It’s been very cold and wintery at the Crow’s Nest today… and Pip and Posy simply could NOT resist going outside and playing in the snow!
Thankfully, this time they didn’t make the same mistakes as in their most recent adventure, Pip and Posy: The Snowy Day – there were no arguments over snowmice and snowrabbits, and absolutely NO pushing-over. If you’d like to read Axel’s version of events, you can take a look inside the book below (or order it online here).
In Fire Rescue, Bizzy Bear is lending a hand at the fire station when he receives an emergency call summoning the team’s help. Using ingeniously simple and easy-to-use mechanisms, you can help Bizzy Bear race to the rescue in this action-packed story!
And in Pirate Adventure, Bizzy Bear packs his ship, hoists the jolly roger and sets sail on an exciting pirate adventure! All little readers will love helping Bizzy steer his ship, dig for treasure and open the treasure chest.
Yesterday evening I was very happy to be the guest of Booktrust at the Third Sector Excellence Awards. Here’s a classically terrible photo, taken by me, of Obi Amadi (representing the health professionals who are critical to the delivery of Bookstart); Booktrust’s Chief Executive; Viv Bird, Booktrust’s Director of Programmes; Rosemary Clarke; and Paul Hudson, who heads up Booktrust’s fundraising efforts.
Booktrust were shortlisted for the most prestigious award for an organisation of the evening, The Big Impact award, for their long-running book gifting programme for babies and toddlers, Bookstart. This is a programme I’ve long admired, and, over the years, tried to find ways of supporting. I spoke about my first experience of it in this blog post.
They didn’t win this year, but to make the shortlist together with such impressive and, in some cases, very large scale organisations was a huge achievement.
The atmosphere was terrific. It was, frankly, rather humbling to be in a room with people who spent most of their lives trying to make the world better in their different ways. There were people whose own lives had been touched by the focus of the charity they were associated with (like Hannah Jones, joint winner of the Volunteer of the Year award for her work with The Brain Tumour Charity, who was picking up the award three years after her own diagnosis) as well as third-sector professionals. There were small charities and large charities. Charities with a small specific or local focus and international organisations. The sense of energy and humour in the room was enhanced by the admirably slick and funny compere, Paul Sinha.
So congratulations to Booktrust on their impressive shortlisting. They have, I know, more awards ceremonies coming up, so I for one have my fingers firmly crossed that they’ll receive all the recognition they deserve.
As the days shorten, the nights get nippier and the leaves fall from the trees, we find ourselves turning to indoor pursuits, to cooking and craft… and to sharing scary stories. At Nosy Crow, we’ve noticed that toddlers love the thrill of a spooky tale as much as the rest of us – providing it’s not too frightening, of course.
In Axel Scheffler’s new Pip and Posy story, The Scary Monster, Posy is interrupted in her baking by a big, furry blue hand knocking at her window. At first, poor Posy is alarmed and rather scared but, with a little bit of courage and smart thinking, she soon realises that it’s not a monster, after all, but Pip in a silly costume. We hope it’s a gentle and funny way of allowing little children to join in with autumnal fun and games, without frightening the living daylights out of them!
These are very simple rhyming touch-and-feel books that would, I think, be exactly right for a baby aged between 6 and 18 months. When we were looking for an illustrator (Marion Billet is French, and none of us had worked with her before), we were influenced by the look of Japanese packaging, and Camilla had a line up of various Japanese biscuits and sweets on her desk.
We’ve sold rights to the books to the US (they’re going to be published under the Nosy Crow imprint by Candlewick). And that was an interesting process: Noodle was originally eating (chopped up) sausages and strawberries (not together, of course: that would be revolting), but Candlewick thought that sausages would be viewed as being bad for young children, and said that US paediatricians discouraged parents from giving strawberries to babies and toddlers because they were allergenic. So we changed the sausages to pasta (you can see on the “sausages” version, which is a proof, the line that indicates where the card will be cut so that the green, bumpy fabric can be felt through the hole):
Noodle with his sausages
Noodle with pasta
And we changed the strawberries to raspberries.
This was expensive and time-consuming (I mean, we love Candlewick, so nothing’s too much trouble, but still…). However, the only way that illustrated books (and particularly touch-and-feel books) are financially viable to produce is if we can collect together a really big print-run, printing our own (UK and Australia/New Zealand) copies together with copies for as many other countries as we can sell rights to. So, if you’re creating illustrated books, you have to accommodate the taste (literally, in this instance) and the cultures of different countries.
