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SPCK a New Force in Children’s and Youth Publishing

SPCK a New Force in Children’s and Youth Publishing

Together magazine caught up with comedian and screenwriter Paul Kerensa to hear about his latest books for children, Noah’s Car Park Ark and Moses and the Exodus Express. 

What prompted you to write a children’s book?

Well I have two myself. Children, that is. Not children’s books. I’ve got LOADS of children’s books. And we get through them at bedtime at such a rate that I could see what my children enjoyed. So I tried to write something like that. I’ve written books for a few years - but this is the fi rst, terrifying, daunting, haunting footstep into doing something for that most fearfully honest of audiences: children.

What was your inspiration behind your books? 

The obvious answer is the Bible. I’ve always been a fan of getting the Bible out there in different ways. As a stand-up I tour a comedy show around churches, theatres and other venues, that, naff as it sounds (and I try and make it very unnaff), includes bits of quite simply retelling a Bible story in a way that might be deemed amusing, entertaining, funny even. And if the audience take away some of the story too, then, well that’s no bad thing. I took a show retelling Genesis to the Edinburgh Festival, aimed squarely at a general non-Christian audience, with guest comedians who were agnostics, atheists, Jews and Muslims retelling the Adam & Eve or Noah stories. It was great to just get these tales across while having some laughs, not at the expense of the stories, but just because we’re coming together telling some stories that people may not have heard since R.E. in school. Telling stories, whether to adults, kids, or Edinburgh festivalgoers - that’s what it’s all about.

 

What do you want children to take away from your stories? 

It’d be nice to take away a few elements of the original Bible stories. Obviously we’ve added lots of modern silliness - Noah has to stack animals into car park; Moses drives the Exodus Express train - but the key parts are the same. Hopefully they’ve got some nice fun bits - oh, and I can tell you I was blown away by the illustrations. I know from writing telly things that everyone remembers the visuals far more than the words, so yes, Liz and Kate Pope’s amazing pictures will be something readers will want to return to, I know.

What do your children think of your books? 

They helped me edit these! I must have read a dozen or so drafts, with dozens more versions of various lines. They were brutally honest about what didn’t work! So often you write it, you think it works… then you unleash it on an audience, and they tell you for sure. One of the main things we all wanted from the start was something that properly rhymed. Many books don’t, which is fi ne, but then some try and rhyme and it doesn’t quite scan, or the rhymes don’t quite match up. We couldn’t have that - not with my brutal audience. They like these now! In fact whenever my four-year-old sees a picture of an ark (or a car park), she gives a knowing nod and says, “You’ve written about that.”

Finally, what’s next for you? 

Well there’s a whole series to come, surely?! The Bible is full of familiar characters just waiting to have their stories put to rhyme and beautiful illustration by the Pope twins! So more books to come - watch this space. And meanwhile? More stand-up, touring around churches and the comedy circuit at large, plus lots more TV writing, sitcoms like Not Going Out and something supersecret for next year that’s under wraps - but stay tuned to my Twitter and Facebook thingies and I’ll probably forget it’s super-secret at some point and just tell everybody...

 

Juliet Trickey, children and young adult’s editor at SPCK Publishing, talks about her plans for the list and the titles she’s most excited about.
 
As you may know, SPCK has been around for several hundred years – since 1698, in fact. In the past, we published a number of children’s books, but this part of our list seemed to fall away as the years progressed. In 2015, we decided it was time to take the plunge again and we’ve been working hard to establish our children’s list over the past few years. We kick-started the list with the Young David series by the wonderful Fiona Veitch Smith, who has since published the Young Joseph series with us, following the wellknown story of Joseph. We were delighted to be able to welcome Fiona to the SPCK family and we were so privileged to begin the children’s list with her. 
 
Despite our children’s list still being in its infancy (sorry), we have packed in a great number of titles, from Alexa Tewkesbury’s gorgeous Noah, Daniel and Jonah titles (for ages 3-5), the very popular My Little Christening Gift Books and My Little Baptism Gift Books by Sally Ann Wright (for ages 0-3), and Kathy Lee’s Tales of Rome series (for ages 8-10). 
 
Now we’re racing full steam ahead, with titles in the near future including two from the brilliant Paul Kerensa, Noah’s Car Park Ark and Moses and the Exodus Express (for ages 3-5). Publishing in February 2018, these books are taking the list in a comedy direction, and it’s been so much fun working on them with Paul. Add to this a rhyming Bible on the horizon from storytelling legend Bob Hartman, and the list is certainly taking shape!
 
Along with these books for a predominantly pre-school and primary school audience, we also publish books for a youth audience, realising how instrumental these years can be for faith in young people. In June 2017, we were delighted to publish the debut title from Christian rapper and MOBO award-winning artist, Guvna B, entitled Unpopular Culture (for ages 11+). Inspirational, autobiographical and ever so funny, this book has heralded in a new area of publishing for us, with younger voices speaking to youthful audiences. We have many more exciting titles for this audience coming later this year as well, from other fi rst-time authors through to collaborations with Hillsong Youth UK. 
 
My plans for the children’s list moving forwards are constantly developing and changing as I see books and hear ideas which inspire me. However, one main aspect I’m passionate about is seeing a greater diversity of authors writing for our children’s and youth audience lists, because I think it’s important for our books and authors to refl ect the culture we live in. Alongside this, as a photographer and Instagrammer in my spare time, design is of utmost importance to me and I know this will inevitably feed through into the books I publish. I would really like to bring out some children’s gift books that are so incredibly beautiful that people can’t help but buy them. 
 
Overall, it’s an exciting time to be working on our children’s list and I’m looking forward to seeing what books emerge over the coming months as we further develop the list and look to reach new areas of the Christian market. 
Juliet Trickey, Commissioning Editor, SPCK 
 

SPCK Children's Books

Moses And The Exodus Express (Paper Back)
Moses And The Exodus Express (Paper Back)
Retail price: £5.99
Your price: £4.99
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Joseph And The Forgetful Servant (Paper Back)
Joseph And The Forgetful Servant (Paper Back)
Retail price: £5.99
Your price: £5.99
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Daniel in the Lion's Den (Paper Back)
Daniel in the Lion's Den (Paper Back)
Retail price: £5.99
Your price: £5.99
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