Engaging reads for children, from Books go Walkabout

Tag: children’s book illustrators Page 1 of 2

White Horse by Yan Ge

White Horse by Yan Ge - cover image and weblink

Get your copy here – free delivery

Yun Yun lives in a small West China town, and is closely involved with her older cousin, aunt and uncle. But tensions arise as Shan Qing, her cousin, heads into adolescence at a pace and her parents are far from happy. Tensions and clashes arise as her repressive parents are forced to look at their own family situation.

This is a powerful coming of age tale, with piercing insights into contemporary Chinese culture. It shows some of the conflicts in a fast-moving society  for families and different generations in a very modern Chinese world.

Yan Ge is the author and has already been proclaimed as a writer to watch. She is passionate about spreading Chinese literature to English readers. Yan was born in Sichuan in the People’s Republic of China and is the chair of China Young Writers Association. She was picked as Best New Writer by the Chinese Literature Media Prize.

…with free delivery!

James Nunn, the illustrator, is a brilliant artist working with books and has an amazing collections of illustrations and books. Watch the video to see James at work.

Nicky Harman has also translated many renowned Chinese authors into English, an immensely specialist skill and she is also the Chair of the Translators Association.

Hope Road is an independent publisher vigorously supporting neglected voices and their YA titles focus on issues challenging young people in our world of 2019.

We recommend White Horse as a good read for young people from 9 – 13 years and as an opportunity to see how tensions of growing up and family values can be a challenge.

Sue Martin


Swan Lake by Anne Spudvilas

Swan Lake cover image and web link

Buy this great book here – with free delivery

A magnificent visual retelling of the classic ballet story from a much-loved, award-winning Australian illustrator.

Swan Lake is an incredible book, in style, illustration and emotional involvement.

Taken from the iconic ballet of Swan Lake telling the tragic love story of a princess transformed into a swan by an evil sorcerer. In this atmospheric adaptation, Anne Spudvilas re-imagines the classic tale of passion, betrayal and heartbreak in the dramatic riverscape of the Murray-Darling.

Like a ballet the story emerges without words, and captures all the tension, heartbreak and  love with the inevitable finale or end. It has a different twist in this adaptation! The book, as the ballet, is in three acts with an explanation of the events that follow.

The illustrations are truly magical, with many dark tones and a minimal use of  a colour palette, enormously effective.

…with free delivery

Anne Spudvilas is one of Australia’s most talented visual artists. Her illustrations are full of emotion and beauty. Anne’s Swan Lake is simply enchanting and sublime!’ Li Cunxin, author of Mao’s Last Dancer and Artistic Director, Queensland Ballet

Anne Spudvilas is a multi-award-winning illustrator of children’s books and an established portrait painter and print-maker. Her first picture book, The Race by Christobel Mattingley, was awarded the Crichton Award for Illustration and was a Childrens’s Book Council of Australia Honour Book.

Anne’s move to the Murray River has inspired her latest book, an illustrated retelling of the classic ballet story Swan Lake. She lives in Wentworth, where the Murray and Darling rivers meet, surrounded by birds and river red gums.

Published by Allen and Unwin, it was released in the UK earlier this year. Allen and Unwin have a remarkable portfolio and list of amazingly beautiful books and this is one which we are lucky to have in the UK.

Whether you are also a ballet fiend or not, this book is one to have.

Sue Martin

Books Go Walkabout

The Jungle Book: Mowgli’s Story & Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

The Jungle Book - cover image and web link

The Jungle Book: Mowgli’s Story here

Palazzo Editions are delighted to publish new and sensitively abridged and adapted gift editions of The Jungle Book: Mowgli’s Story and Alice in Wonderland, bringing Robert Ingpen’s stunning illustrations and these timeless storied to a younger audience.

Juliet Stanley has created an amazing style of text in abridging the original story, with losing none of the magic and depth and bringing a beautiful way of engaging for younger readers.

