Monday, 13 August 2018

Cinderfella by Malachy Doyle

To all the brothers at Number 12. You're invited to Kayleigh's party. Dress fancy. Come fancy. Dance!

Once upon a time, there lived Cinderfella – a little boy, forever bossed around by his two older brothers, Gus and Gareth. “Turn up the TV! Shine our scooters!" the brothers cry. "Finish our homework!” But on the day of our story, Kayleigh, the town's kick-fastic karate champion, is having a party, and Cinderfella is determined to dream big, dress fancy and DANCE. He’ll just need a little help along the way from his fairy dog-mother, Ruff – woof! A feel-good twist on the classic fairytale, brought to life with fresh vision and huge humour by Matt Hunt.

      We're very excited to welcome Malachy Doyle to talk about Cinderfella
Growing up, I had four older brothers.  Later I had one younger one. And later still I had two step-brothers. And a couple of sisters and a step-sister, too. My eldest brother, David, used to tell me bedtime stories – folk tales and fairy tales, mainly. And then I’d lie in bed, imagining myself in the stories.

I was always the lead character. It didn’t matter if it was a girl or a boy. Red Riding Hood, The Sleeping Beauty, Goldilocks – it was me, always me.
So when it came to Cinderella, I was the one with the bossy brothers, as I had in real life. And, as I grew up, I was the one who had to do jobs round the house. Well, some of them, anyway. Like polish everyone’s shoes on a Saturday evening, so we’d all be spick and span for church the following morning.

And so, over 50 years later, I got round to writing down the story. In my first draft, Cinderfella lived with two sisters, Sybil and Slob. But the boys in my family were much more slobby than the girls, so boys they became – Gareth and Gus.
At first the fairy who helps him was a giant rat, but somehow he turned into a funky dancing dog. And then a female funky dancing dog - well, if we’re playing with gender reversal, why not go the whole hog? And it makes for a good line on the back-cover about his ‘fairy dog-mother’, courtesy of my clever-clogs editor, Tanya.

At first Cinderfella zoomed off to the party on a Harley Davidson, but somehow it became a super-sparkly skateboard. Somewhat safer!

At first Cinderfella took on the role of a DJ at the party, spinning the discs and saving the night when the booked DJ didn’t turn up, but somehow it was his hop, bop, giggle and groovy dancing that took over.  

At first it was Princess PeachieBlossom’s party, but somehow she turned into Kayleigh, the junior karate champ.  Much more fun!

Then over to Matt Hunt for some fab illustrations and there we had it – Cinderfella. HAI-YAH!

You can pick up a copy of Cinderfella at your local bookshop.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Picture Book of the Month - The Prince and the Witch and the Thief and the Bears

An action-packed storytelling adventure that flips the traditional fairy tale on its head.
When it’s time for Jamie’s bedtime story, his dad begins to tell an age-old fairy tale about a prince in a faraway land full of dragons, wolves and princesses in distress. But inquisitive Jamie can’t help but add to his dad’s story, and the prince is soon joined by an evil-eyed witch who turns people to jelly, a broccoli-wielding ninja frog and a jewel-thief, lock picking princess. It may not be the story Dad set out to tell, but together, he and Jamie create something much more energetic and hilarious than they could have alone.

We're very excited to welcome Alastair Chisholm to talk about 
The Prince and the Witch and the Thief and the Bears 
As of this year, both of my daughters are teenagers (help!). But when they were a bit smaller, I liked to try to tell them stories.

I say 'try', partly because making up proper stories on the fly was harder than I'd realised, but mostly because trying to tell my daughters anything was (and still is) nearly impossible. Like Jamie, the central character in The Prince and the Witch and the Thief and the Bears, they had Questions and Opinions. 

"The Prince," I would begin, feeling very pleased with myself, "lived in a far-off kingdom, where he— "

"How far off?"


The Prince and his horse, illustrated by the fantastic Jez Tuya

How far off is the kingdom? they'd demand. How fierce are the bears? How did the horse get down the cliff? Why is it even a prince, why not a princess? Why was the witch so angry? Why is it always stone that people get turned into – why can’t it be jelly? Can't the horse help?

Things the Witch has turned into Jelly

At first, the book was just about that – all the questions and interruptions getting in the way of the story. (In fact, the original title was The Interrupted Prince, and it included a scene where they had to stop to look for Ollie the Sheep, plus a break in the middle because Jamie needed a wee). But gradually, like the Dad, I started to understand – the story was actually better when Jamie told it.

