Monday, 23 December 2013

Lego Poetry - NEW Activity

I have been meaning to create a lego poetry activity for ages, and the Christmas holidays seemed like the perfect time to do it.  The idea is not mine.  It was inspired by @legopoetry that I stumbled upon on Twitter sometime last year. I fell in love with the idea at once, but was not sure how I might use it in my school workshops.

But I have been brave!  And two schools next year are so far scheduled to have a go with their Year 2 children.  But first, I had to make it!

I created some lists of words with the help of resources from @playbythebook , @sparklebox , @earlylearninghq and I put these onto a spreadsheet and sized them to 28pt, ordered some transparent self-adhesive paper and I was ready to go.

Unfortunatly the printed words smudged on the paper and I was too impatient to wait half an hour for them to dry, so I picked up a sharpie, grabbed an 11 year old assistant and got stuck in.

I'm really REALLY pleased with the results. 

Playing By the Book Blog on Lego Poetry 

FilthWizardry DIY Spinny Spellers and Repurposing Duplo
Sparklebox High Frequency Words

I now have six Year 7s, who have come for a sleepover, playing contentedly with Lego Duplo.  Who would have thought it?!

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The Princess and the Peas wins Oldham Brilliant Book Awards KS1

Last year, Ed Eaves and I won the Oldham Brilliant Book Awards with How to Grow a Dinosaur.  So I was thrilled to be shortlisted again this yaer

And guess what? We won again!  This time with Sarah Warburton for The Princess and the Peas!

We sat around tables in tru Oscars style and were treated to live performances of extracts from all the shortlisted books.

The children were dressed up to the nines and we all had a great time!

I was so surprised that we won the Key Stage One award - especially amongst such stiff competition.  It's only the second year that Oldham Council have run the Brilliant Book Awards - and they did a fantastic job.

I'd like to say a huge thank you to all the organisers, children, teacher and parents involved in the project - it's not just one evening, but the culmination of a whole year's work.  We were treated like superstars and very well looked-after.

It's been fantastic to be involved in these wonderful awards.  They are a brilliant way to generate enthusiasm about books and reading, and will hopefully ensure that the children of Oldham become readers for life.

I did take some pictures, but they are really dark, so you'll just have to imagine our smiling faces!

Authors for the Philippines UPDATE

If you read my last blog post about our auction to raise money for the people of the Philippines, you might like to know how we got on.

In total, authors, illustrators and publishing professionals donated a stunning 498 items and raised....

wait for it...


Thank you to everyone who donated or made a bid.  Your donations will be helping to save lives.

I'd also like to acknowledge authors Keris Stainton and Candy Gourlay, who organised the whole thing.  It was a huge amount of work but it sure paid off.  Well done guys!

If you haven't yet made a donation to the relief effort, please consider doing so now.  This Christmas, I'm sending e-cards and am donating what I would have spent on cards and postage to the Red Cross.  If you'd like to do the same, follow the link below.

Donate Now and Save Lives

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Authors for Philippines - Fundraising Auction

In March 2011, author Keris Stainton set up an online auction following the tsunami in Japan. The auction raised over £12,000. Author Keren David suggested another auction to help the people of the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan.

Authors, illustrators and publishing professionals have donated some amazing items to this auction so do go and have a look and get bidding!


 My donation includes:
  • Signed copy of Whiffy Wilson, the Wolf who Wouldn't Wash
  • Your dedication in the third Whiffy Wilson story (due out June 2014)
  • Signed copy of Catch That Rat 
  • Four Tickets to see The Christmas Chocolate Shop performed at Derby Guildhall Theatre 
Click here to see my listing.  If you want to make a bid, write the amount you wish to give in the comments box below.  Remember to keep checking back to see if you need to bid again!


Catch That Rat! New Activity!

Courtesy of the lovely Laura Clempson at we have a new activity for Catch That Rat fans!  You can make this adorable little finger mouse - ahem - rat, with just some scissors and a stick of glue.  

Click here to find out how!

Oh, and if you're looking for an adorable gift or crafty activity for children, have a nosy around Laura's website.  You're sure to find something gorgeous!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

The Cool Milk Show

Over the summer holidays, I wasn't just jumping into freezing waterfalls and batting off midges in Scotland.  I was also working on a super cool project with a super cool company.

Cool Milk manage the supply of free milk to children under 5 in over 8,000 schools in the UK.  They asked me to come up with a school assembly and a story book to teach children about milk - where it comes from and why its good for you.  The ultimate aim of the project is to get more children over 5 drinking milk at school.

Photo 2

So I designed The Cool Milk Show - a 40 minute interactive assembly where, among other things, children get to milk a "cow," guess how much sugar lurks in fizzy drinks and sing the Milk Shake song.  We trained four actors to deliver the shows and from what I hear, they are a roaring success!

