Interview with wonderful author Rebecca Colby, and giveaway winner is announced!

Rebecca Colby is an author and screenwriter, her brilliant new picture book ‘Captain Bling’s Christmas Plunder’ is out now, which she has generously allowed me promote this month for a special giveaway, to one of my lucky readers -who I’ll reveal at the end of this post.
Rebecca enjoys travelling, new adventures and searching for treasure. Although she’s never plundered Santa’s workshop, she has been known to steal a Christmas cookie or two. Originally from the States, she crossed the sea many years ago and now lives in North Yorkshire.
This is just a snippet of Rebecca’s story, but I wanted to know more, so instead of just a standard interview, I opened the floor to some fellow picture book writers, and kids who enjoy her books instead.

What in your opinion are the key ingredients to making a great picture book?

For me, the key ingredients are the following:

  1. Re-readability: A book shouldn’t just be a good read aloud. It should be a book that a child falls in love with, and wants to hear over and over and over.
  2. A catchy title: The title is the first thing to catch your reader’s attention. I feel it’s important that you make your title memorable.
  3. A new or interesting concept: It’s so difficult to make one’s work stand out. If you’re unpublished, it’s even harder so it’s that much more important to come up with something an agent or editor hasn’t seen before.
  4. Great writing: This is a given! However, it’s easy to say but not always easy to accomplish.

How did you manage to find an agent, and do you have any tips for budding writers wishing to do the same?

One of my critique partners found my agent. She shared a tweet with me from an agent looking for PBs with witch characters. I had two in my portfolio and immediately emailed the agent.

Prior to this experience, I didn’t spend much time on Twitter, but I do find it’s a great way to connect with people in the publishing industry—or at least find out what they’re looking for. There are regular PB Pitch events on Twitter that have helped other writers find agents. I’d definitely recommend looking into these.

If you had written a picture book and found out later something similar was out there already, would you chuck your story and start again?

I don’t chuck anything. Everything can be recycled. Certainly, a book came out this year that was a bit similar to something I’ve written, but I hope to still send it out in a few years time when the similar book, is out of print.

On a further note, I would advise against ever getting too attached to an idea. Ideas are a dime a dozen. The best thing to do in a situation like this is to move on, and come up with another idea.

Are you happy to get illustrations notes?

I’m not an illustrator. If I was, I would only want to see necessary illustration notes. And as an author, I like to think that the only illustration notes I supply are necessary. 

Sunita [Writer]

How did you start out, what was your breakthrough?

I wrote for 7 years before I had my breakthrough. I was training to be a teacher and didn’t have spare time to write or submit anymore, but one of my critique partners saw a Twitter post (as mentioned in previous answer above), and forwarded it to me. I sent out two of my stories to an agent based on that tweet. Within two days, the agent offered me representation and within one week, she’d sold my first book. But it was a long apprenticeship before that breakthrough, with over 140 rejection letters.

Colin [Writer/Illustrator]

Do you have to have, a sort of Peter Pan complex to be a children’s writer, in the sense of voice?

Probably not every children’s author would agree with me, but from my perspective, I do think it has helped to retain a strong relationship with my inner child. I don’t think I matured much mentally after age 7, and that has certainly helped me as a writer. You don’t have to be immature like myself, but you do have to have that sense of wonder, and the ability to think like a child.

 How do you stay relevant?

I visit my local library frequently and read as many picture books as I can. The more you read, the more you understand picture book format, as well as what publishers are buying.

How do you market to kids in this digital age of I-pads, phones, apps?

It’s tricky. Because picture books are one of the few books not purchased by the intended audience (in other words, they’re generally purchased by the parents, or grandparents, of the children their written for, rather than the children themselves), then I don’t have to worry about it. Most adults would much rather their children read a book then spend too much time on technology. Or at least, that’s been my experience with the adults I’ve spoken with. 

But the biggest way I get around this is by going to schools, and conducting author visits to get children enthused about reading. I don’t generally try to sell my books at author visits, but I always ensure that I’ve brought enough bookmarks for everyone at the school. This ensures that each child has a free gift to take away from the event. Even if they don’t buy my book, hopefully they’ll take that bookmark away and put it in another book at home…and READ that book. For me, it’s just as much about marketing a general love of reading, rather than my specific books.

