Friday, 18 December 2009

It's CHRRRRISTMAAAAAAAAASSSS! #1 Grumpy Badger's Christmas

Christmas is coming and everyone is so excited - except for Grumpy Badger. "PIFFLE!" he shouts. "I am going to sleep until the spring, and if anyone wakes me I shall be VERY grumpy!" But then Grumpy Badger has three visitors . . . and there is a great crisis. Will he learn the error of his ways before it's too late?

This is a brilliant new take on the Dickens classic A Christmas Carol. You know how it goes, a disgruntled old loner is taught the value of friendship and generosity, through the medium of Christmas. Lovely stuff!

Tell me your favourite thing about Christmas to win a copy!

Thursday, 17 December 2009

T'was the night before Christmas . . . #2 Santa's Noisy Night

It's Christmas Eve, and Santa's favourite time of year. "Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way!" he sings noisily. Will Santa's high spirits waken the children?

This is a spectacular pop-up edition of one of our most popular Christmas stories. With durable pop-up pages suitable for inquisitive young readers, this comic story is perfect for sharing at Christmas time.

To win a copy, tell me what treats you will be leaving out for Santa and his reindeer on Christmas Eve!

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

On the third day of Christmas, Bertie gave to me - three green bogieeeees! #3 Dirty Bertie: Crackers!

Meet Dirty Bertie - a boy with nose-pickingly DISGUSTING HABITS! He's full to bursting with madcap plans and crazy ideas, and if it's TROUBLE you're after, look no further - Bertie's sure to be up to his neck in it!

This three-in-one collection of hilarious Dirty Bertie Christmas stories – “Baa!”, “Elf!” and “Crackers!” – recreates all the magic and mayhem of a family Christmas through the eyes of our favourite trouble magnet.  It includes Bertie enlisting his dog, Whiffer, for a starring role in the school nativity; an ill-fated stint as Santa's little helper and bespoke Christmas crackers, Bertie-style (think a set of dracula teeth, rather than a travel sewing kit.) David Roberts’s brilliantly observed illustrations and Alan MacDonald’s razor-sharp writing make these stories a cut above the rest. 

I love everything about Bertie, he is just hilarious and actually rather endearing for such a scruffy little scamp. There should be one of these in every Christmas stocking!

To win a copy I'd like to be regaled with an amusing, festive, family anecdote.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

May all your christmases be white . . . #4 One Snowy Night

One snowy Christmas, a cold little hedgehog wakes from his winter sleep to find a present from Father Christmas. It's a snug woolly red hat - just what he needs. But when Little Hedgehog tries to wear the hat his prickles get in the way and it won't fit. Then Little Hedgehog has a wonderful idea . . .

Little Hedgehog is one of our most enduring characters. Each of his adventures has something of a meteorological theme, and in this particular story it is a snowstorm which threatens to get the better of the small spiky one. But what is a little dose of extreme weather conditions when you've got good friends looking out for you? This lovely, wintry tale touches gently on themes of friendship, generosity and sharing - all important at this special time of year! Also, if that's not enough for you, Little Hedgehog's hat is touch-and-feel on every page - lovely and soft for little fingers.

To win this book I'd like you to tell me the best Christmas present you've ever been given.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Every little girl's Christmas dream come true . . . #5 Lost in the Snow

Fluff is desperate to have a home of her own like her brothers and sisters - but no one seems to want her . . .

Then Ella turns up at the farm. She falls in love with Fluff straight away and pleads with her mother to let her have Fluff, but her mother is firm - they don't want a cat.

Fluff and Ella are heartbroken . . . and Fluff is terrified. What happens to kittens that nobody wants?

I have a confession - I'm not really such a fan of cats. I seem to be in the minority, all my friends love them. I can get on board with a cat as an individual, dependent on their personality. As a child my next door neighbours had seven cats. I liked one of them, two at a push. Catherine Rayner has a brilliant cat, but that's really because she's more like a dog. Dogs on the other hand, I love. Pretty much every one I meet.

Despite this fact, I'd have to be made of stone to not find Fluff, the intrepid little star of Lost in the Snow, adorable. Unlike me, most little girls are obsessed with the idea of having their own little kitten to love, and they go completely nuts for Holly Webb's books. I get by far the most fan mail for Holly, several letters every week. In fact, I just opened three this morning! Every time we publish Holly's latest book, we cross our fingers that it will do as well as the one before, you can't take anything for granted in this business, and lo and behold we seem to have another hit on our hands. Lost in the Snow was where it all began, and remains one of our biggest sellers at Christmas.

To get your hands on a copy I'd like you to tell me about your first pet. My favourite gets the book!

Friday, 11 December 2009

You better not pout, I'm telling you why . . . #6 I've Seen Santa!

It's Christmas Eve and Little Bear can't wait for Santa to deliver his presents. "Santa will come just as soon as you go to sleep," Mummy Bear says. But Little Bear doesn't want to go to sleep. He wants to see Santa. Suddenly . . . glug, glug, glug! What's that noise? Someone is downstairs! Will Little Bear really get to see Santa . . . ?

I'm being extra generous to you with this one and offering one of our book & CD sets. You probably didn't know this, but we were the first people to put the CD actually inside the back of the book, rather than putting it in one of those plastic packs. Much neater to display in bookshops and better for the environment, so a winner all round! This one's read by Lesley Sharp and Jason Isaacs (yes, him out of Harry Potter, but this is his cuddly side.) and they do a great job of this lovely cosy Christmas story.

To win this book I want to hear about a time when you've seen/heard evidence of Santa's visit.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Let them wear pink!

I like pink. There, I've said it. I had no idea this would be such a shameful confession, but apparently this makes me:
* a gender stereotype
* likely to suffer from low self-esteem
* unlikely to aspire to a challenging career
What nonsense!

A campaign group are mounting an offensive against the colour pink and the products they feel are enforcing gender stereotyping amongst children.

As publishers, we are regularly discouraged from giving books a pink cover as it halves our market. This doesn't work both ways. Girls will read books aimed at boys, but boys won't touch a book with a bit of pink on the cover. If a book is very specifically aimed at girls and we go with a pink cover, we have to be confident that commercially it can be sustained by female oriented purchasers.

So far books don't seem to be a casualty of the anti-pink tirade. Perhaps this is because the parents involved see them as a more worthy commodity. It seems to be the 'walls of pink' found in toy shops bearing the brunt of the wrath. Of course we don't have this problem in bookshops, due to the way books are merchandised. Until everyone writing for girls changes their surname to begin with 'M' in order to sit on the shelf next to Daisy Meadows, we should continue to achieve a fairly even spread.

But of course one shouldn't judge a book by its cover. Funny then that these campaigners should be enforcing the idea that what's on the outside does count. It doesn't seem to me that they're sending out a very positive message to their children by saying: "People won't take you seriously if you wear pink. It's too girly."

Did I miss something? I thought the feminist movement had moved on from this. I thought it was now about empowering women by appreciating our femininity and celebrating all we have to offer the world. I have been labouring under the misconception that we are no longer competing in 'a man's world' by trying to be more like them.

These parents seem most worried about the fact that their daughters will grow up thinking they're only good for 'girly' careers. Someone better tell Darcey Bussell that her drive, determination and hard work have been misplaced. She could have been a doctor, if only her parents hadn't allowed her to flounce about the house in a pink tutu.

The bottom line is, if you don't like it, don't buy it, but please don't insult our intelligence by telling us what we should and should not be buying for the little girls in our lives. My three year-old niece asked me for a pink sparkly dress and pink sparkly shoes for Christmas this year. I do not believe that indulging this request makes me an irresponsible role model, or is encouraging her to conform to any kind of gender stereotyping. As an educated, independent young woman with a successful career, I feel confident that I will inspire and support her to aim high and follow her dreams. Whether she does so wearing pink sequins is, I feel, entirely irrelevant.

Maybe I'll give up the publishing game, turn to politics and go for the top job. If only so that I can paint the door of Number 10 pink when I get there.

One for the little little-ones . . . #7 The Magic Little Sleigh

Jingle, jingle! Ding-a-dong ding!
Over the ocean, sleigh bells ring.
One little penguin's on his way,
Flying along in his magical sleigh!

Join these happy friends on their snowy day out. Children will love counting the creatures as they hop on the sleigh - with chunky touch-and-feel carriages that are perfect for little hands!

This is another product of Team Caterpillar so you can expect a lovely rhyming text, funky illustrations and a great novelty element. There are four books in this particular series and this one is a Christmassy counting adventure. Lots of glitter makes this one particularly festive.

To win a copy of this lovely book I'd like you to tell me where you would travel to if you had a magical sleigh to take you there.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

It's the most magical time of the year . . . #8 Winter Magic

A delightful collection of festive animal tales, with a sprinkling of magic, starring a lost wolfcub, some mischievous mice, a magic camel and a dog called wizard!

Featuring brand-new stories from celebrated authors - Michael Broad, Adele Geras, Tanya Landman, Penny Dolan, Julia Green, Holly Webb, Karen Wallace, Caroline Pitcher, Malachy Doyle and Elizabeth Baguley.

Christmas Animal Tales was received with such delight that we have since done not one, but two more Christmassy anthologies! This is number three, just to mix things up a bit. The quality has not dipped one jot. My favourite story in this one is Annie's Camel by Adele Geras. A lovely bit of Christmas magic!

To win this one I would like you to tell me what wish you would most like granted at Christmas time. My favourite gets a copy of the book.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Christmas is a time for family . . . #9 Christmas with You

Bows and ribbons shimmer bright,
sweet surprises wrapped with care.
Whispers in the firelight,
Christmas joy for us to share.

With stunning illustrations, this lyrical, joyful book is a wonderful celebration of all that is special about Christmas.

For me, the best thing about Christmas is spending time with my loved ones. Of course this has always been the case, but since leaving home and moving up to The Big Smoke, this time is even more special. I get two weeks back in Swansea to spend with my lovely family and friends. This book celebrates all the fantastic things you can do together at Christmas, from decorating the Christmas tree (my favourite thing) to singing carols. This really is a wonderful book to share together at Christmas.

I'm sure you can all guess what the question to win this book will be . . . Tell me your favourite thing to share/do with the special people in your life at Christmas. As it's my competition, I get to pick my favourite!

Monday, 7 December 2009

A pet is NOT just for Christmas . . . #10 Christmas Animal Tales

A magical treasury of festive animal tales, starring a little donkey, a naughty kitten, a special reindeer and even a talking turkey. Featuring brand new stories from celebrated authors Adele Geras, Michael Broad, Vivian French, Maeve Friel, Anna Wilson, Penny Dolan, Holly Webb and Alan Durant.

If there is one area in which Stripes is unrivalled, it's in cute animal stories. The prolific mistress of the Adorable Animal in Peril genre, Holly Webb, is our biggest selling author, selling in excess of half a million copies! It was only natural, then, that we produce a Christmas books playing to our strengths, and so Christmas Animal Tales was born. With contributions from the creme de la creme writing for young readers, including the lovely Holly, this is an utterly charming collection. My personal favourite is Talking Turkey by Alan Durant - I was a bit of an animal activist as a child!

To win this lovely book, I want you to tell me what name you would give to an adorable little puppy which was left on your doorstep on Christmas Eve. My favourite gets a copy of the book.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Getting Crafty for Christmas . . . #11 Christmas Stencils

Draw snowmen, flying reindeer, snowflakes, presents and much more using the stencils on each page and design your own snowy scenes, cards and wrapping paper. Then use the big press-out pieces as sparkling decorations - perfect for hanging on your tree.

This is a Caterpillar book. The Caterpillars are an incredibly creative bunch who design and produce all sorts of novelty books for quite small people. They come up with the most innovative ideas which sound wonderful, but none of us believe can actually be realised. Lo and behold, every time they manage to design the product so that it is actually feasible and our awesome production team find some clever printers who can make it a reality.

Christmas Stencils is one such example. It does so many things, it doesn't quite do it justice to simply call it a book. It is a board books with really cute illustrations and a lovely rhyming text, but it doesn't stop there. It has press out pieces, which you can use as stencils and the bits you press out have nifty little holes so that you can string a bit of ribbon through them and use them as Christmas decorations. Lovely.

There are five Christmas decorations in the book. One is given away on the cover - a snowman. A copy of the book to the first person to guess one of the other items.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

The Countdown Begins . . . #12 The Magical Snowman

Little Rabit has made a wonderful snowman. He doesn't want to leave him! "He is just a snowman," says Daddy. "He isn't real." But when Little Rabbit gets lost in the snow, a soft light sparkles through the trees and a very special friend appears to take him on a magical journey home . . .

This book obviously has echoes of the Raymond Briggs classic, The Snowman. It's a really sweet story, probably more suitable for a younger age group, perfect to snuggle up with as a wintry bedtime story. I love Alison Edgson's illustrations because her animals are so gorgeously soft and fluffy you could be forgiven for attempting to reach out and stroke them. You can't really tell from the picture, but the snowman is glittery on every page, and a bit of glitter is always rather nice at Christmas!

