Sign me up for this Spy Agency Series and to be a spy please! This unique new series is set to take the world by storm! Girls in STEM books are always welcome on my bookshelves and in my libraries.
Asha is gifted and fearless when it comes to coding, hacking and overriding systems. It seems her efforts and skills have not gone unnoticed….she is now the newest recruit of the top secret Children’s Spy Agency. Heading to the library, she finds herself immediately put to work to solve a case where the world’s underwater internet cables are being bitten and destroyed.
Using her unique set of skills and her understanding of the world, she quickly deduces the reasons and sets to work to stop the evil genius. Meeting other talented children in the agency is a perk to the job, as is all the access to cool new gadgets….I mean who wouldn’t want a MegaFart Selfie Stick…no explanation needed for how cool that is!
Asha proves herself time and time again throughout this exciting adventure and I was in awe of her quick wits, quick typing and quick solving of the mystery! You may not believe what was attacking the internet cables… but it is all in a days work for the newest recruit!
Loved the added extras with this book…protocols, morse code, password help. Kids will absolutely devour this book!
I think this will be a hugely successful series featuring clever kids using their talents and skills to defeat the baddies!
If I could be recruited I would hope for a cool gadget to carry around with me…perhaps something to help me understand the animals around the world. I could flip a switch to the continent I was on, then choose the species and then when they made a noise, I would know what they said!
How did you get your start in the publishing industry?
I was incredibly lucky as my first ever job was a complete dream, working as a Saturday girl at my local home town independent bookshop, The Book House, where I eventually became manager of the children’s and YA sections. In working there I learned lots of invaluable skills, spotting market trends, understanding customer requests and how to sell a book in an elevator pitch – I loved finding the hook that would make a customer realise a book was worth their time. I also helped staff a lot of author events, both in shop signings and at festival and school visits. This meant meeting a lot of authors and their publicists – however publishing itself still felt a little too nebulous and hard to understand – I didn’t really know what roles were available, or where I’d fit. I was lucky to be able to work to support myself to enrol in an MA in publishing at Oxford Brookes, where I got a great overview of how publishing at large works – like a giant puzzle with individual teams piecing together a books journey from start to finish. In studying, I realised by bookseller and events background, and love of a zingy pitch, meant I was well suited to PR& marketing. Sam Eades offered me a publicity internship at Headline when I asked her about getting into the industry during an Eowyn Ivey tour for The Snow Child which stopped at The Book House. After finishing my MA, I applied for roles and landed my first publishing job at OUP children’s publicity department.
What is the most interesting part of your job?
As a former book blogger myself, I love working with reviewers – bloggers, bookstagrammers and booktubers on books they are particularly passionate about, coming up with collaborative ideas to share special content, and finding what makes an author tick in their responses. Putting together newsletters and arranging blog tours, and finding ways to make a book stand out from the crowd online is all a particularly interesting challenge, especially when there’s so much competition. It’s so satisfying to work on sending a package out into the world and seeing what the reactions are to it. Particularly last year working on the anthology PROUD, which was personally a very important book to me, and spending a year and a half on the campaign from start to finish – seeing librarians display rainbow posters, bunting and reading discussions with LGBTQ+ teens and hearing what the book meant to the young readers was incredible, and exactly why I got into the industry (my MA dissertation was on the challenges and opportunities marketing LGBTQ+ inclusive YA in the UK). Arranging the stunt cover reveal at YALC with Juno Dawson revealing the cover as it ‘came out of the closet’ – building an actual closet door onto our stand, was a particular highlight.
What are the challenges of your role?
There are always many things happening at once, so you have to juggle a campaign of a book about to be published, with looking ahead two or three months down the line to your next campaign, and even years ahead as we look at books which are sent in for acquisition, so keeping timelines in your head is always an interesting exercise. We normally have seven or eight titles per month we’re working on simultaneously, but lots more in the pipeline.
