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Articles tagged with: best books for boys

Why do boys love dinosaurs?

Posted by Nosy Crow Blog on Feb 26, 2014

Today’s guest post is by Kim Werker, a Vancouver-based writer and editor.

I remember learning about dinosaurs and fossils when I was in kindergarten. I had such a romantic fascination with them. How disappointing to learn only a few years ago that the beloved brontosaurus really should go by another name.

Maybe it’s our never having encountered an actual dinosaur that makes them so fascinating. Or maybe it’s their storied size. Or maybe it’s literature, which so vividly imagines and personifies them for us from the time our eyes can focus on the page.

My nostalgia for my childhood love of dinosaurs took on new depth when I walked into my local library with my two-and-a-half-year-old son Owen a few months ago, and listened as he belched out his first capital-I important question to the poor woman behind the desk who seemed as stuck for an age-appropriate answer as I was. “Why dinosaurs are essinct?” he asked. She blanched.

Though I took his question seriously and embarked on a fairly fruitless search for books that tackle such a question satisfactorily for a reader who has understanding neither of time nor death, I quickly learned that fictional dinosaurs satisfy his curiosity just as well. I’ll leave him to decide when he’s a little older whether to have nightmares about balls of fire crashing into Earth.

My childhood interest in dinosaurs was different than Owen’s. At just three, he can name a dozen species on sight (I never went beyond the most common handful). He is a cataloguer of his interests in a way my friends lead me to believe is typical of their sons, too. Before they’re potty trained, these boys school us on the differences between backhoe loaders, skid steer loaders and excavators. It leads me to wonder why. Why is there such a stereotype about boys and vehicles and dinosaurs and sport balls? Why does my son embody the stereotype so fully when I tried so hard from the beginning to expose him to things like unicorns and rainbows? Why does he correct my mislabels of bulldozers while he shows no interest in princes or princesses?

It seems a young child’s interests are all or nothing. Owen loves dinosaurs, every sort of vehicle, Busytown, land animals and sea creatures. About other things he may show interest for a few minutes at a time, but when it comes to these very stereotypically boyish things he is known to spend an entire hour moving from zooming toy cars to flipping through a book about trains to flying a helicopter through the air to putting out pretend fires to squealing for me to protect him from a hungry T. Rex.

I try to talk to him about princes and princesses, and he changes the subject. I offered once to make him a tutu after he commented on a little girl wearing one in the grocery store. He put his hand on my arm, looked at me without a hint of humour, and said in a quiet voice, “No tutus.”

One evening, when my brother phoned for help buying Owen a book for his birthday, our conversation went something like this:

Me: “Go find a display of picture books and tell me about one that jumps out at you.”

Him: “Mmm. There’s one here with cupcakes on the cover. It looks cool. Exciting.”

Me: … “What else do you see?”

Him: Shuffles around, muttering under his breath. “Well, there’s one here with a dinosaur driving a fire truck, and–“

Me: “Stop right there. He’ll love it. Doesn’t matter what’s inside.”

Helping an uncle buy a good gift is different from a parental desire to expose one’s child to great stories, delightful art and skillful writing. I admit I had low expectations for the quality of this book my brother found, such is my experience of books banking on gendered stereotypes, but I also know that a book involving both dinosaurs and rescue vehicles would be a sure hit, which is what a gift from an uncle to his nephew should be.

Imagine our collective delight when we discovered that the book, Dinosaur Rescue, by Penny Dale, is actually gorgeously illustrated and skillfully written. There isn’t a hint of lazy pandering in it. And imagine our further delight when we discovered she’s writing a series of books that involve dinosaurs and vehicles. We’ve since added Dinosaur Zoom! into frequent rotation.

Going to the library with Owen, I’ve become humbled by the importance of book covers for children’s books. He cannot read, but he navigates the low shelves of picture books with the discerning eye of a kid who knows exactly what he wants. Pulling books half off the shelf as he goes, he only stops when he sees one of his stereotypical interests – a train, a race car, a dinosaur, a spaceship. Only once in his life has he pulled out a pink title (and even that one was more of a muted purple).

Determined to raise a son who doesn’t shun things that are “girly”, I’m frequently at a loss in the face of his dogged determination to ignore all the other stereotypes I try to nudge in his direction. At a loss, but no less fascinated by it. I look forward to seeing how his interests evolve as he grows up.

Evolution. There’s a topic we’ll no doubt have fun exploring together in books.

