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Articles tagged with: penny dale

Why do boys love dinosaurs?

Posted by Nosy Crow Blog on Feb 26, 2014

Today’s guest post is by Kim Werker, a Vancouver-based writer and editor.

I remember learning about dinosaurs and fossils when I was in kindergarten. I had such a romantic fascination with them. How disappointing to learn only a few years ago that the beloved brontosaurus really should go by another name.

Maybe it’s our never having encountered an actual dinosaur that makes them so fascinating. Or maybe it’s their storied size. Or maybe it’s literature, which so vividly imagines and personifies them for us from the time our eyes can focus on the page.

My nostalgia for my childhood love of dinosaurs took on new depth when I walked into my local library with my two-and-a-half-year-old son Owen a few months ago, and listened as he belched out his first capital-I important question to the poor woman behind the desk who seemed as stuck for an age-appropriate answer as I was. “Why dinosaurs are essinct?” he asked. She blanched.

Though I took his question seriously and embarked on a fairly fruitless search for books that tackle such a question satisfactorily for a reader who has understanding neither of time nor death, I quickly learned that fictional dinosaurs satisfy his curiosity just as well. I’ll leave him to decide when he’s a little older whether to have nightmares about balls of fire crashing into Earth.

My childhood interest in dinosaurs was different than Owen’s. At just three, he can name a dozen species on sight (I never went beyond the most common handful). He is a cataloguer of his interests in a way my friends lead me to believe is typical of their sons, too. Before they’re potty trained, these boys school us on the differences between backhoe loaders, skid steer loaders and excavators. It leads me to wonder why. Why is there such a stereotype about boys and vehicles and dinosaurs and sport balls? Why does my son embody the stereotype so fully when I tried so hard from the beginning to expose him to things like unicorns and rainbows? Why does he correct my mislabels of bulldozers while he shows no interest in princes or princesses?

It seems a young child’s interests are all or nothing. Owen loves dinosaurs, every sort of vehicle, Busytown, land animals and sea creatures. About other things he may show interest for a few minutes at a time, but when it comes to these very stereotypically boyish things he is known to spend an entire hour moving from zooming toy cars to flipping through a book about trains to flying a helicopter through the air to putting out pretend fires to squealing for me to protect him from a hungry T. Rex.

I try to talk to him about princes and princesses, and he changes the subject. I offered once to make him a tutu after he commented on a little girl wearing one in the grocery store. He put his hand on my arm, looked at me without a hint of humour, and said in a quiet voice, “No tutus.”

One evening, when my brother phoned for help buying Owen a book for his birthday, our conversation went something like this:

Me: “Go find a display of picture books and tell me about one that jumps out at you.”

Him: “Mmm. There’s one here with cupcakes on the cover. It looks cool. Exciting.”

Me: … “What else do you see?”

Him: Shuffles around, muttering under his breath. “Well, there’s one here with a dinosaur driving a fire truck, and–“

Me: “Stop right there. He’ll love it. Doesn’t matter what’s inside.”

Helping an uncle buy a good gift is different from a parental desire to expose one’s child to great stories, delightful art and skillful writing. I admit I had low expectations for the quality of this book my brother found, such is my experience of books banking on gendered stereotypes, but I also know that a book involving both dinosaurs and rescue vehicles would be a sure hit, which is what a gift from an uncle to his nephew should be.

Imagine our collective delight when we discovered that the book, Dinosaur Rescue, by Penny Dale, is actually gorgeously illustrated and skillfully written. There isn’t a hint of lazy pandering in it. And imagine our further delight when we discovered she’s writing a series of books that involve dinosaurs and vehicles. We’ve since added Dinosaur Zoom! into frequent rotation.

Going to the library with Owen, I’ve become humbled by the importance of book covers for children’s books. He cannot read, but he navigates the low shelves of picture books with the discerning eye of a kid who knows exactly what he wants. Pulling books half off the shelf as he goes, he only stops when he sees one of his stereotypical interests – a train, a race car, a dinosaur, a spaceship. Only once in his life has he pulled out a pink title (and even that one was more of a muted purple).

Determined to raise a son who doesn’t shun things that are “girly”, I’m frequently at a loss in the face of his dogged determination to ignore all the other stereotypes I try to nudge in his direction. At a loss, but no less fascinated by it. I look forward to seeing how his interests evolve as he grows up.

Evolution. There’s a topic we’ll no doubt have fun exploring together in books.

Thank you for sharing this, Kim! Kim’s next book, Make It Mighty Ugly, is due out in September. She occasionally writes a blog called A Short Read about her adventures reading with her three-year-old, and you can find more of her work at www.kimwerker.com. Dinosaur Rescue, the third book in Penny Dale’s dinosaur series, is out now – you can take a look inside below.


Order the book online.

Dinosaur Rescue - the agent's tale (a guest blog by Caroline Sheldon)

Posted by Caroline Sheldon on Jan 10, 2014

Today’s guest post is by agent Caroline Sheldon, founder of the Caroline Sheldon Literary Agency on the joys of Penny Dale’s Dinosaur books.

My story starts in March 2010 when the sort of project that makes an agent’s life a joy arrived on my desk. Carefully wrapped in tissue paper, three full colour pictures lay before me which featured in glorious realism a triceratops driving a loader, a tyrannosaurus operating an excavator and a stegosaurus crouched over the wheel of a dumper truck. This was the birth of the bestselling Dinosaur Dig series, created by writer and artist Penny Dale. For me, as for the many children who have since become enraptured by Dinosaur Dig and its successors, it was love at first sight.

