SO Thrilled…mY Article.. Printed in ARMADILLO MAGAZINE…

Weave a circle round him thrice

October 5, 2018


Zaro Weil


The day I sat down to start writing this, a snail began a slow tour up the glass door in my kitchen.  ‘What’s he doing here?’ I mused, taking my eye off the ball for a moment.  Is this a sign?  I turned around, the snail had vanished.  The penny dropped.  Little snail was a sign for the opening of this paper.  I realized that I needed to pose a question: about why I was interested in such a strange little flat-footed spirally thing; something both odd and every-day, seen in a flash, vanishing in a blink.  What in the world do snails have to do with poetry?  What is poetry?  What do children have to do with poetry? What role do imagination creativity, reading and listening play in this scenario?

Let’s go back to our snail, special moments, signs and the mystery of rituals.  Imagine yourself as a five or eight-year-old.  Your pet hamster dies, you find a dead bird, what do you do?  You make a parade. Maybe you bury it.  Whatever the action you have a deep-seated need to create something special.  Perhaps you are older and spot a racing hare or an orange sky.  You want to capture the excitement and fluttering pulse of that moment.  It feels right to give shape to the feeling that sits inside us.  Maybe to tell someone, share in some way.  Maybe that inside feeling is a rock.  Perhaps it’s a swallow.

Our job, as poets and educators, is to guide children to recognize that giving expression to teach our youth that what matters to us as humans is important.  We need to validate ritual. Poets have been saying this for a long time.

Let’s think about the building blocks of a poem; words.  I’ll return later to the other living parts of a poem – the images and rhythms.  For now, let’s consider the words we all come to learn and experience in some detail each day.  Let’s add to that imagination.  Perhaps this might be a good time to let you know a bit about me…

I don’t know exactly how it happened or when I started to write poetry.  I cannot recall an AHA! moment, or my first lines, but one thing I do know – I have always been encouraged to follow my instincts and they were not very different from those of any other child.

Like everyone else I loved to play, to make things up.  Imagination was the obvious currency. Music, dance, and words of all varieties took a big hold on me.  I don’t think this was unusual. Most of my friends followed the same path. We grew up in a dynamic world, America during the 60’s.  Words, lyrics, rhymes and tunes were around us continually, stimulating us to the core. There was exciting just-sprung rock and roll, Broadway show tunes my parents listened to, endless jingles on television.  All new.  All thrilling.  My friends and I sang along to everything, danced, made up plays and learned lyrics.  These were powerful influences.

As an adult I came to understand that having fun with words, their rhythms, energy and imagery, led me down a path where putting them together was an adventure.  I loved these words, it didn’t take long before I discovered poetry and its trusty sidekick, metaphor.  At around nine or ten, I remember sitting on my parents’ front porch and reading The World’s Best loved poems over and over.  I memorized a lot of pieces in that book without fully understanding what they were about.  I think I did it just for the pleasure of saying them out loud.  Memorizing them was fun; I could repeat these words over and over whenever I felt like it.

Looking back, it’s clear that the sheer joy of playing with language was as natural to me and indeed all children, as breathing.  I heard the sounds.  I pictured the words.  Imagination was the currency.  I think the primary way we see the world is poetic.

Then we strive, our whole lives, to make sense of that world. I believe that the principle path taken, the way we try to learn about everything around us.  This route, making imaginative and creative order out of chaos, with play at its core, is an intrinsically artistic process.

But the artist, like the child, cannot help but respond, to make things up, create illusions, offer alternatives.  A child gathers in the world through the senses.  When these senses are fed and developed the child naturally exhibits far greater acuity, understanding, perception, and appreciation of the world they find themselves in.  As such, problem solving becomes easier, in every field.

There are three ways, and probably many more, in which I think poetry and children walk side by side.  That they are a match made in heaven.

Children, like poetry, think about and refer to the big picture:  Why is the sky blue?  Where does my dog go when it dies?   Why do I look like I do?  A child’s approach to life they is unashamedly philosophical, they question, everything.  The impulse is an honest and necessary one.   Poetry, in its simplest apparition, takes the form of questioning the existence of whatever reality we come across.

