Category Archives: Picture book

Scottish Book Trust Awards 2018

After months of secrecy, all the Scottish Book Trust Awards for this year have been made public, culminating in an awards ceremony in Edinburgh last night.

I don’t actually know where to start. They are all important, so does one go from less to more, or the other way round?

OK, I’ll go with the Learning Professional Award. Where would we be without such hardworking people, especially someone who sounds as absolutely fabulous as Eileen Littlewood, Head Teacher at Forthview Primary in Edinburgh? First I marvelled at all Eileen has achieved, and then I quickly felt both exhausted and not a little envious of all her great work.

Eileen Littlewood upright pic - credit Jonathan Ley

When Eileen started, the school library had been dismantled, and in order to create her vision of an in-house library catering for all ages, she applied for and secured over £10k of funding. She was able to start a reading community, and also helped the Family Support Teacher to start a parent book group, using Quick Reads and comic books to engage parents who were reluctant to read.

Eileen has established a paired reading initiative, has organised author visits to the school and has ensured her staff are trained to deliver reading projects. She also runs a lunchtime book club for pupils, as well as regular writing workshops. And she has recently worked with parents to create a book of poems on mental health to share with their children.

The Outstanding Achievement Award has gone to Vivian French, who has written hundreds of books. She has also worked hard to promote books by other authors and illustrators. Vivian is not only an inspiring figure to those in the industry, but has also acted as a mentor to budding authors and artists. Vivian is an active advocate for dyslexia.

In 2012, she and Lucy Juckes set up Picture Hooks, a mentoring scheme to encourage emerging Scottish illustrators.  And Vivian has been Children’s Writer-in-Residence at the Edinburgh International Book Festival and a guest selector for the children’s programme. She also teaches at Edinburgh College of Art in the illustration department and is a Patron of the Borders Book Festival.

Vivian French wide pic - credit Jonathan Ley

Vivian’s comment to all this was; ‘I have the most wonderful time visiting schools and festivals, tutoring young illustrators, talking (always talking!) and discussing books and pictures… surely such an award should be for someone who’s earned it by the sweat of their brow? Not someone like me, who skips about having such a very lovely time! I’m not ungrateful – truly I’m not – it’s the most amazing award to be given… but I’m going to redouble my efforts now to ensure that I really deserve it.’

There’s modesty, and then there’s modesty. Vivian deserves this award!


And finally, there’s the Bookbug Picture Book Prize for Gorilla Loves Vanilla by Chae Strathie and Nicola O’Byrne, and the Scottish Teenage Book Prize to Caighlan Smith for Children of Icarus.

Caighlan Smith

Mustn’t forget to mention runners-up Michelle Sloan and Kasia Matyjaszek, Debi Gliori and Alison Brown, Danny Weston and Elizabeth Laird.

Phew, what a lot of talent and good books!


Great Bunny Bakes

So, the time has come for Bake-Off to turn up in a picture book.

In Ellie Snowdon’s Great Bunny Bakes the young readers will find a blend of modern television entertainment the way they – most likely – know it, and the traditional story about a wolf and some innocent bunnies.

Ellie Snowdon, Great Bunny Bakes

Quentin the wolf loves baking, and he does so with great success. Except, he has no one to sit down and eat his cakes with. Poor Quentin.

Then, one day he is invited to the Great Bunny Baking competition, and he disguises himself as a bunny to be able to take part. All goes well, until it doesn’t. (Banana skins can be so treacherous!)

This is a book about eating cake, not bunnies, so there is a sweet solution to Quentin’s problems.

Binny, Bunny

These two picture books are all about loving your bunny.

In Alina Surnaite’s I Love You, Bunny, Suzy is scared the monster will come in the night. She has her [toy] Bunny, though, so she’s going to be absolutely fine.

But, who is that enormous creature that turns up in the night, and where is Bunny?

Alina Surnaite, I Love You, Bunny

This is a beautifully illustrated bed time story.

In Origami Heart by Binny, we meet Kabuki the rabbit. He is lonely. He is also quite particular about order, and we see him getting his home ready for a visit from Yoko.

