Tag Archives: bookchat

Bookchat: Boundless Sky by Amanda Addison and Manuela Adreani

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Boundless Sky by Amanda Addison and Manuela Adreani featured as part of my World Book Day Blog.  It is a simply stunning story using the migration of a beautiful swallow to illustrate the journey of a refugee.  The story depicts just how far refugees travel to get to safety, how long and dangerous the journey can be, and how the help and welcome of others is so needed. And of course highlights the wonder of nature and how incredible the migration of birds really is. Published by Lantana Publishing, Boundless Sky evokes real empathy and beautifully depicts the power of nature and kindness; it’s a story we can all learn from.

unnamedToday, I am sharing a Q & A with author Amanda Addison who shares some wonderful insights into the inspiration for the book and how stories can connect us all. Welcome to the blog Amanda!

Can you tell us about the inspiration behind Boundless SkyThe natural world and travel are both inspirations for my writing and painting. Boundless Sky was inspired by several things coming together to form the seed of an idea about bird migration. Mark Cocker, (co-author of Birds Britannica) lives in a neighbouring village. When I read Crow Country there were so many amazing facts about bird migration that it sowed the seed of an idea to use bird migration in fiction. My first exploration of the idea was in connection with nomadic peoples and yurts in my textile-inspired novel, Laura’s Handmade Life.

Then I was asked to make a piece of artwork for a Bird themed exhibition – birds and migration was circling around in my head! If I had a super power it would be to be able to fly. And that was my ‘light bulb’ moment of telling the story of a migrating swallow from its own Bird’s eye view of the children it meets en-route. I have wanted to write about the refugee crisis in an empathetic way and so the story links the amazing migration of the swallow (something we are familiar with) with an understanding of the lengthy journeys many people fleeing conflict, climate change etc have to make to survive and thrive. Journeys are made to survive and thrive. Bird’s journey can be seen as a metaphor for coming together under the same boundless sky.

However, there is still work to be done in extending people’s intellectual and emotional empathy around this issue. Leila offers Bird the life-giving water it needs to continue its journey when the adults don’t notice. This is my favourite spread as children often notice what is really important.

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My hope is that Boundless Sky will be part of that change and help us to understood migration on both an intellectual and emotion level.

What research did you carry out to inform the story? I returned to some of the bird facts in various books which inspired me to write about bird migration in the first place. I also read accounts of swallow migrations. There were some amazing facts which I couldn’t fit directly into this story, such as how in the past people really didn’t believe it was possible for a bird so small to migrate and so they believed that they hibernated underground! However, I used this belief to inform the beginning of the story:

“Nobody knew,

nobody dreamed,

nobody even considered the possibility

that a bird which fits in your hand

might fly halfway round the world –

and back again.”

How did you work with the illustrator to bring your words to life? When Alice from Lantana suggested Manuela Adreani, I thought her work was a very good fit as she uses bold compositions with a tender use of colour and tone which would be just right. The final images are gorgeous and stylish! I love the echoing of flight shapes, wings, kites, butterflies, hands etc. What I particularly like about the pictures is the way you can look at them again and again and get something more out of them.

We had a few discussions to clarify some things in the text. But in the end (as I used to work as an illustrator and did my first degree in illustration at Chelsea School of Art) I wanted to trust Manuela and give her the freedom to come up with something beyond my own imagination. The best illustrators complement a story and bring an extra dimension to it.  Also, Manuela and I are indebted to the book’s designer the book designer made beautiful use of complementary colours with orange type and spine against turquoise background.

Home has a particularly poignant meaning in these difficult times – what do you think your story can teach people about this today? When I wrote Boundless Sky, I never dreamed that the book’s message of resilience, interconnectedness and helping each other would be so important, in such a different context. In fact, one reviewer said the book is for 5-89 years! as it’s a heart-warming story for us all. As home becomes smaller for us during social isolation, our sense of place and connection with others becomes more important.

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Stories can allow us to be mental travellers, allow us to explore places from our past, our imagination and inter connectedness with the whole world. Times are tough, but as with bird’s journey we are reminded that the world is truly interconnected and we must support each other to enlarge our common humanity. Stories of tenderness, kindness and connection can help us come through this pandemic with our humanity intact.

