This exciting fundraising project is the brainchild of two local Crouch End mums, Ellie Northam and Bex Davies, who want to raise both awareness and vital funds for Noah’s Ark. The money will help the charity continue its incredible work supporting life-limited and life-threatened children, their brothers, sisters and families living in the communities of North London.
As well as the auction, which will begin at 8pm on Saturday December 14, the library will also be open during the day for a special family afternoon with (cakes and face painting) from 1pm – 5pm.
You can find out more about the exhibition and auction here, and read more about the fantastic work that Noah’s Ark do here. So if you’re around Crouch End on Saturday, help support this very worthy cause!
The Nosy Crow Christmas party is going to be a tricky one for Nosy Crow this year. Why? Because Nosy Crow is a victim of its own success. The party is being held on the same day that the winners of the Roald Dahl Funny Prize are announced.
1. All three books lose, resulting much glumness all round but the opportunity to mutter “We was robbed!” and “What do they know anyway?” and to pull together with the Dunkirk spirit.
2. One book wins, and the other two lose. Great for the winner and for Nosy Crow, and the creators of the two losing books can get roaring drunk, link arms and sing ‘It Should Have Been Me’.
3. Two books win and one loses, which would be the least likely but best-case scenario for Nosy Crow as a company… and the worst case scenario for the loser. Think of solitary sobbing in the stationery cupboard.
What a party this is going to turn out to be.
Thank you, Philip “Cassandra the Prophet” Ardagh, for these entirely helpful, and not-at-all panic-inducing, projections. The winners of The Roald Dahl Funny Prize 2013 will be announced at The Cambridge Theatre, London, home to the musical version of Roald Dahl’s Matilda, on 10th December – wish us (and all of our authors and illustrators) luck!
If you’re a fan of funny books, then Nosy Crow is the place to be. Today the shortlist for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize was announced, and we are thrilled to say that there are THREE Nosy Crow titles across the two categories – a quarter of the total number of shortlisted books!
Of course, I am being not remotely original or interesting by saying how much of a Dahl fan i have always been (I even wrote my degree thesis on him)… but it is true. I can’t remember exactly when I stumbled across his words which were magically glued to Quentin Blake’s spiky illustrations… but all I know is that my world was never quite the same again. So to be nominated for this award is a very special thing indeed. For me, it is a validation that a jaunty angled story which makes you grin can also have something more meaningful lurking underneath if you look past the giggles.
I’m extremely excited and also quite relieved that people find Weasels funny and not completely insane! Or maybe they think it’s both…
As anyone with a degree in engineering will know, there are few things in life more exciting than cheese, but one such thing is being shortlisted for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize for a second time.
The first time, back in 2009 when talk was cheap, I – along with my splendid illustrator Jim Paillot – went on to win the prize so never dreamed of reaching the shortlist again (my standards having dropped so dreadfully since then), which only goes to show what SUPERB judges they have this year, guided by the unsteady hand of Michael Rosen.
If, however, my book The Grunts all at Sea, lavishly illustrated by the truly remarkable (but little known) Axel Scheffler fails to win the 2013 prize, ignore the previous praise and be aware that the judges are a bunch of numbskulls who wouldn’t recognise a good book if it sat on their lap and said, “Call me Gerald!” *
(*They won’t be reading this blog, will they?)
I’m having great fun writing The Grunts – I finished book three this very week – and, from the occasional guffaw coming from my cellar, Axel seems to enjoy illustrating them, so it’s a delight to know that children and prize judges alike are enjoying them too.
The Roald Dahl Funny Prize takes children’s funny books seriously, and that’s certainly something to celebrate AND smile about.
Now, if I start shampooing my beard now, it should be dry in time for the award ceremony in December.
Axel? Axel! Have you seen my heated rollers…?
The three shortlisted titles are equally brilliant – three unique authorial voices and three fantastically distinctive illustrative styles – and all, needless to say, very, VERY funny. Funny books are particularly great for reluctant readers, and for reading together. But they’re also good for reading outside, under the bedcovers, in the dark, on top of a hill, in the bath or while sat on someone’s shoulders. ANYWHERE, in fact. So if you’re looking for something to make you (or perhaps someone young who you know) laugh, see what fits.
You can read more about the Roald Dahl Funny Prize and the full shortlists on the Booktrust website, here. The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in December – good luck Leigh, Elys, Philip and Axel!
Today is an absolutely mammoth publication day for Nosy Crow fiction, with FOUR new titles hitting bookshops everywhere (and one incredible picture book).
