Laugh Out Loud Interview with Matt Carr: Lollies 2020

The  Laugh Out Loud Book Awards  is a celebration of the very  best and funniest books for children , voted for by children themselves!  ...


The Laugh Out Loud Book Awards is a celebration of the very best and funniest books for children, voted for by children themselves! Celebrating children's books that make us laugh out loud are the Laugh Out Loud (Lollies) Awards, created by Scholastic, and I'm delighted to take part in the blog tour again this year! (You can find last our choice from last year here.)


This year when I looked at the picture book shortlist (see the full shortlist at the bottom of this post), there was only one of the four books that we actually owned but I knew it would be my favourite, and still after borrowing the others from the library and doing full due diligent research! In fact, it's one of our most worn-out looking books from over-reading and was one of the first books that The Wee Page Turner seemed particularly drawn to by choosing it off his bookshelves over and over again, despite being too little to sit through the story it understand all the clever humour in the storytelling!


BookBairn and The Wee Page Turner and I all love Spyder by Matt Carr for different reasons! BookBairn loves it because it is a hilarious spy thriller for little readers starring 008 the Spyder whose mission is to keep the evil bluebottle fly from landing on the birthday cake. And it's no wonder that she loves the story with twists and turns it keeps you on tenterhooks - what will happen to the birthday cake? Will Spyder succeed or will the villainous bluebottle prevail? It's her first experience of a thriller. But it's also so funny - Spyder is so tiny she comes a-cropper several times in the story and faces perilous dangers such as dad's foot and the bath drain which to BookBairn is just downright hilarious!

The Wee Page Turner loves spotting Spyder and the family dog and obviously enjoys the high contrast bright colour palette. He particularly enjoys it when Spyder slides down the banister shouting "I love my job" and we all shout "whheeeeeee" along with her. 


And I adore the puns that are scattered throughout which are their to give adults a wry smile as they read. So clever of the author to create a book which appeals on so many levels. And not only that but I love it because it stars a female spider (and let's face it in the past any sort of 'spy' character would have only been a male) who takes the mission at hand and despite several potential mishaps along the way, still succeeds to "mission accomplished".



I'm delighted to welcome author and illustrator, Matt Carr, to our blog today as part of our stop on Lollies Blog Tour. Matt has kindly taken the time to answer some our questions about how he made the book and where is ideas came from.

Where do you start when creating your books? Do you start with your sketchpad or does the story appear in your mind first?
Hello Book Bairn! Good question! Usually my ideas come when I am running (very slowly) in the mornings… Because I work from home its a nice way to get out of the house and I have a good old think as I’m plodding along. Its a lovely feeling when something pops into your head and then I can’t wait to get back and get it on paper. Having said that sometimes I’ll see something that gives me an idea (e.g. last year I was on a train and a bloke got on holding a plank of wood and that gave me an idea for a book about a pirate pig who’s best mate is a plank! By the time I’d got home I’d sorted the whole story. SPYDER was different though as she started life as a sidekick for another one of my characters ANONYMOUSE (a spy mouse!) but my publishers thongs SPYDER was a really strong character and asked me to write a story for her… so that was a different writing experience altogether! I soon found out that there was a lot of fun to be had with her character though!

You often pick some of the, shall we say, 'lesser-loved' creatures to star in your books - a spider, a bat - is this a deliberate choice? Of course spider lends itself beautifully to the pun you have created with the title!
My very first book was called RUSSELL THE SCARED CROW which I self published. I’ve always liked Crows and think they get a bad press as they are very intelligent. Russ was a great character so I started thinking about other animals to focus on… I think its lovely that animals who aren’t universally loved or are forgotten can be put in the spotlight and made heroes and hopefully help kids to see beyond the bad press they get…BATS, SPIDERS and MOLES have amazing skills that hopefully come across in the books…
I have though done loads of other ideas with animals which just haven’t come out or got through. My next book is about a RHINO called Ron who wants to be a unicorn! It has been strange to draw a huge animal instead of a tiny one!

