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Articles tagged with: books for boys

The Mega Mash-Up books have grown!

Posted by Tom on Oct 25, 2013

Earlier this year we wrote about a big new format for our Magical Mix-Ups series – fantastic combinations of fiction and doodle books, with real stories, great characters, and lots of drawing involved.

And we were so pleased with the extra-large format that we’ve extended it to our Mega Mash-Up books – the equally brilliant books that were the inspiration for the sister series – as well!

In January we’ll be publishing Mega Mash-Up: Romans v Dinosaurs on Mars by Nikalas Catlow and Tim Wesson, the first of the Mega Mash-Up books, in this brilliant A4 format – and copies have just arrived in the office! The picture at the top of this post gives you an idea of the scale comparison with the existing Mega Mash-Up books.

In Romans v Dinosaurs on Mars, Romans and Dinosaurs live together in a huge glass dome called Romasauria. They race their rocket chariots and feast on Moon-Cow and chips… until life on Mars is threatened by a Giant Asteroid. Will a wooden catapult and some Dinosaur poo save the day? You’ll have to finish the illustrations to find out:

Packed with humour, great stories, and AMAZING mash-ups of perenially popular topics, these books are perfect for keeping young children (and especially boys) busy on journeys, during the holidays, on a rainy day, or over a weekend. So let your creativity run wild in this new extra-large edition, and help save life on Mars!

Here’s a video of Nikalas and Tim drawing Maximus Victorious, one of the stars of the book:

Mega Mash-Up: Romans v Dinosaurs on Mars is available to pre-order now.

The Merida makover and the sexualisation of girl characters in children's culture

Posted by Kate on May 27, 2013

Today I’ve just signed a petition aimed at persuading Disney to undo the makeover of Merida, the strong character from Brave, as she joins the pantheon of Disney Princesses.

She’s been made skinnier, sexier and more mature in appearance, so that she “matches” the other princesses. Brenda Chapman, Merida’s creator described the move as sexist, irresponsible, mercenary, and appalling.

Caitlin Moran (whose brilliant piece on library closures is reproduced here with her permission) wrote about the Merida makeover in The Times on 25 May 2013, with all the wit and incisiveness that anyone who knows her writing would expect. It’s behind The Times’ paywall, so I can’t usefully link to it.

But meanwhile, here are a few quotes. Here’s Caitlin Moran on the original film:

“Watching the film in the cinema, in the dark, with my daughters – 12 and 10 – I was able to loll back in my chair and say, “Fill your boots, girls! Spoon this film up like good pie. This is the first Disney heroine ever not to have massive knockers, a 12in waist and the kind of mouth that could suck a potato up a straw. Well done, Disney! Well done for finally entering the 21st Century.”

Here she is on the revised Merida:

“… she had… changed. A new picture of her showed her with a jacked-in waist, bigger tits, a lower-cut top and a load of eyeliner. On top of this, Merida was no longer holding her bow and arrow and was, instead, standing with her hands on her hips, in the internationally recognised pose of, ‘I am a bit of a vapid pain in the arse now.’”

She concludes, before directing readers to the petition:

“This non-sexy, non-married, galloping, bow-shooting Merida coined Disney £354 million at the box office in the first year. She proved that little girls want these kinds of heroes on their screen. But, despite her success, some ass-hat insisted that she had to get sexy. No reason. They just… like to do the sexy. It’s just what happens next, to girls.

“Listen: Merida wasn’t for you, you bloodless, cash-counting idiots. She was for every ten-year-old girl who hates itchy dresses and kissing, and just wanted to carry on being herself for a bit longer. You can’t put a price on a girl being able to watch a big Disney movie that says that’s an OK thing.”

I’ve written from a personal perspective about creating and marketing characters and girls in the context of books here. There’s a link to a more general piece in the first line of that blog post and here.

My 12 year-old says, “I used to watch Disney films when I was younger, and I really loved my Snow White doll, but she was pretty Barbie-like in proportions (though my mum wouldn’t let us have Barbies…). It really struck me, when we were shown the film at school, that Merida was a different kind of character. Merida was very feisty but not in a diva-ish way. She could think for herself and she wasn’t a typical Disney princess with a waist like a wand. Seeing the makeover really emphasised how different she was from the stereotypical princesses. I think it’s bad for the younger girls who are seeing the revised Merida, but in a way I suppose it’s good because it gives a lot of publicity to the things that Disney does, and the images it promotes.”

My 14 year-old, who hasn’t seen the film, says, “I think that with Merida, Disney created an attainable ideal. . The revisions suggest that the things that made Merida great were things that have to be edited out. Nearly very little girl wants to be a Disney princess and this just narrows the choices of what little girls can aspire to. Of course, maybe the new Merida won’t work because she’s just not appealing to girls who liked the old Merida: I read online that one babysitter showed the girl she was looking after the revised Merida and the girl said, ‘Is that the evil Merida?’”

As I have said in a previous post, we take our responsibilities as publishers for children very seriously. I know that there are those who find my acknowledgement that I create and package some books with girl readers in mind and some with boy readers in mind egregious and incompatible with the stand I’ve taken on the Merida makeover, but I don’t see it that way.

When we publish books, whether they’re aimed at boys or girls, we consider carefully the image of girls that the books project. Girls who are central characters in our books and apps for pre-teens aren’t portrayed in ways that sexualise them. They’re independent and strong-minded and, generally (despite obstacles) achieve what they set out to achieve. Other characters’ preoccupation with appearance, or precocious interest in boys, is generally presented as something that’s a bit silly.

One of the reasons I am proud of our Rescue Princesses series is that the girls show courage, loyalty and sympathy. They act, they are not acted upon. They’re girls, not women: they’re drawn with children’s, not adult bodies.

Similarly, I am proud of our Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood apps. I’ve already written about the choices we made about Cinderella’s appearance and language in one of the blog posts mentioned above, and the same thinking made us decide to have Little Red Riding Hood defeat the wolf in our Little Red Riding Hood app: she doesn’t need a huntsman or her father to outsmart the wolf and rescue her grandma. Instead, she’s calm and self-sufficient.

A desire to create strong, admirable, appropriately child-like girl characters influences our selection, editorial and design processes, whether the girls feature in books aimed primarily at girls or those aimed primarily at boys (or, of course, those aimed at both). We believe that it’s important that boys have images of and stories about empowered girls too.

I think that the Merida makeover petition is one that’s worth signing.

Introducing Space Pirates!

Posted by Tom on Apr 10, 2013

This July we’re lauching a brand new, illustrated fiction series that’s perfect for 7 – 9 year olds (and boys in particular) – Space Pirates!

With fantastic black and white illustration by Benji Davies and gags galore from (ahem) author Jim Ladd, this fast-paced, funny series combines two perenially popular “boy subjects” (no prizes for guessing what they are).

The series launches with the fantastic Space Pirates: Stowaway. When Sam’s parents are stranded on Planet X, he bravely asks his neighbours, the notorious Space Pirates, to help rescue them. But they’d rather carry on bowling and singing space-shanties, so Sam has no choice but to hide in a barrel of alien slime and stowaway!

Here’s what Kirsty has to say about the series:

“Pirates are exciting at the best of times, but imagine if they had laser cutlasses, went on intergalactic treasure hunts and made their enemies walk the plank into outer space!”

