Scavengers turns two! (Plus recent news nuggets)

First things first. Wherever you are, whoever you are, I hope you’re well and healthy and hanging in there.

This is a quick post to share some news nuggets, the most recent being that March saw Scavengers hit its second birthday. Whoop whoop! I celebrated in style by (a) singing happy birthday to my toddling book, and (b) seeing whether I could fit an entire birthday muffin into my mouth. You can check out the results of my messy experiment here. Real classy.

Beyond blueberry gluttony, there’s other news too.

Firstly, I’m delighted to say that Scavengers has been selected as part of Empathy Lab’s 2021 #ReadForEmpathy collection! Every year, Empathy Lab recommends a collection of books designed to nurture empathy – something that’s truly vital during pandemic times – in young people. To have Scavengers‘ empathy-stirring qualities recognised in this way means a huge amount to me, and I highly recommend you check out the collection’s other brilliant titles. Here’s what Empathy Lab say about Scavengers:

“Landfill lives as a scavenger and longs to venture Outside. At the heart of this strange world is the need for connection and hope. A shocking, poignant, unforgettable blast of a read, about breaking down walls and facing fears head on.”

Next comes some particularly awesome news. Brace yourself.

If you’ve been following Scavengers, you may know about the inspiration I took from children living on landfill sites in developing countries. One landfill site I became familiar with during book research was Bantar Gebang in Indonesia. I was really moved by photos taken by Javad Tizmaghz of its scavenger community, and asked Javad for permission to use his photos in school presentations about my book. Javad was incredibly kind and gracious; he not only gave me his permission, but also offered to send a copy of Scavengers to Bantar Gebang.

Photo by Javad Tizmaghz for The Guardian

The thought of Scavengers reaching the very people who’d helped inspire it blew my mind, and before I knew it I was in contact with Resa Boenard, who runs the BGBJ hostel that does so much to support Bantar Gebang’s families. On top of that, my wonderful publisher, Usborne, offered to send a box of copies of Scavengers to Bantar Gebang’s school! Here’s one of those very copies, modelled by Resa at the landfill site:

Incredible, right? Scavengers has gone full circle and found its way to the source of its inspiration. It’s something I never would have dreamed of.

Moving quickly on (before I start welling up over the whole Bantar Gebang thing), I’m ultra-chuffed to be working with the Literacy Trust’s Read On Nottingham hub again, this time to support the Trust’s #ConnectingStories campaign. This is an Arts Council-funded initiative designed to get young people and communities engaged with books and writing, in an attempt to help children’s wellbeing and literacy in disadvantaged areas. This is more crucial now than ever due to the damage done on these fronts by the pandemic. You can find full details of this brilliant project here, and I feel honoured to be joining authors L.D. Lapinksi and William Hussey in promoting the campaign in Nottingham. We’ll be getting involved in virtual school visits and writing competitions (watch this space) and much more.

One final thing: I’d like to talk about World Book Day. It may not have been your average World Book Day this year, but it takes more than a global pandemic to quell people’s passion for books and reading. I couldn’t visit any schools in person, but I had the honour of talking books on BBC Radio Nottingham that morning, and then visiting Seely School, Eden Boys’ School and the Ashcombe School virtually to talk about Scavengers and the many joys of reading and writing. It was fantastic to see all the bookish costumes that day, and to engage with so many savvy, imaginative and enthusiastic students.

But the most emotional highlight of the day had to be seeing my eldest son dress up as Landfill from Scavengers. It was all his idea, I swear. I can’t deny that some of my son’s personality made it into Landfill’s character, so it was a strange and moving thing to see him dressed as the book’s young hero.

Here he is, with his homemade dross cape in all its grubby glory:

Again, Scavengers seems to be coming full circle. Which seems somehow apt as it hits its second birthday. Things move so quickly in children’s publishing, and I’m so pleased to see Scavengers still finding fans and popping up in all sorts of unexpected places, even two years after publication.

But enough about Scavengers, right? Can I really keep milking just one book?

Probably not. But thankfully I’ll soon have another book to harp on about. Usborne are publishing my next novel this summer, and I can’t wait to share it with you. Official news will be released this spring, so watch this space…