‘I was thrilled when I found this much talked about book. Wonderfully amazing. I would definitely 100% buy this book over The Hunger Games Trilogy – The Twilight Saga – and Dork Diaries. Well done Pete Johnson.’ Yolo, Amazon 14th July
Winner of the Nottinghamshire Brilliant Book Award.
Jill Murphy of The Bookbag writes:
"You can’t knock a Pete Johnson book. They’re highly accessible and always au fait with current tween preoccupations, so they’re perfect for readers looking for full length books that don’t take too much of a toll. But best of all, they are funny. It’s the dialogue that really sparkles. Johnson’s tween characters are always wry, ironic and dry, cracking jokes that their parents often miss but their readers notice with glee. They’re also reluctant heroes, often geeky, and witty as they are, they’re often naïve and clumsy, so we get an amount of slapstick humour too.
"This is not to say that the horror element is completely window dressing – The Vampire Blog builds some real tension with the threat to Marcus, and there are some creepy scenes in the woods and some gruesome scenes with a goodly dollop of fangly terror. Perfect."
Library Mice review:
"Pete Johnson’s approach to the very fashionable theme of vampires was very refreshing with lots of humour thrown in, but still tension and scary bits – at last here is a vampire book suitable for slightly younger readers.
"Marcus is very sharp in his delivery of one-liners and is quite hilarious at times. The characters are well designed and believable. I was particularly fond of Tallulah who manages to be fierce and vulnerable at the same time."
Extract 1 from Marcus’s top secret blog
Despite what you may have heard, I’ve never done anything totally disgusting and sick – until now.
It happened out of the blue as well, at the end of morning lessons, when Joel got a nosebleed. He has these really bad ones too, like little explosions. So he was sent to Matron’s cave and, as I’m his best mate, I accompanied him.
Joel had to walk with his head well back as he was getting through about four hankies a second. I was guiding him saying: ‘Next time have your nosebleeds a bit earlier, will you, as we’re only going to miss the last four minutes of lessons, which is nowhere near enough.’
Joel gave a sort of gurgled laugh in reply.
Then he finally rolled up at Matron’s. Nearby also lurk the School Secretary, the Deputy Head and the Head. That’s why it is, without doubt, the gloomiest part of the whole school.
I knocked on Matron’s door. It just flew open. This large woman with a squashed nose and an amazing collection of chins glared suspiciously at us. She absolutely hates being disturbed – especially by pupils. ‘Nosebleed,’ she snapped at Joel, her eyes bulging disapprovingly at having her day disturbed like this. ‘All right, you in here and you (meaning me) back to your classroom immediately.’ She boomed that last word as the door crashed shut.
It was then I noticed it.
One of Joel’s handkerchiefs had fallen to the ground. So I picked it up. It was just sopping with fresh blood. I looked around. No one was about. So then I had the maddest, silliest, impulse of my whole life. And I started squeezing the blood into my cupped hand. Then my stomach started to rumble.
In fact, I’d never felt hungrier in my life. It was as if I hadn’t eaten for days. That’s why, without another thought, I started to slurp up Joel’s blood. I ran it about in my mouth for a moment and then I swallowed it down: warm, soft and just bursting with flavours. I’ve never tasted anything so delicious in my whole life.
Then I remembered Joel had flung his large hankies into the bin, outside Matron’s office. I quickly scooped them up and then let this lovely fresh blood gush down my throat too.
But it still wasn’t enough. I had to have more. More! And who knows where I’d have gone shuffling off to next if the bell hadn’t rung. And that was like an alarm waking me up from a terrible dream.
End of Extract 1
Extract 2 from Marcus’s top secret blog
Marcus accidentally eats a slice of garlic pizza. He has a strong reaction and worries he’s going to start decomposing. ‘As decomposing is a very private activity,’ he hides away at the top of a tree to see what happens next ….
Friday October 19th
Sorry blog, not to have been in contact any earlier. But so much has happened to me since my last correspondence – at the top of that tree.
