Q & A · Q and A/Author Interview

Q&A with Emma Read, Author of ‘Milton The Mighty’.

Q&A with Emma Read, Author of ‘Milton The Mighty’.

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About Milton The Mighty 

Milton is a little spider with a big problem. 

When a piece of viral internet content names Milton as a killer, his life is in danger. This is not helped by his house human’s phobia, nor with the arrival of Felicity Thrubwell and her plans to annihilate spider-kind. 

Helped by his eight-legged friends and young human friend Zoe, Milton begins a campaign to clear his name. 

Milton The Mighty is filled with humour, determination and creepy-crawly fun. My full review will be available on Monday 3rd June 2019, but suffice it to say I loved the book. A lot. The characters learn that even the smallest of us can make a big difference. It reminded me of the books which were my very favourite as a child. 

I was delighted when Emma Read agreed to take part in a Q&A. Her answers offer a wonderful insight into the inspiration for her story, and the ways in which it grew as she wrote. Thank you, Emma, for your time. 

 

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Q&A with author Emma Read:

 

You wrote about something you’re scared of. Why did you do that?

That is a very good question and one I asked myself a lot as I was researching spiders from behind a cushion! I was originally pondering unwanted fame, such as being misrepresented on social media, or in the press. Once I’d created the character of Milton I fell in love with him and felt compelled to tell his story, despite his leggy-ness!

 

Did your feelings change as you wrote?

They really did. The more I learned about spiders, their incredible skills and beauty, I grew to love them. They are vitally important to our ecosystems and, besides having an intrinsic right to exist, they have the potential to improve human lives too. They really are teeny super-heroes!

 

Milton’s trouble begins with a piece of viral web content. Milton and Zoe also use the internet to help with their campaign? Why did you decide to include the human web in a story about spiders?

Web puns aside (although they do come in handy!) I wanted to help young children begin to understand that the internet is a powerful tool which can be used for right or wrong, depending on the user. So there’s a cautionary tale in there, amongst the humour and action! Also, Milton and Zoe have a message to share and what better way to do that than making connections, just like a spider-web.

 

Felicity Thrubwell’s vendetta against spiders is partly the result of a bad childhood experience. How do you think bad experiences can shape our behaviours?

Experience is how we learn – in childhood it shapes our brain, influencing the adults we become. It’s a huge subject! Animal phobias are apparently common following a negative experience as a child, and do affect behaviour. As a full-blown arachnophobe I would check the room before going to sleep, and simply not sleep in a room where I had seen spider.

 

What are your favourite facts about spiders?

I have loads! But here are three which are pretty cool: Spiders have blue blood; spiders live in every habitat on earth, except Antarctica; the average web of a garden spider contains about 30 metres of silk – that’s as long as a blue whale!

 

I first heard about Milton when you were shortlisted for the Bath Children’s Novel Award. How much did the story change between that time and publication and what were the major changes?

The first change was that Chicken House wanted more – hurray! The heart of the story remains, but Milton now faces additional peril at the hands of dastardly pest-controller, Felicity Thrubwell, a mishap with some rather naughty (and a just little bit deadly) cousins and a Spider-calla-friendship-istic-expi-arachnid-ocious finale! The manuscript which shortlisted for BCNA grew with the help of my amazing editors, from around 13K, ending up at roughly 30K. So there’s a lot more fun and excitement (and running and screaming!)

 

Zoe is ridiculed when she stands up for what she believes in. Do you have any thoughts for people who have experienced the same thing?

This element of Zoe’s story was inspired by a young Canadian called Sophia Spencer, who was bullied at school for liking bugs. She went on to co-author a paper in the Annals of the Entomological Society of America after support for her went viral on social media. It can be so hard to be different, especially when you’re young – I know, I yielded to peer-pressure when I was a child and gave myself a phobia of spiders that lasted decades. But what I say to my kids is: ‘If someone wants you to change you to suit them, and it feels wrong, then it probably is. Speak your own truth – whether you do it loudly or quietly, is up to you’.

