Frank Cottrell Boyce

Frank Cottrell BoyceFrank Cottrell BoyceA Note from Frank Cottrell Boyce   The very first film I saw in the cinema was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I still remember the moment when Chitty drove off the edge of the cliff and the whole theater rang with howls of fear and frustration as the image froze and the word intermission blazed across the screen. I sat through the next ten minutes just waiting for the film to start again. Even now, whenever I come across a really heart-stopping moment in a script or a story I always think of it as a “Chitty falls off the cliff” moment.   Because I didn’t want the film to be over, I followed the car’s smoky trail to the library and found Ian Fleming’s book Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: The Magical Car, which he’d written for his son, Caspar, in 1964. I thought that if I read it, I would see the whole film again inside my head. I was taken aback to discover that the book was very different from the film. The mum isn’t dead. There’s a different villain. There’s a recipe for fudge! I suppose this must have been the moment I learned that films and books — even when they’re telling the same story — each have a different kind of enchantment. And that there might be more than one — or more than a hundred — ways to tell the same story.   Which obviously brings us to the idea of a sequel.   I have no idea what made the Flemings ask me to write the sequel. I haven’t asked them in case it’s all a case of mistaken identity. I wasn’t sure whether to say yes at first, but when I mentioned it to my family, any doubts I might have had were shouted down. Everyone wanted me to do this. So I went back to the book for the first time since I was a boy and was delighted to discover that, first of all, it’s really good and, second, it’s crying out for a sequel. The original book ends with the car heading off into the sunset with the family on board. They were surely going to have more adventures. But sadly, Fleming died before he could say what those adventures might be.   Finally, I was absolutely thrilled to discover that Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was a real car, built by Count Zborowski in an attempt to break the world land-speed record in 1921. I’ve had a lot of fun — and am planning to have a lot more — just kicking this story up and down the pitch, with history at one end and fantasy at the other, mixing up the real history of aristocratic motor racing with the details of motor mechanics and the silly magic of a flying car. Somewhere among all the fun, though, I found it strangely emotional to go and revisit that boy at the cinema and ask if he could help me restore an old-fashioned contraption and make it fly again. An Interview with Frank Cottrell BoyceWhat was it like to take on such a well known and beloved story? Did you have any reservations about resurrecting a classic, or was it full-throttle enthusiasm to dive in?

If someone said that you could take their fabulous 23-liter vintage racing car out for a spin, wouldn’t you be nervous? But wouldn’t you also say, “Yes, please!”The members of the Tooting family are pretty eccentric, How did you come up with those characters? Are they modeled after anyone in your own family?

NO! I’ll NEVER write about my own family. As far as I remember, the Tooting family was just there at the side of the road when I went out for that ride. They were thumbing a lift, and I always stop for hitchhikers.Did you have to do any research on vintage automobiles or on cars in general to write this book? How did that help you to literally and figuratively bring Chitty Chitty Bang Bang back to life?

Discovering that Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was a real car — and that it was really called Chitty Chitty Bang Bang — was a great moment for me. I’ve really been able to play with the fact that some of the people in the story — such as Count Zborowski — were real people.One of the most charming elements of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again is the wonderfully written humor and dialogue. When you are writing, how do you know when something is truly funny, especially to kids?

If it makes me laugh, it’ll probably make a child laugh, because I have a very infantile sense of humor.Do you plan to turn Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again into a series? When can we expect more adventures with the Tooting family?

Yes, I’m already writing the next book. If you think I’m putting this car back in the garage yet, you’re dreaming! It’s still my turn!When writing children’s books, do you keep your own children in mind? Do you let them read some of your first drafts to get a review of how the book is going?

Not normally, but on this occasion, yes. It’s because Chitty doesn’t belong to me — she belongs to everyone. So I thought it was only right to get my children to kick the tires and listen for any strange knocking sounds from the engine. They’ve been really helpful.What were your favorite books and movies as a child?

I have extremely clear memories of going to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as a child — especially the bit where she falls off the cliff and everyone screams. And I especially remember the Child Catcher, of course. Favorite books would be those by E. Nesbit. I still idolize her. She wrote The Railway Children, Five Children and It, and best of all, The Story of the Treasure Seekers.As a screenwriter and author, do you keep your ideas for movies and books separate? Did you have a movie version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again in mind when you wrote the book?