Typical children’s questions and answers

Q:  What’s inside the sun?

A:  Daytime

Q:  What’s inside the earth?

A:  Colours before they get their names.

Q:  Who made the first circle?

A:   Someone who got very dizzy.

Q:   What draws the bee to the honeysuckle?

A:   Ten million summers.

Q:   What roars inside a seashell?

A:   Beach lions.

Q:   What roars inside you?

A:   My blood

Q:   How does one tie a rainbow?

A:   The first thing is to find the ends.

Q:    If it’s noon here, what time is it on Mars?

A:    A billion years before noon.

Q:    How long does it take to move a mountain?

A:    Depends on the number of ants available.

Q:   At what speed does a moth move to a lamp?

A:   At light speed.

Q:   Why is the letter I dotted?

A:   To have a good time.

Children, like poets, perceive the world with a closeness, excitement and clarity of vision adults often lack or have forgotten.  They will not just point to a worm wiggling in the ground but reach down to get closer, to see it, maybe to pick it up.  Maybe stopping for a long time to stare at a wonderfully shaped or bizarre stone.  Soon that stone takes on new dimensions.  For if we look at something long enough and hard enough it can begin to take on a new identity.  Rocks become figures, clouds shape, sounds say something.  This is daily ritual for a child, it is precisely these heightened perceptions that put us in touch with the universals, that offer us new ways to see the world, new eyes.  We perceive things according to the stored experiences we already know.


How to Get an Idea

Dig into Mud

Open up a new box of crayons

Run your finger through a bag of marbles

Skip a stone across water

Ask a cat to lend you one

Stand quietly under a dictionary

Stick out your tongue and say, “Ah!”

Put an empty picture frame on the wall and wait

I believe our first view of the world, once we have language, is an imaginative and poetic one. What we don’t understand, we endow with human attributes; animals say all kinds of things, shadows need to be tamed, stars answer our wishes.  Anthropomorphising the universe is part of growing up.  To understand the world, we recreate it in our own recognizable human image. This personalization of the environment is the beginning of metaphor.  The first sparks of poetry.  How does the fog come?  It comes on little cat feet.  This is problem solving of the highest and most imaginative order.




last evening you

rolled so loud and silver

past my window

that the shadows

woke and wove their dark

molasses stripes

over my bed


in the criss-cross of

that night-time

I knew what to do

breathe soft

breathe soft

and fold into a

quiet silhouette

until morning

Children are perpetual motion.  They run, bound, hop, skip.  An internal rhythm of new life surges throughout their bodies, they don’t miss a beat, just like good poetry.  Children are far more expressive than adults.  Children playing and moving freely, develop a certain vibrant memory.  Some call it a sense memory.  A child can freely call on this store of memories listening to a story or poem for poetry relies on the senses; on words that not only have muscle, but which you can practically see or taste or feel or smell.  These words are exciting, stirring. Again, creativity depends on sense memory, on the ability to recreate from a store of remembered experiences.


My first blush of poetry happened because as a child I believed that the sun rose the instant I opened my eyes in the morning.  I remember lying in bed and opening one eye at a time, seeing if I could fool the sun.  But the sun was always there, loyal to me.  I realized I was queen of the sun.  I called these pre-school fantasies personal myths and it is these myths, which I collected from friends and family, that formed the basis of my first book of poems, Mud, Moon and Me published by Orchard Books and Houghton Mifflin.

Reading, listening, reacting to the world make us human.  What is it that makes us the kings and queens of our world?  What gives us the vision to express or understand the heady sentiments and urges that rest deep within us?  The misty moon-lit non-thoughts, those profound things that make us each different and special, the view of the world turned upside down with snow falling?

This is the role of poetry, allowing us to be who we are, giving us the opportunity to be many of the things that we cannot imagine ourselves to be.  Listening to a poem, hearing the sway and swing of the words, feeling them grip us is part of – and I use this word carefully – a magical process.  Poetic language is living, full of sudden leaps and shadows and endless nuance.  These things never truly follow a straight path.  Poetry is like that.  Daytime logic is cast aside for night-time dreams, poetic language lives on rhythmic clouds and speaks oh so loud to a listening mind.

