Tuesday, 6 June 2017


I'm delighted to announce that Walker Books have just published new editions of two of the Mole and Friends books I created with Vanessa Cabban.

Following on from the new editions of the first two Mole and Friends books, back in February,  Walker have now released new editions of  The Best Gift of All and A Secret Worth Sharing. A new edition of Diamond in the Snow (originally published third in the series) will complete the set in November.

While the other books in the series are set above ground, stormy weather obliges Mole to remain in his natural underground habitat in The Best Gift of All

 … but that doesn't stop him from visiting Rabbit and meeting up with Hedgehog and Squirrel en route.

When bad weather prevents Mole from visiting Rabbit above ground, he decides to visit her by tunnel instead.

A Secret Worth Sharing, originally published as the fifth and final book in the series, sees Mole making a new friend – Mouse.

Mole's friendship with Mouse is so special that he doesn't want to share her and decides to keep her a secret. But some secrets are worth sharing!

The last panel in this spread by Vanessa Cabban echoes the first Mole and Friends story, Bringing Down the Moon.

You can find out more about the books using the links below and read a recent interview I did about the whole Mole and Friends series for the Baby Book Club blog here.

Find out more about The Best Gift of All on my website

Order a copy of The Best Gift of All using the sales links below.

Buy this book at amazon UKBuy at amazon US

Find out more about A Secret Worth Sharing on my website

Order a copy of A Secret Worth Sharing using the sales links below.
Buy this book at amazon UKBuy at amazon US

Friday, 12 May 2017

“The Library For Boys and Girls” – Nottingham’s pioneering 19th Century children’s lending library

This post was originally published on the Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature web site.

A couple of months ago, book blogger Zoe Toft published a post on Birmingham’s ‘Ghost Libraries’ – buildings originally built as libraries that now serve another purpose. Zoe usually blogs about children’s books, so when I met up with her a few days after the post had gone out, I mentioned that I’d read somewhere that Nottingham was home to the ghost of the UK’s first ever dedicated children’s lending library. Zoe was interested in tracking down the building, so we did a little online ghost hunting. A page on the Morley Threads website mentioned that the library was on Shakespeare Street and a photo caption on the Picture the Past web site, narrowed it down to a particular building.

Here it is!

The former children’s library building

The ghost library is now part of Fortis’s Bard House student accommodation at the Mansfield Road end of Shakespeare Street.

With some further googling I was able to discover a little more about the building’s former life as a children’s library.

The library was created in 1882 with a £500 grant from the Nottingham woollen manufacturer and Liberal MP Samuel Morley. According to the Encyclopaedia of Library and Information Science, Morley founded the children’s library after learning that Nottingham’s Central Library (then on Shakespeare Street) was only open to those aged 15 and over.

Philanthropist, woollen manufacturer and Liberal MP Samuel Morley.
(Photo by by Elliott & Fry © National Portrait Gallery, London,
used under Creative Commons Licence)

While some sources suggest that the library was originally named “The Library for Boys and Girls”, Allen's Illustrated Guide to Nottingham published in 1888 describes it as “The Children's Free Public Lending Library and Reading Room” and notes that it was open between 4.00 - 8.00 pm on weekdays. Children over the age of 7 were allowed to borrow two books a week (at no cost) from a collection of over three thousand “carefully chosen” volumes donated by Morley.

Although juvenile reading rooms had already been opened as part of public libraries in both Westminster (1857) and Cambridge (1872) the library in Shakespeare Street was the first separately housed children's lending library in the UK and is widely recognised as having set the standard for children’s libraries both in the UK and abroad. The International Companion Encyclopedia of Children's Literature (1996) has this to say in its chapter on children’s libraries:
“Perhaps the most outstanding was the Library for Boys and Girls in Nottingham, which was regarded as a pioneer in respect of its accommodation, its balanced collection of contemporary children's fiction, furnishings and general ethos.”
Samuel Morley was ahead of his time in recognising the enormous social benefits of encouraging a love of reading at an early age. There is now a wealth of research showing that children who read for pleasure on a regular basis do significantly better in maths, vocabulary and spelling than those who rarely read, giving them an academic advantage that lasts the whole of their lives. For many children establishing a reading habit would be impossible without access to a well-stocked, well-run children’s library like the one first created by Samuel Morley.

