Thursday, 30 June 2016

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: JAMES NICOL - THE APPRENTICE WITCH - BOOK INTERVIEW (Chicken House)


      Tell us about your self?

Oh golly - thats a bit like a job interview isn’t it! Well when I’m not busy writing I spend the rest of my time surrounded by books in libraries across Cambridgeshire (and they pay me to do that!)  or walking my dog. I really don’t have much more time for anything else besides that at the moment. Also I’m quite tall and I have curly hair. I’m terrible at spelling, I love tea. My favourite colour is blue and I wanted to be a dalmatian when i was about 8 years old! (after reading 101 Dalmatians by Dodie Smith)
Who would love reading The Apprentice Witch, and why?
I really hope everyone will love The Apprentice Witch, even though I wrote it just for children it’s quite alright for some grown ups to want to read it as well I think. 

I really wanted to write a book full of magic and characters that have fun adventures and do brave things even when they are scared. Those were the types of books I loved as a child, like the Narnia books. Reading about other children being brave made me feel braver - as i was a terrible scaredy cat as a child (and i still am a little bit  - especially if it involves siders!!!) 

I hope readers will fall in love with the world and with the cast of characters that are in the book. I hope its a place readers will want to escape to - even with the scary bits!
Describe the dreary town of Lull from a witches eye?
Lull looks like its going to be quite dull and boring at first glance, despite its closeness to the Great Wood which is full of wondrous magical creatures. Very few people ever go beyond the edge of the wood and so Lull just sort of gets on with being a bit sleepy and quiet and tucked out of the way. It doesn’t look like its going to be much excitement for an eager young witch! But we all know appearances can be deceptive . . .
We all need a hero! Tell us about your protagonist(s)? 
Well the main hero is Arianwyn Gribble who is a young witch. She’s quite ambitious and has only ever wanted to be a witch like her mother and her grandmother. But she has a terrible secret that she can’t share with anyone and at the very beginning of the book this secret sets off a chain of events that leads her on a slightly different path than the one she imagined for herself. She’s a kind and thoughtful person, but she has a set back and that knocks her confidence quite a lot. She has to use her skill as well as her own personal reserves and nature to overcome everything that is thrown at her. 
What did you learn from writing your debut book that will help you to write future books?
That it’s easier (for me!) to write my very first draft in long hand with a pencil in lots of notebooks! 

I would just sit and stare blankly at the computer screen for ages, type a line then delete it. (then cry a bit)  But actually physically writing it all down felt much easier in a way and I knew nobody was ever going to read the notebooks and I don’t edit what I write there it's just to tell the bare basics of the story. 

Also its good to have a plan rather than to stumble about aimlessly - I thought a plan would make it too rigid and not leave space for creativity but I got into such a muddle without a plan! So an outline is good to have and find whatever works for you to get the first draft down - hand-written or typed it doesn’t really matter - just write! 
How important are stories to you? What do you like to read?
So important - I’ve been in love with stories forever. I was a bit of a reluctant reader as a young child but I could see the potential of all the stories in the school library and I wanted to be part of that. I love the way you can become totally lost in stories to the point it becomes physically impossible to put the book down. 

I love reading fiction mainly but I also enjoy biography and memoir - anything thats a really interesting tale really. I’m a massive Emma Carroll fan and I am rationing myself on her books at the moment as I’m tempted to just read them all in one go! I really enjoyed the Jonathan Stroud ‘Lockwood & Co’  series - just brilliant! And I’m currently reading The Girl of Ink & Stars by fellow chicken house author Kiran Millwood Hargrave. I am also a massive Alice Hoffman fan and love her books for adults, teens and children, she’s an amazing writer. 
What made you want to start writing, not just reading?
I think it’s the ultimate game of make believe isn’t it? As the story teller you are entirely in control of the world you are creating, you speak the words of the characters, you decide what the sky looks like and which way the wind blows and that has always appealed to me as someone with possibly to much imagination for my own good! Writing was a way to carry on being allowed to play long past the point where we have abandoned our toys and are supposed to do grown up things - which quite frankly are horrendously tedious most of the time! ;) 
Do you have a mentor for writing, and if so, how did you get that mentor?
I did have a mentor when I was working with The Golden Egg Academy and it was Bella Pearson from David Fickling Books. Bella was amazing and she just immediately got my story and me and was so clever in the way she worked with me, asking lots of questions - never telling me what to do or how to fix something so that it all came from me as a writer. She is amazing. Of course now I get to work with an awesome team of editors at Chicken House as well and that’s just an incredible experience as well. Editors are the best! 
If you found a time travel machine where would you go and what would you do?
I don’t think i’d want to go too far back as I’d be worried I’d get sat on by a dinosaur or catch the plague or something daft like that. I’d like to go back to the time my Great Grandfather was alive and find out more about him as he was a bit of an enigma! 
Last question, what five things would you take on a desert Island and why?
Pencils and notebooks, a never ending supply of midget gems, my dog (Bonnie!)  and a copy of Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier as I could read that book a million times and never grow tired of it. 



The Apprentice Witch by James Nicol is a debut children’s fantasy novel full of adventure, mystery, magic and witches. Here is Mr Ripley's Book Review Here. 
 Published by Chicken House on 7th July 2016.
You can also find out more about James and his debut book on his website: 
http://www.jamesnicolbooks.com

 and you can follow him on twitter: @jamesENicol

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed this brilliant post!

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Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: The Other Alice by Michelle Harrison - Book Review


What happens when a tale with real magic, that was supposed to be finished, never was? This is a story about one of those stories . . .

Midge loves riddles, his cat, Twitch, and – most of all – stories. Especially because he's grown up being read to by his sister Alice, a brilliant writer.

When Alice goes missing and a talking cat turns up in her bedroom, Midge searches Alice’s stories for a clue. Soon he discovers that her secret book, The Museum of Unfinished Stories, is much more than just a story. In fact, he finds two of its characters wandering around town.

But every tale has its villains – and with them leaping off the page, Midge, Gypsy and Piper must use all their wits and cunning to work out how the story ends and find Alice. If they fail, a more sinister finale threatens them all . . .


The Other Alice is a story about unfinished stories, should every book have a ending? 
What about all of those stories hidden away, never to get that finishing chapter, a world unloved with characters stuck in limbo, forgotten and never to see the fantasy light of day? When the magical, written world comes in search of endings and the characters manifest into a physical presence and take over your life with a deadly outcome; what would you do? 

The narrative will certainly grab your undivided attention like no other book. This is a fantastic story, wonderfully captivating and straight from the heart. The author sets out the world and her intention with the very first line in the book. ALICE SILVER HAD NEVER MET ANYONE WHO HAD KILLED BEFORE. It's a very dark start and leads you into an unexpected troubled world. It will certainly pull you into a vice-like fantasy grip that will immerse you on so many levels. The thrilling intensity of the plot will certainly give you the chills, even on a warm summer's day. 


The books influence is certainly from the author's love of reading. In my opinion, Cornelia Funke's Inkheart influences are here and leeches into the pores of the story; very subtly but particularly effectively. You will certainly plunge into the deep, creative imagination of the author in this book. The ideas, passion and the author's personality have really excitingly evolved onto paper to make this a magical story. It is very psychological and so thrilling to read with a focus on family, reality as well as make believe and one killing deranged villain. The author has introduced her love of cats into the story. It's paws a way for a talking, cheeky cat that is very infectious as a character.  

I really loved the concept of this story and really connect with it. I always love a dark and disturbing read that will unsettle the reader and put you on edge with every page turned. The characters are a varied mixture, very vague and in need of more work, especially in the detail department.  Dorothy Grimes stole the show for me, she leapt out from the pages and would be very at home within the pages of a Darren Shan novel. 

