Make ‘Em Laugh


Children’s publisher Scholastic has announced a new book prize celebrating funny fiction, in the wake of the now defunct Roald Dahl Funny Prize.

The Laugh Out Loud Book Awards – dubbed ‘the Lollies’ –  launch this month and will award the Best Laugh Out Loud Book across three categories: picture books, age 6 to 8 fiction and age 9 to 13 fiction.


Former Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen will lead a panel in selecting a shortlist of four books for each category. The winners, however, will be decided entirely by children, with schools being asked to place their votes on the award’s website.

The recent Kids and Family Reading Report, conducted by Scholastic, found that 63% of children want to read books that make them laugh. Rosen is keen to make sure that funny books continue to find their audience.

“This prize will be like a great big signpost saying ‘This way laughs’ and that could be the moment that a child who doesn’t read turns into one who does,” Rosen says. “I think that’s really exciting.”

The shortlist will be announced next March with the winners revealed at an awards ceremony in September.

New Children’s Laureate announced

imageChris Riddell – illustrator and author extraordinaire, perhaps best known for the Ottoline series and The Edge Chronicles – has been announced as the new Waterstones Children’s Laureate. He takes over from YA author Malorie Blackman and joins a distinguished list which also includes Michael Morpurgo, Quentin Blake and Jacqueline Wilson.

During his laureateship, which will run until 2017, Riddell’s chief focus will be extolling the importance of illustration and visual literacy. He will chronicle his experiences in an illustrated ‘laureate log’ – to be shared over social media – and encourage children to keep their own sketchbooks. Following on from previous laureates, he will also continue to champion libraries.

Malorie Blackman – who faced Twitter abuse in response to her call for more diversity in children’s literature – said the best advice she could offer the next children’s laureate was to speak their mind and ‘have fun’. It certainly sounds like Riddell has plans to do both.

Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre



With the recent celebration of Roald Dahl day – on the author’s birthday, 13th September – and the 50th anniversary of the publication of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, it was high time for a visit to the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre.

The museum in Great Missenden is a charming, busy space, with Wonka gates and other donated props from the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory film adaptations. There are photos and extensive paraphernalia from Dahl’s life with the centrepiece being the idiosyncratic contents of his writing hut (like his old reading lamp weighed down by a golf ball on a piece of string).

There is also a large interactive area where children are encouraged to let their imaginations run wild – from playing word games to creating a stop motion film – and pose in a replica of Dahl’s chair.

When you’ve had your fill of the delights on offer in the museum, you can walk outside to the high street and see the real inspirations behind Dahl’s work – the red petrol pumps from Danny the Champion of the World, the library from Matilda – and explore the countryside he inhabited.

imageA trip to the museum doesn’t disappoint – it offers an unique opportunity to sit in the chair and walk in the footsteps of a giant of children’s literature.

Continue the Dahl trail with a trip to the exhibition of the work of long-time collaborator and illustrator extraordinaire, Quentin Blake.

Quentin Blake: Inside Stories


Illustration has found a new home near Kings Cross and this inaugural Quentin Blake exhibition is the perfect housewarming.

It is impossible to separate Blake from his magical and fruitful collaboration with Roald Dahl, and a good chunk of the work on show is from such classics as The Twits and The BFG. Alongside this though, we see storyboards from Blake’s own wordless book Clown and his riotously colourful illustrations for the Folio Society edition of Voltaire’s Candide.

For me, the highlight of the exhibition was a look at his work on Michael Rosen’s The Sad Book, an exploration of Rosen’s grief following the death of his son EddieNowhere is the power of Blake’s illustration and intuition felt more powerfully than in the sequence of snapshots of Eddie’s life, where the final frame on the page is left heart-breakingly blank.


In the last room there is a film of Blake in his workshop and a space for visitors to explore the books featured in the exhibition. Although the thoughtful curation of Blake’s work makes it more than worthwhile, I did wonder if more space at the fledgling gallery could’ve been opened up (there did seem to be additional rooms not in use).

However, Blake’s work seems so perfectly-formed that there is a real, rare pleasure in glimpsing the method behind it. I look forward to seeing what the gallery offers next.

Quentin Blake: Inside Stories runs at the House of Illustration until 2nd November.

Happy Hunting

imageRead for RNIB Day and Walker Books are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury classic We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by organising their very own mass bear hunt. (We’re not afraid…)

The Biggest Ever Bear Hunt will take place on Tuesday 15th July and will consist of a reading lesson with renowned author Rosen.

This curriculum approved reading lesson – created by education specialist Yellow Door – will be suitable for ages three to seven. It will be fully accessible to children who are blind and partially sighted, so that they can join in the adventure too.


On the day, over 1000 school children will come together at Charter Hall in Colchester in an attempt to break the Guinness World Record™ for the biggest reading lesson.

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt – which lends itself to boisterous reading and dramatic action – is the perfect choice for a big group to enjoy together.

Everyone can join in the fun via a web stream of the event which will be broadcast live at (also available on demand after the event).

