Dropping In

Sticks and Ranga live on the same street, go to the same school and love the same things – skateboarding and PlayStation.

Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 10.21.50 amThen James moves in across the road from Sticks, and quickly becomes one of the group.

Celebral Palsy stops James from doing some of the things Sticks and Ranga can do, but he’s still got a sense of humour and a thirst for adventure.

James is desperate to go skateboarding, and the guys have a plan to make it happen.

But their scheme is not without risks, and could end up in James being seriously injured.

I love the authenticity of this book. The characters are so real. I love that they are not stereotyped teens; that they make mistakes, but they genuinely care about and help each other.

Author Geoff Havel has insightfully captured the sense of humour and the adventurous spirit of boys this age.

The characters are so diverse. There’s Sticks, the main character who lacks confidence and is a victim of the skateboard park bully. He’s also coping with the uncertainties of his first crush on Jess who seems to be sending him mixed signals. There’s Ranga who’s smart but not academic. He’s also fearless and strong. Then there’s James who’s brainy and courageous and wants to do what the others can do. He’s prepared to risk a lot of pain in the name of fun.

One of the things I liked most about this book was that each of the three characters brings so much to the lives of the other two. This is a group of true friends and their relationship with each other is moving, and believable.

Dropping In is a compelling read. It’s a great example of how diversity in books can enrich the experience for a reader, and broaden their understanding of what it’s like to live with a cerebral palsy or ADHD.

Dropping In is published by Fremantle Press for readers aged 10 to 14.

 

This is Captain Cook

I’m fascinated by the past so when I see a picture book like This is Captain Cook that encourages a love of history in the very young, I can’t help but be excited about it.

Cover Capt Cook FINALThis is Captain Cook is the creation of the very talented Tania McCartney (author) and amazing illustrator, Christina Booth. It’s not just a recount of history, it takes us into the world of Captain Cook and brings him alive to the reader as a person we might be interested to know.

This is Captain Cook tells about the life and times of Captain James Cook through a school play performed by Miss Batt’s Class.

This is such a unique and innovative idea that ensures this book works on a number of different levels. It can be read, or even acted out.

imagesThe text is full of facts, but it’s lively and fun. James loved running amok on the family farm with his brothers and sisters and goats and chickens.

images-1The illustrations are beautiful, full of little gems to enthral young book enthusiasts, and make adult readers smile.

The text and illustrations are rich with threads that weave throughout the book making it something that kids can pore over for hours. It’s also a book that’s great in the classroom to appeal to different learning styles.

images-2I have never seen history presented for young children in such an entertaining and appealing way.

The is Captain Cook is published by the National Library of Australia for readers aged 3+

Monthly Manuscript Makeover – Two of My Characters Sound Like Each Other

I had an enquiry from Kat who is writing a young adult novel in multiple points of view, and was worried that two of her character’s voices sounded a bit similar. They are both written in first person.

This has happened to me, and my tips are based on what I did to fix this in my own manuscript.

  1. Write a single paragraph summary of each character – something to really capture their essence so I could clearly distinguish them in my own mind. You can even do a table to show how different they are. For example:
L M
cautious bold
dreamy focussed
thinks before she speaks forthright
optimistic pragmatic
family orientated family orientated
loyal loyal
lives in a bit of a fantasy world truth seeker
believes best of people realistic

If you look at the key characteristic/s of your characters by doing this, you will see they are both very different.

  1. Look at how each character speaks. You can show differences in the length of their sentences, their word choices, the actions that go with their words, their speech patterns (do they pause a lot or is their speech free flowing?), their mannerisms, their thought patterns.
  1. Think of a situation – it could be one from your novel. How does/would each character react in this situation? It’s likely that both your characters will react in different ways. This will help you understand their differences, and convey this in your writing.
  1. How each character thinks is really important. Try to look at things through each character’s eyes, from their point of view. This will also help you understand their differences. For example, if there were an ‘anti-war demonstration’ in your character’s town’, would they go? How would each of these characters view war? Would one volunteer to fight and the other not? Would they both be opposed to it? Would they both volunteer? Characters are like people. They don’t think the same way on everything.
  1. Try rewriting part of your character’s point of view in third person, if you haven’t done so already. This will help you step outside the character a bit and may enable you to see and learn new things about them. It will enable you to see how they interact with others, how others see them, and what their place in the story is.