This is a fantastic five star read for me; really engrossing and one of the best books that I've read so far from Michelle Harrison.   


  • Paperback: 352 Pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's UK (28 July 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1471124274
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Monday, 27 June 2016

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Children's/Teen Book Picks UK Published - July 2016

Emma Carroll - Strange Star - Published by Faber & Faber (7 July 2016) -  Author website here. 
They were coming tonight to tell ghost stories. 'A tale to freeze the blood,' was the only rule.
Switzerland, 1816. On a stormy summer night, Lord Byron and his guests are gathered round the fire. Felix, their serving boy, can't wait to hear their creepy tales. Yet real life is about to take a chilling turn- more chilling than any tale. Frantic pounding at the front door reveals a stranger, a girl covered in the most unusual scars. She claims to be looking for her sister, supposedly snatched from England by a woman called Mary Shelley. Someone else has followed her here too, she says. And the girl is terrified.
Peter F . Hamilton - The Hunting of the Princes - Published by Macmillan Children's Books (28 July 2016) 
The Hunting of the Princes is the second title in the Queen of Dreams trilogy. Featuring black and white illustrations, this fantastic series from the UK's best-selling sci-fi author, Peter F. Hamilton is a future classic in the making.
It had been a big year for Taggie Paganuzzi. From learning that she was actually the Queen-to-be of a magical realm, to learning to use magic, to fighting for her life against the King of Night, there had been a lot of 'firsts'. And when someone tried to assassinate her as she was cycling home from the local pool in Stamford, England. Well, that was a first too.
It turns out that someone has been killing royal heirs throughout the magical kingdoms, and every leader from every realm believes the King of Night's army, the Karraks, are responsible. War seems inevitable . . . and yet Taggie has just discovered two very interesting facts. Firstly, that the Karraks come from a cold, dark universe, and they cannot abide warmth and light. And secondly, that there was once a gate to this universe . . . now lost in the mists of time.
But where do you begin to look for a gate which was deliberately hidden centuries ago? To find out, Taggie must rescue the one Karrak Lord who also hopes for peace. Who happens to be imprisoned in an impenetrable fortress . . .
Polly Ho-Yen - Where Monsters Lie - Published by Corgi Children's (7 July 2016)
The children of Mivtown have grown up hearing the legend of the monsters of the loch. But it’s only a story – a warning to stay away from the water.

Then strange things start happening in the village. Effie’s rabbit Buster escapes from a locked hutch, her mum disappears without trace and slugs start to infest her home.

Along with her best friend Finn, Effie begins to hunt for clues to solve the mysteries of Mivtown. Could this all be connected to the legend? Is it really just a story or is there something lurking in those deep, dark waters?
Jacob Grey - The White Widow's Revenge - Published by HarperCollins Children's Books (28 July 2016) 
The third book in this gripping, high-impact, high-energy new series.
Orphan boy Caw has done battle with the most terrifying villains ever to stalk the city of Blackstone. But now he must face his toughest adversary yet – his friend Selina, bitten by the Spinning Man’s spider and transformed into the White Widow.
The city is drowning in a crime wave masterminded by Selina – Caw must stop her before the Spinning Man consumes her completely – and regains all of his terrible powers.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Jeremy de Quidt - The Wrong Train - Book Review Published by David Fickling


It’s late. Dark. A boy rushes to catch a train, leaping aboard just before it pulls away. Suddenly he realises that it’s the wrong train. He’s annoyed, of course, but not scared.
. . . Yet.
He gets off at the next station, but the platform’s empty, and it doesn’t look like any station he’s seen before. But he’s still not scared.
. . . Yet.
Then a stranger arrives - someone with stories to help pass the time. Only these aren’t any old stories. These are nightmares, and they come with a price to pay.
. . . Scared yet?
You will be.

