Children’s author is inspired by daughter – Young readers love these stories

Catherine Clifton, The Advertiser, 22 Jul 2013

MELBOURNE based author Susannah McFarlane says getting children to read is a lot easier if their parents are avid readers.

‘‘It’s one of the best things you can do in terms of role modelling,’’ she says.

‘‘And if you read with them, even better.’’

Books for business and pleasure have been a staple in Susannah’s life. The publisher-turned-author has just launched Time to Shine, book 16 in her children’s series EJ12 Girl Hero. She also writes the Boy vs Beast series targeting boys who are reluctant to read and the Little Mates series for the under fives.

A mother of two, Susannah says her daughter, Emma, was the inspiration behind the EJ12 series where the heroine is a schoolgirl who doubles as a secret agent. She says she wanted to foster the ‘‘I can do anything’’ attitude in young girls and provide positive role models.

‘‘My favourite photo of my daughter is one where she is wearing a tutu and gumboots; it’s that contrast that I love,’’ she says.

She admits ‘‘covert feminism’’ is at work in the series, where the only males are EJ’s brother and father, but says her young readers love the stories.

‘‘They get Emma, they identify with her. I get lots of messages saying I want to be Emma’s best friend,’’ she says.

Susannah believes it’s the mix of fantasy and normalcy in the stories which has made them so endearing. In the latest title, Time to Shine, Emma reflects on when she was first recruited as a special agent, and had to work out how to tackle the challenge of saving marine animals from an oil slick.

Susannah says the series appeals to readers of all abilities and offers ‘‘age appropriate’’ content. She recommends parents make the most of libraries and local bookshops when trying to source stories their children might enjoy.

‘‘Libraries are fantastic. The staff know what kids are reading and what’s appropriate for their age,’’ she says.

The adage ‘‘don’t judge a book by its cover’’ doesn’t ring true in children’s literature, Susannah says.

‘‘Get the kids to look at the covers because they’re little billboards – and let them make the final pick.’’

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