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A.F. Harrold is an English poet (1975-present). He writes and performs for adults and children, in cabaret and in schools, in bars and in basements, in fields and indoors. He was Glastonbury Festival Website's Poet-In-Residence in 2008, and Poet-In-Residence at Cheltenham Literature Festival in 2010. He won the Cheltenham All Stars Slam Championship in 2007 and has had his work on BBC Radio 4, Radio 3 and BBC7. He is active in schools work, running workshops and slams and doing performances at ungodly hours of the morning, and has published several collections of poetry. He is the owner of many books, a handful of hats, a few good ideas and one beard. He spends his time showing off on stage, writing poems and books, and stroking his beard (it helps churn the ideas). He is the author of the Fizzlebert Stump series and the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medal longlisted The Imaginary, illustrated by Emily Gravett. The Imaginary is the winner of the 7-11 category of the UKLA Awards. A.F Harrold lives in Reading with a stand-up comedian and two cats.
A Q&A with the author
1. What are your 5 favourite books, and why?
Five books I like (the word ‘favourite’ is invidious and unrealistic, of course): Delight by J.B. Priestley (a collection of perfect tiny essays about things that made him happy); Gentleman Jim by Raymond Briggs (the only one of his books I had as a kid, and a wonderful sad-hopeful story); The Green Knight by Iris Murdoch (this could almost stand for any of her novels, odd unfashionable monsters that I adore); The Story Giant by Brian Patten (the poet’s lightness of touch makes this collection of folk (and other) tales a melt in the mouth read); Memorial by Alice Oswald (a marvellously moving piece of war poetry, a translation of the Iliad told as a list of the dead, simple and hugely effective).
2. Who are your 5 favourite authors/illustrators, and why?
Again, no favourites, per se, but at various times in my life the following five have been important to me: Barbara Firth (the greatest illustrator of bears in children’s books full stop, no argument); J.R.R. Tolkien (for, almost accidentally, allowing us a glimpse into his lifelong private world-building exercise); Norman MacCaig (one of the great poets of nature and time and thought – never fussy and complex, but always sharp, charming and short); Iris Murdoch (for her ungainly, unlikely, unworldly novels of love and philosophy; Jill Bennett (I have a print of her drawing of the BFG (from Danny Champion of the World) on the wall by my desk, which is so many times more mysterious and fascinating than Blake’s BFG that became the standard).
3. What was your favourite book when you were a child?
Let’s plump for The Hobbit. It was a book that certainly hooked my imagination and tangled me up in its world. I went to sleep listening to the tapes of it.
4. Who is your favourite hero in a book?
How about the boy in The Witches simply for what he does and what he goes through and how he ends up. There’s pluck for you.
5. Who is your favourite villain in a book?
I have a soft spot for both Mr Gum and Mr Twit. Every villain needs a good beard, surely?
6. If you could be a character from a book who would you be?
I’d like to think I could be Professor Calculus, but I’d probably discover I was Thompson or Thomson.
7. If you could recommend just one book for everyone to read what would it be?
I wouldn’t suggest there’s any book everyone ought to read, but one that I’d happily share out is Spike Milligan’s Silly Verse For Kids. It would take a sour puss indeed to not find something in there to raise a grin.
8. Who or what was your biggest influence in deciding to become a writer?
My inability to think of anything else to do. To make poems was the only thing that felt right. Every now and then one of them isn’t terrible. And now stories seem to happen as well.
9. What inspired you to write your latest book?
The Imaginary came about because of two thoughts that occurred around the same time. One was the image of an imaginary boy stood by the side of the road after an accident. He was on his own for the first time. He was beginning to fade. The other was a thought of a canteen, a greasy spoon sort of place, full of big blokes with ‘I love Mum’ tattoos and mugs of builder’s tea and cigarettes on the go. A foreman type walks in with a clipboard and says, ‘Little Billy Jones needs a friend …’ and one of the hairy Neanderthal-ish chaps gets up and says, ‘Okay boss,’ and goes out the door, squeezing himself into whatever shape Billy Jones wants his imaginary friend to be. So, an agency for imaginary friends. Neither of the those images/pictures/thoughts makes it unchanged into the book, but they were the initial spurs.