I’d represented author and artist Penny Dale, as her agent, for over fifteen years when this new parcel arrived and had previously gloried in the two million copy bestselling success of her gentle classic Ten in the Bed. Dinosaur Dig was a complete departure: a full-on celebration of the macho world of dinosaur brawn and a fantastical flight of fantasy about the way such creatures would interact with heavy machinery, all served up with Penny’s delicious wit. This fresh new world seemed to need a fresh new publishing approach and Nosy Crow, the vibrant new kid on the children’s publishing block, seemed the perfect home. Kate Wilson and Camilla Reid shared all my enthusiasm and within three days of my showing them the material the dinosaurs and their trucks had a home.

Dinosaur Dig was published in May 2011; Dinosaur Zoom in August 2012 and Dinosaur Rescue) now in January 2014. Each book has its favourite moments for me – the insouciance of the megalosaurus as he drives his convertible though the Arizona desert with all the cool of Hunter S. Thompson; the care with which the tyrannosaurus rex and triceratops organise the backing of lorries in the forest glade; the dormitory scene of dinosaurs sleeping in their bunks at the end of Dinosaur Rescue. Nothing in either text or illustration talks down to the child. The dinosaurs are gloriously realistic and questions such as how to fit five dinosaurs in the front of a rescue truck are tackled by the artist with exactly the same seriousness as that with which a child would address such a problem. The books represent a rare conjunction of fantastical flamboyance and minute attention to detail which precisely reflects a child’s mind.

I knew the books would be a success: had the hairs not stood up on the back of my neck when I first saw Dinosaur Dig? But it was still thrilling to check in every bit of good news as it arrived from the Crow’s Nest. First co-edition sales of over 70,000 copies for Dinosaur Dig to Candlewick in the USA, Carlsen in Germany, Gallimard in France, Makela in Finland and Heibei in China. Strong retail support for each new book on the high street with particular enthusiasm from Waterstones and WH Smith. Promotional attention from wholesalers such as Gardners and Peters. The emergence of chunky board book editions for each title. Stellar sales in Australia where the publisher made its own promotional video. Success in America, often rare for a UK-originated picture book. Fabulous reviews including ‘a roaring delight’ from The Guardian and a description as a winner in ‘the nighttime battle over bedtime stories’ by the Sunday Telegraph. And watch this SPACE because in the not too distant future those dinosaurs will be cramming their heavy bodies into rockets. One small step for a dinosaur, one giant leap for dinosaurkind!

Caroline Sheldon runs the eponymous Caroline Sheldon Literary Agency and represents a bestselling roster of writers and illustrators for children. Dinosaur Rescue is out this month – you can take a look inside below, and order the book online here.

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!

25 Years of Ten-in-the-Bed

Posted by Camilla on Sep 19, 2013

It came as quite a shock to me to discover that it has been 25 years since Penny Dale’s much-loved picture book, Ten in the Bed, was published by Walker Books. I was surprised because it still looks as fresh today as it did when it was released, way back in 1988. Now it would be a big fib to say that I remembered it as a child, but I did read it to my own kids (again and again and again…) and it is one of those books that you somehow never get bored of reading. It’s this, more than anything else, that is the mark of a true classic. Like all of Penny’s books, it is a wonderful blend of her careful observational drawings and her flights of fancy, resulting in a book that we can both identify with and be transported by.

Anyway, to celebrate the book’s 25th anniversary and the fact that it has sold nearly 2 million copies, the Illustration Cupboard Gallery in London’s Piccadilly recently hosted an exhibition of artwork from the book, which includes the original artwork used in the book and some of the working drawings. It was a great tribute to a fantastic title. We are, of course, delighted and proud to be publishing Penny’s Dinosaur books and, fingers crossed, they too will be going strong in 25 years’ time!

A 25th anniversary edition of Ten in the Bed is available in bookshops now, and you can order it online from Waterstones here. And here’s an early look inside Penny’s upcoming picture book, Dinosaur Rescue, out next year:

Ten of the best books about bedtime

Posted by Tom on Aug 20, 2013

Next month we’re publishing Pip and Posy: The Bedtime Frog, the sixth book in Axel Scheffler’s Pip and Posy series. And in honour of the occasion, today we’re counting down ten of our favourite books about bedtime. Here they are:

Husherbye by John Burningham

This book’s gorgeous, gentle rhyme could practically be prescribed as a sleep aid. Perfectly crafted prose and suitably sleepy illustrations.

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd

An American classic that’s showing no signs of ageing, almost seventy years after publication. It’s almost deceptively brilliant, very reassuring, and excellent bedtime reading.

Ten in the Bed by Penny Dale

Another classic, and one that’s a bit more familiar to readers in the UK. This wonderful edition by Dinosaur Dig! illustrator Penny Dale is funny, eye-catching, with a very memorable rhyme – and a bit of counting thrown in for good measure.

Peace at Last by Jill Murphy

This book made our last list, of ten of the best bears in children’s literature. There’s obviously something about bears that’s very bedtime-y: the story and species work together perfectly.

Dr. Seuss’s Sleep Book by Dr. Seuss

Like all Dr. Seuss, there is something surreally brilliant about this book. A contagious yawn spreads from one odd creature (the Foona Lagoona Baboona, the Collaspable Frink, the Chippendale Mupp, The Oft, and so on) to the next, until the final line… “Good night”.

