Calling all superhero teachers and librarians!

Calling all superhero teachers and librarians! If you’re reading or plan to read Just Call Me Spaghetti-Hoop Boy Usborne have compiled these amazing, detailed and thoughtful teaching notes to help. They are full of useful information and great ideas for lessons.

The teaching notes are below. Hope they’re of some help to you.

Just Call Me Spaghetti Hoop Boy Teaching Notes Final




Kapow! Wham! Just Call Me Spaghetti-Hoop Boy.

I’m so thrilled to be able to show off my new cover for my third book JUST CALL ME SPAGHETTI-HOOP BOY on my blog. What a title, eh? And what a cover! This one comes from the dynamic duo: design by the mega-talented Katharine Millichope and illustrations by super-scribbler Carlos Aon. I think both have brought my words to life and that’s truly Adam Butters, as I imagine him, on the front cover. He’s standing tall, wind fluttering his cape and inside his head he’s shouting ‘KAZOO’ which is his superhero motto! There’s a twinkle in his eye too – can you spot it? What’s more, if you investigate a little closer, you’ll spot the spaghetti hoop on his chest. Now, I could tell you why that spaghetti hoop is important. But no, you will have to find out for yourself. That’s another thing about a fab front cover; it invites you on a journey of discovery inside the book. ‘Come on!’ it shouts. ‘There’s an ACE adventure to be had. Join us! Just turn the pages.’ I hope you’ll discover Adam’s story for yourself.

And, if you love the cover I hope you’ll love the animated trailer too. Created by Team Spaghetti (yes, that’s what I’m calling them) this brings Carlos’ illustrations to life. Big thanks to Adam for the animation and Dan for the audio and my other half for… well… I think he did some work on it too so I’m just crediting him! (Note to husband: you’ve got spaghetti hoops for life for all the help.)

Here’s a little bit of background info to whet your appetite. JUST CALL ME SPAGHETTI-HOOP BOY is a story about eleven-year-old Adam Butters who was adopted as a kid. No one has kept it a secret from him but when his school teacher, Mrs Chatterjee, suggests making a family tree Adam wants to know more about his real mother so he can get a gold star for the project. One huge problemo: he doesn’t have any concrete information that’ll help. What’s more he’s not asking his adoptive mother ‘cause she’s as glum as a squashed plum at the moment. Any road up, there’s a special envelope and special envelopes have interesting things inside as Adam discovers. When Adam discovers his birth certificate he finds out he was called Ace and that’s a superhero name, right? It’s Adam’s destiny to be excellent! He’ll make everyone happy, especially his mum. But things go wrong after Adam overhears a conversation about someone new coming to live with his family. What’s more, they’re taking his bedroom. Noooooo! Now is the time for Adam to step up and be ACE and unlock all the secrets from his past and propel himself into a new future…

Fancy reading it? I hope you do. Watch out world, Adam’s story is coming March 1st 2017. (And a BIG thank you for all the Twitter-love I had yesterday for the cover! You, my friends, are heroes. Plus another BIG thank you to Middle Grade Strikes Back for hosting my cover reveal!)

The Boy Who Sailed the Ocean in an Armchair is nominated for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2017


Once upon a time there was a little girl who lived in Northern Ireland and she didn’t live near the local library but she loved reading. There was a mobile library that stopped at the end of her street. It was a beacon, a world the little girl understood, a portal to worlds she didn’t but she could explore from the safety of her armchair. In essence it was her life line. Every two weeks she would step aboard that van and she’d talk to the librarians and they’d talk and laugh together and when she wasn’t sure what to pick next the librarians would recommend books that she thought she wouldn’t like but she tried them and she did! She read many books from that library and she loved picture books too because she knew how special they were. She loved drawing and so each illustration sparked her imagination. And when she thought she had exhausted all the books on the van for a while she looked at animal books and marvelled at how amazing animals were. That mobile library, those librarians were never forgotten and that little girl loved books more than anything. She still does. She wants to thank librarians far and wide for the amazing job they do, for inspiring that little girl from Northern Ireland to write books of her own and then one day nominating her for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2017 and giving her a happily ever after.

I’m over the moon to be that little girl and I don’t have to win to feel I already have just by being nominated. It’s such an honour. According to the Carnegie Greenaway org it is ‘often described by authors and illustrators as the “one the want to win”, the CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Children’s Book Awards are the gold standard in literature and illustration for children and young people.’ Previous winners include Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, C S Lewis, Quentin Blake and Phillip Pullman.

