Follow the Yellow

On the radio

 

dtrh1

In the studio! Me (with mic for head), Tanya, Alex and Laura

As you know, last week my children’s book radio show, Down the Rabbit Hole, took to the airwaves on Resonance 104.4FM! You can listen to it here:

Down The Rabbit Hole – 18th February 2014 by Resonance Fm on Mixcloud

The idea for Down the Rabbit Hole originally came about following the recent discussions about the lack of proper coverage of children’s books in the media. Even though children’s books account for almost a fourth of all book sales in the UK, they receive only a tiny proportion of media coverage compared to books for adults. That has always seemed extraordinary to me – not just because so many families are interested in children’s books, but also because they are such rich artworks in their own right – and just as worthy of ‘proper’ discussion as adult literature.

The opportunity to do the show came about when arts radio station Resonance FM offered up one of their Clear Spot sessions, which are set aside for experimenting with new programme ideas. I’m a big fan of Resonance, who have a hugely diverse and interesting programme, and they seemed the ideal home for a deeper discussion of children’s literature.

I had envisioned the show as being a bit like BBC Radio 4’s Front Row, but exclusively for children’s books, so my first job was to find a panel to discuss a selection of books with me. Happily, I was lucky enough to find four brilliant and enthusiastic speakers to be involved –Tanya Byrne, Melissa Cox, Laura Dockrill and Alex T Smith.

Next up, we needed an interesting selection of new children’s and teenage books to discuss. These are the titles we talked about in detail in the programme:

  • Meet the Parents by Peter Bently and Sara Ogilvie (Simon & Schuster)
  • Squishy McFluff: The Invisible Cat by Pip Jones and Ella Okstad (Faber Children’s Books) – check out the trailer we played on the show here
  • Jane, the Fox and Me by Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault (Walker Books)
  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (Macmillan Children’s Books)
  • The Worst Witch series by Jill Murphy (Puffin Books)

Feature items were provided by Nikesh Shukla, who gamely became our ‘roving reporter’ and interviewed graphic novelists the Etherington Brothers in Bristol; the Hot Key Books team, who gave us a peep behind the scenes into children’s publishing; and agent extraordinaire Louise Lamont, who offered up her tips on how aspiring children’s writers and illustrators could attract an agent’s attention (with added Antonio Banderas).

I was also lucky enough to have contributions from the likes of Philip Ardagh, Liz Pichon, Tom Moorhouse and James Dawson, who generously shared their thoughts on ‘the book they would give to their 10-year-old self’ as part of the campaign to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize.

Recording the show was a bit nerve-racking – I’d done one ‘down the line’ radio interview before, but never set foot in a proper recording studio, and I was feeling a bit anxious as we sat in a Southwark cafe chatting before the pre-recording session. Thankfully I had an exceptional bunch of speakers at my side and Resonance were welcoming and made the technical side super easy for us. The recording session ended up being really good fun and we could happily have gone on for another hour, chatting about our favourite spreads from Jane, the Fox and Me, listening to Laura read from her new book Darcy Burdock: Hi So Much, talking about why The Worst Witch is so brilliant, and discussing what books we’d have given to our 10-year-old selves.

Louise having her 'Evita' moment: the panel getting ready in the studio

Louise having her ‘Evita’ moment: the panel getting ready in the studio

It was far more nerve-wracking listening to the broadcast when it went out on Tuesday night – but hearing all the generous and supportive feedback from listeners on Twitter was absolutely brilliant. The hugely positive response to the show on Tuesday (and again on Wednesday morning when the show was repeated) proved to me without any doubt that there’s an appetite for more discussion of children’s books of this kind – not just from authors, illustrators and the industry, but also amongst teachers, librarians, parents and the general public. It was lovely to see tweets like these ones:

 

There have been some great blog posts about the show, including these lovely ones from author Susie Day, and blog Good for Your Soul. I also love this one from Louise about taking part, in which she describes me as ‘the Mickey Rooney of children’s books in the media’ (I think that’s a compliment?)

Huge thanks to everyone who took part in the show, to Resonance, and to everyone who tuned in. We hope to find a way to continue the show, so if you enjoyed it do share your feedback by leaving a comment or tweeting with the hashtag #DownTheRabbitHole.

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