So, to get your hands on a copy, please comment below telling me what you would most like to build out of snow and find come to life. I will pick my favourite. Keep it clean, please, it's a kids' book!

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

The Twelve Days Until Christmas Commences!

That's right people, as of tomorrow I will have just twelve days left in the office before I head back to the wet, lovely land of song I call home. And as Christmas is a time of giving, I have decided to give my dear readers a Christmas treat.

I spend a fair amount of time worrying that no one is actually reading my ramblings, but then my good friend Simon over at Big Green Books pointed out that I could put a counter up and find out the truth, and it turns out a fair few people have actually stopped by, although whether by accident or not, I can't be sure. Anyhoo, I will be rewarding the people who are interested in what I have to say with some lovely books from Little Tiger, Stripes and Caterpillar.

Each working day for the next twelve days I will be posting a little bit about one of our lovely Christmassy books, along with a competition question. At 5pm each day I will select a winner at random who will get a copy of the book. Pretty simple really.

See you back here on the morrow for book one! Which of this lovely lot will it be??

Friday, 20 November 2009

Small but Mighty

I'm here to talk about being small but mighty, specifically in the book trade. Rather than, say, Persil, which is apparently small but mighty but in an area I know very little about. If you're not already familiar with the small but mighty force of The Big Green Bookshop, shame on you. Find out about them here: First, a little background about how I got involved with The Big Green Bookshop in a friend/supporter kind of capacity.

Two years ago I left my hometown of Swansea, where I was a Children's Bookseller at Waterstone's, to take up the post of Publicity Assistant at Little Tiger Press and Stripes Publishing. One day, I was perusing The Bookseller website, when I came across a guest blog by Simon Key (co-owner of the BGB). I believe they were at the stage where they were waiting for various bits of paper to be passed around before they could get their hands on the keys, but I forget as I was so intrigued that I hopped straight over to this blog: to find out more. I was more than impressed by what Simon and his partner in crime Tim West were doing and the exposure they were getting, so I immediately offered my services in whatever way I could.

When I told my friends I was going to help some people I had never met get ready to open a bookshop, I think they thought I was a bit mad, but they weren't particularly surprised. They'd written me off as bookshop obsessed long ago. A word about people who've worked for Waterstone's. Any two people who've worked for the big W will ALWAYS have something to talk about. So, surrounded by current and ex-Waterstoners, I knew I was amongst friends. Ever since this day, spent making green bunting (which still adorns the shop) and putting books on shelves, I have been hooked on the world of all things BIG and GREEN, because they are, yes, SMALL and MIGHTY. They prove that size should be no obstacle to success, and they aren't afraid to think big. Regular readers of Simon's blog will know that they were listed as one of The Bookseller's top ten independent bookshops, before they'd even opened their doors and they won a Haringey Business Award in their first year. Most importantly, they are probably the most innovative and forward-thinking bookshop I have ever come across, and I spend A LOT of time in bookshops all over the country. The entrepreneurial skills these boys demonstrate are just incredible. They are in constant dialogue with their customers and the trade about how they can improve and function more effectively as a business. They may be a small business, but this doesn't stop them from thinking BIG and more importantly, CREATIVELY.

The company I work for started out in a similar way. Little Tiger Press actually began as two brothers and an uncle selling a book (written by the brothers' mum) out of the back of a van. Over the past twenty-two years, this has grown to a work force of fifty, working across three imprints: Little Tiger Press, Stripes Publishing and Caterpillar Books. This year alone, Little Tiger Press has won the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal (the most prestigious award in the UK for children's book illustration) and published two of the thirteen titles selected for CITVs Bookaboo. This month it was announced that two of the nine books shortlisted for the Blue Peter Book Award were published by Stripes, a feat matched only by Macmillan Children's Books. All this goes to show that though small, we too can prove ourselves to be worthy opponents for the bigger publishing houses.

This month The Big Green Bookshop announced that they would be twinned with Gallic Books. This kind of original thinking is what sets them apart and makes them a force to be reckoned with within the industry.

I hope all this doesn't come across as a big gloat, that is not the spirit in which it is intended. I hope it is inspiring. I hope it gives people hope for the future of independent bookshops and publishers. I think it's good to celebrate success when so often people only comment on the downside of the industry. More than anything else, I hope it awakens the entrepreneurial side in others. I'm not sure I could do what my directors and friends have done, and at my age I wouldn't rule out ever working for one of the big houses, I'll try anything once. But I will never lose my sense of admiration and respect for smaller businesses that strive for mighty results!

The now infamous bunting outside the mighty Big Green Bookshop.

Gleeful co-owners Tim West (left) and Simon Key. 
Both now have considerably longer hair.

Stripey author Martin Chatterton does Big Green Wednesday.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

And . . . breathe . . .

Well, my poor little blog has been woefully neglected over the past month or so, but I literally haven't had time to think, never mind organise my thoughts into some kind of vaguely comprehensible narrative. It's ironic that when I have the most interesting news to report, I don't actually have any time to blog! So, where did it all go crazy?

It all kicked off at the beginning of October with the arrival of Children's Book Week. We had two authors out and about during this week, Guy Bass and Harriet Goodwin, but more about them in a little while. I was actually in the office that week ensuring all the preparations were in place for the Dirty Bertie Tour. There are so many things to think about before embarking on a tour and as much as you try to ensure that all will run smoothly, you have to rely on a lot of other people (booksellers, teachers, librarians, parents) to get things right too. It can be hard to remember that they've got plenty of stuff going on too and whilst your priority is the tour, it's not necessarily theirs. So I basically spent that week doing as much as I could to be prepared for any eventuality but, at the end of it, all I could do was get on the train to Liverpool and cross my fingers!

My big coup prior to the commencement of the tour itself was getting David Roberts a slot on the Billy Butler show on BBC Radio Merseyside. David (who is originally from Liverpool) has been listening to Billy's show since he was a nipper. He seems to remember Billy doing a birthday shout out for him when he was about eight years old. When he was living in Hong Kong in his early twenties, David's parents used to send him tapes of Billy's shows and just hearing the familiar Liverpudlian accent would transport him home. I am reliably informed (by David's dad) that Billy's accent is a proper old school Liverpudlian accent, "more Beatles, than Brookie." We had a fantastic time in Liverpool as we got to spend some time with David's extended family, who are incredibly warm and welcoming. In fact I'm always impressed by the warmth of the people of Liverpool. Even in shops and hospitality you get a totally different experience to the coldness of much you encounter in London.

