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Catherine Johnson
Catherine Johnson

All About Catherine Johnson

Catherine Johnson started writing books after her children were born. She trained at St Martin’s School of Art and her first jobs included making pop videos.
She also worked as a horse wrangler, usherette and professional hand knitter, when she was a student she had a stall at London’s Portobello Road selling Fair Isle knitwear.

She’s a born Londoner but recently decamped to the South coast and lives by the sea in Hastings.

Catherine began writing for young people in the 1990s when an idea she’d outlined for TV was taken up by a small publisher. Since then she’s published nearly twenty novels as well as two books of non-fiction, and written for TV, radio and film.

Her books have been shortlisted for loads of awards, her radio play nominated for the Prix Italia and the Imison Prize. Her TV work includes dramatic inserts for Historian Simon Schama as well as continuing drama like Holby City.

She’s been Writer in Residence in Holloway Prison, mentored writers for the British Council from several African countries and led workshops for young writers in Albania, Greece and Malawi as well as closer to home in the British Museum, Tate Britain, The Old Operating Theatre and The Foundling Museum.

Catherine blogs with The History Girls and a story of hers about Mary Seacole is included in the anthology edited by Mary Hoffman Daughters of Time.

She’s also taught Creative Writing at Universities – Kingston and London Met, as well as run workshops on narrative for art students at the University of The Arts London.

Sawbones won the 2014 Young Quills Award for best historical fiction for over 12s. It has been shortlisted for the Rotherham Book Award, the Salford Children’s Book Prize and the Hoo Kids Book Award. It was also nominated for the 2015 Carnegie Medal.

Catherine’s School Visits


Catherine loves running workshops for young people from year 5 through to year 13. She’s happy to talk Black British History too, many of her books including Sawbones – a forensic murder mystery set in the 18th century, but she loves getting fresh ideas out of an audience too.

Her writing workshops include a variety of the following topics.

For younger students;

• Writing the inciting incident
• Character – making an inanimate object come alive
• Developing a short story

For older students;

• Writing the inciting incident
• Point of view and integrated writing – making your writing work twice as hard
• Dialogue
• Developing a short story from three key scenes
• Story structure

Catherine will happily work with class sized groups – up to four class periods a day as well as short assemblies to whole school groups.

Outcomes vary; students may have the bones of a story, or just a fantastic beginning.  I hope everyone will have had some fun!

Catherine’s Books



In 18th century London, 16-year-old Ezra is working as apprentice to a highly respected surgeon, William McAdam. He knows that his impressive knowledge of anatomy and skill at the dissection table will ensure he has a trade for life. Yet whilst he is grateful to his master, who rescued him from a life of slavery, Ezra is eager for independence and to be his own man.

Then a strange series of events changes everything. Now, McAdam is dead, and Ezra is alone – except for the unconventional Miss Loveday Finch, daughter of a magician, who is looking for answers about her father’s death. Soon, the pair find themselves tangled in an adventure featuring grave-robbing, body-switching and political intrigue, which takes them a journey across London from the Operating Theatre at St Bart’s, to the vaults of Newgate Prison, to the shadowy Ottoman Embassy.

This exciting mystery story has plenty of gore from its opening pages, and is sure to grab the attention of young readers who enjoy gripping crime thrillers. Yet Sawbones also offers much more than blood and guts: Catherine Johnson has penned a clever historical novel that provides a fascinating insight into an aspect of the 18th century, which is likely to be unfamiliar to many readers. The pragmatic, scientifically-minded Ezra and the wild, tempestuous Loveday perfectly capture two sides of 18th century thought – empiricism and romanticism – and Johnson clearly takes pleasure in subverting conventional stereotypes of race and gender. Both thought-provoking and accessible, this is an impressive historical adventure.’ Booktrust

‘Superbly written, a real page turner.’  Malorie Blackman Children’s Laureate

arctic hero

Arctic Hero

This is the incredible tale of Matthew Henson, African-American explorer, and his mission to reach the North Pole. This is a fascinating life, a great adventure and a compelling story of prejudice. Barrington Stoke specialises in books for reluctant, struggling and dyslexic readers.

nest of vipers

Nest of Vipers

Cato Hopkins is the youngest member of Mother Hopkins’ ‘family’ – a group of skilled fraudsters and pickpockets. There’s Addy, who can become a very convincing boy when she needs to; the beautiful Bella, who can charm any rich young man out of his fortune; Sam, an escaped slave and Cato himself, a young boy, who Mother Hopkins has taught everything she knows. But old age is slowing Mother Hopkins down, and she wants to carry out one last con, a con to outdo all the cons that have gone before. And so the gang set about bringing ruin upon Captain Walker, a proud and cruel slave captain, who deserves to be taught a lesson or two ..

brave new girl

Brave New girl

“I can make things happen – good things – I know it!” Seren is so full of brilliant ideas – it’s just that she always seems to put her foot in it! First there was the dance routine where she fell off the stage. And now her plan to get her sister Sasha noticed by gorgeous Luke Beckford looks like it could backfire…Seren reckons she’s just hopelessly accident-prone! But there’s one person who believes in Seren. Her mate Keith is making a film for a national competition and he wants Seren to be in it. Could Seren turn out to be a star after all? This is a funny, big-hearted story with a lovable heroine who will make you laugh and cry.

Reviews and Recommendations

“Catherine Johnson is the mainstay of our offering to local London schools as regards workshops and school visits. Her events are hugely informative and well structured, wonderfully interactive and engaging for all present, and plain good fun”. Jo Di Guia, manager of Victoria Park Books – a specialist children’s bookshop and organiser of Town Hall Tales, a Hackney based Children’s literature festival.

Below are some quotes from Teachers at a KS3 Inset session organised by Pop Up festival at Clapton Girls School in London

‘Very passionate and inspiring’

‘I found Catherine very inspiring!’

‘I really enjoyed my evening and feel enriched from the experience.’

To Make a Booking

To make an enquiry about Catherine Johnson, or any of the other authors, poets & illustrators listed on this website, please phone Trevor Wilson on +44 (0) 1535 656015, or email him at