There’s an extra spring in our step today – our July titles are out now, and there are some INCREDIBLE books on offer!
It’s publication day for Just Right for Two by Tracey Corderoy and Rosalind Beardshaw – a heartwarming, gently-told tale of an unlikely friendship, brought to life with charming, beautiful artwork, and with a poignant message that sometimes the best things in life are right under your nose. Here’s a look inside:
We’re publishing Digger Dog, by William Bee and Cecilia Johansson – a perfect picture book that’s full of things that pre-schoolers love: diggers digging, holes, construction, hard hats, and a huge foldout surprise at the end. Here’s a look inside:
We’re launching an intergalactic adventure series for 7+ readers – Space Pirates, written by the not-entirely-real Jim Ladd, and illustrated by the very-much-real Benji Davies. Funny and exciting, with lots of disgusting alien gloop, a cast of outrageous characters and snappy dialogue, the series begins with Space Pirates: Stowaway – here’s the first chapter:
And as one door opens, another closes – Lyn Gardner wonderful, acclaimed Olivia concludes with the seventh volume, Olivia’s Curtain Call, out today. Olivia and her friends are auditioning for a production of Romeo and Juliet in the West End. It makes Olivia realise just how much she wants to be an actress, like her mum was. But her father asks her to perform with him in a high-wire stunt instead. How can she choose between her parents? And love is in the air at the Swan School of Theatre and Dance. But when the curtain falls, will everyone get their fairytale happy ending? Here’s the first chapter:
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. Here’s what’s up for grabs…
You can win Digger Dog, by William Bee and Cecilia Johansson. All the ingredients for a brilliant picture book for pre-schoolers are here, along with the most fantastic fold-out surprise for a truly satisfying finale. Great for reading aloud, this is destined to become a bedtime favourite. Here’s a look inside:
We’re launch a brand new series – Space Pirates, starting with Space Pirates: Stowaway, by Jim Ladd, and with brilliant illustrations by Benji Davies. This funny, fast-paced series is absolutely perfect for boys aged 7 and up – a chase through space that will have you cackling from start to finish. Here’s the first chapter:
And finally, we’re bringing another series to an end – the last volume in the wonderful Olivia series by Lyn Gardner, Olivia’s Curtain Call. Olivia has to choose between her parents – does she want to become an actress, like her mum was, or perform with her father in a high-wire stunt? And love is in the air at the Swan School of Theatre and Dance. But when the curtain falls, will everyone get their fairytale happy ending? 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.
On Sunday 11 August at 2.00pm, festival stalwart Philip Ardagh will be appearing to celebrate The Grunts all at Sea, the second hilarious book in The Grunts series. Expect beards, bees, and something called a POGI. Tickets cost £4.50 and you can buy them online here. And here’s the first chapter of The Grunts all at Sea:
And on Tuesday 13 August at 3.30pm, Olivia series author Lyn Gardner will be discussing the spellbinding final volume in the series, Olivia’s Curtain Call. Tickets are £4.50 and you can find more details here. And here’s chapter one – the beginning of the end…
You can find more details for the whole festival programme at the Edinburgh website, here. We hope you can make it!
Olivia and her friends are auditioning for a production of Romeo and Juliet in the West End. It makes Olivia realise just how much she wants to be an actress, like her mum was. But her father asks her to perform with him in a high-wire stunt instead. How can she choose between her parents? And love is in the air at the Swan School of Theatre and Dance. But when the curtain falls, will everyone get their fairytale happy ending?
You’ll have to read the book to find out how the series ends… but if you’d like to read the beginning of the end, then the first chapter of Olivia’s Curtain Call is available below:
One of the great joys of 21st century publishing is that readers, even young readers, can make connections with publishers and with authors so easily.
We received a fantastically enthusiastic piece of fanmail for Lyn Gardner about her Olivia series from Omala (pictured here with her collection of Olivia books) and we asked her to do a blog post for us. This is what she wrote:
“I really enjoyed the Olivia series because they were so exciting, gripping and interesting. My favourite character in the series is Eel because she is so bubbly, happy and full of life. She is also very cute and funny! Eel reminds me of my little sister called Ela! They are so alike! My current favourite book in the series (it always changes!) is Olivia’s Enchanted Summer because it is very different from the others as it is not set at the Swan Academy, it is set in Edinburgh at the Fringe Festival which is a lovely change. I found out about the first Olivia book, Olivia’s First Term, one day last May (almost a year after it had been published!). I was browsing in Waterstones on Hampstead High Street when I came across a book my friend Issy had read and really enjoyed. I bought the book and as soon as I got home I began reading it in my room. I could not put it down! I was totally mesmerised! I loved it! It was fantastic! I think my parents got tired of me begging because the very next day they bought Olivia Flies High for me. I think the Olivia series are good for girls who have big dreams and love performing! They are so addictive and inspiring! Lyn Gardner is a wonderful author! She uses superb descriptive words! I would recommend the Olivia series to girls aged around 10-12. I’m sure that every girl in my class who has read them has decided they want to become an actress or a daring circus artist! I’ve even started a circus skills course because I was so inspired by the books. You would not know how much I love the books! I have read and re-read the series loads and loads of times! I cannot go on holiday without knowing that they are in my bag! They’re my favourite books!”
Thank you for your kind words, Omala! The final book in the Olivia series, Olivia’s Curtain Call, will be out in July – and if you haven’t discovered the series yet, you can read it from the start with chapter one of Olivia’s First Term, below:
Today’s an extra-special publication day, because it’s also World Book Day! We’d love to hear what costumes you’ve been making, how you’re celebrating, and – most importantly – what you’re reading! If you’re stuck for a good book, you certainly wouldn’t go wrong with one of these…
Perfect spring reading can be found in the form of Lyn Gardner’s latest Olivia novel for 9+ girls. Olivia and the Great Escape sees Olivia’s dad getting ready to perform an amazing feat of endurance – he’s going to be living on a high wire strung across the Thames for thirty days and thirty nights. Olivia is so proud of him, and he’s doing so well, until the accusations of cheating start… Can Olivia clear her father’s name and escape from a tricky situation of her own at the same time? It’s another 5-star adventure from Lyn that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
And March sees a whole new set of Rescue Princesses in their first daring animal rescue! Lizzie, Clarabel, Lulu and Jaminta, our four original plucky princesses, have gone away to school and have handed their magic rings, ninja moves and sense of adventure on to Lizzie’s little sister and tasked her with finding three friends to join her. Lottie is really excited, but she feels the responsibility weighing heavily upon her. How will she find three more girls who have the skills, the commitment and the bravery to be Rescue Princesses? Her new recruits are royally challenged when they stumble across some horse-rustlers in the middle of the night. Can they work as a team and save the animals from danger? Or will they argue and see the horses disappear for ever? The Magic Rings is another great addition to Paula’s excellent series that’s perfect for 7+ girls who like animals, adventures and a dash of princess pizzazz!
