Introducing 6-year-old author, Morgan Damiba. BOOM.

You know those days you stumble across something really special? Like a four-leafed clover or the coin in the middle of the Christmas pudding? Well, Moontrug has stumbled across something seriously cool. And that ball of coolness comes in the form of Morgan Damiba, a 6-year-old Moontrugger with attitude. Having already written a ten chapter book about her baby sister, Cheeky Baby, Morgan has now written a short story for Moontrug’s homepage. And here it is. So watch this space – Morgan Damiba is a name you’re gonna hear about in years to come. Mark my Moontruggy words.

The Magic Moment

girl by window

Claudia stared out of the window; it was sprinkled with rain. Her only ragged doll was safe in the old, brown rocking chair behind her.  Claudia looked at her pale reflection, so white because her malevolent stepmother had taken over the house and forbidden her to ever go outside.

 

The rain thickened into snow and an ice-bird met Claudia’s face. It said, “Step from the room, through the glass. We need you, Claudia, we were looking for you since the earth started, you will give us great help if you accept to do it. I used to be a sun bird but because Frost, (the evil bat) made it always winter and vowed for the rest of his living that it would be cold, that is why I am frozen. Some of the creatures of the forest have survived but the ice has killed many.”

 

The minute Claudia touched the clear glass she fell through it. The snow followed her while she fell. She landed feet first onto the concrete city floor and looked at her living town up close for the first time. Claudia’s eyes looked as if they would POP OUT.  Everybody paced and glanced at the girl who had been locked up for a long time. The sounds of her footsteps were as quiet as the sound of ladybird’s footsteps.

 

Claudia spotted an old man and behind him was a sealed door. Gingerly, Claudia opened the door and found a still world with only a few weak creatures lying on a tree dripping with snow. The icicles were clinging to the tree, it reminded Claudia of how she used to hold her only ragged doll but that was the past now she was in a forbidden world ruled by ice.  And tucked into the snowy undergrowth Claudia could just see an unpleasant shadow… FROST.

 

Whimpering on the snowiest branch was a fairy queen and her name was Phillippa Sugar-pawn the famous, she was famous! She turned to Claudia and sniffed, “Go to the sea spirits, they will know you since you are our Heroine and they will hopefully hand over the Water-Pearl. Butter will take you.”

 

Claudia saw a huge black butterfly float down towards her. She leapt up onto Butter’s back and they flew towards the sea at the end of the world. The ice clouds were all around them and beneath them the sea stretched out like a giant rubber band.  On the breaking waves Claudia saw 27,999 fairies riding on flying salmon.

sea fish

“Take this Water-Pearl,” the sea spirits said.  Their voices sounded like a drawn out groan.

 

Claudia obediently took the Water-Pearl and Butter flew her back into the forest. Claudia laid the pearl in the middle of the clearing and then seconds later Frost crept up to it and ate it, thinking it was a fairy. All of a sudden, he dissolved into thin air.  And then bit by bit, the forest started to come alive. The sun was melting the ice and the little creatures began to cheer and flutter amongst the beautiful flowers. Claudia realised that it was her time to go so she closed her eyes but instead her ragged doll appeared on her shoulder and said, “Let’s join the party!!”

Once I made a Nazi with toothache laugh… Morris Gleitzman’s Once

When I read John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas a few years ago I thought I’d read the most moving children’s war book out there. And then last week a friend showed me there was a book I’d missed. And now, having finished that book, I want to shout about it from every roof top. Morris Gleitzman’s Once is a MUST READ for 10+ years.

urlClick here to buy on amazon

The book is narrated by a young Jewish boy called Felix. When the Nazis sweep through Poland rounding up the Jews, Felix is taken to an orphanage high up in the Polish mountains by his parents. From there he writes stories about adventures that his book-seller parents might be up to and reads them aloud to the other orphans. But Felix’s life changes forever on the day he receives a carrot in his soup.

Carrots

At first Felix thinks the carrot is a sign sent by his parents to tell him that they’re on their way to take him home. But when a group of Nazis arrive instead to burn any Jewish books at the orphanage, Felix realises his parents might be in danger. He sets out on a journey to find them but what he discovers along the way is going to change him forever… Stories were enough to fight the pain of missing his parents but are they enough to fight back the fears of the Nazis? To keep little Zelda safe? To smuggle medicines after curfew to keep his friends alive?