If you need a little help imagining such a glorious spectacle, here’s the first chapter of Stowaway:

And you can pre-order the book online here. If you’d like to be kept up-to-date with all of our upcoming releases, you can subscribe to our monthly Books Newsletter here.

Get ready to climb aboard this new intergalactic adventure series!

Name that Dinosaur!

Posted by Tom on Feb 13, 2013

Last month we published the board book edition of Penny Dale’s wonderful Dinosaur Zoom, the follow-up to Dinosaur Dig. These smaller, robust board editions are absolutely great for young toddlers, and the stories and illustrations themselves – filled with dinosaurs, vehicles, lots of fantastic visual detail, and even some counting – have a particularly boy-ish sort of appeal.

The only things that are missing from the board books are the endpapers published in the original editions, which have the names for all of the dinosaurs and vehicles in each book. We recently heard from a parent who told us how much their son enjoyed naming each dinosaur, and so we thought we’d make the endpapers available for free to everyone. Click on each image to enlarge, and click the links below to download large, printable PDFs.

The vehicles from Dinosaur Dig

Download PDF

The vehicles from Dinosaur Zoom

Download PDF

And, last but not least… the dinosaurs!

Download PDF

You can also take a look inside each book below (these are from the hardback editions):

Take a look inside Dinosaur Dig:


Buy the board book edition online.

Take a look inside Dinosaur Zoom:


Buy the board book edition online.

Have fun naming dinosaurs!

A first look at the cover for The Grunts all at Sea

Posted by Tom on Feb 01, 2013

Here’s something very exciting – a very first look at the cover for the second book in The Grunts series by Philip Ardagh and Axel SchefflerThe Grunts all at Sea, out in June this year.

In The Grunts all at Sea, Mr Grunt has become a man with a mission. He has to get a Person of Great Importance (or POGI) to someone called Mrs Bayliss by the twenty-fifth. Alive and well. And he can’t tell anyone more than that, not even his lovely wife, Mrs Grunt, because there will be people trying to snatch the POGI and so the POGI must be transported in secret. It’s an exciting adventure, but what interests Mr Grunt most are the silver coins he’s been promised at the end of it.

The Grunts’ stolen son, Sunny, has a few questions. Who is the big-earringed cyclist? Why does the POGI have to wear a barrel all the time? Is Rodders Lasenby a lovely person or simply the rudest man on the planet? And how long will it be before they find themselves All At Sea?

If you’re new to the series, you can read chapter one of the first book, The Grunts in Trouble, below. And if you’re familiar with the adventures and misdeeds of the Grunts, all I can say is… watch out for bees!


Order The Grunts in Trouble online.

Writing tips from Philip Ardagh

Posted by Tom on Jan 17, 2013

Those excellent chaps at Scottish Book Trust recently interviewed Philip Ardagh, author of The Grunts series, about writing, and he obliged with some very good advice for all aspiring authors, which you can watch in the video above.

And here are his main pieces of advice, in a handy, pocket-size slideshow format:

Outstanding suggestions, I think you’ll agree. If you’d like to see some of Philip’s credentials before committing to a beard, then you can read chapter one of The Grunts in Trouble, the first book in his new series, below – or order it online here.

What are your best bits of writing advice? What have you found helpful?

A busy weekend for the Grunts

Posted by Tom on Jul 30, 2012

It’s been a busy weekend of for The Grunts in Trouble, the first book in the brand new series by Philip Ardagh and Axel Scheffler (out in September).

On Saturday, The Guardian included it in a round-up of Summer reading for under-10s. Julia Eccleshare wrote:

“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.”

Meanwhile, our entire apps team has spent the last few days in a closely-fought competition to achieve the highest score in an upcoming Grunts app, which is currently in its testing stage and will be released at the same time as the book. I don’t want to give away too much about the app now, but suffice to say, there are LOTS of bees. You can follow our weekend progress by searching on Twitter for the hashtag #beardofbees.

There’s no trailer for the app yet, but here’s something even better to whet your appetite – chapter one of The Grunts in Trouble:

You can also watch a video of Philip and Axel talking about the series in this earlier blogpost. There’ll be lots more exciting video content coming up soon.

And there are still tickets available for Philip and Axel’s event at the Edinburgh Book Festival on August 16, when they’ll be launching the series. You’ll be able to get your hands on a copy of the book before anyone else!

You can find out more about The Grunts here and pre-order the first book here. Now watch out for bees!

Another nail-biting Danny Danger adventure!

Posted by Kirsty on Jan 13, 2012

Yesterday was the publication day of Danny Danger and the Space Twister by Adam Frost, the second in the nail-bitingly hilarious adventures of Danny, a boy who can control time thanks to his amazing Cosmic Remote. But the tremendously evil Space Twister (think David Bowie circa Ziggy Stardust) is after the Remote and the story follows his fabulously inventive attempts to get it. But Danny has a new gadget – the Time Tablet – and this gives him the power to delete his arch enemy for ever. But will he do such a dastardly thing?

The photo above is of one engrossed young reader, and here’s his enthusiastic review:

“Danny Danger and the Space Twister is the best book ever! The best character is probably Eric because he says funny things like ‘Flippin’ heck!’ and ‘Dammit!’ (makes me laugh) and I think the Space Twister is quite cool. I think the second book is even better than the first book. So just remember: Danny Danger is brill!”

Congratulations, Adam, on writing a book with all the thrills and spills an eight-year-old boy could wish for!

And go Danny!

Mega Mash-Up: Pirates v Ancient Egyptians in a Haunted Museum - out now!

Posted by Kirsty on Sep 30, 2011

What if some bloodthirsty Pirates and crazy Ancient Egyptians broke into a Haunted Museum? Would you ask yourself what the world was coming to? Or would you reach for your felt-tips, realising that another 96 pages of zany excellence had hit the bookstores? Yes, today’s the day the fourth MEGA MASH-UP book by Nikalas Catlow and Tim Wesson is published!

PIRATES V ANCIENT EGYPTIANS IN A HAUNTED MUSEUM is a wacky tale told at breakneck speed with hilarious illustrations to finish, add to and even start from scratch. These books invite you in, sit you down on a whoopee cushion, and tell you to get stuck in.

I saw Nikalas and Tim at their latest event at the Bath Festival this weekend. They invented characters, put them in hilarious situations, and then added a flatulent chicken for good measure, all the while asking for suggestions and input from their captivated audience. (Just don’t ask them to draw a fluffy bunny, mind…)

Inspirational stuff. A real case of DO try this at home.

Congratulations, Nikalas and Tim, on another brilliant book!

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.

Summer Reading

Posted by Tom on Jul 29, 2011

Now that Summer is most certainly upon us (evidenced at Nosy Crow by the fact that almost everyone is on holiday), the ritual of reading round-ups has been getting its yearly airing in the press. Without wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth – we’ve been very pleased with the inclusion of our books in so many round-ups – there seems to me to be something a little… unsatisfactory about the criteria for these lists. Surely, in order to qualify as a great Summer read, a book ought to have more going for it than a recent publication date.

There is, of course, all kinds of ways one could choose to define a good Summer book. Some – like our Mega Mash-Up series – are brilliant for keeping children occupied on long journeys or during days at home. Others, like Noodle Loves the Beach and Bizzy Bear: Off We Go!, evoke Summer quite literally. And stories like Dinosaur Dig! somehow encapsulate the outdoorsy, spirit-of-adventure feeling that Summer represents when you’re young – or, as Camilla put it to me in an email from the road, “Summer is about liberation isn’t it – from school, parents and routine, and in theory, the weather.”

