Kaye Umansky

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Kaye Umansky
Born (1946-12-06) 6 December 1946 (age 70)
Plymouth, Devon, United Kingdom
Occupation Novelist
Nationality British
Notable works Pongwiffy series

Kaye Umansky (/ˈk əˈmænsk/; born 6 December 1946) is an English children's author and poet. She has written over 130 books for children and her work ranges from picture books to novels. She is best known for the Pongwiffy Series.

Early life[edit]

Kaye Umansky was born in Plymouth, Devon. Her mother was a music teacher and encouraged her to play from a young age and her dad was also a teacher who encouraged her reading.[1]

As an only child, Kaye wrote stories and plays, which she tried to get her friends to act in.[1]

After Kaye left school, she went to London to train as a teacher. Kaye enjoyed teaching music, drama and creative writing, but not maths. Alongside her husband, Kaye formed a soul band and played in the evenings and at weekends, she says they "never became rich and famous, but we had a lot of fun".[2]

She continued writing as a hobby and began writing full-time when her daughter was born.

Personal life[edit]

She lives in North London with her husband Mo, an engineer, they have been together over 30 years. She has a daughter called Ella[citation needed]. She has an extended family of step children and step grandchildren.


Kaye got her first children's book published in 1986. The book was a collection of songs for children and was called Phantasmagoria. Kaye still writes music books, along with plays, poems, novels and picture books. But she is best known as the creator of Pongwiffy[3]

She cites Richmal Crompton and Terry Pratchett as two of her biggest literary influences and her style has been compared to that of Roald Dahl and Eva Ibbotson.[4]

In 2008, she was a judge for the inaugural Roald Dahl Funny Prize for humorous children's literature.[5]


Originally published through Penguin Books, the first Pongwiffy book, Pongwiffy: A Witch of Dirty Habits, was published in 1987. They are now published by Bloomsbury Publishing and Pongwiffy's '21st Birthday' was recently celebrated with the release of the seventh title in the series, Pongwiffy: Back on Track.[6]

They have been published in various countries in Europe. They have published as audio books, read by Prunella Scales, and as a cartoon TV series of 13 episodes which was first aired on ITV1 between June & September 2002. Pongwiffy was voiced by Dawn French and Pongwiffy's best friend, Sharkadder, was voiced by Jennifer Saunders.[7]

In 2010 a new Pongwiffy title appeared in a flip-book alongside a story by Phillip Ardagh as one of the official publications for World Book Day.


  • Pongwiffy (1987)
  • Pongwiffy and the Goblin's Revenge / Broom-napped (1990)
  • Pongwiffy and the Spell of the Year (1992)
  • Pongwiffy and the Holiday of Doom (1994)
  • Pongwiffy and the Pantomime (1996)
  • Pongwiffy and the Spello-vision Song Contest (2003)
  • Pongwiffy Back On Track (2009)
  • Pongwiffy and the Important Announcement (2010) — published dos-à-dos with Grubtown Tales: The Great Pasta Disaster

Clover Twig

  • Clover Twig and the Magical Cottage (2009)
  • Clover Twig and the Perilous Path (2010)
The 'Three' Series

A series using traditional stories and music.

  • Three Singing Pigs (1993)
  • Three Rapping Rats (1996)
  • Three Tapping Teddies (1998)
  • Three Rocking Crocs (2006)
The 'Curtain Up!' Series

Plays written for primary school children, ages 5–12.

  • Cinderella (1995)
  • Noah's Ark (1995)
  • The Emperor's New Clothes (1996)
  • Sleeping Beauty (2000)
  • The Snow Queen (2003)
Sir Quinton Quest

The story of an explorer and his faithful long-suffering butler, Muggins who go off on expeditions.

  • Sir Quinton Quest Hunts the Yeti (1992)
  • Sir Quinton Quest Hunts the Jewel (1994)
  • The Yeti Hunts for Sir Quinton! (1993)
The Giant Series

Tales of Waldo the Giant and his beloved, Heavy Hetty. Illustrated by Doffy Weir.

