I’m thrilled that my very exciting new project has just been announced! A Dancer’s Dream is going to be a gorgeous full-colour gift book, illustrated by the incredible Lizzy Stewart.
The story is inspired by the real story of the first performance of the classic ballet The Nutcracker – and if you’ve read the anthology Winter Magic, you’ll recognise it! The short story I originally wrote for this collection has now been transformed into a beautiful book in it’s own right. Here’s a little more about it:
In a snowy St Petersburg, a little girl called Stana longs to play the role of Clara in Tchaikovsky’s new ballet, The Nutcracker. But when Stana’s dream comes true, and with all eyes on her, she must overcome her nerves and dance like she’s never danced before…
I loved ballet growing up and have such fond memories of going to see The Nutcracker at Christmas. It hs been wonderful to tell the story of the first dancer ever to play the part of Clara – and even more special to see it transformed into an illustrated book with glorious new artwork from Lizzy Stewart. I’ve long been an admirer of Lizzy’s work and her gorgeous illustrations for this story are absolutely enchanting – the above is just a tiny sneak peek at what you can expect from this beautiful-looking book.
A Dancer’s Dream is part of a new boutique line of colour gift books which Simon & Schuster have launched, beginning with Abi Elphinstone and Fiona Woodcock’s The Snow Dragon.
It won’t be out until October 2020 (just in time for Christmas!) but you can preorder it now from Waterstones.
My latest book, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, is published today – hooray!
Here’s a little bit about it:
Part of the Awesomely Austen series, this is a fresh, funny and accessible retelling of Jane Austen’s best-known story, with witty black and white illustrations throughout.
Elizabeth Bennet is the second eldest in a family of five daughters. Although their mother is very keen to see them all married to wealthy men, Elizabeth is determined that she will only ever marry for love.
At a ball, Elizabeth meets Mr Darcy, who at first she believes is proud and haughty. But perhaps there is more to him than first meets the eye…
I’ve been a huge fan of Jane Austen ever since I fell in love with Pride and Prejudice aged 12. That year my best Christmas presents were a hardback copy of the book, plus a video cassette of the BBC TV adaptation starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth as Elizabeth and Darcy. I watched it so many times I could recite it by heart! My friend Felicity and I were so obsessed we even used to write each other long letters in the characters of Jane (me) and Elizabeth (her).
Given this I was very excited when Hachette Children’s Books asked me if I’d be interested in writing a retelling of Pride and Prejudice for a young audience. The new Awesomely Austen series is illustrated by the brilliant Églantine Ceulemans, with each book retold by a different author. Here’s a little peek at some of Églantine’s fabulous art:
The first three books – Emma, told by Katy Birchall, Persuasion told by Narinder Dhami, and Pride and Prejudice by me – are out now, and you can look out for three more Awesomely Austen titles next year. It’s the perfect way to discover Austen for the first time!
Buy Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice now from Waterstones | The Hive | Amazon
My latest book for Barrington Stoke’s super-readable Little Gems series, Sophie Takes to the Sky is out today!
Like my previous book, Rose’s Dress of Dreams, it’s inspired by a historical heroine – in this case, one of the first female aeronauts, Sophie Blanchard. In this reimagining of Sophie’s childhood, we discover where Sophie’s passion for flight might have originally begun. Here’s a bit more about the book:
Scaredy-Cat Sophie is afraid of everything! So when a balloonist comes to the town fair, Sophie is left behind while everyone else goes to watch him fly in his marvellous balloon. She’s far too frightened of the crowds, the commotion and even riding in a horse-drawn carriage.
But Sophie longs to watch the hot-air balloon sail across the blue sky. If she could just be brave enough to face her fears, who knows where her journey might take her … A touching tale for young readers of learning to overcome anxiety and follow your dreams.
I’m thrilled that this book has been gorgeously illustrated by Briony May Smith. I’m a huge fan of Briony’s artwork, and her illustrations for Sophie Takes to the Sky are so full of atmosphere – they perfectly conjour up the setting of this story. What a delight!
If you’d like a little taster of the book, you can check out the first chapter here
You can also download a gorgeous poster with one of Briony’s stunning illustrations (see below) or a colouring sheet to design your own hot air-balloon
Take a look at my Pinterest board showing some of the visual inspirations for Sophie’s story
And of course you can buy the book now via Waterstones | The Hive | Amazon
Following on from my list of children’s books set in Paris, I wanted to put together a new list to celebrate Taylor & Rose Secret Agents: Spies in St Petersburg!
