By Louise Lamont | 01 March, 2017
February 2017 has been a bumper month for children's publishing - with a host of new titles ranging from picture books to teen fiction. Here's our list of highlights to look out for this month.
I Don’t Want Curly Hair by Laura Ellen Anderson (Bloomsbury)
The Everywhere Bear by Julia Donaldson & Rebecca Cobb (Macmillan)
Jellicle Cats by TS Eliot & Arthur Robins (Faber)
The Koala Who Could by Rachel Bright (Orchard)
The Unexpected Visitor by Jessica Courtney-Tickle (Egmont)
The Night Gardener by Eric and Terry Fan (Frances Lincoln)
Edie by Sophy Henn (Puffin)
Alfie And His Very Best Friend by Shirley Hughes (Random House)
Life Is Magic by Meg McLaren (Andersen)
A Beginner’s Guide To Bearspotting by Michelle Robinson & David Roberts (Bloomsbury)
Claude Going For Gold! by Alex T Smith (Hachette)
There’s A Tiger In The Garden by Lizzy Stewart (Frances Lincoln)
The Dragon With A Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis (Bloomsbury)
Broken Heart Club by Cathy Cassidy (Puffin)
The Bolds On Holiday by Julian Clary & David Roberts (Andersen)
Zoe’s Rescue Zoo: The Scruffy Sea Otter by Amelia Cobb (Nosy Crow)
Who Let The Gods Out? by Maz Evans (Chicken House)
Tom Gates: Super Good Skills (Almost…) by Liz Pichon (Scholastic)
King Flashypants And The Creature From Crong by Andy Riley (Hodder)
The Misadventures Of Max Crumbly: Locker Hero by Rachel Renee Russell (Simon & Schuster)
The Seriously Extraordinary Diary Of Pig by Emer Stamp (Scholastic)
Grandpa’s Great Escape by David Walliams (HarperCollins)
Rent A Bridesmaid by Jacqueline Wilson (Random House)
The Everything Machine by Ally Kennen (Scholastic)
The Young Magicians And The Thieves’ Almanac by Nick Mohammed (Puffin)
The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart (Chicken House)
The Painted Dragon by Katherine Woodfine (Egmont)
King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard (Orion)
We Come Apart by Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan (Bloomsbury)
The Edge Of Everything by Jeff Giles (Bloomsbury)
Traitor To The Throne by Alwyn Hamilton (Faber)
Unconventional by Maggie Harcourt (Usborne)
Dramarama by E. Lockhart (Hot Key Books)
Heartless by Marissa Meyer (Macmillan)
Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit (Penguin)
History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera (Simon & Schuster)
All About Mia by Lisa Williamson (David Fickling Books)
Meet The Artist: David Hockney by Rose Blake (Tate)
Peep Inside A Fairy Tale: Beauty And The Beast by Anna Milbourne and Lorena Alvarez (Usborne)
Country House Gardens: Doll House Sticker Book by Struan Reid and Lucy Grossmith (Usborne)
Flip Flap Dogs by Nikki Dyson (Nosy Crow)
World Book Day £1 Books:
Peppa Loves World Book Day (Ladybird)
Everyone Loves Underpants by Claire Freedman and Ben Cort (Simon & Schuster Children’s Books)
Where’s Wally? The Fantastic Journey by Martin Handford (Walker Books)
Princess Mirror-Belle and Snow White by Julia Donaldson & Lydia Monks (Macmillan)
Horrid Henry: Funny Fact Files by Francesca Simon (Orion Children’s Books)
Blob by David Walliams (HarperCollins)
Good Old Timmy and Other Stories by Enid Blyton (Hodder Children’s Books)
Butterfly Beach by Jacqueline Wilson (Corgi)
Island by David Almond (Hodder Children’s Books)
Dead of Night: A Front Lines Story by Michael Grant (Egmont)
By Katherine Woodfine | 01 February, 2017
Following the discussion in episode 31, here's our list of books which can help children and young people to understand more about politics and world events.
This list is a work-in-progress: please let us know any additional suggestions via Twitter @dtrhradio and we will add them to this page.
