Thursday, 13 May 2021

How to Be Cooler than Cool - Q&A with Sean Taylor

Sean Taylor reveals how he wrote his latest picture book How to Be Cooler than Cool, and talks about his collaboration with illustrator Jean Jullien. Their new story features some young friends in a playground – a cat, a cockatoo, and a pig. The three of them find a pair of sunglasses and get rather excited about how cool they’re going to be, when they wear them. But their efforts to be cool result in some seriously slapstick disasters. Then a tiny chick arrives. And she shows them that just being yourself is cooler than cool.

What was the seed of inspiration for How to Be Cooler than Cool?

There’s nearly always more than one seed. In fact, it’s when several seeds start growing that you feel an interesting story is on the way.

In this case, one seed was our younger son being given a pair of sunglasses. (Even though he was small, he knew they were supposed to make him cool!) Then I found myself imagining animals in sunglasses. That felt as if it could be fun for an illustrator. And a third seed was slapstick comedy – which I’ve always loved watching. It very often revolves around deadpan (you might say ‘cool’) actors like Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd suddenly, and utterly, losing control. That was the seed which felt as if it could grow into some laughter!

How did you move on from these seeds?

I started scribbling. This is the first rough story plan I came up with…

What I’m doing here is seeing how the narrative might work, split across 14 double-page spreads. Finding out if a story is going to work in a picture book format is always an important early step.

If you can make any sense of my handwriting, you’ll see that the four characters in the final book are in this first vision of the story - cool cat, cockatoo, pig and chick. I’m just slightly surprised to find that my original plan also featured an elephant…and a cucumber!

Then you wrote the story, based on this rough plan?

Yes, a first draft. It wasn’t even a full first draft. But it had something I liked about it. And one day I was having a drink with a brilliant trio of listeners: my current editor at Walker Books, Maria Tunney, my former editor, David Lloyd, and the designer who would come to work on How to Be Cooler than Cool, Deirdre McDermott. I read them the first, unfinished manuscript. This is it below. (You can see I’m still playing around with titles…A SERIOUSLY COOL STORY…A REAL COOL STORY…SUCH A COOL STORY…)

Maria, David and Deirdre were all, in their different ways, very positive about these beginnings of a story. I happened to meet up with illustrator, Jean Jullien a few weeks later, and could feel him drawing the characters in his mind as I described them to him! So I was encouraged to keep going.

Did it take long to work that early draft into a finished book?

This is the file of notes, scribbles, drafts, editorial exchanges and evolving proofs that built up as we developed the book…

Picture book stories are very short, but that doesn’t mean they take a very short time to write!

How to Be Cooler than Cool found its form over three years (which isn’t an unusual timeframe for a picture book project.) And this bulky file of notes reminds me what a lot of invention, thought and trial and error went into the process of writing the story.

To be frank, the quantity of paper reveals that there was rather more ERROR than TRIAL. All that work ended up being distilled into a very simple narrative only 286 words long! A great deal fell by the wayside.

How does it feel being illustrated by Jean Jullien?

It’s special. I’m constantly revisiting Jean’s illustrations for our previous books - , Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise and I Want To Be In A Scary Story - because they’re very popular, and I’m always being asked to read them aloud.

I never grow remotely tired of either.

Jean’s illustrations are striking and engaging. He works in simple lines and flat colours. So how does he get so much life inside those two dimensions he uses? It’s absolutely there – character, emotion, movement, LIFE. I’m delighted that we’ve formed a partnership. And I hope that How to Be Cooler than Cool will put a little light into the corners of young readers’ eyes, in the way that our other two books have.

Thank you to Sean for joining us on Picture Book Party!

Download our coooooooool activity sheets here.

How to Be Cooler than Cool is available from all good booksellers. 

Monday, 10 May 2021

Madame Badobedah - now out in paperback!

          Madame Badobedah by Sophie Dahl, illustrated by Lauren O'Hara 

Have you seen a sneaky, crunchy-haired, ancient villain (with a suspicious tortoise) lurking around? If not, get ready, because Madame Badobedah is back, this time in paperback!

Take a look at our brand new animated trailer, featuring some of the great praise for Madame Badobedah:

Click here for our Madame Badobedah activity sheets and watch a reading from Sophie Dahl below:

Click here to read a behind-the-scenes piece with the illustrator of Madame Badobedah, Lauren O'Hara!

