Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Video Blog Tour: The Mystery Of The Clockwork Sparrow by Katherine Woodfine

Delighted to continue the awesome blog tour for The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow today! Here, awesome author Katherine Woodfine talks about bringing the setting of an Edwardian department store to life.

You are cordially invited to attend the GRAND OPENING of Sinclair’s department store!

After the death of her father genteel young lady Miss Sophie Taylor must seek employment.  She’s thrilled to join the staff at Sinclair’s, the most beautiful department store in London – and consequently – the whole world.  There she enters a world of bonbons, hats, perfumes and MYSTERY around every corner. 

Working at Sinclair’s, Sophie makes lots of new friends: GLAMOROUS aspiring actress, Lil, serial paper obsessed Billy, and Joe – who is on the run from underworld criminals.

When the priceless Clockwork Sparrow is stolen from Sinclair’s grand opening exhibition, it is up to Sophie and her friends to bring the DASTARDLY villains to justice…


Katherine Woodfine is Arts Project Manager at Booktrust, the UK’s most prominent literacy charity. She is a true champion of children’s literature and throughout her time at Booktrust has project-managed the Children's Laureateship and worked on a huge range of other children's book prizes and initiatives, including YALC 2014, the UK’s first Young Adult Literature Convention, curated by Malorie Blackman.

She has reviewed and recommended children’s titles online, in print and on the radio as part of the founding team at Down the Rabbit Hole, a monthly show for Resonance FM discussing children’s literature.  She lives in London.  Follow Katherine on Twitter @followtheyellow.

Don't miss the rest of the tour, as well as Katherine's brilliant post on the Guardian today!

The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow Video Blog Tour

Friday 22nd May – Tales of Yesterday
Saturday 23rd May – Library Mice
Monday 25th May – YA Yeah Yeah
Tuesday 26th May – Overflowing Library
Wednesday 27th May – Middle Grade Strikes Back
Thursday 28th May – Winged Reviews
Friday 29th May – Snuggling on the Sofa
Saturday 30th May – YA Shot
Monday 1st June – Special Announcement! (A special post that we will share via Egmont channels on the day!)
Tuesday 2nd June – Playing by the Book
Wednesday 3rd June – George Lester Reads
Thursday 4th June – Chouchett Blog

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Middle Grade Books I Plan To Have In My Beach Bag This Summer

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

Today, ten of our fabulous Middle Grade Strikes Back contributors have each chosen a book they plan to have in their beach bag this summer:

1. Elen Caldecott; Alex, the Dog and the Unopenable Door by Ross Montgomery
It's been out for a while, but Ross Montgomery had slipped under my radar, so I haven't read this yet. I read The Tornado Chasers earlier in the year and loved it. It was odd and unexpected in a really good way, and the title of this, at least, makes me hope I'll love this book as much.

2. Kieran Fanning; The Astounding Broccoli Boy by Frank Cottrell Boyce
The reason this will be in my beach bag this summer is because it is written by Frank Cottrell Boyce.  Simple as that.  The man's a genius. His books are hilarious, but warm and heartfelt too. I first discovered him through the movie, Millions, and then went on to read the book, which I really liked. I enjoyed 'Cosmic' too but 'Framed' is one of my all time favourite books. So really looking forward to it.

3. Abi Elphinstone: In Darkling Wood by Emma Carroll
I like fiesty heroines and Emma Carroll does them brilliantly. I adored Tilly in 'Frost Hollow Hall' and Louie in 'The Girl Who Walked On Air' and this July sees the release of 'In Darkling Wood' - where Carroll blends Alice's modern day adventure with the historical magic of Flo's. Based on the enigmatic Cottingley Fairies and with a stunning cover by Julian De Narvaez, I can't wait to read it...

4. Jason Rohan: Arsenic For Tea by Robin Stevens
Murder Most Unladylike was for me an unexpected treat with engaging characters, a solid mystery and moments of unexpected humour and wicked satire. On the one hand, you had midnight feasts and bunbreaks, whilst on the other you had schoolgirls snogging and period jokes. Like the best animated movies, MMU was written on different levels and I for one am ready for another arsenic-laced slice of this particular tiffin treat.

