The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Lucerne by Katrina Nannestad

girl dog write rucerneTitle: The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Lucerne

Author: Katrina Nannestad

Genre: Fiction, Mystery

Publisher: HarperCollins

Published: 24th September 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 352

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: AN ABSOLUTE DELIGHT TO READ, WITH LOTS OF CHARMING AND QUIRKY CHARACTERS’ – Better Reading

Freja and her mother, Clementine, are reunited at last. Tobias and Vivi are in love. And Lucerne, their new home, is a paradise of snowy alps, sapphire lakes, white swans and delicious Swiss chocolate!

Everything seems perfect, until poor Lady P appears, bandaged from head to toe after a fall – or was it a push? Crimes break out across the city, all involving chocolate. Clementine doesn’t seem her usual self. And still Freja has not solved the biggest mystery – who is Tobias Appleby?

All will be revealed in the girl, the dog and the writer’s final adventure by award-winning Australian author Katrina Nannestad.


PRAISE FOR THE GIRL, THE DOG AND THE WRITER SERIES

‘sure to be treasured’ – Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Reading Time

‘Children from eight up will really warm to this funny, sad, happy book, and many adults will be charmed too’ – The Book Bubble

‘Fans of… Jacqueline Harvey will love this book’ – Kids’ Book Review on The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Rome

‘an absolute delight to read, with lots of charming and quirky characters … The mini world that author Katrina Nannestad has created is every child’s dream’ – Better Reading

2018 Australian Book Industry Awards – Longlisted

2018 CBCA Book of the Year Awards – Notable

~*~

Tobias, Freja and Finnegan head off on their final adventure – to Lucerne. They’ve been summoned from their home in Provence to Switzerland, where Clementine has been for the past six months in a clinic. She shares a room with Lady P., whose story coincides with a series of chocolate thefts around the city, all centred around the famous Margrit Milk chocolate. Freja is still trying to solve the biggest mystery of all – who is Tobias Appleby?

This question has been at the heart of the series and has been one of the driving factors as Tobias and Freja travel across Italy, France and Switzerland on their adventures, and to be with Vivi as she learns about the specialty dishes across Europe. These elements are just as crucial to the story, as they are woven into the relationships, the mystery and all the outcomes of the story cleverly and intricately, evoking a sense of place, as well as a true sense of character and how they respond to their world.

AWW2020The elements of mystery within this series also come from the crimes Freja sets out to solve in each place. In Lucerne, she is hot on the trail of a chocolate thief and is sure that taking Clementine gifts everyday will help make her better. As Freja has grown, physically and emotionally, so has Tobias. Finnegan, not so much–he is still a puppy, after all. Lucerne comes to life as magically as Rome and Provence–you can feel the chill in the air when Tobby and Freja are able to take Clementine up the mountain, and the magic in the way everyone comes together to help Tobby and Freja settle in.

The third and final story is exquisitely linked – each story has Tobias using the world around him to construct his stories with such authenticity, that creators and writers will see something of himself in themselves. Finnegan reminded me of the dog my family used to have who also ate everything. Much like Finnegan, Indy would have eaten rubber ducks if he’d been given a chance.

The first two books are filled with fun and smiles, with a layer of seriousness when it came to the crimes. Yet here, there is an added layer of heaviness and sadness as we come to the realisation of what is happening with Clementine, and there is distinct foreshadowing of what is to come. Yet Katrina holds this together with the same lightness and delight of the adventures in Rome and Provence, and the same joy that the main characters and side characters bring to the story. They bring the story to life, and Lucerne just leaps off the page. This finale made me laugh and cry. My heart leapt and danced, and it also broke. You will need tissues for this instalment. Make sure you read this series in order – it is more powerful, and more enjoyable this way. Reading books is a way to engage with humanity and emotions on different levels, and this series has done it in spades.

During a time of our lives when we can’t travel, doing so through books is bittersweet. As each cover evokes a sense of travel and place, when married with the words, we are transported to a new place in each book. A place where things seem simpler, or a little easier. We get to escape from the worries of the world. And right now, we all need something like that, even if we miss the idea that we’ll be able to go to Rome, Provence and Lucerne soon. But for now, we can travel via stories like this series that are rich in story, setting, character and everything that pulls them together. A lovely and heartfelt conclusion to the series. Be sure to start with the adventures in Rome – it will all come together nicely in the end.

 

The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Provence by Katrina Nannestad

girl dog writer provenceTitle: The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Provence

Author: Katrina Nannestad

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: HarperCollins

Published: 22nd October 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 368

Price: $16.99

Synopsis:

‘FANS OF … JACQUELINE HARVEY WILL LOVE THIS BOOK’
– Kids’ Book Review on The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Rome

When Freja and Tobias arrive in Claviers, Provence, it feels like home. The hilltop village is surrounded by olive groves, lavender fields and drifts of red poppies. The market square hides a world-famous pâtisserie and an antique merry-go-round. Pippin, their precocious young neighbour, and Vivi, the beautiful chef, fill their lives with chatter and laughter and love.

