Posted by Kate on Apr 09, 2012
We’d a nice presence in the broadsheets over the Easter weekend.
On Saturday, Julia Eccleshare’s round-up of Easter reading for The Guardian featured The Baby That Roared written by Simon Puttock and illustrated by Nadia Shireen. Kate Burns wrote about its publication in a recent blog post. The Guardian placed it nicely as a witty story for new siblings:
“Love them or loathe them, babies are sweet. At least, that’s what Mr and Mrs Deer think. They long for a baby of their own, so when one is left on their doorstep they do not hesitate to bring it in. But this little baby does nothing but ROAR. And when relatives start disappearing, Mr and Mrs Deer have to ask some serious questions about their new baby. With no happy-ever-after ending, this is a deliciously entertaining story that takes a fresh look at the arrival of a new baby and the problems it can bring.”
On Sunday, Nicolette Jones included two Nosy Crow books in her Sunday Times round-up of Easter reading.
The first was Goldilocks and Just the One Bear by Leigh Hodgkinson. The book, says the Sunday Times, “gives a novel twist to a familiar fairy tale as a lost bear causes mayhem in a city apartment, before the (human) family comes home. After the “somebody’s been…” routine, the mother turns out to be Goldilocks, now grown up, and the bear is the former Baby Bear. This happy reunion is remarkable for its witty, chatty update reminiscent of Lauren Child, with comical, detail-rich illustrations in vivid retro greens, oranges and pinks.”
The second was The Secret Hen House Theatre, by debut novelist Helen Peters whose publication Kirsty wrote about in this recent blog post.
The Sunday Times piece said:
“A variation on the always popular let’s-put-on-a-play-in-the-barn story, The Secret Hen House Theatre… adds depth with its theme of dealing with grief and a plot about saving a farm. An engaging tale about family and friendship for 10+.”
Well over 100,000 books are published in the UK each year, and I think around 10% of them are children’s books (I have a figure of 8,000 in my head, but I may be making it up or it may be out-of-date, and Google has been unhelpful in verifying it). Let’s assume it’s right, and then let’s assume (wrongly) that roughly the same number of children’s books is published in each month, and that Easter round-ups draw on the previous two months of publishing. That would mean that these books were competing with over 1,300 other books to be featured in reviews. While this arithmetic isn’t exact, it does give a sense of how tough it is to get a review of a book in a major UK paper.
Last year’s Books and Consumers survey suggested that reviews and recommendations drove only 5% of children’s fiction book purchases. However, browsing remains the biggest purchase prompt and covers remain significant, driving 39% of sales between them. One of the things that reviews sometimes provide is a few key words to put on the cover of the next reprint of the reviewed book that, we hope, draw the eye of the potential reader (or parent or teacher of the reader), and support the browsing and cover-based selection process.
Reviews also help us position future books by the author/illustrator with retailers: we include review extracts in the information sheets about our books that we supply to retailers and in our catalogues. In fact, we’re working on a catalogue for the London Book Fair, and I was emailing through the key words from the reviews of the three titles mentioned above for the designer to incorporate into the final tweaks to the catalogue as I was reading the reviews. A good review won’t salvage a book that a retailer doesn’t think that they will succeed with in the first place, but it might reinforce a selection that they are part-way to making… which means that the book will be available for the browsing and cover visibility that accounts for the 39% of book purchases.
The picture at the top of this blog is an illustration from Goldilocks and Just the One Bear in The Sunday Times round-up… with an Axel Scheffler illustration from his first picture book, You’re a Hero, Daley B, that is being reissued and that I mentioned in this recent blog post.
(Twelve Minutes to Midnight author Christopher Edge’s event with Philip Pullman and JD Sharpe at the Oxford Literary Festival about the influence of Charles Dickens on children’s writers was also mentioned in The Sunday Times: “Asked what his first encounter with Dickens was, Edge rather shamefacedly confessed, ‘The Muppet Christmas Carol’.”)
Posted by Kate on Apr 22, 2011
We’re in the run-up to Easter (and Passover’s begun – any good childeren’s versions of the Haggadah, people?), so it seemed interesting to ask people for their Easter and, more generally, spring book recommendations.
It seems that the most impressive – to me – children’s book telling the story of Easter, Jan Pienkowski’s Easter, is out of print. It combines King James Bible words with Jan’s trademark silhouettes against a marbled background.
@dredgewood suggested The Story of Easter by Christopher Doyle.
