Friday, 3 October 2008

Jaqueline Wilson's Cookie is age-banded!

Jacqueline Wilson's latest hardback children's book has been age-banded by her publisher despite the author signing the "No to Age Banding" pledge. The hardback of Cookie, which is published this week (2nd October) by Doubleday, an imprint of Random House Children's Books, includes the age band 9+, as does the back of the special edition tin that contains the book.
The development first came to light when a bookseller left a comment on It read: "We received stock of Jacqueline Wilson's new book Cookie at work today.

She's signed the statement at and yet the back of the tin that the book is inside (and therefore I'm guessing the back of the book itself) has an age banding stamp on it of 9+. I've seen stamps on quite a few other books recently (including the new Puffin Classics edition of What Katie Did) but this is the first time I've seen one on a book by one of the signed up authors."
In a statement Random House said Wilson had agreed to the banding on the back of the hardback after "close discussion" with the author. The statement read: "Jacqueline can see the arguments both for and against printed age guidance on books but does retain some reservations about the subject. She has agreed for age guidance to be put on the cover of Cookie but RHCB will maintain the discussion with her and her agent over the matter and will review the situation on a book by book basis."

Wilson told The Guardian that her future titles would not be age-banded, but that as this one had been produced "ages ago" with special "cookie tin" packaging she had decided against making a fuss over the inclusion of the 9+ graphic.
( 3rd October 08)

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

My Top Ten Picture Books

By special request here are my top ten picture books for children. Some I discovered as a family learning teacher and some were in my son's collection when he was younger. I have to admit, some of them are so well loved my son and I have kept them. The list features most of my favourite children's picture book authors, but there are many more. Look out for further features on picture books later.

So here they are, in no particular order:

  1. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

  2. The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr

  3. Where's my Teddy by Jez Alborough

  4. Winnie the Witch by Korky Paul

  5. Q Pootle 5 by Nick Butterworth

  6. The Green Queen by Nick Sharratt

  7. Handa's Surprise by Eileen Browne

  8. The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear by Audrey and Don Wood

  9. Mrs Honey's Hat by Pam Adams

  10. Rumble in the Jungle by Giles Andreae

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Fairy Tales and Folklore

Fairy tales traditional stories and are a passion of mine, so I was delighted to discover a website which is dedicated to ...'fairy tales, folklore, and everything in between.' The link is and the site is well worth a visit. The second issue of their free e-zine has just been published and contains poetry, stories, non-fiction and artwork of exceptional quality. The editors are looking for submissions of flash and longer length fiction up to 3000 words. Both new, modern tales as well as retellings of traditional tales are welcome. Also needed are poems, book and movie reviews and commentaries. Excellent guidelines are provided and payment is offered. See you in fairytale cyberspace!

Sunday, 20 July 2008

2008 Gateshead Children's Book Award Winners

The 2008 Gateshead Children's Book Award goes to Jeremy Strong for, Beware Killer Tomatoes. Second prize goes to Tommy Dobavand writing as B Strange for Too Ghoul For School:Terror in Cubicle Four. Red House Award Winner, Derek Landy came third with Skullduggery Pleasant.

The award not only recognises excellent children's fiction, but enhances reading, writing and I.T. skills in young people across Gateshead. A number of publishers send multiple copies to participating schools. Children read the books, and, after discussing them, they write reviews. The books are then rated the children post their comments online. In my opinion this beats Graded Readers and Reading Logs any day.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

I Wish Someone Had Told Me That.

Would you like to pick the brains of successful children's writers on mistakes they've made and lessons they've learned? How about what inspires them and keeps them going? Check out the fabulous e-book, I Wish Someone had Told Me That published by The Children's Book Insider. In this e-boook over 60 authors share their inspirations, their thoughts and experiences. My own contribution begins on page 32. Get your copy now from

Monday, 14 July 2008

Skullduggery Pleasant wins Red House Children's Book Award

This Year's Children's Book Award winners are:

Older Readers Category: Derek Landy's Skullduggery Pleasant

Younger Children Category: Penguin by Polly Dunbar

Younger Readers: Ottoline and the Yellow Cat by Chris Riddell.

Skullduggery Pleasant also won the overall award.

The Award was founded in 1980 and has been sponsored by Red House since 2001. What sets this award apart from other children's book awards is that the award winning books are chosen by children. Hundreds of books are read each year by children from all over the UK. A shortlist is compiled and the children then vote for their favourites. The Award Ceremony is held at the annual Guardian Hay Festival in June For more about the awards, including other shortlisted entries and previous winners, visit

Monday, 7 July 2008

The Children's Writer's Wordbook

I bought The Children's Writer's Wordbook by Alijandra Mogilner a few year's ago when I was on holiday in Florida. I would strongly recommend it to anyone interested in writing for children.

I refer to it all the time when I need to find a suitable word or want to make sure a word I'm about to use is suitable to the age of my intended reader. The book is a comprehensive guide to vocabulary for children's writers and includes:

  • an alphabetical word list of all the words used

  • secondary lists which relate to school grades

  • a thesaurus of the words listed, with reading levels for each synonym

  • useful tips and advice on the best words to use

  • samples of writing at different reading levels

Don't miss the extras in the back of the book. Under the Heading, 'Some Things You'll Need to Know' the author offers expert advice and insight on unusual words, being politically correct, tags and word count. Theme and Content, Age Groups and Reading Levels, and even Other Types of Writing are also dealt with in an expert but friendly manner. A Bibliography and list of other books for writers are included too.

If you write for children and haven't got The Children's Writer's Word Book already, it's well worth investing in and using.

