Monthly Archives: November 2012

Red Ink vs. Kentish Town – A Musical Love Story

Few things thrill me more than when I read a book, or watch a TV program, and there is SOMETHING FROM MY REAL LIFE IN IT.

Imagine my delight then, when I first read Julie Mayhew’s unbelievably wonderful RED INK, and discovered that my own dear and beloved Kentish Town features quite heavily in it. Not THAT heavily, I grant you (the book is mainly divided between Crete and East Finchley) but old K-Town has a pretty significant part to play in the plot. I’ll say no more, but when you read it, you’ll know.

Anyway – Julie has prepared a playlist on Spotify (here) which is designed to reflect the mood of the book as it progresses (kind of like a soundtrack) and I thought perhaps you might like to listen to it whilst going on a ‘Features of Kentish Town Virtual Walking Guide’. So, come with me now on a journey through time and space (but mainly North London), and have a listen whilst you go:

1) ‘One Big Family’ – templecloud

A great and moving song choice – perfect for looking up at the HMV Forum! Just look at its fabulous Art Deco exterior.

So Art Deco!

So Art Deco!

2) ‘Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want’ – Slow Moving Millie

As we get nearer to Christmas, this is surely a pertinent song choice. And, luckily, you have a great chance of getting what you want if you visit the Kentish Town Pound Stretcher! Funnily enough, this bobby dazzler of a shop is also featured in Imelda May’s song ‘Kentish Town Waltz’. Kentish Town: inspiring a generation.


3) ‘Zorba the Greek’ – Mikis Theodorakis

If you are in the mood for Greek food, look no further than The Phoenician Mediterranean Food Hall. They do a stunning range of baklava, cheese, mezzo and every sort of olive you can imagine. It is also compulsory to hum this song as you browse – fact.


4) ‘The Girl From Ipanema’ – Astrud Gilberto

There are few landmarks more famous in Kentish Town than Rios – but maybe ‘infamous’ is a better word… Errrm, it’s a naturist spa. Let’s skip over that detail,  and enjoy its joyous 80’s facade instead (look at those palm trees!), whilst listening to a bit of Astrud Gilberto and imagining we’re in the REAL Rio, not the (let’s face it) slightly grotty North London version.


5) ‘La Valse d’Amelie’ – Yann Tiersen

Julie has included a lot of the Amelie soundtrack in her playlist (one of my favourite albums! More me real life stuff!), so if you’re in the mood for some whimsy to match these magical tunes, perhaps you’d like to pop in for a pint at The Pineapple – a beautiful pub nestled in amongst multi-coloured houses – and filled with pineapple paraphernalia (it’s also Venue Of Choice for my birthday party this year).

The Pineapple

Leverton Street

6) ‘I Remember’ – Deadmau5, Kaskade

Well, we have come to the end of our tour. I hope YOU will remember all the magical sites you have seen – and that RED INK is out awfully soon, and is truly brilliant. I will leave you at the station, which seems appropriate – but before I go, I offer a challenge. There is a significant launderette in RED INK, and it’s based in Kentish Town. I cannot find that launderette anywhere. It might be that it’s fictional – but if you find one, let me know. Especially if it happens to be run by Cretians…

Kentish Town Station

Hope you’ve had fun!


Spending a day with Mr Gove

Today’s blog is by Anne Weinhold, Senior Brand Manager at the Autumn Publishing Group, a sister company to Hot Key and part of Bonnier Publishing. She likes debating education, the greater schemes of things and eats about 8 apples a week.

Earlier this month, I joined hundreds of educators at London’s Institute of Education for its first Festival of Education. I went there because I hoped to speak to practitioners to better understand their needs and gaps for resources and materials. The day was filled with workshops and seminars, peppered with interesting culinary encounters with Austrian street food specialist Fleischmob and a jelly bean candy store.


A definite highlight of the day was an investigative discussion with Michael Gove, who started off the festival in a rather confident tone, elaborating on the recent successes of the government’s introduction of academies, free schools and new exam structures.

I spent the day sitting in on a teacher training seminar organised by the Real Ideas Organisation (RIO), followed by a talk about using digital technology in the classroom. The latter was an eye-opener. While the speakers in the room, amongst them Mozilla Foundation’s very eloquent Doug Belshaw, were advocating the use of digital devices and software as part of the learning experience, some practitioners still seem to have difficulty deciding on and using the best new technologies in their classrooms.

