Monday, 17 January 2022

22 Picture Books to Look Forward to in 2022! by Clare Helen Welsh

2021 was a fantastic year for picture books, but will 2022 be able to top it?! 

By the looks of the titles publishing this year, that seems highly likely! 

Here are 22 of the picture books that caught my eye.

1. I AM NOT A PRINCE, by Rachael Davis and Beatrix Hatcher

A heart-warming fairy tale for the 21st century that challenges gender stereotypes and encourages children to be proud to be themselves. 

On a misty lagoon in a fairy tale land, young frogs wait patiently to be turned into magical princes. But one little frog is different . . . 

Hopp definitely does NOT want to be a prince! When Hopp sets out on a journey to find their true self, everyone assumes the little frog is destined to be a prince . . . how could such a strong, brave, and kind frog be anything else? But all it takes is one understanding new friend to help Hopp undergo a magical transformation that causes a positive change to ripple all across the lagoon! 

2. THIS TREE IS JUST FOR ME! by Lucy Rowland and Laura Hughes

Jack has a new book, and he's found the perfect place to read in peace - a big, beautiful tree.
So when a tiger, a bear, an alligator and a whole host of unusual animals ask if they can join him, Jack says, 'NO! This tree is just for me!"

But you've got to be careful what you wish for. When the animals go away, Jack begins to wonder whether keeping something to yourself is so much fun after all. Sometimes, a tree is EVEN better with friends in it too!

This Tree is Just for Me is a charming and uplifting tale of friendship and sharing that will delight children and parents alike.

3. DADDY'S RAINBOW, by Lucy Rowland and Becky Cameron

Erin's daddy sees the colour in everything. Even on the greyest days, they put on their wellies and go splashing in puddles because, Daddy says, 'We can't see rainbows without rain!'But what happens when the greyest day of all comes, and Daddy isn't there any more? Can Erin learn to find colour in the world again?This deeply sensitive picture book about the loss of a parent is the ideal starting point for conversations about love, loss and learning to live again.

4. SNOWY WHITE by Gareth P Jones and Loretta Schauer

Kingsley is the finest cat in the kingdom. How does he know? His crystal ball tells him so!

But one day, the crystal ball has a different story to tell. A new cat by the name of Snowy White has arrived in the kingdom. She’s beautiful . . . she’s kind . . . and Kingsley is determined to get rid of her.

Luckily, though, Snowy gets a helping hand – or seven – from some very special new friends!

The third hilarious title in a fun-filled fairytale series with empowering messages for young readers! Look out for Rabunzel and Cindergorilla

5. MUMMY'S SPECIAL DAY by Fiona Stickley and Carolina Rabei

6. DODOS ARE NOT EXTINCT by Paddy Donnelly

Psst! Hey you! Can you keep a secret? Dodos are NOT extinct!
In fact, if you look extra closely, you might be able to spot other extinct animals . . . like woolly mammoths, saber-toothed tigers, and even dinosaurs in this book! These famous creatures are in disguise everywhere, so keep your eyes peeled! You never know who might be right under your nose...A hilarious, engaging primer on famous extinct—but never forgotten— animals that will keep kids giggling and guessing on every page.

7. ONE CAMEL CALLED DOUGH by Lu Fraser and Sarah Warburton

A warmly reassuring rhyming story (with a fun counting element!) about how it’s ok to need a little alone time, from the author of the award-winning The Littlest Yak.
Doug the camel is all alone and sometimes he wonders whether one is enough (it makes playing hide and seek terribly tough…). So when at first one, then two, then three, then four more camels turn up (followed by a whole camel herd), Doug delights in the possibilities all these new friends bring. But when Doug is ‘all camelled out’ from all the excitement and it's time to count down to bedtime, he takes just as much pleasure from the peace of being alone once again.
Lu Fraser’s warm, funny text is a delight to read out loud and is brilliantly illustrated by Sarah Warburton in the first book from this exciting new picture book partnership.


