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Libby and the Parisian Puzzle - Review and Guest Blog Feature

Written by Jo Clarke

Illustrated by Becka Moor

A delightfully warm-hearted detective tale, seasoned with mystery, mayhem and a marvellous dose of macarons!

Perfectly pitched to 8+ readers, the predictable Parisian puzzle is smoothly guided by the blossoming of new found friendship and the much larger, and more thrilling, mystery connected to the suspicious disappearance of her mum at play. Jo's dreamy Parisian backdrop and her host of charming characters will have readers rooting for Libby and new best friend Connie from the very first page.

I'm really looking forward to globetrotting with Libby and seeing where The Travelling School Mysteries takes us next! And whilst we eagerly anticipate new adventures from the popular children's book blogger, I've no doubt this book will fly off school library shelves. A tour de force of a debut.

What to read next

I'm thrilled to welcome debut author and award-winning blogger, Jo Clarke, to the Bluebird blog to tell us all about her journey to publication.

From Blogger to Author

By Jo Clarke

Growing up I loved reading and writing stories but never saw this as something that I could do seriously. I was encouraged at school to pursue qualifications that would lead to a job. I have always been a head over a heart person, choosing practicality over dreams. It was only when I was made unexpectedly redundant 10 years ago, that I decided perhaps this was the perfect opportunity to try something different. I applied for a job in my local library - having worked in libraries for years before university – and started to work in the children’s library where I fell in love with children’s books and my dream of writing was reignited.

Shortly afterwards I began working in my children’s school library and one of my responsibilities was to run the school blog. When I turned 40 I decided that it was now time to pursue my dreams of becoming a writer but I had no idea where to start. I joined Twitter and started my own book blog. I was always being asked for recommendations for books, so this seemed like a natural progression. It felt like a safe place to put my words out into the world and to find my own voice. The response was hugely positive and it introduced me to the world of the children’s book community where I met lots of like-minded people and realised that although becoming an author wasn’t likely, I could at least embrace my love of writing.

I admit I was really naïve when I started to write. Despite having read lots of children’s book, my first manuscript was terrible. After having 15 rejections I decided that this story wasn’t good enough and I had to try something new. A chance conversation in the staffroom lead to the idea of The Travelling School Mysteries series and I felt for sure that this mystery had everything I needed to succeed. I thought the concept was commercial and the setting really appealing but and here’s the big but, it wasn’t good enough. I sent out Libby and the Parisian Puzzle and was thrilled when two agents requested to see the full manuscript. Ultimately it was a no from both of them and the feedback was strikingly similar. The mystery wasn’t complex enough, I was aiming it at the wrong age group, it needed to be more sophisticated.

I went back to my desk and spent months devouring every mystery story I could get my hands on and analysing theirs structures and figuring out how their plots worked. Confident that I had finally written something publishable, I sent it out to agents but this time I had nothing. No full requests, no words of encouragement or requests to see anything new. I was crushed! Even my very terrible first manuscript had received one full request. I really couldn’t see a way forward, I felt like I should just give up, that writing wasn’t for me. But luckily at that time, I spotted on Twitter that Amy Sparkes was looking to mentor writers and I fell into the category she was focusing on. I sent off my application and quite unexpectedly Amy chose to work with me.

I was working on something new but my heart wasn’t quite in it. I told Amy about the project my heart was set on, The Travelling School Mysteries. I had entered, ‘Libby and the Parisian Puzzle,’ into the Write Mentor Novel Award and although I had just missed on being longlisted, the feedback from the child judges was really positive. If children were enjoying my story, surely that was a good sign I was doing something right. So I set to work completing rewriting ‘Libby and the Parisian Puzzle’, with Amy’s help and guidance. Her feedback and advice was invaluable and after working on it for another six months, I decided to enter it into the Darley Anderson Mega Middle-Grade competition. It was amongst 6 manuscripts shortlisted but unfortunately it didn’t make it to the final 3. I was hugely disappointed but I took on board the feedback and made some changes to it and began the process of querying again to agents.

I really felt like this was my last chance of querying, maybe I didn’t have what it took to be agented and published. Most of the agents I asked where happy to take another look at this new version and I felt quietly optimistic for a short while but then the rejections started to come in. I was surprised to be approached by Firefly Press who asked to read it and even more surprised when they told me they were interested in acquiring it. Shortly after I received an offer of representation from my agent Alice Williams, who I had queried three times before and it was on this fourth attempt that she really enjoyed my writing. Finally, all the puzzle pieces fell into place. It felt like a very serendipitous but surreal moment.


Jo Clarke is an award-winning book blogger and primary school librarian. Her hugely successful blog, BookloverJo, keeps her actively involved in the children's book community, and she has previously been involved in judging the British Book Awards. She lives in Hampshire with her husband, two daughters, and three cats.

You can catch Jo on Twitter @bookloverJo


A big thank you to `Firefly Press for inviting me to be part of the Parisian Puzzle blog tour!


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