Clare Johnson

Clare Johnson, Independent Usborne Organiser


Mini Monsters, Unicorns and Fairy Ponies - Our Wonderful Reading Programme

14th May 2018

We spoke to Zanna Davidson, author of Billy and the Mini Monsters, Fairy Unicorns and Fairy Ponies about her inspiration behind the three series and how she wants to enthuse young readers. Full of fun, adventure and wonderful illustrations, each series is perfect for children who are developing their reading skills. Keep reading to find out more!

What inspired you to write each of the titles in the Reading Programme?

'I wrote Fairy Ponies as I've always loved the idea of miniature secret worlds. I wanted to write about ponies because of the games I used to play with my sister when we were little. We had a vast, slightly battered collection of My Little Ponies, mostly sourced from school jumble sales, and we loved making up stories about them. After the popularity of the series, Fairy Unicorns seemed like a natural progression, especially as I was getting lots of requests to write about unicorns!

Billy and the Mini Monsters was inspired in part by my son's anxieties at that age - his fear of the dark, of going swimming, of starting a new school - and in part because I loved the idea of monsters small enough to fit in your pocket, and all the mischief they could make. I wanted to combine the two, to make humorous books that tackled every day anxieties.'

Billy and the Mini Monsters has quite a unique storytelling style, why do you think this will appeal to young readers?

'We worked really hard on the storytelling style in Billy. We wanted these books to appeal to children learning to read, and especially reluctant readers. So we put in as many pictures as possible, to break up the text, as well as maps and diagrams and speech bubbles, so there was always something fun to look at on the page. I also thought it would be fun to see the world from the point of view of the Mini Monsters, so I added comic strips at the end of each chapter to show what the monsters get up to when Billy isn't around. I think the comic strips appeal to readers who don't want to tackle big chunks of text and help to make the books even more visually appealing. We were lucky to have a brilliant illustrator to really bring the stories to life, and a fantastic reading expert on hand to answer all of our queries as to what would work best.'

Unicorns are hugely popular with young people, was this some of the reasoning behind Fairy Unicorns?

'Definitely! When I was writing them, I came across lots of children who had unicorn toys they loved, or a passion for unicorns. I even know a girl who has a secret unicorn identity, which I love! On school visits for Fairy Ponies I'd had lots of requests for stories about unicorns, so it seemed only right that I should write them!'

How do you make sure the way you write matches the reading ability of your target audience?

'I've been writing books for children for about twenty years now, I have children of my own and spend time reading with children in our local school, so I've got a feel for what is right for an age group. However, I couldn't do without our experienced reading expert, Alison Kelly, who checks all of the books to make sure the words and sentence structures aren't too complicated, and that I'm not exceeding my word limit!'

What do you hope each of your series will mean to young readers?

'I really hope these series will inspire a love of reading and that excitement that comes from being whisked away to another world. And most of all, I hope that reluctant readers - those who might be struggling to enjoy reading - can use these books as stepping stones to the world of reading. In all three series, we've worked really hard to make the stories as exciting and fast-paced as possible, with appealing characters, short, manageable chapters and gorgeous illustrations - hopefully all the ingredients you need to want to read more!'

If you want to find out more about Billy and the Mini Monsters, Fairy Unicorns and Fairy Ponies, ask your local Independent Usborne Organiser for some more information, and for their personal recommendations. Plus, make sure you follow author Zanna Davidson on Twitter @ZannaDavidson.

Tags:schools