For a moment, the girl, the dog and the writer are happy.

But a spate of criminal activity casts a cloud over the village. Freja is determined to solve the mystery and uncover the villain, but the closer she gets, the more impossible things seem to become …

Award-winning Australian author Katrina Nannestad is back with the much-anticipated sequel to the bestselling novel The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Rome.


PRAISE FOR THE GIRL, THE DOG AND THE WRITER SERIES

‘sure to be treasured’ – Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Reading Time

‘Fans of the Clementine Rose and Alice-Miranda series by Jacqueline Harvey will love this book’ – Kids’ Book Review

‘Children from eight up will really warm to this funny, sad, happy book, and many adults will be charmed too’ – The Book Bubble

‘The mini world that author Katrina Nannestad has created is every child’s dream. 8+ readers will love this book’ – Better Reading

2018 Australian Book Industry Awards – Longlisted

2018 CBCA Book of the Year Awards – Notable

~*~

‘Provence is an echo of our lives.’ Tobias Appleby says this to Freja as they live in Provence, and make new friends, and try to solve the mystery of the dastardly criminal acts happening around the sleepy French village of Claviers. Not so sleepy, as it turns out. At every turn, Tobias and Freja make new friends: the Diderots, the Jolys, Pipping and gentle giant Henri who runs the charming merry-go-round. At the same time, everyone must contend with needy, demanding famous actress Mimosa Asterisque, suspected of a spate of crimes that see the village brought to its knees. Freja and her new friends – Pippin, Christophe, Edith and Cossette are determined to uncover, and bring joy back to Claviers.

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This series continues the themes of friendship and family from the first. Freja feels at home with Tobias – at times, it feels like she is taking care of him more than he is taking care of her, and their move to Provence to follow Vivi. Freja is learning what family and friendship means – it is more than what she knows. She misses Clementine, but her world has expanded, her family has expanded. Of all the new characters, I fell in love with Pippin the most, and also instantly. He’s bubbly and cheerful, and each character brings something unique and new to the story.

The power of this book is in its representation of family – and that family is what we make of it, and the people we choose to be in our lives, as well as our biological family. Friends become family. Freja’s once small, insular world has become large and spans several countries. She had grown in many ways, and has even helped Tobias and Finnegan grow.

The magic in this book comes from the characters, the places, and the way food – gelato and pastries – informs the world, and its sense of timelessness – it could be set at any time in the last thirty years, and allows readers to imagine themselves as Freja and the other characters. It is world we know, and yet in some ways don’t know. Freja and Tobias take us on a journey – in many ways. Provence comes to life, with the scent of lavender and the musical delights of the merry-go-round, and many more. As Freja works to solve the mystery of who has been trying to drive people out of Claviers, and ruining their livelihoods, she will find out that not everything is always as it seems.

Cleverly combined as an adventure and a mystery series with a touch of romance along the way (although Tobby and Vivi might not always realise it), this series is delightful, and moves along at the right pace – not too fast, not too slow. It allows the characters and plot to develop and will enthral readers aged eight and older.

Onto Lucerne, and the final stages of Freja and Tobby’s story!

 

Marshmallow Pie the Cat Superstar on TV by Clara Vulliamy

marshmallow-pie-the-cat-superstar-on-tvTitle: Marshmallow Pie the Cat Superstar on TV

Author: Clara Vulliamy

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: HarperCollins

Published: 5th August 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 128

Price: $9.99

Synopsis: The second book in the Marshmallow Pie the Cat Superstar series by Clara Vulliamy, the author-illustrator of Dotty Detective. Perfect for fans of Toto the Ninja Cat or The Secret Life of Pets.

Marshmallow Marmaduke Vanilla-Bean Sugar-Pie Fluffington-Fitz-Noodle is a big, fluffy cat with an even BIGGER personality!

With the help of his owner, Amelia, Pie is well on his way to stardom. He’s got himself a role ON TV! But then he hears that he’ll be joined in the spotlight – by Gingernut, the cheeky kitten… Can Pie learn how to share, or will his biggest opportunity yet come tumbling down?

Told in the hilarious voice of Marshmallow Pie himself, his mischievous antics are illustrated throughout in black and white.

~*~

Welcome back to Marshmallow Pie’s world! It’s been a while since the auditions, and his human, Amelia, has started a newsletter, the Fluffington Post, when she finds out that Marshmallow Pie has been cast in a television commercial for his favourite snack! But when Marshmallow Pie finds out that Gingernut is going to be his co-star, things start to go wrong. As Amelia and Zack build their friendship, and work on the newspaper together, Marshmallow Pie gets jealous of Gingernut.

Marshmallow Pie needs to learn to share in this story – something that younger children can struggle with, and this kind of story can teach them about sharing through the child character, Marshmallow Pie. As part of a series, this book follows on nicely from the first, with the same fun storytelling through words and pictures, just right for junior fiction readers taking that next step into the world of independent reading. Gingernut and Zack are cemented as characters in the series in this book, and I hope we get to see more of them and their growing friendship with Amelia and Marshmallow Pie.

