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Looking Forward

As the New Year peeps its head around the corner, I thought I’d reflect on some of the highlights. We have worked with so many wonderful authors and illustrators this year, as part of the Brentwood Children’s Literary Festival, as well as Macmillan’s Authors Assemble, school and shop events, that it’s impossible to pick out just a few. Having said that, an indoor snowball fight with Clara Vulliamy and Polly Faber, was particularly joyous!

I was honoured to present the wonderful Emma Carroll with the BAMB award for best MG title of the year. The BA have been working tirelessly this year, championing the work that booksellers do. Chicken and Frog, and more importantly, some of our fantastic customers, took part in a film, which was shared at a very special meeting at the Houses of Parliament. And lastly, in terms of the BA, we were regional finalists in the Independent Bookshop of the Year category.

Our customers are, of course, daily highlights. They are the reason that we continue to do what we do. And lastly, the #giveabook campaign, which ran for the second year. We were truly overwhelmed by people’s generosity, with gifts from as far flung as Singapore! We delivered 215 wrapped parcels – some of which contained two books. Fantastic!

So, looking forward, what’s to come? Well, we will be continuing to work with the CFFA, supporting children in care. Plans are already well underway for a #FosteringFebruary event, with Sibeal Pounder (eek!).

After working with the glorious Really Big Pants Theatre Company in the summer, we are delighted to say that we will be holding a multi-school event, to launch their brand new book. Oh, it’s going to be so much fun.

Lisa Thompson’s brilliant second novel, The Light Jar, has arrived. To celebrate, we have school events ready to go in January, so we’re starting on a high.

And…the Chicken and Frog writing competition is making a welcome comeback. Harriet Muncaster has very kindly offered a signed piece of artwork as a prize, as well as being a guest judge.

It’s been a great year, and we are so grateful for everyone who supports us in what we do: our customers, authors, illustrators, publishers, publicists, the BA, schools, fellow booksellers, reps, family and friends.

Happy reading and a peaceful 2018.

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Witchy Travel Tales

Local author, Sibel Beadle, joined us for Creative Writing Club this afternoon. Her series of books, Witchy Travel Tales, are packed full of strong female protagonists, with a magical twist:

The series “Witchy Travel Tales” tells the story of a witch called Miranda, who has seven beautiful daughters. “The Seven Sisters” tells of how Miranda and her daughters cross seven seas in search of a better home. One stormy night they land on the Seven Sisters Cliffs, south of England. The night they land on the Seven Sisters Cliffs a magical bunny that lives in the hills, visits Miranda and helps her to build seven magical houses. The series of books tell the travel tales of the witch and her seven daughters, who explore the beautiful land they have arrived in and visit ancient sights throughout England and the World in search of magic.

Sibel shared snippets from her latest book, before encouraging the group to create their own characters, who could fit into the world that Sibel has created.

Sibel has asked the children to email her their ideas. If you would like to send her some of your own ideas, for a new episode of Witchy Tales, you can: witchytraveltales@gmail.com

‘Commit to your storyline and write the details around it.’ Sound advice!

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Jake, Harry and Matthew

What a week it’s been. We’ve been celebrating awesome books, with three very different bookish events.

First up was Rob Lloyd Jones, with Jake Atlas and the Tomb of the Emerald Snake.

When Jake’s parents vanish, Jake and his sister team up with shady tomb robbers to find them in the Egyptian desert in this riveting page-turning adventure. The Atlas family is in trouble: Jake hides an addiction to stealing; his twin sister, Pan, has to conceal her genius, for fear of bullies. The siblings can’t stop fighting – with each other and with their parents, stuffy professors of Ancient History. But Jake’s and Pan’s lives take a dramatic turn the day they discover the truth about their boring mum and dad. When the family go to Cairo on holiday, and Jake and Pan’s parents mysteriously vanish, it’s up to the twins to find them. They team up with shady tomb robbers, master high-tech gadgets and locate a lost tomb in this story of a family that finds itself in the deserts of Egypt.