Packed with robust pull-tabs and clever touch-and-feel elements, Baby and Me is an ingeniously interactive book for toddlers who enjoy playing mummies and babies.
Designed to stimulate speech and build vocabulary, Littleland is full of familiar scenes and fascinating details. With a ‘Can you see?’ feature on every spread and a simply, chatty narrative, this busy book mimics the daily conversations between parent and child and makes the perfect step on from board books. Here’s a look inside:
And Books Always Everywhere is – very appropriately for today’s date – a joyful celebration of the physical book in all its glory! A simple text is brought to life by Sarah Massini’s delightful and nostalgic illustrations of babies and toddlers discovering the magical world of books. You can read how Sarah illustrated the book on Tuesday’s blog post, and here’s how Jane celebrated publication with the family and friends who’ve accompanied her on her journey to becoming a published children’s author:
“I thought Nosy Crow might like to share my unofficial launch party which was really a birthday party with a launch tagged on to the beginning. I love parties and this was a wonderful excuse to thank my friends who shared the ‘getting to be published experience’ with me over the last 2 years. So someone bought the bubbly; someone else found a good bit of cardboard which already had the word BOOKLAUNCH on it. Another friend bluetacked the catalogues onto it. My husband tied a very neat bow around my books (mostly the foreign copies as I must have given the English ones away). I found 10 percussion instruments in the playroom and when our friends arrived they each chose an instrument and we all shook, banged, blew and scraped in a circle and sang “Happy Book Launch to you, Happy Book Launch to you, Happy Book Launch to Jane, Happy Book Launch to you”. Then I undid the red ribbon and handed the books around (wish I had the Japanese and Korean books) and I did a reading in French and German to a very captive audience and we sipped our bubbly and made a huge amount of noise. Such fun to be back in nursery school.”
After a very enthusiastic take-up last month, we’re repeating our Nosy Crow Books Newsletter competition for our new March titles. If you’re a resident of the UK or Ireland you can win any of our upcoming 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 here are the books that you can win!
This month we’re publishing Baby and Me by Emma Dodd, a delightfully girly and ingeniously interactive book for all toddlers who are enjoying playing mummies and babies – with robust pull-tabs and clever touch-and-feel elements.
We’re also publishing Littleland by Marion Billet (illustrator for our Noodle series) – a picture book for the very young, designed to stimulate speech and build vocabulary through familiar scenes and fascinating detail. With a ‘Can you see?’ feature on every spread and a simple, chatty narrative, Littleland mimics the daily conversations between mother and child and makes the perfect next step up from board books. Here’s a look inside:
We’re releasing Books Always Everywhere by Jane Blatt and Sarah Massini – a joyful celebration of the physical book in all its glory. A simple, rhyming text is brought to life by Sarah Massini’s delightful and nostalgic illustrations of babies and toddlers discovering the new, magical world of books. 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 on Thursday.
As regular visitors to this blog will have noticed, we often post previews of our print titles ahead of publication – you can see the first few spreads for all of our picture books and read the first chapter of all our fiction titles for free on each book’s web page. We use issuu to power this service, which provides a nice reading experience and is great for keeping track of all our titles and allowing other people to post each preview on their own website. The platform is now also available (in beta mode) on the iOS Safari browser for the iPhone and iPad, so that even more people can read our previews. And today I was very pleased to see we’ve almost hit 100,000 total views across our library, which, as any fan of large, round numbers will appreciate, I found incredibly exciting.
We’re really pleased so many people are reading these previews – so we thought we’d share some of our upcoming titles. Here are a few great picture books that we’re publishing over the next couple of months:
Earlier this week we had some festive drinks and canapés in the Crow’s Nest with our authors and illustrators, along with agents, librarians, booksellers, journalists and other friends to celebrate the end of another year – and here, by popular demand, are some of the pictures. The picture at the top of this page is of one of the many handmade crows (a decorative stroke of genius masterminded by Stephanie) with which we decorated the office.
Last week I was invited to talk at the Nosy Crow Author and Illustrator panel as part of the YLG Conference in Central London.
As the title of this blog post suggests, this was my very first book event and I was rather nervous to say the least.
I am used to talking about Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam with the Nosy Crow team, my students at City Lit and my family and friends, but this was to be the first time I would talk about my experience and designs to a fresh audience.
Our merry band followed an informative and humorous talk on the future of children’s publishing by Kate Wilson, where we witnessed, amongst other things, the magic of Stories Aloud.
Philip talked about The Grunts series of books whilst Axel drew a fantastic Sunny, one of the characters from said book. They made a terrifically fun and entertaining presentation which was followed by Lyn Gardner who discussed the motivation behind her Olivia fiction series.
Then it was the turn of Tracey and myself. Tracey introduced our characters and her original inspiration behind Shifty and Sam and read, again for the first time, their story which went down a treat – phew! Tracey also debuted her newest, now infamous ‘story sack’ which we will use at all our Shifty and Sam events – cleverly designed as Shifty’s SWAG bag!
I then spoke about my design process and ideas behind the two protagonists and some of their fellow dog cast in the book – it was very strange standing in front of my designs on a large screen but I didn’t spot any mistakes, again, phew!
The audience of librarians really enjoyed our presentations and we had some great chats with them during the Q&A session and beyond.
Being given this opportunity to talk about my first book has given me a taste for future book events and I can’t wait to do more of them with Tracey throughout 2013!
Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam will be out in May 2013 – but you can take a look inside now!
Today has been one of those days that I have accidentally spent without moving from my desk once, such has been the speed at which it’s flown by – and I’ve just looked out of the window and thought, ‘Gosh, what miserable autumn weather’.
I fully intend to spend as much of this weekend as possible in bed reading autumn-y sorts of books. And if you’re in need of a little inspiration for autumn reading – look no further! Here are some of our most seasonally-appropriate titles.
