LoveReading4Kids

Becoming a member of the LoveReading4Kids community is free.

No catches, no fine print just unconditional book loving for your children with their favourites saved to their own digital bookshelf.

New members get entered into our monthly draw to win £100 to spend in your local bookshop plus lots lots more...

Find out more

Ali Sparkes - Author

About the Author

Ali Sparkes meant to be a superstar singer and actress by now, but that never quite happened . . . probably because this was in the olden days before StrictlyPopXTalentIdol. She could have done it otherwise.

After many drama school rejections, National Service as a Pontin’s Bluecoat (where she became the spangle-clad assistant to a juggling unicyclist – frighteningly, there is photographic proof), a stint in cabaret and then singing in cheesy cover bands, Ali finally got a proper job in local newspapers before absconding to the BBC in the late 1990s. A bit of local radio presenting and producing followed before she chucked in the day job and started writing comedy stuff for Radio 4 (Woman’s Hour and Home Truths).

She also knocked out twenty-two quarterly magazines for BBC Radio Solent, prompting a series of similar BBC local radio magazines around the UK, and she learnt how to edit, take photographs, and create crosswords along the way. But since The Shapeshifter: Finding The Fox came out in 2006, she’s found her groove. If you were to snap her in half she would read CHILDREN’S AUTHOR through the middle like Brighton rock. Although it would probably be a bit difficult to read, what with the blood and entrails and all that . . .

Ali currently has 28 children’s fiction titles published by Oxford University Press including her Shapeshifter series, her Blue Peter Award-winning novel Frozen in Time, and her heart-stopping new adventure series about a group of teenagers with special powers - Unleashed.

Ali Sparkes...

On JOAN AIKEN

Most people know Joan Aiken for the Wolves of Willoughby Chase but for me her best was The Whispering Mountain, featuring the wonderfully bookish Owen, unloved grandson of a Welsh museum curator, caught up in a dark plot involving an ancient harp, dodgy Cockneys, a girl with a pet hawk and a travelling poet – to say nothing of the school bullies he has to enlist to help save the day. Joan inspired me so much, I know my stories bear her mark!

On ENID BLYTON

Without Enid I probably would never have become a bookworm or, eventually an author. Discovering Five Go to Smuggler’s Top in the back of a toy cupboard really changed my life. I understand when people say the characters are a little 2D and the plots a bit similar, but Enid knew exactly what young readers want – fast paced adventure, dogs, secret passages, midnight feasts. I still want all those things.

On JEAN CRAIGHEAD GEORGE

When I was nine our teacher read us My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George - the story of young Sam Gribley who runs away to the mountains to live on his own wits, armed only with a survival handbook and the peregrine falcon he trains to hunt for him. This brilliant book inspired the ‘survival’  and peregrine falcon elements of the Shapeshifter series…

On ANTHONY BUCKERIDGE

The Jennings books were serialised on the radio from the 1950s onwards. Anthony Buckeridge really knew how to write a brilliantly funny schoolboy story which could be read aloud. I loved all the Jennings books, about Jennings and his friend Darbisher, and their complicated and hilarious lives at Linbury Court Preparatory School. I read them aloud to our sons recently and they cracked up, just like I did.

On JEROME K JEROME

Now although this isn’t a children’s book, Three Men in a Boat is something that every bookworm MUST read by the time they turn 14. The story of the author, his two friends and Montmorency the dog, on a boating holiday is strewn with mad incidents involving cheese, scary unopenable tins and a dead dog floating by in the water. I laughed so much I nearly ruptured myself.

 

Q & A with Ali Sparkes


1.    What inspired you to write Frozen in Time?
Two things – 1. I’ve always had a thing about finding something spooky in the woods and 2. I’ve long pondered on what the Famous Five would make of the 21st century world. So I wanted some characters who were very 50s and rather proper – but with grit and courage – to encounter 2009 after being found in the woods.

2.    Describe it in two lines?

Freddy & Polly are discovered by Ben and Rachel, cryonically frozen in an underground chamber since 1956 – and woken up. What Ben and Rachel defrost is a mystery involving secret passages, missing scientists, international spies – and Pot Noodle.

