New Feedback on our WaterBridge Outreach Site from Laguna BelAir School, Santa Rosa City, Philippines

Sunday, November 25th, 2012

New on our WaterBridge Outreach site (formerly known as Spirit of PaperTigers Outreach) feedback from Laguna BelAir School in Santa Rosa City, Philippines. Laguna BelAir School has participated in our Outreach program for the past two years and and recently sent us their feedback  on the 2011 Spirit of PaperTigers Book Set which was comprised of the following three books:

Biblioburro, written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter (Beach Lane Books, 2010);

A Child’s Garden: A Story of Hope, written and illustrated by Michael Foreman (Walker Books/Candlewick Press, 2009);

Rain School, written and illustrated by James Rumford (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2010).

Head Librarian Ms. Vin Del Rosario wrote:

I am pleased to inform you of our on-going library reading program using the PaperTigers books you have donated to our school. This reading program involves the students from 2nd grade to 6th grade.

I initiated the PaperTigers reading program to create an avenue to encourage our students to read the books in a fun way. It is also the library’s way of helping the English subject teachers to get feedback on the PaperTigers books.

This reading program is a class effort. It encourages class participation. The more these students read in a class, the faster they can reach their reading goal. Reading points were assigned to different PaperTigers books. Class advisers and Reading teachers encourage students to participate in the reading program.

The students visit the library to read the PaperTigers books during their snacks and lunch break. After reading a book, the student is given a “book completion form”, which is a small piece of paper with two or three questions about the book. Students earn points for each form they complete and are awarded a “mini book certificate”.

Originally, I had intended to run the reading program up to November 2012. However, due to the overwhelming responses of the students, we completed it by the end of September!

For our teachers, you will be pleased to know that our Academic Team Head has given the instruction that each one must choose a PaperTigers book for integration in their lessons within this school year.

To learn more about the WaterBridge Outreach program and to read feedback from the participants, click here.

Highlighting Feedback from 2011 WaterBridge Outreach Participant: Dharma Chakkra Child Foundation Library, Sri Lanka

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

Our WaterBridge Outreach: Books + Water Nourishing the Mind and Body program (formerly known as Spirit of PaperTigers Outreach)  seeks to further the overall goals of the PaperTigers Program: bridging cultures and opening minds, promoting greater understanding and empathy among young people from different backgrounds, countries, and ethnicities. More specifically, WBOutreach works to advance education through books and reading, and development through clean and accessible water.

Today on the blog we are highlighting feedback from WBOutreach participant Dharma Chakkra Child Foundation Library located in the Dharma Chakkra Children’s Home in Weedagama, Sri Lanka. Established in 1998, the home provides housing and education for approximately 100 orphaned boys as well as for boys from unstable homes. In 2008 a second children’s home was opened exclusively for girls. Nia Murphy was instrumental in getting a 2011 Book Set to the Dharma Chakkra Child Foundation Library and  for providing us with this feedback:

The books were put in the children’s shared library. Dharma Chakkra has two hostels, one for the girls and then another, about 200 metres away and behind a wall, for the boys. The library is in the boys’ hostel. When I was last at the home the library was open in the evenings for the boys to use freely. Since then they’ve decided to shut it except at weekends when they have library time and English classes. I was told the books were used by the English teacher during these classes. However it was felt the books were a bit difficult for some of the children at the home, many of whom are still struggling with Sinhala, the local language. This is mostly true of the boys but the girls, who unfortunately have less access to the library, are at a higher standard. In hindsight I think a donation only for the girls’ hostel might have been a good idea. This was my mistake.

The overriding feedback was actually about the visuals: that the books showed children things they don’t normally see in ‘normal’ (read affordable) English or Sinhala books. Many of the books they have in the library are very old and extremely out of date. The affordable English books on the market in Sri Lanka are often things like The Radiant Way, which is a very dated old English sort of publication with smiling white children in high socks. Very simply, seeing children in picture books with brown skin is a rarity. So they were particularly excited about this, and the fact the children were seeing worlds not too dissimilar to their own but ones not normally presented in children’s books.

