Most of my books are still in print and available. If you’d like to contact me about any of my books, please leave a comment on my blog page – I’m always happy to hear from readers…
Illustrated by Katie Hickey
Matthew Henson was simply an ordinary man. That was, until Commander Robert E. Peary entered his life, and offered him a chance at true adventure. Henson would become navigator, craftsman, translator, and right-hand man on a treacherous journey to the North Pole. Defying the odds and the many prejudices that faced him to become a true pioneer. This is his incredible and often untold story. Particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers aged 8+
“This is the story of the first man to reach the North Pole, but not the man celebrated for it. It tells us about his life from the day he ran away from his step-mother’s home until the day he was finally (very belatedly) recognised for his contribution to the expedition. The language is simple but evocative, the characters that he meets are brought to life in a few words of description and then a boy’s (becoming a man’s) view of their acts. You’ll shake your head in frustration at his treatment at the hands of white people while on land, incompatible with his experiences adventuring. His acceptance of “this is how life is” is devastating but real. The three parts to the story are wonderfully highlighted by the vignettes on every page by Katie Hickey.” Teen Librarian
“Catherine Johnson tells the astonishing true story of Matthew Henson – believed by many to be the first explorer to reach the North Pole, but denied official recognition because of his skin colour – in punchy and enthralling prose. From his lucky break as a ship’s cabin boy to his Arctic excursions, learning Inuit languages and skills, Henson’s tale – filled with adventure and injustice – is gripping. Katie Hickey’s black and white landscapes run subtly across the foot of each page.” The Guardian
12-year old Nathaniel is a slave, sent to England. Life in London is tough and Nat seizes the first opportunity to escape. He hears the story of The Zong, a ship where the crew murdered 133 slaves. Will the world continue to turn a blind eye to the horrors of slavery? And can Nat really evade his masters forever? 9+
Nominated for the Carnegie Medal
Reviews“A brilliant, meaningful gem of a novel” Bookseller review Waterstones.
“The powerful story of Nathaniel, brought from Jamaica to England solely to tend pineapple plants aboard the ship by masters who have sold off his mother and sister. Believing that all slaves are free on English soil, Nat looks forward to making his fortune and buying back his family; swiftly disillusioned, he begins to plan his escape. At times harrowing (especially during its description of the Zong court case in 1783, dealing with the murder of 133 slaves at sea), the story is also filled with humour, compassion and hope – humanity’s worst and best, shown side by side.” Guardian review
“An outstanding, age appropriate (around 10+) story of slavery from a hugely accomplished writer. Freedom is a short (150 pages), pacey read, bursting with action and vibrant characters who leap off the page.
Johnson has skilfully balanced what is heart-breaking and harrowing with scenes of friendship, kindness, warmth and humour (oh how I loved the night soil scene!), and Freedom is ultimately a hope-filled tale set in a world on the brink of abolishing the slave trade.
Real historical characters and events are woven into the story, including Olaudah Equiano, Granville Sharp, and the story of the slave ship The Zong, and there are some brief historical notes at the end of the book which would make an excellent starting point for further research.
Freedom is perfect for parents and schools ready to introduce the topic of slavery and the slave trade to youngsters, and is also an important story sure to move and inform readers of any age.” Sophie Anderson, author of The House with Chicken Legs.
If you love short stories here is another anthology crammed with goodness. These are stories celebrating the hundred year anniversary of women getting the bote (some women at least). There’s work from Kiran Millward Hargreave, Emma Carroll, Patrice Lawrence, Sally Nicholls, Katherine Woodfine, Ally Kennen and more. The story in here is especially close to my heart as it concerns the 43 Group. If you’ve never heard of them have a read of Maurice Beckmann’s book of the same name. More history that shouts to be remembered.
I am so proud to have a short story in this blazingly brilliant anthology featuring brand new writers like Aisha Busby, Yasmin Rahman, Phoebe Roy and Mary Bellos, alongside old hands like me, Tanya Byrne, Patrice Lawrence and Nickesh Shukla. It won a special prize from the YA Book Award people and it is packed with excellence!
