The day I met (and hugged) Westley from The Princess Bride…

Moontrug spent the majority of her childhood running wild across Scottish glens: building tree houses in the woods, scrambling over the moors and jumping into icy rivers. She only came inside for two reasons: to get food and to watch The Princess Bride – one of most treasured fairytale spin-off films of all time. And so when an email appeared in Moontrug’s inbox recently, asking if she’d like to interview Cary Elwes, the star of The Princess Bride (yes, Westley – with the dreamy hair and farm boy charm), Moontrug practically fainted. This was the guy who had rescued Buttercup from the Fire Swamp, who had fought in the ‘World’s Greatest Sword Fight’ and who had ‘died’ for true love. And Moontrug was in with a chance of meeting him.


And so, on Tuesday this week, Moontrug fought her way through London’s gridlocked traffic and a downpour of rain (Dammit Buttercup, you never had to put up with this kind of stuff), to arrive at the Haymarket Hotel, in Piccadilly, where the interview was to take place. After realising it probably wouldn’t be appropriate to launch herself into the underground swimming pool there and expect Westley to save her, Moontrug waited semi-patiently for Cary to arrive. Over in the UK to promote the launch of his NYT best-selling book, As You Wish, (an account of the making of film, The Princess Bride), Cary arrived in a super-cool leather jacket (sort of Dread Pirate Robertsy in style) and as he recounted incredible behind-the-scenes secrets to the movie (to celebrate its 25th anniversary), Moontrug could totally see why Buttercup had fallen head over heels for him… He was LOVELY.

Cary Elwes Photo and Book 09262014

Moontrug leapt in to ask about one her favourite scenes in the film: the sword fight between Westley and Inigo Montoya (Saul in Homeland – who knew?!). So how much training was involved in the World’s Greatest Sword Fight involving left-handed duelling and epic somersaults? ‘We trained together for three weeks with Bob Anderson, a former English Olympic fencer: eight hours a day, five days a week,’ Cary told me. And the result was sensational. The only part a gymnast did was the somersault. But we’ll let Cary off for that – because he had a broken toe at the time (thanks to riding Andre The Giant’s range vehicle). And if you look reeeeeaaaaally carefully, you can see that Westley hops around when he’s in the Fire Swamp because of the pain in his toe! But that didn’t stop Cary from insisting he jump headfirst into the quicksand to rescue Buttercup (instead of feet first as the director had planned) because, according to Cary, it would look ‘more heroic.’ And it totally did – stipulation for all romantic heros, they MUST dive headlong into adventures rather than shimmy in feet first.


Part of the appeal of the film, an adaption of William Goldman’s brilliant book, is that it has EVERYTHING: Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Poison. True love. Hate. Revenge. Giants. Hunters. Bad men. Good men. Beautiful ladies. Pain. Dreath. Brave men. Cowardly men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passion. Miracles. Each scene is packed full of cinematic magic. Take the Sicilian boss, Vizzini, challenging Westley to a poison-drinking competition (thankfully they were both drinking grape juice – but apparently Wallace Shawn, who played Vizzini, was nearly crippled with anxiety because he believed Danny Devito was the producer’s first choice for the role), take the perilous chase up the Cliffs of Insanity (filmed on the Cliff of Moher in Ireland) and take the effortlessly gorgeous and brave Buttercup launching herself off hills to escape the Dread Pirate Roberts. Cary admits: ‘If I had to have one actor or actress fighting alongside me in the Fire Swamp it would be Robin Wright who played Buttercup. She was great. She was fearless in the role. On the first day of shooting she had to be set on fire and she didn’t even blink about it.’


Many moments in the film are laugh-out-loud funny, and Cary admits that he and Rob Reiner (the director) had to leave the set during Billy Crystal’s scenes portraying Miracle Max because he was so outrageously hilarious. Moontrug remembers lines from him like ‘he’s only mostly dead’ – and a classic from his wife: ‘I’m not a witch. I’m your wife’ with particular glee. And as well as humour, the film boasted the kiss that left all other kisses behind. Cary admits: ‘We took 6 takes to get that kiss right. We kept giggling. Robin and I had become good friends during the film – we’re still best friends – and it was weird kissing my best friend.’ The film even managed to get Dire Straits lead singer, Mark Knopfler, on side to write the soundtrack. He had only one condition when accepting – that Rob Reiner include the baseball cap Marty De Bergi wore in the 1984 rock music mockumentary, Spinal Tap – and Fred Savage (who plays the little boy listening to his grandfather read the story) wears a baseball cap similar to this!