Click here to read the rest of Nia’s report.

New 2011 Feedback from Mount View School in India!

Monday, November 5th, 2012

Mount View School, administered by Mr Hotoshe Sema, is a Nursery to Class 10 school located in rural Suruhuto, in Nagaland, India. This school has participated in our WaterBridge  Outreach: Books + Water project for the past two year and we recently received students’ and administrators’ reactions on the 2011 Book Set.  Here is a brief selection; click here to read all.

Selected students’ feedback:

P:  Rain School – This is the first time I have heard of students and teachers building a school and I admire they way they did it. The language is quite simple and easy to understand. The main character Thomas’s eagerness to learn and read and his aim to have a new school was very inspiring as he had many obstacles but succeeded in overcoming all these with great determination.

A: Biblioburro – Through this book I come to know that without education, even a rich man is nothing. This is a good lesson for me in life.

K: A Child’s Garden teaches us not to give up in anything, especially when it is for good.

Selected teachers’ feedback:

Mr. Mughaka:
Biblioburro – Pleasant and inspiring, with sweet, little pictures.
Rain School – Rumford’s Rain School is an encouraging story which will bring smiles to the readers and listeners. Appropriate for kids of any age.
A Child’s Garden – It is a heartening story. It reminds us that hope and determination, and even little things, can do wonders.

Mr. Abenito:
A Child’s Garden – An appreciable illustration about a never ending (undying) hope and concern for that which matures in a person’s mind and soul for a better living and freedom.
Biblioburro – An inspiring and well illustrated story that imparts the significance an individual can play through books.
Rain School – Rumford’s depictions emphasizing a teacher in inspiring and molding a child are quite amazing and interesting.

New Feedback On Our Outreach Site From Shanghai, China

Sunday, November 4th, 2012

New on our Outreach site….photos from Pingliang Road No. 3 Elementary School in Shanghai, China. This school has participated in our Spirit of PaperTigers Book Set project for the past two years. Their latest feedback consists of photos of students’ work based on books in the 2011 Book SetA Child’s Garden: A Story of Hope, written and illustrated by Michael Foreman; Rain School, written and illustrated by James Rumford; and Biblioburro, written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter.

Here’s a sneak peek… here to see all the photos.



New Spirit of PaperTigers feedback: Agape School, Kiphire, Nagaland, India

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

Agape School has participated in our Spirit of PaperTigers Outreach Program for the past two years and recently sent us their feedback (including some lovely photos!) on the 2011 Spirit of PaperTigers Book Set which was comprised of the following three books:

A Child’s Garden: A Story of Hope, written and illustrated by Michael Foreman (Walker Books/Candlewick Press, 2009)

Rain School, written and illustrated by James Rumford (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2010)

 Biblioburro, written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter (Beach Lane Books, 2010)

Agape School was established by Lipichem Sangtam, a former journalist who gave up his career to start his own school, and serves 180 primary students ages 4-11. In his 2011 feedback letter to us, Mr. Sangtam writes:

The students are doing well and have been greatly enriched by the story books that you have sent. The students composed illustrated stories in response to reading the 2011 Spirit of PaperTigers Book Set. The beautiful pictures supporting the stories motivated them and they started small paintings with the few colours they have; and they started displaying in the school campus, which is encouraging. The students enjoy reading the books and the quality of the material, which is excellent.

English teacher Jevili Achumi comments:

The stories are filled with images and fanciful layers of illustration which attract the readers. The children were fascinated with the stories, the fanciful characters and the pictures which really take them to the roots. I also appreciate it if the illustrations and stories end up with a best moral.

Here is a sneak peek of the impressive artwork submitted to us. Do take the time to visit Agape School‘s page on our Spirit of PaperTigers Outreach site to see more photos! Click here to be taken there.

