Monthly Archives: September 2019

Book Review – Simon Thorn and the Wolf’s Den

Title: Simon Thorn and the Wolf’s Den

Written by:  Aimée Carter

Cover Illustration by: Sam Hadley

Published by: Bloomsbury

This is the first book of the trilogy about searching for identity.

Twelve -year-old Simon Thorn’s life has never been easy, but being bullied at school and living in a cramped Manhattan apartment with his Uncle Darrell is nothing compared to his biggest secret: he can talk to animals.

When his Mum arrives on a very rare visit, she is kidnapped by ferocious rats and Simon is plunged into a terrifying mission to rescue her. He discovers he can do more than just talk to animals. He belongs to secret race of animal shape-shifters, known as Animalgams.

In the first book, while searching for his mother, he finds the Animalgam Academy located deep beneath Central Park Zoo. There he learns about the fractured five kingdoms – Mammals, Birds, Insects, Reptiles and Underwater and discovers his father was the Beast King who had the ability to shift into any creature he desired. Simon does not know if he will shift into an eagle like his mother or whether he, or his twin brother, will inherit his father’s abilities.

What he does realise is – the Animalgam world is in danger of ripping itself apart and he is the only one who can stop them.

Simon’s character as a loner who finds it difficult to make friends is established from the start alongside the strong themes of loyalty and bravery. No longer is Simon’s only threat the school bully, Bryan Barker, there is a whole underworld of talking beasts after him and it is not clear whose side is the right side to be on. Simon and the reader have no idea who to trust and where their loyalties should lie. The adults in the book are no help as they insist on keeping secrets from him and he is left to discover his true identity alone. Even the few friends he manages to make along the way are innocent by-standers, as he solves the mystery of his destiny.

Aimée Carter takes us on a fast-paced adventure full of twists and turns reminiscent of Percy Jackson. At the end of each book you are left wanting more.

An interview with… Nicola Morgan

One of the first interviews I did when my Writing 4 Children column launched in 2016 was with the esteemed Nicola Morgan. She is one of my writing idols.

At St Pauls Manchester

She had a strong, realistic  message to tell people who wanted to write for children as a full time career.  Nicola said:

You will have to do school events

They are exhausting, can be demoralising and will sometimes test your resilience beyond its max. They can also be soul-nourishing, highly rewarding and are almost always eye-opening, which is good. Try to take all their benefits and learn to love your audiences by focusing on the vast majority of the students who are listening avidly. And when something undermining happens, laugh (afterwards, not at the time).

You will be seriously underpaid for almost all your children’s/teenage writing

If you want to earn a lot, you need to write a certain sort of book, usually a trilogy/series (though many of those fail before they’ve started.) And you’ll still need luck. Make sure you are paid for events because they can be your only way to survive financially.

Bad things, small or big, will happen in your career

They will often be things you have to keep to yourself or a close circle of friends. This is true for all artists who put their heart and soul out into the world to be judged by others. So value those friends, as they will support you in those bad times. And realise that all the multi-garlanded, apparently uber-successful authors you’ve been following on Twitter etc also have moments (if they’re lucky or incredibly thick-skinned) and months (the rest of us) of darkness and gloom, that we all have angst and inadequacy written through our veins, and that there are more ways to get under the skin of a creative person than there are ways to write a novel. But the emotional rewards are huge. Being published and read is worth the pain.


Nicola’s tips for children’s book writers were read a lot of modern children’s books and if your book has a message keep it hidden.

You can read the full interview in the #179 Sept 2016 issue of the national writing magazine, Writers Forum.

Find out more about Nicola Morgan and her writing at: or on Twitter @nicolamorgan