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. 

Wednesday 15 February 2017

World Illustration Awards 2017 and 2018

This week we were very excited to announce that Walker Books have just been confirmed as the Children’s Book category sponsor of the 2017 and 2018 World Illustration Award!

We’re so proud to become partners with the prestigious WIA, an award presented by the Association of Illustrators and the Directory of Illustration that celebrates the most inspiring illustration throughout the world.

Deirdre McDermott, Picture Book Publisher and Creative Director of Walker Books, says:
“Walker Books has a reputation for discovering and nurturing the very best of illustration talent, and creating the finest visual storytelling experiences by publishing great picture books all round the world. We strive to build mutually rewarding relationships with artists without compromising either their creativity or their vision. 

We are really proud to become partners with the prestigious World Illustration Awards, whose creative integrity matches our own. Walker are thrilled to collaborate with the WIA to become the children’s books category sponsor of the awards for the next two years, and we look forward to supporting and enhancing our shared vision internationally.”

Helen Renwick, Managing Director of the AOI says:
“The World Illustration Awards shine a light on the very best of global illustration, and there is no better partner to do that with than Walker Books, with their enviable history of inspirational and much loved books.”

In 2016 the WIA received over 2000 entries from 62 countries which are judged by an international panel of leading professionals.

The deadline of 6 February has been extended to midnight 20 February 2017 (UK time) to allow further entrants to submit work. 

Award winners will be announced at a prestigious ceremony at Somerset House, the major arts and cultural center in the heart of London in August 2017. Selected works will be displayed in the Embankment Galleries, which welcomed over 12,000 visitors during August for the WIA2016 exhibition. Following this, the exhibition will go on tour to multiple venues across the UK.

For more information on how to enter, please visit: http://www.theaoi.com/awards/

Tuesday 14 February 2017

Who do you love right up to the moon – and back?

Sometimes, when you love someone very, very much, you want to find a way of describing how much you treasure them. But, as Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare discover, love is not always an easy thing to measure!

Tell someone how much you love them
If you’re looking for a unique Valentine’s gift for someone special today, our shimmering, shining pearl-like sweetheart edition of the classic Guess How Much I Love You is the perfect way to say "I love you" to your valentine. With the original story and classic illustrations of the Nutbrown Hares, this beautifully compact gift edition will charm just about anyone.

Colour with care, share with love
For the more creative sweethearts out there, the brand new Guess How Much I Love You Colouring Book features 96 stunning pages of intricate designs, enchanting patterns and illustrations from the original book for a moment of calm and peace.

Guess How Much I Love You has captivated readers of all ages for over two decades, beloved by parents and children around the world. We caught up with some families across the country celebrating Valentine’s Day by reading Guess How Much I Love You with their children…

Share the love and pick up a copy of Guess How Much I Love You at your local bookshop today!

"This is a book which both parents and children adore..." The Guardian

Monday 13 February 2017

Rachel Stubbs wins the Sebastian Walker Award for Illustration

On Thursday we were thrilled to announce Rachel Stubbs as the winner of this year’s Sebastian Walker Award for Illustration! The ceremony in London was a lively occasion and Rachel was delighted to receive her £500 prize, which came as a complete surprise to her.

Rachel, who has a BA in illustration from Falmouth and an MA from the Cambridge School of Art, was chosen as the winner because of the “grace of her line, her keen sense of composition and the simple elegant stories that we saw in her portfolio”, said our picture book publisher Deirdre McDermott.

”Every year I look forward to seeing the contents of the portfolios we judge for this prize – it’s incredibly exciting for Walker to be at the forefront of discovering brand new illustration talent in the UK and to be a part of the grassroots support for the artists just starting in the industry,” said McDermott. “Picture books continue to be vital in the formative days of our children’s lives and it’s a great honour to continue to build on the strong tradition for quality publishing from Walker with new talent.”

She added: “Rachel makes equally strong use of the space around her art – great illustration is as much about what you leave out as what you put into the picture. We also particularly admired Rachel’s limited palette and her use of hand drawn typography.”

We set up the Sebastian Walker Award for Illustration six years ago, in partnership with Anglia Ruskin’s Cambridge School of Art and their MA course in Children’s Book Illustration, to honour our founder Sebastian Walker. Previous winners include Heidi Deedman, Becky Palmer and Simona Ciraolo. You can read all about the award here.

