The Tree Book Wins Silver at the 33rd Hong Kong Print Awards
We’re thrilled to announce that The Tree Book recently won silver at the 33rd Hong Kong Print Awards, in the Book Printing, Children’s Book category!
About the awards
The Hong Kong Print Awards are organized by the Graphic Arts Institute of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Publishing Institute and the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, and co-organized by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department.
The awards aim to encourage local printing, design, publishing and related industries to produce high-quality and competitive printed materials, and showcase Hong Kong’s high-quality design, publishing and printing services to other industries and overseas so that they are widely recognized. Find out more about the awards here.
About the book
The Tree Book by Hannah Alice is an incredibly inventive board book with five die-cut pages and amazing see-through acetate, in which readers can discover how trees change through the seasons.
It’s a fantastic first look at nature for curious children everywhere, and an exciting way to explore all the amazing things trees can do.
Take a look inside:
Watch the trailer:
Congratulations to all of the Nosy Crow team involved in making this book a reality!
Have you, or your little ones, read The Tree Book? If you’ve yet to discover its magic, click here and select your preferred retailer to purchase your copy.
Kids’ Club January 2023
Welcome to the Nosy Crow Kids’ Club: a new monthly feature with plenty of activities for the young readers in your life! Each month we’ll post a creative writing prompt based on one of our recent publications, and some downloadable activity sheets to print for your little ones.
You might need to read out the writing exercise to help your kids get started, and don’t worry if they go off on a tangent – it’s all part of the fun!
Imagine two characters. These could be animals like Frank and Bert, they could be humans, they could even be objects that can talk! Whatever you’d like.
One of your characters has to teach the other to do something that they don’t know how to do, like riding a bike, swimming, or even making pottery. However, the character who is learning this new skill finds it very difficult and keeps struggling!
What happens? You can tell your story through words, drawings – or even both! – and you can make it as funny or as serious as you’d like. It’s up to you!
In a nutshell: write a story about a character that tries to teach their friend something new, but their friend is not very good at it.
Share your little ones’ finished stories with us on social media, by tagging us @NosyCrow! You never know, we might even share a selection on our channels …
Do let us know what you thought of our first Kids’ Club, and if there are any other activities you would like us to include, by getting in touch via email or social media.
And if your little ones enjoyed all of our Frank and Bert activities, then don’t miss Chris Naylor-Ballesteros, author and illustrator of Frank and Bert, on his UK bookshop tour in February. You can find details of all the events here.
Read an exclusive extract from Press Start! by Thomas Flintham
And today we’re delighted to be sharing a preview of the first two books – you can read the first few chapters of each below!
Join Sunny as he and Super Rabbit Boy take on the world, one move at a time!
In the first book, Sunny’s favourite game is Super Rabbit Boy and he loves to pit his skills against King Viking who hates fun and happiness and wants to steal Singing Dog and bring sadness to Animal Town FOR EVER! Can Sunny help Super Rabbit Boy get to Level 6 and rescue Singing Dog and restore joy to Animal Town? Only if he defeats the Robot Army, dodges the Robo-Crabs and Lakes of Lava before battling King Viking himself!Has Sunny got the skills? Has Super Rabbit Boy eaten enough super magical carrots (SPOILER: origin story)? You’ll have to read and find out …
In Super Rabbit Boy Powers Up!, King Viking is planning to build a Super Robot to destroy EVERYTHING and Super Rabbit Boy must find the Super Power Up component before King Viking does. He has a map and his BRAVERY and SKILLS. Can he break the evil wizard’s curse, defeat the gobbling goblins and solve the riddles he finds in the Cold, Cold Caves? Or will King Viking get there first and DOOM EVERYTHING. You’ll have to read and find out …
Now that Frank and Bert are officially Two Books Old, I’d like to write about how the characters came about and what the inspirations were for the stories.
Unusually for me, the basic idea sprung from a random ink doodle I did. I more often think a lot first about a story and then start sketching only when there’s a fairly solid idea in mind.
The drawing I did was of a huge but quite sad-looking animal standing behind a thin little tree. Underneath was a caption in the style of a natural history program that said the animal was “known for its highly effective camouflage, blending almost invisibly into its surroundings”, then invited the viewer to try to spot it in the picture.
