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

 

Alchetron

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? 

Goodreads

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?

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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

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‘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. 

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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!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Amazing-Grace-Mary-Hoffman/dp/1845077490/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1488221005&sr=8-1&keywords=amazing+grace

 

 

 

Picture book Review: Say Hello!

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‘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!
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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?

The Childrens Laureate

The alligators mouth

After seeing Chris Riddell on stage last week and all of his awesome guests, I got yet another surprise when I was handed this free book ‘My little book of big freedoms’ illustrated by the man himself. This timely pocket sized read is about helping children to understand their basic human rights, something that I think you’re never to old to know about.

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It can be a scary time for children growing up in the world where there is much crisis and war, but starting in your own back yard has to be the way forward; letting them know they can ask questions and start a conversation is so very important.                                            

 Protection

‘No one has the right to hurt or torture us’ Chris Riddell.

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Knowledge is most definitely power and Riddells beautiful drawings depict each right with such skill and simplicity.  http://www.childrenslaureate.org.uk/

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Check out the newest of Chris’s collaborations with none other than Neil Gaiman.

It’s a beautiful book…

http://bloomsbury.com/uk/search?q=odd+and+the+frost+giants&Gid=1

x

The heart and the bottle

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As well as authors such as Mo Willems, Lauren child and Ed Vere, Oliver Jeffers is way up there in my picture book hall of fame.

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‘The heart and the bottle’ by Oliver Jeffers, is a beautiful story of a girl who’s curious imaginative world fades after the loss of someone very close to her. She decides to put her heart in a bottle to protect it from getting hurt again, but soon realises that it cannot stay in there forever.

This lovely well thought out book, tackles a difficult subject in a delicate and moving way. It reminds us all, big or small that in order to LIVE we have to FEEL. 

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Which Oliver Jeffers book is your favourite?

We love you Hugless Douglas!

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Look what I spotted when I went to the library this week…

Only one of the many loveable ‘Hugless Douglas’ picture books by David Melling. In this sweet tale Douglas helps Flossie to look for his best friend, but once he finds him he realises just how much he’d like a friend of his own. 

Will anyone notice that Douglas is feeling lonely and be his friend?
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The illustrations are brilliantly colourful and a bundle of fun, I could look at them all day, there’s always something different to catch your eye.

See for yourself!

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You’re welcome to comment, can’t wait to hear from you!

 

The Pigeon needs a bath!

Before I start I’m gonna tell you that I should be absolutely ashamed of myself, I mean, I’ve just discovered this persons books, where was I sleeping under a ROCK?

‘The pigeon needs a bath!’ Was written and illustrated by genius picture book writer -no bias there- Mo Willems. It’s about a witty smarty pants bird who doesn’t think that taking a bath is very important even when he’s mobbed by flies. Can this pigeon be convinced that it’s a good idea? 

It’s bright conversational humor is right up my street, and the pictures are just as fun! Go check it out if you’re not a fan already.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pigeon-Needs-Bath-Mo-Willems/dp/1423190874

Book recommendations are always welcome, don’t forget to like, comment, share!

 

 

 

‘The Muse’

I completed the last page of Jessie Burton’s The Muse last night, which is her second freaking amazing book since The Miniaturist.

The Muse is set in two different time zones one in swinging 60s London with protagonist and writer wannabe Odelle Bastian, and the other at the time of the Spanish civil war with closet painter Olive Schloss. Burton seamlessly connects deeply woven characters and these two stories together, with one sought after piece of art in an unsuspecting, dark and twisted way.

What Burton does is hard, it’s enviable and it’s work; to have these dual carriages moving at the same time, while pinning down their period, pace and character All hail! Because she really does pull the ambitious feat off. I mean I just can’t gush about it enough, only that it’s incredible prose washes over you like an enchanted castle, its unforgiving seductive nature hooks you from the start, and I absolutely couldn’t put it down.

Go buy it you’ll love it, I promise. 

I’ve got a great 5 question interview coming up with the very generous and enigmatic Miranda Emmerson, talking about her new book ‘Miss Treadway and the field of stars’ Can’t wait to share please come back and join me.

