I’m suitably over the moon today, as I learnt that the Curse of Mousebeard got a great review in Kirkus. I can’t link to the full review, sadly, but here’s a snippet!
“The author’s unique vision—imagine a composite of Jules Verne, Jorge Luis Borges and Hergé—matched by stronger writing chops make this second title in the energetic series a recommended pick for young readers in search of new worlds to explore.”
It’s released in the USA on 7 April, and don’t forget, you can win a scribbled in copy here!
With the impending release of the American hardback edition of the Curse of Mousebeard, published by Little Brown, I thought it would be nice to offer up a copy as a prize. So if you fancy the chance of winning this copy – with very special drawing inside, as seen here – all you have to do is link to this post in a blog, or tweet about it.
Let me know you’ve done so by commenting at the bottom, and I’ll put all the names in a hat and draw out the winner. I’ll pick the winner at the start of April, when The Curse of Mousebeard officially goes on sale in the US.
I will post the prize anywhere in the world!
The yeti storm is gathering momentum in my house. Not only have badges for all 9 mythical divisions been drawn, but extra little bits and bobs have sprung into life thanks to the wonderful designer at Walker Books.
I’m busier than ever now, and I guess that’s because it’s only a few months until Operation Robot Storm is released, and the Mythical 9th Division is unleashed into the world. I can’t quite believe how quickly time flies.
I may have to start work on my yeti outfit…
And yet another slither of yeti music, this time the theme tune for Albrecht! As you listen, imagine him charging around the Himalayas trying to outwit a Bigfoot!
The Mythical 9th Division have a theme tune, which is probably the most important thing for any bunch of world-saving yetis. The theme tune will soon be gracing the trailer for the book, out in June, but for now I thought it would be nice to simply post the music here.
Go superfly yetis!
It’s been touch and go as to whether I’d run a festival this year, what with serious book deadlines and a very real new baby to look after, but now that I’m a bit more settled it’s been decided that I’d be stupid not to do it all again. Unlike last year’s festival, though, we’re moving the date to October (we almost have the weekend set – I’ll post a date as soon as I can!).
There are many reasons for this, but the big one is that it gives me more time to make it as good as can be. Last year’s was so successful that we’ll keep the format much the same, and simply do it better. So there’ll be a day of workshops, author readings/signings and a great illustration/comic exhibition. And it will all be in aid of children’s books and comics.
It’s exciting to have it all back on the road again!
How many words do I waste when writing? A lot. Simple as that.
I’ve been writing and rewriting and finding things quite tough these past few days. I know what I want to say, I know how the characters should act, but getting the scenes just right is proving difficult.
Yes, having a stomach bug at the same time as everyone else in the house has made life significantly harder than it should be, but I need to get used to that. This book ain’t gonna write itself!
So what’s been such a problem? It’s the character interaction within the scenes. I could say so much, but it’s knowing what not to say, that’s important. I write a lovely moment between characters, then delete it, because it says too much. Like I say, wasted words.
But then there’s a poster on my living room wall that says ‘Make do and mend’. This is one of those great Second World War statements, that while working for daily living, doesn’t quite add up for writing a novel. Instead, I like to think that for writing, there’s an added comma between the ‘Make’ and the ‘do’.
I’m forever mending the scenes, patching sentences, tidying up words. It’s the lovely time of graft – that 99% perspiration they all talk about. I’m satisfied that this book isn’t the easy one a writer always dreams of, but I’m surprised by how hard I’m making it for myself.
At least I get to step away and draw the characters. That helps.
I noticed yesterday that the new-ish Mark Haddon book, Boom!, came wrapped with a black band suggesting it was “for children of all ages”. I’m intrigued. There’s a quote on Amazon from the Bookseller review: “A hilarious adventure by Mark Haddon, who has an innate and dazzling rapport with his target audience”. I guess if I work with those two statements, I could naturally come to the conclusion that his target audience is everyone. Or, at the very least, that’s who his publisher wants it to be.
There’s a huge number of adults that read and like children’s books. I’m one of them. I like to think we’re a discerning bunch, and possibly know a good story better than readers who put up with pages of wobble and drivel in adult books. How many adults will finish a book simply because they’ve started it, and not because they’re enjoying it? I bet you those books are for grown-ups. It rarely happens with children’s books – okay, Harry Potter’s “100-page hanging around in a tent” in the Deathly Hallows bored me to tears, but I still got to the end.
