Books for Tweens Age 8-12

Books for Tween 8-12

As my children get older, my knowledge of children’s books expands. My eldest complained I rarely review his books so this week I’ve pulled together some of his latest reads, ideal for Summer reading. All these books come under the category known as middle grade. They’re for children who are confident at reading and keen to explore lengthy illustrated chapter books. Any of these could appeal to boys or girls.


Skellig by David Almond. Published: Hodder Children’s Books, Sept 2013.

A curious, timid character with his odd ways enters the lives of Michael and Mina and becomes their special secret in the shed. A heart-warming and original story of friendship and understanding difference. The very short chapters make this an easy one to read at bedtime.

LENGTH: 46 chapters.

CLICK TO BUY Skellig


The World of Norm, May Contain Nuts by Jonathan Meres. Published: Orchard Books, Sept 2011.

The first in a series of books following the amusing mishaps of everyday life with Norm. His life is turned upside down when he and his family move house. Norm doesn’t mean to get into trouble but things just keep happening around him. A witty, laugh out loud book about family life.

LENGTH: 27 chapters.

CLICK TO BUY The World of Norm: 1: May Contain Nuts


The Accidental Prime Minister by Tom McLaughlin. Published: OUP Oxford, Apr 2015.

Joe was just expressing his opinion when suddenly he finds himself in the position of prime minister. Joe wastes no time settling in and bringing in new laws and instructing everyone to lighten up and have fun. An entertaining read showing life is what you make of it.

LENGTH: 19 chapters.

CLICK TO BUY The Accidental Prime Minister


My Brother is a Superhero by David Solomons. Published: Nosy Crow Ltd, Jul 2015.

You never know what you might miss when you nip off for a wee! That’s exactly what happened to Zack. When Zack returns he discovers his little brother Luke has been given superpowers and told to go and save two universes. How’s his little brother going to manage? Zack decides he will need some help. Every chapter will make you laugh.

LENGTH: 35 chapters.

CLICK TO BUY My Brother is a Superhero


Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor by Jon Scieszka (author) & Brian Biggs (illustrator). Published: Amulet Books 1st ed. Sept 2014.

Science has suddenly got funnier. This highly illustrated middle grade book is genius in many ways and it’s futile to resist reading it in the robot voices. Frank Einstein has grand plans to win the Midville Science Prize with his friend Watson and the straight talking self-assembled robots Klink and Klank. However it’s not as easy as Frank first thinks once his arch rival T. Edison decides to enter it too.

LENGTH: 22 chapters.

 

CLICK TO BUY Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor


The Person Controller by David Baddiel (author) & Jim Field (illustrator). Published: Harper Collins Children’s Books, Feb 2016.

If you think video games are fun, your eyes will light up at the idea of this humorous story as it sends your imagination in a spin. What would you do with the person controller? Twins, Fred and Ellie can’t believe their luck, now they can make anything happen but perhaps all isn’t as rosy as it first seems. The story is split into four parts and interspersed with illustrations to break up the reading. Engaging from start to finish.

LENGTH: 57 chapters (4 parts).

CLICK TO BUY The Person Controller

Keep watching as I’ll be reviewing some more middle grade books soon.

Source: Own or library copies.

NOTE: Books for Children Blog is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk

#BFCB #BooksForChildrenBlog

@lonerganbooks

Infographics on YA Fantasy Fiction

YA Infographics Banner

Being a relative newcomer to the writing industry I’m learning all the time. As I hike into the unknown of my writing adventure I always like to share with you the things I learn along the way. YA (Young Adult) fantasy fiction is one such genre which I’m still wading through and beginning to understand in greater depth so I’ve been putting together a useful infographic to condense my notes and keep them to the bear minimum – almost like a checklist to help guide me through. This is not an exhaustive list by any means but it sums up the ones which have cropped up repeatedly during my search.

YA Fantasy Fiction

 

This is a free printable graphic.

 

#BFCB #BooksForChildrenBlog

@lonerganbooks

 

 

Why Children’s Books Matter

The Infinite Playground

I love it when I find a blog which instantly throws my mind into chatter overload. Words, images and sounds start to explode. It gets noisy in there!

