Body Swap – Jerome Parisse
Didn’t you just love those stories when you were a kid where magical things could happen in ordinary circumstances? Things like turning invisible, or wishing on objects? Well Jerome’s Body Swap has this mysterious magical quality that gets the imagination firing.
13 year-old William has moved to Fulton with his parents. They are still grieving over the death of his sister a year before. William befriends the loner Pat, who likes using big words. William receives an incredulous text message from a sender called ‘Stephanie’. She says she is in a coma at a nearby hospital, floating outside her body, and needs their help to get back into it!
Curiosity gets the better of them and William and Pat end up in the intensive care unit looking upon the face of Stephanie. In some terrible mix-up, William ends up trapped in Stephanie’s body.
All manner of discovery ensues while the boys try and right the situation. While forced to be Stephanie, awoken from her coma, William learns a thing or two about the female form, as does his friend Pat who develops strange feelings for his friend in a girl’s body. The book is really sweet in this way, as it challenges gender roles and the notion of love. There are of course many opportunities for laughter throughout, and the book is perfectly accessible – written in a gentle, warm and open prose – for around ages 10-up. The style, warmth and some of the themes remind me a lot of Morris Gleitzman.
Virginia Lowe from ‘Create a Kids’ Book’ had this to say about Body Swap:
‘This is a clever, complex fantasy novel for adolescents, with the adventure and the relationship between friends, all important. As well as William’s experiences as a girl there are the family dynamics in his home (they are all still grieving for his sister who was killed in a car accident a year ago). This all gets sorted out in the end as well. His friend Patrick is an interesting character, addicted to using long and arcane words – and particularly good with technology. It makes gripping reading, amusing in parts, but serious over all.’
Jerome is a playwright who has had several short plays produced in the USA, Singapore and Australia. Two of his plays will be published in an anthology of short plays in the USA in 2008. He is currently working on a full-length play for the Australian Theatre of the Deaf, as well as other plays and novels. Jerome has also published many articles in health magazines and newsletters in Europe. He was for several years the main writer and editor-in-chief for the newsletter of the European Organisation for Rare Diseases. He writes in English and French.
Publishers Jerome likes include HarperCollins, Text and Lothian. He reads a lot of children’s and young adult fiction. Among his favourites are Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Philip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’ series, and the authors Eoin Colfer and Garry Disher.
A short extract of an exchange between William and Pat:
William threw her a dirty look. ‘You coming?’ he said to Pat. He couldn’t help notice the huge pimple that had sprouted on his friend’s nose during the night.
Pat hesitated but turned to join William as his friend passed him. He muttered good bye to William’s mum and followed him outside. ‘Your mum’s nice,’ he said.
‘Did you fight with her this morning?’
‘I’d rather not talk about it, if you don’t mind.’
‘No problem. It must be hard for her, after what happened.’
‘It’s hard for all of us,’ William muttered. ‘By the way, you’ve got a huge pimple on your nose,’ he added to get the conversation away from his mother.
Pat made a face. ‘I know. I’m a little papuliferous at the moment,’ he said straight faced.
William chuckled. ‘Papa-what? Hope it’s not contagious.’
‘Don’t be silly,’ Pat told him off in mock teacher tone. ‘It only means I have pimples.’
‘Why use a daft word like papuliferous then? It makes it sound much worse, like you’re being eaten alive by some revolting fungus.’
Pat shrugged off a snort of laughter.
See Jerome’s website.
Naught – Amy Jackson
An intriguing, dark and multilayered children’s fantasy novel is Amy Jackson’s Naught. It is the first in ‘The Islands’ series for 10-12-year-olds. Felix tries to discover the scientific explanation for the rain cloud that has plagued his street for twelve years. There are rumours in the town of St Juniper that the cloud is associated with his mother. In order to dismiss these rumours Felix travels by post box to the Archipelago of Brookton Plunk, a series of magical islands dealing with drought. The transportation device fails on his arrival and Felix is blamed and placed in the custody of an eccentric family. The youngest son Dougal uses his skills with hand-gliders and flashlights to help Felix uncover more than one of the answers sought.
Amy began writing in her undergraduate degree from the University of British Columbia in 1999, but left to come to Australia. In 2006 she completed RMIT’s Diploma of Art in Professional Writing and Editing. Her short fiction has been published in VisInk: Contemporary Soul Anthology, Noise, Voiceworks, Switchback, and is upcoming in The Death Mook. She received Words Nominee/Highly Commended in the Spirit of Youth Australia Award, judged by Jude McGee at Allen & Unwin. She was one of three finalists for the Young Writer of the Year 2007 WARM Literary Awards, and she was a recipient of Peter Bishop’s Pathways to Publication Masterclass at Varuna in 2008.
