Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Happy Mother's Day!

It’s Mother’s Day this Sunday and time to celebrate brilliant mummies and mammies everywhere! 

Jill Murphy’s beautifully observed picture book stories about Mrs Large, Mr Large and their four boisterous children are stories we can all relate to, whether we are child or a parent. Five Minutes’ Peace, A Quiet Night In, A Piece of Cake, All In One Piece and Mr Large in Charge are all about warm, real (if a little hectic) family life, and feature one of the best picture book mums out there. Because no matter how swept off her feet Mrs Large is, she’s always ready to laugh at herself; always happy to be beside her children.  


Here at Walker HQ we went behind the scenes with Maria and Tanya in our Picture Books team to talk about the very special and unique relationship we have with our mothers and with our own children...

Maria Tunney 

I'm a mum now. That's weird to say. I'm a mum. I made and own a tiny human called Ada and I would do anything and go anywhere for that roly-poly baby. And when I sing her cheesy Disney songs from my childhood as she smiles up at me from her little cot in her wee round-faced, dimple cheeked, silvery-eyed way (I'm sure she's thinking, this one is MAD), my heart literally feels like it might BURST and I have to catch my breath.

And now, NOW I understand, in so much more depth, all the things my mum did for me, my brother and sister. (Sorry it took me so long, Mum.) I understand her sleepless nights. How fiercely she always tries to protect us. How thrilled she is to be reunited with us after a stretch of time apart. I get the fierceness of her hugs, why she clasps our hands so tight. I understand the personal sacrifices my mum made so that I could have a better life. I can see now how hard she worked to feed my imagination and creativity and encourage me in all ways. I understand the dreams she has for us as children, and grown ups, and why she puts herself before her us, at all times. 

I understand all the big and little things she did for me as a child, each memory like a warm pop of sunshine on my face. 

I remember her making popcorn in the kitchen with the lid off so that it was like it was raining popcorn and we ran around with our mouths open. Taking us to the cinema to see all the latest films and sneaking in little sandwich bags full of sour sweets up our sleeves. Helping us set up our own 'shop' in the kitchen where we sold each other tinned food from the cupboard, or setting up a post office or library where we mostly just stamped blank paper with great fervour and charged £20 to post a letter. Making us sausages after bath time on a Saturday night and eating them in front of the fire watching Gladiator and Blind Date. She made up silly songs. She made her own Playdo. She helped us build dens. She watched as we walked up the hill to catch the school bus every school morning. 

As a grown up, she sends me packages full of Tayto crisps and Monster Munch and fancy pyjamas from Tk Maxx with notes that say, "Found this One Direction advent calendar and thought it might give you a laugh." She answers all my Whatsapps with "Ahhh, that's beautiful!", even if it's my make up free, craggy morning face. She messages me every single morning to see how Ada has slept and I love that because if Ada has slept well, I have, too, and everyone is happy.

Of course, there are things I DON'T understand ... namely some of the horrendous outfits (fluorescent Benetton anyone?) she put us in as ten year olds when we didn't yet have a sense of our own style. Not cool, Mum, not cool.

My mum is strong, she is a warrior, she is ninja mum. And her strength and compassion fortifies me in my own day to day life. She inspires me to the very best mum, daughter, friend and colleague that I can be. Happy Mother's Day, Fifi.

Tanya Rosie 

Sitting in the front seat of the supermarket trolley with my mum steering, cycling to pick up my big sister from school, with my mum leading the way, or playing with my doll’s house next to my mum’s bed as she took (well-deserved) power naps – those were the very best places to be for me, growing up. Because, from the very beginning, my mum has made me feel like her very best friend and, because of that, because of being beside each other, all those little moments of daily life became little adventures – our little adventures – and the big moments of my life. 

When I was older and spent hours at my desk studying for exams, the sound of my mum tinkering away in the next room was what steadied my nerves. I knew that I could poke my head around the corner and melodramatically cry, “Mum, seriously, I’m going to fail EVERYTHING,” and it would make me feel instantly better (and trust me, I did that a LOT). She’s always believed in me – she dreams big for me – and she only ever wants for me what I want for myself. 

My mum loves fruit, she loves trees (she recognizes all of them by leaf), and – best of all – she loves being up a mulberry tree (her favourite), picking the fruit that we’ll all eat later on, sat cross-legged on the carpet in our living room. And bubble gum! Every Saturday, when we were watching movies, my mum would be in the corner blowing the hugest pink bubbles, and we’d all gather around and gape and count how long they stayed big (one … two … three … POP!). She doesn’t do this so much any more, not after the gum-in-the-hair incident of ’94, but they still feel like the biggest bubbles in the world. She still feels like the coolest.  

