Thursday, 13 May 2021

Tim Tilley (Author, Illustrator) - Harklights - Interview with Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books

Welcome to Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books and the chance to read our wonderful interview with debut author and illustrator Tim Tilley. Harklights has been published by Usborne Publishing and is our favourite book of May 2021. It is a fantastic illustrative delight. We've recently reviewed the book so if you fancy taking a look you can find the link HERE.  

We are running a competition to give away a free copy on Twitter @Enchantedbooks please see the pinned Tweet. The competition ends 20th May 2021 and is open to the UK only. 

We would like to thank Tim Tilley and Jacob Dow (Usborne Publishing) for taking the time to put this post together. We hope you enjoy it and have a great week. 

Harklights is a fantastic debut novel. How would you describe it without using any part of the synopsis?


Harklights is full of nature, adventure, heart, and wrapped in magic. It is also filled with a message of hope, that you are never too small to make a difference.


How did you select the names for your characters?


The idea to give the orphans new names when they arrived at Harklights came from a trip to the Foundling Museum in London. Back when the place was the Foundling Hospital, mothers would leave their babies with swatches of fabric – cut from their dresses – which would fit into place if they were reunited. Mothers would also leave unique tokens. Some of these tokens were keys, rings, buttons, engraved coins, flattened thimbles, and padlocks.


The Hospital gave the babies new names too. There are some fantastic ones, such as John Tempest, Molly Lightfoot, Admiral Benbow, and Inigo Scotland.


If you were to write a spin-off about a side character, which would you pick?


I think all of the characters have their own stories to tell. I’ve already written a short story with Nissa, which is set before Wick arrives at Oakhome. But there are definitely opportunities for others. Petal is one of the few orphans who remembers her parents, so there’s lots to explore there.


There is an environmental element throughout this book. What was the influence of nature on the story?


I grew up with a love of getting close to nature. Some of my favourite places include The Forest of Dean, where my dad grew up, and Bradgdate Park, a medieval deer park north of Leicester. Bradgate has ancient oaks, many of which are hollow but still alive. My younger brother and I used to crawl inside and climb them, imagining they were wooden castles. 


I’m a huge fan of the Usborne Spotter’s Guide series – field guides full of facts and information on the natural world. I remember one time, aged ten, filling an old fish tank with pond water and frogspawn, so we could watch the spawn turn from full stops into commas, then tadpoles and tiny frogs. 



(All images subject to copyright ©Tim Tiley test illustration (Acorn) for Harklights) 


You studied illustration at Anglia Ruskin University. Did you ever think you would be writing and illustrating your own children's book?


I hoped so. The course had strong leanings into children’s books (this was before the fantastic MA Children’s Book Illustration course). We had children’s book authors and illustrators who came to visit and worked with us on a range of projects. Harklights itself, originally started life as a picture book.


The story sparked on a return trip to Bradgate Park. I was amazed to see that the hollow oaks, my brother and I had played in, half my life ago, were still alive. As we left, in the fading light, what appeared to a distant tree, stood up and revealed itself to be a stag. The moment burned in my mind and gave me the idea for Half Crown.  


As a picture book, the story revolved around a boy meeting a tree-stag, but then a match factory orphanage came along, and then a baby in an acorn-shaped cradle, and suddenly the story grew and grew. 


You have a magical theme in the book which in my opinion is not overly used. Was this the intention when you started writing the book?


Growing up, I always loved fairy tales and stories with magic in them, so it was inevitable that magic would wind up in some of my own stories. I loved The Box of Delights, the Narnia books, and James and the Giant Peach. 


One of my favourite non-fiction books was – and still is – The Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, that belonged to my grandmother. Brewers is packed full of history, myths, folk tales and legends. I loved going on afternoon adventures poring over the mottled pages. 


Brewers wove its way into the roots of Harklights – the Hobs take their name from Hob, a Scottish household spirit. And Nissa’s name comes from Nisse, meaning gnome in Norwegian. 


What comes first for you, the words or the illustrations?


Images always come first, whether I’m writing or illustrating. When writing, I always see the scenes as a movie playing out in my mind. Visualising the scenes comes easy, it’s putting them into words, and finding the perfect word, that takes time. When rewriting Harklights – after I decided it wasn’t a picture book – I made sketches along the way, but I didn’t set out to fully work on the illustrations until I’d finished the manuscript.


(All images subject to copyright ©Tim Tiley test illustration for Harklights) 

Are there any significant ways in which your book has changed since the first draft?


Lots of the story bones I set in place in the first draft still remain. However, the introduction of Nissa in the second draft, opened up the story in so many ways. Suddenly, Papa Herne had a daughter, who was quietly jealous that she was being side-lined when Wick arrived at Oakhome. Nox, the Hob who is wary of humans, was also introduced in the second draft. Both of these characters deepened the story and added lots of extra dimension to the plot. Not everyone wants to embrace change.


I'm a massive fan of illustrations. What do you think makes an illustration effective and why?


Growing up, I loved illustrated books and losing myself in their details. I especially loved Jill Barklem’s Brambly Hedge series, which took the magic miniaturisation of dolls houses and brought it to the countryside. Another favourite was The Troll Book by Michael Berenstain, an illustrated history and guide to trolls, filled with myths and information on their family life. One of my favourites illustrations was of a tall fir tree that was used as a look-out tower. 


