Noelle from ‘The Case of the Exploding Brains’ meets Moll from ‘The Dreamsnatcher’

Moontrug is super excited to be welcoming children’s author, Rachel Hamilton, onto the blog today! Her first book for 8+ years, The Case of the Exploding Loo had Moontrug giggling big time, and now it’s time for the sequel, The Case of the Exploding Brains – and for something a little bit special as Rachel’s main character, Noelle meets Abi’s main character, Moll


Exploding Brains Full Cover


Noelle “Know-All” Hawkins has another case on her hands. A trip to the Science Museum results in an international mystery involving a stolen moon rock, some mindreading, and an awful lot of grumpy people. But how are they all connected Noelle, Holly and Porter are on the case. But will they piece the crazy clues together in time to save the planet? And why is Dad walking round with a blanket on his head?Rachel Hamilton does it again in this laugh-out-loud story of science, silliness and super-villains.



Rachel Hamilton is a graduate of both Oxford University and Cambridge University and has put her education to good use by working in an ad agency, a comprehensive school, a building site and a men’s prison. Her interests are books, films, stand-up comedy and cake, and she loves to make people laugh, especially when it’s intentional rather than accidental. She is the author of The Case of the Exploding Brains (Simon & Schuster, 2015) and The Case of the Exploding Loo (Simon & Schuster, 2014), which won second prize in the Montegrappa First Fiction Competition at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature and has been nominated for the Redbridge Children’s Award, Leeds Book Award and Worcestershire Awesomest Book Award.

Twitter: RachelLHamilton
Facebook: RachelHamiltonAuthor

Watch out for the rest of Rachel’s blog tour stops…

Exploding Brains Blog Tour

Goodreads Link:

Amazon Buy Link:

‘Not As We Know It’ by Tom Avery

Having adored Tom Avery’s debut children’s book for 9+ years, My Brother’s Shadow, Moontrug was very excited when his second book, Not As We Know It, arrived through the letterbox.


Jamie and Ned are twins. They do everything together: riding their bikes, beachcombing outside their house, watching their favourite episodes of Star Trek. But Ned is sick, and one day, he may leave Jamie behind. When they discover a strange creature on the beach, Ned wants one more adventure and decides to keep him secretly in their garage. But Jamie begins to hope that the creature might bring some miracle, and stop his brother from going where he can no longer follow…


Kate Grove’s stunning illustrations weave a certain magic through the book and combined with Tom Avery’s powerful story-telling, the effect is absolutely spell-binding. The book opens with a storm – water spraying against the window, thunder calling and black clouds gathering – and the elemental power that Avery conjures up here is sustained throughout the story. There is something otherworldly about the sea down past Ned and Jamie’s house. And through Grandad’s wonderful stories and the twin’s yearning for ‘one last adventure’, the magic of the mer people is made real.


But the mer creature the twins find isn’t just some far-fetched fantastical being. Avery’s writing is so mesmerising that the wonderfully named Leonard seems all too real – and his part in Jamie and Ned’s lives is beautifully presented. While Jamie finds Leonard frightening and becomes jealous of the bond he shares with Ned, Ned seems to understand Leonard. And what’s even more unnerving for Jamie is that Ned seems to belong to Leonard’s world of underwater clicks and moonlit singing far more than he does to the everyday world. Avery’s story-telling has an effortless quality to it, rather like David Almond’s , and it’s not unlike it in subject matter either (a strange, unearthly creature who may or may not possess the power the bring healing to a broken family). But within Jamie and Ned’s story, Grandad tells his own stories – of mythical women who turn to stars to watch over their people, of mermaids living beneath the waves, of voices that become the eternal sounds of the sea… And it is in these stories that Jamie gradually finds hope and consolation to his breaking world. For Ned and Jamie’s childhood joys (slalom bike rides, games of Risk, treasures on the beach, watching Star Trek) are set alongside an unbearable and inevitable sadness. But the book is not bleak because of it. Like Grandad’s stories, Leonard’s magic literally sings – and so does the hope it brings – the idea of ‘living’ even after unimaginable sadness interrupts your life. Not As We Know It is a heartbreakingly beautiful read for 9+ years – highly recommended.

