What I'm reading

One of the best parts of being a children's writer is that I get to read children's books whenever I want - it's part of my actual job. I love to read a mix of new books everyone is talking about, all the brilliant books by my lovely author friends, and other older books that may have been a bit forgotten (often ones that I've picked up on a charity shop haul!) - and, best of all, books that children recommend to me when I go into schools.

Do let me know if there are any great books out there you think I should add to my to-read pile (which is already Officially Out of Control!)

September 2019

I love this sparklingly funny, crazy mystery - especially fun for a Cambridge resident as the setting is so real. Sesame is a fantastically precocious heroine and the crime plot was interesting and clever too.

An absolute treasure of a book. I adored everything about it - the wonderful voice of Cosmo the elderly Golden Retriever and his undying love for his boy, Max - moving and funny - a must-read!

August 2019

Exquisitely beautiful, hauntingly strange illustrations with interactive folding pages and treasure hunting and problem solving activities make this a really special book - a sophisticated picture book that will appeal to older children and adults.

An original adventure in which a girl battles dark forces and her own guilt about her grandmother's death. Super-exciting action scenes and I loved the comedy between the sidekicks Moonzy and Skaw, although I did find the colour labels and use of similes a little distraction (although I understand these were part of the distinctive voice of the main character!)

What a joy to re-read this - one of my all-time childhood favourites - and just as good as I remembered - atmospheric, creepy, exciting, a little crazy and full of wonderfully fanciful vocabulary. The old house, the The Chase itself, was always my favourite character!

July 2019
Took me a while to get into, but really enjoyed this exciting friendship/rescue adventure with echoes of The Wizard of Oz

Warning: not suitable for children and younger teenagers. Powerful, painful and bleakly beautiful - one of those books that really haunts you.
Hilarious! This is one of the best and funniest 'family and friends capers' I've read - I can't wait to read the other three. I'm still giggling over the line "No one expects a parsnip on a luxury item".

 Merrylegs is a riding school pony with big dreams - this picture book is a  thing of beauty - the colours are gorgeous and the ponies adorable. A favourite!

Everything about this picture book is comforting - soft colours, familiar street scenes, a lovely friendship between the two dogs, lots of repetition and things to look for on every page - a perfect bedtime read.
An original and powerful voice shines through this verse novel - (for older readers)

June 2019

I love a boarding school story and although it took me a while to get into this one, the intrigue and great school setting got me turning the pages and it proved a great read.

There's good reason this is a classic. Deceptively simply writing tells a heart-wrenching story of life for poor children on the streets of Victorian London - all the more moving as it's based on a true story.

I read this on the plane to Mexico and cried more than once. A warm and believable story of friendship, family and love of dance in the face of adversity - a must-read!

How to describe this book? Bonkers! Funny, larger than life and full of crazy word acrobatics! A brilliant read if you want a book that makes you laugh out loud.

May 2019

Oh, this book is a delight - a perfect combination of adventure and magic. I loved the voice of Storm of Odin, who falls to earth and finds himself an ordinary puppy. The growing bond between Storm and his human girl, Jessie is a joy for any dog-lover!

Of all the graphic novels that I've been readng with my local school Y6 book club, this is my favourite. I love the story of achieving your (roller derby!) goal through determination and hard work, and also love the style of the drawings - lots of humour along with  kind messages about supporting friends, teamwork and family understanding.

A warm and funny story of family and friends - I love Billie and her confidence and the lovely relationships with her father and brothers - and the subtle message that good people don't always do the right thing.

Oh my goodness, I loved this -  it's very dark and unsettling, but utterly compelling, and cleverly manages to be moving, funny and thought-provoking as well. Not for younger readers.

A brilliant funny and clever mystery - St Trinians meets Enid Blyton - slapstick and larger-than-life characters.

This is so much fun - traditional sleuthing in a contemporary urban setting. A superbly smart and sassy duo of sisters make this mystery a joy.

April 2019
Warm and funny - I loved this tale of a boy with a big imagination,  the ups and downs of settling into a new school and neighbourhood and everyday life in a Muslim family- with an exciting little adventure at the end too!

Gorgeously atmospheric illustrations make this graphic novel a joy to look at. A great re-telling of this larger-than-life historical figure.

Friendship to the max! Cool, smart, hilarious, crazy, charming, perfect . . . I could go on! This graphic novel follows a  group of friends at summer camp as they tackle monsters, rapids, talking statues, mathematical codes and much much more - I have to go out and get the rest of the series now!
Moving, mysterious, and so much to think about. I love the quiet, fierce love among the four members of Michael's family as the new baby fights for life even more than the strange figure in the garage . . .

I love this series and it was such a delight to return to Lull and  catch up with old friends again - the brilliant thing is that the  characters feel very real, even though they inhabit a world full of magic.

I absolutely LOVED this book - it's one of my all-time favourites - the friendships are complex and engaging and the adventure is believable and gripping. The writing sang to me - the love of the natural world shone through, the original character voices and the warm, wise words of the story-teller stepping back to comment from time to time.

I read this as a child but couldn't remember much of the story - only an atmosphere of deep dark, rather disturbing mystery and magic - that feeling was just as strong on re-reading! I was drawn back into Earthsea - following Ged's voyages on the intricately detailed map - it's a masterwork, epic, lyrical, and still very dark and unsettling.

The girls in my book club have all loved this graphic novel. It's great fun - a story of the highs and lows of putting on a school play at the same time as dealing with friendships and crushes. I really enjoyed the illustrations - sweet and detailed and witty - and I especially liked that the focus was on the kids who do the lighting, stage settings etc rather than the performers who would usually steal all the limelight!

