A BOOK THAT GIVES KIDS PERMISSION TO TALK ABOUT CANCER

This month is Breast Cancer Awareness month and Susanne Gervay’s latest book Always Jack tackles this difficult subject from a young child’s point of view.

Always Jack has been endorsed by The Cancer Council & National Breast & Ovarian Cancer Centre NBOCC and will be launched in Melbourne this weekend.

Always Jack was featured recently at Kids’ Book Capers in Take A Journey With Jack

FRIDAY BOOK FEATURE – ALWAYS JACK

There were so many things I loved about Susanne Gervay’s new book, Always Jack, just released this month by HarperCollins.

Jack is an irresistible character. He’s kind and funny but with the normal insecurities of a boy who comes from a blended family, wondering if his stepfather Rob loves his own son, Leo more.

But Jack doesn’t dwell on it too much. He has great friends, a family who loves him and a house full of quirky pets.

This all comes crashing down when his mother is diagnosed with breast cancer and Jack realizes that there are more important things to worry about than his stepbrother Leo, who really isn’t such a bad guy.

Mum and Rob’s wedding is postponed while she undergoes treatment for the cancer and it takes Jack’s sense of humour and all his courage to cope with what’s happening.  Like everything in his life, Jack deals with the situation with optimism and honesty. He also draws on the support of his good friends, Christopher and Anna.

Susanne Gervay tackles a difficult subject on a level that kids will relate to and without sentimentality. Her honesty and the authenticity of the character’s feelings and reactions are what make this story so poignant.

Always Jack is an extraordinary story about ordinary people. It’s a simply told story, but far from simple, delving into a difficult issue in a way that kids will relate to and will make them think ‘it’s okay to feel this way’.

I hesitate to put an age range on Always Jack because it’s the sort of book that could be read by ten to twelve-year olds, but older kids and even adults will also get a lot out of it.

Cathy Wilcox’s amazing cartoons scattered throughout the book help balance the intensity of the subject matter.

The author draws on her own experiences of surviving cancer and as the Cancer Council NSW says,  Susanne Gervay’s Always Jack makes it safe for  children, parents and the wider community to talk about cancer.

If you enjoyed reading about Jack you might also like his other stories, I Am Jack and SuperJack.

TAKE A JOURNEY WITH JACK

Author, Susanne Gervay admits that writing her latest book, Always Jack has been a hard ride.

When I first was diagnosed with breast cancer and my kids were 6 and 9 years old, I was overwhelmed by the thought of leaving my children. They were part of the journey , but it was hard to deal with their needs, when I faced tough surgery and post operative complications.

Then when I got it again when my kids were in their teens, it was even harder. They were in that middle of search for identity and I had to survive.

I got beast cancer again recently. It was time to write Always Jack for kids and parents and also to invite the school and community into the journey. Story journey is such a powerful way to engage young people and empower them to make positive choices.

I led the Relay for Life with my family at Centennial Parklands Sydney this year celebrating and commemorating those touched by cancer.

ABOUT ALWAYS JACK

It’s about a great kid Jack who was nspired by my great son, Jack-Jamie. He’s like all kids – tells jokes, laughs, plays sport – surfs, does his special things – inventing. He has a great younger sister – inspired by my daughter. There’s his step-Dad is around and a Nanna who’s aging and is loving and deaf and there for them. There’s Mum (me) and then there’s the crisis, breast cancer.

Always Jack is about giving kids’ feelings validation, working out it out, as a family and community.

WHY KIDS WILL LIKE ALWAYS JACK

Because they are Jack or his sister or their friend. Kids know Jack. It’s a story they can jump into and feel and laugh with Jack’s jokes or be amazed at his inventions or help their grandparent. It’s their story and it’ll give their emotions an outlet and make life OK.

I LOVE Jack. He’s the everyman of kids –he’s funny, annoying, helpful, unhelpful, emotionally there for his family and friends – he’s a great kid.

TEACHERS NOTES AND CANCER HELPLINE

Teachers notes are available incorporating school curricula, activities and information from the Cancer Council. Importantly there’s the Cancer HELPLINE contact details:- phone 13 11 20

According to Susanne, there’s a missing link in communicating with kids when their parent is touched by cancer.

Always Jack opens its arms to young people and parents making it OK to talk.

The Cancer Council and National Breast & Ovarian Cancer Centre endorsements are very special.

The Cancer Council has such a strong ethos to reach young people with care and hope– Always Jack is now part of that ethos.

Having written Always Jack from her own experiences, Susanne says that it was a difficult but emotionally beautiful ride.

I laughed with the kids about how ‘dumb’ the Mum was at times; and cried with the kids and the Mum too.

Always Jack was written for 9-12 years but adults can read the other story within the text.

Tomorrow at Kids’ Book Capers, I’ll be reviewing Always Jack.

SUSANNE GERVAY WRITES FROM THE HEART

To celebrate the release of her extraordinary new book, Always Jack, Susanne Gervay is visiting Kids’ Book Capers this week to talk about her writing journey and the inspiration behind Jack and his story.

SUSANNE THE WRITER

When Susanne was 8 years-old she thought everyone her age wrote stories and was working on their great novel.

Becoming a published writer is a different journey. When my beloved father died of cancer, it burst the dam. I wrote and wrote. I wrote for my dad, for my 2 children, myself and sort publication.

Susanne has written ten books and she says that the thing she enjoys most about writing is

The privilege of sharing ideas with readers, impacting on some, traveling with young people on their search for identity, and being part of a special community of writers and illustrators.

But she says it can be hard to find time to write among the responsibilities of life.

Equally hard is putting  myself out there and facing criticism. I write so honestly that if feels personal and makes me vulnerable.

Susanne writes from the heart and from her own experiences as a daughter, a mother, a friend and educational consultant and the creator of a heritage hotel.

She’s had many writing achievements, but says that her greatest one was

Being flown to New York last year to speak at the World Burn Congress about the power of my young adult novel Butterflies to give hope and inspire those who have been through the fire – burn survivors, families, supporters, medical teams. I was privileged to be on the same faculty as Kim Phuc, who set up the Kim Foundation for child survivors of war . She is the 9 year old girl burning from napalm in the Nick Ut 1972 iconic photo.

Susanne is a multiple breast cancer survivor and says that her new book, Always Jack is “a book of my heart”.

I wrote ‘Always Jack’ for kids, parents, community. It’s funny, warmth, loving and reaches into those deep feelings of kids and mothers. I am moved that ‘Always Jack’ is endorsed and will be used by the Cancer Council to open communication for kids, parents & community. It’s the first time the Cancer Council and the National Breast & Ovarian Cancer Council have endorsed youth fiction.

SUSANNE’S TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS

  1. Publication is a difficult and rocky road for most. Write because it makes you laugh, cry, feel and is important.
  2. Make networks – meet other creators, join associations like the Writers Centres.
  3. Open you mind to editorial comment – take what you need from the advice and make your writing even better.
  4. Stop sending emails before your work is ready. Take your time.
  5. Have fun!!!!!!

Susanne has consistent themes of search for identity, meeting challenges and hope in her books. She writes to give a voice to young people and adults meeting life’s challenges – bullying, cancer, burns, independence, multi culturalism, divorce.

Susanne is back at Kids’ Book Capers tomorrow to talk about her own experiences with cancer and how they inspired Always Jack. Hope you can join us then.

In the meantime, you can find out more about Susanne and her fabulous books at:

www.sgervay.com

www.sgervay.com/blog