Thursday 3 December 2020

Our top Christmas picture book gifts!

As Christmas draws ever closer, we wanted to share with you all some of our picture book highlights from 2020, all perfect gifts for the little ones in your life! 

Santa Post
by Emma Yarlett

Santa receives letters of Christmas wishes from children all over the world. But this year there's one that just doesn't make sense. What does this child want for Christmas? Santa is determined to find out! An irresistible festive follow-up to the internationally bestselling Dragon Post and Beast Feast. This joyous novelty book sparkles with Emma Yarlett’s vibrant illustrations and quirky humour, and is full of lots more hilarious letters to open.

Click here to download our Santa Post activity sheets and watch our trailer below!

Honey For You, Honey For Me
by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Chris Riddell


Flying pigs, wobbling plates of jelly and a giant with a terrible fear of mice: welcome to the topsy-turvy world of nursery rhymes. Inspired by his lifelong fascination with these wonderful, riddling rhymes, Michael Rosen has placed familiar playground songs beside forgotten gems for a seminal new collection, which Chris Riddell has brought to vivid life with his magnificent, exuberant pictures. Expect familiar faces, from little Jumping Joan to Miss Mary Mack-Mack-Mack – but also plenty of mischievous surprises. With over thirty rhymes to choose between, this is a book for families to share and treasure.

Join Michael as he reads from his new collection of nursery rhymes, Honey For You, Honey for Me below!

The Midnight Fair

by Gideon Sterer and illustrated by Mariachiara Di Giorgio

A spectacular, surreal and cinematic wordless picture book about the secret life of animals.

Far from the city, but not quite in the countryside, lies a fairground. When night falls, and the fair is empty, something unexpected happens. Wild animals emerge from the trees, a brave raccoon pulls a lever, and the rollercoasters and rides explode back into bright, neon life. Now it’s time for the woodland creatures to have some fun…

Ella's Night Lights
by Lucy Fleming

    If you look very carefully at the night sky, you might spot a teeny-tiny sparkle out of the corner of your eye, a whisper of a tinkling trail… That’s Ella.

Ella has always dreamed of seeing the sunrise. But with her delicate gossamer wings, she can only come out at night. So, when the moon is high, she collects as many shimmering beams of light she can find – a twinkle from a star, the glow from a lamp post. With her light, she guides lost and lonely animals and finds friendship in Fox and Owl. And, together, Ella’s animal friends know just how to return her kindness... A gentle, tender storybook about friendship and the power of kindness.

Click here to download Lucy Fleming's Ella's Night Lights activity sheet.

Julian at the Wedding
by Jessica Love

Julian and his nana are attending a wedding. Better yet, Julian is in the wedding along with his cousin Marisol. When wedding duties are fulfilled and with a new dog friend in tow, the pair takes off to roam the venue, exploring everywhere from underneath tables to enchanting willow trees to ... muddy puddles? After all, it wouldn’t be a wedding without fun, laughter and a little magical mischief. With ingenuity and heart, author-illustrator Jessica Love tells a charming story of friendship, acceptance and celebration.

Click here to download our Julian at the Wedding activity sheets!

Norse Tales: Stores From Across the Rainbow Bridge
by Kevin Crossley-Holland and illustrated Jeffrey Alan Love

Enter an ancient world of green glades and glaciers, where gods and goddesses spread their magic whilst rock-giants and mountain-trolls roam. This astonishing new collection of Norse tales from the award-winning Kevin Crossley-Holland – with Jeffrey Alan Love’s arresting illustrations – will enthral readers of all ages.

Will You Be My Friend?
by Sam McBratney and illustrated Anita Jeram

You fell in love with the Nutbrown Hares in Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram’s classic picture book, Guess How Much I Love You, and now they’re back in a brand new story, Will You Be My Friend?

Little Nutbrown Hare sets off exploring on his own. Off he hops along the path and through the grass until he reaches Cloudy Mountain, where something extraordinary happens: he discovers a new friend. This gentle story of burgeoning independence and first friendship will resonate with readers of all ages. Told with the sweetness and simplicity that are the hallmark of Sam McBratney’s writing, and illustrated in Anita Jeram’s signature style, it’s destined to become another beloved family read-aloud.

Click here to download our Will You Be My Friend? activity sheets and watch our trailer below!

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 there is 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 to download our Rain Before Rainbows activity sheets and to watch a very special reading from the one and only Stanley Tucci!

