I was at the recent launch of Ella Kazoo will NOT go to sleep so I was fortunate to see the book read aloud by Lee Fox and performed by a talented group of actors including the author’s own daughter.

Young readers were introduced to the lively and lovable Ella Kazoo in Ella’s adventure, Ella Kazoo Will Not Brush Her Hair and it seems that this young lady has plenty more antics up her sleeve.

One of the things I like about Ella Kazoo is that she’s not nasty or very naughty, she is just busy and has a mind of her own, like most kids her age.

Everyone in the household has settled down to sleep, but Ella is wide awake and ready for adventure.  She will do almost anything to get out of going to bed. She wants a drink, she listens to music, she plays dressups – anything to stop herself from falling asleep. It’s up to Captain Shut-eye to try and change her mind.

Author Lee Fox launched this book in front of about 70 kids (many who were dressed as pirates in the theme of the book) and they were enthralled by the story, giggling and shouting out from start to finish.

With the humour and action Ella Kazoo will NOT go to sleep, it’s easy to see why it keeps young readers engaged. Ella is such a ‘real’ character too. Kids can really relate to her humour and sense of fun.

Once again, I loved the illustrations by Cathy Wilcox.  Her pictures are full of fun detail like Ella’s free-spirited hair which matches her personality and the book Mum carries around in her dressing gown pocket, “Peaceful Getaway Holidays”.

Both the text and pictures  in Ella Kazoo will NOT go to sleep have action and expression to carry the story along.

I can’t wait to see what Ella Kazoo gets up to next. Ella Kazoo will NOT go to sleep is a picture book for young readers published by Lothian Children’s Books.


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.


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.


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.


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 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.