All posts by Jenny Vaughan

Everything you ever wanted to know …

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Well, maybe not quite, but Sue Nicholson’s two new titles for 4–7-year-olds will help … Can You Touch a Rainbow answers questions such as ‘Why does the sun set? How are snowflakes made? Why is the sea salty? Why do volcanoes explode?’


Quarto Kids/QED Publishing
ISBN: 9781784938369

And if you want to know about animals, turn to Can you Tickle a Tiger’s Tummy? – and find the answer to that as well as to questions such as ‘How slow is a sloth?’ and ‘Who lays eggs as big as a football?’


Quarto Kids/QED Publishing
ISBN: 9781784938376

Activities at the Tate

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Nibweb members Ruth Walton and Ruth Thompson have just published two packs of 15 activity cards for the Tate shop – designed to inspire 6–11s with ideas for drawing, collage and painting. Animals encourages young artists to follow in the footsteps of famous artists including Moore, Turner, Blake, Landseer and Stubbs, while Fashion draws on the work of artists such as Sargent, Rossetti, Epstein and Hamilton. Available from shops at Tate galleries and online.




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… for the prestigious  Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize, is Anna Claybourne, with This Little Pebble, illustrated by Sally Garland. For readers aged six and above, it uses artwork to show the diversity of rocks all around us, starting with a child and a pebble and telling a story that involves volcanoes, tectonic plates, waterfalls, climate change, precious stones, fossils and much more. It also provides great support for for the topic of rocks in both the geography and science curriculum.
Franklin Watts
ISBN-10: 1445149699

This little pebble 700 x 534

Animals wild and tame (ish)

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Animal footprints
John Townsend has written a fascinating guide to the tracks and prints left by all kinds of animals from all over the world. Life-sized Animal Tracks is aimed at 7–9s, and hopes to ‘open children’s eyes to the wonders of nature and encouraging them to explore and appreciate their local wildlife.’
Book House; (21 Nov. 2017)
ISBN-10: 1912006103/ISBN-13: 978-1912006106


Artists and their pets
Susie Hodge’s Artists and their Pets was produced for a US publisher: ‘a chunky little book with brilliant illustrations’ she says. From this you can discover some very strange facts indeed – such as that Picasso had a white mouse and a goat, and Salvador Dali liked ocelots and anteaters. Age range 9–12. Illustrations by Violet Lemay.
ISBN-10: 1946064017/ISBN-13: 978-1946064011


Why is Art Full of Naked People?

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Yet more awards for Nibweb member Susie Hodge.Why is Art Full of Naked People

Susie writes: ‘Described by the Wall “A chatty discussion of art and its meanings, both commercial and cultural,” the idea for this book evolved from many visits to art galleries and museums, either in the company of children or surrounded by them, and hearing their questions. (Actually, hearing lots of grown-ups’ questions too). The only real problem in planning the book was choosing which questions to leave out. Well, and choosing what artwork to include and what the illustrations should depict. So more than most children’s art books I’ve written, this was a real case of teamwork, from the sensitive editor, to the resourceful picture researcher and the talented illustrator and designer.

‘Overall, the book is lively and, I hope, informative, asking and answering all sorts of tricky questions about what makes art art. It’s meant to encourage readers to ask more questions and to look more closely at art wherever they may see it. Different types of art from different periods are discussed, and the range is broad and hopefully often unexpected. It explores ideas such as whether or not still life is boring, why contemporary art is often weird, how and why art movements develop, whether you need to be clever to understand art, and of course, why art is always full of naked people.

‘This is part of a teacher’s independent review of the book:

‘“The range of works chosen are well-considered and engaging. The title question was enough to get my class reaching for this book and, having caught their attention, kept it. They found some of the works of art funny, some odd, some beautiful; some they liked and some they didn’t; but what they did do was ask questions and engage with the works the book explores. Perfect for those interested in art…[it]…is also a great starting point for those who know little about the subject. A humorous look at the world of art, it makes a welcome addition to the class or school library!”’

