A Detective Interview with Stinky and Ben

S: Benjamin Jinks, I have been asked to interview you about our latest adventure, ‘My Hamster Is A Detective’.

B: You know, I’m not such a big fan of that title, Stinky. It should be ‘My Hamster And Me Are Actually Both Detectives’.

S: (sighs) Well, firstly, if you care about grammar, you should say ‘My Hamster And I…’. Secondly, that title of yours wouldn’t even fit on the cover of the book. And, thirdly and most importantly, you could hardly detect your own nose, not even if you were looking in the mirror.

B: (impatiently) Aren’t you going to ask me any questions?

S: Alright – here are two: when are you going to clean out the poo from my cage? And, also, can you get me a piece of carrot?

B: I meant questions about our latest adventure.

S: Oh. Yes. So, how does it feel to be working alongside an absolute genius?

B: (groans) If you mean ‘how does it feel to be part of an incredible crime-fighting duo?’, then it feels great. Terrifying, at times, but really exciting. It’s a bit like being Batman and Robin.

S: I’d be Batman, obviously.

B: Hang on. Batman is the older, bigger one of the duo. And a robin is a cute little thing, like a hamster. So,..

S: Firstly, Batman is the brains of the outfit, so that would have to be me. Furthermore, robins are actually vicious little birds, and not at all cute. However, you have just given me the idea for another question, Ben: if you could have one superpower, what would it be, and why?

B: I’d like to be invisible. It would have come in very handy in this adventure, but it would also be really cool around the house: I’d make Lucy think there was a ghost. It would really freak her out!

S: So, if you had a superpower, you’d mostly use it to tease your little sister?

B: Pretty much.

S: (sighs, annoyed) I have one more question.

B: OK.

S: Can you please leave me in peace, so I can have a nap?

Stinky is Sleuthing like Sherlock!

Hello, readers.  Stinky the hamster here

Following a rather close call with a devious catnapper – and a particularly smelly search through our neighbour’s rubbish bin – I have come to the conclusion that I’m very much like a small, furry Sherlock Holmes! The great Sherlock Holmes lived at 221B Baker Street, London and I live in a small cage in Ben’s bedroom, but the famous detective and I actually have rather a surprising amount in common:

1.     We’ve both got silly names. My full name is Jasper Stinkybottom. (I did not choose my own name.)
2.     When Sherlock had a difficult case to solve, he often smoked a pipe or played the violin to help him think.  Of course, smoking is a very bad habit indeed, especially for rodents, and I don’t have access to musical instruments.  However I do have a wheel in my cage, and going for a run often helps me to come up with ideas (and helps me keep fit at the same time). Great minds really do think alike!
3.     My owner, Ben, asked me point out another similarity: Sherlock Holmes could often be short-tempered, and, according to Ben, I have been known to lose my temper, too – so would you, if you were stuck in a cage pretty much all of the time, and had to sleep only 15 centimetres from your own poo..
4.     Both Sherlock and I appear in books!  Mr Holmes stars in the brilliant stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who is widely regarded as one of the great writers of the last 200 years. My adventures, on the other hand, feature in the ‘Stinky & Jinks’ books written by a guy called Dave Lowe, who is sometimes regarded as one of the best writers in his own family.
5.     Sherlock has an assistant called Dr Watson, who is an actual doctor, and who is nice and helps him solve crimes.  I have Ben.  He’s nine.  He’s not particularly bright, and doesn’t clean out my cage enough, but he is occasionally helpful when I’m trying to solve a mystery . . .

I don’t want to seem immodest, but surely I must be the best hamster detective of all time?! See for yourself in the latest Stinky and Jinks adventure, My Hamster is a Detective – it’s much shorter than the Sherlock Holmes novels, and is full of brilliant pictures, including one or two of me . . .

An Interview with Mark Chambers

Stinky: My owner, Ben, has taken me to school a couple of times, and there is a boy in his class who never listens to the teacher and is always doodling in his books instead. Were you a doodler when you were at school, Mark? 

Mark: Well Stinky, firstly it's great to meet you finally. I've heard a lot about you, not all bad, mostly about nibbling people's fingers, pinching carrots and leaving your droppings on the carpet but if we're being honest who hasn't done that! When I was at school we had a fantastic art department where we made clay pots and papier mâché heads so I spent a lot of time in there doodling and scribbling all sorts. I also doodled outside of my art lessons, sometimes on school desks (don't tell anyone!) I remember when I was very young I was into drawing spaceships with big laser beams being fired out of them, now I get to draw pirates, dinosaurs and hamsters like yourself so I can't really complain one bit! Being a professional doodler is surely the greatest job ever!

Stinky: In the ‘Stinky and Jinks’ books and in your picture book Pigeon Poo, there’s rather a lot of poo. When you were a kid, did you ever think that you’d be making a living by drawing poos? 