PS: Message for Tom Avery: Moontrug is DEFINITELY playing Risk the way Jamie and Ned play it next time… (For every country you conquer, you have to say a cool fact about it). Moontrug likes.

Q&A with Abi Elphinstone: dragons, unicorn farts & other stuff

Today it’s meeeeeeeee in the hot seat for middle grade Q&As because my debut children’s book for 9-12 years, THE DREAMSNATCHER, comes out on February 26th. Next week! I’ve got a bio and book blurb at the end of the post but right now I’m 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?

Lyra Silvertongue – because she comes with a daemon and that means extra ogre-fighting power. Aaaaaaaaand she’s mates with an armoured polar bear and a bunch of fiercely protective Gyptians so basically, I don’t think the ogre would stand a chance.


  1. 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?

Tricky one. Although I have a teddy called Jim The Unicorn – who comes complete with magical unicorn farts – I’d opt for riding a dragon. One of my favourite things in the world is watching Toothless from How To Train Your Dragon fly. I would love to race a dragon through the clouds.


  1. After arriving at work late, your boss asks you what your most embarrassing childhood memory was. You have to tell him. 

My haircuts. So many dreadful haircuts. This pudding bowl extravaganza lasted far too long but probably the most embarrassing was when I used Sun-In to dye my hair the day before senior school. It went very wrong and I was known as ‘the girl with the pink hair’ for ages.

Abi as Moll

  1. 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’d love to have been with the two young cousins, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, in 1917, when they claimed to have taken photographs of real fairies. I’ve always wondered what really went on with the Cottingley Fairies…


  1. 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.

Super evil witchdoctor versus gypsy girl and wildcat. Plus catapults, tree ghouls and oracle bones.


THE DREAMSNATCHER, out 26th February 2015
The Dreamsnatcher cover FINAL

Twelve-year-old Molly Pecksniff wakes one night in the middle of the forest, lured there by a recurring nightmare – the one with the drums and the rattles and the masks. The Dreamsnatcher is waiting. He has already taken her dreams and now he wants her life. Because Moll is more important than she knows…The Oracle Bones foretold that she and Gryff, a wildcat that has always been by her side, are the only ones who can fight back against the Dreamsnatcher’s dark magic. Suddenly everything is at stake, and Moll is drawn into a world full of secrets, magic and adventure. Perfect for fans of J.K. Rowling, Michelle Harrison and Eva Ibbotson. Watch the trailer HERE.

Abi Elphinstone

Abi Elphinstone grew up in Scotland where she spent most of her childhood building dens, hiding in tree houses and running wild across highland glens. After being coaxed out of her tree house, she studied English at Bristol University and then worked as a teacher in Africa, Berkshire and London. The Dreamsnatcher is her debut novel (a sequel will be published in 2016) and when she’s not writing about Moll and Gryff, she also runs her children’s books blog


Five Children on the Western Front by Kate Saunders

Five Children on the Western Front by Kate Saunders… Moontrug had seen the glowing reviews in newspapers and she’d heard the gushing comments on Twitter but when this book won the Costa Children’s Book Award, she thought *Right, that’s it. Stop reading whatever you’re reading and read this book NOW.*


It was a day full of adventure. The children were together for the last time. The Great War began in earnest, and Cyril was off to fight. And for the first time in ten years, the magical Psammead appeared at the bottom of the garden.

Moontrug loved E. Nesbit’s Five Children and It as a child – both the book and then the BBC TV adaption. In fact it was such a hit in the family that the youngest of Moontrug’s siblings threw an almighty tantrum when Daddy Moontrug recorded the weather over episode one of the Psammead. Saunders effortlessly continues the original story with hers – a tale of a grumpy sand fairy trying to find its way home, and of five children dealing with the consequences of the war.


