Friday 29 April 2016

Bank Holiday Bookshelf

We've rounded up a few of our new titles to make your bank holiday reading list extra special!

A Brave Bear

Who is the best at helping a little bear be brave? His dad, of course!

‘a glorious dad-centric story about an incredibly brave little bruin!
                      - Read it Daddy

'This is without doubt one of the most heart-warming reads of the year, coupled with Hughes’ signature intricate illustrations, there’s nothing we don’t love about A Brave Bear.'

                               - Picture Books Blogger

Download A Brave Bear activity sheets here.

Julius Zebra Bundle with the Britons

Hilarious follow-up to Julius' first adventure with the Romans.

‘This book [Rumble with the Romans] is a very funny, page-turning adventure, perfect for seven-year-olds and over to enjoy! It is great for train journeys. Simply pop it in your bag and take it anywhere… you won't want to put it down.

     - Guardian Children’s

Migloo's Day

Join Migloo, a fun-loving dog, on his day out and about in the busy, silly and hilarious world of Sunnytown!

"This is a book that will be returned to again and again as new incidents are discovered and different characters explored. One for sharing together or keeping your youngster absorbed for hours." 

-The School Librarian

Download Migloo activity sheets here. 

Voices from the Second World War

A powerful, moving collection of first-person accounts of the Second World War. 

'It is more important than ever that we remember, and that children growing up now understand something of what they went through. There are lots of interviews not just with soldiers but with airmen, land girls, members of the Desert Rats and the SOE, and civilians, including those who as children lived through the bombing, in the UK, Germany or Japan. They tell stories of resilience, grief and unexpected happiness, speaking candidly to their interviewers, many of whom are children, and it’s impossible not to be moved and humbled by them.' 

- Love Reading for Kids

Wednesday 27 April 2016

Happy World Tapir Day from Mango and Bambang!

This is Mango.

Mango Allsorts is a girl good at all sorts of things, not just karate and chess.

This is Bambang.

Bambang is a Malayan Tapir and they, like the three other types of Tapir, are an endangered species.

You can visit a real life Malayan Tapir in London Zoo. Our editorial team went to say hello!

In the wild, tapirs are friendly, if sometimes a little shy, and are extremely important to their ecosystems. Despite their ecological importance, Tapirs are quietly disappearing throughout the world and so World Tapir Day has been set up to help raise awareness. In 2015 the hashtag was trending for five and a half hours thanks to events all over the world! This year we want to smash that record by asking as many people as possible to re-tweet and like our twitter and facebook updates to help spread the word!

To thank you for getting involved we have put together a gorgeous Mango and Bambang gift set including books one and two in the Mango and Bambang series, a gorgeous poster and a set of stickers. To enter, email by May 8th with the subject line We love Tapirs.

Terms and conditions apply.
This competition will also be promoted on social media. 

For more Mango and Bambang activities click here

Monday 18 April 2016

The making of A Brave Bear

The dream team behind our Book of the Month, A Brave Bear, tell us how they went about creating the book. 

Sean Taylor has written more than 40 books for children, including Hoot Owl and Where the Bugaboo Lives. Find Sean online at and on Twitter as @seantstories.

Emily Hughes is a talented young illustrator whose first picture book, Wild, was met to great acclaim. Emily is quickly becoming renowned for the enchanting, atmospheric worlds she draws. Find Emily online at and on Twitter @plaidemily.

Sean Taylor

A Brave Bear is 288 words long. That’s one of the shortest stories I’ve written. And it won’t take very many words to explain how I wrote it.

My starting point for a story is often some scribbling on a piece of paper.

I’ve still got the scribbles that grew into A Brave Bear

You may need some help to make some sense of that!

My scribblings were sparked by reading a poem by Adrian Mitchell. In the poem he mentions tears of a bear. You’ll see, I wrote that down. Then beside it I wrote, “are the saddest thing in the world.” Below that I scribbled, “The braveness of a bear is the bravest thing in the world.” Further down I wrote, “a bear in a waterfall is the wettest thing in the world.” Near the top are the words, “A jumpy bear is the jumpiest thing in the world.”

These phrases, which went on to become the basis for the story, always had a sense of possibility about them. (You can see I got a highlighter pen out, at some stage, and marked a couple of them in green.) There seemed to be some music in them. Also some emotion. So I wrote PIC BOOK on the scrap of paper and I kept it in a file of possible picture book starting ideas.

That was way back in 2009.

Three years later, in the summer of 2012, I had a try at writing a story based on those original bear phrases and their sense of possibility. (This is not an unusually long time for an idea to grow into a story…) 

I’ve got the manuscript of my first attempt to write A Brave Bear. I wrote the story in an hour or two, then I split it into 12 spreads...

The final text was not far off, once I’d got to this stage.
It’s a simple story in which those original phrases, with their music and emotion, bounce backwards and forwards between a father bear and his son. My hope was that in the multiple echoings of the lines, the music and emotion would also multiply. 

Have a read of the book. Does it do what I hoped it would? 

