Thursday 19 December 2019

Behind the scenes of Pick a Pine Tree!

Read on for a glimpse into the makings of Patricia Toht's festive picture book! 

What gave you the inspiration behind Pick a Pine Tree?

Our family has a fairly large collection of Christmas books that we pull out to read each holiday season. But I discovered that not one focused on decorating a tree. I love that tradition and mined my many fond memories of trimming trees. I had already started a poem about carving pumpkins, too, so Pick a Pine Tree and Pick a Pumpkin developed simultaneously.

What is your writing process for your picture books?

I tend to carry around ideas in my head for a while before I begin to write. It’s a bit like filling a cup with water, drip by drip, until it finally spills over. I’m a poet at heart, so most ideas pour out as poetry. I have wonderful poet friends who help me polish my rhyme and rhythm. My editor, Tanya, is wonderful, too – she’s especially good at catching uniquely American phrases that creep into my writing.

What is your favourite spread from the book?

Oh, that’s such a hard choice! I adore Jarvis’ illustrations. I think the spread of the decorated Christmas tree is brilliant. The decision to turn the book sideways to show a huge, decorated tree was a clever one. And now the gift edition has a tree that pops out! So special.

Do you ever go and pick your own pine tree?

Every year! My husband and I used to take our four children to a tree farm to cut down a tree. That is, until the year it was sleeting, and the kids were complaining, and my husband was on the muddy ground, trying to saw the trunk. Everyone was mad and cold and wet. After that, we decided that perhaps going to a tree lot would be just fine…

What is your favourite part about Christmas?

Biscuits and ornaments! I have a big stash of Christmas recipes that I make each year. My friends love it – because they get the surplus supply! As for ornaments, our children receive new ones each year, usually related to something special that happened that year. We tag them with their names, so that, when they move out, those ornaments will be the first trimmings for their own trees.

How do you decorate your own Christmas tree? 

Lights first, then my husband’s collection of animated ornaments. He has about twenty of them. When they’re plugged in, little motors whir and they move about or light up or play songs. I tuck in a few ornaments from my childhood. The kids then add theirs – including one weapon-toting snowman my youngest son made from toilet paper tubes and cotton balls. Each year, the older kids threaten to set it afire, but it always makes it to the tree in one piece, thank heaven! The final touch is a long, long paper chain made from links that children have added at book signings for Pick a Pine Tree – I’m not sure of the exact length, but it stretches from the front door of our home to the back door!

Wednesday 18 December 2019

Dasher: How a Brave Little Doe Changed Christmas Forever

We've all heard the story of Rudolph, the famous red-nosed reindeer, but how much do we know about Santa's other reindeer who are just as special and important?

Dasher by Matt Tavares is the unheard story of a reindeer who you probably don't know much about (yet!). Her tale begins long before she ever meets Santa...

Dasher is an adventurous young reindeer with a wish in her heart. She spends her days with her family under the hot sun in a travelling circus, but she longs for a different life – one where there is snow beneath her hooves and the North Star above her head.

 And one day, when the opportunity arises, Dasher seizes her destiny and takes off in pursuit of the life she wants to live. It’s not long before she meets a nice man in a red suit with a horse-drawn sleigh, a man named Santa. And soon, with the help of a powerful Christmas wish, nothing will be the same... 

Friday 13 December 2019

Julian at the Wedding! Upcoming sequel to Julian is a Mermaid

We are very excited to share the news that next October, we will be publishing the much-anticipated sequel to Jessica Love's Julian is a Mermaid

Julian at the Wedding is set at a wedding celebration where Julian and a fellow free-spirited child are taking part in the ceremony. The two form a magical friendship while surrounded by a community that embodies love and acceptance.

Here is a sneak peek at the gorgeous interior artwork:

On the success of her debut book, Jessica Love remarked, “My greatest hope was that the first book about Julian would find not only the kids who immediately identify with Julian, but that it would find the kids who don’t immediately understand. I wanted those kids to go on the journey with him, feel empathy when he is downcast, and elation when he finds his people. Because everyone knows what hope, shame, and joy feel like – I hoped that if I made a sort of crumb-trail of emotional identification that would bring everyone who reads the book, regardless of their background or identity, safely through the forest and out into the sunshine. My hope for the next book is that Julian’s journey into the sunshine continues, with continued emphasis on love and acceptance, and a new journey of friendship.”

In case, you haven't heard about Julian is a Mermaid, it's an award-winning picture book written by New-York-based author-illustrator, Jessica Love, which follows young Julian, who wants nothing more than to dress up as a mermaid, but when his Nana catches him in the act, he's unsure how she'll react. It was awarded the Klaus Flugge Prize for Illustration 2019, the Stonewall Book Award 2019, shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway Medal and for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize 2019.

Praise for Julian is a Mermaid:

“celebratory and ground-breaking” - The Sunday Times

“The stand-out title this month is a picture book, Julian Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love. […] In the bravura feat of understated storytelling, the richness of Julian’s free-floating imagination is caught in images layered with colour, movement, muscle and life, celebrating black and Latino experience. Julian invents a tail and flowing hair, and Nana’s acceptance, as she accompanies him on a wild parade of mermaids, will leave the reader filler with joy.” - The Guardian

"Beautiful [...] Magnificent [...] Lovely [...] Magical [...] Gorgeous" - RuPaul

“This utterly gorgeous picture book is great for questioning our gender stereotypes but without being at all preachy." - The Sun

Julian is a Mermaid is available in paperback where all good books are sold!

Wednesday 4 December 2019

The Perfect Bookish Christmas Gifts!

Coming up with great gift ideas year after year can get a little tricky, so if you're currently agonising over what to get your loved ones this holiday season, look no further! We've put together a list of some of our brilliant books that would be great for wrapping and popping under the tree, and some are even small enough to stuff in a stocking! 

1. First up is a vibrant picture book that has stunned the world with it's heartwarming message of unconditional love and acceptance. 

Julian is a Mermaid 

While riding the subway home with his nana one day, Julian notices three women spectacularly dressed up. Their hair billows in brilliant hues, their dresses end in fishtails, and their joy fills the train carriage. When Julian gets home, daydreaming of the magic he’s seen, all he can think about is dressing up just like the ladies and making his own fabulous mermaid costume. But what will Nana think about the mess he makes – and even more importantly – what will she think about how Julian sees himself?

2. Our second rec
ommendation is the final instalment in the hilarious 'shape' trilogy. 


This book is about Circle. This book is also about Circle’s friends, Triangle and Square. Also it is about a rule that Circle makes, and how she has to rescue Triangle when he breaks that rule. With their usual pitch-perfect pacing and subtle, sharp wit, Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen come full circle in the third and final chapter of their clever shapes trilogy.

3. Next we have two board books by the brilliant author-illustrator, Jarvis. Both of these would make lovely stocking fillers! 

Mary Had a Little Lamb

Spot eight bright colours in this goofy twist on the classic nursery rhyme!

From award-winning bookmaker Jarvis, the creator of Alan’s Big, Scary Teeth, Mrs Mole, I’m Home! and Tropical Terry, comes a fresh, very funny first book of colours – perfect for sharing with the very youngest of readers! With bright, beautiful graphics, read-aloud rhymes, and a stylish, sturdy feel, this board book is the perfect gift for a new arrival, and a fantastic addition to a toddler’s first library. 

And our second stocking-filler worthy book by Jarvis is...

This Little Piggy

Count from one to ten while wiggling your toes in this goofy twist on the classic nursery rhyme!

With bright, beautiful graphics, read-aloud rhymes, and a stylish, sturdy feel, this board book is the perfect gift for a new arrival, and a fantastic addition to a toddler’s first library.

4. The picture book fun continues with our next suggestion! 

Don't Worry, Little Crab

In the rockpool above the sea, live two crabs: 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. "JEEPERS!" Will Little Crab be brave enough to go in?

5. Number five on our list is a tale of a small child in a big wide city. A great visual and literary experience, a perfect tale to read while cuddled up in warm blankets in the comfort of your home on a cold winter day.

Small in the City

Being small can be overwhelming in a city. People don't see you. The loud sounds of the sirens and cyclists can be scary. And the streets are so busy it can make your brain feel like there's too much stuff in it. But if you know where to find good hiding places, warm dryer vents that blow out hot steam that smells like summer, music to listen to or friends to say hi to, there can be comfort in the city, too.

6. Children will fall in love with the adorable Tiny and her pet Teeny in Chris Judge's...

Tiny and Teeny

Deep down, in between the blades of grass, lives Tiny with her best friend Teeny. Can you see them? Keep looking … closer still … squint a bit … yes, there they are! Tiny and Teeny keep very busy in the buzzing place of Glengadget. Every day of the week, they have a different neighbour to meet – they do some gardening for Mandy Small, read to Bitsy McGee and give Minkin a hand with her lively twins. But when disaster strikes, Tiny and Teeny find their teeny-tiny world turned upside down…

7. This next picture book is an absolute must-have for all budding bookworms, now available in paperback! 

A Child of Books

Described by The Guardian as a "gorgeous homage to the power of the written word" this is an inspiring lyrical tale about the rewards of reading and sharing stories, a little girl sails her raft "across a sea of words" to arrive at the house of a small boy. There she invites him to come away with her on an adventure. Through forests of fairy tales and across mountains of make-believe, the two travel together on a fantastical journey that unlocks the boy’s imagination. Now a lifetime of magic lies ahead of him… But who will be next?

8. What's a better gift for a young loved one than a big, colourful book that's also educational? If you think the same then fret not, the book below is the answer to your present purchasing problems! 

