Edie’s Experiments #2: How to Be the Best by Charlotte Barkla

Edies Experiments 2Title: Edie’s Experiments #2: How to Be the Best
Author: Charlotte Barkla
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Puffin
Published: 2nd July 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 240
Price: $14.99
Synopsis: Edie’s experiments in how to win at life continue . . . but how will she cope with a new rival?
I’m Edie and I’m obsessed with science.
So I was sure that Annie B and I would win the Eco Fair competition.
Then Dean Starlight arrived and started sabotaging our project.
Now the competition has become an epic science battle of robotic spider attacks, exploding foam and sneaky spying.
Dean thinks he’s the best scientist of Class 5Z, but we’ll show him …
~*~

Edie is settling into school at Cedar Road Primary in 5Z, with her friend Annie B, whilst still competing with Emily James, who feels the need to win everything and is very over the top when she does. Just as Mr Zhu, their teacher has announced a science competition for years five and six, former student, Dean Starlight arrives from a stint at a school dedicated to science, and begins to enthral the class, as well as sabotaging Edie and Annie’s project – but his reasons why are a lot more complex than anyone knows. As the pranks and experiments get bigger and more competitive, Edie will find out why Dean is under pressure – and hopefully, they can beat Emily James!

Friendship is front and centre again in this book, as is science, and environmentalism – we get more insight into Edie and her family, her friends and the other things they enjoy, and the challenges that they face throughout their lives and at school. Dealing with a new student that everyone else knows and who seems too perfect is threaded throughout the narrative – Dean comes across as annoying but there is more to his story – and it is fun and interesting unfolding this with Edie, as tings become clearer and clearer throughout the novel in the lead up to the science fair.

AWW2020Environmentalism is a strong theme throughout this book, from Edie’s shower experiment to the final projects for the science competition and is a theme that is very on topic at the moment. It is a theme and conversation that is relevant to everyone, whether we are scientists or not, and something that everyone can do something about, even if it’s not as big as Edie’s grand plans. But we can all do something small within our abilities and what is available to us.

Again, this book has something for everyone – about the power of friendship and support from those around us, about how high expectations can fail, and what it means to come together and solve problems as a team, even when that person has been mean to you – finding out what is behind Dean’s behaviour is eye opening for everyone, and he seems to be a pretty cool character by the end. Maybe in future books he will team up with Edie!

The universality of the themes of family, friendship, cooperation and environmentalism ensure that all readers will enjoy this book and series, and the scientific experiments give it an element that makes science look fun for kids and allows kids who like science to engage with the story and the characters. It is a charming addition to this series, and it will be interesting to see where this series goes in the future.

Aussie Kids: Meet Mia at the Jetty by Janeen Brian and Danny Snell

Meet miaTitle: Meet Mia at the Jetty

Author: Janeen Brian and Danny Snell

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Puffin

Published: 2nd July 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 64

Price: $12.99

Synopsis: Aussie Kids is an exciting new series for emerging readers 6-8 years.

From a NSW Zoo to a Victorian lighthouse, or an outback sheep farm in WA to a beach in QLD, this junior fiction series celebrates stories about children living in unique places in every state and territory in Australia.

8 characters, 8 stories, 8 authors and illustrators from all 8 states and territories!

Come on an adventure with Aussie Kids and meet Mia from South Australia.

Hi! I’m Mia
Jim is coming to stay with us soon.
I want to show him the jetty, beach and island.
But I don’t want my bossy sister Alice to take over.
So I have a plan . . .

~*~

In the other Aussie Kids book being released this month, Mia lives by a jetty in South Australia. She’s excited to have Jim come to stay and can’t wait to show him around her jetty and the world she lives in – but she doesn’t want her big sister, Alice, taking over! So Mia comes up with a genius plan that she hopes will show Jim how clever she is.

Another story that takes place over one day, exploring the coast and its sights as Mia introduces Jim and the reader to her world. Again, this book shows the diversity of Australia and its people, where they live and the kind of things they enjoy doing.

AWW2020Janeen Brian is a wonderful author, and her story here is as engaging and delightful as her other book from this year, Eloise and the Bucket of Stars. This lovely story about friendship, sibling rivalry and discovering the world around you in a new and fascinating way is a beautiful addition to this series.

Much like the other books in the series, Mia’s adventure takes place over a single day, or part of a day, and each story is its own entity but collaboratively, they showcase an Australia that is in some ways familiar and in other ways not so familiar across the board – depending on what the readers and children know. This series will build their reading confidence, vocabulary, and knowledge of diversity and the country they live in.

A lovely story that all readers will enjoy and that will help children build their vocabulary and reading confidence, accompanied by fun and joyful illustrations by Danny Snell.

 

Aussie Kids: Meet Sam at the Mangrove Creek by Paul Seden and Brenton McKenna

sam mangrove creekTitle: Meet Sam at the Mangrove Creek

Author: Paul Seden and Brenton McKenna

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Puffin

Published: 2nd July 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 64

Price: $12.99

Synopsis: Aussie Kids is an exciting new series for emerging readers 6-8 years.

From a NSW Zoo to a Victorian lighthouse, or an outback sheep farm in WA to a beach in QLD, this junior fiction series celebrates stories about children living in unique places in every state and territory in Australia.

8 characters, 8 stories, 8 authors and illustrators from all 8 states and territories!

Come on an adventure with Aussie Kids and meet Sam from the Northern Territory.

Hi! I’m Sam
I have a new throw net.
My cuz, Peter, and I can’t wait to try it out.
We want to catch a BIG barra!