Week-end Book Review: Painting out the Stars by Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham, illustrated by Michael Foreman

Sunday, December 18th, 2011

Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham, illustrated by Michael Foreman,
Painting out the Stars
Walker Books, 2011.

Ages 8-11

Three magical stories make up this beautifully presented middle-grade book: “The Mysterious Traveller”, “Night Sky Dragons”, and “Cloud Tea Monkeys”, from which the collection takes its name. Set in unspecified times and countries, they transport readers to the desert, the steppe and a tea plantation respectively.  What links them is that they all hinge on inter-generational relationships that will resonate with today’s young readers.

“There were five riders but six camels, travelling fast.  Desperately fast.” So opens the first story, “The Mysterious Traveller”.  The sixth camel and his precious cargo, a baby girl with a mysterious necklace, are the only survivors following a sandstorm.  She is found and adopted by Issa, the most respected guide locally, who calls her Mariamma and teaches her all he knows.  The years pass and Issa goes blind, but is still the best guide in the area, with Mariamma’s help.  Their lives could have continued along this path, had not some strangers required a guide to take them safely over the mountains…

In “Night Sky Dragons”, young Yazul would rather make kites with his grandfather than follow the path of travel and trade, business and money that his father advocates.  He is fond of mischief too, and one day his antics cause untold, if unintentional damage.  Yazul despairs that not only will his father never love him, but he’ll never again feel the happiness of flying kites – but when bandits lay siege to their fortified han, Yazul has an idea to save them that could just reconcile both…

In the last of the three stories, a tea-picker falls ill.  Her daughter Tashi understands the grinding wheel of poverty: no work, no money, no medicine.  “The problem went round and round.  It was like a snake with its tail in its mouth and Tashi was frightened by it.” She tries unsuccessfully to pick the tea herself.  Despairing, she seeks out the shady spot where she has always shared her lunch with a large monkey family, little realising that they will now repay her kindness and friendship in the most extraordinary way…

It is perhaps no surprise that “Cloud Tea Monkeys” has previously been published as an acclaimed picture-book (illustrated by Jean Wijngaard), and that there are similar plans for the other two stories.  Michael Foreman’s black and white illustrations accompanying this edition are charming and add atmosphere, deftly conveying the atmosphere of each story, including the underlying humor in “Cloud Tea Monkeys”.  Readers of these great stories will find themselves cheering on the protagonists, while feeling complicit in the storyline by being able to anticipate enough, though not all, of each ending.  While the atmospheric description and details beg to be read aloud, the depth of characterisation and the relationships explored make this just the kind of book that independent readers will want to pick up again and again.

Marjorie Coughlan
December 2011

Reading the World Challenge 2011 – Update 3

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Since my last update on this year’s PaperTigers Reading the World Challenge, we have added some great books to our list.

Together, we have read two new autobiographical picture books: Allen Say’s Drawing from Memory (Scholastic, 2011) and Ed Young’s The House Baba Built (Little, Brown and Company, 2011) – both wonderful, and I’m not going to say much more about them here as we will be featuring both of them more fully on PaperTigers soon. Those are our reading-together non-fiction books for the Challenge.

As our local book, we tried reading a book of folk tales from the North York Moors, where we live in the UK, but discovered the stories formed part of a tourist guide, including instructions for getting around… we extracted what we could but it wasn’t a very satisfactory read. It has made us not take beautifully illustrated and retold folk tales for granted!

