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Violet Mackerel's Natural Habitat

Illustrated by Elanna Allen
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About The Book

Violet is back with a little bit of helpfulness and a whole lot of heart in this third book of the effervescent Violet Mackerel series.

Violet is the smallest in her family, and has a special affinity for Small Things everywhere. So when she finds a tiny ladybug in the garden, she expects she knows how it feels. It probably has to go to bed before all the others, and whenever it finds out something interesting (like that your ears keep growing all your life even when you are old), the bigger ladybugs probably say they already knew.

Violet wants to help the ladybug, so she names her Small Gloria, puts her in a jar, and feeds her cheese toast. And then Violet wakes up to a horrible surprise. But thankfully, even as Violet learns a hard lesson about natural habitats, she realizes how nice it is to share her own habitat with a big sister.


Violet Mackerel’s Natural Habitat

Violet Mackerel is a seven-year-old girl who is at the shopping center with her mama.

They have been there all afternoon, buying violin strings for Violet’s eleven-year-old brother, Dylan, and an Encyclopedia of Natural Science for her thirteen-year-old sister, Nicola, who is doing a special display for a school science fair. They have not been buying anything for Violet, unless you count gray school socks. Violet does not count gray school socks.

And now Mama has bumped into Mrs. Lin from across the road and they are having an extremely long cup of tea in the food court.

“With petrol prices as they are,” says Mama to Mrs. Lin, “it’s getting difficult to make ends meet.”

“I know,” says Mrs. Lin to Mama. “My bills are going through the roof.”

No one says anything to Violet, so she thinks about Mrs. Lin’s bills going through the roof. The roof of the food court is quite high up. Past two whole floors of shops. And there is a small brown sparrow flying there.

Violet wonders if the sparrow has always lived in the shopping mall or if he flew in by mistake and can’t find his way out of the automatic sliding doors that creak open and shut as the people come and go. She wonders if indoor sparrows are jealous of outdoor sparrows, who have leafy trees to nest in, or if outdoor sparrows are jealous of indoor sparrows, who get doughnut crumbs and bits of hot dog to eat. It is difficult to know what small creatures think. But while Violet is wondering, the sparrow flies down onto the floor of the food court and hops and jumps just near where she is sitting.

Violet wishes she had some doughnut crumbs, but since she doesn’t, she tries to think of what else a sparrow might like. She suspects it is probably quite difficult for an indoor sparrow to find things to build a nest with, and that gives her an idea. The hem of her daisy skirt is coming unraveled, and she pulls on a loose thread. It gets quite long before it breaks. Violet puts it down on the ground for the sparrow.

“You can weave this into your nest,” says Violet.

The sparrow hops over, picks it up in his beak, and flies back toward the roof of the shopping mall.

Violet smiles. A new thought is forming in her mind. It is called the Theory of Helping Small Things and it works like this: If you do something to help a small thing, that small thing might find a way of helping you.

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 (May 21, 2013)
  • Length: 112 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781442435940
  • Ages: 6 - 10

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Raves and Reviews

“Violet’s voice and good spirit is what readers will remember: thoughtful, caring, and with the right amount of self-absorption to mark her as a seven-year-old. Fans will appreciate how Violet has matured over the course of the series. The changes in the sisters’ relationship, forged in the absence of parental interference, make this entry the best in the series so far. Like Ann Cameron’s The Stories Julian Tells, this is an excellent example of a chapter book that takes new readers seriously.”

– The Horn Book, May June 2013

“In this third in a series of Australian imports starring this appealing, inventive child, Violet turns her attention to small creatures…. The death of animals, whether through accidents or of natural causes, often weighs heavily on children, and this deceptively simple early chapter book takes such concerns seriously without getting stuck there…. Readers who met Violet earlier will feel right at home. Still, this sweet family story stands alone and should attract new fans.”

– Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2013

“In this beginning chapter book, seven-year-old Violet Mackerel has a soft spot for Small Things, being one herself…. The sweet and whimsical nature of the story will appeal to many readers.”

– School Library Journal, June 2013

“The ever-curious, often-pensive, imminently imaginative Violet Mackerel is considering the natural habitats of ladybugs and sparrows and little sisters…. Violet’s sweetness and [her older sister] Nicola’s humble patience make for an endearing story of sibling relations in this third book in the Violet Mackerel series.”

– Booklist, June 6, 2013

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More books from this author: Anna Branford

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