Wednesday 31 August 2016

Pumpkin Spice - Jenny Meyerhoff and Eva Chatelain - Friendship Garden Book 2

Pumpkin Spice
The Friendship Garden  Book 2
Jenny Meyerhoff
Eva Chatelain
Aladdin a division of
Simon and Schuster
ISBN 9781481439091

eISBN 9781481439121

My oldest daughter and I read this book shortly after finishing the first book in the series, Green Thumbs-Up. When my daughter and I read together currently we alternate pages and these books are at the perfect level for her heading into grade 5. As a reluctant reader it is great to find authors and especially series that she really gets into. And she loves these books. And she is awaiting book 5 that will not be out until later. So right from the get go we are off to a good start with these books.

In this volume the school's friendship garden team is prepping the garden for winter. They are doing the last of the harvesting and pulling the remainder of the garden plants for compost. But the children not only learn about gardening they learn about honesty, friendship, owning up to your mistakes and the power of words. That is an awful lot packed into this book, but it is done well.

The top three things my daughter loved most about the book are:

  1. Anna learns the power of words, especially when you accuse someone without proof.
  2. That the children learn that things are not always as they appear, and by being open they gain a new friend.
  3. Being honest always matters.
She also loves that there is a recipe again at the back of the book to try.

What I loved is the story is engaging enough to keep my interesting as I read along with my daughter. And that my daughter was so into the book that we read an extra chapter almost every day while reading it. 

We both really enjoyed the illustrations by Éva Chatelain. The simple drawings really add to the story. We also both really liked that now that the main characters were introduced this book was a little more story and a little less back story. It seemed to go much faster.

This story is really well written. Children and those who read with them will enjoy the book and the series. And as part of a growing series we hope for many more books in The Friendship Garden series to read over the next few years.  

Overall my summary would be this is a great book in a great series.

Books by Jenny Meyerhoff:
Friendship Garde
Green Thumbs-Up
Pumpkin Spice
Project Peep
Sweet Peas and Honeybees
Starry Skies and Fireflies

Other Books:
The Barftastic Life of Louie Burger
Third Grade Baby
Queen of Secrets
Class B.U.R.P. (The Barftastic Life of Louie Burger)
Sami's Sleepaway Summer
Attack of the Girlzillas (The Barftastic Life of Louie Burger)
Playing Cupid

Monday 29 August 2016

A Hole at the Pole - Chris d'Lacey

A Hole at the Pole
Chris d'Lacey
Joanna Carey (Illustrator)
A Banana Book
ISBN 9780434968015

Over the past year I have become a huge fan of Chris d'Lacey's, having read 13 books of his over the past 10 months. My children love his stories that we have shared, and I have loved some of the ones that they are a little young for. I tracked down this book even though it is out of print because it was the first book written by Chris. I am very glad I did. My three children and I read this book together the day it arrived. My children ages 10, 8 and 5 all loved the story. And the younger two were captivated by its message. 

This is the story of Billy Cockcroft, his father told him about the hole in the ozone at the North Pole, but also told him a tall tale about how he could fix it. When Billy is asked in class what he wants to do, his reply is simple, trek to the north pole and mend the hole. His is given a project to teach the class about:
The Arctic
Polar Bears
Global Warming
And what we can do about it. There is a very late snow storm and Billy makes a snow polar bear and that night he dreams and meets a polar bear who is the teller of stories. Soon Billy has his whole class excited and they decided to do something about Global warming.

This book was a wonderful read; and though I keep very few physical books these days, personally preferring eBooks. I have a feeling I will need to track down another copy of this so that both my youngest can have one on their shelves. 

The illustrations by Joanna Carey are wonderful. My children love going over them again and again. Bright beautiful pictures that really enhance the story.

Reading this book having read many of d'Lacey's other books was really fun. We see forerunners of other characters, and reoccurring themes and motifs. It is interesting to see where his writing has come to, and see this most excellent first offering. I highly recommend going through the effort to track this down, especially for fans of d'Lacey's other works or for anyone who loves great books to read with the kids in their lives. 

Books by Chris d'Lacey:
Dragons of Wayward Crescent
Gruffen (2009)
Gauge (2008)
Glade (2009)
Grabber (2010)

The Erth Dragons
The Wearle (2015)
2. Dark Wyng (2016)
3. The New Age (2018)

The Last Dragon Chronicles with David Rain
The Fire Within (2001)
Icefire (2003)
3 Fire Star (2005)
4 The Fire Eternal (2007)
5 Dark Fire (2009)
6 Fire World (2011)
7 The Fire Ascending (2012)
Rain and Fire: A Guide to the Last Dragon Chronicles (2010)

The Unicorne Files
1 A Dark Inheritance (2014)
2 Alexander's Army (2015)
3 A Crown of Dragons (2016)

Fly, Cherokee Fly Series
Fly, Cherokee Fly
Pawnee Warrior

Other Books
Henry Spaloosh! 
Shrinking Ralph Perfect
The Snail Patrol
The Table Football League
Riverside United
From E to You
Scupper Hargreaves, Football Genie
The Salt Pirates of Skegness
Falling for Mandy
The Prompter

Picture Books:
A Hole at the Pole
Juggling with Jeremy
A Break in the Chain
Read With Bubble and Float
Dexter's Journey
Frankin's Bear

Contributed to:
On Me ‘ead, Santa
Nice One, Santa
The Usborne Book of Christmas Stories
Heroes and Villains
In the Frame
Midnight Feast

Author Profile and Interview with Chris d'Lacey.