Check out Rachel Stubbs’ illustrations on her website: http://rachelceliastubbs.com/ and see artwork by the other entries on the Cambridge MA website: www.cambridgemashow.com.

Look out for a special feature on The Guardian’s online gallery next Wednesday featuring a selection of the artwork from the show, including work by Rachel Stubbs!

Wednesday 8 February 2017

The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse to publish this October!

This week we’re super excited to announce that we’ll be publishing a brand new beautiful picture book by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen this autumn!  The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse is an unparalleled new comedy about a woeful mouse who is swallowed by a wolf and quickly learns he is not alone. A duck has already set up a lovely little home, rife with delicious food and elegant table settings, courtesy of the wolf’s unchecked gluttony. This charming story offers the signature wit and whimsy that readers of all ages have come to expect from Barnett and Klassen. 

Liz Bicknell, executive editorial director and associate publisher of our sister company Candlewick Press, says, “We all know about Jonah and the whale and the old woman who swallowed a fly, but here comes a fresh offering in the pantheon of ‘swallowed but doing just fine’ stories: a simple delectable feast, perfect for storytime.”

The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse will release globally the week of October 9. Watch this space!

Meet Mac Barnett
Mac Barnett is the author of many award-winning books for children, including Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, illustrated by Jon Klassen, which received a Caldecott Honor, the E. B. White Read-Aloud Award, and an Irma S. and James H. Black Award and was short-listed for the Kate Greenaway Medal. He is also the author of Triangle, the first in the shapes trilogy, illustrated by Jon Klassen, which will debut in March 2017. He writes the Terrible Two series with Jory John and the Brixton Brothers series of mysteries, and is the author of President Taft Is Stuck in the Bath, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen, and the Caldecott Honor-winning Extra Yarn, illustrated by Jon Klassen. Mac Barnett lives in California. Check out other books by Mac Barnett here.

Meet Jon Klassen
Jon Klassen is the creator of the much-acclaimed hat trilogy, which includes the #1 New York Times bestseller I Want My Hat Back, the Caldecott Medal and Kate Greenaway Medal winner This Is Not My Hat, and the best-selling conclusion We Found a Hat. He is also the illustrator of two Caldecott Honor books, Extra Yarn and Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, both written by Mac Barnett, as well as the New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Children’s Book of the Year  House Held Up by Trees, written by Ted Kooser. Originally from Niagara Falls, Ontario, Jon Klassen now lives in Los Angeles. Check out other books by Jon Klassen here.

Monday 6 February 2017

We’re Going On A Bear Hunt is out on DVD!

Did you catch the animation of We're Going on a Bear Hunt on Channel 4 over Christmas? If you loved it as much as we did you'll be excited to hear that it's now out on DVD! 

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt follows the adventure of siblings Stan, Katie, Rosie, Max, the baby and Rufus the dog, who decide one day to embark on a search of bears. As they come up against a host of obstacles and battle through whirling snowstorms, thick oozing mud and dark forests on their ambitious quest. But when Rosie and Rufus become detached from the rest of the party it looks like bear-hunting might not be such fun after all... 

Check out the trailer:

You can find out all about the making of it too, because the DVD also includes a 5 minute behind the scenes documentary, plus three ‘The Art of Bear Hunt’ featurettes. You'll also get a free pair of bear ears with every DVD!


We have a special Bear Hunt goody bag to give away, including a copy of the brand new DVD and a gorgeous Bear Hunt plush toy! To enter, just email competitions@walker.co.uk with your name and address and 'Bear Hunt DVD' in the subject line. Competition closes on 28th February 2017. Good luck!

Terms and conditions apply.

Top five picture book picks for February

It's February (already!) and here at Walker HQ we're having an early spring clean and refreshing our bookshelves. From busy birds to accident-prone squirrels, we've got a great new selection of books out this month, perfect for updating your little one's library. Here are our top five picks!

From Mo Willems, the multi award-winning creator of the Pigeon series and the Knuffle Bunny trilogy, comes a hilarious new tongue-twister read-aloud about a little girl, Nanette, on a mission to buy a baguette. It's Nanette's very first solo trip to the bakery. But will Nanette get the baguette from baker Juliette? Or will Nanette soon be beset with regret? Set in a meticulously handcrafted-paper-modelled French village, the uniquely vibrant laugh-out-loud world of Nanette's Baguette may be Mo's best creation yet. Get set to "crack" into an irresistible tale you won't soon forget!

