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World Book Day Fun – and dressing up ideas!


World Book Day is coming up next week, on Thursday 3 March and there are all kinds of exciting things going on to celebrate reading! Like most authors, I have a busy World Book Day week in store, including the Weald Book Award ceremony, as well as lots of events in schools.

For anyone who might be looking for some extra Sparrow and Moth themed World Book Day fun, with perfect timing, I’ve just added some lovely new resources created by my publishers, Egmont, to my website:

Code cracking activity

Fancy yourself a bit of a detective? Put your code-cracking skills to the test and see if you can find the solution to this secret code puzzle, which will also reveal the title of the third book in the series, coming in early 2017! Download the puzzle

Colouring sheets

I love a bit of colouring-in myself, and if you do too, you can download one of three lovely colouring sheets with artwork from the books.

Choose from a Clockwork Sparrow, a Jewelled Moth, or a mysterious mask that you can then cut out and wear, perfect for a fancy-dress party like the one that Sophie and Lil attend undercover in The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth.

If you have a go at one of the colouring sheets, then don’t forget to send me a picture of the finished product – I’ll be making a new Pinterest board of your colouring creations!

Dressing up

On the subject of fancy-dress, I also wanted to share a few ideas for anyone who wants to dress up as a character from The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow or The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth for World Book Day!

There are lots of characters to choose from, but here are a few ideas to get you started – plus a couple of pictures to help inspire you (click the image to find the source). Of course you can find lots more inspiration for your Edwardian costumes on my Pinterest board here.



‘… she lifted her chin and set off smartly round the corner of the great building, the little heels of her buttoned boots clicking briskly over the cobbles. As she approached, her heart began to thump, and she put up a hand to check that her hat, with its blue ribbon bow, was at exactly the right angle, and that her hair was not coming down.

Dress up as Sophie on her way to work in the Millinery Department at Sinclair’s! Sophie would wear a long, dark-coloured skirt; a white blouse with a lace collar; and a straw hat with a ribbon round it. Sophie usually wears her long hair pinned up, but when she isn’t at Sinclair’s, she might wear it loose or in a plait.



Her cheeks were flushed with excitement: it had been her first night at her show at the theatre… and now she was on her way to the party. She was wearing a hat wreathed in poppies and she had a crimson scarf at her neck.’

Lil might wear glamorous clothes when she’s working as a mannequin at Sinclair’s, or performing in the theatre – but for ordinary life, she would wear an outfit very similar to Sophie’s. She likes bright colours – so you might want to add a colourful ribbon, or some brightly-coloured flowers to her hat.




‘He was wearing the Sinclair’s porters’ uniform – trim, dark blue trousers, a matching jacket with a double row of brass buttons and a peaked hat – but the jacket looked a bit too big for him, the trousers a bit short, and the hat was askew on his untidy, straw-coloured hair.’

Create your own version of Billy’s uniform from a dark-coloured jacket with shiny buttons, and dark coloured trousers – plus maybe a cap. Don’t forget that as a shop porter, he’ll need some brown-paper parcels or boxes to carry – and of course, a story stuffed into his pocket for when he can sneak away to read in secret!


fc550db35b34ffd3dcf2e745a7a88177Mr Sinclair

He stood up in the gallery, high above the throng below. A champagne glass was in his hand, and he wore an exquisite dress coat over a snowy white waistcoat, against which a gold watch chain gleamed.’

Why not dress up as the Captain himself? Mr Sinclair is always very elegant: he wears a smart suit with a  shirt and a bow-tie. You could add a pocket-watch, a top-hat, and a flower for his button-hole. Don’t forget a soft toy dog to be Lucky, Mr Sinclair’s pug!


Miss Veronica Whiteley

1d317c87d90e435e3fdc885b8891fe60…she was dressed very beautifully in a much-ruffled, lace-trimmed ivory gown. She must be one of this season’s debutantes, and a particularly wealthy one at that.’

If you’ve read Jewelled Moth, you’ll have met new character Veronica – a debutante in Edwardian high society. Fashionable society ladies would wear long dresses, decorated with lace and ribbons. Debutantes like Veronica and her friends would usually wear light colours like white, pale pink or pale blue – bright colours would have been considered in very bad taste!

