Children’s Books of the Year 2016: The Book I Wish I'd Published

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!


New Children’s Books Round-Up: November 2016

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.

What We're Reading: November 2016

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!

New Children's Books Round-Up: October 2016

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.

What We're Reading: October 2016

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…

Best Halloween Books for Children

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.

Picture Books

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!

Younger Fiction

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.

Older Fiction

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*

Best Animal Books

28 September, 2016


If you enjoyed our very special Clare Balding and The Racehorse Who Wouldn’t Gallop episode and would like some recommendations of other excellent animal books for children of all ages then look no further...

Children of all ages love tend to love animals in books – but farms and zoos definitely hold a big fascination for very small children. Usborne’s Peep Inside the Farm is a lovely introduction to the farmyard with things to peep at and discover, while Dear Zoo is a Rod Campbell classic and as popular with babies and toddlers today as when it was published in 1982. A much more recent title but one I think will continue to be very popular for years to come is the board book edition of Oi Frog! by Kes Gray and Jim Field – it’s very good fun to read aloud.

It might just be me but I often think that picture book fans can be divided into those who like dogs in their books and those who would prefer cats. For the former group, Emily Gravett’s beautifully drawn and water-coloured book, Dogs, and published earlier this year, Julia Donaldson and Sara Ogilvie’s wonderful Detective Dog should go down well. For the cat fans amongst you, I personally always plump for the very funny Six Dinner Sid by Inga Moore – many of us have known a cat like that greedy scamp… I’m also a big fan of There Are Cats in this Book by Vivian Schwarz – a wonderfully playful book.  

For slightly older children there are plenty of lovely books about all different kinds of animals. Obviously we highly recommend Clare Balding’s The Racehorse Who Wouldn’t Gallop – and if that has inspired a horse and pony obsession in a child you know then why not try Clare’s favourite childhood book, Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. If that whets your appetite then move on to Stacy Gregg – there’s plenty to choose from but I particularly like the Pony Club Secrets series.

If the farmyard elements in Clare’s book appealed then Cowgirl by GR Gemin and The Secret Hen House Theatre by Helen Peters will both be absolutely perfect choices. And if you know a child who loves classics then steer them towards Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White and The Sheep-Pig by Dick King-Smith – two of my childhood favourites. In fact, you can’t really go wrong with Dick King-Smith so any, or all, of his animal books should delight most young readers.

Animal books get a little bit rarer once you get into the Teenage section of the bookshop but there are still some really excellent ones to look out for. I mentioned The Glory by Lauren St. John on our recent DTRH episode because it really is brilliant – part-thriller, part-romance, part-adventure and all set in the American west around a gruelling horse race; I couldn’t put it down. Blending horse racing with the more fantastical is Maggie Stiefvater’s Scorpio Races, an intense, thrill ride of a book.

And finally, a special mention for Colin Dann’s Animals of Farthing Wood which is now over 40 years old but still absolutely wonderful; if you’re made of stern stuff of course. It contains both adventure and heartbreak, and also serves as a reminder of how precious animal habitats are. Plus, it’s full of fantastic characters. I’m off to weep into my battered old copy with a cuppa right now…

Here are a few more of our favourites that we didn't get chance to mention in September's show


The Princess And The Pony by Kate Beaton: a story about the precious bond between a girl and her farting pony, this is in many ways the perfect younger complement to The Racehorse That Wouldn't Gallop.


Olga da Polga by Michael Bond illustrated by Catherine Rayner: the children’s classic about a guinea pig with a penchant for rather extraordinary tales...


One Dog and His Boy by Eva Ibbotson. This is a must-read for young dog-lovers: it will warm your heart, and bring a tear to your eye.

Melissa's Round-Up: September 2016

27 September, 2016


In both fashion and books, September is the most important month of the year. Hundreds of exciting new children’s books are published and it can be difficult to keep track of them all, so, as a favour to you all we have rounded up some of our favourites for you here…

First thing's first - Children's Laureate Chris Riddell has written and illustrated a NEW OTTOLINE BOOK! *sound of trumpets* The last book in this series was published in 2010 so it's been a long wait for the return of Ottoline and her friend Mr. Monroe, but Ottoline and the Purple Fox does not disappoint.

Kate Beaton's webcomic, Hark! A Vagrant is one of the funniest things on the internet - and I do not say that lightly. It seems only natural that her characteristic humour has found a different (and highly successful) vehicle in picture books. King Baby is completely hilarious and I think a very good present for new parents…

There is some really exciting debut children’s fiction to look out for this autumn, including Cogheart by Peter Bunzl. This book has something of an instant classic feel to it as we follow Lily on an adventure to find her missing inventor father. This is a book full of thrills, spills, and mechanical foxes and perfect for fans of Brian Selznick’s stories.

I also want to mention The Beginning Woods by Malcolm McNeill which is a fantastical, atmospheric debut adventure story that follows Max, abandoned by his parents in a bookshop at birth, into the mysterious world of the Beginning Woods where nothing is as it seems…

This September is also a fantastic month for new picture books; there’s almost too many to mention! Firstly, a new John Burningham book is a momentous occasion in my opinion; he is one of this country's finest illustrators after all… Published by Jonathan Cape, Motor Miles really does demonstrate why that is; the blend of Burningham’s bold use of colour with the subtle exploration of the idea of freedom contained in a story that will still be enjoyable to children is a joy to behold.

Then there's the paperback of Ross Collins' excellent rhyming picture book There's a Bear On My Chair, and not to mention The Storm Whale in Winter from Benji Davies which is, of course, the gorgeous follow up to bestselling and prizewinning The Storm Whale. It’s a wintery delight and is sure to be very popular this Christmas.