When I asked for everyone’s suggestions here (before they all left), we decided to restrict ourselves to books that actually take place over the Summer. Needless to say, as with every previous discussion on the subject of favourite books of one sort or another, the debate swiftly dissolved into endless one-upmanship, but out of this, I’m pleased to say, came some truly excellent suggestions.

As ever, we’d love to hear your favourites, so please leave your comments at the bottom of the page or on Twitter.

Adrian suggested some true classics – Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons and The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame, as well as a long-forgotten gem, The Inviolable Sanctuary by GA Birmingham.

Dom, pipped to the post for The Wind in the Willows, chose Laurie Lee’s Cider with Rosie, saying that, “Some of the scenes from that book were so vivid, they’ve become practically my own memories. It’s the book equivalent of Inception!”

Kirsty has nominated L.P. Hartley’s The Go-Between, Falconer’s Lure by Antonia Forest, and Winnie the Witch at the Seaside, by Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul, for “the best infinity pool ever.”

Camilla’s first suggestion is The Enchanted Wood, by Enid Blyton – and she has exactly the measure of a lot of Blyton’s books:
“Ginger beer, doorstep sandwiches and smugglers coves – in fact the very holiday I am just embarking on, though of course it never seemed to rain and I bet they didn’t spend hours sitting in a traffic jam on the A30.”

Some of her other choices are Iggy and Me on Holiday, by Jenny Valentine and Joe Berger, and Shirley Hughes’ Lucy and Tom at the Seaside.

Kate seconded Kirsty’s nomination of The Go-Between, and has also added Greengage Summer by Rumer Godden and What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell, both for older readers. Her other suggestions include Lyn Gardner’s Olivia’s Enchanted Summer, out next year, Greenwitch and Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper, and Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, which I believe has the distinction of somehow being included in every single one of the “Best of” lists that we produce.

My choices are, for much the same reason as Camilla, Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books, as well as A Spoonful of Jam by Michelle Magorian and Raspberries on the Yangtze by Karen Wallace, both of which have sort-of magical qualities about them. And finally, I believe I would be remiss not to mention the summer strips of Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes cartoons (pictured above), which, like all of our choices, cannot capture everything that’s wonderful about Summer, but certainly go a long way towards trying.

Now – over to you!

We’ve had some Twitter recommendations with the hashtag #summerreads:

@rogue_eight suggested The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, by Alan Garner

Kate (@nosycrow) pointed out that S.C. Ransom’s books Small Blue Thing and Perfectly Reflected both have strong sense of a London summer.

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

Non-fiction

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?

National Literacy Trust Young Readers Programme, Cressida Cowell and an auction

Posted by Kate on Jun 19, 2011

In the UK, one in six people struggles with literacy. The National Literacy Trust is an independent charity working to ensure that everyone has the literacy skills they need to lead a successful and happy life.

Last week, I was invited, as a member of the Trust’s Advisory Committee, to an inspiring event that was part of the Trust’s Young Readers Programme. The Young Readers Programme (formerly known as Reading Is Fundamental, which is the name the sister US programme continues to use) aims to bring reading for pleasure to 200 communities of children – children in schools, children in refuges, children in care – that need reading support. In the course of the programme, children are introduced to the skills they need to choose books (the children learn to “decode” a cover, to read a blurb, and to check inside to see if a book is at an appropriate reading level). The emphasis is entirely on reading for pleasure, and the programme is based on OECD research that suggests that reading for pleasure by the age of 15 is a powerful indicator of future life chances, even when parental socio-economic and education levels are taken into account. These skills are taught by specially-trained people within or familiar with the community, who are often, but not always, librarians. The children receive three free books in the course of the programme which lasts at least 12 weeks. Wherever possible, children meet authors or storytellers who bring their own passion to the storytelling and book-choosing process.

The event I went to was at the Barbican Library. Cressida Cowell (pictured above at the event) was reading and talking to children from a nearby school.

She began the event by talking about a book she loved as a child: Peter Pan by J M Barrie. She read aloud the shockingly violent and very compelling first description of Captain Hook in which he eviscerates another pirate with his hook without taking the cigar from his mouth. She spoke about being a London-born child who longed for something extraordinary to happen – longed for the kind of adventure that the Darling children have in Peter Pan. In fact, for her, the real life childhood adventure was going on holiday year after year to the same small Scottish island: her own equivalent of Barrie’s Neverland. She said she used to sit at the top of the island, and imagine a Viking invasion. She described, too, the face she could see in the cliffs on the island’s beach, with two caves for eye-sockets. She said she used to imagine what might live in those caves: dragons, perhaps…

Peter Pan, islands, Vikings, dragons and caves, of course, all combine in her brilliant Hiccup books. She read – dropping her voice to a whisper at times, while the children held their breath – from the first novel in the series, How To Train Your Dragon about Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III’s journey with his friends into a cave used by dragons as a nursery (not, she said, unlike the left eye socket cave in the face in the cliffs on the island on which she’d spent her holidays) to catch his own dragon.

It was a stellar performance and one that really engaged the children. Here she is afterwards, surrounded by fans:

The National Literacy Trust campaigns for the recognition of the impact of literacy issues; runs projects and initiatives such as the Young Readers Programme; and is a the most fantastic source of information and research on literacy in the UK.

There are lots of ways to support it.

One is to participate in the auction it’s recently set up (closing date for bids February 24 June), auctioning favourite books belonging to favourite authors. You could, for example, get a copy of Shrek by William Steig from Axel Scheffler’s bookcase:

The book has a message and a sketch from Axel inside it:

As Father's Day approaches, a look at dads in books for children

Posted by Tom on Jun 14, 2011

It may well be true that Father’s Day is without a jot of authentic tradition to its name, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to celebrate. At Nosy Crow we’ve been listing our favourite dads in children’s literature all week, and what started out as a harmless pub game between Kate, Camilla and me has spiralled rather dramatically into a mammoth collection of categories, sub-categories and clauses.

Being a bit of a purist about these things, I initially protested to Kate that our list should be comprised only of nice dads, and that bad dads would go against the spirit of the exercise somewhat – this is for father’s day after all! – but we all realised pretty quickly that a lot of the best characters are really awful fathers.

This initial concession led to a proliferation of different categories.

Here are our best categories and our strongest nominations, with, where I felt it necessary, some context or justification. Please add your own categories or nominations in the comments below or on Twitter with the hashtag #kidsbookdads or Facebook!

Good dads:

William from Danny, the Champion of the World (written by Roald Dahl and illustrated by Quentin Blake, see the picture above). This is a pretty uncomplicated one – I think we can all agree that William is an amazing and exciting dad (even if he does lead his son into a life of crime). The opening chapter is a really lovely and quite moving tribute to the relationship between father and son.

The dad in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming is another good example of an exciting dad.

The dad in Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce is a favourite of Kate’s.

Big Nutbrown Hare from Guess How Much I Love You (written by Sam McBratney and illustrated by Anita Jeram). Big Nutbrown Hare is never specifically referred to as Little Nutbrown Hare’s father, but I think we’re invited to assume as much.

