Tag Archive for Flynn Tatum

Devilishly Good Reads

Children’s literature likes to side-line parents, mainly so that the children can take part in exciting adventures and explore dangerous places, without the restrictions of rules and risk-averse parental guidance.

These two books flip this concept on the head, by introducing parents who are very much present, and whose actions inspire the children to seek out their parents’ motivation for behaving in such a way.

But both these books also push the boundaries of acceptability in a delightfully comic, original, and subversive way.

jim reaper

Jim Reaper: Son of Grim by Rachel Delahaye, illustrated by Jamie Littler is hilarious. Jim is an ordinary kid, with a longing for a new limited edition Bazoom! Scooter, and a cute innocent crush on his best friend’s totally awesome older sister, Fiona. He lives at home with his health-mad mum and his boring accountant Dad, and his cute but mischievous little sister.

When Jim devises a scheme to convince his Dad to buy him a scooter, it involves sneaking into his father’s dull accountancy office and leaving a note, but when he and best friend Will do break into Mallet and Mullet accountancy firm – it’s not quite how they envisaged. Why does Jim’s Dad’s office bear the sign ‘G Reaper’? If your Dad is Death – what would you do? And would you still want a Bazoom! Scooter?

Sprinkled with Dr Who references, wonderful snapshot characterisations, and a really amusing motivation behind the plot, this is a brilliantly funny story. Told in the first person by Jim, the reader is with the protagonist all the way, rooting for him to obtain all his goals, and hoping that his dad turns out to be a friendly Death!

Rachel’s writing bounces off the page – it’s lively, winning, clever and fun, and the suspense of who his Dad really is pulls throughout – especially when he tells his son jokes about coffins for example, but sways unsteadily at the mention of blood.

Each character has his or her own foibles, comic identity and character traits – from the peskiness of little sister Hetty: “Arguing with Hetty takes stamina,” to the superiority of Fiona: “’See you later, losers!’ She spat the words at us like a she-Viking gobbing into a fire pit.”

Of course there’s much fun to be had when you’re playing with a taboo subject, and Rachel Delahaye comes up trumps here – from the Dad’s suffocating hugs, to Jim squeezing his Dad’s hand “as if his life depended on it.” And don’t be scared, the equally funny illustrations by Jamie Littler depict the scooter with far more zap and panache than the offices of death (“Was it Dress Like Dracula for Charity Day?”). Buy a copy here – your life may depend on it. Age 8+ years.

hells belles

It was as much fun as reading Hell’s Belles by Tatum Flynn, illustrations by Dave Shephard, a continuation of the story from The D’Evil Diaries that does not disappoint. The D’Evil Diaries was told from Jinx’s point of view – the son of Satan. Hell’s Belles continues with a dual narrative structure this time – told both from Jinx’s point of view, and from Tommy’s, a dead girl who happened to end up in Hell.

The stupendous world building carries on in Book Two, with a sumptuous flipping of our world into the hellish belly of the world – from Damnazon delivered parcels, to shops including Miss Selfish and Scarehouse, as well as the new Poisoned Apple Store.

There’s plenty that doesn’t exist in our world too, from the living gargoyles, demons and dragons to the ten-ton yellow monsters called Dreadbeasts (like cows, but less pleasant).

But as in Rachel Delahaye’s book, it’s the writing that shines through. Confident, easy to read, incredibly witty and original. The pace is steady, the characterisation spot on – yes even Satan is more than a two-dimensional bad-ass, and the plotting is tight.

Tommy enters a deadly competition to make the demons in Hell realise that she’s as feisty as they are even if she’s a human girl – she’s already dead, so what could she possibly lose? But when she discovers she may be the descendant of Pandora – a woman cursed for her inability to create a sturdy-enough box – she may have to seek some answers in some rather unpleasant places (and Hell is full of them). It’s a cracking read, as punchy as its heroine, and contains all the ingredients of a good yarn – from the characters of myths and legends – Persephone, Pandora et al, plus a particularly evil stepmother, some nasty snakes and ferocious kittens, as well as a rather cute electrifying companion.