3. How long did it take you to write?
Around four months of focused effort, but a much longer period of turning it over in my mind – three or four years.

4.    What do you think people will say about this book?
I hope they will say ‘Wow! Get me that book!’

5.    Are you working on something else at the moment?

Oh yes. A series of younger children’s books for Oxford, currently entitled CreepyCrawlers, out in 2010, is my main thing right now, but I am planning some other exciting projects with Oxford and Scholastic for 2009. It’s going to be a very busy year.

6.   What is your favourite food?
Slightly warm, home made lemon meringue pie. 

7.    What makes you laugh out loud?

My kids, frequently, The Mighty Boosh, David Mitchell, and people assuming that since I’ve been published I am filthy rich. I hope to stop laughing at that last one eventually.

8.    What is your one luxury item you would take with you on to a Desert Island?
My recorder. I am no major talent on it, but I would finally have the time to work out Faure’s Pavanne without making the neighbour’s cat go into spasms.

9.    What is your most treasured memory?
(Jointly) The first moment with each of my baby sons & their dad.

10.  What is your weakness?
Fondant creams. Especially the ones in the Burley Fudge Shop in the New Forest. I am working on the aversion therapy principal that if I eat enough of them this madness will eventually stop of its own accord – so if anyone gets the urge to send me a box or two, they will be assisting me greatly. (My agent will pass them on… vanilla and strawberry flavours are my biggest challenge.)

11.    What do you think your children would say about you?

Mum? Was that the lady we saw at 5am this morning..? Actually, no – I hope it’s not that bad! Jacob (14) and Alex (10) seem to be hugely enjoying all the book stuff (not least because they’re written in to the Shapeshifter series, from book two; see if you can find them!). They would probably say I’m ‘cool’ but there may be a pocket money dimension to this…

12.    Who is the person you most admire?

I admire anyone who has to battle through great adversary to get to their goal, and doesn’t give up. It’s a bit of a cop out, I know – there are too many of them to list! On a personal level, my mum and older sister have undoubtedly saved lives in their nursing careers and it doesn’t get much more admirable than that. I admire Johnny Depp too… but for altogether different reasons…

13.    What is your most embarrassing moment?
I once spent a day at a local radio station on work experience. It was going really well and I’d even voiced a news report which went out in their hourly bulletins. I felt pretty cool as I said goodbye to them all and caught the train home – and when I got back through my door my husband pointed out to me that I had a long tail of pink toilet roll hanging out the back of my trousers. I worked out that it had to have been there, floating gaily in the breeze behind me, for at least the last hour of my work experience day. I flushed.

14.   What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
When I was angsting as a theatre-struck teenager, over possibility of failing an upcoming audition, I would whine ‘Yeah but – why me?’. My parents would always answer ‘Why not you?’ It’s a way of thinking which has served me very well.

15.    What is the best piece of advice you could give to someone?
Do what you say you’ll do. Even if it’s only you that knows about it. Make this a habit (unless it becomes genuinely impossible or unwise). Most people talk about what they will do, but never actually do it. You’ll be way ahead of the pack if you just do what you say you’ll do.

16.    Define beauty.  
The faces of my children (obviously a fairly personal one, that!). A woodland at dawn. Most of Cornwall.

17.    What are you reading at the moment?

Hazel by Julie Hearne. It’s painfully frustrating because I can only grab snatched chapters while waiting at the dentist or in the car or something, but the little I’ve read so far is masterfully written. Very very good. Will have time to read it all soon. Not sure if it’s out yet, as mine is an uncorrected proof.

18.    What would be on the soundtrack of your film – and who would play you?
Feeling Good – the Muse version. No Surprises Please by RadioHead. Hmmm. Alex Kingston would be good (although a little unfeasibly attractive – but this is MY fantasy, yes?!)

19.    Favourite holiday destination?

Cornwall in good weather. With the sun switched on, there’s nowhere to touch The Lizard.

20.    Which authors have most inspired you?

Stephen King, Joan Aiken, Anthony Buckeridge, Douglas Adams, Jerome K Jerome… oooh – I could go on and on and o

21.   What is your favourite children’s book?
Tough to pick just one, but it would probably have to be The Whispering Mountain by Joan Aiken. On another day it might be Brendan Chase by BB.

