Mentee NameTitle of ManuscriptMentor NameAge CategoryGenre(s)Total word count (approx.)
Katherine ShinglerThe Orchestra ThiefJoan HaigMGContemporary adventure46000

THE ORCHESTRA THIEF is a contemporary adventure for middle-grade readers, complete at 45,600 words. It will appeal to fans of classics by Eva Ibbotson and Katherine Rundell, as well as stories with a real-life setting and a touch of magic such as Jenni Spangler’s The Vanishing Trick.

If someone stole your dreams, how far would you go to get them back?

TOMMY BEATTY is an ordinary boy with a not-so-ordinary passion for classical music. He longs to be a conductor when he’s older, but as a shy black kid from an inner-city estate, he’s not sure if he’ll ever fit into the elitist world of classical music – at least, that’s what the school bully keeps telling him. Tommy can’t believe his luck when the kindly PROFESSOR MACDUFF, director of the Royal Concert Hall, agrees to mentor him for the Young Conductor of the Year competition. But when Professor MacDuff’s orchestra disappears, Tommy’s dream is suddenly in jeopardy. He and his best friend JESSIE help Professor MacDuff to search the labyrinthine cellars beneath the concert hall for clues, and find themselves embroiled in a dangerous underground chase through a network of tunnels beneath London, as they pursue the missing musicians and the mysterious orchestra thief. Finally tracking down the orchestra to an ice well-cum-underground concert hall, they discover that the thief is not exactly the evil genius they expected, and has her own tale of broken dreams and thwarted ambitions to tell.

As the companions travel through a series of secret tunnels and hidden places – including an underground reservoir, a disused telephone exchange, a runaway Mail Rail train, and an extremely stinky sewer blocked by the world’s biggest fatberg – Tommy proves to himself that he has the courage and determination to overcome all obstacles and make it as a conductor. The Orchestra Thief is a story about friendship, the power of music, and following your dreams, no matter what – even when there’s a fatberg in the way. 

In my time off from writing, I’m a university lecturer, a mother of two, and a volunteer school librarian. I write for adults as well as children, and had a story shortlisted for the 2019 Aurora Prize for Fiction. As I hope The Orchestra Thief demonstrates, I am passionate about writing diverse stories in which today’s children can see themselves, their everyday experiences, and their hopes and dreams. 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best wishes,
Katherine Shingler


Tommy Beatty was just coming out of the school gates when a sharp thump landed on his back, between his shoulder blades. The blow sent him staggering forwards and he reached out to break his fall, hands scraping over loose bits of stone that littered the pavement. Wincing, he turned and looked up, squinting into the afternoon sunlight, to see who or what might have hit him. He was not altogether surprised to discover that his assailant was Barry Stamp, the class bully who had seemed, in recent weeks, to reserve his attentions just for Tommy. Other kids were pouring out of the school gates: some simply walked on as if there were nothing at all to see; others gathered around to watch the confrontation, their faces full of glee.

‘It’s your doing, isn’t it, geek boy?’ Barry sneered down at Tommy. ‘Bet you sucked up to Miss Lane for ages to get that stupid orchestra trip.’ Miss Lane, the music teacher, had announced in the last period that their class would be going to the Royal Concert Hall the following week, to see an orchestra play. Tommy was over the moon about it, but he couldn’t help noticing there was a lot of grumbling and eye rolling going on in the class: no one else seemed to think the trip was a great idea. He got the feeling that most of them – not least Barry – would rather eat their own belly-button bogeys than listen to an orchestra.

Tommy slowly picked himself up from the ground. He tried his best to look Barry straight in the eye as he stuttered, ‘I di-didn’t.’

‘Yeah you did,’ Barry spat back, jabbing him in the chest. His pockmarked face loomed close enough for Tommy to catch the tang of Monster Munch on Barry’s breath. 

‘You love that classical music rubbish,’ Barry continued. ‘Well, here’s some news for you: it’s not for the likes of us. It’s for the poshos at expensive private schools. It’s for the little Theodore Fancy-Pantses and Fenella Nerdy-Faces whose mummy and daddy make them play the violin. It’s not for me, and it’s definitely not for you!’

And with that, Barry turned on his heel and stomped off, apparently satisfied with himself. Tommy let out his breath, finally, relieved to have got off so lightly. But what would it be next time? Probably more than just a shove.