Madame Badobedah is available now in paperback at all good booksellers. Click here to order your copy. 

Thursday, 6 May 2021

New May Picture Books Releases!

Check out a selection of our new releases for May below!

My Big Book of Outdoors
by Tim Hopgood
From vibrant springtime flowers to sweet fruits on summer trees, the falling of autumn leaves and snowdrops in winter, this bumper book of the four seasons is the perfect introduction to the big outdoors.

 Discover why birds fly south in winter, find animal footprints in the snow and learn to make the perfect snowflake; grow a sunflower, find a feather and make a daisy chain. Full of activities, poetry and fun facts to explore, it’s jam-packed with amazing things to see and do outdoors – the perfect gift for every season.

Ernest the Elephant
by Anthony Browne
Ernest is a happy baby elephant. But when his curiosity gets the better of him and he leaves the rest of his herd to explore the alluring and dangerous jungle, he becomes very lost indeed. Amongst the undergrowth, he meets a rude gorilla, a weary lion, an impolite hippo and an uncaring crocodile. Will anyone help Ernest find his way out of the jungle and home to his mum? From the international phenomenon, Anthony Browne, comes a heartfelt, visually stunning picture book, about finding help in unexpected places.

How to Be Cooler than Cool
by Sean Taylor and illustrated by Jean Jullien
Cat has found a pair of sunglasses. She thinks they are going to make her look COOL. “I’m not just any old cat at the playground," she says. "I’m a real cool cat, gliding backwards down the slide, looking cooler than cool ... WITH EXTRA COOL ON TOP!” She pops on the glasses … confidently struts forwards and – Meooaaaooow! – falls down the slide. Oh, how UNCOOL. Can Pig or Cockatoo do any better?

From the team behind Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise and I Want to Be in a Scary Story comes a glorious slapstick title that celebrates friendship, play and being yourself (no matter how goofy).

Click here for our How to be Cooler than Cool activity sheets!

Madame Badobedah
by Sophie Dahl and illustrated by Lauren O'Hara
Mabel lives with her parents in the Mermaid Hotel, by the sea. Mabel likes to keep an eye on the comings and goings of all the guests. Then one day a particularly in-ter-est-ing old lady comes to stay. There is something very suspicious about her, with her growly voice and her heavy trunks and her beady-eyed tortoise. And why does no one know her REAL name? There can only be one answer, Mabel decides ... this guest is a SUPERVILLAIN.

But even supervillains have a soft side, and as an unlikely friendship grows between the pair, their fantastical exploits take them well beyond the corridors of their seaside home.

Now out in paperback.

Click here for our Madame Badobedah activity sheets and watch Sophie Dahl's reading below:

Masters of Disguise
by Marc Martin
Now you see them, now you don’t. Cloaked in a riot of colour, pattern and texture are a dozen creatures – from chameleons and polar bears to Gaboon vipers and mimic octopuses – that have unique and impressive techniques for staying out of sight. As we travel around the planet, fact-packed pages for each of these twelve animals are interspersed with clever and beautifully illustrated search-and-find spreads that put readers’ newfound knowledge of each elusive creature and its ecosystem to the test.

A Midsummer Night's Dream
retold by Georghia Ellinas and illustrated by Jane Ray
William Shakespeare’s comedy about four lovers' mishaps in an enchanted forest is unforgettably re-imagined by Shakespeare’s Globe as a picture book for very young readers. With exquisite and detailed illustrations from the acclaimed artist Jane Ray, who has been shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway Medal, this captivating retelling is a magical way to introduce children to one of the best-loved works of the world’s greatest playwright.

Don't Worry, Little Crab
by Chris Haughton
The Winner of the Indie Book Award 2020
In the rockpool above the sea, live two crabs: Very Big Crab and Little Crab. Today, they’re going for a dip in the sea. “This is going to be so great!” says Little Crab. But then Little Crab catches a first glimpse of the water... Oh. The waves! They're ENORMOUS. "Oh..." Will Little Crab be brave enough to go in?
Now out as a board book.

