Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Big Box Little Box Longlisted for Klaus Flugge Prize 2018

Big Box Little Box is illustrated by the hugely talented Edward Underwood. An experienced designer, Edward is half of the brilliant duo at Lisa Jones Studio in Lewes.  

This is Edward's first picture book and guess what? It's been shortlisted for the Klaus Flugge Prize for debut picture book illustrators!

This is fantastic news for both of us and for Bloomsbury, our publisher. Over 50 books were submitted and ours was among 15 chosen for the longlist.

The awards will be judged by:

Waterstones Children's Laureate and creator of Charlie and Lola, Lauren Child

Designer and art director Goldy Broad

Foyles Head of Children's Books, Charlotte Colwill

and Francesca Sanna, winner of last year's prize for her beautiful book, The Journey

The panel will be chaired by Julia Eccleshare, director of the children's programme of the Hay Festival. and the shortlist will be announced on 16 May.  

The Klaus Flugge Prize is supported by the Association of Illustrators

Wish us luck!


Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Innovation Fund Storymakers Project

I am delighted be be working with Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council and Stone Soup on a fabulous project based in four libraries. The project aims to:

- help get pre-school children school ready

- introduce parents to library services

- run regular interactive storytelling sessions for young families

- work with families to create four picture books, one for each library

From Spring 2017 to the end of the year, parents and their pre-school children have been attending weekly, high-energy storytelling sessions with Stone Soup's Simon Sullivan. These sessions include stories, songs and parachute games and are designed to help families access library services and find out more about enjoying books with their children.

I began work on the project in September 2017, alongside Adam Pryce, a very versatile illustrator and designer who has worked on several school and community projects.

Together we are working with families to create four linked picture books which include lots of actions and sounds to help very young children engage with books and stories. Parents have been involved at every stage and the feedback so far has been fantastic.

The project concludes in February with a celebration event for everyone who has taken part. Every family will receive a copy of the book they have contributed to. Tameside MBC are also planning an exhibition, which will be mounted in Tameside Central Library, where members of the public will be able to find out about the project and see how the books were made.

Find out more

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Whiffy Wilson in Swedish - DIY Translation!

Story Time!
Martina Minarik is a Whiffy Wilson super-fan dedicated to giving her children the very best start in life. She recently got in touch to let me know how much she loves Whiffy Wilson and my other books and sent me a darling recording of her two year old reading the story to her baby brother.

But they are no ordinary family.  Martina is bringing her children up bilingual.

Having left London two years ago for a new life in.. wait for it.. Bermuda (No, I am NOT jealous. Not one tiny little bit...) Martina now spends a lot of time reading with Emilie, 2 and Max who is six months old.

She says, "I speak Swedish with Emilie and Max. Raising children bilingual is hard especially when their dad and everyone else around us speaks English. Books and nursery rhymes are great tools for submerging them into the language, so we buy, ship and also download a lot of books."

Some of their books are in Swedish, but many are in English. These, Martina translates as she goes along. So she is reading in English and at the same time telling the story in Swedish. To a wriggling 2 year old. And a baby!  How awesome is that?!

Martina says, "Emilie's favourites tend to be those books that are written in rhythm and rhyme, in a fairly simple language, with shorter sentences and humour. I suspect that’s why she enjoys Whiffy Wilson so much.  But off the cuff translation is hard when there are rhymes and I want to expose her and Max to the best possible language and story, and to be respectful to the author."

So Martina decided to go one better. Not content with ad hoc translation, she decided to sit down and work through the whole of Whiffy Wilson, the Wolf who Wouldn't go to Bed and translate it properly into Swedish, rhymes and all!

Martina's Notes

She says, "I found myself wishing Whiffy Wilson was available in Swedish, and one day decided to have a stab at translating it myself. Some paragraphs have come more easily, others I’ve worked on for hours and hours in order to maintain the story, humour, rhythm, rhyme, straight forward language and sentence length. It’s been such a puzzle and brain teaser! It's been SO satisfying and so much fun!"

She is now planning to contact some Swedish publishers to persuade them to publish more of my books in Swedish. 