I Am Not Sleepy and I Will Not Go to Bed by Lauren Child

The title of this Charlie and Lola book really says it all – a sentiment that will undoubtedly be familiar to parents everywhere…

The Owl who was Afraid of the Dark by Jill Tomlinson

This is a bit of a cheat, because it’s really the opposite of a bedtime book, but it is all about nighttime, and I think it’s one of the cleverest, funniest books ever, so I’ve decided it qualifies. Plop is a barn owl who’s decided that he’d like to be a day bird, “because what I are is afraid of the dark.” Gradually, however, he discovers lots of things about the dark that he quite likes – “dark is exciting”, “dark is necessary”; one chapter for every night of the week – until eventually he’s decided that he’s a night owl after all. Steer clear of the abridged version for the full, brilliant experience.

Noodle Loves Bedtime by Marion Billet

This is the first of three of our own books on this list. First up, a wonderful book for babies – Marion Billet’s Noodle Loves Bedtime. Perfect for sharing before bed, this great novelty book has touch-and-feel elements on every spread.

Because I Love You by David Bedford, illustrated by Rebecca Harry

In David Bedford’s heartwarming story, it’s bedtime for Little Bear – but as his mummy tucks him into bed, he wonders if he’s had enough love that day. So Mummy Bear takes Little Bear on a journey, reminding him of all that they’ve done that day – of all of the love they’ve shared. And Little Bear goes to bed happy, warm – and loved.

Pip and Posy: The Bedtime Frog by Axel Scheffler

And, of course, the book that inspired this post – Axel Scheffler’s Pip and Posy: The Bedtime Frog. Posy goes to stay at Pip’s house, and they have lots of fun together before bedtime. But just as they switch out the light, disaster strikes: Posy realises that she has forgotten her favourite frog toy, and she CANNOT sleep without it. Can Pip rescue the day?

There are MANY more titles that could have made this list but didn’t – what are your favourite bedtime books?

Drawing dinosaurs

Posted by Tom on Jul 24, 2013

Last week on Twitter, (adult) book blogger John Self wrote that, “Our boys’ favourite book right now is Dinosaur Dig! Basically someone has taken Calvin & Hobbes’ dinosaurs in rocket ships and run with it.”

I thought this observation was absolutely spot on, but I was a little surprised that it had never occurred to me before. I love Penny Dale’s brilliant series of Dinosaur books, and Calvin and Hobbes is my favourite comic strip OF ALL TIME. In fact I’ll go further than that: it’s one of my favourite things of all time. I can’t think of many books (or films, television shows, songs, or anything else, for that matter) that had a greater impact on me as I was growing up, and I suspect it’s part of the reason that I decided that I wanted to work in children’s publishing.

For those of you aren’t familiar with the strip, it tells the story of six-year-old Calvin and his toy stuffed tiger, Hobbes, who is an entirely real, living animal for Calvin alone. The strip ran from 10 years, from 1985 – 1995, and covered a dizzying span of themes over its run – life, death, love, Christmas, babysitters… and dinosaurs.

The dinosaur stories were some of my favourites: like a lot of Calvin and Hobbes, they took place entirely within the imaginations of the two main characters, which was denoted by the dramatically different art style in which creator Bill Watterson drew them. The juxtapositions between the strip’s signature cartoon style and the much more ‘realistically’ drawn dinosaurs, and between Calvin’s unbridled dinosaur enthususiasm and the indifference of everyone else (including Hobbes) around him, produced some hilarious moments – here are some of the best ones (you can click each of the images to enlarge):

I mentioned John’s comment to Penny, and sent her some examples of Watterson’s dinosaurs, and she was very impressed by the practicalities that he’d overcome to fit dinosaurs into today’s world (a challenge she faces with each of her Dinosaur books) – here’s what she said to me in an email:

“These are so amazing! It’s fascinating to see how someone else has squeezed a T rex into a vehicle … and I think a fighter jet cockpit has probably – apart from an F1 car perhaps – the tightest fit for the pilot or driver!”

Here’s a look inside the first two books in the fantastic Dinosaur series (the third book, Dinosaur Rescue!, will publish in January next year).

Dinosaur Dig!


Order the book online.

Dinosaur Zoom!


Order the book online.

You can buy The Complete Calvin and Hobbes here (no home is complete without it). I could talk about Calvin and Hobbes (and dinosaur books) ALL DAY, so if you have a favourite of either, tell us in a tweet to @NosyCrowBooks or leave a comment below!

Nosy Crow is three today

Posted by Tom on Feb 22, 2013

Today is Nosy Crow’s third birthday. That is, it’s three years since we announced that Nosy Crow existed, though we’ve only been publishing for two years, so we are sort of two years old as well. There were just four people working at the company on February 22, 2010… and today, as it happens, partly because it’s half-term and lots of us are parents, and partly because we have flexible working arrangements (which is also pretty parent-friendly), there are only four of us in the London office today as well. None of today’s four is one of the founding members, which is perhaps why today’s cake (pictured above, with Ola, Mary and Kristina) is only shop-bought.

We got a birthday card from Benji Davies via Twitter:

If the company were a person, it would be the perfect age to enjoy our picture books for pre-schoolers, like our Pip and Posy books, our Dinosaur Dig! books, and our celebration of reading and being-read-to, Books Always Everywhere (which it would have early access to – it’s not out until next month). It might also enjoy our two birthday books, Zac and Zeb and the Make-Believe Birthday Party and Guinea Pig Party (which even has a cake with three candles on the front cover).

We’re pretty proud of what the company has accomplished in such a short time. We’ve just been shortlisted for four IPG awards, for instance, and you can read more about our achievements in 2012, our second year of publishing, here.

But we couldn’t have done without all of the people who support Nosy Crow. So today we’d like to say a very heartfelt thank you not just to our authors and illustrators, but to the agents, retailers, sales organisations, members of the press, librarians, teachers, parents and children who’ve helped to make, sell and share our books, bought our apps, visited our website, talked to us on Twitter, and spread the word.

To really say thank you, we played a small Twitter game. We asked people to complete the sentence “My favourite @NosyCrow book/app is…” in a Tweet with the hashtag #Crowis3, and we gave three people, chosen at random, who Tweeted before the end of the UK working day a Nosy Crow mug.

Even though the competition has finished, we’d love to hear what your favourite Nosy Crow book/app is. Do please use the #Crowis3 hashtag.

Here’s to the next three years (and beyond)!

Name that Dinosaur!

Posted by Tom on Feb 13, 2013

Last month we published the board book edition of Penny Dale’s wonderful Dinosaur Zoom, the follow-up to Dinosaur Dig. These smaller, robust board editions are absolutely great for young toddlers, and the stories and illustrations themselves – filled with dinosaurs, vehicles, lots of fantastic visual detail, and even some counting – have a particularly boy-ish sort of appeal.

The only things that are missing from the board books are the endpapers published in the original editions, which have the names for all of the dinosaurs and vehicles in each book. We recently heard from a parent who told us how much their son enjoyed naming each dinosaur, and so we thought we’d make the endpapers available for free to everyone. Click on each image to enlarge, and click the links below to download large, printable PDFs.

The vehicles from Dinosaur Dig

Download PDF

The vehicles from Dinosaur Zoom

Download PDF

And, last but not least… the dinosaurs!

Download PDF

You can also take a look inside each book below (these are from the hardback editions):

Take a look inside Dinosaur Dig:


Buy the board book edition online.

Take a look inside Dinosaur Zoom:


Buy the board book edition online.

Have fun naming dinosaurs!

Our February titles are out today!

Posted by Tom on Feb 07, 2013

It’s an exciting day in the Crow’s Nest – all of our February titles are out today, and there’s something for everyone!

There are two new volumes in Marion Billet’s fabulous touch-and-feel Noodle board book series out today: Noodle Loves the Park and Noodle Loves the Zoo. The photo at the top of this post is of Marion signing stacks of Noodle books before a meeting to discuss some of her other great projects (like the forthcoming Littleland, out next month).

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’s Dinosaur 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:


Buy the book online.

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:


Buy the book online.

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.

Read the first chapter:


Buy the book online.

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:


Buy the book online.

Congratulations to all of this month’s authors and illustrators!

Win copies of our February books!

Posted by Tom on Jan 29, 2013

This competition has now closed.

It’s not long until publication day for our February titles, and to celebrate, we have some books to give away! 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.

In February we’re releasing two brand new touch-and-feel board books in the Noodle series by Marion Billet, Noodle Loves the Zoo and Noodle Loves the Park – simple rhyming texts with lots for parent and child to talk about and explore on every spread.

We’re also releasing the board book edition of Dinosaur Zoom! by Penny Dale – bursting with dinosaurs and vehicles of all shapes and sizes, and with a delicious, surprise ending. Here’s a look inside:

We’re publishing Open Very Carefully, illustrated by Nicola O’Byrne and with words by Nick Bromley – a very clever picture book with a crocodile who’s fallen out of his own story and into this one, and a lovely book for sharing and discussing how words and pictures work. Here’s a sneak preview:

It’s publication time for the final volume in the fantastic, innovative Mega Mash-Up series by Nikalas Catlow and Tim Wesson, Mega Mash-Up: Cowboys v Trolls in the Arctic, and the fourth book in the very funny Vulgar the Viking series by Odin Redbeard, Vulgar the Viking and the Terrible Talent Show. Here’s a look inside:

And last but not least, we’re releasing Dear Scarlett by Fleur Hitchcock – an irresistible story told in the first person, combining adventure, mystery, lots of funny bits and a truly brilliant hero in Scarlett, fantastic for 9 – 12 year olds, and especially good for girls (but very likely to appeal to boys too).

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 publication day next week!

This competition has now closed.

Looking back at 2012: our second year of publishing

Posted by Kate on Jan 03, 2013

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.

In 2011, we released 3 apps. In 2012, we released 6 apps, including, in a departure for us, two games apps linked to books and two non-fiction story book apps. The games apps were Pip and Posy: Fun and Games and the completely free The Grunts: Beard of Bees. The non-fiction apps were Rounds: Franklin Frog and the deliciously wintry Rounds: Parker Penguin.

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:

Nosy Crow Publishes The Snowman’s Journey

What’s a Publisher For

Books For Girls: Gender, Packaging and Content in Children’s Publishing

In Which We Uncover An Internet Sock-puppet

Deaf and Blind Characters in Children’s Fiction

Writing Children’s Apps

What My Daughter Thinks About Having a Working Mum

Small Publishers v Large Publishers: Which is Best?

And these were the three posts which received the most traffic:

1. Festive drinks at Nosy Crow

2. Nosy Crow Publishes The Snowman’s Journey

3. In Which We Uncover An Internet Sock-puppet

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.

Recognition:

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.

Problems:

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 calorie count of the many cakes we make and eat. I am afraid that the addition to the team of Mary Berry with her show-stopping debut of Nosy Crow logo-inspired cake pops seems unlikely to help us here.

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.

Thank you:

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.

