Welcome to the ‘beautiful jungle’ of kids’ fiction


Image: Pixabay

You wait for one blog post about the merits of children’s fiction, and then two come along at once ...

The other day, I was whining on about how underrated kid’s literature was. How the adult reading public tend to see the classification YA or childrens’ and flee like kittens on a hot griddle.

I was pontificating about how serious the themes in YA often are, how high the quality of writing is in books such as Booker Longlister Philip Pullman’s The Amber Spyglass. How not all fiction for young people drips with vampires and werewolves and soppy, sparkly love triangles.

People just don’t read the stuff, I whined. Why won’t anyone listen to me? I prattled. Seriously, if you want to read a writer in full whinge mode, then here is a good place to start.

And then do you know what happened?

The next day – the very next day – after that blog was blogged, the Costa Book of the Year was announced. Formerly the Whitbread Book Awards, they’re a pretty deal. Previous winners include Ian McEwan, Seamus Heaney, Salman Rushdie, Ted Hughes, Hilary Mantell – some of the biggest of the big hitters in literary terms.

There are categories for first novel, novel, biography, poetry and children’s books and then an overall winner is chosen.

And that winner this year was …

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge – a novel written for children featuring a 14-year-old heroine.

Now, I’m not saying tha Costa judges allowed the contents of this blog to sway their final decision. I would never suggest I have the ear of such a prestigious group of people, though it seems a hell of a coincidence, doesn’t it?

And, though I haven’t yet read The Lie Tree I will definitely search it out in the future – it’s a Victorian murder mystery which involves science, gender politics and a tree that grows when you whisper lies to it. What’s not to love about that presmise?

It’s only the second time the Costa Book of the Year has been won by a children’s book, the first one being … The Amber Spyglass

Now, I’m sure the total of £35,000 in prize money Hardinge won will be very much appreciated.

But even better in my view, will be the increase in attention and sales, which will perhaps spill over to other kid’s writers.

As Hardinge said when accepting the award,

For those people who might be hearing this who think that children’s and YA fiction is not their thing please do come and explore – there’s a beautiful jungle out there.


There were some other, very fine nominees for the award, my particualr favourite being Kate Atkinson –  if you haven’t read any of her books, you could do worse than start with her debut Behind the Scenes at the Museum.


Leibster Award nominations – Awards, huh, good god y’all … #2


Time to shake off my Spanx (other elasticated, butt-strangling clothing technology is available), pour myself into something sequined and age inappropriate and wander down the virtual red carpet once again.

I have received four very kind and generous nominations for the Leibster Award. Some of these nominations were given a long while ago, so to those who nominated me and have waited weeks for me to finally get round to doing something about said nominations – I apologise for my tardiness.

I could make excuses – early-ish onset senility, post-traumatic stress disorder over the recent UK elections, the loss of a limb to a ravenous big cat – but they would, of course be just that – excuses.

I don’t know why it’s taken me this long to accept the award, but let’s pretend I’ve been involved in a six-figure-sum bidding war over my latest book, torn between the niche publisher offering little but who could secure me an adaptation deal with good old Auntie Beeb (the BBC to non-Brits) and the huge, global monster publisher who want to sell the rights to James Cameron so he can trash the dialogue and fill it full of eight-foot tall blue aliens, despite the fact it’s set in a 12th century monastery in County Clare.*

Yeah, let’s say that.

For the record and with gratitude for the fact they read this nonsense, let alone think enough of it to give me an award, the lovely people who nominated me are –

Eleanore Miller from Eleanore’s Ramblings.

Lucy Danvers of Icecoffeecouture.

Mary Tyas of Bali info

Annie of A Beginner’s Blogger Diary

The Leibster Rules seem to have morphed over time and change according to which site you visit. Here’s what I’ve chosen to do-

1. thank the person who nominated you, and post a link to their blog on your blog.

2. display the award on your blog by including it in your post.

3. answer 11 questions about yourself, which will be provided to you by the person who nominated you.

4. nominate 5 – 11 blogs that you feel deserve the award, who have a less than 1000 followers.

5. create a new list of questions for the blogger to answer.

6. list these rules in your post.

8. Inform the people/blogs that you nominated that they have been nominated for the Liebster award.

I’ve chosen to answer the questions set by Annie

1. Why do you blog? What drives you?

Hmm. I’ll be honest. I want to give up my day job and write full-time for a living from a tree house with a beautiful view of the sea/ a forest/ David Tennant.

