Picture three 10-year-old students: Odette who is forever eavesdropping conversations and repeating gossip; Massimo who parrots away anything that he is told and embellishes them with colour; and mischievous Owen who day-dreams of becoming a top footballer.
The three of them are all Year Six students of Miss Ambrożja – the quirky, sparkly teacher with seemingly special powers. Indeed, Miss Ambrożja is no ordinary teacher. She seems to have magical powers and is capable of transporting the children to different realities to teach children life lessons.
Stejjer ma jitwemmnux mill-Klassi ta’ Miss Ambrożja Pulis Kiftaranipenġini, written by Audrey Friggieri and aimed at children aged between eight and 11, is the sequel to last year’s surprise hit Avventuri mill-Klassi ta’ Miss Ambrożja Pulis Kiftaranipenġini.
Once again, Miss Ambrożja gives her students a task to solve. This time it is in the form of a challenge: a king in a faraway land decides that on his birthday he wanted to give his slaves the chance to obtain their freedom. But to do so they must pass a test.
“Children, you will be the king’s slaves for a little while ... and you only have one chance,” tells them Miss Ambrożja. The students get all excited: what, how, why, where, when?!
Suddenly – magically – Odette, Massimo and Owen find themselves, separately, in front of the king. They all were set for the challenge. Will they make it? Do they earn their freedom? What skills do they need to survive?
My aim has been to tell a good story in an entertaining way and one which sends an important message to the reader in the process
Audrey Friggieri was previously a teacher of Edward Debono’s Thinking Skills and feels that her writing may have been influenced by the thinking method as she was crafting the stories. In fact, in the first book, Avventuri mill-Klassi ta’ Miss Ambrożja Pulis Kiftaranipenġini, thanks to students Paskal, Furtu, Larissa and Egon, readers are able to appreciate how optimisim helps to turn round difficult situations.
“My aim has been to tell a good story in an entertaining way and one which sends an important message to the reader in the process. I’m usually inspired by events that happen in real life and then I embed my thoughts in a creative, colourful story,” she said.
As with Friggieri’s first novel, Stejjer ma jitwemmnux is illustrated by Spanish artist José Luís Ocaña – whose soft but witty pencil-and-watercolour drawings capture the mood and spirit aptly. For inspiration, Ocaña goes down the nostalgic route back to his childhood. “I go with the flow and just imagine what kind of characters and scenes I would have liked to see as a child while reading the story. This is very important to me as it helps get into a fantasy world, where everything can happen.”
Ocaña is nowadays an established artist with published works in many countries, but he was discovered by Merlin who had commissioned him his first ever book illustration with the first Miss Ambrożja novel.
Stejjer ma jitwemmnux mill-Klassi ta’ Miss Ambrożja Pulis Kiftaranipenġini can be purchased from all leading bookshops or online.
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