It’s the day of reckoning for The Grunts all at Sea by Philip Ardagh and Axel Scheffler – the second hilarious volume in The Grunts series. Mr Grunt is 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. That can’t be that difficult… can it? Here’s the first chapter:
And if you’re new to The Grunts, you can discover the series from the very beginning – the paperback edition of the first book, The Grunts in Trouble, is also out today! Prepare to meet Mr and Mrs Grunt, their adopted son, Sunny, their donkeys, Clip and Clop, a household of disgruntled servants from nearby Bigg House… and a swarm of angry bees! Here’s the first chapter:
We’re publishing Tiger Thief, by Michaela Clarke – a truly incredible debut novel for 9 – 12 year olds. An epic, beautifully written fantasy, Tiger Thief tells the story of Sharat and his majestic white tiger, Emira – two halves of the same soul. When Emira mysteriously disappears in the middle of their circus act, Sharat is devastated. He’s also determined to get her back, despite the force of the Empire being ranged against him… Find out about some of the inspirations behind the book at yesterday’s blogpost, where we’ve interviewed Michaela, or read the first chapter here:
It’s time for our monthly book giveaway! If you’re a resident of the UK or Ireland you can win any of next month’s releases simply by subscribing to our Books Newsletter and either tweeting to @NosyCrowBooks or leaving a comment underneath this blogpost, telling us the name you subscribed with and the book you’d like to win.
The paperback edition of Leigh Hodgkinson’s fantastic picture book Troll Swap is out next month – a funny, clever story with real heart and Leigh’s brilliant, distinctive illustration style. Here’s a look inside:
We’re publishing a very exciting debut novel: Tiger Thief, by Michaela Clarke – an epic, beautifully written fantasy, with richly-drawn characters and environments and a truly gripping story. Here’s the first chapter:
As if that wasn’t enough, we’re also publishing the paperback edition of the first book in the series, The Grunts in Trouble – so if you’re new to the series you can discover it from the very beginning and find out exactly how the travails of Mr and Mrs Grunt begin… Here’s the first chapter:
You can subscribe to the books newsletter here (if you’ve already subscribed you’re still eligible for this competition) – and every month we’ll write to you with details of our upcoming titles, author events, exclusive interviews, and all of our news. So have a good think about which book you’d like to win (we can only accept one entry per person), and good luck – we’ll pick the winners at random next week.
Weasels is also out today – a very special picture book debut by Elys Dolan. We bought this book at the Bologna Book Fair almost exactly a year ago (and you can read a bit about how Elys’ incredible bound proof became what it is now here) and today, here it is! This is an absolutely hilarious picture book, featuring a dastardly plot to take over the world, some very big drills, questionable coffee beverages… and LOTS of weasels. There’s a Weasels-takeover of our @NosyCrowBooks Twitter account taking place today – and you can take a look inside the book below:
It’s publication day for Troll Swap by Leigh Hodgkinson, author and illustrator of the Greenaway-longlisted Goldilocks and Just the One Bear. This is another hilarious and heartwarming story with clever fairytale themes, sparkling prose and Leigh’s fantastically distinctive illustration. Timothy Limpet feels out of place in the troll family – he likes things to be just so, and most trolls, frankly, don’t. Tabitha Lumpit likes things to be loud, loopy and messy and she feels a fish out of water in her very neat family. Sometimes they wonder if their families really see them for who they are, so when Timothy and Tabitha meet on the bridge they decide each other’s family is a better fit and they swap places . . . with hilarious and touching results. Here’s a look inside:
The paperback edition of Guinea Pig Party by Holly Surplice is out today – a charming picture book featuring the world’s cutest guinea pigs. Based on a familiar childhood counting rhyme and combining birthday fun, counting and cute fluffy animals, this is the perfect birthday gift for pre-school children everywhere. Here’s a look inside:
And we’re publishing Magical Mix-Ups: Pets and Parties by Marnie Edwards and Leigh Hodgkinson – the third book in the brilliantly innovative drawing-activity-storybook Magical Mix-Ups series. It’s Sapphire’s birthday and she longs for a pet of her own. Emerald’s present is the next best thing – tickets for an amazing animal magic show! But the star – a performing cat! – has mysteriously disappeared. Can the girls find her one their own? They may need you to finish the illustrations and make sure Sapphire’s birthday is perfect… This volume of Magical Mix-Ups is publishing in an EXTRA-large format – even better for doodling and creativity. Here’s the first chapter:
In what’s fast becoming a monthly tradition, we’re running another of our Books Newsletter competitions and giving away copies of our upcoming April titles. If you’re a resident of the UK or Ireland you can win any of next month’s releases simply by subscribing to our Books Newsletter and either tweeting to @NosyCrowBooks or leaving a comment underneath this blogpost, telling us the name you subscribed with and the book you’d like to win. And without further ado, here are the glorious books up for grabs…
It’s publication time for Weasels, the HILARIOUS picture book debut by Elys Dolan. It’s almost impossible to put into words how original and witty this book is: imagine spoof James Bond meets Scaredy Squirrel if you can. It’s packed with cross-over humour that’s guaranteed to amuse the very young and the not-so-young in equal measure, and the art is stylish yet accessible, and full of details for poring over time and time again – there’s always a new joke to find! We posted the Weasels Workplace Survival Guide earlier this month, and you can take a look inside the book below:
We’re releasing Troll Swap by Leigh Hodgkinson, author-illustrator extraordinaire and creator of the Greenaway-longlisted Goldilocks and Just the One Bear. Another fantastic picture book that cleverly plays with fairy tale conventions, Troll Swap tells the story of Timothy Limpet (a troll) and Tabitha Lumpet (a little girl) who both feel a bit out of place in their own families… so they decide to swap! Here’s a look inside:
The paperback edition of Guinea Pig Party by Holly Surplice is also out next month – a charming picture book featuring the world’s cutest guinea pigs. Based on a familiar childhood counting rhyme and combining birthday fun, counting and cute fluffy animals, this is the perfect birthday gift for pre-school children everywhere. Here’s a look inside:
You can subscribe to the books newsletter here (if you’ve already subscribed you’re still eligible for this competition) – and every month we’ll write to you with details of our upcoming titles, author events, exclusive interviews, and all of our news. So have a good think about which book you’d like to win (we can only accept one entry per person), and good luck – we’ll pick the winners at random next week.