In Jungle Book:Mowgli’s Story, by Rudyard Kipling the story speaks volumes of a child being lost and found by the wolf pack, who runs wild in the jungle, yet brings talents of human hands to support the other animals. All the animal characters are there and include, Bagheera the black panther, Baloo the bear and of course Shere Khan the tiger who was out to kill Mowgli, as soon as he had the chance.

A quote from Michael Morpurgo, “ I still marvel at the inventiveness of Rudyard Kipling… the characters come to life at the hand of Ingpen- just as my mother’s voice brought them to life when she read them to me.”

In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, the story of Alice, a child who was at the edge of growing up who fell down a rabbit hole and found a world turned inside out with characters like The Mad Hatter, The White Rabbit and the Queen of Hearts.

The book is great to read and in many ways enables the story to be understood by younger readers in this edition.


A quote from Philip Pullman, ” Lewis Carroll, we could say, created the whole of children’s literature with these wonderful stories. Placing a child at the centre of a narrative that was entirely free of instruction, entirely devoted to delight, was a stroke of genius. The Alice’s are the greatest nonsense ever written, and far greater, in my view than most sense.”

Alice - cover image and web link

Buy this book on-line here…

Award winning artist Robert Ingpen’s wonderful illustrations have illuminated this classic children’s titles and other books include Peter Pan and Wind in the Willows and read a recent interview with Robert Ingpen 


We love these books and find it hard to put them down, either for the beautiful illustrations or for the chance to read again about the adventures of characters with stories beyond our wildest dreams.

Sue Martin


The Man Who Loved Libraries- The Story of Andrew Carnegie

The Man who Loved Libraries, The story of Andrew Carnegie

Buy this great book here…

Scottish born Andrew Carnegie’s gift of over 650 public libraries to the UK and Ireland was an astonishing and long-lasting legacy. It has changed many cities and towns for the better.

It has given opportunities for anyone to read a wealth of books without having a wealth of money.

‘The Man Who Loved Libraries, The Story of Andrew Carnegie’,written by Andrew Larsen and illustrated by Katty Maurey is published by Pikku Publishing on 1st May 2018.

When you open the door to a library, a world of opportunity awaits…’

When Andrew was young, life was hard and economics meant that many families, including the Carnegie family, living in Scotland, moved to America. Andrew grew up working for his living in Pittsburgh, as a bobbin boy, and a telegram messenger. But he was always quick to learn and found many ways to create business.

Andrew believed that learning was the key to his future, and a Colonel Anderson opened the doors to his private library on Saturday afternoons. This left a lasting impression on Andrew. As well as soaking up the knowledge which enabled him to create his fortune in the Pennsylvania Railroad Company and other investments, he was determined to leave a legacy of libraries to support others.

This is a fascinating book, the style and layout create a chance to read sections of information in ‘bite size chunks’ as provided by the Canadian  author Andrew Larsen.

The iluustrations, from Canadian, Katty Maurey,,are engaging and give an excellent feel to the period in history.

The publishers, Pikku Publishing, have produced a wonderful book, not only for the text and the illustrations, but in the way it will lead the reader into further discovery.  For instance the pages at the end of the book provide  information and ideas about Andrew Carnegie and provide all the research material used in creating the book.

We thoroughly recommend this is both as an excellent  book and  a great resource in schools and at home for children from 6 – 12 years.

Sue Martin

Books Go Walkabout



Chris Riddell The Age of the Beautiful Book


The Philippa Pearce Memorial Lecture 2017 was presented by Chris Riddell, award winning author, illustrator, political cartoonist and Children’s Laureate 2015-2017.

Not many lectures start with a cartoon of the anticipating audience and the back of the presenter’s head on the large screen! An intriguing way of getting the messages across, and amazing to see book characters come to life before your very eyes! Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse, the first in the Goth Girl series, evolved in the screen in front of the audience at Homerton College, Cambridge

Discover Chris’s work on his web site here.

