All posts by Jenny Vaughan

The First of Everything

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Nibweb member Stewart Ross has a wonderful book just out – in good time for Christmas. Publisher Michael O’Mara describes it as: ‘A lively and highly readable account of the origins, invention and discovery of just about everything on the planet, the truly global coverage of The First of Everything ranges from the Big Bang to driverless cars …This fascinating book takes in the full sweep of human development and ingenuity over twelve millennia’

This is the book for anyone who wants to know about how the world we live in today came about – it covers everything from  the Big Bang Theory and the start of the universe to the development of  homo sapiens; health and medicine, transport, science and engineering, peace and war, and culture.


The First of Everything by Stewart Ross
Published by Michael O’Mara
ISBN 9781789290622
£12.99 (hardback)

Your mind matters

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Nibweb member Honor Head has just published four very timely books on mental health.

Honor says: ‘Mental health, especially in the young, is big news these days. This new series for preteens helps them recognise signs of stress and anxiety, gives advice on how to overcome negative feelings and develop a positive attitude, and aims to support young people feeling afraid, isolated and overwhelmed by life.’


Honor has written many books for young people on health and social issues.

Publishers who want to get in touch with Honor can go to our ‘Contact us’ page.

For grown-ups, too

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Just published by Nibweb member Susie Hodge: I know an artist: the inspiring connections between the creators who have shaped our world.

This – unlike many Nibweb publications – is a book aimed at adults rather than children. It’s about the ways in which pioneering artists and their work are connected over time and place in fascinating and unexpected ways. Some have shared inspiration (s in the case of Paul Klee and Anni Albers) , others have been romantically connected (Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock), or through teaching (Paul Klee and Anni Albers).


I know an artist,  White Lion Publishing, 2019, ISBN 9781781318430

London Book Fair 2019

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Several Nibwebbers went, but on different days, so there was no chance for meeting up, However, all noticed that the growth in children’s non-fiction seemed to be continuing, though enthusiasm was  sometimes  rather qualified. Here’s what they had to say:

‘… my impression was that there is a great deal more CNF, especially from smaller publishers. Good.
Less good was (1) most of it focussed on the same handful of subjects – dinosaurs, environment, Kings and Queens, etc; and (2) a tendency to provide gimmicky gloss rather than solid content – do children really need to be entertained by snigger and giggle 24/7? Surely they’re not that dumb? (Actually, I know they’re not. Most do not like being talked down to.)
…  (on the French exhibits) [they] have always been more serious minded with their CNF – see all those carousels of the stuff in motorway service stations.’ Stewart Ross

‘… there seems to be a much greater array of CNF than in the past, and a move away from series … I think that’s encouraging … not sure about cover prices, though – how much cnf is produced for parents of modest means to buy as anything other than presents? Will schools be able to afford such books? Thought there was some interesting stuff from France …’ Jenny Vaughan

‘I thought the mood was more upbeat than it had been for years. Money is going into new projects (but not passed on to us, as they conceded), interest in new ideas … I still have concerns about trends in design and artwork though and, as Stewart says, above, there is too much prioritising of gimmickry over the basics. I like artwork which  augments the information provided in the text. Picture book styles for cnf may be attractive or retro or in vogue, but they must show how things work and other fundamentals. (Very pleased to see a roving NUJ presence there, I must say.)
‘Not the place for a bad back though! On every LBF feedback I’ve ever done, I have called for more chairs and tables for the likes of us, as most stands are filled up with rights people.You can spend half the appointment time searching for somewhere to talk, and end up sitting on the floor.’ Philip Steele

‘Books must work very hard to differentiate themselves from online content. That’s probably why cnf has become much more “arty”. Some of that art is very expensive and has swallowed up the budget, and has led to the text being written in-house by people inexperienced in providing information. Some of it looks muddy and dark, in my eyes, especially in the nature genre. But some of it looks glorious and will inspire children.
‘I applaud the way that art-based publishers have woken up to the need for non-fiction at last. The trick is to do is as well as we possibly can to appeal to today’s taste. …
‘Agents say there’s no demand from publishers for novel-sized paperback non-fiction, but I believe there will be when the gift book market is saturated. It’s already saturated with some subjects … but there are also some very good books out there and a great hunger for good non-fiction. We should be very happy about that.’ Moira Butterfield

