Whatever you’re planning to do this summer, if you’ve got a book you can go anywhere. Here’s a downloadable list of destinations 6-11 year-olds can escape to. The chances are, these are places young readers won’t have seen before as every book on the list comes from a 2022 debut children’s author.
Let me know how far you travel by sending pics of the books you’re reading to me (@MissDePlume) on Instagram or Twitter with the #Reading Adventure.
If you enjoyed your travels this summer (or if you go on the adventure with your class) why not write a postcard, inviting others to join you? This PDF includes template postcards for all 16 books on the adventure.
When you’re visiting a new place, it’s good to have a guide. You can meet them all on Twitter. Here’s my unrolled thread where I introduce them all.
Ready to go on a #ReadingAdventure this summer?
Here are some cracking destinations 6-10 year-olds can visit in the pages of books.
I’ll unroll this thread + include a downloadable list on my website today. But first, let’s meet your tour guides… #ShareStuffSunday 🧵
If you ever find a boat to Crabby Island, @LetLucyB will show you around. (And if you love LEONORA BOLT: SECRET INVENTOR so much you don’t want to go home, Lucy might even take you on a second journey – pack a snorkel just in case.) #ReadingAdventure
You don’t need to know what the schnozzdongle does to enjoy the word immensely (although if you read the book, you’ll certainly find out). I giggled every time it appeared. And that was definitely a tip I took away: if you know a an object’s going to crop up a lot in your story, give it a good name so it’s delighting, not boring.
It also got me thinking about Richard Wiseman’s research with the Laugh Lab to find the world’s funniest joke. It was the first time I’d read about the ‘comedy k’ sound (Hard ‘c’ or ‘k’ sounds are supposedly the funniest of them all). I reckon one easy way to tell if the words you’ve chosen are funny is to try them on Word’s ‘read aloud’ tool. If they sound daft in a dull robot voice, you’re probably onto a winner.
2. Funny places
When I’m writing, I normally struggle moving characters from one place to another. (And whenever I can, I cheat, and jump locations between chapters.) But in Happytown Must Be Destroyed, James has made a comedic feature out of moving through the setting of Owt.
The daft place names that pop up throughout the book made me chuckle almost as much as the Snozzdongle. Because they so beautifully mirror the way locals talk about their home towns, they also made the story of alien invasion seem so much more believable. It was a really clever way of getting me to buy into the setting. It also reminded me that little details can make a big difference to a story. You don’t need to describe every inch of your world. In this case, cracking local dialect brings the whole thing to life.
3. Existential musings on the nature of happiness
Yes, this book is packed with gags galore, but there’s a big message about what it means to be happy running through the story, too. Is jumping around in a yellow tracksuit looking happy, the same as actual happiness? Spoiler: probably not.
I love a comedy contrast and this book is full of them. We’ve got ice cream vans with guns. We’ve got Leeza, the indecisive allergy-sufferer who’s somehow been tasked with saving the town. And we’ve got the entire story: a comedy romp that genuinely makes you think about what it means to be happy. It’s yet another example that funny isn’t the opposite of serious. Amidst all the fun, there are big messages to take away … along with even bigger smiles.
Happytown Must Be Destroyed is published by Hachette Children’s Group and it’s out now.
Who doesn’t love a diary? They’re the perfect place to enjoy the comedy antics of unreliable or naive narrators. (Emer Stamp’s, The Unbelievable Top Secret Diary of Pig is another of my all-time comedy favourites for that reason.) But what’s so smart about Loki’s diary is that he’s not allowed to lie. Every time he tries, the diary ‘helpfully’ writes back with its own corrections. It’s a brilliant device. And it’s a great reminder that no matter how familiar your format, there’s always a way to twist it and make it your own.
2. It’s funny because it’s true
Find the funny in front of you
As an outsider to the modern world, Loki is the perfect observational comedian. He’s constantly questioning the absurdity in the everyday, giving us his views on everything from work, school and shopping to crisps and – my favourite – museums. Loki can’t believe how boldly museums display their stolen goods (he’s far too sneaky to make his own wrongdoings so obvious).
Loki’s insights into life cracked me up and got me thinking. Mostly, they reminded me of the GK Chesterton quote that funny doesn’t have to be the opposite of serious. Loki’s comedy definitely has a serious side.
3. It brings new life to old stories
Build on what we know
We get a few specific nods to the original Norse myths, but Louie mostly uses them as a springboard for fresh silliness. I especially enjoyed Thor (who’s on Earth as Loki’s brother to keep an eye on him) wanting to spend his weekends admiring hammers in the DIY shops.
Using things we already know (or learn in the first couple of pages) sets the stakes high from the start. Will Loki, the misbehaving trickster god, ever manage to live a virtuous life? Or will Odin punish him to an eternity in a chamber filled with snakes?
This isn’t a retelling of the myths. It’s dropping familiar characters into new settings and asking the question that gets all the best stories going: ‘What if..?’ It’s also a brilliant way to go from a blank page to a fresh, funny and completely original new story.
I was rooting for Loki from the start. I’m sure everyone else will, too.
Loki: A Bad God’s Guide to Being Good publishes with Walker Books in February 2022. Pre-order yours now. (That’s my Bookshop.org page, but I’m sure you can order it in your local indie, too.) #BeLessLoki