Nottingham should take tremendous pride in the trailblazing role it had in promoting children’s literature and literacy and I think that Morley’s pioneering library is well worth commemorating in some way. So, last weekend, I visited the ghost library with a couple of young readers and stuck this plaque to the wall.

Alexis, Kristian and me with our prototype plaque.

Our plaque was made of cardboard and we took it with us when we left, but we’re hoping it can be replaced with something more permanent and official. I’ve already been in touch with Fortis, the building’s current owners, who have confirmed that they’d be happy to have a plaque fixed to their building. Now I just need to find an official plaque provider, like the City Council or the Civic Society, who agrees that Morley’s ghost library is well worth commemorating.

If you think you can help, do get in touch! You can leave a comment below this post or contact me directly on plaque@scribblestreet.co.uk.

UPDATE: After this post was initially published on the City of Literature web site, BBC Radio Nottingham's Sarah Julian interviewed me about the library. You can listen to the interview (until 9/6/17) on this page, from 1 hr, 51 mins, 49 secs : http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p050m60w#play

And Nottingham Local Studies Library sent me a page from a 1937 pamphlet which revealed that the library building was rented from the Trustees of the Holy Trinity Church and that the library remained open for exactly 50 years, before closing in 1932. The pamphlet also included this illustration of the libary.

Illustration of the library from a 1937 pamphlet

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Omitting the F Word: Parental Censorship of Picture Books

This post was originally published on Picture Book Den, a blog about picture books by picture book authors and illustrators.

I sometimes describe writing a picture book as like writing a script, because picture books are often read aloud to a child by an adult. I want the reader to give a good performance, so I think it’s essential that a picture book text reads well aloud. However a good script is only the beginning of a good performance; a good picture-book performer will add a great deal themselves, creating character voices and sound effects and adjusting the timing and delivery of lines to make them funnier, more suspenseful or more dramatic.

It wasn’t until I read a Slate article entitled I Censor the Books I Read to My Child. I’m Not Ashamed! that it occurred to me that a performer might actually subtract something from the script as well. And, as an author/script-writer, I am troubled by this.

The article’s author, YiLing Chen-Josephson, runs The Picture Book Club, a subscription service through which she handpicks books for young children (and their parents). I’m guessing that one of the books she does NOT recommend to her subscribers is Maurice Sendak’s miniature picture book classic Pierre, which she describes reading to her own son in the article.

If you’re not familiar with Pierre then – SPOILER ALERT! – let me tell you that it’s a cautionary tale about a small boy, Pierre, who professes not to care about anything whatsoever. When a polite, but hungry, lion calls at Pierre’s home and asks Pierre if he may eat him, Pierre says, “I don’t care!” So the lion takes the boy at his word and swallows him whole. Fortunately Pierre’s parents are able to extract their son before any lasting harm is done and  – having experienced the trauma of being eaten alive – Pierre now cares about what happens to him. To quote Sendak’s final line “The moral of Pierre is: CARE!”

Maurice Sendak’s Pierre is a cautionary tale of a small boy who is hugely indifferent to everything.

Since “parental censorship” is in the title of this post, you've probably guessed that Chen-Josephson took it upon herself to censor Sendak’s classic. Having read the plot outline above, you might assume that she cut out or re-edited the scene where the small boy is EATEN ALIVE by the hungry lion. But, no, the object of Chen-Josephson's disapproval was Pierre’s absolute indifference. Here’s how she puts it in her own words:
You’ve read enough to recognize what’s at stake here: The child in this book doesn’t care. Are you ready to introduce your own darling boy to the phrase “I don’t care” and, with it, to ennui, to disaffection, to insubordination?
So now, whenever Chen-Josephson reads the book to her son, she rescripts Pierre’s dialogue so that instead of saying, “I don’t care!” he says “I … care!”.

