Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2013: rights, camera, action!

Elaine picThe Bologna Children’s Book Fair is now in full swing.

From Monday to Thursday this week our rights team have scheduled meetings every 30 minutes from 9.00am till 5.30pm with children’s editors from around the world. It’s our chance to showcase the OUP titles that we are planning to publish over the next year or so with the aim of selling them the rights to publish our books in their own language. It’s so busy the rights team barely have time to schedule in a loo break!

The fair takes place often before the books are published in the UK so, here is the rights team in action presenting  proofs and ‘dummies’ – artwork that is run out on the colour printer and stuck into blank books of the right size and shape supplied by our production team from our printers.

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Head of Rights Anne-Marie Hansen. In the background you can see displays for picture book The Great Moon Confusion from Richard Byrne, and Haunted, a chilling new book for teens from William Hussey.

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Zuzana Miyahara Kratka, Rights Manager. In the background is the hilarious Wendy Quill is a Crocodile’s Bottom, by Wendy Meddour and Mina May.

While that’s happening, our editors are meeting with the rights teams of publishers from abroad who are presenting their titles to us. There are also meetings with other people interested in children’s books from film scouts and online sites to UK retailers and media.

Here’s Head of Publishing Liz Cross in a meeting on the OUP stand.

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Our lovely designers have also been meeting with scores of potential new illustrators from around the world.

This year we are delighted to host a special dinner for publishers who have already bought or are considering Oliver and the Seawigs, a new illustrated novel by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre.  Here they are drawing sea monkeys from the book all over the OUP stand and causing a stir as they stroll through the aisles at the Fair. Sarah is resplendent in her ‘Seawig’ and, Philip, as elegant as ever, sports a Seawig sailor’s cap.

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seawigs graffitianne-marie drawing

This is one of the most important weeks of the year for children’s publishers. Selling foreign rights is hugely important to the industry and is often crucial to the success of a book – particularly colour publishing.

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Elaine McQuade is Head of Marketing and PR for OUP Children’s Books

Can you spell as well as an 11-year-old? Test your spelling, punctuation and grammar knowledge!

Curriculum changes mean that both Primary and Secondary schools are renewing their focus on spelling, punctuation, and grammar.

For primary schools, from summer 2013 year 6 children will sit an English grammar, punctuation, and spelling test, which will assess each child’s English skills in four key areas: Grammar, Punctuation, Spelling, and Vocabulary.

In secondary schools, pupils’ GCSE grades now depend, in part, on their ability to write grammatically, use punctuation correctly, and spell accurately. This applies to grades in English Literature, History, Geography, and Religious Studies. 5% of total marks in these subjects will be for spelling, punctuation, and grammar.

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Our challenge to you

How well do you think you would you do in a spelling, punctuation, and grammar test? We’ve compiled a short quiz with the kinds of questions children at the end of Key Stage 2 (end of primary school) will be asked.

 

Spelling

1.       Which is the correct spelling of the following?

a) accomodate                            b) acommodate                 c) accommodate

a) apparent                                 b) aparrent                         c) apparrent

a) rhythm                                    b) ryhthm                           c) ryhthum

a) embbarass                             b) embarass                        c) embarrass

a) tomorrow                              b) tommorrow                    c) tomorow

 

2.       Find a homophone for:

fair

great

grown

hear

 

3.       Give the correct spelling of the missing word in the following sentences:

a)      You can return the item if you still have your ………………………. (reciept/receipt) .

b)      My sister’s son is my nephew and her daughter is my ………………………………… (niece/neice) .

c)       Darwin wrote about the theory of evolution in his book, The Origin of the ………………………….. (species/speceis) .

 

 

Punctuation

Put in an apostrophe where appropriate:

1. the girls dress

2. The girls laughed.

3. James hat

4. Its raining again.

5. Its tail is fluffy.

6. Its past 10p.m.

7. Cauliflowers are reduced to half price.

8. Youre joking.

 

 

Grammar                                                

1.       Identify one relative pronoun and one possessive pronoun in the following sentence:

Fido picked up his bone, which was under his nose, and trotted away to bury it.

 

2.       Is the following sentence in the active voice or the passive voice?

The greenhouse was smashed to smithereens by our football.

 

3.       Match the verbs to the correct types:

1. to walk                 auxiliary

2. am                        modal

3. will                       infinitive

 

4.       Identify the following nouns as common, proper, abstract, or collective:

1. idea

2. Prince William

3. peas

4. herd

 

5.       Find the adverbs in the following sentences:

1. She hurriedly picked up her bag, and left as fast as she could.

2. She ran often, usually taking a challenging route which included several steep hills.

3. Recklessly, they threw their homework out of the bus window on the last day of term.

 

End of test!

How did you do? Do let us know in the comments box below.

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Oxford Primary Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling DictionaryOxford School Spelling Punctuation and Grammar Dictionary

If you didn’t get full marks, you may need to grab a copy of our new Oxford Primary Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling Dictionary. It contains common tricky words targeting the top misspelt words used by primary school children, and a full colour section with grammar, punctuation and spelling terms and rules.

Our Oxford School Spelling Punctuation and Grammar Dictionary, for secondary school pupils, publishes in August.

Retelling traditional tales using phonics

­Traditional Tales tagWe all know the power of traditional stories such as The Tortoise and the Hare and The Gingerbread Man to capture the imaginations of children.

