It's been a long time coming, but my first chapter book, DO NOT DISTURB THE DRAGONS is about to hit the shelves - and I couldn't be more proud of the end result.
It's illustrated brilliantly by Sharon Davey, who is extremely talented, has a cracking sense of humour and is a warm-hearted, generous person - all of which makes her a dream to work with. Just like the rest of the team at our publishers, Bloomsbury.
Huge thanks to the whole team who all deserve so much credit - it always seems wrong to me that books don't have a big list at the end like movies do.
Hannah Sandford - editor and my right hand throughout umpteen drafts Juliette Rechatin - in-house designer
Emily Marples - publicity
Mattea Barnes - marketing
Jessica Bellman - desk editor
Patrick Knowles - lettering designer
Jess White - copy-editor
Sarah Taylor-Fergusson - proofreader
Pari Thomson - assistant editor
And of course our agents, The Catchpole Agency and Plum Pudding, who had our backs throughout.
THANK YOU ALL. I hope everyone is as delighted with the book as I am -- especially the young readers who are about to discover the realm of Wondermere with Grace on her first epic quest. Yes, her first - we're all busy working on Book 2!
I'm finally allowed to share the news! Shortly after lockdown began, I woke up at 3am one morning and wrote a poem about all the rainbows children are making - and it's going to be a book. Very soon!
'THE WORLD MADE A RAINBOW' is designed to bring comfort to young children, and to the child inside all of us. Right now we're all seeking reassurance, but it's hard to come by. I hope that this book will help families discuss the changes to our lives in an honest and yet encouraging way.
I'm hugely grateful to Bloomsbury for embracing and supporting this project. They're currently in talks to partner with a children's charity so that proceeds can have as positive an impact as possible.
Meanwhile, illustrator Emily Hamilton and designer Goldy Broad are bringing the art into beautiful shape in a very short amount of time, under the eagle eye of my editor Elaine Connolly. (Thanks, too, to Emma Blackburn for getting the ball rolling. What a lovely final book to be making with you after all the ones we've made during your time at Bloomsbury!)
With any luck 'THE WORLD MADE A RAINBOW' will quickly become a piece of social history - a time capsule for children in classrooms to study, to help discuss their personal experiences of lockdown - rather than a mirror held up to reflect our current situations.
I'm really missing working with children (apart from my own, of course!) and visiting schools to promote reading for pleasure. I'm very glad to have found some small way to put my limited skills to use during the pandemic.
Check out this super cool reading of THE DAY THE BANANA WENT BAD by Kevin Bishop in aid of Save The Children!
Save The Children say:
"Every donation to Save with Stories will help the children and families who’ve been hardest hit by the coronavirus crisis, both in the UK and around the world, providing the most vulnerable families with the food they need, as well as access to early learning resources and simple household goods. .
If you can, please donate to Save the Children by visiting savethechildren.org.uk/savewithstories. Or you can text STORIES to 70008 to give a one-off donation of £5.
Together, we can help families get through this.
Here's Peter reading our book and showing you how to draw a flying pig! Thank you, Peter. You made my day!
I hope you are well and finding plenty of things to do to keep you happy and distracted during these strange times. If, like me, you're looking for content to help keep your kids busy, my RESOURCES PAGE has 50 printable activity sheets as well as several play-along audio games to keep kids active in a small home. My YouTube channel is full of fun video challenges to help your kids develop their literacy skills. Please share, subscribe and have fun!
Lots of love,
What a couple of weeks! I've been all over the place having an absolutely wonderful time with booksellers, librarians, teachers and KIDS GALORE. Five thousand, is my best estimate, and I loved meeting each and every one of you! I hope you had fun hearing about THE DAY THE BANANA WENT BAD, and that you're still buzzing with ideas for playing, telling and writing stories of your own.
Our society treats children as lesser beings, but kids are the BEST - and they deserve the best. Whatever you got up to on World Book Day - whether you had an author visit, or you all dressed up, or you decorated your classroom, or painted a spud - I hope you had loads of fun celebrating the joy of reading.
!Below are a few pictures from my recent travels to Stockport, Andover and Hull. Thanks to: Louisa Danquah at Scholastic for keeping me organised; Sue and Andrew at Simply Books for the warmest of welcomes; Authors Aloud for super admin support and Hull Schools Library Service - Joyce, the JOY bit of your name is spot on! You were the best company and you made my visits loads more fun.
And a HUGE THANKS to all of the schools who welcomed a big, bonkers banana: Stockport Grammar, Cale Green Primary, Anton Infants, Pearson Primary, Sidmouth Primary, Ganton School, Cleeve Primary, Northcott Community Special School, St Mary Queen of Martyrs, Wheeler Primary, Eastfield Primary and Newington Academy.
As well intentioned as it is, World Book Day has begun to wear thin with parents who are strapped for cash. Even teachers have come to loathe this time of year thanks to the backlash they get when the kids go home begging for a costume to be made or bought.
