Posted in Reading, Writing

Summer Reading Ideas from Today’s Child

A post about my latest book review feature for Today’s Child Magazine

banner advert for Today's Child showing magazine cover For the last few years, I’ve been writing a regular books feature, reviewing and previewing children’s books for the free parenting magazine, Today’s Child. I first wrote for them when I was still working part-time for children’s reading charity Readathon, which provides free books and storytellers for children in hospital, and encourages children in schools to read for pleasure. But as the magazine has grown and I’ve switched roles, writing full-time from home now, we’ve changed to a freelance arrangement, though I still sneak in plenty of Readathon references! Continue reading “Summer Reading Ideas from Today’s Child”

Posted in Personal life, Reading, Writing

What’s Not to Love About Colouring?

Cover of October issue of Today's Child
In this issue…

My latest book column for the parenting magazine Today’s Child licensed me to do a bit of fun research into colouring and other activity books.

Anyone who read my piece in this month’s Hawkesbury Parish News will already know I have had a life-long passion for colouring. I’m so glad that this year’s publishing sensation of adult colouring books, which The Bookseller magazine describes as a huge contributor to bookshops’ summer profits everywhere,  has licensed fellow adult colourers to come out of the closet.

All the Rage – I Mean, Calm

Cover of Zen colouring
Cool, calm colouring for all ages

Colouring books are everywhere, to suit all tastes and interests, and it’s not only the cost of the books that are boosting booksellers’ economy. After all, what’s a nice new colouring book without a lovely new pack of pencils – then a pretty box to keep them in – and top quality sharpener to keep them all pointy…

Before you know it, your low-budget hobby can start to rival the cost of a golfing habit. You might as well just go out and buy a yacht.

That’s why I was also pleased to include in this issue’s feature a delightful book that will excite any adult raised on the BBC children’s TV programme Blue Peter, which in my day always worked hard to find a delicate way of describing the inside of toilet rolls, as much as staple of their craft projects as good old “sticky-back plastic” and “sticky tape”, which we all knew were BBC code words for brand names Fablon and Sellotape. (As the BBC likes to say, other products are available.)

Here’s One We Prepared Earlier*

Cover of toilet roll activity book
Everyone needs an affordable hobby

Now here’s a new craft idea that should suit anyone’s budget, provided you don’t start using more sheets than strictly necessary to liberate another toilet roll tube for decorating…

Happy colouring, folks! 

  • To read the article in full in Today’s Child’s online edition, click here.
  • To read my previous post about colouring, click here.
  • And for a fun anecdote about my Grandma’s attitude to toilet roll, click here.

(* for those who weren’t raised on Blue Peter, that’s one of their famous catchphrases when demonstrating craft projects for viewers to try at home)

Posted in Reading, Writing

Back to School Books – My Reviews for Today’s Child Magazine

A post about my latest book review column in the parenting magazine Today’s Child

Header for Sept Oct issueEvery two months I have a great excuse for getting stuck into children’s books: the review pages that I write for the parenting magazine, Today’s Child. Available on free distribution in London, this colourful and lively magazine may also be read online via one of those cute widgets that lets you flip through the pages as if it’s a real magazine.

Why I Write for Today’s Child

I started writing for Today’s Child when I worked for the national charity Read for Good, which runs sponsored Readathons in schools all over the country, and which also sends free books and storytellers into children in hospital via its ReadWell programme. Approached by an advertising sales executive to place a paid ad for the charity, I countered with the offer of a piece of editorial as an alternative, and the editor liked what I’d written so much that the arrangement has morphed into a regular gig as their book reviewer, with occasional features on other issues thrown in as the opportunity arises. For the next issue, for example, I’ll be writing a feature on Type 1 Diabetes, to coincide with World Diabetes Day on 14th November, and promoting the new paperback edition of my family memoir Coming To Terms With Type 1 Diabetes, to be launched on the eve of World Diabetes Day.

Today’s Child is run by a lively young team with big ideas and a great sense of colour and design. The magazine recently had a makeover, and its new look is bright, cheerful and upbeat. Each issue has a particular theme, as does my book reviews page. I include some new books, but I also often refer to classics and old favourites that remain in fashion, and I think that approach adds value to my feature – I’m clearly not just regurgitating the big publishers’ PR campaigns. I’m also happy to feature books from small independent presses and self-published authors, if I like their books and think they’ll be enjoyed by the magazine’s readers.

