Welcome to #TheQuickSixInterview with Cassy Polimeni!

It’s such a thrill to see the success of talented author (and our 2020 Pitch It! Winner), Cassy Polimeni, with the popularity of her picture book, The Garden at the End of the World, and now a new junior fiction series making a bouncing, resounding entrance – here is Ella and the Amazing Frog Orchestra! With Cassy’s thoughtfully chosen word choices and literary magic, working in perfect harmony with Hykie Breeze‘s charismatic illustrations, this book will score loudly with newly independent readers – no croaks about it! Ella is the most endearing wildlife warrior, who is wild about science, conservation and (re)building of habitats, in this absolutely joyous, charming frog-tale celebration that is sure to feel close to home.

Thanks for hopping back to share your story, Cassy! 🙂

About the Author

Cassy Polimeni is the author of 2024 CBCA Notable Book The Garden at the End of the World and Ella and the Amazing Frog Orchestra. Her past jobs include editor of Destinations Australia magazine, TV book reviewer, English teacher at Italian summer camp, and airport chauffeur.

Cassy was the winner of Just Write for Kids Pitch It! in 2020, and in 2022 was awarded an ASA Mentorship to develop a middle grade novel.

Cassy lives with her family in Melbourne, on Bunurong Country.

Please find Cassy at her website: www.cassypolimeni.wordpress.com

Instagram and Facebook.

About the Illustrator

Hykie Breeze is a Hong Kong born graphic designer and illustrator living in Sydney (Dharawal country), Australia. After several years working in marketing, events and program management, she decided to switch careers and went back to student (and hospo) life to become a designer.

In her commercial design work, she’s previously worked with the Medical Association of the University of Notre Dame, Canon, Australia Council for the Arts, the Primary English Teaching Association of Australia (PETAA), CommBank (CBA) and ALDI Supermarkets.

After building a foundation in communications design, Hykie decided to take a leap of faith and pursue illustration. She is drawn to children’s books because she wouldn’t be the bookworm she is today if she didn’t have access to wonderful literature as a kid herself, and because she believes all kids need to see themselves and others in the books we read.

Please find Hykie Breeze at her website: Hykie Kwong Breeze (hykiebreeze.com) and on Instagram and LinkedIn.

Ella and the Amazing Frog Orchestra can be purchased from the UWA Publishing website.

WHO wrote, illustrated and published this book?

Ella and the Amazing Frog Orchestra is written by me, illustrated by Hykie Breeze and published by UWA Publishing. It’s the first in a four book series, with more to come in 2025/26.

WHAT is it about?

I like to describe it as a story about a girl, a frog, and a rescue mission without a prince or princess in sight!

Here’s the blurb:

“Did you know some frogs can find their way home? It’s called a ‘homing instinct’ … no matter where they are, they know where they belong. I think I know how frogs feel.”

Eight-year-old Ella hates her new house. She wants to be back in her old house with her best friend Viv next door … until one day Ella discovers a secret pond in her neighbours’ backyard filled with an orchestra of frogs!

At her new school Ella meets Mai and learns about their class frog bog project. But when Ella finds out that the neighbours’ secret pond is under threat Ella and Mai must come up with a plan to save the frogs – before it’s too late!

What is your favourite part of this book?

Visuals are so important in junior fiction, and I just LOVE the way Hykie has brought Ella, her friends, family and the frogs to life. Her illustrations are so sweet and expressive, with lots of fun details kids will keep coming back to. I also love the way designer Jo Hunt highlighted all the onomatopoeia in the book (frog calls and other sounds) with quirky fonts that leap off the page – it’s such a fun element of junior fiction and has really resonated with my 5-year-old test subject at home, so hopefully will with other early readers too.

WHEN did you begin writing this book?

I started writing Ella and the Amazing Frog Orchestra in late 2019, as part of a junior fiction writing course run by Jen Storer, and began subbing in early 2021. It was on sub for 2.5 years all up (reworking and revising as I went) before being signed in late 2023.

When is its release / launch date?
1 July 2024.

WHERE did the inspiration for this book come from?

It started as a story about moving house and missing your old life. We were staying with family while our house was being renovated and I was travelling back and forth to let tradies in, which may have crept into the story! I knew Ella needed something of her own to help her connect to her new environment, and I was trying to figure out what that might be. One morning I was sitting in our little courtyard garden before the tradies arrived, being serenaded by a chorus of birds and crickets and I thought: maybe Ella is a nature girl?

WHY is this book meaningful to you?

I love stories that connect us with the music and magic of nature, and the more I learn about frogs specifically (their quirks, calls, abilities, and the way they serve as a barometer of a healthy environment) the more fascinated I am by them. I have fond memories of bush playgroup and frog spotting with my daughter in a stretch of native bushland near our home and I hope this story will inspire kids and their grown ups to get out and connect with nature and each other. It has proven health benefits.

Writing this story was also a bit of an apprenticeship for me. It was one of the first stories I wrote when I decided to get serious about kidlit, and it changed form several times – from junior fiction to dark middle grade to picture book and back to junior fiction – as I tried to figure out the story. I had feedback from critique partners, beta readers (including kids), and an assessment with the wonderful Pip Harry who told me I had something when I was starting to despair I’d run out of publishers to submit to. It was rejected 19 times by agents and publishers before finding a home at UWA Publishing, so to me it’s a reminder to never give up on the stories that won’t let go of you.

Why would its message resonate with readers?

I think the themes of friendship, sibling relationships, moving house, changing schools and learning to find your feet in a new environment will be relatable for a lot of young readers. I drew on my own childhood (like Ella, I loved reading in trees!) and my daughter’s bush kinder experiences while writing too. Most kids are endlessly curious about the world around them and love making up games and new worlds and I hope this taps into that.

HOW do you feel about the illustrations / cover design? How do they convey the feeling or mood you envisioned?

I love the cover and illustrations so much! Hykie is an incredible new talent and I feel very lucky to have her bring this book to life. Illustrations are everything in junior fiction – they’re the difference between a young reader connecting with the book or not, so it was very important to get them right. I shared some frog resources with Hykie, but the characters were all her vision based on the manuscript – and now I can’t imagine them any other way.

How have you promoted this book and how can we find it?

I’ve been lucky enough to get some lovely endorsements from some of my favourite kidlit authors including Emily Gale (The Goodbye Year), Pip Harry (August & Jones), Sarah Armstrong (Big Magic) and Megan Daley (author of Raising Readers and co-host of Your Kid’s Next Read podcast) which has been a thrill. I’m doing as much online promotion as I can (podcasts and articles) and am looking forward to visiting bookshops around Melbourne and beyond in July. I’m also planning to visit schools and libraries later in the year (and currently open for bookings) – looking forward to exploring lots of homemade frog bogs!

Thanks again and congratulations, Cassy, on this gorgeous new series! 🙂

#thequicksixinterview #ellaandtheamazingfrogorchestra #science #conservation #home #juniorfiction #justkidslit

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: