Wednesday 12 August 2015

Patricia Leitch

We are very sad to announce that the author Patricia Leitch passed away on 28 July.  

Pat's humour, ability to capture the beauty of the natural world in her words, and sense of the strong and healing power of friendship touched readers all over the world. 

Pat was born, and spent much of her life, in Scotland - where she found the wild and beautiful setting that would feature in many of her books. She had many jobs, including being a teacher and (like the fantastic Miss Tuke in the Jinny at Finmory series!) working at a riding school. But running through all of this were her lifelong loves of horses, nature and language and - to the gratitude of many future readers - she decided to put these into stories.

Her books were a part of the childhood of so many readers, and Catnip are terrifically proud to have been able to bring the Jinny at Finmory series back into print. We felt very honoured and very grateful to Pat for allowing us to do this and for her very enthusiastic support.  

Over the years, we have received so many letters and messages from readers all over the world who wanted Pat to know how much her books meant to them. (If there was a rosette for 'most fan mail', Jinny and Shantih would definitely win!) It was clear that it wasn't just that readers enjoyed the stories, but that the friendship which Jinny and her Arab mare Shantih found in each other really meant something and gave people hope.

It was my predecessor at Catnip, Non - along with the author Lauren St John - who first made this happen. They both had treasured these books in their childhoods and wanted a new generation to be able to experience the same thing. (To find out more about what the books meant to Non, here is her blog post from when the new editions first came out).  And I hope that Pat knew just how much it meant to all of us to have the chance to share these books. 

A tribute from Lauren St John: 

As a horse-mad child growing up in Zimbabwe, Patricia Leitch's Jinny at Finmory series had a profound impact on my life. She was a writer who was decades ahead of her time in terms of her passion for animals, nature and the environment, and, most crucially, her understanding of the minds of horses and children who are outsiders. She promoted Natural Horsemanship before it had even been invented. To me, she is one of the most underrated and consistently brilliant children's authors in history. When I read her books now, as an adult, they are as fresh, important and beautifully written now as they were twenty or thirty years ago. I shall always be grateful to Catnip for reissuing them and for publishing them so wonderfully, and I'm tremendously honoured to have written the foreword to the books. After Catnip's edition of For Love of a Horse was published, Pat wrote to me and said how much pleasure it gave her to know that Jinny and Shantih were running free once again. I firmly believe that, wherever she is now, she'll be with them. Running free. 

Pat cared deeply and passionately about animals and the way we treat our environment, and so any donations in her memory can be made to Hessilhead Wildlife Rescue in North Ayrshire.

Thursday 11 June 2015

Ten Things I Love About THE CROWHAM MARTYRS by Jane McLoughlin

Here are the Ten Things I Love About THE CROWHAM MARTYRS!

1. Maddy 
2. Jane

Ghosts don't scare Maddy Deeprose  she's seen them all her life. So when her mum sends her to creepy old boarding school Crowham Martyrs, Maddy isn't worried. 

But when her friends start disappearing, Maddy knows it's time to be scared. 

Something is lurking at Crowham Martyrs. Something evil. 

Is the place that is supposed to keep Maddy safe about to become the hunting ground?

I love this book and am terrifically proud to be its editor. I was quite tempted to just fill this post with 'I LOVE CROWHAM MARTYRS' over and over again, but I thought instead I'll be a proper, coherent human and explain to you why I love it. I am going to update this each day with one of the Ten Things I Love About The Crowham Martyrs!

1. Maddy

For me, a story is as fun as the characters living it, so, you know, NO PRESSURE MADDY. Luckily, Maddy is Pretty Damn Awesome and I loved her from the moment I started reading. Maddy confides in the reader and feels like a friend, and her dry sense of humour is perfect for guiding us through the weird goings on. She's also not afraid to sneak out of bed and run through the creepy corridors of Crowham Martyrs searching for clues (which is lucky really, as I would definitely be too scared to do that and would have just ended up staying in my room and having no adventures if it wasn't for Maddy.) 

2. Jane

As the woman who birthed Maddy from her brain, it was a safe bet that Jane was going to be Pretty Damn Awesome too. And she is! Our editorial meeting was a big chat over a glass of winehighly professional discussion on the nuances of language and the editing process was so much fun, with me getting to ask lots of nosy questions about the characters and the wonderful world Jane had created. As well as being a rather brilliant author (her first book, AT YELLOW LAKE, was long listed for the Carnegie and the Branford Boase and shortlisted for the Amazing Book Award), Jane is also an enthusiastic member of the author community, doing tonnes of stuff with SCWBI, lots of school events and generally shouting loud about books. I am not quite sure where she finds the time to sleep and eat among all this and so I think she could well be a vampire.

3. The cover

Designed and illustrated by the completely fantastic Pip Johnson, this cover is so lovely looking I want to run outside waving it in windows and and thrusting it into people’s faces in the street.