Middle Grade Strikes Back – #coverkidsbooks published one such blog concerning the limited media coverage assigned to children’s books and why we should be seeing more about children’s books in the press. One of the main reasons I started blogging about children’s book reviews, events and crafts was because as a parent I found I was struggling to find a variety of books for my children to try. I was always being exposed to the same limited selection which we’d either already read or they just didn’t appeal to my children. Of course since launching my blog, now I actively seek out alternative books and look in other places to find new ones but still it often takes some digging. Coupled with the recent disappointing news that the Guardian will soon no longer be adding to their online children’s books web page (aimed at children), I knew the only way to quieten my mind on why books are so important for children was to take on Middle Grade Strikes Back’s challenge and write a response. My little voice wanted to join the crowd to help it cheer louder and ideas started to leak out…

“Books are like people.”

I think books are like people. They each have their own personality and ultimately, it’s not what’s on the outside of a book that matters it’s what’s on the inside. The content of a book offers every child a paradox. On the one hand they have the opportunity to discover the world beyond their front door by absorbing the plentiful fresh ideas and opinions spread across the pages; whilst on the other hand they’re drawn into exploring the world within themselves through the questions and thoughts triggered every time they read a new book.

It was at this point as I wrote my blog that it became clear I needed something much sharper to express the enormity of the value books can add to children’s lives. I was looking for a perspective changer. Something children and their parents could relate to.

Why do children’s books matter so much?

So the best way I knew how to translate these feelings about why children’s books matter to me was to write this rhyme.

the-infinite-playground-2

 

A wider coverage of children’s books can only mean a greater choice is more readily available, making it easier to find the perfect fit for each child so they too have the opportunity to learn, experience and understand our world and who they are. I’d like to see not just the big names getting coverage but also new authors, niche authors, non-fiction authors and without doubt the illustrators as major contributors to many children’s book sales.

So thank you to Middle Grade Strikes Back for reminding me what drives me to keep persevering with writing children’s books and why I started blogging about children’s books in the first place.

 

The Best Invented Characters in Picture Books

My favourite part of writing children’s picture books is creating and developing fun and likeable characters. The characters are what steer the story and give it purpose and a meaning to exist.  However, to date I’ve never attempted to create a new creature in its own right. For now I’ve concentrated on humans or animals. So like many before me I often wonder what the right ingredients are that make an everlasting and memorable make believe character. Is it just a single magic ingredient or a mixture of many? To investigate this I chose six original and well known picture book characters which have stood the test of time.

Fungus the Bogeyman by Raymond Briggs (author / illustrator). Published: Penguin Books ed. 2012.
This edition is set out like a graphic novel and as the title states, Fungus is a Bogeyman who bizarrely is lovable for the very thing we dislike about him; his grimy, grubby lifestyle. His manners and habits are so disgusting that we can’t help but grimace out loud and revel in his yucky, sticky mess. Fungus lives in the deep, dark tunnels of Bogeydom and this book devotes a double page spread to Bogey anatomy. Bogeymen sleep in the day then like to stir up trouble and be a nuisance at night by waking babies, making as much noise as possible, frightening people and even giving them boils as Bogeymen do everything humans despise. Fungus lives in a world which seems topsy turvy to us but completely mundane to him so he soon begins to question the reason for his existence.

The Book about Moomin, Mymble and Little My by Tove Jansson (author / illustrator). Translated by Sophie Hannah, 2001. Published: Sort of Books, ed. 2001.

Moomin is a lovable Moomintroll who lives in the woods and helps his friend Mymble find her sister Little My and the fillyjonk. Right from the start Moomin is the one leading the searches and not afraid of adventure. Moomin is portrayed as kind, helpful and supportive to the others whilst remaining a tiny bit vulnerable. What is there not to love about Moomin?

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson (author) and Axel Scheffler (illustrator). Published: Macmillan Children’s Books, 1999.


The Gruffalo is a creature that also lives in the woods, whose distinct physical characteristics are clearly described to create a memorable image (and rhyme). The woodland creatures talk about him liking “roasted fox, owl ice cream and scrambled snake” but his description turns out to be more intimidating than his actions as he mocks the mouse and gladly follows him. The fact that the reader is aware but not the Gruffalo, that it’s the Gruffalo scaring the other creatures and not the mouse only adds to our sympathy for the Gruffalo. He’s lovable because he’s not very bright and is easily manipulated by the mouse.

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss (author / illustrator). Published: Harper Collins Children’s Books, ed. 2009.

Dr. Seuss is the master of creating characters including The Grinch, the Once-ler and Wockets but The Lorax has to be my favourite by far. The Lorax lives in a tree trunk and looks like a wise but jovial and cuddly grandfather figure. He speaks for the trees and isn’t afraid to follow his principles and ethics when the Once-ler starts to destroy the Truffula trees and their Truffula fruits. So much so eventually all the creatures are driven out of their home. It’s a serious story about the importance of looking after the environment but as always with Dr Seuss, it’s told in a clever and entertaining way. The Lorax is a strong, individual character.

