We are delighted to reveal the stunning cover for our forthcoming title, Pamela Rushby’s The Secret Battle, a fabulous middle-grade historical novel set in Brisbane in 1942. The cover is designed by Authors’ Elves. Isn’t it stunning!
The book will be published on October 4th.
Here’s a bit about the story:
Nine-year-old city newspaper seller Roddy becomes involved in the infamous Battle of Brisbane in 1942, when American and Australian servicemen fought against each other, rioting in the streets of the city for two days.
When Roddy helps an American serviceman who’s been involved in the fighting, he never expects that the battle will become covered up – a wartime secret. Never to be reported in the newspapers he sells. Or that his actions will result in a new life for him after the war – all the way to the USA.
A fast-moving historical novel for middle-grade readers by multi-award-winning author Pamela Rushby.
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...
We are delighted to announce that today is the official publication day for Charlie Chaplin: The Usual Suspect! Written and illustrated by the dynamic mother-daughter duo who create books under the joint pen-name of Phoebe McArthur, it’s an exciting middle-grade mystery set in a picturesque Australian country town, and features a bright, spirited heroine in the Nancy Drew/Trixie Belden mould, but with a very contemporary twist. And it’s enhanced by fantastic, atmospheric black and white illustrations.
Congratulations to the talented Phoebe McArthur duo–we are delighted to be publishing this fabulous book! And we hope lots of readers will love it as much as we do.
Next Monday will see the official release of the new Eagle Books title, Charlie Chaplin: The Usual Suspect, a gripping contemporary mystery set in the picturesque country town of Gulgong in central west NSW. And today, as we wait for the big day, author Phoebe McArthur tells us something about how the book came to be, the influences on the story, and the research that had to be done…Enjoy!
Writing Charlie Chaplin: The Usual Suspect
So, Phoebe McArthur is the nom-de-plume for a mother-daughter writing team. Generally one of us writes the initial draft of the story and then sends it to the other one for editing/adding/rewriting. In the case of Charlie Chaplin: The Usual Suspect, the daughter (me) of the team, wrote the story and the mother (hereafter known as ‘Mum’) was the one doing the edits and additions. Whenever we’ve got a completed manuscript we can’t tell who wrote what!
I can’t remember if I started with Nancy Drew or The Famous Five, but I’ve always loved mystery stories. Recently, I came across one that I’d started writing when I was about 8. It’s very embarrassing and the punctuation is atrocious.
A little while ago, I was given inside information that a publisher was after a ‘Trixie Belden’ style middle-grade novel. Yay! This was right up my alley! Originally, with Charlie (whose name was Meg for the first few drafts) was moving into a tiny house with her mother. It changed to an old post office when I realised that so many of Australia’s original post offices were now something else.
After a meeting with the publisher (who was encouragingly excited) I headed off to Gulgong to check out the Pioneers’ Museum (her suggestion). And yes, it was perfect! I took a lot of photos, which ended up being perfect for Mum to use as the basis for her illustrations, ate a LOT of food and didn’t write a single word. However, plot was bubbling away in my mind.
I grew up in Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. It is rumoured that there are tunnels under the main street between one of the pubs, the big hotel and the bank. Apparently these were for visiting royalty to be able to move around and not be bombarded by the masses. While in Gulgong, I almost fell down a hole in the main street. It turns out that it is used to deliver barrels of beer to the pub. How boring! So, for the story that hole became an entry point to a labyrinth of secret tunnels that run under the town of Gulgong. To the best of my knowledge this is something I’ve made up, but I’d love it to be true! Almost all the Famous Five stories have secret passages and tunnels, so I simply had to add them into Charlie Chaplin.
I also have a memory of Mum telling me that we’re secretly descendants of Queen Victoria. Something about one of her sons and a maid and someone being sent out to Australia to avoid a scandal. How true that (or my memory) is, I have no idea, but it made its way into the book, nonetheless.
One thing I was determined not to have in the book was romance. One thing that I love about Enid Blyton mysteries is the lack of mushy stuff that gets in the way of solving the mystery. I get very annoyed when the main characters get distracted by their feelings and end up in a lot more trouble because of it. I put up with it in the Nancy Drew books, because (most of the time!) the romantic aspects didn’t encroach on the overall storyline, whereas in the Trixie Belden books I found it to be forced. Thankfully Mum fully agreed with that decision and we now have a book that we are very proud of!
We are working on our next few projects together — concurrently, of course! Life isn’t as fun if it’s not as full and busy as humanly possible!
In the first part of The Phantasmic Detective Agency, shadow puppets play a big part in the action. And we’ve put together a fun creative activity to enable readers to make their own shadow-puppets and their plays. These can be either cut-out shapes on sticks or using your hands to make the shapes.