Africa, Amazing Africa

Atinuke's beautifully-written text captures Africa’s unique mix of the modern and the traditional, as she explores its geography, its peoples, its animals, its history, its resources and its cultural diversity. This is non-fiction at its most exciting, exhilarating and energetic, illustrated with passion and commitment by a great new talent, Mouni Feddag.

9. Next up is a real treat of a picture book!

Beast Feast

Beast has found a tasty dinner, and he's written to all his friends to invite them to a feast. Unfortunately, Dinner is a child who very much does not want to be eaten. As Beast's friends send their instructions for cooking Dinner, is there any way Dinner can convince Beast to change his menu? A vibrant and charming interactive book with hilarious letters to open.

10. What do we often find ourselves saying to children who ask questions we don't quite have the answers to? The title of Mac Barnett's and Isabelle Arsenault's book may just give you a hint...

Just Because

"Why is the ocean blue? What is rain? What happened to the dinosaurs?"

Little ones and their parents will be charmed and delighted as a patient father offers up increasingly creative responses to his child’s night-time wonderings. Any child who has ever asked “Why?” – and any parent who has attempted an explanation – will recognize themselves in this sweet storybook for dreamers who are looking for answers beyond “Just because”.

11. Who said Shakespeare was just for grown ups? Here's a remake of one of Shakespeare's most famous plays that can be enjoyed by all ages! 

The Tempest

The story is told from the perspective of Ariel, in language that is true to the original play but accessible to all. With shimmering, exquisite illustrations by the acclaimed artist Jane Ray, this captivating retelling is a magical way to introduce children to one of the best-loved works of the world’s greatest playwright.

12. You may just recognise our next recommendation, but this time it's got a fun added feature! 

We're Going on a Bear Hunt: Sound Book

For thirty years, readers have been swishy-swashing and splash-sploshing through this award-winning favorite. Now, follow and join in the adventure by wading through grass, splashing through the river, and squelching through the mud in search of a bear. This sturdy interactive board book edition of the family favourite would make a great stocking filler! 

13. Last, but certainly not least, we have Susan Cooper's...

The Shortest Day

As the sun set on the shortest day of the year, early people would gather to prepare for the long night ahead. They built fires and lit candles. They played music, bringing their own light to the darkness, while wondering if the sun would ever rise again...

Richly illuminated by Carson Ellis, this beautiful book evokes the joy and community found in the ongoing mystery of life when we celebrate light, thankfulness, and festivity at a time of rebirth. 

Monday 2 December 2019

Win Christmas books and a Tea & Biscuit Lover’s Hamper!


Here's our selection of the perfect books to read and enjoy with your loved ones this festive season. Keep scrolling for the chance to win all of these beautiful books, and more!

1. Pick a Pine Tree by Patricia Toht and Jarvis

A brand new midi-edition of Jarvis and Patricia Toht's beautiful, irresistible Christmas gift book that all begins with … picking a pine tree! Brimming over with the excitement of being with family at the festive season, a gorgeously rhythmical, read-aloud narrative accompanied by warm, joyful art celebrates all the familiar rituals of decorating the tree – from digging out jam-packed boxes of trimmings, stringing tinsel to, at last, turning on those twinkly fairy lights. With a stunning pop-up of a Christmas tree, all shining and sparkling, this is a must-have for any household with children. 

2. Maisy's Christmas Letters by Lucy Cousins 

Maisy is throwing a Christmas party! When her friends R.S.V.P., they send other Christmas surprises including an advent calendar, decorations, a gingerbread recipe and more. This story includes six real envelopes containing Christmas cards, gifts, decorations and a special letter from Maisy to personalise.

3. Dasher by Matt Tavares

Dasher is an adventurous young reindeer with a wish in her heart. She spends her days with her family under the hot sun in a travelling circus, but she longs for a different life – one where there is snow beneath her hooves and the North Star above her head. And one day, when the opportunity arises, Dasher seizes her destiny and takes off in pursuit of the life she wants to live. It’s not long before she meets a nice man in a red suit with a horse-drawn sleigh, a man named Santa. And soon, with the help of a powerful Christmas wish, nothing will be the same...

4. The Night Before Christmas and Other Festive Favourites by Clement C. Moore and N. Puttapipat 

Nothing spreads the spirit of the season quite like the three Christmas classics brought together in this stunning gift book. The unforgettable poem The Night Before Christmas, the joyful song Jingle Bells and the beloved ballet story The Nutcracker are presented here for the first time in one lavish book with stunning artwork by Natee Puttapipat.

5. Angel on the Roof by Shirley Hughes

In this heart-warming Christmas story, by celebrated author Shirley Hughes, a young boy called Lewis Brown is looking out of a window and wishing that someone might notice him. Then he spots a single golden feather floating down from the heavens and discovers an angel on the roof. And so begins a great friendship, as the angel takes Lewis under his wing on an adventure that will change everything, and allow Lewis, his family and his friends, to start to see the world around them for the better.