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25th November 2020

Christmas Wish List for Avid Book Worms

Whether you are on the naughty list or the nice list you definitely deserve to treat yourself and your loved ones to a good book. We have complied a short list of recommended reads by some of our Arena Illustrators to give you a little seasonal sparkle on the lead up to the festive period.

 

How Winston Delivered Christmas written and illustrated by Alex T Smith published by Macmillan 

From Alex T. Smith, bestselling author of the Claude series, How Winston Delivered Christmas – the irresistible story of the brave little mouse who sets out on an adventure on Christmas Eve. Featuring beautiful colour artwork from the author and Christmassy activities to make-and-do throughout December, this gorgeous book is sure to become a festive family tradition that will be enjoyed year after year.

Winston the mouse is on a Very Important Mission. On Christmas Eve, he finds a letter that has gotten lost on its way to Father Christmas – so, with no time to lose, he sets out to deliver it himself in time for Christmas Day! He has a lot of Very Exciting Adventures on his Very Important Mission and makes some wonderful friends along the way.

Each chapter includes it’s very own festive activity for all the family to enjoy together – including writing a letter to Father Christmas, making mince pies, designing your very own Christmas cards, making presents, creating decorations, and so much more!

This beautiful hardback features a festively foiled jacket, a ribbon marker and head and tail bands, making it the perfect Christmas gift (also available in paperback from here). Read a brilliant review by Picture Book Snob HERE 

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There is a brilliant social Media campaign online in the run up to Christmas you can follow it by checking the hashtags #JoininwithWinston #HowWinstonDeliveredChristmas

You can find Alex T. Smith on Twitter or you can view his fantastic online portfolio HERE. For more information regarding collaborating with Alex please email info@arenaillustration.com.

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Gigantosaurus The Best Day Ever with the fantastic images from the animated TV series based on the original book Giognatosaurs by Jonny Duddle Published by Templar Publishing.

Will a festive winter solstice party cure the dinosaurs of their midwinter blues? A Gigantosaurus adventure in paperback, with bonus stickers.

It’s the shortest day of the year, and Mazu, Tiny, Rocky, and Bill are feeling awfully gloomy. When the sun rises so late and sets so early, there’s barely enough daylight to do anything, let alone something fun. So when Tiny decides to cheer everyone up with an extravagant holiday party, all of the dinosaurs in Cretacea are excited—and Tiny even invites the fearsome Giganto. But a last-minute bash is tough to pull off, and pretty soon everything from the decorations to the presents has gone wrong. Can Tiny salvage it all and throw the holiday party she promised?

You can find Jonny Duddle on Instagram and Twitter and you can also view his gigantic online portfolio HERE. for more information regarding working with Jonny please email info@arenaillustration.com

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Trouble on Planet Christmas written by Kate Saunders and Illustrated buy Neal Layton

There’s trouble on the planet of Yule-1 (the real home of Father Christmas!) The Trubshaw family are flown back from Earth to help out. Once again Jake and Sadie are transported to a place where elves and reindeer are their fiends and everything is about getting ready for Christmas, the best holiday of the year. Hysterically funny, wonderfully bonkers, it’s Christmas like you’ve never seen it before.

You can read a brilliant review of Trouble on Planet Christmas over on Books Up North by clicking HERE

You can find Neal Layton on Twitter and Instagram or alternatively view his wonderful online portfolio HERE. For more information about working with Neal please email infor@arenaillustrration.com.

 

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The Twelve Days of Christmas written and illustrated by Alex T Smith, published by Macmillan

A gorgeously illustrated Christmas classic re-written and illustrated by Alex T. Smith, The Twelve Days of Christmas, or Grandma is Overly Generous, is the creator of the Claude series and How Winston Delivered Christmas.

On the first day of Christmas my Grandma sent to me . . .Grandma’s presents may start off sensible – a partridge is easy enough to take care of – but her generosity soon gets wildly out of hand . . .

The Twelve Days of Christmas: Or Grandma is Overly Generous is a witty new take on the festive classic The Twelve Days of Christmas, accompanied by beautiful full-colour illustrations, this is the perfect Christmas present for any child.

“The perfect Christmas present for kids of all ages – I hope there’s one under the tree for me!” Nina Pottell, Prima Magazine

 

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Let your imagination run wild and give someone the gift of escapism this Christmas. We highly recommend you visit uk.bookshop.org to show support for your local bookshop. This online platform financially supports local independent book shops. A place where authors can connect with their readers, book fans can discover new writers and where children can get hooked on the thrill of reading.uk.bookshop.org offers a huge variety of titles and carefully curated themed recommended reading lists to suit all tastes.

 

 

25th November 2020

King Coo Conquers The Phoenix

Arena HQ are HUGE fans of The Phoenix Comic, packed to bursting with comedy capers, imaginary worlds, book extracts, competitions, puzzles and more and this month we were delighted to see a familiar face given a prime spot in this fabulous comic. For 6 weeks lucky readers can exclusively collect the components for a gigantic King Coo treehouse poster inspired by Adam Stower’s King Coo adventures.

