Playing by the book

Reviews of kids' books and the crazy, fun stuff they inspire us to do

In Heaven

Posted on | April 14, 2014 | 6 Comments

This weekend I was in heaven. 48 hours of being surrounded by articulate, engaging, thought provoking, charming, and downright inspirational people does a lot towards making the world seem a good place.

Here are just a few of said people:

cressidacowell
Cressida Cowell was on a high from having come pretty much straight from being present at the recording of the film score for ‘How to train your Dragon 2′. Always enthusiastic, my favourite line from her was, “Writing picture books is like writing haikus for aliens.”

cakesinspace
Sarah McIntyre and Philip Reeve need to put on a West End/Broadway Show; they have it all in terms of panache, fun, costumes and great song. We also got a sneak peek of their next book, ‘Cakes in Space’. Wow.

megrosoffsbrain
Meg Rosoff bravely shared pictures of her brain with us (yep, the slide above shows her brain when she sits down to try and write a new book). If ever you have the opportunity to listen to Meg talk, seize it with both hands. She was incredibly engaging, witty and clever. I sound a bit like a fawning teenager, but seriously, she was incredible.

meandruta
Two people I met this weekend made me cry with their beauty and thoughtfulness, and one of them was Ruta Sepetys. As you can see, Ruta also made me BEAM. If you haven’t read her books, you have such a treat ahead of you, and when you learn some of the stories behind the books your heart will break and then be made whole again.

lyngardner450Lyn Gardner spoke with such infection enthusiasm for her Olivia I found myself wanting to run off to stage school.

kategreenawaywinnersAnthony Browne (centre) terrified all of us present with stories about how a gorilla once took a chunk out of his leg, and the TV crew filming insisted on carrying on! Helen Oxenbury sparkled with charm and mischief. It was especially interesting to hear how even though both illustrators use a lot of watercolour in their work, they approach it in such different ways.

There were very many more treasured moments this weekend, but I was too busy listening or deep in conversation to take photos! On a very personal note, I had enormous fun interviewing Damian Kelleher, Cate Cain, Sarah Crossan, Anne Cassidy and Ian Beck. It was simply an honour to share a stage with them.

So the folk around were pretty amazing (slight understatement there!), and the setting was beautiful:

crows

wroth2

Over the next couple of days, more photos of all the authors and illustrators I shared my weekend with will be up here. But now I’m off to do a little bit of reading (I returned this weekend with 63 books….)

Happy Reading to you all!

Busy with books

Posted on | April 7, 2014 | 4 Comments

The last couple of weeks haven’t seen much action from me here on Playing by the book, but that’s not because I haven’t been busy with books. On the contrary, I’ve been busy interviewing:-

  • Lyn Gardner, talking about writing for children’s theatre as opposed to children’s books
  • Sarah Crossan, discussing how verse novels differ from prose novels
  • Damian Dibben, dreaming of Benedict Cumberbatch and Alfonso Cuaron
  • and Ruta Sepetys, exploring where solace can be found (click on the names to read my interviews)


  • …as well as preparing to interview Cate Cain, Damian Kelleher, Anne Cassidy, and Ian Beck face to fact next week …in front of an audience …of librarians, school teachers and other adults passionate about books for children and young people. (It’s going to be equally enjoyable and nervewracking!)

    Yes, on Friday the Federation of Children’s Book Group’s annual conference kicks off (with none other than Cressida Cowell!), and then all the way through to Sunday lunchtime I will be living, eating, sleeping, dreaming books even more than usual.

    Next week I shall report back with lots of photos, bringing you news from Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre, Meg Rosoff, Anthony Browne and Helen Oxenbury, Holly Smale, Julian Sedgwick, Damian Dibben, Abie Longstaff, Megan Rix, Justin Somper, Lauren Child, James Mayhew, Mick Inkpen, Guy Parker Rees and Atinuke, in addition to the authors I’ll be interviewing in person.

    But in the mean time I’m in marathon training. Book marathon training. My favourite sort of marathon training, and the best way to prepare for the conference!

    Once Easter is over I’ll be back to a full programme of posting here with lots more reviews and interviews and in the meantime you can always find me on Twitter.

    Happy Reading!

    Hoo’s Kids Book Fest!

    Posted on | April 3, 2014 | 1 Comment

    hkbf-logoThere’s just over a month till the third Hoo’s Kids Book Fest (11th May, 2014) at the magical Luton Hoo Walled Garden (just north of London) and if I lived nearer, I’d definitely be going!

    Along with sessions by Robert Muchamore, author of the bestselling Cherub series and Richard and Judy Book Club winner Sophie McKenzie, you could also see Jim Smith, author of the rib-tickling Barry Loser and winner of the 2013 Roald Dahl Funny Prize, the fantbaulous Alex T. Smith & Caryl Hart, the glorious Clara Vulliamy, the utterly brilliant Gary Northfield and many more.

    You might catch Julian Sedgwick doing circus tricks, Mike Brownlow talking like a pirate. I’m sure Steve Lenton will NOT be getting up to no-good with Shifty McGifty!

    The Phoenix Comic, Roahl Dahl Museum, Miffy and Kipper will also be there to provide lots of great fun. Seriously, what an amazing day it’s going to be!

    whos-coming

    To buy tickets and to find out full programme details do check Hoos Kids Book Fest.

    Entrance fee is £6.00 per person. Family tickets £20. Under 2s are free. Special events are £3.00 per person, but there are also lots of free activities. Advance booking is recommended as some events have limited seating and sell out quickly. (Do take a look at the special Golden Tickets deal!)

    Whilst you’re exploring Hoo’s Kids Book Fest website don’t miss out on the details of the short story competition for 9-16 year olds or the new children’s book award, the Look! Hoo’s Reading Book Award, Full details of both these initiatives can be found here.

    Whether you want to meet the authors, discover new books, listen to favourite stories or get creative with our illustrators, there’s something for all ages!

    And if you do go, please let me know how it was! I least I can live vicariously through my blog readers :-)

    book-labels

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