Rodney [Father, of beautiful 2 yr old]

How do you come up with ideas for your books?

I have idea radar that I turn on and off. As soon as I switch it on, I pick up ideas. They might come from something someone has said, something I’ve read, something I’ve watched on TV—anywhere really, just as long as my radar is switched on. I find it also helps to take a walk. I get some of my best ideas when I’m out walking. Again, something I see on my walk might stimulate an idea.

Kairo [10 yrs old budding writer]

How does Delia change the rain?

Delia is a witch. Like most witches she waves her magic wand and chants a spell. In her first spell, she changes the rain to cats and dogs, then hats and clogs and later bats and frogs. What I can’t tell you, however, is what she eventually changes the rain to in order to save the parade. You’ll need to read the book for that answer. 😉

Summer Rose [5 yrs old, talking in reference to Rebecca’s book ‘It’s raining bats and frogs’ I think she was hoping to get the actual spell Lol!]

And last but not least…

You’re not only a children’s writer but a screenwriter too, what’s next for you?

I’m in the process of starting to write another picture book and have just sold a further book. However, because it’s not been officially announced, I’m not yet at liberty to discuss the forthcoming book. 

Alongside writing, I also work as a retreat manager at screenwriting retreats. This has helped me to gain more experience in this area and meet industry professionals from Hollywood. My next goal is to adapt one of my picture books into a short children’s TV programme, or possibly even into a full-length feature film.

Where can I buy your new book?

My latest book is out with Albert Whitman & Co in America, so if you’re Stateside, you should be able to find it at most larger book shops like Barnes and Noble. If you’re in the UK like myself, then it can be purchased on Amazon at this link:

Oh before I forget, can I get a drum roll please! 


You are our amazing giveaway winner, please forward your address to, and let me know if you would like Rebecca to sign it for you :-] 

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I’d like to say a very special thank you to Rebecca Colby, for taking the time to answer all of these brilliant questions!



Book Review: ‘Coraline’ Neil Gaiman

Coraline was written by Neil Gaiman in 2002, it was then made into a stop motion film by Henry Selick, who captured the dark beauty of this piece of work brilliantly. 

Coraline the explorar, is an only child longing for adventure, so when she finds a locked door in the house that she lives in, it all becomes a little bit more exciting. Coraline is an undetermined heroine, she is astute and wonderfully brave; she doesn’t only uncover a new set of parents for herself when she gets behind that door, but also  many others like her, who have been captured in this creepy ‘made up’ world.

‘I don’t want whatever I want. Nobody does. Not really’ Coraline

Kids: Things can get boring when there’s not much to do, right? But this book is dark, haunting, magical, and actually quite a quick read. It’ll certainly take you on an adventure for a couple of days. Let me know what you think of it!

Authors: It’s a great book guys, the descriptions are fab ‘Everyone knows that the soul is the same size as a beach ball’, and if you’re struggling to write an ‘Animal’ with a voice, then the cat in this is perfect inspiration. I should also mention that it’s  a masterclass on writing a short story with great pacing, which is hard to do with a spooky theme such as this, without revealing too much too soon.

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Hope you enjoyed this review, if there are any new books out there you’d like me to review, please drop a comment below!

‘The boy who could do what he liked’ by David Baddiel

David Baddiel, Comedian, Novelist, and Presenter has made a name for himself in the children’s market with books such as ‘The Parent agency‘ and ‘The person controller’ the first in sequence is a middle grade novel, about children who get to choose their parents, and the latter about twins who are given a very special remote control.

With this short ‘The boy who could do what he liked’ we follow Alfie Moore who’s consistent daily routines, get shaken up by an old, hard of hearing baby sitter called Mrs Stokes.

But how you ask??? Why by telling Alfie he can ‘do what he likes’ of course, but instead of being happy about his new state of affairs, Alfie finds it hard to adjust, I mean, he wears two watches, AND has scheduled notes dotted around the house for a reason. However when he does eventually let his hair down, his routines take a magical twist, and Mrs Stokes encourages his imagination to go further than he ever dreamed it could.


