It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to visit a school or library, but I’ve been up to all kinds of things during lockdown: I’m halfway through a new Thimble, provisionally titled Thimble and the Girl from Mars, I’ve written and directed a lockdown audio play (adults only I’m afraid!), I’ve made lots of music (including recording a song with my bandmates from 1972!), and I’ve even written some poems! Here’s a sample for your amusement:
Never feed a cygnet a twiglet
Just because it rhymes
Stuffing a swan with a bonbon is wrong
A goose is no use if fed with a mousse
Goose mousse feeding’s a crime
If you see a duckling buckling
It’s probably eaten a suckling pig
A piglet is worse than a twiglet
To a duckling, a goose or a cygnet
Never feed a sparrow a marrow
Just because it sounds poetic
Its throat is painfully narrow
The result will be pathetic
Never feed a coot another coot
That would be totally brutal
A sunflower seed or a live millipede
Would be simple, ethical, suitable
Do not take me for an enemy of verse
War or flood or famine is worse
But when applied to the feeding of owls
Or various breeds of waterfowl
Just imagine what it does to their bowels
Nothing’s more deadly than matching vowels
So stick to regular food for birds
And don’t feel guilty if it doesn’t rhyme.
Thimble Wonga Bonkers is launched!
Thimble Wonga Bonkers is now on the shelves! We had a fantastic launch on Feb 27, with thanks to the pupils and teachers of White Rose Primary in New Tredegar (that’s one of the old mining villages of the South Wales valleys). The pupils devised the launch themselves and I hardly had to do anything except answer a few questions and sign quite a lot of books. Well done White Rose, a lovely modern school where teachers do so much to encourage an enthusiasm for reading. And the same is true of Jubilee Park Primary in Rogerstone (near Newport, see pic above), where I appeared on World Book Day and had a fantastic reception, despite being a bit below par with a virus which sadly meant I had to miss a visit to Moorlands Primary in Southampton, so close to where I grew up. But I hope the pupils there enjoyed the video I made for them and the books I’ve sent. Another time hopefully. As I write this I’m just coming to the end of my reign as Welsh Libraries’ author of the month, but I am as keen as ever to visit schools and libraries and spread the joy of Thimble!
Thimble 3 is out!
It’s all happening. Thimble Wonga Bonkers, third in the smash hit Thimble series,comes out Feb 20, and to mark the occasion the National Library of Wales has chosen me as their first ever Author of the Month! That’s a big honour as there are quite a few authors in Wales! There are also quite a few Thimble fans, and I’ll be meeting a big bunch of them on February 27th, when Thimble Wonga Bonkers has its big launch at White Lion Primary in New Tredegar. Cardiff’s a great city where I’ve lived for over thirty years, but I thought it was time a Valleys town had a major literary event, which is how I like to describe the launch of a new Thimble! White Lion is one of the most enthuisiastic school’s I’ve visited, and I know they’ll be putting a lot of effort into the big day! Can’t wait!
More visits and a new book coming
The clock is slowly ticking towards February 2020, when Thimble Wonga Bonkers will be joining the first two Thimbles in the bookstores, and judging from the responses I’ve been getting from the extracts I’ve read, it will be a big hit! The latest schools to get a taste of it were Deri Primary, St Gwladys (Bargoed) and Ysgol Bro Sannan (Aberbargoed). All the visits were a pleasure, and as usual the librarians and teachers of the Rhymney Valley were excellent hosts.
Big honour for Holiday Havoc
I’m delighted to say that Thimble Holiday Havoc has been shortlisted for the Sully Diversity Book Award. It’s always been my aim to write great entertaining stories which involve all kinds of characters, including disabled characters, and to be recognised for this is so important to me. The news has come at the end of an interesting couple of weeks, which included a workshop at Kings Monkton School in my home city of Cardiff (some great ideas from the kids involved which I have promised not to steal!), the release of my new OUP book Ethan the Great, and a launch event for Cardiff Song, sung by my daughter Zazie and her friend Nat, to raise funds for the Bobath Centre whicb provides therapy for kids with cerebral palsy. Check out the video and if you like the song, please buy the download!