I think it completely captures the feeling of the book – when I write the cover brief I try to sum up how I think it feels to read the book, and the things that I want people to know are in there. With this book I wanted people to know that there were spooky, witchy things going on, that there was a crumbling old boarding school, but also that the story was fun, funny and exciting. That’s rather a lot to cram into a cover (sorry Pip!). The design went through a few versions and we took feedback from the sales team and booksellers. And Pip’s final version I think has combined all of that into a fabulous jacket that does justice to the story inside.

Now if you’ll excuse me I’m off for a spot of book-waving.  

One of the reasons I commissioned this book is because I used to walk around old houses and castles desperate to see ghosts. So when I discovered that this book was set in a centuries-old boarding school, cut off from the outside world and full of secret passageways, forbidden rooms and spooky portraits of stern-looking gentlemen in wigs whose eyes follow you around, I was delighted.

And I can confirm that my lifelong search for a ghost-sighting is now successful… 

5. Goosebumps in the laundrette

This book already has a good track record of spooking people in interesting places. It frightened Jane’s agent on a crowded bus, the marketing director and cover designer Pip was overcome with fear in the laundrette, and someone who wishes to remain anonymous was reading a particularly scary bit on a train and then looked around with a wide-eyed expression as if to say ‘wasn’t that terrifying’, forgetting that the other people on the didn’t know what she was reading and so would just think she was weird.

We would like this book to keep scaring people in odd places, so if you get spooked in the bath, terrified on the toilet or petrified in the pantry* do let us know!

*I am not totally sure what a pantry is, so perhaps you could let me know that as well.

6. Books


This book contains a secret library. And the books in that library might just hold clues to the mystery of what is happening at Crowham Martyrs. And when Maddy finds them you might just get to glimpse inside…

Basically I couldn’t not love a book with books in. And Jane has also kept alive my dream of one day discovering a secret library.

7. Witches

Witch trials are, I think, one of the most strange, fascinating and mind-boggling strands in history. When this book landed in my inbox, knowing that the story involved witches was one of the main reasons I started reading it immediately.

I am jealous of Maddy and her classmates having a history teacher like Mr Casey, who hijacks a lesson to tell them about witch trials. I don’t think a book set in my school, touching on the themes of crop rotation in the middle ages, would have been quite as exciting.

8. Editing

I have already mentioned how much fun I had working with Jane on this book, but I thought that the editing process deserved its own mention. I knew I loved Maddy’s voice, the characters – Missy, Mr Casey, Hannah to name my favourites – leapt out of the page full formed, and I completely believed in the world of the book.

So that paves the way for the most fun kind of editing. Which is really just being an irritating house guest. It is walking around inside the book, prodding stuff, looking behind doors and curtains, picking up interesting looking objects and asking annoying questions.

9. OMG

There’s YA, NA, MG and while obviously we would classify THE CROWHAM MARTYRS as RAAGP (readers of all ages and general people), Jane came up with the brilliant term OMG for Older Middle Grade, which I absolutely love, because for me the age of 10/11/12 was a magical reading age, when I was realising just the sheer amount of books there were awaiting me and I could get completely swept away in a story and a world.

And I really enjoy that I get to write ‘OMG’ on the Advance Information sheets as part of my job.

10. Secrets...

There is someone hiding in this book. Will you find them? 

Tuesday 21 April 2015


Catnip and the DKW Literary Agency are delighted to announce that Catnip have acquired two middle-grade titles from debut author Sarah Baker. Liz Bankes acquired UK & Commonwealth rights in ANGELA’S GHOST, a haunting coming-of-age story with a timeslip twist, and a WWII set prequel, ELOISE’S SECRET, via agent Bryony Woods.

Twelve-year-old Angela doesn’t have a family – not since the tragic accident that tore her life apart. Living in foster care, suffering from survivor’s guilt and unable to face the truth of what happened that night, Angela is offered a chance: a holiday to France with her cold, distant Aunt Cece and horrible cousins Kitty and Fliss. If she behaves, she’s told that she might be allowed to stay with them, to have a family again.

But faced with the constant taunting of her cousins and still unable to accept the truth about the accident, Angela finds herself more alone than ever. Until she stumbles into a disused room in the crumbling French manor house, and meets a boy from 1898: Julien. But Julien’s time is running out. He is dying of typhoid.

A tale of survival and friendship beyond all odds, ANGELA’S GHOST is set to become a children’s classic.

Sarah Baker has worked extensively in film, with roles at Aardman Features, the Bermuda Film Festival and as Story Editor at Celador Films.

Sarah Baker said: 'I'm thrilled to have signed with Catnip and to be working with such a fantastic editor as Liz. My books are in good hands and I am so looking forward to seeing them in print soon!'

Liz Bankes said: 'From the moment this book arrived in my inbox I was transported into Angela’s world. Sneakily reading my kindle under my desk reminded me of the books that I used to read under the duvet with a torch because I was meant to have gone to bed! I am absolutely delighted to be able to work with Sarah and bring this brilliant book to its many future readers. Make sure your torch batteries are working!'