Book

Felix is one of those characters who stay with you long after you’ve finished reading his story. His mind is a place of stories and wonder – where nuns get bigger servings of food because they need the extra energy for being holy and where people like Just William are ‘alright in the end’. I mean it’s impossible not to love a boy who leaves this as his last message to the nuns before running away:

‘Dear Mother Minka,
Thank you very much for having me. Please don’t worry, I’ll be fine. If possible, can Dodie have my soup? 
Yours faithfully,
Felix’

But Felix’s naive innocence gradually gives way to a deeper understanding of the atrocities going on in 1942 Poland. As a child he sees so much more than the adults around him and we watch powerlessly as he bravely battles through. Once is the first book in a series: Once, Then and Now, and within seconds of finishing Once, I ordered the second two – because I can’t leave Felix on page 150 like that. I HAVE to know what happens next… So thank you, lovely Iona, this book was an Altocumulus Tower find – and that’s something to shout about. For more moontrug war books, click here.

Pants are everything… according to Mark Lowery

I was scouting for Moontruggy reads in Waterstones last week when a certain book caught my eye. Bright cover with a Roald Dahl Funny Prize shortlist sticker, two silly-looking socks and several embarrassing pairs of pants. I knew what that meant… Mark Lowery had written a sequel to his award-winning Socks Are Not Enough. Ha! Out came the wallet – I had to read this.

Pantsare-everything-mark-lowery-Cover-sm

Pants Are Everything…when you’re definitely NOT a nudist is the hilarious story of Michael Swarbrick, a seemingly normal boy, who is swept up in a sequence of events that could ruin his life. Again. At fourteen years old, Michael’s school career is in tatters and this is because, in his own words:

Page 1

Page 2

Michael only wants for two things: to be normal and to date the impossibly gorgeous Lucy King. Sadly neither of those things are going to happen any time soon. Because the odds are against you with a best friend like Paul Beary…

Paul

…and a shameless nudist of a mother.

Mum

…oh, AND a cretin of a brother. But alongside the hilarity of custard-cream onesies, Irish women with hands like polar bears and doner kebabs in suitcases, there is a poignant subplot. Because of his outrageous behaviour, Michael is forced to do a work placement to improve his character. Lumped together with ‘gangsta’ counsellor, Chas, Michael learns that happiness isn’t solely about getting together with Lucy King and staying out of trouble. It’s about helping people who have got worse problems than nudist outings with beach donkeys… And the work that Michael ends up doing from Chas’ ramshackle caravan means more than all his endeavours to set his record straight.

Donkey

Pants are Everything is laugh-out-loud funny and has been tipped by many as a rival to Adrian Mole. So if you’re 10 years old or over, run to the bookshop now. You may have your 11+ exams coming up, but at least you know whatever you’re going through, Michael Swarbrick has it worse…

Can I take the white pigeon home with me? Piers Torday’s The Last Wild

I was hooked on Piers Torday’s best-selling The Last Wild before I even started reading Chapter One. And the reason? There’s a MAP before the story starts – and every great adventure book has a map. There’s a majestic stag on the Valley of Rock, a pigeon fluttering near The Ring of Trees and a Shining Leaf tree inside a sinking swamp. And then there’s the Forest of the Dead and the ominous looking Spectrum Hall… Right from the start my mind was spinning with adventures.

Map

The Last Wild is the story of a boy named Kester. Snatched from his family six years previously, Kester is locked up inside Spectrum Hall Academy for Challenging Children. Kester can understand why most of the other children have been locked inside. But he can’t work out why he is. And yet Spectrum Hall’s sinister wardens are desperate to control Kester, to make him do the one thing he cannot do: speak.

9781780878300 Click here to buy it on amazon

In a world where every animal has supposedly been destroyed because of a deadly ‘red-eye’ virus, Kestrel feels more alone than ever. But when a flock of excited pigeons burst into his bedroom and start talking to him, Kester’s life changes forever. He discovers that he has a gift. Though he cannot speak to humans, he can speak to animals. And that’s just as well – because he’s The One the last animals on earth have been waiting for: the leader of the wild. But can Kester and his wild beat their way past malevolent cullers, starving outsiders and the dreaded Captain Skuldiss? Perhaps – but only if Kester listens very carefully to the stag…

stag The Last Wild boasts some of the most memorable characters in children’s books to date. There’s the Oh So Moontruggy white pigeon – some of his best quotes below…

