KNIGHTLEY & SON by Rohan Gavin

Moontrug has always loved Sherlock Holmes and when she discovered Bloomsbury were publishing a ‘Sherlock Holmes for children’ series she got very excited. Cue Rohan Gavin’s Knightley & Son, the first in a crime-solving trilogy… Darkus Knightley is a perfectly ordinary thirteen-year-old, apart from his name, his brainpower, his fondness for tweed, and the top secret files hidden upstairs. But when a stranger from the Department of the Unexplained arrives with news of his father, ordinary is over for good… Alan Knightley was London’s top private detective until he went into a coma four years ago. Now he’s woken up to discover his son has inherited the family talent – and their services are urgently needed. Is a bestselling book making people do terrible things? Could it be linked to a shadowy organisation known as the Combination?

The plot is filled with tension (‘a light scratching intruded on the uppermost frequencies of his hearing… A clearly audible click, followed by the faint sound of something softly crushing the fabric of the carpeted stairs’) and intrigue – and Gavin intelligently plants a series of clues that will draw readers further and further into the case. There is a satisfying feel to the writing and plotting as Darkus and Knightley unravel the facts – the same kind of revelatory gratification you find in Conan Doyle’s Sherlock stories. And the character cast is awesome: a broad-Scot called Bill (LOVING the sound of his fall being described as mimicking the noise of a king-size mattress dropping from a great height!), a feisty Polish woman, a child detective dressed in tweed who loves his sandwiches cut into triangles (and has a library card as ID) and a terrible villain…

There are codes, anagrams and secrets – perfect ingredients for a detective case – as well as cool gadgets to keep imaginative children engaged (think exploding lipstick and lethal inhalers). And Darkus is a fantastic lead character, motivated not only by a sharp desire to unravel the mystery but by a yearning to be close to his often distant father. He is both clever (‘Did you know that dust is seventy per cent human skin and hair?’) and amusing (‘Floor it, Bogna’) and 8-12-year-old readers will love him. And they’ll be pleased to know the sequel is out now and tweed-wearing, mega-brained, thoroughly logical 13-year-old investigator of the weird, Darkus Knightley, is back on a different case with a traumatised ex-bomb-disposal dog as his partner in crime-solving. A third in the series is on the way. Most definitely then, the game is afoot…


Wednesday Q&A with author, Erin Entrada Kelly

Next up on Moontrug’s Wednesday Q&As is MG author, Erin Entrada Kelly, whose debut, BLACKBIRD FLY, is out on March 24th. We’ve got a bio and book blurb at the end of the post but right now we’re skipping straight to ogres…


1. You wake up to find a massive ogre in your bedroom. If you had to choose one MG character to fight him off who would you choose and why?
Wataru Mitani from Brave Story. Wataru is quiet and unassuming and he always has good intentions. But he’s also brave and fights for what he believes in. That’s the best kind of hero, in my opinion.


2. Having defeated the ogre, you find that your car doesn’t start. Bummer. Would you rather ride a dragon or a unicorn to work? Why?
The unicorn. It’d be a smoother ride, don’t you think? Dragons are too spikey and fiery.


3. After arriving at work late, your boss asks you what your most embarrassing childhood memory was. You have to tell him. 
When I was in sixth grade, my math teacher caught me passing a note to a boy. I can’t remember the boy’s name, but I remember what the note said: “Are you going with anyone? My friend Tonya thinks you’re cute.” The teacher confiscated the note and read it in front of the class. In hindsight, it may have been more embarrassing for Tonya and the Boy. But it was embarrassing for me, too.


4. You’re pretty fed up now so when a time machine appears offering to take you to any historical event, you agree. Where do you go and why?
I love history! So my head spins thinking of all the possibilities—the moment Joan of Arc met the Dauphin, the Chicago’s World Fair of 1893, the crowning of Queen Elizabeth I, Shakespeare at the Globe, Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel, the eruption of Vesuvius, the landing of Magellan in the Philippines. But after thinking about it—probably too much—I’m not sure I would want to witness any of these events first-hand. One of the things I love about history is its mystery. (Hey, that rhymed.)


