Children’s Book Tuesday :: Books to Travel With

Children's Books to Travel With

Here’s a thing. Once upon a time, we lived among a thousand children’s books. There were piles next to the bed, next to the daybed, in the day bed, and bursting from every bookcase and box we could find. There was always a new unread book to pick up, and read for the first time. There was always a book to read, which we hadn’t read in a long time.

But then you plan to move your family to the other side of the world for a year. A thousand kids’ books can’t come with you, as nice as that would be. But how then do you choose? We like variety. We love reading something new or forgotten. How could we choose books to sustain us for a whole year?

Here’s a few ideas:

Something small, but full of goodness

There are several beautiful small books, which are long, and juicy enough to the fill bedtime reading hour, but short enough to fit in your luggage. The key is finding well written books that you can read over and over again, like:

Violet Mackerel
Beatrix Potter
Lola’s Toy Box
The Cleo Stories

Something classic

I don’t really like re-reading adult novels,  but re-reading children’s classics never gets tiring. And if you can find the classic in small print, with a paperback cover, even better.

Books we brought with us include:

Alice Through the Looking Glass
Harry Potter
Pippi Longstocking
The Wizard of Oz
Charlie & The Chocolate Factory

Something that satisfies more than one age group

If you have more than one kid, bringing books that kill two birds, so to speak, will weigh less in your luggage. Both our three-year-old and our six-year-old daughter love:

Pippi Longstocking
Violet Mackerel
The Cleo Stories

and all picture books. Well, any book with illustration.

Something to listen to

I have always sworn by audio books. My daughter chewed through Charlie & The Chocolate Factory several times over when I used to have to take her baby sister to sleep. Audio books are great for plane rides and long trips. I either download them through iBooks on my phone or, if I have an internet connection, put them on YouTube without the visuals.

Audio books my eldest has listened to on this trip include:

James & The Giant Peach (YouTube)
Gangster Granny (iBooks)

and I have listened to The Fault In Our Stars (iBooks) and Artemis Fowl (iBooks). (Great for running too!)

Something to borrow

Of course, you don’t have to bring every book with you, in your luggage. There are lots of free libraries around the Netherlands. Mini ones, in front of people’s houses! But also public libraries. Our friend took out a membership for us, and every week or two, we select new picture books to read at night to keep life interesting.

And Dutch friends have very generously leant Dutch books to the girls while we are here.

Something to swap

I haven’t done this yet, but I like this idea…

If you meet other families on your travels, swap books with them! I don’t think I can bring myself to re-read some of our picture books again, having read them so often on this trip. Maybe I can find a bookish family to swap some books with, when we are camping.

Something local

My kids are learning Dutch. So buying or borrowing Dutch books while we are here is a great thing to do. Not only do I get to stagger through the books, while the kids patiently listen, I get to learn a little bit of Dutch too. Also, children’s books are a great little insight into the culture of the place you visit.

Books that are very synonymous with Dutch culture are:

Jip & Janneke
Pippi Longstocking
Ronia The Robber’s Daughter

Something good

Whatever you do, choose wisely! These books will be your companion on your travels, however long that may be. So they need to be good.

Personally, I hear anything by Zanni Louise is worth lugging around the world 😉

How do you choose books to take with you when you travel? Any other ideas?

Join me for Children’s Book Tuesday here by sharing your children’s book post in the link below. Or follow along on social media #ChildrensBookTuesday.

Children’s Book Tuesdays

children's book Tuesdays

This week, England left the EU. Last week, they announced that the Guardian Children’s Books would no longer run. What is the world coming to? Sad face.

I often come across blog posts and social media posts about children’s books, and thought I’d start a little monthly link up here – first Tuesday of every month Children’s Book Tuesdays. A celebration for all that is glorious in the world of children’s books!

