19 Nov 2019


Perhaps best known here on Pen and Paper for her books Distant SunsDistant Suns: The Journey Home and Islands: The Epidemic I'd like to offer a warm welcome once again to author Patricia Smith who we first met way back in 2012 but, first if I may, an extract from her latest book ...

Hedgehog Hotel: Funny, True Stories Of A Family's Time As Hedgehog Carer.


Darryl rushed into the house. He had been on one of his walks and came back looking more than a little bit flustered. It was early, rather than late evening, so the whole household was still up. “You won’t believe what I’ve just seen,” he announced to no one in particular in the room. “A little bald hedgehog.”

Joshua had been watching television. He twisted around so that she could see his dad better. “A bald hedgehog?” he said questioningly, convinced he had heard wrong.

“Yes, a bald hedgehog,” Darryl repeated.

“Are you sure it was a hedgehog and not a rat?” I asked.

“Yes, I am. It had no tail. It was definitely a hedgehog.”

“Where is it?” Joshua asked. “A bald hedgehog wouldn’t be able to protect itself and would be easy prey for a predator.”

“It must also be very poorly if it’s lost all of its spines,” I added.

“It ran away and disappeared into the bushes before I got the chance to round it up.”

“Well, there’s nothing you can do if you can’t find it,” I said. “But you will have to keep an eye out for it and try to catch it over the next few days, as it will be vulnerable.”

A couple of nights later Darryl finally managed to capture the little bald hedgehog, very close to the Hedgehog Hotel, and brought it home with him from his walk. “That sprint was not an extraordinary burst of speed for this little one and I nearly lost it again,” he informed us as we gathered in a curious huddle to stare at the spineless hedgehog.

“It’s not completely bald,” Darryl said, tipping the hedgehog back so that its tummy was exposed.

This movement was enough to make the little animal nervous and triggered a series of head dips in a fruitless attempt to activate spines that were not there and protect itself from an attack that was not happening.

Darryl lifted the hedgehog higher so that its underside could be seen. “It does have a thin skirt of fur around its sides, where the base of the spines would have been.” He manoeuvred the hedgehog so that it was closer to the light. “What is it? A boy or a girl?”

“There is a bump in the middle of a very bald tummy,” I informed him, “therefore it’s a boy.”

“He doesn’t look like a hedgehog at all without his spines,” Joshua laughed. “His head looks like it belongs to a rat, but his body makes him look more like a tiny armadillo.”

“He does that,” I chuckled, “or maybe an anteater or an aardvark. Definitely something beginning with ‘A’,” I called as I left the room. “I’ll get him some food.” I headed for the kitchen with Darryl and Joshua immediately behind.

I prepared a plate of cat food, shooed Lucy off as she had already been fed several times that day and stepped back whilst Darryl put the little hedgehog down in front of the dish.

Immediately the poor little creature started eating. Huge mouthfuls were devoured as though he had not eaten for days. This went on for some time with only a couple of brief pauses to check that we, plus one cat, were not going to launch an attack when he was not looking. Still despite this, it was almost as though he did not care if he died, just as long as he could get one more mouthful of food down, before he was killed. It seemed as if he could not get the food down fast enough and when the dish was empty, I filled it again. By now he seemed to have realised he was safe and did not flinch or even pause when I scooped the remaining contents of the tin out onto the plate.

A dish and a half of cat food later, the hedgehog was slowing down. “I’m surprised it can still breathe,” I said, “there can’t be much room left for the lungs. Have you thought of a name?” I asked Joshua.

“I think it will have to be Horace because he’s definitely a hungry one.”

“Hungry Horace,” I laughed. “It’s very fitting.”

Horace was the only hedgehog to stay at the Hedgehog Hotel that year and, as he was so bald and had virtually nothing to keep him warm, he was honoured enough to stay in the ‘Special Guest’ room inside the house.

The first night he slept in a large plastic box, usually used to store blankets, with two small dishes at one end, one for food and the other for water, and at the other end was a fleece to keep him warm.

The following morning Joshua rose early. He went in to check on our little guest and stopped in the doorway, his mouth open, shocked to be confronted by the devastation of poo. 

The cat food was all gone and the small dish, which had originally held meat, now contained a neat pile of hedgehog droppings. He had also dirtied in his blanket and trodden it all over the bottom of the box. Joshua gaped at the wreckage in horror.

Darryl came into the room and looked at the carnage. “I don’t think he has enough space. That’ll be the problem.”

“We could maybe get one of the guinea pig cages from the garage and bring it upstairs,” Joshua suggested.

“Yes,” Darryl said. “That’s a good idea.”

Horace’s sleeping arrangements were changed by Darryl whilst Joshua and I took him to the vets to get a better idea of why he lost his spines. 

The journey in the car gave Horace an opportunity to display more of his personality. Joshua sat in the front, a small box on his knee, with a very alert hedgehog standing on top of his blankets, in the middle of the container. “I’ve never seen a hedgehog do that before,” he said.

“What is he doing?” I asked.