It seems to me that Chen-Josephson has entirely failed to grasp the point of a cautionary tale, which is to show how negative characteristics can have unfortunate consequences for their owners. By turning Pierre into a caring child, the message her son is likely to draw from the story is that bad things can happen to nice children, rather than the message Sendak intended, which was that bad things can happen to children who are dismissive and indifferent.

After explaining how she improved on Sendak’s storytelling, Chen-Josephson goes on to relate how several of her friends censor the picture books they read to their children. She gives three examples of how parents respond when they come across the F word in picture books. NO! Not that F word – I mean "FAT"!
One father I heard from avoided the word fat at all costs, turning even The Very Hungry Caterpillar from a “big fat” insect to a “great big” one. Another parent said she left the word alone when it was used to describe an animal but would replace it when it was used about a person. Another specifically sought out books where fat was used descriptively and without judgment since she didn’t want her child to think that the word should carry negative connotations.
Apparently some parents baulk at Eric Carle's use of F word in The Very Hungry Caterpillar

I suspect that all three parents described above would censor my use of the F word in my picture book story The Santa Trap.

One of Poly Bernatene’s illustrations of brattish Bradley in The Santa Trap.

Über-brat Bradley reveals his plan to trap Santa with the words, “I’m going to catch the fat fool and take every present he’s got.” It’s quite clear that the word “fat” is intended to have a negative connotation in this context. However CONTEXT IS EVERYTHING! Like PierreThe Santa Trap is a cautionary tale. The story makes it clear that Bradley is an irredeemably awful child whose monstrous behaviour leads to his eventual downfall, while Santa, the object of Bradley’s abuse, is the unflappably benign and ultimately triumphant hero of the tale. I think that most children that hear this story will recognise that using the word "fat" to insult someone should be bracketed with the other unacceptable behaviours that Bradley engages in such as stealing tigers from the local zoo. And if a child does not recognise this, then the adult reading the story can use Bradley's example as an opportunity to discuss why this is an unacceptable way to behave.

I think the same principle can be applied to most stories that contain the sort of parental-anxiety-inducing content that parents like Chen-Josephson might wish to censor. And I’d argue that the parent-child picture book reading experience is an ideal setting for a child to encounter such content. Sooner or later, a child will encounter an uncaring character or hear the word “fat” being used inappropriately, on a TV screen or in the real world. Surely it’s better for them to come across these things in a picture book, with a parent on hand to discuss and explain them with, than on their own?

So, if you’re reading a picture book to a child and you’re tempted to censor something, why not try using it as an opportunity for discussion instead? You'll probably be doing your child a favour and I'm sure the author would thank you for it too!


Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Why the last few days have left me feeling ashamed to be a member of the UK book community

Human Rights Campaigner and Martin Ennals Laureate Ahmed Mansoor was arrested by the UAE government on Sunday.

After last month’s blog about the unethical sponsorship of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature I was not intending to return to the topic this year. But after the events of the last few days, culminating in the arrest on Sunday of prominent UAE human rights campaigner Ahmed Mansoor, I feel obliged to do so.

February’s blog was written in support of the International Campaign for Freedom in the United Arab Emirates’ festival campaign. Rather than encourage authors to boycott the festival, as last year’s Think Twice Campaign (which I co-organised) had done, the ICFUAE campaign encouraged UK authors attending this year’s festival to use their appearance as an opportunity to speak out in favour of human rights, free speech and democracy in the UAE.

The ICFUAE wrote an open letter to UK authors attending the festival and tweeted authors to draw their attention to it.

The ICFUAE published an open letter addressed to the UK authors appearing at the festival pointing out that, while UK citizens are accustomed to speaking freely and criticising their government, UAE citizens are routinely persecuted by the festival’s sponsors for exercising these same rights. The letter encouraged authors to highlight the need for greater human rights and freedom of expression in the UAE when tweeting, blogging or posting about the festival on social media. The ICFUAE tweeted authors directly to draw their attention to the letter and English PEN and The Society of Authors also shared the letter widely on Twitter.

