Call The Puffins! by Cath Howe, illustrated by Ella Okstad

Publication Date: 2 March 2023

The Blurb

Welcome to the island of Egg where a group of young puffins are training to join a search and rescue team.

Meet Muffin who is following in her dad’s footsteps and anxious not to let him down. Meet Tiny whose eyesight is a challenge which won’t stop him for long. And meet Forti who seems so over-confident but is really desperate to impress.

Along with their fellow recruits, the puffins must work together to help all the birds on the island.

The Review

What a wonderfully warm, witty book to kick off this gorgeous series for younger readers, whether reading at bedtime with a grown up or as an early independent chapter book.

Teamwork, resilience and playing to your strengths are all key themes as Muffin gets to grips with life in the colony. Children will be able to empathise with Muffin as she starts her training, navigates new friendships and worries about her funny feet! I particularly loved their first bedtime, with a very special story for the new recruits, showing how comforting and powerful shared stories can be.

Ella Okstad’s glorious illustrations bring the youngest members of the colony to life with humour and heart, and help us imagine the island they now call home.

I can’t wait to go adventuring with Muffin and Tiny again. Want to find out what they’ll be getting up to next? Check out the Q&A with Cath Howe!

The Q&A with Cath Howe

Tell us a little about Call The Puffins!

Call the Puffins! tells the story of a puffin rescue team training on the island of Egg to rescue birds and eggs in danger. They have lookouts posted in an abandoned lighthouse and an arena for practising their skills.

Muffin, the newest recruit, is setting off to the island with her dad in her new uniform. She is apprehensive about starting her new life in the colony away from home. Will she be teased about her unusual-shaped feet? Above all, will she find a friend?

My joyful series shows young puffins, a bit like an eager new class in primary school, learning to get along together and finding ways to boost each other up through songs and friendship and building their bravery through doing rescues.

Call The Puffins! is for a younger age group than your other books. How different did you find pitching this?

I have really loved creating the series. I think it is inspired by my ongoing work in schools. It is different to my middle-grade fiction but there are features which bind them together, I think. The writing is warm with empathy at the heart of it. The puffins are funny and chatty- I always love writing dialogue.

There are a lot of creatures that work together in colonies. Why did you pick puffins?

Puffins look amazing- like ready-made lifeguards in uniform. I love watching puffins- they make me smile. They have to flap hard to stay in the air. They toddle when they walk. I find them easy to love.

Ella Okstad does a brilliant job of illustrating Call The Puffins! How do her images match up to the images in your head when you were writing the story?

The illustrations are amazing! They far surpass what was in my head. Ella has made it easy to write lots more stories. She brings out the warmth and friendliness of my characters in a way that is magical.

I’m delighted that this is the first in the series for younger readers. Can you tell us anything about what Muffin and Tiny are going to get up to next?

The recruits have settled in on the island, but Tiny is struggling a bit when they do rescues and we will find out why. In the next rescue he is going to need to be very brave and the whole team will have to pull together to rescue an egg on a crowded beach with an enemy lurking in the dunes.

Do you have a special place that you write?

I have a very old clerk’s desk I can stand at to write. It dates back about one hundred and sixty years, to the time of Dickens! It’s heavy dark wood and, over the years, its owners have gouged out patterns and designs, spilled ink and chipped bits off. It feels like a bit of history, connecting me to other writers. I love it.

How do you motivate yourself to keep writing when the words don’t come easy or feedback is negative?

I think it’s good to check in with the work each day, even in small ways. Walking helps me solve plot problems. I also go into school and chat to children. They keep me grounded and enthusiastic.

Which books and/or authors inspired you as a child?

I love John Burningham’s Borka- The adventures of a goose with no feathers. It has amazing illustrations. As a child, I used to love the Mary Plain books by Gwynedd Rae about a bear in a zoo in Switzerland. And Paddington, of course.

If you could choose one book to read again for the very first time, which book would you choose?

“Hairy Maclary” by Lynley Dodd- I love its rhythms.

For older readers, “Too Small to Fail” by Morris Gleizman- he writes children in such a believable way.

If you could spend a day with any fictional character who would you choose and why?

I’ve always wanted to fly and dive deep down in the sea so I’d like to spend a day with Muffin in Call The Puffins!, please. I’m not sure I’d enjoy sleeping in a burrow though. It’s very dark in there.

Otherwise, I’d like to be an animal for a day and get a glimpse of the world from their viewpoint. I always loved Mrs Frisbee and the Rats of Nimh by Robert C O’Brien which has a brave and interesting mouse as its main character. I’d love to visit her house and the mouse community inside the tree. To be that small would be fascinating!

Huge thanks to Cath for her time and fascinating answers to the Q&A, and to Welbeck Flame for sending me a copy of the book and inviting me to take part in the blog tour. Do make sure you check out all of the other stops.


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