Lisa Heathfield

More Hay Fever!

Friday was my last Hay-Day this year and it was a wonderful way to finish my visits this year!

My first event was Jo Cotterill, one of our 2017 longlisted authors in the Moving On category. You can read a review of 'A Library of Lemons' here. Sharing activities designed to encourage us to think about and understand the feelings of others, she explored empathy skills, based on her new book, A Storm of Strawberries. Her event was part of the work of Empathy Lab, a new organisaton 'passionate about the power of stories to build empathy and the power of empathy to make the world a better place.' You can find out more about this organisation on their website.

Empathy Day is on the 13th June this year and Jo encouraged everyone to share ideas of books which could be used to develop understanding and empathy. It was a fascinating session.

Next, I caught up with the very lovely Martin Brown, another of our long listed authors- this time in the Information Category. It was lovely to say hello and have a chat!

I also managed to catch Pippa Goodhart, short listed in the NSTBA Quality Fiction Category 2015 (our first year!) for her book, 'Raven Boy'. You can read our review here. She had been in the Storytelling Nook, sharing her picture book, 'A Bottle of Happiness' You can read our review of this here.

I was so excited when I spotted a new book by my 'Literacy hero', David Crystal! Full of humour and wisdom, his books are always a joy to read! I'm looking forward to hearing him speak at the 'Getting It Write' Conference at CLPE in a couple of weeks.

The afternoon's events started with Kiran Millwood Hargrave and Peter Bunzl talking about their new books, 'The Island at the End of Everything' and 'Moonlocket'. 'The Girl of Ink and Stars', Kiran's first book, has been longlisted for this year's NSTBA Moving On Category.

They made an excellent pair, working really well together and discussing the questions that they are most often asked by children. Peter had children- and Kiran!- improving their deportment by walking with books on their heads like Lily had to in 'Cogheart'! Their session was really thoughtfully put together with lots of pictures to illustrate their points.

You can read our review of 'Cogheart' here. It was a lovely event with two lovely authors!

At this point, I popped into the Make and Take Tent, a wonderful, lively place full of children laughing and creating things. Lisa Stickley, author of 'Handstand' and 'The New Room', both of which we have reviewed. It was wonderful to meet her at last and see her in action, creating her lovely pictures!


My next event was chaired by Nicky Parker from Amnesty International UK. Gill Lewis, GillianCross and Francesca Sanna came together to talk about their books and to inspire the audience to draw or write a message of welcome on postcards to asylum seekers around the UK.

Each of their books After Tomorrow (Gillian Cross), A Story Like the Wind(Gill Lewis) and The Journey (Francesca Sanna) consider what it might be like to be a refugee, each powerful, thought provoking and emotive in different ways.


Matt Sewell was talking about his first book for children, 'The Big Bird Spot' which we reviewed here.


My final Hay event this year was the 'YA Book Prize and the Costa Book Award'. This was a brilliant event with the panel all responding really well to each other and showing a real interest in each other's books and opinions. It was a great way to finish my Hay days this year!

Lisa Heathfield, author of 'Seed' and 'Paper Butterflies' (reviewed here), Martin Stewart, author of 'Riverkeep' and Brian Conaghan, author of 'The Bombs that Brought Us Together' have all been teachers and all seemed to use this experience to guide their writing. Brian Conaghan comented that he always has those who hate reading in his mind when writing- partly because he was one of them when younger. It was an inspiring talk! 

So- Hay, for me at least, is over for another year! It is a wonderful festival- everyone should go!

JAB- favourite books of 2016! (part 5)


So, choosing one favourite book from 2016 was impossible and the cause of much fretting; how is a girl supposed to choose just one? I have narrowed it down as much as possible to these 5 fantastic reads (but really I have many, many favourites including all of our NSTBA 2016 shortlisted books)!

Picture Books

Max and Bird by Ed Vere (Puffin Books)

I am a picture book addict! I just cannot resist them. All of Ed Vere’s Max books are fab. I picked up a copy of Max and Bird in the summer and instantly fell in love with it. Max is a little cat with a huge amount of ‘cattitude.’ The vibrant and simple illustrations pounce off the page, with charm and just the perfect amount of scrappiness. In Max and Bird, Max meets a little bird and would really like to eat him up; Bird has another idea (which definitely does not involve being eaten) but he is open to negotiation. They settle on a compromise – Max will help Bird learn to fly and then Bird will consider allowing Max to eat him up. The story that follows is delightfully funny yet carries strong messages about the power of resilience and working together as the unlikely duo work with determination to reach their goal.