Pip and Posy: The Scary Monster is a FANTASTICALLY autumnal picture book. Axel’s palette in this title is full of wonderful purples, oranges, and browns, and the pages are full of leaves falling from the trees, indoor activities, and (mild spoiler alert) one very warm looking outfit. Take a look inside:
And this final title is cheating a little bit – it’s clearly a post-autumn book – but Olivia’s Winter Wonderland, the fifth volume in the Olivia series by Lyn Gardner, is great reading for getting in the mood for some snowy Winter weather. Read the first chapter:
As the evenings start drawing in and the first Christmas catalogues begin plopping on to doormats, it’s time to celebrate the publication of the fifth in Lyn Gardner’s excellent stage-school series, Olivia’s Winter Wonderland.
Deliciously seasonal, this is a snowy, twinkly read, with a festive dose of pantomime thrown in for good measure. While Olivia’s peers are auditioning like crazy for a major West End role (and stabbing each other in the back at the bat of a false eyelash), Olivia is content to steal the show as the less glamorous end of a pantomime horse. She also discovers an amazing old vaudeville theatre near the school and soon she’s caught up in a wonderful world of singing, and laughter, and ghosts…
Congratulations, Lyn, on another drama-filled page-turner, perfect for
those long, dark evenings!
It’s also publication day for another action-packed book, this time for
slightly younger readers. The Stolen Crystals is the fourth in Paula Harrison’s series, The Rescue Princesses, and it’s fast and furious and perfect for girls who love animals (just look at that panda!), love princesses, and also love the perfect ninja move. When a baby panda is captured and held hostage, the Rescue Princesses spring into action. With the help of their magic rings and extreme bravery, they rescue the tiny cub and also find the lost Onica Heart crystals at the same time. Then they celebrate in true royal style!
Thanks for another great book, Paula, and happy publication day!
I wrote about sock-puppets only a few days ago, and the subject certainly hasn’t gone away since. Today, though, I’m approaching the subject from a different angle: we have found someone trolling the Amazon book pages of one of our authors, and I would like to explain how we came to this conclusion and what it means.
Lyn Gardner is the author of our highly-acclaimed Olivia books – a fantastic series of novels set around a stage school and its pupils, perfectly suited for performance-mad 9-12 year olds. Lyn is also a theatre critic for The Guardian, so she really knows her stuff – as well as being hugely enjoyable (and I say that as someone who is most definitely not a performance-mad 9-12 year-old) the books have an immensely appealing authenticity about them. Julia Eccleshare called Olivia’s First Term, the first volume in the series, “a gripping story with a sharp eye for the power struggles within the classroom.” For The Telegraph, Dinah Hall wrote that the book has a “timeless feel … It has all the classic ingredients for nine year-olds.” And The Stage called the book “A hugely enjoyable, escapist, quite traditional series of children’s books.” Earlier this year, Olivia’s First Term was also selected for the Richard and Judy Book Club.
Now, I don’t mean by all this that because The Telegraph and The Stage like Lyn’s books other people aren’t allowed to dislike them. But they have been well-reviewed and well-received, and I think that is important context for what is to follow.
There are five Olivia books on Amazon, and four of them have received a single negative review each. These four reviews are written under different names, and none of the profiles associated with the reviews have written anything else. They’re all of roughly equal length (a single paragraph) and, to my mind, are written in a generic style of all-purpose negativity – but we’ll come to that in a moment. The really interesting thing is that two of the reviews were written before the books had even been published. One of them (Olivia’s Winter Wonderland, the fifth book in the series) won’t be available for another month – it hasn’t even been printed yet – and already there’s a sniping review. It is categorically impossible for anyone to have read that book yet (we don’t tend to print uncorrected proofs for reviewers and booksellers beyond the first volume in a series). So the reviews on Amazon aren’t by someone who has seen the book. In theory, Amazon users should not be allowed to review books before they have been published, but because of a glitch in the system from which Amazon pulls its data, Olivia’s Winter Wonderland appears on their site to be available now (in fact, it will publish on October 4th).
Here is a review for Olivia’s First Term:
I don’t find anything about the book to be dull and self-important, but there we are. On its own there’s nothing to find suspicious in this.
Now, granted, this book is not Trainspotting, but “Middle Class” strikes me as a very odd complaint (almost – ha! – as if it has been made by someone who is only trying to be rude). The speculation that the other reviews were “left by friends” also seems strange.
You will notice that this review was posted on the same day as the first one, for Olivia’s First Term. It was also posted before Olivia’s Enchanted Summer was available (the book was not published for another week). Again, it’s written in a way that seems to me to be gratuitously negative without engaging with the book itself. Of course Lyn is not Roald Dahl. Her books are nothing like his. It’s a criticism which doesn’t reveal anything other than a general negativity.
Finally, here is a review for Olivia’s Winter Wonderland:
This is certainly the oddest review of them all. Whoever wrote this has absolutely not read the book. I’ve not read the book. It doesn’t exist yet. This review is totally without merit, and whoever wrote it has been caught in their lie.
I will concede that the evidence that all of these reviews are by the same person is circumstantial: they’re the only bad review for each book, written to a similar length and style (two of them not only use the word “embarrassing”, which stands out as a choice of adjective because it is so weirdly applied, but also do so in the context of forced analogies comparing the books to dancing), by people who haven’t reviewed anything else, and the names are generic. But there is cast-iron evidence that at least some of them have been posted by someone who hasn’t read the books.
I find this intensely irritating for several reasons. Firstly, because Lyn is a friend, and this is petty, malicious and totally inexcusable behaviour, directed at her. And secondly, as her publisher, this is potentially harmful to the success of her books. If these were genuine reviews, then that would be fine – that’s what happens. Lyn knows that better than anyone: she’s a critic by profession. But these are not genuine reviews, and this person is not practising criticism.
So we return to the question – what to do to fix this? As I said, the review for Winter Wonderland should not have been allowed and only was through an error in the metadata. But all that means is that we were able to spot the falseness of the review with greater ease: if it had appeared once the book had been published, it would be far harder to prove it to be fake.
If you’ve read the Olivia books, we’d love it if you would consider leaving reviews for them on Amazon. And if you haven’t read them yet, you can read the first chapter of each on every book’s page of our website.
Over the weekend, all four of the negative reviews have disappeared from Amazon.
School starts for many London schools this week. My younger daughter (interviewed here) started secondary school today, so this autumn feels like a milestone for our family. Watching her disappear through the gate today surrounded by bigger, older girls (with much shorter skirts) was sort of lumpy-throaty, though I was glad that the preparation time was over: the quest for narrow-fitting UK size 7.5 girls’ school shoes has been particularly trying.