Check out our activity sheets and trailer below:



Watch Hollywood star, Tom Hardy, read Don't Worry, Little Crab on CBeebies Bedtime Stories below:

A Present For Rosy
by Jonathan Emmett and illustrated by Polly Noakes
Rosy and Rory are the unlikeliest of friends. They are as different as the sun and the rain. Rosy is a dainty, delicate little bird and Rory is a big, burly bear. They both love to explore together and between them, they always find the most wonderful things. One day, Rosy doesn't feel like leaving her nest and Rory can't understand why. They stop exploring together but Rory never stops looking for wonderful things to share with his friend ... until he finds the perfect thing. A sensitive and timely book about the importance of friendship.

Now out in paperback.

My Red Hat
by Rachel Stubbs
In Rachel Stubbs' gentle meditation on love and memory, a grandfather passes down to his grandchild the joyful anticipation of a life lived with wonder and openness ... and a very special hat. The hat is full of dreams, secrets and stories and can even spark new adventures. Explore all the possibilities that a treasured hand-me-down can bring and see how love is handed down with it.

Now out in paperback.

Click here for our My Red Hat activity sheets!


All of our May releases are now available from all good booksellers!

Thursday, 22 April 2021

Rain Before Rainbows - now out in Paperback!

                                   Rain Before Rainbows

by Smriti Halls and illustrated by David Litchfield

Rain before rainbows. Clouds before sun.
Night before daybreak. A new day’s begun.

A girl and her companion fox travel together from a place of loss and despair, through uncertain times, towards the hope of colour, light and life. Along the way, they find friends to guide and support them. Together, they build a glorious future and discover a way out of the darkness, into the light of the rainbow. A book with immense hope at its heart, this is a positive message for anyone who’s ever gone through a tough time.

Click here for our Rain Before Rainbows activity sheet!

If you'd like to watch some famous faces read the story, click below!


Stanley Tucci's reading for Save the Children.


Regé-Jean Page's reading, star of the hit show Bridgerton, on CBeebies Bedtime Stories!

If you like to read David Litchfield's Guest Illustrator Post, click here

Click here to enter our Rain Before Rainbows competition!


Rain Before Rainbows is now available to buy from all good booksellers in paperback - click here to pick up your copy today!

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

The Rock From The Sky by Jon Klassen

A new book from Jon Klassen, author-illustrator of I Want My Hat Back, is always a cause for excitement. Jon is back with a new deadpan Gem, The Rock From The Sky, a book that is sure to have you laughing and pondering simultaneously! 

There is a spot.

It is a good spot.

It is the perfect spot to stand.

There is no reason to ever leave.

But somewhere above there is also a rock.

A rock from the sky!

Turtle really likes standing in his favourite spot. He likes it so much that he asks his friend Armadillo to come over and stand in it, too. But now that Armadillo is standing in that spot, he has a bad feeling about it.

A hilarious meditation on the workings of friendship, fate, shared futuristic visions, and that funny feeling you get that there's something off somewhere, but you just can't put your finger on it. Merging broad visual suspense with wry wit and existential silliness, Jon Klassen gives us a wholly original comedy for the ages.

Have fun with our The Rock From The Sky Activity Sheets here:

Watch Jon talk about the inspirations behind The Rock From The Sky below:

The Rock From The Sky is available where all good books are sold! 

Thursday, 8 April 2021

Top Picks of the Month for April!

We have a brilliant selection of picture books for you this month, from some cheeky curious monkeys to a beginner's guide to nanotechnology! Read all about our top picks of the month below!

by Chris Haughton

Three little monkeys, and their big monkey, are sat high up on their branch in the forest canopy. “Ok, monkeys! I’m off," says the big monkey. “Now remember. Whatever you do, do NOT go down to the mango tree. There are tigers down there.” Mmm … mangos! think the little monkeys. They LOVE mangos. Hmm ... maybe … maybe they could just look at the mangos? That’d be ok, right?

Click here to download our Maybe... activity sheets and watch our trailer below!

Penny and the Little Lost Puppy
by Emily Sutton

Moving home can feel a bit lonely, so Penny can’t believe her luck when she finds a new friend right in her garden: a puppy who wants to play all day long! But the next morning, Penny's playmate is nowhere to be seen ... wherever can she have gone? To find out, Penny and Dad will have to get to know their new town a little better. Perfect for any young dog fans!

The Spectacular Science of the Very (Very) Small
by Dr Jess Wade and illustrated by Mellissa Castrillón

Everything is made from something – but the way we make things, from the materials we use to the science and technology involved, is changing fast. Nano offers a fascinating narrative introduction to this cutting-edge area of STEM, better known by the name "nanotechnology".

