Friday, 25 March 2016

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Ali Benjamin - The Thing About Jellyfish - Book Review

It's peculiar how no-words can be better than words. How silence can say more than noise, or a person's absence can occupy even more space than their presence did. 
Suzy is 12 when her best friend, Franny, drowns one summer at the beach. It takes two days for the news to reach Suzy, and it's not something that she can accept: Franny has always been a strong swimmer, from the day they met in swim class when they were just 5. How can someone all of a sudden, just no longer be there?
Suzy realizes that they must have got it wrong: Franny didn't just drown - she was stung by a poisonous jellyfish. This makes a lot more sense to Suzy's logical mind than a random drowning - cause: a jellyfish sting; effect: death. 
Suzy's journey to acceptance is quiet - she resolves to either say something important, or say nothing at all. But it's also bursting with bittersweet humour, heart-breaking honesty, big ideas and small details.

Suzy is haunted by the loss of her former best friend due to a final argument that passed between them before she died. As a result, she retreats into the silent world of her own imagination. This is a thought provoking and striking read which will make you think from the very first footprints that you take into this brilliant and creative plot. The narrative strikes a natural voice deep inside your head and heart; you will easily be drawn into the mindset of a child. The main character makes a number of incredibly painful and socially awkward choices which leaves the reader with much to talk and think about. 

Suzy embarks on a quirky plan to prove the truth about Franny's death. There might be another and more logical solution to her best friend's death, rather than it being a random drowning. The deep fascination for jellyfish in this book sparkles and shines its way to the heart of the book. This part of the book is written exceptionally well. Science and logic is used factually, in a detective sort of way, to prove a theory which is really well researched and works very well, in my opinion. It makes this book a magical experience for me and stands out to everyone who reads it. The thought process and the character's journey is heartbreaking and truly gripping to read. 

I read this book in super quick time as it's a wonderful book for 8+ age. It is one that would be amazingly good to read out loud in a classroom or book group, so that everyone can talk about it and discuss the topics within the book. It's sensitively told through a strong and believable main character. This debut story focuses on acceptance, despair, grief and wonder. It is a fantastic read for anyone who has suffered the loss of a loved one, especially from the perspective of a child. It is not depressing, but shines with a deep undercurrent of hopefulness and has some uplifting moments of humour. 

This book pulsates like a jellyfish; the beating transparent heart will resonate deep into your fantasy brain and stay with you for a very long time. It's very sad through its brutal and honest look at friendship and family. It is an extraordinary view of the world through the eyes of Suzy, as she realises that life can be scary, but if you look hard enough there's also beauty there too.

This is another brilliant read and is Mr Ripley's recommended read for March 2016. It is published by Macmillan Children's books and is available now. Thank you to Macmillan for sending this to me to review...

How can someone all of sudden, just no longer be there? 

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Press Release: Simon & Schuster Children's Books - Commissioned Two Middle Grade Fiction Anthologies!

Holiday Ha Ha Ha! and Winter Magic, both to publish in 2016.

Get ready to laugh your summer socks off with Holiday Ha Ha Ha! The collection contains eight sunny, funny reads from bestselling authors Steve Cole, Joanna Nadin, Jeremy Strong, William Sutcliffe, Steven Butler, Candy Harper and Jonathan Meres. David Solomons, whose debut children's book, My Brother is a Superhero, won the Waterstones Children's Book Prize 2016, is also a contributor.

From disastrous car journeys to super-powered grannies to gruesomely funny ghost hunters there's something for everyone in this side-splitting anthology. The cover is illustrated by Jamie Littler, known for his illustrations in Danny Wallace's children's books Hamish and the WorldStoppers and Hamish and the Neverpeople.

Holiday Ha Ha Ha! publishes in paperback, 30 June 2016.

Poised for Christmas, Abi Elphinstone, author of The Dreamsnatcher and The Shadow Keeper has curated and contributed to a gorgeous collection of wintery stories in Winter Magic, featuring ice queens, frost fairs, snow dragons and pied pipers. Classic children's writers Michelle Magorian, Michelle Harrison, Geraldine McCaughrean, Jamila Gavin, Berlie Doherty, Katherine Woodfine, Piers Torday, Lauren St John, Amy Alward and Emma Carroll have created an unmissable, enchanting treat of a collection.

Abi Elphinstone has worked as a teacher in the UK and Africa, and is now a full time author and explorer. She volunteers for Beanstalk, and runs the children's book blog Elphinstone says: 'I truly believe that the calibre of books being published for 8-12 year-olds at the moment is outstanding. The adventures are vast, the sense of wonder is unparalleled and I am so excited that a portion of this brilliance will be captured in Simon & Schuster's Winter Magic anthology.'