So whenever I say goodbye to my mum, there’s always a twinge of sadness, because I realize that to go out on my own means to leave her behind. But when I set off (both pockets filled with fruit and pistachios; my mum won’t let me leave without snacks for the journey), I look back at my mum waving from the driveway, her arms crossed from the cold, her hood up from the rain, and take courage from the smile on her face. Because if she’s the last thing I see when I leave, she’ll be the first thing I see when I return. 

My mum’s name means ‘Moonlight’ in Farsi, and, to me, she’s just that – my guiding beam of light. Wise and kind and calm, I need her advice when I make decisions, I need her joy when I share good news, and I need her little stories at the end of each day, however gloriously uneventful. My world just wouldn’t be whole without her. Happy Mother’s Day, Mum! 






WIN a Mother's Day bouquet and book bundle

To celebrate all the wonderful mums out there, we have a special selection of picture books by Jill Murphy to give away, plus an impressive hand-tied medly of seasonal, spring Pink Champagne flowers  by letterbox florist Beards and Daisies (anemones, soft white tulips, daisies and stunning coral roses). 

To enter, just email your name and address to competitions@walker.co.uk with 'Mother's Day' in the subject line by 31st March.

Terms and conditions apply.


Monday, 20 March 2017

Win a copy of Also an Octopus and a Beside the Sea Grobag

We’ve finally found someone who loves bedtime as much as we do! We’ve teamed up with baby sleep brand The Gro Company to celebrate the joy of books at bedtime, so welcome to our Bedtime Book Club!


Picture books are at the heart of our publishing at Walker Books, and we’re over the moon to be working with The Gro Company to celebrate the joy of snuggling up with a book at bedtime. The Gro Company have spent 16 years aiming to make bedtime easier for parents so that they can focus on enjoying that special bonding time with their children, so we couldn’t imagine a better fit for our bedtime stories. Each season we’ll be bringing you a new Bedtime Book Club bedtime story, paired with a gorgeous sleep product from The Gro Company range.

Sail away to sleep this spring with Also an Octopus and a Beside the Sea Grobag 

Also an Octopus by Maggie Toduka-Hall and Benji Davies

Even the most totally awesome story starts with a little bit of nothing, so ... why not an octopus who wants to fly in a spaceship? This tentacle-tastic new picture book from Maggie Tokuda-Hall and Benji Davies is all about storytelling and is perfect for imaginative little readers who love to make up stories all of their own. Funny, smart and warmhearted, this bedtime story will have sleepy imaginations soaring.



Take that holiday feeling with you wherever you go with this fun, seaside themed travel Grobag, featuring a lovely array of stylish seagulls and superb sandcastles. The travel opening is a great addition and allows car seat and pushchair harnesses to pass through - so you can take safer sleep on the road with you! 




WIN a copy of Also an Octopus and a Beside the Sea Grobag


We’ve got three Bedtime Book Club goody bags to give away this month, each including a copy of Also an Octopus and a Beside the Sea Grobag. Five runners up will win a copy of the book and a poster.

To enter, email your name and address to competitions@walker.co.uk with ‘Octopus Grobag' in the subject line for your chance to win. Competition closes on 1st April 2017. Terms and conditions apply.

Pick up a copy of Also an Octopus at your local bookshop, and browse The Gro company’s sleep products on their website

Join in the fun and download our free Also an Octopus activity sheets here.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

WIN a Triangle goody bag

Meet Triangle. He is going to play a sneaky trick on his friend, Square. Or so Triangle thinks... 

From the multi-award-winning, New York Times bestselling team of Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen (creator of This Is Not My Hat and I Want My Hat Back), this mischievous, shifty-eyed story about some very sneaky shapes is the first tale in an exciting new shape trilogy that approaches the traditional concept from a whole new angle.  

Take a sneak peek inside the book…





Behind the scenes with Jon & Mac

The idea began with drawings Jon Klassen had been working on for many years. “It was an older visual concept that came from a period when I had more time to do one-offs, with characters I made from shapes,” Klassen said. “All the shapes have the same size eyes but with the triangle, you have to set the eyes way down in his body and, for some reason, that made him look shifty. That was so interesting, that just from where you placed his eyes implied something about his character. All of sudden he became a trickster, whereas Square is just more solid and conservative because, well, because he’s square.”

