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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!
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.
Here’s ‘Come Home Soon’, a song I recorded a while ago, set to pictures of Floozie (RIP), the real-life inspiration for Feela.
The Last Free Cat has been selected for the 2013 IRA Young Adults’ Choices reading list, the first Albert Whitman title to be accorded this honour. The IRA (International Reading Association, not Irish Republican Army, btw) is the world’s leading organisation of literacy professionals, and its young adults’ reading list is limited to about 30 titles per year. To quote the IRA website, “since 1987, the Young Adults’ Choices project has developed an annual list of new books that will encourage adolescents to read. The books are selected by the readers themselves, so they are bound to be popular with middle and secondary school students. The reading list is a trusted source of book recommendations, used by adolescents, their parents, teachers, and librarians.”
The Last Free Cat continues to make waves in the USA: a great little review from a teen reader recently on Teen Ink which is one of the best summaries of the book I’ve seen. Many more reviews also on Goodreads which demonstrate that readers either love it or hate it – fortunately the lovers are in a large majority! The fact that some don’t like it at all does not surprise me. The book has a powerful sense of right and wrong which will not be shared by those of a conservative disposition. It prides me greatly that Albert Whitman recognised this in choosing the book for their very select imprint, which you can read about here.
The novel has also been re-reviewed in the key journal School Library Review (no link available) where it was first reviewed in 2008, and on Kirkus.
All this attention to a book written in Cardiff, Wales, has however failed to impress the organisers of the first Cardiff Children’s Literature Festival, which takes place in March this year. Despite the fact I have been singlehandedly flying the flag for Cardiff on the children’s literature stage for over 25 years, in China, Japan, Australia, the US, South Africa, Taiwan, half of Europe and more, they have decided I am surplus to requirements. Never mind the 300,000 books I have sold, nor the quarter century of school visits and community arts projects through which I have sought to inspire generations of young people in South Wales. Never mind the fact I have been published by almost every major publishing house in the UK as well as those abroad. I will leave my books to speak for themselves and others to judge whether the Cardiff Children’s Literature Festival will be devalued by my absence. In the meantime thanks to all those who have bought The Last Free Cat or any other of my 56 books: it is your views I value.
The Last Free Cat is published this weekend (Sept 1) in the US, but already the advance copies released by Albert Whitman have generated plenty of interest and some great reviews on Goodreads. There’s now a page devoted to the book on facebook: please join if you’re a fan.
News also from South Korea that this long-awaited edition will hopefully be out in October.
I’ve also got a few new ebooks out: the two-follow-ups to my best-selling comic junior novel One Girl School, and Snails and Lovers, a novel for older teens which first came out in the 80s as Geoffrey’s First. The Sunday Times described it as a “funny and moving love story”: before I wrote The Last Free Cat I’d have described it as my best book.
It’s good to know that The Last Free Cat is still attracting attention around the world. Following the review posted earlier from a top US books blogger, the novel has now had a huge recommendation from a reviewer on the Hong Kong based South China Morning Post. The review is posted in thumbnail form below.