THE DREAM TRAIN
End the day with some poetry for every kind of child and every kind of bedtime. THE DREAM TRAIN is a collection of 30 poems ranging from the cosy to the funny, and from the musical to the magical. Each captures something about night-time, sleep or dreams. Written for children aged 3-8 and accompanied by the colourful and inviting artwork of Anuska Allepuz, THE DREAM TRAIN has been described as “a keep-forever hug of a book”.
Sunny days are on their way. HOW TO BE COOLER THAN COOL is out in paperback. And here’s our trailer…
‘HOW TO BE COOLER THAN COOL by Sean Taylor is a reminder that the coolest thing is to be yourself.’ ― The Daily Telegraph
‘This 3 year old thought this book was hilarious! Before we read it together, she sat down and looked at the pages on her own and giggled away loudly at the pictures … When I asked her what she liked best she said ‘the silliness’. It’s a wonderful book.’ — Parent on Toppsta
‘Taylor and Jullien’s joyful, zingy and high-colour graphic picture book is brilliant fun for reading together – the high contrast and thick black outlines as well as the nice clear font make it super accessible while being stylish and silly with plenty of great phrases to copy. There’s also a lovely message about enjoying yourself and not worrying what other people think.’ ― BookTrust
MONSTER! HUNGRY! PHONE!
My latest book is about a monster who wants something to eat. What’s more, he wants it in a hurry. So he picks up his phone.
But what happens if you’re in such a hurry, you keep on dialling the wrong number?!
I remember writing MONSTER! HUNGRY! PHONE! – almost as an afterthought – when working on other picture book stories back in 2018. It’s only 177 words long.
So it’s a treat to see how it has caught the imagination since it was published, by Bloomsbury , in January 2022.
Waterstones have chosen it as one of their Children’s Books You Need to Read in 2022: https://www.waterstones.com/blog/the-childrens-books-you-need-to-read-in-2022
It’s Julia Eccleshare’s Pick of the Month at @readingforkids. She says: “MONSTER! HUNGRY! PHONE! The three words…brilliantly capture the wit & simplicity of this vividly imagined story.’
The Guardian calls it: ‘A shouty, colourful picture-book romp, begging to be read aloud with gusto.’
And follow this link for a delight-filled review from Picture Book Snob!
I loved working with French illustrator Fred Benaglia on this title. His dynamic, vibrant illustrations perfectly match the text.
And I can reveal that MONSTER! HUNGRY! PHONE! is the first in a series. So our very noisy (but very loveable) monster is going to be back before long, with more comic adventures…
PODCAST ON MY JOURNEY IN WRITING
Here’s a link to a half-hour interview I did for the podcast BREAKTHROUGH BUILDERS.
In it you’ll hear me talk about my journey in writing, the importance of joining a writing group in my 20’s, why I believe books are better than screens, and what I’ve got in common with a cabbage white butterfly…
COOL ACTIVITY SHEETS
HOW TO BE COOLER THAN COOL tells the story of three young friends in a playground. They find a pair of sunglasses and get rather excited about how cool they’re going to be, when they wear them. But their efforts to be cool result in some seriously slapstick disasters. Then a tiny chick arrives. And she shows them that just being yourself is cooler than cool.
You can have some HOW TO BE COOLER THAN COOL fun by following this link:
Join me on a half-term Zoom visit to Seven Stories – the National Centre for Children’s Books.
10am. Friday 4th June, 2021.
I’ll be reading out my latest picture book HOW TO BE COOLER THAN COOL. And there will be lots of interactive picture book fun besides…including riddles, rhymes and a REAL COOL SONG.
Full details on how to join in here: https://www.sevenstories.org.uk/whats-on/events/1045/how-to-be-cooler-than-cool-with-sean-taylor
HOW TO BE COOLER THAN COOL
My latest picture book is a slapstick celebration of being yourself, from the team behind HOOT OWL, MASTER OF DISGUISE and I WANT TO BE IN A SCARY STORY.
As part of the book’s launch you can join me online at The Stratford Literary Festival for some picture book fun, a reading of HOW TO BE COOLER THAN COOL…and a real cool song. Available from Sunday 16th May: :https://www.stratfordliteraryfestival.co.uk/events/sean-taylor-how-to-be-cooler-than-coo
Instagramers head here https://t.co/s6RaAeYfs4?amp=1 for my takeover of the Walker Picture Books feed, which takes you behind the scenes on many aspects of making the book.
And look out for an interview about writing picture books and working with Jean Jullien, here: https://www.picturebookparty.co.uk/ .
