We did it! Thank you so much to each and every one of you who voted!Add a Comment
We did it! Thank you so much to each and every one of you who voted!Add a Comment
The last couple of weeks on the blog have really reminded me how books can take you everywhere and anywhere. From “pink” books, to the Holocaust, to environmental campaigning, I do love the journey my blog takes me on.
Today’s roving brings us to contemplate engineering and what constitutes failure, with Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts, a follow up to this same team’s ingenious Iggy Peck, Architect.
Rosie dreams of being an engineer. She loves collecting rubbish and creating contraptions. But people laugh at her creations and her emerging confidence is soon crushed. When Great Great Aunt Rose tells young Rosie how she built aeroplanes during the war, Rosie is once again inspired. But will Rosie’s engineering work this time? What if her plans fail?
An upbeat rhyming tale about the value of trying and trying again, Rosie Revere, Engineer encourages readers to hold on to their passions, and to never give up, even if things don’t work out the first time. Great for encouraging a can-do approach to whatever life throws at you, Rosie’s tale also leads naturally into discussions about women’s roles during the Second World War, and women who have broken the mould in various fields, notably that of flight.
Rosie is creative, thoughtful, passionate, full of a sense of fun, and with more than a nod to Rosie the Riveter, not least with her matching headscarf, and the slogan “We Can Do It” on her flying machine.
Roberts’ illustrations are a scrapheap challenge (junkyard ward) junkie’s dream come true. Littered with curious details to pore over (can you spot a Wild Thing, or follow the unwritten story of the baby bird?) the colours are bright and pen drawings clear. Often on expanses of white, Roberts’ work is vibrant, crisp and fresh, perfectly matching the confident and purposeful message at the heart of the book.
There is a decidedly American flavour to the text (some rhymes, I assume, work better with certain US accents than my UK one, and cheese spray may seem rather mind boggling to many on this side of the pond) so a little contextualisation might be handy, but my young engineers didn’t bat an eyelid at this. They were simply delighted by this Rosie and her take on life. Spunky, funky and full of fun and inspiration, three cheers for Rosie Revere!
To go alongside reading Rosie Revere, Engineer I set up a little after-school structural engineering project involving essential tools of the trade: tooth picks and sweets.
The aim of the game was to see what we could build and how we could build it using just these two materials, plus some imagination, and a little bit of concentration…
Space rockets and climbing frames soon rose from the kitchen table.
A spider’s web of construction emerged, with lots of experimental investigation as to what made our feats of engineering stand strong.
We also got to explore the roles of different materials, as we quickly discovered that most dolly mixtures aren’t very good for this type of project, whilst mini wine gums and gum drops are excellent. (If you want to go for just one, the wine gums are a better bet as they are less messy; the gum drops litter the kitchen table with sugar sprinkles, and also make fingers stickier).
We all thoroughly enjoyed this engineering project, and M is very keen to try it again soon to model chemical compound structure (her idea!); different sweets for different elements? Definitely sounds fun to me.
Whilst designing, engineering and building we listened to some brilliant music:
Other activities which would be great fun to get up to alongside reading Rosie Revere, Engineer include:
Don’t miss the teacher’s guide to Rosie Revere either.
What are you going to engineer today?
Disclosure: I recieved a free reivew copy of Rosie Revere, Engineer from the publishers.
CAN, JP, US, INT)
It was the last time I would go to Finn, I swore to myself as I searched for him in the Elmdale Tavern. He was around one of the regular spots. I needed to see him fast. At the Carleton Tavern I found Finn with a quart and money coming out of every pocket. I sat down with him, ordered a pint. It was still early in the day. I hit Finn up for fifty bucks to pay Murphy. Finn charged a fee for even handing you the loan. It cost sixty to borrow fifty for a week, but it would be worth it. Finn copied phone numbers and odds as he readied himself for a busy day ahead. Sunday, of course, was his big day because of the NFL betting. This was Saturday when college football and pro baseball took most gamblers’ attention. I finished my pint, said goodbye to Finn, caught Murphy at the Prescott Tavern, gave him a lift to Mary’s. Murphy and Mary had been engaged for twenty years. He still visited her little flower shop every morning. We stopped so he could pick a bouquet of flowers for her in a city park. Murphy didn’t believe in paying for flowers. When they were in season, he helped himself. It was a bone of contention between them. Murphy believed that flowers were given to man by the good Lord, shouldn’t be bought and sold. Mary believed that people gladly paid for the little ray of sunshine they purchased with a nice bouquet of flowers. Murphy had a friend named Calhoun in Montreal who could, for a price, buy a block of tickets in a provincial lottery which would produce winners. All I had to do was give fifty dollars to Murphy. I didn’t follow the whole scam back to the actual score, but I questioned Murphy enough to know that it felt like a winner. He assured me that fifty dollars would produce five thousand for me. Added to some others and passed through the right hands, it would yield twice as much, for him. This guy, Calhoun, had an in, was sharing the wealth. Murphy did it for me out of the kindness of his heart and good business sense. He didn’t have to include me, but he saw me as a good luck charm. I dropped Murphy off, went home to a weekend of sports on t.v. and too much beer. It didn’t cheer me up, to hear, on Monday morning, that Murphy had died on the weekend from a heart attack. I drove to Mary’s which was above her flower shop. It isn’t decent and polite to