Friday, 30 September 2011


Twitter-style summary: Everyone's favourite socially awkward squirrel looks forward to celebrating his birhtday just the way he likes it: on his own. Fat chance!

Ah, Scaredy, my old friend. Are you worried by me popping by unexpectedly? You thinking I should squirt a blob of antibacterial handwash across my palms before we shake hands? Are you freaked out that I just hugged you and a-kissed both your cheeks in a London media-style hello?

Of course you are.

Old friend, how I love thee.

Scaredy Squirrel is our most popular character. A Canadian creation from artist and illustrator, Melanie Watt, we issue a new title every other year, first publishing in hardback (as with this one) and then, a year later, we bring out the paperback edition for those readers who are a little more gentle with the their books (not the Catnipper, then, who has already trashed her two-week old copy of Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell)

Scaredy first blazed into glory in 2006 when the eponymous first title was a Richard and Judy Book Party Choice back in their previous bookclub incarnation. Scaredy turns the popular perceptions of OCD and social paranoia on their heads by being both endearing and funny in his reluctance to leave his tree, make friends or face his fear of nightmares – or in the case of this latest addition to the collection, his dislike of karaoke and unexpected presents (sound familiar?). There are many children out there who can identify with his cautious nature, who enjoy staying at home and doing their own thing rather than put themselves out there – but like every good picture book, Scaredy develops. Somehow, something goes wrong and inevitably, he ends up in exactly the kind of situation he was hoping to avoid… and do you know what? It’s not as bad as he thought.

Funny and familiar, the Scaredy Squirrel books are modern-day parables for anyone who sometimes finds themselves making excuses to stay at home instead of go out and make new friends. And yes, I might be talking about me...

If you fancy making Scaredy's day, you're always welcome to pop to his fanpage on facebook where you can become a bona fide squirrel lover, check out book trailers and competitions and the like.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

It's neck and neck on the SONG QUEST cover vote...

Right - because it's not always easy for people to vote on Facebook, we've had votes coming in all over the shop for the fabulous SONG QUEST cover vote. Voting closes tomorrow at 6pm, so I thought I'd collate the votes so far here in an actual graph (fancypants aren't I?)

As you can see, the paler cover is just starting to edge away with it (ahead by only 7 votes - eek) so if you take one look at the pale one and think NOOOOOOOO! Well then, you'd better place a vote for the black, hadn't you? Or maybe you want to seal the deal for the paler one...

We want as many people as possible to vote on this and since VOTING CLOSES TOMORROW please pass on the message to as many people as you can...

Click the link here, click on your preferred cover and press the 'Like' button and feel free to comment on your choice as it's been very interesting hearing the reasons behind your votes.

Thank you one an all for participating!

Friday, 9 September 2011

Quest for the best

Hello. Why don’t you mosey on over to The Bookette’s blog and check out this rather amazing cover reveal where we show you not one but TWO possible covers for Song Quest by Katherine Roberts – winner of the inaugural Branford Boase award for new fiction in 2000 and soon to be published by Catnip thanks to Becky the Bookette who campaigned for its revival. (You can see her post about why here.)

Why two covers? You ask. Well, because we respect your opinion and we’d like you to choose your favourite by going to our facebook page and ‘Liking’ the cover you think looks the best. The winner of the online vote, which runs from 9th September until 6pm Friday 16th September, will be the cover that we print for the book.

We’re kinda making publishing history here, so why don’t you too? Go on, you know you want to…

Click here to vote. Yeah! Do it!

Tuesday, 6 September 2011


Twitter-style summary: Edwin and Perpetua are summoned to Hysteria to find themselves neck-deep in dangerous conspiracies, dark magic and, erm, orienteering...

This is J. D. Irwin’s second novel, the first being Edwin Spencer Mission Improbable. Like the first novel featuring hapless loser Edwin, this book marries real-world humour and parallel-worldly adventure with aplomb. J. D. who also answers to Julie, is a regular on the schools and events circuit, engaging kids and adults alike with her understanding of how to deliver a believable parallel universe that we all wish existed.

The story, whilst anchored by real-world protagonists, Edwin and Perpetua, is based in Hysteria, a parallel world to ours in which magic and science work hand in hand, where rival kingdoms use White (good) and Shadow (evil) magic to wrestle power from each other. The strength of Julie’s writing lies in the humour derived from the clash between our world and Hysteria. She has a composed command of dialogue which she uses to great effect throughout the story, and her action scenes will leave you breathless.

The combination of humour and fantasy in these novels is spot-on for the target audience. Every reader can appreciate the confusion Edwin feels at being called upon to act the part of Prince Auvlin, his former Hysterian doppelganger: whilst in one breath he wants to help the cause that the first book wedded him too, he is yet again called upon to lay his life on the line for a country that most of his friends, family and teachers don't even know exists.

Delightfully escapist, deliciously funny – and not without its darker moments in the midst of dangerous magicks – this is a book that knows its audience like the back its hand.

Why I commissioned... THE STOLEN SISTER

Twitter-style summary: When Rosalind is kidnapped, her sister, Elfie and Joe must uncover the mystery of her disappearance before the family falls apart.

Joan Lingard is a Writer. She writes a novel a year and she is one of Catnip’s most prestigious authors. Many people know of the Kevin and Sadie books based on love across the barricades of a divided Northern Ireland, but the Elfie novels, which started with The Eleventh Orphan, is the series she writes for Catnip. The first book shortlisted for many awards, including the 2009 Royal Mail Scottish Children’s Book Awards and the second The Chancery Lane Conspiracy was warmly received amongst readers and booksellers alike.

Like the first two books featuring the irrepressible Elfie, The Stolen Sister’s appeal lies in Joan’s instinctive understanding of her audience. Her skill is subtle and hard to pin down and this is exactly why I think these books work so well. The Stolen Sister cleverly weaves together historical truths with vividly imagined characters so that you become immersed in Elfie’s turn-of-the-century Victorian world. Joan doesn’t go straight for the populist Victoriana you might be familiar with – instead she focuses her attention on an unusual family set up. Elfie lives with the Bigsbys and ten other orphans at The Pig and Whistle pub on Green Lanes in Stoke Newington. Only Elfie is not like the others, for she has family too. And so we are lead to Elfie’s (half) sister Rosalind, daughter to Elfie’s once well-to-do father (you’ll have to read the others to find out what happened) – a child given the privileged upbringing that Elfie lacked and whose kidnap is the focus of the novel.

The plot twists and turns but Elfie and her best friend Joe are there at every turn to guide us, navigating the bigger stuff such as racism (Joe is black) and social depravity, and the smaller stuff, such as old feuds with former friends, and villainous rich grandparents...

The longer I spend writing this post the more aware I become of Joan’s skill. She covers an amazing amount in such an accomplished, entirely comfortable manner that it’s hard to even begin to convey the level of her ability as a writer – sorry – Writer.

The skill is in the writing, not my analysis of it. Go read the book(s).