I launched my debut middle grade/YA novel, Ride High Pineapple, on Sunday, 10 July, 2016. The obvious place to hold my book launch for Ride High Pineapple which is about teenager, Issy Burgess, who loves to skateboard, was at the local skatepark.
The afternoon was wonderful with lots of friends and family coming along to help me celebrate.
The theme for the afternoon was pineapples and skateboards, specifically with cupcakes, cut up pieces of pineapple, skateboarding and scootering .
Below is my speech and then some photos, including the article which was featured in the Pine Rivers Press.
Have you ever compared people’s faces? Some people have big noses, some people have small chins, some people have straight eyebrows, some people have thin lips, and some people have freckles. What do you have? All of these differences help you to be recognised by friends, family and other people who meet you.
What if you were born with a face that was considered different in the eyes of the world? Maybe you were born with a large red mark on your face, or you weren’t born with ears, or half of your face didn’t move.
In Ride High Pineapple, the main character, Issy Burgess, was born with a different face. The bones in her skull and face stopped growing too early when she was in her mother’s womb. This made them small, so her eyes were very bulgy. This was not her fault. It was something that just happened, just like some people have asthma, or are allergic to peanuts. But having something that most other people do not have, can be difficult.
People stare at people who are different.
Whether it is a very short person, a person in a wheelchair, or someone who talks to himself, people tend to look, maybe because they are curious, or maybe because they haven’t seen someone like that before. Unfortunately though, some people can be very mean and cruel to people who are different. This happens in Ride High Pineapple as Issy is bullied by The Beast, Tia, a girl in her class.
in the story Issy uses her English assessment to tell the class why she looks the way she is, and also to show that she is more than a face – she has talents. Issy is great at writing poetry, drawing Anime and skateboarding. She is also a loyal friend and a loved daughter.
You may be wondering, why I gave Issy a different face? Well, because I was born with a different face, and two of my children were also born with a different face. We all have the syndrome that Issy has. Issy’s character is based on myself and my daughter. Issy’s feelings were my own when I was growing up. The speech that Issy gave, was the speech that my daughter gave to her Year 8 English class, just changed to match Issy. My daughter loves drawing Anime and was into skateboarding. She also experiences anxiety. The hospitals, Captain Starlight, and plastic surgeon are all from our personal experience.
If you see or meet someone with a facial difference, choose kind. Be nice, smile and say hello. Remember that even though their face may not look like everyone else’s, they still have feelings, and they have talents. They want to have friends and be liked. Maybe they can do something that you can’t do.
There is a bully in the story; Tia, or The Beast, is her name. She continually calls Issy names, she hurts Issy, and she spreads rumours about her.
The difference between a mean girl and a bully, is that the situation occurs more than once. Issy has been picked on by Tia since Tia arrived in Year Eight.
There are many strategies to cope with bullies. It is extremely important that you do not put up with it. No one has the right to be mean to you.
So what can you do? You can stand up for yourself, and say like Issy did, ‘Stop it, I don’t like it.’ If that doesn’t work you can say something funny or walk away. You can tell a teacher. You can tell your parents. You can tell your friends.
Issy kept the bullying a secret and tried to deal with Tia on her own. This only made Issy very angry because nothing was working. It was only when Issy told her best friend Tilly what was going on, and Sarah her skateboarding coach, that she was able to stop Tia. Don’t keep bullying a secret.
In Ride High Pineapple, Issy had known Tilly since she was young. She felt she didn’t need any other friends, and was jealous of other girls trying to join the group. Over time Issy realised that sometimes she needed more than one friend.
Friends are important. We laugh, play, hang out and share our dreams and secrets with them. Friends accept us for who we are and like us the way we are. Sometimes we do fight with our friends but that is okay, as long as we say sorry and get over it
It is important that friends don’t stand by and let bullying happen. Friends who stand with you, are the best type of friends to have. In the story it is Tilly and Tilly’s friends who stand up to Tia. Eventually Issy expands her friendship group to include these girls.
Why did I put a bully in Ride High Pineapple? Because I was bullied all the way through school. I was called horrible names about my face. My friends did stand up for me and my brothers tried to protect me. But it still happened. In those days bullying was more accepted than it is today. Thankfully times have changed and you don’t have to put up with it.
In the story Ride High Pineapple, Issy says she has something called anxiety. She gets sweaty palms, she has butterflies in her tummy, she has a pounding heart, she can’t sleep and is tired, she feels angry and sometimes she even vomits. Maybe you’ve felt this way when something has scared you, or you’ve had to do a talk at school in front of your classmates.
Everyone does feel nervous. That is very normal. But sometimes a person’s nervousness becomes so severe, that it makes them sick and stops them from doing things. Sometimes a person with anxiety avoid thing or going places because they are feeling so bad inside.
Anxiety affects a lot of young people.
When I was deciding on Issy’s character, why did I give her anxiety? That’s easy. Because myself and my daughter both have severe anxiety. And there have been children who I have taught who had anxiety.
Anxiety can be hard to cope with. It is difficult to make yourself do something when your body and your mind are telling you not to. For example, Issy didn’t swim in the swimming carnival because of her fear of swimming in front of the school.
Towards the middle of the story Issy tells her skateboarding coach about her anxiety and explains that it is stopping her from enjoying her life, and particularly from going further with her sport. Sarah teaches Issy the analogy of a pineapple. This works.
Sometimes children and teenagers are told by a doctor that they have an anxiety disorder and they will need some extra help to cope. They may see someone called a psychologist who will talk to them and design specific strategies for them to use.
There are many strategies for anyone who is coping with nerves or anxiety. Drawing, colouring in, journaling, going for a walk or playing sport, listening to music, smelling something nice, or cuddling your favourite toy or pet are all great things to do. Or you too can imagine you are a pineapple – stand tall, be tough on the outside, sweet on the inside, and wear a crown.
There is another theme of the book – secrets. On page one of her journal, Issy talks about different types of secrets.
Do you think there are different types of secrets? Are there good and bad ones?
Yes there are different types of secrets. Most secrets are harmless or fun, but some aren’t. How do you know the difference?
This is the rule:
* If a secret can’t hurt someone or something you can keep the secret. For example, writing a surprise birthday card.
* If a secret can hurt someone or something you need to tell someone. For example, someone forces you to steal.
* And if you’re not sure whether it will hurt someone or something, it is best to tell.
Remember that problems should not be secrets. Issy had a problem – Tia wouldn’t stop bullying her. She should have told her parents and Tilly much sooner. Later on in the story Issy finds Sofia’s bracelet and she wants to keep it. This is also a problem. It shouldn’t have been kept as a secret.
If someone tells you to keep a secret and it is about you or someone else being hurt, you must tell. Do not keep it a secret.
The school year has just begun for thirteen year old, Isabella Burgess. She’s back at Pinnaroo High, now in Year Nine. The human problem she hoped would go away over the Summer, has returned. Her name – Tia. Issy calls her The Beast for short. The Beast greets Issy each day with ‘Hey Poppy Eyes’, ‘Hey Flatface’, or other cruel taunts, making fun of her facial difference. All of Issy’s attempts to stop The Beast, fail, and the bullying escalates.
Along with The Beast problem, Issy experiences friendship woes with her best friend, Tilly; a crush on the cutest boy in her class, Tim; and she battles her anxiety which has a firm hold on her.
Issy must find a way to overcome all her problems and gain control over her life, before she loses her mind. Will her passion for skateboarding provide the answers she needs