I launched my third middle grade novel, Land of Britannica,, on Saturday the 16th of September, 2017. I decided to hold this launch at the local park and playground.
The afternoon was wonderful with lots of friends and family coming along to help me celebrate. The themes for the afternoon were dragons and hearts. The children who came along dressed up as superheroes and I had some activities for them to do .
An Interview with Jenny about why she wrote Land of Britannica
Why did you write Land of Britannica?
I was at a church ladies camp in 2016 and a fellow camper came up to ask me if I had written a book that could help her grandchildren. She was after a story that dealt with marriage breakup as her grandchildren weren’t coping with what was happening to their family. I hadn’t as I had only written Ride High Pineapple and Brockwell the Brave. This request bubbled around inside of me, growing into the story, Land of Britannica.
My inspiration for the way I wrote the story was the Wizard of Oz where Dorothy goes into a fantasy world. In Oz she must solve the problem she was been wrestling with in the real world. So it is the same with Land of Britannica – Brittney finds herself in the Land of Britannica where she goes through her adventure to work through her feelings of her parents’ impending divorce. The characters in the story are representative of people in Brittney’s real world experiences.
I also wanted the story to do more than just be an adventure story, so I made each of the obstacles Brittney meets in the Land of Britannica, representative of each of the stages of the grief cycle. The grief cycle is a step of cyclical steps humans go through when they are dealing with a traumatic situation. It is described on the Themes page.
This type of story is called an allegory.
What is the story about?
Brittney’s parents have separated. Dad introduces her and her brothers to his new girlfriend. This devastates Brittney as she realises her parents’ marriage is over. Brittney goes to bed upset. She hears a sound under her bed and touches a glowing green light. Brittney is taken into a strange new world, where there are talking animals, dragons, flying carriages and strange food. She meets Carly-Anna who tells her that she is the Chosen One and must save the heart that hangs in the sky from cracking and falling down. Brittney must also save the kingdom from the evil queen who is trying to take over the land. The story follows Brittney’s journey through the Land of Britannica where she must face obstacles and rescue creatures. Along the way she meets different characters, who give her weapons and clothing that give her powers. I won’t tell you what happens, but at the end of the story Brittney needs to make an important decision…
How did you decide on the green heart which hangs in the sky?
I love hearts, and green is the colour of healing. The fact that the heart was cracking and about to fall out of the sky in the Land of Britannica was symbolic of Brittney’s devastation about her parents’ marriage breakup. The evil Queen who was causing the heart to crack, was symbolic of Brittney’s father’s new girlfriend.
How did you decide on what superpowers Brittney would have?
I am a Christian and I thought about the armour of God talked about in the bible, in Ephesians. I created the powers based on this idea. When Brittney enters the Land of Britannica, Carly-Anna gives her a change of clothes. Then as Brittney progresses through the land, she is given items such as a shield, sword, crown, cloak and torch. It was fun to think of the things she could be given and how they could be used.
What would people get out of the story?
The story has five main themes: friendship, separation and divorce, courage, superheroes, and emotional health and the grief cycle. Therefore these are the themes that I hope the child will pick up on and take away from reading the story. Brittney is a strong female character as well. Once she has decided on her journey, Brittney confidently sets out and attacks her enemies with confidence. She problem solves and makes her own decisions. Brittney is a wonderful role model for girls.
Where can people buy Land of Britannica? Land of Britannica is available as an ebook and a paperback. It can be purchased from many online bookstores which are listed on my website, and from me directly, via my website.
Land of Britannica is based around the protagonist, Brittney, who isn’t coping with her parents’ separation. When her father, Jason, introduces the children to his new girlfriend, Brittney and her older brother, Hunter, do not cope well and the realisation that their parents are getting a divorce hits them. This problem and Brittney’s angst, is what plunges Brittney into the Land of Britannica.
In 2015, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that 48,517 divorces were granted in Australia – an increase from the previous year. This means many children are being affected. One statistic I read said, 1 in 5 children under the age of 20 years, are affected. http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/3310.0
A marriage breakdown affects children in a variety of ways. Some cope but others can be adversely affected.
Parental separation is said to be more important in children’s lives than the legal divorce. The breakdown of the marriage and subsequent adjustments such as custody and future step-parents
How children adjust in the short and medium term to their parents’ separation is linked to several aspects of their psychological wellbeing. Self-esteem has been associated with family dynamics and family type in the period after separation (Ochiltree 1990), and may be associated with more positive approaches to educational and occupational endeavour. The emotional state of the child, whether depressed or cheerful, anxious or calm, may also be associated with their wellbeing and future achievement. Collectively, indices such as these may provide a glimpse of how well children will adapt to life after their parents’ divorce.
