Cassy Polimeni is introducing habitat conservation to kids in a magical way with her new junior fiction series 'Ella and the Frogs'

Cassy Polimeni Ella and the Amazing Frog Orchestra Ella and the Frogs Interview Junior Fiction Samantha Hearn YA and Children's

Ella and the Amazing Frog Orchestra is a junior fiction book exploring themes of environment preservation, endangered species (frogs), finding home and human kindness. In this interview author Cassy Polimeni chats to UWAP intern Samantha Hearn about the first book in the Ella and the Frogs series.


Cassy Polimeni headshot_credit Fran Jorgensen

Cassy Polimeni is the author of CBCA Notable Book The Garden at the End of the World and junior fiction series Ella and the Frogs. She is the former editor of Destinations Australia magazine, and has also worked as a TV book reviewer and an airport chauffeur. Cassy won Just Write for Kids Pitch It! Competition in 2020, and was the recipient of an ASA Award Mentorship in 2022. She is a volunteer with the Author Pen Pals program, and a Writer In Residence with education charity Ardoch. Cassy lives with her family on Bunurong country in Melbourne.


What inspired you to become a junior fiction author?

I’ve dabbled in writing for most age groups (picture books, middle grade, YA, even short stories for grown ups), but I first declared I wanted to be an author when I was seven years old, so perhaps it’s no accident that I’ve landed in junior fiction.

Junior fiction is a broad church. It’s usually aimed at 5 to 8 year olds, but themes, tone, word count and the number and style of illustrations can vary wildly. It’s such an exciting time in a child’s life, when they’re learning to read (having a front seat to the neuron fireworks that occur when that happens is pure magic!), or beginning to read independently, and starting to develop their own taste and preferences and a broader understanding of the world and their place in it. Many kids this age still enjoy being read to as well, so it can be a great way to connect at the end of the day.


Why did you write Ella and the Amazing Frog Orchestra?

It started as a story about moving house, and having to leave everything you know behind. But I knew Ella had to have some special interest, something that would help her connect with her new home and community. I was sitting in my little courtyard garden pondering what that could be when a chorus of cicadas started up and I thought, ‘maybe Ella is a nature girl?’ I spent a lot of time exploring at bush kinder with my daughter when she was little, and the more I read about native frogs and all their quirks and calls, special markings and abilities, and status as barometers of climate change, the more possibilities opened up. I love stories about the intersection of science and art/magic, so once the idea of the frog orchestra emerged, I was hooked.


Ella and the Amazing Frog Orchestra


What research did the book entail?

Lots of pouring over field guides to study frog habits and markings and listening to recordings online to get the frog calls right. Most of the frogs described in Ella and the Amazing Frog Orchestra are based on frogs that can be found in southeast Australia. I wanted to be consistent and accurate with how they were represented, without explicitly naming the frogs or the region because I want people from all over Australia (and hopefully the world!) to be able to connect with the story. I was lucky enough to have access to a frog expert at Melbourne Museum, and ran some of the terms and diagrams used in the book past her.


Ella has a love for frogs and the preservation of the environment. Do you think that junior fiction has the power to promote change?

I think any book you connect with when you’re young has the power to stay with you, which can change how you view the world and interact with it. It was important to me that this book wasn’t didactic, though. First and foremost, I wanted it to be a celebration of the magic and music of nature. I really like the David Sobel quote: ‘Give children a chance to love the earth before we ask them to save it.’


How do you expect Ella and the Amazing Frog Orchestra to be viewed/incorporated within educational settings, such as schools?

I’m always amazed with the creative ways teachers and librarians engage with books in the classroom so I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with. I hope the story keeps kids interested and gets them reading or enjoying storytime, and maybe that leads to taking a closer look at the natural world, becoming a citizen scientist like Ella by carrying around a notebook and making observations about what they see. There are possibilities to tie in with schools’ existing garden clubs or nature programs, as well as art programs. A lot of schools around Australia already have their own frog bogs and I would love to see renewed interest in this, and in the simple things we can do to make our immediate environments more friendly to native wildlife.


What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

Mostly I hope they enjoy the story, and want to join Ella and Mai on future adventures. If they learn something about frogs and protecting habitats or decide they want to build a frog bog in their backyard – well, that would be a nice bonus!


What are some of your goals for 2024?

I’ll be busy writing Books 2 and 3 in the Ella and the Frogs series, and promoting Book 1 (Ella and the Amazing Frog Orchestra). I’m hoping to get out and about to as many schools, libraries and bookshops as possible to connect with young readers and talk about the book. And hopefully spend a fair bit of time in nature myself.


Ella and the Amazing Frog Orchestra is out on 1 July 2024 from UWA Publishing. Order your copy here.


Samantha Hearn is a Curtin University student who is in her final semester of postgraduate studies, completing an MA of Arts, majoring in Professional Writing and Publishing. She has a love for reading, writing and literature (specifically in the fiction genres) and has a passion to work within the publishing industry. 

Samantha Hearn | LinkedIn

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