One of our earlier Down the Rabbit Hole episodes, broadcast this time last year, was dedicated to celebrating the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal. The Greenaway is (together with its partner, the CILIP Carnegie Medal) one of the oldest and most prestigious prizes for children’s books. It’s named after the 19th century artist and illustrator Kate Greenaway. and is awarded for distinguished illustration in a book for children.
We absolutely love talking about children’s book illustration on DTRH. One of the things that most surprised me when we started the show – and continues to surprise me now – is how joyful it is to talk about illustration on the radio. It’s always wonderful to hear illustrators talk in glorious, unrestrained detail about page spreads, colours, techniques. We all get excited, talking about layout and typography and production. The radio mics pick up the sounds of fingers eagerly flicking pages and lovingly smoothing the texture of the paper.
I suspect that one of the reasons it still feels so exciting to talk about illustration on the radio on DTRH is simply that we hear these kinds of detailed discussions of illustrators’ work so rarely in the mainstream media. Sarah McIntyre’s #PicturesMeanBusiness campaign has recently been doing sterling work to raise the profile of illustrators and ensure they get properly credited for their work. I like to think that on DTRH, in our own small way, we’re doing our bit to help by providing a space in which illustrators can talk about illustration as an artform, where we can acknowledge artists’ amazing work and the important role illustration plays in children’s books, as well as (hopefully!) bringing children’s book illustration to a wider audience.
Given all this, it felt particularly appropriate that June’s DTRH was our second Greenaway special. We were joined by two fantastic picture book creators for the show – Steve Antony, whose books include Please Mr Panda and The Queen’s Hat, and Helen Hancocks, creator of Penguin in Peril and William and the Missing Masterpiece (the second book about cat detective William, William Heads to Hollywood, is published today) – to talk about this year’s Greenaway shortlisted books.
In particular, we discussed this year’s winner – the stunning Shackleton’s Journey by William Grill, pictured above. The show also featured an interview with William, plus comments from some of the children who took part in this year’s Carnegie Greenaway Shadowing scheme about what they thought of the books on the shortlist. You can listen here:
Last weekend, I headed to my home county of Lancashire for some Clockwork Sparrow themed events as part of Independent Booksellers Week.
First up on Sunday was the fantastic A Midsummer Mystery, in the lovely St-Annes-on-Sea. The event was organised by fabulous independent bookshop Storytellers Inc and took place in a suitably mysterious venue.
I was joined at the event by four amazing children’s authors, and fellow Mystery Girls Robin Stevens, Helen Moss, Kate Pankhurst and Elen Caldecott – the Famous Five, if you will.
We each talked about our mystery themed-books and (in between bunbreaks in the Green Room) took part in a mystery of our own. We were all suspects in The Case of the Missing Manuscript, and had to be questioned by the Inspector about the strange disappearance of the latest crime novel manuscript from the study of famous local author Davinia Carruthers-Henley.
The young audience were responsible for working out which of us was the culprit. Elen and Kate were early suspects but in the final denoument it was revealed that none other than Robin was in fact the dastardly villain behind it all! (Although her crime proved to be fairly forgivable, as she didn’t really want to steal the book – just read it before anyone else…)
Having a laugh with Kate Pankhurst and Helen Moss in the Green Room – photo by Robin.
Robin got the children to come up with their own mysteries – so of course The Mystery Girls got in on the action from the Green Room.
For lots more about A Midsummer Mystery, check out Luna’s Little Library’s brilliant Storify of the event here.
The next day, I headed back to St Annes for a day of events with Storytellers Inc. In the morning, Robin and I headed to nearby Heyhouses School for my first ever school event! Naturally, it started with a disco…
Love this picture of James reading along with Clockwork Sparrow – photo by Robin
In the afternoon there was time for a quick walk on the beach before it we headed back to Storytellers Inc some book signing and two sessions with a local Cub Scout group – I really loved talking to them about all their favourite books.
Lovely St Annes beach
Amazing Clockwork Sparrow themed display at Storytellers Inc
Tuesday was quite a special day – I went back to my own old primary school, Abbey Village Primary, for a school event organised by another fantastic Lancashire indie – Ebb & Flo in Chorley.
