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.