Gorilla from Gorilla and the dad in My Dad by Anthony Browne are pretty good entries from the outgoing Children’s Laureate…

… And we have two from the incoming one: Stick Man from Stick Man whose quest is to get back to his family tree, and the gruffalo, from The Gruffalo’s Child, who tries to warn his adventurous child against the mouse. Both are written by Julie Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler.

Pa Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

John Arable from Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White.

And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson and illustrated by Henry Cole, is an inspired choice by Camilla – the true story of the two male penguins in New York’s Central Park Zoo who raised a baby penguin together.

Two excellent suggestions by Kate B were Mr. Brown from Paddington (by Michael Bond) and Pongo from 101 Dalmations (by Dodie Smith).

Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird (by Harper Lee). I have had to lobby quite hard for inclusion of Atticus Finch: on the one hand, he is, of course, the greatest father in any book, but is To Kill A Mockingbird really children’s literature? Well, it was treated as such on its release in 1960, and it’s taught all over the world in schools, so I think that makes it not not children’s literature.

Kate made the very interesting suggestion of Anne Frank’s father, “especially in contrast to how she portrayed her mother”.

My contribution to the sub-category of real-life good dads is Michael Rosen in his poems about his son Eddie, which reach their heartbreaking conclusion in Michael Rosen’s Sad Book.

Kate B also suggested James Potter from the Harry Potter books, which to begin with seemed like a silly suggestion to me; certainly not worthy of the Pongo/ Mr. Brown company in which it stood – James isn’t even alive in the books! – but it is, of course, actually an excellent choice. James dies protecting his family from Voldemort – a powerful symbol of fatherly love, and he’s there in Harry’s mind throughout the books.

James Potter segues seamlessly into our next category…

Absent dads:.

There are quite a lot of these in children’s books, ranging from dads who’ve abandoned their children to dads who are absent through no fault of their own.

The father in The Railway Children. I can’t remember his name, but it doesn’t matter – he’ll always be “Daddy, my daddy!” to me, in the manner of Dead Poets Society and “Captain, my captain”.

The fathers in Jacqueline Wilson’s The Illustrated Mum and Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women were both examples of Kate’s category of “Absent Dads who are the Deus Ex Machina, resolving things at the end or making the ending happy”, as is the dad in The Tiger Who Came To Tea by Judith Kerr.

Bad dads:

Interestingly, a lot of bad fathers are defined in terms of their absence (in another blog post I’m sure there’d be a lot to say about that…) Some literary dads, however, would leave their offspring a lot better off if they did disappear.

Surely the absolute worst dad ever is Huck Finn’s; the violent town drunk who locks his son in a cabin and leaves him to starve. If we can have To Kill A Mockingbird then we can probably sneak in Huck Finn.

An excellent contender for the same title must be Matilda’s dad (from Roald Dahl’s Matilda)

Kate B points out that many fairy tale dads, such as the fathers in Hansel and Gretel, Snow White and Cinderella, behave shockingly badly towards their offsping, though they’re often under the influence of wicked stepmothers.

Bad dads who become good:

This is a more heartwarming category and it seems to be an popular archetype in children’s books:

The father in our very own Olivia’s First Term, by Lyn Gardner is viewed by some of us as a bit of a bad dad, but others of us felt this was harsh, and that he really was doing his best in difficult circumstances.

Other complicated and difficult dads who are more or less redeemed at the end of the book or books include Lord Asriel, from the trilogy His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman; Mortmain, from I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith; Mr. Darling from Peter Pan; and Colin’s dad in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s Secret Garden

Surrogate dads:

Adrian thought up the “surrogate dads” category:

Ben from Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking trilogy.

Tom Oakley from Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian.

Joe Gargery in Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.

The magnificent Akela from Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book.

Finally (!), here are a few that didn’t quite fit anywhere:

Kirsty called the dad in Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging “the best comedy dad”, and nominated the dads in Big Red Bath and Peepo“ for the title of “Best at giving baths dad”. And Charlie and the Chocolate Factory demonstrates the “Dad upstaged by grandfather” genre rather well…

As you can see, once you’ve started, it is hard to stop.

Over to you…

Philip Ardagh's event at the Hay Festival

Posted by Kate on Jun 02, 2011

I went to Philip Ardagh’s event at the Hay Festival yesterday. He was talking mainly, but far from exclusively, about his latest Grubtown Tales book for Faber and Faber, When Bunnies Turn Bad.

Honestly, I’d have gone even if he hadn’t been a Nosy Crow author (we’re publishing the first in his new series, The Grunts, next year, with illustrations by Axel Scheffler). His events are masterclasses in high-energy, interactive, stand-up comedy and for a child-and-parent audience, that weave together the story of how Philip became an author with lots of great scatalogical and tongue-in-cheek self-aggrandising material that had the child one along from me actually falling off her chair she was laughing so much.

However professional and brilliantly prepared Philip is, he can’t predict everything, and a high-point of the event was him putting his foot (clad, as everyone in the audience knows, in size 16) through the set of one of Hay’s two swankiest event spaces:

Philip worked the incident into the event so brilliantly that even the technicians in charge of the venue were laughing in the aisles. Here he is with a triangle of broken stage after the event:

I, for one, can’t wait for the Philip–Axel The Grunts double-act.

Nikalas and Tim's Mega Mash-up event at the Hay Festival

Posted by Kate on Jun 01, 2011

Nikalas and Tim’s Mega Mash-up event at the Hay Festival yesterday was fast, furious and funny.

They took the – big and lively – audience through the creation of the series, a unique and silly blend of doodle book and young novel that they describe as “draw your own adventure” which they both write and illustrate.

They said that some of their ideas come to them on the Thinking Couch in their studio. Here’s Nikalas on the Thinking Couch:

And here’s Tim on the Thinking Couch:

However, they also confessed that they traded ideas for cookies with the elves at the bottom of their garden.

Conveniently, Nikalas is right-handed and Tim’s left handed, which means that they can illustrate the same picture at the same time without either getting in the other’s way… and they demonstrated this on a flip-chart at the event:

They pulled in audience suggestions and questions brilliantly. Here’s Tim getting a suggestion from half-way up the theatre:

They asked, for example, what the roundish object might be that they’d drawn being spotted through a telescope hurtling toward the Romans’ and Dinosaurs’ Martian city, Romasauria. “A grape!”, suggested one child (it was an asteroid). In turn, they were asked whether they liked brussels sprouts. So we covered a lot of ground, not all of it fruit-and-vegetable-related, as well as drawing mashed-up characters together.

There was a long queue of enthusiastic children waiting for them to sign books, and I was surprised and pleased to see how many girls were in the audience, as I’ve always thought that these books skewed towards boys, and reluctant boy readers in particular:

Described by Library Mice as “… exactly the kind of books us parents need to be able to hand to our offspring in school holidays or on long car journey!” you can find out more about the Mega Mash-up books on the Mega Mash-up website, where you can also post your own pictures, like this one by Alex Kosowicz:

The books we never outgrow

Posted by Tom on May 25, 2011

This week’s Stylist magazine (free outside the tube station, thank you very much) has a very good cover story on the children’s books we never outgrow, complete with rather marvellous illustrations by Quentin Blake. The article fudges a little towards the end, giving a list only of ‘Top 10 Children’s Books’, which is, of course, practically meaningless, but the core idea of un-outgrow-able books is a lovely one.

