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Archive of ‘Sinclair’s Mysteries’ category

The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth cover reveal – and a festive competition!

Season’s greetings! I’m very excited because today I’m revealing the incredibly gorgeous cover for the sequel to The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow.

Take a look at the beautiful The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth, publishing in March 2016!

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Once again, illustrator Júlia Sardà and the design team at Egmont have done an absolutely incredible job with this cover. I really love the vibrant red, and of course the shiny silver foil (just look at the tiny silver bubbles from the champagne glasses!)

The cover also gives you a few clues to what happens in the next book… 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!

You can now pre-order The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth here.

Competition time!

To celebrate the cover reveal (and the fact it’s nearly Christmas!) I’m running a festive competition here, on Twitter and and on my author Facebook page.

Enter for the chance to win a signed copy of The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow, plus a box of lovely goodies worthy of Sinclair’s department store itself.

Here’s a little sneak peek at the prize:

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The peacock print box is so pretty, and it’s packed full of treats that could almost have come right out of Sinclair’s Confectionery Department. (Is it bad that I kind of want to keep it for myself?)

To enter all you have to do is leave a comment below, email me, tweet me or leave me a Facebook comment to tell me – if you were doing your Christmas shopping at Sinclair’s, what would you buy? It can be something for yourself or for someone else.

I had some fun thinking of what Christmas presents I might buy at Sinclair’s for Sophie, Lil and the gang:

  • BILLY: Billy spends a lot of time in The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow scribbling in old exercise books with the stub of a pencil, so I think I’d treat him to a leather-bound notebook and a fountain pen. Of course, I’d also have to give him a detective story or two from the store’s Book Department.
  • SOPHIE: Sophie’s best frock gets well and truly ruined during Clockwork Sparrow, so I’d probably head to Ladies Fashions to find her an elegant new outfit to wear next time she goes to the theatre. But somehow I can’t help thinking that she might find a magnifying glass or a pocket knife a little more useful for her future adventures…
  • JOE: After his time living rough on the streets and hiding out in the Sinclair’s basement I feel Joe deserves some TLC, so his Christmas present would be a big cosy jumper from Gentlemen’s Outfitting, and maybe some woolly socks to make sure he’s toasty warm all winter.
  • LIL: The gang in general enjoy their food, but if there’s one person whose appetite is as big as her capacity for enthusiasm, it’s Lil! I’d get her a huge Christmas hamper stuffed with all kinds of tasty festive treats for her to share with the others over the holidays.

Enter by 5.00pm on Sunday 13 December for a chance to win – I’ll choose my favourite response to win the prize. The competition is open to the UK only (sorry!)

Updated: The competition is now closed!

In more exciting festive news, The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow has featured in Christmas booklists including the Telegraph’s best Christmas books for children  and Red Magazine’s best children’s books to give as gifts. I hope it will be appearing under lots of Christmas trees and in lots of stockings this year!

Updated Jan 2016: The Competition Winners!

It was so difficult to choose a winner for the Clockwork Sparrow festive competition as we had so many fantastic entries. I loved reading about all the different things you would buy – from glamorous gowns to delicious treats from the Confectionery Department, and of course, lots of extravagant hats! Huge thanks to everyone who entered.

In the end the prize was awarded jointly to two young readers aged 7 and 10 who are also sisters, who chose to draw as well as illustrate their ideas – check out their winning entries below. Congratulations and I hope you enjoy your Sinclair’s Christmas goodies!

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Behind the Scenes: The Edwardian Department Store

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Edwardian shoppers (illustration via Pinterest)

At lots of the events I’ve been doing this autumn, I’ve been talking about some of the real-life historical background to The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow. I thought it would be fun to share some of this here on the blog too.

If you’ve read the author’s note at the back of The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow, you’ll know that although Sinclair’s Department Store is fictional, it was partly inspired by the real history of London’s Edwardian department stores.

In the late 19th and early 20th century, department stores were still a new phenomenon. Before this time, shopping generally meant buying from local markets and small shops, which tended to sell only a limited range of goods. It wasn’t until the 18th century that shops became grander, with enticing shop-fronts to tempt customers inside.

Even then, ‘shopping’ as we know it today didn’t really exist. Most shops specialised in just one thing – the confectioner’s sold sweets, the baker’s sold bread, the bookshop sold books, and so on. Shopping was a straightforward transaction, with many shops even employing ‘floorwalkers’ whose job it was to actively prevent people from browsing around looking at merchandise without buying anything.

With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, things started to change. People had more money to spend, cities were growing, and affordable manufactured consumer goods became more readily available. Glamorous, elegant new ‘department stores’ began to open up, offering people an exciting and very modern new way to shop.