The show includes a short video that we made at a dairy to show how cows are milked and how the milk is put into cartons and taken into schools.  Filming was great fun as you can see!

To reinforce what they have learned at school, all children who attend the show are given a free story and activity book, which includes a fab comic strip: The Adventures of Milk Man and His Kid, illustrated by the super-talented Sarah Horne.

Sarah also designed the logo and other graphics for the campaign.
Cool Milk have been a great company to work with.  

To find out more about getting milk for your child at school, visit Cool Milk now. 

Friday, 11 October 2013

Max Reading Whiffy Wilson with his Daddy

I stumbled across this delightful recording a while ago on Twitter and thought I'd blogged about it.  But looking back over my blog posts recently, I realise that I haven't!

So have a listen to this.  It's 4 year old Max reading Whiffy Wilson with his daddy.  This recording is absolutely gorgeous, it really illustrates the sheer enjoyment that books can give young children, and also emphasises the intimacy reading with children can create.  Enjoy!

Here's Max and his daddy

Friday, 27 September 2013

Are you busy at the moment?

One of the illustrators I work with just emailed me for a catch up and asked if I am busy at the moment.  My reply rather surprised me.  This is what I said:

I'm not really that pushed at the moment.  I'm just catching up on websit and promotional stuff, and writing blog posts and putting a new fiction proposal together and proof reading one of my other fiction titles that's going to Frankfurt in a couple of weeks, and creating some new workshop resources and planning the Christmas Chocolate Shop with the theatre production company and...

... Oh.  

Perhaps I AM quite busy after all.

If you want to hear what its like being an author, have a listen to Dan Berry interviewing creative force majeure Sarah MacIntyre. You'll never feel busy again!

Listen to the podcast here

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Snap and Pin - new Pinterest page

I have set up my first pinterest page today.  It's a board filled with snaps of my books sitting on the shelves in bookshops.

I know this seems a bit narcissistic, but my friend Kate from New Zealand insisted I did it as a repository for the photos she sends me from down under.  You might spot one from Dunedin, right down in the south of New Zealand.

If you spot my books in a shop, take a snap and pin it here:

Monday, 23 September 2013

US Kids Parents and Teachers Magazine Interview

Here's an excerpt of an interview I did for US Kids magazine.

What about children’s literature do you find so compelling?
I love picture books because they make me laugh, cry, and wonder. I particularly love it when the illustrations tell extra stories of their own. Sharing picture books with children is so rewarding. To cuddle up close and explore the words and pictures together is a very special experience.

I also read a lot of young fiction—probably because I’m still really about 12 in my head!

 How do you think books help children learn and grow?
I think children often find the adult world difficult to understand. I know I do. Books can help children make sense of their own thoughts and feelings and of the world and people around them. Books can challenge children’s thinking and help them explore different points of view. Above all, books can transport children into other worlds. Worlds full of fun, laughter, excitement, empathy, love and understanding.

Click here to see the full interview.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

The Chocolate Shop hits the Stage

Once upon a time, in a cold grey city, there lived a sad old man and his name was Emilio.

His beloved wife, the beautiful Florentina, has died and the shop they built together is empty without her.

Then one day, the little bell on the shop door begins to tinkle and in comes a tiny child.  There is something about her beautiful brown eyes and carefree laughter that fills Emilio with hope, and re-kindles a long forgotten dream.  And so Emilio begins to transform the old Emporium something new - a magnificent chocolate shop.  But will he ever see the little girl again?

I am SO excited to announce that I am working with the amazing Babbling Vagabonds Theatre Company to produce The Chocolate Shop as a Christmas show.  It's going to be playing at The Guildhall Theatre in Derby from 12th to 29th December this year.  

The Babbling Vagabonds are a genius group of uber-creative story-tellers who have produced some truly stunning shows, filled with live action, puppets, projection and trickery that draw in the audience from the minute they enter the room.  And this show is going to be something really super-special.

This trailer for The Brothers Grimm will give you a small flavour of the Babbling Vagabonds skills.  They really do create THE most wonderful experience for children and adults alike, so please please do come and see it!  

The Christmas Chocolate Shop is supported by DerbyLive

Book Now!

Friday, 12 July 2013

Inspire your Pupils with TeacherFeedback

Imagine… a real author reading your pupils’ work and giving them 1:1 feedback! We’ve put it into practice using a new webservice and app called ‘Teacher Feedback’.

Teacher Feedback was launched by Leading ICT Teacher James Blomfield on Professor Stephen Heppell’s ‘Learning Together’ stand at BETT 2013. They invited me to join them by live video link up to talk about my experience.

