Tag Archives: Alex T. Smith

Interview with Stupendously Talented Author Caryl Hart

Caryl Hart is the stupendously talented award-winning author of amazing picture books such as Supermarket Zoo, Rhino, What Rhino?, The Princess and the Peas, Whiffy Wilson, and more. She is now also the stupendously talented author of early reader chapter books for children of all ages about Foxy DuBois and Alphonso Alligator.

Whiffy Wilson - The Wolf Who Wouldn't Go to School: Caryl Hart & Leonie Lord (Orchard Books, 2014)Hello, Caryl. Our first question is from your big fan Mighty-Girl (7) who is a writer and very interested in the writing process. She asks, what is your next book going to be? 

Hi! The next book to come out is a new story about Whiffy Wilson.  It’s called Whiffy Wilson, the Wolf who Wouldn’t go to School, published by Orchard Books.

Luckily, Dotty is on hand to sort him out.  She takes him to her school and Whiffy is suprised to discover that school is actually lots of fun.  What a silly wolf he is!

I also have another Princess book coming out with Nosy Crow and a new Albie book next year with Simon & Schuster.

The next thing I’m starting work on is a series of three chapter books for 6-8 year olds for Nosy Crow.  It’s going to be about a girl called Little Pip and her friend Mervin Marvin.  It’s not out till 2016 though because I’m waiting for a very special illustrator to find time in her extremely busy schedule.

I’m also working on some baby books, but I don’t know if they’ll be published.  We’ll have to wait and see!

Wow, that sounds really busy! And great news for us: more Whiffy Wilson, Princesses, Albie and chapter books – perfect! The Princess and the Peas is one of Danger Girl (4)’s favourite books ever. Did you have a favourite book when you were little, and what was it?

My favourite book was Snuffy written by Dick Bruna. He also wrote the Miffy books and Snuffy was similar.  It was about a little brown dog who helps a lady find her lost child.  Snuffy gives the child a ride on his back when he takes her home.  I always wanted to be the lost child being taken back to her mummy!

Foxy Tales The Cunning Plan: Caryl Hart & Alex T Smith (Hodder Children's Books, 2014)I’ve not heard of that book, it sounds so lovely! Being lost is one of a child’s biggest fears and a theme that seems to inspire a lot of picture books. What books inspire or influence your writing?

Oh gosh, so many!  But the book that really inspired me to have a go at writing myself was Farmer Duck by Martin Waddell and Helen Oxenbury.  I adore the rhythm of Martin’s words and love Helen’s watercolour illustrations.  I think its a very clever book.

I also love Shirley Hughes – she writes great stories and beautiful, simple poems that I think children really relate to.  My children memorised lots of her poems when they were very small and we used to chant them together on long journeys.

Lots of my books have a moral or a message for the readers, and I think I get this from Hilaire Belloc’s Cautionary Tales, which I read over and over as a child. They were written in verse and are wonderful stories about naughty children getting what they deserve including being eaten by lions and burned alive!  Not very nice, I suppose, but very funny!!

Those are all fabulous choices, and thank-you for reminding me about Cautionary Tales, I must see if Mighty Girl likes them, I loved them when I was little too!

Caryl Hart & Mighty Girl, Feb 2013

Caryl & Mighty Girl at the Red House Children’s Book Awards, Feb 2013

Before you go back to creating more wonderful stories, could you tell us about your event at Hoo’s Kids Book Fest?

I’m going to be reading from Foxy Tales, the Cunning Plan and Alex T Smith is going to be drawing some pictures.  He might even draw Alphonso in his knickers if you’re lucky!

We’ll also tell you a bit about how the book came about and how much fun it’s been to create it together. I’ve also heard a rumour that Alex is bringing his little dog Coco, but you’ll have to wait and see if that rumour is true!

How exciting! We can’t wait to see you there. The whole day sounds wonderful! How excited are you to be appearing at Hoo’s Kids Book Fest?