Disappointingly, the ICFUAE tell me that they are not aware of any UK authors who highlighted their concerns for human rights in their festival coverage. The author coverage that I have seen has generally presented a glamorous, rose-tinted view of the UAE, emphasising the opportunities for cultural exchange that the festival offers. I don't doubt the positive effects of this exchange, or that the festival does good work in other areas, but I don’t accept that this good work justifies authors ignoring the overwhelming number of human rights violations carried out by the festival's sponsors.

One of the authors who blogged about this year’s festival is children’s author Philip Reeve. I’m a big fan of Reeve’s books, so I was particularly disappointed to read the following paragraph on his blog referring to last year’s Think Twice Campaign.

Emirates Airline –
an institutionally homophobic company,
owned by an oppressive government that
presides over a modern-day slave state
… but they sponsor a lovely
literature festival.
I entirely reject Reeve’s suggestion that the Think Twice Campaign did not have any significant positive effect. The aim of many boycotts is to raise public awareness of an overlooked issue and, by doing so, encourage change. I don't think that it's "absurd" to suggest that the Artists Against Apartheid group who pledged not to perform at Sun City in South Africa, helped to focus the world’s attention on South African apartheid and that this attention helped to encourage the South African government to abolish the apartheid system. The principal aim of the Think Twice Campaign was to raise awareness of the plethora of human rights violations carried out by the festival’s sponsors. Reeve may have been aware that Emirates Airline are an institutionally homophobic company, owned by an oppressive government that presides over a modern-day slave state, but the feedback received by the Think Twice Campaign made it clear that many people were not.

The UAE human rights campaigner Ahmed Mansoor has said that “the root cause of so much of the violence in the region is despair. Human rights are being violated on a daily basis and nobody in the outside world seems to care.” I’d like to think that, as far as the UK is concerned, the problem is not so much a lack of care as a lack of awareness. The small gang of wealthy autocratic rulers that form the UAE government has become very proficient at projecting the image of a liberal, progressive country to an overseas audience. They employ a two-pronged strategy, investing copious amounts of sponsorship money in high-profile international sporting and cultural institutions that present the UAE in a favourable light, while persecuting, imprisoning and torturing UAE residents who dare to present a less-than glowing view of the country. The cases of Australian illustrator Jodi Magi and US aviation consultant Shez Cassim show that even foreign citizens can fall victim to the UAE’s sociopathic obsession with whitewashing its image.

This two-pronged strategy has been particularly conspicuous in the two weeks since the close of this year’s festival. As returning UK authors posted blogs about their glamorous adventures in Dubai, the UAE government has been quietly tightening its stranglehold on freedom of expression within the country.

On 15 March, just five days after the close of the festival, a UAE court sentenced Jordanian journalist and poet Tayseer al-Najjar to three years in prison and a $136,000 fine for the crime of “insulting the state’s symbols” in his Facebook posts. Tayseer had been held without access to a lawyer for more than a year before being brought to trial.

Three days later, on 18 March, as human rights campaigners were preparing to celebrate the release of Osama al-Najjar after a three year prison sentence, the UAE government announced that Osama would remain behind bars. Osama had been imprisoned for tweeting his concerns about the ill-treatment of his father, Hussain Ali al-Najjar al-Hammadi, one of many prisoners of conscience convicted in what Amnesty International describe as a “grossly unfair mass trial” of 94 government critics in 2013.

Last Sunday, 19 March, UAE authorities launched a midnight raid on human rights campaigner Ahmed Mansoor, carrying out a lengthy room by room search of his home, including his children’s bedroom, and arresting Ahmed.  His family has yet to be informed of his whereabouts.

Amnesty International have described Ahmed as "the last free human rights activist in the UAE". His arrest was the latest development in a sustained state-sponsored persecution campaign that has seen him fired from his job and his bank account robbed of $140,000. He has received numerous death threats, been beaten repeatedly and the UAE authorities have gone to extraordinary lengths in their attempts to hack his phone.

