In Ellie Clements' debut, The Wondrous Prune, we discover what happens when a child goes to school one day and discovers she has a remarkable new skill.
Ellie was born in London and decided she wanted to become an author at the age of nine, when her favourite hobby was writing short stories. Her passion for writing continued and she later studied journalism at university. Ellie's working life has mostly been spent in the charity sector, and when she isn't busy writing for children, she enjoys long walks, browsing her local bookshop and the occasional spot of karaoke.
The Wondrous Prune (Bloomsbury Children's Books)
When Prune wakes up one morning to discover she can see colours that no one else can, she has no idea that she has a special new superpower - one that could help change her life, and the lives of those around her.
Author Ellie Clements, our Children's Author of the Month, talks to us about her exciting debut novel, The Wondrous Prune, as well as what kinds of stories she likes to write and the importance of representation in children's books.
Q&A with Ellie Clements
1. The Wondrous Prune is your debut. What brought you into writing for children, and what do you do in your working life when you're not busy writing?
I've wanted to be an author for as long as I can remember as writing brings me a lot of joy. As a child, I used to love writing short stories and it was always a dream of mine to one day write a novel. When I'm not writing I work in communications in the charity sector.
2. What kinds of adventures do you enjoy taking your characters on?
I like taking my characters on adventures of self-discovery where they're able to learn more about themselves and learn ways of dealing with any challenges they may encounter. This certainly was the case for my protagonist Prune, who comes to understand her emotions in a much deeper way. But the adventure she goes on also involves her using her superpower to bring to life some amazing things including a treehouse, a zoo and much more.
3. How important is representation in children's books to you as a writer?
Very important, especially as books are a great way for children to build a sense of empathy for others. All children need to be able to see themselves reflected in stories and especially as main characters. When I was young, there were hardly any books where black children were even featured let alone as the protagonist, but I'm glad things are different now and that we're starting to see more and more diverse main characters.
4. Can you tell us a little about The Wondrous Prune?
Having just moved into her grandparents' old house in a town called Delmere, 11-year-old Prune Robinson begins to see these wonderful colours that no one else can see. She soon works out that the colours are a visual expression of her emotions such as feelings of sadness which she's been experiencing following the loss of her grandmother. Prune has also started a new school, but her life is being made a misery there by a group of girls called the Vile-lets.
Prune loves to draw and on one particular day when she draws a hot air balloon, she discovers that she in fact has a superpower when the colours bring the drawing to life. Prune decides she wants to become a superhero - not that her mum will let her. However, really Prune just wants to help people and the person she's most determined to help is her big brother, Jesse, who has got mixed up with the wrong crowd. Only Prune's not sure her superpower will be enough to save Jesse when finds himself in grave danger.
5. What inspired the story?
I always wanted to write a story about a child with a superpower as I've been a long-time fan of superhero films and at the same time, I wanted the story to tackle serious subjects such as bullying and bereavement.
6. Why did you decide to give Prune the power of bringing her drawings to life?
There's something that feels quite infinite about the ability to bring anything drawn to life including different landscapes. In the Wondrous Prune, we see Prune bring to life an ocean and the land of Oz from The Wizard of Oz.
7. What kinds of things would you bring to life if you had Prune's superpower?
Probably food that I wouldn't be very good at making such as dim sum which is my favourite cuisine.
8. We all love the idea of having a superpower - what superpower do you think you'd get if
yours arrived overnight, like Prune's?
I wouldn't mind acquiring the ability to fly, which I think would be a fantastic superpower. I'd never have to worry about getting stuck in traffic again!
9. Is there a bit of you in Prune?
Yes, I think some of my exuberance as a person is reflected in Prune.
10. Prune does try hard to use her power for good. How hard is that for her?
There is a moment in the story where Prune doesn't use her power for good and she gets into big trouble as a result.
11. You also explore different kinds of bullying in this story, why did you want to cover that as a theme?
Bullying is something that many kids experience. It's a serious matter as it can have a big impact on a child's life and in The Wondrous Prune, we see how bullying affects both Prune and her brother Jesse.
There were bullies when I went to school and one reason why people might become bullies is so they can have power over others. This is the case in my story with a character called Bryce who Jesse thinks is his friend, but he really isn't. A bully might also be being bullied themselves while some might see bullying as a way of being able to fit in and be accepted by a group.
12. Other than a great adventure, what would you like children to take from Prune's story?
That happiness and joy can still be had even in times which may feel bleak. In Prune's case, despite having to deal with some disappointments, her effervescent nature always remains.
13. Are you planning to write about other children with special gifts in this series?
Yes, my next book is about a boy called Sonny who has a mix of different superpowers including telekinesis and teleportation.
14. If you could draw your writer's shed into existence, what would it be like?
It would be very bright and spacious with lots of cushions and a vending machine that dispenses luxurious hot chocolate.
15. What kinds of things do you enjoy doing when you're not busy writing?
I enjoy going for long walks, going to art galleries, restaurants, and the cinema.