Feature Post by Erin Hamilton
The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates is being heralded as superb, hilarious and perfect for the current climate. Funny children’s books are a breath of fresh air and supply the much-needed laughter in unprecedented situations. Jenny Pearson kindly took time to answer my questions about her foray into publishing and insights into the story.
Can you describe your story in a sentence?
One summer holiday, three kids, one big mission, several onions, a lot of sheep, a trio of superheroes and a few miracles along the way.
(The teacher in me knows this isn’t a proper sentence as it is missing a verb and probably some other things– but it’s the best I can do, and it gives you an idea.)
Hilarious, almost slap stick comedy follows the boys- where did the inspiration and ideas for such funny events come from?
Well, believe it or not, much of it comes from real life. My friends will attest to the fact that many things that happen to me are quite slap-stick. I don’t know why, maybe it’s because I’m still growing into my limbs and I’m a bit clumsy, or maybe it’s because I’m just a bit daft. I’ll give you an example. When the boys lose their clothes in Barry, that is the result of me smooshing together two real-life happenings. My dad has a ‘friend’ who had a tremendous fishing trip and went to the pub to celebrate his humungous catch. When he tried to board his boat, he fell into the sea. He then thought it would be an excellent idea to put his clothes on the engine to dry. They promptly caught fire and he ended up stranded without a stitch to wear. In the story, the boys set fire to their clothes on Llewlyn-the-Great, but as the boat is moored, I couldn’t use the engine. Instead, they do it on an oven hob. And this was inspired by the time I put my bra into the microwave, and it went up in flames. Luckily, I beat it to death with a spatula.
As a teacher, did you borrow characteristics from students to create Freddie and friends, Charlie and Ben?
Honestly, all the time. I steal EVERYTHING, the way they speak, their humour, how kind they are to each other, how they look out for each other, what they say when they fall out, what they wear, what they like, some of the mind-blowingly ridiculous things they say, their unique way of looking at the world. Pretty much all the characteristics of the boys have been stolen from the children I have taught over the years. I am very, very fortunate to have had so many wonderful kids in my life to steal from.
(I just realised you said borrow and that’s what I meant – I borrow from the kids I have taught. Stealing is generally frowned upon at school.)
How did you find the publishing process as a debut author?
I have loved every single second of it, truly. I have absolute faith in my agent Sam Copeland and in the team at Usborne. It has been amazing to see how they have turned The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates into a REAL BOOK! From the moment I received my first round of edits from the incredibly talented Rebecca Hill, I began to gain a real appreciation of how massive the job of getting a book to the shelf really is. There are so many people involved and each and every person brings a unique talent that has made the book something far beyond even my own imaginings. A truly exciting moment was when I first saw the wondrous illustrations that Rob Biddulph produced. I do go on about this a lot and it is probably getting to the point where he might feel uncomfortable – but I can’t help it. I love the illustrations so much.
Honestly, it has simply been the best journey and I cannot believe how lucky I am. I don’t think that feeling will ever go away.
Freddie loves facts and so do many of your target readership, how did you choose Freddie’s favourites for the book?
A lot of the facts were dictated by the storyline. And my fact-finding took a standard format. For example, I was describing Ben’s step-mum Becky and I imagined her to have this huge smile with lots and lots of white teeth. Then I thought, hmmm, I wonder if I can find a fact about teeth. That then sent me into google vortex (I fell into these a lot when writing Freddie), where I read fact after fact about teeth and forgot what I was even looking at facts about teeth for in the first place. And then half an hour later, I remembered what I was supposed to be doing and I would eventually pick my most favourite fact– in this case that a garden snail has 14 000 teeth! Which seems excessive. What do they need them all for? I would google but I’m worried I’ll forget to answer the next two questions.
Usborne ran a Fact Finding competition, was this successful and helpful in adding new facts to the book? Were there any completely surprising facts you hadn’t heard of before?
Ah yes, the Factination competition. This was an excellent idea, but I’ll be honest, I just wanted to steal from children again. I wanted to steal their facts so I could look cleverer.
And it worked. Ha Ha Ha! There were loads of excellent facts I hadn’t heard before. Facts about rainbows and peacock spiders and moondust and turtles’ bums. Some of them even made it into the book. Who knows, with my history of thievery, maybe some of the ones which didn’t make it into the book might make it into another book.
What are you currently reading?
To my Year 3 class I am reading Varjak Paw by S F Said
To my own kids, I am reading Great Expectations by Jack Noel (which is going straight onto my school recommended reading list.)
And for myself, I am just about to start Crater Lake by Jennifer Killick. Love her.
The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates is officially published on 30 April by Usborne and is was Waterstones Book of the Month for April. (£7.99)