This is a great book for those 9 years and up, the text is neither too big nor too small, and the subject is brilliantly relatable, which should carry them enthusiastically to the next page. Having said that, there are lots of touches that adults would enjoy too! Like having to go to work and not having anyone to look after the kids, yikes. Anyhow, the books referencing is up to date, and for the most part super fun; the black and white illustrations by Jim field are also lively, energetic, and will definitely keep the kids interested.


Yes I know, it’s  that celebrity scene which is doing so well at the moment! Making it just that little bit harder, for us underdogs to get anywhere near the top. We’ve apparently got to be celebrity’s as well as drawing blood on a page lol, financially it pinches us too, with publishers more likely to market only those who they deem to be marketable – aka, not a nobody, or a person nobody knows-BOO HOO!!!

But listen, I don’t want to moan about something that’s inevitable, because although it feels as though recently there’s been this sudden boom in celebrity books, it’s been happening for forever, even Madonna’s ridden that train. But I get it, the book industry needs to generate an income too, and with this in mind is there room at the table for all of us? Well, whatever your answer to that is, it won’t stop us tapping those keys, because we’re a stubborn, passionate lot and will do it regardless…Even if we can’t pay the rent, and have to eat out of a can for the rest of our adult lives haaaaaa

Moving on, swiftly, this short by Baddiel is a good little read, it has emotional content- Alfie’s mum has passed away, and he uses routines as a way of keeping order in his life. It takes the ordinary and makes it extraordinary, bath time becomes a scoober diving extravaganza! ‘Deeper and deeper he went, passing fish, lobsters and whales’ and it has lots to keep us laughing.

As for what I’ve learnt, short stories are great for writers to read, for a start it shows just how much you can pack in, with a low word count. It also helps you to understand how to pace a story, as there’s limited time in which to develop plot and/or character.

 ‘The boy who could do what he liked’ is fantastic fun, there maybe one adventure stuck in there too many for my liking, but overall it really does tick all of the right boxes.

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What would you do, if you could do what you liked for a day?

Picture book review: ‘My best Friend’ by Lauren Child


There’s a reason why our Childrens Laureate is so successful, and that’s because she’s been able to tap right into the language of a child, without being utterly patronising.

In ‘My best friend’ Lola’s very best friend Lotta have loads in common, sharing the same little quirks and ideas about the world, so when new girl Evie comes into the picture and draws an unknowing wedge between Lola and Lotta, the dynamics change. The question is, will Lola ever get her friend back?

Image result for my best friend Lauren Child book


Parents: This is a great book if your child is going through a mini break-up with their friends, even the fact that it’s highlighted will make them feel less alone; especially if they’re feeling like their losing not just a friend, but a bestie! I remember when it happened to me, it was heart-breaking.

Authors: How Child uses language in her books is so very clever, missing words in sentences while still being understood-kids do that a lot right?, then there’s gross exaggerations, repetition, it’s all there, and after reading a few of her books, I can tell you that it’s very rarely overdone. She sets the tone and gets that infamous’Voice’ that so many gatekeepers talk of, down. I love reading her work as it’s a reminder of who I’m addressing, and the so many ways in which it can be done.

If you have kids did this subject ever arise, and if so how did you explain to them that this was part of life?

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And of course Comment :-]

‘Oi Dog!’ By Kes & Claire Gray and Jim Field


If ever you wanted to know how to rejuvenate an old rhyme, and make it sound new then read ‘Oi Dog!’. The story gets underway when a frog, wants to challenge the rule of the cat sitting on the mat, and extend it to ‘Puppies sitting on guppies’ and even more ludicrous-but my absolute fav ‘Crabs on kebabs’.

With bold, and colourful backgrounds, Jim Field does a brilliant job of illustrating these funny scenes,  giving his audience instantly memorable characters. 

Parents: Like I said it’s an age old rhyme, but the rhythm of the words will get everyone hooked, also the pictures will really get your kids talking, not to mention laughing.

Authors: If you do tend to write in rhyme like me -not a good thing for those translators overseas- but IF you do this is a great one to read, and of course anything by Julia Donaldson, it really is a good example of how it should be done. Also, my ‘can’t pass a bookshop without buying something’ lot, please check out the end papers they’re adorable. 