Stylist includes The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Charlotte’s Web and Matilda in its list (all favourites of mine), and the second Kate saw it lying open on my desk she pounced, conducting the fastest straw poll I believe I have ever seen. Well, I am pleased to say that ours is a suitably eclectic list, spanning most of the twentieth century, picture books and fiction, autobiography and fantasy, blockbuster names and forgotten gems. Helpfully, we’ve had quite a number of visitors this morning, so this is also a more comprehensive collection than it might otherwise have been. And without further ado, here it is – Nosy Crow’s list of the books we never outgrow:

Kirsty chose Autumn Term by Antonia Forest, the first in the Marlow family series of novels, originally published in 1948.

Dom named Going Solo, the second installment of autobiography by Roald Dahl and the sequel to Boy.

Deb initially wanted Charlotte’s Web but, at the time of writing, had settled on The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster and illustrated by Jules Feiffer.

Adrian picked, without a second’s hesitation, The Land of Green Ginger, a choice that caused a lot of blank stares amongst the rest of us. A little Wikipedia-ing later and I now know that it was written in 1936 by Noel Langley, who went on to be one of the (many) responsible for the screenplay of The Wizard of Oz.

Steph, insisting that she didn’t want to go for a picture book, and after much deliberation, has gone for Louisa May Alcott’s classic Little Women.

Tim Wesson, co-creator with Nikalas Catlow of our very own Mega Mash-Up series, has picked a classic of quite a different sort, Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat.

Kate Shaw fought off stiff competition from Camilla to be the one who gets to name another Roald Dahl, Danny Champion of the World, as their own (personally I always found the novel’s gritty social realism a little disturbing).

Imogen, remarkably unfazed by my ambushing of her the moment she crossed the threshold, selected Janet and Allen Ahlberg’s absolutely wonderful Jolly Christmas Postman.

Despite this being her idea, Kate W simply could not make a final decision, and seemed visibly pained by my insistence that she only be allowed one choice. However, after much cajoling from me and soul-searching from her, she’s plumped for Rumer Godden’s The Dolls’ House.

Kate B, after considerable thought, has picked Snoopy, by Charles M. Schulz.

Camilla, once her first instinct had been nixed by my increasingly dictatorial approach to rules, chose A. A. Milne’s When We Were Very Young.

And, because I’m the one writing this blog, I’m going to allow myself two choices. The first is Susan Varley’s Badger’s Parting Gifts, a criminally overlooked picture book and one of the most moving treatments of grief I have ever read. And the second is Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, from 1876, about which nothing new can be said, but which still seems fresh and exciting and funny to me on every re-reading.

So, there they are! Between Nosy Crow and Stylist, Roald Dahl gets an excellent showing, as does American literature. But what have we missed? What books have you never outgrown?

Here’s what some of @nosycrow’s Twitter followers have said:

@rachelisking: Mine would be Matilda, although I also love Ursula Bear by Sheila Lavelle (sadly no longer in print)

@LizzyCampbell: Mine would have to be Anne of Green Gables

@Girl___Friday: I third Danny! :) Also Narnia.

@Rebecca Berry: I’ll never outgrow Cobwebs and Creepers. It isn’t in print anymore but I loved it!

@superjed79 JED: Pigs Might Fly by Emily Rodda (Aussie author). Awesome.

@musingsofayalib: I would most definitely choose Jon Scieszka’s The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales!

@sharontelfer: Wizard of Earthsea: original and best book about wizard school! Also another vote for the lovely Land of Green Ginger

@Lucy Coats: I’ll never outgrow The Wind in the Willows.P.S. Tell Adrian I used to LOVE the Land of Green Ginger. And Phantom Tollbooth taught me about dodecahedrons!

@macnelliebus: Tove Jansson’s Moomintroll books! Sweet, funny, heartful and wise

@kbalzart: The Poky Little Puppy!

@NatashaFarrant1: Anne of Green Gables. Never, ever, ever outgrown. Went to Green Gables last summer and embarrassed children by crying. A lot.

@loops777: Em…where to start?!I NEVER tire of the wonders of Mr Dahl.Hilariously witty. Always a special place for ‘A Little Princess’ too!

@rookibooks: Brambly Hedge series. Kids & i named one of our dog walks after them and we take popcorn for the mice! #kidsbooks #notoutgrown

@SarahTFergusson: Alan Garner’s The Owl Service. Beautiful and scary!

@cathiesue: Caddie Woodlawn

@Discover_Story: Tom’s Midnight Garden haunted me. I’m still hoping to find my real enormous garden.

@utzy: Now We Are Six. Bought my daughter old copy in a bookshop yesterday, and yes she will be six soon

@GilesCroft: The Man Who Was Magic by Paul Gallico. Time for a reprint.

@moongolfer:Agaton Sax

@classygenes: The Phantom Tollbooth! Fab! Still have it on my bookshelf. Who needs 3D when u have Juster’s imagination?

@tomfinnerty: Lovely article, thanks! I’d go for Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones

@KathLangrish: Finn Family Moomintroll. And – well, most of them, really. LOVED The Land of Green Ginger!

@AnabelMarsh: Another vote for Anne of Green Gables. Matthew’s death is a sobfest every time

@georgialeaper: The Jolly Postman, and Minnie&Ginger by Barry Smith http://amzn.to/msSyXK – Timeless lovestory

@Alex_T_SmithThe Tiger who Came to Tea – I’ve always wanted to go to a cafe in my pjs like the girl in the story

@vivlives001: Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

@dansumption: Another vote for Agaton Sax. Also, the Uncle stories.

@rebecsmart: The Swish of the Curtain by Pamela Brown

@JustinSomper: Where the Wild Things Are + Ahlberg’s The Mighty Slide + Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ;-)

@neeshed: my childhood favourite was Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat – just started it with kids and still special

@Gem_Clair: Dogger, Shirley Hughes. (But I can’t talk about it because it still makes me cry!)

@alice_murphy: I also cried in the Book Shop about Michael Rosen’s The Sad Book. And Badger’s Parting Gifts… Among many others!

@janeconsidine: My childhood choice Where the wild things are.

@lesleytspencer: Eight Children and a Truck by Anne Catherina Vestly. Still got my battered copy:)

@Chiddle84: Ooh, the Jolly Postman!

@mightydanzy: The Monster at the end of This Book featuring the furriest, most favorite Muppet, Grover.

@katybeale: The Hobbit!

@Dreamteamsoft: Totally love Danny Champion of the World !

@LondonBessie: Gotta be Teddy Robinson. Just fantastic – funny, sweet, a bit bonkers and totally charming.

@Hilary Foster: The Owl Who Was Afraid Of The Dark; The Dark Is Rising hairs standing up at memory

@stevemaythe1st: Any of Tove Jannson’s Moomin books – wonderful evocative stories & illustrations

@murhilltypist: ‘National Velvet’, ‘The Thirteen Clocks’, and ‘Are you my mother?’: the moving tale of a fledgling and a JCB.

