Mowll, Joshua 1970(?)-

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Mowll, Joshua 1970(?)-


Born c. 1970, in England. Education: Attended art school. Hobbies and other interests: Sailing, restoring old Land Rovers.


Home—London, England.


Author and illustrator. Mail on Sunday (newspaper), London, England, graphic artist, 1994—.



Operation Red Jericho, illustrated by Benjamin Mowll, Niroot Puttapipat, and Julek Heller, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2005.

Operation Typhoon Shore, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2006.


Joshua Mowll sets up an adventurous premise in his "Guild of Specialists" novels, an old-fashioned science-fiction trilogy geared for readers aged from nine to twelve. The series is "action-packed all the way," according to London Guardian reviewer Philip Ardaugh, the critic adding that Mowll's work "has the feel of a B-movie from the 30s or 40s but with child protagonists, with skullduggery involving johnny-foreigners on the South China Seas." The drama involves missing parents, secret societies, murdered scientists, and sinister villains, all brought to life through the fold-out maps and diagrams, photographs, and other ephemera that fill the pages of each volume and add a tantalizing layer of realism. "Budding scientists, inventors and fans of all things nautical … will … be enraptured by this lovingly created, highly visual offering," predicted a Kirkus Reviews critic of the series.

Mowll begins his "Guild of Specialists" saga in Operation Red Jericho, which includes a preface purportedly revealing the book's source: the memoirs of Mowll's late great aunt Rebecca MacKenzie. The woman's papers, bequeathed to Mowll at her death, set forth adventures she encountered during the 1920s. Then age fifteen, Rebecca and her thirteen-year-old brother Doug MacKenzie were living in India when their parents disappeared during a trip to China. The siblings are sent to live with their uncle, Captain Fitzroy MacKenzie, whose ship, the Expedient, is on an oceanographic research mission. Soon the children find themselves setting sail for the Orient aboard the Expedient. With boundless curiosity and rebellious natures, Becca and Doug uncover the existence of a secret society called the Honorable Guild of Specialists, the purpose of which is to fight evil in all its guises. As Operation Red Jericho continues, the siblings encounter pirates, strange undersea vessels, opium dens, the villainous warlord Sheng-Fat, and a rare and deadly compound called zoridium. They also learn that the trail to their missing parents leads directly into the secret depths of the mysterious Guild. "Mowll spins a heady yarn," noted Booklist contributor Francisca Goldsmith, the critic adding that the sketches, maps, and other illustrations "will have great appeal for readers who thrive on schematics and puzzles." "Some readers may pore over the details in this novel," asserted Diane S. Marton in School Library Journal; "others will simply appreciate the comic adventure."

The adventures of the MacKenzie children continue in Operation Typhoon Shore as Becca and Doug escape from the remote South Sea island of a ruthless pirate only to find themselves battling a powerful storm at sea that strands them on a volcanic island. While they are desperate to resume the search for their parents, their guardian, Captain MacKenzie, is more interested in tracking down a missing gyrolabe. As the story progresses, a sixteenth-century painting reveals a singular clue that may reveal Mr. and Mrs. MacKenzie's whereabouts, and the secret of the Guild as well. However, with their nemesis and his evil warrior army quickly advancing, will Becca and Doug be able to follow their new lead? In Kirkus Reviews a contributor observed that the "gleefully seamless mix of fact and fancy" Mowll conjures up in Operation Typhoon Shore sustains the "wild South Seas rumpus begun" in the first book. Noting the "ingenuity, bravery, and wit" exhibited by the novel's teen protagonists, Tasha Saecker wrote in School Library Journal that the second "Guild of Specialists" adventure "rolls along with plenty of action and fun."

Part of the attraction of Mowll's "Guild of Specialists" books is their design: With their heavy paper and textured, leather-like covers, they resemble old-fashioned journals. As Nicolette Jones wrote of the first book in the London Sunday Times, Operation Red Jericho "is not just an adventure story; it is a designer object." In fact, Mowll submitted his original manuscript to his publisher in a cardboard box secured with red sealing wax. The manuscript pages inside were supplemented with photos, maps, and other illustrations, all of which had to be sifted through and sorted. For Mowll, a graphic designer, as well as for his publisher, creating the "Guild" novels soon became an adventure in itself. Calling Operation Red Jericho "something of a multimedia extravaganza, London Mail on Sunday writer John Williams concluded that the book "adds up to a smart, effective package likely to appeal to children of all ages."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, November 15, 2005, Francisca Goldsmith, review of Operation Red Jericho, p. 55; January 1, 2007, Francisca Goldsmith, review of Operation Typhoon Shore, p. 81.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, December, 2005, review of Operation Red Jericho, p. 196.

Guardian (London, England), November 12, 2005, Philip Ardagh, review of Operation Red Jericho, p. 20.

Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2005, review of Operation of Red Jericho, p. 854; October 15, 2006, review of Operation Typhoon Shore, p. 1075.-

Kliatt, September, 2005, Michele Winship, review of Operation Red Jericho, p. 11.

Magpies, September, 2005, Lyn Linning, review of Operation Red Jericho, p. 32; November, 2006, Rayma Turton, review of Operation Typhoon Shore, p. 34.

Mail on Sunday (London, England), September 4, 2005, John Williams, review of Operation Red Jericho, p. 61.

Publishers Weekly, September 5, 2005, review of Operation Red Jericho, p. 63.

School Librarian, winter, 2005, Steve Hird, review of Operation Red Jericho, p. 215; spring, 2007, Robin Barlow, review of Operation Typhoon Shore, p. 34.

School Library Journal, December, 2005, Diane S. Marton, review of Operation Red Jericho, p. 150; March, 2007, Tasha Saecker, review of Operation Typhoon Shore, p. 214.

Sunday Times (London, England), September 25, 2005, Nicolette Jones, review of Operation Red Jericho, p. 54.


Walker Books Web site, (March 25, 2008), "Joshua Mowll."