“He’s not hiding under his blanket in the way they usually do. He’s standing in the middle of his box with his body quite high off the ground, trying his best to look around.”I

I turned the car into the vets’ and pulled into a parking space before I peeked inside the box. “He’s a proper little character,” I said, smiling.

The vet confirmed Horace had ringworm and we returned home with a bottle of medicine and instructions for treatment, which would take place over the next few weeks to help him get better.
- Copyright Patricia Smith. This extract was shared with the express permission of the author, to otherwise share it or reproduce it in any form is prohibited.

  • Firstly, the question on everyone's lips ... Did Horace get his spines back? Or is that something we're going to have to read Hedgehog Hotel to find out?
Horace did get some spines back, but not all of his spines came back and, although this would make releasing him back into the wild difficult, there was an enclosed garden for hedgehogs that could not be fully released at the rescue centre.
  • Just one of many of prickly visitors to check into the Hedgehog Hotel, how many visitors have you had check in now Tricia?
Image may contain: one or more people
At the time of writing Hedgehog Hotel we had rescued at least 21 hedgehogs over the years. However, due to a busy summer and autumn, since finishing the book early summer, we've had an additional five hedgehogs come through the house; Betty who gave birth in our living room, Sammy who was kind enough, sort of, to pose for the cover of the book, Marge and the two little ones, Sarah (seen on the right weighing in at 240g) and Trevor (our latest arrival) who will both be with us for the winter.
  • Obviously an animal lover, what is it about hedgehogs you particularly love?
I love hedgehogs because they are such beautiful little creatures. They have such cute little faces and although people think they are all spiky, in fact they aren't because they have lovely soft fur on their tummies and their little feet are like the softest, warm leather. As I mentioned in the book we had a hedgehog that liked to have her feet touched even though she did not like to interact with us in any other way. They also have their own little personalities. Some want as little to do with us as possible and some are so happy to interact with us they are completely calm, their spines are down and they almost seem happy to see us.
  • You mention Lucy in the extract. I know you and Darryl are (and have been) the loving slave to several cats over the years, do any of them feature in the book alongside Lucy?
The only other cat to feature in the book is Jesse, our other tortoiseshell cat. Jesse does not usually pay any attention to the hedgehogs, but Lucy seems to be fascinated by them and will often sit on the cupboard watching the hedgehogs, when they are put in a puppy run whilst they are cleaned out.
  • When we spoke here on Pen and Paper in April 2012 you mentioned that one of the earliest books you wrote as a children's book was about a witch, her grandchildren and a cat. Given that you have now dipped your toe into the world of children's literature would you consider this (or any other children's book ... maybe a follow up to Hedgehog Hotel) for publication?
I think I will have to consider another children's story, even if it is another Hedgehog Hotel story. I hope that we will continue to get material for more hedgehog stories (not at all for the material, but for the fact that we know that we are helping out and most importantly, that there are hedgehogs still out there to help) and I think after the summer we've had, I've got enough material for the good start of another book. 


Patricia Smith worked for fourteen years in technical support and as a computer programmer before changing career to help young people to improve their numeracy and English skills.

She has enjoyed writing stories all of her life and her first novel Time Split, which made several best sellers lists, was published in 2011. This was soon followed by her Distant Suns stories, Islands - The Epidemic and more recently the long awaited sequel to Time Split, Time Split - Briggs.

Her choice of genre stems from her passion for astronomy, her love of apocalyptic thrillers and the 'What if?' scenario.

She strives in her writing to give the reader a roller-coaster ride of emotions and excitement, mixed in with a good dash of fear - all from the safety of their armchair.


  • Time Split 
  • Time Split II - Briggs 
  • Distant Suns 
  • Distant Suns II - The Journey Home 
  • Distant Suns III - The Silexous
  • Distant Suns IIII - Mettle  
  • Islands - The Epidemic 

For information about these books or to keep up to date on news and events involving Patricia you can visit her website at  https://www.patriciasmithsfauthor.com/

Image result for name felicity

excitement, m


So many books, so little time said...

A Betty! <3 Love the wee piccys, hedgehogs are such beautiful wee creatures xxx

Lainy http://www.alwaysreading.net

Kelly said...

You know I'm a fan of Patricia's science fiction AND that I really enjoyed this book. Thank you for introducing me to her work early on! I still need to read the latest in the Distant Suns series and the sequel to Time Split.

Brian Joseph said...

It is really a great thing to do when one rescues animals. These little creatures are particularly cute. The book seems very neat.

sherry fundin said...

awwwww such a cute little face. thanks for sharing the wonderful excerpt
sherry @ fundinmental

nightwingsraven said...

After Kelly included Hedgehog Hotel
among her selection of books read
for October, I added it to my list.
But I truly appreciate the excerpt,
interview with Patricia and the
information about her.
Thank you for a wonderful post!

Suko said...

Hedgehogs are adorable! I am happy to hear that the author has rescued many hedgehogs.

Patricia Smith said...

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share our experiences with these wonderful creatures.