Like in the first book, this one explores themes of friendship, family, fun, shared interests and the growth of the child character upon realising they may have upset someone and working out how to fix it – either alone, or with help. Child readers will find someone to identify with, and learn various lessons about friendship and sharing whilst having fun with a good story that is entertaining, and filled with laughs.

I’m looking forward to seeing where Marshmallow Pie goes on his future adventures as a cat superstar.

 

Marshmallow Pie the Cat Superstar by Clara Vulliamy

marshmallow pie 1Title: Marshmallow Pie the Cat Superstar
Author: Clara Vulliamy
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: HarperCollins
Published: 5th August 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 128
Price: $9.99
Synopsis: A hilarious new series from Clara Vulliamy, the author-illustrator of Dotty Detective, about grumpy cat Marshmallow Pie and his reluctant pursuit of stardom. Perfect for fans of Toto the Ninja Cat or The Secret Life of Pets.
Marshmallow Marmaduke Vanilla-Bean Sugar-Pie Fluffington-Fitz-Noodle is a big, fluffy (and grumpy) cat. He LOVES the easy life: lazing in the sunshine, eating Shrimp Crunchies and annoying Buster, the dog downstairs.

His new owner, Amelia Lime, has grand plans to turn Pie into a STAR… But Pie thinks he’s a star already, to be honest!

Told in the hilarious voice of Marshmallow Pie himself, his mischievous antics are illustrated throughout in black and white.

~*~

Marshmallow Marmaduke Vanilla-Bean Sugar-Pie Fluffington-FitzNoodle has a new home. He’s not happy, because everyone there calls him Pie. When his new owner, Amelia, discovers that a local company is searching for new animal talent. Amelia convinces Marshmallow Pie that they should audition – and when they do, things get a little bit chaotic, because Pie thinks he IS a star!

Amelia is lonely, and Pie notices, and comes across as quite aloof and uppity – what people might see as being true to a cat. Yet there is heart to him and even though he sees this chance to show the world what a star he is. And prove to the humans in his life that he is more than just a cat. At the same time, he’s determined to annoy neighbour, Buster, in any way he can. But what mischief will Pie get up to when he and Amelia meet Zack and Gingernut at the auditions?

This new series is told through the eyes of Marshmallow Pie, observing life with the Lime family. Amelia and her dad are dedicated to each other and Pie, and for Amelia, Pie is a friend. He becomes her connection to other people and the outside world.

This book is delightful. It has two child characters who carry the story – Pie and Amelia, and each are given a delightfully unique voice that leaps from the page to entertain. The text works beautifully with the black and white illustrations that bring Amelia and Pie to life for readers. I love the idea of a cat telling the story – it can be done well, and Clara Vulliamy has done it here. It is a micro world with big characters, told in a way that readers aged seven and older will be able to access and understand.

This is the beginning of a delightful new series that kids, cats and adults will love, as it captures the delight of cats, and their various likes and personality traits. It is about family and friendship and the power of cats uniting friends through common interests as well. Marshmallow Pie is a character who learns a new lesson in each story, who will grow across the series. Readers of all ages will adore him and relate to him, as well as the other characters in the book. A great read!

Max Booth, Future Sleuth: Chip Blip by Cameron Macintosh and Dave Atze

Max Booth Chip Blip coverTitle: Max Booth, Future Sleuth: Chip Blip
Author: Cameron Macintosh and Dave Atze
Genre: Science Fiction, Mystery, Adventure
Publisher: Big Sky Publishing
Published: 13th July 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 130
Price: $12.99
Synopsis: It’s 2424. Super Sleuth Max Booth is uncovering the secrets of mysterious 20th Century gadgets. His faithful, but slightly neurotic robodog Oscar is also on the case! In book 5 Chip Blip the duo are baffled by the discovery of a tiny device. Using their future-sleuthy skills, they discover what it is, and unleash the truth of a long-lost treasure. But there are sinister characters and challenges along the way. Join the adventure in this fabulous series full of mystery, surprises and suspense.

What use is a chip that you can’t eat? Max is about to find out!

Max and his robo-dog, Oscar, are baffled by the discovery of a tiny device that looks like a grain of rice. They soon figure out what it is – an ID chip that should have been implanted into a very special dog – 400 years ago! The chip leads Max and Oscar to another long-lost treasure … but they aren’t the only folks in the hunt for it. If Max and Oscar aren’t careful, they could be hounded off the treasure trail for good!

~*~

Romi from Books on Tour asked me to participate in a blog tour for the recent Max Booth, Future Sleuth book, published by Big Sky Publishing. When I first met Max in this book, he appeared with a bang and full of fun, introducing us instantly to Max, his robo-dog, Oscar, and Jessie, who works at the museum and gives them shelter, hiding them from a nemesis who wishes to return them somewhere they’d rather not go. Fans of the series will know where this place is, but if this is your first outing with Max, I think it needs to be a surprise – that makes it much more fun! Not having read the previous books, I wanted to read on to find out if we’d be told at some stage – so keep reading if this is your first Max Booth book – it will all come together!

