Thursday, 30 June 2011


I love my mugs, but if I had to choose one mug to use for the rest of my life then it would be this one.

I bought it after seeing the Maps of the World exhibition at The British Library with Massive Dog (who is a Massive map fan). It has a map on it (funny that) and the banner says TEA REVIVES THE WORLD. (Yes, I know I could only get a good pic of the first part of the banner.)

This mug is reserved for real tea only. You can see why.

So if I could only choose one mug for the rest of my life and it would be this one, I am committing myself to a lifetime of real tea drinking only. No hot chocolate, no coffee, no camomile and spearmint...

Nope. Still this one. BEST. MUG. EVER.

Friday, 24 June 2011

How I get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, man, practice!

I got very excited yesterday. For the first time since I’ve been on twitter I felt the thrill of being a part of something of which I am no part at all. Social media voyeurism, if you will.

I’m talking of course about the build up and reveal of Pottermore the winners of the Carnegie and Greenaway medals. The Oscars of the book world (without the heat magazine red-carpet dress-off), the awards celebrate children’s literature, highlight the importance of librarians and get people reading. (I’d be surprised if a Carnegie shortlisting didn’t attract a few extra readers…)

I loved reading Helen Boyle @tbktweet’s feed and seeing how many of the people I follow were waiting, like me, with baited breath simply because like me, bloggers, bookshoppers, publishers are all the same: readers.

So congratulations to the winners, Templar and Grahame Baker-Smith for winning the Greenaway with Farther and Patrick Ness with Walker for the third book in the thrilling Chaos Walking series, Monsters of Men.

And congratulations to all those who shortlisted, for without equally worthy competition it wouldn't have been nearly so exciting waiting for the results.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Why I commissioned...Jinny at Finmory series

Editors can't play favourites. It's part of the job to understand that loving a list isn't a linear matter, you can't rank the books in an orderly fashion any more than you can a forest of beautiful trees. You just love each one you commission for what it is; nothing more and nothing less. But the Jinny at Finmory series will always have a special place in my egalitarian editorial heart.

Out this month is Gallop to the Hills, the fifth in the series (of which there are twelve), featuring wild, wilful Jinny and her beautiful Arab mare Shantih. There are many layers to my love of this series:

1) I read these as a child and loved them so much that I never forgot about them.

2) When I started at Catnip this was the first series I suggested we publish - the day before Lauren St John emailed Andrea to recommend we do just that. In the end it was Lauren who did an amazing amount of detective work to make her (and my) dream come true.

3) The story of how we came to publish them makes me happy - Lauren's championing of the series, Patricia's joy and delight at the idea of Jinny and Shantih running free once more, the members of pony forums who contacted me when they heard these were coming out once more...

4) The story of the cover star. You may notice that we feature the same horse on all the covers. Her name is Shantih and she belongs to the photographer, Karen Budkiewicz. Like me, Karen read the books obsessively as a child and fell for the fictional Shantih's charms – so much so that she made it her mission to find her very own fiery chestnut Arab. To have a real-life Shantih pose for the series of books after which she was named just seems too perfect to be true. But it is.

5) The writing. These books are littered with social commentaries that are as relevant today as they were when they were penned – touching upon inner city poverty, animal cruelty and perceptions of traveller community amongst other things – and Jinny is a perfectly flawed heroine who is locked in a perpetual struggle with doing what she knows to be right and what she knows to be easy. You can tell that this isn't a Pony Club romp, nor a series written for commercial value, but one written from the very soul of a woman who not only loves horses but language too. These books contain sentences so perfect that that they make me want to cry with love for the words, here's one of my favourite paragraphs:

The afterglow of sunset turned sky, sea and wet sands into a glowing sapphire. We must be breathing blue air, Jinny thought. Sue and Marlene were walking the horses at the water’s edge and the spray from their horses’ hooves glittered ice blue, diamond, aquamarine. They were held in a jewelled paperweight of sky and sea.

These are all the reasons why I love this series, but don't just take my word for it, have a look yourself. Buy a copy and, as Ken, the insightful young drifter who lives with Jinny's family would say, 'Take joy.'

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Why I commissioned... LEGACY OF FIRE

Twitter-style summary: Joanna is struggling to come to terms with the responsibilities she's inherited, but it isn't long before she and XL are flying into danger.

Legacy of Fire is the second book in the Dragon Racer series by Margaret Bateson-Hill. Like its predecessor, Legacy of Fire is a speedy read with high-octane (OK, so not octane, that would be dangerous given we're talking about fire-breathing dragons... high-adrenaline?) action sympathetic characters and fantastic finishing touches.

In this book, Joanna ‘Jojo’ Morris, youngest ever world champion dragon racer, is struggling to come to terms with the loss of her mentor, Vincent, and the awesome responsibility of inheriting the Brixton Caves – and the politics that come with it. Feeling lost in a world that she's meant to dominate, Joanna finds herself losing touch with her trainer the wonderfully prickly Spiky Mike, feuding with Isaac, the new egg-turner and competing with her first ever crush, new dragon racer Dominic Peters. Only her beloved Excelsior seems to understand her. But Joanna has bigger things to worry about. Supervillain Marius King might be locked up in jail for the crimes he committed in the last book, but he's plotting a revenge that will bring the dragon racing world to its knees...

Although the story is fast and tight, it's Margaret's grasp of the obsessive nature of a young reader that draws me in. Having spent a lot of time in schools and libraries she knows the details that make a setting come alive: how do you mind blend with a dragon? What would you wear? Who would you meet? The wide cast of characters provides something for everyone whilst simultaneously giving Joanna something to rail against, yet run to for comfort.

Ostensibly this is a series about the excitement of a dream come true, but it also gives gentle insight into the weight of responsibility that comes with excelling at something before you've the maturity to handle the consequences. And it's about friendship, finding it, keeping it and valuing it. Only Joanna also has something we all covet – a gregarious dragon for a best friend. Of course.

Margaret made her own book trailer for this, which you can check out here. And there's a dedocated Dragon Racer website at too.