Last week we learnt that some Nosy Crow books have been shortlisted for not one, and not two, but THREE different prizes. We are as pleased as can be. Here they all are:
The Secret Hen House Theatre by Helen Peters has been shortlisted for the North East Book Award (judged by Year 7 and 8 students across the North East). The winner will be announced in June at a ceremony held at the Centre for Life in Newcastle. Here’s the first chapter:
Grassroots support like this – from schools, librarians and local authorities – is absolutely vital for our books and authors. And the emphasis of all of these awards on reading for pleasure is something that is central to our vision as a publisher. So thank you to everyone who’s taken part in these awards, and good luck to Helen, Chris and Leigh!
And this volume (Magical Mix-Ups: Pets and Parties) is publishing in an extra-large volume! You can see the increased dimensions of the new book compared to the first two in the picture above. Now Magical Mix-Ups are EVEN better for doodling – with more space for all of your contributions.
It’s Sapphire’s birthday and she longs for a pet of her own. Emerald’s present is the next best thing – tickets for an amazing animal magic show! But the star – a performing cat! – has mysteriously disappeared. What a mix-up! Can the girls find her one their own? No, they can’t! They need you to finish the illustrations and make sure Sapphire’s birthday is perfect…
You can pre-order the book online here or take a look inside below.
And if you’d like to take a look at the INCREDIBLE results from one aspiring young artist’s completed Magical Mix-Ups book (in this case, the first book in the series, Birthdays and Bridesmaids), there’s a lovely post on Leigh’s blog about one seven-year-old’s finished efforts here.
This morning, for secret reasons, I re-read The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith – a very clever re-working of the traditional story. It belongs to one of my favourite genres of picture book: the fractured fairytale. Done well, fractured fairytales can be funny, clever, and illuminating, revealing hidden depths to well-known stories and teasing out character details and minor plot details into fully-crafted narratives of their own. I’d very much like to know what your favourite examples of the genre are – to get you started, here are a few of our own.
We’ve published a couple of fractured fairytales ourselves. Leigh Hodgkinson’s Greenaway-longlisted Golidilocks and Just the One Bear turns the story of Goldilocks on its head with lots of subtle humour and a very clever twist ending. Here’s a look inside:
The Princess and the Peas, by Caryl Hart and Sarah Warburton, re-invents the classic fairytale as a fantastically funny story about a girl who won’t eat her peas (and therefore must be a princess). Take a look:
And of course we’ve also released storybook app editions of Cinderella and The Three Little Pigs for iPad and iPhone, which re-interpret exactly what a story can be, and in which you can choose Cinderella’s dress and help collect the items to make a magical carriage, and blow into a microphone to blow the straw and stick houses down for the wolf. Here are the trailers for each:
Here are some of our other favourite fractured fairytales:
Louise suggested Jim and the Beanstalk by Raymond Briggs, and Little Red by Lynn and David Roberts.
Steph and Kristina both nominated another Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith collaboration, The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales.
I’m very partial to The Jolly Postman by Janet and Allan Ahlberg, which sort of skirts around the genre of the fractured fairytale (and does so with abundant charm).
I’d love to hear your own choices – leave your suggestions below!
Stories Aloud is a new way of bundling together digital content with our print books: from January, every one of our paperback picture books (and existing picture book titles, as they come up for re-print) will come with a FREE audio reading using children’s voices, complete with sound effects and original music. To activate the audio reading, all you have to do is scan a QR code on the inside cover of the book, and the audio will be streamed from the web (over 3G or WiFi).
We think that this is something that will work well for booksellers looking for ways to bundle together digital and print content, for parents who don’t always have the time to read with their children (or want to keep them occupied) and for children, especially those who don’t quite have the skills to read independently yet.
“My own children loved listening to audio recordings of their favourite picture books. Years before they could read for themselves, audio recordings meant that they were able to listen to stories wherever they wanted to. It was a really empowering thing for them that helped to build their understanding of books and their literacy skills.