World Book Day and more
It’s been a busy time, not only for me but also my superstar apprentice Jordi Blake. While I was entertaining the hordes from Llandaff City Primary for World Book Day as part of the Brilliant Books event at Insole Court, my 12-year-old son (the inspiration for Jams in the Thimble books) was host and compere for the Cardiff City Community Foundation 10th annivesary event. He went down a storm and next day was treated to the finest seat in the City Stadium for the West Ham game – the CCFC director’s chair! In between he sang beautifully at the Fitzalan High eisteddfod and had the entire crowd chanting his name! Jordi certainly has come a long way since his major op last summer (see below). Check out his CCFC vid.
I also had a great day this week at Machen Library and Primary School – sold out of Thimbles and now have to order some more! Remember, librarians, I always visit libraries free of charge. Let me know if you’re interested. Here’s a recent interview I did on the subject of literacy.
Ethan is Coming
I’m delighted to announce that my 63rd book, Ethan the Great, will be published on April 4th by the OUP. Like Thimble, Ethan features a main character with cerebral palsy. Despite his disability he longs to be a professional footballer, but life has other plans for him. In my mind this story is set on the flat farmlands between Cardiff and Newport, and if you like animals, humour and plenty of drama this one is for you!
Down the Velvet Coalmine
Back when I arrived in Cardiff, there were still quite a few coal mines in the South Wales valleys. Now they are gone, but in their memory there is the Velvet Coalmine arts festival. I was pleased to take part in it last year, and even more pleased to take part again this year, as it meant a visit to one of my favourite valleys towns, Pengam, this time to Pengam Primary. Thanks so much to years three and four and their teachers. They were a great audience and ordered so many copies of Thimble I could hardly carry them!
New book, Jordi’s op
Thimble got very tired slogging it around the fabulous libraries of Caerphilly Borough Council (see below) so he’s resting up at the moment while I get to work on a history of my 34 years as a children’s writer, with lots of interesting insights into how my 62 books came to be written. It should be 63 later this year with another book for the OUP: I’ll give more details when the publication date is announced. Thanks to all those on Twitter and elsewhere who’ve asked after Jordi after his major op: as I’ve said, the surgeons did a great job and he’s well on the way to being able to walk again, this time with two straight legs! After seven long weeks he is finally able to climb the stairs on his bum and is back in his own bedroom, not sleeping in my office, hurray!
Touring the Rhymney and Ebbw Valleys
Following a month off while Jordi has been recovering from his op (see below), I’m now in the middle of an end of term library tour of the Rhymney and Ebbw Valleys in South Wales. Some of the libraries here are awesome – notably Risca, which used to be a cinema, and Bargoed, an enormous building which used to be a chapel. At a time when libraries everywhere are under threat, it is good to be reminded how much these places can offer their communities. I am happy to visit them free of charge, especially when I can talk to such enthusiastic groups of kids!
Jordi’s big op
Sorry for the lack of news lately but my brilliant apprentice Jordi Blake had a big operation in early June – both thigh bones cut and straightened, titanium rods put down the middle of them, screws and plates all over the place. He was amazingly brave going into the op, but recovering has been a long painful process, hard work for all of us. At the end of it, however, he should be able to walk straight, something he has never been able to do (followers of Thimble will know that Jordi is the model for Jams, who has cerebral palsy). The surgeons at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff did a fantastic job, and as usual we are more than grateful for our fantastic NHS.
Thimble 3 is on the way!
I am happy to say that Thimble 3, now known as Thimble Wonga Bonkers, is finally finished! I guarantee this one is all killer, no filler, full of tasteful highbrow jokes like Thimble doing a poo in Ikea. I read some extracts at the Cardiff Children’s Literature Festival (see below) accompanied by my brilliant apprentice Jordi (look out for his new book review site btw), and after finally escaping from Wales where I have been trapped for 31 years, gave it another reading at Long Mountain primary in Shropshire with the help of the fantastic Button and Bear bookshop in Shrewsbury. This time Jordi wasn’t accompanying me, but THIMBLE WAS! The manic monkey will be coming with me on all school and library visits from now on, so get booking!