Media space for children’s books is always a bit of a challenge, and I’m very much with the campaign to #CoverKidsBooks in the wider press. It’s been wonderful however to see grass roots spaces flourish, such as child friendly review sites like Toppsta and author platforms to connect with readers and on the ground gateekeepers like teachers and librarians such as ReadingZone, Authorfy, and the excellent Primary School Book Club. Plus Booktrust are doing wonderful work coordinating digital content and making sure books still reach homes. At the moment, we’re taking digital even further at Little Tiger, and I’m working on video editing and graphic design, as well as arranging virtual book launches and panels.
Describe a typical day or are no two days alike?
There’s definitely a case of no two days are alike, however there are some routines, communicating in house with the team (usually over a desk, but now over Skype calls and whatsapp) updating each other about opportunities to share books – be that awards submissions, commissioning point of sale material such as posters, book marks, activity sheets and digital assets like videos and social media graphics. Responding to author queries, and working with festival organisers, librarians and bookshops as they look at digital options. Sending out newsletters and compiling book orders based on requests, then tracking social media responses online and sharing these as much as possible. It’s a mix of admin, communications, creative planning and pitching.
Tips for Book Bloggers?
I’m definitely echoing what Leilah said, in making your content personal to you – don’t feel like you have to follow a format because that’s what everyone else is doing, the more personal it is to what makes you happy, the more you stand out! My other tip however is a practical one – when you read back over your review, if it is a positive review and one you’d especially wish publishers to refer to in their promotional activity, make sure you have a single sentence which summarises your emotional response and what you love about the book, and make sure this sentence is easily quotable without the rest of your review. We call this a pull quote (as we’ve pulled it from your longer review, and as it functions to pull in new readers!) Short, sweet and snappy, these are great for social media cards, press releases and even book internals when it goes to print. Try and avoid having this sentence lead into a longer clause, or a description of the plot, as it needs to work on its own.
E.G. ‘Pure magic, this book made me laugh and cry!’
What are you currently reading?
I’m doing a reread of The Rules by Tracy Darnton ahead of publication in July, which is about a girl called Amber who is on the run from her father who is a prepper. It’s a gripping thriller with a brilliantly prickly protagonist.
How did you get your start in the publishing industry?
Working as the Publicity Assistant for EDPR is my first job in the industry, though I previously interned at Atlantic Books in their Publicity and Campaigns department and completed work experience as an Editorial Assistant at Penguin Random House.
2. What is the most interesting part of your job?
If I had to pick, I would say the most interesting part of my job is finding the right way to pitch a book for different media. I love the careful thought and construction that goes into explaining why this person, depending on whether they are a blogger, a radio producer, or a journalist, should be interested in this particular book.
3. What are the challenges of your role?
The main challenge of my role is working on several campaigns simultaneously while maintaining an active social media presence for the company. I always need to be ensuring effective communication with my team so that I understand what the is needed from me and how I should prioritise the tasks.
4. Describe a typical day or are no two days alike?
Every day is different though many of my tasks are the same. One day I could be researching ways to contact influencers that I think would be interested in a book we are working on and designing promotional materials, another I might be planning a blog tour and trying to arrange interviews with TV producers. We work on such a wide range of campaigns, from fiction books to nonfiction titles to publishing awards events, that the varying needs of each means always adapting what we do.
5. Tips for Book Bloggers?
– Tell publishers and publicists that you want to work with what it is you’re most interested in reading – everyone wins.
– Blogs are still key so while I may love your bookstagram, I am more likely to pick you for a blog tour if you also have a blog (even better if you also have Twitter).
– We want to quote you! We want to share your thoughts so that others know why this book is worth reading. So, when you are reviewing, think about what will make for a perfect, summarising quote.
6. What are you currently reading?
I am currently reading Wonderland by Juno Dawson (out May 28th, Quercus Books). I love a re-telling of a classic, and this edgy, modern Alice in Wonderland with razor-sharp insight on privilege and hedonism has me hooked! Someone described it as ‘Gossip Girl on acid’ and I couldn’t agree more.
How did you get your start in the publishing industry?
