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January 28, 2019 - Comments Off on The Question of Celebrity Authors

The Question of Celebrity Authors

By Sarah Odedina

As a publisher, and as a parent, I have absolutely no doubt that a child reading is a great thing.

Reading provides pleasure, escape, the opportunity to visit other worlds and the opportunity to become more confident in their own world. I am also absolutely in no doubt that it does not matter what the child is reading and that no book is ‘worthier’ of their love and commitment than any other.

Which brings me to the issue then of writers. Which writers ‘deserve’ to be read more, have more copies of their books sold, be respected more for their effort? Is it the one who has toiled in relative obscurity to work the magic into their words, or is it the one who has toiled in relative fame to work the magic into their words? I imagine that the process of writing is not easier or more difficult for one author than another just because of their fame.

So why are so many people inflamed about the right of celebrities to write books? Is it because they think they get an easier ride to the publisher’s stable? This may be true. Publishers struggle constantly to get attention for the books they publish for young readers. While children’s books represent one in three of all books sold in the UK, they take up a miserable three per cent share of review space. To get a journalist interested in a novel by a children’s author is virtually impossible, but to get a journalist interested in a novel by a famous person who has written a children’s book is a different story. Suddenly we have column inches and TV appearances.

This is great for the celebrity author and also great for children’s books in general because all the light that is shone into our corner of the publishing world reflects on all books and all authors. AND if a child finds that reading a book by a hugely famous comedian is something that they really enjoy and they go on to read other books by that same comedian and then, realising that reading is actually a great fun thing to do, they go on and read books by other, less famous but equally entertaining authors then there is plenty to celebrate here.

I do not think that the problem for the publishing industry is an over-focus on celebrity authors. Out of the thousands of children’s books published every year, those by celebrities are a tiny percentage. I do not think either that children are any more interested in a book because it is by a celebrity. I think that they exercise the same critical awareness regardless of who the author is, and the phenomenal sales of David Walliams books can only be because they are great books that really appeal to young readers. Children vote with their feet. If they like it they want to read it. They are not swayed by ideas of critical acclaim or prizes.

However, their parents can be, and more often than not it is parents who are paying for the books, so the reviews and attention for celebrity authors will impact on their choices. It would be just so wonderful to have some more informed and quality reviewing going on across the wider area of children’s publishing to help get more wonderful authors into the buying consciousness of parents.

What I fear about the incredibly low percentage of reviews is that some journalists have no way of appraising or respecting children’s book without a celebrity attached to it. Why, I wonder, can some critics and journalists not apply the same critical thinking and respect to children’s literature that they use for assessing the worth of adult literature? Surely the skill and competence to write either is equal. It’s just that one has children in.

Hooray to celebrity authors, I say, and to all authors whose work fills a child with the joy of reading.

 

Sarah Odedina

Editor - Scoop Magazine

 

If you want to read other opinions on the issue of lack of review coverage for children’s books there are two marvellous blogs:

http://middlegradestrikesback.blogspot.com/2016/02/coverkidsbooks-facts.html

http://middlegradestrikesback.blogspot.com/2017/02/coverkidsbooks-one-year-on.html

 

 

 

June 19, 2018 - Comments Off on Celebrating Seminal Children’s Magazines

Celebrating Seminal Children’s Magazines

As we publish a new edition of Scoop – now in a smart bookshop-shelf-friendly format, with a spine and TEN extra pages of Scoop-tacularly inspirational words and pictures – what better time to celebrate some of the pioneering periodicals that have enthused and entertained children through the past decades?

First up comes The Children's Newspaper, which Scoop’s founder and publisher Clementine Macmillan-Scott cites as a pivotal inspiration (you can read more about that here). Founded in 1919, this groundbreaking journal provided thought-provoking news stories to a staggering 500,000 children each week and, like Scoop, it was guided by the principle of never talking down to its young readers.