Thank you for sharing this, Kim! Kim’s next book, Make It Mighty Ugly, is due out in September. She occasionally writes a blog called A Short Read about her adventures reading with her three-year-old, and you can find more of her work at www.kimwerker.com. Dinosaur Rescue, the third book in Penny Dale’s dinosaur series, is out now – you can take a look inside below.

Order the book online.

Perfect Christmas book (and app) gifts for children of different ages from Nosy Crow: a post for Cyber Monday

Posted by Kate on Dec 02, 2013

Tom has pretty much refused to write this blog post, on the basis that “Cyber-Monday” is a dreadful old nonsense, and a US import Against Which We Should Take A Stand. But, as I pointed out, he is young, while I am an old and tired mum who is currently running two colour-coded spreadsheets for Christmas presents alone (one of things – often books – that we are giving, and one of things – often books – that we are suggesting to people asking about gifts that we would particularly welcome). I think that we all need all the reasonably-priced, will-last-beyond-26-December, easy-to-wrap present suggestions that we can get.

Though I am using Cyber Monday as a sort of hook for this blog post, I am not, though, suggesting that you order online, necessarily. Most of these books should be available in your local bookshop. And there is no nicer shopping experience than a local bookshop around Christmas.

Anyway, today, I am going to be shamelessly full-on and commercial and give you my recommendations age-by-age for Nosy Crow children’s books and apps. Selected from the 100-odd books (and 10 apps) we have published in our first three years of existence (a number that still seems astonishingly huge to me, to be honest), here are some books that I think would sit nicely under the tree or in a stocking. The books all have recommended retail prices between £4.99 and £10.99.


Noodle Loves to Cuddle, which has found a fan in this mum blogger and her baby, is the bestseller in our Noodle series of touch-and-feel board books. I put this down to the blanket flap half-way through the book under which Noodle, the mischievous panda, is hiding.


Bizzy Bear: Fun on the Farm is one of the strongest sellers in this series of sturdy toddler tab board books. And there’s an app. If you are dealing with a toddler who likes vehicles, Bizzy Bear: Fire Rescue might be a better bet, and if you are looking for something for someone who’s more of a soft-toy sort of a person, then Tiny Tabs: Bunny Boo might fit the bill.


Pip and Posy is pretty top-notch for this age group, I think. These books gently explore the emotional turbulence of toddler life in deceptively simple stories and they are illustrated by the incomparable Axel Scheffler. As The Guardian said, “Scheffler’s talent at portraying the trials and tribulations of early childhood in this series is second to none.” In particular, Pip and Posy: The Snowy Day has a nicely seasonal feel. Again, there’s an app.


Dinosaur- and vehicle-lovers will think that Dinosaur Dig! was made for them – as The Guardian said, “For the prehistoric speed freak, this is a roaring delight”. Meanwhile, Troll Swap, currently shortlisted for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize, celebrates being true to who you are, even if that means that you are someone who would “rather pick her nose than a flower any day of the week”. The Sunday Times said, “Funny and full of vim, the book has an exhilarating mix of childlike drawings, elegant design and jokes about burps”.


Just Right for Christmas is all about the joy of giving at Christmas, and it has a little bit of an eco-twist: the things that aren’t useful to one person (or animal) turn out, with a little creativity, to be just right for another. The Sunday Telegraph said, “It’s hard to find a Christmas book that’s about giving without coming across all preachy (you can’t fool kids: Christmas is about receiving) but Just Right by Birdie Black and Rosalind Beardshaw delivers a warm glow with its waste-not-want-not message. The story follows a roll of cloth – “so red and soft and Christmassy” – as it makes a cloak for a princess with the leftover scraps passing down a human/animal hierarchy until it becomes a scarf for a mouse.” If you’re looking for something less Christmas-themed, then Open Very Carefully, a book about… well, a book, and a crocodile stowaway, is one of those books that I talk about when I am discussing what print and the page do that’s different from what a screen does. The same is true of Axel Scheffler’s Flip Flap Farm, a split page book we’ve struggled to keep in print this autumn. There’s an app too, though, which allows for a direct page-to-screen compare-and-contrast.


