Behold his mightiness: Frog the Barbarian…

Whenever Moontrug dreams of alien invasions (and it’s the kind of dream that crops up often – that, and riding Iorek Byrnison over snowy mountains), she imagines being rescued by a mighty dragon or a unicorn with attitude. Never a frog – nope, never. And then along comes Guy Bass’ new series where the hero, the MIGHTY warrior, the guy everyone expects to save the world, is a FROG. But Frog is a little different from the amphibians you see hopping and croaking around in classroom tanks. In Bass’ first book Frog was a legend, and in his second, he is a BARBARIAN…

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Frog has saved the princess and probably the whole world, but all is not well in Kingdomland. The King and Queen of Everything are determined to flatten anyone who gets in their way, and they want Frog as their royal champion. Can Frog help them defeat a boastful dragon, a shamefaced shyclops and (yet another) army of alien invaders? It’s time for Frog to find his destiny…

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Bass brings us a fantastic range of characters: a furry-panted barbarian called Man-Lor, a failed space invader called General Kurg, a wizard who wears impractically tall hats and a decidedly grumpy Rarewolf to name but a few… Bass has a wonderful ability to subvert the fairytale norm and bring us something new – like Shrek, but in a book – so that makes this EVEN cooler. Moontrug loved the fact that the Queen was a frightening warrior and her husband a bit of a wimp, and lines like ‘My sword, husband… It’s in the picnic basket. Next to the porkberry pie’ were brilliant.

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Frog is a wonderful and very unique hero and the fact that the first thing he does each morning is to check ‘that he still had a head’ is hilarious. His trust steed, the wooly sheep called Sherrif Explosion, is a also fab addition to the world-saving team and though he is limited to one word ‘Baa’, this does no justice to the terrifying ordeals he faces, as Bass tells us. Despite Frog’s bravado, he is in fact rather insecure and so it comes as little surprise that to face down the alien invaders and save Kingdomland, he has to turn to some allies for help. Cue Princess Rainbow, the Mystery Kroakan, the rarewolf and the bafflingly boastful Bragon. Like Neil Gaiman’s Fortunately the Milk, the book’s scope for extraordinary settings and characters will delight any 7+ reader looking for a fantastical adventure. I mean, who wouldn’t want to snoop around the bragon’s blue house floating amongst the clouds? (Moontrug would definitely be trespassing inside the bragon’s Door to Nowhere… ) The plot is adventurous and packed full of humour – and readers can look forward to the third book in this hilarious series, The Mighty Frog, next year…

 

Bring it on, Prankenstein…

Having studied English at university, Moontrug got to know books by Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, Emily Bronte and Mary Shelley pretty well. In fact many of her lectures were spent wishing Heathcliff would charge into the room and whisk her out onto the moors… More recently though, Moontrug has come across some fabulous reinventions of The Classics (books teachers and lecturers think are snazzily well written). Sadly she’s yet to come across another Heathcliff as complicatedly awesome as Emily Bronte’s but young readers will be very excited to learn that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has been given a bit of a twist by Andy Seed in his hilarious book for 7-11-year-olds: Prankenstein.

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When Soapy’s granny is shot through the roof on a turbo-charged chair lift, he knows that something is not right. Someone, or something, is playing incredible, hilarious pranks – but who? Soapy and his friends appoint themselves chief detectives to solve the mystery and discover that the culprit is a hairy, superhuman figure with a shocking secret.

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Right from the opening line of the book, ‘Soapy Thompson woke up with a cucumber on his head,’ the reader is thrown into the absurdly hilarious plot. Soapy is a wonderful character and since Moontrug spends most conversations mis-pronouncing words, using malapropisms or just generally saying the wrong thing, she was thrilled to see Soapy do the same: ‘So Soapy just imagined the pranks he would like to pay if he was a little braver – not so humid, as a school report once called him. Or was it timid? He always got those words mixed up.’ And Moontrug LOVED how Soapy’s old mobile gets predicative texts so wrong: bed becomes beef, friends are fried eggs, mobiles are monocles and Dad is a Dartboard.