After imprisoning Ahmed for eight months in 2011 for the crime of “insulting officials”, the UAE government confiscated his passport, forcing him to remain in the country. Despite everything he has been through, Ahmed has continued to speak out against human rights violations within the UAE and in 2015 a jury of ten global human rights organisations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, awarded him the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders in recognition of his courageous work.

Amnesty International have said that they are “appalled and dismayed” by Ahmed’s arrest and expressed “fears that he may be at risk of torture or other ill-treatment while in custody.”

The UK book community has a history of standing up for others. In recent years, fundraising campaigns for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan and the Syrian conflict have made me feel proud to be a member of that community. But, in the last few days, the way that so many UK authors and illustrators have turned a blind eye to human rights violations in the UAE has made me feel ashamed to be a part of that community.

I would have thought that authors and illustrators would be one group of people that would recognise freedom of expression as a fundamental human right. Freedom of expression is being brutally suppressed RIGHT NOW in the UAE. Tayseer al-Najjar, Osama al-Najjar and Ahmed Mansoor are not characters in a book – they are real people with real families, enduring real suffering for daring to speak out against a tyrannical government.

Whatever you think of the Emirates Festival, if you are an author or an illustrator and you genuinely care about freedom of expression and human rights in the UAE, please use whatever channels you can to speak out and demand the release of Ahmed Mansoor and the other prisoners of conscience being unjustly held by the UAE government.

Go on! Please make me feel proud again.

Whether you are an author, an illustrator or anyone else, here are a few ways you might make your voice heard.

You can quickly email the UAE government to call for Ahmed's release using this Amnesty International page. It will only take a minute (literally 60 seconds) of your time: https://www.amnesty.org.uk/actions/free-ahmed-mansoor-human-rights-uae-united-arab-emirates

You can call for Ahmed's release on social media using the hashtag #FreeAhmed.

You can tweet the UAE's Vice President and Prime Minister  Sheik Mohammed on @HHShkMohd

You can write to the UK's UAE Embassy at:
His Excellency Mr Abdulrahman Ghanem Almutaiwee
Embassy of the United Arab Emirates
30 Princes Gate
Tweet them on @UAEEMbasssyUK
contact them through their Facebook page
email them on informationuk@mofa.gov.ae
or phone them on 0207 5811281

You can write to your local MP.
If you don't know who your MP is, you can find out their name and contact details at https://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/
You can download a Word document containing a template email to send to your MP here:
The ICFUAE have also provided a template letter here:

Representatives of global human rights organisations explain Ahmed's critical role in defending human rights in the UAE in the video below.

UPDATE 29 March (19 days after the close of 2017 Emirates Festival)
After being forcibly disappeared, held in secret detention for months and subjected to beatings and deliberate sleep deprivation, a UAE court has sentenced prominent economist, academic and human rights defender Dr Nasser bin Ghaith to ten years in prison. His "crime" was to criticise the UAE government on Twitter. His official conviction was for “posting false information” about UAE leaders and their policies and “posting false information in order to harm the reputation and stature of the State and one of its institutions”.
Amnesty have said that "by imposing this ludicrous sentence in response to his peaceful tweets, the authorities have left no room for doubt: those who dare to speak their minds freely in the UAE today risk grave punishment".

Monday, 20 March 2017

Ruby Flew Too! • Readers' Emails

I mentioned in an earlier post that I’ve received more emails and letters about Ruby Flew Too! (titled Ruby in Her Own Time in the US) than any other book that I've written.

It's clear from these messages that Ruby's story has had a profound effect on the lives of many families and been a comfort and inspiration to readers of all ages during challenging times. It seems to have struck a particularly strong chord with families of premature babies.

