Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books - Top Five Children's Picture Books 2017

A book makes a fantastic gift, but the gift of a picture book is particularly special. It is an opportunity to share a great story and wonderful illustrations together. Never before have we been in an age of such wonderful choice. Today we have some of the most amazing picture books on sale. Recently, we have spent some wonderful hours in bookshops selecting picture books for Christmas presents. Here are some of our top choices, but we would be delighted to consider your favourites and add these to our list.

Mac Barnett (Author) Jon Klassen (Illustrator) - The Wolf, the Duck and the Mouse - Walker Books (12 Oct. 2017) Hardcover – 12 Oct 2017 - ISBN-13: 978-1406377798

Early one morning a mouse met a wolf and was quickly gobbled up... When a woeful mouse is swallowed up by a wolf, he quickly learns he is not alone: a duck has already set up digs and, boy, has that duck got it figured out! Turns out it's pretty nice inside the belly of the beast - there's delicious food, elegant table settings and, best of all, dancing. And there's something more: no more fear of being eaten by a wolf! Life's not so bad, considering the alternatives. That is, until a hunter shows up... With a nod to traditional fables and a wink to the reader, the award-winning Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen of Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, Extra Yarn and Triangle offer a tale of cooperation and creative cuisine that is sure to go down easy.

Benji Davies - The Grotlyn - HarperCollins Children's Books (7 Sept. 2017) Hardcover - ISBN-13: 978-0008212759

A stunningly illustrated picture book full of mystery and suspense, from the bestselling author of THE STORM WHALE and GRANDAD’S ISLAND.
“I know when the Grotlyn’s been
Slipping through your house unseen…”
What is the mysterious Grotlyn? What sort of creature could it be, scuttling across the town, frightening everyone in its path? And why has it stolen PC Vickers’ knickers?!

A beautifully illustrated rhyming tale about things that go bump in the night for ages four and up, from picture book superstar, Benji Davies, winner of Oscar’s First Book Prize 2014 and Sainsbury’s Children’s Book of the Year 2015. Perfect for fans of Oliver Jeffers and Jon Klassen.

Tom Percival - Perfectly Norman - Bloomsbury Children's Books (10 Aug. 2017) Paperback - ISBN-13: 978-1408880975

Norman had always been perfectly normal. That was until the day he grew a pair of wings!
Norman is very surprised to have wings suddenly - and he has the most fun ever trying them out high in the sky. But then he has to go in for dinner. What will his parents think? What will everyone else think? Norman feels the safest plan is to cover his wings with a big coat. 
But hiding the thing that makes you different proves tricky and upsetting. Can Norman ever truly be himself?

Rebecca Green - How To Make Friends With A Ghost - Tundra (7 Sept. 2017)  Hardcover  - ISBN-13: 978-1101919019

What do you do when you meet a ghost? One: Provide the ghost with some of its favorite snacks, like mud tarts and earwax truffles. Two: Tell your ghost bedtime stories (ghosts love to be read to). Three: Make sure no one mistakes your ghost for whipped cream or a marshmallow when you aren't looking! If you follow these few simple steps and the rest of the essential tips in How to Make Friends with a Ghost, you'll see how a ghost friend will lovingly grow up and grow old with you.Website:

David Litchfield - Grandad's Secret Giant - Frances Lincoln Children's Books (6 April 2017) - Hardcover - ISBN-13: 978-1847808479

'Funny, touching and visually stunning, this really is a book to treasure.' Daily Mail A GIANT story of belonging and friendship from David Litchfield, author of the Waterstones Illustrated Book Prize 2016 winner The Bear and the Piano. "He has hands the size of tables," Grandad said, "legs as long as drainpipes and feet as big as rowing boats. Do you know who I mean?" "Yes," sighed Billy. "The Secret Giant. But he's not real!" Billy doesn't believe his Grandad when he tells him there's a giant living in his town, doing good deeds for everyone. He knows that a giant is too big to keep himself hidden. And why would he WANT to keep himself a secret? But as time goes on, Billy learns that some secrets are too BIG to stay secret for long...      
This delightful heartfelt story of belonging and friendship teaches the importance of tolerance and acceptance to young children. Website:

