Books on writing

Below is a list of books on writing/illustrating that I have found useful or interesting:

Words and Pictures by Quentin Blake. Quentin Blake is an amazing illustrator, writer and man, and this autobiography, packed with full-colour illustrations is a joy to read. This wasn’t written as a guide to writing or illustrating, but it’s so inspiring to read that it should get you going with your writing or illustrating. This is one of my all-time favourite books. I can’t believe that it is not currently in print but if you can’t buy it, try and borrow it from somewhere. Or join me in trying to persuade the publishers to get it reprinted (of which I will write more soon);

Writing with Pictures: How to Write and Illustrate Children’s Books by Uri Shulevitz. If you’re interested in writing picture books where the pictures and words are both integral to the story, rather than illustrated stories, where the text stands up on its own and doesn’t actually need the pictures, then this is the book to have. I know many illustrators who really rate this book, too, but as a writer, who cannot illustrate, it’s really helpful to read a book from an illustrator-writer, who thinks very visually. The book was written over twenty years ago but everything relating to the telling of stories is as relevant today. Other books are more useful in terms of setting out a manuscript for sending to editors as these things have changed over time, but I’d recommend it to anyone interested in writing picture books;

Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul. This is a book that was recommended to me recently and I’ve found a lot in it that has been really helpful, even though I’ve been writing for years now and have read many other books on writing for children. I can see that it would be good for beginners as well as those who have been writing for longer. It’s a really easy read, it’s small (almost novel-sized), and again, I’d recommend it to anyone writing picture books. It’s a book that you can get a lot from, even if you don’t always want to do things in the way she suggests;

Steering the Craft by Ursula K LeGuin. I’m really nosey so I love reading books about writing by authors that I’ve read myself and we all read Ursula LeGuin when I was younger. This book is subtitled: Exercises and Discussions on Story Writing for the Lone Navigator or the Mutinous Crew, and that is what it is. There are lots of exercises to do and it’s very useful for anyone who is in a critique group or is thinking about starting one up. It’s not about picture books but there is lots of interesting stuff to think about in it;

On Writing by Stephen King. This isn't a book about writing for children at all (most of Stephen King's books are still too scary for me to read as an adult -in fact, I had to stop reading the writing exercise as it was dark and just reading the exercise itself scared me!), but it's fun, interesting and a really easy read;

Children’s Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook (A&C Black). This has lots of interesting articles by writers, publishers and editors and is invaluable to anyone who wants to send their manuscripts out. This has what you need to know about who is currently editor of which publishing house, and what different publishers take and don’t take (and who is still accepting unsolicited manuscripts). It’s also got the websites of all the publishing houses and agents etc. If you are anywhere near feeling like you have something ready to send out, you would do well to get hold of a copy of this book (and better if it’s your own as it’s very useful if you can scribble all over it). But don't be tempted (as I was when I first got hold of it) into sending stuff off to publishers who it says accept unsolicited manuscripts via email before it was as ready as it could have been. It's very tempting... but it's worth waiting till it's properly ready;

The Ultimate First Book Guide edited by Leonie Flynn, Daniel Hahn and Susan Reuben.  This lists and discusses ‘over 500 great books for 0-7s’. It’s going to get out of date pretty quickly (they may well be updating it) but it’s useful to see what kinds of books for young children are considered to be really good.

The Unstoppable Maggie McGee


“… I love this story! It’s beautifully told and I love the way it shows the power of the imagination to take you wherever you want to go….a great story [which] has something to say to all children…”

Malorie Blackman, Children’s Laureate 2013-2015 


Don't Panic, Annika!


“a reassuring read that your child will relate to and love” Parents in Touch


“a fun read aloud… full of life” Books for Keeps


“the rhythmic text… and the imaginative illustrations make for a lovely read”           Primary Times


“a great story to encourage independence and confidence … ” Carousel