I don’t really have any memories of starting school – and I “started school” five times because my family moved about a bit in the course of my school years. I am shamefully hazy about my children’s first days at nursery and primary school too. Imogen, who continues to like things neat and organised, remembers the thrill of a new pencil case, and Ola remembers reading the books for her Polish literature classes throughout the summer holidays, because she couldn’t wait until school started. She says that she loved going back to school. But Tom says he just remembers being vaguely miserable. No-one in the office, sadly, could come up with a really cracking back-to-school anecdote… or, at least, they wouldn’t share it if they had one.
“So. I did come out of the toilet, fact fans. I stayed in there for about ten minutes, trying to gather my thoughts. My thoughts were quite unhelpful as it happens. They kept veering from a desire to cry to a desire to smash things.
“They’ve started a gang without me.. They’ve started a gang without me. I just couldn’t believe it. I still can’t believe it. I’m on the bus home now and that sentence is just kind of playing on a loop in my head.”
Finally, I saw this image this morning in the Metro as I was taking my daughter to school today. It mirrors her resigned expression of crossness and shame at my annoying maternal presence.
Philip Ardagh with the first ever copies of The Grunts in Trouble
I feel I should explain myself before you start reading this blog. When enthused, I gush. And I’m enthusiastic about festivals – for a publicist they’re something between a long-awaited reunion and an assault course. LOTS of catching up, laughing, hugging and storytelling (both professional and not-so-professional…). Lots of great food and drink. And exhaustion. And elation. And regret.
And seeing as I missed Edinburgh last year – Kate and Tom went up – I was doubly ready to be enthusiastic. I didn’t just miss the Edinburgh Festival – I MISSED it.
I missed the authors, I missed the organisers, I missed the Yurt, I missed the bods from Scottish Book Trust, I missed the gossiping – I missed it ALL.
So, the events. Without exception our brilliant authors excelled themselves. For some – Catherine Wilkins and Lyn Gardner – it was their first time at the festival. Catherine’s comedy masterclass event was HILARIOUS. For the 9+yrs age group, most comedy, it’s safe to say, is found in poo and pants. Well, for me too. I ROARED through the whole thing. And I think I can safely say we shall be seeing some of the masterclass’s attendees at the Edinburgh Comedy Festival in the future. My Best Friend and Other Enemies is off to a great start…
A long queue of eager Olivia fans waiting to have their books signed
Lyn’s latest book – Olivia’s Enchanted Summer – is set at the festival, so as well as being a cracking read, it was contextually perfect. And Lyn knows her Edinburgh. She’s up every year for the whole shebang as the Guardian’s theatre critic – and she performed her event with all the elan, style and poise of one of her classically-trained stage school characters, taking us from the flying trapeze to the dizzying high-wire with her atmospheric readings. Encore!
Next up we had the World Premiere of The Grunts – drum-roll, please… Naturally, if you combine Philip Ardagh and Axel Scheffler – both Edinburgh Festival stalwarts – in any event you’re onto a winner. And we were. The audience loved it and even though it was a first for both Axel and Philip, event-wise, it went swimmingly and the newness of the material and format gave the event a very special feel. It felt a bit of a privilege to be the very first of what is sure to be a brilliant series of events this Autumn.
But that wasn’t all, Grunt-wise. That very evening we launched The Grunts at The Honours – Martin Wishart’s celebrated new restaurant… and I can only apologise to the other diners. The laughter coming from our two tables was TERRIFIC. If I hadn’t been sat at our table, I would’ve WANTED to be sat at our table. Such a good time was clearly – and audibly – being had by all. But we can’t have been too badly behaved as I had a very sweet e-mail from The Honours saying what a pleasure it was to have us and what a thrill it was to have hosted such a creative bunch of diners!
Then Axel and Kate took to the stage for a Pip and Posy event – Kate doing a brilliant job as storyteller and Axel’s live-drawing, as always, entrancing the youngsters in the audience… and then the guests of honour, Pip & Posy THEMSELVES appeared as a finale. Cue LOTS of waving, stroking and round-eyed wonder from the toddlers in the audience as they filed past on their way to the signing tent. I noticed ‘high-fives’ were also big this year. They grow up so fast these days…
The grand finale was the Mega Mash-Up boys, Nikalas Catlow and Tim Wesson – again, experienced Edinburgh festival goers – and as always absolute crowd-pleasers. Robots, giant slugs, dinosaurs, aliens, secret agents, ancient Egyptians – talk about something for everyone. Our Scottish Bounce rep, Sarah, was especially looking forward to the Mega Mash Up event – her son is a BIG fan.
And so the sun set on another Edinburgh – and it’s always a curious feeling. Elation, certainly. But also regret that it’s over. The city has a unique atmosphere when the festival’s running – pretty much its entire population, however temporarily, is up for a good time. And you can feel it. Couple that with a Yurt-full of excited authors, charming, capable and welcoming organisers and event chairs who absolutely bubble with kindness, knowledge and enthusiasm and you have a festival that’s very easy to miss. So my advice to anyone is – DON’T miss it. Next year, go.
Around this time of the year most people are looking forward to their summer holidays. But I’m looking forward to spending August in Edinburgh at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It’s the biggest arts festival in the world. I haven’t missed a festival since 1995, and yet I still look forward to it eagerly every year, even though I’ll be working and seeing at least six shows a day. That’s because Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and every year the Fringe is different and throws up so much new and exciting theatre talent.
During the three-week duration of the festival it is possible to see a show at almost any time of the day or night. There are so many shows from which to choose: around 2,500 from comedy to circus and Shakespeare to musicals and physical theatre to spoken word shows.
It’s very family friendly too: there are masses of shows for children: some of this year’s many offerings including Horrible Histories’ Barmy Britain, an adaptation of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s Tiddler, as well as great children’s companies such as Catherine Wheels and Shona Reppe performing at the Scottish Book Trust. And of course you can also call in at the Edinburgh Book Festival to see your favourite authors from Francesca Simon to Michael Morpurgo, or enjoy the free street theatre on the High Street and by St Giles Cathedral.
This year feels special for me because I am not only heading to the Fringe as usual to write about theatre and performance for the Guardian, but because my fictional creations, the high-wire walking Olivia and her friends at the Swan Stage School, are coming with me. Olivia’s Enchanted Summer, the fourth book in the Olivia series which has been described as “Ballet shoes meets Malory Towers”, is set amidst all the hustle and bustle and spills and thrills of the Edinburgh Fringe.