Your books often feature little word-plays and puns which appeal to the adult reading the story. (My favourite is "danger is a-foot" right as Spyder almost gets squashed by dad's sock). Do you think about the adults as you are writing?
YES!!! That is definitely one of the things I’m trying to do. Over the years I’ve read loads of books to my kids and they usually want to hear the same one night after night. I love ones that have little jokes that work for adults too…  Like when Shrek came out and it had brilliant jokes that worked for everyone watching.

I’ve always loved comedy and puns since I was little so it was a no brainer for me to put my humour into my books. 


Spyder was one of The Wee Page Turner's first favourite books (when he was around 18months and was able to choose for himself what to read we read Spyder over and over again) and I think this is probably due to the crisp and bright graphic style of the illustrations. Did you find your skills experience as a graphic designer leant into you illustrations or was it like learning a whole new craft?
I’ve always loved big bright clean graphics and bold type which definitely influenced my books. In my job I’m always having to do different styles of illustration and I’ve never had a ‘style’ (or any style according to my kids!) plus I never really like anything I draw so it was quite difficult to come up with my own style… in the end I just drew stuff and realised that I couldn’t fake a style, I just had to go with what I could do! Then it was just a case of making it look as good as poss and then combining the graphic look which hopefully works and is a bit different from everyone else… I do still not see myself as a proper author illustrator though and when I see great proper illustrators like Jonny Duddle, Rob Biddulph or Joe Todd Stanton I get a bit jealous!

Which of Spyder's stunts was your favourite to bring to life?
I do like the 'mission impossible' style drop from the loft. I can imagine SPYDER humming the famous theme tune as she does it!

And finally what do you do when you see a spider in the house? Do you trap it under a glass too?

Yes! I love spiders!


What a fascinating insight into the process of developing the story! Thanks so much Matt for taking the time to share some of your process! 

The Lollies are awarded in three categories: picture books, books for 6-8 year olds and books for 9-13 year olds. The shortlisted books are as follows:

Best Laugh Out Loud Picture Book
Babies First Bank Heist by Jim Whalley & Stephen Collins
Spyder by Matt Carr
Ten Fat Sausages by Michelle Robinson & Tor Freeman
You're Called What?! by Kes Grey & Nikki Dyson

Best Laugh Out Loud Book for 6-8 Year Olds
Bad Nana: Older Not Wiser by Sophy Henn
The Legend of Kevin by Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre
The Nothing to See Here Hotel by Steven Butler & Steven Lenton
The World's Worst Children 3 by David Wallians & Tony Ross

Best Laugh Out Loud Book for 9-13 Year Olds
Kid Normal and the Rogue Heroes by Greg James, Chris Smith & Erica Salcedo
I Bet I Can Make You Laugh by Joshua Seigal & Tim Wesson
I Swapped My Brother on the Internet by Jo Simmons & Nathan Reed
Planet Stan by Elaine Wickson & Chris Judge

The winning book in each category will be decided solely by children’s votes, with schools and parents encouraged to help kids get involved and vote via the Lollies website, www.scholastic.co.uk/lollies, or using the PopJam app and you can find lots of great teaching resources on there for each of the books shortlisted. Get your votes in and the winning books will be announced at an awards ceremony in January 2020.

To read the other blog posts in the tour, check out the banner on the right or below to find out when and where to be (and I'll also be sharing on our Twitter). What gets your vote for the funniest book of the year? We'd love to hear your favourites! But also remember to pop over to www.scholastic.co.uk/lollies to vote and you can also find all the books at hugely discounted prices.


Thanks for reading,
Kim and the bairns x

Disclaimer: We were asked to join the Lollies Blog Tour and I immediately put my support behind Spyder by Matt Carr  as it's a book we already have and love. We acquired our copy from my lovely friend BookLoverJo who sent it because she knew we would love it!  Please read our Review Policy  if you want to know more. 


Monsters Under the Bed Book Blog Tour + Giveaway

With Halloween behind us, you would think that the spooking was over! But some monsters aren't just for Halloween - they are for ev...


With Halloween behind us, you would think that the spooking was over! But some monsters aren't just for Halloween - they are for every bedtime! 