Oh what the ‘eck, here’s a sneak preview, a double dose of cuteness alert if your a dog lover!

Picture books blogger

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If it were within your power, and one of your Picture books were to be published, what would your end papers look like?

Writer/illustrator interview: Nadia Shireen Part 2

 I promised the second part of the interview with writer illustrator Nadia Shireen, and by god I keep my promises, even on one of the most hottest days of the year lol. We’re gonna hit the the ground running and get straight into where we left off, which was talking about that word DIVERSITY in children’s writing. Put your seat belts on boys and girls, I’m going in.

So, on the subject of diversity, if you wanna put a label on it…*I bite my lip and wonder if she will be willing to offer her opinion- I mean, I have kind of accosted her at a signing*

‘That word…’ She takes a deep breath.

It’s important but…It’s just everywhere, that word’s going around like crazy.

‘The word’s going around like crazy, and yet what’s really being done? That’s what really gets my goat, on Twitter I follow a lot of publisher people and all I hear is diversity, diversity, diversity and I see panels of diversity with no black people on them, but at the same time seeing everyone crying about diversity for children. I’m one of the few BAME -Sorry, I kind of hate that phrase-but yeah, picture book writer/illustrators out there, and I’m like give me a call, I’m here’

Sure and with the likes of  Yasmin Ismail, and- I interrupt, but I’ve hit a nerve, a nerve I know only too well. One I wish I could ignore and just be one of many to tell my stories instead of being boxed in; and I’m guessing by the way Shireen is clearly exasperated by the whole subject, she does too.

‘Exactly, we’re not hidden, I mean we’re no Julia Donaldson’

Yeah well Julia *We both tilt our heads as if the conversation may have to stop there*

‘No but that’s OK I get it, but look we’re out there in bookshops and we are known, so reach out. I never wanted to make picture books like….*She suddenly stops and thinks…*

‘Look, when I was a kid I’d get fed up of seeing picture books featuring anyone who was none white- because they were usually sh*t, badly produced, badly illustrated, boring-‘

Tacky, horrible…..

‘Right, about a boy who goes to the market with his granny and buys a mango…’

*I wanna die with laughter, because it’s so true* 

‘The thing is, I wanna be writing about a cow who fell to earth because it’s mental, and howling at the moon because it’s fun! And yes, I guess there’s a running theme of displacement in my books but…

I don’t think BAME authors and illustrators need to be going around talking about how brown they are, they just wanna be telling stories.

I thought that quite naively I could just be known for just doing my thing, and be known for that and that would be my statement, but I’m realising that actually I do need to make a noise- I didn’t want to do that, because I didn’t want that to be my thing.

But I will make a noise about it, but in my own way via the medium of drawing animals and hopefully funny stories, and like I said I’m here, making myself more and more available’

That’s great, really.

‘I never thought it mattered until I did an event recently in front of some brown kids in my hometown in Shropshire, when they looked at me standing there in my gear they couldn’t believe it. You see Muslim, brown women on the news, or behind a shop or at home or whatever, you don’t normally get to see them doing other things, and I thought actually this is really important- you cannot be, what you cannot see’Amazing Grace

Absolutely…I recently did world book day and struggled to find a hero/heroine that I could dress up as, in the end I opted for ‘Amazing Grace’ which was great but that was like 20 years ago…So c’mon get a superhero out there for us haaa!

‘Hopefully this time next year you’ll have someone to dress up as’

*You can’t see but I’m literally crossing toes* Ok last question, do you have any tips for upcoming writers and illustrators?

‘I think the most important, and valuable thing you gotta do is please yourself first, people can get hung up on publishers and all the rest of it. But if I want someone else to laugh at my book I have to laugh first, if I don’t laugh then it’s not gonna work, and that applies to illustration too….’

Thank you so much Nadia for speaking to me.

‘Oh no that’s cool, no problem’

If you have anything you’d like to say about anything discussed in this interview, please use the welcome box below.

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Oh and what fun books have you been reading featuring diverse kids?





Picture book review: ‘Fantastically great women who changed the world’ by Kate Pankhurst

‘Fantastically great women who changed the world’ by Kate Pankhurst, is a marvellous look at how women throughout history, have made a significant impact on how we live our lives today.

