Archive for February, 2015

Philip Pullman talks to Nicolette Jones

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

28 March at the Oxford Literary Festival

 

A very special event with Philip Pullman to mark the 20th anniversary of the publication of His Dark Materials, widely recognised as one of the finest children’s books of the current age and voted the UK’s third most beloved work of fiction of all time.

 

His Dark Materials won Pullman comparisons with Tolkien and C S Lewis, but he took its title from Milton’s Paradise Lost and the trilogy is a reworking of the story of the Garden of Eden and the Fall of Man. It shares all the scope and grandeur of that story yet takes us far beyond. In this the only public event to mark the anniversary, Pullman talks to The Sunday Times children’s books editor Nicolette Jones about the multi-award-winning trilogy and his life as a writer.

 

Oxford is where his story of Lyra and her daemon Pantalaimon begins and, with discussion, readings and clips from the Hollywood movie The Golden Compass to set the scene, this will be an unmissable event. Pullman is author of the multi-award-winning His Dark Materials trilogy, the first volume of which was turned into the Hollywood movie, The Golden Compass, starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig. He is a winner of the Carnegie Medal, Guardian Children’s Book Award and Whitbread Book of the Year, and has published nearly 20 books. Pullman has written mostly for children, and his other work includes a series featuring Victorian adventurer Sally Lockhart that opens with Ruby in the Smoke. He holds the Honorary Fellowship of the Oxford Literary Festival. This event is held in association with The Story Museum. Age 11-adult

Author Talk: Tony Bradman on Anzac Boys @tbradman

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

Tales my mother told me

My mother was always a good storyteller. I grew up listening to her tales of all the great historical events she and her parents and brothers and sisters had lived through. She was born in 1925, and she’d certainly seen some interesting times – not least the great depression of the 1930s and the second world war. So I heard about poverty, and the Blitz, and what it had been like to be a teenage girl in a London full of GIs.

Over the years the stories grew more and more polished with the telling, and when I look back I realise now she never let the actual facts stand in the way of drama. Several of her best stories were second-hand too, narratives she’d inherited from her father. My grandfather had died before I was born so I had never met him, but he came to life again in those stories – they certainly caught my young imagination.

Their background was simple, but tragic. According to my mum, her father was orphaned when he was quite young and sent off to Australia with his younger brother. But they were separated on arrival, my grandfather staying in Australia while his brother was sent on to New Zealand. My grandfather grew up in Australia, but when war broke out in 1914 he joined the Australian army and fought at Gallipoli, and probably in France too. He must have spent some time back in Blighty, for that’s where he met and married my grandmother, deciding not to return to Australia.

Most of my mum’s stories about him focused on Gallipoli, and the fact that he had nightmares about the campaign for years afterwards. I’m pretty sure now that those tales, and her stories of what happened in the second world war stimulated my interest in history – it was always one of my favourite subjects in school. But one thing she told me stuck in my mind, and made me think about the ways in which history affects individual people and families. For she told me that my grandfather’s brother – my great-uncle – joined the New Zealand army in 1914, and the brothers met for the first time in twelve years in the trenches of the Gallipoli peninsula. I have a feeling that she might have made that bit up then convinced herself it was true, but I didn’t really care. It was something that felt as if it should be true anyway.

Fast forward more than forty years, and the boy who listened to those stories is now a writer of children’s books who has been slowly drawn into writing historical fiction. I’d often thought about that story, and with the centenary of the Gallipoli campaign looming (in April 2015), I knew it was the right time. Over the years I’d read a lot about the first world war, and knew that the Gallipoli campaign had been a terrible experience for all the men involved – the Aussies and Kiwis of the ANZAC brigades, the British and French soldiers, the Turkish soldiers too. I’d also found out that hundreds of thousands of orphans and children in care had been packed off to Australia, New Zealand and other parts of the Empire – and that they’d been lied to and abused as well. So I knew I really did have a great human story to tell.

