This month we sent our Parakeet subscribers a cracking adventure/mystery story by Anne Miller, who as well as writing children’s books also happens to be a scriptwriter and researcher for QI. We love a good puzzle, so the codebreaking in Mickey and the Animal Spies went down a treat at Parrot Street HQ. Here Anne tells us all about the book and recommends some of her own favourite detective books for kids.
What inspired you to write Mickey and the Animal Spies?
Mickey and the Animal Spies is a combination of three of my great loves – animals, spy stories and puzzles. I’d love to be part of a secret group of animal spies but since that hasn’t happened in real life (yet) I’ve been having a lot of fun imagining what it might be like! In the UK there is also a real life emergency government committee called COBRA which is very secret so I wondered what it would be like if the reason it’s so secret is because it’s actually run by a cobra who is helped by other animals. You can imagine they would keep that rather quiet…
Why did you decide to write about codebreaking?
Much like Mickey I’ve always loved puzzles and I really love books which take you on an adventure but also give you some information that is useful in the real world. I remember first learning how to speak Pig Latin from a Babysitters’ Club book and about how to use leaves to send messages in Nancy Drew. I wanted to write a series which had puzzles woven through it so that readers could solve along and sharpen their code cracking skills. Mickey loves to use her brain and the COBRA team really celebrate that in her.
Who is your favourite animal character in the book and why?
Clarke the cat! I love cats and like Clarke they tend to enjoy life very much on their own terms. Clarke says exactly what he thinks and even though he is much blunter than I would ever be in real life I think he’s secretly a softie underneath – when he isn’t preoccupied with his important cat business.
Is there someone you admire as much as Mickey admires Hildegarde McTavish?
Definitely! I’m a big fan of Jennifer Lee’s – she wrote the script for the film Frozen as well as directing the movie, and then she did the same for Frozen 2 while also being the Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios!
Do you have a favourite place to write?
I spend quite a lot of time on the train between London and Scotland and I love to write there while looking out the window at the countryside speeding past the windows (and the coastline if I’m lucky enough to get a seat on that side of the carriage!)
Why did you choose to write books for children?
I’ve always loved to read but while I’ve really enjoyed lots of books as an adult the ones I fiercely love and would carry out of a burning building first are the ones I originally read as a child. I think there is a special kind of magic about them that can last a lifetime.
What was your favourite book as a child?
I really love Noel Streatfeild’s Ballet Shoes and think I’ve reread that more than any other book. I also loved (and still love) Anne of Green Gables, the Famous Five series, the Animal Ark vet books, the Demon Headmaster and I had a series called Internet Detectives about kids who solved mysteries over the internet but this was back in the 1990s (before broadband!) so I reckon they’d be even faster now!
What other spy or detective books for kids would you recommend to our subscribers?
Sarah Todd Taylor’s Max the Detective Cat, Annabelle Sami’s Agent Zaiba Investigates, Serena Patel’s Anisha the Accidental Detective and anything by Katherine Woodfine or Robin Stevens.
Like the sound of Mickey and the Animal Spies? We have a limited number of copies of the book plus our fun-filled activity pack available to purchase here.