Blog Tour: Chocolate Milk, X-Ray Specs & Me
Updated: Jun 11
I LOVED this story. It's seriously funny and the format - it's told in letters - made for a quirky plot filled with misunderstandings and delays. A lot of thought has gone into the design, from Jack Noel's humourous illustrations, to crossed out misspellings (or secret agent slips) and letters written in laser pen. I flew through Chocolate Milk, X-Ray Specs & Me in one day, and would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a lighthearted lockdown read that will leave you smiling. Freddy is a fantastic protagonist who will have you laughing and groaning in equal measure thanks to Bethany Walker's brilliant use of dramatic irony.
Walker has very kindly written this brilliant guest post which I'm posting for the last day of the tour for Chocolate Milk, X-Ray Specs & Me.
Haricot Vert/Harry Covair - A Name in search of a Character in search of a Story
“Bonjour Monsieur, You’re tall, lean and green.
I feel inclined to call you a bean.”
“Oui, oui, Madame. But I don’t think it’s fair
That my parents called me ‘Harry Covair’”
Thomas Kingston, age c.12
Do you get ear worms? Those annoying bits of music that get caught in your brain? Well, I’ve had a very specific ear worm on-and-off for over thirty years – but this was not a piece of music, this was a little poem my brother made up in roughly 1988.
I don’t know why this stayed in my mind for so long but, when I started thinking about writing children’s books, the idea of developing a character called Harry Covair was firmly lodged in my head. As the Francophiles among you will know (and you Vegephiles too, not wanting to leave you out), haricot vert is French for green bean. My initial idea for a Harry Covair story was one about a magic bean from the Giant’s beanstalk – as a book for newly-fluent readers, with a pun-based main character, this story never got very far!
Then came Chocolate Milk, a story featuring many vegetables. Lots of vegetables. Oodles of vegetables. More vegetables than is reasonable in a child’s story. In the book, the ‘goody’ secret agents work for the International Espionage Agency under the guise of the International Federation of Sprout Farmers – an idea inspired by trying to think of what the WORST job could be through a child’s eyes. As a child, I was notoriously fussy about food (the only vegetable I liked was sweetcorn*) so the thought that my parents could be SPROUT FARMERS was the stuff of nightmares! Once the cover story for the secret agents was set, giving the secret agents vegetable-based names seemed the natural next step.
I knew I wanted a bodyguard character, working in disguise, to look after Freddy. Suddenly, it was like the planets had aligned and this was the opportunity I had been waiting for – Harry Covair was the perfect name for someone working undercover! But there was a problem. I had already called a character Harrison. For days, I ummed and ahhed over whether I could have a character called Harrison and one called Harry. Those bright and sparky amongst you may have already realised what it took me several days to figure out... all I needed to do was to change the name of the other character! Simple really but when you get lost in the world you’re creating, it’s easy to forget that it is YOUR world and you are, essentially, its god. Until a story is published, anything can be changed and nothing is set in stone. It has been a useful lesson to learn, even if it took me an embarrassingly long time to get there. Now, I can’t imagine Harry as anyone else – and the other character? He became Jordan. And no one knows. Except you.
*Let it be known that I now love vegetables**. My mum always insisted I ate one sprout at Christmas (her expectations were very low) and always confidently stated that I would start liking them at some point. It took 26 years but I got there!
**Still not that keen on fruit, though.
Thank you so much to Bethany Walker for writing this great post, and to Scholastic for sending me a copy for review. I really hope there's another book to come in this series because it's so brilliant.