The truth is, kids understand stories better than grown-ups. Their world is made of stories, after all; it's how they start to make sense of it all. (And if you're lucky, they'll keep that spark for their whole lives).

And so … It turned out the kingdom was very far off, and that became part of the tale. And the witch actually had a pretty good reason to be angry, really. And hey, it should be the Princess who saved the day – and of course the horse could help!

The Princess takes charge

As Jamie and Dad discover, the best part of telling stories to kids is telling stories with them, and the best part of that is just listening as they tell you what the world is.

Also, the witch is a ninja and lives in a castle made of broccoli. Just saying.

Pick up a copy of The Prince and the Witch and the Thief and the Bears at your local bookshop.

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Picture Book of the Month - A First Book of the Sea by Nicola Davies

A stunning anthology that blends poetry and information about the sea.

From Nicola Davies and Emily Sutton, the multi award-winning team behind Tiny and Lots, comes A First Book of the Sea, a spellbinding collection of poems about the oceans of the world and their shores. With this book, children can swim alongside dolphins and flying fish, pore over rockpools and sail from pole to pole and back, learning about everything from phosphorescence and plankton to manta rays and puffins – all in the comfort of their bedroom. 

Emily Sutton's exquisite watercolours capture the breathless excitement of a child's first glimpse of the sea, the majesty of ancient trading ships and the sheer, staggering wonder of the humpback whale. The perfect companion to international bestsellers A First Book of Nature and A First Book of Animals, this book is sure to enthral and inspire readers of all ages.

We're very excited to welcome Nicola Davies to Picture Book Party to talk about    A First Book of the Sea

There is nothing that makes me happier than the sea. As soon as that sliver of unmistakable blue is in my eye, I start to smile. It’s involuntary, automatic. It doesn't even have to be summer, it doesn't have to be daylight: the shimmering moonlight path, the sound of surf through a wound down car window, they have the same effect. I can't be near the sea without wanting to be nearer; I can't be by the sea without wanting to be in it or on it. Holidays without sea are just ‘time off’, OK but ultimately unsatisfactory. Any day with even a small amount of sea in, is a holiday.

I think I got it from my parents, both born and brought up on the Gower, where the sea was always a part of their lives, and in the end, the one thing they could always agree on. As a family we went to the sea whenever we could. No definite sea-based activities were ever involved; we didn't have a boat, there was no equipment and no toys, apart from my Dad’s tangled fishing gear and the two
plywood surfboards left over from my older siblings tenure in childhood. Our beach activities were Sitting and Looking, Walking Idly in the Shallows, Pebble and Shell Admiring, Rock Pool Peering. All collections were left on the beach, all creativity - sandcastles, sand and pebble art - were erased by the tide; impermanence made creativity playful, experimentation less risky. The closest we got to anything formal was Pebble Cake shop, a game played when I was very small; nothing since has ever been so satisfying as bargaining for rocks with pebbles.

My sea love as a child lead me to spending long periods on small boats studying whales. In spite of the fact that I was, and remain, the worlds worst, most sea sick and entirely incompetent sailor, I have never got over the simple delight of floating. It still seems like a magic trick. I push my kayak onto the water or catch a wave on my board and the sudden weightlessness is miraculous, a deep
surprise, whose visceral sweetness takes my breath every single time.

I’ve spent days - probably weeks - of my life simply staring at the sea, letting my mind wash about with the waves and tide. It has taught me to replicate that odd uncoupling of consciousness almost at will. I can let go and wander. I wandered a lot whilst writing A First Book of the Sea - trailed through the beaches and seas of my childhood; the big dunes of Llangenith, the sweep of Newgale, the boats coming into Aldeburgh with flatfish still flapping on the bottom, the salt marshes of Cley and Blakney with the skeins of Brent geese scribbled in their corners. I wandered too in the kind of dreams that the sea makes possible for us all; I imagined all the shores to which each shore is connected; the times that are linked by the sound of waves and the salt of the water, times with pirates and triremes, ichthyosaurs and trilobites and the depths of ocean trenches and the pull of the moon, and planets and stars that the water on our planet holds and divines. Imagining brought me all sorts of poems about animals and tides, real voyages and ones that we can only make in our hearts.

When I first studied whales, I did so on a cliff in Newfoundland. Sea mist would roll in off the cold Atlantic and the dry, wind pruned vegetation of the cliff top would soak up the moisture; sea birds would spend the day scouring hundreds of square miles of blue to return to their nests, under the rocks and heathers. I sailed from the open sea back to the arms of distant harbours. I saw, and lived every day the unity of the world. The sea is our connector: it links us to the salt water history of all life and the tiny oceans that each of the cells in our body hold; it links us to all places and all journeys, from the tiny perambulations of a limpet to the voyages of the Polynesian navigators but most of all it connects us, instantly, to the great power of the wild, to nature, our mother, before whom we are all little children.

