The Best Cheltenham Children’s Literature Festival Events

The Best Cheltenham Children’s Literature Festival Events

child laughing at book

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!

Roald Dahl Day Activity Ideas

Roald Dahl Day Activity Ideas

Balloons to Celebrate Roald Dahl Day 2020

There’s less than a week to go until Roald Dahl Day 2020 and we’re counting down the days here at Firefly Press HQ. Roald Dahl would have been 96 years old on September 13th and what better what to celebrate one of the most famous children’s authors from Wales, than with a day full of fun and mischief!

Here are our top 5 Roald Dahl Day Ideas:

1. Dress Up as your Favourite Character

Your school might be taking part in Dahlicious Dress Up Day to raise money for Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity. However, even if they’re not, don’t let that stop you – you can dress up at home!

There are loads of marvellous characters to choose from so whether you want to be the BFG, Fantastic Mr Fox or even a giant peach, start designing your Roald Dahl Day costume now to get involved in the fun!

2. Read your Favourite Roald Dahl Book

We know, it’s hard to choose your favourite – there are so many good ones! However, after much debate we have decided that George’s Marvellous Medicine and The Witches are our favourites.

Do you agree? Let us know what book you’ll be reading in the comments!

3. Get Inspired

Why not try writing your own book? If there’s anything we can learn from Dahl, it’s the power of your own imagination!

If you know some adults like The Twits or have a pet that’s always up to no good like The Enormous Crocodile, then it’s time to get writing. Who knows, maybe one day you’ll even become a Firefly Press author!

4. Cook Some Revolting Recipes

Make your own Roald Dahl inspired tasty treats, we promise they taste better than they sound! You can buy a Roald Dahl cookbook full of recipes from his books including Mud Burgers and Bird Pie.

Or for something sweeter, why not bake a Matilda inspired chocolate cake? You can save it for later when you have your very own…

5. Roald Dahl Film Party

Tuck into your well-deserved tasty treats and settle in for a movie night with all the family after a fun day of celebrating all things Roald Dahl.

We’ll be watching Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory back to back. Let us know what you’ll be screening at your party!

Photo Credit: Adi Goldstein

The Best Edinburgh Book Festival Children’s Events 2020

The Best Edinburgh Book Festival Children’s Events 2020

“Sadly, this is the first year in many that neither I, nor Firefly will be involved directly. So, in spirit it will have to be, which is completely fine as the interweb has come to the rescue once more.

It’s bittersweet, as I think this year’s line up is as good as any”

Robin Bennet, Creative Director & Author

The Edinburgh International Book Festival 2020 is in full swing with a twist. Running from the 15th till the 31st August, the world’s largest book festival has gone online this year. The events are available to stream in over 30 countries and available to watch at any time following their premier date.

Here at Firefly Press we’re huge fans of the festival and whilst we’re sad that we won’t be making our annual trip up to sunny Scotland, we’re looking forward to getting into the festival spirit at home.

So, without further ado, here is our pick of the best Edinburgh Book Festival Children’s Events!

Illustrate your Feelings with Dunja Jogan

It’s been a tough year for everyone, kids included, so we think this mindful event is the perfect way to kick off.

Dunja Jogan’s Felix After the Rain is a lesson on the importance of being kind to ourselves and others. This is something that we can all resonate with, especially now. Her event includes a special author’s reading, followed by a mindfulness drawing session that kids and adults alike can get involved with. Sounds perfect.

Jogan’s event will be available from Sunday August 30 at 10am, suitable for ages 4+.

Why Plastic Isn’t Fantastic with Dapo Adelo & Nathan Byron

We think that publishing children’s books about the environment and global warming is incredibly important at the moment. That’s why this event for the sequel to the award-winning children’s book, LOOK UP! is right up our street.

The event with Dapo Adeola and Nathan Bryon includes an exclusive author’s reading of CLEAN UP! and a chat about what young people can do to help fight plastic pollution.

The event is available from Saturday August 22 at 10am, for ages 5+.

Time Travelling with Patience Agbabi & Ben Miller

We love a good sci-fi book here at Firefly Press so we’re very excited for Agbabi and Miller’s space-themed event.