For me, an illustration is effective if it adds something to the text. This could be showing character action, reaction and interaction, but it could also show the setting and establish a mood.


I really love the book cover. Were you involved with the development or production of this? If so, how did it start life e.g. as a series of sketches or was it all done digitally etc? (It would be amazing if you could share any of these images with us!)


Thank you. I worked closely with Will and Sarah, the wonderful designers at Usborne, but we had feedback from everyone in the team, so the cover really took a village to raise. Interestingly, the cover illustration altered the story. The idea to have some of the Hob homes up in the branches was something that was evolved when developing the cover illustration. I then went back to the text and found ways to bring this into the story.


In terms of the process, everything started out as pencil sketches, then developed into final pencil drawings. I like to work with lots of drawn elements and textures, and then bring everything into Photoshop to work on.


We had lots of ideas for the cover, but we settled on the final design as we wanted to show Wick in the forest setting. I also developed the lettering for the cover, inspired by the tiles at Postman’s Park, near St. Pauls in London.


Could you tell us a bit about any of your upcoming projects?


I’ve just finished a new draft for Witchstorm. The story is set in the same world as Harklights, and focuses on a cast of new characters, but there’s a crossover. There’s a surprise appearance from ... I can’t say more, without giving anything away.



Thursday, 6 May 2021

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books - Children's Book Picks - May 2021 - UK Post Two

 

Ross MacKenzie - Feast of the Evernight - Published by Andersen Press (6 May 2021)
The Evernight has been defeated and the sun has returned, thanks to Larabelle Fox and her friends Joe and Double Eight. White Witches have their souls back and Mrs Hester is no more. It should be a time of celebration and relief. But a new threat is emerging from the mists of the Veil, the dangerous forest that surrounds the Silver Kingdom’s southern lands. Mysterious killings are taking place, and Double Eight is the suspect. Lara and Joe journey to Lake End to discover what’s really happening, all the while trying to stay one step ahead of the secret police . . .

Kirtsy Applebaum - The Life and Time of Lonny Quicke - Published by Nosy Crow Ltd (6 May 2021) - Book Review HERE

A brilliant novel by the author of The Middler about family, secrets, and a terrible power.

Lonny is a lifeling. He has the power to heal any living creature and bring it back from the dead. But he pays a price for this gift - by lengthening the creature's life, he shortens his own. So Lonny has to be careful, has to stay hidden in the forest. Because if people knew what he could do, Lonny would be left with no life at all...


S. A. Ellis - Goby the Goblin - Published by S. A. Ellis (24 May 2021) Please check out the website HERE

It is a misconception that all goblins are bad, this simply isn't true.

They are not all ugly, gnarled, nasty little creatures that only want to cause trouble and misery.

The goblins from the Three Realms live in an enchanted land, full of wizardry and magic. Goby is a Pumple goblin and lives within the Gravern tree deep in Kracklewood, under the majestic Galamide mountain range.

He is a bright green little goblin with oversized ears that his friend Squiggle (a booquar), often likes to snuggle under and fall asleep.

Follow Goby on his adventures and see how he helps to reunite the Three Realms of the goblins, with the support of his unusual friends and others he meets along the way.


Tim Tilley - Harklights - Published by - Usborne Publishing Ltd (13 May 2021) - Book Review HERE (Interview Coming Soon)
Wick has always lived in the dark and dreadful Harklights Match Factory and Orphanage, working tirelessly for greedy Old Ma Bogey. He only dreams of escaping, until one day a bird drops something impossible and magical at his feet - a tiny baby in an acorn cradle...

As midnight chimes, Wick is visited by the Hobs, miniature protectors of the forest. Grateful for the kindness shown to their stolen child, they offer Wick the chance of a lifetime - escape from Harklights and begin a new life with them in the wild...

Winner of the Joan Aiken Future Classics Prize, Harklights is a magical story celebrating family, friendship and the natural world, filled with a message of hope for our times.

Frank Cottrell Boyce (Author), Steve Lenton (Illustrator) - Noah's Gold - Published by 
Macmillan Children's Books (13 May 2021)
Packed with mystery, adventure and laughs, Noah's Gold is the exciting novel from the bestselling, multi-award-winning author of Millions and Cosmic, Frank Cottrell-Boyce. Fully illustrated in black and white throughout by Steven Lenton, this is perfect for readers of 9+.

Being the smallest doesn't stop you from having the biggest ideas.

Eleven-year-old Noah sneaks along on his big sister's geography field trip. Everything goes wrong! Six kids are marooned on an uninhabited island. Their teacher has vanished. They're hungry. Their phones don't work and Noah has broken the internet. There's no way of contacting home . . . Disaster!

Until Noah discovers a treasure map and the gang goes in search of gold.


Monday, 3 May 2021

Alex Cotter - The House on the Edge - (Nosy Crow) - Book Review - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books

 

This is a debut book to look forward to by Alex Cotter. As a former bookseller, her dream has come to fruition as she publishes The House on the Edge. It is due to be published this summer (beginning of July 2021) by Nosy Crow Books. I am a massive fan of the book cover which I believe is illustrated by Indonesian illustrator Kathrin Honesta. It's very reflective of the story and really eye-catching on the bookshelf. In my opinion, the colour palette works really well. 