Here are a few excerpts from some of the emails that families have sent me since the book, which is beautifully illustrated by Rebecca Harry,  was first published in 2004. All excerpts are shown with the writer's permission

"I first discovered your book when another parent mailed it to me while my daughter was fighting for her life in a NICU in Portland, Oregon. Her daughter was also born in the same hospital and was a survivor of the same birth defect, CDH that was the reason why we were there.
There is something you come to learn with a child in the NICU. It is always on THEIR time schedule. In their own time. You can never push them. They will do things when THEY are ready. All those things are the same things that your book speaks to. I read this book to her while she was attached to ventilators and while she was being weaned down from the nasal canula, and as she was learning to eat.
49 days after her birth, my daughter came home. In her own time.
I just wanted you to know how the story has touched me, and many other parents."
Liz, Oregon, US

"Our daughter, Brooke, was born pre-maturely and spent six months in the NICU with pretty serious health concerns. She couldn't breathe or eat on her own and we were told that she wouldn't live to see her first birthday. Brooke needed a trach tube and ventilator to help her breathe and was vent dependent for almost two years. We slowly weaned Brooke off the vent and she started to do things the doctors said she wouldn't. Brooke did see her first birthday and is now a happy four year old girl. While we were in the hospital, we read Ruby In Her Own Time to Brooke almost every day. We always told Brooke that she would do things in her own time, just like Ruby. It is such a beautiful story and she still enjoys reading it today."
Heather Illinois, US

"I reread your book whenever I am anxious about our little Ruby. As with most preemies she is behind in all her milestones and there have been many a time when I have battled with my own frustrations at how far ahead her peers always seem to be. When I find myself asking "will she ever crawl?" "will she ever walk?" or "will she ever talk?" I always revert to mother duck's words of profound wisdom - "She will. In her own time." Thank God for mother duck!
I wonder if you ever thought, when you were writing your book, what a profound effect it would have on a family somewhere on the other side of the world. You must have been guided by an angel. Thank you."
Tess, Cape Town, South Africa

"I'm not sure who gave us Ruby In Her Own Time, but I must say this is my favorite children's book. The book was given to us when my oldest daughter, who turns 13 this Tuesday, was a baby. The funny thing is I think we referenced it more as she got older than when we read it to her as a child. Although she was an excellent student since the time she started school, in most other aspects of life she was Ruby. Whether it was playing sports, going on rides, trying new things, Casey was always cautious and not always willing. The only difference to the book was as the father I was the one saying, "in her own time". As she becomes a teenager this week, I've look back at how she blossomed over the years. The girl who did not walk until 16 months can run like the wind. The timid kid who stayed away from the ball in sports became an excellent athlete. The painfully shy girl, has opened herself up to new adventures and a curiosity about the world. When my wife would get slightly frustrated with her holding back on things I would always say, "she will, in her own time". To which my wife would reply something like she really is Ruby. … Thank you for this wonderful piece of work which I hope my children will pass down to their own someday."
Kevin, New York, US

"You see, children's books are every bit as important and moving as the greatest novel ever written. For your beautifully illustrated book (and do thank Ms. Rebecca Harry for her gentle artwork) showed us in that moment that one day, our daughter would be okay. In the darkest hours when we worried if she'd ever eat food or gain weight, if she'd ever look like normal children or if she'd always have to rely on a feeding tube, we'd repeat "in her own time". Our daughter loved to see that she was special in her own way, and that it was okay to be herself. Well I'm happy to tell you that today, two and a half years after having her feeding tube put in, with a lot of therapy, medicine, and love, Ruby had her feeding tube taken out for good at the hospital. Just like the duckling in your book, she's brave and blossoming and true to herself. We read Ruby in Her Own Time tonight, turning page after well worn page, some of them with edges she chewed on when she ate nothing else, some splattered with her tube formula, some barely clinging to the staples. You told us she could soar, that she would one day fly higher than we ever dreamed. And that day has come. It's honestly a wonderful gift you gave us, a stranger nearly a world away, completely by happenstance. But your words and your lovely tale will forever be treasured by our family, our Ruby, who has indeed done it in her own time. Thank you so much."
Kat and Randy, North Carolina, US

All three of the Ruby books are now available in new Hatchling Books editions.