I'm not a great fan of short stories as I love the journey that you take with a longer read. I like to feel, smell and touch the characters. For me, all of this takes time to build up; the devil is in the detail and to me it's very important in a story. It leaves a really pleasant feeling in my brain which I cannot describe. Maybe I will find a magical book one day with endless pages that keep on turning and being produced each time that I breathe - that would be really cool!

I do, however, love the idea of connecting short stories to a central theme. A platform, pardon the pun, that you can come back to which pulls the narrative together like a steam train and makes a connection. It's a story within a story, shall we say. In this book it's the mystery around an old man on a railway station platform, who is in the middle of nowhere with his scruffy, grey dog called Toby. There is a very spooky side to the old man; it might be the way he looks at the reader without ever really looking at you. He will definitely get inside your head and play with your mind as he starts to wickedly weave his stories that might not just be stories....

You are subtly pulled along in powerful vice-like grip the more that you read this book. The short stories are very dark and have a naive mischievous quality about them. They are very surreal nightmares that giggle through your brain, but they will also suddenly set you on edge and make your spine tingle. At the half way point of the book, there is a short story entitled Babysitting which is fantastic to read. It is immersive, chilling, cleverly written and really enjoyable to read. It will certainly put you on edge and make sure that you never get on the wrong train at night time or get off at the wrong station. 

At the end of the book, there is a real a sting in the tale that you really will love. I will say no more as there are no spoilers to be found here. I love the idea that readers might try to read this book in a similar situation. If not, then maybe you need to try it as this is something that I would have liked to have done. A dark night, in an isolated spot will certainly ramp up the chill factor. However, if you can't do that and IF YOU DARE then read it under the bedcovers by torch light, regardless of age, that should still do it. 

When you do get to read this book, you will also have the privilege of seeing the illustrations. There is one for each story header that has been produced by the talented Dave Shelton. I have not seen these myself, but I am looking forward to seeing them in the finished copy. This is a cracking read; top entertainment and an up and coming Halloween treat... 

Published by : David Fickling Books
ISBN: 978-1910200810
Format: Hardback
Available : 01 September 2016 - Pre-order now
Price : £10.99

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Children's/Teens UK Book Picks - June 2016 - Post Two

Shirley Hughes - Whistling in the Dark - Published by Walker Books (2 Jun. 2016)

From much-loved author Shirley Hughes comes a compelling World War Two wartime adventure for readers aged 10+ set during the Liverpool Blitz. In the hardship of war, everything is rationed - except true friendship. Joan and best friend Doreen love going to the cinema until the Blitz intensifies and then even that becomes too dangerous, especially when an army deserter is found lurking near their home. Who is he and why does he think Joan can help him? As the Blitz worsens, Joan and her friends make a discovery that will tear the whole community apart. Check out the website for the historical background to the story: www.whistlinginthedarkbook.com.


Justin Fisher - Ned's Circus of Marvels - Published by HarperCollins Children's Books (30 Jun. 2016) 

From exciting debut author, Justin Fisher, comes this rip-roaring, page-turning new magical adventure. Perfect for fans of House of Secrets.
Ned Waddlesworth has always considered his world to be exceptionally ordinary. Until the day he discovers it ISN’T. AT ALL. Because on Ned’s thirteenth birthday he discovers that everything magical he’s ever read about or imagined is REAL.
And without him, the world will soon be engulfed in monstrous beasts and beings.
So with the help of a robot mouse, a girl witch and a flying circus unlike any other, it’s up to Ned to swoop in and save the day!
Roll up, roll up, and prepare to be AMAZED by Ned and the marvellous, magical, monstrous flying circus!

Lauren Wolk - Wolf Hollow - Published by Corgi Childrens (30 Jun. 2016)

Annabelle has lived in Wolf Hollow all her life: a quiet place, still scarred by two world wars. But when cruel, manipulative Betty arrives in town, Annabelle's calm world is shattered, along with everything she's ever known about right and wrong.

When Betty accuses gentle loner Toby - a traumatised ex-soldier - of a terrible act, Annabelle knows he's innocent. Then Betty disappears . . . 

