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Posts from the ‘children’s books’ Category

Eoin Colfer Virtually Live

Today, at 2pm Eoin Colfer will be reading from the last ever Artemis Fowl book live, I assume, from Puffin HQ. You need to register before you can watch and you can do that on their website here.

Oh, and here’s Eoin himself telling you what you need to do and talking about farts and wind and tummy trouble. Of course.


Moomin tent envy

I think winning this would absolutely make up for us missing the moomin events at the Pop-Up Festival last Sunday. I don’t know why I am posting this Guardian comp on here as I don’t want any of you to enter or win. But hey, I’m a generous type.

So here you go moomin lovers. Your opportunity to win a moomin adventure tent from the utterly fabulous Field Candy who make camping look brilliant.

Enter if you must.

Pop-up Festival of Children’s Stories or Milo vs the fountain

This year’s Pop-Up Festival of Children’s Stories was in a very different location (just behind King’s Cross station) to last year’s which took place in the very lovely Coram’s Fields. For us this felt a much more urban and in a way, more “pop-up” experience than last year. Both Milo’s dad and I used to work around here many, many years ago and the development work going on is quite remarkable – it looks very different, just King’s Cross train station itself is a massive improvement.

It’s always surprising to find such interesting spaces that you never knew existed in London and the Central St Martins building and Granary Square didn’t disappoint. And while there weren’t the playgrounds that Coram’s Field have and which proved a happy distraction between events last year, there was a fountain. A rather fabulous fountain. A rather fabulous, enromous fountain that it proved very, very difficult to drag my three year old boy away from.

In retrospect, we should really have gone on the Sunday. There was a lot more for Milo to see and do on the Sunday and, while we had a great time on the Saturday, it did feel a bit more geared to older children (something which is often lacking in book festivals so no bad thing at all).

But we did have fun, and I got to browse the book store and Milo had a terrific time and great food to eat… here’s what we got up to:

As soon as we got there, Milo was transfixed by the YMM (Young Music Makers) band. He does love live music does this boy, as did the other kids there who were all up and dancing with and without their parents. I’ve got to say this again say about the location… it is a truly uplifting experience coming round the corner of a building sight surrounded by builders and grey and dust and dirt (we walked the old way round by accident) to hear a jazz version of I Want to Break Free, being played by a big brass band in what seems like the middle of nowhere until you investigate further.

It’s The Beat Goes On by Buddy Rich that Milo’s been singing the most since the festival.

Then we had a lot of fun running around and trying not to destroy Herve Tullet’s pop-up scultures.

There were quesadillas, ice cream, a story from a storyteller, listening to the screams coming from Marcus Sedgewick’s theatrical version of Thw Swordhand is Singing (Milo seemed to enjoy the idea that there were people inside a big black box terrified!), a peek inside The Comics Big Top of Awesome.

I’d have loved to have stayed a while in The Comics Big Top of Awesome, even just to have admired Sarah MacIntyre’s hat for a bit longer, but Milo was insistent on checking out that fountain again.

And a little more (this is when I gave up all hope of keeping him partially dry or making it to an actual event):

Afterwards, we headed to the Southbank where Milo and his dad had great fun in the rainbow beach and buying a tasty dinner from the market stalls and I had a superlative time heading back across the river to meet up with some super lovely fellow children’s lit bloggers and Twittery types, and Clara Vulliamy (of being an author and illustrator fame!). All in all, for someone who loves children’s books and chatting about children’s books this was pretty much the best day ever!

Here are a few other people who’ve written (probably more interesting) write-ups of the Pop-Up Festival:

Be sure to check out the Pop-Up Festival fb page for tons of fab pictures of the weekend
James Mayhew’s Promenade of the Pop Up Picture Pavillion
Sarah McIntyre’s write-up of the events and beyond in the fabulous Comics Big Top of Awesome
Neil Cameron’s write-up from the Comics Big Top of Awesome
The lovely Damyanti’s blog post of her day out at Pop-Up in pictures

Festival fun : The Sun Rises on Moon Lane

A fabulous new festival that begins today! For those of you who live in London this is such a brilliant opportunity to get up close and personal with a whole host of authors and illustrators, all in the gorgeous children’s bookshop Tales on Moon Lane, Herne Hill.