*Kester! I don’t regret anything!*
*Here is your gift – some old sheep.*
*Not a bad-looking fat bird yourself.*

 

…and the arrogant but completely endearing and courageous wolf-cub:

wolf

*But you had better watch out for me. I will always be watching your back! No, I mean, that is… you should watch your back! That’s all I’m saying.*

 

But the wolf-cub’s not the only character with buckets of courage. When Torday writes Kester’s words ‘Watch me’ on page 279, every fibre inside you will want to leap up and charge towards Premium with Kester’s wild. It’s a fantastic book – a story of unlikely friendships, welly-wearing scrabble players, extraordinary bravery and hope against all odds. Moontrug caught up with author Piers Torday and got the low down on all things WILD.

 

MOONTRUG: Moontrug LOVED the white pigeon in The Last Wild. He’s such an original and brilliant character. How did you come up with the idea for him?

TORDAY: I wanted pigeons to be main characters in the book because I wanted to draw our attention to British animals which seem so ubiquitous and everyday but which – like the example of the passenger pigeon shows – could just as easily become extinct as any other species if we aren’t careful.  They speak as a group, and were a bit serious on their own, so to lighten things up I thought of making one a bit special. And I have always found spoonerisms, malapropisms and word confusions funny – so he just seemed to fit.

MOONTRUG: Wolf-cub is another fantastic character, partly because his arrogance is so endearing and funny and partly because his bravery is so huge. Why did you choose a wolf for this character?

TORDAY: Well, wolves used to be commonplace in Britain but apart from in sanctuaries and zoos they aren’t any longer. The last wild wolf in the UK was shot around 1776. Few animals suffer such misconceptions as the wolf, and too often in children’s books they are just scary monsters (a bit like his father, admittedly!) But in fact wolves are remarkably intelligent creatures capable of forming very deep bonds with humans and I wanted to redress the balance and show just a fraction of how incredible their behaviour can be.

MOONTRUG: Where did the name Kester come from?

TORDAY: I had a friend at school called Kester, which always struck me as unusual. When I was trying to think of a distinctive name for this character it just popped into my mind. But only the name – the character isn’t based on him!

MOONTRUG: If you could reinvent yourself as an animal what would you be and why?

TORDAY: Well I have answered this as a giant sloth before, but the more I think about it, I would say a wolf  – because they are such beautiful, graceful and intelligent animals. Unlike me.

MOONTRUG: Captain Skuldiss is terrifying. Is he based on anyone you know?!

TORDAY: No! He was inspired a bit by the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, who terrified me as a child – and as Skuldiss is the Animal Catcher, it made sense. But my paternal grandfather and great grandmother were Hungarian, they had a very distinctive way of speaking and I borrowed their voices to create him. Luckily for me, however, they were both wonderful and loving people who couldn’t be further from him in every other way.

 

Winner of the 7-9 years Moonbug Story Writing award…

Moontrug is delighted to announce the winner of the 7-9 years Moonbug Story Writing Award…  For a story full of magic and brimming with wonderful names (Pinecone Path and Leafy Lane), delicious foods (love that you managed to squeeze pizza into a fairy gathering!) and beautiful similes (Mr Short put up the fairy lights and they sparkled like jewels), the first prize goes to PHILIPPA BELL!  A very big moontruggy congratulations and you will receive a £20 Waterstone’s card in the post this week. In the meantime, here is Philippa’s story in full:

 

The Dragonfly Party by Philippa Bell (age 7)

Once upon a time there was a village called Treetop village and its streets were named Leafy Lane and Pinecone Path. Every year dragonflies, fairies, butterflies, lady bugs and caterpillars gathered to celebrate a Halloween party. And every October they started getting things ready for the party.

creating setting tree

First the ladybugs started making the food. An old ladybug named Mrs. Spot made a trifle called sweet trifle and it was made from cream, white chocolate, strawberries, sponge fingers, sugar, milk and butter. Mrs Spotty helped her make it because it was so big and other lady bug called Mrs. Bug made scones and cream and also a large pot of jam.
Fairy pippa

Then the caterpillars got the lights ready for the dancing and singing. Mr Long and Mr Short put up the fairy lights and they sparkled like jewels. The moonbeams trembled while the fairies sewed, stitched and knitted beautiful costumes for the fairy children. The butterflies made the most beautiful and magical decorations you’ve ever ever seen and they stitched beautiful flowery bunting. The children at Pine Cone Primary School were doing a school play called Tillie’s Halloween, about Halloween and trick or treating. They practised while the fairies sewed and knitted their pretty costumes. A fairy called Rosey was Tillie and some other people pretended to be other characters.