“Despite the titles, these are not concept books but a series about friendship along the lines of Frog and Toad, the classic Arnold Lobel tales,” author Mac Barnett said. In the debut, Triangle plays a trick on his friend, Square. Maybe. It could be that Square has pulled a fast one on Triangle. “Square is a square dude,” Barnett added. “He’s got a routine and isn’t as sharp as Triangle.”

Klassen had characters but no story when he showed the drawings to Mac Barnett, with whom he had already collaborated on two award-winning books, Extra Yarn and Sam and Dave Dig a Hole. “We talked about it until we came up with the introduction because we had to set the stage – introduce the tone of the story – before it could begin,” Klassen said. “But once we got that done, Mac said, ‘I can take it from here,’ and he went back and wrote this really hilarious text. I would have gone really concept-y but Mac’s so loose that what he came up with was this really funny story about these two pals.”



WIN Triangular Treats

To celebrate the launch of this new series, we’ve got five goody bags full of triangular treats to give away, each including a copy of the book, a limited edition print, a funky triangle stamp, stickers, a poster and a Toblerone! To enter, just answer this question:
In the new book Triangle, who does Triangle play a trick on?
a) Circle
b) Square
c) Star

To enter, just email competitions@walker.co.uk with 'Triangle' in the subject line before 31st April 2017. Terms and conditions apply.

Join in the fun and download these free Triangle activity sheets and pick up a copy of Triangle at your local bookshop.

About Jon Klassen
Jon Klassen is the author-illustrator of I Want My Hat Back, We Found a Hat and This Is Not My Hat, the only book to ever win both the Kate Greenaway and Caldecott Medal. He also illustrated Mac Barnett's Extra Yarn and Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, and served as an illustrator on the animated feature film Coraline. His illustrations for Caroline Stutson's Cats Night Out won the Governor General's Award in 2010. Originally from Niagara Falls, Canada, Jon now lives in Los Angeles, California. Find Jon online at burstofbeaden.com and on Twitter as @burstofbeaden.


About Mac Barnett
Mac Barnett is the author of several award-winning books for children, including President Taft Is Stuck in the Bath, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen, and Sam and Dave Dig a Hole and Extra Yarn, illustrated by Jon Klassen, which won a Boston Globe–Horn Book Award and a Caldecott Honor. Mac Barnett lives in California, USA. Find Mac online at macbarnett.com and on Twitter as @macbarnett.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Top 5 picture book picks for March

Here at Walker HQ we're feeling the spring vibes and can't wait to show you our selection of picture books for the new season. Our top five picks for March are all unique  some historical, some hysterical, some perfectly poignant and guaranteed to tug on your heart strings and inspire young minds. There's something for everyone! 





From the endlessly innovative and playful Viviane Schwarz comes a funny first counting book with a wonderfully feline twist in the tail! 
At first Tiny Cat has none. Then, what’s that? One! Two! Three! And … four! Oops, bonk, now there’s more! Soon Tiny Cat has as many red balls  of wool as you can get. Then some extra. Too many…?! Will Tiny Cat ever have just enough? With very few words – and loads of visual humour – counting has never been so much fun!


"A delightfully off-the-wall exploration of numbers with the help of a cat and several balls of yarn. The bold black and white illustrations will engage babies of every development stage." - Baby London.


Patrick and the President



From radio and television broadcaster Ryan Tubridy, and Kate Greenaway Medal-winner P. J. Lynch, comes a picture book about President John F. Kennedy’s return to his ancestral home in Ireland in 1963. He described it as the best four days of his life and, for a generation of Irish people, it was a trip they never forgot. In this picture book Ryan captures the fevered excitement in the build-up to JFK’s visit – told through the eyes of a young boy called Patrick who wants to know, more than anything, what it would feel like to shake the President’s hand... 



So, the very kind Silvia Borando has got you a pet cat...and he lives within the pages of this book! He's super sweet and makes barely any mess - an ideal pet, really. As his owner, it’s your job to wake him up (call out his name), softly stroke his back (with your finger) and shelter him from the rain (your hand makes a great umbrella!). It’s hard work, but it’s so much fun. This new, playful picture book encourages readers to interact with the pages and, with the help of your imagination, bring a purr-fect cat to life. Meeoww!

Not a cat person? Then try The Dog Book instead! There's a pet dog for you inside the pages of this book. Isn’t he cute? Just look at him wag his tail! As a pet-owner, it’s your job to wake him up (call out his name), rub his belly (with your finger) and clean him up when he gets muddy (your t-shirt makes a great towel!)



Daisy Hirst, creator of The Girl with the Parrot on Her Head tells an authentic and original story about sibling rivalry. Natalie the monster mostly loves her little brother Alphonse being there – they name pigeons, bounce things off bunk beds, share stories and make lots of fun stuff together. But, when Natalie catches Alphonse eating her most favourite book...?! Well, that is not OK! 

