Tag Archives: children’s fiction

Interview with Frida Nilsson, author of The Ice Sea Pirates

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Photograph by Ellinor Collin

One of my recent favourite books has been The Ice Sea Pirates, written by Swedish author, Frida Nilsson and published in English for the first time by the wonderful Gecko Press.  The Ice Sea Pirates is an adventure story full of pirates, wolves, mermaids, frozen landscapes and a whole lot of heart.  You can read my review here on the blog.

The Ice Sea Pirates was still on my mind several days after finishing the story and I was lucky enough to be able to ask Frida Nilsson some questions.  Read on to find out what inspired Frida to write The Ice Sea Pirates, which story she would jump in to, and how she comes up with the names for her characters.

  • What inspired you to write The Ice Sea Pirates?

The inspiration mainly came to me shortly after my first child was born. Until then, my books featured another character, they had much more humour in them and were not classic sagas. When I became a mother it was suddenly more important to me to try and make some sort of change with my books. A lot of us are worried, I think, about the conditions in our world, with poverty and pollution, the death of many species, the plastic in all the oceans. My story about Siri is my way of questioning how we live our lives. We constantly take more than we need and in the long term, that’s not going to work.

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  • The Ice Sea Pirates is one of those books that I felt I wanted to jump in to.  If you could jump in to one book and be part of the story which one would you choose?

I think I would choose Charlie and the chocolate factory (and if possible I would bring my kids along since they are absolutely crazy about chocolate)

Siri is incredibly brave and determined and I’m sure children will wish that they could be like her.  Which book characters did you wish you could have been when you were growing up?

I hope that the children that read the book will NOT want to be as brave as her. Children characters in sagas like this are often “thrown out” on adventures that are far too dangerous for a real child – and this is how it should be I think. I hope that Siri’s journey can inspire children in another way.  I hope they find the courage to question the things that are wrong with how we “overuse” our planet and how the stronger use the weaker.

But, to answer the question: One character that I envied a lot was Lisa in Astrid Lindgren’s books about the Bullerby children (The children of Noisy Village). I grew up far out in the “dark woods” with no neighbourhood children or siblings at all, and sometimes I would miss the company of people of my own age. I envied Lisa simply because she lived in a village with a lot of children that she could play with all day. And best of all: Lisa did NOT go on any dangerous journeys. Her everyday life and play were adventure enough.

  • Captain Whitehead is the terrifying pirate captain in The Ice Sea Pirates.  Who is your favourite pirate from history or fiction?

Well since I’m a big fan of the Aardman films I must answer the Pirate Captain in the movie ‘The Pirates! In an adventure with scientists’ (released as Pirates! Band of misfits in some parts of the world). If I’m not mistaken this film is based on a book with the same title, although I haven’t read it.

  • The crew of The Sea Raven have some fantastic names.  How did you come up with their names?

I found a list on the internet of old French soldiers names and I used a lot of them, but translated them into Swedish first of course. Then I just used my imagination for the rest.

  • Peter Graves has translated your story into English.  How do you work with translators to ensure they capture the essence of your stories?

In this particular case I could actually read the translation before it went to print. It’s not quite as easy when it comes to a Czech or a Russian text. It was a true pleasure to read Peter Graves translation. I think he did a fantastic job. When a foreign publisher takes on one of my books I must put my trust in the whole “crew” that works with the title (translator, editor, illustrator etc) because they all know their country and their readers much better than I do.

Make sure you grab a copy of The Ice Sea Pirates from your library or bookshop now.

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Thornhill by Pam Smy

I love Brian Selznick’s books because of the way that he tells his story using the combination of text and wordless illustrations.  His books make you think because you have to interpret the story from the illustrations.  Thanks to Twitter I’ve discovered another author who also very effectively tells a story using these same techniques.  Pam Smy uses a combination of diary entries and black and white illustrations to tell a spine-tingling tale of two girls connected across time.  It is a story that will haunt you long after you turn the last page.