Monday, 11 December 2017

Beth Webb Children's Author/Illustrator - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books Festive Interview

Here is another Mr Ripley's festive edition Q&A, but this time by Beth Webb. This interview really made me smile and was very enjoyable to read. I think this was probably due to my personal invite to the New Year literary dinner party which you will see in the great answers below. I would like to give a warm festive mince pie welcome to the author and illustrator of so many great books, Beth Webb. See you in the New Year Beth :)

You have written fourteen or more books for children and teenagers. Which one is your personal favourite? 
Sorry, I can’t do ‘one’. 
My favourite is always the most recent one, in this case the Fleabag books for MG children, re-vamped and illustrated versions of old favourites. 
However, at the moment, I have two other favourites (sorry) – both of which are looking for publishers (I have a fab new agent, so fingers crossed). Both are YA books – one is about a girl who sees crimes before they happen but no one believes her, and the other is a Victorian tale of madness and injustice. I love both of these books and I’d be over the moon to see them in print. 

You are an author and illustrator. If you had to choose between them, which one would you choose and why? 
That’s a difficult one. I don’t think I could choose. My writing helps me relax from my illustration work and my art de-stresses me when I’m writing. 
I do all sorts of artwork, I’ve illustrated about 25 books for teens and adults with learning disabilities, ( which is a very stylised approach with a very exacting brief – to express difficult life issues without words. That can be very exhausting, and when I’ve finished a book, writing comes as a relief. The ‘Fleabag’ books are easier and fun – light relief from the rigours of writing. I also do storyboarding – my last job was for a music promo video. That is quite a simple style, but has to be done very fast for a tight deadline – usually yesterday! Again, it’s a hoot which cheers me up. 
Deep down I think writing is my first love, but if it isn’t going as I’d like, I’m awfully pleased to take a break and just draw for a few weeks. It gives me a chance to step back and see my stories afresh when I return to them. 

Why do you think animals make great characters in books? 
I love using animals as characters. I’ve used a mouse, a fox, several cats in the Fleabag series, and a horse and a dog that were very important in the Star Dancer books. They aren’t all as rude and loquacious as Fleabag, but they play vital roles. 

Primarily, animals love us unconditionally, and we can love them back without complications. If we can’t have our own pets, we can love them in books. 
Beyond that, in real life we can relate to animals when we feel that another human can’t or won’t understand (or when we’re alone). This is vitally important – especially for children and young people struggling with life. Children need pets or cuddly toys to talk to, just as homeless people need their dogs; that faithful friend who never lets them down and keeps them going. Children’s literature is an excellent place to explore this relationship. 
Most important of all, (especially with books such as Fleabag), the story animal says and does things human characters can’t. Often these reflect what the reader wishes they could say or do – so it’s a sort of vicarious exercise and a release of tension. (cf A Monster Calls – Dowd and Ness use a tree in this case, but it works in the same way!) 

What are you working on at the moment? 
I’m editing Hebsibah Brown, the Victorian story I mentioned earlier. I’m also working on a book about sight loss for people with learning disabilities. 

Which book illustrators/authors would you have at a literary New Year dinner party and why? 
That bloke Vincent Ripley – obviously. Not only because he’s been kind enough to talk to me, but bloggers and reviewers bring a vital perspective to any dinner conversation. The illustrator Edward Ardizzone because he inspired me with his visual storytelling as a child, my dad, Stan Webb, because although he was never published, he taught me that stories come out of heads, and Ursula le Guin because she’s so brilliant and wise. 

What book would you recommend to readers to get them into the winter/festive spirit? 
The Dark is Rising, by Susan Cooper. The menace built up by the silent, perpetually falling snow is just breath-taking. (Don’t watch the film, it’s a travesty of the book) 
The Children of Green Knowe by Lucy Boston. When the statue comes alive I hold my breath and long to be there…. 
And if I may blow my own trumpet: Fleabag and the Ring’s End (book 3 of my trilogy, but it also stands alone

Everyone loves books as gifts which book would you give or receive this Christmas? 
I’d like to give and receive Philip Pullman’s Dust please, Santa. Oh, and there’s about a million other books, so another full-wall bookcase. And another wall to put it on…

What's the meaning of Christmas for you and your characters? 
Ah. Hum. D’ye know, I’m not going to answer that. I want people to come to their own conclusions and find (and keep) what they need from both the traditional Christmas story and my own Christmas and midwinter tales. Once a tale is told, it is essential that the reader is allowed to use it as they see fit 

What do you most like about Christmas? 
Midnight Christmas Eve. It’s cold outside, warm and sparkly inside, and everyone’s settled down for the night and waiting in the silence…. 
(Except in my house; my three grown-up sons will all be glued to Die Hard, drinking beer and eating home made bread. But that’s still fun.)