We are treated to an overflow of double page spreads, with super interesting facts, beautiful illustrations-featuring lots of hooked noses and flushed cheeks- and at times a whizzy helping of swirly arrows; which welcome the reader to follow the journeys of these brilliant people, not only in the mind, but with the eyes too.

Frida Kahlo, Rosa Parks, Sagagawea, and Jane Austen are just some of the amazing women just waiting to tell their story… 

This is a book that lends great hope and enthusiasm for generations to come, for both girls and boys who have ideas, and talents they wish to pursue-especially in the face of hardship- and that for me is the most magical thing to champion, in every kind of way.  

What can I say, it’s a great book with perfectly pitched detail, and of course ‘Fantastically great women who changed the world’ all hail!

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Can’t wait to share my interview with the author herself, and tell you how she is a descendant of Miss Emmeline Pankhurst herself!

Interview with Picture book Writer: Nadia Shireen [Part 1]

What are the odds? That I feature Ms Nadia Shireen’s brilliant ‘Good little wolf’ on my blog only a few days ago, and then I meet her in the flesh the very same week, at the Stoke Newington Literary Festival.

However, when I inquire if I could ask her a few questions, I see a cloud of grey hover over her eyelids, before she agrees *Gulp*. Was I prepared? Not in the slightest, could I change her mind that I wasn’t just any old blogger, doing it for blogging sake- but very much for my own, on a purely selfish ‘Because I wanna know’ basis, I dunno, but I was gonna give it a good bash!

Weirdly enough, we kick off by having a chin wag about what it is I’m doing, as a writer? Uh huh, she wants to know, I fiddle getting my recording aparatus out of my bag, and tell her that I was just ‘literally trying to soak it all up’ she nods and says it’s a good way to go, then with a seamless mobilious click, we get started…  

Has your previous jobs in law and music journalism, influenced the work you produce as a childrens writer?

‘I guess…Erm, I used to work for a music magazine called Smash hits…’

‘Oh my god that was one of my favourite magazines, I used to buy it religiously.’


‘Yes!’ *She has no idea, I remember a particular HOT poster of Bros hanging on my door, which I used to kiss before bed…Every night* 

‘So yeah, I was obsessed with it *Smash hits* from a young age from about 7 or 8, and it’s interesting because that particular era from like 1986 to 1989 was its high point. It had its own idiosyncratic language and sense of humor…It was sharp, cheeky and very funny, erm and I’ve realised that phrases like ‘What the jiggins!’ in the Bumble bear book is sooo Smash hits, like it’s such a 80’s, 90s thing to write.

I think that by working in magazines and music journalism, things did manage to seep through into to my subconscious, in ways that I didn’t realise, and of course I also love music, which is why there’s that tongue and cheek reference in my new book ‘The cow who fell to earth’ and David Bowie’s ‘The man who fell to earth’.

‘ARRR I see…Very clever.’

‘And the little black star on Dave-the cows- T-shirt was the name of Bowie’s last album, which is just a little nod to that….’ 

‘You use animals a lot in your work, where does that’s come from?’

‘It’s down to a simple thing, which is that I’m better at drawing animals then I am drawing humans, the other thing is I’ve always been attracted to animal characters -Not in that way- *laughs*. But as a kid I was drawn to the books with the animals in them, not the books with the humans, because the humans didn’t really look like me’ 

‘Hmm…Would you consider depicting human characters?’

‘Well funnily enough, I am writing something at the moment, that just may be a bit different to what I’ve done before’.

My eyebrows have now reached new heights, and yes of course I want to know more, but I’ve pushed my jammy skills to their full extent and know that like the rest of you, I’ll just have to wait to find out.

‘Thank you Nadia!’

‘No worries, my pleasure’

What d’you reckon, do you think I got her on side? Honestly it was so relaxed, and enjoyable to do, definitely could do this as a job, I’m wasted I tell you, WASTED!!! Haaaa!

Find out in the second part of this interview next week, why Nadia is saying stuff like this ‘You see Muslim, brown women on the news, or behind a shop or at home or whatever, you don’t normally get to see them doing other things’ and other stuffs like this….

‘They were always sh*t, badly produced, badly illustrated, and boring…’ 

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Click below to find out more abut this wonderful writer/illustrator.





