Author Archives: thebookactivist

About thebookactivist

Celebrating children & young people’s reading through all sorts of book-ish activities.

GUEST POST: The Pocket Chaotic – the illustration process by Daniel Gray-Barnett

As spend another period of time living in very close quarters, it seems appropriate to share this post about the illustration process behind the delightful picture, The Pocket Chaotic by written by Ziggy Hanaor and illustrated by Daniel Gray-Barnett. The story brings to life a delightful family of kangaroos, in a story of a journey towards independence – and how family life can make us feel like we’re living on-top of each other! Read my review of The Pocket Chaotic here.

Today, illustrator Daniel Gray Barnett shares insight into how he created the artwork for the story and his thoughts about the book. Welcome to the blog Daniel!

“When I was asked to work on Ziggy’s story, I (quite aptly) jumped for joy! I love drawing animals, and I love drawing families – getting to illustrate this particular one was something I was very excited about.

It’s a very funny, touching story that I think most people can relate to in one sense or another – whether it’s the parent-child connection that evolves as the child grows up and learns independence, or just the clash of personalities which often happens in families or relationships. Trying to maintain your own space in your life or home when you’re a neat, organised person and other people are a bit more chaotic is a common challenge. Maybe you’re the messy person with hoarding tendencies and your family just don’t understand the value of your treasure trove! Working on this project was a bit faster than previous picture book projects I’ve worked on – it was completed over a period of about 8-9 months. The sketching and storyboard phase took several months. I do all my sketching digitally in Photoshop, which helps me to be less precious about the process and keep things very loose! The editor had some ideas for how the spreads might work, which helped speed things up. Most of the storyboards have stayed fairly close to how I originally imagined, with some small tweaks.

In working on the illustrations, I was very inspired by the work of Ludwig Bemelmans (of Madeline fame), one of my favourite illustrators. In the past, I tend to work in quite limited colour palettes, but was also looking for the challenge of working in full colour – and non-digital colouring at that. Ludwig’s work helped me see a way of combining these methods into a cohesive book. I love how in Madeline he contrasts illustrations of limited colours with full colour illustrations, which seem to be mostly used for the outside world in the story. I borrowed the same approach for The Pocket Chaotic – when Alexander is inside Nancy’s pouch, those illustrations are shown in the limited black, white and egg-yolk yellow colours. When Alexander is in the outside world with his mum, those illustrations are shown in full colour.

After the storyboards were all given the go ahead, I spent a few weeks doing colour tests, playing around with inks, pencils and crayons to find that just right combination for the look of the story. I print out all of my sketches then use a light box for my inking process. I ink my linework and colours separately, just in case. I’d hate to have to redo an entire illustration because of one stray line! My illustrations are usually done in bits and pieces, before I scan everything in and layer it all in Photoshop. It feels like digital printmaking, in a way.

This project was a bit of an experiment for me. I used to work in only black ink and use the computer to do all my colouring, but on this book, I used a variety of coloured acrylic inks to do as much colouring as I could outside of the computer. I think there’s something wonderfully unpredictable, loose and warm about how it turned out. We decided to print the egg-yolk yellow in a special Pantone colour, which was saved for Alexander and Nancy and the pouch interior illustrations. It’s so terrifically bright!

It took about 4-5 months to finish all of the illustrations. I had a couple of speedbumps, trying to get my linework somewhere which had the loose energy I was looking for, but still a bit refined. Quite symbolic of the battle between Alexander and Nancy’s personalities, really. There were a few late nights but I’m really happy with how it all came together! Usually I have to wait about 9 months to see the finished product, but 2020 has been such an unusual year. It was only several months from our print deadline to seeing a completed copy. I’m so pleased with our book, I hope you all love it as much as Ziggy and I do!”

With thanks to Daniel for this fantastic guest post! The Pocket Chaotic is published by Cicada Books; find out more The Pocket Chaotic — Cicada Books.