It was amazing, if a tiny bit surreal, to be back in my old school, and talk to pupils. I loved books, reading and writing when I was at primary school, but we never had an author visit. Abbey Village is a little school in a small Lancashire village, and the most exciting book-related occasion was when the mobile library visited us once every few weeks! For that reason, it felt extra special to meet a new generation of Abbey Village pupils and talk to them about books and writing. Who knows whether some of them might be children’s authors and illustrators of the future?
Super happy to be back at Abbey Village School!
In the afternoon we headed back to Ebb & Flo to sign some books, and then we went on to nearby Adlington Primary School for another school session. It was so lovely to meet children in all the schools I visited and I was super impressed by their enthusiasm for reading and their knowledge of lots of books.
Finally we finished the trip with what else but tea and cakes in a gorgeous vintage tea room?
The Old Stables Vintage Tea Shop in Chorley
The perfect finale to our mini Lancashire tour!
I came back with a whole haul of gorgeous purchases from two fantastic Lancashire indies, and some lovely gifts from them too (including, of course, some Chorley cakes!)
Thanks so much to Storytellers Inc and Ebb & Flo for organising such fabulous events – I hope to come and visit you again soon!
No sooner was Clockwork Sparrow publication day over than it was time for the next exciting children’s book event in my life – the announcement of the new Children’s Laureate!
Author and illustrator Chris Riddell was announced as the Waterstones Children’s Laureate for 2015-2017, taking over from the wonderful Malorie Blackman. The ceremony took place at BAFTA 195 Piccadilly on the morning of 9 June, and a whole host of folk from the children’s book world came along to hear the announcement of the new Laureate, as well as to celebrate Malorie’s achievements in the role.
Here’s me poised at the side of the stage with my clip-board, looking suitably embarassed when Malorie gave me a lovely shout-out during her final Laureate speech:
Of course, once the new Laureate was announced, everyone wanted to hear about what he plans to do during his term. Chris shared his ‘Five Point Plan’ for the key things he hopes to focus on over the next two years:
I absolutely loved Chris’s drawings of ‘The Doodler’ and his fellow Laureates as a host of children’s book superheroes
There was a huge amount of excitement at the event, and in the media following the announcement – it was lovely to see many tweets and blog posts about Chris’s appointment . You can read a bit more about the event itself on the Laureate website here. Congratulations Chris – and here’s to an exciting (and doodle-filled) two years ahead!
Find out more about what Chris is up to as Children’s Laureate on the Laureate website here.
I am a huge fan of Waterstones. I vividly remember my frenzied excitement about getting to go to the big Waterstones shop in Preston when I was a child; and my first real job was working on Saturdays at Waterstones Lancaster when I was in the sixth form at school.
To this day, there is little I enjoy more than a rummage round flagship store Waterstones Piccadilly, where I can easily spend far too much money. It’s so important that we have such a fantastic high street bookseller, and I couldn’t be prouder that The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow has been chosen to be a Waterstones Children’s Book of the Month, and will now be available in Waterstones stores up and down the land!
I have already been absolutely blown away by the enthusiasm of Waterstones booksellers for the book. I’ve been posting pictures of their amazing Clockwork Sparrow themed displays and windows on social media like crazy – and have now started gathering them together on a special Pinterest board (if you see one, please do snap a picture and send it to me!)
Here’s just a few of the many incredible displays so far:
It was particularly special to see this amazing window display at Waterstones Piccadilly this week, complete with a plate of bon-bons and of course a gorgeous jewelled sparrow as a centrepiece.
As a few keen-eyed readers have already spotted, Sinclair’s Department Store is located on Piccadilly, and although it’s a very different building, I’ve imagined it roughly in the spot as Waterstones Piccadilly (which itself was once the home of a famous former London department store, Simpson’s).
This makes it all the lovelier to see such a beautiful Sinclair’s style display in the windows of Waterstones Piccadilly.
Here’s the display in progress, created by the super talented @annieopalfruit …
Find out more about the Baron (plus enter a giveaway to win a copy of the book!)
UPDATED: The lovely LaChouett also did this great interview in which I chatted to her about favourite mystery stories, the allure of red shoes, the most fun Clockwork Sparrow character to write about, and much more…