I’m such a big fan of this book award because the nominees have been chosen by librarians; the same librarians that inspired me when I was that child in Northern Ireland and still inspire me today. Libraries are for everyone. They are beating hearts in the community. They’re special, as are those that work in them. And finally, big congratulations to all the nominees for the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway awards. There are so many amazing authors and illustrators that I admire on the list. That little girl who loved her mobile library is honoured to be alongside them.

Discover C S Lewis’ Narnia


This summer we visited my home in Northern Ireland where we danced and sang to Irish music, drove over the hills and through forests, walked on cliff tops and stood in front of temples. This landscape was also the home land of C S Lewis. And in the heart of Northern Ireland I can see the heart of Narnia. C S Lewis once said ‘There are no ordinary people’ and this is a quote that I hold dear to my heart and one which inspired all my books. I believe Lewis was right; there are no ordinary people. All people are extraordinary. Miracles are happening in every household. That’s how I felt about Dan in A Boy Called Hope. He seemed like an ordinary kid but he wasn’t because he had an extraordinary amount of hope and the same could be said of Becket in The Boy Who Sailed the Ocean in an Armchair and Adam in my third book. No one is ordinary. What is ordinary anyway? Is it the same as normal? Who is normal?

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (published 1950) is one of my favourite books (others include The Enchanted Wood, Wishing Chair stories, Famous Five, Malory Towers and St Clare’s by Enid Blyton). Ever since reading it I’ve imagined meeting Mr Tumnus. But I had one special little secret. I felt I was already living in Narnia because the sweeping landscape of Northern Ireland inspired Narnia. Not long ago I paid a visit to Dunluce Castle, which was said to be the inspiration behind Cair Paravel and I felt like I was walking in the footsteps of not only C S Lewis but Aslan.

The castle of Cair Paravel on its little hill towered up above them; before them were the sands, with rocks and little pools of saltwater, and sea weed, and the smell of the sea, and long lines of bluish green waves breaking forever and ever on the beach. And oh, the cry of the sea-gulls! Have you heard it? Can you remember?

If you ever visit Northern Ireland then it’s worth a visit to this medieval castle which sits on the edge of a basalt outcropping in County Antrim. There are steep drops around it and not only has it inspired C S Lewis but it has appeared in lots of movies and on the cover of albums. According to legend part of the kitchen of the castle collapsed into the sea and only a kitchen boy survived as he was sitting in a bit that didn’t plummet. Other magical places to discover are the Mourne Mountains which was one of Lewis favourite childhood destinations of which he wrote, ‘I have seen landscapes, notably in the Mourne Mountains and southwards which under a particular light made me feel that at any moment a giant might raise his head over the ridge’. The giants came to life in ‘The Silver Chair’.image

If like me, you’re a fan of Lewis you can visit Little Lea 76 Circular Road in Belfast, where he spent his boyhood years. Or make a trip to Dundela Avenue to see the blue plaque that marks his birthplace. Would you like to see the lamp post that inspired C S Lewis? Make your way to Campbell College and the lamp post is on the drive way. The temple I mentioned at the beginning is Mussenden Temple (see above) and worth a special trip (Downhill). From the beach below it there’s a ‘tunnel’ referred to by Lewis that goes underneath Mussenden Temple. Perhaps you like to see The Searcher which was based on Digory Kirke in The Magician’s Nephew. This statue shows Kirke (depicted as Lewis) open the famous wardrobe which led to Narnia. There’s also a stained glass window in St Mark’s Church which is in memory of Lewis’ parents.

In his letters Lewis also mentioned Giant’s Causeway and I’ve been there many times but have yet to go in good weather. But what matter, there’s something magical and mystical about standing on hundreds of hexagonal rocks as the sea crashes around you and you’re draped in a veil of grey mist. Ireland isn’t about weather (unless it’s rain), so don’t go expecting sunshine. Pack a mac, I’d say. And another thing you should pack is a good book. May I suggest C S Lewis? You won’t be disappointed!

5 Reasons to love Cornwall

We’re in love with Cornwall from the sandy beaches to the coves and harbours. To the salty tang of the sea that coats your lips to the seals that bob up near fishing boats to the smell of warm Cornish pasties and sand castles on the beach. Let’s face it there are probably one million reasons to love this wonderful tip of the UK but here’s my personal five to kick things off…


Newquay is a second home to me and so its beach, Fistral, deserves a special mention. It’s a wide expanse of golden sand and is best known as a hub for surfers. In fact, August is a busy month particularly with the Boardmasters Festival where you can watch surfing or catch up with live music. The next festival is being held 9-13 August 2017. Check out for more information. Other fabulous local beaches worth a visit include Porthcurno, Kynance Cove, Watergate and Porth.