The Psammead, ‘a compact furry ball of deep sulking’, is brilliantly characterised and Saunders makes his journey towards self-awareness and empathy both heart-breaking and terribly funny. The children initially regard the Psammead as a treasured (if rather bad-tempered) sand fairy but as the book progresses we learn about the awful crimes he committed in his time. With the children’s help, he learns to repent but Saunders doesn’t labour this point and her use of well-timed humour makes the message even more poignant: ‘Committing more murders,’ the Lamb suggested. ‘Like a furry Jack the Ripper.’


Edie, the youngest of the children, is adorable – and perhaps the character who feels the Psammead’s magic most keenly. She loves the sand fairy despite his faults (‘Edie thought the Psammead’s yawns, when his mouth went from horizontal to vertical, awfully sweet’) and it is she who believes he will be redeemed. She refuses to think less of the Psammead, whatever he has done: ‘I’ll never think less of you’ and when the Psammead finally prepares to leave, Edie’s words will break a little piece of your heart off: ‘I’m sorry, I can’t help crying… It’s just that I love you so much!’ The book deals with two worlds – the childlike one (where sand fairies are kept hidden in the attic and children grow up to be famous explorers and have waterfalls named after them) and the adult world (where countries are torn apart in war and families are broken apart at the arrival of telegrams). The children are fabulously characterised, the story-telling voice is just as enthralling as E.Nesbit’s and the truths at the heart of the story are deeply moving. This is a classic and by page 9, you will have a tear in your eye. Highly recommended.

Winners of Moontrug’s writing competitions!

*Gasps for air*. Wow, Moontrug was sent some seriously impressive stories for her two writing competitions: Adventures on Narrowboats and Arctic Story. After much debating, here are the winning entries, and below that, the runners up (in some cases more than one runner up for each competition – you guys are just toooooo good at writing). WELL DONE everyone! Book prizes will be sent out to the winners very shortly. And if you felt inspired by writing adventure stories, come join me and The Exploration Society for a Dreamsnatcher adventure this May (sleeping in gypsy wagons, carving catapults and cooking round the camp fire): more details here.


Jessica Mason, aged 11
Narrowboat 1

Sebastian lay sprawled across the warm timber of his canal boat and was snoring quietly to himself. The inaudible waves were silently colliding with the boat and it gently bobbed up and down. As his face was beamed upon by the golden streaks of sun, his heart pulsed rhythmically around his limp and lazy body. It was a perfect day.


All of a sudden, the engine choked, hissed and spat and the boat whirred into life! Unaware of this, Sebastian dozed on. It began to clunk mechanically through the water; like a blunt knife though a block of ice. The engine hummed to itself as it churned away the smooth glassy effect on the water. Unaware of the oozing fumes and inky,oily petrol that was seeping out of the rusted exhaust pipe, Sebastian inhaled and exhaled the pungent fumes that were staining the silvery canal water. A boat moving of it’s own accord! Something was wrong. But was it moving of it’s own accord? As the stern of the moist timber slid into the shadows, a serpentine neck could be seen submerging itself beneath the murky depths. Its eyes glimmered emerald under the moss and mud. Moreover its expression was startlingly mischievous. With a flick of its scaly tail, the boat stopped abruptly and jolted painfully! Sebastian awoke with a start!


