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.
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.
FOR 3 TO 4 YEAR-OLDS
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”.
FOR 4 TO 5 YEAR-OLDS
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.
FOR 5 TO 6 YEAR-OLDS
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…
FOR 6 TO 7 YEAR-OLDS
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 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.
FOR 9 TO 10 YEAR-OLDS
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.
FOR 10 TO 11 YEAR-OLDS
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.
FOR 11 TO 12 YEAR-OLDS
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.
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.
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:
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
THEGRUNTS 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…
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, VULGARTHEVIKINGANDTHESPOOKYSCHOOLTRIP, 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:
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 BESTFRIENDANDOTHERENEMIES. 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 OUTTODAY!
Read chapter one of My Best Friend and Other Enemies:
And last but by no means least, today’s the day the second book in the incredible MAGICALMIX-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:
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!
“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.”
“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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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
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.)
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