I think that children of 5 and 6 are absolutely not too old for picture books. If you agree, then Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam would be a good bet. The Telegraph chose it as a book of the year, saying “Corderoy’s rich, rhyming text is a pleasure to read aloud and the ending got a big laugh in my house”. For pernicketty princess types, The Princess and the Peas which won the Oldham Key Stage 1 Book Prize last week, is a funny (not-at-all-gruesome) cautionary tale, which MIGHT encourage a child to tackle Christmas Day sprouts, but we’re not promising anything…


Weasels, described by The Telegraph as “insanely brilliant” and currently both shortlisted for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize and nominated for the Greenaway Award, is a picture book that I think works particularly well for children of six and over, because of its design, the density of the illustrations and, honestly, because of the joke that’s at its heart. By the time children are six and older, though, we they are often able to deal with a different balance of text and illustrations and are easing their way into novels. Hubble Bubble: The Great Granny Bake-off should make them laugh, and, like the Hubble Bubble picture books makes a great grandparent gift. Independent readers, I find, really love a series at this age (if they’re putting in the time and effort required of early independent reading, they rather like the guarantee that a book is going to be similar enough to one they’re enjoyed to warrant the investment), and Vulgar The Viking: The Rock Cake Raiders or Rescue Princesses: The Secret Promise are both great places to start… and unlike many series, they’re each written by one author.


The pull of series continues, I think, for many children in this age-group. Space Pirates: Stowaway is a great, roistering, funny adventure series. And Zoe’s Rescue Zoo: The Lonely Lion Cub is perfect for animal lovers.


The Grunts in Trouble is the first of the titles in The Grunts series, described by The Telegraph as the “21st-century Twits”. Funny, silly, quirky, the books are by Philip Ardagh and illustrated by Axel Scheffler. The second book in the series is currently shortlisted for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize, and there’s a free app.


Danny Danger and the Cosmic Remote is light-hearted gadgetty adventure that might appeal to a Doctor Who fan. Lyn Gardner’s Olivia books are deliciously traditional stage-school stories with appeal to the same kids who are watching X-factor. They attract an extraordinarily loyal following.


Recommended by Julia Donaldson and Michael Morpurgo and described by The Daily Mirror as a “fabulous debut”, The Secret Hen House Theatre explores family and friendship in a story that has warmth, drama and an extraordinary sense of place – a quintessentially British farm. If your recipient likes a laugh, then My Best Friend and Other Enemies, described as “hilarious” by Harry Hill and “properly funny” by The Independent, is a cleverly-observed story of managing mean girls by a stand-up comic.


Twelve Minutes to Midnight has an end-of-the-year setting… though the year in question is 1899. Spooky and atmospheric, it’s set in a wintry post-Dickensian London. This is, again, a good book for a Doctor Who fan. And if you like the first book, the second in the series, Shadows of the Silver Screen was described by The Telegraph as “a serious (and playful) intelligent historical thriller for children.”

If the child you’re buying for has access to an iPad (or iPhone, or iPod Touch), our multi-award-winning apps, which can be given as gifts, are very rich reading experiences to which children return again and again. The apps are priced between £0.69 and £3.99.


I’ve mentioned one of our Bizzy Bear apps, which, as it’s suitable for toddlers, is the youngest app we have.

I’ve also mentioned the Pip and Posy app, which is suitable for 2 to 4 year-olds.


The Flip Flap Farm app is funny and silly.


For curious 5 to 7 year olds, our Rounds apps provide lots of information (who knew that frogs crush their food against the back of their eyeballs?) with a lot of interactive fun. Rounds; Parker Penguin is nicely seasonal, and has just won the FutureBook Children’s Digital Book/App prize.

For 5 year-olds and over (and adults find them pretty compelling too, in our experience), our Fairy Tale apps are brilliantly interactive reading experiences, and the most recent, and, in my view, spectacular one, is Little Red Riding Hood.

It was hard making this selection, and I am painfully aware there are many books we publish, and that I think would make great gifts, that I left out of this particular list. And, it is, of course, hard to be terribly age-specific, particularly as children get older: one eight year-old is not the same as another eight year-old in reading ability or interest. But if these books don’t seem quite right for the child you have in mind, you could search other books we’ve published by age-group or genre (board books, activity books, novelty books, picture books and fiction).

Nearer Christmas, we’ll be doing a blog post about the books we all hope to receive, and those we’ll give, this Christmas.

Our favourite funny books

Posted by Tom on Nov 06, 2012

It’s Roald Dahl Funny Prize day and a crowd of crows are off to the award ceremony to support Simon Puttock and Nadia Shireen, shortlisted for the brilliant (and very funny) The Baby That Roared.

