Have an Adventure with J. Zelen
By Bianca Schulze, The Children’s Book Review
Published: November 9, 2011
Based in Portland, Oregon, The Adventurous Book of Adventure is a story that could happen to any group of brave kids, maybe! The story is told from the kids’ point of view, as a walk in the park turns into the adventure of a lifetime.
Can you share a little on your background and how you became a children’s book writer?
“By day, a small business consultant and mom; by night, artist and writer”. There, that sounds both glamorous and mysterious, doesn’t it? I work part time helping small businesses with their bookkeeping and computer systems, but my schedule leaves me plenty of time for family and artistic pursuits. I have always painted and been involved in music; I also love to read and write. This year was the right time to start writing more.
I chose to write a book for children simply because it seemed like the most fun to me, and the most flexible. Kids at that pre-teen age can do a lot; in my book, they manage a long and risky journey through a strange land, and they solve a lot of problems on their own. On the other hand, they still have that wonderful sense of imagination- they’re not “too cool” yet for a lot of stuff that may or may not seem unbelievable for teens and adults.
I was inspired one day when my daughter asked why life can’t be more interesting, like in stories. I decided to sit down and write a short story, about some kids her age, that would involve the coolest adventures we could dream up. The story took off from there, and when I reached about 100 pages I realized it would make a really, really good book.
What age group did you write the book for?
The book is aimed at kids aged 9-12; but it is a fun and interesting read for any age, really, due to plot twists and vocabulary. For this book I kept real violence to a minimum, because I didn’t want the book to be too scary for readers younger than ten. But I think the action and the fantasy characters are exciting enough for older readers as well, and it would be a fun book for parents and kids to read together.
What would you say is the most important lesson that readers will take away from reading your book?
I tried to incorporate several themes in the book, the main theme being the importance of loyalty and kindness. The kids who come to the rescue of Lucy and Jessica just do not give up, despite the length of their journey, the strange places and creatures they encounter, and not even being sure they’ll reach their goal. Lucy and Jessica, on the other hand, essentially earn what they need through being kind and trying to help others. I also wanted their to be a big element of the unexpected, from the girls getting lost in the first place, to the way their “rescue” plays out.
What can you tell us about the lead characters, Lucy Green and her cousin Jessica?
Lucy starts out as a typical somewhat grumpy, just-a-little-spoiled pre-teen. She loves fashion, art and her cousin; she loves her family too but is exasperated by them a lot of the time. Jessica is somewhat shy and tends to follow Lucy’s lead; she is definitely less brave. All of this changes when the girls are kidnapped by the dragon. Far from home and facing new adventures and dangers each day, they really step up and show what they’re made of.
Of the many adventures that are chronicled in the book, do you have a favorite?
I don’t want to give this away, but I’ll just say that the kids who go after Lucy and Jessica are given three magic potions to help them reach the castle; all three get used along the way. I will say that in real life, I love the outdoors and exploring remote places, and that played into the book a lot. The journey the kids take involves not just travel, but caves, the ocean, a forest; they are true adventurers in that they really don’t know where they’re going, but they persevere.
Should we expect to see another book from you soon?
I am working on a sequel. The characters in The Adventurous Book of Adventure are just too fun to let go right now. By the end of the first book I felt they were just getting started, and can definitely stand to have another adventure or two.
What would you say has been the most personally rewarding aspect or becoming a children’s book author?
Something that was really cool for me was that I didn’t plan the story out all the way ahead of time; I knew in general how I wanted it to end, but many of the kids’ adventures came to me as I wrote and built on other parts of the story. It was like the story had a life of its own, and I was just recording it as it developed. This was my first full length novel, and what was striking about it was seeing how writing really is an art, similar to painting or music.
It was rewarding seeing the story come together, and then when I shared it with friends and with my kids’ friends and heard how much they enjoyed it, that was the “icing on the cake”.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
“Go have an adventure”. This can be almost anything; I’m always encouraging everyone around me to get outdoors more or go hiking or something, but small adventures really can take place each day. Just don’t hesitate to try something new or to get to know new people. Life is too short to hang back and be shy, or to be bored with your own situation. Find something you like and do it.
Add this book to your collection: The Adventurous Book of Adventure: What Happens When Kids Fall in a Hole
For more information, visit: http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/jzelen
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