World Book Day: Our Favourite Faber Children’s Book Characters

We asked Faber staff to send in their favourite Faber Children’s book character: characters old or new, human or animal, leading role or cameo appearance.

Jam from Pet by Akwaeke Emezi

‘She is really brave and curious – always questioning the status quo.’

Judith Gates, Production Director / Director of Faber Factory

Marianne from Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr

‘It’s a real oldie, a classic from the Faber list but I still think about Marianne and Mark in Marianne Dreams and the brilliant idea that the drawings Marianne makes while she is stuck in bed, recovering from an illness, come to life in her dreams. Marianne doesn’t realise the connection at first and vents her anger at a boy called Mark in scary drawings, only to go to sleep and find herself in the frightening world she has created. In Marianne’s dream world Mark is a prisoner. Marianne has to use her special powers to rescue Mark and it seems that the magic of the dreams is creeping into the real world too . . .’

Catherine Daly, Audio Editor

Zebra from Not Yet, Zebra by Lou Kuenzler and illustrated by Julia Woolf

‘He’s a bit of a celeb in our house – his yoga letters were stuck to our walls (and peeled off without taking the paint – thank you, Production). He’s always there with his hoof off and his octopus fancy dress costume from socks is genius – and works as an actual costume. The kids have outgrown the book but it’s still on the shelves, ready for younger visitors. I love Zebra, in fact, I think I might BE Zebra.’

Louisa Joyner, Associate Publisher

Jori from Uki and the Outcasts by Kieran Larwood and illustrated by David Wyatt

‘Jori is a teenage rabbit and trained assassin who refuses to kill so joins Uki’s band of outcasts, she uses this amazing substance which lets her move faster in battle and I loved picturing her swirling around with her sword, defeating rabbits so much older and bigger than her.’

Natasha Brown, Editor/Project Editor

Lin from Bad Panda by Swapna Haddow and illustrated by Sheena Dempsey

‘Lin is described as “an absolute rotter of a panda” and she gets the thumbs up from me!

I am pretty certain she’d give several of my other fictional anti-heroes a run for their money (including My Naughty Little Sister by Dorothy Edwards and Shirley Hughes, Judy Blume’s eponymous creation Fudge and Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes). Bad Panda is a guaranteed pick-me-up and I defy readers of any age not to giggle at Sheena Dempsey’s hilarious illustrations.’

Louise Brice, Acting Rights Agent

Amani from Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

‘My favourite character is from a book I most enjoyed reading with my daughter. Amani is passionate, independent and head-strong.’

Kate Ward, Editorial Design Manager

Cow from Yes You Can, Cow! by Rashmi Sirdeshpande and illustrated by Rikin Parekh

‘I definitely relate most to this character. Don’t put me on stage!’

Emma Eldridge, Art Director

Lotti from Voyage of the Sparrowhawk by Natasha Farrant

‘It’s impossible to pick just one of my favourite Faber Children’s book characters but I do have a soft spot for Lotti. She’s impulsive, smart, imaginative, brave and, to top it all off, living with a bunch of dogs and puppies, what’s not to love?’

Bethany Carter, Children’s Publicity Manager

Picklewitch from Picklewitch and Jack by Claire Barker, illustrated by Teemu Juhani

‘I’ve always loved Picklewitch, she’s funny, naughty and wild – with vivid red hair (which I’m jealous of), and a weakness for cake (which I can identify with!).’

Hannah Styles, Senior Rights Executive

Macavity from Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot, illustrated by Júlia Sardà

‘Somehow Eliot’s poem seems to have lodged in my head for as long as I can remember. Who wouldn’t love a cat nicknamed the Hidden Paw – a master criminal who is also said to cheat at cards . . .’

Melanie Tyrrell, Account Manager

The Sturvey from The Land of Neverendings by Kate Saunders

‘I love this wise old Jewish teddy bear, made in 1902, called The Sturvey because of his label. Discarded in Germany during the war when his owners are taken away by soldiers, he is discovered again as peace returns. And the injection of love he receives gives him his magical quality. I wish I had him sitting on my desk, sagely telling me, “Everything will be absolutely fine,“ as he says to Emily at the end of the book.’

