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Author: Kirsty

Q&A with The Middler author Kirsty Applebaum and editor Kirsty Stansfield

Debut author Kirsty Applebaum sat down with Kirsty Stansfield (her editor and Nosy Crow’s Head of Fiction), to discuss The Middler – an atmospheric story for 9-12 year-olds of forbidden friendship, loyalty and betrayal set in a near-future world.

Nosy by name, nosy by nature, I thoroughly enjoyed asking Kirsty Applebaum some searching questions about her brilliant novel, The Middler. Here are her full and frank replies!

 

And the award for Most Popular Question Asked in Schools goes to: What was the inspiration behind The Middler? 

Lots of things inspired The Middler, all brewing up together in the back of my mind. For example: the songs I learned in the Brownies; a trip to Berlin; terrible reports of child soldiers on the news; memories of my 1970s childhood, and the white feathers handed out during the First World War to shame young men into enlisting. Also, around the time I started writing, I’d heard a programme on the radio about letters written home to family by Japanese kamikaze pilots. This all merged in with an incident in which a woman blacked out in front of me and hit her head on cobblestones. It made a crunck sound that stayed with me for days – I couldn’t get it out of my head – and I wrote the scene from chapter two, with Maggie, Trig, Jed and Lindi in the cemetery.

Fennis Wick is brilliantly realised. Is it based on anywhere in particular?

Thank you! Much of the setting was inspired by the semi-rural part of Hampshire where I grew up, but some has been influenced by fictional places too. For example, I am a great lover of the way setting is used symbolically within fairy tales – especially woods and forest. In The Middler the forest is almost inseparable from Una – sometimes they even merge into each other in Maggie’s eyes. The forest (and Una) can be seen to represent freedom and independence of thought, in sharp contrast to Maggie’s controlled, boundary-enclosed town.

One of the many things I love about The Middler is its quietly menacing undertone. Are you a fan of books with quiet menace? And what books and or authors have influenced your work?

So many books have influenced The Middler in so many ways! But focussing on the quiet menace in particular (which I am a HUGE fan of,) I would have to pick out Catherine Storr’s Marianne Dreams from the books I read as a child. Its silent, blinking stones haunted me throughout my entire childhood! From the books I have read as an adult, I would choose Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go or A Pale View of Hills – both masterclasses in the creation of quiet, growing unease.

So nosy: are you the eldest, youngest, or a middler?

I am a youngest – I have a sister two and half years older than me.

The first thing we all did in the office after reading the manuscript was discuss who was a youngest, a middler or an eldest, and how birth order had affected our lives, and those of our children. Did your own sibling-dynamics influence the relationship between Maggie, Trig and Jed?

Yes, definitely. My sister was 13/14 when I was Maggie’s age. She, of course, was growing up and didn’t always want an eleven-year-old sister hanging around, especially when her friends were there. I often felt left out and left behind, just like Maggie does when Jed and Lindi are climbing the tree at the beginning of the book. (Note – things are different now! She is lovely and would never leave me out!)

This is a story of boundaries between people and places, of belonging or being an outsider. Can you think of any boundaries in your own life that influenced this book?

The Fennis Wick boundary is central to The Middler – as a physical barrier that adds conflict and intensifies the plot, but also as metaphor for internal boundaries such as Maggie’s self-limiting beliefs about lacking bravery and not being special.

The boundaries in my own life have been mostly of the latter variety. Maggie is very much based on me, even down to the shorts she wears on hot summer days. The only dresses I wore as a child were school uniform. And, just like Maggie, I lacked confidence in my abilities and considered myself unimportant compared with other people. I have been working for a long time to overcome these limiting beliefs – and I still suffer from them today. I doubt they will ever completely go away but I am much better at dealing with them now. I hope The Middler can sow small seeds of possibility in the minds of any readers who might also experience similar internal boundaries.

The Middler is a book of many themes but friendship is an important one. Was this deliberate?

I had a sudden moment of insight when I thought about this question. In the relationship between Maggie and Una I think I have subconsciously re-created the very close friendship I had with my best friend at primary school. She was much freer and wilder than me. She had long brown hair and always wore summer dresses when it was warm, while I wore my shorts. She was wonderful. We did everything together.

One of the most moving scenes in the book is Maggie coming across her mother, curled up beneath the portrait of Jed after he has left for the Quiet War. What gave you the idea for the portraits of the eldests?