Barefoot on the beach

scanning the offerings of last nights tide

gulls-shadowless still-flock before us

their sharp cries crack

morning-taut sea

barefoot on the beach

we follow those match-stick prints

everything sparkles

it’s a gumdrop canvas already

bathers towels parasols

we stroll along light as froth

story swapping

stepping over seashore secrets

snug in wet sand

laughter threads round us

swirls like candy floss

a pale shell catches my eye

it is spiralled orange and white

wind polished to a gleam

a miniature house of some long lost creature

a baby sea horse in my story

the empty shell so delicate


one of millions of sundry small things

washed in by chance

the scent of salt captures me

I float featureless

empty as a puff

scanning gull-like

the fullness of things blue

a puzzle swells

splits open like a clam sunning

how strange it is to spot this shell

not any other

to draw it and it alone into my universe

and what other things are there to catch my eye

flutter down my spine

dragged in by some restless

tide of my own

and might things random

be not random at all

that what I choose to scan rests

in some shadowy pool

some lost landscape of buried secrets

childhood frail

wedged tight behind my reflection

only to wash up

in the great fullness or emptiness

of some moment or other

A poem poses another way of looking at things.  When a child hears or reads a poem they know and feel from the tip of their nose to the tips of their toes, that there IS another world out there. A special, wild, free world.  A world where we can catch a shadow or slay a dragon or talk to a daffodil.  It is our job, as adults in this arena, to make sure our children are well looked after, allowed and encouraged to dream, to have an active and vibrant relationship to poetry.

For those of us who are lucky enough to be involved with children and poetry writing, I take my hat off to you.  This is one of the finest human experiences we can offer our kids.

To end, I hope my little snail has made it someplace wonderful by now and is dreaming his snail dreams.  As for us?  This wonderful passage from Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge sums it up perfectly:

Weave a circle around him thrice

And close your eyes with holy dread

For he on honey-dew hath fed

and drunk the milk of Paradise

The milk of paradise is none other than the wondrous self we can discover, not in some far away Xanadu, but inside ourselves.  Inside the heart of every child.  That is the heart and soul of why poetry is important.


Cherry Moon

Zaro Weil and Junli Song

“Sometimes the shortest poems can impart the biggest ideas…

Always mindful of the endangered natural world around us, Cherry Moon is a wonder-filled new poetry collection for children of all ages from poet Zaro Weil who lives in France. Beautifully illustrated throughout with unique and stylish colour illustrations by Junli Song, this creatively packaged book perfectly brings to life the sheer joy of nature in all its many elements.

The collection includes poems with titles such as Wonderfulness, Flicker and flash, Listen Earth, How does the flower open, Dappling sun, and Wild as the Wind, and offers thought-provoking, sensitive and delightfully original little poems and gatherings of words – carefully grouped, separated and partnered – which encourage children to ask the big questions about life and to find their own answers.

At a time when the natural world is in crisis, and healing its wounds is high on every child’s agenda, there is a genuine need to bring nature back into the lives of children through the stories we tell. And Cherry Moon makes an enormous contribution to this, delivering special and accessible poetry for a new generation of readers.

Weil’s poems capture eye-popping moments, tender observations and a thousand whimsical reflections on the sheer joy of the natural world. Thought-provoking, sensitive and delightfully original, Cherry Moon poses big questions about life with poems and other small gatherings of words, encouraging children of every age to explore the power, enchantment and sheer wonder of nature.”

(ZaZaKids Books in association with Troika, hardback, £14)


Another Smashing Review for SPOT GUEVARA HERO DOG

April Round Up, 2019
We always like to include a few books for younger readers beginning their solo reading journeys with illustrated chapter books, and the antics of one “Spot Guevara, Hero Dog” by Zaro Weil, with illustrations and cover from Katy Riddell is absolutely perfect for animal-loving kids everywhere.

Born rough on the streets of Brooklyn this is Spot’s story, told in his own voice and from his unique point of view.