Alice Swan, Editorial Director

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World Book Day fun with Faber Children’s!

At Faber Children’s HQ, we’re eagerly counting down to the best day of the year, World Book Day. Celebrated for 25 years and across 100 different countries, World Book Day is the world’s biggest celebration of authors, illustrators, books and reading, and on Thursday 3rd March 2022, the world will be joining them in their passion for sharing amazing stories with children and teens!

To celebrate, we’ve put together some of our very best resources and exclusive extracts to make celebrating World Book Day as easy as possible. Check these out below!

For 0 – 5 year olds

For 6 – 9 year olds

For 9 – 12 year olds

For ages 12+

Q&A with Akhran Girmay

Q: Can you tell us a bit about the process behind illustrating Jason Reynolds’ bestselling novel When I Was the Greatest?
A: It begins with me dropping any and all initial ideas for character design and other relevant visual details on paper. To then bolster the envisioned imagery, I begin to scour the internet collecting any reference images and photos, that I will later rely on to help depict the environment and the central characters. But I also explored ways of researching through much more recreational methods too at times. Since the story is set in Brooklyn, New York’s Bed-Stuy neighbourhood, I chose to look for reference material as well as take inspiration for tone, from films and TV series such as Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing, and Chris Rock’s Everybody Hates Chris.

Q: At what point did you discover your love for drawing and illustration?  
A: I’ve always been aware of the joy, sense of achievement and satisfaction that drawing gave me. I suppose that it was most acutely recognised within myself as I approached my teen years when anything from doodling to more committed forms of art really took me away from the sometimes awkward and turbulent times that I was experiencing then. Retrospectively, I think that point helped to highlight to me that illustration (before I knew that was the thing you called it) was really a coping mechanism during that strange period. It still almost serves as a way of dealing with emotions, but now I feel like it does more – it has strengthened into a sense of purpose.

Q: You’ve now worked on illustrated editions of a few stand-out books including All American Boys and When I Was the Greatest, what bestselling book would you love to illustrate next?
A: This is a hard question to answer without feeling like my final answer will only come after I’ve responded! But I’d certainly really love to illustrate something like Lian Hearn’s medieval Japan-inspired fantasy series, Tales of the Otori. I really enjoyed the warring world introduced in Across the Nightingale Floor. It was so vividly described and I feel like I’d have a really good time portraying assassins, samurai and geishas.

Q: What is your favourite thing about illustrating books for teenage readers?
A: I believe the main and best thing about creating imagery for teen readers is knowing that they are on the cusp of adulthood, so the grittier and more sophisticated themes are invited into the artwork. Yet they still have a foot in childhood, and so I feel like there still remains a special place in their hearts for pictures and certain aesthetics. Knowing this helps motivate my creative impulse to create a sense of drama in an illustration, as I feel assured that the younger reader will absorb it with more attention and curiosity.

Q: What scene did you enjoy illustrating the most for When I Was the Greatest?
A: I think for me, if it were a question of which one got the most reaction out of me during creation, it would be harder to identify which one I was most emotionally invested in. I mention this because if something conjures up a feeling, then I intrinsically have something deeper to work with and thus have a better time making it. But since we’re talking about which one I enjoyed the most, I think I can narrow it down to three that I felt the most enjoyment from. First was the barber scene, which I liked doing because as seen in various films like Pixar’s Soul and entertainment examples, it is a location that is appreciated almost like a cornerstone of Black culture and a home for social interactions. Although I couldn’t show all that, it was still good to have that knowledge as fuel in my mind whilst drawing. Second is the image of Ali getting his hair re-plaited by his younger sister Jazz, just in time for the party. As Ama Badu rightly pointed out for me in the initial brief, this is another widely cherished kind of moment amongst members of the Black community. It radiates warmth, togetherness and social intimacy, on top of signifying the process towards an important expression of identity.  Lastly, the scene where Ali is lying in bed, injured from the night before and looking up at the ceiling (but also sort of at the reader). I just had fun drawing this image and staging it. Sorry for not being decisive and choosing one!