This month sees the publication of the first books in our new series of Traditional Tales home learning books, which contain well-loved traditional stories carefully retold using phonics and familiar language, so that children can read them for themselves.

Author Gill Munton joins us to share her experience of retelling these timeless tales.

Gill MuntonOUP: Would you like to write some stories for children who are learning to read?

Me: I’d love to!

OUP: They will need to fit the tight phonic rules that schools follow.

Me: Er – that’s fine. No problem.

OUP: And they will be retellings of traditional tales.

Me: Er…

OUP: Oh, yes, and we’d like you to write for the youngest readers.

Me: Gulp! Not so easy!

Well, it wasn’t easy, but it was certainly do-able, and great fun, too!

Whenever I write stories for children learning to read – and I’ve written a lot – I always make sure that I am supporting the way in which children are taught to read at school, and currently that is by using phonics.

The challenge is to combine the requirements of phonics with fluent, interesting writing. And humour is, of course, always good.

Artwork © Laura Hughes

Artwork © Laura Hughes

Writing for very young readers

OUP asked me to make sure that each story doesn’t contain words that have not yet been taught to children. (The order – or sequence – in which phonics is taught is already reflected in Oxford Reading Tree. For more information – and where I often look – you could take a peek at the Government document called ‘Letters and Sounds’.)

So what problems did I come across, and how did I solve them? Here are a few examples.

  •  We need the story ‘Goldilocks’ but we can only use three-letter words such as ‘sat’, plus a handful of tricky words (words which are not phonically regular but are very common, so that children need to learn them quickly),  such as ‘I’.

Solution: Use the first person: ‘I am in the wood’ instead of ‘Goldilocks is in the wood.’

Artwork © Ilaria Falorsi

Artwork © Ilaria Falorsi

 

  • We need ‘Daddy Bear’, ‘Mummy Bear’ and ‘Baby Bear’ but I can’t use those words because the children can’t read them yet.

Solution: Let the artwork show us that the characters are three bears, and label their mugs ‘Dad’, ‘Mum’ and ‘Ted’.

Artwork © Ilaria Falorsi

Artwork © Ilaria Falorsi

  • We need ‘Town Mouse’ and ‘Country Mouse’.

Solution: Let the illustration show us that the characters are mice, and give them the simple names ‘Tim’ and ‘Tom’. Ask the artist to make sure the mice show their different characteristics visually – a top hat for the town mouse and a spotted neckerchief for the country mouse!

Artwork © Emma Dodson

Artwork © Emma Dodson

  • We need ‘said Chicken Licken ’.

Solution: Put Chicken Licken’s words in a speech bubble, and so avoid the common but tricky word ‘said’.

  Artwork © Christine Pym

Artwork © Christine Pym

 

Retelling traditional tales

Folk and fairy tales come from all around the world, and offer a rich and varied resource for adaptation. But there are a few things that we writers need to bear in mind when doing retellings, e.g.

  • The characters and setting are already in place, and must be respected.
Artwork © Sue Mason

Artwork © Sue Mason

  • The storyline is fixed, and we need to plot the story out page by page to make sure we get it all in! Having said that, though, if there is just too much content, details and sometimes episodes can be judiciously cut.
Artwork © Paula Metcalf

Artwork © Paula Metcalf

  • We should capitalise on repeated refrains, which are often a feature of traditional tales and help children to read the words through repetition:

‘This bed is no good … This bed is no good … This is the right bed for me!’

Artwork © Ilaria Falorsi

Artwork © Ilaria Falorsi

So, all in all, a very interesting and enjoyable project and one which I hope will get children learning to read – and love – these timeless stories for themselves.

Gill Munton

With an extensive background in primary publishing for literacy, Gill Munton has written numerous reading scheme titles for major UK publishers – fiction, non-fiction, poetry and plays. For OUP she has written various phonically structured reading books including titles for Project X, Bertie the Lazy Crow for Oxford Literacy Web (as well as being phonically decodable, this is written in humorous rhyming couplets), and all the storybooks and non-fiction titles for Ruth Miskin’s Read, Write, Inc.

Gill lives in London with her husband and Sergei, the (very naughty) Russian Blue cat. She enjoys writing, cooking, going to art exhibitions, and, best of all, reading!

The first two books in the Traditional Tales home learning series are out now. Each book contains 4 phonically decodable traditional stories.

The Gingerbread Man jacket Tortoise and the Hare jacket

Further titles are due for release from September 2013 onwards.

For more information on phonics, visit the Oxford Owl website or read our recent phonics post.

The Life of Riley

Celebrating the publication of The Rachel Riley Diaries: The Life of Riley, Joanna Nadin shares what she wanted to be when she grew up!

Joanna NadinI never wanted to be a writer when I grew up. That is to say, it didn’t occur to me that writing was a “real” job, much less one that I would be capable of, or derive enjoyment from, my talents and skills at that time lying more in maths and singing the books of the Bible off by heart.

And yet I devoured books, I lived in books, I was lost in books. If the weather was bad, I didn’t grumble, just sat in my cushion fort with a batch of Enid Blytons. If it was sunny, I took them into a den in the garden (my idea of the “Great Outdoors” is still limited to somewhere I can read comfortably). Because, while my peers were dreaming of growing up to be a ballerina, or a footballer, or the first female Prime Minister (oh, she’d have been so much better than the one we got), all I wanted was to be IN a book.