Now Annabelle must protect Toby from the spiralling accusations and hysteria, until she can prove to Wolf Hollow what really happened to Betty.

Powerful, poignant and lyrical, Wolf Hollow is an unforgettable story.

Sofi Croft - Indigo's Dragon (Indigos Dragon 1) - Published by Accent Press Ltd (23 Jun. 2016) - Book Review Here - Guest Post Here 

Fans of How to Train your Dragon, Harry Potter, and Percy Jackson will love the debut novel Indigo's Dragon, a tale of adventure, mystery, and a legendary trip where he encounters a monster or two ...Indigo lives in the Lake District, and spends his time exploring the mountains he loves. An unexpected parcel arrives containing a first aid kit inside his grandfather's satchel. Indigo's curiosity is raised as he looks through his grandfather's notebook to discover drawings of mythical creatures. Strange things begin to happen and Indigo finds himself treating an injured magpie-cat, curing a cockatrice of its death-darting gaze, and defending a dragon. Indigo realises he must uncover the secrets his family have kept hidden, and travels alone to the Polish mountains to search for his grandfather and the truth. Danger looms as events spiral out of control, and Indigo needs to make choices that change him, his world, and his future forever...
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Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Lyn Gardner - Rose Campion and the Stolen Secret - Book Review (Nosy Crow)


Murder, mystery and musical thrills in the shadowy streets of Victorian London in this new series from Lyn Gardner. This is historical fiction with a popular twist: murders and mysteries set in the glitzy world of the Victorian music hall which will appeal to fans of Jacqueline Wilson's Hetty Feather but with added detective drama!Rose was left by her mother at the door of Campion's Palace of Variety and Wonders as a baby. It is her home, and she loves it, but she never stops wondering who she really is. When murder threatens to destroy the music hall, Rose will need all her performance skills to crack the crime and delve into a murky past of blackmail, subterfuge and abduction...

You only need to skip and dance through the first page before you find yourself straight into a dark narrative not for the feint of heart. You'll be ceremoniously whipped into a murderous storm as you visit Easingford Hall. The plot is a dark maelstrom of treachery, seen through even darker eyes than the devil himself, the new Lord of Easingford, Henry Edgar Easingford. He will stop at nothing to claim the title and wealth that he so desires. The Stolen Secret is a cracking start to a new series from the author of the Olivia books and theatre critic from the Guardian. 

This is a brilliant story that you will really struggle to put down. It is complex and cunning like the characters themselves. You will easily take to Rose Campion, as she is very determined, lively and head strong, but she has a heart of solid gold. You first meet Rose escaping from the top floor window of Miss Pecksniff's Academy for Young Ladies. Shinning down the drainpipe, Rose will hurtle you into a non-stop adventure of danger, discovery, a world full of crime, colourful characters and MURDER.

This book reminded me of the fantastic times that I spent reading Julia Golding's Cat Royal series. In my opinion it is equally enchanting and holds many similarities. It's a historical snapshot of Victorian London with a fantastic theatrical flourish that oozes period charm. When a brilliant young actor goes missing, Rose and her friends from the music hall get on the case and try to solve the mystery afoot. The music hall is a fantastic place to visit, it's almost a character in itself. It superglues the narrative to engaging heights resulting in a brilliant and captivating read.

The story is a fantastic and dramatic mystery that will sweep the curtains down on your fantasy feet as you flit along the dark and deadly squalor of Victorian streets. You need to make sure that you do not find yourself being pick-pocketed in the process. It's full of shady villains found lurking down the poverty stricken alleyways. However, some humour can be seen through the horror - it will leave you thinking about the possible outcomes and lighten the intentions for any younger readers. Will Rose Campion and her acting friends get to the final act? Will they fail to work out the solution to the biggest mystery in London? Roll up and find out...