Explore space and time as the authors sit down with Faridah Àbíké-Íyímíde to discuss their new books: The Leap Cycle and The Boy Who Made the World Disappear. Space, time travel and more – it sounds like the possibilities are endless.

The event will be streamed from Wednesday August 26 at 10am for ages 8+. And if you find yourself hungry for more space-themed adventures afterwards, be sure to check out our collection of sci-fi books for kids.  

Voices from the Past with Patrice Lawrence & Bali Rai

The next event promises to be a true inspiration as Lawrence and Rai sit down to discuss the diverse and untold stories of historical figures who made Britain their home.

The award-winning author Patrice Lawrence will share the story of Eve, an East African girl living in the slums of London, who becomes involved in a mission to rescue a shipwreck. Bestselling children’s author Bali Rai will tell Fazal Khan’s journey from his Indian home to the WW2 battlefield.

The live event streams on Wednesday August 19, for ages 8+ and will involve a Q&A session, which is great way to get the kids involved. The event will be available to re-watch for the remainder of the month. Be sure to check out our teen and children’s history books too.

Formidable Femmes with Lari Don & Eilidh Muldoon

Last but not least, Don and Muldoon’s event celebrates rebellious heroines from tales, myths and legends throughout the world.

We love books with a strong female lead so we’re keen to see what stories the duo will share with us. Listen to Don’s engaging reading of the stories whilst Muldoon brings the inspiring characters to life with her illustrations.

The event is available to watch from Tuesday August 18, at 10am for ages 8+.

We hope you enjoy our selection of the best Edinburgh Book Festival Children’s Events of 2020. While the delivery may be different from previous years, the quality of the family events looks to be as good as ever.

What children’s book events are you looking forward to? Let us know if there’s any you think we missed!

Photo Credit: Julia Solonina

Five (and a half) Rules for Writing for Children by Robin Bennett

Five (and a half) Rules for Writing for Children by Robin Bennett


Monster Max and the Bobble Hat of Forgetting author, Robin Bennett, shares his rules for successfully writing for children

1. Get rid of the parents

Preferably they are gone for good (eaten by something with teeth or tentacles whilst exploring the jungle is handy because it’s dramatic, implies an adventurous family streak and is a tiny bit funny). If you can’t bear to part with mum and dad in perpetuity, they can just be at the office a lot. Feel free to break this rule though, as I do in Monster Max.

2. Fantasy needs a lot of reality

Children will believe a lot, but you have to have rules and reality too. If dragons live in space (like in my book Space Dragons), if your hero has a magic hand that can point out treasure (The Hairy Hand), if we live alongside vastly talented and immensely powerful creatures without knowing it (Small Vampires), then that’s all well and good, but children need to know what their heroes have for dinner. And (above all), why all this stuff is happening.

3. Delete the first half of your first chapter

Seventy-seven times out of one hundred, your first thousand words are just you warming up. However much you cherished them that first morning you sat down in the spare room, their work is done. Loving is letting go. You don’t find many ten year-olds reading Faulkner or Flaubert – mainly because forty opening pages with just two full stops or a very detailed description of few streets in Rouen is dull. By way of example, for The Hairy Hand, my editor made me throw away my first two chapters and the story was much better for it. I still moaned about it, mind you.

4. Children deserve the best of us

At the end of the day, most kids just have to go along with whatever adults decide – and that’s fair enough: we’ve paid our dues, plus we’ve got the car keys. But the one area they are in charge of is their imagination: so make sure that when you write, you write for them and not for you. Also, BE KIND – children are more fragile than they let on and more forgiving than we deserve, books are often their only friends and comfort. If you must make a child suffer in a story, be sure it is for a good reason.

5. Character is king (or queen)

Plots don’t drive a good yarn, people do and children long for interesting characters…


… who they relate to (i.e. are like them).

2020 Submissions Window Announcement

2020 Submissions Window Announcement

We are very excited to announce that we will be holding a submissions window for diverse and LGBTQ+ authors, as well as authors with a disability, on Sunday 30th August 2020. We will also be holding a short submissions window for all authors on Monday 31st August 2020. The window will run from 00:01 until 23:59 on 31st August 2020, and any manuscripts submitted outside of these times will not be accepted.