I hope you found this helpful. If you have any tips on how to make a character’s voice distinct from another, feel free to leave them in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing:)

Dee

ABOUT THE MONTHLY MANUSCRIPT MAKEOVER

If you’d like to get some feedback on an excerpt of your manuscript, Here’s what you have to do.

  1. Send me 200 words of the manuscript with your question or outline of what you need help with OR
  1. Alternatively, you can just send me the writing question itself. For example, “My main character isn’t very likeable, what can I do about it?”

Email your 200 word writing piece or your question or both, together with a paragraph about yourself and a paragraph about your work in progress.

Also, if you’d like to see a blog post about a particular topic, please feel free to make suggestions.

Email to dee*at*deescribe*dot*com*dot*au

Jake In Space – Volcanoes of Venus

Jake In Space – Volcanoes of Venus by Candice Lemon-Scott is an action packed read with plenty of humour.

872-20150129144727-Jake-4-LRJake lives in the future. His home base is a space station on Earth but he travels throughout the solar system, solving mysteries and thwarting villains before they can carry out their evil plans.

In each story, the Central Intergalactic Agency (CIA) sends its cyborg, Henry, on a secret mission. Jake ends up helping his cyborg friend but things never seem to go according to plan.

Each Jake in Space book is a stand alone adventure, and Volcanoes of Venus is the fourth book in the series.

Jake is excited to be staying at the famous Floating Hotel of Venus, until his cyborg friend Henry sniffs out more than just garbage. 

Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 9.14.59 amIn Volcanoes of Venus, Jack and Henry race against time to stop the Veno Volcano from erupting and wiping out the Floating Hotel. But the Floating Hotel’s hostess Valerie has other plans.

She captures Jack and his friends, and plans to toss them into the volcano. It will take all of Jack and Henry’s skills and daring to escape this time.

This fast paced adventure also has plenty of lighter moments. Humour is used to show us the authentic voice, of main character, Jake.

After they passed the fiftieth volcano, Jake thought he would rather have his eyes gouged out than listen to the robot go on any longer.

The language, descriptions and interaction between the characters will help young readers imagine themselves in this fun futuristic setting.

Jake In Space is published by New Frontier for readers aged 7+. The Jake In Space website has activities for kids and notes for teachers.

You can find out more about author Candice Lemon-Scott here.

Two new Jake In Space adventures are coming soon.

Once a Creepy Crocodile

Being a bush poet from way back, I’ve always been a big fan of Waltzing Matilda so I was really looking forward to reading Once a Creepy Crocodile, a picture book written to the same rhyming meter. I wasn’t disappointed.

Unknown-3Once a Creepy Crocodile, written by Peter Taylor and illustrated by Nina Rycroft is full of the things that young readers love; colour, humour and some scary bits.

9781743467282 It’s the story of a baby brolga who catches a lurking crocodile’s eye and is invited to join him for tea.

And his tail waggled and wiggled while he winked and grinned and giggled saying,
‘Please come and join me for afternoon tea’.

Luckily, the brolga is kept from harm by the animals of the billabong.

Afternoon tea has never been so dangerous! (Or fun!)

Once a Creepy Crocodile is a riot of colour that lends itself to being an entertaining classroom read or whole family fun.

Unknown-2It’s the kind of book that could also be performed in the classroom with different students taking on the different animal roles in the story.

There’s a cheeky twist at the end that will leave young readers giggling – and Nina Rycroft has illustrated the perfect afternoon tea.

Kids will love the engaging animals and the entertaining illustration detail in Once a Creepy Crocodile.

This book comes with its own singalong CD. Once a Creepy Crocodile is published by The Five Mile Press

Elephants Have Wings

Elephants Have Wings is a stunning picture book written by Susanne Gervay and illustrated by Anna Pignataro representing the search for peace.

ELEPHANTS-HAVE-WINGS-COVER-jPG-1170x520It’s the story of two children who embark on an extraordinary journey on the wings of a mystical white elephant, as they search for the humanity in all of us.

