Warmest wishes to all my readers for a happy and productive 2020. Looking forward to reading lots of great new fiction this year, and to writing some more of my own stories as well. September sees the long-awaited release of Hilda season 2 on Netflix as well as the publication by Flying Eye of the first of three brand new Hilda books written by me and illustrated by Seaerra Miller (numbers four, five and six in the series).
Since visiting Cairo with Authors Abroad last year I have become obsessed with Ancient Egypt. I have surrounded myself with books on the subject, am learning to read hieroglyphs and am haunting the British Museum like a very tall, camera-wielding spectre. Here’s hoping that something creative will come out of this obsession in the not too distant future.
In the meantime, I have loads of school visits planned for this term and next, both in the UK and further afield. My Key Stage 2 Titanic-themed workshops (based on my book Survivor: Titanic) are popular and space in the diary is rapidly diminishing, so please do enquire sooner rather than later if you’re a teacher wanting to organize a visit. Drop a line to Yvonne Lang at Authors Abroad firstname.lastname@example.org.
A special shout out to Sayes Court Primary School in Addlestone and Ditton Park Academy in Slough who I’m glad to serve as patron of reading this year. I’ll be keeping an eye on all new mid-grade and young adult fiction coming out over the next six months, and shoving plenty of recommendations your way.
One rather special book I discovered over the Christmas break is Pharaoh’s Fate by Camille Gautier and Stephanie Vernet, illustrated by Margaux Carpentier. It’s a thrilling story set in Ancient Egypt where YOU play the part of detective, following clues and deciphering codes in order to foil a plot against the pharaoh’s life.
The arrival of HILDA on Netflix means that more girls than ever are dressing up as Hilda for World Book Day this year. Daughter 1 has never before shown any inclination to dress up as a character from one of my books, but apparently she makes an exception for TV tie-ins.
Hilda is a quick and inexpensive costume to put together. We already owned a black beret, so our only expense was a blue wig. Once that arrived, Daughter 1 was kitted out in minutes.
Daughter 2 wanted to dress up as Twig, to accompany her sister. I searched online for Twig costumes: nothing. I looked at polar bear onesies, thinking we might adapt one: too expensive. We decided to make a Twig costume ourselves.
I won’t pretend that making Twig’s head was a quick job, or even that the result looks much like Twig. But it was a really fun craft project to do together. And if you start well in advance of World Book Day, you can do it step by step over a week or two with no stress.
Our guide on this journey was the wonderful Mr Otter Art Studio, who made the video below. This video is a foxfox instead of a deerfox, but the process is the same!
Is there a more fitting way for an author to celebrate the new year than with the release of a new book? I am pleased to announce that 1 January 2019 saw the publication of the second Hilda TV tie-in HILDA AND THE GREAT PARADE. This story sees Hilda getting to grips with her new life in Trolberg and (as usual) getting embroiled with magical creatures. The book contains plot threads from The Bird Parade and three other episodes from the Netflix series.
This book was great fun to write and it contains one of my favourite characters from the Hildaverse: the Lindworm. Beware, the Lindworm is bigger and more dangerous than her name suggests!
Now that my daughters have read THE GREAT PARADE, they are eagerly awaiting Book 3 HILDA AND THE NOWHERE SPACE which I believe comes out in May. In the meantime they are getting their ongoing Hilda fix from the engrossing game Hilda Creatures. You place food, plants and other items in various locations around Trolberg and the wilderness, and then you wait to see who or what shows up. Here are some of the familiar and not-so-familiar friends my daughters have encountered over the last few days – usually accompanied by squeals of delight.
My family and I are just back from the Pyranees, where they went skiing and I made valiant but pitiful attempts to stand up. During the week we happened across a couple of isolated Hilda-esque cabins in the valleys. Can you spot them?
The Pyraneean setting was perfect inspiration for the fourth Hilda tie-in, which I started work on yesterday – a festive, snowy story containing plot threads from various episodes of Hilda Season 2. (Yes, that’s right, the award-winning Netflix animation has been re-commissioned for another series – watch this space!)
Later this month I am off to another snowy setting, Kazakhstan, where I have been invited to visit two international schools with Authors Abroad. 2019 is shaping up to be a busy year for school visits, so if you are interested in a visit, please book sooner rather than later. You can find session content, testimonials and fees on the school visits page of this site.
Warm wishes to Hilda fans everywhere, and thanks as always to Luke Pearson and Flying Eye Books for the opportunity to be involved with such warm, life-affirming stories.
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.
We had a good break in a cottage in Prussia Cove, Cornwall, over the holidays. I spent much of it asleep in front of a woodburning stove, occasionally waking up to play Ticket To Ride with the girls or to read a few more pages of the Rub of Time, a delicious collection of essays by Martin Amis.
Also on my bedside table Being Read pile is The Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz, which my sister Debbie gave me for Christmas. It’s one of those books like The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas where pretty much anything you say about it constitutes a spoiler, so I’ll refrain, except to say it’s clever and thoroughly engrossing. Thanks Debs!
Back to work, now, and another year of writing and school visits awaits. I’m currently doing rewrites on my YA novel about a rebellious chess prodigy. I have a list of possible titles for it, but none of the candidates thus far are screaming CHOOSE ME! Tricky things, titles. Often the very last thing to fall into place.
Next week I start outlining Book 2 of an exciting new fantasy series. I’m not allowed to say anything about that project yet but will no doubt shout about it from the rooftops come September, when Book 1 is published.
School visits: I do have one day still available in World Book Week – Wednesday 28 February. Let me know if your school is interested in a visit that day – see here for details.
A very happy new year to anyone reading this. Hope it’s a good one for us all.
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)
More Show-Don’t-Tell from another sumptuous DK picture book. Really brings the story alive with anecdotes, secrets, facts and puzzles. Perfect for homework projects about the Titanic tragedy.
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.
Yesterday I received copies of TALES OF HIDDEN HEROES, Pearson’s new Bug Club Comprehension title. It contains two stories, one by Malachy Doyle and one by me, beautifully illustrated by Teresa Martinez.
The Secret of Mulan is a retelling of an old Chinese poem about the girl Mulan, who saves her father from certain death by going into battle his place. I enjoyed spending time with the Mulan legend and studying the character of Mulan herself, an ancient oriental forerunner of today’s badass YA heroines. I haven’t got around to watching the Disney treatment of the story but I love the various Chinese versions of the tale (link). Fascinating to see how the story evolved over the centuries: Mulan herself remains surprisingly constant but the arch villain changes to reflect the taste (or rather distaste) of each new day. In my retelling I have returned to the baddie of the original poem – the fearsome bandit Flying Swallow and his weaponized bronze cymbals.
TALES OF HIDDEN HEROES is not yet available for pre-order, but I’ll let you know when it is.