~*~

The fabulously diverse and entertaining Aussie Kids series continues, this time in the Northern Territory, with Indigenous characters Sam, and his cousin Peter as they go fishing in the local mangroves. But what happens when they can’t use the new net to catch fish? Here we have a fabulous story told by Brenton McKenna for kids aged six to eight.

The Aussie Kids series are simply told, but they don’t talk down to kids. They give the story in an accessible, fun and relatable way in each story for all kids and open the world up to them as well. It shows a world that kids outside Northern Territory might not have experienced, and allows them to experience it through the page, in an accessible way for all readers, whilst showing the diversity of the Australian population and giving Indigenous kids representation in the literature and books that they read.

Much like the other books in the series, it takes place over a single day, or part of a day, and each story is its own entity but collaboratively, they showcase an Australia that is in some ways familiar and in other ways not so familiar across the board – depending on what the readers and children know. This series will build their reading confidence, vocabulary, and knowledge of diversity and the country they live in.

Combined with lovely illustrations by Paul Seden, this story is delightful in every way. It is a fabulous addition to his series and I hope all readers enjoy this new story.

 

When Rain Turns to Snow by Jane Godwin

when rain turns to snowTitle: When Rain Turns to Snow
Author: Jane Godwin
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Published: 30th June 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 280
Price: $16.99
Synopsis: A beautiful and timely coming-of-age story about finding out who you are in the face of crisis and change. Perfect for fans of Kate DiCamillo, Fiona Wood and Emily Rodda.
A runaway, a baby and a whole lot of questions…
Lissa is home on her own after school one afternoon when a stranger turns up on the doorstep carrying a baby. Reed is on the run – surely people are looking for him? He’s trying to find out who he really is and thinks Lissa’s mum might have some answers. But how could he be connected to Lissa’s family – and why has he been left in charge of a baby? A baby who is sick, and getting sicker …
Reed’s appearance stirs up untold histories in Lissa’s family, and suddenly she is having to make sense of her past in a way she would never have imagined. Meanwhile, her brother is dealing with a devastating secret of his own.
A beautiful and timely coming-of-age story about finding out who you are in the face of crisis and change.

~*~

When Lissa meets Reed, she’s determined to find out who he is – and where he came from. Yet Reed has other ideas, and desperately needs Lissa’s help to look after Mercy, whom he says is his niece. When Reed tells Lissa he thinks he has a connection to her family. Eager to get Reed to leave and go home, Lissa agrees to help, and finds that she is drawn into his mystery.

At the same time, she is trying to find her place in a new friendship group, after her best friend, Hana, has moved across the country to Western Australia. Her older brother, Harry, is going through his own issues and secrets, and her dad is moving on with his life in Beijing. Lissa feels caught between everything – wanting to please everyone as she tries to find out how to be herself. Lissa and Reed’s story intertwines in ways they never thought possible and uncover secrets that have been hidden from everyone in this touching coming of age story about identity, love, family and friendship.

Jane Godwin has a delightful way of taking events and instances of everyday life and turning them into something special. Her last book, As Happy as Here, is set in a hospital, with a mystery unfused throughout. When Rain Turns to Snow begins with a family, with friends and evolves into a mystery about identity and how teenagers find their place in the world, their families and with their friends.

Lissa’s story is a powerful one, – and there are many strands of her story that all readers can relate to – family dynamics, school, friendship groups, secrets, and many other instances that people will find something in. It is a touching story, that is neither too fast or too slow – it has a decent pace, and from the start we know there will be more to the story than we are told initially.

AWW2020

I thought this was a lovely story, sensitively dealt with on all levels. The story is told mostly through Lissa’s eyes, which gives it the perspective needed to experience what she is feeling. Yet every other character has a voice and they are all given equal room on the page to tell their stories. The way they intertwine is intriguing and evolve throughout the story to a hopeful conclusion that brings all the strands of the stories together, It is at times light, and not too heavy. I found it a very moving and delightful read, and hopeful even when things seem like they won’t work out.

Jane Godwin’s characters and stories are relatable and accessible – she does what she can to make her stories, characters and the situations they find themselves in diverse and relatable for her readership. It is a lovely story that I hope the readers it finds will enjoy.

Isolation Publicity with Christine Bell

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.

Christine released No Small Shame with Ventura Press in April, and like many authoors, had her events surrounding the release of the book cancelled. In this environment, reviews online and interviews like this are crucial in getting the word about the books out – in a time when authors cannot physically and socially connect with their readers, it must be done virtually. Christine also has a background in educational writing for reluctant readers, and this historical fiction novel was inspired by her own family history.

 

NoSmallShameCOVER 98

Hi Christine and welcome to The Book Muse

  1. To begin with, what is the premise of your novel, No Small Shame, which came out with Ventura Press in April 2020?

 

No Small Shame is the story of a young Catholic wife faced with a terrible choice between love and duty during WW1. Mary O’Donnell sets out for Australia in hope of a better life, but one foolish night of passion with a boy from her village back in Scotland leads to an unexpected pregnancy and a loveless marriage. Mary’s journey from powerlessness to agency is an epic story of loyalty and betrayal, friction in families, and confronting the past before you can seek a future.

  1. What inspired this novel and its World War One setting?

The idea for the novel emerged through researching my family history. In 1913, my great-grandparents emigrated from the tiny mining village of Bothwellhaugh in Scotland to the new state-owned coal town of Wonthaggi in Victoria. While I was visiting the State Coal Mine Museum, a little voice kept whispering, ‘there’s a story here. There’s a story here and what a great setting!’ Instead of writing the novel I’d begun a few months earlier, I found myself researching the long-demolished village of Bothwellhaugh and pre-WW1 steam ship journeys to Australia. Once my main character, Mary, turned up, I could ignore the pull no longer and had to set aside the other novel and write Mary’s story.