There are obviously lots of children’s and young adult books set elsewhere in Russia, or that are inspired by Russian folk tales. However, these five all have scenes that are set specifically in and around St Petersburg (or Leningrad) itself.
The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell, illustrated by Gelrev Ongbico
Deep in the snowy woods, Feo lives in a wooden house, with her mother – a ‘wolf-wilder’ who helps to re-wild the wolves that foolish men have tried to tame. Feo has grown up amongst the wolves, and could howl before she could talk. But when the Russian Army appear and kidnap her mother, Feo’s life is turned upside down. Now she must travel through the harsh winter landscape to St Petersburg to try and rescue her mother, teaming up with some unexpected new friends she meets along the way. This is an enchanting story from Katherine Rundell, with wonderfully atmospheric illustrations from Gelrev Ongbico.
Egg & Spoon by Gregory Maguire
In this reimagining of the classic story of The Prince and the Pauper set in Tsarist Russia, Elena lives in the impoverished Russian countryside. Her future is bleak, until the night that a grand steam train stops unexpectedly at her village’s abandoned station. Aboard is Ekaterina, a girl who looks just like Elena, although in every other way she couldn’t be more different. Soon the two girls have switched places and Elena is on her way to St Petersburg – beginning an extrordinary adventure that also features a Fabergé Egg, the mythical Firebird, a prince in disguise, and the famous Baba Yaga herself.
Rendezvous in Russia by Lauren St John
In this instalment of Lauren St John’s engaging Laura Marlin series, young detective Laura, her faithful husky Skye and her friend Tariq have left behind their Cornish home for another adventure abroad. This time they’re joining a film crew in the faraway city of St Petersburg. But once on the set of ‘The Artistocratic Thief’, a new movie about an art heist, they find themselves mixed up in a real-life mystery.
The Raven’s Children by Yulia Yakoleva, translated by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp
Set in 1938, during the time of Stalin’s purges, this is the intriguing story of 7-year-old Shura. He leads a normal life in Leningrad, going to school, playing with his friends, and fighting with his big sister. But then his Mama, Papa and baby brother Bobka suddenly disappear without trace. The neighbours are saying they were enemies of Stalin, who have been taken away by the mysterious ‘Raven’. Desperate to reunite his family, Shura sets out to hunt down the ‘Raven’ – but there are strange adventures ahead.
The Wolf Princess by Cathryn Constable
On a school trip to St Petersburg, Sophie and her friends get aboard the wrong train. They are rescued by the beautiful and mysterious Princess Anna Volkonskaya, who takes them to her winter palace and mesmerises them with stories of lost diamonds and a tragic past. But as night falls and wolves prowl, Sophie discovers that secrets – and dangers – are lying in wait for her in the crumbling palace …
Finally of course I have to mention Taylor & Rose Secret Agents: Spies in St Petersburg! In the second in the Taylor & Rose Secret Agents series, it’s 1911 and Sophie is missing in action after an explosive Secret Service Bureau mission in Paris. Lil decides to take matters into her own hands, setting out to track her down in misty and mysterious St Petersburg. But can they uncover the identity of their true enemy – and can they trust anyone, even the Bureau itself?
If you have a favourite children’s book set in St Petersburg I’d love to hear about it – leave me a comment below!
If you enjoyed this list then do also check out my other Taylor & Rose inspired booklists:
The second book in the Taylor & Rose Secret Agents series, Spies in St Petersburg is out now! As I’m currently on maternity leave I haven’t managed to celebrate in quite such an epic way as for my last book (no trip to Paris this time!) but I’ve still been enjoying welcoming this new book into the world.
Here’s a reminder of what you can expect from Spies in St Petersburg:
Following on from Peril in Paris, this new book delves further into the thrilling world of espionage. Sophie is still missing in action after an explosive mission in Paris, leaving Lil to take matters into her own hands.
On a new mission for the Secret Service Bureau, can Lil find Sophie in misty, mysterious St. Petersburg? Can they uncover the identity of their true enemy and can they trust anyone – even the Bureau?
Spies in St Petersburg has more glorious illustrations by Karl James Mountford and although I’m aware I say this for every single book, I really think these might be my favourites yet!
Check out this post I wrote for the Egmont blog about how I visited St Petersburg to research the book, which includes lots of photographs from my Russian adventures. And take a look at my Spies in St Petersburg Pinterest board full of visual inspirations here.
I’m already enjoying seeing all the responses to the book online, including quite a lot of reactions to the book’s ending which just might be a tiny bit of a cliffhanger…
You can order Spies in St Petersburg now from Waterstones , The Hive or Amazon and add it on Goodreads