Book Events

Event News: YALC Pop Up Event.


After a very successful YA Lit Con in the summer, this Sunday sees a pop up event as part of London Film and Comic Con Winter. From the YALC website:

We’re delighted to announce that YALC will be popping up at the London Film and Comic Con Winter event, on Sunday 19 October, with two special spin-off panel events.

At 1.00pm, Hey YA! will bring together YALC favourites James Dawson and Non Pratt with superstar US author James Frey to discuss all things young adult fiction – what YA is, who reads it and why we love it – chaired by YALC’s Katherine Woodfine. (James Frey will also be doing a solo event at 2.00pm followed by a signing session.)

At 3.00pm, join us for Female Characters in Fantasy Fiction – a panel discussion exploring gender and genre with Laure Eve, Zoe Marriott and Samantha Shannon, chaired by Liz de Jager.

Each event will be followed by a one-hour book signing, with books available to buy from our Waterstones bookshop. Events are free with a ticket to London Film and Comic Con.

Tickets to London Film and Comic Con will be available to purchase on the door from 9am, priced ay £15 for early bird tickets (entry from 9.00am) and £8 for standard tickets (entry from 11.00am). For more information about Winter LFCC and tickets, see the website:

This sounds like a great opportunity to hear some great authors speak – if I was in London I’d definitely be going along.

Blog News · Book Events

Under 14s Only Month at The Bookzone.

What’s this? Two posts in one day? Well after all of the excitement about the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medal nominations being published I wanted to pop back and mention something else that I’m currently very excited by.


Darren at The Bookzone is spending all of November focusing on books aimed at under 14’s. Like Darren I’m increasingly fond of books in this age band so I’m really excited that he’s taken over running the event previously run by the now closed My Favourite Books. He’s already featured books that have had me running straight to my wishlist and I know he’s been working really hard on getting others to contribute awesome posts. I can’t wait to see what exciting books get talked about this month (I’m contributing a review of a book I read over the weekend and adored) though I think my bank balance is probably less keen!

Blog News · Book Events

Disability in Kidlit month.

imageI wanted to blog today about an online project I’m really excited by. Disability in Kidlit is a month long project running throughout July focusing on disability and children’s literature. In their own words:

“Throughout July 2013, this blog will feature posts by readers, writers, bloggers, and other peeps from the YA and MG communities discussing disability and kidlit. There will be posts about people’s experiences, reviews of YA/MG books featuring disabled characters, discussions of tropes and stereotypes, and more!

Our goal is for this month-long series to serve as a resource for readers and writers hoping to learn more about the realities of disability, which are often quite different from what you read in books or see on TV. All our contributors identify as disabled themselves, and we hope to present a wide range of perspectives and experiences.”

Day Al-Mohamed’s introductory post is a brilliant start, explaining why this month is important. The issue of accurate representation of disability in children’s fiction is something I’ve been interested in for a long time, the more fiction aimed at children and young people I read the more I realise how infrequent disabled characters are let alone accurate, real characters with a broad range of disabilities. I’m looking forward to reading the brilliant posts this event is going to generate, and taking part in the discussions that I’m sure it will start.

In addition to the Disability in Kidlit site, there is a Twitter account and Tumblr dedicated to the project.

Book Events

London Book Fair 2012 – The Panels.

I attended London Book Fair again this year on Monday and Tuesday and went to 6 panels hosted by Booktrust. I took lots of notes at them and thought I would share them on my blog, whenever I tweeted anything from one of the panels someone responded saying they wished they were there too. The notes are all pretty long (each session was an hour long) so I’ve put each lot on a different page, you may wish to get a cuppa before reading any of them!

The panels I went to were:

The World into Words: Why Reading Non-Fiction is Vital for Children.

Growing up too soon: Fiction that asks if teenagers are ready for the adult world.

Discover Stories: Getting Children Reading and Writing.