5. Tatum Flynn: The Crowham Martyrs by Jane McLoughlin
Witches and ghosts and mysteries at a crumbling old boarding school, and a heroine named Maddy Deeprose? YES PLEASE. And since one reader admitted the book was so scary it spooked her even on a full train, I think the beach might be the only safe place to read it...

6. Darren Hartwell: Circles of Stone by Ian Johnstone
I read The Bell Between Worlds, the first book in Ian Johnstone's The Mirror Chronicles trilogy, a few months ago and loved every moment of it. It is middle grade fantasy at its very best, and had I read it when it was first released it may very well have made it into my top books of 2014. The sequel, Circles of Stone, is out at the beginning of July, but work is always bonkers around then (whoever says teachers wind down for the summer has never taught at my school!), so I'm going to wait until the summer holidays so I can devote quality reading time to it.

7. Paula Harrison: Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones
I've read and loved many Diana Wynne Jones books but I missed out Fire and Hemlock until I bought a copy in my local bookshop recently. The blurb talks of Polly and Thomas Lynn who make up stories together that have a nasty habit of coming true. Now, who could resist that as a story premise

Paula Harrison is the author of Red Moon Rising

8. Clare Zinkin: My Brother is a Superhero by David Solomons
I spend most of my time recommending books to children, so when it happens the other way round I’m totally delighted. This book only publishes in July, but my son was lucky enough to get an ARC and adored it; in fact for someone who remains fairly straight-faced through all comedy, this book had him guffawing and chuckling. The premise itself is enough to draw me in though – comic mad 11 year old Luke goes to the loo at the exact moment than an alien arrives and gives his undeserving brother superpowers. A new take on sibling rivalry! Bring on summer!

Clare Zinkin writes about and recommends children’s books on 

9.Harry Oulton: The Owl Service by Alan Garner
I read The Weirdstone of Brisingamen years ago and loved it, but was never allowed to read The Owl Service because I was told it was too scary! I figure I'm now old enough to tackle it, but figured what better book to read in the summer when the nights are short so as much as possible can be read in daylight. All I know about it is that it involves owls, attics and a lot of horror. Written by one of our finest living writers! What's not to like?

10. Sophie Plowden: Alfie Bloom and the Secrets of Hexbridge Castle by Gabrielle Kent
And once I've devoured The Crowham Martyrs, I'm plunging my fangs straight into 'Alfie Bloom and the Secrets of Hexbridge Castle' for more spooky goings on in the company of eleven year old Alfie, his ancient castle and a shapeshifting solicitor. (Oh - and a flying, talking bearskin rug, which I'd swap for a beach towel in a heartbeat!)

Monday, 25 May 2015

Book Review: Elspeth Hart and the School for Show-offs by Sarah Forbes

Elspeth Hart and the School for Show-offs is the first adventure featuring the fabulous Elspeth Hart, a modern heroine with doodles on her trainers and unstoppable determination. Can you imagine never being allowed to play outside, dear reader? How about sleeping in a wardrobe every night? That's what life is like for Elspeth Hart. Ever since her parents were tragically washed away in a flood, poor Elspeth has been forced to live with her disgusting aunt, Miss Crabb, in the attic of the Pandora Pants School for Show-offs. Elspeth spends her days sweeping up mouse droppings, washing filthy pots and dodging Tatiana Firensky, the most horrible show-off of all. But what Elspeth doesn't know is that things are about to change...

I must admit that I was drawn to this book initially by its lovely purple colour. The more I looked at it the more I wanted to know about the characters depicted on it. The blurb drew me in too, this Cinderella-esque tale was definitely something I wanted to read.

The book is a fairly slim one, and it has plenty of illustrations, done by artist James Brown, dotted throughout. I found that this made it a quick read, I think it will mean that younger readers will find it manageable too - in interest terms it will appeal broadly.

Elspeth's story quickly grabs the reader and has them rooting for her. The circumstances in which she's living combined with all of the awful people she's surrounded by meant I found I was entirely willing her to find a way to come out on top. As the story progresses and we learn more about the things motivating the different characters the more these feelings grow.

I found that the conclusion of the book was satisfying, it is clearly an end to a first book in a series but I found that this only made me want the next book as soon as possible rather than feeling frustrated by how much of the story remains untold.  