Worrying news from China

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Nibweb member Anne Rooney reports that an article in the Bookseller  of 25 February warns of 8-week delays as the Chinese government insists on checking anything with any maps in of anywhere in the world, any date, whether or not for sale in China; clampdowns on content including nudity, religion and anything politically sensitive. The article includes the following passage:

‘A letter sent out in November by one Chinese printing firm warned publishers of tightened regulations on maps, nudity and topics such as religion, war, rebellions and recreational drugs. Clients whose work falls into those categories were urged to send over files well in advance so they could be examined internally by the printers first, to see if they were suitable.

‘The company was warned it could be placed under “close supervision” or have its licence revoked if authorities found it had applied to print “improper” material three times in a year. The printing firm also claimed Chinese officials had threatened to look at books published overseas and trace who the printer was to check the content had been through the proper approval process.’

Anne points out that children’s non-fiction writers are already aware of,  and frustrated by, restrictions on what they write that are placed on them by international markets, but this seems to take the problem into a whole new realm.

Cath Senker wins the 2018 ALCS educational writers’ award

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Nibweb member Cath Senker is this year’s winner of the ALCS Educational Writers’ award – for her book on refugees:  Far From Home, published by Franklin Watts.

She was given the award by on the evening of Tuesday, 4 December, at the All Party Writers’ Group (APWG) Winter Reception, where she  took the opportunity to express her gratitude to Franklin Watts and her editor, Amy Pimperton, for commissioning the book at the height of the Middle East refugee crisis.

She received the ward on a rather extraordinary evening, when the government was in the process of being defeated no less than three times. MP Tom Watson, who was awarding the prize, had to break off in the middle  to go and vote: the division bell was ringing almost constantly.

Cath says, ‘I couldn’t have written the book without the refugees and volunteers who shared their stories. I wanted to give refugees a voice in the book so that readers could learn what it’s like having to flee your home, leaving everything behind to embark on a long, difficult, dangerous journey to an unknown destination. How does it feel to arrive in a new country and how do local people respond to refugees? I was also determined to present the issues in a non-judgemental way so that children could discuss them and make up their own minds.’

She plans to share the prize money among refugee organisations that helped her to write the book.

Far From Home by Cath Senker: published by Franklin Watts, ISBN: 9781445155203

And another winner …

Anne Rooney‘s Dinosaur Atlas was this year’s winner at the School Library Association awards in November.


Dinosaur Atlas written by by Anne Rooney and illustrated by  James Gilleard, published by Lonely Planet, ISBN 9781786577184

Nibweb at The Bookseller’s Children’s conference

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Nibweb members were able to make an impact at ‘The Bookseller’s Children’s conference, held on 24 September at County Hall in London (former home of the GLC).

Nonfiction was at the fore. Lionel Bender and Jenny Vaughan had been asked to help produce a nonfiction strand to the event but, as it turned out, there was far more emphasis on nonfiction than we could have dreamed. The tone was set from the start by keynote speaker Hanna Otero, publisher for Lonely Planet Kids, on ‘Inspiring kids about the world, around the world’.

Our own Lionel Bender spoke enthusiastically and informatively on the market in the US, where nonfiction more than holds its own: the range of formats, styles and subjects illustrates just how exciting nonfiction can be when given the right support. He mentioned that the demands of a system called ‘common core’, used in many states, has meant that, for children at primary level, 50 per cent of their reading is supposed to be nonfiction, rising to 75 per cent as they move up the education system. The idea, he said, was ‘to prepare children for adult life’ – rather than for exams, which is how he saw the UK system. With such a concentration on nonfiction, there is a chance for experimentation and originality – narrative nonfiction, graphic material, activity books and so on. And libraries, he said, make space for these books. In the US, he emphasised, nonfiction is ’treated with respect’: he compared the 11 per cent proportion of nonfiction in the UK children’s market with the massive 25 per cent in the US. There are lessons to be learned, he said, and there is potential.

