Philip Pullman’s La Belle Sauvage to be adapted for London stage


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Nicholas Hytner will direct an adaptation of the His Dark Materials prequel at the Bridge theatre

More than a decade after Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy first dazzled theatre audiences, his prequel novel La Belle Sauvage is set to be adapted for the stage at London’s Bridge theatre in autumn 2020.

On Friday, a spokesperson for the Bridge theatre confirmed that plans were under way to adapt Pullman’s 2017 novel for the stage. Bridge artistic director Nicholas Hytner will direct the show, which will be written by Bryony Lavery.

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Cressida Cowell: ‘Books are better than films at teaching children creativity and intelligence’


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The new children’s laureate and How to Train Your Dragon author talks about how to get kids reading and why we need the space to make mistakes

There is a primary school across the road from Cressida Cowell’s west London home, so the author of the How to Train Your Dragon series writes with a backdrop of shouts and yells from the playground. The little garden shed where she dreams up and illustrates the stories of Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III and his dragon Toothless is stuffed with drawings and maps, pencils and paints, and piles and piles of books.

“I have been into that school but not recently, so maybe I’m incognito to this generation,” says Cowell, who has lived in the area for decades. She does sometimes get recognised when she’s out and about. After all, she’s sold over 11m books around the world, in 38 languages, with her ...

How to Train Your Dragon author Cressida Cowell named new children’s laureate


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The author and illustrator comes to role with ‘giant to-do list’, which includes making school libraries a legal requirement, and more time for creativity

How to Train Your Dragon author and illustrator Cressida Cowell has been named the new Waterstones children’s laureate, and has promised she will use her two-year incumbency to make the magic of books “urgently available to absolutely everyone”.

Following 10 previous laureates, from Quentin Blake to, most recently, Lauren Child, Cowell’s stories about the adventures of timid Viking Hiccup and his dragon Toothless, have sold more than 11m books around the world. They have also been adapted into a popular film series by DreamWorks.

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The Longest Night of Charlie Noon by Christopher Edge review – into the woods


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Time plays tricks in an original and suspenseful tale for 8- to 12-year-olds that explores black holes and quantum physics

It isn’t every day that a novel for 8- to 12-year-olds reminds you of TS Eliot’s Four Quartets, Dante’s Inferno and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. There’s a dash of The Twilight Zone in there too, plus a hint of the Wild Wood from The Wind in the Willows, all swirled together at the same time. And as young Charlie Noon discovers in this intriguing book, time itself can be a tricky concept.

When we meet her, life is clearly not great for Charlie. Her grandad has died and left his house to Charlie’s mum and dad, which is handy as her dad has lost his job in London and they need somewhere cheaper to live. But Charlie finds moving to the country pretty tough, and ...

Children’s and teens roundup: the best new picture books and novels


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A mysterious suitcase, secret dragons, a breathtaking acrobatic heist and more

There’s a star-gazing theme to picture books this month. Look Up! (Puffin) by Nathan Bryon and Dapo Adeola features science-crazed, irrepressible chatterbox Rocket, who is determined to get her whole town out watching a meteor shower – to the annoyance of her big brother, who would rather stay glued to his phone. Energetic and with a wry, sweet take on family dynamics, it will alert readers to the thrilling mysteries of the night skies.

Astro Girl (Otter-Barry) by Ken Wilson-Max stars Astrid, another little girl intent on discovering the secrets of space, who enjoys acting out the challenges of zero gravity with Papa while Mama is away. When Astrid welcomes her back, the twist in the tale reveals that Mama might be an expert on space herself. A delightful combination of imaginative play and inspiring role model from a ...

Carnegie medal goes to first writer of colour in its 83-year history


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Dominican-American Elizabeth Acevedo wins prestigious children’s award for The Poet X, while Jackie Morris takes illustration prize for The Lost Words

Dominican-American slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo has become the first ever writer of colour to win the UK’s most prestigious children’s books award, the Carnegie medal, which has a history stretching back to 1936 and includes Arthur Ransome, CS Lewis and Neil Gaiman among its former winners.

Acevedo, the daughter of Dominican immigrants, took the medal for her debut, The Poet X. A verse novel, it tells of a quiet Dominican girl, Xiomara, who joins her school’s slam poetry club in Harlem and is, according to the judges, “a searing, unflinching exploration of culture, family and faith within a truly innovative verse structure”. Xiomara “comes to life on every page and shows the reader how girls and women can learn to inhabit, and love, their own skin”.

