Here are my thoughts on funny writing for children:
It’s always struck me as odd that funny things can be perceived as less serious than things that aren’t. In fact, I think that to be really funny, a funny book needs to be dealing with something serious. Although not technically a children’s book, the first book I can remember falling in love with was The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I loved the names, the bizarre situations and ridiculous ideas, but behind it was the idea of a simple man trying to live an ordinary life whilst he has all kinds of absurdity thrust upon him. It is a novel length treatment of Lennon’s ‘life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans’. It’s deep, but you don’t see that as you read it. (In fact, it completely put me off science fiction – as I read other SF books I’d think ‘I can see the space-ships and the robots, but where are the jokes?’)
And when dealing with children (I’m an English teacher), it’s much easier to sell something to a class if it’s got funny things in it. It would be one thing to introduce a book by saying it’s a text about friendship, fate and race. A lot the class would be half asleep. But if you introduce it as a book featuring characters called Armpit, Squid and a murderous outlaw called Kissin’ Kate Barlow, they’re onside (Louis Sachar’s immense Holes if you haven’t read it). When I wrote Scrambled (Welsh language version – Sgramblo) I was trying to write what I called ‘a daft book for daft boys’. Again, if I said to the aforementioned daft boys ‘hey this is a book about grief, education and the crisis in modern masculinity’ they would have tuned out straight away. However if I say it features someone who can pick up a coin with their own phlegm, someone eating a Ralgex sandwich and someone driving a motorbike into a glass-house, they’re back with me.
It’s often said that humour is a serious business, but I think when it’s done right it’s the most serious business of all.
Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful. And since we’ve no place to go, let us read, let us read, let us read!
Since the start of December, we’ve been starting to feel rather Christmassy at Firefly Press. We love anything that gets us and our families into the Christmas spirit, whether it be films, food, music and, of course, books!
And seeing as having no place to go feels particularly appropriate for 2020, we thought we would share some of our favourite children’s Christmas books that you and your kids can cosy up with this December. Whether it be a bedtime story for the both of you to enjoy, or a book for older kids to enjoy themselves – we’ve got you covered.
The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore
We’re kicking off our list with an absolute classic. The Night Before Christmas is one of the oldest and most popular Christmas poems. Those infamous first few lines are sure to get adults and children alike into the Christmas spirit. A must read at bedtime on Christmas Eve.
Pick a Pine Tree by Patricia Toht
Pick a Pine Tree may be a relatively new book but we’re guessing it will soon become a Christmas classic for lots of young children and their families.
This magical Christmas rhyming book tells the story of one family picking their Christmas tree, taking it home, decorating it and then enjoying it with friends and family. A wonderfully illustrated and enchanting tale that the whole family can relate to, a must have Christmas book for toddlers and young readers.
The Clockwork Crow by Catherine Fisher
The Clockwork Crow is the perfect Christmas book for middle grade readers to cosy round the fire with this December.
Orphan Seren is hoping for a magical family Christmas in a snowy mid-Wales mansion but things don’t seem to be working out as planned. Tomas has been missing for a year and a day and Seren fears the strange and dangerous Family may have taken him. Armed only with a talking bird, a magical snow globe and her own courage, Seren must stand up to the Family that no one else dares to.
Follow along on the magical Victorian adventure and watch your child be transported to a mystical, mesmerising and sometimes dangerous wonderland this Christmas.
A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas
We couldn’t miss an opportunity to include a book that celebrates Christmas in Wales. In this enchanting storybook Thomas shares memories of his childhood Christmases in Wales in the 1920s.
Snuggle in with A Child’s Christmas in Wales and find yourself transported back in time with nostalgic tales of family gatherings, handmade decorations and Christmas Eves by the fire. Perfect to enjoy with confident young readers aged 6+.
Alex Sparrow and the Zumbie Apocalypse by Jennifer Killick
Things are feeling festive in the lead up to Christmas until the members of Cherry Tree Lane Zumba class start apparently ‘dying’ and coming back to life. Laugh out loud as you follow Alex, Jess and Dave try to save Christmas from the zumbie apocalypse. Find out why the zumbies are attracted to Christmas lights, what the mysterious octopus sign means and who the evil genius behind it all is.
The Flying Bedroom by Heather Dyer
We think this is the perfect bedtime story for young readers all year round, but The Flying Bedroom seems particularly magical at Christmas time.
Elinor’s bedroom may look ordinary but each night when she goes to sleep, her bedroom flies away, transporting her to a tropical island, a theatre show, a pirate ship or even even the moon! But it always gets her safely home by morning. Join her on the adventure to find out where she ends up this Christmas…
Were your favourite children’s Christmas books included on our list? Let us know what books you and your kids will be reading this December!