Life on the streets is hard, and one terrible day Spot’s entire family are carted off by the Dog police and he vows never to give up searching for them.
This is the beginning of Spot’s many adventures as he roams the city meeting new friends, fending off danger and learning about humans and other dogs. Can Spot be a hero? Will he need a friend or two along the way?
This is fast-paced but really fab stuff, perfect for kids who are moving on from picture books and want an exciting waggy dog tale.

From A German Culture Magazine about the Bologna Bookfair and CHERRY MOON!!!

We could tell a lot …

  in youth book children’s book live

56th International Children and Youth Book Fair Bologna in April 2019

Zaro Weil, the Cambridge School of Art and many, many, wonderful books. A walk through the 56th International Children’s and Youth Book Fair Bologna in early April. By GEORG PATZER and SUSANNE MARSCHALL

Everything was different this time. The> Trois Ourses <from Paris have ceased their work and were no longer at the joint booth> Small World <. For the first time, Rachael Kim was not at the Korean booth to show us new books and translate. Our bar in San Ruffilo closed at 10 in the evening and there was not much food there either. And for the first time, we’ve had a “book launch” of a wonderful book of children’s poems, which we – at least a little bit – helped to get started.

Otherwise, everything was as always: wonderful books from which we have many, many bought, interesting people, density, intensive discussions, long lines of illustrators in front of the stands, good food, a lot to drink … because Bologna is also “la grassa” And in addition, in the bars and restaurants, people happen to be meeting people at the fair. Or the other way around. So it started last year in the small restaurant Il Marinaio in the suburb of San Ruffilo, where we always live.

Zaro Weil with illustrator Junli Song (c) Junli Song
Zaro Weil with illustrator Junli Song, (c) Junli Song

At the next table sat Zaro Weil and Gareth, we started talking, we talked, we got together at the fair – because of course they were there too. They were curious, open to everything, but the Cambridge School of Art, Anglia Ruskin University, did not know them yet. We sent them to this booth, where graduates of the illustrator classes always show their theses, not yet published books, “dummies.” Where each year you can discover exciting new stories: In recent years, for us Ellen Vesters with their dark, impressive book and Lele Saa with their mourning history and their mother’s red scarf. There, Zaro found Junli Song, won her as an illustrator and published her book. And celebrated this on Monday at the fair. And then with us in an osteria.

Zaro Weil with the book "Little Tree" by Katsumi Komagata
Zaro Weil with the book> Little Tree <by Katsumi Komagata

We have continued this year. Because Zaro did not know Katsumi Komagata either. And was thrilled with “Little Tree” – and as she cautiously turned the pages and the two discovered the poetic parable story, was touching to touch and reminded us of our first look in this noble-priced book: One of the librarians of the Trois Ourses retired white gloves, leafing devoutly and slowly and did not even let us touch the book. (I’m curious when Katsumi will receive the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Prize – so far the prize is a bit Euro-heavy.)

Mauro Bellei
Mauro Bellei

And we almost succeeded in making them and Mauro Bellei acquainted with exceptional books: a playful school of perception. But on Wednesday the two of them were heading for Venice again, where they “canoodleten through the winding streets,” as she wrote. After all, we were able to show him her book, he was immediately impressed by the harmony of the design. Dancing the words with the images and the other way round, the river for the eye and absolutely wanted to have one.Zaros Buch hat eine lange Geschichte: Vor vielen Jahren hat sie Gedichte geschrieben, dann hatte sie einen Verlag mit 30 Angestellten, und nachdem sie den aufgegeben hat und nach Südfrankreich gezogen ist, kamen auch die Gedichte wieder zu ihr zurück. Und wieder gründete sie einen Verlag, aber nur für sich selbst, für ihre Texte. ›Cherry Moon‹ heißt das Buch, und ihr Gedicht ›strawberry‹ erinnerte mich sofort an die Gedichte von William Carlos Williams:

if I were as red as you
as sweet
as round
I’d wind up in a basket too

Es sind Gedichte über kleine Dinge, über die Natur, den Frühling, den Sommer, den Wind, über Bohnen und Fledermäuse oder Steine, ›Don’t be bored rock‹ heißt eines:

