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

Monday 7 October 2019

Guest Post: George Ivanoff on Surviving in Australia!

Why Write an Australian Survival Guide?

Australia is trying to kill you. No, seriously… think about it. We have venomous snakes, deadly spiders, sharp-toothed crocs, hungry sharks, blue-ringed octopuses and box jellyfish. 

We also have bushfires and floods and cyclones. And the environment is pretty harsh — you get can get lost in the bush, or die of dehydration in the desert, or get skin cancer from the Sun. 

Even the cute stuff can be a threat. Kangaroos! There’s one on our coat of arms and everyone loves them. They are also, I might add, super delicious. 

BUT, have you seen the claws on some of those big reds or eastern greys? One of those roos could quite easily disembowel you if it had a mind to.

But why write about it, you ask?

‘Cause kids love reading about danger and death and really exciting stuff. I certainly did. Actually, I still do. Which is a good thing given that I spent several months researching all the information that went into The Australia Survival Guide. I wanted to give kids the danger and death that they craved… but also inform them about how to survive and really appreciate this country.

There are also more personal reasons for wanting to write this book.

I’ve written a lot of educational non-fiction over the years. Generally, I’m not allowed to be too much fun when I’m writing this type of book. So I was itching to write some commercial non-fic. A book where I could be as fun and over-the-top as I wanted. That’s why the factual information in this guide is presented by a fictional character — a 13-year-old boy who’s scared of everything and is expecting to die horribly when his parents decide to drag him all over Australia on a holiday. So this boy gets to comment on the information being presented, making jokes and fun remarks.

Using a fictional character as an entry point was also a way of making the information less threatening. He makes light-hearted comments. And he presents the information in a fun way.

As the book progresses, the kid slowly comes to realise that not everything in Australia is out to get him. He discovers lots of amazing wildlife (sea butterflies), and ingenious inventions (the black box flight recorder is an Aussie invention), and fun things (Strine) and weird stuff (like Australia’s obsession with gigantic, concrete, roadside tourist attractions). So that allowed me to broaden the topic a bit and write about the non-threatening things as well.

In many ways, this boy is me as a kid. I was an extremely fearful child. I would much rather read about thrilling dangerous stuff than actually do anything that might have put me in the path of perceived danger. Obviously I overcame those fears (except spiders… I’m still terrified of those horrible creatures). And part of me hopes that this book might help kids who are a bit like I was, to realise that you can’t live your life being scared of everything. ‘Cause if you do, you’ll miss out on so many extraordinary, amazing experiences.

I also wanted to write this book because I LOVE THIS COUNTRY! I love travelling around Australia, seeing wondrous things, discovering stuff I never knew before and going off on adventures. And sharing all this with young readers is such a joy. Many of my own experiences (and photos) made it into the book, much of it from the epic road-trip holiday my family and I shared with three other families — driving from Melbourne to Uluru and back. (In fact, the book is dedicated to those families.)

So there are a lot of influences and reasons behind The Australia Survival Guide. It’s a book that’s very close to my heart.

But, you know what, I think the secret reason I wanted to write this book… was to scare as many tourists as I could. Shhh… don’t tell anyone.
George Ivanoff is (one of our favourite) Melbourne author who’s written more than 100 books for kids and teens, including the interactive You Choose series, the RFDS adventures and the Other Worlds series.
As a child, George loved reading interactive books, where he got to make decisions about the direction of the story. He has had more fun plotting and writing the You Choose books than pretty much anything else. And writing the RFDS adventures has opened his eyes to the amazing work done by the Royal Flying Doctor Service. With Other Worlds George has ventured into the realms of science fiction and fantasy, two of his favourite genres, in order to tell stories about ordinary kids facing extraordinary circumstances.

George’s books and stories have been shortlisted for numerous awards and he is thrilled that
You Choose: The Treasure of Dead Man’s Cove won the 2015 YABBA for Fiction for Younger Readers.

George drinks too much coffee, eats too much chocolate and watches too much Doctor Who. He has one wife, two children and an uncontrollable imagination.

Keep an eye out for our KBR review on The Australia Survival Guide, coming soon, oh and, don't forget to check your boots before plunging your feet into them. Spiders!

Meantime, check out these hilarious mini book trailers of Australia's next Crocodile Dundee. Or is it Russel Coight? You be the judge.