Friday 26 August 2016

The Watson Chronicles - Ann Margaret Lewis

The Watson Chronicles:
A Sherlock Holmes Novel in Stories
Ann Margaret Lewis
Rikki Niehaus (Illustrator)
Gasogene Books
ISBN  9780938501428

I need to first start by stating I do not read a lot of mysteries these days. When I was younger I went through phases of reading mysteries mostly Robert B. Parker and Agatha Christie, but a smattering of others that came across my desk. But this wonderful book is more than just a mystery. This book is in part biography, part mystery but it is also the story of a relationship and a great friendship. The book is written as a private journal of Dr. John H. Watson, as in his own words he writes to understand, for in conversing with Holmes in the prologue ""I write here in my private journal for the same reason I write about
you," I said. "To understand."! And to be honest that is why I read, to understand others and understand myself better.

This book was a wonderful little read. I really enjoyed the way it was telling the chronology, of Watson's story but woven in and around memories of certain cases. There is also extensive involvement with Sherlock and his brother Mycroft. The is a wonderful young woman named Lucyna - Lucy Modjeska who plays a critical roll in the story and in a specific case. Lucy is a devote catholic and he faith has some influence on the three main men in this book, Watson, Holmes and Mycroft.

Ann Lewis has written a wonderful book, using characters we know, and staying true to their personalities. In many ways this book is like visiting old friends after a long absence. We pick up with Holmes and Watson and see them later in life. Holmes is preparing to retire, Watson has extended his practice and well Mycroft is Mycroft. This story was engrossing and entertaining. To be honest it left me wondering what happens next. I want volume 2 of the Watson Chronicles. And hope that someday Lewis will deliver it.

The book has some wonderful illustrations by Rikki Niehaus. There are not a lot of them but they are very well done and reminded me of illustrations in the Sherlock Holmes books that I read as a child.

This book won the Catholic Writer's Guild Seal of Approval in 2013. And Adding my own praise I can state it is a wonderful fiction read. It is a great fiction story and the Catholic faith elements while subtle add a religious element to the story. I greatly enjoyed this read and to be honest am looking forward to sharing it with my father and being able to discuss the story. Overall I can highly recommend this book and look forward to reading Murder in the Vatican and hopefully soon more books from Ann.

Books by Ann Margaret Lewis:
Murder in the Vatican: The Church Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes
The Watson Chronicles: A Sherlock Holmes Novel in Stories

Wednesday 24 August 2016

Resisting Happiness - Matthew Kelly

Resisting Happiness
Matthew Kelly
Wellspring Publishing
Beacon Publishing for
Dynamic Catholic
ISBN 9781942611936

The subtitle of this book is "A True Story about Why We Sabotage Ourselves, Feel Overwhelmed, Set Aside Our Dreams, and Lack the Courage to Simply Be Ourselves... and How to Start Choosing Happiness Again" and that is quite a mouthful. But having read a number of Matthew Kelly's books over the last few years I was very excited to read this one. I must admit I read this book while rereading Rediscover Jesus, I read it through once and could not put it down, and am now reading it through a chapter a day. It was very interesting reading these two books in parallel. Matthew Kelly states in the introduction that this book is the most personal book that he has written to date. Having read a number of the others I completely agree. He has opened up and been transparent about his own faith journey, his successes, growth and failures. He is teaching by example, his example. And what a brave, courageous and motivating example it is. 

Matthew also shares a number of stories that he has shared before. But this is the most exhaustive collection of them, and some of them go into more details or extended versions of the stories. So this book is part autobiography, part spiritual history and part a guidebook for those of us who wish to grow in the Christian life. Matthew states in the introduction: "The hardest war to win is one you don't even realize you are fighting, and the hardest enemy to defeat is the one you don't even know exists. Every day you are at war with resistance." And he goes on from there to show us this pattern from his own life. And like many of Kelly's other writings the focus is not on him but on God, and our relationship with God, "When I did something that I knew was God's will, something that would clearly help me become a-better-version-of-myself, I was filled with joy. When I did something that I knew was wrong or was clearly not good for me, that joy began to evaporate." And is that not what Jesus promised in Matthew 5:6 'For the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy, but I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly.' How many of us would say we are truly living the abundant life? That we are living from a place of Joy? Kelly also declares "It is clear that God does not want us to be negative thinkers. But he also doesn't want our thinking to be neutral. He wants us to be positive thinkers on an epic scale." Would you say you are living that way? If not this book might open your eyes and your heart to following the Holy Spirit more. 

In speaking specifically about parenting and working with children Kelly says "I suppose we all need a chance to get outside ourselves and serve other people. It seems the earlier in life we get this chance in a real and tangible way- a chance to serve others, know that we have worth, discover our innate ability to make a difference in other people's lives- the better off we are." And I think about my own children and How I want them to learn to live to become the best version of themselves. We regularly read Kelly's Why Am I Here as a family, and my children often talk about decisions that help them or hinder them from being that best version of themselves. But by growing in it from the learning in this book, hopefully and prayerfully I can be a better example.  