Picture book review: ‘Good little wolf’ by Nadia Shireen

Nadia Shireen’s ‘Good little wolf’ is such a fantastic twist on the whole big bad wolf idea, that old familiar yarn that’s been hammered into us, since that book about three little pigs took off and did pretty well for itself.

In Shireen’s version, Rolf lives with old Mrs Boggins, he’s well behaved and eats his vegetables, he is a good little wolf. So when he meets a huge, SCARY looking wolf that tells him all wolves are meant to be bad so therefore he isn’t one, Rolf goes out of his way to prove him wrong. This is where the fun really kicks in with Rolf exercising his BAD side, although in only a few attempts- including trying to blow down a pigs house, or squeaking  I mean, howling at the moon, he fails miserably.

In the end cute, wholesome Rolf does change, but is it for the better? And does that big bad bully of a wolf get what’s coming to him?

Well, in a superb twisty, turny ending you must read it to find out, the illustrations and text are clear, quirky and fun!

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I loved it and you will too.

Picture book review: Ellie’s magic wellies

‘Ellie’s magic Wellies’ by Amy Sparkes and Nick East is a fun, rhyming, playful book, about a girl who meets a mischievous purpley creature called Flibberty Gibberty when SPLASH!! she jumps into a puddle. Yes! Her bored days are over, when she finds out that her wellies have magical powers, however will Ellie use them for the good, when her new found friend creates a MAHOOSIVE mess at home.

This book is a great little cheeky offering, it moves fast and quick across the page with lots of colour and zest. It’s definitely reminiscent of Dr Suess’s Cat in the hat, great news for the modern day reader! Enjoy x

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What picture books with magic can you recommend, we want to know!!! lol x


Congratulations Facebook friends, the stranger sort lol!

It’s been an incredibly turbulent year for me, but SCWIBI writer and reader friends, strangers really, whom I’ve never met have been soooo kind, and giving and helpful. It’s been inspiring to see authors at work, accomplishing things, books, school visits, and giving back to the community. So I thought I’d do a big congratulational clap from my little blog, smog world, and show off some of their work.

Oh, before I start if you entered the ‘Oh Zoe’ Competition, with a fantastic picture book like [ I did!] and were shortlisted [which I wasn’t:-[ Lol!!! But you haven’t checked out the results, click the link below to find out if you’re one of them.

Big congrats to [FB] Victoria Richards for ‘The Forgotten Forest’!!!!!!

Ok, let’s keep it going, can you give a huge applause and support for Patrice Lawrence for her new book Indigo donut, she’s had great success with Orange boy, and this her second book is already getting rave reviews.

Stamp your feet for Tanya Landman’s new book Beyond the wall, I’m actually half way through Buffalo Soldier right now and I’m hooked, will do a review very soon.

It’s another happy day when Meg Rosoff comes to the table with a spectacular offering, Jonathan unleashed is sitting patiently in my book queue, and would love to to get my hands on Good Dog Mc tavish it really sounds great, about a rescue dog who sorts out a family in need of a bit of help, when mum decides to take up Yoga instead.

‘The Feral Child’ By Che Golden is a book I’ve just ordered-I don’t own a bed or shelves, but I own a crazy amount of books, nooooo perspective-it’s fantasy, folklore and adventure, can’t wait to read!!!

Jo Nadin and Anthony Mcgowan have teamed up to write Everybody Hurts a YA book, about love and betrayal, tying in a good few twists and turns to keep you on your toes.

Kathryn Evans ‘More of me’ has got such fab reviews, the story sounds perfectly insane to read and most likely to write -I’m guessing- with protagonist Teva’s ability to separate herself, into two versions of herself every year. Seriously strong, unputdownable and powerful stuff!

And last but not least Candy Gourlay who has a book in the pipeline for 2018, that I’m sure we’ll all want to get our hands on! She has also been staunchly advocating the #readoutaloudchallenge which is such a fantastic worthwhile cause, so please please take a gander at the video and listen to something that you could be apart of too, in making a significant change for others

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If you’ve read any of the books above, drop a comment below and let me know what you thought!

