Thursday, 19 December 2013

Christmas is coming - and so is the Puzzle Elf's Treasure Hunt!

Christmas day in the Emmett household always begins with a treasure hunt. It started when the kids were little and has since become a family tradition. It’s not one of those treasure hunts where clues or riddles lead you to particular objects (although we love doing those too) - it’s more like a quiz with an element of Hunt the Thimble. I thought I’d write a post about it in case anyone fancied doing something similar.

Every Christmas morning the family come downstairs to find all of the presents have been taken from under the Christmas tree and moved into a locked "Treasure Room" at the back of the house. This is the work of the Puzzle Elf, one of Santa's lesser known little helpers with a propensity for tricksy questions.

A rare photo of the original Puzzle Elf, caught shortly after he hid his letter in our Christmas Tree.

Hidden somewhere on the Christmas tree is a letter from the Elf, along with a gridded map showing both floors of the house and a piece of paper with two questions written on it.

The Puzzle Elf’s treasure map.

The questions always come in pairs with five multiple choice answers for each. Each question is for a particular member of the family. For some reason the Puzzle Elf never sets me any questions — I assume it's because she thinks I’m either far too clever or far too stupid. One set of answers in each pair of questions is accompanied by a set of letters, the other by a set of numbers. The correct answers to both questions will give a grid reference on the map (e.g. E-5) where another pair of questions is hidden. There are always 12 questions in all (6 pairs), the topics are always books, movies, science and history with each family member getting a question on each topic.

Here are some of the Puzzle Elf’s questions from last Christmas

The last pair of questions reveals the location of the key to the Treasure Room. When the key has been found and the Treasure Room has been unlocked, the family can open their presents.

The key is wrapped in a piece of paper. 

It usually takes about an hour to find the key but both our kids insist that the Puzzle Elf keeps coming each year.


If you think your family might enjoy doing a similar treasure hunt (you don’t have to do it at Christmas), here are a few tips.

  • It’s nice to find a key, but If you don’t have a room, cupboard or wardrobe you can lock the presents in, the final piece of paper could simply reveal where the presents are hidden (e.g. In the garden shed or under mum and dad's bed).
  • The map of the house doesn’t need to be as neatly drawn as the one shown above (I suspect that the Puzzle Elf, like me, used to be an architect). A hand drawn map on squared paper will do just as well, but make sure each grid square only covers a small area of the floor plan as the larger the grid square, the larger the area of house that will need to be searched.
  • Try to pick questions that only the family member they're addressed to will know the answer to so that everyone will feel they have played a part in finding the treasure. The Puzzle Elf usually sets questions on books and films that family members have read or watched in the last year or topics they’ve been studying at school. If your family is especially bookish, all of the questions could be about books. 
  • Clues can be held in place with sticky tape or Blu-Tack, but should be in plain sight, so that searchers don’t have to move or open anything to find them, although they may have to look underneath or around the back of an object. 

The Puzzle Elf rolls the clues up into tight scrolls to make them more difficult to spot.

In our house, the first clue and map are always accompanied by a letter from the Puzzle Elf. The Puzzle Elf's job has changed hands over the years. The original Puzzle Elf went on paternity leave a few years back and that year the Easter Bunny had to cover for him. However he was back at work the next year and was training up his daughter, Flummox, as an apprentice. The original elf has now retired and Flummox has taken over from him.

If your family are the doing the treasure hunt for the first time, it’s a good idea to include some sort of letter with instructions. Here’s some instructions from one of the original Puzzle Elf’s letters that you can adapt for your own use:
Santa has put all your presents in the Treasure Room at the back of the house. He has locked the room and hidden the key somewhere safe. To make sure that you - and only you - can find the key, he has set a treasure hunt that only the three of you, working together, can solve. 
There are 6 pairs of multiple-choice questions. 
The two answers to each pair will give you a grid reference on the house plan provided. 
The next pair of questions can be found somewhere in that location. 
The questions are divided into three groups and each of you will have to answer 4 questions each. 
The final pair of questions will give you the location of the key. 
Good luck and happy hunting!
If the Puzzle Elf has inspired you to do your own treasure hunt, do let me know - and I'll pass the message on to her! And if you already have your own Christmas treasure hunt, I’d love to hear about that too.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Philippines Typhoon Appeal Book Signing

I'm doing a book signing in the Oxfam Books & Music Shop in my home town of Beeston, Nottingham on Saturday 7th December. So if you live in the area please pop in between 2.00pm and 4.00pm to buy a signed copy or just to say hello.

