Hello everybody! Today, I’m so excited to welcome Jenny Pearson to my blog for an interview, to celebrate the release of her amazing second book the Incredible Record Smashers.
The Incredible Record Smashers is the second hilarious and heart-warming adventure from Jenny Pearson, author and primary school teacher. Her debut The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates was a Waterstones Children’s Book of the Month, was shortlisted for the Costa Children’s Book Award and is a 2021 Read for Empathy title. Onto the post!
Hi Jenny, thank you so much for being here and answering my questions! To start off, can you describe The Incredible Record Smashers in 5 words please?
Incredible kids searching for happiness.
The book has strong themes of mental health throughout as Lucy’s mum suffers from depression, and your first book also had mental health themes. Is it important to you to raise awareness of this in your books?
It really is. I think so many of us are touched by these issues and they can have a huge impact on how we live our lives. I’ve actually thought about this a lot because it wasn’t something I consciously set out to do when I first began writing. I set out to write stories about children for children. But, I’ve come to understand, that if you are writing about children and the issues which affect them, you have to be honest, you have to be open and to not recognise what some children go through would do them a disservice. I worry incredibly about getting it right. As a teacher, I see kids who have to face huge challenges, whether it be the death of a loved one, or someone close to them suffering a mental health issue. But I do believe that if we don’t involve children in conversations about the harder parts of life, or show them versions of these realities on the page, we risk shutting them out. We risk making them feel like they are the only ones who experience such things. We risk them not talking about their problems and worries. We risk making them feel alone. And no child should ever feel alone.
You’re also working with the amazing organisation Our Time in connection with the book. Can you tell us a bit about the work they do? Do you hope that the book allows children and their parents/guardians to discuss mental health more openly?
Our Time is an amazing charity who help young people affected by parental mental illness. They provide interventions for families to support young people. There is some information at the back of the book which states that there are 2.9 million kids living with a parent with reported symptoms of depression and anxiety. The line that really hits me is that Our Time works to get young people help early on, to prevent them becoming patients themselves. And yes, opening up conversations about our mental health is absolutely something I hope might happen from reading the book. Something I really loved about the book was that it was so humorous and heartwarming, even though it touches on some really serious issues.
Do you think reading can offer escape throughout difficult times? Are there any books you’d especially recommend for bringing hope and a little bit of happiness to people who are struggling?
I think it absolutely can. Although, it is also true that sometimes when things are challenging and your mind is full it can be difficult to find your way out of that and connect with a book. During lockdown my own reading was erratic, but there really is something special and good about completely disappearing within the pages. I was given The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by Charles Mackesy and there is a reason why it is so loved. Beautiful drawings and a wonderful message of love and hope.
In the book, Lucy and her new friend Sandesh try to audition for a talent show about breaking world records to make Lucy’s mum happy again. Who’s your favourite act you’ve ever seen on a TV talent show? What would your act be if you were to audition for a talent show?
I recognise that her appearance on a TV talent show didn’t bring only happiness, but there was something utterly amazing about watching Susan Boyle come out on stage, sing I Dreamed a Dream from Les Misérables and completely shatter everybody’s preconceptions of her.
I would truly love to be able to sing but it has been confirmed to me far too many times that I can’t. I really don’t think that I have a talent that is audition worthy or I could put anyone through watching. Seriously, I’ve asked the family WhatsApp, and no one can think of anything I could do.
The friendship between Lucy and Sandesh is so lovely, it honestly just melted my heart and I think it was my favourite part of the book! Who are some of your favourite best friends from fiction? What was your favourite part of the book to write?
I’m so pleased you’ve said that. I absolutely loved writing their friendship too! I think that the dialogue between them was my favourite part of the book to write. I also loved writing Auntie Sheila. Lots of her is taken from my mum. Oh, and the squirrel chapter.
Friendships that I love in fiction are Anisha and Milo from Anisha the Accidental Detective. Uma and Alan Alan in Uma and the Answer to Absolutely Everything. Liam and Florida in Cosmic by Frank Cottrell-Boyce. Tommo and Charlie Peaceful in Private Peaceful. I know they are brothers, but they are still best friends.
Moving onto a couple of questions about writing, what is your writing routine like? Do you have any unusual habits or quirks, and has the pandemic changed anything about it?
I really am completely routine-less and always have been. I really just love writing so I do it whenever I get the chance. If it were up to me, I really think that I could sit and write all day, every day. But maybe I just think that because I can’t and if I did have loads of time I’d actually just sit there staring into space or twittergrambooktoking.
The pandemic really changed the amount of snacks that I eat while I write. Before the pandemic I exercised some discipline. Since the pandemic, I have absolutely no restraint at all with regards to the amount of snacking I do.
If you could have written any book by another author, what would it be and why?
What a difficult question! To be honest, there are so many excellent children’s books out there, that pretty much every one I read I get terribly jealous of how good the writing is and wish I could have written it. So probably all of them?
Finally, can you tell us a little bit about your next book? It sounds amazing from what you said in the Q and A at the end of The Incredible Record Smashers!
That’s so kind of you to say. I really enjoyed writing this book. Grandpa Frank’s Great Big Bucket List is about a boy, Frank, who is named after his father, Frank, who is named after his Grandad, also Frank. After a clerical error, young Frank inherits half a million pounds and the instructions to look after his Grandpa. The money was supposed to go to his dad, which causes some friction, but young Frank is determined to help his Grandpa live his best life, so he writes him a bucket list. Alongside the parkouring and the monster trucking and the hot air ballooning, is a story about a friendship between a young boy and his grandfather, and a story about a family repairing itself.
Game show you’d most like to appear on? Total Wipeout UK or The Floor is Lava
Guinness World Record you’d most like to break? Men’s 100m
Animal you’d most like to be for the day? Mr Hamster our family pet because He. Is. So. Loved.
Favourite flavour of ice cream?
Mr Paniccia’s vanilla. I know choosing vanilla seems very, well, vanilla of me, but Mr Paniccia’s vanilla ice cream is indescribably delicious. My dad used to get me and my sister ice creams from his van on Salisbury market when we were young. I don’t think Mr P is around anymore, but the taste was unbelievable. I’ve not ever tasted ice cream like it since. The thought of it makes me extremely happy. (I’ve realised I am not completely following quickfire rules with this answer- sorry).
Top 3 books of 2021 so far?
SO difficult! Noah’s Gold by Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Uma and The Answer to Absolutely Everything by Sam Copeland and then impossible to pick a third because there are so many other brilliant ones I love. Struan Murray’s second book Shipwreck Island, or L.D Lapinski’s The Edge of the Ocean. I’ve also heard such great things about Show us Who You Are by Elle McNicholl, I must read that. (Really not getting the quickfire thing am I?)
Have you read any of Jenny’s books? What are some of your favourite funny books? I’d love to hear in the comments!
5 thoughts on “Author Interview with Jenny Pearson”
Really enjoyed reading this – thanks for sharing! This book sounds like it really handles sensitive topics really well, and it’s definitely important to present these themes to a young audience.
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Thank you so much, I had such a great time both reading the book and writing the questions!
I’m laughing again just at the mention of the squirrel bit!!
This was a brilliant interview!
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Thank you so much Rach! I had so much fun writing it x
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I really enjoyed The Incredible Record Smashers. Loved this interview too.