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Are You Supporting World Mental Health Day?
On Monday 10th October 2016
Tuesday 20th September 2016
Did you know that nearly 80,000 children and young people suffer from severe depression and three children in every classroom in the UK have a diagnosable mental health disorder?
That’s why we are proud to support YoungMinds, the UK’s leading mental health charity for children and young people. Driven by their experience YoungMinds’ create change so that children and young people can cope with life’s adversities, find help when needed and succeed in life.
On Monday 10th October, to coincide with World Mental Health Day, YoungMinds is launching a new #HelloYellow campaign to encourage everyone to get talking about mental health, and by wearing something yellow and donating £1 to help support their vital work.
It’s easy for everyone to get involved including teachers, pupils and even parents , so why not get involved and put on your favourite yellow tie, jumper or even just your socks!
For more information and to find out how you can play your part in the campaign, please contact YoungMinds directly on 0207 089 5050 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This year we aim to raise £5,000 for YoungMinds, view our donation progress at JustGiving!
We’re delighted to announce that Spine-Chillers creative writing competition for 11-18 year-olds has been nominated for another award! We reached the finals of the Educational Resources Awards in February and we’re thrilled to have just found out that Spine-Chillers has been nominated in The Solution Awards too!
The Solution Awards is a public vote by email – please do spare a minute to vote for us by emailing email@example.com - simply click the email to register your vote!
You can find out more about our Award History here!
Thank you very much in advance for your support - we'll keep you posted on how we get on!
Our First Ever Animated Video Lesson is Available!
Monday 12th September 2016
This year we're celebrating our 25th birthday! Throughout the last two and half decades we have worked tirelessly to create new, exciting ways to encourage children and young adults to read, write and enjoy poetry and creative writing.
This year is no exception as we have has just launched our first animated poetry lesson. Join the BFP (The Big Friendly Poet) as he teaches pupils about 4 poetic techniques in a fun and informative way!
This fantastic lesson takes just 7 minutes to watch and pretty much guarantees 100% pupil engagement. It also offers activities on how pupils can incorporate these techniques in their poetry writing. What poetry adventures will the BFP take your pupils on?
The interactive lesson is fresh, entertaining and different; aimed at primary school children it will certainly bring poetry to life in your classroom. What are you waiting for? Get the BFP live in your classroom today!
My favourite books as a child were... not books, mostly
I haven't been a children's author for very long, but I'm starting to learn the normal questions people ask. Some are familiar from years of comedy scriptwriting and cartooning: written anything I'd know then? Where do you get your ideas from? How do you work – do you just turn up in a room and ‘be funny?’ But one of the new ones I’m hearing is: what were your favourite children's books when you were young?
I have a few I love to mention, certainly. Moominland Midwinter by Tove Jansson. Fattypuffs and Thinifers by Andre Maurois. Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown. Time and Again Stories by Donald Bisset. But the fact is that my favourite kind of reading wasn't books at all.
I was born in 1970. By the second half of the decade, when I was starting to spend my own pocket money, I rarely bought books - they were expensive, often a bit worthy, and back then didn't usually have enough pictures in for me. I craved cartoon characters. Luckily, they were everywhere. Newsagents’ shelves were heaving with gaudy British made children's comics, all for sale at under 10p. That was less than the price of a bag of Monster Munch. That’s a great price point, for a kid. For laughs, there was Whizzer and Chips,Buster, Monster Fun, Cor!, The Beezer, The Beano, The Dandy, Whoopee! Krazy and Cheeky Weekly. The character of Cheeky was my personal hero - clearly modelled on Bugs Bunny down to the giant teeth, he strolled around his home town nonchalantly cracking terrible jokes ("Have you heard that all the buses are stopping today?" "no, why is that?" "To let the passengers on and off!"). For thrills there was a Warlord, Bullet, 2000 A.D., Battle, and the short lived and astonishingly violent Action, whose lead character was a man eating shark called Hookjaw who brutally munched swimmers in every third panel.
The comics gave me everything. Fun, adventure, Bear Grylls-type survival tips (a speciality of Bullet), imaginative science fiction, even satire. Right from the start, 2000 A.D. was smuggling all kinds of social commentary into its strips. Even the much lighter comics had a go. Cheeky featured Mustapha Million, an unfeasibly rich boy from an Arab country, as some sort of parodic version of the oil millionaires who were buying up huge swathes of central London at the time. British comics were just great. I thought they would last forever.
Then they didn't. As the industry entered the 80s, Comics began to devour each other. “Great news, readers!” they would proclaim, alongside a cartoon of two shaking hands. “Two great comics are joining forces!” Battle and Action became Battle Action. Whizzer and Chips became Whizzer and Chips and Krazy, before eventually merging with Buster. First they fused, then they vanished.
The truth was that British children's comics were already in decline by the time I had picked up my first one. Then the 80s were a deadly decade for them. Kids were spending their money and time on other things. Computer games and video recorders gave young people other options on a wet Sunday afternoon. Today, only the Beano and 2000AD survive from the ones I loved, and the second of those long ago gave up on its child audience, opting to grow up with its comic buff readership. I really should mention The Phoenix here: an excellent subscription model comic for children that's been going for the last four years or so. But The Phoenix is niche, not mainstream.
