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2020 NSW Premier’s Booklist

March 14, 2020


I’m honored to learn that Arabella and the Magic Pencil has been included in the 2020 NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge Booklist.

The NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge is an Australian program that aims to “encourage a love of reading for leisure and pleasure in students and enable them to experience quality literature”. The accompanying booklists give children a wide range of quality books to choose from as they attempt to read 20-30 books, depending on age, between March – August 2020.

For more information about the challenge or to see the official booklists by age group, visit the NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge website.

2020 NSW Premier’s Booklist — Stephanie Ward



Sea of Poppies

March 11, 2020
I am involved in a Book Club event at The Wallace Collection on Monday 30th March in conjunction with the extraordinary Forgotten Masters: Indian-Painting for the East India Company exhibition.

The book chosen is Amitav Ghosh’s stunning novel, ‘ Sea of Poppies’. The evening will include a chance to see the exhibition, talk with a curator, share a glass of wine and chat about the book. This is a new venture for The Wallace Collection.

Please forward details on to anyone you think will be interested if you wish!


Female characters – picture books

January 23, 2020

EILEEN BROWNE (guest post)

Female characters – picture books (work in progress)
Autumn 2019

After discovering that only one in three picture or baby books in the UK (and USA) has a female lead, (and only one in five with animal characters), I began compiling this list.

All books on the list are ‘a good read’, with either female protagonists, equal numbers of females & males or no gendered characters.

All are paperback fiction, unless otherwise stated. 

Books published in the last four years have the date in bold.

If titles are out of print, they can often be found in libraries or on line.

Until females and males are equally depicted in children’s media from birth onwards, there’s little chance of gender equality in adulthood.

 BAME (Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic) titles are indicated with an asterisk*.

© Eileen Browne 2016



Aargh, Spider! 2-7 yrs
Lydia Monks
97814 05210 447 – Egmont 2013 (2004)

Abracazebra 3-8 yrs
Helen Docherty & Thomas Docherty
97814 07145 389 – Alison Green Books 2015

Ada Twist, Scientist * 4-8 yrs
Andrea Beaty & David Roberts
97814 19721 373 (hbk) – Abrams (USA) 2016

All Fall Down * 0-3 yrs
Helen Oxenbury
97814 06382 402 (board bk) – Walker Books 2018 (1987)

All Mine! 1-4 yrs
Zehra Hicks
97815 09817 757 (board bk) – Two Hoots 2016 (2015)

Alphonse, That Is Not OK To Do! 2-7 yrs
Daisy Hirst
97814 06373 134 – Walker Books 2017 (2016)

Alphonse, There’s Mud On The Ceiling 2-7 yrs
Daisy Hirst
97814 06374 759 (hbk) – Walker Books 2019 

Amazing Grace * 4-10 yrs
Mary Hoffman & Caroline Binch
97818 45077 495 – Frances Lincoln Children’s Books 2007 (1991)

Animal Boogie, The * 2-7 yrs
Debbie Harter
97818 46866 203 – Barefoot Books 2011 (2000) + CD rom:

Anna Hibiscus’ Song * 2-7 yrs
Atinuke & Lauren Tobia
97814 06338 416 – Walker Books 2012 

April Underhill, Tooth Fairy 3-8 yrs
Bob Graham
97814 06339 604 – Walker Books 2012

Azzi In Between * 6-11+ yrs
Sarah Garland
97818 47806 512 – Frances Lincoln Children’s Books 2012 (graphic novel + non-fiction notes) Read more…

Taking a Moment

January 9, 2020


Illustrations by Shaney Hyde

It’s been a whirlwind six months of promoting my picture book Arabella and the Magic Pencil that was released in September 2019. I’ve been thinking about, talking about and obsessing about it for what seems like an eternity. From drafting a marketing plan to visiting bookstores and shipping review copies, I lost touch with how I ended up here in the first place. I actually got a bit sick of seeing my own face and the book I was so proud of splashed across social media. But in the quiet days after the holidays, in a fog of jet lag, I took a moment to sit down with the book I’d been shamelessly promoting to simply read it for myself.

First, I gazed at the cover and end pages. I traced Arabella’s steps as she waltzes in her whimsical world and noticed how Wish, a sweet little bird that was an invention of the illustrator, hops along the inside cover beckoning readers to follow.