When Max, Jessie and Oscar find a microchip one day, they’re stumped as to what it is – even the Splinternet can’t find information on it, and the old technology (old for Max – for us, it is current!) can’t help them either. So they set out from the Skyburbs to see what they can find out about the chip and what it contains. When they uncover another treasure, soon, nefarious people are after them, and Max and Oscar must use all their skills to get away.

This delightful and fast-paced book combines history (in Max’s world), science fiction and a fun and thoughtful mystery to create an intriguing and exciting story that will appeal to junior readers venturing out to their next level of independent reading, allowing them to imagine, learn and build on their vocabulary. I loved entering Max’s world – it is unique and possible – limited at this stage only by imagination. It allows children and any readers to imagine a world that has immense possibilities, based in what we know, and what is coming, and the developments happening in today’s world.

This is a series with so much potential to inform and entertain. It combines science fiction, mystery and adventure in one place, in a world where Max is the hero, and he outwits those who wish to track him down and steal the ancient treasures for their own nefarious means.

I found Max’s world fun and enjoyable, and hope readers new and old will enjoy this new adventure.

Monty’s Island: Beady Bold and the Yum-Yams by Emily Rodda

Monty's Island 2Title: Monty’s Island: Beady Bold and the Yum-Yams
Author: Emily Rodda
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Published: 4th August 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 176
Price: $14.99
Synopsis: Monty lives on a perfect island in the middle of a magical sea. Sometimes the sea throws up something interesting … and Monty goes on an amazing adventure!
On a tiny island far away, in a sea that ripples with magic, Monty never knows what he might find…

Everyone loves Bring-and-Buy Day, when Trader Jolly visits the Island with all the supplies Monty and his friends need.

But this Bring-and-Buy day is different. Instead of Trader Jolly, there’s a sneaky new trader called Beady Bold. And he’s arrived with a boatload of trouble. The yum-yams are yummy, but they’re hiding a very scary secret.

All seems lost until Monty comes up with a daring plan.

A charming and exciting series from beloved author Emily Rodda.

~*~

Bring-and-Buy Day is coming! Monty and his friends are excited – they have their list, their Jinglebeads and a list ready for Trader Jolly and his crew. But when a new trader arrives, Beady Bold, everything starts to go wrong! He won’t give them what they need, won’t accept their Jinglebeads and will only offer them the mysterious yum-yams – yummy food with a danger behind it. So Monty comes up with a clever plan to save the day.

AWW2020The second book in the Monty’s Island series bring back the same characters from the first, with a few additions – the Weavers and Trader Jolly – to build the world and expand upon it in a way that is relevant to the story being told. This series allows children to go on adventure safely and face the world in a way they can access and relate to.

Much like the first book, the characters are diverse – Marigold and Monty are the only human characters, the rest are animals – and they each have their own personalities that make them fun and relatable for readers, both young and old. From Bunchy the elephant to Clink the parrot who acts like a pirate. Each character brings something unique to the story, which enriches it and shows children that it is okay to be different and need, or want, different things whilst working to the same common goal, and working together to achieve these goals.

Much like the first story, it is the little details in the story are what makes the story work, and with each story its own contained adventure, that is linked by characters and setting rather than plot, like Deltora Quest, which is aimed at readers aged nine and older, and a good step up from the new Monty’s Island books. Monty’s Island is perfect for early readers, just venturing into longer books, and it lots of fun for all readers as well of any age. There is something in it for every reader, and I hope readers will fall in love with this series by one of Australia’s best loved authors.

It is a wonderful addition to the series, and I looked forward to more.

 

Toffle Towers: Order in the Court by Tim Harris, Illustrated by James Foley

Toffle towers 3Title: Toffle Towers: Order in the Court
Author: Tim Harris, Illustrated by James Foley
Genre: Fiction, Humour
Publisher: Puffin
Published: 4th August 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 256
Price: $14.99
Synopsis: The adventures at Toffle Towers hotel continue as the manager – 10-year-old Chegwin Toffle – battles with blizzards, rioting guests and hostile takeover attempts!
Join Chegwin Toffle for more fun and frolics as Toffle Towers gets snowed in. Amid the snowball fights, things start to go wrong when guests’ precious belongings go missing and Brontessa Braxton launches yet another assault to take over the hotel.
Will Chegwin catch the culprit? Will he be able to beat Brontessa in court to save his beloved hotel and staff? And will he ever find the missing room 50 and the hotel’s mystery guest?
~*~

Chegwin is back, and he has had several successes since the Great River Race in running the hotel and keeping Brontessa Braxton out of the hotel. Until now. Brontessa is determined to get Toffle Towers, But when items start going missing, Chegwin must find out who is behind it, and also, find a way to save the hotel and its staff from the evil clutches of Brontessa Braxton. Nothing is ever boring at Toffle Towers!

