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Young Ambassadors for diversity and inclusion

21 Apr

I’m making the assumption that if you read this blog you are already on board with the fact that inclusive and diverse books are groovy and important things. I figure you know that they can, and will, help the next generation change the world. And that’s why I want to share this campaign for Young Ambassadors by Inclusive Minds. They want to develop a network of young ambassadors with real experience of marginalisation (in all areas of diversity), who will share their knowledge with the book world. They will be the ace team who comment on ideas and manuscripts and help authors and the children’s publishing industry to create authentic diverse voices. This project has already been successfully piloted and will help to dramatically improve authenticity in books and give young people a real voice in the children’s book world. But they need our help.

Inclusive Minds is a not-for-profit collective who work with the children’s publishing industry to push for more inclusive and diverse characters and stories. They are awesome and they are making a real difference. Their crowdfunding campaign to roll out their Young Ambassadors campaign only has 8 days left and they need help to reach their target. There are some incredible perks on offer, like signed artwork and books, an hour’s consultation with Inclusive Minds for your writing and a ticket to the next Children’s Laureate ‘unveiling ‘. Even if you can’t contribute financially at the moment, please have a read of their plan – it might be something that can help the authors/creators among us – and consider sharing it.

I know times are hard but this campaign could make a huge difference to the books that the next generation are reading, showing them a wider more inclusive world view and helping them grow up to be empathetic and awesome human beings. Plus, end of month pay day is coming up and should fall within the last few days of the campaign.

Have a look here. Be a part of the mission to change the world, one book at a time.

Behind the scenes of Happy, Sad, Feeling Glad – with giveaway

15 Apr

BlogtourI am thrilled to have a guest post from award winning illustrator Yasmeen Ismail as part of the blog tour for her Draw & Discover series of activity books. Yasmeen is the bestselling author/illustrator of Time for Bed Fred and I’m a Girl. The books in the Draw & Discover series are her first activity books and they are stunners!

Lively and full of humour, Happy, Sad, Feeling Glad is beautifully designed and produced and just makes me smile. I love that it has splashes of colour throughout and is so playful and inviting, encouraging kids to explore their own feelings as they create. Each spread has a prompt, open enough to allow little artists to put their own personality to paper. This is my favourite page:

Yasmeen has kindly put together a sneak peek behind the scenes of Happy, Sad, Feeling Glad:

Happy, Sad, Feeling Glad is the third in the ‘Draw & Discover’ series. With this series I wanted to take intangible ideas and help kids put them into context. For Happy, Sad, Feeling Glad I followed the same format as I have in the first two books (Push, Pull, Empty, Full and Inside, Outside, Upside-down) I created three characters – Donkey, Cat and Dog – and activities in which to explore intangible ideas such as feelings and emotions.

When I create characters, I decide on how they look alongside planning the whole book. I often make little page sketches, and then cut them all out make a pile of the ones I want to keep and the ones I don’t want to use. The sketches I keep are artworked up with an ink-brush pen, and then put together and tied up in Photoshop. Below are some images of early artwork I made for Happy, Sad, Feeling, Glad.

Those of you that have seen the book will notice a new character below, called Pig – we very nearly had Pig in the book as well as Cat, Dog and Donkey, but in the end I decided to stick with just three characters. There was no real reason for this except that the previous two books had three characters and there was no need for an additional character. So Pig was left out. Perhaps he’ll turn up again, who knows?

This next image is one of my very early sketches of Cat. She is frustrated because she can’t get the sauce out of the bottle onto her sandwich! I eventually decided to keep this spread in the book but changed the theme to Cat being ‘excited’ about her sandwich.

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Below are some more sketches that are more finished, and give an idea of they kind of colour I wanted to use. What makes these images different from the earlier sketches, is that they are a little tidier, and they show a clearer idea of what each of the activity spreads should be about.

