October 2, 2017 - Comments Off on Interview with author Angie Thomas

Interview with author Angie Thomas

At the start of Black History Month, we’re delighted to publish this fantastic interview with Angie Thomas, author of the incredible YA bestseller The Hate U Give, which is also set to hit the big screen in the near future.

The Hate U Give is a powerful wake-up call of a novel about racism, the Black Lives Matter movement, social inequality and not giving up, told through the eyes of unforgettable sixteen-year-old Starr. Not only is this a breathtakingly smart and important book, and not only is Angie an amazing new voice in YA fiction, but this interview was conducted by talented young book reviewer, Josh. Huge thanks to Josh for making this happen, and to Angie.

Could you describe the book in the length of a tweet?
A sixteen-year-old girl is the sole witness when her childhood best friend is killed by a cop.

Where did the idea come from?
I first wrote The Hate U Give as a short story when I was in college, as a reaction to the shooting of Oscar Grant in Oakland, California. Like Starr, I lived in two different worlds – my poor, black, neighbourhood and my upper-class, mostly white college. Being in these two different worlds, I heard two very different conversations about Oscar. At my school, he was a thug who deserved what he got, but in my community he was one our own. My anger, fear, and frustration led me to write. I put the short story aside after graduation, but as more of these cases continued to happen, I found myself angry, afraid, and frustrated again. So I decided to write the book that became The Hate U Give.

What was it about the Black Lives Matter movement that inspired you in particular?
The Black Lives Matter movement finally gave a voice to what so many of us had been saying in the black community for so long. Police brutality is not new – social media is new, cameras on phones are new, and these two things have allowed the world to see what we’ve been saying for decades. I just hope that my book helps more people understand why we say Black Lives Matter.

One of the key events in the book is the fatal shooting of Starr’s unarmed friend Khalil by a police officer, which happens really early on in the book. What made you want to centre the plot around this?
I wanted to make this the focus of the plot because for so many of us, this has become an active, daily conversation. I wanted to write it for the teens in my community who saw themselves in Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and so many others, but didn’t know how to process their feelings. I wanted to give those kids a mirror and other people a window into what they are dealing with.

Did you write any parts of your own life into this book?
Yes. Like Starr, I grew up in a neighbourhood that’s known for all of the wrong reasons. I never witnessed the shooting dead of a friend, but I’ve witnessed shootings and I’ve lost childhood friends to gun violence. I also found myself straddling two worlds in college, and every day I had to figure out who I was, where I was.

Would you like your book to form part of a conversation about racism, and what would that mean for you if it was?
I hope that my book does help foster some of these conversations, and I hope it helps readers, teens in particular, realise that their voices matter. We must confront racism head-on. It exists, it is prevalent, and it continues to divide us. If The Hate U Give helps tackle it in any way, I will consider it an honor.

The movie rights for your book were sold to Fox 2000 before it was even published, and Amandla Stenberg is set to star. What does this mean for you? Are you excited?
I’m extremely excited about the movie and hope to have more news on it soon! Knowing that my story will reach more people through the film means everything to me.

You were also the first recipient of the Walter Dean Myers Grant from We Need Diverse Books in 2015, a grant awarded to unpublished diverse writers looking to write children’s or YA books. How did it feel to be told you were receiving the grant? Do you believe that the grant is necessary and why?
I was completely shocked that I won the grant and considered it a huge honour – I still do. Not only did the grant help me financially, but it gave me an added boost in the eyes of publishers. The grant is definitely necessary. It puts a spotlight on writers who may otherwise be overlooked. The work that We Need Diverse Books is doing as a whole is necessary, not just for writers but for readers as well.

What’s next for you? Are you planning to write more books?
I’m currently working on my second novel. It’s not a sequel or a spin off of The Hate U Give, but it is set in the same neighbourhood. I call it my ode to hip hop.

And finally, are there any tips you would give to aspiring writers?
Although you will get a lot of rejections along the way, remember that it only takes one ‘yes’ to change everything. And above all, always write for yourself first and foremost.


September 22, 2017 - Comments Off on Brilliant Back-to-School Books

Brilliant Back-to-School Books

With the new term now fully underway, here are Scoop's school-set book recommendations to help readers ease themselves back into the swing of things, from favourite old classics, to contemporary comedies.