I was also very lucky that Barrington Stoke decided to publish Anzac Boys, as it came to be called. I’ve written a lot of books for Barrington Stoke, and they’re always great to work with – but they excelled themselves with Anzac Boys. My editor Emma Baker gave me some terrific advice on how to tell the story, and the finished product looks wonderful, with marvellous illustrations by Ollie Cuthbertson. It really was a very moving moment when I first saw a finished copy of the book – for a brief moment I felt like that boy listening to his mother’s stories again. The only sad thing is that my mum won’t be able to appreciate it – she’s 89, but has dementia.

Anzac Boys is certainly in good company on the Barrtington Stoke list – there have been a lot of first world war books to commemorate the centenary, but Barrington Stoke’s other titles on the subject certainly stand out for me. I love Linda Newbery’s Vera-Brittain-influenced tale of a young volunteer nurse and the officer she loves, Tillys Promise. Tom Palmer’s gripping Over the Line manages to combine football and the war in a tale based on a true story. And Catherine MacPhail’s Stars Shall Be Bright builds a haunting fairy tale out of another true story, a train crash in the first world war in which the bodies of three unidentified children were found.

One phrase that keeps coming back to me as I read these stories about the first world war is something the great war poet Wilfred Owen said about his own work – ‘The poetry is in the pity’. My mother gave me a great gift – a combination of truth and storytelling that enabled me to see how true those words of Owen’s are. I hope I’ve managed to convey at least some of that in Anzac Boys – and that if they could have read the book, she and her dad would have liked what I’ve done.

 

Tony Bradman, 20.2.2015

Cardiff Children’s Literature Festival March 24 – 29 2015

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

Turn the page on Chapter Three of the Cardiff Children’s Literature Festival and you’ll enter a magical world of pooping dinosaurs, crime-solving detectives, wimpy kids, giant pants, pirates and princesses.

From March 24 – 29 the city will be filled with characters from the pages of books by some of the best local and national contemporary authors and illustrators. Over 50 exciting events are taking place across the city to inspire book lovers from toddlers to teens and this year there is even a special selection of events for adults as well. Emma Dodd, illustrator of the New York Times Number 1 title ‘I Love My Daddy’ and award winning ‘I Love My Mummy’ is encouraging kids to bring their grannies along to her interactive storytelling and craft event as she launches ‘I Love My Granny’ the next instalment in the internationally bestselling ‘I Love You’ series. ‘Horrible Histories’ illustrator Martin Brown will return to the festival with an action-packed show full of jokes, drawing and fantastic facts from the Savage Stone Age to the Terrifying Twentieth Century.

 

Lydia Monks, Heather Dyer, Petr Horáček, Mererid Hopwood, Jonathan Meres, Shoo Rayner, and Eurig Salisbury will also be at the festival to bring their tales of moon eating mice, golden arms, flying bedrooms and baby dragons to life.

Cabinet Member for Community Development, Co-operatives and Social Enterprise, Councillor Peter Bradbury, said: “With workshops on creative writing, live drawing events, storytelling sessions and shows the Cardiff Children’s Literature Festival has captured the imagination of both children and adults. With the support of our partner organisations and a stellar line up of authors and illustrators the 2015 festival is a great way to nurture a love of books from an early age.”

 

Literature Wales Chief Executive Lleucu Siencyn said: “It is a pleasure to be working with the City of Cardiff Council, Cardiff University and Amgueddfa Cymru on the third instalment of the Cardiff Children’s Literature Festival which will once again transform the capital city into a world of stories and imagination. The 2015 festival will be even more special as this year marks the centenary of T Llew Jones, one of Wales’ most iconic children’s authors. Through author events, workshops and an outreach programme which will see a troupe of authors working with local school children we look forward to inspiring the next generation of young poets and authors.”