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Here is the first sketch I did for the cover. It came out pretty much the same in the final artwork, except for the title change!

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WIN a full set of the Draw & Discover books – and a tote bag!

A huge thank you to Yasmeen for taking the time to share her work. I can’t recommend these books enough. You can get your copies here.

Or, to be in with a chance of winning a full set of the Draw & Discover books plus a tote bag, follow this blog and add a comment below, or head over to twitter to enter. Open to UK only, closing date eod Tuesday 18th April. Good luck!

Thanks to Yasmeen and to Laurence King Publishing.

Illustrator photo by Olivia Hemingway.

Stargazing for Beginners by Jenny McLachlan

6 Apr

There’s a lot to love in this book about friendship and finding yourself amongst the chaos of life. 

‘Science geek Meg is left to look after her little sister for ten days after her free-spirited mum leaves suddenly to follow up yet another of her Big Important Causes. But while Meg may understand how the universe was formed, baby Elsa is a complete mystery to her. And Mum’s disappearance has come at the worst time: Meg is desperate to win a competition to get the chance to visit NASA headquarters, but to do this she has to beat close rival Ed. Can Meg pull off this double life of caring for Elsa and following her own dreams? She’ll need a miracle of cosmic proportions.’

Jenny McLachlan aces teenage awkwardness and the overriding want to fit in. The characters are real; flawed, learning and developing. It’s a joy to read about a science loving girl who is handy with a wrench but has no possible clue when it comes to relationships – with her baby sister, with the other kids at school, with her mum. Meg is intelligent and practical but is still afraid of saying the wrong thing and making a fool of herself. 

Her developing friendship with Annie is delicious. Annie has Cerebral Palsy and sometimes uses a wheelchair or crutches but, thanks to some awesomely inclusive writing, she isn’t defined by her CP and is a wonderfully funny and fierce character. Annie is where McLachlan’s teenage voice really comes to life and she captures the dry wit and banter perfectly.

Stargazing for Beginners is not about the science geek getting a makeover and getting the boy. It laughs in the face of that kind of message. Instead, it’s about a girl turning into a young woman, learning to love herself and finding a network of friends who love her for who she really is. It’s about finding yourself and above all being true to yourself. And that is a beautiful thing.

You can get your copy here.

Source – kindly sent for review by Bloomsbury.

Pax by Sara Pennypacker

15 Mar

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‘Pax was only a kit when his family was killed and he was rescued by ‘his boy’, Peter. Now the country is at war and when his father enlists, Peter has no choice but to move in with his grandfather. Far worse than leaving home is the fact that he has to leave Pax behind. But before Peter spends even one night under his grandfather’s roof he sneaks out into the night, determined to find his beloved friend. This is the story of Peter, Pax, and their journeys back to each other as war rampages throughout the country.’

As is the case with all the best children’s books, Pax is about so much more than a boy and his beloved pet. Pax is about love, trust, the price of war, and the importance of self discovery. Peter’s fear is of becoming like his father; of inheriting his anger and closing himself away. Through his journey he learns to trust in the people he meets and to trust in his self and his ability to become the boy he wants to be. It is a powerful message of tolerance and hope in the face of adversity, beautifully echoed by Pax’s own discovery of his inherent wildness.

Peter’s time in the woods with an isolated and self-destructive ex-soldier highlights the human cost of war. She is a brilliantly created character who resonates long after the last page is turned. Their relationship is beautifully developed and sings of the power of standing against social expectations and following what is in your heart.

Told from both Peter and Pax’s point of view, Pax is deeply layered and filled with echoes and balances. The sections from Pax’s point of view made me look at everything through fresh eyes and were an intelligent, well-researched, sensory adventure. Beautifully illustrated by Jon Klasson – just look at that cover! – Pax truly is a wonderful, wonderful book.

