Monday 27 February 2023

World Book Day's Profound Purpose, by Pippa Goodhart

This is the week of World Book Day when a large portion of the world enables and celebrates reading for pleasure for everyone. YAY! for something really, really good happening across the world.

I wonder if you recognise the fairy tale castle below? 


It isn’t from fiction. It’s from real life. It’s The Peace Palace. What better thing to build a palace for?! It’s in The Hague in The Netherlands, and it was purpose built to house The International Court of Justice. (Not the International Criminal Court, also in The Hague, but the International Court of Justice.) 

Few people know about the ICJ because its job is to prevent the sort of events that make the biggest frontline news. It works in a similar way to other courts. Those who disagree present their cases, and a panel of judges decides the correct legal outcome. But these are international disputes, from boundary quarrels to determining how formula milk should be promoted, and even deciding the law governing Space. Those judgements can prevent potential wars from boiling into reality.  I’m proud to say that my lovely Daddy, Robbie Jennings, was an international lawyer working on cases at The Peace Palace for many years. In time he became the British judge on a team of fifteen judges, and then President of the Court.

What is the relevance of all that to World Book Day? Well, I’ve just learned that World Book Day was begun by, and is organised by, the United Nations, as is the International Court of Justice. Both, in their very different ways, share the same vital aims. Secretary-General of the UN, Antonio Guterres, says –

‘In the end, it comes down to values. We want the world our children inherit to be defined by the values enshrined in the UN Charter: peace, justice, respect, human rights, tolerance and solidarity.


I’m very chuffed to be the author of one of this year’s £1 World Book Day books; You Choose Your Adventure. As with the other, bigger, You Choose picture books, it is Nick Sharratt’s wonderful pictures which most obviously achieve here those aims of us all sharing our world fairly and kindly and imaginatively, at the same time as having fun. The world needs more fun, and it needs young people with fertile imaginations. 


So, here is some happy mixing of different kinds of children and different kinds of adventure. Enjoy!





Last year fifty million £1 World Book Day book tokens were given to children in the UK, with over two million books gifted in exchange for them. One in seven the children getting those books didn’t previously own a book. 


For full information about all the World Book Day books on offer, and the events and activities also there be enjoyed, see World Book Day 2023


And watch out for further You Choose news to come a bit later this year!  


Monday 20 February 2023

WHAT MAKES A SUCCESS? • By Natascha Biebow


Are You Successful? How can you tell?
Who is to say what SUCCESS looks like – your audience?
Your family or your friends? Readers, librarians, parents? YOU?


You are an ARTIST and you must make your ART.  You have no choice, because when you make art, you feel fulfilled, joyful even;  when you do not, you feel as if an art-shaped hole has opened up. But that little voice niggles – is there more? Have I made it yet?


When weighing up success, a children’s book creator’s narrative might go something like this:


By virtue of its very meaning, success is the shifting sands of life. The word originates from the late 14th century word ‘succeden, meaning "come next after, follow after another; take the place of another . . .’


So, in words sometimes attributed to Winston Churchill, but which are likely also an amalgamation of other earlier writings:


“Success is Not Final, Failure is Not Fatal:

It is the Courage to Continue that Counts.”


When thinking about whether you are successful as a creator, it is all too easy to look around and compare yourself to others. FOMO can be paralysing!


For me, it’s the authors who are prolific, who already have multiple book deals on the back of their debuts and seem to be thriving, according to their social media posts. Will I ever be like them?


It can be paralysing, and make you breathless. Goals are always shifting – you make one and when you reach it, there’s another goal and that’s the one that you feel you must aim for. And so on . .  . You can feel there should be something more, something is missing, sometimes even that perhaps you aren’t enough.


External markers of success are everywhere, but there is a key mindset shift we can choose that will make all the difference. Deep breath . . .


Don't Believe Everything You Think . . . You can change (and maybe even control)
Your Perceptions of What Success REALLY is!

Re-defining success:


Rather than looking at external markers, we can try to focus instead on the internal meaning of success. Consider: What does success mean for you personally, and what connections can you make with your art and your audience?


ACCEPT: You’ll Never Climb the Last Mountain – there will always be another goal.


When you accept that creating is a series of goals,
and when you’re prepared to redefine these as you go along,
you can enjoy the process and celebrate each achievement. This is success.


There will always be another mountain, another goal . . .

OPEN YOUR EYES to the World and Create Opportunities: Try and fail and BE BRAVE!


When you try your best, even if it doesn’t result in the end goal, you can feel proud of having tried. This is success.


Connect with others and share your work – whether it’s a rough draft or storytime with an audience, this outreach will bring you joy and fulfilment. This is success.


Give generously. When you help others, they will want to help you. This is success.


Learn new things every day.


Take responsibility for creating opportunities by connecting with others, showing up for your writing or illustrating and being pro-active at learning your craft - you’ll find that you naturally become more successful.




When you remember your passion, WHY you make art, you can tap into your talent and truth and be grateful for what you can create and share with the world. That is success.



Saying no is part of establishing boundaries that enable you to create successfully.


Having the courage to focus on yourself and to feed your creativity through self-care (even if it means doing nothing), is an important part of creating space to make meaningful art.


Celebrate small victories. Take time to appreciate your efforts, no matter how small, and yourself. That is success.




Perseverance is a crucial part of success.  If you Believe You CAN, you are much more likely to succeed.


If you tap into your passions – the reasons only YOU can tell this story – the book you create will resonate with children and shine beautifully. That is success.



Find joy in the things that
are working, that you have in your life, rather than those that are missing. If you view life through the eyes of abundance, it will deliver success - perhaps in new, unexpected joyful ways.


