Anna Rainbow on Diamond Jack: Your Magic or Your Life and adventure books for kids

Diamond Jack: Your Magic or Your Life by Anna Rainbow. Book cover and author photo.
Our Cockatoo subscribers are in for such a treat this month with Diamond Jack: Your Magic or Your Life by Anna Rainbow. It's a thrilling, magical adventure with a classic feel and loads of contemporary relevance. We love the brilliant cast of characters (villains and heroes, human and animal!) and there's a great twist that kept us on our toes. Here Anna tells us about being inspired by her young son, researching turnspit dogs, and her favourite adventure books for kids.

What inspired you to write Diamond Jack: Your Magic or Your Life?

A few years back, my son was obsessed with Highwaymen. His favourite book was The Highway Rat by Julia Donaldson, and his favourite cartoon was Disney's Robin Hood. He used to dress up in the tricorn hat from his pirate's costume, a sparkly party mask, and grab his nerf gun, then he'd jump out from behind doors and shout, 'Stand and Deliver!' So I wanted to write a book that he'd enjoy when he was a little older, one with Highwaymen in. And of course, I had to add a dash of magic, because magic makes everything better.

Are any of the characters based on real historical figures?

The character Diamond Jack isn't based on anyone in particular, but was influenced by famous highwaymen like Dick Turpin. He's also influenced by Robin Hood, and the idea of 'good' Highwaymen, who rob from the rich to give to the poor, although there's no solid evidence that Robin Hood existed in anything other than legend.

What research did you do for the book and did you learn anything that surprised you?

I did some online research and read a couple of books about Highwaymen. I learnt about fashions, weapons, taverns, carriages and horses. I hadn't realised most rich people wore white wigs, including the men, or that Highwaymen always attacked carriages as they travelled up hill, because that was when the carriage slowed down. My biggest discovery was about turnspit dogs: little dogs made to run on giant hamster wheels that turn a spit over a fire, allowing dinner to roast perfectly. It made me chuckle so much that I had to feature a turnspit dog as a character.

Which character was the most fun to write and why?

Ernest. He's just so enthusiastic and positive, but also really quite resourceful. We could all do with someone like Ernest as a friend.

What do you think is the most important lesson Bram learns?

That sometimes we have to pretend to be something until it comes naturally. So Bram pretends to be brave by pretending to be Diamond Jack, and soon, she realises she is brave. We all wear masks sometimes, and that's OK. Also, I think she learns that it's OK to feel sad and miss her parents, and that sadness is a natural part of life and can exist alongside joy and love.

Can you tell us anything about what the future holds for Bram and the Brigands?

Honestly, I don't know. I'd love there to be a sequel, but so far there isn't a solid plan. 

Why did you choose to write books for this age group?

I love writing for this age group because I enjoy writing silly and funny scenes. I also think children are very wise and understand a lot more than some grown ups give them credit for, so authors can touch on some quite difficult themes like loss and grief. I also loved reading as a child, and I love to be able to give that gift to other children. 

Which other adventure books for kids would you recommend our subscribers read next?

I'm a huge Amy Wilson fan - Snowglobe is my favourite of hers. I also love the Who Let the Gods Out series by Maz Evans, and The Apprentice Witch books by James Nicol. They're all full of adventure and magic, which are two of my favourite things.

Copies of our Diamond Jack: Your Magic or Your Life pack, including a copy of the book and loads of fun activities to go with it, are now available for individual purchase. Grab a copy while stocks last!

This post includes affiliate links to our page, meaning we receive a small percentage of the sale should you purchase through them. Additionally, a percentage from all sales on the platform goes directly to local UK bookshops which is an initiative we're delighted to support!


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