8. MY MUM IS A LIONESS by Swapna Haddow and Dapo Adeola

Run! Hide! My mum's a lioness and she's on the prowl.

Is Mum a lioness? She loves her 'cubs', she can run faster than anything, and she can catch you in a single pounce for cuddles and kisses. She always makes sure you can hear her incredibly loud, proud roar. What else could Mum be but a lioness?

But sometimes, especially when her young ones are upset or scared, a lovely, warm, protective lioness embrace is just what is needed.

9. YES YOU CAN, COW! by Rashmi Sirdeshpande and Rikin Parekh

Yes, you can, Cow! We believe in you!
READY . . . STEADY . . . GO . . .

It's the Nursery Rhyme's big performance, but Cow is having second thoughts. She's too scared to jump! What if she crashes? Will everyone laugh?

The curtain's almost up and the audience are waiting. Can Cow overcome her fear of failure and become the star of the show?

A gorgeous, heartwarming story about believing in yourself and doing your best based on the ever-popular nursery rhyme 'Hey Diddle Diddle'.

10. EVERY BUNNY IS A YOGA BUNNY by Emily Ann Davison and Deborah Allwright 

Yo-Yo is a fidgety, bouncy, can't-sit-still-EVER type of bunny. Even Grandpa's yoga class won't stop her wiggling and giggling. But what will Yo-Yo do when she finds herself lost and all alone in a shadowy forest? Maybe Grandpa's yoga will help...

With simple step-by-step instructions at the end, children can stretch, feel calm and be a yoga bunny too.

11. TRAINS, TRAINS, TRAINS by Donna David and Nina Pirhonen

Big trains, small trains, short trains, long trains . . . which do you like best? Follow fifty colourful trains as they whizz along tracks and through tunnels – up, down, around and back again! Can you find your favourite?Full of spotting and counting fun, with five trains to find on each page and an exciting fold-out race at the end, this rhyming preschool picture book from Donna David and Nina Pirhonen has been specially developed to encourage pre-reading skills and expand language and vocabulary. With a super-shiny foil cover and fun read-aloud text, Trains Trains Trains! is just the ticket for any transport-obsessed toddler!

12. WHO WILL YOU MEET ON DINOSAUR STREET by Gareth Peter and Tim Budgen

What is that stomping and stamping of feet? 
It looks like a party on Dinosaur Street! 
They’re all in a frenzy and eager to go
To the Fizz-whizzing Flash-tastic Fireworks Show!

Welcome to Dinosaur Street! Home to Flashysaurus, Splashysaurus, Whoops-there’s-been-a Crashysaurus, and a whole host of other loveable characters. With the most energetic rhythm and rhyme this is huge fun to read aloud and will encourage lots of reader engagement. The hilarious Who Will You Meet series is sure to become a repeat-read family favourite.

13. MY MUST-HAVE MUM by Maudie Smith and Jen Khatun

When Jake’s mum upcycles every last thing in the apartment, Jake begins to worry that the only thing left to change is . . . him! 

Jake’s mum is not like most mums. Say there's a skip in the street, most mums will pass right by without a second glance. Not Jake’s mum. “Look at this, Jake!” she'll shout. “We must have this! We must have this, too! And we simply must have this!” That’s Jake’s mum for you. She’s a must-have mum. 

Soon Jake begins to worry that his mum will want to change him too. Should he be this way? Or that way? Or another way altogether?
A heartwarming story about the unbreakable bond between a mother and her son, and a little boy who learns that he is perfect just the way he is.

14. THE RIVER by Tom Percival

Rowan loves the river; it’s just like he is. On some days, it’s quiet and calm, on others it’s light and playful, and then there are the days when it roars along, wild and angry. But when Rowan goes through a particularly difficult winter, the river freezes – just like Rowan. Can Rowan find a way to release his frozen feelings, and allow the river to flow freely once more?

