Monday, 6 September 2021

The Best New Children's Book Picks - September 2021 - Post One - Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books

 

Clare Povey - The Unexpected Tale of Bastien Bonlivre - Published by Usborne Publishing Ltd (2 Sept. 2021) - Paperback 

The open door felt like an invitation, or a trap. Bastien wasn't sure which, but with no other choice, he stepped inside...and hoped he'd make it out again alive.

Bastien Bonlivre is a boy with a big imagination, determined to finish the story his parents started, left to him in a red notebook. On the other side of Paris, bestselling author Olivier Odieux is struggling to complete his latest novel. Along with his villainous brothers, he is masterminding his greatest plot yet...one that will spread fear throughout the city and beyond.

What connects these two stories is a dangerous secret, a hidden mystery and an unexpected race across Paris for the truth. Can Bastien and his friends Alice, Theo and Sami be brave enough to stop Olivier from stealing the ending they deserve?

Yvette Fielding - The House in the Woods (The Ghost Hunter Chronicles, 1) - Published by Andersen Press (30 Sept. 2021) - Paperback 
Stranger Things meets Point Horror in the first of a brilliant new series for readers aged 11+ from Yvette Fielding, British television's first lady of the paranormal and presenter of Most Haunted.

When Clovis, Eve and Tom decide to play with a ouija board in an old abandoned house on Halloween, none of them foresees the horrors they’re about to unleash. What starts out as a bit of fun, soon transcends into something far more terrifying when a distressed and determined spirit follows them home. Before long the friends are caught up in a series of events beyond their wildest imaginings and their journey as ghost hunters begins . . .



Ian Mark (Author), Louis Ghibault (Illustrator) - Monster Hunting For Beginners - Published by 
Farshore (2 Sept. 2021) - Hardback 

A monstrously funny new adventure series. Readers of 8+ and fans of Mega Monster and Shrek will adore the first in the brand new fantasy series from Irish debut author, Ian Mark

Every hero has to start somewhere . . .

Monster Hunting isn’t as easy as it looks. And Jack should know. Because an ogre has just appeared in his garden and tried to EAT HIS AUNT. (She was the winner of the World’s Worst Aunt competition, but that’s Not The Point).

After (sort of accidentally) defeating the ogre, Jack finds himself apprenticed to a grumpy, 200-year-old monster hunter called Stoop and heading off to Cornwall, where more ogres are causing havoc.

All he has are his wits, his catapult and a magical – sometimes unreliable – book called Monster Hunting for Beginners.
Jack’s a bit worried he might not be the hero everyone’s waiting for. But then again, how many terrifying, bloodthirsty monsters can there really be?

(Answer: ABSOLUTELY LOADS. And a bear called Humbert).

A hilarious and accessible story, packed full of illustrations – that gives a twist to all your favourite fairytales and will change everything you thought you knew about monsters! Perfect for apprentice monster hunters aged 8 to 800.


David Farr - The Book of Stolen Dreams - Published by Usborne Publishing Ltd (30 Sept. 2021) Hardback 


An exhilarating, awe-inspiring debut from a master storyteller writing for children for the first time, perfect for fans of Philip Pullman, Katherine Rundell and Eva Ibbotson.

When Rachel and Robert are passed a stolen book by their librarian father, they have to go on the run and protect it at all costs. With their father captured and everyone hunting for the Book, they must uncover its secrets and track down the final, missing page.
But the cruel and calculating Charles Malstain is on their trail. When the children discover the astonishing, magical truth about the Book, they resolve to do everything in their power to stop it falling into his hands. For if it does, he could rule forever.


Step inside the pages of an immortal adventure and discover a truly unforgettable journey of wonder, courage and magic...



Thursday, 2 September 2021

Gattaldo - Fearless: The Story of Daphne Caruana Galizia - Interview (Q&A) - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books #4


I'm delighted to welcome you to an interview with the debut author and illustrator Gattaldo. The book is based on a true-life story that is both brilliantly written and compassionately illustrated as a picture book. The author has brought the story to life so that children and adults will be inspired by it and completely absorb the storyline. It's a story about a female investigative journalist called Daphne Caruana Galizia who discovers the truth against all odds. The book was published by Otter-Barry Books last year (October 2020). 

We hope you enjoy reading this interview as much as we enjoyed asking the questions. You can BUY the book HERE. You will not be disappointed as this is a great book to both read and discuss with others. 