Boarding schools always feature high in any round-up of fictional schools, with Hogwarts – naturally – usually topping the list. Then there’s Enid Blyton’s perennially popular Malory Towers and St Clare’s. Oh, and we can’t forget Elinor Brent-Dyer’s alpine-set Chalet School, and Anne Digby’s recently re-released Trebizon.

Pamela Butchart’s rollickingly comical Wigglesbottom Primary series comes hugely recommended for those who are beginning to read independently. Each book features three separate stories – ideal for devouring in manageable bite-size chunks – with hilarious illustrations by Becka Moor. Multi-award-winning Pamela truly understands what makes her readers tick and gets to the humorous heart of primary school life.

For a more magical educational experience, readers will surely want to enrol in Miss Cackle's Academy for Witches, as featured in Jill Murphy’s Worst Witch books. Within the walls of this spellbinding school, would-be witch Mildred Hubble tries her hardest to get to grips with all the tasks she’s set, but sometimes (well, most of the time, to be honest) matters go somewhat awry. The stories are full of charm, cheer and atmosphere, and Mildred is a dearly adorable character.

You Can’t Make Me Go to Witch School! is the first book in a fun new series by debut author Em Lynas. Daisy Wart, an aspiring young actress with lofty ambitions, is extremely angry when her granny leaves her at Toadspit Towers School for Witches but, little by little, Daisy finds herself falling under its spell.

While best known for his multi-award-winning novel Holes, Louise Sachar also authored the rather wonderful Wayside School series. The cast of larger-than-life characters and crazy, comic capers are incredibly entertaining, and valuable life lessons are imparted with a lovely lightness of touch.





August 21, 2017 - Comments Off on Brilliant books to banish boredom

Brilliant books to banish boredom

We at Scoop are dedicated to encouraging all kinds of creativity in our readers, so we’ve pulled together a list of some awesome activity books that are a hundred per cent guaranteed to banish boredom for the last leg of the summer holidays. There’s something for everyone here, from craft lovers to outdoor adventurers, to science buffs, to sports fanatics – so there can be no excuse for having nothing to do!

First up, Nosy Crow’s series of smartly designed activity books are a feast for the eyes, and an inspiration for the mind. National Trust: Go Wild in the Woods is a perfect, pocket-sized compendium packed with survival tips for young adventurers, and teaches all manner of outdoor skills, from how to build a shelter and cook over a campfire, to fun games to play in the great outdoors. It also includes essential information about first aid, and what NOT to do when out in the wild. We also love this gorgeous range of colouring books complete with cards and envelopes. The series provides hours of arty activity on rainy days, with themes covering the likes of nature, summertime, unicorns and rainbows, and flowers and butterflies.

Backyard Explorer is a brilliant fill-in journal brought to young explorers by Lonely Planet. Packed with plenty of ideas for fun things to do and make (including cloud spotting, scavenger hunting and creating a time capsule), readers will be enjoying adventures right outside their own back doors in no time.

Budding scientists and engineers will find much to inform and entertain in b small publishing’s inventively educational series of STEM starters, which are packed with facts and engaging activities themed around science, technology, engineering and maths.

From experiencing a 3D penalty shoot-out, to playing a fun, flicking football game, Football Things to Make and Do is packed with immersive projects and games to keep footy fans entertained during the summer off-season. Young cricketers will love this recently released Cricket Sticker Book, which includes 450 stickers, plus insights into the rules of the game.


August 14, 2017 - Comments Off on Adventures Close to Home

Adventures Close to Home

Whether you’re off on holiday this summer, or enjoying a break at home, we can all experience incredible adventures through the pages of a book. Here are a few of our favourite reads to transport young adventure-seekers to thrilling far-flung places – no packing, passport or plane tickets necessary!

Set in 1910, and published in 2001, in Eva Ibbotson’s Journey to the River Sea is an absolute classic. When word comes that brave, bright orphan Maia has relatives living near Manaus, she’s transported from her English school to the heart of the Amazon, accompanied by her governess, Minty. Maia’s dream of an exciting new life with her cousins is tainted when she discovers that they’re horribly spoiled, and only interested in her parents’ money, but she’s entranced by the majesty of the forest, and befriends a half-English, half-Xanti boy, Finn. The plot twists and snakes like the Amazon itself – there are duplicitous dealings, secret identities, and an overarching respect for the wonders of the natural world. In Minty’s words, ‘children must lead big lives ... if it is in them to do so’, which is exactly what Maia does. She’s the pluckiest of heroines, with huge heart and integrity, and readers will come away dazzled by both the gripping adventure, and the author’s unforgettable evocation of the Amazon. It’s one of those special stories that readers will return to and re-read over and over again.