Older Brother has read Rainbow World: Poems from Many Cultures edited by Bashabi Fraser and Debjani Chatterjee , and illustrated by Kelly Waldek (Hodder Children’s Books, 2003).  He dipped in and out of it through the summer break and we had to renew it from the library several times…

Older Brother has also been totally captivated by A Thousand Cranes: Origami Projects for Peace and Happiness. After reading the story of Sadako for the Reading Challenge way back in its first year, he’s wanted to know how to make the cranes but I have two left hands when it comes to origami – or at least I thought I did, until I received a review copy of A Thousand Cranes from Stone Bridge Press.  Recently revised and expanded from the original book by renowned origami expert Florence Temko, it’s a super little book, with good clear instructions for beginners like us, and giving background about both the offering of a thousand origami cranes as a symbol of longevity, and specifically the story of Sadako and the Thousand Cranes.  Older Brother, now that he is older, (more…)

New PaperTigers Gallery feature: Michael Foreman

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011


Head on over to the Gallery section of the PaperTigers website to see some of the gorgeous illustrations from Michael Foreman’s A Child’s Garden: A Story of Hope, selected for the 2011 Spirit of PaperTigers Book Set, as well as from a few others of his many books.

One of the questions I asked Michael in our recent interview was about the relationship between color and monochrome, which is so important in conveying the theme of hope in A Child’s Garden. Here’s his reply:

The use of colour was an important element. The boy’s world of rubble is without colour until the tiny green plant appears. As the plant is nurtured, colour gradually comes into the ground. Colour spreads as the plant grows and recedes as the plant is pulled down. Fortunately, roots are deep and seeds spread – and so does the colour.

I also asked about the colour blue, in particular the vibrant shade that appears in so many of his illustrations. Having grown up myself with Michael’s books, then shared them so often with my children, if I close my eyes, it is always that blue that comes into my mind when I think of his work (and you can find it in a stunning image from One World (Andersen Press, new edition 2011) featured in the Gallery). I’m so glad I asked:

That blue is the blue of shallow seas over white sand – the blue that lifts your heart. The blue of our family’s happiest times.

Isn’t that beautiful?

You will find many of the features exploring the new Spirit of PaperTigers Book Set gathered together on our homepage; and do also take a look at our Outreach section, which focuses on the Spirit of PaperTigers project.

Week-end Review: Say Hello by Jack Foreman, illustrated by Michael Foreman

Saturday, October 8th, 2011

Jack Foreman, illustrated by Michael Foreman,
Say Hello
Walker Books/Candlewick Press, 2009.

Ages 3-7

“Left out.” The first words of Say Hello sit alone on a page that feels as empty as the world does when we are lonely. A single blue crayon line runs horizontally across the page above a solitary dog, separated even from the two words of text in the opposite corner.  From the first spread onward, father-son pair Michael and Jack Foreman gracefully integrates text image and meaning in this poignant book about loneliness, empathy, and our ability to care for each other.

Under the skilled fingers of illustrator Michael Foreman, the horizontal line becomes the silhouette of an empty life, distant buildings, a happy home, trees and even clouds, the story taking shape alongside the line. A solitary dog wanders in search of a friend. He watches a child and cat play. He takes an inquisitive sniff through garbage. Nothing offers the friends he seeks.  A group of children playing ball, though – now that offers promise! Happily, he joins the game, having so much fun that he doesn’t see the sad boy drooping nearby. Alone. Despairing. Left out. But when the dog spots him and leaves the fun to draw the boy into the group, we remember, “When someone’s feeling left out, low, / It doesn’t take much to say …Hello!”

This is not the Michael Foreman of exuberant, rambunctious color we so well know. Soft, spare charcoal and pastel drawings superbly reinforce the weight of loneliness the minimal text perfectly captures. “Left out, no fun. / Why am I the only one?” Loneliness is universal, the desire for love and friendship a sign of our humanity. Author Jack Foreman wrote the poem that inspired his text after facing bullies when he was ten years old, but it shows all the skill of adulthood. He parses all unnecessary words so that each piece of text sinks into the subconscious with the weight of the child’s sad, dragging feet. The duo’s deep understanding of space, composition and the power of the phrase “less is more” tactilely reinforces the final take-away: sometimes the smallest gesture makes the biggest impact.