If you have a post about children’s books you are reading, or children’s books you are writing, or maybe about how a children’s book inspires you, come and link it here. {Link will open 6.30am EST.} If you aren’t a blogger, you might like to tag on social media: #ChildrensBookTuesday

We’ll miss the Guardian Children’s Books, as it was so good. But maybe we can use this little space to nurture our passion for children’s books?

Look forward to seeing you next week!

Zanni xx


What I learnt from the Bologna Children’s Book Fair

Bologna Children's Book Fair

I’m sitting in a little cafe in the centre of Bologna. I’ve just drank the best coffee I’ve ever had from Caffe Terzi and soon I’ll be catching a plane back to my family.

The last couple of days have been overwhelming and wonderful in equal parts. The fair itself was ENORMOUS! More than five huge pavilions populated with stand after stand of children’s books. I just need to sit here for a moment, and process it all.

It’s hard to relate the whole experience, but I can give you a little impression.

Things I learnt at Bologna Children’s Book Fair, 2016

The children’s book industry is serious business

While you probably have a few favourite children’s books you read with your kids, and many of those books are likely to be fun, silly, sweet and cute, behind the scenes is a WORLD of people wheeling, dealing, collaborating and working hard to bring children’s books to life. The fair wasn’t really for authors, though authors and illustrators have a fine time soaking it all in and making connections. It’s primarily for publishers and agents to meet with each other and showcase work in a bid to sell international rights for their books.

Publishers and even some agents spent thousands building impressive stands, and displaying the best of their work. They spent each day of the fair in meetings, and probably the evenings as well. Many of these meetings are planned for months. Next week is London Book Fair, and many pay even more to relocate their stand to London and do it all over again.

It’s no wonder it’s serious business. Children’s book sales make up a significant portion of the publishing economy, and sales increase each year. Titles like the Tree House series, Wimpy Kid series and of course most books by Julia Donaldson take in millions of dollars each year. Even in The Netherlands the new Tree House book by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton came in at Number 1 of all books, not just children’s.

My husband often comments that we shouldn’t get all hung up on things in relation to kids books. They are books for kids, after all. Not so serious. But I’m not so sure. I think it is serious business, encouraging children to read and reading to kids. Children’s books are instrumental to their language development, but also make a significant contribution to their emotional development and the way they see the world. And reading together with kids form an irreplaceable bond between you. Of course the children’s books themselves don’t have to be serious…but that’s a whole other conversation.

The children’s book industry is huge

Being at the fair made me feel like a tiny drop in a giant ocean. Of the thousands of stalls at the fair and the hundreds of books on their shelves, most publishers only display their latest and/or greatest books. And as there is another fair next week in London, not all publishers were at the fair.

For every book published, there is an author, illustrator, editor, publisher, designer, marketing team, international rights team and countless others. That’s a lot of people involved in the making of each book. And that’s not even mentioning the digital book world.

There were huge stalls from Slovenia, Romania, Brazil, Korea, and of course Germany, Italy, China, UK, US and France. And Australia had their little corner.

There are many talented illustrators in the world

The fair is largely for illustrated books. There is fiction, apps, toys etc but illustration is the focus. There are so many talented illustrators out there. I loved the Cambridge School of Art stand. These Masters students aren’t even published and yet the handmade books they created for the fair were a stand out.

Many of these students, and yet to be published illustrators walked around the fair with their portfolios in the hope of being picked up. I admire their courage, to hand over their portfolio over and over. Many were met with a straight up no. One French illustrator I met said that in her first presentation, her illustration was heavily critiqued. And yet there she was, lining up for another critique.

Here’s a clip of some of the illustrations trending at the moment, taken from the illustration exhibition.


After being at the fair for two days, I have a clear picture of the kind of illustration I like. It’s beautiful. Artful. Transcends. Often quite abstracted. Usually handmade (rather than digital). Often fine. The stuff I like is heavily represented in Europe, particularly France, Italy and Spain. I hadn’t realised how much of the world of illustration I’d been missing until now!