Exclusive: man visits castle
On Saturday 28 April I shall be appearing at Cardiff Castle where I will be charged with high treason against the king and fomenting a peasants’ rebellion. Oops, sorry, that’s just an idea I had for a book. Let’s start again. On Saturday 28 April I shall be appearing at Cardiff Castle as part of the Cardiff Children’s Literature Festival. And why not? I have lived in this fair city for over thirty years and written over fifty books here. In fact I’ll be giving a whistle-stop tour of my career at this event, besides giving readings from work in progress. i.e Thimble Money Bonkers, and even playing a little live music! It’s an occasion not to be missed and tickets can be obtained here, so book now or regret it for the rest of your life!
Is Zazie the real Thimble?
Thimble started life in a joke news story on one of my websites, but when I came to write the books, he started behaving quite a bit like a toddler. There are people who are convinced he is actually my seven-year-old, Zazie, who does cause quite a bit of chaos if left alone for more than two minutes. If you come to any of my events you might well be able to decide for yourself, as both my kids enjoy disrupting them!
More school visits
I’m still hard at work on Thimble 3 (provisional title Thimble Money Bonkers) and have given my first readings (at St George’s Primary, Weston-super-Mare, wonderful audience). A few more school visits are in the pipeline, so watch out Bristol, Caerphilly and Cardiff! I’ll be road-testing more scenes from the new book, besides the tried-and-tested ones from Thimble Monkey Superstar and Thimble Holiday Havoc. Enjoy World Book Day everyone! Do you know that the UK celebrates WBD on a different day to the rest of the world, who celebrate it on April 23rd?
Thimble at the Lollies Awards
Sadly Thimble didn’t win the Lollies this year, but my crazy monkey is certainly not going away! I’m hard at work on book three, which may just turn out to be the funniest yet, and I had a great night at the awards ceremony – or should I say we had a great night, as my littluns Jordi and Zazie were there, as well as my partner Natalie. I hereby predict that Jordi will be an award-winner himself in the years to come. He has a way with words that you just can’t teach! Check his website to see the writing he’s already doing at the tender age of 11.
Lollies voting ends
The voting period for the 2017 Lollies is now over, so thanks to all those people who voted for Thimble. We’ll know on January 18th who’s won the award, but win or lose I am happy, because Thimble Monkey Superstar is now a hit, and Thimble Holiday Havoc is proving just as popular. I marked the last day of voting with a sale at my kids’ school, Radnor Primary in Cardiff, where Thimble was first launched in the summer of 2016. And now it is time to get working on the next book, for which I’ve been gathering ideas for the past six months! Believe me, I am as excited as anyone to know what Thimble’s going to get up to this time!
Canton Library full to bursting
We’re very nearly at the end of the voting period for the Lollies (Laugh Out Loud Awards), so if you want to vote for Thimble, please do so now! Many people are rooting for Thimble to be the first book with a disabled main character to win a major UK award, but hopefully it does help that everybody seems to find it so funny! This week we managed to cram 120 kids from Lansdowne Primary into my local library in Canton, Cardiff, just a few metres away from what used to be Canton police station, before Thimble demolished it! Or am I getting mixed up between fact and fiction? Anyway, Lansdowne kids were one of my best ever audiences and I’m happy to say plenty went away with a signed copy. The event came hot on the heels of a visit to Sandfields Primary in Port Talbot and a stall at the Bobath Christmas Market, two other enjoyabe occasions in what has been a long and rewarding Vote Thimble campaign. Many thanks also to those fantastic Family Bookworms for being first off the mark with a review of Thimble Holiday Havoc!
Holiday Havoc is launched
I’m just back from two fantastic days in Wrexham launching Thimble Holiday Havoc. Many thanks to the Rofft School, Victoria Community Primary, Wrexham Library and Alexandra Community Primary. In over thirty years as writer I have never encountered such enthusiasm over a book I’ve written.
The events were notable for being the first I’ve ever done with my brilliant illustrator, Martin Chatterton. After eight books together we have finally met! Needless to say we got on great, although I had to keep an eye on the drawings which were appearing behind me as I spoke, usually to gales of laughter!
Plenty of events coming up in the final weeks of the Vote Thimble campaign for Lollies 2017 (see below). If you are a teacher or librarian, email me for a visit while we’re doing them for next to nothing!
Thimble Two is Out!
