Tiny Tapir Trouble

I didn’t mean to leave it 6 months but 6 months it must have been because it seems it’s time to celebrate the imminent publication of the THIRD set of Mango and Bambang’s adventures: ‘Tiny Tapir Trouble’, all wrapped up in glorious turquoise stripes, comes out on the 1st September. Which is this very Thursday. Two days away. Whoopee! There are four more adventures for our friends inside which might involve sandcastles, mustard on the snout, an unexpected parcel and stomach settling doughnuts. More than that I cannot possibly say of course.

This very Thursday, 1st September, also by coincidence marks 6 months to the day that my nephew left us. Since Elliott’s death there have been many beautiful tributes and fundraisers in his memory. Newspaper articles have been written. Cups and theatres and prizes have been named in his honour. Races have been run, hats sold and shows performed to raise money for charity in his name. These active remembrances continue and they help.

‘Tiny Tapir Trouble’ is my contribution. It is dedicated to Elliott. The stories in it have a loose theme of the different ways of belonging to a family and what it means to be part of one. And family of course can include not just those people directly related to you but those you are close to in other ways too. To celebrate Elliott and mourn 6 months without him, his relatives and friends; his lucky family, are meeting this week to picnic together on his favourite meal of Pad Thai washed down with Dirty Chais in a Sydney park. I’m sorry I can’t join them but there will be Pad Thai on the menu here too. Although I might pass on the Dirty Chai and find a turquoise cocktail instead for my toasts. If that’s okay Elliott? This one’s for you anyway dear nevvy.

And one final treat. The paperback of The Not-a-Pig also comes out on Thursday. Look! It’s wrapped in shiny purple stripes like a chocolate bar…

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Tapir All at Sea

Last week, appropriately enough on World Book Day too, Mango and Bambang’s second set of adventures; ‘Tapir All at Sea’ was published.

Red stripes and sailor hats, Flamenco dancing and a Museum of the Unusual; not to mention a noodle salad coated diamond ring on a tapir’s bottom- I am very proud of this book. Clara’s illustrations are purest JOY, especially those that introduce a small new friend for Bambang. I do hope you like it too.

Any new book celebrations, school assemblies and events were put on hold however following heartbreak for my family. My dear, funny, talented and above all kind 21 year old nephew lost his brief battle with cancer. I flew to Sydney, to be with my sister and the rest of his immediate family and friends, for the beginning of our learning-to-be-without him. We are all at sea.

In the midst of our devastation, large and small acts of kindness inspired, I like to think, by Elliott’s own, made and continue to make a difference for those left behind. Friends brought meals, provided haircuts, baked for a thousand funeral guests, sang for him, spoke and wrote moving words for him, and now organise fundraisers and think of fitting acts of remembrance.

While I was away, my friends here rallied to help look after my boys and sent daily messages of comfort and distraction (including pictures of Tapir All at Sea in bookshops- correctly assessing even grief-felled authors have egos to massage). Clara waved a stripy flag for two on Twitter and blog.

And I have felt hugged just like this. And I am grateful.

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Firsts

It’s February tomorrow (yippee! January isn’t anyone’s favourite really is it?), which makes it officially one month until the publication of ‘Tapir All At Sea’; my and Clara’s second set of adventures about Mango and Bambang. It’s coming out on March 3rd in fact, which just happens to also be World Book Day: A very good date indeed. I wonder if anyone will be dressing as a tapir this year?

And so, just before the Christmas, I had my first experience of receiving my first copy of my second book. Which turned out to be EXACTLY as exciting as my first experience of receiving my first copy of my first book. I did a lot of whooping and cradling and running round in circles again and then I put it on my Christmas tree as its most magnificent red and gold bauble.

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This week I had another first; my first proper author visit to a school where none of the children knew me already and, more critically, without Clara there to wow all with the drawing of beautiful things.

I was particularly nervous when I arrived and discovered that all the classes were named after carnivorous predators. Would Bambang and I escape the Lions, Pumas, Jaguars, Panthers, Leopards and… TIGERS alive??

Fortunately they turned out to be pussy cats in disguise, and I had a fantastic time talking tapirs with some of the already-experts and introducing others to their charms for the first time. All the children had some very thoughtful questions for me. My favourites were: “Do you and JK Rowling and Roald Dahl often hang out together?” (to which the answer was a sad “No,” in the case of JK and rather more relieved “No” in the case of Roald…) and “What’s the meaning of your work?”; the answer to which I will be pondering for many years to come.