Another gem from the past is The Young Elizabethan, which was founded in 1948 and first published as Collins Magazine for Boys & Girls. The content was a mix of serialised stories, poems, puzzles and reviews. For a time its editor was none other than Kaye Webb, legendary editor and publisher of Puffin Books and founder of our next magazine …

Launched by Webb in 1967, Puffin Post served up a fabulous feast of bi-monthly book-related nourishment in the form of stories, interviews, jokes, quizzes and competitions. In its prime, Puffin Post enjoyed a readership of over 200,000, with true titans of the children’s book world making regular contributions, among them Alan Garner, Joan Aiken and Roald Dahl.

Jackie deserves mention too, not least because an urban legend has it that this hugely popular magazine was named after today’s grand doyenne of pre-teen fiction, Jacqueline Wilson, who worked on the magazine. (SPOILER ALERT: those involved with the magazine’s launch have dismissed this claim.) For ten years, Jackie was Britain’s top-selling teen magazine, and its energetic blend of pop culture, fashion, beauty, short stories, photo stories and reader-generated content (problem pages, letters) spearheaded a revolution in magazine publishing for teen girls.

Finally, we turn to the Funday Times, the dynamic kids companion to the Sunday Times that launched in 1989. Alongside the vibrant and varied comic strips – from the perennially popular Dennis and Gnasher, Scooby-Doo and The Flintstones, to contemporaneous cult classics like The Powerpuff Girls, Goosebumps and The Simpsons – this bright and breezy pull-out also featured reviews and puzzles aplenty.

But it’s not all about what’s gone before. Arguably, we’re now living in a garden-fresh, golden age of children’s print magazines, with a varied crop of child-focused periodicals flourishing alongside our very own Scoop. Here are a few of our favourites:

Okido: an arts and science magazine for 3–7 year olds

Aquila: in-depth science, history and general knowledge for 8–12 year-olds

Anorak: the vividly illustrated ‘happy mag’ for 6–12 year-olds

The Week Junior: current affairs for 8–14 year-olds

The Phoenix: a cool weekly comic for 6–12 year-olds

National Geographic Kids: a monthly mag for 6+ year-olds covering animals, geography, science and history

February 26, 2018 - Comments Off on Wondrous Words from Wales

Wondrous Words from Wales

With St David’s Day on the horizon (and this year it also falls on World Book Day), we’re dedicating today’s post to a host of Welsh children’s writers whose work is as enchanting and varied as Wales itself. I might be a little biased*, but Wales has a rich record of creating writers and poets, so settle down with a delicious cake (preferably of the Welsh variety) while you tuck into these recommended reads whose authors hail from the incomparable Land of Song.

Hubble Bubble fiction series by Tracey Corderoy, illustrated by Joe Berger
Each book in this series of classy two-colour fiction features three stories that provide perfect bite-sized bedtime reading for newly independent readers. Each tale follows the magical mayhem made by Pandora’s granny who is (whisper it!) a witch. From creating pandemonium in a pirate-themed school play to making monkey business at the zoo, Granny is always getting up to something and it falls to Pandora to put things right. Younger siblings will love the Hubble Bubble rhyming picture books.

Roald Dahl, incomparable master of wit and invention, was born in Llandaff, Cardiff, to Norwegian parents. Read everything he wrote, then read again. And repeat.

Dottie Blanket and the Hilltop by Wendy Meddour, illustrated by Mina May
Dottie of dreams of living ‘on a bright green hilltop’ away from the smell and bustle of the city. Then, when her dad loses his job, her wish comes true when they move to The Hilltop in The Middle of Nowhere. As Dottie makes friends with the locals, among them Winnie Crisp, Blod Evans and the Fidgets, it turns out that her new hilltop home is actually in the Middle of Somewhere. This is a delightfully eccentric tale for 8+ year-olds, with illustrations that perfectly capture the characters’ charming quirks.

