‘Disney, get out your chequebook. Threads is the next Princess Diaries — only hotter.’ – The Times
‘A treat… elegant and funny and has real narrative verve.’ – David Almond
‘A vibrant and thought-provoking story for fashion-conscious girls of 11+. …This is not just a great book, it’s pure gold.’ – Lovereading4kids
‘Real, charming, funny and heart-breaking – it’s the kind of memorable story young readers will thank you for. If only by txt.’ – The Herald
Threads is a fashion fairy tale. (But no actual fairies. Just girls who live in Kensington, in London. All fairy wings are bought from costume shops and applied manually.)
Nonie loves customising clothes so she doesn’t look like every other fourteen year-old in London. Apart from that, she’s not sure what she’s good at, which is a shame, because her best friend Jenny is about to appear in a Hollywood blockbuster and her friend Edie is top of the class in everything and wants to save the world.
The three friends find a younger girl called Crow, a Ugandan refugee, sketching a dress at the Victoria and Albert Museum. They discover she’s being bullied at school and set out to help her in their own different ways. But who’s really helping who? And just how far can their dreams and hard work take them?
Writing the book became a publishing fairy tale for me.
After several years of trying to get published, one day the idea of a young, secret fashion designer popped into my head and wouldn’t leave me alone. So I wrote her story in my head. For four years. Things got more complicated when I realised I also needed to write about what was happening to children in Uganda. I couldn’t make it work until a sassy, teenage narrator emerged, fully formed, and started telling the story for me. Then I wrote frantically for a whole spring and summer, submitted the book to The Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction competition for unpublished writers, and that was that.
Except it wasn’t.
Amanda Craig from The Times wrote an unbelievably nice article about the book. But what’s more, I got my very own fairy godmother: Barry Cunningham from Chicken House. You may know of him because he discovered a writer from Edinburgh called Jo something years ago who had this plan for a series of books about wizards. Whatever happened to her? Anyway, Barry is fabulous and TOTALLY understood everything I was trying to do with my story – which was far too much – and changed my life.
I was very lucky that when Threads won the Times/Chicken House competition, one of the judges was David Almond. Skellig is one of my all-time favourite books, so I could hardly believe he’d even read my manuscript, never mind liked it. This is what he had to say in The Times, later, and I’m so grateful:
This year’s winner of The Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition, Threads, introduces us to a bunch of kids in a superficial-seeming world of fashion and celebrity. It draws us elegantly into the dramas and profundities beneath. It shows that Hell and Heaven co-exist. It’s fast and funny, literate and wide-ranging. It’s like a lot of today’s kids, in fact, and they’ll read it in their thousands.
(Luckily, they did.)
Threads sold to about 18 countries and you can read it in Chinese, Japanese, Norwegian, Polish, Brazilian Portuguese, French, Italian, German, Slovenian … and even US-English if you so desire. There is talk of a TV series. (Isn’t there always?)
Just as special to me, I meet girls who were in Year 6 or 7 or 8 in 2009 when it came out, and who still fondly talk of it as their secret pleasure, their go-to book when life and exams become too stressful. I know people who’ve applied to art school because of it, made dresses because of it and got involved with charities because of it. All their stories change my life too. I’m so happy it connected. If you’ve read it, I feel as if you know me so well.
Meanwhile, I got on with writing book 2., which became Beads. I was having too much fun with Jenny, Nonie, Edie and Crow to say goodbye to them just yet.
And then there was book 3 – Stars – when the girls grew up, faced A levels and had a whole new set of challenges to worry about. If you read the trilogy, I hope you like it. Please tell me what you think. And if you don’t, blame Barry. It wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for him.
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