This story is inspired by the parable of the blind man and the elephant found in Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Sufism and modern philosophy.

pic-elephant-800-x-3801Each page in this book is an exquisite work of art – a true harmony of text and illustration.

The parts of the elephant are the parts of the truth and the tree of life is beautifully depicted in Anna’s detailed illustrations..

I love the colour and vibrance of this book, the movement and the melding of all elements.

“The air dances with elephant wings, flying with tails whirling, legs outstretched, ivory shining.

Ears swaying in a towering wall as we soar
over snowy mountain peaks.

There are so many layers in this book that I can see it having appeal to readers of any age.

Elephants are revered in religion and respected for their prowess in war. Ever since the stone age, there have been images of elephants in art and mythology surrounding them. For many cultures they symbolise courage, hope, endurance, wisdom.

Elephants-children-with-elephant-partsElephants Have Wings crosses all borders, and has relevance anywhere in the world today.

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 5.22.25 pmIt’s no wonder this book has been endorsed by the Blake Prize for art and poetry.

The Blake Prize is named after the legendary British artist and poet William Blake (1757-1827). Established by Jesuit priest, Michael Scott and a Jewish artist, Richard Morley to create significant works of spiritual art in 1951 in the search for understanding and peace. The Blake Poetry Prize was added in 2008.

Full of motifs, symbols, pictures and texts that represent diversity and our universe, Elephants Have Wings provides so much to think and talk about in the classroom.

Elephants Have Wings is published by Ford Street Publishing. Find out more about this ‘peace book for our time’ at author Susanne Gervay’s website.

Comprehensive teacher’s notes are available here.

 

Monthly Manuscript Makeover – Tips to Help You With Your Work in Progress

Author, Taryn Bashford has asked for some tips on her current work-in-progress.

Taryn, I hope you find my suggestions helpful. If you have some suggestions of your own for Taryn, feel free to leave them in the comments section of this post.

Taryn is a YA writer,  and winner of a couple of writing awards ie Varuna House and Scribe Publishing. Thanks to CYA Brisbane where she had the chance to meet an agent, she is represented by Alex Adsett Literary Agency. This is her second completed YA novel, the first is out on submission.

The following excerpt is from Taryn’s manuscript, The Purple Wars

The concept

For 17 year old tennis superstar Harper, winning Wimbledon is a challenge and prying open the dark secrets that belong to her doubles partner Colt, is confronting. But hiding her love for her twin sister’s boyfriend is an epic test that starts a war. In trying to put their lives back together again, Harper needs to win the war between what people want and what people need.

Taryn’s question

It’s the first page of the novel – yes the one we all agonise over… so wondering if I’m pulling the reader in, setting up the character and plot in an interesting way…

The excerpt

The dining room is where the ghosts and monsters play. That’s what Jacob from next door said back then, when we were six years old, our necks curling around the half open door, our eyes blurting fright. Even now it’s my least favourite room in our house. It’s where adults belong, where serious topics are discussed, where it smells of calla lilies instead of brownies and popcorn, and it’s the only room in the house where I can’t see the Purple Woods.

So when Dad and Coach Kominsky invite me to take a seat at the solid jarrah table, the cream cushioned chairs imprinted with the bums of ghosts, I wrap my arms around myself and respond with a brisk, ‘I’m good.’

Dad’s grey eyes can’t seem to find anywhere comfortable to rest. He tries my face, but that’s like staring into the sun. He slides a zapped glance toward Coach Kominsky instead. Coach K has been the sun for these past few years, our lives revolving around his every word and action, so that’s no good either. Dad’s gaze weaves out the window into the afternoon sky, glazed behind his frameless spectacles. He’s doing a good job of keeping his feelings locked up; when I first joined them in the dining room there was a hurricane happening behind his eyes, the devastation rippling off him like heat waves in a desert.

My feedback

The dining room is where the ghosts and monsters play.
Great opening line, but is there a way to relate this to your character’s experience so you can bring her into being the main focus straight away?

That’s what Jacob from next door said back then, when we were six years old, our necks curling around the half open door, our eyes blurting fright.