 

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Middle Grade Reviews · Q & A · Q and A/Author Interview

Blog Tour: Q&A with author of ‘The Dog Runner’ Bren MacDibble

The Dog Runner

About The Dog Runner

The crops have failed and there isn’t enough food left to feed everybody alive. Food is at a premium, sold to the wealthiest for extortionate prices. Food parcels aren’t coming in as often as they once were. 

Ella and Emery are starving in the poorer part of the city. Emery’s Mum lives in the countryside where people are trying to reintroduce indigenous crops to the land. The children want to reach her, but to do that, they must cross vast areas of dry land. 

The only way their plan might work is with the help of their dogs. 

I was delighted to be offered the chance to ask author Bren MacDibble some questions about her story. Her debut nobel, How To Bee, was a big favourite of 2018 and I was particularly impressed by how she turned serious topics into compelling fiction. 

Thanks to Bren for your time and to Liz Scott for organising this opportunity. 

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Q&A with Bren MacDibble

Food production and land management play an important part in The Dog Runner. Why did you decide to write about these themes?

I’m very interested in where our food comes from and how we treat our environment, so when I wrote a story where a couple of kids take a dog cart across Australia, I made their reason for doing it to flee a famine-ravaged city, and it seemed natural to me, to take on a common threat to our food-security, which is wheat fungus, and expand that in my famine. We seem so disconnected from our food sources these days that we don’t understand how food is produced or the threats to our food from disease, lack of landcare or climate change. Australia is in a particularly strange place where we have a dry climate but we grow European foods, and yet the Aboriginal Peoples were growing and cultivating different grains, grinding flour and baking bread 600 years before the Egyptians. There is a wealth of knowledge and grain types that have previously been completely ignored, but which could be vital to our future as the planet warms.

 

What kind of books did you read to write this story? Was there anything you learned about for this first time?

I read Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe, (a children’s version of that came out recently), also The Biggest Estate on Earth by Bill Gammage, both of these books talk about life and land use and land care before Australia was colonised. I was delighted to learn about all the methods of sustainably harvesting food: Fish nets that let the small fish through, and only killing large male kangaroos, and how the many peoples would travel to take advantage of seasonal harvests, like the protein-packed baked bogon moths.

 

The acknowledgments section mentions that you travelled as part of your research for The Dog Runner. How did this shape your work?

Yes, I received a travel grant from the Neilma Sidney Travel Fund. It was so good to visit the rail-trails and land the children travel across on their journey. Just to feel the heat and see the amazing colours of the dirt and study the plants other than grass that grow there, trying to imagine what that landscape would look like with even less vegetation. I also visited a mushroom tunnel, and a grassland regeneration project, and got to see sled dogs in action. Honestly, you think you know a little bit about a topic but when you visit people and talk to them, you learn so much more.

 

Ella and Emery travel across the land with the help of their dogs. Do you have any strong feelings about animals in children’s fiction? What is important when you write animal characters?

It’s easy to make animal characters too human, especially dogs who love to interact with humans, and one of these dogs is super smart, but I think it’s really important to show dogs being dogs. They have their needs and their limitations, they can supportive when the kids are down, or unpredictable and cause problems. Above all, the kids are ultimately responsible for the health and care of the dogs. They have to keep them safe and fed, and it’s a big responsibility in this book. Dogs are family, even when they’re naughty, and their needs can’t be ignored.

 

Ella’s Dad says that the people who survive extreme circumstances, such as a global food shortage, are the ones who learn to stand on their heads. Can you tell us a bit more about this idea?

He says when the world turns upside down the first ones to walk on their heads will survive. It’s a bit of an odd saying… but then he’s a dad, and we all know with Dadisms it’s the intent behind the saying that’s important. What he means is you have to be prepared to change immediately to suit the world you find yourself in. You can’t cling to your old ways and expect life to go back to normal. Survival is ultimately about being resourceful and thinking creatively about how to solve new problems. This is why it’s important to raise creative kids in an ever-changing world. Creativity may be the most important thing we can encourage in our kids, building, exploring, getting out in nature and just playing is super creative.