Refugees and immigration
Alpha by Barroux & Bessora, translated by Sarah Ardizzone
Refugee Boy by Benjamin Zephaniah
The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon (listen to our interview with Zana in episode 30)
The Arrival by Shaun Tan
The Journey by Francesca Sanna (listen to our review of The Journey in episode 22)
Welcome to Nowhere by Elizabeth Laird
Oranges in No Man's Land by Elizabeth Laird
Kiss the Dust by Elizabeth Laird
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr
Zlata's Diary by Zlata Filipovic
After Tomorrow by Gillian Cross
Refuge by Anne Booth and Sam Usher (listen to Anne reading the story in episode 18)
Rubbish Town Hero by Nicola Davies
The Unforgotten Coat by Frank Cottrell Boyce
In the Sea there are Crocodiles by Fabio Geda
Azzi in Between by Sarah Garland
The Island by Armin Greder
The Silver Sword by Ian Serralier
Red Leaves by Sita Brahmachari
Looking at the Stars by Jo Cotterill
The Weight of Water by Sarah Crossan
Boy Overboard by Morris Gleitzman
The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
We Come Apart by Sarah Crossan & Brian Conaghan
Sweet Pizza by G R Gemin
Teacup by Rebecca Young and Matt Ottley
We are All Born Free: The Declaration of Human Rights in Pictures
Here I Stand: Stories That Speak for Freedom
Dreams of Freedom in Words and Pictures
I Have the Right to be a Child
My Little Book of Big Freedoms illustrated by Chris Riddell
Social justice and activism
A is for Activist
What's a Girl Gotta Do? by Holly Bourne (and the other books in the Spinster Club series)
It's Your World by Chelsea Clinton
The Big Lie by Julie Mayhew
I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
March: Book 1 by Nate Powell, John Lewis & Andrew Aydin (also March: Book 2, March: Book 3)
Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner
Wonder by R J Palacio
My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece by Annabel Pitcher
Artichoke Hearts by Sita Brahmachari
The Kites are Flying by Michael Morpurgo and Laura Carlin
Ghost by Jason Reynolds
Books by Selina Alko
Books by Sean Qualls
Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian
Once by Morris Gleitzman (also Then, Now, After)
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
War Horse by Michael Morpurgo
The Tin-Pot Foreign General and the Old Iron Woman by Raymond Briggs
The Lantern Bearers by Rosemary Sutcliff
Chalkline by Jane Mitchell
War Brothers by Sharon McKay and Daniel Lafrance
Sold by Patricia McCormick
Coming soon - look out for these new titles in the coming months
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (April)
My Name is Not Refugee by Kate Milner (May)
A Story Like the Wind by Gill Lewis (May)
Talking Politics: a list of useful resources from blogger LH Johnson
Amnesty International on children's books and human rights
BookTrust: Books about refugees and asylum seekers
CLPE Refugee Experience booklist
Little Rebels Children's Book Award: prize for children's books promoting social justice
We Need Stories More than Ever - using books to discuss Trump and all that: a blog post from Barrington Stoke
By Katherine Woodfine | 31 January, 2017
We’re excited to announce our first ever live event! Join us for Down the Rabbit Hole Live on Thursday 2 March 2017 at 6.30pm at Waterstones Kensington, London.
We'll be celebrating World Book Day 2017 with three award-winning and bestselling children’s writers - Piers Torday, Abi Elphinstone and Cathryn Constable - who'll be talking about creativity, adventure, imagination and how stories change our view of the world.
Piers Today's award-winning stories take readers to worlds full of wonder with a dash of danger, whilst Abi Elphinstone's magical books are inspired by her love of adventure and nature, and Cathryn Constable's novels transport readers with the perfect blend of science and dreamy reality.
Tickets are £3.00: book yours here.
By Katherine Woodfine | 07 January, 2017
Following our 2016 Christmas Special, check out the full list of our favourite children's books of 2016!