When I poured my knowledge of West End theatre, gained over many years as a theatre critic, into the first book in the series, Olivia’s First Term, I hoped that I’d get the opportunity to send Olivia to the Edinburgh Fringe. In Olivia’s Enchanted Summer I have, and though it’s very much a fiction it does reflect all the things that can go so wrong and so right for performers at the Edinburgh Festival. One of the things I love about Edinburgh is the fact that everyone is welcome. A school show or a piece of theatre for children in a small venue is as likely to win one of the coveted Fringe Firsts awarded by the Scotsman newspaper or a Herald Angel as one with a big budget and famous actors in a proper theatre.
Over the years I’ve seen shows in every location imaginable from purpose-built theatres to broom cupboards and shops and boats, and even on one occasion in a public convenience. In my novel, Olivia and her friends are performing in a big top on Calton Hill over-looking a city which at night always looks magical, like something straight out of a fairytale.
Of course it wouldn’t be an Olivia book without lots of things going wrong or without lots of adventure, and Edinburgh with its fairytale castle, long history and narrow streets and wynds is a perfect place for adventure and transformations. Every year thousands of performers travel to the Edinburgh Fringe dreaming that they will be discovered and their lives transformed. Of course most are not, but in the course of three weeks performing on the Fringe they discover a great deal about themselves, their friends and how to make sure that the show does go on even when it feels as if all luck is against them.
A fortunate few do get massive attention and have their lives changed forever by the experience. Will Olivia be one of them? I’m not telling; you’ll have to read for yourself and discover if a star is born or if the Edinburgh Fringe is a wash-out for the Swan Stage School.
This article was first published on My Red House. Lyn will be at the Edinburgh Book Festival tomorrow and you can still buy tickets here. Olivia’s Enchanted Summer is out now and you can read the first chapter for free below:
Axel will be holding a second event for fans of his Pip and Posy books on Friday 17. There’ll be lots of drawing, readings from the books, and if you’re very lucky, you might even be able to meet Pip and Posy themselves! You can find out more here.
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.
There few things more pleasurable for a children’s author than fan mail. In my day job, as a Guardian theatre critic, the mail is more likely to bring brickbats rather than bouquets. But no child ever writes to tell an author that they hated their book. Although one little girl did take the trouble to write to tell me that I was her third favourite author. Ever. I thought third was fantastically good-going, particularly as God (cited as author of the Bible) was in the number one spot, closely followed by Jacqueline Wilson.
So when the letters arrive, via the Nosy Crow address, I always look forward to reading them. They seldom disappoint, and often they are deeply touching labours of love and invention, full of intricate drawings and brilliant suggestions for plots lines that I wish I’d come-up with myself. Not all of them have a terrific grasp of the daily realities of the life of an author. One recent missive expressed doubt that I’d reply personally on the basis that it was probably my butler who dealt with all my post.
As a child I wrote letters to my favourite writers, and I remember my daily haunting of the letter box while waiting for a reply, and the massive excitement when one came. I was hugely disappointed by E. Nesbit’s failure to write back. It was only years later that I realized she couldn’t as she was dead. I reckon answering the letters is as much part of the job of writing for children as actually writing the books. Like school visits, it’s energising and provides a wonderful insight into how children think and express themselves.
But technology is fast changing the traditional methods of communicating. Now days I’m likely to get more communication via my Guardian email address than I do via Nosy Crow. My Guardian job makes me pretty easy to find, and if the emails come without the delicious drawings, an email exchange has its advantages too: often allowing for an on-going conversation with a child over a longer period of time. Even Twitter can play its part. I’m going to a school in Yorkshire later in the month to talk about the Olivia books, a visit that was arranged entirely as a result of a Twitter exchange. That’s fantastic and I’m delighted by such approaches, but nothing quite beats the grubby envelopes addressed with rainbow pencils and covered in glitter and stars and pictures of Olivia risking life and limb on the high wire.
Today we at Nosy Crow are celebrating (with cake, natch) the publication of three fantastic fiction titles.
Olivia’s Enchanted Summer is the fourth in Lyn Gardner’s highly acclaimed stage-school series. Olivia and her friends have taken a show to the Edinburgh Festival, where things do not run smoothly at first. But the show must go on and soon everything is fireworks and enchantment. It even stops raining. Congratulations, Lyn, on another show-stopper!
The second in the Rescue Princesses series by Paula Harrison is also out today. In The Wishing Pearl, our brave princesses have to save a wounded dolphin and find some buried treasure at the same time. It’s an action-packed adventure that will keep every seven-year-old reader on the edge of her seat (while maintaining perfect posture, of course). Congratulations, Paula, on yet more royal thrills and spills!
And last, but by no means least, comes Vulgar the Viking and the Great Gulp Games by the ever-hirsute Odin Redbeard. A topical one, this, as Vulgar prepares himself to participate in the greatest sporting challenge of the (Viking) age. There isn’t a goat he hasn’t hurdled over, a hammer he hasn’t thrown, and a walrus he hasn’t wrestled in readiness. Now the time has come, and Vulgar is really going for gold! Congratulations, Mr Redbeard, on another hilarious read, and to Sarah Horne, for so brilliantly bringing Vulgar’s antics to life.
Last Thursday evening, Dom and I put on our finery (in the face of conflicting advice from Twitter, I went for the knee-length rather then floor-length dress) and met up with Nosy Crow author/illustrators Nikalas Catlow and Tim Wesson, Lyn Gardner, Axel Scheffler and Philip Ardagh and 396 other guests at a very glamorous dinner party thrown by The Book People Red House at the ballroom in the Royal Festival Hall on London’s South Bank. It was associated with their involvement with the Southbank Imagine Festival (no link available, because it’s over now) at which Nikalas, Tim and Lyn performed, and it was billed as “a celebration of children’s books”.
