Blimey, it’s been a busy few months. Lots of new books out and a new house to boot! I’ve moved. I no longer have to write in a cupboard. Hooray! Having a window to write next to feels like such a luxury. The only downside is that I’m slightly further away from the kettle. Actually that’s probably an upside. As well as unpacking boxes I’ve been busy with loads of new books. And quite a few events, too. it was fantastic to meet Nick East, the illustrator of DO NOT WASH THIS BEAR. While I love squirreling away at my work, it’s quite nice to venture out of the scribble cave and meet real people. Can’t wait for our next event together Nick.
When children start to read by themselves it can be a bit of a leap from picture books with their comforting mix of shorter text and plentiful pictures to full-on chapter books. That’s where first readers come in.
These amazing little story grenades are the perfect books to help you earn your reading wings.
Very much the Cinderella of the book shelves, early readers may not get the glory but they provide youngsters with their first solo shot of literary satisfaction.
With exciting plots, short chapters and lots of eye-catching pictures, first readers provide a fast route to confident reading. I still remember the thrill of completing a book by myself. I felt like I’d been given the keys to the car! (A 1970s brown Mazda 929 Estate with vinyl fake-leather seats, just in case you wondered.)
When you’re a newbie reader, chapter books can feel a little daunting, like considering climbing Kilimanjaro in your flipflops. But early reader books? They’re achievable. You can race up these mountains, flip-flops and all.
I was chatting to a brand new reader in my local library and he proudly told me he’d read 13 books in one week. Fantastic! Who cares what shape, size, length those books were. That’s the joy of first readers – success is attainable.
I’ve been writing first readers for a few years now. And I’m excited to have two new ones coming out soon: Cactus Joe’s Cowboy Caper which is illustrated by Daron Parton and Too Many Nightingales with pictures by Roger Simo.
I love the challenge of writing early readers. They’re like mini mind puzzles. You have to distil a big idea with strong characters, a juicy plot and a satisfying end, all in less than 1,000 words. Or sometimes even fewer. (I’ve just written a tiny title called Tom’s Tooth with gorgeous pictures by Melanie Sharp, which has less than 50 words. Brevity is all.)
There are so many cracking first reader series to choose from, including Egmont’s Bananas and Franklin Watt’s Race Ahead with Reading series There’s a feast of amazing stories out there to satisfy the hunger that ensues the moment a child starts to take off with reading.
I love picture books. And I don’t think you ever grow out of them; that magical meshing of unforgettable imagery and enchanted text.
Not only do picture books excite, inspire and comfort us, they’re also a catapult for kids into the world of independent reading. Many children will memorise the text of their favourite picture book long before they begin to read it. I’m thrilled to be part of this exciting genre and can’t wait to see Do Not Wash This Bear on the shelves.
Hi, I’m Alice, and while Sam and the Undead Pets are away, I’m guest blogging and reviewing some of my favourite books with a fashion theme. ♥
First up, ‘Fashion’ by DK Books. I’ve always loved fashion (check out my cool outfit →). And history is my fave subject, so this fab book was perfect for me. It gives a detailed history of fashion from the floaty garments of Ancient Egypt, to the eccentric world of catwalk fashion. It also includes bios of some of the most influential designers and style icons, including Coco Chanel, Queen Nefertiti, Elizabeth I, Twiggy and Schiaparelli (some of my faves!).
Three fashion shockers from the book:
- -Ancient Egyptian priests wore wax cones on their heads that melted in the sun!
- -17th Century shoes were made of wood!
- - Marie Antoinette’s skirt was often 3.5 meters wide!
Next up is ‘Secrets, Schemes and Sewing Machines’ by Katy Cannon!
This is an essential must read YA novel which I have read over and over again.
It’s all about a girl called Grace who adores acting. It’s her life, until she is late for an audition and everything falls apart. Then she offers to join the costume team instead- but she barely even knows how to sew. All her struggles, emotions and relationships are captured in this fantastic novel, as well as sewing tips and instructions. So get out your needle and thread and be inspired to sew. (That’s if you can bring yourself to put the book down for a moment!)
I love this book because the characters are easy to relate to and realistic and it carries a strong message throughout. And if, like me, you can’t get enough of the series, try reading book one, ‘Love, Lies and Lemon Pies’.