Baby and Novelty Books
Steven: Nibbles the Book Monster by Emma Yarlett
Melissa: Garden Sounds by Sam Taplin and Federica Iossa
Louise: Illuminature by Rachel Williams and Carnovsky
Katherine: Usborne Slot Together Theatre by Anna Milbourne, Jamey Christoph and Jenny Hilbourne
Kate: The Detective Dog by Julia Donaldson and Sara Ogilvie
Steven: Oi Dog! by Kes and Claire Grey and Jim Field, You Must Bring a Hat by Kate Hindley and Simon Philip and Odd Bods by Steven Burtler and Jarvis
Melissa: A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston
Louise: Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis
Katherine: King Baby by Kate Beaton
Melinda: The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Milwood Hargreave
Kate: Little Bits of Sky by S E Durrant and Katie Harnett
Steven and Katherine: Cogheart by Peter Bunzl
Louise: Nightlights by Lorena Alvarez Gomez
Melissa: The Secret Horses of Briar Hill by Megan Shepherd and Levi Pinfold
Melinda: The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner and The Graces by Laure Eve
Melissa: Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland and Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Kate: One by Sarah Crossan
Louise: Never Evers by Tom Ellen & Lucy Ivison
Katherine: The Smell of Other People's Houses by Bonnie Sue Hitchcock, The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon, Mother Tongue by Julie Mayhew and Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff
Melissa: A Poem for Every Night of the Year edited by Allie Esiri
Louise: The Wolves of Currumpaw by William Grill
Kate: The Way Things Work (new edition) by David Macaulay and Neil Ardley
Melinda: Botanicum by Kathy Willis and Katie Scott
Katherine: Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World by Kate Pankhurst
New discovery or rediscovery
Steven: Hiding Heidi by Fiona Woodcock and Dot in the Snow by Corrinne Averiss and Fiona Woodcock
Kate: I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
Melinda: The Snow Spider by Jenny Nimmo
Louise: Diana Wynne Jones
Melissa: The Caravan Family by Enid Blyton
Katherine: The Serial Garden by Joan Aiken
Listen to our 2016 Christmas Special for more on all of these books or check out some top children's books editors discussing their favourite books of the year.
By Katherine Woodfine | 22 December, 2016
We asked a host of top children’s books editors which books - published by a publishing house other than their own - had really grabbed their attention this year. Here are the books they told us they most admired:
Deirdre McDermott, Picture Book Publisher/Creative Director Walker Books
One great book this year was Jean Jullien’s This is Not a Book (Phaidon) – we love everything that Jean does, and this clever concept book is no exception. Jean always looks at things in a completely unique way, and we love how he reimagines the book form … it’s full of wonderful surprises.
We also love Yasmeen Ismail’s I’m a Girl! (Bloomsbury) – there’s so much joy and movement and energy in Yasmeen’s art, and you can’t help but feel empowered and uplifted by her wonderful read-aloud text… here’s to the girls in 2017!
Jenny Broom, Editorial Director Frances Lincoln Children's Books and Wide Eyed Editions
The book that I would have loved to have published would be The Liszts by Kyo MacLear and Júlia Sardà (Andersen Press – kudos Libby Hamilton). I've been a fan of Julia's for ages and I absolutely love everything about this book, from the fantastic Art Deco-inspired cover to the Liszts's eclectic, kooky lists. As a compulsive list maker, I instantly recognised myself in the characters who blend Adams Family gothic charm with an eccentricity straight out of Cold Comfort Farm.
Ruth Bennett, Commissioning Editor Stripes
Unboxed by Non Pratt, published by Barrington Stoke. Non's writing immediately draws the reader into the lives of a group of teens on the cusp of adulthood and perfectly captures the dynamics of their friendship in this intense and beautifully formed short novel. Barrington Stoke are experts at publishing books for reluctant readers and readers with dyslexia and this is a book that balances sophisticated themes and accessible writing and features a diverse cast that feels true to life. It's wrapped up in an incredibly attractive cover, too! All in all, this is a Young Adult novel anyone should be proud to be seen reading, showing that really special books comes in all shapes and sizes, just like us.
