Guest blog: Mixing Fact and Fiction by Jane Clarke

I’m delighted to welcome Jane Clarke to the blog today, author of Al’s Awesome Science: Egg-speriments, a brilliant new series of science-based adventures for younger readers.  Whether they are budding scientists or maybe are just curious about how the world works, this series is sure to entertain them. Full of great characters (I particularly love Einstein the dog!), wonderful illustrations by James Brown and of course, super science experiments that can easily be tried at home, Al’s Awesome Science is a fantastic blend of fact and fiction. Jane, an award winning author of over 80 children’s books, is sharing today how she achieves this.  Welcome to the blog Jane!

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“In the Al’s Awesome Science books, I aim to write a great story, filled with fun science facts and experiments, that’s an entertaining read regardless of how much the reader knows about the subject. I discovered I enjoyed mixing fact with fiction when I was lead writer on the Dinosaur Cove series (a Working Partners concept, published by OUP). More recently, I’ve been working on the Dr KittyCat series – which involves medical facts in a world of furry first aid (OUP).  So when I was approached by my editor at Five Quills with the concept of Al’s Awesome Science, I was really excited by the idea and by the challenge of helping to develop it and write it. The series is set in the real world, which means facts and fact-checking are very important – especially as the books feature experiments that are intended to be repeated by young readers using things that are easily available to them.

For me, an entertaining story comes first, so I begin by writing a story line concentrating on the characters and what they get up to, having in mind some interesting (and messy) experiments, but keeping the science quite vague. Fact and fiction are mixed up in the characters, too. My son Andy and his notebook ‘Andrew’s inventions’ was my inspiration for Al.  My son Rob’s interests included bugs and reptiles, so I used him as the basis for Lottie!

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Once the story line is in place, it’s time to do more detailed research on the science, check and write up the story in the light of that – and get some volunteers to try out the experiments. The research stage is a wonderful excuse to leave my desk, trot down to the library and the charity shops, and come home with piles of books to leaf through while I’m having a cup of tea. I’m a great Googler of everything, too (though I have to put the tea down for that as I once spilled a mug over my laptop keyboard).  There are some fab science experiments around – on You Tube and elsewhere.

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It helps that I’ve always been curious, and am still filled with awe, wonder and excitement when I learn new things. I started out as an archaeologist, and was also a teacher and a library assistant before I became a writer, but I wouldn’t call myself a scientist. I carefully fact-check the scientific parts – and frequently find what I read mind-boggling! I consult scientific friends and family and pick their brains. Andy, who grew up to be an engineer like his dad, is a great help, as is his wife Helen and my friends Ruth, Paul, Dennis, Margaret and Robin who have a whole bunch of different science qualifications between them.

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After all that, the challenge is to communicate what I’ve learned in a way that’s fun and entertaining for young readers. So that involves lots of messy experiments, a dog, a cat, a fussy neighbour ­­– and quite a few bad puns along the way. I work closely with my editor at Five Quills as the books take shape and the fact and experiment pages are woven in as seamlessly as possible.

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I hope readers will enjoy the characters and the stories and find it exciting to discover more about science in the mix of fact and fiction along the way. I’d love to write more. There’s so much more science to explore!”

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Al’s Awesome Science: Egg-speriments! by Jane Clarke, illustrated by James Brown is out now, £6.99 paperback (published by Five Quills). Look out for more fun and experiments with Al and Lottie in book two, Splash Down!, coming spring 2018!

With thanks to Catherine Ward and Five Quills for sending me this book to review. Find out more about the author at www.jane-clarke.co.uk

Read my review of Jane’s fabulous fairy tale detective Sky Private Eye in the Case of the Missing Grandma here.

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