Category Archives: Authors

Thank You Joseph Coelho

Tatenda says thank you every day, wherever he can. Thank you to Mom and Dad for making breakfast, thank you to the post lady for delivering his favorite comic, thank you to his teacher for marking his work and thank you to the shop worker stacking shelves. But lately, it seems no one can hear his thank yous: their heads are too foggy with worry. So Tatenda decides to say his biggest “Thank you” ever. He stands on tiptoe, brings his arms down like a huge rainbow . . . and this time, his thank you helps the whole community feel better!

Frances Lincoln Books
Thank You, with words by Joseph Coelho and pictures by Sam Usher

THANK YOU is a beautiful book. Joseph was inspired by the Clap for Carers during lockdown and royalties from the book are being donated to Groundwork UK, a federation of charities nationwide “mobilising practical community action on poverty and the environment”. Sam Usher’s illustrations are full of movement and so joyful, really bringing the words to life.

I’ve long loved Joseph Coelho, as a performer and writer, and when Frances Lincoln offered the chance to interview him about THANK YOU I jumped at the chance, while cheekily asking him about other recent titles with other publishers as well – he really is unstoppable at the moment!

The last few years have seen you publish poetry collections, novels, and picture books (as well as plays) for all ages of children and young people! When you have an idea, do you immediately know what you want to do with it or does the form come as you start writing?
What a super question. I don’t know immediately it’s a bit of trial and error, I have found however that if a story is deep enough it can often work for several mediums. Such as my poem If All The World Were Paper which was first published in Werewolf Club Rules but became a starting point for my picture book with Allison Colpoys If All The World Were...

THANK YOU is full of movement. Did you have an idea of how it should be illustrated or did you hand the text to Sam Usher to run with?
All picture books are really a collaboration between writer, illustrator, designer and editor so it’s hugely important that there is space for everyone to express themselves through the book. I am now in the habit of not thinking too much about the visuals, I focus on making sure the text works by itself, that the story is clear with or without illustrations so that the illustrator has scope to really put their mark on the book.

THE GIRL WHO BECAME A TREE, Otter Barry Books, is strikingly illustrated by Kate Milner

What is it about Daphne’s story that inspired you to write THE GIRL WHO BECAME A TREE?
I’ve always been interested in physical transformations as metaphor for internal change. It’s poetry made manifest. So when I came across the greek myth of Daphne it felt like the ideal subject for a story I’d been working on about a girl dealing with the death of her father. As with all the myths there are so many layers and ways to interpret that it felt like  a gift to explore through poetry.

ZOMBIERELLA is deliciously different, first of a 3 part series, but are there other fairy tales you would like to retell?
There are!  Book 2 is based on Rumplestiltskin and is called Frankenstiltskin. I have many ideas in development for many of the other tales some of which get a mention by the Librarian at the start of Zombierella who has discovered a section of the library full of fairytales that have gone bad, so I have a library to fill!

ZOMBIERELLA, Walker Books, is brilliantly illustrated by Freya Hartas

What is your favourite kind of event to do with/for children? How have you found digital events?
I love doing festival events with large audiences, you get a real sense of togetherness and occasion. I thrive off of getting large audiences to interact with each other.  I love the joy that can be generated as students hear their peers from different schools coming up with poetic lines or add to a group poem with people they’ve only just met.
Making everything digital has been interesting, it’s definitely far more time consuming than expected with even a five minute video taking the best part of a day but it is wonderful that we have this technology available to get us through these difficult periods.

Librarians across the country are so grateful for your enormous support, what drives that passion?
Libraries have always featured heavily in my life, from living on estates where I had a library next door, to my first Saturday job, to working at the British library whilst studying at UCL, to touring theatre shows designed to be performed in libraries. I’m immensely grateful to libraries and the services they provide for turning me into a reader and by association a writer. I also sincerely believe that library provision it key to helping communities thrive so it really is an honour to be in a position where I can celebrate these wonderful spaces.

One of my favourite pages from THANK YOU

What are you reading at the moment and who would you recommend it to?
I’m a serial dipper and always have several books on the go at present I’m reading Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo, a book that everyone should read. I’m also reading an anthology of short stories on the theme of the sea published by the British Library called From The Depths and Other Strange Tales Of The Sea Edited by Mike Ashley – Recommended for anyone who likes a shot of creepy adventure. I’m also a big book listener and am currently listening to Children Of Time By Adrian Tchaikovsky for all sci-fi fans who aren’t scared of spiders!

What can we expect from you next?
I have a busy year ahead with book 2 of Fairytales Gone Bad and some more picture books coming out. I’m also working on a brand new middle grade adventure series which is yet to be read by anyone! Eeeek! But I love this period because at the moment it’s just me telling a story to myself or rather hearing characters tell me their story.

Joe Coelho Portraits Hay Festival 2018

Joseph Coelho is an award winning poet and performer from London, although he now lives by the sea. In 2019 he won the Independent Bookshop Week Picture Book Award for If All the World Were. He has been long-listed for The Carnegie Children’s Award with his poetry collection ‘Overheard In A Tower Block’, which was also shortlisted for the CLPE CLiPPA Poetry Award and Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards. He won the 2015 CLPE CLiPPA Poetry Award with his debut poetry collection Werewolf Club Rules. His debut Picture Book, Luna Loves Library Day was voted one of the nations favourite picture books by a survey led by World Book Day. His other poetry books include How To Write Poems and A Year Of Nature Poems

Dear Simon Cowell finding books to read and enjoy with your children is easier than you think!

Dear Simon

Finding books to read and enjoy with your children is easier than you think!

I can still remember four years ago when you complained that children’s books were too boring for you and your then two-year old son and that you were going to give writing a children’s book as you thought you could do better.

At the time I am pretty sure I rolled my eyes as I hear many people declaring that they were going to write a book for children (usually followed by a “how hard could it be”). I then moved on with my life and did not give it another thought, until the news broke about your seven book deal with Hachette (congratulations by the way –  know how hard it can be for many new writers to get a foot in the door)

Your son is now six and I hope that in the past four years you both have discovered books that were not boring and instead sparked a love for reading in you both.

I know how difficult it can be to find something to enjoy – particularly if you have had a bad (or boring) experience with a book or books it can dent the enthusiasm that a reader may have for trying a new book. Now I know that you are thinking that I am going to throw a load of titles I think you should try, and I could but honestly how likely is it that you will be able to take time out of your busy schedule to try and find them, or even send a go-fer or lackey to do this task.

Rather I will recommend that you go to your local public library, I know you split your time between the Kensington in the UK and Beverley Hills in the US. Both locations have brilliant public libraries. Take your son with you, he is now six (or almost there if I have done my basic maths correctly), the best way for a library worker to match a reader with books they may enjoy is to take the time to speak to them. Heck I am happy to chat to you both about what you enjoy doing and then making some suggestions on what may appeal – I have over 20 years of experience as a Librarian for Children and Young People (and their families) under my belt – and many colleagues have even more.

Details and how to find the Beverley Hills Public library can be found here and the Central Library of the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea can be found here.

Joining the library is free and you usually only need your ID with proof of address (the requirements of your local library may differ a bit so it is bet to check before going). Be sure to take your son too I am sure he would love a trip to the library with his dad – I know my daughter does!

Who knows they may even offer to host your book launch or even book you for a book talk or storytime.

I look forward to hearing back from you – but even if you do not respond I hope you do give your local library a try – I am sure they would love to help you both!

All the best

Matt Imrie

BAME Authors: Middle Grade

Ade Adepitan

https://www.johnnoel.com

@AdeAdepitan

John Agard

https://literature.britishcouncil.org/writer/john-agard

Patience Agbabi

https://canongate.co.uk/books/3193-the-infinite/

@PatienceAgbabi

Shweta Aggarwal

http://devandollie.com

@devandollie

Hamza Arshad

https://www.penguin.co.uk/authors/134114/humza-arshad.html

@HamzaProduction

Atinuke

http://atinuke-author.weebly.com

http://www.walker.co.uk/contributors/Atinuke-12281.aspx

Jasbinder Bilan

@jasinbath

Malorie Blackman

https://www.malorieblackman.co.uk

@malorieblackman

Sita Brahmachari

http://www.sitabrahmachari.com

@SitaBrahmachari

Aisha Bushby

https://www.egmont.co.uk/blog/egmont-pockets-debit-from-rising-star-aisha-bushby/