Remember to acccessorize with white gloves, a pearl necklace, or a lacy parasol – and of course, a hat decorated with flowers, bows or feathers. If you want to dress up as Veronica, you could even add a sparkly brooch to your costume to be the mysterious jewelled moth itself …

If you do dress up as a characters from Clockwork Sparrow or Jewelled Moth, be sure to send me a picture!

And if you’re looking for more ideas for fun bookish costumes, check out the Guardian’s gallery here.

However you plan to celebrate this year’s World Book Day, I hope you have a wonderful time!

Happy launch day for The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth!


The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth was published this week – and to celebrate, we had the loveliest launch party at Daunt Books Cheapside!

There were cakes and hats aplenty, and lots of friends in attendance to help welcome Jewelled Moth into the world!

Here are a just few of my many favourite pictures from the evening:


Celebrating in stripes with agent and top pal Louise Lamont.


Cakes (obviously)


Trying out the millinery selection with lovelies Claire Shanahan, Nina Douglas and Katie Webber.


With my mum and dad!

All the wonderful people at the #jewelledmoth launch for @followtheyellow this evening. And awesome millinery. What more could you need?! ❤️🎉🍾 #bookstagram #instabook

A photo posted by nina ❄️ (@ninacd_) on


The millinery department is now open!! @followtheyellow @egmontpublishinguk

A photo posted by @magseckel on

Hats. 😀 @emilyhopeh04

A photo posted by @magseckel on

Huge thanks to everyone who came to help celebrate The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth!

Some awards news!


I’m so thrilled that The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow has been shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2016!

It’s on the shortlist for the Younger Fiction category of the prize, along with five other fantastic books:

  • Bird by Crystal Chan (Tamarind)
  • Darkmouth by Shane Hegarty (HarperCollins)
  • Witch Wars by Sibéal Pounder (Bloomsbury)
  • The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands (Puffin)
  • My Brother is a Superhero by David Solomons (Nosy Crow)

There are also lots of brilliant books shortlisted for the Illustrated Book and Older Fiction category of this year’s Prize – including lots of my favourites!

It’s particularly special to me that Clockwork Sparrow has been shortlisted for this prize, as the shortlist is chosen by booksellers in Waterstones stores. I’ve written here before about how much I love Waterstones: it’s so important that we have a top quality high street bookseller, with knowledgeable booksellers and a wide range of books.

I was inspired by Mel Salisbury who wrote this lovely blog post about being shortlisted for the Older Fiction category, to write a bit about my own relationship with Waterstones. We didn’t actually have a Waterstones in Chorley, the small market town closest to where I grew up (though these days you can find a great indie bookshop there – the lovely Ebb & Flo). But a trip to the big Waterstones in nearby Preston was about the most exciting thing I could imagine, and I can remember spending HOURS in the children’s section, luxuriating in the deliciously difficult task of choosing which books to buy with my Christmas or birthday money.

When I was 11, my mum and I moved a little further north to Lancaster, and I was thrilled to realise that we now lived just 10 minutes walk from a big Waterstones. I could go there as often as I wanted – and I did, feeling extremely grown-up and sophisticated. I knew that bookshop inside out, and spent a lot of time choosing a new Baby-Sitter’s Club title, or eyeing up the Judy Blumes. Lots of my favourite books came from that shop – I especially remember buying The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, A Little Love Song and Cuckoo Song by Michelle Magorian, and The Quantocks Quartet by Ruth Elwin Harris – which was one of the series that first made me interested in the Edwardian period.

It was apt that a few years later, I ended up doing work experience in that very same Waterstones, where the lovely booksellers were so welcoming and embraced my enthusiasm for all things bookish! A year or so after that, when a Saturday job became available, I was lucky enough to get it. I loved being a Waterstones bookseller, and had such a great time there that I even carrying on working occasionally during my holidays after I went away to university.

These days, Waterstones bookshops are some of my favourite places in London – from the glorious flagship store, Waterstones Piccadilly, to the gorgeous new Waterstones Tottenham Court Road where I recently went to hear Juno Dawson talk about her latest book Mind Your Head.