Dinner menu for the evening
The chef was Jamie Oliver, and the food (made in a specially constructed marquee on the balcony behind the ballroom) was children’s (or children’s-ish) book-themed: Essex fried Peter Rabbit and Lord of the Onion Rings was on the menu. At every place on the six or so long colour-coded tables, there was a rather lovely little book containing, as well as the menu and the guest list, the favourite books that various authors and illustrators had chosen to send to children in care via Letterbox Club. Here are the 20 choices I particularly approved:
Philip Ardagh chose Comet in Moominland
Clara Vulliamy chose Dogger
Mick Inkpen chose The BFG
Axel Scheffler chose Anton Can Do Magic
Chris Riddell chose Flat Stanley
Emily Gravett and Nick Sharratt chose The Giant Jam Sandwich
Lyn Gardner and Paul Collicutt chose Where The Wild Things Are
Petr Horacek chose The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Polly Dunbar chose Not Now Bernard
Clare Beaton chose Each Peach Pear Plum
Justin Fletcher chose Dear Zoo
Betty Birney chose Charlotte’s Web
Marcus Sedgwick and Ciaran Murtagh chose The Dark is Rising
Morris Gleitzman and Mary Hooper chose Just William
Jenny Valentine chose To Kill a Mockingbird
Joanna Nadin chose The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole
Jacqueline Wilson chose Ballet Shoes
Steve Cole chose Marianne Dreams
David Melling chose The Cat in the Hat
Darren Shan and Cathy Hopkins chose The Secret Garden
In fact, every guest was asked to bring with them to the event a book to give to a child in care together with a postcard saying why we’d chosen it. I chose A Dog So Small by Philippa Pearce. I wanted to choose a novel, but one that wasn’t too challenging – one that could be read to a six year-old but that a twelve year-old might read. It’s a book about the power of imagination. And, though I don’t think it’s a defeatist book, it is, at the end, a very pragmatic one: Ben can’t have what he wants but he learns – painfully – to want what he has. I left it late, and went into two Waterstones without finding it before I went to the London Review of Books bookshop where they had the 50th anniversary edition. The fact that it was the 50th anniversary edition made me swither a bit: it felt a bit behind the times to buy something for a child who might not have been exposed to many contemporary books one so firmly set in the past. But I read the last few pages and, as always, was tremendously moved by them, so I bought it anyway. I can only hope that the child who gets it loves it as much as I did when I read it (and re-read it) as a child.
There were speeches.
First up was Michael Morpurgo, who talked about the pleasure of speaking to a room full of people who spent their lives “bringing books to children and children to books”. He spoke of the passion in the room – passion that lay behind things as diverse as the drive to write children’s books and The Book People’s Seni Glaister and Sara Cooper’s plan to walk to the North Pole in aid of the children’s hospice service, Shooting Star CHASE before singing us all the verses of the Barleycorn song (sorry about the visuals here!) with its advice to “put your trust in tomorrow” from the play (not the film) of War Horse.
Michael Morpurgo about to burst into song
Jamie Oliver then confessed that he hadn’t read a narrative book in his life, something he put down to his dyslexia, but then spoke about the pleasure his daughter, Poppy, aged nine, got from immersive reading: “Apparently, books are amazing because when the author allows you to have your own imagination you are always surprised… It’s an incredible power that you have.”
Speaking of a visit to a school at which 75% of children qualified for free school meals, but where all the children appeared to have smartphones, Jamie Oliver expressed a hope that “what Poppy loves: books and paper and private time” would survive the onslaught of our excitement over technology.
Jamie Oliver, chef for the evening, addressing the audience
Anthony Horowitz, on characteristic agent provocateur form, kicked off his speech by suggesting that publishers weren’t necessary any more. They provided, he said, too little in the way of advances and promotion when they were really needed at the start of an author’s career. He talked the audience through some of the opportunities to self-publish via agents initiatives, via Amazon and via Apple. He suggested that it was only a matter of time before The Book People began publishing books, saying that publishers were nervous of The Book People’s power… and nervous of powerful authors too: “Publishers need me”, he said. He poked particular fun at what he saw as the infantilising world of children’s books, describing a meeting with Walker where they’d asked him to choose what mug he wanted his tea in: “They weren’t just going to publish me, they were going to breastfeed me.”
So far, so near the industry knuckle. He concluded, though, by turning the speech around (a bit too late for some in the audience, but there were others who thought he was hilarious). He read a passage from a self-published book, and pointed out its flaws… flaws, he said, that his editor at Walker, Jane Winterbotham, wouldn’t have let him get away with. He said that authors needed the rigour of the editing process to which publishers dedicated themselves, suggesting that, if publishers were a little less interested in literacy, education, good grammar, story and characters and a little more interested in making money, they might have “fewer problems”.
He said he agreed with George Orwell that “writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” He suggested publishers were similarly driven and that, “if we are in intensive care, I am strangely relieved that we are there together.”
Anthony Horowitz in agent provocateur mode preparing to talk to the crowd
Jude Kelly, Southbank’s Artistic Director, was more upbeat and less inflammatory. She spoke about the degree to which, in the UK, children were excluded from daily life – we only, as adults, tend to meet our own children as we go about our business – and were particularly excluded from cultural life, which was why events like the Imagine Festival were important. 13,000 people (“a torrent of children and an army of buggies”) had attended the ticketed events and thousands had come to the free events.
Lemn Sissay spoke of the work of Letterbox Club; of the courage and strength of children in care, who he described as “superheroes”; and of the need to judge governments by the quality of their care for the children for whom they were in loco parentis. Daljit Nagra read an embellished version of Too Many Daves by Dr Seuss. Aoife Mannix read the poem she’d written that night inspired by the places that people at the event told her that they had chosen when they wanted to “satisfy the need to read” as children. And Alex Gwyther read a poem he’d written in the course of the evening which was a toast to his future children’s first (book-inspired) words. If I ever get hold of links to the text of the last two poems, I’ll bung ‘em in here.
Tim ate my Charlie and the Chocolate Factory chocolate pudding, but I did offer it to him as he’d clearly particularly enjoyed his own.
Back in August, we blogged here about a trip to London to meet Lyn Gardner, author of our Olivia series, that two lucky competition winners took part in.
We didn’t say what magazine the competition was run by in our last post so as not to spoil the surprise, but now that it’s hit the newsstand I’m very happy to reveal that it’s Animals and You.
As well as tickets to see Shrek: The Musical and copies of Olivia’s First Term and Olivia Flies High, part of the prize was the chance to interview Lyn, and Manon, the winner, asked some great questions – she even managed to extract an exclusive from Lyn about the fourth Olivia book! You can read the whole feature in the latest issue of Animals and You.