Winter Magic publishes in hardback, 3 November 2016.
Combined sales for contributors to both anthologies amount to nearly 7 million since records began.

Holiday Ha Ha Ha! and Winter Magic are the first anthologies of this kind to be published by S&S Children's. Each anthology showcases the finest UK authors currently writing middle grade fiction.
Conceived in-house, S&S hold world rights to both anthologies.

Jane Griffiths, Senior Commissioning Editor for fiction says:
'Whether it's stories that have children laughing out loud or magical tales that transport them to another time and place, the appetite for fantastic middle grade books has never been higher. Here at Simon & Schuster we wanted to celebrate the wealth of talent in the UK writing for this age group. These two anthologies bring together some of the most-loved authors writing today and we're absolutely thrilled with both collections.'

Alexandra Maramenides, Managing Director, S&S Children's says:

'I am delighted to announce these two anthologies on the Simon & Schuster list. The collections champion middle grade children's authors in the UK, and I am thrilled that we have brought together such a talented mix of writers.'

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Favourite Book Picks: Children's/Teens - April 2016 - UK Post One

Georgia Pritchett - Wilf the Mighty Worrier is King of the Jungle - Published by Quercus Children's Books (7 April 2016)


1) Fish sucking his toes when he goes for a paddle 
2) Garden gnomes coming to life 
3) Losing his 'How to Stop Worrying' leaflet
Things Wilf is worried about now:
1) Alan coming on holiday with him
2) Alan raising an army of terrifying animals in his quest for world domination
3) Being the only person who can stop Alan. As usual.

Shane Hegarty - Chaos Descends (Darkmouth, Book 3) - Published by HarperCollins Children's Books (7 April 2016)
The third book in the monstrously funny and action-packed Darkmouth series. It’s going to be legendary.
The adventures of the most unfortunate Legend Hunter ever to don fighting armour and pick up a desiccator continue…
Finn's been through so much, he'll now be allowed do what he wants with the rest of his life, right? Wrong.
Whether he likes it or not, he's going to be made a proper Legend Hunter. But then suddenly people start disappearing, Legends are appearing where they shouldn't, Broonie's complaining, and an attack so big is coming that Finn has the weight of the world on his shoulders.

Dave Rudden - Knights of the Borrowed Dark (Knights of the Borrowed Dark Book 1) - Published - Puffin (7 April 2016) - See book review here.

The first book in a new series about an orphan boy who discovers he is part of a secret army that protects the world from a race of shadowy monsters.

Grey placed his finger in the middle of the shadow.
'What's this?' he asked.
Denizen frowned. 'It's a shadow.'
'No, it isn't,' Grey said. 'It's a door.'
Denizen Hardwick doesn't believe in magic - until he's ambushed by a monster created from shadows and sees it destroyed by a word made of sunlight.
That kind of thing can really change your perspective.
Now Denizen is about to discover that there's a world beyond the one he knows. A world of living darkness where an unseen enemy awaits.
Fortunately for humanity, between us and the shadows stand the Knights of the Borrowed Dark.
Unfortunately for Denizen, he's one of them . . .

Andrew Lane - Night Break (Young Sherlock Holmes) Published by  Macmillan Children's Books (7 April 2016)

Sherlock's mother has died, his father has disappeared in India and his sister is acting strangely. The Holmes family seems to be falling apart, and not even brother Mycroft can keep it together. But while Sherlock is worrying about all of this, a man living nearby vanishes in his own house while Sherlock and Mycroft are visiting. Where did he go, and what is the connection with a massive canal being built in Egypt? The answer will rock the world, and tear the Holmes family apart!

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children Official Trailer (2016) Eva Green Fantasy Movie HD

Really looking forward to Tim Burton's latest offering, Ransom Riggs Ya fantasy book "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" which has been made into a epic looking movie by the man behind Edward Scissorhands and Big Fish. The only problem, we will have to wait until September 30th to see it. 

When Jacob discovers clues to a mystery that spans different worlds and times, he finds Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. But the mystery and danger deepen as he gets to know the residents and learns about their special powers.