Nicola Davies is an award-winning author, whose many books for children include A First Book of Nature, A First Book of Animals, Lots, TinyThe Promise, King of the Sky, Big Blue Whale, Dolphin Baby, Just Ducks. She graduated in zoology, studied whales and bats and then worked for the BBC Natural History Unit. Visit Nicola at, or follow her on Twitter @nicolakidsbooks.

Emily Sutton graduated from Edinburgh College of Art with a degree in illustration. As well as illustrating picture books, she paints, sculpts and designs prints. Emily's first picture book, Clara Button and the Magical Hat Day,was published by the V&A. Her previous titles for Walker include Tiny, The Christmas Eve Tree and Lots. Visit Emily at

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Top new picture book picks!

A brilliant selection of picture books out this month; there are ambitious fish, sleepy woodland creatures, courageous boys and girls, and energetic elephants!

Alan's Big Scary Teeth

Meet Alan, an alligator with a secret. Famed for his big, scary teeth, he sneaks into the jungle every day to scare the jungle animals ... But after a long day of scaring, Alan likes nothing better than to run a warm mud bath and take out his false teeth, which nobody knows about! That is, until his teeth go missing... 

A goofy comedy of self-discovery now in baby-friendly board book format, warm-hearted storytelling and bright graphic art have made Alan an award-winning children’s favourite.

I Do Not Like Books Anymore!

In the second title featuring favourite monster siblings, Natalie and Alphonse, Natalie is learning to read and she is so happy about it. But when she tries all by herself for the first time, the letters look like squiggles, and she isn’t so sure any more… 

With her unique humour, Daisy Hirst celebrates the joy of sharing stories, and perfectly evokes those feelings of frustration and pride that come with learning something new.

Julian is a Mermaid

Mesmerizing and full of heart, Jessica Love's debut picture book about self-confidence and love, and a radiant celebration of individuality. 
After seeing three spectacularly dressed women on the subway with his Nana, Julian can't stop daydreaming of himself in his own mermaid costume. But what will Nana think think about how Julian sees himself?

Ellie and Lump's Very Busy Day

Ellie and Lump have a special day ahead of them, planning a big birthday surprise. There’s a lot to do: boing-boing-bouncing on beds, split-splatting eggs for breakfast, whizz-whooshing around on supermarket trollies and blowing up balloons. 

Illustrator Becky Palmer captures the joy and excitement of a day out with mum and the thrills of planning a party.

Jabari Jumps

Jabari has just passed his swimming test, and his next mission is to face the diving board. "Looks easy," says Jabari.  But when his dad squeezes his hand, Jabari squeezes back.

In a sweet tale of overcoming your fears, debut author-illustrator Gaia Cornwall captures a moment at the swimming pool between a patient and encouraging father and a determined little boy you can’t help but root for.

Goodnight Everyone

It's time to go to sleep, but Little Bear is wide awake; much to Great Big Bear's dismay.

Chris Haughton creates a lulling bedtime read, perfect for parents and children to share together. A series of exquisitely coloured cut pages of increasing size introduce woodland families – bears, deer, rabbits and teeny, tiny mice – as they all prepare to sleep.

Pick up copies of all these books at your local bookshop.

Monday, 18 June 2018

The CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal goes to Town Is by the Sea!

We are absolutely thrilled that Sydney Smith has won the 2018 CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal for Town Is by the Sea, written by Joanne Schwartz.

Sydney's stunning illustrations show the striking contrast between a sparkling seaside day and the darkness underground where the miners of the town dig.

This beautifully understated and haunting story brings a piece of mining history to life. The ever-present ocean and inevitable pattern of life in a mining town has enthralled children and moved adult readers, as a young boy wakes up to the sound of the sea, visits his grandfather's grave after lunch and comes home to a cosy dinner with his family, but all the while his mind strays to his father digging for coal deep down under the sea.

You can watch Sydney talk about Town Is by the Sea here, and discover learning resources for all the shortlisted books here.

Sydney Smith has illustrated multiple children’s books, including The White Cat and the Monk, written by Jo Ellen Bogart, and the highly acclaimed Footpath Flowers, which was a New York Times Children’s Book of the Year, a winner of the Governor General Award for Illustration and shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway Medal. 

Find him on Twitter as @sydneydraws.