I sat up in the tree for ages and ages, actually. I still had a really bad case of the gripes. But that’s all. I hadn’t crumbled away to dust or anything. So that was a bit of good news, I suppose. And feeling surprisingly cheerful I finally clambered down the tree and decided to stagger home.
The mist seemed to hang over everything now. In fact, I thought if I stand still long enough it’ll start wrapping itself over me. So I stumbled forward not quite sure where I was going.
The wood was deathly quiet too as if it had gone into a trance. But through the mist I could hear the odd noise like birds rustling and shifting about in the trees.
And then I heard something else: the sound of a human crunching their way through all the dead leaves. Was it Joel checking I was all right? Or had my parents come looking for me? No, they hadn’t a clue where I was, unless Joel had told them. Of course, it could be Joel and my parents, all searching for me together.
But somehow, I didn’t think it was. It was someone else. I tried to move faster. But the quicker I ran, the sicker I felt. Then, quite suddenly I tripped over something – couldn’t see what it was – and went sprawling on to the ground.
A bird rose into the air with a sharp, warning cry. It sounded quite near me too. I decided to swallow my pride, ring my parents and tell them I was lost in the wood. I mean, how pathetic is that? I sounded about three. But I was ill and could hardly walk and felt something edging closer to me. Something that filled me with fear, even if I didn’t know who or what it was.
I needed reinforcements urgently.
So I fumbled about in my pocket for my mobile phone. Where was it? I was still searching for it when I heard the whisper of a wing right above my head. It must be a very inquisitive bird I thought come to see this strange creature lying on the ground.
But then I felt something touch my neck. It didn’t feel like teeth or anything, though. No, it was like being suddenly hit by a dart.
A poison dart.
Something started burning into my neck, while everything around me began slipping away. It was as if a black tide of sleep was rushing up my body. ‘Help …’ I managed to cry out: ‘Help.’
The black tide was speeding up my chest towards my neck now. Then, just as it was clutching at my throat I saw someone: I could hardly make them out at all – it was just the startling red eyes I noticed and a horrible sour smell. Then I must have passed out. So the next thing I k new a torch was beamed right into my face ….
End of Extract 2
THE SHOCKS JUST KEEP COMING FOR MARCUS IN THE REST OF AN ACTION-PACKED THE VAMPIRE BLOG.
‘THE VAMPIRE BLOG’ BLOG I
The Vampire Blog launch got off to a rousing start – an event co-ordinated by Rob from Jarrolds Bookshop, Norwich, and held at The Puppet Theatre on June 8th. The packed audience couldn’t have been more enthusiastic and they clapped after every story – the kind of audience in fact you’d like to travel round with you. Afterwards one boy came up to me and whispered confidingly: ‘You’re my No.1 author and by the way, you’re taller than I’d expected.’
One of the Jarrolds team was fascinated that the main girl character in The Vampire Blog shared her name: Tallulah. She asked me why I’d picked it – I explained it’s just a spectacular name which fits the character. We tried to think of famous Tallulahs – but ran out after Tallulah Riley, Tallulah Bankhead and Tallulah in ‘Bugsy Malone.’
Then on Thursday two super events at the Derbyshire Literature Festival co-ordinated by the great Julie Potton. In the morning we were at Chesterfield Library with over 200 children from five schools. They listened in tense silence as I read an extract from The Vampire Blog. Then one girl said to me: ‘That sounds spooky,’ and added: ‘I mean that as a compliment.’ So many of the children I met were also enthusiastic writers – a tribute to them and their teachers.
I met some other keen writers at Long Eaton School in the afternoon. In fact a number of them already had their stories published. There was such a warm atmosphere here. I signed more books, posters and even hands! I’ll never wash again,’ said one boy, ‘but I don’t wash much anyway.’
Next stop Dublin . . .
‘THE VAMPIRE BLOG’ BLOG II
It’s Monday morning and I’m in South Dublin at Tallaght Library. The first session flies past and immediately afterwards one of the children rushes up to Marie, the librarian, and asks: ‘How can you rent Pete Johnson books?’ Marie gives me the thumbs up and whispers: ‘He’s never thought of taking a book out the library until today.’ Marie likes everything about being a librarian – except the image. ‘It’s still so negative,’ she says. So let me say here, that all the librarians I met in Dublin, were committed, enthusiastic and fun!
