Monday, 11 September 2017

Scoop's Ups and Downs – New First Reader Picture Book


I have a new first reader picture book coming out today! Scoop's Ups and Downs is illustrated by Alex Paterson and published as part of Oxford University Press's Story Sparks series.

The story is a modern-day re-telling of The Fox and the Well Bucket, one of the Brer Rabbit stories from American Folklore.

An A B Frost illustration of the original Brer Rabbit story.

I'd read some of Enid Blyton's re-tellings of the Brer Rabbit stories as a child and fallen in love with the mischievous character, who is believed to have been based on Anansi, a trickster from African folklore. I had previously pitched adaptations of The Fox and the Well Bucket story to a couple of publishers using the original Rabbit and Fox characters, but they had not been accepted.

I first came across Brer Rabbit in this book
of Enid Blyton's re-tellings of the stories

When I was invited to submit ideas for Oxford University Press's new Story Sparks series, I sent them another adaptation of the story. Their commissioning editor liked the adaptation but asked if I could re-cast the story and re-set it in a modern urban setting as she already had a Story Sparks story featuring a fox and OUP published a separate series of traditional tales. I said I'd give it a go, which is why the story is now about two cats on a building site!

One of Alex Paterson's spreads for our modern-day re-telling of the story.

The text of Scoop's Ups and Downs is far simpler than most of my picture books and it's the first book I've done in a phonic format. I've written quite a few books for reading schemes like OUP's Treetops Series and I'm used to working with a word count and language levelling, but the additional restriction imposed by a phonic brief presented a new challenge to me.

My first draft of the story began with the words:

"It was a sunny day on the building site."

However all of the words shown in red are incompatible with the phonic level the book was intended for, which is why the first line now reads:

"It was a hot morning in the town."

I'm grateful to freelance editor (and author) Teresa Heapy for patiently explaining the ins and outs of writing for phonics and for helping me to knock the text into shape.

The book is illustrated by Alex Paterson, who had previously illustrated The Greatest Scientist of All Time, a short play script included in Skyboy and other Stupendous Science Stories. Alex has a great knack for comic characters and I'm delighted with the way he has brought this simple story to life.

Pail riders. Scoop and Scrap swap places.


You can order a copy of Scoop's Ups and Downs using the sales links below.

Buy this book at amazon UK Buy at amazon US
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