 

The book ends with a note of hope and makes references to seed banks. What could readers do now to care for the planet and support diverse food sources? 

 If you can source food that is produced without use of fertilisers and pesticides, buy this organically produced food as the land, insects and surrounding waterways are less damaged by natural processes, and you will encourage growth of this organic market. Eat what is grown locally and what is in season, learn some new recipes if you have to. If you eat meat, eat less red meat. Save beef for special occasions. Plant wildflowers, let grass grow long and have a few wild places for bugs, don’t spray weeds (dig them out by hand or put salt and boiling water on them if they’re in pavers) to keep the insects and bees healthy. Limit waste, especially plastic waste, and walk, cycle or take public transport more often.

 

Author Bio:

Bren MacDibble was raised on farms all over New Zealand, so is an expert about being a kid on the land. After 20 years in Melbourne, Bren recently sold everything, and now lives and works in a bus travelling around Australia. In 2018, How to Bee – her first novel for younger readers – won three major awards downunder and arrived in the UK. The Dog Runner, her second children’s novel, hits the shelves on 2nd May.

 

 

 

Blogmas 2018 · christmas · Q & A

Q&A: Sophie Anderson, author of The House With Chicken Legs.

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About The House With Chicken Legs: 

Marinka dreams of a normal life, where she stays in one place long enough to make friends, but that isn’t possible. Her house has chicken legs and her grandmother, Baba Yaga, guides spirits between one world and the next. 

Marinka is destined to become the next Yaga, but she rebels against this and sets out to change her destiny. 

The House With Chicken Legs was one of my favourite titles this year. I loved the interpretation of Yaga (a character from Russian folklore) and the unflinching narrative about mortality. The characters are the sort that stick in your head, and I will return to their story over and over just to spend time in their company.

I am delighted to have Sophie Anderson here on my blog to talk about fairy tales, stars and Christmas traditions. 

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Do you have any favourite fairytales set in winter/snowy landscapes? What draws you to these stories?

Wintry landscapes glitter with magic and invoke a chilling feeling perfect for dark fairy tales. My favourite is the Russian fairy tale Snegurochka or The Snow Maiden. There are different versions, but most begin with a childless couple building a little girl out of snow. She comes to life and seeks out happiness at every opportunity, but sadly in most versions she melts at the end of the tale. As a child I used to find this heart-breaking, but over the years I have come to accept it as a message to live fully, as a short, full life is preferable to a long, empty one. One of my favourite books is an adult reimagining of this tale: The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey.

 

Winter is a time when stories were traditionally told around the fire. What are your favourite storytelling traditions?

I love bedtime stories with my children. However busy our lives get, we always make time for stories at the end of the day. We each take turns reading a chapter of a book we like and because my children all have different tastes we usually have three or four quite different books on the go!

 

Both the Nativity Story and your story feature stars. What inspired you to write about stars?

Carl Sagan! I love his work. The idea of our souls returning to the stars after death came directly from one of his quotes: “We are made of star stuff. We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.”

 

How might Marinka’s house be decorated if she was celebrating Christmas?

Holly and mistletoe would grow in great curls from the House’s roof and oranges studded with cloves would blossom from the beams. The scents of mulled wine, roasted chestnuts and rum soaked fruit cake would plume into the air as Baba cooked up a sweet spiced feast. And skulls lit with candles would adorn every surface, throwing a warm light into all the dancing shadows.

 

Marinka learns and inherits lots of traditions from her Grandmother. Do you have any special Christmas traditions, or any you would love to try?