Larf by Ashley Spires (author / illustrator). Published: Kids Can Press; reprint ed. Jun 2015.


Larf is a vegetarian sasquatch described as a 7-ft tall manbeast who lives in the woods with his bunny friend Eric. He’s an unassuming guy who doesn’t like attention and enjoys a quiet life but deep down feels a little sad that nobody seems to want to acknowledge his existence.  Larf feels different to the humans so keeps himself to himself to avoid drawing attention to his differences. However when he meets Shurl and Patricia he starts to feel they might be able to understand him so he becomes more open to changing his life and sharing his time with them.

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (author / illustrator). Published: Random House Children’s Books, Red Fox Ed. 2000.

Although the Wild Things are not the main characters I thought they deserved being included as they still play such a central role to the story. Of all the characters I’ve mentioned The Wild Things are probably the most fearsome with all their roaring and gnashing, sharp claws and rolling of eyes but as Max is able to tame them and play games with them, they quickly lose their frightening image. The Wild Things live on an island in the middle of the sea and although they are physically gigantic and unruly animals we soon understand that they are just doing what comes naturally to them.

What do all these characters have in common?

Having gathered all these creatures together in one room I started to try and decipher what I’d learnt from these characters? What do they all have in common? Although not an exhaustive list, I picked out the most important points which stood out to me and thought I’d share these observations with you.

  • NAME – something easy to pronounce but with no other meaning.
  • APPEARANCE – they cannot be a human or animal but must be recognisable as a creature with eyes, legs and arms for example.
  • SETTING – where does the character live? Somewhere hidden from the human eye.
  • RELATABLE FEELINGS / ACTIONS – ensure the reader can empathise with the character’s reactions and reasons for doing something.
  • PERSONALITY – the character needs traits that we admire, love or sympathise with.
  • SOMETHING UNIQUE – there needs to be something unique or distinct about the character to make them stand out. Either through physical or personality traits, a particular interest, passion or belief or being unconventional in their outlook.
  • GROWS – the character needs to change, grow or learn something since the start of the story.
  • EFFECT ON OTHERS – they need to have an effect on the other characters, stir up feelings, instigate behaviours etc.
  • INTERESTING EXPERIENCES – they should experience a range of feelings and events in the story which surprise or capture the reader’s imagination.
  • NEVER MEDIOCRE – the character should be clearly defined with distinct personality traits and an individual appearance. Nothing vague or wishy-washy, these characters are different, unusual, with a purpose and the reader knows it.
  • GOOD OR BAD? – Are they a good or a bad character? They can be bad, but not intimidating, good but not weak or they may grow from being a bad character to a good one but never remain in between.

Looking at the characters within a story in this way isn’t easy and it’s obvious there are a number of factors to consider but breaking the character down like this can help to determine their motives, dreams and behaviours in greater depth in order to understand who they are.

Maybe now I should attempt the trickier part of creating a character of my own…

 

Source: Library or private copies.

NOTE: Books for Children Blog is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk.

 

14 Common Misconceptions About Writing Picture Books

Tree Frog 2

With people like Simon Cowell making flippant remarks about all children’s books being boring and that he could easily do better it’s no wonder the genre doesn’t always get the credit it deserves inside and outside the writing industry. It’s short sighted to assume that because children aren’t yet as knowledgeable, educated or verbally adept as most (but by no means all) adults that their books are easy to write. I chose to start my writing career with picture books because I could see the difference they make to thousands of children’s lives but do I feel I plumped for the easy option? Hell no and these 14 misconceptions make up just a few of the reasons why I feel that way even at this early stage of my career.