What superpower would you give to someone for Christmas and why? 
I’d want creatives in every medium to have the gift of healing for our poor, grief and anger-torn world. 

I visited an art studio in Turkey once, and one of the artists explained that in his view, ‘Artists are the doctors of society.’ I’ve never forgotten that. 
I don’t think it’s too much to ask. 

Merry Christmas folks, and thanks for having me, Vincent Ripley! 

(Photo by Vik Martin)

Beth Webb is a British children's author. Her books include the popular Fleabag Trilogy and her novel for young adults Star Dancer, published by Macmillan Publishers. Webb's interests include British folklore, and she visits ancient sites of the UK as part of her research for her books. Though a full-time writer, she also runs creative writing courses for young people, particularly at the Kilve Court Residential Educational Centre (Star Dancer is dedicated to the "Kilvites", a group of young writers who attended there).
Represented by Hannah Sheppard of DHH agency.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Sinéad O’Hart - The Eye of the North - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books - Book Review

When Emmeline’s scientist parents mysteriously disappear, she finds herself heading for a safe house, where allies have pledged to protect her. But along the way, she is kidnapped by the villainous Doctor Siegfried Bauer, who is bound for the ice fields of Greenland. There he hopes to summon a mystical creature from the depths of the ancient glaciers, a creature said to be so powerful that whoever controls it can control the world. Unfortunately, Bauer isn’t the only one determined to unleash the creature. The North Witch has laid claim to the mythical beast, too, and Emmeline—along with a scrappy stowaway named Thing—may be the only one with the power to save the world as we know it. Can Emmeline face one of the greatest legends of all time—and live to tell the tale?

Sinéad O’Hart’s brilliant debut 'The Eye of the North’ will be published on the 8th February 2018 by Stripes publishing UK. The cracking book cover has been fantastically designed by the talented illustrator Sara MulvannyWhat do you think of the cover art? The US Knopf book cover is also at the bottom of the post. Which one do you like the most?

This is an early review for the UK, but the book has already been published in the US by Knopf Books for Young Readers on the 22nd August 2017.

For as long as she could remember, Emmeline Widget had been sure that her parents were trying to kill her. The opening of the book has a really unhappy Lemony Snicket feel about it. It really depicts a desperately sad and difficult situation. As a result, the main character (Emmeline) is dragged into an adventure with a satchel full of unhappiness, loneliness, and sadness but true fighting spirit. This really drives the narrative into a frenzy of arctic winter action that will have you on tenterhooks all the way through. 

The author has a good grasp of imagination that will keep the middle-grade audience hooked and is perfectly pitched, in my opinion. There is a great balance of action drama and character dialogue. I loved the imperfections of the characters in the book. 'Thing' was my favourite character; his resourcefulness, spiritedness, and impulsive actions brought drama and humour into the story. He really brought emotion and feeling into an adventure-packed story. 

This is a fantastic amalgamation of old fairy tales cleverly intertwined with creative fantasy imagination. The only problem I had with this book was the ending. I think this was due to the author weaving too many character story threads into the main story and then trying to fit them all neatly into the end of the book. In my opinion, sometimes keeping it simple/focused is the best way in this style of book. Nevertheless, this does not detract from the book itself as I loved every page of it. 

This book is a winter explosion, a brilliant storm of mythical beasts and creative characters. It is a boat ride of inventiveness and sleigh ride of craziness should appeal to every reader under the Arctic sun. A great spirited adventure that delivers a glacier full of courage in order to save the day. This is a book that you will want to read and will really enjoy doing so. 