Imagination has no borders. No culture has a monopoly on the way children think or feel and this is why we actively encourage new voices from anyone – regardless of where you are from (and where you’re going). Our focus is on our readers: children long to see themselves in books but are also more open than many of us to new characters and notions. With this in mind, we are advertising our submissions window to promote fairness and we will be accepting manuscripts for any genre.

Firefly Press will be accepting submissions for:

·         Younger readers, ages 6-9

·         Middle grade, ages 9-12

·         Teen and Young adult, ages 12+

Please note that we do not publish picture books or any fiction or non-fiction books for adults. Before submitting, make sure that you read and follow our guidelines for submission.

Submissions should be sent, within the windows outlined above, to

Perfect Place for a Plot: Writing Too Dark to See by Chloë Heuch

Perfect Place for a Plot: Writing Too Dark to See by Chloë Heuch

Too Dark to See by Chloë Heuch is a beautifully written coming of age YA novel that perfectly captures the intensity of being a teenager. Themes of grief, first love, sex and resilience are sensitively explored against a forbidding landscape, with characters and nature that are both benevolent and violent. We loved Kay and Siôn’s blossoming relationship, as they help each other find hope after trauma. It is a novel that has all the wildness and passion of a contemporary Wuthering Heights.

Too Dark to See publishes on 2 July. Read a blog post from Chloë about the landscape that influenced her writing.

Carreglefain, above Nefyn/Uwchben Nefyn on the Llŷn Peninsula

For me, wild landscapes are a place where life and death are thrown into relief. The Landscape in Too Dark To See is central to the plot. The protagonist, Kay, literally and symbolically has to climb a mountain to gain perspective and see things in a different way.

Landscape has always been important to me. As a child, my artist parents would often whip out sketch books, painting or drawing the views around them, whether we were back home in Derbyshire, or on holiday in Wales. I enjoyed painting and drawing too, and I learnt to see the landscape in a painterly way, that I guess affects the way I write about place.

The natural landscapes in Wales, in Snowdonia, and where I live on the Llŷn Peninsula, dominate everything. You get a real sense of nature’s power and might when walking among the hills and mountains here. It sometimes feels as though the rounded back of a mountain is a slumbering giant or creature half nestled in the earth.

It can feel a bleak or dangerous place when you are high in the hills alone, and weather changes bring rain and mist obscuring your way. Siôn is much more at home in this environment than Kay, and he understands the cycle of life better through his observations. This environment can seem harsh, cruel even, when we see predators attacking prey, or stumble across the remains of a kill.

When alone, such a landscape has a habit of bouncing back your thoughts, like an echo, returning them to you. This can mean if people are low, or unhappy, like Kay, the dominating aspect of nature can scare and intimidate. Even with so much space, you can suffocate on yourself! But when you stop being afraid of all that space, it becomes an amazing place to reconnect with yourself and what matters.

You realise that we share our world with amazing plants and animals and can learn a lot from them. Understanding the natural world is ultimately an uplifting experience, as we feel connected to the planet and more in touch with our own amazing life force: our heart beats, our beautiful breath. It makes you want to live every moment to the full! It was this reason I wanted to set Too Dark to See in a more remote and wild landscape, to give Kay and Siôn this backdrop, for their story. I hope you like it!

Find out more about Chloë at her website:

Too Dark to See by Chloe Heuch


‘I was impressed by this beautifully told story of love and survival… Grief, sex, destructive behaviour, resilience and the natural world are all handled with great sensitivity.’ Caroline Sanderson, The Bookseller

‘A beautifully written portrayal of teen grief. The characters are very real and draw you in.’ Kelly McFarland, TBHonest

‘An evocative story of a teenage girl coming to terms with loss and finding hope and light in the untamed landscape of her new world, Too Dark To See is stunning. Each page oozes with a purity of raw emotion. … Remarkable, genuine, heartfelt and so very real.’ Fallen Star Stories

Buy Too Dark To See here