Saturday, 6 November 2010


A couple of recent reviews, both for the Guardian: one for children, The Double Life of Cassiel Roadnight by Jenny Valentine; the other for adults, A Russian Novel by Emmanuel Carrère. They're two very different books, aimed at very different readerships, but I loved both of them.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010


I've written a short piece here about writing under two different names.

Sunday, 8 August 2010


I'm doing an event in the Foyles in Westfield - in Shepherd's Bush - next Saturday, August 14th. I'll be there at 2pm.

If you come along, make sure you bring a copy of this voucher, which gives you 20% off all children's books in Foyles till the end of August.

I'm going to be doing another event in London next month too: on Saturday 18th September, I'll be at the Chiswick Book Festival.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Have you seen this dog?

Seen last night in Notting Hill while I was waiting for some friends outside the tube station... this poster pinned to the wall...

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Grk Down Under

The seventh Grk book is published this week. (I've seen it described as the eighth and even the ninth, but it's definitely the seventh. I've kept count.) If you live in the UK, you can order a copy from amazon or (I hope) buy it in your local bookshop. As you can probably tell from the title, it's the story of Tim and Grk's adventures in Australia.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Guardian Podcast

I was interviewed for the Guardian Books Podcast, talking about Grk Down Under and reading a couple of pages from the book. You can listen to the podcast here:

My bit starts after about thirteen minutes. Before that, Julie Eccleshare talks about her favourite books coming out this summer.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

The power of reading

The guardian has a fascinating article on a scheme in Texas where prisoners join book groups rather than going to prison.
The initiative was initially met with an inevitable flurry of criticism in the US. Waxler and his supporters were described as "bleeding-heart liberals".

"They were shocked at the idea of offenders going on to university campuses to read books for free while the students were paying their way through education," says Waxler. "Some even thought the offenders would steal from them. It only takes one person to prove them right, but it's never happened."

In Texas, the public have been largely won over by the success rates and how cheap the programme is to run. Instead of spending a lifetime in prison at a cost of more than $30,000 (£19,520) a year, Rouse's "rehabilitation" cost the taxpayer just $500 (£325).
It's worth reading the full article:

Monday, 19 July 2010


If you're on twitter, you can win ten books - including three of mine - by following Scholastic. Full details here:

Tuesday, 6 July 2010


Here's another addition to the sub-sub-genre of children's books based on or inspired by plays by Shakespeare: Fool's Girl by Celia Rees. I reviewed it in last Saturday's Guardian. Other books in this category? Well, my own Bearkeeper springs to mind. And Mal Peet's Exposure. Any other suggestions?

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Second Nature

I've reviewed Jonathan Balcombe's Second Nature for the Guardian.
Balcombe tells us that he's been a vegan for more than 30 years – and, unsurprisingly, he recommends that his readers become vegetarians – but there's a more radical message at the heart of his book. In order to heal ourselves, he suggests, we have to reform our relationships with animals; we will "live in better, more caring societies when we treat all feeling individuals with compassion and respect".
Full review here:

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Three Diamonds review

Last Saturday, the Financial Times had a nice review of Three Diamonds and a Donkey, written by the novelist James Lovegrove.
Josh Lacey's Misfitz adventures starring the extended Amis/Fitzroy clan, a tangled thicket of half-siblings and step-parents, read like a dream. They are at once traditional and modern, with Blytonesque youngsters thwarting crooks and thieves in the era of computers and mobile phones.

The setting for this third instalment is Marrakech, where young Ben Amis's stepmother-to-be, Hollywood actress Celia, loses her hugely expensive engagement ring. The obvious culprit is a Moroccan street kid, Tariq, whom the police duly arrest. Ben, however, convinced of Tariq's innocence, sets out to clear the boy's name and recover the ring.

In addition to its mystery-solving aspects the novel explores moral conundrums, the grey areas between right and wrong. But its target readership will principally enjoy the exotic location and a plot that sees children consistently outwitting adults.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

I've just been correcting the proofs for the seventh Grk book, which will be published in the UK in September. Here's a snapshot of the cover. I really like the way that the artist has shown an iconic building from an unusual and usually unseen angle.

Friday, 26 March 2010

An island under the sea

At the end of Operation Tortoise, the Grk adventure set in the Seychelles, I wrote that, because of global warming, the islands might suffer the fate of many low-lying islands throughout the world and sink under the waves. That has now happened to a tiny island, the cause of disputes between India and Bangladesh, which has now gone forever. See this BBC report for details: "A tiny island claimed for years by India and Bangladesh in the Bay of Bengal has disappeared beneath the rising seas, scientists in India say."

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Grk and Gruk

Three of the Grk books have now been published in French. The third, Grk and the Hot Dog Trail, is coming out this week as Gruk Sur la Piste des Hot Dogs.

As you’ll have noticed, Grk’s name has been changed to Gruk.

The books themselves have been beautifully produced by Gallimard Jeunesse; they’re full of lovely little drawings of Grk/Gruk.

Monday, 22 February 2010


I've reviewed an excellent book about dogs for the Guardian: Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know by Alexandra Horowitz. The title comes from that old Groucho Marx joke: "Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read."

The book is definitely worth reading if you're a dog owner or dog lover. Here are the first couple of paragraphs of my review:

Even in the middle of a busy modern city, we're surrounded by all kinds of animals that share our space and our food, but only one of them bothers to study us. To rats, crows and cockroaches, we might be a source of tasty snacks, but we're mostly an irritation and sometimes a threat. Dogs are different. They inspect our actions, interpret our emotions and, over time, learn how to please us and control us, persuading us to provide them with food, shelter and a nice warm basket.

Alexandra Horowitz describes dogs as "anthropologists among us", and in this engaging book, her first, she studies them with the same intensity and affection that they devote to us. She has her own dogs – the pages are punctuated with little snippets of a ­diary from her 16 years shared with Pumpernickel – but she also watches dogs for a living: she's a psychologist who studies dog behaviour and was hired by Sony to make their Aibo dog-robot more cutely canine in its interactions.

Full review here:

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

I was walking in the New Forest last weekend and came across this donkey. He was looking rather gloomy, as donkeys often do. It was raining, and had been all day, so his hair must have been soaked, and his raised ears and long face gave him an expression of profound pessimism.

Cheer up, I wanted to say. At least you’re not in Morocco. Don’t you know how they treat donkeys there?

There’s a Moroccan donkey in my new book - as you’d probably guess from the title - and I remember looking at donkeys in Marrakech and feeling deeply sorry for them.

Wandering through the narrow streets, I’d often come across a donkey standing against a wall, waiting patiently for his owner. Some were tied to drainpipes or lampposts. Others were strapped to carts stacked with bricks or lanterns or rubbish. Their legs were covered with old bruises and half-healed sores. Their fur had the texture of a moth-eaten carpet.

When I was writing the book, I was sent this picture by a friend of mine, Richard Hammond, the travel journalist. (Not the driver.)

He took it in Marrakech. It’s on the wall of a donkey sanctuary. I didn’t go there myself, but I hope I will one day.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

A wonderful piece of news for the New Year - the last dancing bear in India has been rescued.

When I was researching Bearkeeper, I went to Agra to see the work of Wildlife SOS. It was a fascinating and inspiring experience.

To mark the rescue of the final bear, the BBC has made a documentary about the bears and the work of a British charity, International Animal Rescue, and their Indian partners, Wildlife SOS, who have built sanctuaries to house the freed bears.

Be warned: this documentary contains some horrible footage of bears being abused by their “owners”.

If you don’t want to watch the footage, you can find out more about Wildlife SOS and their British partner, International Animal Rescue, by following these links: