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WITHERING-BY-SEA: A Stella Montgomery Intrigue
by Judith Rossell

WITHERING-BY-SEA: A Stella Montgomery Intrigue by Judith Rossell

* Australian Standing Orders (part of Scholastic Australia), who buy books for school libraries in Australia, have committed to order the novel, which will result in several thousand copies being placed in most of the school libraries!

* Please note that the illustrations in the novel aren’t quite final, but they are close! A few more may be added, and some maybe changed.

About the book: In Victorian England, 11-year-old Stella Montgomery lives in the Hotel Majestic with her three dreadful Aunts. Hiding in the conservatory, she sees a mysterious guest, Mr. Filbert, hide a small package. When Mr. Filbert is killed, Stella finds herself on the run from The Professor, a stage magician, and his gang of thugs. Stella’s adventure includes dancing girls, performing cats, a hand of glory, a steam-powered Vertical Omnibus, mutton-in-aspic, an enormous ghostly sea-serpent, a clockwork beetle, a drowned village, and a military pudding. Will Stella manage to escape from The Professor’s clutches, protect Mr. Filbert’s secret, uncover the mystery, and find her way home?

About the author: Judith Rossell is Australian and lives in Melbourne. She worked as a government scientist (not a mad scientist, a normal kind of scientist), for a cotton spinning company (that makes threads for t-shirts and tea bags), and studied textile design in Scotland before becoming a full-time writer and illustrator of children’s books about 15 years ago. She’s written 10 books and illustrated more than 80. Her work has been translated into 14 languages. Recently, Oliver, a picture book she wrote and illustrated, was published by HarperCollins in the US. Her books include maze and puzzle books, such as The Lost Treasure of the Green Iguana, and I Spy with Inspector Stilton, and she has written two novels, Jack Jones and the Pirate Curse and Sam and the Killer Robot. Currently she teaches Writing for Children at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology here in Melbourne. www.judithrossell.com

What’s next: HarperCollins Australia owns two books in this planned series.

Foreign history: Judith Rossell’s previous foreign sales have been for her picture books, so there are no foreign options on WITHERING-BY-SEA.

Why I LOVE this book: WITHERING-BY-SEA is gorgeous, witty, smartly written, and features the most lovable of main characters, Stella. Stella is suffering with her three horrible aunts who possess the type of names only a great middle-grade can serve up: Aunt Deliverance, Aunt Condolence, and Aunt Temperance. These aunts believe in things like: “stand up straight,” “only speak when spoken to,” and “curiosity is vulgar.” The aunts live at the Hotel Majestic to reap the healing benefits of its famous spa. Stella survives this situation by escaping into an old atlas which transports her to faraway lands even when she’s locked into her room for the night. I adore the quirky and clever details here, like the “high-tech” Vertical Omnibus (a steam-powered elevator), the clanking pipes which bring hot water right to the rooms (also very high-tech), and the truly terrible sounding spa food (mock turtle soup, picked tongue, and vegetable marrows). When Stella witnesses a hotel guest hide a package in the conservatory, it starts her on an amazing adventure. An adventure with just enough magic to be mysterious. That hotel guest is murdered and turns into a bundle of sticks. The Professor uses a hanged man’s hand (called the Hand of Glory) to put the hotel to sleep. A boy can see things that have happened in a pool of ink. It’s at all once charming and sweet and dangerous and dark. This is a series that will appeal to children, librarians, and parents. I’m super excited to see how Stella’s story, which is clearly just beginning, develops in subsequent books.