I would absolutely love to take Milo there tomorrow for the 2pm character parade with Maisy, The Gruffalo, Where’s Wally and Aliens in Underpants but unfortunately he’s quite poorly so I don’t think he’ll be well enough. I’m hoping to pop along myself tonight for their picture book evening provided my little man’s feeling okay. There’s so much more though to do and see, for all age-groups of children, so be sure to check out the festival site.

And, to get you in the festival mood, why not check out Melanie’s blog post from John Boyne over on Library Mice – John Boyne will be appearing at the festival on Wednesday 4th July at 6pm.  Or head over to Playing by the Book to win a hamper of fantastic picture books inspired by the Tales on Moon Lane festival.

Festival fun : Pop-up Children’s Festival of Stories

Whoopee, it’s that time of year again… time for the Pop-up Children’s Festival of Stories. They’re in their second year now and have moved from the lovely location of Coram’s Fields last year, to Kings Cross. We’re hoping to go along on the Saturday (though Sunday’s line-up looks really, really good – but I think we’re busy then) and are looking forward to seeing the Herve Tullet’s Pop-Up Play Sculptures (big fans of Press Here in this house!) and most definitely The Comics Big Top of Awesome. Milo already has an original Sarah McIntyre hanging on his wall and is a big fan of You Can’t Scare a Princess so this is a great opportunity to have a nosy at some of her more comic based work.

We visited last year and you read all about our fantastic day of fun right here. It really is worth popping along. Brilliant day / weekend out.

Book review : The Teeny-Weeny Walking Stick

The Teeny Weeny Walking Stick by Karen Hodgson, illustrated by Sally Anne Lambert (Hogs Back Books)  is a lovely, gentle book that Milo and I have very much enjoyed reading together. It’s rare I think, though please do comment and let me know of any, to find a book about little people and magic fairies with a little boy as the central protagonist so it’s been great to share this together.

Edward is a little boy who believes in fairies, elves and little people and when he finds what he thinks is a teeny-weeny walking stick in his garden he runs straight to his big sister to show her. Unfortunately, being older and busy with her homework she is not so convinced. She wants Edward to bring her some better proof.

Edward makes many trips into the garden to find proof (and to try and tear his sister’s attention away from her homework), coming back with an assortment of different items including fairy wings and fluffy slippers but his big sister has a rational answer for everything he brings her (sycamore tree seed, catkins). His finds all go on his special shelf in his bedroom. I won’t tell you what happens at the end of the book but needless to say, it doesn’t disappoint if you want both children to end up believing!

The illustrations are truly endearing as magic in the form of fairy folk, toadstool, mushroom houses and tree houses are present in every image but are not seen by either children. I always believed fairy folk were there. I just couldn’t see them, or it was the wrong time of day for them to come out!

This image is lovely  with its tiny little steps and doors carved into trees. These delight me still as an adult as much as they would have done as a child. Completely enchanting.

If you’re looking for some real-life inspiration, I’ve spent a lot of time recently, drooling over the pictures on the Green Renaissance Facebook Page. If you’re on Facebook, check out their photo albums, but be prepared not to be able to move away from your computer screen for a little while. There are some quite breathtaking images, and lots of gnarly trees and beautiful forests where fairies and elves are bound to live.

(I received our copy of The Teeny Weeny Walking Stick from Hogs Back Books but all views and thoughts are of course mine and Milo’s very own!)

Sharing a sprinkle of childhood fairy dust

The lovely Zoe over at Playing by the Book has set up a rather fabulous linky (I’m a week late to this particular party – been a little preoccupied with work recently!). Once a month Zoe will post on a specific topic in her “I’m looking for a book about…” series and invite other bloggers to contribute a link to a blog post with reviews or references to books that fit in with that month’s topic. The idea is brilliant and designed to create a wonderful hub of books for anyone searching on a particular theme or topic.  This month is “elves and fairies”… and well, writing this post has been ever so nostalgic. Ever so, ever so nostalgic.

Let’s get started. In this post I have chosen to get a little gooey eyed over some of my old favourites, and on Thursday I’ll introduce to you a new book that Milo and I have been enjoying a lot recently.

I imagine that there are lots of bloggers sharing Enid Blyton’s books as part of this month’s topic, but there is absolutely no way that I couldn’t include them myself. Well, one series in particular; The Enchanted Wood / The Magic Faraway Tree series. For anyone reading this blog who knew me as a child will remember that I was completely and utterly obsessed with these books. It would seem that my tattered copy of The Enchanted Wood was read by me in Junior 2. I can assure you that my handwriting is much neater now and I know where to put my apostrophes.