I’ll be happy if you think it does.

Emily Hughes

When I initially read A Brave Bear I didn’t know if I would be knowledgeable enough to illustrate such an intimate text. I did, however, remember how it felt to be a child and how hard I tried to impress my Father and win his trust and approval. 

After deciding to illustrate A Brave Bear, I watched children talking to their Dads on the bus and parents nervously peering as their kid scooter-ed too close to the road. These were glimpses of a child feeling brave on their own, and a parent feeling brave in letting go. It is an oftentimes misread communication of love, and I was daunted in how to illustrate such a soft and subtle expression. 

This was the first time I illustrated a story that wasn’t my own, and I wanted to make it something Sean and I could both be happy with. I didn’t know beforehand, but a lot of times authors and illustrators don’t talk to each other; this makes the communication easier (sounds strange, I know) and the job a bit more concise. 

The art director and editor made a huge bridge between us and offered sound advice. However, we still were able to listen to each other and in the end, Sean made a few extra lines to go at the end of the story to go with some extra images I had done, and I think he encapsulated that feel of glowing pride and togetherness perfectly.

Because the text was clear and unfussy, I had a lot of liberties with adding my own sense of narrative. For instance, I tried to make a traceable map of where Dad bear and baby bear hike through, with landmarked log-bridges and sitting rocks. Just as a treat for the observant. 

There are a few hidden parents of other animals dotted around the pages, showing families in other settings. Doing these things make the work for me exciting, so I believe it to be a win-win situation!

When I started illustrating this book (which was a while back now, two years ago!) we went through all sorts of character design changes. The step of figuring out a character takes the longest for me. I draw and redraw for a long time. A part of it is to get some muscle memory of their shape so they can look consistent. 

The character is important because we feel that we have to know who they are in order to love them. I think if they have some traits that are easy to find in others, or (especially) ourselves, we are more able to empathise.  


Baby bear is impulsive, positive, eager, and resilient. Dad bear is calm, quiet, non-disruptive, and supportive.

We went through three drafts, two bear breed changes, a few dummy books, and two filled A4 sketchbooks, as well as one A3 one to get to the final outcome we have come out to! 

I hope the sacrifice of all those trees and pencil tips, the ‘undercover’ people-watching bus trips and the supreme patience of my art-director have amounted into some sort of warmth tied in with Sean Taylor’s writings. I hope you can relate to feeling as small as baby bear and as simultaneously all-powerful and all-powerless as Dad bear. It was a brilliant book to have the chance to help with, and I hope you will be able to see that too.  

A Brave Bear is out now. Pick up a copy at your local bookshop.

Saturday 16 April 2016

The making of Alphonse, That is Not OK To Do!

Daisy Hirst tells us all about how she created her wonderful new picture book Alphonse, That is Not OK To Do!

Daisy is a hugely talented young artist and writer. She won the Lara Jones award in the Macmillan Prize for The Runaway Baby and her debut picture book, The Girl With the Parrot on Her Head, was selected as The Times' children's book of the week. Find her online at, and on Twitter as @Deenface.

I have been doodling monsters for a long time: here are some on a departmental meeting agenda at the charity I used to work for and some on my friend’s shoe.

Towards the end of my MA in Children’s Book Illustration, I developed a series of monster baby books. I was working on them with a publisher, but I knew there was no guarantee they would get published and tried to see the possibility of publication as just an extra spur to making a heap of new coursework – but of course it was disappointing when in the end the books weren’t made.

As a way of picking myself up and carrying on I did two things: I hand-printed and bound a melancholy comic about tiny giraffes, and I made a new monster to be entered in the vote for our MA show catalogue cover. It still means so much to me that my fellow students chose the red monster. 

I added the blue monster painting the red monster, and a picture of them drawing together for the bookmark-invitation. The catalogue monsters were a sort of celebration of the mutually inspiring, collaborative atmosphere of the MA, and it was amazing to see them rendered in cake for our private view by Emily Wilkinson

When I made the bookmark I realized it was also a picture of me and Becky Palmer, who I was just getting to know and who is the best person I’ve ever found to make stories and pictures with. 

Walker liked my monsters, and we hoped to make a monster book after The Girl with the Parrot on her Head – a picturebook rather than a baby book and probably featuring the catalogue monsters. I can’t say these monsters grew into Natalie and Alphonse, as when I came to develop them into picturebook characters they got younger: I suppose they shrank into them. 

As with most of my stories, I developed Alphonse, That Is Not Ok To Do! through doodling in my sketchbook, drawing the monsters hundreds of times to see what they might get up to. But the seeds of the story were there in the original set of images: I already felt that the red monster was more serious, the blue monster a bit of a liability (albeit an adoring one).

This is the most collaborative book I’ve made, as my brilliant editor and designer were involved from before there was even a story. Hopefully it doesn’t show, but it was also a very difficult book to get right. At first I thought it would be about Natalie drawing herself a brother, who then materialises; there was also a babysitter called Mrs Arlene who got everything wrong, poorly-received toast-art, and a subplot about snails that I clung onto for months! In the end we realized that the heart of it was the relationship between Natalie and Alphonse – not where he came from or what else might be wrong with the world. 