Martina, I salute you!

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Girls CAN do Anything!

I'm delighted to be publishing a book with Scholastic next year called Girls Can do Anything

It's being illustrated by the wonderful Ali Pye, and will be aimed at very young children.  As part of the process, my editor asked me to send her a paragraph on why I wanted to write the book.  What came out was a *little* more than a single paragraph - but for once I wasn't particularly worried about word count!  Anyway, I thought I'd share it with you too. So here it is:

I have always been a girl but have never felt completely comfortable as one.  When I was growing up, my parents were endlessly encouraging and taught me that I could be anything I wanted to be, I just had to be determined and work hard. However, society did not agree and I felt constantly affronted and frustrated by everyday sexism.  I was not allowed to wear trousers to school, even when it was snowing, because “girls don’t wear trousers,”  I was not allowed to join the Cub Scouts, because girls had to be Brownies and learn about sewing and painting. Only boys were allowed to play with fire and poke things with sticks.  I was not allowed to play football, or do woodwork. I could not grow up to be an astronaut, or a carpenter or a racing driver.  

As I child, I had no positive female role models. All the best characters in books, films and on television were male. Girls like me,  who loved climbing trees and building dens, were called tom-boys.  We were not proper girls, or proper boys, but something in between.

As an adult, I assumed that this kind of insidious disapproval was a thing of the past.  That society was much more fair - that women were now seen as equals.  Until one day in 2014, when I saw an online campaign #Like a Girl, which really unsettled me.  It highlighted how the term “like a girl,”  is still used as an insult.  And that really got me thinking.  Why should it be an insult to throw like a girl, or run like a girl?  Why was this term still very much in use in what I had thought were more enlightened times?  

A year or so later, my thoughts were again jarred by a Sport England advert on television #ThisGirlCan.  This ad really blew all my childhood conditioning out of the water.  For the first time ever, I was seeing images of girls getting sweaty, and dirty and being aggressive - and this being a cause for celebration rather than ridicule.  It was the first time I’d seen anything that so blatantly challenged the stereotypes I’d grown up with.  And I was shocked at how much impact it had. Until then, I’d assumed that sexual stereotyping was a thing of the past.  But seeing these powerful images lighting up my living room made me realise that society still thinks it’s unusual for a girl to play football, or fly a plane, or mend the road.  We see very little women’s sport on television, even now.  If I asked you who was the first British astronaut, you would likely say Tim Peake.  But you’d be wrong.  It was, in fact, a woman, called Helen Sharman, almost 25 years before.  My sister-in-law, who is a Captain for Easyjet - is still regularly patronised with a “well done” by male passengers boarding her plane.  It is totally shocking and unacceptable to me that women’s achievements are still belittled, ridiculed and ignored.  

I realised that, as a children’s author, I had an opportunity to show our youngest children that the world belongs as much to girls as it does to boys.  I wanted to demonstrate that girls are allowed and entitled to create a space for themselves wherever they choose - whatever their interests or passions may be, and for that to be okay.  They don’t need to be called half-boys or less-than-girls, they can just be themselves and aspire to become anything they want to be.  I wanted to show young children categorical proof that a girl can become an astronaut or a bus driver, a builder or a firefighter. I wanted to give girls confidence that their hopes and dreams, their interests and passions are not only acceptable, but are to be celebrated and applauded.  And that’s why I wrote Girls Can Do Anything. Because I believe it is true.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Do you love dinosaurs? Course you do!

Who doesn't love dinosaurs? And I bet your children know a whole lot more about them than you do! Well I've just uploaded some fantabulous dino-tastic fun activities to accompany my book Knock Knock Dinosaur.  

They've been developed in partnership with the amazingly clever-tastic Zoe Toft from Playing by the Book and you can check them out here for absolutely FREE!

Get your hands on a copy of Knock Knock Dinosaur from your local book shop or library, or buy a signed copy from me here and then get busy with these great activities. They're educational too, but shh don't tell the kids!