What's meant to be a celebration of books has become an excuse for supermarkets to leech money from strapped families as they flood the aisles with a horribly limited and generally non-reading-related range of plastic-laden costumes.
Playing make believe can absolutely enhance a child's experience of a story. But, to the best of my knowledge, unlike READING or BEING READ TO, it's not going to improve your chances in life. It's just going to hurt your back pocket and the planet. Disgraceful really, from a cause that is supposed to exist to get books into every kids' hands.
I stress that I'm not blaming World Book Day. I love World Book Day! But I'm really fed up with books and reading for pleasure becoming demonised. I know lots of schools and families still want to celebrate, and teachers and busy parents and guardians don't always have time to dream up alternative methods. So I thought it was worth compiling some cool alternatives I've seen at schools when I've visited over the years. Thanks to the reading community online for being so generous in sharing ideas. It's a goldmine! You can find so much more just with a bit of a dig around.
VISIT THE LOCAL LIBRARY
Sadly not all regions are lucky enough to have a School Library Service. Many aren't even lucky enough to still have a local library, or even a school library. If you do have a local library, why not organise a trip there on World Book Day? Get sorted far enough in advance (and make sure you give them fair warning!) and you can send home consent forms to make sure each kid has a library card. What better gift on World Book Day than the gift of lifelong access to free books? Librarians are often happy to visit schools and talk to children about how the library works.
BOOK AN AUTHOR AND/OR ILLUSTRATOR VISIT
Meeting someone who's truly passionate about reading has a lasting impact on young minds. Consider clubbing together with other local schools and arrange multiple visits if it's hard to drum up the funds. Popular presenters can get booked up a year in advance, so try to plan ahead. And remember, books and their creators are for life, not just for World Book Day.
Hold a quiz in class. You can find plenty online, or make up your own if you can find the time. Can kids guess the author or illustrator based on a book title or cover? Can they guess the character's name based on a description lifted from the text? Can they guess what happens next after you read the first page?
The World Book Day website is a brilliant place to go for more ideas and fabulous free resources. The possibilities really are endless when you centre the fun around the act of READING. Check out the videos you can use in school, as well as live broadcasts with famous authors on the day. It's always super inspiring for children to feel like they're part of something that's happening in other schools across the country - and it's why World Book Day deserves to be loved and observed every year, whatever you end up wearing.
BLIMEY. I consider myself a very lucky person - I always dreamed of becoming a children's author, and my dream came true. I get to do what I love, every day. I get to work with the most incredibly lovely, talented people. It's ridiculous. I genuinely wake up most days and wonder if the last twelve years have all been an actual dream. And then yesterday, ANOTHER dream came true.
It feels greedy to even have other dreams when my big wish has already been granted, but I do still have a few goals and ambitions. One of them has always been to be shortlisted for a funny prize. Just shortlisted, mind you, to win was another dream entirely. But it happened!
TEN FAT SAUSAGES by me and Tor Freeman won Best Laugh Out Loud Picture Book in the 2020 LOLLIES Awards! I know!!! Honestly!!! Tor is in America at the minute, pursuing a dream of her own, so me and Sausage Number 2 attended the super fun awards ceremony in London.
I caught up with lots of friends in the publishing world and met loads of very excited children. It was a wonderful day, and a bit of a dream in itself. I was handed the award by JULIA DONALDSON, for crying out loud! Surreal or what?! I'm only sorry I had to shoot off early to catch a train. (Another dream of mine is an underground high speed travelator between Somerset and EVERYWHERE. Still working on that one.)
BRAVO to all the other authors and illustrators whose hilarious books made the shortlist. Reading your books at home with my kids is a delight, sharing them with my Patron of Reading school is an easy win and your excellent creations always inspire me in my own.
Thank you to Tor for being a brilliant and incredibly funny co-creator. Thank you to Andersen Press for backing such a daft book. Thank you to James Catchpole for (eventually) seeing the joy in slaying pork products. Thank you to Scholastic for a truly fantastic day. And THANK YOU to everyone who took the time to vote for our book. I'm truly staggered - and still waiting to wake up...
The team at Sheffield Libraries really go the extra mile to create a buzz around reading. They've declared 2020 Sheffield's Year of Reading, with twelve months of events lined up and ready to go. 'The Day the Banana Went Bad' was one of the first, and I feel extremely lucky to have been part of the launch celebrations.
Children from Springfield School and Ballifield School joined me at the Central Library, along with library staff and members of Sheffield Council, as we turned into a bunch of misfit bananas. Who cares what we look like on the outside? As Bad Banana proves, it's what we're really made of that counts.
It was the first time I'd shared my 'The Day 'The Banana Went Bad' event - turns out it's a doozy! I'm looking forward to donning my banana costume again across the coming months for more events across the country. Huge thanks to all at Sheffield Libraries for inviting me to be a tiny part of what's sure to be a wonderful year. Thanks also to Louisa Danquah at Scholastic for her help organising.
Michelle Robinson is a