15. AN ARTIST’S EYES, by Frances Tosdevin and Clémence Monnet

In An Artist's Eyes, follow Jo as he journeys through the world of colour and creativity in an empowering story of confidence and imagination.Jo is a little boy who desperately wants to 'see like an artist'.He tries as hard as he can to see things the way Mo the artist does, and when he starts to use his imagination, he realises that the things he can dream up are completely unique.From the autumn oranges of the forest floor to pink and lilac pigeons in flight, Mo teaches Jo to trust his own eyes, and to see like an artist.This is a magical story about the power of imagination and discovering that our individual perspectives make us all artists, and no two artist's eyes are the same. 

16. BE BRAVE, LITTLE ONE by Olivia Hope and Daniel Egnéus

Wake up early, don't be shy.
This bright world can make you FLY . . .

This gorgeous, uplifting picture book celebrates the wildness in all of us, and the beauty of the world all around us. Prepare for a heart-lifting journey through the beauties of nature: from pine forests to awe-inspiring mountains, and from sparkling seas to starry skies, each page is full of wonders. Fly across oceans, run with wolves through the mountain snow, dance with fireflies, and prepare to BE WILD!

With a lyrical text from talented debut author Olivia Hope, and stunning, immersive illustrations by Daniel Egnéus, this stand-out book brims with joy and possibility and makes the perfect gift for any little one.

17. SUNSHINE AT BEDTIME! by Clare Helen Welsh and Sally Soweol Han

Curious Macie notices that the evenings are brighter in summer and wants to know why. Together Mummy and Macie discover the wonder of the Sun, just in time for bed. A beautiful, lyrical and reassuring bedtime story with a double-page spread of non-fiction facts at the end.

18. OLD FRIENDS by Margaret Aitken and Lenny Wen

Paired with colorful and vibrant art by Lenny Wen, Old Friends is an inventive and heartfelt debut picture book that celebrates found family, caregiving, and the value of intergenerational friendships.

Marjorie wants a friend who loves the same things she does: baking shows, knitting, and gardening. Someone like Granny. So with a sprinkle of flour in her hair and a spritz of lavender perfume, Marjorie goes undercover to the local Senior Citizens Group. It all goes well until the Cha-Cha-Cha starts and her cardigan camouflage goes sideways. By being true to herself, Marjorie learns that friends can be of any age if you look in the right places

19. THE BLUE BAGOO by Karl Newson and Andrea Stegmaier

BEWARE the Blue Bagoo! Join in with the detective who is on the trail of this mysterious blue creature in this fun interactive adventure activity book!

A detective tries to uncover the truth about the infamous ‘Blue Bagoo’ – a creature so big and scary that it can’t possibly be made up, can it?

Our detective addresses us – the reader – on the very first page, and then walks the winding cobbled streets of a Dr Suess-esque seaside town, taking statements from the residents.  

The Blue Bagoo proves elusive, but there are traces of its ‘supposed’ image scattered throughout the town. However, as the investigation procedes, there is a critical twist.... 

This is a tale of rumours and fears, that also teaches us a gentle lesson about jumping to conclusions and judging others!

20. BUT WOLVES IN HELICOPTERS by Sarah Tagholm and Paddy Donnelly

Can Hop find a way to escape the wolves in her nightmares, even if they chase her in helicopters? Mummy thinks so...

Every night, Hop has nightmares filled with, scary, hungry-eyed wolves. She knows they only exist in her dreams but they still seem very real. Her mummy comforts her and has some good advice, but will Hop must find her own strength to act it out.

21. STOMPYSAURUS by Rachel Bright and Chris Chatterton

A reassuring tale about coping with overwhelming feelings and frustration, The Stompysaurus is the latest book in the DinoFeelings series by Rachel Bright and Chris Chatterton, creators of The Worrysaurus.

One morning, Stompysaurus wakes from a happy dream, feeling excited for the new day, until things start to go a bit wrong. His brother's being a tease, his breakfast isn't his usual favourite and NOTHING is going right. His STOMPS and ROARS start rising inside him, until they EXPLODE!

