Books I can’t wait to read in 2023

1. Libby and the Highland Heist

Jo Clarke, illustrated by Becka Moor

I loved reading Libby and the Parisian Puzzle last year. This cosy mystery for kids was exactly the kind of book 7-year-old me would have devoured. So I can’t wait to see what mysteries Libby will have to unravel next as she heads to Scotland to visit her new friend, Connie.

Luckily, I don’t have long to wait. Libby and the Highland Heist is out on 19th January. Pre-order at Waterstones (or head to your local indie to bag a copy).

2.Villains Academy

Ryan Hammond

Unsurpisingly, I’m a sucker for stories set in unusual schools. So I’m really looking forward to visiting Villain’s Academy in February.

Has Bram the werewolf really got what it takes to be a proper villain? I’ll be first in the queue to dive into this silly (and spooky) story to find out!

Villains Academy is out 2nd Feb 2022. Pre-order at Watestones for a special sprayed edge edition.

3. Michael, the Amazing Mind-Reading Sausage Dog

Terrie Chilvers, illustrated by Tim Budgen

Michael the sausage dog has a rare talent: he can read minds. But is it enough to turn him into the su-paw-star of his dreams?

I was lucky enough to read an early draft of Michael’s memoirs, so I already know his journey to Hollywoof is heartwarming and hilarious. And his sidekick, Stanley Big Dog might just be one of my all-time favourite supporting characters. I can’t wait for the rest of the world to fall head-over-paw for this fabulous story.

Michael The Amazing Mind-Reading Sausage Dog is out on 8th June 2022. Give your future-self a treat and pre-order now.

Which books are you looking forward to reading in 2023? Let me know in the comments ๐Ÿ™‚

Reading Adventure

Whatever you’re planning to do this summer, if you’ve got a book you can go anywhere. Here’s a downloadable list of destinations 6-11 year-olds can escape to. The chances are, these are places young readers won’t have seen before as every book on the list comes from a 2022 debut children’s author.

Let me know how far you travel by sending pics of the books you’re reading to me (@MissDePlume) on Instagram or Twitter with the #Reading Adventure.

Download the #ReadingAdventure travel guide

Enjoyed the adventure? Send a postcard!

If you enjoyed your travels this summer (or if you go on the adventure with your class) why not write a postcard, inviting others to join you? This PDF includes template postcards for all 16 books on the adventure.

Meet the tour guides

When you’re visiting a new place, it’s good to have a guide. You can meet them all on Twitter. Here’s my unrolled thread where I introduce them all.

Ready to go on a #ReadingAdventure this summer?
Here are some cracking destinations 6-10 year-olds can visit in the pages of books.
I’ll unroll this thread + include a downloadable list on my website today. But first, let’s meet your tour guides…
#ShareStuffSunday ๐Ÿงต

Wands at the ready! First up we have @FinlaysonPalmer: she’ll guide you through the magical village of Sparkledale in AUTUMN MOONBEAM: DANCE MAGIC #ReadingAdventure

If you ever find a boat to Crabby Island, @LetLucyB will show you around. (And if you love LEONORA BOLT: SECRET INVENTOR so much you don’t want to go home, Lucy might even take you on a second journey – pack a snorkel just in case.) #ReadingAdventure

Ooh la la, who better than @bookloverJo to lead you through the streets of Paris in LIBBY AND THE PARISIAN PUZZLE #ReadingAdventure

Dog-lovers can head to Australia with Kate and PAWS.
#ReadingAdventure ๐Ÿพ

@camillacauthor will help you handle the heat in Luton in CALL ME LION… if you can keep a secret. #ReadingAdventure

@MissDePlume (that’s me!) will guide you safely through the Stinking, Sinking Swamp in SMALL! #ReadingAdventure

London’s looking a little different in THE SECRET WILD. Don’t worry, @alexrevelyn will guide you through it. #ReadingAdventure

Off to the seaside in Edge? @fionalongmuir will show you round the local museum in LOOKING FOR EMILY. #ReadingAdventure

Feeling brave? @skyemc_kenna will help you through the dark forest in HEDGEWITCH #ReadingAdventure

Follow @yarrowtownsend to meet some most unusual flowers in THE MAP OF LEAVES #ReadingAdventure

@Emilie_London will show you around the seaside town of Pebblehampton. She might even introduce you to the local animals in THE EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURES OF ALICE TONKS #ReadingAdventure

If you ask nicely, @annabelwriter might give you a tour of The Island in SKANDAR AND THE UNICORN THIEF #ReadingAdventure

Ready to visit a superhero-filled Nigeria like you’ve never seen it before? @TolaOkogwu will be your guide through ONYEKA AND THE ACADEMY OF THE SUN #ReadingAdventure

@justynedwards will take you on a magical mystery tour through the Fox’s Den in THE GREAT FOX ILLUSION #ReadingAdventure

Fancy some ice cream? Follow @_catgray to the world’s best ice cream van in SPELLSTOPPERS #ReadingAdventure

Or head to Blackpool with @JessScottWhyte. She knows where to find all the best sweets in THE ASPARAGUS BUNCH #ReadingAdventure

And that’s it! If you visit any (or all!) of our debut 2022 destinations this summer, why not take a photo and tag us? Don’t forget to use #ReadingAdventure

Originally tweeted by Hannah Moffatt (@MissDePlume) on July 17, 2022.