fairy music

Finally the Halloween party was prepared! The moon glistened as the dragonflies, fairies, caterpillars, butterflies and lady bugs made their way to the party. First they played games like musical statues, pass the parcel and musical bumps. A little girl named Poppy was a flower fairy and she got a prize for winning mystical statues – and a boy named Doe, who was a ladybug, won a yo-yo from the parcel in pass the parcel. An old woman that was a butterfly won musical bumps.

party

Then it was time for the school play which was brilliant because no one forget their lines or made a mistake. At the end of the played everyone cheered and clapped noisily. Finally it was time for tea: scones, cake, jam, cream, homemade sweets, pizza, trifle, chicken and sandwiches. Everyone tucked into the yummy food greedily.  In fact they loved the food so much that by the end of the party it was all finished and there was not a single crumb left. Every one left with a party bag and inside there was a chocolate, a yoyo, teddy, a carton of juice and some bubble mixture. Everyone said bye bye and went home to bed because they were very tired.

bye

There are lots of other fantastic competitions listed here at moontrug: from creating your own David Walliams’ style villain to answering questions about Piers Torday’s The Last Wild.  See moontrug competitions for more…

The magic under Edgware Road…

I’ve never thought of Edgware Road as a magical place. Sure it’s got some yum places to eat but in my head it’s about as magical as a trip to the dentist or a big fat parking fine. But when I step off the road and wind down the narrow steps to the canal, I realise I’m in for a surprise. Because magic is happening all around me down there. It’s dark, the sun has long since set, and the Thames is slinking its inky way between the houses. On one side there is a huge tunnel melting away into shadows but it’s not that way I’m heading. I’m heading into the ferns and plants that are lit up all along the banks of the river.

candle

It’s like stepping into some hidden jungle that only a few people know about. Instead of gum-spattered tarmac there are pots of flowers, rows of vegetables and climbing walls of plants lit by lanterns. Because there’s a whole community down here, living a very different life from the one whizzing by above them. And moored to wooden jetties are their beautifully-painted houseboats: red ones with yellow swirls; green ones with blue stripes; battered ones with shabby curtains; pine-coloured ones with murals on one side.

(Taken with the Vignette app on my mobile phone.)

I notice a black and white cat outside one particular houseboat. It winks at me and then slips inside the boat through an open crack. I pull the latch on the door open – not because I’ve suddenly decided to rob it – but because I’ve been invited round. I step inside and it’s so flipping cool I don’t say anything for a few moments. Tucked inside a wooden shell is a complete world: a stove with a clatter of pans above it; Yeats poems pinned to the wall; candles flickering on a window sill; a string of colourful birds dangling by the fire; rows of spices tucked amongst leather-bound books; photos of faraway places blue-tacked to cabinet doors.

Inside boat

The cat, Jack, throws me a haughty look, like he knows I don’t live in a place this cool. He swaggers, like some sort of territorial pirate, towards the end of the boat. I follow. And it’s a box bed, tucked into the back of the boat, just like the box bed in Moll’s gypsy wagon (click here to read all about that). I think about doing a few starjumps on the bed but then Jack gives me another glare, to say ‘The tour’s over, sister, an’ I want some grub.’

bed

Before long I’m settling down to a candle-lit meal with one or two especially moontruggy friends – and Jack, who’s been sticking his tongue out at me ever since I stole ‘his seat.’ And as the evening goes on, I’m worlds away from Edgware Road. I feel like Lilly Melkun with Cat in Emily Diamand’s brilliant book, Flood Child. Reavers could be just around the corner, prowling the waterways for a seacat just like mine…

book325-FloodChild

Click here to buy Flood Child on amazon

What goes on in closed cupboards? Karen Wallace tells us…

Really funny books make you smile. Really, really funny books make you giggle.  Really, really, really funny books make you laugh out loud.  And that’s embarrassing if you’re on a bus or a train and there are people around you. But that’s what happened when I read Karen Wallace’s award-winning Raspberries on the Yangtze. First published in 2000, it’s been so popular it’s being re-jacketed (yes, even books have to put jackets on in the winter) and re-published this month. Watch this space.