Reading from the Dirty Bertie picture book at Borders in Speke

From Liverpool, we headed to Leeds. I can't speak highly enough of the team at Leeds Libraries. It was a brilliantly well organised event and the kids were lovely. One school was so patient and well behaved (David signed autographs for every child, and there were about 200 of them!) that I was compelled to praise them to their teachers. It wasn't just that they were well behaved, they were just really nice kids. I was chatting to them while they were queueing and you could have a perfectly mature conversation with them. Lovely.

We then headed on to Preston, where once again we were terribly well looked after by the Children's Libraries team. David gave a presentation at the inaugural meeting of the Lancashire Children's Book Group. There was such a lot of passion and enthusiasm for kids' books there, I really hope the group will go from strength-to-strength.

Wednesday night we got to sleep in our own beds - bliss! But on Thursday morning it was back on the road. We had to nip over to Tiger Towers in Fulham to pick up the Bertiemobile and then whiz down the M4 to Bristol where we picked up a pair of lovely Bookseller's from Waterstone's in Cribbs Causeway and headed off to a local primary school where we participated in a fire drill, before getting down to the business of drawing Bertie. Then it was back on the M4 to SWANSEA!!!

My Bertie
I don't think David Roberts has too much to worry about . . .

Oh, it was good to be back on the right side of the Severn (I'm from Swansea, you see) and we had a lovely tea with my mum, brother and sister, who were all charmed by the lovely David Roberts. The following day we spent the morning at Swansea Central Library and the afternoon at my old school, Terrace Road Primary, awwww!

Swansea Central Library

Last, but my no means least, we headed up to Cheltenham for their tremendous literary festival. It was a full day and I had four consecutive events to juggle with David appearing twice, the lovely Caroline Juskus leading a puzzling workshop for Minnie Piper fans and Steve Smallman warming all our hearts with his lovely bear stories.

Caroline Juskus and a Pair of Puzzlers

By the end of the day I was starting to feel a bit peaky. Disaster! I still had to drive back to London and in a couple of days set out on the road once more with the irrepressible Guy Bass.

To be continued . . .

Monday, 21 September 2009

Time to blog? I must be doing something wrong . . .

Well, maybe not quite. It's been a month between blogs and I am just squeezing this one in after a hastily scoffed down dinner of - no I can't possibly confess the shameful depths to which I have sunk in search of quick fix nutrition (if you can call what I have just eaten nutritious . . . )

Anyway, enough about my shocking culinary habits (I am usually a bit of a domestic goddess), it is ten to ten and I have just got in from evening work event #1 of three this week. Now I'm not looking from sympathy, far from it, I am in fact just making it quite clear that I don't fall into the "if you're a book publicist and you're not in a state of anxiety/stress from August to October then you're doing it wrong."

I can't remember who said that first (I believe it was a member of the twitteratti) and of course I paraphrase, but you get the gist. These are busy times. Exciting, but busy and we don't get a lot of time to stop and reflect. At least not until November. I will try to adopt a little and often approach to the ol' blog to keep it on its feet, but alas, I'm not too good at being brief. At least not anywhere outside Twitter, where I am forced to keep to 140 characters.

This weekend was the YLG (Youth Libraries Group) Conference at Warwick University. Basically, a load of fantastic library folk get together and talk about books, libraries, reading, all the important stuff and they invite a bunch of us publishers to join in the dialogue. It's brilliant for us as we get to meet the people who are taking our little treasures out into the world and putting them into the hands of readers and it's great for them because we bring along some of our lovely authors and illustrators to join in their discussions, which I know means a lot to them.

It was especially nice for us this year as the YLG are the people who bestow the Kate Greenaway medal upon their top illustrator for the year, and as I've probably mentioned once, twice or a gazillion times, this years recipient was Catherine Rayner. One of the highlights of the conference is the re-presentation of the medal, giving the wider YLG contingent a chance to hear from the winner, and a big dinner afterwards to celebrate. This meant that Catherine and I got to set on the 'top table' with some of the committee and some other special guests, which was rather nice. It was a bit like being at a wedding! I got to sit next to Wendy Cooling, who is a lovely and fascinating lady and has the breadth of knowledge of children's books which I aspire to posess one day.

We also had the opportunity to hang out with our fellow publicists which is always a great laugh, but that's about all I can say on that matter. What happens at YLG, stays at YLG.

Sadly, being the busy period that it is at the mo', there is no rest for the wicked and it was straight back to the office today. I got some good news about a venue for our Big Draw event, (More on that ASAP!) and then this evening it was off to Farringdon for Words and Pictures: What Use are Picture Books? at the Free Word Centre. The Free Word Centre is a fantastic new centre dedicated to the promotion of the written and spoken word and the protection of freedom of expression. This evening was my first visit, but hopefully we should see plenty more brilliant things come out of this unique space. Check out the website to find out more about it They are running a programme of free events up until the 9th of October to celebrate the opening of the centre, so it is well worth a look. This evening's event was hosted by the lovely people at Booktrust and was a panel event featuring Children's Laureate Anthony Browne, along with the fantastic Emily Gravett and our very own Catherine Rayner. Holding court, expertly I must say, was children's book reviewer, Nicolette Jones. Nicolette asked the three illustrators all sorts of pertinent questions about their development as illustrators, what impact picture books had on them as children, and even offered up anecdotes featuring her own children. (Apparently when she suggested her daughter might not be the target audience for a picture book, the fifteen year old asked "Since when is anyone too old for a picture book?" "That's my girl!" conceded Nicolette.)

These really are exciting times for the picture book. There is a whole wealth of talent right across the industry at the moment, and Anthony Browne as Laureate, but foremost as one of our best illustrators, seems well placed to fly the picture book flag and be noticed. The Tigers will certainly be supporting him every step of the way!

It is now quarter to eleven, and all hopes of an early(ish) night seem dashed. Forgive me if I have rambled/been boring. I really am rather tired. Nighty, night!

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Bookish Japes in Charlotte Square - Part 1

For most people, August is synonymous with summer holidays. Everyone gets a bit of time off from work or school and either takes steps to flee the country for a bit of sun, or (as has been particularly in vogue this year) elects to make the best of the British summer by embarking on a 'staycation'.

For the publicists of the book trade, however, (and their author/illustrator charges) August means just one thing. It's the month we pack up our best dresses, team them with a pair of wellington boots and make the pilgrimage to Charlotte Square for the Edinburgh International Book Festival. This year I had so many authors and illustrators appearing that I had to make two trips, so I'll do two blogs, y'know, to break it up a little.