“Wuzzgoinon?” he muttered, barely awake as he tugged the tiller. But it was too late; the mysterious creature had bumped the boat so hard that Sebastian soared through the air, choking in the fumes. SPLASH! He was sinking,sinking,sinking…

Isis Phillips
Charvi Jain, aged 12

Isis’ story: The penetrating bitterness was turning my fingers mauve. I puffed up my cheeks but they remained ashy. I would rub my hands together but they were hauling along the firewood for my family. Like they’d appreciate it… No, it’s just part of living. I’d been walking for miles, trudging through waxen heaps of life.  The ubiquitous snow was largely spread on the vast landscape; the only things that weren’t snow were dead, leafless trees that were starving to death. And the snow devils kept feeding them poison. Once upon a time I felt the cold but now it has slinked inside me and taken over. It is eating away at all of us; soon we’ll turn into the snow devils or… evaporate into breath. It is your choice, they said: disappear or give in to the snow devils. In the distance I see a small hut, almost destroyed by the treacherous wind. Almost there, almost there.  And as I approach I see my family, alike bears, pouncing on animals and cutting them open to eat. I stop. Am I the only one who disagrees with this? Am I the last good?  Suddenly I realize that everyone else is already snow devils. But I would not give in. And I evaporate to breath…

Charvi’s story:
I can’t feel my thoughts think. I can’t hear myself speak. I can’t feel my bones under my flesh.
I can’t feel my pulse.
I’m overpowered by a wave of numbness.
This isn’t ordinary numbness caused by severe cold, though that is one of the main reasons.
It’s a numbness caused by grief. Grief that is caused by the death of a loved one.
My mother.
She was going to die regardless, but so soon, we’d had no idea.
My two little sisters are named Kalsie and Kara. I am named Kelly. I am immune to cold, but not to grief this overpowering. She died a few hours ago. The cold strangled her and took her to heaven.
My father sends me to get firewood. My boots sink deep into the thick snow, and my wariness is making the walk even longer. I make it back to the tent and walk in.
I stop. I see my father. I see my mother. I scream.
My scream makes me collapse. My knees crack and break under my weight. I enter the luscious world of pure darkness as my skull comes in contact with the ground.
I awake to a blinding light. My head is throbbing. All I see is my mother. Her lying on the ground, head tipped to one side, eyes half open, a trickle of blood frozen to her cheek.
I imagine her cradling me in her arms. Then, I imagine her freezing from head to toe and falling to the ground like ice. I imagine her cold, maroon coloured blood, solidified inside her flesh. I imagine gory things that make me want to vomit.
My father comes in. His face is as white as blank page. He’s holding something steaming hot in his hands. Gratefully, I accept the hot broth and spoon it down. I feel the hot liquid slip down my throat and make my tummy warm. It’s a nice feeling, but not nice enough to ridden the images I have of my mother.
“I’m sorry,” is all that my father can say.
There is nothing more to be said. Even I understand that. Kalsie comes running in.
“Is mummy asleep? She’s very naughty. You’re not allowed to sleep in the day,” she says.
“I wish she were asleep, my angel,” my father replies. The hurt and pain is as clear as crystal on his face. He is unable to cry.
“Kalsie, Kara, come here,” I whisper, holding out my hands. They wrap their mittened fingers around my hand. All I feel is love. Pure, golden, perfect love. If it weren’t for them, my life wouldn’t be worth living. Every battle I fight wouldn’t be worth fighting for. When I am scared, they give me hope, and that is more than I can ask from them. They are both turning five soon. They’re at such a tender age, they don’t need this kind of aggravation in their lives. It’s ten times difficult for a girl to grow up without a mother.
I’ll be their mother now. I’ll guide them when times get rough, and when they need someone who understands. I’ll always be there for them because I love them from the bottom of my heart. I offer them the last of my broth, but they refuse to take it.
“You’re hurt,” Kara whispers. “You should have it.”
“I love you, my girls,” I tell them.
I’ve recovered by late afternoon, so I wrap up and take the girls outside for a walk.
“Shall we make a snowman?” I suggest. I need something to lighten the mood because every now and then, one of those grotesque images flash in front of me and make me feel faint. Kalsie offers her broken scarf to wrap around the snowman. We drape it over his shoulders and then stand back and admire our masterpiece. They’re both reasonably numb by this time, so I drag them back to our tent and warm them up by the fire. They look so cute, as they unwrap themselves from their wet garments and roll around by the fire. My heart throbs with joy and love. My father appears, smiling. It’s the first time I’ve seen him smiling since our mother died. I smile back. It’s a smile that says a thousand words.
It’s a smile that says, we won’t give up, not now, not ever.
I get sent out to fetch more firewood. I have to go exceedingly far to find it, but I keep my happy face on. I need to do it for my father. I need to do it for the girls. I need to do it for myself.
I’m humming on my way back, a tune that my mother used to sing to me. This time, I force myself to only remember the good memories.
As soon as I enter the tent, I know something is wrong.
Kara is ill, severely ill. Kalsie is wailing and my father is looking crushed. I have to take charge but my blood is turning to ice water.
Is it pneumonia? What is it? There’re no doctors. When you get an illness, the chances of surviving are almost none. My heart falls to the ground and smashes into a million tiny pieces. I am shattered. Kara looks desolate. She is in pain. I can sense it. I can feel it.
“We can’t leave her like this,” I whisper.
“What can we do?” My father replies.
“Put her out of her misery,” I tell him, with a look of bravery in my eye. I want him to look back at me the same way. I want him to reassure me that I’m doing the right thing, but instead, he just crumples away in the corner of the tent.
It’s up to me now. I pick Kara up and slowly, carry her outside. I give her one last kiss on her cheek and then lower her into the snow. Deeper… deeper… deeper and then slowly, I fill the snow back in on top of her.
My heart bleeds. My hands are shaking uncontrollably. It’s nothing to do with the cold. I’m scared, and my hope has vanished down a drain.
I’ve lost so much in so little time.
So much…


