Wednesday 8 April 2020

The Tale of a Toothbrush by MG Leonard - Q&A and COMPETITION

To cheer up all our Picture Book Party readers on this fine Thursday, we thought we'd share with you all a behind-the-scenes Q&A with the one and only, M. G. Leonard - author of the brand new The Tale of a Toothbrush: A Story of Plastic in Our Oceans. Make sure to scroll down to download our Toothbrush activity sheets too! 

To make things even better, we even have a wonderful giveaway for you all to enter to be in with a chance to WIN a copy of The Tale of a Toothbrush and your very own bamboo toothbrush boxset from our friends over at Brushbox (more info below).

What inspired you to write The Tale of a Toothbrush?

I’ve been concerned with the pollution of the oceans since 2010, when I read an article about how the ocean as we imagine it doesn’t exist any longer because of the rubbish we’ve thrown into it. I have been noodling with story ideas on the subject for years, but the topic is so vast and so sad I couldn’t see how to approach it without writing something truly depressing, and I am not interested in writing that kind of a story. In 2018 I started working with Lauren St John, creating the movement Authors4Oceans, and became more determined to publish a story about the problem with plastic. This particular story came from a conversation I imagined taking place between an albatross – one of the birds worst affected by ocean pollution – and a toothbrush. I imagined the toothbrush telling the albatross the story of his life and from that sprang the idea for the picture book.

Why, out of all the millions of items of plastic, did you choose a Toothbrush as your protagonist?

It was an instinctive choice. My six-year-old son loves his toothbrush, and I wanted a plastic item that children could relate to, that could be a cheerful bright colour.

What was it like to see Daniel Rieley's illustrations for the first time?

Daniel’s illustrations are beautiful, and as this is my debut picture book, it was the first time I’d seen a story of mine brought to life with so much colour and texture. It was wonderful and surprisingly moving to see Sammy, and the other plastic items brought to life.

What are your top toothbrush re-use tips?

A toothbrush is a very useful item to keep beside your kitchen sink, for cleaning those hard to reach nooks and crannies. They are also brilliant at scrubbing at limescale in your sinks and toilet. Put one in your bike box, for use when cleaning your chain, and if you’re crafty, a toothbrush is a good addition to your artist’s pencil case to create texture. 

For all the kids staying at home, what can they be doing to still keep up their care for the environment?

This is a brilliant time to march around your house and look at the plastic items you use in each room. Make a list of the things that you find in each room, then try and think of a more environmentally friendly item that could replace it. 

For example, you can swap your plastic toothbrush for a bamboo toothbrush. Or you can swap your plastic containers of milk for delivery in glass bottles. Do you have plastic bottles of hand soap? Why not swap them for a bar of soap? 

Just one small change makes a difference. See how many changes you could make.

- MG Leonard

Make sure to download our The Tale of a Toothbrush activity sheets here

ENTER below to WIN your very own copy of The Tale of a Toothbrush: A Story of Plastic in our Oceans by M G Leonard and Daniel Rieley, and your very own bamboo toothbrush boxset from Brushbox, a new sustainable subscription box that really cares about you, others and the environment. It is the most sustainable and convenient way to getting a healthy mouth and a healthy planet!

"Your toothbrush needs replacing more often than you think (dentists recommend replacing your toothbrush every 2 months) so you might as well do it in the most sustainable way possible. Our range of bamboo toothbrushes are 100% recyclable and biodegradable, helping combat the 3.6 billion plastic toothbrushes that end up in our oceans and landfills every year - now there is something to smile about.

Not only are we helping to reduce the plastic waste in our everyday lives but we also promise that every toothbrush bought, we will donate one to a child in need and plant a tree on your behalf. That is our Buy 1, Give 1, Plant 1 promise."

***IMPORTANT: due to the current state of affairs, after the competition closes, the winner will be contacted but some prizes may not be delivered until the country-wide Stay Home period has ceased. COMPETITION CLOSES 27th April, midday***


Monday 6 April 2020

Grow by Nicola Davies and Emily Sutton

To celebrate the publication of Grow by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Emily Sutton, the lovely Nicola wrote a special piece all about DNA. Enjoy!

DNA Tales 

A Letter by Nicola Davies 

I was truly rubbish at genetics at university. Although I was doing a zoology degree I was almost innumerate so the maths involved in genetics just made my little brain hurt. But what I adored was the idea that a single cell could unfold, unfurl, unpack into a whole organism directed and coordinated by a strand of chemical beads.

It may seem completely mad to try and open up a subject as complex as genetics for very young children - but the manifestations of genetics are so much a part of their lives. For a start they grow, and they may see siblings grow from a blurry ultrasound picture into a beloved brother or sister. How many times as children are we told we are like, or not like some member of our family? I can remember vividly the absolute fascination of the identical twins in my school - they seemed like something totally magical. Everyday genetics doesn’t stop there. Long before we had the technology for GM we were selectively breeding plants and animals, manipulating the genetic instructions for building bodies to provide us with food, help and companionship.