And in honour of today’s prize, we’ve all been thinking about our favourite funny books. I can’t think of a harder sort of writing to do well (particularly when it’s for a very young reader) and I’m extraordinarily envious of anyone who’s up to the task. There are, it struck us, a healthy number of funny books on the Nosy Crow list itself:

The Grunts in Trouble is the very funny first book in the new series by Funny Prize-winning author Philip Ardagh and Pip and Posy illustrator Axel Scheffler. The Sunday Times wrote that, “Axel Scheffler’s illustrations impart a quirky comic charm to Ardagh’s daft and comic story about the Grunts, whose silliness and bad behaviour are in the tradition of Roald Dahl’s Twits and Andy Stanton’s Mr Gum.”
My Best Friend and Other Enemies by Catherine Wilkins is a hilarious, knowing debut that will have you positively laughing at loud. But don’t take out word for it… Harry Hill called it “hilarious”.
★ The Vulgar the Viking series is perfect material for young fiction readers – funny, silly and anarchic.
★ The Mega Mash-Up and Magical Mix-Up series, by Nikalas Catlow and Tim Wesson and Marnie Edwards and Leigh Hodgkinson respectively, are both great for reluctant readers – hilarious combinations of fiction and doodle books with proper stories and great characters.
Goldilocks and Just the One Bear by Leigh Hodgkinson is a very clever fractured fairytale with a hilarious twist, newly longlisted for the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal.
★ And of course, The Baby that Roared – our first Funny Prize-shortlisted book!

And here are some of our other choices:

Kate – who could not restrict her selection to fewer than four titles – chose You’re a Bad Man, Mr. Gum! by Andy Stanton, Rosie’s Walk by Pat Hutchins, The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith, and Not Now, Bernard by David McKee.

Louise, demonstrating a more admirable level of restraint, picked Pants, by Giles Andrea and Nick Sharratt.

Kristina has nominated The Great Dog Bottom Swap by Peter Bently and Mei Matsuoka.

Shelly (who’s temping with us for a little while) chose the darkly funny I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen.

And a few of my own favourites are The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, our upcoming picture book Weasels, by Elys Dolan (it is HILARIOUS) and – by the master himself – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl.

What are your favourite funny children’s books? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!

A best-of blog

Posted by Tom on Oct 11, 2012

Google Image Search results for our blog

It’s (relatively) quiet in the office this week, with one contingent of crows in Frankfurt for the book fair and another taking well-earned rests after all the preparations leading up to it, which means, among other side-effects, that I find myself listening to more Radio 4, and that there’s less to talk about here on the blog. So, in the time-honoured fashion of the sitcom struggling for ideas one week, we thought we’d do a clip show post!

This is actually, if I may be a little more serious for a moment, a blog we have been meaning to post for some time, and now seemed like a good opportunity. Intrepid explorers of this website may have uncovered our blog archive, but for everyone else, this might be a good place to start for posts on certain subjects: a curated space with some useful, interesting (we hope!) writing, mostly from the last year.

Posts for writers
Advice on writing (and selling) rhyming picture book texts
Tips from many of us at Nosy Crow on writing all sorts of children’s books

Posts for illustrators
What does a book designer do? A post by our Head of Design, Stephanie Amster
Some of the stages involved in making an illustrated book

Posts for people interested in apps
This is actually quite an old post, but one I find myself referring to often – and nothing much in it has changed since. Some of our earliest thoughts about apps and publishing
Using apps in schools
How we make children’s apps
Building an audience for our apps – an experiment

Posts for people interested in children’s literacy
Thoughts on the debate between print versus on-screen reading
Should we pay children to read?
Books that beg to be read

Posts for people interested in children’s publishing in general
What is a publisher for?
Small publishers versus large – which is better?
How publishers pay their authors and illustrators
The importance of selling foreign rights

And finally, some posts recommending books for different groups
The best books for 10 year old girls
…And the best books for 10 year old boys
Books for 7 year old boys
And books we haven’t outgrown
Back to school reading…
Halloween reading…
The best fathers in literature…
And finally, some great Easter-themed books

Phew! Looking back on all this, it strikes me once again how fantastic a resource this blog has been for us: a great place to begin conversations with readers, parents, authors and illustrators, and all sorts of other interested parties. Thank you to everyone who’s joined in with the many discussions we’ve started here – we hope you stick around!

