May 22, 2017 - Comments Off on Poetry Perfection: the 2017 Centre for Literacy in Primary Poetry Award

Poetry Perfection: the 2017 Centre for Literacy in Primary Poetry Award

We at Scoop are huge fans of poetry for children, and so the CLiPPA (Centre for Literacy in Primary Poetry Award) is very close to our hearts.

Launched in 2003, this is the only award for published poetry for children and, as such, plays a vital role in ensuring that poetry for children is recognised and celebrated. With this year’s shortlist recently announced, we’re delighted to share this fascinating account of the judging process from Rachel Rooney, the Chair of Judges, along with more information about the five brilliant books. Over to Rachel...


Acting as Chair of Judges for this year’s CLiPPA has been an honour and a real pleasure – particularly because in my earlier writing days, I’d looked through previous CLiPPA shortlists (and those of its predecessor, the Signal Award) in my search for quality poetry for young people. My fellow judges were Sarah Crossan, Caleb Femi, Charlotte Hacking and Imogen Russell Williams.

There was a certain responsibility to favour those books that were accessible and that might engage young readers. But there was also a debt to poetry itself; to highlight its power and possibility. I was looking for poems that were crafted and honed with the same rigour expected from published ‘adult poetry’. I use quotation marks here because the distinction between adult and children’s poetry is not always clear-cut. A number of adult poems can be accessed and appreciated by children on some significant level. Likewise, adults can be charmed, amused or stimulated by quality poetry that is ostensibly for children.

So when reading through the long-listed books, I sought to satisfy the eyes, ears and heart of my inner-child as well as her more critical outer-adult. What was I hoping for? The child in me wanted surprise and intrigue, comfort and familiarity, musicality and playfulness. I didn’t want to knowingly be told how I should feel – though I was open to skilled persuasion. (Yes, I was that stubborn child.) My outer-adult noted the originality and inventiveness of ideas and form, technical skill, authenticity of voice and a breadth of vision. There were hundreds of poems to be considered. Some made me double take. Some offered up more secrets on a further reading. Then there were those that intrinsically hit the emotional age spot and demanded to be re-read. These were amongst the most memorable ones.

Judging was made a challenge by the spread of books that were submitted. The CLiPPA is open to published poetry books for a diverse and changing readership, from the pre-schooler to the early teen. How does one compare a poetic prose novel with early verse? A single-poet collection with an anthology? Like a poem, each book ultimately has to be measured against itself. Did it achieve its specific aim? Was there a satisfying match between subject matter, tone, form and flow? Did it work for the intended readership? Was it polished and did it gleam?

Poetry is subjective by nature and so I was thankful to work alongside four other judges, all of whom brought their own expertise and interests to the table. There were some inevitable differences of opinion but this was generally accepted to be a matter of personal taste. We tried to focus on the quality of the writing and consider what it might offer a certain reader at a certain age. Was it pitched well and did it leave room for growth?

Writing poetry for children can appear easy but writing powerful poetry that is accessible and appealing to children is considerably more difficult to achieve. In their own particular way, the following books all did this:

Zim Zam Zoom by James Carter, illustrated by Nicola Colton (Otter-Barry Books)
This book is perfectly pitched for the young listener or early reader. Rhythmically pleasing to the ear, the poems ask to be read aloud and provide plenty of opportunities for joining-in. The poems are patterned yet playful, familiar yet surprising. James Carter achieves a lot in a small space. 3+

Jelly Boots Smelly Boots by Michael Rosen, illustrated by David Tazzyman (Bloomsbury)
Quirky, clever poems ranging from those that involve humorous misunderstandings to thoughtful and more intimate musings. Michael Rosen’s slick word play skills and sharp observations are evident throughout. 6+

Wonderland, Alice in Poetry, edited by Michaela Morgan, illustrated by John Tenniel (Macmillan)
In this anthology, Michaela Morgan curates the poetry of Lewis Carroll and his sources, inviting new and established contemporary poets to pen their responses. Some poems are tangential, some mirror and some subvert - but all of them celebrate the spirit of Wonderland with their own refreshing spin. 8+