FUNNY BUMS, FREAKY BEAKS AND OTHER INCREDIBLE CREATURE FEATURES publishes on 4 March 2021.
It’s a treasure chest, celebrating the diversity of animals and explaining the value of some of their strangest, most mind-boggling features.
Here’s a little taste of what’s inside…
TEACHING PICTURE BOOK WRITING
Interested in exploring the craft of picture book writing? This autumn I’ll be teaching an online evening course at Goldsmiths, University of London.
Themes explored will include, creating characters that children love, how to ‘keep writing young’, how to create page-turning stories, musical language and redrafting.
I’ll be taking participants on a journey into the craft of writing picture book stories, and be helping them to come up with one of their own.
- one to one tutorial.
- question and answer session with Maria Tunney, Senior Editor at Walker Books.
Full details and how to book here:
LET'S GET SILLY
RIDING A DONKEY A DONKEY BACKWARDS – my laugh-out-loud collection of Mulla Nasruddin stories written with Khayaal Theatre – has been chosen by The Reading Agency for this year’s Summer Reading Challenge book list. And we’re pleased to be joining Jacqueline Wilson, Cressida Cowell, Philip Ardagh and Joseph Coelho as part of the SILLY SQUAD Summer Reading Challenge 2020.
This ever-popular library-based reading challenge will be launching on 5th June 2020, in an all-new digital format due to Covid-19 and the ongoing social distancing measures in schools and public libraries.
And very sensibly, given the times we’re in, they’re giving it a silly theme!
Expect lots of reading fun along the course of the SILLY SQUAD programme. It will run from June until September and feature readings, jokes, poems, creative challenges, family activities and draw-a-longs from the authors and illustrators involved.
Libraries around the country will continue to run the Summer Reading Challenge, delivering it via virtual services and e-lending platforms, and adapting their delivery if social distancing measures develop and change.
So head here from 5 June 2020, to join in the seriously silly fun:
MEET THE AUTHOR
I enjoyed a recent chat with Elephant Books about THE SNOWBEAR.
You can find out more about writing that book, my collaborations with Claire Alexander & my thoughts on the biggest challenges facing parents, given the current relationship between kids & reading. Their MEET THE AUTHOR feature is here:
WHY I WASN'T IN DUBAI
Every February Dubai hosts The Emirates Airline Literature Festival. Some authors accept the invitation to attend. But some do not.
I was invited to attend and, having researched issues around the festival and talked with fellow authors, I decided not to go.
There are many grievances about the way that the United Arab Emirates is governed. The country has a very well-documented record of human rights violations. It relies on a migrant underclass who are treated in ways reminiscent of apartheid. It promotes a culture of wasteful overconsumption that our world can ill-afford.
Although holding a literature festival may appear
to swim against these currents, the fact is that the Emirates Festival of
Literature’s patron is Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister of
the U.A.E and ruler of the Emirate of Dubai. So the event gives a sheen of
respectability to an oppressive regime.
My choice would always be to stay part of the conversation rather than close the door. I had hoped to visit the festival in this spirit, and take part in conversations and meetings with contacts in the wider Dubai community. But authors who have attended the festival tell me it’s very difficult to do anything meaningful outside the ‘five-star bubble’ where the festival is held. And this was confirmed when the festival told me they have ‘very stringent rules’ and I would not be able to do any paid or free private events or speak at meetings not organised by the festival itself.
I would have enjoyed the chance to connect with children and families in Dubai and to be a part of feeding their love of reading.
The choice not to go is entirely mine, and I respect the right of other authors to consider the issues and act differently. Freedom of expression lies at the heart of this matter.
As fellow children’s author Laurence Anholt has rightly
“The Dubai Government cannot have it both ways – if they want to encourage
literature and the arts, then they must allow unrestricted debate and freedom
of speech to all.”
And this is the voice of Ahmed Mansoor, human
rights defender imprisoned in the U.A.E since March 2017:
“The root cause of so much of the violence in the region is despair. Human rights are being violated on a daily basis and nobody in the outside world seems to care.”
IT'S SCARY ON THE ISLE OF WIGHT...
I’ve just had a great weekend at the Isle of Wight Literary Festival, doing events around my book I WANT TO BE IN A SCARY STORY! Thanks for having me and an extra special thank you to the children who came up with this spooky poem:
SCARY STORY POEM
Our scary story poem
has a spooky house in it.
It’s crooked and pointy.
Our scary story poem
has wolves in it.
They’re big and vicious.
They’re frightening and deafening.
Our scary story poem
has a witch in it.
She’s got a green face.
She’s got a spiky cat.