But a tricky start doesn't have to mean a stompy finish. Can Stompysurus find a new way of looking at things and turn his day around?

The perfect picture book to help children learn to overcome feelings of anger and annoyance when it seems like everything is going wrong. 

22. I DEFINITELY DO NOT LIKE WINTER by Fiona Barker and Christine Pym

A brilliantly funny picture book about two best friends who just can't agree!

Hank and Hoog are best friends - they do EVERYTHING together.

Until one morning, when a single, crisp, brown leaf falls to the ground...

Hank is so annoyed! Falling leaves mean winter is coming, and Hank definitely does not like winter. BRRRRRRR!

But Hoog is overjoyed! Hoog loves winter - the snow, the snuggles, all of it! AHHHHHHH!

Will these two friends learn to put their differences aside? You bet they will! They may not agree on winter, but there's something they both definitely like: each other.

And there's nothing more important than being best friends.

Monday, 10 January 2022

Extra income stream -and so much more. The value of RLF Fellowships for picture book writers by Juliet Clare Bell


I don’t know about you but I feel really uncomfortable about the money side of writing, and writing-related events (author visits, etc.). I feel very lucky to have an agent who deals with contracts so I don’t have to do the excruciating discussions or negotiations with editors or publishers. Occasionally I do (when it’s a slightly different kind of writing project not covered by my agent) but the less I can have to do with the financial side of it the better. I struggle with the admin for anything but there’s something I find so uncomfortable about sending invoices that it’s enough to make me think twice about taking certain writing events on. And don’t remind me about January 31st tax deadline… (or you probably should, because I forget, many times every day and then have a jolt of remembering and write it down again)

Eek. So talking about finances in a blogpost doesn’t come naturally to me at all, but it’s something we have to do if we’re going to write for our living.

The vast majority of published picture book authors (and other authors) don’t make a living from their books alone, and here is where the RLF (Royal Literary Fund) Fellowship comes into play. I’d heard about RLF Fellowships years ago from my brother-in-law who works in university libraries, and he’d suggested I apply for one. The Royal Literary Fund is a charity that supports authors, and RLF Fellows spend two days a week (during term time) at a university

University of the West of England (UWE)'s Frenchay Campus where I'm one of the RLF Fellows

having one-to-one sessions with students about their writing, and a further half day doing the admin, arranging sessions, writing up reports etc. The RLF provides you with a grant given out at the beginning of each term, and it’s generous enough so you can afford to spend the rest of the week writing -and if you don’t earn anything from your books in that year, you’ll still earn more than the average annual earnings for a writer in the UK (I think that’s around £11000 per annum). So it protects writing time for you, and it’s amazing.

It took me over six years after my brother-in-law suggested it to me for me to pluck the courage to apply. You need to have published at least two or three traditionally-published books (I can’t remember exactly) if you’re an author (if you’re a journalist or playwright, it’s slightly different). I looked at some of the people who had Fellowships and I didn’t see any picture book authors, and many of the writers were well-known and had long lists of awards (in fact, my fellow Fellow at UWE last year had previously won the Costa Novel, Costa Book of the Year, James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and had been on loads of impressive shortlists). It didn’t feel like I was worthy of a Fellowship or that I would be successful if I tried. However, six year after forgetting about it, then remembering (and dismissing it as unrealistic) and forgetting, and remembering (and dismissing etc.), I decided to give it a go.

By the time I applied, I knew quite a few other children’s authors who were doing it, or were about to start (still, none of them picture book writers) and I started my application. Successful Fellows suggested that I be really honest in my application and talk not only about things that had gone well for me with my writing, but things that I’d struggled with (and what I’d learned from my own mistakes and struggles and how that could help students). RLF Writing Fellows work with university students to help them with all aspects of writing so I dug deep and thought about anything personal that I might bring to the sessions with students that related to picture books in particular and writing struggles in general. Preparing the application made me focus on how a really good understanding of picture book structure for me might help me help students with their own assignments (mostly essays) and which aspects of writing I feel I have good insight into and which I find really hard I also thought about what I struggled with in university myself. I actually used to work as an academic in university and the thing that I struggled with the most? Definitely the writing!