Avinandan Sengupta, aged 10
Narrowboat 2

The lightning lit up the small cabin, showing the terror written all over Henry’s face. The narrowboat, which they had hired for the week was bound to be hit by lightning. He watched, awestruck, as one of the trees next to the river was hit. The paralysing effect that the weather had on him wore off when he thought of his parents dozing through the storm.


Henry rolled off his bunk and scrambled to his feet. He raced down the corridor and burst into his parents’ room. “Mum, dad, wake up!” he shouted over the rumble of thunder, as he shook the prone bodies of his parents. “What is it, Henry?” murmured his father groggily.


“Dad, there’s a storm outside!” replied Henry. His father had been injected with new purpose. The joint efforts of father and son awakened Henry’s mother, who took in the whole scene with bewilderment.


The wind howled like a lost child crying for his mother and the rain lashed out at Henry’s exposed cheeks. He saw the boat’s flag fluttering in the wind and laughed. It was a piece of normality in a maelstrom of chaos. He moved towards it but before he got there, he saw a jagged fork of lightning hit the metal pole. He heard the creak of the boat as it settled lower in the water before the massive boom of the thunder. Panic ran rife as water slowly but surely, crept into the interior of the narrowboat…..


Cassie Shine, aged 10
Narrowboat 3

I sat on the flat roof, leaning on the chimney. There were rats everywhere but, I was too far away to reach them. I shook my head and listened. The wind howled like a wolf and the rain came down like a herd of stampeding elephants. The trees danced in the wind, bending and twisting. I steadied my paws as the narrow boat rocked from side to side. It was midnight and I had sensed something very peculiar…another narrow boat lingering in the shadows, gliding towards ours. I leaned forward slightly, my ears-forward, my tail-horizontal and marginally moving. I began to snarl and yelp. I dived around the roof and then plummeted onto the ledge and pawed at my alpha’s bedroom window. I turned around and lowered my front end, I bent my ears back, my tail tucked between my legs and wrinkled my nose. Then I howled loud, louder than the wind, louder than the rain.