So let’s leave them in the poem
and go for lunch.
And have a ham and cheese sandwich.
by children at the Isle of Wight Literary Festival 2018, working with Sean Taylor
TIPS ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN
A student dropped me a line asking for my top tips on writing for children.
I had a fifteen minute train journey to write a message back. And these are the bits of advice that came off the top of my head. Hoping they may be useful to others….
Top priority…be very clear what age children you are writing for. 2-4’s? 4-6’s? 6-8’s? 8-11’s? They are all very different and read different sorts of stories.
Come up with a character that children of the age you are writing for will identify with or…better still…fall head over heals in love with.
Open with a hook that will get them on board.
Make it a ‘ page-turning’ story to keep them involved.
Put in some humour.
Also some emotion.
Reach some sort of satisfying resolution…a surprise…an uplift…a piece of magic.
LONG LIVE HARBINGER SCHOOL LIBRARY
A BBC investigation, last year, came up with this shocking statistic: 343 British public libraries closed between 2010 and 2016. So what a delight to be invited to open a new library last week, at Harbinger Primary, on the Isle of Dogs.
In the ship-launching tradition of that corner of east London, it felt as if we should be launching the new library by smashing a bottle of champagne on the door. But the Head Teacher wouldn’t let me.
So I did my best to launch the new space by reading a poem written for the library.
All the children and staff at the school joined in by counting 3…2…1!
Then the ribbon was cut…
LONG LIVE HARBINGER SCHOOL LIBRARY AND ALL WHO READ IN HER!
Here’s the poem I read:
A BLESSING FOR A LIBRARY
Let this be a place where reading flows.
Let this be a place where imagination grows.
Let this be a place where facts are discovered –
a calm place, in busy times, where clear thoughts are recovered.
Let this be a place that is safe and warm.
Let this be a place where fresh dreams are born.
Let there be good stories here that make your heart go faster,
poems, riddles and comedies to make you burst with laughter.
Let this be a place of cliffhangers and mysteries.
Let this be a place for sciences and histories.
Let this be a place where you come to feel at home.
Let this be a place where learning seeds are sown.
Let this be a special place for the head and the heart.
Let this be a place from which journeys start.
Sean Taylor, May 2017
PORTSMOUTH...A CITY OF YOUNG READERS
Many thanks to Portsmouth Schools Library Service for inviting me down this week. I was delighted to spend time with the quick-thinking children and dedicated teachers at Penhale and Court Lane infant schools. And it warms an author’s heart to visit a city which puts energy all year round into getting children excited about books.
Here are some poems that the children came up with…
MY PRECIOUS THINGS
My dark white bunny-teddy.
I will always keep him safe.
My beautiful family.
I will always keep them safe.
My fantastic friends.
I will always keep them safe.
My fluffy hamster, Harry.
I will always keep him safe.
My secret diary.
I will always keep it safe.
My special gold necklace from my nan.
I will always keep it safe.
by Year 2 children at Penhale Infant School, working with Sean Taylor.
THE LION, THE TIGER AND THE GIRAFFE
An angry lion!
An angry lion!
She’s got a fluffy mane.
She’s hunting for food.
An angry lion is the angriest thing in the world!
A naughty tiger!
A naughty tiger!
A naughty tiger is the naughtiest thing in the world!
A happy giraffe.
A happy giraffe.
A happy giraffe is the happiest thing in the world!
by Year 1 children at Penhale Infant School, working with Sean Taylor.
I JUST DON'T KNOW WHAT TO WRITE
Hi wanted to tell you that I really enjoyed reading your book “A waste of good paper” I would like to ask you for some tips on writing a book i like actually i love reading book and i finished reading your book the same day i got it from the library i am happy to add it to my collection of favourite books. I want to write a book about my life so far i am only 15 but i want to achieve something and i have started many times its just when it comes to going on i just become blank i forget everything or i just don’t know what to write. If you don’t mind telling me some of your secrets please do share. Thanks Nikolas [Nik the gamer]
AN ELEPHANT AND A MOUSE IN BRISTOL
Thanks to Bristol Foyles for inviting me in as part of their Storybox summer of events. Some of the children were feeling loud and some of the children were feeling quiet. So this is the poem we all came up with:
ELEPHANT AND MOUSE
Louder than an elephant stomping!
Louder than an ambulance zooming!
Louder than a whole skyscraper falling down!
Louder than a lion’s roar!
Quieter than a mouse squeaking.
Quieter than a worm in the soil.
Quieter than a hedgehog sleeping.
Quieter than a book waiting for someone to read it.
