Overwhelm, publishing and our favourite children’s books

Things have been super-hectic here, what with the usual summer activities – Sports Day, the school play and the village fair – but also my own work publishing other people’s books has kept me very, very busy. I recently published a middle-grade children’s/crossover book called Oy Yew, by Ana Salote. It is simply a superb book and I really do mean that – during the editing, copyediting, proofreading, typesetting and conversion to kindle process (I’m still in the middle of that last one) I must have read the book about 10 times, and I STILL love it. However, I have suffered with eye-strain and ‘writer’s bum’ from being slumped over a computer at every available moment so I’ve tried to take every opportunity to get out into the fresh air, to exercise and to take a break from the screen.

Oy Yew by Ana Salote
Oy Yew by Ana Salote

I have, at times, felt overwhelmed by everything (particularly as there is little time for my own artistic and literary endeavours – doodling and writing the odd paragraph or two is all I’ve managed recently) and so sometimes I’ve pictured myself as a little boat on a stormy sea.

Doodle of a little boat on a stormy sea by Marija Smits
Doodle of a little boat on a stormy sea by Marija Smits

BUT, my supportive family have been my one constant and every night I’ve been reminded of just why I’ve been doing all this ‘bookish’ work – because I simply love reading to my kids and sharing books with them. This is surely why all (well, at least, most) writers write – for that vague feeling/hope that someone, somewhere, right now is getting lost in the world created by the writer. I know that sitting with both my kids at bedtime and reading to them has been a wonderful escape for me from my everyday concerns, so I thought I’d share some of our favourite books here. As my children are 8 and 4 it can be difficult to find books that engage them both, but the below seem to have captured their imaginations. No doubt you’ve heard of many (if not all) of these wonderful books/writers but if you haven’t I’d encourage you to give them a try (and if you can’t get them at the library, why not support your local bookshop and buy from them?). And if you think I’ve missed some that our kids may like please do let me know.

  • The Findus books by Sven Nordqvist

Findus Plants Meatballs by Sven Nordqvist


  • And Sven’s Where is my Sister is absolutely stunning illustration-wise.

Where is my Sister by Sven Nordqvist


  • The I Spy books by Jean Marzollo and Walter Wick

I Spy Fantasy by Walter Wick and Jean Marzollo


  •  Long Tail Kitty by Lark Pien (my kids always howl with laughter when I do the different voices for the alien characters at the end of the book…)

Long Tail Kitty by Lark Pien


  • Frederick by Leo Lionni (particularly good for children – or adults – who wonder what the worth of poetry is…)

Frederick by Leo Lionni


  • Most of the Julia Donaldson/Axel Scheffler books are a hit (though Tabby McTat is our favourite, and not The Gruffalo!)

Tabby McTat by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler


  • Virtually anything by Oliver Jeffers is a hit too, though Stuck and The Great Paper Caper are probably our favourites (and a grumble about The Day the Crayons Quit: it seems that most of the crayons are boys… hmm).

Stuck by Oliver Jeffers


  • Christopher Nibble, by Charlotte Middleton

Christopher Nibble by Charlotte Middleton

  • Virtually any of the Mog books by Judith Kerr
Mog's Bad Thing
Mog’s Bad Thing by Judith Kerr


  • And any of Shirley Hughes’s books

Alfie's Feet by Shirley Hughes


  • Me by Emma Dodd is another favourite

Me by Emma Dodd

  • Any of the Percy the park keeper’s books (the below is perfect for wintertime)

One Snowy Night by Nick Butterworth

  •  We really like Mick Inkpen’s creation, Kipper, but we also particularly like the story of Threadbear.
Threadbear by Mick Inkpen
Threadbear by Mick Inkpen


  • Topsy and Tim my kids both love (although I’m not as big a fan as they are!)

Topsy and Tim

  • And I especially appreciate Cover to Cover: How a Book is Made by Rob Lewis as it explains beautifully what is involved in mummy’s publishing work… 🙂

Cover to Cover by Rob Lewis


And many thanks to Maddy and Chrissie for being such hard-working and lovely hosts 🙂

Writing Bubble

18 thoughts on “Overwhelm, publishing and our favourite children’s books”

  1. I love your doodle and I know the feeling! Thanks for the book recommendations. When I worked in childcare, bedtime stories (or storytime at any time) was my favourite thing. So good for everyone! Another fascinating post, and I’m always rather humbled by the fact that no matter how busy or tired you are, you always think of others and try to be helpful.