It reminded me of when small children play hide-and-seek and they run off to stand behind the curtains – legs and feet sticking out below. But the silliest part of it all is when us grown-ups collectively pretend we can’t see them. “Oooh, where is she?”, “Gosh, where did he go?!” and then we start ‘looking’ for them. Meanwhile the child is getting more and more excited and proud of their ingenious hiding place.
I liked this hiding animal idea but it didn’t make much of a story. At first I thought about illustrating a little series of animals that were really bad at the thing they were supposed to be good at. Or animals that had just broken something or made a big blunder and were trying to own up and say sorry. Humans are like this, we’re always getting things wrong or not being very good at things. Even with our friends, we sometimes do or say the wrong thing then don’t quite know how to fix it. That’s what makes people fascinating. Those seemingly perfect ones who win all the time are very boring.
But you can’t play hide-and-seek on your own, so I needed a duo. And if one was a big, round-shaped bear sort of animal, then his partner could be a smaller, pointy-shaped fox sort of animal – Laurel and Hardy style. And my motto for their personalities was that Frank knows things, whereas Bert feels things. They both figure things out in their own way and get there in the end.
Then we were off! Except that thinking of stories that really work and don’t feel a bit contrived or slightly hammy sometimes takes me ages. But, with the patience, creativity and skill of the Nosy Crow Dream Team Lou Bolongaro and Nia Roberts, a lovely knitwear-based yarn for book one was developed. And towards the end of making this first book, Lou suggested that I might want to have a think about further Frank and Bert adventures. So I scarpered off and did just that.
This was the first time I’d been asked to write a second story featuring established characters and their world. There are pros and cons. On one hand a lot of the fundamental elements are already there. On the other hand, well… a lot of the fundamental elements are already there. What I mean is that there are constraints, things that are already set-up visually or that are in the characters’ personalities or relationship and you can’t do anything that isn’t credible within that pre-existing world. Again, Lou helped me loads in navigating it and this time Frank and Bert don their crash-helmets and go on a bike ride. Things inevitably go a bit wrong again.
Each story features an activity that children can relate to – playing hide-and-seek or learning to ride a bike. And then, just like real life, something doesn’t go quite to plan. There’s a bit of a disagreement or a dilemma to overcome, and they have to try to do the right thing by their friend and themselves.
An important point was to make sure that Bert doesn’t fall into the cliché of being the slightly dozy friend who is never quite up-to-speed on what’s happening; the hapless punchline to the story. In the first book when Frank lets Bert win at hide-and-seek, it at first seemed like a nice ending, all wrapped up. But something was a bit off. Frank knows Bert didn’t really win and we know Bert didn’t really win. We’re all in on a ruse that Bert is blissfully unaware of and that felt a bit patronising, slightly cruel. So a big part of the story was to find a final twist, something that lets Bert have his moment, to show us that he isn’t as daft as he at first seems and can even be a little bit sly, just like his friend Frank.
Hopefully Frank and Bert will be having many more adventures. I’m working on book three now (featuring picnic-based peril) and I’m starting to feel like the best friends are making their own minds up about what happens in the story. I think I might just let them get on with it, what could possibly go wrong?
Thank you, Chris!
Take a look inside:
Read an exclusive extract from Alice Éclair, Spy Extraordinaire! A Spoonful of Spying by Sarah Todd Taylor
Inventors and artists have gathered in Paris for the World Fair. All eyes are on the aeroplane exhibition – these incredible machines will take humanity to new heights! Alice suspects that some of these inventors are in terrible danger, but no one will believe her. Surrounded by enemy spies, Alice will need to use every trick in the recipe book if she’s to keep her friends safe and stop France’s greatest invention from falling into the wrong hands.
With a half-baked plan and a dash of daring, Alice must foil the enemy’s plot before the whole thing boils over…
And today we’re very pleased to be sharing the first few chapters of the book – you can read an extract below!
Take a look inside:
Alice Éclair, Spy Extraordinaire! A Recipe for Trouble will be published on January 12th – you can order a copy from Waterstones here, Bookshop.org here, or from Amazon here.
If you’d like to stay up-to-date with all of our latest book news, including exclusive previews, giveaways, award news and more, you can sign up for our newsletter here.
Read an exclusive extract from There’s a Beast in the Basement! – the next (mis)adventure from Pamela Butchart
And today we’re very pleased to be sharing the first few chapters of the book – you can read an extract below!