Where Snow Angels Go
by Maggie O'Farrell and illustrated by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazinni

Where Snow Angels Go is the extraordinary and compelling modern fairy tale from award-winning storyteller Maggie O'Farrell, with gorgeous illustrations by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini. Read more about this perfectly wintery tale below, and make sure to watch our snowy trailer, and try our snowflake-filled activity sheets.  

Sylvie wakes one night, suddenly, without knowing why. Then she sees the most spectacular sight – a pair of wings, enormous in size, made of the softest snow-white feathers imaginable. An angel in her bedroom … a snow angel. 

Where Snow Angels Go has been chosen as the Independent Bookshops' Children's Book of the Month for November. Read more here

Click here to download our Where Snow Angels Go activity sheets, watch our trailer below and click here to watch our launch event with both Maggie and Daniela!


All of these wonderful picture books are now available from all good booksellers!

Santa Post - Guest Blog Post

It's an absolute pleasure to invite Emma Yarlett onto Picture Book Party to tell us all about her new picture book, Santa Post

Santa receives letters of Christmas wishes from children all over the world. But this year there's one that just doesn't make sense. What does this child want for Christmas? Santa is determined to find out!

An irresistible festive follow-up to the internationally bestselling Dragon Post and Beast Feast, this joyous novelty book sparkles with Emma Yarlett’s vibrant illustrations and quirky humour, and is full of lots more hilarious letters to open.

Click here to download our Santa Post activity sheets. 

The perfect gift for anyone writing a letter to Santa!

Q&A with Emma Yarlett

What was the inspiration behind Santa Post?
Christmas is my favourite time of year. I love the early dark evenings and starry night skies, the cold bright breath-clouding wintery days, and the feeling of being toasty and warm in fluffy socks, boots and padded coats. I’ve never done a themed book for a specific time of year before, and I decided it was about time to get into the spirit of things and create a book which felt like a warm winter hug full of all the festive folktales of Christmas characters and traditional tales.

Having written and illustrated two ‘post’ books with Walker before (Dragon Post, Beast Feast) it felt like a perfect opportunity to explore the Christmas themes within a postal framework (I mean who doesn’t love receiving Christmas cards and presents!?)… and so the book was born!

Tell us a little bit more about your process?

This was the first book that I created since having my daughter, and so it was a lot more of a juggle than my books have been before! We also moved house right in the middle of this book project – and so my attention was being pulled here there and everywhere. It was the last book project I worked upon in my little studio by the sea in Falmouth before I moved my studio home to our new house.

The process started with a lot of thinking and scribbling words and tiny pictures on paper. Once I have thoroughly thought through, around, above and below the idea I then poke the best ideas into a semblance of an order – paying special attention to the story arc. This arc was a bit of a tricky one, as the final ‘Santa gift’ was a tricky one to decide upon – and it had a big effect on all of the previous parts of the book. But when the final gift was eventually decided upon – everything fell into place quite smoothly.

Santa was a tricky chap to pin down too – as I didn’t want to modernise him too much from a traditional looking Santa, but at the same time wanted him to look as though he lives and breaths in our world today. He had a few guises until he finally became the Santa you see in Santa Post.

Do you have a favourite spread in the book?

I loved creating the artwork for this book – although it was strange working on something so festive when it wasn’t Christmas (I painted this book in January – March). I think my favourite double-page spread has to be of the elf workshop. It was one of the first ideas I had when thinking up the book, and with a little bit of finessing and backwards and forwards, I think it came together really well. I loved adding in all the little pieces of detail to help bring the different elves that appear on the page to life. I also had a little fun having one of the elves re-enacting one of my favourite scenes from the film Elf (see if you can spot it!).


What’s on your Christmas list this year?

Having just moved house – it’s really lots of things I’m very excited about, but perhaps to everyone else seems very boring indeed! Interior design books, cosy socks (our floors are in a questionable state), and an eye wateringly expensive but very feng shui toilet brush! But, it is really nice. Right? Right!?


What was your favourite picture book when you were a child?

I didn’t have a favourite one that I would always hark too, for me it was all about quantity… I absorbed as many books as I could! To name but a few… Five Minutes Peace, Where the Wild Things Are, The Blue Balloon, I Want My Potty, The Jolly Postman, Funny Bones, The Snowman, The Spot series, The Rainbow Fish, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Burglar Bill…

A special thank you to our guest author-illustrator this week, Emma Yarlett!

Santa Post is now available to buy from all good booksellers.

The Hanukkah Magic of Nate Gadol

With the beginning of Hanukkah just a week away, we wanted to share with our Picture Book Party readers the beautiful new picture book The Hanukkah Magic of Nate Gadol from Arthur A. Levine, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes. We're also very lucky to have a note on the book from the author himself, and some activity sheets! 

