About a year and a half ago, I had one of those odd moments when an idea just drops into your head.
Fairies live among us.
But I wasn’t thinking about wee folk that collect children’s teeth and leave a coin under their pillow. These fairies were indistinguishable from humans. In fact they were deliberately hiding in plain sight. Just imagine if the lady living opposite, who loves growing her own vegetables, was a fairy and you never knew?
Developing the world of Faerie Tribes made me think about the different representations of these magical folk in children’s books. One of the first fairies I remember reading about is Silky from Enid Blyton’s The Enchanted Wood. She’s actually described as an elf but I always thought of her as a fairy and if I’m honest, I always wished she was a bit more pro-active in the story. Perhaps I’m being unfair here, as all the characters fall in and out of adventures in the lands at the top of the Faraway Tree without really taking control. Then I discovered J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan and found a fairy I could really love in Tinkerbell. She’s spirited and selfish, and will do almost anything to keep Peter to herself.
Our fascination with fairies (or faeries – sometimes known as the fay) has continued into the 21st century with many books for older readers giving a completely different take on them. The Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer gives you magic combined with technology. Fairies fly around kitted out with all sorts of gadgetry and there’s even a centaur as the technology whizz.
So how did I want to represent the fairies of Skellmore – the village in Faerie Tribes?
I knew from the start that they would belong to different tribes and that Laney, my main character, would be a member of the Mist tribe, even though she doesn’t know it to begin with. Mist faeries draw their power from water and can perform great things with it. Other tribes would draw on their own elemental powers. I wanted them to feel a strong connection to the landscape around them and have a human and a fairy form that they switched between at will.
I also knew that not all of them would be good and that using a faerie’s “dust” (their dead body) would bring the greatest power and the greatest curse of all.
There are lots more children’s books with fairies in that I haven’t covered here. What are your favourites? Let me know in the comments!
Faerie Tribes: The Crystal Mirror is out now – you can read the first chapter here:
Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam are two hapless robber dogs who decide on a career-change after one bungled burglary too many – there’s plenty of laughs, lots of fantastic detail, and PILES of cake in this wonderful picture book. Here’s a look inside:
Three new fiction titles are released out into the world today, their faces all scrubbed and with clean hankies in their pockets.
The next Vulgar the Viking adventure, Vulgar the Viking and a Midsummer Night’s Scream, by the always-hirsute Mr Redbeard (and he knows who he is) is another hilarious tale of mayhem and mischief, as Vulgar is forced to partner Princess Freya in Blubber’s traditional midsummer maypole dance. No way is that going to go smoothly. In fact, it turns into a night the village will never forget. After all, it’s not often you see a small Viking dancing around a maypole in furry pants… Here’s a look inside:
And the first in Paula’s new series, Faerie Tribes, comes out today. Faerie Tribes: The Crystal Mirror is an exciting, absorbing story for 9+ readers who love their faeries dark and mysterious. When Laney discovers that she has faerie powers and – best of all – she can fly, she little realises the dangerous forces that are at work around her, and how crucial a role she has to play in saving the faerie realm from evil… Faerie Tribes is a brilliant new series – we’re delighted and proud to Paula’s publisher. Here’s the first chapter:
The chance to win any our upcoming print titles has come around once more! We’re publishing a fantastic selection of books in May, and any one of them could be yours for free. 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.
In May we’re publishing Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam, by Tracey Corderoy and Steven Lenton – a funny, quirky story, full of depth of detail and colour, with a rhyme that will trip off the tongue and wonderful illustration by debut picture book artist Steven Lenton. It’s a real treat – especially for dog-lovers everywhere! Here’s the book’s trailer:
You can subscribe to the books newsletter here (if you’ve already subscribed you’re still eligible for this competition) – and every month we’ll write to you with details of our upcoming titles, author events, exclusive interviews, and all of our news. So have a good think about which book you’d like to win (we can only accept one entry per person), and good luck – we’ll pick the winners at random next week.
The Rescue Princesses series are my daughter’s favourite books. They are perfect for her as she’s a ‘thrilly tom boy’ – you know the type of girl who loves climbing trees, riding her bike down steep slopes at top speed, and getting covered in mud – as long as she can do it dressed in pink. So when I asked her how she wanted to celebrate for her 9th Birthday she replied with, ‘A Rescue Princesses Party!’
The party (I was told) had to include all essential Rescue Princesses elements: pretty dresses, sparkly things, and a feast – all easy enough, but then… adventure!
So after thinking long and hard this is what I came up with for an adventure: Foiling the Poachers. When the children arrive they will see a herd of deer that will disappear, and in their place they will find ‘The Evil Poacher’s Plans.’ This will include a map of our village, and clues to all the other animals the poachers are planning on stealing whilst they escape with the deer. The animals are images and carvings that I found on house/pub signs and monuments around the village. Then the Rescue Princesses will chase down the poachers and rescue all the animals.
The day came and we woke up to a BLIZZARD! Fortunately all children arrived togged up so in true Rescue Princesses style when the deers went missing all the girls braved the snow. With great resolve the six (eight & nine year old) girls plotted a route around the village, solved the riddles, found all the animals, and then tackled the poacher (tickling seemed to be the mode of attack) and saved all the deers!
After warming up with hot chocolate, the girls all slipped into their frocks, transforming themselves into princesses, and set about personalising their crowns. Then all the girls did a Rescue Princesses quiz, answering questions to find out which rescue princess they were most like. We had one Lulu, two Jamintas, one Emily and two Clarabels. They then made bracelets based on that character’s favourite gem stone.