Jo Nadin child

I wanted to be Heidi – tending goats all day and sleeping in a hay loft at night. And, of course, nobly helping the crippled Clara to walk again.  I wanted to be George in the Famous Five, solving adventures that no grown-up could possibly fathom, and drinking a lot of lemonade while I did it (banned in our house – my grandfather was a dentist). Then I wanted to be pretty much anyone in the Pony Club series by one of the Pullein-Thompson sisters (kind of like the Brontës of the home counties, only with fewer wild moors and tuberculosis, and rather more plaits and gymkhanas and petty jealousy over who has the best curry comb).

Partly this was aspirational. The lives of these girls were far more exciting than my own small-town Essex upbringing. And partly because I thought I WAS these girls. I could see bits of myself in all of them: moodiness, the feeling of being the outsider, but still the heroine of the piece.

Jo Nadin reading 1

After I outgrew Enid Blyton, I moved on to films. I wanted to be Velvet Brown, winning the Grand National disguised as a boy. Or Andy in Pretty in Pink, falling for the boy on literally the wrong side of the tracks and winning him over with her brilliant vintage dress sense. Or Baby in Dirty Dancing, who got to save the world (or at least join the Peace Corps) AND do the lift with Patrick Swayze sweating in a vest. Note, I didn’t want to be Elizabeth Taylor, or Molly Ringwald, or Jennifer Grey. Well, I wouldn’t have minded. But what I really wanted was to be the characters they were playing.

As I grew up, towards an age where getting a job was becoming a reality, this feeling – this need to live through fiction – grew rather than lessened. When I applied to study drama, it was because I had read and reread The Swish of the Curtain. Somehow I thought this would be my all-access pass to coolness. Only to discover I would spend most of my time pretending to be an unconvincing toaster. And that, as a graduate, I wouldn’t be at the RSC assisting Trevor Nunn, I would be working for a pittance from a back room in Kings Cross sending out press releases to theatres in places like Wolverhampton or Colchester.

Then I worked in television news, imagining, I guess, I would become Kate Adie or even Jeremy Paxman. Only I spent rather too much time making tea for B-listers and not a huge deal of it writing groundbreaking news reports or interviewing despots.

Then I went into politics. Which, for once, was kind of a sensible career choice for a book geek. Having come from a background in TV and radio, I was, for the first time in my life, considered quirky and vaguely cool. I was the go-to girl if any ministers needed briefing on music, or E4.

Yet that wasn’t enough. Because I’m sitting there in the basement of No. 10 – which for a lot of people is an impossibly exciting and glamorous place to be. Only the thing is, it really isn’t. Because I’m supposed to be writing three hundred words on why ID cards are really, no honestly, a great idea. But instead, I’m staring out of the window into the ornamental gardens, imagining that, at any minute, the phone is going to ring and I’m going to get dispatched to the Middle East as an observer for the peace talks. Whereupon fate will intervene and my convoy will be attacked by insurgents, trapping me under a Land Rover. From where I will be airlifted to an army hospital in Germany, and will be languishing in a coma when the gorgeous Deputy Chief of Staff flies across the world to finally profess his dying love for me after years of will they, won’t they intrigue (I had moved on the The West Wing by then).

And I guess that’s when I worked it out. I had spent so long immersed in stories, that, when life turned out not to be exactly like it is in books or films, I was perpetually disappointed. I wanted a Hollywood ending. On a daily basis.

And so I figured, given the huge swathes of time given over to daydreaming, it might just be possible that, instead of waiting for the cliffhanger, or the movie kiss, I could write my own. I’d certainly be happier, because that way I’d get to spend all day in someone else’s head, and in someone else’s world, living in their adventures, and giving them happy endings.

So why write a series based on my own, uneventful childhood? Well, this way I get to give my alter ego – the girl who can’t always tell fact from fiction, who lives in hope of becoming Sylvia Plath – a little more drama, a lot more kissing, and maybe, even, the happy ending I was always holding out for.

Joanna Nadin

Joanna Nadin grew up in Saffron Walden in Essex, before studying drama and political communication in Hull and London. She is a former broadcast journalist, speechwriter, and Special Adviser to the Prime Minister. Since leaving politics, she has written the bestselling Rachel Riley series for teens, as well as the award-winning Penny Dreadful series for younger readers, and many more books for children and young adults. She has thrice been shortlisted for Queen of Teen as well as the Roald Dahl Funny Prize. She lives in Bath with her daughter.

Follow Joanna Nadin on Twitter

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The second Rachel Riley Diary, The Life of Riley, is out now with a fabulous new look. Further books in the series publish in May, Jul, Oct this year.

Rachel Riley series

The secret world of smuggling: researching Smuggler’s Kiss

Historical fiction author Marie-Louise Jensen introduces us to the hidden world of smuggling – the backdrop to her latest novel Smuggler’s Kiss. Isabelle is rescued from drowning by the crew of a notorious smuggling ship, and finds herself in a world of adventure, romance, and a thrilling fight for justice.

9780192792808_SMUGGLERS_KISS_CVR_MAR13Researching smuggling is a tortuous and fascinating conundrum. The very nature of the smuggling trade required it to be cloaked in secrecy: nothing written down, no traces left behind. The loyalty of the coastal communities to the self-titled ‘Gentlemen of the Night’, or smugglers, was absolute. And this often included the vicar, the magistrate and the squire. Deliveries to local people were made quietly and discreetly under cover of darkness; payment by cash or favours only. The ponies’ hooves were muffled and they even wore special no-jingle harnesses.