Tom, who’s interning here, and whose photography skills I’ve already roundly mocked, suggested that the great Easter children’s book is The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis. I looked puzzled. “But it’s about a world where it’s always winter and never Christmas,” I said. He reminded me of the Christian allegory of Aslan’s self-sacrifice for Edmund’s betrayal. Ahem. He is right, of course… though, as ever, I tend to see children’s books through the lens through which a child might look at it, and I don’t think that many 10 year olds will clock that allegory.
Widening the search beyond Easter-specific titles, I asked Twitter followers about spring and chick ‘n’ bunny books.
There were a few generally spring-like suggestions.
@sarah_hilary proposed The Secret Garden, which is, after all, about a physical and metaphorical, transition from winter to early summer.
And, if we’re going general – and as maybe I’m thinking about it because of the current almost-full moon – what about The Very Hungry Caterpillar?
I had the following suggestions that were poultry-based:
@prestonrutt suggested Ed Vere’s Chick.
@Discover_Story suggested The Odd Egg by Emily Gravett.
@AliB68 reminded me of The Spring Song in Tales from Moominvalley by Tove Jansson.
@hoorayforbooks suggested Shen Roddie’s Hatch, Egg, Hatch.
Oh, Dylan by Tracey Corderoy (author of Nosy Crow’s Hubble Bubble, Granny Trouble and illustrated by Tina McNaughton was suggested by @LFoxIllustrator.
@cethanleahy remembered that there’s an Easter egg story in Brer Rabbit Plays a Trick and Other Stories.
@KatApel proposed Chickens Aren’t The Only Ones by Ruth Heller.
@AnneRooney mentioned Mrs Goose’s Babies by Charlotte Voake.
@Alex_T_Smith suggests Egg by, um, Alex T Smith, but that boy’s got talent so here is what he himself describes as a “shameless plug”.
And @Emmad77 reminded me of Charlie The Chicken by Nick Denchfield and Ant Parker that I published and, I seem to remember, wrote the text for.
My own chick/duckling/gosling list would include the following:
The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen.
Make Way For Ducklings, the classic American picture book.
For my children, Rod Campbell’s Buster’s Farm was a first introduction to the idea that hens laid eggs, and Benji Davies’s Bizzy Bear something similar in Bizzy Bear: Fun on the Farm.
And I’d add a personal favourite, Ruby Flew Too by Jonathen Emmett and Rebecca Harry – read it as a parent and blub.
There were some fine bunny-based suggestions too:
Camilla suggested Guess How Much I Love You (the office copy of which she’s just taken home to read aloud).
@prestonrutt suggested Emily Gravett’s The Rabbit Problem.
@dredgewood suggested The Country Bunny & The Gold Shoes by Du Bose Heyward.
Not a rabbit, but a hamster (so here because displaying impeccable rodent credentials and also because it has Easter in the title), was remembered fondly by @amandapollard, whose Haffertee’s First Easter by Janet and John Perkins was a Sunday School gift, “and undoubtedly the highlight of 8 years endured”.
@sarah_hilary suggested The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Wiliams (again, I think of this, in my literal-minded way as a Christmas book more than an Easter book) and it got two other votes too, so it made the list, on condition that no other edition than the William Nicholson illustrated edition is given house room, and I do love it.
Kate Burns suggested You’re a Hero, Daley B by Jon Blake, which was one of the first books that Axel Scheffler illustrated.
My own list would include:
Axel Scheffler’s Pip and Posy and The Super Scooter (of course!), which not only features a very fine rabbit (Pip) but also feels very spring-like. As Julia Eccleshare says of this book in her round-up of new children’s books for this Easter in The Guardian, “Scheffler’s illustrations are full of comfort and gentle humour”.
Little Rabbit Foo Foo by Michael Rosen and Arthur Robins (just typing it makes me smile).
Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter (and @publishingmum mentioned Peter Rabbit too)
There’s lots of spring/Easter activity stuff out there.
The very fine website, Parents in Touch, has done a post on spring and Easter activity books here
Also on the activity books theme, when I asked on Twitter for Easter book recommendations, Usborne amusingly simply sent me a link to their homepage and therefore all of their books. However, it is true that they have an awful lot of Easter titles here. When pressed, their tweeter selected First Activities: Easter Fun as their favourite Usborne Easter book.
And finally, I am, with a stone in my stomach, forced, too, to acknowledge that several people pointed out that the weekend following the Easter weekend is the Royal Wedding weekend (maybe this is just sour grapes: I will be flying to Australia). The Perfectly Pretty Royal Wedding Book was suggested by Scholastic, which I’d have ignored (sorry, Alyx), except that @librarymice said she was giving it to her daughter as part of her Easter book bundle. So here it is, included with a bit of a sigh.
So what’s missing from this list? Do let us know by sending us a comment.