@aishabushby

Sarwat Chadda

@sarwatchadda

Maisie Chan

https://www.maisiechan.com/

@MaisieWrites

Ellie Daines

http://www.elliedaines.com

@chirpywriter

Narinder Dhami

https://www.narinderdhami.com/

@narinderd

Nizrana Farook

facebook.com/nizrite

@nizrite

Jamila Gavin

http://www.jamilagavin.co.uk

Rohan Gavin

http://rohangavin.com

Kereen Getten

https://www.instagram.com/kezywrites/

@KereenGetten

Lorraine Gregory

https://www.lorrainegregoryauthor.co.uk/

@authorontheedge

Polly Ho-Yen

https://pollyhoyen.com

@bookhorse

Sharna Jackson

https://www.sharnajackson.com/

@sharnajackson

Catherine Johnson

http://www.catherinejohnson.co.uk

@catwrote

Peter Kalu

http://www.peterkalu.com

@peterkalu

Sangu Mandanna

https://sangumandanna.com

@sangumandanna

E.L. Norry

https://www.scholastic.co.uk/blog/Q-and-A-with-ELNorry-38735

@ilovetolurk

Leila Rasheed

https://leilarasheeddotcom.wordpress.com

@LeilaR

Onjali Q. Rauf

@onjalirauf

Jasmine Richards

https://www.jasminerichards.com

SF Said

http://www.sfsaid.com

@whatSFSaid

Annabelle Sami

https://www.andlyn.co.uk/annabelle-sami

@annabellesami

Malaika Rose Stanley

http://www.malaikarosestanley.com

BAME Authors: Young Adult/Teen

Sufiya Ahmed

https://mbalit.co.uk/client/sufiya-ahmed/

@sufiyaahmed

Dean Atta

https://sites.google.com/site/deanatta/

@DeanAtta

Yaba Badoe

https://www.facebook.com/Yaba-Badoe-118504861506100

@yaba-badoe

Rebecca Barrow

http://www.rebecca-barrow.com

@RebeccaKBarrow

Mary Florence Bello

https://bellapoetry.wordpress.com

@MissBelloTweets

Malorie Blackman

https://www.malorieblackman.co.uk

@malorieblackman

Akemi Dawn Bowman

http://www.akemidawnbowman.com/

@akemidawn

Sita Brahmachari

http://www.sitabrahmachari.com

@SitaBrahmachari

Tanya Byrne

http://tanyabyrne.com

@tanyabyrne

Maisie Chan

@MaisieWrites

https://www.maisiechan.com/

Narinder Dhami

https://www.narinderdhami.com/

@narinderd

Jamila Gavin

http://www.jamilagavin.co.uk

Candy Gourlay

https://www.candygourlay.com

@candygourlay

Sam Hepburn (see Sam Osman)

