I grew up in a small village on the outskirts of Birmingham with two younger brothers and parents who were both teachers, so reading was a must in our house. I really enjoyed The Tiger Who Came For Tea, The Elephant and The Bad Baby, Where The Wild Things Are and Peace at Last when I was very little.
I loved creative writing at school and I’m told there’s still a copy of ‘The Frog Epidemic’ at my old primary school. I have no idea what it was about...apart from lots of frogs, obviously! Our house was known as 'The Animal House’ thanks to our love of exotic creatures. Dad would bring home the animals from his school during the holidays. He had an axolotl in a tank and stick insects galore that always seemed to be escaping. I’d be in the middle of a piano lesson and have to pause while one walked across the keys. We came back from three weeks’ holiday once to find our house looked like a scary movie set; covered in cobwebs. We soon discovered one of the tarantulas was missing.
After school I read American Studies at Hull University and then lived in Seattle for a year. After literally doing a ‘Mickey Mouse degree’ I decided to do a post grad diploma in broadcast journalism at Falmouth in Cornwall. My first local radio job was in Stratford Upon Avon and then I moved to Aylesbury, Bucks. I was a breakfast show presenter for many years and my highlights include wing-walking and being sawn in half life on air. I left the UK twice for Australia, the first time taking up a temporary contract in New South Wales to broadcast from a tin shed. The second time was to travel; and it was the trip of a lifetime. I returned to the UK to be a news editor but soon realised that my heart wasn’t in it any more. I decided to take a chance, quit and start writing about my childhood adventures with my Grandpa. I now work as a secondary school librarian and write on my days off. I live in Hampshire.
I’m really passionate about getting children to read and I find it very upsetting at school if I can’t find something that a student will enjoy. Being in charge of the books we buy is wonderful. Imagine going into a bookshop and just taking home everything that you fancy reading. It’s brilliant!
If I were a book I’d like to be a funny adventure story about a feisty girl who goes walkabout in Australia and wrestles crocodiles. I’d go to strange lands, discover new species and meet interesting people. I’d like to see the world but be home in time for tea. Now THAT would be a story I’d like to read.
Penelope Harper is the author of the Lollipop and Grandpa series, illustrated by Cate James. The series currently includes: Lollipop and Grandpa Go Swimming, Lollipop and Grandpa's Back Garden Safari, and Lollipop and Grandpa and the Wobbly Tooth.
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