 

  1. When researching the themes, characters and era of your novel, what sort of sources did you consult, and where did you begin your research?

My initial research was done through libraries and the internet. I accessed archived copies of local newspapers and spent hours in the Public Records Office of Victoria studying the correspondence files of the Wonthaggi State Coal Mine. I studied primary sources, such as: diaries, oral histories, letters etc. And I gathered more specific resources through historical societies and heritage centres: ie: booklets, texts, maps and photographs. During a research trip to Scotland, I visited a replica of miner’s rows from the era, ventured down a coalmine and visited the site of the demolished village of Bothwellhaugh. I met with a local park ranger and studied photographs and maps, and learned of some of the characters who’d once lived in the village. I walked the battlefields of France and visited several WW1 war museums to learn of soldier’s lives and read a lot of non-fiction to gain a greater understanding of the effects of war and shellshock.

  1. Did you complete your research prior to writing, or did you do some research as you wrote?

I did four months research while I fought the urge to switch novels. Once I commenced the writing, it seemed like I was continually needing to query or verify some small detail ie: When were matches invented? When did electricity come to Melbourne? How many days did it take a steamship to reach Australia from England? Plus I spent many hours researching the timeline and progress of WW1 and its impact on the Australian homefront?

 

  1. Was this story planned out when you began writing it, or was it written as you went?

I began with the idea of exploring the life and choices of a young immigrant coming to Australia in the hope of a better life. I wanted to use the timing of my great-grandparent’s migration to Australia – even though the story is fiction – so the war was always going to be a backdrop to the novel. From there, the plot developed organically which led me down a few dead ends while I worked out what I ultimately wanted the story to say. Writing without a plan, I loved the unexpected turns in the characters’ journeys. Some plot twists occurred naturally as a result of the character’s personalities and circumstances. I was shocked when I realised what would be the inevitable outcome for one character. My urge was to fight it, but after considerable research I realised it was consistent historically and too often true.

  1. What events were planned for the release of your novel prior to the COVID-19 pandemic cancelling them?

I was so excited and keen to get my choice of day and date, I booked my launch at Readings Hawthorn way back in December. So it was really disappointing when it became a casualty of Covid-19. I was also booked to be one of the featured authors at Dymocks Camberwell First Tuesday Book Club in April, but, sadly, that too had to be cancelled. I was very fortunate that I got to speak at the Women Writing History Day at Eltham Library the weekend before restrictions were enacted.

 

  1. Prior to having this novel published, you’ve had stories for younger readers published – can you tell my readers about these stories?

I’ve had over 30 short fiction titles published for children from picture story, middle-grade to YA for reluctant readers. I wrote mysteries, adventures and even a few humorous titles though I’d never call myself humorous. I loved to write action books where lots was happening. It’s interesting now to look back and see that as my children grew up, I began to write for an older and older readership!

 

  1. Are any of these works for children still available?

The majority of my children’s titles were published in the education market and so not available for purchase in general bookstores. It’s a few years since the last one was published, but, wonderfully, many are still selling and yielding royalties, plus ELR and PLR.

  1. What are the challenges writing for children versus writing for adults, and as someone who writes, or has written for both audiences, is one easier than the other?

Many similar craft skills are needed when writing for both children and adults. Young children need to be quickly engaged and love action and fun language. With illustrated texts the author needs to trust and leave room for the illustrator to contribute equally to the story. I found once I began writing novels, I gravitated to writing more gritty, complex characters and difficult situations. I love the scope of novel to explore the complexity of relationships and why people make certain choices.

  1. You’ve worked with CYA and SCWBI Victoria – what sort of grounding did these experiences give you for your career as a writer?

I loved my five years working as Assistant Coordinator with SCBWI Vic. It’s such a valuable and inclusive organisation and offers so many opportunities for writers and illustrators to gain knowledge, and meet both peers and industry contacts. Acting as a judge for CYA, I learned much about my own writing through reading the competition entries with a critical eye. Both my SCBWI and CYA roles were wonderful opportunities to contribute and give back, as well as make many friends and contacts in the publishing industry.

 

  1. What have you been doing to pass time since the pandemic shut many things down?

The day cancellations began, author Kirsten Krauth set up a Facebook group Writers Go Forth. Launch Promote Party. Within hours, posts appeared offering, authors who’d had launches or events cancelled, blog spots, interviews, the chance to apply for podcasts, among many other opportunities. An online launch became a real possibility and I instantly became very busy both organising it and responding to various opportunities, as well as those set up by my publicist. So through the pandemic, I’ve been busier than ever.

 

  1. Many people are turning to reading in these difficult times – what have you been reading, and what recommendations do you have for people?

I’ve bought a heap of new books in recent weeks and my TBR pile is about to topple off my bedside table. I try not to read fiction when I’m in the thick of writing, so during this promotion period for No Small Shame it’s a chance to catch up on some of the amazing historical fiction that’s coming out right now, including: Gulliver’s Wife by Lauren Chater; The Darkest Shore by Karen Brooks; The Lost Jewels by Kirsty Manning; The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams just to name a few.

  1. Which local booksellers do you regularly use?

 

Sadly, we don’t have an independent bookseller anywhere nearby but it’s usually no trouble for me to travel to an independent bookstore. I do buy from Booktopia on occasions and have been buying a lot of books online at present. I always go through the local store rather than order online through headoffice as I want the individual store to get the benefit of my purchase.

 

  1. How important do you think the arts are in Australia, now and in other times, and what can people do to support the local industry?