My Alpha’s head shot up, eyes wide and rushed to the door and unlatched the bolt. She grabbed the rope and untied it, we started drifting down the canal. Picking up speed, the wind carried us through the storm. Neither of us dared to look behind. I took a peek and, I saw them. I barked in panic and my helpless owner fiddled about with the controls. Then the boat tipped backwards slightly. My neck was stiff but when I gained the courage, I turned around and saw Dodger – a pitbull. I began to reminisce back to when we were in the same pack…

He  was my previous Alpha. I had challenged him but I had to submit. I ran away and was taken to an RSPCA centre. They cared for me and I was eventually collected by my current Alpha. As they attached my lead, I looked at some of the other dogs…the whole pack had ended up there. I padded along and they called out to me  “Watch out! Dodger’s still on the run and has killed…”

That’s all I heard, but it still didn’t sound good.

Ever since that day I hadn’t seen any of the ‘Pack’. But fate had lead me to meet Dodger. I knew that this time I couldn’t submit. I bent down and snarled. We both leaped onto the roof and pounced on each other. The battle had begun…

Josephine Chesher, aged 10
Narrowboat 4story

Ebony Kitchen, Year 7
Arctic 1

The wintery, cold breeze swept past her little fingers. Crunching snow from underneath her feet. Dragging behind her a sturdy tree branch, returning home from a long hunt for a suitable piece of wood.   Thinking of her family makes her worry, who would help them she was gone? Answer: nobody. Everybody else only look after the people they know and love. Even though people know her and her family they think it is a waste of their time. There is only her and her mother, who is really sick, slowly dying in her death bed. Her father died earlier, that makes her want to fight harder between the sickness and her only one left she truly cares for. Eventually she arrives at her tribe, hopefully still enough time before her mother slips away from the world. Her prayer has been answered, as she walks through the door, the doctor is there holding her mother’s hand. She coughs in agony. She starts to say something. The doctor tells her to rest but she refuses. More clearly she says her daughter’s name. Slowly, she walks forward seeing the nearly dead corpse that she calls mother. She worries about her mother that everything she has done is not good enough. Her mother tries to tell her something but it is no use, it just sounds like slush. A few minutes pass and at that moment her mother slips away from life. She weeps over her mother’s body. Everything she knew disappeared. Not only did she lose everything that day but she always had what she needed. It was eternal love. From her mother and father.

Grace Hopkins
Arctic 2

My name is Angela. I am five years old, yet forced to live the life of an older girl. I live with my mother, my father, my brother and my granddad, so there’s not much room in the tent. This morning, my mother told me to go and get firewood for the family, so I did.

The snow is thick as I trudge to the nearby forest. The wind is bitterly cold as it eats at my face, but I am used to it. The snow creates a blinding sea of white, bright as the sun, dangerous as a pack of wolves.

I don’t know why I have to walk this far, just to get a small branch of firewood that will only make a fire for less than half an hour. But I always do as mother says, because otherwise there are consequences. Like being forced to sleep outside the tent with the fear of the wolves coming and eating you. Or being forced to go huting with father and my brother Sammy, which is just about exactly the same as announcing your death sentence. Or told to climb a tree that you can’t get down from, always the tallest one, and being forced to spend the night there. All I can say is don’t mess with my mother.

She has been very uptight lately, after Grandma died of frostbite, and my little sister Daniella died of pneumonia. I mean, you can’t blame her, but she could consider that we are suffering as well.

The light is fading, and I know that I need to speed up, or the wolves will catch me. I raise my speed to a run, but I can hear the wolves’ footsteps and yelps of hunger closer behind me. I can see the camp, and I know that I’ll be safe there.

The final ten metres.

I’m not going to make it.

Five metres.

My life’s slipping away.

Two and a half.

I say goodbye to everything.

One metre.

I could make it.

Half a metre.

The wolves are getting closer, so close I can hear their breaths, feel their breaths on my back.

I hear Father cry for me to hurry up, but it’s too late. The wolves are already growling, their way of saying who gets the head and who gets the leg. I close my eyes, bracing myself for the worst. They get closer. I take my last breath as a sharp jolt of pain reaches me. I feel for my leg but it’s not there.