Nate Gadol is a great big spirit with eyes as shiny as golden coins and a smile that is lantern bright. He can make anything last as long as it is needed, like a tiny bit of oil that must stretch for eight nights, a flower that needs to stay fresh to cheer up someone ailing, or a small lump of chocolate that grows to allow the Glaser family to treat their children over the holiday and, during a harsh winter when medicine is needed more than sweets, spurs them to share what little they have with the O’Malleys. 

In this charming holiday hybrid story, well-known children’s author and editor Arthur A. Levine pairs with award-winning illustrator Kevin Hawkes to offer a mythical, magical take on the way Jewish families came to give and receive gifts over Hanukkah, just as their Christian neighbours do at Christmas, thanks to a loving spirit named Nate Gadol working behind the scenes – together with a certain jolly old soul.

Author's Note

I grew up in a family that observed all our Jewish holidays with relish. We lit candles and sang blessings every Friday night for Shabbat. I dressed up as King Ahasuerus for the Purim parade and ate candy apples at shul. We decorated the sukkah, scoured the house, and brought out bright-yellow dairy plates for Passover. But Hanukkah held a special place for me as a child. And it wasn’t just the dreidel games at the family party and the latkes! Oh, latkes! For sure it was also the anticipation of . . . presents.

Hanukkah celebrations have long borrowed from extra-Jewish culture. One of the classic holiday songs, “Maoz Tsur” (“Sheltering Rock”), drew its tune from two popular German folk songs in the sixteenth century. Dreidels came from a central European gambling game in the 1500s. But it turns out that present giving on Hanukkah is a peculiarly American innovation. As far back as the late 1800s, settling into our new home as the fear of pogroms in the old country began to fade, we looked for ways to experience and express the first whiffs of economic progress. And one of the ways that seemed most satisfying to parents was buying gifts for their children. 

This sparked what has been called the “Hanukkah industry.” Historian Dianne Ashton, author of Hanukkah in America, tells us that Yiddish newspapers of the time started to make money by running advertisements for holiday gifts and that “‘presents’ was among the first English words to appear in Yiddish newspapers.” 

There’s still debate about whether or not this was a good thing, but I can raise my hand as one little boy who was anything but ambivalent. 

And yet presents didn’t completely overcome, for me and many others, the challenge of being a Jewish child during Christmas. It was hard not to feel what we now call “erasure” as advertisements, holiday specials, and school concerts made the time of year seem like one reserved for Christians. Christmas decorations made everything pretty, with twinkling lights and festive wreaths everywhere, but not for us. And Christmas creativity was everywhere—such great songs (many written by Jews, but still), such great food, and such great stories!

I always felt, “Hey, these stories don’t even really have anything to do with religion!” Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? “Frosty the Snowman”? SANTA CLAUS? Even How the Grinch Stole Christmas! They came out at Christmastime, but they were part of a whole wonderful supplementary mythology.

In my memories, and especially lately, with my own son, I have often wished that we could build up a bit more mythology too. In the same way that new recipes for matzah brei or a beautiful new piece of music can enhance our experience without changing the religious observance and meaning of Jewish holidays, I wanted to do that with a story. I hope you enjoy!

- Arthur A. Levine

Click here to download our Hanukkah Magic of Nate Gadol activity sheets! 

Wednesday 2 December 2020

The Song of the Nightingale - Illustrator Q&A

We're over the moon to invite Laura Carlin onto Picture Book Party blog to tell us all about the making of her new picture book, The Song of the Nightingale, written by Tanya Landman.

Guest Illustrator Q&A - Laura Carlin

Can you tell us a little bit more about your artistic process? 

I am very old fashioned in the way I work! I still work entirely on paper. 
After receiving the text, I think about the story and start coming up with ideas. I collect pictures, artists or photographs that inspire me. I make many versions at once to try and retain energy and play within a piece. The rough, then the final process doesn't work for me because it's too scary trying to produce a 'final'. I work in a mixture of coloured pencils, acrylic and watercolour paints. Sometimes I work in 3D and with a photographer. I try hard to come up with a 'world' for each story, and that includes the materials I use.

When did you know that you wanted to make picture books? 

Throughout University and my MA, I always assumed I was too macabre for children's books. I was also ignorant of how important they are. I was extremely lucky to be commissioned by Liz Wood at Walker Books to illustrate The Iron Man by Ted Hughes. I started to realise how influential, inspiring and magical children's books were for me as a child - and now as an illustrator and mother.

Do you have a favourite spread in the book? 