Chaos and mayhem reign as Izzy and her friends take on another hilarious (mis)adventure. There’s no such thing as an ordinary day at school when they’re around… Izzy and her friends overhear their head teacher talking about “missing treasure” and “running out of time”. They know this means there’s TREASURE buried in the school somewhere and that Mr Graves wants it all for himself. So Jodi says they’ve got to find it first, and they should start by searching the staffroom. After seeing things they will never forget, they head to the basement. Gary Petrie’s dad is working down there and he’s seen something SHINY! So they send Zach’s cat down with a camera strapped to her head and study the footage carefully. What they see is SHOCKING and CHANGES EVERYTHING. It’s not treasure in the basement, it’s a BEAST with SHINING EYES and it’s coming to get them! RUN!!!
Take a look inside:
There’s a Beast in the Basement! will be published on January 12th – you can order a copy from Waterstones here, Bookshop.org here, or from Amazon here. Do let us know on socials what you thought of the first few chapters when you’ve finished reading!
If you’d like to stay up-to-date with all of our latest book news, including exclusive previews, giveaways, award news and more, you can sign up for our newsletter here.
Nosy Crow’s Award-Winning Felt Flaps Series Turns 5!
Five years ago, we published the first title in our Felt Flaps series, Where’s Mr Lion? Today, it is one of our bestselling series in the Nosy Crow collection. We’re beyond proud at how far the series has come in so relatively short time – selling over 5 million copies worldwide, and has become one of our most recognisable and enduring series and a family favourite among babies, toddlers, parents, and carers alike.
The Felt series is the brainchild of Camilla Reid, former Editorial Director of the Pre-School and Novelty list at Nosy Crow. Camilla came up with the felt novelty concept after Zoë Gregory – then Deputy Art Director, and now Art Director for Pre-school titles – suggested that they collaborate with Ingela P Arrhenius.
“The felt flaps idea that I developed was based on Ingela’s gorgeous animals, but the novelty required that the animals were naturalistic and pictured in their natural environment. However, what I immediately realised is that if you stand animals on all fours and they don’t have fun names or trousers, it can all get a bit factual and dull, and that is definitely not what I want in a book! Because for me, books need to have warmth and wit, so children can identify with the characters.” – Camilla Reid
We met with Camilla and Ingela in celebration of these incredible milestones, and to discuss the creative process behind the series in more detail. Read on below for this inspirational origin story.
Can you tell us more about the inspiration for the name of the series?
Camilla: Everything I do as a writer is inspired by my experience of reading to my own children. As a parent of a baby, I wanted books to identify the animals so my daughter could start to learn and speak the words. But, as a writer, I felt it was a bit dull to just say, “Where’s the lion? Here it is!” Adding a Mr/Mrs prefix gave the animals both character and gender, which I felt was important as I found myself calling all animals “he”. I also wanted to avoid giving them cheesy names like ‘Larry Lion’, which always slightly grates for me.
How does it feel to have reached five years and over 5 million copies worldwide?
Ingela P Arrhenius: Unreal and fantastic! When we started I could never imagine this to happen and that we have done SO many titles.
Camilla: It feels great! I have to admit that as soon as we finished the first book, Where’s Mr Lion?, I knew it was good. I knew we had made something that really worked for its audience and that looked gorgeous, so I was pretty confident that the series would do well. You never quite know how it will perform, though, so it’s really pleasing that this has done as well as I’d hoped.
What did you enjoy the most when working on the series?
Ingela: First of all, to work together with Zoe and Camilla on these has been wonderful. So happy to have gotten to know them! I also enjoy working on them because it´s such a fun challenge to find the perfect balance between childish and edgy. You shall always have the child in mind so that they understand and enjoy the picture but it´s interesting to see how graphic and clean you can go, if you understand what I mean.
Camilla: It’s always about the collabs! Though it was my concept and I planned the text and layouts, many people contributed to shaping the first books. Zoe Gregory (now Deputy Head of Design) proposed Ingela P Arrhenius as an illustrator, Catherine Stokes (Nosy Crow Head of Sales and Marketing) suggested the mirror ending, Imogen Blundell (then Head of Production) found a printer who could supply good quality felt at the right price, and Ingela, of course, drew the most wonderful pictures! I very much enjoy the experience of working with smart, passionate people, who all want the book to be the best it can be.
What has surprised you the most about the series?
