All things The Adventure Club with author Jess Butterworth

I absolutely love escaping into the many worlds created by Jess Butterworth, which until recently were middle grade/chapter books for confident readers, and The Adventure Club series has joined my personal collection of Jess’ books that I will cherish (many of which have been signed and dedicated to my daughter and myself when we were fortunate enough to meet Jess at a signing in one of our local bookstores), and is a series that I highly recommend.

The titles in the series are written for younger children who are advancing from picture books to those of early chapter, and as such have stunning illustrations to depict the story throughout, all whilst giving readers that rich depth that can be found in quality texts. These books are as perfect for animal lovers as they are those who enjoy adventures, with readers accompanying young characters to various continents along the way. It is an absolute pleasure to be able to offer you more of an insight through my interview with Jess, for which I feel so honoured to have had the opportunity to undertake. Jess is an utterly incredible children’s author, and one of the kindest, caring, and most supportive people I have ever had the pleasure of making acquaintances with. – Sam

This January saw the publication of the second book in your The Adventure Club series. Tiger in Trouble is a brilliant read, and is perfect for early chapter book readers (5-7 year olds). Can you tell those who haven’t yet read it what they can anticipate?

Thank you so much! Tiger in Trouble follows 8-year-old Tilly as she joins her fellow adventurers on another mission to help endangered animals. A tiger cub has gone missing and it’s not safe outside the Big Tiger Reserve for her. Tilly travels to India with the team to help locate the cub. It’s a race against time to find the cub and make sure she has water to drink because it hasn’t rained all summer. Along the way Tilly treks through the jungle and encounters crocodiles, elephants and monkeys but Tilly gets more and more worried as there’s no sign of the tigers. Tiger in Trouble is full of animals, adventure and exploring the natural world around us!

Tiger in Trouble is chock full of details that offer readers an immersive and authentic experience, whether in relation to the locations that feature in the book, the animals, or the relationships/dynamics of the people. What research did you do in preparation for this book? 

Several years ago, I visited a tiger reserve in India (although I sadly didn’t see any tigers!) which became the inspiration behind the Big Tiger Reserve in the book. I also travelled around the Indian state of Karnataka which is where the story is set. When I was writing the story, I drew on lots of details from my memories. One of my most vivid memories is of camping under a mosquito net and waking up to a monkey peeing on me! Alongside this I immersed myself in learning more about tigers – what’s threatening them, facts about them, what they look, smell and sound like. I learnt about conservation efforts in India such as Project Tiger and how connecting and creating safe passages between the tiger reserves will help bring the population up. I also thought about the links between Tilly’s adventure in India and things that she can do at home to help her local wildlife. 

The story is told in the form of journaling by Tilly, the book’s main character. How important was it to write of Tilly’s adventures in this format? 

I wanted the book to very much be told in Tilly’s chatty voice and as I wrote the story the sections naturally fell into time periods, rather than chapters, and that’s when I realised that a diary/journaling format would be perfect! I also wanted the pages to be visually interesting for younger readers, with different things breaking up long sections of text. I love how instead of a tradition section break, there’s a tiny illustration of a tiger badge!

The book has some incredible illustrations inside, and I love how the animals that feature within the story come to life on the page. Who illustrated the book, and do you have a favourite?

The Adventure Club series is illustrated by the amazing Kirsti Beautyman. I completely agree that they bring the story to life. I absolutely adore all of her illustrations. My favourites are definitely the book covers and the inside illustrations of Tilly with Leo and Anita and the ones of Tara the tiger cub. Oh, and the ones of the animal selfies and the spider having a party in Leo’s shoe – it’s so hard to choose a favourite – they’re all fab!

We get to see Tilly’s character grow in the book, as she learns to be more patient about things, which I really love. Do you have a favourite club member, and if so who and why?

I think Tilly is also my favourite member because she was inspired by my younger self and my dreams to travel the world and rescue endangered animals. I love Leo and how courageous he is even though he’s scared of creepy crawlies, and Anita who is determined to continue despite feeling homesick. Really I love all three of them and the way their friendship grows throughout the series. 

What was your favourite research activity? 

I loved spending time in the library reading about tigers – one of the most interesting things I discovered was that their stripes are unique, like our fingerprints! I also loved watching documentaries about tigers, especially when they swam and played with water. 

The characters all have a deep appreciation for the natural world, and its inhabitants. What is your favourite animal?

It’s funny because with each book the animal that I’m writing about becomes my favourite animal! At the moment my favourite animals are red pandas, yaks, tigers, leopards, hedgehogs, narwhals, orangutans and cats! 

Animal conservation is at heart of this story, and the series as a whole. How important was it to bring awareness to this invaluable topic with younger readers, like you have done with your middle grade fiction for confident chapter book readers?

One of the things that I tell aspiring writers is to write about the things that you feel passionately about, whether its certain characters, places, or themes. The beauty and wonder of our natural planet has always inspired me, and protecting animals is something that I’ve cared about since I’ve was a child, which is why I think it’s become such a recurring theme in my books. With The Adventure Club, I’m definitely writing the books I would have loved to have read myself when I was younger. 

Book three in the series Polar Bear Patrol is due out this summer, and sounds like another awesome addition to this series, with this one based in the Arctic circle. Where has been your favourite location to write about? (in any of your children’s books to date), and where would you like to write about in a future project?

I loved writing about the arctic because it’s so unlike anywhere else I’ve written about and it also feels very magical with the glittery ice and northern lights. My favourite place to write about of all time is the Himalayas though because it’s one of my favourite places to be and I have so many fond memories of being there as a child (my dad and grandparents lived in the Himalayas so I spent a lot of time there when I was younger.) I would love Tilly and the adventure club to visit Australia, Madagascar, Antarctica and Kenya!

Check out my review of Tiger in Trouble here, and be sure to pre order your copy of July’s publication Polar Bear Patrol now. I would like to extend a huge thank you to Jess for this incredible interview feature, and all of the continued support and kindness I have been shown. Red Panda Rescue and Tiger in Trouble are available to buy from all good booksellers now.

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