Mark: This is very true Stinky, I do seem to be the illustrator to turn to if a picture book has poo or trumps in them. Pigeon Poo is naturally FULL of poo, Noisy Bottoms is bursting with smelly air and the Toilet Tales involves a captain and a princess of the toilet, not to mention your books are full of the odd dropping that you've just left lying around, you really must clean up after yourself! When I was growing up I wanted to be a chef, a fighter pilot, a professional Golfer and a master Lego builder but earning a living by drawing poos tops all of them!

Stinky: You’re not too bad at drawing hamsters, I suppose, although you haven’t really captured my rugged good looks, if I’m honest. But, apart from me, what is your favourite (and least favourite) animal to draw?

Mark: That is a good question and I appreciate that you think I'm not too bad at drawing you, I do try my best you know! I have to say I like to draw pretty much everything but I do prefer to draw trolls, giants, pirates and monsters, which boy doesn't!? I've recently been drawing a giant wearing a very fetching pin-striped suit which is for a book that will be out later in the year, you will have to pick yourself up a copy. When it comes to things that I least like to draw it has to be horses or people sat around a kitchen table. So horses sat around a table would be my ultimate challenge, far too many legs!!

Stinky: Whereas I enjoy more serious fiction (ie, without pictures), Ben loves comics, such as The Beano, and Ben’s dad can often be found chuckling at comic strips like ‘Peanuts’ and ‘Calvin and Hobbes’. Did you read comics when you were a kid? And what illustrators do you most admire now?

Mark: That's interesting as I always had you down for a picture book type of hamster, you learn something new everyday! I loved comics when I was growing up, especially The Beano and The Dandy, so Ben and I have something in common. I was into the Bash Street Kids and what Dennis the Menace used to get up to, poor Walter the Softy, I think I lost count of how many stink-bombs Dennis threw at him! I think my love of drawing characters definitely comes from reading all those early comics. I was always copying the drawings and making my own up, I even had one of them featured in a copy of The Beano. I was also a massive Star Wars fan (bit before your time Stinky) so loved the concept designs that Ralph McQuarrie and Doug Chiang came up with, sheer genius! When it comes to picture book illustrators I like various scribblers such as Tony DiTerlizzi, John Howe, Alan Lee and also the very well known Sir Quentin Blake, even you must of heard of him!

Stinky: Did you have any pets when you were a kid? Did you make them sit still for hours and hours while you drew pictures of them?

Mark: I did have some pets when I was growing up, yes, although, you're not going to like this but I never had a hamster I'm afraid. I had a rabbit, a dog and two cats, when I was that bit older we had chickens as well. You'd have loved the chickens I'm sure of it, one was called Pecky Fla Fla. I'm not so sure you'd have got on with the cats however, I once found a live wild rabbit cowering in the bathroom that one of them had caught so a hamster would have been right up there on the menu I'm sorry to say Stinky. Maybe you could have shown them your angry face to scare them off or put your tutu on to make them laugh themselves silly! I also didn't have to make them sit still for hours and hours, the cats especially, were quite happy to lie there doing nothing as cats tend to do. I'm sure hamsters can be lazy as well!

Stinky: Ben is terrible at drawing. I mean, really terrible. He can’t even draw faces. His ears are wonky, his eyes look all googly, and his noses look like bananas. Do you have any advice for him?

Mark: I know Ben's ears are wonky, his eyes are googly and his nose looks like a banana but what do his drawings look like!? :) Sorry Stinky, for a minute there I thought you were being rude about Ben. If I had any advice about drawing faces I'd say start with some simple shapes to begin with and add the details from there. Circles for the head and ears, dots for eyes, a semi-circle for a nose and a big smile. Not a 'nana in sight if you draw like that. Then you can become more adventurous and add details like hair and freckles that Ben has, although have you noticed Stinky how his sister always has her hair in pigtails, just an observation.

Stinky: A typical day for me is sitting around in my cage, thinking, occasionally nibbling some food and going for a run on my wheel. It’s extremely boring, to be honest. What about you, Mark? What is a typical day like for an illustrator? Do you have a wheel you can run around on if you get bored or stressed?

Mark: My typical day would be starting it off with a large mug of tea, there is nothing like that first cuppa of the day. I'm sure you love that first sip from your water bottle in the morning. Then it's time to read my emails that I've received and after that start on the book commissions that I have on. Recently I've been drawing more of you for your next book, giants, pirate children, tigers, a boy and his pet pig, dinosaurs and kids playing Football. So it's been very busy indeed!! Mostly due to the upcoming Book Fairs but unfortunately these aren't the kind of Fairs that you can win goldfish or massive stuffed toy monkeys. I'm popping down to London for the London Book Fair so I may bump into you at the Templar stand, I'll even buy you some nibbles. I tend to finish work around 6 - 6:30pm and then it's home time to cook dinner. I don't have a wheel though I'm afraid but maybe I should get one to de-stress after a long day, do they even do human-sized hamster wheels?

