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.