Thursday, 16 November 2017

Thank you

I've had some lovely letters and e-mails from readers this week. I was delighted to receive a big envelope of letters from Y5 and Y6 pupils at Shakespeare Primary School in Leeds. They have been reading The Phoenix Code alongside their topic on ancient Egypt and had lots of great questions about the book. One of my favourite questions was whether Cleo and Ryan are going to get married and what jobs will they do when they grow up! I've been busy making some videos this morning with answers to the questions and some tips for writing their own mysteries.

I also received a message from a dad who is enjoying reading The Mystery of the Whistling Caves with his daughter (such a lovely message that it made me cry!), and a letter from a nine-year old boy who is reading The Mystery of the Midnight Ghost, and whose favourite character is Emily because she "leads the missions and uses evidence to find suspects" Who says boys don't like reading books with girl heroes! And then there was the brilliant story by a girl at a school I visited last week . . .

Thank you so much to you all. Your letters and messages have made my week and really spurred me on with my new project (more about this soon!)

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Competition Results

Thank you very much to everyone who entered the Drift in Action competition with a story or picture showing Drift busy being a canine-super-agent.

Drift has helped me to pick out our two favourites - one story and one picture.

Second Prize goes to Tierney Hodgkinson for her excellent pencil drawing of Drift, carefully keeping an eye on Scott's food outside Dotty's cafe. Drift thought Tierney had made him look very handsome, and we liked the way all the characters are shown in the picture. (It's come out a little faint in the photo so hope you can see it!)

First prize goes to Jorge Araujo for his fantastic story, Drift, My Dog Agent. Jorge's story picks up where The Mystery of the Whistling Caves finishes. It seems that not all of the Saxon treasure has been found, and Emily, Scott, Jack - and, of course, Drift - have to race to search Roshendra Farm before the sceptre is stolen. Jorge's story is really exciting and brilliantly written and captures the essence of Adventure Island. It cleverly highlights Drift's role in solving the crime, and makes him the hero of the story. Jorge's story is all the more impressive as he is Portuguese, and had to translate it into English (he very honestly admits he had some help with the translation, but even so!)
Here are some quotes to give a flavour of Jorge's story. You can read it in full on the Young Writer's Page here.
"Drift followed everything, turned to the window, wanting to tell everything he thought and felt . . . but he was a dog. Not a dog like everyone else, but still a dog that couldn't speak."

"Drift skirted the hill and climbed carefully to the top where he saw the thief raise his hand. He clenched his teeth, and with the anger and the fear for his friend's health in his chest, he leapt and snatched the neck of the man, who moaned and fell in pain."

Congratulations to both Jorge and to Tierney. Your signed book prizes will be on their way to you soon.

Both winners were kind enough to answer a few questions about themselves.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Drift in Action Competition

Are you taking part in the brilliant Summer Reading Challenge. This year's theme is Animal Agents, which I think is fantastic,  because animals and secret agents (and the mysteries they solve) are two of my favourite things to read about - and also to write about.

Drift escapes from the circus lorry in The Mystery of the Cursed Ruby
In Adventure Island, Drift is Emily's Right Hand Dog. He's an 'animal agent' - helping Emily and Jack and Scott to solve mysteries in all kinds of ways, by sniffing out clues, finding escape routes, raising the alarm and causing distractions (l had great fun writing about the sausage distraction in The Mystery of the Missing Masterpiece!)

In Secrets of the Tombs, Cleo and Ryan don't have pets because they are traveling all over the world, but Ryan loves animals. In each book he makes friends with a different stray animal - a cat in The Phoenix Code, a stray dog and her puppies in The Dragon Path, and Shadow, the mischievous orphaned anteater, in The Serpent King.

As well as encouraging everyone to read loads of great books, the Summer Reading Challenge Website is packed with exciting games, puzzles, creative writing tips and competitions. To join in the fun, I've come up with a competition of my own you might like to try.

Drift In Action Competition

All you have to do is draw a picture or write a short story about Drift. It can be based on a scene from one of the Adventure Island books or a completely new adventure that you've made up for him. Emily, Scott and Jack can be in your story as well, of course, but make sure that Drift is centre stage as your main character. You could even do both - a story with a picture to go with it.

