At the end of October, I was excited to have the opportunity to take part in the first ever YA Shot. This brand new book event, organised by lovely author Alexia Casale, is a one-day Young Adult and Middle Grade festival, taking place in Uxbridge. The first event brought together around 50 authors for a programme of events and book-signings, and also marked the launch of a year-long programme of free author events in libraries across the Hillingdon area.
I was there for a panel event, ‘Into the Past: Exploring History in Middle Grade fiction’ with authors Emma Carroll and Anne Booth at Waterstones Uxbridge. I really enjoyed taking part in a history-themed discussion, and as our audience for the event was mainly adults, it gave us the chance to talk in more detail about our approach to writing history, and some of the related issues. I loved talking to Emma and Anne about their writing, and hearing them read from their books.
It was also a real treat to have the chance to attend lots of other talks and sessions through the day, including a suitably spine-chilling horror panel chaired by Lou Morgan, and a lovely discussion about nature in YA with Anna McKerrow, Lisa Heathfield and Piers Torday.
October also brought our next episode of Down the Rabbit Hole, which looked at some of the biggest names in children’s books, including Harry Potter and Twilight. We were joined in the studio by my fellow Mystery Girl Robin Stevens, for the show which also featured an interview with Adam Freudenheim of Pushkin Press, and some brilliant kids from Netley Primary School telling us about their favourite books.
The following week, it was time for another event – this time at the STREAM South London Book Festival. I’d heard great things about this free one-day book festival at Streatham & Clapham High School. For the event, I was paired with author of The Glass Bird Girl Esme Kerr to discuss ‘Villains and Edwardians’.
It was lovely to see so many enthusiastic readers in the audience, who asked some brilliant questions. Afterwards, during the signing session I was especially pleased to have chance for a quick catch up with my Children’s Laureate pal Chris Riddell – we even signed some books side-by-side!
Most recently, I’ve headed over to Bristol for an event at the University of the West of England with the Just Imagine Story Centre. This was another new departure for me – an event with first and second year teaching students. I was lucky enough to be teamed up with Emma Carroll again for this event – Emma and I had a lot of fun, and I loved listening to her presentation, which included the revelation that her love for Duran Duran was one of the things that got her started writing as a teenager!
I also really enjoyed the ‘in conversation’ session chaired by Nikki Gamble, where we were asked some really insightful questions by the audience. Afterwards we signed books and had the chance to chat to the students and to hear from them about their first experiences in the classroom.
Thanks so much to YA Shot, STREAM and Just Imagine for having me!
After a busy autum with lots of great events, I’m looking forward to a relaxing December which I’m planning to spend eating mince-pies and getting in the festive spirit… not forgetting working on the third book in the Clockwork Sparrow series, of course!
The titles we talked about were Levi Pinfold’s new picture book Greenling; Brian Selznick’s incredible novel The Marvels (watch the trailer above); and One, a new young adult novel from Sarah Crossan. We could have happily listened to David describing Levi Pinfold’s artwork all evening!
Also featured in this month’s show were authors Lydia Syson and Catherine Johnson talking about writing historical fiction, and some amazing children from Mandeville School, who told us why they love poetry at this year’s CLPE Poetry Award.
Listen to the show below and find out lots more about DTRH and all the books we discussed on our newly updated DTRH website, which now includes an easy-to-access archive!
For July’s DTRH, we were joined in the studio by two excellent children’s book experts – The Bookseller’s Anna James aka @acaseforbooks, and author of Being Billy and Demolition Dad Phil Earle.
We had a great chat about three new books – Jacqueline Wilson’s Katy, a fantastic new take on What Katy Did that has just been published by Puffin; buzzy YA debut The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle, published by Random House; and the delightful Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam: The Cat Burglar by Tracey Courderoy and Steve Lenton, published by Nosy Crow. The episode also features an interview with US YA author Jenny Han.
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:
Gorgeous images from Alex T Smith’s Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion
I hurried back from the Hay Festival just in time for May’s DTRH. For this month we were joined by Guardian journalist, author and all-round children’s book guru Lucy Mangan.
Melissa, Louise, Lucy and I discussed three new children’s books: Alex T Smith’s spin on Little Red Riding Hood, Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion, published by Scholastic, which is pictured above (image via Alex T Smith’s very lovely website which I recommend you enjoy browsing); Demolition Dad by Phil Earle published by Orion Children’s Books; and The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge published by Macmillan Children’s Books.
The show also included a short feature item from Bloomsbury, in which blogger Daphne of Winged Reviews interviewed Sarah J Maas about A Court of Thorns and Roses.