William Goldman’s script is totally brilliant and although Moontrug’s favourite line comes from Westley when Buttercup is about to kill herself (‘There’s a shortage of perfect breasts in this world. It would be a pity to damage yours’), Cary revealed his favourite line was from Andre The Giant: ‘Anybody want a Peanut?’ Cary’s book, As You Wish, is a MUST READ for any Princess Bride fan. Reading it is like stepping into their magical world – where giants roam, princes duel for your life and miracles do actually happen. But perhaps just as wonderful as the book is Cary himself. I’ve not met a lot of super-famous Hollywood stars but people tell me they can be pretty painful. Well, in Cary, you have a guy who, despite being on tour to publicize his OWN book, offers to read MY book and who is genuinely interested in other people, not just himself. And for that, Cary, you are every bit as wonderful as I imagined Westley to be. Thank you so much for such a lovely interview and for signing the book you gave me with your immortal line: ‘As You Wish.’

dsJust in case you can’t see in the photo, Westley is hugging me 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 


‘Murder Most Unladylike’ by Robin Stevens

You know those books you read and start thinking ‘Wow, it’s like the author is telling my story…’ Well, minus the rather gruesome murders, Robin Steven’s fabulous book for 9+ years, Murder Most Unladylike, was a pretty accurate rendition of the secret societies, detective work and general waywardness that Moontrug got up to at school.


When Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong set up a secret detective agency at Deepdean School for Girls, they can’t find a truly exciting mystery to solve (unless you count The Case of Lavinia’s Missing Tie. Which they don’t). Then Hazel discovers the body of the Science Mistress, Miss Bell – but when she and Daisy return five minutes later, the body has disappeared. Now the girls have to solve a murder, and prove a murder happened in the first place, before the killer strikes again (and before the police get there first, naturally). But will they succeed? And can their friendship stand the test?

Murder most unladylike map

Deepdean School For Girls is brilliantly realised by Stevens and paragraphs like: ‘Daisy is all for making up societies for things. Last year we had the Pacifism Society (dull) and then the Spiritualism Society (less dull), but then Lavinia smashed her mug during a seance, and Matron banned Spiritualism altogether’ bring the place totally to life – it’s impossible to read the book and not feel like you’re a pupil at the school. Moontrug was almost shivering at the mention of lacrosse in the wintry months and she laughed out loud when Daisy mentioned levitating poor Beanie then opted for a seance (where she proceeded to correct the other girls’ grammar under the guise of a ghost). But it is set against this vibrant place of societies, midnight feasts, pranks on teachers, far-fetched school gossip and head-girls called King Henry that a very nasty murder happens…


The story is told by Hazel Wong, a Chinese girl sent over to the UK to go to boarding school. At first totally bewildered by the English education system (why do these intelligent girls, who can afford private education, deliberately pretend not to know the answers to questions in class and traipse around the school with frayed shoelaces and battered up hockey sticks?). Stevens brilliantly encapsulates the bizarre and often eccentric life at Deepdean School (‘Whenever girls run away they do it Saturdays, because of that head start’) and she presents Hazel’s transition into it both sensitively and amusingly. Moontrug loved how self-deprecating Hazel is: ‘I didn’t like the idea of the murderer panicking at all’ and ‘Who ever heard of a Chinese Sherlock Holmes?’ and she almost cheered when Hazel started standing up to the headstrong Daisy a bit more.