What can you expect from this brilliant book? It's a story of sadness and new beginnings as Faith's dad has gone missing. We are not sure of the circumstances as we are lead down the mysterious garden path. Why has he left his family living in an old house perched on a crumbling clifftop? A crack has suddenly appeared in the cliff and, just like the story, the adventure turns into a thrilling and splitting adventure. The setting is idyllic but the family side of the narrative is anything but. There are many mysteries to uncover in this book. The plotline will keep the readers on their little tiny toes. 

The book turns into a dark and spine-tingling ghost story. Faith's brother brings an element of surprise to the plot when he claims sea ghosts are living in the basement of the house. He then disappears and we start to feel the fractures of family life splinter into dust. You need to watch out for her greedy Uncle Art as the VILLIAN. However, the story is really a race for time to find her brother and father and save the family house from falling into the sea. 

There are a lot of really great elements to this book: a dramatic setting, a moody atmosphere, and a great depiction of a coastal town. The loveable but rather quirky characters are well-written. The history is like a layer of antique dust as it is uncovered to weave the different story threads. It's a creative jaunt that will leave you with a creepy feeling. Chuck in some pirate treasure, smuggler's caves, and a sour teacher and you just about have the lot going on here. It's both thrilling and exciting - just about the best type of book you want to wake up to and have on the reading pile. 

Sunday, 25 April 2021

Annaliese Avery - The Nightsilver Promise - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books Author Interview

 


Hello Everybody. In this interview with Annaliese Avery, we promise you adventure, dragons, and a heady amount of excitement. The Nightsilver Promise is one of the most eagerly awaited book releases and one we cannot wait to read. The book will be published by Scholastic on the 6th May 2021. However, we thought we would take the opportunity to explore more about this intriguing book. 

If you are interested in supporting this debut author then you can pre-order a copy here or pop into your local bookshop and buy a copy. We are looking forward to seeing what your thoughts are here or on social media. Twitter: @Enchantedbooks and @AnnalieseAvery   

  1. The Nightsilver Promise sounds very mysterious upon reading the synopsis. How would you describe it to potential readers?

The Nightsilver Promise is an epic race against time adventure! Thirteen-year-old Paisley Fitzwilliam lives in the London of the Empire of Albion where the Dragons of old have all been vanquished and the stars of the Celestial Mechanism dictate the rule of the land. In Paisley’s world everyone is given a track of stars which is tattooed on their wrist that tells them what their destiny is. Paisley has lived without a track until now and when her stars tell her that her fate is to die before her next birthday she begins a race against time adventure to protect her dragon-touched brother, find her missing mother, and change her stars before her destiny catches her. 

  1. What would the characters say to you about the setting that they have found themselves in? 

The characters are very comfortable in their setting, they are used to seeing the floating boroughs of London littering the sky, or travelling on aerocopters, and visiting grand buildings like the Institute of Celestial Mechanics where the inside of the building shifts and moves. 

I think that Paisley would tell me that she like living in London but would love to live on the floating borough of Kensington Above, and her little brother Dax would much rather live in the Northern Realm where Dragons are allowed to roam, unlike in London, which is part of the Empire of Albion where all dragons are banned and killed on sight. 

  1. What are Dragon Walkers and how do they feature in the storyline?

The Dragon Walkers are an amazing group of young girls and women who have all been Dragon Touched. The Dragon Touched are all born with dragon attributes, they might have dragon wings or their skin may be covered in scales, they may have dragon claws at the ends of their fingers or they might have an unseen dragon ability like immense strength or being able to breath fire. No dragons are allowed in the Empire of Albion and this extends to any one found to have Dragon Touch, so to protect themselves those with Dragon Touch become members of the Dragon Walkers and live in the floating boroughs of London. As well as being quite brilliant at engineering, Dragon Walkers are skilled fighters. Their fighting skills allow them to protect themselves and the Dragon Vaults where they look after people’s treasure. 

In The Nightsilver Promise Paisley and Dax visit their family treasure trove at the Dragon Vault on the floating borough of Kensington Above. I don’t want to give too much away, but let’s just say they find more than they were looking for there. 

  1. The book cover is amazing. What are your feelings about it and do you think it conveys the right message about the story inside?

The awesome cover was illustrated by the very wonderful Natalie Smillie and designed by the equally wonderful Jamie Gregory. I think the cover gets across the energy of the story; the epic adventure and the vastness of the world, as well as the peril that Paisley faces. 

  1. I understand that this is the first book in a trilogy. When you first started writing this book were you expecting it to be in three parts?

No, when I first started writing I expected the story to be a stand alone book. It then grew as I was writing and after a chat with my Golden Egg editor Bella Pearson, we realised that the story was bigger than just the one book. 

  1. You have an MA in Creative Writing. What did you learn that may have helped you write this book?

I learnt many things on my MA, one of the most important was how much I loved writing for children. My MA was in writing fiction for adults and in writing screen plays. I really enjoy writing for adults but I love writing for children. Luckily the skills of good writing apply to both audiences, but for me there is a shift in outlook, an opening up that is required for children's books that you don’t often find in books written for adults, unless they are Sci-fi or Fantasy - you find that outwardly-looking-wonder there more often than not. 