don’t be bored rock
once you were orange fire
thundering down some
mountain slope or
hurtling silver sleek
through deep sky

maybe you were thrown up
sputtering red by
an ancient fuming volcano or
born with the planet in a
starless galactic bang

to be carved sharp by ice
rounded by raging wind

but whichever it was
being still now is good
after all

you have so much to remember

Die Illustrationen von Sunli Song erzählen manchmal eine andere Geschichte, vertiefen Aspekte in eine Richtung, die von den Texten höchstens angedeutet wird. Es sind Drucke in zurückhaltenden Farben, blau und rot, und das auf den ersten Blick Plakative löst sich schnell in Bewegung auf, in eine hintersinnige Mehrfachbedeutung, wenn sich die Käfer auf den Blättern räkeln oder die Pflaumen vom Baum fallen im Sommergedicht ›Plum tree (summer)‹ (es gibt noch ›spring‹, ›autumn‹ und ›winter‹), das mit den Worten endet

never heard of it«

Two "dummies" of graduates at the Cambridge School of Art booth
Zwei ›Dummies‹ von Absolventen am Stand der Cambridge School of Art

One of the recurring highlights of the fair is always the Cambridge booth. Everything there is of course professional, some rather mainstream. The stand is tiny. And always so well attended that you have to be hell-bent not to tear the many books out of the wall shelves. But if you are lucky, the small sofa in the corner is free, and if you sit first with a stack of books on your lap, you will not get up so quickly.Funny was the book by Adam Beer about a dog on an island that played so beautifully in peace and then got angry when suddenly excursionists came with other dogs, and the discussion about it with the other students (“Do not mention Brexit!” ): We thought it was wonderful that the illustrations were in black and white, much more powerful and clear, but his classmates had persuaded him during the course of their studies to try more with color … Impressive and subtle are Lindy Norton’s> The Visitor <and Bethan Welby’s Ghosted, a touching ghost story that deals with unfinished business and a mysterious death many years ago. Also smart is Al Rodin’s story> Lia & Lion <, Lia and the Lion: a quirky mischievous story with few, but pointed words and funky twists and turns, and the stroke is equally mischievously vivacious with soft quaint accents. Both want to have a pet and go in search: Lia looks up, the lion down, Lia looks to the left, the lion to the right. At some point they see each other at the same time and both think, “That’s the right pet.” Sitting in the meadow and watching each other: a little astonished, a little suspicious, but most of all curious. To the left, little Lia, who is perched on a round stone, bright red is her hat with the broad brim, and her little boots also flare in the same color, on the right Lion, a splendid specimen of a lion with a handsome mane. But that’s not how it works. How the two collide and what happens then

Incidentally, the discussion about Adam’s books took place in our Stammbar near Piazza Maggiore, where we once again sat for a long time and talked to a Viennese student couple on the right, then two older French women, and on the left were three Italian illustrators from southern Italy , which we met again the next day at the fair, then a larger group of Cambridge students. This is normal in Bologna, the fair is more familiar, not comparable to Frankfurt, and you meet again and again. Also Zaro we ran the first time on the first day in the middle of the arrival crowd in the arms. Incidentally, her book has already been selected on an English list as the best children’s book of the year.

Yes, the winners. They also have a lot to talk about, the Bologna Ragazzi Award is one of the most important in the international children’s book industry, and in addition to the amusement and the amazement and discovery, a visit to the award-winning is a must. As always, the Koreans are present, this year, among other things, with an honorable mention of the book “A Shadow” by Chae Seung-Yeon from the publisher Bandal: a book in which animals gradually gather in a long shadow, a lion, a giraffe, a raccoon, a monkey … Then the shadow becomes ever narrower, the animals have to move together, then pile up like the Bremen Town Musicians. And then comes the trick … (will not reveal). A successful work in the category> Opera prima <(first work), a playful homage to children’s fantasies,