MMU Book 2

Daisy and Hazel provide a fabulous detective duo and Moontrug LOVED how they discussed updates on the murder while intermittently singing a hymn! And Daisy’s headstrong and excitable nature is hilarious: ‘I absolutely long to be twenty. I could befriend [her] and lure her into a false sense of security, and then, in private, and when she was least expecting it, I’d spring the shoe print and the blood and the moss on her, and force her to confess.’ But perhaps the best line of the whole book comes from Daisy when the murderer is finally convicted: ‘Spiffing.’ Murder Most Unladylike is an absolutely fabulous book for 9+ years – with a fantastic setting, gorgeous characters, a gripping plot and tons of humour. Moontrug LOVED IT – and it’s well deserving of its place on the Altocumulus Tower. Look out for the next book, Arsenic for Tea, to be published in January 2015.



A little moment of wonderfulness…

Tummy flip moments are awesome and they can occur in various situations, like when:

  • you go over a big bump in a car and you’re not expecting it
  • a roller coaster hurls you upside down
  • you realise you are in South Kensington and have £5 in your pocket which means you can buy a whole box of Ben’s Cookies
  • you leapfrog over something unexpectedly high
  • you discover an extra present at the bottom of your stocking that you hadn’t seen initially

Yesterday, Moontrug experienced a very special type of tummy flip – a double whammy. Because… the proof copies of her book, The Dreamsnatcher, arrived! The actual cover will be revealed on Moontrug this Friday. I don’t want to give too much away but, um, there maaaaaaaay be gold foil and a catapult involved. In the meantime, here are Moll and Gryff in all their gloriousness – thanks to the wonderful team at Simon & Schuster. Watch out for the book itself in bookshops from 26th February, 2015 (for 9+ years). WHOOP WHOOP.

Dreamsnatcher proof

Favourite bed-time reads…

Over the summer Moontrug bought a bed – the biggest bed she could find in the shop (essential if you plan to bounce on it regularly like an over-excited 5-year-old). The bed is awesome – a nice puffy blue headboard and so massive it could probably fit all of the Von Trapp Family Singers inside it. But more importantly, it is the best place EVER to read. And so, to celebrate its wonderfulness, and National Young Readers Day today, Moontrug thought she’d dig out a few of her favourite bedtime stories for 8-12-year-olds…


If you’re tired and want an easy read with some humour thrown in: Billionaire Boy by David Walliams

712fIsBhr1L._SL1163_Joe Spud is an 11 year old billionaire. He has an Olympic-sized swimming pool and numerous plasma screen TVs – but he doesn’t have a single friend. Joe forces his Dad to send him to the local comprehensive and a serious of fabulously funny events unfold. No wonder David Walliams is tipped to be the next Roald Dahl – he’ll have you in stitches from page 1.



If you’re stressed and want to relax with a book full of gorgeousness: Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell

url-1Everyone thinks that Sophie is an orphan. True, there were no other recorded female survivors from the shipwreck which left baby Sophie floating in the English Channel in a cello case, but Sophie remembers seeing her mother wave for help. Her guardian tells her it is almost impossible that her mother is still alive, but that means still possible. You should never ignore a possible. So when the Welfare Agency writes to her guardian threatening to send Sophie to an orphanage, she takes matters into her own hands and flees to Paris to look for her mother, starting with the only clue she has – the address of the cello maker. Evading the French authorities, she meets Matteo and his network of rooftoppers – urchins who live in the sky. Together they scour the city for Sophie’s mother before she is caught and sent back to London, and most importantly before she loses hope.


If you’re up for a bit of magic: One Wish by Michelle Harrison

cover44193-mediumHaving the ability to see fairies means that Tanya Fairchild’s life has never been easy. After all, real fairies are nothing like the ones in books; ones that grant wishes or leave money for teeth. Real fairies don’t like to be talked about, and they cast spells if Tanya steps out of line. The most she’s ever received in exchange for one of her teeth is a chewed up toffee. Of course, it would help if Tanya knew someone – anyone – else who could see them, too. When Tanya meets Ratty, she discovers that can he see fairies, but only after he goes missing does Tanya learn that her new friend has another extraordinary ability; an ability that has the potential to destroy them both…


If you want to stay up all night having adventures & not bother with sleep at all: Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver

Wolf brotherWolf Brother carries you back thousands of years to the ancient darkness of the forest: to a world steeped in natural magic and elemental terror, a world in which trusting a friend means risking your life.  An outcast from the Clans, Torak must battle his way past the terrifying Soul Eaters and their demon bear – with only a young wolf cub by his side.  A gripping, action-packed plot coupled with a wonderfully compelling world.


