gruffalo toy, their faces light up and they shout out lines from the book.

Having household names in children’s books, in particular picture books, is important for children to discover their likes and dislikes and latch on to something they like and to progress from there. But it’s equally important to discover something new, something that stops you in your tracks because it’s different and can only be described as imagination.

And that’s where Book Trust’s ‘Best New Illustrator’s Award comes in. It is a celebration of talented new illustrators and the talent on show here is just astounding. Take a look for yourself on the Book Trust website http://www.booktrust.org.uk/Prizes-and-awards/Best-New-Illustrators-Award

There’s a complete array of style on show; from the graphic design inspired to exotic, abstract colourings- it’s all just wondrous to look at and many of the final 10 have already had their illustrations published.

This award is just an honest celebration of great talent, bringing even more imagination into the wonderful world of children’s books.

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If ever there was a book that could warm the coldest of hearts…this is it. Every once in a while, when putting out books at work, I come across a children’s book which makes me stop what I’m doing to read it…

Hugless Douglas is an adorable picture book about a bear called Douglas. He’s a big bear with an even bigger heart and wants to share his love. When he wakes up one day needing a hug (we all have days like that) he sets about finding the right person for the job and yet no one quite fits the bill. As I write this, I am reminded of the wonderful similarity to Goldilocks and the Three Bears and indeed, many nursery rhymes and fairy tales in which the story follows many twists and turns until we end up on the right path.

Douglas encounters big rocks, countless sheep, owls and rabbits but something just isn’t right. In the end, it’s the kindness from a little rabbit which leads Douglas to the best hugger of all…but who could it be?

I think the best part of this book is the hilarious and charming final page spread explaining all the different types of hugs there are…with the unwitting sheep acting as guinea pigs!

Hugless Douglas by David Melling is published by Hodder Children’s Books, £5.99 9780340950630

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Yesterday at work, a customer saw a leaflet we had on display advertising the e-readers we sell. He wasn’t the first person of the day to ask me if we sell many of them. My answer was simple. We sold a lot at first, when the initial interest was high but now, we don’t sell as many as other cometition has emerged. Digital publishing is still a very new format and the way we react to it is reliant on a lot of things. I didn’t want to appear for or against the e-reader and digital publishing because I am very objective in my opinion about them and can see the good and bad sides of them – especially when children’s publishing is concerned.

A few years ago, when the publishing industry was in a frenzy and at a loss of how to make e-readers work for them; everyone was debating how on earth digital publishing would be applicable in children’s publishing. I myself was fresh out of university and with a very young and naive view of publishing having just started the long, long journey in getting an entry level job role. Children’s publishing is my main interest and so I have always been keen to keep up with daily developments in this trade. Publishers were wary in expressing their concerns for the industry. They didn’t want to write off digital publishing but had absolutely no idea how to incorporate it into their businesses.

It’s all gone by in a digitally enhanced haze and the only major things I can recall is a publisher claiming they were working on a touch and feel app and the first teen e-books being published.

The customer I spoke to yesterday was quite clear in his opinions. He doesn’t like e-books. He said he wasn’t a technophobe, he works at a computer all day and is quite computer literate. And yet, I can’t help but feel the way he dismissed the e-readers without even looking at them was a reaction to fear of the unknown. And this fear stems from the widely shared opinion that it’s got to be one or the other – the e-reader or the paperback book. It doesn’t.

Julia Donaldson’s recent comments regarding her refusal to have her world famous picture books published as e-books have re-flamed the ongoing debate of whether digital publishing is actually good for children, never mind the industry. After the self-confessed luddite customer left, my colleague and I discussed how important it is that we connect to our childhood books. We have an individual connection to each and every book we see on our book shelves…where we read it, what we felt, what we relate it to. We can physically delve in to a pop-up, touchy feely book and escape the grip of the snappy crocodile in Peter Pan. That physical touch of slowly turning a page in trepidation of what’s to come next or hastily reading to the final pages to discover if Harry Potter survives is so, so important to a connection with our emotions.

But equally important is the experience of new things and sharing them. It was actually the Nosy Crow app-trailer for their award winning app The Three Little Pigs which made me realise what digital publishing has to offer children. It has been suggested that the joy of reading and learning and feeling is gone if you just stick an iPad in front of a child and leave them to it. Well, that’s not the iPad’s fault, that’s the parents and their choice if that’s how they want their child’s reading experience to be. The Nosy Crow trailer introduces a notion of a whole new world of possibility that children can share with their parents and friends and there is interaction of story to child more so than ever.

Whilst equally the children revel in pressing snazzy buttons on a smart piece of technology, they’re also producing a reaction and reading…almost producing a book themselves. There’s so much possibility out there and these apps and so forth are testament to that. Achieved in merely a few years, I’m excited to see what the next few years bring.

Just don’t forget your slightly tattered, bitten, chewed favourite books on your book shelf. I treasure them so much, both in my memories and my ability to still creakily open a copy of Little Women and read until my heart is content. For now I’m happy to have an e-reader for holidays, an iPhone on my bedside table and my trusted books precariously balanced on my bookshelf.  

To read the article in which Julia Donaldson refused to let The Gruffalo be published as an ebook, click on this link


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Published today by Nosy Crow, and part of a brand new series; Pip and Posy are two adorable little friends who are bound to bring a smile to your face.

Axel Scheffler has branched out from his usual collaboration with Julia Donaldson and produced two wonderful stories that will introduce themes of friendship, love and sharing to young children. There is something so familiar and reassuring about Axel’s illustrations and the gentle drawings of green parks and blue skies reassure that when it comes down to it…it’s the simple things in life that matter.

In ‘Pip and Posy: The Super Scooter’ Pip is very lucky and has got a brand new scooter to play with. When Posy comes along, she wants to play and runs off with it. But she has never been on a scooter before and when she tries to copy Pip’s tricks, it all goes horribly wrong. Will Pip be too angry with Posy to help her out or will he realise that every friendship has its falling outs and come to Posy’s aid?

Being a young children’s book, this of course has a moral and a very important one too and I think the tale will resound particularly with parents of more than one child as they learn to share and grapple with growing up.

In ‘Pip and Posy: The Little Puddle’ Pip ends up having an accident after drinking too much during snack time and forgets to go to the potty. Pip is very embarassed but Posy, being the lovely, kind friend that she is, reassures Pip that everyone has accidents from time to time and makes him feel a lot better.

Like The Super Scooter, this is a reassuring tale which many parents can use as a learning tool when teaching young ones about using the potty. It is a charming tale told without fuss or cause for embarassment and who could possibly resist the beauty of Pip and Posy’s friendship?

Both Pip and Posy books are published by Nosy Crow this April, priced £8.99 as HB padded books.

(9780857630056 – The Super Scooter)

(9780857630049 – The Little Puddle)

Do check out the wonderful Nosy Crow website for other great children’s books www.nosycrow.com

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I just had to give a link to this fantastic debut by Paula Rawsthorne which is due to be published by Usborne this autumn!

As far as book trailers go, this looks pretty good and I can’t wait to read it. Hurry up, autumn.

“Celia Frost is a freak. At least that’s what everyone thinks. Her life is ruled by a rare disorder that means she could bleed to death from the slightest cut, confining her to a gloomy bubble of “safety”. No friends. No fun. No life. But when a knife attack on Celia has unexpected consequences, her mum reacts strangely. Suddenly they’re on the run. Why is her mum so scared? Someone out there knows – and when they find Celia, she’s going to wish the truth was a lie… A buried secret; a gripping manhunt; a dangerous deceit: what is the truth about Celia Frost? A page-turning thriller that’s impossible to put down.”

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