Knock Knock Dinosaur is illustrated by Nick East. Isn't he amazing?! Watch out for more Knock Knock books coming soon.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

FREE Activities to enhance your stories

Enjoying a book isn't just about reading a story.  Reading books together with your children can give them - and you - so much more.  I do a lot of work in schools and libraries with children, teachers and parents and design lots of activities to accompany my books that help kids get the most out of their reading experiences.  These might include writing stories using my characters, making up songs about them, or creating their own games based on the book's theme.

Many of these activities are available for you at home, free of charge.  Just visit my website and go to Things to Do for a huge range of free downloadable creative fun and games that will enhance your reading experience with your child or children.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Fractured Fairy Tales

Traditional fairy tales are the bread and butter of many young readers' diet. Passed down from parents to children over many generations, they are the stories that stick with us as we grow and are so embedded in the western European culture that many of us can quote at least one refrain from a favourite tale and would probably struggle to imagine a childhood without them.

As our society becomes more multicultural I wonder whether stories from other cultures are becoming more widely known in schools?  Certainly when I've approached publishers about exploring traditional tales from other cultures, I've generally been met with the "there's not a big enough market," sort of comment, which I find rather disappointing and hard to believe.

Anyway, as far as European tales go, many authors enjoy playing about with these stories and re-writing them with a modern twist or turning things upside down and back to front.  The children I work with in schools LOVE messing about in the fairy tale world and creating crazy, ridiculous stories of their own.  It's great fun and anything is possible when you inhabit a world of fire-breathing dragons and hungry talking bears.

I've written a few myself - all published by Nosy Crow, each of which challenges some aspect of the traditional fairy tale world.  In my books I like to subvert traditionally gender-specific roles and challenge the central premise of many fairy tales that princesses are pathetic and need rescuing and that anything different is bad and must be thwarted as quickly as possible. My princesses do not dream of marriage and the happy ever after.  They are brave and feisty and independent - as any self-respecting girl should be!

Joanne Norland, of Mumswrite, has written a very interesting blog about the emergence of fractured fairy tales in children's literature.  She interviews me, Jonathan Emmett and Leigh Hodgkinson in a very thought-provoking article. Have a read of it here.

For anyone who is interested in such things, it's also very enlightening to read the original versions of these stories, recorded by the Grimm Brothers and others.  Many are very different to the stories we know today and FAR more gruesome!

So if you have some spare time, pick up a fairy tale and have a go and re-writing it yourself!

Monday, 8 May 2017

NEW! Knock Knock Dinosaur Activites

I am delighted to bring you the second of five brand new FREE Knock Knock Dinosaur activities to delight your little ones and keep those little fingers and minds busy!

Developed in partnership with the uber-creative Zoe Toft this first activity is a fabulous cut and colour dinosaur counting puzzle!

Download it now from my Things to Do page. And watch out for more fab fun coming soon!

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

NEW! Let's Go to Nursery Activities

Bee and Billy
Billy and Bee
See what they can do

They're so tumbly
Wiggly, jumbly
Can you do it too?

We have created some gorgeous new FREE activities to accompany this, the first in a series of four first-experiences books.  Head over to the Things to Do section to get yours!

Thanks to Lauren Tobia and Zoe Toft for their help!

Friday, 17 March 2017

Whiffy Fun at Hillsborough Library

Staff and Hillsborough Library in Sheffield have created their very own Whiffy Wilson activity. Here are some photos of little ones having lots of fun getting Whiffy Wilson dressed!

You can download the activity from my website here:  

Have you created any activities linked to my books? Do get in touch via my website to let me know.. or post some pictures on twitter and tag me @carylhart1  

Many thanks to Zeyd Kateregga for sending them through.

Find out more about Sheffield libraries events here.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Albie Outfits for World Book Day

I have really truly arrived as a name in children's publishing.  How do I know? Because children have been dressing up as their favourite characters from some of my books for World Book Day! Hip Hip Hooray!  

Sending a really huge thank you to everyone who tweeted pictures of their little ones, to all the parents who made the effort to take part. 