In der Kategorie »Fiction« gehen zwei Erwähnungen an ›Et puis‹ von Icinori (ein französisch-japanisches Paar, Verlag Albin Michel Jeunesse, Paris) und ›À travers‹ von Tom Haugomat (Verlag Thierry Magnier). ›Et puis‹ erzählt eine völlig verdrehte, geheimnisvolle und nicht sofort entschlüsselbare Geschichte von Wesen mit einem Hammer- oder Schraubenkopf, die Monat für Monat die Wirklichkeitskulissen verschieben und die Natur domestizieren und verbauen, sodass z.B. in einem Monat eine schaumgeborene Göttin dem Meer entsteigt, während sie im nächsten vorn am Rand steht und nicht recht weiß, wohin sie mit ihrer Muschel soll. Jedes der vielen Details findet sich auf dem nächsten Blatt in veränderter Form wieder, jede der Dutzenden Figuren hat seine eigene Geschichte, und es würde Tage brauchen, sie alle zu entschlüsseln oder auch nur nachzuverfolgen. Haugomats Buch erzählt ohne Worte, nur durch die eindrücklichen Bilder die Geschichte eines Manns, der geboren wird, aufwächst, älter wird … auf der einen Seite ist ein Bild seiner Geschichte zu sehen, auf der gegenüberliegenden sieht man das, was er sieht: ein Buch, einen Nachbarn, die Sterne durch ein Fernglas, die Mondlandung im Fernsehen, die Raketen in Cape Canaveral, seinen alten Vater. Es ist eine anrührende Biografie, die auch in die Zukunft führt, ins Jahr 2021, in einer Drucktechnik mit nur drei Farben, sehr minimalistisch.

Bei ›New Horizons‹ ist der Gewinner ein wunderbares Kunstbuch: ›A History of Pictures (for Children)‹ von David Hockney und Martin Gayford, illustriert von Rose Blake, die uns das Buch signierte und ganz stolz eine E-Mail von Hockney zeigte, in der er ihr zu ihrer Arbeit gratulierte – schade, dass es keine Postkarte ist. Das Buch basiert auf Gesprächen zwischen dem berühmten Maler und dem Kunstkritiker. Es springt von einem Stier in der Höhle von Lascaux (15.000 vor u.Z.) zu Picassos Eule von 1952, von Jan van Eycks Arnolfinis zu Hockneys ›Mr. and Mrs. Clark and Percy‹, von der Mona Lisa zu einem Foto von Marlene Dietrich – eine anregende, bilderreiche, schlaue Art, durch die Kunstgeschichte zu führen, ohne kunstgeschichtlich schlau daherzukommen, ohne erhobenen Zeigefinger, sondern erzählend, neugierig und neugierigmachend.

Deutsche Verlage setzen mehr auf Altbewährtes wie Kuh Lieselotte vom Sauerländer Verlag: „Was bei uns funktioniert, funktioniert in anderen Ländern nicht unbedingt«, sagt Ilka Wesche vom Fischer Verlag, »aber Tiergeschichten gehen immer, wie Lieselotte.« In über 20 Sprachen ist die Kultkuh übersetzt, Spanien, Dänemark, Polen haben sogar das ganze Programm. »Und die Bücher von Gudrun Mebs«, erzählt Wesche, „sind ganz besonders in Korea beliebt«. Das neue – hurra endlich – ›Ferien nur mit Papa‹ liegt druckfrisch am Stand. »Allerdings«, sagt Anne Brans vom Hanser Verlag »verkaufen sich Kinderbücher, die literarischer sind, nicht so gut in Deutschland« – wie etwa die von Mebs oder Moeyaert – zwei herausragende und außergewöhnliche Autoren…

Bei Carlsen sind die Conni-Bücher seit über 25 Jahren ein Highlight und begeistern nicht nur in Deutschland. Ganz allgemein sind Freundschaftsgeschichten und magische Mädchenbücher sehr beliebt, wobei der Markt eher unvorhersehbar ist – so der Tenor der Verlage: Deshalb versuchen sie, mit einem vielfältigen Angebot die unterschiedlichen Ländergeschmäcker anzusprechen.