Camilla: I’m surprised, and delighted, that it has sold into so many different markets. These books seem to work for a huge range of consumers, from those who shop at British supermarkets, to those in the US, France, even the Far East. That’s quite unusual.
Ingela: That it has sold like this and that every book is still fun to do after all these titles!
What advice would you give to someone who wants to write for children for children?
Camilla: Read to them first – a lot! Observe how they engage with books, and try to understand what they find exciting about them.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to illustrate for children?
Camilla: The same applies – you can learn so much by seeing a book through a chid’s eyes. For example, as a young editor, I never liked big, goggly eyes on characters as I felt they were too cartoony. However, once I had babies myself, I realised that they really connect with goggly eyes, so I changed my taste completely!
Ingela: Never forget the children´s perspective. And visit an antiquarian bookstore, children´s book section, SO much inspiration!
The Yoto Carnegies are the UK’s longest running and best-loved children’s book awards. The Yoto Carnegie Medal for Writing is awarded by children’s librarians for an outstanding book written in English for children and young people. It was established in 1936 in memory of the Scottish-born philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie, founder of more than 2800 libraries.
Fledgling is Lucy Hope‘s debut novel and was released last November. It’s the perfect read to cosy up with as the days get colder and longer – it’s a dark, gothic adventure set deep in a Bavarian forest, with angels and owls and magic, and a boy who isn’t all that he seems to be …
Watch our playlist below, which features Lucy reading extracts from Fledgling:
You can view the full list of nominations here. The longlist is due to be announced on 15th February, followed by the shortlist on 15th March.
Pip and Posy secure a BAFTA nomination!
The nominations for the 2022 BAFTA’s Children & Young People’s Awards have been announced and we are absolutely thrilled to see that Pip and Posy and our colleagues at Magic Light Pictures/Channel 5 Milkshake!, Sky Television and ZDF have been recognised! The ceremony returns after a three-year hiatus, with an awards evening at the end of November where the winners will be crowned!
Huge congratulations to the incredible production team at Magic Light Pictures for creating such a warm and enriching pre-school series based on two of Nosy Crow’s dearest and best-loved characters!
Pip and Posy’s beginnings Pip and Posy started life more than 10 years ago, as a simple picture book idea written by Nosy Crow’s then editorial director, Camilla Reid. From her experience as a parent, she knew that there was a gap in the children’s book market for stories that had a little more action than a board book allowed but weren’t as complicated as a beautifully detailed picture book; and so Pip and Posy was born!
Nosy Crow has gone on to publish ten Pip and Posy picture books, all of which chart the ups and downs of toddler life with wit, heart and endearing honesty. Every story has a low point – an “oh, dear” moment – and then, at the end, a high point – a “hooray” moment. All the books have been beautifully illustrated by Axel Scheffler, who brings the characters to life with his trademark style and brilliant attention to detail.
Axel Scheffler illustrating Pip and Posy
Reaching new heights
We as a company are so proud to see these characters reaching new heights through the TV series, which launched in the UK last year. Indeed, the TV’s success inspired us to create our own tie-in publishing programme to showcase the animation and bring Pip and Posy books to all fans of the show. In June of this year, Nosy Crow published two TV tie-in sticker activity books.
Best of Friends introduces this playful pair and invites everyone to join in their wonderful world of play with puzzles, games and stickers galore.
Come On, Let’s Play! is full of fun-filled activities that will delight fans of TV animation, featuring artwork from the episodes, alongside dot-to-dot, colouring, search and find sticker scenes and much more to keep little hands (and minds) busy.
As we come to end of a busy year, Pip and Posy show no signs of slowing down. In fact, they return to our TV screens with a second season in early 2023. I, for one, can’t wait to see what new adventures these best friends will have!
Go, Pip and Posy! I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for you at the BAFTA’s on 27th November.
This Halloween, we asked the team to share what their favourite spooky read growing up was, as well as what their favourite spooky Nosy Crow book is now. If you’re looking for some perfect reads this All Hallow’s Eve, read on for their spooktastic recommendations!