The reasons I loved these books so much were:

A magic wood people, magic!
A tree with little houses in (tree houses were and still are, in my opinion, the best thing ever)
Moonface’s slippery slip (which just sounds a bit dodgy when you write it down doesn’t it?)
The food, the wonderful, wonderful imagery and inventiveness of Enid Blyton’s food…
The illustrations (in my copies at least)

The illustrations in my copy of The Enchanted Wood were drawn by Lesley Smith and I absolutely adored them as a child and still do. They completely shaped in my imagination what Moonface and Silky the fairy looked like and for me, later illustrations paled in comparison.

I read the first chapter of The Enchanted Wood to Milo recently as he’s been a little bit pre-occupied with fairies. Namely the fluff fairy… a daft story I told him one night when he was exhausted and had popped the blue sock fluff that he’d rescued from his toes, kept in his hand throughout books, bath, getting pjs on, blow-drying his hair, more books and into bed, next to his head on his pillow. I was worried that he’d be sad when he woke in the morning to find it gone so I said the fluff fairy would come and take it and maybe turn it into a jumper or dressing gown for another fairy. Well, he rather liked that so at about 11.45pm that night when I suddenly remembered what I’d said, I made a little card from the fluff fairies to say thank you for the blue sock fluff (they’d turned it into a duvet cover), and left some shredded cotton wool fluff for him with a little fairy dust on (edible glitter!) on his bedside table. Well, this was terribly exciting. As was the fact that his blue sock fluff was still on his pillow (how?!) the next morning. And so, a little curiosity about fairies was born. Yay!

I also have this copy of Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree.

The illustrations are by Rene Cloke and I do like them a lot, not quite as much as the illustrations in The Enchanted Wood but so much more so than the very modern versions. For me fantastic illustrations carry as much weight in story books as they do in picture books.

Milo asked me to include this one of the train. He thinks it’s the Little Red Train!

My other favourite fairy book as a child was this one… A Visit to Fairyland by Barbara Hayes, illustrated by Mary Brooks (Purnell Books).

This book reminds me completely and utterly of reading with my mum. I remember her reading it to me again and again, I remember pouring over the illustrations together, I remember trying to recreate the illustrations myself either through drawing or making. But most of all I remember the naughty little bear and the gorgeous little brother. Oh, they were such delights.

I think A Visit To Fairyland is now out of print. Sob. So for those of you who didn’t own this as children, here’s a snippet to give you a hint of the tone of the book …

“They say that Fairyland is over the rainbow,” Mummy had remarked – and then she had hurried on with her shopping. Mummies are usually in a hurry, aren’t they?

But the thought of Fairyland had stayed in Debbie’s head.”

Debbie then goes to bed, drifts off to sleep and embarks on an amazing adventure in Fairyland. Her brother David joins her and they are both later joined by teddy who is a bit naughty in Fairyland.

“Afterwards, naturally, the grown-ups said that it had all been just a dream — and perhaps it was; but Debbie couldn’t help believing that what happened that night might have been real.”

I just love the illustrations in this book, the detail, the imagination, the colours and the soft tone. They are utterly delicious.

I used to look for little houses in trees like this. I don’t think I ever once presumed that they didn’t exist, I just assumed that the fairies didn’t come out during the day and only at night so that’s why I couldn’t see them. I”d also make little houses like this for my Flower Fairies to live in.

I’m excited about sharing these properly with Milo as he gets older. In the meantime though (when we are not reading Oliver Jeffer’s books) we are ploughing through Ladybird’s classic Fairy Tales at the moment and he is just loving that experience. Last night’s bedtime book was The Elves and the Shoemaker which I hadn’t read before but knew the story well. I honestly think that he completely believes that fairies, elves and little people are real. He has no reason not to. He is not so keen on the wolves he is meeting in these books, but then, neither am I!

Tomorrow will be an extra special Fairyland inspired Bookish Bites so be sure to pop back then.

When bedtime reading backfires #1

We hadn’t read this for a while, so I was pleased when Milo chose Up and Down for his bedtime reading choice the other night. We read, we laughed hysterically at “Bam!” and the sight of the penguin and the boy laid out on the floor and then Milo got into bed, said goodnight to his clock, told me what he was grateful for that day (school and imaginary pancakes), listened to mummy singing to him and snuggled down.

All was fine. I was beginning to think about my dinner. Until…

“Mummy, what caught the boy and the penguin’s eyes?”

