I confess, I hadn’t heard of Hilda until this time last year. I first encountered her in the article Here Comes Hilda in the New Yorker. I was intrigued. Then I read HILDA AND THE TROLL and joined the ever-growing tribe of Hilda fans worldwide. Now I have the comics beside me as I write, an ‘Ancient Giants’ poster on the wall in front of me and Hilda herself for a desktop wallpaper.
Hilda was created in 2009 by Luke Pearson, when he was still at school. He drew a picture of a blue-haired girl wearing a beret, scarf, red top, blue skirt, and big red boots. She had a Scandinavian city behind her and was surrounded by all kinds of strange creatures.
That one picture led to five comics (published by Flying Eye Books), a Netflix animation (coming soon) and now an illustrated fiction series. That’s where I come in. I am grateful to Flying Eye Books for introducing me to Hilda, and even more grateful to them for the opportunity to join Team Hilda and write stories about her. She is a delightful character to write – warm, brave and boundlessly optimistic. The books themselves are TV tie-ins. They are based on plots from the Netflix series and illustrated by Seaerra Miller. Our hope is that the books will bring the irrepressible Hilda to a whole new audience.
On Thursday this week (6 September), we’re having a launch for HILDA AND THE HIDDEN PEOPLE at Waterstones on Tottenham Court Road. Come along at 6.30pm for an exclusive preview screening of Episodes 1 and 2 from the Netflix series, followed by a Q&A with me and Sam Arthur, co-founder of Nobrow and Flying Eye Books. The event itself is free, and of course copies of the book will be available afterwards for sale and signing (retail price £9.99).
Update (7 September 2018)
The Hilda launch went really well last night. It was exciting to see some of the Netflix animation (up until last night I had only read the scripts) and to chat to lots of Hilda fans, almost all of whom have been following Hilda’s adventures for much longer than I have. I really liked the way Bella Ramsey voiced Hilda, and I loved the two woff-ride sequences!
Sam Arthur was unfortunately not able to be with us last night, but my daughter Liberty (8) stepped intrepidly into the role of interrogator. She asked me some lovely questions and also a couple of downright uncomfortable ones, including this zinger: Daddy, we have the Hilda comics and now the Hilda Netflix series, so why do we need YOUR books too?
Many thanks to all who came, and to Waterstones Tottenham Court Road for hosting.
I do find it hard keeping secrets, so it’s a great relief to finally be able to make this announcement. I have a new book out this September!
HILDA AND THE HIDDEN PEOPLE is a fully illustrated story starring Hilda, a blue-haired girl with a thirst for adventure and an uncanny talent for making friends with magical creatures. My book is based on the forthcoming Netflix series HILDA, which in turn is based on Luke Pearson’s popular comic book series. Over the last six months I have enjoyed getting to know this brave, kind-hearted girl and her friends. They’re wonderful characters to write, and I hope you’ll come to love them too. HILDA AND THE HIDDEN PEOPLE comes out in September and is published by Flying Eye.
Thrilling news recently – Torben Kuhlmann is illustrating the German edition of my book Survivor Titanic. The Hamburg based author-illustrator is best known for the modern classic Lindbergh: The Tale of a Flying Mouse. Here is a sneak preview of his Titanic illustrations. Such attention to detail.
Many children are fascinated by the story of the Titanic and it is often studied in primary schools as a window onto early twentieth century history, particularly in Key Stage 2. Today is the 105th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, as good a time as any for some recommendations of good Titanic books.
Before I go on, I should declare an interest. My own Titanic book came out earlier this year. Survivor:Titanic is published by Scholastic as part of their new historical fiction SURVIVOR series. Jimmy from Ireland and Omar from Lebanon meet aboard the Titanic and are exploring the ship together when tragedy strikes. The book is written for reluctant readers, but can be enjoyed by anyone 8+.
Here are eight of the best children’s books about the Titanic – four non-fiction and four fiction – in no particular order.
1. Story of the Titanic
When it comes to portraying the details of this disaster, show don’t tell is key, and cutaways are definitely the best way of showing the inside of the Titanic both before and after the iceberg struck. Steve Noon’s book is highly recommended by Titanic geeks on Encyclopedia Titanica, as well as on Amazon. A real feast for the eyes.
