Category Archives: Children’s Publishing

PUBLISHING TODAY… AND TOMORROW?

PUBLISHING TODAY… AND TOMORROW?

Here are some excellent links I thought other writers/independent publishers might find interesting.

The first, from The Spectator, The Civil War For Books Where Is The Money Going   should be read by every writer whether committed to independent publishing or courting traditional publishers. It’s always good to know what tunes the devil is playing… 😉

The second, Publishing’s Digital Disruption Hasn’t Even Started, by Gareth Cuddy is an interesting comparison of the publishing industry with other creative industries that have suffered digital upheaval and where we might be heading.

Also, to add a bit of perspective, here is a link on What Authors Really Think of Publishers — some interesting facts and figures here too.

I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions about publishing today and the big names that dominate it. Just thought these were worth sharing.

Kay Leitch is the author of Treasure This
kaywritesheretoo.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under children's books, Children's Publishing, Independent Publishing information, Kay Leitch, Publishers' Profits, Publishing, Uncategorized

Great Children’s Books — Or Just Great Books

What was your favourite book as a child? I re-read The Mountain of Adventure and The Valley of Adventure, both by Enid Blyton, till the pages fell out of the spine. I think I kept re-reading them because I wanted to absorb the scenes right into my bloodstream. Even now I’m not sure if I always loved mountains and valleys or if those books instilled in me a love of adventure and wild places.

The Guardian mentions one of the quiet secrets of literature: children’s books are underrated. Children’s laureate Malorie Blackman (http://www.malorieblackman.co.uk) agrees: “Call me biased, but I find the standard of storytelling in children’s books and books for young adults second to none. I find it telling that even now there are far more children’s books and books for teens that I’d like to re-read than books for adults.”

Whether the prize givers wake up to that remains to be seen. To be honest, who cares about prizes? Great books are great books and will remain so whether or not they come with a prize or the label ‘Adult’, ‘Young Adult’ or ‘Children’s’. Children’s and Young Adult books are great reads and more and more people are waking up to that. So perhaps the secret is out.

My personal fantasy favourites are anything by Neil Gaimon (Neverwhere is fab); Eoin Colfer (Artimis Fowel is excellent); Terry Pratchett (the Discworld Series, second to none); and Ursula K Le Guin (take your pick, but I loved A Wizard of Earthsea).

For classics, I could re-read Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain ’til the paper wore out. Huck Finn is not only one of the best characters in fiction, in my opinion, but Twain’s descriptions of that Mississippi river world, now long gone, are peerless. Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce has a timeless quality, which is interesting as it’s about a boy who goes back in — oh, read it and you’ll see. You’ll like it.

There are also scores of contemporary YA and children’s writers whose work shouldn’t be stifled under one label. John Green, perhaps best known for The Fault in Our Stars (book and film) tells great stories, as well as being connected to teenagers and young adults in a way that makes his work authentic and very readable.

Bath Spa alumni from the MA WYP (MA in Writing for Young People) are well represented in prize listings for this and other years: check out authors Nicola DaviesJill LewisClare Furniss and Sally Nicholls, all long-listed for the Carnegie/Greenaway prize, all great authors for various ages. (Personal interest acknowledgment: I went to Bath Spa Uni and did the MA WYP, so yes, I’m biased. But no, I don’t recommend books I don’t like).

Also worth looking at: Patrick NessThe Knife of Never Letting Go (which was really good, but I got cross when I realised it was leading me on to a cliff-hanger ending so I’d buy the next book… which I didn’t. Proving that some marketing ploys don’t work with everyone, especially bad-tempered Scottish women 🙂  ). But he’s an excellent writer and his books are well worth reading. Among others, he also wrote A Monster Calls and More than This.

I could while away a happy afternoon or three reading David Almond, too, from Skellig to his more current works A Song for Ella Grey and My Name is Mina.

Other great reads are Half Bad by Sally Green, The Snow Merchant by Sam Gayton, the series Chronicles of Ancient Darkness by Michelle Paver. The list goes on.

If you like wolves/werewolves, try Maggie Stiefvater’s, Shiver. Beautiful writing. Lots to choose from from this author too.

Janine Amos’s childhood favourite was The Borrowers by Mary Norton. For her, these were: “Teeny, tiny people living under the floorboards, making good use of all those little things we leave lying around. And when we’re really tired, we can just catch a glimpse of them out of the corner of our eyes, darting from under the sofa to the bookcase. My belief in them is absolute.”

Here are a few of Electrik Inc’s fantastic books, all of which can be enjoyed by adults or children. No secret there!

Unknown Walking on Gold by Janine Amos

 

 

 

 

Treasure This by Kay Leitch

Cover

 

 

 

 

 

The Paupers of Langden The Paupers of Langden by Julia Draper

 

 

 

 

And for 7-9 year-old readers: St Vipers School for Super Villains I (The Riotous Rocket Ship Robbery); and II (The Big Bank Burglary) by Kim Donovan

51HYOMNhtEL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX324_SY324_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA346_SH20_OU02_

61thndHKmFL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX324_SY324_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA346_SH20_OU02_

 

 

 

 

 

Kay Leitch
Author of Treasure This; co-founder of Electrik Inc
O
riginal posted on kaywritesheretoo.wordpress.com

Leave a comment

Filed under children's books, Children's Publishing, Kay Leitch, Uncategorized

Writing, Editing and Publishing

You know how sometimes you know what you want to say but then you hear someone else say it so much better than you could?

Well, that’s a convoluted way of saying I’ve found three blogs I think are worth sharing in this world of creative writing, independent publishing, traditional publishing and editing.

1) — Paula Hawkins didn’t have much success writing a variety of genres, including frothy romance stories. She wrote them to try and earn some money. A few years ago she decided to stop trying to second guess the market and decided “to try writing the kind of story she likes to read” and so she wrote The girl on The Train. And guess what? It worked. Good for her! She finally wrote what she wanted to write.

http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/the-gamble-that-put-girl-on-the-train-writer-at-top-of-bestseller-lists-in-under-a-month-1.2088004

2) — Toby Young, writing at The Telegraph online with the headline These days, writing isn’t a career, it’s a rich man’s hobby mentions that a survey of 2500 professional authors found their median income in 2013 was £11,000, a drop of 29% since 2005.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/11349865/These-days-writing-isnt-a-career.-Its-a-rich-mans-hobby.html

Most writers need another job to supplement their income (that or a private income or an understanding — and rich — spouse). Interestingly, most traditional publishers and agents only need to hold down the one job… They make their money from writers.

So, it seems to me, if you’re going to be paid what amounts to pocket money for doing what you love, and need to keep the day job anyway… then you might as well write what you want to write.

Life. Is. Too. Short.

3) — Mandy Brett at the meanjin.com.au site gives an in-depth analysis of what being an editor means to her. She demonstrates how a good editor works and why they’re so necessary if you want your book to be not only professional, but better than it would have been. And you do want that, right?

http://meanjin.com.au/editions/volume-70-number-1-2011/article/stet-by-me-thoughts-on-editing-fiction

So that’s it. Three blogs that said exactly what I wanted to say. Here’s what it boils down to:

1)   Write what you want to write.

2)   You probably won’t make much money from writing anyway (although a lot of people will make money from you), so write what you want to write.

3)   Hire a good editor; they’re worth it. But write what you want to write.

There’s a theme in there somewhere  🙂

Kay Leitch

Author of  Treasure This

Originally published at kaywritesheretoo.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Children's Publishing, Independent Publishing information, Kay Leitch, Publishing, Tips for Authors and Illustrators

Electrik Inc – the power of five

Electrik Inc celebrated its third birthday last month with an important decision – to welcome on board a new member. We already had someone in mind we very much admired, an indie publisher who, like the rest of the team, completed her apprenticeship on Bath Spa’s Writing for Young People MA some years ago. To our delight she agreed to join us. Time, then, to introduce our fifth inkling star … Drum roll, please … Here she is to tell us a little about herself; author, editor, publisher, artist and singer – Julia Draper.

J.L.

Julia Draper

Julia Draper

I have been writing for squillions of years. Despite having a twin brother (whom I love, BTW), I was a funny lonely child; I always felt as if I was on the edge of a circle of people looking in wistfully, wanting to join in but not really knowing how. I think I’m still like that, happier watching and noticing than being watched and noticed. Maybe it’s a common enough writer’s syndrome. I completed the MA in Writing for Young People in 2004/5 and since then have been on a mission to build a little following of readers who like what I write. I love drawing, art, beaches, fish and chips, trees, singing church music, accents (I don’t have one and wish I did). I hate plastic bags and chewing-gum. My ambition is to have an illegible signature and to go back to the Outer Hebrides.