Mr Wetheral’s role as a portrait artist painting fighters before they leave for war is based on reality. In the First World War, for example, photography had become affordable enough for many soldiers to have photographic studio portraits taken of themselves in uniform before they left for the front. In Maggie’s world, with its scarce resources, photography has become unaffordable and impractical once more, so the portraits are painted by hand.

Writers’ routines are endlessly fascinating. Are you a morning person? Do you pull all-nighters? Do tell…

I would love to be able to say that every day I go out for a brisk walk first thing, then return home for a chia seed smoothie and half an hour’s yoga before retiring to my dedicated writing room with a view across the butterfly fields for my regular morning writing session… but it wouldn’t be true. In truth I have a cheese and tomato omelette for breakfast and I squeeze in writing wherever and whenever I can. My desk is in the corner of the sitting room with a blank wall behind it and I take frantic breaks to panic-tidy in case someone comes round. I do have a VERY nice electric standing desk though, which goes up and down at the press of a button.


Thank you, Kirsty! Excellent to get these insights. And congratulations on the very brilliant
Middler. I loved working on it with you!

Here’s a look inside the book:

Buy the book.

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My brother is a Superhero – out of this Galaxy!

No one goes into publishing for the material rewards, lord knows, but sometimes, just sometimes, someone chucks you a bone. Or in this case, a bespoke chocolate bar. At the very jolly launch of David Solomons’ top notch book, MY BROTHER IS A SUPERHERO, the other week, he gave a great speech and then handed out gifts! He can come again. Thank you, David, for such a thoughtful gesture, and I very much hope that the gannets in the crows’ nest will leave one in the fridge for me…

My Brother is a Superhero is out now! If you’ve not yet discovered this out-of-this-world funny debut, you can read the first two chapters below:

And there’s an app, too! You can download the free My Brother is a Superhero game from the App Store here – and here’s a quick preview:

The Spy Who Loved School Dinners by Pamela Butchart wins the Best Story category of the Blue Peter Book Awards

One Wednesday morning in the office a while back now, I was told a literary agent was on the phone for me. The usual cold fingers of panic ran up my spine as I thought about my submissions pile, teetering electronically in my inbox. But it was OK. It was Becky Bagnell, of the Lindsay Literary Agency, merely wishing to add to it.

She’d picked a good time. Almost lunch and finding it hard to type and eat at the same time, I started reading her submission. TIME BOMB TEDDY by Pamela Butchart; it sounded good, and it was short. Cheering things as I only had a small sandwich. I was three lines in before I laughed for the first time. When I’d finished the submission (and the sandwich) I rang Becky back, mayonnaise getting everywhere, and told her how much I’d liked it.

Fast forward through the following months (past meetings in small Spanish restaurants in North London that Kate came to by mistake; past signing tours during which we lost Waterstones; past cut-out cats and lovely Scottish weddings; past editing, and designing, and publication (as BABY ALIENS GOT MY TEACHER!), and writing, and more designing, and selling (always selling) – pause briefly to cheer as Pamela invites a small girl at the RHCB Award up on stage for a crisp – and then press play as Pamela Butchart, and illustrator Thomas Flintham, and second novel THE SPY WHO LOVED SCHOOL DINNERS, only go and win the Blue Peter Award for Best Story! Today!

The winners of the awards were announced this morning on Newsround, and you can catch both Pamela and Thomas on Blue Peter this afternoon, at 5.30pm.

We are, so so pleased for the book, and for Pamela and Thomas! This is such an fantastic award – chosen by over 200 children across the UK – and such wonderful recognition for a truly brilliant book.

Here’s a look inside The Spy Who Loved School Dinners:

Buy the book online.

Congratulations, Pamela and Thomas!

Why do we have music?

My eight-year-old is currently absorbed by a really excellent book called Why Can’t I Tickle Myself?, in which children ask the questions that vex them most (‘Is it OK to eat a worm?’ ‘Why are grown-ups in charge?’) and have them answered by experts in the field. So Bear Grylls tackles the worm question and, er, Miranda Hart does the grown-up one. It’s great, and the eight-year-old will be getting the sequel, Does My Goldfish Know Who I Am?, in her stocking. One of the questions posed is Why Do We Have Music? and this is answered by that inestimable rock god, Jarvis Cocker. He ruminates on what life would be without it (‘boring – and Musical Statues would never get going, would it?’) and ends with:

‘It’s magic & we can have it whenever we want. When you put on one of your favourite songs & get a sort of shivery feeling behind your ears & down the back of your neck, that’s one of the best feelings there is. & that’s why we have it.’