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Raspberries on the Yangtze is not a story about fruit-pickers beside Asia’s longest river. Based on Wallace’s own childhood, it’s the story of a girl, Nancy, growing up in the magical backwoods of Quebec, Canada.  Nancy is down-to-earth, practical and desperate to know everything about everything. Her older brother, Andrew, is a dreamer and a pain (he holds Nancy’s dolls as if he’s grasping a screwdriver) and their friends, Clare and Amy, live their lives between a tumbledown house and the back of a huge old car. Wallace writes: ‘They were like river nymphs or tree spirits, roaming in the woods and living in their make-believe worlds. They were the sort of kids who could have had wings tucked under their tattered blouses and no one would have been surprised.’

Quebec

And then there’s Tracy and Sandra. Both wear tartan pedal pushers, only Tracy looks like a model from a mail order magazine and Sandra looks like ‘a pig that has sat on a waffle iron.’ But Nancy knows there’s more to Tracy and Sandra’s strange house than they are letting on – and her curiosity leads her to find out more…

pig

Moontrug caught up with Karen Wallace and asked her a few questions about raspberries and rivers.

 

MOONTRUG: You grew up in a log cabin in Quebec, much like Nancy. What was your best childhood memory from living there?
WALLACE: My childhood was spent in the woods and on the river.  Many of my best memories are in Raspberries on the Yangtze, like paddling on my log and catching bullfrog tadpoles in the slimiest pond ever.  It was a wild and wonderful childhood and funds all of my writing.

 

MOONTRUG: If you could go back and be a child again in Quebec, is there anything you would have done differently?
WALLACE: Absolutely not.  It was perfect in its time and place.

 

MOONTRUG: We hear you’re writing a book set in World War 2 about a friendship between a girl and a pig. Are we allowed to know any more at this stage?
WALLACE: I am really enjoying writing this story, It’s funny, dark and poignant.  Meantime the editor who is waiting for it is very, very patient!

 

MOONTRUG: Do you have a particular writing pattern or do you just write wherever, whenever?
WALLACE: I write most days when I am not visiting schools or fairs.  I’ve been freelance for a long time and while the ability to write is a gift, you have to work at it.  To my mind, writing books is a job like anything else.

Raspberries

Raspberries on the Yangtze is a brilliant ‘coming-of-age’ story – filled with a real childhood sense of wonder and fear. Best to read the funniest bits at home though – because when Nancy sells Sandra ‘The Facts Of Life’ (her thriving business of telling friends that babies are made in cupboards and born with clothes on) you’ll be laughing so hard the other people on the bus or train will think you’re really, really odd…

Back off, Mummy… David Walliams and his Demon Dentist

David Walliams has been busy.  In six years, he’s churned out six best-selling children’s books: The Boy in the Dress, Mr Stink, Billionaire Boy, Gangsta Granny, Ratburger – and now, Demon Dentist.  Small wonder he’s been likened to his all-time hero, Roald Dahl.  His characters are as memorable and his plots are just as brilliantly dreamt up.  And his latest book, Demon Dentist, is no exception.

Demon-Dentist-web

Alfie is a twelve-year-old boy with rotten teeth who has refused to visit the dentist ever since the day Mr Erstwhile used a particularly strong piece of dental floss and a very rotund dental nurse, Mrs Prig, to yank one of his precious teeth out.  But when Alfie is forced to visit the new dentist, Mrs Root (who likes to be known as ‘Mummy’), he discovers something sinister is going on.  Children all over the town are waking up to find glistening eyeballs, dead slugs, live spiders and earwigs lurking under their pillows – and Alfie is pretty sure the new Mrs Root has something to do with it. The book is packed full of action, including one of the best chase scenes moontrug has ever read which lasts 47 pages…

Chase

… and involves:

  • A bottom-burping social worker
  • An impro-loving Drama teacher
  • A fantastically average headmaster
  • A knicker-flashing Science teacher
  • A chubby-legged dinner lady
  • A rake-brandishing caretaker
  • A zimmer-clutching secretary
  • A ready-salted obsessed policeman

And Walliams’ characters are as brilliant as some of Roald Dahl’s best.  There’s PC Plank, a fabulously lazy policeman who prefers arresting octogenarians for stealing Scotch Eggs rather than fighting dental crime (too busy using special evidence bags for jam sandwiches…)

PlankAnd there’s a villain so gross, so scary, so ghastly, so evil, so vile that Miss Trunchbull looks like a fairy godmother in comparison… Meet Mrs Root, the Demon Dentist, and her malicious white cat, Fang.

