Three Times A Charm with Sandra Bennett

Welcome to Three Times A Charm. I love introducing my readers to new authors, illustrators, bloggers, agents, editors or promoters from the children’s publishing industry.

Today’s guest is author, Sandra Bennett. Thanks for joining us, Sandra. Please tell us a little about you.

I am a self-confessed book-a-holic who can’t walk passed a book shop without diving in to purchase just one more book, even though my shelves at home are already jam packed. At school I was the one who always had my nose in a book, this continued into my teaching career which came naturally along with my love for literacy. I became a Primary School teacher in my early twenties and juggled teaching with raising my three boys for close on 25 years. I have taught in Sydney, on the Central Coast of NSW, overseas in Thailand and lastly in our nation’s capital, Canberra. I have had experience from Pre-school through to Year 6 and in the early years even taught in a few high schools. Some of my favourite experiences were the years teaching kindergarten, ESL and Literacy Assistance as I have always loved helping children learn to read. After school I have tutored reading and English in general as well as been a soccer mum, and a boy scouts leader. It seemed a natural progression to continue helping readers by finally fulfilling my life-long dream of writing books for young children. This includes early and reluctant readers as I strive to support and create a new generation of readers.

Along with my Primary School teaching Degree, I also have a Graduate Diploma in ESL/LOTE, Certificates 1 and 2 in Indonesian, and a Diploma in Children’s Writing. For those unsure of the acronyms, ESL is (teaching English as a Second Language) and LOTE is (teaching Languages Other Than English). In my case I trained to teach Indonesian. I specifically chose this language as Indonesia is our closest neighbour and felt our children are more likely to travel to Indonesia or have business encounters with them throughout their lifetimes. Funnily enough though, I was once asked to teach Spanish for a term when the Spanish teacher was off sick. It was rather tricky trying to keep one step ahead of the kids each week as we muddled our way through learning another language. It is amazing how adaptable you can learn to be when required.

I have now settled into a more tranquil life in the country where I am able to concentrate most days on my writing. Here I am inspired by the abundance of nature that surrounds our piece of heaven on earth. I have Blue Fairy Wrens nesting in my native garden just outside my kitchen window. They delight me in being able to say that I have “fairies at the bottom of my garden.” The Eastern Rosellas also provide so much brilliant colour it is like having a rainbow in the garden every day. Kangaroos graze in our paddocks most mornings and evenings. They are amusing to watch, especially when the joeys begin to explore their new found freedom out of the pouch or a couple of males box for the attention of a female. Sometimes when we take our dog for a walk we find an echidna or wombat hiding under a fallen log. There is always something to see, a new experience to be had and another idea to turn into a story. In fact I have two such stories with an illustrator at the moment, I am eagerly waiting to see what she does with them.

What an idyllic picture you paint. I imagine watching the kangaroos and the joeys is much like my neighborhood herd of does and their fawns. Now, can you tell us about your book.

Gingerbread Aliens is the first book in my planned series of five easy to read short chapter children’s books for early and reluctant readers. The series follows the Bradberrie brothers along their Alien adventure through much mischief and mayhem. Laughter and science are mixed with a dose of imagination as the reader finds they are unable to resist the cliffhanger at the end of each chapter. We first meet the three boys busily cooking gingerbread for their school fete and soon come to realize havoc and turmoil is in abundance after the ingredients are accidentally mixed up with those for green slime. Before you know it the nosy next door neighbour, Mrs Witherbottom, becomes involved, inevitably and unwillingly so does school Principal Penwright and the brothers find themselves in a series of unfathomable events that rapidly run on a course out of control.

All the books in the series deal with issues of sibling rivalry, self-esteem, co-operation and problem solving. I use science experiments to evoke imagination and learning even though a certain amount of stretching the imagination is definitely also needed. It is all written with a huge amount of humour to keep the kids as well as mums and dads turning the pages. Alien Shenanigans is book 2, I hope to have released very soon. The final touches on the illustrations are being completed now. I have almost finished writing Book 3, Brussels Sprouts and Alien Brains, so hope it won’t be too far behind book 2.

Last year Gingerbread Aliens had the amazing honour of being selected for use at the 2013 Australian National Eisteddfod. A passage from the book was chosen for children to read in the under 10 Championship section of Speech and Drama. It was a wonderful opportunity to watch children read aloud my words on stage and observe their reactions as they read the lines for the first time.

I write a weekly blog on my website where any updates on these releases will be available. I also write advice for parents with reluctant readers, review recently read books and link posts to author interviews.

