Getting Serious about Series – Pup Patrol

As a grown-up reader, I’d be hard put to name a story that I doted on as a ‘kid reader’ that wasn’t part of a book series, Trixie Belden being a prime example – I still have 34 surviving cPup Patrol Bush Rescueopies in my collection!

Ask any Gen Z child what they are currently reading and chances are it is from a collection of books that embody one or two central characters whose stories kids simply cannot get enough of, as well.

Just why are series so popular with readers? Is it the connected storylines, the comforting continuity of style, the evocative evolution of much loved (and despised) characters, a reassuring sense of familiarity or simply the delicious feeling of never-ending expectations that kids (and adults) find so utterly addictive?

In this new ‘series’ of feature posts I’ll endeavour to answer these questions and more as we shed light on a veritable library of new series written just for kids. Some are brave and exciting, admirably rating high amongst the classics of J K Rowling, Mary Norton, Lewis Carroll, Louisa May Alcott, E. Nesbit, and Beatrix Potter. Others fulfil a more contemporary role, providing eager young readers with easily digestible, fun and furiously paced storylines well suited to wandering attention spans.

We start our serious look at series with such a collection – Pup Patrol.

Here is the Verdict – of a nine-year-old connoisseur.Pup Patrol Storm Rescue

Who wrote it?

Sally and Darrel Odgers.

Are there any pictures?

Yes, really good line drawings on nearly every second page by Janine Dawson. I like them because they help make the characters more real and I like pictures in my books.

What is Pup Patrol about?

Pup Patrol StampA really cute Border collie pup, a black and white one, called Stamp. (Barnaby Station Stamp of Approval to be precise) and his friend, Ace and all the adventures they have together.

Who are the main characters?

James, Stamp, and Ace. Ace is a cross-bred little dog who can be a bit naughty and nasty sometimes. Stamp is the collie and James is the human. Each story has other different animals and humans in them too.

What did you like most about these stories / books?

That they are about border collies and border collies are my favourite (dog) animal. I love how Stamp is a collie. It is like I can relate to him because I have a collie too. (The release of these books happily coincided with the acquisition of our own Border collie pup, hence the slight obsessive tendency towards canines of this breed.) Plus easy to read short chapters.

Which title in this series is your favourite so far?

Pup Patrol Farm RescueFarm Rescue because more collies are involved in the story.

What makes these stories stand out or different from other book series?

They are told from the dog’s point of view. This makes them really interesting and funny.

Who would you recommend this series to?

Anyone (boys and girls) who like adventures in different settings because these stories are exciting. People who like collies should read these books too!

I have to agree. Each Pup Patrol instalment focuses on some exciting aspect and challenge of our Australian landscape and the characters that people it all from a four-legged perspective. I first regarded the end-of-chapter glossaries as a little annoying, feeling they pulled me up and out of the action but on reflection and Pup Patrol Outback Rescueobservation of Miss 9, these proved a sly, fun way of incorporating and clarifying the meanings of new words and terminology without loading the narrative with too much heavy exposition. Crafty and creative.

Early primary-aged readers and fans of animal antics will love this action packed chapter book series including Farm Rescue, Bush Rescue, Storm Rescue, and Outback Rescue – new this month.

Jack Russle Dog DetectiveFor addicts of animals and a penchant for pooches, look no further than these other brilliant series by the Odgers team: Pet Vet and the Jack Russel Dog Detective series.Pet Vet Kitten







Scholastic Press March 2015


Doodles and Drafts – Under the magnifying glass with R. A. Spratt

rachel sprattR. A. Spratt and I share a dubious childhood secret. We were both mad for Trixie Belden. I’m busting another secret; there’s a new super-youth-sleuth in town and she goes by the name of Friday Barnes. And now, I’m going a bit mad for her.

Friday Barnes Under SuspicianSpratt’s latest series of detective stories exploded onto the shelves of this generation’s mystery-hungry youth last July with, Friday Barnes Girl Detective. Friday continues to dazzle, in her trademark non-conspicuous way in the second of the series, Under Suspicion, released last month.

Friday Barnes is a complex high thinking, self-assured, crime-solving obsessed eleven-year-old whose powers of observation and logic are nothing short of mind blogging.

She assumes an almost orphan-like persona hailing from a large family of over-achieving scientists, but does not allow her intellectual lineage to hinder her career ambitions; to become an ace detective.

I adore the winning marriage of tongue-in-cheek comedy with surprise packed, interlinking mini mysteries. Spratt never shies away from using occasional highbrow language and concepts; instead, she flatters the reading prowess of her tween / teen audience and rewards them with intelligent character driven dialogue and seriously funny storylines.

You need not be a girl, a Trixie Belden nut, or even a ten-year-old to enjoy these books. I can’t wait to read the next one, Big Trouble. Friday Barnes has everything; snooty boarding school bullies, romance, crime and more intriguing characters and plot twists than you can focus a magnifying glass on.

Today I uncover some scintillating snippets about the award-winning author and comedy writer behind the Girl Detective, R. A. Spratt.

Welcome to the draft table R. A.Who is R. A. Spratt? Describe your writerly self.

I am the author of the ‘Friday Barnes’ and ‘Nanny Piggins’ series. I’m pretty much the cliché of what you would imagine an author to be like. I’m scruffy, I don’t get out much, I’m forgetful, and I spend a lot of time scowling at the floor while my brain is lost in thought. I can also get suddenly very enthusiastic about an idea and I use lots of dramatic hand gestures when I talk.

Tell us one thing about yourself we are not likely to find on a web site.