And they in their turn got to be the FIRST SCHOOL IN THE WORLD to have a sneaky peek at ‘Tapir All at Sea’ and hear the beginning of the first story. They seemed to like it. I hope you will too.

So a huge THANK YOU to magnificent Alexandra Primary School for looking after this first time author so well. I feel I can do anything now.

Brun

Finally, here’s a lovely picture of Mango and Bambang I was sent this week. Doesn’t he have a magnificent snout? As I have now been efficient enough to add a Contact Me bit to this website, do send me any other pictures or even questions if you would like to. I am especially good at the easier questions like, “Is Polly Faber your real name?” and “How old are you?” but I am up for practising the trickier ones too…

New Things

A year or so ago, a local friend set up a group called ‘Mostly Firstly’. The idea was that each of its members would take responsibility for a month of the year and undertake to organise an activity that most of us would be doing for the first time. I was pleased to join in and it’s been a lot of fun. In the last year I have created cocktails, been taught origami, told a story for the Moth in Shoreditch, attended an immersive theatre experience, kayaked, practiced archery, escaped from a locked room of clues and made my own bacon.

And last week, best of all perhaps, I flew!

To do it I had to throw myself into the top of an enormous pipe, aware that there was only a tiny net separating me from a 100 foot drop into an enormous churning fan.

It was all PERFECTLY safe of course, but I am Not Good with heights (The word “plummeting” haunts my subconscious. I am totally Bambang on the top board at the swimming pool). When I’d signed up for flying, I’d somehow had the idea that there would be a solid floor right beneath me. A brief consideration of the physics of aerodynamics would have shown that to be unlikely, but physics, as my poor physicist academic father would have attested, was never my strong suit.

So when I first saw it in reality, I wasn’t sure whether I could do it.

To chicken out would have been terribly embarrassing so I shut my eyes and jumped. And it was totally wonderful. Not scary at all as soon as I was actually there. One of the more memorable minute and 15 seconds of my life.

We all got a second go with the package we’d signed up for. On this flight the instructor tried to get us to balance solo and steer. It was much more uncontrolled, with a lot of careering towards walls or shameful sinking into the net. Still exhilarating but I felt more aware of the complexities involved; of how much there would be to learn to make it look effortless.

I’m trying to write something new which isn’t stories for Mango and Bambang at the moment (the second and third set of those are done and there’ll be the fourth to start on in early Spring) but it feels rather like that second flight. There’s been a fair bit of floundering and crashing into walls but thankfully this week, moments of poise and fluidity too. As long as I remember to keep my chin up and not look at the churning fan and the void below I might even call it fun.

And if I do crash badly, at least there’ll be pizza. Mostly Firstly are cheese making next month…

 

 

 

 

 

Lovely Launching

On Thursday, Mango and Bambang were officially, properly launched into high society with purple prosecco, swanee whistle dueting and over-consumption of stripy cupcakes.

It was a LOT of fun. We held our first children’s event in the afternoon and followed it with a slightly (but only slightly) more grown up affair in the evening, both held in lovely Pickled Pepper bookshop in Crouch End.

Friends new and old came to celebrate with Clara’s and my families, and there was wonderful support from our brilliant publishers at Walker Books. Honoured guests ranged in age from 4 months to 88 years old.

I completely failed to take a single photo, so below are shamelessly pilfered from others. Thank you- THANK YOU- to everyone who joined our party.

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Photos via Twitter, taken by kindness of Hannah and Molly at Walker books and Imogen Russell Williams.

Publication Day

Was yesterday! Finally Mango & Bambang; The Not-a-Pig is in actual, real shops where actual, real copies can be purchased for actual, real money. Amazing.

