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Mike Falls Up is a hilarious new addition to the

Little Tiger Books Colour Fiction Series of early readers

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Fun, fast-paced and the

full colour illustrations

by Carles Ballesteros

are brilliant!


New York Times Bestselling Author 

My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish

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Mike Falls Up was shortlisted for the Alligator's Mouth Award 2023 which celebrates illustrated fiction for 6 to 8 year olds

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Illustrator Carles Ballesteros was born in Spain but lives in Chile. He always works listening to music, and if he wasn’t an illustrator he would love to be a musician. Carles likes to escape to nature whenever he can.



Author Candy Gourlay was born in the Philippines but lives in London. Her last novel was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal and the Costa Prize. She likes drawing and playing her ukulele badly.


Here are the real Chocolate Hills ...

And here's a handy teaching guide!

“Candy Gourlay’s pared-back text and Ballesteros’ involving images create the absorbing sense of a child’s imagination at play in this splendidly surreal adventure for 5+”

Russell Williams, The Guardian

“Shortlisted Carnegie Medal author Candy Gourlay delivers a joyous story celebrating the power of the unexpected, all brought to vivid life by Spanish illustrator Carles Ballesteros’ gallery of vibrant, colourful and action-filled illustrations. A fun book to read alone or to share with the family.”


Helen Nicholas, Lancashire Post

“A welcome addition to Key Stage 1 classrooms and primary school library collections to broaden the choices on offer to children who are beginning to read independently …and I loved the way that this story tapped into that childhood desire to dig a hole deep enough to travel to Australia or China or wherever else in the world grabs a 5 year old’s imagination”


Veronica Price, V’s Vew from the Bookshelves Blog

“A joyous story celebrating the power of unexpected friendships by award-winning author Candy Gourlay, beautifully brought to life with stunning illustrations by Carles Ballesteros.”



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On writing a portal fantasy
for early readers

First published on the FCBG Blog

When I visit schools, I like to show children a picture of the Earth, with the Philippines (where I was born) right in the middle.







And then I tell them that if I were to take a giant barbecue stick and stick it in the Philippines, it would come out on the other side of the world, in London – how the children gasp!

The realisation that people live on the other side of the world is quite something to get your head around. I elicit more gasps by telling them that when it’s night time in the Philippines, it’s day time in London, and when I’m flying to the Philippines for a visit, I am flying to tomorrow, because it’s eight hours ahead in the Philippines.

It’s a bit like when Alice falls into the Rabbit Hole or Lucy walks into a wardrobe and finds herself in Narnia or Harry Potter pushes his trolley into a pillar in King’s Cross Station and finds Platform 9 3/4!

When I’m homesick for my family on the other side of the world, I like to imagine what it would be like to have a portal that would easily transport me from chilly, grey London to the arms of my family in hot and sticky Philippines.

A few years ago, an earthquake created fissures in a famous tourist attraction in the Philippines called the Chocolate Hills, a geological formation that turned brown in the dry season, making it look like scoops of chocolate.
















Here is a photo of my daughter, Mia, and son, Nick, at the Chocolate Hills many years ago.

I thought an earthquake fissure would be a perfect portal for a character to visit the other side of the world!

Mike Falls Up (splendidly illustrated by Carles Ballesteros) is about a boy who falls into an earthquake fissure in the Chocolate Hills …

…and shoots out a fireplace in snowy London where he meets a little girl named Kaneisha.








Together they go on an adventure in the middle of the Earth (where they meet a third character, but no spoilers!).

The book is part of Little Tiger Press’s gorgeous  Colour Fiction Series  – fully illustrated stories that gently introduce a young picture book reader to slightly longer texts.

 For the past decade, I have mostly written novels for middle grade and teen readers averaging 50,000 words each, with sophisticated language and elaborate plots, so it was an interesting challenge to create this story – it had to be fast paced, so that the new reader would not get bored; it had to be a page turning adventure so that the reader would feel compelled to read to the end, and feel hugely rewarded for their effort.

And unlike a novel, I had to work closely (though virtually) with illustrator Carles and laser-eyed editor Jane Harris, to combine my words and the visual world of the book.

It’s so exciting to think that Mike Falls Up will be a young reader’s first taste of a portal fantasy – and even more exciting to think of all the other worlds they will soon discover in the pages of books!

And here’s a fun fact: some incredibly smart, sciency people have actually calculated how long it would take for someone to fall through a hole  that leads straight through the center of the Earth and is large enough to comfortably accommodate you while flailing your arms. (To keep calculations simple, they ignored air resistance).


Are you ready for the answer? 42 minutes!

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