An author from Northampton whose children’s stories are among the most borrowed books from UK libraries is celebrating 10 years of her popular series.
Sue Bentley, from Duston, has written more than 70 books for children in the Magic Kitten series.
The books - about Flame, a kitten with magical powers who is really young white lion in his home world - have made Sue one of the most borrowed authors in the UK from public libraries - coming in at position 258 overall last year.
As far as sales go, she has also sold five million books in the UK, the USA and France with further sales in 30 countries.
Sue said: “When you get the figures of how many times a book has been read, it makes you feel good as an author.
“It’s a lovely age group to be writing for, it’s very rewarding.
“When I get a parent saying one of the books has fostered a love of reading, that’s a great feeling.”
“I feel proud and happy that the books mean so much to children.”
Sue has a long association with libraries, having been an assistant until recently since the age of 16.
It is helpful to her writing that she can relate to the thrill a child gets from having access to so many adventures. And she stills recalls her own excitement.
“I remember the feeling of coming across the library in Abington when I was little. It was better than a sweet factory.
“I was just amazed at the fact you could take four books away for free and come back the next week and get four more. I must have read every children’s book there at the time.”
Via her publisher, Sue gets “heartwarming” letters and scrupulous drawings from young fans as far away as Japan and America - including suggestions for characters named after their own pets - and which she replies to at personal expense.
Their devotion seems to be a combination of the popularity of pets and the real-world problems the ‘two leg’ characters go through.
“The books have the ‘cute factor’, I suppose, but Flame is also brave,” Sue says. “They are a really good message for kids.”
“There are issues like bullying and loneliness.
“In one of my favourites, Magic Reindeer, everybody is busy with Christmas, and the little girl is lonely.
“They all have these problems they have to overcome and Flame helps them.”
Sue began her writing by helping to write the Daisy Meadows books, which last year were the third most borrowed titles across the UK. Then in 2006, she and her publishers jointly came up with the idea of a book about a kitten,
“We wanted a feeling of joining a club so that you collect all the books,” she said.
“I wanted a cute, fluffy animal and the fact he was magic; even better.
“The only problem I had was I’d said I’d write a whole new world with each book, with a different family.
“It was a challenge, but I’ve risen to that. It means I can have lots of variety and characters.
“For example, I like to represent society as it is now, with Polish characters and other nationalities.”
After beginning the Magic Kitten series, Sue has since written Magic Puppy, Magic Pony and Magic Bunny books. She has also written books for older children and adults.
But what is it that makes Sue a successful children’s writer?
“I think I have a head stuffed with random facts and that helps,” she says. “But I also have grandchildren, which is an advantage.
“You should never ‘talk down’ to children in your writing. I often think: ‘would my grandson understand this?’ and often the answer is ‘yes’.
But she adds: “You shouldn’t make writing too worthy, though, reading just to enjoy the experience is the important thing.
“I just do the best I can, and I just consider writing for children a privilege.”
‘Magic Kitten is Back’ competition
Sue would like to give away signed copies of some Magic Kitten books, which she would be delighted to present in person.
To be in with a chance of winning one, answer the following question: “When Flame the magic kitten is in his home world, what animal is he?”
The first four people, or schools, to email firstname.lastname@example.org with the correct answer will win a book. Please include a name and contact telephone number and specify which language you would like the book in (English/ French/Italian/Polish/German).
All the usual terms and conditions apply