Each book in the series builds and follows on from the other – it is much more fun to read from the beginning, and the history of the towers and the Toffle family is threaded throughout. The series so far has been a rollicking and adventurous daydreamy joy to read, filled with family, friends, humour and mystery. Whilst battling Brontessa Braxton’s bamboozling bad behaviour, and coming up with a trial strategy to save the hotel, in the most Chegwin way ever.

I’ve been loving these books – Dani Vee at Words and Nerds Podcast got me onto them, and I am very glad I read the first two books before reading the third one. Given they follow on almost immediately from each other, it made sense to read them in this way. I prefer reading a series in order, as it delivers an enriched and vibrant experience of Toffle Towers, Chegwin, his family and the staff of Toffle Towers, who each bring something unique and vibrant to the setting and story.

I’m sure there is more to come from this fabulously funny and fantastical series, where Chegwin will have to solve another problem with his imagination and daydreaming to defeat Brontessa or another threat to Toffle Towers.

Another wonderfully funny book, and I look forward to book four – thanks for the new obsession, Dani!

 

Battle of Book Week (Yours Troolie, Alice Toolie #3) by Kate and Jol Temple, illustrated by Georgia Draws A House

Battle of Book WeekTitle: Battle of Book Week (Yours Troolie, Alice Toolie #3)

Author: Kate and Jol Temple, illustrated by Georgia Draws A House

Genre: Humour, Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 4th August 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 208

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: Alice Toolie – seriously famous Youtootuber – and her best enemy Jimmy Cook are back to fight another day in a whole new chapter of adventures from the CBCA award-winning writers of the Captain Jimmy Cook Discovers series.

Book Week is always the best week of the year! But when Alice Toolie and Jimmy Cook get involved, it’s set for disaster. From kooky costume ideas to accidental author visits, nothing is safe. It’s no wonder they’ve been fired as Library Monitors! The only way they’ll get their jobs back is by winning First Prize in the book parade. And that means working together. Can these two best frenemies leave their differences behind long enough to win the Battle of Book Week?

~*~

Alice Toolie is her school’s library monitor – but now her frenemy, Jimmy Cook, is also a library monitor, and neither seems to be happy about sharing these duties. With an author visit and Book Week approaching, the rivalry ramps up with their letters to each other in the library monitor notebook, and everything leads to something that sees them fired as library monitors – and determined to get their jobs back. What lengths will they go to so they can get their job back, and do their best to win the Book Week costume competition?

AWW2020Told in letters and notes, this is a fun and humourous read. It is the third in the series, but I found things easy to pick up, and would like to go back and read the other Alice Toolie books. Kate and Jol Temple have created a fun world, and story. With two distinct voices, it is accessible for middle grade readers of all ages and readerships and shows that sometimes the best solution is working together, and compromising, especially when things don’t go as well as you would like them to.

This Alice Toolie book is a celebration of books, in a humourous and fun way that kids will enjoy. There are many things kids will get out of this book, and I loved it – it has been years since I’ve been to a Book Week or the Scholastic Book Fair – and it felt familiar and fun, and a great joy to experience again through the eyes of these characters.

Using journal entries and letters to tell a story is something that needs to be done cleverly, and in a way that moves the story along – and Alice Toolie hits all these notes. It moves the story along and gives us enough of what has happened in between the letters to imagine what is happening. Finally, it evokes a sense of the characters – not only in the style of their handwriting, but in the way, they write and interact.     This makes the format work, as it allows the reader to get the most out of the book, and it is when these sorts of books work well in this way that I think they’re very effective and well-written.

A great book from Kate and Jol Temple.

What Zola did on Tuesday by Melina Marchetta, Illustrated by Deb Hudson

What Zola Did on TuesdayTitle: What Zola did on Tuesday
Author: Melina Marchetta, Illustrated by Deb Hudson
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Puffin Australia
Published: 4th August 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 96
Price: $12.99
Synopsis: From the author of Looking for Alibrandi comes this gorgeous series to engage and entertain newly independent young readers.
Zola loves living on Boomerang Street with her mum and her nonna. Every day of the week is an adventure. But Zola has a problem. No matter how much she tries, she can’t keep out of trouble! Like on Tuesday, when Zola tries to help Nonna knit a scarf . . .
Collect all seven stories in the series. One for every day of the week.

~*~

Zola has new neighbours – she can hear them every day. She also wants to help her Nonna knit a scarf, but she doesn’t know how. When Zola meets thew new neighbours, she finds out that their Teta – their Nonna – also knits and they come up with a plan to get their grandmother’s together to start a knitting club. But will it all work out?

Zola’s world celebrates everyday families and diversity. In this story, Zola meets the Muslim family next door, and finds out what makes them different, and also, the things about their families that are similar, and what connects them. Kids will learn about people who need help, and about different cultures in an accessible and easy to understand way that is age appropriate and leaves room for further exploration and questions to be asked and investigated.