I’m told these days publishers expect writers to venture out into the webisphere, to be accessible, to have built an online presence, preferably with a few hundred thousand followers. This is why I started a blog. However . . . since February, I’ve met lots of lovely, amazingly talented people online and now I spend as much time reading what they have to say as developing my own following. What am I like?

2. What is your blogging routine?

I try and write the week’s blog posts on Monday and schedule them so they’re trickled out over the week. Wednesday Word Tangle on Wednesday (I’m no rebel, man) and Books in the Blood is probably stuck to Monday. I’ve just got involved with (when I say ‘just’ I mean I’ve taken part in one!) Micro Bookends Thursday micro fiction challenge. Very tasty.

3. What message do you want to transmit?

Message? Good lord, I’m too dense to transmit a message. I try and make my posts entertaining and short-ish. I like being daft and hope to raise a smile and share a bit of fiction along the way. That’s it.

4. Who is your audience?

Hmm (again). I’m redrafting a YA fantasy book at the moment but other novel ideas I’ve had have been aimed at adults (cosy crime, gothic crime, horror, steam punk), younger children (action adventure with mythical beasties). I like to read something with a bit of mystery myself, so I guess I like to write the same.

5. What do you want people to know about you?

That my laptop is called Dominic Silverstreak and that we have a very intense relationship but we like our privacy, so no papparazzi please. And if any of you ‘people’ are literary agents . . . 🙂

6. What has been your biggest challenge in life?

Being a teenager nearly broke me. And there have been a few other times . . . But hey, I’m willing to discuss my straggly gussets, but not that.

7. Give some piece of advice to your fellow bloggers.

Blimey! Me, give advice? I’m the blogger-sponge, absorbing every hint, tip and peck of guidance that comes my way. I guess from my experience as a blog reader . . . be entertaining, keep it brief (she says, hitting a word count of 12,00 plus words!) and give (just a little) of yourself.

8. What makes you happy?

Husband, son, writing, garden, the seaside.

9. Tell us about a dream come true.

The day I married my husband. The day I realised we were pregnant after two years of trying. The day that pregnancy turned into a birth. I know that’s dreams, not a dream, but hey – they’re my dreams, hands off!

10. Tell us about a dream you want to come true.

See above. Writing, tree house, David Tennant – if husband’s okay with that.

11. Where do you want to be 5 years from now?

Writing, tree house . . . I’d like to be in a Waterstones, signing copies of my second novel in my YA series, chatting to excited teens about my characters.

With a cup of tea and a gluten-free cake nearby, please.

Now, my nominees are-

desperately seeking cymbeline, an entertaiing blog about one person’s search to watch every Shakespeare play.

The Drabble, a great flash fiction site.

Still life with a grad student, sweary, ranty, funny blog.

Fannie Frankfurter, funny, honest and entertaining.

Adoption, honest, funny, blog about the ups and downs of adoption.

Fiction writer with a blog, a great site with great writing. I particularly like the ‘Cliche’ posts- always interesting.

Only 100 words, such lovely fiction and a great use of the 100 word count for serials – clever lady.

Overcoming bloglessness, writing and photo blog full of wit which I would nominate for the ‘about’ page alone.

Kittykatbitsandbobs, one of my favourite online people and originator of W4W (Word for Wednesday). Funny, cheeky and generous.

I could’ve nommed more, but you’ve all either got too many followers to qualify, or you’ve nommed me already!

Right, I’ve gone on long enough. This post is twice the length I usually write and I’m sure no one is reading anymore. So, lovely nominees – please answer the following questions.

1. Why do you blog?

2. Who’s your dream audience?

3. Cats or dogs?

4. Muesli or bacon and eggs?

5. Which was your best blog post and why?

6. Your favourite book as a kid?

7. What’s the most personal piece of information you’ve revealed on your blog? Did you regret it afterwards?

8. What are your blogging ambitions?

9. Favourite venue for a first date?

10. Would you be a superhero or a supervillain and what powers would you have?

11. What’s your dream Writer’s Cave, the place you’d love to write from?

Okay, that’s enough, I’m knackered.

Good luck to all, bonne chance, adieu. Thanks again for the kind nominations.  x

* I would, of course sell to Auntie Beeb. Even if the cash was pathetic in comparision. No, I would – honest.

Awards- huh, good God, y’all!