  1. Writing children’s picture books is easy. Writing a picture book plays on a very particular set of writing skills including saying something of note, interest or amusement within a limited word count; picking words which convey your sometimes complicated message clearly and simply; choosing a topic or character of interest to your reader who is of an age you have experienced but in an era vastly different to that of today and usually long forgotten. Every single word is important and every phrase should stick in a child’s mind for the right reasons. You are not writing for someone who thinks like you, you are writing for someone who is learning from you.
  2. You just have to send your story to publishers. Finding a publisher is only a small part of the process. First there’s learning all about what publishers are expecting, how to stand out from the crowd, having an original idea or putting a new spin on an old one, adapting your writing into a style children will appreciate, getting the layout right, learning how to be a tough editor on your own masterpieces … and that’s all before you’ve even approached any potential publishers and agents.
  3. If your family and friends like it everyone else will like it. Of course it’s a good start if they genuinely like your stories but unless your family members are involved in the publishing industry chances are they haven’t a clue if it is written well or whether it’s a potential top seller. Your family may be among your target audience but their’s is only a limited (unprofessional) opinion. Find someone who knows the industry who can give you sound advice to take your dreams forward.
  4. Everybody is writing a children’s book. Sometimes it may seem that way with the amount of talented competition appearing out there but not everyone has the desire or inclination and especially not the perseverance to write a children’s book so concentrate on developing your own talents and skills and just enjoy reading other writer’s books and learning from the successful ones along the way.
  5. You just have to write your main idea down as it comes into your head, do a couple of tweaks then send your first draft out as the editors will do the rest. I think I once read that you’re likely to write your book at least 5 times. In my house that’s a gross underestimation even before sending to publishers. First there’s the idea and coordinating it into a solid story structure. Then there’s the correct layout and word count to consider, the suitability of the words I’m using not to mention the checking part, checking I’m successfully saying what I set out to say, that it’s believable and makes sense and that each spread evokes good imagery. Yes editors will want to alter your work but first the publishers need to see that you have an idea that works within a picture book framework.
  6. Picture books are too short to need a story structure. Wrong. Everything you’ve ever learned about writing an outstanding story needs to be covered despite your challenging word count.
  7. You have to be able to draw (or know someone who can) to write picture books. I’ve come to realise that if you’re a professional illustrator and a writer you do have an advantage in marketing terms. Pictures and images are always a more attractive sell than stand alone text. However if you’re not a professional illustrator don’t attempt to pretend you are. Poor pictures can do more harm than no pictures. Be brave and trust in your ability as a writer to speak for itself. Many publishers have a bank of illustrators they like to use so it’s certainly not an expectancy in the publishing world and they will be happy to match your writing style with the right illustrator.
  8. It doesn’t take long to write a picture book. Writing a picture book takes as long as it takes. What do I mean by that? It’s different for everyone as a number of factors can affect the speed of production. How experienced are you? What other commitments do you have? Is it your full time job? Do you write in short bursts or hide away in a room for hours? Can you focus on your writing at the drop of a hat or do you need to build up to the levels of concentration required to produce good written work? One thing you do need to do is to keep persisting and continue writing.
  9. Anyone can write a children’s book. True anyone can and even anyone can publish one nowadays but writing a quality, timeless picture book takes, talent, willingness to learn, being able to accept criticism, not being precious about changing and adapting your story idea and understanding the commercial expectations.
  10. If it’s a good picture book it will sell itself. Don’t be fooled into thinking that a talented writer or even a published writer is instantly recognised. People need to know you’re out there before they can like your stories. An agent can help but knowing the basics of marketing will go a long way to building your career – although if you’re Simon Cowell you’ve probably already got this part covered.
  11. Picture books can be as long or as short as you like. Most picture books follow a strict layout and word count which has been proven to appeal to their market audience. Generally the more succinct the better. Any deviance from this can reduce your chances of being published. So pinpointing your story’s plot, progress, conflicts, surprises and goals on a limited word count without reigning in your imagination is a constant juggling act and paramount if you want to avoid a boring tale Mr Cowell.
  12. Rhyming picture books are the most popular. I’ve read with many different children and undoubtedly they enjoy books in rhyme as do their teachers. However for many publishers, this is a perfect example of when it’s not always wise or viable to follow the demand. Rhyming stories can add complications to the publishing process as rhyming books pose numerous translation issues. So beware when writing in rhyme. Every word and every sentence has to flow effortlessly to convince the reader it’s the right style for your story. The rhyme must serve to enhance the pace and humour and know that even when you master this you may be limiting your market.
  13. If your picture book is rejected is must be rubbish. It might be rubbish (probably a doubt many writers suffer from) but rejections can be due to a number of things. Your book may be too similar to another book they’re publishing, the subject matter doesn’t fit with other books they publish, they’ve already filled their quota for the year so don’t have the resources to support the offer of a contract. One of the hardest parts of being a writer is to accept when your work isn’t up to scratch but to believe in your abilities and success regardless.
  14. Picture books only appeal to young children. Picture books may be aimed at young children but the appeal stretches much further than that. When writing a picture book you need to bear in mind that much of the time adults are the ones who make the initial purchase and the ones who read the stories so giving consideration to an adults enjoyment can only enhance the longevity of your story. As picture book popularity develops, despite being traditionally billed as starter books, more and more of the contemporary picture books are retaining their simplistic appeal for older children too now. The bold, colourful and often humorous stories can be an attractive, uncomplicated read for any able reader too.