  2. maddy@writingbubble

    You know, I’m so impressed with the publishing work you do. Especially having read that really honest post (was it on your other blog?) about how much work it takes and the non-existent financial reward. I’m really enjoying Oy yew – nearly finished it now and would have done so much sooner if it wasn’t for the madness that is the end of term and trying to get everything done!

    Thanks for these book recommendations. I think I’ll get ‘cover to cover’ as my boys know about my writing and are convinced I will become famous any minute! I think they’d be interested to learn more about what goes into making books – my older two are both avid readers. We also love Mog books and Julia Donaldson in this house. My two year old is obsessed with ‘Zog’ at the moment! Thanks for linking to #WhatImWriting and I hope you have a fab summer! xx

    1. Thank you for the kind words, Maddy and for your support of Mother’s Milk Books too. Yes, the honest post was over on the MMBooks blog – it seems to have resonated with some folk, thankfully! – and I’m SO glad you’re enjoying Oy Yew. And I totally understand about the madness that is the end of term. It’s hectic!

      We like ‘Zog’ a lot too, and I hope you enjoy the ‘Cover to Cover’ book. I read it with my 4 year old tonight (older one decided to go off to bed sooner rather than later tonight!). Have a great summer too! xx

  3. Your children are the same ages as my two-we very rarely sit down and read together and actually I’d really rather like to do that more often. It’s tricky finding things that appeal to them both not just because of age but also interests isn’t it, but you’ve inspired me to try. I recognise a lot of your choices but not all, so I’ll have to investigate. Oh, and when Oy Yew is available on Kindle format do let me know, as I’d love to read and review it.

    1. It’s lovely to have you stop by and comment – thank you! – and I agree that it can be tricky to find books my two both enjoy. Thankfully my eldest is quite philosophical about me reading ‘littler’ kids books and most of these books have such wonderful stories or repeatable sentences or charming illustrations that they keep her engaged. And thank you so much for your enthusiasm about Oy Yew – I’d better get back to the Kindle formatting then!

  4. Thanks for these recommendations – you’ve included some of my all time faves (Mog, Threadbear, Alfie) so I’m sure we’d love the others too. And I can’t wait to read Oy Yew (it’s nearly reached the top of the precarious reading pile).

  5. Marija, I love what you say about someone, somewhere getting lost in a world we’ve created. That is such a motivator, isn’t it? And it’s nice to think about that connection to the author when we read. It’s so great that you get to help bring books to readers, through your press! I hope you can find more time for creating your own worlds. : )

    1. I’m glad you found my post connected with you! That’s made me happy 🙂 And as much as I enjoy bringing others’ books into the world, I do hope to be able to create for myself a little more in the future! Thanks for stopping by.

  6. Lovely. Lots of new titles there for me so I might take a list to the library next time we get there. At the moment I seem to find mainly that the toddler wants whatever I’m trying to read with the preschooler, then the preschooler wants whatever I try to read with the toddler, and neither of them are remotely interested if I try to read to them together. Am keeping on working at it though!

  7. I love these recommendations! I have bookmarked this post as a wishlist for my son (who is four)… We often choose books for the illustrations and I love some of these. I like your doodle too 🙂

  8. ‘Writer’s bum’ love that! I’m reading with my 8 and 6 year old at the moment as they have both gone off reading, particularly the older one. I blame the reading scheme books at school, as they’re not inspiring at all. We’re reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but there are some great choices in your list above. I love the Mog and Alfie books too. As for things at the moment, I could be in that boat with you. Hopefully things will calm down soon and it will all be plain sailing from here on in!!!

    1. Yep, the ole writer’s bum thing… dreadful. 😉

      And I hear you about the school reading thing too; my eldest isn’t too enthused with reading either. I agree that the books don’t seem particularly inspiring, and I think that she seems it as more of a school ‘chore’ rather than a fun thing. A real shame.

      Oh, and welcome to the boat! 😉

  9. Mog and Julia Donaldson are popular in our house too. The one about Mog going to sleep has been really useful, although it’s sad because she dies in the book its really helped my children because our cat died a few weeks ago and reading about it in a book helps them give it a point of reference. Mine are currently obsessed with Artemis Fowl, Sea Quest and Holly Webb between them. But their books obsessions switch and before long we find ourselves ploughing through another series of something. It’s hard to keep track!

    1. So sorry to hear about your cat dying. And I agree, books like the Mog one, on that topic, can really help kids process the difficult concept that is death.
      I hope to one day read the books your kids are obsessed with at the moment and I hope you all go gentle on yourselves. Losing a pet can be difficult. I wrote about it myself here a long while back: https://marijasmits.wordpress.com/2012/12/17/grief-it-has-withered-me-hollowed-me-out/

      Sending you all lots of hugs xxx

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