Waterstone’s Children’s Laureate Promotion with Julia Donaldson.

Express yourself: Bali Rai and a group of Young Londoners.

What’s the story? Listening to Deaf and Disabled Children.

The panels were all really interesting and gave me lots of things to come away and think about, and most of them provided me with a book or two to add to my wishlist!

Book Events

Ladies Who Love at Bromley Literary Festival.

I’ve got some pretty exciting news to share today. Acorn Independent Press are hosting the first ever Bromley Literary Festival this year and on 24th June I shall be hosting a panel as part of the Ladies Who Love day. I’m there representing Novelicious and will have the pleasure of leading a discussion between brilliant authors Dorothy Koomson, Victoria Fox, Julia Williams and Juliet Archer.

I’m really excited about this, I love that the organisers have chosen to devote a day of the event to celebrate romantic fiction so I’m thrilled that I’m getting to be a part of it. The idea is naturally a little daunting, public speaking has never been my favourite thing to do but I decided when I started this degree that I was going to get over my fear of it. I’ve done a couple of presentations over the course of the year and learnt that I’m actually fine at speaking in public, I just wind myself up unnecessarily in the build up. Every time I get nervous about this I’m going to remind myself of this – hopefully by the time the day comes round I shall be completely chilled and calm.

The line up for the whole festival can be seen here, there are some fab events – if I lived closer to Bromley I think I’d be going to quite a few of them.

Book Events

London Book Fair 2011.

I’ve been a bad blogger for the last few days, I’ve been pretty tired and I’m afraid blogging has been the last thing I’ve thought about doing. I have been doing plenty of reading though so there are some great reviews coming up over the next few weeks. I finished the second semester at uni on the 9th and travelled home for a day before going straight off to London to attend the London Book Fair (LBF) between the 11th and 13th.

I read a blog post some weeks back saying that one thing aspiring authors should do is to attend things like LBF. I didn’t know much about the event but when I looked into it there seemed little doubt that it would be an event I would get plenty out of attending. I booked my ticket and looked forward to three days of book related fun.

LBF took over Earls Court 1 and 2, including a number of conference rooms and meeting rooms. In addition to the exhibition floor (there were over 750 stands to explore) there were more than 150 seminars to choose between attending. I spent a long time whittling down the list of seminars, frustratingly for me there were some slots with not seminar that really appealed and then other slots when there were two or more that I had to pick between – particularly annoying when two of the small number of library themed seminars were scheduled at the same time.

Over the three days I attended the following seminars:

  • The Future Face of Publishing: How Diverse Will It Be?
  • Graphic Novels as Literature.
  • Children and Young Adult Books: Bestsellers, Top Movies and Brands. The Secret of Success.
  • E-Books and the User: In the Library, on the Desktop and on the Device.
  • The Importance of Prizes in Children’s Literature.
  • Through the Looking Glass: Interactive Reading Communities for Young People.
  • Library 2020 – Where Next for Libraries’ Digital Reading Offer?
  • Graphic Novels for the Boys.
  • How to Get into Publishing.
  • School Libraries: Who Needs Them?
  • Lauren Child and Anthony Browne in Conversation.
  • Drawing Out New Talent: Booktrust’s Best New Illustrators 2011.

Over the three days I learned a huge amount from the seminars. I picked the ones that interested me most both as a library studies student and as someone who hopes to become a published author for children and/or young people. The two seminars that surprised me the most were the final two I attended, both concentrated on picture books – something I’d never thought much about before. By the end of the two panels I found myself thinking about picture books in a whole new light and am now considering whether they are something I could write for.

In addition to attending so many seminars I spent plenty of time exploring the exhibition side of the event. I had some very useful chats with publishers and collected a mountain of book catalogues. I’ve only begun to browse through them but I’m already seeing lots of books due to be published later this year that I’m going to be adding to my wishlist.

I thoroughly enjoyed the event and found it to be a very valuable way to spend three days. I’ve already got next year’s pencilled into my diary.

