Ovens & Murray Advertiser - North East Regional Extra

The adventure continues

- By SIMONE KERWIN

WITHIN a group of friends, it’s usually the case that although there’s a strong connection between them all, everyone brings something different to the table.

That’s a point perfectly illustrate­d in Wangaratta author Belinda Harrison’s latest children’s book, ‘Leo and the Magpies’, which is aimed at nine to 12 year olds.

The book is the second instalment in Belinda’s Nick, Leo and Sam trilogy, which follows the adventures of three young friends who in the first book (‘Nick and the Uniform Shop’) discovered there was more happening in their hometown than they could ever have imagined.

In the second book, the discoverie­s Nick made in the school uniform shop lead to a series of tasks the friends must tackle together - and that’s where Leo’s STEM (science, technology, engineerin­g and maths) skills come into play.

“This book focuses more on the boys being together and exploring the tunnels,” Belinda said.

“It also brings in Leo’s background and how his interests and knowledge help Nick work out puzzles he doesn’t ‘get’.

“I think kids and adults are drawn to people who have similar interests to themselves, though they’re often also into other things that we’re not, and that’s okay and a strong friendship can still be built.

“It means we bring different strengths and weaknesses to our friendship­s.”

Belinda said the story also highlighte­d the fact that people could often have levels of knowledge which proved surprising.

“The adults in the story all have a purpose to play, not only as parents, friends or educators in the boys’ lives, but in the overall scheme of things.though I can’t say much more than that without giving the story away,” she said.

As well as having STEM skills, Leo is a passionate Sydney Swans supporter, and mentions how he became a fan and that he was born the day the Swans won the AFL premiershi­p in 2005.

So when Belinda had the chance to meet Paul Roos, who coached the Swans to that flag, during a recent visit to Wangaratta, she couldn’t resist asking him to sign a copy of ‘Leo and the Magpies’.

“He did, so I was slightly (okay REALLY) excited about that!” she said.

The prolific writer, who has also written a fantasy series for adults set in ancient Greece, as well as another children’s book - ‘Ashleigh: Scratcher of Stories and Seeker of Truths’ - and writes for work too, said she had drawn inspiratio­n for Nick, Leo and Sam “just from my head”.

“Although I listen when my daughter talks about boys she knows and hangs out with, and I have spoken to parents of boys to make sure my characters behave how young guys do these days,” she said.

In addition to the boys and their families, in this book we meet Leo’s nemesis, Max - who is not your average villain.

Belinda said she didn’t have a nemesis when growing up, but in every story, it was “important to have a bad guy for the good guys to defeat”.

The trilogy is another opportunit­y for Belinda to indulge her love of history, and the boys mention having watched ‘Horrible Histories’ when they were younger, which was the kind of educationa­l approach she was aiming for in presenting elements of the past.

“I think being able to present history and stories and knowledge in a fun way makes it stick better in your mind, and if I can present that in a fun way then I’m all for it,” she said.

“Plus, you never know when some of this seemingly useless informatio­n might come in handy - if only for boring your mates with general knowledge or winning a pub trivia night!”

She said the response to the first book had been positive, and she’d had a number of young readers email or write to her to tell her how much they’d enjoyed it.

“There are even some big kids who have enjoyed it and have tried to work out what CLLAW (one of the puzzles confrontin­g the boys) stands for - but we don’t find that out until the third book in the series,” she said.

The final story, focused on Sam, is expected to round out the series next year.

“I don’t have all the answers to all the questions book two raised yet, but I can promise that it will be all wrapped up neatly and won’t end on a cliff hanger like book two did,” Belinda said.

If you’d like to try your hand at puzzling out the answers confrontin­g Nick, Leo and Sam, ‘Leo and the Magpies’ is available at Booktique and Edgars Books and News in Wangaratta, The BBQ Garden in Glenrowan, Bush Gatherings in Violet Town, newsXpress in Myrtleford and Bright Newsagency.

 ?? PHOTO: Kieren Tilly ?? ◆ KICKING GOALS: Belinda Harrison has produced her second book in the Nick, Leo and Sam trilogy.
PHOTO: Kieren Tilly ◆ KICKING GOALS: Belinda Harrison has produced her second book in the Nick, Leo and Sam trilogy.
 ?? PHOTO: Kieren Tilly ?? OUT NOW: Belinda Harrison with a copy of ‘Leo and the Magpies’, available now at several local stores.
PHOTO: Kieren Tilly OUT NOW: Belinda Harrison with a copy of ‘Leo and the Magpies’, available now at several local stores.

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