Author Archives: Caroline Fielding

Chartered School Librarian, CILIP YLG London Chair, Bea-keeper

Emily Windsnap and the Pirate Prince


Emily Windsnap is an ordinary girl on land, but a mermaid when she is in water. Liz has created a world and stories brimming with magic, adventure, friendship… and in this new story, we see Emily become more of a young feminist; taking matters into her own hands when her boyfriend is kidnapped; ensuring that young girl readers see her take a confident place in a male-dominated world, in this case a pirate ship. 

Showing that it is just fine to be seen as brave and strong, and that friendships are worth fighting for was a theme important to Liz. This is a transformative moment for a beloved character: moving from being dependent, and often reliant on others, to realising her own power, and being an individual and self reliant, ok within herself.

Emily Windsnap and the Pirate Prince

The Emily Windsnap series has been going strong for years, selling over 5million copies worldwide and translated into dozens of languages. This is the 8th title, but I’m ashamed to say it was the first I have read. It is aimed at a younger audience than the usual TeenLibrarian fodder, 8+, but now that Matt and I are occasionally even popping picturebooks in I thought it still had a place, and I’m certain that younger teens will still enjoy Emily’s adventures! One of my favourite things about it is how important friendship is.

Liz does some intense research when planning each story, and shared with us the adventure she had researching this title:

Liz Kessler

When people ask about my job, I tell them I sit in my pyjamas looking out at the sea and making up stories about mermaids.

And yes, this is true. (Full disclosure, I am actually writing this blog in my PJs. It’s pretty much the writer’s uniform.) But that isn’t all I do. In fact, one of my absolute favourite parts of my job is the bit that gets me out in the world, researching and seeking ideas for my book.

Sometimes I find what I thought I was looking for. Most of the time, I find much, much more.

I went on two research trips for my latest book, Emily Windsnap and the Pirate Prince. One of them was a road trip to France where I visited Mont St Michel (a tiny island with a castle on a hill) and the old, walled city of St Malo.

The other trip was a week on a tall ship.

When I went on the ship, I already knew that I was looking for inspiration for my pirate prince. What I didn’t know was that I would find a couple of pirate girls at the same time.

Michelle and Anaïs, the two female crew members aboard the tall ship Morgenster, were two of the most inspiring young women I’ve met in a long time. Tough, active, clever, witty, musical and as ready as any of the boys to whizz up a ladder to hoist the sails, these girls were an absolute joy to be with.

And of course they found their way into my book. In the book, there is a moment when Emily confronts the two pirate girls aboard the ship where she has (sort of) been taken prisoner. She says to them, ‘How many girls braid each other’s hair and do it up with ship’s wire instead of pink ribbons? How many girls can fix the cable on the forestay better than their male counterparts?’

In this moment, she is pointing out that by living outside of what society would deem ‘normal’ for girls, they are uniquely positioned to stand up for themselves and for each other and to look beyond the shackles that tie all of us to society’s rules and expectations. And of course, in doing this, Emily realises that she has the right to do the same thing.

I had no idea at the time that Emily was going to grow up to become the young feminist that emerges in this book. But I’m glad she has!

One of the ‘real’ pirate girls, Anaïs, told me this:

‘As a child, the fact that I personally happened to be a girl was always very irrelevant when it came to games, dreams and aspirations, although I did take it into account when I wanted my games to be historically realistic. Every summer holiday my Dad and I pretended the house turned into a pirate ship and we were having those grand adventures. Then, there was no question of gender of course. But when my games turned into more realistic “period pieces” I remember either assuming I *was* a boy (why not? I don’t live in the 18th century either), or alternatively, giving some thoughts to how to look more like a boy, in order to be able to fool a captain and be hired as a ship’s boy.’

I believe that this type of imaginative play is an essential and wonderful part of growing up, and I also think we are living in times when girls are finding themselves becoming more and more ‘allowed’ to take on whatever roles they want.

I am proud to be a children’s author and am particularly proud and honoured that I get to write about Emily Windsnap. If she is part of passing the message to girls and young women that they can be anything they want to be, regardless of gender, then I will consider every moment of sitting in my PJs staring out at the sea making up stories about mermaids to have been time well spent.

I wanted to ask Liz a few more questions after reading about Emily, and she humoured me:

I really enjoyed reading your FCBG post about building a relationship with your characters & wondered what object you had on your desk while writing this book! Actually this time I had a few objects! The main one was a crystal on a chain that I bought from a shop in Tenerife. When I bought it, I thought it had something to do with the book but at the time I wasn’t sure what it’s significance would be. It turned out that diamonds and sparkling lights – similar to the light from this crystal – would form an important part of Emily solving clues and finding the treasure!


You didn’t plan to write so many Emily Windsnap books, have you got any more ideas in the pipeline or will you just wait and see if inspiration strikes again? Well, I’m thrilled to tell you that Emily Windsnap book nine will be out in 2020!


Which of the research trips you’ve been on has been your favourite? That is a HARD question, and in fact I can’t pick one so I’m going to have to give you my top three: Bermuda (for the Monster from the Deep), a cruise in Norway (for the Land of the Midnight Sun), and a tall ship trip in the Canaries (for the Pirate Prince)

Your book for older teens, ‘Read Me Like a Book‘, is a coming out story. Have you considered including LGBT+ content in the Emily Windsnap series? I have thought about this, but the way I see it, the Emily Windsnap books are ALL about people overcoming prejudice and different communities learning to live together and people (especially Emily!) fighting for social justice and the right for all of us to be who we are – and so I see the books as actually having the themes that I want to share, but doing so through mermaid stories rather than more ‘rea-world’ content/issues. In that sense, the books can put across the ideas and messages that I want them to, but hopefully in a way that feels fun, non-confrontational and appropriate for eight-year-olds!

Emily Windsnap and the Pirate Prince is out now! Thankyou to Orion for a review copy

My #CKG19 shortlists

The CILIP CKG 2019 longlists came out a month ago, and tomorrow (19th March) the shortlists will be announced, and on Wednesday shadowing groups across the country will begin in earnest. I blogged about the nominations when they came out way back in November and picked my 10 favourite books from each list (having read near half of each at that point), 5 of my Carnegies were longlisted and just 3 of my Kate Greenaway choices. I have now read 19 of each list, having been unable to get ‘The Poet X’ or ‘Beyond the Fence’ in time. I’m very sad about that because I’ve heard great things about both of them and wouldn’t be surprised to see them shortlisted!

Carnegie longlisted titles

My Carnegie top 8 are (in alphabetical order by author):

  • Rebound, Kwame Alexander
  • The Colour of the Sun, David Almond
  • Weight of a Thousand Feathers, Brian Conaghan
  • Bone Talk, Candy Gourlay
  • A Skinfull of Shadows, Frances Hardinge
  • Things a Bright Girl Can Do, Sally Nicholls
  • Station Zero, Philip Reeve
  • Long Way Down, Jason Reynolds
Kate Greenaway Longlisted titles

My Kate Greenaway top 8 are (in alphabetical order by illustrator):

  • The Day War Came, Rebecca Cobb (written by Nicola Davies)
  • If All the World Were…, Allison Colpoys (written by Joseph Coelho)
  • Mary’s Monster, Lita Judge
  • Mrs Noah’s Pockets, James Mayhew (written by Jackie Morris)
  • You’re Safe With Me, Poonam Mistry (written by Chitra Soundar)
  • The Lost Words, Jackie Morris
  • Animals with Tiny Cat, Viviane Schwarz
  • The Family Tree, Emma Shoard (written by Mal Peet)

I honestly enjoyed all the books, but found choosing the Kate Greenaways much harder than the Carnegies, the judges must have had a tough time getting down from 20 to 8 on each list (max, there may be less) and now they’ve got to re-read all of them multiple times, make copious notes, and get ready for some intense meetings about which books will be crowned winners! I’m really looking forward to seeing what overlap there is between my and their lists, joining in with discussions about the shortlisted titles…and predicting a winner!

Kick the Moon by Muhammad Khan


Fifteen-year-old Ilyas is under pressure from everyone: GCSE’s are looming and his teachers just won’t let up, his dad wants him to join the family business and his mates don’t care about any of it. There’s no space in Ilyas’ life to just be a teenager.
Serving detention one day, Ilyas finds a kindred spirit in Kelly Matthews, who is fed up with being pigeonholed as the good girl, and their friendship blows the social strata of high school wide open. But when Kelly catches the eye of one of the local bad boys, Imran, he decides to seduce her for a bet – and Ilyas is faced with losing the only person who understands him. Standing up to Imran puts Ilyas’ family at risk, but it’s time for him to be the superhero he draws in his comic-books, and go kick the moon.

Waaay back in July 2018, I mentioned Muhammad Khan‘s debut novel in my review for The Muslims by Zanib Mian (soon to be republished by Hachette, with some tweaks including new illustrations by Nasaya Mafaridik, as Planet Omar), so feel I should give him his own space this time to explain why his second book is already looking to be one my my books of the year 2019!