I’ve been lucky enough to attend the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize ceremony for the last few years in the company of the Waterstones Children’s Laureate, who has the job of presenting the prize to the overall winner. I’ve always loved having the chance to meet the authors and illustrators on the shortlist – it’s a dream come true to realise that this year, one of those authors will be me!

In other very exciting prize news, I’ve also recently found out that The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow has been longlisted for the Branford Boase Award 2016. This is another really lovely prize, and one of the things that makes it special is that it’s not just a prize for a book’s author, but for its editor too – so I share my longlisting with my two wonderful editors, Ali Dougal and Hannah Sandford.

The prize is named for author Henrietta Brandford and her editor Wendy Boase: I love that it reflects the fact that a book is a real team effort, and recognises all the hard work of the editors as well as the author in creating the finished work.

Check out the 2016 Brandford Boase longlist here.

The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth is coming soon!

Hello again! It’s been a little quiet here over the last few weeks because of a few pesky technical issues. But I’m back today with some very exciting news – the very first advance copies of The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth have been winging their way out into the world to journalists, book bloggers and booksellers.

Here’s a quick peep – isn’t it a beauty?


As with The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow, the glorious cover and interior illustrations are the work of the amazing illustrator Júlia Sardà (check out more of her beautiful children’s book illustrations here!) The design is by Benjamin Hughes at Egmont, who once again has done an incredible job of making a spectacular package. Just look at that lovely silver foil!

The book went out accompanied with a press release in the style of an invitation to a fancy-dress ball, plus a mysterious costume mask, which is especially appropriate for this new story. Here’s the blurb from the back cover:

The honour of your company is requested at Lord Beaucastle’s fancy dress ball

Wonder at the puzzling disappearance of the JEWELLED MOTH! MARVEL as our heroines, SOPHIE AND LIL, don cunning disguises, mingle in high society and munch many cucumber sandwiches to solve this curious case! APPLAUD THEIR BRAVERY as they follow a trail of TERRIBLE SECRETS that leads straight to London’s most dangerous CRIMINAL MASTERMIND, and could put their own lives at risk…

It will be the most thrilling event of the season!

The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth is published on 25 February – less than a month away (eek!)

You can pre-order now on Waterstones The Hive or Amazon

Behind the scenes: Mr Selfridge and Mr Sinclair


Harry Gordon Selfridge

Following my previous ‘Behind the Scenes’ post about how real-life 1900s department stores helped to inspire Sinclair’s in The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow, I wanted to write a bit more specifically about one of the most famous of the Edwardian department stores – Selfridges, and in particular its owner, Harry Gordon Selfridge.

Like my own fictional department store-owner Mr Sinclair, Selfridge was an American. Born in Wisconsin in 1856, he left school at 14, first finding work as a junior book-keeper in a bank. He had several other jobs before aged 22, he took on a position at Marshall Field, then one of Chicago’s biggest and most successful new department stores.

Selfridge’s initial position at the store couldn’t have been much lowlier – he was employed as a ‘stock boy’ working in the wholesale department. But his energy and ambition led him to quickly climb the ladder, bringing lots of new ideas to help the store to grow and thrive. Within eight years he was promoted to manager, gaining a reputation for clever innovation, a flair for publicity, and the highest standards of customer service. In fact, whilst working at Marshall Field, he is supposed to have come up with the maxim ‘the customer is always right’.

Marshall Field in the 1800s

Marshall Field department store in the 1800s

Before long ‘mile-a-minute Harry’ as he had become known had risen through the ranks, and had become a junior partner. He revelled in his new wealth and status, enjoying dressing elegantly and living the life of a Chicago society gentleman.

In 1890, he married Rose Buckingham, the daughter of a prominent Chicago family. Rose too had a head for business, having already enjoyed some success as a property developer – at that time unusual for a young woman. The couple had a spectacular wedding, and went on to have five children.

But after being refused a full partnership at Marshall Field, Selfridge began to look beyond Chicago. A holiday to London had given him the opportunity to observe a gap in the market –  although London was at that time one of the most important cities in the world, its department stores had nothing to compare to their luxurious American equivalents, or to the elegant grand magasins of Paris.