I’ve never enjoyed award shows. I like finding out the results- best actor, best actress, best novel- but I don’t want to hear people thanking their manicurist, their personal trainers, the woman who washes their underwear. All valuable jobs, I know, but I just don’t want to hear it for hours and hours… And anyway, awards are totally subjective, they’re not a reflection of the quality of your work, only of internal politics and the size of your PR budget. Right?

Well, maybe. But today I found I’d been nominated for a Liebster Award, an award for bloggers voted for by bloggers. Now that’s the kind of praise we all like, isn’t it? When other writers say lovely things about my stories, it’s the very best praise and makes me feel slightly taller all day. Anyway, must crack on, because there are RULES WHICH MUST BE OBEYED.

(1) Un- Put the Liebster Award logo on your blog.(Very proud of myself with this. As you might guess from my largely blank posts, I’ve struggled with inserting images, mainly cos of the copyright stuff- tres confusing.)

(2) Deux- Thank and tag the blog who nominated you.
So, my thanks go to the lovely Divya, writer of Another Teenager’s Time Capsule, who nominated me. Merci, cheri.

(3) Trois- Answer their questions and come up with 10 (dix) new ones for your nominees

(4) Quatre- Nominate 8 blogs (with less than 200 followers), let them know you’ve nominated them and link them in your post

(5) Cinq- No tag-backs.

For parts trois and quatre, see below. (My apologies for slipping into schoolgirl French today- the excitement has obviously kicked a few synapses into a spasm, shaking loose some brain-luggage I thought I’d lost.)

Here are my answers to Divya’s (tres difficile)questions.

1. What do “Little things” mean to you? Ladybirds, matchboxes, atoms, those bits of nail that hang off, but seem to catch on everything.

2. What is the real-est advice you’ve ever been given? Never eat anything bigger than your own head.

3. What is your favourite season? Le Printemps- wonderful Spring, when the cherry blossom blooms and the bees start to bumble.

4. What is your favourite vacation-spot? Don’t go on holiday, pretty much ever. Wouldn’t mind seeing Italy- Pompeii, Rome, Herculaneum. LOVE old/ dead stuff.

5. Would you rather eat at a restaurant or a fast-food joint? A restaurant- deffo. I have Coeliac disease (no wheat, barley, rye or most oats) and am vegetarian, so most fast-food places don’t cater for weirdos like me. NEVER invite me to dinner- I’m a nightmare.

6. Why did you begin blogging? I meant to start years ago because I’m trying to write and authors are expected to have ‘platforms’ and ‘brands’ these days. I really enjoy blathering on, though.

7. What is your “Happily ever after”? Huge publishing deal, film rights optioned on everything I ever write. My son to carry on being beautiful,lovely and happy. Health for me and mine. Oh, and for the people of the world to stop kicking seven shades of poo out of one another. Not too much to ask, is it?

8. Where would you like to work? In a tree house, in a massive oak tree, with light, heat, a view of the sea/ woodland and tea and coffee making facilities. And a loo.

9. Which fictional character do you relate to the most? This varies from day to day. At the moment it’s Petronella from ‘The Minaturist’. When I was a kid it was Will Stanton from ‘The Dark is Rising’ by Susan Cooper. I just wanted to be him. When I write, it’s my characters. Edie from my YA book. Neil from my supernatural mystery book. Pat from my historical crime novel. All have bits of me, bits of the ME I want to be. (Ooh, that rhymed.)

10. Do you have a favourite question yet? How would you like to write for a living? What are you doing here so early- wet the bed?

Second part of numero tre (slipped into Italian now), ten questions of my own.

(1) What was your favourite book as a child and why?
(2) If you were a Supervillain, who would you want to be and why?
(3) If you could only save one animal from a global extinction, what would it be?
(4) Where’s your happy place? Describe.
(5) E-readers or conventional books?
(6) If you could choose one piece of tech from a Bond movie, which would it be?
(7) What are the three foods that you wouldn’t want to live without?
(8) If a griffin fought a hydra, which would win?
(9) What’s the favourite post you’ve posted?
(10)What’s the best piece of conversation you’ve ever overheard? (Mine was one old lady talking to another- ‘She follows her Dad with that nose.’ Brilliant.)

My nominees are-
Making it Write
Only 100 Words
The Book of Greg
Good Woman
Writing Stories Rocks
Marco Batenburg
Homemade Naturally
Nova Scotia Roots

I’d like to thank my primary school English teacher, the man down the fish and chip shop who gives me free battered bits every Thursday…