My grandmother served Rumtopf with ice cream every Christmas. Rumtopf is made by soaking seasonal fruits in a stoneware pot filled with rum, and because it takes months to make I’ve never got round to doing it. Perhaps 2019 will be the year I finally start filling my Rumtopf pot!

 

If you could receive one gift from a story, what would it be and why?

The wardrobe that leads to Narnia. I’d love to see if I’m brave enough to go through it!

 

A huge thanks to Sophie Anderson for your time.

What are your favourite Christmas traditions? Let me know in the comments below.

Round-Up

Event round-up: Author MG Leonard at the Guildford Book Festival

Event round-up: Author MG Leonard at the Guildford Book Festival

mgleonardDid you know we would die without beetles? I didn’t either until I heard MG Leonard talking as part of the Guildford Book Festival. Dung beetles clear away the nasty stuff – the clue is in the name – which would otherwise litter our world and cause lots of diseases. Without dung beetles, we would be dead in weeks.

Way to captivate an audience – especially a young one. 

It was clear that MG Leonard had thought about how to keep her audience interested – and she spoke about how children as a general rule are more open to new facts and new ways of thinking than adults. Her event reminded me what it was like to be young, and to be in a state of near-constant exploration. 

I read Beetle Boy for the first time ahead of the event. I have meant to read it since its debut in 2016, but one way or another never got my hands on a copy. The story follows Darkus, whose father disappears in suspicious circumstances. As he investigates, he learns about genetically-modified beetles and a villain called Lucretia Cuter, who is as interested in high-fashion as she is in science. 

I read the book in one setting and chose the sequels for my birthday. I loved how, although it was the familiar and archetypal story of child-vs-big-bad-power, there was so much I hadn’t seen before. For one thing, the villain is not only a woman, she is also a mother, and her child aids our heroes. I can’t think of a single book where a woman with a family is the villain. Female villains are often shown to have chosen something wrong in over family. (Think of Nicole Kidman in Paddington, who totters around London in impossible heals and tight cat-suits.) Lucretia Cutter has both. 

During the talk, MG Leonard spoke about the inspiration for her story, and the pressure to be original. She struggled with many genres because she felt everything had been explored before. The thought which set her on the road to her story was that, although beetles have featured in stories, they are usually shown as monsters. As villains. 

It was lovely to hear a children’s author talk honestly about her writing history. Too often, it can seem that writers were just able to write a manuscript without any learning. MG Leonard spoke about being a child, and about how her ideas seemed to come faster than her writing. 

It is always a pleasure to hear authors talk about their work. There is no better way to gain an insight into the writing process and to add depth to our reading of a novel. Many thanks to MG Leonard for her time, and to the organisers of the Guildford Book Festival.  

Q & A · Q and A/Author Interview · Uncategorized

Author Q&A: Catherine Johnson talks about Race To The Frozen North

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Author Q&A: Catherine Johnson talks about Race To The Frozen North

Catherine Johnson 2018 credit Andy DonohoeCatherine Johnson is a star. 

She’s written a large number of books, including Sawbones and The Curious Lady Caraboo. Her stories are mainly historical and often feature lesser-known characters from history, particularly those from black history. 

Her fiction opened my eyes to the fact that history, and the canon of literature we are all familiar with, has been one-sided. Catherine’s work also made me aware of the all the stories yet to be listened to, yet to be told. 

birdAbout Race To The Frozen North: 

When Matthew Henson runs away from his violet stepmother, he begins a new life which nobody could have predicted. Inspired by the stories of an explorer named Baltimore Jack, Matthew sets out to see the world. 

As a black boy in early 1900s America, the odds were against him. 

Matthew works three times harder than anyone else to be judged on merit instead of being dismissed. His tenacity and hard work pay off, and he is hired and rehired in various positions on ships which sail the world. Often those positions are menial to his experience, but he perseveres and sees more of the world as a young man than most people see in their lifetime. 

Finally, the opportunity comes for him to play a key role in an expedition and he sets out to become the first man to reach the North Pole. 

