'IS' - novel for 9-12 year olds about a schoolgirl who thinks she is Isambard Kingdom Brunel reborn

At a time when encouraging greater interest in physics and engineering is seen as very important, this novel which centres on a young girl's absolute passion for the subject. Combining real intrigue and interest with a good dose of humour throughout, the story makes the subject come alive in a very readable and memorable way. For more information click on:

'Is' by Derek Webb is published by Parthian Books and available from your local bookshop as well as from Amazon Waterstones or Gwales.

Reader reactions to IS

“I loved this book, it is full of mystery and puzzles. Is is a fantastic character. I want to keep it for my children to read one day.” Ruby Vaughan Norris (Aged 12)

“Terrific! I really liked Is” Ela Griffiths (Aged 10)

"I loved ‘IS’. It’s a really good book. I couldn’t put it down. I loved the way Is bravely talked back to Mr. Philips the school teacher. I loved the fact it was funny and educational. I learnt a lot about Brunel. I gave a copy of the book to my school, as it’s a really good Book to have in the school library." Kitty Kilbey (age 11)

"The book is education made fun. I found the experiment with the brick and a piece of string really fascinating. I liked Is because she was different and strong in a good way. There must be a ‘Mr Philips’ in every school which made the story real. I learnt a lot by reading a cool story. I like that. I think Brunel was quite cool too." Anaïs Kilbey (age 10)

"I was very pleased with the book. It captured my attention right away and it doesnt let you go until the very end. The story starts out with a new school girl called Isabel Williams mouthing off to Mr Phillips, a very nasty teacher, over a picture of a bridge and from then on things keep on getting stranger with Is. She eventually comes to believe that she is the incarnation of Isambard Kingdom Brunel - and then hits you with a twist ending that no one will see coming. Character development is very solid in Is, all the characters are all very real and likeable and all of them get a fair share of development, Isabel taking the spotlight of course. Overall a very good book that just about anyone can get into". Connor Curtis, Portsmouth

A letter from a delighted reader!

Dear Derek
You recently visited my daughter Freya’s school, Ysgol Bro Ingli, in Newport Pembs. Since your visit she has been completely inspired by you, Is and Brunel. I am reading her the story, and we are both loving it (she is really dyslexic).
She has been talking very enthusiastically about bridges, drawing them and this weekend she has got her magnetic construction kit out and been building bridges of different designs, competing with her 15 yr old brother, to make the best one. They have been testing them by loading them with old (pre-decimalisation) pennies. She has just beaten the record by loading her latest design with 72 pennies, which she has worked out to be roughly 250g in weight (previous record was 50 pennies).
I have attached a picture of it (and luckily caught one just as it broke) for you to see. Mainly I thought you would like to know how much you have inspired her. We are going to Bristol this half term so have now got an itinerary to include a tour of Brunel’s achievements.
She is very bright and good at maths and science, but struggles to read and write because of her dyslexia. Who knows, she may be another Is in the making!
Many thanks
Julie (Freya’s mum)

This is from Neyland school in Pembrokeshire

School Displays

It's wonderful that 'Is' has captured the imagination of so many schoolchildren and some have even put up displays about the book.

 Other children's work

Derek has dramatised a large number of children's books for audio, including The Minpins by Raold Dahl starring Joss Ackland

and Charlotte Cornwell; Esio Trot by Raold Dahl starring Annette Crosbie and Michael Williams; over a dozen Enid Blyton's Famous Five and Secret Seven stories, and 80 minute dramatisations of children's classics including The Secret Garden, The Railway Children and The Incredible Journey. His retelling of Jonah and the Whale was included on 'The Whales Song and other stories' read by Helena Bonham-Carter for Random House Tellastory. He has written two full length children's novels - 'The Brainwave Machine' and 'Is'. He has also written several shorter pieces for younger readers and a series abut a character called Popplejoy.

Popplejoy and...
Popplejoy likes to be known simply as that: Popplejoy. Nobody really knows where he comes from, but he’s certainly a very noticeable character - dressing as he does in bright red trousers, trainers and electric blue jacket, with an array of spotted handkerchiefs sprouting out everywhere. The one thing people do know about him is that he helps cheer them up when they've got a problem... Popplejoy stories


This article was updated on 28 December 2017