Half Term Book Crawl!


This week, I have been on a quest to seek out some of the best books on offer for this year’s North Somerset Teachers’ Book Awards 2019. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it! Although I wasn’t able to visit as many as I’d hoped due to other things getting in the way, I managed to visit some in London, Bath, Bristol and Taunton.


It’s always a pleasure to pop in to Waterstones Picadilly and have a browse in the children’s section. I love the way it is laid out and the displays they have. I found some great non-fiction ideas here as well as some suggestions for our Read Aloud category.


Close by is Hatchards- delightfully charming with its old-fashioned air and quiet rooms- another favourite for spending some time. I spent quite a while sitting in their children’s room, exploring a large pile of treasures. Found some wonderful picture books here!


Although not a bookshop and alarmingly changed since I used to visit as a child, I must include this picture of Paddington I took when I popped into Hamleys as it made me very happy!


Foyles on the Southbank was a veritable cornucopia of book-ish delight for many categories. Once again, there was lots of wonderful non-fiction and I chose a few books which I think will work really well as Quality Fiction candidates.


Foyles in Bristol was equally interesting and offered some additional finds. (This picture was taken a while ago as I forgot to take a photo whilst there!)


Bath offers the triple joy of Waterstones, Mr B’s and Toppings.


All three produced some great ideas, but poetry remains the hardest category to find a wide selection of ideas for. Still, we will continue searching!


Visiting Mr B’s was a particular delight this time as they have extended and now have their new children’s room which is a wonderful space, well worth a visit.


Finally, I visited the stalls at Reading Rocks on Saturday. Book Island were there with their usual fabulous selection of very original and beautiful picture books. Bookwagon had a stall there with lots of lovely books, many translated or by authors/ illustrators from other countries. The main bookshop was provided by The Roving Bookshop whose range never ceases to amaze me. I found some real treasures, not necessarily for the awards, but wonderful books it’s hard to get hold of now! I think we need a new award’s category to pay tribute to these!


So, lots of lovely new books ready for consideration, but many more still to discover! Let’s get reading!

Picture Book Club South West


Last night, we met once again for Picture Book Club SW. Every time, the group gets bigger which is fantastic and a real tribute to the hard work Emma, Melanie and Greet put into organising it.


Our author/ illustrator this time was Lucy Volpin. She explained how she came to write and illustrate picture books which was not what she set out to do! 'We Love Dinosaurs' came from her passion for dinosaurs and her desire to see them portrayed accurately in a children's book. This would have been a huge hit with my son when he was little with its colourful, friendly (and accurate!) dinosaurs.  


'Crocodali', the character in her new book, is the greatest artist in the whole world- but he needs the reader's help to create his masterpiece. Lucy shared some of her wonderful artwork and the techniques she uses. Her portfolio was full of amazing sketches and pictures- I wish I could draw!


We could have listened to her for hours- but the lovely people at Foyles wanted to go home, so all too soon it was time for the raffle. Guess who won!!!


If you love picture books and want to talk to others who do to, then make sure you join us for the next session! Watch out for dates on Twitter!

Beasts and Bugs in Bristol.

Yeterday, with Sue away at YALC in London, I ventured on a solo mission to Cabot Circus in Bristol. Yuval Zommer was holding an event there to share his book ‘The Big Book of Beasts.’ Like its predecessor, ‘The Big Book of Bugs’ (well-loved amongst the JAB Team and one of our Information Books on the NSTBA 2017 long list), this is a beautifully illustrated and informative non-fiction book.

Thanks to Bristol traffic, I was a little late and arrived as the event was in full swing. The children’s section of Foyles, which is always a pleasure to browse, was filled with families. The children were given a page of animal tracks, created from one of the beautifully illustrated spreads in ‘A Big Book of Beasts,’ and invited to add their own Beasts to the page. As the children eagerly drew and coloured, Yuval reminded them about the features of a beast: claws, jaws and growls (the children all growled loudly in response). Yuval spent this time sat on the floor with the children, talking about their illustrations. After some time, Yuval collected in all of their art work. He shared each child’s work – one by one – inviting them up as their efforts were celebrated. Yuval has something wonderful to say about each and every one: from beasty lions, tigers, hyenas and wolves to the less beasty bats, zebras, elephants and butterflies. There were happy, smiling animals, animals jumping on top of each other and even the longest snake in the jungle!

It was wonderful to see such a wide age-range of children at the event. Children from 2 to 10 were all sharing their work proudly. The event itself was relaxed and encouraged children to be creative and use their imaginations. This was another fantastic event organised by the hardworking team at Foyles in Bristol. An added bonus of the afternoon was meeting local author, Duncan Beedie, author of ‘The Bear who Stared’ and ‘The Lumberjack’s Beard.’ Both Yuval and Duncan will be at the Cheltenham Festival this year so we hope to track them down again there.

After the event, Yuval signed books, including the heap that I had brought with me (although I may have left Sue’s special notebook on my kitchen floor, OOPS)! Team JAB have been trying to catch Yuval at one of his events for about a year but keep missing him so it was great to finally catch up with him. He shared his latest picture book with me, published just last week, ‘Big Brown Bear’s Cave,’ which is dedicated to children who barely tidy their rooms. This looks like a really fun, colourful book which is beautifully illustrated in Yuval’s unique style. I hope to get a copy very soon. We also chatted about the exciting projects he has on the horizon. This includes the next, still slightly secret, instalment of his ‘Big Book’ series – ‘The Big Book of Something-Else-Beginning-with-B’ – and a follow up to the stunning fold out book which he created in partnership with Charlotte Gullian, ‘The Street Beneath my Feet.’ These books are real treasures of non-fiction. Both informative and imaginative, they can be the basis of much investigation, discussion and exploration and would be fantastic additions to any classroom or school library.