“The poster did, asking for a human cannonball, giving the penguin an opportunity to fly.”

“But, how did the poster catch their eyes?”

“Oh! I see… ‘caught their eyes’ is a saying, it just means ‘grabbed their attention’ or ‘they spotted it’ – it didn’t actually catch their eyes. Rightho, time to settle down now.”

“Mummy, why was there smoke coming out of the cannonball?”

“Well, because you have to blast out of a cannonball to be able to fly and well, blasting sometimes makes smoke.”

Cue hysterical laughter for some reason.

“Mummy, is the penguin asthmatic?”

“No. Time to go to …”

“So, the smoke won’t hurt him?”

“No, it won’t hurt him. Right, now Milo, it really is….”

“Mummy, was it a jumbo jet that the boy wanted to go on?”

“I can’t remember – did it have four engines?”

“I think it did. Wow! A jumbo jet. He’s a lucky boy.”

“Well, the boy wasn’t going on the jumbo jet, he was just looking for the penguin in the airport in case the penguin wanted to go on a jumbo jet.”


“Because he wanted to fly, remember. Now, it really is time to…”

“But mummy, why didn’t he like flying in the end? The penguin, why didn’t he like flying?”

“He found it a bit scary didn’t he. And then the boy had to catch him and they fell.”

Cue hysterical laughter, obviously remembering  the penguin and the boy laid out on the floor.


Argh! And so it continued, delaying my dinner remarkably. Thank you to Oliver Jeffers, genius of picture book creations that my boy loves to read and ask questions about!

Bookstart 20

You may have noticed this little badge pop up on the right hand side of my blog and you may be wondering what that’s all about? Well, let me tell you.

The very lovely folk at Booktrust (and I know that they are very lovely as I’ve had the pleasure of working with a fair few of them), approached me to ask if I’d mind helping to spread the word about Bookstart 20, and the answer was of course, yes and absolutely!

This year is a celebration of 20 years of Bookstart, the book gifting programme in the UK that gives free books to babies, toddlers and 3-year-olds. Booktrust are going to be celebrating everything that the programme has achieved, including the 30 million free books they’ve given away since its inception in 1992.

Here’s what Michael Rosen has to say about Bookstart:

“We now know that if we share books with children right from the time they are babies, we are helping them enormously to understand the world. It’s all about looking, listening and talking. Bookstart offers the perfect way in: free books in your hand with all sorts of great suggestions about keeping up the habit of sharing books with our children. It’s a great scheme.”
Michael Rosen, poet and former Children’s Laureate

It is a great scheme and one that we as a family have benefitted from enormously.

You can read all of our Bookstart posts here and a whole bunch of ones about Booktrust right here.

Bookstart is here to give every child in the UK the opportunity to engage with books from an early age, but it won’t be around to do this without help from all of us to secure its future. This is where the Bookstart 20 pledge comes in. Just hop on over to the Bookstart website, click on “make a pledge” to join in the 20th year celebrations. The pledge means that you’ll be committing yourself to sharing 20 books in 2012. There are so many ways to do this; reading picture books with your children, reading to a group of children, posting a book review, recommending books to your friends. These are such easy things to do, but by clicking the “make a pledge” button on the Bookstart website before you get started you are showing your support for a scheme that gets books into the hands of children at crucial ages and often where they otherwise wouldn’t  necessarily have access to them.

For my Bookstart 20 pledge I shall be sharing books with Milo as we always do, but we’e also going to choose some books for review here on my blog, and give some more books away to Lewisham Hospital as we did for International Book Giving Day. So, whenever you see the pledge badge up the top here on a post… you’ll know that we’re thinking about Bookstart while we’re reading.

What are you going to be doing to celebrate 20 years of Bookstart?

Maurice Sendak

As most of you have probably heard, today is an incredibly sad day for children’s literature with the news that Maurice Sendak has died at the age of 83. This New York Times article was how I found out. The Guardian has written this lovely tribute on the author of Where the Wild Things Are and they also have this fantastically opinionated interview with Sendak from 2011 that is definitely worth reading.

I read Where the Wild Things Are a lot during my time studying for my masters; understanding its influence, appreciating the illustrative technique, the simplicity of Sendak’s words but it wasn’t until sharing it with Milo after a particularly hard and difficult day together that I truly understood it. It’s a comforting book in this house and I’ll be reading it with my boy tonight and trying not to feel sadness at the passing of a brilliant, contentious and often fierce man but of everything he’s given this little household and millions of others.

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