Danielle Jawando

@DanielleJawando

Catherine Johnson

http://www.catherinejohnson.co.uk

@catwrote

Savita Kalhan

http://www.savitakalhan.com

@savitakalhan

Mariam Khan

http://www.lounge-books.com/contributors/2017/6/20/mariam-k

@helloIammariam

Peter Kalu

http://www.peterkalu.com

@peterkalu

Muhammad Khan

http://www.holroydecartey.com/muhammed-khan.html

@mkhanauthor

Patrice Lawrence

https://patricelawrence.wordpress.com

@LawrencePatrice

Ayisha Malik

 https://www.ayishamalik.com/

@Ayisha_Malik

Sangu Mandanna

https://sangumandanna.com

@sangumandanna

Manjeet Mann

https://www.manjeetmann.com/

@ManjeetMann

Irfan Master

http://irfanmaster.com

@Irfan_Master

Taran Matharu

http://authortaranmatharu.com

@TaranMatharu1

Kiran Millwood Hargrave

@Kiran_MH

Stefan Mohamed

http://stefmo.co.uk/wp/

@stefmowords

Wilf Morgan

https://sites.google.com/site/88talesv3/

@wilf007

Natasha Ngan

http://girlinthelens.com

@girlinthelens

E.L. Norry

https://www.scholastic.co.uk/blog/Q-and-A-with-ELNorry-38735

@ilovetolurk

Sam Osman

http://www.samosmanbooks.com

Anna Perera

http://www.annaperera.com

@annaperera1

Yasmin Rahman

@yasminwithane

Bali Rai

http://www.balirai.co.uk/home

@balirai

Leila Rasheed

https://leilarasheeddotcom.wordpress.com

@LeilaR

Jasmine Richards

https://www.jasminerichards.com

Na’ima B Robert

@NaimaBRobert

SF Said

http://www.sfsaid.com

@whatSFSaid

London Shah

http://www.londonshah.com

@London_Shah

Alexandra Sheppard

https://www.alexandrasheppard.com/

@alexsheppard

Nikesh Shukla

http://www.nikesh-shukla.com

@nikeshshukla

Emma Smith-Barton

@EmmaSmithBarton

Tasha Suri
https://tashasuri.com/

@tashadrinkstea

Tabitha Suzuma

http://www.tabithasuzuma.com

@TabithaSuzuma

Meera Syal

https://literature.britishcouncil.org/writer/meera-syal

@MeeraSyal

Alex Wheatle

https://www.alexwheatle.com/

@brixtonbard

Benjamin Zephaniah

https://benjaminzephaniah.com

@BZephaniah

BAME Authors: Poetry

John Agard

https://literature.britishcouncil.org/writer/john-agard

Joseph Coelho

http://www.thepoetryofjosephcoelho.com

@PoetryJoe

Peter Kalu

http://www.peterkalu.com

@peterkalu

Stefan Mohamed

http://stefmo.co.uk/wp/

@stefmowords

Grace Nichols

https://www.poetryarchive.org/poet/grace-nichols

Benjamin Zephaniah

https://benjaminzephaniah.com

@BZephaniah

BAME Authors: Children’s Books

Floella Benjamin

http://www.floellabenjamin.com/

@FloellaBenjamin

Malorie Blackman

https://www.malorieblackman.co.uk

@malorieblackman

Kandace Chimbiri

http://www.goldendestiny.co.uk/index.php

@knchimbiri

Narinder Dhami

https://www.narinderdhami.com/

@narinderd

Casey Elisha

caseyelishabooks.com

@celishabooks

Jamila Gavin

http://www.jamilagavin.co.uk

Lorraine Gregory

https://www.lorrainegregoryauthor.co.uk/

@authorontheedge

Swapna Haddow

http://swapnahaddow.co.uk

@SwapnaHaddow

Polly Ho-Yen

https://pollyhoyen.com

@bookhorse

Konnie Huq

https://www.thebookseller.com/news/konnie-huq-pen-series-piccadilly-press-747021

@Konnie_Huq

Zanim Mian

http://www.sweetapplebooks.com

@Zendibble

Rita Phillips Mitchell

http://booksforkeeps.co.uk/member/rita-phillips-mitchell

Nick Mohammed

https://www.penguin.co.uk/authors/130313/nick-mohammed.html

@nickmohammed

Millie Murray

https://www.rlf.org.uk/fellowships/millie-murray/

Hiba Noor Khan

watsonlittle.com/client/hiba-noor-khan/

@HibaNoorKhan1

Richard Rai O’Neill

https://richardthestoryteller.weebly.com/

@therroneill

Serena Patel

@SerenaKPatel

Smriti Prasadam-Halls

http://www.smriti.co.uk

@SmritiPH

Bali Rai

http://www.balirai.co.uk/home

@balirai

Leila Rasheed

https://leilarasheeddotcom.wordpress.com

@LeilaR

Annabelle Sami

https://www.andlyn.co.uk/annabelle-sami

@annabellesami

Alom Shaha