There will be around a 130 copies of my picture books on sale with a wide selection (as shown on the poster below) including many first editions. All the books are brand new and all the proceeds will go to Oxfam's Philippines Typhoon Appeal.

There are limited numbers of each book – so come early to avoid disappointment!


If you live in or near Beeston and would like to help promote this event, you can CLICK HERE to download a copy of the poster above.

The shop looks like this …


… and the address is
Oxfam Books & Music
58 High Road, Beeston, Nottingham
NG9 2JP

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Of Monsters and Maps

My new picture book with illustrator Poly Bernatene is called "Here Be Monsters", a phrase that originates from old nautical maps. Cartographers used it (or it’s variant “Here Be Dragons”) to indicate an uncharted region. Sometimes they’d draw pictures of the monsters and show them attacking ships and devouring the unfortunate crew.

My favourite example of such a map is the wonderful Carta Marina, or “Map of the Sea”, created by Swedish cartographer Olaus Magnus in the 16th century. The map shows the Nordic countries and Magnus drew so many monsters in the sea surrounding them, it’s a wonder that anyone that saw it had the courage to set sail.

Olaus Magnus’s wonderful Carta Marina.  Click here to see a larger version

The map is packed with wonderful detail, including a monster that sailors have mistaken for an island. The sailors are shown lighting a fire on the monster’s back, which always makes me wonder if it has some connection to The First Voyage of Sinbad the Sailor, in which Sinbad and his crew make the same unfortunate mistake.

A detail from the Carta Marina, showing some of its monsters.
Sailors have mistaken the monster on the left for an island and are lighting a fire on it.

This map, and others like it, were the inspiration for an unpublished pop-up book called Here Be Monsters that I produced in 1995. At that point, I was both writing and illustrating and this book was my first attempt at paper-engineering as well. In that early version, an intrepid young girl called Maggie discovers a magic map with an island labelled “Here Be Monsters” and sets out to see it for herself. Maggie travels across a pop-up landscape on her quest and as the pages turn a host of monsters are revealed to the reader, but Maggie sees none of them. When Maggie eventually reaches her destination, the reader sees that the island is itself a giant monster, just like the one on the Carta Marina. The magic map appeared on every page of the book, with the drawing changing as Maggie progressed across it.

The magical map from my unpublished Here Be Monster pop-up book. The map appeared on every page
of the book, with changing details and the dragon and griffin scroll-heads fighting each other.
You can see more of this pop-up version on my web site.

I reworked this early pop-up Here Be Monsters a few times, but was never able to find a publisher for it. For one reworking, I produced a bigger, more detailed version of the map, which folded out from the book’s back cover, like a map in a guide book.

The large “guide book” version of the pop-up book map. (Click image to enlarge)

The picture book version of the story is quite different from the original pop-up book. The little girl, Maggie, has been replaced by a band of villainous pirates. All of the monsters they encounter are sea monsters and, while their fearsome captain remains oblivious to them, his unfortunate crew do not. The stories also end differently. In the picture book version, the island does not turn out to be a giant monster — but there’s an equally scary twist!

Before Poly Bernatene started work on his wonderful illustrations for the picture book version, I mentioned to him that the Carta Marina had been a big influence on the story. So I was delighted to see that Poly had included some of Magnus’s monsters in the nautical map featured in the book.

The map in PolyBernatene's illustrations includes some of the monsters from the Carta Marina.


Find out more about the book at my web site



find your local bookshop Buy this book at amazon UK Buy at amazon US

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Munching Monsters Card Game

Whenever I have a new book coming out, I try to come up with a related game, puzzle or activity to go in the games section of my website. For Here Be Monsters I decided to make a card game that readers could print out and make for themselves. It’s a “pirate memory game” – a phrase that I’ll always associate with the very funny Little Britain sketch that you can watch here.

Click here to go to my site and download the game


It’s one of those games where you collect cards by find matching pairs, but to make it a little different and hopefully a little more fun I’ve added some extra monster cards that change the way the game is played. When he first started working on the book, illustrator Poly Bernatene produced a set of individual character sketches of each of the pirates and he sent me these to use on the cards. The book is also being published in Spain and Argentina and Poly is producing a Spanish version of the game which will be available through his own web site.

