I’ve enjoyed Richard J Frankland’s work as a playwright for many years – I was delighted to see his first book on the stand.
Eleven year old Digger J Jones is a terrific character – a feisty little scamp with a lot of personality. His diary entries make up the story – short, snappy observations from an alert, smart and funny kid.
The book, set in 1967 at the time of the Vietnam War and the Australian referendum for Australian Aborigines to finally be counted in the national census, looks at these historical events through a child’s eye. Digger’s straightforward assessment of how they impact on his life cut to the chase.
The loss of his brother Paul in Vietnam and his determination to ‘fight that discrimination’ and be counted as a citizen are explored alongside his day to day adventures – making enemies and friends, trying to live up to his newfound love for the nun Ally, discovering that poetry isn’t just for girls, and getting up to shenanigans with his best friend.
Digger J Jones is bursting with humour and heart. It might be a good book for any child – particularly boys – who have trouble getting into reading.
Ford Street Publishing is certainly not tying itself down to just one genre for its YA readers. There’s been Foz Meadows’ “Solace and Grief” (vampires), George Ivanoff’s “Gamer’s Quest” (fantasy/SF/gaming) and now “f2m – The Boy Within” – a transgender coming of age story.
f2m is the first-person story of Finn – born Skye – who decides, on his 18th birthday, to finally take steps to becoming the male he knows he is, inside the female form he was born with. It’s not going to be easy, though. What will his family think? And what about the punk band for which he plays lead guitar, the Chronic Cramps? Will his oldest friends see this as a betrayal of their feminist principles from their female friend Skye, or will they learn to embrace Finn in their formerly ‘all girl’ band?
There’s a lot to learn in this book: about being transgendered, the choices that can be made, and the challenges transgendered people and their families can be faced with. It would be a great book for anyone going through those changes, or their family and friends, because it offers so much insight. It’s a great, easy read too – I gobbled it up in less than two days!
However, it would be a dull book if it was only some treatise in educating the public about transgender issues. Instead, it’s is about being true to who you really are, even when that’s really hard (and even if you’re not entirely sure who that is yet). It’s also about friendship, family secrets, unconditional love, courage and compassion. Those are themes that any person can relate to regardless of age, gender, sexuality or preferred brand of music.
While the book is not autobiographical, co-author Hazel Edwards has known Ryan Kennedy for over 20 years – since Ryan was an 11 year old girl.