We are back again for another installment of Chapter Book Spotlight!
Today, we’re meeting one woman with three names. She’s coming to us as Ella Shine, author of an absolutely adorable animal-based chapter book series, The Pet Sitters.
But here’s fun a secret: Ella Shine doesn’t actually exist! Her real name is Penny Reeve, and she’s only half of the Ella Shine team. Here to tell us all about it…welcome, Penny!
(Please note: All book links and book cover images below are affiliate links.)
Tell us about yourself.
Hello! I’m a children’s and YA author from Sydney, Australia. I write picture books, young adult fiction, Bible studies for kids–and yes, chapter books!
I write faith inspired chapter books for 7-10 year olds under my real name, Penny Reeve, and general market books as ‘Penny Jaye’.
I also collaborate with another Aussie author friend, Cecily Anne Paterson. We write early chapter books together as ‘Ella Shine’. Certainly keeps me busy!
Tell us about your chapter books.
The Pet Sitters books (the ones I write collaboratively as ‘Ella Shine’) have been a lot of fun. They’re about two best friends, Cassie and Lina, and their dream of being pet-sitters.
Each book features a new pet to care for, a new disaster (typically inspired by the grumpy talking cat, Gus) and a sprinkling of magic. Our pitch is ‘Two best friends. One talking cat. What could possibly go wrong?’
Cecily and I are both Christians, so when we got together to write these books we were keen to create a fun series that parents could trust as well engaging stories to keep kids reading! We chose not to put overt faith content into these books, but one of the characters does attend church and the books have positive themes.
These stories are so much fun, We inevitably end up laughing out loud as we’re writing!
My other chapter book series does include faith content. They tell the story of Tania Abbey, an average 10 year old learning what it means to follow Jesus and make a difference in the world.
What kind of child are you trying to reach with your books?
I suppose with all my stories I love to entertain children. I like to see them enjoying the reading experience.
I also like to encourage them to think. About the world they live in, about the friendships they make, about what is most important.
Sometimes, our world isn’t easy. A lot of my books tackle tricky topics, like how can we respond to global poverty? Or modern day slavery?
In the Tania Abbey books I weave a Christian response to generosity and the global church into each story. My main character grapples with her own values and learns about the immense love of God in a way that is practical, real and life changing. And not just for her!
Give us a little flavor of some great characters or the setting.
I’ll introduce you to two characters: one from each of my series!
Gus is the grumpy, grey-and-white cat star of the Pet Sitters books. He’s opinionated, bossy, whines a lot, and generally causes chaos.
But he also has a heart of gold! He’s Cassie and Lina’s first ever pet sitting assignment. When they discover he can talk but they’re the only two who can hear him, adventures start piling up!
Shanti is an important character from the Tania Abbey books. She lives in a small village in India. Although she and Tania have never met, their lives become connected when Tania tries to buy Shanti’s family a goat.
Unfortunately, Tania only has enough money to buy the back leg of a goat (hence the book’s title The Back Leg of a Goat!). So she sets about devising a plan to raise the rest!
What inspired you to write this series?
I grew up as the child of missionaries. I lived in a variety of different places and was exposed to different cultures and ways of living. I also saw quite a bit of poverty. I remember wanting to do something to help the children I saw who lived in such challenging circumstances.
The Tania Abbey stories were written out of this desire: to equip kids with ways of thinking and responding to situations like this, through faith and with compassion.
Another thing that inspires my writing is the desire to see stories that fit a particular niche. For example, when my kids were very small I was annoyed by the number of books that talked down to them about God or assumed they couldn’t read the Bible for themselves. I wrote a series of Bible stories in response.
I was also annoyed by repetitive, boring early chapter books. So I teamed up with my friend Cecily and wrote the Pet Sitters.
How did you know you wanted to be an author?
I guess it was a dream I never thought could be possible. I wrote my first book when I was in year 3. A classic chapter book about bugs and worms and cockroaches! Then all through my teens I wrote soppy poetry. But I really believed only famous people could be ‘authors’.
It wasn’t until my daughter was born that I decided to give writing for publication a try. This year is the 20th anniversary of my first published books!
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Read lots. Write lots.
Get to know your audience. What they read, what they like, why they read, why they like it.
Write what you love most.
Learn all you can before you commit to publishing anything. Remember why you are writing. This will help when things get tough (which they will).
Read some more.
What formats are your books available in?
You can find them all here.
Do you have a schedule of when new books come out?
I don’t have a fixed schedule of new releases. It all depends on which book is ready and when.
This year, we are planning a new Pet Sitters title. I have a new picture book coming out too. Plus I’m one of the editors for a young adult short story anthology.
Lots of things to look forward to this year!
At the time of this interview, what is your most recent release?
My most recent release was a picture book called One Potoroo, a story of survival. It’s a narrative non-fiction story about the world’s most endangered marsupial. It was released as hardback picture book in August.
How can parents find you?
I have several websites:
- Christian books: www.pennyreeve.com
- General market books: www.pennyjaye.com
- The Pet Sitters: www.puddledogpress.com
I’m also on several social media spaces:
My books are available on Amazon!
Liked that? Try these!
I absolutely adore the Pet Sitter books and highly encourage you to check them out for the young animal lover in your life.
If your young animal lover is a fast reader, maybe they’d enjoy two books! I submit for your consideration Collar Cases, my animal-based Christian mystery series for readers 7-11.
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