Book Penpals September 2018

Book Penspals newsletter September 2018

Dear Book Penpals,

Welcome to the new school year. What are you looking forward to most this year?

Even for authors like me, September feels like the beginning of the year. This term I’m planning on starting a new book. I can’t tell you what it is yet because I’m not sure myself. I’m hoping that it is Book 2 about my dog Mickey, but that depends on a new publisher asking me to write it. I’m waiting to hear from them so please keep your fingers crossed for me. If that doesn’t happen then I need to start writing something new. I have an idea but have to work out the details.

Here is the French cover for the book about Mickey.  I hope you like it as much as I do. Are you able to translate the title? I call this book Totally Dogless but sadly it is not published in English yet so if you want to read it, you will have to learn French.

Jamais sans mon chien

As a beginning of term present, I am sending you a copy of Help I’m an Alien for your class library. If you read it and like it then it would be great if you could ask permission to leave a review on Amazon. The more reviews the better. Who is your favourite character in the book? Why don’t you have a class vote and send me the results.

My book recommendations this month are featured on the postcards I have sent you.  There is a different one for each of my three schools. These books are classics. That means they are books written some time ago, but still in print and enjoyed by children today. ‘In print’ means that a book is still being printed, marketed and sold to booksellers. Thousands of books are published a year so books don’t stay in print forever otherwise the choice would be overwhelming in the bookshop or library. If you discover that a book you want to read is out of print then you can try and buy it second hand. Sometimes second hand books are more expensive than new ones.

I have set you a literary challenge on the back of your postcard. I’d be very interested to hear how you get on.

If you’d like to write to me please use the contact me form or if you just want to leave a short message then use the comments section on this blog post

Help I’m an Alien Quiz

Help! I’m a Book Award Nominee

Help I'm An Alien by Jo Franklin

Illustrated by Aaron Blecha

I’m really excited that Help I’m an Alien is nominated for the John Reckitt Library Hull Book Award. Hull is the City of Culture 2017 which makes the nomination particularly special. I am going to Hull in a few weeks to meet some school children who have been reading my book. I’ll be returning to the city on 28th June for the award ceremony itself.

This is  my first ever award nomination which is exciting and terrifying all at the same time.

  • What do I do if I lose?
  • What if I win?
  • What shall I wear?

Feel free to offer helpful advice in the comments below.

Meanwhile I’ve created a fun quiz for anyone who has already read Help! I’m an Alien. The answers can be accessed via the Help! I’m an Alien page of my website.

Help I'm an Alien Quiz

Click on me for the quiz

My First Book Award Nomination for Help I’m an Alien

I’m thrilled to share with you news of my first book award nomination.
Help I’m an Alien has been nominated in the Key Stage 2 category for the

James Reckitt Hull Children’s Book Award 2017

Help I'm an Alien by Jo Franklin

Help I’m an Alien Hull Book Award Nominee

Other books which have been nominated in my category are :

  • The War Next Door by Phil Earle
  • Freaks United by John Hickman
  • Freedom for Bron by NS Blackman
  • The Nose that Nobody Picked by David Parkin

I look forward to reading the other nominees over Christmas and find out more about their authors in the new year.

The really awesome bonus is that Hull during is  European City of Culture in 2017 and I will have the privilege of visiting and discovering more about the city during the celebrations.

Writers’ Forum interview with Jo Franklin

by Jo Franklin

Jo Franklin in Writer's forum

I was totally thrilled when  Anita Loughrey  asked to interview me for Writers’ Forum magazine. As we chatted, I suddenly realised that a certain theme crops up in my work again and again. The gawky awkwardness of  not fitting in.

Now I am an adult, I experience that horrible feeling when I go to a party and I don’t know anyone and even worse, I don’t know what to say to them.  I get overwhelmed by thoughts of What am I doing here? I am convinced that no one will be interested in me because I don’t belong.

As a child, that feeling was amplified. It wasn’t just a party I didn’t fit into. It was the whole world.

“I didn’t feel that I belonged. I didn’t know who I was. I had lots to say but no one around me was listening so I felt very isolated.”

A working title of Help I’m an Alien was “Alien/Misfit *delete as appropriate” which pretty much sums up how I felt growing up and continue to feel as an adult. I write about misfits because I am one!

