Thursday, 27 December 2012

How not to write a "Thank You" letter

It's the day after Boxing Day. Every Christmas present has now been opened and the wrapping paper has found its way into the outside bin. After two days of over-indulgence, Mum and Dad decide it's time for the kids to write a few "Thank You" letters before everyone forgets who gave what to whom.

This poem is a cautionary example of how not to do it, sent from a very ungrateful child - a close cousin of The Santa Trap's Bradley Bartleby perhaps?

A Gift Horse in the Mouth

To Auntie Joan and Uncle Ray,

I did say "Thanks" on Christmas day,
but Mum says you gave so much stuff,
just saying it was not enough.
She says the least that I should do
is write a note to say 'Thank you'.
Quite why I should, I do not know,
but Mum insists, so here I go:

Thank you for the action-figure;
my friend has got one - only bigger!

Thank you for the new canoe;
I'll put it with my other two.

Thank you for the Mega-Maze;
a pity that was last year's craze.

Thank you for the cuddly toy;
it's perfect - for a younger boy.

Thank you for the spinning top;
they'll love it - at the charity shop.

Thank you for the painting set;
was this the best that you could get?

And thank you for the microscope;
you still have the receipt, I hope!

Phew! I'm glad I'm done with that!

Yours sincerely,

Spoilt Brat.

P.S. My birthday - DO remember -
is on the second of September!

You can find this, along with some other unpublished poems about toys, in the Early Poems section of my web site.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Hot-Diggerty! What I thought of Mole's stage show.

I took the train down to London yesterday to see Peaceful Lion's new stage show of Bringing Down the Moon. Although it's not the first time one of my picture book's has been adapted for the stage, this was the the first time I'd been to see the show and I have to admit to having some trepidation about the experience - what if I hated it? Fortunately I LOVED it!

The show is currently running in the small "StageSpace" studio theatre at The Pleasance in Islington. I watched it with an enthusiastic audience of young children and their parents. Some of the audience had obviously read the book, as they kept shouting out what was about to happen, but that just added to the humour of what was a very entertaining performance.

In fact, if I have one criticism of the show, it would be that it's actually a little too funny; I'm worried that people might come out of it saying that it was much funnier than my book. I voiced this concern to the cast and crew afterwards and asked them if they could try to make subsequent performances a little less amusing, but I don't think they took my request seriously.

Aside from the uncomfortably high level of hilarity, it was a very enjoyable show with some great songs, lovely costumes and characterful performances from all the cast.

Here's me with the show's adapter and director, Ollie, and the cast,
John, Victoria, Fleur and Henry, after the performance.

Bringing Down the Moon Play

Friday, 7 December 2012

Bringing Down the Moon Production Photos

I thought I'd share some of these gorgeous production photos of Peaceful Lion's new stage show of Bringing Down the Moon at The Pleasance Theatre in Islington with you.  They were all taken by Pamela Raith who specialises in performance photography.

Can you guess which character is which?

This character doesn't seem to have 20/20 vision.
But his friend seems to have plenty of bounce!
Who's this prickly looking musician?
This one looks a bit nutty!
It's very beautiful indeed ...
… but not as near as it looks!

You can see more photos of the show here.

Tickets are still available for many performances including the two on Saturday 15th December, when I'll be around to sign books afterwards. Click here to book tickets online.

Bringing Down the Moon Play

Monday, 26 November 2012

A Message from Bradley Bartleby

I don't usually feature guest posts on this blog and I hesitate to call this a “guest post” since the “guest” in question has threatened to set his tigers on me if I don’t do as he asks. But here it is anyway …


Dear Children of the World

My name is Bradley Bartleby. If you haven’t heard of me, that’s probably because you are ignorant wretches. 

My family are immensely rich and I live in a huge house with a garden that is big enough to lose an elephant in. You might think that being rich means that I can have whatever I want. Sadly, this is not the case. While my parents give in to my every demand, not everyone follows their fine example. There is one man in particular, who stubbornly refuses to give me what I want. His name is Santa Claus. While this fat fool gives proper presents to all of you each Christmas, he seems determined not to do the same for me. Ever since I was a baby, the only gift he’s given me is a pair of stupid socks, which is more of an insult than a gift. 

I’m not prepared to put up with this for any longer, so this Christmas I’m going to make sure I get what I want from Santa – this Christmas I’m going to take every present he’s got. 