The poster features contraptions, cross sections and lots of our favourite characters, the only challenge will be finding a big enough wall space to display this whopping poster. We hope it inspires young inventors and adventurers to design their own fantastical tree houses! Here’s a sneak peek at the first part.

 

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We highly recommend you subscribe to The Phoenix HERE, the ideal read for children aged between 7-14 (or any age!) and a subscription would make the perfect Christmas gift! You could also buy copies of each of the three King Coo titles published by David Fickling Books at the same time supporting your local book shop by clicking HERE and visiting uk bookshop.org. perfect reads too share on long winter evenings.

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More exciting news relating to King Coo, brand new audio books are here! we are thrilled to announce that the King Coo Collection of stories are now available as audiobooks from the fantastic @bolindaaudio  The stories are wonderfully brought to life by Laurence Boxhall and a host of hilarious sound effects  These audiobook editions are available to borrow from @BorrowBox and to purchase from booksellers, Bolinda.com , Audible, Apple, GooglePlay, and Amazon. Enjoy! You can hear a longer teaser clip HERE!

 

Adam has a busy time ahead as one of the 2021 judging panel for the Alligators Mouth Fiction Prize,  former winner is rumoured to be very keen indeed to tuck into lots and lots of fabulous new fiction titles. You can follow the Alligators Mouth book shop on Twitter HERE to keep up to date with the latest news.

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Please visit our website to view Adam Stower’s stunning online portfolio. You can also find Adam on Instagram and Twitter. For more information regarding collaborating with Adam please email info@arenaillustration.com

18th November 2020

The Twelve Days of Christmas, or Grandma is Overly Generous by Alex T Smith

After an unusually challenging year it’s comforting to know that Christmas is only a matter of weeks away. With eager young book worms to treat it’s time to start our Christmas book wish lists, what better way to start the festive season than with a seasonally suitable picture book. In Iceland it’s a long held tradition to present your nearest and dearest with a new book, this celebration is called Jolabokaflod, which translates roughly to “Christmas book flood” and we can’t think of a better Christmas treat than a copy of The Twelve Days of Christmas by Alex T. Smith published by Macmillan Children’s Books

 

Twelve Days Of Christmas picture book by Alex T. Smith

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The Twelve Days of Christmas is a lavishly illustrated Christmas classic re-imagined and illustrated by Alex T. Smith. On the first day of Christmas my Grandma sent to me . . . Grandma’s presents may start off sensible – a partridge is easy enough to take care of – but her generosity soon gets wildly out of hand . . . The Twelve Days of Christmas: Or Grandma is Overly Generous is a witty new take on the festive classic The Twelve Days of Christmas, accompanied by beautiful full-colour illustrations, this is the perfect Christmas present for any child.

 

Alex in his own words, says ‘The idea for this version of The Twelve Days of Christmas came to me when I found myself humming the tune and then struggling to remember what was gifted on which day. In the end I started to make it up and the result is this book.’

He writes…

“Christmas is coming
And Grandma’s lost the plot!
She’s decked the dog in ribbons, and mince pies? She made A Lot…”

If you had a large filing cabinet (one large enough to store people in) you would have found both of my grandmothers neatly organised into the section entitled “MAD AS A BOX OF FROGS”. 

Alice, my mum’s mum, was tall, slim and Irish. She was always dressed in Autumnal Tones, often involving a turtle neck, and had immaculately set hair. She could talk the hind legs of a donkey, snap wasps out of the air with the skill of a Shaolin monk and her every day (very eccentric) observations and views on life sounded like magic when she told them over the clicking of tea cups and through a haze of cigarette smoke. (This was the late eighties). She once phoned 999 wanting the police to report that a sparrow had stolen the lids from her milk bottles on her doorstep. 

My dad’s mum, Betty, was small and round, and wilder and more windswept than Alice. Betty spent a great deal of time outdoors so she was forever in a head scarf and Sensible Shoes, with an anorak thrown over her Crimplene frock. I often think that had she lived a different sort of life she would have made a lot of money by wrestling bears. She was that sort. 

What joins these very different women together forever in my mind is Christmas. The approaching festivities each year seemed to make them even more bonkers. 

The preparations for the big day started for Alice shortly after my birthday which is in August. As soon as she got a whiff that there was a jar of Cranberry sauce or a chocolate selection box to be bought in a supermarket, she would start stocking up. By December her pantry would be groaning with jars of Christmas condiments and treats. 

During the October half term each year my brother and I would be summoned to help her make the Christmas cakes. This would be a full day operation at the end of which we would stagger out of her kitchen, covered in flour, and snorting with laughter and the air would be full of the spicy cake smell which meant the Christmas was just around the corner. 

Betty was more of a lone Wolf when it came to Christmas prep. She’d barricade my Grandad George into a corner of the living room with a block of Kendall mint cake and a Dick Francis and then turn the house into a makeshift Christmas pudding and mince pie making factory. Her Christmas pudding recipe was a secret, but from what I remember it was essentially just a cannon ball sized sphere of brandy held precariously together with a few piece of of dried fruit. Once set alight at Christmas lunch it could easily have burnt until Easter had a dollop of cream not taken away that fire risk. 