Click here to go to the Hatchling books web site

Monday, 13 March 2017

How to Draw Ruby, with illustrator Rebecca Harry

To mark the publication of the new editions of our Ruby the Duckling books, illustrator Rebecca Harry has taken over my blog to show you How to Draw Ruby. And it looks like she's found a little helper …

You can follow Ruby's adventures in these Hatchling Books paperbacks.

You can find out more about Rebecca Harry and her books at her website rebeccaharry.com,
follow her on Facebook at @rebeccaharryillustrator or on Twitter at @BekHarry1.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Ruby Flies Again! – RUBY THE DUCKLING new editions

All three of the Ruby books are now available in new Hatchling Books editions

The children’s book business is exactly that – a business – and if sales begin to tail off for a book, a publisher will often decide to take it out of print. Any stock that remains in the warehouse is sold off at a heavily discounted price for sale in bargain bookshops and the book disappears from bookseller’s databases. As I write this, a little under half of my books are out of print. Every now and again a publisher may decide to delight an author by putting an out-of-print book back into print. However this a relatively rare occurrence and – generally speaking – when a publisher tells me that they are taking one of my books out of print I’ve learnt to take it in my stride and focus on getting new books published.

“Generally speaking” that’s what I do – but some books are harder to let fall by the wayside than others. Over the last few years all three of the Ruby the Duckling books, written by me and illustrated by Rebecca Harry, have gone out of print. Both Rebeca and I were especially sorry to see these books go, so we decided to make an effort to put all three books back into print again.

One of the reasons I was personally keen to do this is that I’ve received more emails and letters about the first Ruby book, Ruby Flew Too! (titled Ruby in Her Own Time in the US) than any of my other books. Readers from all over the world have written to me to tell me how Ruby’s tale has touched their lives and given them comfort in what have often been extremely trying circumstances.

A spread from the new edition of Ruby Flew Too! Ruby’s story has touched the lives of readers all over the world.

Having done a bit of research and read a few articles like this one, Rebecca and I decided to re-publish the books as print-on-demand editions using Amazon’s Createspace service.

Although Rebecca and I owned the rights to the book’s text and illustrations, the typography and title lettering design of the original editions belonged to the original publisher, so we had to re-typeset the spreads (using open licence fonts) and create new title lettering for the covers. The typesetting of the new editions is similar to the originals as the text placement has to fit into the gaps in Rebecca’s original illustrations, but we took the opportunity to make a few changes here and there. Some of the spreads have been cropped slightly wider to show a little more of Rebecca’s artwork and we’ve added in a book plate page at the front and an “About the Author and Illustrator” page at the back. As such, the new editions could be seen as being the “Director’s Cut” versions of the books.

A spread from the new edition of Go For It, Ruby! The text has been re-typset and some of the spreads have been cropped slightly wider to show a little more of Rebecca’s artwork.

We did the first book on its own as a trial run and agreed that if either of us weren’t happy with the printed proof copy we would not make it, or any of the other books available. So when the proofs eventually arrived through the post, we were both relieved and impressed by the quality of the printing and binding.

We were impressed by the print quality of the new print-on-demand editions.

All three books are now available under the specially-created imprint of Hatchling Books. Rebecca has designed this lovely new logo …

… and we’ve set up a web site at hatchlingbooks.co.uk where you can find out about the books and download these free Ruby activity sheets. There's a colouring sheet, a board game, a spot the difference and a maze.

The whole exercise has been a bit of an experiment for Rebecca and myself. We’re hoping that books will continue to sell without a mainstream publisher to promote them, but only time will tell! We’d love to think that by making them available in this way, Ruby’s story will continue to entertain, inspire and comfort new readers.

One of my favourite spreads from the new edition of This Way, Ruby!

The books are available for £6.99, $9.99 Or €8.99 each through Amazon’s UK, US and European stores. US buyers can also purchase them at a 15% discount through the Hatchling Books eStore.

Click here to go to the Hatchling books web site

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