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Torn apart: the vicious war over young adult books


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Authors who write about marginalised communities are facing abuse, boycotts and even death threats. What is cancel culture doing to young adult fiction?

Earlier this month, the author and screenwriter Gareth Roberts announced that his story was being removed from a forthcoming Doctor Who anthology. Having been shown Roberts’s past tweets about transgender people, BBC Books said that his views “conflict with our values as a publisher”. At least one of the book’s other contributors, Susie Day, had promised to withdraw from the project if Roberts were included. “I raised my concerns, and said if he was in, I was out,” Day said.

A few days before, at the Hay festival, the Irish author John Boyne had described a campaign against his own book, A Boy Called Jessica, about a boy and his trans sister. He was insulted on Twitter for his appearance and his sexuality. (Like Roberts, he ...

‘Highly concerning’: picture books bias worsens as female characters stay silent


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Guardian research shows that the top 100 illustrated children’s books last year showed growing marginalisation of female and minority ethnic characters

The most popular picture books published in 2018 collectively present a white and male-dominated world to children, feature very few BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) characters and have become more biased against girls in the past year, Guardian research reveals.

In-depth analysis of the top 100 bestselling illustrated children’s books of 2018, using data from Nielsen BookScan, has been carried out by the Guardian and Observer for the second year in a row.

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‘Ghosts shaped my life’: out-of-print children’s classic to be resurrected


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The macabre guide counts Reece Shearsmith and Nick Frost among its diehard fans. What’s so creepy about a 1970s children’s book?

So, it turns out I wasn’t the only terrified young reader. From the unnerving one-eyed ghost dog, Black Shuck, to the many gibbets pictured in its pages, Usborne’s World of the Unknown: Ghosts, out of print for more than 20 years, has inspired people from Reece Shearsmith to Nick Frost. Now a petition with more than 1,200 signatures, and a social media campaign backed by both the League of Gentlemen creator and the Hot Fuzz actor, have persuaded the eponymous children’s publisher to reissue the 1977 cult favourite just in time for this year’s Halloween.

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Old school, new pupils: modernising Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers


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A black character appears in one of four new stories designed to renew the appeal of Blyton’s boarding school for 21st-century readers

The girls of Malory Towers will be welcoming a new pupil later this month. Homesick, proud and lonely, Marietta is also the first black character to join Enid Blyton’s famous boarding school by the sea, which is enjoying an unlikely renaissance.

First dreamed up in 1946, a television adaptation of the school series is in development, and a theatrical musical that calls it “nostalgic, naughty and perfect for now … the original ‘Girl Power’ story” will tour England from July. But Marietta is the star of a new Malory Towers story from Patrice Lawrence, one of four commissioned by Blyton’s publisher Hachette, which will be released later this month.

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Children’s picture book reviews round-up – to the moon and back


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Imaginations rove from the wonders of space travel to the world of a pea

Publishers this summer seem determined to produce the next generation of space explorers. July marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landings, and picture book authors have responded to the event with gusto across space-themed fiction and factual titles. My pick of the bunch is Viviane Schwarz’s fictional How to Be on the Moon (6 June, Walker), which perfectly captures its magnetic pull.

The second adventure for Schwarz’s best-friend duo Anna and Crocodile finds Anna longing to visit the white glimmering ball she can see out of her window. “But that’s out in space,” says Crocodile… “It will be almost impossible.” Together they decide that if they take their special skills – maths, patience – along with sandwiches and travel games, they can make it happen. With her inky, splotchy illustrations and can-do ...

JK Rowling’s Pottermore to publish four short books on the history of magic


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Pottermore Publishing due to release non-fiction ebooks, modelled on the curriculum followed by Harry Potter

Harry Potter fans are due to be given new insight into the “rich history” of JK Rowling’s wizarding world in a new series of four short books exploring the origins of magic.

Rowling’s Pottermore Publishing will release four ebooks next month, “bitesize” non-fiction that the publisher said will explore “the traditional folklore and magic at the heart of the Harry Potter stories”. Each is themed on a subject on the Hogwarts curriculum, with A Journey Through Charms and Defence Against the Dark Arts, A Journey Through Potions and Herbology, A Journey Through Divination and Astronomy, and A Journey Through Care of Magical Creatures all on the way.

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Matt Haig: ‘Kids are so overloaded, they’ve got so much stress’


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The author and mental health activist on writing for different age groups, homeschooling, and being followed by Harry and Meghan

Matt Haig’s award-winning books for adults and children include Reasons to Stay Alive and A Boy Called Christmas. Born in 1975 in Sheffield, he now lives in Brighton with his family. His new children’s book, Evie and the Animals, follows a girl with a secret superpower: she can understand and talk to animals.