This is another book which I must have read at least 5 times, basically because it is about two of my favourite things: fashion and chocolate! It also captures the problems of friendships and families perfectly.
The story is told from the POV of a vintage-fashion-loving twin named Skye, who always feels she’s overshadowed by her twin. And then she finds a trunk of 20s dresses and accessories that belonged to an old relative. But disaster strikes when one of her closest friends reveals that he’s fallen for her twin, and Skye once again feels second best. Things go from bad to worse when she can’t stop dreaming about the owner of the dresses, and she falls in love with a ghost boy from her dreams. But she knows that she can never even meet him.
This haunting teen novel still manages to be light and not too serious, which is why it’s so enjoyable to read.
Next up is a book called ‘How to draw Vintage Fashion’ by Celia Joicey and Dennis Nothdruft.
It is one of my faves, because it shows you how to draw fashion like a REAL designer! Which is great if you love to design fashion, but aren’t sure where to start. It gives tips from accomplished designers, and info on what type of figure to draw depending on which decade the outfit is from. It also gives a short history on fashion from the last century.
It is accessible and easy to follow, but also detailed and factual. It is very inspirational and it is laid out clearly with plenty of colour.
It is another must-read, because it is funny, emotional and exciting all at the same time!
The book begins when Maya discovers a 1950s popularity guide, by Betty Cornell, a cool 1950s teen model. Maya swears to follow the advice of the guide to increase her position on the high school popularity scale. But do girdles, pearls and long skirts change her social life for better or for worse? Well, you’ll have to read the book to find out!
It is an amazing book about fashion, make up and general attitude which I LOVE. I especially like the thoughtful dedication- ‘to all those who’ve sat alone at the edge of the playground.’ It also made me laugh loads, and I’m sure it will do the same to you.
With all these fab reads to get your teeth into, all that’s left to do is to find your inner fashionista and have fun!
Bye for now, Alice x
With Christmas just a few sleeps away, I was delighted to receive some early presents – four fantastic letters from Undead Pets’ fans in the US. Thanks so much Jude, Lucca, Jenna and Sam and their inspirational teacher. Well done, guys! I love your ideas and I was so touched to receive them. ♥
Dear Sam Hay,
I love the Undead Pet s series. After you have finished the book you are writing I think you should right about a snake. The snake s name should be Red .I think he should be called that because the snake is dangerous! The cause of the death is he got run over by a car. The snake can not rest in peace because the boy who owned him forgot about him. From Jude
Dear Sam Hay
I have an idea for the fifth book in the Undead Pets series. These are all the things I have planned.
Name: who cares? You choose!
Cause of death: he (or she) died because of being bored with his owner. They only sang ‘’Bah bah Black Sheep“ to him (or her).
Why they can’t rest in peace: he (or she) doesn’t want this to happen too his (or her) sister (or brother).
That is my idea. I hope you like it. Please answer. Sincerely Sam
Dear Sam Hay
I think you should write the fifth book about a parakeet. The name can be Ace. His cause of death: he was killed by a cat owned by his owner’s brother. The cat had eaten him. He cannot yet rest in peace because he is afraid his brother will meet the same fate. His brother’s name is Anger. He is 7 years old.
Dear Sam Hay,
For your fifth book, I think it should be about a monkey. The name can be Ben. Ben’s death happened when he was very young. He was probably 1 when he died. He died because he was the only one who was a boy in his family and had to fight. His dad died when Ben was about 1 month old. His mom and sisters told him he had to be the man of the family. As in he has to be the leader of the family even if he is the youngest. He was fighting against a much older monkey who was the leader of another group. Ben was fighting for food. The other monkey killed him. Ben cannot rest in peace because he wants to make sure that his family is safe.
It’s amazing to hear from fans of the Undead Pets from all around the world. As well as these awesome letters from the US, I recently received a great letter from a fan of the books in Japan! The series really has gone global – the zombie pets are now working their way across the US, Canada, South Korea, France and Sweden. And watch out Denmark! The Undead Pets will be with you, as well, very soon. FANTASTISK!
Happy Christmas one and all. And good luck for 2015!
Exciting news! The winners of the Write Christmas short story competition for kids, sponsored by Cartridge Save, have just been announced. Huge congratulations to all! Read all about the competition here: www.cartridgesave.co.uk/writechristmas I was thrilled to be part of the judging team, and amazed by the high standard of entries. Great writing styles. Highly imaginative ideas. And refreshing new versions of classic Christmas stories. It was a treat to read them all. The top 50 entries have been collated into a free downloadable e-book, available on the competition website. It makes perfect bedtime reading for a chilly winter’s night. Enjoy!