An exploration into the development of the book itself was a joy to listen to, so often we hear of the ideas behind the book but Chris was keen to portray the business of getting the book into print. A meeting with the book development side of the publishers meant that Goth Girl books have plenty of book bling, deep blue, silver foil, varnish effect and above all sprayed edges. At the back of the books is a tiny book in an envelope attached to the back cover; further information about Ishmael the mouse. Brilliant idea! 

The book then travels to the ends of the earth (that may mean China, I suspect!) and back to our country for sale.

The Age of the Beautiful Book was much more than a lecture about illustration in children’s books, but about how that precious book does become beautiful, something to keep and treasure.

Chris talked a little about his own childhood, as the son of a vicar, and how important  books are in exploring new worlds; he talked about finding worlds in wardrobes or indeed down rabbit holes. He has a warm and reassuring tone and when he mentioned that he had, ‘ a vague and reassuring feeling that God doesn’t mind that he doesn’t believe in him’, there were many quiet nods and mmm’s.

This empathy with people is shown throughout his illustrations and he has some ingenious ways of bringing books to life. Now, as he is thoroughly into social media, he has a good way of illustrating characters in all sorts of books and then sending photos to gain many, ‘ little blue thumb likes’! ‘Pictures turbo post words’ he said.

Chris is also an advocate for the real book, the attraction to the senses, tactile, the smell, the sound of turning the pages and being a feast for the eyes. Reading is a pleasurable thing to do and should not be turned into a grammatical exercise only. He  wants children to draw for fun and for expression and we had some amazing cartoons on what would happen if education ever created assessments for drawing; ‘analyse the makeup of the graphite, the ergonomics of pencil sharpening… it would suck the life joy out of it!’

An enthralling lecture, this Philippa Pearce Memorial Lecture on  Friday evening September 8th with Chris Riddell will be remembered for its engagement, fun and how to bring the best in children’s books alive through beautiful books.

Sue Martin

Books go Walkabout, stories across the world



Ehsan Abdollahi at The House of Illustration


Ehsan AbollahiEhsan is an award-winning illustrator of children’s books, his work is published through Tiny Owl Publishers.

He teaches at Tehran’s top Honar (Art) University and he is currently in the UK to attend the Edinburgh International Book Festival and other engagements.

On Thursday 10th August he joined a discussion panel at The House of Illustration  in conjunction with Tiny Owl Publishers.

The panel was made up of James Mayhew, Erica Jarnes, Beverley Naidoo, Azita Rassi and Delaram Ghanimifard.

Discussion was fascinating and there was a strong focus on the initial refusal to entry and visa for Ehsan, a ban! After considerable pressure and public energy from many people, including The Bookseller and The Guardian, this was overturned and Ehsan was allowed entry into the UK.

But what does it mean to be ‘banned’? And who is affected by the ban? The panel felt that a ban meant that not only the person was banned from the country but also the children and recipients of the books were also banned from listening to Ehsan and his work, creating an apartheid situation.

Banning affects us all as we are not allowed to hear or take part. In effect it stops dialogue.  A dialogue, in this case where children can share an understanding of cultural differences, through books.  Where they experience a greater  understanding of a global world, sharing lives and concerns, knowing similarities and differences and valuing both.Ehsans colouring materials

Ehsan had also run some workshops for children, creating passports of peace and hope and, ‘using a poem as a springboard to explore how you might change the world and what colours you would use.’ Tiny Owl.

His books are amazing, the illustrations depict life in colour and style, they have a beautiful expressive feel about the images and tell the stories, often with no need for words.

When I Coloured the World‘ and ‘A Bottle of Happiness‘ are both wonderful books to have and to share. They tell more than the story written in the words, they are moral stories and full of meaning.A Bottle of Happiness

As picture books they have a place in libraries for children of all ages and adults too. By sharing the books with parents and teachers, there is much to discover in words, pictures and meaning.



At Books Go Walkabout, we are keen explorers of books in different places, reaching out across the world, using books and stories in a global dimension.