Liz Cross, Head of Children’s Publishing OUP
I will go for… Cogheart, by Peter Bunzl, published by Usborne. The reason being: as an editor, when you miss out on acquiring a book you really love, you always worry about whether the publisher that beat you (blast them!!) will do a good enough job for the book and the author. I can be VERY critical of other publishers’ covers and marketing campaigns in cases like that. (Sour grapes? Me? Never!) But in the cases of the wonderful Cogheart, I have to say that I think Usborne have done a really great job. The cover is gorgeous and distinctive, and really sets the atmosphere for the book – and the buzz they created about the book from the start through social media was very powerful. Their sales material made it crystal clear how special they all thought the book was, and it’s all added up to a really successful and impactful launch for this fabulous book.
Lauren Fortune, Senior Commissioning Editor, Scholastic
My standout publication of the year is Stripes’ I’ll be Home for Christmas anthology. I love everything about this – the gorgeous Cath Kidston-esque cover perfect for gift purchases, the amazing line-up of contributors, the stories themselves, the support for Crisis. The marketing has been spot-on, from turning the Stripes stand at hot and stuffy YALC into an eye-catching winter grotto in July, to engaging with retailers, reviewers AND teenagers so effectively on social media, to the way it linked with so many high-profile authors and established events in the YA space, including YALC and the Bookseller YA Book Prize, to achieve coverage and cachet. It is a shining, heart-warming piece of publishing in a rotten year for the world, and I salute everyone involved and hope it sells brilliantly.
Tom Bonnick, Business Development Manager and Commissioning Editor, Nosy Crow
I have been hugely impressed with Chicken House’s list this year. They’ve found some incredible debut voices - I loved the warmth, wit, and great characters in M.G. Leonard’s Beetle Boy, and Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s The Girl of Ink and Stars felt like the discovery of a new talent with immense promise.
They’ve had a fantastic hit-rate for the Waterstones Children’s Book of the Month slot, no doubt helped by the fact that their cover design in 2016 has been truly stand-out - with some lovely production finishes, too, like Beetle Boy’s multi-coloured sprayed edges. And I absolutely adored Natasha Farrant’s Pride and Prejudice-inspired Lydia - a very astute piece of publishing that was beautifully executed.
Looking ahead, I’ve observed Bloomsbury’s clever, imaginative commissioning for 2017 with admiration and not a little envy: I can’t wait to read Katherine Rundell’s first picture book and Jessie Burton’s feminist fairytales next year.
Venetia Gosling, Publisher 6+, Macmillan Children’s Books
There are two books that stand out for me - One by Sarah Crossan, published by Bloomsbury, which was just a brilliant and moving read, and pulled poetry and the verse novel back into the spotlight in a very modern way.
And I loved Brian Selsnick's The Marvels (Scholastic), which felt both innovative and traditional at the same time, cleverly marrying text and illustration with two separate but interconnected storylines - utterly transfixing and impressive. I realise it published in Autumn 2015, but I only read it this year (does that count?!)...
If not, can I have Time-Travelling with a Hamster (HarperCollins)? I really enjoyed this, it has a great title, the author is dry and funny, the story is poignant and silly in equal measure and the cover is simple and impactful. It works. And I was really pleased to see a funny middle grade debut on the Costa shortlist!
Chloe Sackur, Fiction Editor, Andersen Press
I’ve chosen Crongton Knights by Alex Wheatle (Atom). This book really touched me. Although it’s a story about teens with some very sobering worries – bereavement, family debt, gangs, stop and search – it balances all this with the language and worldview of its narrator, McKay. At 14, he still has some of the idealism and fantasies of a child. There’s some great invented teen slang which shares literary DNA with Nadsat in A Clockwork Orange, but a deeper metaphor runs through it too: McKay’s estate is a place of danger and adventure, where his flat is a castle, complete with drawbridge front door, and his mates are his fellow knights, setting out on a chivalrous quest to seek a girl’s stolen iPhone. It’s an inspired way of demonstrating the push and pull of adolescence and growing up. There are some nice touches about the book itself, too – this series’ covers are bright and eye-catching and stylish, ideal for today’s design-savvy teens (they’re by Jack Smyth). At the back, Atom have thoughtfully included a list of helplines for organisations that deal with some of the issues raised in the story, and, best of all, a couple of McKay’s favourite recipes.