http://alomshaha.com

@alomshaha

Emma Shevah

https://emmashevah.com

@emmashevah

Rashmi Sirdeshpande

https://rashmisirdeshpande.com/

@RashmiWriting

Chitra Soundar

www.chitrasoundar.com/

@csoundar

Malaika Rose Stanley

http://www.malaikarosestanley.com

Nadine Wild-Palmer


https://www.pushkinpress.com/product/the-tunnels-below/

https://twitter.com/NadineWildPalm

Ken Wilson-Max

http://www.kenwilsonmax.com

@kenwilsonmax

Benjamin Zephaniah

https://benjaminzephaniah.com

@BZephaniah

BAME: Picture Book Illustrators & Authors

Dapo Adeola

facebook.com/dapsdraws

@DapsDraws

Patrice Aggs

http://www.patriceaggs.com

@patriceaggs

Sufiya Ahmed

https://mbalit.co.uk/client/sufiya-ahmed/

@sufiyaahmed

Mehrdokht Amini

http://childrensillustrators.com/illustrator/mehrdokht1976/portfolio

Nathan Bryon

https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/606265/rocket-says-look-up-by-nathan-bryon-illustrated-by-dapo-adeola/9781984894427/

@NathanBryon

Joseph Coelho

http://www.thepoetryofjosephcoelho.com

@PoetryJoe

Casey Elisha

caseyelishabooks.com

@celishabooks

Candy Gourlay

https://www.candygourlay.com

@candygourlay

Davina Hamilton 

https://www.davinahamilton.com/

@davina_writes

Ashley Hinds

https://www.ashleyhindswhdb.com/

@ashleyhindswhdb

Yasmeen Ismail

https://www.yasmeenismail.co.uk

@YasmeenMay

Nadine Kaadan

http://nadinekaadan.com/

@Nadinekaadan

Poonam Mistry

https://www.poonam-mistry.com/

@pmistryartist

Rikin Parekh

https://www.rikinparekh.com/

@r1k1n

Rita Phillips Mitchell

http://booksforkeeps.co.uk/member/rita-phillips-mitchell

Tola Okogwu

tolaokogwu.com

@TolaOkogwu

Smriti Prasadam-Halls

http://www.smriti.co.uk

@SmritiPH

Nadia Shireen

https://www.nadiashireen.org

@NadiaShireen

Ranjit Singh

https://lantanapublishing.com/products/nimesh-the-adventurer

@RanjittheAuthor

Chitra Soundar

www.chitrasoundar.com/

@csoundar

Malaika Rose Stanley

http://www.malaikarosestanley.com

Camille Whitcher

camillewhitcher.co.uk

@CamilleWhitcher

Verna Wilkins

https://www.booktrust.org.uk/authors/w/wilkins-verna/

Ken Wilson-Max

http://www.kenwilsonmax.com

@kenwilsonmax

Mother Tongue by Patricia Forde

MOTHER TONGUE is the standalone follow-up to the award-winning and critically acclaimed THE WORDSMITH (published in North America as THE LIST) by Galway native Patricia Forde.
After global warming came the Melting. Then came Ark.
The new dictator of Ark wants to silence speech for ever. But Letta is the wordsmith, tasked with keeping words alive. Out in the woods, she and the rebels secretly teach children language, music and art.
Now there are rumours that babies are going missing. When Letta makes a horrifying discovery, she has to find a way to save the children of Ark – even if it is at the cost of her own life.

Little Island
Mother Tongue by Patricia Forde, cover illustration by Elissa Webb

Little Island have been publishing some great books, unfortunately all ineligible for CKG because they don’t have offices outside of Eire, but definitely worth reading! Mother Tongue, and predecessor The Wordsmith, are both brilliantly devised stories based in a society founded at the end of the world, after flood waters have risen. Noah, the founder of Ark, has decreed that words were to blame for the situation people find themselves in – empty promises and lies of people in power, words instead of action – so all except the most functional 500 words are banned from use. The Wordsmith may store unused words until people can be trusted with them again (but will they ever?). Obviously the idea of storing words appealed to me greatly, so I jumped at the chance of being on the blog tour. The author Patricia Forde wrote a piece about Words for us:

The Need to Keep Words Alive.

