Firefly acquires first poetry collection from Welsh poet Alex Wharton

Firefly acquires first poetry collection from Welsh poet Alex Wharton

We are over the moon to announce that we have acquired world rights in our first poetry collection for children, Daydreams and Jellybeans by South Wales poet Alex Wharton, publishing in spring 2021.

Alex is a senior building surveyor when he isn’t busy writing or performing poetry for both adults and children. He said ‘I am delighted that my collection of children’s poems Daydreams and Jellybeans will be published with Firefly Press. It’s a marvellous opportunity on the quest of connecting people with words. Knowing my poems will reach a wider audience makes me happy – and I hope they spark curiosity and happiness in the people they find.’

Alex has also won the inaugural 2020 Rising Stars Wales Award, an award held in partnership between Literature Wales and Firefly Press, which gives children’s poets from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds based in Wales the opportunity to further develop their skills and writing for children. The runners-up to the award were Sadia Pineda Hameed and Taylor Edmonds.

Firefly Publisher Penny Thomas said, ‘Alex’s poetry is both funny and reflective, and is perfect for primary school-age children, inspiring we hope a love of words, poetry and reading. We feel very lucky to have signed such a terrific collection and hope it will be hugely popular in homes and schools around the UK.

‘It’s also very exciting that the Rising Stars Wales Award, run with Literature Wales and sponsored by Quarto Translations, should have showcased three such inspiring poets right away. We hope this is just the beginning and we aim to be able to publish an anthology of Rising Star poets from Wales in the not-too-distant future.’

Daydreams and Jellybeans will publish in spring 2021.

Find out more about Alex Wharton and read some of his poems here.

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Firefly acquires Monster Max book by Robin Bennett

Firefly acquires Monster Max book by Robin Bennett

We are thrilled to announce that we have acquired World English rights in a hilarious and fast-paced adventure story for 7-9s, Monster Max and the Bobble Hat of Forgetting by Robin Bennett from Joanna Moult at the Skylark Literary Agency.

Max is an ordinary boy until he burps, when he turns into a big hairy monster. Fortunately when he sneezes he can turn himself back into a small, grubby boy again.

When he’s a monster, Max does all the monster things like roar loudly and eat whole dustbins. But, after scaring a few too many elderly neighbours Max, resolves to use his monstering to ‘protect and do good stuff’.

If only it were that easy…

‘We are really thrilled to acquire this very funny and hugely enjoyable story, which we’re sure will delight readers everywhere,’ said Firefly publisher Penny Thomas.

Robin Bennett, an author and entrepreneur who has previously published under the Monster Books imprint, said: ‘In my life I have been a very bad gravedigger (assistant), chaotic tank commander and a jammy entrepreneur. Finally I’ve found out I’m an expert in small boys who can turn themselves into hairy monsters. I’ve found my place in the world.’

Monster Max and the Bobble Hat of Forgetting will be published this autumn and will be illustrated by Tom Tinn-Disbury.

Firefly acquires new feel-good teen novel from Kate Mallinder

Firefly acquires new feel-good teen novel from Kate Mallinder

We are delighted to announce that we have acquired UK and Commonwealth rights in Asking for a Friend by Kate Mallinder, author of Summer of no Regrets, from Hannah Sheppard at the D H H Literary Agency, publishing in paperback on 21 May 2020.

Asking for a Friend is a feel-good friendship story following three school friends over the Easter holidays as they confront their fears, including loneliness, fear of illness and social media bullying, in a character-driven story about valuing the friends who value you.

Agnes, Hattie and Jake travel on the school bus together, but don’t know each other well. They plan a week in Weston-super-Mare, as a ‘study break’ before exams, but none of them admit the real reasons they need to get away. Agnes must find her sister. Hattie can’t bear being home now all her friends have ghosted her. And Jake is afraid he’s ill and has absolutely no idea how to tell anyone. In one amazing week, they’ll risk their lives, face their fears and find themselves.

Kate says: ‘I’m thrilled that my second book, Asking for a Friend, is being published by the fantastic Firefly Press team. I’ve loved writing new characters and can’t wait for readers to meet Agnes, Hattie and Jake.’

Firefly editor Janet Thomas says: ‘We are so excited to have a new book from Kate on the Firefly Press list. Asking for a Friend is a hugely entertaining, character-driven story about how friends can be found in surprising places, and how they can help you face your greatest fears.’

Kate Mallinder lives with her husband, four children and two cats near Ashby- de-la-Zouch in Leicestershire. She grew up in Solihull and went to college in Leeds. If left to her own devices, she’d live on a window seat with a good book and a never-ending cup of tea. Her first book, Summer of No Regrets, was published by Firefly in May 2019 and was shortlisted for the Bristol Teen Book Awards 2019. Kate is a regular at YA festivals and chaired a panel at YALC 2019. Find out more at and follow her on Twitter @KateMallinder.

Praise for Summer of no Regrets:

‘Bucketloads of summer fun… warm, funny, utterly delightful story about friendship, taking chances, and living life to the full!’ Simon James Green

‘A perfect summer read to share with your best friends.’ Keris Stainton

‘Summer of no Regrets is a complete page turner … I loved spending summer with the gang!’ Jenny McLachlan

‘A wonderful summery, happy-ending story about friendship. I raced though it.’ Perdita Cargill

Chanukah and teenage homelessness by Miriam Halahmy

Chanukah and teenage homelessness by Miriam Halahmy

Miriam Halamy

It’s the time of year when everyone is thinking about festivals of light which give a warm glow to our homes at the darkest point of winter. Many people in the UK are getting ready for Christmas, putting up the tree and stringing lights outside the house.

My family are Jewish and we are preparing for Chanukah which begins this year on December 23rd. Our festival involves the lighting of candles for eight consecutive nights and of course, the children get plenty of presents.

But what about young people who don’t have a home and family to spend the festivals with? What about teenagers who find themselves homeless over Chanukah or Christmas? Our televisions are pumping out good cheer and shops are stuffed to the brim but if you are on the outside looking in, my heart is breaking for you.

According to the charity Centrepoint, 103,000 young people in the UK presented to their council in 2017/18 as homeless or at risk and over 50% “left home because of family relationship breakdown.” Reasons vary but include mental health issues such as hoarding.

My novel, Behind Closed Doors, was inspired by the rising statistics on teen homelessness and I decided to focus on the reasons why this happens. In my book, Josie and Tasha are both fifteen. Tasha is already homeless – she is sofa surfing to avoid the unwanted sexual advances of her mother’s new boyfriend. She is no longer safe at home. Josie’s mother is an extreme hoarder and has filled up every corner of the house, including her bedroom. There is no room for her at home anymore. Josie and Tasha form an unlikely friendship in their hour of need, but will they end up sleeping on the streets as things come to a head?

The festival of Chanukah celebrates a perceived miracle following the ransacking of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Greeks. After the Jews fought back and reclaimed Jerusalem, they found the Eternal Light above the Ark where the Torah scrolls were stored was running out of oil. It would take eight days to get more supplies. They lit the Light and miraculously the oil kept burning for the entire eight days.

Lighting the menorah in my home each night, with my children and grandchildren safe and cared for around me, my thoughts often turn to the teenagers who have no idea where they will lay their head that night. Both Festivals of Light have stories of miracles behind them. But the greatest miracle for our time would be that every young person who needs a safe berth for the night would be automatically provided one by the council.

I will be donating to Shelter, as I have been since it was founded in 1969 and I would encourage you to donate to a homeless charity this year if possible, to help spread light and warmth for our homeless teenagers.

On celebrating family and kindness this Christmas by Jennifer Killick

On celebrating family and kindness this Christmas by Jennifer Killick

The concept for Alex Sparrow and the Zumbie Apocalypse struck before the first Alex Sparrow book was even published, and I remember, four years ago, hoping that I would get to write it one day. When the opportunity to develop the idea finally came about, I soon realised that this story would be about family. We hadn’t seen much of Alex’s family in the first two books, but we had watched him create a new, tight-knit, group of friends around him: Jess, Dave, Bob, Mr Prickles, Miss Fortress; all of them a hugely important part of his life. I wanted to delve into Alex’s home life, to get to know some of the people he has grown up with, and also explore the idea that a family isn’t limited to the one we are born into.

Setting it at Christmas – a time when our focus adjusts, temporarily, away from work and routine, and onto home, and the people around us – fit so perfectly that I couldn’t resist. I have always loved Christmas, and I have spent a lot of time trying to work out why, exactly, other than the presents. I’m an idealist at heart, and view the world through twinkle-lit glasses. I believe in magic, and I believe that kindness will always win. Christmas amplifies all the wonderful things in life. Magic is closer, tinkling in every Christmas tree bell and nestling in waiting stockings. And people are kinder – embracing loved ones tighter, forgiving more easily, and giving – to people they know and to people they don’t.

But while Christmas allows wonder to flourish, it also intensifies some of our negative feelings. The pain of loss is sharper at Christmas. The deep ache of loneliness can be overwhelming. I wanted, through Alex, to face the good, and the bad, and to encourage readers to think about how they might help to make Christmas magical for everyone. Donating money or time to charities like Age UK can help to ensure that there are fewer people spending Christmas alone. Giving to BookTrust’s brilliant Christmas appeal, which raises money to send special book parcels to children in care at Christmas, could help to make what might be a difficult day for someone, a little brighter. Or by reaching out to people who are suffering, and offering friendship and support, we can all make a difference.

So this Alex Sparrow book celebrates family – in all its weird and wonderful shapes and flavours – and kindness, always kindness. I wish all of you a Christmas full of twinkle lights, bear hugs, delicious food and lots of laughter, and I hope that the new year brings hope and love to everyone.