Sara Hudson
October 2011

Interview with Denise Johnstone-Burt, Publisher and Associate Director at Walker Books

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

Founded in 1978 by Sebastian Walker, Walker Books is Britain’s leading independent publisher of high quality books for children of all ages. From a modest start, with just 18 titles in 1980, the company now produces over 300 paperback and hardback titles a year, more than any other children’s book publisher in the UK. A sister company, Candlewick Press, was set up in the US in 1992, and Walker Australia was launched a year later. Publishing purely for children for over a quarter of a century, Walker Books offers a diverse range of books, including picture books, board and novelty books, anthologies, fiction and non-fiction.

Denise Johnstone-Burt, Publisher and Associate Director at Walker and one of Britain’s leading children’s book editors, kindly answered our questions about the company, the children’s publishing industry in the UK, and Michael Foreman’s A Child’s Garden: A Story of Hope, one of the books selected for inclusion in the 2011 Spirit of PaperTigers project.

Interview by Aline Pereira, former Managing Editor of PaperTigers and currently an independent writer, editor and editorial consultant specializing in multicultural children’s books.


Please tell us about your path to becoming a publisher and Associate Director at Walker Books.

I joined Walker Books as a publisher and Associate Director twelve years ago from Andersen Press where I was Editorial Director, and where I had been working for ten years.

You run a varied and successful list of authors and illustrators, which includes former Children’s Laureates Michael Morpurgo and Anthony Browne, and Kate Greenaway winner Michael Foreman. When it comes to children’s books, where is your passion? What kinds of stories do you mostly enjoy publishing/reading?

I couldn’t pick one type of book over another – it wouldn’t be fair. I love them all!

The most important thing for me in regards to authors is good quality writing. It doesn’t matter if it is a picture book text, a piece of factual non-fiction or a novel – the quality needs to be there. I also look for emotion and humour.

As far as illustrators are concerned, I look for an artist who understands about telling story through pictures. It is extremely difficult to do, as you know, but when it works (for example with Michael Foreman’s work) the story speaks to the reader, whatever their age.

What attracted you most to Michael Foreman’s A Child’s Garden: A Story of Hope, when you first read it?

I loved the way A Child’s Garden was about such a sensitive and important idea seen through a child’s eyes. It felt as though it represented a bit of Michael’s thoughts, a special bit that you could partake in by reading the story. A Child’s Garden is spreading the idea that everyone can do something even in the most dire situation.

Can you tell us a little bit about what working with Michael is like, and about the process of bringing A Child’s Garden to life?

I have worked with Michael for more than twenty years, and it has always been wonderful. We always discuss the story, the shape of it, what it’s about and the approach he wants to take. In the case of A Child’s Garden, Michael came in with the story and read it to me and Ben Norland, Walker Books’ Art Director. We knew instantly that this was a story we had to publish – its message was so important. We discussed how the colour in the book should reflect the growing hope expressed by the text, and Michael took the idea and ran with it.

Wherever Michael goes he sketches and records the small moments that he sees around him. Mia’s Story was inspired by the children he encountered during his travels in South America. He brought in his sketchbooks and we developed the book together. We looked at the pictures, again with Ben Norland, and discussed how we could recreate the feeling that we saw in the sketchbook. The resulting book feels like a cross between a sketchbook and picture book, and has an autobiographical feel to it.

Since its publication in the UK and the US, in 2009, A Child’s Garden has garnered many accolades. Where else has the book been published, or have rights been sold to?

The book has indeed been very successful in the UK and the US, and has also been published all over the world. Foreign language editions have appeared in South America, Japan, China, Denmark, Brazil and Spain.

Do you have a favorite among Michael’s books?

It would be wrong to pick out one since Michael has created so many incredible books, but I loved working on A Child’s Garden with him, as it was, and is, such an important book. We also had great fun working on Say Hello (with Jack Foreman) and Mia’s Story.

Has the role of editors changed much since you first started in this industry?