I started taking an interest in Publishing as a career when I was at school, but decided to go down the Business Studies route when I went to University, rather than something more typically associated with publishing, like English. While I was studying Business in Bristol I became more set on the idea of publishing, and decided to try and get the ball rolling. From there I took part in an ‘insight day’ at Hachette and then my first internship, in Editorial at Jonathan Cape. In my final year of uni I became aware of the various Publishing MA courses that were available, and decided that this was the best way to increase my chances of getting in to the industry. I enrolled on UCL’s MA in Publishing, on which I learnt so much about all aspects of the business, and completed another internship, this time at Simon and Schuster. Publicity and Marketing really caught my attention on the course, and I realised that this was the area for me! After a gruelling period of job applications, I was thrilled to be offered a job as a Marketing Assistant with New Frontier Publishing, where I now work as a Publicist.
2. What is the most interesting part of your job?
Working directly with the authors and illustrators is brilliant, and it’s always interesting (and occasionally nerve-wracking) accompanying them to the events we’ve organised for them. It’s very satisfying indeed when they are happy with how their books are doing. Passing on lovely reviews to them is just great, particularly when they’re first time authors and illustrators. There’s such a variety of different people that I’m in contact with day to day, and it’s heartening to see how supportive those who work in and around children’s publishing are to each other. There really is a strong sense of collaboration, and a feeling of shared purpose.
3. What are the challenges of your role?
Organising events has its challenges. It’s often difficult for bookshops to bring in crowds, and they’re sometimes understandably hesitant to hold events. Trying to get publicity for first-time authors in this way is tricky. I’m genuinely so grateful to the wonderful bloggers who help get these authors in the public eye. It really bolsters our ability to pitch author and illustrator events to bookshops and other venues. Sometimes brilliant books that everyone has worked very hard on don’t do as well as you would have hoped. This is certainly another challenge, and definitely an unpredictable part of the job.
4. Describe a typical day or are no two days a like?
There are certain tasks which need doing regularly, typically more administrative things. For the most part though, the days are all quite different. New Frontier has a busy publishing schedule, and we have to constantly shift our attention between the different books that are coming out, all with their own unique characteristics! One minute I might be looking into a launch venue, the next I might be chatting to Booktrust about a new campaign. It’s certainly never dull… Last year I spent a day shooting a music video outside Buckingham Palace with author and entertainer Deano Yipadee, for his book, Ron the Royal Guard. I
frantically followed him around Central London as he presented the book to strangers while dressed as The Queen. Other highlights of the day included an ‘unscheduled’ appearance in Trafalgar Square Waterstones and witnessing Deano sprint through St James’s Park in his underpants and a bearskin hat. Late last year we launched the Gregory Goose is on the Loose books at an inner-city London Farm, which was another unusual highlight.
5. Tips for Book Bloggers?
I don’t think you need any tips from me! We are just very grateful to have the support of bloggers, especially as there is very little coverage of children’s books in the press. As a smaller, independent publisher we really do rely on the bloggers for book reviews. Occasionally we aren’t tagged on social media when a review appears – that’s one thing I would stress is very important. If we aren’t tagged then there’s a chance we may never see the review. This is rare though!
6. What are you currently reading?
I’ve nearly finished Deborah Levy’s latest novel, The Man Who Saw Everything. It’s brilliant and quite ambitious in a way – I love her writing. I’m also reading Notes from an Apocalypse by Mark O’Connell. It’s a funny, clever and surprisingly moving look at the end of days. It was published last month… uncomfortably good timing I reckon. Next on the list is Ottessa Moshfegh’s new novel. She’s one of my favourite people writing at the moment.
Stef Gemmill is an Australian children’s author who writes imaginative stories with social themes. She wrote A Home For Luna, a story of a homeless cat finding family in an unusual place illustrated by Mel Armstrong released 2019. More recently, Stef and illustrator, Tanja Stephani, created stunning picture book In My Dreams, an imaginative tale of a child’s dreams to wondrous places as he sleeps at night.
I wrote In My Dreams to capture those imaginary places from my own dreams I remember from my childhood. I often disappeared inside my imagination and had wild vivid dreams that I remember clearly, even now. I loved to create worlds around me where trees could talk – their voices whispered to me in the wind and the birds in their branches called down to me. Sometimes I imagined I flew with elves and fairies riding on the backs of winged dogs. I was a huge fan of fantasy books and buried my nose inside them whenever I could. When I played with my friends, they would look to me to build a make-believe world around us and give each of them characters to play. We’d run from sorcerers and save the animals and forests from evil spells.