Book Events · Book News

One Book One Twitter

After seeing the #1b1t tag on Twitter for a couple of weeks I finally decided over the weekend to google it and find out what it was all about (the fact that Neil Gaiman kept tweeting about it made me think it was something I might find interesting) and was really glad I did.

There have been a number of One City One Books over recent years, a communal reading program where a city chooses a book and everyone reads it at the same time. The city holds relevant events during the time that the book is being read e.g. discussion groups, author visits. It sounds like a great idea, but I’ve never been aware of it happening in the UK.

#1b1t is the tag for One Book One Twitter. The principal is the same as the city based scheme, it’s just been extended to Twitter to make it worldwide. The book has been selected via online polls, it is Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods”. It all kicks off on 5th May, I’m not sure though what the weekly page count target is going to be. I have my copy of the book ready and waiting, I’m looking forward to reading another Neil Gaiman book (I’ve loved all of the ones I’ve read so far) and seeing how this scheme actually pans out.

Book Events · Panel Notes

What’s the story? Listening to Deaf and Disabled Children.

Please note these are the notes I took during the panel, all of these are my jottings down and are not direct quotes from any panel member

Hosted by Alexandra Strick, Booktrust Consultant – organisation’s ongoing consultant on all aspects of disability and inclusion

Julia Donaldson – Author
Rebecca Atkinson – Writer
Ros Asquith – Illustrator
Lauren Metcalfe – Action Deafness Books
Aminder Virdee – runs sessions in school around disability equality, London Ambassador for the Trailblazers network at the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign
Joyce Dunbar – author of over 80 books (now a severe/profoundly deaf lipreader)

Signed Stories, National Deaf Children’s Society, Life and Dead, Sense, Sign Health, Action on Hearing Loss and Deaf Kidz International are all supporters.

Every children’s laureate expected to have special interests, hers are performance, libraries and deafness. Already felt informed and had views on first two but on deafness felt it was going to be a journey of discovery.

Started off by doing a lot of thinking, remembers saying she wanted there to be more books for deaf children – son said but deaf children can read any book, reading is not dependent on hearing. But actually the preschool sharing stories is so important and is listening based. So not as simple as that. Found there are a number of websites with signed stories ( Does feel these websites could benefit from linking with each other.

Went to Edinburgh Festival, saw a signer on stage and chatted with her. Edinburgh Book Festival now has consultation to ask which sessions should be signed, she’s going to talk to other events now e.g. Bath Festival to see if this can be adopted as a way of working.

Exhibition at Seven Stories included screens with signing, from some words to whole stories. Hearing children entirely fascinated by the signs.

Next year on World Book Day hopes for theme of children acting out stories and that one strand of this will be signed stories.

Feels there is a danger of just sitting deaf children in front of a screen to watch signing so is keen that there are picture books suitable and appealing for deaf children so that they can still have that experience of sitting on the adult’s knee and enjoying the sharing of the book.

Important to realise there is such a wide spectrum of deafness, there is no typical deaf child. When a child is in a signing household there isn’t so much of an issue of communication but resources may not be there, deaf parents who were taught in a different time may have different attitudes to reading or poor reading skills themselves. Majority of deaf children born into hearing family so they have a huge amount to learn about all forms of communicating including how to enjoy books with their children.

Constantly being approached by families asking what are appropriate resources for their children, so important to have deaf characters so children feel there is someone like them. With older children important to think about we move from picture books so visual aids are removed, need to continue to have picture books that are suitable for older children.

Most deaf children are born with same potential as hearing children but when you look at deaf adults average reading age is 8 so we’re letting these children down. Much of what we pick up is incidental, a lot of this is missed by deaf children

Two key areas 1 – representation of deaf and disabled children in books, 2 – how deaf children are accessing books. Not just important for deaf children to see deaf characters but for hearing children to see good and positive representations of deaf people. She has been teaching her hearing children how to communicate with her using Julia’s book Freddie and the Fairy. Some deaf children grow up thinking they will be hearing as adults ‘cos they don’t know any deaf adults. Feels screens means there’s the potential for a leveller to improve access to children so there’s a balance to be found. Maybe the option for eBooks with a little signer in the corner?

