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Sharon Marie Jones grew up in mountainous North Wales. As a child, she listened in wide-eyed wonderment to local tales about giants and had her very own fairy door on the crab apple tree at the bottom of the garden. She studied English and Education at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth and graduated with First Class Honours. After completing a PGCE course, she became a primary school teacher. She is Mam to three boys and worked as a Primary School teacher for twelve years, before finally allowing herself to pursue that magical dream of becoming an author. She now happily gazes out of the window and writes full time. Grace-Ella is her first book.
Q&A about ‘Grace-Ella: Spells for Beginners’
What came first – character or plot?
Character. The name Grace-Ella whooshed into my mind on my way to work one morning, resulting in me having to execute an emergency stop then a swift swerve into the layby to start frantically writing notes down. Grace-Ella became alive in my mind. I knew that she was an ordinary 9-year-old girl, but that she was going to discover that she was a witch. Mr Whiskins quickly followed and I knew immediately that he was a mix of cuteness, mischief and obnoxiousness. The story grew around these two characters and I loved every second spent writing it.
Was this the kind of story you would have enjoyed as a child?
I devoured books. A visit to the library was a weekly highlight and I’d totter home, arms piled high with books. I loved Enid Blyton, my favourite being ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’. I loved anything to do with magic – be it fairies or witches or giants. I would definitely have loved ‘Grace-Ella’, as I often concocted my own potions in empty jam jars in the garden. I think books for this age group are so important, because these are the stories that can make a child a reader for life.
If you could cast any spell what would it be?
Oh goodness, imagine the fun! As a child I would probably cast a tidy up spell so that I could spend more time reading instead of tidying up my bedroom. I would also think of something really horrid for my eldest brother after he once tipped his fishing maggots into my jumper as a ‘joke’ and they fell all over me when I pulled my jumper on. As an adult, I think it would have to be a spell to make me invisible. Imagine all the conversations I could listen in on … the stories would bubble and brew in my mind. And it would also mean a few moments peace and quiet from the family, relaxing invisibly in the garden. Magical.
In a nutshell: Black cats | Magic | Fun Grace-Ella’s life is magically transformed when a black cat strolls into her house and makes himself at home. Mr Whiskins is a witches’ cat, and Grace-Ella discovers that she is a witch. She’s always struggled at school with reading and spelling, but casting spells is a whole new kettle of frogs! At last she’s found something she’s really good at. Lots of adventures follow, including accidental bewitchings of both her mum and her teachers. It all culminates in an unusual Hallowe’en party when Grace-Ella manages a thoroughly deserved bit of magical comeuppance on the school bully. The first in a series, Grace-Ella Spells for Beginners is a lively helping of fun, magic, friendship and being true to yourself. Young readers are sure to identify with Grace-Ella. ~ Andrea Reece A Piece of Passion from Janet Thomas, Editor at Firefly Press: Everyone at Firefly Press loved Grace-Ella from the moment Mr Whiskins walks into her house on page one. In her first book, Sharon has managed to write a story for 7-9 year olds that feels both traditional and up-to-date, fresh and comforting, and Adribel’s got this balance in her beautiful illustrations as well. It’s about trusting yourself and being honest about who you are, and the scene where Grace-Ella bravely tells her best friends she’s a witch is one of my favourites. It’s also very funny with spells going wrong, school adventures and a madcap Halloween party where the magic goes wild. Everyone who has read it so far has wanted their own Mr Whiskins!
Grace-Ella is thrilled when a black cat walks through her door. She's always wanted a pet. But Mr Whiskins has a secret. On the ninth day of the ninth month of her ninth year, he tells Grace-Ella that she is a witch and can start learning magic with the Witches' Council. Her parents are shocked, particularly Mam, who worries what other people will think. Grace-Ella has never been good at school - can she learn to be a good witch? As well as struggling with lessons, Grace-Ella and her best friend Fflur are bullied by star pupil Amelia. The Witches' Council forbids using magic against anyone. But how else can Grace-Ella protect her friends? Grace-Ella is a magical, funny adventure, first in a series, about friendship and being true to yourself.
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