Tag Archives: New Zealand author

Ruru’s Hangi by Nikki Slade Robinson

Nikki Slade Robinson’s award-winning picture book, The Little Kiwi’s Matariki, is my favourite book to read around Matariki.  In this book Nikki Slade Robinson introduced young children to Matariki through Kiwi and his friends in a simple yet fun way, using a mixture of English and te reo in the text.  In Nikki’s latest book, Ruru’s Hangi, she introduces young children to the concept of a hangi as the creatures celebrate the arrival of Ruru’s babies.

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Ruru has been sitting on her eggs for 30 days and 30 nights and on day 31 the eggs wriggle and hatch.  Kiwi hears Ruru’s elated cries and goes to tell the other creatures in the forest.  Kiwi has an idea to celebrate the arrival of Ruru’s babies and gets the other creatures to help out.  They dig a hole and gather all of the things that they need to make a hangi.  When the hangi is ready they call Ruru and they share the kai together to celebrate.

Ruru’s Hangi is a perfect introduction to the hangi for young children and is another wonderful bilingual text from Nikki Slade Robinson that is great to share with young children, especially preschoolers.  Nikki introduces children to native birds and creatures, like the Tui, Katipo and Weka who all help to prepare the hangi. Nikki’s illustrations are fun with each of the creatures having a distinct personality.  The Te Reo used is basic and weaves effortlessly in with the English, so this is a great book to share even if you know very little Te Reo.  Nikki uses lots of repetition in the text, like:

‘Ka pai, perfect!’ they said. Shhh! Don’t tell Ruru!’

Nikki ends the book with a simple explanation of how to prepare a hangi, just like the creatures in the book have done.  Ruru’s Hangi is a invaluable resource for early childhood centres and schools.  It is a book that will be used by teachers and librarians around the country but also a book that children will love.  Anyone who is looking for a wonderful bilingual story to share with their children should get a copy of Ruru’s Hangi.

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Lonesome When You Go Blog Tour – Interview with Saradha Koirala

Saradha Koirala is the author of the wonderful Lonesome When You Go, a YA novel that follows Paige and her high school rock band in the lead up to Rockfest.  To help spread the word about Saradha’s book, her publisher, Makaro Press has set up a blog tour.  I’m very pleased to be part of the Lonesome When You Go blog tour and today I get to share my interview that I did with Saradha about her book.  Thanks for joining me Saradha!

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  • What inspired you to write Lonesome When You Go?

I was on a train heading out to Johnsonville to see my brother and his oldest friend and just started thinking about when we all played in a band together in high school and what an excellent and tumultuous time that was in the midst of all the other dramas that those years can throw at you.

I wrote the briefest idea out on a scrap of paper there and then and talked to them about it when I arrived. We had a good old reminisce!

Our high school band’s rise and fall was pretty ordinary really and I wanted the story to be much more dramatic than that. It was a chance to revisit that time but I also ended up amalgamating a bunch of different high school experiences – as student and teacher – and a whole lot of rock and roll times, real and imagined. It seemed like a fun concept and it did turn out to be a lot of fun to write.

Being a high school teacher lent itself quite naturally to wanting to write for teenagers too, and I had an idea of what I thought some of the young women I’d been teaching might want to read about – a cool rock chick who isn’t fixated on a mysterious sparkly boy!

  • What are the songs that shaped teenage you?

I spent a lot of my early teen years listening to whatever I could find in the house, which was mostly popular tunes from the 60, 70s and 80s. It wasn’t until people started giving me mixed tapes and I could buy my own CDs that I really saw how music could change my views of self and shape my teenage identity.

Radiohead, Violent Femmes, Smashing Pumpkins, Dinosaur Jr, Stone Temple Pilots and Shihad were often on high rotation in my CD player. Music is much easier to access these days, but back then I really got to know the few albums I owned inside out! I would analyse the lyrics, read the liner notes, talk to my friends about them, sing along and all that.

I really think those bands of the mid-nineties tapped into a collective feeling that teenagers hadn’t been able to vocalise yet. They gave us permission to feel moody and outraged, while also acknowledging the sweetness we desired from the world. But it’s been a long time since I was a teenager, so maybe that’s Paige talking.