Goodbye, world.

Q&A with children’s author Laurie McKay

Next up on Moontrug’s Wednesday Q&As is middle grade author, Laurie McKay, whose debut, VILLAIN KEEPER, came out yesterday. 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?

Hermione Granger. Who else? She’s tough, smart, and would know the exact spell to use. She’d defeat an ogre in the wave of a wand.


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?

I’m going with the dragon. One, the dragon can fly me to work and I’m betting riding a dragon is faster than riding a unicorn. Two, I have dragons in my books and I have to stay loyal.


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 a shy middle-school honor student, I had to do a report on a famous person, dress up as him or her, and go to a program at a local school. I choose Diane Fossey – a scientist famous for studying gorillas and whose life was portrayed in ‘Gorillas in the mist’. Anyway, I don’t like a lot of attention, so I was nervous about wandering through the crowd and answering questions.

The night of the program, my dad arrives home for work to take me there. I get in the car, look at him, and he’s dressed from the neck down in a gorilla costume. The gorilla head was in back. If he could have driven with it on, I’m certain he would have.

I was shocked silent. Not the reaction he was going for, by the way. Of course, then we got lost on our way to the school. My poor dad was sweating, gorilla head in the backseat, ungrateful and mortified daughter beside him. Finally, for better or worse, we found the school.

My dad spent the entire night lumbering around, jumping out at people, and generally being gorilla-like. I have to admit, it ended up being memorable. And I finally got over my need to hide in the shadows. (Although, I wished I’d done it sooner.) In the end, I had one of the best costumes – due solely to the fact I also had the best – and only – gorilla.


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’d like to travel to the future, actually. I want to see what’s happening in 500 years. What will we have accomplished? What will travel be like? I’d really like to see where technology will be then.


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.
It’s a reverse portal fantasy – a prince and sorceress become stranded in Asheville, NC.




“Unexpected magic, villainous teachers, and dragons in disguise await readers in the first book of a delightful new tween adventure series by debut author Laurie McKay.

 All his life, Prince Caden has dreamed of being sent on a quest to slay a dragon. But before he has the chance, he is ripped from his home in the Winterlands of Razzon and finds  himself in Asheville, North Carolina—a land with no magic and no dragons. But a prince must always complete his quest. And the longer Caden is in Asheville, the more he realizes  there is magic in this strange land after all. More important, there may just be dragons here, too. But what if Caden’s destiny isn’t to slay a dragon, like he’s always believed?

Fans of Soman Chainani’s The School for Good and Evil and Chris Colfer’s The Land of Stories will be transported by this first book in an epic new series for middle  grade readers about a brave young prince’s quest to find answers, honor, friendship—and what it really means to be a hero.”



Photo resized

Laurie McKay is an author and biology instructor who lives in Durham, NC. When she’s not working, she spends time with her family and her two elderly dogs. You can find out more and see pictures of her dogs at or by following her on twitter, facebook, or pinterest. Her debut MG fantasy novel, VILLAIN KEEPER, will be available from HarperCollins on Feb 3rd, 2015.


Cover reveal: THE WILD BEYOND by Piers Torday

Moontrug is a BIG Piers Torday fan and when she’s not arm-wrestling him, she’s devouring his incredible books – both The Last Wild and The Dark Wild were among her absolute favourite reads last year.


In his Wild series Torday has given children something very, very special: brilliant characters (particular shout out to wolf cub and the white pigeon), fast-paced plots, sinister villains and a truly magical sense of adventure. Small wonder then that The Dark Wild won The 2014 Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize… But to top all of that, Torday has got a stormer of an illustrator (Thomas Flintham) onto his book covers. And the very latest one, the cover for the last book in his trilogy, The Wild Beyond, is COMPLETELY STUNNING. So, without further ado, here it is… And watch out as it hits bookshelves on 2nd April!