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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

A To Z Blogging Challenge 2018 : J Is For Jennings, Jinks and Jonsberg!

The other day, I wrote about the wonderful children’s writer Andy Griffiths, whose crazy, over-the- top stories delight children. Today, I will talk about Paul Jennings, who came before him with his own crazy, over-the-top stuff. Paul Jennings started life as a primary teacher, which is surely why he understands what children love to read. Some of his very funny short stories were adapted for TV in a series called Round The Twist, which was set in a small seaside town with a family who lived in a lighthouse. 

Paul Jennings is the author of many hilarious short stories and books, mostly chapter books such as the Gizmo series (The Gizmo starts with a boy stealing an odd item off a stall, as part of a dare, and finding it does bizarre things). There was one YA novel, The Nest. It was a perfectly good thriller that might have done better if he had written it under a pen name. Children expected funny books from him. Perhaps a case of the talented clown who wants to play Hamlet? 

For all that, he has been a very prolific writer who has won many awards, both from children and judges - so many that I’m going to let you check him out in this Wikipedia article which lists his works and awards in full. 

And here is his web site, which is worth a look just for the spectacular animated opening page and is pretty much up to date.

Catherine Jinks is the author of fantasy, SF, ghost stories and historical fiction for everyone from children to teens, with some adult fiction, but let’s forget about that for the purposes of this post. I’ve reviewed some of her work on this blog. Because she is so very prolific I will just stick to a few favourites. Firstly, there is the Pagan series, set in the late 12th/early 13th centuries. Pagan Kidrouk is a streetwise kid who becomes squire to a Knight Templar, Roland, during the Third Crusade, and follows him back to France when the Christian soldiers are kicked out of Jerusalem. In France, they get caught up in the dreadful Cathar business. Pagan grows up in the course of the five book series and by the fourth, Pagan’s Scribe, he is middle-aged and the novel is seen from the viewpoint of a young scribe, Isidore. In the final novel, Pagan’s Daughter(which begins with, “Oh, no! I’ve killed the chicken!”)Isidore is grown up and the viewpoint is that of another teenager, Babylonne, the daughter of Pagan and a Cathar girl, who both broke their vows one night when they were stressed out and in need of comfort. Jinks has written more historical fiction, set in the time of the Jacobite plotting, the Theophilus Grey books, that have a flavour of Leon Garfield. And one character is a certain magistrate called Henry Fielding - yes, THAT Henry Fielding, as in the author of Tom Jones! Jinks’s historical fiction brings us the feel, the smells of the eras in which it is set. And she writes fantasy as well! Like The Reformed Vampire Support Group, about a group of vampires are sharing a house in Sydney. None of them wants to be a vampire - they take a potion devised by a doctor who is one of them, and fang guinea pigs when desperate. 

Here is her website! 

Barry Jonsberg has written some very fine YA. His first novel, The Whole Business With Kiffo And The Pit Bull, was very funny- with a shock ending I won’t tell you.  Read it. In fact, for while after that I read his books with caution - one minute you’re laughing hard, the next you are saying, “What? He can’t do that!” And yes, he did write some more books with shock endings, but not all. Some of his books were for younger readers, and totally avoided the shock endings. The “Pit Bull”of the title was not a dog, but the nickname for a particularly nasty teacher, and Kiffo is a class clown who, however, has good reason to hate her. But there was a hilarious bit where the heroine, Calma, writes a “diary of Lady Macbeth” for English in which Lady M is complaining about her husband and his boss, King Duncan, drinking and watching sport on the telly. The author is, or was, himself a secondary teacher - he knows! 

Well, those are my three for today. I hope you find them interesting enough to look them up. All are available on line and in ebook.

Here is a link to Barry Jonsberg's Allen and Unwin page, with an interview, as his web site is rather out of date.

Tomorrow, I will tell you about Robin Klein and Ambelin Kwaymullina. 


Unknown said...

Ooooo Catherine Jinks sounds a very interesting read. Of course, it'll be quite a while before I can pretend I bought her books for the granddaughter :)

A-Zing this year at:
Normally found at:

Sue Bursztynski said...

Why pretend? I just read this stuff! Mind you, you can always tell her, in later years, "I really enjoyed these books, why not give them a try?"

Tasha Duncan-Drake said...

I remember Round the Twist - although not at all clearly :) I had no idea it was based on books.
Tasha's Thinkings - Movie Monsters

Sue Bursztynski said...

Oh, yes! The original stories had nothing to do with the TV series, they were just rewritten so that they could happen to those characters.

Unknown said...

You're quite right Sue :)

Sue Bursztynski said...

Glad we agree on this, Debs! Read, enjoy! :-)

Aidyl Ewoh said...

Paul Jennings sounds like an author who's books I could enjoy. Fun, whimsical stories make me happy. Thank you for spotlighting them! :)

Visiting from the A to Z Challenge

Sue Bursztynski said...

Yes, he does indeed do whimsical very well! And funny!

AJ Blythe said...

The Barbarians read Gizmo and Round the Twist, but they never really took to them. Not their thing, so I've never read them (when they like a book they put it on my bedside table to read too).

Sue Bursztynski said...

You seem to have a delightful family relationship, sharing books! Perhaps your Barbarians prefer less over the top stuff. ;)