Caitlin Moran: ‘I address the taboos that need to be busted’

The journalist and author talks about revenge porn, embarrassing her children and the ‘big fuss’ of making a film

Raised and home-schooled in Wolverhampton, Caitlin Moran became a journalist aged 15 and is now an award-winning writer at the Times. Her 2011 nonfiction memoir How to Be a Woman is an international bestseller, while How to Build a Girl, the first novel in her semi-autobiographical trilogy about a teenager called Johanna Morrigan, is being made into a feature film. Its sequel, How to Be Famous, is out on Thursday (Ebury Press, £14.99).

This is your third book with a ‘how to’ title. How come?
I like writing useful books. I didn’t go to school. Everything I learned was from reading everything that interested me in Wolverhampton’s Warstone’s library. With a “how to” title you know what you’re going to get. If you call it, like, The Crying of ...

Picture books for children reviews – lessons in kindness

A gentle introduction to the refugee crisis – plus tales of big hair and a baby bandit

While the title may nod to a certain fairytale there’s not even a whiff of ballgowns or romance in Nadia Shireen’s joyous monster-slaying adventure Billy and the Beast (Jonathan Cape, £6.99). Refreshingly, the heroine here is a brown girl with a yellow cagoule, skinny jeans and a fabulous frizzy beehive in which she stashes essentials from emergency doughnuts to useful devices. British author Shireen has created her best character yet in the feisty and fun Billy, who rescues her woodland pals from the claws of a goofy green beast.

Elsewhere, some of this season’s most charming picture books feature people who seem to need saving from themselves. In Ruby’s Worry by Tom Percival (Bloomsbury, £6.99, 12 July), a young girl’s anxiety is artfully expressed as a scrawled yellow blob with a black monobrow. The blob swells ...

Picture books for children reviews – strong mums and brave spirits

Naughty kittens light up Cressida Cowell’s latest, while another twist on the Rebel Girls formula is full of spark

“Can we EAT a story?” one hungry kitten asks her mother at the beginning of The Story of Tantrum O’Furrily (Hodder, £12.99, published 5 April). Resembling a modern-day folktale, the latest from bestselling author Cressida Cowell is such a lip-smacking pleasure to read, so playfully told, that you may well find yourself wanting to swallow it whole. Presented as a story within a story, it begins with ginger stray Tantrum O’Furrily telling her three kittens the tale of Smallpaw, a bored kitten warned not to go outside where the stray cats – “the story cats” – get up to mischief. Nevertheless, Smallpaw creeps out and is almost eaten by a sweet-talking fox: “‘Don’t be frightened, furry biscuit,’ said the foxy gentleman...” Thankfully she’s saved from his clutches by ...

Star in the Jar review – magical story of loss and sibling love

Sam Hay’s warm-hearted tale explores the wonders of the night sky

Full of encouragement to look up at the night sky with little children during these long dark evenings, Star in the Jar is about a small boy who loves collecting precious things – “Tickly treasure. Glittery treasure... even litter bin treasure” – and one day stumbles upon a real star.

Popped in a jar for safekeeping, the star never leaves the boy’s side, even brightening up a trip to the toilet. But as night descends, the star longs for home. Sarah Massini’s rich, characterful illustrations show the boy’s celestial friend growing limp as it gazes up from a window ledge to read a constellation spelling out “lost, one small star”. And so the boy and his big sister, the story’s narrator, must figure out how to return their latest treasure.

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Here We Are by Oliver Jeffers review – a heartfelt hug of a story

Jeffers’s first nonfiction book is a witty, tender introduction to the world for his newborn son

Like many new parents back from hospital, Oliver Jeffers found himself taking his baby on a tour of his home: “Here’s the kitchen, where we make food...” This sparked the idea for his first foray into nonfiction, a picture book introducing his son to “the big globe, floating in space, on which we live”. Unmistakably conceived in the afterglow of new parenthood – the sun blazes, everyone smiles and the baby is a cute, luminous cocoon lighting up the nursery – it bursts with tenderness.

As you’d also expect from the world-renowned creator of such characters as Henry (The Incredible Book Eating Boy) and Wilfred, with his botched attempts at moose-taming (This Moose Belongs to Me), it’s witty and fun. At the bottom of a diagram of the body, ...

Daddy Long Legs by Nadine Brun-Cosme and Aurélie Guillerey review – chicest picture book of the year

Full of quirky detail, this father and son jaunt is satisfyingly sillyA tall tale of fatherly devotion with a dash of Edward Gorey and a lot of mid-century modern style, Daddy Long Legs is surely a frontrunner for the year’s chicest picture book. Created by two established French talents, author Nadine Brun-Cosme and illustrator Aurélie Guillerey, it’s a story told in glorious Technicolor about a dad with an unreliable car and his anxious son wanting reassurance that he’ll be collected from nursery. From the opening page, it’s clear we’re in for a quirky ride: Matty’s dad, a lanky chap with dots for eyes, a pink carrot nose and a drainpipe suit, leans, puzzled, over his old green “hiccuping” car. The pair eventually make it to nursery, but “what if the car doesn’t start again?” worries Matty. There’s always the neighbour’s big red tractor, says Dad, beginning to ...

My Very Own Space by Pippa Goodhart review – a fun bunny tale

This action-packed story of a rabbit craving his own space will resonate with children wanting a bit of hush There’s a telling dedication at the beginning of this new book from Pippa Goodhart, the British author best known for her Winnie the Witch series. “For my own little sister, Jo Eddleston”, it reads, “with whom I used to share a bedroom, with lots of love”. It sweetly encapsulates the spirit of this tale about personal space, featuring little rabbit Jack, who gets cross because he wants some peace, but soon craves the companionship of others. It’s a story light on words yet bustling with action. From the perky rabbits squished like sardines on to the front cover, to the whirligig opening spread of singing, sneezing, strutting bunnies, you can see why Jack’s in pursuit of a quiet corner. “SHUSH!” he cries in the first line, “I want to ...

Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear and Isabelle Arsenault review – the ‘Bloomsberry’ girls

This clever picture book imagines the secret world of the young Virginia Woolf and her sister Vanessa. And doesn’t shy away from tackling depression The novelist Virginia Woolf once described the bond she shared with her sister, the artist Vanessa Bell, as a “close conspiracy”. When she took her own life in 1941 she left two suicide notes behind: one for her husband and one for her beloved Vanessa. Now with beautiful splashes of colour and witty, uplifting text, the Canadian duo Kyo Maclear and illustrator Isabelle Arsenault imagine the secret childhood world the sisters created, while delicately exploring the theme of depression, in this exceptional picture book for ages 4+, finally published in Britain after its acclaimed release in Canada in 2012. Continue reading...

The Everywhere Bear by Julia Donaldson and Rebecca Cobb review – tender tale of a runaway bear

The bond between schoolchildren and their teachers is lovingly explored in this story of a boy who loses the class bear Poor little Matt. No sooner has he started at his new school than he’s lost the class bear, after having him home for the weekend. Whoosh, the bear dives out of his bag and straight down a drain. Soon he’s off on a very big adventure, bouncing from boat to crane, skip to seagull beak, and ultimately back into the arms of his friends in Class One. Like its predecessor The Paper Dolls, also for ages 3+, this collaboration between Julia Donaldson and illustrator Rebecca Cobb takes a childlike delight in people’s names and their everyday interests. While The Paper Dolls featured a little girl and her paper chain of friends – “They were Ticky and Tacky and Jackie the Backie and Jim with two noses and Jo ...