Finally, can you share what new projects you are working on? I am working on more stories on the theme of home and away for both adults and children. It is difficult to focus at the moment on new ideas, but I am finding it a perfect time to re-write my drafts-in-progress and this is a comfort of sorts. The conservatory, my usual studio space isn’t working out with everyone at home so I have turned part of my greenhouse into an art studio and will be painting from nature!

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Find out more at www.amandaaddison.com.You can download resources for Boundless Sky and watch Amanda read the story aloud here.

With thanks to Lantana Publishing for sending me this book to review and to Amanda Addison for participating in this bookchat!

 

Bookchat: Bug Belly written and illustrated by Paul Morton

Congratulations to author-illustrator, Paul Morton, whose debut funny fiction series is published today by Five Quills! It’s a huge pleasure to feature Bug Belly on the blog today – a book that will make you smile from the very first page.  Delightful and engaging throughout, the story introduces a new children’s character in the shape of a fabulous and funny frog, Bug Belly! And Paul Morton joins us on the blog today to share some of the inspiration behind the story.

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It’s Uncle Bug Belly’s turn to babysit! The taddies and the froglets can’t wait to PLAY. But when Uncle Bug Belly’s tummy goes URGLE-GURGLE GLUMP everyone knows it spells trouble!

Imaginative and full of lively, humourous illustrations, the first book in the series entitled Bug Belly: Babysitting Trouble, follows Bug Belly’s adventures as he babysits a whole pondful of tadpoles and young froglets. Full of great ideas to keep them entertained, all is going swimmingly (!) when Bug Belly’s hungry tummy gets the better of him and disaster strikes.  However, not to be beaten by the threat of a dried up pond, a greedy fish, bird AND snake, Bug Belly comes up with an ingenious plan to save the day.  Young readers will love following the adventures and seeing how Bug Belly doesn’t give up even when all seems lost. There are even diagrams to highlight all Bug Belly’s fantastic ideas; a great addition to the story and perhaps inspiration for budding young inventors!  Bug Belly: Babysitting Trouble is a wonderful addition to the world of illustrated fiction and I can’t wait to see what Bug Belly does next!

I’m very pleased to welcome Paul Morton to the blog today for a bookchat – welcome to the blog Paul!

Tell us a bit about your new book, Bug Belly: Babysitting Trouble. The book is the first in a new series of young fiction titles, aimed at readers age 5-8 – both for children who still enjoy being read to as well as those venturing out on their own. Bug Belly is an ingenious, inventive and super fun froggy uncle to lots of little tadpoles and froglets in Top Pond. In this first story, he’s supposed to be babysitting all the taddies, but his hungry belly distracts him and causes a bit of a disaster, resulting in all the water draining from the pond. Bug Belly must race against the clock to save all the tadpoles. He loves a challenge, though, and comes up with an inventive plan to save the day, with the help of three young frogs, Splish, Splash and Splodge. It’s action packed, fun and exciting!

What do you hope readers will enjoy about the book? I hope they will enjoy the humour and action in the story, and I’ve included lots of illustrations throughout the book to introduce the characters, highlight the action and show the funny scenarios Bug Belly finds himself in. The text is great for reading aloud, too, so I hope will be shared in classrooms as well as at home. I recently did a school event which I really enjoyed – sharing tips on writing and firing children’s imaginations, and I hope to do many more of those in the future. I’ve created lots of activity sheets and resources to engage children with the series, so they can have a lot of fun exploring the stories in different ways.

How did you first come up with the idea for Bug Belly? I was playing a game with my nephew. Bug Belly is a rubber frog he has that had lost its squeaker, so insects could be stuffed into its tummy. I thought, ‘there’s a great idea for a children’s book!’ I’ve always been interested in animals, though, and have drawn many frog characters in my career as an illustrator and graphic designer. As a child I owned a green super-bouncy ball, that I kept in my pocket and pretended was a frog that could jump! Now, I’m lucky enough now to have a pond in my garden that is full of frogspawn, tadpoles and frogs every year!