To achieve this I’ve spent the whole of this year converting my house into a stupendous SANTA TRAP. Although I still have a few jobs left to do, I’m confident that I will catch the crimson clod. I’m obviously hoping to nab Santa early on in his journey, while he’s still got most of his gifts. Either way, it will mean that some of you will not be getting your presents this year. I realize that many children will be upset by this. To those children I say, “BOOHOO!”, “LOOK AT THE LITTLE CRY BABY!” and “TOUGH LUCK!” I’ve suffered many disappointing Christmases - now it’s your turn!

I’m aware that there is a picture book entitled “The Santa Trap” that claims to tell the story of what I’m doing. I have to admit that the first half of this book contains a disturbingly accurate account of my early life and the events of the last few months. The book’s author and illustrator have clearly been spying on me. I must improve the security here at Bartleby Hall – it seems that having ravenous tigers roaming the grounds is not enough.

I didn’t bother reading the second half of the book as it was clearly made-up nonsense. It appears to show events that have not even happened yet!!! The author and illustrator are obviously charlatans and the book’s publishers must be gullible idiots. I would urge you to ignore the book completely – only there is this rather fetching portrait of me on the front cover. 

So I suggest you buy a copy, put the cover in an expensive frame and throw away the rest of the book – or better still burn it!

To set the record straight as to my actual activities, I have taken out a Twitter account @BradelyBartleby and will be tweeting a daily progress report as I put the finishing touches to my trap.  You can find my daily tweets here:

The first tweet will be on the 1st December and the last on the 24th December, after which I will be too busy opening my thousands of presents to tweet any more.

Here’s wishing ME a very merry and present-filled Christmas.

Yours vengefully

Bradley Bartleby

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Seven Stories Callum Events and Bringing Down the Moon Signings

Here’s news of a couple of events I have coming up in the next few months.

Seven Stories National Centre for Children’s Books,
Newcastle upon Tyne, 19th January 2013

I’ll be doing two events at Seven Stories featuring Callum’s Incredible Construction Kit. It’s my first trip to the centre, which I’ve been meaning to visit since it opened.

As well as reading the book, I’ll be talking about my own love of building things and how this has influenced many of my stories. At the end of each event, children will be able to make and decorate a simple Callum pop-up to take away with them.

Click here to book tickets for the event at the Seven Stories website, where you can also find out about the other wonderful exhibitions and activities that the centre has to offer. The centre takes up seven storeys of a converted Victorian mill, giving rise to its punning title.

Click here to find out more about Callum’s Incredible Construction Kit.

Pleasance Theatre, Islington, 15th December 2012

Before that, I’m going down to London to see Peaceful Lion Productions' new stage show of Bringing Down the Moon (see last blog post) and will be signing books after the 11.00am and 1.00pm performances on 15th December.  So come along and say hello!

Tickets are still available for both these performances as I write this, but other performances have already sold out, so CLICK HERE TO BOOK now if you'd like to see the show before having your book signed.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Bringing Down the Moon Stage Show

I’m delighted to announce that my picture book, Bringing Down the Moon, has been adapted into a stage show. You may have noticed an advert for it at the side of this blog for the last month.

The book, illustrated by Vanessa Cabban, is the first in the Mole and Friends series and has been translated into 20 different languages since its publication in 2001. It tells the story of what happens when Mole sees the moon for the first time and sets out to bring it down from the sky. His friends, Rabbit, Hedgehog and Squirrel keep telling him, “It’s not as near as it looks,” but Mole is determined to succeed.

The book has been adapted for the stage by Ollie Fielding for Peaceful Lion Productions and opens at the Pleasance Theatre in Islington this Christmas, before going on tour in 2013.

The show will be at the Pleasance from 4 December 2012 to 2 January 2013, with performances at 11.00am and 1.00pm.

The show's still being put together, but Peaceful Lion have sent me this photo of a model of the set, by designer Eleanor Field, which captures the atmosphere of Vanessa Cabban’s beautiful illustrations for the book.

They’ve sent me a couple of sketches of the costume designs for Hedgehog and Squirrel to share with you too. But if you want to see what Mole looks like — you’ll have to see the show. 

One performance is already sold out, so CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR TICKETS NOW!

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Callum’s Incredible TV Series

I’m delighted to announce that I’ve just signed a deal for a TV series of my latest picture book Callum’s Incredible Construction Kit.

It’s far more difficult to get a TV series to screen than to get a book into print, so it may come to nothing (which is what happened to the TV deal I had for Dinosaurs After Dark a few years ago) but it’s still an exciting prospect.

The series is being developed by The Foundation, the UK production company who make Waybuloo, Dani’s House and many other children's programmes. The Foundation is also behind the forthcoming Quick Quack Duck TV series that I blogged about earlier in the year and they intend to make the Callum series in a similar 3D computer-animated style.