Inspiration KidLit Practical tips

Happytown Must Be Destroyed

1. Funny words

The schnozzdongle

You don’t need to know what the schnozzdongle does to enjoy the word immensely (although if you read the book, you’ll certainly find out). I giggled every time it appeared. And that was definitely a tip I took away: if you know a an object’s going to crop up a lot in your story, give it a good name so it’s delighting, not boring.

It also got me thinking about Richard Wiseman’s research with the Laugh Lab to find the world’s funniest joke. It was the first time I’d read about the ‘comedy k’ sound (Hard ‘c’ or ‘k’ sounds are supposedly the funniest of them all). I reckon one easy way to tell if the words you’ve chosen are funny is to try them on Word’s ‘read aloud’ tool. If they sound daft in a dull robot voice, you’re probably onto a winner.

2. Funny places

The Dangles

When I’m writing, I normally struggle moving characters from one place to another. (And whenever I can, I cheat, and jump locations between chapters.) But in Happytown Must Be Destroyed, James has made a comedic feature out of moving through the setting of Owt.

The mournful chimes of the ice cream van led us along the Woofy Wynd, round the Three Sided Square and up The Dangles.

Beginning of Chapter 20

The daft place names that pop up throughout the book made me chuckle almost as much as the Snozzdongle. Because they so beautifully mirror the way locals talk about their home towns, they also made the story of alien invasion seem so much more believable. It was a really clever way of getting me to buy into the setting. It also reminded me that little details can make a big difference to a story. You don’t need to describe every inch of your world. In this case, cracking local dialect brings the whole thing to life.

3. Existential musings on the nature of happiness

Yes, this book is packed with gags galore, but there’s a big message about what it means to be happy running through the story, too. Is jumping around in a yellow tracksuit looking happy, the same as actual happiness? Spoiler: probably not.

I love a comedy contrast and this book is full of them. We’ve got ice cream vans with guns. We’ve got Leeza, the indecisive allergy-sufferer who’s somehow been tasked with saving the town. And we’ve got the entire story: a comedy romp that genuinely makes you think about what it means to be happy. It’s yet another example that funny isn’t the opposite of serious. Amidst all the fun, there are big messages to take away … along with even bigger smiles.

Happytown Must Be Destroyed is published by Hachette Children’s Group and it’s out now.

Inspiration KidLit Practical tips

Loki: A Bad God’s Guide to Being Good

Proof copy for Loki: A Bad God’s Guide to Being Good

1. It’s a diary, done differently

Play with form

Who doesn’t love a diary? They’re the perfect place to enjoy the comedy antics of unreliable or naive narrators. (Emer Stamp’s, The Unbelievable Top Secret Diary of Pig is another of my all-time comedy favourites for that reason.) But what’s so smart about Loki’s diary is that he’s not allowed to lie. Every time he tries, the diary ‘helpfully’ writes back with its own corrections. It’s a brilliant device. And it’s a great reminder that no matter how familiar your format, there’s always a way to twist it and make it your own.

2. It’s funny because it’s true

Find the funny in front of you

As an outsider to the modern world, Loki is the perfect observational comedian. He’s constantly questioning the absurdity in the everyday, giving us his views on everything from work, school and shopping to crisps and – my favourite – museums. Loki can’t believe how boldly museums display their stolen goods (he’s far too sneaky to make his own wrongdoings so obvious).

Loki’s insights into life cracked me up and got me thinking. Mostly, they reminded me of the GK Chesterton quote that funny doesn’t have to be the opposite of serious. Loki’s comedy definitely has a serious side.

Funny is the opposite of not funny, and nothing else.

GK Chesterton

3. It brings new life to old stories

Build on what we know

We get a few specific nods to the original Norse myths, but Louie mostly uses them as a springboard for fresh silliness. I especially enjoyed Thor (who’s on Earth as Loki’s brother to keep an eye on him) wanting to spend his weekends admiring hammers in the DIY shops.

Using things we already know (or learn in the first couple of pages) sets the stakes high from the start. Will Loki, the misbehaving trickster god, ever manage to live a virtuous life? Or will Odin punish him to an eternity in a chamber filled with snakes?

This isn’t a retelling of the myths. It’s dropping familiar characters into new settings and asking the question that gets all the best stories going: ‘What if..?’ It’s also a brilliant way to go from a blank page to a fresh, funny and completely original new story.

I was rooting for Loki from the start. I’m sure everyone else will, too.

Loki: A Bad God’s Guide to Being Good publishes with Walker Books in February 2022. Pre-order yours now. (That’s my page, but I’m sure you can order it in your local indie, too.) #BeLessLoki