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1982: Mary is a lonely orphan at the Thornhill Institute For Children at the very moment that it’s shutting its doors. When her few friends are all adopted or re-homed and she’s left to face a volatile bully alone, her revenge will have a lasting effect on the bully, on Mary, and on Thornhill itself.

2017: Ella has just moved to a new town where she knows no one. From her room on the top floor of her new home, she has a perfect view of the dilapidated, abandoned Thornhill Institute across the way, where she glimpses a girl in the window. Determined to befriend the girl and solidify the link between them, Ella resolves to unravel Thornhill’s shadowy past.

Thornhill is a tense, chilling mystery that captivated me from the first page.  The story alternates between the diary entries of Mary, an orphan at Thornhill in 1982 and a girl in 2017, who we find out is called Ella.  Pam Smy tells Ella’s story through atmospheric black and white wordless illustrations.  From the first page we know that Mary is living in fear, being tormented by someone at Thornhill.  She hears a thumping on the walls and her door at night and she sounds miserable.  We also learn that Ella is unhappy as her mother has recently died and her father is often not around. As the story progresses Mary and Ella’s stories weave together and the tension in the story grows.

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Pam’s illustrations are powerful and portray so much emotion.  She shows the reader details of Ella’s life and how she is feeling through the illustrations.  In one of the first glimpses of Ella’s life we know that she is from the present day because the calendar on her wall says 2017.  There are photos of Ella with a woman, who we assume is her mother, but it is not until later in the story that we find out more about her.  We only see snapshots of Ella’s life but some of these send shivers down your spine.   Pam paints an imposing picture of Thornhill Institute For Children and gives us glimpses of what happened within its walls. When Pam switches perspective between Ella and Mary there are two black pages which are like a break for the reader to take in what has just happened.

Thornhill is a beautifully produced book.  It feels like you are holding a work of art in your hands. It is a solid hardback with a cover illustration that looks like it has been etched in the cover.  The page edges are black, adding to the sense that this is dark story.  The illustrations are an incredibly important part of the story so the binding is of high quality, meaning that you can lay the book down open on a table or your lap.

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The ending of Thornhill made me shiver and it still does when I think of it.  It’s a perfect book for anyone wanting a spooky read.  I’ll be recommending it to all the kids at my school because I know there will be lots of them who will love it.  There are a group of 10 and 11 year old girls who love urban legends and ghost stories and I just know they will gobble up Thornhill.  This is a book to own and reread so go out and buy a copy now.

Check out the Thornhill website to read an extract and watch this video of Pam Smy talking about her book:

 

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The Ice Sea Pirates by Frida Nilsson

I love reading translated fiction, especially for children.  Some of my favourite stories were not originally published in English – Inkheart by Cornelia Funke was originally published in German and The Watcher in the Shadows by Carlos Ruiz Zafon was originally published in Spanish.  Thank goodness for publishers like the wonderful Gecko Press who translate the best books in to English for children to enjoy here in New Zealand.  Gecko Press’ latest translated gem is The Ice Sea Pirates by Frida Nilsson.  This wonderful story brought back memories of the first time I read my favourite book, Inkheart, as it took me on an adventure that swept me away.

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Siri lives on a small island with her younger sister, Miki, and her old, tired father.  An outing on a nearby island to collect berries ends in tragedy as Miki is taken by pirates.  These are not just any pirates, but those from the Snow Raven, a ship from the stories that Siri tells her sister.  The Snow Raven is captained by the most wicked pirate in all the seas, Captain Whitehead, a pirate with hair white as snow and a heart as empty as an ice cave.  Children who are taken by Whitehead are never seen again as they get sent to work in his mines until their bodies and minds are broken.  Siri knows that she is the only person who can save her sister and so sets out to get her back by any means.