My favourite spooky book as a child was The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper, set in the days around Christmas and New Year in rural Buckinghamshire where, at least initially, “the snow lay thin and apologetic over the world”. Will, the seventh son of a seventh son, is one of the Old Ones, critical to the coming fight between supernatural powers of good and evil, but, on the eve of his eleventh birthday, he is yet to find this out. So many episodes in this beautifully written fantasy made me shiver, and I still turn to the first chapter of the book from time to time to remind myself of how the spookiness is set up. Will’s pet rabbits are afraid of him and radios crackle with white noise when he passes them. Outside, rooks noisily circle over a hunched old man who scuttles away, “like a beetle”, and the wise farmer says when he’s told about it, “The Walker is abroad… and this night will be bad, and tomorrow will be beyond imagining.” Later, after the farmer has given Will a strange symbol crafted from metal as a birthday present, which we will later learn is one of the Signs that will help to defeat evil, Will and his brother James witness the rooks attacking the Walker. James immediately starts to forget the incident while Will finds himself engulfed in “fear jumped at him for the third time like a great animal that had been waiting to spring”. It’s a classic chosen child fantasy narrative, but one of extraordinary and uncompromising depth and sadness and terror. Each year, many people read the book in a kind of ritual, starting on 21 December and reading through to 5 January. Writing this, I find myself planning to do just that this year but I know that actually, I will devour it in one sitting, as I always do.
To call Secrets of the Dead “spooky” is to trivialise its contents, but I want to write about this recently published book. It’s a book I have always wanted to create for children. I have been fascinated by the “archeology of people” – what we can find out about history from human remains – since I read, in my early twenties, The Bog People by Danish archaeologist P V Glob. It’s the book that was the hook for the book group favourite, Meet Me At The Museum. Glob (great name!) tells the story of the discovery of iron-age bodies, preserved in peat bogs – the bodies that feature in Seamus Heaney’s bog body poems in his collection, North. It is a failure of my imagination, perhaps, but I can feel no affinity to skeletons. I know that they are dead people, but they do not feel as if they are like me. Bog bodies, and other human remains that are mummified or preserved one way or another in a way that means that you can see their skin so their bones are clothed in flesh, like my own, do feel as if they are like me. To look at Tollund Man is to see something shockingly relatable. Secrets of the Dead is a book that deals respectfully and carefully, both in word and image, with bodies ranging from Tutankhamun through Ötzi, the frozen man found in the Alps and the bog bodies of Europe, to the crew of the Victorian Franklin Expedition to the Arctic. It explores what we can learn about the lives of these people from their remains – what they ate, what illnesses they suffered from, how they styled their hair, what clothes they wore, why and how they died – some because of a fatal accident, some through illness and some were sacrificed. It’s a powerful book about history, biology and our common humanity.
In the picture book team, we talk a lot about sharing stories with children, and the spooky book I remember most fondly from my childhood is one my mum read to my sister and me: The Great Ghost Rescue by Eva Ibbotson. It’s about a friendly skeleton, Humphrey the Horrible (who really isn’t), and his truly terrifying family: his dad, the Gliding Kilt, a ghost who had his legs chopped off in battle; his mum, the Hag, who makes the most appalling smells; his sister, Wailing Winifred, and his brother George the Screaming Skull. My mum relished the funny and slightly inappropriate details (those smells, and the Hag’s long, black whiskers . . .) and her enthusiasm was infectious. It’s also a book with real heart and a fantastic plot and is one that helped instil in me a deep and enduring love of stories, of reading and of anything just a little bit subversive.
Continuing this theme, my top Nosy Crow picture book pick for Halloween is Hubble Bubble Granny Trouble by Tracey Corderoy and Joe Berger. Granny isn’t like other grannies – a fact her initially slightly embarrassed grandchild quickly learns to love. She wear funny hats, takes her bats to the cinema and cooks up gloopy soup for dinner. (Yes, she’s a witch.) It’s a brilliantly funny book with rhyming text that’s a pure joy to read aloud and wonderfully riotous artwork that’s full of the kinds of details kids love. And – do you know what? – Granny reminds me a little bit (just a little bit) of my mum!
As a child growing up, Halloween hadn’t really become the monster that it is now. This suited me fine, as I spent Sunday afternoons behind the sofa when Doctor Who came on the television. It terrified me. Books however did not.
Roll on (many) years and I realised that Halloween was an extremely important thing to my kids, who LOVED all things gory, asking to watch Tim Burton films at the age of six “the one with the worm coming out of the eye, mum” and then we discovered Jampires, a wonderful rhyming picture flat from David O’Connell and illustrated by the wonderful Sarah McIntyre. It was loved by all three, sitting in my lap or on the floor, singing along to the story of how jam was going missing from children’s doughnuts, dark (but cute) characters swooping down once the sun had set. Sam, horrified by his dry doughnut, sets off with two little Jampires to Jampireland, a marvellous place of gingerbread towers and sugar-dusted orchards, to find out why.