I studied art history and worked in a contemporary art gallery for a number of years. For me, children’s illustration is probably my favourite art form. It’s unpretentious and is not self-referential in the way much art is. You don’t need a university degree to understand and experience emotion when looking at a good illustration. Even if you don’t understand the story {which in the case of the fair, I often didn’t as it was in another language}, you can be transported by a children’s illustration. You can be moved to tears.

The book that won the Bolognaragazzi award for fiction, for instance, was written in French, I think. But it didn’t matter. I stood in the stand, the hairs on my neck standing as I read. Or looked. On each page, a mother holds her son. To begin with, she is enormous and he is tiny. And by the end, he is enormous and she is tiny. He is holding her. It’s a story about life, and it speaks to every age group and every culture in a very simple yet profound way.

Bologna Children's Book Fair

Another book I read, or looked at, could have done away with words entirely. It was about two rabbit families. One above ground and one under. The above ground family see the top of the carrot as a flower growing. The underground family see the carrot as food. It’s really simple and funny and clever.

There is a notable difference between Australia/US/UK books and those from Europe, Asia and the Middle East

Not that one is better than the other, but I did notice a difference between the Anglo market and others. There were the very commercial stands, like Lego, Warner Bros etc. from America. But it wasn’t just that. European and other countries presented many more obscure, whimsical, subtle and artful children’s books. I am intrigued whether these are the books that appeal to children in these regions. And whether this affects their cultural mentality growing up. Hopefully with all these International rights being sold, we will have access to some of this subtle, artful beauty.

Children’s illustration is about so much more than simply drawing a picture of the text

When my book was coming out, many people asked if I was illustrating it myself. No way, was my answer. It’s a privilege to have my story illustrated by a professional.

Some people study illustration for years, and even then there is no guarantee you will be published.

Good illustration uses many techniques to depict a story, and importantly, emotion. Space. Perspective. Colour. Shape. For example, to depict a poignant moment in a story, such as how a child feels when they first arrive at school, the child may be made very small, and the school very big. The school may be in grey hues, and the child in colour. Their expression may only be depicted in a few lines, but capturing the right emotion for the moment is very important.


There is all this, then there is developing a signature style, so your book is identifiable on the shelves. You’d probably recognise the work of Axel Sheffler (Gruffalo) or Oliver Jeffers, hence their appeal. But the thousands of other books out there? Each so beautiful. Each crafted over such a long time. Standing out isn’t easy.

As a picture book author, my challenge is to step back and allow the illustrator to tell the story through pictures. And it is a challenge, because I love words and language, particularly dialogue, so much.

Children’s books aren’t just for children

In fact, many I saw weren’t really for children at all, they were so dark and complex.

But I already knew this. As a lover and collector of children’s books, I know that a good children’s book will appeal to everyone. It can be accessed at many levels, and many ages.

Dr Seuss is still the biggest seller in the US. And the best selling book? Oh The Places You Will Go. Primarily the book, and associated quote paraphernalia, are sold as presents for graduates.

I’m all for introducing kids to books that are mature and sophisticated. I feel that somehow that quality seeps into them, in a good way. It extends and challenges them and feeds their imagination. I have strong memories of poring through an illustrated book of Faeries. Not the Disney kind. The dark, Irish folklore kind. And I loved it.

Italy is a good place for a children’s book fair, or any fair for that matter

Not only do I have a legitimate reason to wander around Bologna for three days, having a fair in Italy means that Italians run the coffee and snack bar. I had several proper Italian coffees a day, because they were only about 1.30 euro each. And lunch was a choice between delicious pizza, panini, or focaccia.

I may have stopped by the gelato bar at some point.

Walking past thousands and thousands of books, looking at as many as you can possibly look at, is surprisingly draining. So sitting in the sun in the car park eating pizza was a really nice break.