Blade and Bone
A sequel to Sawbones set in Revolutionary Paris.Young surgeon Ezra McAdam must hasten to Paris to rescue his friend Loveday Finch and her charge Mahmoud, the Ottoman prince, who have been caught up in the Revolution. On the way, Ezra experiences the war first hand on the battlefields of Northern France, where his surgical skills are in high demand by the beleaguered French army. Meanwhile, in Paris, the guillotine is busy, and the medical world is finding the surfeit of bodies useful to its research into the seat of life. Ezra is not persuaded by the controversial theories of his French colleagues, but his mind is on other matters. Finding Loveday and Mahmoud is proving harder than he had imagined: it would appear that Paris really is the most dangerous place on earth. Ezra’s search takes him from the grand Hotel Dieu to the dark catacombs below the city; from the opulent War Office to the tall, forbidding Conciergerie – the city prison – here he must undertake the most audacious rescue attempt of all.
I loved writing this, it’s a real adventure story, with sword fights and derring do. It also features a walk on part from one of my favourite people from history, Colonel Thomas Alexandre Dumas – inspiration for all of the Three Musketeers as well as The Count of Monte Cristo.
‘Packed with fascinating insights into the medical practices of the time, including experiments on guillotined heads, Johnson’s novel is pacy, gruesome and thought-provoking.’ The Guardian
The Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo
This has to be one of my favourite covers, The photo is by the hugely talented Bella Otak and the design is by Laura Bird. Shortlisted for the Bookseller YA Prize and nominated for The Carnegie. My story is based on the true life cobbler’s daughter from Devon who fooled the British Establishment in the early 19th century. It’s a YA read for 13/14 +
There’s a rather brilliant blog tour where you can read lovely reviews and find out more about the book FlutteringButterfiles here.
and The DarkDictator here.
and Maia Moore here.
Thanks to all wonderful bloggers and to wonderful Wei Ming Kam for her brilliant organisation.
Sawbones A forensic murder mystery set in 1792. Ezra McAdam is apprenticed to a top London anatomist and surgeon and can read a dead body as well as you or I might read a book. But when an unusual body arrives for dissection, events spiral out of control. Ezra meets Loveday Finch, hot tempered magician’s assistant and together they unearth a trail of murder and international secrets…
Sawbones won the 2014 Young Quills Award for best historical fiction for over 12s. It has been shortlisted for the Rotherham Book Award, the Salford Children’s Book Prize and the Hoo Kids Book Award.
It has also been nominated for the 2015 Carnegie Medal.
‘Both thought-provoking and accessible, this is an impressive historical adventure.’ www.booktrust.org.uk
‘An enjoyable tale.’ Books for Keeps
‘Both original and informative . . . the wealth of detail never slows what is a tightly woven plot’ Historical Novel Society
‘Cleverly constructed, rich in atmosphere and truly exciting.’ The School Librarian
‘[Reminiscent of] Jamila Gavin’s Coram Boy‘ The Independent
‘Sawbones’s narration was as clean cut and objective as the scalpel and the mind of he that wields them.’ Big Book Little Book www.bigbooklittlebook.com/2014/01/sawbones/
“I can make things happen – good things – I know it!” Seren is so full of brilliant ideas – it’s just that she always seems to put her foot in it! First there was the dance routine where she fell off the stage. And now her plan to get her sister Sasha noticed by gorgeous Luke Beckford looks like it could backfire… Seren reckons she’s just hopelessly accident-prone! But there’s one person who believes in Seren. Her mate Keith is making a film for a national competition and he wants Seren to be in it. Could Seren turn out to be a star after all? This is a funny, big-hearted story with a lovable heroine who will make you laugh and cry.
‘What a great read!’ Victoria Park Books
Out in November 2011 Publisher: Frances Lincoln
Sara and Mina have been best friends for years. So when Sara gets hold of some Tarot cards and suggests they start telling fake fortunes Mina plays along, helping Sara make sure her predictions are right. But soon Sara’s predictions become all too accurate, and she’s dragged in to a dark world of magic and power that she can’t understand. Can Mina save her?
Out August 2011
Publisher: Barrington Stoke
The incredible story of Matthew Henson, the African-American explorer who was written out of history – despite being one of the first to reach the North Pole. A fascinating life, a great adventure and a compelling story of prejudice.
Guardian Education Book of the Week
Time Out Children’s Book of the Week
Publisher: Barrington Stoke ISBN: 9781842994931
Cato Hopkins is the youngest member of Mother Hopkins’s ‘family’ – a group of skilled fraudsters and pickpockets. There’s Addy, who can become a very convincing boy when she needs to; the beautiful Bella, who can charm any rich young man out of his fortune; Sam, an escaped slave and Cato himself, a young boy, who Mother Hopkins has taught everything she knows.
But old age is slowing Mother Hopkins down, and she wants to carry out one last con, a con to outdo all the cons that have gone before. And so the gang set about bringing ruin upon Captain Walker, a proud and cruel slave captain, who deserves to be taught a lesson or two . . .