By this time all the princesses’ were very hungry and ready for the feast. At the table they each found a small heart shaped coloured ring (from a pack of 20 from the local 99p shop), which they spoke to each other with for the rest of the party.
There was lots of squealing when the cake came out. The cake was a Rescue Princesses cake, I scanned in the front covers from the books, cropped and merged the images of the princesses and got a rice-paper cake topper printed.
The party concluded with a dance, and then all the little princesses wrapped up warm and headed back out in the cold, gripping their Rescue Princesses party bags, with a copy of latest book, The Magic Rings, inside of course!
Rescue Princesses go!
Thank you, Sally, for sharing this fantastic party with The Rescue Princesses!
The Crystal Mirror introduces Laney – a faerie and a member of the Mist Tribe. Laney and her faerie friends must stop an evil Shadow Faerie finding the magical objects he needs to become all-powerful – and things are about to get very exciting, and mysterious, and dangerous…
And you can also read an interview with Paula about the series in this blogpost.
We’ll be blogging more about The Crystal Mirror as publication day approaches, so keep an eye on this site – and if you’d like to be informed as soon as the book’s available (and have the chance to win a copy), you can sign up to our books newsletter here.
Today’s an extra-special publication day, because it’s also World Book Day! We’d love to hear what costumes you’ve been making, how you’re celebrating, and – most importantly – what you’re reading! If you’re stuck for a good book, you certainly wouldn’t go wrong with one of these…
Perfect spring reading can be found in the form of Lyn Gardner’s latest Olivia novel for 9+ girls. Olivia and the Great Escape sees Olivia’s dad getting ready to perform an amazing feat of endurance – he’s going to be living on a high wire strung across the Thames for thirty days and thirty nights. Olivia is so proud of him, and he’s doing so well, until the accusations of cheating start… Can Olivia clear her father’s name and escape from a tricky situation of her own at the same time? It’s another 5-star adventure from Lyn that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
And March sees a whole new set of Rescue Princesses in their first daring animal rescue! Lizzie, Clarabel, Lulu and Jaminta, our four original plucky princesses, have gone away to school and have handed their magic rings, ninja moves and sense of adventure on to Lizzie’s little sister and tasked her with finding three friends to join her. Lottie is really excited, but she feels the responsibility weighing heavily upon her. How will she find three more girls who have the skills, the commitment and the bravery to be Rescue Princesses? Her new recruits are royally challenged when they stumble across some horse-rustlers in the middle of the night. Can they work as a team and save the animals from danger? Or will they argue and see the horses disappear for ever? The Magic Rings is another great addition to Paula’s excellent series that’s perfect for 7+ girls who like animals, adventures and a dash of princess pizzazz!
Packed with robust pull-tabs and clever touch-and-feel elements, Baby and Me is an ingeniously interactive book for toddlers who enjoy playing mummies and babies.
Designed to stimulate speech and build vocabulary, Littleland is full of familiar scenes and fascinating details. With a ‘Can you see?’ feature on every spread and a simply, chatty narrative, this busy book mimics the daily conversations between parent and child and makes the perfect step on from board books. Here’s a look inside:
And Books Always Everywhere is – very appropriately for today’s date – a joyful celebration of the physical book in all its glory! A simple text is brought to life by Sarah Massini’s delightful and nostalgic illustrations of babies and toddlers discovering the magical world of books. You can read how Sarah illustrated the book on Tuesday’s blog post, and here’s how Jane celebrated publication with the family and friends who’ve accompanied her on her journey to becoming a published children’s author:
“I thought Nosy Crow might like to share my unofficial launch party which was really a birthday party with a launch tagged on to the beginning. I love parties and this was a wonderful excuse to thank my friends who shared the ‘getting to be published experience’ with me over the last 2 years. So someone bought the bubbly; someone else found a good bit of cardboard which already had the word BOOKLAUNCH on it. Another friend bluetacked the catalogues onto it. My husband tied a very neat bow around my books (mostly the foreign copies as I must have given the English ones away). I found 10 percussion instruments in the playroom and when our friends arrived they each chose an instrument and we all shook, banged, blew and scraped in a circle and sang “Happy Book Launch to you, Happy Book Launch to you, Happy Book Launch to Jane, Happy Book Launch to you”. Then I undid the red ribbon and handed the books around (wish I had the Japanese and Korean books) and I did a reading in French and German to a very captive audience and we sipped our bubbly and made a huge amount of noise. Such fun to be back in nursery school.”
After a very enthusiastic take-up last month, we’re repeating our Nosy Crow Books Newsletter competition for our new March titles. If you’re a resident of the UK or Ireland you can win any of our upcoming releases simply by subscribing to our books newsletter and either tweeting to @NosyCrowBooks or leaving a comment underneath this blogpost, telling us the name you subscribed with and the book you’d like to win. And here are the books that you can win!
This month we’re publishing Baby and Me by Emma Dodd, a delightfully girly and ingeniously interactive book for all toddlers who are enjoying playing mummies and babies – with robust pull-tabs and clever touch-and-feel elements.
