A couple of weeks ago, I read the opening chapter of The Butterfly Club, The Ship of Doom to a Y5 class at Cliff Lane Primary. They were so keen to know and read more that the teacher took the book as their class read. When they learned of The Mummy’s Curse, the second in the series, they were adamant that we needed to get a copy.
Days later, a lovely email arrived, asking if I would be interested in a Q&A with M.A. Bennett, the author of this series. I knew the Y5 class would love to get involved so they created a set of questions to ask.
As this is a favourite series for me, I also wanted to ask a few…all answers are below and they are brilliant. This is a series to make you think, question and ponder. The what ifs are cleverly written and the outcomes even better than you can imagine! With a third in the series on the way, these will hook readers in and have them begging for more.
Questions from Year 5 at Cliff Lane Primary School!
What inspired you to write about the three children being time travelling thieves?
I liked the idea of people travelling forward in time to steal things from the future. But of course we adults are very noticeable, stumbling and bumbling about in a very obvious way. But kids are much better at getting into places where they aren’t supposed to be, and if they are found in the wrong place they can always pretend they are playing or making mischief! So I thought children would make ideal time-thieves.
What made you choose a “Butterfly” as the name for the special club?
The club is based on a very brainy scientific idea which states that everything is connected – that the flap of a butterfly’s wing in Mexico can start a tornado in Texas. It’s called the Butterfly Effect and it suggests that a very tiny change can have a very big result. So it’s a warning really – if the time-thieves change too much when they travel they might alter the whole of history – which of course, they do!
What made you choose the Titanic as a theme for The Ship of Doom?
I’ve always been fascinated by the fate of the Titanic, as it actually sank on the very day my Granny was born. I thought that if the children had to steal a radio from the future, and they find one aboard a great ship, how much cooler would it be if that ship was the Titanic?
If you had a time machine or could travel forward or backwards in history, where would you go and why?
Oo good question! I’m a big Shakespeare fan so I think I would go back to Elizabethan London and go to a play at the original Globe Theatre. I’d like to go to the first ever performance of Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet – it would be amazing to be one of the first people to ever hear those famous lines.
Is there an author who inspired you to write?
There’s a writer called Richard Adams who wrote Watership Down (the one about the rabbits) He definitely inspired me. His novel Maia is probably my favourite modern book. It’s also the longest one I’ve ever read at over 1000 pages long!
Did you enjoy reading as a child? Who was your favourite author?
I loved the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. I’ve read them so many times!
My own questions!
The Mummy’s Curse is a clever approach to the story of Howard Carter and the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb- how much research did you do into that initial discovery?
Thank you! I did quite a lot but it was easy to research because it’s such a fascinating subject. I went to the British Museum a lot, and watched tons of documentaries – Channel 5 seems to have something on about Tutankhamun every night! The real hook for me was the discovery that it was a twelve-year-old waterboy – Hussein Abdel Rassoul – who actually found the tomb first. I thought Abdel would be such a good conduit into the story for a Middle Grade reader as he was just their age and he made the greatest archaeological discovery of all time.
I love how your stories allow the reader time to process and think philosophically. How do you weave that type of thinking into your stories?
Thanks again! I like to use the adventures as an opportunity to get kids to think about bigger themes. For instance, my character Konstantin is German-born, and in 1894 where he lives, everyone is friends. But in The Mummy’s Curse, he is transported to 1922, just after the terrible First World War. Among the English in Egypt, there is a lot of anti-German feeling. Similarly, Lady Evelyn Herbert (who lives in 1922) has quite progressive ideas about women, who have just been given the vote. To the children from 1894, that idea is inconceivable. The time travel is a good device to put ourselves in the shoes of others.
I am so excited for the Mona Lisa story and wonder if you are able to give any clues as to what we can hope to read?
In 1911, the Mona Lisa was stolen right off the walls of the Louvre Museum in Paris. It was missing for three years, and then given back. I pose the idea that it was my time-thieves, Luna, Konstantin and Aidan, who performed the heist, along with a certain Harry Houdini. Along the way they encounter the real historical thief, an Italian called Vincenzo Peruggia, and learn there is a very good reason why they should give the Mona Lisa to him… One of the most fascinating things about the true story was the fact that when the Mona Lisa was stolen the painting was completely unknown. By the time it was returned it was the most famous painting in the world. While it was missing more people queued up to see the empty wall than ever came to see the painting itself. That made me think about who really took it, and why?
How easy is it to write from a different time period? Are you constantly checking facts and dates of people and events to ensure some level of accuracy, though it is a fiction text?
No. I don’t even try. I check the major dates, of course, and there are no mobile phones or anything like that! But I don’t really make an attempt to have the characters talk in a ‘historical’ way. I don’t have people saying things like ‘Wifi’ or ‘internet’, but I’d rather they spoke in a way that modern children can relate to, because if I can get them interested in the events or the real-life characters then they can go away and read a ‘proper’ history book where all the facts are present.
For any class reading this, here are some discussion notes!