Ilyas has to be one of my favourite characters in UKYA, full stop. He is a teenage boy who is committed to his Muslim faith, proud of his mother, loves comics and drawing, hates violence and misogyny, friend to Kelly, and (with her help) a burgeoning feminist. The inclusion of bits of comic strip drawn by Ilyas (actually by Amrit Birdi) is a brilliant hook, and his character Big Bad Waf is actually brilliant. His school is well imagined, the banter is honest, and his thought processes are totally believable as he tries to walk a path between what he wants, what his family wants, and what his ‘friends’ want. It is definitely one to have in every secondary library, and it covers so many “issues” in a non-preachy way that it is a great one to discuss with students.

Kick the Moon‘ is out now from Macmillan (thank you so much guys for hosting our January CILIP YLG London event and giving me a copy!)

Breaking New Ground

Today at the London Book Fair (one day I’ll go…), Speaking Volumes have been sharing BREAKING NEW GROUND, a new brochure of British BAME authors and illustrators for children, in advance of their partner BookTrust’s new project BookTrust Represents, officially launching in April.


This project will:
support and subsidise authors and illustrators of colour to promote their work and to reach more readers through events in bookshops, festivals and schools
offer training and mentoring
launch an online community to support the next generation of great authors and illustrators of colour

The brochure, part of a joint initiative also involving Pop Up Projects, includes articles and excerpts from a range of contributors, and I’m really looking forward to what comes next!

Glancing through the catalogue, it is a wonderful mixture of long published (contemporary) and yet-to-be published authors and illustrators, familiar names and unknown, with an indicator of the age of their target audience. Lots of overlap with the list Matt started here years ago (and we’ve both added to since) but each list has some that the other is missing…

Our list of British based BAME authors and illustrators

The Third Degree with Emma Shoard


Sandie has been battling it since her childhood; the hulking, snarling black dog of her nightmares. Although her precious pet dog Rabbie may have fought back against this monster for years, when he is no longer there to protect her the black dog will return and Sandie’s nightmare will come back to haunt her…

Barrington Stoke are this month posthumously publishing their second Mal Peet novella, Good Boy. Both have been illustrated by Emma Shoard, and The Family Tree has been longlisted for the 2019 CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal for illustration. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Good Boy on the 2020 list, I was sent a copy and read it holding my breath, that final page left me stunned for a few minutes. I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to ask Emma some questions…

Hi Emma, welcome to TeenLibrarian and thank you for giving up your time to undergo the third degree!

Can you tell us how you came to illustrate this book?

The commission from Barrington Stoke to illustrate Good Boy came at the same time as The Family Tree; two Mal Peet novellas as a pair. It was a very exciting moment for me as I’d heard suggestions that I was being considered for the job about a year before but had to wait to find out for sure. I’m not exactly sure how I was selected but I think it had something to do with Mal’s wife Elspeth Graham. That gave me confidence knowing that she believed that I would do justice to his work. 

This is the second Mal Peet story you’ve illustrated for Barrington Stoke, as well as Siobhan Dowd’s ‘Pavee and the Buffer Girl’, both very well respected names, both sadly deceased. Did you feel daunted at all when you started the projects? Has it got easier?

Yes, it is daunting working with someone else’s creation particularly when you know it was one of their final pieces of work, or one of very few pieces they made in the case of Siobhan Dowd. So I’ve always been aware that the stories are very precious to those close to the author and their fans. Fortunately this has never negatively effected the experience of working on them. While illustrating Mal Peet’s stories I had a lot of contact with Elspeth Graham and with the publishers, creating more of a feeling of collaboration. With Good Boy particularly, there was a really good conversation throughout, discussing the story’s possible meanings and the interpretation of the black dog.

I’m always nervous sending off any first sketches or ideas to somebody new because I don’t know exactly what expectations they have of me and whether or not I’ll meet them. I’m not sure that part ever gets any easier, but for me it’s good to feel a bit of fear and have that pressure.

I love the way you draw people, just the posture you have someone standing in speaks volumes, does that mainly come from people watching and practicing or is it a technique you were taught?

Thanks! I find people and living things really interesting to draw, especially when they’re moving, dancing, making something. It all comes from observing and drawing people from life, but in a way it is a combination of both of those things you mentioned. I was taught by a really good life drawing teacher at university; very critical. I would be forced to draw figures more and more as they were, not straightened, softened or altered by a pre-conceived idea of what parts of a body should look like.
I do also use films, youtube videos and photographs as reference, with a preference for moving images because you can pause them and draw all of the difference stages of an action or gesture to understand it better.

How different is your process when you do live drawing events as opposed to illustrating a text?

I’m not sure it is that different. I like to use the same materials when I’m drawing live as I would in my studio: ink, brushes, charcoal. Also I find that I work well under time pressure so when I’m in my studio I make a lot of quick drawings, and sometimes a drawing which took only a few minutes will become a finished illustration in a book. Though, when illustrating a whole book there is always a lot more time spent planning, research, designing characters and playing with different materials. 

When visiting schools, do you prefer doing storytelling or creative workshops? What age group do you prefer to work with?

When teaching a creative workshop I like to work with small groups, again it’s nice to have that feeling of collaboration which you can have when you’re able to talk to people one-to-one about their work. I think I’ll always prefer these more casual interactions than to stand up and teach a big class, but I’m getting over my fears. I’ve put on workshops and live drawing performances for children as young as 8/9 up to adults, and I haven’t decided on a preferred group yet. Though my books are all aimed at a YA audience and they are the ones I love creating illustrations for.

What advice would you give to a child that told you they’d like to illustrate books one day?

There are a few different routes you can take and studying at university isn’t necessary for everyone. But I did find that studying illustration at that level, with all of my strict and critical tutors, really helpful. I’d say that the most important thing when it comes to studying at any level is to be really interested in your subjects, don’t choose them based on what other people say you should be doing. If you want to be an illustrator start working towards it straight away, don’t think that you can squeeze it in at the weekend after you’ve done all of your other homework. Draw for fun. Don’t throw away all the ‘bad’ drawings, they tell the story of how you got to where you are.

What are you currently reading and who would you recommend it to?

I’m re-reading the first book in Elena Ferrante’s Neopolitan series, My Brilliant Friend which I loved. But at the same time Evening Descends Upon the Hills by another Neopolitan writer, Anna Maria Ortese, who I think was a big influence on Ferrante. Ortese’s stories are part-fiction, partly reportage and describe terrible poverty, violence and despair in the city during the 1950s. I love Naples and I want to learn more about it. I’d recommend Elena Ferrante’s books to almost anyone, there is romance, drama, politics and it’s a really vivid portrait of a friendship between two girls and of the neighborhood they live in. Evening Descends Upon the Hills is also brilliant but bleak. 

Anything in the pipeline you can tell us about?

I’m preparing for the release of Good Boy at the moment and preparing for school visits, festival events and a prison workshop, all happening throughout Spring and Summer. Being in between books, I’m working on some personal projects which is really nice to be able to do. In particular, I’m finishing a proposal for a non-fiction wildlife book to take to Bologna in April.

Thank you so much to Emma for taking time to answer the questions! Good Boy is published on 15th March 2019

PROUD

What have you got to lose? By telling her, I mean.’

I shrugged. ‘My pride?’

Patricia laughed then, which surprised me. ‘That’s not pride, my darling girl, that’s shame.’

The Instructor (Jess Vallance)

I spent far too much of my life being ashamed of who I am.

In the introduction to Proud, Juno Dawson writes about Section 28, and the devastating effect this legislation had on an entire generation of queer youth here in the United Kingdom. She and I are of a similar age; though I spent my childhood deep in the ‘Bible Belt’ of the southern United States, I also grew up with more questions than answers. I attended schools where the words ‘gay’ and ‘queer’ and ‘dyke’ were used as insults, hurled by bullies who possessed no more understanding of what those terms meant than did their intended targets, but had heard the accompanying sneers in their parents’ voices and knew instinctively that these were words that could cause pain. Where teachers and counselors and librarians turned a blind eye or bit their tongue for fear of losing their jobs, of being tarred with the same brush, of becoming the subject of town gossip, or worse. Where, more than twenty years after leaving school, many of my classmates are still trying to figure out who they are, in terms of both gender and sexuality, learning as they go, because the only information we were given was ‘don’t have sex until you’re married.’ Where marriage was defined ‘as God intended’, between one man and one woman, for the purpose of procreation, and deviation from this set path in any way, in who you are or who you love or how you build your family, is asking to be shamed and ostracised.

As a young person coming of age in this environment, I already had two strikes against me. I wasn’t religious, for a start, which meant that I was already on the outer fringes of local ‘society’; and I was poor, which isn’t a crime, but might as well have been. So when, at age 14, I realised I was attracted to both boys and girls, the last thing I was going to do was make this fact public. That didn’t stop me from wondering why, though. So I did what any self-respecting bookworm would do, years before the character appeared – I put on my ‘Hermione Granger’ pants and went to the school library…

…and found exactly nothing. These were the days before Google, before the Internet, really, at least for regular people; the best way to find answers, especially when trying not to alert anyone that you were looking, was to use the card catalog, at which I was a pro, having haunted my local library since before I could walk on my own. There, too, I struck out; turns out it’s impossible to convince a card catalog to cross-reference answers to ‘help, I want to mash faces with someone who has the same bits as me, am I broken?’ (Perhaps Hermione would have had better luck.)