@LuLhullier: In English, all Shel Silverstein books #kidsbookillneveroutgrow

@clarefenn: Mine are Danny Champion of the World and The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe

@julietanne: Hungry Caterpillar, Hairy McClary, The Little White Horse, The Tiger Child

@MissCellany: Beauty: Robin McKinley, Howl’s Moving Castle: Diana Wynne Jones and entire Little House on Prairie saga. And Mog! How could I forget Mog, The Forgetful Cat? (

@FlossieTeacake: YES TO PAMELA BROWN. Have you seen: http://bit.ly/mdNk9C

@bowbrick: ‘Peepo’ by the Ahlbergs. A board book worthy of the Booker. Literally one of my favourite books ever

@le_robertson: Blue Hat, Green Hat by Sandra Boynton. you have to love silly turkeys. ;)

So tell us on Twitter (there’s even a hashtag now, as we’ve only included Twitter nominations from people who sent theirs as a reply) or comment below.

Nosy Crow's May Publications: Dinosaur Dig, Noodle Loves To Cuddle and Noodle Loves the Beach

Posted by Kate on May 19, 2011

Really, I think, because I was in Australia on publication date, we haven’t taken time this month to celebrate the distillations of children’s book goodness that are our May publications.

And May was a big month for us: for the first time, we were publishing more than one print “thing”.

Just to remind those of you who are interested in a kind of “previously on Nosy Crow” kind of way:

In January, we published Small Blue Thing, so the list launched with a single romantic fantasy novel.

In February, we published Mega Mash-up: Romans v Dinosaurs on Mars and Mega Mash-up: Robots v Gorillas in the Desert. Two titles, yes, but both launching the same innovative “doodle books meet chapter books” series series. In February, we also published our first app, The Three Little Pigs, so that was a big month too.

In March, we published Bizzy Bear: Fun on the Farm and Bizzy Bear: Let’s Go and Play, our first board books. Again, two titles, and, again, one series.

In April, we published Pip and Posy: The Super Scooter, and Pip and Posy: The Little Puddle.

And, now, in May, we published Penny Dale’s Dinosaur Dig and Marion Billet’s Noodle Loves to Cuddle and (in time for summer) Noodle Loves the Beach. So three titles and two very different things.

Dinosaur Dig was inspired by Penny’s pre-school grandson Zachary’s love of all things mechanical. It’s a counting book with (very benign) dinosaurs, mechanical earth-moving equipment, a bit of suspense and a swimming pool finale. It caters quite shamelessly for the obsessions of many, many small boys. One of the things we thought that they would respond to is the carefully-realised detail of the dinosaurs and the diggers: you can see every claw and every piston. This was a book that came in to Nosy Crow from Penny’s agent just weeks after we’d started up. It was a book that we’d made an offer for within an hour of opening the envelope with Penny’s beautifully detailed sketches in it. Here’s a little flavour of what the book looks like inside:

And, to give you a sense of how Penny works, here’s a movie of Penny (re)drawing the cover artwork on an iPad:

She’s written about the process of creating the book for a boy audience in a guest post for the Book Trust blog.

Noodle Loves to Cuddle and Noodle loves the Beach are rhyming touch-and-feel board books illustrated in a fresh, graphic style by popular French illustrator, Marion Billet.

Here’s a little home movie of toddlers enjoying Noodle Loves to Cuddle:

And here’s one of the same children reading Noodle Loves the Beach:

Let us know, by commenting below, if you’d like to know any more about any of our three May books.

Get ready for The Grunts: new fiction series by Philip Ardagh, illustrated by Axel Scheffler

Posted by Kate on Mar 23, 2011

Woo-hoo!

We’ve acquired The Grunts.

This is a series of four books by award-winning author Philip Ardagh. The books, which feature the eponymous and disgusting Grunt family, will be illustrated in black and white by Axel Scheffler and the first book, The Grunts in Trouble, will be published in May 2012.

Philip makes me laugh – as a person and as an author. Always has done, always will. His combination of professionalism and irreverence make him the perfect Nosy Crow author, and we are pleased and flattered that he’s chosen to publish with us. Pairing him with Axel Scheffler is going to make this an utterly irresistible series for children of 9 and up.

Philip says:

“I’m delighted that The Grunts, my latest series of (very silly) novels, is to be published by Nosy Crow with the crow so fresh from the egg, and still slightly yolky. For Axel Scheffler to have agreed to illustrate it — without my having to resort to threats of any kind — is the real icing on the metaphorical cake. I very much look forward to working with him, Kate Wilson, and the rest of the Nosy Crow team on what I hope will be some of my most outrageous books to date. These are exciting times! FUN just doesn’t express it.

And Axel says:

“It’s been several years since I’ve illustrated fiction, but there was an anarchy and humour in the outrageous Grunt characters that really appealed to me, and I look forward to working with Philip on his series with Nosy Crow.”

This is the most high-profile of several recent great fiction acquisitions, including a series of four titles by best-seller Holly Webb, that make it clear how serious Nosy Crow is about fiction publishing as well as full-colour publishing. We’ve got world rights in all languages for all of them, so there’ll be lots to talk about at the Bologna Book Fair next week.

Today, as well as announcing this acquisition, we have added our 2012 titles to the Books section of our website. We will publish 25 new titles this year, and at least 35 next year. This year we’ll launch 5 apps for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch and we’re planning to make at least 8 new apps in 2012.

It’s “all systems go” here at the Crow’s Nest…

Bizzy Bear is published

Posted by Kate on Mar 04, 2011

World Book Day was the big books-and-reading news of yesterday, but it was also the publication day for the first two books in our Bizzy Bear series by Benji Davies, Bizzy Bear: Fun on the Farm and Bizzy Bear: Let’s Go and Play.

In celebration, Benji drew us the very fine crow:

We’ve got very cheering videos of a pair of two year-olds reading each of the books in the “extras” tab for each book.

These books have simple rhyming texts and really sturdy mechanisms and are really great for children from 18 months to 3.

We’ve got some to send to reviewers and bloggers. So, if toddler books float your boat, let us know: contact us on hello@nosycrow.com with the subject line, Reviewing Bizzy Bear.

And if you are in East London today (4 March), you could come to our Bizzy Bear event at 11.30am for 45 minutes of songs, stories and colouring at the Discover Centre’s Big Write festival, where we’re doing other events, too:

Nikalas and Tim will be doing a Mega Mash-up event at 3.30pm to 4.15pm on Sunday 6 March.

I will be doing an event with Neal Hoskins of Winged Chariot about apps at 6.30pm to 8.00pm on Thursday 10 March.

And Axel Scheffler is doing a Pip and Posy event at 1.00pm to 1.45pm on Saturday 12 March.

First Mega Mash-up author event

Posted by Kate on Mar 01, 2011

Guest blogger Nikalas Catlow writes about his event with co-author/illustrator of the Mega Mash-up series, Tim Wesson.

Our Mega Mash-Up tour kicked off last week with a rehearsal in our own studio to a rather silent, but very appreciative imaginary audience. On Friday morning it was time for the real deal: we found ourselves in Chelmsford at Just Imagine, Write Away’s, brand new storytelling centre and children’s book shop where we were to perform our first Mega Mash-Up gig.

We launched into our double act, a stunning and dare-devil display of extreme live drawing. Sections of our Romans v Dinosaurs book were acted out for the amusement of our brilliant audience. Kids, DO TRY THIS AT HOME! To finish the event a ‘how to draw’ session on dinosaurs and Romans inspired fantastic artwork from many eager young artists.

We were delighted with everyone’s drawings and enjoyed chatting with the crowd after the show. One boy by the name of Jake bought three copies of Romans v Dinosaurs.... Now that’s what we call a Mega Mash-Up fan!