Children’s publishers read aloud permissions

As we navigate another period of lockdown, it can be difficult to know what the ‘rules’ are regards making recordings of reading aloud/story time for children. Many children’s publishers have confirmed current guidelines for educators – others are yet to update them for 2021 (as at time of writing). I’ve gathered as many as possible below for information. Note that each publisher has slightly different guidelines and variations in their policy but nearly all state:

  • specific criteria must be met when creating your recording in order for the permission to be valid
  • permissions are for recordings made for educational use (not for profit making events)
  • deadlines apply as to when recordings must be removed
  • recordings can only be shared via closed educational platforms or if necessary, on YouTube as ‘unlisted’ (private) links

In many cases you will need to notify the publisher of your intention and send them your recording. Please do read the FULL guidelines from the publisher you need permission from.

Publisher permissions

Bonnier Books – recordings can be shared on closed educational platforms only – not valid as permission for any project which seeks to financially gain from a reading. Valid until 31 March 2021. Full guidelines

Bloomsbury – not yet updated for 2021

Chicken House – whilst schools are continuing to teach remotely, online readings can take place through a password protected area of a school’s website or through platforms such as Google Classrooms or similar.  Online readings should not be made publicly available online and must only be accessible by the students of the school.  The readings must be removed from the platform as from 1st April 2021. Full guidelines

Collins, HarperCollins, Egmont – permission to read titles online until and including, April 1st 2021. These virtual readings may be streamed live via digital platforms, or if recorded, posted in closed educational platforms. If a closed platform is unavailable, recorded videos of readings may be uploaded to YouTube as long as they are marked “Unlisted”. Full guidelines

Faber – full permission for anyone to record themselves reading from Faber books online has been extended until 31st March 2021. Any recordings must be taken offline by this date.  Full guidelines

Firefly Press – permission granted for educators to read aloud online and on video until February 2021 via closed platforms or if unavailable, via unlisted YouTube video. Full guidelines

Flying Eye / Nobrow books – permitting teachers to create and share story time and read-aloud videos and live events for families stuck at home on closed educational platforms or privately online, until 31st March 2021. Full guidelines

Hachette – School story time or classroom read aloud videos may only be created and posted to closed educational platforms, until the end of March 2021, after which they must be removed. Full guidelines

Little Tiger – permission for educators to share read aloud videos, and display the book on closed educational platforms or YouTube provided the link is private (unlisted). These videos may be hosted on the educational platform and/or YouTube (as “Unlisted”) until 31st March 2021. Full guidelines

Macmillan Children’s Books – permission for teachers to live stream or post videos reading any children’s books published by Macmillan Children’s Books. Readings are allowed to remain online for 4 months after posting and they reserve the right to request that you take down any reading that does not reflect well on the publishing company or the book. Full guidelines

Penguin Random House – Until 30th June 2021, UK-based teachers and librarians will be able to share story time, read-aloud videos and live events stories online on closed educational platforms or as ‘private’ Youtube videos. Full guidelines

Quarto Kids – educators are welcome to read any Quarto Group title to children via virtual means. However, please do not archive or save the recordings for continuous use. If being used as part of an educational curriculum, recordings must be removed or disabled after 30 day, and only shared on closed/private platforms. Full guidelines

Scholastic – not yet updated for 2021

Simon and Schuster – Until 31st March 2021, permission to livestream and post readings of Simon & Schuster books online for your pupils, within the confines of educational platform or private YouTube listing.

Usborne – permission for educators to create and share readings of Usborne books, and display the illustrations as part of the readings, sharing on a closed group or educational platform including by sharing an unlisted YouTube link. This permission is effective from 24 March 2020 and has now been extended to 31st July 2021 after which all recordings should be deleted. Full guidelines

Walker Books – educators providing distance learning to students in a virtual classroom setting can create story time or classroom read-aloud videos and post to closed educational platforms or as ‘private’ YouTube links until Easter 2021, after which they should be removed from the educational platform and/or from YouTube. Full guidelines

This list is not exhaustive and will be updated as more information and confirmation of guidelines from publishers becomes available. Information is accurate at time of publication, but subject to change as the pandemic situation changes. As mentioned above, please read the FULL guidelines to ensure any recording made meets the required criteria for the permission to be valid. If you are uncertain then it is best to contact the publisher in question directly.

