Ghost, mystery and magic books
On this page you can find out about my books for junior readers – those who can read confidently but are not yet teens.
Some are collections of re-tellings and some are original fiction.
My story collections are all re-tellings except for Bump in the Night, which is eight ghost stories, all written by me. There is more about ghost stories further down the page.
I seem to have spent a lot of time writing the Bible! It started with A First Bible Storybook for Dorling Kindersley and after that I felt there were lots of good stories I hadn’t had room to tell, so I wrote Parables, Miracles and Animals of the Bible for Frances Lincoln. Those were all brilliantly illustrated by Jackie Morris. Kings and Queens of the Bible (2008) was illustrated by Christina Balit.
I did two more collections for Dorling Kindersley – A First Book of Myths and A First Book of Fairy Tales . And a huge collection of traditional tales for Macmillan called A Treasury of Nursery Stories. That was enormous fun to do and beautifully illustrated by Anna Currey, whose pigs and ducks and mice are a joy.
A Twist in the Tail was all animal stories, superbly illustrated by Jan Ormerod, who had not been known for her animal pictures before that. But these are really special.
Miracles Francis Lincoln (2001) Buy from Amazon
Animals of the Bible Francis Lincoln (2002) Buy from Amazon
Kings and Queens of the Bible Francis Lincoln (2008) Buy from Amazon
A First Bible Storybook Dorling Kindersley (1997) Buy from Amazon
I had been friends with artist Jane Ray for a long time before we managed to work together. We were having lunch one day and said, since I wrote and she illustrated children’s books, we should really have a go. The first result was Song of the Earth, a collection of myths, beliefs and superstitions about the four elements – Earth, Fire, Water, Air. That was followed three years later by Sun, Moon and Stars, a similar gathering together of all things heavenly, sprinkled with Jane’s signature silver and gold.
Both of these were gorgeous books and it’s the only time I’ve ever worked closely with an artist. (It was Jane, incidentally, who donated a perfect colour cover for Lines in the Sand).
Women of Camelot was a collection I was longing to do. It tells the stories of the court of King Arthur – from the women’s point of view. Guinevere, Morgan le Fay, the Lady of the Lake and others all get a chance to tell their stories in their own voices. And these are accompanied by wonderfully stylised and stylish pictures by Christina Balit. And Barefoot Books asked me to compile a collection of siblings stories from around the world.
My very first book featured a unicorn and I have continued to write about the magical and the mysterious.
Bump in the Night was a great opportunity to create eight mini-novels, each with a different hero or heroine and a ghost. Most of the ghosts are of things - a house, a car, a whole village, a haunted keyboard - though there is also the housemaid in "Reviving Ivy" and the vixen in "Foxy Lady". I am specially fond of this collection and would love to see it back in print.
The Second-hand Ghost was a short illustrated book, like a Banana Book but actually a “Topper” a series that had only six titles! It was about a girl who acquired a ghost at second hand, having found him stitched into the pocket of a jacket she got her mother to buy her at a charity shop.
The Four-legged Ghosts, A Vanishing Tail and Quantum Squeak are three stories about Alex, Carrie and their “magic mouse” Cedric. He is not very good at magic and gets them into a lot of trouble. In the first book, magic and ghosts come together as Cedric summoned up the phantoms of all the animals who have ever lived in Alex and Carrie’s house.
Spooky Stories contains three stories - "Dracula's Daughter" is mine, and the other two are by Gillian Cross and Penelope Lively.
"How to Live Forever" in Stacks of Stories is another ghost story.
I’ve also written about magic dogs, space cadets and the miniature people who live in supermarkets or inside a sandcastle.
Editing an anthology is MUCH harder than writing your own book! This is because you have numerous contributors to find and persuade and then chivvy to meet the deadline, write to the right length, the right sort of story and then allow you to edit them.
I have edited an anthology published by Templar, called Daughters of Time. It contains thirteen stories about remarkable English women and girls, written by members of the History Girls blog.
It is only the second anthology I have not edited for charity ; the other is Ip, Dip, Sky Blue. (Sorry about the ghastly title – that was a publishers’ decision. I called it Deadly Letter after the story I wrote for it.) The other two have been for the Library Association – Stacks of Stories (don’t like that title, either; I much preferred Douglas Hill’s suggestion of Off the Wall) and for UNICEF – Lines in the Sand ( reviewed on Wordpool). I should be happy with that title, since I thought of it myself!
I have contributed ever so many short stories myself to other people’s anthologies. People like Wendy Cooling and Tony Bradman, who are mates of mine, often ask for a contribution to anthologies they are editing. I have written so many now that there are probably enough for a collection of my own.
Note: an anthology (which comes from Greek words meaning flower + word) is a book of stories or poems by several different writers. It always has an editor or a compiler. A story collection has stories all by the same writer. Here are the anthologies I have edited.
Sometimes I rewrite a single traditional tale, as with Clever Katya, a Russian story about a wise little girl who outwitted the tsar, and The Twelve Dancing Princesses, which is my favourite tale from the brothers Grimm. The Twelve Dancing Princesses is now also available as a picture book with CD.
The Four-Legged Ghost Orchard 1993 (US: The Ghost Menagerie, Dial 1992) Buy from Amazon
A Vanishing Tale Orchard 1996 Buy from Amazon
Quantum Squeak Orchard 1996 Buy from Amazon
Beware, Princess! Heinemann 1986 Buy from Amazon
Dracula's Daughter Heinemann 1988 Buy from Amazon
Mermaid and Chips Heinemann 1989 Buy from Amazon
Dog Powder Heinemann 1989 Buy from Amazon
The Second-hand Ghost MMB/Deutsch 1986 Buy from Amazon
Trace in Space Hodder 1995 Buy from Amazon
King of the Castle Hamish Hamilton 1987 Buy from Amazon
Min's First Jump Hamish Hamilton 1989 Buy from Amazon
Max in the Jungle Hamish Hamilton 1991 Buy from Amazon
Virtual Friend Barrington Stoke 2001 Buy from Amazon
Virtual Friends Again Barrington Stoke 2001 Buy from Amazon
I write stories at the junior level that are family based. Specially Sarah, All About Lucy and Just Jack drew heavily on my own children's lives when they were at primary school. You can imagine that our third daughter was transformed into a boy for the third in the trilogy!
Comet and Cyril M.C. are two very different books; in the first a boy known as Tad (short for tadpole) saves and rears a tiny kitten which seems to have fallen from the sky. Cyril, on the other hand, insisted on telling his story to me as a rap.