Isolation Publicity with Petra James


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 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.

Petra James is the author of the Hapless Hero Henrie series, and the second book came out in May in the midst of the pandemic. Part of her publicity for this book is the following interview we arranged ages ago, just after I read the first book for Writing NSW. This interview was done before the advent of online events, so doesn’t reflect the changes that other authors have made.

Hi Petra and Welcome to The Book Muse
It’s lovely to be here – thank you.

1. The second book in your Hapless Hero Henrie series is out in May – what is the basic premise of this novel?

Henrie is on her first Hero Hunt – with Alex Fischer from Hapless Hero Henrie and a girl called Marley Hart, who has rung the Hero Hotline seeking a hero. There’s a mystery about Marley’s great aunt Agnes (an archaeologist), a missing gold statue, a secret from the past, and a new villain.

2. How many books do you think you have planned for Henrie Melchior’s story?

At the moment, it’s just the two books but Violetta Villarne (from Villains Inc) has a habit of popping up when she’s least expected so I wouldn’t be surprised if she has more to say and do. She loves making trouble …

3. This is one I’m really looking forward to after getting to review the first book for Writing NSW earlier this year. Where did the idea for House of Heroes come from – a family where no girls have been born for decades?

Thank you so much for your wonderful review of Hapless Hero Henrie. I’m thrilled you enjoyed it.

I’m the youngest of four girls and I was supposed to be a boy but, obviously, I wasn’t so I grew up with this sense that I wasn’t quite who I was supposed to be. I took this idea to the extreme by wondering what dramatic events could be set in motion if a girl was born into a family business, governed by tradition, and males.

I also wanted to reclaim the hero space for girls because, of course, girls can be heroes too!

4. What, if any, events and appearances did you have planned for the release of this book before the pandemic crisis forced their cancellation?

We’d really just started talking about this when COVID struck but I was hoping to attend some bookshop book clubs, visit some schools ….

5. Out of all the characters you have created, do you have a favourite, and why this character?

This is always a tough question to answer. I guess each new character is like a new friend so there’s a joyful sense of discovery as you get to know each other. So Henrie is probably top of the list at the moment because she’s the main character of my latest book. But then all the characters in my other books are like old friends, and old friends are equally cherished.

6. How did you get your start in children’s publishing, and what is your job within the industry these days?

I worked for a literary magazine in the UK when I left university and soon realised that publishing was the job for me. I loved every part of it. And still do. I’m a children’s publisher now – working with amazing authors, illustrators and designers. I feel pretty lucky to have such a job.

7. Do you have a favourite children’s book, series or author, or many, and what are they?

I have so many favourites. For so many different reasons. This question could take me months to answer. And I’d probably want to keep changing it. It would be like the Magic Pudding of answers – I could never ever finish it.

8. How do you think children’s books and stories have changed over the years, compared to what you may have read as a child?

I think there’s a much greater range of stories now with so many more authors writing for children. I think humour is more prevalent too.

9. Growing up, what sort of books did you find yourself drawn to in particular, and why?

I loved all the Enid Blyton books, especially the Famous Five and the Secret Seven. I planned for a while to be a spy. And Ferdinand the Bull was my favourite picture book, probably because my dad loved this story and read it to me constantly.

10. What was it about the arts, writing and publishing that made you want to make a career in this industry?

It was a serendipitous discovery. I feel as though it found me rather than the other way around. And once in the publishing/writing world, I knew no other career could ever fit so well.

11. Can you tell us what is next for Henrie and the House of Melchior?

That is a question without an answer … for the moment.

12. In times like these, how important do you think the arts are going to be for people so they can get through it?

Creativity is fuel for the soul. Our physical worlds may have shrunk but the world inside a book is immense. We may not be able to leave the house but we can still explore the most magnificent inner worlds by reading, singing, dancing, playing the ukulele, writing, haiku-ing …

Anything I may have missed?

Thank you Petra, I look forward to more Henrie Melchior stories.

Thanks so much to you and I hope you enjoy Henrie’s Hero Hunt.

May 2020 Round Up

In May, we seemed to settle into a lockdown routine, so I got a bit more reading done. This month, I read 20 books – the vast majority of those – seventeen – were by Australian women writers – some for review, some my own reads and one or two that I read alongside Isolation Publicity interviews. Below is a breakdown of my current numbers, and a table with each read and the challenge they worked for. Some categories are easier to fill, as always, and some have multiple entries. I’ve got plenty to read – the books keep coming so I’m trying to keep on top of everything as best I can.