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Lots of Edwardian shoppers

For the first time, customers were encouraged to wander around a range of different departments, all together in the same building, admiring a tantalising range of different goods to buy. Department stores had beautiful displays, gorgeous windows designed to catch the attention of passers-by, and even their own restaurants where customers could enjoy lunch or afternoon tea.

These were exciting places. In 1898, Harrods boasted the first escalator ever to be seen in a British shop – on the day it was launched, staff members stood at the top ready to dispense smelling salts and cognac to anyone who had been frightened by this new experience!

New advertising helped to spread the word about these glamorous new department stores. During the week that Selfridges opened, a total of 38 different advertisements designed by well-known graphic artists appeared on over a hundred pages of eighteen national newspapers, costing the equivalent of £2.35 million in today’s money.

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Selfridges, of course, was one of the most famous of the Edwardian department stores – and was certainly the biggest influence on my fictional store, Sinclair’s, though I also took inspiration from other famous stores like Fortnum and Mason, Liberty’s, Harrods, and the now-defunct Whiteley’s.

Selfridges first opened on Oxford Street in 1909, and was the brainchild of Harry Gordon Selfridge. An American who had previously worked in department stores in New York, he had grand ambitions for his store, which he wanted to be the largest and most glamorous in London. As well as the usual departments, it boasted all kinds of other facilities, including a post-office, a library, and even a ‘quiet room’ where people could relax if shopping became too overwhelming! Rather than being just a shop, Selfridge thought of his department store as something more akin to a cultural centre, and it soon became a fashionable destination.

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The story of Selfridges (and Selfridge himself) is a fascinating one, and of course has also inspired the recent ITV series Mr Selfridge. I didn’t know about the series when I first started working on The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow, though it was no surprise to me to discover that the story of the Edwardian department stores had grabbed others’ imaginations as well as my own! At first, I deliberately avoided watching so that I wouldn’t be influenced while I was writing, but I’ve since seen a few episodes and though it’s a very different story, the sets and costumes give you a great idea of what a department store like Sinclair’s might really have looked like:

At around the same time, the BBC also broadcast The Paradise, another series based on the rise of the department store – though this time set a little earlier, in the late 1800s. This series was loosely based on the novel Au Bonheur des Dames (The Ladies’ Paradise) by Émile Zola and again gives a good flavour of the early department stores:

I loved finding out all about the history of the department store when I was researching Clockwork Sparrow. I wanted to make sure that my own fictional store, Sinclair’s, would feel as real as possible to the reader, and I had a lot of fun adding in some of the true-life details and facts I discovered.

As well as reading about the late Victorian and Edwardian department stores, I was influenced by lots of other reading about shopping in general – such as the lovely scene in one of my favourite books, I Capture the Castle, where Cassandra and Rose visit a 1930s London department store, which I wrote about for the Waterstones blog here.

Of course I also had to visit some contemporary department stores too – I spent lots of time wandering around the likes of Liberty’s, Harrods and Fortnum’s – and of course, sampling the odd afternoon tea along the way!

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Harrods afternoon tea

If you’re interested in finding out more about the history of the department store, here’s are a few good places to start:

  • Shopping, Seduction and Mr Selfridge by Lindy Woodhead
    This is the book that inspired the Mr Selfridge TV series – an entertaining and very readable biography of Harry Gordon Selfridge, packed full of facts about Selfridges’ history.
  • Au Bonheur des Dames by Émile Zola
    In this classic French novel, Zola captures the impact of the new grand magasins upon Paris in the 19th century
  • The Department Store by Claire Masset
    This little book from the Shire Library series is a succinct summary of the history of the department store – from its earliest origins right through to the department stores of the present day.

The pictures in this post come via my trusty Edwardiana Pinterest board, where you can also find lots more pictures of Edwardian department stores.

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Waterstones Children’s Book of the Month!

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I’m so thrilled and delighted that The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow is the Waterstones Children’s Book of the Month for June 2015!

I am a huge fan of Waterstones. I  vividly remember my frenzied excitement about getting to go to the big Waterstones shop in Preston when I was a child; and my first real job was working on Saturdays at Waterstones Lancaster when I was in the sixth form at school.

To this day, there is little I enjoy more than a rummage round flagship store Waterstones Piccadilly, where I can easily spend far too much money. It’s so important that we have such a fantastic high street bookseller, and I couldn’t be prouder that The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow has been chosen to be a Waterstones Children’s Book of the Month, and will now be available in Waterstones stores up and down the land!

I have already been absolutely blown away by the enthusiasm of Waterstones booksellers for the book. I’ve been posting pictures of their amazing Clockwork Sparrow themed displays and windows on social media like crazy – and have now started gathering them together on a special Pinterest board (if you see one, please do snap a picture and send it to me!)

Here’s just a few of the many incredible displays so far:

It was particularly special to see this amazing window display at Waterstones Piccadilly this week, complete with a plate of bon-bons and of course a gorgeous jewelled sparrow as a centrepiece.