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The story is brilliantly funny – every page makes you chuckle, snigger, giggle, smile, snort and chortle – and the characters are larger-than-life: a Granny who thinks Soapy looked like Winston Churchill as a baby, a Mother who is terrified of having anything delicious, like jam, in the house, a nanny whose knickers get sewn together and BEST of all, The Twince – two Estonian twins with epic accents: ‘I can feel it in my bonce.’ They provide fabulous side-kicks to Soapy, even if Soapy’s parents try their best to thwart Soapy’s plans of sleepovers with them with their ‘DON’Ts’ list:

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It’s no wonder Soapy is interested in pranks with parents like that – and Moontrug thought his Royal Family prank was especially giggle-worthy: ‘I’ll give the Queen a wedgie!’ The prank capacity of the great Prankenstein is truly awesome throughout the book and it’ll get children dreaming up the most hysterical tricks: think cows in the kitchen, mega-loud farts, a disappearing Granny, ink in the shower gel, stools glued to bottoms… Prankenstein is a fabulously funny book for 7+ years and Moontrug loved that the punishment for being a prankster was being sent to ‘Eton or Alcatraz.’ He he he.

Roll up, roll up! For The Girl Who Walks on Air…

Having developed a mini crush on Will from Emma Carroll’s Frost Hollow Hall Moontrug was so excited to hear Carroll has a new book out – another enchanting historical adventure for 9-11 years: The Girl Who Walked on Air.

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Ladies and Gentlemen, we bring you to the sensational story of Louie Reynolds, whose dream is to become a circus showstopper. Whose tightrope talents put the finest performers to shame. Yet the path to fame is a rocky one. To travel it, Louie must first: witness a terrible accident, meet two mysterious strangers, cross Niagara Falls and look Death square in the eye. Will Louie find the the courage, Ladies and Gentlemen, to face such challenges and become the Girl Who Walked on Air?

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Just like Rob Lloyd Jones’ Wild BoyThe Girl Who Walked on Air plunges the reader into the spine-tingling world of Victorian circus – a world of shimmering sequin outfits, dangerous tightrope walks, fortune-telling cards and knife throwing trapeze artists. And from the opening pages, Carroll’s words shiver with drama: ‘The bigger the danger, the bigger the crowd.’ From her birth, Louie Reynolds’ life was destined to be full of danger: ‘Another knife skimmed my left elbow… A glint of steel, the thwack thud as the final knives hit the board either side of my legs.’ And Carroll perfectly captures Louie’s sense of frustration at being over looked by Mr Chipchase as a showstopper and her emerging determination to see her skill through: ‘My heart steadied. I focused up ahead. Emptied my thoughts. Now it was just me and a long thin stretch of rope. My feet tingled. I let go of the tree and walked forwards.’ Carroll’s writing is so sharp and precise that the reader genuinely starts to feel as if they’re walking the tightrope with Louie.

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Although the book is very much set in real life – there is a sort of magic to tightrope walking. Moontrug felt it in Katherine Rundell’s Rooftoppers and it seems Carroll has conjured up this magic again in Louie’s world. As Louie says to her guardian Jasper: ‘It’s the tightrope. It makes me feel magic’ and then later ‘The flames in me kept flickering till I was all lit up inside.’ Louie, who has always felt like an outsider (‘When I was just a baby [my mother] left me at the circus, the way most people forget an umbrella’) finally finds her identity on the rope and it’s exhilarating to read: ‘I stood very still. Felt the rope. Thought the rope. Imagined it as a part of me, a living, twitching thing.’

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Carroll gives us a fantastically punchy heroine in Louie. She continually surprises and impresses while breaking every rule possible (the chase scene as she slips into the circus ring to watch the famous Blondin is awesome) – and when Louie fights back against her captor in America, Moontrug wanted to jump up and fist pump the air: ‘Mr Wellbeloved,’ I said. ‘I’ve only just got started.’ She dances like a savage with Gabriel which made Moontrug love her even more – and the friendship that develops between the two young showstoppers is brilliantly done. The Girl Who Walked on Air is a gorgeous read filled with everything that makes a book for 9-11-year-olds work: a determined heroine, a frightening villain, a vibrant and spine-tingling setting and a plots with dramatic twists and turns. Small wonder critics are comparing Emma Carroll to a modern Eva Ibbotson…

 

 

Wind in the Willows meets Watership Down: THE RIVER SINGERS by Tom Moorhouse

Whilst having some adventures down in Salcombe this summer (namely swimming in secret coves and snooping behind hidden doors), Moontrug stumbled across a book that critics, bloggers and children have been praising for months: Tom Moorhouse’s The River Singers. Heralded as the new Wind in the Willows or Watership Down, Moorhouse (with his background in Zoology – which mostly involves being bitten by wildlife) has created a riverside world of water voles, otters, herons and rats.

