Here in England we’ve just entered a second lockdown, with all non-essential shops (including bookshops) closed. But in the approach to Christmas, it’s more important than ever that we keep supporting our wonderful bookshops, if we want to keep them on our high streets!
If you’re in need of lockdown reading material – or if you have Christmas presents to buy – then make sure you check out Waterstones.com (with local shops offering a click and collect service, as well as delivery by post) or your local independent bookshops, most of which will offer books for delivery or collection. (Not sure if you have any independent bookshops locally? Check this list to find your nearest).
You can also now buy books via the brand new uk.bookshop.org which is a socially-conscious alternative to Amazon. It’s a good way to buy books online while helping to support independent bookshops – there are discounts, and books are sent directly to your door, but 10% from every sale goes to independent bookshops.
If you’d like to do more to support independent bookshops (and pick up some very special Christmas treats!) you should also check out #SignForOurBookshops, a new campaign to help bookshops during November.
Instigated by the brilliant Holly Bourne, lots of authors and illustrators are offering signed and personalised bookplates if you buy from a local bookshop. Lizzy Stewart and I are pleased to be offering signed bookplates for copies of our new book A Dancer’s Dream– get yours if you order the book from any of these bookshops (first come, first served!)
My latest book is out today! A Dancer’s Dream began life as a short story I wrote for the anthology Winter Magic which tells the story of the first performance of the classic Christmas ballet, ‘The Nutcracker’.
I loved writing the story and was delighted when the wonderful team at Simon & Schuster Children’s Books said they’d like to turn it into an illustrated book, with artwork by one of my favourite illustrators, the brilliant Lizzy Stewart.
The resulting book is a real treasure — exactly the right kind of thing to find under the tree on Christmas morning, or read together by the fire on Christmas Eve. As well as Lizzy’s stunning artwork, there’s glittering gold foil, and all kinds of beautiful detail. Here’s a little more about the story:
In snow -covered St. Petersberg, young dancer Stana’s dreams have finally come true – she has been chosen to play the lead role in Tchaikovsky’s new ballet, ‘The Nutcracker’.
But with all eyes on her, can Stana overcome her nerves and dance like she’s never danced before…?
A Dancer’s Dream is out now, and you can buy it now from Waterstones. There’s also a very special exclusive edition available only from independent bookshops, which contains a beautiful print signed by both me and Lizzy. Please do support a bricks-and-mortar bookshop if you can — it’s more important than ever to support our bookshops to keep them going on our high streets!
Alternativelty, order via Bookshop.org.uk – a fantastic new website which allows you to order books online, and have them sent to you at home, but which also helps to support independent bookshops. You can find my page here with links to buy all my books, as well as lots more books I recommend.
To celebrate the publication of Villains in Venice, I thought I’d share some recommendations of other children’s books set in the city. Reading other works of fiction set in a particular place is one of my favourite ways to research the settings for my books – so whether you’re planning a trip to Venice and want the perfect reading material to take along, or simply plan to travel there in your imagination, here are a few suggestions:
In modern-day Venice, brothers Prosper and Boniface are on the run. There’s a detective on their tail, and they’re hiding among the canals and alleyways of the city. Soon they are taken in by a gang of street children and their leader, the mysterious Thief Lord, and find shelter in an old, abandoned cinema.But that’s just the beginning of an extrordinary adventure involving a beautiful merry-go-round with magical powers… This enchanting Venetian fantasy is perfect for readers looking for a story of mystery and magic.
In the sequel to Following Ophelia, a historical YA novel inspired by the Pre-Raphealite painters, we rejoin heroine Mary, formerly a maid, now reinvented as glamorous artist’s model Persephone Lavelle. Setting out from Victorian London to Venice with her friend Kitty, she hopes to escape scandal and gossip. But when she encounters a mysterious masked young man on the Grand Canal, there’s trouble in store… Complete with bohemian artists, Venetian masked balls, and of course, plenty of romance, this is a delightful young adult novel, which will transport you back in time to 19th century Venice.