Alan Yentob interview’s Judith Kerr

 

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I went to see an amazing interview with Alan Yentob and Judith Kerr on Friday, set in a beautiful chapel, in Tottenham crt rd. Kerr spoke about everything from her childhood, to her love for drawing and writing children’s books. At 91 years old she emits light and effortless poise as she answers questions, and I felt extremely fortunate to hear her speak. Here are some of the answers she gave Yentob- which are slightly paraphrased as I didn’t have my note book! 

Enjoy…

1

On Judith’s most well known book…

When I wrote ‘The tiger who came to tea’ I wasn’t sure if to put clothes on the Tiger, should I draw it with fingers? There were all these questions!

2

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On words and pictures

If the illustration in a book shows a boy wearing a red top, and yellow trousers let’s say, and you have a child struggling to read ‘Tim-o-thy is we-ar-ing, a red a-and yel-low sh-irt’ etcetera, it’s torturous, because we already know that, why are you making a child struggling to read, read that sort of thing…The picture should say something different.

3

On drawing…

I used to be quite slow, but I’m getting quicker.

4

On writing….

Yes…I’ve written at the same desk for over half a century.

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On the NEW book….

I’ve just finished writing a chapter book, with about 70-80 drawings…I haven’t written a book like this before.

We can’t wait to read it!

*That was 5 question’s with the delightful Judith Kerr*

Interview with writer & illustrator Claire Powell [2nd part]

Claire and I are sipping on our Starbucks coffees, intermittently speaking about how and when she started drawing, which gives Big Ben a pass to bash hell for leather into my ears again, I can relate to a lot of the things she talks about. She had a hide away under the stairs made by her Dad, all encompassed with shelves and desk to draw on when she was younger, I had a closed off den surrounded by a diahorrea of 70’s patterned carpet and walls. She drew constantly…and so did I.

 Illustrated by Claire Powell

‘My mum says that she suggested that I do illustration as a course-which I don’t remember, but apparently I said “but all I do is draw the things around me” Claire recalls, smothering a thick layer of modesty on top. ‘But many illustrators-artists observe this life which surrounds them, studying form, proportions, and a whole manner of things, I understand that now.’

I query her style of drawing, which presents itself as being beautifully clean, with an easy linear feel to it, she has a great knack of honing down subtle expressions through her character[s] body language and facial expressions, not an easy thing to do. ‘I’m still trying to figure out my style, which is an ongoing process you can’t just sit down on a Sunday and be like ‘What’s my style?’ and then by 6pm you have it nailed.’

True. But I don’t think she has to try too hard her style is coming through nice and clearly.

So what about future projects? Claire can you hear me? Claire?? ‘Yeah I can hear you, I just can’t tell you anything’ NOOOOOOoooo But I want to know, we all want to know, OK OK fine, but I want to be the first to know. I ask if she uses humour in her books ‘Yeah, and that’s actually been quite surprising to me, I don’t necessarily draw to be funny, but my characters usually have funny expressions. I sort of gravitate to drawing animals people are just, hard’ she goes on to tell me about the life drawing classes she occasionally attends, pushing herself out of her comfort zone. Although looking at her work you wouldn’t ever believe she struggles with the human form, she makes it look so easy.

Illustrated by Claire Powell

Where can we find out more about Claire Powell? Claire takes a deep breath and reels of a number of popular social media sites, when she gets to the end of her list we both can’t help but belly laugh.‘It’s crazy isn’t it?’ she grins ‘Seriously,I’m trying to keep up with it all!’

Being a writer, illustrator does she think that there’s a fair playing field between the two disciplines? ‘I don’t know…There’s this thing called ‘Pictures mean business’ going around Twitter at the moment, have you heard of it?’ I shake my head.‘It’s where illustrators are getting together to make their voices heard. I suppose asking for similar recognition to that of an author-It should be equal. One person has written the work the other has brought it to life with pictures, and the child is connecting with both.’

If she could illustrate for anyone in the world who would it be? She takes her time to think… ‘Toon Tellegen. I love his latest book ‘The Day No One was Angry’ I’m scribbling his name down furiously as I don’t know who this guy is, and I’m curious. I’m also curious about the two books Claire has in the pipeline, she must be drawing more than ever? ‘Oh my goodness yes, in fact I can’t wait to get back this afternoon, whack on the music and do some drawing!’

Well, I shan’t keep you any longer Claire, especially as we’re intrigued to see what you’re going to do next. Keep us posted!

http://www.claire-powell.com/

Claires film short: www.the-scapegoat.com

Write now. Worry later.