Matthew and his friends Ootah and Segloo look at the success of the expedition in a different light – although Matthew plants the American flag in the right spot he understands how absurd it seems to his friends that another country would be so hung up about one spot of ice. This would make a lovely opening to conversation about colonial attitudes and inherited beliefs (ie we may not think we are prejudiced, but we may have inherited a set of beliefs from our culture including the idea that ‘conquering’ geography is cause for celebration.

I am delighted to welcome Catherine to my blog for a Q&A. Her answers are insightful and interesting. Thank you Catherine for your time.

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Q&A: Catherine Johnson

1.) What drew you to Matthew Henson’s story?

I LOVE black history. For centuries people like me have been airbrushed out of the past and I believe it’s vital that everyone realises that enslavement is not the only story to be told about us. Also I am a sucker for terrible stories of people pushing themselves to their limits. I cannot imagine doing what Henson or Peary or Scott or Amundsen did. Also Henson was unique in that he learnt from the indigenous people of the far north. It was a completely different attitude to the prevailing one of the time, which said that western culture knew best about everything.

 

2.) What sort of research did you do and how did this shape your story?

Real solid research for this book mostly meant reading a lot of books! So even though I had read many of them when I wrote a non-fiction book about his exploits I had to look again. And read again, and check again. It was harder with this book because it’s more of a personal account. And even though there is an autobiography – written by Henson and a co-writer – there are still loads of gaps. And although there is a lot of detail about the polar expeditions, I thought readers could always get that elsewhere. What I imagine a lot of young readers will be really interested in is how and why an eleven-year-old boy runs away from home, and how he sets off – like a kid in a story – to see the world and perhaps seek his fortune.

 

3.) If you could voyage to one place in time and history, where would it be and why?

Ooh this is hard. I love a hot bath and antibiotics and modern medicine – can you imagine getting frostbite so badly your toes come off in your boot when you take them off? That’s what happened to Robert Peary who was the leader of Henson’s expeditions? 

And while I love clothes – especially late 18th century/early 19th century women’s dresses – if you weren’t wealthy or healthy the past was not an easy place!  

So if I was very rich and very healthy – and not about to have a baby – maybe I would have liked to live in 1780s London and meet the Blackbirds of St Giles…

 

4.) You write historical fiction. What draws you to historical narratives?

Historical fiction is life or death, and the stakes for young people (all people actually) were often much higher than they are today. This means there’s so much scope for adventure and excitement. Also it’s important to show readers that our past as Britons was full of very different sorts of people. Even in Roman times Britain was an island where many cultures smashed together, and that black people were always a part of British society from at least (if not before) Roman times. It’s about saying we all belong here.

 

5.) Matt decides to travel after listening to tales of adventure from a man named Baltimore Jack. Who were your role models as a child and how did they inspire you?

Writing role models? I suppose I was massively impressed by my Uncle who wrote books (I couldn’t read them and they were heavy theological books all in Welsh) but I remember the thrill of seeing his name on a book in a shop window when I was on holiday with my family in North Wales. Also I babysat for a woman who lived next-door-but-one when I was in my early teens. She had a desk in her kitchen with her typewriter set up and above it a shelf of the books she had written. She was a single parent and supported her family writing not just books but radio plays and TV – she was one of the first on the Grange Hill team. I was incredibly impressed by her, her name is Margaret Simpson.

 

6.) Matthew Henson is a forgotten character from history. Which other characters need a higher profile?

 

My favourite would have to be John Ystumllyn, who became a head gardener at a big house in North Wales at the end of the 18th century. He was enslaved and brought to Wales as a boy, during the fashion for exotic slave attendants for wealthy young women. Unlike some of these children he wasn’t sent to be worked to death on Caribbean plantations as soon as he grew up, but gained his freedom, married a local girl and had several children. 

 

Guest Post

Blog Tour: Author Content – Pages & Co by Anna James

Pages & Co by Anna James – blog tour. 