So Mr Cowell, all any children’s writer is aiming to do is to offer a book that is captivating, exciting, fun and interesting to pass on their love of reading and if you can achieve that with your army of editors supporting you, I look forward to an entertaining read at bedtime.

Make Bedtime Reading Interactive

Children’s books are supposed to be fun but this intention can be easily misinterpreted by a child when reading is a daily part of their homework. So sometimes as parents we have to go that extra mile to show our children that although it’s a routine requirement it doesn’t have to be a chore. We know reading stories can be funny, interesting, surprising and enlightening but when we add in a little extra imagination they can be read in unconventional ways too. By doing this we can demonstrate that a writer can provide the platform for your enjoyment but how you the reader benefits from the book is a completely individual approach. The aim is to make reading stories a positive experience. I doubt there’s anyone out there who wants to do something they don’t enjoy so why would we expect our children to feel any different?

Reading with Child

  1. Invite a favourite cuddly toy to act out the story. A cuddly toy is like a child’s best friend. One that never disagrees with them, makes them feel safe and will always be there for them (providing they’re not left on the train, in the park or accidentally dropped down a well). So helping their toy act out a story can feel quite natural for a child. Ask your child to choose a cuddly toy who would like to play the leading character in the story. As you read, swap the name of the leading character with toy’s name and watch your child take them on an adventure. A great way to make the story more memorable too.
  2. Narrate the story in a silly voice. Pick a well known, distinctive voice to impersonate such as Buzz Lightyear, X Factor voice over, Mr Bean, a robot or Yoda etc. Then see if you can get some giggles by maintaining the guise for the whole of the story.
  3. Read the opposite of the story. Children love it when they know what the story is supposed to be and can spot the funny deliberate errors made by the reader. To do this choose a book your child is familiar with (you know the favourite book you must have read a thousand times). Then turn the story around by replacing words with opposite ones. For example, “We’re going on a mouse hunt. We’re going to catch a tiny one, what a rainy day! We’re so scared” etc (based on Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen) or “Once there was a boy and the boy hated stars very much. Each night the boy ignored the stars outside his window and wished they would all go away” (based on How to Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers).
  4. Take turns with reading the character’s lines. This is a simple one but very effective on the nights when your child is reluctant or just too tired to read as your joint participation takes some pressure away from your child to complete the whole book on their own.
  5. Sing the story. If your child likes to sing and is losing interest why not suggest they sing the story to you? This can be a made up tune, a memorable song from a film or a popular nursery rhyme and perhaps different characters could have different singing styles. Singing the story can add a new dimension and help develop intonation and expression.

Reading on Sofa

Livening up bedtime reading can be as much for us parents as the children at times. I know I struggle some nights to muster up the enthusiasm when I’m feeling exhausted, stressed or dispirited with life and just want them to be quiet and in bed so I can wind down from a challenging day. So removing the monotony is also a good way to keep it pleasurable for all involved. It’s important for us to stay engaged and enthusiastic too because if we can’t show we’re enjoying reading time the chances are our children won’t see the fun in it either.

Here’s a link to one of my earlier blogs for more ideas on how to encourage reading – 10 Tips to Transform Your Reluctant Reader into a Master Reader.

Books About Things We’re Not Taught in School – PART 3: Positive Thinking

One of the hardest things to do in life is to remain positive when we’re facing events which make us unhappy, anxious or confused and there’s always a fine line between burying our head in the sand and viewing the situation positively. So how do we remain positive in adverse situations without feeling like we’re blatantly lying to ourselves? Today I’m reviewing a book called I Think, I Am which explores instances of when children might need help turning negative thoughts into positive ones.

Understanding Positive Thinking

Positive thinking is a chosen perspective. We always have the choice to decide how we’re going to think and react towards a situation. Being positive comes naturally to most of us when we’re faced with a rewarding or enjoyable situation but as soon as we’re faced with a bad situation to conjure up any positive thoughts and feelings requires ever increasing conscious effort on our part. One way to do this is to look for what we’ve learnt from the event and how it can help us be better or create a more desirable outcome for the future. A more proactive way is to use affirmations, the oral or mental repetition of positive desires or outcomes. They’re almost like a little reminder to ourselves that it’s up to us to change the things we don’t like. However if we want to avoid these affirmations feeling like we’re announcing the sun is shining while we’re battling our way through a blizzard it has to be a statement which we can believe in, something that we know in our hearts to be true or has the possibility of becoming true. For example, I can feel the blizzard easing off might have been a more successful affirmation in this instance. The belief behind a positive thought is often triggered by how we phrase the thought in our minds and the words we use to contradict the undesirable situation we’re in. As soon as we start saying these positive words and phrases our minds cannot help but start to picture the scenario in our minds.