I loved illustrating this story and enjoyed several spreads. But it might be the sleeping cheetahs as the nightingale flies towards the painter. I always like the bit before the action takes place. I also appreciate that, as the illustrator, I can add these details - the animals beginning to go to sleep - to Tanya's beautiful text.

What was your favourite animal to draw? 

The mandrill with the colourful bottom!

What was your favourite Picture Book when you were a child? 

Father Christmas Goes on Holiday by Raymond Briggs - I love how moody he is! Or Brambly Hedge.

- Laura Carlin

A special thanks to our guest illustrator this week, Laura Carlin!

The Song of the Nightingale is now available to buy from all good booksellers.

Tuesday 1 December 2020

The Song of the Nightingale - Author Q&A

We're thrilled to invite Tanya Landman onto Picture Book Party blog to tell us all about the making of her new picture book, The Song of the Nightingale, illustrated by Laura Carlin.

The earth was young and full of colour. But the animals were dull and drab. The painter decided: something must be done! With dabs and sweeps the painter's brush creates the stripes on the zebra, the sharp suit of the penguin and the bright splashes on parrots. But what can he give the nightingale when his paintbox has run dry? A beautiful and gently moving tale from the award-winning Tanya Landman and Laura Carlin.

Guest Author Q&A - Tanya Landman

What was the inspiration behind The Song of the Nightingale?
I first heard the story when I was about twenty. I can’t actually remember where or when but (*SPOILER*) the image of a drop of gold on the back of the throat really caught my imagination. It was one of those deeply satisfying stories that has every listener sighing at the end.

About ten years later I started living and working with Rod Burnett, the artist and a puppeteer who later became my husband. In the bedroom of a shared basement flat, we were building a show for the two of us to perform together – a version of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Nightingale.

I remember very clearly the day when the two of us decided to take a break. It was sunny so we went outside to sit on the triangle of grass over the road. We were both really bothered because somehow the show was lacking something. The beginning didn’t quite work. It needed something extra to really draw people in. That was when the story I’d heard years ago about how the nightingale got its voice rose to the surface again. I told the bare bones of it to Rod, he was as enchanted as I had been when I’d first heard it. So we used the tale as the opening of the show to great success.

And then – another ten years or so later when we’d had two children and moved to Devon – I started writing books. I’d already done Waking Merlin for Walker but also submitted a whole pile of other ideas including The Song of the Nightingale.

My then editor loved it, but it was problematic. For various reason, creation stories are a hard sell, so I had to find another way of approaching it. Basically, I needed to tell a creation story without actually mentioning God. It was tricky. I went through so many drafts, I tried so many different angles!

But eventually, I came up with a version that discarded the creation aspect altogether and just focussed on the animals being drab and colourless. Who better to brighten them up than a painter?

Tell us a little bit more about your writing process.  

I started writing when our children were toddlers. Rod was performing solo shows by then and was away on tour for sometimes weeks at a time. I had to keep an eye on the boys while I worked so there was no locking myself away in a writer’s shed! I started off in a corner of the kitchen and that’s where I still work now, almost twenty years later. I can only write when I’m alone these days because I tend to do the voices of my characters out loud to get them right before committing their words to the page. Small children are happy to ignore such eccentricities, but now both boys are grown up I get strange looks. So I usually write in the early mornings when the house is quiet.
What was it like to see Laura Carlin’s illustrations for the first time?
I will never, ever forget that day! It was March 13th 2020 – the last time I was in London. I remember wishing I hadn’t travelled there - the atmosphere was very tense and strange because of Covid 19. Women in the Ladies at Paddington were hand washing as if they were auditioning for Lady Macbeth. Everywhere there was a nervous talk of lockdown and why it was taking the government so long to act. The fearful mood in the Underground had me thoroughly unsettled by the time I got to the Walker offices.

But then the designer showed me Laura’s illustrations for the first time and I was transported somewhere else, somewhere full of joy and magic.
I’m a writer. Words are my thing. But it’s hard to properly describe the sensation of seeing those spreads for the first time. It was utterly overwhelming. Laura’s illustrations literally took my breath away and I know they will do the same to adult and child readers alike.
Do you have a favourite spread in the novel?
I think they’re all magnificent. But my favourite has to be the whale.

What was your favourite Picture Book when you were a child?
Where the Wild Things Are. It fascinated and terrified me in equal measure and I returned to it over and over again. I used to practice staring without blinking once, just in case a forest should ever start to grow in my room (a skill that later came in handy when giving talks to Year 9's).

Tanya Landman

A special thanks to our guest author this week, Tanya Landman!

The Song of the Nightingale is now available to buy from all good booksellers.