Although I miss those comics, the good news is that children's books have stepped into that vacant space. There was nothing much like Barry Loser or Horrid Henry around in books years ago – with their energy and humour and strong visuals, they seem to owe more to Dennis the Menace and the Bash Street Kids than any bookish forebears. And Tom Gates, say, has all the visual brio that Krazy comic had.
So when I'm writing and drawing the King Flashypants books, as well as applying all the normal yardsticks – Are there enough cliffhangers? Have I drawn those eyebrows right? - I always think, are they as much fun as those comics I loved? If they are, I'm doing my job.
Exclusive interview with Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre
Win a copy of Jinks & O'Hare Funfair Repair
Thursday 1st September 2016
This is your fourth book. How did you come about writing together?
Philip: We met at the Edinburgh International Book Festival six years ago, and just got on so well that eventually we decided we should try making books together. So we came up with the idea for Oliver and the Seawigs, and went looking for a publisher. Luckily Oxford University Press decided to publish it, and they offered us a deal for four books.
Funfair Repair is based on Funfair Moon. Are you a fan of fairground rides? Why?
Sarah: I love them! Going to Disneyland when I was 8 was by far the best thing that had ever happened to me in my life. What I really loved were the fairgrounds where someone would pay my admission and then I could run around all day and go on as many rides as I wanted, not the ones where you’d look up and think, is one ride really worth five bucks? (And my parents would decide no, it wasn’t.) I burned with a naughty-feeling joy for this book, thinking, I could go to Disneyland Paris as RESEARCH: Thunder Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion. My 8-year-old self would have thought I have the coolest job in the world, or impressed that I had somehow been clever enough to trick people into letting me do this.
What inspired you to write Funfair Repair?
Sarah: Two things, I think. The first is that, as a kid, I was always trying to make funfairs out of basic LEGO and my creations never amounted to much. I thought, as an adult, I could do a lot better job drawing funfair rides, and getting Philip to write about them. You can see a glimpse in the story of the miniature funfair rides Emily builds in her bedroom. And the second thing was that I’ve read a lot of stories about funfairs and circuses that are dark and menacing; adults writing about them often seem to like the gritty behind-the-scenes reality or clownish horror elements. I hated those kinds of stories when I was a kid, I didn’t want to go to awful funfairs, I wanted a book to transport me to the best funfair with the most awesome rides in the universe. And Philip set off on it!
Are there any plans for a fifth book? If so do you have any ideas about what it be about?
Philip: We definitely want to keep working together. We have a whole bunch of ideas we’d like to try, so now we have to sit down and decide which one to do next, and whether it will be the same length and style as the first four, or whether we want to change things a bit.
What’s it like to work together?
Philip: The working together bit isn’t really like working at all. I visit Sarah in London, or she comes down to see me on Dartmoor, and we talk through the ideas until we have a story loosely roughed out and some notions of what the characters will look like. Then I go away and write it, and Sarah gets to work on the pictures (which take a LOT more time than the words). But we phone each other and e-mail a lot while we’re working, so it’s a lot more fun than just working alone would be.
Sarah: I used to illustrate books for writers I hadn’t even met, and it was quite a lonely way of working. It’s so much more fun coming up with story ideas with a friend.
Have you always wanted to be a children’s author?
Philip: I always wanted to be an author (or an illustrator, or an actor). I didn’t particularly set out to write children’s books, that just sort of happened, but I’m very glad it did, because to talk with Sarah about the illustrations and sometimes help her with the rough sketches, and then when the book is finished we go round performing at book festivals, which is enough like acting that I feel as if I’ve ended up fulfilling all my ambitions.
Sarah: When I was nine, I wanted to be a mermaid. When I was 12, I wanted to be an archaeologist JUST LIKE INDIANA JONES. I actually picked my university because of its excellent archaeology department but it turned out I really just liked Egyptian tomb paintings, I didn’t want to spend months carefully digging up and cataloguing a rotten fireplace lintel that was probably never that fancy in the first place.
What does the rest of 2016 hold for you?
Philip: Lots of charging around doing Jinks and O’Hare shows. And I have a book for slightly older readers coming out in October, Black Light Express, which also features aliens, but is slightly more serious (and doesn’t have any pictures).
Sarah: Yes, much wearing of big hats! And I also have a picture book with Alan MacDonald coming out, called The Prince of Pants (about pants, with some silly-looking corgis thrown in).
How would you describe Funfair Repair in one sentence?
Sarah: Funfair Moon runs smoothly thanks to Jinks & O’Hare Funfair Repair, and young Emily would REALLY like to be one of their engineers but she doesn’t get a chance until everything on the planet starts going disastrously wrong.
If you could each give a young aspiring author one piece of advice what would it be?
Philip: Read all the books you can, lots and lots of different things, and when you find books you enjoy try to think why you enjoy them, and what makes them work. And write lots of stories of your own. Like everything, writing is something you need to practice.
Sarah: Make lots of drawings, at least one every day, and post them on your blog. You’ll find that drawings can spark all sorts of interesting story ideas.
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