Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables Join Forces by Tim Harris
“The truth was, Blue Valley School was hurtling so quickly towards dramatic change that it was near impossible to stop. Knowing full well how devastating an impact the change would have on his students, Mr Bambuckle chose carefully to allow his young learners to do the investigating themselves. Everything he had taught them about self-confidence and resilience was about to be put to the test. It was a gamble, but Mr Bambuckle had made a habit of betting his trust on the students.” (Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables Join Forces)
Tim Harris’s books are funny, affirming and uplifting, told with perceptiveness and warmth. His writing is rightly described as “humour with heart”.
Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables Join Forces is Tim Harris’s new story in the Mr Bambuckle series (published by Puffin Books). Illustrations by James Hart add to the humour and the text is interspersed with each of the four new students’ stories, sections of dialogue and emails in speech bubbles and inserted tangents, such as ‘21 Ridiculous Uses for a Cardboard Box’. These make it even easier for children to read.
Thank you for speaking to Joy in Books at PaperbarkWords, Tim.
How would you describe this stage in your career and could you outline what has led you to this point?
First of all, thanks so much for having me on the blog, Joy. 😊
Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables Join Forces is my twelfth published book, but I still feel very new in the industry. I suppose it might be a case of imposter syndrome. I’ve been quite fortunate along the way to have people in my corner who believe in the stories. Special mention to my first publisher, Garry Evans, who kickstarted my career with Exploding Endings, and Zoe Walton at Penguin Random House who has encouraged me to find a style and voice.
I hear that your presentations to school groups and children are very entertaining and impressive. What is one of your secrets to a great presentation?
Having a background in teaching has helped a little in this area. I love that there are so many different styles of presenters out there. That’s the beauty of being in a profession which encourages expressiveness. I try to be myself, which usually ends up being a combination of bad jokes and writing tips.
How do you promote creativity?
There are so many ways authors can promote their books – bookstore signings, school talks, festivals, blogs, book trailers, social media etc. I think balance is the key.
What is your favourite use for a cardboard box?
Ha! Probably opening and emptying it if it is filled with chocolate!
For those who don’t already know him, could you please introduce Mr Bambuckle? What do your readers love about him?
I make a note to ask my readers who their favourite characters are, and Mr Bambuckle sits at the top of the tree. I think the fact that he always puts his students first is what draws readers to him. Even though he is funny, unpredictable, a little bit magical and brilliantly clever, it’s his heart that is most transparent.
Could you give an example of how he cares for his students in either Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables Join Forces or the series generally?
Mr Bambuckle celebrates the students’ uniqueness, and he encourages them to find a purpose. A great example is Evie Nightingale, who begins the series being frightened of pretty much everything. But through some prompting from her teacher, Evie realises she can face her fears and ends up being the bravest student in the class.
Which of James Hart’s illustrations in this book best personifies Mr Bambuckle? Why?
I absolutely love the illustration of Mr Bambuckle throwing the students’ books into the air (page 111). I think it captures the setting and Mr Bambuckle’s personality perfectly. Yes, he is a teacher at school, but things are done very differently in his classroom. (The books end up fluttering their way to their owners’ laps.)
But it’s not all about Mr Bambuckle. How do his students respond to him?
The students respond to Mr Bambuckle with fierce loyalty and trust. I noticed that this was the case when I was teaching. Children can read adults well, and they latch onto genuine care with both hands and don’t let go.
How is Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables Join Forces different from the other Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables books?
The fifth book is different from the others because we are introduced to a cohort from another school. It flings together two different student bodies – Mr Bambuckle’s existing group, and the new bunch who are very much trying to find their way in a new school. I really like the dynamic. In a way, it felt as though I were starting all the way back in Book 1 and trying to build trust between the teacher and students.
Which of James Hart’s pictures do you find the funniest? Why?
Mr Stodge (page 163) made me laugh so hard because James has perfectly captured his dry/bland personality. It’s in such contrast to Mr Bambuckle – brilliant from James!
You are obviously musical. Your bio mentions that you’ve had some songs played on the radio. Could you tell us a few titles or who’s performed them? And that you play the drums at church. What do you love about doing this?
Music has always been a big part of my life. There is something special about playing music with a group of people. Music is so emotive! Back when MySpace was a thing, a lot of my songs (under the name of Tim Harris) got picked up and played on the then growing wave of digital radio. One of the coolest moments was listening to the radio in the car and hearing one of my songs. It gave me a real kick.
Penguin Random House Australia has an impressive stable of children’s comedy writers, including Oliver Phommavanh, Nat Amore, R.A. Spratt and, not least, Paul Jennings and Morris Gleitzman. Have I missed anyone you particularly admire?
Is there a sense of community among you and how does this work or which of these authors’ books particularly appeal to you, and why?
That’s an impressive list of names and I have to pinch myself when it’s mentioned we are published under the same umbrella. Adrian Beck and Tristan Bancks also do funny brilliantly well, and Jacqueline Harvey’s school presentations crack me up.
Tristan Banck’s Tom Weekly series (illustrated by Gus Gordon) was instrumental in inspiring me to give writing a serious crack.
There is definitely a sense of community. The YABBA/KOALA tours in 2018 and 2019 will forever go down as some of the best writing memories I have. Penguin Random House put a bunch of us on a tour bus and we got to present together at schools. R.A. Spratt had us all in stitches to the point where my sides hurt. But the bonding and camaraderie between us is what made the tours especially memorable.
What are you writing now or next?
I’ve currently drafted the first three books in a new series (released 2023). I’ve also just seen the first character concept illustrations and they are brilliant! I’m incredibly excited about the new series, as it’s a little different to everything I’ve one so far. I also have a picture book coming out, which is in the very early stages of development.
How would you prefer your readers contact you?
The best way is through the contact form on my website, or to drop a line on Instagram @timharrisbooks.
Thank you for your responses, Tim and for your very popular and growing body of work.