Meet the Grunts

Posted by Tom on Sep 18, 2012

Only this morning Kate blogged about a live video interview on Big Book Babble featuring The Grunts author Philip Ardagh and illustrator Axel Scheffler… and it’s not over for The Grunts yet today, because we’re also launching their brand new website, www.meetthegrunts.com!

It’s just the beginning for the site – and there’ll be more lots more to come – but already you can learn about the series and its creators, read excerpts from the first book, The Grunts in Trouble, download lots of fun stuff (including a character quiz, stick-on beard, word searches, and more), and watch films of Philip and Axel. Here are two of the latest videos, of Axel drawing the main characters – Mr and Mrs Grunt and their adopted son, Sunny – and Philip and Axel being interrupted mid-interview by some unwelcome guests…

And don’t forget, there’s also a free game app for the books, The Grunts: Beard of Bees, which you can find on the App Store here – build a buzzing beard of bees for Mr Grunt!

If you haven’t read The Grunts in Trouble yet, you can buy it online here.

Have fun exploring their new home!

A fiction bonanza!

Posted by Kirsty on Sep 06, 2012

It’s our busiest publication day ever – as well as our hat-trick of picture books, we have a further FOUR books out today. There’s something for every possible taste…

Kate’s worked with Philip Ardagh over the years and Kate’s worked with Axel for more years than either of them care to remember, but, though Philip and Axel knew one another, they’d never worked together. So when Kate began discussing the possibility of Philip writing a series of books for Nosy Crow, Axel’s name quickly came up as the dream illustrator.

THE GRUNTS IN TROUBLE is the first book in a brand new series. The combination of Philip’s Roald Dahl Funny Prize-winning writing wit, and Axel’s best-selling character visualising and humour, makes for a very funny and very silly read.

We’ve had a nice clutch of reviews for the book already. As well as being a Sunday Times Children’s Book of the Week, The Telegraph described the book as “Gloriously repulsive … as always with Ardagh, there is the clever word-play, irony and plain silliness that make his books such fun …. To add to the enjoyment, the book is full of wonderfully incisive and daft illustrations by Axel Scheffler.” Meanwhile, The Guardian said, “Their adventures are as unsavoury as they are entertaining, as Axel Scheffler’s illustrations wittily show. Fans of Andy Stanton’s Mr Gum and Roald Dahl’s The Twits will delight in this disgusting but amiable family.”

So go on, meet the Grunts. They’re not that bad. No, actually, they ARE. Maybe worse, even…

Watch Philip read from the book:

Read chapter one of The Grunts in Trouble:

Buy the book online.

Even Vikings have to go back to school, and for a certain small boy, the long Nordic days of summer are over. In the third in the hilarious series for six years and up, VULGAR THE VIKING AND THE SPOOKY SCHOOL TRIP, Vulgar is set to return to the classroom to learn about basket-weaving and growing vegetables. How he longs for the good old days of raiding and pillaging, when Vikings didn’t grow vegetables, they just took everyone else’s! But this term, something’s different – his boring teacher is off sick and they’ve got Otto the Bone-Cruncher instead! He’s a proper Viking, and he’s taking them on a proper school trip!

His head full of sword fighting and roaring, Vulgar sets off in fine fettle. But after a very long, damp walk up a mountain and a tea of roasted slugs, Vulgar’s not so sure about ‘the good old days’ of Viking hardship. He’d actually quite like his comfy bed and his mum’s famous burnt toast for breakfast. Still, he does get to tell his most excellent scary story round the camp fire. It’s a good one, all about flesh-eating trolls who prey on defenceless campers. Vulgar tells it so well, and in such disgusting detail, that even Otto goes pale. And then runs off screaming into the night.

How will the school trip end, now that the proper Viking’s done a runner just as the trolls are closing in? There’s only one way to find out…

Held og lykke, Vulgar, and keep looking behind you…

Read chapter one of Vulgar the Viking and the Spooky School Trip:

Buy the book online.

Having a best friend when you’re an eleven-year-old-girl can be a mine-field. One minute, you’re arm-in-arm, a united front, an unbreakable unit, and the next, it’s over and you’re out in the cold. Dumped. Excluded. And probably thoroughly miserable.