  • What genre of music best sums up your life?

Some days I would say it’s been a bittersweet folk album in the vein of Joni Mitchel’s Blue, but mostly I like to look at life as an Indie pop band full of cheesy catchy lyrics, bright colourful beats and frivolous synthesizers.

If Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan could write a soundtrack for the novel then everything in the world would make sense to me!

Actually I say that because I think he’s a master of creating story and character in very few words, but his music probably isn’t quite garage rock enough to capture the rock and roll aspect of the book.

So in that case, I’d say The Pixies. I kind of had The Pixies in the back of my mind as I described Vox Pop playing and I think they’re just an incredible band with a totally kick-ass bass player.

  • What is the most important lesson that you learned from being in a band?

Because I tend to be quite a self-sufficient person and my favourite things to do (writing and reading) are largely solo tasks, I think playing in bands taught me how to be part of something beyond myself. I never really played team sports, but was always in school orchestras, choirs, chamber music groups and, later on, rock bands.

In all those groups we had competitions to work towards, tours to organise, performances in front of sometimes many, but often very small audiences, rehearsals to get to on time and other band members to consider when making decisions and playing. It isn’t enough to just learn your part well and play it through, you really need to tap into what everyone else is doing and how they’re going, what they need and how what you’re doing affects all of that.

  • As well as being the author of Lonesome When You Go you’re also a poet.  Is the process of writing a novel similar to writing poetry for you?

They’re really very different processes for me and I’ve continued to do both simultaneously since finishing Lonesome. I enjoy being able to shift between the different forms.

When writing a novel I find I can set myself much more tangible goals – 1000 words a day, complete a particular scene etc. It’s a more continuous process too, as you’re developing and building on what you wrote last time and thinking about where you left your characters and what might happen to them next. With a novel there’s a lot of planning involved (for me, anyway) and behind the scenes stuff that helps inform my picture of the characters and their world.

I find poetry more difficult to describe in terms of a process as I’m less systematic about it. The poems come from everywhere and sometimes when I least expect them. I find I need to be open to poetry’s own schedule rather than try and force out a number of lines a day or give myself a deadline to complete something. Poetry doesn’t have to stay within a certain world or voice either, so there’s less need for continuity or meeting reader expectations.

The crafting process is probably similar for both. I think you need to be able to look at the world in a certain way to be a poet, and it’s a way of seeing the world that I really value.

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Frankie Potts is back again!

Frankie Potts is the village of Tring’s number one girl detective.  She has flaming red hair, a questioning mind and an addiction to gobstoppers.  And she is REALLY good at solving mysteries. Frankie’s first two adventures saw her trying to solve a whole pile of mysteries including:

  • What’s my (sort of) new dog called, and where’s he from?
  • Why is my grandma acting so oddly?
  • Why are random pink items of clothing going missing all over the village?

Frankie Potts is back in two new adventures – Frankie Potts and the Postcard Puzzle and Frankie Potts and the Wicked Wolves.

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Frankie’s list of mysteries to solve is getting longer by the day. Firstly, her mum is acting very strangely – she’s tired, grumpy and feels sick all the time. And then there’s Grandma M, who keeps dropping hints about expanding her troupe of performing greyhounds: Tinkerbell, Titania and Tiramisu.

With her detective sidekick Mac, Frankie travels to Giggleswick to find out about the mysterious Gideon R. Best, Animal Trainer Extraordinaire, and why he sent a postcard – with two kisses on it – to Frankie’s mum. How can Frankie work out what an overweight donkey, a cuddle-obsessed pig and a pooing parrot have to do with anything? And why has Tinkerbell started to waddle?

Kaboom! Things are getting explosive in Frankie’s family. She had better start solving.

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A band of dancers with bells and blue painted faces have come to Tring, and Frankie can smell a mystery. Who are these Wicked Wolves? How come Grandma M knows them, and wants to pick a fight with them?

Meanwhile, Tinkerbell and Sparkplug’s seven adorable puppies are causing chaos at Frankie’s house. Grandma M is planning to give away four of them, and Frankie and Mac must make sure that they go to good homes. Ralph Peter-McGee, Frankie’s arch-enemy, seems to have his eye on her favourite pup Kettle Thomson. Can Frankie stop Kettle going to the wrong home? And why are those Wicked Wolves sniffing around the puppies?