One of the key takeaways I got from read this book was about self discipline, even self discipline in the little things. Matthew says "These realizations about denying ourselves, self-control, delayed gratification, and fasting are not new. They are wrapped up in two thousand years of Catholic genius. Saint Augustine wrote, "Conquer yourself and the world lies at your feet."" And learning from his examples we can start small and build to bigger disciplines. But on that same note Kelly says if we are striving to grow in discipline we will also experience greater resistance "Resistance hates discipline. It hates self-control. Resistance abhors delayed gratification and any type of self-denial that makes your heart, mind, and soul strong." He also advises us that if we want to see change we need to be part of making that change happen. "If you want to be part of an excellent parish, stop waiting for someone else to make it one. Get involved and make it an excellent parish. Resistance encourages us to take it easy and settle for mediocrity. But God created us for happiness, and he fills us with great joy as we strive for excellence, especially in the spiritual life." Matthew insists: 

"God wants you to live an excellent life. In that quest for excellence you will find a rare happiness."

He also stresses the importance of being gentle with ourselves as part of the processs. "One of the most important reasons to be gentle with ourselves is because if we cannot forgive ourselves, we will struggle to forgive others. And if we cannot forgive ourselves or others, we will resist even God's forgiveness. When we are gentle with ourselves, when we are patient with ourselves, we develop awareness, and awareness breeds compassion. And every person who ever crosses your path needs a little compassion." And also 

"Be gentle with yourself, be gentle with others, and never stop striving to be all that God created you to be: the-very-best-version-of-yourself."

And again he always cycles back to being who God calls us to be. He says "God designed human beings for specific purposes. When we stray from them, things tend to go wrong and we start to feel dissatisfied at best and miserable at worst. You were made for mission. You will never have lasting happiness until you realize this and act on it.".

This book was an excellent read, and I know already that I will read it again soon. Matthew draws examples from his own life and a few examples from outside his life. Each chapter has a main teaching followed by a reminder of the Key Point and Action Step at the end of the chapter. This is a great read and it will inspire you.

On a side note I am still waiting in anticipation for The Narrow Path that Dynamic Catholic promoted for almost a year but keeps getting pushed back but books like this one and Rediscover Jesus. But both Rediscover Jesus and this book are excellent reads, that will have immediate impact on all areas of your life if you read them with an open hear. So give this book a read or a listen all you have to lose is your resistance. And you have a world of joy and happiness to gain, true joy found only in God. 

Books by Matthew Kelly:
I Know Jesus
The Long View
Decision Point: The Workbook
Decision Point: The Leader Guide
The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic
The One Thing
Off Balance: Getting Beyond the Work-Life Balance Myth to Personal and Professional Satisfaction
Why Am I Here?
Perfectly Yourself: 9 Lessons for Enduring Happiness
Perfectly Yourself Discovering God's Dream For You
Building Better Families: A Practical Guide to Raising Amazing Children
The Dream Manager
The Seven Levels of Intimacy: The Art of Loving and the Joy of Being Loved
The Rhythm of Life: Living Every Day with Passion and Purpose
Building Better Families - 5 Practical Ways to Build Family Spirituality
The Book of Courage
The Shepherd: A Modern Parable about Our Search for Happiness
Mustard Is Persecution, Matthew Kelly Foundation
A Call to Joy - Living in the Presence of God
The Rhythm of Life: An Antidote For Our Busy Age
Words from God
Resisting Happiness
The Narrow Path
Our Father
The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity
Why I Love Being Catholic
Good Night, Jesus
In a world where you can be anything ...

Beautiful ... Series:

Rediscover Books by Matthew Kelly:
Rediscover Catholicism: A Spiritual Guide to Living with Passion & Purpose
Rediscover Advent
Rediscover Lent
Rediscover Jesus: An Invitation
Rediscover the Rosary: The Modern Power of an Ancient Prayer
Rediscover the Saints

Audio by Matthew Kelly from Lighthouse Media:
Becoming The Best Version Of Yourself
The Best Way To Live
Don't Just Try, Train
Faith At Work & The Holy Moment
The Four Signs Of A Dynamic Catholic - Excerpt
The Jesus Question
My Spiritual Journey
Our Lives Change When Our Habits Change
Raising Amazing Children
The Seven Levels Of Intimacy
The Seven Pillars Of Catholic Spirituality

(Note: this books is part of a series: A Year of Reading Intention - Catholic Reading!)

Monday 22 August 2016

Extra Credit - Andrew Clements

Extra Credit
Andrew Clements
Mark Elliott (Illustrator)
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
A Division of Simon and Schuster

ISBN 9781416949299
ASIN B0070Y3268

This was the 10th book by Clements that I have read over the last few months. Most of his books have a lesson but this one dealing with hostilities between the US and Afghanistan as experienced by students in both countries pushes the boundary for Clements. It is an interesting read but not one of my favorites by Clements.