I’m thrilled and honoured to be joining Electrik Inc. There is so much expertise in the group that hopefully we all bring as much as we take. And as my three lovely boys will tell me, I spent a lot of time when they were younger telling them that you only get out what you put in. 

Indie publishing is where it’s at, folks. Beats working in a benefits office, tightrope walking, selling double-glazing and serving carrots to people who don’t want to eat carrots. We have an obligation to make self-published books as good as they possibly can be. That way the status of the profession is raised and it becomes more respected and valued.

The Paupers of Langden My book is called The Paupers of Langden and was published in February 2014. I had huge fun illustrating it and designing the cover, less fun doing the formatting; plates were thrown. It’s been very well received and has a great review in the August 2014 issue of Books for Keeps plus a load of five star reviews on Amazon. There’s a spoiled princessy princess, a plucky servant, some seriously nasty posh people and a murder plot. And a horrible disease you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. Actually, you might, in all honesty.

I’m currently working on the sequel, which is called Green Gold.

Julia Draper

electrikincTM

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Children's Publishing, Julia Draper, News and Events, Uncategorized

‘Walking on Gold’ is here!

They’ve arrived! My first copies of Walking on Gold, all ready for the Bath Children’s Literature Festival, which opens on Friday 26th September. Bath Festival of Children’s Literature

Walking on Gold publicity picIt’s exciting after all these months of writing and editing to finally have the finished book in my hands, and it’s come a long way from the first draft that I began when I was sitting on a windy cliff, very like the one Effie climbs in my story.

Now I’m busy planning lots of writing workshops with local schools – and one on October 5th at The Roman Baths Museum, in their amazing Education Room. Its window looks over the misty, green Great Bath– a perfect place for beginning a writing adventure….

At The Bookseller Children’s Conference last Thursday, John Lewis (The Bookseller’s charts and data editor) reported that the UK children’s publishing market was up by 10% in the first eight months of this year – making it the fastest growing book sector, with most children’s categories showing growth. The Bookseller’s Y/A Book Prize was launched: the first ever prize for Young Adult books in the UK and Ireland. Y/A books published between 1st January and 31st December 2014 are eligible – the winning author will receive £2,000.

The Frankfurt Book Fair, traditionally the trade’s ‘grown-up’ fair and now only days away, is signalling its interest in children’s publishing, too. For the first time in its history the Fellowship Programme, designed to create networks between young publishing professionals, is choosing to focus on Y/A and children’s literature. The Book Fair says it is sending out a “global signal” about its commitment to children’s and Y/A publishing, recognising this sector’s “dynamic development.” 2014 Fellowship Programme

The 2014 Fair is also acknowledging the growing importance of independent author-publishers, with a two-day International Self-Publishing and Author Programme Frankfurt Fair self-publishing. And in 2015 the Fair will be expanding the exhibition area it is devoting to self-publishers 2015 Frankfurt.

Seems it’s an excellent time to be a children’s author – and an independent one, at that.

If you’re lucky enough to be visiting the Bath Children’s Literature Festival this week, do come along and say Hello!

Janine Amos

Co-founder, Electrik Inc

www.janineamos.com

Walking on Gold

electrikincTM

 

Leave a comment

Filed under children's books, Children's Publishing, Janine Amos, News and Events, Uncategorized

Interview with Kay Leitch

Check out Indie Author Land for an interview with Kay about writing Treasure This, the characters, and life in general. Here are parts of it:

Kay's debut novel.

Kay’s debut novel.
Buy here.

Treasure This is a murder mystery… whodunit… thriller kind of novel, for anyone over 10 who enjoys fast-paced stories that make you think.

I sat down at the computer one day, as you do, and an interesting first line popped onto the screen:

I swear I saw a dead body in Aunt Ellie’s garden shed…

I wrote a few pages and submitted them to my then writing group, who all said “Wow – keep it going!” So I did. I had no ideas WHERE the story was going until well into the second half, but I loved the character enough to want to know what happened to her and how she solved so many murders. I kept on writing, and I ended up with Treasure This.