  • Fearless: The Story of Daphne Caruana Galizia. What is the book actually about? Is it based on a true story?
It’s the life story of a European investigative journalist who took on the mafia. She uncovered wrongdoing and she did it on her own, with little or no help, a “one-woman WikiLeaks”. The book takes us from Daphne’s childhood with her parents who taught her the importance of always doing what’s right, through her teens where she understood the meaning of protest, her early years as a journalist where she flourished in a largely male-dominated field, to her fight for justice and against corruption. It’s about the courage of ones convictions, about the quest for truth.   
  • What inspired you to tell this story and why?
Daphne’s assassination in 2017 left a big hole in the hearts of many Maltese who valued her investigative journalism. To me, Daphne was also a personal friend and I found it extremely difficult to deal with her absence. My 7-year-old niece wanted to know more about Daphne, so I decided to turn my grief into something positive and share Daphne’s life and the importance of journalism with children through a picture book.  
  • What emotions do you want the reader to feel once they have finished reading the book?
The book is a celebration of its protagonist, but it’s also an appreciation of journalism, a message to not be afraid of going against the grain, to fight for your convictions. Daphne Caruana Galizia was often alone in her quest. We’ve spoken at times about this and how it made her feel. It took nerve to continue uncovering wrongdoing after some of the attacks on her person and her family.  

I want my readers to appreciate that there is no free choice without information. Journalism is one of the most important if not the most important component of democracy. I want children to be inspired by Daphne. Journalists like her are our heroes. They are role models we should emulate if we are to build a better world.  
  • How do you try and balance the writing with the images?
This was my first picture book. Pictures and words must work together, complimenting rather than mirroring each other. I started writing while at the same time searching for the character’s appearance. It’s important to work with rough sketches while writing. Only once you’re happy with the way visuals and words work together, should you start to work up the illustration. Even then, you can expect the book to go through various modifications. In film, each scene is drawn in rudimentary sketches on loose cards so their order can be changed. It’s a good practice to use with picture books as well.   
  • Do you think it is important for an illustrator to have their own unique style?
I certainly see advantages marketing-wise with having a unique style that’s unchanging, like a brand, so that readers familiar with your first book feel immediately at home with your second offering. There are however benefits to having a flexible hand, a style that fits each of the stories you animate. My publisher requested that I keep to the same style in my next books and it makes sense because they should feel like part of the same series. I don’t think that means they have to be absolutely identical though. I think each book benefits from having its own identity while still fitting in with the series.  
  • How much research did you do before you started the project? Did you find any surprises along the way?
Although I knew my subject on a personal level, I knew very little about Daphne’s childhood. Her early years weren’t something I could research online or in libraries so the only way was to Interview family and friends. This required great sensitivity. Interviewing people who are grieving can be difficult and awkward. It was a journey that led to a closer relationship with Daphne’s family. I can’t think of having come across any surprises as such, but I do feel I got to know her better. I could see what made Daphne the strong person she was.  
  • What author/illustrator do you wish could be your mentor and why?
My mentor for Fearless was the journalist and children’s author Juliet Rix (Travels With My Granny - Otter Barry Books) who was very generous with her time and advice. We’re currently collaborating on another children’s book. As a wish list, there are a couple of illustrators I would love to have as mentors. My first would be M. Sasek, but of course he died in 1980 so perhaps, French illustrator Thomas Baas would be a more feasible choice.  
  • What is the best way to use social media and illustration to create increased awareness?
Every book is different and its promotion has to be tailor-made. Daphne’s story is real and still current and raw so I couldn’t promote it in the same way you’d do for another book. Amnesty and Reporters Without Borders’ endorsement was a great boost for the book. Regardless of whether Fearless was worthy of Daphne’s story, activists and people who hold Daphne and journalism to heart, were eager to promote the book on social media. But I also had to contend with a small amount of trolling, something I guess most children’s authors wouldn’t face. 

I think most children’s authors realise very soon that publishers have very little time or money to do much for their book so they must work hard at it themselves. I found Twitter introduced me to reviewers, bookshop owners and journalists. Like any conversation it can’t be just about promoting the book though. 

I’m not sure Facebook was much use. As to Instagram, I think I missed a trick by not making use of it. 