 This is primarily a story about pen pals, Abby Carson and Sadeed Bayat. Abby is in desperate need of a pen pal because she is about to repeat her grade and an Extra Credit project. The project she get's if to have a pen pal and share at least 5 letters and do a bulletin board in the classroom to share the information she learns with her classmates. Her teacher gives her the choice of a few locations where she has contacts in school. Abby decides to write Afghanistan because they have mountains and her favorite thing is the rock climbing wall in the gym at school, because Illinois. 

The story deals with some typical stereotypes, but also breaking down boundaries. At first Sadeed is reluctant to write to Abby because he is to work with his younger sister and do it. For a boy and girl writing is not appropriate. He feels writing a girl is below him. But as the letters exchange his feelings change. Both Abby and Sadeed encounter resistance, some parents at Abby's school complain about the Afghan flag on her display. And a stranger is furious when he sees American flag stamps on a letter Saeed has. Even accusing Saeed of being a traitor or spy.  

Both children learn to deal with their feelings. They both encounter feelings they did not expect. They also both learn to appreciate aspects about the others culture and day to day life.

In some ways this book was more intense than many of Clements other books. Because of the political nature and the content. But in other ways it was slower as letters were written and events going on in between the letters travelling back and forth. 

The book was an interesting read. It also does a fairly good job of trying to handle such political issues. It was also the first book by Clements that I have encountered that has some budding romance in it. It was a little slower read than many of his other books but still one with a good message. It helped me think about my biases or preconceived notions, and any book that makes us think is good in my books. 

Books by Andrew Clements:
Bird Adalbert
Noah and the Ark and the Animals
Santa's Secret Helper
Temple Cat
Mother Earth's Counting Book
Billy and the Bad Teacher
Who Owns the Cow
Bright Christmas: An Angel Remembers
(Adapter)Philipp's Birthday Book
Riff's BeBop Book
Real Monsters Go for the Mold
Things That Go EEK on Halloween
Real Monsters Stage Fright
Music Time, Any Time
Double Trouble in Walla Walla
Gromble's Haunted Halloween
Hey Dad, Could I Borrow Your Hammer
The Landry News
Look Who's in the Thanksgiving Play
The Mouse Family
The Janitor's Boy
Circus Family Dog
The Christmas Kitten
The School Story
Things Not Seen 
The Jacket 
A Week in the Woods
Slippers at Home
Naptime for Slippers
The Report Card
The Last Holiday Concert
Slippers at School
Slippers Loves to Run
A Million Is a Lot of Dots
Lunch Money
Things Hoped For
Room One: A Mystery or Two
No Talking
Things That Are
Lost and Found
Extra Credit
About Average
The Map Trap
The Friendship War
The Losers Club

Pets to the Rescue Series
Ringo Saves the Day!
Brave Norman
Tara and Tiree, Fearless Friends
Delores and the Big Fire

Jake Drake Series
Jake Drake Know-It-All
Jake Drake, Bully Buster
Jake Drake, Teacher's Pet
Jake Drake, Class Clown

Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School Series
We the Children
Fear Itself
The Whites of Their Eyes
In Harm's Way
We Hold These Truths

Reading program Books
Karen's Island
Three Wishes for Buster
Bill Picket: An American Original, Texas Style
Hurricane Andrew
Ham and Eggs for Jack
Life in the Desert
Desert Treasure
Inventors: Making Things Better, Steck-Vaughn
Milo's Great Invention

Friday 19 August 2016

Sword and Serpent by Taylor R. Marshall

Sword and Serpent
Taylor R. Marshall
Saint John Press

ISBN 9780988442559

Epic story; that is the best way to sum up this book! I have become a fan of Dr. Marshall's blog and podcasts. I have even read a few of this theological works, but this narrative as historical fiction was an amazing read. For a number of years in university I wore a Saint George medal that my grandmother had given me. This retelling of the legend of Saint George and the Dragon brings it to live in a new way.

The writing in this tale is masterful, set in A.D. 299, in the Roman empire it weaves tales and stories of a number of saints, into a very addictive read. In many ways it reads like Jack Whyte's historical fiction but with a stronger Christian message. In some ways it reads like Tolkien in its epic proportions and alternating story lines that eventually weave together. This was a thoroughly addictive read. Once I got into it, it was very hard to put down. The characters are wonderfully written, Lucius Aurelius Georgius known as Jurian, Menas the giant, Sabra the daughter of the Governor of Cyrene and priestess of the old god, and her servant Hanno. The story's main arcs focus around these four. But we also have the bishop Saint Nikolaos, Blasios or Saint Blaise, Saint Cyricius to name but a few.

The elements of myth, fantasy and history blend so well in this novel that at times as you are transported into the story you forget it is historical fiction and enter the world Taylor Marshall has created. But as Jurial struggles with understanding the faith of his mother and sister, he is growing in that faith; that same faith can be an example for us, teaching us to trust more, step out in faith more to grow. Madelein L'Engle stated ""We are all strangers in a strange land, longing for home, but not quite knowing what or where home is. We glimpse it sometimes in our dreams, or as we turn a corner, and suddenly there is a strange, sweet familiarity that vanishes almost as soon as it comes. In literature the longing for home is found in the many stories of paradise, of the forgotten place where we once belonged."  This story does that it gives us glimpses of greater truths, it reveals saints and in part the path to becoming saints in our own lives.