So the question is; how do we know the details of the smuggling that was done in the 1700s, at this distance of time? The answer? Honestly? We don’t.

We do have information, of course. Smugglers were caught and tried and we have the records of those trials. Dedicated revenue officers tracked and watched them and wrote reports. Evidence, in the form of barrels of brandy, was discovered in the unlikeliest of places (churches, graves, ponds) and confiscated. A few brave or foolhardy smuggling veterans wrote accounts of their adventures in later life. But these are pieces of the story; fragments that do not always fit together. The gaps are filled in by folklore and local tales which abound. Whole legends have grown up around the illicit trade. What is delightful about most of this is it is notoriously, wonderfully unreliable.

It was never in the Gentlemen’s interest to spill their secrets, their contacts, their routes or their ploys. Even caught red-handed, they were relying on being acquitted by juries loyal to the smugglers not to the King.  Hampshire, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall juries (the areas I studied) could rarely be brought to convict, no matter how damning the evidence. And even if smugglers were put in gaol, they relied on their colleagues in free trading to support their families; by continuing in the trade, naturally. Not to mention that measures against informers and their families were often severe. Not all the gangs were violent, but there are accounts of atrocities.

I love the idea that we don’t really know all that went on. I have based my own accounts of smuggling runs and ploys in Smuggler’s Kiss on the tales that have survived to be recounted in books, with no certainty which of them are true and which are exaggerated folklore. The notion of land signals such as a sail or sheet spread on the roof of a barn, spout lanterns or fired gorse bushes seem plausible, as does walking along a cliff in a red cloak to give an all-clear signal. I have Isabelle do this in Smuggler’s Kiss. According to stories that have survived, it was a woman called Lovey Warne of the New Forest who was credited with the daring idea.

We know that the smugglers were brazen enough to call their swift, manoeuvrable ships names like The Invisible; a name so wonderfully cheeky that I had to borrow it for the story. We also know that French traders had warehouses set up in France especially to supply the smugglers with goods packaged small enough that they could be unloaded in remote and inaccessible parts of the English coast and carried. On the other hand, the rumours of extensive caves and long tunnels inland on the south coast of England which are so popular in folklore have largely been discredited. After all, how could all that earth have been moved? Why have no long tunnels ever been found?

Ultimately, a lot of the ‘history’ is guess work. The trade kept many of its secrets. Afraid of knowing too much, the communities looked the other way and were happy to buy the Gentlemen’s cheap brandy, tea, snuff or lace without asking too many questions. As Kipling said in his poem, A Smuggler’s Song: ‘Watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by!’

Louise Photo for av. author sheet

Born in Henley-on-Thames of an English father and Danish mother, Marie-Louise Jensen’s early years were plagued by teachers telling her to get her nose out of a book and learn useful things like maths. She studied Scandinavian and German with literature at the UEA and has lived in both Denmark and Germany. After teaching English at a German university for four years, Marie-Louise returned to England to care for her children full time. She completed an MA in Writing for Young People at the Bath Spa University in 2005.

Her books have been shortlisted for many awards including the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and the Branford Boase Award.

Marie-Louise lives in Bath with her two sons.

Smuggler’s Kiss is out now.

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Picture This: Karen George on becoming a published illustrator

karen_george_2013Karen George shares her journey to becoming a published illustrator, with a little help from Waterstones and Julia Donaldson…

In 2009, I won the Waterstones/Macmillan ‘Picture This’ competition, beating 900 hopeful unpublished illustrators to the top prize of illustrating Freddie and the Fairy for Julia Donaldson.

freddie and fairy 3The timing of the competition was perfect for me, my youngest son was about to start nursery and I was at the point of making decisions about work. After leaving the Royal College of Art, where I studied fine art, I eventually settled as a film set painter and muralist. It was during my time as a standby painter on films, which involved a lot of waiting around (of course ready to pounce like coiled spring when called for!) that I started drawing and jotting down ideas for stories to pass the time. I then entered into a long and continuing period of research into children’s picture books following the birth of my first son, who demanded three stories a night, every night. I spent these years scribbling, writing, cutting out and sticking; creating characters of my own that I hoped would catch a publisher’s eye. Some were extremely interested but not quite ready to take the final plunge, there had been many words of encouragement  but alas no contracts.

Billed as a ‘life changing’ prize, ‘Picture This’ came at a pivotal point, but it was a competition that I nearly didn’t enter…

The early hurdles

The first hurdle was that I first heard of the competition horribly close to the deadline. I wasn’t sure that it could be done in time, but dither over, I set to work.

Illustrating for Julia Donaldson and the other notable judges proved disastrously daunting, the weight of their pedigree made me produce some of the worst work I’ve ever done!

A day of despair followed, at my inability to manoeuvre a pencil, and a lost opportunity to enter the world I had so long wanted to be a part of… but I had invested too much over the years to completely waste such an opportunity, so I decided to use the Julia Donaldson text and an impending deadline to at least update my portfolio. I pushed all thoughts of Julia and the judges aside (sorry!) and set to work again. With VERY little time left I sketched, painted, cut and glued my way through several near sleepless nights. Exhausted, with only hours to spare, I finally delivered my finished artwork to Waterstones Kew Headquarters; excited by the three new character sketches, three animal sketches and  colour spread that would refresh my portfolio.

 freddie and fairy 1

The home straight

A week later, I was plunged into the deepest deep end. Amazingly I had been shortlisted down to the final six!