Moon Juice by Kate Wakeling, illustrated by Elīna Brasliņa (The Emma Press)
A debut collection of poetry that presents magical, strange and unlikely events in a confident and persuasive way. These poems are lively and unexpected and Kate Wakeling shows a consistent sensitivity to the rhythm and power of language. 8+

Booked by Kwame Alexander (Andersen Press)
In this free verse novel, written in the voice of 12-year-old soccer-loving boy, Kwame Alexander weaves an emotive narrative through poetry and word play. We are drawn into the hopes and disappointments of the main character and like him, we discover the power of poetry and delight in words along the way. 10+

Once the shortlisted books were agreed upon, we sat back and viewed the selection. There was a surprising but satisfying span of ages catered for and a variety of poetry formats and writing styles. The number of books submitted this year had increased and there was a healthy spread of publishers across the shortlist. This bodes very well for the future of published children’s poetry.


Rachel Rooney
Visit Rachel’s website
View films of Rachel performing on
Sign up for the free Schools Shadowing Scheme for CLiPPA


May 15, 2017 - Comments Off on Get the inside scoop on author and illustrator Laura Ellen Anderson

Get the inside scoop on author and illustrator Laura Ellen Anderson

We at Scoop are over the moon to present this OUT-OF-THE-WORLD interview with the multi-talented Laura Ellen Anderson – writer, illustrator and creator of cool comic strips and graphic novels – ahead of her Scottish Friendly Children’s Book Tour. The tour will see Laura visit schools in the Western Isles between 15 and 19 May, delivering inspiring interactive comic workshops in which the lucky attendees will get to create their very own comic characters and story boards.

Read on to find out more about Laura’s work …

 You’re a multi-talented author, illustrator, creator of comic strips and graphic novels, but which was your first love: writing or illustration? And what are the respective joys and challenges of each role?
Hello! Now this is a TRICKY question because I absolutely LOVE both writing and illustrating in equal measures. I often have days when I’m feeling more for one over the other. Recently, my passion for writing has very much grown since landing my debut fiction deal. To me, writing feels a lot more immediate. You’re able to express an idea or how a character is feeling within a few sentences, whereas illustrating takes a bit longer. That’s not to say it’s any less fun. Bringing a piece of writing to life with an illustration is one of the best feelings. An illustration can help to enhance the world and often demonstrate an element of a story rather than having to write it down. I feel blessed to be able to write and illustrate my own work.

Your Evil Emperor Penguin comic strips for The Phoenix comic are massively popular! Did you have a specific reader in mind when you first created this character? And what was your initial inspiration for the character? Was there an Evil Emperor EUREKA moment?
The very first time I drew an Evil Emperor Penguin of sorts was during a summer job at a screen-printing company. I was doing odd jobs, packing and folding and I spotted some sticky notepaper. When you leave an artist alone with a sticky note pad and access to a pen, silly-Evil Emperor Penguin-shaped ideas may come to life! My colleague at the time loved penguins and the idea pretty much fell out of my brain. It was just a bit of fun to fill the time … little did I know he’d be starring in his own full-blown comic some years down the line!

Woo-hoo! Evil Emperor Penguin is now available in graphic novel form! What do you think are the greatest appeals of this form of storytelling? And which graphic novels would you recommend as must-reads for newcomers to the form?
I think graphic novels can be a bit more accessible for reluctant readers and those who may feel a little intimidated by a full-blown text-only book. To me, a graphic novel is like following a set of movie stills. It’s the closest you can get to watching an animated film, without the moving picture. Films often start out with a storyboard, so it’s like that really. Some graphic novels I’d recommend are Nimona by Noelle Stevenson, Gary’s Garden by Gary Northfield and Unicorn on a Roll by Dana Simpson.

 What’s the most important lesson you learned when you were starting out? What advice would you give to aspiring young writers and illustrators?
One lesson I learned was to KEEP GOING. Keep drawing, keep writing down ideas (even if you think they’re no good) and persevere. Publishers will inevitably dislike a bunch of your ideas, but they’ll also love the right idea at the right time. Also, as cheesy as it sounds, write and draw from the HEART. I can’t express how important that is. A publisher will be able to tell when you’re passionate and excited about an idea, and all of those feelings will show through your work. This enables the publisher to FEEL your passion, and get excited about the idea themselves. This is so valuable.