"Do you lie awake at night worrying about monsters?" Probably not - but you might be up and down several hundred times a night settling a little one who is! This is the Ultimate Survival Guide to Monsters Under the Bed by Mitch Frost & Daron Parton and it's perfect for anyone (big or small) who's ever been afraid of what might be lurking under the bed.

At the Goodnight Laboratory they take the Monsters Under the Bed problem very seriously. They have bubbling test tubes, blinking machines and a team of master scientists to prove it! And with all that science brainpower and technology they have written a book - this book! But does it work? Well, it's up to you to test it out.



With ten easy-to-follow steps including tidying your room, brushing you teeth and telling hilarious(!) jokes, you can rid yourself of under the bed (and cupboard) monsters for good! Some of the advice is ingenious as it really just having a good bedtime routine - tidying your toys away (because clean rooms don't have monsters) and brushing your teeth (because monsters are disgusted by minty-fresh breath), which will no doubt delight the grown-ups reading this story. Anything that helps keep rooms tidy and teeth-brushed has got to be a good thing! But it also speaks to children too with it's advice to invite all your toys for a sleepover (because monsters hate big crowds) and to tell them a funny joke (because they will immediately run off to tell their monster pals leaving your room free and clear). And if all else fails, little readers can simply close the book to activate the SAFE5000 anti-monster force field around your home (no batteries required).


Packed full of gentle humour and illustrations of not-so-scary monsters, this book really could be the antidote to the monster under the bed problem. I particularly love the illustrations of sleeping children tucked in with their own copies of The Ultimate Survival Guide to Monsters Under the Bed. How 'meta' to have included the book cover within the story! It's a humorous, colourful and a completely unique way to comfort children at bedtime. Let's hope it delivers the antidote to make all bedrooms monster-free too!



And the lovely team from Buster Books have got a great giveaway over on their social media to win a copy but they are so kind that they have given us two copies and exclusive posters to giveaway on our site too! I'll be sharing that giveaway this evening over on our social media (Twitter, Instagram and Facebook - you can find the links at the top of our blog page under the masthead but also it's easy to find us by just searching for 'BookBairn'). So don't miss that!!

To check out more reviews check out the blog banner below to see all the beds that these monsters have been creeping under!


Thanks for reading,
Kim and the bairns x

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of The Ultimate Survival Guide to Monsters Under the Bed free for review purposes by the publishers, as part of our joining the blog tour. Words and opinions are my own. If you click on the title or image of the book you will be sent to Amazon using an affiliate link. This means that if you choose to purchase on Amazon, I will receive a small sum (around 20-70p per book) from Amazon at no extra cost to you. I understand that you may not want to use an affiliate link, but if you like reading our blog please just think of it as a small tip for a tip-off to an awesome book. And know that your support means I can buy more books! For more information check out our 'For Our Readers' section.



Christopher Pumpkin Blog Tour

"On Snaggletooth Lane in spooky Spooksville  was a dark creepy castle, perched high on a hill." If that's not a ...



"On Snaggletooth Lane in spooky Spooksville 
was a dark creepy castle, perched high on a hill."


If that's not a fabulous beginning to a Halloween story I don't know what is! Christopher Pumpkin by Sue Hendra & Paul Linnet and illustrated by Nick East is the story of a little pumpkin called Christopher. Except, well, the story doesn't start with Christopher. It starts with a wicked old witch who lives in a dark creepy castle who wants to throw a party and to help her get all the work done in time for the party. she brings to life a big pile of pumpkins (bought for a pie). One after the other she creates Gnarly and Grizzly and Grunty and Roar and Snaggletooth and Stink Face and then just one more...


Christopher!! A pumpkin who shines with warmth and kindness and loves glitter and sparkles and group hugs! Uh oh! Determined to fit in with his more gruesome colleague Christopher volunteers for decoration duty. But where the others hang cobwebs, Christopher hangs bunting. And instead of bat lanterns, he chooses balloons. He also falls short on his not-so-scary music choices and rather delicious looking menu. The witch threatens to turn him into soup! So he begs for one last chance and stays up all night plotting and planning the scariest party ever! And when the guests (vampires, Frankenstein, mummies, werewolves and ghouls) all turn up to the castle for the party they run off screaming! As does the witch and her ghastly pumpkins! Leaving Christopher a perfectly pink rainbow adorned, unicorn guarded castle all of his own!