 Tim Burton


 Jane Goldman (screenplay),  Ransom Riggs (novel) 


 Eva Green,  Ella Purnell,  Asa Butterfield  

Monday, 21 March 2016

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Guest Post - Eugene Lambert - The Sign of One (Electric Monkey)

When somebody asks what my novel, The Sign Of One, is about - I start out by telling them it’s a ‘twins are evil story, with a twist!’ If they don’t back away, or start babbling about the weather in an attempt to steer the conversation to safer subjects, I gleefully elaborate. It’s the first in a science-fiction trilogy for Young Adult readers, I say, set on a world called Wrath where identical twins are considered evil. Only one twin is human, the other a monster with ‘twisted blood.’ But how to tell them apart? 

Sooner or later, I always get asked the question: ‘How did you come up with that then?’ Well, one answer is because I am an identical twin so it really was the clichéd case of ‘write what you know.’ Another answer is ‘because I had to!’ But the real answer is because of a silly t-shirt!

I’ve always been a twin, apart from fifteen minutes of temporary uniqueness before the midwife was heard to say: ‘Hang on, Mrs. Lambert, there’s another one coming out!’ Martin joined me out in the world, and ‘I’ became ‘we.’ That’s how I grew up, as one of ‘the twins.’ And I wouldn’t change it for the world. You got noticed. You were fussed over. You’re different (by not being different), but in a good way. We were so alike that in older pictures of us, your guess as to who’s who is as good as mine. But as we grew up, we both started to notice that people are not just fascinated by identical twins but also challenged by them. There seemed at time almost a desperation to be able to tell us apart, and an urge to deny our similarities. Which one of you is the clever one? (Martin, sadly, but only by a hair!) No, you’re a bit taller/thinner/, aren’t you? Personally, I think that identical twins freak people out because they confront them with questions of difference and identity, and nature vs. nurture. 

Anyway, in 2011 I had completed a very different middle-grade manuscript (World War One, airships) and had half-heartedly tried to secure representation and get it published. Alas, no joy. All was not lost, however, as this played its part in getting me onto the excellent MA in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University. The major output from said programme is a completed manuscript, in my case to be written over two part-time years. So that’s the ‘I had to’ part of the answer, and illustrates the miraculous and mysterious role that deadlines play in inspiration! 

This leaves the t-shirt. A few months before I started the MA, it was getting towards ‘our’ birthday and I was on the lookout for a present for Martin. In Oxford’s covered market (I think) I saw a shop selling t-shirts emblazoned with witty messages. One had the line: ‘I can’t remember if I’m the good twin or the evil one.’ I bought us each one, mine in blue, Martin’s in black. And to cut a long story short that set me thinking. 

What is this about one twin being good, the other evil? Could there be a world where that was actually the case? So when I had to come up with an idea for my MA manuscript, the ‘evil twin’ premise popped into my head … 

Of course, like any book, The Sign of One is riddled with many other inspirations. For a start, I wanted to write science fiction. When I was a Young Adult reader (not that YA had been invented yet) I was a massive fan of science fiction, in particular the older ‘pulp’ stories with bug-eyed women and scantily-clad monsters1 and rocket ships, etc. The delicious sense of wonder, the thrilling adventures, the glimpses of weird alien worlds, these books lifted me out of my mundane growing-up-in-the-Midlands life. 

And then there were the original Star Wars films, the seismic SF event of my youth. Need I say more? No, but I will. Although I had enjoyed Star Trek, I absolutely loved Star Wars (and the slightly later Alien). Why so? Because these movies pioneered the gritty end of the ‘sliding scale of shiny versus gritty’, the so-called ‘Used Future’ trope. The spaceships were rusty and battered, and so were the hard-bitten characters that flew them. In other words, even though it was SF everything felt more real. And, for me, this is so-o-o-o important. To give you one final example: Aliens. Apart from the clever plotting that allows this sequel movie to pick up from where the excellent Alien left off, the thing I still rave about to this day is how the Marines go into the colony all macho only to get their butts well and truly kicked. And then they’re scared. Not square-jawed and stoic, but really scared. Shitting-themselves scared, like you or I would be!

There are also more recent sources of inspiration lurking within the pages of The Sign of One. During my MA, I read plenty of mind-blowing contemporary YA and that inspired me. Think Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking trilogy, Moira Young’s Blood Red Road, Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy, and so forth. I could go on and on, but I won’t. 

Thing is, I have another book to write… 

Eugene Lambert

THE SIGN OF ONE, which will be published on the 7th April 2016, published by Egmont's Electric Monkey Imprint..... Grab a copy and read it......

