Book Review: Grub’s Pups

I was very chuffed to be asked to review this book. It’s a delightful picture book that entranced both my four year old son and eighteen month old toddler.

Abi Burlingham has Ruby tell the story of how her dog, Grub is going to be a dad. It’s easy to join in with her excitement through the build up and birth and counting each puppy as it comes out. I really liked though that there was a slightly different angle in that the story focused more on Grub’s reaction to the puppies coming along and I think it will encourage children’s developing empathy.

Emily in particular was very taken with Grub’s Pups and it’s easy to understand why. It’s a lovely story told in an engaging style and I have to say as well, the illustrations are really sweet and gently humourous.

I’ll definitely be getting the first two books, Ruby and Grub and Grub in Love to catch up on Grub’s exploits!

Grub’s Pups is published by Piccadilly Press, and you can buy a copy of Grub’s Pups from here. Have a look at Abi Burlingham’s website or catch her on twitter; she’s a lovely lady to talk to and deserves much success with her books.

Aaaaand Press ‘Send’…

So, in the last couple of weeks, after putting it away for a while, I have taken out my picture book (which you may remember from my post Lightning Bolts and Dragons). I have revised it, changed the character name a couple of times, tweaked it and polished it. I have bought a copy of the Children’s Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook 2010 and carefully gone through all of the agents and publishers. And this morning I submitted my manuscript. Yikes.

I have done my homework. I highlighted agents and publishers who took on unsolicited picture books and looked at their lists. I followed their advice. I chose 5 agents to submit to first, and I am grouping agents together for further batches of submissions. I put together a CV, a covering letter and two versions of the manuscript. I looked at my documents again and again to make sure they were as good as they could get – and after I sent them I thought of about a million changes I should have made. Does everyone get this feeling?

I went through a long debate with myself, friends and family as to whether I should submit first to agents or publishers. In the end my reasoning was that if I submit first to publishers who then turn it down, there was a slightly greater chance that if they were then presented with it again from an agent it might stand against me (Because, of course, they will remember it however many months down the line. Bear with me, I had to make a┬áchoice somehow). Whereas if agents turn it down, they will never know if I then go to publishers with it, except on some prestigious awards night when I am presented with my nth award and they are sitting kicking themselves for turning it down (ok, ok, I’m awake now). So I went with the agent route. And I’ve first chosen the agents who accept unsolicited picture books from first time authors by email – 5 in total on my list. I wrote my letter to each of them, checking for spelling mistakes. I don’t think there were any… And then I pressed ‘Send’. This was the most nerve-wracking, sickening moment I’ve felt since asking people for honest opinions on the book.

I’ve had one answer already, from an agency who are taking on “very few” new picture book authors at the minute but wished me the best of luck. Fair enough. At least I’m only waiting for 4 responses now. But please, all readers, spare a thought for my poor family. I am not renowned for my patience, and as well as listening to me moan about the non-appearance of a baby who isn’t due for another 2 weeks, they now have to put up with me checking the post, email, phone, etc for responses from agencies which may take 8 weeks. I’m not sure who will go round the bend first…

All sympathy comments and stories welcome!

Book Review: Stick Man

This week’s book review is a book we got out of the library and now have to buy for our son as he fell instantly in love with it. Don’t forget to click here for Daniel’s own opinion!

Stick Man, written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler (who also brought us The Gruffalo), is a lovely book which reminds me of the books I used to enjoy as a child. The illustrations are delightful, with a range from small vignettes to full page pictures, in a traditional style. The main character, Stick Man, is totally brought to life and you wonder how he could be mistaken for anything other than Stick Man (read the book and this will make sense!) Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler

The writing is fabulous, rhythmical and musical in rhyming couplets that never jar or feel forced. There are a couple of refrains that are repeated throughout so very young children like my two year old join in before they’ve even finished the book once. I think this has a lot to do with why he took to it so quickly, and demanded it to be read again as soon as I’d finished. Actually, when I think about it, I don’t think he has let either my husband or myself read it only once since we took it out of the library!

Story-wise, the book has a lovely pace and momentum, building up to a tense climax that had both Daniel and his Daddy on the edge of their seats. If anyone is worried, though, there is a happy ending!

For the sake of balance, here are my only reservations about a fantastic picture book, and they are all minor niggles. Firstly, to get the most out of the book, I would recommend it for children not much younger than two or even two and a half. Younger children will enjoy the sounds but the story is quite long and may not hold their attention all the way through. On the other hand, older children will discover more and more nuances to the story as they mature and enjoy it even more. Secondly, Santa makes an appearance so depending on how strict you are about keeping Christmas things to Christmas time you might prefer to keep the book as a seasonal treat, but this really is a tiny issue. I think my biggest problem is with one of the rhymes, which doesn’t actually work with my northern English accent – scarf and laugh are put together which is fine except if you say, as we do, “scarf” and “laff”. But this is the only instance in the whole book of the rhyme not quite working, which is quite an achievement in a book of this length!

We will be buying a copy as soon as we return this to the library, as I’m fairly sure Daniel would be heartbroken if he couldn’t read it any more. If you fancy giving it a go, here‘s the Amazon UK link.

Remember, don’t just listen to me. Click here to get Daniel’s opinion of Stick Man.