Like.. VERY!!

Thank-you so much for answering our questions, and we look forward to seeing you on Sunday.

Caryl will be appearing at Hoo’s Kids Book Fest this Sunday with the equally stupendously talented Alex T Smith, talking about Foxy Tales, and being generally awesome.

Activities inspired by Ella by Alex T. Smith

Ella: Alex T Smith (Scholastic, 2012)

As part of The Educators’ Spin On It Summer Book Exchange, I chose Ella by Alex T. Smith as the book to send to our swap partner, Here Come The Girls. This is a book that my girls love (actually, we’re all fans of all of Alex T. Smith’s work) and one that was too easy to think of activities to fit. Ladybirds and Spiders, what’s not to love?!

Here is the content of the box we sent, hoping to inspire lots of open-ended crafts. You can read about what they did with it here.

Ella Swap Box

I’d love to have more time to create printables to download for this blog, as they’re something I’m slightly addicted to, but this swap gave me the perfect opportunity to and you can download our Ella inspired craft sheets here.

I’ve reproduced one of the activities below as a taster:

Antennae Hair bands

Hair band
Black chenille stems (pipe cleaners)
Large red buttons


1. Choose two red buttons for the antennae – one circle and one flower to match Ella, or any that you like.

2. This part may need grown up help.

a. Thread a chenille stem through one button hole
b. Turn stem and thread back through second hole.
c. Twist excess stem.
d. Repeat for second antenna.

3. Wrap other end of chenille stems around hair band, spaced so they look like antennae.

The craft ideas could also be used alongside other ladybird or spider picture books.

I found the buttons, chenille stems (pipe cleaners) and googly eyes on eBay for very reasonable prices but they can also be found in most children’s art/craft sections in large stores.

When choosing craft materials for the swap, I stuck to a limited colour palette of reds and black/greys, which also made me think of the Claude books by Alex T. Smith. Using a limited (duochrome?) palette is another interesting art / craft experience for children.

Primrose by Alex T. Smith

Primrose: Alex T. Smith (Scholastic Children's Books, 2013)

Primrose: Alex T. Smith (Scholastic Children’s Books, 2013)

This is one of those picture books that should be in every library, every nursery, every school and every bookshelf. I’m afraid there may be a large amount of gushing about to follow, but I’ll try to contain it.

Primrose is a pink princess; but she’s also the antithesis to the typical Pink Princess. She lives in a “pretty pink palace” and has “a pretty pink tiara, two prancing pink ponies and a plump little pug named Percy.” In many other hands, I might be running a mile by this point. But… Well, just look at the artwork for a start:

[Apologies for the appalling picture quality. I’ll replace with pictures taken in natural light as soon as possible!]


Primrose is bored, bored, bored! So she tries to have some fun but everything she does is met with cries from her family to do something more princessy.

She’s not allowed to climb trees.

She’s not allowed to dress up in a monkey costume.

She’s not allowed to play board games.

She’s not allowed to to dig vegetables in the garden.

Princesses must dress in pretty pink dresses and sit decoratively. How utterly, wonderfully, subtly subversive this book is. All these activities are things that manufacturers and retailers would want to make you believe are not for girls. Don’t believe me? Look at the examples campaigns like Let Toys Be Toys and Pink Stinks find day after day after day. Science kits are for boys only; dressing up clothes for girls are all pink dresses and fairy wings; lego is for boys; kitchen play is for girls…

The messages that children are receiving daily in their everyday lives is disturbing and must be stopped. I battle constantly against the sexist drivel my six-year old brings home from school every day (and when she was five; and when she was four…) I have got somewhere in that Mighty-Girl now tells me that she’s the only person in her class who doesn’t think there are ‘boy’ colours and ‘girl’ colours.

My four year old used to love being a pirate and her favourite colour was orange. A year in pre-school and she wants to be a pink ballerina. I wouldn’t mind, but it’s peer pressure into pinkness that has forced this change, not her own opinion.

