It’s publication day for Jenny Blackford’s fabulous junior novel, Fil and Harry! Illustrated with charming, lively black and white pictures by Kristin Devine, this is a warm and engaging short novel, with a touch of fantasy, which readers seven and up will love.
Find out more about the book, author and illustrator here and read a great review of the book here.
We’re pleased to announce that Fil and Harry now has its own Featured Book pages on the United Publishers of Armidale website. On the site, you can find an information page about the book which includes links to pre-ordering and to interviews with author Jenny Blackford and illustrator Kristin Devine, and an activities page. The activities include Jenny reading an extract from the book’s first chapter, a word search puzzle, downloadable and printable colouring pages based on Kristin’s illustrations, and some great downloadable Teacher’s Notes packed with more info and activities. Check it all out!
There’s a lovely new review of Fil and Harry at writer and reviewer Jonathan Shaw’s blog. Praising the story’s ‘sweet warmth’ he calls it a ‘quiet companionable tale’ which he much enjoyed, along with Kristin Devine’s illustrations. He also has some very nice words for Christmas Press, which we really appreciated!
We’re delighted to be bringing you today an interesting interview with Jenny Blackford, author of our upcoming(May) title, Fil and Harry. The interview was conducted by our fantastic intern Sharnee Rawson.
Authors often report ‘lightning bolt’ moments of inspiration when developing their work. Was this your experience with Fil and Harry?
I often used to dream of my cat talking to me (in human English, not in Cat). One morning the cat was loudly demanding SOMETHING — maybe he wanted me to feed him, maybe to pick him up, or put him down RIGHT NOW, or…. (He was a very demanding cat.) I said, “Well, why don’t you just tell me what you want in English, like you did last night? I know you can do it when you really want to”.
It took a minute for me to go, Oops, cats don’t really talk. It was just a dream.
Fil and Harry grew out of that Oops moment. In Fil and Harry, Fil’s cat Harry really CAN talk in human English. As I’m sure many of them could, if they really wanted to. Though probably not my current cat, who isn’t the most colourful kitten in the litter box.
You’ve written for young readers before, including the award-winning novel The Girl in the Mirror. How was the experience of writing Fil and Harry compared with your other works?
I was so delighted that The Girl in the Mirror won the 2020 Davitt Award for Best Children’s Crime Novel!
Most of what I write is poems and short stories, many of which have been published in that grand literary institution The School Magazine. And two of those School Magazine short stories have grown into novels with Christmas Press!
The Girl in the Mirror started as “Bertie”, a short story published in The School Magazine in 2005. The situation of the characters in the story demanded to be deepened and widened into a novel. The new book, Fil and Harry, also grew from a story published in The School Magazine, that one in 2006. Fil, her grandmother, her talking cat and her treacherous “best friend” cried out to be expanded.
Fil struggles with friendship and ‘fitting in’ at school throughout the book. Do you have any advice for other kids struggling with this issue?
Fitting in at school and trying to make friends can be terrifying, especially for introverts like me and Fil, and for anyone who is different in some way. I changed schools often as a kid, four different primary schools and two different high schools, and I had to try to fit in and make friends every time. And some kids have a lot more changes than that.
Most grown-ups will tell you not to worry, that making friends and fitting in is easy and everyone can do it. I’d like to tell all the kids out there struggling with fitting in that it might be easy for some people, but it’s really difficult for others. And it can be worse than that. Just as some adults are difficult people, some kids are. Sometimes, people who you think are your friends really aren’t. They’re just using you, and it hurts terribly when you find that out. But a lot of kids are genuinely lovely, and sometimes friends you make at school are still great friends decades later. I dedicated Fil and Harry to one of them, my friend Amanda, who I first met at the start of High School when we were both 11.
Fil and Harry also explores the impact of divorce on children. Do you think the book has a good message for tackling such a difficult event?
We never find out why Fil’s mother left the family in the time before the story starts, though we learn that Fil was understandably miserable back then, but Fil and her brother visit her in Perth regularly, and the current situation seems generally amicable. Fil’s family issues as the novel starts are with her stepmother Elspeth, who tries much too hard about everything, including getting Fil and her brother to eat lovely healthy broccoli. It doesn’t help matters that Fil’s artist grandmother is holidaying with the family, and redecorating the kids’ rooms. Everyone is tense. But all of the adults are doing their best, and everyone benefits from that.
I know that some divorces are horrible, and many books deal with the fallout from that, but my aim was that Fil and Harry should be fun to read, even while it was dealing with some serious issues. I try to deal with divorce, the tightrope-walk of fitting in at school, and the perfidy of Mean Girls with a fairly light touch in Fil and Harry.