Grandmas and their bonkersness are at the heart of my new Christmas book “The Twelve Days of Christmas OR Grandma is Overly Generous”. When I set out to rewrite and illustrate the well known carol, I had initially thought to stick closely to the original. However, it soon dawned on me how boring the idea of a sappy, love sick suitor sending his true love a series of gifts really is. How much more fun would it be if the true love was swapped for a slightly overwhelmed girl called Eloise, and the love sick suitor transformed into an eccentric, overly generous grandma with a wide variety of increasingly chaotic gifts at her disposal? 

Although I don’t think I’ve ever been a little Edwardian child, and neither of my grandmas were Edwardian suffragette explorers, my memories of Christmas and my lovely, silly, hilarious and generous Grandmas are in every illustration and on every page of the book. I just know that if my grandmothers were still here, me receiving from them a herd of rhinos or a band of trumpeting penguins would not have been beyond the realms of possibility. 

I hope the book sparks for readers happy memories of their own grandparents at Christmastime. 

Now I must dash. The tradition of bonkers grandmothers has continued in my family. My mum (grandma to my brother’s four children and my four dogs and pet chickens) has sent me a parcel. I’ve looked in it and it would seem that I now have a busy afternoon a head of me. If any of you have any good tips as to how to squeeze a hen into a hand knitted Christmas jumper,  I’d be very glad to hear them… 

 

Here are a selection of our favourite illustrations from this future Christmas classic.

 

 

Twelve Days Of Christmas picture book by Alex T. Smith

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Twelve Days Of Christmas picture book by Alex T. Smith

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Add The Twelve Days of Christmas to your Christmas wish list to Santa or order your copy right now.

You can find Alex on Twitter @Alex_T_Smith or view his online portfolio HERE, for more information about working with Alex please email info@arenaillustration.com

11th November 2020

Time to Dream Big with Aleksei Bitskoff

This year world renowned publishing house Puffin celebrated its 80th Birthday and to coincide with this momentous occasion September saw the publication of The Puffin Book of Big Dreams.
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This brand new anthology features extracts from 80 classic family favourites alongside brand new stories showcasing some of the countries most exciting author and illustrator talents as well as quotes and motivational pieces from brilliant inspiring leaders, scientists and actors on their own big dreams.
We are thrilled that Arena illustrator Aleksei Bitskoff was involved in this wonderful project as the illustrator of Little Badman’s Big Dream, written by Humza Arshad and Henry White. His hilarious mad cap line drawings perfectly compliment Humzar and Henry’s pacy comedy story based on their best-selling Little Badman series.

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5% of the RRP from this book will go to the National Literacy Trust, to help them continue their life-changing work. To find out more about this brilliant project you can check the following hashtag #PuffinDreamer and be sure to buy a copy of The Puffin Book of Big Dreams HERE.

Aleksei can be found on Twitter and Instagram and you can also view his full online portfolio HERE. For more information regarding working with Aleksei please email info@arenaillustration.com

9th November 2020

The 2021 Blue Peter Book Award Shortlist Announced

We were completely thrilled to see the big reveal of the prestigious 2021 Blue Peter Book Award shortlist. What a dazzling array of brilliant books for all ages and reading abilities. We are especially excited to see Aleksei Bitskoff featured in the books for 9-11 year old category with Life of Riley: Beginner’s Luck written by Simon James Green and published by Scholastic. You can read more in our blog post here. Since 2000, the enormously popular and influential Blue Peter Book Awards have been recognising and celebrating the best authors, the most creative illustrators and the greatest reads for children. Watch a short introduction to this amazing shortlist HERE.

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Following a very badly timed sneeze, Riley finds himself cursed by a fortune teller at a funfair and quickly becomes the unluckiest boy alive. No matter what he does, it’s guaranteed to go badly wrong – whether it’s ‘misplacing’ the school rabbit or wetting himself onstage in front of a big audience, Riley’s adventures seemed doomed to end in humiliation at best, and absolute disaster at worst.

All this changes when Brad Chicago appears – impeccably stylish, super cool, and with a stationery collection to die for – and he wants to be Riley’s friend. Riley’s luck seems to be turning around at last, but if he wants to keep Brad as his bestie, he needs to get rid of the curse – and quickly!

This funny, gentle story is packed with snappy humour and hilarious characters. You can’t help but love Riley, a brilliant, witty, world-weary kid and long-suffering underdog. There’s a lovely message about being grateful for all the things that you have and for appreciating the people who support you, no matter what. Perfect for Diary of a Wimpy Kid fans or children about to start secondary school, though there’s a lot of fun to be had for grown ups here too.

 

You can grab a copy of Life of Riley Beginner’s Luck HERE

 

Follow Aleksei on Twitter and Instagram and also view his fabulous online portfolio HERE. For more information regarding working with Aleksei please email info@arenaillustration.com