“We’ve been looking for ways to invite all booksellers, not just those who deal in ebooks, into the world of digital content, and this seems like a really great way to do it: every bookseller who stocks one of our picture book paperbacks will be offering their customer free digital content when they sell a copy of a book.
“Our innovative idea brings together digital listening and reading print books in a way that uses today’s technology and that works for booksellers, for parents and for children, so now families can listen to a story, wherever and whenever they want: just pick up the book, pick up a device, scan the code and hear the story.”
Stories Aloud books will be on sale from January, and we’re launching with seven titles:
The Nosy Crow nest is an absolute hive of activity (apologies for the mixed metaphor…) today. Our new Head of Picture Books, Louise Bolongaro, has joined us and we’re thrilled to have here, ready to get to work on our fantastic illustrated list.
“I have long admired the Nosy Crow list – I’ve been watching the company from the beginning- and I am thrilled to be joining its exciting and innovative team, several of whom I know from my previous role at Macmillan, and to working with Nosy Crow’s talented group of illustrators. Nosy Crow really buzzes with creative energy and I can’t wait to help shape the list.”
“Louise combines great visual sense with a really rigorous, sleeves-rolled-up approach to editing. She’s had 15 years’ experience of working collaboratively with authors and illustrators, both established household names and new creative talents, to create child-focused picture books and novelty books. I’m very much looking forward to working with her again, and it’s great to be able to attract someone of her calibre and with her range and depth of experience to the growing Nosy Crow team.”
Stacey Shubitz asks Leigh about some fascinating parts of the process of making the book – including the logic behind specific words and fonts, fractured fairytales, and how blogging (which Leigh does here) and animation help Leigh as a writer and illustrator.
Here’s what Stacey says about Goldilocks:
“I enjoyed Goldilocks and Just One Bear for more than the fact that a bear is the protagonist. It is a well written, humorous book that is an excellent model for character development. Furthermore, as a writer, I loved Leigh’s choices of words throughout the text since they were so precise. In fact, it boggles my mind how she was able to really choose the best words page after page. In addition, the story structure of this text can be used to show students how to create rising action, a climax, and a resolution (that includes a surprise ending). For these reasons (and the fact that it includes a bear), I wanted to share it with you since it has all of the makings of an excellent mentor text.”
You can read the full, fascinating interview here, and order Goldilocks online here. And here’s a look inside the book:
It’s our busiest publication day ever – as well as our hat-trick of picture books, we have a further FOUR books out today. There’s something for every possible taste…
Kate’s worked with Philip Ardagh over the years and Kate’s worked with Axel for more years than either of them care to remember, but, though Philip and Axel knew one another, they’d never worked together. So when Kate began discussing the possibility of Philip writing a series of books for Nosy Crow, Axel’s name quickly came up as the dream illustrator.
THEGRUNTS IN TROUBLE is the first book in a brand new series. The combination of Philip’s Roald Dahl Funny Prize-winning writing wit, and Axel’s best-selling character visualising and humour, makes for a very funny and very silly read.
We’ve had a nice clutch of reviews for the book already. As well as being a Sunday Times Children’s Book of the Week, The Telegraph described the book as “Gloriously repulsive … as always with Ardagh, there is the clever word-play, irony and plain silliness that make his books such fun …. To add to the enjoyment, the book is full of wonderfully incisive and daft illustrations by Axel Scheffler.” Meanwhile, The Guardian said, “Their adventures are as unsavoury as they are entertaining, as Axel Scheffler’s illustrations wittily show. Fans of Andy Stanton’s Mr Gum and Roald Dahl’s The Twits will delight in this disgusting but amiable family.”
So go on, meet the Grunts. They’re not that bad. No, actually, they ARE. Maybe worse, even…
Even Vikings have to go back to school, and for a certain small boy, the long Nordic days of summer are over. In the third in the hilarious series for six years and up, VULGARTHEVIKINGANDTHESPOOKYSCHOOLTRIP, Vulgar is set to return to the classroom to learn about basket-weaving and growing vegetables. How he longs for the good old days of raiding and pillaging, when Vikings didn’t grow vegetables, they just took everyone else’s! But this term, something’s different – his boring teacher is off sick and they’ve got Otto the Bone-Cruncher instead! He’s a proper Viking, and he’s taking them on a proper school trip!
His head full of sword fighting and roaring, Vulgar sets off in fine fettle. But after a very long, damp walk up a mountain and a tea of roasted slugs, Vulgar’s not so sure about ‘the good old days’ of Viking hardship. He’d actually quite like his comfy bed and his mum’s famous burnt toast for breakfast. Still, he does get to tell his most excellent scary story round the camp fire. It’s a good one, all about flesh-eating trolls who prey on defenceless campers. Vulgar tells it so well, and in such disgusting detail, that even Otto goes pale. And then runs off screaming into the night.
