Oh, I love a kids’ chapter book that aims so directly at its audience, you can hear the bulls-eye thud of its literary arrow.
Talented young Australian author, Ingrid Jonach (pictured), has created a warm, funny and frank character in her Frank Frankie series of books aimed at 7-12 year olds. The first in the series – The Frank Frankie: The Newspaper That Helps People – follows the story of ten-year-old Anne Googanstein (known as Frankie to her friends) and her passion for local news. Frank local news.
When Frankie’s best friend Billy Bloom leaves town for the long hot summer holidays, Frankie fills her time by working on her school holiday project – a project that requires students to report on what they’d like to be when they grow up.
After meeting the journalist sister of her mum’s new boyfriend, Frankie is entranced by a promising newspaper career, and so sets about creating her very own local newspaper – with an initial distribution of three neighbourhood blocks.
Very soon, editor Frankie has some classmates involved in the production of the paper, but a lack of interesting news sees her fishing more locally for reportage… namely the shenanigans of her persnickety neighbour – Mrs Nitpick.
When Frankie’s very frank articles appear in the newspaper’s inaugural run, she never dreams the story will ‘actually even almost’ save a life. She also never imagines the newspaper could ‘ever possibly’ heal an important relationship. But this is the way of the newspaper world.
Jonach’s charming series of books (Frankie goes to France is number two, and number three is in the works), have a beautiful pace about them. The language she uses is humorous, whimsical and saturated by characterization in the form of a lilting and childlike voice. Set in the first person present tense, the story is not only easy to follow, it is a joy to bounce along with. The books are peppered with gorgeous line drawings by Cheryl Orsini – drawings that beautifully capture the characters within.
Jonach may only be mid-way through her twenties, but this talented writer has already made writing her life’s work. After completing a Bachelor of Arts in Professional Writing, she went on to become a journalist for the Canberra Times before moving into public relations. Her first book – A Lot of Things – was self-published and features the illustrations of her mother Pauline.
“I thought it would be a bit of an adventure [to self-publish],” Jonach tells Australian Women Online. “We set up a small publishing company and undertook coordinating the illustrator, graphic designer, printer and so on. It was definitely an experience!”
And at only 21, Jonach had her first book on the shelves, but it wasn’t long after that a major publisher took on her next round of work – the Frank Frankie series.
“Frankie was born during my time as a journalist,” says Jonach. “I knew finishing a manuscript while working full time would be a challenge and a half, so I decided to adhere to the old adage ‘write about what you know’.”
Jonach’s experience as a journalist is apparent in the Frank Frankie books – not only apparent in her rhythmic writing style, but also in the educational references to the newspaper world. Indeed, when lead character Frankie introduces a new concept or term to the reader, Jonach highlights the world in bold, to give it extra punch. She also does this with words that may be a little out of reach of the reader, making them seem oh so interesting… and easier to retain.
“All three [of my] books play around with language, so it seems to be an ongoing theme with me. I think it is heavily influenced by my love of Roald Dahl, who was the king of nonsensical words and having fun with language.”
Even though Jonach shares Frankie’s love of the newspaper world, she insists she wasn’t as ‘frank’ as her lead character when she was a child. No doubt, then, it was fun to create a character who was adept at ‘telling it like it is’, making Frankie a memorable and fun creation that sends a strong message of empowerment to kids.
“I wanted to create a character that could really hold her own in a series and I was very inspired by Clarice Bean by Lauren Child and the much-loved classic Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren. She is a kid with no fear, which is the exact opposite of me when I was her age.”
Jonach says writing the first Frankie book was a blast and she is looking forward to expanding the series, taking Frankie on more wonderful literary adventures and further developing her cast of characters.
“Each character has such a different personality and such a different role to play in the story. I had a lot of fun with them. I absolutely had a sequel in mind when I wrote the first Frankie, which was why the characters needed to be memorable.”
Not many kids could be more memorable than the Frank Frankie. In Jonach’s second book, Frankie Goes to France, the character is expanded upon and experiences situations that will resonate with most kids – and what better way to bring kids into an imaginary world than by offering situations they can relate to? Jonach does that, and more. Her delightful books are something I thoroughly enjoyed as an adult and I’ll certainly be slipping them into the bookshelves of my own children, secretly even hoping the series will become a family favourite.
What more could an author want?
Well, Jonach does want one more thing. Like most children’s authors, she has the completely unfettered desire that kids will love her books. “I hope kids have fun reading them. That is my main priority with my writing. To entertain.”
If Frankie’s literary adventures are anything, they’re certainly entertaining. Positively absolutely.
Learn more about Ingrid at her website – www.ingridjonach.com