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book extras

I hope to keep adding more extra resources to this page but here are some you won't find elsewhere.

​​Here is a full list of my publications as a pdf. 

Picture book extras

Boundless Grace in the United States and Grace and Family in the United Kingdom, came out in the Spring of 1995. To produce it, the illustrator Caroline and I travelled to the Gambia, in West Africa. The family who had acted as models for Caroline's pictures in the first book had moved from North West London back to their original home country in the Gambia. Caroline's technique relies heavily on photographs, and it would not have been possible to use different models. So it was our British publisher's generosity that took us to Africa, in search of an idea for a new book.

Mary with Charlie the Crocodile in the Gambia, West Africa, December 1992


Grace's father had been a missing figure from the first book. Since we were setting the new story in Africa, it made sense to put him there and therefore to imagine that the parents had split. I felt a great opportunity here. Grace had become a role model for hundreds of thousands of children around the world, and if she could come to terms with a situation experienced by so many chldren today, it could really be helpful.

Sequels are notoriously difficult, and I think we pulled it off. Caroline's artwork reflects not only the evocative beauty of the Gambia but the relationships between Grace and, what she comes to realise, is a large extended loving family.

There is a poster for The Great Big Book of Feelings which you can download as a pdf.

There is an article in Books for Keeps about writing Grace and Family.

Fiction extras

Interview with Amanda Craig of The Times

When City of Secrets was published in 2008 , I was interviewed by Amanda Craig of The Times. The review is behind The Times paywall, but if you have a subscription you can read it here.  The photographer for the article was Retts Wood, and this is one of the pictures she took of me in Regent's Park.

My Florentine diary

This is an edited account of my month in Florence, making a start on writing Stravaganza: City of Flowers, while doing an Italian language course at the Istituto Europeo. It opens as  a PDF in a new window.

My Palio diary

This is a diary of the week I spent in Siena, watching the Palio - a special horse race - in 2009. It opens as a PDF in a new window.

First chapters

First chapters of the Stravaganza books and the historical novels are available as PDFs from the First chapters page.



Other sites

Stravaganza has its own website. There are also online trailers for City of Swords, The Falconer's Knot and David. There are printable masks on the Stravaganza site.

There is a Dutch Stravanganza fan site, created by one of my readers.

Stravaganza maps

The maps below show you how cities in Talia correspond to cities in Italy.


I used to think there were Florence People and Venice People and that I was a Florence Person. Actually that is true but I discovered I was also a Venice Person!

It was as much as surprise to me to write a books set in a sort of Venice as it was to write one featuring masks, since I hate masks, but writing fiction takes you to unexpected places. My favourite part of Venice is Canareggio in the north.



This city suffers a bit from being Venice’s poor relation – just half an hour away by train. But it houses the most magnificent fresco cycle – Giotto’s in the Arena Chapel. Padua also lacks a city centre: it doesn’t have anything like the Campo in Siena or the Piazza della Signoria in Florence. But it’s still a wonderful city to visit.



I had a bad tower experience in Ferrara with my daughter, Rhiannon Lassiter. I knew I had vertigo but didn’t think she did. We went to Ferrara by train from Bologna one year when we were there for the Book Fair and visited the Castle of the d’Este family (we both love castles).

The dungeons were a bit claustrophobia-inducing, so I suppose we climbed the tower to get back up into the air. But it was HIGH! And gradually the realisation dawned that we couldn’t stay at the top for ever but would have to go down. The iron steps had a grid design that meant you could see the whole way down and when we reached the bottom our legs were shaking.



I go to Bologna almost every year, because it hosts the Children’s Book Fair in an enormous exhibition space a bus ride outside the city centre. That doesn’t leave much time for sight-seeing but everyone who goes to Bologna must spend time in the Piazza Maggiore, with its Neptune fountain and cathedral housing the brass meridian line.


You must go and see the mosaics here. Unlike frescoes, they don’t fade and there are just so many of them in Ravenna. And there is a very good square here – the Piazza del Popolo – where you can sit and drink coffee and watch the world go by.


See My Florence Diary (pdf) for information about Florence.



A wonderfully city with a virtually complete medieval wall around it, broad enough to cycle on. I don’t know how the bikes get up there, since I don’t ride one. But summer 2010 is the research trip for City of Swords, between Lucca and Carrara.



It’s a real shame for Pisa that everyone knows only about the leaning tower and the airport! It is a gateway to Tuscany and full of its own history. The famous tower would be well worth a visit even if it were straight – it is such an elegant design. I climbed it in 1965, when you still could.


I have taken more liberties with this poor medieval city than with any other place in Italy/Talia! I just picked it up and moved it bodily from near Siena to near Venice. It does have the twelve watchtowers of Montemurato and a wonderful torch-lit medieval festival every July.



See My Palio Diary (pdf) for information about Siena.



Surprisingly for such an Italophile, I didn’t visit the Eternal City till 2006 and I still haven’t got inside the Vatican museum. But – here comes an admission – I don’t admire Michelangelo as a painter. Though as a sculptor and architect, he is my absolute hero.

I love the way that Rome has ancient monuments, early Christian mosaics and Renaissance art, all in the same spaces. But it’s a bit too big a city for me to feel on intimate terms with it. I shall go back but my heart is in Tuscany.


Not just the place where the pizza comes from! And the pink, green and white “Neapolitan” ice cream I ate as a child is a demonic parody of delicious Italian “gelato”. All the most wonderful artefacts from Pompeii and Herculaneum are here in the Naples museum.

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