Also appearing on the shortlist from Walker Books: 

King of the Sky illustrated by Laura Carlin, written by Nicola Davies. Watch Laura discuss the book here.

A Fist Book of Animals illustrated by Petr Horáček, written by Nicola Davies. Watch Petr discuss the book here.

This is the 11th CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal win for Walker Books, you can find a list of winners below.

2018 Sydney Smith, Town Is by the Sea
2014 Jon Klassen, This is Not My Hat
2012 Jim Kay, A Monster Calls
2004 Chris Riddell, Jonathan Swift'sGulliver
2002 Bob Graham, Jethro Byrde- Fairy Child
2001 Chris Riddell, Pirate Diary
1999 Helen Oxenbury, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
1997 P J Lynch, When Jessie Came Across the Sea
1995 P J Lynch, The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey
1988 Barbara Firth, Can't You Sleep Little Bear?
1985 Juan Wijngaard, Sir Gawain and the Loathly Lady

Friday, 8 June 2018

The Day War Came

A powerful and necessary picture book – the journey of a child forced to become a refugee when war destroys everything she has ever known.
Imagine if, on an ordinary day, war came. Imagine it turned your town to rubble. Imagine going on a long and difficult journey – all alone. Imagine finding no welcome at the end of it. Then imagine a child who gives you something small but very, very precious... When the government refused to allow 3000 child refugees to enter this country in 2016, Nicola Davies was so angry she wrote a poem. It started a campaign for which artists contributed drawings of chairs, symbolising a seat in a classroom, education, kindness, the hope of a future. The poem has become this book, movingly illustrated by Rebecca Cobb, which should prove a powerful aid for explaining the ongoing refugee crisis to younger readers. 
£1 from every copy sold goes to the charity Help Refugees – find out more about their wonderful work at their website,

Behind the scenes with Rebecca Cobb

We’re excited to welcome Rebecca Cobb to the Picture Book Party blog for a behind-the-scenes look at The Day War Came

Nicola Davies wrote The Day War Came when in 2016 the UK government voted against giving sanctuary to 3000 lone child refugees and after she had heard a story about a little girl refugee being turned away from a school because she was told there was no chair for her. Nicola started the #3000chairs campaign with the illustrators Jackie Morris and Petr Horáček, drawing chairs as symbols of solidarity with all those children who were completely alone and with nowhere to go.

My work for The Day War Came all began with a drawing of a chair for this campaign, so it felt appropriate to use images of chairs throughout the book.

The chair is a very meaningful symbol and is central to Nicola’s poignant, beautiful poem because the little girl is told that not having a chair is the reason she is refused entry to the school. It is a very simple everyday object but it somehow represents the things that children should be able to expect from life - a secure, safe home environment and access to an education.

At the beginning of the book, the little girl sits on a chair at home with her family to eat breakfast and then she goes to school and sits on a chair in her classroom to learn about volcanoes and draw birds.

But then, when the war explodes across the page, the chairs are thrown over and she has to flee, leaving them behind.

I love Nicola’s positive message of hope at the end of the book, where a boy brings the girl a chair and then we see that all his friends have brought chairs too. I think it is often true in life that children are the ones who remind us how to be kind and look after each other.

If you’d like to join in with #3000chairs too, then here is my guide on how to draw a chair:

You can pick up a copy of The Day War Came at your local bookshop and you can find The Day War Came teacher's notes here.

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Picture Book of the Month - Tropical Terry

Terry wants to stand out. But, in Coral Reef City, it's sometimes better to blend in...

Coral Reef City is home to the most dazzling shoals of tropical fish in ALL the ocean. And then there is Terry...

Terry looks grey. Terry feels dull. And although he is the best at playing "Hide A Fish", he can't help but wonder: Just what would it feel like to be part of that dashing, flashing crew? 

So, with the help of his friends, he fashions a flashy costume and is ready to impress... “Hello-o-o everybody! Just call me TROPICAL Terry!” 

But will life as a tropical fish be everything he always dreamed of? With his trademark humour and vibrant art, award-winning Jarvis tells a heart-warming comedy of self-esteem in Tropical Terry; a story about learning to love your own scales and take pride in what makes you different.

You can pick up a copy of Tropical Terry at your local bookshop

Check out the fun animated trailer below! 

Jarvis studied graphic design and previously worked as a record sleeve designer, website designer and an animation director before becoming a children’s book maker. His books include Mrs Mole, I’m Home! and Alan’s Big, Scary Teeth, which won the 2017 V&A Best Illustrated Book.
Follow him on Twitter as @heyimjarvis, and on Instagram as @booksbyjarvis.