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Tilling the ‘Muddy Waters’ M


any of us have desires to write for children. Indeed two of the Four Shires staff have ambitions on penning for the younger generation. With the saturation in


this particular market place however, seldom do these dreams ever see reality. There is one children’s book series to look to for inspiration though.Written and self published in the Four Shires, The Muddy Waters series has found success and a faithful place in the hearts of children and adult alike. Dan Clacher of Yarnton in Oxfordshire took to writing


children’s books after bedtime stories he created for his grandchildren proved extremely popular. Alexei and Oliver were enthralled by his tales of narrowboats; particularly those set in nearby Thrupp. It has proved a


real novelty to be able to visit the places mentioned in the stories. Dan Commented ‘I must admit to the whole concept being brought about by my eldest grandson, Alexei. On one of our regular canal walks he pointed out to me that one of the narrowboats looked


sad. On taking a moment to get down to his eye level, I could immediately see what he meant. It might sound a bit daft, but the boats genuinely seem to have their own faces with a very human variety of expressions.’ From this innocent comment The Muddy


Waters series was born. The stories see the Oxfordshire boats visiting exciting UK destinations, such as the Falkirk Wheel in Scotland and the vibrant bustling River Thames in London. There are currently eight titles in the series, with a ninth due out in March. Bringing the stories to life is illustrator, Stephen


Preedy. He takes great care with his beautiful hand drawn paintings of the real geographical locations featured in the books. Pearly’s Welcome to London, the third book in the series, has been a hit with even the biggest of kids; everyone enjoys spotting the well known landmarks. A trait which runs through all of Stephen’s Muddy Waters illustrations is that he hides a ladybird in every picture. Of course, the children always spot them before the adults do! Dan continued; ‘Self publishing was a huge gamble, we had no prior knowledge of the book industry excepting that we are all prolific consumers. There has been so much to learn along the way and still so much more to get to grips with.’


In the realisation of his dream, Dan has attended many bookseller conferences and has taken on board a great deal of advice from writers and publishers within the industry. With support from his family, Dan decided the best way forward for his books would to be to set


up Windlass Publishing Ltd and self publish. Initially, it was to test the market and see if there was a place for the Muddy Waters stories. He hadn’t anticipated the rapid popularity of the books, selling over 15,000 editions in this first year of publication! His gratitude to the bookshops supporting the series is clear, ‘It is a difficult time for independent bookshops with so many of them disappearing from our high streets. Understandably, many like to stick with well established lines. Thanks to the determined and original book buyers such as Cherry at Coles bookshop in Bicester and Ian, the owner of The Bookstore in Abingdon we have had excellent local retail support. It has to be said that the staff at


Waterstone’s in Banbury have been hugely supportive too.’


All of the books in the series are printed locally on FSC paper, not only because of the environmental issues but to support local business. Cedric and the Bomb, the most recent book takes place on the Oxford canal of today, but reflects on some of the boats’ experience of the Second World War. Fantastic imagery and gripping excitement run throughout this story. Will the bomb blow up? Will the Oxford boats be safe? Dudley’s Dilemma, the next book in the series, is


due out in mid March. This tale is set in Birmingham and sees our little friend Jolly Boatman lost in the myriad of canals there. Will Dudley, who is in line to be given a special award, go back to help Jolly or press on to his own award ceremony? It’s a tough call in this gripping tale. These lively and beautifully illustrated books are now widely available. Free colouring sheets are also available for download at www.muddywaters.org.uk. The website is ever changing and feedback is always welcome. If you do not have access to the internet and would like to find out more about your local suppliers or would like to place an order direct call 01865 356140 office


hours. March 2011 33


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