Thursday 3 March 2016

Happy Book Birthday: March Edition

Some really brilliant MG books coming out around now! A huge thanks to Laura Ellen Anderson, Phil Earle, Abi Elphinstone, Mark Huckerby, Ross Montgomery, Nick Ostler, Sibeal Pounder, Tania Unsworth, Harriet Whitehorn and Katherine Woodfine for taking part this month.

If your main character was going to a party to celebrate their book birthday, what would they wear?

Harriet: Poor Violet would want to wear a pair of scruffy jeans and an old t-shirt, but her mother Camille would probably make her wear something smarter, and if her formidable French grandmother, Grand-mere, had her way, Violet would be wearing an old fashioned  smocked party dress with a bow in her hair.

Phil: If Mouse from Superhero Street was going to a party, he’d definitely be wearing his full superhero costume. For too long Mouse hid his cape beneath his school uniform (and tucked it into his pants).
So for a book birthday party he’d be wearing his beach towel as a cape, plus his trunks and goggles. After all, he’s Mouse the Mighty!

Ross: The main character of Perijee & Me is 10-year old Caitlin, and she would wear what she always wears, whatever the weather - a blue woolly bobble hat and yellow wellies. I'm not sure what else she'd wear to a party - although knowing her she'd probably paint her face to look like Spider-Man and steal her mum's wedding dress, as its a special occasion.

Laura: I'm choosing Fran the Fabulous Fairy, because she is SUPER fun to draw thanks to Sibeal's fantastic characterisation! Fran would definitely wear something big, bold, shiny and sparkly. It would be super tacky, and since the colour is seeping back in to Ritzy City, I think it would be BRIGHT.

What three things would they most want to find in their party bag?

Abi: My main character, Moll, is super punchy. If she opened her party bag and found a piece of cake she would probably chuck it in your face. But if she reached inside her party bag and found a catapult, an arrow fletched with buzzard feathers and an amulet (that last item would save her A LOT of effort) she would be absolutely delighted.

Laura: 1. GLITTER. Always glitter.

2. Books about Fran and how fabulous she is.

3. More glitter.

What would be the main character’s ideal birthday cake?

Katherine: Whether they are going undercover at a high society tea-party, or enjoying a day out with the Sinclair’s staff, Sophie and Lil can never resist a good cake - so I think they would be especially excited about this!

For Sophie, I’d choose a classic Victoria sponge cake, topped with strawberries and filled with cream and jam, just like the birthday cake she remembers nostalgically at the beginning of The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth. As for Lil, she's definitely a chocolate girl - so for her, the bigger, squashier and chocolatier, the better!

Either way it would have to be a large cake so there is plenty to share with Billy and Joe, as well as the many new friends they make during this adventure.

Ross: Caitlin has actually got a birthday cake recipe! I attach it here.

You will need:
- one cake
- one packet of haribo
- one jar of jam, or brown sauce

1. Scoop middle out of cake. Eat delicious middle.
2. Fill middle with haribo.
3. Cover whole cake in delicious jam, or delicious brown sauce (whichever is more delicious). It should now resemble a smouldering red of brown volcano.
4. Put in a hot oven for ten hours, or something.
5. Enjoy! Try not to get any of it on your mum's wedding dress.

Sibeal: Fran would no doubt want a marzipan sculpture of her face. Tiga... hmm... probably something filled with jam, or just any cake as long as it didn't taste of Miss Heks' infamous cheese water.

What party game would they be most confident in winning at?

Mark and Nick: That kind of depends whether we’re talking about plain old Alfie, the hapless young King, or his alter-ego, superhero the Defender. Because the Defender would be able to win most party games with ease. He could use his ‘Scout Orb’ to beam pictures of ‘pin the tail on the donkey’ straight to his mind and show him where to place the pin. And if it was Musical Chairs he could use his Command power to move the chair towards him at lightning speed (assuming the chair is made in the UK!). Mind you, the Defender isn’t a cheat, so maybe he wouldn’t use his powers at all. And if it was plain old Alfie, he’d probably trip up way before he got close to winning any games!

Harriet: Violet is particularly good at poker, but perhaps it’s not that kind of party! I think she has the combination of physical dexterity and ruthlessness when needed, to win musical chairs. 

What was the most memorable birthday party you had, or went to, when you were a child?

Tania: I didn’t go to school until I was six. I remember walking into the classroom that first day, feeling bewildered. I didn’t know what maths was, or why I had to wait until break to go to the loo. More importantly, I didn’t know how to make friends. I didn’t even know I was supposed to make friends. I only realized it just before my seventh birthday when my mum told me to invite some kids from my class to a party.

I knew I shouldn’t invite any boys (girls and boys were mysteriously separate from each other) but apart from that, I was at a loss. In the end I chose five girls – the ones with the nicest hair – and put the invitations on their desks when they weren’t looking. On the day of the party, my mum made a cake and I put on a pretty dress and waited.

Nobody came. They didn’t even call to say they weren’t coming. My mum finally phoned a friend and got her to bring her kid over so I could have someone to play with. It was a boy from my school. The one who always got in trouble for fighting in the playground. We sat and stared at each other and ate cake. He broke one of my birthday presents - half on purpose - and then we ran around aimlessly for a bit. It was a terrible party, although by the end of the day it didn’t matter.

I’d discovered something: I really, really liked that boy.

