I was thrilled when Sally Harris invited me to be part of her current blog tour celebrating the launch of her new book Diary of a Penguin-Napper (Frankly Books), and I was honoured to be first cab off the rank, the first stop on the Penguin-napper touring schedule. Here’s what I thought of Sally’s fun book and a few words from the author herself…
The combination of kids and books can create a lot of joy for a bookish parent – there’s nothing quite like watching a kid with their head buried in a book, gasping or giggling, depending on their preferred genre. Nonetheless, it can also present a number of challenges.
There’s the challenge of getting them to read in the first place, and secondly, should you be successful with challenge number one, there’s the further challenge of keeping up an adequate supply of new books for a veracious reader. It’s no mean feat keeping my 12-year-old’s shelves filled with new and exciting books – he reads so fast!
Sally Harris’ Diary of a Penguin-Napper is a fantastic help in meeting both these challenges…
When 11 (and a half) year old Marty is partnered up with Jessica on the overnight science trip, he thinks all of this dreams are about to come true. It’s his big chance to impress the most beautiful girl in Year 7 (and probably the world) and he wouldn’t miss it for anything.
Only problem is: Marty can’t afford to go on the overnight trip. Yet.
Inspired by the urban myth that it is possible to steal a penguin from the zoo on a school visit, Diary of a Penguin-napper is a hilarious tale of growing up, bending the rules and how one big fuss can be caused by stealing just one little penguin.
It’s light, funny, illustrated and cheeky enough to engage any kid from start to finish. It’s light-heartenedness and mischievous characters and storyline makes it a great pick for a reluctant reader, as does the diary-style interludes which break up the text nicely, making it less daunting for newer readers. Our hero, Marty is in high school, in love and in trouble. He’d try just about anything to be able to afford to pay for the overnight excursion coming up at school, especially as it’ll give him a chance for some quality time with his major crush, girlfriend-to-be (he hopes!) Jessica…
“… To be honest, I’m feeling a bit dubious about the whole thing. Rather than make me look older, I think the outfit makes me look like a kid wearing a slightly-too-large horrible seventies suit. I wish I had some facial hair to make me look more grown up. I have even tried to cover up some of my larger pimples with some of Jen’s make-up and now my face looks about as orange as my shirt.”
One think leads to another and hilarity ensues, complete with a delightful combination of police (and parental) interrogation, tinned tuna and penguin poo.
Diary of a Penguin-Napper would suit well a wide range of readers, both boys and girls and children between about 8 and 11-years-old. It’s similar in style to favourites such as Diary of a Wimpy Kid and books by Andy Griffith and you’ll have no trouble keeping the kids engaged in this fast-paced and fun-filled story. What a great way to help get kids reading!
I was very fortunate to have a chance to have a chat with the author Sally Harris…
You’ve been writing since you were a little kid – what first drew you to story-telling?
I think the thing that first attracted me to story-telling was that you could make things up and you wouldn’t get in trouble for it. In fact, creativity was encouraged! Mum always gave my sister and I lots of opportunities for imaginative play as children and I think this carried over into my writing and into many other facets of life. Now, as an adult, I find that when faced with a problem, sometimes I come up with the most elaborate and creative solution, when really there is actually a much more straightforward option available!
Also, I think that it helps that I’ve I never really stopped writing, since I first learned how. Some people finished high school and were so pleased that they would never have to pick up a pen to be creative again. I kept journaling and, more recently, blogging, as well as creative writing, and I think that has meant that I’ve never lost the skill or the imagination for it.
What are your favourite authors – kids and adults novels?
Have you got all day? One of the difficulties I have as a writer is that I tend to write in the style of whatever book I am reading at the time. I’m like a chameleon! So, I’ve worked out that when I’m working on a new story, it works best if I’m reading books by authors like Roald Dahl, David Walliams and Andy Griffiths. I also enjoy Cathy Cassidy, Jacqueline Wilson and Enid Blyton (although the list could go on forever!) When I take time out to read adult novels, I love reading Maeve Binchy and Lisa Jewell, who are really wonderful storytellers and craft such real characters, and I try to get through a couple of classics a year too. There are just so many great books out there and just not nearly enough time!
What do you hope kids will like most about ‘Diary of a Penguin-Napper’?
I really hope that the story will make kids laugh. As a teacher and in my current role as a library teacher, I know that kids (and adults) love humorous stories and they love to be entertained. When I wrote ‘Diary of a Penguin-napper’, I really had reluctant readers in mind. Those kids who are just not into reading, but who might get interested in books if they knew just how funny they could be. I really wanted my book to be a title that teachers could give those children and say “Try this. If you don’t enjoy it I’ll be surprised!”
If you had the chance, would you abscond with a penguin?
Well, if my extensive research for this book has taught me anything, it is that Little Penguins look pretty cute, small and adorable, but that they have sharp beaks. The keepers that work with them need to be careful or wear gloves, otherwise they can get pretty good nicks on their hands because of that. I think if I was going to steal an animal from the zoo, I’d go with something bigger and more impressive if you pulled it off. Like an elephant or giraffe, perhaps?
What’s next on the cards? Will we hear more from Marty?
There is a second story about Marty currently on the cards and, of course, the characters of Fat, Skinny and Turds will also make an appearance. I’m also working on some short stories and other bits and pieces, so at this stage, I don’t know which project will be finished first! The school holidays are coming up, so I find that to be a good chance to knuckle down and get writing.
Diary of a Penguin-napper is currently available as a paperback from the TBYL Store. You can also find it on Amazon as a paperback and for Kindle. It is also flying off the shelves (or should that be waddling?) in a range of e-book formats from Smashwords.
Win a copy!
We hear at TBYL are pleased to be able to offer a copy of Diary of a Penguin-napper to one lucky reader!
All you need to do is email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line PENGUIN-NAPPER and tell us which animal you would steal from the zoo if you could. Don’t forget to include your postal address in your email.
I’ll draw a winner at random on Monday 26 November 2012. I can’t wait to hear your ideas!
Finally, as part of her blog tour, Sally will be chatting with Alison Wells over at Head Above Water tomorrow. You can find out more about Sally and her book at http://www.frankly-books.com or by following her on Twitter @frankybooks.
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