The arts are hugely important in Australia, though it seems they’re no longer well supported by the Government who deleted the Arts portfolio and shoved it in with infrastructure, transport and communications, as if the Arts is a floater that can be slotted in anywhere rather than acknowledged as an important contributor to this country’s cultural life and well-being. We need to support our creators more than ever and whenever possible send that message to the Government. Also please BUY BOOKS!

  1. When not writing, what do you enjoy doing?

I’m more dedicated to taking time out for activities away from my desk these days. I’m learning, albeit slowly, to play the piano. It’s been a lifelong dream and I’m learning to produce simple tunes – though strictly for my own enjoyment. I’m also getting into photography. I loved my recent writing residency (pre-Covid) on Norfolk Island which gave me time to practise photographing nature and some truly amazing sunsets and sunrises.

 

  1. Any plans for a future novel, and what are they?

I can’t give away too much yet. But my work-in-progress is set in the year directly after the First World War and tells the story of a young Australian soldier who stays on in France and the traumatic reason he refuses to go home.

Thank you Christine

 

Isolation Publicity with Wendy Orr

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.

NimsIsland_roughs

Wendy is the author of several books for children, including the Nim’s Island seriesDragonfly Song and Swallow’s Dance – the latter are both set in Bronze Age Greece. 2020 marks the 21st Birthday of Nim Rusoe, and Wendy had to cancel lots of celebrations around this milestone. So she has agreed to appear here to celebrate, along with my review of Nim’s Island which appeared a few weeks ago.

Hi Wendy and Welcome to The Book Muse

  1. You’re a prolific writer, perhaps best known for Nim’s Island, which celebrates its 21st birthday this year – where did the idea for Nim come from, and what is the basic premise?

Nim’s Island is the story of a girl who lives with her scientist dad and various animal friends on a small, secret island. When her dad disappears on a research trip, Nim reaches out to an adventure writer for help – and they both discover more courage than they knew they had.

Nim was inspired by seeing a small rocky islet off the coast of Vancouver Island when I was eight or nine and deciding I’d like to run away and live on an island all by myself. When we got home – to a town in the landlocked Canadian prairies –  I started writing a story about an orphan girl who runs away to live on an island.

Then in 1995, after Ark in the Park won the CBCA book of the year, two girls wrote one week, each asking me to write a book about them. I said that I couldn’t do that, but I started playing the writer’s game of “What if?” “What if a girl wrote to an author and said “Could you please write a book about me?” and the author said, “No, because I’m a very famous writer who writes very exciting books.”  But what if the girl’s life was more exciting than the author’s?   I decided that the girl’s life was more exciting because she lived on an island, and after many bad drafts, remembered the feeling of writing the island story when I was nine, and Nim’s Island finally came to life.

  1. As a remarkable coincidence, the day we set this up, a review copy of the 21st anniversary edition of Nim’s Island appeared on my doorstep just before I sat down to write these questions. Did you have anything fun planned to celebrate Nim turning 21 that had to be cancelled due to the pandemic?

I was planning to do lots of birthday parties at various bookstores, which would have been fun.

  1. Were any other events – festivals, school visits – cancelled in the wake of the pandemic?

Yes, a few. I had less scheduled than usual because of some family events that had to take precedence.

I can’t wait to dive into Nim. I’ve also seen the movie with Jodie Foster and Abigail Breslin – how do you think the movie differs to the books, or at least, the first book, which I think the movie was based on? The first movie is very close to the first book. The book doesn’t have the author’s interaction with her protagonist, as the movie does, but it makes so much sense to me I often forget that I didn’t put it in.

  1. Nim’s Island was the first Australian children’s book to be adapted for a Hollywood film – what was it like to be the first author to go on this journey, and how do you think the Australian adaptation with Bindi Irwin differs? Or is Nim’s Island the kind of place that could be situated anywhere in the world?

I was very lucky; I had a truly wonderful experience all through the production and film process. The producer Paula Mazur and I formed a firm friendship, and I ended up working on the first two drafts of the screenplay with her, as well as being a consultant. I think that there was a total of 10 days that we didn’t communicate with each other in the entire 5 year process – it was very intense, stimulating, and I learned a huge amount. I was on set twice, was very well treated by the stars as well as crew, and then was taken over for the Premiere at Graumman’s Chinese Theater and a short tour of the US. The whole thing was one of the greatest experiences of my life.

Return to Nim’s Island, starring Bindi Irwin as Nim, was loosely based on Nim at Sea. This book would have been horrendously expensive to film as I’d written it, so there had to be a lot of changes, but when I read the final screenplay, I loved it and felt it was very much a story that I could have written. It was filmed in the Gold Coast studios and hinterland, as the first film was, and of course Bindi was a natural for Nim.

Rescue on Nim’s Island  then had to work both as a sequel for the book, and for the people who’d seen the film and expected it to carry on from there. It took a bit of juggling but once I’d worked out what I wanted to do, it was a joy to play in that world again.

 

  1. You’ve also written two books – Dragonfly Song and Swallow’s Dance – set in Bronze Age Greece. What was it about the Bronze Age that made you choose it as a setting?

It’s fascinated me from childhood – Rosemary Sutcliff’s Eagle of the Ninth was probably the most pivotal for me, but all of her work as well Mary Renault’s fed my obsession. Then when I first started writing seriously, about 30 years ago, I had a dream which led me to start researching the Minoans, an absolutely fascinating people.

Both of these novels incorporate free verse and prose – which to me, felt like you were drawing on the oral traditions of antiquity – was this a conscious decision? No, though I’m very pleased it feels like that.  Very little of the writing of Dragonfly Song felt like a conscious decision, although of course with Swallow’s Dance I knew that I wanted to do it the same way. I simply always heard Dragonfly Song in verse – I often hear my books in verse before I write them, but this time I was unable to persuade it to turn into prose. I felt the story was too complex and so eventually decided to write it in the combination that it is now. I was very sure that my publisher would say it was a terrible idea, but she said why not try it? So I did.

