In a market saturated by funny stories for children, it’s a great honour to be shortlisted for the 2017 Lollies (Laugh Out Loud awards). Thimble Monkey Superstar is my fifty-somethingth novel for juniors in a career of many ups and downs, and this nomination comes twenty-one years after Little Stupendo was shortlisted for the Children’s Book Award – also in concert with that fantastic illustrator Martin Chatterton. The central character (not the monkey!) is based on my young son who has cerebral palsy.
Those who know me for my teen thriller The Last Free Cat or adult novel 69ers (aka When Dylan Sank the Isle of Wight) might be disappointed that Thimble is not quite as radical in content, but I can assure you it is not conservative in any way either! Judge Michael Rosen has written that it would be good to see humorous books for kids taking on more political themes, but all I can say is, I have tried! First we need publishers willing to take a punt on such books.
Now that the shortlists have been drawn up, The Lollies are decided by popular vote. There’s an inbuilt advantage for those authors already well known through TV with thousands of followers on social media (David Baddiel won last year and is shortlisted again in the 9-12 category), but I know already that children love Thimble, and like all my books, Thimble Monkey Superstar is nothing if not original. You can buy it at a discount price from excellent indie publisher Firefly Press, and if you or you kids like it, please vote for it!
I swore I would not turn this site into a general site about cats, but Flora, the part-Bengal successor to Floozie, on whom The Last Free Cat was based, does I think deserve international recognition for her ability to crawl into the smallest and most unsuitable places.
Fans of The Last Free Cat may know that I’m also known for comic novels for juniors: check out Thimble Monkey Superstar, out May 19th.
I’ve lost count of the number of people who have said that The Last Free Cat would make a great movie. And whereas so many teenage dystopias actually evoke a conservative and despairing view of the world, The Last Free Cat radically questions our current world order and finds a real source of hope.
In Hollywood, they say, you must be able to pitch your idea for a film in two sentences. So here are two sentences which describe The Last Free Cat:
In a world where cats are marketed like Rolexes, it is strictly illegal to own a stray. Law-abiding teenager Jade finds an unregistered cat in her garden, falls in love with it, and ends up on a flight from the authorities which radically changes the way she looks at the world.
There is, of course, much more to the story than two sentences can convey: importantly, it’s also about a human relationship and has been chosen by Books For Keeps as one of its top ten teen romances.
Given its political significance, The Last Free Cat is predictably a story which divides opinion, but a brief read through the reviews on Goodreads confirms that it is a book with a huge impact on its fans. In 2013 it was selected by the ILA as one of the top thirty YA books published in the US. As a film it could maybe be an award-winner?
My second offer is a completely new novel for junior-age children, Insect Day, which will be COMPLETELY FREE for five days from Nov 20, and thereafter just £1.49. This again will be an e-book available on Amazon. Unfortunately, however, this is not featuring prominently on Google searches for Insect Day by Jon Blake owing to the fact that actor Blake Lively was attacked by a swarm of bees a few months ago, curiously enough, just before her birthday.
With Christmas in mind, if anyone is interested in a signed copy of any of my many other publications for children, I shall make these available at the price on the book cover plus postage – just drop me a line.
I never intended this site to be used for the general discussion of cats, but Flora’s litter (discussed below) included a disabled kitten, and I thought it would be useful to share our experience.
As soon as the kittens began to walk it was clear there was something wrong with Fireboy, the little black-and-white one (named after his dad, Fireman, who he so closely resembled). Unlike the other kittens, Fireboy could not seem to get his back legs up. He dragged them around rather like a frog’s: they seemed weak and undeveloped. We considered taking him to the vet, but with the cost of consultations so high, checked out the web first. There we came across the condition known as Swimmer Kitten Syndrome, whose symptoms closely matched Fireboy’s. According to some articles, vets had recommended putting down kittens with this problem, which is probably caused by a lack of space in the womb. However, some cat owners claimed to have cured the condition either by taping the legs together or making a sling with which to hold up the back legs. We rejected the latter idea as we did not have the time nor energy to walk around supporting the back end of a kitten all day long. However we tried the former. We bought microporous surgical tape, about 2cm wide, and I wound it around the bottom part of Fireboy’s legs, joining them together so that they were about 4cm apart – tight enough to prevent his feet from sliding outward, but loose enough for him to get about.
Needless to say, Fireboy was not keen on this at first, but he soon got used to it. With his hips now in the right position, all his running and climbing was now strengthening the muscles and teaching him correct movement. After eight days I took the tape off and hey presto! He was walking upright. His feet were still rather splayed and his haunches smaller than his siblings, but continuous exercise seems to be rectifying things. He’s a fabulous little kitten, probably the most adventurous of the bunch, and a lovely looking thing to boot. So there we go: swimmer kitten syndrome, as others have claimed, is a curable problem. Maybe if I get around to writing a sequel to The Last Free Cat, as so many have urged me, this experience could be incorporated into that fictional world.
For more about my 50+ children’s books, including Thimble Monkey Superstar, shortlisted for the 2017 Lollies (Laugh Out Loud awards) check out my main website.
There’s been nothing much to say about The Last Free Cat lately. It’s been selling steadily, particularly the e-book, and collecting excellent reviews on Amazon and Goodreads (apart from a bizarre campaign against the book from people who were disappointed when I told them that the novel had nothing to do with the abortion issue). In real life, however, we got ourselves a worthy successor to Floozie, the inspiration for The Last Free Cat. Flora is a beautiful little part-Bengal tabby, a quite unique mixture of colours with a great temperament. She came on heat on Valentines Day and gave birth under our bed just after Easter. I’ve been closely observing her four fantastic kittens ever since, partly because their development is so fascinating, partly because they just might feature in a sequel if I ever decide to write it. As you can see from the three here, they are the perfect antidote for anyone like me who does not find it easy to relax.