I was concerned that I’d been too honest in my application but I was over the moon when I was taken on! Even when I had doubts (over all those years) that I wouldn’t be successful in an application, I knew two things: one, that I would like it, and two (for the couple of years before I dared apply, at least) that I actually did believe I had something to offer to the students and that I could do a good job of it.

If you think that it sounds like something you’d be able to do well, and that you’d enjoy (the challenge of helping each student you see to improve on their own work/find better ways of studying, reading and writing) -and you’re eligible in terms of number of books traditionally published, then I’d highly recommend applying -even if you don’t think there’s a great chance of success. I know now at least two other picture book authors who are doing this and I suspect there are others. It’s got to be worth a try!

What I’ve gained from being an RLF Writing Fellow

There is, of course, the financial side to getting a Fellowship (and it was extremely helpful in lockdown where school visits are very few and far between). There is huge value in that relief of knowing there’s money coming in from your writing-related activities whether or not you sell any books. But there’s so much more to it than that.

Having an RLF Fellowship has allowed me, and continues to allow me, to explore. The RLF is there to support writers and so I am justified in researching things beyond what I might be writing right now and allow myself to play when thinking about what I write and what I want to write. I have read more in the last eight months or so than I have in the previous thirty (where I read very little). It’s given me the freedom to think about everything and how that can all fit into writing and any writing-related activities. The Fellowships are generally for two years (so more writers can benefit from them) and although it’s helped me during my Fellowship, it’s actually changed the way I think about lots of things in relation to what I’m really interested in writing, and how I’d like to write it. The benefits from the freedom to write and know you’re financially secure for those years, and the acknowledgement that this is actually you, a writer -and will continue to be you for the long term will continue for the rest of my life.

In terms of the actual sessions with the students, I love them! I enjoy it even more than I thought I would (and it’s especially good to do in-person sessions after a year of seeing students online from home). I enjoy the fact that I’m put on the spot (which I’ve often hated in the past) but because as a writer, I really do feel like I have something to offer them, it’s an exciting exchange where we explore problems and issues together. I think it has been part of the reason I realised I had ADHD because I had time to stop and examine myself a bit and that I was recognising myself in so many of the students who were struggling with procrastination and starting and finishing things, and easily going off-topic. In fact the things that have held me back for so many years and been really hard (which have turned out to be because of ADHD) are the some of the things that can really help you when working with some of the students. It’s a privilege to be able to work with students and be authentic so you can come up with strategies and suggestions that will help them move forward with their writing and studying. I feel very lucky, and I’ve learned loads from the students and from the sessions.

All my life I’ve struggled with admin and the RLF admin is much less onerous than many other things. Students come with a piece of work you’ve not seen before so you work on it there and then and the appointment system works really well and it sends things out for you without having to understand how it does it. And for the admin that needs to be done? I have my wonderful picture book accountability partner who stays on a skype call, silently, for an hour a week, her working on her stuff, and me on my admin, but I know she’s there so I have to get it done!

There are lots of different ways to earn extra writing-related income. If you genuinely think you’d like working individually with university students to help them improve their writing, and you can really think about how what you write and the way you write and organise your writing life could help them (and you’re in the UK), then do consider applying for an RLF Writing Fellowship -even if you think you might not stand much of a chance. I know the experience has changed me in a really positive way and that it’s affecting what I’m writing and how I’m thinking about writing.

Good luck!


Juliet Clare Bell (always called Clare) has written over thirty picture books and early readers and is working on a young adult novel. She feels very lucky to be working as an RLF Writing Fellow.