We are delighted to be joining Caryl Hart and Tony Neal’s Mini Monsters Can I Play? blogtour! The Mini Monsters, Scout, Sparkle, Arthur and Tiny, are four adorable pre-school characters who are learning valuable lessons about friendship and how to get along. This brand-new character-led series is perfect for helping very young children learn to deal with their emotions.
The Story: Sparkle is putting on a magic show with her best friend Arthur but when Scout wants to join them, Sparkle excludes him. It’s a difficult situation for them both but while Arthur consoles Scout, Sparkle has time to think about the consequences of her actions and find a way to make amends.
The Mini Monsters are adorable characters that children will immediately be able to relate to. Their experiences and emotions are portrayed sensitively through a subtle message. We love the idea of a magic show to showcase Scout and Sparkle’s friendship problems and think that the book would make a perfect addition to a pre-school / Early Years classroom. We can’t wait to read the next Mini Monsters adventure!
We’re always fascinated to hear the story behind the story and Caryl’s post about how she developed this brand new pre-school series is really interesting. Thank you Caryl!
Inspired by real preschool children
The initial inspiration for this series of books came from watching countless episodes of Channel 4s Secret Life of Five Year Olds. The show gave an eye-opening insight into the inner workings of preschool children’s minds and presented many funny and surprising scenarios.
Capturing preschool emotions and voices
I started creating the stories back in 2016, and it took two years, and many, many rewrites and discussions with my agent before my ideas were finally in good enough shape to appeal to a publisher. It proved very tricky to get the characters’ voices exactly right and the level of their interaction simple enough whilst maintaining interest. Creating a very concise text about what can be quite complex interactions is always challenging, and having four characters, each with a very different personality was surprisingly tricky.
Shaping the new preschool series
When the stories did finally make it out into the big wide world, I was lucky enough to get two very different offers from two publishers. And a big dilemma on which way to go.
After lots of soul searching and discussion, I realised that both publishers wanted slightly different things, and were looking at two very different illustrative styles, so in a moment of inspiration – or madness – we ended up agreeing a new series with both publishers! Mini Monsters is the first of these projects to hit the shelves.
Reflecting pre-school emotions
But agreeing a contract with a publisher is not the end of the creative process! It took a long time and much too-ing and fro-ing to get the visual characters just right, and yet more re-writing to get the the tone, depth and pace of the text working perfectly. But I’m super-pleased with the results and all the hard work has been totally worth it in my opinion! The amazing team at Simon and Schuster are totally behind this series, and Tony Neal, a relative newcomer to picture book illustration, has done a great job of capturing the personalities of these loveable characters. Tony is currently illustrating book two which is even more adorable so I’m hopeful that the series will grow over coming years.
I am in totally in love with the design of this book. The Simon and Schuster design team have been very, very clever with the use of colour, backgrounds and illustrative details, all of which help identify and enhance the characters’ moods and feelings and enable readers to understand the emotions at play.
Storytelling videos, songs and events
I have written a Mini Monsters song, with melody by fellow author and friend Gareth Peter, and am in the process of having some adorable 3D toys made by Dawn on Treacher Designs. Armed with a ukulele and a bag of tricks, I’m so looking forward to introducting Scout, Sparkle, Arthur and Tiny to young children in face to face events. In the meantime, I’ll be making storytime videos where children can meet the characters and hear all about the Mini Monsters’ first story.
Watch Caryl reading Mini Monsters Can I Play
Caryl also has free Mini Monsters activity sheets on her website.
Thank you so much for inviting us to be part of the Mini Monsters Can I Play? blog tour Caryl and congratulations to you and Tony on the publication of your book. As an Early Years teacher I think it’s the perfect story to help little ones navigate friendships and learn how to interact with their peers.
We are giving away a copy of Mini Monsters Can I Play? to UK readers. Head over to Twitter to enter.
About Caryl Hart
Caryl is a full-time children’s author, who also runs creative events and workshops at schools, libraries and festivals. When she’s not writing, Caryl can be found at her local gym, hiking in the hills of the Peak District with her dog, or drinking tea in a nearby cafe. Her favourite place is the library because it’s nice and warm and full of books. She lives in Sheffield, UK with her family.
About Tony Neal
Tony Neal is a graphic artist and illustrator from South Leicestershire. His passion for art and illustration has led him to a bloom career in children’s book illustration. His work is inspired by everyday life and the quirky details that surround us.
You can read more about Caryl, Tony and Mini Monsters Can I Play? on the other blog tour stops;