  1. How much research did you do into myths of the minotaur prior to writing Dragonfly Song, which very much felt like the journey of Theseus heading to thwart the beast of the labyrinth?

Quite a bit of reading different interpretations of the minotaur myths, and a huge amount on the Minoan civilisation. Swallow’s Dance required even more specific research, and I was lucky enough to receive an Australia Council grant to travel to Santorini and Crete to visit the archaeological sites and museums there and spend time with an archaeologist. Seeing the places in person was almost overwhelming.

  1. You’ve written everything from picture books to middle grad, young adult and as I just found out, you even have a book for adults! Are there any challenges in juggling different styles, genres and audiences, and do you have a preferred audience to write for?

It seems to be more that I find a story and as I work it out, it becomes obvious which genre or age group it needs to be for. If I could only choose one it would probably be middle grade.

  1. If you were to live on an island like Nim, what sort of island would it be, and what sort of shelter would you live in?

Nim’s suits me perfectly: a tropical island, lots of animal friends, and a small hut with internet connection…

  1. Have you won any awards for any of your books?

 

 

*coughs modestly. Quite a few. I’ll attach a list and you can choose which to mention.

Some of Wendy’s awards – she has won and been shortlisted for awards in Australia and America. We both agreed to just feature a handful of the awards she has won or been shortlisted for.

Winner:

Award for Children’s Literature (Dragonfly Song)

Australian Prime Minister’s Award for Children’s Literature (Dragonfly Song)

Australian Standing Orders Librarians’ Choice Award, Secondary Schools, (Dragonfly Song)

Environment Award for Children’s Literature, Australia (Rescue on Nim’s Island)

“Mits’ad Hasfarim” – “The March of Books” Israel (Nim’s Island)
Parent’s Guide  Children’s Media Award Winner (USA)

Puggles Award – Children’s Choice, Australia (Rescue on Nim’s Island)

 

Honour or Shortlist:

 

BILBY Award (Queensland)

CROW Award (South Australia)

Kirkus Reviews Best Middle Grade Books, USA
KOALA awards, NSW , Australia

NSW Premier’s Award: Children’s Literature;Community Relations

Rocky Mountain Award
Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Crystal Kite Award

South Carolina Best Books for Young Adults

Speech Pathology Australia Awards,
Student Choice Picture Book Award (USA)

  1. How long have you lived in Australia, and what made you and your family choose to move here?

I married an Australian farmer while studying in London, UK, so it was obvious that we would move here when I finished college, which is what we did. There were a few unfortunate twists and turns after that, but we ended up managing to buy a farm eventually.

 

  1. Have any particular places in Australia inspired some of your works?

Spook’s Shack was inspired by the 5 acre bush block that we live on now. There was a very creepy shack here that seemed likely to be inhabited by a ghost.

  1. What did you do prior to becoming an author, and what made you decide to give writing a go and submit to publishers?

I was a paediatric occupational therapist. At lunch one day a friend told me she’d written a book and I thought, ‘I’ve always said I was going to write – when am I going to start?’ I was doing a postgrad course at the time but started writing the day after I mailed my last assignment. My dream was to write and work part time but after breaking my neck, I became a full time writer.

 

  1. Do you have any favourite writing companions, snacks or rituals?

My dogs remind insist that two walks a day is the most important writing ritual. I had started becoming a bit precious about favourite pens and notebooks, but since the pandemic started we’ve had family living with us, which includes two toddlers, and I’ve quickly gone back to being able to write whenever there’s a moment, with whatever’s at hand, much as I did when I started writing with two young children.

  1. When not writing, what do you enjoy doing or reading?

Walking – after being told that my injuries meant I’d never be able to go for a walk again, I’m constantly grateful that I can do it. I especially love beach walks. Singing brings me a lot of joy too. Apart from that, all very normal things – coffee with friends, seeing my family, travelling…  And of course reading, but that’s like saying breathing.

 

  1. Who are your favourite authors to read when you’re not writing?

I’m always working on a book, so I always keep on reading too. Lots of classics, a lot of literary fiction – and of course children’s books. I’m not good at choosing favourites, but a couple that I’ve loved lately were Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens and There Was Still Love by Favel Parrett. I can’t wait to read the next Hilary Mantel – you can’t go past Phillip Pulman’s Dark Materials series.

  1. Do you have a favourite local bookseller where you live, and who are they? (multiple is okay too)

We’re incredibly lucky to have four great indie bookshops on the Peninsula – 5 if you count Frankston, which has Robinsons Books. Farrell’s Booksellers in Mornington; Petersen’s Bookshop in Hastings, The Rosebud Book Barn and Antipodes Book Shop in Sorrento – they’re each quite individual shops, different from each other except all run by passionate individuals with a great knowledge of books.

  1. Do you have any new projects in the works, and what do you think they will be?

How would I survive without new projects in my head? The next will be Cuckoo’s Flight, a third Bronze Age novel which will come out in March 2021. The others are too embryonic t be shared right now.

  1. The arts are always important, and is even more important now as we isolate from each other – what impact do you think the pandemic will have, and how can people help to support the arts, in particular the Australian arts industry?

I’m hoping that as people turn to the arts during their quarantine, they’ll realise how important arts are to their well-being at all times.  Like many authors and other artists, I’m offering some free resources but hope that people will also understand the need to support the arts that are supporting them. Most bookshops are processing orders and often delivering even while they’re closed, so I’d encourage people to buy from them rather than a multinational like Amazon – your local shop will be able to suggest suitable books for different tastes, so you’ll read books that you’d miss by shopping online. And of course that’s also a great way of supporting Australian authors.

