Sally Harris

Free e-book sample of 14 Middle Grade Books!

headermgI’m pleased to pass on news of a free book promotion and competition organised by Sally Harris,author of the fab Diary of a Penguin Napper.


Download this e-book, find the secret phrase, and enter it into the contest link embedded in the e-book to be entered into the draw to win a Kindle Fire, a $10 Amazon Gift Card or a great middle grade e-book from one of 14 fantastic authors!

Treat yourself and your kids with a special gift this Valentine’s Day! This is a sample of 14 exciting middle grade stories that you will love and with the chance to win an e-reader.

Competition opens 7 February 2013 and the winner will be announced on 14 February 2013. This e-book will be available to download for free for 5 days from the 711th of February and at 99c for the remaining days of the promotion. The winners will be drawn on 14 February 2013 and announced shortly thereafter.


Whether you like fantasy, adventure, mystery or humor, “Love Middle Grade Actually” gives you a taste of it all!

This sampler includes:

Sally Harris – Diary of a Penguin-napper (3 weeks, 2 boys, 1 little penguin – what could possibly go wrong? Inspired by the urban myth that it is possible to steal a penguin from the zoo on a school visit using just a backpack!)

SW Lothian – The Golden Scarab (When JJ discovers the secret of time travel at his dad’s museum, he finds himself catapulted back to ancient Egypt with his best friend, smack-bang at the centre of an action-packed race against time and living statues to find the sacred Golden Scarab.)

Nikki Bennett – Four Fiends (Join Jinjing, Pietro, Saburo and Kate as they explore exotic lands, defeat evil demons, and discover the true meaning of friendship.)

Scott Clements – Gasparilla’s Treasure (A fast paced adventure novel following Trip Montgomery on his quest through historic St Augustine, Florida to find the treasure of famed pirate Jose Gaspar.)

Paul R. Hewlett – Lionel’s Grand Adventure: Lionel and the Golden Rule (Meet Lionel, a lovable bully-magnet, as he arrives in Larrystown and discovers a magical Three-Toed-Potbellied Walbaun foot.)

Julie Anne Grasso – Escape from the Forbidden Planet (Caramel Cinnamon thought the worst day of her life was the day her grandparents, the King and Queen of the Elves of Cardamom went missing. She was wrong!)

Natalie Bahm – The Secret Underground (Anxious to forget the bank robbery she witnessed, twelve-year-old Ally joins her brother and the rest of the neighborhood boys (including the cutest boy in her class) in digging a secret tunnel to an abandoned steel mill.)

Jeff Bilman – Super Ninja Alien Robot Monsters (Ninja fighting, half-robot, half-monster aliens from Alpha Centauri have come to destroy the Earth. Are two bickering brothers the world’s only hope?)

Jemima Pett – The Princelings and the Pirates (A simple mission to solve a problem with the winery turns into a nightmare as our guinea pig heroes, Princelings Fred and George, are captured by pirates, rescue a damsel in distress, and get more than they bargained for in the battle of Dimerie)

Rebecca M Douglass – The Ninja Librarian (Skunk Corners is a dusty, tough, unfriendly town until the Ninja Librarian—a mild-mannered librarian who offers his wisdom with a little extra when folks don’t listen—gets off the train and moves into the library).

Adam C. Veile – The Dreamcatcher Adventures: Greedy Jack Wallace (When the ghost of his rowdy Wild West ancestor appears, seventh-grader Blake Monroe joins him in the search for a hidden treasure, but they soon discover a deadly outlaw is in pursuit and they’ll be lucky to escape with their lives!)

Krista Michelle Breen – Knockout: The Hermit’s Escape (When Phillip Brooks’ new horse leaves him face down in the mud, he soon discovers something very strange is going on inside the old hermit Bert Massey’s house.)

Stanley & Katrina – The Perpetual Papers of the Pack of Pets (Cat and Dog. It is a love/hate relationship. Enter the inner psyche of these creatures as they try to peacefully coexist within the same house. Cleverly written. Hilarious antics.)

Anna Olswanger – Greenhorn (Greenhorn is a powerful story that gives human dimension to the Holocaust. It poignantly underscores our flawed humanity and speaks to the healing value of friendship. )


Love Middle Grade Actually on Amazon: or permalink

Entry page for the promotion:

Diary of a Penguin-napper by Sally Harris

Sally Harris from Melbourne recently launched this bright, engaging fun book for children called Diary of a Penguin-napper. The book is for children in the 8 to 12 age range so we were pleased to receive a copy of Sally’s book in the post.

What was striking about Sally’s book is that it’s so attractive that the kids pounced on it as soon as it was out of the wrapper and were attracted by the cover, the title and the catchphrase ‘3 weeks ...2 boys …1 little penguin …What could possibly go wrong?
What is also unusual is that all my children in that age range (Evan, just turned 12, Ronan 10 and Erica 8) were interested in reading the book. One is penguin mad anyway which is a plus and the others were captivated by the story. Here is what they had to say:

Erica (8):  It was a fascinating book, exciting and adventurous. I liked the part where they stole the penguin from the zoo.  How much trouble can one little penguin cause? Answer: a lot.

Ronan (10): I like it because my favourite animals are penguins. I think the book is really good because it’s funny and adventurous. I like the policeman best.

