Thursday, February 11, 2010

Barnes and the Brains

The Barnes and the Brains series was inspired by the stories I liked best, growing up. I loved series about groups of kids who had clubs, invented things, and went on fantastic adventures. Enid Blyton's Castle of Adventure introduced me to four English schoolkids who always seemed to be on Easter holidays with obligingly absent relatives, and stumbled into dangerous situations, often involving smuggling. The Danny Dunn books featured kids and a scientist who invented incredible gadgets, including a homework machine.

The Mad Scientist Club books featured a group of kids in Mammoth Falls, Wisconsin. They had a clubhouse, and they too invented things. I remember episodes involving hot air balloons -- and a working submarine! I couldn't get enough of this stuff. I also loved the Great Brain books, in which the young hero, JD, is continually stymied by his older brother JD -- the great brain of the title. Schemes and adventures, some of them quite scary, abounded.

For me, the Barnes and the Brains books were a way of trying to recapture some the humour and sheer fun of my favourite childhood stories. Starting with A Bad Case of Ghosts, these books were written with a 7-9 year old in mind -- kids who are moving away from picture books, but who might not be quite ready for full-length novels.

The main character is Giles Barnes, the new kid in the neighbourhood, who is befriended by Tina and Kevin Quark, self-proclaimed geniuses who run their own business, investigating strange occurences. There are ghosts birds, invisible magicians, and maniacal robots.

There are six books in all, the first three of which have just been re-issued, with fabulous eye-catching covers, in Canada by HarperCollins. The next three will be out this May. Often when I visit schools, teachers tell me they never have enough fun reading material for grades 2-4. So I hope these books find homes, and happy readers, in classrooms across the country!