Thimble Holiday Havoc is out! Thicker than Thimble Monkey Superstar, with embossed letters on the cover, and. . .oh yes, a typically original JB story guaranteed to make you literally laugh your socks off – and I do mean ‘literally’, as socks were flying off at every road test! Next week I’ll be racing up to North Wales for the launch events at schools and libraries in Wrexham: I was Wrexham Library writer-in-residence back in 1990 and can’t wait to see North Wales’s largest town again! And to make things even more exciting, I shall be accompanied by Thimble illustrator Martin Chatterton! We’ve made eight books together and been shortlisted for two major awards, but believe it or not, have never actually met!
Thimble Holiday Havoc is available at all the usual outlets, and if you want a signed copy you can get one right here. Read on down if you haven’t yet voted for Thimble Monkey Superstar for the 2017 Lollies! Just one month left to vote!
Stop press: thanks to Llandaff City Primary, one of my local schools in west Cardiff, for organising a visit at quite short notice: I’m helping to promote their campaign to improve their library – you can vote to support this campaign here.
More schools and my connection with Henry VIII
Had a bit of a setback for the Vote Thimble campaign this month – I got gout! It’s a painful inflammation of a joint – in my case the ankle – which once afflicted Henry VIII! That put me right out of action for the Bobath Welly Walk where I was due to sign Thimbles to raise money for this important cerebral palsy charity – CP is the disability affecting Jams, heroic narrator of Thimble Monkey Superstar, for those of you who have inexplicably still not read it! But fear not, I have still hobbled around to several other events, including my talk at Bute Park celebrating 30 years as a Cardiff author, visits to Millbank Primary and Whitchurch High*, and a last minute call to my local library in Canton to address none other than the 6th Cardiff St John Brownie pack! Didn’t tell the doctor about that one! Anyway, I’m back to full fitness now – just as well as Thimble Holiday Havoc is back from the printers and I shall be going up to Wrexham (and possibly a few places in the vicinity) for the launch. Details to follow, more about Thimble Holiday Havoc below, and last but not least, don’t forget to Vote Thimble as you only have till December 8!
*For the duration of the Vote Thimble campaign I am offering a talk to schools, libraries etc for just £50! Email me to book.
Thimble Two is on its way!
It’s been busy, busy, busy on the campaign trail as Thimble Monkey Superstar bids to be the first Welsh winner of a Lolly (see below): thanks to Coryton and Adamsdown primary schools for two great events and shedloads of Thimble sales! But the really exciting news is that Thimble Holiday Havoc is at the printers and all set for its launch on November 9! THH will be my 61st book and in my own humble opinion one of my best. Ten years of home exchange holidays gave me the material, plus some imagination of course as we didn’t have a crazy monkey tagging along with us! THH is available for preorder at all the usual stockists, including my fabulous publishers FireflyPress!
The Thimble bandwagon is steadily rolling on in our quest for world domination! Had a great day in Aberbargoed for the Velvet Coalmine festival (favourite comment: “Are you coming here every day?”) and took part in the Lollies blog tour with a blog and a Q&A session on the popular Family Bookworms site. Events coming up include visits to Coryton and Adamsdown primary schools, my October 8th event for adults in Bute Park (see poster) and (fanfare please) the launch of Thimble Holiday Havoc! Details of this earth-shattering event will follow shortly.
Don’t forget, Thimble can’t win the Lollies without votes, so if you love it please vote here!
I’ve just had a frabjous day signing books at the Rhondda Book Fair, following library events in Pengam and Rhiwbina. Next up is an appearance at the Velvet Coalmine day in Blackwood on Wednesday 13 Sept. And on Sunday 8th October I’m talking and answering questions at my favourite haunt, Bute Park Education Centre. That event, from 1-3pm, will also be a celebration of 30 years as Cardiff author.
Librarians and teachers are welcome to get in touch with me to arrange visits during the voting period for the 2017 Lollies (more about this and Thimble Monkey Superstar below) while my rates are unbelievably cheap!