10. When did you start writing?
I began writing poetry seriously (and awfully) as a teenager, but I’d had a typewriter as a kid and banged away on it, though I’ve no idea and no memory of what I was writing.
11. If someone wanted to be a writer what would be your number one tip for them?
Just keep on with it. The more you do it, the better you’ll get. And read lots.
Photo credit: Naomi Woddis
Two phenomenally talented people are united in this book, and it is hard to know which of them – poet A.F. Harrold or illustrator Mini Grey – had the most fun creating it. Either way, the end product is glorious, an entirely essential collection of poems offering unforgettable advice on an extraordinary range of subjects. Scanning through the index will give you an idea of the topics covered, and how: the entry for banana, for example, reads how to identify a … while that for pencil case is why you shouldn’t muddle one up with a lunchbox … There are three entries for tiger, referring you to very useful poems, including the one that explains just how many tigers it takes to spoil a picnic. Harrold is a master of the absurd, taking ideas or phrases and turning them quite round about and Mini Grey illustrates his poems with an equal delight in the possibilities he conjures up. Most of the poems are wonderfully comic, but there’s space for quiet, thoughtful verse too. It’s a book to fire the imagination and to make you see things in a whole new way, like a poet in fact.
Fizzlebert Stump’s Circus is back for a second riotous show during which everything can – and does – go terribly wrong. The new act features the very, very hairy Barboozul family which includes Wystan, the bearded son. Fizzlebert - his mum is a clown and dad is a strongman - is used to oddities but he has never come across a bearded boy. Will the two become friends? Many strange things happen at the Circus before anything as obvious as that happens in a delightfully chaotic and imaginative romp. This is Fizzlebert Stump’s second adventure - which began with Fizzlebert Stump The Boy Who Ran Away from the Circus (and Joined the Library).
A hero with a difference! Fizzlebert Stump wants to make changes to his life. Bored with life in the circus, he is determined to run away and join…the Library! How Fizzlebert sets out to achieve his goal and gets kidnapped by some unlikely villains for his audacity is a riotous romp which will be loved by all fans of Mr Gum! In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion for Fizzlebert Stump the Boy who ran away from the Circus (and joined the Library) a small number of children were lucky enough to be invited to review this title. Scroll down to read their reviews... Books in The Fizzlebert Stump Series: 1. Fizzlebert Stump: The Boy Who Ran Away From The Circus 2. Fizzlebert Stump and the Bearded Boy 3. Fizzlebert Stump: The Boy Who Cried Fish 4. Fizzlebert Stump And The Girl Who Lifted Quite Heavy Things 5. Fizzlebert Stump: The Boy Who Did PE In His Pants 6. Fizzlebert Stump and the Great Supermarket Showdown
Shortlisted for the CLiPPA 2020 | This stunning poetry book is beautifully illustrated in full colour by rising star Katy Riddell (daughter of former Children's Laureate, Chris Riddell) and is the perfect present - at Christmas or any other time year. It will have the poetry and food fans in your life licking their lips!
Awarded the Amnesty CILIP Honour from the Kate Greenaway Medal shortlist 2018 | Shortlisted for the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal 2018 | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month November 2017 | Longlisted for the UKLA 2018 Book Award | Award-winning A.F. Harrold blends reality and imagination in a moving and thought-provoking story about friendship, loneliness and being brave when things are difficult. Bullied at school and unsupported at home, Frank makes an unusual friendship with Nick, the weird boy in her class who everyone else shuns. After Nick rescues Frank from the bullies, she goes round to his house where she discovers something very unusual. What should Frank believe about what she sees? And should she keep Nick’s secret? Levi Penfold’s illustrations add to the illusory feel of this story that tests imagination and belief and leaves the reader wondering.