Book Review on I Think, I Am! by author/s Louise Hay and Kristina Tracy.

I Think, I Am

What’s it all about?

I Think, I Am is a picture book set in a fairground and each colourful double page spread covers a new scene depicting twelve everyday issues that any child may experience. In turn each scene talks of the negative feelings which may accompany these situations, such as feeling left out, jealous of how someone else looks or frustrated at not being able to do something in the same way as someone else has.  For each issue encountered the story provides a simple positive affirmation to be used to replace the negative thoughts talked about. At the end of the book there are seven tips for how to do affirmations.

Which age group is it aimed at?

From the illustrations and basic text I would say this is aimed at 4 to 7 year olds when life is generally much simpler. However most children regardless of age would still relate to the examples given so it could serve as an introduction to the topic for older children as it highlights the kind of situations when they may fall into negative thinking without realising it. In this instance the book could be better used as a starting point from which to build on this knowledge of how to be positive. Once they’ve grasped the basic idea they could start to come up with their own positive thoughts that are believable to them so they become better able to adapt and deal with any new situations as their insecurities and interactions become more complex.

Conclusion: Although I like the idea of giving children examples of positive thoughts to replace negative ones, unfortunately I’m not convinced that all the affirmations suggested in this book would be believable at the precise moment that the child was in the thick of the upsetting situation. They could be useful for them to use when reflecting back on their experience but the leap between the negative to the positive thought feels too large in some instances, leaving me feeling that in order to keep the book simple too many crucial steps may have been omitted for the positive thought to be considered remotely achievable. However, what this book does do is clearly explain the concept, relate it to situations a child can identify with and encourage them to be aware of their thoughts, question them and provide a platform for the reader to discuss more gradual affirmations with the child and maybe even real life situations. In so doing they can learn that what they’re seeing and experiencing is not the whole picture and is merely a temporary situation where they have the power to take control, change what they’re thinking and make their life a happier place. With mental health issues among children on the increase this is an invaluable life skill to master from an early age.

Author/s: Louise Hay and Kristina Tracy.

Illustrator: Manuela Schwarz

Publisher: Hay House UK Ltd (2008)

Our Rating: 3 out of 5

CLICK TO BUY I Think, I Am!

Next week in PART 4 I’ll be reviewing a book about overcoming fears.

Books About Things We’re Not Taught in School – PART 1: Emotions.

Books About Things We’re Not Taught in School – PART 2: Visualisation.

Books About Things We’re Not Taught in School – PART 4: Overcoming Fears.

 

NOTE: Books for Children Blog is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk.

You’re a Funny Man Mr. Stanton!

The Cambridge Union Chamber with Mr Stanton

Mr Stanton was an animated middle aged man with a curly black beard, bright spectacled eyes and arms which flapped like an owl trapped in the House of Lords. He was an unexpected surprise who hated being serious or limited to reading one type of book. What he liked was acting the fool, reading books, twisting a tale, having the audience in hysterics, writing stories, being silly, taking the mickey, guzzling water, reading and eating pizza and… did I mention books?

Only those of you who have read You’re a Bad Man Mr Gum may recognise some distant similarities to that quirky introduction.

Mr Gum 1

I’ve just returned from an afternoon in Cambridge with my family having been thoroughly entertained by Andy Stanton, children’s author of the Mr Gum series (published by Egmont), as part of the line up for the Cambridge Literary Festival today. His zany approach was both refreshing and uplifting and cleverly appealed on many levels to both adults and children.

He began by reading various amusing excerpts from his childhood schoolwork followed by some story ideas he’d written for Mr Gum which never reached the final book. A great message I thought for all writers young and old, that even though not all ideas will come to fruition keep writing them down. You never know how they may be used in the future.