Fellow Nibweb member, writer Stewart Ross made an impassioned plea to publishers to make more of their nonfiction authors by giving them better recognition and encouraging them to generate ideas, publicity and, of course, sales.

One especially interesting panel session was entitled ‘Post-Rebel Girls, what is the future of children’s non-fiction?’ Chaired by Rachel Williams of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books and co-founder of Wide-Eyed Editions, it included Annie Everall of Authors Aloud UK, Alison Tarrant; Chief Executive of the School Library Association; Sarah Larter, children’s publishing director, DK; and Liza Miller, senior editor, Hachette Children’s Group. Discussion ranged widely, but centred on the fact that sales of nonfiction have been rising, and that there is a move away from the idea that the genre has to be dull.

The arrival of feminist books, they agreed, has coincided with other ‘special interest’ titles (about disability, for example) and the possibility of titles based on real-life mysteries and other ‘true life stories’. Nonfiction, they emphasised, is a lot more than the internet, has a lot to offer young readers and, in many cases, a good nonfiction book can tell a ‘story’, which will be read over and over again.

The less encouraging news came during a panel on ‘Competing for copyright, licences and rights’ at which Owen Atkinson, CEO of ALCS revealed how a survey carried out by his organisation had uncovered depressing statistics about the drop in authors’ incomes over the years. (For more about ALCS, see this page.)

Despite this, the day was an overwhelmingly positive event for nonfiction and those of us who attended left feeling that a bright future can lie ahead, and we can play a part in it.

The pictures show the Nibweb table at the conference, where members were able to display publications, flyers about themselves and their work, business cards and so on.


The Nibweb table

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Nibweb member, writer  Anne Rooney in conversation

Bookseller Children’s conference 2018

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The Bookseller magazine’s annual conference this year is to feature a strand on children’s nonfiction – which is being organised by Nibweb members Lionel Bender and Jenny Vaughan. The aim is to raise the profile of nonfiction in all the many forms it can be found, or should be found or might be in future. The conference lasts a day and is to take place at County Hall, London. (That’s the old County Hall building, just south of Westminster Bridge.)

Lionel will be speaking on the experience of publishing nonfiction in the US, where it’s definitely part of the mainstream, and there will be speakers addressing issues such as what readers are looking for, the different forms that nonfiction can take and what the future might hold.

There’s a lot to think about:  it’s time to bring nonfiction out of the shadows and think about just how exciting it can be!
For more information, go to:


Book Fair 2018

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Several Nibwebbers attended, but on different days – so there wasn’t much in the way of a get-together. Reports are that several of us enjoyed meeting old colleagues and picking up work from them and from publishers they hadn’t worked for before. So, all in all, successful for our members. Anne Rooney’s Dinosaur Atlas took pride of place the Lonely Planet stand, along with Moira Butterfield’s City Trails.


Bees in the frame: ALCS Educational Writers’ Award 2017

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This year’s ALCS Educational Writers’ Award was given at a reception of the All Party Writers’ Group at the House of Commons on 5 December. It went to The Book of Bees  by Wojciech Grajkowski, illustrated by Piotr Socha and translated into English from the Polish by Agnes Monod-Gayraud. Beautifully illustrated, it covers the history of bees from the time of the dinosaurs until today, taking in information about bees in history (ancient people ate them along with honey), and amazing facts about them – including the famous ‘dance’ they use to communicate sources of nectar and pollen. With the crisis in bee (and other insect) numbers we see today, this is an especially valuable book for children of all ages – and even adults – though it’s aimed at the 6+ age group.

The award is sponsored jointly by the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) and the Society of Authors (ALCS).

The Book of Bees: written by  Wojciech Grajkowski and illustrated by  Piotr Socha; published by Thames and Hudson. ISBN: 9780500650950


At the same event, children’s author Cressida Cowell  received the 2017 Ruth Rendell Award for services to literacy for her tireless championing of literacy throughout the UK. This award is jointly sponsored by ALCS and the National Literacy Trust.