Jessica can’t wait to tell her friends about her brilliant new idea for their comic. Not that she’s an actual genius, or anything… But they’re all too busy stressing about the school musical to listen. ACTORS!
At least designing the best scenery ever is going well. Until Amelia and Harriet VanDerk fall out over a pot of yellow paint. Now Jessica has to choose between her frenemy and her enemy. Who knew the entertainment business was so tricksy?
Clever, knowing, and wonderfully true-to-life, these books are brilliant for 9+ readers who love funny books. Here’s the first three chapters of My School Musical:
You can watch a video of Fleur talking about Dear Scarlett on the Bookbuzz website, here – and here’s the first chapter of the book:
Catherine has blogged about writing for Bookbuzz on their website, here. Here’s an extract:
“I wanted to write about a character like Jessica because I wanted to write about things that I could relate to.
When I was at school, I was never the best at anything. I always felt underrepresented when other stories, and films and TV seemed to be about someone being brilliant at sport or dancing, or being clever.
I thought, where are MY people? Where are the idiots who are fun to be with?”
We’ve just received finished copies of My Brilliant Life and other Disasters by Catherine Wilkins, sequel to the (equally hilarious) My Best Friend and Other Enemies. Jessica is back, and everything in her life seems to be going swimmingly – she’s got her best friend, she’s about to launch her comic, and her nutty Aunt has come to stay. The only ink blot on the landscape is Scarlett, Amelia’s super-cool, super-annoying cousin… who just happens to draw cartoons too. Soon Jessica is fighting for her cartoonist life. It’s a good job she has an enormous badger on her side…
Funny, heartwarming, and BRILLIANTLY realised (and with great illustrations throughout by Sarah Horne), My Brilliant Life and other Disasters is perfect reading for 9-12 year olds.
I never once got an A* on my homework, so for me it is absolutely wonderful to receive fan mail.
Like homework, writing is mostly a solitary business, and even though I have been an adult for quite a few years, when someone gives me feedback on my work, it sometimes feels a bit like they’ve ‘marked’ it.
I write funny books for children, and with comedy especially, until you get a reaction it can be difficult to know if what you’re writing is definitely funny and you’ve achieved your goals.
One of the great things about running the Stand Up Workshop for kids I did at the Edinburgh Book Festival last year was how immediate the response of laughter was (or not).
We built up through games and improv, and eventually the children all wrote up a little anecdote and delivered it to the rest of class as stand up comedy. There were some brilliantly funny stories (lots of them involving poo); but as soon as something was highly amusing, there was laughter from the group, and it was lovely to see.
Laughter is such an honest reaction to material that you immediately know if you’ve achieved your comedy goal. This is something stand ups rely on heavily, and why they travel the country, testing and honing material, based on feedback from the laugher of audiences, to make it the best it can possibly be.
But I can’t really follow children home and make a note of which bits they laugh out loud at. That would be weird. And even if it wasn’t weird, I still wouldn’t be able to tell if the more serious bits were working.
Judd Apatow said in a recent interview that he wished there was a noise audiences made to show they were enjoying the drama in a film, and I thought, “yes, that would be really useful.”
But luckily for me, fan mail exists. It’s so wonderful to know you’ve made a connection with readers and that people are enjoying your work.
I thought this letter from Rose was just beautiful. I especially like that the instruction to ‘PLEASE WRITEMOREBOOKS SOON’ is not only in capitals, but in red as well, so I know I have to take it seriously. And it has six beautifully coloured exclamation marks, so I would need to be a fool not to obey.
And because children are generally pretty upfront about letting you know what they do and don’t like, if they do express pleasure at something, it feels like a massive compliment.
As a writer, all I have ever wanted was for my work to be out in the world, making people happy. Not being that ambitious, I kind of feel like I have pretty much achieved my dream. So basically I can retire now.
…Except, I kind of don’t want to disobey those capital letters telling me to ‘PLEASE WRITEMOREBOOKS SOON’ they looked like they meant business. Maybe I should stick at this for a bit longer…
So thank you Rose. And thanks to anyone who goes to this much trouble to tell someone you like what they are doing. The world is a nicer place because of you.
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!
Bookbuzz, which is a reading programme by Booktrust, offers secondary schools the chance to give their Year 7 pupils the choice of a book from a specially selected list of 17 titles that includes fiction, non-fiction and poetry. It aims to support reading for pleasure and independent choice at the important transition stage from primary to secondary education, and it works to encourage a whole school reading culture.
Here’s what Dr Rachael Levy from the School of Education at the University of Sheffield had to say about Bookbuzz:
“Bookbuzz ‘works’ for a number of reasons, but findings from a recent evaluation of Bookbuzz indicate that much of this can be attributed to the fact that Bookbuzz provides schools with a very carefully designed programme, presenting a selection of books that allow young people to experience genuine choice, while simultaneously ensuring that this choice is appropriately guided… Students themselves applaud the fact that Bookbuzz not only provides significant choice but extends their engagement with reading by introducing them to new authors, a new series, and new genres of books that they may not have otherwise experienced. In sum, Bookbuzz begins from the position of celebrating rather than condemning young people’s reading – surely this is key to promoting positive attitudes to reading in our children?”