The Modern Mrs Darcy 11/12
AWW2020 -53/25
Book Bingo – 11/12
The Nerd Daily Challenge 45/52
Dymocks Reading Challenge 22/25
Books and Bites Bingo 15/25
STFU Reading Challenge: 10/12
General Goal –89/165

May – 20

Book Author Challenge
The Monstrous Devices Damien Love Reading Challenge, STFU Reading Challenge, AWW2020
An Alice Girl Tanya Heaslip Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Daisy Runs Wild Caz Goodwin and Ashley King Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal Anna Whateley Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Her Perilous Mansion Sean Williams Reading Challenge
What Zola did on Monday


Melina Marchetta and illustrated by Deb Hudson Reading Challenge, AWW2020, The Nerd Daily Challenge
Henrie’s Hero Hunt (House of Heroes) Petra Hunt Reading Challenge, AWW2020,
The Power of Positive Pranking Nat Amoore Reading Challenge, Dymocks Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Edie’s Experiments: How to Make Friends Charlotte Barkla Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Alice-Miranda at School Jacqueline Harvey Reading Challenge, The Nerd Daily, AWW2020
Alice-Miranda in the Outback Jacqueline Harvey Reading Challenge, AWW2020
The Giant and the Sea Trent Jamieson, Rovina Cai Reading Challenge, Book Bingo, STFU Reading Challenge
Shoestring: The Boy Who Walks on Air by Julie Hunt and Dale Newman Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Orla and the Serpent’s Curse C.J. Halsam Reading Challenge
Elephant Me Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees Reading Challenge, Dymocks Reading Challenge, The Nerd Daily Challenge
A Treacherous Country K.M. Kruimink Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Eloise and the Bucket of Stars Janine Brian Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Snow White and Rose Red: And Other Tales of Kind Young Women  Kate Forsyth and Lorena Carrington Reading Challenge, Dymocks Reading Challenge, AWW2020, Books and Bites Book Bingo
Tashi: 25th Anniversary Edition Anna Fienberg, Barbara Fienberg and Kim Gamble Reading Challenge, AWW2020
On A Barbarous Coast Craig Cormick and Harold Ludwick Reading Challenge, STFU Reading Challenge, Dymocks Reading Challenge

In June I am hoping to read more and get further on top of all my reviews – look for more great books by Australians and especially kids and young adult books to come in the next few weeks.

Peta Lyre

Henrie’s Hero Hunt (House of Heroes #2) by Petra James

hero huntTitle: Henrie’s Hero Hunt (House of Heroes #2)
Author: Petra James, illustrated by A. Yi
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Walker Books
Published: 1st of May 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 230
Price: $16.99
Synopsis: A girl. A boy. A great aunt. A mystery! The second book in the exciting House of Heroes series!
Henrie Melchior, the first girl born into the House of Heroes in 200 years, is on a Hero Hunt. When Marely Hart phones on the Hero Hotline, Henrie, Marley and Alex Fischer are in a race against time to find Henrie’s missing parents, a missing gold statue and the answers to questions piling up around her archaeologist great aunt . . . but Violetta Villarne from Villains Incorporated is watching very closely. The answers Henrie needs are buried somewhere in the past, but the present is a whirlwind of secrets and subterfuge. Will Henrie solve the Hunt? Will she find her parents? Or will the House of Melchior shadow her forever?
• The second in a fun and funny middle-grade series, the successor to Deb Abela’s Max Remy series and Lauren Child’s Ruby Redfort: Genius Girl Spy.
• Perfect for readers who like their heroes to be smart, fearless and ready for action. Featuring strong male and female characters.
• Accessible high-interest text with illustrations by A. Yi, illustrator of the Alice-Miranda, Clementine Rose and Kensy and Max series.
About the author
Petra James was born in a small town in the South Island of New Zealand, and came to Australia via London. She has written several fiction titles for children such as The Most Ungrateful Girl in the World and the seven books in the Arkie Sparkle series. Like Arkie Sparkle, she wanted to be an archaeologist when she grew up (she had planned to work her way through the career alphabet but didn’t get past “A”), but instead sold chocolate chip cookies and eventually found her way into publishing. When she is not sending fictional characters on adventures, she works in children’s publishing in Sydney. Hapless Hero Henrie and Henrie’s Hero Hunt are her first books with Walker.
About the illustrator
A. Yi is an illustrator and animation artist based in Sydney. She likes doodling and wishes all books were illustrated. She has illustrated various children’s books including the bestselling Alice Miranda series.


Henrie Melchior has just picked up the ringing phone in HoMe – Home of Melchior. Marley Hart wants Henrie to help find the person following her, and so, thus begins Henrie’s first Hero Hunt and mystery. She’s on the trail of Agnes Hart, a deceased relative of Marley’s, accused of a theft. But there is more to Agnes than they all know, and soon, Henrie, Alex and Marley set off to uncover what Agnes had been hiding when she died, whilst trying to evade Violetta Villarne from Villains Incorporate, or VillInc.

AWW2020Tim Fischer and Ellie are present, yet it is Alex, Henrie and Marley who drive the action, as it is in many kids books these days. It’s an interesting and refreshing trend – for years, kids were orphans, or the adults were uninterested. Yet something has begun to change. The kids can still go on adventures, but adults are always there at the end of the story when the kids have finished for the day. It is a world that feels like it could be in Australia but also feels like it could be taking place somewhere like England – both feel equally appropriate.

As the second in the series, Henrie’s Hero Hunt ties in nicely with Hapless Hero Henrie yet as the protagonist, Henrie, recaps the first book for readers, it is okay to read this one first. However, it is a lot more fun to start at the beginning! Throughout the book, Henrie’s story is peppered with interactive questions and codes for readers to fill in and have fun with as they read, making it an accessible story as kids are able to put themselves in the story with Henrie and her friends – giving kids the adventure they seek – fun with friends, and safety they need with family – with just the right amount of danger.