Children’s psychological reactions to their parents’ divorce vary in degree dependent on three factors:
(1) the quality of their relationship with each of their parents before the separation, (2) the intensity and duration of the parental conflict, and (3) the parents’ ability to focus on the needs of children in their divorce.
Behaviours that are displayed are caused by the child trying to feel secure. Some typical reactions of children are:
a) Denial b) Abandonment c) Preoccupation with information d) Anger and hostility e) Depression f) Immaturity/Hypermaturity g) Preoccupation with reconciliation h) Self-blame and guilt i) Acting out
In Land of Britannica, we see Brittney experiencing a few of these reactions. She is in denial, she is angry, and wants her parents to get back together and she blames her own behaviour for the separation of her parents, even though she knew Dad left because he hurt Mum.
Some signs of stress in children affected by family breakdowns are:
1) Infants and toddlers: A. Regression in terms of sleeping, toilet training or eating; slowing down in the mastery of new skills B. Sleep disturbances (difficulty going to sleep; frequent waking) C. Difficulty leaving parent; climginess D. General crankiness, temper tantrums, crying
2) 3-5 Years A. Regression; returning to security blankets and discarded toys, lapses in toilet training, thumb sucking B. Immature grasp of what has happened; bewildered; making up fantasy stories C. Blaming themselves and feeling guilty D. Bedtime anxiety; fitful/fretful sleep; frequent waking E. Fear of being abandoned by both parents; clinginess F Greater irritability, aggression, temper tantrums
3) 6 – 8 Years A. Pervasive sadness; feeling abandoned and rejected B. Crying and sobbing C. Afraid of their worst fears coming true D. Reconciliation fantasies E. Loyalty conflicts; feeling physically torn apart F. Problems with impulse control; disorganised behaviour.
4) 9 – 12 Years A. Able to see family disruption clearly; try to bring order to situation B. Fear of loneliness C. Intense anger at the parent they blame for causing the divorce D. Physical complaints; headaches and stomach aches E. May become overactive to avoid thinking about the divorce F/ Feel ashamed of what’s happening in their family; feel they are different from other children
5) Adolescents A. Fear of being isolated and lonely B. Experience parents as leaving them; feel parents are not available to them C. Feel hurried to achieve independence D. Feel in competition with parents E. Worry about their own future loves and marriage; preoccupied with the survival of relationships F. Discomfort with a parent’s dating and sexuality G. Chronic fatigue; difficulty concentrating H. Mourn the loss of the family of their childhood
Children who are in the midst of a separation and an impeding divorce will often go through a cycle of grief or mourning. It is much like a death in the family. Each child will experience the grief in their own way. There are five steps in the grief cycle. Sometimes the steps are steep, sometimes steps are repeated, and sometimes a child may take longer on one step than others.
Step One: Shock and Denial Stage The children have a family life that to them is normal, even if there is conflict. As the family moves from ormal functioning through divorce or separation the children first move into a shock and denial stage. They have to work to understand the divorce and what is gong to happen as a result of the divorce. Parents can help by explaining the reality of the divorce and emphasising that some things will not change – such as the love for their child and that the parent will be there for the child
Step Two: Anger Stage Next the children move into a stage of anger. In this stage parents need to provide support and be there for the children, but understand that thi is just part of the grief cycle. Children need time to work through their anger and guilt. They will sometimes pick one parent to be mad at and not at the other parent This is normal. Let them know that the parent understands they are angry and continue letting the child know they are loved.
Step Three: Depression Stage As the children sense that their life is falling apart, they may withdraw and feel sad and detached from their family and friends. The parent needs to differentiate between sadness and depression. If the parent is concerned that the child is truggling they may need to seek professional help.
Step Four: Dialogue & Bargaining Stage As the children move into the dialogue and bargaining phase, they will try to get the family back together. They will fantasise bout reconciliation and will promise to be good if they parents will just reconsider. They may even devise ways to get their parents together such as being sick or getting into trouble at school. This is thier way of working through the guilt of feeling that they were the reason for the divorce or separation. The parent needs to remind them that they did not break up the family, and it is not likely that they can get the familly back together. This too is part of accepting the permanence of the situation.