“I’m not sure I ever fully grew up, so being a children’s writer is the perfect job for me.”

You can read the full article in Writers’ Forum magazine.



Help! I’m in the News Visiting Peckham Library

by Jo Franklin

I recently visited Peckham Library to talk about the importance of reading and libraries to their Chatterbooks group. Southwark News came along to take my picture and to write up the event.

Libraries are such an important resource for the community. Not only are they stuffed full of brilliant books, but they also provide much needed study space for students and authors. I wrote Help I’m an Alien in Peckham Library and I am thrilled that they now stock my book.

Here is the page from my scrap book with their report

Jo Franklin scrap book

Me at Peckham Library courtesy of Southwark News

And this is the online article of the same event.

Peckham author comes full circle as she talks to kids at library where she wrote book

Chatterbooks Author Visit to Peckham Library

By Jo Franklin, Children’s author

Very excited to announce that I am going to Peckham Library on Thursday 29th September 2016 to visit their Chatterbooks group.


I love to meet my target audience so that I can find out what books they are enjoying reading right now. Hopefully they will be interested in finding out about my life as an author and maybe be inspired to pick up a pen and write something themselves.

Look out Peckham, here I come!

Reviews of Help I’m an Alien

By Jo Franklin, Children’s Author

I am so lucky that  so many people have read and enjoyed Help I’m an Alien, but the awesomeness doesn’t stop there. Many readers have also been willing to talk about the book on their websites or leave a review on Amazon.  I’ve summarised a few reviews below and provided links so you can click through and read more if you want to.

Help I'm an alien cover

Online Reviews

The Bookbag

“This is one of the funniest opening chapters that I’ve read all year … The reader immediately warms to our main character. He’s engaging and witty with a collection of insecurities that children are likely to identify with.”

Full Bookbag review here.

Lancashire Evening Post

“Being different is something to celebrate! And that’s just what warm-hearted author Jo Franklin does in the first book of what promises to be a hilarious new comedy series featuring a trio of madcap school friends.
Franklin’s own freewheeling sense of fun transfers perfectly to the page, making this anarchic, crazy, hilarious adventure one of the most entertaining books you will read this year.”

Full LEP review here.

The Book Activist

“This is a great fun story, with lots of humour (unpleasant toilet habits in particular!) and some slightly sweeter (less smelly) moments, highlighting the difficulties we all sometimes face in ‘fitting-in’. The pace of the narrative is perfectly pitched to keep the reader interested and entertained. You very quickly feel great empathy for Daniel, especially where his ‘mega-mean- ‘obnoxious’ or ‘murderous’ sister Jessie is concerned.”

Full Book Activist review here.

My Book Corner

“Jo Franklin has penned a brilliant tale of fitting in, very annoying big sisters and friends who will literally go to the ends of the Earth for you! Full of humour and feelings, Help I’m an Alien with illustrations by Aaron Blecha, is a great read for readers aged 8+.”

Full My Book Corner review here.

Nayu’s Reading Corner

“I loved the random mood generator moments for Daniel’s sister, Jessie, because she is definitely a temperamental teen with attitude.
I hope it’s not the end as I want more adventures from this crazy boy trio!’

Full Nayu’s Reading Corner review here.

Amazon Reviews

I found myself really loving Daniel and am sure loads and loads of children will enjoy this and maybe even be beguiled into reading if they weren’t keen before.

Hilarious start to a new series.

***** A brilliant tale of fitting in, annoying big sisters and friends who will literally go to the ends of the Earth for you!
***** Thoroughly recommend it for your children and quite frankly, for the parents too, particularly if life is on a bit of a downer currently. Guaranteed to cheer you up.
***** It has a sweet, tender quality , mixed with well observed jokes about family life and the feeling all children (and adults!) can have of not quite fitting in.
***** What really makes this book zing for me is the interface between the terrific humour and a convincing story with experiences of feeling- well, quite simply, Alien
***** I thought the ranking of Bod’s friends as first best friend & second best friend was amusing – and also true to life. Some lovely illustrations too. My niece is going to love it.

More Amazon reviews here.

St Alphege School, Solihull June 2016

by Jo Franklin, Children’s Author

In June 2016 I was thrilled to visit St Alphege School in Solihull. The visit was arranged via the Federation of Children’s Book Groups in conjunction with my publisher, Troika Books.

