Monday, 19 December 2016

Eyes-Only Advent Picture Book Quiz

This post was originally published on Picture Book Den, a blog about picture books by picture book authors and illustrators.

December is here again! So, following on from last year's quiz I thought I'd test your picture book knowledge with another Advent-calendar-like picture book challenge.

When I first started out in children's books, I was illustrating as well as writing. One of the pieces of advice my first agent, Gina Pollinger, gave me at our very first meeting was to study the work of successful illustrators and – in particular – how they drew their characters' eyes. "It's important to get the eyes right," she told me, "if you don't, the character won't come alive and children will not believe in them." Although I never really made it as an illustrator, this is still an excellent piece of advice to any budding picture book illustrator.

So, for this year's quiz, how many of these classic picture book characters can you recognise from the eyes peeping out from the Christmas tree foliage below? Click on each image to reveal the answer. To make things a little more festive – there's a common theme to the even-numbered images.








8. (No – this one is not Homer Simpson's nipples!)



How did you do?

10/10 Eagle-eyed: Brilliant! You have 20/20 picture book vision.
7-9/10 An attentive pupil: A good effort. You know your Blake from your Briggs.
4-6/10 Not bad looking: But perhaps you should add some new reading glasses to your Christmas list.
1-3/10 Blinking awful: Are you sure you had your own eyes open?

Follow the fiendishly funny exploits of evil-eyed ├╝ber-brat Bradley Bartleby in my Christmas picture book, The Santa Trap, illustrated by Poly Bernatene and published by Macmillan Children's Books.

Buy this book from Hive Buy this book at amazon UK Buy at amazon US

Thursday, 1 December 2016

"Inappropriate for kids": What one very unsatisfied customer thought of THE SANTA TRAP

December has arrived and the picture book shelves of bookshops will soon be crammed with seasonal stories. With any luck The Santa Trap, my darkly comic cautionary tale illustrated by Poly Bernatene, will be among them. That said, I'm aware that not every book buyer will be amused by the antics of Bradley Bartleby, the book's brattish protagonist.

A couple of years ago, US children's author Marc Tyler Nobleman got together with 52 other American children's authors to make a series of videos in which – to use Nobleman's phrase – they "embraced the reality that not everyone likes every book." Or to put it more simply – they read out some scathing online reader reviews of their work.

As Nobleman says on his blog, "a bad review can equal a good laugh" and "this was not about reciprocating with mean-spiritedness. It’s simply a self-deprecating nod to a universal author experience that is already public".

Nobleman edited the videos into three compilations, the first of which is shown below. You can view all three of them on this page of Nobleman's blog.

The videos were a big hit on social media and later that year someone suggested on Twitter that UK authors should make their own compilation video and asked authors to submit clips. I thought it was a great idea and submitted a clip of me reading an absolutely damning reader review of The Santa Trap. However it seems that UK authors were not as keen on the idea as their American cousins as - as far as I know – no video was subsequently released.

A few weeks ago the subject of unfavourable online reader reviews came up in a conversation with some fellow children's authors and I mentioned the US compilations and offered to edit together a UK compilation myself. Again, the response was not exactly overwhelming and the project eventually fizzled out due to lack of willing participants.

Nevertheless, having invested a little time on the project, I decided to go it alone and put my less than glowing reader review online – along with some slightly more favourable responses. All of the quotes used in the video are from genuine one or five star reader reviews for The Santa Trap from and The animated text box at the bottom of the clip was inspired by Adam Buxton's very funny readings of YouTube comments as featured in his BUG TV and live shows.

If this hasn't put you off the book, you can find out more about it and read some more glowing responses from book reviewers and bloggers on this page of my web site.

One of Poly Bernatene's gorgeous illustrations for the book.

Buy this book from HiveBuy this book at amazon UKBuy at amazon US

And, if you live near Alnwick, Ilkley or Southend-on-Sea, you can book tickets to see Belfield and Slater's terrific musical adaptation of the story this Christmas, using the links below:

16-17th December - Alnwick Playhouse

18-19th December - King's Hall, Ilkley

23rd-31st December - Cliff's Pavilion, Palace Theatre, Southend-on-Sea

A scene from Robin Belfield and Simon Slater's excellent musical adaptation of the book.