Friday, 18 March 2016

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Children's/Teenage US Published Book Picks For March 2016 - Post Two

Brandon Mull - Death Weavers (Five Kingdoms Bk4) - Published by Aladdin (March 15, 2016)
Cole is about to face his biggest peril yet.
Since arriving in the Outskirts, Cole and his friends have fought monsters, challenged knights, and battled rampaging robots. But none of that has prepared them for Necronum.
In this haunting kingdom, it’s hard to tell the living from the dead, and secret pacts carry terrifying risks. Within Necronum lies the echolands, a waystation for the departed where the living seldom venture.
Still separated from his power, Cole must cross to the echolands and rely on his instincts to help rescue his friends. With enemies closing in, Cole risks losing everything to find the one thing that might save them.

Ted Sanders - The Keepers #2: The Harp and the Ravenvine - Published by HarperCollins Children's (March 1, 2016) 
Horace F. Andrews, Keeper of the fabled Box of Promises, knows that nothing is impossible. After all, he has the ability to see into the future, and his friend Chloe can walk through walls. But before either of them can master their Tan'ji--their talismans of power--a new threat looms over all Keepers, and they must prepare to battle their eternal enemies--the Riven.

Far away, drawn by an irresistible summons, a mysterious girl is making her way to the Warren, the Keeper stronghold. She wears the Ravenvine and is learning to wield its fascinating power; but this Tan'ji is damaged. There's no telling what will happen to the instrument or its Keeper if it cannot be made whole again. April's journey is long and dangerous, with strange new companions at her side and a pack of sinister hunters tracking her. Will she reach the Warren in time, and is it a safe haven, or will it offer only more danger?

Ted Sanders's magical series began with The Box and the Dragonfly and continues with this powerful sequel that expands the extraordinary world of the Keepers, where nothing is ever ordinary and three words rule: Curiosity. Discovery. Possibility.

Marina Cohen - The Inn Between - Published by Roaring Brook Press (March 22, 2016) 
Eleven-year-old Quinn has had some bad experiences lately. She was caught cheating in school, and then one day, her little sister Emma disappeared while walking home from school. She never returned.
When Quinn's best friend Kara has to move away, she goes on one last trip with Kara and her family. They stop over at the first hotel they see, a Victorian inn that instantly gives Quinn the creeps, and she begins to notice strange things happening around them. When Kara's parents and then brother disappear without a trace, the girls are stranded in a hotel full of strange guests, hallways that twist back in on themselves, and a particularly nasty surprise lurking beneath the floorboards. 

Andrew Brumbach - The Eye Of Midnight - Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers (March 8, 2016)
A cross between Indiana Jones and The DaVinci Code for kids, you won’t be able to put down this classic adventure set in 1920s New York City with an Arabian twist!
On a stormy May day in 1929, William and Maxine arrive on the doorstep of Battersea Manor to spend the summer with a grandfather they barely remember. Whatever the cousins expected, Colonel Battersea isn’t it.
     Soon after they settle in, Grandpa receives a cryptic telegram and promptly whisks the cousins off to New York City so that he can meet an unknown courier and collect a very important package. Before he can do so, however, Grandpa vanishes without a trace. 
     When the cousins stumble upon Nura, a tenacious girl from Turkey, she promises to help them track down the parcel and rescue Colonel Battersea. But with cold-blooded gangsters and a secret society of assassins all clamoring for the same mysterious object, the children soon find themselves in a desperate struggle just to escape the city’s dark streets alive.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Eugene Lambert - The Sign of One (Sign of One 1) - Book Review

One for sorrow, two for death…
On Wrath, a dump-world for human outcasts, identical twins are feared. Only one will grow up human, while the other becomes a condemned monster with ‘twisted’ blood.
When sixteen-year-old Kyle is betrayed, he flees for his life with the help of Sky, a rebel pilot with trust issues. As the hunt intensifies, Kyle soon realises that he is no ordinary runaway – although he has no idea why he warrants this level of pursuit.

Here is the first book in an exciting new trilogy, THE SIGN OF ONE, which will be published on the 7th April 2016. Published by Egmont's Electric Monkey Imprint with book two, INTO THE NO-ZONE & and book three hopefully following 9-12 months apart. This is the first gallop into Eugene's fantasy mind; a dystopian adventure that will gravitate you towards a barbaric world known as the world of Wrath. So welcome one and all to the world of Wrath......

It's a place like no other in the fantasy universe. The setting is pitch perfect; a bleak scene of neglect and isolation, where the dregs of humanity were evacuated a long time ago. What adventures lie within this world when most things here are out to kill you, even the wildlife? As you move around and through this brilliant plot you may want to keep your whits about you, as you may get caught up in the deadly grasp of the longthorn trees, with deadly finger length barbs. I would always recommend you stay well away from the 'razor' grass - I'm sure you don't really need me to tell you why. 

