Young at heart

Liz Nicholls

childrens book

Ruth Young’s new children’s book is called The Turkey Shed Gang. She tells us about her love for teaching, as well as why Cranleigh is the best place in the world

Ruth loves walking in the Surrey Hills which surround Cranleigh. She often goes up nearby Pitch Hill to see the far-reaching views over the beautiful countryside down towards the sea. “It’s very rural and yet just an hour from Londo,” she says, “which makes it a great place to live. And you can be down at the coast in under an hour.”

Ruth is a teacher and taught in local schools until she retired. Now she teaches children at home who may need help with their learning. She is a teaching of reading specialist and particularly loves teaching children with dyslexia. She says: “Learning to read is the most important skill to learn. It opens up the ability to access all the curriculum. That’s why if a child needs specific help they must get it. She loves helping these children and seeing their excitement when they achieve their goals. There’s nothing better!”

Ruth has spoken on BBC Surrey three times about teaching and learning and written articles in a national parenting magazine.

The Turkey Shed Gang is a story about Joe, his Granny Sal and a parrot called Mr Percival. They go on the run to escape the police… It’s for children aged 7 and up who can read independently or anyone who may need a little extra help. She hopes it encourages children to keep turning the pages. The children she’s heard from who have read it have said it does just that!

The Turkey Shed Gang

It’s available on Amazon or from Ruth’s website

Where’s Brian’s Bottom? asks Abingdon illustrator

Liz Nicholls

childrens book

Local illustrator Rob Jones always wanted to create a children’s book and, in Where’s Brian’s Bottom? the dream has unfolded!

“I’ve always loved dogs, especially sausage dogs,” says Rob, who lives in Abingdon, “but sadly I’ve never owned one. I’m hoping one day I’ll have one called Brian!”

Where’s Brian’s Bottom? is Rob’s new board book for toddlers that unfolds to two metres long. Young readers are encouraged to help Brian find his bottom in the house and learn about different animals and the sounds they make.

“I didn’t used to draw dogs that often,” adds Rob, “until I illustrated The Funny Life of Pets by James Campbell. I find I draw them all the time now. Anytime I sign a card or book, there will usually be a doodle of a dog.”

Rob studied illustration at the University of Gloucestershire and it was during this time that he discovered a love for making books, toys and puppets. He has made many puppets for the Story Museum’s Christmas production in Oxford. His first book, Bernard, won the People’s Book Prize in 2014. “I owe a lot to the Story Museum,” says Rob. “They were really supportive of me when my first book Bernard was released.

I once took part in an exhibition there called “the illustrator zoo” where visitors could watch me work on book ideas. I’ve made puppets for four of their shows, the first being Winter Mouse, which was made using a sleeve from an old jumper. I’m looking forward to taking my son there once it reopens.

“My advice to any budding illustrators out there is not to give up! There have been many times over the last 10 years when I’ve been close, but something has always happened to keep me going. I am also very lucky, as my family, friends and colleagues are all so supportive of me.”

Where’s Brian’s Bottom? £6.99, ISBN 9781843654667

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Guildford inspires Alice In Wonderland stories

Liz Nicholls

childrens book

Take a journey through the looking glass and discover a new story based on the Alice in Wonderland tales just released by a Guildford author.

Alice Ventures Beyond Wonderland written by Robin G Smith introduces a host of new creatures to an audience of children and adults alike.

Guildford has been associated with Alice in Wonderland since author, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll, completed the sequel, Through the Looking Glass.

Robin has written children’s books as well as adult science-fiction and factual titles, for 20 years, but it wasn’t until lockdown he turned his skills to reimagining the world that Carroll created. Alice Ventures Beyond Wonderland introduces a new audience to a world of intriguing creatures through strange encounters yet also touches on difficult issues that we are all too familiar with today, such as bullying and identity.

Robin says: “I have always loved the two Alice in Wonderland books and wanted to see if it was possible to write something similar. I had been collecting ideas for years and lockdown gave me the opportunity to concentrate on completing the project. I’m delighted with the response I’ve already had from adults and children alike, who seem to enjoy its blend of subtle humour and contemporary issues.”

He is already planning the sequel to Alice Ventures Beyond Wonderland. Alice Ventures Beyond Wonderland is illustrated by Helena Chessher and available to buy now in hardback, paperback, and e-book from Amazon or

For a preview, visit

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Talking Point: Ben Fogle

Round & About

childrens book

Liz Nicholls asks Ben Fogle about life, love and adventure ahead of his new children’s book – Mr Dog and the Rabbit Habit – hitting bookshop shelves.

Q. Which of your many adventures rank as your most thrilling..? And scariest? “Climbing Everest was the most exciting. There’s nothing as thrilling as being in the mountains; it’s humbling and terrifying in equal measure. The scariest moment was scuba diving with crocodiles – I went diving with wild Nile crocodiles in Botswana.”

Q. What was your favourite book as a child? “I loved books as a child. Dr Seuss was a favourite; he had such an irreverent, eccentric style and I love his lyricism. The Cat In The Hat is still a firm favourite. I don’t even need my children around as an excuse to read them again.
It’s like escaping back to my childhood.”

Q. You met your wife while walking your dog which is lovely! You love dogs don’t you? “I’ve always loved dogs. I grew up with two golden retrievers and a couple of parrots. We lived above my father’s veterinary clinic and our house was always filled with dogs. If any animals needed to stay overnight, they’d often come up to our house. Dogs are loyal, kind and forgiving. They love us unconditionally.”

Q. Would you say you’re romantic? “I’m romantic-ish. Marina and I like to have date nights.”

Q. How do you relax? Do you watch television? “I love walking with the dogs – it doesn’t matter where: London, Cornwall, Scotland. I like to listen to the sounds of nature, the bird life. I watch television during long journeys around the world – a lot of box sets. You name it and I’ve probably watched it. I loved Peaky Blinders and Vietnam.”

Q. You seem healthy and full of beans – what do you eat..? And do you have any bad habits that might make us all feel better? “I eat whatever I want. I try not to abstain nor diet but stick to meal times and not snack. Lots of fruit. Salt and vinegar crisps and dry white wine are my two vices.”

Q. Where are your favourite places in the UK for a staycation? “Too many. We spend lots of time in Cornwall and Devon. St Mawes is a perfect family place. We recently went to Heckfield House which was amazing, in Holkham, north Norfolk.”

Q. Is there anywhere in the world you’d still love to go? “Of course, so many places! I’ve never been to Madagascar. I’d also like to visit Jamaica.”

Q. Which four people (living or dead) would you invite to a dinner party? “Captain Scott, Che Guevara, Attenborough and Michael Palin.”

Q. What wish would you make to change the world in one way? “Evidence to impeach Trump.”

Mr Dog and the Rabbit Habit is out now – there’s also an audio version