Sinéad O’Hart’ lives in County Meath, near Dublin with her husband and their daughter. She has a degree in Medieval Studies. a PhD in Old and Middle English Language and Literature and can read Middle English with perfect fluency. The Eye of the North is Sinéad’s first book. You can find out more by visiting her website or follow her on Twitter.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Emily Critchley - Notes on My Family - Mr Ripley's Interview (Q&A)

Today on Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books we have Emily Critchley. The debut author of Notes on My Family which was published by Everything with Words back in October 2017. It's a moving account with an inside look on life featuring a dysfunctional family told through the perspective of a 13-year-old girl with lots of irony and humour. 

Welcome Emily and thank you for taking part in this interview for Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books. I hope you enjoyed answering the below questions. 

Tell us about your first book for Young Adults - Notes on My Family? 

Notes on My Family is a first-person present-tense account of contemporary life told through the observations of my protagonist, Louise Coulson (Lou). Lou’s parents announce they are separating. Her dad is a teacher at her secondary school and is having an affair with a sixth form student. Lou is an outsider who isn’t fitting in. She is also having problems at school and her dad’s affair isn’t helping her quest for invisibility. Lou is asked to be a ‘buddy’ to the new girl in her class, Faith, and the two girls form an unlikely friendship amidst the chaos of their ordinary lives. 

Does your book have a lesson or a moral behind it? 
No. I think books should present issues but ever instruct. I do think, though, when writing young adult fiction, it’s important to leave the reader with a sense of hope. I think we often read to feel less isolated and I would like teens who have read Notes on My Family to come away feeling that they are not alone, that other teenagers also experience problems at home or at school and have difficulty fitting into a world that doesn’t understand them. I would like to think that teenagers, or indeed anyone, reading the book will feel that it’s okay to be different and that life, despite all its absurdities, can be enjoyed. 

If you had to do something differently as a child or teenager to become a better writer as an adult, what would you do? 
Write more, read more, and finish what I’d started. It’s really important to practise your craft and, of course, to read widely. I wrote some very bad poetry 
as a teenager and I started several pieces of fiction but rarely finished anything. It’s vitally important to finish. My advice to any young writer would be to keep reading, keep writing and try to finish things. 

What period of your life do you find you write about most often? 
My characters tend to be wholly fictional. Lou, in, Notes on My Family isn’t me, although she is having a problematic time at school as I did. Writing Notes on My Family was difficult for me because it was the first time I’d re-visited being a teenager and it wasn’t a happy time for me. I also write short stories. I tend, in my short stories, to focus more on the mess that was my twenties, alt-hough I also enjoy writing from the perspective of older characters looking back on certain periods in their lives. I am interested in the unreliability of memory and why certain experiences in our lives surface at certain times. 

Do you use your own experiences? 
Occasionally, although I try to disguise them as fiction! 
My family were worried when they saw the title Notes on My Family and very relieved when they read the book and discovered Lou’s family bear no resemblance to my own.

While you were writing, did you ever feel as if you were one of the characters? 
No. I felt very close to Lou when writing her. I was inside her head but she was definitely a separate person to me. 

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel? 
Oh, gosh. I might go for Patrick Hamilton’s Hangover Square, or Barbara Comyns Our Spoons came from Woolworths. If I am allowed two! 
In children’s literature, Peter Dickinson’s Eva is greatly under-appreciated. 

What's your favorite part of Christmas in a literary sense? 

Having the time to read. I am always hopeful for that. This year I will be spending a week at my parent’s house in North Lincolnshire. I hope they are aware that I plan to do nothing except sit by the fire and read. Perhaps a little antisocial but they should be used to me by now! 

You’re hosting a Christmas literary dinner party, which particular authors/illustrators would you invite and why?
I’d really like to invite some literary authors from the past round to dinner. We’d eat at my flat then go walking in London. I’d love, for example, to see what Charles Dickens or Virginia Woolf, or Graham Greene would think of London now.

Last question, what five things would you take on a desert Island on Christmas Day and why? 
If I was just there for the day I’d take: 
A book (obviously) 
A beach towel to lie on 
An umbrella so I didn’t get sunburn 
Christmas pudding so I’d feel I wasn’t missing out on Christmas. 
My laptop, so I that I could write! 

