Read for Empathy 2020

I’m very happy that my picture book about a small monster learning to read, I Do Not Like Books Anymore! has been chosen by Empathy Lab for their 2020 Read for Empathy Collection, intended as “a diverse collection of books for primary and secondary children, all carefully selected by an expert panel to improve children’s empathy skills.” Founded in response to research suggesting that reading fiction can build our capacity for empathy, Empathy Lab describes empathic concern as “a powerful motivator for helping others, a force for social justice.” Whoop to that. 

I loved making I Do Not Like Books Anymore! because the subject was so important to me – and because it’s always fun to spend time with Natalie and Alphonse. But I also felt quite a lot of anxiety about getting it right, and about how it would be received. Natalie’s struggles with reading, and the ways she and Alphonse find of reclaiming books and stories, were largely based on my own experiences as a child. Things I learnt as a Teaching Assistant and while working for an early-years education charity fed into the book too but I’m (obviously) no expert.

Spread from I Do Not Like Books Anymore!

I think all that worrying about making A MASSIVE PEDAGOGICAL/DEVELOPMENTAL ERROR has made it extra-lovely that people have responded so positively to the story. The support of wonderful organisations like Empathy Lab and Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) means a lot – as do all the messages I’ve received from individual teachers, librarians and parents. I especially love it when children make their own books in response to the story, as Natalie and Alphonse do: like these ones shared by teacher @today_we_read on instagram or those I’ve been lucky enough to see develop at workshops and events (below is a very excellent book being created at Heffers in Cambridge in 2018).

A book-making workshop

There are foldable books to download and fill with stories on my Free stuff page, based on the titles of Natalie and Alphonse’s books – but I’m just as excited if children’s stories have nothing to do with Tomato And The Chair or The Magic Pigeon (although I would love to find out what happens in Whale Goes Shopping).

Coming soon(ish): ALPHONSE, THERE’S MUD ON THE CEILING!

Alphonse, there's mud on the ceiling!Even if I get to keep making books for years and years and years, I can’t imagine that receiving advance copies of a new book will ever stop being REALLY EXCITING. This is my third Natalie and Alphonse story: it’s about mud and sticks, living in a flat in the city and being wild. The best place to hear more about the book is probably on my Instagram.

ALPHONSE, THERE’S MUD ON THE CEILING! will be published by Walker Books UK on the 6th of June. Links to editions in other languages will be on the Books page.

Natalie and Alphonse on TV!

On Saturday 30th June, Matt Berry read my second book, ALPHONSE, THAT IS NOT OK TO DO! on CBeebies Bedtime Stories and it was dead exciting and also FUNNY. You can find it on BBC iPlayer for a few weeks, and here’s a little teaser that CBeebies tweeted:


So that clears up one of the questions raised by the endpapers of my new Natalie and Alphonse book, I DO NOT LIKE BOOKS ANYMORE!
Detail of endpapers

But still, where ARE all the peas? And also, what is it with peas and telly in these books? They always seem to come together – this is from ALPHONSE, THAT IS NOT OK TO DO!
Page from Alphonse that is not ok to do!

I do not like book launches anymore!

Well that was a lie. I had a monstrously good time at the launch for I DO NOT LIKE BOOKS ANYMORE! at Gosh Comics on 10th May – so many of my favourite people in one room and oh my giddy aunt THE BISCUITS!!
I Do Not Like Books Anymore launchThe biscuits were made by the completely amazing Emily Wilkinson who has been baking my books since before they were books (see previous biscuitmania). One of my favourite things was seeing photos of children clutching monster biscuits at breakfast time – very impressive of their parents to get them all the way home without even nibbling their ears (the BISCUITS’ I mean!).

I’m so hugely grateful to everyone who came and made it such a lovely evening, and to Gosh! for being grand hosts again (and just the most brilliant shop). And I was extremely touched by the things Deirdre and Lizzie, Walker Books Publisher and my Editor, said – I’m very very lucky to work with them.
I Do Not Like Books Anymore launch

I Do Not Like Books Anymore launchI Do Not Like Books Anymore launchI Do Not Like Books Anymore launch

Many thanks to Emma O’Donovan and Penny Dixie for the photos.