Bryony Woods said: 'Angela's Ghost is such a wonderful book: it's bursting with timeless charm, warmth and a good dose of spookiness. I'm thrilled to have found the perfect home for it at Catnip.'

Catnip plans to publish ANGELA’S GHOST in March 2016, with ELOISE’S SECRET to follow in 2017.

Thursday 5 March 2015

10 Things I Love About . . . SPOTLIGHT ON SUNNY by Keris Stainton

A very merry World Book Day and a happy book birthday to SPOTLIGHT ON SUNNY by Keris Stainton

Here are 10 things I love about Sunny: 

1. Book friend!
I have to confess a bit of nepotism here – the main reason I published this book is because Sunny is my friend. And Hannah and Kitty are too. This is one of those books where you feel an instant familiarity with the characters and I have to remind myself that I didn't actually hang out with Sunny, Kitty and Hannah when I was 14. I love that friendship is at the heart of this series – as I feel it can often get elbowed out when romance comes along. But here friendship is firmly elbowed in. Sunny, Kitty and Hannah are totally comfortable around each other and know each other inside out – so when they keep secrets you know it's a huge deal. 

2. Sunny
Which is lucky really, because it would make the whole editing thing a bit awkward if I didn't like Sunny. We'd be there scowling at each other and mouthing obscenities while Keris tried to smooth things over and make polite conversation. But luckily it was completely the opposite and the editing process was more like me going up to Keris and saying 'Can you tell Sunny she's really cool?'

In STARRING KITTY I thought that Sunny really sparkled in the background  Keris kept enough from us to make sure she didn't distract from the love story between Kitty and Dylan, but gave Sunny enough funny lines to get us to notice her – and feel she had a story to tell. With her perceptiveness and dry humour book one Sunny came across as a girl who knew her own mind, but in a quiet and thoughtful way. This is still the Sunny we meet in book two, but when we get inside her head we find lots of questions. There are things she knows  like she isn't going to have a boyfriend now and that she's going to study medicine at uni  but when she finds she enjoys making films so much and she meets a boy that she really gets on with she starts wondering. Is she making these decisions for her parents? Or for her religion? Or for herself? And can you really separate all those things out?

The film course that Sunny and her friends go on sounds so much fun. They try out different ways of writing scenes, come up with TV show ideas and get to make their own film. I would love to go on this course (if it weren't for the fact that I'd be asked to leave for being really old). 

4. Story of my life. And other people's lives. And just life. 
Something that I think is so important in Keris's books is something that isn't even a thing. In these books you find, as the lovely Kirsty says in this review, a truly diverse cast of characters. You know, like in real life. And it probably says something that I notice this and find refreshing, rather than it just being what all books are like.  

That Sunny is Muslim is a vital part of this story, but it is not the story itself. It is a story about discovering who you are and what you want in relation to the people you love and, for Sunny, in relation to her faith. But it is so important to represent the diversity of readers in characters – particularly main characters  and so it still important that this is a thing that is not a thing. (Until this is just what all books are like).  

5. Will
I don't want to do any plot spoilers, so I will just say there is a new character called Will and I can't wait for you to meet him!

6. Danielle
There's also a character called Danielle, and she is another reason I love this book – I wonder if you will agree!

7. It's good to think
It's very easy not to think. I do it all the time (usually while eating crisps and watching awful TV). And knee-jerk opinions abound with Twitter and the general internet making it easier to react to things immediately. This book sits you down, hides your phone, snatches the crisps and makes you think. It questions the assumptions so many of us will have made about what women choose to wear – and about people's choices in general.

8. That's what makes you taboo-tiful
I've been to a few talks and read lots of articles on 'appropriate' content in children's and YA books. And a bit of a trend in some of the articles was that we publishers are all queueing up to outdo each other in putting in more shocking stuff and cramming in the taboos in books for young people. But one really big taboo that people don't tend to talk about is *whispers* religion. It's the one thing Sunny doesn't really talk about with her friends, because she's worried they will think she is weird. And as Kirsty also says in her review (sometimes I think she steals thoughts out of my brain) there are plenty of negative stereotypes around – stories, with thought, humour and living, breathing characters, are the antidote.   

9. It's all these little things 
(I have realised that the titles for the last two points are One Direction songs. I may have just revealed a bit too much about my working-from-home playlists...)
The next thing is lots of small things  I love that in Keris's books she gives us those tiny, everyday moments that capture exactly how two characters feel about each other, or show a friendship sparking off or secret being hidden. Keeping with the no-spoilers theme, I will just say that in this book my favourite ones involve gold sandals, a gorilla and pringles (not all at the same time).

10. A big papery hug
The final thing is being able to share this book with all you lovely bloggers! We want to shout loud about our books, but being so tiny it isn't always easy to be heard – so when you guys love the books as well and get behind them it means the absolute world to us. One of my favourite descriptions of the previous book in this series, STARRING KITTY, was from Sister Spooky, who said it 'felt like a cuddle in a warm blanket in book form'. So here, from the wonderful Keris Stainton, and everyone at Catnip, is another big book hug!