Q: If you were stranded on a desert island, what book would you have with you?
A: Well I recently got around to reading Lord of the Flies for the first time in my life, and I can say that I was hooked to its disturbingly compelling narrative. That would be an interesting choice to hunker down with; an abundance of tips on what should and shouldn’t be done in that scenario. But I reckon I’d really want and need something to take my mind off the fact that I’ll probably never leave said desert island. Something that I remember enjoying on a beach was Stephen Fry’s Mythos, which I read whilst on a Greek island. I’d need its almost standalone tales to dip in and out of and come back to in order to break up my time being completely alone.

Find out more about When I was the Greatest, here.

Q&A with Marissa Meyer

Q: What inspired you to write about Rumpelstiltskin?
A: Rumpelstiltskin is one of those fairy tales that I’ve felt drawn to since I was a kid. I remember thinking it was so creepy when I was growing up, in no small part because I felt like it was riddled with unanswered questions. I wanted to know who Rumpelstiltskin was, and how was it that he had the magic to spin straw into gold, and what exactly did he plan on doing with the queen’s firstborn child once he got it? I also struggled to comprehend how the heroine could expect to have a ‘happily ever after’ once she was married to the same king who had once threatened to have her killed if she couldn’t complete this impossible task. I guess you could say I was a little unsatisfied with the information I got from the fairy tale, and for years have felt that I’d love to write my own spin on the story and see if I couldn’t answer some of those lingering questions.

Q: Why do you think reimaginings of fairy tales are so popular?
A: There’s something very universal about the themes inherent in fairy tales. They’re filled with powerful messages and symbols that reach across time and culture. The idea that good defeats evil; that kindness and generosity lead to just rewards, while cruelty is punished; that no matter who you are or what are the circumstances of your birth, we can all improve our status, defeat the giant, find true love. These things speak to us on a deeply human level, and in a way that allows for infinite interpretations even while maintaining the heart of the story. Cinderella is a rags to riches story, but that story can be told in 9th-century China, Victorian England, a high school in New York City or a distant planet in the far future. It gives writers a chance to be creative and explore the story in new and interesting ways, while still giving readers something familiar and comforting.

Q: What do you enjoy about writing for a YA audience?
A: I love how optimistic and enthusiastic teenagers are. As adults, we can lose touch with our inner revolutionary, our inner dreamer or our inner romantic. But young people are still very much experiencing these big emotions, and they have big ideas and hopes for the future that I find so inspiring. I love being able to write protagonists that believe in themselves and the people around them, and who aren’t afraid to go forwards into the world and make a difference. I see that in real life with today’s teens, and it’s great to be able to channel that into my characters, too, and I hope inspire readers as they’ve inspired me.

Q: Gilded is also inspired by myths surrounding the Wild Hunt, poltergeists, haunted castles and enchanted woods, do you have a particular interest in myths and legends?
A: Definitely! This book is largely inspired by Germanic and Norse mythology, which I wasn’t particularly well-versed in before I started writing, so I’ve had to do a lot of research, which made for a lot of fascinating reading! Like with fairy tales, I’m very drawn to folk tales and ghost stories and superstitions. I love seeing the different stories that various cultures have used to explain different phenomena, like thunder storms or the moon cycle, and it’s been really fun to develop a fantasy world off of some of those legends.

Q: Can you describe Gilded in three words?
A: Ghosts. Monsters. Lies.

Q: What are your three desert island books?
A: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers and Spirit and Dust by Rosemary Clement-Moore.

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Q&A with author Polly Faber

Q: What is your new book, The Book Cat, all about?

A: The Book Cat is the absolutely completely TRUE story of Morgan, Chief Mouser and Door Cat for Faber through the 1940s. It reveals his critical role in kitten evacuation during London’s second blitz and their invaluable contribution to literary output up and down the country ever since.

Q: What was the inspiration behind it?

A: As I say, the story is true! Well . . . the story could be true. Researching the life of Morgan, I found him described in a letter by Geoffrey Faber as a ‘very large black and affectionate stray cat’ who had arrived in Russell Square sometime in 1943. And once I’d discovered photos in the Imperial War Museum Archive of a War Fair being hosted in the Square at just that time, complete with banana auction, it seemed highly probable that these two events HAD to be linked.