Our other exciting Olivia news this week is that we’ve just had copies of Olivia’s First Term with a brand new cover (and more purple). This one, we think, fits in a little better with the style designer Sarah Coleman has developed across the series:
We’d run a competition with DreamWorks Theatricals and a popular girls’ magazine – I don’t want to spoil it by saying which one! – for two of their readers to come to London to see Shrek: The Musical and to interview Lyn Gardner, the author of the Olivia series. Lyn, of course, is entirely at home in the theatre, being the Guardian’s theatre critic, and the theatre setting suited the dramatic aspect of the Olivia books perfectly.
It was a great day! The winners, Manon and Holly (pictured above, with Lyn), came to London from Wales, accompanied by Manon’s mum, Sally. They were absolutely charming… and very photogenic.
The girls’ questions for Lyn were first rate – they’d won the magazine competition on the strength of them – and they’d even rehearsed a dance routine to entertain Lyn with. Not only that, they made up a routine to teach to Lyn, too!
Cue some CRACKING photo opportunities…
I can confirm that Lyn not only gave excellent responses to the excellent questions, she also demonstrated herself to be pretty nifty on her feet! The step-shuffle-glide-together proved absolutely no problem…
The venue for the interview and impromptu dance lesson was the theatre’s Royal Retiring Room. It was breathtakingly grand. The theatre team took care of us all (BIG thanks to our magnificent red coat, Anthony, who was assigned to look after us) and our treatment throughout the day was every bit as royal as our retiring room. I want to give a massive thanks to Lyn for being so brilliant and game, to Dominic for taking such great photos, to Manon and Holly for being so utterly wonderful and professional, and to Sally for being such terrific company while the others were interviewing/tap-dancing/getting ready for their close-ups.
I didn’t get to see the play, but I know from Lyn’s tweets and a very thoughtful ‘thank you’ e-mail from Sally, that Shrek: The Musical was a hit with everyone. So, the day was over – a fat lady hadn’t sung, but a fat monster had – and now we just need to see what the final magazine feature looks like! Watch this space…
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.
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!”
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.”
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
Last week (ahem – apologies, but life has got in the way of this post) we published two great new novels in print and ebook formats.
The first is Olivia’s First Term by Lyn Gardner, theatre critic for The Guardian newspaper. This is Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers meets Noel Streatfield’s Ballet Shoes with a bit of Pamela Brown’s The Swish of the Curtain thrown in for deliciously good measure. It’s about friendship, family and performing, and its target audience is girls of 9+.
Parents in Touch says it’s “the first in a very promising new series from Nosy Crow – a relatively new publisher. I can see the series being an instant hit with girls, who will love the thought of the glamour of stage school – or is it glamorous?”
The School Run says “Girls will love this book, it is a great story, with many messages within the story about friendship… I am sure this series could become as popular as Enid Blytons Malory towers and St Clare’s series! I for one am looking forward to the next in the series to be released.”
The second is Perfectly Reflected by S C Ransom, and is the sequel to Small Blue Thing. A paranormal romance for young teens and pre-teens with an iconic London setting – the focus of the action is the River Thames and St Paul’s Cathedral, it’s about teenage schoolgirl Alex, and her battle with the evil Catherine, who has managed to cross over to our world from the world of the ghostly Dirges, who are doomed to steal the happiness of others in order to survive. Catherine has a grudge, and is determined to make Alex’s life misterable, and what better way to do that than to keep Alex apart from Callum, who is trapped in the world of the Dirges? You can find out more about the books on the series website.
Networked Blogs says, “If Small Blue Thing was a paranormal romance, Perfectly Reflected is a paranormal thriller … There’s always a worry that the second of a series may not live up to the expectations created by the first – happily this is not the case here and the twists and turns will keep you hooked to the last page.”
Congratulations to Lyn Gardner and S C Ransom on publication!
These books bring our total number of print/ebook publications to (drumroll) 12.
The London Book Fair, which has less of a rights focus and more of an export focus and is a general (as opposed to a children’s books) book fair, is very much secondary in importance to the Bologna Book Fair for Nosy Crow. It was particularly tough to focus on it this year as it came so hard on the heels of the Bologna Book Fair. It’s a fair at which, this year and last, we haven’t taken a stand, though I think we may have to rethink that for next year, given the number of messages left for us with the kind people of the Independent Publishers Guild stand.
On Tuesday and on Wednesday (when Axel was, with Julia Donaldson, combined “author of the day”), Kate had a series of rights appointments. Some were with publishers who, for one reason or another, we were unable to see at Bologna, and some were follow-ups to Bologna apointments. We also had the chance to meet up with a few UK bookshop and other buyers.
Nosy Crow had been invited to participate in a Publishers Association presentation of key titles for the second half of the year to independent booksellers. We were the last of 12 publishers, and, the session was, perhaps inevitably, a bit of a “death-by-powerpoint” kind of thing, so we entirely abandoned our powerpoint, and spoke about just four things we’re publishing in the second half of this year, which I felt (on the hoof) gave some sense of the age-range and kind of books we cover: Pip and Posy: The Scary Monster ; Mega Mash-ups: Pirates and Ancient Egyptians in a Haunted Museum ; Olivia Flies High ; and our Christmas picture book, Just Right. Realistically, after seeing 70-odd titles, I thought that there wasn’t a chance of anyone remembering much about individual books, but I hoped that, by taking the less conventional approach, the independent booksellers would remember Nosy Crow, so that, when their Bounce rep came calling, they’d feel positively disposed towards the books.
The photo above, which is as unflattering as it is grainy, was taken by Tom Bonnick, who’s interning with us. We wanted to check that his standards of photography are on the same level as our own if he is to continue to intern for us, and I am happy to say that they are! He did just take it with a phone, though, and from a long way away.
One of the great things about the publishing industry is how many people leave it.
They leave it, in that they leave big publishing companies and corporate life, and then they become experienced, highly-skilled and very creative freelancers.
Steph is our Head of Design, but that doesn’t stop us, and her, working with a range of different freelancers.
One freelancer that Nosy Crow has got very friendly with is Nicola Theobald, who’s worked at Random and Orchard and who’s been working on some of our fiction covers. Here she is (on the left) with Kirsty choosing foil for the cover of Adam Frost’sDanny Danger and the Cosmic Remote, the first book in a series that she’s desiging for us.
2. Kate’s notebook, open for the energetic but incompetent sketching to which she resorts when talking about covers, something that strikes despair into the heart of every designer she’s ever worked with
3. Cake. Almond and apricot. Very delicious. Made by Kirsty for the occasion.
“I was off to Waterstones today, to show them material on our books from May to August. May is the first month in which we have more than one book or pair of books from the same series, so that felt like a bit of a breakthrough.