Why is Art Full of Naked People? has so far won: Gold Award for Made for Mums; FILAF Best Young People’s Art Book; and Vlag en Wimpel Honourable Mention.

Why is Art Full of Naked People? by Susie Hodge is published by Thames and Hudson Ltd.


Follow the transatlantic example?

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There is a future for non-fiction – and it can be a profitable, challenging and interesting genre. But, it seems, mainly in the United States rather than this side of the Atlantic.

That was Nibweb member Lionel Bender’s message to the Society of Authors’s Educational Writers Group Spring Seminar on 6 May. (See ‘Meet us’ for more about Lionel.) He advised members to ‘try to get into the US market’ – where more money is invested in books and writers, and where more value is placed on non-fiction and non-fiction authors.

Lionel believes that an important reason for this is the Common Core State Standards Initiative, adopted by many states. This stipulates that younger children’s reading should be 50 per cent non-fiction, rising to 75 per cent to older students. The demand this creates is met by publishers with a whole range of different forms of non-fiction – including magazines, picture books, ‘chapter books’, readers and much more. The result is a greater availability and appreciation of non-fiction and non-fiction writers in the US.

By contrast, the National Curriculum in the UK gives little attention to non-fiction, while the decline in school and public libraries has led to fewer non-fiction books being published. A downward pressure on print-runs results in less money to spend on illustration and on authors – making it harder to create innovative, exciting and interesting books.

Lionel also pointed out that the media rarely covers children’s non-fiction, and with such a low profile, there is little demand for it, meaning that few bookshops, or even wholesalers, handle it. In this way, a downward drift continues.

Is it time for a re-think of children’s non-fiction? If it can be exciting and popular in the US, can’t it be enlivened in the UK?

London Book Fair 2017

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20170316_160604      20170316_143917

Several Nibweb members attended the 2017 London Book Fair, meeting up with publishers and each other, and looking out for new ideas and opportunities. Several have offered pictures – see above and below. The LBF blog said ‘Day two of #LBF17 was once again a hive of activity. As industry professionals filled the halls of this global marketplace for rights negotiation and the sale and distribution of content across print, audio, TV, film and digital channels.’

Nibwebbers meeting up at the end of that very Day 2 (Wednesday) add: ‘Escaping from all that action, a select gathering of said professionals took refuge in the upper regions,  near the end of the day.

‘And, below, here we are: (L toR) Brenda Williams, looking cheerful, Phil Steele busy, Lionel Bender relaxed, and Brian Williams reflective (while giving advice to the photographer on how to work the camera – a woman from the SoA stand kindly took the photo).’

LBF 2017 003


Mayhem and modern art

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When the owner of Splosh Art Gallery calls in sick, it’s up to a scrawny, bespectacled boy (looking a bit like a young Andy Warhol) and readers (age range 7-10) to prepare for an exhibition in time for the annual gallery competition. So readers are on a quest to make the judges believe that the gallery deserves to win the prestigious competition. Readers will find out about and prove that they know Munch from Magritte, Pollock from Picasso, Kandinsky from Klee and more. They will search for a counterfeit painting, spot an odd one out, decide what’s ‘real’ art and more. Meanwhile, they almost constantly have to outwit devious Don (who has an uncanny resemblance to Salvador Dalí) as he tries to trip them up.

Rather than progressing through the book chronologically, author Susie Hodge leads readers on with questions, riddles and puzzles, and depending on their answers, progress in different directions. Clues are dotted along the way and wrong turns are redirected. So the book is a fun game as well as a way of learning about modern art; a novel introduction to dozens of influential artists.

It was a fun book to write and plan – with great designer, illustrator and editor who all helped to make sense of the non-chronological confusion where necessary. More to follow in the series.

Modern Art Mayhem by Susie Hodge, published by QED

The whole world over …

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Nibweb writers are published in a vast number of countries, and in many different languages – it’s something we’re especially proud of. We sometimes make a point of looking out for our work in foreign bookshops. Member Clare Hibbert found these books by fellow-member, Cath Senker, in Italy: