Interview with children’s author, Lisa Nicol

Published on Wednesday, 13 October 2021

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Middle grade books open up brave new worlds for your independent reader, and Lisa Nicol is an Australian author who taps into children’s lively imaginations with unusual titles and extraordinary plotlines.

Lisa began her children’s writing career with a tale called Dr Boogaloo and the Girl Who Lost Her Laughter, and today, she’s sharing her inspiration and recommendations.

Plus, you’ve got the chance to win a Lisa Nicol book pack.

Thanks for your time, Lisa. You’re an award-winning documentary-maker and successful author. What led you to write books for kids, and where do your unique ideas come from?

Having kids myself kick-started my writing for children. I just began having lots of ideas for stories, and discovered that I absolutely loved writing for children! It seemed to come more naturally to me than any other writing I’d done.

Story ideas come out of all sorts of places, and follow no rules whatsoever! Sometimes, I have an idea for a story – such as a doctor who cures people with music, which became Dr Boogaloo and the Girl Who Lost Her Laughter. Other times, I start with characters – like Roy Disaster Boy, my doomsday prepper from The What On Earth Institute of Wonder.

How long does it take to write a kids’ book, and what do you hope to achieve when it lands in the hands of a child?

Writing a first draft can take anywhere from six weeks to six months, but generally, a book will take me a whole year from beginning to end.

Some ideas are percolating in my brain over many years before I put pen to paper, and my greatest hope is always to entertain.

If a book is entertaining, the experience of reading will be a joyful one. If I can move the reader, as well as make them laugh, then I consider that the Holy Grail.

Your latest work, The What on Earth Institute of Wonder, is a poignant tale that shares secrets of the Animal Kingdom with middle grade readers.

Could you tell us some more about the story, and why children will love it?

The What on Earth Institute of Wonder is about a gang of friends who kidnap a rare African forest elephant. If I tell you any more than that, I might ruin the story, but let’s just say kidnapping an elephant is not an easy thing to do, even when it is the right thing to do. Which I’m not saying it is!

There’s also a talking kakapo, an eight-and-a-half-year-old doomsday prepper, a villain with a fondness for wearing Peter Rabbit pyjamas, and a lot of underage driving!

If your child loves animals and doesn’t mind a laugh, they should find something agreeable between the pages. Fingers crossed!

Dr Boogaloo and the Girl Who Lost Her Laughter is being adapted for the screen, and your second novel, Vincent and the Grandest Hotel on Earth, has sold loads of copies around the world (and inspired Book Week costumes!).

Apart from your own wonderful titles, what books do you recommend for school-aged readers, and why?

I enjoy all of Karen Foxlee’s books, because she is just a brilliant writer.

I also love David Almond, particularly Skellig. I enjoy his whimsy and heart.

Katherine Rundell’s Rooftoppers is highly original. Any story that begins with a baby floating down the English Channel in a cello case is worth a read!

Stephan Pastis’s Timmy Failure books are perfect for reluctant readers and absolutely hilarious.

I also love Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo, and nearly everything by Roald Dahl. Roald Dahl has his critics nowadays, but his body of work is beyond impressive.

Apart from reading the Timmy Failure books, how can parents encourage reluctant readers to become interested ones?

Keeping kids reading these days is tricky. There are so many distractions, but I’m a big believer in letting them read whatever they want. Take your child to the library or bookshop and let them choose for themselves.

As a kid, I read a lot of very basic girls’ annuals. They were a mix of short stories and comics, and I read them over and over and over. I think because it was in no way taxing. I didn’t want to be challenged. I was reading for pleasure.

I think graphic novels are also brilliant. Kids love them. Their world today is so visual, so I think it’s natural that they gravitate towards storytelling with a visual element.

Win a Lisa Nicol book pack!

Thanks to Penguin Random House, we’re giving away two phantasmagorical book packs, containing:

  • The What on Earth Institute of Wonder
  • Vincent and the Grandest Hotel on Earth
  • Dr Boogaloo and the Girl Who Lost Her Laughter

For your chance to win, just tell us in 25 words or less, why your child would love Lisa’s stories.

Send your entry to by Friday 15 October or buy the books today, where all great titles are sold.

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