It was in that spirit that I forewent Homeland last Sunday (something I don’t do lightly) and took my eldest to his first ever live-music event. The Capital Radio Jingle Bell Ball is an annual event at the O2 where the chart-toppingest, most digitally-downloaded Grammy-nominated popsters of today do their thing and get really, really screamed at for their trouble. The audience is routinely bombarded by glittery paper and iTunes vouchers are shot out of cannons. In other words, it’s excellent! I did not scream, but I did do some extreme mum-dancing and waved my phone-torch about enthusiastically when asked to by Ed Sheeran. Well, why not?

It got me thinking about the first gig I ever went to, back in 1803. I persuaded my poor long-suffering father to drive me and my best friend down to see The Police at the Cornwall Coliseum, a concrete bunker that has probably fallen into the sea by now. It was halfway there back then. As we waited for the doors to open (keen? just a bit) we huddled into our calf-length herring-bone coats and fretted about the damage the bitterly cold sea ‘breeze’ was doing to our carefully asymmetric hair. My father huddled into the car (he was less concerned about getting a place near the front) and got a Silk Cut going.

But that whole Jarvis Cocker magical feeling was there in spades – and on Sunday I studied my small companion closely as he jigged about to Taylor Swift. Is he feeling it, man? And although he was careful to maintain his all-important ten-year-old insouciance afterwards, he declared the whole thing ‘awesome’ and hasn’t stopped humming (and occasionally whistling) since.

& that’s why we have it.

The Spy Who Loved School Dinners on Blue Peter

I spent Thursday afternoon doing something that I haven’t done for years – waiting for Blue Peter to come on. It didn’t disappoint (despite the lack of elephant poo) and it was glorious to see The Spy Who Loved School Dinners, written by Pamela Butchart and illustrated by Thomas Flintham, being deservedly shortlisted for the Blue Peter Book Award.

I particularly loved the animation of Thomas Flintham’s excellent artwork (at the top of this post), which felt like a whizzy testament to how brilliant his illustrations are, how important they are to the appeal of the book and how vital to its success. They complement Pamela’s hilarious prose perfectly, and I know from reading the book with my kids and in schools, how much they enhance the readers’ enjoyment without ever stopping them using their imaginations. No mean feat!

So we all just wanted to say a big thank you to Thomas, and congratulations to him and to Pamela on being shortlisted for not just the Blue Peter Book Award, but the Red House Children’s Book Award, too. May the champagne be flowing in both your houses all week, and beyond!

You can take a look inside The Spy Who Loved School Dinners here:


Buy the book online.

The Bride Who Loved School Dinners

They’re an old married couple of three weeks now but on 3rd July, Pamela Butchart, author of Baby Aliens Got My Teacher!, married her boyfriend, Andrew Cunningham, in a beautiful old byre in Fife. By coincidence, and as something of a very good sign for both ventures, Pamela’s second book with Nosy Crow, The Spy Who Loved School Dinners, was published on the same day. And best of all (for me) is that I was lucky enough to be invited to the wedding.

Both Pamela and Andrew are teachers, and Pamela’s books are all about the crazy things that happen at primary school, so it could be said that the wedding had a natural theme. The invitation threatened detention for those not RSVPing in a timely fashion, and on the morning of the wedding, I caught a school bus from Dundee along the amazing coastline to St Andrews. It was a lovely service in a lovely place, and I felt very honoured to be there.

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Sadly, Pamela and Andy’s cats, Carlos and Bear, couldn’t make it in person, but they made it in standee.

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There were lots of firsts on the day. It’s not unusual for people, when they find out what I do, to admit to having a children’s book in them, but it’s never been a vicar who’s just officiated at a wedding before. I’ve never been offered what I thought was a cup of camomile tea only to discover it was in fact Prosecco, and I’ve never been more delighted. And I’ve never found myself sat in the back of a bridal car with the bride and groom (though not in the middle, that would have been intrusive) whizzing off to a bookshop in St Andrews, as the bride takes half an hour out from her wedding to go and sign copies of her new book.

