Archives for July 2017

July 28, 2017 - Comments Off on Kate Wakeling’s Top Writing Tips

Kate Wakeling’s Top Writing Tips

Today we’re over the moon to share some superb tips for freeing the imagination and putting pen to paper from a very special poet – Kate Wakeling, recent winner of the 2017 CLiPPA .

Previously won by a roster of remarkable poets (including Sarah Crossan, Michael Rosen, Roger McGough, George Szirtes, Carol Ann Duffy and John Agard), the prestigious CLiPPA – the only award for published poetry for children – was launched in 2003, and seeks to give this vital branch of children’s literature the recognition it deserves.

Kate’s winning book, Moon Juice, is a gloriously inventive collection of twenty-five poems, and also includes interviews with Kate and illustrator, Elīna Brasliņa, and ideas for writing your own poems. The book is a kaleidoscope of colourful characters, from warrior Skig (who’s actually more worrier than warrior), to Hamster Man, and Rita the Pirate. There’s a joyous musicality to Kate’s writing, and we at Scoop can’t recommend Moon Juice enough. Now over to Kate …


If you’re feeling low on ideas or want to inject something of the strange into your poems, try Automatic Writing. The technique is simple: find a pen and paper then set an alarm for three minutes. You must write continuously – the pen never leaving the page – until the alarm sounds. Feel free. Write absolutely whatever pops into your head. When you’re finished, circle any words or phrases that strike you as interesting, colourful or unexpected. BANG: here is the seed of your next poem.

Try and let the sounds of words guide how you choose and use them. The sense of words is very important, of course, but if you relax your grip on meaning just a little and sometimes let sound alone direct how you put together lines and phrases, you’ll find all sorts of excellent and unexpected things will happen in your writing.

Read. Everyone says this, and often everyone is wrong, but on this occasion, everyone is RIGHT. Read often. Read widely. Read with your eyeballs screwed in as tightly as possible. Read like a detective and thief rolled into one. I find it helps to be reading even when in the middle of writing: other books can be good company while you draft something. I often pick a book that feels particularly interesting and inspiring to me that day and I sit it on my desk next to my notebook and computer. If I’m feeling bored or aimless or discouraged with my work, I pick up the book, open a page at random and enjoy a few moments in its warm company, before returning to my own writing. I think of it as like phoning a friend when in a fix: sometimes you need a burst of another person’s energy to set you on your way.

Don’t be afraid to work slowly. In any piece of writing, but perhaps most particularly poetry, every word is crucial and sometimes it can take a long time to find just the right one. Of course, sometimes a poem happens quickly and this is a very fine feeling, but there are also times when a poem takes twenty attempts to get it just how you want it to be. Think hard about every little detail and embrace the slow care of poetry.

Lastly, if you find yourself struggling to make sense of an idea or to finish a line: GO FOR A SHORT WALK. You’ll find the effect can be magical. There is something about fresh air, the rhythm of your feet, and the sights and sounds of the outside world that help loosen up the imagination and tighten up your problem-solving. Imagination and problem-solving are the two crucial muscles of writing: keep them exercised.



July 14, 2017 - Comments Off on French-flavoured favourites

French-flavoured favourites

As today is Bastille Day (14 July), we’ve been thinking about our favourite French-related children’s books, either books created by great Gallic authors, or fiction with a distinctively French flavour.

Ludwig Bemelmans’s classic series of Madeline picture books evokes 1930s Paris with extraordinary charm (in fact, this site has pulled together a Madeline city tour young readers will love to take), and Madeline herself is adorable. She might be the smallest, but she’s also the bravest, and she’s infectiously adventurous, with a marvellous spirit of mischievousness.

Of course, we must mention the one and only Asterix, whose escapades continue to excite and amuse almost sixty years since co-creators René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo serialised their first Asterix adventure in a French magazine. There’s epic history (of course), plus puns aplenty and, in more recent books, there’s even an alien invasion.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince was voted the best book of the twentieth century in France, and it’s also one of the world’s most translated books. It’s a moving, magical, allegorical novella about what really matters in life that readers of 7+ (adults included) will fall in love with, and want to read over and over (and over) again.

Talking of allegories, French author Daniel Pennac is an absolute master of allegorical storytelling. The Eye of the Wolf (ideal for thoughtful 8+ year-olds) tells the captivating tale of a wolf from Alaska and a boy from Africa who share their hauntingly moving life stories when they face each other in a zoo. It’s a story to savour, and no wonder that the author’s long-time translator, Sarah Ardizzone, won the Marsh Award for Children's Literature in Translation for translating this book. Daniel also wrote the truly inspirational The Rights of the Reader, illustrated by Quentin Blake, which has sold over a million copies in France.

Toby Alone by French novelist and playwright Timothée de Fombelle is an enchanting adventure with a wonderful ecological message. Brave Toby Lolness might only stand a mere one and half millimetres off the ground, but he’s the most wanted person in the world of the Great Oak Tree ... Themes of friendship, survival and doing the right thing are interwoven into the enthralling adventure, and the English-language version is a delight to read (also translated by Sarah Ardizzone).

Jennifer Donnelly’s Revolution comes highly recommended for young adult readers. Part contemporary coming-of-age story, part historical mystery that takes in the events of the French Revolution, this emotionally-charged novel sees the turbulent lives of two teenagers connect across the centuries.

Bonne lecture!

July 7, 2017 - Comments Off on Reads to Relish on World Chocolate Day

Reads to Relish on World Chocolate Day

Seeing as today (7 July) is World Chocolate Day (yes, it seems there’s a day for pretty much everything!) we thought we’d share our top choc-related fiction recommendations.

Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory goes without saying, but, seeing as it’s such a phizzwhizzing feast of fun we’re going to say it anyway. This timeless treat has a glorious soft-centred heart and is ideal for newly independent readers to chomp through, or for reading aloud to younger children.

Readers of a similar age will surely also adore Kate Saunders’s The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop in which Lily and Oz Spoffard inherit a magical house that has a mysterious boarded-up chocolate shop on the ground floor. All manner of adventure and villainy ensue when a gang comes looking for the secret recipe to their great-great-uncles’ secret MAGIC chocolate recipe. Its sequel, The Curse of the Chocolate Phoenix, comes highly recommended too, with its additional time-travelling shenanigans.

Chris Callaghan’s The Great Chocoplot will have readers chuckling and chortling from the opening pages. It sees Jelly and her adorable gran step into action following an alarming announcement – ‘In six days there will be no more chocolate in the world … ever!’ Just who is Garibaldi Chocolati, and is the chocopocalypse really coming? The outlandish antics are brilliantly brought to life by illustrator Lalalimola.

Fans of the fantastical will fall under the spell of Stephanie Burgis’s delightful The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart, in which a dragon is transformed into a feeble human girl after drinking enchanted hot chocolate. The question is, can she still prove how brave she is from inside her frail human form? This magical tale about the meaning of friendship is served with a generous helping of chocolate-y goodness.

May you enjoy tucking into these tasty fictional treats!