Engaging reads for children, from Books go Walkabout

Month: April 2018

The 2018 Philippa Pearce Lecture- Peopling The Dark – Frances Hardinge

Frances Hardinge delivered the Philippa Pearce Lecture to a packed auditorium on April 18th at Homerton College, University of Cambridge.

Are books too scary?  Can we iron out the monsters? Should we face the monsters alone?

Some of the questions which Frances eloquently suggested to the audience, why do we think  children should not be given answers, but left with the monster lurking, when we just want them to be safe and not to think about scary things?

Frances’s novels, which include The Lie Tree, The Cuckoo Song and A Skinful of Shadows are full of shadows and half glimpsed faces, things which in the dark are scary. Adults tend to come in and put on the light and explain that there is nothing to be scared of, but when the light goes out, Frances explained that the scary monster is back.  Frances recalled how she had first read The Shadow Cage by Philippa Pearce and it had struck a deep chord.The Lie Tree

Children’s fiction has a wealth of unseen things, some are cowed and shrouded, faceless and use of nonsense words and vague descriptions, for example the Jabberwocky the work of Lewis Carroll. In Victorian children’s books, Frances explained that monsters would be used to impose sanctions, e.g. the monster will get you. Stormtroopers of fear and imagination, the use of cautionary tales.

In today’s world of books for children there is a wealth of material which brings in darkness and scariness, the fear and the imagination of children and young people, for example, Harry Potter and the dementors. We can try to iron out the monsters, we can offer daytime explanations but there remains some uncanny gravitas which no electric light bulb can help!

Frances also pointed out that all children’s authors are adult but maybe it is the inner-self that is still part of the childhood.

A thought-provoking lecture and Frances Hardinge gave an excellent informative journey through the materials on the dark side.

Francis Hardinge at Homerton College, Cambridge to deliver the 2018 Philipp Pearce Lecture

Sue Martin

Books Go Walkabout


Is it a Mermaid? by Candy Gourlay, illustrated by Francesca Chessa


Is it a Mermaid?

Buy this book here…

When Benji and Bel find a strange creature on a tropical beach they know it is a dugong. But the dugong insists she is a beautiful mermaid.

After many attempts to convince the children that she really is a mermaid the dugong swims away with her tail splashing into the warm ocean.

Bel believes her but Benji is very practical and just can’t make the connection. But they all play together with the turtles, and the fishes.

At the end of the day as the sun is disappearing, and the illustrations become gradually softer, the dugong says goodbye to Bel and Benji.

“I have to go,” she said. “Mermaids never stay out after dark!”

The last page is a beautiful purple colour and Ben and Benji walk home in the sunset along the beach to the little wooden cabin.

“I love mermaids!” said Bel.  “Me too,” said Benji.

The first picture book from Candy Gourlay, whose acclaimed novels for young readers, Tall Story and Shine have been listed for the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian’s Children’s Book Prize and both won the Crystal Prize for Europe.

Candy Gourlay is from the Philippines and grew up in Manila. As a child she often wondered why the books that she loved reading were all about pink skinned children and snow covered mountains, it was not like that in the Philippines. So she was determined to become an author and make some changes to the stereotypes.

At Books Go Walkabout, we work in many countries and these aims reflect our own, for books and stories to be meaningful to all children. There are always stories to be told wherever you are.

Francesca Chessa has illustrated over 40 books, including Elliot’s Arctic Surprise and Library Lily. She lives in Turin and holds art workshops for children and adults.

Otter-Barry Books in London, is an exciting children’s imprint making a difference and pushing boundaries of the standard book publishers.

We strongly recommend, Is it a Mermaid? The text and the beautiful illustrations will make it a favourite in schools, libraries nurseries and at home.

Sue Martin

Books Go Walkabout


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