Henrie’s Hero Hunt is exciting, fun, and filled with revelations throughout the novel that hint at what is to come in the next few books, whilst solving a few mysteries – but where these elements go is a question for the next book, and the rest of the series. Villains Inc and Henrie’s male cousins and uncle have been set up as the antagonists of the series, and the ones who will try to thwart Henrie. But with Marley and Alex by her side, Henrie will find that she can do anything – and the villains don’t stand a chance! They’re still all kids, though. But kids who know how to take hold of the situation before them and do what they can with what they have.

Petra James has cleverly taken hero, villain and spy tropes, and turned words like clairvoyant into names that are puns to create this world. These are fun, and intricately done and work seamlessly with the novel and characters. They add to the fun and humour in a way that will entertain younger readers and teach them about playing with language. Confident and older readers might catch the nuances faster, but half the fun is just enjoying them for what they are and how they work within the story and series. As the second in the series. It follows on perfectly from the first book, and both have alliterative titles, which is lots of fun as well. Books that play with language like this can encourage a lifelong of words and reading and is thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable on all levels.

Another great middle grade book for readers aged nine and older.

Hapless Hero Henrie (House of Heroes #1) by Petra James

hapless hero henrieTitle: Hapless Hero Henrie (House of Heroes #1)
Author: Petra James
Genre: Fiction, Spies
Publisher: Walker Books
Format: Paperback
Pages: 240
Price: $16.99
Synopsis: Twelve-year-old Henrie is the first girl heir of the Melchior family in 200 years. This was deemed a dereliction of duty by the formidable Octavia Melchior, head of the House of Melchior (HoMe). For HoMe is in the business of heroes for hire. Boy heroes, that is. Girls have no place. When Henrie receives a mysterious note, it sets off a chain of events including a kidnapping, a fancy skateboard manoeuvre and a private jet and she discovers something rotten at the heart of HoMe. As past, present and future collide, HoMe is poised to come tumbling down … unless a new kind of hero can emerge from the rubble.
• A fun and funny middle-grade novel, the successor to Deb Abela’s Max Remy series and Lauren Child’s Ruby Redfort: Genius Girl Spy.
• Perfect for readers who like their heroes to be smart, fearless and ready for action. Featuring strong male and female characters.
• Accessible high-interest text with illustrations by A. Yi, illustrator of the Alice-Miranda, Clementine Rose and Kensy and Max series.

For two hundred years, only boys have been born into the Melchior family – that is, until Henrietta Madeline Melchior came into the world, followed by a trio of shrieks eleven years, eight months and nine and a half days ago, and so this is how the first book in the new series, House of Heroes begins. When Henrie receives a mysterious letter, she sets off on an adventure with Alex, and finds herself at HoMe – the House of Melchior. Henrie tells the story of her birth and life in a dramatic and exciting way, with her own twist on the facts. It turns out that her story is not as far-fetched as Aunt Ellie would have her believe, as we find out as the story goes on. Here, secrets about her family – her parents, her ancestors and that missing portrait of another Henry – as she navigates trying to outsmart her girl-hating boy cousins.

AWW2020As Henrie ventures from her home with Ellie, following the letter and subsequently falling into a trap on her way to Moldovia. Once there, Henrie starts to learn about the history of her family – and there are a few surprises along the way that I absolutely loved. The brilliance of these secrets was that the hints and Easter Eggs were dropped, and it doesn’t matter if you pick up on them or not, it is equally fun working the answer out on your own or waiting for the Big Reveal later on in the book. I do hope that characters involved in this secret return later on in the series, because I feel like there could be a big surprise on the way for readers. In this high interest, accessible middle grade text, graphics are combined with text to make the story engaging and interactive. I love the names – the alliterative names and the names like Claire Voyant – it is something I would do, as I love names that have a hint of irony and humour behind them. It also allows readers of all abilities to engage with the text and will hopefully grow confidence for any readers who might need that little boost. It should engage both boys and girls as well, giving them a female hero who is not too feminine and who fits into a world where she was told she doesn’t belong but in actual fact, she really does. Henrie is one of those heroes like Kensy and Max that will have wide appeal, and much like Kensy and Max, I cannot wait for the next installment of this series.

What I loved about this book was the way Henrie didn’t give up, yet there were times when she did show vulnerability, and this was perfectly balanced for readers of middle grade books like this. The magic in this book is that it will have a wide appeal, with the inclusion of spies, heroes and turning age-old attitudes on their heads – such as gender roles and what the Melchior family thinks of girls. Henrie is a fabulous character who is bound to have many fabulous adventures and take readers on a spectacular journey through the world of spies and heroes. It is a book that also has an eye-catching cover, and characters that you can cheer on, and characters who you will love seeing fail – but never fear, I am sure they will be back throughout the series to cause trouble for Henrie. This is also done in an entertaining way – and also tries to play a few tricks on the reader, which adds to the fun and the intrigue. All in all, I loved this book and would like to seek out more in this series when they come out.