We’re also publishing Littleland by Marion Billet (illustrator for our Noodle series) – a picture book for the very young, designed to stimulate speech and build vocabulary through familiar scenes and fascinating detail. With a ‘Can you see?’ feature on every spread and a simple, chatty narrative, Littleland mimics the daily conversations between mother and child and makes the perfect next step up from board books. Here’s a look inside:
We’re releasing Books Always Everywhere by Jane Blatt and Sarah Massini – a joyful celebration of the physical book in all its glory. A simple, rhyming text is brought to life by Sarah Massini’s delightful and nostalgic illustrations of babies and toddlers discovering the new, magical world of books. Here’s a look inside:
You can subscribe to the books newsletter here (if you’ve already subscribed you’re still eligible for this competition) – and every month we’ll write to you with details of our upcoming titles, author events, exclusive interviews, and all of our news. So have a good think about which book you’d like to win (we can only accept one entry per person), and good luck – we’ll pick the winners at random on Thursday.
Can you tell us a little about Faerie Tribes?
The series is set in our modern world with faeries living secretly among us. They aren’t small creatures with wings. They look like you and me. Your next-door neighbour could be one and you wouldn’t realise. The faeries descend from five tribes that possess different features and abilities. Laney Rivers finds the world she knows dissolving around her. She has to find out who she really is and where she belongs in the world of the tribes.
Where did the idea for the series come from?
I’ve always been interested in the way people are tribal, and how they like to form sets and cliques. I’ve also always liked the idea of a reality hidden inside our normal everyday world. There was a moment when the idea pounced on me (I was having dinner with my kids) and I had to rush away and scribble down the core of it. But to be honest, it was probably brewing in my head for a while.
What parts of faerie mythology do you find most appealing? Did you try and stick to any tradition or make up your own history?
Other-worldly spirits like faeries, elves and goblins can be found in lots of different mythologies. I haven’t stuck rigidly to anything that’s gone before. I think the element I’ve adhered to the most is that they have a link to nature. But whether they use that link for good or evil depends on them.
Did writing Faerie Tribes feel very different to writing The Rescue Princesses?
Well, they’re for different age groups. Faerie Tribes has a more epic scope and quite a large cast of characters. There’s also a significant amount of back story involved. I think the biggest difference was the amount of notes I made about the story world before and during writing. I’ve been keeping stationers in business with the number of A4 notebooks I’ve filled. In The Rescue Princesses, I get the chance to explore a different character’s personality with each book. Whereas Faerie Tribes is Laney’s story and there are a lot of secrets that have been kept from her.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
My children asked me the same question a few days ago! I think I said something dull like – the power to zap the house instantly clean and tidy. (If you have kids you’ll probably sympathise). But actually I’ve always wanted to be able to fly. I quite often fly when I dream.
Thank you, Paula! You can find out a little bit more about Faerie Tribeshere – we’ll make the first chapter available soon, so keep an eye out! If you’d like to be kept up-to-date with the new series, you can sign up to our books newsletterhere – and The Crystal Mirror is alsoavailable for pre-order.
As regular visitors to this blog will have noticed, we often post previews of our print titles ahead of publication – you can see the first few spreads for all of our picture books and read the first chapter of all our fiction titles for free on each book’s web page. We use issuu to power this service, which provides a nice reading experience and is great for keeping track of all our titles and allowing other people to post each preview on their own website. The platform is now also available (in beta mode) on the iOS Safari browser for the iPhone and iPad, so that even more people can read our previews. And today I was very pleased to see we’ve almost hit 100,000 total views across our library, which, as any fan of large, round numbers will appreciate, I found incredibly exciting.
We’re really pleased so many people are reading these previews – so we thought we’d share some of our upcoming titles. Here are a few great picture books that we’re publishing over the next couple of months:
The Magic Rings features four brand new princesses – and they’re set for their first adventure. A beautiful foal has mysteriously disappeared from the palace stables. The girls have a plan of action, but Princess Lottie is worried. What if they’re not brave enough? Or can’t keep a secret? After all, it takes more than a few ninja moves to make a proper Rescue Princess…
For your first introduction to Lottie and her friends, here’s chapter one:
The Rescue Princesses: The Magic Rings will publish in March and you can pre-order it here – and you can find out more about the whole series here.
It’s January publication day, and we have two fantastic fiction titles out now!
The Rescue Princesses: The Snow Jewel
A new princess for a new year… The fifth book of Paula Harrison’s excellent series for 5-8-year-old girls, The Rescue Princesses, sees Princess Freya join her new royal friends in a snowy animal adventure. Her little kitten, Minky, has run away from the palace and is sheltering from the snow on a thin branch over an icy pond. And the branch is cracking and the water beneath freezing cold… The girls use all their bravery to save him just at the last minute, and then head back to the palace for hot chocolate and cake. As the January chill sets in, this is the perfect book to cuddle up with, preferably in front of a roaring fire…
Shadows of the Silver Screen
Another great fireside read is the second novel by Christopher Edge about the adventures of intrepid heroine, Penny Tredwell, a thoroughly modern Miss chafing under the constraints of Victorian society. Shadows of the Silver Screen finds a charismatic filmmaker attempting to bring to life one of the tales of the macabre published by Penny’s magazine, The Penny Dreadful. And bring it to life he does, in a most sinister way… A thrilling read, set on a fabulously misty Dartmoor, Shadows of the Silver Screen is hard to put down and impossible to forget.
At the end of last year, I wrote a blog post about our first year of publishing (2011). It’s here. I thought that I’d do the same thing for 2012, our second year of publishing.
It has, once again, been a busy and full year and it’s hard, even after spending the days between Christmas and New Year like a slothful grub wrapped up in a duvet on a sofa reading books for grown ups with a cold as my only excuse, to pick out the key things from 2012 from the whirl of memories and impressions. Nevertheless, here we go…
What we published, and what we signed up:
In 2011, we published 23 books for children aged 0 to 14. In 2012 we published 35 – a 50% increase. The biggest increase was in our fiction output, and we published 19 fiction titles simultaneously as print and ebook titles. Once again, the books ranged from board books for babies to fiction titles for young teenagers (though this year we added a few ambitious novelty books like Playbook Farm).