By children at Foyles, Cabot Circus, Bristol writing with Sean Taylor, July 2016.
THE TOP 10 REASONS WHY I READ TO MY CHILDREN
As well as being the author of some books for children, I am the father of two boys under 10. Like many (most?) parents, I can feel regrets about the things I’ve not managed to do together with my boys. We’ve never built a tree-house. I haven’t taken a half-day off to sit down with them and make that model pirate ship they were once given. The campervan trip to Ireland hasn’t happened yet… But I have read to them as much as I possibly can. And there are no regrets about that.
These are ten reasons why:
1. THE SHARING
In modern times, many parents have lost touch with what you could call ‘traditional children’s culture’. I’m thinking of the stories, games, songs, rhymes, traditions and rituals which would once have been passed from one generation to the next. Reading to your children can go some way to making up for that. If there were books you loved as a child, it’s easy to pass them on. I’ve had a fantastic time revisiting (by reading aloud) old favourites of mine like John Burningham’sHumbert, Winnie the Pooh, Moominsummer Madness, James and the Giant Peach and Treasure Island. And the fantastic-ness is doubled when it’s shared with a child.
Books offer language that goes beyond the range of everyday talk. And stories offer delights that ordinary conversations rarely do. So reading aloud to a child is a great way to help them become confident language users. This has been particularly important in my family. I’m British, but my wife is Brazilian. Our boys grew up in São Paulo. Their ‘mother tongue’ is (quite literally) Portuguese. I know the fact that they are both good English speakers today, owes a lot to all the books in English we’ve enjoyed together.
3.THE BOOKS THEMSELVES
As you can see from my post on Maurice Sendak (somewhere below) I think picture books are one of the great art forms to come out of the 20th century. (Up there with the three-and-a-half-minute rhythm and blues song!) You get characters that children love, page-turning stories, inventive, skilfully-crafted illustrations, flights of imagination, colour, humour, emotion and – as if all that wasn’t enough – endings which uplift, provoke, surprise, or do all three. The wealth of picture books available is a treasure chest to share with any child. And it’s not just picture books that are special. Middle grade fiction is very much abuzz. So I’m not planning to stop reading to my boys any time soon!
Most children find learning to read and write a tough business. But if they’re being read good books they’ll be more motivated to succeed at it. They’ll be more at home in the landscape of words on pages. And you can give them bits of practice too – by pausing the flow of a story, and getting them to read out words. Our six-year-old doesn’t have much patience for practising his phonics and key-words. But if I give him reading challenges from a book that I’m reading aloud to him, he’s noticeably more motivated, calm and persistent.
Children’s questions are wonderful (wonder-filled) things. They are a marks of curiosity and the desire to learn. They contain hope. So I always listen carefully to them and give the best answers I can. (Even if the conversation goes: “Does everyone in the world die?” “Yes, it’s sad but everyone does.” “What about mermaids?”) Reading-time with children is a great space for these questions to come out – whether they’re old questions waiting to be asked, or new ones inspired by what’s being read. When you’re reading together, there’s time and space for reflection. Your child can ask you things. Or you can ask them.
Sometimes children need you to go with them on the journey into a book. Our 9-year-old likes to read a lot of things on his own, these days. But there are books he’d like to have read to him. This may be because the story looks challenging to him, in some way. Or it may be that it’s a book from a different era that he’d like an adult to help ‘interpret’. One way or another, if you offer yourself to a child as a book companion, you’ll broaden their reading horizons.
There is so much comedy in writing for children. And laughter (like most things) is best enjoyable when it’s shared. I did actually fall off the bed from laughing so much…when reading our oldest son Roald Dahl’s, The Twits.
It’s not just questions. There is other talk sparked during and after the reading. Good stories stay with us. My boys and I chat about books we have read days, weeks, months or years after we have finished them.
You can choose what direction to travel (towards adventure, humour, poetry, magic, or more besides.) You take a break from the busyness of things. You can do it every day, home or away. You find somewhere comfortable to sit yourselves down. There is calm. You journey into the imagination, together with a child. It’s a delight.
All around us as night draws in, parents start up the quiet rhythms of telling stories to children. It goes on right round the world. And there’s nothing new in the knowledge that a story is the best way to end the day’s excitement and settle down for sleep. It’s been going on for tens of thousands of years. They are bridges that lead from the real world into the world of our dreams. (And if the adult readers sometimes fall asleep too…well…it happens!)
These are ten reasons why I have spent hours and hours reading to my sons. On reflection, I suppose those hours have really been our tree house, our pirate ship and our campervan adventure across the sea…