Sweet Pizza by G. R. Gemin
Joe is a Welsh boy who lives in Bryn Mawr, South Wales, and he’s passionately proud of his Italian heritage. He adores the music of the language, the music of the opera, and he LOVES the delicious food. So, when his mam’s run-down cafe – founded by his granddad way back in 1929 – is in need of a serious boost, he’s just the person to take on the task. Both heart-warming and heartily funny, this tale of a community coming together and a boy who’s determined to realise his dream is a fabulous feast of feel-good fiction. We also recommend the author’s debut, Cowgirl.

Gaslight by Eloise Williams
This winner of the Wales Arts Review Young People’s Book of the Year 2017 is a rollicking romp through the shadows of Victorian Cardiff. Nansi remembers the night she and her mother were running away, but she doesn’t remember why she was fished from the river, and she doesn’t know where her mother went. All alone, she starts working in Pernicious Sid’s theatre, but who can she really trust? This action-packed thriller fizzes with fascinating historical detail and an electrifying sense of urgency and adventure.

*being a Welsh writer!

February 9, 2018 - Comments Off on Sisterhood of Scientists

Sisterhood of Scientists

With the International Day of Women and Girls in Science being celebrated on 11 February, we thought we’d highlight a stellar selection of books to inspire all budding young scientists.

Ada Twist, Scientist written by Andrea Beatty, illustrated by David Roberts
Why do hairs grow up noses? Why is there a strange stink in my house? The endlessly inquisitive heroine of this brilliant picture book seeks to discover the answers to these questions and more! The rollicking rhyming text is as energetic as Ada herself, and the illustrations are packed with ingeniously entertaining detail courtesy of none other than long-time friend of Scoop, David Roberts. With her infinite imagination and dogged determination to discover the whys and wherefores of everything, Ada is, quite simply, awesome. Look out for the related experiment-packed Ada Twist's Big Project Book for Stellar Scientists publishing in April 2018, and also see the excellent Rosie Revere Engineer books by the same talented team.

Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky 
This stylishly illustrated anthology celebrates the achievements of fifty intrepid women who’ve blazed the trail for thousands of female physicists, engineers, doctors and mathematicians through the ages. Featuring fascinating profiles of pioneers through the whole of history, including ancient Alexandrian astronomer and philosopher Hypatia, and Katherine Johnson, the African-American mathematician who calculated the course of the Apollo 11 moon mission, this is a truly inspirational book that sings loud and proud about these oft-overlooked pioneers. This companion ‘I Love Science’ journal provides an additional source of inspiration and information.

A Galaxy of Her Own: Amazing Stories of Women in Space by Libby Jackson
Perhaps contrary to popular perception, women have long been central to space exploration, and this enlightening book certainly sets the record straight with invigorating verve. The handy timeline, running from 1543 to the present day, sets landmarks of space exploration in context, while the main body of the book reveals the awe-inspiring stories of dozen of unsung heroines. A brilliant book for space-lovers aged eight upwards.

Girls Who Code: Learn to Code and Change the World by Reshma Saujani
The ground-breaking Girls Who Code organisation was founded by the author of this cool motivational book back in 2012, and within these vibrant, graphic pages she shares stories of women who are making code-related waves in the fields of film, animation, apps and gaming, alongside clear how-to explanations of the principles behind coding. This will surely further encourage girls and young women who are already interested in this revolutionary field, and – significantly – it will also inspire those who think that coding’s not for them.

 

 Featured image is by David Roberts, from Ada Twist, Scientist.

January 29, 2018 - Comments Off on Boys from space and troublesome time travel

Boys from space and troublesome time travel

Tying-in with the next issue of Scoop (published 1st February 2018), today’s post features some of our favourite science fiction stories.

Kids who love comics, graphic novels and space will simply adore Star Wars: Jedi Academy. Bursting with all-out action, this is an ingeniously entertaining series for 8+ year-olds. The same is true of Hilo: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth, which brilliantly blends the humour of Diary of a Wimpy Kid with the trials and tribulations of being a boy who fell to earth.