Root

And of course there’s Texting Boy who spends all of his time – well – texting.

Texting Boy

The illustrations, by Tony Ross, are as absorbing as Quentin Blake’s and moontrug particularly liked the ones on pages 352-3.  He he he.  Oh, and this one:

AlfieJust yesterday moontrug saw a boy reading Demon Dentist on a bus.  He was laughing so hard the bus driver had to tell him to ‘zip it or hop it’.  It’ll be a while before Walliams gets us giggling with his next book but he’s left moontruggers something to be getting on with in the meantime:

Comp

So get scribbling, truggers – let’s see your villains come to life!

I ain’t no pink cover girl! Or I wasn’t until I read McCombie’s books…

A few weeks ago I noticed that a very famous author was following moontrug on twitter.  I wondered whether she’d made a mistake when typing and had really searched for moonpig or Tales on Moon Lane and had ended up typing moontrug by mistake.  But when I got in touch with her and she wrote back: ‘Your site is very lovely; I like a nice cloud’ I was full of moontruggish glee. Karen McCombie, author of over 70 books which have sold over a million copies world-wide, is a moontrugger. Boom. Possibly most famous for her brilliant Ally series (detailing Ally’s numerous adventures within her borderline fruitcake family), it is her latest book, The Year of Big Dreams, that I’ve been reading. Click here to buy it on amazon.

books_novels_YearOfBigDream

Set amidst the hype of a TV talent contest, The Year of Big Dreams sees Flo Brown coping with a newly-famous mum, with girls at school only befriending her because she’s got celebrity status and with a long-lost Dad who barely knows Flo exists.  If you’re a fan of Britain’s Got Talent or X-Factor, this is your book.  The story is narrated by Flo and right from the very first pages you’re drawn into her teenage world and the vibrant lives of those on Marigold Parade.  But the fairy-tale ending that Flo hopes for doesn’t materialise quite as you would expect….

Britains got talent

I’m not usually a fan of ‘pink cover’ books but McCombie’s gone and changed my mind. She’s a fab writer for girls wanting stories rooted in the twists and turns of every day life. And to top it all off, she grew up in the wilds of Scotland, where moontrug also had her beginnings. So for more about McCombie and her latest book, check out the interview below:

MOONTRUG: Flo is really engaging character and we get to know her quickly through the first person narration.  Is Flo based on anyone you know?  Or did the inspiration for her come from something else entirely?

McCOMBIE: Flo isn’t based on anyone I know, though I named her after my friend’s little daughter (I hope baby Flo appreciates that when she’s older!).

 

MOONTRUG: Which character are you most similar to in ‘The Year of Big Dreams’?
McCOMBIE: I guess all my main characters have a little of me in them – as an author it helps you inhabit the character more easily if you see a little strand of yourself in there. Growing up, my older brothers caused our parents a few sleepless nights, so I set myself up as being The Sensible One. In this novel, Flo is doing something similar, and often feels more grown-up than her mum, Queenie.

 

MOONTRUG: What aspect of the book did you most enjoy writing?
McCOMBIE: I loved imagining the backwater row of shops in Marigold Parade, with all the varied characters working and living there. They’re a strong and fun community, and I especially liked writing about the mad old ladies who force Flo’s mum to enter the ‘Big Dreams’ TV talent show.

 

MOONTRUG: If you went on a TV talent competition, which song would you sing?!
McCOMBIE: It would HAVE to be Kate Bush’s ‘Wuthering Heights’. When I first heard it on ‘Top of the Pops’ a zillion years ago, I thought it was weird and rubbish. The second time I heard it, I decided it was beyond wonderful and that Kate Bush was a goddess. I’m ashamed to say I still know all the moves to the dance routine… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WChywYrwHBY

 

MOONTRUG: What advice would you give children wanting to write stories/books?
McCOMBIE: Do what I do – get yourself a notebook and a pen in a cool colour (my favourite is purple) and scribble down random thoughts, things people tell you, stuff that happens to you… it’s all great material for your own creative writing.