speak ill of the deceased, but getting lottery tickets was another matter. He always wore the same suit, his best, for giving and taking payments, more taking than giving, it always seemed with Murphy as he did his weekend rounds, careful not to exceed his booze limit. The lottery tickets had to be in his suit. Mary was in her shop with a short, dark, Scottish lawyer named Jack Scullion. She introduced us without mentioning if the man even knew Murphy. I listened with polite sadness, shook my head regretfully. Mary described Murphy’s last moments. It seemed that he died in her arms. Just after they had named a date. They had been engaged now for twenty years, so they were celebrating the twentieth year by marriage. She was as good as his wife anyway, Mary said. I agreed and inquired about Murphy’s “effects” as diplomatically as possible. Perhaps it was a little too vaguely phrased. Mary didn’t respond. Jack Scullion walked around the shop like he was looking for something suspicious. He kept an ear cocked in our direction though. He was trying to figure out who I was, where I fit in. Margaret, Murphy’s sister, appeared with her husband, Ralph, a used car lot owner. It was safe to say that the vultures were circling. I managed to find out that Murphy would be dressed in his best suit tomorrow at Ralph’s showroom. They were having the wake there. Ralph told me, in confidence, that it was his idea. It seemed a bit greedy for Ralph to take advantage of the crowd of potential customers which would gather to send Murphy off, but I wasn’t one to judge. There didn’t seem to be much of a chance of getting at Murphy’s suit pockets until the next day so I drove home and waited. I joined the line of people entering Ralph’s showroom. The place had a western theme, the staff were dressed as cowboys and cowgirls. They wore black armbands while Ralph himself was resplendent in a black western suit with tie and boots to match. He had probably considered wearing his black, ten gallon Stetson, but decided against it in case of misinterpretation by the mourners. There was a good mixture at Murphy’s wake. A crowd of children were the offspring of Murphy’s family. The older ones were Murphy’s cousins, uncles and aunts. When Murphy had mentioned his family at poker games or at the end of late night pub crawls, he gave the impression that he was the black sheep. His own opinion was that the family disliked him because they were jealous of his money and freedom. The people grew noisier as the booze flowed freely. Their presence was welcome. I needed as much attention diverted as possible while I sought the tickets. Most of the sniffling and crying came from Mary and Margaret. As I shuffled along toward them in the line, I could hear Margaret declaring that Murphy looked like himself. Mary’s voice rose over Margaret’s, in grief stricken tones, to tell someone that her brother had called to extend his condolences. He added that it was nice to think about old Murphy finally laying quiet with his big yap shut. People in the line who heard it at first looked puzzled, then made clucking noises. They agreed that it was a down to earth, honest assessment of the deceased, rest his soul. I eyed the coffin, snuck a peek at Murphy within. He did look like himself, I will say that. The dark, pinstriped suit, Murphy’s best, with the vest done up, decorated his body. His face was pinker than normal, but I only saw him in bars or restaurants so maybe this was what he really looked like. He had his hands folded peacefully over his pot belly and, all in all, looked like he had just exhaled and forgotten to inhale. There was no doubt about it, the life had gone out of Murphy. I could smell the gin on Margaret when she hugged me and the rye on Mary’s breath as she looked at me with red rimmed eyes and running mascara I managed to nod sadly and escape her while giving Murphy another quick, visual once over. Jack Scullion hovered in the background, watching everyone, especially me. There was plenty of drink and some sandwiches which the ladies had made. I helped myself to the food, found the coffee. It would take a clear head, whatever I did. Ralph was giving a sales pitch to a couple beside a beat up old clunker which looked like it had recently been retired from delivering pizza. He made the mistake of leaning a little too hard on the front bumper when he pushed it to demonstrate the shocks. The bumper fell off, barely missing his cowboy boots. Ralph never lost a beat. He made a note to see the mechanic about “bodywork problems”, kicked the offending bumper under the car. The pile of sawdust beneath it was turning black, absorbing oil. Jack Scullion approached me with a beer in one hand and a smoke in the other. He had jet black hair, scars on his nose and around his eyes. He bore all the signs of a fighter feeling no pain. He stood spread legged in front of me and asked if I was in Murphy’s will. When I told him I didn’t think so, he seemed to relax. As much as a short, Glaswegian lawyer can relax. His shifty eyes wondered how I could benefit from Murphy’s death. He turned and stood by my side with a wide stance. He gestured alternately with the beer and the smoke while he surveyed the room. “Ach, it’s a right shower here, just noo, Jimmy” I nodded, but I didn’t really know what he meant. He didn’t notice, went on with his monologue, sometimes addressing the room, sometimes confiding to me. “Aye, they’re aw here noo. The vultures’re here. Look at em circlin, look at yersels, ach. See em? They’re after his money. The poor old boy isn’t even cauld yet. See em? They’re a right shower a bastards” No doubt, like most of his race, the Scottish lawyer was a little crazy and extremely violent. Rather than point out that he, too, was in attendance for strictly financial reasons, I managed to escape back to Margaret and Mary. I was getting desperate. Mary and Margaret had been absorbing the alcohol at a rapid rate. They had run out of tears. Their mutual hostility emerged with each drink. I addressed them with an eye on the coffin. “Well, ladies, it must be tense waiting for the will to be read. To see who gets what of Murphy’s. I understand that Mary here was just about to tie the knot with poor Murphy” Margaret frowned and