Ele Fountain on Storm Child and writing environmental books for kids

Storm Child by Ele Fountain. Book cover and author photo.

We are huge fans of Ele Fountain. Her books combine epic storytelling, incredible landscapes and thrilling adventure with characters young readers can really relate to and important messages about the world we live in. Storm Child is no exception. It's a gripping heart-warming adventure, perfect for kids aged 8+. Young readers will be thrilled and deeply moved by this oceanic adventure with an important message at its heart. Ahead of the book's publication this Thursday, Ele tells all about being inspired by our incredible oceans.


The idea for this story grew from a hermit crab. Unusual, you might think, but then stories often begin with the unexpected.

The crab in question lived on a beach in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Hermit crabs have soft shells because they are actually not crabs at all. They are molluscs, like snails. To avoid being snacked on by predators, they scavenge shells from other molluscs. Clever. Only my crab wasn’t living in a scavenged shell. It was living in the broken end of a plastic bottle.

The beach had white sand, palm trees and turquoise water. It was paradise. But when I looked more closely, I saw that rubbish littered the shoreline. This rubbish was flotsam – meaning it hadn’t been dropped there, it had washed up from the sea.

It reminded me of a story from years earlier, about a shipping container lost in a storm off the Cornish coast. The container had been full of Lego. The Lego had a nautical theme, and soon tiny cutlasses, flippers, spears and scuba gear began to appear on beaches. At the time, I thought it was funny.

But there is another side to both stories. Twenty-five years after the storm, Lego from the container is still appearing on beaches. Some of it was actually discovered halfway around the world in Australia.

Plastic doesn’t go away. It chokes seas and animals and ends up in our food and water.

It also found its way into Storm Child.

I write adventures stories, and at the heart of each adventure lies a subject that has shocked or moved me in some way.

Some of my earliest memories are of the Cornish coastline where I spent every summer. I loved the wild beaches and clifftops, but most of all I loved the sea.

Our oceans are so vast that they are mostly unknown. The largest wilderness on planet Earth, home to starfish and killer whales, giant squid and dolphins. They can be calm and tranquil or fierce and deadly and it shocked me that something so amazing could be changed for ever by humans.

Oceans also happen to be the most brilliant setting for an adventure.

Maya, the main character in Storm Child, grew up by the sea. She’s a talented surfer and spends most of her time at the beach with her friends. Her Dad is a fisherman and her family home is perched on top of windswept cliffs, above one of the finest surfing coves for miles around. She can spot the perfect wave and knows how to make the best beach bonfires. But when her father loses his fishing boat in a terrible storm, Maya’s life capsizes too.

With no money and no boat, her parents decide to make a new life – in paradise. They choose a tropical island that looks just like ones Maya has seen in films. But when she arrives, the beaches and surfing aren’t what she expected. Nor is her new friend. Maya doesn’t realise it, but she’s drifting into the heart of a storm that threatens to tear her family apart…

I loved writing Storm Child. It gave me an opportunity to research some weird and wonderful things: ghost nets and wind speeds, surfing tricks and coconut cakes. I learnt about the different stages of hypothermia, ocean currents and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch: an area of plastic rubbish the size of Mexico – yes, Mexico – floating in the Pacific Ocean. It’s so vast, you can see it from space.

But often, while sat at my desk working on Storm Child, I daydreamed about the sea (daydreaming is an important part of writing books) and how lucky we are to live on an island where the furthest point from the coast is just over 100km. There’s a part of northwest China that is almost 3000km from the sea.

I also realised that one of my favourite series of books, The Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper, began on the Cornish coast. I’d never made that connection before. I still have my original copies – although they look as though they might have been dropped in the ocean a few times.

Storm Child is available to order now!


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