 

Tickets and the full programme of events are now available at

www.cardiffchildrenslitfest.com or visit www.facebook.com/CDFKidsLitFest/,

www.facebook.com/gwylllenplantcaerdydd or follow

@CDFKidsLitFest or @GwylLlenPlant on Twitter for more information

DAUNT BOOKS FESTIVAL, 19 -20 March, Marylebone High Street, London

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

Following the success of last year’s inaugural festival, the Daunt Books Festival returns on Thursday 19th and Friday 20th March 2015. The festival is two days of celebration and inspiration for writers and readers, illustrating their belief that a bookshop is not just a place to buy books, but a means of creating a community – a unique space for booklovers to come together.  

Daunt Books Festival is delighted to be offering FREE after-school events for children and teenagers, starring Michael Rosen and Robert Muchamore. Michael will talk to our own Julia Eccleshare about his fondness for Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kastner along with The Wicked Tricks of Till Owlyglass, his own retelling of one of his favourite German children’s books. Robert (author of the Cherub series) talks to Philip Womack in the festival’s first young adult event. His latest book Rock War is the first of an exciting new quartet of books about three teenagers seeking success in the music world.

“A splendid venture by one of the finest bookshops in the country.” Colin Thubron  

Tickets are free but booking is essential at Daunt Books, 83 Marylebone High Street, London W1U 4QW, by phoning 020 7224 2295 or at www.dauntbooks.co.uk

Top 3 books, by age range, on Lovereading4kids 15 -22 February 2015

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

Books for Babies and Toddlers

1
The Bus is for Us The Bus is for Us
Michael Rosen
Former Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen will delight all readers with this hugely enjoyable and easy to chant rhyming picture book. Riding a bike, going far in a car or, when it starts to rain going in the train are all …
Download free opening extract
2
So Cosy So Cosy
Lerryn Korda
A heart-warming snuggling-up story! Dog looks so cosy in his bed that first Goose and then many other animals including Elephant decide that they would like to snuggle up too! The pile of cosy bodies gets bigger and bigger and …
Download free opening extract
3
My Mummy My Mummy
Paula Metcalf
From happy morning sing-a-longs with the birds, to storytime and lullabies at bedtime, Little Bear describes some of the fun things he does with his mummy. A jolly rhyming text and some quirky details (mummy’s invented recipes include peas on …
Download free opening extract
1

The Sky Is EverywhereThe Sky Is Everywhere
Jandy Nelson
This is a debut novel that once read will never be forgotten.  It’s a vibrant, deeply romantic novel that will bring tears to your eyes but it will also bring laughter through the tears!  It’s also funny, sexy and deeply meaningful.  …
Download free opening extract

2

Love HurtsLove Hurts
Malorie Blackman
February 2015 Short Story Collection of the Month   Malorie Blackman has compiled a collection of short stories from some of the best young adult authors writing today.  For anyone who has ever loved and lost – and loved again – …
Download free opening extract

3

The Sin Eater's DaughterThe Sin Eater’s Daughter
Melinda Salisbury
February 2015 Debut of the Month   Like the very best fantasy, The Sin Eater’s Daughter creates a world that is both totally strange, and completely familiar. Twylla has been brought to the court of Lormere as the human embodiment of …
Download free opening extract

Featured Books for 3+ readers

1
Remarkable Animals Remarkable Animals
Tony Meeuwissen
February 2015 Book of the Month
Beautiful illustrations make this witty book of  ‘heads, bodies and legs’ a delight. What starts as a Platypus can be swiftly altered into a ‘Tratypus’ or a ‘Tratysh’ while a regular Opossum with its …
Download free opening extract
2
Doctor Molly's Medicine Case Doctor Molly’s Medicine Case
Miriam Moss
Molly loves dressing up – especially as a doctor! She has a white coat and a doctor’s hat and, most importantly, she has a very special magical medicine bag! Whenever Molly opens her bag she finds exactly the medicine she …
Download free opening extract
3
Fairy Tales Gone Wrong: Eat Your Greens, Goldilocks A Story About Eating Healthily Fairy Tales Gone Wrong: Eat Your Greens, Goldilocks A Story About Eating Healthily
Steve Smallman
A quirky take on the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Humorous writing provides a gentle approach to teaching healthy habits in this fun new series. With lively illustrations complementing each story and talking points to encourage further discussion. …
Download free opening extract

