A letter from James Catchpole

Imagine being visibly different and being asked the same question about it over and over again? What Happened to You? by James Catchpole, illustrated by Karen George is the first picture book that addresses how a disabled child might want to be spoken to, and how they might not want to answer.

Dear Reader,
What Happened to You? is the story of a disabled child called Joe, who wants to play his game in the playground, but keeps being interrupted by other children asking him The Question. I was Joe, and this was my daily experience. As a disabled adult now, it still sometimes is, especially when I take my own children to the playground. But what may be inconvenient as an adult, is often distressing as a child, for whom the interrogation can feel relentless.

As the parent of the child who is staring and pointing and asking questions, it’s hard to know what to do. I’ve been on that side of the equation too. Sometimes, parents come up to me and ask me directly: sorry about that, but what should I do?! And I can understand their confusion. They don’t want to shush their child and make them feel uncomfortable around disability. As a disabled person, I don’t want that either! So should they do the opposite, and play it cool by encouraging their child to come over to me and ask me why I look different? Plenty do . . .
But here’s the rub: pointing and staring isn’t good, but asking questions is not the opposite of that. It’s not the solution either. But it IS the current consensus.

Just ask!‘ is the message we tell our children, and often adults too. ‘Just ask!‘ and the different looking person you’ve never met will be only too pleased to tell you everything you want to know. So if the man at the bus stop has one leg, just ask and he’ll tell you all about the traumatic injury he suffered. If a child has no hair, just ask and they’ll tell you and your friends all about their cancer. Is it any wonder that adults ask disabled people these questions every day too? Fundamentally, the message of ‘Just ask!‘ is disabled people do not have the right to privacy. And that’s what we’re teaching our kids . . .

The bestselling picture book about disability at the moment is called and I kid you not ‘Just ask!‘ This is what happens when someone writes a book about disability for non disabled readers. The aim is to educate non disabled children about different disabilities, and make them feel comfortable around disabled children. But what of disabled children, who may not want to ‘just answer’?

Having been a visibly disabled child, I’m in a position to try to tell this story from the inside, and to write a book that centres the disabled child both as protagonist and as reader. This is the book the five year old me would have found helpful. I needed someone to tell me that I didn’t have to answer The Question, that I could try to find ways round it without surrendering my sense of privacy and that the children interrogating me would eventually get over their curiosity and accept me. And, of course, by writing from a disabled perspective, for a disabled reader, I’ve realised that I actually have something meaningful to say to non disabled readers and their parents too. All I have to do is to invite them to walk, for a minute, in Joe’s shoe.

All best,

Q&A with Claire Barker

Tell us about Picklewitch & Jack and the Sea Wizard’s Secret.

In their third adventure, Picklewitch and Jack go on a school fossil-hunting trip to the Dorset seaside. Jack is determined to win the much-coveted Bonestar hammer in a competition to find the best fossil. Picklewitch refuses to help him out, being much more interested in bagging an invitation to tea with Scowling Margaret, the local Sea Wizard. Jack is infuriated by Picklewitch’s lack of interest in the scientific marvels of the Jurassic coast but, as he himself observes, it’s hard to argue with someone who can turn herself into a pinecone. Why can’t she just be reasonable and normal for once? But following a midnight picnic in a secret cave he soon discovers she has, after all, led him to treasure beyond his greatest imaginings.

What are some of your favourite words that Picklewitch uses?

Fudgenuts, kipper’s knickers, hornswangler, fopdoodle, cheese weasels . . . the list is long and possibly rude.

How are your books inspired by nature?

To be honest, even I’m not entirely sure where Picklewitch ends and her garden begins! The sparrows nest in her hair just as they do in the trees, she smells of mushrooms, her eyes flash a leafy-green and the garden’s mercurial temperament seems oddly familiar . . .

After two books in this established setting I wanted to explore how she would cope as a tourist – a fish out of water. Almost straightaway she finds herself larking about with the local seagulls, lolling in rock-pools, adorning herself in periwinkles and starfish. Scowling Margaret’s special responsibilities come as no surprise to Picklewitch. As she explains to Jack ‘most witches age slowly, like forests . . . slow and whispery. But Sea Wizards are even older – like the waves.’ Nature is the thread that stitches their magical worlds together.

Picklewitch and Jack have a unique friendship! What are your favourite friendships in children’s books?

Standout ones for me are Charlotte and Wilbur, Pooh and Piglet, Mary and Dickon. I like loyal friendships fuelled by contrast.

What is your favourite thing about being an author?

When a new funny character marches into my imagination, dumps their belongings in the hallway and makes themselves at home. Then I know the fun is about to begin.

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

Favourite Tales from Shakespeare, adapted by Bernard Miles and illustrated by Victor Ambrus. I would read Twelfth Night and pore over the illustrations until the pages were eaten away by salt.

