Only in England

Today I’m stewarding at Palace Arts in Redcar, this exhibition is a great coup for a small, regional gallery.

‘Only in England’ has photographs from two of my favourite social photographers, Martin Parr and Tony Ray-Jones.

The photographs from Martin Parr are selected from his Non-Conformist project, centred in Hebden Bridge not long after he finished college.

The Tony Ray-Jones photographs have been selected by Martin Parr from a couple of thousand contact sheets and are photographs not previously printed.

There is another exhibition at Kirkletham Museum on the outskirts of Redcar where the photographs that are being shown were printed by Tony Ray-Jones himself.

Both of these photographers studied a very English way of life with warmth and honesty, and the selection of images that are in the exhibition are great examples of this humour and warmth.

Originally on Stephen Baird Journal 02/06/17

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Gnocchi with wild rocket

Another recipe that’s been languishing on my hard drive with no knowledge of where it came from, just half the measurements for the Gnocci to make enough for two.


For the gnocchi

  • 700g/1lb 9oz Desiree potatoes, roughly cut to pieces all the same size and unpeeled
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 150g/5½oz plain flour
  • rice flour, for dusting
  • freshly grated parmesan, to serve (or a similar vegetarian hard cheese)

For the sauce

  • 300g/10½oz wild rocket, roughly chopped
  • 200g/7oz watercress, roughly chopped, stalks discarded
  • 150ml/5½fl oz extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 small red chilli, finely chopped
  • 20 basil leaves, roughly torn
  • salt and pepper


  1. For the gnocchi, place the potatoes in a saucepan with lots of salted cold water. Bring to the boil and cook until the potatoes are tender, but not falling apart (about 15-20 minutes depending on the size of your potatoes).
  2. Drain and allow to cool a little. When cool enough to handle, remove the skins. While the potatoes are still warm, mash them until smooth or pass through a ricer, then set aside to cool completely.
  3. Season the cooled potatoes with salt and pepper, stir in the egg yolks and add the flour. Bring the mixture together to form a dough.
  4. On a clean work surface, sprinkle the rice flour and roll out the dough into long sausage shapes. With a sharp knife cut into dumpling shapes of about 2cm/1in. Set aside.
  5. For the sauce, blanch the rocket and watercress for a minute in boiling salted water. Remove and refresh in cold water and drain well.
  6. In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, garlic and chilli and fry until the onion is soft and translucent. Stir in the rocket, watercress and basil and stir fry for a couple of minutes to heat through. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.
  7. To serve, drop the gnocchi into a pan of boiling water and simmer until they rise back to the top. As they come to the surface, lift them out with a slotted spoon, drain well and add to the sauce. Mix well taking care not to break up the gnocchi.
  8. Serve immediately with some freshly grated Parmesan.
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Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2017

Is there a Tiger in the Garden?

Is there a Tiger in the Garden?

Originally posted on

After a lengthy process which started in very late September when we got the list of readers and the longlist of books was sent out to the shops, the winner of the 2017 Waterstones Children’s Book Prize has been announced.

If you couldn’t guess from the post’s featured image it was ‘The Girl of Ink & Stars’ written by Kiran Millwood-Hargrave.

As I wrote earlier the process really started in late-September when the booksellers are chosen to give their opinion on the books in the longlist. This list is broken into three areas; Illustrated Book, Younger Fiction (5-12), and Older Fiction (13+).

The books on the longlist were:

Illustrated Book

  • “Life is Magic” by Meg McLaren
  • “Nara and the Island” by Dan Ungureanu
  • “The Journey” by Francesca Sanna
  • “Mr Moon Wakes Up” by Jemima Sharpe
  • “There’s a Tiger in the Garden” by Lizzy Stewart
  • “Story Orchestra: Four Seasons in One Day” by Jessica Courtney-Tickle
  • “I’m Hungry” by Jorge Martin
  • “The Hippopandamouse” by Jools Bentley
  • “Super Stan” by Matt Robertson
  • “Tiger in a Tutu” by Fabi Santiago
  • “Hello, Mr. Dodo!” by Nicholas John Frith
  • “Hiding Heidi” by Fiona Woodcock
  • “The Bear Who Stared” by Duncan Beedle
  • “Little Red” by Bethan Woollvin
  • “Alphonse, That Is Not OK to Do!” by Daisy Hirst

Younger Fiction (5-12)

