The Train to Impossible Places

Flier for the Touch of Whimsy Bookclub's live event, with date and time details, and a photo of author P.G. Bell

Live YouTube Q&A

Live YouTube Q&A 580 751 Peter Bell

I’m joining the Touch of Whimsy Bookclub for their live, online Mad Hatter’s tea party-themed event. They’ll be quizzing me about The Train to Impossible Places, we’ll all be drinking tea and I’ll even be in costume. Come and join us on organiser Alexandra Roselyn’s YouTube channel, 11pm GMT/6pm EST, Saturday October 3rd 2020. (Scroll down for the link.)

Wilmot the postal troll. He is standing in a dark, featureless space and shining a torch into the darkness. A pair of shining eyes watch him from the shadows.

Wilmot Goes Bananas: a free Impossible Places short story

Wilmot Goes Bananas: a free Impossible Places short story 680 523 Peter Bell

Many moons ago (well, two and a bit years ago, anyway) I wrote a short story all about Wilmot’s very first delivery aboard the Impossible Postal Express. It was included in a special limited edition of The Train to Impossible Places here in the UK and hasn’t been available anywhere else since 2018. But now, as The Impossible Places Adventures draw to a close, I’m releasing it on this website for free.

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US cover for The Train to Impossible Places

Barnes & Noble pick of the month

Barnes & Noble pick of the month 401 595 Peter Bell

Some good news for readers in the US – The Train to Impossible Places is a Barne’s & Noble pick of the month for August 2020! And there are some new surprises inside.

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TRAIN ON TOUR IN DELHI

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The thing I like best about writing the Train to Impossible Places Adventures is the opportunity to take readers on journeys to new and exciting worlds. Much to my surprise, the books took me on a much more literal adventure last month when HarperCollins India (who distribute Usborne’s books on the sub-continent) invited me to speak to young readers in Delhi.

P.G. Bell posing with copies of The Train To Impossible Places in the library of Pathways School, New Delhi

P.G. Bell posing with copies of The Train To Impossible Places in the library of Pathways School, New Delhi

 

I have to admit I was a bit nervous. I’d done school tours before but never overseas, and the itinerary looked brutal – meeting three thousand children at ten events across seven schools in just three days! I normally only do two events a day and with smaller groups than I’d be facing in Delhi, so this felt like quite a challenge.

But I was in safe hands from the moment I landed. Nisha Singh from HarperCollins was with me every day alongside Amit Sarin, the owner of local bookshop Kool Skool. They were my guardian angels throughout the tour, ferrying me from one event to another in the face of smog, storms and roadworks.

A view across part of New Delhi

The schools all gave us a wonderful welcome. At our first stop in the Shri Ram school in Aravali I was invited to join the teachers in lighting a ceremonial lamp, representing the light of knowledge. The pupils were certainly shining bright. Despite there being a crowd of 700 – by far the largest group I’ve ever spoken to – they were engaged, enthusiastic and bursting with so many great ideas and questions that they made the event feel almost effortless. It was a pattern repeated at every school we visited, and I’m extremely grateful to all the children and teachers who made those three days such an exciting experience. (My favourite question came from a boy at the Kunskapsskolan international school in Gurgaon, who wanted to know how I manage my time. He was clearly making plans for his own future, which I can only hope will be more organised than mine.)

P.G. Bell and the teachers at Shri Ram school in Aravali light the ceremonial lamp

P.G. Bell and the teachers at Shri Ram school in Aravali light the ceremonial lamp

 

Lighting the lamp at Shri Ram school in Aravali

This tour was also a striking demonstration of the importance of school libraries which, unlike in the UK, are a legal requirement in India. Some of the library spaces were incredible, especially the one at Pathways international school which was the size of a small sports hall. Every school on the tour was doing its bit to champion reading for pleasure, led by really passionate librarians and teachers, and it was clear what a tremendous difference this made to the children. They were all so eager to talk about their own reading experiences.

P.G. Bell talks to pupils at the Pathways international school

P.G. Bell talks to pupils at the Pathways international school

Just a small part of the library at Pathways international school

After a string of big school events, the tour wrapped up with a more relaxed session at Kool Skool with about a dozen children and their parents in attendance. It was the perfect end to my trip, and a great opportunity to get to know some of my readers better. There was just time for a cup of chai before heading back to the hotel to pack for my flight home.

Delhi is such an exciting city, and I feel very privileged to have visited. Even though I only got to glimpse a tiny portion of it, I really hope I’ll be back one day. Until then, I’d like to thank Nisha and Amit for taking such good care of me, and all the children, librarians and teachers who made me feel so welcome. This is a trip I’ll remember fondly for a long, long time.