The Inaugural Tring Talent Contest is rapidly approaching, and Frankie has some serious detecting to do. But maybe not all the clues are quite as they seem.

I can’t get enough of Frankie Potts!  She is a wonderful character that kids, especially girls, will love.  She is really inquisitive and mysteries seem to follow her wherever she goes.  Naturally she needs to solve them and you just know that she’ll find the answers.  She carries a notebook everywhere so she always has a list of mysteries that she needs to solve.  I like the way that these lists are included in the story so that the reader can try to solve the mysteries too.

One of my favourite features of the Frankie Potts series is the design of them.  Phoebe Morris’s illustrations and the bright colours make the covers stand out and look really appealing to the target audience.  I also really love the alliterated titles which sound really cool (Postcard Puzzle, Bikini Burglar).

Get the Frankie Potts series into the hands of any young fans of a good mystery.  I think they would be a good ‘next step’ for fans of Geronimo and Thea Stilton and Billie B. Brown.  Once you’ve read one you’ll be hooked!

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Starlight Stables by Soraya Nicholas

Starlight Stables is a wonderful new series about three horse-crazy girls from New Zealand author Soraya Nicholas.  Soraya grew up reading the Saddle Club books and dreaming of owning her own pony.  Now Soraya owns her own horses and writes the kind of books she loved when she was a kid.

These books are perfect for those horse-mad girls who are always looking for more books about horses, especially fans of Saddle Club and Stacey Gregg’s books. The stories are set in Australia but NZ girls will really relate to the characters. They don’t just focus on horses though.  There is friendship, competition, rivalry, horse thieves and bush-fires.

The first four books in the Starlight Stables series are all out now, so young readers can get hooked.  They don’t have to read the books in a particular order which is great. Here are the covers and the blurbs for each book.

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Starlight Stables: Pony Detectives

Poppy is thrilled to be back doing the one thing she loves – riding horses at Starlight Stables – especially when her aunt and uncle make all her dreams come true with a gift of her very own horse. But there’s a catch… Poppy must look after the new scholarship girls. Will the bold and troublesome Milly and shy, sensible Katie be the pony-mad friends she’s always hoped for?

When horses go missing from the local farms, Poppy worries about Crystal, her new horse. Will the girls be able to protect their ponies from the horse thief and find the missing horses at the same time?

Gymkhana_Hijinks.jpgStarlight Stables: Gymkhana Hijinks

Horse-mad friends Poppy, Milly and Katie are overjoyed to be back at Starlight Stables and spending every second with their new ponies – riding, training and having fun while preparing for their first big Pony Club competition. But when a rival competitor arrives one day to train with them, trouble seems to seek the girls out at every turn. Is it just coincidence? Or is someone trying to sabotage the three friends’ chances of winning?

Can Poppy, Mily and Katie expose their rival’s risky antics in time to save their chances at the gymkhana?

Bush_BoltsStarlight Stables: Bush Bolts

Poppy is thrilled that her best friend Sarah is finally coming to visit Starlight Stables. She is sure that Sarah will love it as much as she does – especially Poppy’s beautiful pony, Crystal, and her horse-mad friends, fiery Milly and sweet Katie. But it soon becomes clear that Sarah doesn’t share Poppy’s love of horses and riding – in fact, she’s more interested in helping Poppy’s uncle with some bushfire-injured animals.

When a bushfire erupts nearby, Poppy finds herself fighting not only to save her friendship but also to save her beloved Starlight Stables. Will she lose everything she loves?

Saving_StarlightStarlight Stables: Saving Starlight

Poppy’s world is falling apart. Her aunt and uncle have had an ominous visit from the bank because they have lost an important riding sponsor. It means they might have to sell Starlight Stables. Could Poppy lose everything – her beloved Starlight Stables, her beautiful horse Crystal, her friends Milly and Katie, and even her aunt’s Olympic dreams?

Poppy is determined to do everything she can to help. She just has to win the upcoming show-jumping competition so she can give them the prize. But it means she will have to jump higher than she ever has before to save everything she loves.

