Author Jennifer Bell Visits the Middle Department
The spectrum of Jennifer Bell’s books makes them a great choice for both pupils in the Middle Department, and those moving on to the Senior Department. Her bibliography begins with the short chaptered, two-coloured Agents of the Wild, moves on to the Uncommoners with their magic & adventure and is completed by the immersive virtual world of Wonderscape.
Presentation to Year 3, 4 and 5
Jennifer enthralled pupils with the story of her route from book-hater to acclaimed children’s author. She shared her own annotated childhood books found in her loft – Northanger Abbey – Boring, hard – don’t read”, Prince Caspian – “Poo”. She explained how she ‘found’ books while stuck on a bus with no iPod aged 23 and then worked at the world’s largest bookshop, feeding the piranhas!
To understand the process of researching and writing a book she presented pupils with a quiz – Year 3 and 5 against Year 4 (“the Underdogs”)… it pitted Geography against Animal Knowledge. Can snakes fart? Can elephants jump? Is the Weddell Sea hot or cold? Amazingly the Underdogs were victorious – 3-2!
Year 4 workshop
Jennifer took Year 4 on a journey with the Agents of the Wild. Focussing on personification, the children were captivated as they created their own animal agent. They could pick any animal in the world, some picked real animals like red pandas, polar bears and poodles, while others elected to combine animals, such as a spider and a chameleon, a megalodon and a tarantula. Next, they considered name (Dave, Agent Como, Megula), personality, agent skills and produced a labelled drawing.
Jennifer Bell was born and raised in London, going on to study Film at the University of Kent. Upon graduating from University, Jennifer worked at the famous Foyles bookshop on Charing Cross Road. There she became a specialist children’s bookseller, helping children of all ages to find the right books. She was an integral part of the team that won Children’s Bookseller of the Year at the 2012 British Book Awards. She went on to win the award for the second time in 2017, as part of the team at independent Herne Hill bookshop, Tales on Moon Lane. Her first book written while still working at Tales on Moon Lane, The Uncommoners: The Crooked Sixpence was published in 2016 and went on to become a Waterstones children’s book of the month and a Sunday Times bestseller. The sequels, The Smoking Hourglass and The Frozen Telescope followed in 2017 and 2018. To date, the series has been translated into sixteen different languages.
Jennifer left bookselling in 2018 to become a full-time children’s author. In 2020, she published a first chapter series, Agents of the Wild, which she co-created with Alice Lickens, an illustrator and winner of the prestigious Sendak Fellowship. She also published Wonderscape, a time-travel adventure story for middle-grade readers, which was selected as the Waterstones Children’s book of the month for June 2020.
It is this scope of Jennifer’s bibliography that lends itself ideally to Middle Department pupils, offering colourful chapter books for newly independent readers, magical adventures for confident readers, and an adventure game world for advanced readers.
Agents of the Wild: Operation Honeybee, Operation Icebeak & Operation Sandwhiskers
Orphan Agnes and shrew Attie are agents for SPEARS, the Society for the Protection of Endangered and Awesomely Rare Species. Having previously tackled the Brazilian rainforest and Antarctica, the third instalment sees the pair sent to the Sahara Desert. Three rock hyrax pups have been kidnapped from their burrow in Egypt, and other baby animals are missing across Africa. Soon Agnes and Attie find themselves trapped in an ancient Egyptian tomb at the mercy of animal poachers. Presented in appealing two-colour with illustrations from Alice Lickens, the Agents of the Wild series is a perfect quick read.
Uncommoners: The Crooked Sixpence, The Smoking Hourglass & The Frozen Telescope
Welcome to a world where nothing is quite as it seems. This series is an uncommonly good and magical tale of Ivy and her brother’s adventures in Lundinor, a spellbinding city underneath London where ordinary objects have amazing powers; Paperclip handcuffs, talking bells, flying belts, yo-yo weapons and travelling suitcases. It falls upon the Sparrow siblings to solve a family mystery while avoiding the creepy figures, ghouls and wolves. Filled with adventure, mystery and an avalanche of magic.
When three friends investigate a mysterious explosion on their way to school, they find themselves trapped aboard the Principia – a scientific research ship sailing through hazardous waters captained by one Isaac Newton. They slip through a time portal and find themselves thrown into the year 2473. Trapped in a complex virtual reality video game world called Wonderscape, they must call on the help of some unlikely historical heroes to play their way home before time runs out. A hugely exciting and playful mash-up of video game and history, this time-hopping adventure pitches a trio of resourceful kids into a far-future contest involving famous figures from the past.