The V1 ‘doodlebug’ that fell on Russell Square in 1944, and its effects on the Faber offices and staff were also documented in my grandfather’s diaries. To imagine that the neighbourhood cats would have been shaken up by it in much the same way as the humans seems a small stretch.

Q: What do you hope children will learn from the story?

Mostly I hope children enjoy the story! I have tried to paint a faithful picture of what life was like on the home front in London at that time. The book does touch gently on the realities of war; whether the experience of the Blitz and rationing or grief of losing loved ones. I hope it also has enough warmth and hope to spark interest in the era without overload.

Q: Do you have a cat?

I do! I have two; a black and white brother and sister pair called Alan and Babs. The book couldn’t have been written without them and they have been immortalised by Clara in the book’s illustrations. I’d say they were honoured by that accolade but in fact they take it entirely for granted.

Q: If you were stranded on a desert island, what book would you have with you?

I find it more or less impossible to answer this question! Middlemarch maybe, as it’s a book I don’t think I could tire of. But if I was going to pick something from Faber’s Children’s books back catalogue then I’d take Russell Hoban’s The Mouse and His Child – a book that really does contain every emotion and show me something new every time I read it.

See more about The Book Cat, here.

Q&A with Emma Carroll

Bestselling author and Queen of Historical Fiction, Emma Carroll, talks to us about her enthralling new novel, The Week at World’s End.

Q: What is your latest book, The Week at World’s End, about?

A: It’s set in 1962, during a very tense few days known as the Cuban Missile Crisis where the world teetered on the brink of nuclear war. My story deals with the very personal conflict facing two friends when they decide to help a runaway girl who claims someone is trying to poison her.

Q: What was the inspiration behind The Week at World’s End?

A: The story was inspired by my parents who were teenagers at the time of the crisis. A lot of this book was written during the first lockdown, so I did a fair bit of research online. The British Museum has a wonderful newspaper archive which I trawled through. I also read (quite terrifying) accounts of information that’s since come to light about how close we came to world war. I read about President Kennedy, Premier Khrushchev, watched documentaries about the crisis. And when I came across an account of nuclear testing on Christmas Island in the Pacific Ocean, I knew I’d found the personal angle to my story.

Q: What made you want to start writing historical fiction for children? What’s the best part about being a children’s author?

A: I love reading historical fiction so it made sense to me to write the sort of book I’d enjoy. I love that I get to write stories all day, read books, talk about books and meet lots of brilliant people. It’s the best job in the world. Ever since I was a child I’ve wanted to be an author.

Q: Where and when do you do your best writing, and what are you working on at the moment?

A: My favourite place to write is in my writing room, which is a small upstairs room at the back of my house, with great views over the countryside. But writing takes you by surprise – sometimes I’ll do my best writing on a crowded train or in a hotel room. I’m currently editing two very different writing projects, and about to start the first draft of my next novel for Faber.

Q: If you were stranded on a desert island, which book would you have with you?

A: My desert island book would be Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë because despite how many times I’ve read it, I still find something new in it every time. It also astonishes me that she created such a brutal, ambiguous, ambitious story when, in the mid 19th century, many of her peers were still getting to grips with the novel form.

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Win an afternoon tea with Emma Carroll!


To enter, simply preorder a hardback copy of The Week at World’s End from any retailer and email your proof of purchase (e.g. a photo/screenshot of your receipt/confirmation email), your name and your address to by 1st September 2021. UK only, 1 entrance per person.

Terms & Conditions:

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  • The afternoon tea will be held at various locations across the country, depending on where the winner is based. Travel expenses will not be included.
  • The winner will be joined by two friends or family. At least one of these places must be used by an accompanying adult.

Q&A with Lou Kuenzler

Q: What is Our Beautiful Game about?

A: It is a middle-grade historical adventure, set in Lancashire during World War One and centred around a young, football-mad girl named Polly Nabb. With her eldest brother off at war, Polly’s mam wants her to stay at home, look after her younger siblings and do the laundry. Polly has other ideas. At just twelve years old, she gets a job in a munitions factory and is soon playing football with the other young women and girls who work there. When the factory squad form a proper team, it seems like a dream come true. But whilst Polly and her teammates play their hearts out – and bravely defend the Home Front too – not everyone is happy to see female players on the pitch . . .