Who, or what, is your biggest inspiration?
I am incredibly inspired by animated film. The likes of Disney Pixar, Laika, Aardman and Dreamworks. A good animated film really speaks to me. When I’m writing or illustrating, I always consider my work as if it were a moving picture. I even compose book covers as if they are a film poster. I am hugely inspired more by film than other comics if I’m completely honest. The work of Tim Burton has also had a huge impact on me; I have a soft spot for any quirky gothic story with a spindly character! And of course, other illustrated books have inspired me over the years ... Growing up, I was a huge fan of The Worst Witch series by Jill Murphy, any of Jacqueline Wilson’s books illustrated by Nick Sharratt, and Roald Dahl’s collection illustrated by Quentin Blake. All of these have deeply inspired me over time.

You’ve illustrated many brilliant books written by other people – for example, My Brother is a Superhero, and Witch Wars. How does illustrating books written by other people compare with the process of both writing and illustrating your own work? Illustrating for other authors is such a joy. It’s a real pleasure to bring a character to life, especially when you gel with the story and it’s a subject matter you really enjoy. So far, I’ve been paired up with some fabulous authors all of whom I’ve gotten along with so well and loved illustrating their stories. I feel very lucky. I also feel incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to write and illustrate my own stories. It’s something I’ve been aiming for and wanting to do for years. Now that I’m finally doing it, I can safely say, there’s nothing I’d rather do in life! I’m always up for illustrating other author’s work as well as working on my own. It’s nice to have the choice to do both!

Are there any children’s classics you’d love to illustrate and/or re-tell?
I would NOT say no if I was asked to illustrate anything remotely Harry Potter related … But one book I’ve always thought would be lovely to illustrate would be The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I do also love a good fairytale. It would be fun to illustrate a Brother’s Grimm tale or a story by Hans Christian Andersen.

What are you working on at the moment?
I’m currently writing and illustrating my debut book Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball, which will be published by Egmont on 5 October 2017. There will be three books in the series, so I’m working on the edits for book two whilst I round illustrating book one! I’m also working on my second picture book with Bloomsbury to follow on from I Don’t Want Curly Hair, and of course, Evil Emperor Penguin for the . I’m also due to start work on the next two books in the Witch Wars series with Sibeal Pounder. Busy and Exciting times!

You’re about to embark on the Scottish Friendly Children’s Book Tour in the Western Isles. What can the lucky attendees expect from your events?
Lots of silliness!!! I’ll be giving the pupils an insight into how I create the characters from Evil Emperor Penguin; a look at the way I structure an episode, and they’ll also have lots of fun creating some evil inventions to incorporate into their own dastardly comic! MWAHAHAHAAAAR!

May 5, 2017 - Comments Off on Young readers! Exercise your right to vote … for the 2017 Children’s Book Award.

Young readers! Exercise your right to vote … for the 2017 Children’s Book Award.


 Coordinated by the Federation of Children’s Books Groups, the highly respected Children’s Book Award is the ONLY national award for children’s books that’s voted for entirely by children, and young readers have one week left to vote in the 2017 awards (the deadline for online voting is 12 noon, Friday 12 May).

Past winners have included J. K. Rowling, Patrick Ness, Andy Stanton, Malorie Blackman, Anthony Horowitz and Michael Morpurgo, and the award has a fabulous track record of recognising future stars of children’s fiction. The ten titles on the shortlist for the categories of Books for Younger Children, Books for Younger Readers and Books for Older Readers were chosen by children nationwide who read and voted for the books throughout the year as part of the network of the Federation’s Children’s Book Groups. Here’s the shortlist in full:

Books for Younger Children

Chicken Nugget by Michelle Robinson, illustrated by Tom McLaughlin, published by Puffin

Oi Dog by Kes Gray and Claire Gray, illustrated by Jim Field, published by Hodder

Grandad's Island by Benji Davies, published by Simon and Schuster

Gracie Grabbit and the Tiger by Helen Stephens, published by Scholastic

Books for Younger Readers

The Accidental Pirates (Voyage to Magical North) by Claire Fayer, published by Macmillan

An Eagle in the Snow by Michael Morpurgo, illustrated by Michael Foreman published by Harper Collins Children’s Books

The Jam Doughnut that Ruined my Life by Mark Lowery, illustrated by Hannah Shaw, published by Piccadilly

 Books for Older Readers

One by Sarah Crossan, published by Bloomsbury

Car-Jacked by Ali Sparkes, published by OUP

Mistletoe and Murder by Robin Stevens, published by Puffin

Head here to find out more about the award and how young readers can cast their votes for category winners.