If you love seafood then you’re in luck. You could head straight to Rick Stein’s The Seafood Restaurant in Padstow and eat fish to your heart’s content. But if you’re more a cheap-as-chips-on-the-beach person (like me) you could head to Rick Stein’s at Fistral where you can get takeaway fish and chips and sit on the beach watching the sun set. They also do curries, oh yes indeedy, I’ve had a Rick Stein’s vegetable curry and very nice it was too. And then there are pasties of every kind. Yes, you could go for plain beef on day one but the rest of the week you could try something new from Mediterranean vegetable to apple and custard to balti to cheese and onion and a big breakfast. (I’ve had a gluten free vegetable pasty from Perranporth, if you want gf.) Basically, you’re never far from a hot lunch because there’s a pasty shop on every corner. Another thing you’ll find on every corner is the cream tea. And before there’s any debate I’m firmly with the ‘jam on first followed by a big dollop of clotted cream’ brigade. Yes, the folks of Devon will disagree but since this is about Cornwall we’re going Cornish all the way. If you enjoy a fix of clotted cream where ever you can get it try it on ice cream too. Head to the best ice cream shop, Jelberts, in Newlyn which is owned by the family of Olympian, Helen Glover. Their ice cream with clotted cream is a winner in my opinion! Gold medal standard, in fact!


Bored in Cornwall? Bored of life, I say! There are so many places to go. If you love to stroll around gardens get to The Lost Gardens of Heligan or Trebah. There you can wander through camellia and rhododendron pathways before sweeping down to the sea. Or visit the Eden Project and enjoy the biome housing the largest rainforest in captivity. For those that like pottering around visit Padstow, St Ives, Fowey, St Michael’s Mount, Marazion, Falmouth and Penzance or make the trip to the Minack Theatre at Porthcurno. It’s an open-air theatre constructed in the rocks. Future productions include The Merry Wives of Windsor (August 22-26) and Frankenstein (Sept 5-9). And since I’m talking about Cornwall I cannot leave out the brilliant Daphne Du Maurier. You can enjoy the Du Maurier Festival which is a platform for writers, performers and entertainers. Or you can have afternoon tea at The Fowey Hotel where Du Maurier had meetings with her mentor. Or take a trip to Jamaica Inn for a cheeky little drink. Maybe a cider?  (And while I’m talking about apple based drinks you could visit Healey’s Cyder Farm and sample their ciders.)


Cornwall can be as busy or as relaxed as you like. Even if it’s not hot and sunny (but Cornwall usually has a mild climate) it’s always perfect to walk along the beach. We love it on misty winter days as much as we love summer days. We talk, make plans, gather shells and draw on the sand (you’re never too old for that, right?). This summer, after finishing an edit on book three, I treated myself to a head massage at the Headland Spa, Headland Hotel, Newquay. Now, I could tell you all about it but I was so relaxed I was bordering on falling asleep. That, my friends, is total relaxation. I was in the comfiest chair breathing in wafts of calming aroma oils, sandalwood based, I think. Basically, it was the ultimate treat and after my head massage I had a hand massage (well, after typing out 65,000 words I thought they needed a bit of TLC). Next, I visited the relaxation lounge where I lay about on fluffy blankets while eating Turkish Delight. It was like the White Witch from Narnia was tempting me and I’m not going to lie, my hand was in the glass jar more times than Edmund’s. Another little joy about Cornwall is finding time to read. Curl up in a cosy corner or on the beach and get your books out. I’ve brought a few with me, including A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle and The Famous Five, Five on a Treasure Island by Enid Blyton. Think mystery. Think magic. Think adventures. This book could totally be set in Cornwall.


Cornwall is full of happy memories for us as a family. But it’s not just that, there are new memories to be made. There are new places to discover. There are new people to meet. No matter how many times we come here we never fail to stand on a beach and think how beautiful it is. And recently I did a school talk at Goonhavern Primary School and I got to meet wonderful, enthusiastic children and teachers. It’s a huge privilege being able to go into schools. At the end of my talk I was given a big bunch of sweet peas and I breathed in the heady scent and added this memory to my collection of memories of Cornwall. And maybe, just maybe, one day when the kids remember their school days they might have a memory of me too.

Perhaps you’ve visited Cornwall and have your own memories and if you haven’t come here and make some new ones. There will be a welcoming pasty waiting for you!




The Little Yellow Duck

imageWelcome to my new best friend forever – the little yellow Usborne duck. He’s come to live with me while I’m working on book three. Meanwhile, this is him on books one and two. I think he looks right at home. So, keep your eyes peeled because he’s going to pop up again on this blog. You can’t keep a good duck down. x