I believe that this would have been a book that both Tolkien and Lewis would have loved. I can picture the Inklings sitting with a pint discussing the story and speculating where it would go next. And according to Taylor's website that sequel will be out in 2016.

This was an incredible read. I average well over 100 books read each year. And this was one of the best that I have read in a long, long time. If you have an interest in ancient Rome, early Christianity, dragons or even just love a good read you need to give this book a try. 

And if I haven't convinced you yet, check out the book trailer.

Books by Taylor R. Marshall:
Thomas Aquinas in 50 Pages: The Layman's Quick Guide to Thomism
Saint Augustine in 50 Pages: The Layman's Quick Guide to Augustinianism
God's Birthday: Why Christ Was Born on December 25 and Why it Matters

Infiltration: The Plot to Destroy the Church from Within
The Rosary in 50 Pages: The Layman’s Quick Guide to Mary’s Psalter

Sword and Serpent Series:
Sword and the Serpent
The Tenth Region of the Night
Storm of Fire and Blood

The Origins of Catholic Christianity Series:
The Crucified Rabbi: Judaism and the Origins of Catholic Christianity
The Catholic Perspective on Paul: Paul and the Origins of Catholic Christianity
The Eternal City: Rome & the Origins of Catholic Christianity

(Note: this books is part of a series: A Year of Reading Intention - Catholic Reading!)


Wednesday 17 August 2016

Chris d'Lacey Author Profile and Interview

Chris d'Lacey Author Profile and Interview

I started reading Chris d'Lacey's books late last years, and must admit I am addicted. I have read books from 4 different series and a few standalone books and have loved them all. I have also been reading them with my children and the ones we have shared the absolutely loved. Chris is most famous for his three series about Dragons, The Dragons of Wayward Crescent, The Last Dragon Chronicles and the new Erth Dragons Series. But he has written books about racing pigeons, a boy with learning difficulties, a collectable bear, polar bears and many more. His stories are engaging and enthralling. Recently he took some time and answered 20 Questions for the readers here at Book Reviews and More. So here in his own words I present to you the wordsmith Chris d'Lacey.

1. When did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you nurture that dream?

I didn't so much 'know', it simply became more apparent over time. I've been creative since the age of 17 when I first picked up a guitar and started composing songs. If I had a dream back then, it would have been to lead a rock band. Stories were something alien to me. We'd never studied creative writing at school, so I had no experience of it as an art form. I literally began on a whim one day at the age of 32. I wanted to do something romantic for my wife, Jay, and had the idea of writing a story for her about a toy polar bear she loved. Realising I knew very little about polar bears, I borrowed a book from my local library and started to read about them. That generated some ideas and away I went. Writing just got into my system after that. I experimented with short stories mainly and had a few published in literary magazines. I also did well in a few competitions. But I didn't attempt a children's story (a proper one at any rate) until I was 39. That became my first illustrated chapter book (A Hole at the Pole - more polar bears!) and overnight I found my 'voice'. I'd never been quite happy writing adult fiction, and people often said if I turned my stories round and saw them through a child's eyes I'd be a children's author. That turned out to be very true. 

2. Who were some of your biggest supporters and contributors to your early success?

Jay was my initial support, and still is. I always find it strange when fellow authors tell me their spouses aren't interested in what they do; I'd be lost without Jay (see question 4). Shortly after beginning to write, I joined a writers' club.  I met people there with vast knowledge of the industry, many of whom were published, in all sorts of different genres. It was them who encouraged me to experiment.  I'm a big fan of writers' clubs. An agent once dismissed them as 'mutual pat on the back societies' and tried to warn me away. But any writer will tell you that writers need writers.  I love the club.  I'm still a member thirty years later.

Once I'd got my foot in the publishing door, agents and editors became very important. I've had four agents - not entirely by design. I didn't hit it off with the first one. We parted company because she refused to send out manuscripts that I believed in but she didn't. Shortly after leaving her I not only sold one of those manuscripts, but also wrote what is arguably my most successful book, Fly Cherokee Fly. With agents, it's terribly important to forge a good working relationship. Most authors describe their agent as their 'best friend'. I wouldn't go quite that far, but you do need someone who 'gets' you and is prepared to fight your corner. It's the same with editors. They are extremely hard-working people, often dealing with forty or fifty books a year. But if you find the right one they can be truly inspirational. They see weak spots in stories that the author doesn't, and will often suggest ideas or improvements. I couldn't name names in the UK, because I've had so many different editors; there were four, for instance, over the course of The Last Dragon Chronicles.  But in the US I've had one, Lisa Sandell at Scholastic. She has been a rock and a great friend. 

And of course we mustn't forget all the librarians, teachers, booksellers, reviewers, bloggers and fans that help to build an author's profile. Every writer needs their champions. Sometimes, the books just strike a chord with people - yourself, for instance - who give their support though articles or events or plain word of mouth. That is wonderful and humbling all in one go.