5. There is light at the end of the tunnel. As a Fearless Fifteener, your debut is out this year. Tell us about your book in 15 words or less.
A novel for all the outsiders, outcasts, and dreamers.



Blackbird Fly

Apple Yengko knows what it’s like to be different. She has a weird Filipino nickname, she’s the only Asian at her school, and she’s obsessed with the Beatles instead of boys. But her life doesn’t truly fall apart until she finds out she’s listed on the Dog Log—the list of the ugliest girls in school—and her friends abandon her. Suddenly she’s a social pariah. The boys bark at her in the halls and the girls turn the other way. Apple dreams of escape and resents everything about her culture, including her mother. Gradually, Apple learns that music can save your soul,  new friendships can come from unexpected places, and mothers are full of surprises.


Erin Kelly

Erin Entrada Kelly was raised in south Louisiana, but now lives in the Philadelphia area. She’s been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Philippines Free Press Literary Award for Short Fiction. She grew up listening to her father play the Beatles—specifically, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. | @erinkellytweets


Kris Humphrey: My Writing Influences

Moontrug is very excited that author Kris Humphrey is stopping off here on his blog tour. His debut children’s book for 8+ years, A Whisper of Wolves, is out now and here he is talking about his writing influences…

A Whisper of Wolves cover

When a raven drops a white feather at the doorstep on the day of your birth, it is a symbol of your destiny. You are a Whisperer – a guardian of the wild. Many years have passed since the people of Meridina last knew war, but a shadow has settled over the kingdom. When Alice and her companion, Storm, sense a demonic presence in the forests, they send for help. But they’re running out of time. With the entire balance of the natural world at stake, will Alice and Storm have to face the demons alone?

I’m often asked what my favourite book is. It’s a good question, but such a tough one to answer, for me, at least. I usually say The Hobbit, but the truth is I don’t have one favourite book. I could name 50 books that I love just as much, and all for very different reasons. But the reason I give The Hobbit as my answer is because of the influence it had on my early reading life, how it kick-started my imagination and set me on the long road to becoming a writer. So, now I’m going to tell you about some other great books – and great writers – who’ve influenced my writing in a wide variety of ways:

Redwall by Brian Jacques – The first in a brilliant series of fantasy novels set in a world where animals walk upright and do battle and eat enormous feasts. It was one of the first full-length books I ever read and I still remember the feeling of finishing it. It was so good I wanted to tell everyone I knew about this amazing, exciting world I’d discovered. Like J.R.R. Tolkien, Brian Jacques helped set me on course towards writer-hood.

Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper – Her Dark is Rising sequence has become a modern classic, and I think Ghost Hawk deserves just as much acclaim. It shows the arrival of the first European settlers in North America from the perspective of a young Native American. It’s beautifully written, with a strong sense of the fragile balance of nature and the tragedy of human greed. This book inspired me a great deal while writing A Whisper of Wolves.

Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick – I’ve read most of his books and they’re all great, but this one’s my favourite. He strikes the perfect balance between an incredibly tense plot and an atmospheric historical setting. Like Susan Cooper, his writing style is understated and thoughtful, and all the more effective for it. As a writer, this is something I aspire to.

Varjak Paw by S.F. Said – This is the story of a pampered house cat forced to survive out in the big, bad city – oh, and he knows an ancient form of cat Kung-Fu too! It has a macabre fairy-tale quality to it and is a masterclass in imaginative writing – especially in writing from the perspective of an animal.

Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver – Perhaps this is an obvious influence on A Whisper of Wolves, but I can’t understate how much I love Michelle Paver. She conjures incredibly vivid settings and writes such heart-stopping action scenes. She clearly knows a huge amount about prehistoric life too, but chooses just the right amount of detail to add to each scene – too much and it could become a history lesson – not enough and it could lack reality. But she balances all of this to perfection.

So, there you have it: a snapshot of my writing influences. If you haven’t read them, I urge you to give them a try. You never know – you may get struck by inspiration just like I did!

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