Wolf Hats and Noodly Boobs


Thank you Chuck Wendig for reminding me how much fun I had last year doing a blog about the bizarre search terms people key into their computers which bring them to phraseandfable. You may recall that deep sea racing mullet and the mysterious spelling glove. It’s time for a few more.

wolf hat Wolf Hats and Noodly Boobs

In the natural order of things, these items presumably go together. I’m off to Sainsburys, do I have everything? Wolf hat, check. Noodly boobs, gotcha. Yay, I’m off to the supermarket in my wolf hat and noodly boobs, everybody sing! The wolf hat has furry earflaps and maybe some beading on the chin strap to get that Native American vibe. The noodly boobs are an add-on, an afterthought, perhaps they even jingle shortly before you douse them in chilli sauce and slurp.

Ponsonable Poams

Hot patooties, that poam’s ponsonable. It’s got ponsons coursing through it, pulsing with promise in iambic pentameter. Poams should be groaned in the gloaming, coated in foal foam for maximum ponsonability. Don’t you find?


Not quite the look I wanted

Squirrel in a Sarong

This South East Asian rodent may be shy, but it instinctively knows its way around several metres of batik. It says ‘nuts’ to man-made fibres because they chafe. Here it comes now, sashaying shamelessly down the beach at Phuket, flicking its tail in such a way that its tiny, brightly coloured garment sways and swings behind it. Go forth and hula, small skirted creature.

And stay off my droll yankee or I’ll shoot you and turn your bottom half into a napkin.

Paperclip Chainmail

I’m off down the Hundred Years War, love. You seen my chainmail?


The one in paperclip chainmail’s MINE

Think I washed it.

You washed my chainmail? How am I supposed to charge down the enemy now?

We’ll use these paperclips the tax collector left behind last time he came collecting our tithes. Link them up and voila: Henry V’s your uncle.

Don’t go using French words at me.

You look great. Dead macho. Just promise you’ll move around a lot. They mow you down when you’re stationery.


Here Endeth the End


There’s a great new blog entry from my super-lovely agent Stephanie Thwaites over on www.childrensliteraryagent.co.uk, all about starting books with that all-important opening. That hook that gets right into your mouth and tugs.

wildtiger-1My first sentence for WILD #1: TIGER TROUBLE is:

‘When a tiger lands on you first thing in the morning, even when they’re four months old, you know about it.’

Did I land you? You at the back, stop chortling.

Steph’s blog made me think about ending stuff with bangs too. Nothing muted, nothing neat. Something that goes boom. Literally in the case of TIGER TROUBLE:

‘Did… our house just blow up?’

I confess that this was designed as a springboard into the next book, where it returns as the first sentence. What a cop out. My favourite example of a real, no-hidden-agenda-or-follow-up-book BANG of an ending is Joseph Heller’s CATCH-22.

‘The knife came down, missing him by inches, and he took off.’

wileDoes anyone produce endings like that any more? Endings that revel in inconclusiveness? I haven’t noticed Wile E. Coyote running off his cliff lately. These days he invests in better footwear, makes friends with Road Runner and stops subscribing to all those hopeless Acme products.


In my picture book text, the main character is eaten and NOT regurgitated in a fit of penitence and stomach acid. Yay for that. Now I’m reaching the end of my teenage novel and the scent of challenge is in my nostrils. How best to bring all the strings of my hormonal balloons together and ignite them in such a way that the balloons explode in a synchronised blast of shredded rubber? As it were? (Is that guy at the back still laughing?)

Any breathtaking endings out there that you love?

The Definition of Beauty


I’m going out on a limb here, writing again so soon after my thoughts regarding Malorie Blackman and her new role as Children’s Laureate. But a tweet from the British Museum in celebration of its 260th birthday today – ‘What’s your favourite piece from the British Museum collection?’ – got me thinking about two remarkable objects in its possession which I first discovered over twenty years ago.

I dug out a picture. Glory! They are just as perfect as I remembered when I first studied them on Professor Hutton’s Pagan Religions of the British Isles course at Bristol University 1990-1991. Colour, detail. Breathtaking from every angle. And so SMALL. Created without machines, magnifying glasses, modern tools. I defy modern jewellers to do better.

sutton hoo pyramids



Historians think they were decorative pommels attached to leather thongs, which in turn were attached to the sword found in the great 6th century Sutton Hoo ship burial in Suffolk. There isn’t much of the sword left. It looks like a stretched, flattened cat-food tin that’s been left in the rain for fifteen hundred years. The sword doesn’t thrill me at all. But the decorations. Oh boy, the decorations.

Who made them? Did they use magic?

There’s a story right there.


Children’s Laureate: the Challenge


_67955667_malorie-blackman-photoMalorie Blackman is the new Children’s Laureate 2013-2015. A triumphant choice. Here’s what I would like to see her do.

  • Introduce a primetime weekly TV show where people discuss children’s books with wit and humour while armed with large bags of Tangfastics. I will happily go on that show. Tangfastics fuel a tremendous urge for dialogue within me, plus a desire to climb trees and surf down Firgrove Hill on an ironing board. Haribo might like to sponsor this show.
  • Talking of ironing boards, let’s encourage people to act out famous scenes from children’s books like Alex Rider’s ironing board stunt in Point Blanc and post them up on social media with links to bookshops. (I am happy to volunteer. Price, one box of Tangfastics.)
  • Have a different celebrity a month commit to carrying a children’s book with them wherever they go, so children can see a book as an awesome accessory considerably less painful than a belly ring.
  • Ensure that national newspapers dedicate a quarter of their book review space to children’s books, as an accurate reflection of the 1 in 4 books sold today being children’s titles. (Thank you, outgoing Laureate Julia Donaldson for raising this.)
  • Start a guerrilla library movement. Set up libraries in unlikely places. Overnight. WITH NO WARNING. Make them mysterious, not municipal.
  • UnknownEncourage adults to hold children’s book clubs. Not children’s book-clubs, but CHILDREN’S-BOOK CLUBS. Instead of talking endlessly about Fifty Shades of Boring, grown-ups can read and discuss, for example, funny cancer, the perils of floating, parallel worlds and the role of dragons in society. They can then make informed choices for their children, passing on those books which have caused genuine tears / laughter / bladder-control issues instead of blind-buying titles they have vaguely heard of or maybe read themselves in Upper Fourth in 1953.
  • Enshrine library lessons in schools.
  • Make sure every primary school child has a library card.