How will the school trip end, now that the proper Viking’s done a runner just as the trolls are closing in? There’s only one way to find out…
Held og lykke, Vulgar, and keep looking behind you…
Read chapter one of Vulgar the Viking and the Spooky School Trip:
Having a best friend when you’re an eleven-year-old-girl can be a mine-field. One minute, you’re arm-in-arm, a united front, an unbreakable unit, and the next, it’s over and you’re out in the cold. Dumped. Excluded. And probably thoroughly miserable.
This is what happens to Jessica, the hugely likeable heroine of Catherine Wilkin’s laugh-out-loud debut, MY BESTFRIENDANDOTHERENEMIES. Does she take her best friend Natalie’s appalling behaviour lying down? No, she does not. She fights back, with an armoury of wit, determination and Lego pirates, as well as her ability to draw excellent satirical cartoons. Truly, the pen is mightier than a bunch of girls being mean to each other.
When Natalie chums up with evil new girl, Amelia, Jessica finds herself left out of all the fun trips to fast-food outlets, cheesy boy-band gigs and crazy sleepovers. But worst of all, she’s not invited to join their secret gang, Cool Awesome Chicks, or C.A.C. for short. Jessica pointing out that this sounds like ‘one of the milder swear words for poo’ does not help things:
‘I feel like I’ve been dumped, and Natalie and Amelia have just announced their engagement. Which I suppose is kind of what’s happened.
I feel a bit like I’ve been on the verge of being dumped for ages. In some ways this is better. Oh, this is so not better. I feel sick. I honestly can’t work out if I feel more hurt or angry. Maybe this is the feeling my mum is describing when she says, “This is the living end!”
Well, you know, I can be dignified in defeat. Probably. “Thanks for giving me the full picture,” I say. “I will leave you two to it.”
As soon as I’m out of the room I run straight to the toilets and lock myself in a cubicle. Oh dear. What am I going to do now? Seriously. What am I going to do? I could stay here in the toilets and cry, I suppose; that’s always an option. But that will only take me up to one-fifteen, and then I’ve still got history. What am I going to do? This really is the living end…’
Jessica is a great character and you don’t stop rooting for her throughout. There’s one point (and I won’t spoil it for you) where I found myself punching the air and crying gleefully, “Take that, Amelia!” which made my Tube journey even more uncomfortable than it already was.
Catherine Wilkins has written a brilliant book, and Sarah Horne’s illustrations are brilliant, too. But don’t take my word for it, it’s OUTTODAY!
Read chapter one of My Best Friend and Other Enemies:
And last but by no means least, today’s the day the second book in the incredible MAGICALMIX-UPS series – part illustrated fiction, part innovative doodle-book – publishes.
In Magical Mix-Ups: Friends and Fashion, written by Marnie Edwards and illustrated by Leigh Hodgkinson, best friends Princess Sapphire and Emerald the Witch enter a fashion-design competition (well, Sapphire enters and brings Emerald along with her). All the outfits get in a TERRIBLE mix-up and muddle, and Sapphire and Emerald can’t sort it out on their own – they need you! Doodle, design and draw while you read and make the world of fashion as magical as it can be!
Read chapter one of Magical Mix-Ups: Friends and Fashion:
A response to Kate’s blog from Tuesday, “Should we pay children to read?”
While my rational brain can’t help thinking that by paying children to read you are on a hiding to nothing, I have to admit to feeling slightly anxious about my own seven-year-old’s reluctance to read black and white fiction, and I have even fleetingly wondered whether incentivising her with gifts, or even money, might work. Up until very recently, she has enjoyed books, and reads alone, but has stuck resolutely to highly illustrated books – Chris Riddell’s Ottoline series and Alex T Smith’s Claude books have gone down brilliantly, as have our own Magical Mix-ups, and other than that she has solemnly trudged through my entire collection of Tintin books (I’m not sure how much she understands of them, mind). Very much in parallel with her own cycling skills, she has clung on to the security that pictures give her, just as she has refused to abandon her stabilisers.
But I needn’t have worried, and like all children when it comes to those dreaded developmental milestones, she has done it at her own pace. I had read the first two books in the Rescue Princesses series to both my children together at bedtime (so the aforementioned seven-year-old, and her four-year-old sister), which they have adored, and then last week I brought home an advance copy of Moonlit Mystery, the third title in the series. By breakfast the next morning, my fiction-refusenik was halfway through it; by supper time she had finished it.
It was, I must admit, rather satisfying that it should be a Nosy Crow book that she chose to pick up for the first time. But it is a genuine reflection of Paula Harrison’s exciting but approachable stories which meant that the seven-year-old had the confidence to tackle one on her own.
Last night I got half way through a Secret Seven (Enid Blyton, of course) book with the children at bedtime: the picture above shows a small girl who could just not wait till this evening to find out what happens next. (And I don’t know whether it’s a coincidence, but this afternoon she rode a bike, without help or support too. It doesn’t rain but it pours!)
What are the books that have sucked either you or your children into reading? The stories that are so good that they beg to be read?