After finding a site on Oxford Street, at what was then considered the ‘unfashionable end’, Selfridge invested some £400,000 in developing it. The costs of his project were huge, and there were all kinds of complications to overcome before his dream of opening London’s largest department store could become a reality – but at last, Selfridges opened in March 1909, in a blaze of publicity.

A newspaper advertisement from Selfridges opening in 1909

A newspaper advertisement from Selfridges opening in 1909

Meanwhile, Selfridge himself had become something of a celebrity in London. When he arrived at the store each morning – always very promptly at 8.30am – a crowd would have gathered on the pavement to see him. He always doffed his hat to his watching admirers.

He had a large corner office on the fourth floor of the store, with its own lift and a private dining room where he could entertain important guests. As well as a personal secretary, he had his own social secretary and a valet who would visit him in his office each morning to make sure he was always perfectly dressed.

Each day he would walk the store’s six acres. The department managers would anxiously telephone ahead to warn staff that he was approaching. He sent messages to his staff in special yellow envelopes – and he also famously used an hourglass in all his meetings, to stop people taking up too much of his time.


Selfridge hard at work

He also continued to bring all kinds of new ideas to his store – from exhibiting the aeroplane in which Louis Bleriot first crossed the Channel, to later on in 1925, hosting one of the first ever demonstrations of live television.

Selfridge captured some of his ideas about shops and shopping in a book, The Romance of Commerce which was published in 1918. The book included chapters exploring ancient commerce, Lorenzo de Medici, the East India company, and much more!

Flush with his success, Selfridge enjoyed a glamorous London life in the 1910s and 1920s. But in the later years of his life, his extravagance began to catch up with him. After losing much of his fortune in the Great Depression, and struggling to compromise on his luxurious lifestyle, he soon became heavily in debt. He was eventually forced out of Selfridges in 1941 on a reduced pension – and when he died just six years later, he was almost destitute.

His intriguing life story has since inspired a biography – Lindy Woodhead’s Shopping, Seduction and Mr Selfridge which I mentioned in my last post – and a TV series as well. (I can’t help thinking that their version of Mr Selfridge looks a little different from the real-life man himself, pictured above!)

Jeremy Piven as Mr Selfridge in the ITV series

Jeremy Piven as Mr Selfridge in the ITV series

And of course, Selfridge also helped to inspire The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow.  I was fascinated by the story of this charismatic character, who was often in my mind when I was creating my own fictional department store-owner, Edward Sinclair.

Although he’s also a wealthy American, Mr Sinclair ended up being quite a different character to the real-life Selfridge. He’s a younger, single man-about-town who lives in elegant apartments over the store, whose unknown past is much speculated upon by his employees – and who is always a little bit of a mystery…

But I did enjoy giving my Mr Sinclair a few of Mr Selfridge’s idiosyncracies. For example, Selfridge famously loved pug dogs – so I’ve given Mr Sinclair his very own pet pug, Lucky. And just like Mr Selfridge, Sinclair wears an orchid in his buttonhole and takes great pride in being immaculately dressed at all times.

Here’s where we first hear about Mr Sinclair, in Chapter 1 of The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow:

The owner of Sinclair’s department store was Mr Edward Sinclair, who was as famous as the store itself. He was an American, a self-made man, renowned for his elegance, for the single, perfect orchid he always wore in his buttonhole, for the ever-changing string of beautiful ladies on his arm, and most of all for his wealth. Although most of them had only been working for him for a few weeks, and most of them had barely set eyes on him, the staff of Sinclair’s had taken to referring to him as ‘the Captain’ because rumour had it that he had  run away to sea in his youth. There were already a great number of rumours about Edward Sinclair. But whether or not the stories were true, it seemed like an apt nickname. After all, the store itself was a little like a ship: as glittering and luxurious as an ocean liner, ready to carry its customers proudly on a journey to an exotic new land.

Will we learn more about the mysterious Mr Sinclair (and his secrets)? You’ll have to wait for next year’s The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth to find out…

All the photos in this post come from my gigantic Edwardiana Pinterest board. See also my previous post: Behind the Scenes – The Edwardian Department Store