Alexandra-Rose and Her Icy Cold Toes by Monique Mulligan

Alexandra-RoseTitle: Alexandra-Rose and Her Icy Cold Toes
Author: Monique Mulligan
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Serenity Press
Published: May 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 34
Price: $14.99
Synopsis: Alexandra Rose has ice-cold toes and she knows the best way to warm them up. But will her family like her foot-warming, wake-up-fast idea as much as she does?

Fergus the Farting Dragon and My Silly Mum author Monique Mulligan returns with another delightfully mischievous tale for children of all ages. Complemented by vibrant, funny illustrations, this cheeky story is perfect for reading aloud, with or without socks on.

~*~
Alexandra-Rose wakes up with icy cold toes one day – and finds her family is still asleep! So she comes up with a plan to wake them up – and warm her toes at the same time.

Monique emailed me earlier this year when we were all in lockdown, around the time we were sorting out our Isolation Publicity interview for the series due to end in mid-August. She asked me to review this book, and her upcoming novel in September, and I agreed as I love supporting Australian authors. I received this earlier this week and read it almost instantly. This is a delightful story about a family, and perfect for those cold, winter nights when you’re snuggled up, away from the cold.

It is also a very cheeky story, told in delightful and fun rhymes, accompanied by beautiful and bright illustrations that make the story and pages pop and come to life with a family filled with love and fun, and who are supportive and are always there for each other. Even the cat is quite the character, as many cats often are, and had a wonderful role in the story alongside Alexandra-Rose and her family.

AWW2020The pictures tell the story just as much as the words, from Alexandra-Rose’s icy blue toes, to the final image of her family together, with her brother in a wheelchair, which is excellent disability representation, and the images have their own life beyond the words.

Monique’s book has also been read, and the reading recorded, by Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York. This shows how far Australian books, authors and publishers can reach – Monique’s book is a shining example of how Australian books and stories have a place in the world and beyond the audiences it will find in Australia.

Being able to support authors like Monique is one of my favourite things about this blog, and why I try to focus on Australian authors and authors that might not have as big a following as some very well-known authors worldwide.

Children of all ages will love this book, and it is perfect to read out loud with its rhyming and lilting tones and structure, and will be great for readers learning to read and confident readers – readers at all ages and levels will get enjoyment out of this delightful little book. I loved reading it and can’t wait to read Monique’s adult novel coming out in September.

 

Isolation Publicity with Sherryl Clark

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.

DeadGone-2.2

Sherryl writes in various genres and styles for adults and children, such as crime, poetry, short novels with Elyse Perry, a sports series and many others. Sherryl is releasing a sequel to Trust Me, I’m Dead later this year. So far, none of her events surrounding this book have been cancelled, but she has had workshops and other appearances cancelled during the first months of the pandemic.

Hi Sherryl and welcome to The Book Muse!

  1. You write for kids and adults – what made you decide to tackle two very different audiences in a variety of ways?

I started out writing for adults, and then I did a children’s writing workshop with Meredith Costain – out of that came “The Too-Tight Tutu” which was published by Penguin (Aussie Bite), and the children’s books became my focus. I still kept writing crime fiction. I’d revise my novel (I had two previous not-good ones I left in the bottom drawer) every now and then, and it had some rejections along the way. Then I did another rewrite and entered it in the CWA Debut Dagger – it was shortlisted and that led to the publishing deal with Verve Books UK. I’m still writing both kinds of books but the crime novels take up more of my time now.

 

  1. You have several new books and series – the Elyse Perry series, and Trust Me, I’m Dead, your recent adult crime novel – did you have to cancel any events surrounding any of these books or other books due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Yes, I had several things lined up – two writers’ festivals and some workshops planned. I did one school visit before the lockdown and caught a bad cold from it! Since the lockdown, no school visits or author talks for months now. Because schools are closed in Victoria for Term 2, that means no author visits even online really – I think teachers are having enough trouble without trying to beam in an author! Book Week has been moved to October.
I’m really sorry the local literary festivals have had to be cancelled – they have such good reputations for friendly, interesting sessions and people interested in books getting together to talk about them.

  1. Can you tell my readers more about the sequel to Trust Me, I’m Dead?

The title is Dead and Gone (took a while to settle on that!). Judi has gone back to Candlebark where she lives, and is working in the local pub to make ends meet when the owner is murdered. That brings Det Sgt Heath back into her life (the minor romance element) but when she has her own ideas about who the killer is, she’s ignored. She gets involved anyway, through a series of mysterious incidents, and pursues it on her own. Her niece, Mia, is also part of the story when Judi’s custody of her is disputed.

 

  1. The sequel to your crime novel comes out this year – was that release affected by the pandemic health crisis?

Not so far! The e-book will be out 25th June, and the print book in August. Although Verve originally were only going to publish as e-book and POD, TMID sold really well as a print book and so now they have an Australian distributor to make it easier to buy here. A lot of the publicity we did last time was via blogs and web magazines, so it’ll probably be like that again. I’d love to have a proper launch, though.

  1. Apart from writing, you do school visits and run writing workshops for kids – did you have to cancel, postpone or alter the way you present any of these due to the pandemic?

I’ve lost all of that work, so one thing I have done is short videos of writing prompts that I put on YouTube for free, and on my blog. I’m also teaching two webinars for Shooting Star Press on character and story structure. I recorded myself reading The Littlest Pirate in a Pickle last week for Katherine Public Library – that was a challenge! But it ended up being fun.