  • “Captain Pug” by Laura James
  • “Hendrix the Rocking Horse” by Gavin Puckett
  • “Erica’s Elephant” by Sylvia Bishop & Ashley King
  • “The Ministry of SUITs” by Paul Gamble
  • “The Girl of Ink & Stars” by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
  • “The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth” by Katherine Woodfine
  • “Beetle Boy” by M.G. Leonard
  • “The Apprentice Witch” by James Nicol
  • “Voyage to Magical North” by Claire Fayers
  • “Through the Mirror Door” by Sarah Baker
  • “Eddy Stone and the Epic Holiday Mash-Up” by Simon Cherry
  • “We Are Giants” by Amber Lee Dodd
  • “Time Travelling with a Hamster” by Ross Welford
  • “Where Monsters Lie” by Polly Ho-Yen
  • “The Uncommoners: The Crooked Sixpence” by Jennifer Bell
  • “The Bubble Boy” by Stewart Foster
  • “Cogheart” by Peter Bunzl
  • “Wolf Hollow” by Lauren Wolk

Older Fiction (13+)

  • “Anna and the Swallow Man” by Gavriel Savit
  • “The Serpent King” by Jeff Zentner
  • “The Wildings” by Nilanjana Roy
  • “Riverkeep” by Martin Stewart
  • “Girl Out of Water” by Nat Luurtsema
  • “The Island” by Olivia Levez
  • “Nightwanderers” by CJ Flood
  • “The Sun Is Also a Star” by Nicola Yoon
  • “Under Rose-Tainted Skies” by Louise Gornall
  • “Paper Butterflies” by Lisa Heathfield
  • “Girl in Pieces” by Kathleen Glasgow
  • “Never Evers” by Tom Ellen & Lucy Ivison
  • “Orangeboy” by Patrice Lawrence
  • “Rebel of the Sands” by Alwyn Hamilton
  • “The Otherlife” by Julia Gray
  • “The Dead House” by Dawn Kurtagich
  • “Hour of the Bees” by Lindsay Eager

As a longlist reader I was sent a package of all these books to read, rate and review by the end of October, this seemed a daunting task at first but once I broke it down it wasn’t too difficult, especially as the Illustrated Book category was completed in a day or so.

My first day was to make a plan of attack for the reading, so I set aside the first two days to read and comment on the Illustrated Books, then a week and a half for each other category with a few days spare.

I really enjoyed reading the Illustrated Books as I stood in my living room speaking them aloud (making all the appropriate noises and gestures) to see how they worked as a story time book. Luckily the neighbours didn’t complain.

I then started reading the Younger Children’s books as there were quite a few of these which were short reads, or that I had read previously. Again I really enjoyed the vast majority of these books, which made it very difficult to differentiate between the ones I wanted to put forward to the short list.

Luckily I had finished reading the Younger Children’s books in a week as I had a much harder time with the books in the Older Children category, only having read one of them before.

I found this a much harder read, mainly due to not reading much from this genre before that wasn’t fantasy and trying to come to grips with the facets of this genre, especially the romance in some of the books.

A couple of the books in this category I found really difficult to get into and after the first 100 pages I put them down as they were just taking me too long and decided that if I had time at the end of the month I would go back to them, which I didn’t due to time constraint.

At the end of the month we sent our longlist judging grids away to head office with our ratings and thoughts on them, and for me I thought that was going to be the end of my involvement until I heard the winners announced.

So I was very surprised to get an email at the end of February asking me to join the judging panel to decide the category winners and overall winner from the shortlist:

Illustrated Book

  • “Life is Magic” by Meg McLaren
  • “The Journey” by Francesca Sanna
  • “There’s a Tiger in the Garden” by Lizzy Stewart
  • “Super Stan” by Matt Robertson
  • “Tiger in a Tutu” by Fabi Santiago
  • “The Bear Who Stared” by Duncan Beedle

Younger Fiction (5-12)

  • “Captain Pug” by Laura James
  • “The Girl of Ink & Stars” by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
  • “Beetle Boy” by M.G. Leonard
  • “Time Travelling with a Hamster” by Ross Welford
  • “Cogheart” by Peter Bunzl
  • “Wolf Hollow” by Lauren Wolk

Older Fiction (13+)

  • “Anna and the Swallow Man” by Gavriel Savit
  • “The Wildings” by Nilanjana Roy
  • “The Sun Is Also a Star” by Nicola Yoon
  • “Paper Butterflies” by Lisa Heathfield
  • “Orangeboy” by Patrice Lawrence
  • “Hour of the Bees” by Lindsay Eager

This was a huge surprise and was so exciting to be asked to join the judging panel after just six months working for Waterstones. So I set around reading the book from those lists that I hadn’t finished and making notes and arguments in my head for what I wanted to say about each book.