Find more about Claire’s books, here!

Q&A with Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick

Tell us about the myth On Midnight Beach is based on.

On Midnight Beach is a reimagining of The Táin, which is a blood-soaked battle-filled epic. I wanted to strip the whole story back to its essentials and bring the violence down to more realistic proportions, explore the main characters and concentrate on their relationships. And I really, really wanted to bring Maeve – sexy, amoral, gloriously self-centred Queen Maeve – to life as a teenager.

What do you enjoy about writing for a YA audience?

It’s challenging (and exciting) because it demands that I engage with the interior lives of my characters at a time when they are actively seeking out who they are and who they will ultimately become. The story needs to be urgent and pacy, but I think characters and their personal journeys are really what it’s all about in YA fiction.

What are your three desert island books?

Pride and Prejudice would be a must – it’s my go-to book for when I’m feeling blue. It’s so romantic and, no matter how many times I read it, it never fails to make me laugh. I’m so glad I didn’t read it in school though, as I’m pretty sure I’d have hated it then!

Olive Kitteridge. I love how Elizabeth Strout brings the main character in and out of focus as she moves through other people’s lives. There’s a real sense of being right there, in New England, eavesdropping.

A favourite recent YA read, Everyone Dies Famous in a Small Town by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock, caught me in exactly the same way. I’d bring it along for its cast of heart-breaking misfits and the feeling of being on a roadtrip where anything might – and does – happen.

Find out more about On Midnight Beach, here.

Faber Publishes Follow-up to Lockdown Sensation, While We Can’t Hug

Everyone’s favourite (socially distanced) characters return this June in a striking, gently humorous and hopeful follow-up to the sensational and bestselling picture book While We Can’t Hug.

After a long hibernation, Hedgehog awakes desperate to be reunited with best friend Tortoise . . . but Tortoise isn’t to be found anywhere! A charming and touching new tale, The Longer the Wait, the Bigger the Hug is a much-needed celebration of friendship and reuniting with loved ones.

Reassuring, timely and a great teaching tool, While We Can’t Hug provided invaluable support in bringing families together during extremely challenging and unprecedented times. The lockdown sensation has since sold over 100,000 copies and continues to reach new readers up and down the country with award nominations for both the An Post Irish Book Awards and CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal.

Leah Thaxton, Publisher said: ‘There’s so much comfort in this book. The heart-warming title is a hug in itself. Yes the wait will be worth it; yes we will come out of this; yes there will be hugs galore. I think we all need to hear this message. Thank you, Eoin and Polly, for your grace and wisdom!’

Eoin McLaughlin said: ‘It’s been very special to see Hedgehog and Tortoise help so many children cope with social distancing this year. We never intended to keep them apart, so it’s with extreme joy that Polly and I have brought them back together. A reminder of the people we’ve missed, as well as the happiness waiting for us when we can finally hug them again.’

Polly Dunbar said: ‘I’m so delighted that Hedgehog and Tortoise meet again and they can hug at last – yippee! These characters have become friends to me so to illustrate a third book was an absolute joy, especially a story that is so full of hope and happiness, just what we need . . . and of course is very funny too.’

Leah Thaxton acquired world rights from James Catchpole at The Catchpole Agency. The Longer the Wait, the Bigger the Hug will publish on 29th June 2021 in paperback and 1st July 2021 in a small format hardback.

Preorder now: Waterstones Amazon


‘A touching tale’ – The Sunday Times

‘The tender simplicity of While We Can’t Hug pairs Eoin McLaughlin’s text with Polly Dunbar’s rosy-cheeked images’ – The Guardian

‘An important historical record of the time’ – The Times

‘Delicate watercolour illustrations, full of expression, are teamed with a timely and charming story, making this a real winner’ – Irish Independent

‘A book that ought to carry a ‘tear-jerker’ warning but one that is perfect for your little (and bigger ones) at home’ – The Literacy Tree

‘Gently reassuring’ – New Statesman

‘Timely, topical and utterly charming’ – Irish Examiner

Q&A with Alex Bell

1. How do you build your fantasy worlds? Where do you start?

I usually start with a character and try to imagine what their life might be like and what obstacles might stand in their way. 

2. How is our new hero Ursula different to Stella? 

They have different magical powers as Stella is an ice princess, whereas Ursula is half mermaid. They also have very different upbringings. Stella had a loving father, beautiful home and pets, whereas Ursula grew up alone at the Ocean Squid Explorers’ Club. 

3. How do you come up with the absurd and incredible creatures that the explorers come across such as the colossal sneezing jellyfish, warbling opera crabs and sing-along swordfish?