April 13, 2017 - Comments Off on Books to put a spring in young readers’ steps

Books to put a spring in young readers’ steps

With Easter almost upon us, and spring well and truly sprung, here are a few reading suggestions that are sure to put a spring in young readers’ steps.

Perfect Picture Books for Seedling Readers

Eric Carle’s The Tiny Seed is a picture book classic that explores a small seed’s extraordinary journey over oceans, deserts and mountains. It survives peril upon peril before settling into the soil and growing into a splendidly tall flower.

Emily Gravett’s ingeniously witty The Odd Egg is now available as a board book, and the split pages create some cracking (pun entirely intended) visual jokes. Poor Duck feels left out by not having an egg to hatch, until he finds an egg of his own. While the other birds think it’s rather odd, to Duck it’s the most beautiful egg ever and, when it hatches, everyone’s in for quite a surprise!

Guess How Much I Love You in the Spring? offers a sweet slice of seasonal knowledge as lovely Little Nutbrown Hare learns all about nature and the changes that spring brings.

Fabulous Feasts

With chocolate everywhere you look, little ones might be tempted to wish for more, more, more but the heroine of David Lucas’s Grendel: A Cautionary Tale about Chocolate finds out the hard way that wishing everything he touches turns to chocolate isn't such a good idea...

Elys Dolan’s Mr Bunny’s Chocolate Factory is the very epitome of picture book innovation, and will delight readers of five upwards (adults very much included). When factory boss Mr Bunny decides to crank up production, his poultry workers team up to make a stand. It’s packed with clever detail, and offers an introduction to capitalism and protest (yes - in a picture book!) through much hilarity.

This is also the perfect season for introducing newly independent readers to the heartwarming delights of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. We also recommend Stephanie Burgis’s newly published The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart, an enchanting and decidedly delicious tale of a fierce dragon who finds her true (chocolaty) vocation through friendship.

The Great Outdoors

Longer, warmer days make exploring the great outdoors even more magical, and Maria Ana Peixe Dias’s Outside: A Guide to Discovering Nature is a treasure trove of illustration and information that will inspire even the most hardened couch potato to get out and explore the great outdoors, including city landscapes.

And for fiction that captures nature’s thrills, Pier Torday’s The Last Wild trilogy comes highly recommended. This sequence of all-action ecological thrillers set in a dystopian world bears a vital message about the interdependence of humanity and the natural world.


April 6, 2017 - Comments Off on Pots of Inspiration

Pots of Inspiration

We at Scoop are all about enthusing young readers to get creative, and so we’re delighted to have discovered the inspiring Inkpots writing workshops. So, if you know, or if you ARE, a budding young writer, read on to discover the creative delights that await ...


Great reasons for joining a writing club

Are you a member of a writing group or club? If you enjoy writing, you may think of it as something that you do on your own – in fact, writers of all kinds are often seen as being quite solitary. But there are lots of positive reasons why joining a workshop or group for writers can be really helpful for you and your stories.

Here are just a few:

  • You get to hang out with people who get what you do. It’s great to be with people who understand why you want to write – and they will probably enjoy reading books and creating stories as much as you do too.
  • Being in a group is great for sharing ideas – you know that feeling when you have an idea but are just not sure if there is a story in it? Sharing your plans is brilliant in a group as there is always someone to give you feedback.
  • We all get stuck with our writing from time to time. A writers’ group can be just the place to go and get unstuck because everyone has been there!
  • We have one group at Inkpots where the children have an ongoing story that they are all working on together. They all contribute – some come up with brilliant characters and storylines, while others are doing the illustrations. It’s a really good way to learn to work as part of a team
  • In a well-run writers’ group, positive feedback is encouraged. You will be able to learn what people like about your stories, as well as those bits that maybe don’t work as well. But this will be done in such a way that you will be able to take on the advice and really develop your writing.
  • You will get to see things from someone else’s point of view too, and learn different techniques.
  • Making new friends!
  • Have fun! Above all writing should be fun – and your group should be a warm, welcoming place too.