When promoting the book online, an author must offer something useful rather than to simply repeat the the book’s USPs. My book’s website 
fearlessdaphne.com was also a vehicle to get children and their educators interested in journalism through informative articles aimed at children. I also wrote and designed a supplement which was taken up and published by a local newspaper. I’d love to develop the latter into a regular feature, but as with everything, I’d need to find the time and the finance for it. 
  • What other projects are you working on at the moment?
When I first presented Fearless to publishers, the proposal was to have a series of similar non-fiction books, so I’m working on the next two. I’m also planning on writing something completely different - a children’s book that is funny and playful. That would give me the opportunity to experiment with a different style of illustration. Now that the Covid-19 restrictions are slowly lifting, Im also preparing for school visits and also looking forward to the publication of Fearless by Candlewick in the US in September. 
  • Do you prefer to write or illustrate?
My background is in fine arts and illustration but I’ve discovered writing can be great fun too. I love the control that comes with doing both. I’ve still got a lot to learn in both idioms, and I’m not confident I’ve yet found my definitive style. I’ve started writing for children rather late in life and I feel privileged to have been given the opportunity to get my work published.  


Tuesday, 31 August 2021

Emma Mylrea - Curse of the Dearmad - Interview (Q&A) - Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books #3


Hello everybody. Welcome to the third interview as part of our debut author series. If you haven't already then please support these by checking out all of the others that have been shared to date. 

One of the middle-grade books to watch out for this August (2021) is this book by Emma Mylrea. Curse of the Dearmad is published by a small publishing company (Tiny Tree). The book is illustrated by Hannah Jesse and looks like a sure-fire winner to me. We've recently had the opportunity to ask Emma some questions about the book as well as finding out more about the author. We hope you enjoy this post and if you would like to purchase a copy then you can HERE. Equally, if you have any questions that you would like answering then please get in touch. 
 

  • Curse of the Dearmad is your debut book, what can we expect from the story?
The book follows the story of Percy and Nell Shearwater, who live in a world where some people, called 'gillies', can live underwater for long periods. They look like everyone else, but have small circles on their neck which set them apart. However, the world is not a safe place for gillies any more, as they rely on a perfect equilibrium with nature and the environment in order to survive. This kind of unity and balance with the environment is becoming more and more difficult to achieve due to the damage being done by humankind.
  • What is particularly special about the two main characters, Percy and Nell Shearwater?
Nell and Percy are twins. Percy was born a gillie, but his sister was not. Nell is jealous of her brother's gift, but as the story unfolds she will discover that she has a gift too, which she will need to learn how to use and control. 
  • It looks like there are a number of illustrations as part of the story, what do you think these bring and how do they add to the narrative?
Working with Hannah Jesse was wonderful. She picked up the tiniest, most subtle details from the text, and fed them into her drawings beautifully. Each chapter begins with a small illustration which sets the tone for the chapter. It was incredibly important to me that my writing should build a world for children to believe in and lose themselves in, and I think Hannah's illustrations are a jumping off point for the imagination. Of course, some readers will build their own picture of how things should look, particularly the characters, and that is the wonderful thing about writing a book, it takes on a life of its own when it winds its way into the imaginations of readers.
  • What emotions did the characters in your book take you on? Do they talk to you?
They certainly do! I really do feel that the characters in Dearmad have taken on a life of their own. Even though they are entirely fictional, I feel proud of the children in Curse of the Dearmad; they are the heroes of the story in every sense of the word. I wanted to write a book where children were empowered to take action in a world where adults are flawed and don't have all the answers. Percy, Nell and Connor take control of their lives and try to do the best for the people they love. They encounter challenges and make mistakes, but they are strong and I hope young readers will recognise themselves in Percy, Nell and Connor. 
  • How do you process your ideas into the story? 
I try to get a complete draft done, focussing on world building, and I resist the urge to edit (something I'm not good at - I find it so tempting to polish and dig down into the minutiae in that first draft). I then go back to the start and make sure the structure is plotted out properly, with pace and enough jeopardy to keep the momentum going through the book. Then I edit, edit and edit some more. 
  • The book is published by Tiny Tree Books. What can you tell us about the publisher and where can we buy your book from?
Tiny Tree is a small, independent publisher. Working with them has been such an honour. They don't publish a huge number of books each year, and have historically published picture books rather than middle grade, so for them to choose my book felt very special. They are always at the end of the phone, are really communicative and generous with their time. Tiny Tree chose to appoint a freelance editor, Emma Roberts, to work with me and it was the perfect fit; she was incredible and working with her was a complete joy. Working with Tiny Tree, and having Hannah Jesse on board, made it feel like a real team project. I don't have an agent, so knowing that I had such a great relationship with my publisher really helped me when I had moments of worry along the way. You can order direct from Tiny Tree, or from Waterstones, Foyles, Amazon, bookshop.org or your local bookshop.