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This series sets out to celebrate gardens and knitting, family, animals and diversity, whilst giving kids the confidence they need to read on their own. This series also teaches kids about problem solving and caring for the wider world – doing what you can for other people, taking complex themes and issues, and using simple, easy to understand language to explore them. These stories are universal – any kid can imagine themselves doing what Zola does.

I loved that it explored diversity as a part of life – which is what good literature does. It showed the differences and celebrated them – and explained things that kids might not be familiar with in a way that young readers will be able to understand and from there, find out more should they wish to, or when they are ready. Or, they’ll be able to relate other reading and experiences to these characters.

This is a really good addition to the series and it will be fun to see what else Zola gets up to.

Isolation Publicity with Jacqueline Harvey

 

Due to recent events, many Australian authors have had to cancel book launches and festival appearances. For some, this means new novels, series continuations and debut novels are heading into this scary, strange world without much publicity or attention. The good news is, you can still buy books – online or get your local bookstore to deliver if they’re offering that service. Buying these books, talking about them, sharing them, reading them, reviewing them – are all ways that for the next six months at least, we can ensure that these books don’t fall by the wayside.
Over the next few months, a lot of us will be consuming some form of art – entertainment, movies, TV, radio, music, books – the list goes on. It is something we will be turning to take our minds off things and to occupy vast swathes of free time. One of the things I will be doing to support the arts, and specifically, Australian Authors, will be reading and reviewing as many books as possible, conducting interviews like this where possible, and participating in virtual book tours for authors.

 

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Jacqueline Harvey is the best-selling author of three wonderful series of books for children and readers of all ages – Clementine-Rose, Alice-Miranda and Kensy and Max. Jacqueline also has a background in teaching and works with several reading charities and is an Australia Reads ambassador for 2020, which has had its major events moved to November. Much like other authors, Jacqueline has had events and launches cancelled – and below, she discusses Clemmie, Alice-Miranda and the wonderful spy twins, Kensy and Max, as well as the reading and writing industry and how her educational career has complemented her writing career.

 

Hi Jacqueline and welcome to The Book Muse

 

  1. I first came to your books through Kensy and Max two years ago – but you got started in the writing industry elsewhere – what was the very first thing that you had published?

 

I’ve been writing for quite a while now. The first book I had published was Code Name Mr Right with Lothian Books in Melbourne. There were three books in that series and I also had a picture book called The Sound of the Sea. They were all published between 2003 and 2005 then nothing for five years until the first Alice-Miranda book was released in 2010.

 

  1. Where did the idea for Clemmie (Clementine -Rose) come from, and how many books do you have planned for that series?

 

I wanted to write a shorter book than Alice-Miranda and loved the idea of a little girl who lives in a rather ramshackle country house hotel. The first line came to me quite out of the blue and was the start of the Clemmie back story (she was a foundling delivered to her adoptive mother in the back of the local baker’s van). Her full story is revealed throughout the series. She also had to have an interesting pet and Lavender the teacup pig was perfect. I’ve written 15 books in the series with the final book, Clementine Rose and the Best News Yet published in November 2019 (I think the title is a tad ironic given it’s the last book so it’s not the best news in some ways but it is for Clemmie).

 

  1. Similarly, where did the idea for Alice-Miranda come from – and after she heads to the outback later this year – where will she head next?

 

I originally thought Alice-Miranda would be a picture book – how wrong I was about that! In the beginning she was based on three little girls I used to teach but over time she grew to have the best characteristics of many children I’ve worked with over the years (boys and girls). Having worked in schools for a long time it just seemed natural that I would write a school story. I love the outback adventure – there are some really funny new characters and lots of challenges for Alice-Miranda and her friends. At this point I’m not sure where I’ll take her next but the second animated film is currently in production so I’m excited to see that towards the end of the year. It’s called Alice-Miranda: A Royal Christmas Ball and follows on from last year’s film, Alice-Miranda Friends Forever, which is now airing on STAN and Nine Now. You can also download it from iTunes.

  1. Onto my absolute favourite of your series – Kensy and Max – where did this idea come from, and how many other places do you think you’ll take the twins?

 

Kensy and Max grew out of my curiosity about all things spies. I also wanted to create a series to make the reader think – hence the chapter headings are written in code and the whole name of the spy organisation, Pharos is linked to the ancient lighthouse of Alexandria (also the name of Granny Cordelia’s country estate). A beacon is a light in a lighthouse and also the name of the newspaper which provides the ‘front’ for the spies. We had been doing a lot of travelling in the UK and on several occasions visited a pub called The Morpeth Arms which is right on The Thames opposite the Mi6 building. Upstairs the pub had a restaurant called The Spying Room and when you sat at the tables with a view, there were binoculars available and a sign that said, ‘Can you spy on the spies?’ I had a conversation with the publican about whether he’d seen anything interesting over there and he told me (and he could have been pulling my leg but that didn’t matter) that he’d worked in the pub for 16 years and in that time he’d seen the lights go on and off, computer screens flicker and occasionally someone on the balcony but that he’d never seen a person in the building. True or not it got me thinking – what if Mi6 was more like a publicity company and the real spies were somewhere close by that you’d never think to find them. Hence Kensy and Max was born. We have also visited some interesting places like Scotland’s Secret Bunker – a war time hideout just south of St Andrew’s and another hotel north of London which had been used for spy activities during the war.