Bologna Children's Book Fair

Slacks, flats and scarves are in {at least in the publishing industry}

I’m pretty sure I was one of the only people in a dress. Most ladies wore cut off black or navy slacks and brogue style shoes. When it was cooler in the morning and evening, big silk scarves were wrapped around necks. It’s been a while since I’ve worn pants, but am starting to think I should get into it! Random segue?

Bologna Children's Book Fair

Two days is enough, at least for me

After seeing so many books, and people, I was exhausted at the end of each day. At some point there is only so much you can take in. By 3pm on the second day, I’d walked every corridor and was full to the brim with inspiration, I quit and ventured into the city for {more} gelato and {more} vintage.

Would I come again? Ah, that’s a yes. If I can. I’m so fortunate to be living in Europe this year, and have access to such an amazing event. Will I be going to London Book Fair on Monday? Um, that’s a no. I think I’m going to need at least a year to process everything I’ve seen!

If you more from the fair, check out Chazda’s blog. She’ll be covering the fair.

Children’s books we love :: September

Ah September. One of the slightly more crazy months of my life. Can’t believe you are over!

One of the best things about Le Grand Tour De Book was hanging out in good bookshops and libraries all month. I may have *ahem* accumulated more books than what I started with!

Here’s our luscious pick of the month. {Click on the book to purchase. I don’t get any commission on this. Sharing for the love of it.}

marvellous fluffy itty bitty

The Marvellous Fluffy Itty Bitty by Beatrice Alemagna

This gorgeous book caught my eye at The Little Bookroom in Carlton. Maybe it was the fluoro pink jacket Eddie wears on the front cover! What a gorgeous book. This is the story of Eddie, who searches the town for the perfect present for her mum. It’s kooky and quirky and sweet, in equal parts. Did I mention gorgeous? I have seen a few of Beatrice’s books now, and think I am officially hooked.

fuzz mcflops

Fuzz McFlops by Eva Furnari

I am pretty sure this is my new favourite book. For early readers {maybe?} or to read aloud, Fuzz McFlops is the tale of an introverted rabbit, whose life has been marked by an ear impediment. Fuzz finds solace in poetry, but when his talent is challenged by a reader, Fuzz experiences all kinds of negative emotions. Some of them might actually be good for Fuzz! Such a sweet and funny story of love and all the good things. My daughter and I were practically rolling around laughing reading this one.

the pointless leopard

The Pointless Leopard: What Good Are Kids Anyway? by Colas Gutman and Delphine Perret

This is another hilarious title from Pushkin Children’s Books – as good for adults as it is for kids. Leonard is a city kid, who reluctantly finds himself in the bush, thanks to his bush-loving parents. Leonard goes on a journey of self-discovery – or possibly dissolution – when he meets a cow. Am loving these pocket-sized books for travelling too!

being agatha

Being Agatha by Anna Pignataro

As most of you already know, I’ve been spending a fair amount of time with Anna this month, as we launched Too Busy Sleeping all over the place, and did fun workshops together. Anna not only launched Too Busy Sleeping this month – she also launched Beauty and The Beast  and Being AgathaI was lucky enough to be at the official launch at Writers In The Park Festival on Sunday, and hear Anna read this lovely story. Agatha is half pig, half bear, and struggles to fit in. When Agatha’s teacher asks the children what makes them special, Agatha runs and hides. But her friend Mae helps her realise what does make her special. This story is very dear to Anna. And when you see it, you will know why. The pictures and Agatha herself are divine – in charcoal and watercolour. Rosie, my littlest, adores this story.

beauty and the beast anna pignataro

Beauty and the Beast (Once Upon A Timeless Tale) retold by Margrete Lamond and Anna Pignataro

Yes, it’s an Anna Pignataro fest. But I do love her pictures. And no, I am not at all biased. We truly ruly love this book. I have always preferred Beauty and the Beast over most fairy tales. Something about Beauty’s kindness, and the Beast’s vulnerability, and the father’s love. My youngest, Rosie and I have read this book about twenty times this month, and each time I well up at the end. Anna’s Beast is so cute, and her Beauty is gorgeous. Apparently Beauty is based on Anna’s own daughter. Again, I love the pocket-sized nature of these books. Perfect for plane trips, handbags and car travels.