Author Talks St Alphege

Jo Franklin visiting St Alphege school in Solihull

I had a lovely chat with the children, followed by a book signing.

Since the visit, I have been sent loads of alien art which you can see at my Kid’s Gallery. Here are a selection of pictures

Alien Art is Out of This World

Author Visit Alien Art Author Visit Alien Art Author Visit Alien Art Author Visit Alien Art
Author Visit Alien Art Author Visit Alien Art Author Visit Alien Art Author Visit Alien Art

The event was even covered by the Solihull Observer. So lovely to see the children starring in the local press.

Aliens Invade Cheapside

by Jo Franklin, Children’s Author

An alien invasion was reported at Daunt Books, Cheapside, London on Wednesday 8th June at approximately 6.30 pm.
Two aliens were spotted serving cakes to a bookshop packed with hungry customers.

Alien invasion

We come in peace. Anyone for a brownie?

“We were having a party to celebrate the launch of my book Help I’m an Alien when real live aliens appeared from nowhere,” confused author Jo Franklin reports. “They tried to make friends with the book buying public by serving them fluorescent green cup cakes.”

Aliens reading

‘Have you seen the joke on page 45?’ ‘No, I’m only up to page 17.’

Publisher Martin West said “In my 45 year career in publishing, I have never known an alien attend a book launch. I think we ignore the intergalactic reading market at our peril.”

The aliens seemed to be a peaceful species and were last seen disappearing into a black cab in the direction of South East London.

Do Aliens Exist?

By Jo Franklin, children’s author

 I’m always getting asked at my author events whether I think that aliens exist. I guess it’s a natural question given the title of my book – Help I’m an Alien. I suppose the simple answer is ‘Yes’. The universe is so big, it makes my head hurt thinking about it. I can’t believe that in such a massive expanse of stuff, Earth is the only place where some of that stuff is alive.

 What do aliens look like?

No idea! I don’t think there is any reason why aliens should be humanoid. No other life forms on Earth walks upright on two legs and wears clothes, it’s very arrogant of us to assume that aliens will be like us. Aliens might be blobs that slither along the ground or they might be an intelligent life force that doesn’t have a body at all. Or maybe Ridley Scott was right and all aliens have tentacles and acid for blood. I don’t know, but I believe something is out there. 

3 eyed alien

Three Eyed Alien by Nathan B

Alien Malcolm Dassau

Alien by Malcolm in the middle Dassau

Are aliens here on Earth?

I don’t think aliens exist on Earth like in the film Men in Black. Or that they come to Earth regularly to abduct people like the Returners believe (you’ll have to read Help I’m an Alien to get that reference). I expect that aliens are too busy living their lives on their own planets to bother us.

MIB stick aliens

MIB stick aliens hanging out in the kitchen

 Fictional Aliens

Aliens haven’t been around as part of our cultural psyche for very long. I think that The War of the Worlds by HG Wells published in 1897, was the first alien invasion story. Aliens joined the public consciousness and they were totally mean. War of the Worlds opened the door to all sorts of fictional aliens. In books, magazines, films and TV. Not all aliens are aggressive but Star Wars is based around the Empire trying to take control of the Galaxy and many of the Star Trek stories feature aliens at war with each other even if the original Enterprise mission was ‘to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and civilisations’. Phasers (hand held Star Trek weapons) weren’t always on stun.

Uhura with phaser

Lieutenant Uhura

Spock with phaser

First Officer Spock

But aliens don’t have to be bad.



ET wasn’t aggressive and nor were his family. I’m not sure why they came to Earth or why they left baby ET behind but they weren’t a bad species.
I hope that if life does exist on another planet, humans can nurture and develop our relationship with them. I’m hoping that aliens do know how to teleport things from one place to another in a totally eco-friendly way and will share the technology with us, because I am fed up with traffic jams. They might know the cure for cancer. They probably have really interesting alien sweets and some cool gadgets. Or they might just be really fun mates.

I hope that aliens are good, not bad and that we can live in harmony with them if we ever find each other.

 I love aliens. Especially Chewbacca.



 Do you have a favourite fictional alien? Let me know.