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‘Something was approaching the burrow. Something deadly. Something that made Sylva’s fur bristle with fear.’ When a predator attacks in the dead of night, Sylvan narrowly escapes with his life. But with his mother now missing and the burrow left unprotected, he knows he can’t stay safe for long. Together with his brother and sisters, Sylvan sets out on a dangerous journey to find a new home. But enemies are lurking everywhere and soon they will face the greatest test of all…

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From the first sentence Moorhouse brings the water voles’ landscape to life. The Sinethis, the Great River at the heart of Sylvan’s world, is beautifully described: ‘She sings with a song as soft as thistles, hard as roots, deep as shadows, old as stones’ and Moontrug loved the way Sylvan learnt to read its rhythms: ‘Words threaded their way through the Great River’s music. It is danger.’ The water voles’ lives are fraught with danger and Moorhouse captures their fear brilliantly: ‘The terror came in the night. It came with swiftness. It came with teeth.’ His writing is full of drama and suspense whenever predators are lurking near and these moments of tension propel the plot forward with relentless energy. But alongside violent predators, Moorhouse gives us a wonderfully funny set of water vole characters: ‘I still don’t think that spending a night with a potentially violent rat is a good idea.’ And Aven, Sylvan’s sister, is awesome in her punchy treatment of Mistress Lily: ‘As you pointed out, I am quite small. But I am also exceptionally vicious.’

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Moontrug loved the values Moorhouse places at the centre of his book: friendship, family, hope and bravery – and Sylvan’s character growth from headstrong youth to faithful leader is fantastically done: ‘If what I asked is not your way then give me the strength to fight.’ The River Singers is, as author Lauren St John says ‘a hymn to nature, written with compassion and flair’ and Moontrug has got a feeling readers of 8+ years are going to love the sequel (out now), The Rising, just as much as this…

Interview with the authors behind the ‘French Harry Potter’…

When you see a book hailed as the ‘French Harry Potter’ it makes you sit up and listen – and so The Guardian newspaper named Anne Plichota and Cendrine Wolf’s Oksa Pollock books. After the books were rejected by several traditional publishers in France, Anne and Cendrine decided to self-publish the series. And before long, it had become a national phenomenon. A large fan base started to grow in France (now known as Pollockmania) and when two of Oksa Pollock’s loyal fans sent a letter to a French newspaper demanding that a French publisher take the authors on, things started to happen. Book rights have since been sold in 27 countries, with 700,000 copies sold worldwide, and film rights have recently been sold to the producer of the Twilight movies. AND Moontrug is lucky enough to have interviewed the authors as part of the blog tour for the gripping third instalment in their series: The Heart of Two Worlds.

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The environment and global weather disasters feature a lot in the third book in the series, The Heart of Two Worlds. Is this a subject close to your hearts? Do you feel a responsibility as a writer to highlight issues in your fiction that affect us in our world?

Anne: It’s a subject that does more than trouble me: it terrifies me! I do what I can, like many of us, with the impression of being a drop of water in a vast ocean of irresponsibility and ignorance. So yes, as a writer it was normal and natural for me to deal with this subject. And we did it without even thinking about it, without a strategy. It was very spontaneous, like many other issues integrated into the plot. It was a way for us to show that the worst-case scenario is plausible and that we must fear it.

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Book three is half-way through the series and the challenges for Oksa are getting more intense! Can you give us a hint to what we have in store in the next half of the series?

Oksa will be confronted with more serious things, such as illness and death. She will have to make choices and assume responsibility for the consequences. The destiny of the Runaways is no longer her only worry, it goes far beyond that: the future of the world is at stake and Oksa must unite all the forces available to her to avoid the worst. The second half of the series is much more centred on the global economy, politics, power struggles, and the balance of wealth and power. More intimately, Oksa, Gus, Tugdual and Zoé grow up and their attitudes evolve when faced with danger, with the sense of responsibility and, of course, with love…

author pic 1The authors: Anne Plichota and Cendrine

We know you have a special love for the UK, as Oksa is set in England, and in book three Oksa and her family travel to Scotland. Could you tell us your favourite places to visit in Britain, especially those that have inspired your writing? 

