'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Wednesday 11 September 2019

Look What I'm Reading! Janeen Brian Children's Author

I am a full-time, award-winning children’s author and poet and have been writing for about 35 years. I love picture books, short fiction and poetry, but have also enjoyed writing 3 upper-grade novels, and information books. Many of my 100 + titles have been translated and distributed world-wide.

Which children’s book are you currently reading?
My recent reading has included, Lenny’s Book of Everything (Karen Foxlee), The Gruffalo, (Julia Donaldson), Leave Taking (Lorraine Marwood) Cool Poems (Kate O’Neil) The Art of Taxidermy (Sharon Kernot) and The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee by Deborah Abela. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all of them but am currently reading Abela’s follow-up book, The Most Marvellous Spelling Bee Mystery.

Can you tell us in two sentences what the book is about?
After her success as a spelling champion, India Wimple is invited to London to participate in the international spelling finals. While there’s rivalry between the competitors and their families, India senses a mystery underlying the strange occurrences that threaten to close down the competition.

How much did you enjoy/are enjoying this title?
There’s so much to like about this title. India is part of a strong, supportive family unit and I love the way the family interacts to encourage her. But she is good-hearted and prepared to make sacrifices for her brother, Boo, who suffers with asthma.  Each spelling bee competitor is delightfully individual, as are the parents. Abela creates trouble, tension, and humour along the way but there’s also an alarming mystery. United, the children competitors set out to discover who or what’s behind the potential closure of the competition. Abela’s writing is a joy to read. Her characterisation is strong, and she creates stacks of trouble for her characters. But it’s family and friendships that underpin the heart of this book.

What made you choose this title? Was it a review, advertising, the cover, the blurb, the author/illustrator, or the subject/genre?
I’d read Abela’s Grimsdon many years ago, and more recently, Teresa, A New Australian. However, I was intrigued by the sound of the first Spelling Bee book which was a departure from both other titles. Having read and enjoyed The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee, and having read the review of The Most Marvellous Spelling Bee Mystery in Kids Book Review, I was curious as to what mystery could lie behind an international spelling competition. Perhaps there’s also an additional reason! I remember spelling bees at school, and once I entered a local competition, as I was a strong speller myself. The word I had to spell was neighbourhood. I don’t know whether I was nervous or too confident, but I left out the ‘bour’ section and was asked to step down. It was a crushing moment.

What other titles are on your bedside table /To Read Pile?
 I have Trent Dalton’s Boy Swallows Universe and Bren MacDibble’s The Dog Runner.

How did you come by these titles: personal choice/request, publisher’s review copy, or other?
 I’d read MacDibble’s How to Bee and admired it, and so I wanted to read her next book. The Dog Runner is receiving great reviews and publicity, as is, of course, Dalton’s highly acclaimed title. I’ve downloaded both books as I’m travelling at the moment.

Do you have a favourite genre? If so, what is it, and why do you prefer it?
That’s hard to answer! I love picture books, because they are so powerful in such an understated way and unless you’ve tried to write one, they seem so deceptively easy. They’re a short story, written in poetry form requiring careful and challenging word choice. I also love the connection between the words and the illustrations.

Do you read from printed books or some other medium? Please expand a little on the why of your choice.
When I’m at home, I prefer to read from books. They will always be my first choice because there’s still so much to relish in the handling of the book, and the turning of the pages. But when I’m travelling, I download titles onto my E-book reader and I’m quite content with that. They’re efficient, portable and I can still access what I’d like to read next, which is vital when you’re not able to borrow from libraries or from your own home-library. Having said that, when I was travelling UK a few years ago, there were plentiful, good books to be found at charity shops (Op-shops) and so I was able to read them and re-donate, so it wasn’t a luggage problem.