Perhaps best described as science fantasy, Madeleine L'Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time is a truly special time-travel tale. When Charles goes in search of his lost father through a ‘wrinkle in time’, he finds himself on a petrifying planet ruled over by a gigantic pulsating brain. With much humour provided by guardian angels Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who and Mrs Which, this timeless classic defies categorisation and continually grips new generations of readers.

Perhaps best known for The Day of the Triffids, John Wyndham’s Chocky (adapted into a children’s TV show in the eighties) is chock-full (sorry/not sorry) of chilling mystery. Alarms bells ring when eleven-year-old Matthew starts communicating with an imaginary friend and develops incredible mathematical skills. Might Chocky be more than a figment of Matthew’s mind?

Finally, one of our all-time sci-fi faves is Nicholas Fisk’s Grinny. First published in 1973, this thrilling fusion of suspense and sci-fi features The Most Terrifying Aunt in Literature, ‘Grinny’, so-named for her eerie ever-present smile. A recent edition of the book also includes its sinister sequel, along with an introduction by Scoop favourite, Malorie Blackman. Talking of whom, Malorie has herself written a whole host of superb sci-fi stories – scroll down this blog to discover more.

 

January 22, 2018 - Comments Off on Top of the Tree

Top of the Tree

With the annual RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch taking place 27–29 January, what better time to turn our eagle-eyed attention to a clutch of bird-themed books? From fascinating non-fiction, to flight-of-fancy adventures that will that ruffle your feathers, these inspirational books are sure to make your soul soar! Nestle down in your favourite armchair and enjoy ...

Magnificent Birds, illustrated by Narisa Togo
Created in association with the RSPB, this stunning picture book makes a gorgeous gift for nature lovers of all ages. The lino-cut prints capture the essence of some of the world’s most exquisite birds, from flamboyant birds-of-paradise and radiant ruby-throated hummingbirds, to imperial emperor penguins. Elegant, and luminous with energy, the illustrations are as captivating as the accompanying text is enlightening.

National Trust: Complete Bird Spotters Kit
Brilliant for budding young birdwatchers, this natty kit comprises a pair of binoculars, a spotter’s guide book, plus a notebook and pencil packaged in a handy backpack – perfect for introducing eight year olds and up to the art of birdwatching.

Press Out and Colour Birds, illustrated by Zoe Ingram
Truly a treat for artistic avian-adorers, this classy craft book features ten birds to colour in and decorate before pressing-out and slotting together to create stunning hanging ornaments.

My Dad's a Birdman by David Almond, illustrated by Polly Dunbar
Lizzie has lost her mum and lives with her adorably ‘daft’ dad in the rainy north of England, where Auntie Doreen pops round with hearty homemade meals. But why on earth is Dad making a pair of wings, and eating beetles? It turns out that he’s planning to enter the Great Human Bird Competition, which might be exactly the kind of uplifting event the family needs. This vibrant, touching tale will tickle the funny bone, enchant the soul and warm the heart.

The Trumpet of the Swan by E. B. White
While less known than the author’s Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little, this is no less charming a book – sweet to read aloud, and laced with lovely lessons about love and celebrating difference. Like everyone in his family, Louis is a trumpeter swan but – sadly – Louis can't trumpet like his siblings. In fact, he can’t make any sound at all, which means beautiful swan Serena pays no attention to him, until his dad gives him a real trumpet ...

 

 

 

January 12, 2018 - Comments Off on Raise Your Game

Raise Your Game

Seeing as it’s the time of the year when many of us resolve to get more active, we thought we’d go for gold and kick off 2018 with a selection of matchless sport-themed fiction, from inspirational energisers about team work and friendship, to top-flight tales that pack real punch and tackle hard-hitting topics. One thing’s for sure, each of the following recommended reads is Premier League quality, so what are you waiting for, Scoopsters? On your marks, get set, GO ... !