Win a set of the Starlight Stables books!

Thanks to everyone who entered!  The winner is Carole.

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Winners of the 2016 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults

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The winners of the 2016 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults were announced last night in Wellington.  Congratulations to all the winners and those who were chosen as finalists in the awards.  Congratulations also to the judges of this year’s awards who had the tough job of choosing the winners from all the fantastic books that were submitted.  It’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it.  I personally think they made some great choices for the winners.  Kids also made some fantastic choices too in the Children’s Choice Awards.

Here are the winners of the 2016 New Book Awards for Children and Young Adults:

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  • Margaret Mahy Book of the Year and winner of the Elsie Locke Award for Non-Fiction

ANZAC Heroes by Maria Gill, illustrated by Marco Ivancic; Scholastic New Zealand

  • Best First Book Award

Allis the little tractor by Sophie Siers, illustrated by Helen Kerridge; Millwood-Heritage Productions

  • Te Kura Pounamu Award for the best book in te reo Māori

Whiti te rā! by Patricia Grace, translated by Kawata Teepa, illustrated by Andrew Burdan; Huia Publishers

  • Picture Book Award

The Little Kiwi’s Matariki written and illustrated by Nikki Slade Robinson; David Ling Publishing (Duck Creek Press)

  • Esther Glen Award for Junior Fiction

From the Cutting Room of Barney Kettle by Kate De Goldi; Penguin Random House (Longacre)

  • Young Adult Fiction Award

Battlesaurus: Rampage at Waterloo by Brian Falkner; Pan Macmillan Australia (Farrar Straus Giroux)

  • Russell Clark Award for Illustration

Much Ado About Shakespeare illustrated by Donovan Bixley; Upstart Press

New Zealand children enthusiastically voted for their own specially selected finalists’ list for this year’s HELL Children’s Choice Awards. Each book wins $1,000. The winners are:

  • Te reo Māori

Te Hua Tuatahi a Kuwi written and illustrated by Kat Merewether, and translated by Pānia Papa; Illustrated Publishing

  • Picture Book

The House on the Hill by Kyle Mewburn, illustrated by Sarah Davis; Scholastic New Zealand

  • Junior Fiction

The Girl Who Rode the Wind by Stacy Gregg; Harper Collins

  • Non-Fiction

First to the Top by David Hill, illustrated by Phoebe Morris; Penguin Random House (Puffin)

  • Young Adult Fiction

Stray by Rachael Craw; Walker Books

You can read the full media release here, including the thoughts of the judges on each of the winning books.  You can download the Winners Poster here.

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Interview with Alan Brough

Alan Brough high-res 3 credit James PenlidisAlan Brough is the author of the crazy, laugh-out-loud new book, Charlie and the War Against the Grannies.  Alan is a Kiwi who now lives in Australia and he has worked as an actor, director, musician and a dancer before he became a writer.  Charlie and the War Against the Grannies is his first book for children and I certainly hope he writes many more.

I had a few questions I wanted to ask Alan and he has very kindly answered them for me.  Read on to find out about weird granny behaviour, the things you need to have in a war against grannies and how Alan came to write his crazy story.

  • What inspired you to write Charlie and the War Against the Grannies?

One morning I was watched a middle-aged man in a beaten up old car deliver my newspaper and I wondered whether kids did paper round anymore. That afternoon I saw a granny delivering pizza menus and, for some reason, I came up with the idea that a boy tries to get a paper round but can’t because all the deliveries in his neighbourhood are controlled by an evil cabal of violent grannies.

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  • What is your strangest grannie experience?

My grandmother had a glass eye. The idea of it completely freaked me out. One morning at the breakfast table she took her glass eye out and rolled it across the table to me to try and make me feel more comfortable about it. It didn’t work.

  • Did you have a paper round when you were a kid?

No. I couldn’t cope with the early mornings.

  • What are the 3 most important things you need to fight a war against grannies?

Shortbread laced with tranquillisers, a hairnet full of false teeth and questionable morals.

  • Charlie and Hils have an awesome secret code called Flush Latin for communicating secretly from a toilet when they get in trouble. Did you have your own secret code when you were a kid? 