Tell us about it.
Treasure This is about 12-year-old Addison, who finds a dead body one morning in her aunt and uncle’s garden shed. But by the time she drags her elder sister Caitlin and little brother Leaf down to see it, the body has disappeared and Uncle Harry and Aunt Ellie are cleaning the shed after a spill of red paint… then Harry starts burning everything.

Addy is determined to find out what’s going on in Aunt Ellie and Uncle Harry’s old Cotswold mansion. She discovers there’s another body buried under the lilac bush… and another under the holly tree… and who are the two horrible men watching the house?

Addy’s emotional journey teaches her the difference between good secrets and bad secrets, that people aren’t all bad or all good, but somewhere in between. More than anything, though, she learns to trust her instincts.

Sounds really interesting.
It’s fast-paced, so people who prefer a story to move along quickly should like it. Also, anyone who likes a bit of depth to their stories, something that’s multi-layered. The moral issues at the heart of Treasure This are meant to make you think – what would you have done?

What’s Addy like?

Addy is brave but vulnerable. Her dad is ill in hospital, and her mum is with him, which is why Addy, Caitlin and Leaf are all staying with their aunt and uncle at Roseleigh Manor.

They don’t sound very nice.
Addy loves Aunt Ellie and Uncle Harry. That’s why it’s all so awful for her. She can’t believe they’re murderers. And if they are, what will that mean to the family? When she meets the two thugs in the woods – two men who’re watching Roseleigh Mannor – she has another dilemma. Should she tell the police? What if the police dig deeper (literally!)? That would be the worst thing that could happen…

Have you written any other books that we should read next?
No, but I’m already well into writing the next one.

Tell us a bit about yourself.
akaycloseup1I like creating things. Whether it’s artwork or novels, I like the process of sitting down with a blank canvas, page or screen, and creating something worthwhile. I get a real kick when people tell me how much they loved Treasure This but I’m realistic. I don’t expect to make a million from writing, but I do know it makes me happy so I’m going to keep on doing it for as long as I can. I love writing into the early hours of the morning – it’s magical – even though I feel like a wilted flower all the next day. There’s something about writing at midnight. Nothing beats it…

… Do you have a website?

kaywritesheretoo.wordpress.com.

What about Twitter?

Sorry, I don’t tweet. I decided to put more effort into writing than into social media so I keep it manageable. Yes, I know it means fewer people will learn about Treasure This. But, you know, there are only twenty-four hours in every day. Twenty-four. And I have to work, too. So all in all, I’d rather write.

What’s next?
Next, I’ll be finishing the book I’m writing now. Would love to tell you about it but don’t want to jinx it. With luck, I’ll be back here next year telling you all about it.

We can’t wait.

Read the full interview at Indie Author Land

Leave a comment

Filed under children's books, Children's Publishing, Independent Publishing information, Kay Leitch

Commissioning Illustrations

I’ve been having a lovely time lately working with illustrators both near and far. Commissioning artwork can seem daunting to the uninitiated, so I thought I’d post a few lines with my top tips:

janinebooksChoosing your artist
As soon as I saw her samples online, I knew that Sophie’s quirky cartoon style and subtle palette would be perfect for my website. We began with a long face-to-face meeting which was important since she’d be capturing ‘me’ – and she certainly did, even down to the earrings. I think the picture of me writing on a mountain top is probably my favourite – or perhaps the one where I’m being rained on by books. www.sophieburrows.com

I used Dave Bain, another Bristol illustrator, for my Dancing Hare logo, after I’d seen his designs for the RSPCA. Again, meeting in person over a coffee or two (breaking one of the first ‘rules’ they taught me at Oxford Brookes: keep all artwork away from anything wet) helped to work out what we were aiming for. www.davebain.com

janineMaria Forrester, who created my fabulous cover artwork, lives 100 miles from me and we haven’t yet met, although I feel as if I know her through the many emails we’ve exchanged. I researched artists’ portfolios long and hard before I found Maria – I wanted someone who could capture the archaeology in my story. As the montage above shows, Maria used lots of interesting textures and techniques – rubbings of fossils and coins, drawings of grasses, watercolour, acrylic paint and even clingfilm. www.mariaforrester.co.uk

Communication

Illustrators are on your side – they want to get it right just as much as you do. It’s easier if you can meet up but not vital, as long as you manage to build up a relationship, as my experience with Maria shows. I’ve worked with artists in many parts of the world and distance has never been a barrier as long as they know why you’ve chosen them and understand what you want from them.