2012’s books came from talented debut writers that we plucked from the “slush-pile”, like Helen Peters and Paula Harrison, and from established names like Axel Scheffler, Penny Dale, Jo Lodge and Philip Ardagh, and from creative talents inbetween. In 2012, we published new books by ten of the 12 authors and illustrators we’d published in 2011 (the exceptions were Benji Davies, but then we did publish two apps based on his Bizzy Bear character and we’ll publish more of Benji’s books in 2013, and Ros Beardshaw, whose paperback Just Right For Christmas was new in 2012 and from whom we also have a new book in 2013). But – and I hadn’t realised this before I totted things up – in 2012 we published 16 authors and illustrators that we hadn’t published in 2011.
We did our first bit of own-brand publishing and our first “instant” book when we published, at the very end of the year, The Snowman’s Journey, based on the John Lewis Christmas 2012 TV ad, for The John Lewis Partnership. Here’s the story behind it.
But all the time we were publishing in 2012, we were also acquiring for 2013 publication and beyond. We’ll be increasing our output of books in 2013 to 50 titles. We’ve written about some of them here.
We are going to focus on a few, very ambitious apps this coming year, of which Little Red Riding Hood is the first. However, we have other digital plans, including, this month, the launch of our innovative audio book picture book programme, Stories Aloud.
Across our books and apps, we will add around the same number of new authors and illustrators in 2013 as we added in 2012.
Selling our books and apps:
We more than doubled our revenue compared to 2011, with sales well in excess of two million pounds.
Once again, working with Bounce, we had books sold and promoted in a huge range of UK sales outlets from independent booksellers through bookshop chains and online book retailers to supermarkets and toy shops. Many were selected for promotions by bigger retailers and supermarkets – we have, I think, a particularly good strike-rate in this area.
To sell our books and apps, we’ve travelled to the US (where we work closely with Candlewick Press on illustrated books), Australia (where we work exclusively with Allen & Unwin), Germany, France, Holland and Italy. We visited Apple HQ in Cupertino for the first time to talk about our apps.
Having sold our apps exclusively through Apple in 2011, we experimented with Android for the first time this year, selling a couple of our apps for use on Nook tablets. You can read about it here.
This year, we added Japanese and Turkish to the list of languages in which we’ve sold rights to our books, bringing the total number of languages in which we’ve sold rights to 18. Brazil (as a direct result of my visit in late 2011) has been the biggest new source of rights sales. We ran our first two auctions, both of which were in the US, and both of which ended in six-figure dollar deals.
We added Gottmer in Holland to Carlsen in Germany and Gallimard in France as translation partners in our apps programme.
Speaking of Nosy Crow…:
We have had another great year of reviews and mentions in traditional national press from The Wall Street Journal to The Daily Mirror, in specialist press from Kirkus and The School Library Journal to The Bookseller and in many terrific children’s book, parenting, technology and app blogs. You can see some of our most recent high-profile reviews and mentions here.
In 2012, we had 120,000 unique visitors (up 58% on 2011) to the Nosy Crow website (I wrote more about our web stats here and here). From the autumn of 2012, we decided we’d try to blog every week day (though we have had a bit of a rest over the Christmas/New Year break). Judging purely by the number of comments (though some of the comments are our responses to people who’ve commented), these were particularly popular blog posts this year:
As I write, @nosycrow has 9,740 followers on Twitter, @nosycrowapps has 3,164 followers and @nosycrowbooks, more recently introduced, has 654 followers. There’s a bit of overlap between these, but overall, that’s 13,558 followers – up 80% on last year. We’ve 2,438 likes on Facebook and we’re now active on Pinterest and Tumblr too.
Back in the real world, Nosy Crow authors were at numerous literary festivals, including Hay, Edinburgh, Bath and Cheltenham, and staged countless events in schools, libraries and bookshops.
We were hugely proud to win a hat-trick of awards at the Independent Publisher’s Guild Awards in March 2012, based on our first year of publishing. We won the 2012 Children’s Publisher of the Year award; the Newcomer of the Year award and the Innovation of the Year award.
Our apps continued to win and be shortlisted for multiple awards and made many “best apps” listings. Our books, authors and illustrators were shortlisted for awards too: S C Ransom was shortlisted for the Queen of Teen prize; The Baby that Roared was shortlisted for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize; The Secret Hen House Theatre was shortlisted for the Solihull Children’s Book Award.
I ended my 2011 retrospective with a look at what had gone wrong and here are some of the things I mentioned:
The much-investigated drainy smell in the office bathrooms. I am sorry to say that this is not completely resolved, despite plumber intervention, but either it’s less pronounced or I am just getting used to it.
The one or two important UK retailers who hadn’t stocked our books. We did manage to expand our customer base in 2012: we hadn’t sold anything to John Lewis before The Snowman’s Journey, for example.
The key countries we hadn’t managed to sell rights to, like Japan. We did, this year, sell rights in several picture book and novelty titles to Japan.
So most of the old things got better and some stayed about the same. Of course there were new problems and challenges in 2012 – we were particularly sorry to see Kate Burns leave us this summer, for example, but, on the other hand, we were delighted that Louise Bolongaro replaced her at the beginning of November as Head of Picture Books.