This is another great read from Nosy Crow, a publisher on the rise picking a range of fantastic books and bringing them to the world for readers to enjoy. It is a great start to the series; I will certainly be looking out for the next instalment. Out now.... so what are you waiting for?

Monday, 20 June 2016

Guest Post by M . G. Leonard - Why Beetles? (Beetle Boy)


Why Beetles? 

I spent my young life frightened of creepy-crawlies. My fear has ruined countless picnics, barbeques and showers. And then one day, after getting two degrees and feeling pretty confident in my own cleverness, I was stunned to discovered that I didn’t know what a beetle was. 


I didn’t know that beetles fly, pollinate more plants than bees, control disease, fertilize the soil and are the most essential creature to the health of our planet.

When I discovered that beetles breathe through tiny holes in their exoskeleton called spiracles, I wondered if, on a subconscious level, my fear was routed in the illusion that these creatures appear not to respire? They appear to be dead, then shock the hell out of you by moving. Your brain screams WALKING DEAD! ZOMBIE! And before there’s time to process the information you’re running away, or, if you’re feeling brave, imprisoning the poor unthreatening invertebrate in a glass whilst your heart is hammering in your chest.

I can’t overstate the impact of these revelations. How could I be an educated grown-up and not know what a beetle is? My fear of insects had prevented me from ever looking at them properly, and in turn my ignorance had fueled my fear. I wondered if I could have avoided twenty years of the screaming heebie-jeebies dance if I’d learned more about insects when I was young?

My life has been guided and informed by stories. It is a form of information sharing that has a sustained impact on me. I find it hard to retain facts on their own, but put them in a story and I’ll remember them for the rest of my life. So, I looked to see if there were any good stories about insects, which showed them in an appealing light. Actually, invertebrates get a pretty bad press in fiction and in film. Remember the creepy-crawly scene from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, or the flesh-eating scarabs in The Mummy? The only stories I could find that embraced mini-beasts were Charlottes Web and James and the Giant Peach. 


I wanted Beetle Boy to exist, but the only way that was going to happen was if I wrote it myself. 


We experience the pendulum swing between biophilia and biophobia acutely when we watch a David Attenborough show, but it is there in our everyday lives. I embraced it, and as I did the research for Beetle Boy, I found my fascination with the natural world grew, and my fear reduced.

My fear has now reduced to the degree that a week ago I went to The Bug Farm in Pembrokeshire and let flower beetles crawl up my arm. It was wonderful. So wonderful that I have purchased a pair of rainbow stag beetles, and am eagerly awaiting the arrival of our new family pets. My boys are beside themselves with excitement. No other kids at school have pet beetles.

I won’t pretend I’m not proud of Beetle Boy. I am. This crazy adventure story about a boy and a beetle has changed my life. But I don’t feel the success of the book, which has so far been a bestseller in two countries and is being translated into twenty-seven languages, is down to any cleverness on my part. I feel like the story was waiting for me, under a rock, till I was brave enough to pick it up and confront my fear and ignorance.



‘Bug me! This is as good as it gets! This book will have you scuttling with joy! Beetlelicious, fantastic fun for everyone. I was crawling with joy from every page that I read. Gross, funny and heart warming - a flapping great read, this book has imagination with wings.’ MR RIPLEY’S ENCHANTED BOOKS for more Beetle goodness check out the authors website: http://www.mgleonard.com 
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Thursday, 16 June 2016

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Guest Post - Iris by HP Wood - (Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet)


Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet by H.P. Wood is one of the best adult books that I've read in a very long time. I really would recommend it with my heart. If you would like to read my book review for it, then click the link Here. This guest post, by the author, is a really good insight as to how the book has evolved into the story that you will hopefully read. I hope this post inspires you to pick up a copy and give it a try. 

My book, MAGRUDER’S CURIOSITY CABINET, is set among the sideshow folk of 1900s Coney Island.  Consequently, it features many characters who were considered “oddities” at the time, but who we today would describe as “disabled.”