I love making up strange creatures! I just try to think of the most unusual/funny/amazing thing I can. Or else I consider what I would most like (or dread) to come across during an expedition. 

4. What is your favourite thing about being an author?

Receiving letters from children who’ve enjoyed reading my books. It always makes my day, especially when they include pictures they’ve drawn!

5. If you were stranded on a desert island, which book would you have with you?

I think it would have to be Going Postal by Terry Pratchett. It would always cheer me up to read it. 

The books!

February Books of the Month!

It’s a new month and we have some exciting new releases to share with you! Which one are you going to read first?

Two Terrible Vikings

What if your parents WANTED you to behave badly?

Set in the snowy fjords of a Viking kingdom, the terrible twins, Hack and Whack, are proud to be the best worst Vikings. Nothing stops the marauding pair as they steal boats, loot a birthday party, track a troll and sail off to raid Bad Island with their friends Twisty Pants and Dirty Ulf.

Well, almost nothing . . .

The Ocean Squid Explorers’ Club

Ursula knew the submarine wasn’t designed to go this deep, but what choice did they have? No one wanted to get swallowed up by a colossal sneezing jellyfish!

In a distant watery corner of the Explorers Kingdom, a submarine engineer, Ursula, is determined to become an explorer. Unfortunately, she hides an extraordinary secret, which makes her the sworn enemy of the Ocean Squid Explorers’ Club were they ever to find out . . . But when The Collector threatens the Club, Ursula throws caution to the wind and leads an expedition through treacherous waters, filled with gremlins, aboard the Blowfish submarine – and joined by her friends Max, Genie and Jai – and even her idol Stella!

Animal Farm

All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.

It’s just an ordinary farm – until the animals revolt. They get rid of the irresponsible farmer. The other animals are sure that life is improving, but as systems are replaced and half-truths are retold, a new hierarchy emerges . . .

Orwell’s tale of propaganda, power and greed has never felt more pertinent.

With an exciting new cover and inside illustrations by superstar Chris Mould.

A message from our Faber Children’s Publisher

Storytelling has always been fundamental to our very existence – sharing stories is what people do. Whether for fun, comfort, community, knowledge or escapism, or all of the above and more! Now, more than ever, it’s so very important that we continue to share stories with each other.

“We have been moved and heartened by the many requests we’ve received from booksellers, teachers, librarians and authors, who are doing their utmost to help children and parents during these difficult times through shared reading. We would like to do everything we can to support these efforts and so are now extending the period during which we grant full permission until the end of March 2021 to allow anyone to film themselves or others reading aloud from our children’s and YA publishing.

If you’d like to get involved, please ensure that you hold the book up at the start of the video and end, and note that you’re reading with permission from Faber Children’s. Please also mention the title, author and illustrator in both the video and the caption – as our authors and illustrators rely on the royalties from sales of our books. As do we, the publishers.

The videos will need to be taken down by 31 March 2021.

Lastly, but importantly: we will need you to notify us that you are posting this material – you ONLY have permission to post the material if you are making it available free of charge. Please notify us via the following email address:

We would also love to see your readings! So please don’t forget to tag our social media handle – @FaberChildrens – when you share them so that we can too.

Meanwhile, every week we will be adding to the activity sheets, video, audio content and other parent/teacher resources we provide free on our website – please do have a forage – we hope you enjoy them!”

Leah Thaxton, Faber Children’s Publisher

To see a selection of some of our most popular reads by age category, click here.

January Books of the Month

We have some exciting new releases to kick this year off with a BANG! Which book is first on your reading list?

Richard Scarry’s The Adventures of Lowly Worm

Lowly Worm is one of Richard Scarry’s best loved characters, and the star of this lively collection of stories, in which he takes an unexpected ride on a hot-air balloon; helps Huckle find just the right gift for Mother Cat; rides the roller coaster at the fair and builds a castle at the beach. With everything from bike crashes to a big birthday surprise, these stories show exactly why Lowly is one special worm, loved the world over. Every page has something to delight over and discuss.

Richard Scarry’s Best Busy Year Ever

Scarry captures all the hustle and bustle of Busytown through a series of delightful, brightly illustrated stories. Flossie, Big Hilda, Mother Cat, Squeaky Mouse and a cast of Scarry’s most popular characters are off to pick spring flowers, watch fireworks at the Pig family picnic, help the postman deliver letters, and celebrate holidays, family and friends. This is the perfect introduction to everyday grown-up life – ever!

Uki and the Swamp Spirit

There, right in the heart of the fen, was his target. It oozed and throbbed and Uki had the sensation of a sickly green light, spreading out through the networks of water. Of tendrils connecting all the creatures of the marsh in a web. Seeking them, joining them . . . changing them. He could feel the life, because the spirit was linking itself to it. Linking itself so it could poison it all and destroy it. 