New reviews: A little middle-grade magic – great books for Christmas!

Today I’m sharing some middle-grade magic in the shape of fantastic books for middle-grade readers that I’ve enjoyed in recent months – all of which would make great Christmas gifts!

The Peculiar Thing with the Pea by Kaye Umansky illustrated by Claire Powell is a fantastic retelling of The Princess and the Pea. Prince Pete has no interest in getting married, after all he’s only 11! But his mother the Queen has other ideas and soon she’s putting her tried and tested method of using a pea to discover if Patsy really is the Princess she claims to be. An accessible read with lively illustrations, this story will have children laughing-out-loud and no doubt joining in with some of the eye-rolling at the embarrassing-mum moments! Published by Barrington Stoke, find out more The Peculiar Thing with the Pea – Barrington Stoke

Lori and Max and the Book Thieves by Catherine O’Flynn is the second in the series featuring two school friends who have a penchant for solving mysteries! Warm-hearted and thoroughly enjoyable, this story sees Lori and Max solving several mysteries with a priceless book at the heart of the equation. Not just a mystery story though, there are layers of emotion as Lori and Max deal with multiple real-life issues and use all their determination and the power of their friendship to find the solutions. A standalone adventure, this is a great addition to the series. Published by Firefly Press, find out more Lori and Max and the Book Thieves | Firefly Press

The Marvellous Land of Snergs by Veronica Cossanteli illustrated by Melissa Castrillon is a total delight! A forgotten classic first published in 1927, the story has been brought back to life with the support of the family of the the original author E.A Wyke-Smith. Pip and Flora, running away from a Children’s Home, stumble into the Marvellous Land of the Snergs – a magical world of cinnamon bears and incredible feasts alongside vegan ogres, dastardly Kelps and a purple-wearing villain. Enter Gorbo, a lovable snerg who proves to be Pip and Flora’s only friend. But can he help them find their way home? A fabulous adventure ensues, full of everything you would expect from the story that is said to have inspired J.R.R Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Marvellous by name, marvellous by nature, this totally deserves it’s place as a classic and will surely find it’s way into the hearts of a new generation of readers. Published by Chicken House, find out more Chicken House Books – Marvellous Land of Snergs

Little Badman and the Time-Travelling Teacher of Doom by Humza Arshad and Henry White, illustrated by Aleksei Bitskoff sees the return of the wannabe rapper, Humza aka Little Badman and his best friend Umer. This time they have been sent away to summer school in Pakistan, and something strange is going on. Humza is convinced there’s a sinister plot and given recent experiences with Alien Aunties, perhaps he’s right! Guaranteed mayhem and chaos, hilarious observations and a huge helping of laugh-out-loud humour; if you are looking for a funny book for the middle-grade readers in your life, then Little Badman is it! Published by Puffin, find out more Little Badman and the Time-travelling Teacher of Doom (penguin.co.uk) Read my review of Little Badman’s first outing here.

Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre retold by Tanya Landman brings two classics of English literature to a new audience, in these accessible retellings. The Carnegie Medal-winning author uses her critically acclaimed writing talents to take both these stories to new heights, accentuating key elements and scenes into a more concise format. The stories lose none of their timelessness nor any of the power of the characters they portray. Both of these titles would be a great way to introduce the classics to a new generation of readers in an accessible format, giving the stories a new lease of life. Published by Barrington Stoke, find out more Wuthering Heights: A Retelling by Tanya Landman – Barrington Stoke

Trouble in a Tutu by Helen Lipscombe is the sequel to the critically acclaimed Peril en Pointe (review here) and returns to the Swan House Ballet School – a secret spy training school! This time, Milly must investigate a dangerous trickster in the shape of the ‘Mouse King’ as he threatens the safety of everyone at the school. Milly has to contend with suspects all around, making sure her jealously of a new arrival doesn’t blind her investigations. Full of adventure and themes of friendship at it’s heart, this is middle-grade espionage at it’s best, perfectly combining the art of ballet with the world of spies! Published by Chicken House, find out more Chicken House Books – Trouble in a Tutu

With thanks to Barrington Stoke, Chicken House, Firefly Press and Puffin Books for sending me these books to review.

New reviews: Wonderful children’s books for Christmas – and all year round!

Today I’m sharing my thoughts on some beautiful picture books written by brilliant authors and illustrators who have created stories that will capture the imagination and bring a smile to readers faces – young and old. These books would make lovely Christmas gifts to be enjoyed all year round!

Delightfully Different Fairy Tales written by Lynn Roberts Maloney and illustrated by David Roberts is a stunning treasury gift collection of these original and captivating takes on fairy tales we know and love. The series has sold nearly 60, 000 copies and delighted young readers (and many adult readers too) with brilliant portrayals of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Rapunzel, each set in a different historical period and showing these familiar characters in a totally different light! No longer the damsels in distress, our heroines are enterprising and resourceful and will inspire a new generation of young readers to be the the same. Spellbinding storytelling and stunning illustration unite to create a beautiful gift edition ideal to enjoy together and share as a family. Published in hardback by Pavilion, find out more David Roberts’ Delightfully Different Fairytales | Pavilion Books

The Pocket Chaotic written by Ziggy Hanaor and illustrated by Daniel Gray-Barnett brings to life a delightful family of kangaroos, in a story of a journey towards independence. Alexander lives in his mum’ pocket and despite his sister’s protestations that it’s time he moved into his own bedroom, he insists on staying! But as his Mum gets more and more chaotic, and fills her pocket with everything from her mobile phone to old sweet wrappers, Alexander finds there’s less and less space for him to snuggle. Maybe his sister is right?! Delightful illustrations bring the kangaroos to life and there’s a lovely lesson about the inevitability of growing up – but not being as scary as you think. A quirky tale to enjoy throughout the year! Published in hardback by Cicada Books, find out more The Pocket Chaotic — Cicada Books

The Tooth Fairy written by Samuel Langley-Swain and illustrated by David Ortu is a fantastic new series from The Royal Mint, bringing the Tooth Fairy tradition bang up to date! The series centres on twins Ollie and Grace who have just lost their first tooth. Their Grandpa reveals that for generations, tooth fairies and coin makers have been secretly working together from The Royal Mint, to make sure every child receive a shiny new coin for their tooth! Featuring a host of magical characters, the first two titles The Tooth Fairy and the Home of the Coin Makers and The Tooth Fairy and the Magical Journey are sure to delight the imaginations of young readers all year round! Published in paperback by The Royal Mint, find out more The Tooth Fairy | The Royal Mint

Music A Fold-Out Graphic History written by Nicolas O’Neill and Susan Hayes illustrated by Ruby Taylor is a simply gorgeous book celebrating the history of music, produced in association with The Royal Albert Hall. If ever we needed to celebrate our arts and heritage, it’s now and this books achieves this in spades! Showing how music has been a part of the way we live for thousands of years, children will discover music in prehistoric and ancient times, right up to music we know and love today. There’s a focus on the Royal Albert Hall of Fame and this book brilliantly reminds us why music is at the heart of culture and even has a playlist at the end so children can experience it for themselves. A wonderful book to share with incredible detail and fold out pages, this is a great gift for Christmas. Published in hardback by What on Earth Books, find out more Music – A Fold-Out Graphic History – What on Earth Publishing What On Earth? Books

The Three Wishes A Christmas Story by Alan Snow is a wonderful origin story of some of our most beloved Christmas traditions. If you’ve ever wondered how Santa Claus came to be, how he visits every child in one night, how his reindeer fly and why he wears a red coat, then this story is the answer! With beautiful illustrations and a tale that feels truly authentic, as if it had been passed down through generations, The Three Wishes is an original take on a story we love to imagine. A wonderful book to share with children this Christmas. Published in hardback by Pavilion Books, find out more The Three Wishes | Pavilion Books

With thanks to Cicada Books, Pavilion Books, The Royal Mint and What on Earth Books for sending me these books to review.

