Monday, 24 November 2014

Questions, questions, questions

Marlpool's resident Triceratops
Last week, I went to a tiny infant school in Derbyshire called Marlpool Infant School. We had lots of fun reading stories and making up songs about dinosaurs. The school only had two classrooms. One of the rooms was like a dinosaur land. There were dinosaurs everywhere including dinosaur pictures, dinosaur models, even dinosaur lego!  

The Year 2 children gave me a list of questions they had thought of before I arrived and I thought I'd share them with you on here.  As you can see, it's a very long list!

What is your favourite:
colour - blue
food - chocolate for treats, baked potatoes for meals
animal - tigers - they're so beautiful
type of clothes - fleeces, jumpers and thermals because they keep me warm

What sort of dog is Roo?
She is a black labrador. Her actual breed is a working labrador, which means she has long legs and is slim.  Show labradors are the ones with fatter bodies and shorter legs. Roo's pedigree name is Kefalonia Cleo. Isn't that posh?!

Why did you want to be a book writer?
I read loads of books in the library when my daughter was little. Some of them were amazing and I decided I'd like to have a go.  Some of the books weren't very good and I thought I could write something better!

Have you written any books for adults?
Not yet - though I write my children's books with adults in mind because they often read them to children. 

How many books have you read?
Oh my gosh.  I have NO idea.  Hundreds. Thousands maybe. I listen to audio books on my phone while I'm walking, I read teen fiction and adult books too. 

Who drew the pictures for Welcome to Alien School?

Why do you like sitting in cafes?
I like working in cafes because I sometimes get tired of being by myself. Working at home can be a bit lonely when everyone else is out at school or work. I like having people around me when I'm writing, even though I don't really talk to anybody.  It's just nice to feel connected to the world. Also, you can buy nice cakes! Going to a cafe after a long chilly walk is a lovely treat too!

Why do you like making new books?
Sometimes an idea pops into my head and I just HAVE to write it down. Sometimes the ideas nag and nag at me and don't stop pestering until I have turned them into a story.  It's very satisfying to get a story down on paper and even more satisfying when someone draws pictures for it and a publisher turns it into a book.

Why did you have an invisible dog?
When my eldest daughter was about 8, she read a book called The Invisible Dog
by Dick King-Smith. It was about a girl who really wanted a Great Dane. She couldn't have a real one, so she got an invisible one instead. Jess really wanted a dog too, but we had always said no. She must have thought an invisible dog was a great idea. So she got Paddy. An invisible Old English Sheepdog.  He lived with us for two years, until one day, when my daughter was 10, we got Roo. After that Paddy disappeared. We think he went to live with another family.

What do you like to read at home?
I read lots of teen fiction. I also bought last year's Booker Prize shortlisted books and read most of those, just to see what Bigwigs think is a good book.  I liked some of them, but one was really thick and I found it a bit boring so I gave up with it and read something else.

What is your favourite book?
Farmer Duck. Have you read it?
It's got fantastic rhythm, even though it doesn't rhyme. And I love the illustrations too.

Why do you have four hens?
Actually we don't have the hens any more. The didn't lay many eggs and it was horrible having to feed them and clean them out in the rain and wind and mud, so we gave them away to some friends. Luckily we live in the countryside and there are a few farms that sell lovely free-range eggs so we buy them instead,  which is much easier and less muddy.

What books are you writing right now?
I'm writing a series of 4 baby books for Walker Books
I'm writing a series of 3 young fiction books for Nosy Crow
I'm writing a new Albie book for Simon and Schuster
and a new picture book for Nosy Crow.

I was counting up last night and I have 15 books in the process of being written or illustrated!  

Why do you like lying in the grass where nobody can see you?
Don't you?
I think it's fun to hide sometimes. If you lie down in long grass you can watch the clouds scudding by. Where I live there are lots of birds called skylarks that hover way up high in the sky and sing. It's fun lying in the grass and trying to spot them, especially on a warm sunny day.  

Is Welcome to Alien School your favourite book?
Oh gosh. ALL my books are my favourite!

What is your goldfish called?
Good question. I'm not quite sure any more. I think one is called Keo but I can't remember what the other one is called. We've had lots of different goldfish over the years.  Our first two were called Jonathan and Rosie!