This is what happens to Jessica, the hugely likeable heroine of Catherine Wilkin’s laugh-out-loud debut, MY BEST FRIEND AND OTHER ENEMIES. Does she take her best friend Natalie’s appalling behaviour lying down? No, she does not. She fights back, with an armoury of wit, determination and Lego pirates, as well as her ability to draw excellent satirical cartoons. Truly, the pen is mightier than a bunch of girls being mean to each other.

When Natalie chums up with evil new girl, Amelia, Jessica finds herself left out of all the fun trips to fast-food outlets, cheesy boy-band gigs and crazy sleepovers. But worst of all, she’s not invited to join their secret gang, Cool Awesome Chicks, or C.A.C. for short. Jessica pointing out that this sounds like ‘one of the milder swear words for poo’ does not help things:

‘I feel like I’ve been dumped, and Natalie and Amelia have just announced their engagement. Which I suppose is kind of what’s happened.

I feel a bit like I’ve been on the verge of being dumped for ages. In some ways this is better. Oh, this is so not better. I feel sick. I honestly can’t work out if I feel more hurt or angry. Maybe this is the feeling my mum is describing when she says, “This is the living end!”

Well, you know, I can be dignified in defeat. Probably. “Thanks for giving me the full picture,” I say. “I will leave you two to it.”

As soon as I’m out of the room I run straight to the toilets and lock myself in a cubicle. Oh dear. What am I going to do now? Seriously. What am I going to do? I could stay here in the toilets and cry, I suppose; that’s always an option. But that will only take me up to one-fifteen, and then I’ve still got history. What am I going to do? This really is the living end…’

Jessica is a great character and you don’t stop rooting for her throughout. There’s one point (and I won’t spoil it for you) where I found myself punching the air and crying gleefully, “Take that, Amelia!” which made my Tube journey even more uncomfortable than it already was.

Catherine Wilkins has written a brilliant book, and Sarah Horne’s illustrations are brilliant, too. But don’t take my word for it, it’s OUT TODAY!

Read chapter one of My Best Friend and Other Enemies:

Buy the book online.

And last but by no means least, today’s the day the second book in the incredible MAGICAL MIX-UPS series – part illustrated fiction, part innovative doodle-book – publishes.

In Magical Mix-Ups: Friends and Fashion, written by Marnie Edwards and illustrated by Leigh Hodgkinson, best friends Princess Sapphire and Emerald the Witch enter a fashion-design competition (well, Sapphire enters and brings Emerald along with her). All the outfits get in a TERRIBLE mix-up and muddle, and Sapphire and Emerald can’t sort it out on their own – they need you! Doodle, design and draw while you read and make the world of fashion as magical as it can be!

Read chapter one of Magical Mix-Ups: Friends and Fashion:

Buy the book online.

Congratulations to all our authors and illustrators on their publication day!

Early reviews for The Grunts in Trouble

Posted by Tom on Aug 28, 2012

It’s not out until next week, but already, The Grunts in Trouble, the first book in the brand new series by Philip Ardagh and Axel Scheffler, is getting some great reviews.

Last month we wrote about an early review for the book in The Guardian. Over the weekend, it was reviewed by Martin Chilton for The Telegraph and Nicolette Jones for The Sunday Times, and they both loved it. It was even named The Times’ Children’s Book of the Week!

Martin wrote:

“Gloriously repulsive … as always with Ardagh, there is the clever word-play, irony and plain silliness that make his books such fun …. To add to the enjoyment, the book is full of wonderfully incisive and daft illustrations by Axel Scheffler.”

And Nicolette wrote:

“Axel Scheffler’s illustrations impart a quirky comic charm to Ardagh’s daft and comic story about the Grunts, whose silliness and bad behaviour are in the tradition of Roald Dahl’s Twits and Andy Stanton’s Mr Gum … Ardagh will always go the extra mile for the sake of a joke, even to the point of being a bit tiresome, like giggly seven-year-olds getting carried away. So he is perfectly on their wavelength.”

If you’d like to know what they’re talking about, you can read chapter one of The Grunts in Trouble below:

You can also find out more about the book here or pre-order it here.

What book would you bequeath to your children?

Posted by Tom on Aug 21, 2012

The University of Worcester have conducted a very interesting-sounding survey and asked 2,000 adults which book they’d most like to pass on to their children (A Christmas Carol came first, with 19% of the vote). You can read more about the results on The Guardian’s website – after reading the story, I conducted one of our patented office polls to find out what one title everyone at Nosy Crow would leave to their children.

After much agonising, Kate could still only settle on two books: The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury.