The event was even covered by BBC Essex Radio

And we’re now making badges for our next event at Discover on Sunday 6 March at 3.30pm.

Mega Mash-up team give a Romasaurian feast

Posted by Kate on Feb 21, 2011

The Mega Mash-Up author/illustrator team, Nikalas Catlow (far right) and Tim Wesson (next to him, first from right) gathered together a handful of privileged friends in London yesterday to serve up a Romasaurian feast in celebration of the publication of Mega Mash-up: Romans v Dinosaurs on Mars and Mega Mash-up: Robots v Gorillas in the Desert.

Romasauria is the glass-domed city in Romans v Dinosaurs on Mars which Romans and Dinosaurs bicker and co-exist until their civilisation is threatened by an asteroid spotted heading towards Mars by Augustus Astronomus.

Food for the feast included mooncow and poogoid stew (no poogoids, were, however, harmed in the making of this stew, as, not being on Mars, Nikalas was forced to substitute chorizo), and the tablecloth was printed out spreads of the book. We were equipped with pens so that we could do what everyone should do when faced with a page of Mega Mash-up: read the story, and complete the illustration and fill in the speech-bubbles. I am happy to say that my camel, in the desert that the Robots and Gorillas race across to settle scores, drew particular compliments.

The books have been out for a week or so, and are being promoted in Sainsbury’s and Waterstones. They are quite unique in their combination of fiction and doodling.

We’ve had a couple of reviews so far:

Parents in Touch said: “This new series from Nosy Crow is an innovative and clever combination of novel and doodle book and I think is an absolutely brilliant idea for reluctant or struggling readers, especially that notoriously hard market – boys… Zany stories and quirky illustrations make these books great fun.”

Sarah’s Book Reviews wrote: “There is plenty of room for a child’s own imagination… I will be recommending it to friends as a great idea for their children.”

There’s a fun, interactive dedicated website, too.

Mega Mash-up books published and website launched

Posted by Kate on Feb 12, 2011

There’s a bit of news that we’ve been keeping unusually quiet about. We published our first two Mega Mash-up titles last week: Romans v Dinosaurs on Mars and Robots v Gorillas in the Desert.

Each book is a really innovative combination of a novel and a doodle-book. They’re proper – and very funny – stories, divided into chapters and with relatively little text per page. Each page is illustrated in an accessible but zany style, and the reader is invited to complete the pictures, add to the speech-bubbles, and draw their own additional characters.

It’s fiction, Jim, but not as we know it… and there’s nothing else like it.

The first two books are being promoted by Waterstones and Sainsbury’s and we’ve sold the rights to translate the books to several countries already.

It’s early days, so we’ve had just a couple of reviews… but they’re really positive:

The Library Mice review said, “Seriously, check this out this series, whether your little readers at home are reluctant, struggling or more than willing! This is exactly the kind of books us parents need to be able to hand in to our offspring in school holidays or on long car journey!”

The Parents in Touch review said of Romans v Dinosaurs on Mars, “In this hilarious story, imagine Romans and dinosaurs harmoniously living together on Mars – and a gigantic asteroid about to crash into the planet. Readers, especially boys, will revel in the funny story while having fun completing the pictures. Ideas are given to help creativity, making this fun for everyone.”

And now there’s a lively reader-orientated website up and running, with videos and printables as well as information about the series.

We’re really proud of this series, and these two books are the first of many: the next one is Aliens v Mad Scientists under the Ocean, publishing in June.

Nikalas and Tim, the creators of the series, have events lined up at Chelmsford and at the Big Write festival at Discover, in Stratford, East London and then later at the Hay and Edinburgh Literary Festivals.

And we’re still really keen to find reviewers for the books – so far, we haven’t shown them to anyone who hasn’t really liked them – so if you’re a children’s book reviewer or blogger and would like a copy, we’d love to hear from you, so do contact us.

Bizzy Bear kicks off

Posted by Kate on Feb 07, 2011

Kirsty writes:

“The advance copies of the first two books in Nosy Crow’s Bizzy Bear series have arrived in the office, and very fine they look too. Bizzy Bear: Fun on the Farm and Bizzy Bear: Let’s Go and Play both publish on 9 March.

Pictured here is one small boy absorbed in Bizzy Bear: Let’s Go and Play, having first fetched his own football because it’s just like Bizzy Bear’s. He enjoyed the sturdy, imaginative push-and-pull tabs and sliders and especially loved the being able to pass the ball from Bizzy Bear to his friend and back again. We stayed on that page for some time. Never has spot-the-ball been so much fun, for child or parent!”

Collaboration, collaboration, collaboration

Posted by Kate on Jan 21, 2011

One of the great joys of working in children’s books is the degree to which the publisher has – and I have often used this metaphor before – a seat at the creative table.

At Nosy Crow, we think that we bring decades of experience combined with good ideas to help authors and illustrators, whether they are established or new, shape their books at every level, from overall storylines, to the shape of a nose, the choice of a word or the point in the story that a page is turned.

Penny Dale entirely knows her onions when it comes to writing and illustrating children’s picture books, but she too welcomes publisher input. This is Penny and Camilla discussing the storyline for the sequel to Dinosaur Dig!, which is open in front of them, in Nosy Crow’s offices this week. Sorry re Penny blinking: my photography failure again.

We even asked @nosycrow’s twitter followers what their pre-schoolers’ favourite vehicles were to inspire us along the way. Do let us know what your pre-schooler’s favourite vehicles are if you haven’t already by posting a comment.

Nosy Crow's first printed books arrive

Posted by Kate on Oct 21, 2010

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! Nosy Crow’s first printed books have arrived.

These are just advances of Mega Mash-up: Romans v Dinosaurs on Mars (we have just two precious copies) that have arrived from the printer in Shenzhen, China.

This is a big day for Imogen who is becoming our Queen of Production, for Imago, with whom we are working on all of our full-colour printing, for Kirsty, the editor on the books and, of course, for Nikalas and Tim, the brilliant creators of the series.

The books, which are an innovative fusion of fiction and doodle-books, are short and hilarious novels with quirky, funny illustrations, and space for the reader to add to the pictures. They publish in February 2011.

The trade response has been great: they’ll be promoted on the high street in the UK and have been taken by a number of book club and other “special” customers, and were a hit at Frankfurt.

You can see a video of Nikalas and Tim talking about the creation of the books here.

And now... best books for ten (10) year-old boys

Posted by Kate on Oct 17, 2010

Having written a post on best books for ten year-old girls, Kate felt that she couldn’t not write the companion post on best books for ten year-old boys, not least because it’s another rich seam of terrific writing. Of course, there are many overlaps between books ‘for’ boys and books ‘for’ girls (and the gender divide was really driven by the twitter enquiry that prompted the list of best books for girls), but there are differences too. However much of an old-style Doc-Marten-wearing feminist Kate was (is…), and however much she swore that she would not encourage her own children into gender stereotypes, she’s come to accept differences, whether innate or cultural. in boys’ and girls’ reading and playing preferences. It is better, she thinks, for children to read things that appeal to them, than to try to push them into “appreciating” things that they don’t really respond to.

Once again, the reading levels vary and these are not all literary books. Kate thinks children should be encouraged to read widely.

