IPG Children's Publisher of the Year

Articles tagged with: nikalas catlow and tim wesson

It's January publication day!

Posted by Tom on Jan 09, 2014

It’s a very exciting day – our first publication day of the year! 2014 is off to a great start with this month’s titles, and we’ve got something for everyone: a brand new lift-the-flap novelty series for the youngest of toddlers, two fantastic picture books to read together, some fantastically innovative doodle storybooks (especially good for reluctant readers), and a selection of great fiction titles spanning age ranges, from newly-independent readers who like adventure and funny stories, through to more confident readers who love a gripping, pace-y thriller.

We’re launching a brand new novelty series – the Can You Say It Too? books, illustrated by Sebastien Braun. As all parents know, little children LOVE making animal sounds. So a flap book in which they can spot an animal’s tail, lift the flap to reveal the complete creature, and then make its noise is guaranteed to be a winner!
The first two volumes are Can You Say It Too? Moo! Moo! and Can You Say It Too? Woof! Woof!

It’s publication day for Dinosaur Rescue – the third fantastic dinosaur book by Penny Dale. Featuring a riotously rhythmic text and vibrant illustrations, this brand new picture book in the hugely successful series is packed with adventure and a rabble of roaring, rescuing dinosaurs! Here’s a look inside:

Order the book online.

We’re publishing the first paperback edition of Just Right for Two, written by Tracey Corderoy and illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw. A heart-warming tale about life and friendship, this is an absolutely charming story with beautiful artwork – bound to become a bedtime favourite. Here’s a look inside:

Order the book online.

We’ve re-issued Mega Mash-Up: Romans v Dinosaurs on Mars by Nikalas Catlow and Tim Wesson, and Magical Mix-Ups: Birthdays and Bridesmaids by Marnie Edwards and Leigh Hodgkinson, in new large formats! These activity books – combinations of fiction and doodle book – are particularly good for reluctant readers: you have to take part and finish the story yourself! Scribble, design and draw while you read – these books need you! You can order Romans v Dinosaurs on Mars online here and Birthdays and Bridesmaids online here.

It’s publication day for The Rescue Princesses: The Ice Diamond – another exciting instalment in Paula Harrison’s Rescue Princesses series. Princess Maya is delighted to welcome the Rescue Princesses to the Kingdom of Lepari. It’s a beautiful land with snow leopards living in the mountains. These amazing animals are very rare, so when Maya and her friends discover that the big cats are in danger, they have to act fast. Can the magical Ice Diamond help the princesses to save the snow leopards? Here’s the first chapter:

Order the book online.

We’re publishing a HILARIOUS debut from an exciting new voice: Baby Aliens Got My Teacher by Pamela Butchart – a brilliant, laugh-out-loud novel for 7+ year olds, featuring crisp twins, pea phobias, and aliens-in-ears. Here’s the first chapter:

Order the book online.

And we’re bringing another series to a close with The Black Crow Conspiracy by Christopher Edge, the thrilling conclusion to the Twelve Minutes to Midnight trilogy. The year is 1902 and London is looking forward to the new King’s coronation and ignoring the threat of war from across the sea… Penelope Tredwell, the pen behind bestselling author, Montgomery Flinch, is cursed with writer’s block. She needs a sensational new story or her magazine, The Penny Dreadful, will go under. So when a mysterious letter arrives, confessing to an impossible crime, Penny thinks she has found a plot to enthrall her readers: the theft of the Crown Jewels by the diabolical Black Crow. Ghostly apparitions, kidnap and treason – this is the stuff of great stories. But what if it’s all true? Here’s the first chapter:

Order the book online.

Happy publication day to all of our authors and illustrators!

Win copies of our January books!

Posted by Tom on Dec 20, 2013

It’s time for our monthly book giveaway – and our first one for 2014! You can win any of our upcoming January titles – and here’s how. If you’re a resident of the UK or Ireland, you can win any of next month’s releases simply by subscribing to our Books Newsletter and either tweeting to @NosyCrowBooks or leaving a comment underneath this blogpost, telling us the name you subscribed with and the book you’d like to win. And here’s what’s up for grabs…

We’re launching a brand new novelty series – the Can You Say It Too? books, illustrated by Sebastien Braun. As all parents know, little children LOVE making animal sounds. So a flap book in which they can spot an animal’s tail, lift the flap to reveal the complete creature, and then make its noise is guaranteed to be a winner!
The first two volumes will be Can You Say It Too? Moo! Moo! and Can You Say It Too? Woof! Woof!

We’ll be publishing Dinosaur Rescue – the third fantastic dinosaur book by Penny Dale. Featuring a riotously rhythmic text and vibrant illustrations, this brand new picture book in the hugely successful series is packed with adventure and a rabble of roaring, rescuing dinosaurs! Here’s a look inside:

We’re publishing the first paperback edition of Just Right for Two, written by Tracey Corderoy and illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw. A heart-warming tale about life and friendship, this is an absolutely charming story with beautiful artwork – bound to become a bedtime favourite. Here’s a look inside:

We’re re-issuing Mega Mash-Up: Romans v Dinosaurs on Mars by Nikalas Catlow and Tim Wesson, and and Magical Mix-Ups: Birthdays and Bridesmaids by Marnie Edwards and Leigh Hodgkinson, in new large formats! These activity books – combinations of fiction and doodle book – are particularly good for reluctant readers: you have to take part and finish the story yourself! Scribble, design and draw while you read – these books need you!

We’re publishing The Rescue Princesses: The Ice Diamond – another exciting instalment in Paula Harrison’s Rescue Princesses series. Princess Maya is delighted to welcome the Rescue Princesses to the Kingdom of Lepari. It’s a beautiful land with snow leopards living in the mountains. These amazing animals are very rare, so when Maya and her friends discover that the big cats are in danger, they have to act fast. Can the magical Ice Diamond help the princesses to save the snow leopards? Here’s the first chapter:

We’re publishing a HILARIOUS debut from an exciting new voice: Baby Aliens Got My Teacher by Pamela Butchart – a brilliant, laugh-out-loud novel for 7+ year olds, featuring crisp twins, pea phobias, and aliens-in-ears. Here’s the first chapter:

And we’re bringing another series to a close with The Black Crow Conspiracy by Christopher Edge, the thrilling conclusion to the Twelve Minutes to Midnight trilogy. The year is 1902 and London is looking forward to the new King’s coronation and ignoring the threat of war from across the sea… Penelope Tredwell, the pen behind bestselling author, Montgomery Flinch, is cursed with writer’s block. She needs a sensational new story or her magazine, The Penny Dreadful, will go under. So when a mysterious letter arrives, confessing to an impossible crime, Penny thinks she has found a plot to enthrall her readers: the theft of the Crown Jewels by the diabolical Black Crow. Ghostly apparitions, kidnap and treason – this is the stuff of great stories. But what if it’s all true? 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!

The Mega Mash-Up books have grown!

Posted by Tom on Oct 25, 2013

Earlier this year we wrote about a big new format for our Magical Mix-Ups series – fantastic combinations of fiction and doodle books, with real stories, great characters, and lots of drawing involved.

And we were so pleased with the extra-large format that we’ve extended it to our Mega Mash-Up books – the equally brilliant books that were the inspiration for the sister series – as well!

In January we’ll be publishing Mega Mash-Up: Romans v Dinosaurs on Mars by Nikalas Catlow and Tim Wesson, the first of the Mega Mash-Up books, in this brilliant A4 format – and copies have just arrived in the office! The picture at the top of this post gives you an idea of the scale comparison with the existing Mega Mash-Up books.

In Romans v Dinosaurs on Mars, Romans and Dinosaurs live together in a huge glass dome called Romasauria. They race their rocket chariots and feast on Moon-Cow and chips… until life on Mars is threatened by a Giant Asteroid. Will a wooden catapult and some Dinosaur poo save the day? You’ll have to finish the illustrations to find out:

Packed with humour, great stories, and AMAZING mash-ups of perenially popular topics, these books are perfect for keeping young children (and especially boys) busy on journeys, during the holidays, on a rainy day, or over a weekend. So let your creativity run wild in this new extra-large edition, and help save life on Mars!

Here’s a video of Nikalas and Tim drawing Maximus Victorious, one of the stars of the book:

Mega Mash-Up: Romans v Dinosaurs on Mars is available to pre-order now.

Nosy Crow at the Hay Festival

Posted by Tom on Apr 16, 2013

The line-up for the 2013 Hay Festival has been announced and we’re very pleased to see the strong contingent of Nosy Crow authors and illustrators who’ll be holding events!

On Wednesday May 29 at 11.30am, Tracey Corderoy – author of Hubble Bubble, Granny Trouble and Whizz Pop, Granny Stop – will be sharing the adventures of the little girl and her granny who (whisper it) may well be a witch, in a lively, fun-packed session. You can find out more and book tickets here.

Take a look inside Hubble Bubble, Granny Trouble:


Buy the book online

Take a look inside Whizz Pop, Granny Stop:


Buy the book online

On Thursday May 30 at 11.30 am, Nikalas Catlow and Tim Wesson, the extraordinary duo behind the Mega Mash-Up series, will be demonstrating their talents with lots of storytelling, doodling, and creativity. You can read more out about the latest volume in the brilliant Mega Mash-Up series, Cowboys v Trolls in the Arctic, here, and find more about the event and book tickets here.

And at 4pm on Thursday May 30, Lyn Gardner, author of the Olivia books, will be introducing the latest volume in the series, Olivia and the Great Escape, at an event that’s bound to appeal to any aspiring performer. You can find out more and book tickets here.

Take a look inside Olivia and the Great Escape:


Buy the book online

You can read the full line-up of Children’s Events at Hay here. Let us know if you’ll be there, and if you’re attending, have fun at the festival!

The Edinburgh Book Festival

Posted by Dom on Aug 22, 2012

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.

Nosy Crow at the Edinburgh Book Festival

Posted by Tom on Jun 25, 2012

The line-up for the Edinburgh Book Festival has been announced and we’re very pleased to see the strong contingent of Nosy Crow authors and illustrators who’ll be holding events!

First up is Simon Puttock, author of The Baby that Roared, who’ll be taking part in a story-telling event, Curtains Up, with Julia Donaldson and Vivian French on Tuesday 14 August. Full details of the event are here.

Also on Tuesday 14 will be an event held by Lyn Gardner, author of the Olivia books. Lyn will be introducing the latest volume in the series, Olivia’s Enchanted Summer – which is set at the Edinburgh Festival – and you can find out more here.

And rounding off a hat-trick of events on August 14, Catherine Wilkins, debut author of the hilarious My Best Friend and Other Enemies, will be holding a Stand-Up Workshop. As well as being a children’s author, Catherine is also a stand-up comedian (for adults) – the two worlds will collide in this funny, engaging event. Find out more here.

On Thursday 16, Philip Ardagh and Axel Scheffler will be launching their brand new series, The Grunts with a very exciting, funny and slightly disgusting event together. Be one of the first to get your hands on a copy of book one in the series, The Grunts in Trouble and find out JUST how impressive Philip’s beard is. Full details are here.

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.

Finally, last but by no means least, Tim Wesson and Nikalas Catlow, creators of the Mega Mash-Up series, will be holding a funny, creative, bonkers event on Sunday 19, with LOTS of mad drawing, story-telling and brand new mash-ups. Here are all the details.

Tickets for all the events at the Festival will go on sale on 29 June (this Friday). We hope to see you there!

Join the Nosy Crow Books Newsletter

Posted by Tom on Jun 20, 2012

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:

Goldilocks and Just the One Bear by Leigh Hodgkinson (paperback release)
Guinea Pig Party by Holly Surplice
Noodle Loves to Drive by Marion Billet
Olivia’s Enchanted Summer by Lyn Gardner
The Rescue Princesses: The Wishing Pearl by Paula Harrison
Vulgar the Viking and the Great Gulp Games by Odin Redbeard
Mega Mash-Up: Secret Agents v Giant Slugs in the Jungle by Nikalas Catlow and Tim Wesson

And we have copies of every title (along with some special Nosy Crow stuff) to give away! To be in with a chance of winning, all you need to do is subscribe to the mailing list and then either send us a tweet to our new, books-dedicated Twitter feed, @NosyCrowBooks or leave a comment below, mentioning the name you subscribed to the newsletter under, and the book you’d like to win.

You can sign up for the newsletter here (you’ll be sent an email asking you to confirm that you’ve joined), and we’ll announce the winners of each book when the first issue is sent out.

The competition is only open to residents of the UK and Ireland – but anyone can join our newsletter, of course. Good luck!

Belated report on the Hay Festival

Posted by Kate on Jun 19, 2012

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.

Anyway, Hay was wet and cold but nevertheless jolly, with facepainting (see the picture above) and fudge as well as books, authors and illustrators. It was, as always, a surreal experience to be in the same room as Caitlin Moran, for whose permission to reproduce her brilliant defence of libraries we are always grateful, Salman Rushdie, Jo Brand and Eric Hobsbawm.

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.


Pip meets some of his adoring fans


And Posy meets some of her adoring fans

NIkalas Catlow and Tim Wesson did two great interactive writing sessions connected to the Wicked Young Writers’ Award and then a brilliant, big, funny event, drawing mash-up characters to order based on their Mega Mash-up series.


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.

Leigh Hodgkinson did a crafty event, involving many hundreds of sequins and much glitter to introduce children to her new Magical Mix-ups series.


A glittery model of Leigh Hodgkinson’s creation, Princess Sapphire

Lyn Gardner engaged potential readers and hard-core Olivia fans alike with her event on Tuesday, while Tracey Corderoy mentioned Hubble Bubble, Granny Trouble at her event for her Little Tiger Books.


Lyn Gardner in the Green Room

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.

Nikalas Catlow and Tim Wesson's Mega Mash-up Event at the Aye Write! festival

Posted by Kate on Mar 18, 2012

Nikalas, co-author-and-illustrator of our brilliant Mega Mash-up series with Tim Wesson, writes about his experience of appearing at the Aye Write! festival in Glasgow last weekend:

“Neither myself or Tim had been to Glasgow before, so we weren’t quite sure what to expect when we were invited to the Aye Write! festival. What we found when we got there was pure five-star luxury in the form of the wonderful Blythswood Square hotel, in which the festival had very kindly put us up.

During our stay in Scotland we got to hang out with other authors. Andy Briggs was there doing an event about his new Tarzan series, and so was Liz Pichon (author of Tom Gates, of which I’m a BIG fan). It fel t great – like a real authors’ club.

“Our events were on at the Mitchell Library, apparently the largest reference library in Europe! Quickly nipping to the loo before we started, I walked past a cavernous room with a large stage… and hundreds of empty chairs. “I’m glad we’re not performing in there,” I thought to myself… only to find, on my return, the festival organiser pointing to the vast hall and grinning, “This is your room…”

GULP!


Nikalas and Tim in their enormous and beautiful room at the Mitchell Library

But in fact the events couldn’t have gone better. And we made one interesting observation by the end of our time in Glasgow: we always get our audience to help us create a ‘Mega Mashed-Up’ character, made up from different body parts of various people or animals, and, when given a choice of chicken legs, Egyptian mummy legs or old lady legs. Usually, we get a range of responses, but EVERYONE in Glasgow favoured old lady legs. It seems that Glasgow is a city of granny-lovers.

We’d like to thank the Aye Write! festival organisers and supporters’, the Mitchell Library, and, most of all, our great Glasgow audiencies.”

(Kate, a Scot, but from the Other Side of Scotland, says:

“Glasgow is, after all, a city in which everyone knows the following words to the song more commonly known as “She’ll be comin’ round the mountain when she comes’:

Oh, ye canny shove yer granny aff a bus.
No, ye canny shove yer granny aff a bus.
Oh, ye canny shove yer granny… Cus she’s yer mammy’s mammy.
No, ye canny shove yer granny aff a bus.

Clearly, granny-love runs deep.”)


Nikalas and Tim signing books and talking to children at the end of one of the Aye Write! events

Nikalas Catlow and Tim Wesson's Mega Mash-up Event at the Imagine Festival

Posted by Kate on Feb 28, 2012

I went straight from the CLPE London Children’s Book Swap event on Saturday to the Southbank’s Imagine Festival to see Nikalas and Tim perform at one of their brilliantly interactive children’s events based on their Mega Mash-up series (the series is also brilliantly interactive, and you’ll get a tiny sense of their lively presentation style as a duo from the opening video).

They provided a glimpse inside their studio and talked about how they worked together (perhaps it helps that Nikalas is right-handed and Tim is left-handed, so they can even draw on the same piece of paper) before drawing some of the characters and scenes from the books, with embellishments suggested by the audience. They then took improvisation and interactivity a stage further by coming up with a mash-up character to order based on “consequences”-style suggestions from the audience. They drew a head (a robot’s), a body (a zombie’s) and legs (old lady legs) to create Gooey Tom, who likes flying planes and who works as a cleaner.


Tim with Gooey Tom

You can find out more about Mega Mash-ups here and you’ll be able to see Nikalas and Tim at various festivals throughout this year, including Hay, Edinburgh and Bath. Keep an eye on the bottom of our home page to see where you can meet Nosy Crow authors.

Gala Dinner to Celebrate Children's Books given by The Book People/Red House

Posted by Kate on Feb 28, 2012

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.

Mega Mash-Up: Pirates v Ancient Egyptians in a Haunted Museum - out now!

Posted by Kirsty on Sep 30, 2011

What if some bloodthirsty Pirates and crazy Ancient Egyptians broke into a Haunted Museum? Would you ask yourself what the world was coming to? Or would you reach for your felt-tips, realising that another 96 pages of zany excellence had hit the bookstores? Yes, today’s the day the fourth MEGA MASH-UP book by Nikalas Catlow and Tim Wesson is published!

PIRATES V ANCIENT EGYPTIANS IN A HAUNTED MUSEUM is a wacky tale told at breakneck speed with hilarious illustrations to finish, add to and even start from scratch. These books invite you in, sit you down on a whoopee cushion, and tell you to get stuck in.

I saw Nikalas and Tim at their latest event at the Bath Festival this weekend. They invented characters, put them in hilarious situations, and then added a flatulent chicken for good measure, all the while asking for suggestions and input from their captivated audience. (Just don’t ask them to draw a fluffy bunny, mind…)

Inspirational stuff. A real case of DO try this at home.

Congratulations, Nikalas and Tim, on another brilliant book!

Nosy Crow at the Edinburgh International Book Festival for the first time

Posted by Kate on Aug 22, 2011

Tom and I are just back from the Edinburgh International Book Festival, having carried the quite-light-but-hugely-bulky Pip and Posy costumes (as seen in previous blog posts ) there.

Our visit to the Book Festival over this weekend was fleeting, but Nikalas and Tim were there earlier this week for what was, by all accounts, a stonking Mega Mash-up event while the Nosy Crow staffers were cleaning the loos and unpacking crates in the new office.

On Sunday, though, we had three great events, thanks at least in part to the redoubtable Book Festival staff, Janet, Sian and Hannah. The first sell-out event was a Pip and Posy event with Axel Scheffler (pictured above, signing the flip-chart drawings he created at the event) attended by Sarah Brown, last seen and written about by Kate at Cybermummy 11, and her sons.

We then had a Dinosaur Dig event with Penny Dale – also a sell-out – which included a draw-your-own stegosaurus (on roller skates) session.

Here’s Penny’s stegosaurus:

And here is a stegosaurus from a talented member of the audience:

Lastly, I did a session on apps as reading experiences, impeccably chaired by Nosy Crow author, Simon Puttock.

And then we went out to dinner. Scotland is another country: they do things differently there (I should know: I am a Scot, though I have lived in London for a long, long time), and it is really interesting to see the connections between individuals in different parts of the vibrant and committed Scottish children’s book community.

Tom and I were back on the London-bound train as the early morning sun shone on the coast of East Lothian… and I’m writing this in a bit of a rush as I prepare to leave for Brazil tomorrow.

Summer Reading

Posted by Tom on Jul 29, 2011

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.

Adrian suggested some true classics – Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons and The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame, as well as a long-forgotten gem, The Inviolable Sanctuary by GA Birmingham.

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!”

Kirsty has nominated L.P. Hartley’s The Go-Between, Falconer’s Lure by Antonia Forest, and Winnie the Witch at the Seaside, by Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul, for “the best infinity pool ever.”

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.”

Some of her other choices are Iggy and Me on Holiday, by Jenny Valentine and Joe Berger, and Shirley Hughes’ Lucy and Tom at the Seaside.

Kate seconded Kirsty’s nomination of The Go-Between, and has also added Greengage Summer by Rumer Godden and What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell, both for older readers. Her other suggestions include Lyn Gardner’s Olivia’s Enchanted Summer, out next year, Greenwitch and Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper, and Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, which I believe has the distinction of somehow being included in every single one of the “Best of” lists that we produce.

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

Kate (@nosycrow) pointed out that S.C. Ransom’s books Small Blue Thing and Perfectly Reflected both have strong sense of a London summer.

Mega Mash-up: Aliens v Mad Scientists under the Ocean - some feedback

Posted by Kate on Jul 05, 2011

Two weeks ago, we published the third of Nikalas Catlow and Tim Wesson’s funny, clever and innovative new Mega Mash-up series of Draw-Your-Own-Adventure books, Mega Mash-up: Aliens v Mad Scientists under the Ocean.


An alien and a mad scientist eye one another suspiciously.

We always want to know what people think about our books and apps, whoever they are.

This time, we have had some terrific feedback from a friendly bookseller. Matt Black (pictured doodling above) is Children’s Bookseller at Waterstone’s High Street Birmingham. We know him from Twitter (where he rejoices in the name @marquiscarabas). Here’s what he says:

Mega Mash-Up: Aliens v Mad Scientists Under The Ocean is by Nikalas Catlow and Tim Wesson and well, you when you add to the pictures! If you haven’t seen any of the previous books in this fab series, then you are in for a treat. The whole point of these great stories is to bring the reader in on the action: you get to make up parts of the narrative as the story progresses, creating and illustrating elements of the story yourself. Using pencils, pens and felt tips (with hints on how you might want to do so from the authors) you can fill in the gaps in the story and pictures and make it your own little adventure.

This makes a great alternative to the usual doodle books available, which don’t have stories. Here, the narrative adds so much more to the book, making interacting with it much more fun. Also the illustration is very loose and simple – very child-friendly – which, I think, helps to encourage children to draw and to use their own imagination.

I love the idea of aliens and mad scientists being put together in one book set under the ocean: just such a good idea! Why just doodle, when you can create?”

We really like to hear from booksellers, whose role in getting our books into the hands of readers is so important… but it’s also great to hear from readers – or their parents – themselves. Yesterday, we got an email from a mum who had taken the trouble to contact Nosy Crow via our website after Nikalas and Tim did an event at her child’s school. This is what she says:

“Hi I just wanted to send you guys a quick email to say thank you for doing a talk at my son’s school, Bellenden Primary School, last Friday. He was shy about talking to you after school when we bought a couple of your books, but then was full of excitement and enthusiasm telling me all about your talk to the children and about your drawings, and all weekend he has been drawing aliens, asteroids, smelly socks and sound effects like “ZAP!”: he is totally inspired and loves your website and your books. The kitchen table is covered with his drawings and I will keep them all.

It does make a difference when you talk in a school. It gets kids excited about reading and drawing as well as making for a bit of fun!”

The first books in the Mega Mash-up series have reprinted, and rights have been sold to the US, France, Germany, Korea and Israel so far. We publish the fourth book, Pirates v Ancient Egyptians in a Haunted Museum, in September, and three more next year.

Best books for seven year-old boys

Posted by Kate on Jun 20, 2011

Way back in October, we did a post about the best books for ten year-old boys. A twitter enquiry prompts me to write a post on the best book for seven year-old boys. This is, in some ways, more of a challenge, as there is a huge difference in reading levels at seven. I know this is true at any age, but while some seven year olds are reading fluently by themselves, others very definitely are not.

So I have included a fairly wide (and, I am aware, quite UK-skewed) range here.

Funny Books

In my experience as a publisher, seven year-old boys love funny books, and I think it’s no surprise that I could think of lots of good books in this category.

Our very own Mega Mash-ups by Nikalas Catlow and Tim Wesson of which there are now a rollicking six titles. Each is a unique combination of a novel and a drawing book. As a reader, you draw your own adventure.
(And, since this book was originally written, I would add our own Vulgar the Viking series by Odin Redbeard), which are sort of Horrid Henry in a horned helmet.)
The Grubtown books by Philip Ardagh
Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown
The Captain Underpants books by Dav Pilkey
The Astrosaurs books by Steve Cole
My Brother’s Famous Bottom (and other books) by Jeremy Strong
Bill’s New Frock by Anne Fine
George’s Marvellous Medicine, Fantastic Mr Fox, The Twits and Charlie and The Chocolate Factory (here in the order of easiest to hardest to read) by Roald Dahl
Any Horrid Henry book by Francesca Simon
Mr Majeika by Humphrey Carpenter
The Legend of Captain Crow’s Teeth by Eoin Colfer
Ug by Raymond Briggs
Any Mr Gum book by Andy Stanton
Any Buster Baylis book by Philip Reeve
Any Charlie book by Hilary McKay
Any Nate The Great book by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat
And – controversially, because it’s all about girls – any of the Iggie books by Jenny Valentine
Any Frog and Toad book by Arnold Lobel
Any Henry and Mudge book by Cynthia Rylant

Animal books

I was surprised that there weren’t more books that came to mind in this category (and the next two, for that matter). Here are some good ones, though.

The Hodgeheg and The Sheep Pig by Dick King Smith
The Butterfly Lion by Michael Morpurgo
One Dog And His Boy by Eva Ibbotson

Real life books

Buried Alive and Cliffhanger by Jacqueline Wilson

Adventure books

Any of the Beast Quest books
The Iron Man by Ted Hughes
The Wishing Chair by Enid Blyton
Any Magic Treehouse book

Non-fiction

I’d really welcome suggestions in this area, quite possibly because it’s not something that I’ve been thinking a lot about recently, and I struggled to think of really stand-out examples of great non-fiction books for seven year old boys.

Any Horrible History book, but particularly the Horrible Histories Handbooks because they’re a bit younger (I think Horrible Histories is really 8 or 9+)
Why is Snot Green? The Science Museum Question and Answer Book Again, this is a bit old for seven year-olds
Boy: Tales of Childhood by Roald Dahl
The Guinness Book Of Records
Ripley’s Believe It Or Not (I don’t love this brand personally – I’m more of a Guiness Book Of Records gal – but I’ve seen boys discovering it and thinking it’s great.)

Picture books

Lots of boys don’t want to tackle screeds of unrelieved text, so here are some picture books for older children in which the illustrations supplement the text… or tell a whole other story.

The Enormous Crocodile by Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake
Fungus the Bogeyman by Raymond Briggs
Solomon, the Rusty Nail (and lots of others) by William Steig
The Wolves in the Walls and The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish by Neil Gaiman
Wolves and Meercat Mail by Emily Gravett
The Arrival by Shaun Tan
Beware of the Story Book Wolves and That Pesky Rat by Lauren Child
Leon and the Place Between by Angela McAllister
Farmer Duck by Martin Waddell and Helen Oxenbury
Where’s Wally by Martin Handford
Any of the Asterix books
Any of the Tintin books

But what have I missed out?

Nosy Crow interview in The Huffington Post

Posted by Kate on Jun 06, 2011

We thought that you might be interested to read this review of The Three Little Pigs and profile of Nosy Crow in the The Huffington Post by 2MorrowKnight and Amy Neumann (who tweets as @CharityIdeas).

A while ago, I wrote a post about the challenges of getting media coverage, particularly traditional print media coverage, for apps. We’re hugely grateful for the online coverage we’ve had and continue to get, and the article in yesterday’s HuffPost Books section is a great and cheering example.

Nikalas and Tim's Mega Mash-up event at the Hay Festival

Posted by Kate on Jun 01, 2011

Nikalas and Tim’s Mega Mash-up event at the Hay Festival yesterday was fast, furious and funny.

They took the – big and lively – audience through the creation of the series, a unique and silly blend of doodle book and young novel that they describe as “draw your own adventure” which they both write and illustrate.

They said that some of their ideas come to them on the Thinking Couch in their studio. Here’s Nikalas on the Thinking Couch:

And here’s Tim on the Thinking Couch:

However, they also confessed that they traded ideas for cookies with the elves at the bottom of their garden.

Conveniently, Nikalas is right-handed and Tim’s left handed, which means that they can illustrate the same picture at the same time without either getting in the other’s way… and they demonstrated this on a flip-chart at the event:

They pulled in audience suggestions and questions brilliantly. Here’s Tim getting a suggestion from half-way up the theatre:

They asked, for example, what the roundish object might be that they’d drawn being spotted through a telescope hurtling toward the Romans’ and Dinosaurs’ Martian city, Romasauria. “A grape!”, suggested one child (it was an asteroid). In turn, they were asked whether they liked brussels sprouts. So we covered a lot of ground, not all of it fruit-and-vegetable-related, as well as drawing mashed-up characters together.

There was a long queue of enthusiastic children waiting for them to sign books, and I was surprised and pleased to see how many girls were in the audience, as I’ve always thought that these books skewed towards boys, and reluctant boy readers in particular:

Described by Library Mice as “… exactly the kind of books us parents need to be able to hand to our offspring in school holidays or on long car journey!” you can find out more about the Mega Mash-up books on the Mega Mash-up website, where you can also post your own pictures, like this one by Alex Kosowicz:

Nosy Crow's May Publications: Dinosaur Dig, Noodle Loves To Cuddle and Noodle Loves the Beach

Posted by Kate on May 19, 2011

Really, I think, because I was in Australia on publication date, we haven’t taken time this month to celebrate the distillations of children’s book goodness that are our May publications.

And May was a big month for us: for the first time, we were publishing more than one print “thing”.

Just to remind those of you who are interested in a kind of “previously on Nosy Crow” kind of way:

In January, we published Small Blue Thing, so the list launched with a single romantic fantasy novel.

In February, we published Mega Mash-up: Romans v Dinosaurs on Mars and Mega Mash-up: Robots v Gorillas in the Desert. Two titles, yes, but both launching the same innovative “doodle books meet chapter books” series series. In February, we also published our first app, The Three Little Pigs, so that was a big month too.

In March, we published Bizzy Bear: Fun on the Farm and Bizzy Bear: Let’s Go and Play, our first board books. Again, two titles, and, again, one series.

In April, we published Pip and Posy: The Super Scooter, and Pip and Posy: The Little Puddle.

And, now, in May, we published Penny Dale’s Dinosaur Dig and Marion Billet’s Noodle Loves to Cuddle and (in time for summer) Noodle Loves the Beach. So three titles and two very different things.

Dinosaur Dig was inspired by Penny’s pre-school grandson Zachary’s love of all things mechanical. It’s a counting book with (very benign) dinosaurs, mechanical earth-moving equipment, a bit of suspense and a swimming pool finale. It caters quite shamelessly for the obsessions of many, many small boys. One of the things we thought that they would respond to is the carefully-realised detail of the dinosaurs and the diggers: you can see every claw and every piston. This was a book that came in to Nosy Crow from Penny’s agent just weeks after we’d started up. It was a book that we’d made an offer for within an hour of opening the envelope with Penny’s beautifully detailed sketches in it. Here’s a little flavour of what the book looks like inside:

And, to give you a sense of how Penny works, here’s a movie of Penny (re)drawing the cover artwork on an iPad:

She’s written about the process of creating the book for a boy audience in a guest post for the Book Trust blog.

Noodle Loves to Cuddle and Noodle loves the Beach are rhyming touch-and-feel board books illustrated in a fresh, graphic style by popular French illustrator, Marion Billet.

Here’s a little home movie of toddlers enjoying Noodle Loves to Cuddle:

And here’s one of the same children reading Noodle Loves the Beach:

Let us know, by commenting below, if you’d like to know any more about any of our three May books.

London Book Fair - a (slightly) late update

Posted by Kate on Apr 17, 2011

Last week was the week of the London Book Fair.

This is a picture by Axel Scheffler, which he donated and which was sold to an anonymous buyer in aid of the National Literacy Trust. It shows the gruffalo (and mouse) with Pip and Posy going to the London Book Fair.

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 Monday, Deb presented our The Three Little Pigs app to a crowd of people in the children’s innovation space.

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.

I also did a talk as part of the Oxford Brookes University “Publishing Round The World” series, with an editor from Samokat and a founder of Milly Molly. Here’s me expounding Nosy Crow’s digital marketing thinking:

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.

But all in all, a worthwhile few days.

Bizzy Bear is published

Posted by Kate on Mar 04, 2011

World Book Day was the big books-and-reading news of yesterday, but it was also the publication day for the first two books in our Bizzy Bear series by Benji Davies, Bizzy Bear: Fun on the Farm and Bizzy Bear: Let’s Go and Play.

In celebration, Benji drew us the very fine crow:

We’ve got very cheering videos of a pair of two year-olds reading each of the books in the “extras” tab for each book.

These books have simple rhyming texts and really sturdy mechanisms and are really great for children from 18 months to 3.

We’ve got some to send to reviewers and bloggers. So, if toddler books float your boat, let us know: contact us on hello@nosycrow.com with the subject line, Reviewing Bizzy Bear.

And if you are in East London today (4 March), you could come to our Bizzy Bear event at 11.30am for 45 minutes of songs, stories and colouring at the Discover Centre’s Big Write festival, where we’re doing other events, too:

Nikalas and Tim will be doing a Mega Mash-up event at 3.30pm to 4.15pm on Sunday 6 March.

I will be doing an event with Neal Hoskins of Winged Chariot about apps at 6.30pm to 8.00pm on Thursday 10 March.

And Axel Scheffler is doing a Pip and Posy event at 1.00pm to 1.45pm on Saturday 12 March.

First Mega Mash-up author event

Posted by Kate on Mar 01, 2011

Guest blogger Nikalas Catlow writes about his event with co-author/illustrator of the Mega Mash-up series, Tim Wesson.

Our Mega Mash-Up tour kicked off last week with a rehearsal in our own studio to a rather silent, but very appreciative imaginary audience. On Friday morning it was time for the real deal: we found ourselves in Chelmsford at Just Imagine, Write Away’s, brand new storytelling centre and children’s book shop where we were to perform our first Mega Mash-Up gig.

We launched into our double act, a stunning and dare-devil display of extreme live drawing. Sections of our Romans v Dinosaurs book were acted out for the amusement of our brilliant audience. Kids, DO TRY THIS AT HOME! To finish the event a ‘how to draw’ session on dinosaurs and Romans inspired fantastic artwork from many eager young artists.

We were delighted with everyone’s drawings and enjoyed chatting with the crowd after the show. One boy by the name of Jake bought three copies of Romans v Dinosaurs.... Now that’s what we call a Mega Mash-Up fan!

The event was even covered by BBC Essex Radio

And we’re now making badges for our next event at Discover on Sunday 6 March at 3.30pm.

It's Nosy Crow's first birthday!

Posted by Kate on Feb 22, 2011

We are one today.

I’ve written about it about it for The Bookseller online, but you can read about it here too:

I’m dating the start of the company from our announcement of our existence, which we sent to the trade press and others on 22 February 2010. In some ways, we didn’t feel quite ready to announce, but our hand was forced by two things. The first was that I had been asked to judge the British Book Awards and had given my job title as “MD of Nosy Crow” for an announcement of the make-up of the judging panels that came out in the week of 22 February 2010. The second was that I’d been messing around with Facebook on the evening of 21 February, working out how to set up a fan page and invite people to it, when I inadvertently sent out a message to my entire address book for a profile that referred to Nosy Crow.

We had, from memory, just three projects signed at the time we announced, and a stated intention to acquire from established talent and from newcomers. We also clearly stated that we intended to create apps from scratch. There were four of us – me, co-founders Camilla Reid and Adrian Soar, and Imogen Blundell – in a single room in an office complex in a Victorian school building.

One year on…

We have three print titles published. In mid-January, we published Small Blue Thing, a debut romantic fantasy that was written by the colleague of the headhunter I consulted when I was thinking I’d get the hell out of the industry. In mid-February, we published Mega Mash-up: Romans v Dinosaurs on Mars Mega Mash-up: Robots v Gorillas in the Desert, innovative two-colour combinations of fiction and doodle-book drawing on popular boy themes by a team who came to us because I’d worked with one of them at Scholastic when he was a designer there.

This year, we will publish 23 print titles for children from 0 to 14, most acquired since February 22 2010. True to our original vision, these are books that children will really enjoy reading: when we acquire a book, we do so with a strong sense of who it’s for. Our books are by established names like Axel Scheffler and Penny Dale and from newer exciting talents. The list – and we’ll be announcing the first six months of 2012 before Bologna – will grow in 2012.

We have one e-book published. Small Blue Thing is our only black-and-white book so far and was the first ebook we created with the support of Faber Factory. I decided that we’d focus our digital aspirations on illustrated publishing and apps.

This year, we will publish 5 straight ebooks.

We have one app published. Last week, we published a cutting-edge story book app, The Three Little Pigs, to quite remarkable reviews (including one from FutureBook, The Bookseller’s digital publishing blog).

This year, we will publish at least two more highly-interactive, cutting-edge, multimedia apps.

From the beginning, we were interested in using websites and social media to communicate with potential consumers – mainly parents in our case – as well as with potential suppliers in the form of authors and illustrators and customers. We launched with a lively website that has evolved over time but remains true to our original plan. We wanted to create something with real personality, that was professional but also warm, honest and informal… and that was updated constantly: we blog several times a week to provide a window into what we do. In our first year, we’ve had a over a quarter of a million page-views from over 20,000 visitors in 129 countries, and, since we’ve had books and apps on the market, visitor numbers have risen sharply. Thank you very much for visiting us.

We’ve also used Twitter (@nosycrow and @NosyCrowApps) and Nosy Crow on Facebook to connect to the rest of the world. And we built two websites for our first two publications: www.smallbluething.com, featuring a cinema-style trailer and www.megamash-up.com, featuring videos and book-linked activities.

We’ve sold in our first list via Bounce and have promotions with Sainsbury’s, Tesco, ELC/Mothercare, WH Smith, WH Smith Travel, Waterstones and Foyles. Our books are in shops from museum giftshops to Toys ‘R’ Us.
We’ve been active internationally too. In May, Allen and Unwin begins distributing our books in Australia and New Zealand. So far, we’ve sold rights in our books to Germany, France, Holland, Norway, Finland, Sweden, China, Korea and Israel with more good news lined up for announcement over the next few weeks.

There are 11 of us now. We’ve been able to attract the most extraordinary talent to work with us, from games coding genius, Will Bryan, to picture book supremo, Kate Burns. Most of us are parents; several of us work part-time; and several of us work from home and only come into our (slightly bigger) open-plan office occasionally.

There have been challenges and disappointments, and there will undoubtedly be more ahead! There has been constant, grinding, sometimes dull hard work.

We worry – of course we do – about the book market and our place in the print and digital future that is unfolding. But it’s been fun.

It’s been a good year!

Things we haven’t loved so much about this year:

  • Queuing at the post-office.
  • Being responsible for all the boring stuff like printer maintenance.
  • Cold-calling people without a big name behind us.

Things we’ve loved:

  • Being able to buy great books from authors and illustrators we want to work with as they develop.
  • Being able to act quickly and decisively.
  • Selling our books!
  • The conversations that have opened up online between us and readers, parents, creators and sellers.
  • Working with great colleagues in a relaxed and fun environment fuelled by cake.

Mega Mash-up team give a Romasaurian feast

Posted by Kate on Feb 21, 2011

The Mega Mash-Up author/illustrator team, Nikalas Catlow (far right) and Tim Wesson (next to him, first from right) gathered together a handful of privileged friends in London yesterday to serve up a Romasaurian feast in celebration of the publication of Mega Mash-up: Romans v Dinosaurs on Mars and Mega Mash-up: Robots v Gorillas in the Desert.

Romasauria is the glass-domed city in Romans v Dinosaurs on Mars which Romans and Dinosaurs bicker and co-exist until their civilisation is threatened by an asteroid spotted heading towards Mars by Augustus Astronomus.

Food for the feast included mooncow and poogoid stew (no poogoids, were, however, harmed in the making of this stew, as, not being on Mars, Nikalas was forced to substitute chorizo), and the tablecloth was printed out spreads of the book. We were equipped with pens so that we could do what everyone should do when faced with a page of Mega Mash-up: read the story, and complete the illustration and fill in the speech-bubbles. I am happy to say that my camel, in the desert that the Robots and Gorillas race across to settle scores, drew particular compliments.

The books have been out for a week or so, and are being promoted in Sainsbury’s and Waterstones. They are quite unique in their combination of fiction and doodling.

We’ve had a couple of reviews so far:

Parents in Touch said: “This new series from Nosy Crow is an innovative and clever combination of novel and doodle book and I think is an absolutely brilliant idea for reluctant or struggling readers, especially that notoriously hard market – boys… Zany stories and quirky illustrations make these books great fun.”

Sarah’s Book Reviews wrote: “There is plenty of room for a child’s own imagination… I will be recommending it to friends as a great idea for their children.”

There’s a fun, interactive dedicated website, too.

Mega Mash-up books published and website launched

Posted by Kate on Feb 12, 2011

There’s a bit of news that we’ve been keeping unusually quiet about. We published our first two Mega Mash-up titles last week: Romans v Dinosaurs on Mars and Robots v Gorillas in the Desert.

Each book is a really innovative combination of a novel and a doodle-book. They’re proper – and very funny – stories, divided into chapters and with relatively little text per page. Each page is illustrated in an accessible but zany style, and the reader is invited to complete the pictures, add to the speech-bubbles, and draw their own additional characters.

It’s fiction, Jim, but not as we know it… and there’s nothing else like it.

The first two books are being promoted by Waterstones and Sainsbury’s and we’ve sold the rights to translate the books to several countries already.

It’s early days, so we’ve had just a couple of reviews… but they’re really positive:

The Library Mice review said, “Seriously, check this out this series, whether your little readers at home are reluctant, struggling or more than willing! This is exactly the kind of books us parents need to be able to hand in to our offspring in school holidays or on long car journey!”

The Parents in Touch review said of Romans v Dinosaurs on Mars, “In this hilarious story, imagine Romans and dinosaurs harmoniously living together on Mars – and a gigantic asteroid about to crash into the planet. Readers, especially boys, will revel in the funny story while having fun completing the pictures. Ideas are given to help creativity, making this fun for everyone.”

And now there’s a lively reader-orientated website up and running, with videos and printables as well as information about the series.

We’re really proud of this series, and these two books are the first of many: the next one is Aliens v Mad Scientists under the Ocean, publishing in June.

Nikalas and Tim, the creators of the series, have events lined up at Chelmsford and at the Big Write festival at Discover, in Stratford, East London and then later at the Hay and Edinburgh Literary Festivals.

And we’re still really keen to find reviewers for the books – so far, we haven’t shown them to anyone who hasn’t really liked them – so if you’re a children’s book reviewer or blogger and would like a copy, we’d love to hear from you, so do contact us.

It's that time of year... when you present highlights to key accounts

Posted by Kate on Jan 07, 2011

Kate writes:

“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.

The photo is a glimpse of the inside of my case.

Some of the books, as the eagle-eyed among you will see, were continuations of series published between January and April of this year. Mega Mash-up: Mad Scientists and Aliens under the Ocean is the June follow up to February’s Mega Mash-up: Romans and Dinosaurs on Mars and Mega Mash-up: Robots and Gorillas in the Desert ; Perfectly Reflected is the sequel to Small Bue Thing ; and Bizzy Bear: Off We Go! (in which Bizzy Bear goes on holiday and seems to meet a very nice female koala) and Bizzy Bear: Let’s Get to Work! (in which Bizzy Bear works on a contruction site… presumably to finance his travels) are June sequels to March’s Bizzy Bear: Fun on the Farm and Bizzy Bear: Let’s Go and Play!.

However, there is much that’s new:

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…”

Apps and conferences

Posted by Kate on Dec 15, 2010

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 LOVED Olivia’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.

Appy days

Posted by Kate on Dec 06, 2010

From the moment I saw a touch-screen device – an iPod Touch – I was excited about the potential for apps to become reading experiences for children.

The first thing that struck me was the immediacy of the experience relative to other screen experiences: when you touch the screen, something happens. As adults, we have learned that we can make something happen on a screen by fiddling around with a mouse or a keyboard or a remote control. But if you showed a computer to someone from Shakespeare’s time, she wouldn’t touch the keyboard, but (when she’d got over her fear) would, I think, try to make something happen by touching the screen. If you type “toddler using an iPad” into google, you’ll see two year-olds using that device for the first time instinctively.

The second thing that struck me was how portable the devices were. I am a mother, and, when my children were little, I carried a huge bag that contained, as well as snacks and wet-wipes and a change of clothes, toys and at least five board or picture books. I realised that you could store hundreds of books in this tiny thing: an iPhone is approximately12 centimetres by 6 centimetres by 1 centimetre.

The third thing that struck me was how lovely the screen looked, and how beautiful colours looked on it. The backlighting that many people find annoying when they read texts on screen meant that colour images were lit up like little stained-glass windows.

And the fourth thing that struck me was that, now these things were in the world, they are unlikely to go away.

At The Bookseller’s Children’s Conference in September 2010, Justine Abbott, from Aardvark Research shared some of her research about young children’s engagement with digital media.

She talked about the fact that 28% of children under six have a television in their own rooms.

She said that pre-schoolers in her survey were watching television for over two hours per day.

She said that the youngest iPad user she’d met was four months old.

She quoted the mother of her 20 month-old son, “he’ll probably learn to read from the computer”.

She said that parents welcomed iPhones as “electronic Mary Poppinses”, providing interactive and engaging entertainment for their children without their intervention.

She concluded by saying that families were increasingly embracing screen-based technology as entertainment for their child, saying it was “portable, personal and (importantly) permissible”.

I know that many people involved in the world of children’s books shake their heads in sorrow or horror at Justine Abbott’s statements, and would, I know, recoil from the other statistical evidence that children are spending less time with print and more with screens and that their parents and teachers are letting them or encouraging them to do so.

But what are we to do? We could turn our back on the evidence, and say it is nothing to do with us, and keep our focus exclusively on print. Or we could try to ensure that some of that screen-time is reading time.