Illustrators don’t object to making ‘tweaks’ but they’re not mind readers. This means you need to have thought long and hard about what you want before you start talking or emailing. Put it down in writing (that’s your job, after all!), attach visuals if you can: photos, scribbles, even fabric swatches, and refer to examples of their work in the style you’re asking them to replicate.

Contract
Yes, every time! It’s always important to record your agreement in writing – with dates for: delivery of roughs; deadlines for approval; delivery/approval of final artwork; agreed fee (plus the agreed fees for rejected artwork at rough stage and at final delivery, just in case). You also need to specify in writing how you’d like the artwork supplied e.g. jpeg/dimensions.

Check out http://www.theaoi.com/ for their really helpful Guide to Commissioning.

All the illustrators were very generous with their time and attention to detail and were great fun to work with. Thanks, everyone, looking forward to next time.
J.A.
http://www.janineamos.com

Leave a comment

Filed under children's books, Children's Publishing, Janine Amos

Exciting Ways to Celebrate World Book Day

WBD2014_lime_leftWorld Book Day is a celebration of books and reading, which is marked in over one hundred countries. At Electrik Inc we love to see children enjoying stories and we’re often invited into schools on this day to read from our books, facilitate creative writing workshops and generally join in with the fun! Here are some ideas from Kim and Kay if you’re looking for inspiration. Happy World Book Day!

Kim Donovan

Produce a School Anthology. This World Book Day I’ll be helping to launch a very special anthology of short stories and poems written by two hundred pupils from King Edward’s Junior School, Bath. My little publishing nest, Squawk Books, is the publisher of this amazing book and I couldn’t be more proud. It’s called Knock Your Socks Off! On World Book Day the children will take centre stage, reading their stories to friends and family, answering questions and, of course, signing books!

Guess the Book. Here is a clever way to get children thinking creatively about their favourite books. Pupils choose a story and tell the class about it using a box decorated in the theme of the book and filled with clues, such as a bottle with a label tied round the neck with the words “Drink Me” for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Bedtime Stories for Reception, Year 1 & 2. Why not hold a bedtime event in the school hall during the early evening? Make the room comfortable with gym mats, project glowing stars onto the ceiling and ask the children to bring in duvets and pillows. Give them an early midnight feast and then settle the boys and girls down for a story-telling session. Libraries could do their own version of Night in the Museum with guest appearances from book characters for a fun bedtime event!

Hold a book quiz. Stage your own show like University Challenge with teams representing a class or house, starter questions – “on the buzzer” – and bonus questions for the team who answered the question correctly. The questions might relate to books that have been studied by the whole class, contemporary and classic children’s literature or featured authors. For the picture round you could show the pupils cover illustrations and ask them to name the titles of the books. The music round could be on stories that have been turned into films – their music tracks. Don’t forget to say, “It’s goodbye from X (losing side), it’s goodbye from Y (winning side) and it’s goodbye from me.” I found the University Challenge theme tune on televisiontunes.com.

Kay Leitch

Take Two Books
Consider a fun afternoon event, where children take two books to school with them. One is their absolute favourite, which they would never swap – and they must tell everyone why they love it so much.

The second is a book they like but are happy to swap, and they must tell everyone why, and put it into a pile for ‘swaps’. There should be a pile of books the children want to swap, so everyone can take something from this pile, if they want.

To make this even more interesting, invite along a local author, who can bring their own published book to talk about and do a Q&A session on. They can bring a book they want to swap, too, and tell everyone why.

Write A Story With Your Favourite Character
Take your favourite character of all time and write a story with them in it. This doesn’t have to be from the same kind of story the character is from. In fact, it’s more fun if you put them in a completely different kind of story. Imagine the Gruffalo as a policeman… or a dentist … what would that be like? A bit like fanzine stuff. Have fun.

Murder Mystery Day
All pupils who want to act a part, put their names into a hat. Pull six (or more) pupils’ names out: one is the victim; one is the murderer; one is the detective; one is the detective’s not-very-bright sidekick. Two (or more) are witnesses who tell conflicting stories…

Just for starters: you could write a script where it becomes clear that the murderer and one of the witnesses know each other and are covering for each other. The murderer keeps changing his or her story and it becomes clear they don’t have an alibi. The not-very-bright sidekick keeps missing clues. That kind of thing makes it fun for everyone.