Juniper's Jungle

Thursday, 21 May 2015

How to Write a Winning Opening

2015 is a good year to write middle grade fiction. Actually, any year is a good year because where else can you spend your days in the company of pirate ships and man-eating penguins, but this year is particularly good because it sees the launch of a new Undiscovered Voices. Run by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, the competition is open to all unagented, unpublished children’s writers living in the EU, and has helped launch the careers of more than 20 authors so far, including my own.

For anyone thinking of entering Undiscovered Voices, or any other writing competition, here are a few pointers I learned as a finalist.

- Finish your book.  Not just because you’ll need to have it ready to send out to all the excited competition judges who’ll be asking to read it, but because your opening chapters may change radically once you’ve written the whole book. The original opening of my book fell as flat as a pancake’s shadow.  Most of it was set-up for chapter three, where the story really started. Once I'd finished the book, I could see what needed to go up front and I rewrote, but I had to finish first. 

- Find your strong points and build on them.  When I read over my original beginning, I saw how the story took off when my main characters met in chapter two. So I started them off together and dumped them both into a crisis they had to work together to solve.  Success!  If you have a character, a scene, even a single sentence that really stands out, make that your starting point.

- Don’t hold back. Know what you’re aiming for in terms of genre and tone, and go at it like a bull in a red-flag-and-china shop.  Whatever you do, don’t try to analyse everything that’s worked before so you can copy it. If you look back through the judge’s comments on previous winners, you’ll find some common threads such as strong characters and good pacing, but mainly you’ll see words such as ‘fresh’, ‘unexpected,’ ‘original.’  So be yourself.  Be dark, be funny, be scary, be ridiculous, be anything except the same as everyone else.

- A few practical points.  When you think you’ve finished, put your opening chapters away for a week or two, then read them again.  Read out loud.  I use an electronic text-to-speech voice because nothing highlights dull writing like hearing it read in a robotic monotone.  Get someone else to proofread it before sending it in.  I’m still embarrassed that I failed to do this and repeated a sentence halfway through my first chapter.  It didn’t spoil my chances, but I really wish I’d made time for a final check.

- Once you’ve submitted your entry, start writing something new.  This has multiple benefits.  It’ll help you forget you ever entered the competition and stop you from going mad.  Then, if you don’t win, you’ll have the start of a whole new book.  But if you do win, everyone is going to want to know what else you’re working on and you’ll have something to show them.

Undiscovered Voices opens to submissions on July 1st.  Best of luck to everyone who enters.

Claire Fayers was a finalist in Undiscovered Voices 2014.  Her debut novel, The Accidental Pirates: Voyage to Magical North will be published next year.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Author to Author: Fleur Hitchcock Quizzes Joanna Nadin

So Jo – with that many books behind you – do you do anything other than write?

Hmm. I was about to say I also write political speeches, but I think that counts as ‘writing’. I do also teach other people how to write for children and teenagers, but I’m going to be honest and say there is very little I do that isn’t related to books. I get very twitchy when I’m not writing something, and days when I don’t put something down on paper / computer / the notebook in my head are few and far between. I do however bake a mean brownie, and can ice skate, juggle and bicycle with no hands.

Do you listen to music when you’re working – or does it interfere?

I have to have something on in the background when I’m working. It comes from years of working in very noisy TV and radio newsrooms and government offices where we always had at least three TV channels on at once. Now I either work in cafes, or I put on 6music and let it disappear into a general background hubbub. I have been known to write to daytime telly – the kind that’s so dull you won’t get distracted. 

On desert Island discs, Malcolm Gladwell said it’s much easier to make people laugh than cry – agree or disagree?

Agree. For me, anyway. I found a talent for making people laugh at a fairly young age, mainly as a) a way of making me interesting and b) if you can make bullies laugh they tend to leave you alone. Yes, I was that kid. Now I use humour even in heartbreaking stuff. I think it throws people a little, so when you hit them with the sad stuff it hits harder.

Cat or dog?

Neither. I’m more of a goat / monkey kind of girl – stemming from my desire to be either Heidi or Pippi Longstocking. I begged for a goat for years but the closest I got was working on our school’s farm. Now I have three Dumbo rats living in my basement. By choice, although they are going to be threatened with eviction if they poo on my shouder again.

When you’re reading for pleasure, what kind of books will grab you? Anything you’ve read recently that you’d recommend?