Teacher Feedback lets teachers (or in my case guest authors!) record feedback for students to hear. When students log on they can listen to the personalised feedback that has been recorded for them. The student hears a teacher or writer talking directly to them, giving constructive critique, suggestions and possible improvements. Students can rate how well they understand the feedback and post comments or questions back.

In busy classrooms, Teacher Feedback can also multiply the teachers’ effectiveness. For example a whole class could begin a creative writing lesson by listening to their own bespoke feedback on how to improve a current piece of writing.

I worked with Year 3 pupils at Capel-le-Ferne Primary School near Dover. All of the class wrote their own 'Haunted House Stories' and sent them to me. I was able to record a personal response for each of the children, which they loved. They also wrote performance poems in the style of 'Whiffy Wilson' that I gave 1:1 feedback on to improve. The project was inspirational for pupils and impressed teachers, parents and governors.

Visit the Teacher Feedback Website

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

The Princess and the Peas Shortlisted for Award

The Princess and the Peas has been shortlisted for not one, but two regional awards.  The Stockport Mad About Books Award and the Oldham Brilliant Books Award are two very prestigious awards that take place in November this year.

You can see all the shortlisted books here:

Stockport Mad About Books Shortlists

Oldham Brilliant Book Awards Shortlists

I was lucky enough to win both awards last year with my book How to Grow a Dinosaur, illustrated by Ed Eaves and published by Simon & Schuster.  The two ceremonies were jam packed with glitz and glamour and we all have a fantastic time!  Here's hoping for another win later in the year...

The Princess and the Peas is illustrated by the hugely talented and totally delightful Sarah Warburton, and published by those clever people at Nosy Crow.

Whiffy Wilson on Bookaboo

The mucky but adorable Whiffy Wilson has made his first television appearance!  

Thanks to the wonderful team at Bookaboo, Canadian Actor Zaib Shaikh put in a fantastic performance with the famous book-loving pooch, reading a cleverly animated version of the book.

You can watch it here until 27 July

A story a day or I just can't play!!

Watch Whiffy Wilson on Bookaboo

And if you want to listen to something totally adorable, here's Max reading Whiffy Wilson with his Daddy.

Listen to Max reading

I am Patron of Reading for Fairfield Prep!!

I am very pleased to announce that I have recently become the Patron of Reading for Fairfield Preparatory School in Loughborough.

If you haven't heard of it before, the Patron of Reading Scheme aims to create personal bonds between schools and designated authors or illustrators. 

The author (or illustrator) then works with the school on a regular basis to raise the profile of reading for pleasure.  This, in turn, improves reading standards and can also motivate children in creative writing and other activities.

Last week, I made my second visit to Fairfield Prep, following a very successful day on World Book Day.  It was lovely to see the children again and I hear that my visit was anticipated with much excitement!  I spent the day working with Year 2 children - reading stories and making up poems.
Martine Saperia, Pre-Prep English Co-ordinator said, "We are delighted to have Caryl as our Patron of Reading.  The children love the fact that they know a real live author!"

Personally, I think the Patron of Reading scheme is a brilliant idea.  It enables me to develop a proper relationship with both teachers and children.  It helps children see the relevance of reading and writing, and, perhaps more importantly, it helps them realise that even the professionals don't get things right straight away. 

"Seeing Caryl's exercise book from her own school days really helped one child understand that we all have to start somewhere, and not to be daunted by what might seem an impossible task.  Caryl was able to give the children individual attention which made such a difference to their confidence."

Both Martine and I are really looking forward to developing our relationship and to working together in the future. 
Find out more about the Patron of Reading Scheme

Friday, 14 June 2013

NEW!! Free Pirate Activities

Those lovely people at Simon and Schuster have created some gorgeous new Albie activity sheets.  Get along to the Activities & Downloads section of my website now and see what's there!

Take me to the Pirate Activities

Monday, 10 June 2013

Stories with Starlight

Starlight Children's Foundation is a charity that helps seriously and terminally ill children by granting wishes and providing entertainment to distract them from their illnesses and treatment. 

They have teamed up with Simon and Schuster as part of their Starlight Storytellers initiative, which brings authors and illustrators into hospitals for story time and book-based activities.

I was most honoured to be invited to run a session for poorly children at Derbyshire Children's Hospital last week where I met children, chatted to relatives and staff and read LOTS of stories!  By the end of the session I had quite an audience of onlookers!  

Albie proved a very popular character and the children were soon shouting out and joining in.  It was great to see them smiling, laughing and having fun.

Find out more about Starlight

Get involved

Read good news stories

Friday, 24 May 2013

The Sun Recommends Plunge into the Pirate Pool

There's a nice little review of Plunge into the Pirate Pool in The Sun today.

Here it is!

Saturday, 18 May 2013

DO Wear your Pants on Your Head!