Anyone in the participating class can ask questions.

If you want to share what you’ll be doing on World Book Day, or if you have any ideas you think children would love, use our Comments box and let us know. It would be great to hear from you.

Leave a comment

Filed under Children's Publishing, Kay Leitch, Kim Donovan, Parents and Teachers, Stories for stockings

Stretching my Wings

This year I’ll be flying a little further away from my virtual home at Electrik Inc, our collective of children’s writers involved in Professional Independent Publishing.  I’ll still be very much part of the group and will continue to write books under that logo and support Janine, Jenny and Kay with their stories. But I’m also ready for other/new challenges and have two exciting projects in progress.

SQUAWK - RED (2)My own little publishing nest, Squawk Books, is about to become the proud publisher of a whole school anthology, which I’ve been helping King Edward’s Junior School to write. Knock Your Socks Off! is the title the children picked for their book of short stories, poems and illustrations, and the name couldn’t be more apt. The book certainly does for isbn agencywhat it says on the tin! I also had my socks knocked off by the way the children grasped the opportunity to be published authors with both hands. I saw pupils working in the library before school on their stories, a reluctant writer not only produce a brilliantly funny piece but start planning a whole series for his character, and children discussing story ideas and helping each other in the playground. It’s been a lot of work but incredibly rewarding and good fun. I can’t wait for the launch on World Book Day!

My second solo project is to write and publish my first book for adult readers. One of the reasons I chose ‘the third way’, where a writer independently publishes some books and uses a traditional publisher for others, is that I thought it would allow me greater creative freedom to write what I wanted to write. So do expect different things from me! The story I’m currently working on, called Misdirection, is inspired by my writer friends at Electrik Inc. I’ll tell you more about the book another time, but it involves suffragette - bath in timea special group of real-life suffragettes who unconditionally supported each other in their common goal to win women the right to vote. I’ve had unconditional support from Electrik Inc with publishing the St Viper’s series and it is a privilege to work on their books too. Although I’m flying solo for this adult book I know that just below me my fellow inklings are stretching out a safety net – just in case.

electrikinc2

Kim Donovan

http://kimdonovanauthor.wordpress.com

electrikincTM
 

Leave a comment

Filed under children's books, Children's Publishing, Kim Donovan, Parents and Teachers, Publishing

Super Books for Boys

Ch4altIn a time when children are reportedly reading less than ever, what we need are story heroes who stand together and take on the fight. In a small way, my young evil geniuses at St Viper’s School for Super Villains  have been helping to save the day — they’ll be annoyed when they find out I’ve been calling them heroes! Readers tell me they can devour a St Viper’s adventure in a weekend (they take me months to craft and the illustrator to draw) and I know there are other super stories out there, which make kids want to read.

So here’s a novel idea: writers telling their readership about other books they would enjoy. Their competition! I know what my 7 – 10 year-old readers want from a St Viper’s story: plots to take over the world, plenty of action, use of super powers, cool gadgets, friends working together, tongue-in-cheek phrases, lessons in diabolical laughing, a fast pace … and I’m knowledgeable about what else is available in stores. We don’t have to work alone, do we? The time has come to join forces. We strike for victory!

If you like St Viper’s  why not try:

Magic Ink  by Steve Cole

Twelve-year-old Stew Pender loves super heroes as much as his grandfather, a once famous comic book artist, and spends his time drawing comic characters including his alter ego: Stupendous Man. When his grandfather goes to the great comic convention in the sky, Stew and his family move into his home. On the first night in the house, Stew is woken by a cartoon pig in a top hat and cape. This isn’t a figment of his imagination. In the attic, where his grandfather used to draw, Stew finds a bottle of magic ink, which brings characters to life. But it’s not all fun and games, the creator of the Magic Ink — the wizard Merlin — is imprisoned in a cave in a land of myth and monsters and needs Stew to draw super heroes to save him.

I say: It’s quirky, great fun and the idea’s brilliant. Unlike St Viper’s and NERDS (see below), most of the action comes at the end of the book, but there are lots of hooks to keep readers turning the page and the pace is spot on. Steve Cole is the author of the well-known series Astrosaurs.  Magic Ink is suitable for 8+ readers.

Atomic. The Madness of Madame Malice  by Guy Bass. Issue 2.