The theme of this book is that twins are seen as evil. As Eugene (the author) is a twin, I'm not sure who is the evil one at home, but in this book you are sentenced to death. This brings about an interesting and thought provoking question with results that will surprise the readers, especially later on in the story. However, say no more "Mr Ripley" I hear you shout - we will have no spoilers here. The book does have a feeling of Mad Max which the press release identified and, for once, I agree with this comparison, but it is definitely not similar to Hunger Games, in my humble opinion.

The main character Kyle was not the best character for me in this book. I never really identified with him as well as I would have liked, maybe it was his weaker personality. However, the other characters were brilliant and Sky, a fiercely independent  glider pilot, has been written particularly well. I really wanted the best for her, as she was really likeable. I wanted to find out more about her and her past life. She is the great battler of the narrative with her own hidden agenda which swung their reluctant adventure along some great twists and turns. 

This book is basically a Sci-fi collision of all of Eugene's favourite films from his younger days which have been thrown into a fantasy melting pot and, to me, it really works. I really loved reading this wonky and not so perfect world of flying machines as well as robotic destructive machines. The characters have to survive the best that they can by foraging and scavenging though the industrial forgotten landscape which is all very atmospheric. Written with a very real like quality,  you will be really captivated to read the story for this reason alone. I believe that this is the best Young Adult read so far this year... It is a great start to a trilogy and probably the best that I have read in a long time, so well done Eugene, this book has lived up to my expectations. 

One for SORROW, Two for Death and Three for Readers JOY! 
Author's guest post will follow next week, make sure you check that out as well! 

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Press Release: CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Shortlists Books 2016

In a shortlist of novels thick with secrets and lies, Patrick Ness vies to be the first ever author to win the Carnegie Medal three times. Ness’s The Rest of Us Just Live Here follows the lives and loves of a group of teenagers and faces tough competition from Frances Hardinge’s Costa Book of the Year winnerThe Lie Tree, in which a young Victorian girl uses lies to find the truth behind her father’s murder, and Robin Talley’s debut, Lies We Tell Ourselves, which sees two teen girls fall in love across the race divide in 1950s America. Joining them on the shortlist are Nick Lake’s There Will Be Lies in which a teenage girl is forced to re-evaluate her identity, Jenny Valentine’s Fire Colour One which explores questions of authenticity and honesty, and Kate Saunders’s Five Children on the Western Front which looks at the reality of conflict and the impact of the First World War on a single family. Marcus Sedgwick’s The Ghosts of Heaven, four interlinking stories on the search for the true meaning of life, and Sarah Crossan’s One, a tale of conjoined twins which explores notions of individuality, complete the Carnegie shortlist for 2016.
The CILIP Carnegie Medal 2016 shortlist in full (alphabetically by author surname):

  • One by Sarah Crossan (Bloomsbury)
  • The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge (Macmillan)
  • There Will Be Lies by Nick Lake (Bloomsbury)
  • The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness (Walker Books)
  • Five Children on the Western Front by Kate Saunders (Faber)
  • The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick (Indigo)
  • Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley (MiraInk)
  • Fire Colour One by Jenny Valentine (HarperCollins)
At the heart of the Kate Greenaway Medal shortlist, awarded for outstanding illustration in a book for children, is a three-way face-off between former Children’s Laureate Anthony Browne, current Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell and Helen Oxenbury, all with two Medals already to their names. Oxenbury first won in 1969, nearly half a century ago, while Browne first won in 1983. Riddell, a relative newcomer, first won in 2001. Traditional picture book stories for younger readers make up the majority of the Kate Greenaway shortlist, following 2015’s more sombre list. 
Browne employs a wide range of colours and styles in Willy’s Stories, to celebrate the worlds within a library, while Oxenbury’s distinctive style is at the fore in Captain Jack and the Pirates, merging soft blacks and whites with muted colours. Riddell uses a limited but highly evocative palette of black, white and gold in The Sleeper and the Spindle and Sydney Smith’s visual storytelling in Footpath Flowers uses selective colour against stark black and white. Ross Collins’s There’s a Bear on My Chair uses size, scale and words to create humour and contrast whilst Jackie Morris’s Something About A Bearbrings the lives of the world’s bears to life with a true painterly quality, and in Once Upon an Alphabet, Oliver Jeffers creates a distinctive visual style with bright colours and strong lines bringing each letter’s tale to life. Finally, previous Kate Greenaway Medal winner Jon Klassen uses earthy colours and increasingly dark shades in Sam & Dave Dig a Hole.

The CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal 2016 shortlist in full (alphabetically by illustrator surname):
  • Willy’s Stories illustrated and written by Anthony Browne (Walker Books)
  • There’s a Bear on My Chair illustrated and written by Ross Collins (Nosy Crow)
  • Once Upon an Alphabet illustrated and written by Oliver Jeffers (HarperCollins)
  • Sam & Dave Dig a Hole illustrated by Jon Klassen, written by Mac Barnett (Walker Books)
  • Something About a Bear illustrated and written by Jackie Morris (Frances Lincoln)
  • Captain Jack and the Pirates illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, written by Peter Bently (Puffin)
  • The Sleeper and the Spindle illustrated by Chris Riddell, written by Neil Gaiman (Bloomsbury)
  • Footpath Flowers illustrated by Sydney Smith, written by JonArno Lawson (Walker Books)
Sioned Jacques, Chair of the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals judging panel for 2016, said: “These exceptionally strong shortlists reflect the huge range of writing and illustrating talent in children’s publishing at the moment. The lists are a true celebration of the longevity of these wonderful talents, with Helen Oxenbury and Anthony Browne showing that they are still delivering incredible work decades after first winning a Medal. Questions of secrecy, lies, who we really are and how we identify ourselves are all explored in different, surprising and innovative ways. Our shortlisted writers and illustrators don’t shy away from difficult or big ideas but skilfully introduce them to young readers in ways that are gripping, moving, entertaining but always, without exception, page-turning.”
Dawn Finch, President of CILIP, said: “We are without doubt in a golden age of children’s books. From stories set in Victorian times and World War One to a modern day library, from fantasy worlds to the future, these shortlists showcase the enormous talent and unlimited imagination currently to be found in children’s storytelling. There are characters to fall in love and go on adventures with and journeys and discoveries to be made. Each and every one of the books on the shortlists could be a worthy winner and all of them are truly deserving of a global audience.”

The CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals are the oldest children’s book awards in the UK, with the first winners announced in 1936 and 1956 respectively. The titles on the shortlists are contenders for the highest accolades in children’s literature, with previous winners including legendary talents Arthur Ransome, C.S Lewis and Mary Norton for the Carnegie Medal and illustrators Quentin Blake, Shirley Hughes and Raymond Briggs for the Kate Greenaway Medal.
The winners for both the CILIP Carnegie Medal and the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal will be announced on Monday 20th June at a lunchtime ceremony at the British Library. The winners will each receive £500 worth of books to donate to their local library and a specially commissioned golden medal. Since 2000, the winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal has been awarded the £5,000 Colin Mears Award cash prize and, from 2016, the Carnegie Medal winner will also be awarded an equal amount of prize money from the same fund. At the ceremony in June, one title from each shortlist will also be named the recipient of the Amnesty CILIP Honour, a brand new commendation for a book that most distinctively illuminates, upholds or celebrates freedoms. The two titles receiving the commendation will be able to carry an Amnesty CILIP Honour logo. 

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Q&A Interview with Illustrator Jamie Littler