Ola chose The Six Bullerby Children by Astrid Lindgren.

Victoria picked Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery.

Imogen has gone for Burglar Bill by Janet and Allan Ahlberg.

Kristina would leave Not Now, Bernard by David McKee.

Adrian’s choice is Kim by Rudyard Kipling.

And although I found this immensely difficult (largely, I think, as a result of wholly overthinking the question), I’ve decided on Matilda by Roald Dahl.

In a happy case of coincidence, Philip Ardagh, author of The Grunts, will be on Inheritance Books on Radio4 Extra at 4pm today, discussing the very same subject – tune in to hear his choices!

And if you could only choose one book to leave to your children, what would it be? Leave your answers in the comments below!

Danny Danger and the Cosmic Remote is out now!

Posted by Kirsty on Sep 16, 2011

Having a seven-year-old boy in the house means many things. There’s a lot of noise and a lot of sharp, pointy bits of plastic left about to be trodden on in the middle of the night. It means coming across football cards in unexpected places – the laundry, next to the loo, at the bottom of the biscuit tin… It also means, for me at least, having a small, willing (usually) Test Reader who is never short of an opinion or two. These opinions are often blunt, sometimes damning, always interesting.

So one day, I nervously persuaded him to set aside his collection of MatchAttax and offered him a bound copy of Danny Danger and the Cosmic Remote by Adam Frost. Sighing in a long-suffering way, he looked at it and then raised his eyebrows. “Coool,” he said. Phew, I thought, tip-toeing from the room (or “lab”), the cover had gone down well.

Pacing up and down in the kitchen, I marvelled at the quiet. It actually took me a while to realise what it was, having briefly thought I’d gone deaf. Eventually I poked my head around the door. The Test Reader was hanging off the sofa, absorbed in Danny’s humorous adventures of dastardly villains and gadgets galore. Danny 1, MatchAttax 0!

And now, it being September, Danny Danger and the Cosmic Remote is published and out there for real. It’s already been Book of the Month at the local primary and if class 2P are anything to go by, it’s going to find a lot of friends out there. Congratulations, Adam, and good luck Danny!

Buy Danny Danger and the Cosmic Remote on Amazon.

Mega Mash-up: Aliens v Mad Scientists under the Ocean - some feedback

Posted by Kate on Jul 05, 2011

Two weeks ago, we published the third of Nikalas Catlow and Tim Wesson’s funny, clever and innovative new Mega Mash-up series of Draw-Your-Own-Adventure books, Mega Mash-up: Aliens v Mad Scientists under the Ocean.

An alien and a mad scientist eye one another suspiciously.

We always want to know what people think about our books and apps, whoever they are.

This time, we have had some terrific feedback from a friendly bookseller. Matt Black (pictured doodling above) is Children’s Bookseller at Waterstone’s High Street Birmingham. We know him from Twitter (where he rejoices in the name @marquiscarabas). Here’s what he says:

Mega Mash-Up: Aliens v Mad Scientists Under The Ocean is by Nikalas Catlow and Tim Wesson and well, you when you add to the pictures! If you haven’t seen any of the previous books in this fab series, then you are in for a treat. The whole point of these great stories is to bring the reader in on the action: you get to make up parts of the narrative as the story progresses, creating and illustrating elements of the story yourself. Using pencils, pens and felt tips (with hints on how you might want to do so from the authors) you can fill in the gaps in the story and pictures and make it your own little adventure.

This makes a great alternative to the usual doodle books available, which don’t have stories. Here, the narrative adds so much more to the book, making interacting with it much more fun. Also the illustration is very loose and simple – very child-friendly – which, I think, helps to encourage children to draw and to use their own imagination.

I love the idea of aliens and mad scientists being put together in one book set under the ocean: just such a good idea! Why just doodle, when you can create?”

We really like to hear from booksellers, whose role in getting our books into the hands of readers is so important… but it’s also great to hear from readers – or their parents – themselves. Yesterday, we got an email from a mum who had taken the trouble to contact Nosy Crow via our website after Nikalas and Tim did an event at her child’s school. This is what she says:

“Hi I just wanted to send you guys a quick email to say thank you for doing a talk at my son’s school, Bellenden Primary School, last Friday. He was shy about talking to you after school when we bought a couple of your books, but then was full of excitement and enthusiasm telling me all about your talk to the children and about your drawings, and all weekend he has been drawing aliens, asteroids, smelly socks and sound effects like “ZAP!”: he is totally inspired and loves your website and your books. The kitchen table is covered with his drawings and I will keep them all.