Lyn Gardner is a terrific children’s writer and a Guardian theatre critic, who has brought her skill, her passion and her knowledge together to create the Olivia books, which are classy-but-commercial Ballet Shoes meets Malory Towers for today’s 8+ girl reader. The first book in the series, Olivia’s First Term publishes in June.
Dinosaur Dig! is Penny Dale’s innovative combination of two things little boys (in particular) love: dinosaurs and diggers. These dinosaurs are (spoiler alert!) digging a swimming pool and making a lot of noise about it. The book was inspired by Penny’s construction vehicle-obsessed grandson, Zachary, to whom the book is dedicated. The book publishes in May.
The Noodle books by French illustrator Marion Billet are touch and feel books with a very attractive panda character whose life reflects the daily activities and excitements of most babies under the age of 18 months. Two books publish in May and two in August.
Where possible, we try to make sure that books with a summery themes, featuring holidays, or swimming, or beaches, which are, therefore, possible summer reading promotion contenders, are published in these months, so the ocean setting of the third Mega Mash-up, the beach holiday theme of Bizzy Bear: Off We Go! and of Noodle Loves the Beach, as well as the swimming pool finale of Dinosaur Dig! all make them books we think babies and children would be in the right frame of mind for as the weather gets warmer. Trudging through the rain, weaving round discarded and dessicated Christmas trees this morning, it was hard to believe we’d ever see summer again, but publishing is always about thinking ahead: full-colour books take months to get from the printer to the warehouse, and we are selling rights and doing highlights presentations up nine months, and even more, ahead of the books being available to readers.
The first presentation – to Waterstones – went very well. Lots more presentations to come…”
Yesterday, Kate met up with Neal Hoskins (pictured) of Winged Chariot in the Crow’s Nest to talk about the opportunities for collaboration amongst apps publishers, and, specifically, children’s apps publishers. For all of us involved in apps publishing, the challenge is how people – parents in our case – find good apps among the ever-growing sea of apps on the store.
They also talked about the Bologna Tools of Change Conference 2011, which Neal is heavily involved in, and at which Kate will be a keynote speaker.
Then Kate and Imogen left for the Bounce Marketing sales conference for April to August titles in Islington, wrapping fizzy wine in the back of the car to give to the Bounce reps so they could drink to Nosy Crow’s first book (Small Blue Thing) being published on 13 January 2011. Kate presented to an enthusiastic audience of 18, and it was great to see how many of the reps had already read many of the titles: Bizzy Bear and Pip and Posy were being enthusiastically read by one sales manager’s two year-old. The six year-old “reluctant artist” son of one of the reps had loved completing his first Mega Mash-up book. And one of the reps told everyone how much she’d LOVEDOlivia’s First Term.
After a meeting at the Publisher’s Association about World Book Day 2012 (which’ll be the subject of another post), Kate met up with Imogen and Kirsty at Bounce’s Christmas Party, and Kirsty and Kate had to be asked to leave as the pub was closing. A fine time was had by all.
One of Kate’s children recently turned ten, and, as it happens, someone @nosycrow follows on Twitter has just asked for reading recommendations for ten year-old girls (in this case, a ten year-old girl who likes to read).
To be a girl of ten reading in English is to be spoiled for choice. Not only are some of the great classics of children’s literature yours for the taking, but the last twenty years has seen a fantastic flowering of great writing for pre-adolescent children particularly in the UK, but also, it seems to Kate, in the US and in Germany. Here are the books that instantly sprang to Kate’s mind, some from her own childhood, some from 20+ years publishing children’s books (and she did publish some of the books below), and some from her experience of her own children’s preferences. No ten year-old reader is like any other ten year-old reader. Some of the books below are easier reads than others, and some more literary than others, but Kate’s a great believer in a varied reading diet. The categorisation was the first one that came to mind and is just a way of breaking up the list, and there are many others. Many books could be in more than one category, of course: Millions is very funny as well as being about an ordinary boy, and Eddie Dickens is historical as well as hilarious.
What are your suggestions? What has she missed?
Anne of Green Gables by L M Montgomery
Little Women by Louisa M Alcott
Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield
The Narnia stories by C S Lewis
The Little House on the Prarie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Just William books by Richmal Crompton
Matilda by Roald Dahl
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Silver Sword by Ian Serrallier
The Eddie Dickens books by Philip Ardagh
Molly Moon books by Georgia Byng
Larklight books by Philip Reeve
Ally’s World series by Karen McCombie
The Mr Gum books by Andy Stanton
The Ramona books by Beverley Cleary
The Rover books by Roddy Doyle (especially The Meanwhile Adventures)
The Humphrey books by Betty G Birney
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson
(And, since this blog post was written, My Best Friend and Other Enemies by Catherine Wilkins.)
Charlotte Sometimes by Philippa Pearce
War Horse by Michael Morpurgo
Hetty Feather by Jacqueline Wilson
Tom’s Midnight Garden by Phippa Pearce
Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson
The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
The Wolves of Willougby Chase by Joan Aitken
Catherine Called Birdy by Karen Cushman
The Rose books by Holly Webb
Carrie’s War by Nina Bawden
The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico
The Kite Rider by Geraldine McCaughrean
(And, since this blog post was written, Twelve Minutes to Midnight by Christopher Edge.)
“Ordinary girl (boy)”/school stories:
Malory Towers series by Enid Blyton
St Clare’s series by Enid Blyton
Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce
Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce
Cloud Busting by Malorie Blackman
Most of Jacqueline Wilson’s work (though things like Love Lessons are a bit old for 10 year-olds), but Tracy Beaker is Kate’s personal favourite
Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen
Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Ida B by Katherine Hannigan
Three Weeks with the Queen by Maurice Gleitzman
(And, since this blog post was written, the Olivia series by Lyn Gardner and the brilliantly-reviewed The Secret Hen house Theatre by Helen Peters)
Ink Heart by Cornelia Funke
The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke
The Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper
The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge
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
Into the Woods by Lyn Gardner
The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
The Mennyms by Sylvia Waugh
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
Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah (a bit top-end of the age-group, this)
The Endless Steppe by Esther Hautzig
The My Story books, especially Titanic (actually fictionalised, but still based on real historical events)
The Horrible Histories books
The Horrible Science books