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Hilary McKay won the Costa Children's Book Award for The Skylarks' War, the Guardian Fiction Prize for The Exiles, and the Smarties and the Whitbread Award for The Exiles in Love and Saffy's Angel respectively. Hilary McKay's Fairy Tales was her first book with Macmillan Children's Books and is a critically acclaimed collection of clever retellings.
You can read her character Rose Casson's blog by clicking here - and Rose's tweets on the right hand side of this page.
Q & A with Hilary McKay
What is your earliest childhood memory?
Watching steam trains with my grandfather. He died before I was two years
old, so that is a very early memory.
If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?
Well, who could turn down the gift of flight? Or travel without luggage? Or a
life spent following the sun? Without doubt, I would be a swallow. I realise this
means a lifetime of eating flies, but I think it would be worth it.
What is your dream holiday destination?
I would start at the Sangre de Cristo mountains in New Mexico and travel South
through Central America, along the coast to Peru, then down through Chile
across to the Falklands and on to Antarctica, which I would circumnavigate.
Then I would travel North to New Zealand where I would spend a long time
warming up and then across to Australia. I would spend quite a long time in
Sydney and go up into the Blue Mountains (I might go sapphire hunting there)
and then to the Great Barrier Reef (of course).
That would be far enough for me.
What is your morning routine?
Alas, I do not have a morning routine.
If you could have one special talent, what would it be?
Singing, undoubtedly. That would make me the happiest. But I have a friend
whose talent is languages and I envy that one very much.
Likes: Millions of things! Books, cats, honey, letters from readers (hint, hint), real music, apples, swimming in cold water, chocolate coated ginger biscuits, trees.
Dislikes: Putting things away, litter, loud TV, hot rooms, being told what to think.
3 words that best descibe me: Untidy, happy, hopeful!
A Secret that not many people know: I am a VERY slow reader!
Described as a companion piece, rather than a sequel, to the acclaimed Skylark’s War, it is nevertheless a real joy to meet some of the original characters again, but new readers fear not, this book absolutely stands alone. I think that this author is unsurpassed in character development, with every wonderfully economic, but beautifully crafted phrase or fragment of dialogue we are drawn deeper into these young lives. At first overshadowed by the threat of war and then trying to survive within it are cousins Ruby Amaryllis and Kate and across the channel and on the other side of the conflict, best friends Hans and Erik, who bond initially over saving orphaned fledgling swallows. Indeed swallows become a motif for hope throughout the book. Another real strength of the writing is in depicting recognisably real family dynamics and relationships. As the war tears families apart, we see how the strength of family can also bring people together. The multiple perspectives (including eventually Dog, the mistreated scrapyard dog abandoned in the Blitz) build a really rich and unbiased picture of lives gradually and increasingly impacted by war. Allowing readers to empathise with the different plights on each side of the conflict is a real asset for those studying the history of the period and whilst not skirting over or underplaying any of the true horrors of war, the underlying message is one of hope in the capacity of humanity to show compassion across all borders and barriers. Sensitive, perceptive and immensely powerful, this superb novel is a beautifully polished gem that will leave an indelible impression on the reader.
Caddy's World is the prequel to Hilary McKay's laugh-out-loud, award-winning Casson Family series. Best friends, boyfriends, problem parents, pink hair. Brothers, sisters, fireworks and unexpected babies. Welcome to Caddy's World. Travel back to when Caddy was a young girl and Rose had not been born, in this moving and comical prequel to the award-winning Saffy's Angel. Follow the family's adventures in the rest of the beloved series: Saffy's Angel, Indigo's Star, Permanent Rose, Caddy Ever After and Forever Rose.
Hilary McKay has a brilliant ear for family dialogue as well as a shrewd understanding of the passions of adolescence and a wickedly sure touch about the complex ins and outs of sibling relationships. Permanent Rose is one of the large Casson family whose lives have been described in previous stories. When Indigo’s friend Tom goes back to the US, Permanent Rose is left moping for him and longing for his return. But, will he come back? All the rest of the family have worries of their own which make them too busy to care but Permanent Rose is on a mission and she won’t give up lightly.
Forever Rose is both funny and touching. The author has a deft lightness of touch that teenagers all over will enjoy. Told over just one month in the lead up to new year’s eve it has all the hallmarks of a great read for teenagers and an antidote to all that is bad in our world today.
Saffy's Angel really deserves the top honours. This heavenly little book tells the story of Cadmium, Saffron, Indigo and Rose, siblings who are each as colourful as their exotic names suggest. Saffy's Angel is written with a simple, understated elegance that allows the reader access to the kind of family we would all, secretly, love to belong to. Each character is drawn with an enviable artistry coupled with, one suspects, a tongue-in the cheek that adds a sharp realistic air to a modern household with a heart of pure, old-fashioned gold. And it is these fabulous characters who lead the unfurling of the story, easing the reader through the pages with an irresistible wit and warmth that smartly avoids cosiness but nonetheless leaves a soothing rosy glow. Hilary’s real strength lies in her understanding of young people and her ability to evoke them very simply.
