We are delighted to host a guest post by Kate Scott, whose latest book Just Jack (read our review here) features on our booklist for class transitions as well as being one of our recent Books of the Month.
In this blog post, Kate discusses the important theme of school transition in Just Jack and how the book address the topic of coping with change.
In the opening of my new book, Just Jack, Jack tells us he’s moved five times over the last two years. He’s had enough practice with packing to turn professional and he has turned ‘fitting in’ into a fine art. But to Jack ‘fitting in’ means playing things safe. It means pretending to be someone he isn’t and to like things he doesn’t in order to ensure he’ll be accepted by his new classmates.
The book also tackles divorce (Jack’s parents have separated and he hasn’t seen his father for months) but the story is not primarily an ‘issues’ book. It’s a book about change and the power of friendship.
Children often find change unsettling. Routine is comforting and boundaries – even if pushed against – can make children feel secure. Change can take everything that’s familiar to you and throw it up in the air. It can turn the predictable upside down. As so much of being a child means not having control it’s perhaps not a surprise that children sometimes have dual reactions to the idea of change. Change may be exciting but it always means different and different is sometimes scary. Children may welcome the idea of change in theory but in practice can sometimes feel overwhelmed by its realities. My own children have felt both the desperate excitement about moving up to a new class (or school) and then the fear and dismay at the discovery that this entails a vast – and exhausting – number of new routines and expectations to adjust to. And while children often adapt well and quickly to new circumstances, that doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily without a cost.
In Jack’s case, the cost is not allowing himself to form real friendships. His approach to moving so many times has been designed to protect himself from loss. He’s already lost his dad and he’s not taking the chance of being hurt again. Then he meets Tyler. Tyler is someone who not only enjoys change – he chases it – he revels in it. Tyler is an inventor and that means taking risks and embracing the unknown. Tyler slowly makes Jack see that perhaps playing it safe isn’t as fun (or funny) as celebrating the different and the new. And it’s certainly not as satisfying as learning to accept yourself for who you really are.
With Just Jack, I wanted to give children a warm welcome of a story – a story with funny details and fun characters to laugh over and relish. But I also wanted to sneak in a secret message. A message of reassurance. Reassurance that when parents don’t get on, it’s not the fault of their children. Reassurance that they remain loved even when the parents no longer love each other. Reassurance that a good friendship is to be treasured – and can get you through all life events, both good and bad. Above all, reassurance that being brave enough to be yourself can sometimes feel like a risk – but that it’s a risk worth taking.
As children prepare to start a new year – or a new school – after the summer holidays, I hope books like Just Jack will help them see that the benefits of moving on and moving up quickly outweigh the fears and worries about how to navigate the one inevitable element of our lives: we change.
Kate Scott has kindly offered the chance for one of our followers win a copy of both Just Jack and Giant. To enter, simply follow @booksfortopics on Twitter and retweet the giveaway tweet by midnight Wednesday 11th July 2018 (T&Cs here).
Many thanks to Kate for sharing this guest blog post with us.