2016 : the year in children’s literature

“Wasn’t it good?”

The sound of Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson slide into my ears as I settle down to write this look back at the bookish year, and they’re more of an appropriate soundtrack than I originally thought they were.

2016 has been a year, a whole hefty stomach punch of a year, and yet Elaine and Barbara are right. Despite everything, this year has been good in bookish terms. And maybe, sometimes, when everything is horrible and unfathomable, bookish things are good to hold on to.

In January, the brilliant news came that The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge had won the Costa Prize. The whole thing. The whole damn beautiful thing.

In February, I reviewed the beautiful Mango and Bambang from Polly Faber and Clara Vulliamy. I am a fan of Vulliamy’s genuine, gorgeous art and after reading this from Faber, I was smitten. It’s not often you get books that read like joy, and yet this did. Faber has great things to come in her future.

In March, we lost the wonderful, epochal and beautiful voice of Louise Rennison. Rennison was a writer who got voice and got life and flung in Vikings for good measure. What a wonderful and sorely missed writer.

In May, I wrote about the brilliant Reading Well scheme from the Reading Agency. This list of publications, co-selected with young people, addressed a range of mental health issues and got some smart and considerate and great books to the shelves. In May, I also got to present my research at a conference in Cambridge and MEET KM PEYTON AND SERIOUSLY YES OH MY GOD SHE’S EXACTLY AS WONDERFUL AS YOU WOULD IMAGINE.

In June we witnessed the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway medals going to Sarah Crossan for ‘One’ and Chris Riddell for ‘The Sleeper and The Spindle’. The Carnegie ceremony is something rather wonderful, as is the participation of young readers, and this year also saw the introduction of the Amnesty Honours. We respond to darkness by shining lights, and this was a most welcome addition to the ceremony. June also saw Britain vote to leave the EU and the increasingly painful addition of ‘Brexit’ to everyday conversations (I voted to stay. I will always vote to stay.)

In August I got a bit obsessed with Enid Blyton and began to realise that she was something quite other than what she’s made out to be. Though critique of Blyton is often well grounded and justified, critique is not all she is. August also saw the publication of the first new Harry Potter story in a curious addition to the canon; Harry Potter and the Cursed Child hit the stage, but was also published in a play script format – something I suspect will remain quite unusual within the wider publishing world.

In September, I shared a map of 1000 points where children’s books are set  in England. Excitedly, I’m now submitting funding proposals on working more in this area so fingers crossed I can… (and if you want to talk about this on a professional level, please get in touch..)

In October, I reviewed the latest book by Robin Stephens. Mistletoe and Murder is another brilliant book in a wonderful and increasingly complex series and why these haven’t received all of the rewards, ever, is beyond me. I also reviewed Binny Bewitched by Hilary McKay, and a similar sentiment applies to this book. McKay is heavily overdue the freedom of children’s literature, she is so utterly, continually brilliant. October also saw me a book with awards in its future (I’m looking at you Piers Torday), and basically, it was a GOOD month.

In November, we returned to politics once more (as so much of this year has been defined by it) and I wrote about the dangerous space of children’s literature and  Teen Vogue continued to deliver some of the most searing and responsible and brilliant journalism I’ve ever read.

In December, I launched an appeal for Interesting People. I want to give you space to talk about the things you’re doing with children’s books and my response to the year is this. I will give you space to talk about the things you do and love (and all you need to do is get in touch….)

And so to the one final thing of the year that needs to be mentioned and that is you.

Thank you. 

Thank you for being a  part of this blog (because you are, you really are). I value, immensely, every contribution and response you give me. It is a pleasure to live in this corner of the internet.

Merry Christmas!

(wasn’t it good?)


Articles and programmes and things of interest (oh my!)

I have a couple of EXCELLENT things to share with you in this post, hence … um … this post. I moan a lot about children’s literature getting a less than positive coverage in the media (ie: none) so it is important to acknowledge those moments when it does. And one of these moments  in particular is 30 minutes of the most lovely television I’ve watched for a while (I’m looking right at you Shirley Hughes…)

The Syrian Refugee Crisis : a link roundup

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know how much I believe in the empowerment that children’s literature can bring. Books, literacy and all the skills that come around that are one of the greatest superpowers that we can give children. And, on International Literacy Day, it seems right to acknowledge that through providing a quick round up of links that are relevant to addressing some of the humanitarian issues affecting our world today. To quote Miss Wilson, from my beloved Chalet School series:

“When children reach the teens, they ought to know something of the evils we are fighting against – something of what other children, no older than they, are enduring in the occupied countries. After all, it will be the boys and girls who are now in their early teens who will have to rebuild life, once the war is over. By all means, keep the worst horrors from them. But I do feel that they must learn something of what war in these days of mechanism can mean, so that they can build and work to prevent it ever happening again. From the time they are old enough to understand what starvation and terrorism mean, our children must be taught about them, so that they can see to it that their children shall not go through what so many of the children of the present day are going through!”


“Why fiction can help us understand the Syrian refugee crisis” – Gillian Cross, author of the very good After Tomorrow, talks about how fiction and the refugee experience. Includes a further reading list in the comments of crowd sourced suggestions.

Patrick Ness is spearheading a fundraising campaign for Save the Children.

There’s details here on the library that’s been set up in Calais and here’s another link about the books they’re looking for.

This is a useful FAQ on the Syrian war itself.