The first trip was definitely the busiest. I arrived in Edinburgh on Saturday afternoon and then on the Sunday I kicked off early doors with Catherine Rayner and her latest gorgeous picture book Sylvia and Bird. Catherine was the inaugural Illustrator in Residence at the book festival this year so as well as doing a number of her own events she also chaired the masterclasses of fellow illustrators, including Mini Grey and Oliver Jeffers, designed the book festival 'passport' and had various of her illustrations popping up all over the square. Her event went down very well with little-ees and parents alike. 

Catherine Rayner admires her creation Harris in the festival bookshop window.
(P.S. We don't have pint-size authors, Harris is not to scale!)

Next up was the always delightful David Roberts, who performed to a packed out audience of around two hundred and fifty Dirty Bertie fans. David's events have gone down very well for the past couple of years, but each time he performs Bertie seems to accrue yet more devoted fans. I was very impressed by the number of kids who could recount scenarios and characters from the books - they are Bertie-mad in Edinburgh! David nearly didn't get away in time for his train because his signing queue was so long!

And I almost didn't get away for the third Little Tiger of the day, Steve Smallman. Thank goodness I did though, because I wouldn't have missed it for the world. I sincerely wish Steve could read everyone a bedtime story every night because he would just send everyone off so peacefully. It was lovely to see all the little-uns sprawled out on cushions, totally mesmerised by Steve's stories. Although once he'd got them good and relaxed with There's No Such Thing as Monsters he stirred them right up again with the mischievous The Monkey with a Bright Blue Bottom.

Monday morning saw Kathryn White introducing a clever monkey and a nuisance crocodile in Click Clack Crocodile's Back! One of the terrific things about the festival is the chance for authors and illustrators to mingle with their peers and it's always lovely to see the sense of camaraderie between them. Stuck for someone to play the part of the crocodile in her event, Kathryn called on the very obliging Julia Donaldson, who played the part with great gusto!

Kathryn White with her croc' AKA Julia Donaldson

So that was all the pros done and dusted and Tuesday and Wednesday was time to focus on the Edinburgh novices. Illustrators Caroline Pedler and Simon Prescott ran terribly creative/messy events in the workshop tent. I always feel you've been cheated if you don't leave that particular venue covered in glitter, and I wasn't disappointed. (I think there'd been some fairies in there just before us!) Rounding the trip off nicely was Paul Bright, whose interactive event featuring dinosaurs AND underpants, not to mention a huge inflatable globe, went down a real treat. (You can't go wrong with that kind of combo!) He really got the kids pepped up and we met some die-hard dinosaur fanatics! 

(L - R) Lacey, Caroline Pedler, James (Caroline's other-half and a dab hand with a paintbrush, too!), Simon Prescott hanging out in the yurt.

I can't speak highly enough of this festival. The lovely Sara Grady and her dedicated team do a fantastic job of co-ordinating hundreds of events across two and a half weeks and the festival itself always runs exceptionally smoothly whilst appearing totally laid-back and effortless. I really don't know how they do it but I would very much like to know their secret!

Coming up in Part 2:
Zombaliens invade Charlotte Square, along with a giant moose.
Children's Laureate Anthony Browne is full of praise for Catherine Rayner.
I took some nice people for dinner and we all had a lovely time.
I managed to see some bits on the fringe and chuckled quite a lot.

Monday, 3 August 2009

I Love Libraries

I've got a card to prove it and everything. Ok, so it is my library card, but still. It's a pretty nifty little thing which proclaims 'Love Your Library'. And I do.

I have recently reacquainted myself with the library, and I couldn't be more satisfied with our rekindled relationship unless it started taking me out to dinner and telling me it loved me back. Now that we're back in each other's arms, I don't know why we ever parted ways.

I suspect it was probably because I started getting my free books elsewhere. I'm not sure if I've mentioned it already but before I joined the tigers whom are little I was a Bookseller for a big, shiny bookselling chain. At first I thought the extent of the benefits would be our generous discount, although this became somewhat surplus to requirements when deep discounting became in vogue, but I was soon to discover the joys that are review copies. When publishers cotton on to the fact that you've got an opinion on books and you aren't afraid to use it, they will actually send you free copies of their titles in the hope that you will review them/tell anyone who sets foot inside your shop how great they are.

Sadly this all came to an end when I became the person who sends out the free books, rather than the one receiving them. By this point I had accumulated a vast number of books, but on moving to London I was forced to downsize drastically (rental prices in London being somewhat different to Swansea) and the most obvious way to do this was to box up all my books and leave them in my mother's spare room. So I hit the big smoke with a handful of can't-live-without books (Paddington Goes to Town, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, The Incredible Book Eating Boy, a dictionary, an encyclopedia and Mr Shakespeare's complete works, for those who were wondering) and a suitcase full of dreams. Two years on and somehow that handful has multiplied into (hang on, I'm just going to count them) ninety-nine books (golly gosh!) adorning my bookshelves. That's not to mention the stack on my bedside table, the two in my handbag and the shelf next to my desk at work. This had to stop. My book purchasing had to be curtailed. The only sensible thing to do was to join a library.

As a child I absolutely loved going to the library. Many a happy Saturday morning was spent selecting my week's reading at Swansea Central Library and I also used to enjoy the activity sessions during the school holidays. Shamefully, my library attendance as an adult had been lamentable and how they have changed! I love Stoke Newington Library, my local, as it's quite old school and fits in nicely with the retro chic of Church Street. However, I am equally fond of the space age 'Idea Stores' of Tower Hamlets. I am all for bringing stuff into the 21st Century and I think the IS is an inspired move. 

So now I'm all about book-borrowing and the benefits are two-fold. I am richer and have more space. Ok, I'm lying, I just buy more shoes. I will leave you with, in no particular order, my favourite things about libraries:

1) Randomly picking up a book that I would never buy in a shop because 'it's not my thing.' and discovering it totally is my thing. (Most recently this was Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman.)
2) The whizzy, modern reservation system. I can reserve pretty much anything and if my library doesn't stock it, they'll just get it from another library and send me a little note to let me know when I can go and pick it up - brilliant!
3) Chatting to the librarians. There is nothing better than talking to someone who is enthused by what they do. I can't take anything out without swapping recommendations.
4) Not being driven by price. I am habitually thrifty but it would really upset me to think that this governed what I read. 
5) Peeking inside Little Tiger and Stripes books and seeing how many times they've been stamped. Makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.
6) Taking authors and illustrators to libraries for events. It still feels somewhat anarchic to speak above a whisper in a library, let alone encourage youngsters to roar like a monster.
7) Picking books with my nieces. Last time we went four year-old Bess took out seven books and we'd read three of them in the car before we even got home. I can't imagine where she gets it from . . . 