Nick: For several years my birthday treat used to be taking a few friends to the cinema. But that meant it had to be whatever film we were old enough to see that happened to be on at our small local cinema when my birthday rolled round. So it was usually something pretty lame – the low point was a film about a dog called Benji who got stranded in the woods. But then when I turned ten years old we lucked out with Rocky IV – Dolph Lungren as Russian man-mountain Drago, the Cold War played out in a boxing ring to a James Brown soundtrack! That film really helped me claw back some credibility with my mates.

If money was no object, what kind of party would you throw to celebrate publication?

Abi: I would invite all my guests to a party in a forest. At midnight. There would be fairy lights hanging from the trees, I would swing from a vine into the clearing to deliver my speech, there would be fireworks that spelt MOLL in the night sky and we would all boogie on top of Romany gypsy wagons until the sun came up.

Phil: If money was no object, I’d still hold exactly the same sort of celebration party. For the last three years we’ve taken over my favourite bookshop, The Bookseller Crow On The Hill and filled it with as many friends as possible. It’s always a busy, funny and slightly drunken evening, but that’s exactly how I like it to be honest.

Tania: The Secret Life of Daisy Fitzjohn is set in a huge, beautiful stately home, where animals can talk and figures in old paintings come to life. If I was a zillionaire, I’d rent Holkham Hall in Norfolk for my book launch party. We’d have some kind of insane treasure hunt through all the old rooms and secret corridors. Everyone who said nice things about my book would get a puppy to take home. Or a lifetime supply of champagne. Their choice.

Katherine: I think it would be amazing to recreate the grand Edwardian fancy-dress ball that takes place in The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth. Everyone could come dressed up in beautiful 1900s-style fancy-dress costumes, glamorous gowns and bejewelled masks; we’d drink champagne; dance waltzes and polkas; and of course, eat lots of delicious Edwardian-inspired treats!

This isn't particularly elaborate, just not at all witchy and thus completely random, but I'd love to do that new Crystal Maze experience with everyone. Come celebrate the launch of Witch Watch at the Crystal Maze Experience! Maybe we could all wear witchy hats and it would be less weird? No? No.

Abi Elphinstone grew up in Scotland where she spent most of her childhood building dens, hiding in tree houses and running wild across highland glens. After being coaxed out of her tree house, she studied English at Bristol University and then worked as a teacher. The Dreamsnatcher was her debut novel for 8-12 years and has recently been longlisted for the Brandford Boase Award. The Shadow Keeper is her second book and when she's not writing, Abi volunteers for Beanstalk, teaches creative writing workshops in schools and travels the world looking for her next story. Her latest adventure involved living with the Kazakh Eagle Hunters in Mongolia and you can read about that here.

Twitter: @moontrug
Instagram: @moontrugger

Mark Huckerby and Nick Ostler are Emmy and BAFTA-nominated screenwriters best known for writing popular TV shows such as Danger Mouse and Thunderbirds Are Go!

Mark and Nick’s website is as follows:

And their twitter handles are @Huckywucky and @Nickostler.

Harriet Whitehorn grew up in London, where she still lives with her husband and three daugh­ters. She has studied at Reading University, the Architectural Association and The Victoria and Albert Museum and has always worked in building conservation. She currently works for English Heritage. Violet and the Pearl of the Orient was her first novel, followed by its sequels, Violet and the Hidden Treasure and Violet and the Smugglers. All of them are illustrated by Becka Moor. Follow her on Twitter @deedeederota2.


Katherine Woodfine was born in Lancashire. She studied English at Bristol University and in 2005 she was highly commended in Vogue magazine’s annual Talent Competition for young writers. She writes an award-winning blog at and her work has been published by Flax Books in the anthology Mostly Truthful. The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow was her first novel and has just been followed by sequel The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth. She is also leading the anthology Mystery & Mayhem by Egmont Books.
Check out her website at and follow her on Twitter at @followtheyellow.

Phil Earle is a former bookseller who works in publishing in addition to writing his books. Superhero Street is a companion novel to his first MG, Demolition Dad, with both books being illustrated by the brilliant Sara Ogilvie.

Visit his website at and follow him on Twitter at @philearle.


Tania's debut YA novel, The One Safe Place, was published in 2015. She has also published two novels for adults with Viking/Fig Tree - The Seahorse and Before We Began. She lives in Boston, USA, with her husband, two sons, a dog called Plum, and a pair of cats.

Visit her author website and follow her on Twitter @TaniaUnsworth1

As a former researcher and writer for the Financial Times, Sibéal Pounder has interviewed everyone from designer Vivienne Westwood to director Sam Taylor-Wood. Now she writes about fabulous witches and feisty fairies in her debut series, Witch Wars. She also tutors children who want to get into the media industry, helping them to develop articles and documentary shorts and teaching them how to put together magazines. Sibéal has a degree in History, a masters in Publishing and recently completed the Faber Academy's Writing for Children course. Sibéal's first book, Witch Wars, was shortlisted for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize 2016. 

Visit her website at and follow her on Twitter at @sibealpounder.

Laura Ellen Anderson has been working as a children's book illustrator since graduating from University College Falmouth in 2010. 

Visit her website at and find her on Twitter at @Lillustrator.

Ross Montgomery started writing stories as a teenager, when he really should have been doing homework, and continued doing so at university. After graduating, he experimented with working as a pig farmer and a postman before deciding to channel these skills into teaching at a primary school.

Visit his website at and find him on Twitter at @mossmontmomery.

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