The best books for me are all about the voice, so I tend to read first person books with a distinctive tone or accent to them, and preferably a bit oddball and contemporary. So anything by Frank Cottrell Boyce works or Jenny Valentine works for me, and I love Tamsyn Murray’s new one Completely Cassidy

And how does that compare to the books you were reading when you were 12?

When I was twelve, there weren’t that many books written actually for us, so once I’d graduated from Heidi and things like The Famous Five I moved on to adult books by Daphne du Maurier, and Stephen King. It wasn’t until Adrian Mole was first published in about 1983 that I really read and loved a proper ‘Middle Grade’ book – one written for people like me and about people like me.

Were you a library child?

A lot of books I hocked from my Grandma’s bookcases on long hot summers or rainy winters in Cornwall. But back home I lived in the library, getting dropped off there early on a Saturday morning and left on my own while my dad did the shopping. By the age of ten I’d exhausted the children’s section and was allowed free rein (to an extent) of the adult room, which is where I first read John Wyndham and HG Wells at a very impressionable age, along with the Molesworth books, which have stayed with me ever since and are an influence on my sense of humour and writing. 

Thinking of the 12 year old Joanna – what kind of child were you?

I was exactly what you’d imagine a writer to have been: a bookish child, with a strong hint of nerd (and smell of school goat). I’ll sum up what life was like in that library for the 12-year-old me with a quote from Andy Robb’s brilliant Geekhood: ‘This is what libraries are to Geeks – sanctuaries where we can all lurk, safe in the knowledge that the only other inhabitants here are fellow worshippers. The silence is misleading, though, for if you listen carefully, you can hear nerdy spirits all singing together in a yearning for Something Other – to be like the heroes in books, to win the hearts of simpering heroines, to smite mighty foes. To be anything other than a Geek. But rather than being sad or forlorn places, libraries are the temples in which Geeks can briefly attain those goals, their souls soaring in snatches of printed glory.’

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Not a writer. I was far too busy, like the quote suggests, imagining I was IN the books. And I honestly grew up with no other plan than having a life so amazing one day someone would write a book about it. It took a lot of years and wrong turns (lifeguard, juggler, radio newsreader to name but a few) to realize that was probably never going to happen so maybe I should get on and write some of my own.

If you had to choose a last meal – what would it be?

I have an irritating condition which means I can’t eat a lot of foods anymore, so, given I wouldn’t be around to suffer the painful consequences, I’d go for several slices of toasted white bloomer bread, heavily buttered and topped with Marmite.

Jo Nadin is the pen behind the Rachel Riley Series and the Penny Dreadful series. Her most recent book is Joe All Alone – You can read an extract here. And a review, here.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Our Favourite Middle Grade Series Of All Time

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

Today, ten of our fabulous Middle Grade Strikes Back contributors have each chosen their favourite Middle Grade series of all time:

1. Elen Caldecott: The Casson Family series by Hilary McKay

This series, starting with 'Saffy's Angel' is as warm and comforting as lying on your nana's sofa under a crocheted blanket when you're poorly. Each book is a hug from a cherished friend. The Casson family are inventive, supportive, brave while still feeling real and vulnerable. The writing is assured. We see the family's worries and difficulties, but we also see that there's no place like home for any of them. Just wonderful.

2. Huw Powell: The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien

Not only is this a fantastic trilogy full of magic and adventure, but JRR Tolkien created a whole world with Middle Earth, including its own creatures, politics, history, maps and languages. His work has entertained generations of fans and inspired decades of fantasy novels. It's difficult to talk about The Lord of the Rings without using the word 'epic'.

3. Kieran Fanning: His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

Not sure if this is technically Middle Grade but it was certainly read by this age group. I was totally blown away by Pullman's world and the vast adventure encompassed in the three books.  The originality of his creations, most notably the idea that everyone has a daemons, brought something fresh to the fantasy genre. And you've got to love the spirit of his MC, Lyra Belacqua. Craving for more when the series ended I was further enchanted by The Royal National Theatre's production of the story but so disappointed by the movie. It is of no surprise that this was the only children's book ever to win the Whitbread Prize.

