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Spring News

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Was December really the last time I posted? Gosh. I’m a bit bad at regular updates, aren’t I?  I’ve been crazy busy, you see, writing another book and doing a lot of life stuff but I have some very good news…

…and that is that Dara Palmer’s Major Drama has just received its first US trade review and it’s a corker … (drum roll)…  a starred review from Kirkus!



YAY! I’m so delighted. Thank you so much to Kirkus and especially the reviewer, whose name I don’t yet know;  to Alex, Katy and the amazing team at Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, and to Chicken House for being so downright all-round wonderful.

Dara comes out in the US and Canada on 6th July and the rights have recently been sold to Denmark, which is also excellent news. I aim to have a celebratory launch-ette in Copenhagen when the time comes, and I’m planning a visit to the States later in the year.


And as Amber is going from strength to strength in the US and Canada, I am a happy writer this springtime.

But it’s 1.45 am and I have to go to sleep now so I will have to post again soon. Hopefully before three months go by.




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Dara Palmer would be SO happy right now because in America I’m, like, TOTALLY FAMOUS.

Actually, that’s not true. I’m not famous at all. I can still walk down the street without being mobbed (it’s only a matter of time) but Amber is going so well in the US, I’m flabbergasted! And that’s not a word I ever say because it makes my tongue confused so if I’m using it, I must be.


I have two reasons to love New York, hence the title of this blog post. It’s not because it’s so good, they named it twice, but that’s a very good reason too.

The first is that The New York Times had a Sunday book supplement recently, and – wait for it…wait for it… Dream on, Amber was featured in the children’s section. WOOOOOHHHHHHHHHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Malinda Lo wrote a cracking review of Amber, for which I’m enormously grateful. I mean, this is The New York Times, just in case you didn’t catch that. THE NEW YORK TIMES. And that follows the (sadly for subscribers only) review in The Wall Street Journal the month before!

Phhhhhhhhooooo – I need to breathe. I’m still freaked out by all this.

Secondly, and MASSIVELY, every December, The New York Public Library publishes its annual list of the Top 100 Books of the Year. This is a HIGHLY PRESTIGIOUS and enormously respected list recognised right across the country. It recommends just a handful of the thousands of books published every year, and DREAM ON, AMBER is included in the children’s section. 


(smelling salts)

(gets up from the floor)

(carries on as if nothing happened and I didn’t just faint in front of a load of people)

Ahem. I cannot tell you how honoured I am (with a u because I’m British, and because honoured is such an honourable word, it deserves that u, don’t you agree?)

Thank you so much to the committee for including Amber: that is the American Dream right there. I am stoked. Like a furnace. Honestly. Overwhelmed.


(faints again)


(you might have to come back later)




On the topic of fame…

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Oh, there you are. I was wondering when you’d arrive because I’ve got so much to tell you. Mainly about fame, really. And why not.

So yes, on the topic of fame, Dara Palmer’s Major Drama came out on 6th August in the UK and has been having some cracking reviews, for which I’m humbly grateful. I was in Cambodia at the time visiting Dara’s birthplace, and specifically a children’s charity called the Cambodian Children’s Trust in Battambang that helps to keep children out of orphanages. I talked about my visit there at my event at the Edinburgh Book Festival on 23rd August with fellow author, Elen Caldecott, who writes the  excellent Marsh Road series, and I’ll be talking about Cambodia and Dara in more depth at the multiple school and library visits I have lined up over the next two months, not to mention the festivals and conferences I’ll be attending. So that’s all MUCHO EXCITING. Dara will like the fame, I just know it.

Staying on the topic of fame, the piece I wrote on why I was – and continue to be- inspired by the great Pippi Longstocking was published in The Guardian yesterday. I’m sooo famous now. Actually, that’s a lie. I’m not at all. But it’s great to see something you wrote in The Guardian, no less, and if you haven’t read Pippi, or haven’t read her in a while, I highly recommend a revisit. I think one of my favourite stories ever is about the Squeazle, which can be found in ‘Pippi in the South Seas’. She is just amazing, and so was Astrid Lindgren.

Continuing on the topic of fame just a tiny bit longer, Dream on, Amber has now received four, yes, four starred reviews from the top library journals in America. Getting one of those stars is a big deal, but getting four is a big deal times four, so I’m delighted and so are the publishers on both sides of the Atlantic. I’ve just received this praise sheet summarising the four reviews, so I’m going to share it with you all, right here, right now. DreamOnAmber-PraiseSheet

Amber comes out on 6th October in the US, which is soon indeed. I wish her the very best of luck.

And that’s all the fame I think anyone can cope with in a single afternoon, so I’m bowing deeply and heading to the wings with my flowers. See you backstage.

Two Weeks and Counting

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Well well well. Amber is doing very well indeed over the pond: she’s just got a second starred review in a BIG journal in the US called Kirkus.  That’s in addition to the starred review earlier this month in Booklist, and the very lovely five star review on Amazon given by someone who really knows his/her stuff and lives in Colorado. A huge thank you to all of the reviewers – including the others on Amazon who all gave five stars too. Dream on, Amber goes on sale in the US in October. Dara Palmer is taking her first steps too and has had an excellent first review in INIS, Kid’s Lit Ireland, although I can’t find an online version (so I posted a copy in the press and reviews section of this here website).

Dara Palmer has also been reviewed by readers at Love Reading 4 Kids and I’m happy to say, they all said very positive things about it. Dara will be published TWO WEEKS TODAY in the UK so that’s exciting, and in July 2016 in the US. Meanwhile, I think I can safely announce that thanks to my brilliant agent, I’ve signed a two-book contract with Chicken House (YAY) and I’m working on one of those stories now. It has, thus far, involved going to the seaside, riding a bike around and listening to seagulls, all of which has been a welcome and much-needed method of research. It has also involved Googling weird and questionably sane things like ‘facts about cow spit’, ‘does Pier Road have street lights?’ and ‘can people be allergic to ferret fur?’ What did authors do before Google? Honestly, I’d be lost without it.