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Children's Middle Grade Book Picks (9-12yrs) December 2017 - US Post

D. Jango Wexler - The Fall of the Readers - Published by Kathy Dawson Books (5 Dec. 2017) - ISBN-13: 978-0399539206

In this thrilling conclusion to Alice's adventures in The Forbidden Library she must lead her band of friends, magical beings, and creatures against the collected might of the Old Readers--perfect for fans of Story ThievesInkheartCoraline, and Harry Potter.

When Alice defeated her uncle Geryon and declared war on the totalitarian ways of the Old Readers, she knew she would have a hard fight ahead. What she didn't anticipate was the ruthlessness of the Old Reader--who can control magic and enter worlds through books. All the creatures she promised to liberate and protect are being threatened, and slowly all of Alice's defenses are being worn away. So when Ending (the giant cat-like creature who guards the magical labyrinth in Geryon's library) hints at a dangerous final solution, Alice jumps at the chance, no matter the cost to her life. She and her friends--a fire sprite, Ashes the cat, and the other apprentice Readers she met during her previous adventures--go on a quest to free the one creature possibly strong enough to overturn the Old Readers once and for all. 
But before it's all over, Alice will be betrayed, her true identity will be revealed, and she'll have to be willing to give up the person she loves the most.

Kari Maaren - Weave a Circle Round - Published by Tor Books (13 Dec. 2017) - ISBN-13: 978-0765386281

When the unexpected moves in next door, anything can happen in Weave a Circle Round, Kari Maaren's debut in this YA-friendly fantasy adventure.
Freddy doesn't want people to think she's weird. Her family makes that difficult, though: her deaf stepbrother Roland's a major geek, and her genius little sister Mel's training to be the next Sherlock Holmes. All Freddy wants is to survive high school.
Then two extremely odd neighbors move in next door.
Cuerva Lachance and Josiah definitely aren't normal. Neither is their house, which defies the laws of physics. Neither is Freddy's situation, when she suddenly finds herself stuck thousands of years in the past with her very, very weird neighbors. And that's only the beginning.
"I adored this brilliant book from start to finish. It left me reeling with delight and I can't wait for the rest of the world to get as lost in its pages as I was." --Charles de Lint
"I'd have loved this book when I was twelve, and I love it now." --Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy-Award winning author Jo Walton

Janette Rallison - The Wrong Side of Magic - Published by Square Fish (5 Dec. 2017) 

"Whimsical, exciting, funny, adventurous--all the things I loved about books growing up."--James Dashner, New York Times-bestselling author of the Maze Runner series
Hudson Brown stopped believing in magic long ago. That is, until the day he is whisked away to the magical land of Logos by a curious compass given to him by his off-beat neighbor, Charlotte.
Hudson discovers that Logos is a land ruled by words, thoughts, and memories. A fairy might ferry you across the river for the price of one memory. But be sure to look out for snarky unicorns, as they will see through those who are not pure of heart. 
Not understanding the many rules of Logos, Hudson is quickly saddled with a troll curse. Charlotte, who, along with her father, was banished from Logos, can help get rid of the curse--but only if he agrees to find the lost Princess of Logos in return.

Kate Davies - The Crims - Published by HarperCollins (December 5, 2017) - ISBN-13: 978-0062494092
The Addams Family meets Despicable Me in the first book of this new trilogy, perfect for fans of Lemony Snicket and Pseudonymous Bosch!The Crim family is full of notorious criminals. Notoriously inept, that is. Uncle Knuckles once tried to steal a carnival. Great-Uncle Bernard held himself hostage by accident. Aunt Drusilla died slipping on a banana peel. But Imogen is different. She was born with a skill for scandal. A knack for the nefarious. A mastery of misdemeanors.Despite her natural talent for all things unlawful, Imogen got out of the family business years ago. But when the rest of the Crims are accused of pulling off a major heist-which seems doubtful, to say the least-Imogen is forced to step in to clear their names. Because only a truly skilled criminal can prove the bumbling family's innocence....