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Having newly weds sweep through their door was a first for J & G Innes, and I don’t think the small girl who was busily drawing in a corner has ever been handed a bridal bouquet and asked to hold it for a minute. And it was a really-very-lovely-to-witness first for Andy, when Pamela showed him the dedication and illustration printed in the front of the THE SPY WHO LOVED SCHOOL DINNERS, something that she had kept a very stressful secret since the advance copies came through.

The Bride Who Loved School Dinners

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I’m also fairly certain that while it might have been the first time that Andy became a human signing table, it won’t be the last.

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Back at the wedding, (school) dinner was served. And it was delicious (unlike the shepherd’s pie so beloved by the ‘spy’ in Pamela’s book).

School-Dinners

Thank you, Mr and Mrs Cunningham, for inviting me to your wedding and I hope your photographer took better pictures. I had a lovely time, and we all send our love and best wishes for the future (and for future books).

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A blind date in Foyles…

Crimson Poison author Susan Saville

The second-to-last time I went to Old Foyles before it moved down the road and became Sexy Foyles (© Caitlin Moran), I was on a blind date. It was pretty exciting and I’d even dressed up specially, before spoiling it and tottering off on my bike rocking the Halfords look.

I rolled in through the side entrance, as I always do (did?) and headed up the stairs and round the bendy corner to the cafe, stumbling slightly on the step down as I always do (did). My date was easy to spot – she was the only one who didn’t have a laptop in front of her and a cup of coffee that she’d been nursing for two hours. And she’d brought her agent with her. This was my first meeting with Susan Saville, author of Crimson Poison, a manuscript I had just read, loved, and was keen to acquire. Clattering over to the table and then dropping my bike helmet probably wasn’t the best way to go about it but old habits die hard.

We had a very enjoyable meeting, and I got to talk to Susan about all the things I’m most interested in – the hows and whys and wherefores of being a writer, why this story and not another, what else did she have up her sleeve and – killer question – how open to editorial meddling was she? Susan, and her agent Jemima Hunt, got to ask me all the things they were curious about – Nosy Crow, the list, the potential look of the book, the marketing plan and – killer question – what kind of editorial meddling was I on about and maybe I should think about calling it something else? We had a good exchange of information and I liked everything that Susan was saying and was hopeful that she’d think we’d be the right home for her books.

And as for the meddling, in actual fact, I really just wanted Susan to make more of everything that was already there. Crimson Poison is a very exciting adventure story for 9+ readers (sorry, can’t bring myself to say ‘middle-grade’) set against a brilliantly realised Hong Kong and starring Nat Walker, a girl who might be called “kick-ass” (but not by me). She’s a great hero – intrepid, determined even when she’s not a little scared, with a sense of humour that makes her highly likeable and convincing. I urge you to read it – it’ll be out in the spring next year, and there’ll be a lot more said about it before then. And afterwards, too, I’m sure.

So the last time I went to Old Foyles I was again dressed by Halfords and again meeting Susan. This time, it was to talk through the latest draft of the manuscript and to chew over book 2. We had another very enjoyable meeting but this time, as I headed over to the treacherous cafe step to go back round the bendy corner and down the stairs to the side exit, Susan quietly pointed to a door that would take me straight on to Charing Cross Road. In all the years of going to Foyles, I had never known about this door, and I took a solemn moment to appreciate how this trading of information seemed to symbolise something about the author/editor relationship. Or maybe just showed that it’s never too late to learn how to get out of a bookshop that’s relocating anyway. Until it is.

Crimson Poison will publish in May 2015 – if you’d like to be kept up to date with news about the book, exclusive offers and competitions, and the first chance to take a look inside, you can sign up to our Books Newsletter here.

The story behind My Brother is a Superhero

It’s undeniable that having a book on submission is stressful for authors. All that waiting to hear something – anything – from a publisher. But spare a thought for the editor, too. There you are, sat in your garden on a bank holiday Monday, avoiding a very competitive (and rough) family game of football, idling your way through your emails and tuning out the yelling. Your eye is caught by a submission from an agent unknown to you. You like the cut of his jib and you read the first couple of chapters of the submission. You laugh out loud, surprising yourself because you’ve grown quite hard to please over the years.

A ten-year-old footballer shambles past. He’s possibly bleeding but you ignore this. You suggest that you’re reading something he might like and would he have a look for you? He asks how much you’re offering to pay. You don’t rise to this. He sighs and agrees, but only if you’ll take part in a penalty shoot out. You sigh and agree.

A week later, as the bruises fade, an offer is with the agent and your nails are in tatters. There’s other interest (and of course there is, it’s a great book, as the footballer, two other ten-year-olds and four colleagues have agreed) and now it’s YOUR turn to wait to hear something, anything. It’s not good news – there have been two more offers with a potential fourth on its way, and BAM, there you are, in a bidding war.

The troops mobilise, marketing plans are devised, cakes are baked (with great attention to the text and a certain amount of swearing – blue food colouring can be hard to work with) and a meeting date is fixed.

The tension builds and the agent and author arrive. They look slightly alarmed, but the occasion called for bunting and so bunting is what they got. Some time later, they leave (are they still alarmed? Have they been convinced of how much we love the book, how much we want it and what a great job we will do for it?) and the waiting starts again. No one’s nails are looking good now.

It’s the next day and the call for ‘best offers’ comes in. Calculators are produced, brows are furrowed, but everyone knows it’s about gut feel and passion and enthusiasm (as well as money) and the revised offer is made.

More waiting. And then a bit more. Broken up by some pacing.

And then the phone call! And from the author, no less. The waiting is over and the book is ours. Much joy ensues (with a thought spared for those who loved and lost. We’ve all been there and it’s horrible.) But then it’s back to the JOY.

And that is how we come to be publishing My Brother is a Superhero by David Solomons. It’s funny, moving and brilliant, and worth all the waiting, baking, nail-chewing and standing in goal being pelted by footballs. Absolutely.

My Brother is a Superhero will be published in Summer 2015, and simultaneously in the US by Viking Children’s Books. You can read The Bookseller’s coverage of the acquisition here – and here’s what everyone else has to say…

David Solomons:
“Finally my immaturity and childish sense of humour have paid off and I am frankly overexcited at the prospect of being published by Nosy Crow. They came at me with passion, ambition and sponge cake. How could I resist?”

Kate Wilson:
“We are hugely proud to have won these books for the Nosy Crow list, particularly in the face of stiff competition from much bigger publishers. At Nosy Crow, we don’t decide to go all-out for many books – it can be the most enormous expenditure of time and energy for an uncertain outcome – but David’s comedy, great voice and nifty plotting united us in our enthusiasm, and we really look forward to communicating that enthusiasm to customers and readers.”

Mark Stanton, Jenny Brown Associates (David’s agent):
“David has written a terrific book – funny, heart-warming and original, with a cast of characters that both boys and girls will love. And in Nosy Crow – energetic, brimming over with enthusiasm, creative and professional – I know we’ve found a house that will publish the book with flair and passion: capeless, but publishing superheroes nonetheless.”

Kendra Levin, Senior Editor at Viking Children’s Books:
“With its clever references to comic books and save-the-world plot, My Brother is a Superhero is a love letter to fandom, and one that I believe will attract many fans in its own right.”

And here’s some more from Kirsty:
“The idea behind this book is genius. Luke’s mistake is to take a wee in the right place at the wrong time but while he’s gone, an alien gives his undeserving, never-read-a-comic-in-his-life older brother superpowers and tells him to save the universe. Luke’s sense of the unfairness of it all is hilarious and the way he steps up to help is a joy to read. My Brother is a Superhero is a great book destined for greatness.”

If you’d like to be kept up to date with news about My Brother is a Superhero, exclusive offers and competitions, and the first chance to take a look inside, you can sign up to our Books Newsletter here.

Our January fiction is out now!

It’s January publication day, and we have two fantastic fiction titles out now!

The Rescue Princesses: The Snow Jewel
A new princess for a new year… The fifth book of Paula Harrison’s excellent series for 5-8-year-old readers, The Rescue Princesses, sees Princess Freya join her new royal friends in a snowy animal adventure. Her little kitten, Minky, has run away from the palace and is sheltering from the snow on a thin branch over an icy pond. And the branch is cracking and the water beneath freezing cold… The girls use all their bravery to save him just at the last minute, and then head back to the palace for hot chocolate and cake. As the January chill sets in, this is the perfect book to cuddle up with, preferably in front of a roaring fire…

Read the first chapter:


Buy The Rescue Princesses: The Snow Jewel online.

Shadows of the Silver Screen
Another great fireside read is the second novel by Christopher Edge about the adventures of intrepid heroine, Penny Tredwell, a thoroughly modern Miss chafing under the constraints of Victorian society. Shadows of the Silver Screen finds a charismatic filmmaker attempting to bring to life one of the tales of the macabre published by Penny’s magazine, The Penny Dreadful. And bring it to life he does, in a most sinister way… A thrilling read, set on a fabulously misty Dartmoor, Shadows of the Silver Screen is hard to put down and impossible to forget.

