An Interview with Jenny about why she wrote Daniel Barker: Journey to Egypt
Why did you write the Daniel Barker series?
I love Roald Dahl and was reading The Magic Finger. After finishing it, thoughts began to bounce around my head. I wanted to write a fun story about a child who had some type of power. Out of that initial thought, combined with an idea that came to me when I was using Twitter, the seed was planted. I have always loved ancient Egypt with the pyramids, pharaohs and mummies etc. so I thought it would be awesome to have ancient Egypt as the backstory and then the setting for Journey to Egypt. I wanted magic and fantasy in the stories as this genre is fun to write, and I realised as I wrote the books that they were horror as well. This was a new genre for me to write but I had inspiration from Goosebumps. All of my books have some type of bully or evil character, so Daniel Barker does as well. When I was thinking about the antagonist – the meanie, the thought of having multiple antagonists came to mind. This gave me the idea for the theme of peer pressure. I know from my own experience as a teacher, and from my youth work studies, that peer pressure is a major issue for children in high school. I also hoped that boys who don’t like reading, might pick up the book and read it.
What is the story about?
The story is about Daniel Barker who receives a Egyptian magical book on his tenth birthday. The book gives him 99 wishes which must be used for the good of the world. He writes a wish by writing a hashtag and then what he wants. All goes well in primary school and Dan the Man is a superhero. He then goes on to high school where he unleashes the Mummy’s blight due to peer pressure and bullying. In this book Dan and Grandma go back to Egypt to try and stop the blight. They visit the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities and the mummies come to life and chase Daniel. He meets Meryatum, Ramesses II’s son. Meryatum takes him to ancient Egypt and it is there the boys encounter many challenges and obstacles, in their quest. This is a story with suspense, horror and heaps of action!
What is your favourite part of the story?
I loved researching ancient Egypt, as ever since I was a girl I was fascinated by the pyramids and the sphinx. I remember hearing about the mummification process and being horrified by it – so of course I had to include that in the story!
What will people get out of the story?
Children will learn about ancient Egypt through the facts I have woven through the story. They will see a boy who is resilient and keeps on going towards his goal, with the help of a friend. And I definitely hope children will enjoy the story and be entertained by it.
Is there a Book 3 coming?
Yes, there will be a third where Dan goes back home from Egypt and tries to resume a normal life at home and school. You will have to wait and see what happens in it but like the other two books it will be full of action.
Where can people buy Daniel Barker from?
Daniel Barker: Journey to Egypt is available as a paperback. It can be purchased from many online bookstores which are listed on my website, and from me directly, via my website.
Wanting to feel part of something can put pressure on a teen to act in certain ways. If they’re doing something they wouldn’t normally do, or are not doing something they’d like to do, simply so that they’ll be accepted by the people they hang out with, they’re suffering from peer pressure.
Peer pressure can influence: * the way someone dresses or wears their hair * the activities they get involved in the music they listen to * the decisions made about using drugs and alcohol * who they date * who they’re friends with.
The pressure to act in a certain way can be: 1) direct: someone telling the teen what they should be doing 2) indirect: the teen’s group of friends might do certain activities together that they’re unlikely to do outside of that group 3) self-motivated: putting pressure on the teen to fit in with their friendship group, because of certain standards they’ve set or comments they’ve made. https://au.reachout.com/articles/what-is-peer-pressure
In Daniel Barker: By Power or Blight, peer pressure is a pivotal catalyst for the turn of events in the story. Daniel is a superhero in primary school and the beginning of high school. Things change in Year Eight, and with taunting, bullying and pressure on him, Daniel goes against the rules set down in the Scrivener book. Consequences await him upon disobeying the rules. In Daniel Barker: Journey to Egypt, Daniel reflects on why he is in his predicament and knows it is because of peer pressure and making poor choices.
The Scrivener book is a present that was given to Daniel’s grandmother by a magus when she was traveling through Egypt. It was then passed down to Daniel’s mother and then to himself. In Power or Blight there are some references to Egypt with the Mummy’s blight. At the end of the story, Grandma decides that they need to go back to Egypt to stop the blight.
In Journey to Egypt, ancient Egypt comes alive. I did a lot of research about ancient Egypt to ensure the facts I have woven into the story are correct.
