I know exactly when I met Natasha. It was spring of 2009. The London Book Fair was on and Chicken House were hosting an event at Beach Blanket Babylon in Notting Hill. Threads, due out that summer, was the lead title on the list and I was in heaven. Natasha had read it in her role as a book scout and was talking about it to foreign rights buyers. She knew everything about the book market. (She still does.) She was lovely. (She still is.) It was a great night.
Of course, Natasha writes too. I subsequently read and loved her funny, affectionate, very modern Bluebell Gadsby series (how wonderful that I can casually add a link to the New York Times on this) and wanted more middle grade, which is where Natasha’s true talent, I think, lies.
And here it is. There was a lot of buzz about The Children of Castle Rock before it launched. At the launch itself at Daunt’s in Cheapside, her editor was able to announce that it was already being reprinted, and I’m pretty sure it’s been reprinted again a few times since. Booksellers love to sell this book! It’s an old fashioned adventure set in the ravishing Scottish Highlands, featuring a feckless parent (a Farrant speciality), a stolen jade statue (I will read literally any book featuring a stolen jade statue) and a mismatched group of young people who need to become a team.
This is how Natasha writes:
“Imagine a house, in a garden.
The paint is flaking and the chimney is cracked and the uncut grass is wild. But ignore all that. Look here instead, at the giant wisteria with a trunk as thick as your arm, its purple flowers dripping against the old stone wall. Look at the swing hanging from that ancient oak, those cherry trees planted in a circle around the house. One of the trees is so close to a window that in summer, when it fruits, the girl who lives here can reach out to pick the cherries.
Imagine that – picking cherries from your bedroom window!”
I’ve just been teaching a session on Voice in writing for children, and my point is that the voice should suck you in and make you want to spend time with this narrator, in this world. Natasha has it in spades. You can tell she’s steeped in children’s literature herself. Is it by coincidence that Alice’s surname is Mistlethwaite? I think not. I’m sure The Children of Castle Rock will continue to sell in shedloads. She doesn’t really need my support, but she has it anyway.
I know what her next project is, and it’s awesome. Look out for that too. The girl can write.