How do you write such good books?
Well, I'm glad you think they are good! I suppose I just work very hard to find exactly the right words.  I try to imagine that I am the main character. When I'm deciding what to make them do next, I ask myself, "What would I do if it was me?"  

What other books do you write?
I have written three chapter books, called Foxy Tales and am writing three more for a different publisher. They are aimed at 6-8 year olds, so you might like them. They are pretty funny. Well, I think they are! I also like writing poems.

Why do you write stories?
Because it's more fun than having a proper job.

Who do you play hide and seek with?
I used to play it with my friends when I was little.  Then I played it with my children when they were little.  Now I play it with Roo, my dog!

What makes you such a good author?
I don't know! I try hard, I suppose! 

Why are your daughters cheeky?
They are full of fun and do silly things that make me laugh. Sometimes they are rude and I have to tell them off, which I don't like doing.  They are very good at tricking me into buying them things when I'm in a good mood.

Who do you go walking with?
Mostly I go by myself with Roo. I listen to an audio book on my iphone so that I don't feel too lonely.  Sometimes I go with a friend - usually another mum that I know from school.  At the weekends I go with my husband, Andrew, and sometimes our daughters come with us, but usually they are still asleep in bed! 

How many books have you written?
I have 16 books out and another 15 in production. How many does that make?
I have also written lots of books that might never get published. 

PHEW! What a lot of questions! I hope you haven't been too bored reading my long answers. Do get in touch if you have anything else you want to know. 

Friday, 17 October 2014

Meet six year old Max.  He is a HUGE Albie fan and has all the books.  Max is a very lucky boy because he has loving grandparents who always read to him when he comes to stay.

Max's grandad says, "he loves them all so much. He always has one Albie story and one other when he stays over with us. You make his day every time my wife or I read him one of your stories. Thank you."

Well, Max, you make my day too! Thank you for being such a brilliant Albie fan!

Monday, 30 June 2014

Reviews: The Princess and the Presents

I've just been reading some lovely reviews for The Princess and the Presents, illustrated by Sarah Warburton and published by Nosy Crow.

If you'd like to see what people are saying, check out the reviews here.

"This book is an absolute delight." Story Mama

"An up-to-date cautionary tale with a powerful punch and peachy ending." Red Reading Hub

Find out more

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Foxy Tales - Take a Look Inside!

I've just discovered that you can have a good old nosey inside the second Foxy Tales book on Amazon.  So if you're thinking of getting hold of a copy, have a look here first!  Hopefully you'll think it looks like fun and rush down to your local bookshop for a hot-off-the-press copy.  

And if you don't... well, I'll tell Alphonso!

It's time for the Summer Reading Challenge!

Yes folks, it's nearly time for this year's Summer Reading Challenge to begin!  Yip Yip!

This year's theme is Mythical Maze, illustrated by the hugely talented and ever-so-lovely Sarah MacIntyre!

I'll be launching the Sheffield Challenge soon, so keep an eye out here for where and when you can join the fun.

So what is the Summer Reading Challenge?  It's a scheme run by The Reading Agency in local libraries to help get children reading over the summer holidays.  All you have to do is read six books and you get loads of goodies like stickers and posters and other cool stuff, all FREE!  

There's a brilliant website where you can log your achievements, watch video messages by authors (hopefully soon including me!), and join in book chat.  Go here to create a profile and find out more.

And lots of libraries are running events too, so get down to your local library and sign up for the challenge. Eeek!

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

How to Host a successful Author Visit

Image copyright Sarah McIntyre
Sarah McIntyre, author, illustrator and comic-maker extraordinaire has just published a brilliant blog post which will help schools get the most from their author and illustrator events.

If you are a school or library considering running an event, do have a read.  

And if you've never met Sarah McIntyre, or read any of her books, you SHOULD! She's very VERY good!

Sarah's Top Tips
Visit Sarah McIntrye's Website

FREE The Princess and the Presents Colouring In

If you have read The Princess and the Presents, you'll be astounded by the huge array of wrapping paper designs inside.  