How did you develop Bug Belly’s character, and the stories for this book series? I started by imagining some busy scenes from the story, for example the one where Bug Belly is planning to bag more bugs for his breakfast. I began wondering about all of the gadgets that Bug Belly might use to help him catch the bugs, and I developed his kit bag which you’ll see drawings of in the book – and developed various scenes from there which I stitched together into what I hope is an exciting story.

How do you plan and develop the illustrations for your books? First, I draw the main scenes as rough pencil sketches in my various notebooks and sketchbooks. Then I draw them in more detail on A4 sheets, before scanning them into my computer to add the colour digitally. In total, I produced around 1,000 drawings for Bug Belly: Babysitting Trouble! One of the biggest challenges was all the individual tadpoles! I drew 2,000 of those for this book!

What can we expect in future Bug Belly stories? More fast paced fun and even trickier challenges for Bug Belly. Book two is being developed at the moment and involves a daring rescue mission to save one of the little froglets. Obviously I don’t want to give too much away but the story will feature sneaky snake and other predators, oh – and flying frogs!!

With thanks to Five Quills for sending me this book to review and inviting me to host a bookchat! Bug Belly by Paul Morton publishes today (Five Quills), £6.99 paperback.

Sample chapters, activity sheet downloads and lots of other resources available from www.bugbelly.com

Bug Belly cover

 

 

Bookchat: Q & A with Jennie Poh illustrator of The Pirate Tree

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The Pirate Tree written by Brigita Orel and illustrated by Jennie Poh is a tale of imagination and friendship, published by Lantana Publishing. It’s a beautiful picture book about Sam, who plays in a gnarled old tree which sometimes turns into a pirate ship! Sam is its fearless captain who one day sees another sailor, Agu from Nigeria, approach and must decide whether to let this stranger join the game.

A simple narrative combines with distinctive illustrations depicting the bond of friendship that forms, as Sam discovers Agu knows some very interesting things about treasure and boats. Suddenly their differences fade, and their joy in playing pirates takes over.  A great story to share, The Pirate Tree is a celebration of freindship and the joy of imaginative play.

I’m very pleased to welcome illustrator Jennie Poh to the blog today with a quick bookchat about her work. Jennie was born in England and grew up in Malaysia. She studied Fine Art at The Surrey Institute of Art & Design as well as Fashion Illustration at Central St. Martins.

How do you start illustrating once you have the narrative of the story in front of you? After a couple of reads through the manuscript I’m given a brief description of the characters by the publisher and author. I then play around with a lot of sketches, with this it was the ‘pirate tree’ different shapes and textures as this was going to heavily feature in the story. Once I was happy with this I did some development work with Agu and Sam.

What media have you used to create the pictures for The Pirate TreeI mainly work digitally, ‘Photoshop’ but scan in textures myslef and I make my own digital brushes to create a less digital feel to my colour work. Welcome to the blog Jennie!

The illustrations are gorgeous – I particularly love the expressions on the characters faces – including the fish. How do you go about capturing expression?  Thank you! I really loved illustrating these little fish. I think I try and pull these faces/expressions myself and do my best to put that down on paper. 

What stories do you recall from childhood that perhaps influence your work today? I read a lot of Beatrix Potter, Enid Blyton and always adored The Chronicles of Narnia. I think any illustrations that were enchanting, or heavily featured nature influened me as a child which has spilled through to my work.

Can you tell us about any new picture book projects you are working on? I’m currently working on a story about a biracial girl who is dealing with many questions about her heritage. I think this is a wonderful concept to work with.

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With thanks to Jennie Poh for participating in this Q & A and Lantana Publishing for sending me this book to review.

 

 

 

 

Bookchat: Q & A with M.G Leonard on the Branford Boase Award

BBA_LogoNext Thursday a whole host of the great and the good from the world of children’s books will gather to hear the announcement of this year’s winner of the Branford Boase Award. This year is the 20th anniversary of the award which is given annually to a first-time writer of an outstanding book for young people and also their editor, recognising the important contribution of the editor in identifying and nurturing new talent. Running alongside it is the Henrietta Branford Writing Competition which encourages writing talent in 19 year olds and under. 

