This month our Parakeet subscribers are travelling through space and time with the wildly inventive Will Jakeman's Marvellous Mechanimals. The book is packed with adventure, imagination and fantastically detailed illustrations, and is sure to inspire young readers to create their own marvellous mechanimals. It's perfect for younger and newly independent readers with lots of action and interactive graphic novel elements. Here author and illustrator Nick Ward tells us all about what inspired the book and his favourite chapter books for young readers.
What inspired you to write Will Jakeman's Marvellous Mechanimals?
Will Jakeman was a character in another series of mine, The Charlie Small Journals. They are all about a lost boy adventurer who has spent four hundred years trying to get home. Jakeman's Mechanimals help Charlie out of lots of dangerous situations, and I thought it would be fun to explore Will's childhood and give him some adventures of his own.
Which of Will's inventions is your favourite, and why?
I like all of Will's Mechanimals, but I think my favourite is the Steam-powered Rhinoceros. It was the first animal mechanical that I thought up and appeared in Charlie Small's first adventure, Gorilla City. Although the rhino is not very environmentally friendly, it is a brave and loyal Mechanimal and is super-strong. Jakeman is currently working on a Rhino with zero emissions!
What qualities do you think make a good inventor?
I think an inventor would need to have a very lively imagination combined with a love of the latest technology. They must be interested in the world around them and would want to make the world a better place for everyone to live in.
Where would you most like to go exploring and which Mecahnimal would you take with you?
I would like to go exploring in a deep dark forest or take a canoe along the Amazon river. I would take the Mechanimal Tiger with me through the jungle – it would be able to protect me from any wild beasts – and I would take the Powder-jet Swordfish with me along the Amazon. I could make a quick getaway on that if the need arose!
Can you tell us anything about what happens next to Will?
Will Jakeman discovers he has made a serious blunder in his efforts to try and find the location of his home planet. He tears a hole in the fabric of the universe and a boy falls through it and ends up in Will's strange world. There, they travel through space and encounter a gang of reptilian space pirates. Will they escape? There are lots more Mechanimals and lots of action and adventure in the second book in the series, Will Jakeman's Marvellous Mechanimals and the Space Pirates!
Why did you choose to write books for this age group?
Even at the age of ten, I was trying to write stories with illustrations and I guess I never gave up. I love writing for this age group as you can really let your imagination run wild. I love adventure stories, I love looking at book illustrations and I think this age group provides the best opportunity to do both.
Do you have a favourite place to write and illustrate?
At home, in my little workroom, where I am surrounded by familiar things. Books that I love, pictures that inspire me, and where everything I need is at hand.
Which chapter books for younger readers would you recommend our subscribers read next?
Am I allowed to say the Charlie Small books? I am so proud of this series – they are full of adventure and packed with maps, notes, and sketches. The first two in the series will be republished by Guppy Books in February 2023 with fantastic new covers, so do look out for them. I also love Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. Yes, it's an old book but very exciting and is the best pirate book I know. The Narnia books are fantastic, and I used to love Enid Blyton's Adventure series when I was young, especially The Island Of Adventure.
Copies of our Will Jakeman's Marvellous Mechanimals 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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