The second project that has enveloped me lock, stock and barrel has been the writing of a paper titled “The power of the ‘right kind of book'” for an Anglican Youthworks Conference called Engaging children with engaging stories. This is my area, and my passion – well one of them. I could say “This is my one passion”. But I have many. However, I turned into a uni student surrounded with papers, books, clutter, chaos, a computer, notes, lots of ideas, thoughts milling around in my head and a kitchen table swamped with stuff. And a paper to write!
It has not stopped me from reading. One of the books that I read over this time was Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey. My son Michael told me that I “had” to read it. It has been compared to To Kill a Mockingbird as its theme are similar. Set in an Australian outback town called Corrigan in 1965, we meet Charlie who is thirteen. He doesn’t really fit in with the boys his age, apart from Jeffrey, who is from the only Vietnamese family in town. The first chapter is fairy harrowing, but this encounter one night with Jasper Jones changes his life forever. Once you have read the first chapter, the intensity subsides, but I was gripped by the world described, the characters were real and I felt I got to know Charlie and Jeffrey and loved their conversations. I also felt for Charlie’s parents – his mother’s deep unhappiness and consequent behaviour and his father’s withdrawal from the family. This book uncovers many unspoken secrets and prejudices and Charlie is forced to think for himself. Silvey is a talented writer and the conversations that take place are memorable – there is dry humour and thoughtfulness.
At the same time, Keith was reading a collection of short stories and he told me regularly that I “had” to read one of them. Whenever I asked for details, he just said “you have to read it”. Interestingly, it was written by Craig Silvey also. A delightful short story about a small boy and his imaginary world called The Masked Avenger. Humorous, beautifully written and memorable.
Johnny also read both and enjoyed them immensely. He is in the middle of his HSC trials and I suggested that if he wanted to get a good nights sleep that he stop reading it as he would suddenly reach a point where he would be unable to put it down – this had been my experience and I had read until its completion at 2.30am. Wisely he heeded my words. This is a wonderful example of two story that engage. (Photo taken from Flickr: photo by Newsusacontent.)