If you fancy a sob into your pillow: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A_Monster_Calls‘The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.  But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting, the one from the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother had the treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…  This monster is something different, something ancient, something wild.  And it wants the truth.’  A heart-wrenching story – impossible to read without crying.  A lot.


If you can’t stop thinking about the stars outside your window: Phoenix by SF Said

++PHOENIX_FRONTLucky thinks he’s an ordinary Human boy. But one night, he dreams that the stars are singing – and wakes to find an uncontrollable power rising inside him. Now he’s on the run, racing through space, searching for answers. In a galaxy at war, where Humans and Aliens are deadly enemies, the only people who can help him are an Alien starship crew – and an Alien warrior girl, with neon needles in her hair. Together, they must find a way to save the galaxy. For Lucky is not the only one in danger. His destiny and the fate of the universe are connected in the most explosive way…

Oh, the cleverness of kids…

Since the announcement back in March, Moontrug has been feeling very chuffed about her book deal. And then along come Truggers entering Moontrug’s writing competitions with entries so brilliant she wonders whether these kids should have been awarded book deals instead of her… Moontrug launched a range of competitions this Autumn, from dreaming up dragons to inventing words and recipes, from shaping seas to creating detectives. And so without further ado, here are the winners – the authors in the making…



snowdragon3a 150x150 competitions

The winner of Moontrug’s Dream up a Dragon competition is 10-year-old Jessica Fonka – with her stunning drawing below.


And here is Jessica’s sentence describing her dragon: ‘It was like nothing they’d ever seen before: the gold steel on its chest, the ball and chain on its tail, the fear anchored to its appearance.’



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This STUNNING entry by 8-year-old Iona Mandal was a hands-down winner – an ingenious recipe, complete with a fabulous illustration. Imagination doesn’t get much better than this! WELL DONE, Iona.

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NAME- Troplanimal
DESCRIPTION- A delicacy in the island of Mangaland. Tropical food prepared using species from the natural world; both plants and animals. Hence, the name Tro- plan-imal.

Served as a starter as a part of the family meal. Cooked by the light of the moon, on an open fire on the soft sands of the beach washed by the waves of the Titanic Ocean. Eaten by the islanders for dinner on every full-moon light. Cooked by the head of the family who is the chief chef. Assisted by family members. The delicacy is enjoyed by the young and old alike. It is customary for the head of the family to be served the first portion as a sign of respect. The food needs to be finished in exactly an hour’s time. After the meal all members shake hands as a sign of enjoyment and contentment. All products used in its preparation are natural and organic. Preparation time: 1 hr 50 minutes. Start sharp at 10.10 p.m. and end by midnight. Cooking time: 1 hour. 12 midnight to 1 a.m.


Frangipani barks
Sugarcane juice
Butterfly wings
Ant eggs
Pineapple slices
Macadamia nuts


Build a fire with embers.
Scrape off the bark of the frangipani tree.
Drizzle generously with freshly squeezed sugarcane juice.
Spread butterfly wings and ant eggs on it.
Grill for 30 minutes
Remove from heat and let it cool.
Dress with freshly cut pineapple slices
Toast and grate macadamia nuts to sprinkle generously
Plate up and serve hot by carving out pieces



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The winners of the Shaping Seas competition are: Shannon Dixon (aged 11) and Novalee Platts (aged 11). Well done both of you for two FANTASTIC descriptions!

Peaceful. Serene. The crystal waves wrestled onto the golden sand. The sunset created a puddle of colour, turning the sea into a pool of paint. The fish danced like branches in the wind. Waves lapped against the crumbling cliffs and chipped away the cream-coloured rock. I wish I could stay forever. Some may call it the Pacific sea, but I call it the sea of tranquillity.
By Shannon Dixon, aged 11

Waves crashing and storms raging, the rocky island in the centre of the open sea was repeatedly being battered by the unbeatable waves. The sea was full of sea creatures that lurked at the bottom of the murky water. The storm was as loud as a lion and went on for what seemed as long as time itself. The waves were lively and exotic, above them were the clouds; white and fluffy. The waves were moving in on the golden sand upon the beach. Finally, after what had seemed like forever, the waves settled and the storm passed by. Then, the true picture of the coast shone and revealed the most beautiful picture of all.
By Novalee Platts, aged 11



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Moontrug was bowled over by this entry from 11-year-old Charvi Jain – a strong first place and the makings of an author right here… Well done, Charvi!