Featured Books for 5+ readers

1
Squishy McFluff: Meets Mad Nana Dot Squishy McFluff: Meets Mad Nana Dot
Pip Jones
February 2015 Book of the Month
A mischievous story featuring Ava and her imaginary cat Squishy – this is the fourth in the Squisky McFluff series. Told in full colour throughout, this is the perfect stepping stone from picture books to …
Download free opening extract
2
The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig
Eugene Trivizas
This much-loved picture book puts a comic and clever twist on the familiar fairytale. Three polite young wolves set off to make their way in the world and build themselves a charming little house in the country. But their rural …
Download free opening extract
3
The Girl with the Parrot on Her Head The Girl with the Parrot on Her Head
Daisy Hirst
February 2015 Debut of the Month   Inventive and witty, this is a story that is full of ideas and imagining rather than neatly tying up loose ends. Told more through the pictures than the words, the story of Isabel’s happiness …
Download free opening extract

Featured Books for 7+ readers

1
13-Storey Treehouse 13-Storey Treehouse
Andy Griffiths
Best-selling Australian author/ illustrator Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton have created a fantastical treehouse which will tickle the imagination of all readers. It’s a house with everything – and if there is something it lacks, it can easily be created! …
Download free opening extract
2
Street Corner Dad Street Corner Dad
Alan Gibbons
Interest Age 7-12  Reading Age 7  Set in Liverpool during World War II, Alan Gibbon’s novel is a compelling drama. It packs a real emotional punch despite its short extent, which is Barrington Stoke style, part of their method of …
Download free opening extract
3
The Shark-Headed Bear-Thing The Shark-Headed Bear-Thing
Barry Hutchison
Hideous monsters, an ill-assorted band of comrades, life-or-death situations, and the odd magic item – who doesn’t love a quest story? Benjamin Blank and his friends Paradise Little and Wesley Chant are off to battle the Shark-Headed Bear-Thing terrorising their …
Download free opening extract

Featured Books for 9+ readers

1
Would the Real Stanley Carrot Please Stand Up? Would the Real Stanley Carrot Please Stand Up?
Rob Stevens
February 2015 Book of the Month  A touching and funny story about thirteen year old Stanley wrestling with his insecurities and his place in his family. Stanley is adopted and, although he knows his parents love him very much, he …
Download free opening extract
2
Haunters Haunters
Thomas Taylor
The dead and the living exist side by side in this thrilling time-travelling adventure. In David’s recurrent dream, Eddie seems real and it seems like he’s got something to tell David. That’s scary enough but then David gets picked up …
Download free opening extract
3
The Dreamsnatcher The Dreamsnatcher
Abi Elphinstone
Abi Elphinstone’s debut novel plunges the reader into a world of magic and adventure. Twelve-year-old Moll lives in a gypsy camp in the Ancientwood.  She has no parents but the gypsies’ extended family take care of her. There’s something special …
Download free opening extract

Featured Books for 11+ readers

1
The Bell Between Worlds The Bell Between Worlds
Ian Johnstone
Debut-author Ian Johnstone offers his readers an enormous and richly created world to explore in this elaborately constructed fantasy. Sylas Tate steps into the unusual Shop of Things and, through his remarkable powers of imagination and his ability to do …
Download free opening extract
2
All That Glitters All That Glitters
Holly Smale
Welcome back Harriet Manners, self-confessed geek and the only supermodel in the world who repeats the entire periodic table when stressed. For those not in the know, this is the fourth book about Harriet, who now has a huge following …
Download free opening extract
3
The Honest Truth The Honest Truth
Dan Gemeinhart
A beautifully written coming-of-age novel from debut author Dan Gemeinhart about a young boy who, despite his illness, is determined to go on one last adventure with his dog Beau. Mark has been in and out of hospital his whole …
Download free opening extract