GUEST POST: Author Catherine Bruton on Another Twist in the Tale and Creating Characters the Dickensian way!

It’s the second Victorian-inspired blog this month in celebration of the launch of Mr Dilly’s A Very Victorian Christmas, the festive treat for primary schools that the whole school community can enjoy! I’m really excited to welcome Catherine Bruton to the blog, author of No Ballet Shoes in Syria and most recently, the Oliver-Twist inspired Another Twist in the Tale. Today, I share my review of this wonderful tale and Catherine is sharing some wonderful insight into creating Dickensian characters.

You have heard, no doubt, the tale of Master Oliver Twist – that rags-to-riches boy; the parish orphan who became heir to the Brownlow fortune. But what few know is that was a second Twist – a girl, brought into this world moments ahead of her brother. This is the story of Twill Twist – and her journey through the gambling dens and workhouses of London, as she attempts to make a life for herself, rescue her friends, and uncover the mystery of her past – while meeting some familiar faces along the way…

For me, Oliver Twist always brings back memories of Christmas – the musical version was always on at Christmas time and who can fail to recall Ron Moody’s fantastic performance as Fagin?! And now, author Catherine has brought to life Dickens’ Victorian London again, with the most wonderful twist, as the title suggests. Meet Twill, none other than Oliver Twist’s twin sister, rescued from death by Baggage Jones, herself a young girl fighting for survival in Victorian London. Intertwining characters from the original story – including the wonderful Artful Dodger- with utterly delightful new faces, Catherine weaves a world fraught with danger for Twill as she navigates her way through the backstreets of Victorian London, trying to discover the truth about her past. Another Twist in the Tale is one of the most authentic, engaging and downright enjoyable books I’ve read in recent times and I am really pleased to welcome Catherine to the blog with a brilliant post about creating Dickensian characters. Welcome to the blog Catherine!

Creating Incredible Characters – the Dickensian way! By Catherine Bruton

“What was the best thing about writing ‘Another Twist in the Tale’, my sequel to Charles Dickens’ ‘Oliver Twist’ set in Victorian London and featuring Oliver’s long lost twin sister? That’s easy – it was the characters! Rediscovering familiar old faces from Dickens – the Artful Dodger, Fagin and Oliver Twist himself  – and creating a host of exciting new heroes and villains of my own – Baggage Jones, the Monstrous Madame Manzoni and Miss Twill Twist –  was just so much fun!  So what did I learn from Dickens about how to create incredible characters?

Names

From Mr Pumblechook, Martin Chuzzlewit, Ebenezer Scrooge, Pip Pirrip, The Aged P, the Artful Dodger, Mr Jaggers, Abel Magwitch and The Barnacles  to Creake, Crumple, Cripples and Cruncher, Dickens’ character names are as weird and wonderful, glorious and grotesque, sad and funny and moving and brilliant as Dickens’ incredible cast of characters themselves. So how did he do it?

Well, Dickens knew how to play with sounds, from the assonantal Scrooge and Drood, the plosive Pip Pirrip, the alliterative Newman Noggs and Nicholas Nickleby, to the onomatopoeic Creakle and Jingle and Crimple.  And he loved using homophones and puns too – Micawbre/Macabre, Jaggers/Jagged, Uriah/Urine, Claypole/Maypole, Krooks/Crook, to name but a few. Sometimes the word association goes further – from McChoakumchild, choking all the joy out of children, to the deadly Lady Dedlock and the heartless Harthouse. Dickens also  enjoyed using everyday objects in his names – Bucket, Pocket, Guppy, Slime and Honeythunder – and he was the absolute master of the pithy epithet: who can forget The Artful Dodger, The Avenger and The Aged P?

