HarperCollins are thrilled to announce that Susanne Gervay's Always Jack has won the 2011 Australian Family Therapists' Award for Children's Literature.
Susanne Gervay, awarded an OAM for Children's Literature and Professional Organisations, is recognised for her books on social justice reaching young people, families and communities.
Part survival manual, part therapy, part autobiography, part fiction, Always Jack succeeds in distilling a complex medical conditions for young readers to digest. Guaranteed. Carrying the NSW Cancer Council's stamp of approval, Jack's story will stay with readers always.'
Jack's life is pretty good - he has brilliant friends, everyone loves his funny jokes and he's a great inventor. But things are getting complicated. Nanna's older and wobblier, and why does his face now go red when he sees his best friend Anna? And to top it off Mum and Rob's wedding seems to be taking over the world.
Something really scary has also happened to his mum and it's going to take all of Jack's courage to deal with it.
Susanne Gervay is an award-winning Australian author and a specialist in child development. Her much-loved and bestselling I Am Jack has become a classic on school bullying, reaching adults and children alike. Her most recent young adult book, That's Why I Wrote This Song, was written in collaboration with her daughter, Tory. Susanne's books have appeared on the Children's Book Council of Australia's Notable Books list and I Am Jack is endorsed by Life Education Australia, the Alannah & Madeline Foundation and Room to Read.
Harper Collins Australia
Author: Susanne Gervay
Interview with Susanne Gervay
Question: How does it feel to hear Always Jack has won the 2011 Australian Family Therapists' Award for Children's Literature?
Susanne Gervay: It was deeply emotional and meaningful.
Kids and adults can get lost when faced with serious illness. Parents want to protect kids so are often silent, but kids know there's something wrong. Kids' greatest fear is if something happens to a parent. Their world crashes. I wrote 'Always Jack' hoping that it helps young people and adults find their way.
'Always Jack' is filled with humour, love, life in a narrative that engages. However it offers more that that. It's subtext seeks to make it safe to talk about blending family, war, migration, aging grandparents and the huge challenge of cancer. 'Always Jack' was written to create a safe place for young people, family and friends, encasing them in the warmth of community and hope.
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I held my children tightly as they were part of the difficult journey ahead. I wrote 'Always Jack' for them and for all the children, mothers, families, communities facing cancer.
This Award is so special, because it sends 'Always Jack' to places where it can partner young people and old on this journey.
Question: Why is it important to you, as an author, to write books that aid child development?
Susanne Gervay: Young people feel everything but don't have the experience to understand that they're not alone when faced with challenges. They often don't speak about deep issues. They can feel powerless and alone when faced with family break up, parental expectations, rejection, world issues, illness and life. Australia has one of the largest youth male suicides in the world. Boys don't' feel they can speak. I hope my books help them speak.
My books are written to offer my hand to young people, so when they navigate that turbulent period between childhood and adulthood, they are not alone. Not all will take my hand, but some will and that is why I write.
Question: How did you ensure Always Jack told the truth in regards to the effect of cancer on families?
Susanne Gervay: I wrote Always Jack as an entertaining and engaging book. However it is more than that, as it fictionalises my personal journey of breast cancer. As a mother of 2 children, I wanted to comfort, explain, nurture and reach my children and the wider community.
To maintain integrity, 'Always Jack' had to be medically accurate. I was grateful for the commitment of The National Breast & Ovarian Cancer Centre (www.canceraustralia.gov.au) to 'Always Jack' who viewed 'Always Jack' is an important way to reach young people and mothers.
In a rare endorsement, The Cancer Council's yellow daffodil is on the back cover of 'Always Jack'
Question: How will Always Jack help Australian families dealing with the effects of cancer?
Susanne Gervay: 'Always Jack' puts an arm around children and families, creating a safe haven to talk and care for each other, so that cancer isn't the end but part of life and OK.
The Cancer Council wrote that: 'Susanne Gervay's Always Jack makes it safe for children. Parents and the wider community to talk about cancer.'
The National Breast & Ovarian Cancer Centre wrote: Written from the perspective of a boy, Always Jack is engaging and enjoyable to read. It weaves accurate detailed clinical information into a children's style, in an easy to read, educational, empathic and understandable manner. Impressively, it covers many aspects of a woman's experience with breast cancer, including:
The triple test: Diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound, biopsy
Men and breast cancer
Psychosocial implications for the child - fear of losing his mother , of things not being "normal"
The message of the novel is hopeful and encouraging whilst not shying away from the child's pain and fears, using humour to sensitively appeal to a child about a difficult subject. '
Question: What do you enjoy most about writing for young people?
Susanne Gervay: Young people read differently to adults. They read and re-read a book if it reaches them, as they search for values, friendship and who they will be. It is a privilege to be part of their journey.
I love the way young people know the characters in my books better than I do. I love the way my characters can travel with young readers as friends offering comfort, humour, love and hope.
I love it when young people approach me holding a book to their hear and tell me that it's important to them. The messages I receive from around the world enrich my life and are the drivers for me to continue to write for young people. This is typical of the many messages I receive. How special is it!
Hey Ms Gervay,
I was one of the boys that went to your show today at somerset at 10:15. It was a fantastic presentation. Your book is an amazing book about your son Jack. I have troubles telling my mum about being bullied but she won't listen to me so what should I do? I feel the same that jack did getting bullied so I feel sorry for jack. It must of been hard writing this book so thank you for sharing it with me.
Interview by Brooke Hunter