I didn’t even bother checking the shelves for books whose characters might have the same burning questions; I’d long since left the children’s section behind and moved into the adult reading room with its cozy detective mysteries and cowboy westerns, and the handful of ‘young adult’ books on a shelf next to the computer room didn’t offer much hope. Mostly, they seemed to be about young women who were either wasting away from mystery illnesses, or plotting schemes in which they switched places with their ‘perfect size six’ blonde twin sisters – not terribly helpful in my situation.

This is the part of my tale where a nosy but well-meaning librarian sees me wandering around, growing ever more frustrated, and steers me in the direction of non-fiction books that will answer my questions, and fiction books with teenage protagonists who look and sound and feel like me, right? Except not, because those non-fiction books didn’t exist – not in any of the libraries to which I had access, anyway – and whilst Young Adult fiction as a genre had been around for a number of years, the same parochial oversight that had contributed to the paltry sex education curriculum in my school had had a similar censorious effect on the books purchased and stocked for teenagers using the public library. I went home that day with my questions unanswered; it took me three years to find the word I was looking for – bisexual – and half a dozen more (and a relocation to liberal New England) before I finally used the descriptor in relation to me. Even then, I wasn’t open about being bisexual – more often, I let others make assumptions about my sexuality based on the gender of my partner. Even free of the environment of my youth, I still carried with me a sense of shame for not conforming to expectations.

Almost twenty years to the day from the moment of my (then-unidentified) bisexual awakening, I began my current job as a secondary librarian at an independent school on the outskirts of London. Here I was, back in the same sort of place that had let me down so many years ago. Surely the world had moved on? A quick examination of the collection showed that, whilst society may have moved on, some areas of my new library had been left behind. Over the past four years, therefore, I’ve been working to build a rich and diverse range of representative young adult fiction, as well as an up-to-date, informative collection of non-fiction on topics of sexuality and gender – basically, what I’d wished I’d had access to as a questioning teen.

My primary goal as a school librarian is that every pupil who comes into my library should be able to find a story with a character that looks like them, or talks like them, or loves like them – and that, should they have questions about their gender or sexual identity, they can find factual, accessible answers without having to summon the courage to ask the librarian! It wasn’t until recently, though, that I learned first-hand that my efforts were making an impact.

Having been invited to attend a meeting of the newly established, pupil-run LGBTQ+ Society, I talked about Section 28, and shared a version of the story above, about what it was like to be a queer teenager under a different, but no less restrictive, regime. The reaction from my audience was such that one would have been forgiven for thinking I’d announced I’d been born on the moon and ate babies for breakfast. My bisexuality wasn’t a surprise (I’d finally come out publically a few years earlier, and had been wearing a pin with the bi flag colours on my staff lanyard for some time; also, as a man married to another man, a certain level of queerness is assumed), but the idea that my high school hadn’t been a safe place to be out, or that I’d been ashamed to call myself bi until well into my twenties – both of these concepts seemed so utterly foreign to these kids. I would have been more surprised, but for a conversation I’d had the day before.

The previous afternoon, I’d been chatting with a pupil who was borrowing a handful of books from the display I’d put together for LGBT(Q+) History Month; after she left, two Year 12s who’d overheard our conversation sidled up to my desk and asked if they could suggest some books for the library to buy and add to the display. I said ‘yes, of course!’ and our conversation began there – and lasted for the next hour and a half, until the library closed for the evening. Over the course of that conversation, they told me:

  • how amazing it is to see books about LGBTQ+ topics, not just in the library, but on display right when you walk in the door (I agree!);
  • when they first joined the school in Year 7, there weren’t any books like those in the library at all (I can believe this; I started at the school at the start of their Year 8); and
  • that my presence as an openly queer member of staff has made a huge impact on the student body – that it has prompted important conversations amongst the pupils, some of which really needed to take place – and that my presence and those conversations helped them and their LGBTQ+ friends begin to feel accepted, empowered, and proud.

Where does one even begin to respond to something like that?

I managed somehow not to immediately burst into tears whilst my heart exploded with joy, but it was a very close thing. It’s what any educator would want to hear, I think – that their work has had an impact on the pupils under their care – and that part was amazing. But to hear that my very existence has made a real difference in multiple lives, to young people who may have once been as confused – or even as ashamed! – as I once was?

That just makes me feel, well – proud.

