The Terrible tales of the Teenytinysaurs

Hooray! I’ve been waiting a long time to read The Terrible Tales of the Teenytinysaurs, the new book from Gary Northfield (creator of Derek the Sheep and the fantastic Gary’s Garden strip in The Phoenix). Now it’s finally here, and it’s every bit as good as I’d hoped…

Teenytinysaurs is a collection of stories about a bunch of young dinosaurs… Or, really, about a bunch of children, because the things they get up to are mostly children things rather than dinosaur things, if you see what I mean. The characters are kids who happen to be dinosaurs, and they while away their days daring each other to go into the cave where the bogeyman lives, wondering idly what the moon is made of, playing football, and annoying their big brothers.

It’s all very charming, VERY funny, and beautifully drawn, in a deceptively simple-looking style (Gary shares a studio with my Seawigs co-creator Sarah McIntyre, so I know how long these effortless-looking pictures actually took to do). The giant scraper-board underwater scene in the final chapter – all deep-sea dinosaurs and wierd luminous fish – is a masterpiece, but many of the simpler, smaller panels are just as good; I’m always amazed by the subtleties of expression Gary can convey with a couple of lines. He’s a good writer, too. He has that rare ability to include moments that are quite touching in among all the snot and poo jokes and goof-off physical comedy, but without ever getting twee or heavy-handed.

My son Sam (never a big reader) raced through this in about half an hour, and has been re-reading it ever since in the same way I used to re-read Asterix books when I was his age (11). He says, “Cor, it’s a BRILLIANT book, I wish there was a second one out!”

So, whether or not you are/have children, run out and treat yourselves to a copy of Teenytinysaurs: it’s BRILLIANT.

And if you’re in central London on 31st May, there’s a special launch party at Gosh Comics:

The Terrible Tales of the Teenytinysaurs is published by Walker Books.

My Next Big Thing

I’ve been seeing a lot of  ‘My Next Big Thing’ blogs around lately, but I’d somehow assumed this relay or cascade of blogs was for new authors, who could legitimately claim to have a chance of being the Next Big Thing – that’s not me; I was just a medium-sized thing, ten years ago.

But it turns out that the titular NBT doesn’t refer to the author but just to the book they’re working on, so established writers get to have a go as well, and I’m very grateful to Andy Robb for ‘tagging’ me at the end of his NBT blog.  I met Andy earlier this year; he’s a lovely chap, and his book Geekhood is a treat, though slightly cringe-making if, like me, you were of a geeky persuasion when young. (The hero of Geekhood is much like I was as a teenager, only he meets an ACTUAL GIRL.)

Anyway, enough about him, I have important questions about ME to answer…

What is the working title of your next book?

 Well, I have a whole bunch of things in the pipeline. There’s the McIntyre-tastic illustrated adventure Oliver and the Seawigs, there’s its outer-space based follow up, and at the moment I’m busy with my Massive Untitled Space Opera.  But the next one of my books to actually hit the shops will be Goblins vs Dwarves, and that’s its actual title, not a working title. It’s the sequel to Goblins, it will be published in April, and it’s going to look like this:

(Artwork by the brilliant Dave Semple, as before.)

Where did the idea for the book come from?

Goblins was pretty obviously inspired by The Lord of the Rings; I read it to my son a few years back and it made me think a)This is still the best fantasy world ever, and b)Why are all the orcs and goblins EVIL?  Aren’t there any nice ones? Maybe they’re just getting a bad press…  So I set out to write a fantasy where goblins were the heroes, and Goblins vs Dwarves continues to explore the same theme.  And just as everybody knows that goblins are bad, everybody knows that dwarves are good, right?  Well, not exactly

Also, when I started pondering sequels for Goblins I thought of the well-worn plot of The Seven Samurai (remade as The Magnificent Seven, Hawk the Slayer, Battle Beyond The Stars, etc…) in which the inhabitants of a beleaguered settlement have to go off and find some heroes to help defend them from the bad guys. So I started writing a Clovenstone-based version of that. It quickly escaped and found its own path, but that was the seed of it.

What genre does your book fall under?

It’s a fantasy adventure (but I hope it’s a funny fantasy adventure).

How long did it take you to write the first draft?

This was quite a quick book to write. All the world-building had been done in the first book, and I knew what I was after, so I sat down to start work in the first week of January and was finished in mid March. Most of my books take a LOT longer.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I can’t always think of actors I’d match to particular characters. I have no idea who would play my fresh-faced and accident-prone hero Henwyn, though I think Jenny Agutter would be a good Princess Ned.  As for the goblins and other creatures, they were partly inspired by 1970s illustrations by Brian Froud (right) who went on to design the films Dark Crystal and Labyrinth, and there’s definitely something quite muppet-y about them.  (At the moment the movie rights for Goblins are with LAIKA, makers of Coraline and ParaNorman, so if that goes ahead all the parts will end up being played by stop-motion puppets anyway. Which is fine by me!)

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Goblins vs Dwarves! (The clue is in the title.)

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

As with most of my books to date, it will be published by Scholastic.

What other books would you compare this story to in your genre?


It’s about goblins vs dwarves, so I suppose there’s a clear comparison with The Hobbit, though it features no giant spiders and 100% less golf.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

I don’t want to give away too much but there is an oracular bathtub, and some giant moles, and ghosts. WHAT MORE COULD YOU POSSIBLY WANT?

So there you have it, and it only remains for me to tag some other writers who can tell us about their Next Big Thing. I nominate…

Gary Northfield, whose Gary’s Garden strip in The Phoenix is always a highlight of the week here, and who I happen to know has a fantastic looking book on the way…

…and Natasha Ngan, who may well be the actual Next Big Thing.