Hello! You may be wondering who on earth I am. Good question, my friend, good question.
Here are some things you may, or may not, know about me:
My name is Jamie Littler, and I am an author - illustrator, who lives in merry ol' England.I especially specially specialise in children's books and graphic novels, with the odd bit of fantasy art and vis-dev here and there for added flavour. 
How did you become interested in illustrating literature for children?
Perhaps it sounds incredibly clichéd, but I think I've always been interested in illustrating for children's literature. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by illustrated books from a young age, my parents reading to me every night, and I used to pour over the illustrations and love every second of it. When not doing important things like playing with action figures or climbing trees, I used to draw for hours, creating stories and comics, often completely ripped-off from books and films I had been watching that week, but it was all part of that sense of creating world and characters through illustration. I loved it, and I guess I never grew out of it. Telling stories and illustrating for all ages is something pretty special, but to illustrate literature for children: there's some kind of magic and wonder there that I don't think can be replicated.
Could you describe your journey to becoming an artist? 
It was mostly a case of just drawing, all the time, and enjoying it! When you're at school, there's that funny thing that happens when there's always a kid in class who is 'best' at something. The 'best' at football, the 'best' at maths, the 'best' at spinning round in circles. I had been, very kindly, I might add, labelled as 'best drawerer', and that really helped to egg me on, as well as the amazing support from my parents. I always thought I wanted to get into film and animation as a teenager, I used to draw out storyboard after storyboard for story ideas, but when it came to actually picking up a camera or making an animation: I seemed to lose interest. I realised, as I was deciding what to go on to after school, that it was the act of illustrating stories that I really loved and where all of my energy and effort went in to. I did an Art Foundation (which taught me a HUGE amount) and then went on to do a BA(Hons) in Illustration at the Arts Institute at Bournemouth, which I loved. Not only was it 3 years studying and creating illustration, they taught us a lot about how to make a career out of it too, which was pretty invaluable information. Then it was just the simple (hah!) case of getting my portfolio in front of as many publishers as I could. My agent, Jodie, was super important and helpful in this regard.
What were your original inspirations?
Ah, lots and lots! I am hugely influenced by animation (my dad is an animator so it was an ever-present thing in my house), so the movies of Disney, Don Bluth and Studio Ghibli had a huge impact on me, and also animated shows on TV, like the animated Batman series. I still love them all to this day! I think that always made me want to create a real sense of 'movement' and energy in my illustrations, and the process I go through when planning an illustration is usually to imagine it moving, like a film, in my head. I used to read lots and lots of comics too, things like Asterix and Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes (still one of my favourite artists and comic strips to this day), and a huge, massive interest in Japanese manga. As for books themselves, I have been hugely influenced by the free, scratchy line-work of Quentin Blake (surprise surprise! I don't think there's a UK illustrator alive who isn't influenced by him!), Arthur Rackham and Ronald Searle. I just loved the way their illustrations could looks so messy and full of humour and franticness, yet still be completely endearing and fitting in a book.
Do you think an illustrator needs a style? 
Ooo, tough question. 'Needs' is a strong word, but I believe it's very important. It's great to try out new and different things, with different mediums and in different ways, but I do think it really helps that no matter what you do, it still retains that signature 'you' about it. It helps you to make a name for yourself, for readers to recognise and hunt down your work, and for you to stand out from the crowd. Luckily, I think a personal style is quite a natural thing, like your own hand-writing. It tends to force its way through in anything you do, unless you actively try and suppress it. Then it's just a case of developing it and making it something entirely unique to you. Influences are great, important, inspiring and inevitable, but it's your own style that will leave a lasting mark, not something someone else probably does much better than you.
What is your favourite medium to draw/paint with?
I do a lot of my stuff digitally, using a Cintiq tablet. Not only does it allow you a lot of control over your drawings and compositions, I just really enjoy it! I can play around with things until I am really happy with them, and it enables a real ease to make changes and corrections, which are usually inevitable! I still love using ink pens and watercolours though. It's fast and messy, and makes a really nice change of pace and method compared to the slower, more methodical digital stuff. Thin, spidery, splatty pen lines and messy, textured watercolours – if I can include these in an illustration I will try and find a way!