They may not even be stories, of course. A friend of mine’s son, also seven, is a fantastic reader, but honed his literacy skills by obsessively reading about his favourite football team, Arsenal, on line.
It’s been two months since we launched our books newsletter on the blog, and September will be a bumper edition (its our busiest publication month yet!), so we thought we’d run another competition to celebrate. You can win copies of ANY of our September titles just by subscribing.
The books we’re publishing next month are (deep breath!):
And the chance to win any of these isn’t all you get by subscribing! Our newsletter also contains exclusive interviews with our authors and illustrators (last month we spoke to Penny Dale, author and illustrator of Dinosaur Zoom), details of upcoming events, a first look at what we have coming up in the future, and news from the Crow’s Nest.
You can subscribe to the newsletter here, and once you’ve done so, are automatically eligible for this competition if you’re a resident of the UK or Ireland – just write to us in the comments underneath this blog or on Twitter @NosyCrowBooks, with the name you subscribed under and the book you’d like to win.
I thought this was very amusing and said as much, and the two of us got into a discussion about the possibility of Axel illustrating works by Joyce (which I think is a very fine idea indeed). Well, Dr. Creasy, a Joyce scholar, not only suggested the perfect text for Axel to start with (Mookse and the Gripes, which is, apparently, “just The Gruffalo and Wyndham Lewis”), but also – very obligingly – supplied an excellent rough draft for “the Scheffler Gruffamookse”, which you can see above. There’s more on the origins of the Gruffamookse on his blog here.
Anyone who spends much time on Twitter will know that you’re never more than two steps away from a hashtag game, and I immediately began to think – what other pairings of contemporary illustrators with classic texts would I like to see?
We’re launching a new, monthly books newsletter (delivered by email) and, to celebrate, we have lots of things to give away.
As well as covering all our latest releases, the newsletter will include interviews with our authors and illustrators, exclusive competitions, a first look at what’s to come in the months ahead, details of upcoming events, and insights into what we’ve been up to in the Crow’s Nest.
The first bumper issue will cover our June and July titles (shown above in the picture at the top of this post), which are:
Well, the truth is that I have had a horrid cold for a ridiculous two weeks. The whole family’s been down with it, but the adults have had a particularly lingering version. This has meant that I haven’t been so up-and-at-‘em with my blog posting as I’d like to be.
We kicked off on the first weekend with a lively Pip and Posy event led by Axel Scheffler, reading the stories, drawing characters suggested by the audience from scratch and answering questions with a little help from – ahem – me and an appearance by Pip and Posy themselves.
Nikalas Catlow and Tim Wesson with their picture of a mashed-up character suggested by the audience: Zic Zac Zoo is a Zampoid (a vampire/zombie combination with one granny leg and one chicken leg) who eats rotting human brains and likes talking to ladies at the bus stop and playing golf
On Sunday, I spoke on a panel at a Business Breakfast about the Future of Books with James Daunt of Waterstones (whose comments were reported here), Dylan Jones of GQ, and Simon Morrison of Google.
And, finally, Helen Peters, who’d hoped to make a long weekend of it and had hired a tepee for her whole family, ended up taking shelter from the floods and wind with us for a couple of nights before sharing the autobiographical inspirations for her debut novel The Secret Hen House Theatre.
Helen Peters singing copies of The Secret Hen House Theatre in the signing tent
Hand-drawn thank you cards from Helen’s children
The festival was a triumph of organisation (thanks to the indefatigable Peter Florence and children’s programme organiser, Sophie Lording), good spirits and committed reading over bad weather. We had a great time, as authors, illustrators, publishers and, for those of us who squeezed in a few events as punters, as enthusiastic audience members.
Nikos’ daughter, Aphrodite, with the Greek edition of Playbook Farm
Having spent four years in the UK studying, I became somewhat familiar with business practices in the publishing industry, long before I ever actually worked there. Upon my return to Athens, Greece, in order to start working for my family business – Ikaros Publishing – I quickly realized the vast differences in practices and culture as well.
The publishing industry in Greece is a very big network of very small businesses and self-employed people. There are no big conglomerates, and most publishers are family businesses, privately held. There is only one publisher listed in the Athens Stock Exchange, out of the nearly 300 (!) registered as active in a recent survey. Most publishers outsource their production, from pre-press to proofreading to printing and binding.
Selling is also done in a very different way, compared to the practices established in Western Europe or the USA. Again, the market is fragmented into many different small– or medium–sized distributors, who work more like an order-receiving centre, than an active seller. Most publishers have their own salespeople who travel from bookstore to bookstore, sampling books and taking orders, in order to collect payment on the next trip. This effectively means that books are distributed from more than one channel, with multiple distributors stocking the same publishers while at the same time the publisher handles some accounts directly, like big chain bookstores. At the moment, there are three big bookstore brands with multiple shops around Greece. In 2010, the French retailer Fnac decided to close or sell all outlets and left the Greek market in fear of the financial crisis that was looming.