I love dictionaries.
As a child, I was often to be found reading those impressive tomes looking for new words, big words, words to impress. Nowadays, as a writer, I still use dictionaries but now to look for smaller words, simpler words, words that are precise.
But what if we start to lose words?
If we don’t have a word for something can we conceive of it? Can we imagine it? And maybe, more importantly, do we still value that which it represents?
There was a thundering brouhaha some years ago when the Oxford Junior Dictionary removed words like kingfisher, acorn and cowslip from its list and replaced them with words like broadband, blog and voice mail. The dictionary is aimed at seven year olds. People felt that the dictionary was adding to the problem of children being alienated from nature. It seemed that the dictionary didn’t value the thrush, the weasel or the wren as much as it valued the grey world of bureaucracy. Committee, common sense and bullet points all had a place while much of the natural world was sent packing.

But, the dictionary argued, the words they chose to include were the words children were using. They had tracked contemporary usage and reflected their findings in their list of words.

How sad that is. As adults, we have to tolerate a diet of grey sludge when it comes to language. We have to talk about Brexit and hard drives and listen to people going on about journeys they’ve made that aren’t journeys at all, and hear them going forward with this that and the other thing and telling us all about it in bullet points. But children?

Their language should reflect the sacred time that we call childhood. I believe that it should be full of beavers and liquorice and droves of dwarves, elves and goblins. We need to keep those words alive because we need to keep that sense of wonder and awe alive.

Many of the words removed from the Oxford Junior Dictionary had to do with nature. In this time of environmental crisis surely we need to make children more aware of nature and their natural habitat. It should concern us that if children no longer speak about bluebells or brambles it may be because children are becoming increasingly solitary and urban.

Every word in every language represents an entire archaeology and a history of what has gone before. I shudder to imagine a world like the one I created for The Wordsmith and Mother Tongue. A world where people have access to only five hundred words. Letta, my protagonist, says at one stage:

How can we dream if we don’t have words?

I would also ask how can we think? Words give us precision. In this chaotic world we’ve never needed clear thinking more than we do now. We need our leaders to use language like a laser rather than a slurry spreader. We need to cut through the noise, refuse to accept philosophy that can be written as a tweet because it has no complexity, and build a longer list of words – a list that includes all ideas, all languages, all dictionaries.
Let’s make a thundering brouhaha about that!

Patricia Forde

Words Taken Out of The Oxford Junior Dictionary:

Coronation, duchess, duke, emperor, empire, monarch, decade, carol, cracker, holly, ivy, mistletoe, dwarf, elf, goblin, abbey, aisle, altar, bishop, chapel, christen, disciple, minister, monastery, monk, nun, nunnery, parish, pew, psalm, pulpit, saint, sin, devil, vicar.

Adder, ass, beaver, boar, budgerigar, bullock, cheetah, colt, corgi, cygnet, doe, drake, ferret, gerbil, goldfish, guinea pig, hamster, heron, herring, kingfisher, lark, leopard, lobster, magpie, minnow, mussel, newt, otter, ox, oyster, panther, pelican, piglet, plaice, poodle, porcupine, porpoise, raven, spaniel, starling, stoat, stork, terrapin, thrush, weasel, wren.

Acorn, allotment, almond, apricot, ash, bacon, beech, beetroot, blackberry,
blacksmith, bloom, bluebell, bramble, bran, bray, bridle, brook, buttercup, canary, canter, carnation, catkin, cauliflower, chestnut, clover, conker, county, cowslip, crocus, dandelion, diesel, fern, fungus, gooseberry, gorse, hazel, hazelnut, heather, holly, horse chestnut, ivy, lavender, leek, liquorice, manger, marzipan, melon, minnow, mint, nectar, nectarine, oats, pansy, parsnip, pasture, poppy, porridge, poultry, primrose, prune, radish, rhubarb, sheaf, spinach, sycamore, tulip, turnip, vine, violet, walnut, willow

Words put in:

Blog, broadband, MP3 player, voicemail, attachment, database, export, chatroom, bullet point, cut and paste, analogue.

Celebrity, tolerant, vandalism, negotiate, interdependent, creep, citizenship, childhood, conflict, common sense, debate, EU, drought, brainy, boisterous, cautionary tale, bilingual, bungee jumping, committee, compulsory, cope, democratic, allergic, biodegradable, emotion, dyslexic, donate, endangered, Euro.