Books for girls: gender, packaging and content in children's publishing

Posted by Kate on Oct 24, 2012

I was at the Guildford Book Festival a couple of days ago, talking to prospective children’s book authors – maybe more on that in a later blog post. In the audience was Annabel Deuchar.

After the event, she wrote this blog post.

I commented on the post, but here’s a fuller version of my thoughts on the subject. Because Annabel’s piece is about writing for girls, that’s the focus of this blog post too, though when I was talking about the importance of understanding who a book is for, I was talking about age and interests at least as much as about gender, and was talking about engaging boys with reading as well as engaging girls.

At a recent meeting with a book shop buyer, I was complimented on the cover for The Princess and the Peas by Caryl Hart and Sarah Warburton, which is out in hardback now, but which I was speaking about because it’s coming out in paperback in February 2013. The cover looks like this:

The buyer said that, while “pink books” were doing really well in the activity category, there weren’t that many “pink picture books”, and that ours looked like just the sort of thing the buyer’s customers might be looking for. Of course, in choosing a pink background, we’d known that we would be signalling that the book would be likely to appeal to a girl audience. It’s also the case that pink/violet is the strongest possible contrast (just look at a colour wheel) to the pea-green that we wanted to point up on the cover.

Publishers (and authors/illustrators) exist in a fairly gender-divided commercial environment, one in which, for example, Bic produced Pens for Her (though they were rightly the subject of scorn).

In that gender-divided commercial environment, I want to maximise sales – for Nosy Crow and for the author/illustrator. As a publisher, I really believe that having a sort of Platonic ideal of the child that the book or app you are publishing is for is important. Commercial success is, I think, more likely if you can combine a clear understanding of your potential audience and a clear understanding of how the content of the book or app meets the needs or interests of that audience. We then spend a lot of time making sure that the cover image and the title (and the icon in the case of an app) are effective shorthand “signposts”, communicating that information about audience and content, to buyers who are selecting books or apps in the visually busy context of a bookshop, online store or library.

So I recognise that The Princess and The Peas is not a book that many people would buy for a boy. The packaging clearly targets girls and the story and central character are, I think, likely to appeal to girls more than boys too. By contrast, the packaging on Dinosaur Dig! by Penny Dale targets boys. I think that the content is likely to appeal to boys too.

Of course, not all of our books have such a clear gender-skew: I chose those two books as extremes on our own list. By contrast, books like those in our Pip and Posy series by Axel Scheffler show Pip and Posy, who are essentially pre-school children in the guise of a rabbit and a mouse, playing with train sets and pushing dolls in prams together. At one point, Pip even ends up wearing a dress belonging to Posy, because he’s wet his trousers.

But, of course, the risk is that if you try to appeal to everyone, you end up appealing to no-one. We are very proud of the cover of Twelve Minutes to Midnight by Christopher Edge illustrated by Eric Orchard. Some buyers, though, said that the image of the person on the front looked a little too androgynous.

That’s not to say that the book hasn’t been successful, but it’s interesting to note that at this stage it has been particularly successful through school and library channels and independent bookshops, rather than through supermarkets or chains. And we have (well, Eric has, at our suggestion) made it rather clearer that the central character is a girl on the cover of the second book in Christopher Edge’s trilogy, Shadows of the Silver Screen.

And just to be clear, as this cover indicates, signposting effectively who a book might particularly appeal to does not mean, if you think its readership is mainly girls, that it has to be pink. Indeed, there’s an argument that, beyond a certain age, some girls think pink appears “babyish”.

Packaging is not content – though of course it should reflect content. I think that, whether because of nature or nurture, most girls are more likely to be attracted to, and probably to enjoy, a book about princesses than one about dinosaurs driving diggers, and that boys are more likely to choose a book about dinosaurs driving diggers than a book about princesses. But accepting that many boys and girls have preferences in terms of packaging, central character gender and subject matter doesn’t mean that you have to serve up unreconstructed stereotypes. Penelope, the central character in both Twelve Minutes to Midnight and Shadows of the Silver Screen, is feisty, brave and clever. The little girl in The Princess and The Peas discovers that being a princess isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and, once again making her own decision (as she did when she chose to move into the palace), stops being a princess and moves back home to live with her dad, who is responsible for cooking and childcare. In our series, The Rescue Princesses by Paula Harrison, which are very clearly targeted at newly-independent girl readers, the princesses rescue animals with the help of magic jewels… and Ninja skills. They’re brave and self-sufficient, facing down danger to remedy injustices and cruelty.

In our app, Cinderella, the central character isn’t a Disney Princess-style princess with blond hair and breasts. She looks younger, and less glamorous, and the prince isn’t attracted to Cinderella by her looks or her clothes but by the fact that he feels less shy in her company, that they have lots to talk about, that she’s a good dancer, and that she has a nice smile. The vanity of Cinderella’s step-sisters (described as “mean”, incidentally, not “ugly”) is a source of humour.

I have written about my sense of responsibility as a publisher of children’s books here and I can’t imagine publishing anything that I felt projected (in my view) damaging stereotypes of either girls or boys. In an ideal world, maybe we would be publishing only gender-neutral titles with gender-neutral covers, but I don’t live in an ideal world. I am motivated by two things: I need to make books commercially successful for Nosy Crow and for authors and illustrators; and I am keenly interested in providing children with books they want, particularly at a time when there is so much competition for their leisure time, and when data, like the data gathered in the recent survey behind Pearson’s Enjoy Reading Campaign, suggests that children are not reading for pleasure enough to build their literacy skills.