I’m really hoping we can make a movie out of this. It would be such a lark.When did you decide to write novels along with screenplays? As a successful screenwriter, what attracted you to writing children’s books?

I’ve always loved reading children’s books, but I never thought of writing one until Danny Boyle suggested that I write Millions — which he was about to start filming — as a book. Sometimes you need someone to give you that shove, don’t you? As soon as I started writing it, I thought, “Oh, this is what I’m supposed to be doing with my life.” It was like coming home.What kind of car do you drive, and do you wish it had some of the abilities that Chitty Chitty Bang Bang displays?

I have a big family so I drive a very elderly, very battered, very grubby people carrier.If you could take a flying car anywhere in the world, where would you go?

I’d love to land on the top of the Auyantepui plateau in Gran Sabana, Venezuela. It’s almost impossible to get there apart from in a tiny flying machine, and it’s from the top of this plateau that the world’s highest waterfall, Angel Falls, goes tumbling into the Rio Gauya. Angel Falls is so high that most of the water turns to mist before it hits the bottom. I’d love to peep over the edge. And after that, fly home and land in my front garden.For more information visit: Candlewick Press  ReviewsChitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies AgainFrank Cottrell BoyceIllustrated by Joe Berger   Much to the distress of Lucy, Jem, and Little Harry Tooting, their father has been laid off from Very Small Parts for Very Big Machines. Hoping to keep the wacky inventor occupied, Mrs. Tooting provides him with a beat-up old camper to restore, and her husband pops in a super-charged engine that he finds at a scrap lot and declares the upgraded camper the perfect vehicle to take on a worldwide vacation. With its new engine, though, the camper has its own itinerary in mind, and the Tootings’ trip takes a few detours as their automobile transforms from camper to airplane to submarine while narrowly escaping the clutches of foreign governments and unseemly bank robbers, all of whom are interested in the car’s amazing abilities. The details sound familiar because Boyce’s modernized sequel to Ian Fleming’s classic Chitty Chitty Bang Bang faithfully reflects the elements of the original, and the nods to Fleming’s book and the subsequent movie make this retread of the ultimate family road trip even more enjoyable. Fans of either interpretation will recognize Chitty’s characteristic temperament, as well as the quick mentions of Count Louis Zborowski, the car’s original engineer, and the Potts family, its former owners. The Tootings, however, hold their own when it comes to aptitude for zany adventures, so even readers with no knowledge of Dick Van Dyke or Truly Scrumptious will want to tag along for the family’s run-ins with car-obsessed thieves, giant squids, and rogue spies. Berger’s energetic line-and-wash illustrations depict a thoroughly modern biracial family, completing the successful retooling of a beloved classic. Mr. Potts would be proud. 2012, Candlewick, Ages 9 to 12, $15.99. Reviewer: Kate Quealy-Gainer (The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, March 2012 (Vol. 65, No. 7)).
ISBN: 9780763659578The Unforgotten CoatFrank Cottrell BoycePhotographed by Carl Hunter and Clare Heney   Chingis and his younger brother, Nergui, stand out for many reasons in the school they attend in a small town near Liverpool. They have come to England from Mongolia, and they both wear big furry coats, even in warm weather. Chingis insists that Nergui be in his class, although he’s too young. Everything about them seems mysterious and fascinating, especially to Julie O’Connor, the classmate whom Chingis has hand-picked to serve as their Good Guide. Julie takes her duties seriously by introducing them to football rules and other important things they need to know in order to survive in England. She also studies up on Mongolia, to better understand where they came from, and eagerly listens to Chingis’s stories about his photographs: Polaroids he’s brought of his homeland. These photographs are an integral part of Frank Cottrell Boyce’s brilliant short novel told from Julie’s perspective, and the truth about them is only one of several stunning revelations in a story that balances humor and depth. When Chingis reveals that Nergui is being pursued by a demon who wants to make him vanish, Julie gets involved in helping to protect him. And when the true identity of the demon is revealed, it cements the impact this brief acquaintance has on Julie’s life as she begins to understand her own world through their eyes. In an author’s note, Boyce tells about the real-life Mongolian immigrant who inspired this story after he saw the amazing impact her presence had on other students in her class. CCBC Category: Fiction for Children. 2011, Candlewick Press, Ages 9 to 12, $15.99. Reviewer: CCBC (Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices, 2012).
