Category Archives: AuthorBlog

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

IMG_0573 (1)

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.

School Library Association Awards – winners for 2017

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Nibweb member Nicola Davies came away from the School Library Association (SLA) award ceremony on 22 November with two accolades.

Firstly, she was  the judges’ first choice for My First Book of Animals, which brings more than  fifty different animals, birds, insects and marine creatures vividly to life through poems by Nicola and beautiful illustrations by Petr Horace. (The children’s choice was Our Very Own Dog by Amanda McCardie.)


Nicola was also given the very first Hachette Children’s Group Award for Outstanding Contribution to Information Books.

The overall winner (judges’ choice) was Survivors of the Holocaust by Kath Shackleton, Zane Whittingham and Ryan Jones – making an exciting break with the children’s nonfiction tradition by being in the form of a graphic novel. Is this something we’ll see more of in future? The children’s choice was Mind Your Head by Juno Dawson with advice from Dr Olivia Hewitt.


A First Book of Animals by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Petr Horacek. Walker Books, ISBN 9781406359633

Our Very Own Dog by Amanda McCardie, Illustrated by Salvatore Rubbing. Walker Books, ISBN 9781406356205

Mind Your Head by Juno Dawson with advice from Dr Olivia Hewitt, illustrated by Gemma Correll, Hot Key Books ISBN 9781471405310

The SLA Information Book Award is sponsored by Hachette Children’s Group and is supported by Peters Books and Furniture. For more information and a complete list of winners, see

The next date in the children’s nonfiction awards diary is the ALCS/Society of Authors Educational Writers Award, on 5 December at the House of Commons.

Social issues for KS2

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Honor Head writes to say she’s just finished a six-book series on social issues for Key Stage 2. They cover Overcoming Fear of Failure; Family Differences; Self-Esteem and Confidence; Understanding Sexuality, and the title she found most interesting of all, Understanding Transgender.
Franklin Watts
ISBN: 9781445155661


Travelling around … in place and time

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In place …
Moira Butterfield has just published two Lonely Planet, City Trail books for children – Rome and Washington. They features themed trails that that introduce readers to history, culture, food and nature, and plenty of amazing facts, too. Look out for her forthcoming book in the same series on Barcelona.
Rome: ISBN-10: 1786579634/ISBN-13: 978-1786579638
Washington: ISBN-10: 1786577275/ISBN-13: 978-1786577276



… and time
1968. A turbulent year in turbulent times, in an age that saw huge advances in science and music that remain with us today. The era was also marked by what seemed like a never-ending war and, in the U.S, 1968 saw the assassinations of both Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. Brian Williams charts a tempestuous year in, inevitably, Those Were the Days.
The History Press
ISBN-10: 0750984309/ISBN-13: 978-0750984300


And further back still ...
Stewart Ross is pleased to announce that his Timewarp Trials, launched by Evans before they disappeared, have now reappeared under the Readzone imprint. Stewart describes the idea: ‘Professor Geekmeister has found a way to bring historical characters back to life for your readers to put on trial … are they guilty or innocent?’ Titles are Boudicca, Guy Fawkes, Henry VIII and William the Conqueror. Interacative and delightfully illustrated. For ages 7–11.
ReadZone Books
ISBN-10: 1783226331/ISBN-13: 978-1783226337


Always room for dinosaurs …

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Dinosaurs may be extinct, but books about them never are.

Dinosaur atlas
Anne Rooney has just published an amazing Dinosaur Atlas, with fold-out maps and ‘lift the flaps’ to reveal all kinds of astonishing facts about the world in which they lived, how they lived, what they looked like – and how we know. It also has information about famous paleontologists and lets young readers measure themselves against life-size bones, teeth and claws. Fantastic illustrations by James Gilleard.

NB: (added December 2018) This book won the School Library Association Prize for this year!

Lonely Planet
ISBN: 9781786577184


And two more …
Steve Parker has just published:
The Science of Killer Dinosaurs, for 8–11-year-olds is about he world in which these predators lived, their physical characteristics, and how they hunted and survived.


Franklin Watts
ISBN-10: 0531269019/ISBN-13: 978-0531269015
And, for slightly younger children, he’s written 100 Facts: Dinosaur Science, with pictures, activities and, as the title suggests, exactly 100 fun facts.


Miles Kelly Children’s Books
ISBN: 9781786172518