Author Emma Warner-Reed talks to Today’s Child about her fantastic Dotty series and shares her family’s favourite Christmas reads
What are the Dotty books about?
The series starts with Dotty and the Calendar House Key. Dotty is sent to live with her Great Uncle Winchester after her parents die in a firework accident. She hears strange noises coming from the chimneys in her new home, which is a huge, crumbling, country pile called The Calendar House in the Yorkshire Moors. She is told by the old cook, Mrs Gobbins, that the noises come from nesting jackdaws, but Dotty suspects there are other factors at play. The series chronicles her adventures in the house and the magical world she discovers beyond it.
Which is your favourite character and why?
I should say Dotty, but actually I love the ‘baddies’. In the first book, I loved Porguss and Poachling. They are just so hideous and greasy, you can almost smell them! In the second book [Dotty and the Chimney Thief] I love Mordecai, the Vagabond King’s evil henchman. I love the way he loses his feathers when he’s flustered (he’s a magpie). Dotty fans keep telling me they like the Hob character. He’s a bit of a trickster and you never know what he’s going to do next. He also features in the next book, Dotty and the Dream Catchers, due out next year.
What’s the key to writing a successful children’s book?
I would say it’s creating memorable characters and a hero or heroine children can identify with. My heroine, Dotty, is a feisty little Welsh girl. She is a really strong female role model that girls can identify with, but she’s also a bit of a tomboy; always in jeans and a sweatshirt, and rollerblading wherever she goes. The secondary character, Pip, who acts as Dotty’s foil, is a great male character, so the book appeals to boys and girls.
Why is it so important for children to read?
Reading feeds the imagination, and brings experiences and emotions to children that they are yet to experience or feel, or that they can share with the characters they meet. It also broadens vocabulary and helps with their English comprehension.
My children read daily – out loud, to themselves and to each other – and I also read to them, so they get a broad range of literature thrown their way. I think giving them plenty of opportunity to read different types of text and letting them experience them in different ways is key. We love to visit the library and I find it’s a great environment for them to explore titles they might not otherwise pick up and that I might not think to suggest.
What do your children like to read?
My eldest (eight) loves adventure stories, humour and anything to do with dragons! My six year-old devours fact books by the dozen, but he’s just discovered David Walliams so he’s going through those at the moment. My four-year-old isn’t reading yet, but she enjoys picture books. Peter Bently is a real favourite in our house. And the little one is all about Peppa Pig, and anything with flaps to lift and hidden elements to explore.
The little ones adore the poem ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’. We have a super version with sound effect buttons that they can press at different parts of the poem, which they love doing.
Emma’s girls love…
Snow Bears by Martin Waddell (Walker Books)
This enchanting family tale is available in a special mini pop-up edition. When Mummy Bear comes out to play with her baby bears she finds three small snow bears instead. They don’t look like her baby bears, but they love to play exactly the same games. Three little bears, a game of snowballs and hot toast by an open fire are the magical ingredients brought together in Snow Bears.
Emma’s four-year-old’s favourite is…
Stick Man by Julia Donaldson (Alison Green Books)
Stick Man is another classic from the creators of The Gruffalo and Room on the Broom, Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. Stick Man lives in the family tree with his Stick Lady Love and their stick children three. But it’s dangerous being a Stick Man. A dog wants to play with him, a swan builds her nest with him and he even ends up on a fire! Will he ever get back to the family tree?
The whole family loves…
Slinky Malinki’s Christmas Crackers (Hairy Maclary and Friends) by Lynley Dodd (Puffin)
If your kids love great storylines and fun rhyme, Slinky Malinki’s Christmas Crackers is the perfect choice. Lynley Dodd’s cracking Christmas tale is told in rollicking, rhythmic rhyme. Festive preparations are being made in Slinky Malinki’s house and the mischievous cat is most curious about the Christmas tree. With its reindeer, ribbons, baubles and bells, it’s too tempting a treat for Slinky not to investigate.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss
We have yet to find a child who doesn’t love Dr. Seuss’ books. This classic tale tells the story of the disgruntled Grinch and his fiendish attempts to steal Christmas from the citizens of Who-ville. With wacky rhymes and zany illustrations from the master himself, it has been a seasonal favourite with young readers for more than 40 years. The movie is pretty good too!
Another one for the Christmas list…
Dotty and the Chimney Thief by Emma Warner-Reed
If you’ve already read Dotty and the Calendar House Key (and if not, why not?), we highly recommend Dotty and the Chimney Thief. There’s a Chimney Thief on the loose and little Joe Raman has gone missing. Can Pip stop the Chimney Thief before the portals have been sealed forever?