2012 was another very good year for Nosy Crow.
Thank you to everyone who has supported us or worked with us in 2012, or who, in 2012, agreed to work with us in 2013 and beyond. One of the pleasures of being a small publishing company is that many of us will be able to show our appreciation for you in person if you’re an author, illustrator or some other kind of creator, if you’re an agent, or a bookseller or a foreign publisher. But we can’t thank, other than in this blog post, the ever-increasing number of people who choose to buy our apps and our books and share them with children, without whom we don’t have a business.
Earlier this week we had some festive drinks and canapés in the Crow’s Nest with our authors and illustrators, along with agents, librarians, booksellers, journalists and other friends to celebrate the end of another year – and here, by popular demand, are some of the pictures. The picture at the top of this page is of one of the many handmade crows (a decorative stroke of genius masterminded by Stephanie) with which we decorated the office.
Michael Cummings is in Year 11 and is doing his GCSEs. He’s also quite possibly the BEST big brother in the world. For his sister Poppy’s sixth birthday, he decided to read aloud – perform comes closer to doing it justice – the first book in Paula Harrison’sRescue Princesses series, The Rescue Princesses: The Secret Promise, in its entirety. It’s such an undertaking that he hasn’t finished yet – he’s up to Chapter 9 – and we think that it’s brilliant. You can watch part one above, and the following chapters by clicking through to Michael’s channel on YouTube.
So, belatedly, happy birthday from us, Poppy – and well done, Michael, for such a kind and thoughful present!
You can buy The Rescue Princesses: The Secret Promise online here and read the first chapter for free below.
As the evenings start drawing in and the first Christmas catalogues begin plopping on to doormats, it’s time to celebrate the publication of the fifth in Lyn Gardner’s excellent stage-school series, Olivia’s Winter Wonderland.
Deliciously seasonal, this is a snowy, twinkly read, with a festive dose of pantomime thrown in for good measure. While Olivia’s peers are auditioning like crazy for a major West End role (and stabbing each other in the back at the bat of a false eyelash), Olivia is content to steal the show as the less glamorous end of a pantomime horse. She also discovers an amazing old vaudeville theatre near the school and soon she’s caught up in a wonderful world of singing, and laughter, and ghosts…
Congratulations, Lyn, on another drama-filled page-turner, perfect for
those long, dark evenings!
It’s also publication day for another action-packed book, this time for
slightly younger readers. The Stolen Crystals is the fourth in Paula Harrison’s series, The Rescue Princesses, and it’s fast and furious and perfect for girls who love animals (just look at that panda!), love princesses, and also love the perfect ninja move. When a baby panda is captured and held hostage, the Rescue Princesses spring into action. With the help of their magic rings and extreme bravery, they rescue the tiny cub and also find the lost Onica Heart crystals at the same time. Then they celebrate in true royal style!
Thanks for another great book, Paula, and happy publication day!
A response to Kate’s blog from Tuesday, “Should we pay children to read?”
While my rational brain can’t help thinking that by paying children to read you are on a hiding to nothing, I have to admit to feeling slightly anxious about my own seven-year-old’s reluctance to read black and white fiction, and I have even fleetingly wondered whether incentivising her with gifts, or even money, might work. Up until very recently, she has enjoyed books, and reads alone, but has stuck resolutely to highly illustrated books – Chris Riddell’s Ottoline series and Alex T Smith’s Claude books have gone down brilliantly, as have our own Magical Mix-ups, and other than that she has solemnly trudged through my entire collection of Tintin books (I’m not sure how much she understands of them, mind). Very much in parallel with her own cycling skills, she has clung on to the security that pictures give her, just as she has refused to abandon her stabilisers.
But I needn’t have worried, and like all children when it comes to those dreaded developmental milestones, she has done it at her own pace. I had read the first two books in the Rescue Princesses series to both my children together at bedtime (so the aforementioned seven-year-old, and her four-year-old sister), which they have adored, and then last week I brought home an advance copy of Moonlit Mystery, the third title in the series. By breakfast the next morning, my fiction-refusenik was halfway through it; by supper time she had finished it.
It was, I must admit, rather satisfying that it should be a Nosy Crow book that she chose to pick up for the first time. But it is a genuine reflection of Paula Harrison’s exciting but approachable stories which meant that the seven-year-old had the confidence to tackle one on her own.
Last night I got half way through a Secret Seven (Enid Blyton, of course) book with the children at bedtime: the picture above shows a small girl who could just not wait till this evening to find out what happens next. (And I don’t know whether it’s a coincidence, but this afternoon she rode a bike, without help or support too. It doesn’t rain but it pours!)
What are the books that have sucked either you or your children into reading? The stories that are so good that they beg to be read?
They may not even be stories, of course. A friend of mine’s son, also seven, is a fantastic reader, but honed his literacy skills by obsessively reading about his favourite football team, Arsenal, on line.
Watching the Queen parachuting into the Olympic stadium for the opening ceremony of London 2012 made me wonder, amongst other things, whether HRH might’ve had a quick flick through Paula Harrison’sRescue Princesses books before making that leap. Where else would she have got the idea? So I’m sure she’d want to join us in celebrating today’s publication of THEMOONLITMYSTERY, and watch the third Rescue Princess spring into action!