So I gave myself licence to have fun with names in ‘Another Twist in the Tale’. I have my own alliterative heroes and villains – from Tommy Tickle, Madame Manzoni, Bob the Butcher’s Boy to Twill Twist herself (not that she becomes a Twist right away!) as well as my own associative names – Mrs Spanks who is famous for her beatings, Fleet who is fast and stinky as the river she takes her name from, and the cherubic Angel.

Names in ‘Another Twist in the Tale’ are particularly important because many of my characters’ names have been lost – or found! ‘Baggage Jones was quite sure she’d had another name once but it had been lost like a penny down the floorboards or an odd sock in the laundry  … she  had spent her fourteen years on this earth being addressed thus ‘Get over ‘ere, you baggage … Fetch this, you useless baggage …. Get on, you baggage you’ – that she had come to believe Baggage was indeed her name.’ Similarly, all of the members of the Sassy Sisterhood of Saffon Hill are named after the places where they were found, shivering and starving on the streets – ‘There was Sloane whose half-closed eye and scarred cheek had been gained in an encounter with the Old Bill on the King’s Road, Chelsea who has slept a whole winter in the snow on Eaton Terrace and little Angel who has been found starving on a street corner in Islington.’ Poor Piccadilly and Trafalgar – the asymmetrical twins – come off rather worse in this particular naming strategy! Meanwhile, many of the urchins who find themselves prey to the exploitative Blacking Factory sweatshop are nameless – ‘the latest arrival had no idea what his name was so the boys called him Nemo (which means nobody)’  Oh, and there’s  the one known simply as Boy Number 12 (my nod to ‘Hard Times’!)

Meanwhile some of my names are riddles. The mysterious Mr Barrabas (not his real name!) takes his pseudonym from another literary baddie who poisoned his own daughter and a houseful of nuns with porridge (can you name the author and the play?) Oh, and this evil gentleman’s name also links him to another famous Dickensian villain to whom he bears a striking resemblance. ‘Mother Earth’ and the mysterious Mrs C also have names that prove to be riddles to be solved before our heroine can save the day. Meanwhile, Madame Manzoni is a tribute to one of my favourite characters from a classic novel NOT by Dickens! I shall leave the literary sleuths amongst you to figure out who (look out for the clue later on in the blog!)

As for  Miss Twill (Twist/Brownlow) Jones – also known as Camberwell, Will Camberwell or  just South o’ th’ River to her friends – well, our plucky heroine loses a name,  gains a name, changes her name, throws off  a name and gets a brand new one at the end! Yes, names are a big part of this story!

Appearance

Dickens’ character descriptions are famously gloriously visual, almost cartoon-like at times. His characters come in different shapes (the ‘square’ Mr Gradgrind), sizes (Tiny Tim) and colours (just think of Miss Havisham’s wedding attire faded to sere yellow, like her hopes!) and his descriptions are peppered with wonderful metaphors and similes  – who can forget the letterbox mouth of Mr Wopsle?

So, you can just imagine how much fun I had creating my own character descriptions, drawing on Dickens’ techniques and allowing myself licence to exaggerate as much as I liked. There’s the monstrous Madame Manzoni ‘who had once been a diminutive bird-like woman of singular beauty. But over the years a monstrous accumulation of flesh had descended upon her tiny body like lava upon a doomed city, burying the fairy-like girl in waves and waves of undulating white flesh’. Or Baggage Jones, ‘a scrawny scrap of a creature who bore a squashed appearance as of clothing hastily scrumpled.’ Or Twill Jones who ‘shared all her brother’s angelic beauty, but her big blue eyes shone with a fierce light and there was a determined tilt to her chin and firm set to her rose-petal mouth which reflected her fearless temper.’