I thought it might be fun to shoot a video showing how to play the game, so I asked next-door-neigbours Finn and Seth to me to help me make one. The book is dedicated to Seth and I gave him a set of the playing cards so that he and Finn could practice playing it before we shot the video. We filmed ourselves playing the game a couple of times and Seth won both times!


If you're wondering how we did it, the front shot of the video was taken with a camera mounted atop a kitchen cupboard and the overhead shot was taken simultaneously with my iPhone which was cantilevered out from another cupboard using a timber joist and G-clamp as shown below. Then the two shots were cut together using Final Cut on an iMac.


Click here to find out about HERE BE MONSTERS,

the picture book the game is based on


Tuesday, 27 August 2013

NOT coming to a cinema near you — Emmett Family Movie Trailers.

I mentioned in my last post that I love making home movies with family and friends. Thanks to advances in home computing, editing techniques and special effects that were the preserve of film and TV studios a few years ago can now be found on laptops or even mobile phones. 

Most of our family’s home movies were made using Apple’s very user-friendly iMovie software. Recent versions of iMovie include movie trailer templates, which you can customise with your own film clips and titles. When my daughter had a movie-themed birthday party last year, we used a couple of these templates to make some silly movie trailers to show to her friends.

Carrots are Forever

My kids and I filmed this against a pop-up green screen so that I could add in the backgrounds later when I edited it. Although we only needed to shoot some short clips to make the trailer, we got a bit carried away and ended up coming up with an entire plot and filming most of it.

Quackula Rising

We couldn’t resist making another trailer and this time my wife got in on the act. Rather than shoot on the floor again, we hung the green screen up so that we could manipulate the toys from below. "Manipulate" may be too fancy a word — basically we just shook each toy a bit to show it was talking! As you watch the toys file past in the opening shots, try to imagine my whole family shuffling along underneath them, stifling giggles and desperately trying to keep our heads out of shot – it took a lot of takes before we got it right.

An invisible Nessie (left) makes
a brief, enigmatic appearance
in the trailer.
My daughter cast most of the characters from her cuddly toy collection and it wasn’t until I was editing the trailer on the computer that I realised that the Loch Ness Monster toy she’d chosen to be one of the tourists at the end was the exact same shade of green as the green screen we had filmed against. As a consequence, the only bits of the monster that are visible are his eyes, his tartan bow tie and beret and the name "Nessie" across his belly. Although his invisibility was unintentional, it seems appropriate for such an enigmatic beast.

My daughter and one of her friends used one of the templates that comes with the iPad version of iMovie to make the trailer below. My wife helped a little with the costumes and I held the iPad for them during the filming, but the girls put the rest of the trailer together on their own.

Jolly Good Bollywood


Friday, 5 July 2013

In Praise of Music Videos

If you follow me on twitter, you may have noticed that I occasionally tweet about music videos which have been an enthusiasm of mine since I was a teenager. I think the best picture books are the ones where the images and words mesh perfectly, but each offers a different perspective, making an end product that is greater than the sum of its parts. The same goes for the visuals and music in the best music videos, many of which display a degree of imagination of ingenuity that’s rarely found in other forms of film-making.

Here are a few of my favourite music videos as well as one of my family’s homegrown efforts.

The Chemical Brothers • LET FOREVER BE by Michel Gondry (1999)

When I first saw this video on Top of the Pops in 1999 it made me an instant fan of both The Chemical Brothers and the video’s director Michel Gondry. It’s a brilliant blend of choreography, production design and simple video effects seamlessly edited into a sequence that fits the psychedelic feel of the music perfectly. Trying to figure out how Gondry put it all together will make your head hurt.

Gondry has shown a similar flair for surreal imagery in some of his feature films such as the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Science of Sleep, which are both favourites of mine.

I could write a whole blog post about my favourite Gondry videos, but I’m going to limit myself to one more by another band with a sibling-based name.