So we thought you might like to have a go at designing your own.  We've given you a head-start with this free colouring sheet, but do have a go at making  your own designs up too - we'd love to see them!

Get colouring!

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Hoo's Kids' Book Fest

I am very VERY excited to be appearing at Hoo Kids' Book Festival on 11 May alongside Alex T. Smith.  We're going to be telling Foxy Tales and Alex will be drawing pictures of Foxy and Alphonso.  We'll be performing at 2.45 in The Marvellous Marquee so be sure to get your tickets soon!

In celebration of this exciting event, some very special friends of mine have written a lovely blog post - all about ME!  If you'd like to read it, please follow the link below.

Take me to the ChildLed Chaos Blog

You can find out more about the Hoo Kids' Book Festival here

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

NEW Whiffy Wilson out Soon

My long-awaited second Whiffy Wilson book is out in July!  It's called Whiffy Wilson, The Wolf Who Wouldn't Go to School.  Gosh he IS a silly thing.  Fancy not wanting to go to school. Think of all the fun things he's missing.

Luckily Dotty is on hand to sort him out and Wilson Wolf soon learns what school is all about.  Once again, Leonie Lord has brought this book to life with a host of gorgeous, sweet and funny illustrations that hopefully you will love as much as I do.

 "The rhyming text is hilarious, making this a wonderful cautionary tale." BOOKTRUST

 Here's some sneaky peeks!

Whiffy Wilson, The Wolf Who Wouldn't go to School is published by Orchard. 

The book is dedicated to the children of Meridian Primary School in Peacehaven thanks to a generous donation by Rhino Reads to the Authors for the Philippines Appeal.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Book Week at Pathways Academy, Sheffield

See what one Sheffield school has been up to for this year's Book Week.  Pathways Academy has actually had TWO weeks focusing on books, and using them to inspire learning across the whole curriculum.  They have published these brilliant class blogs, so click on the links below and go and have a look.  You might even see me!

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Where WILL that rat go next?

Meet Liam.

He's a Year 2 pupil in a Sheffield school I visited recently.  After listening to Catch That Rat, Liam and his classmates thought about what might happen if Pinky the rat kept on running.  Where would she end up? 

Liam's teacher was so impressed with his work that she searched the school to find me!  He has written some FABULOUS descriptions that conjour up a wonderful picture of a little white rat enjoying the seaside.  Here are some of Liam's words:

She ran to the beach with hot sand and the salty sea.
The rat sees the tingling rock pool, the dangerous waves and hard rock. She heres the waves smashing the sand in rage and cheering and squeeling people. 

Well done Liam and all the Year 2s!

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

A Book Sniffing Pug Reviews Foxy Tales - The Cunning Plan

With her stubby little paws, The Book Sniffer, aka Emma O'Donovan, reviews the best picture books the world has to offer.  It's a FANTABULOUS book blog so you absolutely MUST go and have a look right now.

And while you're there, see what she has to say about Foxy Tales - The Cunning Plan.

Check it out now!

Foxy Blogging for Library Mice

Want to know a bit more about Foxy Tales?  
Of course you do!

I wrote a little blogette for Library Mice which has just been published.  Library Mice is THE most wonderful book blog run by Melanie McGilloway.  During the day she's a school librarian, but during the evening she is even busier running a children's book group,  wrinting gazillions of book reviews and helping to organise the Red House Children's Book Awards on behalf of the Federation of Children's Book Groups.  She is also a mum and wife and tireless children's book enthusiast. So if you love children's books, check out Library Mice!

You can read my guest blog here

Read her review of Foxy Tales, The Cunning Plan here - and get a peek inside the book too!

Nettleham School Book Week

Last year, I spent around 20 days in schools, working with children aged 3 to 10.  The feedback I get from teachers, parents and children always gives me a boost. 

This time of year is the busiest for school visits - many schools run a Book Week in March or April in celebration of World Book Day, with children dressing up and generally spending lots of happy hours doing all manner of activities designed to get them super-excited about reading and writing.

So yesterday, I was in Nettleham Infant School in Lincolnshire, and happened to glance over a teacher's shoulder in the staff room.  She was putting the finishing touches to a comic the children had made all about my visit!   I was so impressed I simply had to show you.  So here it is!