Stinky: Good luck for the Sheffield Children’s Book Award. I hear you’ve been nominated twice (for My Hamster Is A Genius, and Pigeon Poo). Thanks for answering my questions and keep working on your drawing – I’m sure you’ll get the hang of it soon. 

Mark: I'm sure so too, thank you, I'll keep trying anyway and maybe I'll be as good as you someday! It's been a pleasure meeting you and answering your questions, give my regards to Ben and the family and I look forward to seeing and hearing about all your upcoming adventures. Who knows what you'll get up to next!? :) Oh and if you see Mr Lowe, tell him to write more stories…..they're pretty good afterall! :)

I'm back!

Hello hamster fans. 'Tis I, Jasper Stinkybottom (Stinky to his friends) and I'm back – did you miss me? I've been on quite an adventure I can tell you. In a space rocket no less.

And you can now read all about it in my latest book My Hamster is an Astronaut. And on the matter of reading, did you know It's World Book Day today? Ok, so it's not quite as important as World Hamster Day, but just for you I've got a special treat, and no, it's not a carrot, it's better than that.

I've got my paws on the first chapter of my brand new book, and you can download it by clicking HERE. Yes that's right, a FREE sample of the most brilliant book you could read, all about my daring experience as an astronaut. It's full of danger, daring and death-defying acts of bravery.

So what are you waiting for. Download it NOW!

An interview with Dave Lowe

I’ve been given the task of interviewing Dave Lowe, author of My Hamster Is A Genius. To be honest, I would have preferred a writer who was my intellectual equal, but presumably all the clever writers were busy

Stinky: Dave, I believe you had a pet hamster when you were young. Could you tell us about him?
Dave: Well, he was just a regular hamster. Nothing like you. He wasn’t grumpy or sarcastic. In fact, he didn’t talk at all. His name was ‘Flavour’.

Stinky: That’s a rather silly name. 
Dave: So says a hamster called ‘Jasper Stinkybottom’!

Stinky: As you well know, it was actually my owner Ben who gave me the name. Which brings me to my next question: Like you, Ben isn’t so bright. When you were nine, were you similar to Ben? 
Dave: Probably. I was mostly good, but I could be a bit naughty sometimes. I didn’t have a sister, though. I had two brothers, and neither of them did tap-dancing.

Stinky: At recent book festivals in Cheltenham and Bath, you met Simon Bartram and Emma Dodd, who are not only talented writers, but also amazing illustrators. I’ve seen your pictures, on the other hand. They look like they were drawn by a three year-old. A blindfolded three year-old. Are you jealous? 
Dave: A bit, but both of those illustrators have been practising their drawing for years and years. I was never so interested in art. Besides, I love Mark Chambers’ pictures for My Hamster Is A Genius – I’ve just seen his pictures for the second book, My Hamster Is An Astronaut, and they are fabulous, too. My favourite picture so far, though, is that one in Genius of you wearing a tutu. It makes me smile every time.

Stinky: (Blushing, twitching) Moving on, have you always wanted to be a writer? 
Dave: Yes, pretty much. I remember also wanting to be a footballer or an astronaut but a) I’m no Wayne Rooney and b) I’m scared of heights. I’ve always loved reading, and I’ve been writing things since I was 7 or 8.

Stinky: I am also an avid reader – I love Tolstoy and Dickens and lots of other big books that you almost certainly wouldn’t understand. What kind of books do you like, and what books did you like when you were younger? 
Dave: I love Charles Dickens, actually. He’s not difficult to read at all. My favourite book is probably The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, which I first read when I was 16. When I was young, like most kids I absolutely loved Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was my favourite, but I think I read all of his books). I also loved the football books of Michael Hardcastle and the ‘Mystery’ books of Enid Blyton.

Stinky: Dave Lowe – thank you, and good luck with your writing career. You’ll need it. 
Dave: Thanks. I think.

If you want to know more about Dave, he has also written a mildly amusing post on Templar's blog here

Top 5 Most Stressful Homework Assignments

1. My holiday – perilous even to consider a holiday with Ben’s family.
2. Maths
3. Double maths
4. Biology dissection – I feel very sorry for that poor frog…
5. Science lesson – if you’re not careful you can end up in a one-hamster rocket, heading for outerspace*

* You’ll have to wait for My Hamster is an Astronaut for further explanation no this matter. 

Hamster fact No 3: The name “hamster” is derived from the German word “hamstern” which means “to hoard”.

Ben Mum’s Top Suppers

Toast with beans – Lucy loves these

Cheese on Toast
Toast with jam
Toast with marmalade
Toast on toast – Ben’s personal favourite.

 Hamster Fact: Hamsters don’t like baths – seriously, we can catch a chill and die, so don’t try and give us a bath.