Alexandra: Looking at representation and positive images, Joyce how important is sign access to books? How can more publishers be supported?

Very difficult, bottom line for publishers is commercial. Disability is not commercial, produced a book in 1986 (Moonbird) took 6 years for this to be picked up by a publisher, still hasn’t earned back its advance. Feels deaf people not just unable to hear but unable to be heard. Feels deaf people continue to be invisible.

Alexandra: Do you find there are a lot of books featuring deaf or disabled characters?

Very rare, usually comes from a concerted effort from a group of individuals. Elizabeth Laird’s idea gave Joyce and Rebecca the opportunity to tell a story together. Feels every minority group has made a lot of progress but there is still so far to go.

Alexandra: When you do highlight the books you then have to consider how the books match the scope of individuals, there aren’t anywhere near enough books to come close to representing the range of experience. Feels she often talks about deaf and disabled children and forgets that these grow into deaf and disabled adults and that these people are probably even less represented.

So important for these to be represented, included children’s fiction showing disabled adults – children may have disabled parents or grandparents. Wouldn’t it be great to see a deaf superhero?!

Also about those incidental characters, books about teaching others about deafness etc, but so great to see a character who just happens to be deaf rather than aiming to explicitly educate. Need things to be more incidental.

Alexandra: Ros, I know this is something you have interest in with interest in diversity.

Not deaf herself but one of earliest jobs was working with adults with severe learning disabilities, horrified by how badly they were treated, introduced by mental age e.g. this is Pam she has a mental age of 2. Gave her early interest in all these areas, when she asked the adults what they most wanted their response was that they wanted to eat off proper plates, they were all given paper plates. Tries hard to subvert expectations.

Now including far more disabled children, sometimes this is in the foreground, sometimes in the background. Focus is on the child not the disability. Should not be about being worthy, or PC. Need to be able to be light-hearted or have a laugh. (Max’s Dream Day picture – inhaler on bedside table, wears glasses, I didn’t even notice!)

Alexandra: Becoming increasingly aware of challenge of getting these changes in publishing, can’t expect individuals to be experts in every area of disability. Books worth noting:

• The Raging Quiet by Sherryl Jordan
• Twinkle Twinkle little Star (Sign & Singalong) by Annie Kubler
• Freddie and the Fairy by Julia Donaldson – excellent messages about communication particularly with deaf people
• Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick told half by prose, half by pictures, pictures do not match words they actually tell story – style previously used by author, not developed especially for deaf children
• Read My Lips
• The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean
• Goat Goes To Playgroup by Julia Donaldson and Nick Sharratt
• Moonbird by Joyce Dunbar and Jane Ray
• Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin
• Best Friends by Mark Jacobs
• It’s Okay to be Different by Todd Par

Julia: deaf children were thrilled to see Monkey wearing a hearing aid in Goat Goes To Playgroup.

Alexandra: discussion with Aminder was hugely valuable, she and her brother both very strongly involved in working with changing attitudes from a young age.

Positive portrayal is a big drive personally, she and her brother were put in front of assembly at school and it was pointed out that they were disabled, because of this they spent a lot of time isolated, children scared of hurting them. Recently got passionate about seeing positive representations in books, as a child she never saw this, always negative stereotypes e.g. Long John Silver with wooden leg and eye patch, Hunchback of Notre Dame – Disney changed the story so that Quasimodo did not get the girl. Working in many schools teaching about disability awareness and how important it is from an early age, needs to be integrated in stories but not the sole focus.

Alexandra: Important for us all to be working on this, not just changing publishers changing everyone. – Booktrust web resource on books and disability.

