Sunday, 13 May 2012

A Healthy Obsession With Attics by Ruth Eastham and 2 copies of The Messenger Bird to giveaway!

tall tales & short stories is thrilled to welcome Ruth Eastham back to the blog to celebrate publication of her new book, The Messenger Bird, and to tell us all about her love of attics.

There are also two copies of The Messenger Bird up for grabs!
The competition's international and details follow at the end of Ruth's post.


Nathan's dad has been arrested for breaking the Official Secrets Act. Now he faces a life in prison. But as British Intelligence Officers drag him away, he tells Nathan to follow a trail - one that could prove his innocence. 
The first clue is a letter, written during the Second World War. 
Nathan must uncover its meaning or risk losing his dad forever.


A Healthy Obsession With Attics

Lucy found the wardrobe in one? A Little Princess had to sleep in one; Alex discovers a secret diary in one, and Nathan finds a vital clue in one. Just what is it about writers and attics?

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe (2005, Walt Disney Pictures/Walden Media)

I guess I must be obsessed. With attics, that is. Or lofts, as they might be known where you come from. And I’m not talking about these new fangled conversions, either.

In both my books, attics are important settings. In The Memory Cage, the attic is a forbidden place that holds the key to Grandad’s past.

In The Messenger Bird, it’s a dingy room cluttered with World War II memorabilia.

So just what does an attic do that other rooms can’t? A dining room, for example, or a nice ground floor lounge? An attic is more than just a useful storage space. There are plenty of writers who realised its enormous potential; writers spanning the history of children’s literature, across the genres.

Take the 1950s, for example, and the master of attic-usage, C.S. Lewis. In The Magician’s Nephew, Digory and Polly are exploring from one attic to another along a row of terraces when they stumble upon Uncle Andrew’s study. One touch of a magic ring then transports them to the Wood Between the Worlds, putting into motion the whole of the Narnia Chronicles.

I’ll be honest. As a child, the thought of being able to creep from house to house through the upper loft space was somehow appealing. Illegal? Likely. Sinister? Maybe. But breathtakingly appealing, nonetheless.




In ‘The Amulet of Samarkand’ by Jonathan Stroud, neglected magician’s apprentice Nathaniel has an attic room in his master’s house, and it’s there the 5,000 year old Bartimaeus is summoned. In Lauren Oliver’s magical ‘Liesl and Po’, a neglected girl locked in an attic meets the ghostly Po.




There are obvious storytelling perks to using an attic as a setting. Subdued lighting, scary shadows, cobwebs brushing a character’s head, that kind of thing. Floorboards that could crash down if you make a wrong step…



In Alan Garner’s ‘The Owl Service’, it’s scratchings from the attic that lead Gwyn to the floral dinner plates that will trigger an ancient and deadly legend.

An attic is where something unwelcome can lurk and spy and lie in wait. In Frank Cottrell Boyce’s ‘Millions’, in true spine-tingling style, a nasty man slips down from the roof space to confront Damian about the stolen money.


In ‘Secrets’ by Jacqueline Wilson, the abused runaway, Treasure, is hidden by her new friend India in the attic.


So here’s to the marvellous multi-faceted attic!
That secret in-between space – part of your house, but not.
Your higher self. Your Wood Between the Worlds.
Right above your head.



It's easy to enter!
Here's what to do!

  • Leave a comment on the blog, say hi and give me your name. If you want to leave your email address that's great, if not, I'll be announcing the winners after midday on the 28th May, UK time. So make sure to check in here and on twitter.

  • Retweet the competition details on twitter.
          You'll find me at @TABwrite
          and Karen @KLLaing

  • All entries go into a hat and two winners will be chosen at random.
  • And it doesn't matter where you are in the world this competition is international and open to you.

Competition Deadline
Midnight, 27th May , 2012, UK time.

THE MESSENGER BIRD ~ a tall tales & short stories review

The Messenger Bird is a cracking adventure story, with an intriguing mystery to be solved - just how is Nathan's dad involved with the suspicious activities of a World War Two Bletchley Park code breaker? Has he really been selling secrets to others?  Is he a spy betraying his country?  And just how do you deal with a revelation like that?

