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Sunday March 24, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Wednesday April 24, 2013 MYT 1:51:54 PM
by angelin yeoh
Big issue: Bullying is a common theme in the children’s books that Jacqueline
Harvey writes because she believes it is a prevalent problem that children need
help expressing their fears about.
Alice-Miranda is set for more adventures.
IN Alice-Miranda At School by Jacqueline Harvey, the titular character makes a phone call to her parents and is greeted with “Oh, darling, so it really is awful? We’ll come and get you straight away.”
Alice-Miranda Highton-Smith-Kennington-Jones is not your average seven-year-old. For one, her full name is a mouthful and she’s in her first year of boarding school at the posh Winchesterfield-Downsfordvale Academy for Proper Young Ladies. Imagine going through the first day of boarding school with a long name like that. Then, instead of crying to mum and dad about how awful it all is, Alice-Miranda loves every minute of it – much to the dismay of her clingy parents!
In an exclusive telephone interview from Singapore where the Australian author is currently on a whirlwind book tour, Harvey explains how the whimsical book series about a very articulate and affable young girl came to be.
“I started writing Alice-Miranda as a character for a picture book. Over time, I realised that she had so much more to say so I decide to expand it into a book,” says Harvey.
Could the inspiration for Alice-Miranda have come from Harvey’s life experience as a teacher at boarding schools? After all, till October last year, Harvey served as deputy of development at a girls school in Sydney, Australia.
“No, Alice-Miranda is not based on any specific student that I personally know. But I’ve met a lot of children in my line of work and I can say that some of them have inspired me to write Alice-Miranda.”
The Alice-Miranda series has been around and growing in popularity since 2010, when In School was first published. Since then, Alice-Miranda has gone from adventures in school and on a cruise to New York city, and now to a fashion runway in Paris. Harvey is delighted to talk about the latest Alice-Miranda In Paris book.
“The book is the seventh one in the series and it follows Alice-Miranda on a school-trip to Paris. As usual, she goes on an adventure, solving mysteries and meeting new friends. One of them is a fashion designer who says he’s been robbed. Alice-Miranda also finds out that there’s more to the fashion designer than meets the eye.”
Harvey describes Alice-Miranda as a “perpetually positive seven-year-old”, someone who will stop at nothing to help anyone in need. In the first book, Alice-Miranda In School, for instance, where Alice-Miranda is very much the new kid on the block, she decides to take matters into her own hand to a couple of troubled characters she meets. The new girl also encounters bullies (one of them is snooty Alethea Goldsworthy – hell hath not seen fury like a spoilt child scorned) and a seemingly hostile headmistress (the appropriately named Miss Grimm).
“What I really like about Alice-Miranda is that she chooses to see the good in everyone. Whenever someone is mean to her, she sees past the behaviour and often thinks that there is a valid reason for someone to be that way.”
For Harvey, the process of writing Alice-Miranda is about “finding the right voice”. Bullying is a prevalent theme in the Alice-Miranda series and Harvey thinks it’s something that a lot of her young readers can relate to.
“It’s such an age-old issue. I think any school that says bullying doesn’t happen on their premises is lying. In fact, most parents don’t know how to talk to their children about how to overcome bullies.”
Apart from Alice-Miranda, Harvey also has another series for younger readers. Clementine Rose is a charming series which revolves around the adventures of a little girl and her pet teacup pig, Lavender. So far there are three books in the series and Harvey happily says that Clementine Rose will crossover with Alice-Miranda.
“Oh yes, it’s going to happen. Readers have to watch out for the next Clementine Rose book!”
> Jacqueline Harvey’s books are available at Times bookstores Malaysia as well as other major bookstores. The books are distributed by Pansing.
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