M.G. Leonard Branford Boase winner 2017

I’m delighted to welcome past award winner M. G Leonard to the blog today for a bookchat about the Branford Boase Award.  M.G Leonard won the Branford Boase in 2017 for her brilliant debut Beetle Boy, along with her editors from Chicken House, Barry Cunningham and Rachel Leyshon.  Beetle Boy was the first in a trilogy, and M.G Leonard has since gone on to have huge success (read my review of Beetle Boy here.) Today she shares her thoughts on winning the award, the important relationship between author and editor and also her current projects!

Can you tell us what makes the Branford Boase Award so special? A debut novel is a rough diamond, and requires more input from an editor than any other book an author will write. It is a powerful collaboration, and this award is the only one to recognise this work. The Branford Boase Award has an amazing history of awarding writers who go on to be some of the most exciting authors out there telling stories for young people. It is the award that all writers want to win.

How did it feel to win the award and what difference has it made to you two years on? I am very proud to be a Branford Boase Award winner. It was the first major award that I won, and it is hugely encouraging to be told that you did a good job when you are floundering in a new industry. It was particularly lovely to have Rachel and Barry’s work celebrated, because Chicken House believed in Beetle Boy right from the start. Winning the award increased my confidence and creativity, and it’s ever so lovely when people announce you before your event and tell everyone that you won it. The Branford Boase Award is a hallmark of quality, a standard to live up to, and the finest club I’ve ever been in.

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Barry Cunningham described the relationship between author and editor “like your first girlfriend or boyfriend in how it shapes you”. How do you think working with both Barry and Rachel Leyshon has shaped you as an author? I think the relationship depends on the people in it. My work as an author is considerably shaped by my working for fifteen years in the theatre, however what Barry and Rachel taught me was the importance of keeping the action, the power and the decision making firmly in the hands of the children. This is an invaluable lesson, because it’s so easy to be in love with your creation, when really you need to be in love with your characters.

What advice would you have for aspiring authors working on their debut novel about developing a good relationship with their editor(s)? To the aspiring writer I would say, the editing process is painful and infuriating. You will doubt yourself and lose all objectivity, so you must trust your editor. They know the world of books far better than you, if this is your first. Read your edits. Step away from your manuscript and vent all your frustrations and anger at a wall, or a friend. And you will be angry, or upset, because we are all defensive about our creations and the role of the editor is to question and poke and cut. Your debut is an epic voyage and your editor has the map; you must journey alone, but you won’t get to the end without your editor’s help. Once the quest is complete you will feel an enormous debt of gratitude to your editor, because you will see your book is a far superior vessel for your story than when you first set out.

Can you share with us what you’re working on at the moment? I am writing a new series of books for Macmillan, called Adventures on Trains. The first book, The Highland Falcon Thief will be published in March 2020, and swiftly followed by a second in September. Harrison Beck, the protagonist, is an eleven-year-old from Crewe with a talent for drawing. When his uncle, a travel writer, takes him on the last journey of the royal steam train around the British Isles, he draws what he sees. When a priceless diamond necklace goes missing, Harrison realised there are clues in his pictures, and sets out to catch the thief. The books are a joyous celebration of trains, rail travel and landscape, as well as a damn good adventure. Each book in the series features Harrison and his Uncle having a new adventure on a different train in a different country. The second book is set in America, on the California Zephyr.

I have also written a picture book for Walker Books, illustrated by Daniel Rieley, that will be published in January 2020 called The Tale of a Toothbrush – a story of plastic in our oceans, which I’m very excited about, because the subject is very important to me.

With thanks to M.G Leonard for participating in this blog today!

 

You can find out more about M.G Leonard on her website www.mgleonard.com. Read all about Chicken House here www.chickenhousebooks.com and for more information about the award visit www.branfordboaseaward.org.uk

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Blog Tour: You’re Safe with Me by Chitra Soundar illustrated by Poonam Mistry

I’m delighted to be hosting this stop on the blog tour for You’re Safe with Me, a stunning picture book which celebrates the wonder of nature. I think we can all remember being frightened of thunder storms when we were little and this story captures that feeling and how a little bit of comfort and wisdom can allay our fears.  The beautiful, intricate illustrations will mesmerise young readers and the poetic narrative will calm their minds, making this a perfect bedtime story.

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