  1. How long have you been part of your local writing community, and what led you into this industry?

Oh goodness, I started working in community arts way back in the 80s. I was part of Victorian Community Writers for many years, and our focus was running workshops and things in country areas. I worked with some great people who are still friends. I was in a women’s writing group for more than 30 years, and my current group has been going for ten years. So all that teaching in the community then led me to teaching in TAFE. I guess a big part of my community now is also past students. It’s lovely to keep in touch with them.

  1. You’ve been writing for children for over twenty years – what led you to writing for this audience in particular?

As I said, initially it was that workshop with Meredith. Then I had more help from Michael Dugan. I got into writing educational chapter books early on, and it suited me because I’d written a lot of short stories. Gradually I wrote longer and longer things, and some picture books. I also went to a lot of conferences and PD events to increase my skills, then I did an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Hamline College in Minneapolis. It’s just been about learning and growing and new ideas, and having fun drawing on bits of my own childhood. My first ever attempts at writing for children were a bit too didactic. When I started aiming for fun and action instead, I improved.

  1. You also have two collections of poetry – do you find it easier to write fiction or poetry, or do they each have their own challenges, and what are they?

I love poetry. It’s my ‘thing’ I do without any thought of publication. It’s expression and language and ideas and emotion, and it all just comes out on the page. Later I might look at something and see if it’s worth reworking and sending out, but it’s not my primary urge. With fiction, I have more of a sense of structure and what it needs – characters who interest me, a plot that doesn’t run dry, the strong central idea that will keep me writing and rewriting without losing the passion for it. I’ve taught story structure many times to students and it seems to have embedded itself in my writing brain, which is helpful. I can see pretty soon where the holes in something are and how to fix them.

  1. Have any of your books been nominated or won any awards, and which ones?

My first verse novel Farm Kid won the NSW Premier’s Award for children’s books, and the next one Sixth Grade Style Queen (Not!) was a CBCA Honour Book. I think I have 12 CBCA Notables now. Also Meet Rose was shortlisted for the NSW History Award for children’s books.

  1. You also write across genres – was this a conscious choice, or does the story idea lead you into what genre you’ll write in each time?

It tends to be the idea that leads me. I do love crime fiction, so those ideas are consciously developed with murder and plot twists in mind. With children’s books, sometimes the books will be commissioned (so the publisher proposes the concept and genre). All my pirate stories, though, came from researching a historical figure, a pirate who was a real failure – that led to a big historical novel and lots of Littlest Pirate chapter books! But I’ve also written a science fiction thriller for YA (unpublished) because I had an idea that really intrigued me and it was the best way to explore it.

  1. When you began your career as a teacher – did you ever think you’d move into a writing and publishing career?

It was the other way around! I was writing first, for a long time, and I did an Arts degree at Deakin via distance learning, then I worked in community arts and began teaching workshops. I didn’t start teaching in TAFE until 1994, I think, and by then I’d had quite a few things published. Poems and stories, a few competition wins, and then the first children’s book.

  1. Do you have a writing process, and what is it?

I tend to sit on ideas for a while and let them build. I make notes and write little bits, and do research to fill the ideas out more. I don’t start writing until I have a good sense of what the whole thing will be, even if I don’t know the middle. I still know more or less where I will end up, and I do diagrams of the structure. I try to stick to the main diagram but I like to let my subconscious do a lot of the work. So if something pops up in the writing, I usually go with it unless it starts a niggle in my brain that it’s not working. I don’t write in chapters – I start at the beginning and just keep writing without any breaks until I get to the end. I do chapters later in the rewrites.

 

  1. Do you have a favourite or preferred writing companion?

No. Just me. I have a new cat who can’t stop walking on the keyboard and chewing paper so she’s banned from the room now.

 

  1. When it comes to your own reading habits, what do you enjoy reading, and why?

I love reading crime fiction. I’ve become even more addicted over the last few years. I have lots of favourite authors. But I also love middle grade novels and verse novels. I have a lot of favourite poets, too. I try to read more literary fiction and other genres because I think it’s good for me, and sometimes I find something brilliant and disturbing that blows me away and keeps me thinking for days. Those are real brain stirrers! Like Charlotte Wood’s The Natural Way of Things. I also really enjoy Helen Garner’s nonfiction.

  1. You work in the arts and education – for you – how do these two industries complement each other, and how do you think they’ll be impacted overall by the pandemic?

I just think the LNP hate the arts and always have. I still remember Jeff Kennett refusing to be part of the Victorian Premier’s Awards. And Simon Birmingham taking the Professional Writing and Editing courses (and a lot of other arts courses) off the FEE-HELP list because he said they were unimportant ‘lifestyle’ courses. Not to mention the ongoing, endless funding cuts to the Australia Council and the ABC/SBS, and anything that is about the arts. People don’t realise how much money has been syphoned out of the arts over the last 8 years or so.
There was the huge scandal about the $500 million sports grants and where that money went, and I just thought – what about the arts? Our industry makes billions of dollars for the economy but it relies so much on artists and writers working for very little – the assumption is too often that you should do it for the love of it.
So it doesn’t surprise me at all that so many artists and writers are not eligible for Jobkeeper. There is no way the arts industries weren’t discussed in that proposal, and they chose to ignore the need. I think artists and writers will keep working, because most of us can’t stop creating, but bigger industries like film and galleries and theatres will suffer for a lot longer. But we have long memories.
As for education, the bureaucrats stuffed TAFE a long time ago, and pushed universities into relying on overseas students by cutting funding. Look where that’s ended up. I really do wonder how the creative arts industry will come out of all this. (Sorry about the soapbox, but as someone said, while everyone is reading and listening to music and concerts and watching stuff online etc, have a think about where all of that came from – who made it.)