produced many heretofore unseen lines in her face. “Hah” She blurted out with a laugh. “Tie the knot. He’s been engaged to her for twenty years” Mary reacted with bug eyed indignation. Her truthfulness about Murphy’s last moments was being questioned. “We were like man and wife. He didn’t spend time with his other family” she said before she found another glass of rye. Ralph had finished his pitch, but had no takers. He threw regretful glances at the bumper as he approached us, beer in hand. “Anyone got a few words to say?” he asked with a kindly smile. “Ha. Family’s family. It’s his blood in my veins” Margaret asserted. Jack Scullion had joined us. He had a fresh beer, stood spread legged with shoulders back. It was as though he was bracing himself on a heaving deck. “The will overrides everything” said Mary pugnaciously in Margaret’s direction. This hostility caught Jack’s attention, it was right up his alley. He looked around for an opponent, saw Ralph about to speak. I sidled toward the casket as Ralph began what he thought was sort of a eulogy for Murphy, but which he never finished. He never really got it started. Mary took offence at the look which Margaret gave her, hit the dead man’s sister with her purse. Jack saw his opportunity, gave Ralph a Glaswegian handshake which could be heard all over the showroom. There was evidence of Jack’s nutting ability the next day in the taverns; quite a few black eyes and bandaids sported by the mourners who clashed with him He made up for his lack of height by jumping straight at the other man’s face, applying the head, around the hairline, into whatever features were available. With Ralph sitting in a pool of the blood which was spouting from his nose, the women shrieking as they rolled around in front of him, I made it to the casket. Jack was taking on all comers. He seemed to be enjoying himself. I searched Murphy’s vest and trouser pockets with one hand, the other still holding my coffee cup. I was about to try his jacket when the lights went out. It wasn’t dark, but it turned everything in the showroom shadowy. The struggling figures in the brawl were being joined by others, the children shooed to the office. Maybe it was one of them who was responsible for the half light. I checked one side of Murphy’s jacket pockets and found nothing. The noise of fighting and breaking glass became louder. I tried the other pocket, felt cardboard. I pulled the lottery tickets out of Murphy’s pocket, squinted at them. They were the right ones. I was saying a prayer of thanks to my dead chum and the good Lord when I dropped the tickets. They slid down on the other side of Murphy. I panicked for a moment. Placing my cup between Murphy’s folded hands, I used one of my hands to shift his weight, the other to feel for the tickets. I grasped them just as a bottle crashed against the casket and a sliding body took my feet out from under me. Ralph had provided a fold out table from the lunch room upon which to place Murphy’s casket. As my weight shifted, the casket slid off the table. Murphy sat up with my coffee cup in his hands. Crawling toward the door, tickets in my hand, I glanced back. Murphy’s sudden rise from the prone to the sitting position, had caused a pause in the fighting. I heard various opinions of this phenomenon. “It’s a sign” The words “miracle” and “resurrection”were mentioned several times.. When I joined Finn, the next day, at the Carleton Tavern and paid him back, cheerfully, he gave me a curious look. He was totalling up the weekend’s action over a quart, asked me if I’d been to Murphy’s funeral after the donnybrook at his wake. I confirmed that I’d attended the burial. It was a sad and solemn affair for all involved including Murphy’s family and everyone’s legal representatives. We drank a memorial toast to Murphy that day before I bought everyone a round and placed a few bets.Add a Comment
I didn’t get into reading fantasy literature until a bit later in life, but something tells me that as a kid with a voracious appetite for books, I would’ve loved to have picked up Lynne North’s Caution: Witch in Progress. I’m very delighted to feature this book to you all, so take a peek and check out Ms. North’s work!
Children’s Fantasy, humor
Gertie Grimthorpe is born into a society of witches and grows up in Vile Vale, but there is something very wrong with her…
She is beautiful and couldn’t be nasty if she tried. When she finds out that she is to attend a private academy for magical children, Gertie hopes to find her witchy way in the world. With a moat monster suffering from stomach ache, a short-sighted owl familiar and mishaps galore, Gertie’s adventures are hilarious and heartwarming.
Join Gertie as she struggles with growing up (and longing to grow her first wart), learning magic and working out how to deal with a grumpy enchanted umbrella, named Bat.
“What a wonderful read this book is! Fun and laughter from beginning to end. Are we getting anymore ‘Gertie’ books? Can’t wait!” – Amazon ReviewAdd a Comment
May I join you in the doghouse, Rover? I wish to retire till the party's over. Since three o'clock I've done my best To entertain each tiny guest. My conscience now I've left behind me, And if they want me, let them find me. I blew their bubbles, I sailed their boats, I kept them from each other's throats. I told them tales of magic lands, I took them out to wash their hands. I sorted theirDisplay Comments Add a Comment
Some time last year, Erica Wagner, Publisher at Allen and Unwin, is reported as having said that there was a lot to be gained by having a text already illustrated [not that Allen & Unwin published picture books]. This is seemingly a change in direction.
Some writers/illustrators I know have recently signed contracts for ‘print ready’ books. This is not self-publishing, but submission to a royalty paying publisher of a book that is ‘ready to go’ in publishing terms.
What constitutes a ‘print ready’ book? It is a book that has been -
This is a great way to go for authors who are able to pay illustrators and book designers up front. Most authors are not able to do this. This then means all creators involved in a book project agreeing to royalty share and working between paid projects to collaborate on their book.
