Don’t Spill the Milk artwork

Back in September I enjoyed visiting Bishop MacKenzie in Lilongwe, Malawi. It is now Book Week there and Year 4 have been doing some wonderful paintings inspired by DON’T SPILL THE MILK. Well done, all of you!

If art is your thing, you may also enjoy these ALL ABOARD colouring sheets, drawn by Christopher Corr. Click on an image to download a printable pdf.

colouring1

colouring2

ALL ABOARD FOR THE BOBO ROAD publication day

“All aboard for the Bobo Road, the most beautiful road in the world!”

In my new picture book, Fatima and Galo load the luggage while their dad Big Ali drives the bus. Help count on bikes, rice, melons, goats and chickens as the bus travels through the stunning scenery of south-western Burkina Faso. Illustrations by Christopher Corr.

My wife and I used to live in the northern ‘Sahel’ region of Burkina Faso, the shore of the Sahara desert. We often thought wistfully of Banfoura and Bobo Dioulasso down in the south-west of the country, which are always lush and green by comparison.

Banfoura is famous for its picturesque waterfalls and ancient rock domes, whilst Bobo Dioulasso is the cultural capital of Burkina Faso, known for masks, dancing and drumming. This region is also remarkable for the number of different ethnic groups who live there – literally dozens of ethnic groups living in an area the size of Wales, all with different languages and traditions. Chris Corr has captured the cultural vibrancy of the region in his wonderful illustrations. Check out these stunning Gurunsi houses, for example:

gurunsi_houses

The journey from Banfoura to Bobo is very close to my heart. I have done it on three occasions, with different travelling companions, and all three have great memories attached.

I really enjoyed writing this book and seeing it take shape. Unlike my other picture books, this one went through many completely different drafts. At one point it was even called THE BANANA THAT BROKE THE BUS. I am grateful to my editor Libby Hamilton for coaxing the book into its present form.

Free BOBO ROAD colouring sheets

To celebrate publication day, Chris has produced two fabulous colouring sheets. Feel free to print them out for children to colour in. If the results look good, please do take a picture and email it to me for display here on the blog.

All Aboard for the Bobo Road colouring sheet 1

All Aboard for the Bobo Road colouring sheet 2

You can read early reviews here and buy a hardback copy of the book here, or (even better) order from a local bookshop. Paperback will be out sometime next year, I imagine.

BEEP BEEP! Happy reading!

Fabedougou in Burkina Faso

The Domes of Fabedougou must be one of my favourite places in Burkina Faso. They are located in the south-west of the country, in a desolate spot between Bobo Dioulasso and Banfoura. These striking egg-shaped formations are very similar to the Bungle Bungles in Australia. They date back 1.8 billion years and were probably covered by water for much of their history, hence the peculiar layering of the rock.

Domes_of_Fabedougou1

I came here with Charlie the day after we got engaged back in 2006, and again two years later as part of a larger group. The convenient hand and footholds all the way up the domes make them very easy to climb, and the view from the top is breathtaking.

For our forthcoming picture book ALL ABOARD FOR THE BOBO ROAD, illustrator Christopher Corr has painted the Domes of Fabedougou beautifully, both on the cover of the book and on one of the inside spreads. Pink, purple, brown, ochre and yellow stripes cut across the orange domes of rock. Once again, Chris has given us a real feast for the eyes.

ALL ABOARD FOR THE BOBO ROAD comes out in the UK on 7 April 2016, published by Andersen Press.

ALL ABOARD FOR THE BOBO ROAD cover reveal

It’s finally here! And what a cover it is. As always, a massive shoutout to Christopher Corr, who has brought the story to life with his incredibly colourful paintings.

ALL ABOARD FOR THE BOBO ROAD is the story of two children who accompany their bus-driver father Big Ali on a long journey from Banfoura to Bobo. As Big Ali says, it’s the most beautiful road in the world…

DON’T SPILL THE MILK chosen for CBeebies bedtime story slot

Ore_Oduba_CBeebies_DONT_SPILL_THE_MILK

My girls (5 and 2) love the CBeebies bedtime story at 6.50 every evening. All right, I confess, I love it too. Great readers, great books and great mock surprise shown by presenters when the camera arrives and interrupts them talking to penguins / drinking milk / reading a newspaper.

