Fearless Frederic, the latest book by much-loved Australian writer Felice Arena, is a wonderful concoction of adventure, murder, theft, revenge, heroism and of great friends who help each other overcome the odds.
Frederic’s father, a night guard at the world-famous Louvre in Paris has always encouraged him to be brave and show others what he is made of. His father’s dream is that one day Frederic will become a boxer, but Frederic is not so sure.
Words | Felice Arena
I‘ve been fortunate to be able to visit Paris half a dozen times in my life – and I’ve still yet to see it all! On one of my recent trips, in July 2016, the city was experiencing major flooding — the Seine had risen higher than it had for years. As I marveled at the gushing river I overheard locals make reference to another flood in Paris’s history — the Great Flood. ‘The Great Flood?’ I later asked my AirBnB host. ‘Oh, yes, the Great Flood of 1910 – when Paris looked like Venice for a couple of months!’ he said. I immediately googled Paris 1910 and incredible black-and-white photographs of that natural disaster popped up on the screen. I found the images of Parisians shuffling along gangplanks or rowing boats down famous boulevards to be so evocative and poignant, and from these photographs a story began to emerge. I wondered what would it have been like to wake up to discover your home under water? What were the shelters like? How do people help one another when faced with a catastrophe? Who were the heroes or the villains during a major life-changing event like this? I read books, old newspapers from the time — yeah, my basic high-school French was really put to the test — watched films, and vintage video footage from this incredible period in Paris’s history — the Belle Epoque— the ‘beautiful era’. And of course I also visited the city a couple more times during the writing of this story, to speak to locals and visit the landmarks where my protagonist, Frederic, and his adventure was to play out.
I had so much fun researching this book. There were challenges along the way, some fairly complex, such as learning more about the topography of the city, how the city’s sewer system worked, finding out what police uniforms looked like back then, or what desserts the wealthy were eating, or what kinds of folk were likely to have bought kites, or how the streets looked and sounded packed with both horse-driven carts and automobiles.
And then of course there was Frederic. After looking at old photographs of flood victims huddled together in a shelter, I had to ask myself, ‘If I were a kid among these groups, how would I feel? Would I make other friends while I was there? Would I want to help others in need?’ The questions continued to flow and little by little my story about Fearless Frederic started taking shape.
I absolutely loved writing this story. My intention all along was to pen a good old-fashioned rollicking adventure in one of the greatest cities in the world, and I hope I’ve succeeded in doing this. I also hope one day, if you haven’t already, you’ll get to visit Paris. You might even like to take a copy of Fearless Frederic with you and see this wonderful city through his eyes. If you do, please let me know, because that would be absolutely fantastique!
Happy Reading! À bientôt!
Felice Arena is one of Australia’s best-loved children’s writers. He is the author and creator of many popular and award-winning children’s books for all ages, including the acclaimed historical adventure The Boy and the Spy, the bestselling Specky Magee books and the popular Andy Roid and Sporty Kid series.