4. Piers Torday: The Adventure Series by Willard Price

This 14 book long adventures of animal lovers Hal and Roger may never win the Nobel Prize for Literature. But if there was a a Nobel Prize for great adventure stories that get boys reading, I would have made these stories my number one choice. Much of my early knowledge of the animals and habitats of the world come from these yarns, which always had a strong eco-message decades before it was a mainstream agenda. They are quick to read, addictive and packed with facts on everything from scuba diving to volcanoes. As a young reader I learned the basics of storytelling from them (now continued by Anthony McGowan), not to mention a lifetime's worth of pub quiz trivia - and they deserve broader recognition. 

5. Jim Dean: The Pea's Book Series by Susie Day

The quartet of Pea's Books - soon to be continued in a sequel series, starting with The Secrets of Sam and Sam - feel like classics despite being written so recently. Pea is an utterly delightful lead, I love her sisters and her mother and the strong family bond between them, and there's a wonderfully diverse cast of characters.

6. Aoife Walsh: The Tillerman series by Cynthia Voigt

These books are peopled with incredible characters – from Dicey to Bullet to Mina to Jeff to the rest of them, they are wildly realistic, stressful, uplifting reads. I was an anxious child, always looking for release in books, a neat ending that wrapped up all the worries. These were not those books. These were about struggles that didn't end; these were the books that said that life is hard, and that’s OK. It doesn’t mean you can’t be happy.

7. C.J. Busby: The Chrestomanci books, by Diana Wynne Jones

These aren't a conventional series - the first one written (not the first chronologically) was Charmed Life, and that didn't really get a conventional sequel until almost thirty years later, with The Pinhoe Egg - but in between there are a whole set of stories that somehow or other (often not till the last minute) feature Chrestomanci. They also feature alternative worlds, magic, unexpected villains, and all manner of witches, warlocks, wizards, enchanters and even a goddess. All of them are funny as well as twisted, and full of  the most marvellous writing and invention. I read the early ones as a child, and loved them - I read the later ones as an adult, and still loved them. Diana Wynne Jones is, as Neil Gaiman has said: 'the best writer of magic for children there is'.

8. Claire Fayers: The Earthsea books, by Ursula Le Guin

I came to these quite later, after reading every gigantic fantasy saga that existed at the time, and they were such a refreshing change.  The books are slim but the world of Earthsea is fully developed with a cast of diverse characters. I particularly like the way the characters fail, make mistakes and grow over the course of the stories - they felt far more human to me than the usual plethora of fantasy warriors. Plus there are dragons.  Graceful, wise, ancient, indifferent, dangerous dragons. The Earthsea dragons became my template of what dragons ought to be.

9. Darren Hartwell: Alfred Hitchcock and the The Three Investigators series

Blyton was huge in our family in the 1970s, and we all grew up on a diet of her stories. The Five Find Outers books got me hooked on mystery stories, where proper deduction was required, rather than in The Famous Five books where the four children plus dog more often than not just stumbled onto the solution. At some point I moved on from Blyton, and I think it was when I discovered The Three Investigators - The Mystery of the Green Ghost was, I believe, the book that hooked me, and from that moment on I picked up books whenever I could - local library, jumble sales, charity shops, wherever (and I still have all my original copies). 

This was proper mystery solving, with Jupiter's brains, Pete's physical prowess and Bob's talents for research. The mysteries were clever, dangerous and thrilling to read. They had a secret base of operations hidden under the multitude of items in Jupe's Uncle's junkyard, and for a good few years I yearned to live in Rocky Beach, California, and be the owner of a 3 Investigators business card and a coloured piece of chalk. Sadly, I had to make do with living in middle England, but I made myself one of those cards and I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a piece of chalk as well... and various detetctive manuals, a fingerprint kit, a code making kit (yes, it was my little middle grade obsession, and at that point in my life I was most definitely going to be a detective, or a spy). I could go on and on, but I will instead promise to write a longer article about these for MGSB in the future.

Book Zone (For Boys)

10. Paula Harrison - The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall

I discovered the Penderwicks when looking for books that my (then) 10 year old might like. She'd been living on a diet of fantasy and magic and I thought the realism  of Penderwicks might be a nice change. The books kept us entertained for months. The family of four sisters - each very different - is so well drawn. The scrapes and trials they go through are narrated with such sympathy and humour. I'm very glad we found this series.

