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Forthcoming publicationsWatch out for my new book, The Company of Ghosts. More details soon.
Hello and welcome to my first newsletter of 2013. I’ve got so much to tell you that I hardly know where to start; your letters, a story from a reader: the competition, visits, book news etc. But I must tell you the VERY exciting whisper news about my new book, The Company of Ghosts. It will be published by Andersen Press in September and is already available for pre-ordering. I don’t have a cover yet, but it is set on this Scottish island and it’s very spooky. I will send you more details when it is published.
And do you remember Snowy? Yes, lots of primary school teachers will recall the fabulous image of Snowy the barge horse on the front cover of my picture book. The illustrator is Keith Bowen. I have just attended a Snowy reunion! I was invited back to the school which was attended by Rachel, the co-star of the book (along with Snowy, of course). The school is now called Blue Coat C of E School in Chester.
To illustrate the book, Keith Bowen had painted all the children in Rachel’s class, along with her parents Ric and Di and their lovely narrow boat, Betelgeuse (known to all readers of Snowy as Beetle Juice). So many people love canals and narrow boats, so many people are lucky enough to live on them, but I wonder how many of them have a barge horse? This photo shows me with Ric, Rachel and Di in January 2013, alongside the illustration of Ric, Rachel and Di in the book.
More publishing news: The Humming Machine has now been published in Vietnam, with really excellent illustrations. It joins a translation of the first book in the series, The Starburster. It makes me really happy to see what happens to my books, often years after they were written!
Another two of my books will soon be available in digital versions. Street Child will be available as an e-book from the 14th of February and Tilly Mint Tales, illustrated by Tony Ross, will be available from April. They join Dear Nobody, Treason, Abela, The Snow Queen, a story in Haunted, and my two novels for adults, Requiem and The Vinegar Jar, all available as e-books.
Daughter of the Sea is written with a lilting call of voice. Its prose is an invitation to the fireside, whilst the snow and ice grips the darkness in the howl of the wind outside. The sea not only haunts the book’s characters and story, but its whole tone too. We feel the touch of ancient depths of human experience in its telling; the accumulated voices of many folk long gone, as the waves of the narrative take up each character and deliver the timeless and interwoven longings and acceptances of their lives…
Read the full review here.
More interesting news: I had a poem on the Sheffield pedestrian shopping road, The Moor, but recently it has been dug up to allow for refurbishment of the area. That’s the bad news. But the good news is that the poem is now to be sat upon, rather than walked over. It has been carved onto a beautiful bench of Kilkenny limestone by the lettercarver Pip Hall. If you live in Sheffield, enjoy a sit down on it! It’s in the good company of poem benches by Matt Black and Ray Hearne.
And as well as having my poem on a seat, I have my name on a wall. Liverpool City Library has honoured some of its writers by inscribing their names on one of its walls. I’m in great company there too. Oh – why me? Well, Liverpool is the city of my birth. I’m tickled to say I was born in Knotty Ash.
As usual, I’ve been out and about when I haven’t been working on The Company of Ghosts. I visited Norfolk Park School in Sheffield, where the children seem to have read every book I’ve written!
I talked to students at Freiburg University about gender in my books – why, for instance, is Dear Nobody written in the voices of both Chris and Helen, why did I choose a boy as the central character in The Snake-Stone, and why a girl in Abela? If you know the books, you may well know the answers, and understand how different they would have been if I had chosen the other gender.
I also went to Kindergarten Vasoldsberg in Austria, where children have been listening to many English stories and poems, and guess what! I met Heiliger Nikolaus! It was on December 6th, in the middle of his very busy period of visits to children all over Austria to give out presents. Oh, and the little girl to his right happens to be Hannah Honig Doherty, one of my seven grandchildren.
I had a very interesting time at Hollinsclough School in Derbyshire. The majority of the pupils are actually taught at home for most of the week. What do you think of that? They love the chance to meet once or twice a week in their school, which is tiny, nestling among hills in a deep, green valley.
By complete contrast, I am just back from visiting a very large school, Koḉ School in Istanbul, where the Turkish-speaking teenagers wrote (in English) powerful stories based on Street Child, The Snakestone and Dear Nobody. I was very impressed by their ability to write so well in a second language. While I was there I also met future author, 6 year old Defne Bostancı, busily completing page 17 of her first novel. There’s a photo of me with some of the other students of the school on my photo gallery page.
Now your letters. Thank you to everyone who wrote to me. As usual, most of you wrote about Street Child, and they include letters and lovely pictures from Class Four in Exminster Community Primary; Hattie from Langdale Primary school in Staffordshire; beautifully written letters from St Thomas Aquinas Catholic Primary in Stoke-on-Trent; Horizon Primary Academy in Swanley, Kent (amazing illustrations!); a really friendly letter from David at Norley Primary; Holly Class at Firle Primary, Lewes (excellent presentation!); Year Five of Nancy Reuben Primary in Hendon (beautifully written) with great illustrations, especially from Eliana Kastner; Willaston Primary in Neston; St Stephen’s Primary in Saltash (I love Natasha O’Brien’s illustration!); Padiham Green – lively letters and lovely photos, Gazia Mielnyzuk (again!); tremendous questions from Orgill Primary school and St Patrick’s Primary school in Workington, both in Cumbria; beautifully written letters from Alexander McLeod school in London – and last but by no means least, Sophie Bickford wrote elegantly to me from St Stephen’s school in Saltash, Cornwall.
I think every one of you asked me the same question, and very soon I MIGHT have the answer you all want – but wait and see!
A little bird told me that pupils in Western Primary school in Harrogate raised £860.00 for Barnardo’s by dressing up as characters in Street Child and holding a Victorian market. That’s a fantastic achievement, Western Primary, and I’m really proud that my book gave you that wonderful idea.
Many children send me stories based on Street Child, and I received a really outstanding one from Emily Varney of Turnditch School in Derbyshire. I’m sure you’d like to read it. Click here to read it. Many congratulations Emily. I am sending you your own signed copy of Street Child as a thank you for giving me the chance to share Emily’s Diary with all the visitors to my website.
Children in Norfolk Community School in Sheffield sent wonderful letters and illustrations based on their reading of Tilly Mint Tales.
I’ve also had some exciting letters and drawings from children who have been reading Treason. Here’s my favourite, from Jack Swinburne of St Gregory’s Catholic Primary school in Workington.
Dear Berlie Doherty,
I am writing because we have been studying your book Treason. Year 5 have very much enjoyed your book, because it had drama, action and tragedy. There were some moments in the book when I felt like shedding a tear because William was in big trouble. Especially when his father was put in prison that was a very jaw dropping moment. The book was very truelike because some of it was well known facts. I was wondering if you are working on a book to follow on from Treason. William is my favourite character because he never gives up. He shows respect for others, he's religious and he is very brave. He also went into the most vile prison to save his father. He earned so much respect from me after that. Percy Howard is my worst character because he is a sick twisted boy with a typical attitude. He is also a spoilt brat. I loved your book so much. Please carry on.
From Jack Swinburne
Thank you Jack. I’m sending you a signed copy of Street Child.
And now it’s competition time! My last competition was won by Caryl Hart, who happens to be another writer for children. She won a copy of The Famous Adventures of Jack.
This time the prize will be a copy of Street Child and the competition question is – Which well-known charity is named after one of the real-life characters in Street Child?
Send the answer to my web wizard: with your address. He will pick one of the correct entries out of his hat on Saturday 1st June.
If you’d like to join my mailing list and be the first to know about new books and editions when they come out, enter your email address into his box near the top of this page.