22.    Most treasured possession?
Aside from family photos and my Apple Macbook, I have some little hematite hearts, gifts from my sons, which I would hate to lose.

23.    Where are you happiest?
In my wellies in a woodland stream, poking about with my family on a warm autumn day.

24.    Favourite biscuit?
Used to be Lemon Puffs until somebody changed the shape. Manufacturers please note – you can’t lever the top bit off properly with your front teeth when it no longer has corners! This was a vital part of The Lemon Puff Experience. Bring back the rectangle ones! Until they do, I will remain in the chilled, fresh-from-fridge Penguin camp.

25.    Pet hates?
The malicious content of newsagents shelves, Big Brother (although I’ll stoop to the celebrity version occasionally), Gordon Ramsey style on-screen bullying and mature male strangers who take it upon themselves to shout ‘left hand down’ and stand in your way while you are trying (perfectly ably!) to park.

26.    If you could change one thing about the world we live in today what would it be?

That people would be less easily offended. Too many people seem to have ‘Get offended, as quickly and irrationally as possible’ on their To Do list. Followed by ‘Stay offended, and if possible allow a mate/partner to further whip up your indignation, before nursing said offence for as long as possible.’ Let it go, people – let it go!

Featured books by Ali Sparkes

Alligator Action

Alligator Action

7+ readers 9+ readers

Author: Ali Sparkes Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/04/2012

Petty's been kidnapped! Josh and Danny have already broken into her secret lab looking for her, and now they're going to brave all her anti-intruder traps and break into her house. There's no sign of Petty, but there is a very interesting little box ...containing the best SWITCH spray ever. Unable to resist the temptation, the twins head to the park to try out alligator SWITCH spray. But before they make it to the river, they're roped into being in the audience of a touring chat show, with some VERY interesting guests ...

ebook of the month

Other books by Ali Sparkes

Oxford Reading Tree Word Sparks: Level 11: The Worst Kite

Oxford Reading Tree Word Sparks: Level 11: The Worst Kite

Author: Ali Sparkes Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 27/10/2020

Savannah is having a kite-making party for her birthday. Hattie thinks her kite is the worst one. Then she has to use it to help Savannah. Using the world's largest known database of writing for and by children, our experts have defined 300 ambitious words to help children succeed at school. We've combined these with finelly levelled books that help you develop support comprehension and fluency, while inspiring and engaging your young readers.

Scaredy Kat Band 10+/White Plus

Scaredy Kat Band 10+/White Plus

Author: Ali Sparkes Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 01/09/2020

Collins Big Cat supports every primary child on their reading journey from phonics to fluency. Top authors and illustrators have created fiction and non-fiction books that children love to read. Book banded for guided and independent reading, there are reading notes in the back, comprehensive teaching and assessment support and ebooks available. Nobody at Puggle School would ever believe Katy's phobia. Some of her friends are scared of spiders. Some of them are scared of snakes. But no-one is scared of a kitten! Katy can't even think about a kitten without breaking out in goose bumps. It would be OK if only her best friend hadn't invited Katy to come and play after school... and meet Fluffy! How can Katy get over her fear? Will everyone think she's totally weird if she tells them? Perhaps she'd be surprised by the fears they have if she ever did ... This story about overcoming fears is written by Ali Sparkes. White Plus/Band 10+ books provide challenging plots and vocabulary as well as opportunities to practise inference, prediction and reading stamina. Pages 46 and 47 allow children to re-visit the content of the book, supporting comprehension skills, vocabulary development and recall. Ideas for reading in the back of the book provide practical support and stimulating activities.

Night Forever

Night Forever

Author: Ali Sparkes Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 23/04/2020

1.34 a.m. It's always 1.34 a.m. Every night without fail, at 1.34 a.m. on the dot, Elena, Matt, and Tima wake up. Except, something's changed. The beam that gave them the ability to communicate telepathically with animals has started to come through early. And that's because the Earth is slowing down. Just one second's delay is causing freak tidal waves, forest fires, chaos in the skies. And it's only getting worse. Do Elena, Matt, and Tima have the power to get the Earth back on track? Or could this mean the end of everything? Find out in the gripping finale to this electrifying series.