Q: What was the inspiration behind this story?

A: Although my character Polly is fictional, she is closely based on real young players at the time, such as the legendary Lily Parr and Alice Woods. Dark and anxious as the war years were, they also offered incredible new freedoms to women and girls. Football became hugely popular amongst female players, especially in the munitions factories. These often very young working class girls might previously have been sent into service. Shut away in private houses, they would have been given very little free time and, what recreation they did have, would rarely have been shared with others. Suddenly, huge groups of women and girls were able to gather together in factory forecourts and take a break. Best of all, they were wearing trousers – no wonder the game took off!

The spark of excitement at this moment in history was irresistible to me. I knew contemporary middle grade readers would identify with these trailblazing young players attempting to break down boundaries and rewrite the rule book; not only in the game they played, but also in class and race, who they were allowed to love, where they worked and how they were treated. Again and again in my research, I found feisty tales of fabulous feminism . . . I knew the story had to be told!

Q: Why is 2021 a significant year for women’s football?

A: Although the women’s game was initially viewed as a bit of a joke: a wartime chance for everyone to let off steam and raise much-needed money for wounded soldiers (whilst the girls showed their knees!), its ever growing popularity became impossible to ignore. By the time the men began to return home in 1918, women’s teams were firmly established up and down the country. A match played by the famous Dick Kerr Ladies team on Boxing Day 1920, drew a crowd of 53,000, with many others locked outside unable to get into the sold-out stadium. It also raised a whopping £3,115 for charity (well over £145,000 in today’s money). This was the problem!

The Football Association perceived a threat to the men’s game – with women’s matches sometimes better attended than their male counterparts in those early post-war years. In December 1921, the exclusively male FA took decisive action. They outlawed all female teams from playing on any FA pitches and from using FA officials to oversee their play. Instantly, the high profile women’s game was cut off at the roots. Women’s matches were reduced to being played on tiny local pitches, or waste grounds, with no room for spectators. The bitter and punitive ban was not lifted by the FA until fifty years later, in 1971.

Thank goodness, a hundred years on, we are once again celebrating the unstoppable passion for the women’s game; not only with international teams like the Lionesses, but in towns, cities, schools and local communities everywhere.

Q: If Polly was watching Euro 2020, who do you think would be her favourite player?

A: I think it would have to be Jack Grealish because he is so sharp, speedy and technically brilliant. He can outwit anyone and you never know what he’s going to do next – a bit like Polly herself. She’d also definitely be up on her feet and cheering for Raheem Sterling every time he scores!

Q: What is your favourite thing about being an author?

A: Make-believe! Ever since I was tiny, my favourite thing was to play imaginary games, dress-up, talk to myself and pretend to be something or somebody else. Now I get to imagine plots, worlds and people for a job. Almost unbelievable!

Q: If you were stranded on a desert island, which book would you have with you?

A: Gosh! I think it would have to be Grimm Tales For Young And Old by Philip Pullman. I love fairy tales and would find endless inspiration in these magical, tense and humorous retellings. Mind you, if nobody was looking, I might try to sneak the recent gorgeous Faber edition of Gender Swapped Fairy Tales by Karrie Fransman & Jonathan Plackett onto the raft too! The combination of these two titles would keep me happy for months . . . maybe I wouldn’t even want to come home (as long as there was Earl Grey tea and digestive biscuits on the island too!).

Find out more about Our Beautiful Game and read an extract here.

Q&A with Jeffrey Boakye

Q: Tell us about Musical Truth: A Musical History of Modern Black Britain in 28 Songs. Why did you want to write it?
A: On one level, I wanted to write a book that celebrated black British history in a way that I haven’t seen in the books I came across at school. I also wanted to write a book that spoke across generations, enabling conversations about the black British experience that have been sidelined for too long. That’s why the word Truth is in the title; this is my attempt to present the reality of the situation to a broad readership.