I’m thrilled to be able to add Proud to the shelves of my school library, because in this fantastic anthology of stories, poems and art, I can finally see myself – not just in the characters, but in their creators – and I can’t even begin to imagine how many others will be able to do the same. I just wish I could go back in time and tell that 14-year-old kid that one day, I’d hold in my hands an entire book of stories written by and featuring people like me – and all of the stories will have happy endings. I wish I could say, ‘someday, you will not be ashamed to be who you are – instead, you will be proud, and because you are, other people will have the chance to be proud, too.’

Emerson Milford Dickson

You can find him twittering here

Warhammer Adventures

When I was asked if I’d like to take part in a blog tour for the beginning of a new middle grade series of Warhammer Adventures from the Games Workshop, I knew I couldn’t turn it down! I first chatted with Matt (the original TeenLibrarian himself) at a training session for public library staff considering starting 40k clubs and he quickly became one of my favourite people, so even though I didn’t get very far with a Warhammer club (I moved to a school library pretty soon after that training, took the set with me and let a member of staff run a club!) it holds very fond memories for me. Anyway, to the books! They look fantastic, the illustrators Cole Marchetti and Magnus Noren have done a great job of bringing the characters to life, and they’re very clearly aimed at a younger audience than existing novels while still having the look of the same universe.
If you have any young Warhammer fans in your library, they might well not be ready to read the (much denser) novels already available but these will certainly whet their appetite. They are tremendously exciting and great fun to read, so I’m really pleased to be able to share these insights into the background to the stories, from the authors themselves, Cavan Scott followed by Tom Huddleston:

Cavan Scott is the author of Attack of the Necron, the first book in the Warped Galaxies series.

Hello, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Sure. My name’s Cavan Scott and I’m an author and comic book writing who lives in the UK. For nearly twenty years, I’ve contributed to some of the biggest fictional universes on the planet, including Star Wars, Doctor Who, Star Trek, Ghostbusters, Pacific Rim, The Incredibles and many more. My latest book, Attack of the Necron is the first in a new series set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe.

Can you tell us more about the series?

Warhammer Adventures: Warped Galaxies takes place in a war-torn future were humans use technology, but have largely forgotten how it works. The spaceships are gothic, the tech is a weird-mash up of medieval and futuristic, and the aliens are terrifying. What’s not to love about people who turn human skulls into floating robots or courageous Space Marines fighting green-skinned orcs on distant planets?

The books follow explorer Zelia Lor, ganger Talen Stormweaver and Martian inventor Mekki as they escape a terrible planetary disaster. They have to get an ancient alien artefact back into the hands of Zelia’s Mum. There’s only one problem: they have no idea where she is, and everyone they meet seems determined to destroy them. OK, that’s two problems, but trust me, things are never easy for these kids.

What are the three things you discovered when writing these books?

Well, I never really played Warhammer 40,000 growing up, but came to the universe via novels and audio dramas. While I knew a fair bit, there was still a lot to dig into. Warhammer 40,000 is huge, with literally thousands of years of backstory. The trick with these books was making sure that I wrote stories that could be understood by anyone, whether you’re drenched in Warhammer lore or a complete newbie. It meant I had to do a lot of research to make sure I got things right. I treated it like writing a historical novel, studying a history that hasn’t happened yet!

The things I discovered were:

A) Warhammer gamers are incredibly passionate about their hobby.
They’ve invested a lot of time into playing the game and also understanding how the universe works. That meant that I had to treat these books with respect. We’ve worked hard to make sure that they’re appropriate for the right age-group, but also feel like a legitimate Warhammer 40,000 story.

B) Challenges make better stories.
As I said, I’ve spent a lot of time writing in well-known universes, and each has its own rules and conventions. Warhammer 40,000 has the added challenge that much of the cosmos is completely unknowable for those who live in it. Your average person doesn’t know how any technology works, or about the dangers that lurk on every planet. There’s no widescale communication and most folk blindly accept the teachings of humanity’s leader, the immortal Emperor of Mankind. What’s more, they can never really find out, as the society that has been established will fall apart. There are some pretty rigid rules about what your characters can or can’t experience. However, that just means that you have to be even more creative in working within those rules, especially when you’re writing someone’s introduction to a vast fictional world. It’s been fun navigating my way through all that, and I think that it’s led to stronger, more exciting adventures!

C) I buy too many action figures and models.
OK, this isn’t exactly a discovery, as my wife will attest. I’m a grown man who loves toys. My study is packed with Daleks, space-ships, droids, LEGO sets and superhero figures. However, Warhammer Adventures has opened up an entire new world for me to collect. I originally tried to limit myself to one set of figures, or maybe a vehicle, from each of the books in the series, but have repeatedly broken that resolution. On the upside, I’m sitting here writing this with a super-cool Necron Doom Scythe fighter on my desk!

