Orla and the Magpie’s Kiss is a brand new magical adventure from The Sunday Times’ award-winning Chief Travel Writer C. J. Haslam.
The story features new-found witch and eco-warrior Orla, who comes up against some seriously dark magic in a creepy and funny adventure. Orla, her brothers and Dave the dog are on holiday in Norfolk, visiting their eccentric Uncle Valentine. Orla may have recently learned she’s a witch, but she’s not looking for trouble. Unfortunately, her timing is terrible. She quickly discovers the beautiful Anna’s Wood, due to be bulldozed any minute for shale gas. The locals are all convinced that GasFrac’s plan is a great one – to make way for a new shopping centre and car park. But why doesn’t anyone care about the destruction of the wood? Where are the protests? Orla soon begins to suspect that this isn’t just indifference … there’s dark magic involved here. With the help of a magpie, she finds out who is behind GasFrac. And what he wants is worse than she could possibly have imagined…
Read on for a Q&A in which we ask the author all about the ecological themes behind the story and how his background in travel writing feeds into his writing for children.
Q&A with Chris Haslam
Author of Orla and the Magpie’s Kiss
1. Can you describe the story in five words?
Devil Ruins Kids’ Norfolk Holiday.
2. What inspired the ecological themes behind the story?
We have just eight years in which to cut carbon emissions by enough to keep global temperatures at or below 1.5 degrees in excess of pre-industrial levels. If we fail, up to 29% of all species – plants, insects, fish, birds, reptiles, mammals – face extinction. Even if we succeed, 14% will die out, and, to be honest, no one really knows if such losses will trigger an even bigger disaster. Climate change is the biggest threat to the planet since that meteor wiped out the dinosaurs and yet rich and powerful men and women are fighting against change because, for them, making money is more important than saving the world. They know that by distracting us with shiny things like phones and shopping centres, by promising that every one of us could be rich and famous like them, they can hide the fact that their greed is killing the planet. Anna’s Wood is that planet. Godric Thorn plays the part of the rich and powerful, and Orla Perry is us: forced to choose between the Thorn Corporation’s adverts urging us to Believe In The Power Of Dreams™️, and being brave enough to ignore the lies and do the right thing. For the 14%, at the very least.
3. A lot of children and young people are deeply concerned about climate change and are passionate about taking action to protect the planet. What messages of hope do you want your readers to take away from Orla’s adventures?
It’s not too late. The voices of the kids are the most persuasive in the world. The money in their pockets is the most powerful. For the first time in human history, the young and the poor have the opportunity to change the world – not just by forcing the old and the rich to put people and the planet above profits, but by using their increasing influence on governments and corporations to make this world a better, safer, fairer and kinder place for all of us to live.
4. How does your background in travel writing feed into your writing for children?
I’ve been writing about climate change since 1999, but, like many, I wasn’t always convinced it was real. Unlike many, though, I’ve now seen it first-hand. Over the past thirty years, I’ve been pretty much everywhere on Earth. I’ve seen glaciers shrinking in the Arctic. Hurricanes rip across the Caribbean. Forest fires turn Australia to ashes; and bones of elephants who died in the deserts of Chad waiting for rains that never came. I’ve seen coral reefs in the South Seas die as temperatures rose and families in South Sudan starve as crops failed. But wherever I have been, I’ve noticed that all people have the same hopes, fears, dreams and desires, and that the hardest, bravest course of action is almost always the best. We have just one life each. Let’s make it remarkable.
5. What has surprised you most about the world of children’s publishing since your first book, Orla and the Serpent’s Curse, was published?
The kindness of all in and around the industry. That, and how much more fun it is to write about a stubborn girl and her faithful Jack Russell than it is to write the news.
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Orla and the Magpie’s Kiss is a brand new magical adventure from The Sunday Times’ award-winning Chief Travel Writer C. J. Haslam. The…