AWARDS UPDATE

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Sorry it’s been such a while since the last blog post, but there’s been lots going on in the world of The Train To Impossible Places, including some very exciting awards news…First up, I’m thrilled to have made the shortlist of the Branford Boase Award, which recognises not only debut authors, but their editors as well. I’m very fortunate to have two truly wonderful editors at Usborne, in the shape of Rebecca Hill and Becky Walker, who are nominated twice this year – once with me, and again with my fellow Usborne author Sophie Anderson for her book The House With Chicken Legs. (If you haven’t read it yet, you’re missing out!) Rebecca and Becky shared last year’s award with Mitch Johnson, for his novel Kick. Needless to say, Sophie and I are both hoping we can make it two years in a row for them.In fact, Usborne have a record-breaking four books on this year’s shortlist, and I’m already looking forward to catching up with Matt Killeen (Orphan, Monster, Spy) and Mel Darbon (Rosie Loves Jack) at the awards ceremony in London in June. Whatever the result, it promises to be quite a party! Click here to see the full shortlist.
Cover of The Train To Impossible Places as a Children's Category Finalist in the 2019 Independent Bookshop Week Awards

Cover of The Train To Impossible Places as a Children’s Category Finalist in the 2019 Independent Bookshop Week Awards

I’m also very excited to see Train on the shortlist for this year’s Independent Bookshop Week (IBW) Award. Run by the Booksellers Association, IBW celebrates indie bookshops across the UK and Ireland, and runs from 15th – 22nd June 2019. I’m particularly chuffed by this nomination as independent bookshops have been instrumental in Train‘s success right from the start, and I’ve met a host of really dedicated and enthusiastic indie booksellers over the past year. My heartfelt thanks to all of them who put Train forward for this year’s shortlist. Click here to see the full list.I’d also like to thank all the staff of Stockport libraries who nominated Train for this year’s Stockport Children’s Book Awards. School children across the town have been reading their way through the nominees (including The House With Chicken Legs) and have cast their votes. The winner will be announced on 11th July. The full Junior Reader category shortlist can be found here.
Logo of the Bristol Crimefest 2019Finally, some news of past awards. I was very surprised, but thoroughly delighted, to be nominated for this year’s Bristol Crimefest award in April. I’d never considered Train to be a crime novel, but Crimefest’s reviewers not only put it through to the shortlist, but invited me to take part in the festival itself. Sadly, personal commitments meant I wasn’t able to attend but it was a great privilege to be considered, and congratulations go to Lauren St. John, who won the children’s category with her novel Kat Wolfe Investigates. (I’m already crossing my fingers for next year’s award, when my next book, The Great Brain Robbery will be out. As the title suggests, it’s quite crime-centric!)

The shortlisted authors and illustrators at the Waterstones Children's Book Prize 2019
All the shortlisted authors and illustrators at the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2019 (photo by Izzy Romilly)

Last of all, and as I’m sure many of you are already aware, the winner of Waterstones Children’s Book Prize was announced on 21st March. Onjali Rauf scooped the prize for her book The Boy At The Back of the Class, and even though neither Train nor The House With Chicken Legs won, it was a tremendous pleasure to be shortlisted. The whole evening was a fantastic experience in wonderful company, and I’m very grateful to the Waterstones booksellers who put Train forward for the award. So congratulations to Onjali on a well-deserved win, and here’s to all my fellow nominees. We had a blast, and you can read more about the category winners, and see a few more photos from the event, here.

The window display at Waterstones Picadilly, March 2019, featuring the shortlisted books
The Waterstones Picadilly window display, March 2019

 

left to right, editors Becky Walker, Rebecca Hill, author P.G. Bell, agent Gemma Cooper and designer Katharine Millichope at the Waterstones Children's Book Prize ceremony
From l-r, editors Becky Walker and Rebecca Hill, me, my agent Gemma Cooper and Usborne cover designer Katharine Millichope

 

Onjali Rauf accepts her prize for "The Boy At The Back Of The Class"
Onjali Rauf accepts her prize for “The Boy at the Back of the Class”

“TRAIN” MAKES THE WATERSTONES SHORTLIST!

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After a relatively peaceful Christmas, 2019 has started with an absolute whirlwind of activity. I’ve been racing to meet deadlines for book 2, preparing for my first ever school events (more on both those things in future posts) and – the biggest news of all – this week The Train To Impossible Places made the shortlist for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize.For anyone not familiar with Waterstones, it’s the UK’s biggest chain of bookshops (sort of our equivalent of Barnes & Noble), and their annual Children’s Book Prize is a Very Big Deal indeed.Titles are nominated by the stores’ booksellers, and I feel tremendously honoured that they’ve put The Train To Impossible Places forward. It’s a very strong shortlist, which includes The House With Chicken Legs (probably my favourite book of 2018), by my follow Usborne writer Sophie Anderson. The winners will be announced on Thursday 21st March, so watch this space.You can find a complete rundown of all the shortlisted titles here, and Waterstones are offering them all in a “Buy One, Get One Half Price” offer. I’ll be popping into as many branches as I can reach between now and the end of March to sign copies. I’ve already made it to Birmingham and Cardiff, but keep an eye on my Twitter profile for more as and when they happen.

Author P.G. Bell stands in front of a bookshelf displaying shortlisted titles for this year's Waterstones Children's Book Prize
I popped into Waterstones Birmingham to sign a load of copies this week

As if that weren’t good enough, Sophie and I have both made the longlist of this year’s Branford Boase award. The award jointly celebrates debut authors and their editors and, by a happy coincidence, Sophie and I are both edited by the wonderful duo of Rebecca Hill and Becky Walker. Rebecca and Becky won the award last year, along with author Mitch Johnson, for his novel Kick. Sophie and I hope that, between us, we can make it two wins in a row for them.

The Branford Boase Award logo

The Branford Boase Award logo

 

Our publishers Usborne are fantastically well represented on this year’s longlist, with no fewer than four titles – a fifth of the total! Click here to see the full longlist.

Keep your fingers crossed for me!