Swiss illustrators
Schweizer Illustratoren

Oh, es gäbe so viel zu erzählen: von den anderen Preisen, von den deutschen Büchern und den deutschen Verlagen, dem Gastland Schweiz mit seiner Ausstellung von Büchern, illustrierten Schweizer Fachbegriffen (Berge, Ziegen, Heidi) und Illustratoren (Francesca Sanna oder Albertine, Petra Rappo haben wir dann gleich am Stand der Cambridger kennengelernt). Von den vielen wunderbaren Büchern, die wir noch entdeckt haben, auch die von Mauro Bellei. Von den Koreanern des Verlags BIR, die uns Jin-ho Jungs Buch ›The Stars and Me‹ extra aus Korea mitbrachten, damit wir es doch noch kaufen können (das hat letztes Jahr nicht geklappt), von Jean-Vincent Sénacs Buch ›How to draw a Chicken‹, das uns der Tate-Verlag geschenkt hat, weil wir so offensichtlich begeistert davon waren, von den vier Schweizerinnen im Bus, die Kinder an die Literatur heranführen, von einigen herausgeputzten Frauen und so mancher kleinen Skurrilität am Rand ………. viel, viel, viel könnten wir erzählen.

Nächstes Jahr wieder!



Catch me


Kinderbuch | Polly Faber: Fang mich doch! Wer die Möhren aus Nachbars
No half things

Aufs Ganze

Jugendbuch | Antje Herden: Keine halben Sachen Robin findet sich und sein
never world

For ever …

Jugendbuch | Marisha Pessl: Niemalswelt Fünf Freunde hängen in einer Zeitschleife fest.


‘Spot Guevara lives happily on the tough streets of Brooklyn, until the dreadful day when his whole family is captured by the dog police and he has no idea where they have been taken. Vowing never to give up looking for them, Spot must learn to ward off danger, to discover which dogs-and humans-may be trusted, and how to find happiness despite all that has happened. Spot Guevara is an adventurous tale full of love, loss, courage and family values, told with lightness and humour.And engaging, bold modern print and Katy Riddell’s lively illustrations will help even less able readers to become hooked.    

Tina Massey



Circus magic, forest wonders and a hero dog 

book reviews

“If your youngsters are barking mad for canine capers, then here’s an action-packed adventure story starring a lovable dog coping with life on the mean streets of New York City.

Spot Guevara: Hero Dog – the first book of an exciting new series that is perfect for young readers – is based on the real-life sheep dog of author Zaro Weil who lives in France and has also written poetry for children.

Spot, a lively puppy with a lovely story to tell, is brought to life by a gorgeous gallery of colour illustrations from Katy Riddell, daughter of the former Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell, and an illustration talent in her own right.

Born rough on the streets of Brooklyn, the seventh puppy in his mum’s litter, Spot relates his story in his own inimitable words. Spot loves to roam the city and meet new friends, like the human Perfecto Guevara who brings Spot and his family scraps of food, as well as cuddles and lots of love. Spot also has to learn to fend off danger, and find about other people and other dogs.

But one terrible day, Spot’s entire family are carted off by the Dog police while he is out exploring and he vows never to give up searching for them, even if it means crossing the frighteningly huge Brooklyn Bridge…

Youngsters will love following Spot’s adventures and misadventures in New York City as he confronts tough enemies and becomes the ultimate lovable doggy hero. Written in chapter book format, this is ideal reading for children to enjoy on their own, or to cuddle up and share with an adult.”

Lancashire Evening Post  

Monday 29 April 2019




Staring at the colourful outdoor banner on a wind-swept Bologna morning March 2018, I could hardly believe I was back at a book fair. I hadn’t been to one since Frankfurt, eleven years earlier with my previous company MQ Publications.

Now I was back; older but probably not much wiser. Still here I was, for some baffling reason known only to the gods and my two dogs, entering a new phase of publishing and writing. And, unlike the heady days with my old publishing company, I knew hardly a soul here. No meetings. No appointments, No crazy publishing dinners. So. Where to begin? What conversations as a newcomer in the children’s book world were there to be had?