Binny, Origami Heart

Despite his careful preparations, all does not go to plan. But there are other bunnies out there, who will appreciate a nice and orderly Kabuki.

Very sweet and low-key story about friendship. And maybe love?

Odd friends

You can be odd in different ways. You can be simply odd. Or you are odd because there’s only one of you (and I think this is so unfair; you don’t always have to be a pair).

Or you could be a [toy] lion called Rory, who always waits for a bed time story from his friend, the little girl.

Jeanne Willis and Holly Clifton-Brown, Tell Me a Story, Rory

We have a lovely small lion in Jeanne Willis’s Tell Me a Story, Rory, with illustrations by Holly Clifton-Brown. Rory has a large mane for such a tiny lion, and he lives for his little girl’s stories. Until the day she goes away. Little girls eventually stop being little.

There’s nothing else for it. Rory has to tell himself a story.

As for Simon Sock in Sue Hendra’s and Paul Linnet’s story by the same name, with rather stripey pictures by Nick East, he finds out he is odd. That’s why he never gets chosen from the sock drawer. You have to be one of a pair. (Much like in life!)

Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet and Nick East, Simon Sock

Simon starts looking for a mate, but there’s something not quite right about them. Until he does find his very own mate, Simone, who’d been missing under the chest of drawers. But she wants to watch television, so it’s not a happy ending for them.

Until… Betty the Banana offers to come out and play. You can be odd, but still not odd.

Words and your heart

‘Let’s make our world a happier place!’ That’s what it says on the cover of this rather Valentine-ish picture book by Kate Jane Neal. It’s more about kindness to others than any kind of romantic love, but it fits in so well today.

Kate Jane Neal, Words and your heart

It’s about ‘the little bit inside of you, that makes you, you.’

We should look after each other’s hearts, by saying things that will make those hearts happier, rather than hurt. When good stuff happens, our hearts feel better. And when not, they don’t feel so great.

You know that, don’t you?

Kate Jane Neal, Words and your heart

It’s about words. Words can change how you feel. It’s important to choose to say words that will make another person feel good. They are just words, but they go into your ears, and then into your heart.

Everybody feels…

That’s the thing I most often say when trying to improve how someone is feeling. I point out that the people around them very likely also feel a bit like they do, whether it’s nerves or upsets, or anything else. Because we are remarkably similar in so many ways. And just because they aren’t displaying those feelings, doesn’t mean they don’t have them.

Moira Butterfield and Holly Sterling, Everybody feels...

This is what the set of four picture books written by Moira Butterfield and illustrated by Holly Sterling, are wanting to tell their young readers. It’s OK, and perfectly normal, to be scared, for instance. We all are at some stage in our lives, and more often than others think.

The same goes for happy – which is more obvious, maybe – and sad, and I don’t suppose angry is so hard to miss, although it could be.

These four books are rather lovely, in that they show our young characters that their feelings are normal, and they are shared, and that this feeling will pass. If your cat died, you will eventually be happy again, while not forgetting your cat.

Sometimes it can be hard to talk about feelings with a child, so these books should be very useful in many situations. They also show the child that other children can be understanding and supportive. It’s easy to forget this.

Dino Duckling

Dino Duckling is a very lovely, and kind, story, about a dinosaur egg and what became of him when he was born.

Alison Murray has written and illustrated her new picture book, ‘inspired’ by The Ugly Duckling. It’s not until you’ve read about Dino and his mother and siblings that you properly understand how harsh Hans Christian Andersen’s story is.

Alison Murray, Dino Duckling

This is the book Alison read to us at the 2017 Bookbug Conference, and I knew then that I needed to read it.

The Dino egg is much larger than those his siblings are born from, but his mother makes absolutely no difference in her treatment of her babies. This duck mother is both loving and sensible, and that’s what we need to read about.

What’s more, Dino’s siblings don’t taunt him for being different or for what he can’t do. They play together and their ducklinghood is a happy one, until the day comes when they need to fly south…

Dino tries his utmost to fly, when his duck siblings take off, but –

This story teaches us that there is a solution to most things, if only you are willing to think outside the box. Love helps.