Thursday, December 19, 2013

Wittgenstein, NTM and me or What happens when you Google yourself

A note before we begin: I don't normally Google myself. I have agents who do that for me. Or should that read 'parents'? Well, they know who they are.
Anyway, I've great hopes of updating my French website and I thought I should check on the etherweb if I'd missed any of my glorious recent publications. Yes, I could check my shelves, but Santa has taken over some of the house and the last thing I want to do is open Some Cupboards in front of Some People.
Googling yourself almost always brings up interesting results. You wouldn't believe the number of forthcoming publications I first heard of via web search (as opposed to being told by my publishers). It's the case, in particular, for stories that are given a new life in different compilations or as e-books. More rarely, and more annoyingly, it's Google (or Amazon) who gives me the heads up on the foreign editions of some of my titles. And then, there's the odd mention of my picture books in academia...
So, here goes:
First off, we have some intriguing worksheets and activities based around my one picture book that made it (so far) to the US, In Search of Happiness. The good folk at CrunchCrackleCreate have come up with tasks inspired by the books that come under the following headings: Empathise, Question, Innovate, Persist, Take Responsible Risks and Think Together. That looks to me like a very sound and promising program me.

Next we have this… On page 171 of Wittgenstein and Aesthetics: Perspectives and Debates ( edited by Alessandro Arbo, Michel LeDu, Sabine Plaud): 
"A true work of art requires a pure experience and requires exclusively an aesthetic interpretation. Any moral reflection is inappropriate. It is inappropriate to speak morally about The Straight Story - a movie by David Lynch - about Hamlet - a Shakespearian play, or about the youth book A la Recherche du Bonheur by Juliette Saumande and illustrated by Eric Puybaret, the songs of NTM, the TV series 24 or the whole of Céline's work. To evaluate these works of art from a moral (positive or negative) point of view is a mistake about their nature.

And then, on the NewSouth Books website… my first title to make it to Australia! It's, obviously, a rewrite of Oliver, with amazing illustration by Italian artist Daniela Volpari. Out in February down under!

Meanwhile, to celebrate the last few sleeps before 2014, the blog has gone all shiny. Hope you like it and see you all on the other side!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Forbidden Poem

I was reminded of this Tony Mitton poem by an Inis reviewer recently and I thought you'd like it too. As simple as that…

This poem is not for children.
Keep Out!

There is a big oak door
in front of this poem.
It’s locked.

And on the door is a notice
in big red letters.
It says: Any child who enters here
will never be the same again.

But what’s this?
A key in the keyhole.
And what’s more,
nobody’s about.

“Go on. Look,”
says a little voice
inside your head.
“Surely a poem
cannot strike you dead?”

You turn the key.
The door swings wide.
And then you witness
what’s inside.

And from that day
you’ll try in vain.
You’ll never be the same again.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Go get them!

As is the tradition, December calls for all sorts of reflexion, pondering and looking back. Yes, that's right, today I give you… my fave reads of the past year!

For the babas…
Faster! Faster! by Leslie Patricelli. In fact, pretty much anything by this amazing writer-illustrator whose pics are so warm, funny and inclusive that from 1 to 5-year-olds (and counting) are still fighting over them in our house.

For the budding artists (and their parents)...
I am an Artist! by Marta Altés. In fact, pretty much anything by this amazing writer-illustrator, etc. This is bold and bright and an inspiration for many a future famous artist. Don't worry about the mess, it'll pay off in the end.

For those who just like doing and being and liking...
The Naming of Tishkin Silk by Glenda Millard, because of the sunshine, the family legends and traditions, and the pancakes. (8+)

Let's Play!: Poems About Sports and Games from Around the World, a fantastic selection of poems about sports and games and fun, from cricket to scrabble, a gem.

After Iris by Natasha Farrant, because the attention to detail will make you think these people are real, and because the general craziness will make you want to go live with them. (10+)

The Sleepwalkers, by Viviane Schwartz, for a comic book with soul, humour and hand-made sock monkeys. (8/10+)

For those who can handle anything that's thrown at them, but had rather it was thrown at fictional characters instead...
The Last Minute by Eleanor Updale, a second by second account of the minute events taking place on a busy English street before a massive explosion destroys most of it. The massive cast is expertly brought to life and the realisation of dialogue (in one-second snippets) is impressive; I was in shock for days afterwards. (12+, YA)

Vivian versus the Apocalypse by Katie Coyle, where road-movie meets post-Apocalyptic speculation (quite literally), with plenty of interesting, refreshing, competent YA characters who do not hate the rest of the world and/or their parents (YA).
Far, Far Away by Tom McNeal, the tale of an uncommon boy, a daring girl, a well-intentioned, multi-lingual and slightly stuck-up ghost in a modern day American town that has its fair share of villains that seem to come straight out of some of the brothers Grimms' tales. (12+, YA)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

SOS Dinos in Distress

Here it is! My first real ebook! 
Meet Thaddeus Getsit-Wright, professional genius (or not), in his attempt to solve the biggest mystery of all. It's got dinosaurs in disguise, dinner ladies, a moderate amount of undies and a trike. What more can you possibly want?

