Latest Entries
The Night Before Christmas by William Wallace Denslow
Advent Calendar / The Night Before Christmas

The Night Before Christmas by William Wallace Denslow

William Walace Denslow’s Saint Nicholas comes dressed in blue furs, a Rip Van Winkle hat and pipe gripped permanently between his teeth. ‘He looked just like a pedller opening his pack.’ I’d forgotten just how much of the Night Before Christmas was given over to describing the slightly alarming appearance of its protagonist, before reassuring … Continue reading

Pippi’s Christmas Guests by Astrid Lindgren and Ingrid Vang Nyman
Advent Calendar / Ingrid Vang Nyman 100

Pippi’s Christmas Guests by Astrid Lindgren and Ingrid Vang Nyman

Nobody does Christmas quite like Pippi Longstocking. Last year the pigtailed pirate’s daughter put on an after christmas party that culminated in the guests climbing the tree to recover their presents. In Pippi’s Christmas Guests, taken from the second volume of comics by Astrid Lindgren and Ingrid Vang Nyman, our hero faces spending December 25th … Continue reading

Fantastic Libraries
Reading

Fantastic Libraries

‘There’s so much to see and smell here! Whole levels of the library that nobody has been into for a hundred thousand years! Locked rooms full of ancient secrets. Treasure! Knowledge! Fun‘ Garth Nix’s Lirael. When Birmingham’s new mega library opened last week I was blown away by the sheer scale and heartened by a … Continue reading

The Winter Sleepwalker
Quentin Blake

The Winter Sleepwalker

I’ve been banging on about Roald Dahl without Quentin Blake for quite some time now. So I thought I’d better redress the balance and look at the work of the man who was in my opinion an equal partner in their creative relationship. Another equally important collaboration began several years before his work with Dahl. … Continue reading

Eloise
Bad Girl Warning

Eloise

Has there ever been a bad girl with a better pedigree than Eloise? Created by a Hollywood musical star and featuring a six your old free spirit who lives at the Plaza Hotel in New York with her beer swilling British nanny, a trainer wearing turtle and nary a parent in sight. Eloise's life at … Continue reading

Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner
New Books

Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner

Another year, another amazing book for teenagers wins the Costa Book Award. Last year we had Patrick Ness’s A Monster Calls, a story that screamed INSTANT CLASSIC at you in CAPITAL LETTERS. Well here we are again, with Sally Gardner’s Maggot Moon, a book which is possibly even more perfect. Although they’re very different books … Continue reading

Fattypuffs and Thinifers
Classics

Fattypuffs and Thinifers

Being a massive Alice and Narnia nut I’m a sucker for any book that takes me through a crack in our world and into another, much stranger place. It’s the ultimate fantasy device, playing directly into children’s imaginative games. Revisiting these stories later in life is a direct reminder of what it felt like to … Continue reading

Grimm by Gág
Märchen

Grimm by Gág

For anyone who has never quite got the Brothers Grimm, or never heard their 'Märchen' (household tales) at a young age, here’s a great description of what they've been missing. 'The dictionary definitions – tale, fable, legend – are all inadequate when I think of my little German Märchenbuch and what it held for me. … Continue reading

Here be Dragons
Lists

Here be Dragons

I’m having a big dragon-fest at work recently, which has given me a good excuse to trawl some of my favourite picture book beasties, plus some brand new ones. In the 1960s Tove Jansson, best known for creating her very own Moomin shaped folk legends, turned her hand to illustrating some British children’s classics including … Continue reading

Grimm by Hockney
Märchen

Grimm by Hockney

As Alice so wisely said, ‘what’s the point of a book without pictures?’ Not a lot I thought – particularly when it comes to something as visual as the Grimm tales. To prove the point I thought I’d have a look through some of my favourite illustrated tales from Grimm from the last hundred or so years. Continue reading

Bryan and Mary Talbot’s Dotter of her Father’s Eyes
Comics

Bryan and Mary Talbot’s Dotter of her Father’s Eyes

This graphic memoir (comic book to you and I) begins this very day, February 2nd – James Joyce’s birthday. It’s the jumping off point for a narrative that weaves the young lives of Mary Talbot and Lucia, daughter of James Joyce. The two were born generations apart, but had in common their ‘cold, mad, feery fathers’ – Mary’s dad James had been a Joycean scholar. Continue reading

Appy Christmas
Advent Calendar

Appy Christmas

I wrote a few months ago about some of the groundbreaking children's book apps that are taking the whole reading experience in wonderful new directions. A brief visit to the app store over the weekend provided some great new examples for Christmas. There are countless cheapo retellings of A Christmas Carol and The Night Before … Continue reading

Another Night Before Christmas by Carol Ann Duffy
Advent Calendar / The Night Before Christmas

Another Night Before Christmas by Carol Ann Duffy

Another Night Before Christmas by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy is a sensitively updated re-imaging. The references aren’t quite ‘Strictly’ specific, so it manages to retain its timelessness. Helped by the mid century stylings of French illustrator Marc Boutavant who adds plentiful witty touches like the satellite dish manned by a dog. It’s an effortlessly light adaptation, … Continue reading

High Street by Eric Ravilious
Classics

High Street by Eric Ravilious

There can’t be many children’s books that explain exactly how to get served in the pub. ‘If you want ordinary beer you ask for “bitter”. Usually there are also two kinds of ale, mild ale and old ale (which also called Burton), and you can order a mixture of any two, such as “old and mild” or “bitter and Burton”.’ Got that kids? Mine’s a Burton and Red Bull. Continue reading

Fantastic Mr Fox illustrated by Donald Chaffin
Roald Dahl / The Illustrated

Fantastic Mr Fox illustrated by Donald Chaffin

Wes Anderson’s stop-motion adaptation of Fantastic Mr Fox is undoubtedly the best film of any of Dahl’s children’s books. But I was a bit unsure about the ending (spoiler alert). The original sees the Fox family ingeniously outwitting the waiting farmers by tunnelling into their store rooms and feasting on their supplies. Anderson takes them … Continue reading

Appily Ever After?
Reading

Appily Ever After?

I had been going to write a post about great children’s books apps. You know those beautifully crafted, interactive things where you can fiddle about with your favourite characters, get the big bad wolf to blow your carefully constructed house down, while an out of work thespian overdoes the story-telling – that sort of thing. … Continue reading

The Magic Finger illustrated by William Pène du Bois
Roald Dahl / The Illustrated

The Magic Finger illustrated by William Pène du Bois

September 13th is Roald Dahl’s birthday. But before you stick your face in the chocolate lake in celebration, first gorge on these pictures from the original edition of The Magic Finger.   The Magic Finger was the first Dahl book I remember reading. As an introduction to his children’s books it’s slightly unrepresentative, and perhaps … Continue reading

Weird Batman
Comics

Weird Batman

I’m not a big fan of the Christopher Nolan Batman films, they were just way too serious for my tastes. Heath Ledger’s amazing turn as the Joker aside, they missed what for me is the main attraction of Batman – his innate freakiness. Tim Burton got the character far better – and in fact Adam … Continue reading

Marmalade Atkins
Bad Girl Warning

Marmalade Atkins

I've always had a soft spot for incredibly rude children. In books obviously, real rude children need shutting in the garage. It's not so much the bad boys I like; Just William, Dennis the Menace, Horrid Henry et al have always had something of the bully boy about them, redeemable mainly because the softies they … Continue reading