I recommend my book to readers who like:

The Witches – Roald Dahl - Some may say it is too scary, evil, and nasty but in essence I haven’t read it to a 4th grade class that hasn’t loved it! They all laugh and can’t wait for the next installment each day. Dahl is witty and disgusting at the same time, he has a perfect formula for a 9-10 year old child to enjoy. Matilda, The BFG, any of Dahl’s books will do. If you like Roald Dahl’s humour, you might like the humour in the turn of events that happen to my character nosy old Mrs Witherbottom from next door.

Gibblewart the Gobblin – The Summer Holiday Collection. Victor Kelleher, Stephen Michael King –A delightfully fun and creative way to learn a little bit about Australia and our wildlife as the cranky little Goblin escapes the cold, wet , miserable climate of Ireland for a delightful warm summer holiday abroad. Discovering some surprising unusual creatures along his adventure make him long for home, he quickly learns to be careful for what he asks for. If you believe in the possibility of goblins perhaps you may also be curious about mischievous brothers and gingerbread aliens, after all, anything is possible with a little imagination.

A Fabumouse School Adventure – Geronimo Stilton Series. There are many bright and colourful stories in this cute mouse adventure series. In this particular episode Geronimo finds himself heading unwillingly back to school evoking all kinds of bad memories. He inevitably finds himself in all kinds of hilarious trouble in his desperate attempt to be the hero. David Bradberrie in Gingerbread Aliens is my reluctant hero who finds himself in a series of comical circumstances around the school he also cannot control.

Now, for the Threes. Share with us your top 3’s to help us know you a little better.

  • Top 3 most admired people and why you admire them.
1. Her Excellency Lady Quentin Bryce, our recently retired Governor General of Australia. A remarkable woman who worked tirelessly for this country with much grace and dignity. I had the honour of meeting her twice on the occasion of two different book launches where she was the guest speaker. Lady Quentin was not only inspirational I also found her heartwarming, caring and giving.

2. I very much admire how J.K. Rowling managed to have a whole generation of both boys and girls eagerly reading anew with each installment of her Harry Potter series. It was so refreshing and different that children everywhere couldn’t get enough of the boy wizard. Silent reading in my classes became a time where so many students were so keen to read. I loved that!

3. My dear friend and colleague, Leonie MacDonald, (she will be embarrassed when she reads this), if it weren’t for Leonie I would probably have never ventured down the path of self-publishing. I admire her tenacity and courage to put her belief in herself and her story out there in the public domain so much that she encouraged me to take the steps forward to stop dreaming and make my stories a reality.

  • Top 3 favorite places.
1. While I have been fortunate in my life to travel extensively around Australia due to my husband’s work, and I have loved all the places we have been and everything we have experienced, when all is said and done there is no place like home. I live on a small 13 acre property only 30 minutes from our nation’s Capital, Canberra, so I have the luxury of all the city amenities at hand while living in the tranquility of the country. Living here inspires me to write every day after I either take our dog for a walk through the bush and listen to all the wonderful bird songs and other sounds of the bush or watch the kangaroos grazing and sometimes boxing in our paddocks.

2. For art and history I can’t go past the amazing architecture of the streets of Paris, France, before exploring the many museums and art galleries that the city has to offer. Although my favourite place in France would have to be Monet’s Garden in Giverny. I spent hours there and still didn’t want to leave.

3. The Ring of Kerry, Ireland is a magical place where I wondered around misty lakes imagining finding fairies and Leprechauns hiding amongst moss covered rocks and ancient tree roots. It is the perfect setting for myths, legends and fairy tales old and new. My imagination couldn’t help but run away with itself here and I can’t wait to go back someday to explore it further.

  • Top 3 personal mantras or inspirational phrases.
1. Childhood is not a race to see how quickly a child can read, write and count. Childhood is a small window of time to learn and develop at the pace which is right for each individual child.

2. Reading to children, even before they can understand words, teaches them to associate books with love and affection.

3. There is no such thing as a child who hates to read, there are only children who have not found the right book. – Frank Serafini

Fabulous advice. Where can our tech savvy readers find more about you and your books?


Thanks for joining us on this week’s Three Times A Charm, Sandra. Best of luck to you and Gingerbread Aliens.


GUESTS WELCOME!  I am always looking for guests for Three Times A Charm. If you are an author, illustrator or book reviewer, an agent or an editor. If you have something related to children’s publishing that you’d like people to know about, feel free to contact me about a future appearance.


  1. Gingerbread Aliens is a genius idea! I love it.

  2. Thanks Kelly, they are pretty cute. You can even find the recipe to make them on either of my websites. Cheers Sandra


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