Lulu is feisty and hot-headed, and appropriately for Twenty-Twelve, she’s a great gymnast. She needs all of her ninja skills, too, when a family of lions disappears mysteriously from the Undala plains, leaving behind Tufty, the cutest, naughtiest lion cub of all. The Rescue Princesses must find his family quickly, as he’ll never survive in the wild without them…
Paula’s books have certainly struck a chord with lots and lots of six- and seven-year-old girls, who love the combination of action and adventure, animals in peril, magic jewels and secret pacts. Two such girls came into the Nosy Crow offices recently, having won a competition in Animals and You magazine, to meet Paula and have their cover design transformed into the real thing!
“Prize-winner days are ALWAYS a hoot. As I’ve said many times before, they’re one of the best parts of the job. It’s always great to see children with an author – as publicists we see this all the time at signings, festivals, on tour, etc, and there’s a part of me that always feels a little bit sorry for all the designers and editors and production bods who miss out. SO, it was beyond brilliant to be able to bring children and author together not in a (sometimes far-flung) bookshop or festival venue, but IN THEOFFICE, under the very noses of said designers and editors and production bods.
Samantha, the lucky winner, had come up with a grade-A story, ‘The Queen’s Present’ (HOW very apt for this week’s Olympic opening ceremony) and a stunning cover design to deservedly bag the chance to come into Nosy Crow. Here she, with her best friend Georgia, interviewed Paula, had her story worked on by an editor and her cover given a Rescue Princesses’ ‘make-over’ to really make it look like one of the series. You can check out the results in this month’s issue of Animals & You magazine. What more could a girl – or, indeed, publicist – ask for?
I can assure you a good time was had by all – and I hope I’m not telling tales out of school when one of the girls was overheard saying to the other: ‘This is SOOOO fun!’. My sentiments exactly. And it was doubly fun to have Samantha, Georgia and Samantha’s mum, Elena, as well as every single Crow involved in the day, too.
And I’ve heard rumours that, after being featured looking so good in the magazine, Kristina, Kirsty and Paula are now being battled over by hot modelling agencies Select Models, Models 1 and Storm…”
Congratulations, Paula, on the publication of THEMOONLITMYSTERY, and on being a Royal inspiration!
We’d also love to hear your feedback on the content of the newsletter – is there anything you’d like to see included that wasn’t last time around? What would you like us to add? Did you have any problems viewing it?
August’s edition will be hitting inboxes next week, and we’ll announce the winners of both books here and on Twitter.
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:
After all the tiara-making fun at the launch of the first Rescue Princesses book, my children began an even more exciting craft activity. They took their dolls and began to turn them into Rescue Princesses, even adding every detail of the dresses and the jewelled rings. It was exciting for me to see it. With a snip of tissue paper here and a dash of shiny card there, my characters were coming alive!
They also made two-dimensional dolls out of Hama beads. The Hama bead template meant that there wasn’t a lot of scope for characterisation, but they did their best with hair, skin and dress colour to replicate the four first princesess in the series.
Hama bead princesses
The children then made the dolls and Hama bead creations talk to one other and they invented adventures for them too. They’ve loved playing with princesses and playing at being princesses for years.
I began to wonder what children liked most about characters. Do they prefer a character that’s just like them? Or do they like characters to be different from them – perhaps an aspirational figure? It’s certainly true that, having talked to girls at recent Rescue Princesses events – like this one – many of them said that the princess that resembled them most physically was the one they liked best… before they’d read the book. Physical resemblance was a “way in” to the story.
But after I talked to children who had finished reading the first book, The Secret Promise, the feedback from them began to change. Many of them loved Princess Emily with her long curly red hair, whether they they had curly red hair or not. Well, she is the main character of the story and I did try to make her likeable. Many chose other characters too. One (white) girl told me how much she loved Lulu, “because she’s so adventurous”. Children reading a story love to imagine themselves as characters that can do or say things that they would never dare to. I like to think of this as the Tracy Beaker effect, after that strong-willed girl invented by Jacqueline Wilson.
When they were judging a book by its cover, they chose princesses who looked like them, but, after they’d read the stories, they were more open to identifying with princesses who didn’t look like them.
As to why they were willing to identify with a princess in the first place… well, that’s an interesting question. To be a princess is to be important (but not always powerful) and also to have a life of escapist luxury and privilege, with all the accoutrements of royalty – ballgowns and jewels. Princesses are special.
But when I wrote Rescue Princesses, I wanted to create characters who were not just special, not just well-dressed, but who were brave, kind, clever, determined and adventurous, and who were active, not passive.
They get to have their royal cake and eat it, and the reader gets to do that with them too!
Today we at Nosy Crow are celebrating (with cake, natch) the publication of three fantastic fiction titles.
Olivia’s Enchanted Summer is the fourth in Lyn Gardner’s highly acclaimed stage-school series. Olivia and her friends have taken a show to the Edinburgh Festival, where things do not run smoothly at first. But the show must go on and soon everything is fireworks and enchantment. It even stops raining. Congratulations, Lyn, on another show-stopper!
The second in the Rescue Princesses series by Paula Harrison is also out today. In The Wishing Pearl, our brave princesses have to save a wounded dolphin and find some buried treasure at the same time. It’s an action-packed adventure that will keep every seven-year-old reader on the edge of her seat (while maintaining perfect posture, of course). Congratulations, Paula, on yet more royal thrills and spills!
And last, but by no means least, comes Vulgar the Viking and the Great Gulp Games by the ever-hirsute Odin Redbeard. A topical one, this, as Vulgar prepares himself to participate in the greatest sporting challenge of the (Viking) age. There isn’t a goat he hasn’t hurdled over, a hammer he hasn’t thrown, and a walrus he hasn’t wrestled in readiness. Now the time has come, and Vulgar is really going for gold! Congratulations, Mr Redbeard, on another hilarious read, and to Sarah Horne, for so brilliantly bringing Vulgar’s antics to life.
