25 January 2010

Book of the Week (45): "Cars" pop-up by Robert Crowther

Since my kid was one year old, he has been interested in wheels. Now that he is nearly four he can identify different makes of cars. What to me looks like ‘a big black car’ is enthusiastically identified as a Nissan Quashqai Crossover. The new pop up novelty book from Walker was therefore a great success. Although the book is aimed at a slightly older audience, as the amount of information about cars and their specs suggests, there are enough ‘hands on’ flaps and pop-up models to satisfy a younger child. Robert Crowther dedicates each double spread to a different type of car. The first spread charts the early history of the automobile from the 1885 Benz Motorwagen to the 1908 Ford Model T. Other spreads display Supercars, everyday cars through the decades, record-breaking cars, and future cars, including some intriguing eco-models. All of these are accompanied by 3D models, and pull-tags to get the cars moving across the page. The pièce de résistance, however, is the double-spread 3D model of a racetrack, including a wealth of information about Formula 1 racing, on which my son happily raced his own collection of toy cars. Fun, interactive and informative – I certainly learned a lot. Crowther also has similar books about trains, flight and ships, so there is something for every young transport enthusiast. Bon voyage!

Recommended by Noga Applebaum

24 January 2010

Diary Dates

Just a couple of new things to mention for the diary in the coming months...

There will be an Ultimate Book Guide event at Jewish Book Week this year - Susan and I will be there with Anne Fine and Meg Rosoff, two of our favourite writers, talking about some books we love and giving some tips on how to discover and choose great new reads... It's Sunday March 7th at 12:30 - follow the link above for more details.

And May 21st is the Write Away conference (hosted at the Wellcome Centre on Euston Road), and Leonie and I have just joined the programme to talk about 'Inspiring Reading'. It's an all-day conference with speakers including Philip Ardagh, Prue Goodwin, Mini Grey, Miranda McKearney, Marcus Sedgwick and, of course Nikki Gamble (the brains behind Write Away and the conference). It's my first Write Away conference and I'm very much looking forward - more details here. Book now!

There's Nuffin Like a Puffin

Puffin is 70 years old - and it's celebrating in style...

On Monday (yes, I know, a week ago almost and I'm only just writing about it now, sorry!) I went to the press launch for Puffin's 2010 line-up. Press launch? Well, sandwiches, coffee, lots of familiar faces (and a few famous ones) and a bucket load of enthusiasm about new titles, old titles revamped and a few surprises thrown in for good measure.

Puffin is focusing on three things - big brands, crossover titles and classics. There's new teen fiction from the Razorbill imprint ('Unputdownable teen fiction'), Puffin Baby with Puffin classics re-styled for babies (a strategy already successful last year with The Very Hungry Caterpiller and pushed further this year by the re-jigged Moomins), Pocket Money Puffins in May are priced at 3.99 each and in June there'll be the Puffin Classics - seven titles, one for each decade (and a chance in June to vote via the website for the Puffin of Puffins). There'll be product! Yes, deckchairs, mugs, pencils etc. all with the wonderfully idiosincratic Puffin illustrations familiar to anyone who remembers Puffin Post.

But the Big Brands rule: Diary of a Wimpy Kid is going global with a movie - as is Percy Jackson; Cathy Cassidy has a new series Chocolate Box Girls, starting with Cherry Crush; there's a new Artemis Fowl: The Atlantis Complex (Shock horror! Artemis turns nice!) and to tie in with a new pre-school TV series, Tinga Tinga, a multicoloured glorious series set (and made) in Tanzania.

There's serious teen books from David Yelland (yes, the ex-editor of the Sun - and the theme is alcoholism), Kevin Brooks, Helen Grant and a smash-hit from the USA, Beautiful Creatures (Gone With the Wind meets Twilight). How about a new series from Rick Riordan? It's coming in May called The Kane Chronicles, which hopes to do for Egyptian myth what The Lightning Thief has done for Greek. My own excitement level notched up with the promo for Time Riders by Alex Scarrow. He writes adult thrillers and was a games designer - the promo features a lot of 'what ifs' to do with changes in history: the US flag with a swastika instead of stars next to the stripes, the Mona Lisa with an alien's face, a David with a lizard instead of Napoleon crossing the alps... fabulous! The books look set to rival Robert Muchamore for thrills, appeal to reluctant readers and boy / girl interest.

So, lovely lunch, lovely people - Charlie Higson talked and was funny, David Yelland talked and was thought-provoking, Jeanne Willis talked and was quite, quite mad (and fabulous!) and Cathy Cassidy proposed putting day-dreaming on the school curriculum. As the publicity bumph says - There's Nuffin Like a Puffin.