Written in a light and witty style the ongoing sagas of the Casson family remain a must for that nearly teenage market and this one sees Caddy falling in love and getting married but not to the person everyone thinks. McKay’s ability to understand young people and to be able to write about their daily life – falling in love, going out, living as a family and keeping relationships – is second to none.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2021 | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month September 2020 | When Abi’s newly forged family moves to an eccentric new home which is totally covered in ivy, strange things begin to happen to her and to her step-brothers Louis and Max. With their parents either away or too busy to notice, Abi finds herself falling into the books she is reading – she can feel the damp of the sea and taste the salt on her fingers - while Louie tempts an unusual and dangerous animal companion into his bedroom from the ivy. Can Abi and Max help Louie get rid of his dangerous new friend and will things get back to normal when their parents come home? Hilary McKay’s storytelling is vivid; she makes magic seem real while also showing why believing in it is so important.
A new book from Hilary McKay is always a joy – and this one does not disappoint. A newly blended family move into an ivy covered, slightly eerie house that has room for them all. They work to find a way to make their new family grouping compatible. Abi struggles to get used to her two new brothers, Max and young Louis. She resents that she has to share her father Theo, and her Granny Grace’s letters from Jamaica. The new family all spend time and energy making the house their own, but mysterious things happen as they settle in. Abi seems to be able to fall right into the books she reads until she actually experiences salt spray and the green flash of parrots in the room with her. Similarly, Louis summons a visitor, but as Louis’s visitor becomes more and more frightening, he has to work with Abi and Max to send his visitor back from where it had magically sprung up. This is a totally engaging read, full of green magic, imagination and family dynamics that feel authentic and realistic. The theme of cooperation and support running through are uplifting, though not necessarily easily achieved. Highly recommended.
Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Winner of the Costa Children's Book Award 2018 | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month January 2019 | One of our 2018 Books of the Year | Award winning Hilary McKay tells a captivating and deeply moving story of three young people growing up in the years before and during World War One. How their lives were totally changed by the War, how what really happened to the soldiers could never be talked about and how a girl like Clarry suddenly had opportunities because of the war are all touched on in a story that is also about universal adolescent relationships and the timeless concerns of being a teenager. Following their mother’s death at her birth, Clarry and her older brother Peter live a joyless life with their gloomy father. The pair live for their summer holidays in Cornwall with their grandparents which they share with their older cousin Rupert. Here, the trio are free to be themselves and to begin to break away from the constraints of family expectations. When war is declared Rupert enlists: his family is horrified and Clarry and Peter are left trying to work out where he might be, how they themselves should react to the war and, above all, whether Rupert is safe. Hilary McKay has a rare gift for novels about families and their interplay. Here, she weaves her story round one of the most powerful backdrops in history. And she does so with the lightest of touch which makes her history come alive.
Winner of the Costa Children's Book Award 2018 | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month October 2018 |One of our 2018 Books of the Year | Award winning Hilary McKay tells a captivating and deeply moving story of three young people growing up in the years before and during World War One. How their lives were totally changed by the War, how what really happened to the soldiers could never be talked about and how a girl like Clarry suddenly had opportunities because of the war are all touched on in a story that is also about universal adolescent relationships and the timeless concerns of being a teenager. Following their mother’s death at her birth, Clarry and her older brother Peter live a joyless life with their gloomy father. The pair live for their summer holidays in Cornwall with their grandparents which they share with their older cousin Rupert. Here, the trio are free to be themselves and to begin to break away from the constraints of family expectations. When war is declared Rupert enlists: his family is horrified and Clarry and Peter are left trying to work out where he might be, how they themselves should react to the war and, above all, whether Rupert is safe. Hilary McKay has a rare gift for novels about families and their interplay. Here, she weaves her story round one of the most powerful backdrops in history. And she does so with the lightest of touch which makes her history come alive. The Costa Judges said: ‘Chime, resonance and sparkle – a truly great read.’
This is an absolutely stunning book. Not only is it an absolute treat visually but it's also a feast for the imagination for lovers of fairy tales and the ever elusive happy ever after. Hilary has brought her own unique touch to well known and loved fairy-tales. Fairy-tales that we know so well and yet with her refreshing, imaginative touch have been made new for us. The ten retellings including Rapunzel, Cinderella, Red Riding Hood , The Princess and the Pea, Rumpelstiltskin, The Pied Piper of Hamelin, The Swan Brothers. Hansel and Gretel, amongst others.This is a selection that lovers of fairy tales, old and young, will love to read again and again. Combined with beautiful illustrations by Sarah Gibb, this will be a collection to treasure. ~ Shelley Fallows - You can also find Shelley here.