Ali Dougal, Publishing Director, Egmont UK
I’ve admired Nosy Crow’s publishing of Pamela Butchart this year. Pamela was already a fast-rising star, but with the publication of two books in the Baby Aliens series, three books in the Pugly series and a new Wigglesbottom Primary installment, her position is cemented as one of the most dominant new writers for young readers. Strong momentum and packaging, presence on the events scene and, of course, a fresh and genuinely funny voice have made this a terrific year for her.
Tune into Down the Rabbit Hole's hour-long Christmas Special on 25 December at 4.00pm on Resonance 104.4FM to hear more books of the year!
By Melissa Cox | 30 November, 2016
According to Meg March, November is the most disagreeable month in the whole year. I was reminded of this quote by today’s Google doodle celebrating Louisa May Alcott being born 184 years ago this very day and I have to agree with it. November is a pretty dull month and on the whole, it’s very quiet for new children’s books.
This November doesn’t have a huge amount of new titles in terms of variety but the landscape is instead dominated by arguably the three biggest children’s books of the year, plus the Wizarding World juggernaut continues with the release of the Fantastic Beasts screenplay.
First out of the blocks with latest instalment in the hugely popular Wimpy Kid series is Jeff Kinney with Double Down. This is the 11th adventure for Greg and this time he’s going a bit Dawson Leery and planning to direct a Michael Bay inspired scary movie. I noticed too that Waterstones have some signed copies available on their website – what a brilliant Christmas present!
Next up is David Walliams’ The Midnight Gang which I’d confidently say is the children’s book most likely to appear on letters to Father Christmas this year. There’s no doubting Walliams’ genius for picking stories and creating characters that connect brilliantly with young readers and his latest is a humorous and heart-warming tale of a gang of kids on the children’s ward. Full of Walliams’ characteristic pantomime villains and plucky kids, and with illustrations by Tony Ross, I think it’s a shoo-in for Christmas number one.
Another hotly anticipated book is Zoe Sugg’s Girl Online: Going Solo which was published a couple of weeks ago – these books are great for the younger end of the teen market and continue to be hugely popular with Zoella’s legions of fans.
My personal favourite new book for November is a gorgeous illustrated book called The Liszts by Kyo Maclear and Julia Sarda, published by Andersen Press. It’s a highly playful story of a list-making family and sumptuously produced – a beautiful gift for children and adults alike.
Stay tuned for our pick of the beautiful new Christmas and winter themed books that have been published over the last few months, coming very soon.
By Katherine Woodfine | 28 November, 2016
Ahead of this month's show, find out what the DTRH team have been reading this month!
This month I’ve been reading When the Astors Owned New York by Justin Kaplan which is giving me a delightful insight into the wealth and privilege of one of Manhattan’s most prominent families – as a fan of Edith Wharton this sort of thing is very much up my street. I’ve also been dipping into Black and British: A Forgotten History by David Olusoga and am hoping to catch up with the TV programme too.
I was also quite poorly earlier on in the month and managed to re-read three Enid Blyton books and The House at Pooh Corner; the only books I could tolerate that week and highly recommended as a panacea.
Living History by Hillary Rodham Clinton. Post-election, my colleague and I formed an exclusive HRC book club to read her two memoirs and then lament her defeat all over again. I decided to read Living History first, which covers her life up until she WINS THE ELECTION (as senator, but if you read that as a misprint for ‘president’, it just feels right). The woman is a saint. I wish her nothing but happiness in the wild woods and assorted bookstores of Chappaqua.