I was delighted when I found out that DON’T SPILL THE MILK had been chosen as a CBeebies story. It was beautifully read last night by Ore Oduba of Newsround / BBC Sports fame. Here is a link to the video on iplayer, which will be available for the next month or so: DON’T SPILL THE MILK read by Ore Oduba.

Ore_Oduba_DONT_SPILL_THE_MILK_2

The story takes place in Niger (not Nigeria, CBeebies!) and shows a plucky little girl called Penda going on an epic journey carrying a bowl of milk for her dad. Will she get there without spilling any?

Michael McIntyre does a wonderful routine about his experience filming a CBeebies bedtime story. If you haven’t seen it, here it is:

And in case, you’re curious, here’s Michael’s peformance on CBeebies! Career suicide, he calls it, but history suggests otherwise.

Une Victoire Pour Halima – par Stephen Davies et Christopher Corr, traduit par Vanessa Rubio-Barreau

Une Victoire pour Halima par Stephen Davies et Christopher Corr

Acheter neuf sur Amazon.fr

Par le sentier des dunes, qui monte et qui descend, en bateau sur le grand fleuve Niger, au flanc abrupt de l’immense montagne, Halima transporte avec soin et amour une jatte de lait pour son père qui garde le troupeau dans les pâturages. Arrivera-t-elle là-bas sans en renverser une seule goutte ?

Le vocabulaire est riche, le texte rythmé et très poétique. Les illustrations, magnifiques, déroulent sous nos yeux une fresque superbement colorée, véritable voyage initiatique au cœur duquel des valeurs fortes telles que l’amour, le courage, l’altruisme et la persévérance, sont à l’honneur. A lire et relire absolument ! — Encres Vagabondes

Un album à l’histoire simple mais qui véhicule un joli message, des dessins très colorés, un personnage sympathique, tout est réuni pour retenir l’attention des jeunes lecteurs à partir de trois ans. En bonus, on peut s’amuser avec l’enfant à rechercher le chat roux qui est présent sur toutes les pages. — Les Chroniques de l’Imaginaire

Miracle de la sensibilité humaine lorsqu’elle est touchée par le même enchantement, l’univers pastoral des Peuls est ainsi rendu par une esthétique narrative et figurative finalement proche de celle qui est propre aux auteurs africains de ce genre d’ouvrages. — Afrique Asie

DON’T SPILL THE MILK Kirkus starred review

Most people haven’t heard of Kirkus reviews, but authors obsess about them, along with Amazon rankings and book festival invites and whether or not to #retweetpraise. The main thing about Kirkus reviews is this: they are notoriously tough. They don’t shy away from pointing out naffness in all its forms. And the thing about Kirkus STARRED reviews is that they are elusive little beasties that hide in the forest most of the time and aren’t prone to gathering for picnics. When you encounter one, you have to take photos and blog about it, because it could be several decades before you see another one.

You've been a long time coming, Monsieur Etoile.
You’ve been a long time coming, Monsieur Etoile.

DON’T SPILL THE MILK Ouagadougou launch

So DON’T SPILL THE MILK comes out today. It has both camels and giraffes in it. There’s only one country in the world where you can find both camels and giraffes in the wild occupying the same space – Niger.

Dont_Spill_the_Milk_cover

I was happy to be launching DON’T SPILL THE MILK at the International School of Ouagadougou because (a) I have very warm memories of visiting ISO eighteen months ago and (b) I wrote the book just across the road from the school, in the SIM guesthouse.

intro_milk

The launch consisted of a few brief anecdotes and a lot of carrying bowls on heads…

“Steady, Penda whispered to herself, gently does it, girl.
Don’t wiggle, don’t wobble, don’t try to rush it, girl.”

penda2

“Don’t slip, don’t slide, girl, don’t fall over,
Don’t let a single droplet drop on the sand…”

penda3

“Walk tall, walk steady, eyes on the horizon, girl,
Don’t even think about spilling any milk…”

penda4

Thanks to Miss Angel for organizing the event, and to all Elementary staff and students at ISO for making the morning so enjoyable.

And, of course, a huge thank you to Christopher Corr, whose mindmeldingly colourful illustrations really make the book come alive.