Monthly Archives: June 2016

Lifeboat at the BOAT!

The B.O.A.T theatre in Brighton played host to a wonderful event on Sunday 19th June to raise money for the School Bus Project, set up to provide education to children in the Calais refugee camps.  A group of amazing authors & illustrators came together to entertain and enthrall an audience of children and their parents, with activities running throughout the afternoon.

Having read about the event at the last-minute, I was unaware of how many people were involved, so I couldn’t quite believe just how many fantastic authors were under one roof – well, not exactly, as it’s an open air theatre, but you know what I mean!    I’ve been to some wonderful book events, but this must surely have been one of the best – the atmosphere was great – and not just because of the wonderful venue and glorious sunshine! Hosted by Sid from CBeebies, we sat with bated breath as author after author performed/ read aloud/ drew/ played games and even sang & danced for the watching crowd.  Children were delighted to be involved, as were even the most reluctant of parent participants.  There was even an opportunity to do some life-drawing with a group of artistes posing in various costumes – including a storm trooper! Phoenix comics were running workshops and there were various vintage type circus games going on, each with a related book theme. From Emily Gravett to Axel Sheffler it was like a who’s who of children’s picture book illustrators and authors.

I was delighted to bump into a Book Activist friend, Adam Stower, who was enjoying talking with fellow illustrators.  He very kindly introduced me to Anthony Browne…! Okay so yes, I was a but start struck but wouldn’t you be? Anthony Browne has written some of the most incredible picture books ever published and there he was right in front of me.  He too joined in the fun, and had the audience helping him draw marvellous pictures. A F Harrold gave a brilliant performance of his poems and had everyone in stitches. But perhaps most exciting was Axel Sheffler, who proceeded to delight one and all by drawing one of the all time favourite picture book characters, The Gruffalo.  How completely magical to see these wonderful images appearing on the paper in front of our very eyes!

Enough of the name dropping – not forgetting the cause that the proceeds of the event were going to. The School Bus in question was actually there and I spent a good deal of time talking to those involved in creating the project.  What an amazing idea – to give those who have no opportunity to access any kind of education the chance to be taught by a range of volunteer teachers on a converted school bus, which will be filled with resources.  Inspiring. And incredibly brave.

This event totally proved the point that having authors share their wonderful creations directly with children and their parents is absolutely the best way to promote and encourage reading. The joy on everyone’s faces was a sight to see. It also enabled a huge amount to be raised for a very worthwhile cause. I defy anyone not to have left the B.O.A.T that day with a renewed love for children’s books and stories and an insight into telling stories through pictures. And of course, the very positive feeling of doing something to support children who live in the most dire of circumstances.

For more information about the event and the project visit:


Why I love reading.

Working as I am at present has caused me to reflect and as such, consider why it is that I love reading.

I’ve always been a reader. I can remember as a young reader, when I was so engrossed in my books, my older sister would throw things at me to get my attention – thankfully there were no broken bones (or books!).  As I got older, reading was just something I always did, it being perfectly natural to pick up a book, sit and read for hours. It was definitely an escape for me – not that I had an unhappy childhood; I just had a massively vivid imagination and would open the pages of a new book with joy ready for the next adventure to begin, escaping the world of school, homework and the growing pains of being a teenager.

So maybe that’s what made me fall in love with reading – the ability to transport myself to other worlds, other times and connect with new ‘people’ even if they were only between the pages of a book. My father definitely influenced my reading; giving me a ‘library’ of brand new books; ‘classic’ reads which I loved because they were beautiful leather bound books – not because I actually wanted to read them at the time! Beau Gueste, Lorna Doone, Uncle Tom’s Cabin didn’t really appeal to me – I was more into Sweet Valley High which I suppose reflected my blooming interests in all things romance and the trials & tribulations of friendships!  But the thing was, I loved those actual, physical books, the idea of all those words inside, knowing these particular ‘classics’ perhaps reflected a certain intelligence and knowledge, which even though I hadn’t read yet, it was there. Just waiting. Continue reading

Branford Boase Award 2016 Shortlist Reviews

I’m very excited to have been invited to review The Branford Boase Awards Shortlist 2016.

“The Branford Boase Award is given annually to the author of an outstanding debut novel for children. Uniquely, it also honours the editor of the winning title and highlights the importance of the editor in nurturing new talent. Now in its sixteenth year the Branford Boase Award is recognised as one of the most important awards in children’s books with a hugely impressive record in identifying authors with special talent at the start of their careers. Meg Rosoff who has just been awarded the world’s biggest children’s book prize, the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, won in 2005 with How I Live Now, while Frances Hardinge, who this year won the Costa Book of the Year Award with her children’s novel The Lie Tree, was named Branford Boase Award winner exactly ten years ago.”

Branford Boase Shortlist 2016v2

The 2016 Shortlist is full of fantastic fiction and I’m a little relieved I don’t have to pick the winner – it’s going to be a tough decision. I’ll be posting reviews on the Bookshelf over the coming weeks. The winners will be announced on Thursday 7th July at a ceremony in London.