And I had the most brilliant fun inventing suitably Dickensian metaphors and similes: ‘wobbling like a colossal blancmange’, ‘a tall hot, poker of a woman’, ‘tiny beady eyes that glimmered like currants in the swelling pudding of her doughy face’, ‘an eyebrow raised like a slug wriggling on a vast mountain of lard’, ‘he had the soft, plump features of a newborn and not much more hair on his head than a babe-in-arms neither’, ‘a squat looking girl with the appearance of a pugilistic pug’. Yes, when it comes to creating Dickensian characters it’s all about the imagery – the more weird, wonderful and grotesque the better!

Voices

During a trip to the Dickens’ Museum in London I learned that the great man would ‘act out’ his characters in front of a mirror to get the voices right (I even got to stand in front of the actual looking glass and mutter a few of the Artful Dodger’s choicest phrases!)  Dickens uses dialogue almost like a play-write to evoke his characters’ idiosyncrasies. From Mr Sleary’s lisp and Harthouse’s lazy drawl, to the catchphrases for which so many of his characters are famous – Fagin’s obsequious ‘my dear!’, Scrooge’s ‘Bah Humbug!’, Uriah Heep’s ‘Umble’  to Jo the Crossing Sweeper’s ‘I don’t know nothink’ and Stephen Blackpool’s ‘Tis all a muddle!’ not forgetting my personal favourite, Joe Gargery’s ‘Ever the best of friends!’

Dickens researched the idiolect of his characters carefully, studying a book of Lancashire dialect before writing ‘Hard Times’ and introducing into his  London novels the earthy  Cockney slang associated with the working class, the theatre, or the criminal underworld,  such terms as butter-fingers (a clumsy person), flummox (bewilder), sawbones (surgeon), and whizz-bang (sound of a gunshot). He also made up plenty of words of his own – comfoozled meaning exhausted is my particular favourite. He turned nouns into verbs (and vice versa) ‘I won’t submit to be mother-in-lawed’ declares Fanny – adding prefixes and suffixes, and creating compound words, many of which have found their way into the Oxford English Dictionary (manslaughter and corkscrew apparently!). This playfulness with language lends a richness and variety to his  novels and particularly to his dialogue, bringing characters vividly and memorably to life.

So, as a writer who spends a (possibly worrying!) amount of time ‘acting out’  characters in my head – and sometimes out loud, too (I frequently find myself talking in role as I potter round the supermarket or on the school run!), this was music to my ears. I loved going back to my well-thumbed copy of ‘Oliver Twist’ and studying the dialect of Fagin, Bumble, Dodger and other characters. This allowed me to mimic the cadences and rhythm of their speech, as well as echoing the syntax, peculiar idiosyncrasies of grammar, lexical sets and other idiolect features (yes, my English teacher geekhood quivering with delight!)

Oh, and I rather fell in love with Philip Thorne’s appendix in the Penguin Classics edition with its glorious list of Dickensian slang which I devoured hungrily, allowing me to pepper the Sassy Sisters’ dialogue with some of the choicest Victorian vernacular.  I gave my characters their own catchphrases – ‘Spare the spoon and spoil the child,’ ‘Beauty is your duty’ – and allowed myself to go fully to town on accents, phonetic spelling – and even the occasional made up word of my own!

Yes, Dickens’ characters inspired many children’s authors, from Roald Dahl to J K Rowling, and his methods of characterisation are so distinctive that his creations live long in the memory. Following in his footsteps was the most incredible fun as a writer and when young readers close the covers of ‘Another Twist in the Tale’ I hope it might inspire them to check out one of Dickens’ stories for themselves. I love the idea that Twill Twist might introduce readers to her long lost brother Oliver and  Nancy and Bill Sykes, to  Pip and Magwitch and  Miss Havisham, to Ebenezer Scrooge and Bob Cratchitt and Tiny Tim, to Nicholas Nickleby and David Copperfield and many more of  the glorious characters and unforgettable adventures created by the inimitable Charles Dickens!”

Another Twist in the Tale by Catherine Bruton is published by Nosy Crow (5th November 2020, £7.99 paperback). With thanks to Nosy Crow for sending me this book to review.