Weekend Book Classic: Stig of the dump

Barney is warned not to go near the chalk pit close to his grandparents house, which of course, is all the more reason to go and investigate. 

So when he finds himself falling down the bottom of a dark junk ridden hole, and meets a strange caveman, he has no idea what’s in store for him.

The Telegraph

The simple but engaging text- which for the majority involves only two characters, who don’t speak the same language is intriguing. It really is a charming tale about turning junk into practical wonders, discovering the unknown and building a truly unlikely friendship.

I understand now, why this book has been revered for so long…Because it’s a genuine classic.

Time for me to go on my weekend Finsbury Park run, then back for a cuppa and the smell of a new book.

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What are you reading this weekend?

The difference between a wannabe writer and a professional according to Francesca Simon



Hello you nosy lot I mean writers!

How is yer?

Yes, I am trying to irritate all you grammar nazis out there with a controversial welcome BAA HA HAA!

So, here is the Q&A with Francesca Simon part 2 as promised, it’s a tad late I know, but you’re to wait no longer read on my fellow scribblers, read on.

How did you become an author?

I started writing books, and I sent them off to publishers and one day they said yes.

How long was it before you were published?

Fantastic fiction

Good question, before I was published it took about a year and a lot of people said no, but I was lucky in that they were quite friendly no’s ‘This is not for us but we’d be really interested to see anything else you write’ so I knew I wasn’t hopeless. I only ever got turned down once which was a ‘This is so awful and dreadful, and do not ever send us anything ever again!’

Everything else was pretty encouraging. But it did take over a year.

What books do you like to read?

I like to read Victorian novels, novels which are thick and heavy, written in the 19th century are my favourite, but I read everything…I’m one of those people who gets very nervous if they are not reading.

When you write do you sit silently? 


The answer is yes, I can’t have any music on the only music I have on is if I know it inside out, and I’m not really listening to it. But I know loads of writers who write with the TV on, the radio blaring, or playing with their phones, not me.


How many drafts do you write before you send it off to  publishers?
I write endless drafts, but your first draft is always dreadful always embarrassing, always rubbish, then you start making it better. I would guess with ‘Monstrous child’ I did about Ten drafts.

I hate the 1st but I love the second draft because once you have it, even if it’s terrible there’s a beginning middle and end, and then you can think about how you can make it better, and then make that better and make that better.

That’s often the difference between professional writers and people who want to write, people who want to write don’t finish things, professional writers always finish things. Secondly, what they write gets better not worse.

It’s very easy to have a push back and let the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd draft get worse and worse, until you just can’t tell the difference…

My Grandmother always wanted to write but she could never make things better, she couldn’t improve, she always made things worse; taking something pretty interesting and then somehow making it dull and boring. But you couldn’t say by the way that doesn’t work “No, no” she’d protest.

But she was wrong.


Picture Book Review: The day the crayons came home


The day the crayons came home’ is the crayontastic bestselling sequel to ‘The day the Crayons quit’. Hitting the same funny spots as the first, where a bunch of NEW waxy colours have each decided to write a postcard to Duncan- their owner- to ask for help.

Why? Because they’ve either been forgotten, lost or worse still abandoned. How would you feel if you were Glow in the dark crayon and was left in a scary basement or like neon pink crayon forgotten by the pool on holiday? You would want to come home too.

This really is a great follow up from creative duo Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers, it pings all the right notes and even brings back some of our old favourites, like Orange and Yellow crayon who argued about who the true colour of the sun was.

But whether it’s revisiting old friends or reading about fresh new ones, this book is certain to leave no one behind.

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If you were a Crayon which colour would you be and why? Drop a comment in the welcome box below!

What did the kids ask Francesca Simon?


Francesca Simon, journalist to renowned childrens author, famously known for her Horrid Henry series which has sold over 18 million copies in 24 countries is in town taking care of her devoted fans. They have become utterly engrossed as she speaks about Norse vikings, gods and goddess’s. The American born writer who has lived in London for a few decades, occasionally opens the floor for the children to flex their own historical and mythical muscles which is relished like an overflowing juicy burger and chips, they can’t wait to get stuck in, they want to know everything, so much so I’ve had to write this Q&A in two parts.   

So lets start…

Why did you become a writer?