Roller Girl written and illustrated by Victoria Jamieson
Oozing originality, and driven by drama and gallons of girl power, this cool comic-strip caper sees lovable misfit Astrid (AKA Asteroid) learn to stand on her own two skates, harnessing self-belief to overcome the odds and become a super-strong roller girl.

Girls FC by Helena Pielichaty, illustrated by Sonia Leong
Always fast-paced and often funny, this pioneering series is packed with action, energy and engaging dialogue, alongside the exploration of emotional themes, from family strains and self-esteem, to trying to fit in. The author knows her football, and also knows how to relate to her readers.

Flying Fergus written by Chris Hoy with Joanna Nadin, illustrated by Clare Elsom
This super series of cycling-based stories featuring nine-year-old Fergus Hamilton and his band of biking chums strikes a brilliant balance between all-out action, wacky adventure and quirky characters. This series comes especially recommended for reluctant readers – Fergus’s funny, fast-paced escapades are as gripping his tyres!

The Fastest Boy in the World by Elizabeth Laird
Eleven-year-old Solomon dreams of becoming a gold-medal-winning athlete like his heroes in the Ethiopian national team and, ahead of a trip to the capital city with his grandfather, he hopes he might see his heroes during a victory parade. But when they arrive family secrets are revealed, and Solomon must step up and put his running skills to a serious test. Uplifting, gripping and great in its evocation of Ethiopia (especially the contrasts between Solomon’s rural village and the massive metropolis), this is an inspiring treasure.

Kick by Mitch Johnson
Football-mad Budi lives in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, and works long hours sewing football boots in a factory owned by a wealthy tyrant. While the working conditions are harsh and exploitative, Budi takes joy from the fact that his Real Madrid idol wears the kind of boots he makes, and he dreams of making it to the big time himself. While this exceptional novel doesn’t shirk from the harsh realities of Budi’s life, themes of being proud of who you are, holding onto hope, and the importance of friendship shine through with compassion.

 

 

December 18, 2017 - Comments Off on Have Yourself a Creative Christmas

Have Yourself a Creative Christmas

With holidays on the horizon, we thought it would be a good time to share ideas to give kids something creative to do between all the festive feasting and gift gorging! Check out these seasonal ‘make and do’ suggestions, and also see our current Christmassy issue, which includes a heavenly host of mouth-watering recipes, along with our trademark feast of thought-provoking words and pictures.

 Deck the Halls (and Walls!)
To make gorgeous decorations with minimal mess, look no further than Christmas Decorations to Cut, Fold & Stick. This brilliant book includes 100 tear-out sheets to make everything from paper chains and angels, to snowflakes and stars. The artwork is splendidly bold, and the instructions couldn’t be clearer.

Create your Own Christmas Cards
Nosy Crow’s Colouring Book of Cards and Envelopes: Christmas, published in association with the National Trust, is a veritable cornucopia of card-making creativity! This stylish book includes cards and envelopes to tear out and colour, and twenty-four designs to work with. Lovers of animals and nature should also take at look at the other books in this innovative series.

Usborne’s Magic Painting Christmas Cards book is an excellent one-stop shop for young artists to make their own wonderful watercolour cards. It includes envelopes and a paintbrush, so all you need to make the magic happen is a creative spark and pot of water! There are ten cards, and two different designs.

Cook up a Feast
Making Sweets is a great go-to book for budding confectioners. The recipes are clear and simple, with no boiling needed, whether young cooks decide to make traditional treats like peppermint creams, or yummy peanut butter and chocolate cups. This also includes terrific templates to make boxes and wrappers, so it couldn’t be simpler to turn these homemade treats into unique gifts for grandparents.

Of course, cooking isn’t just for Christmas, and a person cannot live on mince pies and sweets alone! For nutritious recipes with an innovative edge, we recommend Jenny Chandler’s ultra-stylish Cool Kids Cook, which serves up inspirational recipes for kids who want to create real food, from classic cakes and muffins to more adventurous dishes like vegetable slaws, scrumptious stir-fries and satisfying meatballs.