We are delighted to share Ehsan’s work and that of Tiny Owl Publishers with the world. We do this directly when travelling to the other side of the globe and through our blog which is read across Australia, South East Asia and in Europe.

Sue Martin

Books Go Walkabout




Adventivity House 25 projects and materials for Advent


Adventivity House cover image

Review or purchase this title from Amazon.co.uk here…

Adventivity House is an Advent Calendar and activity book rolled into one.

QED Publishing produced a very  successful Adventivity title in 2014 . Instead of just opening a window on the Advent Calendar this book has a really good activity for each day of the Advent season.

There are some beautiful ideas including a sleigh from a match box with an elf on top, a Christmas wreath, and many others finishing with a spectacular day 25  Christmas carousel with reindeers, snowmen and angels.

Adventivity House QR code image

Buy this book direct from your mobile device…

Everything you need for making the activities is included in the book with push out designs, stencils and card, or you could use your own materials and ideas based on the activity, depends how creative you are feeling! Each door reveals a a surprise and it will make a beautiful calendar and chance to get ready for Christmas.

Advent is a season for getting ready and being prepared. In all the preparations for presents and for eating and sharing together it is wonderful to have something that is creative and will give time to reflect on preparation for the true meaning of Christmas.

Sue Martin

The Dragon’s Hoard by Lari Don and Cate James

The Dragon's Hoard

Review or purchase this book from Amazon.co.uk here…

Dragons are looming large in our blogs this month!

The Dragon’s Hoard has eleven amazing stories from Viking Sagas, and it’s packed with warriors, battles, Berserkers, monsters and zombies. A really good book for story time as the nights get longer and darker in the northern hemisphere.

Lari Don is the author and Cate James is the illustrator in this recently published book from Frances Lincoln Children’s Books. As a team the production of this book is brilliant,  it brings mythical and historical characters to life through the excellent  stories and wonderful illustrations.

It can be used as a good resource for Key Stage 2 National Curriculum work on the Vikings. It is a very creative and inspiring read on the Viking period of history from long ago. It is a good book to have in the library and also at home as the short stories are easy to share together and will bring some magic to stories around the fire or at bedtime.

Lari Don was born in Chile and has lived in Scotland for a long while, a keen interest in Scottish Landscapes and myths and fables. She has written many books including the award winning YA novel Mind Blind.

Cate James lives in Sydney and has many successful books including the Lollipop and Grandpa series. She also is a volunteer visiting artist at the Sydney Children’s Hospital.

Dragon's Hoard

And as for the dragon’s tales… maybe we can find some more to add to this months collection of dragons good and bad, friendly and fierce.

Sue Martin



Dare to Care: Pet Dragon

Dare to Care: Pet Dragon cover image

Review or purchase this book from Amazon.co.uk here…

If you too have ever wanted to have a pet dragon, then this is the book for you!

A spectacular and fun spoof pet-care guide to dragons with everything you would ever need; taking your dragon to the vets, how to groom your dragon, teaching it to fly.

Written by Sally Symes and illustrated by M.P Robertson, published by Frances Lincoln it is now available in paper back at £6.99 or for a gift in hardback at £11.99.

There are pages of fun facts, such as  what to give your dragon to eat and what is not so good, brussel sprouts for instance are a complete No!

The Dragon Snatcher cover image

See more…

When it comes to grooming the illustrations are really good and include a tiler fixing the scales, a chimney sweep for the fire and smoke places and much more.

Great team work on this book and makes an excellent book for children aged from 5 and above. It’s part of a series about dragons and includes  The Egg and the Dragon Snatcher.

Sue Martin


Michael Morpurgo
at Seven Stories

Newcastle - Shining City image of the TyneNewcastle, shining city in the North…

Part 1: This article was first published on the pages of conversationsEAST, another project of SmithMartin LLP in the East of England. Part of a series of articles celebrating culture, technology and the arts in The North.

Continuing our theme of ‘Northern Energy’, we were in Newcastle upon Tyne this week and, on Friday afternoon, took time to visit Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books. They have an important exhibition and research project into the donated archive of the writer Michael Morpurgo. Below is what we thought.