Christmas is on the horizon and for parents that often means one thing – Christmas shopping! Some kids may be asking for shiny new toys, others may want a new Xbox game, some older children may even want new clothes. But if your child is a young bookworm, they want one thing and one thing only – new books!
Here at Firefly Press we were all young bookworms too, and fantastic, gripping and exciting new books are still at top of our Christmas wish list every year.
So, with that in mind, here is our selection of the best Christmas presents for kids and young book lovers to snuggle down with.
You will make Christmas for fans of the popular Clockwork Crow series by gifting them The Midnight Swan. It is the eagerly awaited final instalment in the series.
Join Seren on her most dangerous journey yet. This middle-grade fantasy adventure book will take your young bookworm on a quest to the garden of the Midnight Swan. But with an invisible girl, a parliament of birds, a pen that writes by itself and more – will they ever be able make it there in time?
The Ten Riddles of Eartha Quicksmith by Loris Owen
Enter the brave new world of Quicksmiths with this children’s fantasy book about friendship. Join the College of Strange Energy and discover the Mowl, Wormholes, Dark Forces and the alluring riddles of the Ark of Ideas. Help Kip Bramley solve the 400-year-old treasure hunt before his family and the school end up in danger…
Lori and Max and the Book Thieves by Catherine O’Flynn
Lori and Max and the Book Thieves is the ideal gift for a young Inspector Clueso. This kid’s detective book is the second instalment in the much-loved Lori and Max series, and a Time children’s Book of the Week in October.
Two new mysteries present themselves in the shape of a stolen phone and an unruly dog; and a buried lunchbox and an antique children’s book. Are you intrigued yet? Buy the book to join the girls on their latest funny adventure.
Crater Lake has been a standout children’s book of 2020 which was selected by Book Trust for its Bookbuzz school programme, and was a Times Children’s Books of the Week. Don’t miss out on this crazy scary story for Middle Grade kids.
Crater Lake is the Sixth-Year school trip from hell! A bloodstained man, a near abandoned activity centre and strange goings on in the night… this definitely wasn’t the adventure Lance and his friends had planned. Things are starting to get scary and only one thing is for certain, if you want to survive the night – Don’t. Ever. Fall. Asleep.
Wilde by Eloise Williams
Eloise Williams is the first Children’s Laureate of Wales and her novel, Wilde, is a masterful children’s book about witches.
This enthralling tale follows the protagonist, Wilde, as she moves to Witch Point Place. She’s scared that strange things always happen around her and moving in with her aunt has only seemed to make things worse. What’s more rumours about the Witch called Winter are starting to circulate and people are receiving curse letters. Join in on the adventure this Christmas and help Wilde solve the mystery!
My Name is River by Emma Rea
My Name is Riveris a truly original and hilarious children’s adventure book and the perfect Christmas present for the young explorer in your life.
Dylan’s family farm is being sold to a global pharmaceutical company and he decides it must be stopped. His mum may think he is on a school geography trip, but Dylan is on his way to Brazil. Whilst on his mission he makes a friend named Lucia (a street child armed only with a puppy and a thesaurus) and together they uncover the scandalous truth of what the company are up to.
Thimble Wonga Bonkers by Jon Blake
Laugh out loud with Thimble Wonga Bonkers, the third instalment of the hilariously funny children’s book series – Thimble Monkey Superstars.
When Mum goes away for the week, Jams, dad and Thimble the Monkey are left to their own devices. With only £30 to do the week’s shopping, dad makes a plan. However, things take a turn for the worse when Thimble gets hold of the trolley. Before they know it, the money is gone, and dad is thinking about selling his soul to make ends meet. Will Jams and Thimble be able to save the day?
Separated by 150 years, two boys share a unique gift or curse – they can draw the future. Blaze is alone in 1865, orphaned and swapping his pictures for protection from the workhouse and witch trials. Noah lives in the present, ashamed of his powers and shunned by his parents and school. Both boys are fighting their own battles, but will their drawings set them free?
Asking for a Friend by Kate Mallinder
Asking for a Friend is an uplifting YA book about friendship. This feel good story explores the power of friendship in the face of loneliness, fear of illness and social media bullying.
Follow Agnes, Hattie and Jack as the go on holiday for a week. They’ll risk their lives, face their fears and find themselves with the support of each other.
Rebel with a Cupcake by Anna Mainwaring
Jesobel Jones is happy, confident and a terrific baker. Living with her hand-model mum and ex-musician father, she makes no apologies for her imperfect family, her noisy house, her single relationship status or her weight – until a girl at school calls her fat…
Rebel with a Cupcake is a YA novel that explores themes of bullying and self-image and is a great Christmas present for teen girls.