From the first page I was swept up in the warmth and love in this book - told in the surprisingly funny and perceptive innver voice of Ava, a girl with Rett syndrome, unable to control her movements or communicate. The story of Ava and her family was so compelling I was rooting for them through every frustration and triumph.

March 2019
A beautifully told story of magic and loss, life and death.
A re-read of this lovely book for my Y5/6 book club at Coton Primary. Deceptively simple with so much to think about - an almost painfully realistic depiction of the ups and downs of friendship and power and peer pressure - with a satisfyingly positive ending.

Utterly captivating and charming. I loved all the characters and longed to step into the world of the Penderwick sisters. A true timeless classic - I can't wait to read the rest of the series.

What a fantastic book - I know and love Rebecca Patterson's hilarious words and illustrations from her picture books, and this was just as funny and perceptive- a friendship tale with a brilliant sci-fi twist.
This book is just adorable - over-flowing with love, a story of a dog and his bond with his girl even after the grave. Packed with fun and adventure and great characters, both animal and human -the illustrations are a delight as well.

February 2019

What a treat!  This book is packed with all my favourite ingredients - a relatable, resourceful and brave main character, family teamwork, working dogs, heaps of adventure on a perilous journey - and it leaves you with lots to think about too - a world in which grass crops have failed. Thank you to the lovely bookseller in Brisbane who put this one in my hands - I'll be recommending it to everyone!

A sweet and sensitive story for younger readers. Olive sees her father's sadness as a big grey miserable elephant - and determines to chase it away. Gentle prose and lovely line drawings make this book special.

A captivating WW2 adventure, told from the perspective of a young Indian soldier - all the more powerful and moving as it is based on real events. Great characters and fascinating insights. Another one that made me cry!

A brilliantly original story that weaves together real life, magic and adventure - and finding your way home.

Great characters and setting -
A beautifully written story of a family's loves and losses through the events of the First Word War. Utterly captivating - one of those books that stays with you. I cried - a lot! Just brilliant!

January 2019
Magic meets mystery-solving! What a great combination - fun and cleverly plotted with some great over-the-top characters.

I loved everything about this heart-warming story of friendship, families and finding your true self behind the mask. The poems made it extra special - a hit!

An unusual magical short story set in a fairy tale version of  Dickensian London - a perfect Christmas read

This month's BookPenPal recommendations were:

This book is just so COOL. You can tell just by looking at the cover, all black and grey and mysterious, with the figure looking out of the window. It’s half graphic novel and half text, telling a story from two different points of view. I love how it builds suspense and keeps you guessing. 

This is a great classic fantasy-adventure quest, with magic and menace.  There is darkness in this read – it’s quite scary at times. This is the first of a trilogy, so there’s lots to get your teeth into.

December 2018

An adorable story in the tradition of Animal Ark, but with extra helpings of warmth, humour and thoughtfulness - the illustrations by Ellie Snowdon are lovely too.

A collection of winter-themed stories by some of the best MG writers around - I especially loved  A Night at the Frost Fair by Emma Carroll
A perfect Christmassy ghost story -haunting but with a happy ending. This book really stayed with me.

A spellbinding tale of magic and mystery - this is a book to lose yourself in!

A trio of snowy picture books to start the Winter reading season.

A sweet story of a boy and his grandad playing in the snow - beautiful to look at.

I love the crazy fun of this series (Slug of Doom was my favourite) - perfect for older children to pore over and find all the extra jokes. A great inspiration for drawing too.
This is comfort-reading at its best, like hot chocolate in your favourite mug - so warm and cosy!

November 2018
One of my favourite reads this year - overflowing with family, friends, & football - all my  top things - great 1980s setting,  and the illustrations are fantastic too.

Re-reading these two excellent historical novels for Coton School Book Cafe this week - great young characters finding their way and trying to do what's right against the backdrop of fascinating historical events.

Exciting historical adventure full of peril and plots - a rich and rewarding read. Perfect for a winter's night!
A moving story of a boy's quest to help his family against the fascinating backdrop of nineteenth century coprolite digging and fossil collecting - lots to learn and a fantastic read.

A fascinating collection of short stories from some of the best YA writers around - something in here for everyone (for older teen readers) - would make a great gift for a YA reader.

Running, family, memories and doing the right thing - a lot packed into a short book and perfect for Remembrance - I loved this book.

Short and sweet stories - an old-fashioned feel to this collection (in a good way). It reminded me of story anthologies I loved as a child. Would make a lovely gift book.

A warm and relatable story about coping with change, fitting in and making friends - looks at creativity and intellectual property too! Hugely enjoyed this.

An intriguing story of family secrets and the value of friendship, told with a fascinating use of language (may not be suitable for some younger readers). Also a love letter to the city of Brussels.

A deeply moving story of love, resilience and the power of imagination, infused with warmth and humour - brilliant!

October 2018

 A beautifully told story of kindness and friendship and trying to make a difference. Every child - and adult for that matter - should read it.
 Funny, fierce, frantic mystery-busting fun - a fantastic read.

The heart-breaking true story of a young refugee's perilous journey from Afghanistan
(some difficult content may not be suitable for younger children). This will have you in tears - and angry too.
 A warm and gentle tale of friendship across generations, with a lovely sprinkle of magic

A really original and exciting magical adventure, exciting and richly-imagined


This month's Book Pen Pal recommendations.

Two girls from very different backgrounds finding their way and becoming friends. I love everything about this book - not just a great read but such an important message.
The amazing true story of adventurer, Matthew Henson, first to reach the North Pole. Beautifully told and illustrated.