Some fun facts about ancient Egypt: 1) Egyptian men and women wore makeup. It was thought to have healing powers, plus it helped protect their skin from the sun. 2) They used mouldy bread to help with infections. 3) They were one of the first civilizations to invent writing. They also used ink to write and paper called papyrus. 4) The Ancient Egyptians were scientists and mathematicians. They had numerous inventions including ways to build buildings, medicine, cosmetics, the calendar, the plow for farming, musical instruments, and even toothpaste. 5) Ancient Egypt plays a major role in the Bible. The Israelites were held captive there as slaves for many years. Moses helped them escape and led them to the Promised Land. 6) The Pharaoh kept his hair covered. It was not to be seen by regular people. 7) Cats were considered sacred in Ancient Egypt. https://www.ducksters.com/history/ancient_egypt.
As with most of my books, bullying is featured in By Power or Blight. Daniel is called names and taunted, until he explodes. Bullying does not occur in Journey to Egypt, but instead Daniel is befriended by Meryatum, the Pharaoh’s son, Meryatum, quickly becomes friends with Daniel and they share their adventure together.
Bullying goes hand-in-hand with negative peer pressure.
So what is bullying?
The national definition of bullying for Australian schools says: Bullying is an ongoing misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical and/or social behaviour that causes physical and/or psychological harm. It can involve an individual or a group misusing their power over one or more persons. Bullying can happen in person or online, and it can be obvious (overt) or hidden (covert).
Bullying of any form or for any reason can have long-term effects on those involved, including bystanders.
Single incidents and conflict or fights between equals, whether in person or online, are not defined as bullying.
In the story, Daniel is bullied because he is picked on by many children; some like Ethan and his mate have it in for him. Daniel is physically and verbally picked on. After things start going bad, he becomes isolated from his friends.
In By Power or Blight, the school does not action to stop the bullying – this is all part of the Mummy’s Blight. But in reality there are policies and procedures that schools need to follow.
These strategies could include: • teaching and learning programs to develop students communication, social, assertiveness and coping skills • changes to the school environment to improve teacher supervision, such as removing visual barriers between teacher and students • increasing supervision of students at particular times or places • support from a guidance officer or school counsellor • changes to technology access at school • timetable or class changes that may be temporary or permanent to decrease the contact the students have with each other • class discussions of bullying including underlying issues and possible responses for students • promoting positive bystander behaviour • disciplinary action against students who bully others An action plan may be developed for the child and any other children involved. Strategies for use at home may also be included in a plan. https://bullyingnoway.gov.au/RespondingToBullying/HowAustralianSchoolsRespond
Daniel Barker lives with his mother, his father having left when he was a baby. Mrs Barker still carries some resentment towards her husband and expresses in the story that she doesn’t want her son to become like him.
Mrs Barker has the help of Daniel’s grandmother, who he is close to. Daniel often rings his grandmother to ask her advice, and they have a good relationship. She helps him many times throughout By Power or Blight. In Journey to Egypt it is Grandma who takes Dan to Egypt.
This theme was chosen as over the past 20 years single-parent families have become even more common than the so-called “nuclear family” consisting of a mother, father and children. Today we see all sorts of single- parent families: headed by mothers, headed by fathers, headed by a grandparent raising their grandchildren.
Life in a single-parent household — though common — can be quite stressful for the adult and the children. Members may unrealistically expect that the family can function like a two-parent family, and may feel that something is wrong when it can not. The single parent may feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of juggling caring for the children, maintaining a job and keeping up with the bills and household chores. And typically, the family’s finances and resources are drastically reduced following the parents’ breakup.
Single-parent families deal with many other pressures and potential problem areas that the nuclear family does not have to face.
Stressors faced by single parent families include: * Visitation and custody problems. • The effects of continuing conflict between the parents. • Less opportunity for parents and children to spend time together. • Effects of the breakup on children’s school performance and peer relations. • Disruptions of extended family relationships. • Problems caused by the parents’ dating and entering new relationships. http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/single-parent.aspx
Difference & Diversity
We all want children to grow up in a world free from bias and discrimination, to reach for their dreams and feel that whatever they want to accomplish in life is possible. We want them to feel loved and included and never to experience the pain of rejection or exclusion. But the reality is that we do live in a world in which racism and other forms of bias continue to affect us. Discrimination hurts and leaves scars that can last a lifetime, affecting goals, ambitions, life choices, and feelings of self-worth. https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/articles/teaching-content/teaching-diversity-place-begin-0/
Even though in Power or Blight, Daniel is a typical boy, as stated in the Introduction, the gift of his Scrivener power changes things. It makes him different. When I wrote the story I thought an equivalent example for today may be a child’s family winning the lottery, or a child acquiring a physical disability – something that had a dramatic change – something that may be accepted for a while, but then not so much.
Having the theme of difference and diversity in the Daniel Barker series encourages discussions. It goes a step towards children thinking about how they can show respect for others who are different from themselves, and the language they speak.
I launched my fourth middle grade novel, Amy and Phoenix,, on Saturday the 23rd of February, 2019. I decided to hold this launch at the local art gallery.
The afternoon was wonderful with lots of friends and family coming along to help me celebrate. I ran the afternoon in an interview format with my friend Raelene Purtill. There was lots of food and drink and activities for the children. Below are some photos:
An Interview with Jenny about why she wrote Amy and Phoenix
Why did you write Amy and Phoenix?
I love Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. When I was a classroom teacher, I always enjoyed reading the story to my class of children. I found it such a heart-warming story. I also thought it would be fun to have talking animals, like in the Doctor Doolittle movies. So, initially these two ideas floated around in my imagination and morphed into a modern tale of a girl who wanted to save a disabled lamb on her farm, and her ability to talk to the animals would help her.
I took my youngest daughter on a holiday and there was a petting zoo in the caravan park. Each day my daughter wanted to go and feed the animals and pat them. She particularly loved the lambs. The photos of her feeding and patting the animals became cemented in my mind, and they became the characters in the book.
My passion is to write stories with disabled characters, or characters in diverse situations. Having a disabled lamb would add a different type of story to my collection. I made Amy’s dad the antagonist. Dad is really just doing what many farmers do. They put down sick or poorly animals. Farmers may feed potty lambs when there is drought, but they don’t normally feed lambs just for the heck of it. They are too busy. Children do not see the world as adults do so I wanted to explore this relationship in the story.
What is the story about?
The story is about Amy Pringle who sees her dad striding through the loungeroom with his gun. She knows that on the farm that usually isn’t a good thing, and she pursues him to find out why. The bad news is that Amy’s favourite ewe, Edna, has given birth but there is a problem with the lamb. It has three legs. Dad wants to put the lamb down as it will attract the foxes to the farm, but Amy doesn’t want him to. She then has to work out how to change her dad’s mind. With the help of the other farm animals, Amy comes up with a plan which she puts into action. Through a series of events the lambs end up on the internet, and in a talent show. Amy thinks everything is perfect but it soon isn’t. I won’t tell you any more but the story is suspenseful and heart-warming.
What is your favourite part of the story?
I have a few. I loved that Amy could talk to the animals but none of the other humans could, and it was like a secret that Amy was keeping from them. And I loved the bond between Amy and Phoenix, particularly when she makes him a crown to wear after she names him.
What will people get out of the story?
Amy and Phoenix is about a young girl standing up for what she feels is an injustice. Amy is strong and bold, and fights for what she believes in and problem-solves to help her right the wrong she feels her dad is committing. I hope Amy will encourage other children to stand up for what they believe in. The story also has the phenomenon of videos going viral on YouTube, and the media attention this can attract. This part can lead to discussions about cyber safety.
Is there a Book 2 coming?
Yes, as the story does not end. You will realise that when you reach the last few words of the book. Amy’s adventures with Phoenix will be continued in a second novel where she will take the lambs to a TV talent show! I can’t say anything more – you will have to wait and see what happens.
Where can people buy Amy and Phoenix from?
Amy and Phoenix is available as a paperback. It can be purchased from many online bookstores which are listed on my website, and from me directly, via my website.
Amy and Phoenix is set on a farm, which has a range of animals. It explores daily life and the realities of farm life.
What children will learn about farming in Amy and Phoenix:
1. Some of the difficulties such as predators attacking the stock e.g. foxes, and survival of the fittest.
2. Where food, such as milk, comes from (it doesn’t come from a milk bottle); also pork comes from pigs etc. In association with reading the story, children can be taught about production chains.