Watch this video, created by Emi Howe of KidsCan, and help raise money for kids with cancer. Every time the video is viewed, it generates money for KidsCan through advertising. Simple.

KidsCan have also published a silly book called Pants Hats which you can buy here. Orchard Books have kindly donated a pile of my books to support the project.  Fundraiser Emi Howe will be visiting schools and libraries soon to raise awareness of childhood cancer and will be giving copies of Don't Put Your Pants on Your Head, Fred as prizes! 

Visit Emi Howe's blog to find out more

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Albie Competition!

Albie's newest adventure, Plunge into the Pirate Pool is out NOW!  

And to celebrate, I'm running a competition to win one of these awesome Albie Activity Packs!  

There are two ways to enter:

Email me a picture your child has drawn which has been inspired by reading. Please include your child's first name and age and send to:

Post your entry on Twiter and tag me using @carylhart1 and the hashtag #AlbieComp

Closing date: 31 July 2013

Good Luck!

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

I did an interview the other day for Susie Tyler.  She's a librarian at Collompton Library in Devon, and she runs a children's book blog called Susie and the Pencils.  Do check it out if you'd like to have a nosey.  She's also interviewed Sarah Warburton, the amazing illustrator who did the pictures for my book The Princess and the Peas.  It's a fascinating read!

Oh, and while you're there, take a look at Susie's cards and prints - they are GORGEOUS!  You can even buy them!

Take me to Susie and the Pencils Blog

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Heeeeeerrrrr's HARRY!


 Hey, look at this.  It's Harry reading Welcome to Alien School with his daddy.  

Harry is a HUGE Albie fan.  He even reads to his twin baby brother and sister.  Isn't he great!

Harry wins a signed copy of Plunge into the Pirate Pool and an Albie goodie bag!**

Well done Harry.

** If you would like to win something nice, send in a video of your child reading one of my books!

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Celebrate with the New Albie Party Pack!

To celebrate the launch of my new book, Plunge into Pirate Pool, on 25 April, Simon and Schuster have created a fantastically fun and super-special Albie Party Pack for teachers, librarians and booksellers!

Stuffed full of stickers, activity sheets, masks and games, each party pack is suitable for use by 30 children.  What better way to get kids engaged in books and reading!

If you would like join the celebrations and run an Albie Launch Party, visit the Albie Party Pack Page and fill in the form!


Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Sheffield Star and Derbyshire Times

In anticipation of the Red House Children's Book Awards, the local press for Sheffield and Derbyshire asked me for an interview.  I couldn't believe it when the Sheffield Star printed a huge double page spread about me!

If you would like to read the article, you can see it online here:

The Derbyshire Times also filmed me reading an extract of the shortlisted book, Welcome to Alien School.  If you'd like to watch it, visit the Derbyshire Times website here.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Red House Children's Book Awards

Book Signing
Thank you everyone for all your support and good wishes for the Red House Children's Book Awards on Saturday 23rd February.
I didn't win, but I had a fab and dazzling time and am really happy to have been chosen as one of only four shortlisted picture book authors.

Celebratory Lunch with Book Club Members
The awards are the culmination of a lot of hard work by The Federation of Children's Book Groups (FCBG). These energetic volunteers run book groups all over the country, enthusing children about reading and inspiring a life long love of books.
The ceremony was attended by children from each of the FCBG groups, many of whom come from deprived backgrounds, so it was a real pleasure to be able to help make their day special.


Picture Book Shortlisted Authors and Illustrators
The awards are sponsored by Red House Children's Books. I think they do a fantastic job getting books out to children who may not otherwise have the opportunity to read and own them. Red House do this through a combination of hugely discounted prices and superb marketing.
It is a well-researched fact that children who own books are better readers and more socially mobile than children who don't. Shockingly, I have met a good many children who do not own a SINGLE book. Red House is helping to address this problem.

David Walliams and the Stagecoach Gangsta Grannies
To give some perspective, Red House have sold over 70,000 copies each of Welcome to Alien School and How to Grow a Dinosaur. That's at least 70,000 kids who probably would not have seen, let alone owned,  one of these books!
So, being a part of these awards is not just about bathing in the glory of hoards of adoring fans (!), it's about promoting the wonderful world of books and getting kids reading. And that has to be a good thing.

Plus, the lunch was amazing, with THREE puddings, and I got to meet Patrick Ness.
I'm happy.

Congratulations to this years winners who get the icing on the cake and a big pat on the back!

Over 1000 People Attended

This Year's Winners are:
Spooky Spooky House by Andrew Weale and Lee Wildish
Gangsta Granny by David Walliams and Tony Ross
The Medusa Project - Hit Squad by Sophie McKenzie

Find out More about the Red House Children's Book Awards here
The Winning Team!
Stagecoach Performance

All Photos kindly supplied by, and copyright of Federation of Children's Book Groups