The Ice Sea Pirates is an adventure story full of pirates, wolves, mermaids, frozen landscapes and a whole lot of heart.  It is a story about an incredibly brave girl who never gives up on her search for her sister.  Frida Nilsson, and her skilled translator, Robert Graves, transport the reader to the unforgiving Ice Sea and make you feel that you are right there beside Siri the whole way.  You feel the biting,  icy wind, feel Siri’s gnawing hunger and her heartache for the friends she makes along the way, and hear the creaking and groaning of the frozen sea.  The writing is beautiful.  Some of the descriptions of the characters and places were so perfect that I had to reread them several times.

Siri is one of those characters that becomes your best friend.  You are right there beside her and get inside her head.  She goes through so much on her journey to find her sister – she leaves home by herself to rescue her sister, faces down white wolves, stows away on boats with angry men, and stands up to vicious pirates – but she never gives up.  She is determined to find her sister, rescue her friend and protect those who cannot protect themselves.

I loved The Ice Sea Pirates and I know that Siri and her story will stay with me for a long time.  It is the perfect read aloud for ages 9 and up and I highly recommend it for anyone who loves adventure stories with a touch of magic and wonder.

 

 

 

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My Top September Kids & YA Releases – Part 2

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The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James

Can you fall in love with someone you’ve never met, never even spoken to – someone who is light years away? Romy Silvers is the only surviving crew-member of a spaceship travelling to a new planet, on a mission to establish a second home for humanity. Alone in space, she is the loneliest girl in the universe until she hears about a new ship which has launched from Earth – with a single passenger on board. A boy called J. Their only communication is via email – and due to the distance between them, their messages take months to transmit. And yet Romy finds herself falling in love. But what does Romy really know about J? And what do the mysterious messages which have started arriving from Earth really mean? Sometimes, there’s something worse than being alone.

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Once Upon a Small Rhinoceros by Meg McKinlay

“Don’t you wish,” said the small rhinoceros, “that you could see the world?” And so begins this delightful picture book by award-winning creators Meg McKinlay and Leila Rudge.

Once, there was a small rhinoceros who wanted to see the big world. So she built a boat. And sailed away … From the duo behind award-winning picture book No Bears comes a simple yet inspirational tale about challenging the norm, pushing boundaries and being true to oneself.

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I Want to be in a Scary Story by Sean Taylor and Jean Jullien

Monster wants to be in a scary story – but is he brave enough? Scary stories have creepy witches and creaky stairs and dark hallways and spooky shadows… Oh my goodness me! That is very scary. Maybe, a funny story would be better after all?

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Baabwaa & Wooliam by David Elliott and Melissa Sweet

Baabwaa is a sheep who loves to knit. Wooliam is a sheep who loves to read. It sounds a bit boring, but they like it. Then, quite unexpectedly, a third sheep shows up. A funny-looking sheep who wears a tattered wool coat and has long, dreadfully decaying teeth. Wooliam, being well-read, recognizes their new acquaintance: the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing! The wolf is so flattered to discover his literary reputation precedes him that he stops trying to eat Baabwaa and Wooliam. And a discovery by the sheep turns the encounter into an unexpected friendship.

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On the Night of the Shooting Star by Amy Hest and Jenni Desmond

Bunny and Dog live on opposite sides of the fence. No one says hello. Or hi. But on the night of the shooting star, two doors open… From bestselling author Amy Hest and illustrator Jenni Desmond comes a charming picture book about loneliness and making friends.

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His Royal Tinyness by Sally Lloyd-Jones and David Roberts

Marianna, the most beautiful, ever so kindest princess, lives happily with her mum, dad and gerbil. Happy, that is, until the new baby comes along. His Royal Highness King Baby is so smelly. He’s so noisy. And all the talk in the Land is about him – non-stop, All the time! Has there everbeen such a time of wicked rule?!

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Crazy About Cats by Owen Davey

Did you know that the fishing cat has partially webbed paws for catching fish? Or that pumas can leap up over 5 metres into trees? There are roughly 38 species of cats today, each one superbly adapted to their environment – whether that be in the rainforest or the desert!

