Sunday, 21 July 2013

Cakes, Books and Sunshine!

I always love receiving invitations to visit schools to talk about books and reading and writing stories (not to mention, dogs and salamanders and brussels sprouts and ice lollies and other pressing issues of the day).

Recently I received an extra-special invitation. Eight-year old Katherine told me that she had been reading the Adventure Island books and asked if I could come to her school, Bignold Primary, in Norwich. Not only had she told her teacher and all her class-mates about the books, she also organised a cake sale to raise money to pay for the visit.


Katherine is a great example of how if you want to do something, with  loads of initiative, hard work and imagination, you can make it happen!

Here is a picture of the cake sale. Katherine's friends helped to run it, and all the class helped baking cakes and of course, buying and eating them all (eating cake - it's a tough job but someone's got to do it!)

And here is Katherine herself, as featured in the Norwich Evening News, who ran an article all about her awesome idea and efforts. Read it here!

Thank you to Katherine, your teacher, Mrs Norman, your class-mates and and everyone at Bignold Primary School for a really lovely day.  True, it was so hot that we all almost melted, but luckily we invented the Porsche Penguin in the nick of time; it drove through the playground firing ice lollies in through the classroom window (in our imaginations at least!)

And thank you for all the great artwork that I saw. I was very touched by the posters that the children had done about me based on their on-line research and loved the awesome pictures of  The Mystery of the Whistling Caves. Here is a sample. Lots more coming soon on the Art Gallery page - do have a look. I think we have some future designers here!

Have a lovely summer holiday!

Questions, questions . . .

Do you have a dog called Drift?

Are you proud of your books?

Do you write books every day?

In the Mystery of the Whistling Caves, who is your favourite person?

These were just some of the cool questions I found when I opened a lovely fat envelope full of letters from Year 3 pupils at Duxford c/e Primary School a few weeks ago.

The letters were beautifully written. They were courteous and interesting and well presented. Even the spelling was excellent! I was so impressed I couldn't wait to meet the children who'd written them when I went to visit their school last week. And I wasn't disappointed. They were just as awesome in person as they were on paper. We had a lovely (if sweltering hot!) morning together.

And they are great artists too! Here's a sample of the artwork the children had on display, all based on The Mystery of the Whistling Caves. To see more, have a look at the exhibition on the Art Gallery Page.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Sharing the Library Love

Libraries definitely feature high up on my all-time list of favourite things!

Libraries don't come much prettier than this!
Saffron Walden Library ticks all the boxes
 - books and architecture and a even a weather vane -
As a child, we would go the local library every week.  I'd pile my arms with as many books as I was allowed. I loved the thick plastic covers and the stick-in sheets at the front, stamped with the date for every previous loan.  I'd be bursting with impatience all the way home, dying to dive into my new haul. Sometimes I would even cave in and start reading in the car, even though it made me hopelessly car sick.

As a student I loved the grand old libraries of Oxford University. I would spread out my notebooks and pens on a polished wood and leather desk, the light from the reading lamp a cosy pool of brightness on dark winters' afternoon and select the huge fat bound volume of the learned journals on my reading list (Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, perhaps, or Mind and Language) and settle in. If I had to climb a wooden ladder to reach the top shelf or request my journal to be brought up from the stacks, so much the better. My concentration may have drifted off after half an hour, but you couldn't fail feel to that your brain was expanding in those surroundings.

Families taking part in the Children's Literature Quiz at Milton Rd Library
I was very easily bribed into helping with the answers - all it took was a friendly smile!
Now I often set up in the library for the day to write, rather than to read, a book.  Every now and then I need a change of scene from my home desk. Central Library in Cambridge is a great place to work, It's light and bright and friendly and all around there is the buzz of shared learning and discovery.  I also like to venture out to the smaller town and village libraries - there is something so delicious about being able to wander in to a new library and settle down at a desk surrounded by books. You can stay all day and you don't even have to buy anything!