‘What’s The Story?’ resource coming at the end of May.

Other useful resources:
Letterbox Library
Healthy Books
In The Picture

Book Events · Panel Notes

Express yourself: Bali Rai and a group of Young Londoners

Please note these are the notes I took during the panel, all of these are my jottings down and are not direct quotes from any panel member

Introduced by Liv Bird – Chief Executive of Booktrust, have scheme on website for online writer in residence, currently Bali Rai. A wonderful resource for anyone interested in reading and writing and getting children engaged with the process. Bali is a great supporter and advocate for young people, has made sure we’re listening to them.

Alongside Bali the panellists are all keen readers, teenagers. M (13), K (13), E (16) and L (16).

Idea behind the panel – part of offer from Booktrust was to focus on teens and YA as the book gifting was likely to be dropped, so remit was to talk to teens and YA. What could he do? For years industry spends lots of time talking about what children want, but there are never young people involved in this discussion. So this panel is for the industry to actually talk to young people. Teens have been briefed to be completely honest!

Q (Bali) how do you feel young people are represented in books?

M – Not shown very realistically, don’t feel that I’m reading about a kid my age just another book with an adult, authors not in touch with inner child or familiar enough with what teens are really like. We’re not just robots, we get mad and happy at the smallest things. Bad side particularly badly done, e.g. hoodies always mean bad, she wears a hoodie and isn’t bad, has been challenged in places for wearing a hoodie.

K – Agrees, characters are described as being ordinary kids but they’re not. Characters tend to be far more emotionally strong than real teens, they’re braver, they can do far more than real kids actually do. Would be terrified to do lots of things teens are being depicted as doing.

E – Don’t feel some books represent their world e.g. Twilight – liked that Native Americans contrasted with white Americans, not always seen. But Bella is so passive and found the relationship very uncomfortable. Contrast to Rani and Sukh where there is a strong character.

L – Some teen books focus on really small issues, suggest teens don’t have awareness of bigger things going on. Can relate to characters but feels like the focus is too narrow, and can be too one track minded.

Q (Bali) – So how does he as 40 year old male get into the head of a 15 year old female character?

M – All adults have an inner child and just need to tap into that, think about own experiences and how they related to others at that age.

Q (Bali) – Are we talking about seeing you as humans first rather than as teens?

M -Yes as individuals rather than teens as a whole thing, everyone’s different.

E – Immerse yourself in the culture, read the fiction, watch the tv shows, read the magazines. Get teen girls to read writing, see if they agree.

L – Interesting to have a conversation with the character, talk about the issues being faced, give characters proper personalities.

Bali -Barrington Stoke does this, every single book goes out to schools for feedback.

E – Maybe author can do this first individually, and then panel for discussion.

Bali – What about the voice you hear? One thing heard on school visits is that in some YA fiction the voice is not authentic, sounds like an adult.

M – Adults would sound more professional, teens have their own way of talking e.g. TTYL is actually said by teens, if writers don’t get teen lingo then they’ll never sound right. Most adults are pretty boring, they’re disconnected and have embraced adulthood and responsibility. Some adults think that young people can’t have opinions.

E – Agree, best way to get a genuine teen voice is to go out there and listen to them, go to schools and listen though be aware that teens talk differently in different situations so maybe look at their creative writing.

L – Stream of consciousness might give most accurate language.

Bali – But we have to be aware slang changes rapidly and so can date a book,

E – Still read Pride and Prejudice and loved it, so it maybe doesn’t matter

B – Talked about his love for The Outsiders and how specific the language is to that time period.

M – not a problem, gives a feel / understanding of then.

E – Sees books like this as a welcome challenge

L – Enjoyed Small Island, written in accent, hard but felt better connected to character

B – Has strong opinion about difference between children and YA and thus what written, feels a lot of what is written for YA is about children not YA. Are you children?