After defeating Valkus, Uki and his friends still have two more spirits to find and capture. Next up is Charice, who is spreading disease through the swamps. Can Uki and his friends outwit him whilst being chased by the evil Endwatch and Jori’s clan of assassins?

December Books of the Month

We just love this time of year! There is nothing better than snuggling in with our loved ones and diving into a great book. Here are a few of our favourite wintery reads.

Santa’s New Beard

When Santa accidentally shaves off his famous beard, the elves all rally round to help. Can they glue it back on? Maybe the answer is whipped cream or candyfloss. Or perhaps it’s mashed potato . . . Will they be able to sort him out before Christmas Eve?

Things are not looking too good until the littlest elf has a bright idea!
Festive and fun, this is destined to become a seasonal favourite.

Squishy McFluff: Secret Santa

Ava and Squishy are back and this time their adorable chaos hits Christmas preparations for Mum, Dad, baby Roo, the local Christmas fete and much, much more . . . In her letter to Santa, Ava only has one wish. Will she get what her heart desires on Christmas day?

Rising star Pip Jones continues to give her quirky twist to everyday experiences in this warm and humorous series. The jaunty rhyming text is perfect for reading aloud, and Ella Okstad’s gorgeous, distinctive illustrations will help more confident readers learn to read by themselves for the first time.

The Great Reindeer Disaster

Jingle bells, Jingle bells, smelly poo and bum!
You can wait for Christmas but it’s never going to come!

When a miniature reindeer named Percy falls down the chimney of the Trubshaws’ holiday cottage, the last thing they expect is to be whisked away to the distant planet of Yule-1 – the REAL home of Father Christmas, the elves, and his intrepid reindeer delivery teams. And what an amazing place it is – nobody minds being stuck there until the computer system has been mended.

But the festive season is in danger! One rogue reindeer has teamed up with the evil Krampus to sabotage everything. Unless Percy and his new friends can track them down, there will be no Christmas this year – or EVER AGAIN!

Illustrated in black and white by Neal Layton, this is destined to become a holiday favourite.

Trouble on Planet Christmas

There’s trouble on the planet of Yule-1, the real home of Father Christmas. The Trubshaw family are flown back from Earth to help out! 

Once again Jake and Sadie are transported to a place where elves and reindeer are their friends and everything is about getting ready for Christmas, the best holiday of the year. 

Hysterically funny, wonderfully bonkers, it’s Christmas like you’ve never seen it before. 

With knock-out illustrations throughout from Super Star, Neal Layton.

Christmas Dinner of Souls

It’s a dark and lonely Christmas Eve in the dining room of ancient Soul’s College. The kitchen boy, 11-year-old Lewis, has helped prepare a highly unusual meal, made with unrecognisable ingredients, cooked by a mysterious chef. And then the guests arrive … and carnage ensues. They are ex-students of Soul’s College, and they are all completely demented. They demand bottle after bottle of wine, flinging their cutlery and howling like banshees until . . . silence. The Dean of Soul’s College has arrived, and the evening’s ceremonies must begin.

For this is the annual meeting of a secret club for those who despise children, warmth, happiness, and above all Christmas. Each member must try to outdo the others by telling the most terrible, disgusting story they know.

November Books of the Month

What are your children reading this month? Whether you’re looking for a fresh take on a classic story or something a little more contemporary, we have an exciting range of new releases for November.

What’s in the Truck?

‘…Out glides a limo, as sleek as a plane, With big gleaming hubcaps as bright as champagne’

Children will delight in this silly tale of a dog prince in his truck with a very special delivery . . . With each page turn, a new vehicle pops out of the last. This book has all the ingredients to charm and enthral first readers and parents alike.

The Iron Man

The Iron Man came to the top of the cliff.
Where had he come from? Nobody knows.
How was he made? Nobody knows.

Mankind must put a stop to the dreadful destruction by the Iron Man and set a trap for him, but he cannot be kept down. Then, when a terrible monster from outer space threatens to lay waste to the planet, it is the Iron Man who finds a way to save the world.

Magnificent Machines

The longest ship ever built, the heaviest digger and the largest aeroplane, the world’s first working motorcar, and its most expensive one. What machines like these have in common is that they all say a lot about the inventiveness and imagination of the people who conceived and created them. Some of them are useful, others are just a bit of fun, but the best ones are truly magnificent, and fascinating to discover.

Long Way Down Graphic Novel

Jason Reynolds is the New York Times bestselling author of Long Way Down and The Boy in the Black Suit. Long Way Down is a powerful verse novel about Will who, after his brother is shot in a gang crime, knows he must get revenge. The Boy in the Black Suit tells the story of Matt who works at the local funeral home. 

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