Personal History by Katharine Graham. Yes, this month’s reading has a theme... Personal History, not to be confused with Living History although both authors feature in both, is a double-decker of a memoir by the woman who, much to her own surprise, ran the Washington Post through the (second?) most turbulent era in modern American politics. Graham came from an incredibly wealthy family, and I will never tire of reading about incredibly wealthy families in turn-of-the-century America; her dazzling husband committed suicide, leaving her to step into his shoes and forge a career she never expected to have; and then came Watergate.
My hands-down favourite read this month was The Serial Garden by Joan Aiken - a complete collection of her brilliant Armitage family stories. I’m a huge Aiken fan so I don’t know why I’ve never read this book before, but it’s a delight. Spilling over with unicorns, dragons and ‘old fairy ladies’, it is weird, witty and wonderful. The title story may also be one of the saddest things I’ve ever read.
I’ve been enjoying dipping in and out of Reflections by Diana Wynne Jones - an intriguing collection of her essays touching on her life, her writing and her views on fantasy and literature. The chapter on school visits makes a particularly entertaining read for children's authors!
By Melissa Cox | 26 October, 2016
Happy October everyone! We’ve rounded up some of the best new children’s books published this month but don’t worry if you notice that certain Christmassy books are missing; we’re going to do a special round up just for those - keep your eyes peeled!
First up, we’ve got some big hitters publishing new books this month; an annual tradition for many of them and right in time for half term and a bit of Christmas wishlist planning… It wouldn’t be October without a new Jacqueline Wilson of course, and Clover Moon is likely to be popular with fans of her other historical stories as the eponymous heroine is a plucky Victorian orphan. There is also a new Magnus Chase adventure from Rick Riordan and Tom Gates is trying to get the band together in a hotly anticipated new tale from Liz Pichon called DogZombies Rule (for Now).
Fans of JK Rowling’s Wizarding World continue to be spoilt for choice this year as in addition to lots of new books surrounding the Fantastic Beasts film to look forward to later in the year, Bloomsbury have published a new edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets with illustrations from Kate Greenaway medal winner, Jim Kay. Equally exciting is the new picture book collaboration, There’s a Snake in my School from bestselling duo, David Walliams and Tony Ross (who has been very busy having illustrated Clare Balding’s The Racehorse Who Wouldn’t Gallop featured on DTRH September).
October is a great time of year for new gift books; sumptuous hardbacks with beautiful artwork to admire. I particularly love HarperCollins’ Complete Frog and Toad Collection. Arnold Lobel’s tales of friendship have an enduring appeal and I love re-reading them, particularly at this time of year as the palette is so autumnal. You don’t have to take my word for it though as the new collection has in introductory endorsement from none other than Julia Donaldson herself…
Also in the gift book vein is a gorgeously creepy new edition of the Costa Book Award winning The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge. Who could be better to provide evocative artwork for this than Children’s Laureate, Chris Riddell? It’s a real treat of a book – perhaps even more satisfying if you’re buying it for yourself and reading on a damp and dark Sunday afternoon from the comfort of the sofa…
Worth a mention is Egmont’s new collection of Winnie-the-Pooh stories by some of the nation’s favourite children’s writers such as Kate Saunders and Jeane Willis. The Best Bear in all the World features illustrations that closely resemble Shepard’s originals (these are by Mark Burgess) and while I’ve not seen a copy yet, as a firm believer in the power of Winnie-the-Pooh to improve lives I am keen to check it out.
Lots of lovely new hardback fiction is also out this month, starting with Simon Sebag Montefiore and Santa Montefiore’s charming new book The Royal Rabbits of London with illustrations by Kate Hindley. There’s also a new Philip Reeve book, Black Light Express, which is following last year’s Railhead. Also of note is the latest book in Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom series; fans will be hot-footing it down to the bookshop to pick up Goldenhand, and already receiving rave reviews, Saint Death by Marcus Sedgwick is a 'timely thriller about migrants, drug lords and gang warfare set on the US/Mexican border'.