Featured Books for 13+ readers

1
The Boy with the Tiger's Heart The Boy with the Tiger’s Heart
Linda Coggin
One of our Books of the Year 2014 Can three children and a bear keep themselves free from the authorities who are determined to track them down? When Thomas Bailey takes his own life and sets his wild animals free …
Download free opening extract
2
The Devil's Angel The Devil’s Angel
Kevin Brooks
February 2015 Book of the Month – Interest Age Teen  Reading Age 8   Award-winning Kevin Brooks tells a gripping and thoughtful story about the irresistible appeal of a dangerous friendship. Jack is cruising along in year 10; not part of …
Download free opening extract
3
Seven Days Seven Days
Eve Ainsworth
February 2015 Debut of the Month  Life at home is horrible for Jess since her father left. There’s very little money and her mum struggles just to keep the family going. But she has even worse problems at school where …
Download free opening extract

Top 3 books, by age range, on Lovereading4kids 11-18 February 2015

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

Books for Babies and Toddlers

1
The Bus is for Us The Bus is for Us
Michael Rosen
Former Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen will delight all readers with this hugely enjoyable and easy to chant rhyming picture book. Riding a bike, going far in a car or, when it starts to rain going in the train are all …
Download free opening extract
2
So Cosy So Cosy
Lerryn Korda
A heart-warming snuggling-up story! Dog looks so cosy in his bed that first Goose and then many other animals including Elephant decide that they would like to snuggle up too! The pile of cosy bodies gets bigger and bigger and …
Download free opening extract
3
Snow Snow
Walter de la Mare
This classic poem has been beautifully illustrated to make a wonderfully evocative seasonal picture book. From its opening lines- “No breath of wind,/ No gleam of sun -/ Still the white snow/ Whirls softly down-“ – Walter de la Mare’s …
Download free opening extract

Featured Books for 3+ readers

1
Remarkable Animals Remarkable Animals
Tony Meeuwissen
February 2015 Book of the Month   Beautiful illustrations make this witty book of  ‘heads, bodies and legs’ a delight. What starts as a Platypus can be swiftly altered into a ‘Tratypus’ or a ‘Tratysh’ while a regular Opossum with …
Download free opening extract
2
Doctor Molly's Medicine Case Doctor Molly’s Medicine Case
Miriam Moss
Molly loves dressing up – especially as a doctor! She has a white coat and a doctor’s hat and, most importantly, she has a very special magical medicine bag! Whenever Molly opens her bag she finds exactly the medicine she …
Download free opening extract
3
Chicken Clicking Chicken Clicking
Jeanne Willis
One of our Books of the Year 2014   Award-winning Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross go to the heart of a modern predicament in this cautionary tale about a young chick who hops into the farmer’s house and starts exploring the …
Download free opening extract

Featured Books for 5+ readers

1
Squishy McFluff: Meets Mad Nana Dot Squishy McFluff: Meets Mad Nana Dot
Pip Jones
February 2015 Book of the Month
A mischievous story featuring Ava and her imaginary cat Squishy – this is the fourth in the Squisky McFluff series. Told in full colour throughout, this is the perfect stepping stone from picture books to …
Download free opening extract
2
The Girl with the Parrot on Her Head The Girl with the Parrot on Her Head
Daisy Hirst
February 2015 Debut of the Month   Inventive and witty, this is a story that is full of ideas and imagining rather than neatly tying up loose ends. Told more through the pictures than the words, the story of Isabel’s happiness …
Download free opening extract
3
Imagination According to Humphrey Imagination According to Humphrey
Betty G. Birney
Children’s favourite Humphrey the hamster is back for another adventure, his twelfth no less. The good news is that he’s just as delightful as ever, his school-hamster-eye view of the world just as funny and generous. Humphrey gets to listen …
Download free opening extract