Classics:

The Narnia stories by C S Lewis
The Just William books by Richmal Crompton
The Tintin books
The Asterix books
The Silver Sword by Ian Serrallier
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

Funny books:

The Eddie Dickens books by Philip Ardagh
The Larklight books by Philip Reeve
The Mr Gum books by Andy Stanton
The Rover books by Roddy Doyle (especially The Meanwhile Adventures)
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
The Jiggy McCue books by Michael Lawrence
Our forthcoming Mega Mash-up books
(And, since this blog post was first published, The Grunts series Philip Ardagh and our Danny Danger books by Adam Frost.)

Time-slip/historical books:

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo
Goodnight, Mr Tom by Michelle Magorian
The Wolves of Willougby Chase by Joan Aitken
The Kite Rider by Geraldine McCaughrean
The Legendeer Trilogy by Alan Gibbons
Gladiator by Simon Scarrow and Richard Jones is likely to appeal, and publishes in February 2011
The Eagle of the Ninth and other historical fiction by Rosemary Sutcliffe
Cue for Treason and other historical fiction by Geoffrey Treese
The Machine Gunners and other historical fiction by Robert Westall
Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver
Kensuke’s Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo

“Ordinary boy”/school stories:

Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce
Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce
Cloud Busting by Malorie Blackman
Three Weeks with the Queen by Maurice Gleitzman
Bless the Beasts and Children by Glendon Swarthout
Goal by Michael Morpurgo
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
The Jamie Johnson football books by Dan Freedman

Fantasy/adventure stories:

The Alex Rider books by Anthony Horowitz
The Artemis Fowl books by Eoin Colfer
The Cherub books by Robert Muchamore
The Young Bond books by Charlie Higson
Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke
The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke
The Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper
Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Charlie Bone books by Jenny Nimmo
Harry Potter books by J K Rowling
Percy Jackson books by Rick Riordan
Northern Lights by Philip Pullman (a bit top-end of the age-group, this)
No Such Thing as Dragons by Philip Reeve
Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve (a bit top-end of the age-group, this)
Stig of the Dump by Clive King
Our forthcoming Danny Danger books
Varjak Paw by S F Said
Born to Run by Michael Morpurgo
Arthur, High King of Britain by Michael Morpurgo

“Real-life” stories:

The My Story books (actually fictionalised, but still based on real historical events)
The Horrible Histories books
The Horrible Science books
The Horrible Geography books
Boy by Roald Dahl

Back to school for a Mega Mash-up

Posted by Kate on Aug 31, 2010

While we’ve been working throughout the summer, today was the first day in a while that Imogen, Kate, Camilla and Adrian have convened in the office, and, though Deb: wasn’t with us as she’s on holiday, and Steph and Kate B have yet to start (they join us on 13 September), it did feel like the beginning of a new phase, as we rev up to publication of our first app in October 2010 and our first print publication in January 2011.

This feeling was reinforced by the arrival today of bound proofs of Mega Mash-up: Romans v Dinosaurs on Mars They were very, very handsome. We’d set out to create a unique package combining fiction with doodling, in a fiction-friendly paperback format and with two-colour illustration throughout. They’re novels, but they invite even the most reluctant reader in by suggesting that they complete the illustrations. What’s more, they’re funny in a scatalogical boy way (funnier even than a book has any right to be whose central premise is that dinosaurs and Romans will have to work together to save their Martian colony from an asteroid by firing hardened dinosaur dung from catapults). And they look great!

Here’s Imogen, fast becoming our book production as well as our admin supremo, looking through one of the proofs. We need them to check that we haven’t made any mistakes (so we have sent them to Kirsty, their editor, and Nikalas and Tim, who created them. We also need them so that Nosy Crow and Bounce can show them to booksellers, some of whom have already told us they like them: Waterstones will be promoting Mega Mash-up: Romans v Dinosaurs on Mars in stores on publication in February 2011. We’ll also be taking them to the Frankfurt book fair, to sell translation rights.

What if completely bonkers things happened?

Posted by Kate on Mar 17, 2010

So here’s what happened: Kate worked with Nikalas Catlow at Scholastic a while ago, and when he heard about Nosy Crow he and Tim Wesson, with whom he’s set up a partnership, came in to chat about books. We liked their irrepressible boysiness and humour, and one idea in particular really stood out, and we asked them to develop it. A week or so later they came in with something we thought was brilliant: the shortest possible chapter book/young novel with space for kids to complete the picture.

What’s more, they’d created crazy – but completely compelling – combinations of two subjects that would appeal to a 6 to 9 year old boy with a location that would appeal to the same boy. Those of you who did our survey on what boys really love (see the results in our post The future’s bright, the future’s boys) fed into the process and inspired some great combinations. The first title is Mega Mash-Up: Dinosaurs v Romans.

In short, as Scotty would say, “It’s fiction, Jim, but not as we know it!”

Camilla and Kate looked at each other, and Kate said, “I think we should go out into the corridor,” (you should know we have a completely open plan office/meeting room). So they did, and they came back five minutes later with an offer. Nikalas and Tim thought they might want to consider it for a while… so they went out into the corridor and then came back in five minutes later and accepted.

You can read about the books and have a look at a couple of draft spreads. And you can read about Nikalas and Tim too.

The future's bright. The future's boys.

Posted by Kate on Mar 08, 2010

We’ll be able to tell you about our new series of books that we think will particularly appeal to 6-9 year old boys very soon, but, meanwhile, here are the results of our survey of what boys in that age-group really like.

We had 23 responses, so it’s hardly YouGov, but many, many thanks to those of you who did respond.

Here, in descending order of popularity, is the list of things and places that boys who participated said they thought were cool:

  1. The future
  2. Big zappers (i.e. weapons)
  3. Outer space
  4. Centre of the earth
  5. Sharks
  6. Spies
  7. Sabre-toothed tigers
  8. Roman Soldiers
  9. Knights
  10. Robots
  11. Mars
  12. Deserts
  13. Aliens
  14. Deep sea
  15. Jungles
  16. Detectives
  17. Dinosaurs
  18. Medieval castles
  19. Ancient Egypt
  20. Vampires
  21. Zombies
  22. Skeletons
  23. Ghosts
  24. Gladiators
  25. Cars
  26. Mummies
  27. Vikings
  28. Pirates
  29. Haunted houses
  30. Mammoths
  31. Giant insects
  32. Gorillas
  33. Chimps
  34. Loos/poos

A view from the bridge

Posted by Kate on Mar 01, 2010

A view from the bridge

This is how London looks today. It was taken from Lambeth Bridge looking east by Kate (who makes no claims to being a photographer!) on her way to work this morning – her first glove-free bike ride of the year. It really feels as if spring is about to spring in London. It also felt to Kate like the most enormous privilege to be able to cycle to our own company in our own time.

Late on Friday afternoon last week, we had a great creative meeting with an author/illustrator team about a series of books (plus a website) that we think will particularly appeal to boys. Together, we came up with some terrific ideas to take the series beyond the first excellent book they were working on, but it started us wondering what boys aged between 6 and 9 would say they REALLY liked if we asked them. So we are asking you. If you know a boy aged between 6 and 9, do take our survey with them and return the results by 6.00pm (UK time) on Monday 8 March. We’ll post the results on the website next week.

Here’s the link to the survey (which is, incidentally, anonymous):