Monday, 4 December 2017

Sophie Plowden - The Children's Author of the Jack Dash Series - Mr Ripley's Festive Edition Q&A (Catnip)

This is the third festive interview Q&A. I would like to welcome Sophie Plowden, who is the author of the fantastic Jack Dash series. Two brilliant books to date have been fantastically illustrated by Judy Brown, who helps to bring Jack Dash's drawings to life. This series was published by the small and mighty Catnip Publishing Group. If you are looking for funny, action-packed stories for young readers then these are great gifts for this festive time. Fill the Christmas stockings with great books like these this year.  

Welcome Sophie and thank you for taking time to answer some questions. 

What would Jack Dash say about his books this Christmas?
I think he’d probably say that they make the most fantastic presents and you’d have to be leaking brain juice not to buy them.

Jack's magic feather makes whatever he draws come to life. What would he draw to bring Christmas to life?
I’m pretty sure he already did! In ‘Jack Dash and the Summer Blizzard’ he conjures up a snowstorm in the school playground, along with a hundred and eighteen penguins. Penguins make ideal stocking-fillers as they’re the perfect shape.

What makes you laugh?
Misunderstandings and minor injuries.
What can we expect next from Sophie next year?

Jack Dash 3 is coming out in September. I’m still wrestling with the title, but it features a cowboy, a castle and a Cake Off Competition.

Who would you have at a literary New Year dinner party and why? 
Dr Seuss, Lewis Carroll, Louis Sachar and Jane Austen would get along swimmingly. I’d also invite Peter Frankopan because of his Twitter feed and his magnificent name.

What book would you recommend to readers to get them into the winter/festive spirit?
Maurice Sendak’s ‘In the Night Kitchen’ is the lesser-known and distinctly weirder precursor to ‘Where the Wild Things Are.’ It lingers in the head for years because it’s magical, strange and dark.

Everyone loves books as gifts which book would you like to receive or give this Christmas?
I’d love to have the catalogue of Basquiat’s paintings, which are currently on exhibition at the Barbican Centre in London. It’s for this reason, I’m giving it to my husband.

What's the meaning of Christmas for you and your characters?
No school and family arguments – my characters and I are indistinguishable.

Are you any good at building a snowman/woman?
I live in London and there’s rarely enough snow to build anything much. I once managed a small conical structure – a sort of snow parsnip.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Daniel Whelan - Children's Author of The Box of Demons - Mr Ripley's Festive Edition Q&A

This is the second festive interview with many more fantastic ones to come. This one comes care of Daniel Whelan, who some of you might know from Harry Potter or maybe not :). He is the author of one of my personal favourite books The Box of Demons. It's a fantastic fantasy-fuelled story full of great humour that all young kids will really enjoy. The book cover above displays Chris Riddell's talent and who also features in the below Q&A. 

Thank you, Daniel, for taking part in the festive interview and welcome to Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books. 

The Box of Demons is fantastic book, what comes next?
Thank you! I’m not sure what’ll be out next. I’ve got two books on the go, one a bit more YA than The Box of Demons and one very firmly in Middle Grade. The YA-ish one is nearest to completion, but I keep cheating on it with the MG which has been a bit more fun to write. I’d hope to have one out in 2019, but that isn’t really down to me.

If your next book was illustrated, and you could choose any illustrator, who would it be and why?
If it were down to me, I’d pick Chris Riddell every time because he made the characters in The Box of Demons look better than I imagined them, and now it's quite hard when thinking of new ones not to wonder what Chris would make of them. Unfortunately for me Chris is very busy, so I can’t imagine I’d be lucky enough to work with him again.
I tend to favour quite cartoony or comicky illustrations. I love Sarah McIntyre’s stuff. There’s an author called Tatum Flynn who is also an artist, I’d love to work with her one day. And Marc Simonetti, who does the French covers for Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, he’s great.
I’ve been a part of the Save Hari campaign to save Haringey’s Children’s Librarians - I live in Wales now, but as I’m Patron of Reading at North Harringay Primary School it’s part of my job to protect access to books for those kids - and all our artwork for that was done by Emer Stamp, who I think is marvellous. 

