‘Design Thinking’ and Matt Stanton

Author, illustrator and former designer at HarperCollins, Matt Stanton, opened our eyes to ‘design thinking’ and strategy in writing and publishing books at yesterday’s ‘Between the Covers’ seminar in Sydney about children’s books and publishing.

Matt is the creator of two very successful series for young readers. The first is aimed at 6-year-old boys. It is unashamedly commercial and doesn’t even try to win literary awards. It is illustrated by Tim Miller and began with There is a Monster Under My Bed who Farts.

His second series creates a funny and interactive experience for young children and their parents or carers. The first book in the ‘Books That Drive Kids Crazy!’ series is the very popular, This is a Ball and is a collaboration between Matt and his teacher wife, Beck. Now parents, Matt and Beck are ‘learning how to re-enter the space of play’ and what better than using a book to do so! The second in this series is Did You Take the B From My –ook? and The Red Book, with its bold purple cover, is on the way. 

His third series ‘Funny Kid’ will be launched around the world this year. It is aimed at middle grade readers.

Matt focuses on the ‘who’, the reader, rather than on what he personally may want to write about (although maybe these are the same thing). I found this stance fascinating and very different from the many authors who I have interviewed at writers’ festivals and elsewhere. In my experience, authors generally speak about the story that they have to tell, regardless of who it’s for. An example is John Boyne and his masterpiece The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, which has found its own audience. Matt is surprised that more authors don’t target their readerships more strategically. I believe that there is probably a place for both approaches.

Matt makes it easy for buyers and browsers to find his books on bookshelves. He uses block colours such as blue, green or purple on his covers. He recognises that yellow is the strongest colour in the spectrum and will feature this on the spines of his upcoming ‘Funny Kid’ series. The book covers in this series will all feature an enormous face to distinguish them from other funny series aimed at middle grade who show smaller characters. Our brains will also register that these faces are looking at us in bookstores and libraries, drawing our attention.

Matt’s website includes a virtual ‘Stretch Your Imagination’ book tour. He also has a YouTube channel that is very popular with his young readers.

Matt reminded us that we’re in a golden age of children’s publishing in Australia. In 2016, children’s and young adult book sales took 44% of the total book market in volume. In 2016, 9 of our 10 top authors wrote children’s/YA. Last year, 9 million more children’s/YA books were sold than in 2005.

Thanks to keynote speaker, Matt, the Australian Publishers Association, host Allen & Unwin and Fiona Stager and her team for organising this very informative event.

Christmas is Still Coming – Picture Books this Season

Need more Christmas-themed books to keep your little ones entertained this season? Between my previous list, those featured on the Kids’ Reading Guide, and the Boomerang Bloggers fantastic suggestions, you won’t be short for choice of top quality reads to cover all your festive needs.  

imageSanta’s Busy Reindeer, Ed Allen (author), Nathaniel Eckstrom (illus.), Scholastic Australia, 2014.

In a similar style to some of his other titles including 10 Cheeky Possums and 10 Funny Sheep, Ed Allen teams up with illustrator Nathaniel Eckstrom to sing us a reindeer tune just like the 10 Green Bottles one. Readers journey with ten fun-loving, and at times obstinate reindeers, with each page turn subtracting one poor deer from the equation. Carrying out all their favourite Christmas pastimes, like ice skating, hanging fairy lights, organising gifts, carolling, baking and decorating the tree, unfortunate (but oh-so-humorous) mishaps lead us down to one, until they all regroup with Santa’s call and they’re off on their merry way.

Bursting with energy, cheekiness and Eckstrom’s witty illustrations, it’s so much fun to see the reindeers’ attempts at productivity the night before Christmas! Santa’s Busy Reindeer will have your preschoolers in fits of giggles and lots of sing-along action.  

imageThe Naughtiest Reindeer, Nicki Greenberg (author, illus.), Allen & Unwin, 2013.

Poor Rudolf is bed-ridden on the night before Christmas. How will the other reindeer manage to pull the sleigh without him? Never fear! Ruby is here! But Ruby isn’t exactly the most obedient of reindeers. Her over-enthusiasm and impetuous nature lead her to all sorts of mischief. Too much for Santa to bear, he heads back to his Mrs, mistakingly dismissing one visited home, and Ruby! How will those children react when they discover their absent presents? Who will make up for the night-time disasters? You will see, a little compassion goes a long way!

You’ll be lolloping along with Ruby’s antics in this gorgeously comical and engaging rhyming story. Young readers will fall in love with this delightful and zealous character, and no doubt will relish the sequel out this Christmas, The Naughtiest Reindeer at the Zoo.  

imageThere is a Monster Under My Christmas Tree Who Farts, Tim Miller (author), Matt Stanton (illus.), ABC Books, 2014.

From naughty reindeer to naughty monster. This one’s exploding with naughtiness and cheek! With foul language and foul smells, a young boy’s Christmas is ruined by the gaseous fumes that pervade his every move. As told in first person in an explanatory style, we learn how the wrapping of presents ritual is infused with bauble bombs, a photo with Santa captures nothing but cloudiness, and Mum and Dad can’t get past his cracking noises and putrid whiffs. But will Santa believe the young boy’s innocence, or will the monster’s true identity be revealed at just the right moment?

If you’re into toilet humour, you’ll love it! There is a Monster Under my Christmas Tree who Farts, with its animated, digital cartoons, is certainly not a ‘pleasant’ read, but early primary children will certainly be tooting for more.