  1. What do you want to see from the arts and literature consuming public during and after this pandemic?

I think we’re already seeing more people reading and buying books – I hope that continues. And support your local bookstore – everyone says independents and I agree but I know people who run Dymocks branches fantastically well with events to help writers promote their books and they deserve book sales, too. Save Amazon for the e-books you can’t get otherwise. If you see someone performing online and asking for donations, donate if you can. And when we can go out again, put things like theatre and live music and art exhibitions on your visiting list. And more than anything, support the artists and writers who are missing out on Jobkeeper because the rules exclude them (and maybe also think about what the gig economy actually means – it means a heck of a lot of artists who have to survive without any solid, ongoing income, as well as all the delivery drivers etc).

  1. Do you have a favourite local bookseller, and why this one in particular?

We are very lucky – we have the Sun Bookshop in Yarraville! And Book and Paper in Williamstown. I love walking into a bookshop where I can browse and discover something wonderful.

  1. Do you have any recommendations for reading and viewing during the time we’re spending in isolation?

Mystery Road on the ABC is top of my list at the moment. I’m getting into Scandi crime again on Netflix and SBS on Demand (watching Bordertown for more research on Finland). The trouble is I get sidetracked into a new series and forget where I’m up to in the other ones, so I have to keep a list! With crime fiction, my favourites lately have been Peace by Garry Disher, Darkness for Light by Emma Viskic and The Good Turn by Dervla McTiernan. Also NZ crime writer Vanda Symon has a great series with her character Sam Shephard. I have a list somewhere of good movies set in France to watch (since I can’t go this year like we planned) but I’ve lost it!

  1. You’re also an editor – are there any challenges in editing your own work before you send it off to a publisher or another editor?

My first drafts tend to focus more on plot than character development, so I have to make sure in rewrites that I deepen characterisation and all their internal stuff. I don’t have problems with grammar and punctuation, because it was drummed into me at school (and I am forever grateful, Mrs Roberts, I really am). But I tend to write a bit lean, so what I need to look out for are gaps or holes or where I haven’t given the reader enough ‘meat’. And sometimes I have motivation issues with characters – pushing them around a bit instead of thinking more about why they do things.

  1. Finally, what future projects do you have planned?

At the moment, I’m working on the Finland novel still, and writing articles for Medium, which I enjoy. I have some picture books that still aren’t hitting the mark (and often they never do and have to be abandoned). I’m thinking ahead to a third novel about Judi and mulling possible plot ideas. I’m also thinking about putting together all the articles about writing that I’ve published on Medium (along with new ones) and making a book out of them. That’s a long-term idea!
I’m also planning a writing retreat for myself when the lockdown is over, and we can travel again. Somewhere on my own with lots of silence, and hopefully a beach for long, inspirational walks.

Anything I may have missed?

Thanks Sherryl!

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.

Kensy and Max: Freefall by Jacqueline Harvey

kensy and max 5Title: Kensy and Max: Freefall
Author: Jacqueline Harvey
Genre: Adventure
Publisher: Puffin
Published: 3rd March 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 400
Price: $16.99
Synopsis: Where do you draw the line when your family and friends are in grave danger? Do you take action even though it means ignoring the rules?
Back at Alexandria, with their friend Curtis Pepper visiting, Kensy and Max are enjoying the school break. Especially when Granny Cordelia surprises them with a trip to New York! It’s meant to be a family vacation, but the twins soon realise there’s more to this holiday than meets the eye.
The chase to capture Dash Chalmers is on and when there’s another dangerous criminal on the loose, the twins find themselves embroiled in a most unusual case. They’ll need all their spy sensibilities, along with Curtis and his trusty spy backpack, to bring down the culprit.

~*~
Kensy and Max are on their summer break at Alexandria with their grandmother and Song, and new friend from Sydney, Curtis Pepper when they’re summoned to New York! A family vacation – how fantastic! Only…it’s not. When whispers of Dash Chalmers coming to find his family arise, Kensy and Max find their family and themselves in the middle of a race to keep Dash from finding his family and uncovering the culprit behind the poisonings from letters and parcels.

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At the same time, Dame Spencer has her own reasons for including Curtis – she sees him as a possible recruit and spends much of the novel assessing him – we know from the blurb on the back that Curtis is a recruit being considered by Dame Cordelia Spencer. Kensy, Max and Curtis must work together to find out what is going on and who is behind it – and why all the adults around them are suddenly so secretive.

AWW2020The Kensy and Max series gets more and exciting as it goes on, and each book should be read in order – some characters pop in and out of the series, the books refer back to previous events, but don’t give a full recap of what has come before, and there are new things to learn all the time that need to be connected to the previous stories. The codes and ciphers are always fun too – in this one, Jacqueline uses the A1Z26 code – where each letter of the alphabet is represented with the numbers one to twenty-six in that order.

Be swept up in a New York adventure as Kensy, Max and Curtis hone their spy skills, and seek to uncover the person who has been sending poison through the postal system. This is yet another highly addictive adventure in the Kensy and Max series, and as more secrets and hints at why the family is constantly targeted are revealed, we get closer to finding out why Anna and Edward had to go into hiding for so many years.

Kensy and Max: Freefall ramps up the action in the final chapters, where everything seems to happen quickly and seamlessly as Kensy, Max and Curtis get caught up in finding out who they’re after and saving Tinsley and her children, and many other people. It has the perfect balance of humour and action, and I love that Kensy and Max get to be who they are, but are growing and changing across the course of the series. This is a great addition to the Kensy and Max series, filled with continuity and in jokes, and a new take on the spy novel that has a fresh take on the world of spies and their training and gadgets. I am looking forward to Kensy and Max book six when it comes out.