On the paperback side there are lots of goodies to be had too, including The Hypnotist by Laurence Anholt, an ambitious book that explores race and identity, and Holding Up the Universe by All the Bright Places author, Jennifer Niven. I am very keen to read Word Nerd by Susin Nielsen having LOVED We Are All Made of Molecules last year. I’d also highly recommend The War Next Door by Phil Earle, with illustrations by Sara Ogilvie, which is the latest instalment in Earle’s Storey Street series and a great book for young readers who want to build their confidence find a love of stories. Fans of Emma Carroll style chillers or Tom’s Midnight Garden will enjoy debut The Secret of the Nightingale Wood by Lucy Strange too – October is the perfect month for a book like this.
Last but not least, we are spoilt for choice with illustrated books this month in both fiction and non-fiction. Illuminature is a typically ambitious project from the team at Wide Eyed Editions – this one really does need to be appreciated in the flesh so look out for it in your local bookshop. Also worth checking out from the Wide Eyed chaps is Ben Handicott and Ken Pak’s brilliant HELLO ATLAS . On the traditional picture storybook I’m definitely playing favourites with the very, very funny Duck Gets a Job by Sonny Ross and everyone is always excited to see a new Jon Klassen hat book, so I’ll be buying myself a copy of We Found a Hat this weekend. Most intriguing looking book of the month is likely to go to Flying Eye’s Land of Nod, by Robert Louis Stevenson and Robert Hunter; the cover is breath-taking. And most unexpectedly brilliant collaboration of the month has to go to Lydia Monks and Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, for their Queen Munch and Queen Nibble – this is a an illustrated story book and twice the length of a standard picture book but I hope to see more from these two.
A special mention goes to a timely new edition of Coming to England by Floella Benjamin with illustrations by Michael Frith. It is the 20th anniversary of this inspiring memoir of the West Indian immigrant experience, told from the perspective of a young Floella who joins her parents from Trinidad in a London that is colder than her home of Trinidad in more ways than one. I read and loved this book as a child of immigrants myself, so I’m thrilled to see it has been reissued with a new foreword and hope it will inspire both compassion and companionship in those who need it most.
By Katherine Woodfine | 24 October, 2016
Ahead of this month's show, find out what the DTRH team have been reading this month!
Blade and Bone by Catherine Johnson (Walker). This month I was lucky enough to take part in a panel event with three brilliant writers of historical fiction - Lydia Syson, Catherine Johnson, and Carnegie winner Tanya Landman. Ahead of the event, I devoured this new book from Catherine, which takes her 16-year-old surgeon hero Ezra to the dark and dangerous streets of Paris during the French Revolution. It's perhaps not a book for the faint-hearted - there's blood, guts and decapitated heads aplenty - but it's a rollicking good read and a fantastic example of the very best in today's historical fiction for teen readers.
Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo (Orion). As a huge fan of Bardugo's Six of Crows, I gobbled up this engrossing sequel. This is smart, punchy YA fantasy with a brilliant ensemble cast, wonderful world-building, and an irresistibly twisty, suspense-filled plot.
Manuscripts! I’ve had eight new books or revised drafts from authors in the last few weeks. A new manuscript needs a different kind of attention to a revised manuscript, but they are both thrilling to read in their own ways – the OOOOOH of exploring something fresh with an author, the KAPOW! of an author nailing those edits and completely transforming their book.
Tolstoy: A Russian Life by Rosamund Bartlett (Profile): inspired by DTRH’s Russian interlude with Katherine Rundell and Julie Mayhew this month, I’ve been reading this unexpectedly wry biography of an extraordinary figure in Russian culture. If you’re a writer feeling stuck, read the chapter on Tolstoy’s struggle to write Anna Karenina – he rewrote the opening umpteen times, wasting dozens and dozens of pages, but each discarded version made the book’s eventual purpose clearer. Plus lots of political intrigue, tattooed noblemen, fierce women, trains and steamers down the Volga, orchards and orchestras etc.