Greta Zargo is an unusual 11-year-old. An orphan she’s lived on her own since the age of 8 thanks to an unfortunate but legally-binding error on her parents’ otherwise carefully thought-out will. A junior reporter on the local paper, Greta is determined her summer scoop will be solving the mystery surrounding a series of cake thefts. Meanwhile, in outer space a huge space-going robot is heading towards Earth to take over our planet. The two stories zing along in parallel before coming together beautifully at the book’s climax, and thanks to another typo on a key document. The comical characters and situations will thoroughly entertain young readers while the author’s delight in words ad language adds another dimension. Readers who enjoy Greta’s adventure should look out for books by Andy Stanton and Philip Ardagh, who employ similarly knowing narrative voices, and will also enjoy Norton Juster’s classic The Phantom Tollbooth.
Longlisted for the UKLA 2018 Book Award A Julia Eccleshare Book of the Month November 2016 Award-winning A.F. Harrold blends reality and imagination in a moving and thought-provoking story about friendship, loneliness and being brave when things are difficult. Bullied at school and unsupported at home, Frank makes an unusual friendship with Nick, the weird boy in her class who everyone else shuns. After Nick rescues Frank from the bullies, she goes round to his house where she discovers something very unusual. What should Frank believe about what she sees? And should she keep Nick’s secret? Levi Penfold’s illustrations add to the illusory feel of this story that tests imagination and belief and leaves the reader wondering. ~ Julia Eccleshare Julia Eccleshare's Picks of the Month for November 2016 The Song from Somewhere Else by A. F. Harrold and Levi Pinfold Murder in Midwinter by Fleur Hitchcock Winnie and Wilbur Meet Santa by Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul Rover and the Big Fat Baby by Roddy Doyle and Chris Judge Penguin Problems by Jory John and Lane Smith The Giant's Necklace by Michael Morpurgo and Briony May Smith
Winner of the UKLA 2016 Book Award in the 7 - 11 year old category. A richly visualised story which explores imaginary friends and the very special role they play in children’s lives. Amanda and her imaginary friend Rudger have the best of times playing together. While Amanda’s mother accepts the existence of Rudger she can’t actually see him. He is only visible to Amanda until the sinister Mr Bunting and the pale girl who travels with him turn up on the doorstep. Mr Bunting is searching out imaginaries with sinister intentions. When Amanda is hit by a car Rudger goes on the run and learns the rules of being an imaginary. Emily Gravett’s illustrations capture the hazy world of the imaginaries brilliantly. ~ Julia Eccleshare
A story of circus rivalry, learning who you really are, and the problem of oddly-shaped vegetables. Fizzlebert needs to reunite his friend the Bearded Boy with his long-lost parents, and find himself a new act. Luckily, the strongest girl in the world is there to help... Brilliantly bonkers and perfect for fans of Mr Gum and Lemony Snicket. Some of our readers were lucky enough to review the first and second Fizzlebert books - Freya Hudson, age 10 said - 'I have read both the Fizzlebert books. If you like funny, exciting and entertaining books, read about Fizzlebert Stump. The author keeps the reader gripped by the way he ends each chapter, making you want to read on to find out what happens next. Even my mum enjoyed this book and I had to keep telling her what was happening!' Click on the links to read more reviews for Fizzlebert Stump The Boy Who Ran Away from the Circus (and Joined the Library) and Fizzlebert Stump and the Bearded Boy.
November 2014 Book of the Month A richly visualised story which explores imaginary friends and the very special role they play in children’s lives. Amanda and her imaginary friend Rudger have the best of times playing together. While Amanda’s mother accepts the existence of Rudger she can’t actually see him. He is only visible to Amanda until the sinister Mr Bunting and the pale girl who travels with him turn up on the doorstep. Mr Bunting is searching out imaginaries with sinister intentions. When Amanda is hit by a car Rudger goes on the run and learns the rules of being an imaginary. Emily Gravett’s illustrations capture the hazy world of the imaginaries brilliantly.