Rollercoasters: Frozen in Time

Rollercoasters: Frozen in Time

Author: Ali Sparkes Format: Mixed media product Release Date: 28/11/2019

Spending a long summer at home with their eccentric uncle, Ben and Rachel venture out into the garden and discover a hidden underground vault. Inside are two frozen figures. Before they can decide what to do, Rachel accidentally presses a button, bringing the figures to lifea| Soon Ben and Rachel are caught up in a web of espionage and danger. Will they find a way to survive?

Night Terrors

Night Terrors

Author: Ali Sparkes Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 21/11/2019

It's not every day a couple of eagles pay you a visit in the middle of the night and tell you your friend, who happens to be hundreds of miles away, is in terrible danger. But Matt and Elena are not everyday people. They're Night Speakers, with the ability to communicate with animals, and an uncanny habit of getting into save-the-world situations. But what is shaking the birds' world so much that it would drive them to fly hundreds of miles? Something huge and horrifying is happening, and Tima is in the middle of it. Can Matt and Elena get to her in time? Something is going on below the surface, and only the Night Speakers can stop us all from falling into the cracks. . . The fourth standalone adventure in the Night Speakers series - action adventures about contemporary children with extraordinary powers, told with award-winning author Ali Sparkes's classic humour and energy.

The Great Pebble Puzzle Band 10+/White Plus

The Great Pebble Puzzle Band 10+/White Plus

Author: Ali Sparkes Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 20/09/2019

Build your child's reading confidence at home with books at the right level Collins Big Cat supports every primary child on their reading journey from phonics to fluency. Top authors and illustrators have created fiction and non-fiction books that children love to read. Book banded for guided and independent reading, there are reading notes in the back, comprehensive teaching and assessment support and ebooks available. Nothing mysterious happens in Puggle ... that is until Dev finds a pebble - a pebble with a painting and the word HELP on it. Intrigue builds as more and more pebbles appear around the village. Who keeps sending them? And why? Join Dev and his friends as they seek to solve the Pebble Puzzle in this humorous mystery story by Ali Sparkes. White Plus/Band 10+ books provide challenging plots and vocabulary as well as opportunities to practise inference, prediction and reading stamina. Pages 46 and 47 allow children to re-visit the content of the book, supporting comprehension skills, vocabulary development and recall. Ideas for reading in the back of the book provide practical support and stimulating activities.

Read with Oxford: Stage 6: Rhyme Slime

Read with Oxford: Stage 6: Rhyme Slime

Author: Ali Sparkes Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 21/03/2019

Jasmine can't help speaking in rhyme and it's quite inconvenient to rhyme all the time. When she gets to school she finds that it's worse. The whole of her class can only speak in verse! Books with short chapters are a great way for children who are reading independently to extend reading stamina and progress to the next step of their reading journey. This Read with Oxford Stage 6 book has rhyming verses, short chapters, an engaging story and humorous colour illustrations. Tips for parents and fun after-reading activities help you to get the most out of the story. Featuring much-loved characters, great authors, engaging storylines and fun activities, Read with Oxford offers an exciting range of carefully levelled reading books to build your child's reading confidence. Find practical advice, free eBooks and fun activities to help your child progress on oxfordowl.co.uk. Let's get them flying!

Night Walker

Night Walker

Author: Ali Sparkes Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 21/03/2019

Spin has always dwelled in the darkness. He was happy to lurk alone, until Elena, Matt and Tima came to disrupt his night-time world. Elena, Matt, and Tima are Night Speakers. They wake up at the same time, every night, and since the beginning of these wake-up calls they have all had the power to speak any language. And that doesn't stop with humans. Something weird is going on at the hospital-children are going in, and not coming out. The Night Speakers are investigating, but even they, with their incredible powers of communication with the animal world, are struggling to find out the truth. But Spin's got a ringside seat. Because Spin's got a secret, and he's about to come out of the shadows The third standalone book in the Night Speakers series - action adventures about contemporary children with extraordinary powers, told with award-winning author Ali Sparkes's classic humour and energy.

LoveReading
LoveWriting
LoveReading4Schools
NEW INDIE AND SELF PUBLISHED BOOK REVIEW AND PROMOTION SERVICE LAUNCHED!    Read More
×