The Living Sisters • HOW ARE YOU DOING? by Michel Gondry (2011)

The Living Sisters’ lo-fi, folky sound is very different to The Chemical Brothers’ electronic rock and Gondry matches it with this wonderfully quirky video that has a low-tech, home-made feel. Handheld camera footage combines with some amusingly amateurish special effects to show the three sisters converging, against all odds, for a very special event. Like many of Gondry’s videos, you have to watch it several times to take it all in.


OK GO • THIS TOO SHALL PASS by James Frost, OK GO and Syyn Labs (2010)

If you’re not already familiar with OK GO’s remarkable work you’ve been missing out. To make this video the band recruited Syyn Labs, a group of talented engineers, to construct an incredibly elaborate Rube Goldberg machine, the movements of which synchronise perfectly with the music. You can find out more about how the video was made and watch some behind the scenes videos in this Wired article.

If you haven’t already seen them, you should check out some of OK GO’s other music videos including this early low-budget treadmill video and this jaw-dropping triumph of dog-training.


Hold Your Horses • 70 MILLION by L’Ogre (2010)

L’Ogre is a collective of four French film-makers: David Freymond, Bruno Mendes, Olivier Tixier and Catherine Villeminot. The French seem to have a knack for quirky, inventive film-making and this video for Paris band Hold Your Horses is every bit as impressive as the videos created by fellow French director Michel Gondry. The seven piece band are carefully posed, costumed and lit to recreate a range of iconic artworks from da Vinci’s The Last Supper to Warhol’s Marilyn screen prints. Several of the artworks feature female nudes and, although there’s a woman in the band, one of the amusing aspects of the video is that these roles are always filled by male band members.

There are 24 artworks featured in the video. How many can you name?


The Cinematic Orchestra • TO BUILD A HOME & BREATHE by Andrew Griffin (2007)


Andrew Griffin’s narrative videos for The Cinematic Orchestra’s To Build a Home and Breathe are fine examples of how emotionally intense music videos can be. The two videos combine to tell a moving story that is skilfully shot and beautifully acted. The story opens with a devoted husband carrying his wife across the Cumbrian countryside to a dilapidated cottage – I won’t spoil it by telling you any more.


Eels • EVERYTHING’S GONNA BE COOL THIS CHRISTMAS by The Emmett Family (2011)

If the last video has left you an emotional wreck, this piece of homegrown fluff might help cheer you up again.

As well as watching videos, I love making them with family and friends and we have a big home movie collection including several home-made music videos. When BBC 6 Music’s Adam and Joe ran a Video Wars competition a few years ago, my family’s entry (set to Joe Cornish’s musical adaptation of the cooking instructions on a packet of meatballs) was one of the runners up. We made the video above a couple of years ago and included a link to it in a similarly themed Christmas card (shown opposite) that we sent out to family and friends. It’s not in the same league as the other videos on this page, but we had great fun making it – and no, that's not my son's real hair!

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

FREE Virtual School Visits


I did a couple of Skype virtual visits with Boone Trail Elementary School in North Carolina in the US last year. It was a lovely way for me to read one of my books to the children and answer some of their questions without having to spend any time travelling – and it had a lot less impact on my carbon footprint! It worked so well, I thought I would offer virtual visits to other English-speaking schools in the UK, US and elsewhere.
Each visit would last about 15-20 minutes and is completely FREE. 
Schools can choose from a selection of recent titles as well as some old favourites. There will also be time for a quick Q&A session after the reading.
I've set up a new Virtual School Visits page on my website where you can find out more and enquire about availability.
I'm still trailing the idea and limiting myself to a maximum of two visits a week for now and only on Wednesdays, but I might consider doing more if it proves popular.

Click here to find out more

Friday, 31 May 2013

In Praise of Rhyming Picture Books

I’ve written a run of rhyming picture book texts recently so I thought I’d write a post on the subject.

Here’s what I wrote about writing in rhyme in the Advice on Children's Writing page on my web site.
The use of rhyme can add enormously to a picture book's appeal and yet many publishers discourage new authors from submitting rhyming picture book texts. One of the reasons for this is that most picture books require foreign language co-editions to be successful and so the rhyme will be lost in translation. Nevertheless, many rhyming picture books are still published and some are even translated, with or without rhyme, into other languages. If you are writing a rhyming text, make sure that the story comes first, such that it would still make an appealing picture book without the rhyme. That way, it won't matter if the rhyme is dropped for foreign co-editions.
I think that last principle, that “the story comes first” is followed by all of my favourite rhyming picture book authors. Here are a few of those authors, along with some of my favourite examples of their work.