With words by Dr Jess Wade – a highly-skilled physicist and trailblazing campaigner for diversity in STEM fields – and beautiful, dynamic pictures by award-winning artist Melissa Castrillón, this is the perfect book for budding young scientists and engineers: a way of stepping beyond their school textbooks to fascinating "real-world" science.

My First Book of Birds

by Zoë Ingram

Illustrated in a bright, contemporary style, this is a modern guide to the most common garden birds from the tiny goldcrest to the magnificent magpie, taking in such favourites as the robin, the wren, the sparrowhawk and the colourful starling. This information book for young children is packed with information and fun facts – everything you need to know to help you learn about and identify birds. With key facts about size, habitat, diet and population, there are detailed descriptions of each bird and tips to help you spot them in your own park or garden. There is even a special, "Did you know?" section on each bird, which all young ornithologists will love!

Not an Alphabet Book: The Case of the Missing Cake
by Eoin McLaughlin and illustrated by Marc Boutavant

This was meant to be a simple alphabet book but something has happened. Something horrible. The most terrible crime! The world’s most completely delicious, tongue-jinglingly, chocolaty cake has been … STOLEN!

As Bear travels from A to Z, visiting all sorts of characters, objects and extraordinary places along the way, can YOU help him search for the culprit? But, wait! Are those crumbs on Bear’s page? And are those Bear-shaped pawprints next to the empty cake stand? It seems our narrator might not be as reliable as we first thought...

Now out in paperback!

Tyrone O'Saurus' Dreams
by James Howe and illustrated by Randy Cecil

Tyrone has a dream. But it seems like everyone else has their own dream for Tyrone. Should he be a dentist? A lawyer? A football player like his brother Johnny? None of these things make Tyrone happy. But then he meets the strongest dinosaur he’s ever seen, who inspires him to follow his own heart and become a dancer, like her. A captivating story about a young dinosaur who, with a little love and encouragement, finds the courage to dance his way into his dreams.

Now out in paperback!

by Pete Oswald

Shortlisted for this year's Kate Greenaway Medal!

In the cool and quiet early light of morning, a father and child wake up. Today they’re going on a hike. Follow the duo into the mountains as they witness the magic of the wilderness, overcome challenges, and play a small role in the survival of the forest. By the time they return home, they feel alive – and closer than ever – as they document their hike and take their place in family history.

In detail-rich panels and textured panoramas, Pete Oswald perfectly paces this nearly wordless adventure, allowing readers to pause for subtle wonders and marvel at the views. A touching tribute to the bond between father and child, with resonant themes for Earth Day, Hike is a breath of fresh air.

Now out in paperback!

The Best Place in the World
by Petr Horacek

"Do you think this is the best place in the world?" Hare asks his friends, Rabbit, Bear, Duck and Owl. Certain there must be somewhere better out there, Hare sets out on an adventure that takes him to mountains higher than the clouds, sun-kissed beaches and starlit deserts. But even the most beautiful place isn't perfect without friends to share it with, and perhaps the best place in the world is actually closer than Hare thinks. Petr Horácek's artwork shines with a gorgeous summer palette in this charming bedtime read.
Check out our blog with the wonderful Petr Horacek where he tells us about his favourite place in the world here!

Now out in paperback!


All of our top picks of the month are now available from all good booksellers!

Thursday, 1 April 2021

April Book of the Month - Maybe... by Chris Haughton

Our April Book of the Month, Maybe... by Chris Haughton is the perfect read for all those cheeky monkeys out there... 

Three little monkeys, and their big monkey, are sat high up on their branch in the forest canopy.

"Ok, monkeys! I'm off," says the big monkey. "Now remember. Whatever you do, do NOT go down to the mango tree. There are tigers down there."

Mmm ... mangos! think the little monkeys. They LOVE mangos. Hmm ... maybe ... maybe they could just look at the mangos? That'd be ok, right?

From the author of Don't Worry, Little Crab comes a funny, suspenseful and keenly observed cautionary tale about pushing boundaries and indulging your more mischievous, cheeky side (when nobody is looking)...

Download our cheeky activity sheets here.

Watch our trailer for Maybe... below:

Maybe... is available where all good books are sold.