Source – my lovely local library.

the stars at oktober bend by Glenda Millard

14 Mar

Australian author Glenda Millard is highly respected for her work in her home country and deserves to be as well-known and respected in the UK. Old Barn Books are releasing her works to a wider audience and the stars at oktober bend had me wowed.

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‘Alice Nightingale writes about how it is to have perfect thoughts that come out in slow, slurred speech. She imagines herself stepping into clear midair with wings made of words and feathers.

Manny James runs at night, trying to escape memories of his past. He sees Alice on the roof of her river-house, looking like a figurehead on a ship sailing through the stars. He has a poem in his pocket and he knows the words by heart. He is sure that the girl has written them.

Alice longs to be everything a fifteen-year-old girl can be. And when she sees the running boy she is anchored to the earth by her desire to see him again.’

Glenda Millard’s writing is beautiful. Evocative and lyrical, the stars at oktober bend explores the healing power of creativity and hope and the importance of family – however it is formed.

Alice and Manny are both survivors. Alice from a violent assault and Manny from war in his home country. Both are learning to live and trust again and to move on from the guilt they feel over the loss of their families. Despite the premise, this book sings of hope. It is in the poems Alice writes, the intricate fishing flies she makes from feathers, and in the way trust develops friendships into family. the stars at oktober bend opens our eyes to the darkness in the world – and feels very relevant in these times of Trump – but it also shines a light. In the words of Alice, ‘if we let cowards stop us living the way we want to, we let them win.’

A special mention, too, for Ruth Grüner’s stunning cover design which manages to echo the book perfectly.

Old Barn Books are releasing a further novel by Glenda Millard. Keep your eyes open for A Small Free Kiss in the Dark this summer.

Source – bought from my lovely local indie bookshop, Bags of Books in Lewes.

Secrets of Our Earth: A Shine-A-Light adventure

13 Mar

Secrets of Our Earth by Carron Brown and Wesley Robins (Ivy Kids) is part of the innovative Shine-A-Light  non-fiction series. Perfect for Early Years and Key Stage 1 topics, these books make learning a hands-on adventure.


Exploring the planet from the outside in, looking at mountains and rivers, rainforests and cities, children can hold each page up to the light to get a glimpse of what happens behind-the-scenes.



Brilliant fun and full of facts, this is a great book to get young children involved in reading and learning. I can imagine children in dens with torches exploring this book and learning about the world around them. I love how it plays to children’s natural curiosity and interest in hands-on learning. It shows them that there is a whole world out there waiting to be explored and that there’s always something new to be discovered.



The series of Shine-A-Light books includes Secrets of the Seashore, On the Space Station, Secrets of the Rainforest and On the Construction Site, meaning there’s a book for every interest and every school topic.

You can get your copy here.

Source – kindly sent for review by Ivy Press.

Gender play is Child’s Play

9 Mar

Child’s Play produce beautiful and inclusive books that celebrate diversity and tolerance. It’s their thing and they excel at it. Here are three brilliant examples that I want to share.

Mayday Mouse by Seb Braun


‘When Captain Mouse sets sail on a bright, sunny day with a birthday present for her brother, little does she know the sea-going perils she will have to face! Her cheerful, optimistic nature refuses to be downcast by storms, caves, rocks and shipwrecks. Resourceful and inventive, she’s able to save the day – with just a little help from her friends!’

Yes, you read that correctly… ‘she’! Captain Mouse is a girl. Hurrah! I’m making a big deal out of it, but Seb Braun and Child’s Play don’t at all. Their casual inclusion is their super strength. Because of course a captain can be a girl, and children growing up listening to and reading this story shouldn’t be surprised by that. They haven’t (yet) been trained to see the world through gender stereotyped eyes and, as long as there are books like this around, they will be able to envision an equal future. But for me, this is glorious and I salute it.


A heartwarming story that celebrates optimism, determination, and the power of friendship,  Mayday Mouse is a beautiful read.

You can get your copy here.