Genes shape not only the ‘what’ of our bodies but the ‘how’ and ‘when’ too. One of the things I adore about zoology is the different ways in which species are adapted to their environment and that includes the choreography of development governed by genes. For example, a human new-born, is all head, but the legs are relatively tiny. That’s because human babies can rely on being carried about after birth so it makes sense for their heads to grow and their legs can catch up later. A new-born zebra however is obviously very ‘leggy’ because from birth the most important thing for a zebra to do, is run.

Genes don’t stop working at birth or when you reach maturity, they are at work all the time, governing the maintenance, running, and repair of every bit of you. Their ability to create a whole variety of immune cells which can keep ahead of the ever changing onslaughts from bacteria and viruses has been the driving force behind sex almost from the start of life: we simply can’t generate enough variety to fight infection on our own, so we need to mix our DNA with someone else’s.

TV crime dramas encourage us to think of each person’s DNA being absolutely unique to them. It’s true that some of your DNA is not like anyone else’s, but quite a bit of it is just like the DNA in a fish or even a pot plant. That’s because some of the basic features of your body, such as how your cells produce energy, are the same in most living things. These basic features evolved a really long time ago and the instructions for how to do them haven’t really changed, and have been passed down the millions of generations of living things. The DNA coding for more recently evolved features, such as your hands or the way your brain is put together, is unique to you although very similar to that of other human beings.

It would probably help us at the moment to remember that large parts of our DNA are derived from viruses, which have incorporated themselves into our long list of ‘instructions’. Some are there for their own ends, and some have been tamed by our genes to work in the service of our cells. Although the human genome project sequenced the whole of human DNA, that was really just the start. There are so many things we don’t yet understand such as, why are there so many repeats in our genome, identical sequences of code appearing again and again and making up to two thirds of the total. There are lots of theories about the reasons for this, but the one I like best is that these duplicates provide a folding map, so that the two meter long strand of our DNA can be neatly packed inside the nucleus of almost every cell in our bodies, a space far too small to see without a microscope.

DNA has many stories to tell us, about the long history of life on earth, and when and how the enormous variety of different living things alive today, and in the past, evolved. It can even tell us something about the history of our own species or even our own human families. But perhaps the most important message carried in our DNA is that all human life indeed all life is related, and that all our stories, whatever race, whatever nation or species to which we belong are written in the same language.

- Nicola Davies

Grow is available where all good books are sold!

Friday 3 April 2020

April Book of the Month - Follow Me, Flo! by Jarvis

We’re off to somewhere new. So stick to me like glue. Follow me, Flo! Come on, let’s go! We’re sure to be there soon…

Flo is a very mischievous little duckling who has a penchant for wandering off…
She can't help it, her curiosity is always taking her off on new adventures! Luckily, Daddy Duck has a trick to make sure Flo stays by his side… he sings the FOLLOW SONG.

But on the way to visit Auntie Jenna's house, Flo decides to sing her OWN louder, higher version of the Follow Song ... with surprising and catastrophic results!

From the award-winning creator of Alan’s Big, Scary Teeth comes a hilarious and heartfelt daddy and daughter cautionary tale, sure to get all young readers laughing and singing. 

And boy, do we have the treat for all of our Picture Book Party readers, click the link below to watch a read-along of Follow Me, Flo! read by Jarvis himself! 

We also have our Follow Me, Flo! activity sheets. Simply click here.

Wednesday 1 April 2020

Stay-at-home readings and art class with Chris Haughton

Our very own Chris Haughton, author-illustrator of such favourites as - Oh No, George!, Shh! We Have a Plan, Goodnight Everyone, A Bit Lost, and the soon to be in paperback Don't Worry, Little Crab - is keeping kids across the world busy with his read-alongs, live art tutorials, and activities.

As his activities were featured in the Guardian recently, we thought it was a good opportunity to share some highlights to keep your little ones busy!


Chris has published so many fantastic books, it's hard to choose favourites, so make sure to check them all out. Click on the links below to see more!

Activity Sheets

Make sure you head over to Chris Haughton's website for all your activity sheet needs. They are colourful, simple and joyous! If you finish all of those, we have an abundance of activities in our 'Fun Activities' section here on Picture Book Party, take a look!

Live Readings

Over on Chris Haughton's Facebook page, he is doing live readings and drawing activities, which are then available to rewatch at your leisure.

Upcoming Books

Chris' latest picture book, Don't Worry, Little Crab is the perfect book for little ones right now; it tells the story of a young crab who is anxious to go into the big, scary sea. With the help of Big Crab, he might just be able to do it...

Out in paperback June 2020.

Best wishes from everyone at Walker Books!