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Violet Mackerel's Brilliant Plot

Illustrated by Elanna Allen



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About The Book

Introducing Violet Mackerel, a charismatic new chapter book star with a zest for life and an endearing, relatable voice akin to Ramona Quimby and Junie B. Jones.

Violet is a seven-year-old with a knack for appreciating the smallest things in life: her “Theory of Finding Small Things” states that the moment of finding a tiny treasure usually coincides with the moment of having a genius idea. This creative little girl always strives to think outside the box, so when she spots a small china bird that she desperately wants, she forms an imaginative plan for getting it—and her methods are anything but ordinary!
Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot is the first book in an irresistibly charming series starring Violet and her family that has pitch-perfect perspective and plenty of laugh-out-loud humor.


Violet Mackerel is quite a small girl, but she has a theory.

Her theory is that when you are having a very important and brilliant idea, what generally happens is that you find something small and special on the ground. So whenever you spy a sequin, or a stray bead, or a bit of ribbon, or a button, you should always pick it up and try very hard to remember what you were thinking about at the precise moment when you spied it, and then think about that thing a lot more. That is Violet’s theory, which she calls the Theory of Finding Small Things.

“Wake up, Violet,” says Violet’s mama. “It’s nearly five o’clock.”

It is Saturday, which is market day. Violet yawns. It is still dark. Mama’s hair is a bit damp from her shower and it smells like mangoes and blossoms. Violet leans forward for a snuggle and nearly falls asleep again.

“Just stay awake until we’re all in the van,” says Mama. “Then you can sleep as much as you like.”

Violet’s big brother, Dylan, and big sister, Nicola, are already awake, and they are helping to load up the van with fold-up tables and chairs, the big canopy umbrella, and boxes and baskets of Mama’s knitting. They are going to the market like they do every Saturday morning, to sell the woolly things Mama makes.

Violet thinks she would quite like to wear her pajama bottoms under her skirt today. They feel nice and warm from bed. Sometimes if you say things like “Can I wear my pajama bottoms to the market?,” people say things like “No.” But if you just put your skirt on over the top, and have your eyebrows slightly raised like someone who is thinking of something very important and interesting, no one says anything at all.

When Violet, Mama, Nicola, and Dylan arrive at the market, even though it is still not properly light, lots of people are already there, bundled up and rubbing their hands together with coldness, unfolding and unpacking their things to sell. No one notices Violet’s pajama bottoms.

Violet’s favorite person at the market (apart from Mama and Dylan and Nicola and herself) is a man who never smiles. He sells china birds, small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, and he is there every week. Violet says hello to him as she always does, and he doesn’t even look up, which he never does. But after waking up at nearly five o’clock in the morning, Violet doesn’t feel much like chatting or smiling either. So she feels that even though he never says hello back, she and the man might share a sort of understanding.

The man’s china birds are all different and all very dirty. Dylan says that they are probably brand-new from a factory. He thinks the man has just put dirt on them so that they will look ancient and he can sell them for ten dollars instead of two. But Violet doubts it. She thinks it is much more likely that he is an archaeologist. She suspects that he specializes in digging up ancient china birds.

Violet would quite like to own one of the man’s birds in particular. It is made of pale blue china, the color of a robin’s egg. It is always right at the back of the table.

And just as she is having that thought, out of the corner of her eye, Violet spies a small red button on the dusty market ground.

About The Author

Photograph courtesy of the author

Anna Branford was born on the Isle of Man and spent parts of her childhood in Africa and in Papua New Guinea. Now she lives in Melbourne, Australia, with a large black cat called Florence. She writes, drinks cups of tea in her garden, and makes dolls and other small things, which she sells at early morning markets. Anna is the author of the Violet Mackerel series. Visit her at

About The Illustrator

Photograph courtesy of the illustrator

Elanna Allen lives in New York with her husband and sons, where she writes and illustrates children’s books and designs characters for television. She wrote and illustrated Itsy Mitsy Runs Away and has created characters for Disney, Nickelodeon, and PBS. Stop by and say hi at

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (August 28, 2012)
  • Length: 112 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781442435865
  • Grades: 1 - 5
  • Ages: 6 - 10

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Raves and Reviews

“A collection of small things and a generous gesture win Violet Mackerel the Blue China Bird she’s admired for weeks at the Saturday-morning market….The gentle, present-tense narration reflects the thinking of an imaginative and quite determined 7-year-old, following the model of elders who envision goals and work toward them. She’s not always realistic about her own abilities. Her theory of the importance of small things mirrors the series of small moments that make the story…. Allen’s grayscale drawings enliven almost every page…. Violet and her family are original and appealing, a lovely addition to any chapter-book collection of characters.”

– Kirkus Reviews, June 13, 2012

“Violet is a true original: a complicated heroine for new readers who is neither stereotypically spunky nor silly. She needs her mother’s gentle guidance but is able to solve little problems all by herself. Will there be a sequel? Let’s hope so.”

– Horn Book Magazine, September/October 2012

“Violet has a marvelous world view…. Debut author Branford and illustrator Allen offer up a charming new chapter book star, who is sure to appeal to fans of Sara Pennypacker’s Clementine or Paula Danzinger’s Amber Brown.”

– Booklist Online

"7-year-old Violet desperately wants a beautiful china bird from the flea market. But to raise the ten bucks to buy it, she'll need to master a new skill: outside-the-box thinking. The results are as warm as VIolet is funny, and the tale ends on the sweetest of notes."

– FamilyFun Magazine

"This is a sweet story about a likable little girl who just longs for something small...there is definitely an audience for a quiet but creative heroine. Black-and-white drawings, some full page, add touches of whimsy and humor. A charming easy reader that also serves as a thoughtful, gentle read-aloud."

– School Library Journal, December 2012

“Large type on roomy pages ushers newly minted chapter book readers into the world of charming and resourceful Violet Mackerel…. Generous artwork--sometimes cameo-size, other times anchoring a two-page spread--provides a window into Violet's daily life.

Violet gives girls what Captain Awesome gives boys: a strong character, a large dose of comedy and a sense of adventure.”

– Shelf Awareness, November 30, 2012

Awards and Honors

  • Beverly Cleary Children's Choice Award Nominee (OR)
  • MSTA Reading Circle List

Resources and Downloads

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More books from this author: Anna Branford

More books from this illustrator: Elanna Allen

More books in this series: Violet Mackerel