3. If you had not become a writer what do you think you would be doing for a living?

I worked for nearly thirty years at Leicester University, running various microscope facilities. I would still be doing that, I guess.  The writing began about eight years into my time there and gradually snowballed. It got to a crazy point where I was receiving so many event requests that I had to use all my vacation days to fulfil them.  I even negotiated some unpaid leave during my last two years of regular employment. I had a very understanding boss (and Vice Chancellor). In the end, I just couldn't run the two careers anymore and left the university when a suitable opportunity arose.  I enjoyed my time being a scientist (of sorts) and was thrilled when the university gave me an honorary doctorate for my services to children's fiction.

4. What does your writing process look like? Takes us through the steps from idea to publishing?

Perhaps the best way to illustrate this is to describe what happened after The Last Dragon Chronicles were done.  The seven books of the Chronicles took approximately ten years to write and were all-consuming. Many good ideas had to be shelved to make way for them.  By the end of that period I'd become typecast as a fantasy author and my publishers, not surprisingly, wanted me to stay in broadly the same area with whatever I did next.  I took a year off while we were moving house and used the break to bounce a few ideas around with Jay.  We eventually whittled them down to two. I had always wanted to write a kind of X-Files for kids, and that became the basis for The UNICORNE Files. Jay, however, was strongly in favour of developing her concept of an anthropomorphic dragon saga. You'll have gathered from this that Jay is crucial to the whole development process. Indeed, whatever comes out of this house is very much a joint enterprise. Sometimes the ideas come from Jay, sometimes from me, but we both contribute to the eventual storylines. She was keen to push the Erth Dragons because so many children had sent us stories in which their dragons talked. So, because we had a little time on our hands, we plotted out a basic storyline for Erth Dragons #1, The Wearle and did the same with A Dark Inheritance, book one of the UFiles. I then went away and wrote an opening for each. I write every single word of the books, but will rewrite them chapter by chapter until Jay's happy. She is my frontline editor as well as ideas generator and more besides. Nothing out of character ever gets past her! 

We then sent the partial manuscripts to our agent, Ed Wilson. He was excited by both and submitted them to my US and UK publishers. To my surprise, both publishers went for the UFiles idea. Jay was stunned, because we both thought The Wearle was about the best thing we'd ever produced. Still, we were thrilled to have the UFiles in both territories, especially as the books would be published primarily in North America and also edited there. The series was commissioned and I set about writing them.  Shortly afterwards, my main UK publisher suddenly decided they wanted Erth Dragons.  So we set up a deal for those books as well and spent the next few years dovetailing the two series. It was quite an intense period, but I think I produced some of my best writing during it.  The UFiles trilogy is now complete and all three books are available through the normal sources.  The first two books of the Erth Dragons are also complete. The Wearle will be available in North America in December 2016.

All the stories went through the normal editorial processes (mainly by email and sometimes by telephone to the States).  With the UFiles, I found myself in the bizarre situation of writing a book in my native English, having it edited and Americanised in NYC, then having it re-Anglicised when the finished manuscript was returned to my UK publisher! I lost count of the number of times Jay and I read drafts or checked copyedits. There was a lot of debate about the covers (there usually is), but the author has to rely on the judgement of the publisher's design and marketing team to get this right, and everyone was happy in the end.  One of the most interesting aspects of the Erth Dragons manuscripts was the creation of a character list and a glossary, both of which Jay collated. I've also had requests from fans to put maps inside the books.  Maybe - when my drawing improves!

5. Do you use a playlist when writing? Are certain books written while predominantly listing to the same music?

I can't listen to anything when I'm writing.  I prefer absolute silence.  I know one author who puts on a pair of headphones and listens to loud heavy metal while he's working.  It's his way of 'zoning out', I think.

6. What authors influenced your writing style and format?

None.  Not consciously at any rate.  I say this because I didn't come to writing from a literary standpoint.  I never had any ambitions to be a writer, I just sidestepped into it from songwriting.  I'm probably the worst read writer you will ever meet. Seriously.  I like reading books, but I never seem to have the time for them.  When I joined the writers' group, a friend introduced me to the short stories of Raymond Carver.  Carver's punchy style had a big impact on me for a while.  My text became more colourful when I got into the fantasy arena.  In one sense, every book I've ever read and liked has influenced me in some way, because every different style suggests a potentially new direction that might be worth attempting.

7. What of your books is your favorite and why?

This is always such a difficult question to answer because barring a couple I like them all, for different reasons.  Lately, I'm very fond of The Wearle and A Crown of Dragons.  The Wearle was a huge challenge; it's not easy putting yourself in the head of a dragon and creating a society around them.  A Crown of Dragons grew on me as I wrote it.  It's the least dynamic story of the UFiles but I like the mix of problems Michael faces, both domestic and supernatural. (Interesting note: it's the only book an editor has approved without wanting changes.) I often say that my favourite book of the Chronicles is Fire World, because it's just so different from anything else I've done.  It was a bold move to enter a parallel universe six books into a major series!  But if you really want to pin me down to one choice I have to plump for The Fire Within, because it's not really a book about clay dragons (or squirrels) it's a book about creativity and where ideas come from.  I get quite emotional just thinking about that book.

8. One of the greatest strengths in your books are the characters, they are so well written. The characters you create, are they reflections of people you know, composites of different people you know or entirely your creations?