Flipping through the pages, I giggled at the hidden details — Stephanie’s Story Tent, Arabella reading her own book and a banner advertising “Magic Happens” that I hadn’t actually noticed until now. And I couldn’t help but laugh at the flashy flamingoes who flamencoed as Word still insists that it’s not a word!

I remembered how feedback from my critique group changed a boring page turn to a dramatic moment with a well-placed ellipsis. Then I quietly observed Arabella as she stands with her back to me drawing with her magic pencil.

I marveled at my physical reaction to the change in color palette when Arabella realizes what she has done. I flipped back to the bright pages that conveyed her happy life and found myself searching for colors on the muted pages that follow.

Finally, I stared wide-eyed at Avery’s dinosaur — not the one that I imagined when I wrote the story, but the one the illustrator painted that just happens to be my favorite.

I find that I’ve been smiling the entire time I’ve been reading. Am I fan-girling myself? No, not really. This isn’t my book. It may be my story, but this thing in my hands has been created by many. People around the world now experience my words together with expressive artwork all wrapped up in a perfect package.

What once was just an foggy idea is now an actual book that will live on bookshelves and archives long after the marketing fervor has died down. It was nice to remember that I still love the story that I originally wrote so many years ago, even after reading it for the gazillionth time. And that seems like a pretty good reason to savor the moment.

via Taking a Moment — Stephanie Ward

What Agents Want

October 3, 2019


Jottings following the SCBWI Agents’ party 2019

I have listed below some of the points raised by the nine agents who were present.  As you will see, it was clear that different agents have different wish lists. It seems to me that the trick is to hit lucky, without knowing exactly who would like what!


 Different agents look at different parts of the submission. This can be:

  • The cover letter – to see if the agent warms to the author and could ‘get on with them’.
  • Synopsis – Some do NOT want to read the end!! Most DO.
  • The HOOK is vital for some.
  • A “Cracking Opening” of book = Vital
  • First 3 chapters. Because some go straight to the manuscript.
  • Don’t be self-deprecating in letter.
  • Do research on website about each agent – sometimes they need a change if have had a lot of one kind (g. One now has enough “funny”)
  • Cover letter should be short.
  • Even picture books and certainly MG can tackle big issues.
  • Voice is SO important.
  • Be concise and clear.
  • Why my voice is different from others – make it clear.
  • Give the setting.
  • Motivation of why wrote book. Why writing. Story behind the story.
  • Show you can be flexible when editing is asked for.
  • Timing is vital. . . g. if another publisher is publishing a book that is very similar. OR if there is a need for a change.

However, there are some things agents have in common. They all mentioned “be clear and concise”.  They recommended studying each agency’s submission guidelines really carefully.  Apparently sometimes a female agent receives a letter or an email prefaced by “Dear Sir!’

I liked the agents who said “Just send me your work. Sometimes I receive something I had never thought of and it turns out to be just exactly what inspires me to say YES.”

Good luck everyone!

Reading + Art at Keats Library

September 22, 2019


Bring the kids for a reading of the newly released picture book, Arabella and the Magic Pencil. Then, stay for an arts and crafts activity. We’ll be making magic pencils and designing paper dolls of Arabella and Avery. The event is free and will be held at Keats Community Library on the 28th of September from 1:30-2:15PM. See you there!

via Event: Reading + Art at Keats Library — Stephanie Ward

Booking Around the World – King’s Library Tower

August 24, 2019


The nearly impossible to photograph King’s Library Tower at the British Library

I love to travel and I love writing books, so whenever I’m in a new place, I seem to be looking for a bookstore (and a coffeeshop or restaurant, but that’s another post!). I’ve found some amazing places and bought lots of children’s books in languages I can’t read. So now, I’m on a mission to highlight all of the wonderful books, bookshops and bookish images that I have discovered on my travels.

Since I currently live in London, it’s fitting to start with a classic image from the British Library. The King’s Library Tower sits smack in the middle of the British Library. It spans six stories and is covered with glass making for a stunning spectacle from any angle. The books contained inside are actually the collection of King George III and include over 65,000 bound copies.

I’d highly recommend popping in the British Library for a peek of the King’s Library Tower when in London.

British Library
96 Euston Road
London NW1 2DB

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