Which book monsters/authors would you have at a literary New Year dinner party and why? (or actor maybe?)
This Christmas belongs to one monster and one monster alone: Mr. Underbed. Hopefully he’d bring his creator Chris Riddell along with him, because Chris is such fantastic company. 
Actor-wise, Morven Christie would have to be first on the guest list. She’s one of my best friends, and one of the few people I trust with early drafts of things. We don’t see each other nearly enough: she’s in Scotland, I’m in Wales, so we have an entire country between us! I’d also have Charlie Hotson, Stephen Wight and his wife Chloe, and Sophie Angelson and her husband, the director James Kemp.
Finally - and I hope this isn’t stretching the question too much - I’d like to have Charles Dickens’s Mr. Fezziwig along. That guy knows how to party. If he could come in his Mr. Fozzywig aspect from The Muppets Christmas Carol, that’d be super.

What book would you recommend to readers to get them into the winter/festive spirit?
Terry Pratchett is a big influence on me, so I’d say check out Wintersmith, the third book in his Tiffany Aching sequence. He wrote a Christmas-ish Discworld too, The Hogfather, but I’m less keen on that one.

Everyone loves books as gifts which book would you like to receive this Christmas?
I’ve asked Father Christmas for Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman, a couple of Thames and Hudson’s books on myth, and The Ultimate Visual History of Labyrinth, one of my all-time favourite films. We shall see if I have been nice enough this year!

What's the meaning of Christmas for you and your characters?
For me, it’s about warmth against the cold. Christmas falls just after the shortest and therefore darkest day of the year, and I think the collective brightness and joy of it lets us pull each other out of the gloom. Humans have always needed a Winter festival. Before Christianity, we celebrated the Winter Solstice; the Ancient Romans had Saturnalia. It’s rooted deep within us.
For my characters, I think Kartofel would be grumpy and cynical about Christmas while secretly loving it; the excessive food consumption would be right up Djinn’s street: and Orff would complain about the cold and what the darkness does to the Seasonal Affected Disorder he doesn’t really have. 

What's your favourite thing about Christmas?
Mince Pies. They are so firmly attached to my Christmas experience I think I would throw up if I had to eat one between January and November. I moved back to Wales at the beginning of this year, so 2017 will be my first Christmas in over a decade without my favourite mince pies of all time: the Mince Pie Selection Box from Dunn’s of Crouch End, London.

Do you think the book cover has an important role in potential readers buying your book?
I can only speak from experience, and my experience is there are quite a lot of people who wouldn’t have looked twice at The Box of Demons if it didn’t have a Chris Riddell cover. I can only hope they have enjoyed the inside as much as the outside. A good cover is vital.

What is the strangest question you have been asked as an author?
I am often asked if I know Ron Weasley. When I was an actor, I once got a call from the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire production office about playing one of the older Weasley brothers. They asked a few questions, and I never heard from them again. (It became clear why when the film came out: the character in question was cut). I put this story on my website to illustrate how spectacularly unsuccessful my acting career was, and somehow it keeps being filtered into me having some sort of association with Rupert Grint. (I don’t).
I once did an in-store signing where the poster they put up to advertise my appearance said ‘he could have been Ron Weasley!’, which I thought was an interesting, if inaccurate, selling point.

What has inspired you the most to write?
That’s a tough one. I really don’t know. It just sort of happens. I liked a lot of fantasy-type things when I was younger, which I suppose helps. I went to a Catholic school, and Catholicism is essentially all stories so there was that too. And I’ve always liked to write, and read. 
Whenever I’m asked the classic author question "where do you get your ideas from?", I always say the swimming pool. There’s something about doing those repetitive laps that allows me to think of new stuff, make new connections to things I’m working on. So let’s say ‘swimming’.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Matt Brown - Children's Author of Compton Valance Series - Mr Ripley's Festive Edition Q&A

What a great way to celebrate the festive time and to give your kids a funny book to read. This series of books by Matt Brown (illustrated by Lizzie Finlay) are smashing stocking fillers for kids and big kids with a crazy sense of humour. There are four books, so far, in the series to get your teeth stuck into. Why not check out the author's website to find out more? 

Welcome and thank you very much, Matt Brown, for taking the time out to answer some festive-style questions for Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books. 

What makes The Compton Valance series of books tick?
Whenever I write a Compton Valance book the question I’m essentially trying to make myself laugh as hard as possible.  I figure that if it makes me laugh, it’ll make other people laugh.  I think that is what makes the books tick.