What have I gleaned about such ‘print ready’ deals? One company, smaller and reasonably new, offered a small advance and a good contract, by industry standards, with higher than regular royalty share for creators. An offer of help with promotion was also part of the deal. Another company, medium sized and established, offered no advance but better than average royalty shares for creators and help with promotion and marketing of the book.
How does this stack up against what is generally on offer now?
What’s the down side for author, illustrator, book designer, [often the illustrator], to go down the ‘print ready’ publishing path?
Are the rewards worth the effort?
The first company mentioned does small print runs, sells out their print runs, reprints and even sells out reprints and so it seems to be gradually snowballing.
It is too early to know in the second instance. [I’ll keep you posted!]
My feeling is that, if Erica Wagner was sensing a ‘trend’ and if these companies make a success of it, we will see more such deals. It’s something to think about!
To be launched end of June – “Toofs!” a collaboration between J.R. and Estelle A.Poulter an illustrators Monica Rondino and Andrea Pucci. More to come on what was a ‘print ready’ deal.
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This homage to Wally Wood’s 22 Panels That ALWAYS Work by Mark Waid and Jeremy Rock at The Gutters nails quite a few good ones. Go to the link for the other four—oh and a snark about a DC executive. CAN U GUESS WHO?
One of the truly great discoveries for me this summer has been the Swedish author Ulf Stark. Last week I couldn’t resist telling you about his bittersweet exploration of identity, Fruitloops and Dipsticks, likely to be enjoyed most by kids in their early years at secondary school or there abouts.
Today, however, I want to tell you about a trio of books that will delight slightly younger children, all of them about a young boy, Ulf, his friendships, school and family life. Each is packed with humour and acute observations about relationships, between friends and enemies, and children and adults. They share an unpatronising approach to their readers, mirroring aspects of their own lives in a honest and yet thoughtful, nearly always funny, and sometimes heartbreaking manner. They struck me as the next step up from the naughty and adorable Nicholas books by Goscinny and Sempe – perfect for slightly older kids, who still love getting in to trouble but who can also appreciate meatier issues.
When we’re first introduced to Ulf, in My friend Percy’s Magical Gym Shoes, we soon discover he is chubby and poor at sports. But when a new boy, Percy, arrives at his school, Ulf finds someone he looks up to, someone he wants to emulate; Percy seems suave and full of self assurance, powers which apparently stem from his magical gym shoes. Ulf is determined to buy Percy’s shoes from him, so he too can be cool and confident. And indeed, once Ulf has the shoes, his life does become much more exciting as he and his new best friend get into all sorts of scrapes and japes. But these adventures are not appreciated by the adults around and Ulf starts to get a bad reputation. Does Ulf want to be known as a bad boy? Does he need to be so wild to gain the respect he wishes for from his peers? Will he and Percy manage to stay friends?
In My friend Percy & The Sheik we learn that Ulf’s father is a ham radio buff, and through his hobby has made contact with a sheik (True Fact: former King Hussein of Jordan was an amateur radio hobbyist and often chatted with ‘regular’ people all around the world). The sheik promises to visit Ulf’s father but will the trip come off? Will Ulf be the laughing stock amongst his friends? This second volume sees Ulf and Percy’s friendship cemented as they deal with bullying, a first crush, and the threat that Percy’s family will have to move away.
By the time we reach My friend Percy & Buffalo Bill the boys are 10, and 3 years into their friendship. They spend one summer together on a Swedish island at Ulf’s grandparents home and it turns out to be an amazing summer, the summer you dream of as a kid, building dens, taming wild horses, fishing and swimming around the island. But at the heart of this story is Percy and Ulf’s relationship with Ulf’s heartbroken grandfather. A curmudgeonly old so-and-so, Percy gains the grandfather’s respect by standing up to him, and gradually a friendship develops that in the end will bring tears to your eyes. I haven’t read many books which focus on male friendships that manage to be laugh out loud funny and also profoundly moving.Display Comments Add a Comment
Yes, I know it’s not Easter, but I have two lovely egg themed books that deserve to be read NOW, not only in 9 months time so please go and scrabble in the back of your kitchen cupboards to find that secret stash of chocolate I won’t tell anyone about, break off a piece and enjoy whilst I tell about these two egg-tastic picture books.
Croc and Bird by Alexis Deacon explores how very different two friends can be (so different they come from quite separate species), and yet, how they can still be the best of friends if they listen to their own hearts, and are not forced into conformity by others. If you like, it’s a reworking of the themes explored in Stellaluna by Janell Cannon, but this time with a crocodile instead of a bat.
It asks questions about who your family is. Can long lasting ties only be based on shared customs and cultures, or can friendship and love transcend such differences?
Deacon’s illustrations have a magical and somewhat mysterious air about them; indeed they reminded me of William Blake‘s paintings. Unlike Deacon’s earlier Beegu, the characters in this book are not so cute. The young bird is as ugly as they come – and this too says something about friendship and brotherly love.
Croc and Bird is not a sugary, all sweetness-and-light picture book. I think its themes and images are somewhat more challenging and thought provoking than you’ll find in many books on the kids’ bestseller list, but its is not without humour and it’s certainly full of hope.