In The Evening  by Edwina Wyatt

In The Evening is a subtle and gentle ode to friendship, and stretching beyond our capabilities. Oscar and Charlie are neighbours. But when Charlie extends a hand of friendship, Oscar is not so sure what to do with himself. Gaye Chapman has created a magical and whimsical world with Edwina’s words. Edwina is another lovely book person I was fortunate to connect with on Sunday at Writers In The Park Festival. This is Edwina’s second book, and she has more beautiful books to come!

the cat with the coloured tail

The Cat With The Coloured Tail by Gillian Mears and Dinalie Dabarera

When I visited the Grafton Library a couple of weeks ago, a really interesting, intelligent eleven-year-old girl came and chatted with me about some things. She told me about hearing Gillian Mears talk at an art gallery about her new book, and told me how much she loved this story of a cat whose tail would change colour to make people feel happy. The cat and his owner Mr Hooper travel around bringing happiness to people who are sad by selling moon-creams. This little hardback book is so original, and poetic, and filled with the most gorgeous imagery. It’s an early reader, but a perfect read-aloud or even coffee table book. There’s something deeply philosophical in the story too. My eleven-year-old friend loved it, I love it, and my five-year-old has given it a golden sticker. I hope one day I can write a special book of this length and quality one day, which will also be beautifully illustrated. It’s a gem.

Have you come across any great kid’s books this month?

Children’s Books We Love :: August


I suddenly realised something… ziiip! It’s the end of August! Time for a children’s book wrap-up.

Click the images to purchase the books {I get no commission by the way.}

lola's toybox

Lola’s Toybox by Danny Parker

I was excited to hear Danny talk about his new series for early readers. My daughter loves the magical worlds of Enid Blyton, and it sounded like these new books could be the contemporary answer to Enid Blyton. They are utterly adorable, and so well written. We read these aloud, and both my girls, 5 and 2, followed along with interest. My oldest has wanted to re-read them all several times. And my youngest loves poring over the images.

Lola is a sweet little girl, maybe about seven? who discovers that her toy chest has magic abilities and can transport her to the toy kingdom, where her toys live when she’s not playing with them. Danny weaves a world of delight and magic. Perfect for early readers, or pre-readers like my girls.

hush little possum

Hush Little Possum: An Australian Lullaby by P. Crumble and Wendy Binks

I wouldn’t usually include these Australian takes on old-fashioned nursery rhymes, but this book has us captivated, and has been a big part of our little sunshine house this month. When I first read it, I was warmed by the loving mother who jumps from shed to tree to cliff to save her baby from the rain. Go, Mumma, go. We played the CD of Deborah Mailman singing the song in the car. My youngest was hooked. I have to read her the book every night, and as she falls asleep, I need to sing her the song. God forbid I get a single word wrong! Either my two-year-old or my five-year-old pounce on me if I do. They know it inside out.

my dad is a giraffe

My Dad is a Giraffe by Stephen Michael King

This is probably my favourite ‘dad’ book, perfect for Father’s Day. The little boy sees his dad as a giraffe; fast, but happy to slow down, gentle, fun, protective and proud. King’s beautiful illustrations take us into an imaginary world and back out again. I think my own dad, and my girls’ dad are also giraffes, given they are six foot plus in height. But I think all kids will relate to this gorgeous story.

the crocodolly martin mckenna

The Crocodolly by Martin McKenna

This is a fun and wacky story of a girl called Adelaide who bakes a cake, and when cracking eggs, discovers a crocodile! Adelaide decides to keep the crocodile, but disguising a crocodile isn’t easy.

That’s all from me this month.

What children’s books did you know and love this month?