On reflection, it was a time for us as children to escape from the pressures of the world around us. A time to escape from stiff wooden classroom chairs, from chores at home and from parents with real world problems. Our dreams and imaginary worlds were our special places where there were more important things for us to do as children.
And here we are now with the global problem of a pandemic. Our structure and society rules are changing. Schools and shops closed. The way we operate day-to-day has changed and will remain so for some time. Parents sent home from work. Businesses closing their doors for an unknown period of time. In many homes, the number one conversation is about how to live our lives under this new structure. And for how long. But it will end. And we will all get through this.
Now it’s more important than ever to encourage creative play and let our children tap into their imaginations. It helps them understand the world in which they live and their relation to it. Creative play helps them learn to solve problems, create new possibilities and even change the world. Now is the time for reading, dress ups, drawing on paper, writing poems and letting your child disappear into their imagination. It will reduce their stress and worries. And one of the most important ways to keep calm in these times is writing, reading and listening to stories. It is a type of mindfulness for children, encouraging them to live in the moment. In My Dreams is out now in all good bookstores and published by New Frontier Publishing.
In My Dreams Review
It is such an honour to be part of the blog tour for such a vibrant book filled with dreams to inspire, delight and tickle the fancies of children around the world.
When my daughter was younger, part of her bedtime routine was to ask the same question every night, “What can I dream about tonight?”. How I wish I had this book to share with her. I always wanted her to have fanciful, imaginative dreams but I could never put into words what they could look like. Every page from this book could have become a night’s dream, stretching the love of this book out over many nights.
In My Dreams provides so many imaginative ideas for dreams, from “marshmallow clouds” to riding a “faithful dragon to faraway places”. To scaring shadows away and ensuring they have no power over the dreamer.
Perhaps my favourite page is hunting for treasure and collecting kisses and kindness from the Island of love. For most children, dreaming comes when they feel safe and secure in the knowledge that they are loved and love in return.
Though she is now older and no longer asks the question, this book will become something I read to her at night to ensure she feels my love as well as my hopes and dreams for a safe, secure and imaginative nights sleep.
This is sure to become a favourite bedtime story for children around the world and re-reading will provide plenty of opportunities to delve into the illustrations and find something new each night.
Father’s Day is a day for celebrating the dads out there. It can be a wonderful day but it can also be filled with sadness for those who have lost a father in some capacity. Hopefully this post will joyously promote a few books with Dads featuring.
Three of these are completely new to me while the others sit proudly on my bookshelf. There are countless more books with Dads as a prominent character and I could add them here but I have gone for some favourites in our house.
This book kept me busy for a full morning- poring over minute details, looking at the fold out map and learning new facts and places. It would make a wonderful addition to any class or library! Thank you to Sabrina Weiss for this guest post!
Discover the uniqueness of each island
With planes parked on runways and ships docked at ports, we can only daydream about our next island adventure. Take a moment to stare up at the sky, into the clouds, and fix your mind on some far-away location. Perhaps you can see an undiscovered volcanic island on the horizon or a tropical archipelago with dolphins leaping from the water as you pass by.
I love exploring islands and in our new book I want to bring you along for the adventure! As an avid diver and budding photographer, I have always been drawn to islands where I can plunge into the deep blue and marvel at animals. In Sri Lanka, I spotted a rare blue whale – the largest animal to ever exist on Earth – from afar; in Indonesia it was a ghost pipefish that left me in awe, while in Thailand I turned my hobby into a job for a little while and trained to become a dive guide. It always amazes me how each island is completely different even to those nearby. Sri Lanka, Koh Tao in Thailand and Indonesia all had something completely different to offer. And each one left an impression with me. Naturally, they all found a place in Amazing Islands.
The book also casts a spotlight on islands I have never visited. They lie so far out at sea and are incredibly difficult to reach. That’s probably a good thing as the people, animals and plants that inhabit these islands thrive in splendid isolation. The Revillagigedo archipelago for one is made up of four volcanic islands. It is technically part of the Mexican state Colima, but lies some 700 km west from the mainland. The islands are essentially an ocean way station along the migratory routes of hammerhead sharks, giant manta rays and whale sharks. These pelagic fish will cruise the strong currents that pass through these islands. A diver’s dream.