Anne: I honestly fell in love with Oxford at first sight! I like the slightly tormented mood of Cornwall that you also find on the Hebridean island where Orthon and his allies hide. The wind, the craggy coasts, the grey sea, the troubling light… It makes the imagination very fertile.

OP_FOREST_PBThe Forest of Lost Souls – the second in the Oksa Pollock series (out in paperback this month)

The Oksa Pollock series has been published around the world and there have been lots of different book covers – do you have a favourite?

We love them all, from the German to the Japanese, passing by the Russian and the Korean… But the British one is up there amongst our favourites!

 

Who does what in your writing partnership and do you ever argue over plot and characters?

Anne: We have our own personal – and magical! – recipe. But the principle is very simple: we give our best, we share our thoughts and we build the story, from the general plan to the most precise details, always respecting the other’s ideas. For each chapter, we talk a lot, we imagine as many details as possible, and I write first. Then, we add some layers like painters, each in turn, until we agree.

Of course, sometimes we don’t agree, so we need to convince our partner… And when both ideas are good, we decide by playing table football!

91saohOc1NL._SL1500_The Last Hope – the first book in the Oksa Pollock series

Who/what is your favourite character/creature in the series?

Anne: Pavel, Tugdual, the Lunatrixes, the Goranov… Rather tormented characters and creatures.

Cendrine: The Incompetent and Orthon (although they’re nothing like each other!)

 

What books are you reading at the moment?

Anne: A fictionalized biography of Sade’s wife and The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock (no relation to Oksa… at least, I don’t think so…), amazing stories with dark and raw characters.

 

Meet the Truggers – Moontrug’s Writing Workshops…

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Last year I wrote a blog post revealing what on earth a Moontrug is (read it here) and now I find myself with an army of Truggers and people all over the place asking: WHAT ON EARTH IS A TRUGGER? Well, a Trugger is a person, usually a child, who is bonkers enough to commit themselves to a day of writing and adventure-ing at Moontrug’s Writing Workshops, hosted by Moontrug and Moontrek (Moontrug’s explorer-mad brother, Tom): Inventing Villains, Entering Fantasy Worlds, Discovering Secret Cities, Shaping Seas & Forests and Creating Magical Creatures. Autumn has been a busy time for the Truggers already and on Saturday 13th September, ten Truggers took part in the Shaping Seas & Forests workshop…

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After taking a word for a walk and having a rummage around in Moontrug’s writing shed, we listened to Kevin Crossley-Holland’s Sea Tongue and began to create our own sea settings. Think sharks slicing through the surface of the sea, mer creatures calling to one another in swelling moans and obstinate cliffs roaring back at the waves. After lunch we hopped it over to the park to climb trees, gather magical-looking leaves and dream up our talking trees. And by the end of the day we’d written about bark as gnarled as a toad’s foot and branches that swayed like lingering hands…

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On 27th September, the Truggers were out again – creating magical creatures this time. We kicked off with a glimpse at how the pros do it – Chris Riddell’s Bandersnatch, CS Lewis’ Mr Tumnus, JK Rowling’s Dobby, Roald Dahls’ BFG and Philip Pullman’s Pantalaimon. Then, amid a jumble of bubble wrap, silly putty, sandpaper, velvet gloves and fur hats, the Truggers dreamt up the most magical creatures they could. We had everything from flying Whispersilks to angry Glomptrundles – creatures who could suck the moon towards them and those who could breathe gallons of fire. After lunch we headed off for an Anti Gravity yoga class where Truggers flipped, spun, jumped and crouched into the shapes of magical creatures – a pretty magical end to day of inventing fantastical creatures…

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Moontrug has two more workshops this Autumn: there’s another chance for Anti-Gravity Yoga at the Creating Magical Creatures day on 24th October, and on 30th October, Moontrug will be taking children to the London dungeons to help Truggers create the ghastliest, grossest, scariest, vilest villain they can on the Inventing Villains day. For more information on Moontrug’s workshops, skitter around on here.

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