Charlie Chaplin: The Usual Suspect, by Phoebe McArthur, has just received its first review, in Read Plus, with the reviewer, Carolyn Hull, recommending the novel. Here’s a short extract:
This book has been written in the style of a Trixie Belden mystery – a young girl who can solve problems and crimes with only the help of other kids. It will appeal to young readers who love a mystery story...
Another lovely review for Fil and Harry: this time by Dannielle Viera, on the Buzz Words site. Here’s a short extract:
Award-winning author Jenny Blackford has delivered a delightful junior fiction novel suitable for kids aged seven to ten. The friendship headaches that Fil suffers from are common in this age group, so youngsters will immediately feel empathy for the troubled protagonist. And who doesn’t love the idea of owning a talking cat? …..Kristin Devine’s images are exceptionally detailed, which encourages young readers to pause and ponder what is happening in the story.
Very pleasing to read a great new review of Fil and Harry on the ReadPlus site! Here’s a short extract:
The third person narration is light and breezy. Humour laces the storyline. We feel for Fil; we worry about her problems. We think we know where she is going wrong with her friendship choices. We love the way her family rally around her. There is a tangle in the story which any young child would recognise. Harry the magical cat has a solution and the ending is very satisfying. The pencil sketches scattered throughout the story are soft and comforting. Stars and cat paw prints accompany the text. This is a delightful little book.
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.