There are people who argue that this “internationalisation” leads to bland books. I don’t think it does, and looking round the halls at Bologna, I am always struck by the variation and I am very sure that many really great books wouldn’t get published if you only had the UK market to rely on: the example that I always give is that of The Gruffalo, of which, I think, perhaps 1,500 hardback copies were printed for the UK/Australia/New Zealand, but a financially viable print run was made up of this quantity plus quantities in other languages.
We’ve also so far sold rights in these books in Dutch, Portuguese and Italian – to countries where, it seems, pasta and raspberries are absolutely fine for babies – so it all ended well for Noodle.
Hello, everyone. Pip and Posy here, posting from the Hay-on-Wye festival. It’s fantastic here – there are millions of books, quite a few clever grown-up people talking about books, and loads of wet other people wearing wellies. We even saw a royal Duchess (Camilla – no crown, but no wellies either).
It was brilliant fun. We didn’t have to sit still, or behave ourselves properly or anything. Penny showed us how she drew the pictures which was really interesting – how do you get a T-rex’s tail in a dumper truck cab? But the best bit was when she got us all to stamp and stomp, and to roar a lot, just like in the book!
We had such a good time that Pip very nearly had a little accident, but we got to the (really nice) toilets just in time, so it was ok.
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.
Lots of interviewers wanted to talk to him about his best-known books, The Gruffalo, which he illustrated and Julia Donaldson wrote and which I published at Macmillan perhaps almost 12 years ago. The book is regularly described as a modern classic and is the basis of an Oscar-nominated short film, not to mention a merchandising phenomenon, so this isn’t terribly surprising.
The Pip and Posy books are about a boy rabbit called Pip and a girl mouse called Posy. They all explore a bad thing that happens, that makes either Pip and Posy very sad, or angry or scared, and then the books show how they resolve those problems. So in Pip and Posy: The Super Scooter, Posy takes Pip’s scooter without asking and then she falls off it. Even though Pip was furious with Posy, he gives her a hug, and, though Posy’s hurt her knee, she cheers up and they both go and play in the sand pit. Though the stories are short, Axel wanted to communicate in the illustrations how angry Pip is and how sad and sorry Posy is. In Pip and Posy: The Little Puddle, Pip has an accident and does a wee on the floor. He’s really embarrassed, but Posy makes it all OK. He borrows some clothes, and the next time he has to do a wee, he does one in the potty. So every story has an low point – and “oh, dear” moment – and then, at the end, a high point – a “hooray” moment.
Axel’s ability to capture, for example, the expression on the face of a male rabbit asked to choose between two alternative dresses to wear after a puddle-on-the-floor accident is one of the reasons we think he’s utterly brilliant!
Here’s Axel talking to BBC radio Humberside:
The interview, together with interviews on BBC Humberside, BBC Ulster, BBC Bristol, BBC Wiltshire and BBC Cumbria, will be broadcast today, with others following over the next few days.
Kate’s been describing the books – rather tongue-in-cheek, of course – as “when bad things happen to good toddlers”. In each story, a bad thing happens – whether it’s that Pip forgets he needs a wee, and wets his trousers, or Posy snatches Pip’s scooter without asking and then falls off – but between them, Pip and Posy are able to sort things out and, together, go on to do something nice and happy. So they very much reflect the roller-coaster of pre-schoolers’ emotional lives.
Pip and Posy’s first outing was, in fact, at the Discover Centre in Stratford East and you can read about it here, but now they’re properly published. Axel nipped into Waterstone’s flagship store in Piccadilly to draw on their blackboards to celebrate and will be talking about Pip and Posy at Stratford, Hay, Edinburgh and Bath Literary Festivals this year.
We’ve sold rights to the USA/Canada, France, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Holland already, with many more languages to follow.
We’re proud of all of the books and apps we publish and of all of our authors, but it is the case that we were unusually and particularly lucky as a new independent publishing company to be able to persuade Axel to illustrate for us, and we’re hugely grateful to him for his leap of faith.
We’re marking the release of Pip and Posy with a competition to win a signed set of books.
So to be in with a chance of winning, please post a comment on our Facebook page or in the Comments field below telling us why you love Axel’s artwork. The winner will be picked at random. The closing date is Friday 15 April.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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’sBig Write festival, where we’re doing other events, too: