In these wonderful new additions to the series, Noodle visits the zoo with his dad, and the park with his mum. These are lovely books for sharing with very young toddlers – there’s lots to touch and look at on every spread, gentle, reassuring texts, and the opportunity to make lots of animal noises!
It’s also publication day for the board book edition of Penny Dale’sDinosaur Zoom!, the follow-up to the enormously successful Dinosaur Dig! Bursting with dinosaurs and vehicles of all shapes and sizes, and with a delicious, surprise ending, this is guaranteed to bring a smile to the faces of small boys everywhere. Here’s a look inside:
Open Very Carefully, the incredible picture book debut for illustrator Nicola O’Byrne with words by Nick Bromley, is also out today – and the response to the book on Twitter, Facebook and this blog has been incredible! This beautifully illustrated hardback – with clever die cuts at the end – is a wonderful celebration of books and words that’s great for discussing how stories and pictures “work”. Here’s a look inside:
There are lots of special Open Very Carefully activity sheet which are available to download and print – have a look at yesterday’s blogpost.
There’s also a fresh crop of fantastic fiction ready to take its place in the world. We have a fifth tale of Nordic nonsense in Vulgar the Viking and the Terrible Talent Show. Has Vulgar got talent? Not really (unless you count his ‘armpit music’) but he’s certainly not going to let that stop him. If you like The Killling, you’ll … find this completely different.
It’s a good day and a sad day because Mega Mash-Up: Cowboys v Trolls in the Arctic is the last in the marvellously daft Mega Mash-Up series by Nikalas Catlow and Tim Wesson. What would happen if some Cowboys found some gold in the Arctic? Well, the Trolls would not be very happy, obviously. It’s brilliantly bonkers and the series is definitely going out with a bang. And a boom. And even a ker-pow.
And Dear Scarlett is heading off, too. Fleur Hitchcock has written a wonderfully original novel for 9+ readers that is as funny as it is moving, and that’s always brilliantly entertaining. Scarlett is trying to discover more about her dead father by following the clues she finds in a box he leaves her. As she and her friend, Ellie, leaf through the tattered copy of Gone With the Wind and try to find the locker that the small golden key fits, they are pursued by a pair of villains who are also after whatever lies at the end of the trail. There’s a touch of the Ealing Comedy about Dear Scarlett, but I bet you finish the book pretending you’ve got a bit of grit in your eye…
You can watch videos of Fleur talking about the book and reading an extract on Monday’s blogpost, or read the first chapter below:
These are very simple rhyming touch-and-feel books that would, I think, be exactly right for a baby aged between 6 and 18 months. When we were looking for an illustrator (Marion Billet is French, and none of us had worked with her before), we were influenced by the look of Japanese packaging, and Camilla had a line up of various Japanese biscuits and sweets on her desk.
We’ve sold rights to the books to the US (they’re going to be published under the Nosy Crow imprint by Candlewick). And that was an interesting process: Noodle was originally eating (chopped up) sausages and strawberries (not together, of course: that would be revolting), but Candlewick thought that sausages would be viewed as being bad for young children, and said that US paediatricians discouraged parents from giving strawberries to babies and toddlers because they were allergenic. So we changed the sausages to pasta (you can see on the “sausages” version, which is a proof, the line that indicates where the card will be cut so that the green, bumpy fabric can be felt through the hole):
Noodle with his sausages
Noodle with pasta
And we changed the strawberries to raspberries.
This was expensive and time-consuming (I mean, we love Candlewick, so nothing’s too much trouble, but still…). However, the only way that illustrated books (and particularly touch-and-feel books) are financially viable to produce is if we can collect together a really big print-run, printing our own (UK and Australia/New Zealand) copies together with copies for as many other countries as we can sell rights to. So, if you’re creating illustrated books, you have to accommodate the taste (literally, in this instance) and the cultures of different countries.
There are people who argue that this “internationalisation” leads to bland books. I don’t think it does, and looking round the halls at Bologna, I am always struck by the variation and I am very sure that many really great books wouldn’t get published if you only had the UK market to rely on: the example that I always give is that of The Gruffalo, of which, I think, perhaps 1,500 hardback copies were printed for the UK/Australia/New Zealand, but a financially viable print run was made up of this quantity plus quantities in other languages.
We’ve also so far sold rights in these books in Dutch, Portuguese and Italian – to countries where, it seems, pasta and raspberries are absolutely fine for babies – so it all ended well for Noodle.
Now that Summer is most certainly upon us (evidenced at Nosy Crow by the fact that almost everyone is on holiday), the ritual of reading round-ups has been getting its yearly airing in the press. Without wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth – we’ve been very pleased with the inclusion of our books in so many round-ups – there seems to me to be something a little… unsatisfactory about the criteria for these lists. Surely, in order to qualify as a great Summer read, a book ought to have more going for it than a recent publication date.
There is, of course, all kinds of ways one could choose to define a good Summer book. Some – like our Mega Mash-Up series – are brilliant for keeping children occupied on long journeys or during days at home. Others, like Noodle Loves the Beach and Bizzy Bear: Off We Go!, evoke Summer quite literally. And stories like Dinosaur Dig! somehow encapsulate the outdoorsy, spirit-of-adventure feeling that Summer represents when you’re young – or, as Camilla put it to me in an email from the road, “Summer is about liberation isn’t it – from school, parents and routine, and in theory, the weather.”
When I asked for everyone’s suggestions here (before they all left), we decided to restrict ourselves to books that actually take place over the Summer. Needless to say, as with every previous discussion on the subject of favourite books of one sort or another, the debate swiftly dissolved into endless one-upmanship, but out of this, I’m pleased to say, came some truly excellent suggestions.
As ever, we’d love to hear your favourites, so please leave your comments at the bottom of the page or on Twitter.
Dom, pipped to the post for The Wind in the Willows, chose Laurie Lee’s Cider with Rosie, saying that, “Some of the scenes from that book were so vivid, they’ve become practically my own memories. It’s the book equivalent of Inception!”
Camilla’s first suggestion is The Enchanted Wood, by Enid Blyton – and she has exactly the measure of a lot of Blyton’s books:
“Ginger beer, doorstep sandwiches and smugglers coves – in fact the very holiday I am just embarking on, though of course it never seemed to rain and I bet they didn’t spend hours sitting in a traffic jam on the A30.”
My choices are, for much the same reason as Camilla, Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books, as well as A Spoonful of Jam by Michelle Magorian and Raspberries on the Yangtze by Karen Wallace, both of which have sort-of magical qualities about them. And finally, I believe I would be remiss not to mention the summer strips of Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes cartoons (pictured above), which, like all of our choices, cannot capture everything that’s wonderful about Summer, but certainly go a long way towards trying.
Now – over to you!
We’ve had some Twitter recommendations with the hashtag #summerreads:
@rogue_eight suggested The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, by Alan Garner
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.
Yesterday, the Nosy Crows had a bit of a lunch-time knees-up to celebrate (nearly) 15 months of existence and (nearly) 5 months of publishing. It was a non-birthday party, because we hadn’t been able to get ourselves organised enough to celebrate earlier. We’d love to have a photograph to show you what it was like, but our usual Nosy Crow photographic incompetence precludes this.
I wrote about our real birthday in our blog post of 22 February.
Adrian cooked, mainly Ottolenghi stuff as we have some vegetarians/borderline vegetarians in our group, and, besides, the recipes are great. I wheeled out the old pavlova trick. We ate like hogs, and staggered off into the early evening.
Because of how we work – three of us work from home, and some of us work part-time – and because we have as few formal meetings as possible, we don’t spend much time round a table, so it was great to have us all (well, nearly all: Deb’s in Rome but we couldn’t bear to postpone any further) in one room just to talk.
And it was a welcome moment to stop (because we hardly ever have time to stop) and think about what we’d achieved so far.
The first few are also published in Australia /New Zealand via Allen and Unwin, and many will be published in the second half of the year in the USA/Canada by Candlewick Press under the Nosy Crow imprint. So far, we’ve sold rights to translate these books to publishers in Finland, Sweden, Norway, Holland, Germany, France, Israel, Korea and China.
We have one app, The Three Little Pigs, available in the App Stores throughout the world, which has been named as one of the top 10 children’s book apps by the New York Times, and been extensively reviewed and praised by people who’ve bought it, bloggers specialising in apps and some of the increasing number of children’s book reviewers who are turning their attention to children’s reading experiences on the iPad (you can see most of the reviews on our The Three Little Pigs page of the Media Kit section of our website. The app will be published in German by Carlsen and in French by Gallimard Jeunesse.