Apparatus, food chain, incisor, square number, trapezium, alliteration, colloquial, idiom, curriculum, classify, chronological, block graph.

Mother Tongue, the sequel to The Wordsmith, has just been published by Little Island and they are both available from their website (thankyou for sending me copies of both!). Founded by Ireland’s first Children’s Laureate, Siobhán Parkinson, Little Island Books has been publishing books for children and teenagers since 2010. They specialise in publishing new Irish writers and illustrators, and also have a commitment to publishing books in translation.

For a sneak peek of Mother Tongue, download this free sample:

Why You Should Read Children’s Books, Even Though You Are So Old and Wise

In this delightful and persuasive essay for adult readers Katherine Rundell explores how children’s books ignite, and can re-ignite, the imagination; how children’s fiction, with its unabashed emotion and playfulness, can awaken old hungers and create new perspectives on the world.

Bloomsbury
Why You Should Read Children’s Books, Even Though You Are So Old and Wise

Katherine Rundell has written some amazing adventures for children that are destined to be classics, her latest The Good Thieves could well be my favourite, but she is also an academic, and this summer Bloomsbury published her essay “Why You Should Read Children’s Books, Even Though You Are So Old and Wise”. They gave me the opportunity to ask her some questions about this lovely little tome!

Why You Should Read Children’s Books, Even Though You Are So Old and Wise puts into words a lot of my thoughts about children’s books, as well as providing a brief but fascinating history, what prompted you to write such an essay for publication?

I felt that there was such a treasure trove of brilliant books, that adults were overlooking, books which could offer a defibrillation for the imagination – and imagination feels to me something which we need urgently at this point in history. And it’s also a bit of a love letter, after more than ten years of writing children’s fiction; a sort of thank you note, to all the books I’ve loved.

The research on fairy tales is particularly interesting, the development of the Cinderella story is fascinating & I like the thought of your retelling. Might you publish one, one day?

I’d love to, one day! I find the story of Cinderella, and her many strange and sharp-edged incarnations, so fascinating: so, absolutely, it might be on the cards, some time down the road…

How does your approach differ when writing fiction versus writing an essay? Do you favour one style of writing over the other?

I think, in both cases, I’m interested in structure and rhythm, and in making a sentence sound as right as I can make it – I think something well or vividly put sticks better in the mind; but they feel quite different beasts, to me, fiction and non-fiction. I love both, but fiction has my heart.

All of your stories are set in very different environments and have very different plots, the only thing guaranteed is adventure, have you considered revisiting any of your characters or writing a series?

Yes! I’m not allowed to say very much, but one day I would love to write a series. I love the idea of continuity, and being able to dig deeper into a world: that sort of ongoing excavation looks very tempting.

If you go into schools, do you prefer writing workshops or author talks?

I like to do a sort of amalgam of both: 25 minutes of talking, about where ideas come from, and story-hunting, and then I enjoy getting the group to write a story together, which I write down. Some of the stories the kids come up with are truly superb: the only consistent feature between schools is that the kids tend to want disastrous, riotous endings: everyone dead on the floor: a pleasingly apocalyptic tone.

What are you currently reading and who would you recommend it to?

I’ve recently finished Lanny, by Max Porter; a book so brilliant it’s like being kicked in the lung. A children’s book I adored recently was Poet X, by Elizabeth Acevedo; it’s so spare and funny and painful and clever, the kind of book to blow your hair back.

What books do you find yourself revisiting most often?

My copies of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, and the Diana Wynne Jones Chrestomanci books, are so heavily read the pages keep falling out. And I love Jane Austen’s Emma so wildly – for its wit and sharpness and generosity and wisdom – that I’ve read it more than a dozen times; if you read me one line, I can usually recite the next. This is not a party trick, I have to admit, that many people find exciting and/or sexy.

What can we expect from you next?

I’m working on turning my PhD into a book, about John Donne and his obsessions – and, alongside that, I have a new story brewing. I can’t give much away, except: it will be quite different from anything that’s come before, and I am very excited to see how it turns out. 