Your Christmas trilogy was written in response to your son’s question “What was Father Christmas like as a boy?” Does Evie and the Animals have an evolution story?
So that my daughter didn’t end up talking to her therapist in 20 years’ time about not being the special one, I genuinely asked her what she wanted me to write about. And she said: “talking animals”. I had to come up with a story that ...

Book clinic: What can I give a child to help them with losing a parent?


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Writer and critic Kate Kellaway suggests nonfiction and novels to support young people dealing with grief

Q: Are there any children’s books dealing with grief and, specifically, losing a parent? My niece and nephew, aged 11 and seven, are likely to lose their mum due to illness and I am wondering what may be of help.
Anonymous, 38

A: Kate Kellaway, Observer writer and critic, writes:
The first thing to say is that there is a gap where the perfect book should be. I’ve been to bookshops to inquire (a book was thrust into my hands in which a mother is in a car crash but survives). I’ve searched online and, with premature triumph, ordered Still Here With Me: Teenagers and Children on Losing a Parent, edited by a Swedish writer, Suzanne Sjöqvist. But the book’s first-person accounts seem more depressing than consoling (double-check – you’ll know what is ...

Children’s and teens roundup: the best new picture books and novels


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Migrating hummingbirds, a chick at the circus and runaway robots getting into trouble

Readers of eight and up are spoilt for choice this month. Dancing the Charleston (Puffin), from the perennially popular Jacqueline Wilson, is set in the 1920s and features clever, precocious Mona, who lives with Aunty, dressmaker to the lady of the manor. When Lady Somerset dies, their position becomes precarious – until her ladyship’s scandalous artistic son takes a fancy to them. Wild glamour, class conflict, buried secrets and a cameo appearance by Hetty Feather are all delivered with Wilson’s inimitable, intensely readable flair, interspersed with Nick Sharratt’s cheery illustrations.

Runaway Robot (Macmillan) by Frank Cottrell-Boyce is a comic and compelling tale set in a near-future filled with automated buses and dust-hog street cleaners, uproariously illustrated by Steven Lenton. After losing his right hand in an accident, Alfie is unwilling to return to school. Passing time truanting ...

Judith Kerr obituary | Julia Eccleshare


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The author and illustrator best known for the classic children’s book The Tiger Who Came to Tea

The creator of the classic children’s books The Tiger Who Came to Tea and Mog the Forgetful Cat, Judith Kerr, who has died aged 95, was unusual in being equally successful as a writer and an illustrator. She always claimed that she was “a very slow” illustrator and that her work was “more rubbing out than drawing”, but in a career that ran from 1968 to this year she created more than 30 books, mostly about Mog, all of which have remained in print and which sell worldwide.

The bestselling The Tiger Who Came to Tea (1968) was her first book. Characterised by its bold, naive-style illustrations and gentle anarchy, it tells the playful and imaginative story of how the everyday routine of a mother and her young daughter, Sophie, is disrupted ...

Judith Kerr, beloved author of The Tiger Who Came to Tea, dies aged 95


This post is by Claire Armitstead from Books | The Guardian


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Author and illustrator of more than 30 books, including the Mog series based on her pet cats, arrived in England in 1936 as a refugee from the Nazis

Judith Kerr, the author and illustrator whose debut picture book The Tiger Who Came to Tea introduced generations of pre-school children to the joyful chaos of uncontrolled appetites, has died at the age of 95 .

Kerr, who dreamed up the tiger to amuse her two children, only started publishing in her 40s, and lived to see the Tiger reach its millionth sale as she turned 94. To her mild chagrin, it remained her best loved single book: “I’ve got better at drawing, obviously,” she told one interviewer.

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How do you turn kids into bookworms? All 10 children’s laureates share their tips


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Michael Morpurgo, Quentin Blake, Julia Donaldson and more reveal the books that inspired them and how to keep children interested in a world of digital distractions

It began in front of a log fire after a convivial dinner with friends and neighbours, Ted and Carol Hughes. I was grumbling about the lack of attention and credit generally given in the adult world to children’s books. Hughes, poet laureate at the time, said something like: “A fine children’s book is as important and worthwhile as any kind of literature, and maybe more so. Read and love a great story or poem when you’re young and the chances are that you’ll become a reader for life, and maybe a writer or an artist. Something should be done.”

“You’re the poet laureate,” I ventured, “maybe we should have a children’s laureate?”

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