Nathan sets out to solve the puzzling chain of clues that his father left him before he was arrested.  He's determined to prove his dad's innocence even though the evidence is stacking up against him. So in a cold winter, where the night's are long and the snow is deep, Nathan and his friends discover the answer to several secrets from now and in the past.

Ruth Eastham successfully creates a story that not only educates but entertains. She provides a fascinating glimpse into the world of the Bletchley Park code breakers and their highly-secretive work trying to de-code and understand the coded messages during World War Two. If the Enigma machine had not been created and the code-breakers had not worked so tirelessly the outcome of the war may have been very different.

So all in all, a great read for 10+ readers of both sexes, that offers a fantastic mix of modern and historical in a page-turning adventure. It certainly left me wanting to find out more about Bletchley Park and some of the historical events mentioned in the story.  A book to encourage an interest in recent history in a fun, adventure-filled way.


You might also like Ruth Eastham's debut author interview here on tall tales & short stories, where she talked about her debut novel,The Memory Cage, and her writing journey.

For those of you collecting letters for



M said...

I'm going to make a note of these attic books. And I'd also add Virginia Andrews' Flowers in the Attic :) (for the older reader). On crawling house to house through attics, I looked at a flat once and they connected to each other through little doorways - apparently this was the fire escape!

Miss. Lucinda Fountain said...

I would like to thank you for an increadible book giveaway, and i would be honored if my name could be put forward for it. I am so pleased to have found your increadible book blog & would like to thank you once again; it looks an utterly facinating book and one that i shall add to my to-read list! Xx

Email: lfountain1(at)hotmail(dot)co(dot)uk

Helen Baggott - said...


Janet Foxley said...

We moved a lot when I was a child and I always hoped we'd find something exciting under the next new roof. But the most we ever found was a Union Jack and a paper bag containing what looked like someone's ashes.

Disincentive said...

I'd love to win! Not sure if I did all thing right. Retweet: @fetadesu

my email is

Ruth Eastham said...

Hey, I'd like to win one of those books! :D Thanks for all the lovely comments and interest in the book, guys. And an especially big thanks to Tracy for inviting me! x Ruth

Anonymous said...

The Messenger Bird sure sounds like an exciting read! I'd love to win! Not sure if I did all thing right.

Tracy said...

Hi Disincentive and Annette584
Yes, you did it right. You've left a comment so you'll now be entered into the giveaway.
Thanks for entering

PS My pleasure Ruth! :)

Candy Gourlay said...

Congrats, dear Ruth, I hope this book is as successful as your excellent debut!

Lorrie Porter said...

I love the idea of a mystery trail all wrapped up in World War II history. Sounds like a gripping story.

Tom Harris said...

Love the concept for this Ruth, will certainly be taking a look at The Messenger Bird. And you've just helped me to solve the mystery of the missing roofer and the constant banging in the middle of the night. I thought he was late with that invoice, so thanks for that from me and his family :)
Tracy, thanks for the great post and being a fab host.

Midu Hadi said...

Thank you for this awesome giveaway!

Anonymous said...

The Messenger Bird sounds great. Thanks for the giveaway!

Naise Barrett said...


Messenger bird sounds like such a great book.
Full of riddles and mystery.
Thanks for the giveaway!!

From Naise Barrett.

Naise Barrett said...

Oh dear I forgot to put my E-mail address
Here it is:


Sue said...

Very interesting stuff about attics - I tend to write about cellars and I think there are some quite interesting symbolic differences as well as the obvious similarities!

I'd love to win a copy of 'The Messenger Bird' - I am fascinated by Bletchley Park.


Michelle said...

This sounds like the sort of thing I might actually get my daughter to read!
Thanks for the give away :)

London said...

Thanks for the giveaway!

London Judge

Melinda Szymanik said...

count me in for the giveaway. I can't retweet you but will mention this on fb

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