What do you think of our list? Let us know what Christmas gifts for children you’ll be buying this year!
This year there will be no big Halloween parties or Trick-or-Treating – Boooo-Hoooo! But Halloween at home can be great fun too … with Grace-Ella Spells for Beginners and Grace-Ella Witch Camp author, Sharon Marie Jones, Top Ten Tricks and Treats for a Hauntingly Hair-raising Halloween!
So no need to miss out on all the fun. Just grab your broomstick and witch’s hat and keep on reading….
Use your carved pumpkin as a table decoration for a terrifying teatime! Here’s a YouTube video with some top tips for carving. Remember to always get supervision from an adult when carving pumpkins.
2. Dressing up
Get dressed up for the day and give your family a spooky surprise. Here’s me as a child in my witch costume.
Decorate your house with some ghoulish garlands.
Find bits and bobs to make some creepy creations e.g. an egg-carton spider, a broomstick bookmark, a magic wand to cast spooky spells.
5. Apply bobbing
Fill a large bowl with water and apples, then using only your mouth, try to get an apple out. You could time yourself to see how many apples you can collect in 30 seconds. Or have a race to see who can collect all the apples in the fastest time. Remember to always gave an adult nearby to supervise.
6. Witch’s Stew
Cut out some spooky shapes then using a straw, suck-up the shapes and place them in the cauldron to bubble and brew. Choose a shape each and have a race – first to suck up all their shapes and drop them in the cauldron.
7. Pin the Tail on the Black Cat
Cut out a cardboard black cat (without a tail). With a blindfold on, try to pin the tail on the cat.
Get outdoors and go foraging for autumn ingredients. Mix up your ingredients to make your own potions. You could pour your potions into jam/small jars. Why not label your potions too … just remember not to drink them as they might be poisonous!
9. Terrifying teatime
Make teatime frighteningly fun with some terrifying treats and spooky snacks e.g. creepy cupcakes, vegetable Frankenstein fingers to dip in scream cheese, spooky-shaped sandwiches, slimy jelly sweets, zombie-bread men, mummy-marshmallows.
10. Spooktastic stories
Choose a scary story to read at bedtime. There are lots of spooktastic stories available from Firefly Press! Go and take a peek-a-boo…
Halloween is one of the best times of the year to be a kid – trick or treating, fancy costumes, plenty of sweeties and some spooky ghost stories. What’s not to love?
This year we’re holding a Spooktacular Halloween party with Eloise Williams and Jennifer Killick. But with still a couple of weeks to go before the main event, we thought we would share our favourite scary books for children of all ages to start getting everyone into the Halloween spirit.
Read our list below if you dare to discover ghosts, witches, vampires and unexplained bumps in the night…
Grace Ella: Spells for Beginners by Sharon Marie Jones
The perfect Halloween book for young readers aged 6-9 years old.
Spells for Beginners is the first children’s book about witches in the fantastic Grace Ella series. Follow Grace Ella and her cat, Mr Whiskins, as they take their first steps into the witching world. Will Grace be able to use her newfound powers to defeat the school bully without revealing her magic to the whole school? Buy today to find out!
Sophie Finds a Fairy Door by Laura Sheldon
Step into the magical world of fairy land with Sophie Finds a Fairy Door. Sophie and Bella the fairy go on an adventure through the magical fairy door in the skirting board. After a day of fun, they decide to take the teacup train home again, but it won’t go! Fairy dust isn’t working, what will they do next?
Mr Mahil’s Shed and a Ghost Named Dylan by Laura Sheldon
Next up is another spooky book by Laura Sheldon. Mr Mahil’s Shed is the perfect ghost story for middle schoolers (9-12 years old) this Halloween!
Discover the secret ghost in Mr Mahil’s Shed with Tomos and Alys. At first, he seems grumpy but harmless, but when the friends take him to a school poetry lesson, this ghost’s behaviour starts to change…
Pete and the Five a Side Vampires by Malachy Doyle
This Spooktacular children’s vampire book about things that go bump in the night is perfect for 7-9 year olds this Halloween.
Pete and Blob the Basset Hound go on a walk late at night. Everything seems fine until things take a spooky turn and they join a football match with a more than usually bloodthirsty opposition.
Can Pete and Blob take the night back, or will it belong to the monsters?
Crater Lake by Jennifer Killick
The co-host of our Halloween party has a more than averagely scary[PT1] children’s book for ages 9-12 out now – it’s described as ‘howlingly funny horror’ Times Children’s Book of the Week .