What? The library card one’s already in hand? Hot damn, I knew she was a good choice.

Split Personality


I write lots of different kinds of books. Animals, aliens, fairies, monsters. And now I’m writing about… teenagers. But also writing about… penguins. And shortly pitching about… jungles.

This could end badly.


Mwa mwa mwa

The teenagers are kissing, fighting, acting, singing and dancing, dreaming of boys and girls, organising parties, painting each other like zombies. There are French exchange girls with boys on the brain, a moon with the kind of powers you don’t want to mess with and a dude in dodgy trainers. Did I mention the kissing? There’s lots of kissing.


Aim at the teenager! BOOP!

The penguins are zooming around in space, escaping from warring weirdos with too many eyes and a vast space zoo full of creatures to give Mexican bird-eating spiders nightmares as they fold up their long hairy legs and quake in the Central American undergrowth. Wham! Blam! Boop! (Intrepid pilot Rocky Waddle wishes to advise you never to peer down the barrel of a stun gun when it goes ‘Boop’.)

The jungle is enduring a cross little girl with too many opinions and absolutely no idea that she’s being followed by something large and hungry.


I have bare red knees innit

AND NONE OF THEM ARE BEING WRITTEN because I’m writing YOU. I have to concentrate or lose not just spinning plates but entire meals balanced thereon. At least one of my plates has a full roast lunch on it and gravy is going everywhere.

Where was I? Oh yes. Zombie penguins in the jungle.

*pootles off, whistling vaguely*


Eating One’s Words


Spot the difference. One of these is a cake. One is the cover of the book. WHICH IS WHICH?



***** suspenseful music *****

The one on the left is, of course, the cake,

made by Holly Webb!

*loud cheering*

(Or do I mean the one on the right?)


I urge you to check out the rest at the Edible Book Festival over at www.playingbythebook.net. Do it now. There are 61 entries from 5 continents. Load the pictures as a slideshow. I can wait.

*checks email, makes another cup of coffee*

Seen them? Aren’t they brilliant? Holly’s should win of course, because I am entirely biased and she has caught Space Penguin Captain T. Krill to a T (Krill). Seems a shame to eat it, really. I must remind myself that this is what cakes are for.

UPDATE: Holly’s cake came second! Whoop whoop!


Waddle Twaddle


When you deliberately set out to follow lots of people on Twitter with the word ‘penguin’ in their Twitter address simply because you are madly promoting a series called SPACE PENGUINS – yes, that’s SPACE PENGUINS – you are guaranteed an amusing time.


Here is my assortment, amassed over the last two weeks. My colony, if you will.

1. Penguin Social (@PenguinSocial): Feel uncomfortable among your contemporaries? Suffer from fish breath, identity crises, chilblains? Pop over to Penguin Social to set your tiny penguin mind at rest.

2. Little Penguin (@OhDearPenguin): Heavily into British accents. What.

3. Awkward Penguin (@_AwkwardPenguin): Hasn’t responded to my follow, which is a little… what’s the word… difficult?

4. SpacePenguin(Spacey) (@AstroPenguin1): So out there that he has the word Space in his Twitter name twice.

5. Space Penguin (@THESpacePenguin): A little aggrieved at being alone no longer, but that’s the way the cuttlefish crumbles.

Alfie6. Space Penguin (@_SpacePenguin): A band from Bridlington. Rockhopper on!

7. Emma Dean (@spacepenguins85): Makes me think of school discos in shiny balldresses, don’t know why.

8. Leroy Penguin (@Leroy_penguin): Hip Hop rapping, eyebrow raising, tequila smashing afro penguin, 18. Too cool to follow me back.

9. Alice Sheppard (@PenguinGalaxy): MSc Astrophysicist, citizen science maniac and general dazed waffler (her words, not mine).

10. Pedro Penguin (@PedroPenguin): AN ACTUAL PENGUIN (African) at Toronto Zoo. He doesn’t tweet much. It’s more of a honking sound.

11. Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins): Ice hockey team. Given to incomprehensibilities like “X played 4 years with #Canes, tallying 53G-54A=107 in 286 reg-season games!”

12. The Penguin Press (@penguinpress): Not literally a press for squeezing penguins, I’m guessing? Though possibly not unlike those apple presses owned by cool people in the country with their own orchards.

13. Team Penguin (@TeamPeng): For all your RuneScape Penguin Distraction & Diversion Means! which explains them perfectly if you are fluent in geek.

14. Penguin Magic (@penguinmagic): Much in demand for children’s parties in Antarctica.

15. Penguin Books UK (@PenguinUKBooks): Why call yourself Penguin Books UK and yet tweet most confusingly as @PenguinUKBooks? Just a thought. (They don’t publish me.)

SPACE PENGUINS are out now. Finally. Buy them all please, for me and lovely illustrator James Davies. One for all and all for FISH!