  1. How do you process the ideas for your storyline?

What a fabulous question. I am a keen amature astronomer and I like to think of building a story as being a very similar process to the way that the solar system is formed. The first thing you need is a large cloud full of tenuous ideas floating about in your imagination. Every time you come across an idea that you think might have promise you pop it in the cloud and you just let all those ideas swirl about. 

When two ideas connect they start to draw other ideas towards them and when they do they erupt is a massive explosion. If we were building a solar system this eruption would form the star, as we are building a story system what we form is the central idea that all the other things in the story will circle around. Just like with a solar system there can be more than one star, more than one central idea.
Around this then forms a thing called an accretion disk, this is where all the matter that will make the planets and moons and comets reside it is made of all the star stuff that was blown off when the star formed. When it comes to the story the accretions disk is full of all the ideas that were in the cloud before the central idea formed. Some of the ideas have changed, some have remained the same. 

The ideas with the most mass will stay closest to the centre of the story; they become the characters that travel through the solar system of the story like planets and the world-building elements that give the story its colour and shape; it’s space to travel through.
In building a solar system the heavy elements stay closest to the sun, they form rocky planets, and the lighter elements drift outwards and collect together often forming gas giants - much bigger planets whose gravity can affect the objects in the solar system. In the story system, I like to think of these large gas giants as elements of theme and tone. 

When the story system has formed, when the characters have settled into their orbits and all the elements are moving, that’s when I have my story. 

  1. Do you think reading other children's books has helped you to become a better writer? If so, can you share an example of what and how this has been useful?

I think that accessing and assessing any type of story is a great way to become a better writer be it through a movie or play, a song or a poem, a painting or a dance. Thinking about the story that we are being presented with, the emotional response that we are having to it, the way it makes us feel, what it makes us think about, the connections that we find, recognising the stories around us and how they speak to is a great way of building up our skills as storytellers.

  1. Do you think social media now plays a significant part in the publishing process? How do you use it?

I love Twitter. For me, social media is about connecting with my fellow writers, seeing how they are doing, supporting them in their journey, and keeping up with what’s going on in the industry. Also, it’s the best place for book recommendations. I’m not as good at Instagram and I don’t really like to use Facebook, and my children have said they will disown me if I ever go on Tick-Tock! so I tend to be most active on Twitter, I feel it’s important to engage on platforms that you like otherwise it feels like a chore.

I think that social media does have an impact on the publishing process but the impact that I would say is most important for a writer is to look at if the time spent on social media is enriching. If it is something you enjoy doing and have fun with then do it, but if it becomes a distraction or a procrastination tool and takes you away from your writing then maybe you need to assess its value. 

  1. Is there anything you are particularly looking forward to once your book has been published? 

The thing I’m most looking forward to is sharing Paisley’s adventure and getting to meet readers. I know that things are a little different and difficult right now, and it might be a little while before I can visit schools, libraries, bookshops or festivals but as soon as I can I will be there. 

Friday, 23 April 2021

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books - Children's Book Picks - May 2021 - UK Post One

Louie Stowell - Otherland - Published by Nosy Crow Ltd (6 May 2021)

Otherland is a dangerous magical underworld - a place where appearances can be deceiving and anything can happen. 

A world of demi-gods, vampires, and fairies. It's also... horrible.

When best friends Myra and Rohan discover that Rohan's baby sister Shilpa has been stolen and taken to Otherland, the only way to rescue her is by taking part in a deadly game - three impossible challenges set by the Fairy Queen, the ruler of Otherland. Win the game, and Rohan and Myra can go home with Shilpa - but lose, and they'll be trapped in Otherland forever... 

A darkly funny, action-packed fantasy adventure, perfect for fans of Malamander, Stranger Things, Coraline and Pan's Labyrinth, from the author of the highly-acclaimed Dragon in the Library series.



N. J Poulton - Podwitch - Published by Matador (28 May 2021)


You will soon learn that many things exist in this life to which you have so far remained completely oblivious. You must embrace them, for it is a journey of wonder upon which you are embarking, one not without its perils, but miraculous nonetheless.” 
An Aldhelm is a protector of something very old and very powerful. Cal's dad says he himself, is the chosen Aldhelm, but Cal refuses to believe it's true... 
Podwitch chronicles the tale of Cal Wainwright and his best friend Janey Wickthorpe as they fight to survive a wild yet wonderful adventure throughout the streets of London. When the ravens are killed at the Tower of London, Cal’s life on Podwitch, a mysterious narrowboat, is turned upside down... 
A menacing stranger arrives with a cryptic message, which hurls Cal and Janey into a series of events far beyond their imagination that will have readers gasping for breath. Escaping the clutches of a minotaur in the Labyrinth, crossing through London's 'Blue Plaques' to reach a place beyond the realms of time, and bartering with river pirates to spare their lives...This is just another day in the life of an Aldhelm – but can Cal and Janey stay one step ahead? 
This tale of astonishing miracles and heroic adventures will be enjoyed by young readers from the age of 12 and will also appeal to fans of fantasy fiction of any age.