Summer holidays with kids can be severely draining on the finances, but there is at least one free thing you can do - take them to your local library and sign them up to Quest Seekers It's a summer reading challenge run across libraries nation-wide which encourages children to read six books over the summer holidays. Should provide a bit of peace and quiet for at least a day, giving you time to get stuck in to some newly discovered gems. 

Go forth and borrow!

Wednesday, 22 July 2009


When we heard that Alien Space Zombies from Beyond Terror had plans to infiltrate this year's Latitude festival, we couldn't merely stand idly by and allow hundreds of young (and also slightly old[er]) Latituders be turned into mindless zombie slaves! So calm(ish)-in-a-crisis author Guy Bass and I, packed up our Zomb-O-Tron 6000 and took to the road with the patented ZOMBALIEN SURVIVAL GUIDE (patent pending).

Unfortunately the Zombaliens were on to us and determined to thwart our efforts at every turn. Literally hundreds of them got in their cars and jammed up the roads, in a bid to clog up the A12 and prevent us from even entering Suffolk. Then, somehow they must have got hold of our tents and made modifications in order to make them stupendously difficult to assemble. Worst of all, they seemingly ensured that flushable toilets were totally uninvented in this particular area of Southwold for the duration of the festival. 

However, you don't mess with Stripes Publishing when there are books to be promoted, and you certainly don't mess with Guy Bass when there are lives to be saved . . . 

This is what we were up against . . . 

. . . isn't it hideous? This is also a little bit like what I looked like by the end of the festival, because there were NO SHOWERS!! AA-AAA-AAH!

Fortunately we soon managed to round up a veritable army of Latituders prepared to learn all they needed to know to combat zombification . . . 

. . . look at all the grown ups! I think they were more worried than the kids!

Guy got straight to work demonstrating the Zomb-O-Tron 6000 with the help of a strong-necked volunteer . . .

We seemed to be pretty lucky with the weather, until Sunday afternoon when the heavens opened. But no Zombalien rains on Guy Bass' parade and on he soldiered through the deluge . . .

AND to our joy and amazement, the audience stuck around too . . .  

. . . (having whipped on their macs!) They're a hardy bunch, those Latituders. I'd like to see the Zombaliens try to enslave them!

All-in-all a cracking time was had by all and I feel certain that many lives were saved. Actor Keith Allen stopped by to watch one of the sessions - we have reason to suspect he is in fact a Zombalien himself. (Surely Vindaloo is some kind of mind-control chant??!)

My other festival highlights included:

#1 Grace Jones leaving her trousers at home, but like a consummate professional, proving that the show must go on!!
#2 Dancing in the woods late into the night. Being at one with nature is many times more enjoyable than being in a horrible nightclub.
#3 Spotting the little girl we dressed up as Herbert the monster, half way through reading her copy of Dinkin Dings and the Frightening Things.

My greatest festival fears included:

#1 The loos.
#2 My tent falling down on top of me in the night.
#3 Waking up to find my tent surrounded Zombaliens . . . AA-AAA-AAH!!!

Our thanks go to Latitude for having us, and Suffolk Libraries for their support. They clearly are truly concerned about safety and security!

If you are intrigued by any part of this, you NEED to read these books (it might very well save your life!!):

Dinkin Dings and the Frightening Things
by Guy Bass
illustrated by Pete Williamson

Dinkin Dings and the Revenge of the Fishmen
by Guy Bass
illustrated by Pete Williamson

You might also like to visit the man himself at and/or Dinkin's Diary of Dread and Desperation at


Thursday, 9 July 2009

The Picture Book Problem

I have my suspicions that no one is actually reading this, so it's probably time to be slightly controversial, just to test the water . . .

Our fine industry's attitude to picture books has really been grinding my gears of late.

This year's CILIP Kate Greenaway shortlist was a triumph of diversity and eclectics. I refuse to be written off as biased as I am talking about the shortlist, and not the winner (which was obviously brilliant!). The truth is the shortlist reflected every aspect of what is brilliant and creative and dynamic about illustrated books for children produced in the UK. I was particularly pleased to see The Savage and Varmints on the list, as it proved that the judges were acknowledging the importance of books with pictures for older readers. There is no doubt in my mind that you are NEVER too old to enjoy a picture book, and it was fantastic to see this recognised by this prestigious award.

What a shame it was then to see the award overshadowed to such a great extent. Prior to the announcement I was warned by the CKG PR team that it is always a struggle to secure anywhere near as much coverage for the Greenaway as for the Carnegie. Don't get me wrong, I thought it was wonderful to see Siobhan Dowd recognised posthumously for her wonderful book Bog Child and if I'm honest, I don't think even this achieved the coverage it deserved (publisher David Fickling's assertion that " . . . the name of the Carnegie winner should be on everybody's lips, on every front page . . . " was sadly not realised), but it was a real shame to find everywhere the awards were mentioned, the Greenaway winner was something of an after thought. An 'also presented at the same ceremony . . . ' much as the award for Best Make-up is flashed as a time filler on the Academy Award coverage. 

We were fortunate to have some fantastic support from the Scottish press, Catherine being an adopted Scot since taking up permanent residence in Edinburgh, but the coverage in the national press and even The Bookseller was woefully lacking. 

I suppose the problem is the turnover of young readers is much higher than in adults. That is to say, children's interests and reading levels develop at a phenomenal rate. A book which maybe 'suitable' for a five year-old will rapidly be outgrown and new five year-olds will arrive to discover the book afresh (not to mention the fact they will happily listen to the same book over and over). Within the adult readership people are likely to spend fifty years reading their way through the literary ether therefore, I suppose, it is necessary to have a larger number of titles for them to choose from. However, I think it is a big mistake to write kids off as less discerning, and to therefore give them fewer options. It is little wonder that so many parents/teachers have trouble encouraging readers when kids are often given an incredibly limited and uninspiring selection of books to choose from. It seems that publishers, booksellers and buyers are going for the 'easy sell'. My worry is that playing it safe is likely to produce a generation of 'safe' readers. We have a responsibility to readers of this age to stimulate them as much as possible, not to mention give them the opportunity and appropriate support to make their own choices about what they read, rather than spoon-feeding them from a nice, safe, baby-sized selection.