Primrose, a very pink princess book, is perfect. It starts with pink and frilly to lure in the princess-loving brigade, and then adds in all the other elements whilst remaining pink and frilly. Because, as I’ve said before, there’s nothing wrong with pink, it’s just the all-pervading non-choice that’s the problem.

Returning to the story… The royal family despair at Primrose’s lack of princessliness and decide there is “only one thing for it. Somebody must call Grandmama.” The introduction of Grandmama is perfection again. On one side we see the stern matronly visage of Her Royal Highness (Senior); on the opposite page Primrose and Percy are tiptoeing in mud, brightly clad and not a care in the world. Storm clouds are gathering, but whom are they for?


But we really needn’t worry because Grandmama has the perfect solutions for every issue that the family have with their darling daughter and is soon bounding off again leaving everyone happy. The last double page spread showing Grandmama’s method of travel is, of course, sublime.

There are many other touches that add to this book. The copyright page ties in beautifully (“borrowed from The Royal Library”) and Percy bears an uncanny (intended) resemblance to the awesome Book Sniffer – toot toot! Overall, a sunny slice of perfection from the “royally talented” (hear hear!) Alex T. Smith.

[Apologies for the appalling picture quality. I’ll replace with pictures taken in natural light as soon as possible!]

Friday Pick{ture Book} #12: Catch Us If You Can-Can

Catch Us If You Can-Can: Alex T Smith (Hodder Children's Books, 2012)

Catch Us If You Can-Can: Alex T Smith
(Hodder Children’s Books, 2012)

Alex T Smith is another favourite in the Chaos household, with the wonderful Claude series and Ella. Catch Us If You Can-Can is a sequel to Egg, which we haven’t read, but it works just as well as a stand alone book which is how we’ve enjoyed it.

Let me introduce you to Foxy DuBois, a fox with big ideas, and Alphonso, an alligator with attitude.
This is the story about how, one day, it all went horribly wrong for them both.

Foxy DuBois is down on her luck, but there’s a dancing competition that could just solve that problem. There’s just two drawbacks: she needs a dancing partner, and the competition is for birds only. How a fox and an alligator enter a dancing competition for birds, and what happens afterwards is just… brilliant!

The style is 1950’s America (I think!) and the art is exquisite. From the playbill style copyright page to the dazzling end papers, this book is a beauty to behold. Foxy and Alphonso are wonderful characters, slightly naughty, a little surreal and most of all fun.

Catch Us If You Can-Can was published in hardback on 2 August 2012. Egg is available in paperback.

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of Catch Us If You Can-Can by Hachette Children’s Books for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

Grab the badge code and see the rules here, and enter your link below:

Fiction Fridays #25: Ella

Ella: Alex T. Smith (2012)

Once upon a time there was a ladybird called Ella.

Read more about Fiction Fridays here.
Like to take part? Read the rules and guidelines and get the badge here.

Extra Info:
This is a lovely re-telling of Cinderella with incredibly cute bugs! Cinderella is a ladybird, her step-sisters are wasps and the prince (in this case, Pierre the artist) is a spider. This is a gorgeous book with a sparkly cover and a pallette of mainly  reds, pinks and purples. MG loves fairy tales and I get to read this to her over and over again to drool over the art.

Ella is not a straight re-telling of Cinderella, it is its own story with elements of the fairy tale. Pierre the artist is looking for his muse; there isn’t a ‘fairy godmother’ or magical pumpkins, but a very good friend who secretly helps (get the children to look for her hiding throughout the story); and there’s no royal family in sight. It does have probably the most famous element: Ella leaves to get home before her step-sisters and drops her glasses as she rushes away!

The artwork is luscious, I wanted to take pictures of almost all the pages to put in this review. But I have chosen just this one: Ella and Pierre’s first meeting with Paris subtly in the background.

This is probably a book more for girls. And lovers of buttons: look how the antennae have buttons on them 🙂