But the most tortuous stage in the process was deciding how to tell the part of the story in which a furious Natalie draws terrible things happening to Alphonse, and then, on hearing noises from another room, thinks the terrible things are really taking place. I can’t count the number of ways we tried rearranging this bit to make it clear, but here are a few examples:

I despaired of myself: how had I taken what was supposed to be a funny, simple, story for a very young audience and made it so complicated? Why did it need a parallel narrative of the ‘meanwhile, on the other side of the forest’ variety? Such shenanigans are uncommon in picturebooks for a reason!

After months of storyboarding, making the artwork was (mostly) wonderfully straightforward. The illustrations are screen-printed, a method I'd learnt through making The Girl with the Parrot on her Head, but there's something particularly satisfying about how the bold flat-colour shapes work for single-coloured beasts with googly eyes. 

Making the font was fun: I wrote out and screen-printed upper and lower-case alphabets and a lot of other characters and accents which were fairly mysterious to me, and Walker had it properly converted into a font: WB Natalie Alphonse. 

Some of those mysterious characters came in very handy when the book was translated into seven languages.

At some point I realised this book was mostly face-acting, so it was particularly important to get the expressions exactly right (by drawing each character dozens of times). Towards the end of making a book there is always a moment when I think “Oh wait, I don’t get to draw these people/monsters/beasts forever?” Happily, I am now drawing Natalie and Alphonse again, in the hopes they might have more to say… 

Thank you Daisy for giving us an insight into your artistic process! Alphonse, That is Not Ok To Do! is out now and you can pick up a copy at your local bookshop.

Monday 11 April 2016

Migloo's Day

“A riotous pandemonium of search-and-find, with the verve and style of a modern Richard Scarry.” Mumsnet

Where’s Wally? for a new generation.” Lovereading

Meet Migloo the dog and join him on a search-and-find adventure through a day in Sunnytown, as he follows his nose for delicious treats, meets his friends along the way and even saves the day in this ultimate search-and-find story book from William Bee, now brand new in paperback. 

Young readers are kept super-busy as they solve puzzles, are lead around the scenes and quizzed throughout. Can you spot a missing shoe? Where is Little Mouse? And, of course, can you find Migloo on every spread? Plus, a detailed fold-out page displays all the town’s amazing vehicles – fire engines, ice-cream vans, racing cars and fork lift trucks – and there’s a chock-a-block play page at the end, all guaranteed to keep children busy for hours!

Take a look at our adorable Migloo video here and download fun activity sheets to keep young fans busy, here.

Friday 8 April 2016

Sean Taylor's Storytime Videos

We’ve partnered with the fantastically talented Sean Taylor to bring you brand new videos where he reads his brilliant picture books, Don’t Call Me Choochie Pooh!, illustrated by Kate Hindley and Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise, illustrated by Jean Jullien. Best enjoyed with your children in the comfort of your own home!

Without further ado, sit back, relax, and over to Sean Taylor…


Find out more about the books

A hilarious new picture book comedy starring a very small fed-up dog... Not for him being carried in a handbag (how embarrassing!) or eating heart-shaped Mini Puppy Treats (I mean, come ON!) and under absolutely NO circumstances does he ever want to be called Choochie Pooh!  

A laugh-out-loud page turner from masterful storyteller, Sean Taylor with wickedly hilarious graphic art by celebrated graphic artist, Jean Jullien, now available in paperback.


Don’t delay! There are TWO super-special book and print sets to be won, featuring a signed book & print for each of these fabulous books!  To enter, just email your postal address to with 'Storytime' in the subject line before 29th April. Terms and conditions apply.

Wednesday 6 April 2016

Book of the Month: A Brave Bear

‘A brave bear is probably the bravest thing in the world!’

And who is the best at helping a little bear be brave? His dad, of course!

A gorgeous Father's Day gift, that can be enjoyed any day, inspired by the little moments that pass between dads and sons relishing the very simple pleasures of life.

On a day that's as hot as hot can be, when Dad Bear says, "I think a pair of hot bears is probably the hottest thing in the world," Little Bear suggests that they go all the way to the river to cool down. But what will happen when Little Bear tries to impress his dad by doing a big jump across the rocks? 

The youngest of readers will rejoice in Sean Taylor’s warm, gentle storytelling, and  Emily Hughes’ deliciously detailed artwork, bringing to life a hot summer’s day.

We’ve got a special treat on the Picture Book Party blog! Watch Sean Taylor read A Brave Bear by clicking here and look out for Sean Taylor and Emily Hughes’ feature on the making of A Brave Bear next week!

And young bear fans can get busy with our lovely activity sheets - click here.


To celebrate the publication of A Brave Bear we have two exclusive beautiful signed book and print sets up for grabs for all you brave bears out there! To enter, just email your postal address to with 'A Brave Bear' in the subject line before 6th of May. Terms and conditions apply.