Smaller bookstores have not been unaffected by the spread of big chain outlets, and many have been forced out of business. However, the Greek book prices are regulated by a law similar to that of France: prices are set by the publisher, and retailers cannot sell with more than 10% discount for the first two years. As always, Greek publishers have found a loophole in the law, that allows them to treat reprints as new editions that cannot be sold at discount.
eBooks are quite a new thing in Greece, and many publishers have chosen to ignore them for now. We at Ikaros have been publishing eBooks since December 2010 and always produce a digital edition of our new titles. We also have two iOS apps on the Apple appstore. It is perhaps worth mentioning that it is only now that big booksellers are considering adding eBooks to their catalogues and online shops.
In 2011, having just become a parent, I found myself spending more time looking at children’s books than anything else. Ikaros, established in 1943 by my grandfather, had never published children’s books and specialized in Greek literature. It was my drive to find quality, educational children’s books that led me to Nosy Crow and our subsequent collaboration. With seven titles in our launch list, and seven more coming later this year, we have already received flattering comments from our readers and encouraging messages from our retail partners.
Greece is going through some hard times at the moment, with the financial crisis and political instability having a profound effect on the market. Book sales are down as everything else, while children’s books are showing some better resistance. It seems that parents are willing to sacrifice other expenses, in order to provide for their little ones. It is my belief that Greece will soon emerge stronger from this crisis, benefiting those who have invested in long-term quality, over fast profits.
Published by Nosy Crow and written and illustrated by me.
This book was fun to make as it has some of my favourite things in it…. Eating, sitting down and sleeping! This may sound boring, but it actually isn’t, you know.
Like Goldilocks and Bear, I happen to love porridge. My all time most strangely successful thing to add to porridge is coconut milk. It makes it really yummy and creamy. Combined with cinnamon and baked fruit it is just amazing!
The most comfy melt-in-to-able chair in my house isn’t the big impressive grown up sofa we bought, oh no- it is an old battered chair that I found in a skip (I love skipping!) which I covered with an old pair of retro 60’s curtains. If anyone came around my house and broke that chair I would be very grumpy indeed. I would probably ask them to leave.
And my favourite place to sleep? Well that has to be my own bed. There is surely no bed that is nicer than your own, is there?
I hope you enjoy this book and can forgive that once upon a time naughty little Goldilocks. None of us are perfect, and we all have to grow up sooner or later. Of course Goldilocks still has her trademark long blond hair. But now she scooples it up and swirls it around in a nice big fat bun on the top of her head. And my inspiration for the grown up Goldilocks? I guess it should have been some glamorous movie star icon like Marilyn Monroe or Bridget Bardot – but it was actually British comedian Jenny Éclair without glasses!
Goldilocks and Just the One Bear is out in paperback today and is being promoted in Waterstones, Sainsbury’s and WH Smith stores across the country. You can take a look inside below:
Well, we know that we’re running this blog post a bit late, but it’s been a hectic few days at the Hay Festival, and we haven’t got round to it. Nevertheless, we’ve been putting our minds to the theme of Royal Reads for children and have come up with a regal list.
As a publisher, our own royal preference so far has been for princesses rather than queens.
Then, earlier this year we launched our new series The Rescue Princesses, a feisty and irresistible combination of friendship, ninja skills, magic jewels and animals in peril by Paula Harrison.
We’ve just published the first of a new series that’s a cross between a novel and an activity book, Magical Mix-ups, by Marnie Edwards and Leigh Hodgkinson, which features Princess Sapphire, who’s princess tendencies are kept in check by her friend Emerald, a witch.
But, generally, royalty is a big theme in children’s books. In fairy tales we meet powerful but often misjudged or misled kings; wicked stepmother queens who are the epitome of evil; and a variety of princesses. We meet princesses who are spoiled girls who have to unlearn their arrogance, girls in peril who need to be rescued, or beautiful (and sometimes talented) young women plucked from obscurity. But all of them get to marry their prince… and the prince is generally, sadly, the least interesting character of all of them – either a rescuer or someone to whom marriage represents rightful elevation and recognition.
The Arthurian legends have also generated many children’s books from Roger Lanceyln Green’s King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table through Rosemary Sutcliff’s Tristan and Iseult and T H White’s The Once and Future King to contemporary takes like Philip Reeve’s Here Lies Arthur.
Being made royal as a kind of apogee of self-realisation is part of the Narnia tradition.
Some takes on royalty, though, particularly more recent ones, are less reverential: poems by A A Milne, such as The King’s Breakfast and King John’s Christmas rejoice in the incongruity of royalty and childish foibles like the desire for “a little bit of butter” or “a big, red, India-rubber ball”. The same is true for the conjunction of royalty and underwear in Nicholas Allan’s The Queen’s Knickers and in modern fairy tales like Carol Ann Duffy’s Queen Munch and Queen Nibble, a sort of love-story between some mismatched queens which finishes with some regal gluttony and bouncing. Of course, Terry Deary’s non-fictional Horrible Histories draw out the grotesque and the ridiculous to make royalty memorable.