What's the basic process to making a good book cover?
Trying to be bold, striking and getting the essence of the story across in the most dramatic way you can! It's quite hard, funnily enough! I think these are the main things, though. Often, the publisher will have a really clear idea of what they would like to see on the cover, and what colour it will be, and it will usually include all of those elements. For children's books, it's usually got to show the main character, and an element or two that really get across what the story is about, such as the monsters that will be the main baddies, or the vehicle the characters will make their epic journey with, or a location from the world the adventure is set in, stuff like that. I think the key seems to be all about composition, colour and excitement, as there are a lot of book covers in those book shops, so you want someone to see yours and think: 'Ooo, that looks cool! And intriguing! I think I'll buy it!'.
Do you remember which illustrated children's books were your favourites back when you were a young reader and why? 
Definitely Roald Dahl's books, illustrated by Quentin Blake. I don't know why, I just remember it so distinctly. Our teacher read us 'George's Marvellous Medicine' in year 2-3? I just remember loving it's edginess, it's hilariousness and, well, it's complete nastiness! I was really into ghosts and monsters and stuff like that as a kid (and adult), and even though there were no such things in that book, that grim, modern-fairytale feel it had really ticked all of my boxes. I rushed out to find and devour (in a literary sense, of course, I was quite a well-fed child) every other Roald Dahl book I could, after that! But yes, anything with ghosts and monsters in it, I was usually happy. I remember 'The Monster Bed' by Jeanne Willis, illustrated by Susan Varley, very fondly, and when I found 'Goblins of the Labyrinth' by Brian Froud (basically the art book for the film: 'Labyrinth'), in my parent's book shelf, I felt like I had discovered a most mystical and ancient of magical tomes. I was obsessed with the creatures and world it showed (and I hadn't even seen the film at that point, so my imagination just went wild!).
What’s your favourite piece of art equipment?
Traditional artists will probably chase me with pitch-forks, but I'm going to say my Cintiq tablet. It's just so useful and fits perfectly with the way I work, mostly due to the amount of work I have to get finished before the ever-looming deadlines! Even when doing traditional illustrations, I really enjoy the way I can adjust and move my drawings around to be the way I want them, and then print it out and use a light-box to ink them from there. Don't get me wrong, I still LOVE using pencils in my sketchbook to relax or to design characters (and I always draw and colour my picture books with traditional tools to retain that 'hand-crafted' feel), and LOVE needle thin fine-liners (it's just the way it's so delicate and easy to make loose, scratchy line-work with), and really do enjoy the 'happy accidents' you get using drawing ink and watercolours, but for final artwork, I'd be amazed if my Cintiq isn't used in one way or another, even if it is just to tweak this colour or that line.
Could you tell us a bit about any of your upcoming projects?
Lots of exciting things! I shall be continuing to work on a few fiction titles which I really do love working on; the Hamish series by Danny Wallace (book 3!), the Wilf the Mighty Worrier series by Georgia Pritchett and the Jim Reaper series by Rachel Delahaye. I will also be starting a new National Trust-linked historical fiction/factual ('faction') series with author Philip Ardargh, plus hopefully beginning my new comic series with the Phoenix Comic, later this year. Busy times, and I feel incredibly lucky!
What do you read for pleasure?
Lots and lots, and I try my hardest to mix it up and go by recommendations, just for variety. But truth be told, I really have a soft spot for fantasy and always go back to it when I just want to relax and have fun. Fantasy series like His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve and books by Joe Abercrombie, a fantasy writer for grown-ups, are just a few of my favourites! Ooo, and historical fiction by Bernard Cornwell and Conn Iggulden. I LOVE history, so to have exciting adventures set in researched histories, I really do love it. That, and loads and loads of comics. 


Twitter: @jamieillustrate 

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Bryony Pearce - Phoenix Burning Blog Tour 2016 (Book Cover Design Process)

I am really pleased to be apart of this blog tour for Bryony Pearce’s second book in the "Phoenix" young adult novel series, which was recently published on 10th March 2016. I really enjoyed reading this book, so why not find out more by reading my review HERE. 

I swear my allegiance to the #BansheeCrew!  We are feared and fearless!  Come and join the crew and find out more about the process of book cover design. 

I was very excited when I was given the brief to design the cover of Phoenix Burning by Bryony Pearce. After really enjoying working on Phoenix Rising, I couldn't wait to start work on the sequel. 

I was asked to create a strong cover which would sit well next to the first title. Ruth, the editor, explained the main themes of the book – the importance of the sun, in particular – and explained how Toby and Ayla's relationship develops. I then went on to read the manuscript. It was a thrilling read, so I knew I also had to express this tension and suspense on the cover. 

As a starting point, I revisited the cover of Phoenix Burning. This cover design also focuses on three main elements – Toby, Ayla & the skull and crossbones. These were integrated in a clever way and the cover also fitted the YA genre. 

I then progressed to researching sun icons and experimenting with these, working out how best to show Toby and Ayla. I found that Ayla looking straight ahead was really effective, and contrasting this with the figure of Toby running also worked well. It was at this stage that I started adding more elements to the design – I chose to focus on the monks, who are a crucial and sinister element of the plot. 

My next step was to share my design with the rest of the Stripes team and with Bryony Pearce, the author. I wanted to make sure that the cover design fitted with their expectations, and that Bryony felt it was true to her story. I was also interested to find out which of the design elements caught their attention first. Some people were drawn to Toby running, others picked out Ayla's face first and others saw the monks’ faces within the sun's flames. From this, I made the decision to emphasise the sun itself, making it much clearer. This refining stage was key – once the sun was clearer, everything seemed to fall in to place. 

Once you read the book, the relevance of each of the elements becomes clear. However, without any knowledge of the story, they work together to convey the book’s energy and excitement. I hope you agree!

Bryony Pearce was born in 1976 and has two young children. She completed an English Literature degree at Corpus Christi College Cambridge in 1998 and was a winner of the SCBWI anthology 'Undiscovered Voices' in 2008.

Twitter: @BryonyPearce