Bella and the Voyaging House

CoverFinalWritten by Meg McKinlay
Illustrated by Nicholas Schafer

Fremantle Press, July 2021
Ages 6-10-ish

Bella’s house likes to travel at night, setting sail while everyone sleeps. Her parents don’t mind as long as the house is home by dawn. But one day, Bella has an inspired idea for her grandfather’s birthday. Long-lost, at the bottom of the ocean, lies the perfect present, and she has an equally perfect plan for finding it.

Together, Bella and the house head for the high seas, but getting back in time for breakfast might not be as easy as she thinks. 

What’s a girl to do when her house won’t go home?

This is a standalone chapter book, but also functions as a sequel to the much-loved Bella and the Wandering House.

What Readers Are Saying:

– Year 7 student who has been waiting for a sequel since Year 4

‘…a tender, whimsical story of a girl’s fierce love for her grandfather and the wild possibilities of imagination.’



Download Classroom Ideas

Guest Blog, Fremantle Press: “Does Your Story Have Legs? Creating Characters Who Connect”

Guest Blog, Aussie Reviews: “The Delight is in the Detail” (July 2021)

Interview, Paperbark Words


Behind the Story

This book surprised me. I had no plans to write a sequel to Bella and the Wandering House. Why would I? The story was finished. The house was happy. Bella and Grandad were happy. Mum and Dad were happy-ish and getting happier.


But one day, a couple of years after the book came out, I was sitting down at South Beach in Fremantle, watching boats pass by, and I started musing, in the way that a constantly noisy-headed, endlessly musing person does.

At the end of Bella and the Wandering House [spoiler alert!], the house and family have moved to a new spot by the seaside, and there’s a suggestion that from time to time, the house goes out on the water. And on this particular day, while I’m watching the boats, I start thinking about the house: How would it feel out there on the ocean? What would it do? Would it stay on the surface or dive down? Would it come back festooned with aquatic critters? What if it got stuck out there? Why would that happen and what would it mean for the family and how would Bella fix it, if she even could, and and and…

On and on, in the way and noisy, endlessly musing brain goes.

But this is what I do, all the time. This is what happens in the background of every day; of every conversation when you suspect I’m perhaps not paying as much attention to what you’re saying as I should be which is probably and actually every conversation we’ve ever had; of every walk I take around the neighbourhood or in the bush, when every damn thing I see generates a random thought that connects to another random thought that connects to another … and on and on and because there are so very many of these moments and random thoughts and connections, most of them remain just that. It’s the very rare instance that that hooks me enough to follow further down its rabbit-hole, that ends up becoming something tangible – a poem, a story, a quirky little chapter book.

For me, when that happens, it’s usually because something else has bumped into it in my brain – something unrelated has pressed against it in a way that seems to generate a spark.

And there were kite-surfers at South Beach that day, and wind-surfers, too, swooping and leaping and occasionally ditching themselves into the waves. And while I watched them, and the boats, I was thinking about the house getting stuck out on the ocean and how Bella and her Mum and Dad would be trapped out there with it, and who could possibly save them but Grandad because he really is my favourite character and I want him at the heart of all things. And he’s also an inventor, someone who likes to make wacky little projects out of odds & ends just for fun and also because you never know when something like this might come in handy.

And there are kite-surfers. Did I mention the kite-surfers?

So I go home and tell my husband that I had this cool idea about a sequel where the house goes out on the ocean – for some reason, I don’t know what but you know, some really good reason – and then it gets stuck – I don’t know why but you know, for some really good reason – and they have to get rescued and Grandad has been working on this invention made out of an old kite and he comes flying in and …

And I’m thinking yeah, that would be pretty cool but I’m probably not going to write it though because I have a gazillion other things to do and it’s all a bit vague really and one cool thing does not a story make and then my husband says, “Yeah! And Grandad could be wearing those old-time aviator goggles!”

And suddenly I can see him in my head – Grandad – and he’s grinning from ear to ear and absolutely having the time of his life and I have no idea what the story is about or why the house is on the ocean or why it gets stuck or what happens next or before or after … or indeed much of anything except the most important thing, which is that Grandad is so absolutely thrilled to be flying in on a kind of kite-like contraption he’s made himself for just such a contingency, wearing old-timey pilot goggles, that he’s doing the thing he never knew was the thing in the world he most wanted to do.

And I absolutely cannot let him down.

And so I write a sequel, taking a mere two years and change, and Fremantle Press says Yes please!” and also, “Umm, what took you so long?” and I say, “Yay! and also, “Let us never speak of it again.” And we call it Bella and the Voyaging House, and lo! Here we are.Contraption
*Glorious illustration by Nicholas Schafer