And of course, having that Platonic ideal of the child that your book or app is most likely to be enjoyed by does not mean that you are publishing ONLY for that child. I spoke in Guildford of the real pleasure of discovering that your book (or app) is being enjoyed by a different, additional audience from the one we imagined as its core audience. This happened, for example, when we discovered that our app, Bizzy Bear Builds a House for which our Platonic ideal reader was a pre-school boy, was a particular favourite of a slightly older girl with Down’s syndrome whose mum writes about her app choices here).

Readers interested in this subject might find Peggy Orenstein’s personal and well-researched book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter useful and engaging.

And here’s a list of some of my own favourite children’s books that more explicity subvert gender stereotypes (it’s not incidental to the plot, it is the plot). Do please suggest others.

The Paper Bag Princess
Princess Smartypants
The Worst Princess
Bill’s New Frock
The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tyler
Dick King Smith’s Sophie Books (I wouldn’t have included these as I think that Sophie’s rejection of a feminine role is not as much of a focus in these books as it is in the rest of the books I’ve listed here, but I included them at the insistence of my younger daughter)

Oh, and we have one coming out from Steven Lenton in early 2014 ourselves…

DINOSAUR ZOOM! Out now!

Posted by Camilla on Aug 02, 2012

This happy little chap has just taken delivery of his very own copy of Penny Dale’s glorious new book, DINOSAUR ZOOM!, the much-awaited follow-up to DINOSAUR DIG!, whose sales have now topped 80,000 copies internationally.

DINOSAUR ZOOM! joins our pre-historic friends as they race cross-country in their vehicles (a splendid array, from pick-up trucks to tractors) to a leafy glade in the woods. The gang hurriedly unpack picnic tables, hang bunting and blow up balloons, then hide themselves in a hedge to await the arrival of the littlest dinosaur in his yellow convertible. Of course, a wonderful surprise party ensues and the littlest dinosaur is treated to food, presents and the biggest dinosaur cake you’ve ever seen.

The great thing about all Penny’s books is that they are born out of her careful observation of children, and in particular children at play. When Penny’s daughter was small, she created titles like Rosie’s Babies, Bet You Can’t and Ten in a Bed, which beautifully capture little moments of childhood, and resonate with both parents and children. Twenty or so years on, and Penny is now watching and listening to her small grandson play with his toys – a very different experience indeed, she says. The result has been DINOSAUR DIG! and now, DINOSAUR ZOOM!: two books that absolutely know who their audience is, and give them what they want to read about.

Dinah Hall, writing in last Sunday’s Telegraph recognised this, saying: ‘Little boys love dinosaurs. Little boys love trucks. Put the two together in the worryingly appealing Dinosaur Zoom! and you have the recipe for a night-time battle over bedtime stories. Resign yourself to reading the same book over and over again for the next two years – and make sure it’s a girl next time.’

Nicholas Tucker chose it as one of the Independent’s best new books for under-12s, writing: ‘Penny Dale has a new slant on ever-popular prehistoric animals in her picture book Dinosaur Zoom! Whether driving a blue convertible through the desert or reversing a lorry into the woods, these dinosaurs practically leap from the page.’

Finally, Kate Kellaway selected it as one of her top summer reads in The Guardian, saying, ‘This book is strictly for the dinosaur-besotted… but Penny Dale has taken the ingenious decision to go the whole hog – or brontosaurus – here by combining outrageous dinosaurs with assorted heavy goods vehicles, sports cars, tractors and the like. For the prehistoric speed freak, this is a roaring delight in which dino drivers head full throttle towards a little dinosaur’s birthday party.’

It’s great review coverage – a testimony to Penny’s beady eye, sharp ear and creative imagination. Penny is now working on a third title in the series, DINOSAUR RESCUE! The rough illustrations are finished already, and I am happy to report that it is going to be as fast, furious and fun as its predecessors.

Penny Dale at Art in Action 2012

Posted by Penny Dale on Aug 01, 2012

Art in Action is an annual event which takes place over four days in July at Waterperry House and Gardens in Oxfordshire.

Artists from Painters to Ceramicists, Sculptors to printmakers – a handful from each area of visual art – are invited to set up small versions of their studios to demonstrate how they work to thousands of visitors. This was my third year in the calligraphy and illustration marquee.

As we set up, the very first copies of my new book, Dinosaur Zoom!, arrived, and on the opening day were soon being snapped up, along with others, by readers of all ages!

I was demonstrating how a book comes together – from first sketches and a text, to layouts – and finally to full colour artwork.

An enlarged story board on the wall behind me showed the layouts for my next book, Dinosaur Rescue! I explained how I work up layouts drawing with a stylus on an iPad, which is really useful for working in layers when there’s resizing and repositioning to do, and there always is in the early stages!

Lots of children had a go too! This little girl drew a dinosaur called ‘Toothy’!

Many wanted to know if I did the actual artwork for the book on the iPad but I said I still much prefer the feel of real paint, ink and crayon on proper watercolour paper for the finished work.

As in previous years there was lots to learn too and not nearly enough time to see all the fantastic work on show as it was incredibly busy.

In the closing hours on Sunday a little girl showed me how to add typography to my layouts using another drawing app I have alongside ‘Brushes’ (the one I use most of the time). Absolutely brilliant and so useful. She was so quick and deft on the iPad she had to show me twice!

Many thanks are due to my excellent helpers – Bryan, Rick, Gill and Ruth – to Imogen and Victoria and to all the organisers and volunteers from Art in Action for creating another exceptional event.