Caught Reading for World Book Day

Parents running the children's book club at Windmill Hill School, Sheffield asked me to take part in their Caught Reading campaign.  So I said YES!  They made a lovely poster with answers to all their questions to display at school.  Here it is, if your interested!

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Books for Love

Being an author is not just about writing books. At least, it isn't for me. It's about loving the people I am writing for. It's about making them feel special, and doing my very best to give them something they will enjoy and remember.  It is about inspiring imaginative play and helping children develop a love of books and reading.  It is also about helping parents create special moments with their children and giving them a helping hand with the difficult job of parenting.

I get lots of tweets from parents telling me that one of my books is their son or daughter's favourite and that they have read it every bedtime for the last three weeks.  It fills me with great pride to know that something I have helped create means so much to somebody. When I think back to my own favourite bedtime stories as a child, it is with very fond memories of special time with a parent.  These moments are so precious and I feel immensely proud to be a part of this special time for families across the UK.

I sometimes get a batch of letters too, from school children who have read some of my books.  Like the ones pictured that came a couple of days ago from a group of young children at St George's Infant School and Nursery in Colchester.  

Their teacher, Deborah Laughlin, emailed in advance, asking permission to send the letters.  She said, "I work as a Nurture Leader at a primary school in Colchester Essex. The children in my group love your stories, (we read a different one almost daily). They are so enthusiastic and ask lots of questions, some of which I can't answer, therefore I was wondering if it would be possible for the children to write to you?"

The letters arrived last week, along with an email from Mrs Laughlin telling me that the children had walked to the post box and posted the letters themselves.  They were all very proud of their achievement! I have now written back with a little something to keep in their classroom.  

It is wonderful to see teachers going the extra mile like this for their children. And it is wonderful for me to feel that my work has inspired these children enough that they want to sit down and do some writing. Never underestimate how much effort it takes young children to write something.  They have a huge amount to think about: letter formation, spelling; getting their meaning across; sentence structure etc.  It really is very hard work - even holding the pencil for a long time can be tiring.  So motivating children can be a challenge at times.

But getting a reply to a letter they have written is hugely satisfying to a child - heck, it's hugely satisfying to ANYONE if you feel that the person you are writing to is important! It makes us feel special.  It makes us feel like we matter. It makes us feel empowered that we can communicate our thoughts and that someone else will understand us and take us seriously.  And as writers, mentors, educators and heroes to these children, we should recognise the importance of writing back.

They asked some brilliant questions too:

Why isn't there a rainbow in How to Catch a Dragon?
Why are there no princesses?
How old is Albie?

In doing so, they have given me food for thought - I will definitely ask Ed Eaves to add a rainbow or two to our next book.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Knock Knock Dinosaur!

Knock Knock? 
Who's at the door?
YIKES! One real live dinosaur!!

It's fun to find a T-Rex on your doorstep, but when all 54 of his friends arrive, it's time to panic!

This playful dinosaur counting book is jam-packed with chaos and silliness and is great fun to read out loud.

This is the first book I've published with super-fantastic illustrator Nick East and it's a blinder! Nick has set the bar very high for this, the first in a new Knock Knock series published by Hodder Children's Books.  

There are dinosaurs EVERYWHERE!  

Get your hands on a specially signed copy from my online bookshop or pick one up from your local bookstore or online.  

Watch out for more Knock Knock titles out later this year!  YIKES!!

Monday, 7 November 2016

The Princess and the Christmas Rescue

The sofa and mince pie adverts are on the telly, shops are pumping out seasonal music and last year's Christmas pudding has been opened to make way for this year's... and so we can't avoid it for very much longer.  Christmas is coming.

But fret not.  This year, we have created for you the perfect Christmas or pre-Christmas gift! It's cheaper than a trip to Starbucks and bursting with more wonderful pictures and rhymes than you would ever find in a John Lewes ad. 

Yes, it's the latest Princess Book from me, Sarah Warburton and Nosy Crow and I think you'll like it! (Well, I HOPE you will!)

We introduce yet another feisty, independent, clever Princesses who takes matters into her own hands to find solutions to her problems.