I suppose the first thing that struck me, having delicately navigated the complex layout of the place, was the visceral shock. Such a profusion of tantalising imagery. So many beautiful pictures on display. I was a hare stuck in headlights; paralysed not with fear, but with awe. Each aisle opened up endless vistas of delight. Such imagination. Verve. Intimacy. The world should really be a better place with so much glorious art to be had. 

I felt the stirrings of spring. Of growth. This razz-dazzle ‘fair wandering’ gave rise to a vague instinct about a new poetry book. I remember coining the title and sub-title in my mind while resting on a bench outside the doors struggling with a double scoop chocolate ice cream cone in the sun. 

OK. Now I was now on the hunt for visual inspiration. 

I found myself walking past the Cambridge Art School stand. Our fab new German friends (George and Susanne) had recommended it to me over a chance meeting at dinner the night before. Fascinated by the lively pictures adorning the walls, I wandered in. It felt like home for some unaccountable reason. As I ran my fingers through the student portfolios on display, my breath caught. I had spotted it. Junli’s portfolio. Some wonderful creatures jumped out at me; funny, warm-hearted and beautifully drafted. Treasures really. I asked about these prints with a pounding heart. Sounds odd, but I take illustration very very seriously. (My old company had published, amongst other things, loads of striking gift books and the idea of books as wonderful packages to read, look at and hold has always resonated for me.)

‘Oh. Those prints are by Junli Song. She is just graduating this year. Would you like an appointment to see more later?’ No question. Of course, I wanted to see more. 

Coming back the next day, the stars smiled. Junli was actually working on the stand and we got to meet. That was the clincher. She was smart. Talented. Funny. I showed her my just published poetry book, Firecrackers. She seemed to like it so I gave her a copy. 

I knew Junli could be the magic ingredient for Cherry Moon. 

We continued to communicate during that spring and I was thrilled when Junli agreed to work together with me on Cherry Moon, my third solo Poetry collection and Junli’s first published book project.

The months that followed were filled with joy; lots of laughter and great lashings of creative-flow as Junli and I discussed every aspect of every poem and illustration. Junli by this time had left Cambridge and had gone back to her hometown of Chicago for a print fellowship. But that didn’t stop us skyping nearly every week. 

Happily, Junli and I worked closely together in a very old-fashioned publishing model: the publisher/writer…me, working directly with the illustrator. No art director. No editorial director. Just us. And a wonderful designer named, Sarah Pyke.

What I experienced as an author was exhilarating. Junli was able to take my concepts…my words…my arrangements on the page… and transform them like a fairy godmother into something new and original. And she did it all the hard way. With detailed and gaspingly original prints.

Her magic wand created a world of snail funerals, animal picnics, fleas jumping over the moon, floating creatures, bats piloting little jet planes and more. Concepts and visualisations I had never thought of. Meanwhile the cover had definitely by now turned into the ultimate mid-summer night’s dream animal/human romp. 

What had started as a smallish book with 37 illustrations, grew into a block-buster 180 page poetry book with over 60 remarkable printed illustrations. 

I wanted to give a number of the poems two spreads each because it seemed that the poems called out to become little visual stories in their own right and to have their own narrative. My instinct and Junli’s was to allow the child (or adult) reader the space and time to linger just a wee bit longer on the ideas and themes presented in the poems. 

Unimaginable. Certainly more expensive. Crazy? Rhetorical question.

And now, a mere year later it is April 2019 and (lightening speed in publishing) Cherry Moon is making its debut in May. It has already received some great reviews. Plus how exciting that Junli was honoured to have been chosen by the Bologna Art Organisers to have six of her prints displayed. A great first achievement for her.

Junli and I were both at the Bologna Book Fair this April. Troika Books (our co-publisher)  and ZaZaKids Books (my little company) and Saltway Global distributors hosted a fabulous Cherry Moon book launch celebration at the fair. Loads of buzz and even more Prosecco. 

But the best thing of all is that Cherry Moon is as Junli and I envisaged it. Only better. Because nothing beats holding a real living and breathing book in your hands.