This book was enjoyed by all of us, for most of October and early November, for many years.
As a child of the Seventies, and a huge fan of the supernatural comic Misty, the ten year old me would have been enthralled with The Big Book of Mysteries.
Full of tales of spontaneous combustion, disappearing crew men and lighthouse keepers, alien life forms, blood rain and silver fish falling from the skies, crop circles and sea monsters. Well-known tales as well as regional superstitions, and quirky fairy stories. Lost cities and ancient burial grounds- this book has it all and more. There’s even a glossary at the back to explain trickier words, which I found very helpful.
The book’s beautiful illustrations are accompanied by a very decent amount of information, leaving you informed but wanting to find out more.
There’s nothing quite like the delicious thrill of a scary book at Halloween! When I was a child these were fewer and further between which made Jan Pienkowski’s Haunted House a delightfully chilling surprise. I remember being both completely terrified by and totally drawn to its surreal story (Did I really want to let myself in? What happened to the Doctor and who was in that box??). I was also obsessed with all the hidden surprises, pop ups and mechanisms to the point that they were all stuck together with Sellotape by the time I was grown. The sound of the saw on the box is still one of my favourite ever pieces of paper engineering (and I work in print production so these things appeal to me!)
These days children are much better catered to with memorable titles they want to return to again and again. One such is We’re Going On A Pumpkin Hunt (Goldie Hawk and Angie Rozelaar) which must serve its purpose because my daughter demanded ‘Again’ after I’d read it to her for the first time – always the seal of approval. Like its well known namesake, in this title you’re also drawn in by the repetitive phrasing and onomatopoeic noises (meow, flap, creak, swish), all the way to your final trick or treating pumpkin decorated destination. Plus the use of the same neon orange pantone throughout (again, a production geek!) really makes the images zing.
Whatever you choose to curl up with this Halloween I hope it’s a similarly ghoulishly good read!
As a superfan of the supernatural, I am always recommending spooky books to anyone who will listen! Although picking a favourite was a challenge too far, so here are two!
The Twisted Tree, by Rachel Burge, is the book that first got me into horror. Think ghost story meets YA meets Norse Mythology. It’s absolutely terrifying and I would not recommend reading it on your own in the dark!
Another spooky read I will always recommend is White Smoke by Tiffany D Jackson. Mari and her family move to the small town of Cedarville for a fresh start but are literally haunted by the ghosts of their past… While investigating the mysterious happenings in her house, Mari and her friends begin to uncover the disturbing injustice and corruption gripping their town.
My favourite Nosy Crow book of all time is conveniently also a spooky read! Peekaboo Pumpkinis the perfect mix of cute and aesthetic but with all the iconic Halloween themes. It’s the kind of book that I would have been completely obsessed with as a child.
Early on in my career (reeeeally early on, I had practically only just left school, ahem) I worked on the Point Horror series that Scholastic UK brought in from the US. Every single title was a complete joy – the glamour of the US settings, the freedom of the teenage protagonists with their high-tops and walk-in wardrobes and the fact that they put themselves in perilous situations over and over again, and then came back for more. Have a dreadful time babysitting in a spooky house and nearly die? Sure. Fancy babysitting again next week? Sure! Point Horror was hugely popular with its 12+ readership and sniffed at by those somewhat older who saw it as slight and formulaic, but it was perfect comfort reading after a hard day at school, just the right amount of thrills and spills and everyone home safe for tea (mostly). Marvellous.
In a slightly different vein but just as excellent is The House on the Edge by Alex Cotter. No walk-in wardrobes for Faith – her house is perched on the edge of a crumbling cliff, there are sea ghosts in the basement and she’s not sure if her new best friend is dead or alive. Don’t read it too late at night but do read it if you like brilliantly told ghost stories with heft and heart.
We’d love to hear some of your own spooky recommendations, too! Let us know on socials what you’ll be reading this Halloween by tagging @nosycrow.
It’s Thriller Time! – a spooky guest post from Dashe Roberts
We’re positively thrilled to have published Sticky Pines: The Valley of the Strange last month – the latest explosive instalment of the cult sci-fi series for children. And today we’re very excited to be sharing a guest post from Dashe!