You can find out more about the programme, and read the full list of selected titles, on the Bookbuzz website.
And you can read the first chapters of our two selected titles below. Congratulations to Fleur and Catherine!
Read chapter one of Dear Scarlett:
Read chapter one of My Best Friend and Other Enemies:
Michael Cummings is in Year 11 and is doing his GCSEs. He’s also quite possibly the BEST big brother in the world. For his sister Poppy’s sixth birthday, he decided to read aloud – perform comes closer to doing it justice – the first book in Paula Harrison’sRescue Princesses series, The Rescue Princesses: The Secret Promise, in its entirety. It’s such an undertaking that he hasn’t finished yet – he’s up to Chapter 9 – and we think that it’s brilliant. You can watch part one above, and the following chapters by clicking through to Michael’s channel on YouTube.
So, belatedly, happy birthday from us, Poppy – and well done, Michael, for such a kind and thoughful present!
You can buy The Rescue Princesses: The Secret Promise online here and read the first chapter for free below.
My Best Friend and Other Enemies author Catherine Wilkins received a fantastic piece of fanmail from 10 year old Annie Lewis (photographed above) that we loved so much that we asked to reproduce it here. It’s absolutely wonderful to read letters like this: it means so much to us, and to our authors and illustrators, to hear how much someone has enjoyed one of our books – thank you, Annie! You can enlarge each page of the letter by clicking on it, or read a transcript below.
And here’s a transcript:
‘My best friend and other enemies’ was an amazing book, I enjoyed it far more than I thought I would. It was hilarious. I could not believe it, this was my life in words.
I was asked to review this book by Mrs DeWetStyn as a typical ten year-old girl. I am dyslexic myself and reading a whole book can be a challenge, as you can get bored struggling during it, but this is one of the few books I have read all the way through.
The way the book was printed was brilliant as it was not too close together or too small a print which made it clear to read. The cover was really fun and appealing and once you read the whole way through you really understood the cover and found it quite funny.
The story was amazing. You can picture the characters in your mind so easily and really feel for the characters and begin to see Jessica’s point of view. You almost feel for her in a way.
I only have one small point I found a little difficult in only a couple of places, which is probably only me. It was a little hard to see who was talking at times as there was so much dialogue. But, I really enjoyed the fact that Jessica talked to herself and it was like being in her mind.
Some of the words were a bit tricky to read but then again, I am dyslexic. It helps to come across new words and I did get them in the end.
The plot of the story was so creative. I think the book is pure genius. The family set up I loved, the mum was so dramatic I loved that and I can relate too. I also have two older sisters which are the same age difference between Jessica and Tammy. The poor father, it really is my Dad trying to dodge every argument with a cup of tea. I think my Dad would know how that poor chap feels.
Jessica’s little brother Ryan, well you can’t just not love Ryan. If I had a little brother I would probably want him.
The book is up to date with the economy and how grown ups are so dramatic about it and us kids pick up on it and get quite annoyed when we are trying to deal with our own personal issues – day to day friendships and negotiating school, whose allowed in what game. There is so much more to explore – entrance tests, clubs they want to get into, and sport – trying to get into the A team, running and netball. If you are not a sporty girl you are left awkwardly in the middle.
To sum up the book – every school library should have a copy, this is the best book I have ever read. I did not want it to end. I will die if you don’t write another book as I have to know how Jessica’s Magazine with Joshua goes on and how Jessica and Harriet Van Dirk are going to get on – my guess, its going to get ugly.
If this is ever made into a film – as acting is my forte – I beg you to consider me for the role of Jessica – I WILL DO THISFORFREE – or my weight in chocolate orange.
Aged 10 loving drama, thinks sport should be outlawed as well as mashed potato, and loves drawing cartoons as well as being a chocolate orange lover.
P.S. is this based on your life?
Thank you again, Annie, for your fantastic letter! If a film ever is made for My Best Friend and Other Enemies, I promise I’ll put in a good word to the casting agent for you!
You can buy My Best Friend and Other Enemies online here and read the first chapter for free below.
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 you may have seen from last week’s blog posts, Thursday was a bumper Publication Day for Nosy Crow with seven new titles coming out in a blaze of glory. One of these was the completely hilarious MY BESTFRIENDANDOTHERENEMIES by Catherine Wilkins, and what better way to celebrate than with a launch party!
So, bags clanking with fizz, Camilla and I made our way to Catherine’s house in West London, where we met her entire very lovely family and loads of her glamorous friends.
Blending seamlessly in, obvs, we got the crisps out, the music on and the celebration underway! We were thrilled that the hugely talented Sarah Horne was able to join us, and be thoroughly lauded for her beautifully funny illustrations.
It’s always great to be able to send a book on its way in style, so thank you to Catie for hosting the bash and to her mum for all the amazing pizzas. And while many publishers have said that their books are perfect for readers of eight-to-eighty, not many have the proof. We do!
My Best Friend and Other Enemies is out now. You can order it online here or read the first chapter for free below.
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:
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.
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.
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.