  • The Romantic Giant (1992)
  • The Jealous Giant (1995)
  • The Dressed Up Giant (1998)
The Weirds

Stories about the Weird Family. Illustrated by Chris Mould.

  • Meet The Weirds (2003)
  • Weird Happen-ings (2004)
  • Wildly Weird (2006)
Sophie Rabbit Series

Four stories about a Rabbit called Sophie, Illustrated by Anna Curry.

  • Sophie and Abigail (1995)
  • Sophie and the Wonderful Picture (1995)
  • Sophie and the Mother's Day Card (1995)
  • Sophie In Charge (1995)
The Quest for 100 Gold Coins Series

A four-part adventure about Nev Niceguy and his quest.

  • Donkey Ride to Disaster (1998)
  • Madness in the Mountains (1999)
  • Strange Days at Sea (2000)
  • No More Master Niceguy (2000)
Story Street Series

Books which were written for a Literacy Scheme[8] in the UK, for 4-10 year olds.

  • The Magic Button - 2000
  • Strange Street Again - 2000
  • Aha! - 2000
  • Jojo in the Jungle - 2000
  • Dinosaur Adventure - 2000
  • Moon Adventure - 2000
  • Rope that Cow - 2000
  • The Missing Shoes - 2000
  • Pirates Ahoy! - 2000
  • Clang! - 2000
  • The Rubbish Monster - 2000
  • Stop Thief! - 2000
  • The Carnival - 2000
  • Beyond Strange Street- 2000
  • Soup with Obby - 2000
  • Down the Rushing River - 2000
  • Wizard Wagoo - 2000
  • Up the Dizzy Mountain - 2000
  • Gong! - 2000
  • Poor Sam - 2000
  • What a Mess - 2000
  • I am Miss Cherry - 2000
  • Pond - 2000
  • Jumbo - 2000
  • Sunita and the Wishing Well - 2000
PlayReaders Series

Four short plays.

  • Bandybones (1986)
  • Little Sister (1986)
  • The Toymaker's (1986)
  • Litter Bugs (1987)
4 Spooky Stories

Four scary stories written in verse, the last is a compilation.

Nonsense Rhymes

Collections of Rhymes, Illustrated by Chris Fisher.

  • Nonsense Counting Rhymes (1999)
  • Nonsense Animal Rhymes (2001)
  • Nonsense Fairytale Rhymes (2006)
  • Nonsense Rhymes Collection (three books in one) (2006)
Wilma's Adventures

The stories of Wilma, a Wicked Queen in training.

  • Wilma's Wicked Revenge (2000)
  • Wilma's Wicked Spell (2002)

Three stories of a gaggle of Goblins.

  • Goblinz (2002)
  • Goblinz Detectives Inc (2004)
  • Goblinz and the Witch (2005)
Solomon Snow

A mock-Victorian adventure of a young Solomon Snow, his friend Prudence, a six-year-old girl named Rosabella, and don't forget her cute little bunny, Mr. Skippy.

  • Solomon Snow and the Silver Spoon (2004)
  • Solomon Snow and the Stolen Jewel (2005)

Stories told in rhyme for 3-7 year olds.

  • Pass the Jam, Jim - 1992
  • You can Swim, Jim - 1997
  • Need a Trim, Jim - 1999
  • This is Jane, Jim - 2002
  • Three Days With Jim - 2001
Buster Gutt

About a Pirate called Buster Gutt and his arch enemy Admiral Ainsley Goldglove.

  • Buster's Big Surprise - 2003
  • Buster Gutt - 2003
  • Buster and the Golden Glove - 2003
Other books


The 1993 Nottinghamshire Book Award for Pongwiffy and the Spell of the Year; the 1999 Times Educational Supplement Junior Music Book Award for Three Rapping Rats; the 2005 Spoken Word Award for the audio version of The Silver Spoon Of Solomon Snow, read by Rik Mayall.


External links[edit]