Sunday 27 November 2016


I am absolutely delighted to announce that my new book PHOENIX is now available in North America!

It's published by the wonderful Candlewick Press, who have produced a beautiful edition that uses all of Dave McKean's fantastic original artwork for the book.  You can order it from them, or from any good bookshop or website.  You can find the publishers' page for Phoenix by clicking this link, and you can watch a special US version of Dave McKean's Phoenix book trailer right here:

You can also WIN A FREE COPY OF PHOENIX!  There's a giveaway on YA Books Central this month that anyone in the US can enter.  I've written a piece to go with it all about the book's inspirations.  

I hope you enjoy it, and I would love to hear from readers in North America – so if you've read Phoenix, please leave me a comment below and let me know how you enjoyed flying among the stars with Lucky and Bixa!

Saturday 26 November 2016

Patron Of Reading: Fortismere School Year 8

I believe all writers are readers, and all readers can be writers – something I've written about elsewhere recently.  So as Patron Of Reading at Fortismere School, I decided with brilliant librarian Gillian Ward to focus on reading with Year 7, and writing with Year 8.  And it was a pleasure last week to spend time working with two Year 8 classes on creative writing.

I talked them through the three main stages of the writing process: getting an idea, writing a first draft, and then editing it to make it as good as it can be.  I asked them to think of ideas for stories they would want to read themselves, and then to write drafts and edit them.  We only had an hour, but in that time, they produced some amazing work, and I'm delighted to share some of it here:

The sun shone through the windows, the light bouncing off the plastic coated covers and labels. The book sat on the shelf, the top shelf, above the others. The book had been there all day. All week. Before the sun arrived on the shelf, there had been darkness; a cramped, dusty darkness that had shadowed its pages and words and story. A story that had been told to the first person to open the book. And the second. And the third.

He woke up in a frivolous mood and clambered up to the deck of the ship. He saw the moon’s pockmarked surface through the plexiglass windows and sighed to himself. Back on Jupiter he knew his family would be moving to the secret base in the ocean in preparation for the war. He stood, gazing out at the atmosphere studded with giant balls of blazing gas and wondered if he would make it back to his home planet alive. Silently behind him, Will shuffled out of the sleeping quarters and made himself tea: rooibos, a rare plant scavenged from the remains of earth.

Sam loves books. He spends all his breaks in the school library. This separates him from the others. Even though the librarians praise him, his friends don’t. Well, he can’t really call them friends now. He started to prefer books to his mates and one by one they left him. Now, the only friends he has are books. He’s even become friends with Harry Potter!

It was a pleasure working with these students – some of their ideas just blew me away.  I hope they continue to work on their writing, because if they do, before too long, I think they'll be publishing books of their own!  Here's a link to some writing tips I've done on this blog that might be helpful with that – and if anyone from Year 8 has any questions or would like to leave me a comment, this is the place to do it!

Sunday 13 November 2016

Patron Of Reading: Fortismere School Year 7

I was delighted to return to Fortismere School last week for the start of my second year as their Patron Of Reading.  Patron Of Reading is a brilliant scheme in which authors don't just visit a school once, but return several times to help spread the love of reading.  I was invited to do this last year by Fortimsere's fantastic librarian Gill Ward, and you can read about all the things we did last year in these blog posts.

We started my second year's activities with the new Year 7, who I had the pleasure of meeting last week.  They gave me a wonderful welcome, and I was excited to see that they're already brilliant readers.  When I asked what their favourite books were, it was great to hear so many different favourites, from classics like The Lord Of The Rings to books like this year's Carnegie Medal winner, Sarah Crossan's One.

I talked to them about the books that were my favourites when I was at school, like Watership Down by Richard Adams.  (If anyone would like to know more about that book, I wrote a whole blog post about it here.)  I also talked to them about my favourite films, like the original Star Wars (and I've just written a blog about seeing that film back when I was 10!)

We went on to talk about how you go from being a reader to being a writer, and how stories like Watership Down influenced Varjak Paw, and how Star Wars influenced Phoenix.  I really do believe that every writer is a reader, and every reader can be a writer.  A writer is really just a reader who's taken the next step, and decided to write the story they want to read themselves!

We didn't have quite enough time to answer all the questions that everyone had, so if anyone at Fortimsere has another question, or would like to say anything about the visit or my books, just leave me a comment below.  And I look forward to returning to Fortismere next week to talk to Year 8 about creative writing, and then returning next term to talk more about our favourite books with Year 7!

Wednesday 2 November 2016

Author Visits: Bishop's Stortford College

I'd like to say a big thank you to the brilliant librarian Rosie Pike for inviting me to visit Bishop's Stortford College last month – and to everyone I met there for the wonderful welcome they gave me!

I really enjoyed talking to the school book club about Varjak Paw, which they're currently reading.  I heard some amazing questions and observations about the book, and was really impressed with how thoughtfully they'd read it, as well as the work some of them had made around it!

It was then a pleasure to talk to Years 7, 6 and 5 about reading and writing, and to sign their books at the end.  We didn't quite have enough time to answer all the questions that everyone had, so if anyone from Bishop's Stortford would like to ask anything else, or to say anything about the visit or the books, just leave me a comment below!

Many thanks to College photographer Ian Taylor for the pictures – you can see more in this fantastic blog about my visit on the school website!