Dr. Seuss

The Cat in the Hat

illustrated by Dr. Seuss

When someone suggests that writing for children is easier than writing for adults, The Cat in the Hat is the book I usually refer them to to demonstrate otherwise. Although it’s a great read aloud for younger children, the book was written specifically to help six-year-olds read on their own and Seuss’s publisher, William Spaulding, gave Seuss a list of 348 words that every six-year-old should know, asking that the book's vocabulary be limited to 225 of these words. Seuss didn’t quite meet this requirement, he used 223 words from the list plus 13 words that weren’t. However only one word of the text, “another”, has three syllables, 14 have two and the remaining 221 are monosyllabic. Despite this simple vocabulary, Seuss came up with an incredibly engaging story, full of surreal, subversive humour, that rhymes and scans perfectly. It took Seuss nine months to write it; I doubt that many other authors of adult or children’s literature could achieve such a feat in a lifetime.

While Seuss’s talent is widely recognised in his native US, he’s not quite so well regarded here in the UK. Several people have told me that they didn’t read any of his books as a child as their parents frowned upon them. I think this may have something to do with Seuss’s illustration style, which I've always loved but which some parents still spurn as being too brash and cartoony. This is a shame because, regardless of the illustrations, much of his writing is unsurpassed.

Favourite couplet
"Look at me!
Look at me!
Look at me NOW!
It is fun to have fun
But you have to know how.”


Julia Donaldson

The Gruffalo

illustrated by Axel Scheffler

The Gruffalo was published when we were reading picture books to my oldest child and has been a family favourite ever since. Although Julia Donaldson has written many excellent rhyming texts, The Gruffalo is probably the best known and I think deservedly so. Not only does it read beautifully aloud, the story is elegantly structured with a perfectly-crafted resolution.

It’s a great example of the effectiveness of the rule of three in storytelling, with the book’s hero, mouse, encountering three woodland predators on his journey through the “deep dark wood” before bumping into the eponymous Gruffalo and retracing his steps to encounter all three again.

In most picture books the revelation that the Gruffalo is real (and not just a bogeyman the mouse has invented to deter predators) would be the big twist at the end of the story, but one of the things that makes this book so impressive is that Donaldson plays this trump card in the middle of the book and is still able to maintain the story’s momentum, keeping the reader engaged and entertained, right up to the final page.

Favourite couplet
“My favourite food!” the Gruffalo said.
“You’ll taste good on a slice of bread!”


Jeanne Willis

Bottoms Up

illustrated by Adam Stower

Although rude humour has always appealed to many children, when I first began writing picture books 17 years ago it was widely regarded as being inappropriate for picture books. Things have changed and there are now many picture books reflecting this appeal. Nevertheless, I still hear teachers and read reviewers expressing discomfort or even disgust at references to bottoms, underwear and bodily functions in picture books. Its detractors often describe rude humour as crude humour, implying that it lacks subtlety or finesse. However there’s no reason that a picture book with a rude theme cannot be skilfully written as Jeanne Willis’s Bottoms Up! ably demonstrates.

There’s a sense of mischief to many of Willis’s books and it feels like she is trying to see what she can get away with in this delightfully cheeky rhyming text. It’s the only children’s picture book I’ve come across to contain the word “willy”. I doubt that this word would have been deemed acceptable in a non-rhyming text, but only the most prudish reader would object to it's use in the amusing couplet “Do wombats think, “Ooh, I must cover my willy”? No, they do not, because that would be silly.”

Favourite couplet
Do kittens wear knickers?
Do bunnies wear bloomers?
Do calves put on bras to disguise their bazoomers?


Peter Bently

Cats Ahoy

illustrated by Jim Field

Peter Bently's picture books are full of ingenious plotting and rich language. When I read one I often find myself thinking I wish I’d written that!

Set in what looks like a Cornish fishing village, Cats Ahoy tells the story of a group of moggies who come up with a cunning plan to hijack a fishing boat and steal its bumper catch. One thing that distinguishes this book from most rhyming picture books is that the rhyme never seems to get in the way of the storytelling; each rhyme seems like a fortunate coincidence rather than the result of careful effort on Bently’s part. And, although the adventurous plot is appealing enough in itself, there’s a great twist on the final spread that makes you see the story in a whole new light.