The company expressed a very early interest in adapting Callum for TV and I first met with Director Vanessa Hill back in May, four months before the book had even been published. Vanessa asked me to get involved with the development of the series, which is already well underway and the company are about to start work on an animation sample. TV is a very different medium to picture books, with it’s own conventions and restrictions but I’m enjoying getting to grips with the new challenges that it presents.

The TV version of Callum will look distinctly different to the picture book version, but one of the reasons I’ve been asked to get involved is to ensure that the TV version retains the elements that are central to the book’s appeal: Callum’s can-do attitude and resourcefulness and plenty of cool construction kit creations!

Even if everything goes swimmingly, the series won’t air until 2015 at the earliest - so don’t hold your breath ...

Thursday, 11 October 2012

The Princess and the Pig — UK Paperback

Out last year in hardback, my second picture book with illustrator Poly Bernatene, The Princess and the Pig, has just come out in a UK paperback edition published by Macmillan Children’s Books

It's the story of a princess and a piglet who are accidentally switched at birth and brought up in each others places. The characters in the story try to make sense of the situation by referring to fairy tales in which similar things happen.  So the king, having just read Sleeping Beauty, assumes that his daughter has been turned into a pig by a bad fairy in revenge for not being invited to the princess's christening.

When I was writing the story I was torn between giving it the conventional fairytale ending, favoured by my then four-year-old daughter, and a more surprising and slightly subversive ending, which I thought was funnier. In the end I plumped for the latter and fortunately many readers and reviewers seem to share my tastes.

Here are a couple of the books reviews
"All the ingredients of a sure-fire winner ... The pictures are beautiful, bold; the story is very funny ... What’s not to like?"
Yvonne Coppard, CAROUSEL

"Emmett and Bernatene have concocted a pretty much perfect fractured fairy tale, with wry, Thurberesque prose and gorgeously funny digital drawings that both embrace and wink at the genre."
The hardcover edition recently won the Hillingdon Picture Book of the Year Award in the UK and was shortlisted for last year’s CYBILS Awards in the US.  The book is currently shortlisted for three other US awards: the Maryland Black-Eyed Susan Book Award, the Washington Children's Choice Picture Book Award and - as I've only just discovered - the North Carolina Children's Book Award.

Here’s the trailer I made for the book in which I look extremely regal and distinguished, in a porcine sort of way - and not at all foolish.

And here’s one of the spreads.

As usual, you can find out more about the book’s creation by reading my author’s note on the book’s page on my main web site.

As well as the new UK paperback edition published by Macmillan, the book is available in a US hardcover edition published by Walker Books.

Buy at amazon UK Buy at amazon US

And, before I go, here’s a sneak peek of the next book Poly and I have done together. It’s called Here Be Monsters and is a swashbuckling tale of dastardly pirates and mischievous monsters. Macmillan have taken the book to the Frankfurt Book Fair this week and it should be published around this time next year. Here's a detail from one of Poly’s magnificently misty illustrations.

Monday, 1 October 2012

THE SANTA TRAP springs in the US

I’m delighted to announce that my picture book, The Santa Trap, has just been published in the US.

Peachtree Publishers have produced a hardcover edition of the book, which is brilliantly illustrated by Poly Bernatene.  The Santa Trap is the first book that Poly and I did together, but it took a while to find a US publisher which meant that The Princess and the Pig, which Poly and I did afterwards, came out first it in the US.

Here’s how the story is described on the dust jacket:
Bradley Bartleby is bad. Very bad. 
All the adults in Bradley’s life are running scared – except for Santa Claus, who refuses to give him anything but socks. But Bradley vows to get what he deserves. Determined to nab Santa and make off with his loot, Bradley transforms his house into a trap so fearsome even his parents refuse to enter it. With Dynamite, trapdoors, guillotines and tigers in his path, Santa doesn’t stand a chance.
Or does he?
And here’s one of my favourite spreads from the book.

The US edition has already picked up some great reviews such as these:
“Bernatene’s cinematic mixed-media illustrations work wicked magic with Emmett’s darkly comedic prose, as Bradley’s plans backfire explosively. An ideal Christmas present for children who prefer Halloween.”
“The cleverly constructed plot unfolds with perfect comedic timing and dry wit, complemented by digitally produced mixed-media illustrations that have a suitably sinister, magnetic charm. Bernatene's artwork uses dark colors, shadows and cinematic perspectives to bring Bradley's world into believable focus.”
KIRKUS REVIEWS - Starred Review

This diagram shows the final trap I built and includes a
recreation of the Lego seesaw device used to trigger the alarm.
If you go to the book’s page on my main web site, you can read how the story was partly inspired by my own childhood attempts to catch Santa Claus. My motives were far more innocent than Bradley’s – I just wanted to get a glimpse of the elusive old gentleman – I didn’t want to rob him of all his gifts!