”Michael Morpurgo Exhibition 2 July 2016 – Sunday 2 July 2017, Newcastle UK. A Lifetime in Stories.
Seven Stories, The National Centre for Children’s Books introduces an exclusive exhibition drawn directly from Michael Morpurgo’s extensive archive donated to Seven Stories in 2015”.  

Seven Stories summer 2016 events Pic-m

View, print or download this Guide here…pdf

Through one of our our sister projects, Books go Walkabout, an international delivery system to get authors, illustrators and poets, and their books,  to corners of the world previously unreached, we have an abiding interest in children’s literature as you would expect.

The Seven Stories Morpurgo exhibition is certainly about a fantastic canon of work dedicated to the young imagination. However, the research team have extracted illustrative and delightful insights into, and evidence of, the writing process, using the archive generously donated to the Centre by Michael Morpurgo in 2015.

What the display and featured narrative does offer, in the broadest terms, is an insight into the creative process, the research and writing of a book, much of which in this Seven Stories gallery has taken place before the arrival and dominance of the word processor.

Not only an exhibition in praise of the work of Michael Morpurgo, but an illustration in itself of what can be achieved with a simple notebook and a pen or pencil. The imagination does not need an elecrical socket and plug to thrive apparently!

Some key exhibition elements:

Michael Morpurgo was born in 1943, and his early life was beset by sadness and conflicting tensions. It was interesting to see the detail of Michael’s school, home life and reaction to his early experiences in the British Army. This thematic thread of war and militarism can be traced through the exhibition, as in Michael’s life. His mother’s grief at the loss of her brother in the Second World War was an equally powerful emotional driver for the writing.

In 1962 Michael met his future wife Clare, and it was the summons home by his mother, with the pretence of an imaginary illness, that offered the opportunity for them to get married, against the prevailing condition that cadets of the Royal Military College Sandhurst must be single. A signal turning point in a creative life which solidified his pacifism, well evidenced and illustrated by this exhibition.

Wombat Goes Walkabout Pic-m

Own your own Wombat here, from Amazon.co.uk

His first short book, published in 1974, was It Never Rained, an interconnected narrative about five children.  By 1999 Mopurgo was ready to publish Wombat Goes Walkabout, with wonderful illustrations by Christian Birmingham. A great story about digging holes and how a wombat can save the day.

1982 saw the release of War Horse, perhaps Mopurgo’s most famous creation. The exhibition offers the visitor a display of many of the notebooks, first drafts, corrections and re-typed double spaced manuscripts that drove the creation of this seminal work.

This series of displays offers, we thought, a powerful illustration of how writing is both a physical and an intellectually layered process, but which requires a gritty determination to see the story through to the final end – publication. It is this revisiting and deterministic approach to his craft of writing that makes a Mopurgo novel so dramatic and engaging we suspect.

War Horse cover image

You can buy this book from Amazon.co.uk here…

To an archivist this is vital in determining the writers emotional condition on any particular creative day. As his pen moves rapidly across the notebook page, Michael has left a marker, a measure of intensity, for later researchers seeking to determine his emotional or creative state. Something a plastic keyboard, no matter how powerful the micro-processor it is connected to, could ever offer the interested reader in years to come.

Looking at the Morpurgo ‘war’ material, we pondered on what must be a pivotal issue for the contemporary archivist or researcher. With ready access to technology, publishing processes and cloud storage – how will future archivists and seekers of process engage with material that is electronic and resting, potentially, in a thousand different formats, storage facilities and locations around the globe.

Interestingly, MIT Technology Review has just published an article on the use of computing and data mining techniques to show that there are, it contests, only six basic ’emotional arcs’ in storytelling. These are…

…a steady, ongoing rise in emotional valence, as in a rags-to-riches story such as Alice’s Adventures Underground by Lewis Carroll. A steady ongoing fall in emotional valence, as in a tragedy such as Romeo and Juliet. A fall then a rise, such as the man-in-a-hole story, discussed by Vonnegut. A rise then a fall, such as the Greek myth of Icarus. Rise-fall-rise, such as Cinderella. Fall-rise-fall, such as Oedipus.