Step Five: Acceptance Stage Reaching the acceptance stage means that the child has adjusted to the reality and permanence of the divorce and separation. It may also mean, especially for older children, they are ready to take a chance on love. The entire grief process is one of dealing with loss and requires that children overcome the sense of rejection, humiliation, feeling unloved, and powerlessness that they feel.
In the story, Brittney is plunged into the fantasy world, Land of Britannica. It is in this world that she travels through the grief cycle. Each of the characters she rescue, and then the acceptance parcel, are representative of each stage: • Shock and Denial – Mr Wolf • Anger – Terry • Depression – Billy Goat • Bargaining – The guards at the wall • Acceptance – The acceptance parcel
The philosopher Aristotle said, “In poverty and other misfortunes of life, true friends are a sure refuge. They keep the young out of mischief; they comfort and aid the old in their weakness, and they incite those in the prime of life to noble deeds.”
For children, making friends is a vital part of growing up and an essential part of their social and emotional development. Attributes such as social competence, altruism, self-esteem and self-confidence have all been found to be positively correlated to having friends. Studies have found that friendships enable children to learn more about themselves and develop their own identity. And, as children mature, friends are able to help reduce stress and navigate challenging developmental experiences, especially during teenage years.
Friendships develop life skills that will increase a child’s wisdom, confidence and self-esteem. A good friend is someone who has your best interests at heart and they have their friend’s back. A friend provides someone to communicate concerns, dreams and fears with. This allows a child to feel less alone and isolated.
The opportunity to develop leadership skills can increase as children play with other children. They are also provided with opportunities to make decisions. Imagination skills are developed.
In Land of Britannica, Brittney has a best friend Kallie. We learn throughout the story that Kallie lives in a divorced family, which Brittney is faced with the reality of. Brittney knows that Kallie understands what she is going through. Brittney is also excited about going to her best friend’s thirteenth birthday party which they have planned together. When her father says she can’t go, Brittney is devastated and tries hard to change his mind. She is ecstatic where at the end of the chapter, he changes his mind. The book starts and finishes with Brittney texts Kallie.
When Brittney enters the Land of Britannica she is met by Marmalade, the clone of her pet cat also named Marmalade. In the Land of Britannica, Marmalade is a fur friend. He becomes Brittney’s constant companion and gives her advice and comfort, he encourages her to keep on going and she uses him as her confidante. Marmalade is with Kallie for the majority of the journey. They become separated right at the end then are reunited. Carly-Anna is the first person Brittney meets in the Land of Britannica. She is a representation of Kallie, and comes and goes throughout the story. Carly-Anna provides comfort, wisdom and direction for Brittney.
Courage is an essential ingredient in growing up. It’s what propels us to each new milestones – from learning to walk to learning maths – even though the effort seems hard or painful. Courage can be physical, like jumping from a diving board, or moral, like doing the right thing in the face of possible ridicule.
Courage can be built by: • self-confidence • overcoming fear • facing the unknown • doing the right thing
Having courage means that children will be brave as they meet new experiences, difficult situation and/or dangerous encounters. Also courage may involve being firm because of strong moral convictions In either case, there may be feelings of fear, anxiety or apprehension that must be dealt with.
As Brittney travels through the Land of Britannica she continually shows courage to face obstacles. Sometimes these obstacles are animals, the queen’s guards, Storm Queen herself, and at other times she shows courage in the face of problems that she must solve to be able to rescue the Odinarians and Terry.
When Brittney enters the Land of Britannica and begins her travels, she is very scared and apprehensive. As she overcomes more and more obstacles, her symptoms of stress (feeling sick, sweats, shivers up and down her spine, shaking etc) lessen and at the end of the story Brittney is self-confident, strong and sure of herself. She is able to face the unknown and due to her courage she saves the land and its people.
In the Land of Britannica, Brittney is transformed into a superhero. Carly-Anna initially dresses her in black leggings, a long sleeved green top with a silver crown motif, and a silver studded belt with a silver satin bag attached to it, and black boots. Her hair flew up into a bun. Along her journey, Brittney acquires a range of items which give her extra powers to fight her enemies. These are:
• Sword of strength • Shield to protect the heart • Fire Torch to light the way • Crown of power • Bag of capture powder • Cloak of invisibility
With Brittney’s inner-strength and determination to save the cracked heart from falling out of the sky, combined with her added powers, she is able to fulfil her desti