Well, I used to write for the Guardian, The Sunday times, Vogue the New York times, The Telegraph…So being a journalist I always liked writing, and then when my son Josh was born, I instantly started to get loads of ideas for writing childrens books.

What was your inspiration for all your books?

Well it’s a very long process but the main inspiration was my lovely publishers Faber and Profile that work together who said you can write anything you want so I decided to write about the Lewis Chessmen.

What was the first book you wrote called?

It was called ‘What does the Hipopotamus say?’ it was an animal noise book, because that’s what I was doing with my son, and we’d have this book with lots of animals and I would say ‘What does the horse say?’ and my genius son would say neigh!!! [She laughs] and then he’d point to the caterpillar and I thought… What does a caterpillar say? And bingo, that’s where I got the idea for the book.

Which is the favourite of your books?

Which is the favourite out of all my children? Erm…The Monstrous Child, I usually like my most recent books but I really like The monstrous child, it was the most exhilarating to write! A goddess, and a teenager which I’d never done before, then discovering how this girl was looking at her body, and how a lot of girls have body issues. It was interesting to take someone who had no confidence and run it through a mythic framework.

The voice you heard for ‘The Monstrous Child’ was it a real person?

It’s a really good question because obviously it’s a voice from my imagination but it’s a voice that spoke to me ‘You’d think after my brother the snake was born they’d have stopped at one’ ….She came out fully formed with a really distinctive voice, the most distinctive I’ve ever had as a writer. Again it’s hard to explain because I’ve never written in first person, and if you think about Horrid Henry which is written in 3rd person the funny stuff in there comes from the narrator, but Henry himself is not all that funny.

What was your favourite book as a child?

I loved books about magic but I didn’t like books about magic happening else where, I liked magic happening in our world, and my favourite book was by Edward Eagar, who wrote about a group of ordinary children who find a magic coin which would give them half their wish…And well, I just read that book endlessly.

What is your most favourite Horrid Henry book?

I don’t have a favourite book but I have a favourite story. Do you remember when I told you about where it is I start before writing is? And I said I start by asking myself questions [All the children nod their heads]…well that’s what I thought when my own son wanted to have a jumble sale, I thought what would Horrid Henry sell if he was going to have a jumble sale…Peter of course.

Do you read children’s books?

Yeees! Childrens books are the best sort of books because they’re so much fun. I recently read Time travelling with my hamster and erm…Crongton Knights is also really good.

When will your next book be out?

My next book will be a picture book and it’ll be called Hack and Whack about two squabbling vikings, and they’re really funny. Their parents say things like ‘No axes at the dinner table’and ‘Put that sword down!’

I don’t know about you but I can’t wait, come back next week to find out Simon’s opinion on the difference between being a writer that wants to write and a professional author. I’d love to hear what you think.

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Can you recommend any good mythical driven books for us all to read? Drop a comment in the welcome box below, or just say hi!

World Book Day Review: Amazing Grace


‘Amazing Grace’ by Mary Hoffman is about a young black girl called Grace who shows an interest in the make believe world of acting, but when she puts up her hand to play Peter pan in the upcoming school play, her classmates let her know that she doesn’t quite fit the role.

This isn’t only a great piece of story telling it’s brilliantly illustrated by Caroline Binch, the water coloured pictures are a yummy rich and exude character throughout. 


I love that this book doesn’t pussy foot around the subject of gender or race, neither does it toss in heavy sighs of ‘worthy’ advice, it just tells her story which in itself is impact enough.

This isn’t a classic for no reason other than the fact it really is very good; and 25 years on or so this still has to be one of my absolute fav’s, I just wish there were more like it out there.

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I know I’m a little early but, Happy World book day!




Picture book Review: Say Hello!


‘Say Hello!’ By Rachel Isadora is a wonderful book celebrating that well known greeting ‘Hello’. Little Spanish Carmelita and her dog Manny take us on a delightful journey down ninth avenue, stopping to greet different people in different languages.

Not only will you learn a little something new, but you’ll understand a little of what Manny says too!

The colourful pictures are bursting with the feel of a bustling street, and I love the effect the cut out collages have on the background and the various characters we meet.  

It really is a lovely picture book see for yourself….

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What picture books are you loving at the moment?