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Serena Holly on The Marvellous Granny Jinks and Me and illustrated chapter books for kids

The Marvellous Granny Jinks and Me by Serena Holly. Book cover and author picture.

 

Our Parakeet subscribers are in for some magical surprises this month with The Marvellous Granny Jinks and Me by Serena Holly.

Serena Holly is the pen name for the series creator Jasmine Richards, who is the Founder of Storymix – a children’s fiction studio – and writer and Editorial Director Sareeta Domingo. They first met 15 years ago when they worked for rival companies and are passionate about creating stories that delight readers and reflect the world. We talked to Jasmine to find out more about the Marvellous Granny Jinks!

What inspired you to write The Marvellous Granny Jinks and Me?

Ideas often come to me because I become fascinated by a theme, or I have an experience of something I want to explore further. I’d been thinking a lot about the importance of the relationship between grandparent and grandchild during the pandemic and I wanted to celebrate that relationship. At the same time, I came across the amazing work of the magician Jenny Mayers – the first Black woman to be admitted to the Magic Circle in the UK. Jenny must be coolest granny out there (and I say that knowing that I have some very cool grannies in my own life) and so it got me thinking about the magic of . . . well . . . magicians.

Did you do any research around magic for the book, and did you learn anything that surprised you?

Quite a bit of research went into The Marvellous Granny Jinks and Me, as well as the material at the end of the book on how to do magic tricks. No one who is a member of the Magic Circle can reveal how they do tricks, so I knew better than to ask a magician for their trade secrets!

It meant a lot of reading blogs and watching YouTube videos to get the inside track.

I suppose the surprising thing was learning how hard it is to discover how some tricks are done! And that tricks aren’t called tricks at all; they are called effects.   

Are any of the characters inspired by real people?

As a writer, you can’t help but be a sponge and draw on the stuff in your life and lived experience. This series then has lots of different inspirations. There is a bit of myself in the character of Jada and the fact that she spends lots of time with her Granny. I grew up in a single-parent household and my grandmother was a huge part of my childhood. She would give me cups of tea with three sugars and make the BEST chicken soup, which I still call Grandma’s soup today.

Jenny Mayers, and the fact that she was a magician, helped inspire Granny Jinks. It’s rare to see an older Black woman working as a magician. Seeing Jenny’s work made me feel so proud and hopeful that there should be no barriers to the dreams we want to pursue. That is a key theme in the series.   

Can you tell us anything about what happens next to Jada and Granny Jinks?

I’ve learnt from magicians that you should never give away too much, but I will tell you that someone very important is coming to the Dalton Green Community Centre and Granny Jinks wants to impress them very much. I can also tell you that Luna the cat has a starring role. Now, whether or not Luna is up for that is a different question! 

What would your magician’s name be?

The Sensational Scribbling Show-Woman

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

I have children who are 6 and 9, so I have a really good sense of the kind of books we enjoy together. I was also keen to bring more kids of colour into the centre of the action as they are underrepresented in this age range.   

Do you have a favourite place to write?

I actually love writing on trains and buses, but it is terrible for my back! I also love to write in my local coffee shop Fred and Ginger – strangely enough, all the noise helps me concentrate!  

Which other illustrated chapter books for younger readers would you recommend our subscribers read next?     

Ooh there are lots I would recommend. I will start with Aziza’s Secret Fairy Door – I always feel like Jada and Aziza would be great friends if they were ever to meet. Recently, I have really enjoyed Tiger Warrior by M. Chan and Ballet Bunnies by Swapna Reddy. For readers that are a bit older, The Unmorrow Curse (my new book) has tons of adventure and the pace does not let up for a minute!   

Copies of our The Marvellous Granny Jinks and Me 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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