Jim Beckett (Author), Olia Muza (Illustrator) - The Caravan at the Edge of Doom

Published by Farshore (27 May 2021)

The perfect summer read for fans of Terry Pratchett, David Walliams and Roald Dahl!

When her grandparents explode in their caravan toilet late one night, twelve-year-old Harley discovers a surprising truth: their toilet is a gateway to the Land of the Dead, and they are its Guardians. Well, they were. But there’s no time to mourn their passing. Because Harley’s baby brother has accidentally gone with them to the Land of the Dead. And Harley only has 24 hours to rescue him before he’s trapped there FOREVER!

This hilarious and heartbreaking debut features exploding grandparents, unexpected heroes and a truly EPIC adventure.


Guy Bass (Author), Pete Williamson (Illustrator) - Skeleton Keys: The Night of the Nobody - Published by Stripes Publishing (13 May 2021)


The fourth tall-but-true tale in the darkly comic series SKELETON KEYS from the award-winning duo behind STITCH HEAD.


Greetings! My name is Skeleton Keys and these fantabulant fingers of mine can open doors to hidden worlds… Join me for the terrifying tale of the Nobody – a nightmarish unimaginary with a dark mission… 

On the hunt for an unimaginary, Skeleton Keys meets young Flynn Twist, a boy with a wild imagination who tells of his encounter with a terrifying shadow calling itself the Nobody.

Skeleton Keys suspects it could be a shapeless unimaginary searching for a physical form. As night falls the Nobody roams the village of Matching Trousers turning everyone it meets into zombie-like nobodies. No one is safe – not even Skeleton Keys. Soon only Flynn is left. Can he become the brave hero of his imagination and free everybody from the Nobody?


Sunday, 18 April 2021

ALIEN NATION by Sandro Bassi - Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books - Book Review

I have something very different to review this week. It's a very special book that is not just an illustrative delight but also conveys a powerful story that hits the reader on so many different levels. Sandro Bassi is an illustrator from Venezuela whose work was the 2019 Bologna Children's Book Fair Illustrator Show selection. Alien Nation is his first book and was published by Levine Querido on April 13, 2021. It has already received great acclaim in Mexico where it was originally published. 

It all begins on an unforgettable subway ride in an alien world or is it? The story explores the theme of travelling and technology in all of our lives. As you open the pages, you find yourself on a journey of wonder as you marvel at the black and white illustrations. It's a wordless picture book that shows the commuter moving through a crowded train station. You will glide across the pages mesmerised in a world that is totally different from our very own. However, there may be some similarities as we too can be glued to technology both day and night. For me, the story explores the theme of being engrossed in handheld devices whilst the world continues to go on around us particularly as we travel on public transport. We might as well be an alien of this world when this happens.


The book is illustrated using thick pencil lines to create amazing drawings that convey a fantasy world that requires closer inspection. One of the main features of the book focuses on the commuter. Each is drawn in human form except for the heads and faces. Instead, each face and head is represented in a number of ways through bulbous or blocked organic structures that somehow convey feelings to the reader. The narrative asks me questions about the future of us as a race and how far technology will develop. How much more of our time in the future will we spend on our devices, reading, playing games, or watching programs? However, is this loneliness that we seem to seek whilst commuting creating a hive mind society? 

This is a very special book with a cinematic appeal. It shows a world that we are at risk of losing out on and real adventures beyond the screen of a phone that might be passing us by. It's time to visit the eerie vision of a spectacular train station and a strange baby in a stroller as a packed metro awaits us. This book is a real page-turner that is full of real-time illustrations that will capture the attention of all readers from eight to a hundred and eight. Be warned, we might just be glimpsing a future that is not as alien as we believe from our very own. 


Sunday, 11 April 2021

The Best New Children's Book Picks US - April 2021 - Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books



Erin Bowman - Dustborn - Published by HMH Books for Young Readers (April 20, 2021)
Delta of Dead River sets out to rescue her family from a ruthless dictator rising to power in the Wastes and discovers a secret that will reshape her world in this postapocalyptic Western mashup for fans of Mad Max and Gunslinger Girl.

Delta of Dead River has always been told to hide her back, where a map is branded on her skin to a rumored paradise called the Verdant. In a wasteland plagued by dust squalls, geomagnetic storms, and solar flares, many would kill for it—even if no one can read it. So when raiders sent by a man known as the General attack her village, Delta suspects he is searching for her. 

Delta sets out to rescue her family but quickly learns that in the Wastes no one can be trusted—perhaps not even her childhood friend, Asher, who has been missing for nearly a decade. If Delta can trust Asher, she just might decode the map and trade evidence of the Verdant to the General for her family. What Delta doesn’t count on is what waits at the Verdant: a long-forgotten secret that will shake the foundation of her entire world.

Richly drawn, with harrowing escapes from dust storms across parched land and a general sense of blistering doom…Readers will be left to ponder the sometimes warring forces of hope and truth—right after they find a cool drink of water.
 

Sarah Prineas - Trouble in the Stars - Published by Philomel Books (April 27, 2021)
Trouble knows two things: they are a shapeshifter, and they are running from something--but they don't know what. So when the StarLeague--shows up, Trouble figures it's time to flee.

Changing from blob of goo form, to adorable puppy form, to human boy form, Trouble stows away on the Hindsight, a ship crewed by the best navigators and engineers in the galaxy, led by the fearsome Captain Astra. 