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The Ice Sea Pirates by Frida Nilsson

The cold bites and the sea lashes in this adventure on the ice seas. Ten-year-old Siri must counter the treachery of sailors, hungry wolves, frozen landscapes and a mine where children are enslaved, to save her younger sister from the dreaded ice sea pirates.

 

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My Top September Kids & YA Releases – Part 1

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The Explorer by Katherine Rundell

After crashing hundreds of miles from civilisation in the Amazon rainforest, Fred, Con, Lila and Max are utterly alone and in grave danger. They have no food, no water and no chance of being rescued. But they are alive and they have hope. As they negotiate the wild jungle they begin to find signs that something – someone – has been there before them. Could there possibly be a way out after all?

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Because You Love to Hate Me edited by Ameriie

This unique YA anthology presents classic and original fairy tales from the villain’s point of view. The book’s unconventional structure–thirteen of the most influential booktubers on YouTube join forces (writing-prompt style) with thirteen acclaimed and bestselling authors–gives these mysterious, oft-misunderstood individuals characters a chance to tell their stories, their way.

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Moonrise by Sarah Crossan

They think I hurt someone.
But I didn’t. You hear?
Cos people are gonna be telling you
all kinds of lies.
I need you to know the truth.

Joe hasn’t seen his brother for ten years, and it’s for the most brutal of reasons. Ed is on death row.

But now Ed’s execution date has been set, and Joe is determined to spend those last weeks with him, no matter what other people think.

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What Was I Scared Of? by Dr. Seuss

A very special, spooky story from Dr. Seuss – with glow-in-the-dark ink!

Then I was deep within the woods
When, suddenly, I spied them.
I saw a pair of pale green pants
Wth nobody inside them!

Turn out the lights and say hello to Dr. Seuss’s spookiest character… the pair of empty trousers, with nobody inside them!
First published as part of The Sneetches and Other Stories collection, this all-time favourite story of Dr. Seuss’s is now published on its own in this very special edition with a glow-in-the-dark finale!

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Birthday Boy by David Baddiel

This is the story of Sam Green, who really, really, really loves birthdays. He loves the special breakfasts in bed. The presents. The themed parties. Blowing out the candles on his cake. Everything. He is so excited about his 11th birthday, in fact, that he wishes it was his birthday every day.

So, at first, it’s quite exciting when his birthday happens again the next morning. And again. And again. And again…

But it’s not long before things start to go wrong. Soon, disaster strikes, threatening something Sam loves even more than birthdays. Sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for.

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The Bad Seed by Jory John and Pete Oswald

This is a book about a bad seed. A baaaaaaaaaad seed. How bad Do you really want to know

He has a bad temper, bad manners, and a bad attitude. He’s been bad since he can remember! This seed cuts in line every time, stares at everybody and never listens. But what happens when one mischievous little seed changes his mind about himself, and decides that he wants to be-happy.

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Whimsy & Woe by Rebecca McRitchie and Sonia Kretschmar

After being abandoned by their thespian parents one afternoon while playing their weekly family game of hide-and-seek, Whimsy and Woe Mordaunt are left in the care of their austere Aunt Apoline.

Forced to work in her boarding house, looking after the guests, sharpening the thorns of every plant in the poisonous plant garden and listening to off-key renditions of ‘Fish Are Friends Too’ – an aria made famous by the legendary Magnus Montgomery – Whimsy and Woe lose all hope that their parents will someday return. Until one day, quite by accident, the siblings stumble upon a half-charred letter that sets them on a course to freedom and finding their parents.

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A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars by Yaba Badoe

Sante was a baby when she was washed ashore in a sea-chest laden with treasure. It seems she is the sole survivor of the tragic sinking of a ship carrying refugees. Her people. Fourteen years on she’s a member of Mama Rose’s unique and dazzling circus. But, from their watery grave, the unquiet dead are calling Sante to avenge them: A bamboo flute. A golden band. A ripening mango which must not fall . . . if Sante is to tell their story and her own.