  • You are a member of the Golden Egg Academy. How better do you think your story is for attending their writing courses? What support did they give you?
I wrote Dearmad before I started the Golden Egg Academy course. I chose to apply to GEA to help me get to grips with the mechanics of storytelling for the benefit of my next project, and it's been brilliant. I don't think I'll ever stop wanting to learn about the craft of writing and taking time to hone my skills. I have found that a lot of the things my editor supported me with when we were editing Dearmad are things that GEA teach too. In terms of support, my tutor is incredible; it never ceases to amaze me how perfectly she can get to the nub of an issue that has tied me up in knots for weeks! She can spy a spark of wonder and a fatal flaw in your story a mile off. 
  • What surprised you the most about the story once you'd finished writing the book?
Curse of the Dearmad is fundamentally a story about family and friendship, which is something I didn't plan or see coming at all! I saw it as being a pure fantasy-adventure story. There are parts that still make me cry, and those are the parts that wrote themselves once the characters became real in my mind and started to take on a life of their own.
  • Describe your perfect book hero or heroine.
I like reading characters who aren't the finished article and who have some growing and learning to do. When you begin to love a character, despite their flaws (or even because of their flaws), they start to feel real and that's the best kind of reading experience. Heroes who you believe in, despite how much they doubt themselves, are the kind I can get behind.
  • Which authors do you enjoy reading when you have time to relax?
I read a lot of middle-grade fiction, and have read some amazing debuts this year. I return to Katherine Rundell, Frank Cotrell-Boyce and Ros Welford over and over and am starting to read them with my children too, which is a real treat. I always have a non-children's book on the go and I'd say the common feature of these books is that they have to be character driven for me to lose myself in them. I particularly enjoyed The Falconer by Dana Czapnik and Swan Song by Kelleigh Greenburg-Jephcott this year.

Thursday, 26 August 2021

Jamie Russell - SKYWAKE INVASION - Interview (Q&A) - Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books #2

 


Welcome to the second interview as part of the series of debut authors that we are hosting. It is a delight to introduce Jamie Russell who is the author of SkyWake Invasion which was published by Walker Books in July (2021). This book has been on my personal radar for some time so, it has been a great opportunity for me to ask the author for more information about this book. After reading the fabulous answers, I'm definitely going to be running to the shop to purchase a copy. If you too would like to read this book then you can purchase a copy of the book HERE. If you also have any questions you would like me to ask the author then PLEASE get in touch. Thank you for reading and enjoy! 

Unfortunately, I've not yet had a chance to read SkyWake Invasion. What can you say to entice me and other readers to pick it up and read it?

OK, sales pitch alert! SkyWake: Invasion is the first book in an action-packed sci-fi trilogy for readers 10+ about an alien invasion, videogames and what it means to be a leader. I pitched it as a book for kids too busy playing Fortnite to read Harry Potter and I wanted it to be a really immersive, edge-of-the-seat ride. 


The main character is a girl called Casey. She discovers that her favourite videogame, SkyWake, is actually an alien training tool designed to train kids to fight in a distant alien war… whether they want to or not. When the aliens arrive to abduct the best players, Casey and the boys on her online team must fight back using everything they’ve learned from the game.


One of my favourite genres is Sci-fi. What ingredients make a good children's Sci-fi book in your opinion? 

What I love about sci-fi is that it’s such a huge genre with so many different kinds of stories, from space operas to robots to alien invasions to time travel. We always think about sci-fi as being a window onto the future, but it’s also a mirror of the present. It always reflects ‘now’ back to us, I think, which is why it’s great for young readers. It can be a fun space to explore big issues like what it means to be human or the pros and cons of technology.  

 

What video game would you partner with the story and why? 

Space Invaders plays a huge role in the book via a series of flashback chapters about Casey and her late dad, who died in Afghanistan before the story begins. They buy an old retro Space Invaders cabinet and refurbish it as a kind of father-daughter adventure. Her dad teaches her how to get a high score on the machine and also introduces her to the idea of ‘flow’ – that feeling of being ‘in the zone’ when you’re totally immersed in a task, like playing a game, or reading, or exercising. Flow becomes really important to Casey as the SkyWake trilogy unfolds. 