There then followed six weeks of intense drawing; night after night well into the small hours, the twelve required spreads drawn and re-drawn.

It was an extremely steep, but exhilarating, learning curve.

freddie and fairy 2

And the winner is…

Standing alongside the other finalists on ‘judgment day’, the tension was unbearable; as we waited to hear which one of us had been successful.

On arrival we had been told that the jury was still out. A final decision had not been reached and there would be a slight delay before the announcement. We all chatted nervously.

Finally the moment arrived. Giving nothing away, Julia talked about each finalist and what she had liked about their work. It was lovely to hear and know that a great deal of thought had gone into the decision… but it was also excruciating!

At length came the words ‘and the winner is…’

Julia Donaldson’s books have always been a staple at bedtime for my sons. I had empathised with the Old Woman in A Squash and a Squeeze and had, at times, donated my clothes for the needs of my small children, feeling a little like The Smartest Giant in Town, but I had never dreamt that my name would appear alongside Julia Donaldson on the cover of a book. Indeed, it now appears alongside hers on two books!

The desire to scale down the size of my paint brush from a film set painter to become a published children’s illustrator has taken me on a long and sometimes frustrating journey. Winning ‘Picture This’ catapulted me, like a moment of fairytale magic, to illustrating for the Children’s Laureate and on… to become an author too, with my third book, Hugh Shampoo… all about a boy who will NOT wash his hair!

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Find out more about Karen and her work at  www.karengeorge.net

Hugh Shampoo is out on 4th April.

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Why today is a dinosaur day: dinosaurs, Oxford, and Winnie the Witch

In the latest Winnie the Witch picture book adventure, Winnie visits the museum and is transported back to the time of the dinosaurs. Oxford is home to Winnie the Witch, but did you know it is also home to one of the leading fossilists of the 19th century, William Buckland, whose birthday it is today?

Helen Mortimer, Senior Picture Books Commissioning Editor and editor of our Winnie the Witch books, explains Oxford’s connection to dinosaurs…

Helen MortimerIf you were to open a copy of Winnie’s Dinosaur Day, at the start of the story you would find Winnie and Wilbur queuing excitedly outside a grand museum.

Artwork © Korky Paul

Artwork © Korky Paul

Visually, it has all the hallmarks of Winnie-esque architecture: turrets and gables, mullioned windows, tile upon tile, and of course that classic grey-black brickwork that graces Winnie’s own home. But it is also based on a very real building. The Oxford University Museum of Natural History, just a ten minute walk from our offices.

Oxford University Museum of Natural History

Oxford University Museum of Natural History

Oxford’s Natural History Museum and the Megalosaurus

For the time being the museum is closed while major renovation work is carried out to the roof, but outside the huge reconstructed footprints marching across the lawn give a clue to the impressive dinosaur displays that can normally be found inside.  These footprints were unearthed on the floor of an Oxfordshire quarry in 1997 and were left, around 168 million years ago, by a Megalosaurus.

Dinosaur footprints

Dinosaur footprints

William Buckland

And this dinosaur, the Megalosaurus or ‘great lizard’, was first described by William Buckland who was born on the 12th of March in 1784.  Buckland was professor of geology at Oxford and in 1824 he gave a lecture that presented the very first scientific account of a Megalosaurus dinosaur, some 18 years before Richard Owen coined the word for this group of animals.  The area that is now Oxfordshire was swampland fringing shallow-water lagoons and seas in prehistoric times and Buckland had dug up hundreds of fossils from around the county. According to one visitor his college rooms were crammed with ‘rocks, shells, and bones in dire confusion’.

Stonesfield bones

But the particular bones that led to Buckland’s ground-breaking description of the Megalosaurus came from a small village about 15 miles northwest of Oxford (and just a foggy Sunday morning bike ride away from where I live).

Stonesfield, Oxfordshire

Stonesfield, Oxfordshire

Stonesfield slate was quarried here from the 17th century onwards and the slates were used to roof college buildings and churches in the city. The mined slate was kept damp until it could be split apart by being exposed to frost and the slate makers, finding fossils as they worked the blocks of rock, would put them aside for sale to visiting collectors.

Information about Stonesfield's fossils and slate

Information about Stonesfield fossils and slate

The fossils that were acquired by Buckland from the Stonesfield quarrymen included part of the lower jaw with some teeth in place, fragments of backbone, and sections of the pelvic and thigh bones. Not much, but enough for him to make his startling discovery.

Buckland’s legacy

So, remembering him on his birthday, we have William Buckland to thank as one of the pioneering fossilists of the 19th century whose findings led to the discovery of the age of the dinosaurs – laying the foundations for the on-going study of these incredible animals, endlessly fascinating for children (and witches) everywhere!

Artwork © Korky Paul

Artwork © Korky Paul

Unofficial curator

During his time in Oxford, Buckland also took on the role of unofficial curator of the geological collection of the Ashmolean museum – at the time housed in a building in Broad Street. He added many, many specimens to the collection and it was moved to the present site when the ‘new’ Natural History building was completed in the 1860s.

Roof repairs

So we also have him to thank for providing many of the exhibits in the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Buckland was by all accounts a larger than life figure with a great sense of humour. He would probably have liked the idea of needing to repair the roof on the building housing his great fossil discoveries, the most important of which he came across thanks to quarrymen extracting slate for . . . repairing roofs!