Featured Books for 7+ readers

1
The Shark-Headed Bear-Thing The Shark-Headed Bear-Thing
Barry Hutchison
Hideous monsters, an ill-assorted band of comrades, life-or-death situations, and the odd magic item – who doesn’t love a quest story? Benjamin Blank and his friends Paradise Little and Wesley Chant are off to battle the Shark-Headed Bear-Thing terrorising their …
Download free opening extract
2
Street Corner Dad Street Corner Dad
Alan Gibbons
Interest Age 7-12  Reading Age 7  Set in Liverpool during World War II, Alan Gibbon’s novel is a compelling drama. It packs a real emotional punch despite its short extent, which is Barrington Stoke style, part of their method of …
Download free opening extract
3
13-Storey Treehouse 13-Storey Treehouse
Andy Griffiths
Best-selling Australian author/ illustrator Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton have created a fantastical treehouse which will tickle the imagination of all readers. It’s a house with everything – and if there is something it lacks, it can easily be created! …
Download free opening extract

Featured Books for 9+ readers

1
Would the Real Stanley Carrot Please Stand Up? Would the Real Stanley Carrot Please Stand Up?
Rob Stevens
February 2015 Book of the Month  A touching and funny story about thirteen year old Stanley wrestling with his insecurities and his place in his family. Stanley is adopted and, although he knows his parents love him very much, he …
Download free opening extract
2
Haunters Haunters
Thomas Taylor
The dead and the living exist side by side in this thrilling time-travelling adventure. In David’s recurrent dream, Eddie seems real and it seems like he’s got something to tell David. That’s scary enough but then David gets picked up …
Download free opening extract
3
The Butterfly Club The Butterfly Club
Jacqueline Wilson
February 2015 Book of the Month Best-selling Jacqueline Wilson unfolds a compelling new story about the importance of both family and friends. Tina is the youngest and the smallest of the triplets. She was so little when she was a …
Download free opening extract

Featured Books for 11+ readers

1
The Bell Between Worlds The Bell Between Worlds
Ian Johnstone
Debut-author Ian Johnstone offers his readers an enormous and richly created world to explore in this elaborately constructed fantasy. Sylas Tate steps into the unusual Shop of Things and, through his remarkable powers of imagination and his ability to do …
Download free opening extract
2
The Boy with the Tiger's Heart The Boy with the Tiger’s Heart
Linda Coggin
One of our Books of the Year 2014 Can three children and a bear keep themselves free from the authorities who are determined to track them down? When Thomas Bailey takes his own life and sets his wild animals free …
Download free opening extract
3
The Devil's Angel The Devil’s Angel
Kevin Brooks
February 2015 Book of the Month – Interest Age Teen  Reading Age 8   Award-winning Kevin Brooks tells a gripping and thoughtful story about the irresistible appeal of a dangerous friendship. Jack is cruising along in year 10; not part of …
Download free opening extract

Featured Books for 14+ readers

1
Seven Days Seven Days
Eve Ainsworth
February 2015 Debut of the Month  Life at home is horrible for Jess since her father left. There’s very little money and her mum struggles just to keep the family going. But she has even worse problems at school where …
Download free opening extract
2
The Earth is Singing The Earth is Singing
Vanessa Curtis
February 2015 Book of the Month  Of the many stories of the Holocaust, that of the Jews of Riga in Latvia is among the less well known. This book tells their story for young people, clearly and honestly, emphasising its …
Download free opening extract
3
I Was Here I Was Here
Gayle Forman
February 2015 Book of the Month  Best-selling Gayle Forman’s I Was Here explores the complicated repercussions of suicide on all those who are left behind. Cody and Meg have been best friends forever. Surely they have no secrets between them?  …
Download free opening extract