If you do not own any of the Max books, make it your New Year’s resolution to pop to a book shop and pick up a copy.


Books for Emerging Readers (and not-so emerging readers who just love illustrations and great stories)

Mango and Bambang by Polly Faber and Clara Vulliamy (Walker Books)

These beautifully illustrated books – perfect for little hands – look good enough to eat: the candy striped covers are almost ‘lickable’ (I say almost, because so far I shown restraint and not licked any of them). I love these stories. There are 3 books (so far…) and each book is split into 4 shorter stories making them perfect for younger readers and bedtime stories. They should not be limited to younger readers though. The lively illustrations and fun stories will appeal to readers of all ages – I had a group of Year 6 girls in my previous class who would argue over these books when they came into the library. Mango takes Bambang in after finding him disguised as a large, striped lump in the middle of a zebra crossing; he becomes her family (he is not a pet) and she loves him. Bambang is a hilarious character: perfectly odd, a gentle giant and very talented at getting himself into sticky situations (queue many mishaps, accidental adventures and hat-wearing). Ultimately, the stories are tales of friendship, family and unconditional love.


Quality Fiction

The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave (Chicken House)

This is a true adventure, brimming with magic and heart. The Girl of Ink and Stars is set in a land shrouded by myth and legends of fire demons; a land which its inhabitants are forbidden to leave; a land filled with secrets. Isabella, the young heroine of the tale, is captivating, determined and utterly fearless – I rooted for her throughout the story. She had grown up studying the maps of far-off lands which her cartographer father had crafted. She yearned to explore these distant places or even her own island, beyond the small village where she lived. However, going beyond the boundaries of the village was a forbidden by the harsh rule of the governor. When Isabella’s father goes missing, she volunteers to help in the search. Using her father’s maps, she guides the guides the men into the monster-filled wastelands beyond the walls of the village. Isabella soon discovers that there is truth to the legends. When the fire-demon stirs from its sleep, Isabella’s quest to find her father becomes a desperate fight to save her home. This really is one of those books that grabs you by the ankle and pulls you in – a thrilling and enchanting read.


Moving On

Paper Butterflies

by Lisa Heathfield (Electric Monkey)

I picked up a copy of this stunning novel at YALC. It hooked me inform the very first page and I read it in one sitting (which for me, as an incredibly s-l-o-w and easily distracted reader, is a real triumph). Paper Butterflies is a heartbreaking coming of age tale. It tells of the horrors of abuse. June is ‘trapped like a butterfly in a net.’ Trapped by the darkness and secrets, through fear and shame, June hides the truth of her life living with her stepmother and stepsister. Not even her father knows the truth of the pain she endures. Only when she meets Blister, a boy with a wild heart, does she begin to hope. Read the full review here.


Information Books

Animal Doctors – Incredible Ways Animals Heal Themselves by Angie Truis, Mark Doran and Julio Antonio Blasco (Laurence King Publishing)

2016 has been the year of beautiful non-fiction books for children: books where fact meets art; where exciting writing, packed with knowledge and explanation, stands alongside stunning illustrations. Animal Doctors is one such triumph.

Which bird uses a shampoo made out of ants? Which ape eats rocks for better digestion? Which reptile has its own antidote for snake venom? From the dusky-footed woodrat to the mountain gorilla, Animal Doctors takes you on a journey through the natural world, discovering the clever and, at times, miraculous ways that animals care for themselves and their young. Each page is filled with colour. Sketchy cartoon style illustrations add humour and character to the animal antics but sit side by side with realistic artwork. Each page has a fold out fact file filled with extra statistics and a fun doctor’s prescription. This book is perfect to delve in and out of as well as studying it from cover to cover.


My Christmas reading (and quite possibly my next favourites):


His Royal Whiskers by Sam Gayton, illustrated by Peter Cottrill (Andersen Press)

Dave Pigeon (Nuggets) by Swapna Haddow, illustrated by Sheena Dempsey (Faber & Faber)

A Wisp of Wisdom – Animal Tales from Cameroon by various amazing authors, illustrated by Emmie van Biervliet (Lantana Press)

Stand by for reviews in 2017!