Exciting news… I’ve been asked to judge a fantastic new writing competition for kids. If you, or a child you know, live in the Manchester area, check it out. The themes for the competition are Christmas and Winter and there are some brilliant prizes up for grabs. So spread the word and get scribbling. I can’t wait to read the stories! It’s the perfect boredom-buster for the half-term holidays. For more details click on the picture or follow this link: www.cartridgesave.co.uk/writechristmas
In other news…Happy Halloween! (well, nearly!) As a huge fan of all things ghostly, I’m always excited at this time of year. I’ve ironed my best black clothes and looked out my reddest lipstick. (I’ve already got the black cat!) But this year is even more thrilling, as the final part in my Screaming Sands trilogy has just hit the shelves – Battle of the Beach Freaks! If you like the seaside and the dark side, this one’s for you. Check out the awesome new cover design, too! Meanwhile, the Undead Pets series is storming around the world. The books are now available in the US, Canada, France, Sweden and South Korea. I wonder if Uncle Charlie has spotted the books on his travels! Have a great half-term. Sam x
Exciting news from the zombie den. Undead Pets are now in the US. The first two titles in the series have just been published by Penguin in the States! With the other books to follow soon. Click on the picture of Dumpling for more information. The series is also now available in South Korea, Sweden, Canada and France. Zombie Pets take over the world!
I reckon I visited some 500 children last week. And for someone who seldom leaves their bat-cave, that’s an awful lot of smiling! (My face still hurts!♥) It was an amazing week, kicking-off with Monmouth Literary Festival where I worked with a top team of sixth formers from Monmouth Comprehensive, performing an Undead Pets workshop at local primary schools.
Then it was on to Leicester for the ‘Our Best Book Award.‘ Wow! What a reception!! Highlights included being mobbed by hundreds of kids for autographs – (who me? Seriously?) and watching pupils perform an awesome Undead Pets zombie tribute dance! Then it was back on the bus and on to Literally Coventry to meet some keen Undead Pets fans in Waterstones!
Phew! What a week! So many highs. No lows. But some valuable lessons learned about life on the road, such as:
1. Do get yourself a good deodorant! Even the bravest among you will probably get the willies when faced with 300 enthusiastic young readers who appear to have muddled you up with someone from One Direction! (Thank you Leicester Our Best Book Awards. I had the best time EVER!) Remember: sweaty armpits don’t win friends.
2. Don’t leave your secret stash of Dairy Milk in the car while you’re performing on a sunny day. Treat chocolate like you’d treat a pet dog/child/old auntie. Keep it cool. Rivers of melted chocolate around your gear stick is not helpful when navigating the M42.
3. Do practise following the Sat Nav lady. This will avoid: ’does she mean this left, or that one? NOOOO!’ (author now heading the wrong way down the M1!)
4. Don’t put on your make-up in the dark before you set off for your event. You will look like a corpse.
5. Do arrive early. But not so early that you scare the organisers. See above.
6. Don’t break in your ‘presentable’ shoes on the day of the event. Sore feet and friendly- smiley-face are not friends.
7. Do have more than one set of ‘presentable’ clothes. By day three the smell may put-off the children!
8. Don’t be freaked-out by extremely personal questions. How much money do you make? How old are you?
9. Do be prepared to return from your brief moment of glory to the humdrum life you left behind that morning: washing everyone’s pants and cleaning the loo.
What a week!
As well as meeting some amazing kids, I met some astonishing adults too! A special mention must go to the team behind Leicester ‘Our Best Book Award,’ Paul Gobey and Sandy Gibbons. They are doing an exceptional job of bringing books to young people in Leicester. Thank you for including Undead Pets in your wonderful competition!
And great to meet my new friend Fleur Hitchcock too. As well as being a super author, she’s also a lovely lady. Her new book is out this week and I can’t wait to read it!
Thanks to the fantastic team of sixth form volunteers at Monmouth Literary Festival. I wish I could take you with me everywhere! You guys are going to be running the world soon!
And thanks to Literally Coventry and Ashley and the team at Waterstones for hosting me and the Undead Pets.
Catch up soon!