Source: https://www.technologyreview.com/s/601848/data-mining-reveals-the-six-basic-emotional-arcs-of-storytelling/  Article – Data Mining Reveals the Six Basic Emotional Arcs of Storytelling  Accessed: 09.07.2016

We are intense users of the notebook and pen ourselves, in our ordinary workaday lives, but have to recognise that research and analysis would now be immeasurably diminished without technology. We wondered, travelling through the Michael Morpurgo exhibition, an historical audit trail of the creative mind, what other contemporary children’s and young adult writers take on ‘techno’ is today?

Perhaps this is a Seven Stories seminar series in the making? Pen or Processor, the creative methodology in contemporary children’s literature. We would buy a ticket! (Ed.)

A visual treat:

Towards the end of the exhibition content is a section dedicated to Michael Morpurgo’s artistic collaborators, the artists who have contributed to the written work.

It offers the visitor a fascinating insight into how the imagination is populated by the story, how the psyche is suggested a character and landscape by Michael Morpurgo’s writing. It is also, within the context of this article, a soaring endorsement of the power and durability of putting a hand to paper. Surely no machine can replace the creative evocation of story by the artists below?

The work on display includes artwork from Quentin Blake, Gary Blythe, Peter Bailey, Christian Brimingham and Tony Kerins amongst others. We particularly warmed to the diversity of images in the exhibition that depicted the sea. Whether Kensuke’s Kingdom or When the Wales Came, the original cover art to be seen provokes an imaginative dream of action, wind, water and a tale to be told.

We loved it.

(A list of artists on show…Gary Blythe, Quentin Blake, Loretta Schauer, Gemma O’Callaghan, Michael Foreman, Sarah Young, Sam Usher, Peter Bailey, Faye Hanson,Francois Place,   Emma Chichester-Clark, Christian  Birmingham and Tony Kerins.)

It was wonderful to see this collection of individual artistic work within the context of theSeven Stories Michael Morpurgo exhibition. But each artist has a separate body of work which is lively, imagination capturing and enchanting in equal measure. We hope  you can use the links above to explore this on-line collection ‘gallery of galleries’ too.

Getting to Seven Stories NE1 2PQ :

If you leave the impressive Newcastle Central Station and turn right down towards Quayside, you can turn left along Quayside and walk, past the Pitcher and Piano until you come to St. Ann’s Steps on the left. Ascend them. At the top, look back down the river to the bridges receding into the distance. Turn and  cross the road and right down to Cut Bank on the left, following the river left along for a couple of hundred yards and Seven Stories will apppear on your right.

The journey there, if the sun is shining, can be as uplifting as your visit to The National Centre for Children’s Books. This is a fascinating insight into the work of our national story teller. Seven Stories offers a whole rainbow of experience around ‘the children’s book’, whether a holidaying family looking to stimulate young imaginations, a visit to the cafe and bookshop, or a serious academic look at the sweep of children’s literature.

Editor Notes:

‘Seven Stories was able to support the acquisition from Michael Morpurgo through support from Heritage Lottery Fund’s ‘Collecting Cultures’ programme, which has been awarded to Seven Stories in recognition of the museum’s national role in telling a comprehensive story of modern British children’s literature’.

Source: Seven Stories web site. Accessed 09.07.2016 See http://www.sevenstories.org.uk/collection/collection-highlights/michael-morpurgo

The exhibition is delivered and developed through a new Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) between Seven Stories and Newcastle University’s School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics.

The KTP is possibly the first of its kind between a university English department and an external organisation, and is being funded by InnovateUK and the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

You can read Dr. Jessica Sage’s blog for more insights into her exploration of the archive here.

Header image: The Shining Tyne 2016: Tim Smith MA, FRSA


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