Katherine Rundlell’s recently published The Explorer was partly inspired by the author’s love of Journey to the River Sea. Intricately illustrated by Hannah Horn, this tells the gloriously gripping tale of four children struggling to survive when their plane crashes in the wilds of the Amazon forest. Fred has always dreamed of being an explorer, and desperately longs to do something to make his father notice him. He now has chance to do just that. While dangers are ever-present in the form of caimans, tarantulas, snakes and piranhas, they manage to find food, and Fred even fashions a raft that transports them along the river, with their adopted sloth aboard. Then, deep in the mysterious jungle, they encounter a real-life explorer who holds mysteries of his own. At its heart, this is a book about the magical richness of the natural world, and what it is to truly experience life. As the eponymous explorer explains, “You don’t have to be in the jungle to be an explorer … every human on this earth is an explorer”. This is a thoughtful and vibrantly thrilling feast.

From South America to South Africa: Lauren St John’s award-winning series of White Giraffe books were inspired by her experiences growing up on a Zimbabwean farm and game reserve, and they’re a thoroughly warm-hearted, wonder-filled treat. When eleven-year-old Martine is orphaned, she’s sent to live with her grandmother on a game reserve in South Africa, but her grandmother is distant and unwelcoming, and Martine also feels like an outsider at school. Then, after befriending Tendai, a keeper on the reserve, and sighting the fabled white giraffe, Martine discovers that she has a secret gift, and a world of adventure unfolds.

Set against a stunning Himalayan landscape, Jess Butterworth‘s recently released debut, Running on the Roof of the World, follows the epic adventures of twelve-year old Tash and best friend Sam as they journey from Tibet to India, where they hope to secure the support of the Dalai Lama in order to save her parents. But time is against them, as is the terrain. With winter setting in, the perilous paths of the Himalayas will soon be blocked by snow, and many dangers must be kept at bay. This thrilling fable about hope and holding onto what really matters abounds in derring-do appeal.

Melding magic and mystery with a wild spirit of adventure, Abi Elphinstone’s Dreamsnatcher trilogy is set in an imagined world, but inspired by the author’s real-life experiences among Scottish glens, Norwegian fjords, Italian Dolomites, Brazilian caves, and Kazakh eagle hunters in Mongolia. Moll’s quest to fight the Dreamsnatcher’s dark magic is furiously fast-paced, and these books are ablaze with action, adventure and enchantment.

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!

June 16, 2017 - Comments Off on Super Scoopster Edie interviews awesome author, Peter Bunzl

Super Scoopster Edie interviews awesome author, Peter Bunzl

On my! We have a HUGE treat for you today. One of our super Scoopster readers recently interviewed author Peter Bunzl at the fantastic Pickled Pepper Books. Over to you, Edie …

Peter Bunzl is the well-known author of Cogheart and Moonlocket. At the moment he is writing his third book. He told us two possible names for it, but they are TOP SECRET for now. He came to Pickled Pepper Books in Crouch End for their book group and I asked him some questions.

What is your favourite book that you have written and who is your favourite character?
My favourite book will have to be Moonlocket because I finished and published it a few months ago, and I had to cut a lot out of Cogheart so I put a lot of the story into Moonlocket. My favourite character is Malkin. He is funny, helpful and always there when you need him. When I was writing Cogheart he was going to be a cat but it did not feel right so I thought about what other animals get chased and a fox seemed obvious. So I worked on adding foxy features to him.

What other time period would you like to set a book in?
I would like to set a book now. With kids who have magical powers, but not like Harry Potter.

When did you start to write?
I started to write when I was ten or eleven. I wrote my mum, dad and my sister a fourteen-page story and I was very pleased with myself. It was about a boy who travelled to an island and met magical, mythical creatures.

When you made your first book did you know it was going to be a sequel?
No, I didn't really know because when I first thought of the idea Cogheart it was going to be a comic strip. But lots of ideas had to be edited and it did not really work so then I tried writing it and it worked!

It was an amazing experience meeting an author of a bestselling book and I'm really looking forward to the new one being published.

For more information about Peter and his brilliant books, head over here.