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Pages & Co was one of my favourite reads this summer. It is a magical middle-grade story which will by loved and enjoyed by all bookish people. The story follows a girl with the magical ability to wander inside books. 

I am delighted to welcome Anna James to BookMurmuration to talk about the books which made her an avid reader. bird

Children’s Books That Made Me The Person I Am Today – reccomendations from author Anna James 

 I imagine that anyone reading this is built of books. I dread to think of who I would be if you took everything I’ve learned or felt because of a book I’ve read, I worry there wouldn’t be much left. In Pages & Co, my heroine Tilly feels much the same, so much so that she struggles to relate to real people outside of the bookshop that she lives in. When characters from her favourite books start popping up, she thinks she’s found the friends she needs, but of course real life is still waiting.

Yesterday I wrote about my top ten children’s classics over on a Day Dreamer’s Thoughts. All of those books were hugely formative for me, but I’ve resisted the urge to repeat any (Anne of Green Gables in particular!) to choose some more modern books that had a big impact on me growing up. From the super famous to the out of print, these are the five books that have most impacted me as a reader, a writer and a person.

 

Favourite books from childhood –

–          Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones

“And it’s a pity too that I’ve no right to open your letters. I hope you don’t get many, or my conscience will give me no peace.”

If I had to name one writer that has had the biggest impact on me it would be Diana Wynne Jones. She’s written a lot of books and I think I’ve read most of them. She’s probably best known for Howl’s Moving Castle because of the Studio Ghibli film, but in my mind the Chrestomanci series is her best. They’re a bit of a Narnia situation, i.e. do you read them in the order they were written, or chronologically in terms of in-world timing, but I would recommend starting with Charmed Life. Quirky, funny and clever, it’s storytelling at its absolute best. With her worlds within worlds, playfulness with genre and tropes, and stories of finding yourself, Wynne taught me all the foundations of the things I love to read and write.   

 

–          Back Home by Michelle Magorian

“Come on,’ said Peggy. ‘You’ll have to come with me. I need you to show me the way.”

Michelle Magorian wrote the beloved Goodnight Mr Tom (which I’ve somehow never read) but my heart lies with Back Home, the story of Virginia, nicknamed Rusty for her red hair (I can’t resist ginger heroine as a redhead myself) who is returning to England after her evacuation to the US during the Second World War. She comes back to a country and a family she barely understands and struggles to fit in at home or at the strict boarding school she’s sent to. It’s a story of hope, bravery, family and being true to yourself. If you’re already a fan, I recently read Hilary McKay’s The Skylarks’ War and it took me right back to how I felt reading Back Home.

 

–          Momo by Michael Ende

“Those who still think that listening isn’t an art should see if they can do it half as well.”

Another book where the author is better known for a different title, you might have heard of Ende as the writer of The Neverending Story, but he also wrote another book about the power of storytelling about an orphan called Momo. It’s sometimes also published as The Grey Gentlemen, who are the villains of the piece and inveigle their way into Momo’s town and start to steal the people’s time. This is one of my Dad’s favourite books, and I came to it through his version which is printed in brown ink with amazing illustrations. It’s a trippy, weird, profound book about how we use our time, and what is really important in life, and the grey gentlemen were big inspiration for me creating Enoch Chalk, the villain in Pages & Co. His grey bowler hat is a nod to them.

 

–          Northern Lights by Philip Pullman

“You cannot change what you are, only what you do.”

From some slightly more obscure titles to one of the most famous books of recent decades. I was bought Northern Lights for Christmas by my Grandad when I was about nine or ten and I fell in love. My Grandad, and the way he chose books for me and my sister, hugely inspired Tilly’s Grandad. He died when I was at university, but I hope that in Tilly’s Grandad he exists still in some way. His Dark Materials is also the series that made me aware of publishing, because I had to wait for the third book in the series. I remember going into my local Waterstones every time I passed to ask if they knew when it was going to be available. As well as being brilliant stories, these books taught me about challenging corrupt authority, standing up for what is right, and showed me the power of being your own heroine, something that is at the heart of Tilly’s story too.

