Saturday, November 18, 2017

The extremely inconvenient adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty illustrated by Kelly Canby

"... you have bravery deep within your heart."
"But when important things happen between new friends - winning a treasure hunt, getting in trouble for walking on railings, ... the friendship stretches and billows, and dives deep into your heart."

I have something odd to tell you about this brand new book.  I attended the launch last night having rushed to read 494 pages and 91 chapters over just 2 days.  Reading this book I was certain Jaclyn must have used miles of planning sheets perhaps pinned up all over her walls with the names of each of the ten aunts that Bronte needs to visit to fulfill the requirements of her parents' will. In my imagination there would be huge diagrams and lots of crossing lines showing the connections between the aunts, the gifts they receive from Bronte (another condition of the will) and the adventures/incidents/disasters which Bronte faces during each visit.  I was entirely wrong about all of this.

Jaclyn Moriarty did not talk for long last night (there was special cake waiting for her attention) about her newest book but she did say three interesting things.

1. Usually her books involve an enormous amount of planning but reading the now very famous Big Little Lies by her sister Liane Moriarty she marveled that such a complex book could be written with out detailed plans and in fact her sister said the revelation of the killer in Big Little Lies was as much a surprise to the author as it is for all readers.  I imagine you have guessed I was totally wrong about the planning for The extremely inconvenient adventures of Bronte Mettlestone.  Jaclyn told the audience at Mosman Library that she did not plan out this book.

2.  Where did the cloudberry tea idea come from?  Jaclyn received a letter from a fan many years ago and lady mentioned sipping cloudberry tea while enjoying one of Jaclyn's books. Jaclyn promised herself she would one day include cloudberry tea in a story.

3. Jaclyn comes from a large family and if you add them all together there are ten aunts.  Her childhood relationship with some of these aunts showed her every one has a 'back story' - children only see one moment in time or one aspect of a relative - often there is so much more going on.  When you read The extremely inconvenient adventures of Bronte Mettlestone you will see how Jaclyn carefully gives tiny insights into each aunt - personality, life changing moments, desires and more.

When she is a tiny baby Bronte is left in the lobby of her aunt Isabelle's building.  Inside her pram there is a note (sadly lost), a bottle of milk and a "canister of cloudberry tea."  I love this moment from Chapter One :

"So for a while I carried about a little notebook and took down the favourite hot and cold beverages, fruits, sweets and ice-cream flavours of everybody I encountered.  That way, when I myself grew up and abandoned my only child ... I would be sure to add a sample of  their preferred treat to the pram."

When Bronte is ten she and Aunt Isabelle receive the new horrible news that her parents have been killed by pirates. They visit the lawyers and hear the terms and conditions of their complex will.  Bronte must journey across the kingdom, alone, delivering small gifts to each of her ten aunts.  If she fails to follow any instruction her home town will be destroyed.

Now take a look at the publisher trailer.

It will spoil the story if I go into any more plot details so I just want to draw out aspects of this book that appealed to me.   I loved the discovery that Jaclyn wrote her book sitting in different cafes around Sydney.  In their will, her parents, tell Bronte where to eat and what to eat and this part of the story made me smile.  It was a light diversion during times of struggle as Bronte journeyed across the lands to visit her quite eccentric aunts.  Here are some of Bronte's cafe experiences :

Aunt Sue - The Dishevelled Sofa - Today's Special and house-made lemonade
Aunt Claire - Visiting Gainsleigh - the Arlington Tea Room - lemonade and cakes
Aunt Nancy - Mountain View Cafe - order Hot Chocolate
Aunt Alys - diner next to the Stantonville Post Office - cheese and ham sandwich, a fruit frosty and a slice of cheesecake

The trailer and blurb talk about dragons as though they are frightening.  When you read Chapter 31 and meet Aunt Sophy the dragon veterinarian you will absolutely change your ideas about this.

"I soon forgot to be afraid.  It helped that some of the dragons cold speak human language. Once you start chatting with a monster about the weather, you begin to forget that it's a monster."  In fact  it is the dragons who help Bronte escape when the confrontation between good and evil reaches it's terrifying climax towards the end of her long journey.

I am going to finish with a few thank goodness moments :

  • Thank goodness Bronte had "a small sack of silver coins 'for expenses' on my journey"
  • Thank goodness for beautiful words like skedaddle, exuberantly, tiff, impenetrable, resonant and appraise.
  • Thank goodness for scrumptious picnic food - salmon fish cakes, a cheese and bacon tart, roast chicken drumsticks, potato salad and chocolate cake and this is just a small sample of the delicious food eaten during this adventure.  You will want to eat Ricochet oranges - I am sure they are amazing.
  • Thank goodness for Bronte's commendable work ethic for example when she sorts out Aunt Carrie's dark sad home and when she puts everything back at Aunt Emma's after it has been ransacked by The Chief Detective.
  • Thank goodness for great friends and fun loving cousins.
  • Thank goodness for resourceful librarians!

"I make too much noise' she confided. 'But I love it when people want to research! Do it! Dear child, you will love it! The catalogue is over there!'  Her voice rose to a shout at the end. ... I found a great stack of books on the subject that I wanted, and sat down to read."

The extremely inconvenient adventures of Bronte Mettlestone is a long book with nearly 500 pages and 91 chapters but the action does not ever falter and you will find yourself turning page after page as you race towards the ending which has surprises and lots of smiles.  You can see some of the terrific illustrations by Kelly Canby here.

Moriarty’s world-building is wonderfully imaginative and uniquely hers, while Kelly Canby’s energetic illustrations are a delight. This jam-packed, chunky novel is ideal for book-devouring readers in upper primary school.  Readings Melbourne

And the plot pulls together its many threads into a neat and satisfying climax. It will appeal to middle and upper primary readers who are happy to tackle long books as long as they have some pictures. Books and Publishing

This ambitious and clever novel seems geared towards younger readers, but I believe anyone will love it. I think everyone should read it, actually.  Trish Talks Text

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