Note:  The Oxford University Museum of Natural History is due to reopen in early 2014. During 2013 you can still access the building to visit the Pitt Rivers museum. Visit the museum’s ‘Darkened not Dormant’ blog to stay up to date with all of the special activities taking place at the museum during the closure year.

Helen Mortimer

Helen Mortimer is Senior Picture Books Commissioning Editor at OUP Children’s Books.

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Winnie’s Dinosaur Day, by Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul, is out now!

Find out more about Winnie the Witch at www.winnie-the-witch.com

World Book Day game – the answers

We hope you had a fantastic World Book Day yesterday – and that you enjoyed our little game, where we asked you to match some of our lovely authors and illustrators to their favourite children’s books.

If you haven’t had a go at matching them up yet, read no further and take a look at yesterday’s post to join in. And for those of you that did, here are the answers!

Ian Beck

Ian Beck

tom trueheartthe hidden kingdom

Ian picked A Hundred Million Francs by Paul Berna

a hundred million francs

Ian said:

“I must have first read this in the early 1960s when an Art Student and I loved it and also the line illustrations. I liked the fact that it was set in Paris, not posh Paris but rough working class Paris, and with a very lively cast of rough child characters. It still reads well now. There is a film of the book made by Disney which is also excellent but oddly elusive and was scripted by T E B Clarke the famous writer of the Ealing Comedies.”

Richard Byrne

R_Byrne

aye-ayereally big dinosaur

Richard picked The Cat in the Hat Comes Back by Dr. Seuss

the cat in the hat comes back

Richard said:

“I’ve loved this book ever since I was knee high to Little Cat C. It’s full of mischief, mayhem and silliness and a delight to read aloud. I remember marvelling at the ever decreasing cats under their hats and the ensuing chaos which comes to a suitably mad end. And all drawn with Dr. Seuss’s beautifully bold line and distinctive use of colour. I only wish I had some Voom to tidy up my studio sometimes!”

Ross Collins:

ross collins

switch billy monster's daymare

Ross picked Angry Arthur by Hiawyn Oram & Satoshi Kitamura

angry arthur

Ross said:

“This was Satoshi Kitamura’s first book, which for an illustrator is kind of depressing because it’s just SO GOOD. I never tire of the beautiful escalation of chaos as Arthur gets angrier and angrier and ANGRIER. Satoshi has since gone on to create many beautiful books but his first one was a classic.”

Julia Golding

JuliaGolding2013

secret of the sirens young knights


Julia picked The Song of the Lioness by Tamora Pierce

song of the lioness

Julia said:

“It’s about a girl who pretends to be her brother to train as a knight in a fantasy world of magic and mythical creatures.  I love the adventure and the knife edge tension of whether her true identity will be revealed.”

Julia Green

Julia Green

tilly's moonlight fox sylvie and star

Julia picked Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce

tom's midnight garden

Julia said:

“I loved it as a child: I could imagine it all perfectly. I wanted to hear a clock strike thirteen, to open a door and find a garden that wasn’t there in the daytime, to meet a girl from the past. My favourite scene was when Tom skates down the frozen river with Hatty, and the chapter when you find out WHY Tom can go back in the past. As an author now, I appreciate so much the actual writing of the story, the structure, the layers of emotion and the simple way it talks about that most complex of ideas: time.”

William Hussey

New Image

witchfinder

William picked Breathe by Cliff McNish

breathe

William said:

“There are so many wonderful children’s books, I couldn’t possibly choose just one, so I drew up a long list and jabbed a finger randomly at the page. The result was the phenomenal Breathe – one the finest ghost stories I’ve ever encountered. Both thought-provoking and chilling, it examines the powerful bond between a mother and her child as well as painting one of the most original visions of the afterlife in fiction. As ever with McNish, the writing is powerful and lyrical. This tale, which creeps the flesh, tugs the heart and stirs the spirit, will stay with you long after the night light is extinguished…”

Gill Lewis

Gill Lewis

white dolphinsky hawk

Gill picked The Story of the Little Mole Who Knew it Was None of His Business by Werner Holzwarth, illustrated by Wolf Erlbruch

the story of the little mole

Gill said:

“Because moles are cool and it made me laugh (plus it has a veterinary slant!)”

Layn Marlow

Layn Colour - copyright Tom Greenwood

 puddle's big steptoo small for my big bed

Layn picked The House at Pooh Corner, by A. A. Milne, illustrated by E. H. Shepard

The house at pooh corner

Layn said:

“I have always loved the gentle humour, the English landscape, the endearingly imperfect characters and most of all, the way Shepard’s illustrations seek and reveal these with every sensitive line.”

Sarah McIntyre

sarah_mcintyre_biopic_medres_copyright_Neal_Hoskins

oliver and the seawigs titus

Sarah picked The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pène du Bois

the 21 balloons

Sarah said:

“A teacher runs away from his job to spend a year travelling by hot air balloon, but crash-lands on a volcanic island full of vast diamond mines and quirky inventors. The bizarre society they created fascinates me, and makes me wonder what kind of island world I could dream up!”

Korky Paul

World Book Day

 winnie's dinosaur daythe fish who could wish

Korky picked Struwwel Peter (Shocked-haired Peter) by Dr Heinrich Hoffmann

struwwelpeter

Korky said:

“I love this book for its dark macabre illustrations and layouts, and the hard edged, unsentimental rhyme that deals so memorably with children’s fears and foibles.”

