Kids' books not just for kids

Jan with daughters Jessica (left) and Sofia, eight.

How do you balance the ‘young’ with the ‘adult’ in the fiction genre? That was the question for Tauranga author Jan Goldie.

The mother of two knew first-hand how hard it can be for parents to find books for younger children who read at an older level. Her 10-year-old daughter Jessica currently reads at a 15-plus level, according to the Ministry of Education’s PROBE (prose, reading, observation, behaviour and evaluation) test.

“Parents want something with a positive message, but readers are smart – you want the themes of the book to be subtle. In my book ‘Brave’s Journey’, it’s about courage in the face of horrible situations. The journey on the outside is echoed by the internal journey, so it’s a real coming of age tale.”

‘Brave’s Journey’ is a fantasy adventure tale in which teenage boy Brave gets pulled into a vortex and ends up in an alternative universe. There, he meets a somewhat-troubled girl named True and together they journey through a land of danger and mystery.

Language is an important tool in telling the story and carefully mediating mature themes was the challenge for Jan.

“Of course there is head cracking because it is good versus evil, but I kept it to a minimum. Plus early teens aren’t too interested in the romantic angle. There’s admiration and friendship, but there’s no romantic liaisons or anything like that. It’s just a good adventure; a fast paced, feel-good quest.”

Although Jan has had her work published before, this was her first full-length novel. Her first short story was published in the Sir Julius Vogel and Australian Shadows horror anthology ‘Baby Teeth - Bite Sized Tales of Terror’ and she gained a short listing for best short story in the Sir Julius Vogel awards.

She’s also co-author of the novella collection ‘Conclave’, which includes her YA fantasy story ‘A Mer-tale’.

The idea for ‘Brave’s Journey’ was spurred by the character names, the idea of calling her protagonists after personality traits.

 “What I wanted to do was write a quest. I loved reading those books as a kid. One day the names popped into my head, and I thought, ‘That’s a great idea for the main characters.’”

It’s taken Jan a couple of years to get the final copy, with help from Tauranga Writers group and a mentorship with the New Zealand Society of Authors.

“At the start I wrote like crazy. I just thought I needed a lot of words. I wrote 100,000 – a normal teen fiction is about 60,000 – so then I had to scale that back. That’s when help from other people really came to the fore. You learn editing techniques and learn to let go of those things you think are so wonderful.”

On September 17, Jan is launching her novel at The Incubator, Historic Village, in 17th Avenue at 6pm. In conjunction, a children’s art exhibition is being held to showcase works related to ‘Brave’s Journey’.

“We wanted to combine art and literature, so we are running a children’s art exhibition alongside my book launch. One of the main motifs throughout my book is the elements, so the kids have chosen an element and have created artwork based around that. It’s a fantastic opportunity.”

For more on Jan or to order her book, visit