Katherine Rundell

Huge thanks to Bloomsbury for sending me a copy of the book and passing on my questions!

What Can We Be?

What Can We Be? is a brand new picture book where girls’ imaginations run riot and incredible stories are told!
Pirates, Wizards, Astronauts and more! What Can We Be? is a delightfully playful daddy and daughter story.

Tiny Tree Books
What Can We Be is illustrated by Kayla Coombs

Ryan Crawford very kindly sent me a copy of this book, I love the premise of daughters playing with their dads and the way Kayla Coombs has illustrated the ideas really brings them to life, and he agreed to answer some questions about the process of creating it.

Hi Ryan, welcome to TeenLibrarian and thank you for giving up your time to undergo the third degree!

I see from your blog that you already have a few books under your belt but this is your first picturebook, did you find it it easier or harder to write?

Coming up with the ideas for this picture book was the easiest thing I’ve ever done, since so much of it is based on my life. But actually scripting the rhymes was SO much more difficult than regular prose. I spent forever wondering if things rhyme correctly or if I was actually forcing them to. Then making sure they had the right amount of syllables. And on top of that trying not to change the story just to fit the rhymes. I’ve learnt a lot about rhyming, let’s put it that way! But I had a clear idea of how I wanted the book to look and be structured, so that made things easier too.

It is all about imagination and daughters playing games with their dads, which of the roles do you play with your children?

Superheroes! I’m a huge comic book fan, so superheroes have always been big on my radar. Luckily my daughter inherited the trait and loves to throw on a cape and a mask with me.

Was it a conscious decision to put Mille on the front cover and Rochelle, who you have said looks like your daughter, on the back?

Yes and No. There’s no doubt that Rochelle looks like my daughter and means a lot to me. But I also didn’t want to force the book to be about my personal story. I wanted this book to be for everyone and about everyone. Also my daughter is already overconfident at the age of 4 and I don’t want to inflate her ego any further! On top of that, Millie was always the main character. From the moment I started writing the book, it was about her and her journey with her friends and, most importantly, her dad. So that was the relationship I wanted to showcase on the front.

Have you and Kayla (the illustrator) met in real life or is it all email communication?

Kayla and I talk over emails and Skype pretty frequently. We haven’t met in person yet, but we’re planning too. Because we’ve been through a lot together making this book, and there are some personal stories in there for both of us. So you can’t help but bond when you work on a project like that together.

Have you shared the book with many children? What kind of reaction have you had?

I put together a focus group full of friends and family so that I could share the book with them and their kids. They loved it from the start, but also gave a lot of valuable feedback on how to improve it along the way. There is one particular scene that we added to the book to help make things clearer after reading it with them and their kids. But needless to say, they’re big fans now and can’t wait to get their hands on the physical copies. 

What are your kids’ favourite books at the moment?

My daughter Kiara, who is nearly 5 now, is really into books she can start to read herself at the moment. So we’re reading a lot of things like Oi Frog, where she can recognize the small repeating words and sound them out herself. Plus she finds it hilarious.

My son Cassius, who is 2, is obsessed with nothing but Dinosaurs. So all we ever read is Ten Little Dinosaurs and Dinosaurs Don’t Draw. Which is actually fine since I love both of those!

What are you reading at the moment and who would you recommend it to?

I’ve just finished reading Skyward, by Brandon Sanderson. Sci-Fi is always my go-to genre, and there’s something about the characters in this one, blended with the great world-building he is always known for that had me hooked from the start. Anyone who likes a sci-fi set in the far-future or is looking for a quirky cast of characters should check this one out. 

Are you planning to do another picture book or is it back to shoot-em-up sci-fi?

Both, actually! I’d definitely like to do something that targets Mums and Sons to follow What Can We Be. And Kayla and I are always talking about how we would do that next, so watch this space! And I rarely ever work on one book at a time, probably to my own detriment. So there are more entries in my PULSE series on the way, as well as my first stab at a fantasy novel. Plenty to look forward to!

Thanks for the great questions!

WHAT CAN WE BE? is out now!

Ryan Crawford, the author of What Can We Be?