For me, the day felt a bit like eavesdropping on an industry that I would normally only be closely involved with as a parent, a student or a partner. Sitting in the midst of a group of teachers, who were picking apart speakers and presentations, made me realise just how many guidelines, tools, new products  and ideas as well as governmental pointers are out there to be grappled with. And I began to wonder how the public pressure to succeed as an institution and climbing the recently published OFSTED league tables would influence those who have gone into teaching because of their passion for educating children and young people.

A somewhat quieter counterpoint to the otherwise challenging discussions was a talk about “slow education”, led by one of its UK key proponents Mike Grenier. Next to “slow food” and “slow travel”, “slow education” aims to go at a slower pace within mainstream education. The team at Matthew Moss High School opened their presentation with a rather controversial statement by the Prime Minister of Singapore. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong recently urged pushy parents to “back off,” and asked them to let their children have a childhood. Moss High School takes this philosophy seriously, and has put this idea into practice via peer-to-peer pupil led teaching sessions and student-teacher collaboration in establishing learning goals and creating lesson plans.

The second, and closing highlight of the day was a talk with bouncing-up-and-down Michael Rosen, author of such glorious collections as “Centrally Heated Knickers”, being calmly responded to by Anthony Horowitz, creator of the Alex Rider series. The talk was entitled “How can we stop killing the love of reading?” and the discussion was much in the same tone as its title, ending with Mr Rosen stepping off the stage after having most vigorously proposed completely scrapping the new phonics reading test, and after naming and shaming those who set it up in the first place.

The festival itself, I would say, was a great success for me as a listener and participant. What I understood after the day was that it’s not so much about the gaps, necessarily, but about us as a publisher making our products relevant and useful for teachers almost instantly. But you can only do that with an insider’s view, I think, and with a large pool of people from across the country giving different perspectives from their schools. I hope one day we can have a Bonnier Publishing school day or a road show, visiting schools and actually getting to know the processes and challenges there if our aim is to gain credibility and an audience in the educational market.

Stare is the new black

Yesterday, we started a staring frenzy across the UK. Or at least, we hope we started a staring frenzy across the UK. Maureen Johnson in all her stare-y goodness is coming to Hot Key Books, and to celebrate, we launched a contest to win a Maureen t-shirt and a Google Hangout with Maureen!

‘BUT I NEVER WIN CONTESTS,’ you say, forlornly.

To that we say, you might win this one! But you DEFINITELY won’t if you don’t enter. And look! Amy Fegan has already tweeted a fantastic entry:

Amy Fegan’s puppy stares because she cares. And because she is cute.

And check out this amazing video by @ekindy:

See? It’s really easy. Just use your phone, computer, or old snappy camera to take a staring video or staring pic of yourself (or your animals). Then tweet us the pic, or upload the video in the comments section of this video:

Hopefully that inspired you! We can’t wait to see all your stares. The contest closes Monday, December 3 at 2 PM, so get staring! Oh and BTW, this is limited to UK addresses only.

We Stare Because We Care

Things got a little out of hand here at Hot Key with people JUST STARING at each other but, as you’ll see, in the end we figured out what had happened:

So, that’s our big news that we’ve been teasing you all about for months.

We are the new home of Maureen Johnson in the UK, and I couldn’t be more excited. The press release is here if you want to see it — we’ve got SIX books coming your way! — but it would much more fun if you entered our first-of-many Maureen Johnson, Queen of Teen, kooky contests.

Becca models this season’s hottest t-shirt. Get yours today!

You can win one of three DFTBA Maureen STARE medium-size t-shirts (UK & Ireland-addresses only, I’m afraid) as modelled by our beautiful Becca — PLUS a live Google Hangout with Maureen herself. You can ask her anything – for your blog, for a school project, for writing tips, just for the fun of it…

All we need is a video or a photo of you doing your best stare-because-you-care. Feel free to get creative. You can upload your video as a response to our video on, or you can Tweet or Facebook post your pic. The best responses will win. (“Best” is utterly subjective and will be decided on by a bunch of Hot Key-ers.)

What the…

It was a dreary Monday morning, and all the HKB staff were hard at work on their projects. Then, slowly, like a square of hot butter melting over toast, everyone just started doing this…


Maybe you should just watch this:

Will we ever snap out of it? Stay tuned…another video will be posted tomorrow at 2.