In this wordless story Chicken entrusts the care of her Egg to Fox (it is clear they have set up home together), whilst Chicken goes off to bring food home for them all. The fishing trip referred to in the title turns out to be a rather hair-raising, risky experience, butAdd a Comment
Click to view slideshow.Books are created from the imagination and inspiration of authors and the insightful vision of illustrators. They are then crafted. The authorial crafting may be right brain with a touch of editing or slow and laborious left brain plotting. For an illustrator, it may be inspiration flowing like rivers from brush or stylus or it may be storybook or dummy creation then rethinks, scrap some ideas, adapt others. Eventually, a book emerges that is then ‘ready for submission’. These days, that may mean adding animation and audio to make the book a digital production for app developers like Utales or Flying Books, or for YA, formatting it for Kindle or Nook e-publishers. It may mean self publishing on Createspace or Lightningsource, Smashwords or Lulu. Or it will mean the long road via submission to traditional publishers.
If the latter is chosen, the publisher will often require more editing, changes and perhaps more changes. My own book, started under contract to one publisher, was already well underway with the inimitable Sarah Davis as illustrator. We were having a ball creating our book. Then our publisher was taken over and the new publisher wanted to institute changes. At first, the major change – ‘get rid of the dead bird’ – seemed straight forward. Then we realised the book needed the bird but, to keep it, we had to make some big adjustments. An injured bird can’t just disappear in a children’s book, it has to get better and be released, which, in our picture book, meant its story had to be woven into the fabric of the main story seamlessly. No problem, a few days and Sarah and I had nailed it! As book creators, you have to be flexible and, especially if going the traditional publisher route, you can’t be too precious about your creation.
SO! This exhibition is about the journey numbers of wonderful children’s and YA books took from creation to bookshelf! Each book has a different creation story to reveal - something the public doesn’t see, it’s behind the scenes. Now the reader can take a peek backstage, behind the scenes to how it all came together!
THE SET UP
Setting up was not straight forward. The spaces has to be utilised to best advantage and the items displayed needed to be seen from as many angles as possible given I had a two shelf rectangular glass case. I didn’t end up using everything I brought with me. It would have been too cluttered. Last minute inclusion, bulldog clips, proved life-savers! They held the photographic prints in place.
I had never ‘hung’ a painting before at an exhibition and that proved ‘interesting. Sarah Davis sent up her wonderful original painting via kindly courier, Peter Taylor, but it was unframed. I had no time to find a frame. Fortunately, I had one around the house that was a good match colour-wise though not quite the perfect size.
Given my exhibit was about my close collaboration with Sarah, the items displayed needed to reflect the two minds working together to make a new creative whole – our book! Sources of inspiration, stages in text change, changes in images, cover and trivia relating to the characters, objects and places in the book all combined to make a successful ( I hope you agree) exhibit!Click to view slideshow.
Sometimes this blog gives the impression that life in our home is idyllic, that I’m some sort of super mum and that our house gives off a continual pleasant, warm and loving glow.
Well. Let me assure you that this is not the case.
In order to get the material for this post I caused my kids to weep and scream at me. I even took photos of them yelling at me.
Well, I may score good marks on the glitter and glue front but I’ve failed utterly and totally when it comes to my kids and food: M is the fussiest eater I know, and J loves to copy her big sister so she too eats a hugely self-restricted diet (M will only eat 4 cooked things: sausages, egg noodles, fish fingers and, at a push, beefburgers. Yep, that’s it…).
So when along came a really lovely picture book about being a fussy eater I was delighted. Might it provide the breakthrough I’m constantly looking for?
One day Katharine Quarmby and Piet Grobler‘s Fussy Freya decides all the food she used to like is no longer yummy. She simply refuses to touch it. Her parents try to keep their cool but when the food they’ve lovingly prepared gets thrown on the floor they despair and decide to call on Grandma’s help.
When Freya throws down the gauntlet and tells her granny that she want to eat giraffe and other wild animals, Grandma calls her bluff and prepares precisely what Freya has requested. Warthog stuffed with cheese, grilled giraffe with cheese or mashed monkey, any one? Will this revolting food be a hit with Freya, or will she realise that what her parents offer her is actually rather yummy and so much more appealing than the exotic dishes her grandparents prepare for her?
Katharine Quarmby’s rolling, rhyming tale of a fussy eater is great fun. There’s a lovely little refrain that kids will quickly pick up on and join in with, and the mixture of humour, naughtiness and rather shocking dishes (most kids love a little bit of squeamishness, especially if it’s safely at arms’ length in the pages of a book) are great ingredients combined to make a satisfying tale. Piet Grobler’s illustrations are full of gorgeous colour and perfectly match the slightly grotesque story, being both full of love and warmth, and seasoned with a sharp edge.
One final aspect I really like about Fussy Freya is that Freya’s family is a mixed race family. This isn’t commented upon at all in the story – her’s is just a normal, “unremarkable” family. It’s great to see this in a picture book as it doesn’t happen often.
In the spirit of Fussy Freya I thought I’d offer my girls some really ghastly food in the hope that they’d realise that my offerings of “normal” food were actually quite ok.
For starters I gave them a bowl of snot. (Can you think of a child who doesn’t pick her nose?)
Cream cheese with a bit of food colouring, and bread stDisplay Comments Add a Comment
Andrea has gotten it spectacularly right! The CEO of Tell Me a Story launched 10 new titles on 30th June, this year. I was privileged to be guest speaker at an event that had even seasoned politicians, Ian Rickuss, MP Lockyer, and Steve Jones, Mayor, Lockyer Valley Regional Council, commenting on attendance numbers!