Amy reads adult and young adult fiction widely. Her absolute favourite book is Liao Yiwu’s The Corpse Walker. Young adult authors she likes include Meg Rosoff, Philip Pullman, JK Rowling, Jennifer Donnelly, Isabel Allende, Margo Lanagan, and ‘adult’ authors include Alice Munro, VS Naipaul, Geraldine Brooks, Bram Stoker, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. She also reads the Paris Review cover to cover.
At the end of an empty street ivy tangles around a lone sign, cloaking its metal face in greenery. Between the vines and leaves, bits of bold lettering read Errol Street. But no one except the four remaining residents ever dare get that close. The rest of St Juniper’s citizens only drive past when absolutely necessary, and even then they avert their eyes and clutch the neck of their coats, afraid the street’s curse might catch them like a cold.
On average, 3457 weather anomalies are reported each year. Even with global warming, vegetables growing in Greenland and coastlines disappearing into the sea, the phenomenon of Errol Street remains the most peculiar. No weather analysis or sophisticated technology can explain why a cloud as black as a crow looms over every inch of the street but not a centimetre more. While people on other streets in St Juniper enjoy sunshine, children running through sprinklers and barbeque smoke seeping from backyards, Errol Street is dank; even the trees are pruned and wrinkled from being left in water too long.
For the past thirteen years, rumours have taken root in St Juniper and every day they spread like weeds. Whispers of witchcraft and government conspiracies waft in and out with the seasons, but only one rumour has proven too noxious to destroy. Astrid Henry and her infant son, Felix, had the misfortune of arriving the same night as the cursed cloud, and before their boxes were unpacked, they became the instant target of St Juniper’s suspicion.
Now only four residents occupy Errol Street. The rest fled to the opposite side of town, frightened by rumours and tired of the mouldy smell that clung to their clothes; no amount of detergent or scrubbing could get rid of it. Even the mailman refused to enter the street so two mailboxes were built at the start of the road. One for Astrid Henry and her son, Felix in seven A.
The other for their neighbours, Estelle and Horace Horowitz of seven B.
Other than the mailboxes, there is nothing to suggest anyone still lives on Errol Street, let alone a thirteen-year-old boy. There are no bicycles in the front yard, no skateboards lying around, only the occasional light shining from a small round window in the attic of seven A.
Measuring Up – Gabrielle Stroud
When Gabbie read out parts of Measuring Up at Varuna, I was astounded by how well she caught the voice of a teenage boy. She had all of us laughing out loud. As well as the humour, there was that adolescent vulnerability, that awkwardness to do with relations between the sexes and relations with friends. The first thought I had though, was that it was more well-written than any teenage male protagonist I had read in published fiction! This is her synopsis of the novel:
‘Feet is seventeen when a Siren called Amity washes up from the ocean and calls his name. His mates are impressed, but Feet is terrified. He’s a virgin, his older brother’s just come out and the Siren ‘just wants to be friends’. What’s a man to do?
Identity and self-respect arrive like a new tide within Feet’s life, creating waves he’s not sure he can negotiate. Somehow, through the salt and the sunburn, Feet begins to discover the person he’d like to become. And, while avoiding the bigger issues of study and final exams, he recognises the smaller things that truly matter.
Measuring Up is a chance to open the window and feel the sea breeze, allowing you to remember the moment when you first imagined the person you might become.’
Gabbie says she likes any publisher who is interested in her work! She is trying to give the youth of today an authentic voice set in real-life situations. I think she’s very successful at doing so. She enjoys reading young adult fiction, listing some of her favourites as being Catherine Bateson and Maureen McCarthy. Other ‘adult’ authors she enjoys are Charlotte Wood, Kate Grenville and Geraldine Brooks. She also says her ‘trashy novel of choice’ would be anything by Nicholas Evans (that’s not bad Gab – I have admitted on this blog to getting thorough enjoyment from Clive Cussler)!