 

–          They Do Things Differently There by Jan Mark

“We have to be careful from now on,’ Elaine said. ‘In a minute we’ll be back where we started. If we’re going to disappear, this is where it happens.”

It is an absolute travesty that this book, first published in 1994, is out of print (I think I am going to have to petition my publisher to buy the rights and reissue it). It’s one of the weirdest, most wonderful books I’ve ever read, and my childhood copy (whose RRP is £3.50!) is very worn from how much I read it. Arguably a UKYA novel before UKYA existed as a genre, it’s about two teenage girls living in a newly built town just outside of London, inventing a hidden world in the cracks and corners of the identical suburban houses. It features fishmonger poets, avenging angels, and a mermaid factory and it is a clever, weird trip of a book that kicked off my love of books about magic just around the corner, hiding in plain sight in the real world (see also Archer’s Goon by Diana Wynne Jones!).

 

Pages & Co: Tilly And The Bookwanderers is available from 20th September 2018.

Thanks to Anna James for your time and to Sam White at HarperCollins UK for organising the tour.

Guest Post

Author Guest Post: Pippa Goodhart

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Author Pippa Goodhart talks about bookish characters in an amazing guest-post. 

When one of Bill’s experiments goes badly wrong, and his father loses his job, Bill sets out to make money selling fossils. He finds something amazing, something which might make him a fortune, but is the world ready for the questions raised by Bill’s discovery? 

I delighted to have Pippa Goodhart on the blog to talk about bookish characters and Bill’s thirst for knowledge. Thank-you Pippa for your time. 

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The Facts Behind the Fiction

By Pippa Goodhart

How is it that spiders know how to build complex webs, but flies don’t know to avoid those web traps?  Why is the earth layered into different kinds of soil as you dig downwards?  Why are there so many fossils of sea creatures found so very many miles from the sea?  How can there be rhino fossils in an island nation thousands of miles from Africa?  What happened to the dinosaurs and other ancient creatures which are no longer around?

My story’s main character, eleven-year-old Bill, wants to find answers to all sorts of questions.  His nurseryman father has some answers, and, like Bill, enjoys chasing those questions with ideas.  But then Bill meets young academic Robert Seeley, real-life assistant to the great Victorian professor of geology at Cambridge University, Professor Sedgwick, and the world of research into scientific and theological matters opens to him.

Bill is also trying to work out answers to the questions he has about himself and his family.

There are so many stories in which the main character is bookish in a literary way, meaning stories and poetry rather than books about how things work.  That’s perhaps not surprising when those who write books are naturally bookish and sympathetic to such interests.  But the world is full of so many different kinds of interest, and actually fiction can be a very effective way of imparting knowledge and enthusing interest in science and history and so much more.  I’ve always loved stories which give practical information about things which are new to me.  I reckon I could just about build a log cabin and tap maple trees for syrup to be boiled into molasses from my reading of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books!

I am not an expert on pre-history or fossils, but I knew the questions I wanted answers to, and I hope they are questions that readers will also want answers to.  Because those answers come in the form of fairly brief conversations within the developing personal story of Bill’s life, they are necessarily brief and, I hope, accessible.  I had advice from the Sedgwick Museum in Cambridge which holds the fossils used in my story, just to be sure I wasn’t getting the historical and scientific side of things wrong.

My hope is that, as well as enjoying the up personal and who-dun-it mystery sides of this book, children will also pick up Bill’s habit of really noticing and questioning the world they live in.  As Dad says,

It turns out that the biggest question of all in this story is about Bill himself.

 

The Great Sea Dragon Discovery by Pippa Goodhart out now in paperback (£6.99, Catnip)

Connect with Pippa @pippagoodhart  and Catnip @catnipbooks