Christmas Cakes & Seasonal Seawigs

It's been nice to see Cakes in Space turning up in some of the festive Best Children's Books round-ups. I won't link to them all because that would be Showing Off, but Sarah McIntyre and I both liked this review from 5-year-old Alan on Space on the Bookshelf. And I love the accompanying pictures, which prove - should you be hunting for last minute presents - that Cakes in Space and Oliver and the Seawigs do fit neatly into a Christmas stocking...

                                                                                                                                            Space on the Bookshelf

Space on the Bookshelf also has lots of other good children's book reviews and recommendations, including this piece on comics and graphic novels by Simon Russell.

Mortal Engines at Blackawton

A few weeks ago I visited Blackawton Primary School in South Devon, where Class 5 have been doing a lot of project work themed around Mortal Engines. In fact, they've even built their own Traction City, in an alcove outside the classroom. It comes complete with circling airships and working turd-tanks...


A tour of the Turd Tanks
Those Turd Tanks in full...


And here's me, having a quiet nap beside a life-size model of Mr Shrike.

The class had also been asked to come up with brochures that would persuade Londoners to move to Batmunkh Gompa. This one is by Charlie Benns.

It was a great example of how a book can be used to inspire work across the whole curriculum. Huge thanks to all the children for such hard work, and to Mr Pether, Mrs Rodwell-Lynn and all the rest of the staff at Blackawton for inviting me along to see it.

Buckfastleigh Primary School's New Library


Every school needs a library, and it's always depressing when I hear about schools getting rid of them, or new schools being built without one. Here in rural Devon,of course, a lot of the schools are very small, and don't have much space for a library. So I was very pleased when Richard Arundell, the head teacher at Buckfastleigh Primary, invited me along last Tuesday to open his school's new, improved library.

I did an assembly with the school, too, but I didn't write a speech because I couldn't be bothered I thought it would be more EDUCATIONAL if we all wrote something together - so I asked for story suggestions from the children, and together we came up with the compelling tale of a puppy named Pongo who, on his very first day in the police force, foils an evil horse in its bid to steal the crown jewels.

Then off to the library, where I got to cut AN ACTUAL RIBBON (though I didn't get a photo of that bit...)

It's a lovely space, and full of good books; I think the school's many eager readers will be spending a lot of time in there.

Thanks for having me, Buckfastleigh Primary! And enjoy the new library!


I've spent the last few weeks finishing Railhead, which will be published by Oxford University Press next September.  Here's what it looks like at the moment...

It's not really finished, of course, because it now has to be handed to a copy editor who will find lots of errors and inconsistencies which will need correcting or explaining away. But I've been reading it (via Skype) to Sarah McIntyre (who has been sworn to secrecy, of course) and it finally feels like a complete story.

Illustration: Sarah McIntyre

In some ways Railhead is a return to the style of Mortal Engines - it's set in a sprawling, far-future civilization, and it has evolved from many different drafts, written over many years. But it's turned out to be less jokey than Mortal Engines, and somehow less English, I think - nobody could ever claim this one is 'steampunk'.  And it's a much bigger world than Mortal Engines, so, although Railhead is going to be one of my longer books, there's still a lot which I haven't had a chance to explore yet. Once Christmas is out of the way I shall be looking into the possibilities of a sequel.

That's all I'm going to say about Railhead until nearer to the publication date, and I may not say very much then. I think one of the dangers of the internet is that we writers talk too much about our books, happily explaining where all the ideas came from, what the influences were. Part of the pleasure of reading a book is working those things out for yourself!