"A heart-warming tale', RTE.

Penguin

In this 10th anniversary edition of a modern classic by Polly Dunbar, the creator of Hello Tillywe hear the story of Ben, who couldn’t be more delighted to find a penguin friend inside his present. “Hello, Penguin!” he says. Penguin says nothing. Ben tickles Penguin, pulls his funniest face, puts on a happy hat, sings a silly song and does a dizzy dance...still Penguin says nothing. Soon a passing lion intervenes and Penguin finally speaks – when he does, Ben discovers that some things are worth the wait. Shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway Medal and the winner of numerous other awards, this is a beautiful edition to share and treasure with a foreword and gorgeous gold foil on the cover. 

"This heart-warming book conjures imagination, anger, danger and love, while encouraging small children to remember events, read pictures and laugh" The Sunday Times. 

You can get your paws on all these books at your local bookshop
Happy reading! 

Thursday, 2 March 2017

World Book Day Award-Winning School Wins Life Changing Library Makeover



Today we are very excited to be celebrating the 20th anniversary of World Book Day, the biggest annual celebration of reading for children. This year we teamed up with World Book Day and invited schools to take our creative challenge for the chance to win £5000 of books for their school, inspired by A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston.

The first prize of £5,000 worth of books was awarded to Cherry Burton Primary School in East Yorkshire for their ‘Old Curiosity Shop’ entry (see photos below). The prize was “a dream come true” for them after three years of struggling to raise funds for a library. They responded with a whole school project which transformed their summer playhouse into an ‘Old Curiosity Shop’, inspired by the classic novel by Charles Dickens. Designed to convey the “individual experience” of reading, the shop was filled with displays and crafts made by the children, sparked by their favourite books. The massive influx of £5,000 worth of new children’s books provides fresh hope to a school that has spent the last three years struggling to fundraise to expand their collection of books from just one bookshelf into a fully-fledged library. 




A further three schools were awarded the second prize (£3,000 worth of books), and an additional 10 schools awarded the third prize (£1,000 worth of books). Each winner, plus 100 runners-up, will also receive a signed copy of A Child of Books, plus a limited edition print for their school. Visit www.worldbookday.com to see this year’s entries.

Speaking on the judging process, Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston said: “It was incredibly difficult to choose between all of the fantastic responses we received. Each entry was clearly crafted with passion and imagination, and we loved seeing the types of stories that are engaging children today. The joy of stories was evident in Cherry Burton School’s outstanding project – their infectious enthusiasm for reading inspired not just pupils, teachers and parents, but also their local community.”

Why is World Book Day so important?

World Book Day in the UK and Ireland encourages children to explore the pleasures of reading by providing them with the opportunity to have a book of their own. New data from a survey conducted by the National Literacy Trust has just revealed that a quarter of the UK’s 8 to 11 year-old children would not own a book without World Book Day, and that the book they ‘bought’ with their 2016 World Book Day book token was the first book they have had of their own. The survey also showed that nine out of ten (89.5%) were aware of World Book Day and six in ten (58.8%) were inspired to read more by the celebration of books and reading.

This year 15 million £1 World Book Day book tokens were distributed via schools and nurseries all over the country to be exchanged for one of ten specially-published £1 World Book Day books. Check the World Book Day website for the full list of books, including our very own Where’s Wally? The Fantastic Journey by Martin Handford!

Enter a world of imagination and discover more about A Child of Books with Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston:





Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Activities and ideas for World Book Day

This Thursday is one of our favourite days – it’s World Book Day! A wonderful celebration of authors, illustrators, books and (most importantly) a celebration of reading!

What is World Book Day?
The main aim of World Book Day is to encourage children to explore the pleasures of books and reading by providing them with the opportunity to have a book of their own. World Book Day send schools packs of Book Tokens and packs full of ideas and activities to MILLIONS of children and young people all over the UK and Ireland – there’s one for nearly every child aged under eighteen in the country! Children can then take their voucher to a local bookseller and can use it to pick one of ten (exclusive, new and completely free) books. Or, if they’d rather, they can use it to get £1 off any book or audio book costing over £2.99 at a participating bookshop or book club.

Get involved!
These brilliant activity sheets below have been created especially for World Book Day by Twinkl as a brand new resource for Early Years  and they’re great!  Each one focuses around a different picture book and is packed with ideas to help you theme your day around the story, from unique costumes to activities, games, decorations and even recipes. Here are our five favourites:

Shh! We Have a Plan

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt

Five Minutes’ Peace

I Want My Hat Back

Owl Babies

You can also visit the World Book Day website which is full of exciting and fun resources based on favourite books, brands, characters and authors. 