ISBN: 9780763657291CosmicFrank Cottrell Boyce   From screenwriter and Carnegie Medal-winner Frank Boyce comes this beguiling tale of twelve-year-old Liam Digby who is so tall he is often mistaken for an adult, frustrating for both him and his parents. After some mad adventures pretending to be schoolmate Florida’s father, Liam wins a special theme-park trip for fathers and children; he and Florida elude their parents and take off for China. The other winners are three controlling fathers, each stealing his son’s childhood in pursuit of money, success, or fame. Liam can only model himself on his own earnest taxi-driver father–neither rich nor successful–and study his dad’s self-help manual, Talk to Your Teen. When the prize turns out to be a rocket trip into space for kids only, Liam manages to get aboard as the “responsible adult” and finds himself desperately trying to be “dadly,” while helping the other boys reclaim their childhoods and saving their lives. Florida has her own dad issues, but the novel is about boys and men; women are strictly marginal, from Liam’s cautious, adventure-quashing mother to brilliant but ruthless Dr. Drax, a theme-park developer who cloned her own perfect, robot-like daughter. This touching, often-funny tale offers much to ponder, much to discuss–including parallels to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory–and much to savor such as its engaging hero, his sense of wonder at the universe, an exciting, even harrowing space adventure, and the steady, caring, real father whose gravity draws Liam home. Cosmic! 2010 (orig. 2008), Walden Pond/HarperCollins, $16.99. Ages 9 to 12. Reviewer: Barbara L. Talcroft (Children’s Literature).
ISBN: 9780061836862FramedFrank Cottrell Boyce   Being the only boy in elementary school and the oldest boy in the family helps Dylan Hughes develop unique survival qualities. Being both organized and creative, Dylan attempts to keep alive his passion for soccer and anything propelled by an engine, while living in a female-dominated society. When Daft Tom, a maniacal fan of the Ninja Turtles, attempts to rob the Snowdonia Oasis Auto Marvel, the only source of livelihood for the Hughes family, he subsequently becomes Bad Tom, and life for Dylan becomes even more complex. However, as Tom is allowed to redeem himself and becomes Nice Tom, he joins Dylan in hair-raising adventures involving baby chickens, stolen paintings, and wild business ventures, all culminating in a missing and rediscovered Mini Cooper and a touch of romance for the village school teacher. Told in first person by Dylan, this fast paced novel will captivate all readers, even the reluctant ones, while demonstrating the power of art on individuals who least expect it. Humor, family unity, outlandish solutions to unique problems all unfold on a mountainside in Wales, resulting in a winner of a novel. Readers first introduced to Boyce’s talent in the rollicking film version of his Young Adult novel, Millions, will become confirmed fans in this, his newest creation. 2006 (orig. 2005), HarperCollins Publishers, Ages 8 to 12, $16.99 and $17.89. Reviewer: Janice DeLong (Children’s Literature).
ISBN: 9780060734022MillionsFrank Cottrell Boyce   Two brothers, Damian and Anthony, are forced into an unusual situation when a bag of money is dropped at their feet, literally. The story is set in England at a time when the country is just about to convert from pounds to euros and the money they discover was stolen from a train loaded with British pounds to be destroyed. The brothers must determine what to with the loot before it becomes worthless in seventeen days or before the robbers catch up with the boys. Having recently lost their mother, the story follows the internal struggles the boys face as well as the interesting situations caused by their windfall. This was a wonderful story with well developed and entertaining characters. The brothers are very different, one being fascinated by saints, the other by money. How they choose to dispose of the cash explores many different aspects of the human condition – charity, greed, desperation, grief and love. It is a funny and endearing story that would entertain the reader while hopefully making them consider what their reaction would be in a similar situation. The outcome is unexpected and makes the book even more satisfying by avoiding a cliché and predictable ending. 2004, Harper Collins, Ages 8 to 11, $16.89. Reviewer: Kristi Lainhart (Kutztown University Book Review, Spring 2005).
ISBN: 9780060733308Updated 9/1/12To stay up to date on new books by this author, consider subscribing to The Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database. For your free trial, click here.If you’re interested in reviewing children’s and young adult books, then send a resume and writing sample to to Top

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