Inkpots runs workshops in mid-Sussex in the UK, but also has an online club too – Inkpots Inc – which is also warm, welcoming and supportive. And fun! Your school or local library may run a writers’ group.

More information:


March 13, 2017 - Comments Off on “Humans needs stories” and other words of wisdom from the recent CLPE Reflecting Realities conference

“Humans needs stories” and other words of wisdom from the recent CLPE Reflecting Realities conference

Our friends at the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education recently held a conference on the subject of Reflecting Realities: British Values in Children’s Literature. Read on for their inspiring account of a truly special day of discussion…

At the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education we’ve just held a conference. Curated by our very own Farrah Serroukh and coming from the perspectives she has set out in her article about the importance of seeing oneself in literature we planned a day to discuss how ‘British Values’ can be explored through children’s literature and how we can ensure that we are truly reflecting the realities of all the children in our classrooms.

There were a range of people in the audience: teachers and leaders from schools across England, academics, librarians, publishers, charities, authors and poets. Speakers and workshop leaders were drawn from a range of disciplines and age groups and included thinkers like Miranda McKearney from Empathy Lab and Verna Wilkins from Firetree Books. The day covered a range of topics from neuroscience and psychology to personal stories, writing processes and research. We looked at the importance of story and literature to identity and reading and talked about book stock in schools and how transformational texts can change the way in which children think and feel about themselves. There was so much to be positive about, not least a rousing performance from the much-loved Floella Benjamin whose own story is told in her important book Coming to England and who eloquently describes the importance of story, self-belief and confidence to her success. And yet we did have an anxiety about the day. More than ten years ago CLPE and the Arts Council hosted a conference with almost identical themes. Fenn Coles and Kerry Mason from Letterbox Library posed this very question in their session with Verna – Why are we still here?

We know humans need stories. They have made them up since language first developed, to make sense of the world, to explain the unexplainable, to describe faith and belief, to teach lessons and illustrate morals. The significance of understanding viewpoint and perspective, becoming a discerning reader and being able to differentiate fact from fiction is currently one of the most important skills we can encourage.

So the books in our classrooms, particularly for those children who don’t have access to books at home, and particularly in a climate where children are less likely to have access to the facilities of a public library, become extremely important indeed. Children need to see themselves in stories – representation makes children believe they are included, it says this world of reading and books is for you and you are part of it. And this is also why we need to make sure we have authors, poets, illustrators from a range of backgrounds and perspectives – it is both about seeing yourself in a book but also seeing yourself as a creator – both worlds are open to everyone.

We also need to reflect the realities of those who may not be part of our immediate sphere. Reading fiction about those that are different, have different life experiences and journeys to our own helps us to understand those perspectives. It can make us see things in a different light, it can give us a different point of view, it can open a whole area of history, or geo-political theory we never knew we were interested in.

We are further forward than ten years ago but the challenge now is to make sure that we are ensuring the literature that our children encounter is truly reflective, not just tokenistic. We talked a lot on the day about the publishing industry, about how it is necessarily an industry driven by market forces and by the economics of big retailers and celebrity authors. In schools we could create the demand. If all 20,000 plus primary schools are asking for things other than the Tesco or Amazon Best Sellers then we would surely create a market.

When reviewing book stock in your classroom or school you can ask yourself the following questions:

• In this collection are there stories that the children in my class can see themselves in?
• Does everybody have a point of reference somewhere in this collection?
• As well as mirrors for the children in our school, do the books in our collections provide windows on the rest of world?
• Are there books here that enable us to understand others in an authentic and genuine way (both in terms of stories, and also in terms of voices)?
• Are there different viewpoints represented – from other places in the world or other perspectives of history?

In all our work at CLPE we believe that the books that our children have access to need to reflect the reality of our world, and that world is complex. So the books need to reflect the complexity rather than diluting it. Candy Gourlay spoke at the conference and wrote about it afterwards: “Authors creating story may dress their characters up in hijabs and what have you, but it’s the soul of the character that matters. In a well-written book, you can hear the character’s heart beating.” And this surely, is the point. If you hear a beating heart – be that in a historical context, a sci-fi novel or a picture book – you will identify with it as a real character, a being with whom you have something in common. You go so much further than merely ‘tolerating’ difference.