At Nosy Crow, we love books. We love the smell of them. We love the feel of them. We love the way that everything changes when you turn a page. Some of the books we will publish really have to happen on the printed page: they are very physical things. There are touch-and-feel elements throughout the Noodle books illustrated by Marion Billet that we will publish in May 2011. There are illustrations for the reader to complete with their own pens and pencils in the Mega Mash-up books by Nikalas Catlow and Tim Wesson that we publish in February 2001. And there are good, “old-fashioned” (in format, not content) paperbacks like S C Ransom’s romantic fantasy Small Blue Thing, published in January 2011, and beautifully produced picture books like Axel Scheffler’s Pip and Posy titles that are published in April 2011.

But, while we love books, we love reading more. And we profoundly believe in the potential for literacy and, specifically, reading for pleasure, to transform lives. We know that reading for pleasure correlates with increased attainment in reading and writing; that reading for pleasure fosters creativity and imagination; that reading for pleasure develops good social attitudes; that reading for pleasure contributes to knowledge and understanding of the world and that reading for pleasure contributes to self-esteem. We don’t just make this stuff up. These are the conclusions of decades of research: PIRLS 2007; Cox and Guthrie 2001; Meek, 1987; Allen et al 2005; Bus et al, 1995; Stanovich and Cunningham, 1993; Hatton and Marsh, 2005; Pressley 2000.

I’ve just come back from speaking at a children’s publishing conference in Munich: Wie digital wird das Kinderbuch?(How digital will children’s books become?). There the statistics presented about German children’s embrace of technology were just as overwhelming, but several publishers there were advocating a softly-softly approach: let’s make apps, but let’s not make them too different from books. Let’s keep the book, but have it appear on the screen. Let’s not get into competition with computer games and animated films.

That’s not what I think we, as publishers, should do.

I think that this route risks making reading less exciting to children. If games and books exist in the same screen space, the comparison between the two will be made. If something happens – a noise, a movement – when you touch the iPad screen when you are playing a game, won’t you feel disappointed if nothing much happens when you are reading a book?

I think that, as publishers, we shouldn’t be trying to squash the books that already exist onto a phone. We should, I think, be creating reading experiences for touch-screen devices. The devices have the capacity for sound, animation and interactivity built into them, and we should use those capacities to tell stories in a new and engaging way.

We’re trying to do just that. If you go onto YouTube and search Nosy Crow, you will find a video of the first of our 3-D Fairy Tales: The Three Little Pigs. It has text and it has illustrations, but it also has an audio track, and animation. When you touch the characters, they move, and you get additional comments. You can make the wolf blow down the house. You can explore the picture, and, when you tip the device backwards and forwards, the images look as if they are in 3-D. Here’s the link.

Making this app, and working on the others that we are developing has used many of the skills we already had: shaping text, determining pacing and choosing illustrations. We have had to learn new skills too, some of them purely technical, but many of them about how to tell a story in this new medium.

We think that, for us and for the people we have worked with, the process has been exciting. But what is important is that we’ve ended up with a reading experience that is engaging, fun, scary, funny, worthy of repeating – in the same way that a good book is all those things.

We shouldn’t turn our back. We shouldn’t go a little way down the digital path or do it half-heartedly and with reluctance. We should, I think, go to where our readers are going, and make sure that they read along the way.

(This is an edited version of an article that Kate has written for Books For Keeps, published in 2011)

Nosy Crow's first printed books arrive

Posted by Kate on Oct 21, 2010

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! Nosy Crow’s first printed books have arrived.

These are just advances of Mega Mash-up: Romans v Dinosaurs on Mars (we have just two precious copies) that have arrived from the printer in Shenzhen, China.

This is a big day for Imogen who is becoming our Queen of Production, for Imago, with whom we are working on all of our full-colour printing, for Kirsty, the editor on the books and, of course, for Nikalas and Tim, the brilliant creators of the series.

The books, which are an innovative fusion of fiction and doodle-books, are short and hilarious novels with quirky, funny illustrations, and space for the reader to add to the pictures. They publish in February 2011.

The trade response has been great: they’ll be promoted on the high street in the UK and have been taken by a number of book club and other “special” customers, and were a hit at Frankfurt.

You can see a video of Nikalas and Tim talking about the creation of the books here.

And now... best books for ten (10) year-old boys

Posted by Kate on Oct 17, 2010

Having written a post on best books for ten year-old girls, Kate felt that she couldn’t not write the companion post on best books for ten year-old boys, not least because it’s another rich seam of terrific writing. Of course, there are many overlaps between books ‘for’ boys and books ‘for’ girls (and the gender divide was really driven by the twitter enquiry that prompted the list of best books for girls), but there are differences too. However much of an old-style Doc-Marten-wearing feminist Kate was (is…), and however much she swore that she would not encourage her own children into gender stereotypes, she’s come to accept differences, whether innate or cultural. in boys’ and girls’ reading and playing preferences. It is better, she thinks, for children to read things that appeal to them, than to try to push them into “appreciating” things that they don’t really respond to.

Once again, the reading levels vary and these are not all literary books. Kate thinks children should be encouraged to read widely.

Classics:

The Narnia stories by C S Lewis
The Just William books by Richmal Crompton
The Tintin books
The Asterix books
The Silver Sword by Ian Serrallier
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

Funny books:

The Eddie Dickens books by Philip Ardagh
The Larklight books by Philip Reeve
The Mr Gum books by Andy Stanton
The Rover books by Roddy Doyle (especially The Meanwhile Adventures)
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
The Jiggy McCue books by Michael Lawrence
Our forthcoming Mega Mash-up books
(And, since this blog post was first published, The Grunts series Philip Ardagh and our Danny Danger books by Adam Frost.)

Time-slip/historical books:

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo
Goodnight, Mr Tom by Michelle Magorian
The Wolves of Willougby Chase by Joan Aitken
The Kite Rider by Geraldine McCaughrean
The Legendeer Trilogy by Alan Gibbons
Gladiator by Simon Scarrow and Richard Jones is likely to appeal, and publishes in February 2011
The Eagle of the Ninth and other historical fiction by Rosemary Sutcliffe
Cue for Treason and other historical fiction by Geoffrey Treese
The Machine Gunners and other historical fiction by Robert Westall
Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver
Kensuke’s Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo

“Ordinary boy”/school stories:

Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce
Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce
Cloud Busting by Malorie Blackman
Three Weeks with the Queen by Maurice Gleitzman
Bless the Beasts and Children by Glendon Swarthout
Goal by Michael Morpurgo
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
The Jamie Johnson football books by Dan Freedman

Fantasy/adventure stories:

The Alex Rider books by Anthony Horowitz
The Artemis Fowl books by Eoin Colfer
The Cherub books by Robert Muchamore
The Young Bond books by Charlie Higson
Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke
The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke
The Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper
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
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
Our forthcoming Danny Danger books
Varjak Paw by S F Said
Born to Run by Michael Morpurgo
Arthur, High King of Britain by Michael Morpurgo

“Real-life” stories:

The My Story books (actually fictionalised, but still based on real historical events)
The Horrible Histories books
The Horrible Science books
The Horrible Geography books
Boy by Roald Dahl