We feel lucky to have pulled together the team we have – people with the best possible experience in fields as diverse as computer games coding, picture book design and children’s fiction commissioning (you can find out more about each of us in the Who Are We? section in the About As part of our website.
It’s not all cakes and ale: these are exceptionally tough times to be a print publisher, and the apps market is in its infancy, but, 15 months on, we reckon that we’ve made the best possible start and are toddling along nicely.
Well, things got very real – and exciting – this week for Nosy Crow in North America.
Those of you who follow the blog will know that on March 10 (gosh: just under a month ago – things have moved fast since then!) we announced in our blog post that day that Boston-based Candlewick Press will co-publish the majority of Nosy Crow’s full-colour and illustrated titles in the US and Canada and Nosy Crow will become a new imprint of Candlewick Press.
Since then, as I say, things have moved quickly, and we’ve finalised the first Nosy Crow list for the US and Canada which will be published between August and December 2011. The books that will be published on the first Fall list are:
I’ve spent the last few days with friends at Candlewick.
First, I went to Boston to present the SPRING 2012 list (because publishing never stops, folks, and we are now working on the titles that Candlewick will be publishing under the Nosy Crow imprint from January to July 2012).
Then I went to New York (and I do love New York), to present the Fall list to Random House Special Markets team (because Candlewick is distributed by Random House in the US and Canada and they do some of their specialist selling through Random House’s sales force) to present to the people who do deals with things as diverse as museum shops and Pampers. Then on to Scholastic (for whom I used to work and an organisation I hugely admire) to talk about the Nosy Crow/Candlewick list to David Allender of US clubs before a lunch with Lisa Dugan, Barnes and Noble’s baby, toddler and picture book buyer.
While I was in New York, I managed to meet up with Andi Meyer, who is clever, dedicated and nice, and who works on publicising our apps in the US and does a lot or our @nosycrowapps tweeting. It was, as it happens, the eve of the mention of The Three Little Pigs on CBS (you can see the clip here, but we didn’t know it was happening until it was happening, if you see what I mean. We had a lot to talk about over our pasta.
And now I’m writing this in a hotel near Niagara (the Canadian side – the photo is of the Canadian side of the falls and it was – really – glorious to see it yesterday evening), having presented the Fall list to the very nice people at Random House Canada (who do Candlewick’s selling in Canada).
It’s been a busy three days, but there’s nothing like being able to present great books – in person – to the people who will then be the advocates of those books as they make their way to readers more than five thousand miles away from the place that those books were created.
“I was off to Waterstones today, to show them material on our books from May to August. May is the first month in which we have more than one book or pair of books from the same series, so that felt like a bit of a breakthrough.
Lyn Gardner is a terrific children’s writer and a Guardian theatre critic, who has brought her skill, her passion and her knowledge together to create the Olivia books, which are classy-but-commercial Ballet Shoes meets Malory Towers for today’s 8+ girl reader. The first book in the series, Olivia’s First Term publishes in June.
Dinosaur Dig! is Penny Dale’s innovative combination of two things little boys (in particular) love: dinosaurs and diggers. These dinosaurs are (spoiler alert!) digging a swimming pool and making a lot of noise about it. The book was inspired by Penny’s construction vehicle-obsessed grandson, Zachary, to whom the book is dedicated. The book publishes in May.
The Noodle books by French illustrator Marion Billet are touch and feel books with a very attractive panda character whose life reflects the daily activities and excitements of most babies under the age of 18 months. Two books publish in May and two in August.
Where possible, we try to make sure that books with a summery themes, featuring holidays, or swimming, or beaches, which are, therefore, possible summer reading promotion contenders, are published in these months, so the ocean setting of the third Mega Mash-up, the beach holiday theme of Bizzy Bear: Off We Go! and of Noodle Loves the Beach, as well as the swimming pool finale of Dinosaur Dig! all make them books we think babies and children would be in the right frame of mind for as the weather gets warmer. Trudging through the rain, weaving round discarded and dessicated Christmas trees this morning, it was hard to believe we’d ever see summer again, but publishing is always about thinking ahead: full-colour books take months to get from the printer to the warehouse, and we are selling rights and doing highlights presentations up nine months, and even more, ahead of the books being available to readers.
The first presentation – to Waterstones – went very well. Lots more presentations to come…”
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’sPip 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)