An interview with Jenni Spangler about The Vanishing Trick and her favourite historical books for kids

The Vanishing Trick by Jenni Spangler. Book cover and author photograph


The book we sent our Cockatoo subscribers this month is a magical adventure story with a fascinating historical setting, packed with atmosphere, drama and intrigue. We loved it! Here we quiz author Jenni Spangler on what inspired the book and which other books with historical settings she would recommend you read next.

What inspired you to write The Vanishing Trick?

It was a mixture of things - I've always been interested in early photography. I think it's really exciting that we can see the faces of people who lived nearly 200 years ago! I learned that for a while, some photographers claimed they could take pictures of ghosts, and that's what sparked the story idea.


Who is your favourite character in the book and why?

Madame Pinchbeck! I love a mean and nasty baddie. In real life, I'm a big softie, so it's great fun to write someone awful.


Why did you decide to give the book a historical setting?

I didn't plan to write a historical book; it was just what the story needed to work. I do enjoy all the research that goes into historical books, though, especially the Victorians who left a lot of books, newspapers, architecture and photographs behind them.


Do you have a favourite place to write?

I'm lucky to have my own little writing space at home, where I can decorate the walls with inspiring pictures and stick up ideas on my notice board. If I get the chance, I love to meet a friend for coffee and work together, because it's nice to have someone to discuss ideas with - I do my best work with other people.


Why did you choose to write books for children?

Because the books from my childhood, especially the ones I read between about 8 and 13 years old, are the ones which have stuck with me through the years. I wanted to make someone else feel the way those stories made me feel.


What was your favourite book as a child?

I've always liked magical things happening in the real world, so I loved Tom's Midnight Garden, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, and the Carbonel books. But I was a huge bookworm, and I don't think there were many books I didn't enjoy!


Which other books for kids with historical settings would you recommend to our subscribers?

I’m very excited about The Valley of Lost Secrets by Leslie Parr (out in January) which is a brilliant mystery set in WW2.


What object do you think would be your 'cabinet'?

My pencil case. I'm never without it in case I need to scribble down some new story ideas. 



Grab your copy of this brilliant book along with our fun-filled activity pack here.


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