 

So on the subject of ‘pink cover’ books, here are two more pinky moontrug must-reads. Threads by Sophia Bennet (winner of the Times Children’s Fiction Competition 2009) is a fashion fairy tale. Nonie’s passion is fashion. Edie plans to save the world. Jenny has a part in a Hollywood movie. But when the three best friends meet a young refugee called Crow, wearing a pair of pink fairy wings and sketching a dress, they get the chance to do something truly wonderful – and make all their dreams come true. Click here to buy it on amazon.

Threads

And last but not least, one of moontrug’s favourite ‘pink cover’ books: Matilda by Roald Dahl.  Matilda Wormwood’s father is a mean crooked crook. And her mother’s just plain stupid. They think Matilda is a nuisance who should watch more TV and read fewer books. But her lovely teacher Miss Honey thinks Matilda is a genius. Matilda has a few extraordinary tricks up her sleeve, so her horrible parents and even more horrible headmistress, Trunchbull, had better watch out… Click here to buy it on amazon or here to see the award-winning musical theatre adaption.

matiwelshcover1

 

Hidden gems – Lyra’s alethiometer & JK Rowling’s illustrations…

I may have scoured 118 miles of shelves containing ancient books, I may have raced down secret tunnels into underground library rooms, I may have chatted with a book-goblin about long-forgotten leather-bound books (see Recent Posts to read about those adventures), but my time in Oxford’s Bodleian Library is not over yet…  In fact it’s only just begun. Because tucked into an alcove of the library is the exhibition of Magical Books.

Magical Books

As I step inside, I realise that Philip Pullman’s words, ‘Oxford, where the real and the unreal jostle in the streets…’ are true.  Because out of Oxford, some of the greatest children’s fantasy writers of all time have emerged: J R R Tolkien, C S Lewis and Philip Pullman to name a few.  And for moontruggers who have always wondered what J R R stands for, it’s John Ronald Reuel (sounds like a cheese) and C S is Clive Staples (sounds like a Ryman’s employee)…  But cheese and Rymans aside, these guys are the creative geniuses behind Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia and within a few steps, I bump into C S Lewis’ original Narnia map.

Narnia

Just looking at it I can practically see the towers of Cair Paravel glistening in the sunlight and I can almost feel the snow falling around the lamp post by Mr Tumnus’ house.  Every great fantasy novel has a map at the beginning – check out Chris Riddell’s map at the front of The Edge Chronicles for one of moontrug’s favourites. And then I realise what is next to C S Lewis’ Narnia map: Philip Pullman’s map of Lyra’s Oxford from Northern Lights.

Pullman map

Gulp, that’s cool.  There’s Jordan College where Lyra runs wild with her daemon, Pantalaimon, ignorant of the adventures awaiting her.  And it’s drawn in Pullman’s own hand – like it’s Pullman’s incredible imagination drawn out on a page for everyone to see. There’s something about Oxford – it seems to have a magical pull for fantasy writers.  Just recently Julia Golding released her Knights of the Round Table series which sees a dark magic try to gain control of Oxford’s Bodleian Library.

 

I take a step further into the Magical Books exhibition and what I see next is so moontruggishly cool that I want to jump up and down and clap my hands.  Lyra’s alethiometer, the magical instrument Lyra is given by the master of Jordan college.  It reveals the truth (Aletheia means ‘truth’  and -ometer means ‘measuring device’) of past and present events. Pullman had an inventor friend of his take a look at his descriptions of the alethiometer in The Amber Spyglass, and the inventor then went away and created one.  It’s the only one of its kind and I’m looking right at it.

Lyra's alethiometre

Next stop is an undated Arabic amulet scroll which the Bodleian library describes as ‘filled with incantations and texts of obscure, probably magical significance.’  Only scholars and wizards can unlock its secrets.

Magical scroll

The next thing I spy makes me do a double take.  Everyone knows that J K Rowling can write – but did anyone know she can draw?  Because right in front of me is her own illustration of a ‘brooding Snape’.

JK

Shortly after that I spot an original page of Pullman’s notebook which gives us a glimpse into his planning of the moment Lee Scoresby using his hot air balloon to rescue Lyra, Roger and Iorek from the battle which erupts involving the Gyptians and witches against Bolvangar’s guards.

Pullman script

The Magical Books exhibition is just teeming with enchanted objects and original manuscripts so I can’t resist a peek in the Gift Shop.  Oooooooooohhhhhh, Magical Book Christmas advent calendars and Magical Book puzzle postcards.  Moontrug’s going to be in here for a long, long time…

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