It is incredibly exciting to be able to interview Anna Fargher, author of Umbrella Mouse to the Rescue, for the FCBG’s stop on the blog tour. This stop on the book blog tour sees me ask Anna a series of questions that benefit those that have either yet to familiarise themselves with the book as well as those that have and are now huge fans, curious about additional aspects… and all without spoilers! The second title to follow from the incredible debut Umbrella Mouse which was published by Macmillan in May 2019, readers are once again rewarded with a rich adventure story that combines historical facts with fiction.
Describe Umbrella Mouse to the Rescue in 5 Words:
Friendship, Courage, Adventure, Animal, Historical,
(Or: Heroic mouse joins French Resistance)
For those who are not familiar with Pip Hanway, how would you describe her story?
Pip Hanway is a young mouse from London who lives inside a famous umbrella shop. When it is destroyed by a bomb in 1944, Pip is orphaned and alone, and she must begin a perilous quest to find a new home.
But the only way to get there is by joining Noah’s Ark, a secret gang of animals fighting with the Resistance in France, operating beneath the feet of the human soldiers. Danger is everywhere and as the enemy closes in, Pip must risk everything to save her new friends.
Pip doesn’t have to be big to be brave and her adventures take her on an incredible journey through a war that reaches even the smallest of creatures.
The book’s main character Pip is undoubtedly a well travelled mouse when you consider her unbelievable adventures through book one and two, did you travel to the places in the books, and if so where?
Yes, she is, isn’t she? I visited the umbrella museum in Italy and Auschwitz to experience a concentration camp for myself. I also travelled to Normandy to see the D-Day beaches and the surrounding countryside, and I spent over a week in Paris researching the city’s landscape, the Liberation in 1944 and the catacombs.
The Umbrella Mouse books are clearly very well researched. How important was it to you to feature historically correct content within your fiction?
It was important, but I couldn’t have written either Umbrella Mouse book without a hefty dose of artistic licence. An accurate historical setting was key because I wanted The Umbrella Mouse books to be read by children learning about WWII at school, and I believed that real-life elements, such as some of the geographical locations, the French Resistance, the V2 bombings and the events surrounding D-Day and the Liberation of Paris, could hook them further into the historical context in general. But that was about as far as I could go. Many of my characters are based on actual Resistance fighters or gallant animals that won the Dickin Medal who never met each other. Therefore, I focused on their natures as conveyed in the historical non-fiction texts I read in my research. I then weaved them into a very fictional narrative.
The incredible talented Sam Usher is responsible for the beautiful illustrations within the book and cover, do you have a particular favourite?
I love Sam’s illustrations throughout so it’s tough to pick just one favourite. In The Umbrella Mouse, there’s a fantastic illustration of Henri the stag. From Umbrella Mouse to the Rescue, a definite favourite is of Madame Fourcade and Pip sailing across some water in the Paris catacombs.
Do you have a favourite character within the book Umbrella Mouse to the Rescue, which you enjoyed writing about most?
Madame Fourcade, Noor or Nancy. The real-life women behind the characters were extraordinary.
The Umbrella Mouse books are classed as Historical Middle Grade Fiction by many and likened to Emma Carroll, Michael Morpurgo, and Hilary McKay to name a few. Do you see yourself continuing to write historical content long term?
That’s a very flattering line up to be in, thank you. Yes, I think I’ll always lean towards historical fiction because I find history so fascinating, but you never know what could happen in the future.
How would you describe the importance of historical fiction within a school library to someone?
Historical fiction breathes life into the past in a way no historical textbook can: with heart. I genuinely believe there is no better way to connect with history. Historical fiction is a gateway into historical learning and is therefore vital to every school library.
Who are your go to authors when looking for a good book? What are you currently reading?
I tend to juggle one adult and one children’s book at a time. My go to adult authors are John Steinbeck, Madeline Miller, Sara Collins, Jane Austen, Margaret Atwood and Max Porter. For children’s, my go tos are Richard Adams, Phillip Pullman, Michael Morpurgo, Judith Kerr, C.S Lewis, Hilary Mackay, Katherine Rundell, Kiran Millwood-Hargrave.
What next for Umbrella Mouse? Can you tell us anything about your WIP?
Umbrella Mouse to the Rescue is Pip’s final adventure, making the series a duology. I have two more books to come in the next couple of years. All I can tell you about my current WIP is that it’s a standalone historical adventure with more animal characters.
Umbrella Mouse to the Rescue was published by Macmillan on 23rd July 2020.
Any views or opinions expressed may not truly reflect those of the FCBG.