I’ve also started doing some research for the other book but I’ve put that on the back burner for now because there are only so many hours in the day. I have lots of events coming up: the Edinburgh Festival on 23 August is first and then I’m touring and visiting schools, libraries and popping my head up at other festivals in September, October and November, including UKMGx in my old uni haunt, Nottingham, Stream in London and a conference in Glasgow. EXCITING TIMES AHEAD! Thanks to Books for Keeps for doing this cool cover for their online magazine and using it for their twitter picture in June. I’ll be in touch again when it comes out on 6th August. In two weeks! Did I mention that there are only two more weeks to go? I think I might have. In case I didn’t, that’s TWO WEEKS. OK. I think you might have got that by now.

BFK Cover - Dara3

And here is the news at mid- June o’clock (beep beep beep beep beeeeeep)

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The best best best news this week is that Amber has been given a starred review in Booklist, a journal by the American Library Association that is a) one of the top three book journals in the US (apparently) and b) read by school and public librarians, and book groups. The review comes out on 1st July and – I didn’t know this because I’m not American but (apparently) – starred reviews are very hard to get. Once they publish the review in Booklist, I’ll put it up here. Thank you to Julia Smith, the lovely reviewer who just GOT IT: the book, Amber, me – everything.

So that’s exciting.

The best best news this week is that I’ve been contacted by so many amazing people offering to help me write what will be my fourth book. It’s heartwarming to have their support and hear that they would have loved a book like this when they were young. Nothing inspires me more than hearing that. It makes me feel like I’m on a mission. From God (apparently). Blues Brothers style.

So that’s exciting.

The best news this week, which really is the best best best best best best news (x1000 squared – wait, how do you do that tiny weeny number 2 on a keyboard?) is news that I can’t share yet (apparently) but there’s a big clue in the paragraph before this one. I’m not going to say any more than that until it’s all finalised but it’s BIG NEWS and I’m very happy about it.

So that’s exciting.

Not one, not two but THREE exciting things to share this month. Cor. And if that’s not enough for you, Chris Riddell, my favourite illustrator and an all round excellent ambassador for books was made the new Children’s Laureate today. Which is great, great thing. Congratulations to Chris. May it be a wonderful two-year reign.

Dara Palmer’s Major Drama

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Plenty has been going on since I last posted: I wrote and edited and polished and fretted and finally, at the beginning of January, finished my next book. It’s called Dara Palmer’s Major Drama, and it’s due out on 6th August (whoop whoop).

I won’t tell you what her major drama is, but I will tell you a little bit about it. When we meet Dara at the beginning of the book, she desperately wants to be the lead of Maria in her upcoming school play, The Sound of Music. In fact she’s wants to be a Hollywood star and mega famous and she’s sure it’s just about to happen, but when she doesn’t get the part, she has to figure out why and what she can do to fulfil her dream of acting. Is it because her face is wrong? Or is there another reason?

It’s not ALL about acting: it’s also about squealy toad sisters and nuns and noodles and Cambodia and adoption and toast stealing and invisible cables between people and what to do if life is unfair. So it’s kind of useful because life is usually unfair. In fact, THIS BOOK SHOULD BE ON THE NATIONAL CURRICULUM, people, and taught to adults in businesses and on the reading list for Hollywood producers, governments ministers and presidents. Just saying. In fact, if  – in a few months time – you see David Cameron or Barack Obama holding a copy of Dara Palmer when they step out of a plane on an official visit, you know the world is going to be a better place very soon.

The cover has gone through some huge changes. This is the first version:

Maly-yellow R5

and this is the current (but still not final) version:

Dara new

How different???? What do you think?

When I have a finalised version, I’ll show you RIGHT AWAY. Promise.

I’m now writing another book about wasps, tortoises, a barking dog, an overweight vet and a very interesting girl called Lexi.

See you soon 😉



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I’ve been busy writing and editing and I look up and it’s December tomorrow. How on earth did that happen?

I’ve also been busy answering questions like this one, from my son:

‘Mum, have you ever needed a bouncy pig?’

(You may be surprised to hear that the answer was no, but nevertheless, I now have a bouncy green pig mascot on my laptop keyboard. He also has some bouncy wolves – one pink and one green – and a bouncy monster thing, so if you’re ever in need of such things for your own computer, he’s your man. Oh no, now I have four small bouncy mascots on my laptop. They’re distracting me!)

Where was I?

Ah, yes, I’ve done some great workshops at Frances Holland School over the last two weeks and have my last (boo hoo) session this Thursday. The girls are so lovely (hi Y4!). I’m really enjoying the stories they’re writing and the memorable characters they’re creating. I hope to have some photos of that very soon. It’s amazing to see such inspired and inspiring readers and writers. I’m going to ask if they can give me some feedback and I’ll put it up here on my School Visits tab.

Lastly, I’d like to say hi to a couple of people: one is my new friend, Scarlett, aged 7, who lives in Ireland. We’ve been talking via twitter. She’s also got some great stories up her sleeve and is giving me good ideas for my next book. Hi Scarlett (and Clementine – that’s Scarlett’s little sister). And the other is Ahuva, who wrote me a great letter as part of her English class. Thanks Ahuva.  Tell your English teacher I think you should get an A ++.

These bouncy pigs and wolves look like they want to attack me.

Oh no…they’re getting closer.