So Many Books: Reading and Publishing in the Age of Abundance by Gabriel Zaid (Sort Of Books). I bought this because I was, funnily enough, feeling a bit overwhelmed by how many books I own and how many I have to read. It’s a short philosophical treatise on how to accept the fact that any given human can only read less than 0.1% of the books that are published each year and actually, that is not necessarily a bad thing. I found it illuminating – and very reassuring. Now back to that TBR…
By Melissa Cox | 24 October, 2016
Halloween is an increasingly popular holiday in the UK and no longer just the territory of charming American TV shows about small town life. Gone are the days of half-hearted and slightly menacing teenage trick or treaters doing the rounds after school – nowadays there’s something to celebrate at Halloween for all ages. If you’d rather mark the occasion from the comfort of your own home, perhaps with a bowl of steaming pumpkin soup, then we’ve got a lovely selection of spooky reads to suit children of all ages…
Spooky reads for babies and toddlers
They might not really understand what’s going on but little ones can still enjoy some All Hallows fun with these charming and not really scary at all board books. I absolutely love Wickle Woo Has a Halloween Party in the Tiny Tabs series by Jannie Ho and published by Nosy Crow – fun, interactive and a good introduction to the concept of dressing up. I’ve also got a tremendous soft spot for Peppa Pig, not unlike most toddlers, and think Peppa’s Pumpkin Party is a real delight. It’s a good way to celebrate the fun parts of Halloween without being frightening to imaginative young minds. There’s also a party going on in Roger Priddy’s Spooky House which is super-fun (and more importantly, super sturdy) lift-the-flap and pop-up book.
Novelty fun and pop-up books
Once children start school and learn to read, it’s safer to give them books with slightly more fragile (and obviously, more exciting) elements. Haunted House by Jan Pienkowski is a classic and as thrilling to children today as it was twenty years ago – I cannot recommend it enough. Haunted houses are obviously completely fascinating to children of a certain age as Usborne also have a beautiful, spooky pop-up book about one by Sam Taplin and Fabiano Fiorin. Pop-Up Haunted House is full of spooky twists and turns and is one to enjoy year after year.
Obviously no Halloween party is complete without the two classics: Funnybones and Meg and Mog – they’re still popular today because they are brilliant. I defy anyone of my generation to be able to avoid singing the Funnybones song on the October evening walks home. It’s also difficult to talk about witchy picture books without mentioning the much-loved Winnie and Wilbur; my favourite is Winnie’s Amazing Pumpkin. And of course, Halloween simply isn’t Halloween unless you’re having a rousing bedtime reading of Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler after a nice tea of WITCH AND CHIPS!
Most long-time listeners of Down the Rabbit Hole know what big fans we are of Jill Murphy’s The Worst Witch series so I won’t bore on again by telling you how it is simply the BEST book to read in October, regardless of your age. Fortunately there are some newer books for me to shout about just as loudly though… A stand-out for me is Steven Lenton and Tracey Corderoy’s latest Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam fiction; The Spooky School is terrific fun, especially if, like me, you’re a big fan of the picture books featuring these two scamps. Also worth noting that a collection of Terry Pratchett stories for children was published in August and is a very good Halloween read, after all it is called The Witch’s Vacuum Cleaner. Puffin have reissued the delightful Carbonel by Barbara Sleigh, which will appeal to any children who discovered Gobbolino last Halloween and cannot get enough cat books in their lives… And last but not least, for the children who prefer their heroes to be dogs instead of cats there is the charming Knitbone Pepper: Ghost Dog – there are now three books in this illustrated fiction series and I think they’re dead special (sorry), so hats off to Claire Barker and Ross Collins for that.
For those who have braved Dahl’s The Witches and survived to tell the tale (I’m not one of them, that book is way too scary for me) then you might be ready for some slightly older scary reads. Goosebumps have recently been reissued by Scholastic – these were a great favourite of mine at primary school – so I would recommend starting with Night of the Living Dummy and if you feel brave enough, go on from there. Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell is very, very sinister (in an old school Point Horror for anyone who remembers those) and has just been chosen by Zoe Sugg for the Zoella Book Club so lots of teenagers are in for a fright this October. Also likely to chill the bones on a dark night is Juno Dawson’s Say Her Name, inspired by the Bloody Mary urban legend that used to be recounted at the slumber parties of my teenage years. *shudder*