As the ship travels, Trouble uses the time to figure out how to be a good human boy, and starts to feel safe. But when a young StarLeague cadet shows up to capture Trouble, things get complicated, especially when Trouble reveals a shapeshifter form that none of them could have expected. Soon a chase across the galaxy begins. Safety, freedom, and home are at stake, and not just for Trouble.

From acclaimed author Sarah Prineas comes a rip-roaring outer space adventure about an oddball hero, a crew of misfits, and finding family where you least expect it.


Jennifer Adam - The Last Windwitch - Published by HarperCollins (April 13, 2021)

Fans of Shannon Hale and Kelly Barnhill will delight in this charming and richly imagined middle-grade fantasy debut, featuring a wicked queen, magical animals, a henchman with a golden heart, and a small girl with a great destiny.

Many years ago, in the kingdom of Fenwood Reach, there was a powerful Windwitch who wove the seasons, keeping the land bountiful and the people happy. But then a dark magic drove her from the realm, and the world fell into chaos.

Brida is content in her small village of Oak Hollow. There, she’s plenty occupied trying to convince her fickle magic to actually do what it’s meant to in her work as a hedgewitch’s apprentice—until she accidentally catches the attention of the wicked queen.

On the run from the queen’s huntsman and her all-seeing Crow spies, Brida discovers the truth about her family, her magic, and who she is destined to be—and that she may hold the power to defeating the wicked queen and setting the kingdom right again.


Mari Mancusi - Dragon Ops - Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (April 13, 2021)
From the beloved author of The Once and Future Geek comes this action-packed adventure set in a futuristic world filled with magic, monsters, and high-tech video gaming.

One wrong move, and its game over.

Welcome to Dragon Ops, the world's first augmented-reality video-game theme park. Set on a once-deserted island, our three beta players—classic-gamer geek Ian; his adventure-seeking sister, Lily; and their too-cool-for-gaming cousin, Derek—have been lucky enough to score an invite to play before the fully immersive experience opens to the public.

But once inside, they find themselves trapped in a game taken over by a rogue AI dragon called Atreus, and suddenly the stakes go beyond the virtual world. With no cheat codes, guidebooks, save points, or do-overs, they'll need all their cunning and video-game hacks to beat the game . . . and survive in real life.

Action-packed and unputdownable, Dragon Ops will thrill gamers and reluctant readers alike with high-tech adventure and electrifying twists and turns.

Thursday, 8 April 2021

Matthew Wainwright - Out of the Smoke - Book Review (Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books)

We recently had an author guest post by Matthew Wainwright about his experiences of being a debut author (Read Here). Unfortunately, having his book published in the midst of a global pandemic (October 2020) has not been ideal. However, after reading the guest post, I really wanted to read this book as it covers a setting that I'm very fond of. I did have my reservations regarding the editorial side of the book with it being published by a very small publisher (Wakeman Trust). However, my concerns were unnecessary as the narrative runs as freely as the River Thames and has been very well edited. The book cover is amazing and I think it might have been produced by the author himself. I'm really pleased to able to get behind this fantastic book and give it a massive thumbs up.

This is a Young Adult book that introduces a host of characters that will melt the reader's heart. It's a story set in Victorian London that shows the harsh realities of that era. The plot is gripping as it delves into the working and living conditions of a group of chimney sweeps (or soot monkeys) as they were known. These boys could be as young as 4 years old! Billy is one of the main characters you follow as you plunge into the criminal underworld of Victorian London. Unfortunately, he clashes with the notorious gang leader (Archie Miller) who is a very bad man as he believes that gangland life is the best place for an education. 

This is a fully immersive and fantastically told story with historical detail that makes the book shine with reality and realism. It was a real treat to get to know the characters and the bloody side of the gangland culture (a way of living) that was so prevalent at this time. It magically weaves a plot of faith (from a Christian standpoint) but is not overly used, in my opinion. There is just enough of a driving force to show the strong feelings of religion at that time. I really liked the introduction of the British politician and social reformer the Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury. When the 'Poor Man's Earl' offers Billy a chance to exchange his gangland life for an education, he must decide what to do. What would you do in this situation? I thought it was very well thought out and researched; it certainly encompassed the narrative very well. 

This story was a glorious read. I would love for more people to read this book and, by doing so, to support the author and small publishing company. Whilst it's a sad, heartfelt, and sorrowful story, it is still full of hope, courage, and fighting spirit. If you want to know more about Billy, Tosher, and Clara and follow their plight, then please pick up a copy from your local bookshop. This is a heartfelt story for all ages. It's one that you will reflect upon and take to your beating hearts. 

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books - Signed Book Recommends & Real Book Shop Links (Whilst Stock Lasts)


 Derek Landy - Dead or Alive: Signed Exclusive Bookplate Edition - Skulduggery Pleasant 14 (Hardback) - Waterstones - Click Here 

In a matter of days, the world will change.

Billions of lives will be wiped away in a final, desperate search for the Child of the Faceless Ones ― she who is destined to bring about the return of humankind's ancient overlords.