You can also read about the three year search to find exactly the right illustrator. The book’s UK publisher, Macmillan, and I considered several illustrators, from both sides of the Atlantic, before settling on Argentinian Poly Bernatene, who rewarded our patience with a stunning set of illustrations.

To mark the publication of the US edition, I made this video!

One of my hobbies is designing and making furniture and the backdrop for the video is a playroom cupboard I've made. You can see more of the cupboard on this page of my website. It’s designed to be climbed on and has a couple of dens built into the top, one of which is entered by a trapdoor. Speaking of trapdoors, if you look carefully at the video, you’ll see a few books from Bradley’s library on the bookshelves behind me, including one on that very subject!

The bookshelves behind me include several volumes
borrowed from Bradley’s library.

I’d originally intended to use Poly’s cage illustration from the book at the end of the video, but it didn’t look quite right when I tried it out, so I ended up creating a CGI model of a similar cage. If you freeze the video, you’ll see that I could easily escape as there are no bars at the back! I had to miss these out or (without a lot more time and effort) it would have looked like the cage had dropped in front of rather than over me. However the cage is on the screen for such a short time I didn’t think anyone would notice.

I created this CGI cage to look like the one
Poly drew in the book.

As well as the new US hardcover edition published by Peachtree the book is also available in a UK paperback edition published by Macmillan.

You can find out more about the book on this page of my web site.

Buy at amazon US Buy this book at amazon UK

Monday, 24 September 2012

Hillingdon & Washington Picture Book Awards

It’s always nice to discover that a book I’ve written has been shortlisted for a book award and even nicer to discover that a book has won one — particularly when the winner has been selected by a children’s vote. Usually award organisers contact authors when their books are shortlisted, but occasionally I don’t get to hear about a nomination until the book I’ve written has won the award. This was the case with the Hillingdon Picture Book of the Year Award 2012, which I’m delighted to announce has just been won by The Princess and the Pig illustrated by Poly Bernatene.

The award is voted for by Year 2 school children (ages six to seven) from the London Borough of Hillingdon. I’m particularly pleased that my book proved to be the most popular given the strength of the shortlist which was as follows:
Hubble Bubble Granny Trouble by Tracey Corderoy and Joe Berger
The Highway Rat by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler
Pinkie Mouse, Where Are You? by Alison Green and Deborah Allwright
Don't Worry Douglas! by David Melling
Good Little Wolf by Nadia Shireen

And, thanks to Google alerts, I’ve just discovered that The Princess and the Pig has also been shortlisted for the Washington Children's Choice Picture Book Award 2013 in the US.

The award is voted for by Washington State's K-3 students (ages five to six) and there is a shortlist of twenty picture books, which you can find here. The winner will be announced in April 2013.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Geekzine Interview and Twitter news

If you’ve ever met me and made the mistake of mentioning the subject of “boys not liking books”, I’ll probably have subjected you to my sermon on how many of the key ingredients that appeal to boys are excluded from most picture books and how this results in boys turning to other mediums such as comics, TV and video games where these key ingredients are enthusiastically embraced. I’ll spare you the full sermon here (or I’ll be typing all night), but one of the things I’ve realised since I’ve started writing boy-friendly picture books that include these missing ingredients is that many girls also find them appealing. 

Nevertheless, I was still surprised to see a two-year-old girl and her parents (with no older brother) at my Callum’s Incredible Construction Kit event at Edinburgh last month. The event was advertised for ages five to eight and nearly all of the children attending were boys. At the signing afterwards I discovered she was there because her favourite book was Monsters: An Owner's Guide (again, not the sort of book you'd expect a two-year-old girl to be fond of) which she’d brought along for me to sign.

It turned out that her dad, Andy, was the editor of Geekzine, the Edinburgh based website and fanzine, which went a long way to explaining his daughter’s unconventional taste in picture books!

I’ve since done an interview with Geekzine, which you can find here.

On an unrelated note, I’ve just joined Twitter. You can follow me on @ScribbleStreet or find my profile page here. Among other things, I’ll be tweeting to say when I’ve added a new entry to this blog.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

A Secret Worth Sharing

Published last year in hardback, the fifth Mole and Friends book, A Secret Worth Sharing has just come out in paperback. UK readers may have seen the book being read by Casualty’s Tristan Gemmill on the CBeebies Bedtime Hour over the summer.