You can write simple plays using twisted versions of fables or fairytales (as Uncle Alfred did!) or create your own wild adventure—your imagination is the limit. (Just watch out for Shadow Wolf! 😊)
How a book came to be is always an interesting subject, and in the case of The Phantasmic Detective Agency, those inspirations and influences were from a variety of richly creative sources. Here’s a piece Julian wrote for us, for the Teachers’ Notes of the book, which reveals the moment when the idea for the story came into view.
Over several years I wrote a series of spooky, supernatural short stories for young readers including ‘Shadow Wolf’ (about a wolf who escapes a shadow-puppet play to hunt down the good citizens of Edwardian London) and ‘The Man Who Didn’t Like Getting Wet’ (about a man who is granted a wish by a water-fairy with terrible unexpected results). I also worked on the lyrics and story for a musical play based on the well-known Jewish legend of the Golem.
All these ideas came together in a most surprising way when I was rereading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes detective stories. I imagined a casebook of mysteries for a Holmes-like detective hired to solve crimes involving the supernatural: ghosts, werewolves, faeries. He would stand astride the Old World of superstition, magic and folk wisdom (that feared but respected the mysteries of Nature) and the New World of science and technology (that laid bare the secrets of Nature while taming it to humanity’s control and use).
The setting of Edwardian London seemed perfect for such a story; ever since the mid-Victorian period the pace of technological change and invention (electric lighting, telephones, cameras and cinema, iron ships, aeroplanes) had sped up rapidly. This gave me the idea of two brothers – Alfred, the spirit-detective and Edmund, the stage magician – one performing magic for entertainment, the other for crime-solving. The main characters would be Edmund’s children, Leopold and Lily, who dream of being modern-day heroes, a pilot and a detective respectively.
I enjoyed researching this book from many sources but particularly photos. Images of London were found in Getty Images 1910s: Decades of the 20th Century and Edwardian London by Felix Barker. Several locations in Paris were drawn from the beautiful images of photographer Eugene Atget (1857-1927): the windows of Madame Fernier’s children’s clothing store in Chapter 12; Le Cour de Dragon where our heroes enter the catacombs; Le Pain Agile theatre (Chapter 15) based on the Cabaret de L’Enfer, boulevard de Clichy.
You can find the full Teachers’ Notes, which include some fascinating information on the historical and folklore background of the book, as well as discussion, research and creative activities, at the Teachers’ Notes page of this website, or at the United Publishers of Armidale website, here.
Eagle Books is very pleased to say that our upcoming(May) title, The Phantasmic Detective Agency, Julian Leatherdale’s wonderful historical fantasy adventure novel for middle-grade readers, is one of the Featured Books for the newly-launched United Publishers of Armidale website.
We are delighted to reveal the stunning cover for Julian Leatherdale’s wonderful historical fantasy adventure novel, The Phantasmic Detective Agency. Isn’t it a beauty!
The book will be released in May. Here’s the blurb:
London, Christmas Eve, 1911: the world is changing fast: giant warships, aeroplanes with bombs, spies and assassins, fear of war with Germany. And the cosy lives of teenagers Lily and Leo Keeler, who long for adventure, are about to be torn apart by secrets, espionage and monstrous creatures. When a shadow-puppet play unexpectedly releases the hungry spectre of Shadow Wolf, Lily and Leo get more adventure than they ever bargained for, as they battle the threat with their uncle Alfred, a brilliant, notorious Sherlock Holmes- like paranormal detective.
But that proves to be only the first mystery in a conspiracy that threatens the whole Keeler family, as Lily and Leo’s stage magician parents vanish for real in the middle of their latest spectacular magic act. From the Royal Naval dockyards of Plymouth to the bone-stacked catacombs of Paris, Lily and Leo and their uncle must confront eerie creatures and spine-tingling danger as they are chased by a ruthless spy-ring determined to harness the dark forces of Magick as weapons of war…
The Phantasmic Detective Agency is a gripping, original fantasy adventure novel for readers 10+.
With bucketloads of colourful history, all the magic of the theatre and excitement galore, The Phantasmic Detective Agency is a cavalcade of imaginative steampunk delight! (Michael Pryor)
On Saturday November 30 , 4pm-6pm, our latest title, Jenny Blackford’s fabulous The Girl in the Mirror, will be officially launched at MacLean’s Booksellers in Hamilton, Newcastle, NSW. The book will be launched by celebrated Newcastle-based illustrator Liz Anelli, and Jenny of course will be in attendance to sign copies of the book. All welcome!
This is a free event but you should register your interest in attending here.
Jenny Blackford, author of The Girl in the Mirror, is showcased on the popular Kids’ Book Review regular feature, 12 Curly Questions.
To find out how Jenny answers such curly questions as what book character would you like to be, and if you could time travel, what year would you go to, check out her interview on Kids’ Book Review here.