Dinosaur Zoom is published tomorrow. You can order it online here and take a look inside below:

Win books from our August newsletter

Posted by Tom on Jul 25, 2012

The time has almost come for our second monthly books newsletter (the first, in fact, was a bumper edition covering both June AND July), and once again, we have some books to give away!

To be in with a chance to win one our August titles – Dinosaur Zoom by Penny Dale and The Rescue Princessses: The Moonlit Mystery by Paula Harrison – all you have to do is subscribe to our newsletter and either tweet to us @NosyCrowBooks or leave a comment underneath this blogpost, telling us the name you subscribed with and the book you’d like to win.

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.

Summer Reading round-ups

Posted by Tom on Jul 24, 2012

Last week, Kate blogged about the extraordinary triple-review of The Secret Hen House Theatre in The Guardian, and the cheering effect it had on an otherwise miserable weekend.

Well, the weather may have changed (for the better – the picture above is of the colour of the sky from my window), but the good news continues! Yesterday we learnt that The Secret Hen House Theatre has been selected by Booktrust as one of their Great Summer Reads.

In their review, Booktrust say of the book:

“Helen Peters has drawn on her own childhood on a farm, and her memories of writing and acting out her own plays, to create this lively story with a very convincing rural setting. Peters depicts a cast of strong and believable characters, from Hannah’s overworked and under pressure father, to her stroppy 10-year-old sister Martha, who soon proves herself to be a true ‘drama queen’. With a hint of Pamela Brown’s ‘The Swish of the Curtain’, there is much for aspiring young actors to enjoy here, but this hugely enjoyable story of family, friendship and country life will also have a broad appeal for children at upper primary level.”

And there was more good news to be had elsewhere. The Telegraph and The Independent ran lists of summer reading over the weekend, including both Dinosaur Zoom! by Penny Dale (out next month) and Goldilocks and Just the One Bear by Leigh Hodgkinson.

For The Telegraph, Dinah Hall wrote of Dinosaur Zoom:

“Little boys love dinosaurs. Little boys love trucks. Put the two together in the worryingly appealing Dinosaur Zoom! and you have the recipe for a night-time battle over bedtime stories. Resign yourself to reading the same book over and over again for the next two years – and make sure it’s a girl next time.”

On Goldilocks and Just the One Bear, Hall writes:

“With Hodgkinson’s fetchingly retro midcentury modern illustrations matched by her brilliantly animated text, this is a triumph.”

And in The Independent, Nicholas Tucker writes:

“Penny Dale has a new slant on ever-popular prehistoric animals in her picture book Dinosaur Zoom! Whether driving a blue convertible through the desert or reversing a lorry into the woods, these dinosaurs practically leap from the page.”

What are you summer reading plans?

Nosy Crow participates in the first London Children's Book Swap

Posted by Kate on Feb 28, 2012

Last Saturday was the first London Children’s Book Swap, the brainchild of Sally Goldsworthy of the Discover Children’s Story Centre. The clue’s in the name, really, but the idea was that children would bring books they no longer read or wanted to swap them for something they liked the look of.

We’re the only publisher in Southwark, and we decided to support our local book swap venue, the Centre for Literacy for Primary Education, which I cycle past daily on my way to work, by providing some of our books so that the tables weren’t bare when the first children arrived at 10.00 am.


Nosy Crow’s Pip and Posy in pride of place on the tables, waiting for the first children to arrive

It was a great pleasure to see the second third child to arrive, four year-old Rowan, pictured above, (entirely spontaneously!) swap his copy of Helen Oxenbury’s Tickle Tickle for Nosy Crow’s very own Dinosaur Dig! by Penny Dale. But it was also great to see Adiam swapping her outgrown books for Confessions of a Drama Queen, The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Chronicles of Narnia and Ingo.


Adiam with her collection of swapped books

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.

Penny Dale at Art in Action

Posted by Penny Dale on Jul 27, 2011

Art in Action is a four day event held at Waterperry House and Gardens in Oxfordshire. Every year around 25,000 visitors come to observe hundreds of artists demonstrating how they work.

This was my second year demonstrating in the illustration and calligraphy marquee. Along with four other illustrators and five calligraphers we drew and talked and painted as well as selling some prints and originals and lots of books.

I was showing how I am working on sketch layouts for my next book, Dinosaur Zoom, using an iPad, alongside examples of the layouts for Dinosaur Dig! (which were done on paper).

I showed how rather than sticking lots of layers of paper one on top of the other when working up plans for illustrations, and ending up with a very bumpy paper sandwich, I could work the layers separately and smoothly on the iPad. People were amazed at the degree of subtlety that can be achieved drawing directly on the screen with a capacitive stylus. Some children had a go at drawing a dinosaur on the iPad themselves, and loved the way the brushes app we use would replay their drawing step by step. Pure ‘Art in Action’! (You can see a video of how the process works here.

I did reassure people that I would still produce the actual artwork for DINOSAUR ZOOM using watercolour and pencil crayons on real paper, but the iPad is certainly great for roughs.

While this was going on some very hardworking friends were also talking to people and selling books – lots of books! Ten in the Bed and Once There Were Giants were favorites and Dinosaur Dig went so fast we started to run out on the first day with Friday and the weekend still to come! Imogen was brilliant at Nosy Crow HQ, and managed to send another load which arrived the next day. All of those went too! Here’s the last copy being sold!

It was lovely to see the range of ages who liked Dinosaur Dig. A rather hot and tired 6 month old baby in a facing out sling carrier stopped crying and laughed when he saw the cover – excitedly shouting and flapping his arms and legs! Bigger children liked reading it and asked lots of questions about making the book – some even said “Cool!” when they got to the end. Many nursery and infant teachers said how it was just the thing for reading AND number work with their children. We were really delighted with all the reactions.