One of the most exciting new picture books of the month is Oliver Jeffers' collaboration with typographical artist, Sam Winston, the gorgeous A Child of Books. This really is an exceptional work and I’d like to shake the hand of whoever brought this pairing together. It’s about the importance of stories and their transporting powers – I cannot do it justice here so I really do suggest you simply dash out to find a copy for yourself right now. Go on, I’ll wait…

Another legend of British illustration, Sir Quentin Blake, has brought his unmistakeable magic to The Tale of Kitty in Boots ; a lost Beatrix Potter story published this month by Puffin to great acclaim.

Helen Stephens' has got a follow up to one of my favourites, How to Hide a Lion with How to Hide a Lion at School (September is the perfect month for a good school story) and to top it all off, we have a brand new picture book from Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. These two hardly need an introduction from me but Zog and the Flying Doctors is terrific fun and  published in hardback by Scholastic.

Other highlights of the month include a poetry anthology by Allie Esiri called A Poem for Every Night of the Year, published by Macmillan which seems like a perfect gift for a special occasion and an excellent way to introduce children to poetry. There’s also a lovely hybrid story-and-cookbook from Bake Off star Nadiya Hussain called Bake Me a Story with very sweet illustrations from Clair Rossiter.

It's a bit quieter for non-fiction, but a stand out title for me is Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World by Kate Pankhurst - yes, a descendent of Emmeline Pankhurst - which covers off women's history in a really vibrant and accessible way.

On the fiction side of things there's lots of things to add to the wish list. If you like witches in your books (who doesn’t?) keep an eye out for The Graces by Laure Eve and if you like your YA characters to be super relatable then you are going to love Bella Fisher in Super Awkward by Beth Garrod.

There's also a fantastically fun take on Jane Austen from Natasha Farrant with her book Lydia: The Wild Girl of Pride and Prejudice as well as a new Sarah J Maas book; Empire of Storms is the fifth book in the very popular Throne of Glass series.

Keep your eyes peeled in bookshops for the new set of stories from the world of Miss Peregrine by Ransom Riggs called Tales of the Peculiar – the book itself is absolutely beautiful to look at and timed for the release of the hotly anticipated Tim Burton film adaptation of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

And finally there are new books in a couple of Team Down the Rabbit Hole’s favourites series; The Creeping Shadow is the latest Lockwood & Co. from Jonathan Stroud and Laura Wood's Poppy Pym and the Double Jinx is the book I'm looking forward to reading this weekend - I absolutely loved the first one.

Illustrator Spotlight: Tony Ross

26 September, 2016


Tony Ross created the glorious illustrations for Clare Balding's The Racehorse Who Wouldn't Gallop -  find out more about his amazing career in illustration

Tony Ross is one of the UK’s most prolific and well-known illustrators. He trained at the Liverpool School of Art and has been illustrating books since 1976.

For many years he was best known for his work on Francesca Simon’s hugely successful Horrid Henry series, as well as his work with Andersen Press for whom he both writes and illustrates books. He is the creator of the Little Princess character and books, the first one being I Want My Potty!, published in 1986 and the books were later adapted for a popular television series. More recently, Ross has collaborated with David Walliams on his bestselling and highly illustrated children’s fiction and very popular picture books.

He has also of course provided glorious illustrations of Charlie, Noble Warrior, Percy the Pony and the rest of the Bass family for Clare Balding’s The Racehorse Who Wouldn’t Gallop.

He has illustrated over 800 books and shows no signs of slowing down, which is jolly good news for all of us. His style is scratchy in line and instantly recognisable with heaps of child appeal. Here are a small selection of our favourite Tony Ross books:

I Want My Potty! (Andersen Press)

The World's Worst Children, written by David Walliams (HarperCollins Children's Books)

Horrid Henry, written by Francesca Simon (Orion Children's Books)

Tadpole's Promise, written by Jeanne Willis (Andersen Press)

Pippi Longstocking, written by Astrid Lindgren (Oxford University Press)

The Slightly Annoying Elephant, written by David Walliams (HarperCollins Children's Books)

Adventure on the Way Home, written by Enid Blyton (Hachette Children's Group)

What We’re Reading: September 2016

23 September, 2016

What have the DTRH team been reading this month? Find out in the first of this new regular blog series!


King Baby by Kate Beaton (Walker Books): I can’t even say the title without cracking up. Another deadpan picture book treat from Kate Beaton (a great Canadian), the tyrannical gleam of King Baby will linger long in the memory: ‘NOW. BRING ME THE THING.’

Dorothy L Sayers (Hodder): have been racing through the reissues of the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries and will shortly advertise for my own Bunter to draw baths, prepare soufflés and seduce housemaids in aid of my airy detective pursuits.


Frog and Toad: The Complete Collection by Arnold Lobel, published this autumn by HarperCollins Children’s Books. This is one of those great, fat treasuries that you can bring out at bedtime for a story or, if you’re me, keep on your desk for a dose of comfort. Frog and Toad are the best of friends and the stories are brief, moving portraits of very human foibles and relationships.

The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber, published by Canongate: I’ve been meaning to read this for absolutely years – it’s one of those books that booksellers constantly recommend, and yet I’m only just getting to it. It’s definitely worth the wait and as good as they say…


The Creeping Shadow by Jonathan Stroud (Random House). Rapiers and salt-bombs at the ready! I’m a die-hard fan of Jonathan Stroud’s Lockwood & Co books, and this brand-new instalment of Lucy, Lockwood and George’s ghost-hunting adventures is as sublime and spooky as ever.

The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla (Unbound). This is a must-read: 21 writers explore what it means to be BAME in Britain today in a series of brilliantly thought-provoking, moving, challenging and truth-telling essays.