To prevent this, Skulduggery Pleasant and Valkyrie Cain have one last – terrible – option: the assassination of Damocles Creed. With protests stirring in the magical city of Roarhaven, with riots and revolutions on the horizon, Valkyrie must decide who she wants to be: the hero who risks everything for a noble ideal, or the killer who sacrifices her own soul for the fate of humanity.

The decision must be made, and time is running out.



Hannah Gold & Levi Pinfold - The Last Bear: Signed Bookplate Edition (Hardback) - Waterstones -
Click Here

There are no polar bears left on Bear Island. At least, that’s what April’s father tells her when his scientific research takes them to this remote Arctic outpost for six months. But one endless summer night, April meets one. He is starving, lonely and a long way from home. Determined to save him, April begins the most important journey of her life…

This moving story will win the hearts of children the world over and show them that no one is too young or insignificant to make a difference. The Last Bear is a celebration of the love between a child and an animal, a battle cry for our world and an irresistible adventure with a heart as big as a bear’s.


Vashti Hardy & George Ermos - Harley Hitch and the Iron Forest - Signed with Map - Book Nook In Hove -
Click Here 

Join Harley, her robot dog Sprocket and best friend Cosmofor problem-solving adventures and mysteries in Inventia, a world where science rules and technology grows in the forest; and where exploding science projects, giant slugs and runaway robots are all part of a normal school day.

The Iron Forest near Harley’s home is unlike any other – plants and trees grow cogs and hinges and other mechanical parts – and all of Inventia depends on it. So when a strange fungus is discovered, there’s a race to find a solution. Without essential parts for inventions, the town is quickly falling apart…



Elle McNicol - Show Us Who You Are - Signed Bookplate - The Rocketship Bookshop - Click Here  (Book Review Here)

When Cora's brother drags her along to his boss's house, she doesn't expect to strike up a friendship with Adrien, son of the intimidating CEO of Pomegranate Technologies.

As she becomes part of Adrien's life, she is also drawn into the mysterious projects at Pomegranate. At first, she's intrigued by them - Pomegranate is using AI to recreate real people in hologram form. As she digs deeper, however, she uncovers darker secrets... Cora knows she must unravel their plans, but can she fight to make her voice heard, whilst never losing sight of herself?


Dominique Valente - Starfell: Willow Moss and the Vanished Kingdom - Signed Hardback, Numbered, Special Edition - Goldsboro Books -
Click Here  

For the very first time, magical children like Willow are allowed to go to school alongside their non-magical neighbours. But Willow is suspicious. She knows the Brothers of Wol are up to no good, so why are they changing the rules all of a sudden?

On her first day, Willow meets an elf girl named Twist, and soon they are embarking on Willow’s most urgent mission yet: to protect the children of Starfell, uncover the mystery of a long-lost kingdom – and prevent the very source of magic from getting into the wrong hands . . .



Jonathan Stroud - The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne - Signed Bookplate - Book on the Hill - Click Here 

England has been radically changed by a series of catastrophes – large cities have disappeared and London has been replaced by a lagoon. The surviving population exists in fortified towns where they cling to traditional ways, while strangely evolved beasts prowl the wilderness beyond. Conformity is rigidly enforced and those who fall foul of the rules are persecuted: some are killed, others are driven out into the wilds. Only a few fight back – and two of these outlaws, Scarlett McCain and Albert Browne, display an audacity and talent that makes them legends.

Julian Sedgwick & Chie Kutsuwada - Tsunami Girl - Signed BookPlate - Guppy Books - Click Here  (Book Review Here)

Tsunami Girl is a powerful coming-of-age story of 15-year-old Yuki Hara Jones who gets caught up in the March 2011 Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. It's about a young person trying to work out who they are, and where they fit - and trying to do this whilst surviving the trauma of a triple disaster of colossal scale, told through both prose and manga.

Monday, 5 April 2021

Tsunami Girl by Julian Sedgwick (Author), Chie Kutsuwada (Illustrator) - Guest Post Interview - Guppy Books

 


Hello Everybody! (みなさん、こんにちは) One of my favourite books of the year has been Tsunami Girl by Julian Sedgwick. It has been brilliantly illustrated by Chie Kutsuwada. Told through both prose and manga, it's a fantastic but very poignant cultural reality. If you would like to read my review then follow the link HERE. This post is an interview with Julian and Chie about the partnership between author and illustrator and the origins of this amazing book. We hope you enjoy it as much as we have. 

There is a link at the bottom of the post to watch the live book launch and a place where you can buy signed copies of this special book. Enjoy and see you soon. 

Julian writes: Two things in particular worried me about researching and writing Tsunami Girl. The first was to earn the trust and support of affected communities on the Fukushima coast, and create a story that would do justice and respect to the heavy themes of loss, trauma, damage and recovery. If I hadn’t had such a positive reaction from the towns I visited near the stricken Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear plant, I would have abandoned the idea. 


But secondly - even after winning that trust, and friendship – I also worried a lot about whether my idea of combining a prose and manga story could work. It took many, many notebooks, early abandoned drafts and plot diagrams to find a way to combine the main prose part of the novel  (which tells central character Yūki’s story) with the manga inserts that show another angle – another world even – and highlight Yuki’s own creation, a diminutive superhero called Half Wave. 


Even when I had the main shape of an idea, and a contract with my new publisher, Guppy Books, I still had to convince an experienced manga artist that this would work. It was at this point that a mutual friend introduced me to Chie Kutsuwada, and – after our own discussion about motivations and trust! - our collaboration began. 


Below, we chat about the practical process involved in weaving manga and prose into one book.



JULIAN: Hi Chie! I’m still so delighted that I found you to bring the manga sections of Tsunami Girl to life. For a long time I worried whether the idea would work, and what a manga artist would make of my script. Did you have any worries about the technical aspects of tying prose and manga together? And was there anything that particularly excited – or worried you - about the task?


CHIE: Hi Julian! So do I! I’m still feeling honoured and lucky to be involved in your brave and epic project! 

Well, I actually didn’t have many worries. I just liked the idea of prose and manga together. And when I read your text, I felt sure that it would work well. The aspect I was most careful about was this: I had to make sure that all the characters ‘looked’ the same in both the prose and in the manga parts where readers can actually see the characters’ faces. So, I tried to imagine the whole book visually first. By doing so, I could get an even approach to, for example, how each character makes their facial expressions. How about you, Julian? How did you make the text go back and forth between prose and manga seamlessly?




JULIAN: Through a long process of trial and error! I always knew there would be both manga pages and a manga storyline, but in early versions it was Grandpa who had created Half Wave, and it was the grandchild who helped him imagine one final great instalment of Half Wave’s adventures. At that point the manga story was a separate adventure that mirrored what was happening to our central character Yūki - (who incidentally started out as a boy in the first few drafts!) 

Whilst I could make certain echoes between the prose and manga stories, they just wouldn’t interweave well enough, until I realised the manga story had to be more about the disaster itself, and just show a different, imaginative interaction with that disaster and the recovery. Suddenly I could feel it was going to work. But even then I wondered if the images and text would gel. 

Your early roughs of characters and settings were really convincing and good to see. But I remember it took us a little while to find a version of Half Wave that worked for us all. Maybe you could say a little about developing the characters visually - particularly Half Wave?


CHIE: I know it is not the most practical way to do character design, but I usually wait for inspiration to hit me. In this case, I read the script a few times and repeatedly read some critical parts. I was thinking about the characters, almost all the time, until I started feeling that I knew them.

Usually when I feel I know characters, I can get to see them visually, then I start sketching several different versions. For the Tsunami Girl characters, I did not need to do much planning sketches. As I familiarised with the story, I quite easily started to see them visually because the way you describe them is very clear. I believe you know them very, very well. Because you are the creator, of course to come extent you must know them - but it is beyond that. I feel you really KNOW them, maybe it is because some of the characters were based on your actual friends? Also the image references you showed me helped me a lot.

As for Half Wave, the sketch of him by your son was everything. His sketch, and how Half Wave acts in the story, gave me inspiration - and I think I did not change much from your son’s initial image! What I did was to make him look more manga. That’s it really!  I remember that our discussion was mainly his age and height,  wasn’t it? 




JULIAN: It’s interesting that your process of finding characters as an illustrator is so like mine as a writer. Suddenly - you know they are coming to some kind of life. 

Practically, with Half Wave, getting his height right was really important - he’s an eternal (wise) child, forever on the cusp of growing up, with real wisdom and strength. What we did discuss was how Half Wave should look subtly different from Yūki, Taka, Grandpa and the other people from this world. Half Wave needed to look like he belonged in the liminal space between this world (konoyo) and ‘that world’ (anoyo). After two or three versions, suddenly he was there. A very exciting moment. (And as my younger son comes towards the end of his comic and character design degree at uni, he’ll be glad of that praise!)

It’s interesting, ever since reading Spiegelman’s Maus I’ve been in no doubt that all subject material can be tackled in comic/graphic novel/manga type approaches. I never worried that manga could help carry the weight of the story of the disaster, (especially after reading more widely around  alternative manga or gekiga - and coming across works like the incredible Fukushima Devil Fish by Katsumata Susumu.) Are there any manga series or titles you’d love to see translated and brought into the UK market from Japan? Anything we’re really missing out on?!


CHIE: It was amazing when your visualisation of the characters and mine overlapped and merged to become what they are now…
Well, as for manga which I strongly believe should be translated... all of Yumiko Oshima’s work, especially short stories. She debuted in 1968 and is a very well-established manga artist. She is just one of the best storytellers… (Another manga artist who I think is in that category is Moto Hagio. Her work is getting translated more and more recently.)
Oshima’s work may look quite pretty and delicate, but often the theme is very heavy and philosophical, concerning love (not typical romantic type), birth, death, mental illness, aging, and the end of the world - which are not typical topics for manga works targeting towards young girls. I think this kind of heavy but realistic theme is picked as a theme for manga more and more recently, but she did it more than 30 years ago, and her work does not look dated at all… 

One of many qualities I like about her work is even though she talks about those heavy issues, she does not use bang-in-your-face sensationalism. Her work is very poetic, her choice of words and drawing style is soft, but as you read, it feels like something has gouged at your heart. Very powerful. I hope one day some of her work is properly translated into English. I even want to volunteer to be that translator…!



Click Here if you weren’t able to make the event live – and enter password +aD4@u%4 to watch. Signed copies by both Julian and Chie are available on the Waterstone’s Website Here.