Hell yeah. I still love codes. I used to make up all sorts of secret codes. I loved writing invisible messages in lemon juice, I had secret drop-offs for swapping secret information with other agents and I was never without my ‘KnowHow Book of Spycraft.’

  • You’ve been an actor and a director as well as an author. How different is comedy on the page than comedy on the screen?

I suppose the essential difference is that comedy on the screen can be done purely with images. You can tell a whole joke without words. Whereas comedy on the page – for me at least – is all about words. Their order, the way they sound and even the way they look.

  • Charlie is hilarious and I’m sure it is going to have kids rolling around on the floor in fits of laughter. Who are your comedy idols when it comes to writing?

Thank you. I’m really pleased and proud that you think Charlie is hilarious. As far as comedy writing idols go I love Douglas Adams, Dorothy Parker, Evelyn Waugh, Charles Dickens, Franz Kafka (he’s really funny), Kyril Bonfiglioli, Nancy Mitford and Ronald Hugh Morrieson (born and bred in my hometown of Hawera.)

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Charlie and the War Against the Grannies by Alan Brough

Have you ever had a paper round?  If you have it was probably pretty easy to get one.  You almost certainly didn’t have to fight a granny army to get one.  Lucky you!  Charlie Duncan has no such luck when he tries to get a paper round.  When he tries to get a paper round his life goes from pretty normal to seriously weird in Alan Brough’s new book, Charlie and the War Against the Grannies.

untitledMy name is Charlie Ian Duncan. I will be 12 on 2 February. I have written this history of my war with the grannies because I need everyone to know that I didn’t mean for Mrs Cyclopolos to blow up. I just wanted a paper round.

When I say ‘my war with the grannies’, I really mean the war I waged alongside my best friend Hils, my second-best-friend Rashid, Peter the Iraqi who isn’t afraid of anything (well apart from one thing), Warren and his magical bike TwelveSpeed and those crazy people we met underground.

The grannies started it when I asked them about a paper round and they sprayed me in the face with rooster brand chilli sauce and made me think that I was dead. Hils and I decided to go to war with them but then I discovered one of the grannies had a glass eye and I wasn’t sure if it was okay to go to war against someone with a glass eye but then I discovered that the granny with the glass eye could pinch bricks in half, turn her snot-covered hankies into deadly throwing weapons and possessed a truly terrible device called the Gnashing Gnet.

It’s all true.

Especially the bit about me not wanting anyone to blow up.

Charlie and the War Against the Grannies is an absolutely bonkers story that will make you laugh out loud.  Alan Brough has taken a pretty simple idea (getting a paper round) and turned it into an all out war against grannies.  There is something for everyone in this story – evil grannies, secret passageways, secret toilet codes, incredible inventions,  explosions, weird characters, and hot sauce.  To find out how all of these things are related you’ll have to read the book.

This is one seriously funny book that I just know kids (especially boys) are going to love.  Even before you start the story Alan makes you laugh with the disclaimer that states ‘Seventeen grannies were hurt (just a little bit) during the making of this book.’ There are lots of laugh-out-loud moments, like when Charlie and Hils are trying to come up with a better name for the evil grannies.  The first chapter is only two sentences long but totally hooks you in,

‘I didn’t want Mrs Cyclopolos to explode.  I just wanted a paper round.’

It starts off pretty crazy and just gets crazier from there.  Charlie is joined in his mission for a paper round by his best friend Hils (don’t call her Hilary), who is totally obsessed with the army.  She talks like she is in the army and has a collection of military issue equipment, like gas masks, flares and an enormous knife.  She’s a great person to have by Charlie’s side because she’s pretty fearless.  One of my favourite moments in the book is when Charlie and Hils need to communicate using Flush Latin.  This is a secret code they created so that they can communicate from a toilet if they get in trouble.  They use a combination of flushes, hand dryer sounds, lid slams and more to communicate secretly.

I think a lot of kids will relate to Charlie, especially since he describes himself as a ‘Digital Orphan,’ a kid who is completely ignored by his parents because they are always on their iPhones.  He says that his parents ‘are so interested in their iPhones that they have lost all interest in me.  They take so little notice of me that I might as well not have parents.’