Packed full of hilarious, spooky and adorable illustrations as well as a cast of ghastly characters, the illustrations in this book are so much fun! The contrast between the character of Christopher and the other pumpkins as you turn each page will delight little readers and the rhythmic rhyming text is such a joy to read aloud as a grown up. The surprise ending is also one that will cause fits of giggles! Ultimately it's a book about being true to yourself and that's a super message for all little pumpkins to read!

We enjoyed this one so much that we decided to bring to life some pumpkin friends of our own. Initially I had thought that we would carve some pumpkins and for three reasons I decided to do something simpler: firstly, pumpkin carvings is gross; second, I don't think I'm creative enough to create any more than one type of pumpkin face (my husband would be better at this than me!); but mostly, it's because my husband booked us a surprise holiday away so we didn't have time! (Sorry not sorry - hopefully I'm at a spa when you're reading this, or curled up in front of a log fire reading a book!)



So instead we used some less-than-happy looking apples from our apple trees and did some printing! We cut the apples in half (supervised by a grown up) and then created little orange pumpkin-shaped prints all over our page. Once the paint had dried we added some googly eyes and using a black marker pen created all sorts of gruesome and adorable faces! I even attempted Christopher! 


And as it's 31st October, all that's left to say is Happy Halloween! I hope you have a glitter filled sparkly Halloween a la Christopher or a ghastly ghoulish night if that's what you like best! 

Happy Halloween!
Kim and the Spook-bairns!


Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of Christopher Pumpkin free for review purposes by the publishers, as part of our joining the blog tour. Words and opinions are my own. If you click on the title or image of the book you will be sent to Amazon using an affiliate link. This means that if you choose to purchase on Amazon, I will receive a small sum (around 20-70p per book) from Amazon at no extra cost to you. I understand that you may not want to use an affiliate link, but if you like reading our blog please just think of it as a small tip for a tip-off to an awesome book. And know that your support means I can buy more books! For more information check out our 'For Our Readers' section.



Halloween Picture Books

Every year I love to share our favourite Halloween books - I don't quite know what it is about Halloween stories but I just love ...


Every year I love to share our favourite Halloween books - I don't quite know what it is about Halloween stories but I just love getting them all out on display and curling up and reading them. Maybe it's the autumnal weather that just makes me want to curl up and read? Maybe it's the glorious black, purple and orange colour combinations? Maybe I like a spooky story? Whatever it is - our Halloween collection is one of my favourites. And I like to add to it every year! So here are some 'new to us' picture books - some of which you will probably have discovered far sooner than us - a bit late to the game with Room on the Broom but nevermind and some of which might be new to you. If you are looking for our previous recommendations you can find them all collated under the 'Spookbairn's Halloween Reads' label!



The Mist Monster Blog Tour

Moving somewhere new can be quite scary but it can also be an exciting adventure! In this debut picture book, The Mist Monster by Kirst...


Moving somewhere new can be quite scary but it can also be an exciting adventure! In this debut picture book, The Mist Monster by Kirsti Beautyman, little girl Penny doesn't like her new house but she does like adventures. So when her dad suggests she goes exploring and dusts off her mum's* old explorer's hat because then she will be ready for anything. But Peanut the dog snatches her hat and dashes out to the garden. So perhaps not ready for anything, and of great surprise to Penny she meets Morris, the mist monster. And before she knows it she is whisked off on a true adventure as Morris and Penny chase Peanut over water, sand and land, up hills, down slope, up trees, through bushes... all to track down a very special hat. As they return towards the house, Dad shouts to Penny that he has recovered the hat (and Peanut) and Penny has to say goodbye to Morris. And the next day she is saddened to see the blazing sunshine has evaporated the mist, and Morris along with it. Now the one thing she loved most about the new house, her new friend, has gone. But perhaps there is another adventurer waiting to explore with her? A neighbour called Archie who wants to explore and play too. And of course on the next misty day the mist monster returns to join the duo!