‘This is a characterful, page-turning drama and a vivid mixture of research and imagination.’
Sunday Times – Children’s book of the week.
‘A thoroughly engaging and entirely convincing yarn with a dash of Dickens and more than a hint of historic realism to help drive the thrust of the narrative. This is a brilliant novel and I’ve recommended it to our stock selection team and also to our School Library Service as part of our citizenship collection.’ –Jake Hope, Lancashire Libraries
‘Another captivating debut. This is one to look out for.’ – The Times
‘Twists and turns, mystery and mayhem together with fascinating details about 18th Century London. I found this a hugely exciting read.’ -Mary Hooper
Publisher: Corgi ISBN: 9780552557627
Devon is heading for trouble. He and his mates jack stuff from other kids. It’s no big deal. Then Devon meets Savannah and everything changes. He starts to change… But Devon’s past is about to catch up with him. And nothing will ever be the same again….
Chosen by Booktrust as one of ‘The Best New Children’s Books’ for their spring roundup: ‘Catherine Johnson’s tragic tale of bad lad Devon feels real and dangerous enough to hit home.’
ISBN 0237529254 Evans Shades series.
When Shehana finds Vlora, stabbed and dying, on her rough London estate, she stops to try to help her. In so doing, she enters a world completely foreign to her own. Vlora had come to England illegally with her brother to work, and ended up a prostitute. Now Shehana must find Vlora’s brother and, with him, try to track down the killer. Shehana can’t tell anyone what’s going on: not her strict parents who want her to work hard at school and marry a man of their choosing; not her best friend, who would never understand; and certainly not her boyfriend. She hasn’t even been able to tell him of her secret dream of going away to university. It seems that Vlora’s brother may be the only one she can talk to. But can she trust him, and what exactly does he know about his sister’s life, and her death?
‘An uncompromising and compelling novel concerned with some of the life and death issues which face twenty-first century teenage girls. Powerful writing which should provoke much teenage discussion.’
‘An exciting and fast-faced thriller develops. The dialogue and characterisation
appear authentic. I think this title will be popular in any area with a multi-ethnic community but will be enjoyed elsewhere too.’ – School Librarian
‘Utterly gripping and convincing thriller.’ – Armadillo Magazine
ISBN-13: 978-0192754981 OUP
The London fashion scene is the height of glamour and beauty or is it? Ness is the daughter of one of the fashion worlds hottest designers. A normal girl, she is happy in the sidelines keeping to herself and her school work. Her cosy lifestyle is shattered when she meets the beautiful, unpredictable and reckless Paula and the two girls become unlikely friends. When Paula becomes sucked into the seedier side of the business Ness must battle to save not just their friendship, but their lives as well.
In a very different time and place, Lauren Bogle, a mixed race girl discovered by a modelling agent on a school trip to London, is desperate to escape from her boring provincial life. Her guardian is dead set against the idea, fearful of what will happen to Lauren when the work starts coming in, the cameras start snapping and the vultures start circling. But Lauren cant see beneath the glossy photos, the expensive apartments and the charisma of it all. She cant see she is treading a path already walked by those closest to her, a path that leads to murder, to prison and to death.
‘An intelligent murder mystery’ – Sunday Times Children’s Book of the Week
‘A really pacy dual-narrative thriller with the fashion industry as backdrop to strong characterisation’ – Achuka, childrens books website
‘You wont be able to stop reading til the mystery is solved.’ -Mizz
Chosen by The Scotsman as one of the top teenage reads of 2005
ISBN 0-19-275406-8 £5.99 Oxford University Press
Nominated for The Lancashire children’s book of the year award
Nominated for the City of Portsmouth book award
Shortlisted for the Hampshire Book Award’Come with me… Join me on a journey far beyond this world… far beyond what is known…’Stella is the ‘Queen of the Night’, a professional spirit-talker. Standing on stage in her gauzy silver cape, looking out with her big brown eyes, she makes people believe she really can talk to the dead.It’s all pretence, of course. Stella couldn’t do it without her guardian, Nana. Then Nana dies suddenly, leaving Stella to survive on her own. And she finds that it can be a lot harder dealing with the living than with the dead..