Monday, 27 February 2017

Hilda and the Runaway Baby

This month we went behind the scenes with author-illustrator Daisy Hirst to find out all about the making of her brand new book, Hilda and the Runaway Baby, a warm-hearted story about the unlikely friendship between a pot-bellied pig and a mischievous baby...  




Here are Hilda and the Runaway Baby on the title page of their book, with an epic journey ahead of them: Hilda living her peaceful, solitary life at the foot of the hill, the baby poised for adventure at the top. But they have a fairly epic journey behind them too – their story was first sketched out in 2008 during a game at an evening class.




This first storyboard was made in about twenty minutes, in response to Michael Sowa’s painting of a pig pulling a pram, Midsummer Night. My books usually begin as doodles (such as these of The Girl with the Parrot on her Head and her boxes), their stories teased out slowly in sketchbooks. But the process for Hilda and the Runaway Baby, apart from being much faster, was basically the same one of building a story from an image (or images) in answer to the questions it provokes – who is this girl with a parrot on her head? Why does she have these boxes of wolves and the dark? Or, how does a pig end up pulling a pram, and where is she pulling it to? Well, she’s rescuing a baby of course – an adventurous baby.




There was a lot wrong with this storyboard, as the red scribbles, made during my MA in Children’s Book Illustration, suggest. There was bad design (full-bleed images butting up against each other, page-turns in all the wrong places), bad pacing (several images where one would do, other parts squished to obscurity), and the peculiar static effect of Hilda and the baby turning around and trying to set off backwards through the book. There was also the problem hinted at by my note on the baby’s homecoming: “But I want the pig!” Whether I meant this as my thought or the baby’s, it started the process of shifting the focus onto this friendliest, reddest of pigs. So now it’s the baby who insists, post-rescue, that the restored (pig-less) status quo will just not do.




Hilda wasn’t always a red pig: when I first screen-printed the characters I tried her in pink too, but I’d met these striking red Tamworths in Herefordshire, and the red Hildas felt right.





I revised The Runaway Baby (as it was called until I realised Hilda should get top billing) through many storyboards and dummy books, screen-printed some sample illustrations and entered it in the 2012 Macmillan Prize: I was extremely happy when it won the Lara Jones Award, but it didn’t find a publisher until 2014 when Walker decided it could be my third book.



Taking years to get from storyboard to published book can be frustrating, but it has its advantages too. One is that while stories are hanging around they seem to snowball, rolling along and gathering up bits of my life – experiences, places and people, pigs. So the mountainous landscape Hilda and the baby inhabit is a (probably indefensible) mixture of the Spanish Alpujarras (white hilltop villages, almond trees and chimneys with hats on), Northern Argentina (mountains and poplars) and the Malvern hills (the Herefordshire beacon has snuck into a mountain range). 






Another advantage of the epic process was that when I finally came to make the artwork for Hilda I was a bit better-equipped – as hopefully shown by the student and final versions above. Only a bit though – this was still my most challenging book to illustrate, and often felt like an insane undertaking. Screen-printing is an excellent way to make yourself simplify your imagery and limit your colour palette – unless you just decide not to do those things, and instead print an eleven-colour book containing townscapes featuring numerous tiny cats, chickens, figs, flowers, violins and people with faces smaller than lentils, alongside landscapes which need to be atmospheric, feel as if you could walk into them, and convey at least five distinct times of day and night… well, as Hilda says, 




Hilda is my longest and shortest book: it has 32 pages where my others have 40, but a few more words, and its designer’s genius idea of changing the format from portrait to landscape allowed us to fit whole landscapes on half-spreads, which almost felt like having twice as many pages (and twice as much printing to do). This meant I could establish both characters more firmly at the beginning of the book, and feel surer I was leaving them satisfied at the end.




Babies, apparently, can be problematic protagonists outside baby books (although, surely John Burningham’s Avacado Baby and Raymond Briggs’ The Elephant and the Bad Baby two of the best picturebooks EVER). So it was useful to realize that Hilda, for me, was the point of the book, and the character I must persuade a publisher to fall for. Having said that, I also fell for the baby: it helped that by the time I was making the illustrations, my first niece was hurtling through babyhood demonstrating astonishing intelligence, resourcefulness and charm – like many babies as described by their families, I suppose, although their cats might have different ideas.



Pick up your copy of Hilda and the Runaway Baby at your local bookshop.