But when you see publishers actively selling children’s books to an adult audience, I think there’s a problem. “Children of all ages” doesn’t wash with me. It seems confused, and that can’t be good for anyone, author or reader. One of the reviewers of Boom! on Amazon helpfully writes: “As soon as it arrived I realised that I had made a big mistake because this is very clearly a children’s rather than an adult’s book.”
This readership crossover issue clearly works both ways. Adult’s books packaged as children’s books are as confusing to kids as children’s books for grown-ups.
I was recently chatting to a bookseller about Bog Child, by Siobhan Dowd. The book’s beautifully written, and I’m sure we’ll see it on the BBC as a Sunday night drama at some point soon, but we spoke about it winning the Carnegie prize and she told me how in shadow reading groups within schools, the children just didn’t get it. So how did it win the prize if the children didn’t enjoy it? It was voted for by adults, of course.
Now that’s possibly a different problem – children’s book prizes being voted for by adults, who have different sensibilities to a child – but it highlights the confusion that’s created by not targeting a readership. With children’s books, writing for a set audience is usually imperative to success, and if the book breaks out into other markets, so be it.
But I think the fact of the matter is that children’s books are now judged differently, as much as to how they’ll be received by adults as children. Because of this, children’s titles are often reviewed with an eye to the adult reader, which can be incredibly unhelpful.
I write children’s books for children. It’s lovely if adults like them but they’re not who I write for. It’s unlikely my stories will ever make school reading lists, mainly because I want children to enjoy them. I want my books to be fun and exciting, and I hope they help children think that books are great to read.
I remember I am David sending me to sleep at school, and that’s an awful thing to say. Children’s books shouldn’t do that. They should excite, inspire, and make children readers for life. In contrast, shortly after finishing that book, we read Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator in class and I loved it. To me, that says a lot about how to get kids to enjoy reading – save history for the history class.
So let children’s books stand and fall on whether they’re good children’s books for children. If they’re brilliant, adults will like them anyway.
People talk about the rise of fantasy in children’s books relating directly to the increased lack of freedom in the real world. The more society can keep tabs on you – mobile phones or social media – the more children crave a world where they’re allowed to be free and out of contact.
I totally buy this. Books provide that freedom, or at least they allow the reader to experience that freedom from afar. I don’t really know any other medium that can do this.
For a child there’s definitely something to be said for experiencing a world where parents aren’t looking after you, where everything is not plain to see or readily available. And that’s what we children’s writers are trying to do, I think. We’re trying to put the freedom back into a world that’s lost it.
I bought a wood so that our child might grow up to know what it’s like to wander safely, and freely through a wilderness.
The very idea of wilderness, the wild and untamed, really excited me when I was young. There’s a sense of magic in wilderness that you just can’t find in a town or city. And I don’t necessarily mean magic as in Harry Potter. That would be too easy. The magic lies in experiencing things for yourself, discovering things because of what you’ve done, and not looking up the answers to any problems on Google. That magic is often related to not understanding things, and searching for the truth.
For example, there’s that moment when you finally realise what a lyric is to a song, and suddenly the magical aura is gone. It’s not as interesting any more. I’m a solid fan of science and understanding the truth, revealing the magic behind what makes things work, but that’s not to say I want to give my child the answers to everything. That would be daft. I want her to experience the magic in the world, and to do that she needs to be allowed to feel free.
And that’s the strength of children’s books, and the power that we have as children’s writers and illustrators. We are allowed to create a wilderness for children to play in, to imagine themselves in, away from the confines of the enclosed modern world that provides all the answers.
We have a duty to provide beautiful worlds where inquisitive imaginations can grow and go crazy, and we also have a duty to allow kids to feel scared, to feel brave enough to turn the page and face their fears on their own.
The wilderness will make strong minds and strong characters out of children, and I for one applaud children’s books for keeping it alive.
If I’m not suffering from baby-induced sleep deprivation, I’m working or doing other such things, so I apologise for even fewer posts than normal. It’s another of those busy times, and the worst part of being so busy is that ideas always flood in when I’m up to my neck in it. Notebooks are filling up once more, but I have even less time to do anything about it now than ever.
So just a quick few things to bring you up to date! There’s a huge interview with me over at Tall Tales and Short Stories. I’ve also heard that the Mousehunter is now going to be published in Hungary, so I’m totally thrilled! That’s another country I need to visit – Budapest looks lovely!
Oh, and I’ve finally got round to watching Ponyo, the latest Miyazaki film.
I loved it, and all it’s done is make me even more excited for the new Studio Ghibli version of the Borrowers, which is released later in the year, I think.
Right then, life’s full of sea monsters at the minute, so I’d best get back to it.