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Nura and the Immortal Palace
Nura and the Immortal Palace

BOOK OF THE MONTH - This gripping, magical middle-grade adventure is rooted in Muslim culture and tradition and follows a young girl's journey from modern-day Pakistan into the world of the jinn. Written by debut author M. T. Khan.

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Reader Q&A with M.G. Leonard

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Twitch is the gripping new mystery adventure from M.G. Leonard, the award-winning author of Beetle Boy and the Adventures on Trains series. 

Twitch has three pet chickens, four pigeons, swallows in his bedroom and a passion for birdwatching. When he stumbles across a mystery concerning a robber who has broken out of prison, can he use his talents for birdwatching to help the police track down the escaped convict?

Twitch is the first book in a brand new middle grade series all about friendship, courage and, of course, birds.

Toppsta readers have given this book 5 stars and rave reviews:

“This book is a bit like a more modern famous five. I loved it.” AlexPanda aged 9

“'I loved how exciting this book was” Bobby aged 9

"This is such a surprising book!  It has a mystery which keeps you guessing all the way along. I can't wait for my friends to read it too so we can talk about it.” ShiningC aged 9

"This is a magnificent book. My class loved Twitch from the very start and enjoyed following his journey from birdwatcher to detective!.. I’d highly recommend for KS2 children!" Sarahe, Year 6 Teacher

“I couldn't put this book down - it was a brilliantly written story that ties together friendship with deadly danger.Bookwanderer, aged 11

“I think any child with a love of mystery, adventure and nature will enjoy this book as much as I did. Recommend for year 4 +" Miss-Shack10, Teacher 

One lucky class won a copy of the book to read and the chance to ask M.G. Leonard some questions about her writing and Twitch.

Read on for “C” and 5H's brilliant Q&A with the author.

Toppsta
2021-07-21
Reader Q&A with M.G. Leonard
"C" and Miss Hannah’s 5H class, at Our Lady of Compassion School, Solihull

You have written adventure books about trains (we love the Adventures on Trains books) and books about the environment and nature.  Which of your book would you recommend a child to read first?

I think I would recommend The Highland Falcon Thief first, because it is my most straightforward adventure and some readers might find Beetle Boy a bit scary and Twitch is a complicated adventure too, but it depends on the reader really.

I think Twitch and The Tale of a Toothbrush is partly about thinking about others.  Is this moral important in your stories?

Yes, and I include all creatures in that ‘others’ category. Humans can be selfish at times, and the planet would be a happier place if we were able to be a little less selfish.

If you had to choose your favourite book that you have written, which would it be and why?

Beetle Boy, it took the longest to write. It took over ten years and was an education – I learned about beetles and how to write a book with that story. It cost me a lot of blood sweat and tears and that makes it pretty special. It was my first bestseller, it’s got me my first ever prizes, and I’m very proud of it.

If you had to chose one of your books to be made into a film or television programme, which one would it be and why?

Beetle Boy and the other beetle books are already being made into a TV series, so I would choose a series of TV films of each of the Adventures on Trains mysteries. I think they would make great family viewing.

Are you planning to write any more books (I really hope you are) and if so what will they be about?

Right now, I have two more adventures on trains mysteries that I’m writing and the next book in The Twitchers adventure series. I’ll never stop writing. My head is too full of stories.

I really loved the dedication in Twitch to your mother in law, Jane Sparling ( I am so sorry to read that she has passed away).  She was a teacher and gave you ideas and I think she would have loved the character Twitch.  Where do you get your ideas for your books and characters now?

Ideas come from everywhere. Jane had an allotment and loved birds, and she was the inspiration behind Amita. I based Darkus and Harrison on each of my sons. Twitch is a mixture of them both with a bit of me thrown in for good measure. Some characters are based on friends, others are based on movie stars, some I make up entirely. It depends on what the story needs.

Birds, bullying and crime is an interesting mixture in a book!  Where do you get your inspiration from?

