Tag Archives: Phil Earle

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.

Phil Earle on tour

Daughter, on hearing I was seeing Phil Earle yesterday, said that for a moment she thought I was meeting an Earl. And, you know, that would have been appropriate, considering the seeing took place in a castle. It’s a posh life, but that’s how I like it.

Airth Castle

I jumped – figuratively, at least – when the Scottish Book Trust offered me (a meeting with) Phil when he was coming to Scotland. I loved his Being Billy and Saving Daisy, and when I discovered he has now written four novels, I made the executive decision that I could manage one more before his arrival, so I read The Bubble Wrap Boy at double speed. (That doesn’t mean I was careless. Just that certain other things didn’t happen.)

Phil was brought here by the Scottish Friendly Children’s Book Tour, and he’s spending a whole week visiting 11 schools in Falkirk and Ayrshire. I rather like their preciseness in mentioning Phil talking to 1993 school pupils. (What if someone’s ill, or sneaks a friend in?)

He was in Larbert on Thursday, which is why it fitted in so well to catch up with him at Airth Castle, which is now a hotel, and not somewhere Robert the Bruce might live. Apparently, tours like this are so popular that authors fight – each other – to be chosen. (That’s right, yes?)

The Resident IT Consultant left me there early, which allowed enough time for me to sit down and stand up again a couple of times, to practise rising from their most comfortable, but rather low, armchairs. It was lovely and warm in there, too, and once we were seated, my main problem was what to do with the straw they served in my glass of water. I’m not five years old! I pondered plonking it in one of the bottles standing on the table, but didn’t dare. You never know whose bottle it might have been.

Phil Earle

It was a very nice chat. Phil seems like a very nice person, too. Everything was so nice, in fact, that you will have to wait a few days for full disclosure on what we talked about (minus a few things best not mentioned).

I had him sign my copy of The Bubble Wrap Boy, and it says ‘Don’t Burst,’ which is very cheeky. I was able to get up from my chair, you know, Phil. Oh, it refers to the bubble wrap..? That’s all right, then. Thank you.

Bookwitch bites #80

I borrowed this as it seemed just right for a week full of tributes to Maurice Sendak.

Goodbye to Maurice Sendak, by Sarah Van Tassel

The Top 10 UK Child Literature Blogs published its new list this week, and I appear to be on it again. Not sure what I’m doing there. Not much, probably. But the recognition is nice, whether or not they are accurate in the way they measure whatever it is they measure. Some very worthy blogs are not on the list, whereas I wonder a little whether the penguin blog belongs to this category.

New-ish blogs I have been meaning to mention for ages are UKYA and the Demention blog. UKYA want to make British YA fiction better known, while Demention is more of a ‘demented’ dystopian kind of blog. And whenever I see another excellent blog start up, with lots of professional bloggers sharing the burden I get awfully jealous. Anything I can do they can do better.

Penguin beach chair

Speaking of penguins, I am still hoping someone will want me to review a beach chair, or better still, the more Bookwitch-friendly deckchair. When I looked these up they were all out of stock. Does that mean it’s still too early? Or too late? Was that our summer, back in March? Please say it wasn’t!

The Big Sleep seems appropriate for this chair, methinks.

Speaking of beaches, I realise summer is almost here. By that I mean the time of year we call summer. It will no doubt be cold and wet, but summer it is. And I’m not ready for it. There is now a lot less May left in which to do my pre-summer stuff.

Before I know it, it will be the 5th of July. After then September won’t be far away. (Am I having an Eyore moment?)

Shortlist Branford Boase 2012

Many bookish events are planned for the 5th of July, and one of them is the Branford Boase Award. This year I have read fewer of the shortlisted books than ever, but it is a great selection.