Well, we know that we’re running this blog post a bit late, but it’s been a hectic few days at the Hay Festival, and we haven’t got round to it. Nevertheless, we’ve been putting our minds to the theme of Royal Reads for children and have come up with a regal list.
As a publisher, our own royal preference so far has been for princesses rather than queens.
Then, earlier this year we launched our new series The Rescue Princesses, a feisty and irresistible combination of friendship, ninja skills, magic jewels and animals in peril by Paula Harrison.
We’ve just published the first of a new series that’s a cross between a novel and an activity book, Magical Mix-ups, by Marnie Edwards and Leigh Hodgkinson, which features Princess Sapphire, who’s princess tendencies are kept in check by her friend Emerald, a witch.
But, generally, royalty is a big theme in children’s books. In fairy tales we meet powerful but often misjudged or misled kings; wicked stepmother queens who are the epitome of evil; and a variety of princesses. We meet princesses who are spoiled girls who have to unlearn their arrogance, girls in peril who need to be rescued, or beautiful (and sometimes talented) young women plucked from obscurity. But all of them get to marry their prince… and the prince is generally, sadly, the least interesting character of all of them – either a rescuer or someone to whom marriage represents rightful elevation and recognition.
The Arthurian legends have also generated many children’s books from Roger Lanceyln Green’s King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table through Rosemary Sutcliff’s Tristan and Iseult and T H White’s The Once and Future King to contemporary takes like Philip Reeve’s Here Lies Arthur.
Being made royal as a kind of apogee of self-realisation is part of the Narnia tradition.
Some takes on royalty, though, particularly more recent ones, are less reverential: poems by A A Milne, such as The King’s Breakfast and King John’s Christmas rejoice in the incongruity of royalty and childish foibles like the desire for “a little bit of butter” or “a big, red, India-rubber ball”. The same is true for the conjunction of royalty and underwear in Nicholas Allan’s The Queen’s Knickers and in modern fairy tales like Carol Ann Duffy’s Queen Munch and Queen Nibble, a sort of love-story between some mismatched queens which finishes with some regal gluttony and bouncing. Of course, Terry Deary’s non-fictional Horrible Histories draw out the grotesque and the ridiculous to make royalty memorable.
I don’t have a TV at Hay, but as I see the images of the Royal Family from the Diamond Jubilee, I am reminded that the current British Royal Family (or the idea of them) and Buckingham Palace play a part in numerous books and poems:
TheBFG by Roald Dahl They’re Changing Guards at Buckingham Palace by A A Milne Two Weeks with the Queen by Morris Gleitzman The Witches Children and the Queen by Ursula Jones and Russell Ayto
Being a new author, I approached my first ever author event – the launch of my new series, The Rescue Princesses – with some apprehension. Would enough people come to the event? Would they enjoy it?
I needn’t have worried. My local book shop was welcoming and people were very happy to come and chat to me on the day.
So here’s my guide to enjoying a first event with young readers and their parents.
First, get into your role! I felt a little old to be a princess, but I could manage being a queen! Just don’t expect your other half to let you off household chores afterwards. Apparently, even if you’re royal, you still have to wash up!
Me in my queen costume
Second, connect with your readers! Talking to the children who were buying the book was a joy and a privilege. I even had one baby call me Santa! It must have been the red cloak that confused him…
A Princess Emily look-alike
Third, have an activity planned! The Rescue Princesses characters might have swung from one bookshelf to another, but tiara-making was probably more acceptable to the book shop staff!
Most of all, enjoy the day! Many thanks to Waterstones at Midsummer Place in Milton Keynes for having me along.
As the mother of a six-year-old girl who recoils, hissing, from anything pink and who would be hard pushed to tell you what a hairbrush is, let alone if she owns one, I am not really in the market for books about sugar and spice and all of that. So when I read a manuscript about four princesses who know ninja moves and use them to rescue cool animals like lions and tigers, I could see the target readership very clearly indeed. Out of the window, in fact, doing cartwheels in the garden surrounded by a vast collection of stuffed cheetahs.
That was a wee while ago and now – today! – the first in the Rescue Princesses series by Paula Harrison is out! (And if you go into WHSmiths this month, you’ll find they have the second one there as well.)
These are great, fast-moving tales of action and adventure in which four intrepid young ladies pit their wits against all sorts of ne’er-do-wells to save animals in peril everywhere. They have lovely dresses and sparkly tiaras, which they often swap for ninja gear, and magic rings that help them communicate with each other and keep their adventures top secret. Especially when their mums think they’re busy practising how to curtsey or make regal table arrangements.
And Paula writes royally lovely prose!
Just then a terrible noise came out of the night.
“That was a distress call!” said Clarabel. “The sound of an animal in trouble.”
“It came from out there in the forest,” added Jaminta, shining her emerald bracelet into the gloom.
“Let’s go!” said Lulu.
The girls climbed quickly back down the ladder and ran across the garden. They passed through the castle gates in a whirl of coloured dresses and rushed on into the forest beyond.
Thanks, Paula, for the first in a fantastic series of books, and happy publication day!
It’s World Book Day, and we hope you’re celebrating. Many of us – including me – sent our children to school disguised as fictional characters. Here are some Nosy Crow offspring, one dressed up as Princess Emily from The Rescue Princesses: The Secret Promise by Paula Harrison, and one dressed up as Winnie The Witch.