I've never deliberately based a character on anyone I know, other than David Rain - who was based loosely on me.  I was interviewed by a pigeon fancier once who was remarkably like Alf Duckins in Cherokee - but I met him after the book was written.  The closest was probably Zanna, David's partner in the Chronicles.  I met a girl at a signing who had the complete goth look: the dark hair, pale face, purple eye shadow etc.  She also had attitude!  At the time, I wanted a girlfriend for David who would be the complete opposite of his first partner, Sophie.  After meeting the goth girl, Zanna just clicked into place.  I've always liked feisty heroines.  I suppose all writers absorb the mannerisms and personalities of the people they meet and feed them back into their characters by a kind of intuitive osmosis.  I just aim to put the right character in the right place at the right time.  Mums are my favourites.  I think I'm good at mums.

9. Which of the dragons you have created is your favorite and why?

That would have to be Gadzooks, because of what he represents.  He's more than just a writing dragon, he's the physical embodiment of David's thought processes.  I've always been fascinated by the nature of inspiration: How does it happen? Where does it come from? What triggers it? Gadzooks puts a shape to it; that's why I love him.  

10. I once heard Madeleine L'Engle state that her characters were real to her and almost an extended part of her family, she said once that at the dinner table she sat up and stated "Meg just finished her PhD." Are your characters real to you, do you ever get glimpses of what they are up to now, or once you finish a book is that it?

I think about them all the time, especially the Pennykettle dragons.  I almost feel they're around me - and many of them are; I have the sculptures - who knows what they get up to…?  I occasionally find myself thinking about a character's plight - like Michael Malone's in The UNICORNE Files.  He eventually, literally, puts his world to rights - but is he happy?  Jay says that when you create a character you give them a life somewhere in the universe and that's why they feel so real, like kin.  This is most apparent for me when I'm answering fan mail.  A student wrote in just the other day saying how much like her mother Liz Pennykettle was. It's very satisfying, in that small sense, to know that Liz 'exists' somewhere. 

11. Some of your books are currently out of print, for example Pawnee Warrior the continuation of Fly, Cherokee Fly, do you have plans to rerelease them as ebooks?

Well, that would be down to the publisher, not me.  But even if I was to acquire the rights to books like Pawnee Warrior again, I'd have to ask myself whether it would be worth putting them out there.  I fear the zeitgeist just wouldn't be the same.

12. Speaking of eBooks. Some of your books are available in electronic formats but with that comes bootleg distribution. What are your impressions of ebooks and the distribution of them through torrents and other illegal means?

I have no problems with eBooks.  If it suits someone to read my stories on a digital device then so be it.  Like most authors, I prefer the feel of tree books and I'm always pleased to see general increases in book store sales.  I have no experience of torrents and I'm not even sure what they are - I assume online sites where people can download books for free?  If that's so, I wouldn't be terribly happy about having my work pirated, but I can't imagine there would be a huge demand for my back catalogue anyway!

13. Some authors monitor torrent sites and have their publishers contact them to remove their content. Do you do so are have someone do so for you?

Again, no experience of this. I would look to my publishers first and foremost and expect them to deal with it.

14. You have mentioned that The Dragons of Wayward Crescent was planned to be 12 books. You have also said you might get back to it. Could you share the names you had planned for the other 8 Dragon's?

Ah, the lovely Dragons of Wayward Crescent. For anyone who doesn't know, this is a series of young, illustrated books about individual Pennykettle dragons.  Around the tenth anniversary of The Fire Within, my then editor asked me to think about how we might celebrate ten successful years of the book.  Off the top of my head, I suggested doing a prequel.  Everyone thought it was a great idea.  But despite several attempts and a lot of deep discussion with Jay, it would not come to life.  Then Jay had the bright idea of doing a young series instead, one that would collectively build towards the opening of The Fire Within, preparing the ground for David's arrival.  I LOVED that idea and suggested to Jay that we should mix it up and write some books about the dragons we'd met in the Chronicles and some we hadn't, but that each successive book should carry a hint of what was to come.  The publishers liked the idea too, though they were less impressed when I told them I wanted to do twelve.  Nevertheless, they commissioned the first four, which were duly written and published.  But sadly, that's where the series ended - at four.  I have never heard a bad word said about those books, and yet the series was dropped.  It still confuses me and upsets me to this day.  We are seriously planning to complete the series, even if they have to be self-published.  I can't tell you the names of all the dragons because they're still officially under wraps.  But the fifth book would have been about Liz's house dragon, Gwillan.  There would also have been one about Gretel and how she came to be made for Gwilanna.  And the last book would have been about Gadzooks and how Liz would have intuitively known that something special was about to enter her life…

15. What were some of your favorite books and authors when you were younger?

I didn't read an awful lot when I was young - apart from comics.  I lapped up all the DC and Marvel stuff.  I liked The Fantastic Four best of all, which is why I gave them a nod in Alexander's Army.  I'm pretty sure it was those sorts of comics that fuelled the darker side of my writing.  I was mid-teens before I really got into books.  I liked Paddington Bear when I was very young, but Dahl somehow passed me by (though I love his books now).  My favourite series was about the adventures of a boy called Jennings, who attended boarding school and was always getting into different 'scrapes'.  Imagine Harry Potter without the magic, set about seventy years ago in middle class England, and you've got it.  The books were funny and very popular over here, though I can't imagine they had any kind of presence in North America.  When I did start reading in earnest, I stuck mainly to science fiction and fantasy.  My favourites were anything by Tolkien, the Gormenghast books of Mervyn Peake, and all the popular SF writers: Bradbury, Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, and especially Asimov's robot stories.  I couldn't get enough of them.

