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!)