As a few keen-eyed readers have already spotted, Sinclair’s Department Store is located on Piccadilly, and although it’s a very different building, I’ve imagined it roughly in the spot as Waterstones Piccadilly (which itself was once the home of a famous former London department store, Simpson’s).

This makes it all the lovelier to see such a beautiful Sinclair’s style display in the windows of Waterstones Piccadilly.

Here’s the display in progress, created by the super talented @annieopalfruit …

 

And the finished splendour… IMG_4201 All the lovely details, courtesy of @lauramainellen

Check out the Pinterest board for lots more lovely pictures.

Thank you so much Waterstones – June is going to be a truly fantastic month!

UPDATED: Check out some more truly incredible Clockwork Sparrow creations – this times from super-talented Waterstones bookseller (and Bookseller Rising Star) @Leilah_Makes for Waterstones Doncaster!

The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow: Video Blog Tour

2.-How-did-London-inspire-The-Mystery-of-the-Clockwork-Sparrow-1024x576To celebrate the publication of The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow this week, some of my favourite children’s book bloggers took part in a Clockwork Sparrow video blog tour!

Each day of the tour featured a new video with me talking a bit about the book.

I loved all the amazing content created by the bloggers – like the Clockwork Sparrow craft project  on Playing by the Book or George Lester’s fab video review.

I thought I’d post a quick round-up of the videos and links to all the blog posts here.

Thanks so much to all the fantastic bloggers who took part!

Day 1: Tales of Yesterday

The first stop on the blog tour! What inspired The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow?

Day 2: Library Mice

How did mystery stories help inspire The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow?

Day 3:  YA Yeah Yeah

Talking about the department store setting for the book…

Day 4: The Overflowing Library

Kirsty also wrote a fab review of The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow here!

[Oops – looks like this video is missing!]

Day 5: Middle Grade Strikes Back

Bringing the Edwardian department store to life…

6. Winged Reviews

Talking about some of the similarities between Sophie and Lil’s London and the modern day.

Day 7: Snuggling on the Sofa

Researching department stores!

Day 8: YA Shot

Finding out about Edwardian crime!

Day 9: Waterstones blog

The special announcement that The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow is Waterstones Children’s Book of the Month for June!

Day 10: Playing by the Book

Talking about main character Sophie – plus a fantastic Clockwork Sparrow inspired craft project!

Day 11: George Lester Reads

Talking about the characters – plus  a video review from George!

Day 12: LaChouett

Find out more about the Baron (plus enter a giveaway to win a copy of the book!)

UPDATED: The lovely LaChouett also did this great interview in which I chatted to her about favourite mystery stories, the allure of red shoes,  the most fun Clockwork Sparrow character to write about, and much more…

Happy Book Birthday Clockwork Sparrow!

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The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow officially publishes… TODAY!

I had such a wonderful time celebrating the launch of the book at Daunts Books on Marylebone High Street earlier this week!

Hats a-go-go with Melissa, Katie and Louise at the Clockwork Sparrow launch

Hats a-go-go with Melissa, Katie and Louise at the Clockwork Sparrow launch

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Lots of Clockwork Sparrows in the Daunt Books window!

Beautiful Edwardian bookshop Daunts was the perfect setting for our Clockwork Sparrow celebration. Everyone was instructed to come along in their finiest millinery for the occasion, and family and colleagues all helped out with everything from hat creation to cake-baking to make the evening extra special.

We had a sumptuous spread of afternoon tea-style refreshments – dainty finger sandwiches made by my Book Trust colleagues and a veritable feast of cakes including gorgeous Clockwork Sparrow cupcakes courtesy of my editor Hannah, delicious tea loaf made by my husband Duncan, and an amazing gin and tonic cake baked my publicist Maggie. My agent Louise had even created little ‘Sinclair’s’ paper bags stuffed with sweets!

Just look at these gorgeous cakes featuring Julia Sarda’s awesome artwork

Of course, we also had to have appropriate headgear to wear. Ahead of the event, my mum had decorated a whole host of amazing Edwardian-style hats, and together, my mum, dad and I customised an old suitcase to become a Sinclair’s trunk, stuffed with beautiful millinery.

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Everyone enjoyed getting in on the action and trying on a hat (or several) over the course of the evening. Look at all these lovely folk:

 

Lots of lovely #ClockworkSparrow launch details courtesy of @ninacd A photo posted by Katherine Woodfine (@followtheyellow) on

 

My friend Rosi even brought along this amazing Sinclair’s themed gift!

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It was such fun to have so many people come along to raise a glass to Clockwork Sparrow – what a truly amazing celebration.

Many thanks to everyone for all your help to give my first book such a splendid welcome – and happy book birthday to Clockwork Sparrow!