Tag Archives: Phil Earle

When the Sky Falls

Being Billy meets Goodnight Mister Tom. And you could certainly have two worse books than those, for angry young boy in WWII. Phil Earle’s new book When the Sky Falls is full of anger and full of falling bombs.

Joseph arrives in London, just as London’s children are evacuated. He’s to stay with Mrs F, because his grandmother can’t cope any longer. His mother left long ago and his father’s just off to the war. He’s angry.

So is Mrs F, or at least, she’s hardened herself, and between them it takes a gorilla to make a difference. This is the huge ape at the family zoo Mrs F still looks after, with only a few starved animals left in it. When the planes come in the night, she stands guard outside Adonis’s cage, ready to shoot if the cage takes a hit, to keep people safe from this large and potentially dangerous animal.

Joseph hates school, and it hates him back. Dyslexia wasn’t ‘invented’ back then, so neither he nor anyone else knows what he’s got. He’s just ‘lazy’. He hates the hard work at the zoo as well. At least to begin with. He almost hates the chirpy Syd, the girl who also works there.

This is emotionally draining stuff, but invigorating at the same time.

Someone will have to die, and something else will have to give. But who and how and when?

I can see how this is Phil’s favourite book.

The virtual Phil Earle

One has some great looking string lights and the other a colour coordinated bookcase. And it really does improve things when someone with a new book to launch – Phil Earle – gets to do the launching with a good friend – Sarah Crossan, or two – Charlie Sheppard. The always enthusiastic Charlie, who is Phil’s editor, introduced everyone and pointed out that the best thing is to be friends with authors, followed by free food and wine.

Sarah Crossan, who is a great friend, took over the chatting with Phil. She knew what to ask and which direction to go, even if she was having to get used to not chatting as privately as usual. Although, no secret was made of the fact that Phil has had some personal problems, when ‘everything went wrong’, in the last five years or so. It had made him worry that he was ‘done’ with his idea for the new book – When the Sky Falls – but in the end he channelled all his pain and wrote it.

According to everyone who has provided a quote for the book, and I do mean literally everyone, this is not just Phil’s best work but really great stuff in general. (I can’t wait to read it.) It has been compared to Goodnight Mister Tom, The Machine Gunners, Kes, and so on. Set in WWII it’s about a boy who is so badly behaved that he is packed off to London, in a reverse evacuee kind of way.

The idea appears to have come from Phil’s ex father-in-law’s father and what he did in the war. (Basically, if there was a bomb threat to the local zoo, he was to shoot the lion.) Phil read to us – from page 30 – about when his main character meets a different animal at a different zoo. It’s the kind of reading that makes you want to know more.

He put his own feelings into this book, and as Phil said, ‘I can only write like I can’. He’d been afraid he was too old, in a world of publishers obsessed with debut authors, but judging by what everyone has said, he’s done all right. There was a lot of emotion, for a book launch. And contrary to what most authors say when asked about their favourite of the books they’ve written, Phil really does love When the Sky Falls best of all his. And he has written some seriously great books.

Interestingly, both Phil and Sarah, are currently reading Hilary McKay’s new book, and Phil also praised Elizabeth Wein’s war stories. He likes to read about ‘the small stuff’, rather than official war history.

He’s now off to visit sixty bookshops to sign books. ‘I have waited for this!’

You’d better watch out, for Phil and his book.

The Dog that Saved the World (Cup)

Pickles is a great football player. He is also a dog, but let’s not hold that against him.

Along with his owner Elsie, he plays football all the time. This being shortly before the World Cup (in 1966), they are so excited when it turns out that their little football team will get to play at Wembley, at half-time.

But Elsie and Pickles encounter more problems when Elsie’s dad loses his job and they have to move, to somewhere really awful. And then someone steals the World Cup (as in the cup), and their Wembley plans are in danger.

Pickles is a great dog. He knows it’s up to him to fix this, find the cup and generally sort everything out. You’d think a dog couldn’t possibly do that, but it seems Pickles is based on a real Pickles, who did indeed find the missing trophy.

Lovely story about dogs, football and crime solving. But also good for the realism of having to face up to poor living conditions and poverty.

The ones I enjoyed the most

It suddenly struck me that perhaps it’s unwise to say anything about best books. Because this time of year I usually list the ones I liked the most, which isn’t the same thing.

And by the time December rolls round I often despair. Yes, I remember that marvellous book I read recently. This year that was La Belle Sauvage. Because it was recent. Longer ago and my memory blacks out, in much the same way as when someone asks what I did at the weekend…

No need to worry though. Out of the 137 books (2017 wasn’t the best year for finding reading time), the twelve that emerged more victorious than the rest, were closely followed by quite a few other excellent contenders.

Best of 2017

I’ve not picked a best of all, nor am I doing the alphabetical order.

Elizabeth Wein, The Pearl Thief

Sally Gardner, My Side of the Diamond

LA Weatherly, Black Moon

Joan Lennon, Walking Mountain

Michael Grant, Silver Stars

Joanna Nadin, The Incredible Billy Wild

Anthony McGowan, Rook

Phil Earle, Mind the Gap

Jakob Wegelius, The Murderer’s Ape

Hilary McKay’s Fairy Tales

Patrick Ness, Release

Philip Pullman, La Belle Sauvage

And as you can see, the 2017 colour for book covers is primarily black with some blue and teal. Rather like last year, in fact. I appear to have picked six women and six men, which feels nice and equal.

There is only one translated book, but there are two dyslexia friendly books, plus one prequel, one equel, one end of a trilogy and one middle of a trilogy. And two Scottish books. All good.

Books like these are what makes it all worth it.

Win an Earle-y book for Christmas

Phil Earle, Scaredy Cat, Scaredy Cat

I don’t often offer to give you books, but today you have an opportunity of becoming the happy owner of a new book by Phil Earle – Scaredy Cat, Scaredy Cat. It’s the last book of four, in Phil’s Storey Street series. And I’m quite pleased to find that a series I perceived as being for boys and about boys, has branched out to incorporate girls as well.

Of course, it’s not me personally who’s being generous, it’s Phil’s publishers. But they are letting me find some worthy receipients for Scaredy Cat, Scaredy Cat. So good it was named twice.

Phil Earle

As you might have noticed Earle-ier, I’m a fan of Phil’s. He’s one of these new-ish writers who knows how to write for boys. And now, girls. What I mean is, without wanting to sound non-pc, is that the man can do great work with a non-pink sort of book. He’s funny, but he’s funny in a nice, kind way.

Storey Street

So if you happen to have a middle grade-aged reader who might enjoy a copy of Scaredy Cat, Scaredy Cat, let me know. Or if you feel that you yourself are old, but could still have fun on Storey Street. Just use the Contact function at the top of this page and tell me why you should win one of the three copies available. (UK, only, I’m afraid.)

No fighting now!

Superdad’s Day Off

Phil Earle has a son called Stanley. This Little Gem is about a boy called Stanley, who has a Superhero dad (so I can only assume Dynamo Dan is based on Phil himself…). The problem is that after a full week of Superdad deeds, dad is rather tired. Will he fall asleep in the park?

Phil Earle and Steve May, Superdad's Day Off

Stanley needs to make sure his dad gets some rest, but he also wants to have fun in the park.

So when the world needs Dynamo Dan’s services, Stanley can’t let his poor dad spring into action. And if not dad, then maybe Stanley can do it?

He can. Stanley is your man if you have a panther up a tree or your house fills up with water from a leak somewhere.

Dad gets enough rest so that when he’s really needed, he can join forces with his super son; Dynamo Dan and Super Stan.

Mind the Gap

Phil Earle, Mind the Gap

I’m an adult, so I knew where Phil Earle was going with his new book for Barrington Stoke. I’d read the same newspaper article he had when he was inspired. But it was still not obvious how he’d get the hero of his story there.

Phil has written about bleak teen lives before, but there was something that shocked me more than before in Mind the Gap. Mikey’s mother is a real piece of work and I’d happily do something to her myself.

Mikey’s father has died and he’s so lost that his best friend realises he needs to help Mikey before he loses his friend completely. But how do you find the voice of a dead man?

This is a tough story, but so much more inspiring because of it.

Bookwitch bites #135

Super-publicist Nina Douglas has got a new job. Or I could turn the statement around and say that Barrington Stoke have got themselves a new publicist. I’m really quite pleased to see such a top publicity person go to such an excellent publishing house. I imagine that they will now be able to propel those wonderful little books with the big content much further, to reach many more potential readers who need those stories.