I was glad to see Klaus Flugge's letter to The Bookseller regarding Kate Skipper's limited selection in The Bookseller's picture book supplement, but it seemed to me a little misdirected. Although it is a crying shame that we struggle to sell hardback picture books to the general trade, what bothered me more was the obviousness of her choices. I have no doubt that Kate reached her position by demonstrating commercial nous and a passion for picture books, but I can't help but feel that any randomly selected non-children's specialist from one of the chain's stores could have told us that Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler's latest (two!) offerings will be among the biggest sellers of the season. I know it's wrong to look a gift horse in the mouth, and I was pleased to see two of our titles featured, but both books are the next instalments in already high performing series. It would have been far more enlightening and invigorating to have been given a sneak peak at some of the exciting new treats which I know we all have in store.

Also, even more worryingly, the supplement itself lost its stand alone status and got relegated to the centrefold of the magazine. Now I'm not actually going to blame The Bookseller for this. I am going to take a wild stab at it and guess that this was down to a lack of funds i.e. a drop in advertising. I had booked a half page advert but got bumped up to the full front cover of the supplement. Clearly publishers themselves are being reticent about investing in the promotion of picture books. This troubles me . . . 

Respect should be paid to Booktrust for the valiant efforts of The Big Picture campaign. Along with then Children's Laureate Michael Rosen, they launched an offensive to 'put picture books firmly in the public eye'. Unfortunately the public seems to have been keeping their eyes firmly shut, as the initial dream doesn't seem to have quite been realised. Thank god, then, for the fact that Anthony Browne has been installed as the new Children's Laureate. Anthony was heavily involved with 2008's Big Picture campaign, taking up the helm on the judging panel for the Best New Illustrators Award. I only hope Anthony takes up Michael's well-worn mantel and runs with it, as this campaign really hasn't hit its peak . . . yet. We're proud to be adding Little Tiger's name to the gaggle of children's publishers sponsoring the Children's Laureate post and I hope that through commitment and hard work, together we will all be able to solve the picture book problem. After all, today's picture book readers could be tomorrows Booker Prize winners . . . or reality TV stars. What's it gonna be?

Monday, 29 June 2009

Tigery Triumph

On Thursday 25th June Catherine Rayner was awarded the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal for her second beautiful book HARRIS FINDS HIS FEET.

Phew . . . it's nice to finally be able to say it! We actually discovered Catherine had won the most prestigious prize bestowed upon picture books in the UK back at the beginning of May. As they say, a watched pot never boils and I knew I would get the call when I wasn't actually at my desk. However, by a happy coincidence I was actually with Catherine when the very lovely Joy Court (chair of the judges) called with the news. When my colleague called to relay the message we were standing in the queue in Zara waiting to buy shoes (this is actually rather appropriate, if you have read the book). I had been going over and over in my mind how I was going to convey the news if Catherine did or did not win but of course when the moment finally came the words just stumbled out of my mouth in their own ineloquent fashion. Still - it was fab!

Children at Hornsey Library help Catherine draw a dragon.

Catherine reads from the award-winning HARRIS FINDS HIS FEET.

After six weeks of biting our lips, the announcement was nearly here. Catherine came down to London (from Edinburgh) on the Tuesday evening and we'd decided to do a day of events with Haringey Libraries on Wednesday. Catherine enjoys getting out and about meeting her readers as often as possible, but as is the unfortunate way of things, as her work grows more popular it gets harder and harder to find the time. It seemed particularly important at this time though, as of course without libraries and librarians, there would be no CILIP and no Kate Greenaway Medal to win. It was a hectic day, cramming in four libraries in the borough, but of course the kids always make it worth while. In Wood Green the children drew fantastically colourful tigers and hares. In Tottenham the kids were older than we would usually expect but demonstrated beautifully how picture books can captivate audiences of any age. The children at Hornsey Library were incredibly inquisitive and had a barrage of insightful questions for Catherine. It really was a lovely precursor to the award ceremony itself.

And what a day it was when it finally arrived. Spirits were high and the mood was one of celebration and excitement. Catherine had been fretting over her speech but when she finally took to the stage it just came naturally. She ad-libbed like a pro and her genuine warmth and excitement came across beautifully. The joy of the Greenaway and Carnegie Medals is that commerciality has become a by-product of their success, rather than the other way around. They were not founded as a promotional tool, and it is this very fact which has made them a respected judgement of the quality of literature for young people. Catherine summed it up pretty well when she said "I feel honoured and hugely flattered that truly booky people, who know an awful lot about books have chosen Harris Finds His Feet to win this year's Kate Greenaway." For our part, I know I can speak for Little Tiger Press when I say that we are hugely honoured to have a writer and illustrator like Catherine on our list. She consistently produces beautiful books and is a genuine pleasure to work with. Of course we didn't need the Greenaway judges to tell us this, but it is hugely gratifying to have it confirmed by such a clever bunch!

Catherine with her (solid gold!) medal.

To see Catherine's acceptance speech visit:

I would also recommend having a little look around the shadowing site at all the lovely reviews of Harris and the other brilliant shortlisted books.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Daddy or Books?

Both!! What better way to celebrate the father and child relationship than to snuggle up at bedtime and share a story together? 

There is a lot of (excellent) campaigning at the moment surrounding the need to promote reading for pleasure within educational settings, but given the right attitude at home kids can become bookaholics(?!) before they even reach school age. The books I read as a child mean so much to me even now. When I read them, I am transported back to my childhood. I can hear my parents voices saying the words, smell my mum's perfume and see my dad pulling 
silly faces as he transformed from Jolly Postman to grizzly bear.

Bedtime is storytime. It's having the undivided attention of the significant adult in your life. It's cuddling up and feeling warm and safe. It's jumping on the bed and disappearing into an imaginary world. It's seeing new places and making new friends.

With this in mind, I've put together some suggestions for books to share this Father's Day (and beyond!) 

Me and My Dad
by Alison Ritchie & Alison Edgson
ISBN: 978 1 84506 464 8
Little Tiger Press

Little Bear and his dad do wonderful things - exploring high in the mountains, swimming in the rain and telling stories as the stars come out. And best of all, they do everything together!

A perennial favourite, this is a great book for Father's Day, but can (and should!) of course be shared all year round. Alison Edgson's bears are so splendidly furry you would be forgiven for attempting to reach out and stroke them. This is a warm and funny celebration of the special bond between father and child.

I Love You as Big as the World
by David Van Buren & Tim Warnes
ISBN: 978 1 84506 648 2
Little Tiger Press

The tender illustrations by much-loved artist Tim Warnes celebrate the wonderful relationship between two bears who love each other very much! 

This perfect bedtime read is like a great big hug which will wrap itself around the reader and send them off to sleep with a smile on their face.