Ten-year-old super-powered twins Jonny and Tommy Atomic have a super hero father and a super villain mother. They live with their father, Captain Atomic, Aunt Sandwich who’s a hamster and Dogday, a super-intelligent dog on an island in the sky. Their mother is an inmate at The Stronghold, a high-security super prison, until she breaks out to spend time with her darling boys. In this book, one of the twins is drawn to the dark side and the other the light as they spend quality time with her. She frees all the animals in the zoo, turns their school to rubble and rips the roof off Icy Joe’s Delectable Dairy Den so they can fly to the front of the ice-cream queue. The story follows a predictable path until the end where Bass reveals their mother’s true dark colours.

I say: The storyline is simple, the chapters are short and there are lots of illustrations to break up the text. The book would be enjoyed most by my younger and less confident readers (7+). It’s also a suitable story for parents to read aloud. In book 3, Bass hints that the boys will become their father’s sidekicks. I hope that as the series develops we’ll see the children use their super powers a lot more. But what I think my readers will really like about this book is that it’s part novel and part comic. They’ll also like the super cool cover!

NERDS. The Villain Virus  by Michael Buckley. Book 4.

Michael Buckley is the New York Times bestselling author of the Sisters Grimm series and NERDS is a great read, too. In this book, the villain population rockets as a virus sweeps the world, which makes people develop insane alter egos. Ordinary folk start planning the destruction of the planet, building doomsday devices, wearing ridiculous costumes and calling themselves the Terrible Tornado and such like. Kids from the NERDS secret spy society are given the job of saving the world. They are all underdogs and what’s nice is that their weaknesses are all turned into super strengths. For example, Wheezer — Matlida Choi — can fly and blast enemies with her asthma inhalers. In this story, Flinch takes centre stage. He’s hyperfast, hyperstrong and just plain hyper (a bit like my son!) and I must say hyperbrave to be shrunk and injected into the bottom of a master villain near the end of the book.

I say: the story is great fun and has lots of action — KA-POW! It feels like an animated cartoon, which is also how I see St Viper’s.  NERDS is suitable for 8 + readers.

Cartoon Kid  by Jeremy Strong. Title: Zombies.

All of Mr Butternut’s class are super heroes — that’s what he told them in their first lesson. There’s Cartoon Kid, Big Feet Pete, Exploding Girl and many others. They are actually ordinary children, but in moments of crisis the book changes to a comic strip and the kids transform into heroes in cool super suits. Afterwards, we find out what really happened to them. There are three short stories in this book. In the first story, Cartoon Kid (Casper) gets the pupils out of a tight spot with Masher McNee and his Monster Mob by scaring them with the dead bat he’d brought in for Show and Tell. In the second story, the school inspectors pay a visit and are not impressed with what they find until Mr Butternut saves the day with an inspiring history lesson. Then in the last story, Cartoon Kid tries to be a hero (even if this is out of self-interest) by painting his sister’s bedroom with a water blaster. The underlying message behind Cartoon Kid is that anyone can be a super hero.

I say: It’s exactly what I expect from a Jeremy Strong book. Cartoon Kid  is funny, age-appropriate and suitable for children who are starting to build confidence with reading. Readership: 7+.

Vordak the Incomprehensible. How to Grow Up and Rule the World.  Scott Seegert

A comical step-by-step guide on how to bring out your inner evil and take over the world. Instructions include: how to select a gut-wrenching evil name, communicating with your arch-nemesis, picking a super menace mask and buying the right super villain lair — typically, I chose the most expensive one: an orbiting space station!

I say: It’s a fun read and I can see my older readers liking it (10+). The book’s packed with illustrations, lists and diagrams (I loved the Many Faces of Evil) and it may appeal to reluctant boy readers. But it does cross the invisible line I set for St Viper’s.  Some parents may not like how Vordak the Incomprehensible encourages children to grow the evil that exists inside of them. This book will appeal to my younger readers but it really is for older kids who know not to take the advice seriously.

St Viper’s School for Super Villains

If you are not familiar with my series, you can read about it on this site or please visit Amazon for more reader reviews.  Thank you!
http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_0_10?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=st%20viper’s%20school%20for%20super%20villains&sprefix=St+Viper’s%2Caps%2C292&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Ast%20viper’s%20school%20for%20super%20villains

Kim Donovan

electrikincTM
 

1 Comment

Filed under Children's Publishing, Kim Donovan, Parents and Teachers