Today it’s my pleasure to welcome Penny Jaye to the blog. Penny has published more than twenty books for children under the name Penny Reeve. Today, we’ll mainly be talking about her latest two books published as Penny Jaye. Thanks for chatting with us today, Penny.
You’ve had so much experience writing for children of all ages, including picture books, chapter books, Bible studies for young children, and novels for middle grade and adolescents. As a writer, is it hard to swap between the different types of books and age groups? How do you approach that task?
I don’t find it too difficult to switch between the genres and age groups because for me, the writing is always about the story and its connection with its audience. So when I’m writing about human trafficking, for instance, I’m always thinking about who I’m trying to communicate with and what the best story/medium is for that readership, and how to connect emotionally with them. The writing will vary depending on the answers to these questions. I think it’s one of the challenges I particularly enjoy about being an author for many different age groups.
The two books you’ve published as Penny Jaye both deal with social issues. Let’s start with your most recent picture book The Other Brother. Can you tell us a bit about that book and the inspiration behind it?
The Other Brother is a story about welcoming the stranger. It’s about foster care and/or adoption although neither of those terms are used in the book. I once heard a social worker bemoan the fact there were very few books about foster care and how the ones that were written always used animals to depict the characters. I began wondering whether I could write a story to reflect and honour the experiences of children in care without belittling their stories. I knew I wanted my story to be from the perspective of an older child welcoming a new child into their family, so that became my starting point.
Books featuring marginalised children in a positive way are certainly needed. Good on you for tackling that subject. Have you heard how children have reacted to The Other Brother? Is it something that’s an issue for many of them?
As a children’s author you don’t always hear how children are responding to your work, but I have heard that children appreciate and relate to the story and the main characters. Because the book doesn’t use the words foster care or adoption, The Other Brother is deliberately open for interpretation. It seems to be sparking lots of discussion. Children in care see themselves in the pages. Children who share their families see their experiences reflected in the story. And neighbours, school mates and friends also get a chance to consider the courage and kindness it takes to welcome someone new.
Your young adult novel Out of the Cages focuses on human trafficking. I believe you got the idea for it while in Nepal some years ago. Can you tell us more about your time in Nepal and the inspiration behind the book?
I lived in Nepal for 5 years in the early 2000s and during that time I started hearing about young women or girls who were sold across the border and down into the brothels of India. I began to wonder what it would be like to return home after having been trafficked. How would you piece your life back together? How would you heal? I did a lot of research, both in Nepal and in India. I met a lot of inspiring people and Meena’s story is the result of that research.
Although the book deals with a traumatic issue, there is hope in its pages. Without giving spoilers, can you tell us a bit about Meena’s story?
Yes, hope was a very important theme as I was writing this book. I knew I had to be writing about restoration, not despair, so I deliberately crafted the novel around these priorities. The story itself is about two young girls who are trafficked into the brothels of Mumbai and one of them that escapes. As Meena pieces her life back together, her memories of the journey to India and the young friend she was trafficked with, demand her attention. Out of the Cages is a story of courage, perseverance, friendship and hope.
Do you have any words of advice or encouragement for readers who are interested in helping those touched by the issues we’ve talked about today?
I think, for me, knowing about something is one of the most powerful ways to help others. With human trafficking, knowledge exposes the secrets of traffickers. It allows us to advocate against modern day slavery in all its forms (for example: do you know who picked your tea and whether they were free?). Learning about issues also allows us to empathise with others. Stories like The Other Brother allow us to consider another person’s story, to feel what they might feel and appreciate their experience. So my advice would be: ask questions and listen – listen well. Then ask God how he would have you respond in the situation he has placed you in today.
Thanks for chatting with us today, Penny. You’ve definitely given us some food for thought.
Penny has kindly made available an autographed copy of one of her books for one lucky reader. If your entry is drawn, you will have the choice of either the hardback picture book The Other Brother or the young adult novel Out of the Cages (suitable for readers aged 15+). In order to enter the draw for the prize, just add a comment below by midnight on Sunday 4 October 2020 (Australian Eastern Standard Time). In your comment, please specify which book you would prefer. The winner will be chosen at random from the eligible comments, and their name will be published in the comments section of this blog post, in my next newsletter and on the Nola Lorraine Facebook page. As the prize is a print book, this giveaway is only available for those with an Australian postal address. (Hopefully, I’ll be able to have other giveaways in the future that will be open to anyone.) For full terms, please click here.
Penny Reeve is the Australian author of more than 20 books for children, including picture books, junior novels, children’s non-fiction, young adult fiction and Bible studies for tweens. She loves writing for and sharing her stories with children, encouraging them to respond to the complex, fascinating and sometimes difficult world we live in.
Penny lives with her husband and three children in western Sydney, where she enjoys juggling the fun of busy family life with several writing projects on the go!
She also writes as Penny Jaye and Ella Shine.
Penny’s books are available from all good booksellers online and in-store, including:
Koorong – https://www.koorong.com/c/penny-reeve
Wandering Bookseller – https://wanderingbookseller.com.au/search?type=product&q=penny+reeve
Signed copies of her books are available from her website.
Out of the Cages is also available as an ebook via Amazon and Koorong.