David Roberts

david roberts

wind in the willows

David picked A Hole Is To Dig: A First Book of First Definitions by Ruth Krauss & Maurice Sendak

a hole is to dig

David said:

“This is the first book I ever bought. I was about 8 years old and I bought it from a book club at school. I fell in love with the simplicity and the beautiful line drawings. The expressive drawings go perfectly with the text. Things like ‘mashed potatoes are to give everybody enough’; ‘toes are to dance on’ and my all-time favourite ‘mud is to jump in and slide in and yell doodleedoodleedoo!’”

Ali Sparkes

Ali-Sparkes-001

shapeshifter frozen in time

Ali picked My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

my side of the mountain

Ali said:

“It’s just fab! About a boy call Sam Gribley who runs away from his family (thinking they are too poor to feed him) and learns to survive alone in the mountains, aided by a trained peregrine falcon called Frightful, who hunts for him. Full of notes and drawings on survival in the wild, I read it aged eight or nine and then again in my 30s and it was still just as good.”

So how did you do? We’d love to hear how you got on…

Happy World Book Day – test your children’s books knowledge!

We are very excited about World Book Day here at OUP Children’s Books – it’s such a brilliant way to share a love of great stories and the children’s authors and illustrators behind them. In the spirit of the occasion, we asked some of our fantastic authors and illustrators to share their favourite children’s books (a very tough choice indeed).

They’ve come up with a lovely list of books, and as a bit of fun we thought we’d add an element of competition, and see if you can correctly match the author/illustrator to their favourite book.

Answers will be posted tomorrow, so in the meantime, leave your answers in the comments section – good luck!

The authors

Ian Beck

Ian Beck

tom trueheart the hidden kingdom

Richard Byrne

R_Byrne

aye-aye really big dinosaur

Ross Collins:

ross collins

switch billy monster's daymare

Julia Golding

JuliaGolding2013

secret of the sirens young knights

Julia Green

Julia Green

tilly's moonlight fox sylvie and star

William Hussey

New Image

witchfinder

Gill Lewis

Gill Lewis

white dolphinsky hawk

Layn Marlow

Layn Colour - copyright Tom Greenwood

 puddle's big steptoo small for my big bed

Sarah McIntyre

sarah_mcintyre_biopic_medres_copyright_Neal_Hoskins

oliver and the seawigs titus

Korky Paul

World Book Day

 winnie's dinosaur daythe fish who could wish

David Roberts

david roberts

wind in the willows

Ali Sparkes

Ali-Sparkes-001

shapeshifter frozen in time

The favourite books

A. The House at Pooh Corner, by A. A. Milne, illustrated by E. H. Shepard

  • The house at pooh corner

They said:

“I have always loved the gentle humour, the English landscape, the endearingly imperfect characters and most of all, the way Shepard’s illustrations seek and reveal these with every sensitive line.”

B. Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce

tom's midnight garden

They said:

“I loved it as a child: I could imagine it all perfectly. I wanted to hear a clock strike thirteen, to open a door and find a garden that wasn’t there in the daytime, to meet a girl from the past. My favourite scene was when Tom skates down the frozen river with Hatty, and the chapter when you find out WHY Tom can go back in the past. As an author now, I appreciate so much the actual writing of the story, the structure, the layers of emotion and the simple way it talks about that most complex of ideas: time.”

C. Angry Arthur by Hiawyn Oram & Satoshi Kitamura

angry arthur

They said:

“This was Satoshi Kitamura’s first book, which for an illustrator is kind of depressing because it’s just SO GOOD. I never tire of the beautiful escalation of chaos as Arthur gets angrier and angrier and ANGRIER. Satoshi has since gone on to create many beautiful books but his first one was a classic.”

D. The Story of the Little Mole Who Knew it Was None of His Business by Werner Holzwarth, illustrated by Wolf Erlbruch

the story of the little mole

They said:

“Because moles are cool and it made me laugh (plus it has a veterinary slant!)”

E. Breathe by Cliff McNish

breathe

They said:

“There are so many wonderful children’s books, I couldn’t possibly choose just one, so I drew up a long list and jabbed a finger randomly at the page. The result was the phenomenal Breathe – one the finest ghost stories I’ve ever encountered. Both thought-provoking and chilling, it examines the powerful bond between a mother and her child as well as painting one of the most original visions of the afterlife in fiction. As ever with McNish, the writing is powerful and lyrical. This tale, which creeps the flesh, tugs the heart and stirs the spirit, will stay with you long after the night light is extinguished…”

F. A Hundred Million Francs by Paul Berna

a hundred million francs

They said:

“I must have first read this in the early 1960s when an Art Student and I loved it and also the line illustrations. I liked the fact that it was set in Paris, not posh Paris but rough working class Paris, and with a very lively cast of rough child characters. It still reads well now. There is a film of the book made by Disney which is also excellent but oddly elusive and was scripted by T E B Clarke the famous writer of the Ealing Comedies.”

G. The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pène du Bois

the 21 balloons

They said:

“A teacher runs away from his job to spend a year travelling by hot air balloon, but crash-lands on a volcanic island full of vast diamond mines and quirky inventors. The bizarre society they created fascinates me, and makes me wonder what kind of island world I could dream up!”