Paula Harrison is the author of Red Moon Rising

Friday, 15 May 2015

Re-visiting E. Nesbit

I've been on a bit of a mission lately to read classic books that, for some reason, passed me by as a child. My selection back then was largely governed by what was in the Leighton Buzzard library and what I was given for Christmas. So I'd only read one book by E. Nesbit: The Enchanted Castle. I'd also seen The Railway Children on television lots of times, but never read the book. So I was very happy to borrow The Railway Children from a friend and to buy The Phoenix and the Carpet from my local bookshop.

The first thing that struck me was how the pace of her writing never lags; something that can't be said for all classic children's books. I also enjoyed how assured she is at writing group scenes. In The Phoenix and the Carpet the four siblings figure in most of the scenes, usually with the Phoenix and often with other characters they've encountered on their travels. She never loses sight of the different characters voices and motivations. In one scene in chapter two they are stuck inside a dark tower as a result of a misguided wish:

Then across the carpet they looked at each other, and then every chin was tilted up and every eye sought vainly to see where poor Robert had got to. Of course, they couldn't see him.
"I wish we hadn't come," said Jane.
"You always do," said Cyril, briefly.

Having a magical Phoenix and a wishing carpet seems amazing to the children, but the unintended consequences of their wishes are sometimes hilarious, sometimes irritating and often downright dangerous. I'm enjoying it very much in spite of the occasional outdated attitude relating to class, race and gender. Next I shall be trying The Story of the Treasure Seekers.

Paula Harrison is the author of Red Moon Rising

Thursday, 14 May 2015

What makes you buy a middle grade book?

by Kate Mallinder

That’s the million dollar question isn’t it?  If I knew the answer, I’d be the next JK Rowling!  So how does a particular story end up in the hands of a child?  I started by looking at our family’s bookshelves and thinking – how did we end up with this exact selection of books?  What made us choose the ones we did instead of the thousands of others?  Was it by chance or by choice?

When I think about the adult books I’ve read, a lot of them are recommendations from friends or after hearing something on the radio, or are by an author I’ve enjoyed before.  But when it comes to children’s books, it’s a lot less clear cut. 

So here’s how we got our family selection of middle grade books:
  • A friend or family member bought them
  • Library books influenced by our helpful librarian
  • An author won an award, so we bought their book
  • The books I enjoyed as a child
  • The guided reading list from school
  • We bought and enjoyed the first in a series then worked our way through the set
  • From a quote on the front saying ‘fans of Wimpy Kid will love this book’
  • Book swaps with friends
  • Classic pester power.  Happened this week with Goosebumps (Night of the Living Dummy – he was very specific)
  • The obligatory Christmas annuals
  • School prizes
  • The ‘good for you’ books – times tables ones mainly
  • A selection of ‘classics’, some of which haven’t been read by anyone
  • An author visit to school
  • Free with cereal!

And these are only some of the ways.  It surprised me that there were so many reasons books had arrived in our house.  So many variables.  So many different people’s opinions.

Before I took my writing seriously we would buy books completely without thought of the industry, just getting what we fancied, not worrying if they were newly released, often a little behind the times.  More recently, book blogs and twitter have proved to be excellent ways of finding out which are the best books out there.

What looked like luck before is now taking the shape of someone’s hard work and careful planning with time taken to target different marketing channels.  Authors and publishers work tirelessly at improving the odds of this ‘luck’ happening to their book.  Several authors I’ve spoken to recently say that marketing their book takes up over half of their time.  All this effort to try and create that elusive ‘word of mouth between peers’ recommendation.

Yet still some books are successful and others are not.  Every book is published with a group of people firmly believing in the possibilities of that story, so to some extent, there is still an unknown factor, a certain something, which means the difference between a book making it to the child and not.

This ‘successful’ book is the story everyone is striving to write, trying to sell, desperate to recommend.  It’s got something special in it that speaks to children, captures their imagination or makes them feel differently, maybe see the world in a new way.

As I carry on with my journey through the professional world of publishing I’m encouraged that if the right book is in the right place, at the right time, this ‘luck’ can still happen.

Warning:  This blog is not scientific or definitive and is highly anecdotal!

Kate Mallinder is a writer of middle grade fiction.  She blogs at and you can follow her on twitter @KateMallinder