It does make a difference when you talk in a school. It gets kids excited about reading and drawing as well as making for a bit of fun!”

The first books in the Mega Mash-up series have reprinted, and rights have been sold to the US, France, Germany, Korea and Israel so far. We publish the fourth book, Pirates v Ancient Egyptians in a Haunted Museum, in September, and three more next year.

Best books for seven year-old boys

Posted by Kate on Jun 20, 2011

Way back in October, we did a post about the best books for ten year-old boys. A twitter enquiry prompts me to write a post on the best book for seven year-old boys. This is, in some ways, more of a challenge, as there is a huge difference in reading levels at seven. I know this is true at any age, but while some seven year olds are reading fluently by themselves, others very definitely are not.

So I have included a fairly wide (and, I am aware, quite UK-skewed) range here.

Funny Books

In my experience as a publisher, seven year-old boys love funny books, and I think it’s no surprise that I could think of lots of good books in this category.

Our very own Mega Mash-ups by Nikalas Catlow and Tim Wesson of which there are now a rollicking six titles. Each is a unique combination of a novel and a drawing book. As a reader, you draw your own adventure.
(And, since this book was originally written, I would add our own Vulgar the Viking series by Odin Redbeard), which are sort of Horrid Henry in a horned helmet.)
The Grubtown books by Philip Ardagh
Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown
The Captain Underpants books by Dav Pilkey
The Astrosaurs books by Steve Cole
My Brother’s Famous Bottom (and other books) by Jeremy Strong
Bill’s New Frock by Anne Fine
George’s Marvellous Medicine, Fantastic Mr Fox, The Twits and Charlie and The Chocolate Factory (here in the order of easiest to hardest to read) by Roald Dahl
Any Horrid Henry book by Francesca Simon
Mr Majeika by Humphrey Carpenter
The Legend of Captain Crow’s Teeth by Eoin Colfer
Ug by Raymond Briggs
Any Mr Gum book by Andy Stanton
Any Buster Baylis book by Philip Reeve
Any Charlie book by Hilary McKay
Any Nate The Great book by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat
And – controversially, because it’s all about girls – any of the Iggie books by Jenny Valentine
Any Frog and Toad book by Arnold Lobel
Any Henry and Mudge book by Cynthia Rylant

Animal books

I was surprised that there weren’t more books that came to mind in this category (and the next two, for that matter). Here are some good ones, though.

The Hodgeheg and The Sheep Pig by Dick King Smith
The Butterfly Lion by Michael Morpurgo
One Dog And His Boy by Eva Ibbotson

Real life books

Buried Alive and Cliffhanger by Jacqueline Wilson

Adventure books

Any of the Beast Quest books
The Iron Man by Ted Hughes
The Wishing Chair by Enid Blyton
Any Magic Treehouse book


I’d really welcome suggestions in this area, quite possibly because it’s not something that I’ve been thinking a lot about recently, and I struggled to think of really stand-out examples of great non-fiction books for seven year old boys.

Any Horrible History book, but particularly the Horrible Histories Handbooks because they’re a bit younger (I think Horrible Histories is really 8 or 9+)
Why is Snot Green? The Science Museum Question and Answer Book Again, this is a bit old for seven year-olds
Boy: Tales of Childhood by Roald Dahl
The Guinness Book Of Records
Ripley’s Believe It Or Not (I don’t love this brand personally – I’m more of a Guiness Book Of Records gal – but I’ve seen boys discovering it and thinking it’s great.)

Picture books

Lots of boys don’t want to tackle screeds of unrelieved text, so here are some picture books for older children in which the illustrations supplement the text… or tell a whole other story.

The Enormous Crocodile by Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake
Fungus the Bogeyman by Raymond Briggs
Solomon, the Rusty Nail (and lots of others) by William Steig
The Wolves in the Walls and The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish by Neil Gaiman
Wolves and Meercat Mail by Emily Gravett
The Arrival by Shaun Tan
Beware of the Story Book Wolves and That Pesky Rat by Lauren Child
Leon and the Place Between by Angela McAllister
Farmer Duck by Martin Waddell and Helen Oxenbury
Where’s Wally by Martin Handford
Any of the Asterix books
Any of the Tintin books

But what have I missed out?