Assembled authors, illustrators and guest panelists with Andrea Kwast
Muza Ulasowski [Panelist] and Guest Speaker, J.R.Poulter
The audience was rapt. I have seldom been at a publishing event where everyone’s eyes shone! Andrea has the devoted support of her very wide community of readers and growing. She also has the good fortune to have a very devoted group of assistants in administrator, Rel, and local photographer and budding author herself, Jenni Smith.
Research and innovation, preparedness to think out of the box, are hallmarks of Andrea and her team. She believes stories are lurking everywhere and it just takes the right determination, editing and dedication to bring them out. That she is succeeding over and above expetaction is more than demonstrated by the sellout and reprint, within the first few weeks since the launch, of no fewer than 3 titles!
Hearty Congratulations Andrea and Team and to all her authors – keep writing!Click to view slideshow.
Having watched Eleanor’s secret (which, don’t forget you can win a copy of here) I got to thinking about other films which are about reading, the power of stories and/or storybook characters coming to life. With the help of friends on Twitter I came up with this list:
I haven’t watched all of these so can’t vouch for their quality. Several are not suitable for kids, but I’ve included them here for the grown-ups amongst us to explore! If you’ve seen any of them, do leave me a comment so I and others can find out more
As well as feature length films, I came across a whole slew of animations from the 1930s and 1940s which feature book characters which come to life. It seems to have been quite a popular theme in the inter-war years! Here’s my list of animated shorts, just bear in mind you might wish to view these without kids first to check whether you’re happy for your kids to see them – some of them contain racist characterizations.
What with the turning of the calendar to July and the activity books I’ve been researching, Summer is definitely in the air. And nothing sings summertime more than a trip to the seaside!
Today’s books is perfect for anyone, adult or child, dreaming of a day on the beach. Traction Man and the Beach Odyssey, the latest book (published today!) from Mini Grey, follows the adventures of superhero Traction Man and his fearless, loyal sidekick, Scrubbing Brush.
Traction Man, the favourite toy of a young boy, is taken on holiday to the seaside where a series of perilous adventures befall him; he is swept out to sea, then washed up in a dank cave, found by another child on the beach, and nearly lost in a tremendous earthquake when the sandcastle he is inhabiting is enthusiastically attacked by a dog.
This story will thrill any child who brings their toys to life and creates adventures, journeys and real-life personas for them. Like the two earlier Traction Man stories (Traction Man is Here and Traction Man Meets Turbodog), this too is pacey, creating just the right amount of manageable anxiety that dissolves in wonderful relief with the resolution of the story. It’s packed with humour and provides parents with plenty of perfect opportunities for silly voices and even singing theme music from thrillers should they really get into the swing of it (I like to read it to my kids with a Sean Connery-esque accent!)
Appropriately enough, some of the illustrations recall Marvel comics. They’re eyecatching and reward repeated readings for all the added details tucked away in them. If you’re looking for a superhero story that’s got all the action, excitement and adventure you could possibly want, but without any violence or malevolence, the Traction Man stories are for you. Particularly loved by the boys I’ve been reading to in the year 1 classes at M’s school, the girls too have been asking each week for another Traction Man story.
Those who already love Traction Man will not be disappointed with this new story (let’s hope there are more in the future!), whilst those who are new to the delights of this superhero and his sidekick will be able to adore this book in its own right, before (I’m confident) wanting to track down the two earlier stories.
Now, where we live is just about the furthest you can get from the seaside inDisplay Comments Add a Comment
This colour version of my illustration for the theme Remedy would make a good get well illustration. I might turn it into a card yet. "We will tie the string to a door handle now , it won't hurt a bit" said mouse. Donkey wasn't so sure. I spent the day sketching for a toy design contract and this evening while kiddies were asleep and hubby out I had a digi play. It was a bit of a break from allDisplay Comments Add a Comment
“With sensitive and humorous prose, J.R. McRae tells a story of family life, love, and acceptance with beautiful illustrations by Linda Gunn. When Pete finds a furry hero, Ink, to solve his dinnertime woes, a nosey neighbor jumps to conclusions that enlarge as Pete’s grandpa comes to visit. When Mrs. Allan’s mother-in-law, Nanny, and Pete’s grandpa take off for an early-morning drive, the assumptions increase until Ink and Grandpa solve the mystery. Perfect for young readers, this book speaks of a boy and his grandpa, a mother defending her son from gossip, and the surprise of love at any age.” ~Janice Phelps Williams, author, illustrator www.janicephelps.com
Promotional poster, by Tara Hale, for “All in the Woods”, Pixiefoot Press, 2011
Words with Jam are looking for a scene that is LOL funny. It can be a
stand-alone sketch, a complete scene from a novel/short story, play, script or
anything else you can think up.
You are also allowed to include a brief (40 word max) synopsis to introduce the scene but the organisers stress that it really just the jokes that they’re interested in.
So don’t worry too much about character development/setting etc unless it is integral to the humour.Word limit 1000 words maximun - no lower word limit.
"I said to a fella 'Is there a B&Q in Henley?' He said 'No, there's an H, an E, an N an L and a Y'."Add a Comment
I spoke about those memories of Grandma, as opposed to Granny, who was Dad’s mother. Have to keep those straight, you know. I’d like to talk more about my maternal grandmother for one more day.