‘And though you fight to stay alive, your body starts to shiver / For no mere mortal can resist the evil of the thriller…’ – Vincent Price
Shhh… Listen… Can you hear it? The rasp of dry leaves blowing across the grass? The whistle of the wind through spindly bare branches? The bubble of spiced lattes brewing in darkened cafes? The telltale signs of the Spooky Season are upon us, bringing a chill to the air, a gossamer coat of spiderwebs to our windowsills, and a creepy, kooky, decidedly ooky flavour to our reading diets. But what makes a good thriller? And, more importantly, are scary stories making a comeback in the children’s book market, where tales of talking animals and magic schools tend to keep the tone as cosy as a four seat sofa.
I think they are, and as a writer of spine-tingling books, I couldn’t be more excited.
From the rib-tickling horror of Jennifer Killick’s Crater Lake and Dreadwood to the wildly inventive monsters lurking in Aisling Fowler’s Fireborn, thrilling, scary stories are on the rise.
Frightening themes have always been present in children’s literature, designed to instruct kids about the scary realities that exist in the world, as evidenced by the evil stepmothers, shapeshifters, ogres, and child-devouring witches found in old fairytales. Folklore was a source of great inspiration for my own Sticky Pines series, as were the popular American horror books of the 1990s. Growing up as a child attending school in California, my friends and I furtively passed around our prized copies of Goosebumps by R.L. Stine or Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz, a collection of nightmare-inducing tales as old as time.
Gawking and gagging at the wonderfully hideous illustrations by Stephen Gammell, we delighted in spooking each other silly. Why did we do it? As kids know quite well, there is something deeply empowering about facing your fears, torch in hand and heart aflutter, from the safety of your own bedroom.
Scary stories have evolved since their nascent days, and it now takes more than simple jump scares and dark omens to tickle a horror fan’s fancy. So, what makes a good modern thriller? The best have several qualities in common: immersive atmosphere, great characters, and sophisticated pacing.
The first challenge to creating a spooky tale is crafting the perfect setting. Your world must envelop the reader, evoking a sense of foreboding from all the senses: the creak of floorboards, the scent of fresh mud, or the dusty, claustrophobia of a room that hasn’t seen daylight in decades… A fabulous example is the Lockwood & Co series by Jonathan Stroud, set in a world where ghosts are real, dangerous, and terrorising the countryside. Stroud’s Britain is altered to fit this circumstance, with ghost-repelling lamps planted on every street corner and spook-busting businesses run by teenagers, as young people are the only ones who can clearly see the apparitions. A particularly evocative sequence appears in The Screaming Staircase, when the series’ protagonist Lucy slowly realises, through the creep of shadows and chill air, that there is a particularly nasty spectre lurking in her bedroom.
The next step is to populate your world with compelling characters. These are people you grow to know inside and out, whose lives and wellbeing you become as invested in as you would a dear friend. In Aisling Fowler’s Fireborn, Twelve is a young girl trained in the art of battling fearsome monsters. But despite her toughness, Twelve is plagued by anxieties and nightmares that she must overcome in order to defeat the creatures who have thrown her world into turmoil. When I wrote Sticky Pines, I wanted to create two protagonists who viewed life through opposing lenses, but who eventually had to come together for the greater good. Lucy Sladan is a working-class girl obsessed with proving the existence of the Unknown. Milo Fisher is a wealthy boy whose father may be up to no good but who unquestioningly believes in a rational world where adults have our best interests at heart. Through several monstrous trials, the two must overcome their differences to face down an existential threat to the human race.
And lastly, a good thriller is a total page-turner. Readers should be chewing their nails as they flip through each chapter, desperate to find out what misfortune befalls the main characters next, and how on earth they might find their way out of trouble. In Alastair Chisholm’s The Consequence Girl, Cora flees her home when she is pursued by nefarious government agents determined to use her amazing, dangerous powers to their ownadvantage. Cora and her friends travel from town to town across a post-apocalyptic landscape. At every turn, their pursuers are just a few steps behind, with high-tech weapons and eerie tracking tools at their disposal. Chisholm’s skillful storytelling, thought-provoking themes, and continual raising of stakes make it impossible to put this brilliant high-concept thriller down.