"If there’s a living creator of children’s books who stands a chance of occupying a cultural position akin to a Dr. Seuss, it’s Mr. Willems" The New York Times

From children's author and illustrator, Paula Metcalf, comes a witty and fun-filled story of friendship. Walter is really a very neat and tidy dog. His house is his pride and joy and he gets quite nervous when guests come round... When his best friend Pansy asks to stay, though, Walter is so excited! She's just a teeny weeny squirrel after all, how much trouble can she possibly be?! But when Pansy tries her very best to be helpful things just seem to keep going wrong! Nothing – from Walter's trousers to his curtains to his beloved brand-new teapot – is safe from accident-prone Pansy! Is she turning out to be the worst guest there ever was?

A fresh, warm-hearted story of finding new friendship from Daisy Hirst, one of the most exciting new voices in children's storytelling.
In her truly authentic and original voice, Daisy Hirst, creator of Alphonse, That Is Not OK To Do! introduces two loveable new characters to the picture book world. Hilda the pot-bellied pig lives at the foot of a hill. Life is uneventful and she is always where she expects herself to be. At the top of the hill lives a mischievous baby who is never ever where people expect him to be, which is why he is known as the Runaway Baby. But on a high-speed escapade in a pram, the Runaway Baby and Hilda’s worlds collide ... and an unlikely friendship begins.

Peck, hop, flap and make some noise in this story full of colour, rhyme and feathered friends!

Flap your wings, fly up high, open your beak and sing in this fun action rhyme story about fantastical birds by multi-award-winning author Lucy Cousins. "Can you imagine ... just for one day ... you're a busy bird? Yes, a bird! Hooray!" Can you stand on one leg like a flamingo or waddle like a penguin? How about say "cock-a-doodle-doo!", "tuwit-tuwoo" and even "tra-la-la"? What a busy day you will have! A bouncy read-aloud book to be enjoyed; beautifully illustrated with bold, bright colours and packed with all sorts of wild and wonderful birds!

What’s an adorably small canine with a big personality to do?

From Sean Taylor, the author of Hoot Owl, Master ofDisguise, and Kate Hindley, illustrator of Worst in Show, comes a hilarious new picture book comedy starring a very small fed-up dog... This dog doesn't want to be carried in a handbag (how embarrassing!) or eat heart-shaped Mini Puppy Treats (I mean, come ON!) and under no circumstances does he ever want to be called ... Choochie Pooh! If only his owner understood. All he wants to do is play with the big dogs in the park – chase sticks, jump in muddy puddles and be an ordinary, proper dog.

“Quirky, amusing and original. We have read this countless times already” – LoveReading

You can pick up all these books at your local bookshop!

Wednesday 1 February 2017

A Busy Day for Birds by Lucy Cousins

"Can you imagine ... just for one day ... you're a busy bird? Yes, a bird! Hooray!"

Flap, hop, peck and sing along with lots of busy birds in A Busy Day for Birds, the brand new action rhyme story by Lucy Cousins, creator of Maisy.  Can you stand on one leg like a flamingo or waddle like a penguin? How about say "cock-a-doodle-doo!", "tuwit-tuwoo" and even "tra-la-la"? What a busy day you will have! Beautifully illustrated with bold, bright colours and packed with all sorts of wild and wonderful birds, this bouncy read-aloud is perfect for little ones aged 2+.

We went behind the scenes with author-illustrator Lucy Cousins and found out all about the making of the book in this video…

“Enormous fun, a joyful celebration of birds and indeed life.” Fiona Noble, The Bookseller


We have five A Busy Day for Birds goody bags to give away, each including a signed copy of the book, a limited edition print, a poster and stickers! To enter, just answer this question:

Which bird stands on one leg?
a) A flamingo
b) An owl
c) A penguin

Email your answer along with your name and address to competitions@walker.co.uk with ‘Birds' in the subject line for your chance to win. Competition closes on 28th February 2017. Terms and conditions apply.

Pick up a copy of A Busy Day for Birds in your local bookshop.
Join in the fun and download our free A Busy Day for Birds activity sheets.