The Fix It Man – The Writer’s Journey

I’m so thrilled to welcome Dimity Powell and Nicky Johnston, and their beautiful new book The Fix It Man to my blog today.

Nicky and Dimity are both dear friends and amazingly talented people, and I’ve been lucky enough to share the journey of their wonderful picture book from initial idea to publication.fullsizerender

First, congratulations Dimity and Nicky on such a beautiful book.

Now … About The Fix It Man.

ex_fixitman_cvr_300THE JOURNEY

Back in early 2013, Dimity sent me her draft manuscript, The Fix It Man, and asked if I would help her get it ready to submit for publication. It was already a truly beautiful manuscript. The moving storyline was there and the language was lyrical, but I did have a couple of suggestions.

The Beginning

This is how the story originally started:

My Dad can fix anything.
No job is too difficult. No repair is too big. Or too small. Sticky tape is his preferred tool of trade and Super Dooper Dad Glue.
When butterfly bead bracelets break, Dad’s there. When mermaid kite tails tear, Dad’s there. When skipping ropes unravel and rip, Dad’s there.

Burst bulbs, cracked cups, and fractured furniture. Dad never knocks back a challenge.
Because that’s what daddies do.

fixing-dog-house_nickyjohnstonMy suggestion

Dimity’s beginning was already beautifully evocative, but I suggested that the story problem … Mum’s illness … could be introduced into the story earlier and that way readers would connect with the character straight away. I said …

Bringing the story problem in earlier would allow you to take more time in the story with Mum’s illness and eventual passing – and show Dad’s increasingly desperate attempts to fix her. It would create more tension and allow the reader more of an emotional connection.

Language and Tense

Dimity’s language was already beautiful, but I felt it could be strengthened by using consistent forms of words for example, Dad and Mum, rather than switching to Daddy or Mummy and back again.

Sometimes when you get caught in the emotion of the story, it’s easy to slip in a different tense … and this was something else we worked on in The Fix It Man.

But overall, this was such a strong story, that there really wasn’t a whole lot of work to do … and Nicky Johnston’s gorgeous illustrations have strengthened and enhanced it even more.kitchen_nicky_johnston

The Story

In The Fix It Man a young girl believes her father is the king of fixing things, but following the death of her mother, she discovers that broken hearts are not as easy to repair as damaged toys and cracked teapots. Together, she and her father find a way to glue back the pieces of their lives.

The Fix It Man is a poignant picture book that explores how a child can cope with the loss of a parent (in this case, the young girl’s mother). Grief affects all members of a family, with each responding in their own way to the loss. By sticking with her father, the young girl is able to strengthen her resilience and ability to cope with one of life’s harshest experiences. The author was encouraged to seek publication for this story after receiving the endorsement of several grief counsellors who work with children and who recognised the need for a book such as this.

In The Fix It Man grief is handled in such a gentle sensitive way, and despite the subject matter, readers are left with feelings of hope.

There are not many characters in this story, but each one has been well crafted with an authenticity that makes them so relatable.

To hold The Fix It Man in my hand has filled me with so much happiness for these creators. There’s such symmetry between Dimity’s text and Nicky’s evocative illustrations which take the story to a whole new level.

They truly capture the emotion and poignancy of the subject matter and the beautiful relationship between father and daughter.

I can see The Fix It Man providing a wonderful conversation book in homes and schools, not just for gently introducing children to the concept of loss, but for building empathy for others.

MORE ABOUT THE FIX IT MAN …

To celebrate the launch of The Fix It Man, Dimity and Nicky’s blog burst is taking them to many other wonderful places in cyberspace.

You can check them out here:

blog-burst-poster

 

Smile Cry – A Beginner’s Book of Feelings

Smile Cry written by Tania McCartney and illustrated by Jess Racklyeft is a wonderful book to introduce  discussions about feelings.

smilecryfullcover-smallYoung children find that a cry can quickly turn into a smile and vice versa so it’s an ideal blend to have these two feelings showcased in the same book.

Our society often has a negative response to tears so it’s refreshing to see this emotion presented to children as a ‘normal and acceptable’ way to feel.

The way these emotions have been introduced allow the reader to empathise with others and learn that everyone has feelings.

Smile Cry presents the concept that we feel things for a reason.

The simple and powerful text and emotive illustrations make this book relatable and relevant for young children.

The gorgeous pictures represent feelings in a fun, non-threatening way – providing reassurance to young readers.

piglet bunny cat double picFeaturing a very cute pig, rabbit and cat, the emotions of the characters are simply yet strikingly depicted in the illustrations.

Smile Cry is a ‘flip about’ book, symbolic of how emotions and feelings can flip. ‘Smile’ starts from one end and ‘Cry’ from the other, and the feelings meet in the middle.

Smile Cry is an important book, introducing young readers to the complicated world of feelings in a compassionate and memorable way.

Published by EK Books, Smile Cry is currently available in Australia, the US, UK, New Zealand and Canada.

If you’re looking for the ideal Christmas present for the youngest readers in your life, this could be it.

Life in Other States – A Texas Year and A New York Year

It’s clear that meticulous research and care have gone into Tania McCartney‘s and Tina Snerling‘s colourful fun books, A Texas Year and A New York Year.

These well produced picture books cover a year in the life of kids living in Texas and New York.

One of the things I love most about them is their theme of diversity – the way they reflect the lives and cultures of the people living in these states.

A texas yearA Texas Year and A New York Year feature ethnically and culturally diverse characters and diverse experiences.

The lively text and illustrations make these books a fun read for anyone with an interest in finding out about Texas or New York.

A Texas Year and A New York Year are full of information about the lifestyles and aspirations of kids living in these locations.

Readers will enjoy poring over the text and illustrations, taking in the fascinating detail.

They will be taken through a month by month account of what it means to be a kid living in New York or Texas, learning about special occasions and customs.

There’s everything from food, sport and school, to dancing, language, holidays and special occasions.

A New York Year - Front coverA Texas Year and A New York Year present great opportunities for discussions in the classroom or home about cultural diversity.

Each book has a location map with information about the state including its nickname, state flower, song, animals, and popular foods found there.

The content in both books has been produced in consultation with native advisors from the state including teachers and children.

A Texas Year and A New York Year offer young readers a fun and entertaining way to explore their own environment and the world around them.