H. The Cat in the Hat Comes Back by Dr. Seuss

the cat in the hat comes back

They said:

“I’ve loved this book ever since I was knee high to Little Cat C. It’s full of mischief, mayhem and silliness and a delight to read aloud. I remember marvelling at the ever decreasing cats under their hats and the ensuing chaos which comes to a suitably mad end. And all drawn with Dr. Seuss’s beautifully bold line and distinctive use of colour. I only wish I had some Voom to tidy up my studio sometimes!”

I. A Hole Is To Dig: A First Book of First Definitions by Ruth Krauss & Maurice Sendak

a hole is to dig

They said:

“This is the first book I ever bought. I was about 8 years old and I bought it from a book club at school. I fell in love with the simplicity and the beautiful line drawings. The expressive drawings go perfectly with the text. Things like ‘mashed potatoes are to give everybody enough’; ‘toes are to dance on’ and my all-time favourite ‘mud is to jump in and slide in and yell doodleedoodleedoo!’”

J. Struwwel Peter (Shocked-haired Peter) by Dr Heinrich Hoffmann

struwwelpeter

They said:

“I love this book for its dark macabre illustrations and layouts, and the hard edged, unsentimental rhyme that deals so memorably with children’s fears and foibles.”

K. My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

my side of the mountain

They said:

“It’s just fab! About a boy call Sam Gribley who runs away from his family (thinking they are too poor to feed him) and learns to survive alone in the mountains, aided by a trained peregrine falcon called Frightful, who hunts for him. Full of notes and drawings on survival in the wild, I read it aged eight or nine and then again in my 30s and it was still just as good.”

L. The Song of the Lioness by Tamora Pierce

song of the lioness

They said:

“It’s about a girl who pretends to be her brother to train as a knight in a fantasy world of magic and mythical creatures.  I love the adventure and the knife edge tension of whether her true identity will be revealed.”

Please note there have been many editions of these books, and jacket images used may not be the most current edition. They have been used as visual aid only.

The Word Tin – where stories come from

Dave Cousins, author of 15 Days Without a Head and Waiting for Gonzo, shares his story making secret.

Dave_Cousins_2One of the most common questions asked of writers is where do you get your ideas from? It’s a question that many will struggle to answer—not me. I know exactly where my stories originate. I’ll let you into the secret, but don’t go spreading it around. This is just between us, OK?

On my desk there’s a metal box, 18cm wide by 9cm deep and 8cm high. I call it the Word Tin, and it contains all the words I need, stamped into small strips of metal, like dog-tags. To build a story, I simply delve into the box, pull out a handful of words and put them in the right order—simple.

The Word Tin

Sadly, I’m joking (but imagine if such a tin existed—now there’s an idea for a story!) The tin is real enough, and I have once or twice tried to conjure a story the way I described. It produced some interesting, if not exactly publishable, results.

So where do ideas for stories come from? For me, Robert Cormier explained it perfectly when he said, ‘to work for me, an idea must be attached to an emotion, something that upsets, dazzles or angers me and sends me to the typewriter’. The spark that sent me to my notebook to scribble the start of the story that became my debut novel 15 Days Without a Head, came from an incident I witnessed in a pub one afternoon. A very drunk woman was arguing with a stranger at the next table—much to the embarrassment of her sons. It made me wonder what life was like for those two boys, what would happen when they got home.

9780192732569_15_DAYS_WITHOUT_A_HEAD_JAN12

I can’t tell you about the idea that started my new book Waiting for Gonzo because it will spoil the story, but something I had experienced thirty years earlier provided an important element.

9780192745460_WAITING_FOR_GONZO_CVR_MAR13

In the summer before I was due to start secondary school, my family moved from Birmingham to a small town in Northamptonshire. I arrived for my first day at ‘big school’ in an over-sized blazer, 1970s haircut and impenetrable Brummie accent.

Dave Cousins School Photo

Look, I’m not going to lay a huge sob story on you—by the end of the first year most kids were calling me Dave, rather than Birmingham, but I’ll admit the first few months weren’t easy. So, this was the situation into which I dropped my thirteen year old narrator of Waiting for Gonzo—though for him, I went one better—or worse. I took him from the city to a remote village—an environment so alien, he might as well have been on Mars.

But ideas alone don’t make stories—for that you need characters—real ones, that leap off the page and invade your life. Cue Oz: loud, cocky and selfish—nothing like the sensitive, sympathetic character I had originally imagined. Rather than attempting to blend into his new surroundings and make friends, Oz barged onto the page like he owned the place. I loved him. He made me laugh and did unexpected things. The more Oz came to life, the more he transformed the story—and all I had to do was type.

And then of course, there was Gonzo, but I’m afraid you’ll have to read the book to find out about that. One secret per post is my limit!

Waiting for Gonzo is published on 7th March 2013—there’s even an original soundtrack to go with it, but that’s a story for another time.

Waiting for Gonzo soundtrack

Watch the Waiting for Gonzo trailer!

Dave_Cousins_2

Dave Cousins grew up in Birmingham, in a house full of books and records. Abandoning childhood plans to be an astronaut, Dave went to art college in Bradford, joined a band and moved to London. He spent the next ten years touring and recording, and was nearly famous.

Dave’s writing career began aged ten, with an attempt to create a script for Fawlty Towers. He has been writing songs, poems and stories ever since.

He now lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and family, in a house full of books and records, and writes in a corner of the attic with an anarchic ginger cat for company.

For more information visit www.davecousins.net. You can also find Dave on Twitter, Facebook and at the Edge – a group of eight authors writing cutting edge fiction for teens.

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