As someone born into a pretty typical body, I had a lot of thinking and listening and researching to do, in order to create believable characters whose lives were so different from my own.  The seed for all those characters can be traced back to someone I met more than 30 years ago.

I was just a kid—maybe 11 or 12? I’m not even sure now—and I’d gotten the opportunity to volunteer at a Special Olympics event.  (Special Olympics was founded in 1968 to provide athletic opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities.)  Each volunteer was paired with an athlete, and volunteers were charged with helping the athletes make their way from event to event, assisting them in whatever way they might need, and just generally being their buddies and personal cheering section. 

I still remember the pamphlet I filled out in order to volunteer.  So many smiling, joyful faces—people cheering, sharing snacks, putting medals on each other.  And hugging.  Lots and lots of hugging.  

I was the only child of a taciturn New England family.  I was down for some serious hugging.

So when the big day arrived, it was with much eagerness—and stored-up hugs—that I greeted my athlete.  Let’s call her Iris. 

Iris was not at all what I expected.  She was older than me, for one thing, which was not important in-and-of-itself, but the thing was: Iris seemed aware that she was older, in a way that I wasn’t prepared for.  Suddenly this notion of little me as Iris’s “helper” took on a weight I didn’t expect.  I felt embarrassed of myself in a way that I couldn’t begin to understand at the time.

Iris didn’t smile.  She didn’t seem to want to be friends.  And she didn’t want a helper.  

But she had trouble sorting out which event was next.  The little map we’d been given seemed mysterious to her.  Managing her sneakers and sweatshirt and backpack plus a water bottle and that damned map seemed insurmountable.  So she did need me.  But she didn’t want me.  And she sure as hell wasn’t going to hug me.

We trudged from event to event, mostly in awkward silence.  “Do you want to do X,” I would ask.  “Should we go see about Y?”  Iris would shrug and keep walking.  

All around us: cheering, laughing, the occasional skinned knee.  And hugging. Just like the brochure promised: lots and lots of hugging.  But not for me. 

At the end, I returned Iris and her participation medals to her kind-eyed parents.  “Congrats on your medals,” I said with as much enthusiasm as I could fake, “it was great hanging out with you.” 

“Sure,” Iris said down at her sneakers.  And that was it.

For a long time, I kept this story in my mental file of “Life’s Minor Disappointments.”  But decades later, when I started working on MAGRUDER’S, the memory of Iris returned to me.  And I realized that there’s a very different moral to that story than I’d realized when I was young.

Iris didn’t step out of some brochure.  She was a kid like me. In a certain sense, yes, she was unlike me. But she was a complete individual with moods and motivations just as complex as my own.

Maybe it angered her to be led around like a puppy by someone younger than herself.  Maybe she felt—even if she couldn’t express—humiliated or even enraged by the power dynamic between us.  Maybe the whole spectacle offended her: all these neurotypical kids bused in to see how the other half lives, patting each other on the back for being such good little volunteers.  Scooping up un-earned hugs like so many participation medals.

Or maybe the problem was simpler.  Perhaps she wasn’t feeling well that day, maybe she’d argued with her mother.  Heck, what if Iris just didn’t like sports?  I never liked sports—my school’s annual “field day” events were nightmares for me.  So why did I assume Iris liked sports?  

On the other hand, maybe she had a perfectly fine time, and she just wasn’t able to communicate as much.  I believe she let me take her hand at one point. To me, a poor substitute for a hug.  But it could have been the very best she had to offer.

The point is, Iris was a subject—her own subject.   She was not my object.  It was not her job to make me feel good, or to compensate for whatever hug deficit I might have been experiencing.  

Remembering Iris was just the beginning of the work I had to do in order to write MAGRUDER’S.  But holding her in my mind, revisiting those eyes that didn’t owe me a goddamned thing, was definitely the foundation of everything that followed.