 

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D-Bot Squad series by Mac Park

What do you get when you combine kids, dinosaurs and robots?  You get D-Bot Squad, an awesome new series for beginner readers from Mac Park, the creator of the Boy vs. Beast series.

Dinosaurs are back.  Dino Corp has found a way to bring dinosaurs back to life.  They keep them in a secret place but some of them have escaped and it’s up to the D-Bot Squad to catch them.  How do you catch real, live dinosaurs though?  With dinosaur robots of course.  Hunter Marks knows everything there is to know about dinosaurs. But will it be enough to build a d-bot that can catch a real dinosaur?

There are currently four books in the series – Dino Hunter, Sky High, Double Trouble and Big Stink.  They are perfect for those kids who are just starting their reading journey as the text is large and easy to read.  The stories are exciting, with cliff-hanger endings that will hook readers in.  The text is broken up with cool illustrations by James Hart, who has also created appealing covers that boys will love.

D-Bot Squad is perfect for young readers who like the Boy vs. Beast, Zac Power, or the Dinosaur Trouble series by Kyle Mewburn and Donovan Bixley.  Young readers will gobble up these first four books and be eagerly awaiting the next in the series.  I know just the readers at my school who will love these books, so I know they will be a hit!

 

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The Jamie Drake Equation by Christopher Edge

Christopher Edge’s previous book, The Many Worlds of Albie Bright was science fiction for kids at its best. Christopher effortlessly wove actual science with fiction into a story about a boy’s search for his mum across multiple dimensions. It is a fantastic book that the kids at my school have loved and I’ve certainly enjoyed discussing the story with them. Christopher’s latest book, The Jamie Drake Equation, is another brilliant science fiction story that readers young and old will devour.

Repro_JamieDrake_cvr.inddHow amazing would it be to have a dad who’s an astronaut?

Rocket launches, zero gravity, and flying through space like a superhero! Jamie Drake’s dad is orbiting the Earth in the International Space Station and Jamie ought to think it’s cool but he just really misses him…

Hanging out at his local observatory, Jamie picks up a strange signal on his phone. It looks like alien life is getting closer to home. But space is a dangerous place and when his dad’s mission goes wrong, can Jamie prove that he’s a hero too?

The Jamie Drake Equation tore apart my atoms, shook them up and put me back together again. It made me smile, broke my heart and left me in awe of the universe.  The story is narrated by Jamie so you really get inside his head and experience his sadness, embarrassment , heartbreak, wonder and awe.

Ultimately this is a story about a boy and his connection with his father who he just wants to return to him on Earth. Jamie’s dad is often away, training for missions or up in space, and Jamie and his family have had to live all over the world for his dad to achieve his dreams. Jamie really misses his dad and just wants him to be home, rather than talking to him on a screen. His dad’s latest mission is to launch nano-spacecraft in to space to look for signs of alien life. However, it’s Jamie who makes contact with an alien race when he accidentally downloads a transmission to the Hubble Telescope to his phone. Soon Jamie is discovering more about aliens and the universe than he ever thought he would.

Like The Many Worlds of Albie Bright, the thing I love most about The Jamie Drake Equation is the way that Christopher not only tells a fantastic story but also teaches you about the wonders of the universe. I never knew about things like a star’s ‘Goldilocks zone’, or that one of our closest stars, Proxima Centauri, is only four and a quarter light years from Earth. Reading this book made me want to desperately visit an observatory to look at the stars (something I’ve never done).  I’m sure Christopher will inspire kids to want to explore the universe too.

The Jamie Drake Equation is perfect for readers who love adventure, science and space, stories about families, or anyone who just loves a gripping story.   It would be a great read aloud for Years 6-8 as it will certainly grab kids (and teachers).  I wonder where Christopher Edge will take us next?