Favourite couplet
As the bright rays of dawn were beginning to gleam
They sang “Yo-Ho-Ho and a Carton of Cream!”


Who are your favourite rhyming picture book authors?
What are your favourite rhyming picture books?
Post a comment to let me know!

For some excellent advice on writing in rhyme, check out this post on How *not* to write a rhyming picture book by Juliet Clare Bell.

My next rhyming picture book, Here Be Monsters, with gorgeous illustrations by Poly Bernatene, is coming out this October!

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Here Be Monsters — a sneak peek!

Following on from The Santa Trap and The Princess and the Pig, I’m delighted to announce that my third picture book with illustrator Poly Bernatene is coming out this autumn. As always, Poly has produced a stunning set of illustrations and I couldn’t resist giving you a sneak preview of some of them. 

The book’s called Here be Monsters and is a rhyming tale of dastardly pirates and mischievous sea-monsters.

Here’s the swashbuckling front cover …


… and here’s the action-packed opening spread.


The treasure-hungry Captain Cut-Throat leads his villainous crew on a perilous journey to a mysterious island, surrounded by mist.


Disregarding warnings that the mist is teeming with monsters, the Captain urges the crew to sail on. “Monsters simply don’t exist!” the Captain assures them, but the unfortunate crew soon discover otherwise.


You’ll have to read the book to discover the pirates' fate but here’s a word cloud I made from the story which might give you a clue.


The UK hardback edition of the book is published by Macmillan Children’s Books on October 10. You can pre-order it using the links below.

Buy at amazon UK Find your local bookshop

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Ruby Flew Too! Stage Show

I took the train to Wellingborough yesterday to see a performance of the Ruby Flew Too! stage show by Topsy Turvy Theatre. The show is based on the picture book illustrated by Rebecca Harry. Although Topsy Turvy have been performing the show since 2011, I hadn’t managed to see it before now.


I’ve been in contact with Topsy Turvy's Artistic Director and performer, Claire Alizon Hills, for several years but we’d not met in person, so it was lovely to have lunch with her and co-performer Anna Kelner before seeing the show. Claire has a passion for children’s theatre and founded Topsy Turvy after working with other children’s theatre companies. Ruby Flew Too! was Topsy Turvy’s very first production.

After lunch I got to have a quick look around the beautiful set …


… and here’s me with Claire and Anna just before the show started. 


The show uses a mixture of comic performance, catchy songs, charming puppetry and playful audience interaction to tell Ruby's story.

This photo shows Claire with the show’s
co-creator and performer Rachel Priest.

Despite being squirted with water and bopped on the head by low-flying ducklings (or possibly because of this) the young audience I watched it with obviously enjoyed the show as much as I did.

CLICK HERE to find out more about the production or CLICK HERE for current tour dates and links to the venues sites where you can book tickets.


Thursday, 21 February 2013

BRINGING DOWN THE MOON tops my library loans chart!

Bringing Down the Moon
is my most borrowed book
I've just received last year's UK library loans figures for my books, courtesy of the Public Lending Right (PLR) organisation.

I'm always interested to see which of my books are most popular in libraries and the loans figures are often surprisingly different from my sales figures.

For the last seven years my kite-flying picture book Someone Bigger has topped my loans chart by a considerable margin, but it's finally been knocked off the top spot by the first Mole and Friends picture book, Bringing Down the Moon

Farmyard frolic, The Pig's Knickers makes its first appearance in the top 5 at number 3, but a surprising new entry at number 5 is Monsters: An Owners Guide. This book came out in 2010 but went out of print less than two years later due to low sales.  However it's obviously been far more popular in libraries.

Out of print picture book
Monsters: An Owner's Guide is a
surprise entry in the top 5
Here are my top 5 most borrowed books.

Position
Book Title
Nº of Loans

1
20,013
2
17,070
3
13,449
4
12,419
5
12,051
  
The PLR organisation also publishes a list of the UK's Most Borrowed Authors and I've crept up another 12 places in this to 180th place. The most borrowed author was once again US crime writer James Patterson, with children's "author" Daisy Meadows in second place again. "Daisy Meadows" is the pseudonym used by a collection of authors who write the Rainbow Magic series, so the highest ranking individual children's author was picture book maestro Julia Donaldson in third place.