Tom Huddleston is the author of City of Lifestone, the first book in the Realm Quest series.

Hello, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Tom Huddleston and I’m an author and film writer based in London, England. Like Cavan, I wrote three episodes in the official Star Wars: Adventures in Wild Space series, and now I’m the author of the Realm Quest books, part of the Warhammer Adventures universe.

Can you tell us more about the series?

The Realm Quest stories take place across the Mortal Realms, eight interconnected worlds filled with epic landscapes, ferocious creatures and limitless potential for adventure. When their master Vertigan is kidnapped by the devious rat-men known as the Skaven, five brave children must band together to get him back. The quest will take them across the different Realms, encountering fierce beasts, noble guardians and all manner of mayhem.

What are the three things you discovered when writing these books?

A) The Warhammer Universes are vast beyond belief. 

The most remarkable thing I discovered when I began researching and writing these books was simply how huge the Warhammer universe is – developed over decades, it must be the most massive and immersive invented world ever created. The sheer wealth of imagination and creativity on display is completely breathtaking, and I’m honoured to be given the chance to invent my own small corner of it.

B ) Creating characters within this universe was a bit of balancing act.

Creating a new group of characters to inhabit this world was an interesting challenge. They had to be relatable to young readers – it had to feel like their struggles were real, despite the fact that they live in this epic, fantastical realm. They had to be tough enough to survive in a world where almost everything is trying to kill them, but not so tough that they felt superhuman. And most of all, they had to be likeable enough so that readers would keep coming back to hear more about their adventures.

C ) Inventing Warhammer villains is really enjoyable! 

I also discovered how much fun it is to write Warhammer villains. From the devious, scheming rat-men known as the Skaven to a whole lot of ghoulish entities who crop up later in the series (no spoilers!), the Mortal Realms are just full of terrifically nasty, wonderfully unpleasant bad guys. How will our noble heroes fare against this rogue’s gallery of creeping, crawling, scuttling horrors? Well that would be telling…

Maisie’s Scrapbook – review

As the seasons turn, Maisie rides her bull in and out of Dada’s
tall tales. Her Mama wears linen and plays the viola. Her
Dada wears kente cloth and plays the marimba. They come
from different places, but they hug her in the same way. And
most of all, they love her just the same. A joyful celebration
of a mixed-race family and the love that binds us all together.

You all know what a big fan I am of Lantana and their books, so I was delighted when Katrina offered to send me a copy of ‘Maisie’s Scrapbook‘ to review. I was even more delighted when I read it and saw that it really is a beautiful tale, of loving parents bringing features from their heritages together to create a wonderful environment for their daughter to grow up in. As the blurb says, “they come from different places, but they hug her in the same way“. No two parents have identical backgrounds, but it is important to show (mirrors and windows) that parents with even the most obvious cultural differences cannot disagree on how much they love and support their child, and I can only imagine how amazing it must feel for a mixed race child to see a family similar to theirs portrayed (huge respect to single parents who, for whatever reason, don’t have the support of a partner).

Samuel Narh’s words, featuring Dada’s tall tales and Mama’s comfort through the seasons, are from Maisie’s perspective. Simply stated observations on small and big things. They are so effective because of the emotive illustrations by Jo Loring-Fisher bringing those tales to life, making the reader feel how she’s feeling, and showing the affection the family feels for one another. Look out for it when it is published on 7th March!


Feeling crafty?

SearchPress publish loads of amazing arts and crafts books, for beginning projects up to daunting expertise, and they very kindly offered to share a couple of free projects with us to entice you to their website. I know lots of libraries run or host craft sessions, and you will definitely have some manga fans, so have a look for some inspiration…

From Crocheted Cactuses comes this really cute (but baffling to a non-crochet-er) plan for, you guessed it, a crocheted cactus!

They have loads of manga titles, but the pages they’ve shared with us are from How to Draw Manga (in simple steps) by Yishan Li:

There are other free projects available on their website too!