When you started to write this book. Did you always have in mind that this would be a trilogy?

One thing I learned as a screenwriter is that there’s really no shame in being commercial. When a company has to invest a huge sum of money in your story, you really need to convince them that they won’t be making a financial mistake! So when I pitched SkyWake I played up its ‘franchise potential’ in the hope of enticing a publisher. In truth, I actually didn’t know how the story would really unfold in Books 2 and 3 beyond a few key plot points. Of course it backfired on me because before it went out on submission my agent asked me to write a synopsis for the sequels. I was on holiday in Wales at the time and had to quickly come up with the plot for the next two books while my kids were shouting at me for working. I find the outlining process really hard, so it was actually a very effective way to get me to knuckle down and do it quickly!  


Can you reveal anything that we might not know already about book two? 

SkyWake: Invasion ends on a HUGE cliffhanger – so huge that I’ve had complaints! Book Two effectively picks up right where it leaves off. We travel to the alien planet where the gamers are being forced to fight in a war between the evil Red Eyes, who invented SkyWake, and their mortal enemies The Squid. It turns out that the Squid are telepathic creatures who use their powers to create a shared virtual world called ‘The Mindscape’ that Casey and the boys are invited into. It’s a bit like being inside a videogame. Also, warning, Book 2 also has a cliffhanger of an ending… #Sorry #NotSorry 


Knowing you are a climate activist, are any of your characters likely to be an activist and what would they be campaigning for?

It’s funny because until recently I never saw any parallel between doing climate activism and SkyWake, but then people who read the book started pointing it out to me. The theme of the book is leadership and what it means to be a leader. But I’ve realised that the story is really about kids facing an apocalyptic event that totally upends the world they know. They have to learn how to work together to fight back, because the adults can’t or won’t do it for them. That isn’t a million miles away from what’s happening in reality with the school strikes and Greta Thunberg. I really feel like kids are being forced to take on this huge responsibility because my generation has failed to listen to the science. The boys on the team are quite a diverse bunch so I think they’d all have causes they’d get behind – from Scottish independence to disability rights. 


We love book covers at Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books. In my opinion, this is an excellent cover. Can you tell me who the illustrator is and what your personal thoughts are about it?

I absolutely love the cover! It’s so different from many of the other middle-grade books out there. I especially like the way the image at the very top works as both a spaceship and the face of one of the Red Eyes from the book. It’s a real trompe l'œil. The artist is Matt Griffin who is hugely talented and does lots of sci-fi posters and book covers. You can check him out at https://www.mattgriffin.online 


There's quite often a lot of negative press about video games and the impact they can have. What are your thoughts and experiences about this?

This is something I’m really passionate about. I even do a talk for schools called ‘Why Videogames Are Actually Good For You and Can Help You Read More Books (Guaranteed To Convince Your Teachers)! I’ve been playing videogames since they first arrived in the 70s (yes, I’m that old) and I’ve seen the medium grow and mature over the decades. If you play videogames for ten hours a day, you will turn into a zombie. But as part of a ‘healthy diet’, videogames are full of positives – they encourage decision-making, problem-solving, team-work, spatial awareness and can even get you to read more. SkyWake is a love letter to gaming really, from Space Invaders to Fortnite


How do you relax in your spare time?

I love books and games (boardgames, role-playing games, videogames, anything!). I live in Shropshire and my idea of heaven is walking across the Shropshire hills with the family and the dog then returning home for a game of Ticket To Ride or Betrayal At House on the Hill




Monday, 23 August 2021

Alysa Wishingrad - The Verdigris Pawn - Interview Q&A - Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books #1



Hello Everybody! We recently reached out to a number of debut children's authors on Twitter about becoming involved in a Q&A session. The response was overwhelming. As a result, over the next coming weeks, we will be publishing these on the blog. This is an amazing opportunity for us to highlight the vast array of new talent. We hope the Q&A's pique your interest and hopefully, you might consider picking up a copy of the book to read. We would really love to hear your thoughts. 

I am delighted to be able to introduce the first Q&A by the very talented author Alysa Wishingrad. Her new book, which is published by HarperCollins in Hardback can be purchased Here OR Here. Don't hesitate to order your copy now! 
  • The Verdigris Pawn is your debut children's book which was just published this July by HarperCollins. What can you say about it to entice new readers to read it? 