Gabrielle is a passionate primary school teacher. She has completed a Professional Children’s Writer’s Course through the Australian College of Journalism, and is a member of the Writers of the Far South Coast Inc. She is the Child-Education Correspondent for her local newspaper and writes a fortnightly article providing guidance for parents of school-age children. In 2005, she was selected for the Varuna Writer’s House Young and Emerging Writer’s Masterclass. In 2006, she was selected for the Australian Society of Author’s Mentorship Program, and in 2008 she was selected for Peter Bishop’s Pathways to Publication Masterclass at Varuna. Gabbie has two other novel manuscripts.
Dan was always first in and last out. Run and dive, like he was in command. No mighty ocean would ever stand in his way. He always seemed to have the surf sussed. We wondered if he had balls of steel.
Ferret always followed Dan. Full of bravado, then dumped by the very first wave. He could never time it right. He’d go down like a sack of shit and come up choking. You almost felt sorry for him. Almost.
Mel hardly ever swam. She loved the beach but hated bikinis. If she did go in, she moved slowly; savouring the moment. Or delaying the pain.
And me? I went with respect.
The ocean’s a lot bigger than I am.
My brother calls me Feet, short for foetus. He was five when Mum was pregnant with me. And curious. Lincoln wanted to know all the details so Mum explained that I was still growing. She told him I wasn’t a baby yet, just a foetus. Link loved the word.
‘Mum’s having a foetus.’ He told everyone. Apparently, he could quote the due date and explain the concept of trimesters. And the worst part was that I was trapped; floating around in embryonic fluid. I couldn’t even tell him to shut up.
Link’s still a freak. Twenty-two and doing arts at Canberra Uni. He’s already got his Masters in BS. He bullshits his way through everything. People don’t seem to notice him crapping on, he’s like a celebrity.
He’s not that bad – only brother I’ve got. I just wish he’d call me Jonah. Not Feet. I’m not some unformed little sprog any more. But there’s no point arguing. Link’s response is always the same; ‘You don’t get it do ya, Feet? You’re nothing yet. Your life hasn’t even started.’
Like I said – he’s full of shit.
Just after Christmas, Mum and Dad were off to the Whitsundays. Mum said she needed ‘real sun’, as though ours in Merimbula was a cheap imitation. She didn’t trust me to be home alone and insisted that I go to Canberra and stay with Link. That pissed me off because Link could’ve come home and stayed with me. He usually does; bums the whole summer break at Mum and Dad’s calling me a foetus. If I’m a foetus, he’s a bloody sponge. But not this summer. He came down for Christmas Day and that was it.
‘Can’t you just stay down?’ We were struggling up the rocks from Short Point beach. It was Christmas morning and the surf had been good. I thought he might change his mind. ‘It’s for five weeks, Link. Look what we’ll be missing.’
We turned to stare at the surf below. Perfect sets were rolling in and the water was clear. We watched a young kid catch a neat little wave and ride it all the way in.
‘I can’t. Not right now.’ Link shook his wet head like a dog, letting droplets spill over me.
‘What’s the problem? Uni doesn’t start ‘til February and I’m about to do Year 12. I just want to start the year right you know?’
‘I’m not staying, so just shut up.’ He slapped me on the back, his palm burning into my skin.
Link had a flat in Watson, a northern suburb of the city. The place was dingy with mismatched furniture and curtains that were always closed. Used plates and cups were left to rot like skanky ornaments.
In the lounge room, Link dumped my bag on an extended sofa bed that looked suspiciously slept in.
‘You can sleep here.’
I pulled at the sheet and it lifted up in one stiff, wrinkled piece.
‘Nice,’ I said, raising my eyebrows.
‘Mum doesn’t work here.’ Link poked me in the chest and sauntered through to the kitchen.
A large poster of Pamela Anderson in all her red-swimsuit glory beamed down from the wall. I loved her in those Baywatch pictures, before she got her tits pumped up to the max. She looked more real back then, like she might even go for a guy like me. I smiled up at her.
On the opposite wall, twice the size of Pam, was another poster. It featured a naked man, done in black and white. He had dark skin and he was big. Too big for Speedos, this guy would probably even bust out of boardies. It was meant to look arty; sexy and erotic, but there was something not quite right. And I don’t just mean his dick. The look in his eyes, like he was starving. I wondered if Pam might need her heavy-duty tits after all.
Due to the interest in these posts, I am formulating an idea to hold a competition, perhaps over summer, to gather more manuscripts and pick the best to talk about on the blog. If any publishers, writers’ organisations, journals or philanthropists would like to help me out in providing a worthwhile prize to go along with it (something of use to an emerging writer such as a manuscript assessment, publication of an extract or similar), I would love for you to get in touch.