22 January 2010

It's here!

The latest addition to the UBG family has arrived! (Cue group photo on my living-room carpet.)

It's the second Ultimate Teen Book Guide - with more than 150 new entries from our panel of wonderful writers for teenagers - contributors such as Marcus Sedgwick, Eoin Colfer, Joanne Harris, Patrick Ness, Chris Riddell, Jenny Downham, Narinder Dhami, Sophie McKenzie, Anthony McGowan, Paul Stewart, Jonathan Stroud, Joanna Nadin, Ally Kennen, Frances Hardinge, Sally Nicholls, Nicola Morgan, David Gilman, Tanya Landman, Philip Ardagh..., as well as a new intro from David Almond, more lists etc. etc. etc.

(And of course loads of the old stuff is still there too - entries and essays by Kevin Brooks, Mal Peet, Bali Rai, William Sutcliffe, Anne Fine, Meg Cabot, Philip Reeve, Darren Shan, Meg Rosoff, Jonathan Coe, Melvin Burgess, Geraldine McCaughrean, Philippa Pearce, Anthony Horowitz, blah blah blah...)

And it's lovely...

In bookshops Monday 1st!

18 January 2010

Book of the Week (44): "Toddle Waddle" by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Nick Sharratt

Toddle waddle.
(A toddler and a duck go for a walk.)

Flip flop, toddle waddle.
(Mum walks behind.)

Hurry scurry, flip flop, toddle waddle.
(Dog follows.)

Eventually a whole procession is making its way through the park, each in its own manner. But where are they going? To the seaside! And there everyone and everything is making fantastic noises. Splish splash (paddling in the sea), chitter chatter (girl on mobile), puff puff (steam train), bash crash (drummer in the band).

Julia Donaldson, in her inimitable way, has done wondrous things with the bare minimum of words. Her text forms an atmospheric sound track to Nick Sharratt's pictures, which tell the reader what is actually going on in the story.

It can't be a coincidence that Nick lives in Brighton. The noisy group end up in a playground by the sea, then on a little train chuffing along the seafront, then finally on a pier where they boogy along to a band, the duck taking a starring role by playing the tambourine while perched upon the drummer's head!

It's brilliant.

Recommended by Susan Reuben


  • Try some of Julia and Nick's other collaborations: Chocolate Mousse for Greedy Goose, Hippo Has a Hat or One Mole Digging a Hole.
  • Nick Sharratt's novelty books are fantastic. Muddlewitch is a favourite with my children.
  • Or how about You Choose by Pippa Goodhart, which Nick illustrated? Every spread is crammed with pictures, each on a different theme - food, transport, animals and so on. Babies love it, and because you can talk about the pictures in any way you want, it grows with your child.

05 January 2010

Costa Children's Book Award

Just a quick note to congratulate Patrick Ness on winning the Costa today!

He won with the brilliant The Ask and the Answer, the second in his Chaos Walking trilogy.

I've written about the book elsewhere, including the Independent on Sunday round-up I posted about here the other day; it was on our Booktrust shortlist; and also featured as our Book of the Week back in May. It's a superb book - better even, I think, than its prequel, The Knife of Never Letting Go - so keep your fingers crossed for Patrick at the Costa Book of the Year in three weeks...

01 January 2010

Happy New Year!

Hoping you all have a great 2010!

We'll be back with more Books of the Week shortly (just taking a little break...), and also with news of publication of the all-new Teen Guide, which will be hitting the shops a month from today! Very exciting...

Teen Round-Up 2009

My round-up of the best teen books from 2009 appeared in the Independent on Sunday a couple of weeks back - you can find it here.

Hope you like my choices - the books included are as follows:

The Vanishing of Katharina Linden (Helen Grant)
Stolen (Lucy Christopher)
What I Saw and How I Lied (Judy Blundell)
Revolver (Marcus Sedgwick)
The Ant Colony (Jenny Valentine)
Salem Brownstone: All Along the Watchtowers (John Harris Dunning & Nikhil Singh)
Ausländer (Paul Dowswell)
Rowan the Strange (Julie Hearn)
The Ask and the Answer (Patrick Ness)

(Lots of others that could have gone in had there been more space, of course...)

If you've been following this blog none of these choices will come as a surprise to you - six of the eight have featured as Books of the Week, four were on the Booktrust shortlist, and I've mentioned them all in one post or other. All great books, highly recommended...