The role of the editor has changed since I first started in publishing although there are things that are reassuringly still the same. For example, the thrill of receiving a story or discussing an idea with an author or illustrator is as exciting as it ever was, and the process of developing the idea and thinking about how to present it to the reader is still an enormously stimulating, exciting and creative process. It is a great privilege to be able to work creatively with authors from the very early stages of a book’s conception.

I always sit down with an author or illustrator when they have a new idea for a picture book, for example, and he or she will talk me through the new idea. Then we discuss what the story is about, what the emotional heart of the story is and whether the shape of the story is right.  We also talk more practically about whether it is the right length, whether there are parts which don’t quite work, and whether we can make them work, and so on. This conversation can continue over many meetings.

Things have changed, though, so it is much more difficult these days to attract attention to a new author or illustrator and to get them established than it was when I first started working as an editor. There are fewer outlets for books, which means we have to be very clear in our minds where a book might be sold and how visible it will be. This involves much more detailed conversation with sales and marketing, at all stages in the process of making the book, than before. There is only a limited amount of money to spend on marketing individual authors and titles, so I often have to discuss with authors what they can do themselves to help promote their work.

What’s a typical day like for you (if such a thing exists)?

I work partly from home and the rest of the time in the office.  For those days when I am in the office, I find that I spend most of my time either meeting with authors and illustrators and discussing their new or ongoing ideas, or working through projects with my fellow colleagues in design and editorial. I spend most of these days in conversation about books. We also have regular meetings with sales, marketing and production where we discuss the programme and the costings of different projects, as well as development meetings where we float new ideas. There is no such thing as a typical day at Walker Books.

What was your favorite book growing up?

I loved so many…The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier, Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild, Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kastner, The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico, Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson…

Can you give us a snapshot of the children’s publishing industry in the UK these days and how digital publishing is affecting things?

Wonderful books are published in the UK for children, but sadly there are fewer and fewer outlets where they are sold, and not many places where children can browse and choose books to buy. That’s why projects such as PaperTigers are so vital for helping keep children’s books visible.

Regarding the movement toward e-books, many children growing up today have never known a world without electronic methods of delivering information, so as a publisher, it is exciting to me to think about new story platforms. The methods of delivery may be changing, but good stories will always endure. We no longer sit round the campfire but children continue to read and listen to stories, albeit in new ways.

What is Walker’s digital publishing strategy, and how does it fit in with the company’s long-term goals?

After signing up for the iBookstore and with many other visible market places opening up for four-colour content, Walker is assessing suitability from both front- and backlist illustrated titles. We aim to support both fixed format ePub and ePub 3 along with other relevant formats in due course. [ePub is the abbreviation for electronic publication, a widely adopted digital file format.]

Walker has a long history of supporting children’s charities. Please tell us about some of the charity-related initiatives the company has developed or been involved with.

Last year we worked with the UK Children’s Laureate, Anthony Browne and created a book in aid of Rainbow Trust (who work with families of children with life-threatening illnesses) which promoted visual literacy. In 2010 we celebrated our 30th anniversary with a fundraising spectacular, which raised over £30,000 for the National Literacy Trust. We also have a volunteer reading scheme at our local primary school, which pairs Walker Books staff with children needing reading help.

Would you give us a taste of your Fall 2011 and Spring 2012 catalog?

We have some wonderful books coming up, including: The Pied Piper retold by Michael Morpurgo and illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark; Pop-up London by Jennie Maizels; Aladdin (a magical three-dimensional carousel edition) by Niroot Puttapipat; How Do You Feel? by Anthony Browne, and George Flies South by Simon James.

I am also very excited about the release of the paperback version of Patrick Ness’s new novel, A Monster Calls, inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd [read Denise and Patrick’s joint interview to Publishers Weekly, about working together on this unusual project, here].


Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, Denise. PaperTigers is very grateful to Candlewick Press, the US Sister Company of Walker Books, for its generous discount for A Child’s Garden: A Story of Hope in support of the Spirit of PaperTigers project. Congratulations on your great work, and we wish you continued success!

To find our more about Walker Books, visit their website, or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.