The Monkey with a Bright Blue Bottom
by Steve Smallman & Nick Schon
ISBN: 978 1 84506 459 4
Little Tiger Press

When a mischievous monkey discovers a paintbox he has a brilliant idea, but things don't go quite as Monkey has planned . . . 

For unadulterated hilarity, you can't beat this book. Dad's are generally best at silliness and they will undoubtedly relish reading aloud this rhyming, playful jungle romp!

The Lamb Who Came for Dinner
by Steve Smallman & Joelle Dreidemy
ISBN: 978 1 84506 518 8
Little Tiger Press

When a hungry old wolf gets an unexpected visit from a little lamb, he starts planning a delicious lamb hotpot. But the lamb wants to be friends and she gives Wolf a great big cuddle. Wolf's never been hugged by his supper before and it's enough to make him lose his appetite . . . Or is it?

This book is just adorable, and warm, and lovely, and wonderful! It just makes me 'awww' whenever I think about it. Meatloaf's legendary rendition on CITVs Bookaboo has forever set the bar for reading this book aloud, but every child will be delighted to hear their own daddy as the grumpy old wolf and the sweet little lamb!

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

"It's the taking part that counts." (No, really.)

On Saturday, I accompanied the lovely Liz Pichon, author and illustrator of The Three Horrid Pigs and the Big Friendly Wolf, to the presentation ceremony for The Red House Children's Book Award - she was on the shortlist, you see. And what a lovely day it was too.

For those of you who don't know, The Red House Children's Book Award is owned/organised/administered/championed by the wonderful Federation of Children's Book Groups or, as they are affectionately abbreviated, FCBG. The FCBG is a marvellous network of, get this, volunteers, who devote their time to promoting books and reading by running Children's Book Groups in their respective localities. Many of the people who run these groups have a vested interest in promoting reading amongst children, being by turn, teachers, librarians, booksellers, parents or even authors. However, many of them are now retired but continue to give of their free time to introduce young people to the pleasures of reading. They really are a lovely bunch and as publishers their support and endorsement is always much appreciated. Anyway, enough of my ramblings, you can find out more about them here - (should you be that way inclined).

Anyway, Liz, her family, (see pic to the right, aren't they a lovely looking bunch?)my colleague (Liz's designer) Helen and I, all trundled (nervously) on up to the Botanical Gardens in Birmingham for the announcement of the winners of the Red House Children's Book Award. There really is nothing better than a room full of people cheering, and celebrating the excellent work that has been done across our wonderful industry over the past year. Of the ten books on the shortlist, it really would be impossible to pick a 'dog', as my colleagues delicately put it. Liz's refrain on the way up was "Don't be too disappointed when I don't win, I'm sure the frog book will get it." (But whilst winning would be nice, when you don't - "That's really not what it's about!")
It wasn't 'the frog book' but in fact 'the pencil book' what got it. ('It' being the winner of the Younger Children category) and you really can't feel too bitter about losing out to the picture book royalty that is the thoroughly nice Allan Ahlberg. I'm not ashamed to admit that I was a little star struck. When I was a little 'un my absolute favourite books were Peepo and The Baby's Catalogue. My parents must have each read each book at least a thousand times, and I must be close to that in how many times I have read them to my own nieces. So we'll let him have this one, shall we?

Once we had learned we hadn't won, we turned our focus to the "You're all winners!" mantra which was being drummed home, and you know what, I wholeheartedly agree. The shortlist was whittled down from some 838 titles and almost 150, 000 votes were cast by readers - how mega is that? Every author and illustrator received a beautiful book to take away with them which was filled with letters, pictures, poems etc. all inspired by their book and contributed by children who have voted. Tastes are of course totally subjective, and whilst we all revel in these wonderful accolades when we get them, sometimes (i.e. when you don't win!) it's important to put things into perspective. This is something the RHCBA really achieves through the involvement of their young judges, not just in the selection process, but in the award ceremony itself. Representatives from all the testing groups were present and it was an absolute pleasure speaking to them and hearing their thoughts on all the books. One of the most telling things was that every single child who presented an award when asked "Who do you want to win?" gave an alternative name to the one which turned out be inside the envelope. Now an adult would get terribly embarrassed if this happened, and therefore taking into consideration that the eventuality of them saying the wrong name was entirely possible would dare not venture a guess. I love this about kids, their honesty. It really did make the whole affair more authentic and meaningful for me.

So congratulations to Sophie McKenzie, the overall winner, who gave a very moving speech and definitely made me want to read her winning title, Blood Ties. But no less congratulations to every one else on the shortlist, you really are a talented and worthy bunch. And having published one of the four best picture books of 2008, in the eyes of 150, 000 children, really is good enough for me!

Thursday, 4 June 2009

"I won't make you do anything I wouldn't do myself."

Famous last words of the well-meaning publicist.

And I meant them.

It's not easy being an author these day, least of all of children's books. It's simply not enough to sit at your computer, carefully crafting your masterpiece, supplying endless rewrites at the whim of your merciless editor. These days you need to be a 'personality', a 'package'. You've finally got an actual book with your name on the cover, which you can actually go and visit on the shelves of your local bookshop, but the hard work has only just begun. You will be thrust in front of children, teachers, parents and book lovers in general by your enthusiastic (but always well meaning) publicist and expected to 'perform'.

For someone who spends the most part of their working life in isolation, I appreciate this must be a pretty daunting prospect, so naturally it is the publicist's job to do whatever it takes to make the whole experience as lacking in terror as possible. We wouldn't be where we are if we didn't have extensive experience of entertaining children, engaging with education professionals and parents, and as for book lovers - well, we're not in this for the money, are we? It is also a fair bet that each of us has served our time inside a furry Gruffalo/Wibbly Pig/Maisy Mouse costume (delete as appropriate). So when I first uttered those words, I felt confident that I had the lot covered.

But even more terrifying than all of that is the requirement to have an 'online presence'. Is it better to be on Facebook or Bebo? Should every author have their own website? And just what is Twitter? Do your readers really need to know what you had for breakfast?

I understand all of this. I love all of my authors and illustrators (they really are a lovely bunch, no divas here!) and treat each of their books like my new and most favourite niece or nephew. So it wouldn't be right for me to bully them into writing their own blogs without setting the example myself.

So here it is guys - no excuses - get blogging!

(It's probably worth mentioning now that the opinions expressed in this blog are entirely my own and whilst I by no means set out to offend anyone, they are not representative of Little Tiger Press, Stripes Publishing or any of their affiliates - the buck stops with me!)