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Beetle Queen by M.G. Leonard

From the moment I started reading M.G. Leonard’s debut, Beetle Boy, I fell in love with her storytelling, her characters and her wonderful beetles.  I gobbled up Beetle Boy and even a year after reading it I find myself thinking about Darkus and his friends.  I have been eagerly anticipating the sequel, Beetle Queen, for ages because I need to return to that story and find out what is happening.  I couldn’t wait until it is released in New Zealand (and neither could several of my favourite readers at my school) so I bought a copy from the UK.  Beetle Queen is even better than I was hoping it was going to be.

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Cruel beetle fashionista, Lucretia Cutter, is at large with her yellow ladybird spies.

When Darkus, Virginia and Bertolt discover further evidence of her evil, they’re determined to stop her. But the three friends are in trouble. Darkus’ dad has forbidden them to investigate any further – and disgusting crooks Humphrey and Pickering are out of prison. Hope rests on Novak, Lucretia’s daughter and a Hollywood actress, but the beetle diva is always one scuttle ahead …

Beetle Queen is a superb sequel and I would say it’s the best second book in a trilogy that I have ever read.  M.G. Leonard transports you straight back in to the story, almost exactly where the previous book ended.  All the things that I loved about Beetle Boy are in Beetle Queen – the wonderful characters that you either love or love to hate, the brilliant storytelling which feels quite magical, the sense of adventure, and all the beetles.  The sense of joy that Darkus experienced after rescuing his dad and bringing him home doesn’t last long before he loses him again.  We saw the determination of Darkus, Bertolt and Virginia in the first book so we know that they will do anything to stop Lucretia Cutter’s plans and bring Darkus’ dad home again.

The thing I love the most about Beetle Queen is M.G. Leonard’s characters.  Darkus, Bertolt and Virginia are clever, determined and caring.  They would do anything to protect their beetle friends and they certainly have plenty of challenges that they have to face in Beetle Queen.  Humphrey and Pickering, the bumbling (and quite peculiar) cousins are back again and trying to get what is owed to them by Lucretia Cutter.  They make me laugh every time they appear in the story because they are just so hopeless and you know things aren’t ever going to go well for them.  Lucretia Cutter is delightfully sinister and we learn more about her wicked plans.  I love Baxter, Newton, Marvin and Hepburn, the beetle side-kicks who all play important roles in Darkus’ plans to stop Lucretia Cutter.  They manage to express so much with just a flutter of elytra or twitch of antennae. The stand-out character in Beetle Queen though, for me, has to be Darkus’ Uncle Max.  He kept on surprising me in this book, because he often reacted quite differently to what I was expecting.  He is very supportive of Darkus and always backs him up.

I am so excited to read the finale, Battle of the Beetles, but I’ll have to wait until next year to find out how it all ends.  In the mean time I urge everyone to read Beetle Boy and Beetle Queen because you will fall in love with Darkus and his Coleopteran friends.  They are the perfect books to read aloud to a Year 5 or 6 class or snuggled up in bed with your children at night.

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Interview with CATs hero Claude D’Bonair

Award-winning author and illustrator, Donovan Bixley, is currently chronicling the heroic adventures of the famous CATs pilot, Claude D’Bonair.  Donovan very kindly put me in touch with Claude, who took some time out from fighting the dastardly DOGZ to answer my questions.