THE VERDIGRIS PAWN is perfect for readers who like classic Middle Grade novels like The Chronicles of Prydain, or the work of Diana Wynn Jones. There’s a timeless quality to the story— it’s a quest that takes place in a quasi-medieval time period-- and yet it’s incredibly timely as it takes a very close look at issues around power, privilege, and social responsibility.

THE VERDIGRIS PAWN is the story of Beau, heir to the ruler of the Land, a man so frightening, people only dare call him Himself. Beau has been raised isolated and alone. And despite the harsh and judgmental treatment he gets from his father, he has no idea of the brutal tyranny Himself unleashes upon his subjects and how hated and feared their family is. 


This all changes when Beau meets Cressi, a young servant girl, who opens his eyes to the realities of life in the Land - and most especially about Mastery House, a terrible and brutal place where the children of the poor are sent to be raised and trained to be servants in exchange for their family’s taxes. 


This discovery of the truth sets Beau off on an epic adventure as he tries to undo the poisoned legacy of his family. But, to restore fairness and equality to the Land, he must think of things like a real-life game of Fist (a game similar to chess!) 


But when you're reviled throughout the Land and false heroes lurk around every corner, leading a rebellion is easier said than done.


This is a story about how appearances aren’t always what they seem and how real power can come from the most unlikely places.


  • I love reading for escapism. Will potential readers be able to escape into this story and where will it take them? 

Oh yes, readers will absolutely find an escape in The Verdigris Pawn although it might not always be comfortable. 


The Land is a place where the wealthy and the powerful enjoy luxurious and privileged lives, while the rest of the Land suffers to serve them. Craftspeople and merchants can live well enough, but they are subject to paying high taxes and surrendering the best of their crops and goods to the Manor. As for the poorest citizens, survival is nearly impossible. The only way they can afford to pay their taxes is by surrendering their children to Mastery House where they are raised to serve the wealthy.  


The Land is a place where uneasy alliances are made and broken with regularity, and where you can’t always trust what you read, hear, or see with your own eyes. But it’s also a place where magic, long thought wiped out, might still exist, and where hope might once again reign.


  • Can you tell us a little bit about the main characters in the book? What did they say to you when you started to write about them?

Right off the bat Beau told me he didn’t want to be who he was raised and expected to be. It wasn’t because he was rebellious or because he wanted to lash out, but rather because the role he was expected to step into didn’t fit. It was all wrong for him. Just because he was born heir to the leader of the Land, didn’t mean he wanted that role, or was well-suited for it. He also told me that having been raised isolated and alone, spending his days studying a version of history written by and for the victors of countless years of tyrannical rule, that he had no idea the depth of privilege he had. He told me that even though he felt utterly powerless, once he understood the truth, he’d do whatever he could to help set things right. 

Cressi is in many ways Beau’s opposite. Raised in Mastery House and sent into service a year early she has endured hardships no child should ever have to suffer. And yet, her eyes are wide open, as so is her heart. She’s long suspected that her talents for healing come from somewhere deeper inside her than just a knowledge of herbs. And while the discovery of her powers is confusing at first, she never tries to deny them. She is both an a realist and an optomist. She understands that change is uncomfortable, but that’s no reason to avoid it. She also knows she could just as well bring the Manor down on her own, but she’s wise enough to understand that real power comes from unity.

Nate is not a POV character, yet we still hear him loud and clear. He’s been pushing boundaries since he could walk. He’s constantly been testing, watching, and waiting for the moment he could run away to fight for right.
Loyalty runs so deep in him that sometimes he forgets to look beyond what he wants to see in someone. But he’s no fool, once faced with the truth he’ll fight with all he has to right the many wrongs in the Land.

  • You have worked in theatre and TV/film. What skills do you think may have been transferable in helping you to write this book?

I began my writing life as a playwright, so the three-act structure is baked into my bones, as is a love for dialogue and deep character development. 


And while a 15-year long career in casting for theater, TV, and Film was somewhat of a detour, it also served to deepen my understanding of storytelling. Reading a script then working to find the exact right actors to bring the story to life isn’t as dissimilar to writing as it appears. It’s all storytelling.


  • Where do you get your ideas from?