 

 

Interview with Claire Powell [1st part]

I was running from work as usual, and had just enough time to switch from my day job clothes in my clients cramped bathroom to something less…day jobby, and head to Nottinghill.

Claire and I had tried to meet up for this interview many times, but our crazy schedules just wouldn’t permit it. I’d first met her at the Yasmeen Ismail picture book workshop, as I’ve mentioned before in a prior post. I just remember sitting down at her table, and as soon as we were let loose on a task we seem to hit it off straight away, I felt like I’d known her for forever, cheesy but true, it was really weird. There was definitely something different about this girl, her sketches were brief and confident, her answers were short, well informed, and more noticeably she looked incredibly relaxed, as if in a way she’d heard it all before.

So why was she there with us lesser mortals I asked her, trying my best not to offend, she looked at me with a slight squint of disbelief at my question. ‘It’s really interesting….Because I can see why after you doing your research that it might look like I know what I’m doing, but I suppose I’ve had Ten years working in T.V, and I guess you present yourself in a certain way that comes across more established than you really are…With the children’s book stuff, I’ve only recently been signed with Darley Anderson but I’ve got nothing published, yet’ the squint has been transferred to my own eyes as I look down at my phone trying to figure her out.‘I guess I went to that talk, because Yasmeen seemed to pop up from nowhere, and I was interested in her because of her animation background.’

Claire completed a short hand drawn animated film called ‘Scapegoat’ which took her four years to make. It’s dark, rich, filled with intrigue and itching to be watched, here’s the trailer.

http://www.the-scapegoat.com/producers-biography/

‘I had this light bulb moment….Because when I started it I thought I really want to do animation, but then I got half way through and I thought, no, no I don’t… I went and visited a couple of animation studios in London and instantly walked in and thought, this doesn’t feel like the environment I want to be in, and actually, I think I’m really enjoying the drawing side of things, and it all kicked off from there…Then all of a sudden it was like, this is what I want to do.’

She looks at me with an air of defiance and we smile at each other knowingly, I ask if it feels like a natural pathway ‘Yeah, totally it just feels like all the pieces fit together, from traditional graphic design, to typography, layouts, to all the stuff that I do in my day job’ Claire works in channel re-branding for channels such as Nickelodeon, CBBC, BBC 1 and the Beeb in general. ‘Which is all about narrative, storyboarding, and telling a story through illustration…’ Ok so now I’m curious, and I have to ask what it’s like working for the big fat BEEB, it’s time to dish the dirt Claire. ‘Erm…’ We both giggle, as she chooses her words carefully ‘You know what? They have the most amazing projects, they’re so famous, a massive organisation, and I’ve just finished refreshing their brand this year’ I have a sudden weak vision of the heads of the BBC being caught up in a sort of nightmare; with a speech bubble, screaming at the top of their heads ‘Standards, reputation, tradition, Peppa pig!’

But I can tell Claire’s got a lot of respect for this colossal institution. ‘We just put loads of illustration stuff on  BBC 1,  we never thought they’d go for that, but they do take risks.’

I wonder if there is any correlation with the children’s books she’s working on now, and her work as a channel re-brander ‘Yes, I think there is, I mean I often think of my characters as moving, I see picture books as being a snapshot of an animated film, and I find it much easier to get things down in 2D, occasionally I do struggle at work to imagine how you’re going to film it, but I can imagine how I think a character should move and just take a screen grab of it so to speak. There are loads of cross overs with work, design and colour palettes…It all kind of feeds in. I draw everything by hand first to get the flow…’ she pauses and thinks.‘At the moment I’m researching a few artists who get that fluidity into their drawings even though it might be digital, things can get lost in translation, especially when taking a hand drawn sketch and putting it onto the computer.

I find it terrifying to think you’ve just done this beautiful sketch and then you’ve got to paint it, because if you make one mistake, just one wrong brush stroke you’re like oh -she mouths a word which sounds awfully like duck- ‘there’s no computer un-do, un-do!’ we burst into laughter.

It’s been great talking to Claire and as the title suggests there will be a 2nd part of this interview next week, where I’ll be asking her about agents, her inspirations and a mouse that has a very smelly habit. Can’t wait, see you there x

http://www.claire-powell.com/

 

Write now. Worry later.