Mr Gum 2

Mr Stanton was able to mix the trivial with the serious and jump from wacky to informative in the flip of a coin and was almost lyrical about his expulsion from Oxford University. He said “picture a vast meadow where you might want to look at a tree, a stream and a patch of grass or a flower.” For him reading is like being able to look at each of these elements separately or combined but he felt the university was putting constraints and limitations on which elements he was allowed to focus on. I see an even greater message lurking here. One that says you should always follow your heart – or maybe I’m misinterpreting it when really Andy is saying that “the truth is a lemon meringue.” Friday from Mr Gum would understand.

Mr Gum 3

It was clear Mr Stanton enjoys performing. He was consistently engaging as he continued to tease and interact throughout. He even got those who don’t like putting their hands up to put their hands up. My youngest particularly loved the conversation between the crow and Old King Thunder Belly. Andy continued his light hearted pantomime approach right through to the grand finale of question time.  He is a true entertainer and it was hilarious to experience his personality.

If you liked the sound of this event, please follow me on Twitter Amanda Lonergan (@lonerganbooks) and Facebook to hear about other upcoming author events, book crafts, news on children’s book releases and much more.


CLICK TO BUY You’re a Bad Man, Mr. Gum!

NOTE: Books for Children Blog is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk

Kindle or book for kids?

 

Kindle or Book for KidsSo far I’ve resisted the Kindle urge and continue to cling to the faithfully printed pages which I can open up and touch; where I can fan through the remaining chapters and not stare at a soulless percentage figure; where I have the choice to peek at the last lines with a dramatic flick to tease myself into thinking I know how it ends, where there’s no scrolling through endless digital pages which look eerily familiar to all the previous ones. However sometimes I do wonder if I’m missing out or getting left behind in the dark ages. Could the slim line word generator make me a quicker, more avid reader?

For me I won’t be defecting to the Kindle side anytime soon as my current “mother of two” lifestyle gives me no need for one. I’m happy with my chunky literary fascinations knocking each other off my busy bookshelves. If you’d offered me one fifteen years ago however it may have been a different story. I may have welcomed the ease of such a svelte device in my overcrowded commuting bag.

As a determined writer on the other hand, sometimes the magnetic allure of its promises can be very tempting. When Amazon launched the Kindle Fire for kids coupled with their Kid’s Book Creator my mind started planning a whole new fantasy world of its own. Exciting! Was this the revolutionary kick start I needed? The book creator would enable little old me to publish full colour children’s illustrated digital books. At first I was ecstatic at the prospect of publication being at the command of my own fingers. Could the power of the send button be the answer to my success? I felt sure I could conquer the digital networks of such a program and present my stories in an instance to the real world.

Until the first signs of doubt set in.

I soon hit the brakes when I started asking myself basic questions. What type of books am I writing? Picture books. Who is my target audience? That will be four to seven year olds and their parents. Of course by this stage a whole new set of questions tumbled out of my mind. How would the illustrations look on screen? Do the parents want their children to have more screen time? When would a parent deem it ok for their child to read from a Kindle? Or do they, like me, prefer the printed alternative?

Suddenly it was looking less and less like the best forum to launch my books.

With the way I feel about books I struggled to see how a digital picture book could be more captivating than its printed version. How a solid flat screen could compare to flipping the floppy pages of children’s books which of course have the added advantage of doubling up as hats or towers whenever the need takes hold! So I resorted to considering the practical advantages as a parent.

When would I be tempted to read picture books to my children from a Kindle or iPhone for example? The only time that I thought a children’s e-book would have its advantages over a printed book, was on holidays. Travelling with children inevitably involves taking a myriad of unnecessary items plus the kitchen sink, so a skinny, lightweight screen could be welcomed to ease such a heavy, bulky load. A Kindle would mean I could take one or even two different picture books for every night of the holiday without having to arrange a separate shipment for them. A definite advantage but is this enough to make the e-book option more attractive overall?

For now I’ve chosen to embark on the traditional publication route but I haven’t dismissed self-publication forever. Perhaps there are merits to pursuing both? I’m sure the debate will continue to rage on in my head for some time and I know as a children’s writer I’m not alone with this conundrum. Feel free to offer your thoughts.

Potty About Penguin Picture Books

Yeh it’s Penguin Awareness Day! I confess, I am penguin potty and just adore these comical, clumsy little creatures but how have these photogenic stars managed to bag their own National Day of celebration? Is it their cute waddle? The way they flap their flippers like an excited child? Perhaps we admire their brave, reckless abandonment as they throw themselves off cliffs into the thrashing sea? Do we empathise with their affection for one another? Or are we in awe of their endurance of cold, harsh conditions? There’s no doubt they are fascinating creatures which have captured the hearts of millions of us but beware Protect a Penguin Day could become the harsh reality if we don’t do our bit for global warming – Emperer Penguins are now endangered, warn biologists, The Telegraph.

