FRIDAY BOOK FEATURE – AUTHENTIC CHARACTERS AND REAL ISSUES

Today on Friday Book Feature we’re looking at two wonderful books for young readers by Marianne Musgrove. These simply told stories feature well drawn characters facing very real problems for this age group.

LUCY THE LIE DETECTOR

As Lucy discovers in Lucy The Lie Detector, one lie can lead to another and before you know it you’re enmeshed in  a world of deceit.

First there’s the scratch on Dad’s new car then there’s the escaping guinea pig. Lucy digs herself in deeper and deeper until finally it’s time to tell the truth.

I love the authenticity of this book. As Lucy gets herself into more and more trouble the reader is carried along with her, wanting her to tell the truth, wanting everything to turn out okay.

It’s a book that introduces children to the concept of choices and the consequences of the things we do.

Lucy The Lie Detector also delves into the world of an adults definition of truth and the confusion this can cause for a child.

Why is it not okay for a child to lie but it’s okay for one parent to fib to another about eating chocolate or forbidden cake? As Marianne Musgrove points out in Lucy The Lie Detector, it’s hardly surprising that children become confused.

Lucy The Lie Detector raises important issues, but in a non-preaching and non-confrontational way. Lucy is a great character who readers will empathise with and there’s also plenty of humour to lighten the more intense moments.

Lucy The Lie Detector is the sequel to Lucy the Good, another entertaining and insightful read about this irrepressible heroine.

THE WORRY TREE

Juliet is a little girl with a lot of worries. She’s only ten but it seems like it’s up to her to solve everything – her parents fighting and her Nana’s upset about growing old.

Juliet copes with the stress in her life by making lists and trying to be grown up, but she can’t stop the nervous rash or the churning in her tummy.

When Juliet moves to Nana’s old bed room, she discovers the Worry Tree underneath the wallpaper. That’s where Nana used to hang up her troubles for the night when she was a little girl.

Now the animals in the Worry Tree are there to help Juliet. There’s Wolfgang the Wombat to take care of the stress caused by her two best friends fighting over her, there’s Petronella the Pig who takes care of worries about school, Gwyneth the Goat who looks after her when she’s sick, Dimitri the Dog who looks after family worries, Piers the Peacock who is the guardian of worries about ‘lost’  things and the hole in the trunk for the worries you can’t describe.

All the characters in The Worry Tree are wonderfully authentic and Marianne Musgrove clearly has a deep understanding of the concerns and fears experienced by children this age.

Marianne’s publisher, Random House has provided a downloadable Worry Tree so that readers can find a place to hang their worries.

Lucy The Lie Detector and The Worry Tree are beautifully illustrated by Cheryl Orsini and their gentle wisdom and irresistible characters will resonate with young readers.

BOOKS ARE IN MARIANNE MUSGROVE’S BLOOD

Today I’m pleased to welcome children’s author Marianne Musgrove to Kids’ Book Capers. Marianne is a former social worker, tomato picker, museum guide for kids and law school dropout who says that the thing she likes most about writing is inventing.

Marianne is also descended from Henry VIII’s librarian (true story) so you could say books are in her blood. She became a writer when a tick bite led to a bad bout of typhus which led to a long period of convalescence.

As I stared at the ceiling, I thought to myself, “Now’s the time to write that novel!” That novel became The Worry Tree.

Marianne is the author of The Worry TreeDon’t Breathe a WordLucy the Good and Lucy the Lie Detector, all with Random House Australia and she says that the hardest part about writing is the discipline.

Her greatest writing achievement is:

Completing my first novel, The Worry Tree. It still amazes me when children from around the world get in contact to say the book has inspired them to make their own worry trees which they hang their worries on at night.

Marianne’s books have themes of how kids philosophise about the world, the importance of family and intergenerational relationships and characters with Shakespearean names. At the moment she is working on a funny book about forgiveness.

MARIANNE’S TIP FOR NEW WRITERS

A blank page can be very intimidating. Pick a word at random and write it on the page. Now it’s not blank anymore!

LUCY THE LIE DETECTOR

Marianne Musgrove was inspired to write Lucy the Lie Detector by two things

1. how telling the truth isn’t always black and white, and

2. guinea pigs.

I didn’t know how to combine these two very different themes but then, one night, I had a dream and the plot was laid out before me.

When Lucy accidentally scratches Dad’s brand-new car, one small mistake turns into an enormous fib involving Lucy’s best friend Harriet, Lucy’s worst enemy Jacinta, a telepathic camel and a guinea pig with an escape plan. Lucy is on a quest to discover what truth is so she decides to become a Lie Detector. The question is: can she figure out the truth in time?

Lucy the Lie Detector is for readers aged 6-9. They will relate to Lucy because she is a real kid with real flaws.

She and her brother have a lot of funny adventures as a result of her idiosyncratic view of life, e.g. Lucy wishes there was a machine to suck out her guilty feelings. In the next scene, we find her standing in the lounge room with a vacuum cleaner attached to her tummy.

This is not Marianne’s first book about Lucy and the author clearly has a fondness for her main character.

I like the way Lucy is absolutely convinced her way of seeing the world is correct. As a result, she draws some rather unorthodox conclusions about life. I don’t dislike anything about her although she does have quite a temper, but then so did I when I was a kid. Just ask my Year One teacher. (Sorry, Mrs Langdon!)

Marianne says that the thing she enjoyed most about writing this book was getting  inside Lucy’s head and letting her lead the way.

A lot of books for this age group aren’t terribly ‘deep’ or if they do tackle an issue, they can be moralistic. I’ve aimed to write a rollicking adventure that also explores some of life’s big questions.

The hardest thing about writing this book was meeting the deadline. I had to be very firm with myself: less staring out the window drinking cups of chai tea, and more typing!

In July, Marianne visited my deescribewriting blog with some great advice about how to write about issues in children’s fiction. Here’s the link to her very informative post http://wp.me/ppiTq-wl

Teachers notes and activities are available at www.mariannemusgrove.com.au