This is an exciting time for stories featuring action-packed, evocative, goosebump- inducing thrills. So, asthe nights grow longer and the cool air nips at your toes, grab your torch and blanket, stock up on pumpkin pie, and reach for your favourite spooky story. And don’t forget to turn oﬀ the lights!
This month we’re absolutely delighted to have published Wren – a dark, gothic adventure set on the island of Anglesey in North Wales. And today we’re very excited to be sharing a guest post from Lucy!
I’m so excited that Wren has fluttered out of the Crow’s Nest and into the big wide world, as her story is very close to my heart. Like Wren, I grew up in North Wales in an ancient house filled with the memories of my ancestors and the stories of the people who came before me.
The story of Wren began with the setting on Anglesey, one of my favourite places in the world. If you’ve ever stood on the southern shore of the island you may have found your breath swept away at the sight of the mountains of Snowdonia watching you from across the Menai Strait. There’s something quite magical about two giant land masses, separated for thousands of years, yet still very much connected.
Wren’s house was inspired by the old house I grew up in just outside the town of Mold (Yr Wyddgrug) in North East Wales. It was ancient, with six-foot-deep walls, a very dark past and steeped in Welsh history; there was something quite unique about growing up in a place where dark shadows and memories seem to lurk in every corner. One day I’m sure I’ll set a story in a ‘normal’ house, but for now my old home has provided all the inspiration I need for creating dark, gothic mysteries like Wren!
I’ve always had a strong sense of my Welsh heritage, mostly because I grew up surrounded by portraits of my ancestors whose silent gaze watched my every move! In my adult life I’ve loved researching my family history and was very excited to find that Llewellyn the Great or Llewellyn ap Ioworth (who lived between 1173 and 1240) and became Prince of Wales, was a many-greats grandfather! He probably has hundreds of thousands of descendants, but I was excited by the discovery! Like Wren, I had an ancestor who lived in my old family house and I grew up hearing stories of his bravery. His name was Rheinallt ap Gruffudd ap Bleddyn and on dydd Calan, New Year’s Day, 1465, he attacked the men of Chester at a New Year’s fair at Mold after they began plundering his lands. Rheinallt seized Robert Bryne, a former mayor of Chester, and hanged him from a staple in the dining room ceiling that remains to this day, a reminder of the house’s brutal past.
Wren feels an overwhelming urge to fly like a bird, at a time when very few people had managed to design anything that would stay up in the air for more than a few moments. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of flight, and flying creeps into all my writing, even when I’m not really intending it to. I love visiting flying museums – my favourites are the Royal Air Force Museum at Hendon, Aerospace Bristol and the Brussels Air Museum – all of which contain fabulous contraptions cobbled together with string and timber that somehow lifted up into the air and flew. I love hearing stories about how early pilots seemed so fearless, their good sense clouded by their overwhelming desire to fly. I live just up the road from the ancient market town of Malmesbury in Wiltshire. One of the many things the town is known for is a monk, Eilmer of Malmesbury who attempted to fly in 1125 by leaping from the top of the abbey with a pair of home-made wings attached to his back and a heart full of hope. Amazingly, he survived, but broke both his legs which probably wasn’t much fun in the twelfth century!
I have lots of pilots in my family. They all died long before I was born, but growing up hearing about their daring deeds helped to shape Wren’s character, who, like them, couldn’t resist the urge to fly. In 1930, one of my great uncles attempted to emulate Charles Lindberg’s solo flight across the Atlantic but his Puss Moth aeroplane exploded on take off at St Johns, Newfoundland. He survived and continued to fly until he crashed while flying over the French Alps during a thunderstorm in the middle of the Second World War. In 2016, I went flying in a Tiger Moth over South Africa. This was one of the most magical and memorable experiences of my life, and the feeling of taking into the air in a little biplane is something I’ll never forget, and I was keen to bring my experience of this flight into Wren’s story.
I could talk for days or even weeks about the things that inspired Wren. I see the book as being inspired by my own childhood in an ancient house in Wales, mixed in with my love of the North Wales landscape and fascination with the country’s turbulent past. I hope my readers will take what they want from the story, but the thing I admire the most about Wren is her absolute determination to fight against the conventions of the day and be the person she was born to be. I hope you love her story and are inspired to follow your own dreams, whatever they may be.
Thank you, Lucy! You can order your copy of Wren from Waterstones here, Bookshop.org here, or from Amazon here.