Children of designers always have an advantage. Here’s a Nosy Crow designer’s child taking a less book-specific approach to dressing up for WBD:
There’s been a nice little twitter hashtag started by @worldbookdayUK#fictionalforaday and it prompted me to ask some of the Nosy Crows who’d they’d like to be, with particular (but not absolutely exclusive – see surprising Thomas Hardy character below) reference to children’s books.
Kate B said: “When I was little I wanted to be any one of the Famous Five or Secret Seven and used to moan all the time about the lack of adventures in my Dorset childhood. But now I would like to be Lola from Charlie & Lola as she has zero responsibilities and such a cool big brother (although I have that too). I’d also quite like to be the little girl in The Tiger Who Came to Tea, because, well, how great would that be? And that retro kitchen is something else.”
Camilla said: “I’d quite like to be a Wild Thing right now – I could do with having a bit of a wild rumpus to relieve the pre-Bologna tension!”
Adrian said: “I’d like to be Badger in the Wind in the Willows, because he’s strong and kind and fearless – though I’ve also always had a sneaking wish to be Mr Toad. Alternatively Jude the Obscure.” On being questioned as to why he’d want to be someone whose child – spoiler alert – hanged himself and all his siblings, he said, “Well, he did lead an unhappy life, but he was a stonemason, and he did want to better himself.” Hmm.
Tom said, sadly, “I always wanted to be Ratty but knew that, in truth, I was far more like Mole.” But he also said, “I would like to be Wilbur from Charlotte’s Web, because it would be nice to have someone as brilliant as Charlotte looking out for me.” And who could argue with that?
Kirsty said, “I’d choose Winnie the Witch, because she has a cool house and an enviably relaxed approach to leg-shaving.”
Victoria said, “Anne of Green Gables for me because she was beautiful and kind and seemed to have the most incredible adventures. It is a dream of mine to visit her house and pretend to be Anne for a day!”
Kristina said, “I think Pippi Longstocking, mainly because she lived in a house with a monkey and a horse, but also because nothing seemed to worry her: it was always just another adventure.”
Giselle said: “I was absolutely obsessed with Alan Aldridge’s ‘The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper’s Feast’. I took every opportunity I could to copy pictures of all his wonderful characters. I would have loved to have been invited to the ball myself! Although, sadly my invitation got lost in the post!”
Dom said, “Well, it’s for a night, rather than a day, but when I was young I wanted to be Mr Bear from Jill Murphy’s Peace At Last – because walking about, looking for a place to sleep, he clearly wasn’t bothered about the dark… whereas I was very scared of it.” He sighed. “I was a delicate little flower…”
Will said, “I think I’d be Timbertwig from Marshall Cavendish’s Story Teller series. He has a pet spider, Abigail, who lives in his hat and she can perform magic very badly – the basis of all their adventures?”
Milena, who works on our apps PR in the USA, said, “Growing up, I was obsessed with A Wrinkle in Time so it would have to be Meg Murry. I loved reading about an awkward, insecure girl who takes on evil forces through time and space to rescue her family. She kicks some serious butt and finds her voice in the process. I admit it, I’m a dork!”
Leen said, “When I was a child I was obsessed with the Gnomes books by Dutch illustrator Rien Poortvliet (Leen is from Belgium). They contained incredibly intricate drawings of how the gnomes lived in the forest, how they built their houses, what was on the breakfast table in a typical gnome household, and details of the edible plants and berries that they harvested for food and to make into things to sustain their lifestyle. I was fascinated by the idea of a whole world beneath our world, and was delighted that somebody had taken the trouble to set this all down in a book with pretty, colourful illustrations and enough pseudo-scientific ethnographical detail to satisfy all of a pesky 8-year old’s incessant questions. Consequently, I felt I got a great insight in what it would be like to live as a gnome and, on balance, decided that I wouldn’t mind joining their community. Subsequent hunts through wood pile, garden shed and garage revealed no hidden entrances to gnome residences of any kind, however (and the book specified the different types of hiding them, so I did have a good look!).” I asked her who she’d choose to be specifically and she said, “Then I’ll be Lisa, the wife of David the Gnome. Gnomes weren’t very feminist and the ladies didn’t go out much, but there was a lot of good cooking around.”. I said that I felt that she shouldn’t feel she had to be a girl (though I was interested that almost everyone chose characters who were the same sex as them), particularly as it was only for a day, and she said that, in that case, she’d be David the Gnome himself, as “he gets all the good hare-riding and goose-back-flying.”
Joanne Owen, who’s doing some tip-top freelance marketing work for us, said, “I variously wished I was Little Red Riding Hood/Rose Red/Briar Rose/Rapunzel – can’t beat the scary settings, danger and drama of fairy tales. Or, as Leen fancied joining the Gnomes community, I wished I could have stepped into the Moomins’ magical world. Or Pippi Longstocking – brave, bright, eccentric and strong, and a teller of strange and funny stories. Or Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz because she had such an amazing adventure, what with all that fighting of witches and flying monkeys, making and helping new friends and, of course, the sparkly red shoes! Or, finally, one of the girls from The Faraway Tree so I could visit The Roundabout Land and make friends with Moonface!”
As for me… well, it’s getting late, and it’s been a long and busy day (which is why I am only posting now), so I think I shall choose The Sleeping Beauty, at least for now.
So… who would you want to be for a day?
PS I think I might want to be Alice from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass. She takes risks. She’s not afraid to talk back. She’s never afraid or fazed even when very strange things happen to her.