The inspiration for The Verdigris Pawn came from a writing prompt in a workshop some years ago. With the prompt, “tsk, tsk, poor little boy,” I saw this young boy being raised like a bird in a gilded cage in a Manor house on a hill, an old man his guardian (or perhaps jailer). It also sparked a new writing voice for me—it took some time, but the story eventually unfolded.

The idea for my next book was inspired by an old photograph of a young girl. She was so expressive, she invited me to weave an entire tale around here.

But I’m also inspired by philosophy and politics—not along party lines, but rather how we organize ourselves in society. Power, truth, how easily people can be corrupted are an endless source of fascination to me—and I think they’re important ideas for young people to think about and examine. 


  • The book cover was illustrated by Júlia Sardà and designed by Laura Mock. What were your immediate reactions when you first saw it? 

Pure and utter heaven! I was so thrilled when I found out Jùlia Sardà would be doing the illustration for the cover. Her work is nothing short of amazing. Have you seen her Alice in Wonderland, or her Frankenstein? If not, do yourself a favor and run, don’t walk, to see her work on those two classics, and then stroll through her entire body of work. It’s stunning.


Laura Mock’s design had me at the very first! I love how she played with the pawn shape. There’s an air of mystery and danger to the cover, and yet it’s also such an invitation to adventure. That glint in Cressi’s eye, a hint of knowing and wisdom gets me every time!


The cover harkens back to an earlier time in children’s literature – it’s at once classic and very of the moment. It stands out as quite different from many covers today, and I love that!


  • What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

I’m the youngest of three girls from a family for whom conversation and debate was oxygen. Learning how to wield words and language, how to formulate my ideas and point of view into a cogent argument was probably do or die so I didn’t get steamrolled over. 

But there was this one time when I was ten, maybe eleven years old, I remember getting very frustrated that I wasn’t being heard. I couldn’t get my point in amid the chatter. So instead of trying to match the cacophony, I get very quiet. But this wasn’t a retreat, or a capitulation. It was the first time I remember understanding that there’s also power in silence, in holding your thoughts back to listen and taking the time to fine tune (or sharpen) your argument. 

  • What do you love most about being a children's author?

The readers! I am constantly moved and impressed by the depth of thought and feeling of 10–13-year-olds. But it’s also a harrowing moment, when they’re leaving childhood behind and beginning to realize that they have choices to make- choices about who they want to be, who to trust, and how they can impact the world around them. It’s an honor to be a small part of the conversation with them.


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

Oh, it has changed significantly. In fact, the book is quite different from the version my editors bought.

The story arc remained the same as did the themes and overall plot. It has always been Beau, Cressi and Nate’s story, but how the story unwound changed quite a bit. Back then there was a third POV character, and there was an additional antagonist—a woman who was Doone’s benefactor. The perils and pitfalls Beau faced were different and the game of FIST wasn’t nearly as central to the plot. 

After a long conversation with my editors about what was and what wasn’t working, I realized that the only way to fix the book was to white page it – meaning, toss the version that existed and begin again from a blank page. I won’t lie and say it wasn’t scary at first, but it was also incredibly liberating. Rather than trying to Frankenstein the book back together, I was given the freedom to rejigger it from the very beginning. 

Because I knew the world and my characters so well by that point it was incredibly fun to be able to begin again. I know there are several writers who do this as a matter of course – write a first draft, toss it, and begin anew. It’s a powerful way to work and to deepen your understanding of the world of the book.


  • Can you tell us what you are working on at the moment?

I can’t reveal too much about my next book yet, but I can tell you that it’s another upper middle-grade fantasy.  Like THE VERDIGRIS PAWN, it takes place in quasi-historical setting with fantastical elements. Set in a time period that looks like 1910, the story begins on an Island (think something like Mackinaw Island) that is home to the wealthy and privileged. The action then moves to the mainland and a city which is overrun by industry, pollution, corruption, and deadly lies. I’m very excited about this story and can’t wait until I can say more about it! 


Wednesday, 11 August 2021

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books - Great new children's book picks - August 2021 - UK Published

 

Richard Pickard - The Peculiar Tale of the Tentacle Boy - Published by Chicken House (5 Aug. 2021) - Paperback 

Marina lives in Merlington, a fish-obsessed seaside town. Unfortunately, she doesn't care for fish; she loves telling stories.

