Sandra Bennett is a children’s author. Her book ‘Secrets Hidden Below, the Adamson Adventures 1’ was long listed in the Sisters in Crime 2019 Children’s Category, Davitt Awards and shortlisted for the Speech Pathology Book of the Year Awards 2019. Her latest
book, Fossil Frenzy the Adamson Adventures 3 has just been awarded Finalist in the Children’s Fiction category of the 2021 International Book Awards!
Andrew Dittmer: Welcome to the blog, Sandra! It’s great to have you! Tell us where you’re from and what you love doing outside of writing.
Sandra: Bennett: Hi Andrew, thanks so much for inviting me to join you on your blog. I was born and raised in the Sutherland Shire of Sydney. They often say, ‘You can take the girl out of the Shire, but you can’t take the Shire out of the girl.’ As much as I loved growing up on the Shire beaches, I am a country girl at heart and now live in a beautiful little rural estate just south of Canberra. When I am not writing I love to go walking in the bush, play with my gorgeous grandchildren or take long country drives with my hubby. I love finding quirky little country towns and meeting the locals.
Andrew Dittmer: That sounds lovely! Where is your favourite place to write? Have you written in any unique or unusual places?
Sandra Bennett: My favourite place to write is in my lofted library. It was ten years in the planning and building. It has been a long slow project but I love the result, I can look out across our valley to the distance Brindabella Ranges, it’s beautiful especially when the mountains are snow-capped. I have written in cafes, hotel lobbies and the Reading Room at the National Library of Australia. Not sure if they are unique or unusual, basically, I write whenever and wherever an idea strikes me, including our car in a carpark while hubby was out surfing.
Andrew Dittmer: Congratulations on Fossil Frenzy just being awarded Finalist in the 2021 International Book Awards in the children’s category! How did you get interested in dinosaurs?
Sandra Bennett: Thank you so much, the award came as such a surprise, and I am truly honoured to have Fossil Frenzy recognised internationally. Like any mother who has had kids fascinated by dinosaurs, I have been intrigued by dinosaurs since my boys were little. My eldest has always been fascinated by dinosaurs and fossils. Before he came along, I always said, ‘you’ve seen one rock, you’ve seen them all.’ But over the years he has enlightened me. When he was just 5 years old, we took him fossicking for fossils and he hasn’t stopped since, he is now a PhD geologist.
About four years ago, hubby and I had the opportunity to drive home from Darwin to Canberra via outback Queensland. I had wanted to visit the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum at Winton for years. On arriving there I knew I had to set my third Adamson Adventure there. Australian dinosaurs are amazing and not enough people know about them. Did you know the largest Australian sauropod has just been discovered at Eromanga? They named it Australotitan Cooperensis after it was found in Cooper Creek. A sauropod is a herbivorous long neck dinosaur that roamed over many continents, including ours.
Andrew Dittmer: Fascinating! Can you tell us a bit about Fossil Frenzy and who is it perfect for?
Sandra Bennett: Fossil Frenzy is a middle grade adventure suitable for readers 8 -12 years. Set in the drought-stricken present where the only hope is buried in the past. The Adamson siblings find themselves on Uncle Tom’s farm in the remote Queensland outback. While checking out the dry waterholes, Zac has an idea. It leads them on an adventure into the past and the land of Australian dinosaurs. The farm dog, Grommet, joins them as does a little joey that Clare rescues at the beginning of their journey.
They encounter all kinds of weird and wonderful creatures and befriend a giant echidna and a Demon Duck of Doom. There is plenty of tension, adventure and humour as the three siblings learn resilience to survive and eventually find their way back home.
There is a fun twist at the end, but you’ll find no spoilers here. Fossil Frenzy was also a winner in the Queensland Writers Centre Adaptable Competition 2020. So before it was even published I had the opportunity to pitch it to film producers for the Gold Coast Film Festival.
Andrew Dittmer: I know you do school visits. Have you had any sweet, fun or funny experiences during school visits?
Sandra Bennett: Because of covid, I was able to only do one school visit last year, but it was at a school I regularly attend. It was lovely to see how excited the kids were when I returned with the third instalment of my Adamson Adventure for them. I even had kids saying they were my biggest fans. It was wonderful to hear.
But possibly the most memorable moment was on the steps of the National Library after I presented at the Canberra Writers Festival in 2019. I had a young girl chase me down the steps to get my autograph in her newly bought book. She was so excited to talk to me in person. I was delighted that I had made her day.
Andrew Dittmer: That’s lovely. You have experience working with reluctant readers. What do you suggest parents or teachers do for reluctant readers and what are the benefits for the kids long term if their parents and teachers persist and help them?
Sandra: Bennett: First and foremost, give them choices. If a child doesn’t like reading, it’s often because they haven’t found the right book to capture their interest. The choice of books should range from all genres including non-fiction. We often forget that some kids would prefer to read for information while others will read for fun. That is one reason I like to write adventures that keep kids turning the pages.
Fossil Frenzy is a great example of a fun fiction adventure that includes non-fiction information, it bridges that gap between different readers and entices them to read onto each next exciting chapter. Parents should be good role-models too, if you want your kids to read, you should show them that you love to read too. Keep reading with them, even once they have become independent readers, make it a joyful shared experience that families love and treasure while bonding and creating memories.
In the classroom, choice and sharing is equally as important. Once kids learn to love reading, they can grow and learn to achieve anything they dream of becoming, the world is open to their curiosity. Reading develops the imagination and inspires creativity. Sorry, I am a bit passionate about this subject, I can go on for ages.
Andrew Dittmer: I love the passion! How can people find out more about you and your books?
Thanks so much to Sandra for coming onto the blog! It was great to learn more about her and get some inside info on her