When I was growing up, my family lived on a newly built housing estate. Just up the lane from us, within calling distance from home, was the woods and fields and a gulley with a stream. But I didn’t go up the lane because I wanted to learn about the environment, I went there to play with friends. We were curious and inventive, and learned to be brave and sometimes cautious. We made dens and dams, running home or to school to tell our parents and teachers what we’d discovered during our games. We learned about the environment and wildlife while we played, not because somebody told us we ought to, but because we came across so many things: we were fascinated by the badger setts deep in the banks of earth, the foxes that came to have a look in our compost heap, the rabbits bounding across the field and the cuckoo calling in the hedge.

My new series for younger readers is called TIGER DAYS and it was inspired by my love of playing and discovery outdoors. It all started with an idea for a place I called Willowgate House. I Imagined what could be explored in a big old house with a huge overgrown garden that nobody had lived in for years. I wanted a character like Tiger Days to be the explorer – someone who isn’t used to being in the outdoors. Although Tiger loves animals (especially tigers!) and lives in a town, she is only used to playing indoors, in her small back yard and sometimes the park, which is not the same as the wild countryside.

Adventures seem bigger when we’re away from home, so I decided that Tiger wouldn’t live at Willowgate, she would just be visiting someone… But who would be the best person to let Tiger make her own discoveries, to encourage her to become more confident, to nudge her if she needed help, and someone who wouldn’t tell her to tidy her room or keep her clothes clean? That’s when I created May Days, Tiger’s grandmother, who used to live on a wildlife reserve in Africa and still helps animals in need. I didn’t want Tiger to have met her grandmother in person before, so that her first visit to Willowgate would be really important. I thought that somebody like Tiger might expect to meet a little old lady who likes cups of tea, custard creams and an afternoon doze, so she’d be surprised to find May Days and they’d have a lot of fun and surprises together.

I loved writing this playful adventure that has lots of action (and some peril!), inventions and a few little tugs at the heart. In the story you’ll also meet Tom, who stays with his grandfather next door to Willowgate and becomes Tiger’s friend and partner in discovering the great outdoors. There’s also a tent in the garden for a bedroom, a very tall hedge with a tunnel through it, a scary old shed where a monster might live and a whole cast of wildlife that will come and go from Willowgate. And one cat who might end up staying for good… I hope you enjoy TIGER DAYS.