Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Book Nook: The Tukor's Journey

I recently had the chance to review The Tukor's Journey, a book written to appeal to a hard-to-reach audience of pre-teen and young teen boys. The author intentionally wrote this book to appeal to them, but without using cheap or stereotypical humor. Instead, she writes a book that echoes challenges that are faced in real life, encouraging readers to rise above struggles and work towards a higher calling.

The book might look intimidating to reluctant readers because of its size, but it's easy to stay engaged. The characters and themes are relatable, with enough elements of the fantastical to appeal to those with a vivid imagination, or encourage kids to explore a world that is not our own.

In the story, the Grezniks have tried time and again to blow up the Earth, but have always been stopped by the Tukors. This time, no one knows if there are any Tukors left in the world to stop them, and three young siblings get pulled into the conflict. Although it's a meaty book, it's a good read, and even many kids who don't love reading will be drawn in to the story.

I had a chance to interview author Jeannine Kellogg to learn more.

What was the inspiration for this book?
The Tukor’s Journey began as an imaginative game with my nephews while we were on vacation. I wrapped a storyline around that adventure, and the book grew from there. However, the themes of the book were inspired by observing what kids are facing in our current culture. We too frequently hear about the increase in childhood depression, abuse, and social isolation which results in “cutting”, drug use, sex trafficking: Dig just a little below the surface of the internet – YouTube, Facebook, etc. – and you find a very dark world. And those dark players on the internet are aggressively targeting our kids, and sadly they are often succeeding. My book does not cover those topics specifically but it does, or at least I hope it does, spur important questions, encourage imagination, and help drive a child to understand their own inherent value. The only way to combat the dark realities running rampant right now is to inspire the courage to face darkness head on in our own heart and the world around us, while also encourage the young to lead with a deep heart for others, accept adventure, and find their own deeper calling. 

There is one character in the book who is seemingly isolated and rejected. He comes back in The Tukor’s Journey Book Two. But one parent told me that his son was concerned about this boy and what was going to happen to him. The boy said, “I want to go inside the book and help him.” I’m not sure if there is a greater reward for an author than to hear of a teenager wanting to go inside a book and pull a friend out of his isolation. We need to teach a compassionate heart and I hope my story encourages children to do that for the kids around them. 

Why is it a challenge to write books that will appeal to a broad number of kids?
I believe so strongly that we are all authors. We all write a story in our life. We all tell stories, even if it’s just telling a friend about something funny that happened at work. Our stories are most powerful if they come from deep, authentic place inside our heart rather than from a wish to have broad appeal. We are inundated in our culture with what I call the “American Idol” phenomenon in which we stand in long, crowded lines hoping to be chosen as a superstar by our peers. We all do this when we post something on Facebook and hope that we get a ton of “likes” and “shares”. I’m not immune from this either! But our purpose as storytellers is to encourage. Every child is absolutely unique. There is no other child exactly like yours. And your child has a powerful mission. That doesn’t mean millions of people are going to “call in” to the American Idol hotline and pick every child as the next superstar idol. But every child can have a powerful impact, even in quiet, unassuming ways. I have written a book to encourage children in their own mission, and I am filled with joy every time a parent tells me their child loved The Tukor’s Journey

How can parents find books that their kids will like?
It’s challenging to divert a child from the power of YouTubers, video games, and social apps so that they open a book instead. There is no easy formula for that. We all hope to find stories that will unleash the power of a child’s imagination and encourage them in their interests. Some children will gobble up fantasy books. Others will love history books. Some will devour mysteries. Or science books. Or animal books. Some will dive deep into non-fiction. Or can’t get enough princess stories. We aren’t all meant to like the same thing. And not every child will love the “popular” books. Yet listening to their thoughts on a story, hearing what they did or did not like, helps honor their thinking, their interests, and their creative inspirations. We can let that all unleash so they can start the path to critical thinking. Librarians are great resources for finding books that fit the interests of your child. Trial and error is okay. I was a child who was active and fidgety, so it was difficult for me to sit down and read a book. Only certain types of books held me still. It’s okay if your child has a hard time sitting still! One day they might become a writer who can sit still for twelve hours straight writing a book. Or long hours researching. Designing. Helping. Our mission is to let each child find those interests and encourage. All of us adults, not just parents, need to encourage children in what drives their curiosity and imagination, and that creative energy is unique to every child. 

How can books help kids process deeper concepts about our world?
Books have a special power in storytelling versus visual stories like movies, TV, and video. Visual storytelling can actually be more restrictive because it risks hijacking the child’s imagination and replacing it with specifics: What a creature or character looks like, sounds like, or acts like is locked down. Video steals from the child the chance to create that imagery in their mind. It’s unfortunate that the imaginative power that toddlers have in abundance often atrophies as they get older. Books can unleash a child’s imagination. Our minds all have a powerful capability to create. We are all creators. There’s an infinite world out there. Books provide for greater space to work with the thoughts, churn them around, and discover deeper, and often complex realities of our world. Using that critical thinking is an important part of unleashing the creative energy in all of us.

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