2. Titanic (Eyewitness)
3. On Board the Titanic: What it was like when the great liner sank
Tanaka’s book uses real historical characters to tell the story. Jack Thayer’s account is particularly interesting. He was seventeen at the time of the sinking and was one of the few men to stay on the Titanic until the very last minute and still survive. A thrilling true-life story.
4. Inside the Titanic
Ken Marschall made a name for himself for lavish illustrations of books about the Titanic, and this is probably his best one. Like Steve Noon, he uses cutaway illustrations to make readers feel they are actually inside the doomed liner. The real-life accounts of passengers focus on the children aboard the Titanic, which is a particularly compelling (and harrowing) approach.
Ken’s paintings almost seemed to be stills from a movie that hadn’t yet been made. And I thought to myself, I can make these paintings live. It became my goal to accomplish on film what Ken had done on canvas, to will the Titanic back to life.
There are dozens of children’s books set on the Titanic, including several time travel offerings where a modern-day hero gets transported back to 1912. The four I have chosen are not time travel stories, but they have all proved popular with young readers.
I SURVIVED is historical fiction, describing ten year-old George Calder’s battle for survival. Lauren’s book is gentle fare, especially considering the terrible setting, but it is well researched and enduringly popular.
Michael Morpurgo’s KASPAR PRINCE OF CATS is an absolute classic. Insired by Michael’s time as Writer in Residence at the Savoy Hotel, this book is charming, evocative and unpredictable, and it deals with mature themes in a very elegant way.
I can’t survey children’s books set on the Titanic without mentioning POLAR THE TITANIC BEAR. Another classic with beautiful full-page colour illustrations. Polar is a teddy bear, of course, and this is the Titanic as told through his eyes. Starts with him being sewed and stuffed in the factory and ends with- well, that would be telling.
TITANIC: MY STORY by Ellen White is the thrilling story of a young orphan Margaret Anne who can hardly believe her luck when she is chosen to accompany wealthy Mrs Carstairs aboard the great Titanic. This is a really good read, but something of a slow burner. It takes a while for Margaret Anne to get aboard the Titanic. When she does, the story is unputdownable.
If you are a teacher in the UK and your class is studying the Titanic, I would be happy to visit. My Titanic presentation covers the background to the tragedy, the research involved in writing historical fiction and some tips on writing exciting action scenes. Do contact me for more details.
Reading Planet is an exciting new reading programme from educational publisher Rising Stars. Aimed at Reception and KS1, it is based on the latest literacy research. My new books SAHARA DISCOVERY and SAHARA SURVIVAL are in the Galaxy strand of the programme.
SAHARA DISCOVERY is non-fiction. It introduces some of the people who live in the vast Sahara, in particular the Tuaregs. Discover what it is like to live, play and work among the Tuareg people and their camels.
SAHARA SURVIVAL is fiction. Ali and Amira are excited to help their dad deliver a plane, but they have no idea that their journey across the Sahara desert is about to turn into a fight for survival. (Because it’s written for six and seven year olds, both the plane crash and the ‘fight for survival’ are pretty gentle).
Both books are illustrated by the talented Egyptian-born illustrator Hatem Aly and they fall in the Purple level of the reading series (see below). They can be pre-ordered individually on Amazon or direct from the publisher as part of a reading pack.
2017 is shaping up to be a busy year of book releases and school visits. First up, the books:
SURVIVOR: TITANIC (Scholastic) comes out this Thursday, and is the first in a new gripping series of first-hand surival stories.
SAHARA DISCOVERY (Rising Stars, 28 April) is a non-fiction book about the Tuareg people of the Sahara. See featured image above.
SAHARA SURVIVAL (Rising Stars, 28 April) is a story about a Tunisian family whose plane has to make an emergency landing in the middle of the desert. Both books are beautifully illustrated by Hatem Aly.
BLOOD & INK is coming out in the US in September, published by Charlesbridge. Cover to be revealed soon.
Later in the year, Pearson UK are publishing my retelling of the well-known Chinese story of Mulan. I loved writing this one and am very excited about its publication.
As for school visits, the diary is filling up fast. Author visits in schools inspire children to read widely and also to write for pleasure.