It was a lot like Christmas. There was overly-early waking and a special breakfast:

banana

Then the opening of presents in the form of lovely messages from family and friends on social media and the giddy thrill of seeing piles of our book waiting, ready to find readers. These ones set for seaside homes from lovely Storytellers inc. in St. Annes-on-Sea:

st annes

And finally, perhaps the biggest excitement of all; a visit to local bookshop Pickled Pepper Books to see a WHOLE WINDOW of Mango and Bambangs. I may have got a little bouncy:

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But still somehow found the strength to manage this glorious purple cocktail to raise a toast:

purple co

To Mango and Bambang! And, without getting too-Oscary, to all who have helped our book get to the lifting large-glasses-with-tiny-umbrella-in stage: Most particularly, of COURSE, Clara, my co-creator, but also our agent Hilary Delamere and all of Team Tapir at Walker Books: Denise Johnstone-Burt and Daisy Jellicoe who edit me with tremendous wisdom and diplomacy and Louise Jackson who has designed such an irresistible package. And now Hannah and Molly and Jo and Sarah and their teams who are working so hard to put our book into as many hands as possible. Cheers!

You can see some of their work by visiting mangoandbambang.com – our new LIVE website featuring a fiendish maze and hats to colour, among other things.

One of the other things being this film. I find it hard to watch because I am in it, but I’m trying hard to manage occasionally because it is also FULL of Clara’s lovely drawings.

And that’s about it. Except for one coda. As I write this, and as Mango and Bambang was being published yesterday, there was another sadder story dominating the headlines. The story of this summer’s flight of refugees from war across Europe and their search for safety, welcome and a place to make a home. And the story of the heartbreaking end faced by some of the most vulnerable of them.

I am not a fan of children’s books with A Message. I certainly don’t want to make any grand claims for my own. I wrote it simply to make myself and others happy. But it is about a brave girl who stands up for a scared stranger in an unfriendly crowd and gives him refuge. I suppose what I want to say is I believe, called upon to do the same, we can all be as welcoming as Mango is to Bambang.

 

One WEEK and our first real Mango!

(to be sung to favourite jaunty marching tune)

One week to go! One week to go! One week- that’s one more week. Just one week to go!

(rest of post not intended to be sung, but do feel free if that’s your preference)

There’s one week to go until the publication of Mango and Bambang; the Not-a-Pig! Did you perhaps gather that already? Yippeee!

I am waking early with nerves again so I’m sublimating with possibly overly in depth ponderings on black and white and purple catering options for our small launch party. My google search history now includes ‘Uses of black sesame seeds’ and ‘Does mini purple endive exist and is it disgusting?’

There’s been essential testing too-

purple crisps

I had a thought, after a helpful discussion on Twitter. that I’d learn how to make macarons. How hard could they be? I’d ignore my previous Epic Failures in Meringue Making and get it right this time. Because what could be a prettier or a more dainty offering than a stack of black (black sesame flavour!) or purple macarons with white filling? I’d start with an easy recipe and work up I thought.

macaron

Oh.

A cube of cheese and an olive on a stick- that’s what people will really enjoy isn’t it?

But then something happened to banish ALL miserable macaron navel-gazing. It’s Book Week in Australian schools this week, when children dress up as a favourite character and Clara was tweeted this picture from Candelo bookshop in Bega, NSW.

Mango

Bega, I have learned, is 260 miles south of Sydney and about 10,700 miles south-east of London. It has a population of just under 5,000 (about the same as Tenby or Frinton) and is famous for its cheese. And there’s an 8 year old girl there, whose parents run an independent book shop, and who has read and liked our book enough to choose to be Mango for the day! That is about the most thrilling thing that has ever happened to me. How wonderful to make that connection on the other side of the world.

Here, exclusively, is “Mango’s” review, too.

“I love how she can do heaps of stuff like karate and baking. I like the kind boy. I like the feeling of not being able to see the dad. I like the funny bits, like where Bambang zooms down the bannister and lands in a heap. I like the story The Song of the Tapir best.”

Thank you Mango and kind parents! I’d offer you a macaron but…

and-oh  did I say?- ONE WEEK!

One Month Countdown!

Today is OFFICIALLY one month until the first Mango and Bambang book will OFFICIALLY be available in OFFICIAL actual shops.

Cor.

I reckon it’s time to try and stop the bouts of frankly annoying, self-indulgent angsting and start enjoying the fun. It helps that kind people with advance copies are saying kind things. It helps that I’m about to go on holiday (taking Bambang too of course, to fill him full of ice cream and sunshine before his big book birthday). It helps that I have been sent a BAR OF CHOCOLATE WITH MY ACTUAL NAME ON by Walker books Australia.

I have a pile of bookmarks and two swanny whistles. I’m (almost) ready to be a proper published author.

Cor-y Cor Cor.

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Another reason to take Bambang on holiday with me. I don’t think I should leave him alone with this-

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Stage Fright

I’ve got a bout of stage fright.