Over at Booktrust, their current writer-in-residence, Phil Earle, is into vlogs. Here you can hear and see him talking to Tom Palmer about boys who don’t read (basically themselves, as neither of them were boys who read books), and it is a tremendously inspiring short chat. (It’s quite funny too, as both are wriggling and wiping their noses, and stuff, despite being quite grown-up…) So really, you can read magazines and newspapers, or websites. It doesn’t have to be books. It can even be a book about Leeds football club. It could make you into a reader, and in some cases, as with Phil and Tom, an author. Really great.

Someone who’s waited a long time to write his first novel, is David McCallum. Yes, Illya Kuryakin is a novelist at the age of 82. I have not read the book, unfortunately (would welcome a copy, you know…), but the excellent people at Crime Review managed to ask David a few questions (Facebook for Dummies? Really?) on the publication of Once a Crooked Man last month. Lucky them!

And finally, wishing plenty of luck for all who found themselves on the Carnegie longlist this week:

Book by John Agard (Walker Books)

A Song For Ella Grey by David Almond (Hodder)

One by Sarah Crossan (Bloomsbury)

The Earth Is Singing by Vanessa Curtis (Usborne)

The Door That Led To Where by Sally Gardner (Hot Key Books)

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge (Macmillan)

The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold (Bloomsbury)

There Will Be Lies by Nick Lake (Bloomsbury)

We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Neilsen (Andersen Press)

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness (Walker Books)

Jessica’s Ghost by Andrew Norriss (David Fickling Books)

Panther by David Owen (Little, Brown Book Group)

The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett (Penguin Random House)

Five Children on the Western Front by Kate Saunders (Faber)

The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick (Indigo)

Thirteen Chairs by Dave Shelton (David Fickling Books)

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley (MiraInk, HarperCollins)

Fire Colour One by Jenny Valentine (HarperCollins)

My Name’s Not Friday by Jon Walter (David Fickling Books)

Liccle Bit by Alex Wheatle (Atom Books)

 

The Bubble Wrap Boy

Charlie in The Bubble Wrap Boy by Phil Earle is small. Very small. It causes a considerable amount of embarrassment in most situations in his life. But this 13-year-old is determined and courageous and very funny. He tells of all his daily mishaps in a wry tone, that doesn’t demand pity.

He has no friends. Well, he has Sinus (Linus, really), who is friendless because of his enormous nose. Also, he stares at walls. In addition, Charlie has parents, and his mum interferes with everything he does. If she could, she’d cover him in cotton wool, and never let him out of the house. Charlie’s dad runs their Chinese takeaway, and prefers not to get involved in his wife’s decisions.

Phil Earle, The Bubble Wrap Boy

After a lifetime of causing havoc wherever he goes, Charlie discovers the one thing he could love. Skateboarding. It doesn’t go so well with his mum’s cottonwool ideas, though. But after she discovers what he’s been up to, Charlie discovers an even greater family secret. (And it was one I’d not been able to guess at.)

So, he’s left to try and solve this new massive secret, while also wanting to retrieve his skateboard and his skating. He’s only 13, so some of his ideas aren’t so good. But you get some marvellously comical scenes as he and Sinus investigate The Secret.

There is a lot of sadness behind it, but you can’t beat the exuberant optimism of youth. Phil doesn’t resolve this unexpected secret in the way the reader might hope for, and that’s very brave of him.

Tears and smiles, and giggles, and quite a bit of skateboarding. Terrific story.

Earle at the Castle

You learn something new about Jacqueline Wilson all the time. Chatting to Phil Earle is no exception. I suppose we all have a JW experience to tell.

Phil also had plenty to say about his own writing, and generally what a lucky man he is, and how much he enjoys what he’s doing. I mean, he loves school events!

Phil Earle

I’ve grown a little lazy, or am simply short on time, so these days I do very few ‘real’ interviews with authors, however nice and interesting they are. Sometimes I know them too well to interview them properly. But Phil was like Baby bear’s porridge. Just right.

It was a great conversation, and here are the highlights, because I just couldn’t keep this very promising author from you. Remember to read one of his books too. Preferably before he has suddenly published another four books.