M – No, stop being a child when you enter secondary, that change from having a single constant teacher to a teacher per subject, more expectations, lack of consistent support. Completely different, child transition from being entirely dependent little person to someone responsible for themselves.

K – Sometimes the representation is right, it depends on how the author sees you, depends on the individual, some children are more mature than some teenagers. Feels she knows how the world works and how to cope alone. Don’t know everything about how adults work, still learning and still has development to do.

L – When she was 12/13 didn’t read teen books, started reading adult books. Teen books at that age are hard to relate to, teens feel more grown up than they actually are, and then as got a bit older went back to YA and could relate to it far more, feels voices are more like 16/17. Feels a definitely gap in the market, very few books that are really suitable for 12/13, no one is providing what they want to read. Capable of understanding from adult point of view but still so much developing to do.

E – Adults recognise teens have fewer experiences, at 14 was overconfident only now realise year on year how much developing is still happening. Don’t underestimate ‘cos teens will feel patronised.

Q (author) – Which adult books were you reading?

E – Catcher In The Rye (hated it but wants to revisit now older), Eva by Peter Dickinson, Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Jen Mah, biography of Mary Bell

L – Beloved (confusing but loved it), A Piece of Cake (about prostitution and drugs, very good but feels was too young, learned a lot about how difficult life can be, feels adults would have underestimated ability to understand)

M – Colour Purple (was told it was too old for her so motivated to read it)

Q (Storytellers Inc, St Annes) – Do you want to read about teens your age? She wanted to read things she shouldn’t have been, adult books.

M – Fine with both, older will have different experiences and perspectives. In Killing God by Kevin Brooks main character was about same age, could relate well to her.

L – Thinks with Twilight, Bella is an average teen, this is why she’s so loved ‘cos she’s the same age and relatable. Tended to read books that mom was reading so has influenced choices of books. Interested in both same age and older, likes to discover through other characters but there’s something comforting about reading a character same age going through same thing.

Q (Student, Publishing, 74) – Where are the males on the panel? What are your feelings about literature poetry? (Currently collecting poetry from teens, having translated into range of languages.)

M – Doesn’t read poetry, doesn’t understand why people do but has friends that love it, they say it’s quicker and shorter and interesting, can still have same depth.

E – Loves poetry, reads and writes it, enjoyed Shakespeare’s sonnets, the Romantics, foundShelley hard but loves Byron’s She Walks In Beauty, loves Caroline Duffy, easier to understand but still has depth. All introduced through school, so may not have experienced otherwise.

L – Don’t naturally think of poetry, thinks it should be as popular as prose.

M – There was supposed to be a boy but he chickened out. She feels boys more interested in sport / physical activities. One of her teachers has said boys can’t stay still, girls are far quieter and more passive so take things in better.

E – Thinks boys less vocal about reading, has male friend who reads loads, knows another guy who reads and writes creatively lots.

M – Doesn’t know any boys who read, feels they don’t even get what reading means. They don’t even like reading in class, make fun of it, don’t pay it proper attention. Knows that if they’d try they’d love it.

Bali – Does lots of work with reluctant young men, feels lots of them aren’t telling the truth, they do actually read but secretly.

K – Does think there are boys closet reading.

Q (Lucy Coates) -She gets asked not to put in swearing and sex as it won’t get past gatekeepers. How do you feel about them?

M – All teenagers know about sex, most teens swear. Not going to be anything new, no more bad examples to be set.

L – It happens, why shouldn’t it be in a book? Feels this is why there are issues around such things, should be open about things. Best way to tackle issues is to talk about them, a book is a great way to start a discussion.

Q (lawyer, freelance writer (Christian journals) and writes for teens) – How far do you go with gratuitous violence, gang issues?

E – Has an 8 year old brother, didn’t like him having toy guns etc. Now feels it does happen so books can deal with it in a responsible way, can show how things are bad and harmful. Brilliant school librarian guides right kids to right books to discuss these issues but important to have that discussion support.