SOS Dinos in Distress was especially written for tablets, computers and screens of various descriptions. I've had books turned digital before, but this one was different as it was always going to be a story with animation, interactivity and bits that need blowing onto.
Pictures are by Claire Chavenaud and the crazy publishers who initiated that crazy project are Audois&Alleuil.
The story is available in French and in English (and yes, I did the translation), on the iTunes store.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Inis 40!

Not that I'm one to show off or anything (ahem), but our latest issue of Inis (number 40) is pretty pretty and terribly interesting, too. Do run to your nearest bookshop, pick up your phone or get clicking, so that you can find out all about Hervé Tullet, Sally Gardner, Malorie Blackman, Susan Cooper, Marta Altés and heaps more!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Nanowrimo of sorts. You?

So, it's Nanowrimo, I'm told. Yes, in November, some people grow moustaches and others (but sometimes, I suppose, the same) write novels. The idea behind the National Novel Writing Month is a simple one. All you need to do is write 50,000 words worth of novel. Don't edit, don't over think, perhaps don't even plot, just write and see where that gets you 30 days later.
I've never done it as I'm usually exceedingly busy being a lazy moo, but it just so happens that I am actually writing a novel right now. It'll never be (I hope!) 50,000 words long and I'm not writing it from scratch but it will have to do.
I hadn't realised I was writing a new book. I thought I was just tweaking the beginning of an existing opus in order to show it quickly to my publishers. I needed a new and improved first chapter and it wasn't really happening. When I thought I had more or less nailed something decent, I typed it at the beginning of my story.
And then I cheated.
First, I googled something like "the best opening lines in children's books".
Then I stole one: "I am writing this sitting in the kitchen sink" (goodies for the first person to remember where that came from) and changed the location. And that very simple trick opened such a floodgate of words and images that all I could do to avoid drowning was open a new Word document.
Now, 1,500 words later I find myself writing a story that is both new and old. The characters, the plot drive, the names are the same as in the previous version. But I'm forbidding myself to look at Take 1, to nick puns from it, snippets of dialogues or entire scenes. I'm trying to work my way through the main events of the original narrative as I remember them, while integrating the new and crazy stuff I've already come up with.
I had heard of writers who finished their first draft, stuck it in a drawer and started over again without a backward glance. I wasn't sure I could see the point. I wasn't sure I could take so much effort.
Well, look at me now!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Liquorice, blaas and nuclear burps: a selection of Waterford's finest delicacies

And so there you go, the final sessions of CBF 2013 are behind me and what a lot of crazy chickens I've met this year!
After Clare and Meath, Waterford did not disappoint, as I was treated (fictionally) to a pit of popcorn, a dragon breathing marshmallow, bomb-throwing mustachioed joeys (!), frog avengers, a dragon breathing mustard, amphibians with tongues long enough to reach Mexico, nuclear burps and evil baby geniuses. Oh, and (non-fictionnally) a pack of liquorice, some delish carrot cake, a blaa and a fair drop of sunshine to make it all go down even better.
Best question of the month goes to the four-times reader of Wuthering Heights in Our Lady of Good Counsel in Ferrybank (3rd class): "If you could travel back in time, what would you tell your younger reading self?"
What about you, dear reader?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Talking books in Kells

And so today I headed Meathwards again into the dark rain. Fair play to all of Kells Parochial NS who swam uphill to come and meet me in the library.
As per usual we had a ball with zombie puppies, warrior Jelly Babies from hell, chocolate dragons that die in hot choc volcanoes, musicals about creepers and other beasts, and for the very first time an impressive and spot on sequel called Mad Cap Takes 2. My work here is done!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Dunboyne you rock!