Marina finds her best story yet when she explores the ruined, haunted pier: a boy called William with a head of tentacles and crab claws for hands. He has lived on the pier all his life, cared for by a fisherman who has since disappeared and who warned him always to remain hidden.

Together, the pair resolve to unravel the mystery of his past – but danger isn't far away ...

Alex English (Author), Mark Chambers (Illustrated) - Sky Pirates: The Dragon's Gold - Published by Simon & Schuster Children's UK (5 Aug. 2021) - Paperback 
Echo Quickthorn has been reunited with her sky-pirate mother, Indigo Lil, and is now a fully-fledged member of the Black Sky Wolves. So when Lil is summoned to the Alliance of the Seven Skies, Echo decides to sneak along with her friend Horace. There, Horace is captured by the dastardly Thunder Sharks, a rival pirate clan, who present Echo with an ultimatum: they’ll release her friend in exchange for the legendary dragon’s gold ...

Echo must journey – through underwater libraries and active volcanoes – to the inhospitable Dragonlands, in order to find the dragon’s lair. But can she find the treasure and prove herself to be a true-sky pirate?

Darren Simpson - The Memory Thieves - Published by Usborne Publishing Ltd; UK  (5 Aug. 2021) - Paperback 

What you don't remember can't hurt you... Cyan has lived at the Elsewhere Sanctuary for as long as he can remember, freed by Dr Haven from dark memories of his past life. But when Cyan finds a mysterious warning carved into the bones of a whale skeleton, he starts to wonder what he had to forget to be so happy. New resident, Jonquil, begins to resist the sanctuary's treatment, preferring to hold on to her memories - even the bad ones. So when Dr Haven resorts to harsher measures, Cyan embarks on a secret mission to discover the truth about the sanctuary...and himself. 

Jerry Spinelli - Dead Wednesday - Published by Random House (3 Aug. 2021)  Paperback 

Worm Tarnauer has spent most of the eighth grade living down to his nickname. He prefers to be out of sight, underground. He walked the world unseen. He’s happy to let his best friend, Eddie, lead the way and rule the day. And this day―Dead Wednesday―is going to be awesome. The school thinks assigning each eighth grader the name of a teenager who died in the past year and having them don black shirts and become “invisible” will make them contemplate their own mortality. Yeah, sure. The kids know that being invisible to teachers really means you can get away with anything. It’s a day to go wild! But Worm didn’t count on Becca Finch (17, car crash). Letting this girl into his head is about to change everything. Jerry Spinelli tells the story of the unexpected, heart\-breaking, hilarious, truly epic day when Worm Tarnauer discovers his own life.

Monday, 9 August 2021

Nicolas Bowling - Song of the Far Isles - Book Review - Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books



One of the books we've very much loved reading this summer is Nicholas Bowling's third middle-grade children's book published in July 2021 by Chicken House. It's a story inspired by the author's time in the Hebrides of Scotland and New Zealand. The book has a great outdoors feeling as it is set on the fictional island of Little Drum. The landscape and the characters come crashing down on you in a sweeping melody. Music is everything to the islanders. In fact, it's so important that everybody has a birth instrument and a really close bond to it which results in a very special and unique life song. This for me created a very interesting idea that pulled the story threads together into a very intriguing and beguiling read. 




The book has a very appealing feel to it through a fantastic blend of both music and mother nature which results in a wonderful heartfelt adventure. The story is infused with myths and folklore and has an excellent plot that will make you tap your feet to the story's unique rhythm. Oran is the main character who will have you enraptured as you plummet into an action-adventure on sea and land. However, we are soon lead into a merry dance when the Duchess arrives from the mainland bringing orders that will silence the islanders forever. No more MUSIC. Oran must set out on a high-stakes adventure to change the Duchess's mind. Whatever will happen?

Oran, with a little help from her best friend ghast called Alick, plus a group of musical pirates makes this story a brilliantly gripping and entertaining read. There are rumours of a mythical instrument that might be able to change everything. It might just save the islander's way of life and restore the balance to the island and their families. 

The book has everything that I love to find in a great read - quirkiness and a great setting. It's a rapid page-turner that is full of passion and detailed accuracy. The book flows with fantasy adventure and an air of mystery. It is also full of great characters depicted within a family life setting. This for me was a fantastic book with a difference to escape into. Its soul will last with you for some time. Grab a copy to read now as it will inspire you to explore your inner self and the great outdoors whilst playing the cithara. What more could you ask for?