I’ve done some performing. An early interest in shameless showing off led to drama camps and school plays when I was a teenager. Followed by various different trips to the Edinburgh Festival, to sleep on floors and play to audiences of 3 as a student. I even thought I wanted to be a stand up comic at one point.

Although I came to realise that this was in NO WAY what I was best equipped to do, and gave up public showing off in favour of occasional party outings to a karaoke booth, I never suffered from true stage fright. Butterflies and bouncy excitement yes- but not the paralysing, toilet dashing, sweaty sleepless sort that stops people speaking in public.

Yet here I am, 6 weeks away from the publication of my first book, and -OhYesHello- PROPER nerves are building. Whatever else I’m up to at the moment, thinking about, dreaming about, there is a low level accompanying backing track. It beats out the “But what if they don’t like it?” rhythm (with a bit of snare drum and a light thwack of the cymbals at the end).

This is, I realise, Standard Issue Anxiety for debut authors (non debut too). And I am more fortunate than most, because if I can’t quell anxieties about my words, I can look at Clara Vulliamy’s beautiful, warm and funny pictures in Mango and Bambang and calm down. Surely no-one couldn’t like them??

I know, when I am being sensible, that the answer to “But what if they don’t like it” is a simple, “Never mind”. Not all books can be for all people. And I know that I am the luckiest of the lucky to have a book coming into the world to be nervous about at all. Such sensible thinking doesn’t stop the early-morning-chewed-nail-wake-ups though. I suppose because this ‘performing’ on a page turns out to be more me than the on a stage sort.

Last week Clara and I had to conquer our stage butterflies too as we made a small promotional film about our lovely (IHOPEITHINKBUTOHHELPWHATIFIT’SNOT?)(see what I mean?) book.

It was cake fueled and giggle-inducing fun but hard; to talk sensibly and concisely. Actually it was hard to even get to the end of a sentence without forgetting how it had started. Oh dear. When I see the finished product I know I’m going to be watching it from behind a cushion, like a particularly scary Dr Who episode: Aaagh- my voice! Eurrgh-my face! Who IS this charlatan pretending to be an author? Why has no-one found her out yet?

All I can say is hooray for the school summer holidays. 6 weeks of wrestling adjudication, tree climbing, water sprinkler running and fighting with sticks will help use up nervous energy and keep things in perspective.

Because otherwise- EEK! Exciting but really, surprisingly, EEK.

Polly & Clara_1
Making Mango and Bambang-The Movie. See how terror led me to adopt Documentary Presenter Weird Hand Clasp.
Director Jones
At least Jones the Cat lent a steadying if sceptical directorial presence.

Father’s (and mother’s) Day

Today is Midsummer; June 21st and it’s both Father’s Day and my mother’s 80th birthday.

Except.

My father died 10 years ago and is no longer around for me to fail to remember to send him a card in time. My mother missed out on even more cake and candle opportunities; her last birthday was her 48th.

Ah but it IS Midsummer, and if the sun is not quite shining yet, the roses are in full bloom, the first sweet peas are out and I have plans for making chocolate cake and eating strawberries. Being maudlin is no kind of remembrance- a celebratory day is called for.

And- hooray!- there ARE things to celebrate. Mango and Bambang are getting ready to meet the world. And their existence in beautiful stripy purple and gold hardback is a direct legacy of the years I did get to spend with my parents. Of their love. The words I wrote are in part my mother’s and my father’s, born out of all the words they read and spoke to me. Not to mention the words they wrote themselves: I have a box full of my mother’s letters which, although I was of course not the original recipient, make me laugh with recognition as she details the highs and lows of domestic life. Letter writing is a vanishing art but she was really a master of it.

And my father wrote his own book. Here it is, with a page opened at random-

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Just like mine as you can see…teehee.

This week Mango and Bambang got their first mention in the press. Given the teeny amount of column space devoted to reviewing children’s books generally, it is quite likely this will be their ONLY mention in the press, so will you forgive me if I do a small amount of flag waving and immodest showing off here? Fiona Noble, children’s reviewer at The Bookseller, a trade publication for publishers and book sellers, highlighted our book as one of her September top picks:

bookseller review

Definitely a chocolate cake and strawberries day then. Because being a six- year-old’s book of the month is really what it’s all about.

Happy June 21st.