I first came across Jennifer Swanson when she published Penny & Rio – The Mysterious Backyard Meeting, a child’s book for sure, but one that was exceedingly well done, you can read my review here. She contacted me recently to let me know that the second book in the series was now being published, Penny & Rio – The Locked Doghouse Mystery. Oh, I could not resist, and I was not disappointed, another great book in the series, one that is sure to endear itself to both young and old.

The world of children’s books is completely different to that of adult literature. There is a whole different set of dynamics at work. An author has to find that fine balance between education and entertainment. Parents want education, kids want fun!

The other issue is that finding an agent and publisher is always a challenge, but for children’s books it is tenfold. Sometimes though, an author gets lucky. Jennifer Swanson did find a small publishing house that was prepared to take on the project.

I had the opportunity to interview Jennifer Swanson earlier today. I discovered that she is a teacher, that fact did not surprise me, but what she teaches did. Married with three kids, she teaches gifted High Schoolers online through a partnership with John Hopkins University, and the subject is Science.

She also shared some interesting comments about the two main characters Penny and Rio, they are loosely based on two family pets. Penny loved to dig, Rio loved to eat and relax. In a four year period these two managed to change a nicely landscaped large back yard into a moonscape. It became a daily challenge for her husband to keep up with the mining activities!

Penny & Rio is aimed at the 6-9 year old starter reader. The first book The Mysterious Backyard Meeting was released in a large picture book format, however, both The Mysterious Backyard Meeting, and the new The Locked Doghouse Mystery have been reformatted to a smaller and ‘more grown up’ format. I actually think this move is a good one, as Jennifer remarked “Kids are very smart”, yes they are! By moving to a smaller ‘footprint’ and making it a ‘Chapter Book’, suddenly it becomes a much more attractive read for those young, but ‘very grown up’ eyes. “My book looks just like yours mommy.”

You can listen to the entire interview here.

Copies of both books are available from all on the usual suspects, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc. Or for something a little more personal, you can order from Jennifer Swanson’s web site and get your copy signed.

I know that Jennifer is working hard on the next episode of Penny and Rio, no firm date for release has been set, but second quarter of 2010 is being touted.

Simon Barrett

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