3. About the role of the farmer and the point that anything that is raised or grown on a farm depends on him or her. Many of the activities Mr Pringle does in the story relate to caring for the animals, feeding and watering, cleaning, building and fixing things. The chores the children have on the farm such as collecting the eggs are also highlighted.
4, Animals need food, shelter and proper care to grow healthy and happy. The story shows the role of a vet.
5. The story highlights the life cycles of farm animals. Being on a farm brings the joys of new life and the sadness of lost life.
6. Weather affects farming on a daily basis though farmers have no control over. Rain is extremely important but too much is never good. Extreme heat or extreme cold has it affect on everything and everyone on a farm.
In the story, Dad considers sending Phoenix to the RSPCA farm. This can lead to discussions and research on what animal welfare organisations or charities do.
The RSPCA’s mission is to prevent cruelty to animals by actively promoting their care and protection. To achieve this, the RSPCA works to enforce animal cruelty laws and prompt new legislation where required. The RSPCA also operates animal care and adoption facilities, and seeks to raise community awareness regarding the humane treatment of animals. In addition, the RSPCA works with government and industry to establish standards for animal care.
The RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) works closely with the farming sector to make a positive impact on the lives of farm production animals by providing an environment that meets their behavioural and physiological needs.
In the story Amy is adamant that she is going to save Phoenix from being put down and then once she achieves this she wants to save him from going to the RSPCA farm. With the help of her sister Amy is able to.
Children usually learn how to write a persuasive letter in English, but there are other ways children can advocate or stand up for an issue they are passionate about. The story lends itself to brainstorming methods and even trying some of them out in the real world.
Amy absolutely loves the animals at the farm. She can even talk to them like Doctor Doolittle. At the beginning of the story Amy has a bond with Kobie the working dog, and she then develops a very special bond with Phoenix, the newborn disabled lamb. Her dad says he doesn’t have pets on the farm which distresses Amy and she works to change this. The story highlights the benefits of children caring for animals or having pets.
Here are some of the benefits:
• Children who grow up in homes with pets have less risk of developing common allergies and asthma. • Playing with dogs may help lower blood pressure. • Kids with pets get outside more—to go for walks, run and play—and enjoy all the associated health benefits. • Pet owners require fewer doctor’s visits. • Emerging readers often feel more comfortable reading aloud to a pet. • Nurturing a pet is an acceptable way for boys to “parent play”—to practice being caregivers. • Feeding and caring for a pet encourages childhood responsibility. • Children with pets display improved impulse control, social skills and self-esteem. • Sharing the love and care of a family pet forges an additional common bond among siblings. • Cuddling a pet reduces stress, loneliness and anxiety. Read more: http://www.oprah.com/relationships/10-reasons-pets-are-good-for-kids#ixzz5cp3ya0iB
Like humans, animals can be born with disabilities. They can be born without limbs, or have facial differences, or skin conditions etc. If you google ‘disabled animals’ many photos will pop up. Having a lamb with three legs in the story, can enable discussions on difference, diversity and disabilities in humans as well as in animals.
Amy makes an interesting comment in the story where she says, ‘If I was born with one leg you wouldn’t have killed me.’ Children in the younger age would not need to be taught about what has happened to people with disabilities throughout history, but older students could touch on this topic.
Animals like people can cope with their disabilities and can thrive.
In Amy and Phoenix, Hannah who is Amy’s sister, uploads the video of Phoenix and the other lambs to YouTube, and it goes viral. The media then becomes involved. Having this element in the story allows for discussions on the pros and cons of YouTube. With the older children some discussions could be had on social media, instagram etc. and the positives and negatives of being popular. Discussions about how to remain safe on the internet should also be included when reading the story. There are many great resources on the internet to help.
Eleven-year-old Amy Pringle lives on a farm. She knows all the animals by name and can talk to them like Doctor Doolittle. Amy is looking forward to her favourite ewe, Edna, giving birth. When she sees her dad with his gun, she knows something is wrong.
Amy must think of a way to save Phoenix, the three-legged lamb’s life.
After her sister Hannah, posts a video of Phoenix on YouTube and it goes viral, Amy thinks all her problems are solved. Little does she know what is about to happen.
Will Amy be able to save Phoenix after all?
Amy and Phoenix is a heart-warming fantasy story about a caring, strong-willed and determined girl. It explores the themes of disability, advocacy, friendship, farming and agriculture, animal welfare and cyber safety.