Read the first chapter:

Buy Shadows of the Silver Screen online.

Congratulations to both Paula and Chris on their new books, and Happy Publication Day!

A fiction double-act!

As the evenings start drawing in and the first Christmas catalogues begin plopping on to doormats, it’s time to celebrate the publication of the fifth in Lyn Gardner’s excellent stage-school series, Olivia’s Winter Wonderland.

Deliciously seasonal, this is a snowy, twinkly read, with a festive dose of pantomime thrown in for good measure. While Olivia’s peers are auditioning like crazy for a major West End role (and stabbing each other in the back at the bat of a false eyelash), Olivia is content to steal the show as the less glamorous end of a pantomime horse. She also discovers an amazing old vaudeville theatre near the school and soon she’s caught up in a wonderful world of singing, and laughter, and ghosts…

Congratulations, Lyn, on another drama-filled page-turner, perfect for
those long, dark evenings!

Buy Olivia’s Winter Wonderland online here.

It’s also publication day for another action-packed book, this time for
slightly younger readers. The Stolen Crystals is the fourth in Paula Harrison’s series, The Rescue Princesses, and it’s fast and furious and perfect for readers who love animals (just look at that panda!), love princesses, and also love the perfect ninja move. When a baby panda is captured and held hostage, the Rescue Princesses spring into action. With the help of their magic rings and extreme bravery, they rescue the tiny cub and also find the lost Onica Heart crystals at the same time. Then they celebrate in true royal style!

Thanks for another great book, Paula, and happy publication day!

Buy The Stolen Crystals online here.

A ‘My Best Friend and Other Enemies’ launch party

As you may have seen from last week’s blog posts, Thursday was a bumper Publication Day for Nosy Crow with seven new titles coming out in a blaze of glory. One of these was the completely hilarious MY BEST FRIEND AND OTHER ENEMIES by Catherine Wilkins, and what better way to celebrate than with a launch party!

So, bags clanking with fizz, Camilla and I made our way to Catherine’s house in West London, where we met her entire very lovely family and loads of her glamorous friends.

Blending seamlessly in, obvs, we got the crisps out, the music on and the celebration underway! We were thrilled that the hugely talented Sarah Horne was able to join us, and be thoroughly lauded for her beautifully funny illustrations.

It’s always great to be able to send a book on its way in style, so thank you to Catie for hosting the bash and to her mum for all the amazing pizzas. And while many publishers have said that their books are perfect for readers of eight-to-eighty, not many have the proof. We do!

My Best Friend and Other Enemies is out now. You can order it online here or read the first chapter for free below.

A fiction bonanza!

It’s our busiest publication day ever – as well as our hat-trick of picture books, we have a further FOUR books out today. There’s something for every possible taste…

Kate’s worked with Philip Ardagh over the years and Kate’s worked with Axel for more years than either of them care to remember, but, though Philip and Axel knew one another, they’d never worked together. So when Kate began discussing the possibility of Philip writing a series of books for Nosy Crow, Axel’s name quickly came up as the dream illustrator.

THE GRUNTS IN TROUBLE is the first book in a brand new series. The combination of Philip’s Roald Dahl Funny Prize-winning writing wit, and Axel’s best-selling character visualising and humour, makes for a very funny and very silly read.

We’ve had a nice clutch of reviews for the book already. As well as being a Sunday Times Children’s Book of the Week, The Telegraph described the book as “Gloriously repulsive … as always with Ardagh, there is the clever word-play, irony and plain silliness that make his books such fun …. To add to the enjoyment, the book is full of wonderfully incisive and daft illustrations by Axel Scheffler.” Meanwhile, The Guardian said, “Their adventures are as unsavoury as they are entertaining, as Axel Scheffler’s illustrations wittily show. Fans of Andy Stanton’s Mr Gum and Roald Dahl’s The Twits will delight in this disgusting but amiable family.”

So go on, meet the Grunts. They’re not that bad. No, actually, they ARE. Maybe worse, even…

Watch Philip read from the book:

Read chapter one of The Grunts in Trouble:

Buy the book online.

