The Screen Thief by Helen Docherty and Thomas Docherty

Publication Date: 3 June 2021

The Blurb

Look out! There’s a Snaffle about, and she’ll eat your screen as a snack!

When the Snaffle arrives in the city, she just wants to play, but everyone’s too busy staring at their screens. The Snaffle discovers that she likes screens, too – as a snack!

When she chomps down every last screen in the city, that’s when the fun really starts…

Screens away, it’s time to play in this warm, funny, and very timely tale from the creators of The Snatchabook.

The Review

A brilliant spin on the overuse of screens and lack of human connection as viewed by a new arrival in a big city.

Children will easily relate to the desire to play with siblings or friends who might be too busy watching or playing with a screen, and the joy that comes from getting outside and connecting with both nature and other people.

The rhyming reads brilliantly aloud, while the bright, busy pictures will allow children to find new details on repeated readings.

A brilliant book to help children and their adults connect for a shared read. Snacking on screens not advised.

The Guest Post: How Helen Docherty wrote The Screen Thief

I know if one of my story ideas has legs when it has its own, very clear internal logic. Like The Snatchabook (my previous best-selling book, which will be reissued in July), The Screen Thief almost wrote itself; in terms of the plot structure, at least. The story came to me complete: a little creature, the Snaffle, arrives in the city hoping to make friends, but finds that everyone is glued to a screen. She ends up devouring every screen in the city before she finds a friend to play with. Along the way, I had various decisions to make: how would the Snaffle develop a taste for screens? What kind of screens (and how many) would she consume? Who was the playmate that she would eventually find, and how would she approach him? What exactly would happen when the angry crowd caught up with her?

And of course, the other challenge was writing the whole story in rhyming verse. It can take time to find the right rhymes, and of course the verses have to adhere to a strict rhythm (scansion) so that the story reads smoothly. The most important thing is to make the rhymes serve the story, and not the other way round. Every line must help to drive the narrative forwards. Although you have to keep the plot moving, it’s also important to make room in a picture book text for the details that bring the story to life. I had fun imagining the various tastes and textures of the different screens the Snaffle devours:

Some screens were salty,

And some screens were sweet.

There were screens you could nibble,

And screens you could munch,

Chewy screens, gooey screens, screens that went CRUNCH!

Like every other picture book text I’ve written, The Screen Thief went through an editorial process; first with my wonderful agent, Felicity, and then with my equally wonderful editor and publisher, Alison Green. Even the most tightly written texts need tweaking here and there, and an impartial eye to help make them the very best they can be. One of the very last changes was to the title, which was originally The Snaffle. The feedback was that it wasn’t working with the cover image, as you couldn’t tell immediately what was happening or what the story was about. In this digital age, covers have to work extra hard to sell the story, as many people will just glance at a thumbnail of the cover before deciding whether or not to buy a book, or to find out more about it. As a title, The Screen Thief delivers a much clearer idea of what to expect, and will hopefully pique people’s interest.

The Screen Thief by Helen Docherty and Thomas Docherty is out now, published by Alison Green Books.

Huge thanks to Helen for the wonderful guest post, and to Alison Green Books for inviting me to take part in The Screen Thief Blog Tour. Do make sure you check out all of eth other stops.

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