Pick A Pumpkin


Pick a pumpkin from the patch-

tall and lean or short and fat.

This lovely book follows a family as they prepare for Halloween. It captures the fun of choosing exactly the right pumpkin before working with friends to create the perfect lantern. Having decorated, they leave the pumpkin to guard their home whilst they have fun trick or treating. Written by Patricia Toht, author of All Aboard The London Bus (review here) shortlisted for our 2017 Poetry Category, it is a real joy!


Perfect for Halloween which will be here all too soon, ‘Pick a Pumpkin’ is wonderful for reading aloud as the rhyming text delights in each activity as the family prepares. The vocabulary is rich, adding to the pleasure of reading out loud. There is nothing scary here, just the excitement of the occasion. Although people in the UK have only more recently used pumpkins for Halloween lanterns, turnips were traditionally used and this could be discussed along with other traditions.


The illustrations are glorious , full of autumnal shades and scenes of family fun. There are lots of details to enjoy and the wonderful glowing pumpkin towards the end of the book could inspire children to create their own illustrations.

‘Pick a Pumpkin’ is simply bewitching!

Pick a Pumpkin Patricia Toht, illustrated by Jarvis

Walker Books ISBN: 978-1406360615

Published 5th September 2019


All 80 titles for the six categories of our long list have now been reviewed! Each and every one a fantastic book, highly recommended by JAB and the NSTAB team.

The short list will be announced on the 8th September. Votes from the panel are already coming in so here's a little reminder of the twenty fabulous books on the Picture Book Category Long List.


After the Fall      Dan Santat (Andersen Press) 


Almost Anything - Sophy Henn (Puffin)


Cyril and Pat- Emily Gravett (Two Hoots)


Fairy Tale Pets - Tracey Corderoy, illustrated by Jorge Martin (Little Tiger)


What's Your Favourite Colour? - Eric Carle and Friends   (Walker)


Goat's Coat - Tom Percival, illustrated by Christine Pym  (Bloomsbury)


I'm Going to Eat This Ant- Chris Naylor-Ballesteros   (Bloomsbury)

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Izzy Gizmo  Pip Jones, illustrated by Sara Ogilvie  (Simon and Schuster)

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Little Red Reading Hood  Lucy Rowland, illustrated by Ben Mantle  (Macmillan)


Lulu Gets a Cat Anna McQuinn, illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw (Alanna Books)


Mrs Noah's Pockets  Jackie Morris, illustrated by James Mayhew (Otter Barry Books)


Nimesh the Adventurer  Ranjit Singh, illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini  (Lantana)


Something Fishy  Polly Dunbar  (Two Hoots)


The Great Gran Plan  Eli Woollard, illustrated by Steven Lenton (Macmillan)


Unplugged    Steve Antony (Hodder) 


This Zoo is Not for You Ross Collins (Nosy Crow)


The Word Collector  Peter H. Reynolds  (Orchard Books)


Look Out, It's A Dragon!       Jonny Lambert (Little Tiger)


The Last Chip    Duncan Beedie    (Templar Publishing)


Spyder     Matt Car   (Scholastic)

All amazing! Which will make it to the short list?

Hay Festival: Norse Myths- Tales of Thor, Loki and Odin


There are some people whose knowledge of and passion for a subject make them a true joy to listen to and Kevin Crossley- Holland is one of these people. I have heard him speak many times and each time, I am inspired to read more about the Norse Gods and Goddesses. After listening to him about one of his books, I was lucky enough to go on holiday to Iceland, discovering the Icelandic sagas in all their glory!


At this event, Kevin Crossley-Holland was joined by Francesca Simon, beloved by my son when he was younger for her 'Horrid Henry' stories. When he wrote to her, she wrote back, making her another of my favourite authors for her kindness to him. Francesca is also well-versed in the Norse myths and her novel, 'The Monstrous Child' is a re-working of Norse mythology, tackling very current of obsession and body image through the character of Hel, one of Loki's children.


An hour was not long enough to listen to the fascinating discussion that followed. Kevin reminded the audience that half of the English language owes its roots to Anglo-Saxon and Norse origins and recited some lines in both to give the comparison. “Gravelly, cacophonous, yet at times lyrical- the language gets to you.” Francesca commented on its daily presence in our lives- the days of the week being named after various Norse Gods.


Both read from their books. Kevin has retold the traditional stories in a wonderfully illustrated collection which is on our Quality Fiction long list. With a glossary of terms, a 'who's who?' of characters and a fascinating foreword that sets the stories in context, it is a brilliant collection for anyone interested in these tales. A full review will be posted soon.

Francesca read the opening from 'The Monstrous Child', explaining that she really wanted to write from the giant's point of view, not that of the gods. She explained how she always asks questions when she writes and that was how she developed Hel's story as the miserable, angst ridden teenager. “For myths to keep living, they have to speak to us.” 'The Monstrous Child' is an excellent story- one which I read before we started the website so one that hasn't been reviewed- yet!

Another wonderful Hay session! What will tomorrow bring?


Norse Myths: Tales from Odin, Thor and Loki Kevin Crossley-Holland,

illustrated by Jeffrey Alan Love

Walker     ISBN: 978-1406361841

The Monstrous Child      Francesca Simon

Faber and Faber     ISBN: 978-0571330263