Alex Rider new covers for 15th birthday re release

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

Hard to imagine that it’s 15 years since Alex Rider first burst into action on fast-flipped pages of adventure and danger. Still incredibly relevant for boys and girls today we think it’s time to introduce him to a whole new generation of wannabe secret agents. This beloved series has re-defined the spy genre and has been pivotal in getting a generation of boys and not forgetting girls reading for pleasure. Tell your tweens and early teens, the new look Alex Rider editions will be out in April but be one of the the first to see the covers, revealed 17 February for the first time at a big event in London! We can’t wait!

Let us know what you think with the hashtag #AlexRider and follow the author @AnthonyHorowitz or the publisher @WalkerBooksUK to find out more.

 

JOANNA NADIN ABOUT WRITING

Thursday, February 12th, 2015

Read more about the Author Joanna Nadin.

How did you start writing?
I started writing books because I had ridiculously long summer holidays (several months it seemed) and I’m not really a sunbathing/beach kind of person so I stayed indoors and wrote stuff instead.

Why do you write?

Because I love it. Because I have to. It’s like asking Wayne Rooney why he plays football. Not that I’m Wayne. I hope not, anyway.

When and where do you write?
I write most days, from nine in the morning, until about three, in my office, which looks out over the roofs of Bath and the hills behind. So actually I so spend too much time staring at the view.

What do you do when you’re stuck for an idea?
I look at the view, and if that doesn’t work, I watch old films, and TV box sets, and read other books. Or sometimes I just eat cake.

What are your top writing tips?
Keep a diary, because it helps you to get into the habit of writing every day.

And finally, tell us something we didn’t know about you:
I can sing the books of the Bible off by heart.

What words do you live by?
Never underestimate the comedy value of a monkey.

Joanna Nadin talks about her new series for younger readers.  The series begins with Spies, Dad, Big Lauren and me.

What made you want to write the book?
It started with the name. I heard the name Billy Grimshaw on Coronation Street – he was a baby that sadly died. But I wanted to write a book about what he’d have been like if he’d have grown up.

Is it based on your own experience?
In a small sense, as I have gone through a marriage break-up, as Billy’s mum does. And Billy’s little brother does bear a striking resemblance to my own irritating one.

Tell us about the main character(s). Are they like you?
Billy is a boy who has always known he was different. His best friend is a girl, and he has some problems dealing with anxiety too, which show up in the way he has to count his glow stars, and do exercise to get rid of all the adrenalin. He’s also a boy with a vivid imagination, who confuses fiction and real life. And, without revealing too much, I’d say, yes, Billy is very much like me.

Who is your favourite character in the book?
Billy, of course. Though I do have a soft spot for Nan and Dolly the cat.

What is your favourite moment in the book? (Don’t give too much away!)
When Big Lauren gives Billy’s mum a makeover. That’s all I’m saying.

Joanna Nadin also writes for teen readers.  Here she talks about her series featuring Rachel Riley

1.    What inspired you to write the series?
I started out trying to write a deep and meaningful book about bullying and how torturous it is being a teenager, especially one who is forced to wear M&S clothes to discos. But every time I started to type, I kept hearing the voice of Adrian Mole in my head, and remembered that what I thought was torturous at the time is actually quite funny. Also, it is quite hard to write about Jacqueline Wilsonesque things when you have been brought up in a nice middle-class 1970s estate in a non-broken home and your parents are not drug addicts or transvestites.

So I shamelessly wrote about my own childhood, friends and enemies, and about how tragically dull it is growing up in a market town in Essex when all we wanted to do was live in London and wear black and snog Sting and George Michael (oh how innocent we were in the 80s).