I've been delighted to be invited to take part in two events at libraries in Cambridge this month. The first a meeting of the Youth Libraries Group, a wonderful chance to meet and discuss with librarians the issue of keeping children reading over the summer (the libraries Summer Reading Challenge provides a great focus for this)

Why not sign up for the summer reading challenge this summer
Find out all about it at their website here

And then to an event at Milton Rd Library in Cambridge, organised by the Friends of the Library. Children from the nearby school and their families were invited to a drop-in event with lots of activities (and refreshments on another of this month's miraculously scorching days) and to talk about their ideas for the way they'd like to see their library used in future. Like so many small local libraries, its opening hours have been reduced and closure is always a threat, but it is a wonderful community resource, and it is great to see the community ad library services joining forces to fight for it to survive - and thrive and evolve - into the future.

Thank you to everyone who organised these events and to everyone who came along.
Emily investigating Mrs Loveday in Castle Key Library
in The Mystery of the Whistling Caves
Find out how Jack is getting on with the Summer Reading Challenge on his blog

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Fourth of July

Happy Fourth of July!

I hope you all have a wonderful day in America.

I was lucky enough to live in Portland, Oregon some time ago. What a great year we had there! 
We were welcomed as a family, made wonderful friends, the kids had a fabulous time at a truly inspirational local school, we skied in the winter, went to the beach in the summer, and I even got to climb Mt Hood, with ice axes and ropes and the whole works (I have a certificate on my wall to prove it!)

This year the fourth of July is also publication day for the latest Adventure Island book, the Mystery of the Secret Room.

Isn't the cover beautiful? I think this might be one of my favourites of the whole series. 
I'm so lucky that the publishers picked the brilliant artist Roy Knipe for the covers. And the amazing Leo Hartas, who has drawn all the gorgeous chapter-head line illustrations (over 280  altogether!). Follow this link to Leo's website to see lots more of his brilliant illustrations. You might just bump into some characters you recognise there!

 The Mystery of the Secret Room is dedicated to these two great artists.

What's in the treasure chest?
And where did that little cat come from?

To find out why Emily's in a dress and
 Scott's carrying a battle axe you'll have to read  the book!

Monday, 1 July 2013

Adventure Island Quiz Special

As you know Adventure Island readers are an amazing super-talented and fabulous bunch. You can marvel at their artistic and creative writing skills on the Art Gallery and Story Showcase.
But but did you know that they are also mega-brainy experts on children's literature as well?
Well you do now.

Meet Amy Smith from Lanarkshire. Amy is a very special girl and she is a massively keen reader. In fact she's such an expert on children's fiction that she was part of the winning team in the North Lanarkshire Primary Reading Quiz AND she was a reviewer for Edinburgh International Book Festival this year. Amy often gets in touch to let me know how she is getting on and what she's reading and it's always such a pleasure to hear from her. Here is a lovely photo of Amy with a lamb she named herself (she chose the name Ares). 
Not content with acing quizzes, Amy has set one to share with us all. So, if you think you know your way round Adventure Island, have a try at this quiz and see how many you get right.

Thank you, Amy, for a fantastic quiz!

Amy and Ares

The Quiz

Warning: Spoiler Alert. Some of the quiz questions do give the plots of the books away a little bit, so if you've not read all the books you might want to wait before attempting this!

Guess what? I didn't get them all right!

1. Who was the villain in The Mystery of the Whistling Caves ?

2. Who is Jessica Jones` twin sister ?

3. What is the longest word in any of the 14 book titles ?

4.  What is Liam Kerrow`s occupation ?

5. What newspaper does Neil Denton work for ?

6.  Where was Scott and Jack`s dad during their first summer in Castle Key ?

7. Which football team does Prince Sebastian want to play for ?

8. Who is Jack`s arch enemy ?

9. Which old smuggling family are Scott and Jack decsended from ?

10. What is the name of Emily`s great aunt ?

11. What is the name of Scott`s pet cat ?

12.  Name 3 members of the Copycat Gang

13. What is the name of the circus that comes to Castle Key every summer ?

14. Who is the detective inspector that appears in the series ?

15.  Which pop star does Dotty look like ?

16.  Who or what is Rolo ?

17. What is the name of Prince Sebastian`s sister ?

18. What was Simon Fox`s real name ?

19. Which band was Emily`s dad a part of?

20. Which sea creature is Jack afraid of ?
 Superfan Questions

1. What was Rudge`s real name?

2. Where did Emily`s great aunt have her birthday party ?

3. What is the name of Bella`s older sister ?

4.  Who is Steve Matlock`s dad ?

5.  Who was the M16 agent that came to visit ?