March 7, 2017 - Comments Off on The Power of Picture Books

The Power of Picture Books

Today’s post about the enduring scope and power of picture books comes courtesy of our friends at the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education. Huge thanks to them for sharing these enlightening and inspirational insights:

At the CLPE we have spent the last three years researching the use of picture books in primary schools. Not just with the youngest children in the school but right the way through the whole age group.

We engaged 10 brilliant author-illustrators to teach a two day course for 20 teachers with one of our teaching team. They helped the teachers to understand what goes into the creation of a picture book, how the story and the characters develop, how to look closely at the pictures in the books and how they interplayed with the text.

During the three years we discovered some very interesting and sometimes unexpected things:

Picture books are not just for young or less able readers.

Traditionally picture books are used in schools with younger children. Older children are less likely to come across picture book texts unless they are used as individual reading books for ‘less able’ readers. The teachers who took part in this research discovered the richness of picture books for all ages and were much less dismissive of them. They came to realise that picture books were as important as those without pictures when it came to reading for pleasure. Interestingly, older children often needed to learn how to spend time on the pages and not just skim through.

Giving children the time to draw or express themselves creatively helps them to write.
Children need time to think in advance of and alongside writing. Drawing, sketching or sequencing pictures helps children to generate imaginative ideas. These kinds of activities help children generate, select and develop ideas and to create characters, settings, themes and plot before they actually write - and to talk about their ideas before committing them to paper. The teachers found that children, particularly reluctant writers, have become more enthusiastic about writing and they saw the direct benefits of this in the children’s willingness to write and the quality of what they wrote.

Hearing the author-illustrators describe how they developed their ideas really developed teachers’ own understanding of the writing process.
They were able to make connections between the authors' writing processes and helping children to develop their writing authentically. Many of the authors talked about their relationships with their editors and how they benefit from having feedback and discussion about the story, the characters and the themes. Teachers could see how this related to classrooms where much of the feedback on creative writing tends to focus on the more technical aspects of writing such as punctuation and spelling

Engaging children with the construction of picture books shows them how much of the story is conveyed in the pictures.
After working with the author-illustrators, the teachers were more confident to spend longer reading books to children; discussing the pictures and the way they combine with the text to tell the story. This helped them to help the children develop inference and critical thinking skills. These are all ‘high level’ reading skills.

We’ve made all this work available on our free Power of Pictures web resource. You can see the full evaluation report, watch videos of all our author-illustrators talking about their work and reading their books and download teaching sequences showing you how to use the books with children of all ages.

February 13, 2017 - Comments Off on Best Books for Children about Love and Friendship

Best Books for Children about Love and Friendship

With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, here are some of our recommended reads on the subject of love and friendship, from perfectly formed picture books with a whole lot of heart, to fiction infused with the most wonderfully uplifting representations of friendship.

Guess How Much I Love You has to be the ultimate 'love' picture book and it’s perfect as a gift from a parent (aunt, uncle, grandparent) to a child or of course from an adult to an adult.  It says it all really.  The unlimited size of love.

The entire Harry Potter series is ultimately about love and what people will do to protect their loved ones. It is about love for lost parents and children, love for friends, love for what is right.  The scene in the book where Harry sees his parents in the Mirror of Erised and hears them talking to him about their love for him is heartbreaking and wonderful.

Sarah Odedina

I love the reluctant friendship in Oliver Jeffers' Lost and Found. The penguin just arrives in the boy's life and sticks to him; the boy thinks he is doing the penguin a favour by returning him to the South Pole but of course it's not until the penguin has gone that he realises what he has lost. That during their long adventure on the sea they truly became friends.

Jenny Jacoby

For me, Charlotte’s Web is a truly timeless classic about the very essence of friendship. The kindness Fern shows Wilbur - the sweet runt pig she nurtures in his early days - is gorgeously cheering. And then there’s the friendship between Wilbur and Charlotte, the small, wise spider who protects and uplifts Wilbur when he feels lonely and snubbed after being moved to Fern’s uncle’s farm. Charlotte expects nothing in return for her many acts of kindness and love; she and Wilbur are friends, and that is everything.

Joanne Owen