Friday, 4 July 2008

My favourite book

My favourite book is Skellig by David Almond. It’s a wonderful children's book, and I’ve read it two or three times. I’m reading it to my son at the moment and he seems to be loving it as much as I do. It’s realistic, but fantastical, harsh but tender. David Almond’s writing is powerful. Not one word is redundant. The character of Skellig is so different from any other I’ve encountered. He’s so mysterious. The book is set in the North East of England and the characters have North East speech mannerisms, which I can identify with, but it’s Almond's attention to detail which makes me marvel. What's your favourite book? What makes it special?

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Seven Stories Collection

This morning I visited the Seven Stories Collection in Gateshead. Seven Stories, the Centre for Children's Books in neighbouring Newcastle upon Tyne, is the only place in the UK which actively collects manuscripts, artwork and related materials by British writers and illustrators for children. The archives date from the 1930's and include work by over 50 writers and illustrators.
I learned how the paper-based materials are preserved in acid-free paper and painstakingly catalogued. Digital archives are kept on CD roms covered in real gold. Apparently they have a 300 year life span!
The highlight of the visit was examining materials by the author/illustrator, Judy Brook, which showed the process of picture book making step by step. First I saw black and white sketches with page numbers and margin rules. Next were the watercolour paintings which were used in the published book, followed by the proofs of these pictures sent back from the publisher to the artist. The colours were far more muted in the prints. Examples of dummy books in ring binders and photograph albums could then be compared with the actual printed book. It was fascinating to see the subtle changes that were made.
Finally I was shown how materials from the collection can be sourced and perused through the website. If you'd like to find out more about the Seven Storiescollection check out the fabulous website by clicking the link:

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

How do you do? We are Wiggle and Woo.

Wiggle and Woo are mischievous, but lovable, twin ghosts. Woo has a headful of bouncy ringlets and both brother and sister have sparkling emerald green eyes. The twin's favourite activity is haunting or spooking 'alives'. Wiggle and Woo don't walk as theydon't have legs, Instead, they float, speed-glide or fly.
The ghost twins used to live in Copper Tree Farm, but now inhabit the spooky world of ghosts. They return to the farm, searching for Wiggle's lost watch, and discover Wiggle's room and it's new owner are scary and purple.
Woo likes music and dancing, Wiggle just likes to have fun, usually at someone else's expense. As Wiggle is the most daring of the two so when they discover a flute-playing giant in the Mansion of Music, Wiggle does all he can to annoy him. His sister, Woo, tries to keep him under control, but her attempts to tame Wiggle's antics just lead them both into even more trouble.
Woo adores her little cousin, Tee Hee. When Uncle Fright and Aunty Scare ask the twins to babysit, she is overjoyed, but Wiggle is horrified.
Read about Wiggle and Woo's adventures in Mini Mysteries and Kooky Spookies, a complilation of children's stories for young readers published by Pinestein Press. The book is available online from major retailers including Amazon, Borders, Tesco and Waterstones.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Who is Artemis Fowl?

Artemis Fowl is the main character of a series of books by Eoin Colfer, set in the 21st Century. Unlike most main characters, who tend to be virtuous and heroic, Artemis is villainous and ruthless.
He is a twelve year old genius who lives in Fowl Manor, Dublin, Northern Ireland. Although the Manor is traditional in appearance it is full of high-tech equipment. Artemis is a computer buff and loves technology.
His father, Artemis Fowl Senior, had been a billionaire until the Russian Mafia blew up one of his trading ships. Even though the family are still rich, young Artemis, or Arty as his mother calls him, is determined to replace their massive fortune. He intends to do this by stealing gold from the fairies. The incident with the ship has left Arty’s mother Angeline deeply disturbed, in fact more than a little batty. She lives in the attic.
Young Artemis doesn’t look like most twelve year old boys. He has dark hair and blue eyes, but his skin is vampire-white from spending so much time on the computer. As the family are rich he wears designer suits.
His intelligence is so amazing, he is what is often referred to as a child prodigy. This super intelligence, coupled with his determination makes him calculated and sinister.
His motto is ‘know thine enemy.’ He has several enemies and he loves playing mind games with them. He is prepared to lie to get what he wants and is cold hearted. The only thing known to upset him is his mother’s madness.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Ten Tips on Writing Stories Children and Editors will Love.

1. Don’t patronize. Children are sophisticated, intelligent and like to be challenged. Don’t over simply or over explain. Don’t write for children because you think it’s the easy option. It’s not.
2. Don’t preach. It’s okay for your story to have a message or moral, but don’t bang on about it. If your story is well written the message will be apparent as your character will have learnt something and your reader will learn too as a result.
3. Do create interesting, realistic characters your reader can relate to and want to know better.
4. Don’t sit around waiting for inspiration. Find it by reading children’s books and stories, listening to them talk, watching their TV programmes and so on. Emerge yourself into their world as much as you can.
5. Do make sure your story and its language are age appropriate. Research what children of that age may be interested in before you write. Research what editors are looking for too. and write what they want
6. Do include dialogue that is realistic, true to the characters’ personalities and which helps move the story on.
7. Don’t jump into the story and tell it yourself– let your characters do that for you.
8. Don’t be miserable, morbid or melodramatic, even if your story has a serious message or sad content.
9. Do enjoy what you write. If you’re having fun your reader will too.
10. Don’t be afraid to try a new slant on an old story. Many successful modern stories are based on or inspired by fables and fairy stories writers enjoyed themselves.

Use the above tips as guidelines and add to it as you become experienced in writing stories for children.
Learn from your masters (the writers you admire), learn from your writing - from your mistakes and your successes. And one final tip to keep in mind – don’t expect your story to be perfect, just make it as good as you can.