Meet Violet Remy-Robinson, an amateur Sherlock Holmes in the making...When a new family move in next door, Violet is sure there's something strange about them. Then her eccentric, but lovely neighbour, Dee Dee Derota, has a precious jewel stolen. Could the new family be to blame? Violet is on the case to uncover the truth...
Violet and the Pearl of the Orient is a brilliant children's book published by Simon and Schuster, and is one of my favourite middle grade releases of the year. I'm so excited to have author Harriet Whitehorn on my blog today, and I hope all you MG fans out there will read the book!
My Top Five Literary Animals
by Harriet Whitehorn
Animals feature in all three of my books about Violet; there are three cats- Lullabelle, Pudding and Chiang-Mai in the first adventure, a cockatoo named The Maharani in the second and Alphonse, a French bulldog in the third. They are there partly to show elements of their owner’s character but mostly because children love animals. Even if they don’t like them in real life, they like them on a page or a screen. So that got me thinking about my personal favourite literary animals, and there is a long list, but I have whittled it down to my top five.
Babar the Elephant by Jean de Brunhoff.
Babar is the grave, sensible elephant with a tragic babyhood, and a love of shopping who grows up to be the King of the Elephants. I still get a feeling of immense pleasure as I turn the pages, looking at the perfect illustrations of Babar’s makeover at the hands of the kind old lady, his carnival-like wedding, the neat rows of houses of Celesteville, the stressful stages of Flora swallowing a rattle - I could go on and on but onto the next …
Puddleglum from The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis.
The obvious animal in the Narnia stories is Aslan, but I always find him slightly sinister. I do have a soft spot for the character flawed faun, Mr. Tumnus but my heart really belongs to Puddleglum, the marsh wiggle. Is a marsh wiggle really an animal, I hear you say? Well, it is perhaps a bit of cheat as he is a human/amphibian mix. But in Narnia he is a talking animal, so I think he counts. He is, like Eeyore in Winnie the Pooh, a character so unremittingly pessimistic that you can’t help but love him. There is a great scene where his usually solemn and dignified demeanour is ruined by getting drunk and he has to be helped to bed while protesting that he is a ‘respectowiggle’.
Mog by Judith Kerr.
Of all the picture books I read to my children, the Mog books were probably my favourites. Mog is an entirely ordinary cat, who likes a quiet life and satisfactory meals, and her adventures are everyday ones, but combined with Judith Kerr’s gentle humour and brilliant drawings that show every nuance of Mog’s mood, the books become exceptional.
The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle by Beatrix Potter.
I know from my own children that, these days, the pocket-handkerchief is a rather intriguing concept. In the past, having a clean handkerchief about your person seemed to give people a similar sense of security that a mobile phone does now. I do wonder if we are missing something with our paper tissues. Anyway, back to Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle. At the beginning of the story, we are told that the heroine, Lucie, is always losing her pocket-handkerchiefs and this has reduced the poor girl to tears. She wanders off into the beautiful Lake District countryside in search of her lost hankies and comes across a spring (always enchanting) and “footmarks of a very small person.” How exciting! And of course they lead to the kind and cosy laundress Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle.
Toad of Toad Hall in Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame.
Simple, affectionate, conceited and boastful, Toad is a great combination of virtue and vice. Such characters can be difficult for children to grasp as they like absolutes- goodies and baddies- but they all get Toad, perhaps because there is a little of him in all of us. Poop-poop!