Marathon Books (NZ) Ltd publish books with local characters and settings for children, especially boys, who:
- • have difficulty reading
- • need remedial reading support
- • are learning English as a second language
- • just don’t want to read
Big Universe had the chance to sit down with John Bonallack Publisher at Marathon Books (NZ) in the latest of our Publisher Spotlight series.
Big Universe: What are the age ranges/levels that you publish for?
John Bonallack: Marathon Books NZ stories target boys who are slow starters at reading, are having difficulty, or think reading is not for them. Our series include the Super Sandwich series targeting 7-10 year olds; Power Button series targeting 8-11 year olds; and Power Button Advanced series of easy-reading mileage for 9-12 year olds
Big Universe: We'd love to hear about what you're doing at your company... What are some of the most popular items that you've published in the last three years?
John Bonallack: The Super Sandwich series that we brought out at the start of this year was huge fun to write and photograph, and we’re getting so many letters from reading specialists who say that this series has, for the first time, got their boys excited about reading. The Mata and Shayla in the series (those are their real names) are children at my wife’s school – great kids, fun to work with and write
about – and the way they are in the stories, that’s just how they are in real life. Tas and Josh, the background characters in the Super Sandwich books, become the main characters in the Power Button series and the Power Button Advanced series, so readers are loving the fact that they can progress from one series to the next, with the settings and some of the characters staying the same.
Big Universe: In looking at the current front list and the upcoming season, are there any specific themes that you've focused on in the catalog?
John Bonallack: The focus is, and always has been the three ‘E’s, making reading easy, exciting and enjoyable for boys, especially for boys who thought they didn’t like reading.
Big Universe: Do you have a personal favorite from the current catalog that isn't getting lots of 'buzz'? What is it about that book that sets it apart for you?
John Bonallack: My personal favourite is Mata and the Stolen Lunches, the last title in the Super Sandwich series. Every child knows what it’s like to be falsely accused – and the feeling of being exonerated and praised. There’s a lot for readers to inferfrom the photos in this story, and they love finding the clues and saying what is really happening.
Big Universe: What is the book that has been the biggest surprise to you?
John Bonallack: Josh and the Gun Fort surprised me by the way it carried me along while I was writing it. I sat at the computer not quite knowing where the story was going, and it just ran away with me. There are several of those old gun forts on the coast near where I live. They are spooky places, and it was easy to imagine finding something ghostly in the tunnels under them.
Big Universe: What's next for your company? Are there changes coming in the following year? Do you have any new series or product lines that you’d like to share with us?
John Bonallack: I’m not sure what we’ll do next. A lot of teachers are asking when we’re going to do something for girls, so maybe we’ll go there. And I think the next book will have a secret door in it. I built bike for a real solar bike race and wrote Tas and the Solar Bike about that. I built a crazy trolley for a Red Bull trolley race – and that became Mata and the Crazy Trolley. I’ve just made a secret door to my office – for fun. It looks like a bookshelf, and when you twist an old clock, slide a statue, and pull a book, the door swings open. I’ve got a feeling this is going to feature in my next book.
Check out the selection of titles from Marathon Books (NZ) that are available on Big Universe.