It’s hard to take penguins for granted in our house, whether it’s on a scarf, disguised as a biscuit tin or peeping out of a picture, there’s usually at least one in view in some form or another! So as I haven’t been able to resist passing on the love to my children and we’ve been enjoying some fantastic picture books about them lately. Each book has been rated out of ten by my nine and six year old boys but it seems they’re all very popular in our household judging by the lack of deviation from a resounding ten all round!



The Night Iceberg – Helen Stephens (author/illustrator); Published: Alison Green Books 2010. Rating: 10/10 – 10/10

Tofta wanted her iceberg to be a place she could call her own … until a penguin appears followed by his entire family & friends so she soon finds out that sharing with others can also bring a lot of pleasure. A story to be read again and again with illustrations to be admired.

CLICK TO BUY The Night Iceberg


Penguin – Polly Dunbar (author/illustrator); Published: Walker Books 2007. Rating: 10/10 – 10/10

A beautiful book which uses simple but striking illustrations and hints of humour to convey the importance of actions speaking louder than words. It’s not what Penguin says (which is not a lot), it is what he does that says everything!

CLICK TO BUY Penguin


Up and Down – Oliver Jeffers (author/illustrator); Published: Harper Collins Children’s Books 2015. Rating: 10/10 – 10/10

From the well known author of Lost and Found, yet another beautiful story of the friendship between the boy and his penguin. Penguin is determined to fly high but how will he do this? Will he fail? Will the boy be there for him if he falls? The classic conundrum of how to allow a loved one to find the confidence to fly the nest whilst trying to keep them safe is written with true Oliver Jeffers’ eloquence.

CLICK TO BUY Up and Down


Blown Away – Rob Biddulph (author/illustrator); Published: Harper Collins Children’s Books 2015. Rating: 10/10 – 10/10

An effortless rhyming story about Penguin Blue and his adventures with a kite. With gorgeous vivid, contemporary illustrations that invite you to study each page, it’s easy to get pulled along with Penguin Blue on his journey.

CLICK TO BUY Blown Away


Could a Penguin Ride a Bike? – Camilla Bedoyere (author) & Aleksei Bitskoff (illustrator); Published: QED Publishing 2015. Rating: 10/10 – 10/10

A very fresh approach for a factual book about penguins as the facts have been cleverly weaved into a fun story. Could a penguin go bowling, ride a bike or join a choir? You can find out from this book how a penguin might fair in these and many other situations he could find himself in if he came to stay with you.

CLICK TO BUY Could A Penguin Ride a Bike?


Penguin in Peril – Helen Hancocks (author/illustrator); Published: Templar Publishing 2013. Rating: 10/10 – 10/10

Three hungry cats on the hunt for a penguin to catch them some fish. But the penguin doesn’t want to catch fish, he just wants to get home. The full colour illustrations bring his story to life as the cats chase the penguin around town.

CLICK TO BUY Penguin in Peril


The Not-so-Perfect Penguin – Steve Smallman (author/illustrator); Published: QED Publishing 2014. Rating: 10/10 – 10/10

Often the things we love about others are their imperfections. Percy is no exception. Percy is always acting the clown while his sensible friends are being very sensible and always raising their eyebrows at him. However when Percy goes missing one day they soon realise that it is his playful ways that they love. A sweet story about true friendship and accepting others.

CLICK TO BUY Storytime: The Not-So-Perfect Penguin


Cuddly Dudley – Jez Alborough (author/illustrator); Published Walker Children’s Books 2007. Rating: 10/10 – 10/10

You can never get enough hugs! Everyone wants to cuddly Dudley but Dudley gets a little tired of the constant attention and just wants to be alone until he realises that sometimes a cuddle is all he needs.

CLICK TO BUY Cuddly Dudley


Dragon Loves Penguin – Debi Giliori (author/illustrator); Published: Bloomsbury Childrens 2014. Rating: 10/10 – 10/10

Knowing that things happen for a reason. What happens when a lonely egg and a egg-less dragon meet? A heart-warming tale of an unexpected friendship. You can feel, see and read the quality of this book.

CLICK TO BUY Dragon Loves Penguin

As an extra penguin treat I’ll leave you with this wonderful blog from Making Them Readers reviewing the book 365 Penguins by Jean-Luc Fromental and Joelle Jolivet.

Source: Own or public library.

NOTE: Books for Children Blog is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to  Amazon.co.uk