The inspiration for Twitch came from the boys and girls who loved the beetle books, many of them were birdwatchers and would ask me to write a birdwatching adventure. I also took inspiration from the opening of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens where Pip, the hero, bumps into an escaped convict in a graveyard. And of course, I’m inspired by all the adventure stories I read as a child.

There is some bullying in the book.  What advice would you give to anyone who is being bullied?

When someone bullies you, the problem is them, not you. It’s hard, but you have to try and not let the bullying or the bully get to you. However, you should always tell a teacher and your parent if it’s hurtful.

Twitch has to make some very difficult moral decisions in the book.  I kept shouting advice at him while I was reading! Which do you think is the most important lesson the book offers the reader?

To be yourself, no matter what, and to open your eyes to the wonder of birds – like Twitch. At no point does he feel that he should change who he is. And that, every child has the capacity to be good, kind and do the right thing, and they should be given the chance to – like Jack.

Can you describe Twitch in three words?

Independent, kind and nature-loving.

I had never really thought about bird watching before but am definitely listening and noticing bird song now!  Which new skills have you learnt in your research?

I’m learning all the time. Right now, I’m trying to learn how to differentiate different birds of prey. They are the subject for the next birdwatching adventure.

The mystery kept me guessing all the way along and there were lots of plot twists! I liked that Twitch had to start trusting people (as well as his birds) to solve the mystery.  Do you have any advice for children who find it hard to make friends?

Your best friend should always be yourself. Friends will come if you follow your passions - you’ll find people who love the same things as you and become friends. I didn’t have a lot of friends at school, but now I have heaps.

Do you have any book recommendations from past or present-day authors?

There are so many great books out there right now by current authors. If you like nature you should read Piers Torday’s The Last Wild books. Any book that interests you is a great book as far as I’m concerned.

We love book recommendation in our class!  What are you reading right now, and would you recommend it?

I’ve just finished The Day the Sky Fell by Phil Earle. It is set during the second world war, and is about a boy who is working in a zoo when a bomb falls and dangerous animals escape their cages. It’s very dramatic, brilliantly written, but it did make me cry. I would recommend it but you will need tissues.

If you could step into any book, which book would it be and why?

I would love to visit The Secret Garden and stay a while to smell the flowers and meet the robin.

How long does it take to write a book and have it published?

From start to finish is usually a year. It takes me 6 months to write and edit a book. The other 6 months, the publisher does the work of getting a cover and actually making the books to go into bookshops.

What inspired you to write books for children?

I feel like I’m twelve years old, so it comes naturally, but also the books I love the most and have had the greatest impact on me were the ones I read when I was at school.

What is your favourite part of being an author?

That I sit down at my desk every day and get to make up stuff for my job. I can’t believe my luck.

What do you have to do to become an author?

Write a really amazing, unique book.

Can you describe being an author in three words?

Rewarding, creative, fun.

Toppsta
2021-07-21
Reader Q&A with M.G. Leonard

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Book pages Placeholder Book

Twitch

From the internationally bestselling author of Beetle Boy and the Adventures on Trains series, comes the first book in The Twitchers, a brand new mystery adventure series celebrating friendship, bravery and the incredible world of birds, starring a birdwatching detective called Twitch!

Can a birdwatcher outwit an escaped convict?

Twitch has three pet chickens, four pigeons, swallows nesting in his bedroom and a passion for birdwatching. On the first day of the summer holidays, he arrives at his secret hide to find police everywhere: a convicted robber has broken out of prison and is hiding in Aves Wood. Can Twitch use his talents for birdwatching to hunt for the dangerous prisoner and find the missing loot?

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20th July 2021

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Featured Book
Nura and the Immortal Palace
Nura and the Immortal Palace

BOOK OF THE MONTH - This gripping, magical middle-grade adventure is rooted in Muslim culture and tradition and follows a young girl's journey from modern-day Pakistan into the world of the jinn. Written by debut author M. T. Khan.

View book
Featured Books