L – By going there you can deal with a lot of issues e.g. why gang member joined gang.

Bali – Are there any lines that shouldn’t be crossed?

M – Is uncomfortable with idea of young teens reading about rape, but knows she was aware of it and so the right discussion could be had.

L – No, but it’s about the way it’s dealt with.

Bali – Authors do get feedback on this, e.g. his recent book opens with graphic rape scene and one school had issue with it.

Q (writer) How much are you interested in non fiction?

E – Leisure reading choices all fiction, non-fiction reading is mainly down to exposure (mum studying law), feels it’s not aimed at teens well, not interestingly presented

K – Haven’t read any, feels it’s not interesting enough, the layout’s not suited to teens, Horrible Histories are fun but others just show facts and are boring.

M – Don’t really read any, in the library walks straight to fiction, non-fiction just looks like a big mess, would go and look up specific thing, too much like studying.

Q – Is reading a form of escapism? And if so surely reading gritty, hard things doesn’t allow for escapism? Would something less everyday be more escapist?

M – Doesn’t matter if book is full of unicorns, werewolves, or not you’re stepping out of you and stepping into someone else. The character will always be different to you even if faced with the same situations.

Q – Is 24 and not ancient, but as a teen hated text speak, prefers to read words written properly, so wouldn’t text speak alienate some teens? Would it not make novel more for a niche.

E – Personally agrees, she and her friends feel boys sound like idiots in texts, thinks it’s about doing something new and original, e.g. novel written in notes on fridge. Okay in moderation.

M – Don’t need whole novel in text speak, just accurate to how teens talk – things like “Me and my mates” not “My friends and I”. No one talks perfectly.

Q – On the subject of boys reading, went on school trip to France, on last night talking “what’s said in France says in France”, group of boys ended up all talk about reading, discovered one of them actually writing a book. Do any of the panellists write?

M – Writes short stories, doesn’t share, hides under bed, writes about anything that comes to her.

E – Carries notebook everywhere, writes poetry lots. Some part finished stories.

L – Had to write short story for school, would love to be able to write but doesn’t feel that creative.

Q (Someone from Booktrust) – runs website with teen section, where do you find out about the books you want to read?

M – Walks into library and browses, title first, then blurb, then skim to see if interesting.

L – Amazon’s recommendations, libraries, mum, friends’ recommendations

K – Picks based on cover, then blurb, then reads last pages, finds books in school library.

E – No time now for library so book recommendations and Kindle free books.

Bali – really hopes people will now take this on board and talk more to young people.

Book Events · Panel Notes

Waterstone’s Children’s Laureate Promotion with Julia Donaldson.

Please note these are the notes I took during the panel, all of these are my jottings down and are not direct quotes from any panel member

Marian Keen Downes – Booktrust
Melissa Cox – Waterstones
Julia Donaldson – Children’s Laureate

Marian – Booktrust always keen to promote picture books not just in early years but right through into secondary school programme.

Julia – chosen 10 picture books for the promotion. Initial brief was for Julia to choose books that could be read aloud. Lovely task, 10 being featured but chose 20 and had another 20 that nearly made her shortlist. It was Waterstones that chose the final 10 from 20. Her love affair with picture books started long before she started writing them, when she was discovering them with her own children. Loves that for all children picture books give an opportunity to explore the world, to find out about things they wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to experience or to find out about themselves e.g. books about bereavement. Parents can also find out about their children things they wouldn’t necessarily discover. Loves the huge variety of picture books there are from the very realistic to the very wacky, fiction to non fiction, prose to poetry.

Asked publishers to send their 5 star picture books for her selection.