Rob visited St Bede’s Primary School and Larchwood Primary School, sharing his life story with the children. We found out a lot about Ancient Egypt, as well as the process that authors go through, from first darft to final, finished copy.

jakeatlasThursday night was Harry Potter Book Night, so we stayed open a little later for magical quiz. The shop was filled with enthusiastic witches and wizards, all keen to share their expertise in the ways of Harry Potter. The teams began with a tuneless rendition of the Hogwarts song, before answering some pretty tough questions. Congratulations to Team Fantastic Beasts (who can be seen below in the striped tights), for beating the opposition.

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And then there was this month’s Book Club. Our pick for January was Lisa Thompson’s The Goldfish Boy – we were delighted that this was the chosen title, as it’s a firm favourite at Chicken and Frog.

Twelve-year-old Matthew is trapped in his bedroom by OCD, spending most of his time staring out of his window as his neighbours of Chestnut Close go about their business.

That is, until the day he is the last person to see his next door neighbour’s grandson, Teddy, before he goes missing.

Now Matthew must turn detective and unravel the mystery of Teddy’s disappearance – with a little help from a surprising and brilliant cast of supporting characters.

To make the Book Club even more fantastic, Lisa (and her publicist from Scholastic, Lorraine Keating) joined us for Book Club, answering questions thrown at them by the children. Lisa even stayed around after Book Club, to sign books of keen readers, who dropped in to meet her.*

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What a wonderful week!

Now we’re just crosiing our fingers, hoping that Lisa can be added to this year’s schedule for the Brentwood Children’s Literary Festival.

*We have two signed copies left!

 

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The Life and Times of a Bookseller

Hello all! In the past I have blogged about the various things that happen to us in any given week or two, but it’s been a while since I’ve done so, and the last week has been bonkers (as ‘all the best people are’).

Ready? Here we go. In the past week, we have hosted a grotto for the Brentwood Lighting Up; been interviewed on BBC Essex with Tony Fisher; had two lovely reps visiting us; launched #giveabook; welcomed the Children’s First Fostering Agency in; been the location for a book trailer with Rebecca Elliott and Curious Fox; launched the annual Santa Hunt; sold a fair few books; taught approximately 70 children; taken Ian Whybrow to a primary school; organised school visits for 2016 and 2017; arranged a very exciting Book Club visitor for 2017 and read a brilliant proof copy of Who Let the Gods Out?

All of that, and the week isn’t over yet! Today we have Handwriting Club, Book Club and Creative Writing Club, plus more book-selling. I need a cup of tea and a slice of cake…again.

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The CFFA do a wonderful job and are  promoting Cooks and Kids

 

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We have been overwhelmed by your generosity, let’s keep going and #giveabook this Christmas.

 

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Rebecca Elliott and the Curious Fox team took over Rhythm and Rhyme, to film the book trailer for Dalmatian in a Digger.
Posted in blog, events

Are You Zombie Ready?

Well, are you Zombie ready? We know someone who most certainly is; Molly Looby. How do we know? Molly came in on Sunday night, to share her awesome new book, ZA, with us.

Not only did Molly talk about her book, she also told us a little about Molten Publishing, the hybrid publishing company that she has set up with her lovely dad. The thing that makes Molten so special, is that Molly always gives feedback on submissions. If you want to know more, or you’d like to submit your YA writing, follow the link.

Back to ZA. ZA has been in Molly’s head for 5 years now and over that time, has completely transformed from the original manuscript to the gritty YA novel that it is today. That’s a long time to work on one project, but Molly is passionate about zombies and writing! She’s also been busily writing other novels at the same time.

During the course of the Q&A session, Molly told the audience about a great initiative called National Novel Writing Month. The very short version is that individuals commit to writing a 50K word novel in November. There’s a lot of support available to the writers though, so for more information, check out this link.

