Justin Davies on Haarville and adventure books for kids

Haarville by Justin Davies. Book cover and author photo.


This month our Cockatoo subscribers are heading to mysterious Haarville, a town you won't find on any map, shrouded in fog and where everything smells a bit fishy...! We love the atmospheric setting, the fantastic cast of characters and the wild adventure they take us on. And we especially love the inventive devices, known as perpetuals, and memory ships that feature in the book and which really got us thinking creatively for this month's activity pack. This one is perfect for fans of the Malamander series! We're delighted that author Justin Davies has agreed to tell us more about living and writing by the sea, the fishing villages that inspired the book and which middle grade adventures he thinks you should read next.

What inspired you to write Haarville?

I had a chance conversation once with someone who was serving me a pizza! They told me about a town in Germany that is real, although lots of people don’t think it is! Other people think they’ve heard of it, but wouldn’t be able to find it on a map; whilst some people think they maybe met someone from there once, but they’re not sure. This got me thinking about a setting for a mysterious story – who would want to live in a place that might or might not exist? I decided it would be people with secrets to hide and who don’t want to be found. I knew I had to write a story set in a place like this!

We love the atmospheric setting! Is it inspired by anywhere in?

It is! I love the fishing villages along the East Neuk of Fife, in Scotland (I live very close to this part of Fife!). I especially love it when the haar, or sea mist, rolls in from the North Sea, blanketing everything. The atmosphere changes. Sounds become swallowed by the haar; landmarks are hidden. It feels like something – anything – might happen.

If you could design your own perpetual, what would it do?

Excellent question! I’d design a device that cracks eggs without breaking the yolk. I’m always breaking the yolks and end up having scrambled eggs when what I really want is fried!

Is there a particular message you would like readers to take away from the book?

I guess it would be that you never know who you might be able to count on and that you might find friends and allies where you least expect.

What would your family’s memory ship look like and what mementos would you add to it?

I come from farming and agricultural labouring stock – not seafaring folk at all. However, generations of my husband’s family were sailors – his Papa even grew up on a three-masted ship. So my memory ship would have to be one of those – a bit like Manx’s in Haarville (top secret: it’s where I got the idea from!). I don’t have many objects handed down from my family, so I think I’d write down memories, maybe as poems, and fold them up neatly to hide away in the ship, to be opened and re-read every year.

Do you have a favourite place to write?

I live by the sea in an old and draughty house. In winter, my favourite place to write is wherever the warmest room is! This is normally the same place as my greyhound Sally, so she lies somewhere nearby dreaming of biscuits and squirrels whilst I plot my next story!

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

I love to write stories that mix humour with adventure and mystery, and where I can throw my characters right into the action and give them lots of scary problems to deal with. My stories always have an element of fantasy or the supernatural in them, which is perfect for an age group with vivid imaginations!

Which other middle grade adventure stories would you recommend our subscribers read next?

If you haven’t already discovered it, The Strangeworlds Travel Agency series by L.D. Lapinski is fabulous, magical and fantastical with great characters and multiple new worlds!

For readers who want to be on the high seas, not just near them, I’d recommend the Ship of Shadows series by Maria Kuzniar. Magical, swashbuckling adventures with a memorable cast of pirates!

Copies of our Haarville 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 bookshop.org 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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