To be clear, the disabled characters in my novel aren’t angry, necessarily.  I mean, sometimes they’re angry.  Sometimes they’re happy.  Sometimes they’re scared.  Sometimes they’re in love.  Sometimes they’re a little drunk.  

Just like the rest of us.  


About H.P. Wood: Is the granddaughter of a mad inventor and a sideshow magician. Instead of making things disappear, she makes books of all shapes and sizes. She has written or edited works on an array topics, including the history of the Internet, the future of human rights, and the total awesomeness of playing with sticks. She lives in Connecticut with a charming and patient husband, a daughter from whom she steals all her best ideas, and more cats than is strictly logical. You can find her at hpwood.net.


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Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Teens/Children's Book Picks Published UK - June 2016 - Post One


Jennifer Bell - The Crooked Sixpence (THE UNCOMMONERS) - Published by Corgi Childrens (2 Jun. 2016)

Welcome to a world where nothing is quite as it seems . . . 

When their grandmother Sylvie is rushed to hospital, Ivy Sparrow and her annoying big brother Seb cannot imagine what adventure lies in store. Returning to Sylvie’s house, they find it has been ransacked by unknown intruders – before a mysterious feather scratches an ominous message onto the kitchen wall. A very strange policeman turns up on the scene, determined to apprehend them . . . with a toilet brush. Ivy and Seb make their escape – only to find themselves in a completely uncommon world, where ordinary objects have amazing powers.

The forces of evil are closing in fast, and Ivy and Seb must get to the bottom of a family secret . . . before it’s too late. 

Dive head first into the world of Lundinor in this magical adventure story for anyone with a Hogwarts-shaped hole in their life.

D. D. Everest (Author) James del la Rue (Illustrator) - Archie Greene and the Alchemist's Curse - Published by Faber & Faber (2 Jun. 2016)

Archie's cousin, Thistle, is about to start his apprenticeship at the Museum of Magical Miscellany. But when it comes to his initiation, the firemark that burns into Thistle's hand is a strange one, and Archie and Bramble are given it too. 
The Golden Circle is the mark of an ancient alchemist's club and when Archie and his cousins learn about a curse that threatens their beloved museum, they have no choice but to start their own alchemist's club, and face the darkest kind of magic.

Helen Dennis (Author) Bonnie Kate Wolf (Illustrator) - Zenith (River of Ink 2) - Published by Hodder Children's Books (2 Jun. 2016)

Jed must confront the revelation of his true identity: he is the alchemist Fulcanelli who discovered the elixir of life and used it to become young again. He must take the elixir one more time in order to live for ever. If he doesn't take it he will die. But Jed only has nine months left to take the elixir. And he has absolutely no idea how to make it. 
The challenge is clear. Jed, Kassia and co. must hunt down the secret recipe.Their quest takes them to Prague and then on to Paris - but hot on their heels are NOAH, the secret organisation that will do anything to get their hands on the secret to eternal life. 
Jed has everything to live for. But who can he trust?
The second in an action-packed series full of adventure, this book has an illustrated narrative running through it, helping readers to solve the mystery alongside the characters in the story.

Robin Jarvis - The Power of Dark (The Witching Legacy) - Published by Egmont (30 Jun. 2016) - Book Review Here - Interview Here Check them out.

An enthralling mix of magic and horror – first of a new series from fantasy legend Robin Jarvis. 
Something is brewing in the town of Whitby. To best friends Lil and Verne, it just seems like a particularly bad storm. But Cherry Cerise, the last of the Whitby witches, fears that ancient forces are at work, reviving the curse of a long lost magical artefact.
The legend goes that the Nimius was created by magician Melchior Pyke, with the assistance of a young witch known as Scaur Annie. But they were both betrayed by Pyke’s villainous manservant, Mister Dark, causing a feud that has survived even beyond death.
As Mister Dark, with his horrific winged familiar, arises to mastermind Whitby’s very own apocalypse and take the Nimius for his own evil purposes, can Lil and Verne join with Cherry to quell his plans and save their home?