I’m currently signed to write 8 books in the series though hopefully if children love them I’ll be able to write more. Kensy and Max have been on adventures in London, Rome, Sydney, Paris, New York and I’m in the middle of writing Kensy and Max: Full Speed which begins in London but will head to the Swiss Alps. I have plenty of ideas for more stories and had actually been planning a trip to Russia later this year – that’s currently off the agenda for me but definitely not for them!

 

  1. What 2020 releases, launches and author events have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

 

I had a huge tour planned for March and April but we only managed to get three days of bookshop and school visits and our Sydney High Tea Celebration for 10 years of Alice-Miranda before everything went pear shaped. My Melbourne and Perth tours were cancelled and I’ve had lots of festivals cancelled too including one in Tasmania in September and touring in New Zealand in June. So far pretty much all of my school events have been postponed or are in state of flux although I do have some online bookings that are set to go ahead. I’m still writing and none of my release dates have been impacted as yet.

 

  1. When it comes to Kensy and Max, what sort of research have you had to do into spies, ciphers and codes, and all the locations they visit across the world?

 

Kensy and Max requires a considerable amount of research from all angles. Just this week I’ve been taking virtual tours of the Palace of Westminster and the British Houses of Parliament and I also wrote to the London Fire Brigade to ask them some specific questions on their uniforms. It was lovely to receive a very comprehensive reply on Friday morning. I have to research all the codes and ciphers and my husband loves that sort of thing (and is something of a maths genius) so his help has been invaluable. Location wise, I’ve been to all of the places they’ve been so far but some, not for a while, so Google Maps, Google Earth and Google Street View are always on my other screen when I’m in a city that I need extra reminders of. For example in Italy I took myself on loads of walking tours of Rome on Street View and it jogged my memory for the small details like the fabulous door knockers and the cobbled streets.

 

  1. Is there a favourite place in the world you haven’t taken any of your characters in any series yet, but that you would love to send them to?

 

Well I’m not sure if it’s going to be a favourite place as I haven’t been there yet but I am desperate to send them to Russia and I am very keen to go there. I could also set a full story in New Zealand as we spend a lot of time in Queenstown.

 

  1. Does Ballypuss help with your writing, or hinder it?

 

He’s a great help most of the time because he’s the world’s best sleeper. Although when he’s out roaming in the garden he often demands that I let him back inside (he sits on the wall outside my office and meows to tell me he’s ready to come home). Lately that has turned into a game of ‘follow me around the garden’ and he has this bizarre habit of needing someone to watch him while he eats.

 

  1. Did your teaching career help you when it came to writing?

 

Absolutely as I spent a lot of time testing early material on a captive audience. I have always loved visiting schools and talking to children and teachers. It also helps when it comes to classroom management and being able to speak to groups of all sizes. My raised left eyebrow has an excellent effect on a rowdy audience 😊.

 

  1. You are one of Australia’s most popular authors – what kind of reception do you get from readers – and do you find that some of your books might be read more by a certain readership than another?

 

I am so grateful to my readers. I get lots of beautiful messages from children and adults about my books. I think it’s tricky when you write books with girls as the central characters to convince some boys that they too, can read the stories – they seem to cop a bit of pressure at times not to. Both Alice-Miranda and Clementine Rose have plenty of boys in the stories and I am a strong proponent of the idea that there are no books for girls or books for boys – just books. Kensy and Max has definitely opened the market to a lot more boys (though thankfully I get plenty of parents telling me their boys love Alice-Miranda and Clementine Rose too).

 

  1. Your books are not aimed at boys or girls specifically – how have you managed to capture readers across the board with all your series?

 

I have a lot of loyal boy readers who have loved Alice-Miranda and Clementine Rose but I still struggle with adults who will sometimes steer boys away from those stories. I’ve heard horrible comments at times – one story that was heartbreaking when a boy whose school I had visited that week saw me signing books outside a shop and he ran up and was very enthusiastically telling his dad, ‘That’s her – the lady who came to our school. I really want that book.’ He pointed at Alice-Miranda to the Rescue – which has a green cover and a picture of Alice-Miranda holding a puppy. It’s not especially feminine or overly ‘girly’. The father growled at the boy, ‘Maaaate, you don’t want that book – it’s got a girl on the cover.’ I was mortified and asked the fellow if he’d heard what had just come out of his mouth. He muttered some choice words and quickly ushered his son away. The little boy was upset and I was too. I find it hard to believe that in 2020 attitudes are still quite archaic at times. Only last year I visited a school where the librarian told me I was talking to the Year 3 and 4 girls. I asked what the boys were doing because unless it was flying on a rocket to the moon I didn’t imagine it was anything more exciting than listening to my talk. She told me that the ‘powers that be’ had decided ‘you only write books for girls.’ I was aghast and said (politely) that if the powers that be didn’t let the boys come I was not planning to stay. Suffice to say the boys arrived and that afternoon I had an email from a mum whose son had begged to go into town and get some of my books. She said that he never read but he couldn’t stop talking about all the stories I had told them. She was so grateful and I was really pleased that I made a fuss and the boys were allowed to come to the talk.