So far, no sequel has been planned, but it’s hard to imagine normalcy with a talking cat! What other wacky adventures do you think await the main characters?
Hmmm, this is a question I wasn’t expecting! Harry the clever cat could get Fil into and out of all sorts of trouble! He does have a habit of talking when he shouldn’t.
I’ll have to put my thinking cap on.
And finally—how would you react to discovering your cat could talk?
In a nutshell, I wouldn’t be all that surprised. It was always obvious that he thought he was at least as human as me.
My current cat is a very beautiful Ragdoll with stunning blue eyes, but he’s middle-aged now and he’s never shown any sign of wanting to talk 🙂
We are delighted to reveal today the gorgeous front and full cover of Fil and Harry, a fabulous new junior novel by Jenny Blackford, which we are publishing on May 1. The beautiful cover illustration is by Kristin Devine, who has also created some great internal black and white illustrations for the book. Design of the covers is by Kristin and by Authors’ Elves.
Congratulations to our lovely author Rebecca Fung, writer of the fabulous chapter book Princess Hayley’s Comet (illustrated by Kathy Creamer), which we published in 2018. Rebecca has just had a beautiful seasonal fairytale, The Snow Goose, published in the prestigious international digital magazine, Enchanted Conversations. Perfect holiday reading! Check it out here.
And check out the fabulous activities Rebecca devised around Princess Hayley’s Comet, here.
Six-year-old Australian author Chelsea Hardi’s first picture book to be published in 2021
Richmond Publishing, in association with Christmas Press, is proud to announce that in April 2021 it will be publishing The Magic Ball of String, a beautiful picture book with text by a fabulous debut author, six-year-old Sydney resident Chelsea Hardi, who is not only one of Australia’s but also one of the world’s youngest published authors.
Chelsea was born to tell stories and narrates them to her mother, Irina, before going to sleep every night. She has always been in love with Russian fairytales which comforted her when at the age of four and a half, suffering from pneumonia, she was in hospital in Moscow for an extended period. It was during this difficult time that, influenced by those fairytales, she created the first version of The Magic Ball of String, telling it to her mother who wrote it down for her. Since then, the story has evolved through the editing process, which Chelsea was fully a part of, to become a fresh and charming tale of adventure, family love, the power of kindness, and the unexpected magic of a certain ball of string.
With beautiful pictures by acclaimed international illustrator Olya Badulina, this book is a dream come true for the young author, and one that children and families across Australia will take to their hearts.
Richmond Publishing (a division of Oliver Freeman Pty Ltd) is delighted that The Magic Ball of String will be on the 2021 publishing list of award-winning children’s books publisher Christmas Press, which will be promoting and marketing the book across its networks. And Christmas Press is delighted to be working in association with Richmond Publishing on the release of this very special book which so exemplifies the magic of stories in the lives of children.
Three beautiful princesses set out to explore the kingdom, looking for adventure. When they become separated from their father, and cross paths with a hungry bear, they become lost in the midst of a dark forest. The eldest princess is determined to find a way home, and the King is determined to find his daughters. And with the help of a man with a brave and kind heart, the grateful gesture of a tiny hedgehog, and a magic ball of string, everyone may just find what they truly seek …
We are delighted to announce our new Junior Fiction list, for young readers who want to graduate from chapter books, but aren’t ready yet to move into middle-grade fiction, and who still like illustrations in their reading! And we’re even more delighted that Fil and Harry, the debut book on this list, is by the award-winning team of author Jenny Blackford and illustrator Kristin Devine. Jenny’s previous novel with us, The Girl in the Mirror (published last year in the Eagle Books imprint) won the 2020 Davitt Award for Best Children’s Crime Novel, while in 2019 Kristin won first place in the New England Illustration Award, which is open to illustrators all over Australia.
Can Fil’s cat Harry really talk? And can he find a way out of the tangle she’s in? Read more about this fresh, lively and touching novel here. We’re publishing it in May 2021. Watch this space!
It’s Children’s Book Week in Australia this week, and to celebrate, we at Christmas Press are featuring a brand-new video in the fabulous ‘Journey of a Book‘ series which you can find on the United Publishers of Armidale website. This Journey of A Book is centred around the gorgeous chapter book for young readers, Lucy Newton, Little Witch, written and illustrated by Phoebe McArthur, the pseudonym of mother-daughter duo Fiona McDonald and Beattie Alvarez. The book, published by Christmas Press in 2018, was shortlisted for the 2019 Speech Pathology Australia Awards.