The Girl Who Raced the World

by Nat Harrison

When her mother dies, Maggie Appleton discovers London is no place for an orphan. Terrified of ending up in the workhouse, Maggie’s only hope is a letter addressed to a mysterious stranger called Passepartout.

But Maggie gets more than she bargained for when she meets Passepartout’s new employer, the eccentric Mr Fogg. If she is ever to find a home, Maggie must embark on a daring voyage around the world in eighty days…and the clock’s already ticking.

Can the impossible bet be won? Will Maggie find a place to call home? And who is that person lurking in the shadows following their every move?

About the Author

Nat Harrison was born on the tiny volcanic island of Ascension, in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean between Africa and Brazil. She spent her childhood having adventures in England and Hong Kong, and has since journeyed to every continent except Antarctica (it’s next on the list). She doesn’t stay anywhere for very long but can usually be found exploring with her husband and her best dog Shadow, who doesn’t say much but loves a good story. 

Nat has been a sweet seller, hamburger flipper, bingo caller, table waiter, and ice-cream puller. She also worked in communications for some of the most well-known technology brands in Europe, Asia and the US. 

However, the one constant in a life of change is Nat’s love of reading and writing stories. No matter where she is in the world, she’ll always have a book and notepad stashed secretly nearby.

Having earned a distinction for her MA in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University, Nat’s next chapter involves writing middle grade adventures.

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The Girl Who Raced the World by Nat Harrison, introduced by Isobel Clara

The first snippet of The Girl Who Raced the World I read, was a letter from Maggie’s mother to Passepartout. I sobbed. Snotty, snorty, sobs. The writing was beautiful, and the way Nat had crafted Maggie’s grief, her mother’s hope, and Passepartout’s kindness, had me hooked and deeply invested in Maggie’s story from the off. Hankies highly recommended.

But, far from a sad tale, this is one of true adventure and family in all its forms. When her mother dies, Maggie Appleton discovers London is no place for an orphan. Terrified of ending up in the workhouse, her only hope is a letter addressed to a mysterious stranger called Passepartout. Instead of finding a new home, however, Maggie is suddenly caught up in a daring gamble to race around the world in 80 days.

Who wouldn’t want to be swept up in the opportunity to travel across the globe with Phileas Fogg? And the way Nat writes place and setting – it’s sensory heaven, I tell you. C’est magnifique.

What was your inspiration for this story?

I was born on a volcanic island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and have had a fascination with exploration and adventure ever since. Growing up, I could always be found with my nose in an atlas, or spinning the little globe that still has pride of place on my desk. I dreamed of going around the world long before I discovered Phileas Fogg. Then, one day, scribbling away at Corsham Court, Maggie arrived with a suitcase in hand. That’s when the adventure really began!

What was your most memorable moment on the MA?

The first time my words were read aloud to a group of people. It helped that they were read by master storyteller Steve Voake, who could make the bus timetable sound enthralling! But still, watching people react to my words for the first time is a moment I will never forget.

What is the most important thing you learned on the MA?

All the writing theory in the world cannot compete with workshopping, week after week, with people who really care about you and your writing. It’s priceless. Also, I learned to read my work aloud, even if I despise doing it. There is no better way to edit. Now I read all my work to my dog Shadow. Turns out she loves a good adventure!

What’s your favourite part of the writing process?

The lightning strike of a new idea, plot twist, or way to solve a problem, that makes everything tingle. There’s no better feeling.

What do you like doing when you’re not writing?

Exploring, hiking, planning adventures, and reading. So much reading!

What is your top piece of advice for aspiring writers?

You can find a thousand reasons why you shouldn’t even try to be a writer. You went to a terrible school. You didn’t grow up in a literary household. You find grammar baffling and wouldn’t know a dangling participle if it hit you in the face.

Forget all that. Take that piece of paper with all those bad reasons written on it and throw it in the fire. Then get the biggest piece of paper you can find and scribble on it, ‘WATCH THIS!’ Now get to work, my friend.

What was your favourite book as a child?

Such an impossible question. It’s a tie between The Railway Children (oh, that end scene), A Little Princess (I so wanted a friend like Ram Dass) and Heidi (everything, just everything!). I was also a huge fan of Betsy Byars; she introduced me to America, and I have been in love with the place ever since.

What place in fiction do you most want to visit?

Phileas Fogg’s beloved Reform Club, although they’d never let me in the door. So perhaps Dörfli in the Swiss Alps – where Heidi lives with her grandfather. Running through the wildflower meadows in spring with Peter and his goats and bringing Grandmother soft rolls. Heaven!