 

  1. You’ve worked in the arts and teaching – like a few other participants – how do you think these two roles complement each other?

 

Quite a few authors and illustrators have backgrounds in education – and I think the two occupations are very complementary. I spent year’s trialling stories on my captive audiences and I also read so many books to the children – it was wonderful training to see what worked well. I’ve had quite a diverse school career from classroom teacher to deputy head to director of development and find that many of the skills I needed back then have stood me in good stead now – presenting, organising events, communicating with children and adults, writing – both creatively and non-fiction.

 

  1. As a writer with an education background, how do you think both industries will be affected by the pandemic?

 

Education has been turned on its head. Teaching remotely has created a huge additional workload for teachers, many of whom are just getting to grips with the technology they are required to use. One of my sisters is a high school teacher and she has been overwhelmed with extra work as well as trying to monitor her own four children who are studying from home. I guess the one good thing is that most teachers have secure incomes (casuals aside) and that’s an area where the arts have been hugely impacted. For me personally almost all of my festival gigs have been cancelled for the year and while schools are beginning to book authors for online events, it’s very different to being there in person and interacting with the students. Obviously the rates of pay are much lower too. Royalties for book sales are paid twice a year so it’s difficult to know how they will be impacted in the long term. Some of my author friends have been tutoring to help make up the shortfall in income while others have been creating online content – though there is some concern about ongoing intellectual property issues particularly ensuring that once we do come out of lockdown schools will once again book authors and illustrators to do ‘in person’ gigs.

 

  1. You’re also an ambassador for Dymocks Children’s Charities – what sort of programs does the charity support, and what work do you do for them?

 

Dymocks Children’s Charities have wonderful programs including Book Bank and Library Regeneration, and have recently run a fantastic fundraiser for bushfire affected schools. They have introduced ‘Books for Homes’ to ensure that disadvantaged children who have been isolated by the pandemic are still getting books to read. I’ve recorded some short videos for their new You Tube channel which we hope will be viewed and used by schools and in homes. Under normal circumstances I would do a couple of Library Regen or Book Bank presentations a year and I also promote their campaigns via social media and an awareness page in all of my books. The past couple of years, Ambassadors Sally Rippin and Adrian Beck have edited a fabulous book called Total Quack Up and Total Quack Up Again and I’ve contributed to both of those as well.

 

  1. Has any of this work been affected by the pandemic or can you do it remotely?

 

Unfortunately a lot of the charity’s work has been impacted by Covid 19. The first thing to go was the annual Great Debate which is a huge charity fundraising event – and their largest source of income. Initially it was postponed until later in the year but with things so up in the air they have decided to move it to 2021. Obviously they have had to adapt so the Books for Homes program was born and the You Tube channel was developed to help spread awareness.

 

  1. Favourite writing snack?

 

A cup of white tea and a handful of raw cashews.

 

  1. Do you have a favourite place to write?

 

Anywhere with a view – especially of water or mountains.

 

  1. What would you like to see in terms of support for the arts, and how can people support the arts and authors in these difficult times?

 

I wrote an article for Reading Time –  http://readingtime.com.au/supporting-childrens-authors-during-the-corona-crisis/ about ways people can support authors and illustrators during this time. Certainly buying books (if you can afford to) but also giving recommendations – there are some wonderful sites like Your Kids’ Next Read on Facebook where parents can comment and support authors. It has been good to see some additional grants offered by organisations like the Copyright Agency and the City of Sydney, though I know not everyone is able to access these.

 

  1. Do you have a favourite local bookseller you’ll be trying to support during the pandemic?

 

So far I have ordered books online from Dymocks and when I get through that reading pile I will definitely be supporting my local shops including Novella at Wahroonga and Book Review St Ives. My second last public event before we went into lockdown was at Book Review and I can’t wait to get back out and do more events once it’s safe to do so.

 

  1. Finally, what are you working on at the moment?

 

I’m writing the sixth book in the Kensy and Max series. It’s called Kensy and Max: Full Speed and will be out in October. I’ve just finished writing a short book, Kensy and Max: Spy Games for the Australia Reads Campaign which will be out in November and I’m also working on some other exciting secret projects.

 

Anything further?

 

 

I think that just about covers everything – well except I’d love to give a big shoutout to all of the school and municipal librarians across Australia who have been working hard to keep kids supplied with books and resources. They’ve had to adapt in record time and I know they’re doing a brilliant job. So a huge thanks from me!

 

Thank you Jacqueline!