Each month my author spotlight shines a sparkly light upon authors I admire and whose books I heartedly recommend. Read on to discover more about these spellbinding story makers who weave their magic into our lives through the pages of a book.
October, 2017 and it’s Halloween so what better place for the sparkle of my spotlight to land than on the fantasmical children’s author and poet, Kaye Umansky.
Kaye is of full of wonderful wit and humour and has written over 130 books!! Including: novels, picture books, music books, plays and poems and the ‘Pongwiffy’ series that she is most well-known for – which, by the way, is currently being rather fantastically reissued by publisher Simon & Schuster and is full of brilliant illustrations by the talented Katie Riddell.
If you’d like to find out more about Kaye then do visit her website, it’s rather wonderful (and sparkly). She was kind enough to answer a few questions for me to share with you, so do take a moment to read on if you can. Right, back to the books….
There are so many of Kaye’s books that I admire. Published by Barrington Stoke, The Knights of the Drop-Leaf Table is particularly good for reluctant or dyslexic readers and Algy’s Amazing Adventures in the Jungle holds a special place in my heart as it was one of the first books my own son read and reviewed as part of the Lovereading4kids reader review panel (he was 6 at the time). But unfortunately time and space is limited, so for now here is a little more information about two of my personal favourites.
The Pongwiffy Stories by Kaye Umansky and Illustrated by Katy Riddell
Pongwiffy is hilarious and if you haven’t yet discovered her then I recommend buying the recently published bind-up edition of the first two books. The remaining two will be published in 2018.
Pongwiffy has just moved into a new cave, and it’s dirty, smelly and damp – in other words it’s perfect for a witch like Pongwiffy! At least it would be if her next door neighbours weren’t a group of extremely noisy Goblins… Before long Pongwiffy can bear it no more and enlists the help of her best friend, Witch Sharkadder, to find her somewhere else to live. And that’s when the problems really start!In the second story , the Goblins are back and up to their usual tricks! But this time Pongwiffy also has to deal with a badly behaved broom, a bonfire disaster and a strange genie…
Two laugh-out-loud stories of humour and warmth, enticingly mixed with sludge, slime and very bad habit.
The Pongwiffy Stories was published on the 24th of August 2017 by Simon & Schuster.
Witch for a Week by Kaye Umansky and Illustrated by Ashley King
Now Kaye has a new series to add to her wonderful collection of stories. Meet Elsie Pickles, a young girl whose time is mostly spent helping out in her family’s shop, in the dull town of Smallbridge where life ‘trickled on with calm monotony’ until that is a ‘wind came howling out of nowhere’ and suddenly life for Elsie begins to become rather unexpected and exciting. “this is a lovely read; full of fun and adventure, comedy and excitement, it will keep children smiling from beginning to end.” Andrea Reece, expert reviewer for Lovereading4kids. For Witch for a Week, Kaye has been blessed with yet another talented Illustrator. Ashley King’s illustrations are the perfect accompaniment and the beautifully, sparkly cover will appeal to any young wannabe witches (or wizards) out there.
When clever, unflappable Elsie offers to house-sit the mysterious home of local witch Magenta Sharp, she has no idea what she’s getting herself into. Left with a talking raven and a scruffy dog for company, and a book of instruction called Everything You Need to Know, what could possibly go wrong? With an assortment of weird and wonderful neighbours banging at the door and a box of volatile magical ingredients that must be used immediately, Elsie is forced to get experimental with magic!A brand new magical adventure from Kaye Umansky the bestselling author of Pongwiffy!
Witch for a Week was published on the 5th of October by Simon & Schuster.
Now some words from Kate herself…
Which is your favourite book to read aloud from?
My favourite book by somebody else is Just William, by Richmal Crompton – particularly the story where he meets Violet Elizabeth. As to books that I have written – I like reading out scenes featuring the Goblins in the Pongwiffy books. They are incredibly stupid and I love doing their voices.
You have two cats, Heathcliff and Jeremy. Who was Jeremy named after?
Well, I wanted to call him Mr Rochester, who is another dashing romantic type from Jane Eyre. I thought it would go with Heathcliff. But my family wouldn’t let me. My husband thought he looked like a butler, all black and white. For some reason, my husband thinks Jeremy is a butler-ish name. So there you go.
What one piece of writing advice would you give a) to children wanting to write stories and b) to adults wanting to write books for children?
A. Children wanting to write stories. Read, read, read! You will get hundreds of good ideas from books which will stimulate you to have a go at stories of your own.
B. Adults wanting to write books for children. Be clear on the age group you are writing for and use the appropriate vocabulary. Do a bit of research by visiting a library and seeing what is available and popular.
Of all the objects you have in the little office you write in at the top of your house, which is your favourite?
Hmm. Difficult. There are hundreds of bits and bobs. Possibly the tiny pair of brown leather boots I wore as a two year old, sixty eight years ago. I take them in to show the children when I visit schools. They look like they’ve been made by a fairy cobbler.
If you could live for one day as one character from any book, who would you be?
I would love to live for a day as Granny Weatherwax, the cleverest witch in the books by Terry Prachett. She has all sorts of wonderful skills, including being able to enter the minds of birds and animals. And I’d love to fly on a broomstick!
I do hope you’ve enjoyed my author spotlight. Kaye Umansky really is a treasure and she’s been an absolute delight to write about. Have a super Halloween and may all your stories be suitably spooky.