Detective Hudson

I am the one. Everybody looks up to me. Stella Clarissa Hudson, that’s my full name, though they call me Detective Hudson. I work single now, and always will, for I am faster, swifter, and hugely smarter on my own. I don’t have pets, and I don’t watch TV or read magazines. They are distractions, they are intended to decoy me, but I don’t fall in, I stay straight, and I stay smart. I live in a small room. White walls, no posters, metal bed, cheap mattress, no computer, grey carpet. These kinds of places are the ones I work best in. I am Detective Hudson, and I stay strong, stay focused. I solved the mystery that led to Amee’s murder, and what a bloody death she had. Last year, Mrs Brown lost his poodle, and I figured that poodle had been forced to drown. They rescued the mangled remains and buried it. Mrs Brown cried for days on end, but I had done my duties, and within the time span of sixteen hours. I’ve been working for years, and now I know that I can do it, any mystery, any problem. Solving these gives me joy, my life purpose and I will stay focused, because I am Detective Hudson, and this is just how I am.


Keep an eye on Moontrug’s latest competitions here: 

‘The Broken King’ by Philip Womack

Recently Moontrug has been skirting around the edges of magic – enjoying a subtle sprinkle of it with wonderful books like One Wish by Michelle Harrison and Frost Hollow Hall by Emma Carroll, and then The Broken King dropped through her letterbox – the first in The Darkening Path series – a set of books steeped in magic, where people transform into swans, doorways to other worlds open up beneath supermarkets and artefacts in the British Museum hold very special powers…


When Simon’s little sister is mysteriously snatched away to a dark other world, he is sent by a golden messenger on a dizzying quest to get her back. With him is Flora, whose brother has also vanished, and a strange boy who rescues them from a violent attack. To enter the land of the Broken King, they must complete three tasks: Eat the Shadow, Steal the Sun, Break the Air. But how do they even begin? And what lies in wait for them, in the land of the Broken King?

shadow‘Eat the Shadow’

The story begins in our world, in the sitting room of an apparently normal British family. But when Simon utters a rhyme he remembers from an old book, a sinister magic starts to turn and life as he knows it quickly slips away. Before long, a strange messenger arrives and Simon is called on a journey far beyond the realms of everyday life. Moontrug loved the magic surrounding the messenger and the bird-deer: ‘Simon supposed the woman spoke. He heard her words, certainly, but they were emblazoned on his mind, like sound made out of light’ and it provided a perfect contrast to the evil lurking in the Knight of the Swan: ‘The darkness that lay in there was sometimes too hard for even him to bear.’ Womack even managed to make drinking a cappuccino creepy with the Knight of the Swan!

sun‘Steal the Sun’

There is a darkness at the heart of the book – the map the children find by decoding Ancient Greek abbreviations, the Takings Apart and Simon’s chilling visions of his sister trapped in the land of the Broken King – and so the children’s sense of humour lifts the reader up when the plot gets dark. Moontrug loved Flora’s reference to Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest (totally lost on Simon) and Simon’s line: ‘Whoever thought that the mouth to hell would be under the frozen goods aisle?’ Children who are interested by ancient Greek history will love the BENZ code the children discover when trying to read the map – as well as the Temple of Mithras – and Womack uses the Peter Pan idea of shadows as independent from the body in a really unique (and frightening) way with his shadowsnake: ‘Another head appeared from out of the shadowy gloom. It was larger, and it had eyes that glowed green and orange and blue before turning silver. It regarded them loftily, as if deciding on the best way to destroy them.’ It made Moontrug shiver to think this creature could be lurking just on the fringes of her own world. As the old woman says to Flora: ‘There are doors within doors and worlds within worlds’… The Broken King is an exciting read for 11+ years, and readers can rest easy about the cliff-hanger ending because there promises to be more in this series…

air‘Break the Air’