Natascha Biebow, MBE, Author, Editor and Mentor

Natascha is the author of the award-winning The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons, illustrated by Steven Salerno, winner of the Irma Black Award for Excellence in Children's Books, and selected as a best STEM Book 2020. Editor of numerous prize-winning books, she runs Blue Elephant Storyshaping, an editing, coaching and mentoring service aimed at empowering writers and illustrators to fine-tune their work pre-submission, and is the Editorial Director for Five Quills. Find out about her new picture book webinar courses! She is Co-Regional Advisor (Co-Chair) of SCBWI British Isles. Find her at

Monday 13 February 2023

Books Are Launch Pads...with Mini Grey

We know that books are masters of disguise and can be many things. And one of them is – a launch pad, a starting place for new things. This week I want to look a little bit at the making-projects in schools that books can inspire.

But first: I’m going to get into my time machine and zoom back to being 6 years old.

What are my strongest memories from primary school?

Well, there is:

µ helping make a lunar command module clad with tin foil with toothpaste tube top controls when I was in Mrs Alexander’s Class (it was big enough for us to sit in); 

µ making my own royal crown and being William III in Mrs Wall’s Class (and thus remembering forever the dates 1689 – 1702);

µ and, also I think in Mrs Alexander’s class, making my Christmas Lunch Hat* but not putting my name on it -  and then seeing a girl called Karen wearing it at the actual lunch. Which is when I learned a hard lesson about putting my name on things, and also became very suspicious for several years about girls called Karen.

*OK you may be thinking of an amazing hat of piled up sprouts and Christmas pudding but it was just a hat to eat the lunch in.

But what those memories have in common is that they all involve making things.

Response and responding

As a picture book maker/illustrator, what I’m doing a lot is responding; responding to words with pictures, responding to pictures with words., and generally playing with the words & pictures dynamic double act.

As an author who was once a teacher, what I just adore is when teachers in schools use my stories as launch pads for their own projects and investigations.

Children engaged in outdoors activitied inspired by The Last Wolf.

Books in Schools

Though Twitter has been flagging a bit lately, it is a brilliant way to be in touch with schools, and see what children have been doing and making. Below are some tweets about activities inspired by Egg Drop, The Last Wolf and Traction Man.

Sometimes knowing a story well can gives you a familiar structure to improvise around. It gives you a model to copy but make your own. Claire Williams is an amazing and inspiring teacher who took Hermelin as a starting place. Children used the Hermelin story structure for extended writing with a partner.

From Hermelin the Sequel - set in a perfect mystery location -  on board a cruise ship

 From The story of Pringle the Detective Eagle

Tiddles the Detective Corgi, set in Buckingham Palace.

Again - a fantastic setting for a detective story  - and we see what's going on in all the rooms - I particularly like the King organising his pants collection.

On the 5th January this year, as the children returned to school at Charles Darwin Community Primary School in Cheshire, they discovered a meteor had crashed in the school playground. And this was the beginning of a whole school project inspired by my book The Greatest Show on Earth. The children responded by making poetry and art, but were picking up the science themes along the way.

Here's that crashed meteor.

Each year group was given a particular geological era to focus on, and the project culminated in a full-scale exhibition of the work made by the children, including spectacular sculptures of prehistoric plants and animals, artwork and poetry.

Ice Age animals and a big blue whale

Entering the Carboniferous Era - about 350 million years ago

A Carboniferous waterfall where plants explore the land, and insects get to grow big.

Dino sculptures, DNA, jellyfish and carnivorous plants.

Read all about it in this article in the Northwich Guardian!

Cheshire was too far away for me to be able to visit, but I got to meet the children several times with good old Zoom, and I was given a virtual Zoom tour - it was really like exploring Earth's history phase by phase, and very atmospheric. What an incredible achievement by everyone involved. Speaking to the Northwich Guardian, head Adam Croft said: "I hadn't thought anyone could be more wide-eyed than our children when they first explored the interactive work, but adult visitors were possibly even more blown away."

So it's worth remembering that making things takes persistence and hard work - but the rewards are pride and ownership, and a deeper connection with the content involved.

The satisfaction of having made something.

I was lucky enough to be sent a copy of his book Art Shaped by Darrell Wakelam. Darrell's book draws from his huge experience of 3D making wth children, usually using waste cardboard. There is a guide to core methods for building models – and this gives children a chance to build up a 3D making repertoire and engage in thinking in three dimensions.

Lovely ideas for science and the natural world projects from Art Shaped.

Using making to investigate skeletons and ecosystems.

Maybe there aren’t so very many opportunities in school to make longer term messy projects. Immersed  in the world of the virtual, we can get out of touch with real materials, and how they’re unpredictable and don’t necessarily do what you want them to the first time. I remember, making a picture with real paint after doing a lot of working on a computer tablet, feeling a perplexed moment when I couldn’t undo the last thing I did, and take that paint away again. The virtual world isn’t messy and sticky and doesn’t involve much tidying up afterwards. But when you make a thing, the satisfaction lasts as a joy you can return to forever.

Dunkleosteus from The Greatest Show on Earth

 And whoaa!! – most brilliant of all – Darrell was inspired by my book to make his own 3D Greatest Show monster armoured placoderm! 

Darrell's fantastic riveted monster fish
Watch Darrell make it here:

Darrell's Website

You make a book and that’s where you think you finish -  but that’s where the book’s new life begins: as a springboard, a model, a launch pad, to be used to blast off to new discoveries.

 Mini’s latest book is The Greatest Show on Earth, published by Puffin.