I breezed through it – loving every minute. Tommy and Jinx are brilliant child characters, with depth of thought and emotion, and spirit. Fun for everyone – especially those who like a little cheeky subversion. Intricately crafted illustrations in framed pictures are sprinkled throughout the book too. Don’t abandon all hope – ye can buy a copy here. Age 9+ years.

An Interview with Tatum Flynn, author of The D’Evil Diaries

The Devil Diaries TatumFlynn (2)

Tatum Flynn is darn witty on twitter. I always feel that twitter users should be witty – the word wit is in the name – but Tatum and her avatar stand out in particular. And then I noticed that she’d written a book for children too – with a deeply compelling title, The D’Evil Diaries, and I knew I had to read it. The book has an intriguing premise – it is set in Hell, features the Devil himself, which is fairly subversive for a children’s book aimed at the 9 yrs+ audience, and even contains conversations between the Devil and God. I realised this was one debut children’s author whom I had to interview. I first asked Tatum if she had set out to do something different by writing her rather rebellious yet highly inventive novel.
I’m not sure if​ any writer sets out to write something different on purpose, we just all *are* different, we all have uniquely odd internal universes. Writers just let the cat out of the bag by putting those internal universes onto the page. I simply set out to write a story that would entertain me, with an eye to eleven-year-old me, and that story happened to be a funny version of Hell because that type of subversion and unlikely juxtaposition is the kind of thing that tickles me.
In the novel there are two very likeable and well depicted children – Jinx, the son of the Devil, and Tommy, a dead child who seems to be in Hell by mistake. Is Tatum more of a Jinx or a Tommy?
All my characters have a bit of me in them – I think they have to, to come alive – but honestly the character that I most identify with is Loiter. [Jinx’s pet sloth] I would happily spend most of my days lounging in a hammock drinking margaritas and reading Calvin and Hobbes. But if I had to choose between Jinx and Tommy, I’d say I was more like Tommy as a kid – I didn’t have her talents for gymnastics or knife-throwing, but I was pretty bouncy and chatty and a crackshot with a pistol.”
Devil Diary illustration2
Pistols aside, there’s some wacky stuff in the book, with superb action scenes from a carousel where evil horses come to life, to woods with dead witches hanging from trees. Above all, there is oodles of humour, and not just common slapstick, but witty intellectual humour, which is so refreshing and wonderful to read in a children’s book:
Humour doesn’t necessarily come naturally to me. Sometimes it does, but sometimes I go back and say, Hmm, this chapter isn’t funny enough, let’s have someone fall on a hellhound and squish them. But that’s the joy of writing – it’s easier to be funny when you have time to think about it! Esprit d’escalier and all that. Humour generally, though, is super important to me. Laughter is the physical manifestation of joy, there should be more of it around. It’s one of the reasons I write kid’s books, because there’s far more humour in them than adult books. Humour is also a great way to take pretention down a peg or two, or mock terrible things happening in the world. I think humour keeps the human race sane, and that’s not an exaggeration.”
Tatum’s book is funny, but also controversial, as Tatum features God as a character in The D’evil Diaries. I wanted to know if she’d hesitated before including Him, as I imagine there may have been consternation among some publishers:
Yes, a little, though probably not for the reasons you might think – I mean, once you set a kid’​s book in Hell you’ve already pushed all your chips in the middle.”
Tatum’s chips reference brings her past as a professional poker player into play. Maybe this helped her look at things from different points of view in the book as well. It is written in first person, from Jinx’s point of view, but Tatum also has scenes between God and Lucifer.
I was unsure about having too many different points of view.​ The first section from His point of view was something I wrote early on, but I took it out. Then I was encouraged by various people to enlarge the Lucifer sections and interstitials, so I put it back in. One of my favourite lines in the book is ‘God was in his pyjamas’, so I’m glad He crept back in, plus I’m fond of the dynamic between Him and Lucifer, where the King of Hell reverts to being a sulky teenager around his Father.”
Devil Diary illustration
I stopped short of asking Tatum about her religion but did venture to query her opinion on the existence of Heaven and Hell:
The epigraph at the beginning of my sequel is:
‘The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.’​
​from Paradise Lost​. That’s the type of heaven and hell I absolutely think exists. I’ll leave the possible existence of other types to the theologians.”
Something that particularly tickled me in the book was Tatum’s imaginative use of chapter titles from chapter 10 ‘Blah Blah Secret Plots Blah Blah’ to chapter 11 ‘Library Cards at Dawn’ but also her references to songs, chapter 14 ‘If You Go Down to the Woods Today’ to chapter 23 ‘Just Another Brick in the Wall’. Which song would Tatum prefer of the two?
Woods, definitely, I always think there’s something slightly deliciously creepy about the teddy bears’ picnic…
Lastly, I asked Tatum which book in the world she wished she had written. Jokingly, she replied…”the new one I’ve just started,” but then proceeded to tell me her favourite influences:
Molesworth, the Addams Family, Tankgirl, Calvin and Hobbes – but I couldn’t have written (or drawn, interesting how they’re all illustrated) those anyway. I’m just glad that they’re out in the world for me to be inspired by. I think most people become writers because the book they want to read doesn’t exist, at least that was partly ​the case with me. So I think the book I wish I had written is one of my own that’s yet to come, one that will be as near to perfect as I can clumsily make it.”
Self-deprecating, witty and clearly talented, I’m delighted to have interviewed Tatum Flynn about her debut children’s book. I’m sure I’ll be talking to her in years to come about how much more she’s achieved.