  • We’ve heard the tales of your daring missions so far.  What are the three most important things to take with you on a mission?
Phew Zac, you had to start with a hard question. Let me think … well, the truth is that we never know where the next mission will take us, or what danger we’ll be heading in to. You can’t rely on anything. You might find yourself deep in enemy territory without your squadron. You might even lose your plane … which happens to me more often than I’d like to admit! Quick thinking and fearlessness has helped me get out all sorts of dangerous situations. So, I guess the best thing I can take on a mission is my courage and inventiveness … that, and a packet of cat biscuits.
  • How do you prepare before going off on a mission?
You’re asking the wrong cat. I’m not much for preparing. I just try and figure out what to do as I go along. My friend, Syd – he’s actually more like an uncle to me – he likes to “prepare” for a mission by eating and sleeping. Syd says, “In war, you never know when you’ll get you’re next meal”… that doesn’t explain why he used to eat and sleep all the time before the war too!
For me, a change is as good as a rest. I like to clear my mind, practicing Meowzaki, the martial art I learnt from my dad.
  • C-for is the cat responsible for the brilliant inventions that help you on your missions. What is your favourite of C-for’s inventions?
It would have to be his exploding fake dog poop.
  • You get in to some pretty hairy situations on your missions.  Who is the best cat to have by your side when catastrophe strikes?
When catastrophe strikes, it usually means you’ve downed your plane behind enemy lines. In those situations you want someone who doesn’t just follow orders. You want someone who speaks their mind and thinks on their feet. I think I’d want to have Manx at my side when I’m in a tight jam. Manx and I just got back from a dangerous mission in Venice and really she saved my tail that time. Manx is a top engineer and real problem solver in tricky situations.
  • Your dad was a race car driver, adventurer and pilot and you certainly seem to have inherited his bravery.  What was one of the most important lessons that you learnt from him?
Ha ha, that makes me think of a time when I was young, when dad and Syd took me on one of their crazy adventures to Japan. Syd is always suspicious of new things – but this one time, he thought wasabi paste was a lip cream – ha ha – after that, he wouldn’t eat Japanese food for the rest of the trip.
My dad was completely different. He was never afraid to try new experiences. It can be scary at first, especially when you’re in a new place and you don’t speak their language, but you soon find that they are just like you. Whether someone was cat or dog, ginger striped, or black and white spotted, my dad always treated others they way he wanted to be treated. So I guess he left me with two great lessons: to be fair and to be fearless. I owe my life to those lessons, and even though CATs are at war with the DOGZ army, I’ve often made friends with dogs who’ve helped me when I’ve been in greatest need.
  • What do you like to do when you’re not off foiling the DOGZ plans?
You know, I’m not one of those cats who like to lounge around sleeping all day (unlike some cats I could name). I love to get out and see the world and try new things. One day, when cats and dogs are living in peace again, I want to take off and see some of the friends I’ve made around the world. That will make for some exciting adventures.
Claude

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Scar Island by Dan Gemeinhart

I loved Dan Gemeinhart’s first book, The Honest Truth. It was heartbreaking but such a great story. I was curious to read his new book, Scar Island (which came in the Scholastic Standing Orders). Wow, this book is amazing!  I’ve just finished it (thankfully my toddler had a long nap today!) and it kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time. 


The story focuses on Jonathan who has committed a terrible crime that he doesn’t speak about. He has been sent to Slabhenge Reformatory School for Troubled Boys, a crumbling island fortress that was once an insane asylum. Jonathan is here with 15 other boys who have created various crimes and we meet them through the course of the story. The place is cold and wet and the boys get treated horribly, until something happens to the adults, leaving them to fend for themselves. There are no rules – they can eat what they like, sleep where they like and do whatever they want. However one of them decides that he is in charge and things start to get out of control. When a huge storm heads for the island their world starts to crumble and the only way they can survive is if they work together.
Scar Island is like Holes and Lord of the Flies rolled in to one. It is one of those books you just don’t want to put down. When you’re not reading it you’re wondering what will happen next. It’s an adventure story and a survival story with a dash of darkness.  It’s an immersive story too because you can feel and smell the damp, cold fortress, hear the click of the rats scurrying paws and feel the fear and dread of these boys who are trapped.

Dan keeps you guessing the whole way through. Although most of the boys explain why they are at Slabhenge Jonathan keeps dodging the question. Dan drip feeds you details but doesn’t reveal everything until near the end.  You have to keep reading to find out if everyone survives until the end of the story. 

Scar Island is sure to be the perfect book to hook reluctant readers and it would make a great read aloud for Years 7 and 8.

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