by Jennifer Bell and Alice Lickens
I wonder, have you ever heard of the sparkle-muffin peacock spider? What about the pink fairy armadillo? Or perhaps the red-lipped batfish? No?
Well, neither had we until we started writing the Agents of the Wild series. Together, we’ve researched all sorts of rare (and often bizarre) animal species to help craft the storylines in each book. Agents of the Wild follows the adventures of Agnes Gamble, the wildlife-loving eight-year-old daughter of famous botanists, and her partner Attie, a highly-skilled elephant shrew. They work for SPEARS – the Society for the Protection of Endangered and Awesomely Rare Species.
The books are filled with weird and wonderful animal tech: a dragoncopter (a helicopter-dragonfly mash-up); an aviascope (binoculars that replicate the vision of birds); and our personal favourite, SPEARS onesies with the thermal heating abilities of Antarctica’s own ingenious Silverfish, to name but a few. The gadgets, based on the incredible facts we’d unearth when researching characters for the series, help form the exciting and oddball world of SPEARS.
As co-creators we met at a book group and after admiring each other’s work decided to sit in various cafes for many years cogitating on projects to work on together. Our love of otter videos, environmental issues and strong female leads built the world of Agents of the Wild. As authors and illustrator it’s an unusual working set up: we work together, meeting up to rough out story outlines, focus in on areas of interest and research unusual species and ecological plights. Then Jen runs away to write and Alice dashes off to draw; we’ll then meet up again to edit each other’s work and start the next caffeine session.
In the latest book in the series, Operation Icebeak, Agnes and Attie are sent to Antarctica to answer the distress call of a SPEARS marine outpost. While investigating some disturbing sea-tremors, they must help a lonely Minke Whale find her missing friend; negotiate for information with a greedy elephant seal; and rescue a colony of brainwashed penguins before it’s too late!
We chose to set the story in Antarctica to highlight the plight of wildlife living in the Antarctic Peninsula, which, due to global warming, is heating up faster than anywhere else on Earth. The brutal landscape of the region is home to a unique variety of wildlife; and the waters around Antarctica support a vast array of sea life, including whales, dolphins, fish and plankton – an important food source for many other ocean creatures. A dashing array of penguins, a chic villain in a quilted tangerine coat and a family of starfish help to tell our story.
At the back of each Agents of the Wild book are real life facts about the species we cover and ideas for what you can do to help protect our natural world. The books are filled with adventure, fried banana and pumpkin seed sandwiches and a heroine who is as kind as she is brave, all set to a strong ecological message.
Agents of the Wild : Operation Icebreak is published by Walker Books on 3rd September 2020.
Any opinions expressed may not truly reflect those of the FCBG.