Evan (12): I really liked the way the book was told as a first person account by Marty. When I picked up the book I couldn’t put it down and read it straight through to the end. It was a really well written book and I would definitely recommend it.

Fine praise indeed. What struck me was the fantastic cover, the compelling first chapter and the little details of having a little penguin at the bottom of every page. Lovely!

I asked Sally a bit about herself and the book…

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.

Well, to begin with, I grew up in rural Australia in a large town on the Murray River called Mildura. It was a fantastic place to grow up because we had so much freedom, plenty of animals around and yet there wasn’t so much to do that we didn’t have to use our imaginations!

I can’t remember a time that I couldn’t read or write.  Mum made sure that there was always an endless supply of books and paper around the house and we were always at the local library.  I still have the first ‘proper’ book I wrote – I say proper because it was good enough to be covered with plastic to protect it!  I’m sure there were others, but my ‘Food Giggles’ joke book is now a treasured possession.

I went to boarding school for most of my high school years and had some fantastic teachers who really challenged me. I went on to complete a Bachelor of Education in Melbourne.  Since graduating, I’ve spent at least part of every year teaching in schools both in Melbourne and in the UK.

In 2008, I moved to the UK to complete a Masters degree in Education, majoring in Children’s Literature, which was absolutely inspiring. I learned so much about books for children during that one-year course and I’d go back to do it again if I could, just to learn even more.  And perhaps most importantly, I came away with the crazy idea that maybe I could write them myself!

And now, only last week in fact, I have just released my first book, Diary of a Penguin-napper.

What gave you the idea for Diary of a Penguin-napper?

It’s funny, now that I think about it, that I can’t pin point the exact moment that I first heard the urban myth about the boy stealing the penguin.  I think someone might have told me during my time at Cambridge in 2008/09, because I pondered the idea and made notes for about a year before actually putting pen to paper in 2010.  What I do know is that once I’d heard of the idea, I kept hearing about it from lots of different people!  And they all had a slightly different take on it.

It kind of got to a point where I felt like the universe was trying to tell me something, I’d heard about the myth that often, that I wondered how I had existed for 25 years without hearing about it earlier.

I also find the newspaper to be a great source of story ideas.  The ‘penguin-napping’ story has made the paper a few times over the past year or two. I usually find great inspiration in the short 4-5 sentence articles that fill the sides or bottoms of pages.  I find they are often on really unusual topics and you are only given a snippet of information to get you started.  Then, it is up to you as a writer to fill in the gaps!

Why do you enjoy writing for children?

I think I enjoy writing for children because I never stopped reading children’s books myself.  There was never really a complete transition into adult books – I’d read Maeve Binchy one day, Enid Blyton the next and a favourite pony book the next.  I love the adventure that you get with older children’s fiction – when children could go camping, hiking or horse riding for days on end and nobody would worry about them.

I also like the challenge of writing for children.  People always think it is easier because the books are shorter or the plots can be less complex, but let me tell you, they are a tough crowd! If children don’t like something, they’ll tell you.  If there are any loose ends, they’ll point them out.  If they aren’t engaged, they’ll put the book down without a second thought.

What do you think makes Diary of a Penguin-napper stand out?

Well, apart from the bright yellow cover, I think there are two things that really make it stand out in the sea of middle grade fiction out there.

The first is that it is based on a story that a lot of people have heard of already – that of a boy stealing a penguin from a zoo on a school trip. When people ask me what my book is about and I tell them, their reaction is often that they’ve heard about that and didn’t it really happen?

The second thing that I think makes Diary of a Penguin-napper really exciting is that it is funny.  As a teacher and librarian, I know how much children (and their parents) love books that make them laugh.  There are a lot of funny male writers – Roald Dahl, David Walliams, Andy Griffiths, to name but a few – but not nearly as many well known females.

What do you plan in the future?

I love being a teacher and working with children, so I’m definitely going to keep doing that. It is great to have a captive audience to test out story ideas on and to have some time in school holidays to get cracking with writing. I’m hoping to have a new title ready for next year and I’ve got a couple of ideas simmering away.  I just need to refine my corny jokes!

The cover is outstanding, tell us about that.

I absolutely love the cover design for this book!  I think it both captures the spirit of the story, plus it both fits well with the middle grade fiction genre and yet stands out because of the bold use of yellow.

When I decided to go ahead and print the book myself, I really wanted to produce a professional looking product and part of that was having an experienced cover designer create the cover.  Andrew Brown of Design for Writers had designed a number of covers for other books that I had read or come across, so I got in touch with him. He was absolutely fantastic to work with – very patient and very receptive to feedback.  I can’t recommend him enough!

Where can we get the book?

Diary of a Penguin-napper currently is available from Amazon ( as a paperback and for Kindle.  It is also flying off the shelves (or should that be waddling?) in a range of e-book formats from Smashwords (

As part of her blog tour, Sally appeared on That Book You Like ( yesterday and will be talking about using research to bring your writing to life on Lost in Lit ( tomorrow.  Be sure to join her to enter the draw to win a free copy of Diary of a Penguin-napper!

Be sure to join her to enter the draw to win a free copy of Diary of a Penguin-napper!

You can enter the draw and find out more about Sally and her new book on her blog where she’s written some very engaging articles on writing research and motivation.