‘A pacy page turning read’ – The Bookseller
‘A tremendously convincing novel…absolutely fantastic writing’ – The Scotsman
‘A great story and a wonderful detailed evocation of Victorian Hackney’ – The Irish Post
‘Better than most of the novels on this year’s – Guardian Prize shortlist
£4.99 Oxford University Press
Nominated for the Lancashire Children’s Book of the year award‘Roll up! Roll up! To Meet HERO the toughest girl in London
Hear the crunch of her knuckles as she knocks out grown men! See her father, the famous Dark Destroyer, BOUGHT and SOLD! Cheer as she fights to escape a FATE WORSE THAN DEATH!!
Watch her take on all comers in her fight for JUSTICE!’Hero’s father has been taken away to be sent back to the slave plantation, and Hero has been forced to move in with her mother’s family in the East End of London. They despise Hero for being half black and the daughter of an escaped slave, and treat her as a skivvy and prisoner.But Hero’s father was also a prizefighter, the best in the country, and Hero has inherited his fighting spirit. So when she decides to escape and rescue him, she’s ready to take on anyone who gets in her way…’Hero packs a punch! Powerful and passionate.’
‘Exciting and moving’ – Daily Express
‘Almost Dickensian intensity… the plot has a refreshing originality’ – School Librarian
ISBN 019-275197-2 £4.99
Oxford University PressOut of print
Life isn’t easy for Stephanie. She lives in a run-down council estate which is being demolished, and her mother, a failed actress, lives in a world of her own. The only thing that keeps Stephanie going is her photography – and her new relationship with Mark. Then the brother of a schoolfriend is seriously injured in a racist attack. Stephanie suspects Mark may be involved. Where do her loyalties lie? Should she tell what she knows?
‘A vivid and rewarding read.’ – Sunday Telegraph’
A book far above the level of so much issue bound fiction’ – The Scotsman
Out of print
Shortlisted for the Tir N’an Og award
An IBBY White Raven for 2000
Last days of school… that final exam… the awkward visit to say goodbye to some of the teachers. Where will it all lead? Iestyn can’t be sure. Plotting a definite course is not the thing. For him, there’s more life in charging around the forestry in his mate’s car. Until the crash, that is. Until his mate takes up with Martine. Until Iestyn himself has his new job to worry about – and until, more unexpectedly, someone moves in on his feelings with such force that his world is turned upside down.
‘Exceptionally skilled and truthful writing….a story that stays with you’. – Sunday Times
‘Every once in a while I stumble across a teenage novel that restores my faith in the genre…..a superb book.’
– School Librarian
Out of print
‘I watch them cuddling and laughing. Whatever this family is, I’m not part of it. I am oustide. I think different, feel different, look a hundred miles different. Out with all of them, all blond or light brown hair, and my yellow-brown skin, wiry hair – I’m something else. Someone else. An embarassment. I feel my cheeks prickle and the catch in my throat, swallow hard and breathe in. Old news. I know all this. It’s why I’m going. Why I have to go.’Louise lives in Wales with her mum, stepdad and new baby brother. But she misses her old life with her mum and dad. She’s just about the only black girl she ever meets in wales, and now that her dad is dead, the whole of the rest of her family is white. Her stepdad doesn’t even seem to try to understand, her brother is always getting in the way, and she and her mum keep falling out. Even her growing talent at drawing and art can’t cheer her up. So Louise decides to run away. In London, Louise meets Maggie, an art teacher, and Maggie’s gorgeous son Dan. And over the space of a few days, Louise learns a lot – about what she wants in life and where she might fit in.
‘Johnson’s heroine has a brave and endearing voice….I loved the visual detail.’ – Adele Geras Times Educational Supplement
‘A satisfying, relevant and thought provoking read.’ – Books for Keeps
Women’s Press £4.99
Out of print
Sophie’s new home is a modern blue bungalow in a tiny village in Wales. It’s a long way from London and her friends, and a long way from Dad. It might be all right, she thinks, for ‘what I did in the holidays’, but not for living in forever. It gets worse when Sophie starts hearing the breathing at night. Then the ghost appears – dressed in rags and smelling awful but insisting that she is someone special. The last thing Sophie needs right now is to be haunted.
Out of print
Suki and her cousin Nia are packed off to their Nain’s in north Wales for the holidays. For years this was the family ritual. Now for the first time, both girls would rather be somewhere else. Suki, 13, lives in London with her Welsh mother and Guyanese father. Her life in the City feels like it’s just starting. In Wales, she feels she can never belong. Going back to Nain’s is just like opening the wounds.Her older cousin has her own problems: her family, the awfulness of being pony-less and the mercy of pony-owning girls. Then there’s the problem of growing out of ponies and into boys… And all summer she has to put up with her little cousin’s identity crisis, until she too discovers something about herself…
Out of print