4th US award nomination for The Princess and the Pig!

I've known since last year that The Princess and the Pig, one of the picture books I've done with illustrator Poly Bernatene, is shortlisted for three different book awards in the US states of North Carolina, Washington and Maryland. The winners for these will be announced in the next couple of months. And now I've just been told that the book has also been shortlisted for the Georgia Children's Book Awards 2013-2014, the winners of which will be announced next year.



UPDATE 4/1/14:
I'm delighted to announce that Monsters: An Owners Guide is now BACK IN PRINT in a Let's Read mini-paperback edition.


Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Mole and Ruby on the Road!

I’ve been fortunate to have had two of my picture books adapted for the stage in the last couple of years and both productions are about to go on tour.


Ruby Flew Too!, has been adapted by Topsy Turvy Theatre. Topsy Turvy is a Yorkshire-based children’s theatre company founded in 2010 and Ruby Flew Too! was their first ever show. They’ve done another show, The Lost Present, since but are bringing Ruby back for another tour starting at Burnley Youth Theatre on Tuesday 19th February. I didn’t catch the show when it first came out, but I’m planning to see it this time around and am really looking forward to it.

The company have made this video which shows them fooling around hard at work rehearsing for the show.


CLICK HERE to find out more about the production or CLICK HERE for current tour dates and links to the venues sites where you can book tickets.


After a successful Christmas run at The Pleasance in London, Peaceful Lion Productions are taking their adaptation of Bringing Down the Moon on tour. You can see some photos of the show in my earlier blog post here and read what I thought of the show (I loved it) here. Here’s another of Pamela Raith's photo's of the show.



The Bringing Down the Moon tour starts on Saturday 16th February at Salisbury Playhouse.

CLICK HERE to find out more about the production and see a list of current tour dates with links for booking tickets.


I’ve never had any of my books adapted for the stage before, so it’s lovely to have two shows touring at once.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Callum’s Incredible Book Award (Updated)

I was at Bishop Stortford College in Hertfordshire for their annual picture book award ceremony this week. This year’s award was voted for by 1,324 children from the College and other local schools and there were nine books on the shortlist including Callum’s Incredible Construction Kit by myself and Ben Mantle

Here’s Ben and myself
And this is Ben with Amy Fletcher and Jo Hardacre
from Callum’s publisher, Egmont

There was an impressive turnout of shortlisted authors and illustrators; Will Buckingham, Rebecca Cobb, Atinuke, Jo Hodgkinson, Charlotte Middleton, Jackie Morris and Emily Gravett all attended along with Ben and myself. It was the first time Ben and I had met, so it was good to get to know him a little as well as all the other authors and illustrators. The current Children’s Laureate, Julia Donaldson, was also there to present the award and one of the highlights of my day was spending a some time chatting to her.

Here we are with all the other authors and illustrators

All the other authors and illustrators had been asked to give a short speech about our books. Authors and illustrators are not necessarily natural public speakers and many of us, including myself, were a little nervous about doing so. Julia Donaldson set the bar high with an introductory speech about her love of picture books, which seemed very natural and spontaneous. However the rest of us acquitted ourselves well and it was lovely hearing everyone talking about their books.

Ben used some of his illustrations in his talk (Photo: Ian Taylor)
 I appear to be using an invisible pneumatic drill in mine. (Photo: Ian Taylor)

After the speeches, Julia opened the envelope to announce the three runners up and the winner, which, to my and Ben’s delight, turned out to be Callum’s Incredible Construction Kit!


Julia presenting Ben and I with the award. (Photo: Ian Taylor)

It’s always nice to receive a book award, especially one that’s voted for by children, but when Ben and I accepted the trophy I explained that I was especially pleased that this particular book had proved so popular as I’d been sending it to publishers for three years before it was finally accepted by Egmont. Winning a children's vote like this made me feel it had been worth all the effort!

Here we are with teacher Simon Bailey who did a Callum-inspired
illustration to mark the event. (Photo: Ian Taylor)
And here’s the trophy itself!

It was a great day, so I'd like to say a BIG THANK YOU to the organisers for short-listing our book and organising such a lovely event. And an EVEN BIGGER THANK YOU to all the children that voted for Callum!

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