  • Dogger by Shirley Hughes, very realistic, good story, opportunities for discussions
  • The Day Louis Got Eaten by John Fardell, structure more comic like, humorous story, it’s predictible but also unpredictable – don’t know what the next creature will be
  • Six Dinner Sid by Inga Moore, cat has 6 owners all living in the same street, neighbours don’t know each other
  • Dogs Don’t Do Ballet by Anna Kemp / Sara Ogilve, dog just wants to be a ballerina, lovely nice recurring phrase that children can join in with
  • Would you rather… by John Burningham
  • Otto the Book Bear by Katie Cleminson, Otto is a book bear, looking for a new home – the library full of books and book characters, ends up being read by lots and lots of children
  • The Snorgh and the Sailor by Will Buckingham/Thomas Docherty, also about books, longer story (smallish text)
  • Handa’s Surprise by Eileen Browne, a short text but lovely
  • Mad About Minibeasts by Giles Andre/David Wojtowycz, a book of little poems about insects, very bright and colourful featuring lots of bugs, could inspire children to write their own.
  • Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel, Julia’s absolute favourite, quite muted colours, longer stories, frog and toad are like a comedy double act (frog is straight man, toad is comic), each small book contains 5 stories, there are around 4 books.

Waterstones are passionate about story telling and getting children reading. They sponsor Julia as children’s laureate. Aware that their average store has 6000 different children’s books (large stores have 10-15,000) so wanted a promotion that could provide guide to some of the best books for children. Leaflet will be available in stores alongside display of books. Alongside Julia’s choices Waterstones have added a couple of their own.

Picture This competition last year, Julia wrote text and illustrators competed, winner now working on a second book with Julia.

One that didn’t make the list, unsure if it’s still in print, Whose Mouse Are You? by Robert Kraus and Jose Aruego. A question and answer book, nice to have the variety of structure. Has cliffhangery element, question on right hand page, turn page to get the answer. Would also have liked to have had more rhyming books e.g. Mr Magnolia by Quentin Blake.

Promotion launching now, will be down to individual stores as to exactly how they do it, but all will have leaflets and most will have some sort of displays.

Q – You mentioned picture books for secondary, what are these books like?
Marian – depends on what book is for, recently selected Anne Frank picture book which is quite dense but mainly illustration, also Antony Browne’s Hansel and Gretel which has dense, dark, quite adult text. Things like A Monster Calls are very different.

Melissa – thinks the potential for there to be illustrated books for older readers, Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman is YA colour illustrated book, will be published by Egmont later this year, already out in the US.

Marian – trend for GN and manga is making it less difficult.

Julia – think it’s lovely to have the availability of these books, though also need for plenty of books without illustrations. Personally finds pictures in GN hard, not the way her understanding works.

Comment from audience member – because librarians have identified the desire for older readers to read picture books many have now got collections.

Q – Julia you mentioned wishing for more rhyming books, so why didn’t they make it?

Julia – submitted shortlist but was aware that some may have been out of print, so not entirely sure of what the ratio had been. Whilst she does love rhyme she feels there are some very clumsy rhyme books out there.

Melissa – decision was not made to exclude rhyme books, decision was based on in print / available and then to make sure there was a good variety of books including both illustration style and story style

Q – Will there be another Picture This?

Melissa – not finalised but do hope to do so, both books already done need to be published!

Julia – was very interesting thing to do, made her realise how important the central character is, some were so talented but some of the fairies looked so original that it didn’t work. Karen George managed to get the appeal right, realised you can love an authors work but their characters don’t work for the particular project.

Q – When writing how closely do you work with the illustrator?

Julia – not at all, when writing doesn’t know who it will be that does the illustrating, may think it will be done by a certain one, but they still have the opportunity to turn it down. Writes story in a vacuum, contact is mainly with editor – useful go between.

Q (Marian) – What are you working on a the moment?

Julia – on the road mainly so grabbing writing time when she can, working on series of very short plays for reading groups, 6 characters, feels absolutely best way of learning to read. Far more animated than simple prose. Working on a couple of other ideas for picture books. Not working on long form fiction, doesn’t work with her way of writing and being on the road.