The family is loosely based on my own. Though I stress the word loosely. My mother is not that manic (quite) although my brother is that pedantic. Also my Cornish relatives do not live on Fray Bentos (though my Grandma Nadin, rest her soul, did, along with Viennetta, out-of-date twiglets and Supermousse). The Kylies are entirely fictional, though certain “hard” girls may recognise aspects of themselves, notably the badges for sexual favours. The dog is also fictional, as my mother would not let us have one on grounds of poo and moulting.

2.    Describe it in two lines?

Tragically normal teenager tries to make life less Enid Blyton and more Julie Burchill and in process gets vomiting dog, loses best friend and has uncle called Jesus.

3.    How long did it take you to write?
About three years of pondering then five months of actual writing, whenever I could squeeze a few hours when I wasn’t playing with lego or writing speeches on the shipping industry.

4.    What do you think people will say about this book?
I hope they will say – I know just how she feels! I suspect they will say – thank God I am not that utterly dull and do not have a friend called Thin Kylie.

5.    Did you have an exciting childhood or did you, like Rachel, find yourself bored with normality?
At the time I think I thought it was exciting. Until the age of about 14 or 15 when I discovered John Peel on Radio 1 and realised there was life beyond riding ponies and playing ‘kick can’ and non-stop cricket on our street. That’s when I started wearing black and pretending to be tragic and depressed. I wasn’t but it was compulsory to look very annoyed with life if you wanted to be different in Saffron Walden.

6.    Did you keep a diary? Do you still?
I did. It makes for excruciating reading. And, weirdly, not dissimilar to Rachel’s diary. Here is an extract:

26 October 1985
Have got off with Guy.

7 November 1985
I really like Guy.

8 November 1985
Have decided to chuck Guy. Karen is going to tell him for me at work tomorrow.

9 November 1985
Guy came into Woolworth’s. I told him he had to go and see Karen but Karen and Little Nich chickened out so I had to ask Big Nic who had to ask Alice. She phoned him up when I was babysitting. I totally would have done it myself but the Deans had moved their portable phone.

I don’t keep a diary anymore. Writing Rachel’s is therapy enough!

7.    If you could sneak a peek at anyone’s diary, whose would it be?
Anyone’s as long as I didn’t know them. Sneaking a peek at diaries of friends or boyfriends is always a huge mistake. You will only find out things you don’t want to.

8.    Rachel can be quite naïve. Can you remember any instances of embarrassing naiveté from your own teenage years?
I think my teenage years were an endless succession of embarrassingly naïve incidents. The Karl Marx / Marx Brothers mix-up actually happened. But not until I was 16. Which is utterly shameful.

9.    Did you always dream of being a writer or did it happen by accident?
Accident really. What I dreamt of was winning the Grand National or being Babe in Dirty Dancing. But what I was better at (not owning a pony or having any dancing skills) was writing. I have written everything from radio news bulletins to TV scripts for puppet worms to John Prescott’s agony column, and I still write speeches for Ministers. It is much easier than writing for teenagers.

10.    What kind of books were you reading at Rachel’s age?
Judy Blume. We used to read them out loud on the school field together and they provided essential snogging advice. But that was about the limit to teen fiction then so we quickly progressed to Jackie Collins and Danielle Steele.

11.    You’ve worked with the prime minister. Was it very exciting?

Absolutely. While typing scripts all day in a sort of cellar underneath Alastair’s office was not entirely glamorous, it is always exciting working to deadlines, as part of the news cycle, whether as a journalist or for the people who are making the news. And walking up to the front door of No 10 every day never lost its appeal. It was a huge privilege to work in such an amazing building and to meet some of the people I did.

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Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

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Create Remarkable Animals with a stunning book

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

Have you ever heard of an animal called a ‘Rubeevillar’ or a ‘Batyfsh’… neither had we until we got this book in the post last week and loved it so much we had to tell you about it. It’s called Remarkable Animals by Tony Meeuwissen (5+). The concept is simple, chop real animals into 3 pieces and create up to 1,000 new combinations. As you can see from the photo our young reviewer Ben loved it as well. Find out more.


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