Small – The Musical.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times. I am not a midget. I am not a dwarf. I’m not a tiny tree elf with stumps for legs. I am 5 foot 3 and 3 quarters and that is 1 quarter of an inch ABOVE the average height for a British woman. And 8 inches TALLER than the average height for a Bolivian woman in 1970. It is however 2 inches and 1 quarter less than the average height for a woman from the Dinaric Alps. (No me neither…)

Travel sized

As you might have guessed, I am quite sensitive about height. Apparently I give off ‘small’ vibes which can be quite frustrating when being pushed in front of in a queue, or  when someone is resting a coffee cup on your head on the tube. I’ve been trying to do ‘tall’ for too many years, so instead in the spirit of anti-bullying week I am offering you a musical ode to small.

People out there can be cruel. We open to the jibes of a man whose cruelty knows no bounds.

People can just truly be really unkind. And usually it’s directed at someone who is less powerful, more vulnerable and not able to stand up for themselves. And being small can feel very vulnerable. Especially when people take small stature as a sign of weakness. As an adult however I feel fairly able to stand up for myself – I’ve got very sharp elbows and a killer kick and often use this to my advantage on the hockey pitch. Luckily I can also look very innocent (see- being small has its advantages!) But when you’re a child being small is not just about height. Bullying is something that most of us have experienced at some point, at school, on the weekends, even in a closely knit friendship group. Bullying is horrible – and it can make someone, no matter what their size feel very, very small. So it’s time that tiny fights back!

As Gavroche from LES MISERABLES tells us, being small can have its advantages…

David showed Goliath that height isn’t everything, and the tiny mouse in my kitchen that makes me scream is doing a good job of reminding me that there is always someone smaller than you who can probably kick your butt! When I’m feeling particularly small and a bit wobbly I remind myself that little is a state of mind. And I turn this one up really loud and get my growl on.


So being small is tough, but it’s also a little thing in the grand scheme of the universe. Back to the wonderful Kimya Dawson who reminds us to ‘pull off to the side’ and ‘look up at the sky’ to remind us that the world is huge and everyone, eventually is actually very tiny.

Kimya says that ‘all girls feel too big sometimes regardless of their size.’ So my last big thought on the topic of small, is that everyone at some point feels out of place. We feel too big or too small or that we don’t fit in a world that feels awkward and strange. Even when we’re being mean we’re probably doing it to make ourselves feel big. The best way to feel big is help other people up. So link hands and fight back against teasing or cruelty  or unfairness and stand up to people who say you are not big enough, or too something or not something else. And if you see it, notice it. And say something.

What song makes you feel big and brave?

We are grateful

As we mentioned in our first blog post (thank you, librarians!) today is Thanksgiving. Amy did her thanks on behalf of everyone at Hot Key to librarians — but we’re all grateful for smaller things in our own ways.Here is what the Hot Key staffers have to be grateful for:

Sarah Odedina – I am hugely thankful for book jackets!  These wonderful entrées to the world of the story.  I know it is said you can’t judge a book by its cover but you definitely can buy one because of the cover.  Look at Maggot Moon, Narcopolis, the edition from Vintage of I Capture The Castle, No Matter What.  These beautiful jackets – and so many more – make you want to pick up the book and enjoy what is inside.  Actually really I am thankful for book designers whose alchemy makes it all come true.

Meg Farr – Very thankful for my gorgeous wonderful family!

Cait Davies – For having this amazing job working with some of the most talented and creative people I’ve ever met. I am insanely thankful for that.

Becca Langton – I am thankful for being warm in winter – dry feet, a soft bed and the someone who will make me tea.

Jet Purdie – I am thankful for… my daughter’s health.

Emily Thomas – I am very thankful for my sturdy bedside table, which is bearing the weight of a huge crackling radio, a half drunk glass of water, some diamante earrings, a box of earplugs, and a leaning-tower-of-Pisa pile of novels to read: all my favourite things.

Jon Perdoni – I am thankful for all the good food in Clerkenwell.

Kate Manning – I am thankful for the fact that I am in a career that I love.

Sara O’Connor – I am thankful for all my fabulous colleagues who put up with me being American. You are the best team in publishing.

What are YOU thankful for?