In order to take part, children and their teddy bear friends are asked to donate £1 each. Sign up your intrepid bear hunters here:

All proceeds will go to Read for RNIB Day to support the RNIB’s vital work. You can find out more about what they do here

Calling all schools, nurseries, mums and dads.

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. Are you coming?


Where The Free Things Are


‘Free admission’ is always a welcome phrase, but especially so in cash-strapped January. Well, you have permission to go wild this month with not one, but two fantastic free exhibitions highlighting the best work in children’s book illustration.

The Illustration Cupboard – a magical Aladdin’s cave of a gallery – is hosting it’s annual winter exhibition until the end of January. There is wonderful stuff on view – a silk-screen The Tiger Who Came to Tea caught my eye as well as, of course, original sketches from Where The Wild Things Are. There is also plenty of work on display from modern illustrators such as Shaun Tan. All the work is for sale but I quite happily ignored the price tags on the prints and just let my retinas soak it all in.

Elsewhere, at the British Library, Picture This looks at ten perennial children’s classics which have been re-imagined over the decades by various illustrators. I especially loved Charlie and Lola creator Lauren Child’s work for The Secret Garden, perhaps because it summed up the cloistered wonder of this compact but dense selection of work.

The exhibition ends 26th January, so don’t miss your chance to explore the history of these classic stories. And if you like a cheeky photo op, have your picture taken alongside the life-sized Iron Man (made out of card – well, it is free after all).

Illustration Cupboard Winter Exhibition

Picture This, British Library

Make Your Mark on a BookBench!


Ever curled up on a good book? The National Literacy Trust – the charity dedicated to raising literacy levels in the UK – is inviting artists to send in designs for an exciting new public art project: ‘Books about Town’.

The project, to be unveiled this summer, will feature a series of ‘BookBenches’, seats boasting illustrations inspired by literary works with a connection to London.

The aim is to promote reading for pleasure, and encourage visitors to discover the BookBenches by following literary trails around the city. One of the benches already complete (by artist Mik Richardson) is inspired by children’s classic The Wind in the Willows. It will sit beside the Bank of England (where Kenneth Grahame worked as a secretary).

So if you are an artist and would like to submit a design for the project – run in partnership with arts and education company Wild in Art – you can download the artist’s information and apply here.

Some suggestions of books with links to London can be found here. Artists are free to choose a title from this list (which includes Paddington Bear) or create a BookBench design inspired by another piece of work altogether.

If are interested in submitting a design don’t dally! The deadline for entries is 5pm on Monday 20 January 2014.

For more information, contact Aimee Faunt:
For general information about the National Literacy Trust, contact Jo Franks:

Get the latest news on this exciting venture at or follow the Trust on Facebook or Twitter.

Book Week Scotland – read all about it!

???????????????Scottish Book Trust – Scotland’s national agency tasked with promoting literacy and a love of reading – will be delivering a programme of book-related activities across Scotland from 25 November to 1 December. The diverse events on offer will encourage people of all ages to get involved. The programme for children will feature free books and live link-ups with their favourite authors.

Three free picture books (try saying that three times fast) will be gifted to every primary 1 pupil in Scotland – Paper Dolls by Julia Donaldson and Rebecca Cobb, What’s the Time Mr Wolf by Debi Gliori and Jumblebum by Chae Strathie and Ben Cort.

608[1]Another highlight of the programme will see children’s illustrator and author Mairi Hedderwick bring her beloved creation, Katie Morag, to life for children across Scotland during a special ‘authors live’ broadcast in partnership with the BBC on 28 November.

Prior to the beginning of Scottish Book Week Mairi will also be appearing at the first Tarbert Book Festival on 23 November. She will show kids how to put a story together, followed with a storytelling and book signing session.

To learn more about Book Week Scotland, visit or follow @Bookweekscot on Twitter. For more information on Tarbert Book Festival you can visit their facebook page.

Hungry Caterpillar gets his wiggle on for charity

caterpillar-pictureAction for Children is linking up with the legendary The Very Hungry Caterpillar as part of a national fundraising campaign. The charity is encouraging children’s centres, groups and nurseries across the country to host sponsored ‘Giant Wiggle’ walks on The Very Hungry Caterpillar Day, 20 March 2014, the 45th anniversary of Eric Carle’s beloved, evergreen classic.

The ‘Giant Wiggle’ campaign – a ‘Giant Wiggle’ being a caterpillar-style conga line of children – was launched at Action for Children’s Pebbles Children Centre in Basingstoke on Tuesday 17 September.

Ruth Sorby, Partnership Fundraising Manager at Action for Children, said: “It was fantastic to see the children at Pebbles Children’s Centre taking part in the very first ‘Giant Wiggle’.


Everyone loves The Very Hungry Caterpillar and we hope our launch event will inspire many other ‘Giant Wiggles’ around the country next year in celebration of our 145th anniversary!”

All money raised through the mass wiggling will support Action for Children’s community-based work helping vulnerable children, young people and families across the country. The very hungry caterpillar – very hungry for change!

For more information on how to organise your own ‘Giant Wiggle’ visit