Another great line. I really get the feeling of fear. Perhaps you don’t need, ‘back then, when we were six years old’. You could just say, That’s what Jacob from next door said when we were six years old,

Even now it’s my least favourite room in our house. It’s where adults belong (Not sure you need ‘where adults belong’ and it’s more like something a very young kid might say.), where serious topics are discussed, where it smells of calla lilies instead of brownies and popcorn, and it’s the only room in the house where I can’t see the Purple Woods. I think that, “it’s the only room etc” deserves a sentence on its own.

So when Dad and Coach Kominsky invite me to take a seat at the solid jarrah table, the cream cushioned chairs imprinted with the bums of ghosts, I wrap my arms around myself and respond with a brisk, ‘I’m good.’

You mention the ghosts again here – and this sounds more like the ‘voice’ of your character. Is there a reason you didn’t start here? It would also connect readers with your character straight away.

Here’s what I mean:

When Dad and Coach Kominsky invite me to take a seat at the solid jarrah dining room table, the cream cushioned chairs imprinted with the bums of ghosts, I wrap my arms around myself and respond with a brisk, ‘I’m good.’ The dining room smells of calla lilies instead of brownies and popcorn. It’s the only room in the house where I can’t see the Purple Woods.

Dad’s grey eyes can’t seem to find anywhere comfortable to rest. He tries my face, but that’s like staring into the sun. He slides a zapped glance toward Coach Kominsky instead. Coach K has been the sun for these past few years, our lives revolving around his every word and action, so that’s no good either. Dad’s gaze weaves out the window into the afternoon sky, glazed behind his frameless spectacles. He’s doing a good job of keeping his feelings locked up; when I first joined them in the dining room there was a hurricane happening behind his eyes, the devastation rippling off him like heat waves in a desert.

This paragraph takes us away from the main character and changes the focus to Dad. I think it could be more through your main character’s eyes.

Here’s an example,

“I can hardly bring myself to look at Coach or Dad. Coach is glaring at me. Dad’s head is bowed, his devastation ripples off him like heat waves in a desert. My chair makes a groaning noise as I fidget in my seat.”

This is just an example, Taryn to show you how you can swing it back to your main character’s point of view.

Perhaps this is also the point where you can introduce the main character’s name; perhaps someone says something to her and calls her by her name. You need to ground the reader in your story and your character, and name and age is always a good start although it’s not essential to give all this information all at once. But the reader needs to have an idea from the start who she is, and why they should care what happens to her – it should be clear what gender your character is.

Also, your imagery is fabulous, but when you put a hurricane and a heat wave in the desert in the same sentence, this can create confusing imagery in the mind of the reader. Each of these images on its own is very strong so you don’t want them competing with each other.

Make sure the meaning is clear for the reader. When you use long complicated sentences it can create ambiguous meaning.

For example, “He’s doing a good job of keeping his feelings locked up; when I first joined them in the dining room”, could be construed to mean that the character is joining her father’s feelings in the dining room.

You can avoid this sort of thing by showing the action as it happens.

For example, if you showed your character’s reaction as soon as she entered the dining room.

I think you could also show more of your character’s reactions to the whole location and situation. Do her eyes dart about? Does she sit on the edge of her seat? Does she think she hears something? Is the room dark? Is it closing in on her?

When your main character wraps her arms around herself, that’s the only reaction you’re showing us, yet you are showing how Dad feels. It makes your character seem a bit detached.

You need to get right into your character’s head right from the start. You want the reader to connect with your character and her turmoil, not her dad’s.

I hope you find this helpful, Taryn. If you have have questions or aren’t sure what I mean, feel free to comment on this post, and I will respond.

Happy writing:)

Dee

ABOUT THE MONTHLY MANUSCRIPT MAKEOVER

If you’d like to get some feedback on an excerpt of your manuscript, Here’s what you have to do.

  1. Send me 200 words of the manuscript with your question or outline of what you need help with OR
  1. Alternatively, you can just send me the writing question itself. For example, “My main character isn’t very likeable, what can I do about it?”

Email your 200 word writing piece or your question or both, together with a paragraph about yourself and a paragraph about your work in progress.

Also, if you’d like to see a blog post about a particular topic, please feel free to make suggestions.

Email to dee@deescribe.com.au