We had a great time with Molly. If you missed her, we have signed copies of ZA available in-store. And, if you’re a local(ish) school who would like a visit from Molly, let us know.

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*A special mention is surely deserved for James, pumpkin carver master!

Posted in blog, events

The Box of Demons

IBSW

This year is the 10th year of Independent Bookshop Week, fondly referred to as IBW. As I am sure I have quipped before, every week is IBW for us, but it is great to have a national campaign behind us, supporting the work that we do.

To celebrate this year, we have organised two author events. The first was with Daniel Whelan on Saturday 18th June. If you missed Daniel, you missed a joyous afternoon, but never fear, for Daniel kindly signed editions of The Box of Demons before leaving us. In fact, we have the last two copies of the limited edition hard back that could be tracked down!

box_od_demons_signed_book

Daniel talked to a very enthusiastic crowd about his creative process, before setting the children the 90 second challenge of drawing their own demons and then naming them. The children’s imaginations were fantastic, with lots of wonderful ideas appearing on the page.

We would like to publicly thank Daniel and his lovely wife, Sylwia, for taking the time to travel to Brentwood for the afternoon, especially as Daniel actually flew in from Sweden just for us. Somehow the box of chocolates we had rustled up didn’t quite seem to match Daniel’s generosity!

Here are a few pics of the afternoon,

Demonic behaviour?
Demonic behaviour?
Natasha, Daniel and Jim: Superhero Poses!
Natasha, Daniel and Jim: Superhero Poses!
Reading to the crowd
Reading to the crowd

We will continue to celebrate this week with Elmer as our book of choice for Rhythm, Rhyme and Story Time on Thursday at 10:00am. Children who come along for English tuition this week with Natasha will be taking part in the Phoenix Comic Creation Workshops and the week will round off with local author, Josie Dom on Saturday 25th at 3:30pm.

Lum

Posted in blog, events

The Perks of Being a Bookseller

There are many perks – proof copies of books, meeting new readers every day, calling your obsession with reading ‘research’…the list is quite extensive.

However, one of my favourites is meeting authors and having the privilege of seeing them interact with their audience. In the last couple of weeks we have taken not one, but two authors into schools.

The first was Sara Grant, who we have been lucky enough to work with before. Sara was booked in for a talk and signing at Brentwood County High School, with an audience of Year 7s and Year 6s from Holly Trees Primary School. Little did they realise what was in store for them, as Sara not only shared excerpts from her latest book, Chasing Danger, but also lead the pupils through a story planning session. It was a joy to watch – with well over 300 pupils to keep engaged, Sara had set herself quite a task, but it was incredible. I think that the audience (including the teachers) were surprised by the fantastic ideas that Sara teased from them in just one hour.

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Reading from Chasing Danger

 

Sara signing books
Sara signing books

Sara also helped to launch a writing competition which is exclusively for the Year 7 pupils at BCHS. We can’t wait to read their stories.

And this week, yesterday in fact, we took Nikki Sheehan into two schools. We started at Ingatestone and Fryerning Junior School and finished at Brentwood County High School, which is rapidly become our second home!

Nikki’s books are beautifully written tales of magical realism, full of believable characters who have extraordinary experiences. The audience at Ingatestone and Fryerning explored the idea of how an animal’s characteristics can be likened to our own. There was a lot of discussion amongst the pupils, as well as a chance to hear Nikki read excerpts from Swan Boy.

The Q and A session was great, with some really searching questions, such as ‘Do you write for yourself or for your audience?’ Nikki says that initially she writes for herself, and then thinks about the audience once she begins the editing process.

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Busily signing books
Busily signing books

We then whisked Nikki off to Brentwood County High School, for two back to back writing workshops with Year 8 pupils. I will never get tired of watching, in awe, as authors inspire and cajole original ideas from pupils. The creativity was wonderful.

Our thanks go to Sara and Nikki, the willing pupils and the schools for their enthusiasm and promoting of reading.

Sara and Nikki are both part of the Brentwood Children’s Literary Festival this summer.