So in early March I made my way to the Piccadilly store to discuss the possible winners. Though this was a hard day’s work and there was a lot of discussion and thought, it was so much fun I could have gone on for hours like this, discussing books with other people who so obviously had a great passion for books.

The decisions were difficult as all the books had their merits and strengths, the final decision was:

  • Illustrated Book Winner – “There’s a Tiger in the Garden” by Lizzy Stewart
  • Younger Fiction Winner – “The Girl of Ink & Stars” by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
  • Older Fiction Winner – “Orangeboy” by Patrice Lawrence


  • Overall Winner – “The Girl of Ink & Stars” by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

I then had to not tell anyone for almost a whole month who the winners were, I was fit to bursting by the time of the award ceremony, which I was invited to.

So at the end of March, I again went to Piccadilly to attend the award ceremony with authors, publishers, agents, journalists and the Waterstones management. To say this was slightly nerve wracking would be an understatement as I hadn’t done something like this for a very long time.

In the end I broke the ice by chatting with Deborah Texeira from the Children’s Laureate steering group, gulp, but this helped me relax and then Jade (another bookseller) arrived and that relaxed me even more, and I started moving around and chatting. The first author I met though was Patrice Lawrence, as I had to go across and tell her how much her book had meant to me (carefully not telling her that it had won the category).

Through the evening I was live tweeting for my branch of Waterstones, @WstonesDarlo which was great fun.

After the winners were announced I was also able to have a chat with the three winning authors:

I loved the whole process: the reading, the judging and the schmoozing 😉 and would love to do this regularly.

I will eventually give full reviews for each of the books in the longlist as I’ve read them all, but for the moment I’m going to give small reviews of the three category winners and why I thought they were the ones that should win.

Illustrated Book – “There’s a Tiger in the Garden” by Lizzy Stewart

“There’s a Tiger in the Garden” has such a nostalgic feel, both in the writing and the illustration that it is sure to be a classic.


The paper quality is excellent and the illustrations are rich and colourful with lots to explore, I keep finding new bits every time I read through it.


Read out loud as a story time book it is great as there are sections for different voices, noises and different tones, which make it an exciting book for children to have read to them.


A story about a bored girl, Nora, at her Grandma’s who, initially, doesn’t believe her Grandma when she is told there is a tiger in the garden.


Eventually, using her imagination, Nora sees lots of interesting and exciting things in the garden and develops an imagination that will see her through life.

Younger Fiction (5-12) and Overall Winner – “The Girl of Ink & Stars” by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

In ‘The Girl of Ink & Stars’, Kiran creates a believable world inhabited by believable characters.


The story starts as though it is going to be historical fiction set on an island in an imaginary tropical ocean, but as it progresses the mystical side of the island and their inhabitants start to develop.


A convincing mythology develops as the book grows on you, gently and from under your skin, until you’re immersed in Isabella’s world. The magic feels real in the same way that Philip Pullman developed his magic in ‘His Dark Materials’, not overbearing and flashy but part of the world that you are reading about, normal.


The book is about Isabella’s journey to find her lost friend in a forbidden jungle, not only exploring the jungle but her islands past and coming to some fascinating discoveries.


Chicken House have again excelled in producing a beautiful product, with a wonderful cover by Helen Crawford-White, maps and small illustrations on each page, all which add to the reading experience.

Older Fiction (13+) – “Orangeboy” by Patrice Lawrence

‘Orangeboy’ is a singular book, in that it looks at the experience of a boy who has avoided getting into the gang system that whirls around him and attempts to suck everyone into their cycle of drugs, violence and machismo, only to be dragged in through the death of a girl he is with on a first date.


The book looks at man-boys, the press, inner-city culture and how circumstances can get out of hand and leave you floundering and unsure of what to do.


For me there was a personal resonance with the character of Marlon from my own background and history, this should speak to a lot of people of how hard it is to grow in these areas and not just get caught up.


A wonderful debut, looking forward to more.

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