Researching and writing about 100 islands for this book certainly transported me there – and hopefully it will you, too. Amazing Island is a fact-filled, colourful round-the-world island tour with beautiful illustrations to immerse into. We can all dream a little for now.
AMAZING ISLANDS is written by Sabrina Weiss (@sabrinamweiss) and illustrated by Kerry Hyndman (@kerryhyndman) out now in hardback (£14.99, What on Earth Books)
Clare has shared beautifully the “Story behind the story” in her guest post below. This incredibly moving picture book perfectly encapsulates the emotions and uncertainty of dealing with illness but ultimately it is a book of hope. Gorgeous illustrations fill the pages! Read on for the true story…
The Story Behind The Story: Guest Post
I’m delighted to be writing this guest post for Erin, ahead of publication of ‘The Perfect Shelter’. Thank you for inviting me to talk a little bit about how the story came to be.
Illustrated by debut illustrator, Åsa Gilland, and published by Little Tiger Press,
‘The Perfect Shelter,’ is hugely personal. In my writing I often take painful experiences and turn them into something beautiful. Something that helps me make sense of the world, and to help others make sense of it, too. This story was written after a member of our family died very suddenly from a brain tumour. Here is a picture of Shane, who the book is dedicated to. He was full of fun and always up to mischief. I love this photo of him!
To say it was a challenging time for our family is a massive understatement. It was hard for everyone, not least my children, then 6 and 7 years old, who understood enough to be scared, but not enough to be able to process how unfair it all felt. I find writing hugely cathartic, which is why I put pen to paper and penned The Perfect Shelter late one night.
Actually, it was more a finger to iphone sort of thing! Some of my books have many, many drafts but this one came out in a beautifully, effortless way. I had already been writing a story called ‘The Perfect Shelter,’ inspired by watching my children make a den and hearing my son say ‘It’s going to be a perfect shelter!’ I had the lines ‘We sang as we worked and we worked as we sang, it’s the perfect, perfect shelter,’ and I knew that building the den was going to have ups and downs. The idea of ‘perfectionism’ is tricky for children (and adults alike). I wanted to explore making mistakes and accepting that things can be ‘perfect’ even when they don’t work out the way we think they should or want them to. That day had been full of questions from my oldest about Shane’s cancer; what does it look like? How did it get there? So, I decided to try and ‘answer’ some of them as best I could through a story about dens.
My agent, Alice Williams, sent the text on to my editors at Little Tiger soon after, and I was delighted when the feedback was that they found the story beautiful, powerful and very moving.
As fate would have it, the story turned out to be even more special than I had first thought, when in January 2019 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I don’t really have the words to describe how this felt, and still feels sometimes. But working on this book has been both difficult and a joy.
Åsa and the Little Tiger Team really have done the most beautiful production. The story sets out to unravel the difficult emotions we face when a loved one is diagnosed with a serious illness, such as cancer. It is not a book about loss, but rather living with life’s uncertainty. I hope that it brings love and support to others going through difficult times.
Once again, a thank you to Erin allowing me to share my ‘story behind the story.’ ‘The Perfect Shelter’ is essentially a book about hope, living in the present and making the most of every day. The subject is painful but the words are lyrical. I hope people enjoy the beautiful contrast between the two.
I am thrilled to highlight the seven books in this feature- they are all new favourites in my house, both with me and my children. They are perfect for gifting, sharing, reading aloud and reading often!
We’re Going on a Treasure Hunt
Following the popular pattern of a favourite classic story, this book features bunnies as they hunt along the beach for treasure. Sure to be popular with young readers and their families, core concepts of counting, rhyming and scanning for treasure are reinforced throughout this joyful book. Fun lift the flaps keep even the fidgetiest child engaged and entertained in hunting and counting the coins.
Martha Mumford and Laura Hughes are a dream team with their lift the flap bunny stories. From Egg hunts to pirate treasure hunts, children of all ages will love this book. Laura Hughes has an incredible talent for creating a world in which we can delve into. You can almost feel the sand beneath your feet and feel an ocean breeze on your face. Lyrical rhyme and repetition ensures even the youngest of readers can join in.