This book features Princess Eliza, who is brilliant at inventing things. She makes all sorts of gadgets and gizmos to keep herself busy in her crystal palace at the top of the world.  She only lacks one thing... Princess Eliza does not have any friends and she doesn't really know how to make any either.

Then, one day, she stumbles across Santa's workshop.  Santa is poorly and the elves are in a tizzy.  Luckily Princess Eliza gets out her rubber bands and paperclips, scissors and glue and has soon made some whizzy contraptions to help the elves.  Can she help get everything ready in time for Christmas?  And will she make any friends along the way?  

Well, this IS a Christmas story!

Find it in all good bookshops or buy a signed copy from me via my website.

Buy a signed book here

Happy Shopping!

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Diversity in Books

Over the past ten years I have spent a lot of time in schools, whipping children up into a frenzy of excitement about books and reading and writing.  It has been nothing but joy for me to see faces light up and hands shoot up bursting with ideas.

There is no doubt in my mind that books can inspire children. Books can give children a different perspective on life and can really open up their imaginations and truly raise their aspirations across the board.

I often have teachers approach me at the end of the day telling me about a child in their class who has written a story that takes up a whole page.  A child who had barely ever written a sentence up until that day.  I can't tell you how truly satisfying this is.

But visiting schools has also opened up my eyes to a world I had no idea existed.  A world I am shocked and saddened to discover is all too common.

I was in a school a couple of weeks ago in area two stone throws from some of the biggest mansions and richest footballers-wives' haunts.  An excellent school filled with bright images and a brand new library.  A school were 78% of parents are unemployed, and 68% have NEVER had a job.

Two years ago, when the current headteacher arrived, he began asking children about their aspirations. What did they want to be when they grew up?  Of the some 400 children in school only two... TWO wanted a job. One wanted to work at the local Co-op.  The other wanted to work at ASDA because it was further away and a job there would mean she had to learn to drive a car.
Another child, a boy, seven years old said his dad told him he had to get a girl pregnant so he could get a house.

Are you shocked?  You should be.

These are children who rarely leave their estate.  Many have few or no books at home.  Few visit the library because it is an hour away.  And what is more shocking is that this is not unusual.  I have visited scores of schools in similar situations.  And we wonder why these children have no aspirations?

Over the past two years, this school has worked tirelessly to bring in working adults to talk to children, they have created a beautiful library at the heart of the school where children are bombarded with books.  They walk through book shelves to access their classrooms. They walk past books to get to the hall.  Any child excluded from a classroom for poor behaviour will be sat next to a bookcase, from which they are free to pick up a book and read.  And over the past two years aspirations have started to improve.

During my visit children told me they wanted to be:  an author or a dancer, a firefighter, a footballer, a kangaroo, a doctor.  This is progress, and yet I do wonder just how many of these kids will break free from the cycle they are in and pull themselves up enough to lead more fulfilled lives.  Perhaps that is a white middle-class judgement, perhaps their parents feel they DO have fulfilled lives.  I don't want to patronise or judge, but I can't help thinking that these children deserve more.

At the other end of the spectrum, I have worked with children in private schools who are so disciplined and so channelled in their thinking that they find it hard to let go and have fun.  One four year old told me he wants to be a banker AND a lawyer.  Four years old!

Which brings me to the point of this piece.

Children need role models.  They need to see a world beyond the end of their own street.  They need to see and identify with lives that are different from their own. Books give them that.  And I feel now, more than ever, how important it is for the books we make to reflect the diversity of the culture we live in.  Children need to identify with the characters  they are reading about.  They need to be able to imagine themselves in the shoes of the characters they see and read about.  They need books to be relevant and accessible no matter what their own background may be. No matter what their home life may be like. No matter what their parents expectations may be.

For me, a vital part of creating books that really speak to children are the illustrations.  I admit that when I first started writing, the thought didn't even enter my head.  Because the only people I ever really met were white, middle-class people like me.  But having spent so much time in schools, some with up to thirty languages spoken, my eyes have been well and truly opened and I now make it clear with all my editors that I want my books to reflect at least some of the great diversity of race, culture and socioeconomic backgrounds of the children (and parents) that I'm writing for.