If you would like me to visit your school, please do get in touch.  You can contact me here

Nettleham School used an iPad app called Comic Life to create this wonderful record of their day.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Imagine Festival 2014

As part of this year's World Book Day celebrations, Alex T. Smith and I did an event on 22 February at the Imagine Children's Festival at the South Bank Centre.  

As you may know, Alex was selected as this year's World Book Day official illustrator, which means he's been in HUUUUGE demand!  And rightly so.  His work is amazing and I'm still pinching myself that I am lucky enough to be working with him. 

Image by Charlotte Hacking
So we spent some time with a group of very enthusiastic children in a rather large and echoy room as part of the celebrations.  Alex told them all about his cheeky dogs and drew them, then taught everyone how to draw Claude, star of the hugely successful young fiction series.

We then did a bit of a double-act talking about Foxy Tales.  Alex drew Foxy and Alphonso while I read a some bits of the story.  I *think* the children enjoyed themselves.  I certainly did!

With huge thanks to the Southbank Centre for having us, and to Hodder Children's Books for putting us up in such style!

Books are for Everyone!

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Carmen and Kerry Haselup at the Inclusion event at the South Bank's Imagine Children's Festival.  Carmen runs the Rhino Reads book blog, which celebrates the best in children's picture books. She has also set up four free libraries in needy schools under the Rainbow Libraries scheme.

Carmen and Kerry are champions for inclusiveness in children's literature.  This means that they campaign for books to represent children from all sectors of society.  It is something that I have become increasingly aware of as my own books have been published. 

A couple of years ago, when I was working on Plunge into the Pirate Pool, I realised that all our characters were white, and that many of them were male.  It reminded me of when I was a child, when all the characters I admired were male.  All my cuddly toys were male.  I was a tom-boy.  I genuinely believed that boys were better than girls!  It seems ridiculous to say it, but it's true! 

So when I looked again at my own books, something just didn't feel right. So I made a point of asking Ed Eaves, illustrator of the Albie series, to include a female pirate amongst the crew.  We also made sure our characters had a variety of skin colours.  It was not a big thing.  Just our way of being a bit, well, fairer, somehow.

Well it turns out that, actually, it IS a big thing.  And in her recent blog, Carmen explains why.

Read what she has to say here:

Inclusion in How to Catch a Dragon

Monday, 3 February 2014

Foxy Tales hits Imagine Children's Festival, South Bank

This year's Imagine Children's Festival at the South Bank is going to be great fun! There's loads of amazing children's authors and illustrators to go and see, including this year's World Book Day illustrator Alex T. Smith and ME!
We'll be reading and drawing and telling you all about our brand new fiction series, Foxy Tales.

The festival runs from Monday 10 February to Sunday 23 February, and features lots of your favourite artists including David Melling (Hugless Douglas), Malorie Blackman (Noughts and Crosses), Sarah MacIntyre (Oliver and the Seawigs), Francesca Simon (Horrid Henry) Chloe Inkpen (Zoe & Beans) Jacqueline Wilson, Polly Dunbar, Steven Lenton, Clara Vulliamy, Holly Smale, Philip Ardagh and .... goodness... so many more!!

For the full list of what's on, check out the South Bank website

Alex and I will be performing at 10.30 on Saturday 22 February.  Book your tickets now and don't forget to bring a child, or two!

Friday, 24 January 2014

Albie Down Under

Olivia from Sydney, Australia says:

"My son, who is four, is an absolute Albie fan we have all the other Albie books and he can never wait for the next installment leaving the last page to always continue the imagination.

We often go shopping the Supermarket Zoo way, coming up with animals for our shopping item. We read your books over and over. They are treasured as well as the time spent. Thank you.

So lovely! I feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Meet Little Albie.  Isn't he a cutie!  

Believe it or not, he's actually named after MY Albie, star of Supermarket Zoo, How to Grow a Dinosaur and other picture book adventures!

His mum Kim, told me, "Your Albie books helped my husband calm my two [other] children while I was in labour."

I am humbled and honoured that something I have written is so treasured - and seemingly quite useful too!

Keep your Albie stories coming in and I'll publish them here!