Only read this scary adventure book if you dare, as Crater Lake is the Year Six school trip from hell. A blood-stained man, a creepy activity centre and some very strange goings on in the night. Something’s definitely not right and only one thing is for certain, if you want to survive: Don’t. Ever. Fall. Asleep!
Wilde by Eloise Williams
And the latest book from Jennifer’s co-host of our Halloween Party, Wilde by Eloise Williams is also a fantastic book about witches for 9 – 12 year olds.
Join Wilde as she makes a life-changing move to Witch Point and discovers the spooky town legend of a witch called Winter. Everyone says ‘The Witch’ is long gone but who is leaving the frightening curse letters?
Help Wilde catch the culprit before it’s too late!
Three Strikes by Lucy Christopher, Kat Ellis and Rhian Ivory
Last but not least, we have three terrifying stories for the price of one. Three Strikes is a trilogy of scary teen and YA novellas.
YA as it should be – dangerous, dark and daring.
Discover a dangerous and unknown world in The Darkness, be entranced by unearthly voices in The Twins of Blackfin and only read Match Girl if you dare… Three Strikes is only for the bravest of readers this Halloween.
What scary books will you be reading this season? Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to book your tickets for our fun-filled Halloween party!
The Cheltenham Literature Festival is a much-loved annual event that sees a host of talented writers and illustrators share their much-loved stories with us. Here at Firefly Press we’re huge fans of the Family tent which usually boasts talks from some of the biggest talents in Children’s Literature.
Sadly, this year not quite as many of us will be able to attend the fun of the festival in person as only a limited number of tickets will be available, due to social distancing regulations. However, no need to cry just yet, as many of the events will be live streamed online for free!
With that in mind, here is a list of the Cheltenham Children’s Literature Events that we’ll be tuning into this year.
Rob Biddulph: Dog Gone
We’re kicking off our list with a bit of colouring in fun with Rob Biddulph’s Dog Gone event. Following off the success of his #drawwithrob lockdown series, Rob will be sharing his brand new book Dog Gone with us, alongside a master drawing and illustration class.
Dogs and drawing, what’s not to love? Rob’s Event is on Sunday 4th October at 12pm and Thursday 8th October at 8am, suitable for ages 5+.
Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara: Little People Big Dreams
Next up is Marua Isabel Sánchez Vegara’s inspirational event, Little People Big Dreams. Guaranteed to help kids chase their own dreams, Maria will be sharing the true stories of real-life child heroes such as Greta Thunberg.
Maria’s event is on Monday 5th October at 8am, suitable for ages 5+. And if that’s too early for you, why not check out Firefly’s real life children’s books?
Humza Arshad: Little Badman: Stories Aloud
We’re expecting a few laughs from comedian Humza Arshad and his new children’s adventure book Little Badman and the Time Travelling Doctor of Doom, co-written by Henry White.
Humza Arshad’s event will feature a special author’s reading and a draw along session with Little Badman’s illustrator, Aleksei Bitskoff. Guaranteed mischief, adventure, evil teachers and killer robots – we can’t wait to hear more!
Humza’s event is on Wednesday 7th October at 8am, suitable for ages 8+. Be sure to check out Firefly’s own collection of action packed children’s comedy books afterwards.
CLiPPA Poetry Award Show
We can’t pass up on the children’s poetry event of the year. We’ll be watching the CLiPPA awards show live with Chris Riddell, children’s author and illustrator, to find out who this year’s winner is.
We’re looking forward to hearing Chris’ thoughts on this year’s shortlist. I’m sure we will also hear all about it from his daughter, Katy Riddell, who is illustrating an up-coming Firefly Press book: Daydream and Jellybeans by Alex Wharton.
In the meantime, the CLiPPA Awards show is on Friday 9th October at 2pm, suitable for ages 6+.
Greg James and Chris Smith: Kid Normal
We’re looking forward to tuning into Greg and Chris’ party with an author’s reading and musical accompaniment to their Kid Normal and the Final Five superhero book series with a twist. Join in on the event to find out what happens to the Super Zeroes on their final adventure!
Greg and Chris’ event is on Saturday 3rd October at 1pm and Thursday 8th October at 8am, suitable for ages 8+.
Guess How Much I Love You Storyteller Show
Last but not least, we’re looking forward to celebrating the much-anticipated sequel to Guess How Much I Love You by Same McBratney and Anita Jeram.
Liz Frost will lead the very special event with a reading from the original family favourite, as well as introducing Will You Be My Friend – a new story about love and friendship.
The event is on Saturday 10th October at 12pm and Wednesday 14th October at 8am, suitable for little ones aged 3+.
Will you be attending the Cheltenham Literature Festival 2020? Let us know what Family Events you’re looking forward to!