So I am very proud to be working with Lauren Tobia on a first experiences series for Walker Books. Lauren has a fantastic track record of creating beautiful, culturally diverse illustrations.  This series is no exception and I'm absolutely thrilled to be part of this project.

I hope that when you read my other books, you might notice that I include both male and female characters. I include characters with different skin colours and from different socio-economic backgrounds.  Most of this is hopefully subtle.  I'm not about producing in-your-face messages. I just want to create books that children from all backgrounds will love and identify with.

And I hope other authors and illustrators, editors and designers will work more and more to do this too.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

How to Save a Superhero is Here!

What on earth is Albie up to now?  He's supposed to be tidying his bedroom, but when someone steals his last puzzle piece, things get a bit hairy.

Can Albie save his new friends Scoot and Rascal from the clutches of The Collector?

Will he manage to tidy his room before Mum's timer goes off?

You'll find all this and more in Albie's latest adventure!

PLUS... Get your hands on loads of AWESOME How to Save  a Superhero activities - They;'re all FREE!!

Take me to the Superhero Activities

How to Save a Superhero is gorgeously illustrated by the Ed-the-Incredible Eaves and published by the totally Supertastic Simon and Schuster.   Get your signed copy now in my Bookshop.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

The Princess and the Giant East Midlands Award WIN!!


WE WON the Geoffrey Trease Prize for Children's Writing! 

This is an extra, discretionary award only rarely given, so we are extra-super pleased to have won it!!

Thank you to everyone at the awards, and to Sarah Warburton for her outstanding illustrations and to Nosy Crow for publishing it!

I'm over the moon to bring you more award news! This time it's a little closer to home.

The Princess and the Giant has been shortlisted for the East Midlands Book Award.  This is a regional award open to writers based in the East Midlands. It's the first time a picture book has ever been shortlisted so getting this far is totally amazing!

There are six books in all, including novels by Steven Dunne, Tom Preston, Jonathon Taylor, Jess Green and Eve Makis.  Winners will be announced at Lowdham Book Festival in June.

The prize is £1000 so keep your fingers crossed and Sarah Warburton and I might just get a fancy afternoon tea out!

The Princess and the Giant is illustrated by Sarah Warburton and published by Nosy Crow. Find out more here.

Find out more about the East Midlands Book Award

The Princess and the Presents wins Magnolia Award

I am delighted to announce that The Princess and the Presents, published by Nosy Crow and illustrated by Sarah Warburton, has won the Magnolia Children's Choice Award for the State of Mississippi USA!

The Award aims to "introduce the children of Mississippi to current children's literature and instil a love of reading."

Lindsay Beck, Secretary, and PreK-2nd Selection Committee Chair for the Award, said, "Your book was a hit with our committee and I can also say as a school librarian, who went through the voting process with all of my students, that it was a hit with them too! Please accept my congratulations on behalf of the committee and the children of Mississippi."

I am planning a skype session with Ms Beck's class so watch this space for photos and more!

Find out more about the awards here.

Find out more about The Princess and the Presents

King's School Macclesfield and Simply Books

I had a great day with pre-school, reception and infant children at The King's School Macclesfield.  Here we are posing for a photo, kindly sent to me by Simon Carter, press photographer for Macclesfield newspapers.  

Children grew their own beanstalks, designed their own germs, made up rhymes and joined in with LOTS of stories.  I do love being in school! 

Infant Vice-Principle, Emma Warburton, told me that the children were buzzing after their sessions with me and she kept hearing snippets of conversation about what they had been doing.  Having me in was a rather brave move, as it was their first day back after the Easter holidays,  But the kids were great and it was a good way to get them in the mood as they are spending the whole week off-curriculum to focus on books and reading.  Bravo King's!

The school got in touch after working with local bookseller Simply Books, based in Bramhall. Simply Books provide a fantastic service for schools in their area, from sending goodie-boxes of books beautifully wrapped, to stocking whole libraries and advising schools on new publications and author visits.  They have a wonderful shop and cafe with home-made cakes, so do drop in if you get a chance.