The illustrations throughout this book are whimsical, magical and so incredibly evocative. The soft colour palette and whispy misty scenes are in contrast with the ginger hair of Penny and the ochre yellow eyes of Morris making their movements and emotions throughout their adventure stand out vividly. The landscapes also echo these colours making the illustrations all the more rich and vivid too. With the gold foil on the cover too, this is as beautiful a book in illustration as it is in it's depiction of a lost little girl.


*Penny's mum is absent and, though it's not made clear, my interpretation is that her mum has passed away. (Worth noting if this might be a trigger for your little reader or equally it might be something supportive for them too.) With Penny feeling emotionally lost, I love the metaphor of her being lost in the mist and finding a friend to help guide her through. Something I think many children would find comforting. And in her new friendships Penny finds joy, showing the powerful magic of friendship.


I'm delighted to welcome author and illustrator, Kirsti Beautyman, to our blog today as part of our stop on The Mist Monster blog tour. The Mist Monster is Kirsti's debut picture book and below she shares her process of character development as well as some of her initial sketches of the characters.


I was really lucky to be chosen to be on the [Picture Hooks] scheme and was partnered with Helen Stephens as my mentor. Over the following months throughout early 2017, she guided me and gave bits of advice, helping me to learn to draw children and get more natural movement into my characters. This was such a lengthy process because I didn't want to end up drawing something that didn't feel like my work, so it took a while to figure out how to adapt my style and learn to draw children and characters properly. As you can see there were A LOT of different stages. The bottom image are the final roughs from The Mist Monster before I began colour, where Penny and Morris took their final forms!


What a fascinating insight into the process of developing the main character for the story! And so interesting to know that you worked with one of our favourite author-illustrators Helen Stephens. 

Thanks so much Kirsti for taking the time to share some of your process! To check out more of the blog tour you can find all the details in the banner below.


Thanks for reading,
Kim and the bairns x

Disclaimer: We were sent a review copy of The Mist Monster as part of agreement to be part of the blog tour. Please read our Review Policy  if you want to know more. If you click on the image of the book below you will be sent to Amazon.co.uk using an affiliate link.  This means that if you choose to purchase on Amazon.co.uk, I will receive a small sum (around 20-90p per book) from Amazon at no extra cost to you. I understand that you may not want to use an affiliate link, but if you like reading our blog post please just think of it as a small tip for a tip-off to an awesome book. And know that your support means I can buy more books! For more information check out our For Readers Section.



Kids Love to Read #47 & Giveaway

I am so looking forward to reading your posts this month! I love curling up in autumn to read and cam't wait for all the recommendat...


I am so looking forward to reading your posts this month! I love curling up in autumn to read and cam't wait for all the recommendations to pour in!

If you share or review children's books or are raising a reader whilst writing a blog then our co-hosted monthly linky with  Laura's Lovely Blog and Acorn Books (who is currently taking some maternity leaves so it's just Laura and I this month) is perfect for you! Kids Love to Read is a link-up to share blog posts written by other bloggers that star wonderful children's books. It's a great way to find new blogs to read and new book recommendations too, as well as invite people to come and read your own blog. Also last month we had a few people linking up posts from Instagram sharing their reviews too which is wonderful!

So if you write about your favourite children's books I would love it if you link-up your post! And I'm looking forward to reading them all!


Last Month's Favourites

My favourite post last mont came from We(e) Read(s) review of the Runaway Pea. I also really enjoyed the format of her review and the separate sections for what she thought and what her wee reader thought, something I might consider doing with BookBairn now that she is a bit older. 

Laura's favourite came from Book Nerd Cafe who shared reviews of some of the best new children's books. I was really keen to read her review of The Smeds and the Smoods (the new Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler collaboration) and also funny that one of the books she reviewed is our giveaway book this month! (See below).