The Wonder Tree
“Let me tell you a wonder” begins Mummy Owl as she answers Baby Owl’s many questions. I would love to begin all my sentences with that…as we need to celebrate the wonders of our world, nature and the animals living alongside us. Children have this innate curiosity which needs to be nurtured so they continue to be curious and ask questions as they get older. Author Teresa Heapy has written the lovely story of Mummy Owl showing patience and love as she explains nature to her worried baby.
Illustrated by Izzy Burton ( her debut!- I guarantee we will see more from her!) with a celebration of nature and its warm colours, we follow Baby Owl as he learns about his tree, how it lives and how the seasons change around it but ultimately, how it is always home. As the Owls fly into the night, the tree rests knowing they will return. A superb book celebrating curiosity, nature and love, perfect for soothing worries at the end of a day.
Boo Loves Books
Phoebe is the classic reluctant reader- avoiding the book basket, shying away from reading out loud and worrying about reading day and night. The teacher is wonderful- encouraging, patient and confident in the trip she has planned for the class. She has taken the book basket, as “every place is a place to read books”, with the class to the animal shelter. Phoebe is shown to Big Boo, a shy, worried dog and is encouraged to share the book with him. My heart melted when Boo brought his blanket over for story time- incredibly moving- a move towards hope and trust from both Boo and Phoebe.
Both Phoebe and Boo have worries and fears and through the power of books, they find a way to overcome these. Boo doesn’t mind if Phoebe gets stuck on a word or if she says it wrong- he just loves her company. Providing Phoebe with the ultimate gift, time to read, the pair are well matched and it could be the start of a beautiful friendship.
This Book has Alpacas
With pictures I want to frame and new favourite characters, I am so excited to share this book. Bears, Bears, Bears- everywhere in books- but where are the Alpacas?? Alfonso is determined to write a book featuring alpacas, once he figures out how to hold a pen that is. Alfonso has the determination to make sure he is represented in books- just what much of the publishing world is trying to ensure now for all children. A hilarious book filled with colourful and vibrant illustrations and a super story.
With a firm plan, Alfonso asks his friend Colin, a bear (ironically), for help. Colin, disinterested, says no at yoga, while in the bath, at the movies and constantly throughout the week. Alfonso, sure in his conviction that Alpacas are wonderful works extra hard to impress Colin. They go through the entire process until Alfonso says “Ta-da! Finished Story!” Then come the plans for Alfonso product domination! Will you be Team Alfonso or Team Colin??
I have decided the only way to truly appreciate Larry the Llama is to read his story while listening to the ultra hip playlist created by author, Simon James Green, on Spotify. So Larry has some groovy moves which he keeps hidden away from the other llamas for fear of disapproval. One night, making a getaway and feeling blue, he discovers a poster for Llama Glamarama- a carnival of music and free apples. “For a lonely young llama, a spectacular sight” awaits.
Loud music, groovy moves and new dances to learn- Larry is happy! This experience gives him the courage to share his secret with his friends and as all great books about being true to yourself have- his friends accept him and share their own secrets! In this time of celebrating differences, and having empathy- could we love Larry more?
I love highlighting sports to children in new ways and seeing them connect with something new. This beautifully illustrated books introduces us to Maya who wakes early, excited to get to her karate class and practice her moves with her Sensei and her karate friends. I felt a part of the lesson as Maya learned new moves and mastered familiar ones with the help of her friends.
Maya watches in awe as one of the big kids, a black belt, practices her kata and Maya already aspires to be that good when she grows up. An inspiring story, based on children, Karate champion and author/illustrator, Holly has taught over the years.
The Walloos’ Big Adventure
A colourful adventure for the Walloos’, Big, Spotty, Old and Young. They all have their talents and role to play in the world, Big builds boats, Spotty makes delicious food while Young and Old journey and adventure together. Over many days and nights, the group sail looking for tropical exotic islands.
The colourful illustrations are stunning, enhancing the adventure of the Walloos and bringing the reader along for the journey. What they find is more than just an island and they work together to protect the environment around their new home and make it so wonderful that other “islands” come to join in.