CHILDREN’S AUTHOR FIRED UP OVER NEGLECT OF ‘’’TWEENS’ LITERATURE
Melbourne children’s writer, Goldie Alexander, is so fired up about the lack of media and critical attention to ‘‘tweens’ books – for readers between eight and twelve – that she’s surprised hedges all over Melbourne haven’t gone up in smoke in sympathy .
Alexander’s latest novel, Hedgeburners: An A~Z PI Mystery, was inspired by the spate of real-life hedge-burnings in Melbourne leafy suburbs in the last decade and is aimed squarely at ‘tweens but such books are rarely reviewed or promoted, says says.
"There are lots of books for youngsters like Hedgeburners being published but reviews are as rare as proverbial hens’ teeth. One notable exception is The Sunday Age’s Under Age column. Picture books and young adult novels get some media and critical attention but when it comes to books that appeal to ‘‘tweens’, kids, parents and teachers are pretty much left in the dark,” Alexander said.
“Kids establish their reading habits for life in the years between eight and twelve so it’s paramount we get them excited by reading then.
“Boys are currently the biggest losers with the 2006 Australian Bureau of Statistics study finding girls were more avid readers than boys with 80% reading for pleasure compared to 69% of boys. Girls also read for longer than boys. It’s the same story overseas.”
Hedgeburners is narrated by thirteen-year-old Zach, the sometime reluctant sidekick of his best friend and bossy-britches Anna who’s been crazy about detective work since she uncovered the culprit pinching material from the Art and Design Block in Year 5.
“I didn’t deliberately choose a male narrator,” Alexander says. “Zach just started speaking – and he emerged with a pet rat on his shoulder! In retrospect, I’m glad Hedgeburners is in Zack’s voice as boys that age are more likely to identify with a male narrator.
“I did, however, deliberately choose to make Hedgeburners a whodunnit. Despite growing up in a household where English wasn’t spoken (my parents were Polish immigrants), I got hooked on reading thanks to Enid Blyton’s Famous Five. More recently, I wrote two ‘cozies’ for adults.
“With Hedgeburners, the first in a series, I tried to recapture the excitement of the uncovering the mystery in the Famous Five but with an Australian crime, an Australian setting and Australian kids finding out whodunnit. Like adults, kids love a good mystery.
“Mine follows the same pattern as an adult crime novel with the commission of the crime and its investigation by detectives with the usual red herrings and long list of suspects. I opted for short sentences and avoided long descriptions. I tried to keep the writing short, snappy and above all, funny. Some subplots fuelled the action – and that what kids, especially boys love – action and lots of it.”
Alexander has written a number of books specifically for boys: Starship Q, Trapeze, Cowpat$, and Killer Virus and Other Stories. Both Gallipoli Medal and Space Footy and Other Stories will appear in 2010.
Alexander is calling for Australia’s newspapers, magazine and other media to rethink their approaches and give ‘’tweens’ – and the authors of ‘’tween’ books – their due.
“Australian authors Shaun Tan, Morris Gleitzman and Hazel Edwards, have been nominated for the 2010 Astrid Lindgren Award which is the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for Children’s Literature and carries prize money amounting to around A$79,000. It’s such a great honor even to be shortlisted but hardly anyone knows. It’s as if there been a media blackout,” Alexander says.
Goldie Alexander has written more than 60 fiction and non-fiction books together with many short stories and articles. These days she works full time as a writer, teaches creative writing and lectures and takes workshops in Universities, TAFE colleges, clubs and schools.
She writes historical, science fiction and mystery novels, plus short stories, non fiction, articles and scripts. She is best known for the first of the My Australian Story series and Surviving Sydney Cove, now in its 9th edition and due to appear in March with a new cover. Her YA novel Mavis Road Medley was chosen by the State Library of Victoria and the Australian Centre for Youth Literature as one of their 150 'treasures' to celebrate 150 years of their library.
Goldie Alexander is available for interview: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hedgeburners. An A~Z PI Mystery. Illust: Marjory Gardner. Interactive Publications (http://ipoz.biz) PB. RRP $16.95
MIDDLE PARK, 3206
613 95346102/0413 408 468
Other recent books:
Lame Duck Protest. Illust. Michele Gaudion
My Horrible Cousins and Other Stories
Coming in 2010:
My Australian Story: Surviving Sydney Cove (new cover)
Space Footy and Other Stories