I want to say a huge thank you to the organisers of Art in Action and all the volunteers for making it such a unique and wonderful event! Now it’s time to unpack everything back into the studio and start on the actual artwork for Dinosaur Zoom… so which box did I put the drawing board in?

Axel Scheffler's Pip and Posy report from the Hay Festival

Posted by Pip and Posy on May 31, 2011

Hello, everyone. Pip and Posy here, posting from the Hay-on-Wye festival. It’s fantastic here – there are millions of books, quite a few clever grown-up people talking about books, and loads of wet other people wearing wellies. We even saw a royal Duchess (Camilla – no crown, but no wellies either).

The first thing we did when we arrived was run down to Penny Dale’s Dinosaur Dig! event. Here’s Penny reading the story:

It was brilliant fun. We didn’t have to sit still, or behave ourselves properly or anything. Penny showed us how she drew the pictures which was really interesting – how do you get a T-rex’s tail in a dumper truck cab? But the best bit was when she got us all to stamp and stomp, and to roar a lot, just like in the book!

We had such a good time that Pip very nearly had a little accident, but we got to the (really nice) toilets just in time, so it was ok.

After that it was time to meet up with Axel Scheffler, for our very own show. He and Kate were on a big stage, with bright lights and loads of people watching. They told our stories, Pip and Posy: The Little Puddle and Pip and Posy: The Super Scooter. Axel did lots of pictures of us doing funny things, and Kate made everyone laugh by talking about wee and sick and things.

Axel even drew a picture of us meeting the gruffalo, because, of course, even though people were very pleased to meet us, they all love the gruffalo:

At the very end, we were allowed to come in and say hello to all the children:

It was lovely because absolutely everyone wanted to give us a cuddle:

Afterward, in the bookshop, Axel signed and signed copies of our books. And then he signed and signed some more. He was signing for an hour!

Then we all went back to the house where we were staying for dinner cooked by Adrian. With gooseberry fool for pudding – Hooray!

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.

Collaboration, collaboration, collaboration

Posted by Kate on Jan 21, 2011

One of the great joys of working in children’s books is the degree to which the publisher has – and I have often used this metaphor before – a seat at the creative table.

At Nosy Crow, we think that we bring decades of experience combined with good ideas to help authors and illustrators, whether they are established or new, shape their books at every level, from overall storylines, to the shape of a nose, the choice of a word or the point in the story that a page is turned.

Penny Dale entirely knows her onions when it comes to writing and illustrating children’s picture books, but she too welcomes publisher input. This is Penny and Camilla discussing the storyline for the sequel to Dinosaur Dig!, which is open in front of them, in Nosy Crow’s offices this week. Sorry re Penny blinking: my photography failure again.

We even asked @nosycrow’s twitter followers what their pre-schoolers’ favourite vehicles were to inspire us along the way. Do let us know what your pre-schooler’s favourite vehicles are if you haven’t already by posting a comment.

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…”

Artist in Action

Posted by Camilla on Jul 15, 2010

Thursday saw Camilla continuing her tour of the summer festivals – this time she was off to Art in Action, a hugely popular arts and crafts festival held annually in the Oxfordshire countryside and which continues till Sunday (18 July).

She was there to cheer on Penny Dale who was installed in the Calligraphy and Illustration tent, in theory to demonstrate her brilliant illustration skills on a spread of Dinosaur Dig, but there were so many people who wanted signed copies of Penny’s books, and who wanted to chat to her, that there was probably not much actual work being done.

But not to worry, it was a great chance for Penny to talk to fans, young and old, and to get in a few pre-orders of Dinosaur Dig too!

Penny Dale Digs Deep

Posted by Kate on Jun 08, 2010

When she was at Hay, Kate had the opportunity to meet up with Penny Dale to talk through the progress of Dinosaur Dig (Penny, pictured, in a tent in Hay with a print-out of the second spread from the book). It’s such a pleasure to see the book developing.

Penny was inspired to write and illustrate Dinosaur Dig by her vehicle-obsessed toddler grandson. But, as she explains, her decision to do a book featuring construction vehicles happily coincided with something not every householder welcomes:

“By happy coincidence, there have been major road works going on in our street lately. Lots of diggers and dumpers have been trundling up and down providing the perfect soundtrack to the production of artwork for Dinosaur Dig!

I’ve been covertly sneaking the odd close-up photo of hydraulics and digger details, but was a bit cautious about telling the drivers and engineers – quite a large crew at times – what I was up to. But yesterday day they were right outside our house so I had to confess. I went outside, armed with a print-out of a T-rex in a loader and showed it to the Ganger. The engines suddenly stopped, and they all had a look, and immediately identified their digger driving colleague as the T-rex. They were very appreciative of the detailed observation of their vehicles… but nodded in understanding when I explained that I’d had to redesign some of them to accommodate the dinosaurs’ massive tails.

They took the print-out for the wall of their portacabin: a different kind of pin-up!”

See Penny’s photos on Facebook

Another new book for Nosy Crow!

Posted by Camilla on Mar 05, 2010

We have bought a new book: Dinosaur Dig!, by Penny Dale, a fabulous picture book for toddlers. It’s also our speediest acquisition yet: 2 hours after it was posted through the door, we made our offer to Caroline Sheldon, Penny’s agent! Read all about it in Books, and find out about Penny in Authors etc.