My Tail’s Not Tired! by Jana Novotny Hunter and Paula Bowles


‘How can any little monster possibly go to bed when their tail isn’t even tired? And when their knees still have plenty of bounce in them? And when their arms still want to fly like a jet plane? Bedtime is surely a long way off! Luckily, Big Monster has a strategy to outwit Little Monster, with the inevitable result!’

I love the gender-neutrality of this book. Big Monster and Little Monster could represent any big person/small person relationship and therefore opens up the book to be entirely relevant to every child. They can be Little Monster and Big Monster could be whoever is reading the book to them.


The illustrations are gorgeous. Look at the use of the page layout to make Big Monster always slightly outside of the picture, slightly too large to fit on the page. And Little Monster’s wigglyness is just adorable – and certainly reminiscent of a few energetic toddlers I know!

A delightful celebration of carer/child relationships, My Tail’s Not Tired is the perfect book to act out together.

You can get your copy here.

Henry and Boo! by Megan Brewis


‘Henry isn’t happy when an uninvited guest suddenly interrupts his tea break. And he is less than thrilled when the little creature decides to stay – along with its annoying habit. With the unwelcome visitor getting under his feet all day, it’s easy for Henry to miss the signs that a dangerous and hungry bear has been seen in the area. How can he avoid being the next victim?’

With its catchy refrains and speech bubbles, Henry and Boo! is wonderful to read aloud and act out together. And again, Boo is gender-neutral, allowing any child to become Boo – with all the shouting and jumping that entails. It’s also nice to see a male character in a domestic setting.


Its gentle message of tolerance, and humorous illustrations make Henry and Boo! a winner.

You can get your copy here.

Source – kindly sent for review by Child’s Play.

Evie’s Ghost by Helen Peters

8 Mar

Evie’s Ghost by Helen Peters has the feel of a classic. It is engaging and entertaining with a beautifully empowering message regarding equality and respect. I loved it! 

‘Evie couldn’t be angrier with her mother. She’s only gone and got married again and has flown off on honeymoon, sending Evie to stay with a godmother she’s never even met in an old, creaky house in the middle of nowhere. Her phone is broken and it is all monumentally unfair. But on the first night, Evie sees a strange, ghostly figure at the window. Spooked, she flees from the room, feeling oddly disembodied as she does so. Out in the corridor, it’s 1814 and Evie finds herself dressed as a housemaid. She’s certain she’s gone back in time for a reason. A terrible injustice needs to be fixed. But there’s a housekeeper barking orders, a bad-tempered master to avoid, and the chamber pots won’t empty themselves. It’s going to take all Evie’s cunning to fix things in the past so that nothing will break apart in the future…’

What an excellent premise. Who wouldn’t be intrigued by that? Think Tom’s Midnight Garden for the modern age.

Humorous and witty, Peters has aced the voice, brilliantly portraying the frustrations and worries of an early teenaged girl. Evie’s Ghost is filled with brilliant characters to inspire children, including an awesome 1814 Nasty Woman. It describes the chasm between privilege and poverty and the pain and indignities that such inequality causes. Despite the majority of Evie’s Ghost being set in 1814 these lessons are painfully relevant today.

Forced marriage, poverty versus privilege, inequality, the unwanted attentions of men and unjust repercussions on women, and human beings as commodities. When looked at from a Trump-led 2017 it’s easy to wonder if we have progressed that far at all. And that’s why we need books like Evie’s Ghost. Books that are engaging and entertaining but have an underlying message of equality. I’m thankful that children will be able to read this book and make these connections themselves. I hope it changes the way they see their world and inspires them to be the change they want to see. Huge hurrahs to Helen Peters and Nosy Crow.

Out in April, you can pre-order your copy here.

Source – kindly sent for review by Nosy Crow.

Beautiful Board Books from Nosy Crow

27 Feb

Bright, beautiful, innovative and durable. Nosy Crow have aced it again with their latest board books. Forget about ripped and creased flaps, these editions are designed to be enjoyed by little bookworms over and over again. 

