It's no secret that we are huge fans of author Jo Simmons. I Swapped My Brother on the Internet was one of the earliest books we sent our Cockatoo subscribers and is still one of our go-to recommendations. And just a couple of months ago we shared The Reluctant Vampire Queen with our Macaw subscribers, a rare laugh-out-loud gem in a sea of young adult fantasy! This month we are thrilled to be spreading more side-splitting fun, this time to our youngest subscribers. Our Parakeet book of the month for November is The Day My Family Disappeared, a madcap illustrated adventure packed with imagination and Jo's trademark humour. It's also extremely accessible, perfect for new and emerging readers, and stars a lead character we were rooting for from start to finish. You're going to love it! We asked Jo to tell us more about what inspired the book and her favourite funny books for younger readers.
What inspired you to write The Day My Family Disappeared?
I was interested in what it might be like for Bob, the main character, to grow up in a very creative and artistic family. He doesn’t feel he’s talented like his parents and siblings. He just feels normal, and wishes they were too. The story idea grew from there.
Are any of the characters in the book inspired by real people?
I had Ray Mears in mind when I was writing about Lofty Gills, the survival expert whose TV shows Bob loves to watch. I have watched quite a few Ray Mears shows over the years. He’s always sleeping out in the woods and foraging for edible leaves. He loves it! But other than that, no. Often the people I know do inspire my characters, but not this time.
What have your favourite TV programmes taught you?
I’ve learned a few dog training tricks from Dogs Behaving (Very) Badly, which help me keep my scruffy little mutt under control. And The Great British Bake Off has taught me that I never, ever want to make a three-tiered mousse cake with spun sugar decorations. No thanks. I’ll stick to brownies.
Is there a particular message you are hoping readers will take away from the book?
I would like readers to realise that they are all talented in their own unique way. You may not be able to juggle or make fancy cakes or sing opera like Bob’s siblings, but it doesn’t matter. Your gift is your you-ness.
Why did you choose to write books for this age group?
I have mostly written for this age group – the latter years of primary school – throughout my time as an author. I think children in this age group appreciate humour, a quirky plot and some silly scenarios. They have huge imaginations and love to laugh, so it’s great fun creating fiction for them.
What was your favourite book as a child?
What other funny books for younger readers would you recommend our subscribers read next?
All the Mr Gum books by Andy Stanton are a joy. And Winnie the Pooh, too – gorgeous, gentle humour.
Can you tell us anything about what the future holds for Bob and his family?
Definitely good things. Bob has finally found his place in his family and will be enjoying the attention and respect he deserves, after his amazing adventure to find them. I hope Bob manages to persuade his parents to let him adopt Mabel the donkey. She could live in the garden. I also picture everyone enjoying some days out together in the family minibus. Perhaps Bob could run some survival skills classes in the woods for them – how to defend yourself against geese, how to spot stalker sheep – and they will definitely visit the Green Yon Gathering again next year.
Copies of our The Day My Family Disappeared 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!
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