Author Michelle Lovric has written several books set in Venice, but I’d especially recommend this unusual critically-acclaimed fantasy, which takes place in the same period as Villains in Venice. This is the story of Teo, a young girl who has always longed to visit Venice. But when she finally gets her wish, all kinds of strange things begin to happen to her. Teo is quickly subsumed into a remarkable secret world of ghosts, talking statues, librarians that turn into cats, mermaids that run underground printing presses… and terrible danger. With the help of a Venetian boy, Renzo, and a mysterious book entitled The Key to the Secret City, she soon discovers that she alone has the power to save the floating city from the sinister ‘Traitor’.
The first book in Mary Hoffman’s Stravaganza series introduces us to Lucien – a teenage boy who is dealing with a serious illness. Lucien’s life takes an unexpected turn when an old Italian notebook transports him from his sick-bed to Belezza – a city rather like the Venice of the 16th Century. There he meets Arianna, a girl dressed as a boy who is risking everything in the hope of being chosen as one of the Duchessa’s ‘mandoliers’ and learns that he has become a stravagante – a kind of time traveller. He is soon immersed in the intriguing world of Belezza, becoming a mandolier himself and even saving the Duchessa from an assassination attempt. But what will be the consequences of his remarkable adventures for his life back home? Whilst it isn’t set in Venice itself but an ‘alternate’ version, this engaging fantasy story is full of fascinating detail inspired by the city’s real history.
In this charming magical adventure for young readers, Aribella is the daughter of a lace-maker, growing up on the island of Burano in the Venice lagoon. But Aribella has a deadly and dangerous secret – when she gets angry, sparks shoot from her fingertips! She knows she mustn’t let anyone know about her strange magical powers, yet when dark spectres rise from the lagoon, her abilities save her life. Soon, she has been discovered by the Cannovaci – a society of masked, magical warriors, who have sworn to protect Venice against the dark spirits that menace the city.
Set in 1912, the third book in the Taylor & Rose Secret Agents series follows intrepid young secret agents Sophie Taylor and Lil Rose to Venice on a new mission for the British Secret Service Bureau. But there are villains lurking amongst the city’s piazzas, canals and crumbling palaces, and in the shadows an old enemy lies in wait…
What are your favourite children’s books set in Venice? I’d love to hear any other suggestions in the comments!
If you enjoyed this list then do also check out my other Taylor & Rose inspired booklists:
I know it’s been a long wait but the third book in the Taylor & Rose Secret Agents series is finally here… and readers can find out what happened after the big cliffhanger at the end of Spies in St Petersburg!
I’m very excited that Villains in Venice is now out in the world! I celebrated in the garden with a Venetian-inspired feast, including this very sparkly golden bottle of prosecco. Here’s a little more about the book, which once again is illustrated by the brilliant Karl James Mountford:
Get set for another incredible adventure with secret agents extraordinaire, Miss Sophie Taylor and Miss Lilian Rose!
After the dramatic events of their mission to St Petersburg, Sophie and Lil know the truth – there’s a double-agent at work at the Secret Service Bureau. Whilst Lil pursues a dangerous line of enquiry in London, Sophie must set out on a new mission to Venice, following a twisted trail to discover long-buried secrets. But there are villains lurking amongst the city’s piazzas, canals and crumbling palaces, and in the shadows an old enemy lies in wait…
If you’re in the UK you can buy the book from Waterstones, The Hive , Blackwells, Foyles or Amazon — or of course your favourite local independent bookshop. It’s been a really tough few months for bookshops, so it’s a great time to support your local bookseller and help keep them on our high streets (if you want to find out more about independent bookshops in your area, have a look here).
To celebrate Villains in Venice a blog tour took place throughout publication week – check out the links to catch up below.
Thank you so much to the brilliant bloggers who took part in the tour!
If you’d like to find out more about the book, you can also have a listen to my chat with Lucas Maxwell over at the Booklings Chat podcast; or catch up on my Instagram Stories where you’ll find a special photo tour of Venice, which I shared on publication day.
This week I was delighted to take part in Catherine Millar’s brilliant Lockdown Children’s Litfest. You can listen to her live-streamed interview with me above – be warned, it’s a rather long one, but I really enjoyed Catherine’s thoughtful questions and taking part in such a wide-ranging chat.
Do check out the Facebook page for lots more intereviews with children’s authors and illustrators, and look out for more interviews coming each week.