Where’s Mr Lion and its sister book Where’s Mrs Ladybird by Ingela Arrhenius are gorgeous new board books with bright felt flaps. Using felt rather than card makes the flaps easier for little fingers to handle and much more durable.

With a new animal to discover on each page and bold bright illustrations, this is the perfect series for very young children who are beginning to learn about the world. The last page has a mirror behind the felt flap, bringing the book to life for babies. 

You can get your copy here.

The latest addition to the ‘Can You…?’ series, Cheep! Cheep! by Sebastien Braun, has recessed flaps to make it easier for little fingers and ensure sturdiness. 

With lots of animals to discover and noises to make and a surprise double flap on the last spread, this is sure to delight the youngest of book explorers. 

You can get your copy of Cheep! Cheep! here.


For slightly older readers, Littleland: All Year Round by Marion Billet combines the durability of a board book with a spotting book format to meet the increasing curiosity and expanding vocabularies of toddlers. 

Loosely following the months of the year, the book follows the little ones through the seasons as they visit familiar locations such as the farm, nursery and the park. 


With lots to spot, find and match and talking prompts on each spread, the Littleland books encourage young children to engage with the book and supports their learning and development. Also look out for Littleland: Around the World. 


You can get your Littleland copy here.


Flip Flap Dogs by Nikki Dyson is a joy to share with pre-schoolers. Split pages invite you to create your own crazy canine combos. Younger children will love flipping through the book and giggling at their creations, while the funny rhymes will appeal to slightly older children. 


Ring binding and sturdy card pages give the book enough strength to withstand a nursery book corner and the accompanying app gives the book an additional level of fun.
You can get your copy here

Source – kindly sent for review by Nosy Crow

Let’s Find Fred by Steven Lenton – giveaway

23 Feb


I’ve been a fan of Steven Lenton’s work since I first came across his illustrations for the Shifty McGifty books. I love that there’s always so much going on in his illustrations, and the way he uses soft lines to create a pastel texture look that makes his art look so strokeable. It’s a beautiful combination.

I certainly want to stroke the eponymous Fred – but I’ll have to find him first! Fred the panda has decided that having an adventure is much more exciting than bedtime and he’s disappeared over the wall of Garden City Zoo. Stanley the zookeeper is in full chase mode, but Fred is a master of disguise.

As we follow Fred on his adventure, each spread has lots to look at and tons of humour. As well as spotting Fred among all the panda red herrings, and Stanley in hot pursuit, there’s a white butterfly on each page, some wonderful panda-fied references to popular culture, plus a few cameo appearances to discover. The 4 year old I shared this book with had great fun spotting all the ‘nearly-panda’s and laughing at my inability to tell a panda from a ghost.


Let’s Find Fred also boasts a brilliant interactive cover – which we had riotous fun with – and a wonderful pull out party page. Apart from all the giggles we had while sharing this book together, the thing that made me smile the most was Steven’s beautifully diverse characters. Bravo for that, Steven!

You can win your own copy of Let’s Find Fred by following Fred over to Twitter here.

Thanks to Steven and Scholastic for inviting me to take part in this blog tour – and for a fun afternoon of giggles with this book. It’s so perfect for cheeky pre-schoolers that my review copy has been pilfered by my young helper and proudly taken in to her nursery to be shared with all her friends.

Steven Lenton is a highly-acclaimed artist whose bestselling titles include the Shifty McGifty series by Tracey Corderoy and The Astounding Broccoli Boy by Frank Cottrell Boyce. Steven has also worked as an animation director in children’s television. Originally from Congleton in Cheshire, Steven now splits his time between Bath and London where he works from his studios with his little dog, Holly.
http://www.2dscrumptious.com @2dscrumptious

Source – kindly sent for review by Scholastic, who invited me to take part in this blog tour.