Much of 2020 was an unsettling time, with concerns about Covid and keeping loved ones safe, with lockdowns and home-schooling, and with worries about money and job-security. It was, however, also a unique opportunity to take stock and to spend time at home with the family, reading, playing and learning together like never before.
It was during that time that the idea for the ‘Sophia Slewfoot Solves History’s Mysteries’ series came about.
For my daughter, the first UK lockdown followed shortly on from that marvellous moment in a child’s life when reading goes from being a challenge to an absolute pleasure. The enforced break from her otherwise hectic life afforded her more opportunity to read than ever before. And read she did! All of a sudden my daughter was devouring adventure, mystery and detective stories, book after book after book, just like I had done as a child.
At the same time, partly due to the inspiring teachers at my children’s school and partly due to the fact that a lot of her ‘down time’ was spent enjoying the hilariously funny and brilliantly, covertly educational ‘Horrible Histories’ on CBBC, my daughter also discovered an absolute passion for history.
However, it was only after the children had gone back to school and I had gone back to work that I was able to give some real thought to the idea of a series of children’s history’s mysteries-solving books. Although life had become very busy again, there was something in the return to the everyday routine that freed up the space in my mind that had otherwise been occupied by Covid, curriculums and the risk of redundancy. I discovered that, in the same way that reading can transport a person to another time and any place, so too can writing… and so Sophia Slewfoot was born.
It was also the impact of Covid that prompted the involvement of my excellent illustrator, Nicky Brooks. Had it not been the school’s delivery of online lessons, I would never have been introduced to Nicky’s beautiful, delicate, traditional pencil and ink illustrations.
I will always remember that, during a particularly noisy and stressful day juggling the needs of a nine year old girl, a six year old boy, a stressed-out home-working husband and a very playful puppy, Mrs Brooks’ afternoon art lesson was a much-needed oasis of calm. Both children settled down quietly to watch and copy, as Nicky sketched a lovely little garden bird.
That moment, and that delightful drawing, stayed with me. As soon as I’d completed the first Sophia Slewfoot manuscript, I knew the series needed Nicky’s simple but elegant illustrations to really bring the stories to life.
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