16. What are some of your favorite books and authors now?

The two British writers I like and admire are David Almond, who has a beautifully sparse style (he's also a Carver fan).  Read Skellig.  It's creepy and stunning and stays in the memory for a long, long time.  I also like Philip Reeve, who is incredibly inventive and has the most wonderful vocabulary.  I highly recommend his Mortal Engines series.  The one book I wish I'd written is Holes by Louis Sachar.  That was just amazing.  And so was Patrick Ness's Chaos Walking trilogy.  A few years ago, on my second book tour of the US, I met Jennifer Nielsen and took home a copy of The False Prince.  I thought that was great.  You'll have gathered from this that I don't read many adult books.  Occasionally Jay will plonk one down in front of me and say, "You'll like that", which is how I came to read Wool by Hugh Howey.  That had me gripped.  And I'll give a plug here to my long-time friend, Rod Duncan, who gets the vote for the best title: The Bullet Catcher's Daughter.  If you're a steampunk fan, you don't want to miss that.

17. How many books are planned for the Erth Dragons series?

Initially, I was commissioned to write just two books: The Wearle and Dark Wyng.  But my editor is a big dragon fan and she is keen for me to produce more.  She's already talking of a spin off series about what happens when the two young Erth dragons, Gayl and Gariffred, grow up.  For now, there will be at least three of the current series.  We'll see how everyone feels after that.   The publication of The Wearle in North America shortly after Christmas will be a landmark point.  If people over there go crazy for the series as they did for the Chronicles then anything is possible.  I think much will depend on whether readers can accept the anthropomorphism.  The dragons in these books are intelligent and powerful - but nowhere near as cunning as the humans they run into.  That, for me, is the real counterpoint of the books: how much each species impacts upon the other, and what effects each has on the other's culture.

18. Do you ever picture your dragons outside of your stories? What is Gruffen or Grabber up to these days?

As I said above, I'm always kind of aware of the dragons but I don't project them forwards.  I think characters are of their time.  Having said that, I daren't think too long about a question like this because I know it will generate ideas that I can't afford to give writing time to.  I think I'll leave that to the fan fiction websites! 

19. If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have 10 books to read again and again, what books would you want with you?

The Hobbit
The Lord of the Rings
Pride and Prejudice
Titus Groan
Farenheit 451
I, Robot
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love
The Wasp Factory
The Last Dragon Chronicles (because it's really just one story chopped up into seven parts).

20. What advice would you give to young aspiring authors and artists?

Read more than I did!  Reading not only stimulates the imagination it helps you understand how stories are structured and paced.  Don't be afraid to try something different.  Look at The Knife of Never Letting Go or Railhead and you'll know what I mean.  Try to write a little every day (most novelists have a strict regime and will aim to hit a certain word count in one session).  Children ask me endlessly if they can write about my characters.  I usually reply, "Why would you want to? It's ultimately more satisfying to invent your own."  When you've finished a piece, go back and edit it.  I probably spend an hour rewriting the previous day's piece before I go on to create something new.  And finally, always believe in yourself.  If you genuinely - I mean genuinely - believe a story is good, there's every chance someone else will too.

Thank you Chris. As you can see Chris has a great passion for his craft and is great at it. His writing is in many ways reminiscent of Madeleine L'Engle's, His books are wonderful stories for the young, and young at heart. I love reading his books, and reading them with my children and I am sure you will be touched by them as well. 

Books by Chris d'Lacey:
Dragons of Wayward Crescent
Gruffen (2009)
Gauge (2008)
Glade (2009)
Grabber (2010)

The Erth Dragons
The Wearle (2015)
2. Dark Wyng (2016)
3. The New Age (2018) 

The Last Dragon Chronicles with David Rain
The Fire Within (2001)
Icefire (2003)
3 Fire Star (2005)
4 The Fire Eternal (2007)
5 Dark Fire (2009)
6 Fire World (2011)
7 The Fire Ascending (2012)
Rain and Fire: A Guide to the Last Dragon Chronicles (2010)

The Unicorne Files
1 A Dark Inheritance (2014)
2 Alexander's Army (2015)
3 A Crown of Dragons (2016)

Fly, Cherokee Fly Series
Fly, Cherokee Fly
Pawnee Warrior

Other Books
Henry Spaloosh! 
Shrinking Ralph Perfect
The Snail Patrol
The Table Football League
Riverside United
From E to You
Scupper Hargreaves, Football Genie
The Salt Pirates of Skegness
Falling for Mandy
The Prompter

Picture Books:
A Hole at the Pole
Juggling with Jeremy
A Break in the Chain
Read With Bubble and Float
Dexter's Journey
Frankin's Bear

Contributed to:
On Me ‘ead, Santa
Nice One, Santa
The Usborne Book of Christmas Stories
Heroes and Villains
In the Frame
Midnight Feast

Author Profile and Interview with Chris d'Lacey.