Monday 24 January 2022

Ask yourself a question: Why would I buy this book? By Moira Butterfield

It’s daunting, isn’t it, looking at all the picture books out there. How is it possible to get any success in such a crowded market? Well, it’s true that it IS very crowded. There’s no getting away from it. So how are you going to catch the attention of publishers and the public, assuming that you aren’t already a celebrity? 


I think the best way is to plough your own furrow with a really strong idea that you feel passionate about. Only then will you create something that people will want to buy and use with their children. It’s a good exercise to rigorously examine your concept from the point of view of an agent, editor and buyer. 


Ask yourself – How does your idea stand out from everything else already on the shelves? Why would a member of the public want to buy it, out of all the others on sale? 


Will it stand out as a strong concept? Take a look at Amazon and have a stroll around the bookshops to spot your type of book. Is your concept already out there big-time? Now it’s true you might do quite a generic concept really well – say a sentimental ‘I love you to the Moon and back’ type of book  - but the chances are it could end up looking like a lot of other books in the same vein and it might sink into the bookshop background unless you’re a big name. 

This book really stands out as unusual and looks a lot of fun. It was super-successful. 

This concept is clear at first glance. It's great for bedtime. 

 Is it going to appeal to enough people? Say you want to write a book that has a strong didactic message. I’d be very careful how you did that because most parents want a safe ride and a fun read when they pick up a book, which is why they would buy trustworthy Julia Donaldson over something that looks as if it might be browbeating. You’re going to need to think about how to make your message appeal to your audience, not put them off.  


This is a great example of a 'message' topic done well. It's about telling a child to control their bad behaviour but it's handled in a really fun way that stands out. It definitely doesn't look preachy. 

 Will people think: “This book is going to be usable by me and my kids over and over again so I’ll buy it!” BLOG KLAXON: At this point I’m going to use one of my upcoming books as an example, I hope, of a thought-through concept. It’s Grandma’s Story – illustrated by Salvatore Rubbino and published by Walker on May 5th


The cover 

The first spread 


This idea came from hanging out with my great-niece alongside my elderly parents. What unbelievably different childhoods they all had! Yet by the time my great-niece would be old enough to think about asking them questions would they still be around? I’d never asked my own grandparents anything about their early lives and regretted it. Added to that my great-niece would soon go to school, where she would immediately do ‘history’. How would she even know what that was? I set about creating a picture book that would connect kids to the grown-ups around them in a practical way that would really work. The artist and I have both put some of our own family history backgrounds into the book, which I hope gives it integrity. 


So I knew this was a concept that people would really be able to benefit from. It thought it would  appeal to a lot of people and I could see there wasn't another book like it. My agent and publisher agreed and so it is about to make it onto the shelves, where I hope the public will also notice it and agree. 


 Is your concept strong enough to persuade an agent/editor to sign up your book? You should resolve that before you approach them – marshalling your reasons so you can be as confident as you can be. 


Oh, and you’ll need to write it, obviously... Good luck! 


Moira Butterfield
twitter @moiraworld 
instagram @moirabutterfieldauthor






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.