Q: Which of the songs featured in Musical Truth has most influenced you in your life?
A: Difficult question! ‘Sweet Mother’ is such an integral part of my childhood – one of those songs that everyone in my family and extended family would love equally. It has a lot of warm, fuzzy memories for me and, like I say, reminds me of the enduring strength of the black African diaspora.

Q: Do you have a favourite fact from the book?
A: There are a few, definitely, but the fact that Winifred Atwell’s hands were insured to the point of her not being allowed to wash dishes is just brilliant. It speaks volumes as to just how successful and popular she was, as a time when black women were not prominent in popular music, at all.

Q: What are you doing to celebrate the launch of Musical Truth?
A: I keep myself busy and I’m always working on various things, meaning that a bit of writing will be on the menu somewhere. That said, I’m on half-term with my kids, so I’m having fun hanging out with them. We just bought a set of roller skates so teaching my two boys to skate will be a highlight. And I’ll be seeing some family too.

Q: How has your job as a teacher influenced your writing?
A: Profoundly. As a teacher, you deal in interaction, engagement and conversation, in the truest sense of the word. I’m sensitive to the ebb and flow of learning and this makes me conscious of how my writing is being received by readers I can’t see. Reading is a solo activity but it’s not passive. Teaching has trained me to listen out for what I can’t hear, and push/ pull accordingly.

Q: In true ‘Desert Island Discs’ style, which track (from Musical Truth) and which luxury item would you take to a desert island?
A: One track? ‘Buffalo Stance’ by Neneh Cherry. Luxury item? A fully stocked MP3 player.

Find out more about Musical Truth, here.

Q&A with Harry Heape

Q: What can you tell us about your new series, Indiana Bones.

A: Indiana Bones is a comedy adventure series for primary school children. Indiana is the beloved pooch of Aisha Ghatak. He is a magical talking dog from another dimension and she has a black belt in archaeology. Their first adventure finds them on the trail of one of archaeology’s greatest mysteries – the lost treasure of The Lonely Avenger

Q: What is it you love about writing funny fiction?

A: For me writing has to be fun. I figure that if it is fun to write, then hopefully, it will be fun to read. Sometimes being a writer feels like having a big funny daydream in your head which you need to piece together, this is a lovely process, it is a great escape to have a head full of silly nonsense, and then try and piece together a story out of it all.

Q: Is Indiana Bones based on a real dog?

A: The inspiration for Indiana Bones came out of a conversation I had with the book’s illustrator, Rebecca Bagley, and my agent Gill McLay. We were talking about dogs and Rebecca said that she had friends who had a dog called Indiana Bones. BIG-BINGO-TIME! I knew at that moment I had to try and write this book. So, Indiana is based on our family pet, a lovely shaggy pooch called Otto. I sent pictures of Otto to Rebecca, so Indiana and our Otto definitely look alike. Also they both like sandwiches and snoozing.

Q: Indiana Bones has a superpower, he can sniff out criminals. What superpower would you like to have?

A: If I could have any superpower, it would probably be plumbing. What do you mean that’s not a superpower?! Okay then, I will say flying if you won’t let me have plumbing.

Q: What adventures do you think Indiana and Aisha will get up to next?

A: I KNOW EXACTLY what they will get up to next but I do not want to give away any spoileroonies! I will say that their next adventure takes them to Turkey, bits are set in Istanbul and also Ephesus, which is a fantastically preserved Roman city that I have visited a couple of times, once as a child, and once with my own children. It is truly magical and well worth a visit, or at the very least a little Google.

Q: What is your favourite thing about being an author?

A: I love school visits. It is so much fun to meet children who like the books. It is great to talk with children because they are so much fun. Slightly linked to this is World Book Day. I can’t tell you how ace it is to see someone dressed as a character from your own book.

Q: If you were stranded on a desert island, which book would you have with you?

A: TOO DIFFICULT!!! The answer to this would change each time you asked it. Today I will say The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman. What a book! There is a wonderful bookshop in Bath called Mr B’s and they ask any visiting authors to give them a pen, which they hang from their ceiling on string. My pen hangs next to Philip Pullman’s. Hope some of his magic somehow transfers itself to me. That must be possible, right?

Find out more about Harry’s books, here!

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