She was a tiny lady, who loved to shop when she had the opportunity. By the time I knew her she was already in her sixties and had triumphed over many obstacles and trials during her life. She had the soul of an artist, of a healer, and of a naturalist. Bundled within the diminutive frame resided a wicked sense of humor and a passion for professional wrestling.
Her faith kept her going, I think, through all the lean years. In short, she was indomitable. What I learned from Grandma was reinforced by my own mother. She reflected many of her mother’s traits and strengths.
I will admit that oddities abounded around the little woman. Two massive native persimmon trees kept sentinel at the rear of her yard. In the spring, beneath those trees, grew mushrooms, morels to be exact. Those wrinkled beauties returned each year, spring and fall.
“Fall?” you ask. “Yes,” I reply. Morels aren’t known for appearing in the autumn, but hers did. The brilliant yellow buttercups would act as backdrop for them in the spring and the hickory nut bounty would accompany them in the fall. Sort of a two-fer event for the equinoxes.
She also had a passion for flowers and plants. Zinnias were her favorite annual, and she worked for years to develop a pure white zinnia. She didn’t get her project finished before she died. The ten thousand dollar prize must have gone to someone else, because not too many years ago such a flower was introduced to the public.
Grandma wanted a blue rose, as well, long before they were bred. My grandfather couldn’t find one for her and so settled for a favorite fruit tree instead. He brought her home a larger sapling peach tree. The first year it produced peaches, we were taken to see the tree. There, sprouting from the base of the tree was a blue rose; not a pale purple one, but a blue one.
At least that’s the memory of I have that event. She was ecstatic with her “miracle.” I can’t remember any other time seeing her that happy. Something precious had been validated for her that day, having to do with that rose. The rest of the adults seemed more stunned than ecstatic.
Grandma was one of those people who believed in all things being possible within nature. She could be staid, practical to a fault sometimes, and definitely opinionated, but for her things were always possible if she believed strongly enough.
She had her rules to live by and taught them with quiet modeling. If we were lucky, we got to learn those rules and emulate them within our own lives. That’s quite an accomplishment for anyone on this earth, I think.
Joanna and Darshana met on children’s writer and illustrator FaceBook site, 12 x 12 , a very lively, supportive, share and learn community set up by Julie Hedlund. When Joanna released her very first picture book, a collaboration with the very talented Maja Sereda, Darshana jumped in with the interview offer.
“Snow Games” is a fun tumble and rumpus in winter’s wonderland aimed at 3 to 7 year olds. Maja’s wonderfully endearing little animal characterisations beautifully complement the story.
Joanna shares what it was like to collaborate with Maja to create “Snow Games”. Close collaboration between author and illustrator is a circumstance largely [and sadly] foreign to most traditional print publishing. For Joanna and Maja it was a fun and very rewarding experince. But the interview goes beyond the creation of ”Snow Games”. It also details Joanna’s experience of the uTales website and her thoughts on traditional and digital publishing.
Joanna mentions my collaboration with noted animal and wildlife illustrator, Muza Ulasowski, a story about surviving change, “The Sea Cat Dreams”. Muza was one of many wonderful illustrators I met on the uTales Facebook group and have since worked with to create a varied range of children’s books.
I have found the opportunity to collaborate with illustrators something eminently rewarding, an experience that enriches both participants and results in a more vibrant and much richer work. My first picture book, “Mending Lucille” was also a result of a collaboration. Working with the amazing Sarah Davis was inspirational! I have gone on to collaborate closely with illustrators all over the world to create numbers of other picture books, some digitally published**, some in process with pDisplay Comments Add a Comment
For last week’s book+activity session I held at the girls’ school we read and played aliens. First up was a new book by Sue Hendra, Wanda’s Space Party.
For Wanda’s birthday treat, her friend, the alien, takes Wanda to his planet for a special space party. Wanda is amazed by all the new things she sees on the way to the party and the different ways things are done on her friend’s planet. But will she like the what her friend has prepared for her birthday celebration? Or will alien customs be all a little too… well, alien for Wanda?
With her trademark gorgeously bright, bold, modern and zingy illustrations (which look oh so ripe for adaptation to tv animation – think Octonauts, which has a not dissimilar aesthetic) Sue Hendra has written a lovely story about differences and similarities across customs and cultures. Kids will enjoy the apparently far-out traditions on the alien’s planet (such as brushing your toes instead of your teeth before you go to bed). On a more serious note, it provides an easy route in to talking about how we’re not all the same, and that such differences are enriching rather than threatening.
Next we read Colin McNaughton’s The Aliens are Coming (I think originally recommended by a reader of this blog, but I can’t track down who it was – thank you to whoever you are!).
An alien invasion has been launched. All sorts of aliens are heading this way; wobbly ones, two-headed ones, ones that have eyeballs stuck on stalks, the list goes on… It’s a terrifying prospect! But as the aliens approach and catch sight of us, the readers, what do they do? What do they see? Who is more frightened? Us or them?
This book is so much fun to read aloud! It’s told in rollicking rhyme so the words just bounce along and the illustrations are hilarious (even when trying to be scary). The yuck factor is just right (with squelching, smelly gases and some burping) and the denouement is perfect – [spoiler alert] the penultimate page has a mirror in it, so we can see what the aliens see… and what they see is enough to stop the attack and get them retreating back to outer space. The listening kids emerge as the victors, more mighty and powerful than a whole host of extra terrestrial life forms. Hurray!