Thimble July news
Since Thimble Monkey Superstar was shortlisted for the 2017 Lollies (Laugh Out Loud awards) the Thimble bandwagon’s been growing by the day. I’ve been interviewed on BBC Radio Wales, once on my own and once with my brilliant son Jordi (who predictably stole the show). We’ve had a whole page feature in the South Wales Echo and a glowing review in the South Wales Evening Post. I’ve appeared at school fetes, the Bobath Wales fete and Disability Awareness Day in Warrington, and have a whole load of school and library visits in the diary. Social media has gone Thimble mad, with reviews, blogs and videos extolling the virtues of the nutty monkey and his disabled friend Jams. With so much going on I’ve suspended my creative writing classes for the rest of the year, which means if anyone wants me for an author visit, I’m available!
Just a reminder that we need votes to win the Lollies! If you love Thimble and want to see a winner which is not only LOL funny but features a fantastic boy with cerebral palsy not unlike my son, please don’t forget to vote! This is where to do it.
Thimble shortlisted for Lollies
Thimble Monkey Superstar has been shortlisted for a 2017 Lollies award! A Laugh Out Loud award is one of the most sought-out prizes in UK children’s fiction, so this is a huge honour. Thimble has been selected for the 6 to 8 age range, but I do want to emphasise that older kids and even adults love this book! Good luck to the other shortlisted writers, although I still haven’t got over Jacqueline Wilson pipping me when I was shortlisted for the 1996 Children’s Book Award, also with illustrator Martin Chatterton! Congratulations too to Firefly Press, a small publisher from my home town of Cardiff who are deservedly gaining a name for themselves. Why not visit their website to buy Thimble at a discount price?
The Lollies award will be decided by popular vote, so please spread the word if you love Thimble: to vote click here.
Thimble chosen for Summer Reading Challenge
Thimble Monkey Superstar has been chosen for the Summer Reading Challenge 2017. The selection of Thimble as one of the books for older readers, by the Reading Agency, tops a great first year for my latest comic novel. I’ve yet to read a bad review of it, and look forward to hearing from a host of new readers this summer! The full Reading Challenge list is here.
Stop press: Thimble has also now been chosen as one of Toppsta’s top summer reads for 7 year olds!
Thimble in Toppsta’s best of 2016 list
Thimble Monkey Superstar has made Toppsta’s best children’s books of 2016 list! The lovable nutty monkey is included in the top 12 books loved by the 6+ age group. Many thanks for the compliment.
More Thimble events and interviews
I’ve been very busy lately: an interview on the Radio Wales Arts Show on Wednesday, a session at the new Cardiff Book Festival Saturday (accompanied by my apprentice Jordi Blake, see www.jordiblake.co.uk), and in a week or so an interview with Debbie McGee on Radio Berkshire. The book is going down a storm – see Toppsta for some lovely reviews from the people who really matter to me, my readers.
Thimble Monkey is getting everywhere!
It’s been a busy week for me: on Wednesday 5 Oct I read from Thimble Monkey Superstar at the Bobath Centre in Cardiff to mark World Cerebral Palsy Day, and on Saturday I took part on Firefly Day at Waterstones Cardiff, aided and abetted by my brilliant apprentice Jordi Blake. We were lucky enough to be drawn by the one and only Shoo Rayner, who is also a Firefly author – Firefly being the up-and-coming Cardiff publisher which has just won the Branford Boase award, named after my great mentor and friend Wendy Boase, formerly the senior editor at Walker Books. It was Wendy who really got my career going and I’m sure she would have been happy to see how well my latest book is being received!
Thimble is out!
I’ve been a successful children’s author for over 30 years, but Thimble Monkey Superstar, published on May 19th by Firefly Press, is a new departure for me. That’s because its main character, Jams, is based on my own son Jordi, who has cerebral palsy.
There are far too few books for children which feature characters with disabilities, and from fairy stories to Roald Dahl, physical difference is all too often associated with evil. I wanted to create a character who is just that, a character. Jams’ disability is part of who he is but he is not defined by it. He’s also warm, funny, creative and optimistic – rather like Jordi.
Right from the start, we have involved Bobath Wales in the promotion of the book. Bobath, an important provider of therapy for children with CP, are selling the book on their website and taking part of the proceeds.
I do want to emphasise that Thimble Monkey Superstar is not a boring educational book! It’s been a big hit with the children who’ve read it because it’s a fun, funny story. Hopefully it will lead to a series and many more children will get swept up in the adventures of Jams and Thimble.