Next on to another school book club at Ballyroan Library, with another top librarian, Barbara. The library is packed out with children, parents and even grandparents (‘Oh, I still love a good spooky story myself,’ says one grandmother to me) The visit ends with two absolutely storming events in North Dublin at Finglas and Ballymun Libraries. My mum (who’s Irish) had told me how hospitable the Irish are. And everywhere I went I was greeted with cakes, biscuits, and boxes of chocolates. Sadly after an interview with the Irish Independent, it was time to leave. The sun shone throughout and I hadn’t needed the umbrella I’d brought, which was solemnly examined at the airport. The security guard opened up my umbrella and stood gravely under it for a couple of moments as if awaiting a sudden indoor deluge.
After Dublin, on to Hove near Brighton to one of my favourite bookshops: The Book Nook. There wasn’t time for tea and cakes, which Julie assured me is the usual perk for visiting authors – but we did have two brilliant events at West Hove Primary School: Julie was setting up my books when one boy rushed over and cried. ‘Oh books, I love books.’ That set the tone for the whole afternoon. A whirlwind of a week which I couldn’t have got through without the superb organisational skills – and support – of Helen and Sophie in Dublin and Lauren, in Hove, who has also superbly masterminded the whole Vampire Blog launch.
Next stop The Uttoxeter Celebration of Reading.
‘THE VAMPIRE BLOG’ BLOG III
My alarm clock isn’t used to ringing at 5am. No wonder it sounds so shrill and indignant. But when I pull back the curtains (and I don’t do this anywhere near as keenly as that sounds) sunlight floods in. This cheers me and the half-empty trains are restful too. I’m off to The Uttoxeter Celebration of Reading. I visit a friendly school in the morning and in the afternoon do an event in the rather splendid setting of the Cinebowl. Children luxuriate in the plush seats. Then all the lights go out. Some children think it’s part of the performance. ‘Are you going to tell one of your spooky stories?’ asks a boy. ‘No, call the electrician,’ I reply. Lights soon return and we have a really good event.
Next day another five o’clock start and another festival – in Rotherham. This is near Sheffield – one of my favourite places. But I’ve never visited Rotherham before. After today’s events, though at Wath Library and the Central Library, it joins my list of favourite school library services.
In ‘The Vampire Blog’ Marcus discovers he is a half-vampire and isn’t at all pleased about it. He wants to be ‘normal.’ But the Rotherham teenagers reckon: ‘Normal is over-rated.’ One boy says. ‘I wouldn’t want to be just half-vampire, I’d like to be full vampire.’ The whole day is a joy, a huge thank you to Julie Hird and Joanne Hinchliffe, the Children’s Champion and the brilliant School Library Service team.
And then on Saturday off to The School Library Association Conference at the East Midlands Conference Centre, Nottingham. I join Bali Rai and Craig Simpson – two extremely popular authors in schools – to discuss what makes a good author event. Each author talks briefly about his experiences, the rest of the event is interactive. The idea for this gig was Kelly’s from Random and it worked superbly.
‘But don’t author events take up a lot of time and energy?’ one librarian asks me. ‘Are they really worth it?’
My answer is a resounding ‘Yes.’ It keeps me in touch with my audience, is really stimulating and fun. The travelling can be a pain but the rest more than makes up for it. And its value is summed by an email sent to me from a parent following a visit to Hove, with the Book Nook Bookshop. The parent writes: ‘Since Pete’s visit my son, Patrick has read ‘The Ghost Dog’ to everyone who will listen. Every day since the visit his school friends, who are also reading the book have been talking about it and telling each other scary stories. Patrick even insisted on reading all the scary bits to the dog – who seemed rather scared. Thanks for taking the time, it’s had a great impact on Patrick and his buddies, he’s asked for more scary Pete Johnson books for his birthday. I’m so pleased.’