For our session at school we had several different activities on offer after reading the books (all photos below are from the dry run I did at home with M and J as I’m not allowed to take photos in school). Kids could make alien spaceships out of foil plates and plastic bowls, decorated with permanent pens and stickers.Display Comments Add a Comment
Interview with Nicola L. Robinson, illustrator turned author and the trials, tribulations and triumphs of a change of hats!
First off, HEARTY CONGRATULATIONS on the release of “The Monster Machine” with Pavilion Books – a sort of mad inventor meets Granny’s knitted nightmares joy of a book!
Have you always had a strong visual sense of story?
Yes I have, I’ve always loved drawing (like all illustrators I should imagine!) but particularly loved drawing pictures with something happening in them, be it a big thing chasing a small thing or any kind of interaction between my creations. As a child I’d name the characters and make up stories around them..
I grew up and went to university and did a degree in Fine Art, which was fantastic, but I realised my work was more illustration and less ‘Fine Art’. I have always looked for the story in the picture, and love adding narrative details to things, be it a little mouse hiding behind a teapot or something more sinister watching through a crack in the curtain... I am a visual thinker, but at this point I didn’t consider writing the actual words down to go with the illustrations.
What were your favourite storybook images as a child and how did they influence you as an illustrator and the style you adopted as ‘you’?
I didn’t have many traditional picture books, I did however pour over photos of crocodiles and snakes from a really old book on ‘The Animal Kingdom’. One of my favourite storybooks was a book of Greek Myths which had a lot of colour plates inside of the various mythological beasts and some nice black and white ink illustrations, fairly traditional in style. My favourites were always the ones I could imagine myself being in, something with some perspective, or one where you can see inside an open door or window. I also loved the Hobbit by JRR Tolkien, with Smaug the dragon. I have drawn many dragons since then and continue to do so today.
I have always loved the traditional fairytale illustrators like Arthur Rackham and others like Aubrey Beardsley and more recently Edward Gorey. Black and white ink illustrations in particular have always appealed to me, as has the sinister so I expect I have absorbed a little of their influence into my current working style. I certainly hope so!
Do you have a favourite among your previous illustrative projects? Would you tell us something of the creative process involved in bringing the images to light?
My favourites change all the time, but I am still very attached to a detailed illustration from last year titled ‘Downtown’
It started off like so many drawings as a few scribbles on the page, I could see a cityscape of sorts in my head… I often write lists of words and ideas to include in a piece, little descriptions like ‘Dark alleys’ and ‘Iron Bridges’ just as little word pictures, alongside thumbnails which I find very helpful.
From here it gets its structure and is drawn out. If I’m going to be working in colour I usually stretch some paper at this point before transferring the idea to it.
I work up the details in pencil…Display Comments Add a Comment
Hey y’all! I created a little something for Canada Day (July 1st) –A free downloadable 5×7″ greeting card! Just a little something by me to share in the festivities. : )
Below is a sample of the front. The inside is blank. Just click on this link to open up a printable pdf version of the card. Then download, print, fold and trim (Careful with that X-Acto knife!). Voila! A card is born!
Thanks, and have a great weekend!
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I couldn’t have written a better script… J was off ill a few days ago and M stomped to school with fury all over her face.
“IT’S NOT FAIR! Why can’t I stay at home?”
The pavement (and my ears) got a fair bashing from M that morning, and before 9am I was already exhausted! But my book-fairy-godmother must have heard my exasperated cries for help; as if by magic the postman delivered…
Siblings Bill and Mary complain that when they get different things, life’s just not fair. Fortunately, the kids’ parents know about the It’s Not Fairy, who’s on a mission around the world to help sort out what’s wrong and right, but who also likes to eat those who complain a little too much.
Bill and Mary scoff at the idea of the It’s Not Fairy, but when they hear their parents complaining about life being unfair (for example, when Mum does all the housework and Dad just slouches in his chair), they are quick to remind their elders about her penchant for gobbling up grumblers.
When the parents produce their supposed trump card, “It’s up to us to say what’s FAIR!” the It’s Not Fairy can’t hold back any longer and makes an appearance to berate the family. She ask them to think about what really constitutes fairness and justice, and to see their gripes in a wider context. If they can’t do that, she threatens to bake them all in one big fairy cake.
In lesser hands this could be a pompous moral tale told with a big wagging finger hanging over the reader and listener, but Ros Asquith has brilliantly written a tremendously funny, (and, yes, useful!) story I can’t recommend enough. Everyone has fun poked at them, not only the parents, but even the It’s Not Fairy herself, reminding us that even though we’re not all perfect, and we do all complain from time to time, it’s ok to have a moan, and it’s even more ok to take a deep breath and remember the bigger picture.
The rhyming text is fun to read aloud and also draws in listeners who will quickly be joining in. The illustrations, familiar to those who read Asquith’s regular cartoon strips in the Guardian newspaper, are full of textual detail that pack even more giggles into this book.
A punchy way to start a more meaningful discussion about what is and isn’t fair, every primary school should have this book for use in classrooms. Every parent should have a copy too because it’s a gift – now when I get moans from the kids about things not being fair, I just remind them about the It’s Not Fairy, and a grumpy situation is turned round into one where we can laugh and actually talk about what we’re feeling.
It’s Not Fairy comes with a great recipe for baking your own It’s Not Fairy Cakes so of course we tried them out. For “Fairy Dust”, to sprinkle on the icing, we madeDisplay Comments Add a Comment