A creative, crazy, radioactive frog-filled morning in Dunboyne library. We had underpants-themed thrillers, toasted hamsters, fencing, unicorns, moustachioed baddies and a lot of fun. What's more we had fan mail and a huge pack of liquorice. You are total stars and yes I will try and fit you all into my next book. :-)

Friday, October 4, 2013

Saffron and Blue

Ennis celebrates the win with a good deal of elegance if you ask me...
Note the subtly matching colour scheme.
I think I've figured out the secret to a good (great?) author's event in Ireland. All you need is for your book's cover to sport the colours of the county you're visiting. If said county happens to have won an All-Ireland final in the very recent past, so much the better, you've your intro ready and an already hyper and delighted audience.
So it was that I travelled far and wide to meet some smart youngsters from Ennis, Kilkee, Kilrush, Shannon and Moveen this week and what a pleasure that was. We got plenty of zombies, some exploding frogs, Super Kettle Man who used his cord as a whip, radioactive snot, vampire princesses, you name it. I suppose Darren Shan's recent visit probably had something to do with that. :)
Word of the week: "sponsor". That's how one clever chap explained the job of publishers: they sponsor books.
Sentence of the week:
Me: "And so, I started working on this book the year some of you guys were born."
One of said guys: "So we were born to read it!"
Publishers out there, if you're ever looking for slogan-writers, PR people or new reps, you now know where to look for them!
Next week, it's off to lovely Meath. Watch this space!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Mountains to Sea

So right, it's been fun and hot and long, but that's it now, the hols are over. We can now resume our regular programmes and more serious communications and activities. And to help you get into the spirit of the season and get over that back-to-school feeling, here's some good news to shout about: the Montains to Sea festival is upon us again! (4-8 Sept).
With a brilliant family and kiddies programme, it's got something for every one and their granny, from author talks and readings to T-Shirt making and cupcake baking with some big names in children's lit. Check this out: Derek Landy, Patrick Ness, Niamh Sharkey, Gary Northfield, Liz Pichon, Deirdre Sullivan, Philip Ardagh and heaps more.
Have a look over here and get your tickets early!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Deadly or what?

Here are the latest pics by French illustrator Claire Chavenaud for a story of mine that will come out later this year... as an app.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Doodle, doodle, do!

This is what happens when you put Hervé Tullet, Sarah McIntyre, Niamh Sharkey and a heap of French speaking kids under giant umbrellas.
Do try this at home.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Conference high

You know it's a good CBI conference when you spend each session thinking: I have to go home and write a book NOW!
You know it's a GREAT conference when you spend each session thinking: I want to write the kind of books ---- (insert name of current speaker) writes.
So, over the course of the weekend, I've decided to dedicate my whole career to translation (Sarah Ardizzone's talk); books for preschoolers (Hervé Tullet); 5-8 silly romps (Alex T. Smith); novels in verse (Sarah Crossan); well thought-out picturebooks (Jon Klassen).
And of course thanks to Alex T Smith I now know I can draw too.
I want to be artistically multitasking when I grow up...

Monday, May 13, 2013

The pink issue

It's pink and it's here and do I hope you'll like it!

Monday, April 1, 2013


I just had a hunch when I saw this pic in the illustrators' exhibition that it was destined to do well. And sure enough Satoe Tone won the award. (That was quite a tricky piece of info to dig out as the announcement was very long, confused and confusing. Anyway, enjoy my rubbish photo of this way cool Japanese illustrator's entry!)

Sunday, March 31, 2013


Presies, freebies; books, zines and catalogues: Bologna compressed into 2kgs of paper. Plenty to think about and enjoy and pore over while planning for the next Inis. Better get reading!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Last day

Final tour of the fair and city brought a lovely harvest of books and pics, a felt Elizabeth Bennett, the icecream of the decade and a manly night cap and shirt. Ciao Bologna!
(illustrations by Holman and Jack Wang; Mariana Rio; Torben Kuhlmann; Akihiro Misaki)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Sharing the picture love

Trying not to dribble with envy on the Planeta Tangerina stand.

Fantastic picture by Cheng-Ting Shih in the exhibition of Taipei illustrators

One of the walls where artists can try and catch your eye for all your illustration needs.

The students of the illustration MA in Cambridge start their own wall. More as they draw more...

Incredibly cool edition of James Stephens' The Crock of Gold on the Latvian stand (Liels un Macis Publishing)

A picture from the illustrators' exhibition by Rashin Kheiriyeh, from Iran. Lots of very strong entries from over there, I thought.

Another one, this time from Italy's Philip Giordano. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Me too! My stuff on the Auzou stand.

E la commedia va!

In no particular order: beating a dessert into shape (icecream and balsamic vinegar); waiting for Tove Jansson's (of Moomin fame) 100th anniversary (next year), wowing at a fantastic picturebook from Croatian piblusher Algoritam. And you?