Even Vikings have to go back to school, and for a certain small boy, the long Nordic days of summer are over. In the third in the hilarious series for six years and up, VULGAR THE VIKING AND THE SPOOKY SCHOOL TRIP, Vulgar is set to return to the classroom to learn about basket-weaving and growing vegetables. How he longs for the good old days of raiding and pillaging, when Vikings didn’t grow vegetables, they just took everyone else’s! But this term, something’s different – his boring teacher is off sick and they’ve got Otto the Bone-Cruncher instead! He’s a proper Viking, and he’s taking them on a proper school trip!

His head full of sword fighting and roaring, Vulgar sets off in fine fettle. But after a very long, damp walk up a mountain and a tea of roasted slugs, Vulgar’s not so sure about ‘the good old days’ of Viking hardship. He’d actually quite like his comfy bed and his mum’s famous burnt toast for breakfast. Still, he does get to tell his most excellent scary story round the camp fire. It’s a good one, all about flesh-eating trolls who prey on defenceless campers. Vulgar tells it so well, and in such disgusting detail, that even Otto goes pale. And then runs off screaming into the night.

How will the school trip end, now that the proper Viking’s done a runner just as the trolls are closing in? There’s only one way to find out…

Held og lykke, Vulgar, and keep looking behind you…

Read chapter one of Vulgar the Viking and the Spooky School Trip:

Buy the book online.

Having a best friend when you’re an eleven-year-old-girl can be a mine-field. One minute, you’re arm-in-arm, a united front, an unbreakable unit, and the next, it’s over and you’re out in the cold. Dumped. Excluded. And probably thoroughly miserable.

This is what happens to Jessica, the hugely likeable heroine of Catherine Wilkin’s laugh-out-loud debut, MY BEST FRIEND AND OTHER ENEMIES. Does she take her best friend Natalie’s appalling behaviour lying down? No, she does not. She fights back, with an armoury of wit, determination and Lego pirates, as well as her ability to draw excellent satirical cartoons. Truly, the pen is mightier than a bunch of girls being mean to each other.

When Natalie chums up with evil new girl, Amelia, Jessica finds herself left out of all the fun trips to fast-food outlets, cheesy boy-band gigs and crazy sleepovers. But worst of all, she’s not invited to join their secret gang, Cool Awesome Chicks, or C.A.C. for short. Jessica pointing out that this sounds like ‘one of the milder swear words for poo’ does not help things:

‘I feel like I’ve been dumped, and Natalie and Amelia have just announced their engagement. Which I suppose is kind of what’s happened.

I feel a bit like I’ve been on the verge of being dumped for ages. In some ways this is better. Oh, this is so not better. I feel sick. I honestly can’t work out if I feel more hurt or angry. Maybe this is the feeling my mum is describing when she says, “This is the living end!”

Well, you know, I can be dignified in defeat. Probably. “Thanks for giving me the full picture,” I say. “I will leave you two to it.”

As soon as I’m out of the room I run straight to the toilets and lock myself in a cubicle. Oh dear. What am I going to do now? Seriously. What am I going to do? I could stay here in the toilets and cry, I suppose; that’s always an option. But that will only take me up to one-fifteen, and then I’ve still got history. What am I going to do? This really is the living end…’

Jessica is a great character and you don’t stop rooting for her throughout. There’s one point (and I won’t spoil it for you) where I found myself punching the air and crying gleefully, “Take that, Amelia!” which made my Tube journey even more uncomfortable than it already was.

Catherine Wilkins has written a brilliant book, and Sarah Horne’s illustrations are brilliant, too. But don’t take my word for it, it’s OUT TODAY!

Read chapter one of My Best Friend and Other Enemies:

Buy the book online.

And last but by no means least, today’s the day the second book in the incredible MAGICAL MIXUPS series – part illustrated fiction, part innovative doodle-book – publishes.

In Magical Mix-Ups: Friends and Fashion, written by Marnie Edwards and illustrated by Leigh Hodgkinson, best friends Princess Sapphire and Emerald the Witch enter a fashion-design competition (well, Sapphire enters and brings Emerald along with her). All the outfits get in a TERRIBLE mix-up and muddle, and Sapphire and Emerald can’t sort it out on their own – they need you! Doodle, design and draw while you read and make the world of fashion as magical as it can be!

Read chapter one of Magical Mix-Ups: Friends and Fashion:

Buy the book online.

Congratulations to all our authors and illustrators on their publication day!