Photos of three of my old childhood diaries
Diaries – more durable than any blog

The September/October issue was, not surprisingly, all about Back to School, a theme that is front of mind for most parents at this time of year. Next issue I’ll be writing about diaries and journals, providing ideas for Christmas gifts and inspiration for children to start or keep a diary-writing habit when the new year kicks in. From childhood, I was an avid diarist, and I still have all my old diaries on a high shelf on the landing, much to my eleven-year-old daughter’s amusement – time to hide them, I think, now she can reach the shelf! My blog has now replaced my diaries, and as any regular reader here will know, I do love to blog! But I wouldn’t be without a paper diary too.

More Information about Today’s Child

Today’s Child has regular competitions and shares lots of fun stuff on its Facebook page and on Twitter, so if you’d like to follow them there, here are the links:

Click here to read the latest issue – and flip to pages 16-17 to see my latest reviews:

More About My Book Reviews

Today’s Child isn’t the only magazine that I review books for – I’m also a regular reviewer for Vine Leaves Literary Journal,  equally beautiful and valuable to a completely different audience.

I think all writers should not only be avid readers but review books too, whether or not they choose to share their reviews in public, in magazines or online. (I’m also a top reviewer for Amazon, by the way, steadily approaching the Top #1000 badge and aspiring to climb higher!)

I also try to include book reviews on this website, by way of recommended reading, but am way behind just now, due to other commitments. I’m now planning to allocate an hour every weekend to updating my site and elsewhere with book reviews, and hope to catch up eventually – though reading an average of 2-3 books a week, this will take a while! If you’d like to see the reviews I’ve currently got on this site, you’ll find them here: My Book Reviews.

Like to Review My Books?

Of course, I do have a vested interest in reviewing books – as an author myself, I know how rewarding it is to receive a review of one of my own books! So if you’ve read and enjoyed one of mine, I’d be very grateful if you could spare a moment to post a quick review somewhere – whether on Amazon, Goodreads, your own blog, or anywhere else.

And if you’re a book blogger or journalist who would like a free review copy of any of my books, just send me a message via the contact form, specifying which book you’d like and where you intend to review it. Thank you so much – and happy reading to one and all!

Posted in Writing

My Work as a Children’s Book Reviewer

Continuing the series of posts that describe what I do all day, here’s a post about my gig as children’s book reviewer for Today’s Child magazine.

Banner advertising Today's Child
With a little help from yours truly, the latest issue of Today’s Child hits the ether

For the Love of Children’s Books

Anyone who knows me will be aware that I love to read books. A few years ago I landed a super job with children’s reading charity Read for Good, which gave me a great excuse to embrace children’s books. Read for Good’s fabulous work, through its Readathon and ReadWell brands, also made me realise the importance of leisure reading in children’s lives:

  • being in the habit of reading for pleasure in childhood is a greater influence on your lifelong success and happiness than financial wealth and social class (which is why Readathon runs sponsors reads in schools to encourage children to read for fun)
  • having access to books in hospital makes seriously ill children and their carers feel better (which is why ReadWell provides free books and storytellers to children’s hospitals)
Sir Tony Robinson is the inspiring patron of Read for Good
Sir Tony Robinson is the inspiring patron of Read for Good

Read for Good and Today’s Child

My role at Read for Good included administrative, promotional and marketing tasks. One day I fielded a phone call from Today’s Child‘s advertising department, asking whether we’d be willing to place a paid advert in its pages. As a registered charity, we spent very little on advertising, but I did offer as an alternative some free editorial copy about Read for Good, which they were happy to accept.

They liked what I wrote so much that they invited me to write a regular column for them, not always about the charity’s work, but focusing on aspects of reading. This has evolved into a regular double-page spread of book reviews, and in each issue I look at a particular genre, such as books about art or sport or the current season, and I put it into a wider parenting context. That way the feature is much more than a series of book reviews but an interesting, longer read that hangs together.

When I left Read for Good last year to write full time from home, I continued to write for Today’s Child, which has rapidly evolved from a London-only freebie paper to an online magazine with global reach.

How I Compile the Review Features

I announce in each issue what the next feature’s theme will be, so that any publishers wishing to send me suitable free review copies may do so. I welcome submissions from self-publishing authors too that match the chosen theme, so if you have a book that you think would be suitable, please contact me with more details.

ReadWell logo
Going full circle

After use, I pass all review copies on to Read for Good to put to use for that fabulous charity, whether to give to schools running Readathon sponsored reads or to send into children in hospital via ReadWell.

The July/August issue has just been published, and this time I was looking at books about art. You can read the feature online here via the paper’s fab online reading app.

Next issue, I’ll be considering back-to-school books. But first, let the summer holidays begin!

Further Reading