I don’t like wearing proper shoes. I’m more comfortable in ugg boots or crocs. Sometimes when I do school visits and I have to wear proper grown-up shoes, my feet get all claustrophobic and I can’t bear it, so I have to ask the audience if it’s alright if I take my shoes off.

What’s the most appealing aspect of writing for kids for you?

I can be sillier. I don’t have to deal with ‘adult themes’ most of which are horrible (violent) or icky (involve kissing, or worse).

Your work is filled with hilarious one-liners and sassy word play. How important is it for you to include comedy in your writing? Does it come naturally or is it something you consciously strive hard to achieve?

It’s not something I think about much. It’s just the way my brain works. I would certainly hate to write a serious book, or one of those heart-breakingly tragic ones. There is enough seriousness and heartbreak in real life. I like to focus on more important things – making readers giggle.

Friday BarnesWith her intellectual wit and dysfunctional academia background, Friday Barnes is an 11-year-old to be reckoned with. What was your motivation for creating such a memorable, vividly unique sleuthing character?

Friday is influenced by a lot of different fictional characters and real life people. I went to a selective high school and when I was eleven I knew a lot of super-bright dysfunctional eleven year olds.

I love the cliffhanger endings in each book. How do you conjure up so many complex mysteries and determine how they will fit into each book? Do you ever lose track and wish Friday was there to help you?

I get a sheet of cardboard, lay it on the coffee table in my office and draw a circle to represent the arc of the entire book. Next I draw a line across the top quarter to represent the act breaks, and then I start filling in plot points. I will often have a lot of plot points already worked out and written down on post-it notes. So the circle gets filled in with hand written notes and post-its until the whole sheet of cardboard is a dense mass of spidery hand writing. I don’t lose track of things but as the plot evolves, there are a lot of red herrings and clues that get woven through during the editing process. It can get complicated, especially if I cut a chapter out, I have to make sure that any clues or red herrings in that chapter are put in somewhere else.

Are we likely to see Friday remain at Highcrest Academy and progress to even higher realms of detective distinction in the same way Harry Potter grew and matured with his readers?

I’m not sure. I’m thinking she will go up into year 8 at the beginning of the 5th book, if there is a fifth book. I’ve got a lot of ideas for books 4 and 5 I guess we’ll have to wait and see how things pan out. Often times the characters seem to decide these things for themselves while you’re writing.Nancy Piggins

What’s on the draft table for R. A. Spratt?

I start writing Friday Barnes 4 next week. I’m finishing up writing a spec film script based on ‘The Adventures of Nanny Piggins’.

Just for fun question (there’s always one), if you were 11 again and had a choice of which school (fictional or otherwise) you could attend, where would you go and why?

I did not enjoy high school much at all. I’d rather not go back there. So if I were eleven again, I’d like to go right back in time to 1895 and be educated by a governess. Specifically Miss Prism, the governess from ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’. She was a silly woman who napped a lot and enjoyed romance novels. So she was much like me.

Thanks R. A. It’s been fun discovering you.

Dozens of lucky Queensland children will get a chance to meet Friday’s creator this month when she appears at one of SE Queensland’s biggest school literary festivals, the Somerset Celebration of Literature Festival. Be sure to bring along your silly sleuthing hats.

Random House Australia 2014 and 2015


10 Things you (wished you) didn’t know about Dimity Powell – Children’s author

Welcome to my first post at Boomerang Books.  I would be lying if I didn’t admit my hands are trembling just a little. Taking hold of the reins that my colleague and dear friend Tania McCartney used to steer her posts so aptly and smoothly with for the past year or so, is by no means an easy feat. My heartfelt thanks and best wishes to you Tania!

So who is Dimity S Powell? DSP? Well, I’m often accused of my Debatable Sensory Perception on life; that is to say, the description ~ dim but nice ~ suits my persona well. But is there more to being Dim? You’re about to find out…

1.       The first short story I ever submitted was accepted by the School Magazine in NSW. It gave me immense hope and slightly unreal expectations.

2.       I once had a close encounter of the lost-in-a-triangular-kind-of way off the island of Bermuda whilst crossing the Atlantic, in a vintage Camper and Nicholson motor yacht. Fortunately, I was not transported off this planet, at least I don’t remember if I was.

3.       I used to play the flute – well. Now I just polish it – a lot. It’s shinier than some of my manuscripts.

4.       My first epiphany was at six years of age. I was standing in the girls’ toilets of my new primary school when I realised all of my friends were books. But this didn’t faze me in the slightest. I had the most profound thought: through books one could acquire anything, go anywhere and learn absolutely everything. It was a powerful realisation, and a conviction that I still carry today.

5.       At some point in my life, hanging one load of nappies (yes I used cloth ones) on the line was considered a herculean achievement. Now if I’m not juggling at least 15 balls, with my left toes whilst in an inverted yoga position, it’s just not a normal day.

6.       I considered living in Istanbul, twice, but never learnt to count over 1000 in Turkish. The cost of a loaf of bread would inflate a thousand Lira every three days. That’s ridiculously more fingers than I had to count with.

7.       I got wrinkly in a spa of George Harrison’s one time, but have never met him face to face.

8.       I read every Trixie Beldon mystery novel as a kid but have never ever felt the need to ‘solve’ anything; especially mathematical equations.

9.       I’ve eaten sea cucumber and alligator. Neither tasted like chicken. Both are infinitely more palatable than black boned chicken.

10.   I am a children’s author because I write for kids. I write for kids simply because it is so much fun.

I look forward to sharing my passion of all things Kids’ Lit with you in the weeks to come. Please excuse me though for a small while; my sleigh is about to depart and I’m due on board for the launch of my new Christmas kids’ novel, PS Who Stole Santa’s Mail? Keep an eye out for me as I soar by.