14/9 Edit : 12 Children’s books about refugees

The best of 2013 : a look back

Hurrah! It’s that time of year when we look back at the most popular posts on DYESTTAFTSA. In no particular order, here’s the top five most read posts in 2013

1. I was so pleased to be able to share this post with you. It’s an interview with Allan Laville of the University of Reading, all about how children distinguish between fantasy and reality. His work is utterly fascinating, and if you didn’t catch the interview first time round, here’s your second chance.

2.  Following the departure of Amanda Craig from The Times, I wrote about the marginalisation of children’s literature. The full post is available here.

3. Read Your Way Around The UK launched this year! It’s a project that involves finding a book based in every county of the UK. You can read the introductory post here and view the current spreadsheet here. England’s done, and I’m working on the others!

4. In August, I found out the truth about Anne from the Famous Five. You can find out what I mean here.

5. And finally, there’s the post where I told you all some exciting behind the scenes news about me and that.

News and more from this week in the world of children’s literature

Hello! It’s your weekly roundup of Things Which May Be Interesting! As ever, if you’ve got anything that you think should be included, let me know? Enjoy!

1. Nosy Crow features a 20 month old retelling of one of their stories (not as in an old retelling, a retelling by a very young individual!). It’s a fascinating insight into developing literacy and well worth watching. You can see the video and accompanying blog post here.

2. Di Laycock talks about the changing (and unchanging) attitudes towards comics in the classroom. “Keep watering the rocks” also features a very useful looking bibliography if you’re needing to look at using / justifying comics in an educational context.

3. If you’re in Oxford / can get to Oxford on October 12th, you should be going to this conference. The lineup looks amazing, plus you get the chance to make me rampantly jealous. Frankly, it sells itself!

4. This is a lovely, proper lovely, interview with Hilary McKay.

5. I enjoyed this essay: “Disenchanting the fairy godmother : an exploration of the evolution of fairy godmothers in modern retellings of Cinderella.”

6. I am planning things for #kidbkgrp and would welcome your thoughts! You can see more about this here. I’d really welcome your thoughts (and I have great things planned 😉 )

7. This is ace. 22 times when Harry Potter’s bitch face was better than yours. Turns out that the chosen one? He sassy.

8. And finally, it’s very much not from this week but I loved it and wanted to share it, Viviane Schwarz talks about what it feels like to write a picture book. It’s beautiful.

Previous posts in this series are available here. See you next time!

Sunday round-up of news from the world of children’s literature

Gosh, I need to figure out a pithier title for this series of posts! If you have any ideas do let me know? 😉 Here’s some of the things you may have missed from the world of children’s literature this week. Enjoy!
1. Alex T Smith was named as the illustrator for World Book Day 2014. This is genuinely the best of things and if you’d like to know why, have a look at my review of Claude In The Country, or Claude On Holiday or  Egg  Basically he’s really good at what he does. I, for one, am very very excited about this.2. Kate Kelly writes about the rise of ‘Cli-Fi’ (Climate Fiction) over on the Scottish Book Trust: “Cli-Fi : The Fiction of Climate Change”. If you’re after more books in this area, have a look at Playing By The Book’s blog carnival on books about green issues, and my reviews of Saci Lloyd’s climate-dystopias ‘The Carbon Diaries 2015’ and ‘The Carbon Diaries 2017‘.

3. In an article on the Daily Mail, Charlie Higson and Meg Rosoff discuss how to get boys and girls into reading: “Boys V Girls : it’s the battle of the bookworms”

4. There’s a preview of Catherynne M Valente’s new ‘Fairyland’ book: “The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut The Moon In Two” here.

5. BuzzFeed collated some of the best children’s book themed Halloween (or maybe World Book Day? 😉 ) costumes ever. Have a look at them here and adore the brilliance that is the Alice In Wonderland.

6. A new study suggested that the bedtime story was dying out. According to researchers, the average modern day child receives three bedtime stories a week.

7. Over on The Edge, Katie Dale asks whether YA girls are too skinny?

8. And finally, Women Write About Comics talks about female antiheroes here. Though the piece is focusing specifically on TV, there’s a lot of crossover to literature in it.

If you’d like to catch up on previous posts in this series, they’re available here. See you next week!

News, reviews and articles from the world of Children’s Literature

Good morning!  What better way to start a Sunday then with some interesting reading? As ever, DYESTTAFTSA is here to help with the regular round-up of things you may have missed this week from the world of children’s literature.  Enjoy!

  • This is a gorgeous review of Meg Rosoff’s latest – “Picture Me Gone”. Rosoff on writing: “”Be as adventurous as you can! Don’t aim for the middle!”
  • How Stories Help Sick Kids discusses the redemptive and positive power of storytelling. I was struck by the last paragraph (sorry for the spoiler!) where they say that realising “that you can have complete transformation from a single story almost seems too magical to parents, but we do it over and over again.” The skill and transformational impact of storytelling is something to be recognised.
  • Holly Bourne wrote about love in YA fiction for the Huffington Post. Her piece “Are Happily-ever-afters in YA Novels Bad for Teenagers’ Love Lifes?” is excellent. 
  • Birmingham Library opened – and it’s GORGEOUS. Have a look at the pretty here.
  • I know it’s a Daily Mail link (sorry), but the research it refers to is really interesting “Picture books DO boost literacy”, and the original press release is available here.
  • And finally, the BEST thing in the world is happening which I am VERY excited about. The Federation of Children’s Book Groups are holding a festival in Birmingham on November 9th. I am going. You should too! You’ll get to see Micheal Morpurgo, Clara Vulliamy, David Almond, James Mayhew, Emma Chichester Clark and get to spend the day with some very booky very amazing people. What’s not to love?

If you’d like to view previous posts in this series, they’re available here. See you next time!