Rush out and get a copy of Charlie and the War Against the Grannies now.  It’s perfect for fans of Andy Griffiths, David Walliams and Morris Gleitzman or just anyone who loves a good laugh.

 

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Guest Author – Juliet Jacka on Frankie Potts

Juliet Jacka is the author of the fantastic new Frankie Potts series, about an inquisitive girl detective.  The series is full of excitement, adventure and lots of fun.  You can read my review of Juliet’s new series here on the blog.

Juliet has very kindly written a special guest post for My Best Friends Are Books all about her Frankie Potts series and how it came to life.

How to turn five crazy words into a book

My new chapter-book series about Frankie Potts, amateur detective, and her clever dog Sparkplug burst into life thanks to an exercise I did at a writing course. Our teacher asked us to string together a bunch of unrelated words into some sort of story.

I wish I could remember exactly what those five words were. But I’ve lost the bit of paper. Although I think they might have been something like:

Jam
Spectacles
Bobbydazzler
Slater
Apricot

Or possibly something else altogether. The point being, those five crazy words made my brain crank and whir, as it tried to string those horribly unrelated things together into some sort of something … and when I tried that out popped the character Frankie Potts.

Although, initially, she was a he — Arty Potts — until my story grew and changed after I fell in love with Arty … then Frankie … and started turning the 500 word exercise into a fully fledged book.

So, why don’t you give it a go? You might surprise yourself and accidentally write a book. All you need to do is pick five words, then try and smoosh them up together somehow into a 500 word story.

If you’re after crazy five-word inspiration, give these ones a go (they’re from my first two Frankie books, out now).

Five words from Frankie Potts and the Sparkplug Mysteries

Dirigible
Skateboard
Tattoo
Circus
Dog

Five words from Frankie Potts and the Bikini Burglar

Skull
Borneo
Python
Gobstopper
Kangaroo

Now go get crazy word story writing!

Find out more about me and my books.

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Win Frankie Potts books

New Zealand author Juliet Jacka has just released her brand new series all about an inquisitive girl called Frankie Potts.  The first two books, Frankie Potts and the Sparkplug Mysteries and Frankie Potts and the Bikini Burglar are out now and are fantastic reads for ages 7-10.  They are full of excitement, adventure and fun.  Check out my review here on the blog.

Thanks to everyone who entered!  The winner is Chris.

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Introducing Frankie Potts

Meet Frankie Potts, the village of Tring’s number one girl detective.  She has flaming red hair, a questioning mind and an addiction to gobstoppers.  And she is REALLY good at solving mysteries.

Frankie Potts is the creation of New Zealand author Juliet Jacka.  She’s a new character that kids (especially girls) are going to love.  She’s inquisitive, confident and observant.  She has her eyes peeled for things that look unusual and out of the ordinary.  She carries a notebook everywhere with her and is always making lists of unusual things she sees and mysteries that she needs to solve.

In the first book in this fantastic new series, Frankie Potts and the Sparkplug Mysteries, Frankie finds a stray dog outside her favourite sweetshop and he follows her everywhere.  Her first mystery is:

  1. What’s my (sort of) new dog called, and where’s he from?
    • Waggles from Wichita?
    • Kirk from Canada?
    • Morris from Mozambique?

She decides to name him Sparkplug and everybody seems to go gaga for him, especially her formidable Grandma M.  Her grandma starts to act stranger and stranger and so Frankie adds more and more mysteries to her list.  She sets out to solve them with the help of Sparkplug.

The excitement continues in the second book of the series, Frankie Potts and the Bikini Burglar.  Frankie is on the lookout for a human detective sidekick to join her.  It’s not an easy task, especially when she has to deal with the new boy at school, the mean office lady, her arch-enemy Ralph Peter-McGee and tracking down the burglar on the loose in Tring.

The Frankie Potts series is full of excitement, adventure and lots of fun.  The covers make the stories look really appealing, with Phoebe Morris’ wonderful illustrations on the cover and throughout the books.  The series is perfect for 7-10 year olds, especially those readers who like the Billy B. Brown series by Sally Rippin or the Friday Barnes series by R.A. Spratt.

Stay tuned to read a special guest post from Juliet Jacka and a chance to win the first two books in the Frankie Potts series.

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