The Time of Green Magic

Guest Q&A with Hilary McKay

Hilary Mckay’s latest title The Time of Green Magic published on the 5th September and we at FCBG were keen to discuss Hilary’s amazing new title with her, and talk all things book related. We are delighted to share the questions we put to Hilary with you, alongside a fantastic giveaway to win a copy of this spellbinding story.

Q: How would you describe The Time of Green Magic in five words?
Unfolding pages. Things that grow.

Q: The magic in the ivy covered house stems from books, how important is reading to you?
I cannot imagine life without reading. 

Q: In the story Louis doesn’t like the books he is sent home from school with, and on one occasion he posts one back through the school letter box. Is that something you have ever experienced or witnessed happening? Can you tell us your earliest book related memory?
Louis also posts a school reading book down a street drain.
I remember a paper covered school reading book when I was 6 or 7. There was a word in it I couldn’t read. It was the name of a brown and white terrier dog belonging to two children, who I think were called Janet and John. I was very frightened of the class teacher so I couldn’t ask for help and I didn’t know then that it was possible to skip a word. So every time it was my turn to read aloud I read the page before the one with the un-nameable dog. The same page, over and over. I was very worried that one day the teacher would realise this, but not as worried as I was about what would happen to me if she discovered that there was a word I couldn’t read. It seems to me now that I did this for months, and I could see no end to the problem until one day we were told to get ready for a parents’ afternoon. On this day, they said, all the mums would come to school to look at our work, which we were to arrange each in a plastic tray and have ready on our desks. Then I made a furtive plan, and among my painted pictures and maths sheets, and the woven table mat, I hid my reading book. And at some point during the afternoon I got it out and very casually, so that she would not suspect she was about to aid me in wicked cheating, I showed it to my mother. And she read the word. She read it easily. Like it was just a word, not a thing of nightmare dread. Scamp. The name of the dog was Scamp. And so I could turn over the page.

There was a very naughty boy in that class, named Kevin Massingham. One day, walking home from school, I noticed him busy in the gutter. He was poking his school reading book, in bits and pieces, down a drain. In those days we all took ourselves to school and back unbothered by hurrying parents, and so I was able to stand (at a safe distance) and watch the whole book disappear, the paper cover last.
Then Kevin Massingham turned and saw me watching. It must be possible to unknowingly, visibly radiate delight. And understanding and comradeship and approval and admiration. And I must have done that as I watched, because Kevin Massingham, instead of taking steps to poke me down the drain after the book, as he would have done at any other time, took me by the hand and showed me a great secret, one that the boys had been keeping private for days and days, the dead dog behind the pile of bricks against the library wall.
It was a brown and white terrier. Squashed flat. It looked just like Scamp.

Q: At times in the book the characters worry about relevant things, one of them even writes a worry list to help them cope, How do you relax when you are feeling stressed? 
I walk, or garden, but most of all I read. 

Q: What inspired you to write The Time of Green Magic?

Reading about the Chauvet Cave system, Iffen himself, who has haunted my nights for many years, but most of all the books I read as a very young child, adult books I only half understood. I mined them, more than read them, following the silver thread of magic through the pages. The Kon-Tiki, The Worst Journey in the World, Anne Frank, Ten Years Under the Earth…

Q: Do you have any specific places you go to when writing?
Mostly this cold converted garage. I share it with David Attenborough (in cardboard cut out form).

Q: What are you currently reading?
Erebus, Michael Palin. Where Shall We Run To? Alan Garner. 

Q: If you could be any character from a children’s book who would you be and why?
What a hard question! Who had a magic carpet? I remember E Nesbitt gave one to her family in The Phoenix and The Carpet, so i should be any one of those characters (and I would look after it better than they did).

Giveaway – For a chance to win one of five copies of The Time of Green Magic kindly provided by Macmillan answer the following question and send your answer to

Q: What was the name of the dog in the book Hilary repeatedly read in primary school? Best of luck to you all, this is a UK based competition only and winners will be contacted by email soon after the competition closes on 1st October 2019.

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