At the time of writing I still have three days available in the week of World Book Day 2017: 27 and 28 February and 1 March.
|10 January||West Leigh Infants||Bristol||Workshops|
|16 January||Ark Priory||Acton||Talk|
|3 February||St Matthews CofE||Bradford||Workshops|
|20 - 25 February||International Schools||Lagos||Talks and Workshops|
|27 February||Sydenham High School||Sydenham||Book week visit
|2 March||Casterton Sedburgh||Cumbria||Book week visit|
|3 March||Bilton Junior||Rugby||Book week visit|
|9 March||Cardwell Primary||Woolwich||Book week visit|
|10 March||Notre-Dame Primary||Plumstead||Book week visit|
|13 March||Cologne Literary Festival||Cologne||Talk|
|19 - 31 March||International Schools||Saudi Arabia||Talks and Workshops|
|23 May||Home Farm||Colchester||Able Writers Day|
|24 May||St Anne's Catholic School||Southampton||Travel Writing workshops|
|15 June||Holy Trinity||Margate||Able Writers Day|
|22 June||William Cobbett Junior||Farnham||Able Writers Day|
You can find more information about my school visits (including content, rates and testimonials) by visiting the Author Visits page on this site. Alternatively, for details of my Able Writers Days, please go through the events agency Authors Abroad.
David Attenborough’s Planet Earth II continues to fascinate and instruct. Last week’s extraordinary footage of a locust swarm in Madagascar brought back horrific memories of the 2005 locust invasion in the Sahel, including our area of Burkina Faso. The locusts destroyed the crops of many thousands of people, prompted a huge relief effort (most of my work in Djibo that year was with the Red Cross and the World Food Programme) and inspired my second book Sophie and the Locust Curse, a story of creativity and resourcefulness in the wake of catastrophe.
“Watch out! The locusts are coming!”
A terrifying army of locusts is devouring crops in one village after another. Gidaado’s village is next. When the locusts arrive, Gidaado will need all his wits about him. He will need his friend Sophie, his three-stringed guitar, and an albino camel as fast as the harmattan wind.
- See other posts tagged Sophie and the Locust Curse
- Buy Sophie and the Locust Curse on Amazon.co.uk
Told from the perspective of a twelve year old Irish boy in third-class, Survivor: Titanic is a new book for reluctant readers aged eight plus. It comes out on 5 January 2017 (published by Scholastic) and is now available for pre-order on Amazon.
I really enjoyed planning and writing this one. I spent hours poring over deck plans of the ship and trying to come up with the most dramatic, adventure-filled story I could, without either shying away from or glamourizing the tragedy of this real event.
I found the following video particularly helpful during my research: a highly accurate real-time animation of the sinking. An extraordinary reconstruction of one of the most terrible maritime disasters in history.
Political elections are tricky subjects for children’s fiction, and need to be written with a light hand. With the American 2012 Presidential Race now upon us, here are three recommendations for children’s adventure books which deal with election shenanigans. The links here are for Kindle ebooks, but paperbacks are also available – just follow the Paperback link from the product description page.
I have to declare an interest – the third book in this list is mine. To my knowledge, Sophie and the Pancake Plot is the only election-themed children’s adventure story not set in the US. Please correct me in the comments section if this is not the case – or if you have written an election story for kids, feel free to plug it in the comments.
1. Election Day by Margaret McNamara
Today is election day in Mrs. Connor’s class. The students will listen to speeches and vote for a new class president. Today is also Becky’s first day at Robin Hill School. She thinks she would make a great class president, but she’s new and has no friends yet. When Becky takes a chance and makes a speech, the whole class is surprised by the winner!
2. The Election-Day Disaster by Ron Roy
KC and her best friend wake up to a trick not a treat the morning after the White House Halloween costume party. With the presidential election only a week away, someone has posted damaging photos of the president on the Internet, photos that were digitally doctored! Will they ruin Thornton’s chances for a second term? Or can KC and Marshall rescue the election?
3. Sophie and the Pancake Plot by Stephen Davies
Election day is just around the corner and Sophie’s best friend Gidaado is working for Presidential candidate General Crepe-Sombo. But Sophie discovers that the famous General is not at all the kind, peaceful man he pretends to be. To expose the villain before he becomes President, Sophie will need a dog whistle, a carnivorous plant and an albino camel as fast as the harmattan wind.