It’s been eleven year’s since the first Mole book, Bringing Down the Moon, was published and I didn’t imagine at the time that illustrator Vanessa Cabban and I would still be creating books about Mole and his friends a decade later. Although the first four stories have proved very popular, with Mole’s adventures being translated into more than 22 languages, I decided the format needed shaking up a little for this fifth book, so I introduced a new character, Mouse, to Moles’s familiar circle. Here’s what it says on the back cover:
Mole's new friend, Mouse, is so special, he doesn't want to share her with anyone and decides to keep her a secret.  But some secrets are worth sharing. 
And here's my favourite spread from the book, the last panel of which echoes the first Mole story, Bringing Down the Moon.

The book is published by Walker Books in the UK. You can find out more about it on this page of my web site.

Buy this book at amazon UK Buy at amazon US Buy a signed copy

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Callum's Incredible Construction Kit

Previewed at Edinburgh last month, my new picture book Callum's Incredible Construction Kit illustrated by Ben Mantle, has just come out in both hardback and paperback!

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the book is a bit of milestone for me, as it’s the 50th I’ve had published. You can get an idea of what it’s about (and watch me making a fool of myself) by watching the video below.

I converted my kitchen into a makeshift studio for a day to shoot
this and a couple of other videos (including the Flick-Flack video
in the previous post). I got a pop-up blue/green screen for my
birthday last year and was able to light it fairly well by
repositioning the kitchen spotlights. Fortunately my son, Max,
was on hand to help me with the “complex special effects sequence”
(ie: swapping over the Duplo models while I froze in place).

The book was borne out of my childhood enthusiasm for Lego and other construction kits and was also inspired by one of my favourite picture books, Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson.  That book is about a boy whose drawings come to life on the page. I wanted to write a story in which another child, Callum, could do something similar, but in three dimensions, in the real world.

You can read more about how I came to write the book and why it took six years to get into print on this page of my web site.

Buy this book at amazon UK Buy at amazon US Buy a signed copy

Sunday, 19 August 2012


I’ve just got back from the Edinburgh International Book Festival where I did an event previewing my forthcoming picture book Callum’s Incredible Construction Kit illustrated by Ben Mantle. Although I’ve been to Edinburgh at festival time before, this was my first time at the Book Festival, as either a visitor or a participant, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

As well as reading the book, I talked about my lifelong love of building things and how this has influenced many of my stories. Edinburgh proved to be an ideal place to launch a book about a boy called Callum (a Scottish name meaning dove) and I met two Callums at the signing afterwards. Thanks to them and everyone else that came along.

Callum’s Incredible Construction Kit is published
by Egmont and their Publishing Director, Melissa
Fairley, came along to lend a hand at the event. 

All of the children attending took away a Callum Flick-Flack, an intriguing piece of paper-engineering I’d created especially as a souvenir of the event.
Having spent some time designing it, I thought I should share it with a wider audience, so you can click here to download a smaller print out and make version of the Flick-Flack then watch the video below for detailed instructions on how to make it.

Click here to find out more about Callum's Incredible Construction Kit.

Monday, 16 July 2012

“I call this game fun in a box,” said the Cat.

It’s often said that when you give a child a toy, they may spend more time playing with the box it came in than with the toy itself. This goes double if there is a paper-engineer in the family and when our kids were little, large cardboard boxes were seldom discarded — they were put aside for the next birthday party when they would be cut and folded into …

… a pirate ship … 

… a dinosaur … 

… a dragon …  

… or a castle gateway. 

In our family, a party is not a party without some creative use of cardboard. 

Perhaps that explains why my son Max — presumably thinking that being six foot three at the age of fifteen did not make him conspicuous enough — decided to attend his school prom dressed in a cardboard top hat and tails.

So while other students were fussing with their dinner jackets and ball gowns, I was helping Max package himself in corrugated cardboard and parcel tape. Here is the wondrous result.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Edinburgh event tickets now available

I’m delighted to say that I’ve been asked to do an event at this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival. It’s my first time at the Festival and I am just doing one event on Wednesday 15th August.

I’ll be talking about my forthcoming picture book, Callum’s Incredible Construction Kit, illustrated by Ben Mantle. It's about a boy who loves building things and, as well as reading the book, I’ll be talking about my own love of building things and how this has influenced many of my stories. At the end of the event, children will be able to make and decorate a simple Callum pop-up to take away with them.

Click here to book tickets for the event (and see my alarmingly cropped photo) at the Festival’s website, where you can also find out about the many other authors and illustrators attending.

Callum’s Incredible Construction Kit will be the 50th book I’ve had published, the first being Doohickey and the Robot, back in 1999. The book is not out until 3rd September, but I’ve just received a couple of advance copies and they look terrific.

And here’s a sneak preview of one of the spreads.