Jennifer Gray, author of The Travels of Ermine series featured in the Tom Fletcher Book Club 2018, explains the thinking behind her stoatily brilliant new animal adventure for 5-7 year olds.
One of the joys of being a writer is taking part in school events. And apart from the odd curved ball (e.g. how much do you earn? how old are you? when are your books going to be made into films?) the question that most children want answered is ‘where do you get your ideas?’
I like to start with the hook. The reason for this is, in my experience, if you can’t explain who or what your book is about to someone in a few short words, it isn’t going to be very convincing.
Hence the idea for a courageous new Usborne heroine - Ermine the Determined: she’s feisty, she’s fun; she gets things done. The tricky bit is getting from the initial idea to the finish line, especially when you don’t know anything very much about stoats, except that their fur is used to trim the Queen’s coronation robes.
That’s where research comes in. Animals are awesome. They do superhero things in real life. They can swim, fly, climb, trample, run faster than a car, change their appearance; even change their form.
They also have amazing backstories. Did you know, for example, that a chicken is distantly related to a T-Rex? You couldn’t make it up.
Ermine the Determined, illustrated by Elisa Paganelli
A map of Ermine's travels, illustrated by Elisa Paganelli
So next steps: head to the library; get on to the web; check out National Geographic – to find that stoats are no exception to the general rule. In fact they’re pretty Er-mazing (sorry!). They turn white in the winter to camouflage them in the snow; they climb, they swim, they play with their siblings. They even do an acrobatic dance to hypnotize their prey. And of course, they still need to keep a sharp look out for anyone that might want to make them into a fur collar.
And so to Ermine – she may be small but she’s on a BIG journey around the world!
With a taste for adventure, good friends, stoat-tastic abilities and a few useful props (a scrapbook, toolkit and a feathered hat) she’s more than a match for angry alligators, bungling burglars, not to mention a vengeful talent show queen and her evil Tasmanian devil.
Ermine the Determined travels to New York for her first fabulous and funny adventure. Travels in New York was selected for the Tom Fletcher Book Club 2018.
Ermine doing an acrobatic dance
Jennifer Gray, author of The Travels of Ermine series