Entries will be displayed on the Art Gallery and Young Writers' Story Showcase pages of this website and on the Adventure Island website. Our three favourites will receive a prize of two signed Adventure Island books of your choice, some dog-hero goodies, a poster and a certificate signed by Drift.

Entrants must be 13 years old or under. Send your pictures and stories as e-mail attachments (for example, as a word document or a photo of your artwork) to by September 10th, 2017. Please make sure you have an adult's permission to send your entry in by e-mail.

 Good luck! Happy reading, writing and drawing.

You can find out more about Adventure Island here and Secrets of the Tombs here, and about the Summer Reading Challenge here.

"Every year, thousands of families all over the country take part in the UK’s biggest reading event for children in libraries, the Summer Reading Challenge, run by the charity The Reading Agency.
The aim of the challenge is to get children to read any six books of their choice from their library during the summer holidays.
Every year there’s a different theme; this year it’s Animal Agents, illustrated by the UK’s best-selling children’s illustrator Tony Ross."

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

A Thread Running Through

One of the best parts of my job is getting involved with schools and helping to spread the buzz of reading and writing for pleasure.I'm especially proud of having been Author in Residence at Litcham School in Norfolk this year, where we've been working together to produce A Thread Running Through, a fantastic anthology of student's creative writing and illustrations.

A great deal of work over the year culminated in a truly beautiful book (with a cover brilliant designed by one of the students, Fred Foulkes), which we launched with a special assembly and a party in June. It was a wonderful day and really exciting to see the students enjoying that magical feeling of seeing their work in print and holding an actual copy of their actual book in their hands.

Huge congratulations to everyone who contributed, and a big thank you to all the school staff who were so helpful, to Swaffham Rotary Club for supporting the project, and most of all to Cathy Berry, Litcham School librarian, who make the whole thing happen and worked so hard to see it through.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Empathy Day

I'm delighted to be one of the many authors supporting Empathy Day on June 13th

What is Empathy Day?
Empathy Day is a platform to emphasise  the importance of empathy in our divided world and raise awareness of the power of stories to develop  it.

The Day  is  being  launched  by  EmpathyLab, a  new  organisation  with  a mission to  use  stories  to  help  us  understand each other better, led by Miranda  McKearney OBE, founder of The Reading Agency. 

On June 13th schools all over the country will be focussing on empathy and stories. Many will be having special assemblies.  Some will be giving out empathy awards or inviting in authors to talk about and read stories.

I'll be headung off to the lovely Spinney Primary School in Cambridge to join in their activities. I can't wait!

What is Empathy?

I was lucky enough to attend the EmpathyLab training day for authors in April and found out about all the great work that they have been doing.

Here are six important things I learned about empathy.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

School Visit Marathon Report

Lyndon Green Primary, Birmingham
February and March were super-busy months on the school visit scene.

I was on the road so much I hardly had time to unpack my bags. There were some early mornings and long drives (including being stopped by a policeman right outside the school gates for a faulty headlight!) and several hotel breakfasts. There were lots of amazing World Book Day costumes too.

Here are the fantastic schools I visited along the way . . .

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Wecome To School Visit Season

The first few months of the year are always busy with school visits and 2017 is no exception. My school visit season got off to a lovely start last week with a day at one of my fantastic Patron of Reading Schools, Kensington Community Primary School in Liverpool. It was such a treat to see everyone again and spend the day plotting and solving mystery stories with the Y3 classes. We cracked codes, navigated our way around ancient maps, pieced together clues and tracked down the stolen treasure.

I was also honoured to be part of the whole school assembly launching Kensington as a School of Sanctuary. This is hugely important initiative is all about schools committing to being a safe and welcoming place for all, especially those seeking sanctuary. This could be people whose lives were in danger in their own country, who have troubles at home or are just looking for a space of safety.

We talked about the role of reading books in 'putting ourselves in others' shoes and I read an extract from the wonderful Azzi In Between by Sarah Garland. The children had lots of thoughtful answers and comments about Azzi's first day at her new school.

Over the next few weeks I'll be at schools in Birmingham, Essex, Oxford, Norfolk,  and Buckinghamshire as well as several more right here in my lovely home city of Cambridge. I'm really looking forward to seeing you all there!