The Third Degree with David Owen

David Owen’s latest book, All The Lonely People, is released on 10th January. It is a fantastic read with a fascinating premise: can you be so lonely that you actually disappear? There are two main characters, who rarely meet but their paths are entwined when Wesley’s “friends” choose Kat as a target for an online hate campaign with the intention of hounding her off the internet. Kat (like me as a teenager tbh) only feels like she can be herself online, and so as she deletes her accounts she herself begins to fade in real life. The Kat storyline resonated but Wesley’s side was the outstanding side for me – he’s trying to find a place to fit in but has chosen a toxic community that he realises he doesn’t agree with but fears he’s in too deep to get out. I was so impressed with his confused and also lonely voice, and hope it isn’t too much of a spoiler to say I was very pleased with his redemption without forgiveness. It is a brilliant examination of the damage of toxic masculinity and the ease with which lonely boys can be indoctrinated by misogynistic online groups, something I’ve not seen in YA before, as well as a touching look at the prevalence of lonliness in teens and how important it is to remember that no one has it together but some people fake it better. There is no “get off the internet and find a real friend” moral, but it does lead the reader to think about the potential pitfalls of social media use.

In fact, I loved it so much that I pinned him down to ask a few questions:

Hi David, welcome to TeenLibrarian and thank you for giving up your time to undergo the third degree!

All the Lonely People is about online culture, did you spend a lot of your teenage years online?

Waaay too much time! I was part of the first generation to grow up with online culture. I spent an inordinate amount of time in chat rooms and forums, and I had LiveJournal, MySpace, and was an early adopter of Facebook. I’ve been online since I was about ten years old. 

I spent most of my online time on an RPG video game forum that had quite a small but very active community. The opinions of these people came to really matter to me. If I said something stupid or accidentally broke a rule there, I’d feel bad about it for days. It was so stupid! That was my first taste of how an online life can have a significant impact on your wellbeing.  

Do you have any words of wisdom for teenagers, like Kat, who feel like their online presence is more important than their real world presence?

I’m not sure about words of wisdom. It’s so easy for me to encourage people to disconnect a little and not take it quite so seriously, but the reality is very different. Social media is such an integral part of the lives of young people now, much more so than when I was a teenager. There is a sense that if you’re not online, or if you don’t get enough attention there, you don’t exist. And one wrong move can be instantly seen by the entire world. 

I suppose all I can say is to encourage teenagers to seek out people, whether online or in the ‘real world’, who share similar values, who have similar interests, and who will treat them with kindness. Those are the people that matter, rather than striving to gain the approval of people who don’t care about you. Use your online presence to enhance your life – if the negatives begin to outweigh the positives, it’s time to reassess how you use the internet. 

What inspired the title?

It is shamelessly lifted from the Beatles song ‘Eleanor Rigby’. I listened to it a lot while I was writing the book, because it’s such a terrifically melancholy song, and quite succinctly sums up the isolating experience of loneliness. And, of course, it fitted in well with the Lonely People group in the story, and the idea that more people than you realise are struggling with feeling alone. 

Your day job as a journalist obviously involves a lot of writing, how easy is it to switch between researching for articles and writing fiction?

Switching between the two modes of writing isn’t something I find too difficult. They’re sufficiently different that my brain can easily differentiate them. The fact I go to an office for my day job and then write fiction at my desk at home also helps! The only real problem is time and tiredness – after a day of work, especially one that’s involved a lot of writing, the last thing I want to do is sit down at a computer and write some more, even if it is something different. So sometimes fiction has to wait. 

You’ve chaired a few panels at events in recent years, who were your favourite panellists and what would you love to chair next?

I’m going to give a cop out answer here and say I’ve loved everybody I’ve chaired – but it’s true. It was an honour to chair Melvin Burgess because he’s such a titan of YA fiction and listening to him talk is fascinating. Taran Matharu talks really eloquently about fantasy fiction, and Alice Oseman was also a delight to chair. 

I’d love to chair a panel of authors of really weird YA fiction – like Andrew Smith, Margo Lanagan, M. T. Anderson, authors that really push what YA can be. I think that would be really interesting.  

If you go into schools, do you prefer writing workshops or author talks?

I like a mix of both! A talk is a good way to introduce yourself and your books and talk about the things that really matter to you to hopefully get them thinking. But not many school kids want to be talked at for an hour straight, and doing workshops is a great way to keep them engaged and to encourage a love for reading and writing, which is ultimately what we’re trying to do. Young people are so creative, I think authors often get more out of the workshops than they do!


What are you currently reading and who would you recommend it to?

I’ve just (figuratively) cracked the new Alex Wheatle novel ‘Home Girl’, which is the next in his brilliant Crongton series. They’re such unique books, packed with the types of characters we don’t see enough in YA, and the writing is just brilliant. I’d recommend to pretty much anyone, but particularly to people who are cynical about YA and how tremendously powerful it can be. 

What are you hoping 2019 will bring?

In books? Better representation of marginalised voices, better coverage of children’s books in the national press, and for our libraries to be protected. In the world? For everything to be significantly less terrible.

I also wouldn’t mind All the Lonely People being a bestseller…

You won’t regret it!