If your next book was illustrated, and you could choose any illustrator, who would it be and why?
My grandad was a brilliant watercolour artist and, while he never did any illustrations, I would have loved to had the chance to work with him.  I think he would have got a huge kick out of the process.

Which book characters/authors would you have at a literary New Year dinner party and why? (N.B. You can travel back in Compton Valance's time machine if you want!)
That’s easy, I would have all the authors that I have had on my Word Monkeys podcast because they’re the authors I love reading.  Character-wise I would have Bernard from Not Now Bernard, Mina Murray from the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (and Dracula), the Artilleryman from War of the Worlds, Nymphadora Tonks, Mr Wednesday from American Gods, Commander James Bond, Miss Marple, and Dr John Watson.

What book would you recommend to readers to get them into the winter/festive spirit?
The Box of Delights and A Christmas Carol.  We’ve got a version of A Christmas Carol that we read aloud, as a family, on Christmas Eve.

Everyone loves books as gifts which book would you like to receive this Christmas?
I’ve asked for loads but in particular the Chrysalids by John Wyndham and Mysteries of the Quantum Universe by Thibault Damour and Mattieu Burniat

What's the meaning of Christmas for you and your characters?
Being with family and friends and trying to eat my bodyweight in turkey sandwiches (I make very good ones).

What's your favourite Christmas film?
It’s a Wonderful Life and Die Hard 2.

Did you read as a child, if so what captured your reading attention? 
I did read, although I was not a voracious reader (I am now).  I read comics and at various points in my childhood had the Beano, the Dandy, Whizzer and Chips and Roy of the Rovers delivered weekly (not at the same time). But the books I remember me and my friends getting and swapping with each other were called Fighting Fantasy books and I can remember loving the Warlock of Firetop Mountain and the Sword of the Samurai the most.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Andrew Norriss - MIKE - Book Review (David Fickling) Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books

Floyd is a star of under-18s tennis. Since he was little, all he's ever known is the routine of training, of the matches, of trying to be the best. But something strange is happening. A boy called Mike has started turning up - a boy no one else can see. He keeps appearing whenever Floyd is playing tennis and making him lose his game. 

Floyd needs to discover what Mike wants - and what that will mean for him, and where his life is headed. Floyd is at the start of a journey that will lead him into a headlong collision with his family, girls, friendship, and self-discovery.

This is another book from David Fickling that hits the mark both on and off the tennis court. It is a fantastic story from the award-winning author, Andrew Norriss. Mike will be served to the public on the 4th January 2018 and will be a definite ace. The book cover has been illustrated by David Sheldon. The two key themes (fish and tennis balls) have been integrated to produce a visually stimulating design.  

My expectations of this book were not particularly high. Whilst I liked the idea of tennis and sport as part of the story, the blurb to accompany the proof copy did not really appeal to me. However, the mystery person (known as MIKE) really did capture my interest and was particularly intriguing. No sooner had I started reading, I found that Floyd's narrative was whispering inside my head. I connected with him so quickly that the story flashed by me quicker than a Milos Raonic serve. The inner voice was sealed inside my brain. I haven't read a book so quickly in such a long time. I really wanted to know more. 

This story is absolutely brilliant. It is very different as it takes a unique look at character behaviour and Floyd's state of mind. The plot explores the conscious/unconscious experiences and places them into the story cleverly. It is a psychological path of self-discovery involving Floyd's destiny. 

It's a beautiful, poignant story with very moving consequences. The book slips by in an undercurrent of family, friendship, and a large number of councilling sessions. It is a book that highlights the reality and the big world outside the reader's armchair. It provides an up-lifting feeling to get out there and do something amazing. This book will make you look at yourself on the outside, as well as the inside.

I cannot praise this book enough - it is astonishingly good. I am not usually a lover of reality-themed books. I tend to gravitate towards fantasy books and magical tales. However, this absolutely bowled me over and really developed my understanding of the complex nature of growing up with a talent. Whilst it is important to nurture there is obviously a fine line between developing and forcing. It really is difficult being a parent and getting the balance just right. This is a must read for both children and their parents. I'm looking forward to finding out your thoughts.