Post update 26 Aug 2015: Congratulations to Nicola Furner, Natasha Caughey and Lorna Stagg for winning a copy each of Will Mabbitt’s ‘The Unlikely Adventures of Mabel Jones’. Enjoy it!
Big news: two weeks ago a BIG story about a little girl who is ‘NOT SCARED of ANYTHING!’ was published. The little girl is Mabel Jones, and her story starts when she unwittingly performs ‘The Deed’ and is ported into the weird world of the animal pirates of the Feroshus Maggot, a ship whose captain is a wolf called Idryss Ebenezer Split.
‘The Unlikely Adventures of Mabel Jones‘ was written by my friend Will Mabbitt, Lewes resident and father of two girls. It came to be after Will made better use of his commute than playing Candy Crush or watching Breaking Bad, instead writing a story for his older daughter Tilly.
Will discussed his emerging tale with his monthly writing group in Lewes, and got some pretty positive feedback. Then it was picked up by an agent! And then bought by Puffin! They loved it so much they signed him up for two more – the second, ‘Mabel Jones and the Forbidden City‘, is out in six months (and is already available for pre-order Mabel Jones and the Forbidden City). He’s currently writing the third. This first book has been published in 10 languages, including Chinese, Brazilian and Turkish!
Mabel Jones is a plucky sort that both boys and girls will relate to – she leaps beneath a lightening bolt across the front of the book, for example, brandishing a cutlass. Everyone in our family loves her, and my husband and I keep bickering over who gets to read the book to my eldest in the evenings, as we alternate which child we each put to bed. Because of this I have missed large chunks of the tale, so once we’ve reached the end, I’m reading it through on my own. The gaps in my own version of the narrative are killing me!
Because my son is six-and-a-half and is in Year One, he’s not yet reading on his own. Being so used to picture books, it’s been hard to engage him with chapter books thus-far. One of our favourite things about Will’s book is the way the text and illustrations play so nicely together on the page.
The drawings by Ross Collins are evocative and immersive, and the text has been designed to work with the story in such a way as to make the page turning even more irresistible. When Mabel descends into the depths of a crypt, the page goes go grey and the words describing her walking down 40 steps to get there, stagger down the page accordingly. When she finds herself in the mouth of a whale, the reader too peers out through its teeth as if they were sitting right behind Mabel on its massive tongue.
The language is deliciously hilarious – we laughed SO LOUD when: Mabel was forced to walk the Greasy Pole of Certain Death and the narrator (Will) told the reader what the other poor souls who had gone before her had said just before they slipped into the shark-infested waters below it; when an important list that Mabel had to read to the pirates turned out to a shopping list for a vegetarian sausage dinner; and when I explained to my son why naming the pig pirate Milton Melton-Mobray is so clever. I could go on but I don’t want to give every detail away, plus thanks to my husband I don’t know them all anyway. My son loves the little jokes directed squarely at him, as the reader, by Will – especially the one on the back cover.
The book is aimed at eight-to-11-year-olds, but my six-year-old and many of his friends are reading it and love it. There are some scarier bits, but there’s nothing gory or grisly, more moments where Mabel gets into some potentially dangerous scrapes.
Will promised me an exclusive, but then, understandably, spoke to the The Argus. Anyway, I realised there was a better person than I to talk to him about the book: the person he wrote it for. So in the name of transparency, I will tell you that I commissioned Will’s daughter Tilly Brookes (almost seven), to interview him. I gave her a clear brief: please ask Daddy five ‘what, why or how questions’ about Mabel Jones and the book. The agreed fee for this was £10.
Tilly wrote out her questions and then her mum helped her email them to Will, who was on a book tour at the time. She delivered her work to me on time, within budget, and to the quality that should be expected as standard for all journalists, but that sadly only really ever comes from those who are good, reliable and truly proud of their work. When I expand my empire and set up a full-service communications company, Tilly will be my right-hand woman.
Check out Tilly’s interview below. Oh and if you’d like to WIN one of three signed bookplate copies of Will’s book, ‘The Unlikely Adventures of Mabel Jones‘, see below that for details – it’s the usual social media comp.
WILL MABBITT: THE INTERVIEW, BY TILLY BROOKES
TB: Why did you write the book?
WM: I wrote the book as a present for you. I thought that maybe I could print it out and read it to you one day. I never realised that other people might want to read it too and that when it was finished it would be turned into a real book!
TB: Why did you write about pirates?
WM: I’ve always really liked pirates. Do you remember that pirate picture I showed you? The one I drew when I was seven that Grandma kept in a scrapbook? Granddad would always tell me pirate stories, too. I hope you like mine as much as I loved his.
TB: How long did it take?
WM: From first word to last word it took a few months but I guess ideas for stories have been mixing around in my head since I was your age and this is one that popped out on to the page.
TB: How did you choose such brilliant names for the characters?
WM: I’m glad you like them! Some of the names have secret meanings – like Omynous Hussh and Pelf. Others are just words I like that seem to fit the character.
TB: Did the pictures of the characters look like you imagined them?
WM: Yes. The only one that looked a bit different was Mabel Jones. I hadn’t imagined her with curly hair. Now when I think of Mabel, she looks like the picture on the cover.
Thank you Tilly for your hard work!
You can find out more about Mabel, the pirate crew, the book, and Will at mabeljonesbooks.co.uk
‘Mabel Jones and the Forbidden City’ will be released in February 2016. It is currently available to pre-order from Amazon.
WIN one of THREE copies* signed bookplate copies of ‘The Unlikely Adventures of Mabel Jones‘ by:
- Sharing this post on Facebook and ‘liking’ Will Mabbitt in the process. (Please let me know in the comments section below so that I can register your entry)
- Sharing the post on Twitter, following @LittleLewes with the tag #MabelJones
- Share the post on Instagram – take a picture of your screen, or a screen grab from your phone of one that I post, follow @littlelewes and hash tag #MabelJones
- Share the post on Google+ (again, please let me know in comments, as I’m so new to it)
- Comment on this post in the section below, making sure to put your email address in the indicated field so I can reach you. If you subscribe to receive Little Lewes post notifications (in the side bar on computer, at the bottom on mobile) I will be extremely happy
The competition will close on Friday the 26th of June, a week on Friday.
*This competition is open to residents of the UK only. So sorry if you’re based beyond these shores!
Disclosure: I have read most of ‘The Unlikely Adventures of Mabel Jones‘ (only when I arm-wrestle my husband into submission and get to put my older son to bed) and asked Will if I could write about the book. I paid his daughter Tilly £10 to interview him and she agreed (and did a jolly good job too). This post contains a few affiliate links to Foyles for Books, where the book can be ordered.
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