I don’t have a TV at Hay, but as I see the images of the Royal Family from the Diamond Jubilee, I am reminded that the current British Royal Family (or the idea of them) and Buckingham Palace play a part in numerous books and poems:
TheBFG by Roald Dahl They’re Changing Guards at Buckingham Palace by A A Milne Two Weeks with the Queen by Morris Gleitzman The Witches Children and the Queen by Ursula Jones and Russell Ayto
Today is a pink and sparkly day for me as it sees the publication of Magical Mix-Ups: Birthdays and Bridesmaids in paperback, written by debut author Marnie Edwards (she is actually hilarious both in person and on the page) and illustrated by the superlatively witty and talented Leigh Hodgkinson, of Goldilocks and Just the One Bear fame. All books are special but this one holds an extra-special place in my heart as it is two-colour illustrated fiction, so a new venture for both Leigh and me – and the wonderful Marnie too. And none of us would have been able to do anything without the brilliant design skills of Giselle Gimblett. Go, Team!
Magical Mix-Ups: Birthdays and Bridesmaids is the first book in Magical Mix-Ups, the sister series to our successful Mega Mash-Ups. The books are an ingenious marriage of fun and engaging chapter stories and doodle books – draw as you read! Read as you draw! Cunning. I would have loved these as a child. Little girls will aspire to draw in the style of Leigh – she is so cool and contemporary! – and we’ve added loads of ‘design’ ideas to the book, which will really appeal to the target audience. Every page is full of detail and ideas, but with just the right amount of space for the reader to add her own style.
The story and characters are totally suited to the book’s audience – witches, princesses and a magical land called Mixtopia; what more could one want? – and the main protagonists will feature throughout all the titles in the series. The second title Magical Mix-Ups: Friends and Fashion is out in September so fans won’t have long to wait for their next foray into Mixtopia. Magical balloon ride anyone? Hurrah!
“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.”
“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.
(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’.”)
Yesterday Seb Braun, illustrator of Noisy Little Farm came to visit, and he brought with him a truly wonderful crow that he’d made for us:
This has become something of a tradition for us: we now have a whole murder of crows (not in any sort of morbid way; that’s the collective noun) by Nosy Crow artists, adorning an (appropriately tree-lined) wall of our reception. And with this wonderful addition, it felt like time to share some of them! So, in no particular order…
You can see them all in one place at the top of this post. We hope our crow wall carries on growing and growing – we’ll share its additions with you as it does. And thank you to all of our illustrators for making this the Crow-iest place around!
We don’t know how many books were chosen in total, but it’s usually around seventy, so, particularly as a small, new publisher, we were pleased to have bagged four slots.
And it is, of course great both to have the extra sales; to see The Reading Agency supporting new talent as well as more established writers/illustrators; and for us to be working on this library project at a time when we’re keen to do whatever we can to support libraries against the threats they face.
“Young readers today who have grown up with an amazing array of electronic gadgets will certainly enjoy this fast-moving and imaginative story.” – The School Librarian, Winter 2011
“A great read for boys – the story really grips the reader and draws you through the book.” – Parents in Touch
Twelve Minutes to Midnight by Christopher Edge was published last month. The Bookseller described it as “a really pacy historical thriller with a great sense of Victorian atmosphere”, while Lovereading4kids.com said, “A thriller with a fast-paced cinematic style…an electrifying story from an exciting new author”.
The Secret Hen House Theatre by debut novelist Helen Peters will be published in April, but it’s already had a great mention in the Ham and High from Kate Agnew, children’s book consultant at the brilliant Children’s Bookshop, Muswell Hill. She says the book is “absolutely delightful … Astonishingly accomplished for a first novel, it is on one level an engaging story about a group of children determinedly staging a play in a disused old hen house and, on another, a warm-hearted and compassionate account of a family coming to terms with loss. I enjoyed the proof so much that I read it in two sittings”.
“We’ll be revealing our titles for 2012 shortly, but we wanted to give you a sneak preview of one of them. Just like little bear’s porridge, we think that this lovely person is just right for the Nosy Crow list: she’s the multi-talented, award-winning author/illustrator/animator Leigh Hodgkinson. I love working with Leigh, something that always involves great books, loads of tea and ginger biscuits.
Leigh’s debut picture book for us is called Goldilocks and Just the One Bear. It’s the story of what happens when little bear is all grown up and has somehow managed to wander off the beaten track from the wood into the big city. The bear doesn’t much like the lights (too bright) or the honking and beeping (too loud) but his salvation comes in the unlikely form of a rather glamorous blonde lady who seems very familiar for some reason – and she really knows how he likes his porridge.
I believe that children enjoy and benefit from fractured fairy tales and that they are brilliant way to fire the imagination and teach children about word play, story play, looking at things from a different point of view and generally having fun with books…”