Linky Rules:
– Write about reading with children, share your love and your children’s love of books, what do you love to read together, how do you encouraging reading and books with your little or not so little ones? Books you love or book reviews.
– This Linky is open every 3rd Monday of the month for one week.
– Grab the Kids Love to Read badge and pop it in your post. It's linked at the end of the post for you.
– Use the #KLTR hashtag on Twitter and Instagram.
– Share the love – try and read & comment the host’s posts and on 2 other blogs listed on the Linky.
We look forward to reading your posts! And don't forget to enter the competition below!
Kim and the #KLTR team x



You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!
Click here to enter

Giveaway


We have a fabulous giveaway this month oThe Way Home for Wolf by Rachel Bright and Jim Field. Laura reviewed this one her blog recently and it's one we have adored for a while too so well worth a few click to enter.

*Terms and conditions: Entries are open to UK and Ireland residents. The competition closes on the the 10th November 2019. Winners will be announced on social media and contacted via email. If the winner does not respond to the email in two weeks, a new winner will be randomly chosen.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Grab the Button: 






Instructions: Select all code above, copy it and paste it inside your blog post as HTML

Modern Versions of Traditional Fairytales

I have finally found them! The books I have been looking for for ages but I didn't know what they looked like or who wrote them or p...


I have finally found them! The books I have been looking for for ages but I didn't know what they looked like or who wrote them or published them or illustrated them - they existed only on my dream shelf. And after four years of searching I've found them!!

Kids Love to Read #46 & Giveaway

Oh my goodness I haven't written many posts since the last KLTR link-up! Where has the time gone? To be honest I've been really ...


Oh my goodness I haven't written many posts since the last KLTR link-up! Where has the time gone? To be honest I've been really focussed on Instagram to get caught up on my reviews of books we were sent over the summer and to top that off we have received over 30 books in the last two weeks alone so I haven't even made a dent! But I'll get there and maybe I'll learn to prioritise what to review better. And I aim to find more time to write actual blog posts - that's my mission for September.

If you share or review children's books or are raising a reader whilst writing a blog then our co-hosted monthly linky with  Laura's Lovely Blog and Acorn Books (who is currently taking some maternity leaves so it's just Laura and I this month) is perfect for you! Kids Love to Read is a link-up to share blog posts written by other bloggers that star wonderful children's books. It's a great way to find new blogs to read and new book recommendations too, as well as invite people to come and read your own blog. Also last month we had a few people linking up posts from Instagram sharing their reviews too which is wonderful!

So if you write about your favourite children's books I would love it if you link-up your post! And I'm looking forward to reading them all!


Last Month's Favourites

Last month Laura really enjoyed reading 'Picture Book Perfect 123's review of Sleep Well Siba Saba - a lovely book sharing the bond of two sisters and their Ugandan heritage along with some beautiful illustrations! My favourite post came from Peapod Picks selection of great books to gift for birthdays and special occasions which featured some books that we love and shared by Chitra Soundar and Poonam Mistry - truly stunning books!


Linky Rules:
– Write about reading with children, share your love and your children’s love of books, what do you love to read together, how do you encouraging reading and books with your little or not so little ones? Books you love or book reviews.
– This Linky is open every 3rd Monday of the month for one week.
– Grab the Kids Love to Read badge and pop it in your post. It's linked at the end of the post for you.
– Use the #KLTR hashtag on Twitter and Instagram.
– Share the love – try and read & comment the host’s posts and on 2 other blogs listed on the Linky.
We look forward to reading your posts! And don't forget to enter the competition below!
Kim and the #KLTR team x


You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!
Click here to enter

Giveaway

Each month, to encourage reading with kids and to go along with our #KLTR Linky, we host a Book Giveaway.
We have a fabulous giveaway this month oI Love You Brighter than the Stars by Owen Hart & Sean Julian.

*Terms and conditions: Entries are open to UK and Ireland residents. The competition closes on the the 10th October 2019. Winners will be announced on social media and contacted via email. If the winner does not respond to the email in two weeks, a new winner will be randomly chosen.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Grab the Button: 






Instructions: Select all code above, copy it and paste it inside your blog post as HTML