You can purchase The D’Evil Diaries here and find out more about Tatum Flynn here, including her vagabond past of piloting lifeboats in Venezuela, shooting rapids in the Grand Canyon and almost falling out of a plane over Scotland.

 

 

The D’Evil Diaries by Tatum Flynn

The Devil Diaries

Once in a while a children’s book comes along that is so inventive, and witty, and different, that you want to hug it whilst reading. Twelve year old protagonist Jinx D’evil is just like any other school boy apart from the fact that he is a demon with bright red skin and wings, lives in Hell and is the son of the ruler there, Lucifer. His problem is that he is too angelic – he is no good at being devilish, and runs away from his father after disappointing him one too many times. Whilst on the run, in the outer circles of Hell he meets Tommy, a dead girl, and together they discover a coup to overthrow his father, and finally Jinx has a chance to prove himself a worthy devilish son. The ensuing adventure is fast, furious and fun. The story is gripping, the writing compelling and the jokes clever and witty, so that you can appreciate them as an adult and as a child – it’s not just silly slapstick:
“Now, now, you really needn’t worry. I happen to know that Tafrac, the Patron Demon of Wrath, isn’t home right now. I believe he’s down on Earth, busy making people angry with a new scheme, something to do with website comments.”
Even the chapter headings are well conceived, from ‘A Rare, Lesser-Spotted Dead Girl’ and ‘Blah Blah Secret Plots Blah Blah’ to ‘How Grim Was My Valley’. Throughout the book these chapters are interspersed with scenes of Lucifer himself – sometimes on holiday – sometimes chatting with God. Tatum Flynn’s writing oozes effortless humour, but she manages to deftly mix it with a great plot and loveable and realistic characters. The friendship between Jinx and Tommy is nicely observed and develops well during the novel. This is a great debut book from a new talent. I recommend it both for its irreverence and its crafty humour. There will be high expectations for the sequel.

Illustrations by Dave Shephard

Publishes 2nd April. You can buy the book here.

Thank you to Hachette publishers for sending me a proof copy of this title for review.